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Consolidating democracy prerequsites

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African leaders have responded to these developments in a variety of ways: the national conference, open competitive elections, guided liberalization, opposition to pluralism, attempts to divide the opposition through bribery and/or the registration of scores of opposition parties, co-optation, and intimidation.

Irrespective of the adopted strategy, the new political movements have succeeded in compelling military dictators to accept political pluralism (Benin, Babangida's Nigeria, and Ghana); one-party regimes to allow for more parties (Kenya and Zambia); and one-person life-presidential systems to adopt multiparty political systems (Malawi).

Indeed, the past...years have witnessed oscillations between tumult and paralysis, and have shown more clearly than ever before the deep-rooted and systemic weaknesses of current leadership in Africa12." In a more recent address Adedeji noted that "the idea of a second liberalization in Africa has gone away with the wind, at least temporarily.

Even the most timid attempts at democratization have often failed due to self-centeredness of African leaders and their lack of vision13." It is becoming clear, as a respondent put it in Lusaka, that "the defeat of dictators is much easier than replacing the dictators. So far, we are not having much luck in Zambia because of overwhelming problems14" How has Zambia fared with its new liberalization since the 1991 elections which saw the routing of the 27-year government of Kenneth Kaunda and the United National Independence Party (UNIP)?

Any effort to superimpose a specific narrow formula of democracy could lead to mere formal compliance, such as allowing multipartism without "real democracy3." The recent wave of democratic openings and struggles in Africa has challenged not just one-party political systems and personal rule, but also military dictatorships, pseudo-democracies, and the general suffocation of civil society.

With the on-going changes in the global order and the gradual recomposition of socio-economic and political relations, Africa has not been left out of the political, if not the economic wave.

Some did succeed in mobilizing internal opposition in the struggle to challenge dictatorship and authoritarianism.

Yet, the ground-swell of support received at the initial stages have not translated into consistent, predictable, or permanent support in the post-election periods4.

Finally, the process of political liberalization in Africa has, in spite of widespread expectations, failed to bring about fundamental changes.

The national conference has been more of a Francophone phenomena which has been utilized in Benin, Congo, Mali, Gabon, and Niger.

Though it is true that "democracy is spreading like bushfire throughout Africa,"6 at least until recently, the new pro-democracy movements and political parties have tended to exhibit some common traits: corruption, opportunism, the marginalization of women, concentration in specific regions or urban centers, personalization of politics, confusion, fragmentation, excessive ambition and focus on power, and an unabashed acceptance and consumption of conservative, monetarist programs of the IMF and World Bank.

The latter can only happen if democratic change is effected and institutions established that actually function as guardians of the democratic process and of the people1.

The final outcome of these on-going processes of democratic transition in Africa is uncertain at best, and experts' analyses and predictions range from guarded optimism to frank pessimism....