November 20, 2004

THE LESS DARK CONTINENT:

Africa's Record on Democracy Mixed, say Analysts (Cindy Shiner, 16 November 2004, VOA News)

The New York-based policy institute Freedom House, which charts democratic reform around the world, says about 18 African countries can be considered genuine electoral democracies. A dozen African countries have undergone peaceful transfers of power from one political party to another since 1990.

But the National Democratic Institute's Mr. Fomunyoh says that, while progress has been made, more needs to be done.

"In a number of countries, whether it's Zimbabwe or Gabon or Cameroon or Togo or Guinea-Conakry, you have leaders who have been in power for well over 20 years who outlived their usefulness, but continue to cling to power and have become part of the problem rather than the solution to democratic governance. And so when you look at the African continent it's a mixed bag," he said. [...]

Analysts say successful African democracies follow no set pattern. They can be poor, such as Cape Verde and Niger, or wealthier, such as Botswana and South Africa. They can be largely Muslim, Mali is an example, or mainly Christian, like Ghana.

But Mr. Fomunyoh says successful democracies in Africa do appear to have one common factor:

"I do think the countries that have been successful in their transitions have relied very strongly on leadership that had a vision for the country and that was itself committed to democratic governance," he said. "I think that is what makes the difference say between a country such as Benin and its neighbor such as Togo. That's what makes a difference between a country such as Botswana and a country such as Zimbabwe."


The sad reality of post-colonial Africa is that a mixed bag is remarkable progress.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 20, 2004 1:22 PM
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