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‘African democracy tainted with totalitarianism’


PHOTO: Reuters

Senior Director, Africa Program, National Endowment for Democracy, Mr. Dave Peterson has said what most of the Africa countries currently practiced or called democratic rule could be best described as a totalitarian form of government.

He noted that persistent deterioration of democratic gains have continued to undermine its attraction, saying democracy has not in the actual sense deliver its dividends to the people in Africa.

Speaking during the 2nd annual lecture of the Department of Political Science, Lagos State University (LASU), titled: ‘Africa Totalitarian Temptation,’ Paterson said some principles of totalitarianism are fast prevailing in democratic system of African nations today.

According to him, “From critical observation, African systems have met most of the criteria for totalitarianism system suggested by political theorists and the temptation for African governments to adopt the methods, and the temptation for western governments to tolerate, is readily apparent.”

Outlining some of the reasons he said totalitarianism has manifested in African democratic rule, Paterson said, “It is unfortunate that opposition parties, the press and Civil Society Organisations (CSO) are being emasculated and almost eliminated in various African countries due to deliberate policies of governments.”

According to him, “Elections may be held, but the ruling party rarely gets less than 90 percent of the vote, which is an indication of totalitarian system where absolute loyalty to the government is demanded and aggressively silence any dissent voice. It also asserts complete control over all means of communication, movement, and association, and expanding their reach into the economic, cultural and social lives of citizens.”

He noted that most of the African democratic government today through pervasive security and party networks, monitor daily activities of the citizen and demand mass participation in public works projects, indoctrination meetings, and political gatherings.”

Citing examples, Peterson disclosed that currently, the governments of Uganda, Zimbabwe, and Angola have attempted to increase political repression using ideological tools with mixed degrees of success, while Sudan has attempted to impose a fundamentalist Islamic ideology, something that has also been promoted by the Shabaab in Somalia.

“Similarly, an earlier generation of African leaders, including Kwame Nkrumah, Mobutu Sese-Seko, Julius Nyerere, and Kenneth Kaunda attempted to foist on their citizens a variety of nationalist, revolutionary, socialist and pan-Africanist ideologies, often with authoritarian elements, and at the time such ideologies were reinforced by intellectuals such as Frantz Fanon and by international apologists in the non-aligned movement, the Soviet bloc, or Maoist China, as well as in the West.”

To him, when such system becomes more pronounced, the nation and its people become built and operate on fear and suppression, saying such system have influenced Africa’s political development and also dominated opposition parties, independent press and the social society “these has infringed on the freedom of the citizens and made them afraid of the government.

“Totalitarianism has resulted in the loss of human diversity, relationships, compassion and nature whereby people reject and abolish any individuals or civilians who are against or not for the goals set by the rulers.”

He lamented that many African countries are still governed by strongmen, who have adopted all manner of repressive tools to retain power for decades, despite the advent of multi-party systems, more independent press, and vibrant civil societies.

Head of the Department, Dr. Sylvester Akhaine, stressed the need to strengthen democracy urgently adding, “Totalitarian tendency is a trend in governance and that is what we are examining today hoping that we can learn from the authoritarian trappings around the world and of course strengthen our democracy.

“I believe that when ideas are germinated they begin to expand and spread across the society. It is time for Nigerians to be more forceful in demanding and defending their freedoms because governments are centralizing in nature and this call for a strong civil society and loyal opposition in order to entrench democratic values in our country.”

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