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Why movement to restore US democracy is needed

Wildlife-rich and climate change-vulnerable Sub-Saharan Africa has been following the political events unfolding in the United States with great interest. What happens in America still has worldwide consequences.

Emmanuel Koro JOURNALIST

No wonder the violent protests in Washington, DC on the 6th of January 2021 shocked the world. Television viewers, social media followers and radio listeners watched and heard President Donald Trump incite his followers to an insurrection so he could remain as President. He said the November 2020 election had been stolen from him, that he had won “in a landslide.” While his Make America Great Again followers believed him, no US court or any election official could find any credible evidence to support his claim.

Although the insurrectionists did not succeed in overturning the November 2020 elections outcome,  no one believes that they have changed their minds or that the deep divisions within US society will now fade away. After all, the FBI reported just this week that it had processed nearly 40 million background checks required for gun ownership in the last year — 10 million more than the next highest number on record.

The once-dominant moral position of the United States as the oldest continuously functioning democratic republic in the history of the world now looks shaky in light of the unresolved civil rights, health issues and electoral problems the country has experienced.

Recognising the severe threat to America’s standing in the world and in its domestic well-being, a former university lecturer in governance has reacted by launching a movement to restore the commitment of every American to democracy itself.

His 100-word Manifesto says:

As citizens of the United States of America, we hold that the freedoms of religion, speech, press, assembly and petition are almost absolute within our borders; that we are all equally endowed with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; and that together we are committed to the goal of establishing justice, ensuring domestic tranquillity, providing for the common defence, promoting the general welfare and securing freedom for ourselves and our families.

We further believe that governing entities in the United States must be formed of and by the people and must function for the people.

I pledge my support for these bedrock principles of American democracy and will resist any effort to tamper with them.”

Many will recognise that the keywords of the manifesto are stitched together from the US Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, its Bill of Rights and the Gettysburg Address — the foundational documents of America’s democratic system.

Despite its unassailable intellectual pedigree, public reluctance to endorse the Manifesto has surprised Godfrey Harris.

“People seem afraid to put their names on record for fear of the backlash it might bring on themselves and/or their families,” he said.

Harris also believes that the reluctance is the result of years of political mistrust that began with the 1963 assassination of John F Kennedy, the resignation of Richard Nixon, and the loss of the Vietnam War.

Now at the end of the Trump Administration, the US seems to be slipping back into a national depression.

“Just as water flowing out of a sink sucks everything along with it, so a national depression limits the good being done by the US as well,” Harris said. “We get the feeling that everyone hopes a sharply divided country will fade away once Mr Trump and his acolytes leave Washington. But it won’t go away on its own. It has to be pushed down the road to oblivion. The American Manifesto can provide the push.”

“I am hoping that all Americans will join me in continuing our experiment in self-government.” Harris points to the fact that in a world dominated by 24/7 news cycles, the political fringes on the far left and right generate the awe that garners the most attention. But while they are indeed noisy, the fringes lack intellectual integrity.

“We hope Africa will support our movement by signing their own version of the pledge to protect democracy. If African nations were to endorse the manifesto, it would go a long way toward reversing Mr Trump’s attitude that most developing nations, especially those from the African continent, are “shithole countries.  It would make the US look like a shithole country instead.”

The constitutions of wildlife-rich SADC countries protect their democratic rights to benefit from the sustainable use of natural resources. This includes ivory and rhino horn trade and trophy hunting exports. Biden has opposed apartheid. Hopefully, he can support SADC countries’ constitutionally protected rights to grow their wildlife economies through wild trade.

Koro is a Johannesburg-based international award-winning environmental journalists who writes extensively on environment and development issues in Africa.

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