Democracy in Africa: A Very Short History

DSpace/Manakin Repository

Democracy in Africa: A Very Short History

Citable link to this page


Title: Democracy in Africa: A Very Short History
Author: Bates, Robert H.
Citation: Bates, Robert H. 2010. Democracy in Africa: A Very Short History. Social Research 77, no. 4: 1133-1148.
Full Text & Related Files:
Abstract: When discussing governance in Africa, one must be circumspect when applying the term "democracy." One reason for doing so is because the term is imprecise. However, while differing in the attributes they posit and the qualifications they impose, those who write of democracy join in emphasizing its essential property: that it is a form of government in which political power is employed to serve the interests of the public rather than of those who govern. And it is this attribute that I take as defining good governance. In this essay, I argue that democracy, in this sense, has been reborn in Africa. The evidence, I argue, strongly suggests that its renaissance has been accompanied by changes in public policies and political practices-ones that generate benefit for the people. But the evidence also suggests that political dangers remain: incumbent parties strive to suborn the electoral process and incumbent executives seek to prolong their terms in office. As elsewhere, to retain their political liberties, Africa's citizens must "remain vigilant."Paraphrasing John Adams at the Constitutional, Africa today may enjoy better governance, but "can [she] keep it."
Published Version:
Terms of Use: This article is made available under the terms and conditions applicable to Other Posted Material, as set forth at
Citable link to this page:
Downloads of this work:

Show full Dublin Core record

This item appears in the following Collection(s)


Search DASH

Advanced Search