Concerning the Presidential Power in African Countries

The Throne of Weapons: Copyright Kester, Bristol City Museum

During the 2000 election campaign, one of the candidates promised that if he was elected, he would have a metro system built in Abidjan. Well.

I just read in l’Inter that in order to “set up a peaceful and participative democracy, where every citizen can participate in elaborating and choosing the reforms”, Henri Konan Bédié wanted to modify the Constitution to reduce the Presidential powers. He also said that he wanted to reduce significantly the Presidential and governmental experiences. Yeah.

Let’s focus on that first idea, to cut the extent of Presidential Powers. Today’s constitution is the 3rd. The first two were written in 1959 and 1960. They were similar on many points to the constitution France had just adopted in 1958 (Remember, Félix Houphouet Boigny was a French State Minister at that time).

Most African countries got the model for the Presidential competence at first from the colonizing country. After its independence, Ghana was ruled by a Prime Minister (as Great Britain). Congo had a President, but most of the power went to the Prime Minister (Patrice Lumumba). However, a lot of countries have changed that, so the President is more powerful(1). Very democracy-friendly, right ?

I actually think having strong presidential regimes is one of the main reason African countries have had such a hard time with democracy and good governance. It’s like a legal dictatorship. It concentrates a lot of power (including financial, military…) into the hands of the executives. The National Assemblies role is reduced to its smallest expression. Some refer to that as Presidentialism.

So, the PDCI had a good idea. It would be great, right ? Less arbitrary decisions. Actual participation of the opposition. More transparency. I might even say, better governance ?

Not that fast, the metro idea was great too! Just imagine getting from Riviera to Cocody Mermoz, in five minutes, in a clean and safe subway. How cool ?

Just as it would be way too humid and warm in Abidjan a have a metro, I don’t believe that any of these people would reduce the power they are sweating so hard to get. Or reduce their expenses.

That’s a good idea, PDCI, so thanks anyway for mentioning it.

(1) I’d have to double-check, but I don’t think that’s the case with Ethiopia, South Africa, Angola. In Mali, the President has to share more of its power with the Parliament and its minister.

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