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Political News Out of Africa is Getting Better Than 20 Years Ago, Says an Analyst

  • James Butty

Kenyan-born Ali Mazrui says there has been some improvement in political openness and multi-party governance in a number of African countries

A noted African academic and political writer said the political news out of Africa today is better than 20 years ago.

On the other hand, Kenyan-born Ali Mazrui, director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies at the State University of New York at Binghamton, said not everything has gone well in every African country.

Mazrui’s comments come as the West African country of The Gambia is celebrating its 45th independence anniversary Thursday and about 17 other African countries will this year be celebrating the Golden Jubilee of their independence from colonialism.

“I personally believe the political news is better now than it was 20 years ago. So between the first quarter of independence to the second quarter of independence, there has been some improvement in political openness, in multi-party governance, in the collapse of the apartheid system in South Africa. In general, although not everything has gone well in every country there has been indication that Africans are learning to govern themselves,” he said.

Mazrui said he partly agrees with those who continue to blame Africa’s post-independence problems on colonialism.

But he said 50 years after independence Africans should have by now learned what is rational and what is not.

“Part of it is fair because colonialism did draw the boundaries of the different countries and put together peoples sometimes who have had no experience of sharing resources or governing each other. On the other hand, we are supposed to be human beings and we ought to learn as fast as possible what is ethical and what is not and what is rational and efficient and what is not,” Mazrui said.

He said independence is a gradual process by which a people gradually reach full political maturity and full capacity for self-management.

Professor Mazrui, who described himself as a democrat, said the way forward for Africa to attain full independence is through democracy.

South Africa ANC supporters

South Africa ANC supporters

“We need to find out whether we can have systems which maximize participation by the people, optimize accountability on the rulers and then make sure there is substantial openness in the society and has a concept of social justice which can be ascertained,” Mazrui said.

He said these tenets of democracy are beginning to take root in a number of African countries, including Ghana.

“One of the tests is to what situation is the government in power is defeated in an election and steps down willingly to give way to a successor regime. Ghana is leading the way almost in the same way in which it led the way in attaining independence in Sub-Saharan Africa because the Ghanaians had more than once had elections in which the incumbent political party had lost and gracefully given way to the elected regime. And that’s a measured test of whether you are making progress in democratization,” he said.

Mazrui sent his congratulatory message to the people of The Gambia on their 45th independence anniversary.

He said while 16 years of President Yahya Jammeh’s leadership might be a bit too long of a political tenure The Gambia on the other hand has had some stability even without total openness.

A noted African academic and political writer says the political news out of Africa today is better than 20 years ago. On the other hand, Kenyan-born Ali Mazrui, director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies at the State University of New York at Binghamton, says not everything has gone well in every African country. Mazrui’s comments come as the West African country of The Gambia is celebrating its 45th independence anniversary today (Thursday) and about 17 other African countries will this year be celebrating the Golden Jubilee of their independence from colonialism. Mazrui tells reporter James Butty the state of African countries today is all part of the process of learning to govern themselves.

“I personally believe the political news is better now than it was 20 years ago. So between the first quarter of independence to the second quarter of independence, there has been some improvement in political openness, in multi-party governance, in the collapse of the apartheid system in South Africa. In general, although not everything has gone well in every country there has been indication that Africans are learning to govern themselves,” he said.

Mazrui said he partly agrees with those who continue to blame Africa’s post-independence problems on colonialism.

But he said 50 years after independence Africans should have by now learned what is rational and what is not.

“Part of it is fair because colonialism did draw the boundaries of the different countries and put together peoples sometimes who have had no experience of sharing resources or governing each other. On the other hand, we are supposed to be human beings and we ought to learn as fast as possible what is ethical and what is not and what is rational and efficient and what is not,” Mazrui said.

He said independence is a gradual process by which a people gradually reach full political maturity and full capacity for self-management.

Professor Mazrui, who described himself as a democrat, said the way forward for Africa to attain full independence is through democracy.

“We need to find out whether we can have systems which maximize participation by the people, optimize accountability on the rulers and then make sure there is substantial openness in the society and has a concept of social justice which can be ascertained,” Mazrui said.

He said these tenets of democracy are beginning to take root in a number of African countries, including Ghana.

“One of the tests is to what situation is the government in power is defeated in an election and steps down willingly to give way to a successor regime. Ghana is leading the way almost in the same way in which it led the way in attaining independence in Sub-Saharan Africa because the Ghanaians had more than once had elections in which the incumbent political party had lost and gracefully given way to the elected regime. And that’s a measured test of whether you are making progress in democratization,” he said.

Mazrui sent his congratulatory message to the people of The Gambia on their 45th independence anniversary.

He said while 16 years of President Yahya Jammeh’s leadership might be a bit too long of a political tenure The Gambia on the other hand has had some stability even without total openness.
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