October 24, 2021

Is Africa’s fledgling democracy suffocating to death?

4 min read

By Alpha Bedoh Kamara

Years of one party rule and dictatorship in African governments created an atmosphere of political instabilities, high level of corruption, human rights abuse and violations, and mismanagement of human, land, and capital resources.


protest against the third term of President Nkurunziza in Burundi (photo credit: Reuters)

Africa is still leaking her wounds. Millions of people were deprived of social and economic opportunities and made to live in inhuman conditions until international and regional interventions usher in a pathway through which the people could voice their views and elect their leaders. But because of poor security and mismanagement of resources, the continent is still plunged into poverty, high level of illiteracy and unemployment, growing and uncontrollable violence and religious radicalism, and increasing rate of displaced people, mostly women, and children.


With democracy comes hope, and for millions of people, it provides them the opportunity to determine who they want to be their president and which political party they believe has the right agenda to develop their countries.

But unfortunately, while the future of Africa is forecast to be positive based on democratic benchmarks, recent development in the continent’s political spectrum are indicative of a deliberate attempt by some presidents to arm-twist their people, change the constitutions, and continue to rule.

Africa leaders are systematically suffocating the fledgling democracy to death.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Sierra Leone president Ernest Bai Koroma, Burundian president Pierre Nkurunziza, and Guinean president Alpha Conde’, have had to contend with public outcry against their intentions while Congo Republic’s long-serving president Denis Sassou Nguesso run for another seven years in 2016 and Yoweri Museveni, who has been at the helm in Uganda since 1986, changed his country’s constitution to enable him to successfully run for a third term in 2006.

mapAttempts to thwart democratic tenets by African leaders cross across the continent. Unfortunately, faced with international scrutiny and the hanging cloud of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which prosecutes cases of heinous human rights violations and abuse, many are afraid.

African leaders know that the ICC is an obstacle to any nefarious activity of heinous human rights abuse and are cautious of their actions and therefore the best way to circumvent the ICC protocols they have signed or ratified, is to change the constitutions and create clauses that will ensure their legal stay in power.

They know that by targeting their opponents and, like in the olden days, put them on trumped-up trials and executions, or subjected to harassment, intimidations or disappearance, the ICC will step in and bring to book those found wanting and will face charges for ‘collective responsibility’ of perpetration of heinous crimes and abuse.

In 2014, Aljazeera reports that “The African Union (AU) urged its members to “speak with one voice” against criminal proceedings at the International Criminal Court against sitting presidents.”

African politicians know that by successfully overcoming the ICC hurdle they can perpetrate their crimes with impunity and will continue to rule indefinitely, a development that paints an unpredictable future for Africa.

The people are not against politicians but when politicians in power fail to ensure positive changes in the economy there is no need for the continued stay in power. The continent is awash with hunger, unemployment, and tears. The people are looking up to these leaders to serve them well and not to be dictators over them. Democracy, though in it young stage; is so far providing the fulcrum by which the wheels of the continent are spinning. The expectations of the people are high and believe through democracy, with transparency and accountability, and respect for the rule of law, their livelihoods will be better.

Africa’s political climate is unpredictable being that faced with many tribes, regions, and cultures, such attempts may create suspicion, dissatisfaction, and disgruntlement, amongst people who will feel they are not benefiting from the system and therefore resort to forms of violence.

Therefore, democracy is the ideal solution to bring people together to address common goals, unfortunately, recent developments of political party leaders’ actions in attempting to change national constitutions for them to continue to hold on to power is a cause for concern because other countries in the region might do the same and will once again take the continent back into those days of chaos.

The African Union should look into this issue and engage the leaders to abide by the democratic tenets rather than left to take actions that may plunge their people into more problems. There are many issues the continent is facing and needs everyone to be onboard, but that can only be achieved when the leaders respect the will of the people and serve them well.


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