We as citizens of the United States observe politics from afar and the vast majority of us may participate in the political process only to the extent that we go to the polls once a year to vote. We may endeavor to follow the news accounts of our nation's politics as they unfold, and of the consequences those political actions yield, but we have little power to influence our "democratically" elected officials. Perhaps we write an occasional letter to our senator or representative, but we almost inevitably receive a vague and impersonal response explaining why they will vote in our opposition.

Over the decades, our representative democracy has been systematically undermined and has ultimately failed in preserving the well being of the people of this nation. The system that the founding fathers painstakingly devised in order to best serve the interests and the will of the people has been corrupted and the systems of checks and balances on power that they instituted have been stripped away. Most of us accept this reality as being beyond our control and continue to observe, comment, and complain without aspiring to achieving any real change, without any hope of instituting a new system of governance that would instead take directly into account your views, and the views of your neighbors, and would empower you to make real positive change possible in your communities.

This site will attempt to explore in depth the places in the world where people are successfully bringing about that type of change in the face of similar odds, where an alternate form of democracy, which is called participatory or direct democracy, is taking root. Initiative, referendum & recall, community councils, and grassroots organizing are but a few ways in which direct/participatory democracy is achieving great success around the world.

Our system of representative democracy does not admit the voice of the people into congressional halls, the high courts, or the oval office where our rights and our liberties are being sold out from underneath us. Our local leaders and activists in our communities, and even those local elected officials who may have the best of intentions are for the most part powerless to make real positive change happen in our neighborhoods, towns and villages when there is so much corruption from above.

In places like Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Brazil, South Africa, India, and the Phillipines, new experiments in grass roots community based governance are taking place. There is much to be learned from these and other examples of participatory democracy from around the world when we try to examine how this grass-roots based governance could begin to take root here in our own country in order to alter our political system so that it might better serve the American people.

In the hope that one day we can become a nation working together as a united people practicing true democracy as true equals, we open this forum…


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

ZAMBIA: Struggles Toward a New Era

We received the following press release from the Zambia Direct Democracy Movement. - Editor

Zambia Direct Democracy
P.O BOX 34553
Contact 0977-621364

8th October, 2008

Its Not Too Late to Save Zambia

Zambians are ill prepared for the forth-coming Presidential election and going ahead with it may have serious long term consequences for our nation hence our appealing to the listed institutions and key stakeholders to support our call that the Zambia Centre for Inter-party Dialogue-ZCID may initiate dialogue which can lead to the formation of a Government of National Unity which can simply bring all the contenders and other party leaders into government.

* Zambian Government
* MMD Secretariat
* PF Secretariat
* UPND Secretariat
* American Embassy
* British Embassy
* Swedish Embassy
* The Roman Catholic Secretariat

We believe that the forth-coming election to be held as stipulated by the current sick constitution can be set aside to allow reason to dictate because this will not only be an unnecessary waste of resources but an exercise which will not help to bring about the kind of change which Zambians desperately need.

Contrary to what some people may believe an agreement by all political parties at the ZCID followed up by a letter to Electoral Commission of Zambia, ECZ and the High Court is all that it needs to start a Healing process for our country. This can be the much needed Fresh Start towards Zambia becoming a Great Nation with the unfortunately lost vision already stated in our National Anthem.

Already for our young people and those who have suffered serious mental injury under the current government, the election is viewed as a chance to express their anger while for some it has been reduced to a situation where they will want to express their tribal solidarity.

The Mwanawasa era used excessive force by the police and courts to silence citizens for a long time and it is in national interest that a Government of National unity is put in place to defuse deeply rooted anger being harbored by many citizens such as the youth whose Themba's and survival efforts were destroyed, many retirees who have not been paid their due since 1991 when the MMD came in power, the suffering unemployed, those whose homes have been destroyed, and indeed many who feel that they have been victims of injustice etc. Holding elections at this point in time and using a constitution which the nation has already agreed needs a complete overhaul will defeat the whole purpose and reason of the exercise and reduce the election into a mere protest.

Already some citizens are threatening to withhold their votes if their immediate concern such as water and electricity load shedding is not minimized. ZDDM believes that the formation of a Government of National unity can help reduce the current tension in the country and pave way for the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to visit all cases of alleged injustices stretching back to the UNIP era can be addressed as part of the healing process.

It would also pave way for establishing a genuine fight against corruption as compared to the current selective and politically motivated anti-corruption fight where some citizens are imprisoned for the theft of cars which nobody and not even the convicted, the police or the institution were the alleged theft was done are aware of.

Zambians have not enjoyed their freedom of expression because the public media is still controlled by government and the security forces have reacted with excessive force to discourage this mode of expression which has left many citizens looking forward to vent out their anger and frustration through the vote.

As already explained Zambia will be gambling with its future by going ahead with this election before serious concerns from citizens are addressed, a new constitution is put in place and those aspiring for Presidency explain their manifestos because all that the nation is getting from politicians right now are insults and demonisation of each other. The nation requires a massive education on why citizens should vote and promote a realization of the power of the vote and it is only when this is done and really appreciated that Zambians will be able to hold meaningful elections which can facilitate a common vision for Zambians to engage in a battle to save the nation from deepening poverty and address its serious social, moral, political and economic crisis which has been created by the now accepted culture of wasting valuable time and energy on pointing accusation fingers at each other.

In spite of our country being among the richest countries on the continent it is now listed among the poorest countries with among the highest poverty related death rate because of our failure to engage in serious and constructive dialogue. Our Movement believes that it is in national interest that the remaining 30 month of the term of office of this government can be utilized to making a deliberate effort to pave way for a Better Zambia.

It is against this background that ZDDM even at this late hour is mobilizing support that the ZCID can bring together its members contesting the election that they may save the nation unnecessary expenditure and acrimony by changing the future of Zambia through the creation of a Government of National Unity which can focus on a collective national effort to addressing the crisis facing the nation.

Our Politicians should acknowledge the fact that no single person or party can single handedly save Zambia from its current situation .This task needs the coordinated effort of every Zambian from politician to the simple villager in the remote.

We pray that the opposition parties will take heed of our advice this time because they are most likely going to regret if they ignore this advice as it is becoming very clear that the Acting-Vice President Mr. Rupiah Banda will win with a landslide due to the obvious mistakes being made by the opposition.

ZDDM just like many other Zambians is extremely disappointed that the country has been turned into a political battle field of insults and demonizing each other because this does not inspire hope or indeed save any constructive purpose. Zambians do not like what is going on and contrary to what those engaged in this crusade think-they are helping to draw a lot of sympathy and support for Vice-President Banda who is already being viewed as a victim of Satanic attacks. His reaction to the insults being hailed at him is already proving that he is mature and a very democratic leader who does not even need to rig the election results because Zambians are now apprehensive of what sort of government they may have if some candidates won.

While the opposition conduct is campaigning for the Acting President, Zambians should also ask themselves if those demonizing him will accept the landslide victory which they are building for him ?.

ZDDM believes that a time has come for Zambians to put their personal and partisan interest aside to serve a bigger cause which is Zambia as a nation. A government with Mr. Rupiah Banda, Mr. Michael Sata, Mr. Hichilema Hakainde, Mr. Nevers Mumba, Brigadier Miyanda, Mr. Enock Kavindele, Mr. Mundia Sikatana, Princes Nakatindi and all the opposition parties for the remaining 30 months can be very powerful and capable of healing this nation that the year 2011 can give Zambia a Fresh beginning full of hope.

Instead of having a winner and losers ZDDM and indeed the whole nation stands to win if all the political parties for once in Zambian history can put aside their interest and agree to work as one to heal our country and stop the current unnecessary widespread abject poverty .

United we Stand as a Nation
Divided we shall continue to fight and witness
unnecessary premature deaths

Edwin Sakala
National Coordinator for Zambia Direct Democracy

And at the same time
Chairman of Movement for African Unity-MAU
Southern African Regional Representative for the
General Forum for Arab-African NGOs

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