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General News of Wednesday, 8 January 2003

Source: Peace FM

Four Years Is Too Long To Change A Govt - Rawlings

Former President Jerry John Rawlings has stated that four years is too long a time to change governments.

According to the former President and founder of the opposition National Democratic Congress, what proponents of democratic reforms fail to realize is that for people living at the edge of existence, four years is a long time and when the people become desperate, social norms and order may be subjected to immense stress leading to the destruction of the fabric of society. Delivering a paper on Reform and Democratic change in Africa at the International Trade Fair Complex in Kaduna, Nigeria on the 17th of December, 2002, the former President said too often in Africa, democratic change means encouraging an active sense of ownership and pride rather than passive feeling of helpless acceptance of whatever is decided by the government of the day.

“It means nurturing a spirit of positive defiance, a readiness to confront that which is clearly wrong and which undermines the building of society”, he told the conference that as attended by eminent statesmen including former Military Head of State of Nigeria, General Ibrahim Babangida, scholars, politicians civil society groups.

The former president said for democracy to have true meaning, people involvement in government must go beyond the ballot box. He said he has expressed concern about the tendency of multi-party politics, especially in our continent to become antagonistic and divisive to foster cynical kind of expediency which owes more prospects of the next election than it does to the long-term interest of the people and to make politics two dependent upon which group has more money. The ex-president, who has said on many national and international fora about his dislike for democracy, stunned the audience when he declared that he is a passionate believer of democracy.

The NDC founder said change might be positive or negative. It may be motivated by nothing more than boredom with the status quo or a genuine response to an intolerable situation. He stressed that change in itself is neither good nor bad, but any change carries a cost. The former president intimated that change disrupts the status quo “For example elections may be held and adjudged free and fair by the most objective observers and yet bring about a change which is detriment to the generality of the people”, he noted.

Former President Rawlings touched on Africa’s multiple socio-economic problems and said it is a blight on the conscience of the developed world. He said problems of illegal immigration to Europe, increasing cross-border crimes, outbreaks and spread of diseases such as the HIV/AIDS and other pandemics that were once though to have been eradicated as well as the growth in financial crimes driven by poverty are negative developments that need the attention of leaders of the continent.

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