Does the African Charter matter to you?

Do you know of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG)? It’s interesting that in a continent where our state of democracy is challenged in daily casual conversations we are unaware of an African Charter that has clearly outlined our rights and responsibilities as citizens in our democratic states.

Recently, the African Union Commission (AUC) organized a consultative meeting in Abuja, Nigeria to engage with African ministries of education, joint experts from the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, UNESCO and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit to discuss the best way to incorporate teaching the youth about the ACDEG.

Between September 28th and October 1st the education heads dialogued on ways to layer the culture for democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights in hopes to implement the AU’s Agenda 2063 – a robust Agenda calling on a unified Africa that upholds good governance and democratic values.

Although this can be seen as yet another talk shop, a few speakers depicted the urgency of the leaders of member states and us citizens to internalize AU norms. Commissioner for Political Affairs of the African Union Commission DR. Laraba Adbullahi stressed the need to internalize the AU’s values and principles while enhancing the need for the youth to understand the importance of AU normative frameworks in order to make a better Africa. It was agreed that the best way would be through educative institutions such as schools.

Unfortunately, Dr. Adbullahi’s words have a disconnect with what is happening on the ground – not all the member states fully uphold values set and agreed on when forging the this united organisation – case and point the power struggle in Burkina Faso, the growing levels of corruption in South Africa and of course – the intense divide and rule between young people that has birthed terrorist groups.

Further proving more disconnect the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance which was adopted in Ethiopia in January 2007 and implemented February 2012 only has 24 member states that have ratified into the charter. 23 member states have signed the charter but not ratified it with an additional 6 member states having neither signed or ratified the charter. This means that 29 over 24 member states have yet to carry out the ACDEG, a charter compiled almost 8 years ago!

Notwithstanding, it is debatable whether the member states that have signed this charter practice democracy and good governance – seeing that the signed member states include Ethiopia, Burkina Faso (where situations surrounding democracy loomed in Ethiopia earlier this year while riots in Burkina Faso question governance vs. an unquenched thirst for power in their country). Other signed member states include Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Côte-d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Maurituana, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Sudan, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Togo and Zambia.

Personally, I raise my eyebrow to countries that have signed this charter and those that have not signed and both not ratified – is it because they choose not to bind themselves to an ideology where leaders can be accountable on a continental level? And what are the ramifications when the ACDEG isn’t observed? At the end of the day, after ordinary sessions and panelists debating on ways to engage with the public – a public that debates on these issues through public commuting or breakfast conversations – is it really worth speaking of at the end of the day if our own leaders cannot lead in exemplary form. It in itself is undemocratic for our leaders to make decisions for us to not implement such Charters that can enlighten us to develop and live in a developed, interdependent continent.

(Have a read on the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Good Governance here)