Democracy and consensus in traditional Africa: a critique of Kwasi Wiredu
This article examines Kwasi Wiredu’s arguments on democracy and consensus. In Cultural Universals and Particulars, Wiredu presented consensual democracy as a better means of decision-making process than majoritarian democracy in traditional African life and governance. He defended this claim with two main arguments: (i) that consensus takes care of the interests of the minority, and (ii) that consensual democracy permits substantive representations. Contrary to Wiredu’s claim, this article argues that the implication or challenges of majoritarian democracy identified by Wiredu do not necessarily (i) undermine majoritarian democracy, and (ii) make Wiredu’s suggested decision by consensus a workable means of
decision-making in present African society. Our aim in this paper is not to defend majoritarian democracy as a plausible position; rather, the bulk of the paper is devoted to a critical assessment of Wiredu’s defense of consensual democracy. The paper argues that at a certain level of discussion, Wiredu’s idea of consensus (consensual democracy) shares some similarities and also faces similar challenges to (majoritarian) democracy. The paper concludes that, logically speaking, democracy and consensus are not mutually exclusive.
Keywords: Democracy, consensus, minority interests, traditional African life, African politics