Who Killed democracy in Africa? Clues of the past, concerns of the future
Democracy was killed in African by multiple assassins. And the multiple miracle workers have been in the process of resuscitating democracy. Prospects have looked promising – until September 11, 2001.
Counter-Terrorism versus Democracy
The aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon has affected not only the issue of war and peace in Afghanistan but also civil liberties in the United States. In addition, the aftermath has interrupted the democratic revival in Africa. With the United States it has been demonstrated that even a democracy which is about two hundred years old can be very fragile. One day of terrorist attacks in the United States has demonstrated the following threats to civil rights in the United States.
a. Hundreds of people are held in detention in the United States without trial.
20 b. Most of them are detained without their names being made public.
c. The Bush Administration is considering secret military trials for people suspected of terrorism.
21 Even the Nazi leaders after World War II had public trials in Nuremberg with access to their own lawyers. Some of the Nazi leaders had killed millions of people, not just two or four thousand. d. Attorney General John Ashcroft wants people to betray their friends in the hope of getting the US Green Card or US Citizenship. In the McCarthy era in America members of families reported on each other’s alleged communist connections. Now it is alleged terrorist connections, which are sought.
With regard to the impact of September 11, 2001, on the resuscitation of democracy in Africa, the result so far has been anti-democratic. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been busy in Kenya and Tanzania with a variety of Muslim names. In Tanzania they arrived with sixty names.
In Kenya the government is sometimes way ahead of what the FBI wants it to do in the fight against terrorism. They have been attempts to try and extradite Kenyan citizens to the United States. Not to be outdone in the anthrax debate, Kenya in October claimed to be the second country after the United States to be targeted with anthrax by unknown terrorists. Not even the US Embassy in Nairobi was impressed by Kenya’s claims.
A number of African governments under pressure from the politics of the war against terrorism, have been getting ready to enact new legislation ostensibly against terrorist threats. The legislation is more likely to be used against either ethnic minorities or political opponents to the regime in Africa. In Uganda there is evidence to suggest that the Minister of Internal Affairs will be given additional powers to harass organizations ostensibly because of suspected terrorist leanings. Uganda is a country which is already suspicious of ordinary political parties as potentially divisive and has been trying to move toward a “no-party democracy.”
22 Uganda also faces ethnic conflicts in the North – conflicts which should be solved by a political process rather than by the heavy hand of anti-terrorist measures. South Africa, which has one of the most liberal constitutions in the world, is under pressure to reduce civil liberties and return to some of the old anti-terrorist tactics of the apartheid years. And Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe is already learning to use the term “terrorist” as a term of political denunciation. In November 2001 President Mugabe threatened to take action against journalists and reporters describing them as “agents of terrorism.”
23 At the height of the Cold War democracy in Africa suffered because African governments were allowed to sacrifice civil liberties in the name of fighting communism. Will democracy now suffer because African governments are encouraged to sacrifice civil liberties in the name of combating terrorism?
On the Orient Express of history, African democracy had once been murdered by multiple assassins. And then at a First Aid railway station multiple miracle workers and Princes Charming started resuscitating African democracy.
There are more political parties in Africa legalized than ever before, far fewer military regimes than in the 1980s, greater Freedom of the Press and more open debate about corruption and mismanagement than was conceivable fifteen years ago. Some of the new constitutions – like Ethiopia’s regionalist idea of a federation of cultures
24 – even respected ethnic ancestors in a new way. African democracy was slowly getting resuscitated. And then came September 11, 2001. Thousands of people died at the World Trade Center. I suspect thousands of Afghanis of different parties have since also been killed. September 11 has had many horrendous casualties. African democracy is in intensive care. Must it also die because of September 11? The African patient was beginning to breathe again. Must the plug be pulled?
Let us hope the worst will be averted, resuscitation will be resumed, and a new equilibrium will be found between democracy as means and democracy as ultimate goals in Africa’s political experience.
1. A recent discussion on fundamental rights may be found in Milton R. Konvitz, Fundamental Rights: History of a Constitutional Doctrine (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers/Rutgers University, 2001).
2. For a historical overview of democracy, consult Roland N. Stromberg, Democracy : A Short, Analytical History (Armonk, N.Y. : M.E. Sharpe, 1996); and for a contemporary view, see Anthony H. Birch, Concepts and Theories of Modern Democracy , 2nd ed (London ; New York : Routledge, 2001Edition,). Specific treatments of African democracy may be found in Obioma M. Iheduru, ed., Contending Issues in African Development : Advances, Challenges, and The Future (Westport, CT. : Greenwood Press, 2001), and Teodros Kiros ; with a preface by K. Anthony Appiah, Explorations in African Political Thought : Identity, Community, Ethics (New York : Routledge, 2001); and for a cultural approach, see Daniel T. Osabu-Kle, Compatible Cultural Democracy : The Key to Development in Africa (Peterborough, Ont. ; Orchard Park, NY : Broadview Press, 2000).
3. For discussions on the American and British scene, see Thomas R. Hensley, ed., The Boundaries of Freedom Of Expression & Order in American Democracy (Kent, Ohio : Kent State University Press, 2001), and Part IV of David Feldman, Civil Liberties And Human Rights In England And Wales (Oxford, England : Clarendon Press ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1993)
4. Michael Kinsley, “Listening to Our Inner Ashcrofts,” Washington Post ( January 4, 2002). p. 27.
5. Libel suits and other legal actions can endanger freedom of expression even in the land of the First Amendment; see for instance, Lois G. Forer, A Chilling Effect : The Mounting Threat of Libel and Invasion of Privacy Actions to the First Amendment ( New York : Norton, 1987).
6. See, on the Hempstone case, New York Times (August 23, 2001), p. 7.
7. For recent discussions, see Dilip Mookjerjee and Debraj Ray, eds., Readings In The Theory Of Economic Development (Malden,MA: Blackwell Publishers,2001); B. N. Ghosh, Contemporary Issues In Development Economics (London and New York: Routledge,2001); and Yujiro Hayami, Development Economics: From the Poverty to the Wealth of Nations, (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2001).
8. For an overview of gender and work in Africa, consult Aderanti Adepoju and Christine Oppong, eds., Gender, Work And Population In Africa (London and Portsmouth, NH: J.Currey and Heinemann, 1994); and for a specific Kenyan case, see M Silberschmidt, Rethinking Men and Gender Relations: An Investigation Of Men, Their Changnig Roles Within the Household, and the Implications for Gender Relations in Kisii District,Kenya (Copenhagen, Denmark: Center For Development Research,1991).
9. This kind of ethnic corruption and favoritism eats away at the basic fairness implicit in a democratic system, and ethnicity becomes an obstacle in Africa’s march toward more democratic regimes. Consult, relatedly, E. Ike Udogu, “The Issue of Ethnicity and Democratization in Africa: Toward the Millennium,” Journal of Black Studies 29, 6 (July 1999), pp. 790-808 and Julius O. Ihonvberre, “The ‘Irrelevant’ State, Ethnicity, and the Quest for Nationhood in Africa,” Ethnic and Racial Studies 17 (January 1994), pp. 42-60, and for an extended recent discussion on corruption in Africa, see Kempe Ronald Hope, Sr. and Bornwell C. Chikulo, eds., Corruption And Development in Africa : Lessons From Country Case-Studies (New York, N.Y. : St. Martin’s Press, 2000).
10. A World Bank paper by a former University of Liberia president lays out the obstacles and some approaches to reforming higher education in Africa; see Mary A.B. Sherman, Building Consensus for Higher Education Reform In Africa: Some Reflections (World Bank:Washington,DC, May 1993) and for a regional discussion, see Dickson A. Mungazi and L. K. Walker, Educational Reform and the Transformation of Southern Africa (Westport, CT: Praeger,1997).
11. The two periods of Japanese transformation are described in Anne Waswo, Modern Japanese Society (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1996).
12. The African experience with democracy is surveyed through various case studies in Larry Diamond, Juan Linz, and Seymour Martin Lipset, eds., Democracy in Developing Countries, Vol. 2 (Boulder, CO: L. Rienner,1988).
13. An overview of the way in which military power took over civilian governments is provided in Ruth First, The Barrel of a Gun: Political Power in Africa and the Coup (London: Allen Lane, 1970).
14. For overviews of the African situation in the Cold War, see Fred Marte, Political Cycles in International Relations: The Cold War and Africa, 1945-1990 (Amsterdam: VU University Press, 1994), and Zaki Laidi, The Superpowers and Africa: The Constraints of a Rivalry, 1960-1990 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990).
15. This classic novel of the Cold War was first published in the sixties; see John Le Carre, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold (New York: Coward-McCann, 1964).
16. This time might be a ripe opportunity to launch discourses on new constitutions; see John Mbaku, “Effective Constitutional Discourse as an Important First Step to Democratization in Africa,” Journal of Asian and African Studies 31 (June 1996), pp. 39-51.
17. Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France: A Critical Edition; J. C. D. Clarke, ed., (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001), p. 184.
18. See V. Rich, “Africa’s ‘New Wind Of Change,’” World Today,Volume 48,Number 7 (July 1992), pp. 116-119, and also Julius O. Ihonvbere, “ On The Threshold Of Another False Start? A Critical Evaluation of Pro-Democracy Movements in Africa,” in E. Ike Udogu, ed., Democracy and Democratization in Africa: Toward The 21st Century, (Leiden and New York: E.J.Brill, 1997), pp. 125-142.
19. In fact, M. Ould-Mey, in an article entitled “Democratization in Africa: The Political Face of SAPS,” Journal of Third World Studies, Volume 12, Number 2 (Fall 1996), pp. 122-158, argues that western donor/lender influence was more important than pro-democracy movements in affecting the positive trend towards democratization.
20. New York Times (November 29, 2001), p. 1.
21. See the concerns raised by critics in a report in the New York Times (December 29, 2001), p. B7.
22. Consult, for instance, Nelson Kuofir, “No-party Democracy in Uganda,” Journal of Democracy, Volume 9, Number 2 (April 1998), pp. 49-63.
23. See the Associated Press report, cited in, for instance, The Hamilton Spectator (November 24,2001), p. D2.
24. For more details on the Ethiopian federalism experiment, see Ethiopia: A New Start? (London: Minority Rights Group, 2000).
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- Who Killed democracy in Africa? Clues of the past, concerns of the future - September 8, 2013