African presidents (photo credit

(JollofNews) – There are many countries around the world who continue to enjoy the benefits of true democracy. Yet, for a majority of Africans, true representative democracy remains an illusion.

Several African leaders (‘elected dictators’) pretend to be practicing ‘democracy’ by merely allowing their citizens to vote once in four or five years, but these very same people who voted them into office have little or almost no say in the decision-making process of their countries, matters of governance, or even in the development work taking place in their communities.

Africa and African leaders have to create “Space for Civil Society”. According to a statement by the UN, “Governments everywhere should be reminded that the hallmark of successful and stable democracies is the presence of a strong and freely operating civil society in which government and civil society work together … and at the same time, civil society helps keep government accountable.”

United Nations (UN) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated that “civil society is the oxygen of democracy. Civil society acts as a catalyst for social progress and economic growth. It plays a critical role in keeping government accountable, and helps represent the diverse interests of the population, including its most vulnerable groups.”

It would be logical to think if all African leaders can heed to such words, then Africa will be on a bright path towards true representative democracy. However, critics would argue that such words often fall on deaf ears as many African leaders continue to suppress civil society.African-Presidents

Democracy, in its real essence, has never been allowed to trickle down to the general populace by elected dictators in Africa who have been primarily concerned with clinging unto power and prolonging their stay in office with blatant disregard for their constitutions and therefore have not let their people decide their future for themselves.

It can be argued that in some parts of Africa; the guardians of democracy themselves were not ready to protect the supposedly inalienable principles of freedom inherent in democracy. In such a scenario, there was no one to protect the ordinary man, woman, boy or girl on the street, no one to ensure that his or her basic rights were not infringed upon and that his or her fundamental liberty was fully safeguarded.

Civil society, for its part, should always maintain its stance against dictatorship and authoritarian rule in Africa. It must continue to tirelessly support the cause of democracy and independence of state institutions, particularly the judiciary in Africa as this can play a significant role in ensuring that democracy is sustained across the continent.

It is conceivable that some states across Africa will continue to maintain hostility against activists critical of their governments and their policies. Despite such hostilities, the civil and political activists across Africa should refuse to budge, instead continue their struggle to protect the vulnerable and marginalised against oppressive African leaders.