We all participate in democracy daily either knowingly or unknowingly. Political issues globally hold a lot of relevance especially in the media. Politics and democracy have the potential to create or destroy peace, harmony, security and unity among people in the society depending on whether politicians adhere to democratic principles such as free and fair elections and freedom of expression.
African countries have become the victims of democracy mainly due to political instability caused by issues including civil wars, African leaders hanging on to power, corruption, nepotism and maladministration. A good example of leaders refusing to step down is that of the Gambia general election of 2016 in which Adama Barrow won the election but Yahya Jammeh was not ready to leave his seat after ruling for more than 20 years. Jammeh initially accepted the result, but later refused to accept the result which led to Barrow being forced to flee to the neighboring country of Senegal. Barrow was inaugurated at the Gambian embassy in Senegal on 19 January 2017, and Jammeh was forced to leave the Gambia and go into exile on 21 January 2017. Barrow returned to the Gambia on 26 January 2017. It can be argued that the act of disagreeing with the election results was purely undemocratic and may have led to civil war.
Another example of political instability destroying democracy and peace is the political crisis in the semi-autonomous Zanzibar which has a long history of violent elections. In 2001, post-election violence resulted in the death of more than 35 people. In 2015 the Zanzibar Electoral Committee cancelled and called for a re-run of elections citing fraud. Ahead of the re-election held on March 20 2017, there was a rise in tensions with some reports of arrests. The election was boycotted by the opposition party, the Civic United Front (CUF) which warned of violence if the re-run took place.
South Africa also stands out as a possible victim of Western style democracy. Following the sacking of the widely respected finance minister Pravin Gordhan in President Jacob Zuma’s dramatic cabinet reshuffle and the downgrade of South Africa’s credit rating, thousands of young South Africans have taken to the streets in anger to protest Zuma’s alleged corruption.
With these examples of political instability, one can reach the conclusion that democracy in Africa does not always mean leaders of nations do what the people want and expect them to do. With numerous problems, such as poverty and lack of education, democratic practices such as elections that leave these countries in a trap may not be key priorities for many Africans.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.
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