Our framing of democracy needs urgent updating. An electoral-based system of choosing leaders is indeed one of the most enduring innovations that has the majority of the countries across Africa transitioning from hereditary and predominantly authoritarian systems of power towards a more open system. Once we acknowledge that democracy is human innovation-perfected by the Greeks we should also be prepared for ongoing improvements and at times reconnecting with the original idea.
We have limited the potential of democracy as a system of governance not only through the alleged rigging of elections but also through the failure to acknowledge and promote the role of citizens within the polity. The current conceptualization of democracy has mostly dwelt on the rules of taking power, legitimation or rule, and arrangement of governance systems, and rarely does it talk about citizen politics. Instead, national legislation has devoted attention to qualifying what citizens can do by focusing on voting rights, rights of assembly, freedom of expression, and speech in a prescriptive manner. These official processes do not have the capacity to understand in a more detailed manner the issues that citizens are engaged in or what citizenship really entails.
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