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Democratization in Africa

Why do some efforts to democratize fail to lead to a new democratic regime while others succeed?

“If we desire a society of peace, then we cannot achieve such a society through violence. If we desire a society without discrimination, then we must not discriminate against anyone in the process of building this society. If we desire a society that is democratic, then democracy must become a means as well as an end.”(Bayard Rustin). There are 192 countries total in the world today and 123 are democracies. Democracy is good for everyone. So why is it that some countries fail to democratize to lead to a new democratic regime while others succeed? Africa for instance, is one of the largest continents on earth however, it seems hard for countries to adapt the idea of democracy.

So what exactly is democracy? According to Carol Ann in the book Introducing Comparative Politics: Concepts and Cases in Context she writes, “democracy is a regime in which citizens have basic rights of open association and expression and the ability to change the government through some sort of electoral process”(Carol Ann). There are two different types of democracies majoritarian and consensus. A majoritarian democracy is a democratic system that concentrates power more tightly in a single-party executive with executive dominance over the legislature, a single legislative branch, and constitutions that can be easily amended. On the other hand, a consensus democracy is a democratic system with multi party executives in a coalition government, executive-legislative balance, bicameral legislatures, and rigid constitutions that are not easily amended. Several countries on the continent of Africa such as Sudan, South Sudan, Chad, Liberia and Ethiopia all have failed democracies.

More than half the population of these countries live below the poverty line. These countries face serious problems of corruption, human rights issues, disease, and lack total infrastructure. In an article written by Jason Mclure entitled Why Democracy Doesn’t Work in Africa he writes “The democratizations process of the continent is not faring very well”(Mclure). These countries are primarily ran on authoritarianism which cause the citizens to live in fear. In fear to speak up and voice their opinions because of the possibility of prosecution or even a civil unrest.

The collapse of the Soviet Union affected Africa tremendously. The Soviet Union aided certain countries in Africa with military advisors, trade relations, and offered substantial help with the government and economy. However, when the Soviet Union collapsed aid that the states were receiving came to a halt and military regimes also fell. As the Union fell multi-party democracies began to arise. With these parties came crooked government officials came into place and would loot money and enforce laws for the good of themselves.

In an article entitled Democracy and Majority Rule in South Africa: Implications for Good Governance the author Samuel Augustine Umezurike gave a list of 8 factors that should be correspondent with every state that is a democracy. The first factor he states is that “the rule of law and constitutionalism must be practised; the will of the people/majority are respected; citizens participation is essential and encouraged; citizens participation is exercised periodically in free and fair elections through which elected representatives assume leadership positions; the government is established in power only for the purpose of serving the citizens; the government is subject to the power of the people who should be able to remove the government in terms of constitutional provision; separation of the powers, based on checks and balances, should be contained in the constitution and respected; respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms as enshrined in the constitution”(Umezurike). These are simple guidelines that every democracy should follow to ensure some success.

Sudan, South Sudan, Chad, Liberia, and Ethiopia are all countries ran by a dictator. Perhaps, this is why these countries are all failed democracies. These 5 countries face more similarities than they do differences. The government is extremely corrupt in each of the 5 countries. In a dictatorship, the entire state is ruled by one person. This one person has control over all military, political, and economic institutions. The dictator usually gains total control through force. Several civil wars have occurred and the government has the blood of hundreds of thousands of innocent citizens on their hands. When living under a dictator you have no rights. You do as they say or consequences will be certain. In an article by Norman Anderson, Sudan in Crisis: The Failure of Democracy he explains the problem within Sudan. “The major problem is the lack of coherence of government and the problem of political divergence and fragmentation caused by alliances between tribes, religious orders, political factions, parties and the military with outside states and movements. . . the population displacement brought about by war and famine only increased the level of intervention and political fragmentation”(Anderson). The system has to be fixed and the dictators have to be overthrown. The citizens of these countries have no basic human rights and fight for their basic needs everyday.

So why do some democracies fail and others succeed? One answer may be that most countries who succeed aren’t ran by a corrupt dictator. A democracy is good for everyone. Democracy promotes human rights, it represents the people, and most importantly liberty and freedom. Marie- Joelle Zahar gives in Norm Transmission in Peace- and Statebuilding: Lessons from Democracy Promotion in Sudan and Lebanon two approaches to democracy promotion. The political approach and the developmental approach. “A political approach focuses on procedural aspects of democracy such as the conduct of free and fair elections and the respect of political liberties. . . the developmental approach takes a longer view of democracy as a slow iterative process of interconnected political, economic, social, cultural, and attitudinal changes”(Zahar). If a democracy is to be successful it should follow the guidelines that were presented earlier Umezurike article.

A democracy is the best form of government. A democracy allows the people to vote for what they want it gives them a voice. Unlike a dictatorship with democracy you have rights and you are free. In order for a democracy to be successful it has to respect the people and be in good favor of the people. “The strongest democracies flourish from frequent and lively debate, but they endure when people of every background and belief find a way to set aside smaller differences in service of a greater purpose”(Barack Obama).

Work Cited

Zahar, Marie-Joëlle. "Norm Transmission in Peace- and Statebuilding: Lessons from Democracy Promotion in Sudan and Lebanon." Global Governance, vol. 18, no. 1, Jan-Mar2012, pp. 73-88. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.montclair.edu:2048/login?url= http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=73501912&site=eds-live&scope=site .

The strongest democracies flourish from frequent and lively debate, but they endure when people of every background and belief find a way to set aside smaller differences in service of a greater purpose.

BARACK OBAMA, press conference, Feb. 9, 2009

Humphrey, Michael. "Sudan in Crisis: The Failure of Democracy." Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ), no. 3, 2000. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.montclair.edu:2048/login?url= http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsglr&AN=edsgcl.66938027&site=eds-live&scope=site .

if we desire a society of peace, then we cannot achieve such a society through violence. If we desire a society without discrimination, then we must not discriminate against anyone in the process of building this society. If we desire a society that is democratic, then democracy must become a means as well as an end.

Bayard Rustin, Dec. 3, 1969

McLure, Jason. “Why Democracy Doesn't Work in Africa.” Newsweek, 21 June2010, www.newsweek.com/why-democracy-doesnt-work-africa-73203 .

Samuel Augustine, Umezurike and Iwu Chux Gervase. "Democracy and Majority Rule in South Africa: Implications for Good Governance." Acta Universitatis Danubius: Relationes Internationales, Vol 10, Iss 1, Pp 79-96 (2017), no. 1, 2017, p. 79. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.montclair.edu:2048/login?url= http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsdoj&AN=edsdoj.13fdfa46bccf4c90a2e8ab3b9d4d8e74&site=eds-live&scope=site .

Orvis, Stephen Walter, et al. Introducing Comparative Politics. CQ Press, 2018.

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