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Democratic Consolidation in Africa Research Paper

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Updated: Aug 27th, 2021

Introduction

To its basics, democracy is defined as the political orientation of those in favor of a government by the people or by their elected representatives (Lukács & Levine, p. 42). Over the past few generations, comparative politics have been the source of much-anticipated debates and research as the twin subjects to democratization and democratic consolidation. Diverse comparative politics literature has had their place since the early post-world War II period, with early scholars such as Lipset and Dahl demonstrating their obsession for topics on the process of democracy (69; 10). The scope of this paper is not only the establishment of democracy in the African countries, but the long-term consequences and attributes of it, or lack of the ability to support democracy.

As defined by Arinze, democratic consolidation is a necessary process that ensures the protection and feasibility of democracy upon its initiation, which is the aspect that lack representation in the African countries. As noted by Arinze and Masipa, after the 2009 events, many governments in Africa declared their aim of becoming democratic states (118; 114; e1713;). However, this process is complex and relies upon the national context and power-sharing processes.

Significance of the Research

This research is significant because the African states are a unique example of mineral-rich countries with a long-standing history of dictatorship or authoritarian leadership that showed effort towards democratic consolidation (Clapham, p. 423; Khagram, p. 55; Kpundeh, p.50). Understanding the reasons why this failure occurred can help improve the initialization process when transitioning towards a democratic society.

Detailed Research Question

Through this research, one can identify the external and internal factors that helped some African states establish democracy and obstructed others from doing so, and the following are the main questions:

  • Analyze the consolidation process in the context of two main theories – preconditionists and universalists;
  • Define the impact of the out of state actors on the democratization process
  • Analyze how African countries, for instance, Somalia, can overcome the difficulties when consolidating democracy

Literature Review

Democratization allows the citizens to be represented in the government, which ultimately should contribute to the improvement of their well-being and the country’s overall state, and the example of Africa from 2009 till present is a representation of the failure of democratic efforts. According to Khorram-Manesh, in 2011, nine out of forty-nine countries in Africa were declared as democratic by the Freedom House, a non-government organization that aims to examine political freedoms in the worlds. Despite this, only Eritrea does not have a governmental election process in place, suggesting that other countries have established some democratic institutes. Additionally, in their research on democratization in Africa, scholars such as Diamond and Plattner concluded that “of Africa’s fifty-odd countries, twenty are now full-fledged “electoral democracies and only Somalia and Swaziland have held two competitive elections”.

The process of state democratization in Africa has undergone several stages, that can be separated into three stages, from 1989 until 1999, from 2000 till 2009, and from 2009 until the present day. The example of Benin protests in 1989 is the first among many other protests in Africa that led to a regime change. Bratton and van de Walle that the political sciences’ scholars have excluded the examination of Africa and its democratic processes from their studies. Benin’s example is also supported by the state changes in Botswana, Ghana, Senegal, South Africa, and Mauritus, all of which established feasible democratic institutions. This fundamental work by Bratton and van de Walle explores the politics of the African region prior to 1997, which helps define the causes that helped some of the states establish democracy. The examples contrast with the recent events in the region, such as riots and appraisals that aim to change the government’s policy.

An especially important question is the failure of the African countries to establish a democratic rule upon the events in December 2010 in Tunisia that experienced major riots and demands to change the governing policies. In the 1990s, the African citizens evoked many efforts for democratization (Lukács 67; Naokatsu; Cheeseman 10). The main question is why, despite the long-standing authoritarian rule, economic disparities experienced by the African people, and significant uprisings starting in 2009, the democratic consolidation in these states has not been successful.

A large number of leaders in the African countries stated that establishing democracy is their primary goal. Arinze reviews the democratic consolidation in Congo, stating that the government declared its objective for transforming the state into a democratic country in 2002. This country, similarly to others in this region have elections and state their desire to transform institutions into the democratic ones aligning with the demands of the society. However, the analysis of the state’s policy reveals that continuous internal conflicts, instability, and economic disparities are a severe obstruction to this process.

The democratic transition, a process necessary to transform the existing governmental institutes into the ones suitable for democracy is essential. Hence, one can conclude that these countries, due to their declaration of the need to align with the democratic practices are in the transitioning process. Arinze defines the notion of a democratic transition as “phase in the process of change from one state to another along a democracy continuum”. In the context of Africa, the violence, and autocratic leadership there, democracy establishment is threatened by a high risk of reversing towards old regimes or becoming an anocracy, which Arinze defines as an intermediate state between democracy and dictatorship. The factor of anocracy in the context of the African states is not well-explored in the political science literature.

An essential element that one should consider is the prevalence of war of violent conflicts on this continent, that follow major political transformations. Schedler describes the theory relevant to this issue as “reverse waves,” which are the processes of returning to the previous autocratic rule that can be seen in many African countries. Bratton and van de Walle’s work remains to be fundamental in the examined field, and their examples of countries similar to Benin provide insight into the strategies that can help establish and consolidate democracy in the other African states.

In order to understand the specifics of democratic consolidation in Africa, one must understand the elements contributing to the establishment of it. Lukács and Naokatsu highlight the alliance of the state’s elites, public belief in democracy as the best regime for a state, and commitment by non-state actors. Hence, both internal and external factors play a role in this process and should be considered. According to O’Donell, the following are the necessary requirements for democracy consolidation – “free and fair elections, universal suffrage and the right to run for office, freedom of expression, alternative sources of information and freedom of association”. Additionally, a spillover effect, which is the impact of other states in the African region, since as was mentioned, only a minority of African countries are well-consolidated democracies. The present of out of state actors is examined by Hackenesh, including China, Russia, the United States, and the European Union. Specifically, Fukuyama cites China and Russia as the significant global authoritarian powers that impose their influence on countries in both African and Asian region. The region-specific factors should be considered as well since there are African countries with a long-standing democracy.

Khorram-Manesh provides an explanation of the two major theories that can be applied to describe democracy establishment, preconditionists, and universalists. The first one refers to the established laws, regulations, and governmental institutes, suggesting that the readiness of these elements predefines the success of democratic efforts. The latter theory argues that democracy can arise regardless of the conditions in a specific state. In general, the literature on the topic of democracy consolidation in Africa is vast and highlights important state-specific or universal factors. The in-depth exploration of these factors will help understand why democratic efforts in contemporary Africa fail and what can be done to address this problem.

Methodology

In order to compare the successful African democracies and factors that contributed to their establishment with the modern-day African countries that failed to consolidate democracy, a small n qualitative study will be applied. This approach is useful for studies utilizing small samples and reviewing the subjects over long periods of time. In this case, the African countries and the process of their democracy establishment, from 1989 till 1999 compared to the 2009-2019 events is the focus. The central hypothesis is that the existing conditions in the social and political life of the contemporary African countries do not allow for the establishment of consolidated democracies, in accordance with the preconditionalist theory. The paper will be arranged in sections to facilitate simplicity. In the first section, the paper provides a detailed discussion of various theoretical contribution to the topic of democratization.

Plan

This project will take an approximated duration of four months. The first month will be a period of brainstorming and collection of data. Relevant resources will be collected from the school Library, online libraries such as proudest, Google scholar, Springer, Research gate, JSTOR, and World Cat. Primary sources cited by other scholars will be reviewed, such as the book by Bratton Michael and Nicholas van de Walle. The second month will be a month of compiling important information. The third month will be writing the official draft and analyzing the collected data. The fourth month will be polishing up, ensuring that everything we needed to cover has been covered.

Expected Results

There are various myths that have been created concerning the democratization process in Africa. Similarly, there are more severe myths and assumptions that have been put in place by politicians, scholars, and the public concerning the democratization process in Somalia (Elmi 45; Ghedi). It is necessary to clearly define the issues that are prevalent in countries like Somalia that aim to become democratic, in order to end the myths and stereotypes surrounding the African nations. The current review suggests that the issue of democratic consolidation is very complex and a large number of factors contribute to it. Hence, this research aims to fill the existing gap in the understanding of the specifics that affected the African democracies between 1989 and 1999 and 2009 and 2019 to define the existing issues.

Works Cited

Arinze, Ngwube. “The Challenges Facing Democratic Consolidation in the Democratic Republic of Congo.” Journal of Studies in Social Sciences, vol. 3, no. 1, 2015, pp. 113-128.

Bratton Michael and Nicholas van de Walle. Democratic Experiments in Africa: Regime Transitions in Comparative Perspective. Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Cheeseman, Nic. Democracy in Africa. University of Oxford Press, 2015.

Cheeseman, Nic. Institutions and Democracy in Africa. Cambridge University Press, 2018.

Clapham, Christopher. 2003. “Democratisation in Africa: Obstacles and Prospects.” Third World Quarterly, vol. 14, no. 3, 2003, pp. 423-438.

Dahl, Robert. On Democracy. Yale University Press, 2000.

Diamond, Larry Jay, and Marc Plattner. Democratization in Africa: Progress and Retreat. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010.

Elmi, Nimmo Osman. “”. Web.

Fukuyama, Francis. “Why is Democracy Performing so Poorly?.” Journal of Democracy, vol. 26, no. 1, 2015, pp. 11-20.

Ghedi, Ali. “Pambazuka News. Web.

Hackenesch, Christine. “Not as Bad as it Seems: EU and US Democracy Promotion Faces China in Africa.” Democratization, vol. 22, no. 3, 2015, pp. 419-437,

Khagram, Sanjeev. “Democracy and Democratization in Africa: A Plea for Pragmatic Possibilism.” Africa Today, vol. 40, no. 4, 1993, pp. 55-72.

Khorram-Manesh, Nicki. “Democratic Consolidation in Sub-Saharan Africa.” QoG Working Paper Series, vol. 1, 2013, pp. 1-42.

Kpundeh, Sahr John. 1992. Democratization in Africa: African Views, African Voices. Summary of Three Workshops. National Academy Press, 1992.

Lipset, Seymour. (1959). “Some Social Requisites of Democracy: Economic Development and Political Legitimacy.” American Political Science Review, vol. 53, pp. 69-105.

Lukács, György, and Norman Levine. The Process of Democratization. State University of New York Press, 2001.

Masipa, Tshepo. “South Africa’s Transition to Democracy and Democratic Consolidation: A Reflection on Socio-Economic Challenges.” Journal of Public Affairs, vol. 18, no. (4), 2018, p. e1713.

Naokatsu, Uetani. “”. Institute of Developing Economies. Web.

O’Donell, Guillermo. “Illusions about Consolidation.” Journal of Democracy, vol. 7, no. 2, 1996, pp. 35-51.

Schedler, Andreas. “What is Democratic Consolidation?” Journal of Democracy, vol. 9, no. 2, 1998, pp. 91-107.

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