Blog post

It was Monday, the first day of class, when after spending some minutes introducing ourselves we briefly brainstormed what democracy is! It was on that that I was intrigued by the people’s ability to conceptualize and speak their thoughts with all clarity. Though I didn’t say it, but one student made a clear distinction between ideal and substantive democracy in that preliminary discussion in our first class meeting. This was amazing, and throughout the semester the class remained active with people participating and professor Kendhammer explaining things whenever we stumbled upon something.

Of the assignments, the peer review exercise was very helpful. The comments we received from the instructor and fellow students really helped me get going with the paper I was writing. The democratic index exercise was also another avenue to put theory into practice – it helped explain democracy in concrete terms.

In all, I learned so much from this class. First, although it is difficult to define democracy, it is still an achievable thing. Secondly, democracy depends upon the elite’s willingness and ability to compromise and share power with the masses. Thus reducing the incentives and privileges one would get for being a leader will always help reach that stage.

I think the class was well organized and Dr. Kendhammer gave class members equal opportunity and enough time to discuss the various phenomena we were looking at. The Professor gave enough guidance to make us think, and was also accepting of people’s differing opinion, and I think that was great.

Journal

Well, to begin with, I had to rework some areas of the paper so that it could be coherent to make it readable to the reader. I did this by providing a little bit more context to the some of the existing parts, and I hope that the additions will help to make it easily readable.

Secondly I had to cite the paper to evidence some of the huge claims I was making in it. this was the most demanding task as it kept me awake for a considerable period of time.

Coupled with some other assignments for other classes, it was a little bit challenging to meet the deadline. I submitted my paper three days late, and I thank Professor Kendhammer for his indulgence to let me keep working on the paper beyond the deadline.

Research Journal 14

According to Professor Nacer Djabi, there are two scenarios for a democratic political change in Algeria. The first scenario is the positive one. This scenario is the peaceful and pacific scenario that may occur for within the institutions such as the current political parties as well as the civil societies through means like elections. Professor Nacer Djabi argues that in order for this transition to occur peacefully, the first generation has to concede its powers to the second generation which is mainly consisting of ministers, prime ministers, and political party leaders. However this approach is problematic because the case with this generation in Algeria is that it had a chance to experience being on the top of the executive branch and have the majority of the seats in the parliament yet they still believe that they do not have the ability of the real decision making control. In other words, this generation executes but does not decide. The second scenario is the violent scenario. This political change scenario comes from outside of the institutions and will be done by the third generation which will oppose the first generation and possibly face the nationalism ideology simply because the third generation views everything the first generation does as negative. This scenario will high likely occur in the streets due to the absence of the third generation in the higher institutions. Finally, in order for Algeria to reach democracy, it has to overcome the challenging obstacles standing on its way in the examples of demilitarize the political decision making, open more venues and assign more role to the younger generations, and increase the quality of social welfare in order to guarantee a peaceful transition.

Research Journal 13

Where is Algeria Transitioning to?

It is certain that Algeria is facing challenging obstacles in order to transition to a fully democratized state. The power struggles between the political and military elites have been withholding the country from implementing such transition. These power struggles have been seen in the examples of factionalism, the military perceiving itself as the heir of the nation, and the race to acquire a large portion of the economic cake. Moreover, one of the main challenges of democratization in Algeria has been associated with the problem of generations. According to the Algerian sociologist and political science professor Nacer Djabi, the failure power transition that leads to a democratic change in Algeria is associated with three generations. The first generation is the generation of the revolution (la famille révolutionnaire). This generation consists of the people who made the revolution and fought for the war of independence against France. Professor Nacer Djabi describes this generation as being smart and controlling. For instance, this generation is known by not having achieved higher educational levels, yet they have a long experience in governance. This generation forms the top political and military elite currently in Algeria. This generation views the other generations as politically immature and that it is not safe to proceed with an uncertain political transition and hand the country’s affairs to them. This first generation is looked at by respect and fear by the second generation while the third generation looks at them with discontent and unhappiness. The second generation is the generation which was born during the last ten years of colonialism and the first ten years after the independence. The second generation is the generation that participated heavily in building and developing Algeria. They have a better educational level than the first generation and also have the authority to economic and social decision making. However, this generation does not have the authority for the political decision making because it is monopolized by the first generation. This generation is heavily present in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the government in Algeria. This generation received its governance training from the first generation which was the generation that placed them in their current positions in the government. Therefore, this generation does not actively look for change because they perceive the first generation as the real saviors of Algeria and are usually fearful and shy from creating a significant change. At the same time, this generation whose age range starts from fifty years old still hopes for reaching the elite’s positions. According to Dr. Nacer Djabi, one can find a sixty year old person who has been serving in the government for decades still hoping to reach higher leadership positions whereas the normal expectation is that people at that age would have to retire according to the Algerian law. Therefore, the real problem that is holding Algeria from transitioning to democracy lies in the second generation. This second generation is the one that implements the quick fix solutions decided for it by the first generation to buy social peace in order to perpetuate the system. Moreover, this generation is a pure product of the single party system, yet it is functioning in the multiparty era with practices of the old one. Even though this generation has high management skills, it is perceived by the first generation as being there to execute only while it is viewed by the younger generation as stubborn bureaucrats. The third generation is the generation which was born during the last thirty five years. This generation forms percent of the population. This generation has still not had its chances to reach medium and high leadership positions. This generation has the virtues of being highly educated, open to other cultures, and master foreign languages. This generation is known by its advanced skills and rapid adoption of new technological inventions. For this young generation, they believe that instead of engaging into formal political parties in which they lost hope to implement change, they use other means to express themselves and their opinions using means such as social media. As previously stated, this generation perceives the first generation negatively; sometimes to the point where they express their doubts about the legitimacy of this generation as far as nationalism and the war of independence. Some of the comments that the third generation makes to the first generation is that they are corrupted and sign of wealth are obvious on their lifestyles while they are isolated from the daily problems of Algerians. This is due to the absence of the young generation in the institutions that are controlled by the first generation. However, the third generation looks at the second generation more positively due to several reasons. The second generation is present in the constitutional institutions, companies, universities, and civil societies where they have access to an immediate contact with the younger generation.

Research Journal

Prison upkeep does not hold a high ranking on the Ghanaian national budget list and the Ghanaian government has yet to make overcrowded prisons a thing of the past due to the lack of attention and focus being given to the problem.  This young democracys’ budget includes plans of fiscal and economic growth, allowing little room for prison upkeep and in turn leaving the conditions of Ghanaian prisons and inmates in the dark.  In 2009, the Ghanaian Prison Service estimated 31 million cedi (18.7 million US dollars) was necessary in order to maintain a functional prison system, however the amount that the Ghanaian government allotted the Ghanaian Prison Service was barely half of what was needed.  Only 16 million cedi (9.7 million US dollars) was allocated for the Ghanaian Prison Service to carry out their “core functions” that include the safe custody of prisoners, the welfare of prisoners and reformation and rehabilitation of prisoners.

Research Journal

Though remand prisoners remain a huge problem within the Ghanaian prison system, there has been slight improvement with the implementation of the Justice for All program, which was put into place in 2007.  This brought judges into the prisons to hear the cases of remand prisoners instead of taking the time and expenditure to conduct a formal court hearing.  The Justice for All program allowed the judges to hear the cases of long awaiting remand prisoners within the prison walls and decide the prisoners fait—whether the prisoner should be acquitted of all charges and released, convicted of the crime, or given bail.  In one instance during the month of August in 2011, through the Justice for All program a judge heard the cases of 139 remand prisoners and of 139 prisoners:  59 were release and acquitted of charges, 46 were granted bail, nine of the prisoners applications were dismissed, seven cases were to be heard again, and only 11 were convicted.

I really liked reading the numbers here, it was a great example of how many people do not need to remain in custody for long periods of time.

Research Journal

A brief outline of my paper:

Introduction

Background

 

Overcrowded Conditions

Health

 

The Importance of Due Process

 

Constitutional Violations

 

Excess Remand Prisoners

 

Reform Urgency

 

National and International Monitoring

 

Conclusion

Final Blog

This class was a great chance for me to learn what I did not know before. I enjoyed the rich content of the class where we had many examples from many places in the world. I could contextualize my knowledge about the challenges of democratization and I am now more able to identify whether a country is democratic or not based on the tools we learned in class. The democratization index was a very good hands on experience for me. Also, the games we played in class to explain the transition process form authoritarian rule to a more democratic one were very beneficial. Countless are the things I learned in this class and I am grateful to have arrived to this point!

Final Blog 4/1

The most interesting thing I learned in this class was the layers needed to get a solid democracy. I did not realize the steps, challenges, and routes there were to achieve such. Going into this class wide eyed and not truly ready for what I would learn was a learning experience. I never knew the value I had living in America under a strong democratic government until I learned the problems others were facing. It is true what they say someone else always has it worse. Learning more in depth about China, the Global South, all my countries for our index project truly make you see a different perspective and one that I hope made me a better person for the way I handle my opinions on democratic issues at home. Aside from the positives this class also taught me that I need to be more productive in time management skills. My paper could of used more time and that ultimately falls in the lesson learned category. Along with that I see that having a journal to manage the details of the paper is a strong investment. As much as I learned in the democratic field I did as well as the dictator field, trust me no soft lining would be coming from my platform! On that light hearted note I would like to thank you for teaching an enjoyable class and helping evolve into a more democratic minded individual.

Research Journal

For my last research journal I want to discuss what I learned from the process of researching/writing this paper. I found the research journals that we were required to do each week to be very helpful. Doing little amounts of research each week helped me not only stay on top of the paper, but it also helped me understand the topic a lot more then I think I would if I were to start the paper two weeks before it was do. One thing that I learned while doing research for one paper for a whole semester is that it is really important to take good notes on the articles and books that I read. While writing and revising my paper I found that I had to reread many of my sources because my notes did not provide me with enough information.

Prior to starting this paper I thought that I had a pretty good understanding of how to conduct research, but this paper helped me improve my research skills. I found that there were a lot of books at the library pertaining to my topics about Ghana and Kenya the challenge was finding what sources I thought were the best, most accurate depiction that I was looking for. I felt like I was rereading a lot of the same information over and over again just from different sources. Of course this helped me better understand the information, but it also helped me develop a better sense of what type of information/articles were worth reading.

While writing this paper I found that no mater how good you feel you information is at describing your logic and thought process it can always be better! I found that my political history to be specifically challenging because I felt like I had to condense so much history into one short section. This helped me really pick out what information was important to my argument. I also learned how to better organize my paper. I found the articles that your provided us really helpful in understanding the structure and organization. Overall, writing this paper was a valuable learning experience that will help me writing future papers.