Democracy in Africa: The Hard Road Ahead

By Marina Ottaway | Go to book overview

systematic examination of the data, it suggests possible solutions to the problem of building a party system really capable of ensuring government accountability, deepening contacts between political elites and rural majorities, and brokering compromises among the new interest groups and associations rapidly emerging everywhere — the tasks the supporters of reform expected multiparty systems to perform in Africa.

Policies should aim at reducing the costs and risks associated with appeals to interest groups instead of kin ties and should reduce opportunities for incumbents to punish businesses and unions that provide financial support to the opposition. Economic liberalization is part of the recipe. To borrow a phrase from Albert Hirschman, there is a political argument for the triumph of capitalism, in Africa as in Europe. 14 Further, friends of a more tolerant, competitive political system should support measures to improve press coverage of new associations and their activities, bring party leaders and interest group officers together, and encourage NGO alliances on issues important to them. They should provide incentives for associations to build bases in the countryside and eschew ethnic exclusiveness. They should take aim at the registration of societal acts that remain powerful vehicles for control of political opposition. Such steps might prove the best antidotes to ethnic fragmentation in the party system.

It is important to note that some of the activities of donors at present may actually aggravate the fragmentation of party systems along ethnic lines. Providing financial assistance to indigenous NGOs can spur the formation of many very small groups, as their leaders, including those associated with old clientelist networks, seek to capture a share of the new resources. The proliferation of these groups, many of which are likely to have high rates of turnover among members, may actually discourage political party leaders from paying heed to the demands of civil society as opposed to kin networks and the barons of the old order. Sponsoring opportunities for association leaders to meet one another and discuss shared interests, supporting dissemination of information about new groups, and encouraging party leaders and legislators to meet with interest groups — all these may be more helpful than direct assistance.


Notes
1.
Probably the earliest recognition of these changes appeared in Naomi Chazan , "The New Politics of Participation in Tropical Africa", Comparative Politics 14, no. 2 ( 1982): 169-189.
2.
Peter Ekeh, "Colonialism and the Two Publics in Africa:"A Theoretical Statement, Comparative Studies in Society and History 17, no. 1 ( 1975): 91-112.
3.
Cleavages are typically evaluated according to the character of the votes received by a party in elections. At the time of this writing, systematic data about

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