Six political activists gathered for a panel discussion to share their views on democracy in Africa Tuesday night. The panelists talked about the current problems in Africa and what Americans can do to help Africans’ struggle for democracy.
Akia Lineberger, president of the Organization of African Students, said her group sponsored the event to increase awareness of the political situation in Africa and to let people know what we can do as citizens to facilitate peace and democracy.
Panel participants voiced a broad range of opinions.
Dr. Sulayman Nyang, professor of African Government and Political Science, said a government of the people is the best option.
Democracy is the worst form of government but there is nothing better than democracy for human beings, he said. You cannot run a globalized economy when people do not have the right to choose their leaders.
Young Americans who are looking at Africa must realize it is very diverse, Nyang continued. It is not a country but a continent with many countries and whenever there is a problem in one part of Africa, there is a problem in all of Africa. The democratic process has to be changed.
Kevin Lineberger, a human rights consultant for the United Nations, discussed the importance of equal access to the public.
He said the major complaint in Africa is the party in power has an unfair advantage because they are not willing to share the media.
Lineberger said changing power in Africa is a turbulent process.
The transfer of power is always bloody, Lineberger said. Itwas not until the 1980s that efforts were made to facilitate a peaceful transition.
Gregory Simpkins, a consultant from the Institute for Democratic Strategies, said he is optimistic about correcting the current problems in Africa.
A lot of what you read would make you think democracy and Africa are oxymorons and that is not true, he said.
Simpkins told students to think about U.S. history when women could not vote and when blacks were considered three-fifths of a person.
It takes a long time to get from here to there, he said.
Simpkins said the younger generation holds a different perspective than people before them.
The people your age are just learning to grow, he told the audience. They don’t have the same prejudices their parents or grandparents had.
Shrayas Jatkar, a member of GW Students for Nader, discussed Green Party candidate Ralph Nader’s views on Africa, including debt relief to pay for education, healthcare and food.
Western dependence is crippling democracy in Africa, he said.
Paul Sunwabe, co-founder and executive president of Freedom and International Justice, said the United States has not done enough to aid the African fight for democracy.
The U.S. does not help Africa at all, he said. The liberation of Africa is on our shoulders.
Sunwabe said one of every 10 sexually active people in Africa has AIDS.
We are a race in trouble, he said.
The GW chapter of OAS, which includes about 60 students, is part of a consortium of the Washington Metropolitan Inter-University Association of African Students. They work together with Howard University, George Mason University and the University of Maryland to host functions.
The goal of their organization is to build a community among Africans on campus and other students who have expressed interest in Africa. They are dedicated to promoting African cultural awareness.