Democracy

Botswana has long been hailed as a ‘miracle’ of democracy in sub-Saharan Africa. In the last ten years however, this gilded reputation earned during 1970’s and 1980’s which reflected high economic growth levels and political stability, has lost much of its lustre.

In many instances election management resembles crises management. This is simply because of the huge significance of elections as access to national resources and power; the personalization of state powers by elected officials and the reluctance of politicians to play by the rules.

A hallmark of a democratic election is that it is conducted through a predictable process while the outcome is not. Do recent elections in Africa meet this mundane test?

By Pansy Tlakula - As the African Union meets this weekend in Addis Ababa at its 18th Summit, most Member States will be preoccupied with the contest for the next African Union Commission Chairperson. The incumbent Jean Ping faces a challenge from the widely respected South African Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

The re-introduction of multi-party politics in the early 1990s in Africa led to a renewed interest in institutions of democracy. This auspicious wave of pluralism has not, however, produced effective and efficient Parliaments to underpin the democratisation process. On the contrary, most of Africa’s young democracies are still characterised by dominant executives, not-so-independent judiciaries, and weak Parliaments.

The Arab Spring began when Tunisian street vender Mohamed Bouazizi doused himself with gasoline and set himself on fire. Symbolically, the uprising peaked in oil-rich Libya when Muammar Gaddafi's government was toppled. Since then, much has been made of the downfall of dictators and the emergence of free speech in parts of the Arab region. Now is the time for an African Spring, a potential next wave of democracy that is poised to spread across Africa.

Coalition kicks off campaign with major conference

Multiparty democracy swept across Africa in the early 1990s, as single-party states and authoritarian leaders bowed to pressure from outside and within. Activists hoped greater political freedoms and strong institutions would lead to more government accountability - and more effective development. But two decades later, is this the reality?

Website has interviews with top SA photographers

Lost in Isolationism? Swaziland Elections and Prospects for the Future

Alex Vines OBE, Head, Africa Programme and Research Director, Area Studies and International Law, Chatham House

Discussant: Dr Knox Chitiyo, Associate Fellow, Africa Programme

Chair: Sir Richard Gozney KCMG CVO, British High Commissioner to Swaziland (1993–96)

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