DEMOCRACY FAILURE

Morsi's death, a deeper problem in African democracy

In Summary

• Morsi, a luminary figure in the Brotherhood, was elected president in 2012.

• His ascension to power came after the Arab Springs that ended President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule.

Deposed President Mohamed Morsi greets his lawyers and people from behind bars at a court wearing the red uniform of a prisoner sentenced to death, during his court appearance with Muslim Brotherhood members on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt, June 21, 2015.
Deposed President Mohamed Morsi greets his lawyers and people from behind bars at a court wearing the red uniform of a prisoner sentenced to death, during his court appearance with Muslim Brotherhood members on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt, June 21, 2015.
Image: REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

The death and burial of Egypt’s first democratically elected President, Mohamed Morsi raises several pertinent issues that characterizes the domestication of democracy in Africa and coverage of the political discourse.

Morsi, a luminary figure in the Brotherhood, was elected president in 2012. His ascension to power came after the Arab Springs that ended President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule.

However, Egypt’s dalliance with a democratically elected president was short-lived as the current President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, then the Defense Minister and defacto army Chief, ousted Morsi in July 2013 following mass protests and a military coup.

The sad end to the narrative is that President Mohamed Morsi is now buried and what we have is a global media, supported by local media, that is now hollering about mistreatment of Morsi and the detainees’ human rights issues.

Yet the crux herein is not prison, or even the silent way Morsi has been buried, but democracy as prescribed by the West and domesticated by African countries.

Critics have decried the commercial media’s proclivity to sensationalize, especially politics, for profit maximization, but even in pursuit of mega advertising revenues; good and in-depth political journalism can coexist with profit maximization endeavors.

Why not? Is it obvious that good politics gives rise to better economic prospects? Granted, the penchant for focusing on non-issues where there are serious issues is sometimes appalling.  

Take Kenya for instance. Our public conversations have focused on political speak and tend to be louder, more pronounced; and stay longer in the public domain when it is the Deputy President, William Ruto; Raila Amollo Odinga or President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Well, politicians are critical in the allocation and distribution of resources and it is only prudent that they occupy the public domain. However, just like the focus on Morsi’s death misses the point and pussyfoots around the crux, often, our media operates from a politico-commercial logic and glorifies political rhetoric at the expense of contextualization of the very issues raised by luminary politicians.

In Egypt’s case, we should be talking about the failure of democracy in Africa and the fact that even where democracy thrives the West interferes with reckless abandon the winner does not seem to be serving their hegemonic interests.

Morsi’s odyssey can be traced back to the Muslim Brotherhood and it goes without saying that the threat posed by a Muslim Brotherhood luminary as the President of Egypt was perceived to be far much greater than the ‘little matter’ of having an army chief topple a democratically elected government. Pertinent question arise: Why did the West turn a blind eye to the military coup that brought an army strongman in Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to power?

Where was African Union and how comes no one is questioning the crackdown on Islamist in Egypt by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi? Are democratic ideals only good for Africa if they fit within the institutionalized White Supremacy ideology. Indeed, the death of Morsi puts the domestication of democracy to question and that is a narrative that we seem to be tiptoeing around.

Back to Kenya and two recent utterances puts a lot into perspective. A few days ago the President raised quite some political seismic shockwaves in a religious conference when he hit out at Tanga tanga movement politicians saying that they did not help him win the elections. 

Coming against the back of the 2017 election fiasco, we need to broadly situate and interrogate this utterance that was rendered in Kikuyu language.

This is very critical because the crux is not who the president was addressing or who he was targeting or even what he meant how he intends to deal with politicians who undermine him.

The crux herein, is electoral justice and what happened in 2017. If the many political leaders who went campaigning for the president all over the country did not help him win the elections, then how did he win the elections, who helped him win the elections and what does his warning to these leaders, who critics have since easily identified, say about our electoral system.

It is sickening to live in a country where from one media house to another and from what publication to another every conversation, debate and analysis is focused on individuals rather than the issue.

In fact, the conversation around Tangatanga and Kieleweke is symptomatic of our lazy thinking in evaluating the political class.

We rely on the media and when the media focuses on political utterances and not the issue, we remain tight lipped and move on as the civil societies organizations sit back and wait for electioneering period to show up behind political formations and make noise!

It is barely one week since President Uhuru Kenyatta’s utterance and it is obvious that Kenyans together with our media, we are waiting for another utterance by a politician, most probably the Deputy President and unfortunately, we will still miss the point and focus on the dulce and not the utile. 

The world today is characterized by a socioeconomic and political space where everything seems to be mediated, and the media’s mediation of issues that the public then interpret is critical in shaping political discourse.

It is though the media that most of the citizenry interact with politics and politicians. Scholars such as Thomas Meyer and Frank Esser look at journalist in the current mediatized dispensation as increasingly influential - arguing that when journalism is characterized by media interventionism that entails news shaped by journalists rather than politicians with angles of stories that force politicians to adapt to the media environment, then the society is better off.

We will be better off if our media outlets - as institutions - allow journalists to dig deeper into political issues, tell stories that interrogate political discourse and avoid stories that pit politicians against. 


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