Political Reform in Francophone Africa

Political Reform in Francophone Africa

Political Reform in Francophone Africa

Political Reform in Francophone Africa

Synopsis

This volume explores the origins and evolution of political reform movements in several states of French speaking Africa. The authors look at the distinctiveness of Francophone Africa and survey the challenges of reform.

Excerpt

This book has several sources of inspiration, not the least of which was the startling outburst of political reform that began in sub-Saharan Africa in the waning months of 1989. From the mid-1960s to the end of the 1980s, both Africans and Western observers had come increasingly to take the presence of the one-party state in Africa for granted. The few cases of quasi democracy (Gambia, Botswana, and Senegal) seemed tentative, isolated, and anomalous; as a result, and as one would expect, few scholarly studies of democracy in Africa were undertaken, and these dealt much more with democratic potential than actual democratic experience. Beginning with the revolution in Benin in 1989, however, democracy seemed to gain renewed credibility in sub-Saharan Africa. Fascination with democratic political reforms soon swept the subcontinent, leading to the eventual overthrow of many longtime dictators, some of whom had ruled their countries since independence. Even if one believes that "development"--broadly understood as the alleviation of the severe material deprivation that plagues the lives of so many Africans--is the continent's most pressing need, one cannot help but to be impressed with the possibilities for change represented by such reform efforts.

The roots of this dramatic turn of political events are destined to be long debated by scholars. Some point to the rather obvious coincidence of political revolutions in Africa with the end of the Cold War and the end of Eastern Europe's one-party states. Scholars of a more materialist bent point to the long-brewing economic crises of sub-Saharan Africa occasioned by stagnation, debt, and initially unsuccessful structural adjustment programs imposed by the multilateral lending institutions (the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank). Perhaps the best metaphor to describe the sources of revolt and reform is one of an intellectual spark (the broad notion of freedom stemming from the collapse of communist states) landing in a socioeconomic powder keg (the social frustration created by declining economic prospects and unrelenting authoritarianism).

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