By Boris Esono Nwenfor
Experts tracking the political evolution of the African continent say opposition parties across the various countries have to put their acts together, be engaging and work for general interest and not their personal or party interest.
These experts were speaking on November 23, 2021, during an online public dialogue organized by the Governance and Democracy Division of the Nkafu Policy Institute, a think tank of the Denis and Lenora Foretia Foundation. The session had as objective, to discuss the dynamics of the opposition in Africa from democratic transitions to the present day; to assess its successes, to question its failures, and to put its challenges into perspective in the face of the democratic peril in which Africa seems to be caught up.
“The trend is worrying across the African continent. The promise of democracy that was made known before countries got their independence is still fledging and we have not made the transition,” Rosebell Kagumire, Writer and media specialist (Uganda) said about the situation of opposition parties on the continent.
“… African countries are not run properly and even the opposition have not made things easy. Opposition parties in other countries are making inroads more than in other countries but lack of unity and collaboration is still a problem. There is still a question about the opposition’s legitimacy ranging from a variety of issues which also consist of gender.”
“Women are marginalized and their needs are not seen because, for a long time, men have been in power. We had about 25 per cent of women in parliament but it has moved to 50 per cent. Despite that, the power is still in the hands of one man who decides what goes where,” Rosebell Kagumire added.
With the democratic transition of the 1990s, multiparty politics was established as an essential component of democracy in Africa. Some political parties newly created during the period and constituted as the opposition has succeeded in destabilizing the dictatorships entrenched since independence. In total, thirty-two (32) victories of the partisan opposition were recorded in nineteen (19) African countries.
“One should never consider the government of a people only from those in power,” Professor Joseph Keutcheu, Associate of Political Science, University of Dschang said in his assessment of the actions of opposition parties since democratic transitions in Africa.
“To oppose is a way of doing politics, of existing in politics by setting up a program which is an alternative to that of the government party,” He added.
In countries where there has been no changeover at the top of the state, the opposition has had a strong influence on the powers that be. This is the case, for example, in Cameroon with the Social Democratic Front (SDF), which has been the main opposition party for several years.
This no less commendable past of the African opposition in the consolidation of the democratic process in Africa seems to be in contrast with its observable lethargy today. The political opposition seems to be losing momentum while the democracy of which it is one of the guarantors is withering away as a result of the test of “perpetual governments” and coups d’état.
“The occurrence of recent coups in Africa have garnered a lot of support from the opposition who see them as a way to take by force power they could not have during the election,” Dr Maryse Audrey Ogounchi, Lecturer in Political Science in Benin said.
The factors of this degeneration of the opposition are multiple: organisational weakness; pre-eminence of individualistic interests over national interests; leadership syndrome; inexistence or scarcity of political programmes; collusion with the party in power; messy coalitions, etc. All these failures call into question the very existence of the opposition. All these failures call into question the role and the record of the opposition in the construction of democracy in Africa.