Democratization and the Protection of Human Rights in Africa: Problems and Prospects

Democratization and the Protection of Human Rights in Africa: Problems and Prospects

Democratization and the Protection of Human Rights in Africa: Problems and Prospects

Democratization and the Protection of Human Rights in Africa: Problems and Prospects

Synopsis

Development was achieved in the West by capitalism and industrialization before liberal democracy was introduced as a viable form of government. Africa is grappling with the problems of underdevelopment. Yet, the West insists on liberal democracy for Africa, a form of government which has no economic and social foundations in Africa. The West now faults the African people for not being able to establish and sustain democratic institutions. Ambrose, an African development practitioner who, recently returning from the continent after three intense years of fact-finding, research, and consultation, argues that the solution to Africa's problems does not lie in externally imposed liberal institutions shored up by top-down bureaucracy that most often is ignorant, unresponsive, or outright hostile to the needs of the impoverished majority. Her investigations lead her to believe that the solution for Africa lies in a collective approach based on empowerment of the masses and economic reforms.

Excerpt

Whether by accident or design I happened to arrive on the continent of Africa at a time when it was bubbling with political excitement as the wind of democracy was sweeping from one corner to the next. From Cape Coast to Cairo, events were unfolding at breakneck speed.

In South Africa, a timetable was in place to start negotiations leading to a nonracial regime in that country, thus bringing an end to apartheid. In other parts of the continent, the clamor for democracy and respect for human rights was loudest. And this time, with the nudge coming from international aid donors, the sit-tight leaders in Africa were forced to listen and to act. Fundamentalism was on the rise in Algeria and Egypt. General Mengistu Haile Mariam had just fled Ethiopia, and General Samuel Doe had met his demise in Liberia, leaving that country in a serious crisis. Somalians were facing starvation, and the refugee crisis on the continent was further aggravated by crop failure and drought in southern Africa.

Following the success of the National Conference in Benin Republic, which saw the first military government in Africa to be voted out of power democratically, the people in Togo and Zaire were determined to democratize through a new process based largely on dialogue and introspection. They called a national conference, but this was met with resistance from their leaders. Throughout 1992 and up to 1993, democratization in Zaire and Togo was stalled by sit-tight leaders, determined to remain at the helm of affairs at all cost. In Nigeria, events were also on a roller coaster ride; a wave of uncertainty swept the country as the handover date for transition to the Third Republic was constantly shifted by the military leader, General Ibrahim Babangida. This left both Nigerians and the international community in doubt as to whether Babangida intended to give up his hold on the country.

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