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A review of Democracy in Africa

Updated on January 31, 2017

The term democracy is a word that comes from two Greek words; demoswhich means people and kratein which means to govern. Abraham Lincoln defined democracy as’ the government of the people, by the people and for the people’(Larry and Marc, 2010). The dictionary definition, democracy as the government by the people in which the absolute power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.In Africa, some countries have reap the benefits of democracy where others have not really enjoyed its fruits. This article examines the importance, success and failures of democracy in Africa.

For a country to be said to be a democratic state it must have various democratic principles. Firstly, it must guarantee the fundamental rights and freedoms of its citizens. Secondly, it must ensure that there are free and fair elections. The state must also ensure that rule of law is followed. Lastly, the state should ensure that separation of powers is respected (Paula and Jean-Aime, 2008).

Democracy is important not only to the African countries but also to the whole world. Majority of the African countries has of late embraced democratic processes as they have realized the importance of democracy. To begin with democracy is important as it safeguards the interest and demands of minority groups and it ensures that all groups have access to the political system. In democratic states minorities are free from discrimination as their views are also considered to be important(Cheeseman, 2015). In democratic states for example every person has equal voting rights and no one has more equal rights due to his or her ethnicity or power in the country.Democracy also plays an important role in controlling government powers and it prevents people in power from abusing it. This is made possible by free and fair elections. In free and fair elections the citizens does not only hold the government accountable but it also let the people have their political say through the political processes.

Due to the importance that democracy has, African countries have embraced democracy. South Africa, Ghana, Togo, and now, Nigeria, are among the nations that shows that democracy can succeed in African countries (Osei-Hwedie, 2000). These countries are known to have smooth transition of power. For example in Ghana there was peaceful transition of power though the election was tight and the margin between the aspirants was small. This shows total respect for democracy in such countries(Osei-Hwedie, 2000).

However, democracy has not been achieved in all the African countries. Countries like Somalia are still in state of anarchy. The Somalis have not had a stable government since 1991 let alone democratic processes(Osei-Hwedie, 2000). Other countries like Burundi and Uganda have a hybrid democracy that lie in between democracy and dictatorship. These countries cannot be said to havefully realized democracy.

These limitations to democracy are contributed to by a number of factors.Poverty of the members of a particular state undermines democracy in that such persons are easily manipulated by the rich. Corruption also undermines democracy in poor nation as it is easy to manipulate the citizens of such nations.Scarce infrastructure or lack of resources for a task as complex as free and fair elections could extend terms of current leaders and suppress the will of the people in various countries this could undermine democracy in such nations.Limitedarmed political groups also undermines democracy as the rulers lacks people to scrutinize them as political parties acts as a check and balances mechanism to the government (Cheeseman, 2015)..

Despite these achievements quite a good number of African states remain a hybrid of dictatorship and democracy (Pereira and Teles, 2016). However, the continent is heading in the right direction but in slow motion. African continent is still lagging behind other countries in embracing full democracy and this should serve as a wakeup call to African leaders to learn from the rest of the world. It is also a high time for the African people to shun tribalism and embrace respect for each other. The African people should also start respect each other’s views despite their ethnic diversity.

The international community and the governments of these states have a huge role in ensuring that democracy in this states is respected. The governments can enhance democracy in their states by ensuring that the rule of law, separation of power and conduct of free and fair elections is observed(Paula and Jean-Aime, 2008). The international community on the other hand can enhance democracy in African countries by imposing sanctions on countries which do not respect democracy and also shame those leaders who are opposed to democratic processes(Pereira and Teles, 2016).


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