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How we can rescue democratic institutions in Africa

6 mins read

The surging demonstrations in recent times that have led to the loss of lives have unmasked the evolving nature of democratic governments into a semblance of populist authoritarian regimes in Africa. It has undoubtedly led to growing trepidations within the corridors of power on the continent.

The dawn has arrived for African leaders to own up to their responsibility of protecting their citizens and wake up from the delusional dream of safety and security from the abuse of power and the unaccountable wealth they amass. Our leaders must realize that the insecurity of the individual citizen represents a threat to national security and state leadership. So until the masses are safe and sound, the political leadership cannot dream of a peaceful nap. Indeed, we are in this together.

It is discernibly plausible from the voices of the masses that the unceasing demonstrations on the continent are a clarion call for a review of the state of our democratic institutional framework, especially when the African Union and the other regional bodies are perceived by the majority of the population to have failed to live up to their duty of serving the interests of African citizens. Alvin Toffler, the author of “Future Shock”, and Heidi Toffler’s statement in the early 1990s resonates with our current situation, that, “almost all the major systems on which our society depends are in simultaneous crisis” and the “failure to prepare in advance for the turbulence could produce a grave breakdown in public security” (Toffler, 1993).

Legitimately inferring that an ailing continent with economies beset with chronicles of existential threats from climate change, conflicts, abuse of power, public sector corruption, money laundering, capital flights, and resource exploitation (resource curse) does not stand a chance of any transformative development in this era, is not out of place. Staring at failed leadership has left African citizens to despair and bereft of the prospects for growth and development within the continent, setting most of our energetic youth on a perilous journey for survival in the West. The only source of hope for most African citizens, whose fate hangs on a belief that migrating abroad is the only way to realize their dreams and aspirations.

Unfortunately, the common phenomenon of irregular migration has displaced the youth of Africa, weakening the social fabric of our society and culture. Most distressing, however, is the fact that the myth of safe havens in the West, swayed by the phenomenal events of the European Union and Brexit debacle, the rise of Trumpism in North America, capped by the systemic revelations of the 2020 elections in America has now deranged the African narrative.

Sadly, the democracy that had been a fundamental source of inspiration for Africans, with the potential of serving as the safeguard for the human rights of citizens, is further transformed into a medium of exploitation by African leaders and their cronies locally and abroad, exploiting our economic and natural resource and constructing a gloomy future for Africans. Why should citizens be killed or maimed for demonstrating to express their frustrations for poor living conditions? How long will the African dream of an improved standard of living and social advancement be realized? How many more decades should we wait?

Election campaigns that represent the pathway to democratic governance with a promise of fairness in national resource distribution have become the source of conflicts and instability. Political campaigns are monetized these days to the extent that politicians will trade scarce national resources entrusted to their care to amass wealth to serve their interests and consolidate their hold on power. Politicizing the security agencies and arming them as the pillars of support for their corrupt administrations to survive through harassment of citizens who attempt at exposing public sector malfeasance. As well as silence opposition political parties and create an atmosphere of fear and panic to suppress public anger, such a delusional tactic of failed leadership.

Amidst this conundrum, it is essential that we realistically explore the civil society space in our respective countries to champion a common cause of liberating our democratic institutions from the grips of authoritarian leadership in the wake of the growing intransigence of ruling governments. It is only through such deliberate institution-building efforts that we can address the systemic problems confronting us and secure the future of our democracy for posterity to judge us favorably. That will empower us to mitigate partisanship, ideological, and tribal politics and effectively attenuate the consequential effects of populist authoritarianism in Africa

We should use these democratic institutions to protect our constitutions and national resources, including state security agencies, from the abuse of power and the convenience of justifying eligibility for re-elections and electoral malfeasance that leads to violence and conflicts in African. It is our only clear path out of the woods. Civil society organizations and academia must collaborate towards the realization of this goal to reclaim the power embedded in the masses and redefine the course of our democracy.