Welcome to Janice’s Exclusive, folks! :-).
This is my first blog posting ever! I am so excited and plus as an Atlas Corps fellow, I get to try out this new skill every month. Feel free to comment, etc. It’s a free world! This month, I am looking at Democracy. Having worked at a Government entity back in Liberia for a few years before becoming an Atlas Corps fellow, I constantly found myself between a rock and a high place trying to strike the balance between the government and the citizens’ views on freedom, democracy and peace.
Democracy is a two-way street!
We often at times hear the word democracy, but have we ever stopped to figure out or understand democracy and its implications? More often than not, when people hear and talk about democracy, the first concept that runs to their minds is a form of government whereby a smaller group of people is elected to service by the majority of the citizens after every given constitutional term, as it is in Liberia where the citizens elect their leaders once every six years. True as this is, democracy goes far beyond canvassing and voting for our leaders. Democracy also entails the active and conscious participation of citizens in civic matters. In the case of Liberia, my country, the constitutional term for the conduct of elections is every six years. Democracy is far more than electioneering.
Democracy, by any measure, is disputably the best form of government because it allows for the participation of the majority in making decisions about leaders who move the society forward. Democracy is a two-fold path. On one path is the voting public – those who make decisions about who become leaders – and on the other path is the governing body or the government – those people mandated and charged with the care, protection of the law, and the general welfare of the people. Democracy is most viable if people on either fold of the path play their roles according to their own terms of reference. These terms of reference are clearly defined by governing instruments like the constitution which defines the duties, rights and responsibilities of the government and the governed. The government’s role, among other things, is to ensure security and the provision of basic social services. The government is also required to engender a national vision around which all the citizens can rally to move their country forward. As for the citizens, functions and duties run from abiding by the law, refraining from actions that undermine the peace, and participating in decision making and governance, and petitioning their elected representatives about certain crucial public issues as will protect their safety and ensure their happiness.
This two-way street indicates that for every right that a citizen enjoys in any country, there is an obligation or duty on the part of that citizen. For example, in a democracy, every citizen has the right to talk freely without fear that he or she will be arrested. However, in enjoying this right, the citizen also has the duty to talk or say the truth. It is also every citizen’s right to live in a peaceful environment, and it is the responsibility of the Government to ensure that this atmosphere is created. Citizens on the other hand, have a mandatory civic duty as true patriots to keep and maintain the peace. The essentiality of peace cannot be denied, for it is the propelling engine that keeps the wheel of Democracy turning.
|CITIZEN’S RIGHT||CITIZEN’S DUTY|
|Right to vote||Vote for a person who you truly believe can develop your communities and your country; and support the leaders you elect!|
|Right to good roads, hospitals and schools||Pay your taxes. This is the only way government can carry on development in your district/ county|
|Right to good governance||Report corruption! Be honest, accountable and transparent!|
|Right to be governed by the rule of law||Obey the law! You must first obey the law before the law can protect you|
For democracy and governance to be viable, this two-fold path must be very busy with its pedestrians moving about actively. The government and the governed need to work in tandem, with government leading the march and the people following. As a best alternative for governance, our democracy will remain strong if both the government and governed walk on this two-fold path, with no one double crossing the other, both maintaining and nurturing the peace, and all moving in a parallel forward march.
I co-wrote this article with a colleague, Alston Armah (YMCA Liberia), and it first appeared in the Governance Commission’s newsletter in Monrovia, Liberia. Modified and updated for my Atlas Corps blog May 2013