Democratic Development In Africa Challenges Essay

  • Length: 8 pages
  • Sources: 12
  • Subject: Africa / African Studies
  • Type: Essay
  • Paper: #83643722

Excerpt from Essay :

Challenges to Democratic Development in Africa


The political life in Africa has largely been characterized by poor governance and an inherently poor democratic record. This has in most cases led to not only political disillusionment, but also despair – effectively stifling the continent’s economic advancement. In effect, the challenges facing the continent as far as democratic development is concerned stem from political misrule coupled with the adverse effects of imposed westernization, as well as globalization and resource exploitation. As a consequence, the continent continues to suffer demobilization on the political front which has effectively led to economic decapitation. Millions of the continent’s inhabitants continue to be afflicted by disease and poverty, and illiteracy levels continue to be high in most countries. This text assesses and evaluates challenges to democratic development in Africa in the context of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Democracy, as per its dictionary definition, has got to do with the system of government where people have the capability to exercise power (directly or indirectly) by way of freely participating in various civic and political processes. In a democratic society, people are governed by the rule of law and self-determination is not stifled. Some of the key pillars of democracy include, but they are not limited to, equality and liberty. In that regard, therefore, democratic development has got to do with the evaluative procedure in relation to not only the political, but also the institutional as well as social factors that either promote or impede the progress of democracy.[footnoteRef:1] [1: Guntram H. Herb and David H. Kaplan eds., Nations and Nationalism: A Global Historical Overview (California: ABC-CLIO, 2008), 1137. ]


For a long time, the politics of individual nations in the continent have been dominated by repressive regimes and authoritarian leaders. The said leaders have continuously sought to extend their terms in office by, amongst other things, maintaining an iron grip on power and influencing the course of domestic politics. Today, the continent still has leaders who have been in power for a period of more than 20 years. These include, but they are not limited to President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of Uganda and Paul Biya of Cameroon, who have served for a period of 31 years and 35 years respectively[footnoteRef:2]. The recently deposed leader of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe had been in power for 37 years until his forceful removal from office in 2017. DRC has had its share of long-serving leaders who managed to stay in power despite the lack of political goodwill from the citizenry. In an attempt to enhance his grip on power, Mobutu for instance sought to become Zaire’s national identity physical embodiment.[footnoteRef:3] In this case he attempted to create a nation state that was intertwined with his larger than life image. In basic terms, “this aspect of the imagined...
...As a result of the consolidation of power around the presidency, those in the opposing camps are always almost certain of exclusion as far as the sharing of the ‘national cake’ is concerned. For this reason, the government of the day has the incentive to stay in power and aggressively suppress any dissent. Like in most African countries, DRC has for the last few decades had authoritarian governments determined to maintain control over the country’s political systems. As a matter of fact, since 1960, the year the country gained independence from Belgium, DRC has had no peaceful transition of power.[footnoteRef:5] Closely linked to this is the opportunity for private utilization of state assets by individual political players in power. For instance, it would be instructive to note that “in 1992, Zaire’s president Mobutu (1965 - 1997) reportedly controlled a fortune of $6 billion, exceeding the recorded annual economic output of his country” (58).[footnoteRef:6] All this was made possible by the power of his incumbency which permitted him to loot state coffers with no fear of immediate reprisal. The fear of prosecution on exiting office as well as need to protect illicitly acquired wealth is often a great motivator for leaders to stay in power. Towards this end, as was the case with Mobutu, “the political administration is treated as a purely personal affair of the ruler” (58).[footnoteRef:7] [2: David Seddon, A Political and Economic Dictionary of Africa (New York, NY: Routledge, 2013), 97.] [3: Guntram and David, eds., Nations and Nationalism: A Global Historical Overview, 1165. ] [4: Guntram and David, eds., Nations and Nationalism: A Global Historical Overview, 1165.] [5: Severine Autesserre, The Trouble with Congo: Local Violence and the Failure of International Peace Building (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 176. ] [6: Mats R. Berdal and David Malone, eds., Greed and Grievance: Economic Agendas in Civil Wars (Ottawa: International Development Research Center, 2000), 58. ] [7: Mats and David, eds., Greed and Grievance: Economic Agendas in Civil Wars, 58]

Next, the adverse effect of imposed westernization is yet another factor that has impeded democratic development in Africa. For most African countries, colonialism had the effect of eroding and hollowing out entrenched cultures and traditions. This also effectively led to the erosion of political philosophies. As a consequence, Deibert points out that most countries in Africa have become more of poorly done clones of Western nations – more so in the realm of education, socio-economic systems, political ideologies and structures, and even language.[footnoteRef:8] This dependency on westernized ideologies and philosophies does impede democratic development in the continent as countries become deprived of their true essence. In the long-run, failure to take into consideration whether or not Western ideals are compatible with local situations (specifically cultural, economic, as well as socials and political systems), ends up complicating the process of democratization in Africa. Mishra is of the opinion that like most African countries, Congo has been dominated and subjugated by Western influence and culture.[footnoteRef:9] The country’s African cultural heritage has gradually been outgrown by the European mode of civilization. The lack of cultural continuity effectively complicates the advancement of the country towards democratization on its own terms.[footnoteRef:10] [8: Michael Deibert, The Democratic Republic of Congo: Between Hope and Despair (New York, NY: Zed Books, 2013), 59. ] [9: Pankaj Mishra, From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2012), 132. ] [10: Pankaj, From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia, 132.]

When it comes to globalization and exploitation, and the extent to which this phenomenon has affected democratic development in America, it would be prudent to note that the term globalization is in this case used in reference to the economic trajectory. The other major trajectory of globalization is political. Towards this end, therefore,…

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