Author: Agorbortu wise Kojo, (BSC Accounting)
University of Ghana Business School
“For most of the post-independence period, African states have been ruled by one party and military regimes. Pressures both from within Africa itself and from outside, however have rekindled debate about democracy in the Africa context and have led to a whole raft of multi-party elections” (Clive Harber).
Oscar Wilde ones defined democracy as: “the bludgeoning of the people, by the people, for the people”. Abraham Lincoln also said, democracy is “the government of the people, for the people and by the people”.
Democracy is a form of government in which all citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. The term comes from the Greek: “demokratia” meaning, “rule of the people”.
According to Mamali Oak, despite the few disadvantages, such as : authorities working with a short term focus, as the government is subject to change after every election time; and citizens can vote under the influence of majority, democracy has more advantages that place it above other forms of governance. A few among them are:
1. Democracy can provide for changes in government without violence. In a democracy, power can be transferred from one party to another by means of elections.
2. The people gain a sense of participation in the process of choosing their government.
3. Democracy prevents monopoly of the ruling authority.
4. It encourages the rule of law and even distribution of wealth.
5. Democracy brings a feeling of obligation towards the citizens.
Elections are emerging as a new source of tension, disruption and violence.
Election-related conflict is a recent phenomenon on the continent and its underlying cases have still not been fully researched. However recent election crises indicate that electoral violence is:
1. A product of protracted political mismanagement which then induces economic mismanagement.
2. Reduced if a broad power sharing arrangement is developed
3. Disruptive of security and defense institution which means that the use of force complicates the situation further
4. Not easily averted by creating stringent election regulations
Notwithstanding the few abuses that have accompanied some African countries in their bid to practice democracy, I STRONGLY DISAGREE with the statement that, “recent elections and political developments in Africa have helped to weaken the case for democracy on the continent”.
Presenting ourselves with some of the recent elections and political developments in Africa, countries like Cote d’Ivoire, Lybia, Egypt, Tunisia and Nigeria will be considered as cases that reinforces my stand on the motion.
Let’s now take the countries one after the other and see how each made the case STRONG for democracy in Africa.
About the crisis in Cote d’Ivoire, Shah, 2011 in his article written on 7th April, 2011, stated:
“Following elections in Cote d’Ivoire in October 2010, both president Laurent Gbagbo and opposition candidate, Alassane Ouattara, claimed victory. International observers agree that the Ouattara had won, but Gbagbo refused to accept this.
Negotiations failed and while the world’s attention was elsewhere the situation became volatile and violent outburst turned into the country’s civil war.
Thousands of civilians have been killed in what observers have found to be mass human rights violation. Possibly a million people have been thought to have fled their homes”.
It can be seen clearly that the case of Cote d’Ivoire was a cry for democracy after Gbagbo had monopolized the presidential seat for 10 years and still wanted to serve another term of office. This Gbagbo was willing to do without respect for the laws of his country. How could he be declared president after the body in charge of elections in his country had declared Ouattara as president? Hence the fight was rather a fight for democracy. This has rather strengthened the case for democracy in Africa.
In the case of Lybia, Shah, (2011) writes, “The surge of what looks like spontaneous and ground up pro-democracy protests has been spreading throughout a region long controlled by authoritarian regimes.
Peaceful protests against the long-running oppressive Quadhafi regime in February resulted in a violent crackdown. As the situation quickly escalated, ordinary citizens took up arms to help free themselves from Quadhafi’s brutal regime”.
This was after the 41year rule of Quadhafi. It cannot be inferred that Lybia is against democracy, however we can conclude in no uncertain terms that Africans are moving towards embracing democracy. This is another strong case for democracy in Africa.
The case of Egypt is not different from the former where British Broadcasting Corporation on 12th February, 2011 published on its website on the topic: Egypt in a quest for democracy, “that the scene of the massive protests against President Mubarak started on 25th January, 2011”. The President Hosni Mubarak resigns as leader. The vice president, Omar Suleiman made the announcement on state television.
Mr. Mubarak ruled for 30 years, suppressing dissent and protest, and jailing opponents. United States president Barack Obama said, “Egypt must now move to civilian and democratic rule”.
“The people of Egypt have spoken, their voices have been heard, Mr. Obama said. Egypt will never be the same again”. “They have made clear that nothing less than genuine democracy will carry the day”
The case for democracy is made even stronger with regards to this recent development in Egypt.
“Tunisia’s president, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, has fled the country after days of street riots forced him out. The Prime minister, Mohammed Ghannuchi, has assumed power and promised to respect the constitution and implement the political, social and economic reforms that have been announced” (BBC newsS, 19th January, 2011).
This happened in the 23rd year of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. It is now evidenced that Africans have seen a need for democracy and are ready to sacrifice their lives for it to happen.
“On 18th April, 2011, riots erupted in several towns in Nigeria’s Muslim North as incumbent; Goodluck Jonathan won the presidential elections by a comfortable majority. The riots started mid-night when it was glaring Jonathan was going to win. Churches were being burnt down and Christians are being killed”.
Even though what happened in Nigeria is a setback to democracy, it could be seen that was a reaction for some people whose expectations were not met and not really against democracy itself.
In conclusion, the case for democracy in Africa with its numerous advantages seems to be growing stronger and stronger.
In order to prevent riots like what happened in Nigeria, this militates against democracy, election crisis need to be reviewed in a broader perspective of political management. The African Union (AU), Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and individual countries, each has a part to play in this enterprise. So does the citizenry in each country (Kambudzi 2008).
Recommendations include the following:
1. The AU should promote a massive presence of election monitoring teams, arriving early and spreading evenly across constituencies, with the capacity to pay attention to unsetting circumstances.
2. Each country must ensure that the institutions in charge of the conduct of elections are both representative and effectively empowered.
3. Political parties should insist on top leadership term limits avoiding confusing the assets of the state with those of the party.
4. Civil society organizations should make suggestions for constitutional reviews and reform, provide relevant early warning information regarding elections and carry out impact assessment relating to elections.
5. Opposition parties should offer sound political ideas, have vision for the future as well as for planned actions in competing for power.
Democracy Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/democracy.
Harber, C. (n.d.). Education, democracy and political Development in Africa. Retrieve from www.sussex-academic.co.uk
Oscar’s definition of Democracy. Retrieved from http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index.
Oak , M (n.d.). Advantages of democracy. Retrieved from www.buzzle.com/articles/advantages-democracy.
Shah A. (2011). Cote D’ivoire Crisis. Retrieved from www.globalissues.org/article/795/Cote d’Ivoire.
Shah A. (n.d.). Lybia Crisis. Retrieved from www.globalisues.org/article/793/Libya.
Egypt Crisis. Retrieved from www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east.
Tunisia Crisis. Retrieved from www.guardian.co.uk/news/blog/2011.
Nigeria Election Crisis. Retrieved from www.nigerianews24.com/article/nigeria.
Kambudzi, A. (2008). Turning election into a development Asset in Africa, Institute for Security Studies, South Africa. Retrieved from www.gsdrc.org/go