By Patrick Msonda
The upcoming “Summit for Democracy” being convened by U.S. President Joseph Biden is ironic given the challenges facing democracy in America. In this opinion piece, Yirenkyi Jesse argues why the United States should get off its stumbling high horse and halt its “Summit for Democracy”.
The United States of America has long positioned itself as a beacon of democracy and a champion of freedom, frequently using this position to criticize African countries for not conforming to democratic ideals. However, the reality of the US’s own history and current political climate calls into question its credibility in lecturing African countries about democracy.
One of the most glaring examples of the US’s hypocrisy when it comes to democracy is its own history of institutionalized racism and discrimination. For centuries, the US was a slave-holding nation, where African Americans were bought and sold as property, denied basic human rights, and subjected to brutal violence.
Even after the abolition of slavery, African Americans continued to be oppressed through Jim Crow laws, segregation, and widespread discrimination. The US only began to fully recognize the civil rights of African Americans in the 1960s, after decades of hard-fought battles and social movements. This dark history makes it difficult for the US to claim any sort of moral superiority when it comes to democracy.
Furthermore, the US’s own democratic institutions have come under attack in recent years, calling into question its ability to serve as a model for other countries. In 2021, the US Capitol was stormed by supporters of former President Donald Trump, who refused to accept the results of a democratic election. This attack on the very heart of US democracy was a shocking reminder of the fragility of democratic institutions, and the danger posed by those who would undermine them.
Additionally, recent attempts to suppress voting rights and limit access to the ballot box have cast doubt on the US’s commitment to democratic principles.
The US’s track record in international affairs also calls into question its credibility in lecturing African countries about democracy. The US has a long history of supporting authoritarian regimes and overthrowing democratically-elected leaders in other countries, often to protect its own interests.
For example, in 1973, the US supported a military coup in Chile that overthrew the democratically-elected government of Salvador Allende and installed a brutal dictator, Augusto Pinochet, who ruled for decades.
Similarly, the US has been accused of propping up dictators in Africa and other parts of the world, while ignoring or even undermining democratic movements.
Moreover, the US’s current political climate is highly polarized and often hostile to democratic norms. The political discourse in the US has become increasingly toxic, with each side demonizing the other and engaging in vicious personal attacks.
The media landscape is also highly polarized, with many news outlets and social media platforms promoting misinformation and conspiracy theories. All of these factors contribute to a political environment that is not conducive to democracy, and make it difficult for the US to claim any sort of moral authority when it comes to lecturing other countries about democratic values.
In conclusion, the United States has a long history of institutionalized racism, a recent attack on its democratic institutions, a track record of supporting authoritarian regimes, and a highly polarized and toxic political climate.
These factors make it difficult for the US to credibly lecture African countries about democracy. Rather than lecturing, the US should work to address its own shortcomings and set a better example for the world. Only then can it begin to promote democracy and human rights abroad with any sort of moral authority
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