Challenges Facing Democracy on the African ContinentBy Toby Tunwase
The continent of Africa has embraced, in name, the concept of democracy. Yet, in practice, we see a significant discrepancy between the ideals of democracy and what happens in many nations in Africa. The phenomenon of men clinging to power for years, the imprisonment of political oppositions, and the absence of free and fair elections are but some of the disorders that characterize the democracy practiced in Africa.
The question then becomes: What does Africa lack that is present in the other nations of the world that enables their democracies to thrive? The answer to this is not necessarily straightforward, as there can be the interplay of several factors. However, here are 2 key challenges to democracy on the African Continent.
- The absence of solid institutions: It has become apparent through history that democracy is preserved and enforced by institutions and not men: the press, the electoral body, and the judiciary, amongst others, are the guardians of the institution of democracy. Any nation that doesn’t possess a free press, an independent judiciary, or an electoral body cannot successfully curb the excesses and ambitions of men that can endanger democracy. Africa lacks many such institutions.
- The Impact of colonial rule: Even though democracy is genuinely a fantastic system of government, many African nations did not come about practicing it by a natural process of evolution in culture. Colonial masters primarily handed down this system to Africans, which affected how it was practiced in the region. Many nations were not yet ready for it, and this allowed strong men to take weak systems to perpetuate themselves in power.