The Latest

THE LATEST

THE LATEST THINKING

THE LATEST THINKING

The opinions of THE LATEST’s guest contributors are their own.

Hope for Democracy in Africa

Coen van Wyk

Posted on April 20, 2018 15:11

0 user

It's fashionable to be pessimistic about Africa. Leaders make this easy by acting like latter day monarchs. But there is a new trend: democratic change of regimes. It's no accident that the countries where this happens also have the more successful economies.

The preamble of the Constitutive Act of the African Union of 2000 reads: “We, the Heads of State and Government of the Member States…”.

Contrast this with the Preamble of the United Nations Charter: “We, the peoples of these United Nations..”

Spot the difference?

For long the African Union has been criticized as a club for Life Presidents. Yoweri Museveni, President of Uganda, often remarked that he wanted to go farming at age 56. But at 74 he looks set to remain, a modern King.

Sassou Nguesso, President in Brazzaville, has been in power since 1979, with a five year interval in opposition. Robert Mugabe, in power in Zimbabwe since 1980 was recently replaced by his First Vice President. The list goes on.


It is said that, when he addressed the AU summit in 2015, President Obama referred negatively to ‘Life Presidents.’ While the public gallery cheered, the audience, composed of long-serving Presidents, sat in stony-faced silence.


All is not doom and gloom. While there are grounds for criticizing Mugabe’s successor, Emerson Munangagwa, as just more of the same, one of the ‘Old Boys’ Club’ and facilitator of many of Mugabe’s misdeeds, there are signs that he is sensitive to the need for public support.

He has committed himself to re-engage with the world, serve all citizens, and to go ahead with the 2018 general elections. Tellingly he refused to move into the Presidential residence in Harare “because he may yet lose the election.”


Ian Khama, a man who had all in hand for a perpetual Presidency, bowed out on 1 April 2018 after two terms as President of Botswana. Hereditary Chief of a powerful tribe, son of the Founding President, well loved by the military in which he had served with distinction, Khama could just have had an underling call for a constitutional amendment.

Instead he stood down amidst public celebration, and was showered with gifts of cattle from the population.


Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Sierra Leone, having led her country from destruction in a civil war to being the fastest growing economy in Africa stood down from the Presidency in 2017 after an election which, despite shortcomings, was termed generally peaceful.


In Angola President José dos Santos, having served since 1979, stood down in 2017. Though supported by a formidable security apparatus, and with his children in key positions, ill health prompted him to cede the Presidency to his Minister of Defense, Joao Lourenco.


In many cases democracy is but a fig-leaf. Elections in Egypt seemed pre-cooked. Kenyan elections are impenetrable to the outside observer. The Democratic Republic of Congo is hovering on the brink of anarchy with on-again off-again elections, while President Joseph Kabila tries to justify extensions of his term.


Yet it can’t be denied that the emerging democracies in Africa represent a new trend. Old Presidential monarchies are failing. Sierra Leone and Botswana are proof that democracy leads to economic success. There is hope.

Coen van Wyk

Posted on April 20, 2018 15:11

Comments

comments powered by Disqus
THE LATEST THINKING

Webisode

Interview With Dr. Sherie Zander

Video Site Tour

The Latest
The Latest

Subscribe to THE LATEST Newsletter.

The Latest
The Latest

Share this TLT through...

The Latest