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Africa Democracy

Challenges Of Democratic Consolidation

Most African scholars recognize that consolidating democracy on the continent will remain a difficult and daunting task. Available evidence indicates that, in the first fifteen years, many of the new democratic regimes were still fragile and some of the euphoria of the early 1990s had evaporated. Some scholars and observers, such as Michael Bratton and Nicholas de Walle, even argue that democratization in Africa has been more illusory than fundamental, marking a transition from patrimonialism to neopatrimonialism. This is debatable, however. By the beginning of the twenty-first century, the authoritarianism and statism of the early postindependence years was in retreat, and, where it persisted, was vigorously contested in a context in which democratic aspirations were firmly implanted in popular consciousness and the pluralization of associational life was an integral part of the political landscape. It was indeed a mark of the changed times that, whereas previously development had been regarded as a prerequisite of democracy, now democracy was seen as indispensable for development.

The challenges facing Africa's democratic experiments are many and complex. Julius Ihnovbere and John Mbaku provide a useful summary. They include entrenching constitutionalism and the reconstruction of the postcolonial state, preventing military intervention in politics, instituting structures for the effective management of ethnic diversity, promoting sustainable development and well-enforced property rights regimes, nurturing effective leadership, combating the HIV/AIDS pandemic, empowering women, managing globalization, protecting the youth, and safeguarding human rights and the rule of law.


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Paul Tiyambe Zeleza

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