|The Courier N° 138 - March - April 1993 Dossier: Africa's New Democracies - Country Reports : Jamaica - Zambia (EC Courier, 1993, 96 p.)|
|Dossier: Africa's new democracies|
Democracy, according to Winston Churchill, is the worst form of government-except for all the others! The African people, who against their will, have had plenty of experience of all kinds of dictatorship and who, it must be said, have paid the price for this, are now increasingly following in the footsteps of others who have experienced the wisdom of Churchill's maxim. It has become commonplace to say that the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of that other modern form of organising states-communism-has contributed to this democratic surge. The influence of events such as Frans Mitterand's famous La Baule speech in 1990 is also stressed. In retrospect, one can but regret that these 'liberating' remarks were not made much earlier.
While one African country after another embarks on the road to democracy, with varying degrees of enthusiasm and in the face of varying degrees of resistance, questions are increasingly being asked about the validity of Western-style democracy for the continent at the present juncture. As, here and there, the democracy movement suffers reverses, these questions become increasingly pointed.
Some suggest that Africa should work out a model for itself by marrying democratic principles to its own cultural heritage. This is a view which is put forward in several of the articles in this Dossier although the practicalities are deliberately left vague and those elements of African civilisation (if it is possible to talk of this in the singular) which ought to be incorporated in the model are not specified.
Others take a contrary view, believing that democracy is a set of universal principles which apply everywhere in the same way. They reject any idea of a specifically African dimension, fearing that this can only lead to a situation which the international community, having acknowledged the right to be 'different', will be much less able to condemn. Those who take this view find it difficult to understand why the former communist states, facing similar ethnic conflicts and economic crises, do not receive the same advice as that proferred to the African countries. The former, according to this logic, should be inventing a democratic system which also takes account of their particular history and culture.
An objection of a different kind is to be found in the thesis that Africa does not meet the optimum conditions for the establishment and development of democratic systems. African countries are indeed very poor, and none of the new democracies has been able to pay for the organisation of its elections. Even Senegal, which has a longer democratic tradition than most, had to have recourse to outside help for the financing of its recent presidential poll.
Without development, therefore the future of the democratic process is, to say the least, compromised. What would happen if this providential support were lacking? And the situation is exacerbated by the fact that African states, unlike countries elsewhere which have moved to democracy in recent decades, have not been able to meet the other important requirement for a successful democracy, namely, having a population the majority of whom are educated. Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad/ Tobago, to take just a few ACP examples, are countries where democratic alternation has been the rule since the 1960s. They are also countries where literacy rates are very high (90% in Barbados). It is a very different situation in Africa.
For people who are poor and illiterate, the temptation is consequently very great to regard democracy purely in terms of utility. If the new system delivers a noticeable improvement in living standards, they will support and defend it. If it does not, can we really be surprised if they view it as something which is alien to them? And it is this risk of rejection which underpins the arguments of those who support adapting democracy to African realities- so as to give it sure foundations.
Using the same line of reasoning, there must be the fear that the people will be prepared to accept limits on their freedom if their material needs are satisfied. This is one of the lessons that one can draw from the past experience of Cot'lvoire, Gabon and Malawi. For much of the period from the 1960s to the 1990s, these countries experienced steady growth. This was reflected in social stability which only began to crumble-albeit rapidly- when the government coffers emptied because of the economic crisis. Cot'lvoire and Gabon were in fact, the first countries in the period after the La Baule speech to face upheavals and to hold multi-party elections. Democratic aspirations may not entirely merge with economic ones, but they clearly intermingle to some extent.
It is interesting to speculate whether the experience of Lithuania may not hold some lessons for Africa. The people of this Baltic state recently elected the excommunists-under whose earlier management, they had faced fewer hardships-in place of the 'champions' of democracy.
In this issue of The Courier, we seek the clues, if not the answers, to some of the main issues arising from the flowering of democracy in Africa. Two case studies are presented. In the Country Report on Zambia which precedes this Dossier, we look at an English-speaking state where power was transferred peacefully following elections-although since this Report was prepared, a state of emergency has been proclaimed which illustrates only too clearly the vulnerability of the democratic process. And at the end of the Dossier, we consider the case of Mali, a French-speaking country where blood had to be spilt before democracy could put down roots and where major difficulties have still to be overcome.
by Tesfatsion MEDHANIE
There is no uniformity in the way political change is occurring in Africa. The goal in all cases is democracy. But the mode or the process of the democratisation varies.
There is a marked difference between the Francophone and the Anglophone states as regards the mode of launching the process. As will be discussed later, the National Conference is the 'norm of redemocratisation' in the former, while in the latter constitutional revision and direct elections is the form.
Each African state-whether it is in the Francophone or the Anglophone zone-has its specific political history and 'unique internal dynamics'. These certainly affect the mode of launching, the transition and the outcome, thus distinguishing them to some extent from each other.
The intensity of the struggle for democracy is not the same in all the African states. This means, among other things, that in some states authoritarian regimes are able to preempt situations and entrench themselves, at least for some time.
Within every African state concerned the movement is not evenly spread. It does not encompass all communities and social groups to the same degree. For one thing, it is still concentrated in urban areas; rural communities are not yet significantly involved.
Patterns of transition
This mode of transition, which has been termed 'the Jacobin model', is in the style of France's 18th century Estates General. Its theoretical elaboration is founded on a credo echoing the ideas of the French philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, that 'all power emanates from the general will of the people'.
The National Conference is a forum in which not only the political parties and elites but all of 'the country's social, ethnic, economic, regional, religious and occupational groups' are represented. The aim is to launch a process that would subject the authoritarian leadership (if it is not removed) to the will of the people, and eventually to revise the constitution and hold 'fully fledged multi-party elections'.
It was Benin that set the example of transition through National Conferences. President Mathieu Kerekou was stripped of his powers but was granted full and irreversible amnesty.
As developed on the basis of the Beninois experience there are internal and external prerequisites for the success of National Conferences. In the case of Benin (i) internally, the financial and economic situation had collapsed. The elites and the components of civil society had not only defied the regime, but also demanded that a meeting be held which was sovereign and in which all the social and economic groups were represented; and (ii) externally, the regime was denied financial and other help until the sovereign meeting was held.
The conjunction of such internal and external factors enabled the consummation of National Conferences, which, as in the case of Benin, led to multi-party elections following a transitional government. In Benin, by the time elections were held, the old ruling party was dissolved.
In several Francophone countries, including Cot'Ivoire, Gabon, and Togo, the National Conferences did not succeed fully. To some, these cases only show that the internal and external prerequisites were not fully met. But to others they only confirm that National Conferences are not as effective as they were initially thought to be. It is not easy to mobilise forces from the various social groups and hold National Conferences. Entrenched authoritarian regimes easily find time and space to frustrate the planned meeting and derail the process.
Constitutional revision and multi-party elections:
This is the model of transition in the Anglophone African states. It was first applied in Zambia, which became the pace-setter in Anglophone Africa in the same way that Benin was in the Francophone states.
In this model a loose coalition of parties emerges, becoming the dominant -but not the sole-opposition force. Examples of such coalitions are the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) in Zambia, and the Forum for Restoration of Democracy (FORD) in Kenya.
In Zambia such a coalition, the MMD, defeated the incumbent regime, which was constrained by internal and external pressures similar to those that had beleaguered Kerekou's government in Benin. The MMD made several demands including the holding of free elections attended by international observers. After some resistance Kaunda's regime agreed. The elections were held and won by the MMD.
In such a model the incumbent regime cooperates in the process risking its own ouster. But it cooperates more because of lack of choice than genuine conversion to the principles of democracy. Unlike in National Conferences, in such cases the old ruling party is not dissolved. Rather it continues to exist as an opposition, as Kaunda's party does in Zambia.
Peaceful transfer of power in elections:
This is one situation where a ruling party in a one-party state freely and willingly cooperates in holding elections risking its own defeat. The incumbent regime is not as authoritarian, unpopular and isolated as Kerekou's was in Benin and Kaunda's in Zambia. Such a smooth transfer occurred in Cape Verde, where the situation was different in some important ways from those in Benin and Zambia.
Cape Verde's socio-economic situation was better than most others in Africa even though the country lacks 'virtually any natural resources' and is a victim of 'continuous drought'. There were significant achievements in this small island state, whose population is more or less homogeneous. The economy was relatively sound with income per capita increasing. Quality of life had improved, life expectancy had increased and infant mortality had dropped. The country had even embarked on a reafforestation programme to rehabilitate the ecology. There was much less corruption than in the rest of Africa. Furthermore, the society had a tradition of rule of law and functioning parliamentary and judicial systems.
In Cape Verde too, the situation, though not bad, was ripe for change. The people were eager to carry out a political transformation and 'reduce external dependency'. There was also international support for a transition to multi-party democracy. Hence, in a fairly conducted election, the ruling party was defeated and handed over power to the opposition.
In this model, elections are held under the auspices of the United Nations. The sole example in the current process is Namibia, which attained its independence in 1990 following a multi-party election supervised by the United Nations Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG).
Namibia has proclaimed probably the most advanced constitution-and thus the most competent constitutional framework for multi-party democracy-in Africa. The constitution, which has been hailed as a 'model', is an epitome of conflict resolution, an outcome of a process of compromise-both internal and external. The Constituent Assembly which was set up following the elections comprised representatives of seven political parties. On the basis of the principle of Proportional Representation (PR) the parties were represented in the Assembly in proportion to the votes they received in the elections. As determined previously in the 1982 UN Security Council Document S/15287 (commonly known as the 1982 principles), motions on the drafting of the constitution could pass if supported by two-thirds of a]l the members of the Assembly. Each of the parties, including SWAPO (which had fewer than two-thirds of the seats) realised 'there was a need for a broad compromise'. After a 'wonderful give and take' the parties agreed on the contents of the constitution.
It is significant that each of the political parties involved, from the reformist or 'left-wing' SWAPO to the 'ultra-right' Action Christian National (ACN), had expressed reservations about the constitution; but still, in the spirit of compromise and national reconciliation, the Assembly adopted the constitution by acclamation.
The Namibian case benefited from the international situation which prevailed at the end of the 1980s. The thaw in the East/West confrontation had made possible a compromise between the US, the USSR, South Africa and Cuba concerning the implementation of Resolution 435 on Namibian independence.
Transition following overthrow of a regime:
There are a few cases in which processes of democratisation are launched following the ouster of a regime by force. Mali and Ethiopia are two examples.
In Mali, popular discontent and demand for change erupted in early 1991. By order of the President, Moussa Traormeasures were taken to crush the popular movement. But soon after this event some military officers staged a coup and arrested the president. Uniquely, the officers immediately started a process of effective transition to civilian rule. Multiparty elections were held in early 1992, resulting in the victory of the Alliance for Democracy in Mali (ADEMA), which now rules the country.
The case of Ethiopia is slightly different. A Transitional Council was established following the military defeat of the regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam. The Council, which comprises representatives of several organisations, is dominated by the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), the armed movement that defeated the regime.
A National Conference held in Addis Ababa issued a Charter which is the supreme law for the transitional period. The Charter guarantees fundamental human, civil and political rights and has all the cardinal elements of a liberal democratic constitution. Freedom of expression and association are now realities in Ethiopia. The Charter also enunciated the principle of self-determination, recognising the right of any nationality or ethnic group to determine its status, including the option to separate.
Ethiopia is making progress in political democracy, but it is also encountering severe problems as a result of power struggles and a politicisation of ethnicity -problems that sometimes appear to threaten its territorial integrity.
Cease-fire, multi-party elections and compromise:
This was a new pattern seen first in Angola. The Angola process was distinct in a few important ways: (i) A genuine multi-party election in which the party in power participated following a cease-fire; (ii) the parliamentary election, judged 'free and fair', was won by the incumbent (MPLA), which had been socialist-oriented for a long time. (iii) if there are going to be obstacles to the democratisation process they are more likely to come from the opposition than from the MPLA which, by almost all accounts has been cooperative in the process; (iv) efforts are being made to bring about compromise and understanding between the main protagonists in the Angola process. The MPLA declared its willingness to establish a coalition government even if it won the elections. The fact that there would be a run-off of the presidential election just because the MPLA received 49.5% and not 50% of the votes is itself a mark of compromise. (UNITA got only 40%.)
Limited and controlled democratisation from the top:
This is a process in which a regime in power presides over an election among political parties of its own choice or even of its own creation. This approach to democratisation is being applied in Nigeria, where the regime has seen to it that only two parties are established-the Social Democratic Party and the National Republican Party. The former is described as 'a little to the left' end the latter 'a little to the right' of centre.
There is controversy about the process in Nigeria. Some describe it as a 'programming' of democracy from the top, suggesting that it is a genuine and realistic process of change. Others view it in effect as a pre-emptive device by the ruling elite. A few even focus on the control of the process by the regime and call it 'authoritarian democracy'. This characterisation sounds increasingly appropriate, especially in the light of the fact that the regime itself dissolved the readerships of the two parties in late October 1992.
Nigeria's may be described as a situation which is half-way between democratisation and authoritarian retention of power. Other cases which can be categorised as such are those in Ghana and Uganda. But there are also other states-like Botswana and Senegal- which are usually referred to as multiparty democracies, but which are more of a blend of democracy and authoritarianism.
This is the situation which obtains in Botswana and Senegal; it may also be what Tanzania is heading towards.
Botswana has important features of parliamentary democracy. For example there is some degree of freedom of association and of the press. And elections are held every five years. The problem seems to be that the opposition parties are 'not free to compete on equal terms with the ruling party' which has the monopoly of access to the media and other infrastructure necessary for political competition. In Senegal, the situation is similar. There are a few political parties, but the ruling party is by far the dominant one. Following the events in Benin, Senegal's ruling party has sought 'to build bridges" with the opposition and has taken steps towards a 'government of national union'.
Indemnity clause and multi-party elections:
This is the situation of Ghana, where for a long time, the government resisted the demand for democratisation. Given the democratisation in several African countries and the pressure exerted by the economic and financial institutions, the government agreed to effect a transition to democracy. Political parties have now been legalised under the new constitution, which has been overwhelmingly approved in a referendum. A crucial provision in the constitution is the 'indemnity clause' which gives the incumbent regime, which has ruled Ghana for 11 years, amnesty for whatever crimes and abuses it may have committed. Besides, the constitution also makes it possible for the present leader, Jerry Rawlings, to run for the presidency as a civilian.
Blend of authoritarianism and 'participatory democracy':
This refers to the political system the government in Uganda is experimenting with. The government has not banned political parties. The parties still exist but they can 'function' only 'tinder restricted circumstances'. However, there are also structures for 'political participation'. These structures exist within the framework of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM), which actually controls them. They extend from the village level all the way to the highest body, the National Resistance Council. The elements of democracy in the Ugandan system comprise the 'preservation of personal freedoms' and 'popular participation'. Related to these are the government's efforts to realise 'national reconciliation and political stability'. The element of authoritarianism lies in the government's control of the structure and its limitation of the extent to which the political parties can function. In this respect the regime is said to be similar to the government of Zimbabwe even though it does not claim or seek a 'complete political monopoly'.
The situations and patterns in Nigeria, Botswana (Senegal and Tanzania), Ghana and Uganda are half-way between authoritarianism and democratisation. But characterising them as such is not to underrate the significance of the positive in them. New political space is being opened up in these situations also, which is helpful.
Modes of resistance
Thus far, incumbent regimes have been resisting democratisation to varying degrees. A variety of modes or tactics can be identified:
Repression by force or intimidation:
In the initial phase of the democratisation wave, some African regimes, like Moussa Traor in Mali, resorted to open measures of military repression. A few regimes continue to use brute force against democratic opposition. Among them are the fundamentalist military regime in Khartoum, and to some extent, the regime in Malawi, which is still harassing and detaining leaders of the pro-democracy movement.
The fall of Moussa Traors well as the observed consequences of military resistance to change-as shown in Ethiopia, Somalia, and the Sudan-was a lesson to other regimes in Africa. Several have thus avoided the use of brute force, resorting instead to more subtle and calculated means of undermining or blunting the process of democratisation. And in order to accomplish this, they needed to appear supportive of democracy.
Pre-emptive elections or national conferences:
Some regimes have survived by exploiting the ill-preparedness and lack of organisation on the part of the opposition. Two such regimes are those in Cot'Ivoire and in Gabon. The former hurriedly called for presidential and legislative elections before the opposition could organise itself and develop strategies. It won the election and hence, gave itself new legitimacy, at least in the formal sense. Likewise the Gabonese regime called for a National Conference when the opposition was still 'embryonic'. The Conference which was not quite sovereign, decided on a multi-party system, but the President's powers were not 'affected ... in any way'. Elections were held subsequently and were won by the incumbent regime, whose status was even 'enhanced'.
Reversal of the democratisation process
A few regimes survived by reversing or halting the democratisation process. Examples are those of Togo and Algeria.
In Togo, the regime was on the verge of being ousted following a National Conference in which the president was deprived of some of his powers and elections were scheduled. But the president promptly acted through his supporters in the army and restored some of his powers and his party's legal status. He even brought pressure to bear on the interim legislature. Having blunted the process, the regime continues to stay in power.
In Algeria, democratisation was launched following the economic liberalisation of late 1988. A new constitution was adopted providing for multi-partyism and other political freedoms. Local elections and the first round of general elections were held in mid-1990 and late 1991 respectively. Both were won by the fundamentalist Islamic Salvation Front (FIS). Alarmed, the regime declared the second round of the general elections cancelled. It then proceeded to suppress the FIS, thus reversing the process of democratisation. This is not to suggest that Algeria would have been on the road to genuine democracy had the FIS become the government. The point here is only that the democratisation that was going on was halted and reversed.
Threat of election rigging
It is not difficult for ruling parties in Africa to rig elections. After all, the election officers are close to and appointed by the party in power. In a few cases the incumbent regimes appeared so determined to rig the election that opposition parties became discouraged. Several opposition parties have given up and withdrawn from the contest, which means the incumbents continue to stay in power. This was said to have happened, for example, in Cameroon. Surprisingly, the ruling party had already lost an election; it managed to stay in power only by establishing 'an alliance with an opposition group' in a nominally reconstituted government. Later, in October 1992 new national elections were held and won by the incumbent regime. But opposition groups as well as international observers have insisted that the regime rigged the election; the former has asked for the cancellation of the election results.
Some regimes hold on to power by temporising-i.e. procrastinating and delaying the process using one or other pretext. Their hope is that as time goes by, the pro-democracy challenge will 'dissipate'. An example of such a regime is that of Zaire. The President delays matters by concentrating on issues of preliminaries and 'dragging out the question of form'. In the meantime, he has worked hard to co-opt or neutralise some members of the opposition.
Situations of ethnic violence
Ethnic violence is rife in a number of African countries today. One of these countries is Kenya. The regime there had for a long time opposed multi-partyism, arguing that such a system is dangerous in a multi-ethnic society. Due to external pressure and increasing internal challenge, it finally agreed to allow political parties and hold elections eventually. But soon after the regime gave in, ethnic violence erupted in parts of the country where the opposition has some of its strongholds. As a result, people fled their homes, their usual places of residence, which means that they cannot be registered for voting. Many, especially those in the Kenyan opposition, suspect that the regime itself instigated the violence. Whatever the truth in this regard, the important point to note is that such situations are used in various ways to prolong the span of an incumbent regime. Two of the ways are: (i) the regime may declare a state of emergency to rationalise postponing the elections, thereby prolonging its stay in power; or (ii) it can hold elections when, in those regions it is not confident of winning, the people are still dispersed and cannot vote because they have not registered.
Manipulation of electoral law
The regimes in power easily manipulate electoral law to suit their aims. For example, they fix constituency bounderies and determine the laws on party organisation in ways favourable to them.
Fixing constituency boundaries is done in such a way as to give an advantage to the ruling party. For example, the section of the country where the ruling party is strong will be divided into several constituencies, sometimes with each constituency having a very small population. Conversely, the parts of the country where the opposition is strong would be divided into a few constituencies (or just one constituency) even if it is heavily populated. In this way the ruling party gains more seats in parliament.
Definition of a party
One method is to leave the meaning of political party not clearly defined in the law. Any group of people, even a few friends or family members, could be organised and called a 'political party'. This means there can be a number of small entities that are in no sense viable and cannot really function as political parties. They are no threat to the regime in power, which uses them as 'evidence' multipartyism, in the country. Some opposition groups in Botswana allege this is one of the methods the party in power uses.
Requirements the opposition cannot meet
According to journalists and the opposition movement in Kenya, this pattern of resistance is now being attempted by the regime there in a refined way. The regime has lately introduced a constitutional amendment bill. This bill requires that in order to be declared a winner in the presidential elections the candidate who receives the highest number of valid votes should also get 'a minimum' 25% of the votes in 'at least' five of the country's eight provinces. Critics argue this amendment is unfair to the opposition groups, who do not yet have the necessary infrastructure in various parts of the country. But the amendment would give the regime a clear advantage. Over the years the ruling party had established extensive machinery and networks for running its elections.
Opposition threatens civil war
This is a new pattern coming from Angola. One thing that makes it new is that it is the opposition (UNITA) and not the incumbent that seems poised to hamper democratisation. The UNITA leader threatened to go back to the bush and resume fighting, alleging fraud in the election, which, according to UN and other international observers, was largely free and fair. The fighting which has since erupted has brought the democratisation process to a halt. T.M.
by Frans VAN HOEK
From the independence period in the early 1960s until the mid-1970s, the practicians and theorists of development swore by the theories, models and concepts of central planning and strong, centralised systems of government. Africa is still feeling the disastrous consequences of this blind application of ideas borrowed wholesale from other parts of the world with no concern for the specific realities of the continent itself.
Then, in the late 1970s, came the invasion of structural adjustment, with particular emphasis on reducing State involvement, political and economic liberation reigning supreme and the sacrosanct market economy set up, in the light of the principle of its comparative advantages. And with this movement, which was inspired by external forces in many cases, African politicians and theoreticians woke up to the fact that developing the continent meant completely changing domestic policies and structures to place the emphasis on democracy, good governance and participatory development.
So, internal and external factors set the scene for the sudden awakening of pressure for democracy in Africa today, with a mainly urban population anxious for a new political order. There has been a severe attack on the authoritarian regimes which took over most of the African countries with their single party systems and always attracted strong support at home and abroad by appearing as the means of overcoming ethnic and religious divisions and building up the nation. The present call for a complete overhaul of the organisation of the State and its relations with society can only be applauded by all those concerned with development. No country can achieve lasting development unless it has law and order, responsible, accountable leaders, room for the people to capitalise on their skills and express themselves freely and the right institutions, and strong ones too.
The importance of this last condition, one often lost sight of in the past, was brought home by Jacques Attali, Head of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, recently, when he said that 'a democracy without institutions is anarchy and a market economy without institutions is a Mafia'. He was probably talking about the situation in Eastern Europe, of course, but, all things being equal, the golden rule applies to Africa today too. It is now clear that Africa has to have a new political, economic, social and institutional framework to manage its development process, but how should it go about obtaining it? Practical indications as to how to create a new institutional framework that will be efficient in the context of Africa are seriously wanting, although the pitfall of transplanting the principles and institutions of western democracy has always to be avoided. The past provides ample proof that grafts of this sort are not terribly efficient and more likely to be actively rejected as foreign bodies. But it is frightening to see just how little resistance the Africans put up to the idea of importing western models of democracy, constitutions and electoral procedures. So the present process of democratisation must be put back into the context of everything the African heritage has to offer with an attempt to strike a proper balance of tradition and modernity and native culture and foreign experience to shape genuinely African systems in which the people can influence the political life of the nation and the region.
It is as well to beware of the current tendency to assimilate multi-party systems and democracy found among many of Africa's opposition parties and in the foreign agencies which are pressing the countries for reforms. Multiparty systems and competitive elections are neither a democratic panacea nor adequate guarantee of public affairs being run properly. An instrument as limited as the multiparty system is not enough to ensure a healthy political and democratic life. It is worth remembering that 'the single party system is not dead. It has merely multiplied', as one African commentator said recently. Rivalry and even violence between the members of different parties are already a feature of the new African 'democracies'. It is difficult to see how this can contribute to the vital development of the majority of a population which is now more concerned with having less repression, less arbitrariness and better basic services such as education, health and access to credit than with knowing that party X, Y or Z is in power in the capital.
Rearguard fighting is common, as are attempts by the elite (and their potential successors, who are not necessarily a new generation of politicians) to impose the whole process of democratisation and reform or at least control it from above. This of course does nothing to help arouse or increase the interest of a large part of the population in public affairs and there is a risk of seeing democracy operate under a flag of convenience, with the African governments going through the motions of bowing to pro-democratic pressure at home and abroad, but failing to make the fundamental change to the rules of the game which is vital if they are to achieve a democratisation of conviction.
This, given the complications of managing the process of transition, will take time to achieve. Three decades of authoritarian regimes have created a gulf between State and society and there is no point in thinking that a great national conference or the legalisation of opposition parties will close it overnight. Developing what Olusegun Obasanjo calls a culture of democracy means? first and foremost, changing the outlook of both governments and governed and ensuring that everyone fully accepts the new rules of the game.
So when an author such as Etounga-Manguelle defends the idea that what Africa needs most for lasting democratisation is cultural adjustment, he is serious. The proof that the new institutional structures are efficient will only come when the people involved-and that includes women, young people, the rural population and the armed forces - manage to agree on the new roles of State and society and each is in a position to perform the new functions to the full, which means putting priority on literacy schemes and education at all levels. It means teaching the new political leaders to perceive the State's and their own jobs differently. It means teaching civil servants to relearn the basic principles of State management and having a civil service that actually serves the people. And it means teaching the non-governmental operators to organise themselves better, to stop looking upon the State as an enemy and to see it as a partner in the common war on want and the common campaign for fair and lasting development. What Samir Amin calls today's canonisation of non-governmental organisations, as the only worthwhile agents of development, will not bring the partners in the development process any closer together. It is foolhardy to imagine that a host of NGOs operating outside a national political framework would be in a better position to solve Africa's present development problems.
That leaves two basic questions rarely raised in discussions of democratisation of Africa:
1) How viable a form of governance is democracy in a situation
of economic and social decline with scant prospects of improvement in the short
term? How conceivable is it to promote both structural adjustment with a high
social cost and greater involvement of civil society in the formulation and
implementation of development policies? The situation in some European countries
suggests that a return to autarky can never be ruled out in conditions of this
sort and that it does not take long for a population to stop believing in
democracy. It can only be hoped that the poor African peasant, who used to
wonder: 'when will all this independence come to an end?' does not soon start
asking: 'what is all this democratisation for?'
2) What part should the international community, never a neutral partner in the African development process, play? The international community facilitated, promoted even, the import of foreign structures and institutions for all the world as if precolonial Africa had no political, economic and social structures of its own. It propped up authoritarian regimes, considered to be strategic allies, for years, and then suddenly swerved to the defence of the democratic cause. If this is what it really wants, it must also set about creating the conditions that are vital if Africa is to develop in an ever more interdependent world. This does not just mean adapting and increasing aid. It also means taking a hard look at its relations with Africa in terms of trade, debt and the transfer of knowledge and technolgy. It is of course up to the Africans, above all, to define and set up their own democratic systems and structures, as indeed it is to get the process of development off the ground again.
But the international community can no longer be content to be the onlooker it was, well-intentioned of course, but also ready to impose conditions which rode roughshod over the realities of Africa and ignored all the time and money involved in this structural change to the continent. F V H
by Peter GAKUNU
Today, in most African countries, there is increasing interest in the establishment of democratic regimes. There is a growing consensus that political leaders should be made accountable to the electorate. There is growing pressure to introduce democracy and restore human rights. In most African countries, autocratic governments have been forced to accept the idea that they should be seen to be safeguarding basic human rights and they are, therefore, releasing political prisoners, liberalising controls on the media, allowing for the establishment of opposition parties, organising and holding elections, tackling corruption and so on.
This rapid shift from autocratic to democratic thinking in the continent raises a number of questions. For example, what future is there for the new democratic regimes in Africa? Are the changes real and sustainable or are they simply another way of ensuring that desperate political leaders continue to cling to power?
The democratic banner in Africa is being raised by the common man, who is protesting and demanding political change, as well as by the press and other groups, including foreign governments, who are advocating good governance and improved government accountability in managing the resources of the country. The African people have shown their willingness to fight for democratic change; many have been tortured and even killed in the process. African rulers are converting to multi-party democracy and fair elections because they are under pressure from their own populations and face the threat that external interest groups and foreign governments will deny them financial and other assistance.
After independence, many African governments continued the autocratic rule which they had inherited from their colonial masters. This was necessary to preserve the nation. Independence and self-determination had, in most cases, to be fought for and won. The new governments, composed in large part of persons incarcerated during the colonial period and, therefore, with no experience in government, were left to fend for themselves as best they could. The new leaders had to concoct ways to hold their states together and thereby remain in power: they declared their party the sole legal political party in the country and either co-opted or banned opposition groups. They arrested and detained their opponents without trial for protracted periods. The new governments took over or disbanded associations that had operated independently. The parliament was relegated to rubber-stamping presidential decrees and cabinet decisions. Cabinet appointments were based on an individual's obsequiousness to the ruling party and its president. The independence of the judiciary was often compromised. The government nationalised the media as a means of enhancing its propaganda and controlling information that was disseminated to the public. Once political power was centralised, economic power became concentrated in the hands of a few ministers, friends and relatives of the president. Africa's autocrats exercised absolute power and ruled by patronage and repression. The concentration of political and economic power provided them with resources (government appointments, lucrative contracts, import and export licenses, detention, imprisonment, forced exile, assassination, harassment, etc.) either to buy supporters or to silence opponents. The armed forces, the police and the rest of the law enforcement apparatus were blended into the ruling party's machinery and were used ruthlessly to crush any dissent.
Government bureaucracies grew incompetent and spawned massive corruption and inefficiency. The productive sector was sacrificed, the education system undermined and the emerging middle class forced into exile in search of better opportunities elsewhere. Foreign governments and investors, realising that the only way they could participate in the economic activity of the country was by having access to those associated with people in power, encouraged and courted the autocrats.
Because political and economic power was concentrated in the hands of a few, foreign governments shied away from their responsibility of ensuring that resources given or lent to these countries were properly utilised. Foreign firms, concerned with protecting their business interests, offered bribes and other kickbacks to the ruling elite. Consequently, these autocratic regimes, realising that they wielded absolute power, legitimised their corrupt practices.
Economic activity either ceased or reverted to the parallel market for quick returns. Economic stagnation at home and a collapse in export prices led to an acute shortage of foreign exchange. Foreign governments and interested groups, realising the depressing effects that the policies pursued by these regimes were having on the people, began to demand minimum safeguards on the utilisation of the financial assistance given. The Bretton Woods institutions (the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank) imposed stabilisation and structural adjustment conditions on most African governments, requiring them to dismantle state-owned enterprises and rationalise government expenditure, forcing them in the process to acknowledge their past mistakes.
As the economic situation of these countries worsened, public discontent mounted. A shortage of government revenue undermined the ability of the regimes to buy support through patronage. Problems of governance and political instability came to the fore. The legitimacy of the 'African dictator' was profoundly undermined.
Perhaps the most dramatic influence for the wind of change now blowing across the African continent has been the realisation that it was 'people pressure' which brought about political change, even in the face of repressive authoritarian regimes, in Eastern and Central Europe and the former Soviet Union. Also, the realisation that rulers who had used the army or internal security apparatus violently to repress pressures for political reform had spurred more determined opposition, which had led to their own downfall, may have influenced African autocrats to agree to change.
Entrenched autocrats are struggling to maintain their untenable positions in the face of very stiff domestic and external pressure for change. Opposition groups, even though extremely divided, have considerable support. Popular demand for change has been fuelled by continued economic stagnation and decline, by the failure of government to reverse the situation, and by its failure to accede to the demands of the people for greater accountability.
Like most of their predecessors, the new political parties have formed around an individual, often a former leader who might have fallen from grace with the ruling party. Most of these parties have emerged along ethnic lines and are united only by their determined opposition to the poor record of the ruling party. They are, in most cases, weak because they have no access to the existing media, which are controlled by the ruling party. They are poor because they have no access to government funding and, therefore, depend solely on unpaid volunteers. They are inexperienced in politics, lacking grassroots organisation and leadership-a reflection of the fact that they were banned until very recently.
Interest groups are quite new, without experience or influence. A free and experienced press is also lacking since it had either been nationalised or banned altogether, or because the investment, both human and financial, necessary for setting up viable media organisations can only be undertaken with assistance from the government. An independent judiciary and an effective legislature and civil service will also need to be developed and strengthened. Under autocratic rule, these institutions only served the ruling party. One of the difficulties that has to be resolved now that the democratic process has been established is to define a role for the opposition in parliament and for the existing administration and civil service. A further difficulty is the absence of a political culture tolerant of an effective democracy.
Many of the preconditions necessary for an effective democracy, including widespread literacy, a high level of per capita income, a sizable middle class, a vibrant and organised civil society, strong independent public institutions, nationally-based political parties with viable programmes and a political culture of tolerance, debate and compromise, are lacking in Africa today. Since these conditions are not in place, what is the future for the new democratic regimes?
In cases where fair elections have been allowed to take place, with one of the parties winning a respectable majority and a viable, albeit inexperienced, opposition, it can be reasonably argued that the necessary conditions for stabilising democracy exist. Political institutions should grow in experience and strength. In the African context, a number of countries have just one ethnic grouping but a large number of others comprise a multitude of ethnic groups with different languages and traditions. In a situation where the opposition wins, the sustainability of democracy depends on the quality of political leadership and on the relationship forged with the main grouping that volunteered their support. In this case, political institutions should grow in strength and experience as the new parties are allowed to expand their grassroots membership and the media are allowed to play a more neutral role. The success of the regimes in these scenarios, however, will depend on their ability to develop and present economic programmes acceptable to the electorate and to external financial donors.
Where governments continue to resist reform, domestic and external pressure for change is likely to persist and remain strong.
New democracies in Africa, arising either from old alliances or from newer ones, should avoid confrontation with their supporters. Failure to do so could undermine the foundation on which their coalition is based and thereby result in an entrenchment of old dictators or in their replacement with new autocrats. In other cases, a confrontational approach could result in a proliferation of political parties and render the government totally ineffective.
In recent years, governments of developed countries have decided that aid should be given only in cases where the local regimes have demonstrated good governance, a good record in upholding the protection of basic human rights, improved accountability in managing national resources and greater tolerance of the opposition as well as having embarked upon democratic reforms. The emergence of opposition political parties in Africa and the change towards more tolerant and democratic regimes have come about because western governments have given the impression that once African governments had successfully embarked upon such reforms, restoring basic human rights and undertaking structural reforms, financial and technical assistance previously withheld would start to flow again. Most African governments have, therefore, either been forced, or have willingly agreed, to embark upon the path of democratic change because they expected that they would be generously rewarded or at least compensated for their efforts towards sustained democratic reforms.
Western governments and aid donors in general, including even non-governmental organisations, have tended to use aid as a sword of Damocles, to coerce recalcitrant African governments into introducing political, social and economic change. The impression was created that once democracy and human rights were seen to have been established, there would immediately follow a greater flow of financial resources and an alleviation of the debt burden. It was also supposed that, with democratic reforms, African countries would be transformed overnight. Corruption would be eliminated, and these countries would immediately become magnets, attracting foreign assistance and investment.
Regrettably, the advent of democratic regimes in Africa, while ushering in greater accountability by government, has not been accompanied by increased government revenues, either from in creased foreign assistance or from improved domestic savings. The African peoples, having fought for democratic change, are now called upon again to pay, at times with their lives, as many of them are now faced with natural calamities and human suffering at unprecedented levels.
Faced with growing unpopularity during the transitional period leading to democratic rule, governments have failed to maintain the rule of law. Indeed, in some cases, they fomented social and political unrest, either to avoid further unpopularity or because they felt that this would be one of the ways in which to undermine the credibility and popularity of the opposition. Most African governments, in their zeal to buy political support, overprinted money without the authorisation of the central banks, contrary to defined monetary and fiscal policies and in direct contradiction with existing structural adjustment programmes agreed to with donor institutions and governments. Available resources were diverted away from genuine needs such as health care and education, export support and promotion and from other productive activities of the economy to buying political patronage and blackmailing opposition groups.
During this period of uncertainty, when African autocrats were not sure of their future, a lot of damage was done to the economic and social structures in most countries undergoing democratic change and this has been inherited by the new democratic regimes. In cases where the process of democratic reform took a long time, the damage to the economy and. therefore, to the welfare of the people has been considerable. In short, the economic and social development of these countries has been set back by several decades. In the meantime, foreign investment, both from governments and from other institutions, including private investment, has dried up or remains frozen. Thus, it is now at levels well below those that prevailed during autocratic rule and during the transitional period, and it shows no signs of improving in the foreseeable future. Earnings from commodities, the major source of foreign exchange for most African countries, are at their lowest ever levels as commodity prices plummet and remain depressed. Efforts to renegotiate commodity agreements to boost prices have been frustrated by the reluctance of the governments of developed countries to accept agreements with economic clauses. The problems of indebtedness continue to haunt the new regimes. More conditions are being attached to aid, while stringent and unpopular structural adjustment programmes remain fully in force. Economic and social ruin arising from mismanagement by autocratic regimes thrown out by 'people power' through the ballot box has now become the responsibility of the newly elected democratic regimes.
The new governments, faced with this cruel dilemma and constrained by the inadequacy of resources at their disposal, have now become as unpopular as their predecessors. The success of democracy in Africa will, therefore, depend in large measure on international developments and on the ability of the new democracies to keep the promises that they have made to their electorates. Advocates of democratic reform in Africa (western governments, international financial institutions and pressure groups) must ensure that these fledgling democracies are successful so that they can be cited as examples worthy of emulation for other countries intending to embark on democratic reform. Otherwise, Africa will witness a return, either to autocratic, repressive and corrupt regimes or to military rule. However, to the extent that democracy has brought greater awareness about the rights of the individual and assuming continued external support for change, democratic regimes will survive. P.G.
by Josep Enrique PONS-GRAU
Over the last few years the world has witnessed a series of democratic developments in developing countries, particularly on the African continent.
It already seems to have become a cliche to refer to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the consequent end of the Cold War when attempting to account for these new processes. Realpolitik was an accomplice to dictatorships, corruption and the sale of weapons of mass destruction; in short, it turned a blind eye to human rights violations worldwide.
Most international forums have seen the opening of a political debate on democracy, human rights and development. In some of those forums, however, the traditional rather hypocritical and misleading arguments persist. Some countries, too, particularly the traditional donors in the industrialized North, have been two-faced in their utterances while pretending to harbour only the best of intentions. At all events, there is a strand of public opinion in the donor countries which seeks to justify their traditional lack of interest in a genuine development cooperation policy by invoking the defence of human rights. This is a dangerous time for countries receiving aid, now that the onus has shifted from covering up a threadbare cooperation policy to justifying it under the much more progressive guise of defending human rights.
At the present stage of international economic and political relations, the capital markets are aware that a higher and faster rate of profitability can be achieved more easily if trade flows shift to countries in the eastern part of Europe, which has in fact been transformed into a political and economic South.
On the other hand, many well-intentioned people in northern countries are genuinely sick and tired of the fact that aid funded from their taxes fails to bear fruit in the beneficiary countries and that it serves in many to prop up dictatorships that are economically ostentatious and politically bloody. In the worst cases, which are all too common, a large percentage of the finance provided is paid into bank accounts in the traditional tax havens, leading to a drain on the hard currency which is so necessary in the beneficiary countries.
Moreover, we are now seeing a change in attitudes in many of the traditional donor countries, where the feeling of guilt which used to motivate people to make penance for the past is in the process of disappearing. Equally, while it is generally agreed that there is no more fertile breeding ground for dictatorships than poverty, this cannot be taken as a permanent excuse for failure to respect human rights. No political leader today can continue to see himself as the owner of his people's sufferings and exploit them to block human development.
Quite apart from the above reasons and opinions, which are justified to differing extents, one thing is clear; the system of development cooperation and all its political and economic offshoots as they have developed hitherto have not been equal to the task of meeting the needs of the poor, and positive results- apart from a number of isolated cases- are notable by their absence. There needs to be a change of direction in commercial, cultural and political relations. There is a vital need for determined action from within the beneficiary countries to avoid a situation in which others impose reform from outside. This explains why-to venture a little optimism-we have recently witnessed a number of democratic changes in developing countries. Clearly, the right of each country to carry out the necessary changes in accordance with its culture, tradition and individual character is a principle which must be defended through thick and thin. In other words, we must abandon the universalising model of democracy and, of course, the Eurocentric and ethnocentric variant thereof. We therefore advocate an anthropological dimension to democracy not rooted solely in an economic model.
We cannot use talk of good governance, the rule of law and corruption as an excuse for abandoning cooperation with needy countries. We cannot speak of democracy in African countries while the institutions set up under the Bretton Woods agreement impose certain measures on governments as a sine qua non for economic recovery. These economic conditions are diametrically opposed to the basic needs of the economies of African countries.
The challenge for the 1990s and forthcoming decades will be to reconcile modernity with tradition, but a bridge must be created if the solutions of the 21 st century are to be correctly applied to 10th century problems.
Deepening the Treaty of Maastricht
The Community institutions (Parliament, the Commission, the Council and the Economic and Social Committee) have definite views on the issue of democracy and human rights. Admittedly, a number of questions which will play an important role when it comes to applying corrective measures-'who, how and when' - have yet to be considered in detail. At all events, it seems to us that Community policy could be more coherent and determined than has been the case hitherto with some of the main bilateral policies in this cooperation field. The disparity between bilateral and Community policy is evidence of incoherence and political short-sightedness, and it does not escape the notice of European citizens that their governments are motivated by utterly outdated geopolitical or strategic interests.
Maastricht must serve as a point of departure for a genuine common foreign and security policy including development cooperation issues. If fundamental divergences between the two policy areas persist, not only in the field of development cooperation but also in that of human rights and democracy, we shall continue to fuel contradictions and encourage the rise of tyrannical dictatorships.
The principle of subsidiarily cannot be interpreted in such a way that Brussels is responsible for implementing impossible or unpopular policies (negative or restrictive measures in the field of cooperation) while the Twelve pursue the policies which best suit their currencies, banks, stock markets or enterprises. This is the great challenge with which the 1996 Intergovernmental Conference will present us.
We must, furthermore, deepen dialogue between the countries of the North and the South in order to change many of the outdated ideas underlying an antiquated system of international law. Certain components of a new system of international law, such as the right to peaceful and democratic intervention, must be examined in detail to enable the democratic concerns of North and South alike to circulate freely beyond the frontiers of each.
The new hopes for democracy and human rights which have been emerging recently must be reflected in political agreements and commitments of a new type, based on the revision and reformulation of agreements derived from the colonial past. Third-generation agreements containing clear specifications on human rights cannot co-exist within the European Community with first-generation agreements which take an ambiguous stance on the issue and which date back beyond the Berlin Wall era.
Whilst the European Community cannot fight the good fight on its own, it can and must make itself heard with a single voice in other organisations, particularly the UN. This represents a new challenge to innovate, reform and improve existing structures to enable them to adapt to the prodigious economic, social and cultural changes which have taken place in other continents. Solidarity cannot continue to operate in one direction only; many other countries which have been neglected hitherto are knocking at our doors.
We must lay the foundations for and continue to stress the need for genuine worldwide economic democracy. Let us start by condemning any element of obligation in the allocation of the economic roles hitherto imposed on each country or group of countries. We must champion the implementation of genuinely cohesive regional policies. How long will international economic and monetary institutions continue to determine the economic policy of sovereign countries without taking into account either their views or their interests?
We must continue to stress the need to establish a cultural democracy which will oppose cultural norms and standards foreign to the development of the countries concerned. Cultural and religious extremism cannot be viewed as offering hope to betrayed and manipulated peoples.
We would stress that political democracy, which must embrace the characteristics peculiar to each people or region, must be based on scrupulous respect for the rule of law. We know that while it is difficult to define democracy, it is easy to prostitute it. Democracy exists when the inhabitants of the country concerned experience it day-by-day and minute by minute.
In order to achieve these three forms of democracy, in the economic, cultural and political spheres, far-reaching reform of existing international institutions will be required, from the most universal-such as the United Nations-to the most specific-such as these derived from the Lomonvention. This is the challenge facing the European Community. Its achievements will determine in no small measure the name and role which it decides to give itself. J.E.P.-G.
by Bernard PETIT
The African scene is dominated by two powerful ideas-the transition to democracy and the notion that economic reforms must be undertaken or pursued.
Economic reform, which began to be put into effect and attract support from external funders in the early 1980s, is a sine qua non of a return to growth in most of the countries concerned. Yet since deficits have to be reduced and imbalances righted, reform means bringing in measures to shrink demand, which may, and usually do, entail high social costs.
Human rights and democratisation, the vital underpinning of lasting, sustainable development, are changing African societies and plunging the continent into a new phase in its history.
These parallel trends are welcome, of course, but it must also be realised that running economic and political reform simultaneously poses difficult problems and is one of the major challenges for the African States and their external partners in the world today.
Why a challenge?
Because the opening to democracy has of course aroused enthusiasm among people who, in many cases, have been oppressed by authoritarian regimes, but also aroused great economic expectations. The 'forces in society' clearly expect a democratic process to make visible and rapid changes to their state of economic wellbeing.
But democracy itself does not bring growth. That should be the job of the structural adjustment process. Unfortunately, however, structural adjustment, with its trail of hardship and austerity and its slow-acting effects on growth, is ill suited to meeting the immediate expectations born in the transition to democracy, for there may well be a negative correlation between democratisation and economic reform programmes, in the short term at least.
Experience seems to suggest that, when it comes to enforcing programmes of reform, authoritarian regimes have more means of coercion available to them than democratic ones, which have to engage in dialogue with the other forces at work in the economy and society and cope with a free press, the right to demonstrate, the right to strike and so on.
The best-known example here is of course the Chilean 'success story', or the unadulterated form of adjustment devised by the economists of the Chicago school (who were unencumbered by either social claims or pressure groups), and which had such impressive results in terms of growth under the Pinochet regime-although those who were poor before Pinochet were still poor afterwards.
In fact, the dialogue which starts up under a democratic system-and it is absolutely vital that that dialogue should take place-is the very essence of what is usually termed the internalisation of programmes of reform.
But if this dialogue coincides with what can easily be a fragile process of democratisation, it is bound to mean some degree of adaptation (particularly in terms of taking reform measures in stages and the need to take maximum account of their economic and social effects), which will take the country out of its adjustment process for a time or at least prevent it from fully meeting the performance criteria agreed on with its external partners.
In situations of this kind, its partners, and the Bretton Woods Institutions especially, tend to suspend or completely withdraw their financial support.
The State in question, now without the financing it needs to carry out the agreed reforms, sees arrears piling up and deficits mounting and ultimately abandons the structural adjustment programme, thus opening the way to inexorable economic decline, general discontent in society when expectations are no longer met and a serious threat to the stability and democratic viability of the State. This is an open door for the return of the authoritarian system and the countless excesses it brings with it.
This disaster scenario may be something of a caricature, but there are signs, here and there, of the transition to democracy losing ground or grinding to a halt altogether as the economic situation in the countries in question declines. ln a democratisation process, there is a very fine line between the need to run growth-generating economic reforms and the demands which express the legitimate aspirations of the people.
Governments must, in fact, constantly adapt to the economic logic of structural adjustment programmes and the political logic of democratisation processes and reconcile the demands of their constituencies at home (the voters) with the demands of their constituencies abroad (the funders) .
A democratic approach should of course not be an excuse for displaying a high degree of economic laxity or allowing a government team to 'buy' its support or legitimacy with the wholesale granting of each and every exaggerated corporate or other claim, often from urban social groups and leading to demagogic policies which reject the reforms of substance that would reverse economic decline.
At the same time, however, it would be wrong for beneficiary States' external partners to ignore this democratic dimension, a feature of which should be that it prompts the international donor community to be more pragmatic and display more political sense, particularly when it comes to the rate and progressiveness of the projected reforms.
Above all, the democratic dimension should lead the Bretton Wood Institutions to seek a dialogue and look for systematic coordination with the State and the donor concerned, in order to see whether the mistakes and slippages which occur in implementing the reform actually threaten the economic viability of the structural adjustment process; before they somewhat mechanically withdraw financial support.
When the time is right, the Community will take the necessary steps to ensure that the donors involved maintain the continuity and coherence of the framework of support for the reforms under way in the States concerned.
The external partners of countries engaged in both a move to democracy and structural adjustment must be aware of the considerable danger and serious political responsibility involved in being excessively and sometimes unrealistically harsh in their perception of economic reform and thereby threatening a fragile democratic process and opening the door to the return of the previous regimes and all their excesses. B.P.
by Hans SMIDA
Development cooperation must promote democracy
The Community's support for the democratisation processes in Africa is a practical illustration of its determination to make the promotion of human rights and democracy one of the linchpins of its development cooperation policy.
This is the logical conclusion of recognising the fact that human rights and democratic principles are vital to fair, balanced and sustainable development. Statements, resolutions and conclusions produced by the various Community bodies over the past few years have highlighted the importance of this recognition and made it clear that the demands arising from it are one of the cornerstones of cooperation and of the Communtiy's relations with the developing countries.
It is indeed the importance of the link between human rights and participatory development focused on man himself that is behind the principles and objectives of the cooperation which the Community and the ACP States have agreed on in LomV (Article 5).
The idea that development cooperation policy should put more emphasis on human rights and democracy took practical shape in the Treaty on European Union signed in Maastricht, which makes one of the aims of Community policy in this field to develop and consolidate democracy and the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Council of Development Ministers' recent statement (18 November 1992) on aspects of development cooperation for the year 2000 brought further confirmation of this in asserting that the development programmes of Community and Member States alike had to pursue these aims.
Resolution of November 1991 and priority for the positive approach
The 28 November 1991 Resolution on human rights, democracy and development is of course still the reference text in the field, as it lays down specific policies, procedures and lines of action. It is also important because in it, for the first time, the Community and the Member States expressly recognise the need for a common, consistent approach in this area.
The November 1991 Resolution suggests giving high priority to a positive approach which will promote and encourage the establishment and strengthening of democracy in the developing nations, although it also makes it clear that the Community may react to any serious hiatus in the democratic process and even suspend cooperation if this is appropriate (as in the event of serious and persistent violations of human rights, obviously). The most important thing is therefore to set up and maintain an open, constructive dialogue with the governments of the developing nations. Practical steps should also be taken to provide active support for countries setting out on the path to democracy and, therefore, for their efforts to do such things as hold elections, create new, democratic institutions and consolidate the rule of law.
Another very important thing is for developing countries which are making positive, substantial changes on the democracy-human rights front to receive extra Community aid.
When governments and NGOs run proper schemes to promote democracy in the developing world, they must be given the right financial assistance by the Community - and that is why the November 1991 Resolution stresses the need for an increase in the resources earmaked for this to be envisaged, in so far as the general development budget will allow, so that the Community can support operations designed to encourage the democratic process (and promote human rights and good governance) in the developing countries.
Positive action-means and priorities
It is with this in mind that, in addition to the series of changes and improvements to the use of existing resources, a new heading to cover support for schemes to promote human rights and democracy in the developing world was included in the budget last year. There was ECU 10 million for this budget heading in 1992 (most of which, as will emerge below, went towards supporting the democratisation process in Africa) and there will be ECU 16 million in commitment appropriations in 1993.
Community support for positive schemes of this sort in the developing nations should also be entitled to draw on the general financial and technical cooperation funds (EDF, counterpart funds etc.) in addition to the resources under specific budget headings.
Combined, complementary use of these two types of financial instruments seems the proper course to take, particularly since the amounts available under the specific budget headings are often fairly limited.
The promotion of democratisation (and human rights) in the developing countries is one of the essential aims of our development aid policy, so we must go for a constructive and efficient approach, not just in specific and one-off schemes run with the various sources of financing available, but in the design and implementation of the Community's development cooperation projects and programmes.
As part of the positive approach, the Community intends to give preference to schemes which are basically essential to sustainable development. The key is for every operation to generate lasting effects when it comes to development and human rights and democracy.
In addition to the heavy priority given to strengthening the democratic bases of society, establishing a state based on the rule of law and encouraging good governance, special attention has also been paid to schemes to support the transition to democracy which has recently been and still is under way in a number of developing countries, especially in Africa.
In the short term, and because it received specific requests for help, the Community had no choice but to give support for the preparation and running of a whole series of elections, since it saw these formal political processes as the first practical expression of a desire for change and, therefore, as the first essential step towards more lasting democratic change.
Support for democratic processes
In 1992, then, the Commission decided to commit some ECU 6 million of the resources earmarked for support (through the provision of material and technical assistance and by means of prior or flanking measures) for human rights and democracy schemes in the developing countries, to help with the preparation, organisation or conduct of elections in a whole series of countries in sub-Saharan Africa (Angola, Madagascar, Senegal, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Lesotho, Guinea, Ghana, Namibia, Kenya, the CAR, Mozambique and others).
In some cases, it was also decided to finance this type of support scheme through the development cooperation funds-using about ECU 6.7 million from the EDF national indicative programmes and about ECU 3.5 million in counterpart funds-either in addition to the special budget heading already mentioned (Angola, Madagascar, Senegal, Lesotho etc.) or as the only source of financing (Togo, Mali, Gabon and Zaire).
These various election support schemes were of course undertaken in close coordination with the Member States and the main funders.
Although at this stage it is fairly difficult (and in some cases premature) to draw final conclusions as to the practical effect of each of these schemes, it is nonetheless important to realise that the Community contribution has had a fairly important part to play in most of the countries concerned.
Difficulties and the risk of backsliding
It is well known that the results of the drive to start the move to democracy in some African countries have not lived up to expectations, despite initial hopes, and that there have been serious hold-ups and even a risk of backsliding, with opposition parties questioning the honesty of the count, reports of massive irregularity and fraud, refusal to accept the outcome of the polls, persecution and suppression of opposition supporters, the use of force and fresh take-overs by leaders representing the old political and ethnically based structures, a return to armed confrontation and so on.
Events that have given cause for concern in Angola, Cameroon, Kenya, Ghana, Zaire and elsewhere reveal the scale of the difficulties which various African countries have to tackle if they are to make a successful start on a proper democratisation process.
Generally speaking, the conclusion is that there is more to it than voting. The count has to be honest, the results have to be accepted with a good grace and the majority has to respect the rights of the minority
A look at Angola, Cameroon and all other countries in the same situation should at least lead us to the conclusion that the future of the democratic process in Africa has less to do with what happens at the elections than with what agreements are put together afterwards and, most importantly, with the pre-existing balance of power.
This is a bitter lesson to learn, and an old one, but unless people actually learn it, it is likely to crop up again in other countries (the CAR or Mozambique, for example) where general elections are on the drawing board.
The difficulties and dangers of backsliding to be seen in various countries prove that, although the commitment to democracy which has taken hold of the continent of Africa over the past two or three years is by no means running out of steam, the path to democracy will be a far more tortuous one than was originally thought.
But there is an encouraging sign. The political consensus on the fundamental link between multi-party democracy, respect for human rights and development as a fair and sustainable process centred on the individual is gaining strength all the time.
The right conditions for democratisation and the role of the EEC
The Community knows that the political, economic and social structures on which democracy has to be based can only be set up gradually and sometimes fairly slowly, and it will have to look for the best way of achieving lasting results as quickly as possible while sustaining the African countries' drive to achieve this. So, as well as maintaining an active dialogue on these questions, the Community has to do its best to mobilise all its support, assistance and cooperation potential in the most consistent and effective way possible.
But it must also be aware of the fact that the success of a genuine process of democratisation has, above all, to be the result of moves made within the country concerned. Democracy cannot be imposed from the outside. Nor can it get a hold if it has no anchor in each country's domestic structures. It is up to the Africans, in fact, to shape their own history.
Although it is generally agreed that democracy, multi-party politics, respect for human rights, institutions which are part of a constitutional system, accountable governments appointed after regular, honest elections and an acknowledgement of the legitimate importance of the individual in society are basic conditions for sustained economic and social development, the African countries must still be free to choose the particular forms of political democracy which are best suited to their social and cultural structures.
When looking at ways of providing the proper support for the African countries' quest for the most suitable form of political democracy, the Community should be careful to be politically neutral and strictly non-partisan in its assistance, and it must take far greater care than it has so far to establish whether the processes of democratisation in certain countries are genuine ones or merely facades.
Just one of the things this means is that it has to beware of political changes which are mere window-dressing. It must avoid rubber-stamping the sort of situation which occurs when the leaders of some authoritarian regimes try to mislead the outside world or to counter international pressure by setting up pretences at parliamentary democracies, capitalising on the immaturity of the opposition and hanging on to the reins of power with the help of their former single parties.
Greater Community commitment called for
The Community should respect the principles and policies behind earlier developments, take every proper precaution and be even more determined than before in its continuing provision of every kind of support for the democratisation of the developing countries on the African continent.
This is the background against which the conclusions of the Development Council of 18 November 1992 must be viewed. These emphasised the need for the Community and the Member States to follow the guidelines of the November 1991 Resolution and devise strategies which give priority to positive action for the establishment of new democratic institutions, the strengthening of the rule of law and the promotion of greater popular involvement.
The recent Edinburgh Summit (December 1992) reiterated this determination in its conclusions on the situation in Africa, which made it clear that the Community and the Member States would continue to support the efforts which a number of African States are making to apply the principles of democracy, ensure the proper management of public affairs, respect human rights and apply sound economic policies.
One more demonstration of the need for the Community to step up its commitment is the European Parliament's major resolution (16 December) on the conclusions of the Edinburgh Summit, which calls on the Council to take its common policy of support for democratisation in various countries of Africa further and to pursue a firm common policy towards African countries where the human rights situation is cause for major concern. H.S.
Mali: The other side of the pattern
To many Africans, the first thing about the Malian model of democratisation is the determination and heroism shown by demonstrators who took their lives in their hands and managed to overthrow a dictatorship they could no longer stand.
The next thing they think of is the transition to democracy, carried through at the double and culminating in a smooth transfer of power to the election victor.
The Malian model does have that bright side. But it also has a darker side to it, one where demands of every kind are being made against a backdrop of economic crisis.
This is the side which The Courier shows in the analyses which follow, by two leading observers of Mali's political scene-Gaoussou Drabo, head of the Agence Malienne de Presse et Publicite, and Souleymane Drabo, Editor of l'Essor. A. T.
by Gaoussou DRABO
As time goes by and what are often short-lived attempts at democracy come and go, Mali's transition to democracy looks more and more remarkable. At 15 months, it was the shortest a changing Africa has seen and that record seems unlikely to be beaten. And it was the least stormy of changeovers, with its legitimacy virtually unthreatened and its sights never reset, leaving a far less explosive political legacy than Benin before it or Congo afterwards. Lastly, notwithstanding the obstacles and pitfalls which beset it, it could almost stand as a model of its kind.
Its progress could have been complicated by a National Conference whose only point, after the toppling of the Moussa Traoregime, was a farreaching catharsis. It could have been diverted from its path by the continuing Tuareg rebellion heightening misunderstanding among the people of northern Mali. And it could have seen its basic ideal, that of a clean change-over to an elected government, put at risk by worsening political struggles. But, (it would be tempting to say) miraculously, the transition in Mali went through without tension degenerating into breakdown and its internal contradictions were resolved with relative ease.
The relative smoothness of the transition to democracy may have been helped by factors which were specifically Malian, starting with the origins of the process.
In contrast with other democratic processes, ongoing or complete, on our continent, transition in Mali was not the outcome of a hard-won compromise between antagonistic political forces. It emerged from a revolution which toppled the old order. The term 'revolution' here means a sudden, radical and largely forward-looking change and is wellsuited to the combined action of four forces which came together from 22 to 26 March 1991. These were the democratic associations which were the first to develop alternative political thinking through the rallies and marches they held to demand the democratisation of the system; the school and university student movement whose marches and barricades triggered the insurrection of 22 March; the only trade union confederation of the time, the National Union of Workers, which joined forces with the two first-named organisations on 23 March and bolstered their action by calling an indefinite strike; and the army, which put an end to autocratic rule by carrying out a coup d'etat during the night of 25-26 March.
Once under way, the process of political renewal in Mali managed to avoid the cohabitation between the representatives of the old order and partisans of change which always spells conflict, and was spared the inevitable quarrels over the legitimacy and ranking order of institutions (the presidency of the Republic, the legislature and the government) headed by people with ideologically divergent viewpoints.
Another special feature of the transition was the way the army adapted to the ways of a republic. It had been involved in the bloody repression unleashed by the Moussa Traoregime, won back some respectability by carrying out the coup d'etat, but failed to neutralise all the feeling against it and so had to rehabilitate itself. It therefore practised strict political neutrality (other than for Commander Lamine Diabira's putsch on 16 July 1992), although it was a soldier, Lieutenant-Colonel Amadou Toumani Toure, who guided Mali through the whole delicate period of transition.
A third feature of the transition was that it neutralised the political ambitions of its leaders, for the basic Act promulgated on 30 March banned every member of the Committee of Transition for the Salvation of the People (the lawmaking body) and the government from running for office in the first Government of the Third Republic.
The advantage of this was that it guaranteed that the transition authorities kept the same distance between them and all the various competing parties and prevented State machinery being used for electioneering purposes. There were slips from grace, of course, but there would have been far more of them if the people in power during the transition had been able to stand in the elections.
The final great asset of the transition was that the different institutions did not pull in opposite directions. The March revolution did of course remove the opportunities for ideological dissent between decision-making centres, but it nonetheless set up a dual system at the head of the State, where a legislative body (the Committee of Transition for the Salvation of the People-CTSP) and a conventional executive, the Government, worked together, the former as the inspiration and moral tutor of the latter, which was itself jealous of its independence of action. There could well have been friction if Amadou Toumani Toure had not worn two hats, that of Chairman of the Committee of Transition and that of Head of the Government, a diffficult combination which forced him to display uncommon tact in handling the two institutions and certainly made it possible to avoid conflicts of authority.
So the transition in Mali enjoyed considerables advantages over its equivalents elsewhere in Africa, and it made the most of them along its path to what was a generally positive record on political, economic and social affairs and the thorny question of the rebellion in northern Mali.
Politically speaking, there were two major tasks facing the transition process -holding the National Conference and organising Mali's first multi-party elections. The national conference was of course one of the opposition's main demands under Moussa Traor regime. Political groups saw it as a forum in which to make objective preparations for the transition which was bound to happen, but the single party, the Democratic Union of the Malian People, did its best to reserve the question of opening up the political arena to its own ordinary congress, which should have started on 29 March 1991.
The toppling of Moussa Traorhould rightly have done away with the need to hold the National Conference, since the basic law promulgated on 30 March 1991 met all the democratic demands which had been made, in particular by setting up a full multi-party system. But the new authorities preferred to go ahead with the Conference. They confined it to adopting the draft of the new Constitution, the new electoral code and the party charter, but, under pressure from public opinion, they added to the agenda a discussion of a report on the state of the nation briefly summarising the management record of the former regime.
But even with this clear signposting to lead the Conference away from pointless discussions that would go on for ever, there was still a risk of matters getting out of hand. Many political parties which had just been set up, and were unsure who their followers were, wanted to use the Conference to win some institutional legitimacy for themselves and get onto the CTSP, which was to become a sort of provisional parliament. And the school and university students association, which had sustained very heavy losses, turned some of the sub-committees into people's courts in which the army was among those put on trial.
But thanks to the firmness of Lieutenant-Colonel Amadou Toumani Toure, who was elected President of the Conference, they failed to raise the stakes and, after looking as though it was spreading its net far too wide, the meeting once more focused on its main objectives and -unusually for this type of gathering- got through its agenda within the prescribed time (two weeks). On the last day, it recorded the Malian people's army's official apologies for its part in putting down the demonstrations in March, a gesture which did a lot for the reputation of a body of men who had come to symbolise the 23 years of Moussa Traor regime.
Barely was the National Conference over than there were the elections to prepare-no mean challenge with the coffers resoundingly empty and the administrative system paralysed by all the pretences at consultation set in motion under the single party. There was a neverending trail of new political parties, most of them not conspicuous for their credibility, although three clearly stood out from the rest. Two them had originated in associations which had come to prominence between December 1990 and March 1991-the ADEMA-PAS (African Party for Solidarity and Justice), which emerged from the Alliance for Democracy in Mali (ADEMA), and the CNID-FYT (Faso Yriwa Ton), which emerged from the National Congress Democratic Initiative (CNID).
The third leading party had been seen before. It was the Sudanese Union-RDA (the single party until the military took power), which had reactivated its party organisation but was soon faced with a leadership struggle which, broadly speaking, revived the old radical-moderate confrontation which had been a feature of the party's history in the past. The exacerbation of internal dissent eventually caused the US-RDA to split down the middle (and each faction to put up its own candidate in the presidential elections), with Baba Akhib Haidara as spokesman of the orthodox group and Tieoule Konate running for the liberals.
Other parties still managed to find a niche for themselves around the three big contenders, as is clear from the results of the local government, parliamentary and presidential elections. They were the Sudanese Progressive Party (PSP), the RDA's main rival in the pre-independence era, the Party for Democracy and Progress (PDP), set up by Idrissa Traorthe Leader of the Order of Barristers, the Assembly for Democracy and Progress (RDP), set up by former international civil servant Almany Sylla, the Union of Democratic Forces (UFD), the party of lawyer Demba Diallo, a prominent figure in the events of March 1991, the Union for the Defence of Democracy (UDD), which was handicapped by having among its members people tainted by association with the old regime, and the Assembly for Democracy and Work (RDT), led by former top civil servant Amadou Niangado.
Alongside these parties with a national following, there were three parties which decided to stake everything on targeting regional audiences and were able to get themselves voted onto local government bodies and win parliamentary seats. Dr Sanogo's Malian Development Party (PMD) won five seats in Sikasso, for example, and the Union of Forces for Democracy and Progress (UFDP), set up by Colonel Youssouf Traorformer member of the Military Committee of National Liberation, targeted San, won the parliamentary seat and gained an overwhelming majority on the city council in the local capital. Finally, the Malian Union for Democracy and Development (UMADD) concentrated on Menaka (in northern Mali) where it got its only representative elected.
The various elections confirmed the fact that the sudden appearance of the multi-party system and the shortness of the transition period meant that the political parties had not had time to cover the whole country effectively. The relatively meagre funds available did not make up for the flimsiness of local facilities and the parties had to make do with what little there was to get their message across.
ADEMA-PAS did best in the elections, winning 214 local government seats out of 751, 77 of the 117 seats in the present National Assembly and the Presidency of the Republic. The Bee Party (as it is called after its emblem) began by relying on a network of volunteers, mainly teachers, and then, to back them up, fielded opinion leaders and local personalities from the old regime who still had influence and whose prestige had not suffered in the eyes of the native populations.
But, dynamic though it was, ADEMA-PAS only won over a small fringe of the rural population and, since its rivals did less well, the transition went ahead with an election turnout that many people found disastrous when measured against the challenge of democratising the political life of the nation. Such criticism is understandable. The elections, in which the local government electorates are fairly concentrated, attracted only 32. 1% of the 800 000 registered voters and the turnout for the general election was still lower-22.38% in the first round and 22.31% in the second. It was hoped that the presidential election, where individual personalities counted for a lot, would see an improvement on these figures, but the first round brought out 23.56% of voters and the second only 20.87%.
The figures should probably be revised upwards, however, as the census was done hastily by young, unemployed graduates who were unfamiliar with the procedure and, specialists claim, the numbers on the electoral registers were inflated. Keeping them up to date had never been a priority of the single party system, of course, when it was standard practice to fiddle the votes.
It had been intended that the transition process in Mali should be seen as a model for others, and the low turnout tarnished that image. With hindsight, this was inevitable. Organisationally speaking, there were bound to be problems, despite all the efforts made, when cumbersome administrative machinery, logistically under-equipped and not practised in meeting the demands of multi-party elections, had to be coaxed into top gear in only six months.
The practical difficulties faced by the civil service impacted especially harshly on newly formed parties with rather modest administrative back-up. Voters were half-hearted after all the electioneering charades staged by the single party, they were only faintly interested in politics and clearly felt that the political parties were short on respectability. Calling in local opinion leaders to revive the flagging interest of the man in the street was only a solution in a limited geographical area and did nothing to solve the problems of identification faced by politicians most of whom were unknown to the public at large.
Where issues of society were concerned, the extraordinary upheaval which took place during the transition failed to bring about the standard of results anticipated. It would have been reasonable to expect organised civil associations to have emerged to provide credible front-men and act as a counterweight to the power of the State and the influence of the parties. But the anarchic way in which these associations burgeoned was a sign not so much of vitality as of a fragmentation of the forces in society, and all the special-interest groups (particularly those set up by jobless recent graduates and lawyers) which emerged during the closing months of the transition were signs of a basic corporatism at work rather than of a lasting stand being taken in the social arena. But despite being rudimentary and going too far, these forces at least had the merit of saying what they thought, in complete contrast with the inertia in social matters typical of the old regime.
Economically, the transition started with a clear handicap. The country's already difficult situation had been further worsened by the battering which the economic apparatus took in the events of January and March 1991, which caused damage estimated by the Soumana Sako Government at more than CFAF 30 billion. The Treasury lost 14% of its potential revenue, industrial production dwindled, GNP declined and budget deficits grew. On 29 April 1991, the Transitional Government started on a plan of action to rehabilitate the country's productive fabric and rescue the administrative and economic apparatus.
Special tax and customs regulations were set up for the private sector, which needed support for its self-financed recovery drive. The authorities also went further in removing controls on prices and marketing and with measures to improve and simplify the regulatory framework. All price controls (other than on hydrocarbons) were removed.
The adjustment campaign continued with an interim programme produced with the agreement of the IMF, and Mali's development partners commended the authorities' determination to press on with the economic reform programme and redress the basic balance.
Budget aid in 1991 was CFAF 41 billion, CFAF 22.9 billion of it in grants and CFAF 18.1 billion in loans. The financing received under investment schemes brought external assistance to Mali during the transition up to just over CFAF 105 billion.
Prime Minister Soumana Sako had every right to be proud when he submitted his Government's resignation on 5 April. GDP had gone up by 5.6% in 1991, which, allowing for 1.7% inflation, was a real increase of 3.9%. This, Sako maintained, was thanks to very good recovery in the primary and tertiary sectors and to a drive to rebuild incapacitated industrial units and get them working again.
On the public finance front, the Prime Minister said, the budget deficit had been held at 11.1% of GDP, as against the 13.3% predicted in the programme, and the deficit on current transactions, excluding grants, was 13.3% of GDP, as against a predicted 16%. Overall, the report by the Head of the Transitional Government suggested, there was a large balance of payments surplus-CFAF 38 billion in 1991, as against CFAF 11.6 billion in the previous year - although Soumana Sako did admit that the exceptionally large amounts of external aid went a long way to explaining this performance.
The Third Republic authorities have never openly contested the picture which Soumana Sako painted, but they have hinted that it was an unlikely one several times since the Treasury affair, as they call it in Bamako, came to light. The facts emerged in June 1992, when a World Bank-IMF mission went to Bamako to finalise documents for the signing of an augmented structural adjustment facility for Mali and a letter of intent from Bamako to the IMF.
What should have been a routine procedure turned up two irregularities in the statement of the financial position as it was presented: unexplained extraordinary expenditure of CFAF 8.5 billion and a CFAF 5.5 billion hole in public revenue.
Although an explanation for the extraordinary spending was soon found (it had gone on reconstruction operations, election organisation and a series of major works), the hole remained a problem, but investigators traced it to the Treasury departments and embezzlement involving unsupported cheques and misuse of public monies.
In fact, the enquiry into the Treasury affair had begun during the transition and the investigation had concluded just before President Alpha Oumar Konaras sworn in. But saying so did not stop political sniping breaking out over the affair or prevent a shadow falling over the economic record of the transition.
The Tuareg issue turned out to be far more important during the transition than was originally suspected. The new authorities thought they would get themselves well on the way to a negotiated solution by including representatives of the Azawad Arab Islamic Front (FIAA) and the Azawad People's Movement (MPA) in the CTSP, but persistent attacks forced the transition authorities to embark upon a laborious process of dialogue with the armed movements, with help from Algeria, which was sheltering one of the movements on its territory.
It all ended in Bamako on 11 April 1992, when the Malian Government and the Azawad United Fronts and Movements (MEUA) signed the National Pact, an agreement featuring a ceasefire, the Malian Army's withdrawal from the north. the formation of an independent commission of enquiry, the return and resettlement of displaced Tuareg populations, the integration of rebel fighters into the regular armed forces and the establishment of a decentralised system of administration in northern Mali.
The general public were highly unenthusiastic about the National Pact as originally drafted, as people were convinced that over-generous concessions had been made by the authorities. The Songhay and Peul majorities in the North also received it badly, believing that the way the negotiations had been conducted had been to their disadvantage. None of these reservations was ever expressed in public, however, and there was an unspoken national consensus that the priority should be to re-establish peace. But the Pact was put under severe strain in July and August 1992, when the army withdrew too soon, leading to renewed attacks by armed bandits, and a faction of the Azawad People's Liberation Front led by the dissident Rhissa Ag Mohamed. Troops were redeployed and the MFUA became more involved in maintaining security, so that things were quiet again by the end of 1992.
All in all, the Transition, as regards the spirit behind it, was a privileged period in the history of modern Mali. It came after a period of autocracy during which political, social and intellectual life had deteriorated, and it released energy in what was often a disorganised way. It can also claim credit for having laid the foundations of a democratic Mali. But what gave it strength also led to its weaknesses. It started like a bullet from a gun, but soon ran up against the con" straints created by the deliberate choice that it should be short, and it did not change the underlying situation as profoundly as its roots in revolution had led people to hope it would. G.D.
by Souleymane DRABO
In Africa, democracy does not have the reassuring tick of a Swiss watch. In Mali, it is more like a time bomb, with the repeat button switched on. Defuse one potentially explosive situation and you could well set off another, creating an even bigger risk of social upheavel elsewhere. There are so many fires raging at the same time that the Government does not know if it should be bomb disposal expert or fireman. And it forgets to govern.
New democracy in the tropics catalyses all the frustrations built up over the years, brings them to the surface and forces them, as priorities, on the new authorities. How could it be otherwise when freedom of speech and freedom of action are being thrust upon some of the world's poorest countries, where the poverty of the vast majority is being aggravated by structural adjustment programmes which, whatever the reasons for imposing them may have been, may well do wonders for public finance but have predominantly bad effects on the everyday life of the man in the street?
Bamako goes from one march, one stoppage and one demonstration to the next. School strikes have become part of everyday life. The jobless march for bank loans and the opposition parties march for a fairer allocation of television time. Taxi-drivers attack a private radio station when they feel they have been insulted, cars are set alight by swindled members of a share scheme, and tradesmen and other economic operators down tools to force the Government to accept their demands. Even the army stops work to press its pay claims. And there is more. There is something for every taste, every cause and every class of society.
Catharsis and all the excesses that go with it seem unavoidable after years of dictatorship, but a country so badly run down cannot afford to let it last. The outside observer has the impression of a boiler perpetually about to explode. There is nothing to reassure or attract potential funders and investors, although the Government is courting them nonetheless.
Although Mali has been successful in its official transition to a democratic state, it is still a fine testing ground for all the tensions pulling the fabric of society this way and that, for all the currents and conflicting interests and for all the fires smouldering over an Africa on the road to democracy. And it is first-class terrain on which to observe the challenges awaiting new regimes when they are elected, the delicate balancing-act which governing entails in a situation of this sort and the dangers stalking all these countries forever on a knife's edge.
Here, the aftermath of bad management and the constraints of structural adjustment programmes create tension in every sensitive area of society. Youngsters, first of all, 3.5million of them (with a working population of 3.8 million and 45% of the total population under 15), find it difficult to get a place at school and even more difficult to get a job. School attendance is no more than 30% and 75% drop out of their basic education-a problem area in that it caters for 94% of school attenders and gets barely 50% of the funding, most of which it has to spend on staff.
The Government of the Third Republic and the funders have agreed to concentrate on basic education. However, Mali's Association of Pupils and Students (AEEM), the all-powerful organisation which was decisive in bringing down Moussa Traorn 1991, has a different approach altogether, not just in theory, but in action too, for only five of the points in its 26-point Memorandum have any direct bearing on basic education.
Pressure from the Association is such that more than a third of the 1993 education budget (CFAF 14.6 billion) is going into grants for secondary and higher study, which means that 6-7% of the students are getting nearly 35% of the money. This spells danger for the future, but the Association does not seem to care. If the 1992-93 academic year is still going through the upheavals which at one stage made it look as if there would be no teaching at all, it is because the schools have struck regularly in support of demands for smaller and smaller groups. The strikes in December and January, for example, which were strongly supported, were aimed at getting study grants for only a thousand high school pupils (out of a total school population of 400 000).
Fortunately for the State, other claimants are not being quite so active in putting the 'AII now at any price' slogan into practice. But pressure is still very strong and people sometimes take to the streets - notably the Association of Volunteer Pensioners and the Association of Retrenched Workers i. These names speak for themselves. Volunteer pensioners are the (virtually always consenting) victims of the civil service paring-down operations in which 4500 staff agreed to swap the safe but not very nourishing bosom of the State for a severance grant of between CFAF 1.7 and 4 million and go their own way. In practice, alas, there has often been no crock of gold at the end of the rainbow and the whole thing has ended in disaster.
But failure does not crush these volunteer pensioners. They have turned on the State with accusations of its failure to support them vis-is the banks, for the banks' opinion is that most of them are not creditworthy enough to qualify for loans for their projects (only 33 out of 800 loan applications have been approved). So tempers are rising and the volunteer pensioners are back on the streets, just as they were in December, besieging the Council of Ministers although they have been unable to halt the retirement programme which, if what the Finance Minister said at the 1993 budget vote is anything to go by, means 2300 more job losses.
The retrenched workers are less vociferous, yet they too have their problems. These are the people, more than 3000 of them, who were laid off when public firms closed down and State companies went private and they are now seeking either the redundancy benefits (which have been divided up 'scientifically' to give them a theoretical guarantee of re-assignment) or another job.
This second possibility, another job, is a matter of complete chance with the public sector on a drastic diet and the private sector slow to take over because there are no viable markets, businessmen, capital or anything else. The pool of labour, swollen with the retrenched and the pensioned-off and each year's batch of school leavers, is impossible to reduce. More than half the 12000 job-seekers registered in 1991 were between 20 and 30 years of age and 37% held at least a school-leaving certificate. baccalaureate. At the same time, the job supply was 36% down on the previous year and only 8% of the applicants were placed. It is true that 1991 was a disastrous year for the Malian economy, but the Labour Office itself, which analyses fluctuations in this sector, admits that the imbalance in supply and demand on the labour market is a persistent phenomenon.
Things could decline further if the private sector does not take off soon. But there is an obvious malaise here too. Economic operators, hit by the events of March 1991 (directly through sacking and looting and indirectly through lost trade), have also jumped on the bandwagon of public sector orders. They have been tainted by a massive scandal over funds misappropriated from the treasury, the banks are put off by their unfortunate experiences and view them with mistrust, and they are awaiting a recovery which is slow in coming.
They too blame the State which, they claim, has not taken the proper steps to ensure recovery in line with the recommendations made by the nation's businessmen at a so called 'round table' of trade and industry.
Although the two parties seemed to diverge widely on some issues (how many measures to apply-the Chamber of Commerce said 66 and the Government 45. for example. and how much to pay in damages to looted businesses-21 billion on one side and 10 billion on the other), agreement still seemed to be in prospect, because the authorities had made a big effort on many other fronts, with such things as tax and bank arrears and fiscal and tariff reforms. So when the economic operators announced a 72-hour strike for 28 December, it seemed not so much a genuine threat as a way of extracting more concessions from the Government. But the stakes rose and a curious 'tradesmen's strike' did in fact take place, although only for 24 hours, because the organisers carefully called a halt to the action-without getting anything from the Government.
The Third Republic authorities have been forced to put up more firebreaks and keep a watchful eye on the fever mounting in every class of society. The army, now the great unknown quantity in Africa's emergent democracies, needs particular attention. Organised, equipped and coddled by authoritarian or just plain military regimes, it is finding its feet in the new social and political context of the continent. And not without trouble either, as in Zaire and Togo, or tension, as in Congo or Niger. Local details vary widely, but the basic problem is always the same-what to do with an army used to privilege and with a habit of heavily influencing if not taking a direct hand in the management of public affairs.
In Mali, the army is a problem, but there is one very unusual thing about it- the fall of Moussa Traoras hastened by a military coup but actually brought about by a popular uprising. The army which arrested Moussa Traorn 25 March 1991 had previously fired on demonstrators, killing 106 and wounding 1000, official figures claim. The soldiers were feted as heroes for what putsch leader and transition head General Amadou Toumani Toure called 'finishing off' the work of the popular insurrection but they were also suspected of trying to capitalise on the situation, put themselves in a better light and take over.
The temptation was undeniably there, and, in July 1991, only four months after the transition began, there was an attempted coup d'etat. But in fact it was soon realised that the army's claims were far from being political. They were corporatist and came from the troops rather than the officers. In April 1991, soldiers from the ranks took to the streets to protest against badly equipped barracks and came into conflict with the students. From this emerged an influential group of NCOs and soldiers, which took part in the negotiations for better living conditions in the garrisons.
The army, which was aware of its disastrous image in the eyes of the public, and felt guilty about its part in putting down the demonstrations, officially made its apologies at the National Conference. This followed its open day operation, which was designed to woo the people by bringing them face to face with a poverty felt it bore a fair share. It was aimed at the media and backed up by the high authorities of the State, which, in the heat of the moment, granted a large pay rise to the ranks and launched a national barracks renovation programme.
All this helped calm things down, but it did not completely extinguish the fire kept burning by a never-ending rebellion in the north or quell the fear of heads rolling when the case of the killings in March 1991 got to court-which it did in June and again in November 1992.
On 3 rune, the Third Republic, which had inherited this problem, went for continuity and appeasement. It prepared for the court case by setting up legal 'crash-barriers' to tighten the circle of responsibility and put the blame on those who gave the orders rather than those who pulled the triggers. This put the troops and most of the officers out of danger and the prosecution could focus on the people responsible for the country's defence at the time. Once the field of investigation had been circumscribed in this way, it stood up successfully to any challenge mounted by the defendants' lawyers-who obviously had an interest in implicating other people in the demonstrators' deaths.
This relative success was not repeated in the handling of the rebellion. There, the army was taken by surprise when the Tuaregs rose up, since it underestimated the weapons and state of preparation of the enemy. Under-equipped and ill-prepared for fighting in the desert. it met defeat after defeat and many lives were lost.
The Tamanrasset agreements (January 1991) and, above all, the National Pact (April 1992) were supposed to briny peace, but they merely contrived to turn direct confrontation into insidious guerilla warfare and disguised crime. Disconcerted by an elusive enemy which clearly had plenty of help from the population, the army began reprisals which made feelings run far higher than the rebel attacks had done.
Torn between politicians calling for negotiations at all costs and the people calling for security also at all costs, the military was in an unenviable situation, with prestige dwindling and losses mounting. Some 10 months after the National Pact was signed, the cease-fire control system is beginning to be set up. The army, still champing at the bit, is forced by both law and political authority to cope with a rebellion which has broken up into many sub-movements. These, despite the Pact, do not always respect the law or political authority.
This 'more-war-than-peace' situation in the north is very much to blame for the latent tension in the army. And not always latent either. On 26 January. NCOs and troops downed tools in the barracks in support of a 32-claim memo focusing almost entirely on compensation for the families of soldiers who had lost their lives in the north and on hefter pay and social conditions. This action. intended to last 72 hours. was patchily supported and ground to a halt 24 hours later, following bargaining led by the Defence Ministry.
An unofficial source then announced that the bulk of the troops' claims were going to be met. a move which should be eased by the fact that the biggest chapter in the national budget for 1993. ahead of education and health. is defence. The defence department's CFAF 13.9 billion has risen to CFAF 16.6 billion, with even the MPs voting to add a further 200 million to the sum proposed by the Government. Officially, however, the object of the rise is not to better the soldier's lot. It is to 'improve the human and material resources of the defence and security services'. But morale among the troops must be kept high, so it is reasonable to assume that many of their claims will be met.
This could of course cause discontent in other quarters. because the Government is also bound by a social pact which tics it to the unions and provides for various pay rises. However. the structural ad adjustment programme provides for the aggregate wage to go down by about 2.5% of the 1992 figure. with a ceiling of CFAF 41 trillion. The Government thinks that juggling retirements will enable it to meet these two conflicting demands.
The daily round of the Government of Mali and the governments of many other countries of Africa is aptly encapsulated in the challenging task of reconciling the irreconcilable and making miracles an everyday event... and of course maintaining democracy without which the impossible really would be out of the question. S.D.
Malian TV has been showing a little educational piece at peak viewing times lately, urging all good citizens to pay their taxes. There is no question as to the actors talent, but it does seem reasonable to wonder about the efficiency of the campaign, given that bald exhortation pays off very rarely and in any case very few homes have TV sets. What people are asking now is when this insistent appeal to the citizen's civic sense is to be followed by more traditional means of coercing the recalcitrant tax-payer. For the State has no choice. Its coffers are empty. For many reasons, including embezzlement in the top echelons at the treasury, declining customs receipts and tax recovery problems, it was almost CFAF 8 billion short on the revenue side in 1992.
The Government has to shoulder some of the blame for the tax problem, at least, because of its rush to keep new President Alpha Konar election campaign promises and do away with the basic levy which was so unpopular in rural Mali. This tax, a legacy of the colonial period, brought the State some CFAF 3 billion annually, collecting it was always the opportunity for abuse and it has indeed been repealed... as from 1993. But how can the rural population, which is unused to such gifts but is now cashing the first dividends of change, be made to understand it has to pay one more time ? And how can tax officers, who may well have been called to account of late, be persuaded to redouble their efforts?
This is particularly difficult for them because they know that Malian peasants are feeling the pinch in early 1993. The cotton harvests, one of the only sources of foreign exchange, have been good, but the world price has collapsed. For the first time in years, CMDT, the Malian Textile Company, has been unable to pay the growers cash for their cotton fibre and has had to give out vouchers-which are exchanged, sometimes at half their face value, for goods from money-grabbing tradesmen.
The rice harvest was also good, but has sold badly and there are thousands of tonnes of it in Niger Office silos and rice-growers' barns awaiting customers who become more hypothetical as every day goes by. Here are the victims of the competition from the huge quantities of Asian broken rice which the Transition Government unwisely let in to amass customs duties to finance its policy.
So the CFAF 24.7 billion overall budget deficit not covered by grants or a moratorium on repayments has had to be revised upwards, which augurs ill for the improvements projected for this year. The State is on the brink of bankruptcy and everybody knows it except the Malians. It is for all the world as if they did not want to believe in the financial crisis or were convinced that the Government could always manage to get the money it needed from abroad. Malians have never made so many demands for material advantages before and there are apparently 3000 interest groups, which, fortunately for the Government, are not all out demonstrating in the streets (although they are not all as whimsical as the organisation which looks after the material and moral interests of... twins!).
The students and the civil servants, two of the prime movers in the collapse of the previous regime, got the Transition Government to make promises that the recently elected powers are finding very difficult to keep-and not just because money is short either. The new Government in fact told the IMF and the World Bank that it would keep the aggregate wage down to CFAF 42 billion in 1992, which it did, and to cut it to CFAF 41 billion this year, which will be more of a problem, particularly if voluntary retirements slow down as feared.
The study grants which are virtually wages for students in secondary and higher education cost CFAF 5.2 billion last year, CFAF 1 billion more than provided for in the structural adjustment programme, an effort which the students clearly find inadequate.
A shortage of resources also meant that last year's scheduled CFAF 1.2 billion civil service pay scale realignment on 1990 figures had to be dropped. But the most spectacular demonstration of anger in recent months was, perhaps surprisingly, not by the civil servants, but by the private sector (see also Souleymane Drabo's article). On 28 December, the economic operators - as the 23 477 people, many of them ordinary shop-holders, covered by the code of commerce are rather pompously called-triggered a 72-hour walk-out in support of a 66-point claim for tax and tariff reform, postponement or writing off of tax arrears, rescheduling of bank loans and economic rescue measures.
The tussle with the authorities only lasted 24 hours in the end, because the economic operators decided to stop what had in fact been fairly well-supported action. Many of their claims had in fact been met even before the dispute. On top of this, they engineered an end to the system of closing down firms which failed to pay their taxes and to the tax authorites' swoops on businesses.
Let us now take a look at the complaints of the private sector, which may have a decisive contribution to make to the success of the democratic process. It is generally agreed that it is on the economic field that the battle of democracy will be won or lost and the creation of a dynamic, enterprising private sector is at the heart of the economic strategy of every new democracy in Africa. State companies everywhere have proved to be inefficient and their structural adjustment programmes inevitably spell State withdrawal and economic liberalisation.
Mali's businesspeople lost a lot of money in March 1991, at the time of the riots which ultimately toppled the Moussa Traoregime. Factories were sacked and burnt down, shops were pillaged and stores were robbed-losses of an estimated CFAF 30 billion that the State does not have the means to pay for and the funders are unwilling or unable to cover. The deduction of arrears on tax penalties and the rescheduling of bank loans over 10 years and 1990/91 taxes over three years are two attempts at making up for the failure to pay compensation.
But what the economic operators want the State to do first is restore a climate of security conducive to good business by re-establishing its authority. They maintain that 'democracy has not been explained properly and Malians think it means freedom to do what they like, so they won't pay tax, they fiddle at the customs and they go on strike all the time'. They are very clear that 'liberty doesn't equal shambles' and deplore the fact that 'the fraud squad doesn't dare control fraud any more, because it would be beaten up and nobody would object'.
The new Government, it is often said, does not like the idea of using force and it is trying to dissociate itself from the muscular approach which led to the bloody repression of March 1991 under the old regime. The forces of order are carefully keeping a low profile, their newfound discretion an attempt to wipe out the memory of the part they played in the events of two years ago. Now they are unwilling to take any initiative for keeping order, as the Mayor of one Bamako district regretfully informed me, and they want written instructions from the civil authorities, if not their actual presence at the hot spot.
Security is nonetheless a genuine problem in Bamako today, and there have never been so many robberies. A large number of prisoners took advantage of the events of March 1991 to break out of prison-which may partly explain the reappearance of banditry. But denouncing mounting crime is one thing. Considering that exercising a basic right such as the right to demonstrate or strike helps weaken the State is quite another. Although the present leaders cannot safely allow the insecurity and anarchy which encourage the most uncontrolled behaviour to continue (and a day rarely breaks without the finding of two or three bodies, ostensibly those of thieves caught in the act and beaten to death by people never called to account for meting out this kind of rough justice), they have to be congratulated for their scrupulous respect for the freedoms guaranteed by the constitution.
The second big demand from the private sector in Mali is for the State to put an end to the widespread fraud which is throttling the economy, starting with the country's 30 or so processing industries. Over the past year, one of Bamako's biggest businessmen has stopped producing PVC pipes and his output of plastic bags and other articles is down to 10 % of capacity. Another has had to stop manufacturing insecticide because a similar product is available on the market at less than his cost price. The blame, of course, lies with the fraud at the customs when goods come in from Nigeria, where production costs have defied all competition since the currency collapsed. But the complainants are like the boy who cried wolf, because it is the businessmen themselves who are behind the fraud they are objecting to. The industrialists accuse the tradesmen of organising illicit imports to put them out of business and the tradesmen complain of unfair competition with industrialists flooding the market with the raw materials they need for their products without paying the customs duties.
They all belong to Mali's Chamber of Commerce and Industry. But instead of seeking the answer in that organisation, they have once again sent the ball back into the State's court and are querying the probity of customs and tax officers-as if they could hide the fact that there are no corrupt people without corrupters. The Government is not trying to duck responsibility for its departments either, for it is keenly rooting out the corruption which costs the public finances so much. But very little practical action has followed the verbal condemnation so far and the size and difficulty of the task, which reflection the extent of the social rot to he excised. no doubt have some thing to do with it, as does the failure of previous public moralising and anti-illicit wealth campaigns. But can a Government which wants to establish its difference on stringent, transparent management of public funds afford not to make the fight against fraud and corruption a major feature of its action programme? This is a major consideration now it has had its first scandal-in the Niger Office, a State company, which used grossly falsified bank papers in a CFAF 300 million rice deal with a notoriously shady tradesman. Although the ringleaders are in prison, there is no trace of the money from the rice, which was immediately sold for cash. What is worse is that it could happen again, which goes to show just what a state the administration is in. As the new Government team took over, evidence of breathtaking embezzlement was already found in high places at the treasury, when unscrupulous businessmen were paid large amounts of money in exchange for bouncing cheques or over-valued goods, with the connivance of senior officials. It cost the State CFAF 6.1 billion, of which barely CFAF 1.2 billion of an anticipated CFAF 2.7 billion have been recovered.
The Government is about to bring out a report on the state of the country when it took over and, of course, it will bring other skeletons out of the cupboard. At least, that is the theory of the top customs official, very involved with the previous regime, who says that there were 'levies' of 15-20% on public contracts worth tens of millions of CFA francs signed with individuals under the Transition, although the commission was in fact 5-7%.
Even if the Government does manage to do its share of the vital spring cleaning, can the private sector do the same, including in its management bodies? It is public knowledge that some of its leaders have things to reproach themselves for in the big financial scandals (the 55 billion hole in the Mali Development Bank, the 2 billion slate at the Postal Cheque Office, the recent treasury embezzlement and all the damage to State companies) which have rocked the country since independence.
But spring cleaning it has to do if it is to win back the confidence of the banks and be the driving force of a market economy, which is its rightful role and one for which it is qualified by many assets which it holds, particularly a class of rich traditional traders who are punctilious in their business dealings and have the confidence of their foreign partners. Many people hope to see men of this calibre move out of trade and property speculation and go into industry, particularly the sector of agricultural processing. The fact that Mali has the greatest potential for irrigated land in the Sahel, where food supplies are always precarious, is all too often overlooked.
These, briefly, are the things to bear in mind in any analysis of the present situation in what is one of the poorest countries in the world. Some people say that the ongoing democratic movement would have a better chance of success if Mali was richer and had a higher literacy rate. No doubt. But these are the very things which make Mali an example. Because if the process Mali has embarked on works despite all the constraints, then democracy can win through all over Africa. There is more to the Malian model than overturning a dictator.