Democracy is understood to be “a system of governance that
respects the separation of powers, fundamental freedoms like the freedom of
thought, religion, expression, association and assembly, and the rule of law”
(Annan). Within this broad definition, the fundamental principles of the
structure of Democracy are attainable in Africa. However, it must be said that
the framework of Democracy should be applied in content and to the dimensions of
the country adopting this rule of governance.
External to the African continent, countries which have
adopted the rule of democracy have done so within the provisions and means of
the identified country. Adopting the structure of democracy, for a country, is therefore not defined within parameters of
set conditions surrounding democracy. Adopting a democratic system of
governance is rather defined by the country itself and the means to which the
fundamental principles of democracy can be established accordingly and in order
to attain the highest level of effective democratic rule suited to the country.
Africa is understood to be ‘newer’ to democracy than other
global nations. Democratic rule adopted by other nations is seen to primarily
be suited to those nations within the context of their establishment. With the
dawn of democracy in Africa, it was thought that in order to attain the similar
global levels of governance, the principles and structures in place in other
global countries should understandably be adopted. This outlines the idea of
Western Styled Democracy. This idea works in principle however in reality, Western
Styled democracy is not made or suited for Africa. Africa holds specific issues
which are not confronted within European or colonial democracies. African countries
therefore need context specific democratic styles of government which are
adapted and suited to the environment and structure of the country.
Central to the idea of democracy in Africa is understanding
what is and what isn’t a ‘democracy’ or a democratic style of rule. A variety
of democracies exist and have been implemented within countries world-wide.
Choosing a style of governance within a country is, in itself, a form of
democracy. This construction, so to speak, of democracy’s is therefore inherent
to the context of the country and in turn, result in the country creating it’s
own identity according to the requirements and necessities within the country.
Much debate surrounds this independent creation of democratic style. Countries,
especially within newly independent nations such as those in Africa, are sometimes
seen to have adopted democracies which are interpreted as ‘illiberal
democracies’. In certain circumstances, this term is bestowed on the countries
with legitimacy however in other cases, it is merely a term labelled to
countries whom have adopted a democracy which differs from that of the norm. These
debates are also central to the critique of the term “ailing democracies” whereby
countries may, or may not, be experiencing difficulties or challenges. Within reason
and context however, challenges within a country and within it’s governance
structure, do not pertain to the idea that the state in focus is no longer a democratic
state. This misconception is often identified by external countries unfamiliar
to challenges faced in context of the ‘ailing country’ and are thus unable to
the problem, process or solution.
Democracy can however, be appropriated. Within the African
context this is seen where uneven power structures are in favour of those in
rule, mainly through means which constitute as ‘undemocratic’ such as
corruption, war, the ideology of fear, etc. This is common to Africa and is synonymous
to the understanding of democracy and democratic countries on the African
continent, and by large, the associated problems and misconceptions.
The given reading highlight 5 main preconceptions
surrounding the concept of democracy in African countries. These critiques are
by no means to be ignored however the positives within the countries should be similarly
taken into account alongside the progress and growth of the countries under the
understanding of democratic rule. These preconceptions overlook the advances
countries in Africa have made in attaining democracy. These preconceptions,
whilst valid, have been seem to be confronted through means apparent and
available to the country in focus and furthermore add to the idea of the
construction of a democracy in context of the country.