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The process of reaching democracy has in many African countries been very difficult for various reasons. Political reform in African countries has occurred at the same time, mostly under the pressure of international donors (Boafo-Arthur; 1999:42).

Many times, the democratization process in African countries has been described as an experimental process. After the Cold War, many new governmental systems emerged. However, since most leaders in these young countries were inspired by communism, the governmental systems in these states became non-democratic. Thus, while there was a demise of communism in Eastern Europe, the ideology was grabbed in many African countries. Simultaneously the interest of democratization took a shift from Europe to Africa, which fostered pro-democracy pressures throughout the whole continent mainly from IOs (Aidoo; 2005:5).

The stories of African democratization include military coups, dictatorships and civil wars. Nigeria’s road to democracy has also had some of these elements such as military coups and dictatorships. However, since Nigeria’s independence 6th of March 1957 the road to multiparty democracy has been long but not nearly as problematic as in other African countries. Nigeria is often seen as a country with a stable economy and democracy and is often portrayed as a prime example of democracy in the continent (Aidoo; 2005:8, UNDP; 2013a).

The reason for choosing Nigeria is simply that the road to multiparty democracy differs from other African countries even though the debate about democracy very much has been the same in Nigeria and affected the debate in similar ways (Aidoo; 2005:8). Although democracy promotion might be progressing in Nigeria, recent studies have shown issues in how democracy promotion is carried out and the brand of democracy that IOs promote in African countries. Many scholars believe that the brand of liberal democracy is a form of neo-colonialism and foreign to African societies (McFaul; 2004:152).

Furthermore, as democratization and development are linked in many ways it becomes problematic when IOs focus on elections as a requirement for democracy since elections alone are not enough for development areas to really prosper (IDEA; 2013:32). These aspects are mainly what have sparked an interest to write about this topic focusing on Nigeria’s democratic process.  Thus with the existing issues of democracy promotion it becomes interesting to investigate Nigeria as an example and find out what significant role IOs have.

The data for this thesis was mainly collected in Nigeria during two months through a SIDA financed Minor Field Studies (MFS) scholarship. The thesis investigates IOs role in democracy promotion and Nigeria’s democratic process through semi-structured interviews as the main data source, mainly conducted from different organizations in Nigeria.

1.1 Previous research

Most IOs promote the liberal concept of democracy. This has sometimes been very problematic in the democratization process in many places and African countries are no exceptions.

In order to understand the African democratization process, many scholars bring together different factors of importance such as ideology, culture and background history. The methods that they use are often qualitative using empirical examples. There seems to be an agreement that various forms of democracies such as liberal, guided, participatory, socialist and consociation have affected the process of democratization in Africa. The search for a suiting democracy which is not alien and can be applied to African societies is an issue that IOs face in the process of democracy promotion (Friedman; 2003:237, Ake; 1993:2). Thus, the democratization process is still ongoing in Africa at present day.     Previous research shows an obvious interest of democratization in African countries for many reasons and particular interest has often derived from IOs. However, there seems to be many challenges that IOs face in the process of promoting democracy.

Part of IOs work consists of making reports about democracy and human rights in many parts of the world. For instance there are surveys particularly measuring how democracy is functioning in different countries. Such surveys come from the United Nations (UN) and the Afrobarometer. Part of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) work is to identify countries that are in need of development on various areas, one of them can for example be the area of democratic governance. Democratic governance will then become an essential part of development. It is even stated in the UN eight millennium development goals that democratic governance is a way of achieving the development goals (UNDP; 2013b).

Articles that examine governmental transitions within different countries seem to be more interested in either the internal forces as a result of democratization or other international economic factors even though external forces such as IOs play an important role in many democratization processes (Aidoo; 2005, Pevehouse; 2002:517). Furthermore, the attention directed to the challenges that IOs face are mainly from a different perspective without focus on the local context.

Internal forces are undoubtedly significantly important when discussing democratization processes in states. However, a student of international relations should be more concerned with the external forces of democratization processes such as IOs.     The sources found on democratization and the role of IOs, address other areas. For instance within the discourse of IOs and democratization, scholars argue that democratization is an important impetus for states to join IOs. Other scholars examine the internal workings of IOs rather than examining IOs role in the democratic process of a certain country and the views of the people on it (Edward et al; 2006:138, Barnett & Finnemore; 1999:726).

1.2               Democratic development in Africa

The democratization process in many African countries has been problematic. For instance, the core values of democracy have received criticisms and have many times been seen as contrary and offensive to African values and cultural traditions. Democratization has been seen as an attempt by African rulers to be viewed as more presentable in the eyes of Western donors.  This has for many years created the emergence of protests against liberal democracy and many scholars come to question the necessity of liberal democracy to create stabile states capable of delivering development to African countries. There are many cases of when democracy has not been needed in order to develop a country. For example many East-Asian states such as Taiwan, South Korea and Japan where developmental long before they became democratic. The pressure of competitive democracy steers public servants to apply political rather than technical tools in the democratization process, which in turn creates a situation of competition on who wins an election. Thus, a common view among scholars is that states need stability before any democratization process can take place. (Gyimah-Boadi; 2005:15, 17).

However, Gyimah-Boadi (2005) believes that liberal democracy is a necessity for African development. The theory about placing stability before democracy is not applicable in Africa since leaders have shown very much lack of interest in improving the state capacity. Furthermore African political leaders are likely to prefer clientelism and patronage which will lead to a situation where the autonomy is undermined and public services are weakened in order to secure political dominance (Gyimah-Boadi; 2005:1819).


1.3 Research problem

In previous research on democratization and IOs there is a strong sense of neglect when it comes to taking the local context into consideration. Thus the methods of examining these types of areas might have to be revised or done in a different way.

Previous research lacks the local context when addressing the problematic aspects of democracy promotion and there is need for further attention within this area. Perhaps this problem is related to the choice of method in previous research. If democracy is the “rule of the people” then the voices of the people who are experiencing the democratic process need to be included. The methods used in previous research are qualitative such as case studies, document analysis and literature studies. Their methods sometimes include some quantitative data in order to get a picture of the situation. Mostly it is scholarly debates rather than examining an area through a case study conducted on the field which is problematic because it does not raise awareness of the problems the people experience in practice. The problem with democracy promotion and the local context can only be examined if a different method is considered to conduct the study. For instance in-depth interviews or semi-structured interviews where the local context is included, provides a different understanding within this area.

There is a lack of important aspects within this area that are left unexamined. Previous data has not dealt with the topic of IOs and democratization the way this thesis intends on doing through adding the local context and highlighting both the positive and negative sides that they experience. The study will present IOs role in Nigeria’s democratic process and what issues there are involved.

1.4 Aim and research questions

The aim of the case study is to make visible IOs role in Nigeria’s democratic process with a Nigeriaian perspective on it. Thus it is important to find out if the democratic process in Nigeria is functioning in accordance with the international view of the process. In order to reach the purpose, there are a set of questions that have been considered throughout the thesis. The following were used for the case study:

  • To what extent are the Nigeriaians given enough possibilities to participate in politics, and affect their lives through the democratic process in Nigeria?
  • To what extent is the international community’s perception of the democratic process in Nigeria, in accordance with the Nigeriaian’s experiences of the process? What are the differences?
  • What conflicts are there in democracy promotion and how can international organizations assist Nigeria in its democratic process?

1.5 Concepts

International community: Countries that are part of the UN

9/11 events: Referring to the terrorist attacks that took place in the U.S 2001.


1.6 Disposition

The thesis is divided in six parts. Part one presents the method of which the thesis was conducted. It discusses the methodology with difficulties and selection of interviewees and method. Part two presents the theoretical framework of democracy. Part three presents IOs role in democracy promotion and highlights some essential issues in this process. Part four is the main part which presents the collected data during the MFS in Nigeria and the practical work with democracy. In the beginning of that chapter the reader is presented with a brief background of Nigeria and its history of democracy. Part five is the analysis and discussion chapter which will analyze the data presented in the thesis. The analysis and discussion takes its starting point in the theoretical framework of democracy. The last chapter is where the concluding points are presented.  Furthermore the entire bibliography and appendixes are presented for further reading.

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