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The Myth Around African Democracy

The recent elections in Angola probably felt like the biggest relief to a lot of Angolans. The 38-year rule of the powerful Jose Eduardo Dos Santos seemed to have come to an end. This however did not mean that it was the end of the influence of the Dos Santos family in Angola. His daughter controls the oil sector, the telecommunications sector and almost all the banks in the country. Isabel Dos Santos is the Richest woman in Africa. Jose Dos Santos son oversees the country’s $5 billion sovereign wealth fund account. The family remains a very powerful one.

The elections held in August signified a change and saw Jose Eduardo, step down for someone younger. Young in this sense is the 62 years old defence minister, Joao Manuel Goncalves Lourenco who is also a member of the ruling party.

While the opposition party did not expect the elections to be free and fair, it was nonetheless satisfied with the result. The opposition party and the ruling party had engaged in a 27 year civil war which saw the country tear itself apart.

Something interesting happened after the election had been concluded. For the first time in African history, the position of Emeritus President had been provided for by the new Angolan president. The Emeritus President is expected to retain all his benefits which were accrued to him as president.

In another society, the thought of an emeritus president is unheard of and never even contemplated. So what makes the case of Angola different? Why is there no outrage towards the idea of an emeritus president?

The answer is simple. Africa works in a way which is politically different from the standards set in most European Nations as well as some first world countries. Africa is not as democratic as the rest of the world would want it to be.

Looking at most African countries, in exclusion of South Africa, Nigeria and Ghana, the transition from one government to another is not that smooth. It is often marred with massive rigging and other forms of electoral anomalies, violence and often, the incumbent leader does not desire to leave his position, see the case in the Gambia.

African leaders have a knack for not wanting to relinquish power and this often begs the question as to if democracy is truly democratic in the African sense. Simply put, Africa and Africans do not understand what democracy is or the idea of democracy in the ‘western sense’ does not match what Africans truly expect.

So, the aberration of Emeritus President is another craft for an African to stay in power till death relieves him from the power. The people seem okay with the decision, and democracy in the African sense has won the day.

On another point, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda recently won the elections in Rwanda, continuing his over 20yrs rule. With a 99% win of the elections, the people are happy.

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