MOST Ethno-Net publication: Africa at Crossroads


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

UNESCO / ENA, 2001

Ethnicity, Agonism of Difference and National Imagining
in Post-Colonial Africa

Benedict Nantang Jua
University of Buea 


“Today in many parts of Africa, efforts to break with the past are beginning to succeed”

Koffi Anan, UN Secretary General.

“Africa has cornered itself into rejecting ethnicity as an organizing concept in the process of nation-building. The challenge then is whether it is possible to reverse this mindset, so that ethnic groups which are the African realities can be seen in the reverse light as resources or building blocks that can provide a sound foundation for a sustainable political and socio-economic development from within”

Francis Deng
UN Secretary General’s Representative for Internally Displaced Peoples, 1992.

Ethnicity engenders and is engendered by complex political emergencies. After a cursory examination of these twin phenomena, this paper dwells more the problems of constructing the state in post-conflict situations. It is argued that democracy, insofar as it is seen as all inclusive can begin to help to overcome the challenge. Yet this would require the cultivation of the agonism of difference. This is not easy in the African context where people cannot move on because of their inability to bring a closure to the past. The paper therefore examines ways of confronting the past. Throughout the main thesis remains that ethnicity and state construction/national imagining are not incompatible. 

Confronting the Challenge of Ethnicity: Position taking
“Every state a nation, every nation a state”. Though seemingly an innocent slogan, it has been the prevailing ethos for over two centuries and its power is demonstrated by the fact that it has provided a rationale for ethno-fascism, genocides and politicides. Conflicts engendered by this ethos have been more pronounced in Africa where, it has been claimed, independence left states looking for nations (Appiah, 1992). Resolution of this problem has so far been elusive because of the multi-ethnic character of most of these states. Since one man’s nation easily becomes another’s prison(Appadurai, 1990, 295), fostering a national imagining has been  problematical and elusive. Empirical evidence has therefore not borne out independence’s normative justification as a precursor for development. Rent by, inter alia, war, the best case scenario in Africa is to celebrate stagnation. One of its disturbing implications on state efficacy is the “maximax problematique” where the state is left only with minimum resources, construed here to include not only financial but also moral, social and symbolic   resources to satisfy maximum needs. In this context, Anthony Trollope’s prophecy that “the discontinuance of a sin (of colonialism) is the commencement of a struggle” (cited in Horowitz, 1985, 4) seems to take on a renewed relevance and provides justification for Afropessimism. Reversals are however being witnessed. Thus, Koffi’s observation that Africa is beginning to overcome this challenge. 

Solutions, some of them quick fixes, have been proffered. These have ranged from returning to the original position, that is, the re-colonization of Africa, a proposal with which listeners of BBC’s African programs, such as letters written to Focus on Africa, are familiar. This suggestion may appear innocuous. But scholars have sought to provide justification for the return of the white man to Africa with a view to finishing “their moral responsibility of trusteeship as colonizers”(Pfaff, 1995), even if this be through the form of commercial type arrangement where Western expertise would be brought in (Harrison, 1995). Though patronizing, this viewpoint has spawned a lot of polemics among African academics. (1) However, I doubt its political purchase as metropolitan countries would not want to be foisted with the white man’s burden again. Besides, Africa’s ruling class would be unreceptive to this proposal which represents a metaphor for its managerial incapacity. Thus, it would cling stubbornly to the twin concepts of political sovereignty and territorial integrity, even in failed or collapsed states. Granting this, the challenge, as I see it, is to convert these states into vibrant ones. Attainment of this goal would require policies that would promote a successful national imagining. Only an inclusionary politics (2), which takes into consideration Francis Deng’s prescription, can produce the synergy needed to move them forward. 

Historical evidence from the recent past on the relationship between the state and ethnic groups shows an ambiguous picture. This is a practical consequence of a lack of a theoretical consensus. An eminent statesman such as Julius Nyerere depicted ethnic groups as mortal enemies of the post-colonial state. Shared by most other head of states in Africa, this became their collective perception. This perception saw the relationship between ethnic groups and states in terms of an exclusive disjuncture. Samora Machel (in Mamdani, 1996, 135) captures this aptly when he argued that for the state to live, the tribe must die. Accepting the first part of the slogan that “every state a nation”, African leaders were allergic to the thought of “every nation a state”. Thus not even the death of the tribe (“a socio-psychological anchor”) that would have caused the African to suffer from what Balzac referred to as “moral aloneness” was seen as a prohibitive price to pay. (3) Opting for the contrived or forceful death of the tribe is not an African specificity for Ernest Renan notes that “historical enquiry brings to light deeds of violence which took place at the origins of all political formations, even those whose consequences have been altogether beneficial. Unity is always effected by means of brutality”. (4) Alternatively, avoidance strategies involving the displacement of ethnic groups have also been used. The many manifestations of this solution have included the transfer of urban enclaves (South Africa’s Group Areas Act); programs to shift rural populations (Tigrayans in Ethiopia 1984-85); local regroupement of ethnic peoples (colonial Algeria); assisted emigration(Falasha Jews from Ethiopia) and disguised or undisguised deportations or expulsions ( Asians from Uganda; blacks from Mauritania in 1989) (Rothchild, 1989, 21).

Dissenting voices arguing against the foregoing policy options could also be heard. Celebrating the tribe, Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first President of the Republic of Nigeria, noted that “it takes individuals to form a community; it takes communities to form a tribe; it takes to tribes to from a nation”(cited in Tamarkin, 1996, 379). This plea, supported by many other politicians, sought to promote the use of the tribe as a matrix for a politics of national imagining. Since then, decision makers who belong to this lineage have been comforted by the normative justifications provided by renowned African and Africanist scholars. Endorsing the use of local languages in literature, Ngugi wa Thiongo observes that “culture embodies those moral, ethical and aesthetical values, the set of spiritual eyeglasses, through which (a people) come to view themselves and their place in the universe” (1994,14-15; Achebe, 1990, 127). These values or cultural funds are crucial in constituting a political-moral space, sustained by a political-moral community. The problem, he points out is how to increase the spread of this space to cover the national territory (Tamarkin, 1996, 366). 

Ethnicity, I would argue in this paper, should constitute a building block of the post-colonial state. It should therefore be more than a collateral benefit for national imagining. Ranger’s thesis that ethnicity was invented by colonialism having been elevated to the status of dogma, most scholarly analysis now find it relevant to focus on the historically determined contradictions spawned by this invention. Some have argued that the sedimentation process or imagining accounts for most of the problems confronting African post-colonial states(Chabal&Daloz, 1999, 57). Proposals for their resolution have included, inter alia the modification of custom, a prominent feature of this socio-psychological anchor(Mamdani, 1996, 297). Similarly, if ethnicity is a factor in the instrumentalization of disorder, as Chabal and Daloz suggest, then advocates of rationalism may see this as a cause to factor it out. Acceptance of this position, synonymous to that of Machel, would be tantamount to throwing out the baby with the bathwater. It would be to deny the relevance of the positive dialectic theory (5) to Africa. Furthermore, the need to exorcise ethnicity overlooks the fact that  “a society can begin to move forward as it is, in spite of what is and because of what it is”(Hirschmann, 1963, 3). It is against this backdrop that Lonsdale has called for the writing of a history of African political thought in which ethnic particularity would be transcended by universal humanity(1989,23). Arguments against detribalization spurned even in the colonial period provide this position with a historical lineage. Without making any reference to the rejection of the unilinear concept of development in which it is grounded, William Watson argued that it implied “that Africans must choose between two systems of social relations and values …. But a man can participate in two different spheres of social relations … the spheres exist conjointly (cited in Moore, 1993, 15). Because of this privilege, Africans could benefit from the synergism needed to move it forward.

Arguments about the need to get ethnicity out of the process of state construction suffer from a problem particular to multiculturalist discourse which constructs large groupings in which people are invariably different and are often strangers to each other on the model of small-scale familial or communal groupings (Calhoun, 1997, 207). Granted, this approach portraying people as accepting a single label over their identities and identities as relatively settled provides scholarship with requisite stereotypes for neatness. But in real life, it has been argued, one’s life is more than any official definition of identity can express. That is, despite the fact that one is enabled by his identity, it neither exhausts nor completely captures him (Connolly, 1991, 120). Since one’s identity is always in gestation, celebrating its homecoming would be premature. Historically, social anthropology’s tendency to privilege social and external knowledge over the self- or internal knowledge in its analysis of individual identity has been prejudicial to this position (Cohen, 1992, 222). Identities are never fixed because being relational, they are contingent on the exterior, ipso facto making the interior appear as something always contingent (Mouffe, 1997,403). 

Undoubtedly, the tendency to define self in communal self-regarding frames in the African context could be used as justification for this approach. Colonialism that brought about a rupture in space also introduced a new consciousness in the African and by that very fact his hybridization. That is, his embedding in Western culture/ values system endowed him with two consciousness, a European one which foregrounds the individual self- regarding frame in defining self as well as the pristine position. Because of this historical placement, a situational perspective always has to be used in his definition. Admittedly, it has been argued that since the African gene, to use the biological analogy, is stronger than the European one, the concept of Western citizenship that implies a degree in individual differentiation has not been and cannot be reproduced in Africa.(Chabal&Daloz, 1999, 146&157). Genes can therefore be seen as accounting for the discredited thesis on the African’s historical incapacity to change. But note that morphological similarities are mistakenly seen as correlated with genetic similarities (Appiah, 1995, 36). 

However, the lack of covalence between these two similarities enables the recovering of the individual from the group, a significant development in contexts where ethnic groups are locked in conflict. Focus on inter-group conflict covers over intra-group conflict, an approach which risks reifying potentially limiting or repressive group identities. Though this provides a more critical and democratically open basis for forging and reforging collective identities (Calhoun, 1997, 224), I am more interested in the possibilities of forging relational identities as a result of an ethical engagement that this non-crystallization allows individuals from different groups. Fostering this implication as Connolly notes, is “the stirrings of unpersuaded possibilities in oneself that exceed one’s identity and an engagement with pressures to resent the obdurate features of the human condition”.  Because this discursive ethic is engendered by partially shared experiences, it tends to receive a hearing likely to have disturbing results (1994, 166&167) for proponents of ethnic purity. Prominent among them is the conversion of the antagonism of identity into agonism of difference, a sine qua non for the “naturalization” of citizens. Those able to make this conversion constitute a moral community needed to build bridges across ethnic boundaries. Doubts persist whether the African can make this conversion (Chabal&Daloz, 1999, 19, 52, 53). Curiosity, if any, that this line of inquiry may provoke is reinforced by the observation that because of particular social developments, individuals may sense more affinity to groups other than their ethnic groups and cannot be seen as prisoners of a group (Horowoitz, 1998, 346&359). 

What is wrong with Ethnicity?
The preoccupation of Constitutions with the defence of the rights of ethnic groups gives the impression that Africans these groups are under siege. With a view to containing this visceral hatred and to legally secure ethnicity, Article 1 of the constitution of Burkina Faso, for example, outlaws discrimination based on ethnic or regional origins. A similar proscription is found in the constitutions of Ivory Coast (Article 6), Namibia (Article 10) and South Africa (Article 9). Gabon’s Law No. 3/91 of 26 March 1991 also states in its preamble that acts of racial, ethnic or religious discrimination are outlawed and punishable by law. The fixation on outlawing ethnic discrimination caused it to be included in the Banjul Charter on Human and People’s Rights. Article 2 guarantees rights and freedoms recognized by the Charter without distinction of any kind such as, to wit, race, ethnic group, and color.

A strictly legal interpretation of these instruments may give the mistaken impression ethnicity depends on the cover of the law accounts for its survival. However, this would be to deny that ethnicity is a fundamental social fact of life. Outlawing or causing its death would produce negative repercussions which would be immediately visible. Not only is the ethnic group the sole moral community in Africa (Tamarkin, 1996, passim) but its utility is also uncontested as the imagination of “the existence of a new ‘tribe’ may be the best way to look outward, to embrace social progress”(Lonsdale cited in Chabal, 1996, 49). Most sovereign national conferences held in Africa in the early 1990s seemed to have seen ethnicity against this changing social context. Thus, they did not condemn ethnicity per se but its perverse effect on states. Against this backdrop, it becomes evident Africa has been scourged by political tribalism rather than moral ethnicity. According to John Lonsdale political tribalism flows down from high political intrigue; it constitutes communities through external competition. Moral ethnicity creates communities from within through domestic controversy over civic culture … it is the only language of accountability that most Africans have; it is the most intimate critic of the state’s ideology of order. …Tribalism remains the reserve currency in our markets of power, ethnicity our most critical community of thought. Ethnic nationalism has been mobilized rather than disarmed by modern states, no matter whether liberal or authoritarian(Lonsdale, 1992, 466&467). 

The effects of tribalism on the post-colonial state in Africa have been unsettling as indicated by the ubiquity of war. Though war is not new, its nature has changed from what it used to be in the pre-colonial period. Unlike in the past, code for its conduct that can be dubbed African humanitarian law is no longer respected. Commenting on this a Nuer chief in the Sudan noted in 1998 that: “They used to tell us that the reason why the Nuer and Dinka fight each other was because we are ignorant. We don’t know anything because we are not educated. But now look at all this killing! This war between the Nuer and Dinka is much worse than anything we experienced in the past. And it is the war of the educated (elite) – It is not our war at all”(cited in Jok&Hutchinson, 1999, 131). Transformation had occurred in this war not just because of the nature of arms used(guns instead of spears) but also in tactics as morality in war was de-emphasized. Earlier Nuer cattle raids had avoided killing children, women and the elderly and the wanton destruction of property. Morality and proportionality were emphasized even in war. Reminiscing on this, a Dinka leader observed that “On our side we would mourn over the dead, recuperate from our loss, and retaliate when the time and place were appropriate”(see Jok&Hutchinson, 1999, 131). Restraint enabled the conviviality of the myth of a peaceful co-existence and the reality of war. 

This myth could be perpetuated only because wars between ethnic groups in the pre-colonial era rarely lasted more than a few days. Spectacle was rare and the physical, psychological and moral violence inflicted on its victims did not affect the community as a whole. That only individuals were affected is important not because of Margaret Thatcher’s cynical remark that “society does not exits. There are only individuals” but because it enabled the society to move on. Furthermore, the wars were mostly over economic rather than political differences. Antagonism was therefore episodic while dissent, the trademark of democratic politics remained an intrinsic feature of their relations. This does not obtain in the post-colonial state.  Thus, the moral economy of crime which is part of the present-day calculus of (political) power in contemporary Africa (Chabal&Daloz, 1999, 78). More concerned with their self-gratification, individuals-qua-groups seek to access this state which is seen as means of production. Its beneficiaries being adepts at the art of manipulation cause people to misrecognize this by giving the semblance that they are fostering “enlightened public interest”. A former Dinka Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) soldier attested to this thus: 
“Mixing political differences with economic competition, and emphasizing to each group the danger presented by the other, is the only way Riek and Garang can get us to fight their wars for them”. (6)

That the “war of the educated” is different from the skirmishes of the past became evident when some Dinkas went to the house of Gader, a prophet and Nuer, to sacrifice an ox. Such visits, in spiritual search for rain was standard practice even during times of hostility. Seen through the prism of their political heurmeutics, it symbolized that even violence did not lead to a rupture in relations between the two groups and one could not become a social suzerain of the other. (7) However change in the nature of war led to a corresponding change in this perception or reading. Following a report of a visit by the prophet to the local SSIA authorities, the Dinkas were arrested and indicted for spying on behalf of the SPLA. It was a jolting experience for the Dinkas. In denial of the fact that the prophet could challenge or refuse this cultural fact, they put blamed not him but the soldiers. Explaining their smug indifference to culture, a Dinka chief observed that Gader simply sought to inform the military authorities of the re-enactment of this practice. “He had hoped that the authorities would understand the usual protocol regarding spiritual matters, but the behavior of the military leaders was an embarrassment to him …. If such spiritual matters are also ignored by these armies, we have no hope that anything else would persuade them about thinking about resuming friendly border relations. Although these soldiers were our children yesterday and should understand the primacy of spiritual life, they act as if they are from a different world. They are the same on both sides”(cited in Jok& Hutchinson, 1999, 140). Social implosion is therefore attributable to this rupture in consciousness.

Claims that this rupture is triggered mostly by political economy of warfare considerations can easily be substantiated. In Tchad, for example, transhumance has been the historical cause of tension between the Negroid groups who practice farming and the Berbers who engage in cattle farming. But these two communities still cohabited peacefully as cattle movement to the South also occasioned familial and cultural contact. People often evoke this era “that they glorify as the years of peace and concord in the rural areas” with a lot of nostalgic feelings (cited in Tenebaye, 1999, 3). A reversal in this trend occurred because of the emergence of a new class of pastoral farmers, comprising mostly the petty bourgeoisie (senior functionaries, army officers and chiefs). The circular pattern of transhumance, whereby cattle moved to the South in search of pasture in the dry season but returned to the North in the rainy season was abandoned in 1984-85 as a result of an intensive and extensive drought. They did not return to the Sahel (Dassering,1999,4). This brought more pressure to bear on lands in the South whose carrying capacity was already stretched to breaking point. Exacerbating this was the fact that some members of this new class of pastoral farmers that are connected of those in power, in defiance of customary practice, moved their cattle into areas without the prior accord of local chiefs. 

Though the local chief has the statutory competence to decide on farmer-grazier disputes, in light of the changing power relations, graziers now prefer to report to the gendarmes and the administrative officers who are frontline officials of the state. Being mostly rent seekers, these officials have contributed inordinately to exacerbating conflict. Contrary to standard practice and custom, it is commonplace for them to demand cattle from the grazier as reparation requested by the farmer for damages caused by cattle on his farm (Tenebaye, 1999, 5). Practices such as these engender comments such as “Saras do not love the Arabs” and “farmers make us pay even for a leaf” (Tenebaye, 1999, 6). This disables the conviviality of the myth of peaceful co-existence and the reality of war or the propensity thereto. Hence, the protagonists are not interested in critical reflection which would reveal that it is the implosion of the state and the subsequent conflict in authority between traditional and modern arms of the administration that is the genesis of the problem. And as I have argued elsewhere (Jua, 2000, 15), this has disturbing implications in so far as it thrusts to the fore of people’s consciousness events that had receded into memory. The resultant in Tchad is the nurturance of feelings of accumulated hatred as the majority Sara in the South begin to remember the violence, physical and symbolic, to which the Arabized Northern ethnic groups submitted their ancestors when they raided and sold them into slavery. Psychic connections are disabled in this environment. Elites play an inordinate role in this process as position takings depend for their force and form on the position that each agent occupies in the power relations. Its innocence is doubtful as Bourdieu notes that as people fail in carrying out their projects or meet with obstacles, there is a probability that they altar, not to say deform, traditional information that they have received from various others in the course of their previous interactions with a view to bringing their projects to fruition (Lipuma&Calhoun, 1993, 23&78). 

Only an understanding (8) of the dynamics of ethnic conflict in the pre-capitalist context, a plea implied in the observation of the Dinka chief, would enable the explication of social reality. Though not denying the existence of conflict, its understanding would reveal that factors such as the principle of proportionality and morality guaranteed the reign of an ethical consciousness even in times of war. Largely as a result of this, conflicts were non-malignant or benign, to use a medical analogy. In the changing social context, they are, however, malignant. Attributing this pathology to the educated and by that token the “war of the educated” is not to acquit the common man for whom the ethnic group is supposedly not a social construct but a firmly bounded, durable community. Marx’s observation that it is life that determines consciousness rather than the reverse is also applicable to the common man. As indicated above, this has disturbing implications for the common man as was pointed out by a Mozambican peasant that had been forced to relocate three times as a result of war. “Now it is different. Yesterday, I was a person, I had my own personality, now I have nothing. All that I feel, all that I own now, is my suffering” (Nordstrom, 1992, 268). This state of being is a result of evil, that is caused by a human agent. And it can only foster a negative remembering. Where this is collective, it discourages a national imagining 

Considering the depletion of cultural funds in the educated class as the cause for the malignancy of present ethnic conflicts in Africa would be correct, though incomplete. In this seemingly irrational breakdown of order, society is being re-organized in particular ways so that beneficiaries get real material, political and psychological gains from the conflict (Cliffe&Luckham, 1999, 38). Its beneficiaries are members of the tribu du ventre (Monga, ) that have converted the state into a means of production. “Eating” became the norm among this class, giving rise to what is known in popular parlance as the politics of the belly. This venal practice was uncontested because violence as a mode of governance became the norm following the institution of the hegemonic state. More insidious was the effect of the disciplining and normalization of the individual, a sine qua non for the conversion of the population to “standing reserves” that could be used as instrumental value (Hedeigger, 1977,18). Facilitating this process was the fact that the African defines ‘self’ using two registers, European and African, with their emphasis on individual self-regarding frames and communal-regarding frames respectively. The fact that the latter locates that individual in an extant moral community increases its seductive value. It cannot also be vacated easily as the community that celebrates the autonomous individual is still becoming. 

This recognition explains the decision of the ruling class to privilege hegemonic exchange in governance whose uncontested functioning of the state depended on its efficacy in suturing ethnic barons. This practice led to the emergence of the etat reseaux or rhizome state in post-colonial Africa (9); the barons being at the interface between the state and society. Ethnic barons set up clientelistic networks and the dyadic relations that obtained therein guaranteed the submissiveness of (disempowered) clients to their patrons. Since this involved the use of resources largely assumed to be legitimate, even if they were illicit, corruption by members of the tribu du ventre was construed as patrimonially legitimate (Chabal&Daloz, 1999, 79) by their clients. Granted Africans always celebrate the co-opting of their barons into what they refer to as the mangeoire nationale. Seemingly, this is because of the opportunity spaces that it offers them to access this state that puts a high premium on informal channels and with which they normally enter into contact only when it exercises its powers of violence or extraction. Acquiescence should not be mistaken with approval. Construing it as the latter would be to deny that Africans are tricksters for whom the ‘really real’ is incessantly multifaceted and ironic. This conception of the real presents them with an infinite potentiality, that is “the capacity for individuals to virtually transform themselves into anybody they want to be (Hecht&Simone,1994, 12,79). The capacity to transform themselves explains their ressentiment for patrons as evidenced by the vigor with which their dismissal from government is celebrated. In Cameroon, cases abound of former patrons who have been treated as if they are social plagues. 

Throughout Africa, the inability of regimes to suture elites has led to the eruption of conflict. Though labelled as ethnic conflicts, their causes are much more complex (Graf, 1988, 17; Ntumba, 1998, 10; Goodhand&Hulme, 1999). Whatever their cause, it is widely acknowledged, they are simply a means to power. And since power is seen as belonging to the group, the normative expectations are that such conflicts should occasion ethnic mobilization. Empirical studies, however, point to the fact that diverse and divergent motives push and pull the people, especially children to conscript into the army. Notable among these are food security and the sense of security and power that is provided by possessing a gun (Furley cited in Honwana, 1998, 12). Fear, in some cases, compels parents to allow their children to be recruited. And fear in this context is exacerbated by the fact that similar to the pre-capitalist era, freedom is seen as a privilege rather than a right. Evidence of this is the case of a young recruit for the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola(UNITA). After being enlisted, he was sent home because he was sick. Unaware of this, the troops who recruited him accused his mother of preventing him from joining the army. Cowered by this and harassments by the UNITA soldiers, her husband who “is a very religious person (a catequista)” decided to let them take the boy again (Honwana, 1998,13). Stories similar to this one abound. They are countervailing evidence that, despite the penchant of the elite for political tribalization, the common man subscribes to it largely as a result of fear. Lonsdale notes that the former is the bane of African politics only because the elites, though not all of them, I would add, have succeeded in disempowering the common man (cited in Chabal&Daloz, 1999, 60). 

Clients, being basically disempowered, live in ambient fear. Compliance in this circumstance to extant power relations is coerced rather than willing. Relegated to this status, clients are involved in a permanent quest for rights. Conferral of rights, it has been noted in another circumstance, “is symbolic of all denied aspects of (one’s) humanity: rights imply a respect that places one on the referential range of self and others, that elevates one from human body to social being” (Williams, 1991, 153). In pursuit of these rights, ‘citizens’ without paying scant attention to their ethnic origins collectively supported the call for sovereign national conferences in Africa. Believing that only a liberal democratic system could guarantee these rights as well as development, contra modernization, Africans embraced this mode of governance that promised them independence from the members of the tribu du ventre. And as if to confirm Hirschman’s thesis, position taking on this issue did affect one’s ethnicity.

Democracy and its all Inclusiveness Promise
Optimism that democracy was the panacea for all the conflicts plaguing Africa was unbounded.  Historical evidence, admittedly, suggests that democracy and nationalism are Siamese twins, even if this be a symbiotic relationship where the latter is more dependent on the former. The case for “democratic possibilism” in Africa was sustained by the fact that this mode of governance had flourished in other developing states. Seeing democracy as fostering contingency and relationality in identities, most scholars shared the optimism that it would lead to a modification in collective identity. This inhered in the recognition of all as coparticipants in the creation of a common future. To realize this end, presented as inevitable rather than desirous, they sought to deepen and expand liberal democracy whose modular form was imported from Europe. However, African countries unlike their European counterparts did not have homogeneous populations. Because of their peculiarity, that is their heterogeneity, democracy, to have any relevance in this context, would have to be deconstructed. With a view to promoting its all-inclusiveness, various forms of democracy were prescribed that now inform practice. They range from Ethiopia’s republic of ethnics to the South African formula where any party obtaining 20% of the votes caste in elections participates in the cabinet. Powers are being devolved to the local level. This, it has been postulated, should lead to a replication of the American experience where an accent is put on performance politics at the national level and identity politics at the local level (Chege, 1998, 391).

To a certain extent this prescription has been respected in Mali where after a series of interpellations, Alpha Oumar Konare offered to extend more local powers to the north that had been in rebellion against the central government. Consequently, more than seven hundred elected ‘communes’ were established throughout Mali. Only after this did the rebels accept to hand in their guns that were stockpiled for the highly symbolic destruction in what has been dubbed the “Flame of Peace” at Timbuktu. Accompanying this was a joint declaration issued by the rival groups in which they affirmed the indivisibility of Mali, pledged their support to its constitution, renounced the use of violence and exhorted their fellow African fighters across the continent to ‘celebrate their own Flame of Peace’. Konare’s approach has been presented as ‘ambitious’ and ‘visionary’ and a paradigm for African states. These states will flourish in the 21st century ‘only if they are able to reconcile the need for broader economic or monetary unions with the pressures from local groups to assume their cultural identities’. For this purpose, decentralization is the new framework which will make people responsible for their own lives, for mobilizing national resources and using them locally for productive investments’ (Poulton cited in Jua, 2000, 19) 

Reform should be seen to be real. Political subterfuge as occurred in the case of Botswana for a long time is not an adequate solution to the problem. Comprising more than twenty ethnic groups, with more than 30 percent of its population being neither linguistically nor ethnically Tswana, the Constitution for a long time recognized only eight ethnic groups. Justification for this policy was provided by its Chief Justice, M.D. Mokama when he argued that with a population of only 700,000, “the best protection of any group rights is far better served by entrenched protection of individual human rights” (cited in Southern Africa Political and Economic Monthly,July 1993,6). This argument is predicated on the definition of the African from an individual self-regarding perspective to the detriment of the communal regarding self that provides him a socio-psychological anchor and would look suspicious, or at best patronizing, to groups that were not recognized by the Constitution. That it had no purchase power was demonstrated by the formation of the Society for the Promotion of Ikanlanga Language by University students in Botswana. Its chairman argued that “If we talk of the word ‘Setswana’ in terms of broadening it to include all of us so that those who speak Ikalanga, Shona or whatever, those who were born and bred in Botswana, should be seen as speaking all dialects of Setswana”. Implicitly, this was an argument for the recognition of the other ethnic groups which speak these languages and by that token a claim for tolerance as right rather than grace. (10) In the face of this impediment and others, few states have been able to emulate Mali’s example successfully. 

Tolerance as a right may become the norm only following the crystallization of civil society which privileges dialogical reciprocity and an intersubjective consensus which are intrinsic to the democratic culture in decision making. If we accept the argument that the African gene dominates in the African hybrid, then it is axiomatic that individual differentiation that sustains the Western concept of citizen cannot obtain in Africa (Chabal&Daloz, 1999, 157). Since this differentiation is inherent in this society, one cannot begin to talk of civil society in Africa. This position espoused by Chabal and Daloz goes against the grain as the existence of civil society in Africa has been largely documented; the problem that it faces now is one of thickening (Bratton, 1989; Nyang’oro, 1994; Newberry, 1994; Chabal,1994&Mamdani, 1996). With a view to promoting its thickening, Mamdani has argued for the reform of rural areas where the stress is on privilege rather than equality. Urban areas are not insulated from the perverse effects of this system due to the chiefs’ tendency to appoint representatives whose role is “to look after the men in a particular area, to assert control, and to protect the particular chief’s interests in the cities”(Mamdani, 1996, 280, 297). This proposal, which calls for a frontal attack on custom, needs to be confronted critically. Chiefs who are basically (benevolent) despots are seen as wielding uncontested power over their societies. Freedom/equality in this context, and contrary to Liberal theory, is seen as a privilege rather than a right. 

Predicating the need for reform on this argument also indicates a misunderstanding of the dynamics inherent in rural-urban relations. Though influence is reciprocal, there is also a tendency among rural folks to defer to urbanites. This skewed relationship has become more pronounced with the advent of development associations led by elites from urban areas. (11) By providing a democratic space and as conduits for a development that stress a participatory approach, they also foster cultural pluralism in rural areas. Granting the German maxim that “city air makes one free” and the African belief that those in cities are the eyes and ears of those in the villages, the latter thereby benefit from the osmotic effect of this relationship. This gives the villager voice or another consciousness, encouraging him to participate in critical issues that touch on his everyday life. Action is no longer socially but individually controlled. Its unsettling effects are reinforced by media refracted images from urban areas as well as the West that tend to privilege a dialogic reciprocity as a method of reaching an intersubjective consensus on critical issues.

One also has to confront critically the reading of African custom that foregrounds consensus, a view invented in the colonial state “mainly as a means to hallow officials’ history”. Undoubtedly, it inhered from the discursive neutralization of other voices in these societies where the plurality of political ideologies was also the norm (Lonsdale, 1989, 23). Not barring this, it was inherited in the post-colonial state, enabling the state to use the chiefs in policing their subjects. Disciplining and normalization, to the extent that they succeeded, was attributable to ambient fear. Compliance in this instance was coerced rather than willing. Admittedly, this as Renan observes was the organizing principle used in fostering national imagining in Europe. Acceptable at the dawn of the democratic revolutions, the efficacy of this method is doubtful in post-colonial Africa. The present emphasis on the democratic ethos means that the use of force would cause such a political development does not mesh with the prevailing cultural and historical context 

With a view to promoting an inclusionary politics, governments of national unity or broad consensus have been promoted (Tamarkin, 1996, 376; Horowitz, 1985; Mbembe, 2000, 20). Nelson Mandela had provided some empirical justification for this form of governance when he co-opted non-members of the African National Congress into his government with a view to thawing the tensions and distrust that plagued post-apartheid South Africa. In the rest of Africa, however, where politicians are seen in two registers which are not necessarily compatible - as a modern leader and a father - there are push and pull factors that make this an attractive option to the opposition. Prominent among them is the fact that it enables its members to have resources needed for the sustenance of their clientelistic networks. Thus, they can play their role as fathers. But accumulating evidence indicates that among the common man, the penchant is to see the leader not as a father but as a modern leader. 

In the changing social context, the disengagement of the state from the economic sector, ipso facto its contraction which limits it to providing an enabling environment for development deprives patrons of the resources needed for greasing their networks. Either clients can no longer eat or their rations are derisory. Corruption in this context is not considered as partimonially legitmate by the critical mass that rather demands the introduction of a new means of political accountability. Political compromises that lead to transformismo (Gramsci, 1978, 227) or union governments that include politicians of all shades are considered as made on the backs of the masses. Leaders entering into such alliances with the incumbent are perceived as having eaten soya. A palpable example is the negative press (12) that Fru Ndi, the leader of Cameroon’s Social Democratic Front(SDF) received when he had a working breakfast with a member of the Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement(CPDM) government. 

On the whole the creation of governments of national unity in post-colonial Africa have been facilitated by the absence or paucity of parties with firm ideological convictions. Despite Carl Schmitt’s argument that the political derives its energy from several sources and emerges out of different social relations, to wit, religious, moral, economic and ethnic, the blurring of the political shades on the continuum prepares the ground for diverse forms of populist politics that privilege inter alia religious and ethnic issues. This politics breeds intolerance as confrontations over essentialist identities and nonnegotiable moral values multiply (Mouffe, 1997, 402). In Cote d’Ivoire, for example, Laurent Gbagbo’s Front populaire ivoirien(FPI) was dubbed by Felix Houphouet Boigny and Konan Bedie as the Bete party  that practiced violence instinctively (Coulibaly, 2000, 22). Use of this imagery helped to convert political protagonists into enemies rather than adversaries. Whereas an enemy is seen as the “other” to be destroyed, an adversary is one whose ideas we contest but “whose right to defend those ideas we will not put into question” (Mouffe, 1997, 401). In other words, essentialist identities can easily be transcended in the latter case.

No doubt, the prevalence of ethnically homogeneous constituencies in Africa is amenable to the rise of ethnically based parties. Ethnically based parties with a national reach contribute to the spread of ethnic antipathies and may actually serve as a fillip for the growth of monoethnic tendencies. Since this engenders the relegation of some groups to the bottom of society’s symbolic ladder, its corollary is a repression rather than the harnessing of national imagining among these groups. Governments confronted by such a challenge need to indulge in a labor of imagination, that is deconstructing Western liberal democracy, with a view to deepening and thickening for the purpose of accommodating heterogeneous populations. In Kenya, for example, where cabinet members must be members of Parliament, the failure of the Kenya African National Union (KANU) to win seats among the Kikuyu and the Luos in the 1992 general elections meant that these two ethnic groups comprising more than half of the population would not be represented in the highest instance of decision making. This threatened to further estrange these groups, especially as the Kikuyus already felt victimized as a result of the replacement of the cadres with non-Kikuyu cadres in the civil service following its reform. Only the nomination of a Kikuyu and Luo to the National Assembly as well as their appointment to the cabinet pre-empted this. (13)

A politics of inclusion can best be promoted by the formation of parties that foreground ideological rather than essentialist or moral differences. Although established by executive fiat, this obtained in Nigeria as the Ibrahim Babaginda junta prepared the transition to civilian rule. Two nation-wide political parties, the Social Democratic Party(SDP) and the National Republican Convention(NRC) were created. They were similarly given their political coloration, with the former leaning a little to the left of the political spectrum and the latter to the right. Two National Caretaker Committees were appointed to administer them until the officials could be elected at their national conventions.  Regimentation was so much the norm that the program for elections in these parties were synchronized (Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, n.d., 45&243). Despite the issue of provenance (Mohammed, n.d., 4-5), which admittedly is important for sustainable democracy, it would be mistaken to attribute the demise of the transition program to the visible hand of the military in the creation of the parties.

Rather, the stress on regimentation eventually marred the transition program. Without getting involved in the polemics that surrounded the June 12 1993 election that took place despite a court injunction and a failure to vacate the said order, there was a consensus that its success was attributable “largely to the dynamics of the two-party system, which makes it difficult for tribal and religious considerations to overwhelm the tickets presented to the electorate by the parties” (Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, n.d., 22). Essentialist and moralist factors that engender political fascism are not among those issues that marred the conventions that led to the election of Moshood Abiola, a Yoruba from the South-West and Bashir Tofa, a Hausa from the North as Presidential candidates for the SDP and NRC respectively. Similarly, these consideration were not paramount in the June 12 election. Tofa, it should be noted, beat Abiola in the Northern states by only a slight margin. Whereas the former had 5,402,559 votes, the latter had 5,247,318. Abiola’s landslide victory was due to the fact that the South-West voted overwhelmingly for him (3,093,991 votes) while Tofa could garner only 549,528 votes here. (14)

Admittedly, determining intentionality or causal determination is difficult in the social sciences. But some have attributed the skewed voting pattern in the South-West to the Yoruba factor. Though plausible, this argument fails to take into cognizance the fact that the population of this area is sociologically heterogeneous and the impact, if any, of the ideological slant of the parties on the electorate. Thus, given its option for unicausality, it simply glosses over other variables that may have had a bearing on the outcome. 

Agonism of Difference in a Changing Social Context
In as much as ethnic conflict seems to be the prevailing tendency in Africa, this is not tantamount to claiming that ethnic conviviality is absent. Where the latter obtains, groups see political differences as engendering dissent rather than antagonism. Proponents of this form of politics do not have a specific social location. Despite normative claims that the liberal ethos is commonplace among the educated classes, empirical evidence suggests that it is not the monopoly of these classes. This is not synonymous to de-emphasizing the stress on the cultural capital of political actors. Focus should also be on the intentionality of the actors because this also determines their politics. Accommodative politics is fostered where actors are driven by non-material objectives. Against the backdrop of the positive dialectic theory, this form of politics augurs well for national imagining in Africa and can contribute to transcending political tribalism (Lonsdale, 1989, 137). It is becoming more commonplace in Africa’s changing context because of the multiplicity of actors, such as women and NGOs that now occupy public space. 

Some would argue that the constituency embracing this form of politics in Africa is small. Granted. Lack of universality as a handicap is made up for by the intensity of the position taking of its advocates. Margaret Mead submits on the basis of empirical evidence that “never that doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever does”. Nigeria during the Abacha period is a case in point. Following the annulment of June 12, 1993 elections, a small group of people committed to its restoration formed the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), an umbrella organization for about eight groups. NADECO and other groups that shared its aspirations were referred to as the “tribe of pro-democracy advocates”(The News, 12 October 1998,25). Despite the sociological heterogeneity of its membership, they shared a similar conviction that Abiola’s victory in June 12 had crossed ethnic, religious and regional lines. Blinded by their convictions, they were willing to pay any price in their challenge to Abacha’s despotic powers. In other words, their commitment to the democratic principle was so strong that they were willing to forego privileges such as an unimpeded access to the state and even to risk exile as an escape from the “Burmese treatment”(house confinement). (15) Not even the killing of Ken Saro-wiwa and other eight Ogoni activists as well as Musa Yar’Adua, a retired General and one time candidate for the Presidency could deter them. Seeing democracy as the only way of guaranteeing a nautonomy of outcomes in a heterogeneous country like Nigeria, they also advocated for a sovereign national conference(SNC) where a new social compact could be forged. All 250 ethnic groups that comprise Nigeria were therefore to be represented at the SNC (Tell, July 27, 1998,12). At the SNC, according to the Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka of the United Democratic Front for Nigeria(UDFN), “all the interests groups will gather, in which we will discuss … the relationship of the various states to the center, the issue of minorities and boundaries”(in Tell. July14, 1997,10).  Throughout contemporary Africa, especially in Francophone Africa, the SNC has been used to configure a new social basis for politics that would be consensually acceptable. This is a prerequisite for the introduction of a transformative recognition. In this case, to paraphrase Nancy Fraser, “the long term goal of a deconstructive anti-ethnicity outlook would be a culture in which hierarchically ethnic dichotomies would be replaced by networks of intersecting differences that are demassifying and shifting” (cited in Lee,1998, 446). 

Insofar as agonism of difference unsettles accepted orientations to identity, it is contested by most members of the political class, albeit their commitment to national integration. Violence or symbolic violence involving the use of seemingly innocent strategies such as a lexical inflation can be used for this purpose. In Cameroon, for example, people like Mongo Beti who opted for oppositional politics were indexed by the CPDM as les hommes des autres. He was also presented as a French citizen, overlooking the fact that other members of the regime also had this same nationality. But it was the power to name that was important at this juncture. That is using their power and visibility in society, they successfully effected this symbolic imposition, even if it was a deformation of reality. Their possession of symbolic power which Bourdieu notes “is a power of consecration or revelation, a power to conceal or reveal things which are already there” (1990,138) is a condition of this possibility. Generally, les autres, in this case were portrayed as the les allogenes, les envahisseurs, graffis, or les ennemis dans la maison who not only sought to seize power from the Beti tribe but had a ressentiment for them. Invariably, such a portrayal was meant to rob Mongo Beti and others who practised his politics of their social capital. Bereft of this capital, they could not be considered as role models in their communities. 

Even religious space was used to pre-empt the spread of accommodative politics as demonstrated in the case of Mfou in Cameroon. Attempts to scuttle the launching of the SDF in Mvog-Amoug II had been frustrated by the recalcitrance of its interim Co-ordinator, Amougou Ali. That the elite found his attitude unbecoming is not surprising because part of the phenomenology of power is the failure of rulers to see why the ruled should resist their power. With a view to reducing Amougou, who suffered from the unequal distribution in political capital, to irrelevance, the District Officer sent a letter banning the launching ceremony to the local Catholic Church. Mass was interrupted so as to read this banning order(The Post,No.0205, September 11,2000,3). This was significant because priests in this area are seen as moral authorities. As such their pronouncements, especially when uttered from the pulpit are considered as dogma. (16) A subtext of this message, even if unintended, was that attendance at this rally would have been tantamount to connecting or sleeping with the enemy. Fraternal relations that constitute the bedrock of a nation cannot be forged with the enemy. Noteworthy is the fact that advocates of this ethnic fascism or political tribalism were the Big men (17) of the village. The heretic, Ali, who stood as an advocate of a transcendental consciousness, predicated on the logic that moral ethnicity should not be confounded with political tribalism, was a simple villager. 

Preliminary evidence from across Africa indicates that, despite the opposition to the introduction of another consciousness, this heretical discourse is spreading. Granted, it is not yet the civic religion. Recruitment of its membership, a membership reputed for its civic engagement, (18) is carried out through direct and indirect socialization, emphasis being placed on an unobtrusive approach. So far, the most visible venture has been the creation of Children’s Parliaments in most African countries with the active support of UNESCO. Despite the multiple roles accorded this Parliament, I would rather foreground its role in nurturing a democratic ethos among the youth as well as their interest in politics. Eventually, it may mimic the role of Ecole Normale William Ponty in Dakar in colonial Africa, albeit at a national level whose graduates became nationalist leaders while also ‘retaining a West African camaraderie and solidary intimacy lost to the succeeding generation (Anderson, 1990, 113). 

Anderson’s scepticism is justified. It conveniently overlooks the fact that this generation, oppressed by colonial officers, saw colonialism as a violating experience. And there is nothing more potent than an imperial people to make the oppressed aware of its collective existence(Hobsbawm, 1990). With the exit of colonialism, succeeding generations, even those that have been to school, failed at “re-membering”, a process by which a community reconstructs itself culturally, physically and ontologically” (Nordstrom, 1992, 267). This is not surprising for as indicated above, the history of the post-colonial state in Africa is replete with wars. Nordstrom notes that, “if the foundations of culture are jarred in war turned dirty, ontology is thrown open to question and people’s sense of reality itself is rendered tenuous”. Barring a return to the early post-colonial period, a romantic idea, only peace building education can help to overcome the unsettling conditions that have hindered the reconstruction of the communities. In post-conflict areas, “the contents and process of education should promote peace, social justice, respect for human rights and the acceptance of responsibility. Children need to learn skills of negotiation, problem solving, critical thinking ands communication that would enable them to resolve conflict without resorting to violence”(United Nations, 1996, para 255). Arguably, this accounts for its stress on education that would enable a child to respect its own roots as well as parents, cultural identity, language and national values but also for “civilizations different from his or her own” (19)

In the long run, this consciousness raising should have a positive effect on the peace building capacity of the country; the nurturance of a national imagining being one of the benefits, even if a collateral one, of this condition. Its liberation potential inheres in its possible revelation to people that the oppressors are members of la tribu du ventre and in bringing to the fore of their consciousness the unpersuaded possibilities in oneself that exceed one’s identity. Agonism of difference, crucial in the “naturalization” of citizens, is predicated on this realization. Consequently as in the case of the Ecole Normale William Ponty, it may trigger a new a new horizontal bonding among the oppressed as demonstrated in the case of Xhosa migrants to East London in South Africa. Unlike the “Reds” (those who had not been to school) who privileged their primal relations/experiences in the definition of self, the “schools”(those who had been to school) were more outward going, accepting Christianity and even using whites as a reference group. (for details see, Jua 2000, 23)

Prior to the advent of Structural Adjustment Program (SAP) with its emphasis on good governance and disengagement of the state from the economic sector, ethnic fragmentation had also been bolstered by the pervasiveness of the Big man syndrome. Since this syndrome was predicated on patronage, the Big man’s clients were consistently favored. Evidence from Ghana, for example, underlines this fact as in the public sector, members of the dominant ethnic group extracted for itself 25 percent of the wage premium (Collier, 1998, 389). Similarly, privileging this group in employment in the parastatal sector, as exemplified in the case of Northerners in Nigeria to the near total exclusion of Ibos (The News, 10 August 1998,18), where the huge salaries permitted its workers to improve their life chances and become big men in a short period of time. Perception of this nepotism that is extractive rather than productive was bound to increase the psychic distance between the in and out groups and cause the nurturance of feelings of ressentiment toward the former. The changed social context introduced as a result of SAP with its emphasis on rationalization should lead to a levelling of the playing field. Thus, SAP that is seen as having failed to redress African economies, may fortuitously or paradoxically be a fillip for national imagining.

Given the primordiality of local moral and cognitive perceptions, it is not surprising that the woman who is seen as metonymic of society in Africa can also help to foster accommodative politics. In recognition of this, the Organization of Africa Unity (OAU) in 1998 created an advisory body, the African Women’s Committee and Development. It was to foster women’s participation in the continent’s efforts to prevent, manage and resolve ethnic conflicts. In Somalia’s largely oral culture, for example, where women can recite poems that prod men to go to war or encourage them to work for peace, gendered war fatigue has caused them to establish the Wajir Peace Group that fosters agonistic respect of differences. Reviving basic methods of conflict resolution used in the pre-colonial era, the group has encouraged an equitable sharing of resources, one of the underlying causes of mistrust and violence in Somalia. Though class interests may have motivated their actions, their occupation of public space and commitment to accommodative politics has invariably had a positive effect beyond class boundaries. (20)

Clear evidence that the impact of their actions transcended class boundaries is provided by radio stations like the Voice of Somali Women for Peace, Reconciliation and Political Rights (VSWP) founded by women. It promotes national imagining in so far as it seeks to tackle the root causes of war and create an environment that would make war and armed conflict less likely. Predicating its actions on the belief that peace is indivisible and universal, it has harnessed the energy and expertise of Somalis in the diaspora. Enthusiasm among the latter vis-à-vis the project has been unflagging as they are affected by the lack of peace in Somalia. Because of its success, it has been emulated by women in Sierra Leone and the SEMA group in Nigeria also hopes to launch a Voice of Nigerian Women project. Local groups of Rwandan and Burundi women in Toronto have embarked on the same path. 

The proliferation of NGOs in Africa is largely attributable to the lack of state capacity. Initially involved mostly in carrying out development projects, recent trends show that their reach has been spread to include peace or consensus building ventures. (21) Arguably, this is due to the realization that development benefits from the peace dividend. Because agonism of difference is crucial to peace, NGOs have been implicated in the building of bridges across ethnic frontiers. Paradigmatic of this is the experience of the Association Tchadienne pour la Non-Violence (ATNV) a human rights organization with 61 local committees and regrouping more than 5,000 members. In Tchad, where farmer-grazier problems are endemic, it has been engaged in the promotion of processes such as reconciliation and mediation. To this end, it has opened training centers for non-violent conflict resolution throughout the country and at a different level, the Al Mouna Center in N’Djamena organized colloquia in the 1996 and 1998 on the real or perceived linguistic and religious differences between the south and north. These efforts help to reduce the psychic distance between ethnic groups and can therefore energize social communication. 

Confronting the Past, Imagining a Future
Forty, it is contended is the age of maturity. Maturity is a sign of growth and a source of self–validation and affirmation. But because of the contradictions that abound in Africa, it has the reverse effect. In everyday life, the penchant of the African to marry teenagers can be construed as a sign of his preference for innocence or virginity. (22) This preference has caused some Muslim women in Morocco to visit gynaecologists who perform operations in which a virgin is invented, “with the hymen intact sealing a vagina which no man has touched”(Mernissi cited in Desai, 1993, 127). This invention cannot be replicated at the national level where the innocence that accounted for the nationalistic fervor at the dawn of its first independence has been lost. The maturing process has proved to be rather challenging. Ruptures have been many, closures few. As a result, a lot of psychological wounds have failed to heal. Suffering undergone as a result of rupture is perceived as evil because it is attributable to an agent (Connolly, 1991, 1). Contrary to Ali Mazrui’s contention, the African’s memory of hate, in this context, has not been short. Evil, the prism through which the “wars of the educated” are seen cannot be allowed to recede to memory. Rather, it is always thrust to the fore of the African’s consciousness making healing, which should not be conflated with silencing, impossible. And failing healing, he cannot begin to celebrate the “Flames of Peace”, thus depriving the ‘nation in the chrysalis’ of its emancipatory dividend.

Good forgetting as posited by the German psychiatrist Hinderk Emirch can occur only following a recognition of what was wrong with the past (in Schwan, 1998, 732). This requires “checking off” the negative elements of the past, an act which most African governments that have a despotic view of power wherein its citizens benefit from privileges rather than rights is unwilling to perform. In Zimbabwe, for instance, this has taken the form of a denial to issue death certificates to the families that were victims of the raids carried out by notorious Fifth Brigade in Matabeleland. Closure cannot be effected in this circumstance for the victims even in death continue to have a civic existence. It also traumatizes the living as it makes it impossible for the family to retrieve the corpse of a relative from the army for a befitting burial. As such, they fail in one of their greatest obligations.  And since the army qua state is responsible for this failure, it is thus seen as evil. 

Above all, in the moral and cognitive perceptions throughout Central and Southern Africa, failure to bury the dead also pre-empts his “respectful and punctilious transformation into an ancestor”. The dead and the living are supposed to share space. That this belief is perpetuated is not surprising for Marx notes in the Eighteenth Brumaire that the tradition of the dead weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. Validation of this is provided by Webner’s “social biography” of the Ndebele family as recounted by Jane Guyer (1995,4). The elder was killed along with his wife and daughter for failing to surrender his mother-in-law who was accused of being a sorcerer. She was also later immolated, Since the elder’s body was not buried, “in death Dzilo became for the family and the people immediately around his home, what is called a ngozi, a restless and vengeful presence, innocent yet wronged, aggrieved and dangerous to the living. All of them had failed to mourn him by shedding tears for their loss in a wake that would have freed them of his presence as a ghost and sent his soul back to rest among midzimu, the divinities of the dead.” Similarly, in a quest to establish a new moral order for South Africa, the Truth and Reconciliation Committee was told the story of three boys that had been murdered by a black security policeman in Mamelodi. Following this revelation, their mothers in a “Healing of Memories” workshop admitted that “We know what happened, we know who did it, but we don’t know where their bodies are buried. We need to know, we have unfinished business. We cannot move on in our lives”(cited in Lapsey, 1998, 747). Not even the popularity of the football team the Mamelodi Sun Downs that has become the repository of the town’s identity can enable people living in fear of this “grave spiritual danger” to connect with the others. A similar fear accounts for the reluctance of relatives of people that die from ebola (2000 version), a highly contagious disease, to handing over their bodies for burial to “strangers” as happened in the recent outbreak in Uganda. 

That the dead are not really dead until they have been properly buried is a ‘social fact’ and as indicated above failure to do so becomes burdensome, a psychological fact that partly renders social life possible. Its disturbing implications in the everyday life of the living are palpable. Among these are, the debarring of the widows and children of the dead from an inheritance of their property and savings as in the case of Zimbabwe. Furthermore and in conformity with the law, a child’s birth certificate can only be issued if the father signs it or if the death certificate of the father is presented. Without these certificates, hundreds of children born in Matabeleland are unable to attend government schools because they do not have the requisite papers. Denial of this equality of opportunity not only prejudices their life chances but their aspirations to full citizenship (Jua, 2000, 20).

Identification with the state becomes impossible, if not improbable in cases where it is attributed responsibility for the failure to “move on” in one’s life. The state suffers from a legitimacy deficit. Where an ethnic group reified the state, this pre-empts the building of a moral community that includes that group. Plausibly, this accounts for the failure of the Ndebeles to identify with Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF considered as a Shona party. Granted, the conflict between these two groups predates colonialism in that the former that has Zulu roots came to Zimbabwe as a conquering tribe early in the nineteenth century. The belligerent attitude of its monarchy contributed to the decision of the British to disband it. With its sagging political fortunes in post-colonial Zimbabwe, the Ndebeles want to resuscitate this institution. This resonates with, if not is reminiscent of the politics of Chief Gatsha Butelezi’s of the Freedom Inkhata Party which for a long time advocated for the creation of an autonomous Kwa Zulu-Natal Province. 

Failure to enforce the principle of restitution intrinsic to justice helps to aggravate a state’s legitimacy deficit. Whether this results from a legal oversight or when private persons aggrieve the victims, the blame is transferred on the state. Justification for this is provided by the fact the state is assigned three duties in the realm of human rights: the duty to avoid depriving a person of some necessity; to protect them from deprivation and to aid them when deprived (Beetham, 1995, 52). It is little wonder that Hutus in Rwanda following advent of the Rwandan Patriotic Front(RPF) to power blamed all the injustices that they suffered at the hands of Tutsis on the government. (23) Its failure to provide legal redress is seen as proof of it s complicity. This redress is being provided by the International Tribunal set up by the United Nations in Arusha as well as by participative justice under the auspices of GACACA. The involvement of sages and popular participation in this latter mode, no doubt suggests its cultural resonance with practices in Rwandan society (Mugemzi, 1999, 41).

Per the July 1992 Arusha Accords, the right of all returning refugees to enter back into their property was recognized. However, claims predating more than ten years were untenable. In civil law regimes, the standard prescription time is usually thirty years. Arguably, this extended period guarantees “equal concern and respect”, to borrow Ronald Dworkin’s terminology in the provision of uniform rights and treatment for all. Shortening this period meant that all refugees who left the country before 1982(old refugees) could no longer claim property rights to ancestral lands or property that they had left behind. Despite this statute of limitation, most old refugees returned to the rice paddy fields in Mugusa commune. In accordance with the law, they were notified that they had only temporary usufruct rights over these lands which could be reclaimed at any moment by the owners who were mostly new refugees or Hutus. Though the old refugees(victims) blamed the Hutus (victimizers) for their plight, the Accord still privileged the latter in his rights to enter into property. This disparity in treatment could only exacerbate the accumulated resentment that existed between the two groups rather than foster good forgetting. 

Even where the Accord favored new refugees, frontline officials that are mostly Tutsis have discretionary powers in implementing it have alienated Hutus by disregarding not only its provisions of the Accord but also the spirit. For example, they provide, inter alia, that all unoccupied houses or farmland would revert to the commune as “state property” (propriété dominale). Control of this process has the effect of converting the burgomasters into real “chef des terres. In this position, they wield excessive powers as they are empowered to reallocate unoccupied houses in the absence of specific guidelines. Cases of houses that have been allocated to their relatives as well as those of the army officers abound. Without proper guidelines that can be used to recover the houses, which belong mostly to Hutus, it is plausible that this de facto occupation could simply give rise to de jure ownership rights. Since individual legal responsibility can be established in these cases, failure to do so leads to a denial of justice, a corollary being the inability of the Hutus to imagine themselves as Rwandans.

For Africa to “move on”, it would have to confront its past. Though innocence lost cannot be regained, the “really real” past, especially when it is used to create a national memory, cannot be covered over through the “politicization of history”. Due to its tendentious particuliarity (McClure, 1998, 236), this history is contestable and always contested. (24) A case in point is Kalu Ezera’s Constitutional Development in Nigeria. Its thesis, rehashed recently by a columnist of the Vanguard, claim that the Egbe Omo Oduduwa, a pan-Yoruba cultural group just like the Jammar Mutanen Arewa served as Trojan horses of the British in its attempt to divide the nationalist forces already built up by Azikiwe, an Igbo and Herbert Macaulay. A Yoruba columnist in response argued that “It is as if only a traitor to Nigerian nationalism would seek to promote Yoruba language, art, literature and educational growth as the Egbe Omo Oduduwa was pursuing” before positing that “This kind of self-serving fiction is deployed to make sure that the quality of the arguments between the Ibos and other Nigerians career into irrelevances to sustain old animosities”(The News,10 August 1998,24). Yorubas can adduce this as a pretext for the failure of the Ibos, especially the Group of 34 (G-34) that was led by Alex Ekwueme, Vice President of Nigeria’s Second Republic to add their voice to those calling for the restoration of June 12 won by Abiola, a Yoruba. Getting even does not help to increase the radius of trust between these two communities in this circumstance. Instead, it has a reverse effect that is not conducive to promoting “collective amnesia”(Anderson, 1990). 

Debates similar to this are being re-enacted in new sites. With the spread of computers, initially used by states for surveillance and control purposes, more people are now connected and involved in the debates over the creation of national memories as they have access to cyber cafes. Because access to this site is democratic, it gives people voice, a privilege denied them by the state’s monopoly control over the audio-visual media in most of these countries. This access enables a popular surveillance of the state through unobtrusive though effective modes popular of protests such as e-protest. Governments in quest for international legitimacy are forced to enter into debate with ordinary citizens because the debate is carried out in the gaze of the international community. Cameroon’s Minister of Territorial Administration was drawn into one of these debates recently when reacting to an interview granted by Christian Cardinal Tumi in which he denounced the institutionalization of corruption in Cameroon. The Minister claimed that for the Cardinal “the unity, cohesion endurance and patriotism illustrated for several years by the (Indomitable) Lions, appear to our Cardinal as signs of pure and hard tribalism”. 

Coming in the wake of Cameroon’s victory of the football trophy at the Sydney Olympics, his allusion to Indomitable Lions(the national football team), to which the Cardinal Tumi did not refer in his interview must be seen as a rhetorical strategy meant to deviate attention away from his castigation of corruption. Because the national team in prompting an emotional validation of camerounité always tends to help reconfigure the political arena, the government in presenting the Cardinal Tumi as deriding this team tried to benefit from this emotional legitimacy. This communiqué as narrative reality did not produce the desired effect. Not only was the communiqué immediately posted on the internet, an act that prevented the government form backtracking so as to save face, but it elicited in flurry of reactions on the use of lie telling as an organizing principle by the government. So ironically as it may seem, a copy of this communiqué as well as reactions to it were posted to me from the United States. On the whole, internet’s effect on reversing the shrinking political space as well as democratising it has rendered difficult the production of marginality by the center. As a “parallel discursive arena where members of the subordinated social groups invent and articulate counterdiscourses to formulate oppositional interpretations of their identities, interests and needs” (Fraser, 1992, 123), it has unsettled the social censorship that led to the lobotomizing of the common man. Though on the cutting edge of technology, it can be used by the African still seemingly “locked into ‘backward’ social and psychological conventions”(Chabal, 1999,145), to begin to transcend political tribalism in the immediacy. 

Creating a moral community in post-colonial Africa, as noted above, requires a healing of the psychological wounds caused by past conflicts. Attempts are being made all over Africa to grapple with this past. Some of these measures like the SNCs have a cultural resonance. In other cases, African have willingly become migrants, copying measures that have been successful elsewhere. Ascertaining their impact, for example that of SNCs that promoted collective exorcism, is difficult at this historical juncture. Other fora include international (the case of the UN established Arusha Tribunal for Rwanda) and national tribunals(as proposed by President Teejan Kabah for the trial of Fodeh Sankoh and members of his Revolutionary United Front). Though establishing individual legal responsibility and meting out punishment for crimes guarantees justice, I doubt its efficacy in fostering reconciliation (25) in post-conflict situations in heterogeneous countries. Increasingly, more countries are adopting the use of Truth and Reconciliation Commissions (TRCs). Nigeria followed on the heels of South Africa when it established its Human Rights Commission on October 22, 2000. Empowered to receive complaints as far back as the first military coup d’etat in 1966, it received more than 10.000 applications even before the start of its work. Notable among them were complaints from the Ogoni people for the killing of Ken Saro-wiwa and other eight Ogoni activists and the Igbos for the ethnic cleansing carried out against them in Northern Nigeria in 1966. 

Nelson Mandela’s government recognized the need for this reconciliation in South Africa. Since apartheid had led to the polarization of society, the interim constitution under which he was elected placed a premium on reconciliation, noting that “The adoption of this constitution lays the secure foundation for the people of South Africa to transcend divisions and strife of the past, which generated gross violations of human rights …., there is a need for understanding but not vengeance, a need for reparation but not for retaliation, a need for unbuntu(26) but not for victimization”. This provided the statutory basis for the establishment of the TRC which started hearings between July 1995 and was expected to present its report in October 1998. Insofar as the hearings, also referred to as Amnesty hearings, brought about full disclosure, they enabled justice as acknowledgement, a condition which opens up the possibility for reconciliation (Norval, 1998, 254). Initially, opposition parties and the white population were sceptical about the objectivity of the TRC that was headed by Bishop Desmond Tutu (Kotze, 2000, 86). Its final report, however, was more even handed as all people, no matter the political stripes did not escape blame. Even in the absence of empirical studies showing the effectiveness, it can be postulated that this approach is preferable to that adopted in Zimbabwe which provided for a blanket amnesty in its constitution. Despite this and because of the support that the white population has given to the Opposition’s Movement for Democratic Change(MDC), Robert Mugabe has threatened to try all whites for crimes committed under apartheid Rhodesia. 

Arguably, form becomes a moot point where amnesty or the process of granting it is guaranteed by the law. The rule of law that is intrinsic to all democracies has been de-emphasized by most African regimes. In Zimbabwe, for instance, the Supreme Court has ruled that Mugabe’s decision to seize white farms without compensation is against the law and violates a basic provision of the constitution, protection of private property. Constitutions are important because they reflect prevailing morality and guarantee the “veil of ignorance”. Seemingly, this is not the case in Zimbabwe as Mugabe had indicated a priori his determination not to follow the ruling of the courts on this particular issue. This is a commonplace occurrence in Africa where law is a weapon of the strong. See through the prism of la politique par le bas, this may lead to negative group perception of the law. In this context, though rules continue to have their legal validity, their normative force becomes doubtful. Yet this force is important in prohibiting certain actions, defining duties and obligations towards others and conferring rights and entitlements that others are expected to respect in turn. This does not only guarantee legitimation of the laws that is a minimal condition for ethnic conviviality in multiethnic states. 

Success in breaking with the past, that is imagining a future, is also being facilitated by the emergence of icons that incarnate “the way of life”(Zizek,1992,195) in the history of every state. The emergence of these collective referents was precluded insofar as most of the first generation leadership were advocates of political tribalism and deeply implicated in crime that is a past time of the African political class(for details see, Bayart, 1998). Bereft of social capital, this class could not fulfil its self-proclaimed historical mission, that is, bring nation building to fruition. Recent history shows that this lacuna is being filled as demonstrated by the case of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. His role in promoting the healing process is invaluable. And because of this, he is being appropriated by other states for the midwifery of their national imagining. Indicative of this is his brokering of the peace accord between the protagonists in Burundi as a result of the Lusaka Talks. This should enable state construction, which as indicated above precedes the nation. Also notable is venture by Colonel Muammar Ghaddafi to bring about peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The proposal entered into in Tripoli in the presence of eight African heads of state calls for the creation of an African peace keeping that would be stationed in a buffer zone between the DRC and Rwanda and Uganda. As laudable initiatives, the foregoing may be evidence that warring protagonist need an external catalyst to overcome their seemingly instinctive resistance to peace building. And the prevalence of peace is a necessary condition for self-empowerment. (27)

Lonsdale posits that only delicate statesmanship create a new moral order that requires the transcending of political tribalism(1989,23) Africa’s first generation leadership could not meet this challenge. Even those realizing its desirability failed to promote its possibility. Thus, they fanned the flames of political tribalism making ethnic explosions as well as implosions commonplace. Attributing the dismal failure of this class on this score to a genetic malfunctioning is wrong. Rather, its preoccupation with the accumulation of personal wealth needed to convert their lives into all comfort and no effort was seemingly its sole driving force. In the absence of appropriate modes of political accountability, this was almost inevitable. (28) Thus, primacy was given to their strategic interests to the detriment of “enlightened public interest”. Partly because of this, the founding history of African post-colonial states largely lacked icons that play a primordial role in forging the national consciousness of a people. Furthermore, because of the nature of the “war of the educated”, practices which allowed for the sustenance of social relations even among warring protagonists in the pre-colonial period were disregarded. 

Pro-democracy activists who seek to smuggle ethnicity out of the mainstream political culture now contest the power of those who have promoted political tribalism and the war of the educated. For the former, tribe really is a metaphor for civic virtue. Though belonging to an ethnic group, they are neither apologetic of that fact nor its apologists. Comprising members of civil society, women who are tired of “the wars of the educated” and its consequences, namely the complete rupture that they spur in social relations, as well as NGOs, see another forward position (avant garde) out ahead of them. Proof of this is their commitment to the nurturance of democratic identities, ipso facto the transformation of the consciousness of the common man. Though considered as a “heretical discourse”, the transformative recognition that it advocates is being mainstreamed. While technological advances that contribute to the democratization of opportunity have facilitated this endeavor, their success has been mitigated by Africa’s historical past that looms over it like an albatross. Embedded and inserted in a culture, the vehicle par excellence of hegemony, that requires the living to facilitate the transformation of their dead into ancestors by giving them a proper burial, their inability to do so has pre-empted them from “moving on”. Healing or good forgetting becomes impossible and those responsible for the wounds are considered as enemies rather than adversaries. Despite this pessimism, “flames of peace” are being celebrated in some countries.  More of these flames would have to be celebrated if Africa is not to slip into irrelevance in the age of globalization. 

John Dewey remarked that the present is a continuously moving moment stretching out a hundred years in both directions from here and now. It is therefore always a present of the past and the future, a future of the present. The emergence of the tribe of pro democracy advocates has invariably contributed to a pluralization of Africa’s past and by that very fact its questioning. The past as seen through the prism of the tribu du ventre can no longer crystallize or ossify into the truth which if unquestioned becomes dogma. A change in the space of structured possibility induced in the wake of pluralization makes it plausible to envisage probable futures for Africa’s post-colonial states, not just its desirability. 

(1) For a sample of this debate between Ali Mazrui and Archie Mafaje, see Codesria Bulletin, No.3, 1995.

(2) Given Africa’s diversity, this paper would infer generalities from specific examples. Historians who see every generalization as overgeneralized would undoubtedly challenge this approach. But it is privileged in the social sciences because it enables a more sophisticated and wide ranging description of political phenomena as well as explanation and prediction.

(3) It has been noted man identifies with nature, clan, and religion. This “gives the individual security. He belongs to, he is rooted in, a structuralized whole in which he has an unquestionable place. He may suffer from hunger or suppression, but he does not suffer from the worst of all – complete aloneness and doubt” see Harold Isaacs (1975), Idols of the Tribe, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, p.35

(4) What is a nation” trans by M. Thom, in H.K. Bhabha(ed.), Nation and Narration, Routledge, London, p.11. Leopold Sedar Senghor(1996) buys into this logic by contending that the state precedes the nation. In Senghor in dialogo, IEAA: Roi de Jeneiro, p.17. Displacing the debate, he is more concerned with ends than with processes.

(5) Using the economic crisis that Africa wallows in as a an example, Timothy Shaw and Olajide Aluko(1985) say  that “the future is not just the extension of such circumstances or cycles. Rather, crisis may produce its own dialectic, its own antithesis. Notwithstanding existential or ideological differences, optimism is not to be denied altogether”, Africa Projected: From Recession to Renaissance by the Year 2000?, St, Martin’s, New York, p.xv.

(6) cited in Jok Madut Jok & Sharon Elain Hutchinson(1999), “Sudan’s Prolonged Second Civil War and the Militarization of the Nuer and Dinka Ethnic Identities” in African Studies Review, Vol.42,No.2, September p.133. As the authors point out, the manipulation of symbols was also very important. SPLA’s decision to adopt the name Titweng  or “cattle guards” for its civilian-based militia was not an innocent decision . Since many Dinka herders who had failed to defend their cattle from successive SSIA incursions, conscription into this force offered them an opportunity to redeem their dignity. Similarly, local SSIA officers who were pitted in battle against the SPLA formed the Dec in boor or “White army” comprising mostly loosely organized groups of armed Nuer youths who protected the local herds during the dry season. Essentially, this army was a latter day rendition of an earlier form of Nuer youth brigade known as burnam (p.134).

(7) cf. Thomas Packenham(1991) not only sees the backwardness of the dark continent as result of the endemic interethnic conflict  but also as a justification for colonialism. The Scramble for Africa, Random House, New York.

(8) Bloch makes a similar plea when he calls on historians to forgo judgements of “good or evil” for the more sober task of understanding. In a world where the foreigner is invariably considered as evil, “ a little more understanding of people would be necessary merely for guidance, in conflicts which are unavoidable; all the more to prevent them while there is still time” Marc Bloc(1953), The Historians Craft, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, pp. 20&22.

(9) Both terms refer to the same form of state. The former is used by Fabien Eboussi (1993), Les  Conferences Nationales en Afrique noire, Paris, Karthala and the latter by Patrick Chabal and Jean-Pascal  Daloz. In their (1999), Africa Works: Disorder as a Political Instrument, they define this as a state where the visible institutional mechanisms are less significant than the subterranean roots issued from the complex world of factional struggles and local rivalries. Oxford: James Currey, p.10.

(10) for the explication of these concepts see, Yirmiyahu Yovel(1998), “Tolerance as Grace and Rightful Recognition” in Social Research, vol. 65, No. 4., Winter, passim. Writing on this form of intolerance in heterogeneous societies, Bakhtin observes that there is a historical tendency to promote monoglossia over heteroglossia. That is, one language is elevated to the status of oracle and under its spell, dissenting gestures are marginalized and the community’s discourse is purified of “alien” utterances, thereby leading to a replacement of the democratic interplay of its voices by the dominant discourse’s holy war against everything that it others. For an explication see Fred Evans(1998), “Bakhtin, Communication and the Politics of Multiculturalism” in Constellations, Vol.5, No.3, esp. p.414.

(11) for a case study see, Paul Nchoji Nkwi(1997), “Rethinking the Role of Elites in Rural Development: A case study from Cameroon” in Journal of Contemporary African Studies,15,1.pp.67-86.

(12) The history of mentalities, which takes a keen interest in the masses and in the social embodiment of ideas rather than in the intellectual achievement of great thinkers, has used the press as a privileged source. See  J. Le Goff,(1974), “Les Mentalities” in J. Le Goff & P. Nora (eds.), Faire l’Histoire: Les Nouveaux objets, Gallimard: Paris

(13) Since the President has the prerogative to nominate several members, there is no doubt that Kikuyu and Luo fears of exclusion could have been assuaged if he named more people from these groups.  He did not do this, seemingly, because of opposition within KANU. Hardliners in this camp believed that the Kikuyus had “eaten” enough and that the Luo being too arrogant had merely helped them. Now, it was the time for other groups to “eat”. For details see Philip Ochieng(1997), “Folly of Sidelining ‘Opposition tribes’” in Sunday Nation, January 26, pp.8&9.

(14) These results, I must emphasize are unofficial since the National Electoral Commission never declared them. See Tribune, October 4, 1993 cited in The Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, (n.d.), June 12 and the Future of Nigerian Democracy, the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, Lagos, p.317

(15) Adepts such as Colonel Abubakar Dangiwa Umar lost their positions in government and were imprisoned only because of their opposition to Abacha’s decision to annul June 12. Contrary to Abacha, and in the company of some prominent Northerners that comprised the Group of 18, he believed that for the greater cause of national unity, power should also be wielded by Southerners. For a text of the open letter which they sent to Abacha, thereby exposing themselves to the charge of treason see, Tell, No. 15, April 13, 1998, pp.22-23. Also notable is a recent decision by the main Opposition Party in Gabon to expel one of its prominent members who was indicted for practicing political tribalism(Africa No. 1, 19 November 2000).

(16) The recent trial of a Catholic Bishop in Rwanda on charges preaching ethnic hate that led to the genocide by the Arusha International Tribunal is a case in point. Whereas the case against this Bishop was dismissed, several priests have been convicted for this same charge.

(17) In Africa, it has been pointed out, the Big man is powerful and rich, a benefactor far above the people whose support he seeks(The Economist, May13,2000,23). In this particular instance, Naah Ondoua, the Minister of Environment and Forests distributed material and liquid cash to the tune of circa 3 million francs CFA.( The Post, No.0205, September 11, 2000, p.3.)

(18) Robert D. Putman(1992) notes that this engagement “gives rise to social capital – ‘features of social organization, such as networks, norms and trust, that facilitate co-ordination and (spontaneous) co-operation for mutual benefit’” in Making Democracy Work, Princeton University Press, Princeton, p.167. I would also acknowledge the fragility of this class as well as its tenuous position. Machiavelli(1952) points out that the process introducing new institutions is fraught with difficulties. Beneficiaries of the old system are apt to resist and the commitment of the reformers is easily shaken. HE argues that reformers should count not only on prayers but also on force. See Oeuvres Completes, Gallimard, Paris, p.350. In as much as I agree with the observation, I would question his penchant to construe force as military force. Rather, Sidney Tarrow’s(1995)  broad definition, construed to include power in movement is more acceptable. Power in Movement, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Thus, as I see it the challenge facing this class consists of converting a critical mass of people to its cause.

(19) See Article 29 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which stipulates that the child should develop his or her “personality talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest”. The conviction about the merits of this form of education led the Committee on the Rights of the Child to recommend to the Government of Croatia that it encourage “ a culture of tolerance through all possible channels, including the schools, the media and the law. The schools should teach children to be tolerant and to live in harmony with persons from different backgrounds.” See concluding observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child: Croatia, CRC/C/15/Add.51. for further details on the promise of this form of education see Thomas Hammerberg’s 1997 lecture on “A School for Children with Rights” published by UNICEF International Child Development Center,(1998) Florence, Italy.

(20) for details see, Nantang Jua(2000), “Preventing Ethnic Conflicts and Peace Building in Africa: Lessons from the Recent Past” position paper prepared for UNESCO,(mimeo), pp.23-24.

(21) Admittedly, NGOs as well as International NGOs involvement in peace building in Africa constitutes the subject for another study.  It suffices to point out here that at a symposium organized by the United States Institute of Peace in October 1995, it was recognized that their efficacy in this realm would be enhanced by providing short term employment for country experts who have the requisite ethnological and sociological expertise needed to develop appropriate population profiles before an emergency erupts. David R. Smock(1996) “Humanitarian Assistance and Conflict in Africa”, in United States Institute of Peace, 1996(mimeo), p.6.

(22) This assertion is an overgeneralization since it is not true of some societies. See the case of the Mafa in Jose van Santen(2000), “Gender and the Debates on Ethnicity in Africanist Anthropology: Inclusion in the Third Millenium” in The Anthropology of Africa: Challenges For the 21st Century ed. by Paul Nchoji Nkwi, ICASSRT Monograph/ Imprimerie Saint Paul, Yaounde, pp.248-265.

(23) The discussion in this section of the paper is based on a conversation with Cyprian Fisiy. 25 January 1995.

(24) Parelli notes that “when the past is resignified so as to explain(and thus legitimate) the present, what is at stake is  more than the here and now. To the extent that the resignification bears on the projects and possibilities of the actors in question, a dispute over the past is a struggle for control over the future” cited in  Aletta J. Norval(1998), “Memory, Identity and the (Im)possibility of Reconciliation: The Work of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee in South Africa” in Constellations, Vol.5, No.2, p.251.

(25) Michael Lapsey(1998) noting the tendency to confound expiation with punishment in the modern secularized world, argues that the latter in Judeo-Christian tradition “is only called for if it leads to a  repentance of the perpetrator and a reconciliation and restoration of the broken relationship between the perpetrator and his victim or society as a whole”. in “ The ‘Healing’ Value of Truth-Telling: Chances and Social Conditions in A secularized World” in Social Research, p.737.

(26) unbuntu is a Zulu word that sums up the generosity of the African spirit and has been translated by Michael Lapsey(1998) as “human beingness”, in , Ibid, p.742.

(27) Paulo Friere argues that this is a social feeling which should be used to help others to be free by transforming the totality of society. In Ira Shor And Paulo Freire(1987), A Pedagogy for Liberation,  Begin & Garvey, New York, p.109.

(28) Hobbes noted in another context that “the secret thoughts of man run all over things, holy, profane, clean, obscene, grave and light, without shame or blame” in Leviathan, edited by Michael Oakeshott, Collier, New York, 1962. p.63.

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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.