Anglophone Africa refers primarily to sub-Sahara African states colonized by the British Empire in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. English is the most widely spoken language in independent Africa, and twenty of Africa’s fifty-three countries use English as their official lingua franca. With the exceptions of South Africa (1700s–1910—dates for colonization) and the island nation of Mauritius (1810–1968), the British colonies scattered on the Western Coast of Africa are the earliest: the Gambia (1664–1965), Sier ra Leone (1787–1961), and Nigeria (1861–1960), the largest country by population in Africa, along with Ghana (1874–1957). Lesotho, entirely landlocked within South Africa, was also an earlier colony (1867–1966).
The later wave of colonization, following the Berlin Conference of 1885 (also referred to as the “Scramble for Africa”), includes the southern countries of Botswana (1885–1966), Zimbabwe (1890–1980), Malawi (1891–1964), Zambia (1891– 1964), and Swaziland (1902–1968). The largest countries by population, besides Nigeria, are all in east Africa: Kenya (1885– 1963), Uganda (1885–1965), and Tanzania (1918–1964), while the largest by land area is the Sudan (1899–1956). Of these sixteen countries, only Tanzania, the Sudan, and Zimbabwae are not among the member states of the British Commonwealth.
Other countries may be included in Anglophone Africa either due to their use of English or their colonial heritage. Liberia is an English-speaking African country that was not colonized by the British but was purchased by the American colonization society to act as a homeland for freed African American slaves. The northern portion of Somalia (though not internationally recognized as the Republic of Somaliland) was colonized by the British from 1884 to 1960. Egypt is also a formerly British-colonized African country but is Arabic-speaking. Namibia is an English-speaking, formerly German-colonized country; Cameroon is a Francophone African country whose Northeastern region uses English as its lingua franca due to joint British colonial administration with Nigeria (1916–1961). Both Cameroon and Namibia belong to the present-day Commonwealth, as do English-speaking Sierra Leone and Rwanda.
Decolonization And Quick Democratic Reversal
During the decolonization period (primarily the 1960s), Britain created local government councils and national legislative council institutions in its former colonies to use as vehicles for influencing the eventual shape of the independent democratic governments. Established as liberal democracies at independence, most countries reformed the British Westminster parliamentary system to evolve presidential hybrid systems. Since the early 1970s, with the exception of Botswana, the Gambia, and Mauritius, Anglophone Africa’s liberal democracies have suffered democratic reversals, beginning with the constriction of multiparty regimes into one-party states and continuing with the ousting of democratic governments by military regimes. Examples include,
- Tanzania: The leadership of the first prime minister, Julius Nyerere, paved the way for the 1965 referendum that transitioned the Westminster parliamentary system into the self-styled, Ujaama one-party “democracy.”
- Kenya: By 1966, federalism was discontinued and transformed into a one-party regime by the first majority party, the Kenyan African Nationalist Union (KANU).
- Nigeria: A tripartite federalist, Westminster parliamentary regime was ousted by a military coup in 1966 after just seven years, despite the notable leadership of its first president, Nnamdi Azikiwe; first prime minister, Sir Tafewa Balewa; and western region premier, Obafemi Awolowo.
- Ghana: One of the continent’s first independent democracies in 1957, its liberal democratic regime was ousted in a coup in 1968 after a metamorphosis toward one-party socialism under the pan-Africanist leadership of West Africa’s first independence nationalist, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, and his populist Congress Peoples Party (CPP).
- The Sudan: A Westminster parliamentary regime from 1956 until 1969 gave way to the single-party military regime of Jafar Numeiri (1969–1985) due to war, instability, and the dominance of the northern Muslim Sudanese to the exclusion of the non-Muslim South.
- Uganda: A democratic regime led by President Milton Obote was overthrown in a 1971 coup by General Idi Amin.
Third Wave Of Democratization
By the end of the cold war in the 199 0s, what political scientist Samuel Huntington has called the “Third Wave of Democratization” spread to Anglophone Africa. Zambia’s 1990–1991 prodemocracy Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) in 1991 was first to reestablish democracy through the leadership of former union leader Fredrick Chiluba, who replaced Kenneth Kaunda’s UNIP one-party regime. Kenya formally restored multiparty elections in 1992 under President Daniel Arap Moi, but only in 2001 did the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) finally oust KANU regime dominance and usher in a genuine democratic transition. Nigeria underwent a redemocratization period between 1979 and 1983, and another in 1993, but did not truly reachieve democracy until its 1999 military-led elections that resulted in its fourth republic, the Obasanjo regime. In the midst of these transitions, the Gambia underwent a military coup in 1994, but soon reestablished multiparty elections in 1997.
South Africa’s transition to democracy was significant in both African and world politics. The country’s 1948 establishment of a multiparty democracy for white settlers led by National Party (NP) dominance and the establishment of formal white minority rule was not truly a democracy, as it excluded most of the nation’s population. Although the African National Congress (ANC) was founded in 1912 to embark upon (black) majority rule, only in 1990, under the new leadership of President F.W De Klerk, did a pact between the NP and the ANC’s Nelson Mandela result in the first full-suffrage election. The 1994 election was an ANC electoral victory, installing Nelson Mandela as the first black African president, and completing South Africa’s democratic transition.
Levels Of Democracy In Anglophone Africa
Only a few Anglophone African countries are classified as free democracies with the highest political rights and civil liberties. These countries have established liberal democratic institutions and play more than nominal reference to human rights. The domains of power reserved for the military or other actors not accountable to the electorate are absent, and government systems in these democracies have achieved both vertical and horizontal accountability that constrain executive power and protect constitutionality, legality, and the democratic process. The regimes extend provisions for political and civic pluralism, as well as individual and group freedoms, as individuals are able to frequently exercise their rights to citizenship in obtaining unfettered and just access to the democratic system. Examples include,
- Botswana’s Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) continuous democracy
- Ghana’s recent turnover electoral victory by President Attah-Mills’s National Democratic Coalition (NDC) party
- South Africa’s 1994 liberal democratic constitution (CODESA) that extends rights to gays and lesbians
- Mauritius’s ethnically plural consensus democracy
- Lesotho’s experiments in proportional representation to extend voting rights more fully to minorities,
These are all characteristics of the substantive democratic deepening among these countries.
Several of Africa’s largest Anglophone countries remain only partially free, including Nigeria, Kenya, and Tanzania, whose large, multiethnic, complexly forged socioeconomic contexts foster certain limitations in fully consolidating liberal democracy. The Sudan and Zimbabwe, on the other hand, are infamously known for their “not-free” statuses with the worst political rights and civil liberty regimes on the African continent. Sudan ended its thirty-year war with the nonMuslim south in a bifederal unity government in 2004, but then emerged the Darfur crisis, during which the Sudanese militarized regime (National Islamic Front—NIF) chose a military option to subvert the Darfuran militant resistance. The effect on Sudanese democracy of an April 2009 ICC indictment of President Omar Bashir for human rights abuses against Sudanese citizens remains to be seen. Zimbabwe also is considered a not-free democracy due to party dominance and the exclusion of opposition by President Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) regime. A February 2009 government of national unity coalition between ZANU and the opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), led by Prime Minister Morgan Tzviringirai, held promise and hope for the consolidation of democracy in Zimbabwe.
- Edie, Carelene. Politics in Africa: A New Beginning. Belmont, Calif.:Wadsworth, 2003.
- Edozie, Rita Kiki. Reconstructing the Third Wave of Democracy: Comparative African Democratic Politics. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 2008.
- Freedom House, “Freedom in the World: Country Report,” 2009, https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/freedom-world-2009