Tunisia as a case study for democracy in Africa portrays nature and the extent of democracy in Africa. Prior to her independence in 20 March 1956, Tunisia was under colonial rule of French since 1881. After independence, Habib Bourguiba became the first president of Tunisia and progressively led his regime with imperial powers, which resulted into his re-election as president for life until 1975 when doctors declared him medically unfit to rule.
In 1987, prime minister Zine El Abidine Ben Ali came into power and continued suppressing democracy as he wanted to become president for life but the Tunisian revolution ousted and exiled him from power in January 2011. During the two regimes, “the media was controlled repressing even members of the secular opposition, human rights activists and their families …Tunisia today remains a limited democratic system where expression of critical views is constrained” (El-Hajoui, Aviel, and Keppelman 2).
Although multiparty democracy system of government was adopted in 1988, President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali managed to gag democracy and ruled for 33 years; an autocratic rule at its best. Due to incidences that led to the Tunisian revolution, multiparty democracy should be promoted in Africa for it is inevitable.
Since independence in 1956, the Tunisian government has been grappling with economic, political, and social issues that stalled due to poor democratic environment, which did not allow citizens to enjoy their fundamental rights of freedom (Driss 3).
During the reign of Habib Bourguiba, citizens experienced dictatorial regime that suppressed and constrained exercise of democracy. Based on experiences of the dictatorial regime of Habib Bourguiba and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the Tunisian government did not make any significant economic progression due to constrained democracy as compared with the developed countries such as France.
Rodrik argues that, “democracies perform better on a number of dimensions: they produce less randomness and volatility, they are better at managing shocks, and they yield distributional outcomes that are more desirable” (15). Therefore, for economic, social, and political stability for African countries, democracy is essential.
Given the events that led to the Tunisian revolution, it is quite evident that dictatorial regimes will not last in Africa because of the overwhelming influence of globalization that calls for the democratization of all countries in the world.
Democratic system of government is the dominant form of government in the world; hence, it is practically difficult for African countries to continue exercising other forms of government that do not uphold democracy. “Owing to its macroeconomic achievements, for decades Tunisia projected an image of stability to the world and distinguished itself from other Arab countries for its progress in the areas of economic growth, health, education and women’s rights” (Ayadi, Colombo, Cristina, and Tocci 1).
The achievements were not sustainable because the Tunisian government has been struggling against pertinent issues of globalization that are critical for the economic, political and social stability. Thus, if issues of globalization determine stability of a nation, how can governments guard itself from the negative influence of globalization?
The influence of globalization in terms of democratization of the world’s governments for effective and progressive leadership does not offer a room for other forms of governments that tend to suppress democracy. The Tunisian revolution has set precedent that no any dictatorial regime has sustainable power to last for long amidst dynamics of democracy that has already engulfed the whole world.
Since it cost lives and economy for the Tunisian revolution to occur, then, how can other dictatorial regimes in Africa embrace democracy without necessarily undergoing period of revolution and upheavals? In the case of Tunisia, Graham argues that, “we feel hope, as the people of Tunisia have made clear their deep-seated desire for democracy and their willingness to confront authority in their efforts to install democracy in their country (1).
Therefore, Tunisian revolution has demonstrated that democracy is the cornerstone for sustainable development of governments not only in Africa, but also in the entire world.
Ayadi, Rym, Silvia, Colombo, Maria Cristina, and Nathalie Tocci. “The Tunisian Revolution: An Opportunity for Democratic Transition.” Institute for African International, 2011: 1-12
Driss, Ahmed. “Thoughts on the Tunisian Revolution.” Mediterranean and Arab World Politics, 2011: 1-7
El-Hajoui, Medhi, Marrache Aviel, Susan Keppelman. “Tunisia.” The Journal of Democracy 3.22 (2010): 1-67.
Graham, Paul.”Statement on Behalf of the Non-Governmental International Steering Committee of the Community of Democracies on Events in Tunisia.” The Nongovernmental Process of the Community of Democracies, 2011: 1-6
Rodrik, Dani, “Democracy and Economic Performance.” Journal of Political Science 3.6 (1997): 1-22.