Democracy losing ground in Africa?

Democracy is losing ground in Africa – Los Angeles Times

In addition to disputed presidential elections in Zimbabwe and Kenya, where longtime incumbents refused to cede power after their opponents declared victory at the polls, last year’s ruling party victory in Nigeria was widely condemned as flawed. Uganda’s president changed the country’s constitution to stay in power. Ethiopian government forces killed about 200 opposition supporters after a 2005 vote.

Though there have been democratic success stories, such as Ghana and Sierra Leone, some see the coming years as a crucial period in determining whether much of Africa will move forward in embracing democracy.

“The continent right now seems caught in the middle between the good cases and bad cases,” said Chris Fomunyoh, senior associate for Africa at the National Democratic Institute, which promotes democratic reform around the world.

Sadly, this seems rather plausible. For several decades there have been shining beacons of hope across Africa, but sadly many of them appear to burn brightly for a few years and then fade. (Remember Cote d’Ivoire – stable and relatively prosperous for decades before it descended into internal conflict?).

I’d be interested to see actual data, though. I suspect that the trend is upwards, even if there are disappointments on the way.

1 thought on “Democracy losing ground in Africa?”

  1. There’s an interesting, and slightly concerning, comment on this in The Chronic Poverty Report 2008-09, which noted that “…relatively authoritarian regimes such as Vietnam and Ethiopia have been able to demonstrate a commmitment to reaching the extremely poor. This is partly because there are fewer organised interests to be managed.” [p.30] Books could be (and probably have) on the relationship between democracy and development, and maybe democracy is itself a characteristic of development (from a Development as Freedom point of view). But this trend towards authoritarianism, at least in some countries, does raise some big challenges for northern donors – trapped as I imagine they are between the practical arguments in favour of working through governments (e.g. through budget support) and the political arguments in terms of being seen to support authoritarian regimes. Quite a tricky balancing act.

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