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Monday, 18 March, 2002, 14:31 GMT
Has democracy failed in Africa?
Africa is experiencing a number of chaotic elections.
In Zimbabwe, a rough election campaign has been followed by confused polling days. In Madagascar, two rival governments have been set up after disputed elections.
In Congo-Brazzaville, two of the country's main opposition leaders are in exile and therefore unable to take part.
And in Togo, parliamentary elections has been postponed indefinitely.
Has democracy failed in Africa? Is there any point in holding elections? Is there any way of making them fraud free?
This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.
Deo Peter Mushi, Tanzania
Education is the key to free and fair elections in developing countries. Also, the so called democratic countries should give Africa the chance to grow. It took some countries more than 200 years to achieve a semblance of democracy. Democracy according to the west for Africa is wrong. This same west is supporting countries who continually suppress their own people (China, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan etc.) Leave Africa alone. Check your own consciences.
Indonesia's experience could be an example for Africa. Democracy demands well-informed and committed masses without which it simply cannot stand because the ruling elite will always try their best to manipulate the people. As long as most Africans live in dire poverty and being undereducated, democracy has no "fertile soil" to grow, let alone blossom.
Ann Kamau, Kenya
Democracy is possible in Africa, but at the present time it has been a failing prospect. Many African countries are split by cultural, linguistic, and religious differences and therefore undermine the stability of any potential governments. In corrupt governments, these differences take away the possibility of any strong and stable alliance against the corrupt government. In countries like Sudan and Nigeria, religious differences have caused tremendous rifts between people from different regions. In Egypt, Libya, and Algeria, what were once sort-of democracies have become governments controlled by one person or group of people for extended periods of time. In Somalia, the government has extremely little power because culture there prevents the unity among the people in the region. In Zimbabwe, no formidable opposition could be formed to take the power from the current dictatorship. There are many revolutions underway in African countries, but these are not strong enough to sway the people and only cause instability. Until a way to form a stable, unified government is found, no democracy in Africa will ever prevail.
The question of democracy succeeding in Africa starts with a flawed assumption. That is, can a Western institution such as democracy be adopted by people who know only "strong man" tribal type of rule? I think by any candid observer, the answer is no!
In my mind, the problem of African democracy is the lack of a 'civil society'. The only way ordinary people might be able to influence the economical and political elite is by organising themselves, for instance in labour unions. Unfortunately, people have to reach a certain level of prosperity and education before they start doing this. It might be a long while before these conditions for true democracy in Africa are reached.
I have followed the drama unfold in Zimbabwe with the keenest interest. I have been dumb-founded and flabbergasted at the part African leaders and their monitors have and continue to play. Just look at the disparity of reports between the African election monitors, including the OAU and those of their European counterparts and the Commonwealth.
Why do we Africans continue to bask in a pool of naivety? Are we only supporting Robert Mugabe because he's an African, and ignoring how much suffering he's bringing on his people? If Mugabe was really interested in distributing land equally amongst all Zimbabweans, why did he not do that immediately he came to power in 1980, but rather waited for twenty years? Don¿t you think he is only using that land issue as a campaign trail? Let¿s wait and see, now that he's stolen the elections.
My fellow Africans, let's stop thriving on
mediocrity and go for what will better the status of
every African country and its people. As for Elections, they can never be free and fair as long as Africans do not change.
Moses Ebe Ochonu, Nigeria
Democracy is in crisis throughout the entire world, even with the self- proclaimed champions of the democratic system themselves. The major cause is that the West wants to impose systems, leaders and Africans have realised that, and hence the failure and the blame is on those who view Africans as inferior and would want just to dictate the pace. This is why there are tested leaders like Mugabe saying no to this kind of manipulation. Change is needed but it has to be from within.
No, democracy has not failed in Africa but it is in crisis. The only way out of this crisis is for African leaders to change their thinking and embrace people with differing opinions, not treat them as an enemy, but a friend who may have a better way of doing things.
Jonathan M, Kenya/USA
Elections in Africa will never be free and fair as long as the government elite continue to protect each other and can use the people's money to get what they want. Education should be a priority - once the majority of the people are aware that they have rights and fear is something that can be overcome by the people standing together for what they believe in, these governments will collapse because they are cowards and once violence and intimidation no longer works, they have nothing!
As long as it is in the nature of humanity to be dubious, manipulative and selfish, then an issue like elections, which is lined to character, personality, status, power and authority, will never be conducted in a free and fair environment.
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