Ms. Hanna Serwaa Tetteh, United Nations (UN) Special Envoy to the African Union, said African leaders must constantly engage citizens on the state of their country in the governance process.
The absence of such commitment, she said, has led to a series of coups in some African countries, as lack of trust in governance has presented less trust by citizens in government actions. a government to do what was right and seen to be right.
She said that trust in government was one of the most important foundations on which the legitimacy and sustainability of political systems rest.
She noted that in Africa the way democratic and governance processes were characterized was almost as if people elected democratic leaders to think and act for them and that it was important to understand that constant communication and continuous interaction with citizens was essential.
Ms. Tetteh said trust, through effective engagement, was essential for social cohesion and well-being as it affected the ability of governments to govern and empowered citizens to act without resorting to coercion.
The UN Special Envoy to the AU, sharing her thoughts during a panel discussion at the “African Union Reflection Forum on Unconstitutional Change of Government in Africa” held in Accra, explained that to examine what influences trust in government, citizens’ preferences need to be compared to their perceptions of how government works.
“Elected leaders should govern with the people so they don’t think for them and assume they knew what they wanted to have at any given time,” she said.
She stressed that “we must begin to see the process of governance as a continuation of constant engagement with citizens – the very people who put leadership in power in the first place” and that the assumption of a top-down approach would be absolved because there was constant conversation and engagement.
Ms. Tetteh, also head of the UN office to the AU, said that given the state of governance in Africa, continued engagement was important as it was the fractures in the governance of the state that had led to the situation of the apparent rise of coups. currently observed in Africa.
“How is it that when there were these coups in the past in West Africa, they were met by particularly young and frustrated people who were unemployed and probably thought that having a military leadership was going to offer them something different?” she wondered.
Ms Tetteh said it was because when there were impending challenges in corps politics and challenges with civilian or military governments, there was not enough engagement with the people to allow them to understand the difficulties in proposing alternative solutions.
Therefore, she said, in the current state of governance, it was essential to ensure that inclusion was not mere rhetoric and suggested refining the governance system so that the continued engagement becomes the norm in a way that upholds democratic principles and principles.
Again, she said respect for the opposition was important, explaining that governance should not be about the party in government or a party in opposition without thinking about the people who elected both parties, otherwise it would become an elite power game.
“It’s become a question of who is able to get the best soundbite, who is able to make the best argument, and who is able to bring people along with their way of thinking at any given time,” said- she declared.
This, she added, is why African leaders must stop viewing politics as an elite interaction and a “zero-sum game” that does not reflect the people who constitute the majority of any society and to ensure that it is done in a way that meets people’s needs.
Ms. Tetteh, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration of Ghana, said that an inclusive system and democracies that did not respond to African values simply meant that effective engagements were not effective because they were fundamental in the governance process.
She suggested that the solutions to nip the growing coup phenomenon in the bud were not about new norms and principles, but “it’s about ensuring that structures, including civil society, the civil service, political leaders, among others, and citizens worked more effectively.