Documents on Democracy

Issue Date July 2011
Volume 22
Issue 3
Page Numbers 178-182
file Print
external View Citation

Nigeria

On May 29, President Goodluck Jonathan of the People’s Democratic Party was sworn in after being reelected on April 16 with 59 percent of the vote. Below are excerpts from his inaugural address:

Earlier this year, over seventy-three million eligible Nigerians endured all manner of inconvenience just to secure their voters cards, in order to exercise the right to choose those that will govern them.

At the polls, we saw the most dramatic expressions of the hunger for democracy. Stories of courage and patriotism were repeated in many ways, including how fellow citizens helped physically challenged voters into polling stations to enable them to exercise their franchise. The inspiring story of the one hundred and three year-old man, and many like him across the country, who struggled against the physical limitations of age to cast their vote, is noteworthy.

Such determination derives from the typical Nigerian spirit of resilience in the face of the greatest of odds. That spirit has, over the years, stirred our hopes, doused our fears, and encouraged us to gather ourselves to build a strong nation even when others doubted our capacity.

Today, our unity is firm, and our purpose is strong. Our determination is unshakable. Together, we will unite our nation and improve the living standards of all our peoples whether in the North or in the South, in the East or in the West. Our decade of development has begun. The march is on. The day of transformation begins today. . . .

I am mindful that I represent the shared aspiration of all our people to forge a united Nigeria: a land of justice, opportunity and plenty. Confident that a people that are truly committed to a noble ideal cannot be denied the realization of their vision, I assure you that this dream of Nigeria that is so deeply felt by millions will indeed come to reality. . . .

The success of the 2011 elections and the widespread acclaim which the exercise received was due to the uncommon patriotism and diligence [End Page 178] exhibited by many Nigerians, including members of the Armed Forces, National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), and others. Unfortunately, despite the free, fair and transparent manner in which the elections were conducted, a senseless wave of violence in some parts of the country led to the death of ten members of the NYSC and others. These brave men and women paid the supreme sacrifice in the service of our fatherland. They are heroes of our democracy. We offer our heartfelt prayers and condolences in respect of all those who lost their lives. . . .

Fellow citizens, in every decision, I shall always place the common good before all else. The bane of corruption shall be met by the overwhelming force of our collective determination to rid our nation of this scourge. The fight against corruption is a war in which we must all enlist, so that the limited resources of this nation will be used for the growth of our commonwealth. . . .

This is a new dawn for Africa. We fought for decolonization. We will now fight for democratization. Nigeria, in partnership with the African Union, will lead the process for democracy and development in Africa. In particular, we will support the consolidation of democracy, good governance and human rights in the continent. Africa must develop its vast resources to tackle poverty and under-development.

Libya

The Libyan Interim National Council issued a statement on March 29 entitled “A Vision of a Democratic Libya.” The Council, consisting of 31 members representing various cities in Libya, was established in Benghazi on March 5 with the goal of “steer[ing] Libya during the interim period that will come after its complete liberation and the destruction of Gaddafi’s oppressive regime.” Excerpts appear below:

The interim national council hereby presents its vision for rebuilding the democratic state of Libya. This vision responds to the needs and aspirations of our people, while incorporating the historical changes brought about by the 17 February revolution.

We have learnt from the struggles of our past during the dark days of dictatorship that there is no alternative to building a free and democratic society and ensuring the supremacy of international humanitarian law and human rights declarations. This can only be achieved through dialogue, tolerance, cooperation, national cohesiveness and the active participation of all citizens. As we are familiar with being ruled by the authoritarian dictatorship of one man, the political authority that we seek must represent the free will of the people, without exclusion or suppression of any voice.

The lessons of our past will outline our social contract through the need to respect the interests of all groups and classes that comprise the [End Page 179] fabric of our society and not compromise the interests of one at the expense of the other. It is this social contract that must lead us to a civil society that recognizes intellectual and political pluralism and allows for the peaceful transfer of power through legal institutions and ballot boxes, in accordance with a national constitution crafted by the people and endorsed in a referendum.

To that end, we will outline our aspirations for a modern, free and united state, following the defeat of the illegal Gaddafi regime. The interim national council will be guided by the following in our continuing march to freedom, through espousing the principles of political democracy. We recognise without reservation our obligation to:

  1. Draft a national constitution that clearly defines its nature, essence and purpose and establishes legal, political, civil, legislative, executive and judicial institutions. The constitution will also clarify the rights and obligations of citizens in a transparent manner, thus separating and balancing the three branches of legislative, executive and judicial powers.
  2. Form political organisations and civil institutions including the formation of political parties, popular organizations, unions, societies and other civil and peaceful associations.
  3. Maintain a constitutional civil and free state by upholding intellectual and political pluralism and the peaceful transfer of power, opening the way for genuine political participation, without discrimination.
  4. Guarantee every Libyan citizen, of statutory age, the right to vote in free and fair parliamentary and presidential elections, as well as the right to run for office.
  5. Guarantee and respect the freedom of expression through media, peaceful protests, demonstrations and sit-ins and other means of communication, in accordance with the constitution and its laws in a way that protects public security and social peace.
  6. A state that draws strength from our strong religious beliefs in peace, truth, justice and equality.
  7. Political democracy and the values of social justice, which include:
    1. The nation’s economy to be used for the benefit of the Libyan people by creating effective economic institutions in order to eradicate poverty and unemployment—working towards a healthy society, a green environment and a prosperous economy.
    2. The development of genuine economic partnerships between a strong and productive public sector, a free private sector and a supportive and effective civil society. . . .
    3. . . . Focus on emphasizing individual rights in a way that guarantees social freedoms that were denied to the Libyan people during the rule of dictatorship. In addition to building efficient public and private institutions and funds for social care, integration and solidarity, the state will guarantee the rights and empowerment of women in all legal, political, economic and cultural spheres. [End Page 180]
    4. A constitutional civil state which respects the sanctity of religious doctrine and condemns intolerance, extremism and violence that are manufactured by certain political, social or economic interests. The state to which we aspire will denounce violence, terrorism, intolerance and cultural isolation, while respecting human rights, rules and principles of citizenship and the rights of minorities and those most vulnerable. Every individual will enjoy the full rights of citizenship, regardless of color, gender, ethnicity or social status.
  8. Build a democratic Libya whose international and regional relationships will be based upon:
    1. The embodiment of democratic values and institutions which respects its neighbours, builds partnerships and recognizes the independence and sovereignty of other nations. The state will also seek to enhance regional integration and international cooperation through its participation with members of the international community in achieving international peace and security.
    2. A state which will uphold the values of international justice, citizenship, the respect of international humanitarian law and human rights declarations, as well as condemning authoritarian and despotic regimes. The interests and rights of foreign nationals and companies will be protected. Immigration, residency and citizenship will be managed by government institutions, respecting the principles and rights of political asylum and public liberties.
    3. A state which will join the international community in rejecting and denouncing racism, discrimination and terrorism while strongly supporting peace, democracy and freedom.

Syria

Opposition figures supporting the antigovernment protests in Syria met in Antalya, Turkey, from May 31 to June 2 at a “Conference for Change in Syria.” The participants elected a 31-member consultative council to support the uprising. Excerpts of the “Final Statement” issued by the conference participants on June 2 appear below:

Today, Syria is witnessing the most difficult and painful days; however, it is also witnessing the birth of a new dawn of freedom quenched by the blood and sacrifice of the Syrian youth demonstrating peacefully on the ground. This puts the burden of urgent action on the shoulders of all Syrians, living all over the world, to work alongside their brothers and sisters in and outside Syria to build a new future for their country.

Therefore, a number of patriotic Syrians, from all different backgrounds, came together and called for the Syria Conference for Change. Invitations were sent to a wide variety of political and populist Syrian activists with the purpose of stopping the bloodshed of our people and to [End Page 181] take a decisive stand towards the events in their homeland and towards the insistence of the oppressive regime on using the military and security forces in rejecting the just demands of the people for freedom and democracy.

The Syria Conference for Change took place in Antalya, Turkey, May 31-June 3, 2011, in solidarity with the Syrian Revolution and to search for solutions that would save Syria from oppression and place it on the road to freedom and dignity. As such, participants agreed to the following:

  1. Participants are committed to the demands of the Syrian people in calling on the Syrian president to step down, in demanding the toppling of the regime, and in supporting the great, peaceful revolution of the Syrian people towards freedom and dignity.
  2. Participants call on president Bashar al-Assad to resign immediately from all of his duties and positions and to hand over authority to his vice-president in accordance with constitutional procedures until the election of a transitional council which will draft and implement a new Syrian constitution that shall call for free and transparent parliamentary and presidential elections within a period not to exceed one year from the resignation of president Bashar al-Assad.
  3. Participants assert their continuous support of the Syrian revolution until it achieves its objectives while emphasizing peace, patriotism, the unity of Syrian soil, the unequivocal rejection of foreign military intervention, and the national unity of the Syrian revolution—one that does not represent any partisan direction nor does it target any particular group of Syrian society.
  4. Participants affirm that the Syrian people are of many ethnicities—Arab, Kurd, Caldean, Assyrian, Syriac, Turkmen, Chechen, Armenian, and others. The conference establishes the legitimate and equal rights of all under a new Syrian constitution based on national unity, a civil state and a pluralistic, parliamentary, and democratic regime.
  5. Participants commit to exert all efforts towards achieving a democratic future of Syria which respects human rights and protects freedom for all Syrians, including the freedom of belief, expression and practice of religion, under a civil state based on the separation of legislative, judicial and executive powers, while adopting democracy and the ballot box as the sole medium of governance.
  6. Participants are committed to the hard and serious mission of ensuring economic prosperity, scientific and cultural advancements under the umbrella of justice, peace, and security.
  7. Participants call on all Arabs, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Arab League and the International Community to take legal and ethical responsibility in order to stop the violation of human rights and crimes against humanity committed against unarmed civilians, and to support the ambition of the Syrian people for freedom and democracy. [End Page 182]