African Governance is Still Problematic

Mo Ibrahim, the Sudanese billionaire who keeps track of the state of governance in Africa, has issued his annual report. He continues to report very little progress in democracy in most African countries.

Ibrahim’s gloomy outlook for African democracy is particularly relevant this year and next because of the large number of elections that are scheduled. Unfortunately, in many of the elections, incumbent heads of state are attempting to revise their constitutions that limit presidential mandates to two terms. Needless to say, these actions are causing major unhappiness among the populations.

In Burkina Faso, former President Blaise Compaore was forced to flee angry mobs and depart his country when he attempted to change the constitution late last year. In the Republic of Congo, unprecedented street protests have called for President Sassou-Ngueso to refrain from holding a referendum that would authorize a revision of their constitution. Nevertheless, he has scheduled the referendum for October 25. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, President Kabila knows that he will unleash great troubles if he attempts to change the constitution. Instead, he is doing everything to prevent the next election, scheduled for November 2016, from taking place.

Not every African country is struggling with democracy. In Tanzania, President Nkwete is departing after completing his second term in office, as have all of his predecessors. The same is true for Botswana, Namibia and Senegal. Mo Ibrahim is right to express pessimism about the state of democracy and good governance in Africa. But, I go back a long way, and I remember when virtually every African country was ruled by dictators who intended to remain in power for life. So, much has changed for the better in Africa, but Mo Ibrahim is accurate when he says that the continent has a long way to go.