Democracy entails the participation of the people in the running of government affairs. The continent of Africa was benighted by this ideology until the coming in of the imperialist. The continent was predominantly under monarchies but going by the modern trends, many adopted the democratic principle. The government system that existed was that of chiefs and kings presiding over a certain area.
The picture of these monarchies remaining the custodians of authority began to change when a new wave of ideologies started flooding into the continent. Subtle the imperialist was, the used the chiefs to impose their ideologies on the people through a system they called ‘indirect rule.’ When they were in complete control, they abolished the indirect rule, which meant that the chiefs and kings were under their jurisdiction of the imperialists. The oppression that the Africans suffered in the hands of the imperialist was enough for Africans to push their agenda of self –governance in the 1950s and beyond.
The idea on which Africans pushed the agenda for self -governance is on the premise that Africans should be free politically, socially, and financially. However, the tide has completely changed to what Africans thought they were ushering in at the expense of colonial rule.
Understanding of democracy today is that there is a need to have many political parties that are participating in the governance of the country through providing checks and balances to the government of the day. However, correct this constitutional right may be; there is always an underline principle that should precipitate the formation of a political party. On what ideological ground are the political parties being formed? Knowing the ideological ground on which political parties are formed helps the party to be meaningful to the people and society.
Political parties area going-concern translating that they will continue existing for a foreseeable period. However, the picture is different today in most African countries; political parties are formed at will by any aggrieved individual and without any political ideology to sell to the people. A difference in opinion between two powerful members of the party often results in the formation of a new political party by the one who seems to have lost the battle of the opinions and influence.
Political parties are formed on the premise of popularity and not ideologies. The lack of defined ideologies in the African political sphere has made it difficult for political players to leave the stage while people are still clapping. The longevity of many African political players oftentimes ends up compromising what they stood for and what they desired to represent.
Lessons need to be drawn from countries that practice plural politics with political parties that have sound ideologies that they sell to the people come every election season. It is very easy to engage in political violence when you do not have clear ideas to sell to the people. Democracy does not just stop at majority participation in elections but those entrusted with the instruments of power at whatever level need to know the ideas the sell to the people. It is easy for the electorates to hold a public office bearer accountable for failure to deliver the ideas that the party sold to them. What should be sold to the electorates is the ideology the party represents and not an individual Selling a person is a lack of a clear road map of democracy of the country.
Perhaps, Africa needs to understand democracy from its point of view and not from an imperialist point of view. This is going to help the continent and end the squabbles currently masquerading as democratic processes yet they are a shadow of what politics should be like. Or simply put democracy is not an African thing????