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Refereed articles

Democracy and pretend democracies in Africa: Myths of African democracies - p 139

Based on the analysis of a number of printed and electronic media, this paper rejects the myth of a special kind of African democracy as well as the claim perpetrated by some African leaders that western liberal democracy is not compatible with African traditions.

Literature shows that democracy as a modern style of governance is in theory and practice a European phenomenon that has grown out of European history and built on European social ideals and political movements. Since the early years of African independence (1950/60s) most of Africa’s heads of state and government have rejected liberal democracy and the values and principles on which it is based, arguing that this system of government is not compatible with African traditions. However, despite having rejected liberal democracy and the values on which it is based, most African leaders like to describe the regimes of their countries as democratic. They claim to have an essentially African democracy or a kind of indigenous democracy, which is different from western liberal democracy. Based on the analysis of a number of printed and electronic media, this paper rejects the myth of a special kind of African democracy as well as the claim perpetrated by some African leaders that western liberal democracy is not compatible with African traditions. It also argues that a small number of fully democratic African states in the post-colonial era have adopted unmediated liberal democratic values and that any attempt on the part of an African leader to subvert the principles of liberal democracy, as developed in Europe and North America, has led most African regimes to become what this paper has called pretend democracies.

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