The State of Democracy in Africa – 2

We concluded in our editorial comment in the last issue that as human as western democracy is, we would prefer that to military coups on the continent. Our contention is based on its inherent fairness and equity. It allows free expression of ideas, religion and, most of all, economic democracy that stimulates development. We reiterate, however, our inference to the cultural element in politics or governance and its relevance to the growth of democracy. We also questioned the relevance of western democracy in Africa.

The freedoms allowed in western democracy are not without their faults. Democracy is a human concept after all. In Africa, the inherent liberties in democracy are also the causes of instability. Political disagreement or dissent are often misconstrued as hate and opposition is often blamed for it. The temperament for acceptance of opposition ideas is very high and often leads to conflict. And often enough what is deemed criticism is outright insult, slander, and character assassination. And as that continues, hate festers and politics becomes grounds for cynicism, violence and instability. Lack of bonhomie among politicians of differing ideological stripes is not uncommon. In some nations and/or jurisdictions, however, politicians focus rather on love of country rather than personal differences. In our continent political differences are centered on the person and animosity ensues leading to oftentimes scheming with the military to remove otherwise constitutionally elected governments.

Coups d’etat also engender and embolden ethnic conflicts and prejudice everywhere. In Africa it becomes more emboldened and leads to conflict. It begins with the composition of ruling juntas and their objectives for the nation.  Ghanaians, would wisely be silent on the fractured ethnic relations with the advent of J. J. Rawlings. A key advisor and confidant and theoretician in Rawlings’ second revolution Dr. Kofi Awoonor, an academic and playwright turned politician infused ethnicity into the body politic of Ghana. His book The Ghana Revolution is self-explanatory on ethnic irredentism. Critics contend Dr. Awoonor’s book indubitably let to the persecution and of people of Akan extraction including but not limited to military officers, businessmen and industrialists.

Ingredients for civil war are ever present in the event of coups d’etat. And it exacerbates instability. Economies are threatened as investments are asphyxiated. J. J. Rawlings’ 1982 coup removing the Hilla Liman administration truncated the latter’s economic plan. Owning more than 50 cedis at the time was criminalized and any house with three or more toilet facilities was arrested. The resultant effect of that policy has affected Ghana until now. The fear of arrest stifled savings and many with money in the bank had to withdraw their savings and utilized unorthodox means to keep their wealth “out of sight.”  

The promise of early hand over does not always happen making endemic, coup attempts. Political instability ensues and citizens suspected to be involved are hounded into jail without due process. Not only that; decrees are enacted to stifle free speech and assembly and semblances of democratic governance are usually removed and/or completely truncated. And security of the nation and/or the regime takes precedence over everything.

Most African coups do not result in transitions to democracy. Jerry Rawlings was pressured by external and internal forces to strictly adhere to constitutional rule. The criteria used by the military to mire themselves in politics have often turned out to be insufficient and unjust.

Democracy does not always portend success in warding off coups d’etat. Elections do not fix all the problems as they do not always ensure legitimacy. Rawlings’ party sailed into power upon Ghana’s return to democratic governance not because he had any message for his country. His quest for inordinate power superseded his quest for democratic governance and that has always been the case for continued military incursions into Africa’s pursuance of democracy. Campaore in Burkina Faso removed his friend Thomas Sankara for personal reasons but not in the interest of the country.

What would we suggest in place of western democracy? Not in the immediate future. We have nothing inherently African to replace what has been tried and tested as western democracy, even though we can marry anything African with western democracy to achieve success in future. Traditional African democratic systems have within them similar elements peculiar to western democracy. We believe, however, that democracy thrives best under conditions of economic satisfaction. As Obasanjo once asked John Kufuor: Na Democracy you go chop? No! we cannot eat democracy, but the comforts afforded by democracy and good economic policies work hand in hand for prosperity. It may not end political ambitions of any soldier or politician chasing his political fortunes but it will reduce tensions and conditions for unnecessary coups

Posted by on Sep 29 2021. Filed under Editorial. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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