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Can Africa now boost of Democratic elections?

20.03.2019
article from AFRIC editorial
In January 1990, Former French President Francois Mitterrand quoted ‘’ ″Democracy is a universal principle. It’s the direction that must be taken.’’ In line with this assertion by the former French president, the African continent continue to push through to consolidate democracy, especially what has been termed political democracy in Africa. Since after the Independence of most African Countries in the 60s, the Countries through their various leaders and different Governments have been trying to implement democratic practices or principles over the decades with some of the countries such as Nigeria, Senegal and others progressing at a very slow pace while other Countries like Cameroon with long term serving President has been regressing.

For so long in Africa, power was in the hands of the military, with an insignificant civilian rule to serve a transitional government. Notwithstanding, since the end of military rule in most African Nations like Nigeria, and the abolition of one party system, Most African governments have been pushing to consolidate democratic principles in their various nations.

How democratic are African elections

Saying that Africa has not attained a certain degree of Political Democracy will be a gross exaggeration. The Advent of the multiparty system in the Republic of Cameroon in 1990 according to President Paul Biya marked a milestone in consolidating democracy after his regime suffered resistance back then. That notwithstanding, this report seeks to assess the level of political democracy some African countries have attained in contemporary society.

Responding to how Africa has gone in upholding democratic elections, Fah Elvis, a Cameroonian journalist and political analyst said, when we look at Elections in Senegal and Nigeria (precisely the 2019 elections) we get to understand that these Countries are striving towards the implementation of democracy in that they have prioritized or instituted Presidential term limit which is an important aspect in the advancement of democracy in a given Country. Besides, critically examining the management of their electoral system, you can clearly see that their Elections body are independent to a greater extent. The Elections Governing body in Nigeria and Senegal prepares the election ground before elections, manages the electoral process and declares the result independently. That notwithstanding, some pundits and Civil Society in Nigeria questioned the countries drive to political democracy during the last February 23rd presidential elections.

According to them, the 2015 elections were highly democratic in all aspects than the 2019 polls organized by the same electoral body INEC.  Giving critical look at the 2019 presidential elections in Senegal, one of Africa’s most stable countries, opponents of incumbent President Macky Sall accuses him of having manipulated the electoral process in order to give him an upper hand in the February 24 polls.  According to them, the very day the candidacies of two main opposition candidates including the son of ex-President Abdoulaye Wade; Karim Wade indicated an infringement on democracy, thus not conforming to the will of the people. The critical and outspoken pundit shared a different view as far as Cameroon is concerned.

According to Mr Fah, Cameroon has unlimited Presidential term, and its Elections body controls elections but does not have the powers to declare election results.  Counteracting this point another anonymous speaker said the 2018 elections in the Republic of Cameroon defined strides made by President Biya’s country in upholding democratic principles. For the first time in the history of Cameroon, the constitutional council accepted and heard election petitions live on national Television tabled by disgruntled opposition political parties in the country, challenging the re-election of President Paul Biya. Though the council ruled in favour of the incumbent, many saw things as a step towards building a strong democracy in the country.

However, one of the contenders and leader of the Cameroon renaissance movement Maurice Kamto vehemently denied the outcome and exercised much resistance calling for electoral reforms among other things. Kamto and some of his party cadres have been apprehended and kept in custody.  Another aspect of political democracy can be determined from the number of Presidents that have ruled a nation after gaining independence.

African countries like Senegal and Nigeria are striving towards the advancement in Democracy, as can be seen at the number of Presidents who have ruled the respective countries. For example, Senegal and Nigeria since independence in the 60s have had series of Presidents while Cameroon for example that equally had independent in the same 60s can only boast of two heads of states. So this is an indication that some African Countries are advancing in Democracy though at a slow pass while others are instead regressing. All of the above assessments of advancement of democracy by some African states and regression by others can be seen from their poor system of Governance. Most of the African Countries lack the Separation of power such that their executive wing turns to override and controls the Judiciary and the Legislature which accounts for dictatorship and the absence of real democratic Principles in most of the African states.

 

As such, Africa to an extent is evolving and making great efforts in consolidating democracy in Democracy. But if African stakeholders and policymakers can design or define an ‘’African democracy that can fit into the African context’’, then they must have achieved something positive and goods for the continent. This is so because many critical minds have argued that the type of democracy practiced by the western world does not relate directly to present-day Africa.

Article from AFRIC editorial.

Credit image/ google images.

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