Democracy and Political Change in Sub-Saharan Africa

Democracy and Political Change in Sub-Saharan Africa

Democracy and Political Change in Sub-Saharan Africa

Democracy and Political Change in Sub-Saharan Africa

Synopsis

Since the end of the 1980s the most important political development in Sub-Saharan Africa has been the movement towards democracy. This is something that has affected nearly all the countries in the region in varying degrees. This book provides the reader with a set of case studies covering a diverse range of African states in order to identify the major causes of recent change, the progress made so far and what the prospects for the future might be. While changes in the global political situation has been important, the greatest impetus towards democracy has been the result on internal factors. For all the states covered the specific domestic, social, economic, and political conditions are seen as vitally important.

Excerpt

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Since the end of the 1980s the political systems of African states have undergone a quite remarkable and unprecedented transformation. At the beginning of 1989 there were just a handful of African states that were operating relatively democratic, competitive multi-party systems, whilst the majority were ruled by the authoritarianism of single-party and military regimes. In South Africa Nelson Mandela was still a political prisoner and anti-apartheid groups, such as the African National Congress (ANC), existed either underground or in exile. By the beginning of 1995 the political situation had changed dramatically. Multi-party systems, admittedly embodying varying levels of democratic credibility, were in place in the vast majority of African states. Military regimes remained in power in a handful of states but the fully fledged single-party state, a form which had dominated the post-independence period, was totally absent from the political map of Africa. In South Africa President Mandela presided over a government in which ANC members held a majority of ministerial portfolios following a democratic election which even the most cynical observers had found emotionally moving. Certainly, more negative examples of African politics were still observable in some states. In 1994 Rwanda had been the setting for the greatest human and political cata-strophe of the post-independence period as genocidal conflict claimed perhaps as many as a million lives and left even greater numbers living in appalling conditions as refugees in neighbouring states. In a few other states, such as Angola, Somalia and Liberia, civil war prevented the formation of any semblance of national government.

However, although the picture was mixed nobody could deny that Africa as a whole had made substantial strides in the direction of democracy during this period. By 1995 the vast majority of African states had held genuinely competitive elections. In most cases these elections were the first for a very long time to involve opposition parties competing for the support

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