Tyranny in Africa exists primarily as an effect of bad government, the recent case being the massive human rights violation, and military brutality being carried out in the African state of Zimbabwe. The internet woke up to a global trend of #ZimbabweLivesMatter which cites the massive acts of tyranny being carried out by the government and calls for the attention of the world to the plight experienced by the citizens.
This global cry for help pops the question of why most African leaders tend to show signs of tyranny during their time in power, and why it appears that this never goes away from the African political scene despite the present age of globalization and democracy. Why does the bad government still constitute the number one problem of most African states?
Political theorists believe in a certain theory known as the social contract, which many believe to have laid the foundation for modern democracy. According to this theory, man voluntarily gave up all his rights, aside from certain fundamental rights, to a ‘sovereign’, in exchange for protection. Going by this theory, the democratic system of government affords one the protection of life and property, as well as his fundamental rights. But in Africa, it appears that democracy has been used only for political purposes, as citizens are yet to experience the real dividends of democracy.
The reason why tyranny appears to be a by-product of certain African governments is owing to the fact that pre-colonial African society did not practice democracy on a larger scale when compared to most European states at that same time or era. Beyond a few tribes who practiced some features of democracy, like the Igbos or other tribes, most African societies during the pre-colonial era practiced more of a system of autocracy where there was only one ruler whose words and actions were the laws of the land, backed up by certain traditions and norms that were predominant in that society.
Hence, the lack of ingenuity that comes with the democratic system of government in Africa could account for a reason why tyranny and in extension, bad government, seems to be predominant with Africa in contemporary times.
However, times have changed. Africa has been completely integrated into the contemporary political, social, and economic lifestream of society. We cannot rely on the excuse of democracy being ‘alien’ to our culture or system to continue denying the fact that tyranny and bad government send Africa deeper into the dark ages. Our governments are parties to various human rights conventions globally; it is not acceptable that we continue living in times of difficulties, whereas we can easily embrace the good times and flourish.
Tyranny and bad government make us vulnerable. It reduces the trust between the citizens and the government, thereby violating the social contract theory, which can in turn lead to a society of anarchy where revolutions, violent protests, massive crackdowns, civil wars, and other violent clashes can occur. To prevent this from happening, the government must truly embrace democracy, not just a system of government, but it must be reflected in the policies and actions of government agents and officials.