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Democratization in Africa examines the state of progress of democracy in Africa at the end of the 1990s. The past decade's "third wave" of democratization, the contributors argue, has been characterized by retreats as well as advances. In some cases, newly established democratic orders have devolved into pseudo-democracies while, in other cases, superficial changes have been used as a cosmetic screen for continuation of often brutal regimes. The volume makes clear, however, that political liberalization is making significant headway.
The first section of the book ("Assessing Africa's Third Wave") offers several broad analytical surveys of democratic change and electoral processes in the 48 sub-Saharan African states. Frequent abuses are noted, but several contributors find room for guarded optimism. The second section ("South Africa: An African Success?") focuses on the dramatic developments in South Africa, the most advanced democracy on the continent but one faced with enormous challenges in the aftermath of apartheid. Essays in this section examine such issues as the role of nongovernmental organizations in the new political order, the ongoing and linked problems of racial and economic division, the demographics of public opinion on democracy, and the viability of the country's new constitution. The third section of the book ("African Ambiguities") considers more closely several other African states -- Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, the Gambia, and Nigeria -- all at different crossroads in their progress toward democracy.
"For the past three decades, there has been no lack of reasons to be pessimistic about Africa's future. But a more balanced reading is called for... There is significantly greater political freedom and more space for civil society in Africa today than a decade ago. Even as some states have disintegrated, others are moving forward to reconstruction. There is also a new ideological and intellectual climate. Unlike during the false start of the first liberation that came with decolonization, Africa today evinces a new political sobriety that is hardened (and even jaundiced) by experience, but not without hope." -- from the Introduction