Documents on Democracy

Issue Date July 2015
Volume 26
Issue 3
Page Numbers 181-186
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Nigeria

In the March 28 presidential election, opposition candidate and former general Muhammadu Buhari defeated incumbent Goodluck Jonathan, marking the first national election victory for the opposition over an incumbent since Nigeria gained independence (see the article by Peter Lewis and Darren Kew on pp. 94–109 above). Excerpts from Buhari’s May 29 inaugural address appear below:

I am immensely grateful to God, who has preserved us to witness this day and this occasion. Today marks a triumph for Nigeria and an occasion to celebrate her freedom and cherish her democracy. Nigerians have shown their commitment to democracy and are determined to entrench its culture. Our journey has not been easy, but thanks to the determination of our people and strong support from friends abroad we have today a truly democratically elected government in place.

I would like to thank President Goodluck Jonathan for his display of statesmanship in setting a precedent for us that has now made our people proud to be Nigerians wherever they are. With the support and cooperation he has given to the transition process, he has made it possible for us to show the world that despite the perceived tension in the land we can be a united people capable of doing what is right for our nation. Together we cooperated to surprise the world that had come to expect only the worst from Nigeria. I hope this act of graciously accepting defeat by the outgoing President will become the standard of political conduct in the country.

I would like to thank the millions of our supporters who believed in us even when the cause seemed hopeless. I salute their resolve in waiting long hours in rain and hot sunshine to register and cast their votes and stay all night if necessary to protect and ensure their votes [would] count and were counted. I thank those who tirelessly carried [out] the campaign on the social media. At the same time, I thank our other countrymen [End Page 181] and women who did not vote for us but contributed to make our democratic culture truly competitive, strong and definitive. …

At home we face enormous challenges. Insecurity, pervasive corruption, the hitherto unending and seemingly impossible fuel and power shortages are the immediate concerns. We are going to tackle them head on. Nigerians will not regret that they have entrusted national responsibility to us. We must not succumb to hopelessness and defeatism. We can fix our problems. …

Daunting as the task may be, it is by no means insurmountable. There is now a national consensus that our chosen route to national development is democracy. To achieve our objectives we must consciously work [through] the democratic system. The Federal Executive under my watch will not seek to encroach on the duties and functions of the Legislative and Judicial arms of government. The law-enforcing authorities will be charged to operate within the Constitution. We shall rebuild and reform the public service to become more effective and more serviceable. We shall charge them to apply themselves with integrity to stabilize the system.

For their part, the legislative arm must keep to their brief of making laws, carrying out oversight functions and doing so expeditiously. The judicial system needs reform to cleanse itself from its immediate past. The country now expects the judiciary to act with dispatch on all cases, especially on corruption, serious financial crimes or abuse of office. It is only when the three arms act constitutionally that government will be enabled to serve the country optimally and avoid the confusion all too often bedeviling governance today. …

Boko Haram is a typical example of small fires causing large fires. An eccentric and unorthodox preacher with a tiny following was given posthumous fame and following by his extrajudicial murder at the hands of the police. Since then, through official bungling, negligence, complacency, or collusion, Boko Haram became a terrifying force taking tens of thousands of lives and capturing several towns and villages covering swathes of Nigerian sovereign territory.

Boko Haram is a mindless, godless group who are as far away from Islam as one can think of. At the end of the hostilities when the group is subdued, the Government intends to commission a sociological study to determine its origins, remote and immediate causes of the movement, its sponsors, the international connections to ensure that measures are taken to prevent a reccurrence of this evil. For now the Armed Forces will be fully charged with prosecuting the fight against Boko Haram. We shall overhaul the rules of engagement to avoid human rights violations in operations. We shall improve operational and legal mechanisms so that disciplinary steps are taken against proven human rights violations by the Armed Forces. …

Your Excellencies, my fellow Nigerians, I cannot recall when Nigeria [End Page 182] enjoyed so much goodwill abroad as now. The messages I received from East and West, from powerful and small countries are indicative of international expectations on us. At home the newly elected government is basking in a reservoir of goodwill and high expectations. Nigeria therefore has a window of opportunity to fulfill our longstanding potential of pulling ourselves together and realizing our mission as a great nation.

Russia

On February 27, Boris Nemtsov, Russian opposition politician and former deputy prime minister, was assassinated. On April 30, the National Endowment for Democracy hosted a symposium in the Rayburn House office building honoring Nemtsov’s memory. Tributes by members of Congress were followed by a panel on “The Future of Russia” featuring William Browder, CEO of Hermitage Capital Management; Lilia Shevtsova, Brookings Institution; Vladimir Kara-Murza, Open Russia; David Kramer, McCain Institute; and Leon Wieseltier, Isaiah Berlin Senior Fellow in Culture and Policy at Brookings. Excerpts from Leon Wieseltier’s speech appear below:

In memory of Boris Nemtsov, a hero not only of his country but of what I would call the Democratic International, I would like to offer a few broad conclusions that I have drawn from the horror of his fate. …

The first conclusion is this. Freedom is not to be confused with democracy. Democracy is only one of the things that can be done with freedom. When a dictatorship crumbles, a society is emancipated outwardly but not yet inwardly. Or to put it differently, when you emancipate a society you emancipate the actually existing people who comprise that society, their demons as well as their angels. Evil has as much use for freedom’s energies, for the opportunities of liberty, as good. We have seen this confirmed in many countries in recent years; but the most repercussive instance of this harsh truth may be Russia in the years after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The exhilaration of that once unimaginable liberation has been crushed by the ascendancy of Russia’s demons. Where communism once was, there fascism now is, and imperialism; and there is also, once again, a minority of valiant souls who endeavor to combat the new repression and keep the truth alive.

The second conclusion is this. There is moral and historical progress, but it is never linear, never direct, never final, and there is nothing inevitable about the emergence of democracy from the ruins of dictatorship. The push forward brings the pull backward—brings the bullets in Boris Nemtsov’s back. The much-discussed arc of history bends this way and that, cruelly and benevolently and cruelly again, inconsistently, contradictorily, fitfully, and provides no grounds for confidence that its [End Page 183] ultimate end is justice. If we wish it to bend in a certain direction, we must do the bending. There are always interests and ideas that are ruthlessly dedicated to thwarting the emergence of a liberal order, or to its reversal. Historically speaking, liberalism may be essentially contested, and therefore always in need of support and assistance. And the fragility of liberalism imposes an obligation upon all the citizens of all the liberal orders to come to its defense. The cause is one cause. For us, the recognition of our kinship with democrats and dissenters in other countries—a kinship of values, which is infinitely more admirable than a kinship of blood—should be a matter of honor, and our failure to recognize these affinities, and the duties that they demand of us, should be a matter of disgrace.

At the time of his murder, Nemtsov was preparing a report entitled “Putin.War” to expose the truth about the Kremlin’s involvement in the military conflict in Ukraine. Following his death, Nemtsov’s colleagues came together to complete the report using the materials that Nemtsov had gathered. To access the full report, visit www.4freerussia.org/putin.war. A brief excerpt from the report’s conclusion appears below:

Neither Putin nor his generals have had the courage to admit the fact of military aggression against Ukraine. Craven lying and hypocrisy are served up as great political wisdom.

The cowardly and despicable war unleashed by Putin will cost the country a lot. We will be paying for this adventure with the lives of our soldiers, economic crisis and political isolation.

We will pay with enmity from our long-time allies. No people are closer and more like kin to the Russians than the Ukrainians. These are our brothers—without any pathos—and the war between Russians and Ukrainians in Donbass is impossible to characterize in any other way except as fratricide.

This war is the shame of our country. But the problem will not go away by itself. Putin must be stopped. And this can only be done by the Russian people themselves. Let us stop this war together.

Azerbaijan

On March 11, Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova, who was arrested in 2014, wrote a letter from prison refuting the charges against her and speaking out against the repressive Aliyev government. Below are excerpts from her letter:

All repressive actions by the Azerbaijani regime have been copied from Russia. Outlawing the NGOs; starting tax prosecutions on a non-existing [End Page 184] legal basis; arresting, beating, killing and blackmailing with sex tapes human rights activists and journos. All came from Putin’s malpractice, well-learned and implemented. …

When the regime is visited by European and American officials, no criticism or even a call to release political prisoners has been made (at least publicly) during these visits. No matter that the targeted groups, the NGOs that were shut down, the activists arrested, were all linked to EU and U.S. organizations. …

I didn’t become a journalist because of America, but U.S.-funded projects helped me to learn how to become a good journalist, to uncover corruption, and to tell the truth. Organizations funded by the EU and the U.S. organized trainings, and I do have expectations from democratic institutions and countries.

I still do. Their inaction hurts, but I made it clear before I got arrested that I don’t want any bargaining for me. Speak up publicly and loudly. No private diplomacy for me, please.

I don’t believe in human rights advocacy behind closed doors. “Thanks” to the “privacy” of their efforts, the Council of Europe and OSCE helped the Azerbaijani government to silence all critics and create a false show of human rights.

I remember all of the investigations that I did, and I have no intention to demand support just because I was encouraged to become a skilled investigative reporter, which in fact is the main reason for my arrest. …

They claim that in order to have the right to work as a journalist with foreign media (although as a freelancer), I am supposed to be registered with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Since I did not register, I am considered an illegal entrepreneur.

These are the new charges, all related to my work with RFE/RL as a bureau chief and freelancer.

Previously there was a charge of driving someone to [attempt] suicide. The alleged victim later disappeared after saying publicly he would not participate or testify against me any more, but that he could be arrested for refusing to falsify the case against me. His whereabouts are still unclear.

That case didn’t work so the government needed a new case against me and they made it. I have spent three and a half months in detention waiting for one prosecution, which didn’t work out. Now another one starts. Let us see if the prosecutors will produce something smarter than they did so far.

Prison is not the end of life. I am strong and see it as a possibility to learn the system from the other side. Communicating with alleged criminals, who do or don’t accept their guilt, I am learning the wrongdoings of the penitentiary and justice system.

It is in fact an unparalleled opportunity. I take it as a challenge to use the time for translating a book and writing. [End Page 185]

Europe

On May 6–9, 65 years after former French prime minister Robert Schuman’s original 9 May 1950 Schuman Declaration, experts from the Florence-based European University Institute (EUI) presented a new Schuman Declaration that seeks to define a new narrative for Europe. The declaration was authored by former Italian prime minister Giuliano Amato, former French minister of social affairs Elisabeth Guigou, and former Latvian president Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga as part of the EUI’s annual State of the Union conference, which offers a venue for reflection on the role of the European Union. Excerpts from the text appear below:

Even at a time of crisis, one can neither forget nor overstate the fundamental contribution of the European construct to the destiny of our continent over the last six decades. In several respects the successes of Europe may have exceeded the boldest expectations of its visionary founders. …

The appeal of Europe was not merely economic. The underlying values of human rights, the rule of law and democracy provided an inspiration and catalyst for the democratic transformation of many of the Member States which joined an enlarging Union. At its best the Union represented the promise of a better future for all.

The circumstance of Europe has changed.

We are witnessing today a pervasive sense of insecurity among European citizens. There is the obvious and immediate sense of economic insecurity, both private and collective. …

At a deeper level, the specific cultural and political identity of national societies is perceived as being threatened. For many this is associated, rightly or wrongly, with the phenomenon of immigration, both internal and external.

Finally there are growing doubts about the Union itself—notably the ability of our Institutions to reflect and respond to the desires and wishes of the very citizens they are designed democratically to serve. There has been a worrying disengagement of a large number of citizens from the process of European integration.

The appeal of “The European Dream” has weakened considerably.

The challenge before Europe is to respond to these insecurities and once again to become the source of hope in a better and safe future. It must convincingly demonstrate that for most of these issues Europe, united in solidarity, offers the best and in some cases the only effective answer. As in the past, this will require bold leadership transcending the immediate daily concerns of our political life and guided by a vision of, and a belief in, a better European future. [End Page 186]

 

Copyright © 2015 National Endowment for Democracy and Johns Hopkins University Press