Why Is It So Difficult For Africa To Be Democratically Stable? – OpEd


Even after being independent long ago, most African leaders have the remnants of colonial mindset and desire to be long term in power by any means, a root of deterrents for stability and democracy in the continent.

After the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, a new presidential elections was held in 2012 and Mohamed Morsi elected as President; he was overthrown on 3 July 2013 by General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. El-Sisi then was himself elected head of state in the 2014 presidential election.

In Uganda, Yoweri Museveni is still in position of President since 1986 without elections and since 2006 through elections.

Following a military coup on 30 June 1989 in Sudan, Omar al-Bashir ousted the government of Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi and ruled for 30 years. On April 11, 2019, al-Bashir was ousted by civilian unrest and a military coup. And transitional council formed as a joint military-civilian body of government.

In 2011, South Sudan split as new nation from Sudan as a result of discriminations and long conflicts. General Salva Kirr has been in the position of president from the very beginning. Since 2013 this new nation is scorching in internal conflict and war between government and opposition ethnic forces, which killed thousands and displaced millions. Even after formation of transitional government comprising also opposition leaders, the situation is not volatile however also not stable, and the election seems very difficult.

These are the representative examples how victors became rulers either through bush revolution or through elections for indefinite period. Consequently, democracy has been crippling under their shadow.

Not the entire pictures are exasperating, but some hopeful positive images are also perceptible. For instance, South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Mauritius and Botswana have shown big strides towards democracy and stability.

Since the end of apartheid in 1994, the African National Congress (ANC) has dominated South Africa’s politics. After Nelson Mandela was elected as first democratic President in 1994, the white domination over black formally came to an end.

Thereafter, Jacob Zuma served as President of South Africa since May 9, 2009 until his resignation in February 2018. Zuma was replaced by Cyril Ramaphosa. The country’s 2019 general election was held on May 8. Parliamentary democracy is functioning remarkably well in this country.
 Since independence in 1963, Kenya has maintained satisfactory stability, despite changes in its political system and crises in neighboring countries.

However, there was significant and widespread violence following the unprecedented announcement of Kibaki as the winner of the 2007 presidential elections. Uhuru Kenyatta’s Party was accused of being communal, responsible for death of thousand people during that election.
After Kenyatta won a presidential election in 2013, the International Criminal Court (ICC) begun a trial against him, however later ICC found no evidences against him and cleared him of accusations.

Ghana’s growing economic prosperity and democratic political system have made it a regional power in West Africa. The Fragile States Index ranked it the 67th least fragile state in the world and the 5th least fragile state in Africa. Ghana is also least corrupt  country in Africa.

Mauritius is the only African country that is practicing a full democracy. It has had regular elections since it achieved its Republic status in 1992, 24 years after its independence in 1968.

The constitution of Botswana is the rule of law, which protects the citizens of Botswana and represents their rights. It is the continent’s oldest democracy with a multi-party system. The most recent election, its eleventh, was held on 24 October 2014.

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s annual Democracy Index, 7 African countries were classified under flawed democracies, 13 under hybrid and 23 under authoritarian regimes.

Eighteen of the poorest countries by GDP per capita are in Africa. There are inequalities in distribution of national wealth. Poor are becoming poorer and rich are becoming richer and there is reproduction of poverty, rather than poverty alleviation. It is the continent with the second largest number of hungry people after Asia and the Pacific.

 African nations are dependent on their natural resources, they have precious mine reserves and abundant oil reserves. The natural resources have been more curse rather than boon for Africa. Powerful elites are playing game to only maximize their economic benefit and political power. The entire system affected by this game and the external forces have decisive role on it.

Democracy in most of the African countries seem to be not easy to be stable. More and more elections are being held however it seems to be “lawful but illegitimate. To have a democracy, people must understand it, however, how can they understand when majority of them are illiterate and poor. The positive aspect is that people are restless for stable democracy, the fear is that it cannot be definite unless people enjoy the shares of living in free and open environment and take part in votes that are trustworthy and held responsible.

*Hari Prasad Shrestha, writer of books- “Melting Everest and Falling Mountains” and “The Violent Nile: A Novella on East Africa” is former Undersecretary, Nepal Government and associated with UNDP Africa. He is a freelance writer and regularly contributes articles to leading dailies across the world, some dailies are: The Kathmandu Post, Myepublica (Nepal), The Asian Age (Bangladesh), Eurasia Review, South Asia Journal (USA). Graduated from Tribhuvan University, he went on to Italy to complete his further studies and studied at the institute for Studies on Economic Development, Naples and the Italian Civil Service High institute, Reggio Calabria. He also studied at the University of Connecticut, USA. He is a Member of the Nepalese Journal of Administration, Management and Development and Advisory Board Member of the South Asia Journal, USA.  Mr. Shrestha worked as member of editorial board of bi-monthly publication “Finance- News and Views” of Ministry of Finance, Nepal. His assignment as one of the members under UNDP, South Sudan in preparing five years Strategic Plan (2013-2017) for State of Western Bahr El Ghazal, Wau was praised by national authorities.

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