Ex- Pres. Koroma  shares his views on the state of Africa democracy

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“This ideal depends on all working in unity. There is a very good life after the presidency but it depends on how well you served your people. I would not have had this platform had I not governed democratically, respected my country’s laws on term limit and served my country to the appreciation of most of my compatriots.

A key responsibility for every leader is to ensure peace prevails in his or her country. That requires maintaining a work relationship with the main opposition, civil society and the media, respecting their views and giving them space to operate and participate in democracy.”

Indeed, I have undertaken seven election observation missions at the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the West African Elders Forum; the most recent being the ECOWAS Observation Mission in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Impressions have been similar: democracy currently faces challenges globally, including in Africa with the pandemic having disrupted previous gains. Reputable regional and international organisations that monitor trends agree that, over the last decade or two, democracy has declined globally. Among the reasons are the rise in authoritarian rule evident in the rise of unconstitutional changes of government (UCGs), disinformation and misinformation through ‘new’ media (fake news, social media and propaganda) and the perception of corruption at all levels of state governance. 

Manipulation of new media is causing mistrust between incumbents and main political parties and, finally, disputed election results, leading to violence. All these issues are linked in one way or another to the democratic governance deficit, as was the case in Zambia, Togo, Benin and Kenya before their recent elections. This is definitely a worrying trend that should be of the utmost concern to anyone who professes to be a democrat.

However, while the current picture of Africa’s democracy trajectory looks somewhat gloomy, it is far better than what occurred 20 to 30 years ago. Then most African countries experienced rampant political instability, civil wars, irregular, unfree and unfair conduct of elections, and lack of political pluralism, among other issues. 

While Africa’s democracy trajectory looks somewhat gloomy, it is far better than in the past

For instance, holding regular elections based on constitutionally stipulated intervals are no longer disputed. Even more reassuring is that the decline in African democracy has become the preoccupation of many associations, institutions and like-minded leaders. More citizens are now engaged in governance and democratic processes evidenced by the plethora of local, national and regional civil society organisations.

Continental organisations such as ECOWAS and the AU have developed normative frameworks and principles to deepen democratic governance and ensure African peace, security and stability.

Despite the challenges posed by state sovereignty, these organisations are no longer indifferent to what happens in African member states. Thus, I see the continent’s democracy journey as neither linear nor smooth but, in view of concerted national, regional and continental efforts for reforms, there is room for democratic optimism!

“Deliberate efforts to suppress opposition parties and independent voices are a recipe for political confrontation and tension.”

“National institutions such as the police, the army,the judiciary, Parliament and election management bodies must be allowed to function independently.”

“No country grows amid chaos and political instability.”

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