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The Reemergence of Power Transition Crisis in Africa

Peaceful power transition is considered as a guarantee for laying down the foundations of good governance, and also as an embodiment of a set of contents that make it a meaningful practice. Most notably of which are the respect for the political rights of others, the materialization of people's will, and how to enable them to practice a real participation in policy making through the choice of their representatives, who take the lead on their behalf. It also confirms the legitimacy of the governing body and the strength of the rule of law and maintaining the constitutional and legal principles governing the process of power transition and legitimacy, in accordance with the required commitment with its regulations and controls.

Apart from detailing different opinions about the conditions, means and methods that give the power its legitimacy or eliminates it, and the extent of the exercise of power concerning its shape or time or place, we're looking at the transition of power in Africa and its problems through a political consensual reality among relevant entities of parties, elites and leaders about the system of governance, and resorting to a set of principles and constitutional and legal rules and pledges from different parties to adhere to what regulates the procedures and governs the mechanisms of regulations and conditions to ensure the safety of the exercise of political rights and the empowerment of the will  of the people and a genuine participation, until reaching the stage of putting the power in the hands of whomever the people sees as worthy of  ruling them and managing governance institutions with efficiency.

Power transition came at the editorial of this twenty-eighth issue of Qiraat African magazine because it is one of the most important factors of political and security stability, which are considered as necessary preconditions for development in its various dimensions.

Through many aspects, power transition in Africa, which came in various false or distorted shapes, is considered as a real crisis with multiple forms and manifestations. It highlights bad connotations and reflects the effects and results which are considered direct reasons for the lack of political stability and security and for the factors that hamper development in Africa with all its dimensions.

The authoritarian tendency and the prevalence of oppressive regimes are very common in most African countries, and most distorting forms of power transition are:

Military coups; that began since the dawn of independence of African nations as the majority of African countries suffered from it, some coups occurred ahead of elections to prevent it, or after announcing the results of free and fair elections to deny the winners from assuming power.

And a one-party authoritarianism; which highlights the phenomenon of clinging to power after reaching it, as most of rulers who came to power - whether they were individuals, groups or parties - they soon demonstrate their authoritarian tendency and eagerness to monopolize power; thus, the continent still have the oldest leaders in their posts in the world.

Because of that, it was common to see what we may describe as Electoral Coup d'états which ensures certain presidents to be reelected and hence staying in power, plus the secret rigging of elections or the electoral deals and bargains, and buying votes or forgery. So, elections in general were phony ones with falsification of the popular will in order to legitimize the existing structure of power, and to prevent political opponents from reaching power through fair competitiveness.

The consecration of individual leadership in Africa "is almost institutionalized and dependent on complex recipes of legacies for the charismatic heritages and constitutions, laws and beliefs, traditions and customs, in an attempt to impose a certain routine and monopoly of power."[1]

This layer of governing body, whether they are tribal, partisan or ideological ones who make up the political ruling class with the president, work to advance his leadership and their continuity together; the president may become a "king", or sometimes a president-for-life, with the blessing and approval of his cronies and patrons.

On the political scene in African there also prevail the confiscation of political rights and the prevention of freedoms and suppress of any manifestation of political opposition which calls for the peaceful transfer of power. Also most of the African counties suffer from the phenomenon of political opponents' imprisonment without trial or trumped-up ones with false charges; even it goes to the extent of political assassinations and the physical liquidation of opponents.

As a result of power monopoly and the crisis of transferring it in Africa there were many negative consequences, notably: the prevalence of what is described as a "fever of leadership," or "presidential phenomenon," and their monopoly of power.

In order to achieve this, authoritarian regimes always have resorted to constitutional and legal amendments to remove any obstacles, some of them succeeded in conducting constitutional amendments in favor of the survival and continuation of presidents in absolute terms, as is the case in Uganda, or relatively extend the presidential terms, as in Chad, where the parliament made constitutional amendments in the second half of May 2004, which stipulated that the presidential terms will be extended to three consecutive terms, each of them are five years.

The personalization of power in Africa turned ruling parties into Authoritarianism, and erased borders between various political sources of power, and the dominance of the president on all authorities; as the head of the Republic of Gabon at the beginning was a minister of national Defense, foreign affairs, media and Planning. As for the president relationship with the parliament, it is commonly characterized by a sense of superiority that makes the parliament only a device to recommend and applaud the decisions of the President. His authority even deepened as he is the chairman of the only party or the ruling party in the country.

Expanding and enlarging the influence of the central executive power - which are subjected in one form or another to the head or the leader - leads to weakening the effectiveness of formal and informal institutions, and also maximizing the authoritarianism to extend its influence and domination over all aspects of power; like security, politics, economy and social affairs, and even weakened and paralyzed their capabilities, and resorted to the politicization of civil society organizations and linked them to the state. Therefore, the World Bank called them: Governmental NGOs. They even - to protect themselves - established their own formation of militias, and granted the military broad powers and supported it for the establishment of private companies to ensure their loyalty.

As a result of the crisis of power transition in Africa and the illegal practices of authoritarian regimes there were a legitimacy crisis, and the protests have grown phenomenon, which was usually met by quickly suspending constitutions, and resorting to martial laws.

After decades of political oppression in many African countries as a response to raising political and social discontent between citizens, events turned into violence and political conflicts turned into bloody clashes, and political groups resorted to the formation of private militias.

Media and information outlets were not absent from the political scene, and were often exploited by authoritarian governments in propaganda campaigns to justify its practices to prevent the peaceful transfer of power, and to justify their decisions and distorting facts with negative impacts on the formation of public opinion. Foreign powers were also supportive of the intransigence of rulers and their retaining of power because they linked their interests with the ruling authoritarian regimes.

Those were the most prominent features and cornerstones that present the crisis of power transition in African and its reality, implications, dimensions, negative effects and consequences that affect the overall development process of the continent, making it one of the most important issues that efforts should be directed to from those who are interested and involved in African affairs.