Read, Debate: Engage.
map tooltip
Humans

Democracy in Africa under serious threat

July 05th, 2019
topics:Humans
by:Ndubuaku Kanayo
located in:Tanzania, China, USA, Nigeria, South Sudan
tags:Africa, China, democracy, law, Press Freedoom, USA

Democracy in Africa has witnessed a general decline, in terms of the quality of political participation, elections, and respect for the rule of law.

“Today there is almost the same number of defective democracies (15) as there are hard-line autocracies (16), among the continent's 54 states", Nic Cheeseman, Professor of Democracy at Birmingham University reveals from his analysis of the past three years.

Despite these challenges, a recent poll by Afrobarometer revealed that 68% of Africans still preferred to live in a free and liberal society.

"Africans just want more dividends from democracy. They want less corruption, more transparency, less impunity, more economic opportunity", Emmanuel Gyimah-Boadi, Executive Director and Co-founder of Afrobarometer disclosed.

The culture of democracy in the African continent has declined over the years. Many believe this is due to a deconstruction in the foreign policy value chain from Washington, and China's increasing influence in Africa.

Many experts believe that Trump's policy shift since assuming office in 2017 has changed the priority of governments in Africa.

The US, which has traditionally been a major influence in promoting democracy, free and fair elections, political and civil rights in Africa, suddenly embraces a policy focused on the war against terror, slashing spending on the United Nations missions on the continent, and lambasting the activities of Russia and China.

The Trump administration has also initiated a war in its own political base; the American right-wing has become factionalised, between those who want to uphold democratic principles and those who espouse ethno-nationalism.

Donald Trump's stand with Saudi Arabia against a US Central Intelligence Agency report—that senior members of the Saudi Arabian government were responsible for the gruesome murder of Jamal Khashoggi, an independent journalist of Saudi origin— has undermined the principle of democracy and the freedom of the press, members of Congress and human rights activists say.

The increasing level of China's socio-economic presence in Africa has also influenced peoples’ views and definitions of democracy and freedom. “China has a much greater sense of the personal urgency of development in Africa than many western nations”, Abdoulaye Wade, former Senegalese president disclosed.

Some African leaders and business people are embracing China, who come with favourable deals, most of the time in form of aid, infrastructural development and the transfer of technology.

On the other hand, some still believe that the increasing penetration of China into Africa has encouraged undemocratic tendencies around the continent.

"They are deliberately and aggressively targeting their investments in the region to gain a competitive advantage over the United States," John Bolton said at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. "We want our economic partners in the region to thrive, prosper and control their own destinies. In America's economic dealings, we ask only for reciprocity, never for subservience."

Some African nations appear to be influenced by the recent six year jail conviction of an environmental activist in Vietnam. The arrest has escalated tensions and raised questions about the freedom of expression in the socialist republic, which since 2017, has increased the arrests of bloggers and social media activists who criticise the government or draw attention to environmental issues.

The sudden clampdown on democracy and freedom of the press has found its ways to some parts of Sub-Saharan Africa.  

From Tanzania, where President John Magufuli has suppressed the opposition and censored the media; to his Zambian counterpart, President Edgar Lungu, who arrested the main opposition leader on charges of treason while seeking to extend his stay in power to a third term.

The recent upsurge of violence in Sudan as ruling military council and opposition groups contested the authority to take over the democratic transition process has left more than 61 people dead.

In Nigeria, the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) recently announced the suspension of the broadcasting license of Daar communications, a media company tied to the opposition in the country over what it termed as divisive and inciting broadcast of social media contents on its terrestrial television outlet.

The suspension was lifted immediately after a high court judgement.

From all indications, its obvious that democracy in the continent is under serious threat in the absence of immediate and proactive action. 

Article written by:
Ndubuaku Kanayo
Ndubuaku Kanayo
Author
Support Fairplanet

We depend on readers like you to keep our impact journalism strong.

Fostering global inclusion all our journalists are being paid equally across the planet.

Thanks to a grant each first time user receives 100 coins (10 €) for FREE. Use the code "fairplanet" after clicking the donation button.

Or click the red info icon for instructions.

Current Map: Our coverage
Embed from Getty Images
Today there is almost the same number of defective democracies (15) as there are hard-line autocracies (16)
Embed from Getty Images
A recent poll by Afrobarometer revealed that 68% of Africans still preferred to live in a free and liberal society.
Embed from Getty Images
The culture of democracy in the African continent has declined over the years. Many believe this is due to a deconstruction in the foreign policy value chain from Washington, and China's increasing influence in Africa.

Related & recommended articles