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32 INTRODUCTION The establishment of the African Union (AU) in Durban in July 2002 was particularly geared towards transcending the weaknesses of its antecedent body – the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).1 The character that the OAU assumed was very much influenced by the conjuncture of factors that pulled together to shape the immediate post-World War II era. In Africa this was mostly manifested through concerns for decolonisation and the global ideological rivalry which defined the Cold War period. In this context, the African continent became the theatre for anti-colonial struggles, and also the grounds for proxy Cold War contests. In combating colonialism, the OAU provided the required platform for mobilising global conscience and forces against what was perceived as an obnoxious rule. However, the vigour with which the OAU applied itself to fighting colonialism was hardly extended to ensuring that there was democracy and good governance in its member states. Obviously the focus, at the time, was on the removal of the colonialists . And once that was done and the trappings of statehood installed, what happened thereafter in terms of quality of governance within the respective countries was largely ignored. In fact, the OAU insulated its members from the prying eyes of the international community through the provisions of Article III (b) of the OAU Charter which specifically invoked the principle of ‘non-interference in the internal affairs of States.’2 This principle became a convenient carapace for all manner of dictatorial tendencies to gestate in Africa; under the watch of the OAU. The political system upon which independence was granted actually created a paradoxical political situation in the newly independent African states. This was so because even though the colonial system itself was authoritarian, there was an invariable effort by the retreating colonial authorities that those who took over power from them did so through victory The African Union and the Democratic Project ExaminingtheChallengesforTaskAccomplishment John Gasu CHAPTER 3 33 at competitive elections.3 In this regard, multi-party systems were given lease; and as such political parties featured prominently as the instruments for political recruitment. But such efforts at democratisation were highly ephemeral. The pluralist democratic project was quickly jettisoned. What gained ground instead was political obscurantism as a way of rationalising an emerging cabalist power monopolisation; which was nonetheless presented to the rest of the world as an African democracy.4 In the ensuing haste to install the so-called African democracy, the African leaders veritably transformed themselves into demolishing squads that razed the embryonic democratic structures upon which independence was granted.5 The defining character of the immediate post-colonial African democratic genus was an imposition of single party systems that was to ensure the quiescence of the opposition. It was this mindset among African leaders, in the period that preceded the 1990s, that underscored their insouciance towards the institutionalisation of undemocratic monolithic governance systems across the continent. The power monopolisation by military and civilian autocrats meant in actuality that the public sphere was constrained, as civil society was asphyxiated. The kind of political closure which occurred was tantamount to what Elizabeth Jelin described as a collective denial of citizenship through mass disenfranchisement.6 The population was thus reduced to being mere ‘subjects of law’ as they were disconnected from the existing political discourse7 . The corollary of the disconnection of the people from the governance process reflected most in the poverty of governance policies that were rolled out in the period to address developmental issues. The policies tended therefore to be ineffectual in dealing with the continent’s challenges. The policy failures culminated in the arrest of the continent’s development. This situation persisted, almost without exception, till the late 1980s when the global ideological antagonism began to thaw. This unleashed strong currents against dictatorships as evinced in Eastern Europe, Latin America and parts of Asia. The global political momentum, in this era of democratic revivalism, is described by Samuel Huntington as the third democratic wave.8 The upheavals that were directed at authoritarian regimes elsewhere soon began to produce a contagion of demonstration effects across Africa. The effects of this were soon evidenced on the streets of African cities, as the people rose to demand new systems of governance in which the demos would be a part.9 The net outcome of these political developments was a seismic rede finition of the African political landscape, as the autocrats were obviously overwhelmed by the unremitting pro-democracy waves. The...


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