Since the declaration of the state of emergency by Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf, the world has been much divided between those who have been advocating that only a dictatorial military regime can save Pakistan from becoming a failed state and those who claim that only democracy can revive Pakistan. This debate, no doubt, would persist for some time to come, but the issue at large is whether such dictatorial regimes eventually succeed in resurrecting a failing state. For most of the time in the 20th century, many such regimes, especially in Africa, came on the pretext of saving their countries from disaster. However noble their intentions might have been in the beginning, their sustained stay at the helm of affairs, eventually proved disastrous for their respective countries. To start with, let’s take the example of Sudan. Incidentally, this country has also been given the rank of numero uno in the recent ranking of failed states by The Foreign Policy magazine. Omar Hassan al-Bashir came to power 18 years back by a coup. From that time onwards, Sudan had a unidirectional fall to the extent that there was no looking back. The ethnic war not only got more impetus, Omar Hassan’s regime also pushed the nation to a state wherein the external debt stood at $28.2 billion compared to a foreign exchange reserve of $1.66 billion in 2006. With a pittance of GDP of $25.43 billion in 2006, no other country can be credited with as much ethnic violence as Sudan. Giving Sudan company are countries like Somalia, Zimbabwe, Chad, Ivory Coast and Congo. Take the example of Zimbabwe. Robert Mugabe came to power through a similar coup nearly 27 years back and all that it has achieved is the rank of 4 in the same list of failed states, giving ample company to its continental counterparts. Technically, Zimbabwe is a democratic country, but Robert Mugabe can teach lessons on how to run an unchallenged dictatorial regime under the veil of democracy. Zimbabwe has a dismal GDP of $3.15 billion, an unemployment rate of 80%, an external debt of $4.576 billion compared to a forex reserve of just $140 million complemented by a 1000% plus inflation. No wonder Zimbabwe would have been any day far better if there were a strong opposition party which could have made Mugabe more accountable. And then in the same league we have Idriss Deby of Chad, who has been in power for 17 odd years and these 17 years were good enough for him to reduce Chad to irrelevance and adding to the infamy of Africa being a continent inhabited by people not worthy enough to govern themselves. It is not about African states only. In case of Asia too we have the examples of Myanmar and along with that of Afghanistan and Pakistan. What’s happening in Myanmar is no secret and today the military is resorting to every kind of force at their disposal to rout all the voice of protests rising from anywhere in the country. The world has witnessed the most gruesome manner in which the peaceful march of the Buddhist monks was crushed with brutal military force. Today, the military junta of that country simply refuses to give up power. Also, if we take the case of countries like China and Russia, except for the fact that economically both are doing well now, the fact remains that when it comes to non economic factors, and especially the human rights issues, we know what used to happen during the Stalinist regimes of the erstwhile USSR and what happens when people in China resort to protest. The memories of the Tiananmen Square are still fresh in people’s mind! The only exception in this league is Fidel Castro, but then everyone can’t be him. There is no doubt of the fact that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts rather absolutely. Also, there isn’t any doubt about the fact that corruption would remain inherent, be it in a democratic or a dictatorial regime. But at least in a democratic setup, the pulls and pressures from the opposition and other institutions at least keeps a leash on all of it as the ones in power know that things can change rather drastically in the very next election. Back home too, anti-incumbency factor has played a rather crucial role in states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and even Delhi to make the incumbent government slog and deliver results. Contrastingly, Nandigram’s gruesome outcome merely indicates what happens when a near totalitarian regime remains unchallenged in power for thirty years. By that standard, there isn’t much difference between a Zimbabwe, Sudan, Chad and a current West Bengal!!
- 09 December 2007 |
- Arindam on Indian Politics