Western Democracy has Failed Africa

Published on 24th October 2011

A fighter in DR Congo:  The face of democracy? Photo courtesy
African countries have never bothered to seriously sit and develop home-grown democratic institutions. Unless this is done, we will never witness true democratic institutions emerging in Africa.  The only period in which Africans seriously showed that they preferred to be governed by institutions rooted in their own traditions, was during their fight against colonialism.

In rising up against colonial discrimination, marginalisation, forced labour, taxation, forced growing of cash crops, forceful removal from ancestral lands and other forms of oppression, Africans demonstrated that they value peace, justice and full participation in governance of their countries. Africa needs to develop a formula of democracy that enables its citizens to fully and equally participate in all its governance systems.

Colonialists are determined against all odds, to continue exploiting Africa’s resources/raw materials to feed their industries back home. When they realised they could no longer fulfil African peoples’ demand for self rule, they devised means of pitting African tribes against each other and promoted religious rivalry. This explains why by the time most African countries got their independence, the existing political parties were largely formed based on ethnicity or religion. In Kenya for example, the Kenya African national Union (KANU) was dominated by the Kikuyu ethnic tribe; Zanu-PF in Zimbabwe is largely dominated by Shona people and in Uganda, the Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) which ruled the country twice in 1960’s and 80’s was dominated by protestants.

This divide-and rule tactic has sustained disunity among Africans and led to wars, costing  the lives of millions of Africans. Rwanda during the 1994 genocide where about one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus lost their lives as well as Ivory Coast, where hundreds of people lost their lives and thousands of others were displaced during the political impasse that followed December 2010 elections, that was largely between the Northerners on the side of Alassane Quattara, and southerners on the side of Laurent Gbagbo are cases in point.

Western (imported) democracy will lead Africa nowhere, apart from causing further hatred amongst Africans. Democracy that leads to war is not what Africa needs. African countries should develop new democratic models rooted in its people’s traditions that embrace such aspects as sharing, defending each other, protecting natural resources and respecting each other. In this way, peace and justice will flourish in Africa. The new democratic model should be embrace inclusiveness. All political parties in Africa should be broad based and draw members across all tribes and religions in their countries. The “winner it takes it all” politics should cease. Opportunities should be based on merit instead of party loyalty and ‘big man syndrome.’

Western driven democracy in Africa is cosmetic. It is designed to fulfil the hidden interests of western powers in Africa. That is why Africa has never developed. The scramble for Africa has reached fever-pitch again. Shall we be passive as we watch the resource-endowed continent disintegrate? Shall we be passive as we watch the continent dance to any wind of external music that wafts across it? Africans must be proactive and wean themselves off imported institutions, evolve own democratic and development models and determine their destiny.

By Moses Hategeka

The author [email protected] is a Ugandan based independent governance researcher, public affairs analyst and writer.

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