State Building and Democratization in Africa: Faith, Hope, and Realities

By Kidane Mengisteab; Cyril Daddieh | Go to book overview

Chapter 7
Ethnicity and Democratization in Congo and Chad (1945-1995)

MARIO J. AZEVEDO


INTRODUCTION

As the process toward multiparty democracy takes hold in Africa, many social scientists fear that ethnicity will pose a major threat to its success. They point out, often without much convincing evidence, that the multiparty elections that have been held in Africa during this decade, Kenya being a perfect example, have been primarily informed by strong ethnic loyalties that adequately explain why some candidates have lost and why some others have won. Although as a generalization this position appears credible on the surface, on close examination, it is untenable, as it is challenged by events in Cape Vert, Zambia, Malawi, and, to a large extent, Equatorial Africa, in such countries as Gabon, Cameroon, and Central African Republic. The problem here lies in the fact that, while democracy seems to be more definable, ethnicity is an elusive concept whose impact is extremely difficult to measure, particularly when it is intertwined with other factors such as regionalism, as is the case in the Congo, and religion-cumregionalism, as the Chadian situation illustrates vividly.

This chapter analyzes the evolution of democratic institutions in the Congo, drawing parallels with Chad and paying particular attention to the role of ethnicity. It argues that, at present, ethnicity has not been the major obstacle to multiparty democracy. Regionalism, which has left many areas underdeveloped, unchecked personal ambitions, and economic insecurity have been much more important than ethnic loyalties in the Congo. In Chad, on the contrary, regionalism and religious differences, civil war, and a past of enslavement and raids have been so interwoven that it is difficult to sort out the major culprit preventing rapid changes and the establishment of democratic institutions. I argue that, unlike Chad, the Congo has been able to move forward toward multiparty

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