Luthando Vikilahle, News24
Cape Town – Africa has a "lot to celebrate" despite the so many challenges that the continent is facing, says an expert at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS).
"There is a lot to be celebrated although conflicts in some parts of Africa are still a cause for concern," said ISS researcher, Jakkie Cilliers, during an interview with News24.
Cilliers said this ahead of the Africa Day celebrations on Thursday.
Africa Day is observed annually on May 25. The day was set aside to commemorate the formation of the Organisation of the African Unity (OAU) - which is now known as the African Union (AU) - in 1963.
Cilliers maintained that a "handful" of countries were still struggling with political unrest, while "many others" enjoyed relative peace.
He said that some countries faced leadership and election challenges, adding, however, that such problems could only be solved through the strengthening of democratic institutions, which could help promote peace and security.
Lack of 'outstanding' leadership
Cilliers said it was unfortunate that Africa lacked "outstanding" leadership that promoted active participation by ordinary citizens.
He said that many African presidents were not honest and as a result, they continued to "hold the continent backwards".
The Democratic Republic of Congo, for example, has remained "chaotic" after President Joseph Kabila began his machinations to keep himself in power.
The central African country experienced a number of protests last year, with the opposition demanding that Kabila step down.
Kabila was supposed to have left the office on December 19 but he still remained in office after it was agreed that the country's National Electoral Commission would not organise an election until 2018.
South Sudan remained another of the problematic countries. After gaining its independence from neighbouring Sudan in 2011, the east African country was plunged into ethnic violence in December 2013 between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those loyal to his former vice president, Riek Machar.
A peace deal signed in August 2015 has failed, and clashes continue, killing tens of thousands of people and forcing millions to flee their homes.
But Cilliers maintained: "Conflict on the continent is relatively coming in waves. So definitely the prospects for peace and development are there.
"Remember the formation of the Organisation of African Unity was to fight colonialism. Most African countries have managed to do that.
"After the fall of apartheid in South Africa the continent managed to defeat colonialism in the true sense of the word. Moving forward, there has been a lot of other significant achievements that the continent can be proud of, including relative peace and security," said Cilliers.
He said that most African countries were now faced with "internal conflicts".
"Violence and development come hand in hand in many parts of the continent. Previously we had conflicts around many countries' borders, but now the only conflicts we're seeing are internal - meaning that there is some progress that has been made," said Cilliers.
He noted, however, that liberation movements in many parts of the continent were now becoming a "liability", as they no longer had anything to offer to a "rapidly growing younger generation".
"There is little improvement in terms of tangible economic growth because of former liberation movements who are led by old people that no longer have any vision in taking the region and continent forward, for instance Zimbabwe and Angola are still led by old people," added Cilliers.
President Robert Mugabe, 93, has held power since 1980 and his reign has been marked by repression of dissent, vote-rigging and the country's economic collapse.
He is the ruling Zanu-PF party's presidential candidate for next year's elections.
Cilliers said it was important to note that many of the continental challenges were not entirely caused by African leaders but by international players, who continued to marginalise the continent on important global issues.
"Africa remains marginal on the global stage. We have the resources and human capital but our people are still not exposed to global trends. We also need to fix our regional relations by trading with each other, for instance, trading agreements among southern African countries remain unexplored.