Barriers to the Democratisation of Africa

Topics: Democracy, Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa Pages: 19 (6706 words) Published: October 29, 2012

As a prologue this paper poses two fundamental and pertinent questions: Is there any form of democracy in Africa? Are there model democracies in the industrialized countries today that can be used as standard measures? These, indeed, are very pertinent questions to Africans. They are especially important as they come at a time when there is a dramatic shift towards a new international order that has embraced the concepts of democracy and globalization as the ultimate ‘‘catchwords’’ toward the actualization of sustainable development (Ezeanyika 2011). Democracy in Africa has been shaped by the colonial powers that ran Africa until the period of decolonisation that began in the 1960’s. Ever since, Africa has attempted to follow the European model of democratic governance. However, whilst African democracy has shown some improvement, it is still having legitimacy problems and African states are characterised a lot of barriers which makes it impossible to realise the dream of democracy. Therefore this essay will seek to firstly define what democracy is and will show that the problems with democracy mainly arise from the fact that there is no universally accepted and substantive definition of the term. The paper will then highlight the barriers to democracy in Africa and there will be a focus on the role played by colonialism and the ethnic divides that exist in Africa. The paper will also examine how corruption and the economic problems of African States are restraining democratic legitimacy.

Two events have dramatically altered the international system. The first is the end of the Cold War era and the second is the fall of communism in the early 1990s (Ezeanyika 2011). These events have clearly elevated the status of democracy to an unprecedented level throughout the world, as most nations have moved away from the system of authoritarian regimes. As stated by Ezeanyika 2011) “these dramatic changes in the world led to the emergence of powerful prodemocracy movements in Africa between 1989 and 1990”. These were preceded by massive demonstrations calling for a ‘‘new continental order.’’ (Ezeanyika 2007) This new development affected most nations where democracy was never given a chance. By 1991, spawned by decades of political authoritarianism, assailed by economic decay, and prodded by growing aid conditionalities on the part of international donor agencies, pro-democracy pressure groups were systematically transforming the political landscape of the continent (Ake 1991). As democracy euphoria spreads, the situation leads to a series of questions, including the following: What is democracy? How is the concept of democracy affecting Africa and its people? Has it been embraced in the continent? And, if it has, what type of democracy is it going to be? And if it has not been embraced why? These are the pertinent questions that need to be answered when one is dealing with issues of democracy in Africa. However this paper is premeditated in that it has taken the position that democracy has not been embraced in Sub Saharan Africa. Therefore the essay will seek to answer the question what democracy is and will also seek to answer the question why it has not been embraced thus discuss the barriers to democracy.

Democracy is not a sharply defined form of government that would need to be implemented in just one and no other way. Both in theory and in practice there are as many systems of democracy than democratic countries. The question which therefore needs to be answered is “What is Democracy”. To get an appreciation of what democracy is the paper will outline and discuss a few definitions of democracy and spell out the fundamental tenets that are expected to be found in a democratic system. According to (Schuster 2002) “democracy is not a single approach but rather a commitment to certain institutions such as the rule of law,...
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