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DEMOCRACY, MULTI-ETHNIC IDENTITIES,AND POVERTY IN AFRICA

Given the fact that democracy has come to be accepted as a framework for good governance in most parts of the world and given the fact that most states in Africa are multi-ethnic in nature, which presupposes some contestations in the sharing of the benefits and burden of democracy, to what extent has poverty in its material and mental dimensions remained a major obstacle to the realization of the goals and promises of democracy in Africa?In this paper, I examine the incongruous interface of democracy, multi-ethnic identities and poverty in Africa. I argue that much as democracy is desired as providing the basis for the realization of the goals of freedom, common goodand development, the goals have become unrealizable in many multi-ethnic states in Africa. This is mainly due to certain contestations in their claim to rights, especially in sharing resources accruing from social cooperation. The inability to realize thepromises of democracy in Africa’s multiethnic states is grossly exacerbated by material poverty of vast majority of citizens on the one hand, and the mental poverty of the African elites on the other hand. The paper recommends that true and functional democracy, which is perhaps the most preferred form of government due to its guarantee of freedom and common good, will only be realized in Africa if material poverty is alleviated among the vast populace in Africa and this will stem the often chaotic claims to rights among the ethnic groups in enjoying the benefits of social cooperation. This will subsequently check the mental poverty of the elites, seen in terms of unbridled quest for material aggrandizement and political power as a sure way of protecting ethnic groups and preventing ethnic marginalization. This is possible because the welfare state will be a common rallying point for the citizens rather than the ethnic groups. This paper underscores the crucial place of poverty in African body polity and therefore stresses the need for its alleviation or drastic reduction as the basis for achieving the goals of democracy in African multi-ethnic states.

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