Why Democracy Is So Fragile In African Countries In The Contemporary World

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“The one-party State proved to be one of the most durable and common forms of government in Africa after independence”. After Africans had won their liberation from European foreign authorities, most sub-Saharan States fell victims to one-party or one-man rule. However, democracy has started to develop in the latter few years. Today as we speak, 18 nations of sub-Saharan Africa are viewed as working democracies, and as many as 35 are at a period of democratic transition. Although ingrained tyrants continue to rule some of sub-Saharan Africa’s major countries, including Kenya, Zaire, and Angola. Blockades to democratization continue through the land, problems such as unending deficiency, extensive illiteracy, partial investment, massive external arrears and cultural and religious struggles. Nevertheless, activists of African equality say that widespread pressure within sub-Saharan Africa itself will bring about supplementary party-political restructuring in the pending years. Democracy has however been fragile in Africa due to the combination of ethnic battles, corruption, colonial legacy and artificial borders. These reasons will be discussed below in more detail, but ultimately democracy seems to have failed in Africa despite some apparent successes.

The actions of colonial predecessor link directly to why democracy is so fragile in African countries in the contemporary world. Despite Africa’s authoritarian nature, the colonial state was feeble, and its knowledge of the African society was very limited since it had little concern for the progress of the multitudes’ conditions of life. During this phase, the pastoral multitudes rarely dealt with the nation that had preferred a system of secondary rule, like the one the British had adopted in Ghana. Therefore, the colonial stage saw the development of a nation based on authority rather than validity and an oppressive political culture that considered ferociousness, patronage and corruption as normal tools of sustaining control over a population. After colonialism, African countries, as a result, inherited these constructions, at the same time where the political culture was one in which the first leaders of African independence were becoming politically active. Those leaders would, after the liberation, maintain the structures of intimidation and administration inherited by the colonialists.

Furthermore, the postcolonial regime of recently sovereign sub-Saharan African states had progressed into the domination by a single political party in a one-party organization. As a result, it often turns out into a personal dictatorship. It was revealed that authority in the State had relied on admission or support from the ruler, in some cases, military totalitarianism was formed by coups d’état, which conquered democratic governance. The martial leader, imposed power on an institutional foundation, leading collegially as a dictatorship or by mixing top administration positions between martial generals. There was a clear arrangement that whatsoever the form, one-party states and additional forms of tyrannies repressed both competition and input, rejecting the possibility for strong civil society and the essential establishments for democracy. In most one-party states “presidential polls were abandoned, and elections were restricted to first past the post constituency”. Members identified that in several African States and organizations of society and the autonomous government is weaker today than they were in the instant post-independence time, causing the conversion to democracy an intimidating encounter. Some have contended that, for democracy to prosper, power must move away from military and totalitarian rulers to leaders who would be demonstrative of and sensitive to the varied ethnic multitudes in the African societies. These new officials they said, must direct a change to the protection of people’s liberties, the establishment of agreed-upon procedures of domination, and improved political responsibility to undergo the move to democracy.

It can be argued that “the division of Africa into modern states” was one of the driving force that leads to the fragility of democracy in the contemporary world. The imperial powers’ imposition of the state borders on African region had significant complications. These imperial states left numerous amount of states in Africa with no substantial resources to allow them to develop their economies. For example, Niger was left with a small land inside its artificial borders capable of inconsequential agricultural work. As a result, states like Niger have struggled to develop and embrace democracy after receiving its independence. Many of these artificial “borders do not make economic sense” (Thomson, Pg14, 2009), creating long-term problems for Africa. This has resulted in ethnic wars because of scarce resources, which further destabilized democracy.

Moreover, it must be argued that the ethnic battles created by internal quarrels concerning scarce possessions like property, natural resources, water and authority after acquiring freedom, triggered most African countries to emerge into the single-party system. It was deemed as the ideal way to bring the people together before engaging in power struggles brought about by multi-parties. Scholars such as Akinrinade claims that the one-party system ensured stability, she asserts that democracy goes hand in hand with the struggle for power and detachment in the individuals among political party lines. Therefore, the competition for partial power will cause disorder in the state. A system with one party confirms consolidation in the dogmatic arena and guarantees that struggles and chaos which could lead to war and mass obliteration are evaded. For example, the prior Tanzanian President Nyerere’s change to implement one-party system was, meant as a resolution to the struggle existing amongst tribes because of ethnic separations, but misinterpreted as a change out of illiteracy. Since some people believe that the only way such problems can be avoided is by reverting to the good old system of single-party rule. Likewise, African countries were perceiving and following the footsteps of the European system of domination, in which the acceptability of the state by the people was guaranteed before tolerating competitive parties to play a part. Ethnic battles within the government appear to be, a key cause of why democracy has been so fragile in sub-Saharan Africa.

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In addition, it must be said that competent establishments are a pivotal condition for efficient democratic development. Arguably Africa’s institutional quality is, in fact, weak from a global perspective for a significant part this is due to high levels of corruption, which leads to dictatorships and weak government. Bribery performs a duty on directing transactions, by numerous stations affects a country’s institute as well as its economy. Thus, this corruption decreases FDI and the productivity of governments since they exploit rents from avoiding red tape relatively than welfare. Consequently, it restricts the tax-raising ability of regimes because it powers the magnitude of the underground economy, which delays the progress of democracy.

Additionally, the disputes brought about by-elections also adds to the fragility of democracy in Africa. As trivial as it may seem, sub-Saharan African economies have been disfigured with problems arising from election violence. This is an outcome related to multi-parties where political leaders break the rules of the game to ensure a win driven by ambition, and greed for power. It has been reported in very few cases where political leaders accept defeat during an election and inciting their supporters to act. Political thinkers such as Hameso critiques the attitude among African leaders claiming that “when changes seem imminent, political protagonists refuse to accept the outcome as fair’”. A good illustration of this was Kenya during the 2007 and 2008 elections, where there were accusations of rigging, triggering tribes to destroy other tribes. The violence after the elections was instigated simply because the politics were tribally constructed. The two main tribes, Ormo and Pokomo had their runners as the major candidates, and when one lost the election, the losing candidate sparked up ethnic conflicts among various local tribes in the nation. This resulted in the death of thousands, and the movement of hundreds of thousands of civilians. These Kenyans believed to have killed the name of democracy, the same democracy that brought about by multi-parties. The situation, however, was incongruously resolved by the power-sharing agreement between the two main contenders, revealing the thirsting for power among the official. Hence, why democracy in Africa in the contemporary world is unstable.

In addition, on average, the quality of civil liberty in Africa has significantly fallen, which shows things are getting worse. However, we need to be careful about over generalizing the continent because it is also true that there are very different trends among African countries. It is possible to say that, when it comes to democracy in Africa, there is not one Africa but perhaps several. Countries such as Nigeria and Ghana are democratizing, where we see elections being held and oppositions being able to win elections. Countries like, Tanzania and Malawi have frequently held votes that have been relatively unrestricted and fair. Malawi and Gambia even had a change of control after elections. On the other hand, we see another set of countries within Africa, such as Congo where things seem to be going the opposite direction. States such as Zimbabwe and South Africa, have elections that have been blatantly altered and both are autocracies. Dos Santos has been in power for 36 years in Angola and Mugabe for 35 years in Zimbabwe. It seems to be becoming more authoritarian, whilst leaders aren’t respecting oppositions, term limits and using coercion to keep themselves in power.

Nevertheless, despite some states in Africa making significant progress, there are still a substantial number of armed conflicts because of the fragility of democracy in Africa. Spikes of violence still exist because of elections being held, occasionally extensive, in current years and even in more steady States. A year later, protests about political comprehensiveness restarted an old battle in Mozambique. Democracy in Sub-Saharan Africa gives the impression that it is a rare and distorted idea. Since only 8 out of 44 countries encompassed in the Democracy Index are viewed as democratic, while 22 are labeled as totalitarian. In addition, improvements between the years 2005 and 2014 were limited, being apprehended by poorly operational governments. Resilience is also not frequent because states with a high level of fragility dominate the continent and the district.

In conclusion, it must be said that problems such as ethnic battles and corruption are slowing down the progress of democracy, causing its development to stumble and wither. Africa is now at a stage, in which it must take control of its own destiny and fight for its own survival. For democracy to fully develop in Africa these internal catastrophes must be dealt with or else Africa may remain ‘developing’ for eternity.

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