Election Processes, Liberation Movements and Democratic Change in Africa (completed)

Why have African liberation movements, and pro-democracy movements failed to fully implement the democratic aspirations that were such an important element both of the anti-colonial struggle and the support for the pro-democracy movement?

Our research will emphasise and compare the experiences of the following countries: (1) countries where the armed liberation movements that once secured independence from colonial rulers are still in power (Mozambique, Zimbabwe); (2) second-generation liberation movements that waged armed struggles against African dictatorships in the 1980s and 90s, and have been in power since (Uganda, Ethiopia) and; (3) pro-democracy movements that have seen the establishment of multi-party political systems since the early 1990s (Zambia and Malawi).

Through case analyses and comparative research, we aim to investigate three main sets of problematics:

Phase I. Electoral Power, Political Parties and Liberation Movements

The first set of issues that the project has as its focus namely Electoral Power, Political Parties and Liberation Movements was addressed at a project conference organised in Maputo in April 2010. A main conclusion to be drawn from the first phase of research is that incumbent governments emerging from first and second generation liberation struggles, as well as pro-democracy movements, have great difficulties in accepting power alternation and political opposition.

Phase II. Legitimacy of Power and the Possibilities for Opposition

Yet, we need more detailed knowledge about how the transition to a democratic political dispensation influenced the conditions for the development of political space for contestation. Further, we need to address further why elections and the electoral system have failed to provide mechanisms for alternation in power and for holding leaders accountable to the electorate. And we need to address how democratic institutionalisation may contribute to peaceful solutions to violent conflicts.

In the second phase of the research project that we now seek MFA funding for, we wish to address the issues listed above by emphasising the Legitimacy of Power and the Possibilities for Opposition. This phase thus will focus on both how particularly dominant party regimes make use of elections and other formalised elements of a minimalist democracy to maintain power, without really institutionalising deep democratic structures.

In this context it is of particular interest to investigate the role of the strong and often non-transparent relationship that exists dominant party systems between the presidency and the government, the ruling party and private businesses. There are strong tendencies that point in the direction of nomenclatura systems. This is an issue, which is linked to a critical analysis of the role of China particularly in extractive and construction industries in Africa.

Phase III. Authoritarian States and Democratic Rights

In the project’s third phase we suggest to shift focus and discuss the potential for deliberation and space for alternative views within authoritarian political settings. In this phase the problems of how to safeguard and develop human, civil, political and social rights will be a central focus. The research activities will be presented as a conference on Authoritarian States and Democratic Rights organised at CMI in 2012. In this phase the role of public debate and the media will be addressed as part of a wider attention given to political spaces for organisation both in relation to private enterprise and civil society actors.

Published Apr. 8, 2011 11:08 AM - Last modified Apr. 10, 2011 5:03 PM