It is true that many different definitions have been given of what democracy is and most do not agree on its scope but one thing is clear, it entails freedoms – of expression, of speech, of opinion and of association. In most countries of the world, these rights are considered sacrosanct and each citizen must enjoy them fully.
As human beings are complex and belong to divergent opinions on almost everything, the enjoyment of such rights by an individual has limitations lest it encroaches upon the right of another. The freedom of speech for instance cannot be absolute as when a speech threatens the peace and stability of a country then it should be curtailed.
However, the control mechanisms put in place must also not be a means to hinder the rights of others. It must be done in such a way that every citizen will enjoy maximum protection but also enjoy his/her rights fully. It is then that it can be said that the citizens of such a country are enjoying democracy.
Of course, as human beings are not perfect, the likelihood that some will want to usurp the rights of others must always be kept in view. That is why there is what is referred to as checks and balances in a democracy. There are three arms of government: the executive, the judiciary and the legislature. These three arms have equal powers so that one will check the other so as to avoid abuse of office.
The separation of powers must always be respected by those entrusted with the running of the affairs of the nation. If one of them usurps the powers of the other(s) then there is a total breakdown of law and order which in other words is anarchy and not democracy.
It is for this reason that those people in leadership positions must measure their language and speak democratically, which means their statements must by inclusive and unifying rather than divisive as they have followers who listen to them and follow their lead.
This is why the recent happenings in the Gambia are worrisome and political actors across the divide must try to tone down the rhetoric and seek out ways to promote dialogue and unification.
Let there be peace!