Role of Extra-African Forces in Democratization
Africans have a profound desire for autonomy and independence, but they are recognizing and coming to terms with their incorporation into the international community on a generally dependent basis. In the three meetings, there was clear agreement that Africans must devise democratization programs based on their own indigenous experiences, because without African initiatives no amount of external assistance would bring about democratization on the continent. Participants were of the opinion that the challenge facing Africans today is to manage their relations with the international community in such a way as to promote their own aspirations.
Although participants recognized that the primary burden and future of democracy in Africa is likely to remain on the shoulders of Africans, whether they succeed may depend in part on the international environment in which extra-African forces play a decisive role. These extra-African forces, which will either facilitate or hinder the democratization process under way in Africa, were identified as pro-African lobbies, international financial institutions (notably the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund), regional agencies (such as the United Nations Development Program and its Economic Commission for Africa), private foundations such as Ford or Rockefeller Foundations, as well as multilateral and bilateral donors.
In the past, participants argued, donor involvement in Africa often has been ambivalent or, in some cases, downright harmful. The concentration of assistance in the hands of the few, for example, had enabled some governments to build levels of repressive power that democratic movements
now are striving to reduce. Governments that now vehemently complain about external infringements on their sovereignty were once willing to accept aid from donor countries with stringent conditionalities. As a result, participants indicated that the actions of external powers understandably may be viewed with skepticism. They further argued that, although the end of the cold war removed incentives for Western powers to support undemocratic African governments, the absence of cold war competition also significantly reduced African bargaining power and intensified African uneasiness over their dependence on the West.
While the struggle for democratization must always depend primarily on African peoples, there was a clear recognition, nevertheless, that external support has been very important. One participant observed: "Democratization is not possible in Africa without external assistance. . . . I am saying this looking closely at history both within and outside Africa. . . . Virtually no country in the world democratized without some form of foreign assistance. When one looks at countries such as Kenya and Zaire, external assistance has been extremely significant in deciding and, to some extent, helping African leaders accept democratization, which is not an easy option."
In South Africa, for example, moral and subsequently diplomatic and material support for the end of apartheid has helped to sustain the internal liberation movements, with the strong support of other African states proving particularly valuable. External actions, such as the international boycott of sporting events, has helped shake the morale of the white minority community, and external pressure favoring the CODESA effort continues to be helpful. In Madagascar, the campaign in favor of human rights was aided by a speech given by French President François Mitterand while visiting that country. In Zambia, the assistance provided by the Carter Center to monitor the recent presidential elections and to train Zambians to do the same gave legitimacy to what otherwise might have been a questionable operation. In other African countries, the National Democratic Institute of the United States also has conducted training programs in election monitoring.
Several participants, especially in the Benin workshop, advised that a much broader look at the donor-African relationship be taken. Said one participant, "Shakespeare in The Tempest says at one point that 'misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.'. . . I find it ironic that the prodemocratic forces in Africa are expecting so much from the donors. . . . After all, the progressive forces in Africa historically have been rather antidonor, speaking of neocolonialism and such things. In this time of great need, however, there is a willingness to go to bed with the donors and to expect quite a lot from them. . . . I think that's very dangerous, because (to switch metaphors) one should be very wary of the guest who won't leave at the end of the dinner party. . . . In recent years and more so in some countries than
in others, donors have forced political conditionality on recalcitrant regimes. The American embassy, for example, has been a force for democratization in a country like Kenya. . . . I have heard that donors had some influence in the transition process here in Benin, too. But the question is, should donors continue this role once the transition process is finished? If U.S. embassies become accustomed to imposing political conditionality, at what point does that stop? I propose to you that it is an extremely tough question and that the willingness to invite donors into the policy process should be thought out very carefully."
Although various ideas were expressed concerning the proper role of donors before and after the transition to democracy, there was a clear acknowledgment that external actors have their own agendas. Despite few African states having acceptable human rights records, it was argued that external actors selectively intervene in order to support their own interests. One observer remarked: "In view of donors putting democracy on the agenda, Africans are bound to ask why the West and its institutions are insisting on democracy now, when over the years they have provided the means to keep democracy away. Is it because they have changed the rules? If so, how should Africans respond? I would argue that we either adapt or die."
Participants pointed out the central dilemmas Africans face when discussing the role of extra-African forces in the democratization process are determining when assistance turns to dictation and what level of commitment aid donors might be ready to make in order to advance African democratization. In the discussions concerning these questions, participants identified several problems in the pattern of external assistance to Africa.
PROBLEMS WITH AID IN AFRICA
The first problem participants identified concerned the level of aid Africa receives from extra-African forces. Arguing that insufficient aid has been a constant, they noted how a shrinking global economy seems to be preventing donor countries from giving Africa the aid it needs. Participants pointed out how only a minuscule amount of available aid goes to Africa, while allotments to developed countries in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union are increasing: "The postcolonial African state has lived off aid and trade. . . . It had prospered from trade, but progressively killed it off, growing increasingly dependent on aid. Today, the average African country derives between 15 and 30 percent of its budget through aid. . . . African countries have accepted this state of affairs because they have no choice. The donors have accepted it because of the cold war and other geostrategic concerns. . . . When the cold war ended, budget difficulties in the domestic economies of the West were increasing. Within donor agen-
cies, too, there has been growing unhappiness with the ineffectiveness of aid."
The second problem participants identified dealt with the types of aid Africa receives—military hardware, capital-intensive projects, salaries to professionals hired by donors, etc.—which they argued are not very useful: "We should differentiate between strategic and tactical aid. . . . Strengthening the economic potential of democratization, akin to a Marshall plan for Africa, is needed in order to create a national alliance. . . . This would enable us to build on surplus in order to allow our patriotic forces to gain ascendance. . . . If such strategic aid is not forthcoming, then tactical aid won't have much impact. . . . Most aid falls into the tactical area, which actually facilitates the drain on resources."
The relationship between donors and recipients was characterized by net capital outflows from Africa. Participants argued there was no point in giving development assistance to corrupt governments that have shown very little desire or ability to use public resources for the public good: "Some donors become corruptors as they collude with corrupt leaders in transactions that are not transparent. . . . Aid is given and siphoned back by corrupt leaders to the giver country," said one participant. It was also suggested that granting new loans to African countries might not necessarily help democratization thrive and could magnify existing problems. Participants argued that, although it would not be easy to grant debt forgiveness, it would be unreasonable for donors to demand that African countries continue to use disproportionate amounts of their resources for debt servicing.
A third area concerned the aid process, which often "impinges on the sovereignty of African nations by dictating, imposing, or otherwise predetermining the content of projects." Structural adjustment, one participant argued, was an example of a policy with limited success, in part because most countries lack the skills necessary to institute adjustment programs. More importantly, it was observed that "the political will is just not there, because one is asking government officials to reduce the opportunities that they have to help their cronies, which raises fundamental problems." Another participant, in concurring with these ideas, held that the "overall relationship between donors and recipient nations tends to be uneven."
CHALLENGES FACED BY AFRICAN COUNTRIES
African countries face a simultaneity of challenges. Most important, participants noted a decline in economic performances. Illustrating Africa's economic decline, one participant pointed out that "the only time African countries experienced economic growth was the period following the attainment of independence. In the face of faltering economies, Africans, like the
rest of the world, also are confronting problems of health, AIDS, and the environment—the policy environment—and political problems as well, with little help available. . . . Due to our extreme marginalization in the global economy, prospects for foreign aid are extremely limited, especially when we must compete with the rest of the world, particularly Eastern Europeans, for an ever shrinking pot of money."
Participants suggested that despite the obvious linkages between political and economic reform, one should not be a prerequisite for the other. They also argued that economic reform programs, which predated democratization and governance reforms, generally had not succeeded, in part because they "had no clearly articulated linkages with political reform efforts, even though it was clear that the problems in Africa were political." Some even argued that the emphasis on economic reforms had not been conducive of political reforms. To this end, one African expressed the cynical view of a number of participants that the "economic context of democratic transition is one of stagnation and decline, primarily because the West asks for democratic reciprocal action from African countries in exchange for assistance to them."
Participants further examined the relationship between democracy and economic liberalization, particularly in light of how Africans have little choice or input regarding economic liberalization plans. Structural adjustment reforms, for example, have in most cases produced inflation, unemployment, and frozen wages, in turn resulting in major disturbances. In some countries, the mere acceptance of structural adjustment programs has led to widespread protests and strikes, prompting some governments to use force and coercion in order to proceed with implementation. One participant further argued, "The externals have demonstrated insensitivity to the African political milieu, moving from assistance to dictation, which spells political suicide in Africa. In the future, conditionalities should be country specific." Another participant pondered whether Africa was so poor as to need structural adjustment. Following that line of thinking, yet another thought that Africans would do well in the future "not to implement fully some of the dictates of structural adjustment, calling the bluffs of international financial institutions when need be."
In the three workshops, there was a clear understanding that Africans do accept the reality that donors will continue to press for political and economic reforms as preconditions for aid. Participants were distressed, however, that donors often send mixed signals to African countries, especially regarding the correlation between democracy and reforms. One suggested: "It is important to tell donors, especially the Agency for International Development, that giving contradictory signals is not conducive to democratization or economic development in Africa. . . . The United States of America does not have a history of support for democracy, because it has
supported antidemocratic forces in Africa and other areas—Augusto Pinochet and Zia ul-Haq—and continues to be the basis of the survival of Mobutu Sese Seko and Dr. Kamuzu Banda. In the future, donors should listen more to Africans in order to better help us, be sensitive to our situation so they may more effectively come to our aid."
Although questions were raised about the relationship between the sincerity of the donors' promotion of democratization and commitment to further assistance for Africa, several participants thought it would be more beneficial if Africans assume that donors are ready to support democracy in Africa. As one participant noted, "The role and record of the United States, for example, have been mixed and ambiguous. . . . We need to set conditions so both donors and recipients benefit from their relationship. . . . Under what conditions can this new donor orientation be helpful to Africans? What conditions should Africans make?"
ROLE OF DONORS IN DEMOCRATIZATION
Assisting Political Change
In the workshops, discussions concerning assistance for political change in support of democratization proved quite contentious, with most participants agreeing that extreme caution be exercised in this area. One participant argued, "I stand to be convinced that there has been a conversion of principal donors, namely the United States. Yet there is a need for support to be obtained for certain areas, such as a dynamic civil society and the emergence of freedoms of association and expression. But will donor conditionalities be compatible with human rights? Conditions should not be ideologically loaded. How we do it should be up to us. In other words, we want donors to help us to be free. I'm glad there has been a change of approach, but I wonder if it is only transitory."
In support of the ideas that donors should not dictate the content of democracy, a number of participants thought that it might be helpful to indicate the "don'ts of donor involvement in democratization." One participant in the Addis workshop seemed to express the sentiments of the group there: "The external question is a touchy issue as regards the political side of democratization. External conditionality would be valid in the areas of facilitating the legal basis for free press and free speech and as regards the right of individuals to form groups or professional associations—the freedom of association. Donors should be concerned with these political areas and no others." Nevertheless, a number of concrete suggestions for related political areas, in which donors might be of help, were put forward, including the removal of dictators, the reduction of military assistance, and the promotion of civic groups.
Removal of Dictators
Participants suggested that donors might be able to help remove African dictators through open condemnation, quiet diplomacy, or sanctions. Clearly articulated statements by donors that openly denounce African dictators and antidemocratic forces, for example, could serve as manifestations of donors' unequivocal support for democracy. Participants pointed out that there has been an opening of the democratic process in countries targeted by such statements. Some participants also were of the opinion that external assistance could help ensure that democracy would not be subverted by disenchanted groups, such as defeated regimes or the military. They argued, however, that where aid donors have been ambiguous by sending contradictory signals, democratization has been delayed and, in some cases, leaders have refused outright to acquiesce to demands for political pluralism. It was offered that the threat of sanctions might be particularly useful for countries whose authoritarian regimes have a persistent record of human rights abuses. For such governments, sanctions would send a powerful message that undemocratic states that do not support democracy or respect human rights will be isolated and will risk having their economic lifelines severed.
Reduction of Military Assistance
A number of participants pointed out that African states have spent a significant percentage of their resources on military hardware and the military establishment, allegedly out of concerns for their national security and territorial integrity. Several argued that the disproportionate amount African budgets allocated to military spending had constrained the democratization process. Moreover, most participants were bitter that the legacy of the cold war competition was large military machines, be they supplied by Soviet or Western aid. One remarked: ''We should be asking ourselves whether African countries, most of which are quite small, really have anything to secure. . . . One only needs a handful of paratroopers from Europe to take care of these armies and you start wondering whether the large military establishment in Africa is worth it."
Most participants advocated seeking the commitment of donors to limit or eliminate future military assistance to Africa and finance projects that could utilize military personnel in other sectors. Another suggestion was for donors to tie economic assistance to Africans undertaking to reduce military and defense spending. Nevertheless, participants were concerned that as the United States and the former Soviet Union start to downsize their militaries, they might increase efforts to export arms to developing countries, thereby supporting their own defense industries. Such action, partici-
pants argued, could thwart efforts to downsize African militaries and could therefore undermine the entire democratization process.
Promotion of Civic Groups
Participants in the three meetings believed that donors could assist the democratization process by pushing African governments to open a space or provide platforms of expression for civic groups, which would facilitate their active participation in society. One participant explained: "People talk about the silence of Africans and how they use their exit options rather than the voice option. What they do not understand is that it is difficult to use the voice option when there is no platform to raise one's voice. For example, because most of the news media are owned by the state, whatever voice or noise one makes cannot penetrate outside, which is a very serious issue." One suggestion was for donors to channel more aid to nongovernmental civic groups rather than governments: "Donors should identify the democratic forces in Africa and support them, because democracy can only be built around democrats. Assistance should not be channeled from government to government, but through nongovernmental organizations." A few participants disagreed completely: "In the past, the enormous effort and resources poured into assisting nongovernmental organizations has served to weaken them; they have become highly dependent, have not been able to increase their capacity, nor have they been able to relate successfully to other indigenous nongovernmental organizations. Also, it may well be that if you promote civic groups, you may also get greater fragmentation." In declaring that nongovernmental organizations are slow to react to authoritarian regimes and inefficient, one participant advocated that donors assist the private sector in Africa.
Improving Economic Conditions in Africa
There was identifiable agreement across the three workshops that donors would make a significant contribution to the democratization process by working to improve economic conditions in Africa. One participant, however, observed that external actors can become involved in a country's domestic politics by imposing conditionalities on countries in which economic institutions are not functioning because of a lack of good governance and internal democratic legitimacy. Such intervention, it was noted, has not been of much help to a majority of countries and, in some cases, has caused severe problems. Therefore, participants identified areas of assistance in which donor intervention might be extremely useful in improving economic conditions in Africa. These include forgiving African debt, reducing trade
protectionism in the West, instituting fiscal reforms, focusing on human development, and countering capital flight.
Participants preferred that donors forgive debt rather than grant new loans, arguing that donors do not assist in the development process by granting new loans when there are already large amounts of existing debt that needs to be serviced. They noted: ''Donors are compounding the problem by giving new loans, especially to leaders who know their days in power are limited and live on their boats. . . . Instead of using these new loans to develop the country, they use it to further increase their personal wealth. . . ."
Reducing Western Trade Protectionism
Participants encouraged donors to reduce Western trade protectionism because many African countries have problems exporting their commodities. They argued that African economies will have little chance to improve or break their dependence on foreign aid if Western trade barriers deny them the opportunity to earn foreign exchange for commodities.
Instituting Fiscal Reforms
There was recognition that in order to ensure that African countries embark on genuine fiscal reforms, donors would have to impose conditionalities. Some participants suggested a further step would be to provide direct assistance toward the development of specialized skills in budget management. One observed: "In the colonial period, nationalists used to demand that there should be no taxation without representation, but today, I think the reverse point ought to be made: there should be no representation without taxation. . . The point I am making here is, in many African countries, 60 percent of the taxes that ought to be collected have not been collected. . . . You cannot sustain democracy on this type of situation."
A number of participants also argued that people often do not listen to government speeches pertaining to the budget because they are convinced that government always misappropriates money, most of which comes from foreign aid. Therefore, a number of participants advocated that, in the future, donor countries should explicitly tell African governments how they want their money spent: "If one is contributing about 30 percent of a budget, typically one should have some say in how that money is spent. Any debate on conditionality always should start with that premise." A few participants, however, cautioned that such aid is not charitable: "Assistance
with those strings attached does not give one freedom. It's neocolonial and unfair for donors to determine where money is most needed."
Targeting Human Development
It was suggested that donors target most of their development assistance to improving basic needs—such as health, education, and food security, especially in countries plagued with severe drought and famine—in order to begin to facilitate the development of Africa's human resources. Given that at least 40 percent of African people live below the poverty level, participants thought it would be more appropriate to develop human capacities than to justify increased assistance for the purchase of military hardware. Although participants acknowledged that aid donors already assist in some of these areas, they thought it would be crucial for donors to begin to target more money for human development.
Noting that capital flight is a severe drain on the economies of African countries, participants indicated that donor countries could mitigate the problem by reducing incentives given to some African leaders. Because donor countries have not always publicized their aid, they have unwittingly helped corrupt leaders and bureaucrats to transfer money out of their countries and into their personal accounts in the West. In the future, donors should make their aid transparent so people will know why and to whom assistance was given.
Assistance with Institutional Change
One of the problems identified in all workshops was the inability of African institutions to ensure accountability or to promote and protect the dignity and rights of the individual. Participants asked for help from donors in establishing the institutions necessary to sustain democracy such as constitutions and "critical" national institutions.
There was wide agreement that constitutional engineering would have to be undertaken in Africa. By borrowing from experiences of countries inside and outside Africa, defining and limiting government, developing rules that correspond to the problems recognized in Africa, a new covenant between state and society could be established. In this manner, it was hoped that many of the problems identified in the workshops might be
addressed. For example, African leaders have in some cases manipulated constitutional provisions to consolidate power and get rid of their opponents. Participants were of the opinion that donors could play a key role in this process of helping to draft and review African constitutions, particularly in light of how they deal with issues of representation, ethnicity, presidential powers, elections, and individual and collective liberties. Scholars of jurisprudence, for example, could assist in examining why the limited government prescribed in colonial constitutions survived or did not. Still another role for donors could be to help facilitate within African countries widespread civic education regarding new constitutions. One participant noted that the "constitution means nothing if it cannot work. So civil society has an important role to play. In Madagascar, we won't let those in power play the same tricks tomorrow. We will call for accountability anytime a provision of the constitution is not applied. We have found that this is hard to do if individuals do not understand the constitution. That is why my association published a book on familiarization of issues of constitutionalism."
Critical National Institutions
Participants defined critical national institutions as the legislature, judiciary, the press, the electoral system and the civil service—institutions that have remained underdeveloped, and even undeveloped, in most African countries. The legislative and judicial branches of government, participants suggested, should be strengthened and made independent. They pointed out that, if individuals continue to associate these branches of government with the party or administration in power, then their trust in and the fairness of both branches will be severely jeopardized. Participants thought that donor assistance would be particularly useful in providing some of the means by which these branches could exercise their functions. For example, computers could help the judiciary and legislature build institutional memory. Donors also could help train the staff of these institutions and suggest elements that Africans could incorporate into new codes of conduct for the two bodies.
Participants also recognized that the effectiveness of the judicial and legislative branches required the presence of an independent press, a revamped electoral system, and a neutral civil service—institutions that have been underutilized or nonexistent in most African countries. Requesting donor assistance in order to realize the potentials of these institutions, one participant cautioned, "I think there is a very serious danger that we may have a swing and a back-swing in the democratization process if we do not have these institutions developed. There will be a swing, for example, when people say, 'We have had multipartyism with little in terms of out
comes.' Then, there will be a swing the other way when they say, 'We had it, it didn't work, so let us go back to what we had originally.' "
As an independent press was considered key to achieving open society, participants thought that donors could be particularly helpful in providing funding for the establishment of private African presses, especially where governments currently control all information distributed to the public. In countries with private print and broadcast media, it was offered that donors still could help update technology in order to improve the quality of print and increase the area of distribution.
Concerned that the civil service in Africa has been plagued with corruption and nepotism and has been politicized under authoritarian regimes, participants indicated that donors might be able to help overhaul the civil service, suggesting ways to make it neutral, effectively decentralized, and well paid. Noting that the ability of the civil service to make impartial decisions or to implement important policies is under serious question, participants suggested that donor assistance might help Africans improve the professionalism of civil servants in these areas. One remarked: "Current efforts at structural reforms in Africa will likely fail unless the capacity of the civil service to implement policy analysis and policy implementation is improved. . . . Until this happens, we are likely to just be wasting our time."
Participants noted that improving the electoral system in African countries in which elections have been associated with rigging, intimidation, and violence would constitute significant headway toward democratization and improved governance. Sending observers to African countries when elections are held in order to ensure that voting is free and fair helps elect the peoples' candidates to office, but it does not help sustain the system if foreign observation is necessary to guarantee legitimacy. Instead, it was suggested that donor countries should train Africans in observing and monitoring their own elections as well as in the procedures for efficient voter registration.
Greater Utilization of African Talent
Participants were of the opinion that donors should respect and utilize African talent, particularly because African experts often have more practical experience than Western experts sent to Africa by donors. Participants argued that, in the past, too many Western experts with only theoretical knowledge have been sent to African countries to make recommendations for improving conditions there, and their lack of practical experience in given countries has led them to make recommendations that have not really been helpful. Participants also associated the brain drain in African countries to the lack of in-country utilization of indigenous talent; highly skilled individuals in search of expert positions move to Western countries to accept jobs they cannot find in their own countries. Consequently, participants want donor countries to help them utilize and mobilize local African talent whenever possible to prevent the continuous brain drain.
Inter-African Exchange of Information on Democratization
Participants suggested that one of the major areas of donor assistance to Africans could be in facilitating the exchange of information among African countries, perhaps through regional or continental institutions. One participant commented: "One of the important values of these workshops has been that we are sharing information. But, this also demonstrates the lack of information sharing in Africa, as well as the lack of efforts to use what has happened within and outside the continent in the past and apply it to the current situation. I will give one example: Nigeria adopted the open-ballot system a few years after a number of countries moved away from it. Some of the problems Nigeria is now discovering perhaps could have been avoided if policy makers had known the reasons why other countries had moved away from the open-ballot system. . . . This is what I mean by the lack of information among African countries." In the Namibia workshop, participants asked for assistance in ensuring that the exchange of information among African participants, evident in the deliberations, would not end with the Namibian workshop. African participants held several informal meetings culminating in the formation of the Transnational African Democratic Center. One concrete proposal they offered was for donors to fund network-building activities in Africa such as the newly established Transnational African Democratic Center.
Participants suggested that aid donors could assist African countries in solving problems of democratization by promoting inter-African coopera-
tion, particularly as regards the sharing of resources. Participants noted that by acting jointly they might begin to solve problems, such as the downsizing of African militaries, economic decline, and fair elections. One remarked: "When the colonists were in Africa, they tried to get African countries to act together on a number of common areas, such as examinations, universities, elections, research, and a number of other institutions. Unfortunately, with independence, all these institutions were nationalized and then disintegrated. Today, however, it seems as if it is becoming clearer and clearer that given the resource base of the various African governments and the fact that we are all drawing from the same place, it may be necessary to take up this strategy again."
In conclusion, donor assistance in promoting and sustaining democracy in Africa is important, but, as one participant put it, "donors should exercise care not to dictate, impose, or predetermine the content of democracy. They should tie conditionality, if any, to policy performance, not to ideological orientation or to a specific blueprint for democracy." They must stop sending mixed signals and should agree to accept the autonomy of the democracies that emerge. This concern was aptly expressed by a participant in the Addis Ababa workshop who emphasized the need for clarity of conditions between donors and recipients. He noted that the relationship was one of a "marriage of convenience," in which Africans are seeking aid and donors demanding accountability. He emphasized that in such a relationship both sides needed to understand the terms of the relationship needed to promote democracy and economic development.