Strong institutions can help democratisation in Africa


By Artwell Dzobo/Natasha Nyatanga/ Tatenda Mandiopera

Many of the problems that bedevil Africa right now, ranging from the political, economic and social mess are because of its feeble institutions and generally unchecked power of its political leaders.

Institutional shortcomings have been generally archived by researchers and policymakers as a striking issue in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The democratisation process in Africa requires leaders who assemble solid institutions which make the democratic system solid and improve regardless of the shortcomings or strength of the individual in power.

The meaning of a strong institution is one that can complete its main goal unafraid of unnecessary political impact, which can push back and affirm its autonomy when politics interferes, and which can fill in as brakes on the political interests and impact that may somehow overpower.

Solid institutions in a democratic government are essentially the substances that satisfies the components of democracy which are: participation of individuals straightforwardly or in a roundabout way, autonomy of the judicial institutions, separation of powers, rule of law, entrenchment of basic liberties, free and fair elections, freedom of the Press, guarantee responsibility and accountability of government authorities. This is another portrayal of professional militaries and independent arms of the government.

What’s more, in this unique circumstance, the capacity to get ready for the future, with autonomous planning and financing stream, the capacity to recruit and fire employees dependent on merit instead of politics and the capacity to execute constitutional exercises subject to the objective utilisation of rule of law are altogether basic to reinforced institutions, and fortified democracy.

The democratisation process in Africa has been branded as a slippery dream, considering the inclinations to relapse that some leaders have shown and different practices that invalidate the democratic standards. In African countries where strong institutions have been developed, States have tended to perform better as agents of economic development.

These effects seem to hinge on the benefits of establishing institutional checks on leaders discretionary authority backed by the ability to remove governments that fail to improve the well-being of their people.

States such as Nigeria, Benin, Liberia, Uganda, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Gambia, Ivory Coast and Niger have displayed considerable abnormalities during elections, in this way keeping elections away from being free and fair, reinforcing a fragile political environment which is a manifestation of fragile institutions.

These countries normally have governments that apply enormous repression on political rivals, have non-free legal authorities, boundless debasement, consistent suppression of the Press and a sickly law and order system, plagued by complex political divisions which have a negative effect on Africa’s democratisation.

The absence of strong institutions in Africa’s democratisation has been shown by the rule of strongmen since the departure of colonial masters and individual nations have different results to show for it.

An illustration of a well-known strong man and the impacts of his strength in administering a country would be the former President the late Robert Mugabe, who had his hands firmly clutched onto power for 37 years.

The outcome of his autocracy include gross economic mismanagement prompting the nation to achieve two world records for out of control inflation.

Countries, such as Equatorial Guinea with leaders who despise leaving power are known for common freedoms’ infringement

For Africa’s democracy to acquire and keep support, it should convey economic, social, security, and political advantages to the people.

Not just at the macro level, but at the micro level too.

At the point where a democratic system doesn’t deliver, individuals seek change. At point where administration doesn’t improve individuals’ lives, individuals seek change of government.

Malawi is a significant illustration of a country where institutions dismissed the personalisation of the presidency. Malawi’s judicial establishment has demonstrated to be an incredible restorative on presidential excesses.

Strong institutions are the foundation of stable governments.

A democracy with solid institutions have the option to deliver the fundamental components of a completely democratic government through appropriate separation of powers and subsequently empowering a framework which takes into encompasses checks and balances on the different arms of government.

For instance, in a democracy, it is fundamental that the Judiciary, Legislative and Executive arms of State are connected at the hip.

Moreover, these three arms of State should be free and operate independently consistently.

This has proved to be the opposite in most African jurisdictions.

As a matter of fact, the more grounded the Judiciary and its failure to be impacted by the Executive, the popular the government.

A tenable model is the South African one, where the Constitutional Court passed a judgment against former President Jacob Zuma, and the President acknowledged the judgment.

The court decided that the National Assembly had fizzled in its protected commitment to consider President Jacob Zuma responsible.

The court, likewise, requested the former President and the National Assembly to pay the legitimate expenses of the matter.

This judgment was a commendable accomplishment for African majority rule government fundamentally as a result of the autonomy of the Judiciary.

With solid institutions, it is simple for the Press to be free since it can counter any endeavour by the leader to trim their freedom in the courts of law.

In addition, establishing strong institutions in Africa would assist with delivering free and fair elections, in light of the fact that the electoral commission and the observing bodies would be autonomous, and they would not be dependent upon the whims of the Executive.

A strong and free electoral commission would engender the populace trust in the public authority and energetically take an interest in the political process, at the pre-election and post-election phases in the political cycle.

Moreover, rule of law flourishes in a country with solid autonomous institutions.

Ultimately, democracy is constructed and hinges on trust.

Trust that leaders will put their constituents’ interests ahead of their own, believe that the public will win, and believe that leaders will withdraw from office once their term has elapsed.

When leaders misuse the trust that the general population has placed in them, or they perform deficiently or ineffectually, the repository of support that the people have for democratic governance starts to dissolve.

At the point where confidence in democratic institutions dissipates, including the professional military, police, and security apparatus, the alarm call of tyrant administration and even fascism increments.

  • Artwell Dzobo, Natasha Nyatanga and Tatenda Mandiopera are international relations students at Africa University. They write here in their personal capacities.