China comments on Kenya unrest

The People's Daily says Western democratic theory isn't suited to African conditions. LM �give us the lay of the land first on the continent. How many countries are there in Africa and how many of those would you consider a functioning democracy?� AA �Well 54 thereabouts countries in Africa. The question of how many functioning democracies is a bit more difficult because everybody's definition of that is different. Most countries have electoral systems, but not all of those by any matter of means would be called functional democracies. Countries like Ghana, countries like Tanzania and obviously South Africa, come to mind as places where the electoral system works. Sierra Leone, which is a post-conflict country just had a pretty good election where the opposition won, there was no kind of chaos afterwards, people very proud of how it went, it was very orderly. So you've got lots of places where people are running elections. But then you also have places like Nigeria where in April of last year there was a huge amount of rigging and universal skepticism about the result. And yet the result was allowed to stand and there is now a functioning government and people have just agreed that they're going to have to try again and they're going to have to go to the courts and test the results and so on. And so you limp along and hope things will get better and better, and I think there's evidence to suggest that that's happening.� LM �And what about Kenya? You haven't mentioned that among the standouts. The genesis in terms of the Chinese government's opinion as stated in this government-run newspaper is that what's happening in Kenya, the violence that's killed hundreds of people, is proof that Western-style democracy is a bad fit. What significance do you place in any kind of Chinese proclamation such as this, and do you agree with it?� AA �no, I definitely don't agree with it, and I think it's particularly unfair when you come to Kenya because it's actually got a great history of effective elections, but some caveats. But certainly with this election everything went so well right up until the last minute, and what you had was a power grab by a group of elites.� LM �so when you hear something like this, do you think it's appropriate to say the Chinese are acting in a self-serving way. They're trying to shore up relations with many African countries, the Chinese would also say Western style democracy is not good for China. but what do they have to gain by saying this about Africa?� AA �Well I suppose to some level they are sticking one in the eye of the West. It is at the moment a competition on the continent between Western investors and Chinese investors, particularly around oil and the other extractive industries, it's been part of the text, we aren't telling you how to run your lives, we're not telling you that you need better governance, we're not telling you how to run your elections. And I think they also genuinely believe, and there are people around the world who agree, that developing countries need commandist models, top-down systems in which you keep a heavy lid on people who want to do things a different way because people have to pull together.� LM �dictatorship or less than that?� AA �not dictatorship, but probably strong government is the euphemism that would be used. Don't forget that in the Cold War years we had that lid on our heads very, very firmly. Nobody was allowed to operate independently in political groupings or civil society organizations. It was seen as a sign that you might tend to join the other side. So we watched Washington and Moscow have a megaphone battle over our heads.� LM �And you say �We� because you are African born yourself.� AA �really things have changed enormously on the continent and we see that as a dividend of greater openness, the removal of that lid over our heads and I don't think the vast majority of us want to see it put back on.� LM �so if President Bush wants to promote democracy in Africa as he's been wanting to do in the rest of the world, what is the approach that you think might work?� AA �Well I think looking at the Kenya situation right now, we have a perfect example and the perfect opportunity. There was an election, a very well conducted election right up to the last point. If the United States can speak out as an impartial player and say, whatever our personal interests are, we believe it's most important for Kenyans to have that vote honored in the best way possible, whether by retallying and recounting, or having to rerun it if the evidence has been destroyed, that is important for Kenyan democracy and we respect Kenyans and their need to have democracy. I believe that would do more for US interests than almost anything else Washington could do.�

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