Political Parties in Africa

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  • Topic: Africa, Sudan, African Union
  • Pages : 5 (1804 words )
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  • Published : June 17, 2008
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Political parties in African were founded with the basic goal of being the main vehicles for African Nationalism. Prof. Anyang’ Nyong’o (1992) in his book 30 years of independence in Africa correctly states that Africans were no longer a homogenous people ruled by benevolent chiefs who discussed with the elders under a tree for hours until they agreed. He (Prof. Nyong’o) points out that great division of African people into social groups and categories with different interests and different attitudes towards the colonial state. The consequent of this was their inability to constitute a united front against the colonial regime. Political parties then were formed to bring people together (mobilize) regardless of their geographical diversity, interests in society or ethnic affiliation in the common quest for freedom - getting rid of the colonial rule.

A political party in Africa today can be briefly defined as any group, however loosely organized, seeking to elect government office holders under a given label. Political parties are distinguished from interest groups and other forms of political organizations because they offer a slate of candidates competing to win election to public office.

As earlier mentioned, political parties were vehicles for African Nationalism before independence. On attaining independence, more than often (in Africa) party leaders would assume leadership (presidency). African countries faced numerous political difficulties since attaining independence. These basically concerned governmental and administrational snags.

Some were vestiges of old colonial governments, others came about solely as a result of the inadequacies of the new ones. African states were finding it difficult to adapt to the coming of the hitherto foreign concept of democracy. Parliamentary systems failed, and many cases, we saw them replaced with one party military regimes much a kin to those in place under the colonial powers.

Decolonization and independence came very rapidly to many African states, and their inexperience in respect of how to run a government has told quite severely in numerous instances. Western democracy, quite simply, was incompatible with the form of government epitomized by the African tribes - and which many Africans still found more comfortable.

African leaders often became dictators, outlawing democracy. There were over 70 instances of this between 1963 and 1997. By the end of the eighties, more than half of the African states were controlled by martial administrations, which were sometimes brutally corrupt. This was certainly the case in Uganda, under the command of Idi Amin, an ex-sergeant who stole a fortune from his country and over saw the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people who resisted him. Mobutu Sese Seko and Bokassa, in Zaire and Central African Republic respectively, are two other examples of crooked leaders who used their position to gain personal wealth at the expense of their people.

The main disguise to which a one party rule was enforced was that African rulers often considered unity to be more important than democracy especially soon after winning freedom. They often argued that democracy would create differences amongst citizens. It was believed that tribal and ethnic differences would be used to gain support, and this would threaten stability and unity. With no rival political parties, there was less reason for conflict, resulting in concord and solidarity. In a number of countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania, a dictatorship provided a stable and effective government but because there was no other way to remove a leader, violence was often used by opposition factions to achieve their political ends.

As Prof Nyong’o states, “elsewhere in Africa, struggles for a second independence are beginning to bear fruit.” This was generally in regard to the struggle for multi-party politics in Africa. Africa felt independence was won from colonial regimes but...
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