Do you know the social network Quora? It is not as popular in this part of the world as Facebook or Twitter, but it is a very rich source of information and opinion, and you know what opinions of citizens means to us at EC! The questions that caught our attention today on Quora were centered on why democracy is failing in Africa. The answers we found were quite interesting, so we decided to share 5 of them with you, 5 opinions stating why democracy is failing in Africa and what to do to fix the situation.
1- Respect for elders
Culturally, Black African society respects the elder and authority. The older you are, the more respect you are accorded. This is the main reason why people do not question their leaders.
2- Democracy as it is in the West is not a universal system that can work everywhere it is applied
If by democracy you mean holding elections then most if not all African countries are democratic. Elections are held after every few years and a politician gets elected president. It is a system that works great in very stable wealthy nations like those in the West but you need to realize that even in the west the current form of democracy is very young. Remember that in the early 1900s in places like the UK and the USA women, poor people and Black people were not allowed to vote. But this changed as these countries grew in wealth and influence.
Democracy as it is in the West is not a universal system that can work everywhere it is applied. I think African countries should have a mix of what has worked in places like China, Singapore and a bit of what has worked in the West. In Africa, we made the mistake of taking western Democracy as it was without changing it to fit our own values and traditional systems. But that is quickly changing.
3- Lack of tolerance, wise governance, and strong moral values
Tribal, ethnic, sectarian, rivalries and corruption.
These kind of differences are only overcome when one faction is able to control the other factions and gradually (usually several centuries) become more cosmopolitan, allowing “the Other” to become full fledged members of society.
This process was also impeded in Africa by the massive bribes given to the various factions for them to remain in power during the 20th Century Cold War. This created a culture of systemic corruption and contempt for the powerless factions.
With the new Leftist craze of “social justice” replaced strongman corruption, the nations of the world are content to let African factions murder each other based on the rationale that one faction or another was “oppressed” at one time or another.
Democracy takes lifetimes of tolerance, wise governance, and strong moral values to achieve. Without those basic moral values, All democracy is doomed.
4- The discourse in most African countries has remained tribal and ethnic rather than national
Liberal democracy, in the classic sense, is predicated on the foundation principles of individualism: the rights of the individual, liberty, and limited government. I am not an expert in African culture, and given the immense of diversity on the African continent, I can’t say with certainty that liberal democracy would be problematic. I can only say that African civil discourse has remained tribal and ethnic rather than national.
This could be explained by the arbitrary present-day national borders established decades/centuries ago by colonial powers that have little or no regard to tribal/ethnic territories. Trying to map individualism and liberty onto deeply tribal/ethnic traditions would be a hard sell.
5- Borders need to be re-aligned for incompatible tribes not to be forced to live in unity
African people are actually pretty democratic (and also very capitalistic) by nature. It isn’t time to give up on self-governance. What would help in Africa would a re-alignment of borders. The nations of Africa are not based on language or tribal commonalities — but were drawn up in 1885 at theto suit Bismarck and the other leaders of Europe.
Since then, African several nations contain two or more very different and incompatible tribes. Each could probably govern itself. But they can’t possible get along together. And often, the nearest tribe to them is a historical enemy. Consider the Yoruba/Igbo conflict within the(1967) as an example.
So, what they need to do is erase the current national borders, throw away all their flags, and then sort out which tribes want to coalesce with any others. Each group will be free to choose between a small and pure tribal enclave, or a larger and more cosmopolitan nation. They will learn from that that strength and affluence goes hand-in-hand with magnanimity.
I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Liberia at a time when civil war was threatening (It developed more fully after I left). I lived among the Krahn, who were fairly civil to the Grebo, but found it impossible to co-exist with the Mano and Gio. They spoke very favorably about the tribe across the border in Ivory Coast, who they insisted were really just the same as them, only now speaking French instead of English.
If you agree with the opinions shared if you have a different point of view about democracy failing in Africa, do not hesitate to share with us in the comment box below.
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