Power-sharing in Africa: A Solution to Africa's Flawed Elections?

Essay, 2012

5 Pages

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Power-sharing has since been advocated as a remedy to countries emerging from ethnic, religious, or political conflicts. Power-sharing usually builds on the principle of inclusion, where rival groups and marginalized groups are included in decision-making processes in order to minimize political inequality. Undoubtedly, this measure has not totally solved the problems confronting fragile countries, especially.

Often times, the haphazard search for alternatives to war in fragile states, rather exacerbate violent conflicts and distrust. The quest for peace and sustainable development in Africa has literally welcomed a ‘threat’ to democracy in the continent in the form of 'power-sharing’. This thirsty quest is engineered by international pressure and local concerns. Being an artificial antidote, it disguises itself with a lot of promising packs to bring about national reconciliation in war-torn societies, which in turn would foster development in these societies. Using a comparative approach, this article examines cases in Africa which led to power-sharing. It illustrates how power-sharing might not be the appropriate alternative to Africa’s historical political tragedy, using examples from the past and current experiments on the continent.

In order to elaborate on this topic, this article has been divided into two parts. Whereas the first part examines the conceptual underpinnings of power-sharing drawn from different literatures, the second part illustrates salient differences in cases of power-sharing in Africa with a final conclusion.

Power-Sharing: Conceptual Clarification

Power-sharing as a concept, has been defined by different scholars from different fields of study. This section explores the meanings of power-sharing from different perspectives, and how it relates to Africa.

The term ‘power-sharing’ is believed to quicken a negotiated ending of war, since it offers the combatants a share in the future government in most cases. However, it must be noted that it is often accompanied with stalled agreements, fragmentation, and a return to war. Anna Jarstad (2006:3) believes that power-sharing as a means to develop democratic governance, rests on the logic of inclusion by joint decision-making, which is expected to lead to moderation. However, she argues that, “power-sharing does not always end violence and promote moderation; but, can trigger mechanisms that have negative implications for long-term democratization and peace." This implies that power-sharing is capable of pulling the rival parties apart, thereby making it difficult for them to reach a negotiated settlement.

According to Gates, Scott and Kaare Strom (2007:iii), “power-sharing arrangements aim to reduce the risk of civil conflict by guaranteeing potentially warring parties a role in the country’s government, thus lessening the stakes of political contestation.” Although its potential benefits are being enumerated by many scholars and international organizations, some scholars still express their concerns over its unintended negative side-effects (Jeremy, Horowitz 2009:2). Such concerns outlined by Jeremy include heightening of the transaction costs of governance and immobilism. He also noted that power-sharing may create an adverse selection problem, which ultimately empowers extremist leaders over moderates, and as well, exacerbates moral hazard. This leaves us with questions such as, has power-sharing in countries emerging from violent conflicts brought an end to corruption, inequities and radical extremism? Does it fully address the root causes of conflicts in these countries? This takes us to the next section which examines some experiments from Africa.

Experiments from Africa

Walter, Barbara (2002) explains the function of power-sharing as a mechanism for solving the commitment problem in a context of severe distrust and vulnerability as was the case of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where the power-sharing deal stalled as a result of the exclusion of the Pro-Hutu extremist, Convention pour la Defense de la Republique (CDR) from the negotiation process, coupled with distrust and civil war. Earlier, she argued that the concessions involved in a peace deal increase the parties' vulnerability, and therefore limit their ability to enforce the other terms involved in the peace process (Walter, 1999). Examples like Rwanda, DRC, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Nigeria suggest that it is very difficult to form coalitions in war-torn societies, regardless of international pressures on opposition groups.

Anna, Jarstad (2006:16-17) asserts that the function of inclusion leads in practice to exclusion of certain groups or individuals, arguing that a peace accord which rests on the levelling of power relations between groups, become fragile if the original basis for calculation of the quota such as demography changes. She notes that elite-negotiated regulation of the primary conflict can result in extremist splinter groups that threaten peace and lack of local ownership that undermine democratization.

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Power-sharing in Africa: A Solution to Africa's Flawed Elections?
University of Jaume I
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Power-sharing, Democracy, Development, Elections, Conflict, Peace
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Akudo Chinedu Ojoh (Author), 2012, Power-sharing in Africa: A Solution to Africa's Flawed Elections?, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/192020


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