The State Of African Democracy: Prospects And Challenges

Project and Seminar Material for Political Science

Project and Seminar Material for Political Science

Chapter One


1.1 Background To The Study

Africa politics has several unique features in our historical experience and contemporary times; this experience includes colonialism, Nationalism, independence, military rule, transition to democracy and consolidation of democracy.

Colonial domination of the African countries started officially in the scramble for Africa at the British conference 184/1885 where Africa was partitioned among different spheres of influences by colonizing state. Britain, France, Portugal, Belgium and Germany. During these era, different kinds of colonies assimilation and association in the French colonies indirect rule was administered by Lord Lugard a British colonial policy Belgium and Portugal used different sort.

During this period, Africa was subjugated and placed in a subservient position in the mainstream of political activities. This lead to discontentment and struggle for self rule and independence by African Nationalist, in the Language of Kwame Nkrumeh of Ghana “seek ye first political independence and every other things shall be added unto you”. In the Anglophone West Africa, where Colonial Policies Marginalized the Educated Elites. The Aborigines Right protection society was formed in the Gold coast to articulated interest of the undeageans people. The national council of British West Africa (N.C.B.W.A) also emerged in the early 19th centuries. All these struggles lead to the granting of political independence to many Africa State in the 1950s and 60s.

Ghana was the first country to achieve political independence in Sub-Sahara Africa in 1957, Guinea-1958, Nigeria-1960. Between 1957 to 1963, 32 African States has gained political independence the last was south Africa in 1994-Liberial, Egypt and Ethiopia were not colonized.

After independence nothing changed, professor Soj Ojo referred to the situation as “Frustration of unforeseen hope of independence Africa situation was a Neo-Colonial contradiction anchored on a fragile foundation and disarticulated structure perpetrated by Neo-Colonialism and imperialism rein formed by internal collaborators and indeageneous Bureaucratic bourgeois. Our political elites lacked the requisite knowledge of good governance and leadership, what quickly followed was corruption, Absolutism, aliases of public offices, Tribalism, esthetic conflict and political regrettable stories of Africa is the spate of military coup, starting in 1952 when king Farouk of Egypt was over throne, there was a little gap until January 1963 when a group of soldiers assassinated Congo-Brazzaville was toppled by the military in 1963 (August) Benin. Republic (October) Nigeria in January 1966, Ghana in February 1966. The increasing culture of militarization became part of the polities of the continent which resulted in various forms of instability and recourse to civil war as a means of resolving political issues. Realities tells man that the only way to escape these instability and insecurity is to embrace the wave or democracy which is perceive as a rocket carrying a warhead to its destination i.e. for Africa countries to develop. We must accept democracy and eschew dictatorship and military rule.

Prof. George Nzongola was optimistive about the future of democracy in Africa. He said and I quote.

“Since 1988, the people of Africa has raisen to replace one party and military dictatorship will Multy Party democracy from October 1985 in the street of Algeirs, this new social movement for democracy has manifested it self all over the continent than going the rule of Political game and bringing about meaningful reform in the institution in the post colonial State”

In the optimism, he was not alone other African Scholas has also spoken of Africa “Sarging tide of democracy”

The transition to democracy by South Africa in 1994 strengthened this seeming Irreversible march which was regared as an important feature of the African Renaissance (Mbeki, 1991).

The challenges of developing lasting and representative political institution base on the will of the people has been dearly demonstrated in Africa over the past decades. From one perspective many African states have been able to transit from Military rule to democracy. On the other perspective, the inability of some African State to transit from military to democracy is a call of serious concern. In some other cases, incumbent president refuse to hand over power to their successors but against this backdrop, some substantive Menber of counties including such regional power as south Africa and Nigeria have succeeded in holding legitimate election and moving a heard to address questions of democratic consolidation.

On the other hand, the past decades has been tragedious of State failure in countries such as Rwanda, Siere-Leone and democratic Republic of Congo.

From our experience in the new Millennium, we can eathegorize countries in three types, those undergoing meaningful-change, those adopting the form but not the substance of democracy and those that have not undergone any significant democratization process.

The question that looms large is why having some state done better than the other? What democratic model work in Africa? Have African Leaders translated democracy into Good governance? Have democracy lead to social economic and political development? How instrumental is democracy towards resolving the crises of development in Africa? The crises identified by Lucia Dye, Legitimacy crises, identity crises, distributing crises, and participatory crises; have democracy “delivered the good”

The Analyses of the state of Africa democracy encompasses what I called the “three wheres”- it is an answer to the following question.

  1. Where are we coming from in retrospect?
  2. Where are we now in reality?
  3. Where are we going in the future?

This means that Africa democratization process is ongoing it defies a simplistic generalization. These reality is much more complex and varied.

1.2 Statement Of Problem

In this study, the following puzzles shall be our girding principles.

  1. Most Africa State find it fairly easy to democratize but the major challenges of the 21stcentury is how to consolidate Africa democracy
  2. Most Africa States have not been able to convert Democracy into Good governance which has become a standard of international best practices among developed Nations.
  3. Most African State is still finding much more difficult to conduct free and fair election which is a core ingredient in transforming from a mere civilian rule to concrete democratic
  4. African leaders accepted democracy but rejected it’s principle, culture and values.
  5. Most African states have not been able to deliver the dividend of democracy to their citizens. This is an issue of serious concern in the 21st century.
  6. Why the African Union have not been able to show and expressed commitment and determination towards the quest and hunger for democracy in Libya.

1.3 Objectives Of The Study

This work is meant to accomplish the following

  1. To assess the State of African democracy today and its prospects for the future.
  2. To examine some challenges facing democratic experiment in Africa visa-vise the behavour of some Africa leaders towards their citizens.
  3. It also examine how south Africa which is the best country to gain political independent in Africa managed to take the lead in terms of democratic consolidation and performance in Africa
  4. The study sketched out what need to be done to keep and sustain democracy in Africa considering t he challenges of development of the 21st century.

1.4 Theoretical Framework

In this work, we will rely on the system theory as our analytical frame of reference. The system theory is borrowed from Biology and engineering science. It emphasizes the working mechanism of a set up for a goal attainment.

The system theory in political science is associated with David Easton who used it to explain how the political system work and interact. According to Easton, the political system exists with other system such as the physical system, Biological social and psychological system. But the political system is the one in which authoritative binding decision are made.

Some basic concepts associated with the Eastonial Model includes: – INPUTS CONVERSION, OUTPUT AND FEEDBACK.

Another important explanation of the system theory is the existence of structure perform some function or “Roles” Each structure must be separated or diffracted. The political system perform two main function INPUT Function and OUTPUT functions. The input functions includes, interest Articulation, interest Aggregation political recruitment, political socialization, political communication. Output function includes, Rule making, Rule implementation and rule Adjudication.

All these are essential element of a democratic process which involves the articulation of various interests into decision making and decision implementation in order to actualize the system goals.

1.5 Hypotheses

This work is predicated on the following assumption.

  1. There is a relationship between free and fair election and democratic consolidation.
  2. African democracy is rooted in a fragile foundation because of the absence of democratic culture which normally accompanies democratic practices.
  3. (The behavour of some African leaders toward democracy has been source of conflict and instability in some African States.
  4. There is a relationship between democracy and political stability as well as political instability.
  5. There is a relationship between democracy and National Economic performance.

1.5 Limitation / Scope Of Study

There are so many literature that have discussed the State of African democracy, it’s prospects and challenges which can not be fully analyzed in few pages. We shall therefore limit our Scope of Study to two African States, South Africa and Nigeria visa-vise good governance, election management and development.

1.7 Clarification Of Concepts

In the work the following concepts shall be operationalised to aid our understanding.


The origin of democracy has been traced to the ancient great city state of Athens date to 555 Bc in the Greek City State.

Democracy has two types, direct democracy and indirect democracy (Reprehensive democracy).

Direct democracy means the direct parturition of all adults who were adjudged eatable of making rational decision. While indirect democracy is a representative form which is practiced in most contemporary States.

Democracy has been defined by various scholars for example, Abraham Lincoln define it as government for the people, by the people and of the people. Appadorai (1975) define democracy as a form of government in which the ruling power of the state is legally vested not in one particular class or classes but in the chamber of a community as a whole.

Democratic Culture:

This regards to the best and most acceptable way of life in contemporary time. They are the principles guiding democratic process they include, free and fair elections, fundamental human right, fraternity, dominant of rule of law, representative government, tolerance opposing view, rationality and openness.

Transition And Consolidated Democracy

There are differences between transition to democracy and consolidated democracy. Transition to democracy emphases the displacement of authoritarian reign. It means toppling an authoritarian reign and adopting a redument of democracy.

Good Governance:

Proudly speaking, the term good governance encompasses all aspect of the way in which a country is governed. Good governance have several is governed. Good governance have several characteristic, participatory, consensus, oriented, accountability, transparency, responsive effective, efficient, equitable, inductive and rule of law.


According to Wanyene (1987:80) election represent a way of making a choice that is fair to all. It is an empirical demonstration of a citizen’s liberty and political choice, a free and fair election provides a veritable platform for conflict resolution and transformation outside battle field without bloodshed.


The term conflict represents disharmony, antagonism or hostility in a relationship. For arises due to incompatibility of goal been pursued and incompatibility of means used in the pursuance of a State goal. It is one of the products of cash of interest in a relationship. Conflict leads to political instability in a State.

1.8 Methodology

In this work we relied on secondary sources involving the review of textbooks, internet material, Articles, Journal and News peppers e.t.c.

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