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Afrobarometer Survey: African Leaders Blocking Democracy

  • Gibbs Dube

Most people clearly understand the concept of democracy but popular demand for it greatly exceeds the amount of democracy that political elites are willing or able to supply. (File Photo).

Most people clearly understand the concept of democracy but popular demand for it greatly exceeds the amount of democracy that political elites are willing or able to supply. (File Photo).

Afrobarometer says most Africans embrace democracy even though the majority of political leaders are failing to deliver.

In a report released Wednesday following a survey conducted between 2011 and 2013 in 34 African nations with almost 52 thousand respondents, Afrobarometer says countries like Zimbabwe, Cameron, Uganda, Cameroon and Nigeria continue to experience a deficit of democracy.

The report titled ‘Demand for Democracy Rising in Africa’, reveals that in these countries most people clearly understand the concept of democracy but popular demand for it greatly exceeds the amount of democracy that political elites are willing or able to supply.

"A majority of Africans say they want democracy (71%) but, at the same time, only a minority (46%) also rejects all alternative forms of autocratic rule," read part of the report.

It said fewer than 43 percent of the people consider their countries a democracy and at the same time they are satisfied with the way democracy works.

The report further noted that countries in East Africa are more democratic than those in other parts of the continent.

“Rightly or wrongly, people think that the consolidation of democracy, while partial everywhere, is most advanced in East Africa and least advanced in North Africa. Other regions fall in between, with democratic demand being greatest in West Africa. Regimes in this region may be particularly susceptible to mass mobilization from below as citizens exert pressure for more democray.”

Afrobarometer said generally 7 out of 10 people in Africa prefer democracy to other political regimes.

“More than half of all survey respondents in 16 African countries now evince a deep commitment to democratic rule: the composite index of demand for democracy climbed 15 percentage points, from 36% in 2002 to 51% in 2012.”

The organization said people increasingly believe that the quality of elections is the best sign of a democratic regime. “Thus, popular attachment to institutions is slowly but surely displacing mass loyalty to dominant personalities.”

Reacting to the report, political commentator Nkululeko Sibanda of Huddersfield University said most aspects of Afrobarometer’s survey are a true reflection of the political processes in Africa.

But Zanu PF Central Committee member, Godfrey Malaba disagreed, saying the Afrobarometer has a hidden agenda, especially on indications that Zimbabwe’s leaders do not want to create a democratic environment in the country.

Afrobarometer is a non-governmental organization that measures the social, political and economic environment in Africa. Some of the limitations of the current survey included civil strife and difficulties in accessing respondents in some of the surveyed nations.
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