MOST Ethno-Net publication: Africa at Crossroads


Africa at Crossroads: Complex Political Emergencies in the 21st Century,

UNESCO / ENA, 2001

Africa’s Bumpy Road to Democracy: Reconstituting the Nation-State

John W. Forje
 Ministry of Scientific and Technical Research

B.P. 13429 Yaounde – Cameroon


Africa’s current wave of democratic transitions is so recent, still unfolding that it is difficult to make many definitive statements about it. These alone question the construction and  functioning of nation-states in Africa.  No doubt changes in Africa’s political geography in the past decades have been quite breathtaking.  These developments parallel, in their quantitative scope and qualitative dimension, the changes that occurred at the turn of the 1960s when majority of African countries gained their independence from colonial governance system

Many see the development of the 1990s as constituting Africa’s “second liberation”. the “second independence”. Some will even question whether there has ever been a “first independence”. Why a second independence?  Why did the first state system collapse? If so, should the failed state be reconstituted? How and by whom? The key issue revolves on the kind of structure that should replace it and the approach that should be used in constructing such a structure – should it be the “bottom-up” or the reverse of an approach that marries the two?  (Forje – Forthcoming)

Yet in the twilight of the century that witnessed the end of colonialism and apartheid on the continent, it is clear that a certain Africa is about to die.  Another is in the creation in our presence. New generations are here, carriers of another dream of the continent and moulded with experiences that need to be expressed formally not only within the academic circles but also in the society at large. The time has come to listen particularly with the theme “Africa at Crossroads: Complex Political Emergencies in the 21st century” - to the new voices and the changing period of our time. The period of globalisation and the unstoppable movements towards a global village is here.  The continent cannot run from these changes.  The task for us is to construct and  understanding of African realities for ourselves in the first instance, speak to ourselves and face the realities of the changing period.  If our discourse has any cognitive gold it will speak to the various actors to give an Afrocentric attention to the plethora of problems plaguing the region. Afrocentricism does not constitute an attempt to distort or manipulate facts. Afrocentrism is not and should not be gross myth making dressed up as knowledge. What constitutes an Afro-centric approach is the situation or location of Africa and African society at the centre of the way Africans view themselves and the rest beyond their social and cultural worlds. It is not facts (which have universal validity) which need to be reworked; it is rather the relationship between facts that need Afrocentric attention.

Africa’s bumpy road to democracy and state creation depicts Sipho Seepe’s (1998:64) “Towards an Afrocentric Understanding” of the role and impact of foreign influence.  He notes that “instead of saying that Columbus  ‘discovered’ America, native Americans might prefer the phrase Columbus ‘‘invaded’ America. And instead of saying Livingstone discovered Lake Victoria, it might be close to the truth to indicate that Africans led Livingstone to the Lake. Africa’s bumpy road focuses on issues of reconstituting the state: how to restore the state’s capacities to ensure basic laws and order, organise development and provide quality services to improving the quality of living standards of the people. To be a part not apart of the evolving world development. To probe into issue of how traditional cultural knowledge can be input mechanisms in shaping the emerging global situation.

Democracy and democratisation have become the new ‘flavour of the moment’ in African studies almost eclipsing development and developmentalism. In the vanguard of this new discourse are political scientists and all those whose intellectual sights are firmly fixed on the murky present, always with an eye to predicting and prescribing the mysterious future. As contestations of conflicting hopes, ideologies, and theories the analyses are vigorous, controversial and inconclusive, for they are fundamentally debates about African histories, about African pasts and futures, as constructions and reconstructions, prognoses and visions. This makes Africa to be at crossroads engraved with complex political emergencies teleguided by the unstoppable forces of globalisation and communication and information technology superhighway of the 21st century which the continent presently does not master.

In looking at the Complex Political Emergencies (CPEs) we find wide issue areas of conflict within and across boundaries, their political origins, a protected duration, and the persistence of social cleavages as an expression of enduring ethnic identities.  These are  seen as the only relevant moral territorial community in Africa and the probability that this may give way to ethnic fascism.  It’s concrete manifestation being the emergence of predatory social transformation and feelings of resentment toward the other.  These generic issues and problems constitute in nutshell Africa’s bumpy road to nation building and democratisation.

The question arises, can a genuine African state exist, or emerge from the spoils of colonial legacy: Or can the Africa of the 21st century build and sustain itself on its past power and cultural heritage? Does it imply that the way forward for Africa is to abandon its cultural heritage values and belief systems, but accept in toto, external values that may often throw us into greater confusion and end up with empty visions to build on a solid past, a hopeful and sustainable future.  There is the general assumption that Africa’s backwardness and laziness is rationalised colonial conquest and exploitation.  The pros and cons of the debate are that Africans care largely responsible for their state of underdevelopment and marginalisation.  After independence, development became the conduit for neo-colonial interventions.  Recently, ‘democratisation’ has been added to the ideological repertoire, with the West presenting itself as Prospero to Africa’s Caliban. Almost invariably, then, Africa is constructed and reconstructed as a representation of the West’s negative image, a discourse that, simultaneously, valorises and affirms Western superiority and absolves it from its existential and esptemological violence against Africa (Miler 1985, 1990, Mudimbe 1988, 1994). 

  The paper is an integration of African independence, its formulations and fetishes, theories and trends, possibilities and pitfalls. As a discursive formation, Africa’s independence or nation state formation is, of course, immersed in the contexts and configurations of the western epistemological order. The state of flux, some would say crisis in African nation-state building, reflects changing cultural politics as a result of the shifting ethnic and gender composition of the society strongly ingrained in what has become known as ‘the  politics of the belly.’ 

Liberal values which these countries craved for during the struggle for independence now manifests itself in savage wars over ‘ethnicity’, multiculturalism’ and ‘political correctness’ all challenging the very nature of state composition on the continent and its place within the global environment. Thus the paper examines the process and practices of democratic governance, beginning with a critical assessment of conventional African perspectives, and proceeds to unravel the complex, and sometimes contradictory, visions of freedom and democracy in post-colonial Africa. The paper ends by re-examining and re-imaginings Africa’s nation state for the 21st century, for constructing transformative paradigms and politics and the link between the two.  Atomised individuals preoccupied with reinventing their personal identities everyday, therefore cannot wage the struggle against imperialism, ethnocracy and neo-colonialism. 

Marginalising the Power in Africa’s Past
For many democracy in Africa can only flourish if it is grounded and rooted in the communal egalitarian values of the pre-colonial past, in indigenous models of governance (Ayittey 1991: 1992: Owusu 1992, Davidson 1978, 1992: Landell-Mills 1992) Of course, unrepretant imperialist historians and their acolytes in the west mass media continue to believe that colonialism bestowed on Africa the gifts of ‘good governance’ and civilisations but unfortunately, it was too brief, so that quite predictably, anarchy and tyranny returned following decolonisation.

Others maintain (that) salvation, it follows, lies in renewed western political tutelage and economic benevolence, in some kind of recolonisation.  For example, Ali Mazrui has called for the recolonisation of the continent.  He also advocated that the solution to Nigeria’s political impasse could be resolved from electing a retired military general as head of state and a civilian as  deputy.  Many scholars of the African political landscape seem to blame the dictatorships, corruption, and confusions that plagues the post-colonial order on innate cultural traits inherited from the pre-colonial past, conveniently glossing over the structural deformities bestowed by colonialism, and they compete in coining the worst epithets to describe the post-colonial state in Africa (Diamond 1987, Bratton and Van de Walle 1994, Zartman et al 1995, Zeleza et al 1988).

Does this imply for African countries a profound conviction that there is no alternative to western political modernity? I wonder. And wonder because we have drifted apart from our cultural values and belief systems which underline the strength and weaknesses on which to build a solid governance system. No governance system is perfect. It is the people that perfect it.  The African has so far not been able to perfect whatever system it had to the benefit and advantages of its peoples.  The failure of perfection gives room for the classification of the continent by external researchers as “failed, collapsed, weak, marginalised states”.  Primitive systems have their perfection all depending on what the people make of it.  That primitive governance system can be imbued with certain values that can perfect what we fashion as modern governance system.  There is no reason why  Africa cannot create its governance system that abides to the basic tenets of western democratic values, rule of law and so on.  The difference between the two is space and time factor.

Given these histories, as Zeleza (1997) notes, democracy cannot and should not, be reduced to the empty shell of competitive party politics which is often justified on the grounds that it ensures the trinity of ‘good governance’ efficiency, accountability, and the protection of individual rights. It is not simply for better ‘governance’ that people all over the world have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice their lives: it is for their empowerment into the various spatial economies they occupy, from the local community to the national and global systems.

Three Dominant Paradigms
Africa’s bumpy road to democracy depicts three paradigms, namely (i) automist, (ii) instrumentalist, and (iii) process models (Lonsdale 1981).  To begin with, the first paradigm underscores the notion or assumption of autonomy of state power and the productivity of political action. Earlier studies on Africa were written from the traditional conceptualisation of the State as an independent, active and creative agency organised to provide consensus and cohesion. The traditional African State was authoritarian in its own way but sought the general well being of its population. That authoritarian attitude of the past found its way into the politics and governance system in post-colonial era. However, later studies showed that autonomous state was no longer perceived so benevolently as a symmetrical assemblage of power ensuring social harmonious and equality, but as an asymmetrical concentration of power which guarantees discord and disparities.

Secondly, the ‘instrumentalist’ conceptions of the state took the functional stress. Power here was perceived as a visible exercise rather than as a many-sided social relation. One version posits the centrality of external force, wielded by a minority, as a factor of cohesion in plural ethnically heterogeneous societies. Incidentally, this analytical approach has been applied to the pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial states. The concept of class and neo-colonial versions of state instrumentalist has largely been applied to the colonial and post-colonial states.  These states are seen as instruments of bourgeois hegemony either local or foreign.

What emerges out of these two paradigms is an idealist historical setting if politics and power, which has converged into ‘stomachtocracy’ or what Bayart labels ‘ the politics of the belly.’  This seems to underlie the root problems of post-colonial African countries.  Colonialism has been replaced by two paradigms – stomachtocracy and ethnocracy – as the root cause of  creating a weak, soft or  failing  state that must be reinvented if Africa is to have a chance in the global village of the 21st century and beyond.

 Analyses inspired by the autonomist paradigm in both its symmetrical and asymmetrical versions have been teleological in that “they measured past and present change against contemporary hopes for African democracy.  In addition, political intentions and values were seen as prime components of power, especially the power to institute change” (Lonsdale 1981:150). Zeleza (1997) notes that the instrumentalist paradigm produced functionalist studies that did not sufficiently problematized and analyse state formations, and their class compositions as complex historical processes. Finally, the third paradigm sees the state as processes whose apparatuses, class, composition, ideology and material base, are historically formed and structured.

We ought to bear in mind that states manifest themselves in diverse forms. Each distinguishes specific articulations between state and nation, state and society, coercion and consent. Furthermore, they are consequently subjected to change as their economic, social ideological and cultural configurations and contexts change.  And as their legitimatise are reptured  or  recognised.  To a large extent, it is not easy to map out the changes in African State and political formations overtime.  A major draw back here is the diversity and complex historical past of the continent, its polities, cultures and societies. The question that often arises is that of ‘ethnic states’ in Africa. It is more appropriate to describe the continent as made up of ethnic states. Whether these configurations of ethnic states can rightly be circumvented into nation-states is another issue. Take Cameroon for example, with its 16.5 million inhabitants and composed of 230 ethnic groups backed with a chequered historical past with at least three former colonial powers, Britain, France and Germany impacting their value belief systems and culture to a people with a diverse background.  Is it not right to state that such a diverse historical background throws the people into confusion as to what should constitute a nation-state and to the basic trappings of democracy as advanced by the west.

By all intent, the focus of the state itself remains problematic. We cannot run away from the reality of the existence of many people in various corners of the continent at certain moments or time period, did not live together in States but in ethnic or tribal settings.  Cameroon has more than 230 ethnic groups, Nigeria with 370 and so on.  Given just the Cameroon and Nigerian constellation of ethnic groupings, we can begin to talk of 600 ethnic states in Africa.  In such a situation with many different and changing theatres of politics and power it is difficult to make meaningful generalisation about African traditions of democracy and authoritarianism Could this be a contributing factor to failed states and failed leadership characteristics of the continent. It is to this that we next turn our attention. Turning our attention by bearing in mind two inter-related issues – Africa as a victim of the two worst crimes against mankind in world history – (i) the slave trade, and (ii) colonialism which helped in eroding the structural base of whatever governance system that was practised by the people. If justification for Africa’s underdevelopment and bad governance lies in external references, the challenge for the new millennium may well be how long this will continue to provide sufficient rationalisation for the continent’s prostate state.

Failed States and Leadership
Failed states and institutions are the result of weak political base, absence of democratic governance and the exclusion of civil society in the management of state affairs.  Take for example, the case of Cameroon were the creation of a single-party system in 1966 abrogated a concerted form of partnership between the state and civil society: fundamental human rights were denied and a mechanism of witch-hunting established to subdue civil society and political opponents to the power thrust and selfish goals of those who controlled the instrument and forces of state power. A Hobbesian and not a Jeffersonian state was created, rejecting three fundamental principles of government, namely:

- the absence of popular sovereignty and representative democracy:
- the  absence of the separation of powers – between the various institutions of government – legislative, executive and judiciary;

- the imposition of a disguised republican form of government which fails to share power  with state institutions and the people (Forje 2000).

Noble prize winner Wole Soyinka on his 50th birthday anniversary in 1984, bemoaned the African condition when he spoke of his generation of African elite as ‘mine has been a wasted generation.’  He further advocated for a rebellion on the part of the youths, idealistic and visionary men and women of the continent to break what he characterised as a repressive cycle of hopelessness and despair.

The three paradigms of autonomist, instrumentalist and the process model have yet to set out a realist paradigm for a modern African nation-states building.  In other words, debates on and proposals about how the continent can remake its history are not new, yet there has seldom been a shortage of theories about the way forward. For a continent so endowed in natural and human resources but curiously unable to create the synergy needed to reverse the misfortunes of history, the debates on Africa being at cross-roads and about the future often range from the absurd to the practical realities of what exists.  This should not be surprising. The answers are clear – it’s complicated historical past and the complex political emergencies in the new millennium.  Puts the continent at the cross roads of decay and development.

No wonder the politician Sam Mbakwe openly calls for the return of the colonial administration to manage the affairs of the continent. A call that underscores the failure of the nation-state and its leaders as the liberator of the people: but only emerge as their oppressors. That is the three paradigms have not produced a successful nation-state on the continent.  State construction in Africa has been under girded or informed by different aspects of the paradigms.  The failure of post-colonial leaders calling for the return of the colonial masters  imply that colonial administration functioned in the broad interest of the people in providing their basic needs unlike what is happening today.  Yet the important challenge before Africa (here and now) is an urgent one: how paraphrasing the views of late economist Mancur Olson to locate the illusory progress of the continent in the context of a failure in the management of governance and to deliver the basic needs of the people.

Distressing Statistics
Post colonial Africa has witnessed distressing statistics on dictatorship and authoritarian regimes. The monolithic party structure paved the way perhaps to strengthen and justify the automist paradigm. For a short while, this wave was justified as a means of corralling forces for nationalism and development.  The instrumentalist paradigm did not bring us nearer to the realms of domestic governance and democracy. Nor has the process paradigm made a significant inroad to this cherished form of governance. African countries ream fragmented. The culture of nationalism like democracy is yet to be cultivated

In almost a half-a-century since the departure of the colonial masters, when we review the balance sheet it is crystal clear that rejection of democracy and the wanton abuse of human rights have been the most grievous strategic errors of the leaders that has brought  Africa  to its current situation.  May be the third paradigm could be made to fill the gap as Amartya Sen argues with great distinction that developing and strengthening democracy are probably the most essential component of the development process. How is this so. Most probably through the process of paradigm  shift, with the state as a process whose apparatus, class composition, ideology and material base are formed and structured and judiciously used to provide the essential needs of the people.  By enriching individual lives through the expansion of political and civic freedom, by providing incentives to leaders to be accountable to popular needs, and by helping form values and priorities through open dialogue and debates as well as ensuring participation, partnership and benefit-sharing.

The continent’s complex political emergencies could be seen through failed leadership and governance form which contributes to things falling apart the morning after the national flag was hoisted.. Decades of post-colonial one party system and dictatorship in a number of African countries, Nigeria, Cameroon, Sudan, Congo (former Zaire), Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia to mention just a few instances, offer the most dramatic and shameful cases of how authoritarian structures can ruin otherwise prosperous societies.

 Following decades of authoritarian rule and corruption, many African leaders have led their countries into a debilitating debt trap which today stands at over US$360 billion and which is undoubtedly a huge obstacle to the gender and social justice on the continent. Yet two other critical problems now pose a much more server threat to the future of the continent, HIV/AIDS pandemic and the brain drain. This is effectuated  through what could be termed as ‘economic immigrants’ due to the prevailing  pathetic political and economic situation in most  African countries.

To go further, on a continent stuck on the runway of democracy and decay (Forje 2000) we find Nigeria and the then Zaire whose history offers splendid illustration of the pastime of acquiring the state through ferocious struggle to establish predatory rule. Perhaps in the attempt to recreate the automist paradigm in modern times, Mobutu of Zaire vacuumed his country’s wealth, so did  Nigerian, Sani Abacha, who  double according to the country’s media did away with some US$4.5 billion before his death.  The list is endless of leaders who continue to bleed their nations to death or who left their countries in desperate economic, social and political conditions.

Reinventing the Political Kingdom

Nationalism and Nation-building
Ideologies on the concept of the nation-state vary: one of these ideological straitjackets has been the quest for “national-unity” as an essential element of nation building. To begin with, the terminology ‘state’ refers to the governmental and political dimensions of human organisations, while ‘nation’ refers to the social and cultural aspects of community. The modern state is simply the fusion of one or more nations with a state. What then is a nation is simply a social and cultural conglomeration of people. When people share a common language, culture, economic system, and history, they develop common affinities, values, attitudes, and patterns of behaviour. These common ties are the basis of a nation. While the power of a political community may influence the evolution of a nation, governments do not create nations. Rather, they grow and evolve from shared interests, values and habits. The basis of a nation, in short, is not the power of government, but high degree of community interdependence based on mutual aspirations and shared values. Fundamentally, a nation is a people – a group of individuals who understand each other. In short, A nation is a social organisation, which become politically organised in order to ensure its survival and development.

 Nationalism is the political force promoting the consolidation of a nation. Hans Koln (1965) defines nationalism as ‘ a state of mind, in which the supreme loyalty of the individual is felt to be due the nation-state.’ Nationalism is thus characterised by several elements, namely;
- people prefer political affinities that coincide with their nationality:

- people achieve their highest political fulfilment by fusing political aspirations with their nationality;

- a major source of political power is the collective political will of a nation;

- nation-hood achieves its highest fulfilment when it is identified with a state; and

- The highest political loyalty is to the nation.

At least four forms of nationalism can be identified, namely: (a) ‘political nationalism’ – a domestic nationalism inspired chiefly by political goals and represented to a significant degree by the quest for effective self-rule by well-defined nations.  Example here will include the development of independent nation-states – their quest for independence as demonstrated by the colonies especially after World War II. The second type of nationalism refers to ‘ethnic nationalism’ – a form which involves the quest for increased political autonomy by cultural groups, is illustrated by the Jewish Zionist movement seeking independent homeland: since the 1990s this form has gripped former Soviet republics like Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. In this group can also be included the quest by the English-speaking people of the Republic of Cameroon for a separate state. The third category is ‘social revolution’ – epitomised by the revolutionary ferment over the restructuring of economic, social, and political institutions. Such nationalism generally arises when significant portions of a country’s people perceive the social and economic structured as fundamentally unjust and become involved in a popular and revolutionary campaign to transform it. The fourth refers to ‘anti-colonialism’ rooted in the desire for self-determination by peoples formerly ruled by a foreign colonial power. Or internally when one ethnic dominates the rest, giving rise for the others to seek their own separate state. The absence of security in its wider senses – justice, equitable distribution of resources, social justice, participation, appointments, etc. all contribute to determine whether there is a state of peace or conflict, and whether a sense of belonging exists in that society.

The various forms of nationalism or factors contributing to the rise of nationalistic tendencies  significantly  played important roles in shaping the state of a culture of peace or fanning conflicts.  In the final analysis it boils down to the distribution of the nation’s resources and how the different segment of society wields power and influence within the structure and functioning of the governance system.  Who gets what, when and how?

Under the imperative of nation-building, nationalism became a localising ideology, seeking to bring under its ambit every manifestation of political interest or collective action.  Some of this fervour for ‘unity’ was motivated by a genuine desires to rapidly bind together disparate ethnic groups, and nationalities into modern states.  However, all too often the quest for unity was conflicted with a quest for uniformity through the auspices of the single party system.  In its less innocent and more paranoiac expression, nationalism tended to view political opposition as unpatriotic and divisive. This view was given credence and nourished by the “divide and rule” machinations of the outgoing colonialists. There was a contradiction here, On the one hand, the concept of nation-state building out of a diversity of fragmented ethnic groups: on the other, the idea of “divide and rule” all propagated by the West. Mkandawire (1998:22) states that given such a stance, the new states denied themselves the possibilities of dealing with the inherent social pluralism of their societies in dialogical and non-confrontational manner.  Every articulation of genuine local interests, or manifestation of ethnic identity was viewed as almost treasonous and was harshly suppressed.

This attitude helped in destroying traditional cultural value perspectives as being treasonous to the hegemony of western values. Cultural values were sidelined by the developmentalist ideology. A source of authoritarian rule was the modernisation and developmentalist ideology that tended to subject every other value to its own peculiar and unrelenting exigencies. According to its precepts, development needed national unity: it needed foreign investment, which in turn needed discipline and docile labour; it needed a singleness of purpose that would be compromised by the ambivalence and compromises inherent in democracy. One party or authoritarian rule would curtail decision costs incurred through democratic decision-making procedures. Three are other problems. At the dawn of the new millennium Africa has been the Theatre of some of the world’s worst ethno-national and religious conflicts. Is development possible in an atmosphere of war and insecurity?  Even as the train of democracy moves from Bamako to the Cape, from the cape to Cairo, from Cairo to the Horn, the flawed principle that coercive force is the only legitimate means of acquiring and maintaining power is badly in need of addressing in a new millennium.

We are now faced with a situation where from Congo through Burundi, to Sierra Leone, Sudan and the horn of Africa, the fight to establish ethnic citizenship on the continent is at its worst. Nationalism is at the crossroads. The nation state is threatened and even weakened. To some extent, this could be attributed to the fragility of the constitutions of these countries that bestows total power to one institution – the Presidency leaving the other institutions completely naked and fragile.  The captivity of the other institutions of government particularly by the presidency is common throughout the continent.  The institution of power rests with the presidency.  More often than not, the i9nstitution is placed above the law. 

Bleak as the outlook has been, the last few decades, especially the 1990s witnessed some encouraging indices that offer hope for a possible renaissance. To begin with, Huntington’s wave of democratisation could not leave Africa behind. Having been tied to the aprons of Marxists ideological orientation, it came as no surprise that the collapse of the Soviet tailored governance system had profound impact on the continent. To a large extent, the demonstration effect of the Eastern European revolution should not, however, be exaggerated according to Mazrui (1990:10-11). He states that “the age of political acquiescence in Africa was coming to an end well before the world heard much about Mikhail Gorbachev. It has been argued that (Legum 1992:205), Diamond 1993:4) the Soweto eruptions and the West Bank Infadah had a greater resonance and a more immediate impact on the growth of the reform movements in Sub-Saharan and North Africa respectively (Mamdani 1992).  There were inherent movements for change within Africa before the Gobachev phenomenon over took the world.  Africans were getting out of their political slumber and inactivity

Cameroon presents another good example with Paul Biya’s (1987) Communal Liberalism which advocated a shift towards some form of guided multi-partism – a shift from the centralised one-party system that had taken strong grip within the political landscape of the country. This suggests that the ‘demonstration effect’ had been evident from within Africa.  For example, in South Africa, the death of Steve Biko  in 1976 created a new spirit for the struggle against apartheid.  A demonstration effect pointing to the third paradigm of the state as a process.  And to look at transformation in political processes both as an internal; revolution or evolution on in terms of external forces, as the collapse of the Berlin Wall; or the plundering state of the colonial regimes.  The era of colonialism and authoritarian regime structures was seriously threatened.

Since 1990, there have been strong movements towards reinventing or reconstructing the state, governance, and democracy. The ultimate triumph of democracy in South Africa (1994), Nigeria (1999), Ghana (2000) and in a dozen other countries suggest that the sun is terminally setting for authoritarian rule, bumps on the road like the coup in Ivory Coast and Comoro not withstanding. To be complete, however, an expansion in political freedom must complemented with a vigorous sense of gender, justice, participation and partnership between state and civil society.

Africa’s struggle for democracy in many cases have been against the deformities of political culture left behind by colonialism and western economic and political interventions in the post-independence era. By attributing the rise of contemporary democratic movements in Africa to western tutelage is to play the game of cat and mouse with history. History also has it that these movements joined their western counterparts to organise activities around the struggles for civil and community rights, economic empowerment to ensure that the practice of democracy was competitive, free and fair in the emerging new polity of the continent.  Unfortunately, that spirit was sustained after independence.  Greed and self-interest quickly took over the structure and functioning of the state.

The target was a liberal democracy as the dominant historical mode of politics practised in the West, but one which Wamba-dia-Wamba (1992:2) perceives as being in crisis, that democracy in the West was still incomplete, and that beneath the comfortable exterior of what Galbraith (1992) brands as the ‘culture of contentment’ lies profound political alienation from the electoral process. The contrast here is that while in the West the people alienate themselves from exercising their civic rights and responsibilities. In Africa, it is the State that alienates the people from being participants in the democratic process.  Some typical examples include the non-registration of voters; manipulation with voters registrars, displacement of polling stations, ghost polling stations, and all other malpractice that help in undermining the basic tenets of democratic governance. The absence of these basic tenets, be it in a primitive or civilised society undermines the construction and functioning of a just society. When justice is absent, conflict management becomes a serious problem to address.  When justice is absent the tendency of alienation becomes greater and the sense of belonging is distant from the vocabulary of the people.  Post colonial governance  structure created a situation of exclusion and not inclusion.

Reinventing the political kingdom unfortunately implies reconstructing the nation-state with democracy as the underlining element. Democracy presupposes difference, and exists to allow those differences to determine public policy in a peaceful non-violent manner, freedom of speech, to express those differences, to persuade, to deliberate, to criticise, to condemn, to let off steam as well as participate in the process. All these are necessary to a functioning democracy and sustaining a nation-state and nationalism.

The post-colonial state in Africa inherited the ill-fitting clothes of liberalism and nationalism. In the liberal tradition, the nation is the bearer of the collective right of self-determination, while the citizen is the bearer of individual rights. This raises vital questions. In a continent where the state is a recent and external construction straddling disparate collections of ethnic groups or nationalities. You may ask what constitute nationality? And doesn’t the conception of individual rights in terms of citizenship effectively disenfranchise millions of the people given Africa’s history of massive labour migration, flows of refugees and above all, the arbitrary demarcation of boundaries that spilt families into belonging to different sphere of colonial administration hence the imperative of re-imagining the community. This community as a formation of cultural practices, a process of associational life, and as a moral landscape, is historically constructed.

In reconstructing the African nation-state, it is imperative to grapple with the question of cultural heritage, values, cultural continuity and change, autonomy and dependency, uniformity and difference, in order to put into correct perspectives or right the wrongs of the tragic encounter with an imperialist, intolerant, and universalising Europe. There is the need to probe into the divergent understandings of the kinds of traditions and social orders that can accommodate the expansive and humane values, of a democratic culture How different ethnic group constellations can best embrace the culture of democracy, transparency, good governance and the nation state  as an institution that serves all the inhabitants..

On the one hand, we must accept that ‘traditional’ values and institutions are largely seen negatively, as authoritarian, patriarchal, and tribalistic: on the other, traditional values offer positive alternatives to the tyrannical corruption’s and confusions of the neo-colonial era, (Ngugi, Head and Farah). Therefore, common grounds must be found as the embodiment of the articulation between traditional despotism and modern state terror. 

Rethinking the political kingdom entails emerging complementary and commonalties between what is seen as traditional cultural values and belief systems and modern democratic governance. The positive sides of the two should be merged and harnessed to reconstitute the nation-state and nationalism. The past can and should be retrieved and mobilised for democracy, development and nationalism. The positivism of the glorious past must be remembered and effectively and efficiently used to construct a democratic and sustainable nation-state where the ‘people rule’ and not just a select ethnic and powerful group with invested interests that hijacks the governance system. The underlying element in rethinking the political kingdom is ‘democracy’ with democracy as the realm of conflict management and building a culture of peace in Africa.  Without democracy, quality management and good governance it is not possible to ensure a sustainable form of development.

Not only the global community has become inter-related and inter-dependent. The nation -state is becoming increasingly interrelated in many different areas especially as each ethnic is forced to give up its claim of ethnicity and sue for nationalism, resulting in a condition of ‘complex interdependence’ if the nation-state is to survive as a unit with the state remaining as the most important and powerful actor.  But government is no longer the only determinant of national and international relations. A corollary of this first proposition is that states do not act as coherent, rational actors. One of the reasons for this is that modern governments are complex organisations in which numerous offices share decision making  in the event of certain crisis.  Government response due to its own political survival could be explained not as coherent rational response.  But as a by-products of the different interests and perspectives of relevant political leaders and interest groups which can equally alienate others left out.

Democracy’s Complex Role
If democracy is figured out as the mechanism best suitable for the management of structural transformation in Africa, it is just appropriate to ask the simple but pertinent question – what is democracy? Democracy must not be identified with majority rule alone. Democracy has complex demands, which certainly include voting and respect for election results, but it also requires the protection of liberties and freedoms, respect for legal entitlements and the guaranteeing of free discussions, participation and uncensored distribution of news for fair comments.

In reconstituting the state, we should bear in mind two fundamental inter-related issues. A state is what you make it. Democracy is what you make it. Government is what you make it. For these reasons, dictators use it to dominate their subjects. Free citizens use government to work forward a common good. In working toward that common good, citizens in a democracy recognise they need a central organisation that can boss people around. These citizens will accept to be bossed provided they believe their leaders are not abusing their power. Democracy is a ‘control system’ that is supposed to short-cut abuses.

Control comes from dividing powers between several sources.  For example.  Between the executive, legislature, judiciary and civil society.  This involves partnership, participation.  and responsibility sharing by the various actors.  In some cases politicians make decisions.  In other cases citizens will use initiatives and referendums to make political decisions directly. Control also comes from making sure that those in power can be thrown out at regular intervals.  These are just the basic ingredients for democracy. The final mix of ingredients will decide the type of government citizens get. Democracy is a demanding system and not just a mechanical conditions (like the single party majority rule) seen in isolation.  The various component parts or actors must cohabit and exist peacefully to ensure a smooth functioning of the system.  Dictatorial regimes and monolithic party systems do not need any form of coexistence with other structures.  It is a difficult and different form of systems to operate.  It can best succeed only by accommodating the opinions of the broadest segment of society.  It operates on consensus as the watch dog.

In reconstituting the state and given the tenets of democracy, we need (a) a bottom-up approach for here is where power belongs.  Secondly, a bottom-up approach has to be complemented with some form of intermarriage of traditional cultural values (indigenous knowledge) with Western universalising approaches. The blend between cultural value perspectives and building on the strength and participation of the people produces a government accountable and one that shares power with all in society. Such a government embarks on a policy approach of ‘inclusion’ not ‘exclusion’ as a priority agenda and avoids the dictates of powerful ethnic and interest groups. Conflict arises as a result of exclusion. Conflicts are resolved not by exclusion but by inclusion – through the auspices of partnership, participation imbued with benefit sharing.  How can this be attained in the African context where the predominant tendency is to use collective self-regarding frames in the definition of self?  Three factors are relevant here.  First when civil society takes its responsibilities as the true and sole custodians of the rights of the people; ready  at any time to defend such rights.  Secondly, when the governing elite’s more from their selfish aspirations to working for the collective interests of the people.  Thirdly, when the international community stands behind in protecting the rights of the people by denouncing the illegal acts of the ruling elite’s or of any undemocratic governance system, and by not supporting authoritarian and undemocratic regime forms.

Under dictatorial rule, people need not think – need not choose – need not make up their minds or give their consent. All they need to do is to follow. By contrast a democracy cannot survive without civic virtue. The political challenge for people around the world today is not just to replace authoritarian regimes by democratic ones. Beyond this is to make democracy work for ordinary people so that they cultivate a sense of belonging and the feeling or act of participation. In the words of John Stuart Mill, ‘the worth of a state in the long run is the worth of the individuals composing it.’ But the individuals must be given a free and fair chance of selecting who their governors are under a system were the governors are accountable to their actions.

The achievements of democracy depend not only on the rules and procedures that are adopted and safeguarded but also on the way the citizens use the opportunities. The recognition of the state remains imperative to ensure that both the victims and the vanquished end up sharing power. It is through this that unity can be shaped, nationalism strengthened and made the culture of the people. In solving conflicts, ethnicity must make way for nationalism, exclusion for inclusion, individualism for common interests all within a legal framework that ensures justice for all and a governance system that enhances liberty, freedom, equality, and the rule of law.  Flowing from these indicates  democracy remains the anvil on which to reconstruct the state, build a culture of peace and address issues of complex political emergencies for the continent in the 21st century.

Democracy is a system for controlling government; that rests on fair political competition. To control government citizens need to see the connection between what politicians decides on their behalf and what they get. A citizenry that cannot make these connections has no way of judging its leaders and looses control over them. Political competition forces information to flow to voters and gives them the means to act on that information. That is why leaders in democracy that encourages competition are forced to act responsibly toward their constituents.

In reconstituting states, good policies and rules are necessary but not enough: they must be enforced efficiently and honestly without which it is impossible to build a culture of peace or create a sense of belonging amongst the population. Good governance implies an attitude of mind no less than a set of rules or strong institutions. A society that respects rules and norms will enjoy governance even where there is no written constitution like in Britain for example. The creation of strong, independent institutions can provide checks and balances that prevent a few powerful people from ignoring rules.

Proactive Strategic Policy Measures
In ‘Discourse on Method’ Rene Descartes states,(Kaplan 1998) ‘ Divide each problem into many parts as possible; that each part being more easily conceived the whole may be more intelligible’.  This outlines in nutshell the way to addressing the management of structural transformation. The management of structural transformation is embedded with complex political emergencies. These include among others the failure of the nation state as the liberator of the people; ethnic conflicts; the kind of governance system most adaptable to prevailing situation in transitional societies; the impact of foreign culture; the neglect of indigenous cultural values and knowledge as mechanisms for development; state – civil society relation. 

No single approach can best answer the plethora of problems and other exigencies plaguing emerging states.  Given its past colonial legacy and the complexity of globalisation, and the penetrating influence information and communication, one can at best advocate a strategic policy approach of inter-marriage of cultural factors to shape the way forward for transitional societies within the broad framework of an emerging global village of the 21st century and beyond.  Traditional African values should be seen as complimentary to external values and not relegated.  The tendency has always been that of undermining traditional cultural values and suing for exogenous values and beliefs.  Equally important for traditional cultural values is the need to evolve and not remain stagnant.  With this form of cohabitation and backed with a vision to moving forward in the right direction, it is possible for a metatheoretic consideration to permit the reconstruction of a State in Africa with common universal values that can best cater for the interest of the disadvantaged in society.

Looking specifically at issues of reconstituting the state, the following proactive strategic measures are advanced, since they are rooted in:

1.   Traditional Cultural values and Indigenous Knowledge
- The neglect of traditional cultural values and belief systems is an impediment to development and contributes to a break down in the transition process and with the past; people neither adhere to their cultural values nor are acquintated with endogenous ones, which they tend to embrace without any reservation.

- There is a need for an African Renaissance Perspective (ARP), and the conditions for renaissance are: (a) decolonisation; (b) recognition by the masses and the middle class of the bankruptcy of neo-colonialism; (c) the post Cold war vacuum in Africa and the acceleration of the process of nationalism and globalisation.

- Renaissance represents the transformation of its cultures and societies from its capitulation to Atlantic powers to the position of self-confidence and its reflowering at the dawn of a new millennium.

Granting this, would these traditional African values replace or displace extant values.  There is need for complimentary actions and the inter-marriage where possible of these cultural values of  the people of the world.  It should not develop into a competition but that of partnership between the different cultural settings for the common good of all mankinds.

2. Democracy and Governance Form
- The failed state is a result of many inter-related factors, namely, cultural, economics, social, religious, political, race, technological and language. Conflicts need a trigger:

- While politics can be defined in a variety of ways, the next emphasises politics as a quest for community co-operation and conflict management.  Politics should be pursued from the perspectives of constructing a society that embodies all varieties of cultural differences;

- Grievances by groups with uneven access to power can provide a trigger, as can greed poised to take advantage of the chaos of war;

- Political violence and instability occurs frequently in poor countries because of the failure of the governance system, and particularly with failure to redress ‘horizontal’ inequalities. The politics of exclusion replaces ‘the politics of inclusion, partnership, participation and equitable benefit-sharing.’

- If conflict is caused by different groups having unequal access to political power, then it follows that a good way to avoid conflict and promote a culture of peace is to encourage democracy, good governance, quality management, efficient and effective delivery services;

- Avoid explosive structural factors of  ‘horizontal’ inequality. Horizontal inequality arises when power and resources are unequally distributed between groups that are also differentiated in other ways – for instance, race, religion, political difference, corruption and so on.

- Good governance implies an attitude of mind no less than a set of roles or strong institutions. A society which respects rules and norms will enjoy good governance;

- The creation of strong independent institutions can provide checks and balances that prevent a few powerful people or ethnic groups from ignoring rules or hijacking the state for their personal ends.

- In Africa today there are many more ethnic nations than states. As a result, most countries are multinational states. In some cases, nations are divided between two states; the Palestinians present a good illustration in this context.  The case of Africa is even worse.  Take for example, the different  ethnic groupings in Cameroon, Burundi, Somali etc divided within two or more states.

- Because of poverty, political oppression, and persecution of minority groups, many people will advocate for secession or will immigrate to other countries.  Those fleeing their countries often remain displaced without a state;

- The modern global order remains fundamentally characterised by the features of the Westphalian global order – namely, the dominance of state actors, political sovereignty, an oligarchic distribution of power, and the absence of common authority to resolve disputes.

- Likewise, the nation state under authoritarian governance system is characterised by inequality in power distribution, and ethnic dominance of state authority. That has to be redress in all aspects.

- Establishing and creating political communities and cultivating a culture of peace involves two elements – co-operation and conflict management. Co-operation is essential since all communal action presupposes shared purposes and common activities whether at the local, national, or international levels. Communities are maintained by common cultural social political and economic wants of its members

- Bear in mind that nations are held together by a common language, a dominant culture and shared political ideals. The people’s commitment to their nation known as nationalism, has been, and remains a major source of cohesion for the modern nation-state. The strength of the nation rests on ‘shared interests’ such as the quest for peace and economic prosperity amongst members;

- A pervasive feature of all polities is discord and conflict. Such conflicts derive from many different sources, including disagreements over the allocation of tangible resources, or the quest for such tangible goods as prestige, honour and influence;

- Bear in mind the indispensable role of strong institutions and organisations in building a culture of peace and maintaining communities;

- Perceive politics as a moral enterprise – a process that is designed to further the good life of all citizens;

- Foster the following instruments responsible for peace and tranquillity in societies; (a) laws reflecting a broad moral consensus within society; (b) political machinery to change laws; (c) an executive to enforce and apply the law; (d) courts to resolve legal disputes; (e) superior public force by which to apprehend and punish those who violate laws as well as ensuring that no one is above the laws of the nation; (f) economic well-being so that people are sufficiently satisfied and do not resort to violence;

- Two basic strategies that can be used in responding to conflicts avoidance and management are: Conflict management, the only effective long-term strategy, can be approached in a variety of ways. These include micro or macro strategies, compromise versus force, and direct or indirect (third party) strategies. The major third-party strategies are conciliation, mediation, arbitration, and adjudication.

Thus creating the necessary enabling environment is the first step to implementing these actions or causes their implementations.

3. Eradication of Colonialism, Ethnocracy and Neo-colonialism
- The perception that colonialism is a thing of the past is inaccurate. Many underrepresented nations and peoples are suffering from ethnic and cultural genocide, the suppression of their right to self-determination, language and religion, and the militarization and nuclearization of their lives and lands. There is need to endorse efforts to;

- Cut down escalating military expenditure and step up expenditures for social services:

- Assist those people and nations under colonial, ethnic domination in their peaceful struggle for justice and the exercise of their rights to self-determination;

- Eliminate new forms of colonisation, particularly in the social and economic sphere.

4. Human Resources and Institution capacity Building
Remove all barriers that constraint and impinge more directly on intellectual sensitivities and responses of African academics. The infrastructure for learning is constantly deprived of its rights to undertake research. The social sciences discipline remains a contested terrain in many African countries.  Many countries still do not tolerate the establishment of a political science, sociology or anthropology department that can critically and scientifically undertake research and teachings that put studies in their correct perspectives.

- Unless and until the rule of law, separation of powers, freedom of speech, free and fair elections amongst others become a part of the governance system, the continent cannot move forward addressing critical issues of conflict management as well as ensure harmonisation of cultures and the cultivation of a culture of peace. 
- Create new effective institutions or reorganise existing ones to effectively promote the course of strong nation-states and conflict management;

- Insist that peace education be made compulsory at all levels of the education system;

- All education ministries and development assistance agencies should systematically implement peace education initiatives and democratic governance at local and national levels;

- Reintegrate into the young people and some of their elders who have been marginalised, often as a result of limited economic opportunities and close political space, and whose marginalisation has led them into violent behaviour;

- Reform and democratisation of the United Nations, to advance the course of peace;

- The promotion of regional institutions (e.g. SADC, ECOWAS, CEMAC etc. to advance peace through adherence to international law;

- Replacing the glorification of authoritarian, militarianism with models of active and functional democratic and non-violence. A campaign to eliminate or at least reduce violence in the media and every day language.

5.    Eliminate Racial, Ethnic, Gender and Religious Intolerance
Ethnic, religious and racial intolerance and nationalism are among the principal sources of modern conflict and failed states. There is strong support for:

- Efforts to eliminate the political manipulation of racial, ethnic, gender and religious differences for political and economic purposes;
- The promotion of affirmative action until the consequences of past discrimination, exclusion, marginalisation have been redressed;

- Recognise the role of children and youths as peace-makers;

- Recognise the role of spiritual values in building human capacity: and that social transformation cannot come from political prescription or technical recipes alone:

6. Promoting Gender Justice
The cost of machismo that still pervades most societies are high for men whose choices are limited by this standard, and for women who experience continued violence both in war and peace time;

- Recognition of the role of women as peacemakers. The implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against women;

- The redefinition of distorted gender roles that perpetuate violence and promote alienation of women and other marginalised groups in the development process;

- The active participation of women in significant numbers I all decision and policy-making forms.

7. Gender as Instrument for Successful Nation-State
Gender is increasingly a focus of the democracy discourse, although traditionally as elsewhere, women have not been viewed as public economic or political actors in much of Africa. The struggle for the independence of Africa, particularly in the second and third waves of democratisation suggests that it is important to consider gender as an issue. Women often suffer more in a particular manner during times of civil war and authoritarianism, and play particular role during these adversities.  African women have and continue to play distinctive roles in the struggle for justice, democracy and development. Thus their experiences should be fully exploited to advance the course of democracy and conflict management.

A failed state is the result of the absence of democratic governance: the absence of love  and trust for one another and the non-respect of fundamental rights.  It is also the outcome of greed at its highest peak. Conflict is caused and driven by a combination of social, political, historical, economic and cultural factors that constitute and shape the fabric of society.  The  instrumentalist paradigm did not bring us nearer to the realms of domestic governance and democracy.  Nor has the process paradigm shift brought us any closer to attaining a democratic governance system.  When we review the balance sheet it is crystal clear that rejection of democracy and the wanton abuse of human rights reign supreme  in the continent.  It is imperative to bring both internal and external actors.  Together to act in unity in order to alleviate and resolve violence and differences within groups, societies and nations.  Only through this can endurable peace be assured for a continent struggling at the cross road of political, social, economic and cultural development of the 21st century.

The adherence to and implementation of the basic tenets of democracy does provide a comfortable framework for the management of conflicts and building a culture of peace. It is imperative for civil society through determined and scientific objectivity of researchers to implant the knowledge of local circumstances and causes of violence, inform all stakeholders – external and internal actors, and to strive towards bringing them together to act in unity to present, alleviate and resolve violence and differences within groups and societies. Only through this can endurable peace be assured.

As democratic forms of government replace authoritarian regimes and civil conflict, a critical issue in the success of the transition is the management of past human rights abuses and crimes against humanity. The tremendous human, economic and political costs of conflict and conflict management, failed states call for much greater emphasis on conflict preservation. Conflict prevention and failed states can only be effective when the various actors and civil society helps build peaceful relations among individual, groups, and states.

Viewed from the angle of oneness, development ceases to be something one does for others. A vision begins to emerge according to which the rich and the poor, the illiterate and the educated, are all to participate in building a new civilisation, one that ensures the material and spiritual prosperity of the entire human race. The task of erecting a peaceful and just national and global society must involve all members of the human family. If the capacities of the world’s peoples are to reach the levels needed to address the complex requirements of the present hour, the resources of both reason and faith will have to be tapped for the common good of all. Indigenous knowledge and modernity must be harnessed for the common good of all.

While science and technology can offer the methods and tools for promoting social and economic advancement, it alone cannot set direction; the goals of development cannot come from within the process itself. A vision is needed, and the proper vision will never take shape if the spiritual heritage of the human race continues to be regarded as tangential to development policy and programs. It has to be an integral part of the development process.

A vision begins to emerge according to which the rich and the poor, the illiterate and the educated, the primitive and modern are all to participate in building a new civilisation, one that ensures the material and spiritual prosperity of the entire human race. One important idea that gradually emerges is the importance of rethinking our understanding of human nature and its fundamental motivations if the world is to properly analyse and understand the failures of the current development paradigm and move beyond it.

Promoting a discourse on structural transformation of societies requires social scientists and policy-makers descending from ivory tower to fully overcome existing prejudices marked by industrialisation, scientific rationality, and cultural pluralism in order to fulfil important social functions.  Movements towards an integrated development and nationalism cannot take place unless social scientists in the development field can fully overcome this prejudice and begin to work in genuine partnership with the local communities that they seek to help. A truly creative aspect of integrated development and eventually nationalism is the summoning forth of meaning and wisdom derived from the cultural, indigenous knowledge and religious traditions of the people.

In the final analysis, it is a question of rediscovering the resources of traditional cultural values and indigenous knowledge to building a democratic and sustainable society. For too long, the West has perceived traditional cultural values and indigenous knowledge and religions of the people in Africa as an obstacle to economic development, because these values often trusted the rhythm of nature, fostered social identification with family and community, and failed to promote a culture oriented toward personal achievement and social mobility. Therefore, the way forward is to build some form of solidarity with the cultural and indigenous knowledge of the people in a changing global environment.  The issues of ethnicity, race, minority rights, discrimination, poverty in its wider context, participation, partnership and wealth-sharing need to be adequately addressed.  It is only when the recommendations that address the how, what, why and when are implemented that we can begin to move the debate forward.  As of now, there is no single approach to Africa’s  problems of democratisation decentralisation and development.  Without an Afrocentric vision and focus, the path to anew political dimension may fall on the way side.

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© The ideas and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author
and do not necessarily reflect the views of UNESCO.

© Les idées et opinions exprimées dans cet article sont celles de l'auteur
et n’engagent pas la responsabilité de l´UNESCO.