Consolidating democracy prerequsites

As Larry Diamond has argued, "It is unrealistic to think that countries in Africa can suddenly reverse course and institutionalize stable democratic government simply by changing leaders, constitutions and/or public mentalities.

If progress is made toward developing democratic government, it is likely to be gradual, messy, fitful and slow, with many imperfections along the way." Although the nature and circumstances vary from one country to another, two basic patterns in the modes of transition to democracy were identified.

In the Namibia workshop, participants identified four such models of transition—national conferences, popular revolutions, pact formations, and actions by the military—that have been used in African countries to remove dictators from office and to create or restore political pluralism.

In the last three years, national conferences, particularly in Francophone countries, have emerged as vehicles for representation, accountability, and consensus formation.

Transitions may also begin as one type and become another, particularly if the government is unsure of how far it wants to go in opening up the country.

The postcolonial trend toward one-party systems in Africa was justified on a number of grounds, including the alleged tradition of a single unchallenged chief, the idea of a democratic majority expressed through a single party, and the need for unity in the face of ethnic, linguistic, and cultural differences.

Competitive politics was rejected as an imported luxury neither needed nor affordable in developing countries.

In the three workshops, much consideration was given to how, over time, the postcolonial government of newly independent African states had evolved into domination by a single party in a one-party system, which in turn often became a personal dictatorship.

It was pointed out that power in the state had depended on access or proximity to, dependence on, or support from the dictator.

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Access to power was through the party organization and its rule was enforced through ideological persuasion or coercion.

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