Democracy, Human Rights

Democracy

Democracy is the rule of the people by the people for the benefit of the people.

It allows the people to be directly involved in decision making on matters that affect their lives.

The opposite of democracy is dictatorship.

This is when the country is ruled by one person who does not take into account the feelings of the citizens of the country.

Definition of democracy

Government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.
 
See the image below:

Types of democracy

There are two major types of democracy namely:

  • Direct Democracy
  • Representative Democracy

See the image and table below:

Direct Democracy Representative Democracy

- People are directly involved in making decisions

- Everyone is consulted

- Can also be called consensus

- People elect representatives who speak for them

- Representatives make decisions on other people's behalf

- Kenya has this kind of democracy

Representative Democracy

Representative democracy is a form of government founded on the principle of elected individuals representing the people, as opposed to autocracy and direct democracy.

Ballots are cast in favour of a candidate. See the image below

 

The two main types of representative democracy:

1. Parliamentary system is where the government is headed by a Prime Minister.

A parliament ensures that the country is governed according to the wishes of the people.

Below is a photo of the Kenyan parliament.

2. Presidential system is where the government is headed by a president who appoints members of cabinet and other government officials.

 

Main principles of democracy

1. Justice: This means that the government should treat all people fairly.

2. Equity: All people should be treated equally regardless of their gender or social status.

3. Fairness: This means that there should be equity in sharing national resources. Some people should not have an advantage over others.

Remember that concepts like Justice, Equity and Fairness can be difficult to define and can mean different things to different people.

The cartoon below shows a good example of this.

4. Rule of law: All citizens should be seen as being equal before the law.

If they commit an offence, they should be given equal treatment.

The law should not be bent to favour some people

5. Recognition of minority groups: No group of people should be ignored no matter how few they are.

Everybody should be listened to and heard by the government

6. Respect of human rights: All citizens should know their rights and make sure that they are respected.

They should speak out if they feel their rights are being abused.

 

Role of political parties in a democracy

Political parties are one way through which people can participate in political activities.

Below are some ways in which they can do this:

  • People can stand as councillors or members of parliament.
  • Through political parties, people are able to express their views and opinions.
  • The government communicates policies and new ideas through party leaders.

They also take back people’s views on the ideas discussed.

  • Parties that do not form the government after elections become Opposition parties.

  • Such parties stay alert and ensure that the party in power does not abuse its power.
  • Political party members can influence policies and decisions of the party.
  • Some of these may be of benefit to the country if the party can convince other parties to adopt it.
  • Party leaders are an important link between the people and the government.

Benefits of democracy

  • It promotes the rule of law.This creates peace and harmony in the society.
  • It respects Human Rights by guaranteeing freedom to all.People are encouraged to respect other people’s rights as well.
  • Democracy allows people to have multi-party democracy.This allows people to join parties whose policies they can identify with.
  • It stops leaders from being dictators through abusing power to govern.

The image below show one of the World's dictators:

  • It allows people to point out mistakes in the laws that govern them.

  • It allows people to live together even though they hold different opinions.

  • It gives everyone a chance to participate in forming the government, thus giving them a chance to participate in decision making.

  • It promotes fairness and equality in society.
  • All people are treated equally.
  • It gives citizens a chance to stand for elective positions.

  • People are also able to vote in leaders they want and vote out leaders that do not serve them well.
  • It encourages accountability and transparency in the way the government is run.

  • In Kenya, elections are held every five years. In the image below Former President Kibaki was transfering power to the in coming President Uhuru.

 

  • This gives every candidate an equal chance to be elected for leadership position.

Human rights

Human rights are contained in the constitution of Kenya.

The rights of citizens are sometimes called freedoms.

The following are the rights and freedoms of Kenya citizens according to the constitution.

1.Right to life:

 Every citizen has the right to live.

  • This means that it is wrong for someone to kill another person.

2. Right to own property:

  • Every person is free to own property that he or she has acquired through the right means.

3. Freedom of expression:

This is also called freedom of speech.

This means people are free to give their opinion on a given issue either through writing or by word of mouth.   

4. Freedom of association:

This means that a person is free to join any organisation or other people or groups of people and should not be forced to join any of them unwillingly.

     

5. Freedom of assembly:

This means people are free to hold meetings without interference from others.

6. Freedom of conscience, belief, opinion and worship:

This means that a person is free to become a member of any religion in Kenya.

 

7. Right to a fair trial:

This means if a person is taken to court; the trial must be done without showing hatred or favour.

8. Freedom from arbitrary arrest:

This means that a person must not be arrested unless one has committed an offence.

9. Freedom of movement:

This means that a person is free to move from one part of Kenya to another and to go out of Kenya and come back without being stopped by anyone.

10. Political rights:

Every Kenyan citizen is free to make political choices.

11. Access to information:

Every Kenyan citizen has a right to access information held by the state or by another person.

The section of the constitution that outlines the human rights is called the Bill of Rights.

Respecting Human Rights is a key part of the Kenyan Constitution.

Here is a picture of former President Kibaki holding the newly signed constitution in 2010.

 

Rights and responsibilities of persons with special needs

People with special needs have the right to:

  • Think, speak and be listened to as individuals
  • Be treated without discrimination or harassment.
  • Pursue their social, cultural and spiritual interests with freedom.
  • Be provided with a physical environment that is safe and secure.
  • Use all the facilities provided for public use with ease.

  • Be included in decision-making processes.
  • Asked and be informed about whatever is happening around them and in the country.

  • Take part in nation building.

  • Express their views and press for improvement of regulations that affect them.

  • Work and be respected like other people.

 

Responsibilities of persons with special needs

People with special needs have the responsibility to:

  • Obey the rules and laws that are in use wherever they are.
  • Treat other citizens fairly.
  • Ensure that they are elected to posts of leadership democratically or legally.
  • Forward their complaints to the right authority through the right channels and in an orderly manner.

  • Observe safety guidelines and ensure they avoid being involved in activities that could endanger them or other people.
  • Ensure that any information they give to those in authority is not a lie.
  • Ensure that they pay taxes or any other payments expected from them.

 

Importance of respecting Human rights

  • It promotes rule of law.
  • It promotes democracy.
  • It promotes peace.
  • It leads to good governance.

 

Abuse of Human rights

Abuse of human rights is denying others their rights and freedom.

When we use our rights and freedoms to offend others, then we are abusing those rights and freedoms.

Examples are:

  • Torturing people.

  • Arresting and putting people in prison without reason and without defending themselves.
  • Practising nepotism, tribalism and corruption.

  • Mob justice.



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