Democracy in Africa: Successes, Failures, and the Struggle for Political Reform

In This Review

Democracy in Africa: Successes, Failures, and the Struggle for Political Reform
by Nic Cheeseman
Cambridge University Press, 2015
247 pp.
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The wave of democratization that washed over Africa in the early 1990s resulted in the spread of multiparty electoral competition and the emergence of a number of imperfect democracies in which citizens enjoyed greater political liberties than they had before. But it produced few countries in which presidents did not continue to enjoy extraconstitutional advantages come election time. In this short but thorough book, Cheeseman recounts the breakdown of authoritarian governance in the 1980s, the emergence of opposition movements and parties, the process of reforms, and the obstacles to democratic consolidation. One particularly thoughtful chapter focuses on institutional arrangements that different countries have used to address ethnic tensions. Cheeseman uses lively case studies to support his main arguments and delves into the recent academic literature on this topic to assess current trends and make predictions about the future. He eschews much of the pessimism about African democracy that is fashionable today, instead offering a lucid and balanced account of both achievements and failures.