The rulers and the ruled.

Author:Versi, Anver
Position:From the Editor

Our cover story this month focuses on the upsurge of public protests against two of Africa's most entrenched Heads of State, Algeria's President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Sudan's Omar al-Bashir.

Both leaders, presiding over largely dysfunctional nations, had indicated their intention of manipulating constitutional rules to allow them to run for yet another term of office. The prospect of more of the same misery, stretching out towards an unquantified horizon, was too much for their populations to stomach and they came out into the streets in their hundreds of thousands.

This has happened many times before, in Africa and in other developing regions and no doubt, we shall be talking about a similar phenomenon involving yet another leader in the near future.

Perhaps this is a good time to remind ourselves about the evolution of the relationship between the ruled and the rulers. Time was when the distinction between the two was sharp, clear and enforced through the cutting edge of steel or the hangman's rope or the destructive power of a bullet. This was the long period of world history when absolute monarchies held sway domestically; followed by an era of plunder, conquest and colonisation abroad.

It was succeeded by the age of the people, who after centuries of bitter struggle and sacrifice, wrested control from the absolute rulers and determined to rule themselves in a manner that most suited their own needs and desires.

This manifestation took various forms but in general, the two main systems that evolved were democracy through universal franchise, and communism through cell representation.

Democracy, in Abraham Lincoln's immortal phrase, involved "Government of the people, by the people, for the people". Those elected to the highest offices of the land, including the President or Prime Minister, ruled on behalf of the people, not over the people.

Their one and only responsibility while they hold office is to do everything in the considerable power vested in them by the people, to fulfil the wishes of the people and employ the state's resources, including the human capital, to alleviate problems faced by their citizens and improve their standards of living. They have no other function.

In order for them to carry out their duties--to which they are made to solemnly swear in public--their office is vested with...

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