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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.

Your reaction:

A poor/hungry person will always sell his vote

Deo Peter Mushi, Tanzania
Elections will be free and fair in Africa, when peoples' living conditions will have been improved. Poverty is a main handicap in this rigging of elections. Some politicians in Africa are opportunists only seeking for better means of living, and not exactly interested in good governance. A poor/hungry person will always sell his vote to a corrupt leader so as to give food, medicine and education to his children. Let us fight against these evils in the society, then start talking about free and fair elections.
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.
Henry Williams, New York/Sierra Leone

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.
Markus Ch, Indonesia

Western countries should stop interfering with African politics.

Ann Kamau, Kenya
Its not true that democracy has failed in Africa. What the African leaders need to realise is that once their term in office is over then they should vacate and let others have a chance to lead the country. On the other hand western countries should stop interfering with African politics and let Africans run their countries the way they know best. The western countries just come in for their own selfish reasons, like from the diamonds in both Angola and Liberia which are sold cheaply to westerners in exchange for arms.
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.
Dan Reedy, USA

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!
Gary Wood, USA

Elections have never been free and fair in any part of the world.

UE, UK / Nigeria
Elections have never been free and fair in any part of the world. One only has to look at the influence of the big corporations and the media on the American electoral process, to see how inherently corrupt the business of politics is. In Africa, however, they have become a cynical facade - a smokescreen behind which the business of merciless exploitation and tyranny continues unabated.
UE, UK/Nigeria

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.
Bas van den Bogaard, Netherlands

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? Dont you think he is only using that land issue as a campaign trail? Lets 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.
Sama Mondeh, Ghana/ Sierra Leonean

Elections in Africa will only be considered free and fair when the opposition parties start winning

Moses Ebe Ochonu, Nigeria
Elections in Africa will only be considered free and fair when the opposition parties start winning. Any election in an African country won by an incumbent, no matter how transparent, can never be seen as free and fair. The irony is that when opposition candidates win elections and take over power they erect all the road blocks and obstacles that make elections corrupt and reduce the chances of challengers. And this, to my mind, is the tragedy of the African situation: the lack of credible, transparent and principled oppositions. Yesterday's opposition figures like Chiluba are today's manipulators of the electoral system.
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.
Gonorenhowe, Zimbabwe

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.
Senzige, Tanzania

A lot of people think that being free is gaining independence but they don't realise that the tyrants who rule Africa are no better than the colonialists

Jonathan M, Kenya/USA
I don't think elections will ever be free and fair in Africa. As long as dictators like Mugabe and other power-hungry leaders exist, Africa will forever be held captive by its own people. There is no real democracy in Africa and that's a sad situation. A lot of people think that being free is gaining independence but they don't realise that the tyrants who rule Africa are no better than the colonialists. In some cases they are worse. Wake up fellow Africans.
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!
Lauren, UK

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.
Ernest Cole, Gambia/Sierra Leone

See also:

11 Mar 02 | Africa
05 Oct 01 | Africa
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