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Africa In 2014: Uncool Democracy

Africa In 2014: Uncool Democracy
Paul Frimpong
Paul Frimpong

Counting the numbers and gains of Democracy in Africa


WHAT is democracy to Africans? Is it the one where Ghana would have election and be in court for close to eight months and still come out even more stronger or that of Cote D?ivoire, where in 2010, Laurent Gbabo refused to accept electoral results leading to the death of many and destructions of property as well as displacement of many homes, or again, is it that of the March 2012 Coup in Mali; or the ongoing civil conflict in South Sudan which has led to the death of 1000s of innocent South Sudanese? The Dinka ? Nuer clashes in South Sudan leave a lot of hollow in the political governance of African countries ? the quest to consolidating democracy.


The democratic story would continue to be told of Africa in 2014, especially as major elections hit the continent. Political leaders across the continent would be watched from both far and near with rapt eyes to see what they bring to their people.


In the past decades, amidst a strong growth of democracy sweeping across the continent, yet a number of countries have? experienced one form of coup or the other—that of Mali—that of CAR etc.


The post-colonial era saw the emergence of democracy across the African region. Democracy across the African region may be sloppy and haphazard, but electoral contests and term limits are increasingly accepted as fixed rules. Multiparty elections are now firmly established, there have been moves toward greater transparency, and in the most part; armies have stayed out of politics. Many countries have also become more peaceful. The real challenge has however been how to properly reconstruct these postcolonial states. This illustrate the difficult and daunting task of consolidating democracy on the continent.


Many of the democratic regimes witnessed across the continent is very fragile and may not stand the test of time as has been witnessed in series of uprisings and political unrests which follow elections in some parts of the regions.


To move Africa forward, emerging democratic governments would have to confront a legacy of poverty, illiteracy, militarization, and underdevelopment produced by incompetent or corrupt governments.


Democracy in Africa can be the best means to protect and advance human rights, based on individual freedom and dignity. In turn, respect for human rights is the only means by which a democracy can sustain the individual freedom and dignity that enables it to endure.


Consolidating democracy in 2014 would however require more rigorous efforts than ever.? Only a handful of countries that hold the regular multi-party elections in Africa are rated as free, and in line with international and regional standards. The rest of the countries practice what could be described as quasi-democracy. This is because they have the superstructure of democracy; that is, they have political systems, they have all the institutions of democratic political systems, they have elected parliaments, and they hold regular elections.


They have nominally independent judiciaries. They have constitutions that are by and large completely acceptable as democratic institutions–but there are, at the same time, very serious problems in the functioning of the democratic system. These quasi-democratic regimes are very good at holding multi-party elections while at the same time making sure that the core power of the government is never going to be affected.


A typical of such democracies are Angola and Equatorial Guinea. In Angola, President Jos? Eduardo dos Santos (1979 to present) practiced a one party state without standing elections until 1992. Elsewhere, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea (1979 to present) was then chairman of the Supreme Military Council 1979 ? 1982 and has since from 1982 been the president. In a country which is oil-rich but poverty-ridden, President Teodoro Obiang was ?elected? with 95% of the vote. His party ?won? 99% of seats in parliament.


Yet the African continent has come a very long way to achieving a democratic and free society. The test of democracy as a means of human rights protection and the development of a common and equal society still continues.


In the not far years ago, dictatorship and tyrannical rules was the order of leadership which characterized the post-colonial Africa. Just to mention few; there was Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt (1954-1970); Ahmed S?kou Tour? of Guinea (1958?1984); F?lix Houphou?t-Boigny (1960?1993) President of C?te d’Ivoire. Ruled until 1990 with all opposition banned, but not considered particularly repressive. Relocated the official capital to his home village of Yamoussoukro and constructed the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace of Yamoussoukro, the largest religious structure in Africa.


There was Hastings Kamuzu Banda (1963?1994) Prime Minister of Malawi 1963-1966; President of Malawi 1966-1994. Banned all opposition in 1966; declared himself President for Life in 1971; exiled and killed opposition leaders. Ordered that a letter bomb be sent to exiled opposition leader Attati Mpakati; suspected of being involved in the car crash deaths of senior Congress Party leaders; violently crushed an attempted rebellion. Aged 98, he allowed and lost a free election in 1994.


Omar Bongo (1967?2009) Gabon; Idi Amin (1971 ? 1979) President of Uganda, later (1976) declared himself President for Life. Deposed in 1979 after declaring war on Tanzania. Mengistu Haile Mariam of Ethiopia (1974 ? 1991), President of Ethiopia 1987-1991. One-party state; repression of opposition; tens of thousands of extra-judicial killings.


Those stories marred the post ? colonial Africa. Yet against the recent much touted rise of democracy growing in Africa, researches show somehow a different story. The Mo Ibrahim Index, a quantitative measure of good governance, shows a decline of 5% since 2007 in African political participation. Freedom House, an American think-tank, says the number of full ?electoral democracies? among the 49 sub-Saharan countries has fallen from 24 in 2005 to 19 today (EIU).


What could restore faith in Africa?s democracy? Obviously, there are quite a good few countries that can boast of a stable and a growing democracy on the continent. Mauritius, Cape Verde, South Africa, Botswana, Benin, Ghana etc. The best form of remedy to Africa?s democracy is growth ? that which is resilient and inclusive enough.


[See figure below]Africa



Paul Frimpong

??Chartered Economist (ACCE-Global), who writes on the macro-economy and global affairs.

He is also an African Affairs Analyst and Emerging Markets Strategist

Tel: +233 -241 229 548

Email: py.frimpong@yahoo.com/py.frimpong90@gmail.com

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