The Feasibility of Democracy in Africa. Claude Ake. Dakar, CODESRIA, 2000, 187 p., ISBN:2-86978-093-1Number of visits: 1988
Ake maintains that democratization in Africa is far from a fad, a reaction to political liberalization in Eastern Europe or an expression of the contradictions of Westernization. It is more too than the expression of ‘second independence’ — from indigenous post-colonial leadership. The urge to democracy, he says, expresses a need for self-realization that is so deep that it elicits arduous efforts and monumental risks. Democracy, Ake insists, should never be taken for granted and has to be defended in daily struggles.
The book outlines, in a sweeping continent survey and with telling detail, how the democratic commitment has transformed Africa’s legacy of dictatorship, military regimes and single-party rule.
Yet, at the same time as ‘we are all democrats now’, Ake shows how cleverly conservative autocrats have stolen the democratic message and subverted its promise. The danger of trivializing democracy into successive multi-party elections, where one narrow elite succeeds another, is a real one in present-day Africa, and the book spells out the hazards that lie ahead for nascent democratic movements at the grassroots.