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Contribution of Politi- cal Parties in Africa

It is important to briefly look at general role and functions of a po- litical party as to draw a reasonable assessment of the contributions of political parties in Africa. Political Parties are often founded to address certain social issues believed to be affecting a society, which are turned into a political action. Barker states, “political parties are conduits that carry the process of social thought from the voluntary area of society into the government”.  In other words, political parties’ activities are geared toward struggle to ascending to po sition of power through democratic processes and to implement or con- vert the social thoughts into a policy action. In essence they are vehicles through which power, and legitimacy to run the country can be attained.

A political party bridges the gap between the constituency and the government and uses social concerns for a political action or influence government policies. Ray defines political Party as “A group operating to secure the con- trol of a government”. This definition reflects some aspects of organization and permanency characterizing the nature of a political party. In or- der to affirm its existence a political party must exhibit formal organiza- tion so as to disseminate its aims, and objectives i.e. ultimate and ur- gent purposes; thus, illustrating ide- as about law and government, and the shape of political possessions.

In order to fairly assess the con- tributions of African states political parties it therefore, important to briefly examine the role of a polit- ical party. I briefly stated in my early discussion that every political party must have objectives, aims blends in eventual and short-term purposes. It would be important to discuss

the roles or functions of a political party in order to arrive at contri- bution of political parties in Africa.

Integrative function is a very impor- tant in that it facilitates inculcation of national values such as unity of a nation, insurance of equality of citi- zens and to integrate ethnics groups across the nation. In process of in- tegrating political parties turn social challenges into ammunition for polit- ical action or campaign. A challenge to national unity, security, education, HIV/aids can also bring political leader together to address them as a bloc through a political education.

A political party is tasked to institutionalize a new or promote national value. Nigerian People Party (NPP) in 1979 for example, pressed for national integration by ensuring integrative aims is enshrined in its national constitution so that national unity, and equality become national objective. “For the purpose of 1979 elections in that country, a political party could be registered only if it met a number of stringent condi- tions which were designed to satisfy the Federal Electoral Commission that it was not an association con- fined to a part only of the geograph ical area of Nigeria; its headquarters had to be in the federal capital and its executives had to reflect Nigeria’s federal character”. The above scenario in Nigeria reflect the thinking of framers of its national constitution in seeing to it nation is integrated through political parties. The above contributions that have seen Nigeria integrated is attrib- uted Nigerian People Party efforts.

South Africa ANC post-Apart- heid is another good example of Af- rican political party that made effort to integrate nation i.e. between the wealthy and highly privilege groups. However, it was difficult for national integration to hold ground without

certain concessions. William Tordoff wrote on South Africa ANC, “The main challenge was two fold: on the one hand, Inkatha was demanding a federal model with a weak center and powerful regions (a solution that would enable it to retain control in Khwa-Zulu/Natal) on the other hand, conservative Afrikaners were asking for volkstaat as the price of their commitment to, and co-operation with, the new South Africa”. The ANC was reluctant to see ethical based di- visions get enshrined in national con- stitution in new South Africa. There- fore it pushed for South Africa to be a parliamentary democracy with executive president and kept its bi- cameral Legislative Assembly, consist- ing of Senate, and National Assembly. Thus, integrate the nation. In Mozam- bique, FRELIMO in 1968 sought na- tional integration through educating interior areas deeply penetrated by pre-independence civil war. It was a political educational education cam- paign that seen the nation integrated.

Political parties are characterized by struggle toward gaining power and advancing its ideology as well as policies for a nation. Political parties are also committed to capturing or main- taining of power. They become vehi- cles for mass political participation guarded by political culture and ideology. In a healthy democracy a wining political party is bestowed upon it a legitimacy to run the country through forming a government. Mauritius and Botswana, for example were African good examples of competitive de- mocracies. However, military coup took reign in those countries there- fore, compromising parties’ ability to gain legitimacy through popular votes.

Despite African position against mili- tary ascension to power, the military found their way into state house either through military coup or via civil war. Poor leadership or doctoring of election results has seen some politi- cal parties abandoning pursuit of com- petitive democracy to take up arms against the declared winner. In 1980 for example, Democratic Party (DP) of Uganda raised an alarm that elec- tion results have been doctored in fa- vor of incumbent, Mr. Milton Obeto’s Uganda People Congress. The disput- ed results led to a civil war restoring military into state house in person of Museveni. Several other African countries in pursuit of political legitimacy through democratic processes have experienced similar situation of Uganda. However, the same cannot be said of Cote d’Ivoire in 1990 and Bur- kina Faso and Ghana in 1992 the op- position parties could not command an overall mass support neither unit- ed under one opposition candidate.

In the wake of acceptance of multi- party system, democratic function be- comes crucial in that incumbent party losses election if it did not perform.

To be continued 

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