Perhaps it is not enough to simply know your rights. Maybe the greatest virtue of democracy is not the ability of every citizen to exercise his rights, but rather that every member of society is considered a valued participant with a contribution to make.
Each generation confirms to the next the truths that made the former generation great, and of all the truths shared, perhaps the greatest one is this: we are better together than separate, as in the proverbial slogan of revolutionary Africa- ‘’United we stand, divided we fall.’’ And true to these words, when the people of Africa came together they stood, and are still standing to this day. But it is not enough for nations in Africa just to stand, for many African countries it appears the choice was made for autonomy over progress, evidenced by the underdevelopment that has characterized most of Africa since the colonial years. So no, it is not enough for the nations of Africa just to stand, because the ideals of Africa will not be realized simply because an African leader is at the helm. Something more is required.
To meet this need, many in Africa have moved towards making the individual the most vital part of society by emphasizing human rights over national duty. While the human rights movement curbed the atrocities and cruelty that scarred the continent for centuries, it did not address a more detrimental, underlying problem. In the colonial era, one of the colonialists’ justifications for their presence on the continent was that the communities of Africa were harsh and uncivilized and needed foreign intervention for adequate development. And since that time, the idea that Africans are incapable of developing on their own, or making any real significant contribution that the world will take notice of has precipitated in Africans being on the receiving end in many of its interactions with the rest of the world.
However, this needn’t always be the case. It is true that every African is entitled to benefit from the wealth of the continent, however more importantly; every African is responsible for creating that wealth. Many in Africa can articulate fluently what their government ought to provide for them, and will not hesitate to express their discontent at the inefficiency of the system to meet their needs. And indeed it is their right. But in this position, the people of Africa do not see themselves as participants and contributors to the prosperity of the continent, because the power to make change is always deferred to another. If growth and development is to be seen on the continent, the people must be given more than just freedom and benefits, rights and liberties. It is my contention that if greater expectations are made of a people, they will be spurred to rise and meet these expectations. Perhaps it is time that the world makes demands for Africa’s contributions and not makes excuses for her.