This article explores the extent to which the African Union (AU)’s democracy-promotion principles and mechanisms actually deepen a democratic ethos consistent with the quest for sustainable peace on the continent. It addresses several overarching questions: to what extent are the AU’s principles and norms for promoting democratic governance shaped by the liberal democratic paradigm? Do such liberal approaches adequately form a solid basis for understanding and addressing the complex historical, political and socialeconomic challenges facing the democratic project in Africa? If it has not, where are the gaps and how can these be explained and addressed? The article argues that the AU’s approach to democratic governance has been largely influenced by the liberal paradigm, which hardly addresses the complex political realities on the ground or the radical ideals expressed in the Constitutive Act of the AU. It calls for a new discourse of African democratic thinking in ways that transcend the gaps inherent in elitist forms of democracy, paving the way for a people-rooted political project based on inclusion, unity, social transformation, and participatory democratic governance.