Democracy in Africa should be defined by Africans   

By Francis Byaruhanga.

The Democracy viewed in eurocentrism and rooted from western laws, customs shouldn’t be applied in Africa, but instead the traditional elements of solidarity, Pan-Africanism, nationalism and unity should be looked on in Africa today when accessing what democracy is in Africa.

This was main observation of the African scholars, civil servants, civil society and political analysts on democracy in Africa in the African Democracy Forum hosted in Kigali – Rwanda while celebrating ‘Africa’s day’.

Speaking to the African Democracy Forum, few weeks back, Professor Anastase Shyaka, CEO, Rwanda Governance Board, pointed that colonialism has shuttered African continent tangibly and that through neo-colonial with the legacy of the hatred being inculcated in the African systems of the governance in their divide and rule method left Africa torn apart.

“Political parties born after post-colonialism could sow the seeds of the divisionism in the name of the so-called ideological dimensions of the democracy. You harvest what you saw. you cannot expect good results of democracy when you instigated ethnic hatred among the people for instance in Rwanda genocide were related to colonial legacy,” he says.

“Africa need not to borrow the theoretical definition of democracy of the west and discard the inter-independence of the mindset that every good idea should come outside which is not true,” he adds.

“The democracy connected to popular participation, social economic development, gender equality should be imposed instead of basing on inapplicable rules which contradict to our cultural values and virtues,” he says.

He says in Rwanda before Genocide against the Tutsi political parties were based on the ethnicity and religion which was linked in what he termed as the ‘so called democracy’.

Dr. Sydney Mufamadi, The Director of the Leadership University of Johannesburg, says, that there is some progress since the days of the colonialism. “We have procedures or norms where we see regular election, executive subjected to oversight holding them accountable by parliament,” Mufamadi says.

“However, still Africa is the continent with the lowest human development –we are the richest poorest continent and we have not fully exploited our wealth in addition colonialists exploited us and we would have been better than we are now,”. He adds.

He cites the recent integration of one market as a land mark that will impact human development index of Africans in the long-run. “Political democracy alone could mean nothing if there is no economic prosperity,” he adds.

Maiga DJingary, Vice-Chancellor, African Democracy forum, for her inclusive democracy that include all genders and general stereotypes of the people is what is needed in Africa. Thanks to the Rwanda’s system where the women are being engaged in the political life of the state.

She pointed that democracy should rely on the indigenous culture of the Africans and it should be home grown. “Nevertheless, if we depend on the external knowledge there will be humiliation that our culture is weak and not rich,” she says.

“There is urgent need for Africans to base on the home-made democracy,” she adds.

“The west say that democracy can’t fit in our cultural values and that the longevity in office is related to the African cultural leadership of kings in the pre-historic times. Thus the British prime minister has been in power for so long the similar ruling system which also exist in other European countries like in the Canada, Germany and United Kingdom,” Dr. Eric Ndushabandi, Director of the Institute for research and dialogue for peace, says.

“These countries have no democratic term limits,” he says.

According to Dr. Andre Mbata Mangu, Founder of the Institute for Democracy, Governance, Peace and Development in Africa for him civil societies should play a big part in the watchdog to the actions of the governments holding them accountable for Africa’s style of the democracy to sustain instead of relying on the government and being foreign agents.

“It is impossible to have democracy without civil societies. trade unions, think-tanks, Universities, Media among other can act as a catalyst for democratic governance,” Mangu adds.


Despite the cynics regarding democracy in Africa, stating that the continent harbors important attributes of democracy on other hand it is not considered fully democratic.

According to the Afro barometer research study of 2016 indicated that on average across the continent, Africans prefer democracy to any kind of government. Considering the need for democracy in Africa it is essential that we have this debate on what democracy in Africa is at present and what it should be.

Mangu added that judiciary can play a democratic consolidation yet in some cases judiciaries are not independent and that they are subject to the government.  “Judiciary should be committed to the rule of law,” he adds.

He adds the fact that some African leaders being phobic of leaving the power is another challenge to the democratic governance on the continent.

Other challenges highlighted include Africa’s Identity fragmentation seemingly impending the democratic governance, limitation of the system that cements accountability of the government and limited linkage of the theory and practice of the centrality of the people, the military’s involvement in the governance, untimely constitutional changes in Republic of Gabon 2011, in the Republic of Chad in 2005, the Republic of Cameroon in 2008, the Republic of Congo Brazzaville in 2015 and the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2011 with the sole objective of maintaining power without democratic alternation, to name but a few of the issues present on the continent.



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Elias Hakizimana

Elias Hakizimana, CEO&Founder of The Inspirer Ltd,( is a professional Rwandan Journalist with Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Communication, received from University of Rwanda’s College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS) in 2014. He served various media houses in Rwanda including Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) in 2013 and became passionate with English Online and Print Media Publications where he exercised his talent as a Freelance News Reporter for The New Times, The Independent, The Rwanda Focus, Panorama and more before he became a Self-Entrepreneur as the CEO and Founder of The Inspirer Limited in early 2017.

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