Shadow states are the biggest threat to democracy in Africa: fresh reports detail how


The capture of democratic political systems by private power networks is arguably the greatest threat to civil liberties and inclusive development in Africa. That’s the conclusion of two new reports that address the issue of threats to democracy on the continent.

The first report is published by Ghana’s Centre for Democratic Development. It focuses on the capture and subversion of democratic institutions in Benin, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique and Nigeria.

These case studies reveal that even in more democratic states such as Benin and Ghana, ruling parties can “hijack” democracy and appropriate its benefits. They do this by capturing the institutions of democracy itself. This includes electoral commissions, judiciaries, legislatures and even the media and civil society.

The net effect is to undermine transparency and accountability. This in turn facilitates the abuse of power, especially in more authoritarian contexts.

The second report was curated by Democracy in Africa and takes a slightly different approach. It looks at how unelected networks can infiltrate and subvert state structures.

In particular, it maps the emergence of shadow states in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. These case studies show that networks of unelected businessmen, civil servants, political fixers and members of the presidents’ families wield more power than legislators.

By mapping how these networks are organised across different groups and countries, the report reveals how influential and resilient certain groups have become. It also shows how many shadow states have been integrated into transnational financial and – in some cases – criminal networks.

This is not an “African” issue. Similar processes have been identified in a number of different countries and regions. These include Bangladesh, Brazil and the US. But this does not mean that the need to recognise and confront these issues is any less pressing.

Source: The Conversation

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