Barrack Obama, former president of the United States, has called on the political class worldwide to re-focus their attention from the autocratic style of government to the people, arguing that true democracy resides at the grassroots.
Obama said this on Tuesday while delivering a lecture at the centenary birthday celebration of Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg.
Speaking before a crowd of about 15,000 people, the former US president acknowledged that democracy could be chaotic as witnessed with the rising “politics of fear, resentment, retrenchment”.
He, however, argued that “the efficiency of an autocrat is a false promise.”
“It is time for us to stop paying all of our attention to the world’s capitals… and focus on the world’s grassroots. That is where democracy comes from,” he said.
Obama, in a thinly-veiled criticism of his successor, President Donald Trump and the far-right political parties in Europe, demanded a halt in the emergence of “strongman politics” and populism and advocated for the promotion of the entrenchment of liberal democracy.
He said, “Strongman politics are ascendant suddenly… Those in power seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning.
“Authoritarian governments ultimately result in economic, political, cultural and scientific stagnation. Those countries eventually find themselves consumed by civil war or external war.
“I believe in Nelson Mandela’s vision. I believe in a vision shared by Gandhi and King and Abraham Lincoln. I believe in a vision of equality, justice, freedom and multi-racial democracy, built on the premise that all people are created equal.
“I believe that a world governed by such principals is possible.
“I believe we have no choice but to move forward… I believe it is based on hard evidence. The fact that the world’s most prosperous and successful societies happen to be those which have most closely approximated the liberal progressive ideal that we talk about.”