Obstacles to deepening democratic rule in Africa pt. 2

Obstacles to deepening democratic rule in Africa pt. 2

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By Chris Odinaka Nwedo

Politics in Cameroun has been unedifying. It has been painful chronicles of undemocratic political movements. It is chronicles of one political totalitarian been displaced by another more imprudent. In 1982 Paul Biya replaced Ahmadou Ahidjio who had ruled Cameroun for 22years. And just like every other political despot, Biya has been ordering regular presidential elections in Cameroun and winning all unconstitutionally and undemocratically in democratic dispensation. As an expression of a resolve to rule interminably, the totalitarian enticed the Cameroun’s puerile parliament into discarding constitutional term limits in 2008. With the obliteration of term, the country through the parliament endorsed the seizure of Cameroun.

Consequently, no political reform will be possible in the country accept the ones compatible with the enduring political ambition of the dictator. Biya’s fraudulent victories in elections are facilitated by key state institutions and guaranteed by the State’s Security Forces. The Security Forces are prioritizing the protection of questionable political ambitions of Biya than the country and the citizens. “State Security Forces have been accused of a host of heinous acts, including the killing of as many as 100 protesters in 2009 and the use of violence, arbitrary arrests and unlawful detentions to prevent opposition political activists from holding meetings. In 2008, Biya had the constitution changed, and immunity clause was inserted into the constitution to prevent him from prosecution after leaving office. His ruling party had parliament remove the ability of the electoral body to announce election results…27 “Now analysts say the country faces further turmoil if Biya, Africa’s oldest president who will be 92 when the new term ends, does not start preparing Cameroon for life without him after decades in power.28

The fact that Biya has survived many coup attempts, as well as many protests against the questionable legality of his rule proved that the tyrant is intensely detested.29 The only difference between Biya and Mohammadu Buhari of Nigeria is that Buhari has not stayed long in power. For the few years, Nigerians have been suffocated. The country is experiencing the very worst of peacetime governance. Today, Nigerian state institutions are mobilized against entire nation in favour of Buhari. Nduta Waweru painted a precise picture of the situation by noting, “the world has seen a rise in the number of dictators and despots, most of whom employ similar tactics to stay in power and to control their people. It would be interesting to note that most of these dictators started off as popular leaders who enjoyed the support of the people and even had big dreams for their country. However, once in power, most of them turn away from the same people that supported them and do everything in their ability to stay in power at the expense of the nation.30 Biya is one of Africa’s longest-serving presidents. After serving for 37 years, he is not ready to step down. Interestingly, quite a number of celebrities such as Samuel Eto’o have put their weight behind Biya’s re-election despite the chaos that the country’s English-speaking region is going through.31

Electoral fraud is a great obstacle to productive politics and enriched democratic political culture not only in Africa but also in Eastern Europe, South America, Asia and Middle East. It is an intense defeat to robust democracy where the office of the masses predetermines the trend. Electoral fraud embraces all forms of illegal interferences with the processes of an election. Such interferences directly or indirectly violate the validity and impact the overall results of the election negatively. Inviolability of an election is a precondition for its validity. “Elections represent the most fundamental step toward constitutional democracy. They are instruments that enable citizens to participate in the political process and provide them with powers to initiate changes in the society.32 “By creating regular channels for political competition and furnishing opportunities for citizens to evaluate and change leaders, elections represent cornerstones of democratic rule. More importantly, elections deepen the concept of accountability so central to constitutional democracy by giving citizens the opportunity to choose their leaders and to reject those they do not like.33

Genuine democracy must be based on the broad acceptance of the principles of constitutionalism, rule of law and good governance. Democracy is not simply bureaucratic in terms of electoral competitions, decision-making processes, free conversations on bills of rights and methodologies of power distributions. Historically, democracy is about security and good governance. Particular to some states of Africa, democracy could be considered consolidated and proactive if for the decades of its practice was able to facilitate security and good governance as practically tangible dividends. It is spiteful that democratic model is continuously failing in every aspect with the democratization of tyranny, violence, corruption and intolerance.

For the many decades of democratic experimentation, the model has disastrously failed to inspire among the people positive leadership, leadership with the will and capacity to affect significantly critical aspects of the peoples’ national life, especially the economy and security. Nigeria specifically, has not experienced the level of physical and social infrastructural development that befits a nation awash in petro-dollars. The absence of commensurate development can be directly attributed to lack of good governance. Bad political leadership has been the biggest bane of Nigeria’s national development. This is because good leadership is expected to regulate all aspects of society’s life and therefore provide leadership for moral and physical development of the nation.34 Today, all the ills ravaging the nation is blamed on the national brands of democracy that has been unable to respond and deal proactively with the tribulations.

Direction actions against the tyrants

Struggles for independence in Africa were not predicated on the logics of trendy political change but on the imperative of the people’s needs. The motivating factors in the agitation for independence have today become relegated and negated. The emphasis has unfortunately shifted from improving the deteriorating living conditions among the indigenous peoples, the capturing and weaponing of the apparatus of government for dealing effectively with poverty and other forms of insecurity to repression, oppression and marginalization which are today breeding profusely poverty, violence, war and death. On the contrary, departure of Europeans were expected to allow Africans to take charge of their own destiny, manage their own social, political, and economic affairs, and take responsibility for the design and execution of policies affecting their lives.35 Understandably, as part of the false-start, democratization of political space was not integrated into the ideology of the national political struggle, thus the deepening crisis which in the last five decades has continued to syndicate, empower and dispose political tyrants who in the imperatives of cleaving to power plant insecurity, poverty and underdevelopment.

Formation of parties and recurrent elections in some state of Africa created disposition for relatively free choice of representatives. However, the extents to which these leaders actually act on behalf of citizens are questionable, and meaningful participation in political life amongst the majority of citizens appears to be declining significantly due to man -made calamities. Chances are that many African states can be paralleled to some Asia-Pacific countries that according to Horner and Puddephatt (2011) have shrinking and fragile democratic space. According to the scholars, the main reason for this is that democratic system of order has never been deeply institutionalized or made meaningful for poor and marginalized groups. This is because ‘democratic transition failed to shift the political settlement of power relations and incentive structures that underpin society. Again, state structures have continued to be dominated by tyrant elite groups, and democratic institutions have been rendered meaningless or manipulated to serve subjective interests predominantly.36 Some of the certain indicators of the deepening crisis are weaving of the political space to the whimsical choice of one man who provides the models of political behaviour and sets the tempo devoid of accountability.

Consequently, the poor and marginalized communities have few opportunities to influence the behaviour of the state, and members of government. ‘Essential to the rule of law is the idea of horizontal accountability, or the concept that the powers and branches within a democracy are kept in check by their counterparts. These legal checks and balances ensure that the interests of any government branch, with varying responsibilities toward the body politic, will not take precedence over any other branch and impose an unaccountable form of political leadership upon the citizenry or engage in corrupt practices. While government agencies and branches should be accountable to citizens in the form of elections, they must also be held accountable to each other.37

It is suggested that Africa’s post-cold war state reconstruction projects failed to produce institutional environments capable of deepening democracy and enhancing popular participation, ensure transparency and accountability, and renewed interest in constitutionalism and democratic governance. There is a general feeling that people are now fed up with the suffocation of civil society, repression, corruption, and economic mismanagement.38 It is no more disputed that Africa’s pro-democracy movements have continued to face enormous constraints imposed on them by “the legacies of authoritarianism and military dictatorship, decades of economic mismanagement, and the subversion of the popular will,” as well as “the ruthless asphyxiation of civil society and programmed closure of political spaces by Africa’s dictators and the rabid politicization of nationality and identity platforms that precipitated violent conflicts and pogroms….39 It is also claimed that the constitutional rules that most African countries adopted at independence did not have the legitimacy. These rules failed to reflect the values of the people to be governed; for one thing, constitution making at this time was top-down, elite driven and not participatory. The process was not democratic, bottom-up or people driven. The critical issue was that these constitutions did not reflect the values of the relevant stakeholder groups.40

Democratization processes are evidently inhibited in some state of Africa by the choices forced on the people by the domineering will of her many classes of depraved elites. The society is thus configured to lack the characteristics compatible with productive political culture or authentic democracy. The recent upsurge in destructive violence in Mali and Boko Haram predicaments in Nigeria were predicated on some of the factors of the above hypothesis. The Nigerian Islamists considered western education evil and are dedicated to destruction of all schools even as they vowed to imposed Islam as the national religion. Regrettably, today Nigerians are not only contending with the fiercely destructive Islamists but with crude and intensely cruel Fulani herdsmen who are invading communities and slaughtering men, women and children. The herdsmen are overwhelmingly uncontrollable. Malian Islamists with active support of Al-Qaeda have not spared anything they considered Un- Islamic in the area they are struggle to gain control. The impact of Islamic State terrorists’ activities in some states of African is progressively disquieting.

Boko Haram and the conspiratorial sponsors denounced the government elected by Nigerian majority in free, fair and credible election since 2007. The Boko Haram militants are passionately against bills of rights, universal suffrage, the equal rights to elective office, freedom of expression and freedom of religion or association. In practical terms, these factors are prerequisites demonstrating that democracy can function even at a minimal level. The negation of the basic factors for democratization solicits directly reversion to authoritarianism, tyranny or dictatorship. In Nigeria, the Islamist sects have been implicated in bomb attacks in churches, mosques, markets, government offices, banks and police posts with thousands of victims. They claimed responsibilities for suicide attacks, kidnappings, abductions etc. The states infested by the groups are today in Nigeria considered lawless, risky and profoundly retarded in development.