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Will democracy ever thrive in Africa?

28th February 2012
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Lake zone police chiefs pose in a group picture during their recent meeting in Mwanza

These days, most African countries claim to be democracies and also they cite their leaders as having come to power through democratic means.

While this is true in a few cases, there is quite a large number of countries which paints a totally different picture of democracy on the continent.  In these countries, the so-called democratic form of governance makes a mockery of the term ‘democracy’ yet they proudly proclaim to be healthy, functioning democracies. 

What passes as democracy in some countries is indeed laughable because even when elections are held to justify this, they are mostly sham elections. Let us not forget that democracy functions properly when there is a vibrant opposition which is allowed to operate freely and question the actions of the government in power when the need so arises. 

But is this really the case in most African countries? Certainly not! Many governments in power often crackdown on the opposition and make it extremely difficult for them to operate. 

In some countries, the opposition is quashed outright and denied the democratic space in which to function.

There are even infamous cases where opposition leaders are roughed up or worse, brutally beaten to a pulp.

Some are also thrown into jail on dubious ground and in other cases they are even framed by the powers that be just to thwart their efforts of functioning as an opposition. 

An even more serious problem on the continent are those leaders who think they have almost a divine right to govern their countries for their entire lives.

This is a frightful headache in Africa. The same leaders hold elections on schedule to give the appearance of a functioning democracy but these elections in reality have only one certain result: the victory of the leaders in question every time.

These leaders go to the extent of even changing their countries’ laws in order to suit their insatiable appetite to remain in power. 

It is totally wrong for one person to remain in power for an interminable period of time in these days of the democratic revolution that has swept all over Africa and most parts of the world. 

Therefore, we will not be overstepping our ground by saying that the leaders of Cameroon, Senegal, Zimbabwe and Uganda should consider handing over the reins of power to others. 

We believe that Africa is quite capable of governing itself according to noble and just democratic principles. The prerequisite for this to happen is a resolute determination on our part to uphold the democratic values which our leaders profess to believe in but do not live up to. 

Bluntly put, this simply needs to change as it reflects badly on us as Africans to call ourselves democracies when in reality many of us are anything but.

Police chiefs form task force to combat crime

“WE have decided to form the Lake Zone Task Force (LZTF) to combat all sorts of crimes and maintain peace and security to our people as stipulated in the police force regulations.”

Those are the words of Mwanza Regional Police Commander (RPC) Libearatus Barlow, the chairman of the recently formed new security organisation, when he briefed Mwanza reporters on its objectives of fighting, among other crimes, piracy and drug trafficking in the Lake Zone.

The task force came into being after a meeting held in Mwanza City, which, among other things, set a joint security strategy at improving the safety of the people and maintenance of peace.

The meeting, to be held annually, was attended by Regional Police Commanders and Regional Crime Officers from eight regions.

Attendees included Mara regional police chief Robert Boaz, RPC Diwani Athuman of Shinyanga Sebastian Zacharia of Tarime- Rorya Special Police zone and Anthony Rutta of Tabora.

Others were the Kagera Regional Police Commander Henry Salewi and Fresa Kashai of Kigoma.

RPC Barlow, who hosted the meeting, says that the police ciefs have decided to establish the force to help them fight piracy and maintain peace in general.

“We want to find out, within our regions, who’s involved in criminal acts and in what way. We have an extra job to do. Our aim is to ensure that our people and their properties in our regions are well protected,” says Barlow, adding that another aim is to maintain peace in the Lake Zone.

He says that the policemen will also have time to exchange ideas that will help them know where they went wrong.

“We’ll have time to exchange the war techniques as you all know that every RPC in his region has different police officers with different approaches fo fighting crime,” he says.

According to Barlow, the task force passed eight resolutions which will be implemented by the police chiefs to accomplish their mission and vision.

The resolutions are establishment of a well-organised system of collecting anddisseminating  intelligence reports, forming joint operations, exchange of experience and expertise, cooperating  with stakeholders to know the roles and responsibilities of the security organs.

“We will control the boundaries of Lake Tanganyika and Victoria where armed robbers threaten the lives of the people,” maintains Barlow. 

Other resolutions are stablisation of road barriers and the use of information technologies for exchange of crimes reports.

“Because there is negligence by executives in dealing  with crime, we have declared that we’ll modify  the intelligence section as from ward to regional levels by posting capable police officers,” Barlow says.

“We’ll establish district and regional simultaneous joint operations which will help in maintaining order,” he adds.

“Together we will motivate other government organ stakeholders and various institutions to cooperate in carrying out those operations.” 

The task force is expected to cooperate with the District and Regional Commissioners and local authorities to ensure that its goals are achieved.

According to Barlow, Mara and Mwanza are the regions with the highest crime incidents where in the past six months, police have managed to collect over 60 illegal guns.

He says the task force will hunt people engaged in the illegal weapons business and substandard goods.

“We’ll also monitor the conduct of police officers in boarder points and road barriers to stamp out corruption,” he says, adding that the use of information technology will help them greatly.

On his part, Kagera Region Police Commander Henry Salewi says that the joint co-operation is aimed not only improving security but also looking beyond the country’s boundaries.

“Through this task force we have formulated, we will be able to cooperate among ourselves and find out the possible ways that will help us in combating crime in the Lake zone regions,” he explains.

“It’s the responsibility of the police force to ensure that people are safe,” he adds.

“We’ll cooperate with the people through our participatory security approach, whereby we believe that policemen alone cannot end crime.”

Mara region Police Commander Robert Boaz says that people who commit crimes are free and they don’t have boundaries, but “we’ll fight them.”

He believes the establishment of task force is a good sign of speeding up the anti-crime drive in the concerned regions.

“It is our time to show patriotism, cooperation and unity in fighting crime to ensure peace and tranquility prevails in our regions.”

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN
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