Ten years after Gaddafi’s death, the same question: is there a way to democracy in Africa?
Libya–Ten years. We still have images of that day in our eyes, of a man who was now only a shadow of himself, ended miserably after 42 years of almost absolute power. Muammar Gaddafi: the bloodthirsty dictator, or the pan-African leader capable of opposing the West, are two opposite views, the ones that still circulate on the figure of him.
Many in Libya and Africa still regret his “guide” today, his voice lashing out against the domination of the superpowers, his farsightedness that had pushed towards the birth of the African Union. A few days ago, his supporters released a press release denouncing NATO’s war crimes in Libya. The committee in charge of commemorating the colonel’s death invited symbolic five-minute demonstrations in all Libyan cities.
It is clear that after Gaddafi, the whole of North Africa collapsed. Libya is struggling to find stability, hoping for the elections on 24 December next to rising. It is now clear that international interests also drove Gaddafi’s fall, starting from Nicolas Sarkozy’s. However, what we would like to focus on is another central element, a question that many ask themselves and that goes well beyond the Libyan borders: is there an African way to democracy?
Following the colonial era’s end, fragile democracies emerged that often did not confront the impact of the foreign interest: on the one hand, corruption, greed, and the lure of power, on the other, continually deliberately kept in hunger and inexperience have paved the way for unmerciful regimes.
And today, often, even where people vote regularly, elections are not so regular but managed in such a way as to preserve those who had risen to power. Muammar Gaddafi was born as a revolutionary leader and died badly as a tyrant. Many African academics are querying which form of public affairs administration is best suited to their countries, history, and culture, which for centuries has often coupled with the presence of a “leader.”
Whether it was the village chief or the king of a tribe – in whose hands concentrate not only power but also moral and perhaps religious authority, the modern idea of a president is grafted onto this cultural foundation. It is often cleverly exploited by those who sit on the highest seat and do not want to leave it anymore. Then, the constitutions are changed, dissent repressed, meanwhile, showing themselves as the saviours of the homeland.
Sometimes, it is possible to downsize these drifts, but often at the cost of a lot of blood. So, is democracy still possible in the African Continent? Centuries of exploitation, slavery, systematic property expropriation and the killing of thinkers produced a wasteland from which it is still challenging to fly. Fortunately, some examples contrast the trend, but they are too few to make even those who do not play dictators seem great officials.
The far-sighted and inspired rulers of postcolonialism are a remote reminiscence. There is not even the shadow of Thomas Sankara and Nelson Mandela. But, after all, this concerns the whole globe. We can hope for honest heads of state. But accurate leaders, wise minds, and politicians who think about collective welfare, going beyond their interest or the next electoral campaign, have not been seen for a long time. And not just in Africa.