The Price of Democracy

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I was invited  to attend a celebration of a partnering organization which took place in Nairobi over the weekend. I, of course had to take the golden opportunity to move around Nairobi to see the beauty of the city and feel the breath of the economic giant of the East African Community.

First, let me state the obvious; noisy city, garbage and trash on the road side, span boys  hitting metals and of course the traffic Jam (allow me to emphasize on THAT!). Later in the evening, a friend took me out for coffee. On the way we got into the omnipresent traffic jam, other drivers who were impatient decided to take the opposite direction throwing the basic traffic rules and regulations out the window. This friend of mine who is from Europe also did a turn over just opposite the state house. Funny enough the presidential guards were just standing with their guns at the back (they did NOT move an inch). To say that I was shocked would be an understatement! After the incidence, I asked my friend if she could do this in Europe.  She answered, “Joseph, when am back home there are some things that I do here that I cannot even dream of doing due to heavy punishments and culture.” “So, why did you do it here?” I asked trying to contain my shock! She told me that human beings behave according to how the society is shaped. Her response caught my attention and started asking myself the reason why this way of behaving does not happen in Kigali-Rwanda. I told that this was definitely unacceptable in Rwanda. Her response was leadership changes everything. Basically, this means that if the head is sick the body will not function properly.

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During our conversation, she asked me if at all any change of power in Rwanda came to pass will that type of organization (cleans roads and street, traffic rules, etc)  continue? I responded by reminding her the story of how Japan became a developed country in the world. After the Second World War, the citizens decided that they wanted peace, stability and development. They had to change their culture and mind set. This shaped the way the society behaved. And this has seen Japan becoming one of the richest country in the world.

The lack of organization in Nairobi is a clear indication that democracy built on no moral and cultural discipline has a price to pay. May I also submit to you that Democracy is not letting the citizens do whatever they feel like doing in the country? Democracy is not the absence of rule and regulations.  Democracy is the ability to hear and address the issues of the people for the betterment of the society and their welfare. A free country is not, as many may think, the perpetual teenage party; there are some strict boundaries that should be put in place. Or the consequences will be dire.

For the case of Rwanda, the population is getting used to hard work, cleanliness of their city, respect of the rule of law and community service. Soon, this will be indoctrinated in the minds of the citizens and will eventually become part and parcel of the society. Hence, embracing the principles of democracy. Let me illustrate this with a personal story.  One morning, while I was getting ready to drive my  kids to school, I started the car engine without putting on my seat belt. My six year old son started a ruckus; he told me “daddy, the police will lock you up”, I asked why Josh? He politely said reminded me that I wasn’t putting on my seat belt. Needless to say that I was proud of my son! Imagine a six year old child knows that it is unacceptable to drive without tightening your seat belts. By the time he will be 15, putting on a seat belt will be part of him whenever he is in a car.

The responsibility we have is; FIRST, to have admirable and commendable values and then, to pass over those values that embrace democracy to the younger generations. Secondly we can embrace the principles of democracy at our lowest levels of society, in our homes, at school, classes and in NGOs.

If we want to build strong democracy in Africa we need to instill values in our people. Democracy is not changing leaders, presidents and parliamentarians. People think their society will only be changed if the top people were removed. This is why coup d’états are almost a normal thing in Africa. Rebels, opposition parties, you name it! I would like for us to consider some small things. First, Democracy has to come from and with a change of mindset and also getting out of mediocrity. What are we teaching our kids? What values do we express in our workplace? What beliefs do we encourage in our communities? Our leaders are as human as we are. If we deal with the small pieces of our communities, those leaders will not have to worry about the nation as a whole. If you have no positive values, NO leader in the whole world will instill them in you. Africa need to harmonize and innovate home grown democracy that is community based. This will bring about a generation that appreciate and respect their fellow human beings , a generation that can seat and dialogue about the problems in their surrounding communities.

GENDER EQUALITY SHOULD NOT BE JUDGMENTAL

Last Monday I read about the recent comment of our dear Pope about the LGBT community; his teachings about tolerance, equality of rights, and acceptance. Of course it is not news that the world has a large community of homosexuals (LGBT) searching for their rights. This has been loud in every part of the world; several countries in Africa have taken very harsh steps to fight this community. But the truth of the matter is they are here and they won’t go anywhere. Coming back to the pope, I thought that some of what he said was valid so I posted my thoughts on the blog .

I am active on the social media, for that reason someone, after reading my post, asked me if we could meet for a therapy. I gave him an appointment and received him in my clinic for a talk, am a medical doctor by training by the way for those who didn’t know-. It turns out, this young fellow was gay and facing some harsh discrimination in his community. He had lost his self-esteem as a person and was fighting to be “normal” and fit in his society. Seeing and hearing how much he was struggling made me think about what our society was doing to these young men and women.

I know so many of you are going to think that I have been possessed by demons. But before you do that let’s first read our bibles. In Genesis 19, God decided to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha because the population was engaging in homosexual acts. Many Christians nowadays used the very portion of the bible to KILL these men and women. Can I submit to you, dear readers,that the fire and brimstone (used to destroy the city) came down from heaven from GOD HIMSELF? When did God assign us to kill and torture these poor people? We have magnified this sin but we all have sins and weaknesses and God treats them all THE SAME. Therefore, a cheater, drunkard is not holier than a gay person. Even a liar is not holier than a gay person. Am I saying that God says it is right? Certainly not! What I am saying is we have no right to hurt, torment, or KILL them.

Did you know that God says that all humans are created in HIS IMAGE? I would like to stress on the small word ALL. Think about it; does it not change a lot? Every time I  see a gay person, I remember they are created in God’s image. Yes. We are very different in terms of beliefs and actions but, AM I GOD’S ADVOCATE TO KILL THEM? Was anyone assigned by God to torment them? (If you are please do let me know).

An asylum seeker from Uganda covers his face with a paper bag in order to protect his identity as he marches with the LGBT Asylum Support Task Force during the Gay Pride Parade in Boston

An interesting thing that I noticed (this might shock many of you) is that they are SMART, TALENTED, AND KIND! They are not murderers, they are not harming the society; they are actually participating and contributing to its development just like many of us.  These are people with dreams and ambitions. People whose intellect the society really needs.

There is something that societies all over the world decided to do, especially those highly influenced by religion; magnifying sins. As I recall, the bible tells us that all sins are equal before God. Yes, they are sins and grieve the heart of God but they are all equal. Why is it now that a homosexual is more dangerous than an adulterer? Why is the society rising up to kill them leaving the pedophiles behind? If the society decided to become God’s advocate against one sin, let it also be against all the others. I need to emphasize that it is up to God to decide if  homosexuality is a sin because it HIM who created them. IT IS WRONG. I also remember, Jesus, when Pharisees wanted to stone a caught prostitute,  he asked the crowd to stone her ONLY IF THEY HAD NEVER SINNED! Please think about that!

We need to focus on things that should be focused on. The resources spent on eradicating the gay community can be used to find a cure to Ebola (why not?), to rescue the hostages of Boko Haram, or even reduce world hunger. If these people are not hurting you or your family in any way, why harm them? And better yet, why can’t we use the same resource to eradicate something more meaningful such as hunger, AIDS, or  reduce maternal death?