The Pan-African Struggle For A Democratic Order

May 3, 1990
2 mins read





The announcement this week, that Cote D’Ivoire was finally going to abandon the one-party structures in place over the last thirty years of independence, came after the refusal of President Houphouet Boigny, to even contemplate the issue in the first place. It was also a culminating point, in a long-drawn out campaign by the opposition for the abandonment of a one-party system.


The Cote D’Ivoire development followed in the wake of the decision of President Mobutu Sese Seko, to also permit a three-party structure replacement for the authoritarian regime which he presided over, at so much cost to the Zairean nation, in about three decades. All over the African continent, from Benin to Gabon, from Niger to Zambia, the masses of the people, are demanding an end to structures of political control, which have distorted the state machinery of the various countries, enhanced the power of tiny ruling minorities, and have been the tools for the gross violation of human rights.


The Pan-African agitations for democracy were inspired, no doubts, by the largely peaceful revolts in Eastern Europe, of last year, which saw the end of authoritarian one-party regimes, whose records on economic development, had been most dreadful indeed. It was the dismal economic situation of the Beninois people, and the ineffectual, but very corrupt regime of President Mathew Kerekou, which saw the tiny West African republic, at the forefront of the new movement for democracy.


By the time the flame was to extend to Gabon, Cameroun, Cote D’Ivoire, Zaire, Zambia, Niger, and other countries, it became clear that along with the struggle for economic development, and for the respect of human rights, the topmost issue the continent faces today, would be the issue of nurturing a democratic culture.


Asa a matter of fact, many circles on the African continent are beginning to posit the fact that the only real condition for the solution of the serious economic crises, is the emergence of the political culture of democracy that would entail a mass participation in the decision-making process, which, for too long, were the exclusive preserve of bureaucratic circles committed to goals that are alien to the people’s interest.


The one-party structures were, almost without exception, the successors to the dictatorship of the colonial systems in Africa. These structures were imposed, with the mixture of the carrot and the ruthless, to ensure the hegemony of the colonial system, to collect taxes, create a labour force for the colonial mines, agriculture, and the railways, etc.


But the independent states became a bloody caricature of the colonial period. The expectations of independence were gradually betrayed; and elaborate structure of corruption and graft was instituted, while the more attractive means of control became the cohesive apparatus of state power.


As the example of Eastern Europe had taught, when the crises of these dictatorships reach a head, they often prove clearly unable to contain the anger of the population. While they must also take into cognisance the feelings of other countries in different parts of the world. This is why the fire of liberty has so easily been catching the various countries on the African continent.


The new trend towards democracy in Africa is very welcome, especially if it liberates the peoples of our continent, from the paralysing fears that have their roots in the colonial violence, which independence only exacerbated. At the threshold of a new millennium, it is gratifying to know that African peoples, so long oppressed and exploited, are in the various countries of our continent, are taking part in the noble cause of digging the graves of ignoble systems of one-party, one-person dictatorships.

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