ELECTIONS AND DEMOCRACY IN AFRICA
DEMOCRACY ASSISTANCE : SPACES FOR IMPROVEMENT
Paper Presented at a Regional Conference: CMI and Makerere University on 30th May to 1st June 2011 at Jinja Uganda.
Felix Odhiambo Owuor
Country Director-EISA Kenya
DEMOCRACY ASSISTANCE: SPACES FOR IMPROVEMENT
By Felix Odhiambo Owuor
Slightly over two decades ago, Africa reverted to multi party political dispensation after years of single party dictatorship. The struggle that was christened the second liberation began in 1989 following the collapse of the Soviet Union and gained prominence in 1992 when most African countries repealed constitutional provisions that had entrenched single party regimes. Twenty years since the restoration of multi party democracy, the realization of the democratic promises that underpinned the struggle for pluralistic politics is yet to be achieved. This is due to a myriad of reasons including the fact that while the opening of a free democratic space is worth celebrating throughout the continent, this has also ushered in a plethora of challenges to the nascent governance institutions. Hence the last two decades have witnessed increased assistance on democracy programs by various actors in a quest to ameliorate some of the challenges besieging the continent. This paper interrogates democracy assistance to Africa over the last decades. It argues that the impact of this assistance has ambivalent results due to a number of factors which include among others lack of common understanding of what the democratisation project entails, regime types, political and electoral systems in the recipient countries. In cases where contributing countries and or agencies have paid attention to these factors there tends to have been some measure of success. But, where they have used a one size fits all approach, the results of their intervention have added little or no value to the democratisation process. The paper provides suggestions and recommendations on how democracy assistance can effectively contribute to the sustainability of democracy in Africa.
Following the demise of the Cold War in the late 1980 and early 1990s, post-colonial Africa is still faced with many challenges which make its realisation of democratic promises a distant mirage. Put differently, while Africa has without doubt attained the political kingdom by having an open multi party political dispensation, its aspirations for democratic governance are yet to be achieved. This owes to the fact that the continent is marred by intra-state conflicts mainly due to ethnicity and agrarian question, poverty and HIV/AIDS as well as election related disputes to mention but a few. The intra-state conflicts which are often a result of power hungry elites or ethnic groups who want to thrive at the expense of others (Murithi 2006:10) as well as the other ailments mentioned above have warranted the intervention of international donors to provide assistance, also referred to as democracy assistance, which is geared to assist the continent to address its challenges. This generous gesture notwithstanding, it is argued in this paper that the impact of democracy assistance may be affected by lack of common conceptual understanding of the meaning of democracy between the donors and the recipients. As a result of the foregoing, democracy assistance has produced a mixed bag of results. For instance, where the donor countries and or agencies have been cognizant of factors such as regime types, political and electoral systems in the recipient countries in providing assistance, there have been positive results. Yet, where the contributing countries and agencies have been oblivious of these factors and adopting a one size fits all approach, the results of their intervention have added little or no value to the democratisation process. Following this introductory section,...
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