13.6 C
New York
Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Is Democracy Killing Africa? [MUST READ]

Must read

Nigeria’s former President, Olusegun Obasanjo recently advocated for “Afro Democracy” in place of “Western Liberal Democracy.” The Pan-Africanist who spoke in Abeokuta, Ogun State at a high-level consultation on “Rethinking Western Liberal Democracy for Africa” stated that democracy was “forced” on the continent. He suggested that African countries should resist the system because they neither defined nor designed it. The former leader who argued that “The weakness and failure of liberal democracy as it is practised stem from its history, content, context and its practice,” surmised that democracy empowers a few who punish the majority. This piece accounts for why democracy seemingly remains dwarfed in Africa.

From its Greek etymology of “Demos” – the people and “Kratos” – power, rule which literally translates as power or rule of the people, democracy is a favoured system of government globally. Abraham Lincoln’s classic definition of democracy “as the Government of the people, by the people, for the people,” during his November 19, 1863, Gettysburg Address has evoked debates by political and social scientists. From its European and American models, the values of holding periodic elections through political parties to elect representatives of the people who enter a social contract with the masses to ensure freedoms whilst providing for the welfare of society, democracy is positioned as the queen of governance.

Despite the lofty place liberal democracy occupies in the world, the story is different in Asia – China, Middle East, and Eastern Europe. Arguably, while some doses of democratic ideals have been injected into systems of governance in these parts of the world, critics think that what holds sway is authoritarianism. The battle for the soul of Ukraine by The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) amid the ongoing war by its neighbour, Russia smacks of the fallout of democratic ideals. The story is not any different in Latin Ameria and Africa where the leadership conundrum speaks volume about the form of governance in these continents.

Colonial savagery

Africa is still struggling to come out of its description by colonial imperialists as savage and beasts. Seay and Dionne (2014) contend that in popular culture, postcardsfilm and literature, Africans were portrayed as apelike savages. Colonial literature described the continent as “dark,” “black,” “backward,” “third world,” and its people as “beings without a soul.” Slave trade (15th – 19th centuries) and its slave-master mentality created an elite that saw itself as “semi-white,” or “whites-in-black-skin,” who served as intermediaries. Where indirect rule system of government survived like Northern Nigeria, West Africa, the beneficiaries held power and established an aristocratic class of Africans who would eventually claim that “they are born to rule.” This has remained the bane of the democratic process in most African states.

Amateur political experiments

Even when countries like Somalia, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Tanzania got their independence in the late 1960s, it came with a heavy price. Hardly had the Pan-Africanists and nationals closed their eyes for grace before meal than the monster of ethnicity, and nepotism knocked off the well-adorned dining table that characterised the new continent. Those who come to mind include – Mobutu Sese Seko – Zaire/Congo, Paul Biya – Cameron, Yuweri Museveni – Uganda, Gnassingbé Eyadéma  – Togo,  Blaise Compaore – Burkina Faso amongst others. With this amateur political class that behaved like spoilt brats, the continent was beset by humongous challenges of power tussle, and party conflicts leading to tribal and civil wars.

Militarism, Post colonial hangovers

In the list of the dinosaurs that would destroy the Jurassic Park that characterised the continent is military interventions in the nascent polity. The Khaki boys who expelled the pioneer political gladiators from the scene accused them of bribery, high level corruption and indiscipline.  In the list are – Omar Al-Bashir – Sudan, Muamar Al-Ghaddafi – Libya, Idi Amin – Uganda and Sani Abacha – Nigeria. Once again, the slave-master relationship reared its ugly head as the progenitors of “Law and Order,” soon fell into the mortal sin of “eating alone.” This further gave birth to post-colonial hangovers as the people approached life with a militarised psyche. Civility would soon give way to the Hobbesian state of nature where life is shot and brutish. The list of coups in Niger, Burkina Faso, Sudan, Guinea, and Mali is only symptomatic of this reality. What does this portend for liberal democracy?

Gerontocracy, lack of political will, impunity

By the time democracy was reinstalled, a fresh phenomenon of neo-colonialism emerged – gerontocracy, government of the old, for the old, by the old. As it stands, from Cameroon and Ivory Coast to Equatorial Guinea, Zimbabwe and Ghana, Africa is ruled by granddads, between 79 to 90 years of age, who have survived pre and post colonialism and now foist neo-cronyism and neo-clannish on the people. Sadly, this is sending the youth into a limbo of endless waiting. While youths are driving purposeful leadership in Europe and America, in Africa, the aged who lack political will to change the fortunes of the people live a posh-life while acting with impunity – In Africa, democracy now means belonging to a social club of the high and the mighty who give and take the daughters of their ilk in marriage in furtherance of protecting their patrimony.

Ways Out, Conclusion

10 million out of 12 million poor people with the highest deprivation scores (90–100%) live in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index 2023. With the poorest people who are illiterate and suffer the worst forms of diseases – HIV aids, malaria, cholera, diabetes, diarrhea, and hunger amid intractable wars, is democracy still the best form of government for the continent? With the most embarrassing index of the oldest people in power, youth unemployment, and recipients of foreign aid, is democracy still relevant for Africa? Will the inclusion of traditional rulers into governance provide a unique system of government for the continent? Is democracy killing Africa or are Africans killing democracy?

Students of politics who argue that only a benevolent dictator can save Africa, need to come out of their postcolonial and militarised psychosis. I argue that it is not so much about the system but, the people. Though democracy and monarchy are not mutually exclusive as is the case in England, what is paramount is rebranding – A new political culture built on Africa’s Ujama entrenched by former President of Tanzania, Julius Nyerere and the servant leadership of Africa’s finest leader, Nelson Mandela, former President of Independent South Africa. If contemporary leaders toe their path, they will deliver Africa from the bullets of liberal democracy!

Justine John Dyikuk, a Catholic priest, is a Lecturer of Mass Communication, University of Jos-Nigeria, Senior Fellow, International Religious Freedom Policy, Religious Freedom Institute (RFI), Washington DC and PhD Candidate, University of Strathclyde Glasgow, United Kingdom.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

More articles

- Advertisement -The Fast Track to Earning Income as a Publisher
- Advertisement -The Fast Track to Earning Income as a Publisher
- Advertisement -Top 20 Blogs Lifestyle

Latest article