Post 1990s Democratic Winds of Change: From South to North
Dr. Suresh Kumar, Africa Quarterly. May 2011
African governments at regional and international levels have a responsibility to protect the lives of innocent people, to prevent wars, and to create conditions to promote peace. Corrupt and authoritarian governments provoke conflicts and opposition in Africa. Effective democracy, which allows representatives from ethnic and religious groups to participate in decision making, will reduce conflicts. The Cold War period of forty years (1950-1990) supported military rule and devastated the African economies by squandering the rich mineral, agricultural and human resources. The Cold War resulted in the centralized, monarchy and one party system in Africa as it supported the neo-colonial agendas. Some of the decolonized African countries in the name of African socialism and centralized government supported by Soviet Union squeezed their people and maintained their autocratic rule. It is important to note that the overriding the Cold War dictates, USA and erstwhile USSR implemented their political, economic, military, geo-strategic and ideological interests on the newly independent African States who were politically unstable, weak or no economic stability in the global market. The direct military interventions of US-Soviet armed forces in support of any African State’s President or Prime Minister acted enthusiastically that ignored the people’s welfare and development just after attaining their independence. “In South Africa, despite America’s anti-apartheid rhetoric, Washington’s policy of eliminating a Soviet presence in Southern Africa prevented it from marching its rhetoric with action. Before 1980s, the United States considered the ANC, the most prominent black anti-apartheid movement, as communist oriented. America thus covertly opposed the organization, fearful of the threat it could pose to its huge financial investment in South Africa if it succeeded in wresting power from the white minority regime, The United States’ consistent refusal to support United Nations sanctions against South African government was part of its strategy of opposing to the ANC. During the post-independence civil wars in Mozambique and Angola, both the United States and the Soviet Union supported warring groups in the conflicts. The Cold War period witnessed a dramatic increase in arms transfer from the United States and other western powers to Africa. Foreign intervention in African conflicts has also resulted in the destabilization of states and even entire regions” (Toyin. 2010: 25-6). The referendum marked the final phase of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which concluded 20 years of war between the northern-based governmenbt in Khartoum and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM/A) under their leadership of late John Garang and post Naivasha agreement democratic struggles under the leadership of Mahmoud Mohammed Taha, triggered political change and compelled Sudan to hold the referndum on time, and grant the award as per the majority will (Dr Suresh. 2011). The referendum commission published the final results, with 98.83% voting in favour of independence on 7 February 2011 (BBC News. 2011.). This is most democratic change in post 1990 period in Africa as the same referendum process was used in Ethiopia and Eritrea and Eritrea became fifty third independent sovereign state of Africa. The armed movement of SPLA/M under the leadership of late John Garang and post Naivasha agreement democratic struggles under the leadership of Mahmoud Mohammed Taha, President of South Sudan triggered political changes and compelled Sudan to hold the referendum on time and granting the award as per the majority will. This was the beginning of the despot leadership in Africa to accept the people’s verdict. Also, it is not an easy task to change the die hard habits of the rulers.
The end of the Cold War has brought the change respecting the people’s referendum and Eritrea took birth as an independent sovereign State in 1993 on the one hand and the end of apartheid and independence of South Africa in 1994 have given a birth to the people’s democracy on the other hand. But the transfer of arms, especially small and light weapons, from the developed world to Africa did not cease with the end of the Cold War. This intake of lethal weapons in different regions of Africa has supported their despot rulers to crush further the dreams of people’s development. It further strengthens the doctrine of dictatorship and corrupt repressive regimes in different parts of Africa on the one side and the aspirations and dreams of sustainable development among the masses touched their hearts as they saw the fragmentation of USSR in the name of people’s development on the other side. This combination of State’s repression and people’s development cannot go together; consequently the voices of multi party system, electoral democracy and development for the people were getting louder.
The post 1990 period witnessed the destruction of infrastructure, damaged businesses and the loss of life and livelihood, move from one party to multi party system and electoral politics. The human, material and economic costs to Africa of its innumerable conflicts have been staggering. This recovery of African democratic system through electoral politics began right from South Africa spreading to Southern Africa. Similarly, the change in West Africa is seen particularly from military dictat to electoral democracy in Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Senegal and Sierra Leone. Nigeria accepted the major changes in its constitution and adopted the federal democratic system. Today, this change has given no importance to an Afro-pessimism as the African governments started incorporating the democratic content of constitutions, which were enthusiastically adopted a decade ago. The democratically elected governments ousted the military, autocratic, one party system in a number of countries and enacted the multiparty parliament. It has brought democracy to Africa by fixing the presidential terms in the office and respecting the role of opposition to maintain the distinction between party and the State.
The last two decades have opened up all the avenues including the use of defense forces information technology for the masses that has provided the connectivity to the whole world through e-mails, mobile phones, chatting and other technology. This conducts the people’s connectivity smoothly and the African people started receiving the information’s about their rulers’ private accounts, investment and wealth. It is the beginning of people’s movement from Africa to Europe, USA, Canada and other parts of the world became more convenient. The extension of education, health and employment opportunities shares their concern of government’s responsibility about their day to day needs and the way to fulfillment that will pave the way towards social security. The crest of the democratic wave has swept the whole African continent and pledged their commitment to the democratic constitutions. African governments are developing a home grown political culture supportive of the rule of law, civil society and genuine democratic governance.
Today, the globalization and the emergence of democratic system in Africa continues to move from Southern Africa to North Africa and the streets of Egypt and Libya have spoken about it. The peaceful and non-violent movement from Southern Africa to Central, East and West is approaching North African countries and touched Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt. The people’s move will be seen in Morocco, Libya, Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia as people are connected to each other through information technology, mobile tele-communication and other services. It is an irony to state that sustainable political, social and economic development in Africa has been severely retarded by the impacts of its last fifty years of conflicts.
The Movement from Southern to North Africa
The process of democratization which began in Africa in the last two decades is promoting democracy and democratic governance. There are differing interpretations and discourses on democracy and democratic governance in Africa that leads to challenges, problems and prospects. The globalization initiates the social forces representing democratic champions and agency in Africa reconfiguring the political landscape in Africa. The mass movement has strengthened the democratic institutions through regular elections, multi- party politics, parliament and judiciary in Africa. The mass movements in North Africa are the drive towards democratization and participatory governance in Africa. These are some of the concerns to be addressed by analyzing the wind of change right from the Southern to North Africa.
South Africa moved from the clutches of apartheid to its independence and has adopted Presidential system having the President as the Head of State and the Head of Government. The President is elected by the National Assembly of South African Parliament. The nine provinces of South Africa have provincial legislature. They have adopted multi party system and adopted different policies for the people’s development such as Reconstruction and Development Programme, Growth, Employment and Redistribution and Truth and Reconciliation Commission for the unity of society. The South African government has taken stern action against the corrupted leaders and dismissed them. The government launches different development plans time to time to cater to the needs of people. The founder President of the independent South Africa, Nelson Mandela took retirement from electoral politics and transferred to Thabo Mbeki and further transferred to Jacob Zuma. The change of President through electoral politics from 1994 to 2010 is an example of democratic practices and respect to people’s verdict.
Swaziland and Lesotho like Nepal and Bhutan in Asia are the land locked countries. Swaziland has the system of absolute as well as constitutional monarchy. The monarch under Swazi law and custom has the executive, legislative and judicial powers sharing with the queen mother. The Swazi have bicameral parliament and the last elections were held on 19th September 2008 (next to be held in 2013). The 2008 elections were boycotted by opposition parties and non-partisans were elected. Swaziland has the total population of 1,354,051 (2010 estimate) and is facing HIV threat as about 2% of the Swazi population dies from HIV every year (Swazi.2011).
Lesotho is having a population of 2,067,000 (est. 2009), is adopted the multi party system and parliamentary representative constitutional monarchy (Lesotho. 2009). The Prime Minister is the Head of government. The People’s Charter Movement of Lesotho put forward their demands of common identity document with South Africa for thorough movement across the border but did not threaten the monarchy. Lesotho is severely afflicted by HIV/AIDS. According to recent estimates, “the prevalence is about 23.2%, one of the highest in the world. In urban areas, about 50% of women under 40 have HIV. The average life expectancy is 41.18 for men and 39.54 for women’’ (HIV. 2011).
The Republic of Botswana got independence on 30th September 1966 and adopted the multi party system and parliamentary from of government. Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has never lost power since independence. Botswana is a landlocked country having Kalahari desert and just over 2 million population. Botswana has transformed itself, moving into the ranks of middle-income status to become one of the fastest growing economies in the world with its average annual growth rate of about 9 percent with a GDP (purchasing power parity) per capita of about $14,800 (IMF.2010 estimate).
The last election of Zimbabwe held on 30th March 2008 has erupted the controversy between the ruling President Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai. The masses did not accept the victory of Mugabe blindly and protested. People forced their government to respect the election results in true sense and incorporate Morgan as Deputy Prime Minister. Mugabe has been in power since the country’s independence in 1980 and stuck to the seat of power. This was the major change seen among the masses and it reflects in the politics of whole Southern Africa.
The Namibian War of Independence was fought by South-West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) against the apartheid government in South Africa and got the independence on 21st March 1990. It has a population of 2.1 million people. The President of Namibia’s Head of State and government. The country has the bicameral Parliament and multi party system. Sam Nujoma, the founder President of the country ruled the country for 15 years and the power was transferred to Hifikepunye Pohamba in 2005. The last elections for President and National Assembly took place in November 2009 followed by the elections of Regional Councils and Local Authorities in 2010 (Bosl.2010). This change affirms the people’s faith in the elected governments that work for their development.
Mozambique, colony of Portugal got independence on June 25, 1975 under the leadership of Samora Machel of Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO). The country adopted the multi-party democracy under the 1990 constitution. Joaquim Chissano of FRELIMO won the elections in 1994and followed by Armando Guebuza of the same party in 2009. The same party has produced three different leaders with their visionary setup of country’s development.
Malawi is a democratic, multi-party government, currently under the leadership of President Bingu wa Mutharika. The current constitution came into existence in 18 May 1995. The President is elected for five years. The government has adopted the major changes in the constitution in 1995 and satisfied the people’s demands of equality, justice and equal opportunity of employment along with other facilties.
In Eastern Africa, Rwanda-Burundi conflicts and the history of genocide of Hutu-Tutsi has shaken the world community. Rwanda having a population of 8.4 million people inhabiting a surface area of 26,338 sq km. shares its borders with Burundi (9 million populations) to the south. Paul Kagame of Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) secured about 93 percent of votes in the Natioanl Election held on 9th August 2010 and was relelected for another seven year term as the President. Dr. Jean Damascene Ntawukuriryayo of Social Democratic Party (PSP) secured 4.9%, Higiro from Liberal Party (PL) got 1.5% and Dr Alvera Mukabaramba of Party for Progress and Concord (PPC) received 0.7%. Earlier, the RPF led a coalition government during the last seven years (2003-10). It is the time to know about Rwandan people opinion and what exactly they observed during the last seven years’ rule of Kagame government to be reelected for another seven years. The issues concerning the Rwandan people are:
- RPF stopped the 1994 genocide against Tutsi minority that killed some 800,000 people in a 100-day genocidal spree.
- The post genocide development of political stability and growing prosperity were not be possible to be sustained in the absence of broad political debate and open political participation.
- The transformation from devastating state of Rwanda to socio-economic development is leading towards sustainability. The common Rwandan secures the employment opportunities and has food security, education, health, sanitation, housing and clothing and the credit goes to the government.
Along with it, the RPF conducted the people’s referendum and approved its first constitution having the following features:
ü The equality of all Rwandans is recognized and the rights to life and liberty are guaranteed.
ü There is a special commitment to fighting the ideology of genocide in all its manifestations and eradicating ethnic, regional and other divisions. Political parties are specially forbidden to base themselves on racial, ethnic, tribal or religious identity.
ü Private property is declared to be inviolable and expropriation is forbidden, except in the public interest and with fair and prior compensation.
ü There is to be a bicameral legislature, with an elected Chamber of Deputies and a party-elected and partly-appointed Senate.
ü The Head of State is the President, who is elected directly by the people for a seven-year term renewable once. The President is also the Head of Government and the Commander in Chief of the Rwandan Defence Force (RDF), and has fairly extensive powers, including the conclusion of international treaties, the declaration of a state of emergency and the dissolution of the Chamber of Deputies.
Similarly, Burundi after passing through civil conflicts of more than 20 years has adopted Presidential form of government for five year term based upon a multi-party state. The current President is Pierre Nkurunziza since 2005. He was elected president unopposed by members of parliament (acting as an electoral college) on 19 August 2005 and took office on 26 August 2005. He was re-elected in 2010 with more than 91% of the votes and sworn in for his second term on 26 August 2010 (Xinhua.2010). Burundi is one of the world’s poorest countries is working for the eocomic upliftment of the country and repect the people’s verdict for the economic development. The government has launched a program of withdrawal of the State from various economic activities and an opening up of the economy to private investment, including Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). The United Republic of Tanzania has presidential form of governemnt elected directly by the people and the current Head of state is President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete elected in 2005 for five-year terms. The last elections for President and National Assembly seats were held in December 2005. Tanzania has opened up its market and offers the opportunities in basic food, beverages and tobacco, ores, metals, precious stones fuels, manufactured opportunities, chemical products, machinery and transport equipment. Tanzania’s share in exports highlights that there is good scope in the food, beverages and tobacco along with the ores, metals, precious stones and fuel.
People forced their governments to respect the election result in Kenya and Zimbabwe and as a result both the leaders had to incorporate the opponent leaders as Deputy Prime Ministers. The last general elections of Kenya held on 27 December 2007 gave a big challenge to President Emilio Mwai Kibaki who controlled the post since 2002. Earlier, Kibaki served as Vice President of Kenya for ten years from 1978–1988 and then served as Opposition leader from 1988 to 2002. The opposition leader Mr. Raila Odinga gave a major challenge with the support of millions of people. The elections were seen to have been flawed and international observers commented that they were below international standards. The disrespect to people’s verdict led to violence and destruction of property leading to a chaos in the country. This mass movement attracted serious attention of the international community and the former secretary-general Kofi Annan brokered a peaceful solution to the political stalemate. Finally, Kibaki and Odinga signed an agreement on the formation of a coalition government in which Odinga would become Kenya’s second prime Minister on 28 February 2008. This movement shows the clear reaction of the masses that knows to whom they voted for and were not willing to accept the verdict of the despot leadership.
The Republic of Uganda controlled the mass activism of Political parties in 1986 and restricted the party’s functioning limited to their party offices. The President of Uganda Mr. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has been governing the country over thirty years (since 26 January 1986). Finally, the mass movement of 2005 forced the rule to change the law and subsequently the constitutional referendum canceled this nineteen-year ban on multi-party politics in July 2005. In 2006, he abolished the constitutional two-term limit in order to enable the current president to continue in active politics. Elections within his own party, the National Resistance Movement, have been marred by many allegations of vote-rigging. “Museveni was elected for five-year tenure, having won 59% of the vote against Besigye’s 37%. Besigye, who alleged fraud, rejected the result. The Supreme Court of Uganda later ruled that the election was marred by intimidation, violence, voter disenfranchisement, and other irregularities. However, the Court voted 4-3 to uphold the results of the election” (BBC.2006). This was the major change in the nature of autocrat leadership and the credit goes to the mass movement. But the election results of 21 February 2011 went in favour of in Uganda on President Museveni. “Mr. Museveni has won a fourth elected term. Rural voters backed Mr. Museveni strongly on the day, which suggests that to them his political contribution to rural stability outweighs the fact that for other voters he has long lost the shine of his early achievements. Those included rebuilding a country with bitter memories of Idi Amin’s dictatorship and the two decades of civil war that followed it. But the country has no independent election commission, and potential donors to opposition parties were discouraged by a climate of intimidation. In the last 15 years, furthermore, corruption has spread; thousand of lives have been lost in partially successful war against the Lord’s Resistance party but one in three of the 34 million population still lives on $1.25 or less a day” (The Hindu. 23 February 2011).
Coming to North-East Africa, the end of the Cold War brought changes in Ethiopia and the referendum took place in 1993. Over 99% of the Eritrean people voted for independence and Eritrea was declared sovereign country in 1993. Ethiopia had adopted new constitution in 1994 and Meles Zenawi came to power as the outcome of the first multi party elections. Ethiopia has adopted a federal parliamentary republic having Prime Minister appointed as the Head of Government. The federal legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of parliament. The politics of Ethiopia takes place in a framework of a federal parliamentary republic, whereby the Prime Minister is the Head of government. Executive power is exercised by the government. The 2005 multi party elections was a highly disputed one. The 2005 EU election observers continued to accuse the ruling party of vote rigging. The leaders of opposition parties were jailed and were released only in 2009 just before the next general elections that too under the pressure of the people. The result of national election was declared on 21st June 2010 with the unacceptable approach of the opposition party’s. But the Court of Cassation, highest court of Ethiopia had rejected the opposition party’s appeal and Meles Zenawi came to power for the third successive terms. It is important to note that the government focuses on industrialization and production of the essential items such as sugar, oil, bread, cloth, medicine and so on. Along with it, being the agriculturist country, the government in collaboration with the different foreign companies is facilitating the rural communities with water pumping system for irrigation, mechanical technology, tractors and other agricultural implements.
Eritrea fought a thirty years armed movement of liberation against Ethiopia and President Isaias Afwerki became the first Head of state after the independence on 24th May 1993. The country has one party system and People’s Freedom for Democratic Justice (PFDJ) is the only party working with the different mass organizations of students, youth, women and labour. The unsettled border conflict with Ethiopia in 1998 has delayed the formal inauguration of the drafted constitution. Eritrean National elections were set for 2001 but was then decided that because 20% of Eritrea’s land was under occupation, elections would be postponed until the demarcation of the border. The local government elections were held in May 2004. The democratic waves of North Africa cannot cross Eritrea untouched and the country needs to work accordingly. The supreme power in the country is the people and the ruler should know the people’s verdict from time to time and the national election is possible even in one party system.
Sudan had condcuted the national election in April 2010 and President Omar al-Bashir’s secured the 68.24% of the votes and elected as President for the next five years. Similary, the referendum of South Sudan under the Naivasha Agreement 2005 took place from 9-15 January 2011 and more than 98.83% people favoured a separate country. The predetermined date for the creation of an independent state is 9 July 2011. The recent interactive meeting with Mr. Kamalaldeen Hassan Ali, State Minsiter for Foreign Affairs, Redpublic of Sudan on 20 February 2011 explained the peaceful transition of South Sudan and the border demarcation till June 2011. This peaceful transfer saved the millions of killings or displacement of the innocent people as it was evidenced during the creation of Isreal-Palestine, India-Pakistan and post partition Ethiopia-Eritrea war. The desire for political system for south Sudan society lays in the unity in diversity. ‘Federalism, it is true, unlike a unitary system, does not force unity out of diversity. It allows the two to coexist. But in the process of its progress towards maturity, contrary to what is sometimes stated, it does create unity through the greatly enlarged functions of the federal government, national planning and the like, as also because of the falling down of the once rigid barriers- physical, psychological and economic- between the component units of the state’ (Dikshit D.R. 1975: 11).
The constitution of Djibouti was approved in April 2010 and it has adopted a parliamentary party system. The president is popularly elected for 5-year terms. The executive power lays with the central governemnt and the legislative power lays with the government and parliament. Djibouti is dominated by one party rule as the main oppostion party opposed the electionsof 2005 and 2008. The North-East Africa is dominated by the presence of the external palyers such as USA and China and the position of Somalia, Djibouti and Eritrea does not look sound as per the people’s expectations. Somalia is stateless, Djibouti is serving to US airforce base through its land and Eritrea has become the sandwich of the conflicting intersts of the USA.
Regional conflicts in West Africa have been waged at great costs, not only for the countries directly involved, but the entire sub-region. Economic failure has also exacerbated political instability. The West Africa has adopted the major changes with the changing environment of the region. Nigeria has adopted a federal politics and had multi party elections in the new constitution in 1999. The last election was held in 2009 and the next scheduled elections are to take place on April 9, 2011. The country has moved from military rule to democratic system and the constitutional law is supreme law of the land.
Ghana has adopted the system of the Head of State, the president and a legislature. The president is elected for a four year term by the people. A presidential as well as parliamentary election was held in Ghana on 7th December 2008. Ghana has multi party system and the Parliament has 230 members, elected for a four year term in single-seat constituencies.
The Côte d’Ivoire (known as Ivory Coast) has faced the first military coup on 24th December 1999. Though it was the bloodless coup and General Guei formed a National Unity Government but he was killed in 2002. The killing of the General led to displacement of more than 12,000 people. By late 2002, ‘the civil war had effectively split the country into two. The efforts of ECOWAS and UNO peace operations contributed to progress toward peace and finally the Peace Accord was signed by President Laurent Gbagdo and Guillaume Soro, the New Forces (FN) leader in March 2007. By late 2009 Côte d’Ivoire still remained a divided country’ (Toyin. 2010: 50). The mass pressure was to the maximum that forced independent Election Commission to release provisional election results but it was overturned by Constitutional Council. Now, Gbagbo and Ouattara claimed victory and took the Presidential oath of office that leads to the 2010–2011 Ivorian crisis.
In the North Africa, the democratic process has taken different turns and trajectories in different countries, with different levels of progress. While elections have become more regular, and other components of liberal democracy relatively improved compared to the situation two decades ago, the quality of democracy and governance remains unconvincingly in many countries. Strengthening democratic governance in terms of the building of democratic institutions and the capacity of the State to manage the political and economic processes of society for developmental purposes remains a major challenge for North African countries. Indeed, some scholars argue that the quality of governance in North Africa is receding, and that the democratic project on the continent is not only being questioned, but has also become endangered. There is, therefore, a need to reflect on the progress, challenges, and prospects of the democracy and governance project in North Africa.
Today, the European Union (EU) and USA are worried about the peaceful reconciliation of the Western Sahara region of Morocco. It is the time to remember that the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) during Cold War had received the militarily armaments through USSR and other socialist camps of Africa. But today, the situation is not the same and the economy is dominating over all the political activities around the world. The liberal market economy cannot support any region politically or militarily without their economic interests that fits in the region of Western Sahara. Even some African neighbourhoods of Morocco suggest partitioning Morocco and Western Sahara by forming a separate country are part of hidden agendas of exploiting the mineral resources under neo-colonialism. The mining areas in Western Sahara dangerously situated on the conflicting region of Morocco are carrying good export since late 1970s. The race to seek more and maximum mining sites and to capture them in the name of independence or freedom on the one hand and in the name of non-fulfillment of Human Rights in Morocco will prove the old Cold War politics as a champion and defender of their action on the other hand. Along with it, it will hamper the ongoing peace initiative process in Morocco under the leadership of the UN, which led to regional, national and international connectivity of provinces with the rest of world. Once the peace is established in Western Sahara, the availability of geoponic and natural resources need a policy of geopolitic federalism to distribute the revenue share proportionately to all the districts. It will forge a socio-political culture characterized by interpersonal interchanges and better marketing relations i.e. a move towards decentralization of geo-natural resources that strengthen the bonding of cooperation of provinces towards the Center. It will enable the Center providing the necessary minimum basic needs to all and a move towards civil society.
The government and all the traditional chiefs should initiate the process of States’ autonomy to strengthen political unity and socio-economic development. All the political rival military groups supported by regional or neighbouring countries should initiate the process of table negotiation to come forward for electoral politics and to keep away the armed struggle will be the only way to maintain geopolitics federalism in Morocco. The “People-to-People” conferences should be organized, which will create a way to respect and recognize this ‘Peaceful Negotiation’ to know the real essence of geopolitic federalism. The central-provincial relationship to fulfill the grassroots demands should pursue a new path of development for the welfare of common people (of Sahara) that is the basic requirement of Morocco for durable peace.
The last Parliamentary elections polling turned out to be 37%, the lowest in the history of Morocco held on 7th September 2007 under the second King Mohammed VI. Morocco has adopted the multiparty system and no singly party attained majority in the elections and formed a coalition government. The king is the executive Head of State and the Prime Minister is the Head of Government. Morocco has taken the preventive steps against the wind blowing in Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt and Libya. The government orders troops to go to the cities but assures people that it will stabilize prices and address other demands. Now, it is the time to work for the people’s development and chalk out the people’s friendly programme of generating employment, controlling inflation and social security.
Tunisia is the starting point of the political tremors. ‘Hundreds of rural Tunisians on 20th February 2011 reinforced protests led by industrial workers and professionals in the capital Tunis, adding more pressure on the remnants of the regime of ousted Head of State’ (The Hindu. 2011). President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled the country following continuous uprising. He was in power since 1987 and elected for a fifth term in October 2009. The political, economic, and social ramifications of the uprising in Tunisia are still unfolding. The set of democratic rule, improved economic conditions and a more active role in their government are the primary demands. This uprising has put attention of the international community on the autocratic rule of the President. This movement is lead by the students, educated youth, teachers, lawyers and middle class, which are suffering problems of unemployment in the society. As a result, the social, economic, and political conditions are deteriorating among the masses. It all began with the self-immolation of the 26 year old unemployed graduate in an attempt to commit suicide and died some days later. This incident reminds us that of the Indian poor peasants not getting the support price for their crops started committing suicide of that forced the government to take right decision for the pro-people policies. One Tunisian protestor said, “When you have highly educated people, who do not have jobs, they will find ways to question, to find answers to why they don’t have jobs. And they will try to solve the problem” (Maltatoday. 2011). Similalry, Rachid Ghannouchi, the veteran leader of the Islamic Ennahda Party (Nadha is the Arabic word for renaissance) returned to Tunisia after more than two decdes of exile and demand for the legal recognition of his party. He said, “The demand of new constitution,which is broadly shared across the Tunisian political spectrum. The aim of this movement is building a democratic constitution for a parliamentary system that distributes and de-centralises power on the widest scale possible” (Aijaz Ahmed. 2010: 16). This is the reflection of the people’s demanded their democratic set up in which the government should focus on different tasks refered to as people’s development to accomplish their basic needs and their involvemnt in the decision-making policies.
The people of Algeria were among the first to take to the streets after the protests in Tunisia. Algeria is having a Presidential republic with multi party system in which President is acting as the Head of State and Prime Minister as the Head of Government. The last Presidential election in Algeria was held on 9 August 2009 and ‘it was described in a US Embassy in Algiers cable as carefully choreographed and heavily controlled, with the official turnout figure exaggerated (Wikileaks: 2011). Moreover, the Council of Ministers announced on 3rd November 2008 that a planned constitutional revision would remove the two-term limit on the Presidency that was previously included in Article 74, thereby enabling President Abdelaziz Bouteflika (since 1999) to run for a third term (AFP. 3 November 2008). The People’s National Assembly endorsed the removal of the term limit on 12th November 2008 and only the Rally for Culture and Democracy Party voted against its removal (AFP. 15 January 2009). The despotism of the rulers forced the people to come on the road in support of genuine development issues and put its resistance against the autocratic leaders.
The mass movement of Egypt forced the President Hosni Mubarak step down on 11th February 2011. This movement has highlighted the issues of the increasing inequalities between the rich and the poor and the anti-people policies leading to unemployment of educated youth among others.
Mr. Muammar Qadhafi, the leader of Libya overthrew the monarch in 1969 and is acting as the President of the country since then (over 40 years). The anti-Qadhafi revolt appeared to have split open the regime based on tribal loyalties. The mass movement of Egypt and Libya are against the political despotism of their leaders. The Tripoli Green Square should not turn into another China Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989 in which several hundred civilians were killed by armed forces.
The democratic mass movement of North Africa is the part of democratic struggle demanding their basic amenities. It is important to note that the African society even under globalization has adopted Gandhian way of struggle and millions of North African people are protesting peacefully. The Marxist ideologue argues that the movements in North Africa are against the policies of market liberalization. One cannot analyze these movements purely on the ideological basis as in all the movements common demand is to remove the despot leadership acting for more than 10, 15 and 40 years. This autocracy of the Head of State and fixed is responsibilities of the elected members in parliament including the Head of Government so limited that it looks like a fallacy of the parliament. The common issue that needs to be highlighted that in these tensions began from the post 1990 period of Southern Africa, moving to Central Africa, West & North-East Africa to North Africa. The mass movement of post 1990s in different parts of Africa focuses on the working of representative governments, demanding for basic amenities for the people and their role in the decision-making policies.
Issues before the People
A democratic constitution is absolutely imperative in a democracy because not only does it enshrine the principle of free, fair and transparent elections, but makes a smooth transfer of power from one government to another possible. A constitution build on democratic pillars can also contribute to ensuring that there is a healthy separation of power between the three arms of government (Executive, Legislative and Judiciary) thus guaranteeing that the Presidency will not slowly encroach on the turf of the legislature and judiciary. The changes of constitution through Parliament for the personal benefits are commonly seen for e.g. liberalizing the term post of President to indefinite period. It is the time to strengthen the democratic constitution that may help to prevent the growth of a personality cult in the person who occupies the Presidency thus forestalling any hidden ambitions on the individual to amend the constitution to prolong his lease on the Presidency. The regular holding of free and fair elections under the independent observers may help to control the misconduct and abuse of office of the government and will also ensure the electorate choice of electing their leaders. The change of government by the people (as it is already experienced in different states in India) ensures the practices of norms and standards demanded by democratic governance.
Unfortunately, North African experience with modern governmental systems has known little else but Presidents, Prime Ministers and supreme one-party leaders so powerful that their claims to democracy, even “African” democracy, commands little credence. Many African leaders accepted and participated in the democratic process after the collapse of the one party systems of government as a means to an end for personal power. As a result, most of the States are facing severe poverty but these despot leaders have used the State finance for accumulation of their personal wealth. This economic interest goes with the monopolization of power by a ruling party even after declaration of the multiparty system and used the State’s resources during the elections blindly to come in power again.
The mass movement of Eastern and other parts of Africa has checked the ambitious powers of despot leaders. The recent elections in Kenya and Zimbabwe has respected their opposition leaders and gave due shares by appointing Deputy Prime Minister in their countries. The peaceful transfer of power from President Abdou Diouf to President Abdoulaye Wade in Senegal in 2000 has proven to the world that African countries notwithstanding formidable constraints and difficulties are able to peacefully elect to the office new governments without resorting to violence. In Zambia, the role of the civil society coalition known as the OASIS forum played a pivotal role in thwarting a bid by certain sections of the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) to remove the two term limitation on the Presidency as enshrined within Zambia’s 1996 constitution. The Zambian experience may indicate that a new commitment to constitutional governance as opposed to the bemusing practice of tailoring constitutions to suit the whims of certain individuals is on the rise in Africa. Ethiopia had released the political prisoner under mass pressure.
Indeed the periodic holding of multiparty elections by itself is no guarantee for the entrenchment of democratic governance.
Challenge and Conclusion
The issues of mass movement raises the concern for democracy and development that will only provide for the basic amenities of food, clothing, shelter, education, health, employment and social security on the one side and implements different programmes of agriculture sector development, infrastructure development (such as roads connectivity from villages to city, tele-communication, better transport facility, etc) and industrialization. The national development issues should incorporate agriculture sector as prerequisite to country’s progress and prosperity in the country. The development and mutual partnership covers self-reliance schemes avoiding huge debt as a result of the national policy. The democratic governance persuades African willingness and mutual benefit to implement the common development partnership programmes in different parts of continent. African governments’ national development Programme cannot function in isolation. The idea of today’s investment by democratic governments will nourish a debt free Africa and strengthen economic development as tomorrow’s prosperity. African politics cannot ignore international relations to build up national development and this partnership is a way towards Today’s investment, Tomorrow’s Prosperity.
The major challenges are to work for poverty alleviation, promoting sustainable economic growth, achieving social progress, democratization process and the evolving governance architecture, social justice, social progress and development and economic development in Africa. Today, the democracy cannot be seen without development as people feels that political slogans can’t provide Bread, Cloth, Shelter, education, health, employment, social security, etc (Roti, Kapra & Makan). The importance of the role of social movements in the democratization processes was emphasized by a number of contributors to the debates, which began even before the onset of the wave of national conferences that swept through many countries of West, North and Central Africa. The issue of the form, content and feasibility of democracy in Africa needs to be re-examined to check the violent conflict, the genocide, lack of freedom of expression and mass rigging during elections. The transition from authoritarianism to democratic system through transparent electoral politics needs to be ensured in Africa. Liberal democracy must not be taken for granted in Africa.
To sum up, the democratically elected governments should address millions of Africans that continue to suffer from poverty and underdevelopment. The democratic elected governments in Africa today should fix the target of food needs of their population, ensure economic and social development and attempt to eradicate poverty in their countries. The democratic governments may develop a regional food security programme and a common agricultural policy. Along with it, the elected governments may develop Common Industrial Policy for the region. These projects should significantly increase the productivity and competitiveness of many African countries, at the same time help create jobs and reduce poverty. There is a need to use technology to fulfill people’s need. The elected democratic governments in Africa should lead primarily a step towards development and mingling of the common idea of mutual progress and prosperity that will facilitate the way towards socio-economic transformation.
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