Democracy under threat in Africa – think tank fears authoritarianism will become “more brazen”

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Algerian soldiers. (Photo by Anis / APP / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

  • The number of democracies in Africa increased from 22 to 18 between 2015 and 2020.
  • Thirteen African countries have amended their constitutions to extend the presidential term limits of incumbents.
  • Africas a young population and a vibrant civil society are essential for democratic development.

Only four African countries – South Africa, Ghana, Senegal and the island of Cabo Verde – are highly rated in this year’s Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) governance notes. .

The report was released coincidentally on the same day, November 24, that Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa came to power in 2017 in a military coup.

Since then, military-backed transitions have taken place in Algeria, Egypt, Sudan, Chad and Mali.

The report notes that in most countries where coups have taken place, the military has taken advantage of the masses’ aspiration for political change.

“The reappearance of unconstitutional changes of government and military-assisted transitions is a disturbing trend. In some countries, transitions have started with demands for political change from citizens, with the military stepping in to resolve the stalemate between citizens and government, ”the report says.

IDEA Secretary General Dr Kevin Casas-Zamora said “the bad news is that authoritarianism has become more brazen … the quality of democracy continues to decline.”

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The reports noted that in some African countries there had been attempts by outgoing leaders to extend their tenure – a clear red notice that they wanted to stay in power for as long as possible.

This has resulted in a decrease in the number of democratic countries in Africa.

The report said:

Recently, there has been a gradual decline in the quality of democracy in Africa. Despite significant progress since the third wave of democracy in the 1990s, the number of democracies has grown from 22 to 18 between 2015 and 2020. One of the main challenges is the uncontrolled power of incumbents to manipulate reform processes to prolong their stay in power.

According to the report, “in the five years leading up to 2020, 13 African countries amended or removed constitutional provisions on the limitation of presidential terms.”

Countries like Zambia four months ago have experienced a smooth transition of political power and the military has not intervened in the process.

Political commentators as well as the ruling United National Development Party (UPND) in Zambia attribute the political change to the participation of youth and vibrant civil society.

The IDEA report observed that more countries in Africa are seeing a similar trend.

“Africa’s young population and vibrant civil society represent key potential for further democratic development. This can be seen in the increased citizen mobilizations in recent years in Algeria, Mali, Nigeria, Tunisia and Sudan, ”he said.

In Malawi, a new presidential election in 2020 was delayed due to Covid-19 but saw President Lazarous Chakwere beat Peter Mutarikwa.

Zimbabwe has delayed holding by-elections due to Covid-19. The elections will now be held on a date not yet announced but in the first quarter of 2022.


– The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced by the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained therein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.


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