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Friday, February 10, 2006
Guyana’s ACDA’s Call Is The Most Honest Intervention In Recent Times

By David Hinds
Special To HBN

Hardbeatnews, WASHINGTON, D.C., Fri. Feb. 10, 2006: The African Cultural Development Association’s recent call on African Guyanese to stay away from the upcoming election may be shocking to some but it is the most honest political intervention in recent times.

The critics will be many, the debate will be intense and the knives will be drawn from both sides of the political/racial divide. In the process ACDA’s essential message is likely to be lost or deliberately misrepresented as is evidenced in a few letters to the press and comments from politicians. They will be quick to grasp the boycott call but will intentionally and not so intentionally ignore the case or cause for the call.

The basic question ACDA raises is this: What is the future of African Guyanese in the formal political process in Guyana? It is a question that must be answered sooner rather than later, because the answer will determine whether Guyana can hold together as a unified nation much longer.

Most politicians, political commentators, the media and academics have ignored or found ways to sidestep this question and are quick to brand anyone who confronts it as racist or having racist intent. There is an attitude in Guyana that has taken African non-representation in the halls of governance for granted. When this issue reared its head in a most violent manner in the 1960’s, the politicians in collusion with foreign forces imposed a political settlement that led to the construction of a dictatorial regime that marginalized Indians and eventually consumed even its own African constituency.

I have disagreed with ACDA in the past, but I am compelled to recognize the importance of this intervention. As I understand it, ACDA’s call is for a movement towards of power sharing or Government of national unity with a boycott of the elections as a last resort.

Forty-five years ago another African-centered organization, the African Society for Racial Equality, through its spokesperson, Eusi Kwayana, made a similar call for power sharing with partition as a last resort. Just as the Kwayana’s call was demonized so will ACDA’s.

Many commentators and observers have been raising questions regarding the outcome or likely outcome of the 2006 election. Will the PPP be voted out of office? Can the new political forces, the Alliance for Change (AFC) and the Guyana Third Force (GTF) make a favorable showing? Will violence accompany the election? Will there be a big tent of all the opposition parties? These are all legitimate questions that should not be dismissed.

Yet, unlike the ACDA appeal, they hardly address the fundamental problem that has affected Guyana since the split of the national movement in 1955. The practice of dancing around real problems, scratching the surface here and there, and speaking to symptoms rather than causes has been the hallmark of postcolonial Guyanese and Caribbean political culture.

Guyana is not one of those well-defined nation-states found in political science and economic textbooks. It defies most models. It is part of a small group of states that persistently brings out the worst in competitive political contestation. Elections in these countries have lead to divisiveness, social upheavals, communal violence, political and economic marginalization, racial insecurity and the ever-present threat of social disintegration. Free and fair elections, important though they are in the political process, are at best exercises in “democratic pretense.”

This situation presents unique challenges for those who seek to govern Guyana. They are challenged to go beyond the rhetoric of democratic models and free and fair elections. Formal electoral democracy, based on the majoritarian winner-take-all system, has not led to substantive democracy or in the case of Guyana “racial democracy.”

In fact, it has lead to anti-democracy as the representatives of one race monopolize power at the exclusion of all others. Tyranny of the majority becomes tyranny of the majority race. The fundamental question that faces Guyana is not simply free and fair elections but how to make elections lead to outcomes that are satisfactory to all races. This is the gist of ACDA’s message. We can continue to ignore it to our national peril.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The writer is a Guyanese-born, U.S.-based professor and runs the website. –