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Governance, Economics, and Interdependence: Constraints and Possibilities in Sub-Saharan Africa

By Julius O. Ihonvbere
9-12 June 1994

Department of Government
The University of Texas at Austin
Austin, Texas 78712-1087
tel. (512) 471-5121; fax (512) 471-1061

Paper presented at the Summer Institute on "Governance, Equity, and the Global Poor: A Curriculum Development Institute," Sponsored by Spelman College and Interfaith Hunger Appeal, Spelman College, Atlanta, Georgia, June 9-12, 1994.

The breathtaking pace of political change in Africa has surpassed any predictions or expectations....Almost every country has experienced some form of citizens' pressure for broader public participation in political and economic decision-making. Nearly two dozen authoritarian leaders have been overthrown or forced to share power.

Africa is experiencing a revolution as profound as the wave of independence that began to sweep the continent three decades ago (Africa News 1992, 1).

Whatever democratic advances have been attained in Africa at this stage are still largely structural and/or constitutional; certainly a strong breath of fresh air, but likely to end up in some countries as only cosmetic and/or temporary. The process has a long way to go in much of the continent (Decalo 1992, 8).

There is no doubting the fact that a wave of democratization is sweeping the developing world. In the vast majority of nations, new issues, demands, and alignments are emerging on the political terrain. Popular organizations and communities and "members of all classes found themselves sufficiently empowered to undermine authoritarian rulers. The astonishing discovery that mass participation could actually help topple governments hitherto impervious to the demands of their own people has made popular involvement in government the starting point for reconstructing political order..." (Kasfir 1992, 587). Largely a response to frustrations with authoritarian rule and the suffocation of civil society, the end of the Cold War and the new disposition towards support for popular movements have invigorated these efforts. Military dictatorships have been forced to accommodate popular interests and to organize open elections. Presidents-for-life have been forced to reexamine their claims to permanent control of political power and to open up political spaces. In many developing social formations, a new political culture is emerging with popular groups forming new alliances, asking new questions, forging new programs, and expanding political spaces through demands for social justice, equity, accountability, participation, human rights, and democracy. These demands, and the new strategies designed to achieve them, mainly through multiparty political activities, have altered to a great extent the overall character of the political landscape.

The domestic political struggles have been effectively complimented (and in most cases encouraged) by developments in the global system. As indicated earlier, the end of the Cold War reduced the relevance of the tyrants and decadent political rulers of the South. The Western powers that had earlier supported dictators and brutal governments as those in Zaire, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, Nigeria, the Sudan, and Somalia to use African examples, now began to make new demands on their former allies. Good governance was demanded as a precondition for further support. Good governance became part of the package of political conditionalities imposed on Third World leaders by the lenders, donors, and creditors as preconditions for economic support. In Kenya, it was the only way to get Daniel Arap Moi to reach some accommodation with domestic constituencies and allow popular elections. The election saw the opposition win a hundred seats in parliament. In Malawi, Kamuzu Banda, the country's president-for-life was forced to make concessions to civil society when British aid was slashed in half. Even in Nigeria, sanctions from the European Community, Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom were important in forcing General Ibrahim Babangida to unveil his "hidden agenda" and leave office in disgrace.

In its 1989 report on sub-Saharan Africa, the World Bank gave further credence to the growing assumption that African economies were in crisis because of the absence of good governance, decentralization, accountability and lesser government intervention in the economy. In his introduction to the report, Barber Conable, the World Bank's President noted that "A root cause of weak economic performance in the past has been the failure of public institutions. Private sector initiative and market mechanisms are important, but they must go hand-in-hand with good governance- a public service that is efficient, a judicial system that is reliable, and an administration that is accountable to its public" (World Bank 1989, xii emphasis added). As a strategy to promote good governance, Conable suggested the urgent need for a process for "empowering ordinary people, and especially women, to take greater responsibility for improving their lives- measures that foster grassroots organization, that nurture rather than obstruct informal sector enterprises, and that promote nongovernmental and intermediary organizations (World Bank 1989, xii). Finally the Bank made the categorical declaration that consolidating the gains of structural adjustment was not enough; that African governments must address "fundamental questions relating to human capacities, institutions, governance,...;" "ordinary people should participate more in designing and implementing development programs;" the state should "no longer be an entrepreneur, but a promoter of private producers;" and that "Africa needs not just less government but better government-government that concentrates its efforts less on direct interventions and more on enabling others to be productive" (World Bank 1989, 2-5).

At a general level these are very worthy positions even if they are not new. For over a decade, African and Africanist scholars have drawn attention to the political nature and context of the African crisis. It was contended that the economic crisis which was manifested in crippling foreign debts and high debt-servicing obligations, declining foreign aid and investments, rising bankruptcies, unemployment and inflation, institutional decay and infrastructural disintegration, crime, insecurity, and rising malnutrition and social decay, were largely symptoms of serious political deformities, distortions, and disarticulations. The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) (1990, 17) admits that Africa is experiencing a crisis of "unprecedented and unacceptable proportions," and that "the political context of socio-economic development has been characterized, in many instances, by an over-centralization of power and impediments to the effective participation of the overwhelming majority of the people in social, political and economic development." When the World Bank and Conable talk about "good governance" and "empowering ordinary people" there is a seeming trivialization of an otherwise serious problem. The issues are conceptualized and addressed outside the historical experience and environment of Africa. There is an assumed harmony among and within social forces and classes. In fact, when "ordinary people" are empowered, what are they expected to do with the power? Are they expected to shake hands with the ruthless exploiters and oppressors of yesterday? Will they ever have the same socio-economic and political interests as those who had become outrageously wealthy from looting the public purse? Can their "empowered" institutions and communities serve the interests of the dominant elites, including military dictators? Will their interests suddenly become the same as those of foreign capital just because the magic of "good governance" has been invoked?

What the questions above signify is that there are more fundamental issues to be addressed rather than cataloging the characteristics of "good governance." To be sure, political conditionality enables donors, creditors, and lenders to put pressure on recalcitrant, corrupt, and repressive leaders in Africa. We cannot however overlook the fact that these same Western leaders were in many instances installed, nurtured and sustained over the years by the same leaders who have now turned against them. Many African leaders have perfected the art of brutal and inhuman politics, divide-and-rule tactics, and a total commitment to retention of power through the asphyxiation of civil society. As well, political conditionality makes it possible to justify the redirection of aid and investment to other parts of the world. This has contributed to the further marginalization of Africa in the international division of labor, a situation noted by African leaders and nongovernmental organizations in the African Charter for Popular Participation: "We...observe that given the current world political and economic situation, Africa is becoming further marginalized in world affairs, both geo-politically and economically" (Economic Commission for Africa 1990, 18). More importantly, political conditionality simply complements the economic conditionality already imposed on poverty-stricken, debt-ridden, and desperate African states by the World Bank, the IMF and other creditors. In the majority of African states, development planning, financial matters and public policy were already being determined, influenced, or severely constrained by the policies, interests, and power of these bodies. Political conditionality therefore, would create a platform to using the disbursement of foreign assistance to condition, influence, and determine the content and context of politics, the political agenda, and the overall ideological content of politics. Once there is complementarity between economic and political conditionalities; and African leaders, prodemocracy activists, politicians, bureaucrats, intellectuals, researchers, business men and women, as well as grassroots organizations come to imbibe and accept the ideology of international capitalism as the driving force behind their activities, Africa would have lost once again, in spite of the end of the Cold War, the ability to be original, creative, and independent in fashioning out an internally driven agenda for reconstruction, growth, and development.

Richard Sandbrook, in a recent study of the African predicament and the implications of the World Bank's new agenda and emphasis on "good governance" has noted that it is important not to lose sight of the "broader ideological implications" of this strategy. According to Sandbrook, "(s)ince their creation, the IMF and the World Bank have consistently aimed to integrate as many national economies as possible into multilateral global capitalist economy....Both agencies have encouraged, in countries receiving their loans, monetary, fiscal, and trade policies which extend the sway of international market forces" (Sandbrook 1993a, 4 emphasis added). Since the main concern was with the process of governance rather with the ideological specificity of political change, the World Bank and Western governments hardly concern themselves with the nature and character of the state. Policies of desubsidization, deregulation, commercialization, privatization, devaluation, and so on, prescribed by the World Bank only succeed in breaking down domestic constituencies to make the political landscape more receptive to liberal political prescriptions. While the World Bank never anticipated that its "reform" programs would push the masses to the edge of militant, even violent resistance and struggles for democracy, its policies have also created an atavistic environment and badly damaged the legitimacy of the state and dominant elites. This is the only way we can comprehend the fact that though the unequal distribution of the pains of adjustment promoted largely unanticipated political pressures, the content of these pressures have largely reflected a sort of subservience to western liberal political models and prescriptions. The impression one gets from public statements from international financial institutions and Western governments is that what African states now need to get out of their current state of decay, conflicts, crises, and near disintegration, are liberal democratic political models. Will good governance change the African State; make it more efficient and effective; increase its legitimacy, stability, and hegemony; and democratize its institutions and processes to make it more accessible to and reflective of the interests of the people? What will happen to the current custodians of state power who have actually precipitated the current crisis in Africa, and who continue to benefit from the reproduction of the status quo? Will multiparty elections resolve these contradictions? We do not think so.

The greatest defect of the "good governance" prescription is that it addresses the symptoms of the African predicament rather than the structural causes. The timely and interesting piece by Robert D. Kaplan (1994) in the Atlantic Monthly addresses the well known stories and predicaments of Africa. While the piece does document the African reality, sometimes sensationally and at times in overstretched descriptive terms, its largely ahistorical and unanalytical nature reduces its worth in terms of explaining the structural roots of the crisis of politics, power, and production in Africa. Even the World Bank's Governance and Development (1992) demonstrates not just a "bureaucratic" approach to the issue of governance, but focuses on institutional matters outside the social context of the very institutions which have been destroyed by bad governance. Inefficiency, waste, mismanagement, corruption, hiring of ghost workers, over-generous allowances to political elites and bureaucrats, and in the Bank's own words, "the appropriation of the machinery of government by the elite to serve their own interests" are manifestations of more structural and historically determined coalitions, contradictions, and crises (World Bank 1989, 192). These conditions are not necessarily natural or spiritually determined. They are the precipitates of particular forms of social relations, political balances, power relations, alignment and realignment of class forces, and the region's location and role is a highly exploitative and very competitive international division of labor. Without addressing the structural roots of the crisis, the prescription of good governance would simply fail to resolve any of the immediate or longer-term problems of Africa. As well, because the political terrain is so repressive, hostile, uncertain, unstable, and undemocratic; the state, its custodians, and agencies have been unable to contain or mediate the forces of economic, social and political decay and disintegration. Elites loot the treasury because they can get away with it. The dominant classes privatize the state and its resources because civil society is weak and highly factionalized. Economic policies fail because they largely reflect the narrow interests of the dominant classes and those of foreign capital. The widespread human rights abuses, mindless corruption, waste, and the subversion of the goals of nationhood which have characterized the majority of African social formations since political independence cannot be divorced from inherited structural contradictions and dislocations. It is doubtful if mere insistence on good governance, even the imposition of political conditionalities will resolve these deep-rooted problems. When foreign aid is denied and countries are isolated until they meet the dictates of the donors and lenders, who actually suffers? To what extent have Western imposed sanctions affected the Iraqi elite? How much of the sanctions imposed on Libya has affected Ghadaffi and the Libyan bourgeois class? Will the Haitian elite crumble under the yoke of sanctions and US naval blockade? The truth of the matter is that cutting foreign aid, redirecting investment and the like do not have much of an impact on the elites; it is the already impoverished masses who suffer the most, and when the elites do yield to such pressures, more often than not, they have already designed ways to accommodate and domesticate Western dictated or imposed political prescriptions. Under such conditions, concessions to civil society becomes more of a survival strategy, a sort of tactical political manoeuver. Robert Bates (1990, 33) captures very accurately the survival tactics employed so perfectly by Africa's dictators:

In normal times, the power of government opposition is sufficient to cripple all efforts at political reform. But there is a time when these governments themselves become champions of the rule of law. They do so when they are about to fall. At the time of their political demise, tyrants become converts to civil liberties. On their political deathbeds, they seek an expanded role for due process, restrictions on the use of the police and the judicial system, an independent judiciary, and the rule of law. When they are about to pass from the political scene, they acquire a vested interest in civil liberties. They want legal and political shelters from the lust for revenge on the part of the citizenry they once repressed.

Unfortunately for prodemocracy groups which have become so hungry for power, they fall for the bait set by the more experienced dictator and begin to internalize the struggle for power. This was exactly why the Campaign for Democracy in Nigeria failed to prevent the remilitarization of Nigerian politics (Ihonvbere, 1994a; Ola-Rotimi and Ihonvbere, 1994). This is also why Rawlings and Moi were returned to power in Ghana and Kenya respectively (Ihonvbere 1994b).

Beyond Governance and Political Conditionality

We have argued above that the new emphasis on governance tends to simplify and in fact, redirect attention from more critical and structural issues and contradictions. I am certain that all African politicians, bureaucrats, and leaders will find nothing new in the features of positive or good governance as outlined in the literature. They are very familiar with issues of justice, accountability, efficiency, separation of powers, freedom of the press, and the like. The fact that they have never respected these issues is quite another matter. The way the issue has been addressed thus far, tends to be patronizing and condescending. Typically, it redirects attention away from the nature and role of the state in the reproduction of a political environment which generates repression and instability, erodes possibilities for economic growth and development, and actually rationalizes the dependent, even subservient character of African economies in their relations with transnational capitals. The whole notion of interdependence, referring to conditions of social, economic and political relations on the basis of mutual respect and fair (not necessarily equal) exchange, does not arise in the case of Africa. This is because as the most poverty-stricken most debt-distressed, most politically unstable, most foreign dominated, most marginal, and most vulnerable region in the world, it lacks the capacity to engage in interdependent relations with other regions at any level. As the World Bank itself has noted, "deteriorating quality of government, epitomized by bureaucratic obstruction, pervasive rent seeking, weak judicial systems, and arbitrary decisionmaking" have significantly increased the cost of doing business in and with Africa. This has discouraged investors and "For the most part Africa is simply not competitive in an increasingly competitive world" (World Bank 1989, 3).

The World Bank has indeed succeeded in convincing African leaders and governments that a rapid policy of liberalization and de-statization is necessary to promote growth and democracy. Claude Ake has contended that "De-statization or even the strength of the state has nothing to do with the possibility of democracy. You cannot assume that if you weaken the state, you strengthen the possibility of democracy. In fact, even African examples belie that. In Africa, states are very paradoxical. They are very strong from one perspective and also very weak" (Ake 1990, 5). While one concedes that the African state has not given a good account of itself and has definitely over-extended itself in the respective economies, this must be put in context. Because the World Bank does not work with history, it overlooks why the state has become the bourgeoisie in Africa (as in most developing countries) in the context of a largely unproductive, corrupt, and irresponsible elite with a very tenuous relation to productive activities. It is true as Jeffery Herbst (1993, 44) has argued that "in Africa state intervention has often led to the strangulation of the private sector and gross inefficiency. The question is not the degree of state intervention; rather, the issue is whether the manner of state intervention promotes growth or retards it. This perspective is unfortunately missed by those proponents who argue simply that the private sector should supply most of Africa's future growth." Yet, we need first, an understanding of the state and its role in the consolidation/reproduction of social interests before we can speak of the nature of its intervention: is the African state structured and constituted in such a way that would facilitate positive and productive intervention?

The post-colonial state was a continuation of the colonial state with very minimal changes, mostly in terms of personnel rather than structure, functions and relations to civil society. Thus it remained as interventionist, exploitative, and repressive as its predecessor. It is therefore inappropriate to expect good governance, social harmony, respect for human rights, and political stability in social formations presided over by weak and non-hegemonic elites; with an unstable and weak state, and where civil society is fragmented and public policies carry very little legitimacy. Good governance cannot be expected to take root in social formations where the majority of the people see the state as exploitative, distant, aloof, and structured to serve the narrow interests of urban elites and foreign capital. Good governance has little chance of becoming the norm is societies which are economically, technologically, and culturally dominated by profit and hegemony-seeking transnational interests and which are structured to serve the interests of the metropole.

It is perhaps wrong, as the World Bank does, and as Western governments tend to argue, that de-statization is the solution often without providing an alternative to replace the state except prescriptions for an open economy for exploitation by local and transnational capitalists. The state has always been part of capitalist development. In several respects, the African state is less corrupt and less wasteful than the Western counterparts. In fact, from the Savings and Loans scandal to congressional waste, the American state makes the African state and its custodians look like amateurs in the art financial waste. The truth is that for Africa, the pie from which the elites are stealing is small, and therefore easily noticeable and the impact more immediate. As well, given the historically determined character of the state and its custodians; the constraints of dependence, underdevelopment, and global marginalization, the African state has been unable to promote an appreciable degree of growth and development to cover up incidents of corruption, inefficiency, waste, and mismanagement which also characterize the state in the so-called developed formations. After all, the elections which saw the return of the Democrats to power with Bill Clinton as President was not about the private sector per se, but about the ability of the state to open up foreign markets, provide social security, create jobs, and so on. These were the issues, and George Bush was blamed by the Democrats and the majority of the voters for having failed in these areas. Even the failure of private corporations and increasing bankruptcies among small businesses were blamed on the government. The problem in Africa is not that there is too much government, but that there is hardly any serious government to speak of. The ramshackle, unstable, illegitimate, non-hegemonic, corrupt, and inefficient structures often presided over by old men, ignorant and near illiterate military dictators and professional politicians who have become adept at manipulating primordial loyalties can hardly be regarded a constituting a state.

To move beyond this situation, the current state structures in Africa need to be dismantled and recomposed. This is one of the major impediments to the on-going democratization programs in Africa. There is not one in which the dismantling of the corrupt, exploitative, and repressive state structure is on the agenda. What the pro-democracy groups such as the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) in Zambia, the Forum for Democracy (FORD) in Kenya, the Movement for Freedom and Justice (MFJ) in Ghana, and the Campaign for Democracy (CD) in Nigeria are struggling for is the capture of the same repressive and exploitative state. Though these struggles are waged in the name of the disadvantaged majority, there is no agenda to dismantle it and recompose it to reflect the aspirations, struggles, and needs of the disadvantaged majority. This hardly gives the people a real choice in the political process but actually gives a choice between exploiters and oppressors- ancient and modern! This explains why the MMD has failed so badly in Zambia. It captured political power through open elections and imbibed the dictates of the IMF and the World Bank, and has tried to carry out reforms and institute good governance with the same structures and institutions which Kenneth Kaunda had used for 28 years without much success. Though political spaces in Zambia are much more open than was the case under the corrupt and repressive one-party rule of Kaunda, the MMD has been unable to deal with gross inefficiency, waste, mismanagement, corruption, official nepotism, ethnic and sectional loyalties, and the perception of government as a "hostile force to be feared, evaded, cheated and defeated as circumstances permit" (Ake 1990, 2). Like in the vast majority of African states, democratization without reconstruction of political, economic, and social relations, has encouraged the localization of loyalties and the emergence of scores of nuisance opposition parties and movements led by opportunists and those currently marginalized from power. To be sure, the proliferation of parties, organizations, unions and the like is evidence of a robust civil society and the freedom to both organize and to act. Yet, to what extent can societies with fractured political bases, vulnerable relations with powerful external forces, and desperate and insecure elites succeed in harnessing these countless points of opposition and possibilities for genuine democratization? As Nelson Kasfir has contended, "these outbursts of mass political energy, though brave and commendable, will not in themselves reform the underlying structural conditions that led to authoritarian rule in the first place. The prospect for reasonably equal empowerment for all social classes in situations of extreme inequality is also highly contingent" (Kasfir 1992, 587). At a point, it is clear that these movements have emerged as a result of frustration with the amount of political spaces and opportunities opened up by the political process. At another level, the emergence of these organizations reflects the inability of the people to see any far-reaching changes on the political, especially economic landscape. While political authoritarianism and the suffocation of civil society encouraged/strengthened opposition to the repressive neo-colonial state in Africa, failure of the new democracies to perform is leading to new challenges and in several respects a deepening of the political struggles. This situation is yet unclear to many observers only because of the excessive concentration on elections and other secondary features of liberal democracy. As Ake (1993) notes, "It is entirely appropriate of course that everyone should be able to vote. All the same democracy is not significantly advanced by giving the vote to the poor while remaining indifferent to the crippling constraints of poverty. Poverty disempowers and subverts democracy."

Conclusion: Empowerment and Democratization in Africa

It is true that "(p)olitical instability discourages support for development. Political conflict destroys the foundations of development. The recent history of Africa has very clearly demonstrated that peace, stability and security are prerequisites for development" (Boutros-Ghali 1993, 3). In country after country, the privatization of the state, the means of coercion, and public resources; and the lack of democracy and accountability have combined with conditions of dependence, foreign domination, and underdevelopment to negate possibilities for growth and development. Africa is now caught in a vicious circle: violence and repression negate possibilities for development, and the lack of development makes leaders desperate, makes the economy unattractive to investors, and generates conditions which are conducive to repression and undemocratic behaviors. As well, it will be wrong, as is gradually becoming the norm, to pretend that imperialism is dead or over just because the Cold War has ended. Africa remains a region under the domination of powerful transnational corporations and international lenders who extract huge surpluses which they transfer to the metropole. Hence, in spite of Africa's "poverty" and "non-competitiveness" in the global market, it managed to pay out to creditors in 1991 a total of $26 billion to service its debt (UN Africa Recovery 1993). How can African economies generate the resources needed to meet basic needs, sponsor development projects, and cover the required overhead with which to attract foreign investors? As well, foreign investors are leaving their region and moving to Eastern Europe and other parts of the developing world. At the very best, they are holding back on new initiatives, ventures, and technology. How can African economies develop sufficient economic power and exploit their natural resources in order to generate foreign exchange, promote domestic savings, and create the necessary economic momentum needed to nurture and consolidate democracy and good governance? Michael Chege (1991-92) has noted that private foreign investment in Africa declined from $2.3 billion in 1982 to a mere $900 million in 1989. At the same time, the British withdrew 31 per cent of their investments in the region. Even local investors are also moving their funds and operations overseas. Finally, the Western markets remain closed to African exports or are discouraged through massive tariff and non-tariff barriers, and the long history of support for repressive leaders is beginning to show its consequences in a total distrust for, and lack of faith in political leaders, public policies, and the government. Orthodox structural adjustment has only made the situation even worse. As Martin Klein (1991) has argued, structural adjustment as packaged by the World Bank,

...has often made a bad economic situation worse and has condemned a whole generation of young people to unemployment, to helplessness and to poverty. Often bitter and alienated, the Mishanga boys of Lusaka and the students of Bamako are the contemporary counterparts of Nkrumah's veranda boys and the key groups in most urban demonstrations. And behind them, stands an even larger mass of people, people ground down by the daily struggle for survival, people for whom independence has meant absolutely nothing, people who have neither love for nor commitment to leaders they did not chose and do not like.

These are some of the specific social and cultural issues which prescriptions about good governance tend to overlook. The last three decades has seen the emergence all over Africa of a rapacious, corrupt, pedestrian, and principleless dominant elites with easy access to the state and its resources. This elite measures its success only in terms of the amount of poverty around the main cities and in the rural areas. It is for instance, the total absence of electricity in a particular community that gives the rich man's private electric generator some meaning. It is the fact that the rest of the community have to fetch water from streams ten miles away that gives the local rich man's personal water bore hole some meaning. They enjoy these stark, even if dangerous "differences" and signs of power. They have grown used to throwing their influence, power, and wealth in the face of the poor and cannot imagine a better society or an alternative power and political arrangement. Good governance will not solve the problem because these are the very enemies of good governance who have made their millions and billions in the context of bad governance. The factions and fractions of the dominant class relate to one another at various levels and they dominate the institutions of state and society. What this implies is that there has to be a major struggle for democracy. This must begin with a struggle to remove the institutions, processes, and structures which has enabled these elites, to dominate society without accountability. It is these institutions and structures which they privatized with the end of formal colonialism that have made it possible for the elite to exploit the people, to manipulate primordial loyalties, and to reproduce conditions of backwardness in a rapidly changing global order. It is all too well known that the "absence of enabling conditions for democratic participation at the grassroots is the greatest obstacle to democracy in Africa, just as the transformation of society for the empowerment of ordinary people is the greatest challenge of democratization-far more important than the transformation of the state" (Ake 1993). It is not an accident that in virtually all the countries where elections have taken place, incumbent governments had to be pressured from within and from without to make concessions to popular wishes. As Klein rightly notes, "People do not choose democracy because they read about it. Democracy has invariably risen out of a struggle against autocracy. Sometimes revolutions begin for what seem trivial reasons. The American revolution was begun over some taxes and quite reasonable expectation that the American colonies should pay for their own defense. Americans already had a tradition of political participation for large parts of the white male population, but the creation of a true democracy involved almost two centuries of struggle" (Klein 1991). Historically, irrespective of ideological coloration, "any group holding political power ...(has used) that power to entrench itself both politically and economically," and even where so-called vanguard parties have captured power, they have used their positions to "create structures dysfunctional to the continuation of growth and inimical to equality and social justice" (Klein 1991).

If Africa is to get out of its present quagmire therefore, it must proceed along the path of empowering the people, their organizations, and communities. At present, the "democratization of Africa has focused on the power elite, who are the natural enemies of democracy. Although the elite has provided the vast majority of the leaders of the democracy movement, their involvement in democracy movements is mainly a tactical manoeuver" (Ake 1993). The shameless ease with which so-called pro-democracy and "June 12 activists" in Nigeria abandoned the struggle for democracy to join the conservative military junta of General Sani Abacha in November 1993 supports the opportunistic character of the power elite in Africa. Even the World Bank admits that political and economic reforms in Africa must seek to "empower ordinary people to take charge of their lives, to make communities more responsible for their development, and to make governments listen to their people. Fostering a more pluralistic institutional structure-including nongovernmental organizations and stronger local government-is a means to these ends" (World Bank 1989, 55). We must be careful how we use and prescribe "empowerment" though. For the World Bank, it assumes that "empowerment" is compatible with free enterprise and a liberal democratic tradition. Yet, "empowerment" is much more than just making it possible for the poor to participate in elections; in choosing between exploiters who will only pay lip service to their problems. The process of empowerment "involves transforming the economic, social, psychological, political and legal circumstances of the currently powerless;" it involves "the emergence of group identities (or community), the development of autonomous and coherent popular organizations, and the defence of, and education about, the legal rights of the popular sectors" (Sandbrook 1993b, 2). Finally, empowerment also involves a form of socio-economic and political restructuring which removes the locus of power from the current custodians of state power, and enables the currently disadvantaged to meet their basic needs, fully participate in decision-making, and provide opportunities to challenge internal and external exploiters. Thus, for people who have been brutalized, terrorized, exploited, manipulated, dehumanized, marginalized, intimidate, and repressed for so long, their empowerment is a signal for liberation; an opportunity to take charge, and a once and for all opportunity to reorganize how they govern themselves and live their lives. It is doubtful if such a new agenda can be found in the current programs which support the power of the elites of Africa. People do not empower themselves to accept domination, poor leadership, and exploitation.

It is only through this process of empowerment which "involves the difficult and hazardous task of constructing political institutions capable of mediating the conflicting interests of classes, regions, sexes, and communal groups, and of safeguarding the voice and rights of hitherto oppressed groups and strata" (Sandbrook 1993b, 3) that the future of a democratic Africa lies. The construction of such accountable and democratic institutions and process will see the dismantling of the neo-colonial state and its replacement with a national popular state. The national popular state will not only be democratic but it will also reflect the interests and aspirations of the working majority in the first instance. It will respect human rights, promote growth and development, and create an environment which will enable Africans to attain the highest points of their creative abilities. It is precisely this new level of creativity, commitment, patriotism, and participation that will make it possible for science and technology to be taken seriously, attract investors, encourage investment in production, define limits for state participation in the economy, check corruption and political excesses, and make interdependence the basis of economic relations with other regions and countries of the world. A strengthened civil society which will inevitably arise from the process of democratization and empowerment will check military adventurism, political and ethnic violence, and negate most of the inherited contradictions, coalitions, conflicts and crises which have plagued Africa since the 1960s and consolidated the region's marginalization in the international division of labor.

The attainment of the conditions described above will require that international organizations, donors and lenders as well as popular organizations around the world, come to the direct support of pro-democracy activists in Africa. To be sure, there are countless opportunistic and mediocre organizations in the region parading themselves as pro-democracy movements. It is therefore essential to understand the origins, quality of leadership, size of membership, programs, nature of existing alliances with other popular groups, and field experience of African pro-democracy groups before support is provided. Many of the elected democratic governments will disappoint their domestic and international supporters initially and there will be reversals to authoritarian or military forms of governance in several cases as has happened in Nigeria. As Klein has noted, "It would be utopian to expect democratic norms to be an immediate success. Many of Africa's new leaders will fail. Some will revert to authoritarian methods. Some will prove as corrupt as their predecessors. Some will be incompetent. The struggle is, alas, one that must be fought over and over again" (Klein 1991). Under these conditions, Africa and the new democracies must not be abandoned. Pro-democracy activists and movements all over Africa need the understanding and support of domestic and international constituencies with similar objectives in order to sustain the struggle to deepen the democratic process. The current successes have opened up some political spaces. These regimes are failing only because they are employing the very same structures and patterns of international trade that their predecessors employed. But they have laid the foundation for deepening the struggle, they have opened the way for more serious, better organized, and more far-reaching struggles for empowerment, democracy, democratization, social justice, human rights, environmental protection, gender equality, rural development and so on. It is in how these deeper struggles are consummated in the 1990s that will determine not just the level of Africa's economic growth and development, but also the region's location and role in the changing global division of labor.


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