n African Renaissance - Major impediments to democratic consolidation in Africa

Volume 4 Number 3-4
  • ISSN : 1744-2532
  • E-ISSN: 2516-5305


The end of the phenomenal cold war in the early 1990s and the attendant emergence of the New World Order has led to the internationalisation of democracy even amongst countries hitherto under the shackles of dictatorial regimes. The post cold war era has resulted in a massive adoption of democratic values and structures by many countries of the world. In Africa, the crisis of demarcation emerged at a time when international pressures from the western powers and donors joined forces with strong domestic tide to impel Africa's tyrants and dictators - the so-called 'political dinosaurs' - to give way to the adoption of democratic form of governance.

In the 21st Century, African countries continue to experience massive proliferation of democratic systems and structures. From South Africa to the Gambia, African countries are preoccupied with the move towards liberal democracy. The stereotypical image of Africa as a continent littered with one party, zero-party, personalist and military rulers in the past have since shifted to a more ambient one. However, this shift in imagery have proved short-lived, particularly in the 1990s and 2000s as some African countries continue to experience spates of civil wars, irredentist skirmishes and domestic insurgencies, with huge implications for the continent's nascent democracy. Currently there are about 20 active wars in Africa. Thus, at the same time as positive commentaries are made about Africa's potential move towards democracy, the persistence of negative political development (such as civil war, genocides etc) have prompted such negative metaphors as 'the coming anarchy' (Kaplan, 1994) or 'the continent at war with itself' (Francis, 2006: 59). The foregoing shows that Africa defies clear-cut diagnosis. Nevertheless, the vogue of democratisation that is fervently blowing throughout Africa is a strong indicator that the continent is making progress in the face of enormous challenges.
Beyond the formal adoption of democracy, are African countries making any significant progress in achieving the so-called 'democratic dividends'? This article examines the major impediments to the democratisation process in Africa. These constraints are by no means exhaustive. The second part of the essay clarifies the conceptual parameters of democratic transition and consolidation. The third part identifies and explains Africa's democratic impediments. The fourth part offers conclusive remarks.

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