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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0-9

Democratic Governance and New Democracy in Africa: Agenda for the Future

Author: Archie Mafeje
Organisation: African Forum for Envisioning Africa
Publish Date: April 2002
Country: Africa
Sector: Democracy & Governance, Legal & Civic Rights
Method: Forecasting
Theme: General
Type: Other publication
Language: English
Tags: Democratic, Governance, Democracy, Africa

Hardly ten years after independence Africa experienced a continuing and deepening crisis of democracy. This was signaled by a series of military coups in 1969 after visible signs of tension in the mid-sixties between civilian and military leaders in some African countries. The generals accused political leaders of corruption and economic mismanagement. They actually spoke on behalf of the people and promised to rid the system of such malpractices, and solemnly promised to return the affected countries to civilian rule as soon as their surgical operations were completed. There was no immediate reason to doubt the sincerity of the then untainted men in uniform. Existentially, neither they nor the public had had any prior knowledge of the evils of absolute power in the new African states. Very quickly the generals discovered that military coups were the easiest and the fastest route to state power, the only economic good left in Africa. Thus, all promises to turn over power to civilian rule at the earliest possible time evaporated into thin air and coups became a recurrent phenomenon. This made it impossible to distinguish between the corrupt civilian presidents for life and military dictators for as long as it lasts. In this context the belated cynical move by the OAU to deny coup-makers any recognition should be seen more as a ploy by the civilian wing of African dictatorships to out-flank their military rivals than as any concern for democratisation on the continent. This is notwithstanding the fact that military regimes, compared to civilian governments, are prone to use directly and uninhibitedly what they know best i.e. naked force. Nonetheless, from the point of view of democracy what is of greater relevance is the fact that all dictatorships rely on illegitimate power and coercive methods. Therefore, depoliticisation of the political process under presidents for life and militarisation of politics under military dictators in Africa are tantamount to the same thing from the point of view of those who seek genuine democracy.
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