Celebrating International Democracy Day

Malians voted for the 2013 presidential elections at the Ecole de la Republique in Bamako. Photo MINUSMA/Marco Dormino

Malians voted for the 2013 presidential elections at the Ecole de la Republique in Bamako. Photo MINUSMA/Marco Dormino

This next January, Africa will be celebrating 9 years since the adoption of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. It will have been in force for 4 years in February 2016 and calls upon state parties to implement it in accordance with its explicitly stated 11 principles which include;

  • Respect for human rights and democratic principles;
  • Promotion of gender equality in public and private institutions;
  • Effective participation of citizens in democratic and development processes and in governance of public affairs;

As we celebrate International Democracy Day, we should celebrate those who have championed the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance as an indigenous tool to strengthen capable developmental states in Africa. We should also acknowledge the enormity of the challenge Africa faces in moving towards more effective participation of citizens in democratic processes and the state of gender equality in political participation. The latter is of great concern to me especially because the ways in which inequalities play out in the political space are not always visible. For instance, we may know how many women are elected to office but we do not have good evidence on the extent to which political parties promote gender equality within their grassroots structures.

African democracies may very well be developing an identity that is relevant to those living on the continent and founded on Pan African ideals. However, respect for human rights and democratic principles need to be core and gender equality and women’s empowerment and participation in our institutions should be the distinctive colour we bring to it. We cannot leave this task to the champions who have served us so well until now. It’s time we all roll up our sleeves and do our part.

Image source: Flickr/United Nations