Sunday, May 27, 2012

Discuss some of the Challenges that nations have faced with regards to Democratization in a contemporary context. You can choose any country in order

The African developmental path to democratisation seems uncertain with political instability ravaging in most African states. Democratization is also being hindered by external forces especially the influence of major hegemony states such as Britain and America, democratization should be encored in the African society by African means. Western imposed democracy has failed to democratize African states hence worsened the situation. Although western democracy has many features that African countries can adopt African genuine democratic development must be rooted on African aspirations, democratic development must be seen as African and for Africans. The inheritance of the authoritarian rule by the Africans from the roots of the colonial era has further hindered democratic development within Africa. This essay is going to elucidate and discuss what is to be done if Africa is to experience genuine democratic development.

Transition from autocracy to democracy in Africa, through the process of democratization should have fundamental elements that spear head this process which have African roots. The history of the African society shows that it was democratic till the brutal and oppressive rule of the colonial masters took centre stage and led to arbitrary governments that have done most of the horrifying acts in the history of human kind for instance the Rwandan genocide that claimed the lives of about 800 000 people in 1994 this was one of the same acts similarity of the colonial governments which opened fire on Soweto school children in South Africa in the apartheid period. According to Turok (1987:10) in most countries independence was the occasion of popular celebration rather than consolidation of people’s power, in which without independence no real democratic development can occur. In the Africa continent the fight of neo- colonialism and imperialism must continue to pave way for democratization.

A genuine democratic development is being hampered by the adoption of the Westminster model especially in the Anglophone countries as popular participation in the political process has been constrained, as the model advocates for one party state which is oppressive and authoritarian. According to Nwabueze (1993:9) "Democratisation is not only a concept, nor is it synonymous with multi-partyism," Nwabueze writes, "it is also concerned with certain conditions of things, conditions such as a virile civil society, a democratic society, a free society, a just society, equal treatment of all citizens by the state, an ordered, stable society, a society infused with the spirit of liberty, democracy, justice and equality, "in the fullest sense of the term, requires that the society, the economy, politics, the constitution of the state, the electoral system and the practice of government be democratised”. These fundamental elements are the backbone for the democratic development in Africa without these elements of civil society, a free society and equity among the population democratization is virtually impossible to develop in Africa.

One of the most fundamental process that have to be incorporated into the governmental structures within the African states is the practice of democratic governance and the rule of law to experience genuine democratic development. Democratic governance requires that government is held accountable; that citizens are consulted and their interests taken into account; and that policies are implemented swiftly, correctly, and consistently. The practice of good governance leads to political stability within the African countries according to Ndulo (2:2006) good governance entails first and foremost a government that lives up it’s responsibilities by ensuring the effective delivery of public goods and services, the maintenance of law and order and the administration of justice and also creates a vibrant civil society as well as a dynamic market that secures economic growth and property.
Good governance enables governments to hold democratic elections which are main essential to democratic reforms if the government enables the people in the decision making of the country decisions. Political tensions are likely not to arise as transparency is by virtue the product of good governance according to Ndulo (4; 2006) transparency is an inbuilt modus operandi in the conception of good governance. Good governance is marked by efficient bureaucracies, predictable rules and laws, fair enforcement, transparent business opportunities, and potential for ongoing policy improvement through public-private dialogue. Good governance paves way for accountability, reponsiveness and openness as the government is able to account for its actions to the people and to justify them.

The monitoring of African countries on the enforcement rule of law by the regional bodies such as the SADC and the continental regimes as the AU (African Union) in African states should be critical to the development of genuine democratic Africa. According to Ndulo (2:2006) the aim of the rule of law is to limit, there by checking the arbitrary, oppressive and despotic tendencies of power, and to ensure the equal treatment and protection of all citizens irrespective of race, gender, status, religion, place of origin or political persuasion. Constitutional democracy should be endorsed or implemented by all countries for democratic development in Africa, most of the Africa countries still use the constitutions that where drafted by their colonial masters prior independence for instance Zimbabwe constitution drafted in during the Lancaster House agreement in 1979, people driven constitutions must be supported by all African institutions and the use of these authoritarian made constitutions must be considered as not African.
According to Ndulo (2006; 2) constitutional democracy is found upon the nation of checks and balances, namely the legislature, the judiciary and the executive this allows for checks of abuse of powers and the violation of citizen rights. Most human rights are enshrined in the constitution and democracy is perpetuated by a vibrant constitution that governs how the state operates. Ndulo (2006;3) further elaborates that though constitutional democracy the assurance that the legitimacy of the government is regularly established by requiring that governmental powers are assumed or exercised only with the mandate of the people ,given periodic intervals though free and fair election that are executed and administered according to the constitution and the protection of fundamental human rights.

But however constitutional democracy is hindered by the government willingness to enforce the constitutional laws as well as interpretation of the constitution to pave way for democracy. For Africa to experience genuine democratic development political rights must be enshrined in the African countries constitutions. Political rights must be protected according to Currie and De Waal (2001:378) political rights involves that every citizen is free to make political choices ,to form a political party, participate in activities of or recruit members for a political party and to campaign for political party or cause. And most importantly political rights advocate that every citizen in Africa has the right to free and fair election for any legislative body establishment.

Public participation through the periodical elections in Africa countries must be natured and promoted by the regional institutions and the continent intergovernmental institution the AU. Participatory democracy according to Currie and De Waal (2001:83) it advocates for individuals or institutions to take part in the decision making that affects them. Monitoring of the elections must not be left to government mechanisms but all countries must adhere to the AU Charter during the elections and a powerful delegation from the AU council must render the elections free and fair elections if not, the AU as continent intergovernmental body must enforce that fair and fair elections are conducted elsewhere in the African soil. The AU Charter on Human rights and people’s rights strongly enforce people participation through elections as their right in a democratic country, this Charter has been numerously violated by many Africa countries that violates human rights in the name of protecting the country sovereignty. This calls for the strengthening of the AU as a continental body and other regional institutions that governs the affairs of each state. Power to intervene in the country affairs must be enshrined in the African Union constitution when the action of the state undermines the Africa political stability and violation of human rights to the attainment of a democratic continent.
According to Ndulo (2006:4) participation in political process must be conducted in an atmosphere characterized by the absence of intimidation and the presence of and the respect of a wide range of fundamental human rights and the participation must be built on freedom of association and speech as well as capabilities to participate constructively in the running of the state affairs. Active participation of civil society and private sector in the construction of a country’s democratic environment must be promoted, Elections in the African states have been characterised with violence and intimidation of the electorate as well as of the opposition leaders. But however according to Thomson (2000:223) the holding of election, is not the prerequisite for democracy, a mature democracy order requires that the new rules of the political game endure between election and indeed, compel incumbent governments to hold further polls within a constitutional defined period and continued accountability and representation are far more important that the simple mechanics of holding elections.

The need for political credible opposition parties in the political environment within the African states is a very strong element for the genuine democratization development. Africa states must tolerate the establishment of other political institutions that are able to oppose the ruling parties and make the electorate have an alternative political force to veto into power most African countries advocates for multi party state but in practice one party is dominant and use state instruments to suppress the new formulated political parties. According to Thomson (224:2000) he gives an example of how African states have hide behind the name of practicing multi party states but in reality it is only the need to legitimise their governments, the 1995 General elections in Zimbabwe were very free from instances of intimidation and malpractice but it was accompanied by lack of any political alternatives or even counter forces to the ruling party ZANU PF, Robert Mugabe regime was unpopular and procedural democracy was in place this same scenario was the same in the 1985 and 1990 general elections. The need to strengthen political parties and allow the establishment of any political party within a state must not be hindered but seen as platform for the voices of the people to be heard.

With in the concern of establishment political institutions in African states multi party competition must flourish as it is one of the most mechanisms for promoting democratization. According to Thomson (2000:217) multi parties assist the aggregation of differing views and the interest found within the society and also offer the electorate alternative public policy choices and historically multi party competitions has fostered the most example of representative and accountable governments. Multi party competition must be promoted by Africa intergovernmental institutions such as the AU to enforce democratization of the Africa continent. But it must be noted that the adoption of multi party system within the African continents can be a survival strategy of authoritarian regimes as they will be seeking for legitimatization of their governments during the election period the ruling parties use all states mechanisms to suppress the other political parties. Thomson (2000:220) the re-invention of the multi-party democracy in the African states can be seen as a reaction to the crisis of authority but what is of great concern is that states elites search for legitimacy and the subsequent abandonment of authoritarian structures lay at the heart of Africa conversion of multi party democratization development. The absence of legal political parties has left the African continent vulnerable to ruling elites to abuse political power to violate the human rights of the people as they rule with decree and virtually above the law. Multi party competition is important as public views are represented and it is the root to a democratic continent.
African states should promote a rejuvenated civil society as it is one of the most fundamental ways to experience a genuine democratic path, during the colonial era civil society played an important role in pressuring democratic reforms in Africa they also from part of increasing checks and balances of power. Churches, trade unions, ethic associations, women’s organisations, professional bodies, farming cooperatives, community groups and political parties must be left to flourish in the political environment within the African countries for Africa to experience genuine democratic development. Thomson (2000:225) elaborates that civil society activities can act as a powerful counter force to prevent the state monopolising the political process they help to ensure public interests are paramount and that the government must respect the rules of a democratic game.
It is important to note that the presence of civil society is there to cooperate and challenge the government at the same time, without this independent associational activity there is a grave danger that the state will become too dominant and abuse power which paves way for human rights violation and subjects intimidation. The presence of theses independent activities enables the development of democratization process in Africa according to Ndulo (2006:6) civil society work to enforce accountability and transparency where certain human rights, such as the rights of association, expression and the freedom of press are sufficiently protected. Churches in the colonial era for instances did facilitated the democratization development Archbishop Desmond Tutu used the church pulpits for denouncing the apartheid regime. Thomson (2000:221) elaborates that churches are significant force within the anti-authoritarian campaign, difficult to ban and very probably more legitimate that the government itself, religious organizations offer national opportunities for people to assemble. For Africa to experience a genuine democratic development the presence of civil societies must be enhanced.

Democratic development in Africa must be accompanied by that ability to separate the state and the ruling party. Political parties are not supposed to use states institutions to achieve their political goals. In Africa this have been very common as leaders use the state machinery for the political gains the use of the military and the police to intimidate people in the time of the elections, disrupt anti-government rallies, harass opposition leaders and the use to the state constitution to amend laws that favourably suit their political ambitions. According to Thomson (2000:226) multi party democracy also needs a neutral state whose institution provide the level playing field on which political parties can compete, democratic development needs a new political environment in Africa where there is a clear distinction between states institutions and those of the ruling party.
Without the clear separation of the states institutions and those of the ruling party political regimes are able to be in power for long periods of time thus why in most African countries coup d'├ętats are a common scenario as removing the ruling parties from power mainly revolutionary parties can not be done in a democratic manner. Thomson (2000:226) gives an example of how Chiluba president of Zambia defeated Kaunda‘s presidential campaign by using the power of the state, the MMD majority in parliament was used to amend the constitution to prevent “first generation “Zambians from running for president while Kaunda’s parents were born in present –day Malawi with Kaunda out of the race Chiluba secured his second term.
The use of the constitution to silence political opponents can be noticed in the current period by the Robert Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe, the use of the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) gazetted to ban public gathering and ban all private media institutions. During the period of the President Mobutu in Ghana the executive used the state to oppress the people Turok (1987:51) elaborates that President Mobutu ruled by decree, virtually above the law, de facto life president, capital offence to insult him, unlimited personal power, he used the state mechanisms against all opponents and protestors, while the security forces, the judiciary, prefectorial crops and the party were organs of depoliticisation coercion and mass control. Separation of the state and the ruling party is a very fundamental element for Africa to experience genuine democratic development. Political leaders should not use the power and resources of the state to specifically bolster the position of their own parties.
Access to information and a free and independent media are vital for educating citizens on public policy issues and helping them hold government accountable for its actions as well as to pave way for genuine democratic development in Africa. Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) was formed at a congress in Abuja, Nigeria, in 2007 with the theme of "Building a Strong and United Voice for African Journalists" but this have yield nothing in media reforms in the African countries hence strengthening of these institutions will spearhead democratic development. Thomson (2000:227) elaborates that most incumbents in government readily utilise the state owned media, almost all state newspapers, radio and television on the continent to provide a pro-governmental outlook in reporting. Opposition parties find it had to get their view and policies through the states controlled media, African journalist have been arrested, intimidated, charged with treason or even killed for opposing the ruling elite through the private media.
According to Ndulo (2006:9) he argues that active and open media can serve a number of important purposes in democratic development ,including acting as a watch –dog over the state, providing civic for a to debate issues and promoting human rights hence it influence democracy and good governance. State controlled media in transitional and authoritarian countries have been used to promote terror and political instability as hate speech and discrediting of political opponents is very common. Ndulo (2006:9) further more in elaborated that controlled media was used to incite genocide in Rwanda which was one of the most brutal tribal killings in the history of human kind he argues that open media reforms can influence democracy, peace media reforms in Benin helped that country to avoid violence during the 1996 presidential elections. Access to information and a free and independent media within the African countries is vital for Africa to experience a genuine democratic development.
The most important element for Africa to experience genuine democratic development is the need for strong economies, strong economies enables the construction of a welfare state, a state that is able to take care of it’s citizens political, socially and economically needs. Ndulo (2006:6) elaborates that civil and political rights are not luxuries but rather fundamental elements of durable economic success. Most of the wars in African or causes of political instability are created due to the ruling elite not able to address the social inequalities in the societies; revolutionary uprisings were based failure of the colonial governments to address the economic and political welfare of the general population so is the current period uprisings of the African people. Thomson (2000:226) quotes Afrifa Gitonga’s advice that democracy is found on full bellies and peaceful minds. Economic development opens the African States to more liberal political and economic development that in paramount to the genuine democratic development the establishment of market institutions, creation of space for the private sector and private sector input should entrench values such as transparency, responsibility, and fairness, values which uphold democracy as well. The effects of economic development can result in the genuine democratic development in Africa.

African states have for a long-time suffered the lack of diplomacy as relations among states have not yet strengthened as dependency of external institutions to solve African conflicts especially the EU (European Union) and America. According to Baylis and Smith (2008; 388) Diplomacy refers to a communications process between international actors that seeks through negotiation to resolve conflict short of war. Diplomacy must be strengthened for a genuine democratic development as communication is very vital during conflicts hence avoidance of war and political in stability in the continent countries, African conflicts must be solved by Africa for Africans as a result diplomacy must be enhanced to experience genuine democratic development.
According to Thomson (2000:227) the unleashing of ethnic mobilisation in the African continents is one of the most ways for Africa to experience genuine democratic reforms multi party democracy open up the possibility of full scale ethnic mobilisation. Although imposed colonial borders have caged different ethnic groups within the single state and centralised structures created conflicts to emerge has one ethnic group want to dominant the other in the same territorial area. Thomson (2000:227) elaborates that the possibility of African parties will come to mirror the ethno-regional division within their society ethnic tensions are noticed in Congo Brazzaville, Kenya, Rwanda and Malawi. Nigeria has to some extent contained the problem of ethnic wars by the Federal government which tries to unify all regional ethnic groups.
Genuine democratic development in Africa is difficult to achieve but slow progress towards democratization is truly taking place in African countries. True democracy is almost impossible to achieve, and has been the primary goal of many nations, beginning from ancient civilizations of Greece and Roman Empire but elements of democracy must be left to flourish within the Africa states to uphold human rights and promote political stability. It must be understood by African ruling elites and governments that democracy is not a Western ideology but existed in Africa before the west started imposing their western type of democracy in African states. Genuine democratic development must be fuelled by Africans for Africans not the West.


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Professor Ben O. Nwabueze', Democratisation (1993), [accessed on 31 March 2010]

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