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the scramble for african democratization
The Scramble for African Democratization

Democracy has long been symbolization for unity, wealth, and humanity as well as a perceived standard for developed countries. Due to the successes of many democratic countries throughout the world many states have made significant strides towards democratization in hopes of bettering the state. However, for each successful democracy story there are many more failures where authoritarian regimes have kept a suffocating rule. It is both these successes and failures that are worth of in depth research and understanding. This particular research proposal keys in on Africa which since the end of the Cold War in 1989 has made it possible, even imperative, for the African states to move away from the authoritarian modes of government that have held for most of the independence era and strides towards democratization. Yet even in this fertile time this wave of democratization has evidently failed to make an impact in the African states whereas elsewhere throughout the world it has undoubtedly been a positive and progressive movement towards a more stable state. The intention of this research to better understand what affect the continent's history has played on it’s current barriers of democratization.



The Scramble for Africa: World War II

1880s nearly all of Africa is colonized.

1884 Berlin Conference .:. Drew colonization boundaries with no concern for African traditions, ethnicities, or current political issues.

Africa was positioned as such to be a great strategic point which influenced colonization as well as the wealth of raw materials possessed by the continent.

WWII recruited African support from colonized African states – Treated terribly.

Nationalism on the Rise: Decolonization .:. Nkrumah & Toure

Franklin Roosevelt to Britain  All nations shall be able to chart their own political course.

United Nations .:. Declares support for political freedom and independence

Africans began speaking out loudly against colonial rule .:. Gold Coast (Ghana) experienced large riots protesting African soldier’s pay in WWII. Policed killed many protestors including Kwame Nkrumah who would build support while imprisoned as a Ghanan nationalist with a dream for all of Africa to be free and independent.

in 1956 Nkrumah lead Ghana to it’s independence from the British .:. U.S. interest was high and supportive as the independence party was attending by both Richard Nixon and Martin Luther King Jr.

Ahmed Sekou Toure .:. Leader of French controlled Guinea – Fought for independence and emancipation. – Late 1950s France offered a referendum – Overwhelming majority (96%) in Guinea voted against ties with France and immediately after the vote the French left but not before leaving a wave of destruction physically, emotionally, and financially.

Nkrumah and Toure would become good friends both promoting their vision of a free and independent Africa under one flag.

Throughout the 1960s nearly all colonization in Africa was ended – while that may sound initially as a victory it was all but

The Congo: Post Colonial African Failures & Influences of the Cold War

The Congo was a formal Belgian state that, much like other newborn African countries, was ill prepared for independence. – 3 government officials were Africa, 0 army officers, and very few university graduates.

The government was co-headed by Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba and President Joseph Kasa-Vubu .:. Extremely different personalities – Lumumba fiery and aggressive, Kasa-Vubu placid and calculated.

Lumumba in a speech attended by the King of Belgium openly attacked the Belgians for their harsh treatment and for making blacks suffer – This stunned the Belgians who were expecting to stay – Within a week the Belgians had left the Congo and the country was in shambles – Panic, chaos, and no political control in what is one of the largest countries in the world.

Katanga secedes sides with the Belgians – A very mineral rich province in southeast Congo.

Lumumba, desperate for support and stability, reaches out to the Soviet Union for aid and supplies.  During the Cold War time period the United States great opposed this as Soviet control of the Congo could lead to a Soviet influence all throughout Africa. – The US would call Lumumba a threat to world society. (Whereas he was NOT an agent to the Soviets, just a desperate man who would have taken aid from anyone).

Kasa-Vubu and Lumumba began distrusting each other and eventually dismiss each other. U.S. backs Kasa-Vubu, USSR backs Lumumba. – After Kasa-Vubu is out of power Mobutu Sese Seko is the new leader of the U.S. backed faction – Together the form a military coup that arrests Lumumba which greatly angers the Soviets.

The United Nations impedes and protects Lumumba – Lumumba months later leaves protection only to get caught and assassinated in the Katangan province witnessed by their entire government, the Belgians, and members of the CIA.

Wide spread outrage throughout the world – the Congo split into three segments (US, USSR, Belg.) – The United Nations works to bring Katanga back from secession – Did not go well; ended in many, many UN troops killed – All of the Congo remains in chaos – Finally, four years after the Congo gained independence the Katangan secession ends and the UN leaves

1965 – Mobutu is able to take control of the entire Congo – Brutally & corruptly rules for 34 years – However, pro-western dictator. – Eventually nationalist and African unity promoters Nkrumah and Toure are accused of despotism and overthrown – shortly thereafter they die of natural causes.. And so does this dreams for Africa

In his last years Nkrumah watched as African independence was undermined by Cold War politics. Chaotic and bloodshed.

… The United States were the true winners in the Congo, not the Congolese people …

D E C O L O I N I Z A T I O N & P O S T C O L O N I A L I S M . . .

Civil Society

In Africa there is a civil society that is consistently promoting the advancement of living standards of African citizens while promoting and protecting rights, interests, and freedoms. – Young intellectual citizens forming in urban centers

Lack of a financial commitment and a culture that is used to such civic society forms a barrier towards democratization for the first arena of democracy.

Political Society

During the transitional time from decolonization to the post colonial era until now the development of the African states was based upon overshadowing implications of the Cold War.

The promotion of pro-democratic rulers was of the upmost importance and once the Cold War was over so long as the rulers were in favor of the West they were in good standing and received backing form the United States.

Many governments would move forward with very corrupt and brutal authoritarian regimes.

Recent trends have seen a great increase in multi-party elections but these elections are frequently skewed and rigged to favor the current regime. – This is an obvious barrier of democratization as the government is controlling the outcome of elections.

In this instance a multi-party election does not guarantee democratization – The outlying parties have no voice!

Rule of Law

Expert research has shown that in the sub-Saharan regions of Africa collectively the states exemplify extremely low scores in areas such as:

Civil and political rights provided for in the constitution are always being respected, a majority of the states represented a less than 50% confidence score that the rule of law set forth in the constitution was being upheld

According to Freedom House in 2007 there was a deterioration due process rights, protection from torture, and freedom from war and insurgencies happening in culturally diverse areas of Africa. – Bad signs for democratization.

Useable State Bureaucracy

In Africa, due to cultural differences and traditions, often times a persons self interest is far more important than country or public interest – Because of which African bureaucrats who were in power of government affairs have fraudulently scammed both public and private sector of billions of dollars meant to help poverty stricken areas.

Based on polling numbers nearly all African countries surveyed had less than 50% belief that the police were fully competent to handle enforcement.

Judiciary and law enforcement have been shown to have high levels of corruption

Economic Society

Significant debt, receiving little to no investment, and as their population grows rapidly still receiving the same aid

Post Cold War the entire continent is devalued

This devaluation intermixed with nearly unplayable debts, lack of foreign investments, and stagnant financial aid from other countries makes Africa an economic disaster.

Mismanagement of oil – corruption!

. . . A N D I T S R E L A T I O N T O A F R I C A ‘ S B A R R I E R S O F D E M O C R A T I Z A T I O N.



Once one divulges through the history and current day issues that face Africa the future outlook appears to be fairly bleak. The continent is rampant with corruption and authoritarian rulers whose refusal to step down in times of transition are more than assuredly setting back the African states in their route towards democratization. Some may even argue that while Africa was going through its decolonization era that it was set up to fail as those with the power largely ignored the people and governments of Africa once their own international political triumphs were realized. As the population grows and financial assistance remains stagnant the economic situation in Africa deepens by the day as it continues to plague the continent with insurmountable debt. This economic crisis paired with authoritarian regimes who manipulate constitutions and ignore the idea of accountability in fair and free elections makes even the most optimistic observer very skeptical of the continent’s chances to democratize.

For Africa to democratize there are four suggested things that would be very beneficial towards its effort. The first, and perhaps the most obvious, is a legitimate constitutional framework that is adhered to by those in power and open freely contested multi-party elections. It are these factors that are looked at very closely but just because you have a multi-party election process does not guarantee democratization. Africa also needs an stronger institutional approach that has corruption free judiciary systems and a representative legislature that are under direct political accountability. Third, Africa must possess a mentality of democratic change. Since decolonization they have been let down by democracy and their attitudes towards such is abysmal. This approach leads you to believe that in order for transition the culture must posses the attributes of a democratic mentality, a culture of representation and, again, a notion of accountability. The democratic mentality means that the individuals of the state must trust the basic framework of democracy. This parity of representation and political culture helps root the political accountability that is continuing to stress by keeping political order and civility. Finally the appropriate time must be taken with extreme care and throughout decision making taking everything and everyone into account. Democracy is a fragile system that takes significant time to protect. The lack of understanding of this both by political theorist and citizens of these states is a rocky road that ends at a dissatisfaction due to a lack of instant fulfillment

It is important to understand the crossroads that many African states face when looking at democratization. Since the decolonization of the African states the continent has long seen authoritarian rule take hold and establish long reining regimes that have developed its roots in the country. The brief examination of two recent and relative events in Africa show entirely opposite transitions of two African states and how the democratization wave can push one way or another. The first example takes place in Zambia which was amongst the first African countries in which multi-party elections led to the end of one-party rule and the replacement of the recumbent dictator and leader.(Chabal 1998, 289) The second example takes place in Kenya in 1998 after campaigns and elections that were supposed free and fair were later determined to be rigged and highly flawed which lead to the reelection of Daniel arap Moi for his fifth consecutive term and extending his nineteen year reign. (Chabal 1998, 290)

These two events show a rare example of successful and positive steps towards democratization in Zambia and the all too familiar misleading and failed efforts in Kenya. The research looks to understand the context of African events such as these. What made Zambia so much more successful initially than Kenya and so many other African states? How can Africa learn from the successes of Zambia and the failures of Kenya? These two events are essentially drops in a large bucket of African events that can be broken down and examined to persuade the research one way or another in terms of hypothesizing future political transitions in Africa.

While the understanding of events both recent and dated is necessary to the research one must also understand key themes of African culture such as what stimulates democratization and where its roots are formed initially. These struggles date as far back as when African states won its political independence, yet however, it was quickly realized that the new inheritors of power had no intention of fulfilling the promises of the nationalists causing struggles where people began feeling like independence was nothing more than a punishment which lead to further misery and dashed hopes. (Mbaku 1998, 10-11) These particular feelings of despair are what in the future lead to actions of democratization and other internal pressures. The research must focus in on these internal pressures, what helped them form, and how they are orchestrated in order to begin to understand the present political state of Africa

But are there also external pressures from the international community that can assist or inhibit democratization? Chester Crocker, a former United States Secretary of State for African Affairs, claims that the idea of putting any resources into African development is fruitless and ineffective. (Decalo 1992, 7) Through the research it will also be important to decipher the international perspective on African democratization and the feelings towards the continent as a whole. Africa struggles mightily with economic uncertainties throughout the continent and are only worsening as the days move on. Is it even possible for African states to colonize without the assistance of international political hegemons? These external pressures are just as important as the internal pressures towards democratization that they cannot be ignored in research.

Once the history and recent events are taken into consideration the next step of the research is to look into these events and outcomes even deeper. Were the so called successes a legitimate democratization effort or was it just a mask temporarily hiding the governments true identity. Moving back to the example of Zambia in what seemed like a wonderful victory for democracy in 1991 it slowly slid back into an old authoritarian habits (Freedom House 2007) and continues to leave Zambians and Africans with a all to common feeling of dashed hopes of a fully transitioned government. It is important to understand these democracy attempts in Africa and really decipher if there is a real transition movement on the horizon or if it is just nothing more than states going through the motions of democracy with no real execution or purpose. The research must help bring to light exactly what is a true and expanded upon definition of a transitional democracy and especially one in Africa.

Finally once all of this research is exhausted and put to efficient use is when a hypothesis considering the future of the continent can be formed. It is necessary to examine all angles of the already established literature when formulating a future perspective. The research must establish parameters that guide the projection and help determine certain limits or ceilings of African democratization. It will be important to step away from the analytical research and use those findings to create an ideological political theory to determine of Africa is forever stuck in the darkness of authoritarian regimes and chaos or if the dawn will break for democracy as the continent strives for international political legitimacy.

PSCI 4950 – Senior Seminar – Fall 2011

By: Mike Meyers