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  • Ali ADAM X

Political Parties In Africa: Challenges And Solutions

Political parties play an important role in democratic life. They represent the interests and opinions of citizens, organize public debate, train political elites and participate in elections. In Africa, political parties have had an eventful history, marked by colonization, independence, authoritarianism, democratic transitions and the challenges of institution building. This paper aims to provide an overview of parties and party systems in Africa. It will address the following questions: What are the advantages and disadvantages of political parties? What challenges do they face? What types of elections can bring the best party to power?



Multiparty politics exists in literally every African country. There are, in Africa and in the world, several hundred or even thousands of political parties commonly called the opposition. Personally, I prefer the term alternative to opposition because I think that these parties should not exist to oppose, but rather to present better alternatives to other systems. Each political party is indeed a vision and a project of society presented to the people.


In Africa, most opposition parties are created for all purposes except to present an alternative development project to the people. Some political parties are created either to rally to the party in power as elections approach (often these parties are even created by the parties in power to give the impression of having democracy in the country and to divide the voters by community). Others are created and financed by foreign oligarchs who have interests in the country, in order to put pressure on the ruling power. There are also political parties that exist out of a desire for revenge if they ever come to power. One has the impression that the role of political parties in Africa is only to criticize or oppose instead of proposing. Few of these parties come with a clear vision and a precise project that the people can adhere to.



Challenges of political opposition in Africa

Africa experienced a wave of democratization in the early 1990s, marked by the holding of multiparty elections in most countries. In some cases, these elections allow for a peaceful rotation of power between the ruling party and opposition parties. However, these alternatives are still rare and limited to a few countries. Indeed, of 54 African countries, only 19 have had at least one partisan opposition victory since independence.


So, what are the obstacles and challenges faced by opposition parties in Africa in gaining access to state power?


1. The structure and funding of opposition parties: Most opposition parties in Africa are poorly organized, lack financial and human resources, and have difficulty mobilizing voters. They are often ethnically, regionally or ideologically divided, which limits their ability to form effective electoral coalitions. In addition, they face unfair competition from ruling parties, which have access to the state apparatus, the media and public funds to finance their campaigns.

2. Respect for the rules of democracy by political actors. Elections in Africa are often marred by fraud, violence and irregularities. Opposition parties regularly denounce the partiality of electoral institutions, the manipulation of electoral lists, the manipulation of ballot boxes, fraudulent results and the intimidation of voters. In response to these anti-democratic acts, they sometimes have to boycott elections or protest after the elections, which can lead to political crisis or social conflict.


3. Consolidation of democracy after a change of power. The opposition's accession to power does not necessarily guarantee that the new regime will respect democratic principles. Some opposition parties tend to copy the same authoritarian practices as their predecessors once in power. They may seek to strengthen their grip on the state, reduce the political space of their opponents or amend the constitution to extend their term of office. As such, alternating power is not enough to establish a true rule of law and democratic culture in Africa.


4. Lack of exemplary leadership: Most of them fight against the longevity of the power of our presidents while they themselves remain at the head of their parties. Like our heads of state, few of these alternative party leaders train leaders to replace them to better communicate the common vision. A leader who does not train another leader is not a leader. Some founding presidents think they are the only ones capable of leading the parties they founded, only because they founded them.

In summary, opposition parties in Africa face many challenges in gaining access to state power and consolidating democracy. They need to strengthen their internal organization, their social representativeness and their political credibility. They should also promote dialogue and cooperation with other political actors, including ruling parties, electoral organizations and civil society. Finally, they must respect the rules of the democratic game and work for the common good when in power.



ELECTIONS

The establishment of a political system also depends on the way in which those in power come to power. It can be seen that the more transparent the elections are, the more effective the system is; the less free they are, the worse the system is. That is why one of the failures of our systems in Africa is the fact that it is the oligarchs who can finance and put in place our leaders, instead of the people with their own desire. We need to strengthen our eligibility criteria for municipal, legislative and presidential elections to prevent puppets from ruling our states. We must also give the chance to young leaders to participate in the management of public affairs, because Africa is a continent of young people. It is only the youth who can better understand the real needs of the moment because they are actors. The average age of our leaders is three times the average age of our population, this is not normal. This creates a generational conflict: young people who are too ambitious but not very involved in public affairs, and older people who are in power cannot understand the challenges of the moment, those faced by the young.


Given the ignorance of the majority of our people and the low literacy rate in our countries, the people do not vote according to the leadership skills of the candidates and their projects; but rather according to their ethnicity, region or religion. That is why I propose that the right to vote should be granted only to educated people who have the minimum required level; the one who can discern the good candidate from the bad one and who can differentiate the true project from the false one cannot have the same right to vote as an ignorant person who does not even know what politics or even elections are really for. This can increase the chance of having good leaders with good plans at the head of our states instead of traitors with no plans placed by oligarchs. It can also allow more parents to educate their children, in order to enjoy even more rights such as the right to vote. Are the ones who know and the ones who do not know comparable?


On the other hand, in order to avoid having demagogues or leaders without skills at the head of our states, I think it is better that the experiences and services rendered in the past by the different candidates can also count in the results of the elections. It is very likely that a candidate who has worked in non-profits to serve the community, fought in civil societies to protect rights, done his or her duties well, created a good number of jobs, created wealth through a project, can be a better leader than another candidate who has never done any of these things. That's why I'm proposing that we can establish very clear criteria and evidence to take into account the past of each candidate as well, so that there are no shenanigans. This could be a percentage of the election results, for example. In this case, leaders will not be chosen only on the basis of their knowledge, but also on the basis of their know-how, their skills, their real convictions, etc. This can allow young people, who aspire to govern their countries, to be able to start serving the community and have a vision for their nations at an early stage. It also allows each person to always protect the rights, perform the duties well and make a difference if only not to be caught up in the future. This can be more equitable and can change habits for the better.


Instead of thinking about pushing people to vote for this or that candidate because of the clothes or bags of rice that are distributed to them during the campaigns, it is better to think about educating all the people so that everyone can vote consciously.



Conclusion

Although they are a strict minority, there are really political parties worthy of the name. These parties are often not understood by the people because their visions are considered impossible, their projects a little too complex or their teams too categorical. They often have funding problems because of their righteousness and integrity. They are generally not invited by the media, the power holders or other alternative parties, for fear that they will raise awareness or challenge the system in place. This is why we need to think of another alternative that will allow us to select and put in power the best parties to lead our states.


Sources

- Livre : La Vision X, parue en 2023 aux editions Guiguess

- Africacenter.org

- Cairn.com

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