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Most are unlikely to give up their position of power and advantage." With regard to discussions concerning the overthrow of African dictators, some participants said that the point was not whether citizens had the right to overthrow authoritarian or dictatorial governments, but whether the dictators removed would be replaced by democratic regimes.
One com mented: "We have to examine certain principles in the constitution to see what kinds of guarantees they offer as far as the limitation of power is concerned." Participants agreed that where authoritarian governments had suppressed the evolution of an enabling environment, the transition process must start from below—by the people.
As Larry Diamond has argued, "It is unrealistic to think that countries in Africa can suddenly reverse course and institutionalize stable democratic government simply by changing leaders, constitutions and/or public mentalities.
If progress is made toward developing democratic government, it is likely to be gradual, messy, fitful and slow, with many imperfections along the way." Although the nature and circumstances vary from one country to another, two basic patterns in the modes of transition to democracy were identified.
The military leaders exercised power on an institutional basis, governing collegially as a junta or by circulating top government positions among military generals.
In some cases, national conferences have unceremoniously reduced or eliminated the powers of incumbent rulers.
In Benin, for example, where the first national conference was held, Mathieu Kerekou broke down and wept as a national conference of ruling-party members and other leaders pronounced his repressive regime corrupt, incompetent, and illegal and even rejected an interim leadership role for him.
Other writers contend that every historical case of regime change has involved some negotiation—explicit or implicit, overt or covert—between government and opposition groups.
Transitions may also begin as one type and become another, particularly if the government is unsure of how far it wants to go in opening up the country.