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Institutionalizing Democracy in Africa: A Comment on the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance

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AbstractThis article provides an exegesis of the recently entered-into-force African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. Democracy has a decidedly mixed history in Africa and, despite a concerted effort by the African Union (AU), it has made only halting inroads in those states that are nondemocratic or struggling to consolidate democracy. That may change as more states ratify and implement the Charter, a comprehensive regional attempt to promote, protect, and consolidate democracy that entered into force in February 2012. This Charter, the culmination of two decades of African thinking on how democracy should develop on the continent, represents the AU’s attempt to institutionalize principles of good governance and democratic ideals. Although hurdles remain on Africa’s road to democratic development, including poverty, illiteracy, and corruption, the Charter provides a means to address these stubborn problems. Whether it will succeed will depend on state implementation of the obligations undertaken by ratification of the Charter, as well as the AU’s own commitment to ensuring observation of the Charter’s key provisions. If the AU and its member states do fully implement and practically observe the Charter’s obligations, then the prospects for democratic governance in Africa have a bright future.


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