Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.
Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.
OCR for page 31
Democratization in Africa: African Views, African Voices, Summary of Three Workshops 3 Democracy and Governance in Africa Africa's continuing reliance on foreign aid has increased the opportunities for bilateral and multilateral aid agencies to influence policy making in the region. The major donors have been meeting frequently in order to discuss development and debt problems and to devise aid strategies for African governments. In turn, foreign aid has increasingly been linked to a set of prescriptions for changes in both economic and political policies pursued by African governments. The so-called new world order also has had significant effects on African governments. As the influence and interest of the Soviet Union in Africa declined (and later collapsed with its demise), Western states and the organizations they influence gained considerably greater leverage over African governments, surpassing the general client-dependent relationship of the 1970s and 1980s. In the 1980s, the international financial institutions announced that the implementation of structural adjustment and economic stabilization programs would be conditions for their assistance to African governments. The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the U.S. Agency for International Development took the lead in demanding policy changes, such as currency devaluation, removal of subsidies for public services, reduction of state intervention in agricultural pricing and marketing, greater concern to the development needs of rural areas, privatization of parastatal bodies, and reduction in the size and cost of the public sector. In the early 1990s, donors began to show interest in promoting political change in addition to economic reforms. Democratic political reforms were
OCR for page 32
Democratization in Africa: African Views, African Voices, Summary of Three Workshops emphasized as key factors in the determination of future economic assistance for Africa. The Development Advisory Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is on record in support of "participatory development," which includes democratization, improved governance, and human rights. The condition that political reforms be undertaken is now attached at least rhetorically to almost all Western aid. Actual donor practices vary: France proposes greater liberty and democracy, Great Britain recommends good government, the United States focuses on good governance, Japan talks about linking aid to reductions in military expenditures. Yet, regardless of the approach, there is increasingly strong agreement among donors that political reforms in Africa must result in reduced corruption and more financial accountability, better observance of human rights, independent media and an independent judiciary, participatory politics, and a liberalized market economy in order to move closer to the ultimate goal of meaningful economic growth and development. GOVERNANCE AND AFRICAN POLITICS Improved governance, which appears to be the common donor requirement for the release of both bilateral and multilateral aid to African countries, has been defined diversely among different observers and actors concerned with development in Africa. The World Bank, for example, defines governance as "the manner in which power is exercised in the management of a country's economic and social resources for development."5 The World Bank's definition further emphasizes its concern with efficiency and the capacity of state institutions beyond the public sector to the rules and institutions that create a predictable and transparent framework for the conduct of public and private business, as well as accountability for economic and financial performance. A number of political scientists participating in the Namibia workshop found it necessary to point out that the concepts of democracy and governance were interrelated, but were not the same. They indicated that "good governance entails the efficient and effective reciprocity between rulers and the ruled, with it incumbent upon government to be responsive. . . . Majoritarian democracy, on the other hand, entailed a broad consensus on values and procedures, the participation in the selection of ruling elites, and the accountability of leadership to the electorate. . . . Both concepts were related to processes in society within the context of reciprocity." Although partici- 5 Managing Development: The Governance Dimension. Discussion paper, World Bank, 1991.
OCR for page 33
Democratization in Africa: African Views, African Voices, Summary of Three Workshops pants at the other workshops did not define the term governance, a number of participants thought the World Bank's definition and discussions of good governance were too narrow. Still, there was agreement in the meetings that African governments are deeply in need of governance reforms. In the Namibia meeting, one participant was of the opinion that the argument that all of Africa has practiced bad governance "is not an accurate statement. . . . In reality, there are few Mobutu Sese Sekos. Most African governments have been in difficult situations and they have opted for the easy way out. Foreign governments did not insist on good governance, either. Even when policies failed, assistance kept coming. Only recently have donors been raising the governance issue, linking it to assistance in order to ensure that the economy and politics be liberalized. Increasingly, Africans are saying that such conditions should be tied to policy performance, but not to a particular blueprint for democracy. Africans should design their own approach to democracy, make a good-faith effort to govern well and to have programs work in an efficient manner, and strive for the development of a culture of democracy between the rulers and the ruled. . . . Perhaps improved governance will take hold before democracy. Africa is liberalizing, but it will take time, and one must be prepared to persevere for a long haul." Participants identified the major reasons for poor governance and "bad" politics in African countries as the personalized nature of rule, the failure of the state to advance and protect human rights, the tendency of individuals to withdraw from politics, and the extreme centralization of power in the hands of few people. It was pointed out also that democracy in Africa has been badly hindered by the state's control of the economy; this has meant that the only way to get rich has been through political office, intensifying the problem of corruption, and inducing leaders to cling to political power. This has been disastrous for the economies in African countries. Thus, economic liberalization, empowering ordinary producers, may well be an aid to political democracy. Furthermore, in most African countries, the small number of individuals with power have managed to erode any semblance of accountability, legitimacy, democracy, and justice, which has been a basis of considerable disappointment to the planners, economists and policy makers who want African governments to introduce a reasonable and collective attack on poverty, disease, illiteracy, and other challenges to development. In the deliberations, certain desperately needed elements of good governance were identified, including popular participation in governance, accountability and transparency, the elimination of corruption, the protection of freedom of information and human rights, and the decentralization and devolution of power.
OCR for page 34
Democratization in Africa: African Views, African Voices, Summary of Three Workshops POPULAR PARTICIPATION Africans have acknowledged that development must be revamped by a democratic approach employing the energy and devotion of African people—who alone can make development sustainable. This recognition emerged from the Arusha Conference "Putting the People First" of February 1990, convened under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and attended by over 500 delegations representing grass roots organizations, nongovernmental organizations, United Nations agencies, and governments. The African Charter for Popular Participation in Development and Transformation, which was adopted by the plenary, holds that the absence of democracy is a principal reason for the persistent development challenges facing Africa:6 We affirm that nations cannot be built without the popular support and full participation of the people, nor can the economic crisis be resolved and the human and economic conditions improved without the full and effective contribution, creativity, and popular enthusiasm of the vast majority of the people. After all, it is to the people that the very benefits of development should and must accrue. We are convinced that neither can Africa's perpetual economic crisis be overcome, nor can a bright future for Africa and its people see the light of day unless the structures, pattern, and political context of the process of socioeconomic development are appropriately altered. In the three workshops, the importance of popular participation in building democratic society likewise was underscored: "The significance of ordinary people having power is important in any society moving toward democracy. When one examines existing democratic societies, one realizes they have succeeded primarily because they have involved people to help make it work. . . . Also, they have empowered those engaged in democratic projects. In short, they have succeeded by giving voice to those who have been voiceless." In discussions on the importance of popular participation in democracy, participants suggested distinguishing between "true" and "false" participation. "False participation," argued some participants, ''has been used by many African governments to project an appearance of support for government policies, but actually tends to promote the cult of personality and to stifle individual and local initiatives. As such, critics of the government either are intimidated or absorbed. "True participation,'' in contrast, "con- 6 African Charter for Popular Participation in Development Transformation (Arusha 1990) International Conference on Popular Participation in the Recovery and Development Process in Africa, 12–16 February.
OCR for page 35
Democratization in Africa: African Views, African Voices, Summary of Three Workshops stantly must seek to present the views of individuals from the grass roots level." It was noted that, in practice, true participation is difficult to maintain because the movement for participation can be "hijacked by opportunist politicians who use it to project themselves into influential positions." Although participants noted that external donors sometimes play an important role in empowering local communities, as in South Africa, they cautioned that the grass roots communities need to guard against falling into a culture of dependence: "Donors, too, may find themselves supporting the most articulate elements in African societies, who may be relatively wealthy and well educated, but not necessarily representative. Foreign nongovernmental organizations also tend to work with governments and may be used by them in order to promote government patronage.'' Furthermore, participants noted that the legal restrictions on participation remaining in some countries would have to be removed. For example, it was noted that "measures that require the registration of civic associations, such as trade unions or student movements, have been used by governments to dissolve associations on petty pretexts." But participants agreed that "ultimately, it is up to individuals to assert their right to participate, if necessary defying or circumventing official restrictions." Participants also went a step further, advocating that internal accountability be maintained within civic associations in order to ensure that spokespersons represent their constituents. It also was suggested that civic associations become institutionalized and begin to support one another. Explicit measures to this end have been taken in Zambia since the recent presidential elections. One participant also pointed out that nongovernmental organizations in Namibia were inculcating a sense of participatory democracy in their projects, including in the schools. In discussing the relationship between participation and efficiency, the question of what is meant by efficiency was raised. Participants suggested that "a technocratic approach to efficiency takes political issues out of the hands of the people and stifles participation. One classic example of this approach has been the imposition of structural adjustment programs, under which the entire management of the economy is removed from the realm of participatory politics. If, on the other hand, the efficiency of the government is to be measured by its ability to meet the needs of its people, then a high level of participation can only promote this end." Supporting what the World Bank has called "consultation of the project beneficiaries," one participant asked whether "the economic reforms of 1986 in Tanzania couldn't have taken place differently if there had been broad-based public discussions in which the public was allowed to take part. . . . Discussions could have helped people to be prepared for the impact of reforms. . . . In this manner, perhaps the reforms even could have been softened.'' A number of participants further pondered whether government has the right to choose
OCR for page 36
Democratization in Africa: African Views, African Voices, Summary of Three Workshops policies that affect people's livelihood without consulting them. If efficiency is measured by the government's ability to meet the needs of its people, they suggest, then "the first task of government is to make sure citizens' lives improve on a daily basis, because if citizens do not see improvement, their enthusiasm for supporting government policies wanes." There was overwhelming agreement among participants that poor governance has adversely affected the efficient use of economic and social resources for development in African countries. The misuse or diversion of assistance and domestic funds by corrupt officials, which was tolerated during the cold war to receive support in the international system, is being replaced by a new emphasis on good governance. In the past, said a number of participants, "aid appeared to be driven by certain political factors without a congruence of interests between givers and receivers." The trend with donor assistance is to channel money through nongovernmental organizations, other private voluntary organizations, and even the private sector rather than to governments. Among some participants, the assumption is that such groups can act as watchdogs, serving as the best deliverers of assistance; a number of participants did not agree, arguing that newly democratic governments should receive and channel such aid. NEED FOR ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY In any society, holding citizens responsible for their actions, in public service and the private sector, is significant to ensure some level of accountability. With regard to public officials, participants pointed out that mechanisms must be devised to hold leaders responsible when they use public resources in ways that society considers unacceptable. To that end, they noted that any public accountability system should include periodic competition and a clear set of rules and expectations. Participants emphasized the notion that the principle of accountability, essential to democracy, requires exposing the truth, with stated and enforced consequences for violating the rules, without exception, even for those in power. The lack of accountability in Africa has led to the gross misuse of public resources. For example, single-party systems in Africa do not allow for much in the way of accountability. The effect has been rampant corruption and the deterioration of socioeconomic conditions—an indication that people in Africa were governed without being able to control their governors. One participant argued: "Besides financial and economic accountability, there is also a need for electoral accountability, for the right to recall representatives if they do not deliver on their promises and don't govern well." International financial institutions and bilateral donors have addressed their expectations of both economic and financial accountability from African countries. The economic objectives of public accountability sought by
OCR for page 37
Democratization in Africa: African Views, African Voices, Summary of Three Workshops the World Bank, for example, include congruence between public policy and actual implementation and the efficient allocation and use of public resources. This not only requires systems of financial accountability, but also the capacity and willingness to monitor the overall economic performance of the government. Another challenge discussed under the rubric of good governance was to achieve transparency in government transactions. In most African countries, participants noted that it is difficult to find functioning establishments in which government accounts, external procurement procedures, and central bank operations are discussed objectively: "In examining the way the economy is managed and the structure of relationships between government and society, there is need for greater transparency. The state must be deprivatized [from domination by the few] and a public arena must be created where there would be room for argument and discussions based on what is good for the entire society. Things should be argued in public terms so that everyone can participate on an equal basis." Thus, participants argued that transparent decision making might serve as a safeguard against corruption, waste, and the abuse of executive authority. Several participants pointed out that government should not conceal information from its citizens. A number of suggestions were put forward by participants regarding the ways in which transparency might be achieved in Africa. These included freedom of the press, donors' insistence that governments make their ledgers and gazettes public knowledge, requiring declarations of assets from public officials, exposing and confronting corruption, and accountability from below. Some participants also raised the question of whether donors genuinely verify democratic conditions in recipient countries, such as Liberia and Kenya. In the case of Liberia, participants suggested U.S. assistance was given despite documented evidence of widespread human rights violations and the inability to implement fiscal accountability because of domestic fighting between indigenous factions. With regard to Kenya, participants pointed out the inconsistency in application of the good government policy advocated by the British, compared with other bilateral donors. Despite Daniel arap Moi's initial reluctance to yield to the demands for multiparty politics, Kenya received substantial British investment and was defended by both Foreign Minister Douglas Hurd and Aid Minister Lynda Chalker as having a good human rights record. One participant argued, "Perhaps democracy is being used as a legitimation of intervention. . . . There is a need for transparency in the advice donors give to African governments. When projects [that have been agreed on behind closed doors] fail, the onus is put on African governments." Most participants were of the opinion that this practice was unjustified, especially because the public officials representing African governments in such negotiations often lack credibility and legitimacy.
OCR for page 38
Democratization in Africa: African Views, African Voices, Summary of Three Workshops In this regard, it was suggested that donors also need to apply governance reforms to the way they conduct business. One participant stated, "Having worked for several aid agencies, I will add that the donors need to undertake governance reforms. I hope that the progressive and democratic forces in Africa both during and after the transition will demand those reforms of the donors. For example, demand the publication of confidential reports of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. . . . They are confidential only in lessening the level of accountability of these agencies to populations and opposition. . . . I think there should be much more transparency in the policy-making process, especially during structural adjustment negotiations. . . . That lack of transparency has satisfied only the donors and the governments, and it will be interesting to see, after the transition, whether newly democratic governments will open up this process to the press, and I think they should, because it will much improve the structural adjustment process." In short, participants demanded more openness regarding the dialogue and agreements reached between African governments and the donor community. CORRUPTION The issue of corruption was identified as posing a profound threat to all systems of government. In most African countries, corruption constitutes an important means by which individual wants and needs, especially in patronage-ridden personal regimes, can be satisfied. Although corruption is a general problem for all governments, governments of developing countries tend to exhibit the problem in a particularly noteworthy way. In countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Zaire, and the Central African Republic, corruption is so extensive that it is viewed as a way of life. Making or receiving bribes in most African countries is considered a practical tactic to look after one's needs and interests, achieving incomes and security far greater than provided by one's monthly salary. Because of an absence of effective structures with autonomy and strength to check corruption, the governing elites of most African countries have engaged in high and sometimes egregious levels of corruption, increasingly diverting state resources for personal gain. In Zaire, for example, one participant mentioned that corruption has been termed a structural fact, with as much as 60 percent of the annual budget misappropriated by the governing elite. Foreign aid, noted the participants, although designed to contribute to development, also has served as an alternative source of wealth for corrupt elites. One commented: "While many African leaders have become rent-seeking and corrupt, there is a corruptor and a corruptee." A number of participants pointed out how some of those providing assistance collude with corrupt leaders, promoting the syndrome of capital flight. They then
OCR for page 39
Democratization in Africa: African Views, African Voices, Summary of Three Workshops suggested that donors cease dealing with leaders who have amassed extraordinary fortunes by transferring their country's foreign exchange into private accounts overseas. It was also pointed out that, to the extent that government has been immersed in patron-client relations and in cases in which state office is granted as a means to amass personal wealth, corruption has increased in scale and proportion. One significant suggestion advanced by participants in both the Benin and Namibia workshops was that public monies siphoned off by corrupt leaders and public officials and deposited in the West must be returned. They made a plea for donors to suggest steps that African countries could take that might help retrieve the stolen money deposited in foreign accounts by these public officials. One participant stated, "Stolen monies do not belong to the few individuals who perpetrated the thefts. . . . The people of African countries were robbed. If donors were to try to help get this money back, it maybe would contribute to democracy and democratization." As an example that repatriation is possible, one of the Zambian participants stated that Zambians had been assured by British Prime Minister John Major that such public funds deposited in the United Kingdom would be returned. Although participants acknowledged that corruption in Africa emanated from the lack of democracy and accountability, they emphasized that corruption is not unique to Africa and also may be found in liberal democratic systems. Consequently, they were of the opinion that the real issue is the absence of institutions capable of tackling corruption. As one participant argued, "With regard to corruption and stolen money, my own advice is to let sleeping dogs lie and engage ourselves more in how to create institutions that will help make a repeat performance impossible. . . . I also think we can suggest to donors that we want a change in the form in which aid comes. For example, donors no longer should give direct monetary aid, because this can be misutilized, but could provide assistance in other ways that would ensure it is effectively utilized." Although the discussions on corruption revolved primarily around the return of stolen money, there was general agreement that it will be difficult to achieve democracy without eradicating corruption and establishing effective measures to ensure some level of accountability and transparency in African countries. FREEDOM OF INFORMATION AND HUMAN RIGHTS The protection of freedom of information and human rights was identified as a means of bringing about improved governance. One person observed: "The media play a critical role in the maintenance of democracy by providing a bridge between all of the different elements in society." Participants noted how in Africa the media is "often overlooked, yet could
OCR for page 40
Democratization in Africa: African Views, African Voices, Summary of Three Workshops provide links among African countries, which at present are too isolated from one another." It was noted that there are nonetheless severe obstacles to their performance of this role. For example, it was stated that almost everywhere in Africa "radio and television are under direct government control. Radio is often particularly important in rural areas, and among people not literate in European languages, whereas newspapers are expensive to run and can be subject to government censorship or indirect pressures over matters such as the supply of newsprint. In countries like Mozambique, the media were assigned a political role as agents of mobilization. In South Africa, although restrictions have been eased, newspapers still retain a high degree of self-censorship." Participants strongly believed that the media should be free from state control and entrusted to professional journalists who, in areas such as Nigeria and southern Africa, have maintained a courageous commitment to press freedom. It was acknowledged, however, that professional training is needed for journalists, especially in countries whose press has been under state control. One participant called for African journalists to train younger colleagues, organize themselves into associations and trade unions, and to sponsor conferences around the issue of the press and democracy. These steps, he offered, "could contribute to the emergence of a free and independent press in Africa, with persistent reporting in turn contributing to improved governance." Another specific suggestion was for journalists to "move away from lavishly reporting the activities of heads of state to eliciting the help of civic associations in gaining access to alternative news sources, especially in order to penetrate rural areas." While supporting privatization of the media, participants recognized a danger that, in places such as South Africa, this might concentrate ownership in the hands of the wealthy: "A dispersed and variegated press is needed, including a local press, so that readers can vote with their money against inadequate reporting." A number of participants recommended that, in the interim, state-controlled media should provide equal opportunities of access. It also was pointed out that reforms of press laws will be required in a number of countries. Some participants advocated that a code of ethics for the press be instituted simultaneously with such new laws. As one participant illustrated, "ultimately, freedom of the press reflects the freedom of society itself. In countries such as Swaziland and Zambia, the refusal of the press to be coopted was a major factor contributing to an open society." Another participant expressed this notion somewhat differently, "I am amazed that the example of the lively free press in Nigeria hasn't been duplicated elsewhere in Africa. In Nigeria, there are over 50 newspapers and lots of magazines, with many of them in local languages and dialects. Generally, the more press there is, the greater the difficulty government has in suppressing it." Freedom of the press is a central area in
OCR for page 41
Democratization in Africa: African Views, African Voices, Summary of Three Workshops the whole field of human rights that, participants maintained, needs constant monitoring. Participants indicated that regular indigenous institutions for monitoring should be established, although assistance from international civil society also could be very supportive, ideas that will be discussed further in the next chapter. The use of alternative media, such as drama, news murals, and posters to educate people about rights was also recommended. DECENTRALIZATION AND DEVOLUTION OF POWER Political autonomy and policy participation for local communities and ethnic groups in society are significant factors of government legitimacy. Participants noted that, in politically fragmented countries, decentralization might allow the various political, religious, ethnic, or tribal groups greater representation in development decision making, thereby increasing their stake in maintaining political stability. One participant convincingly argued, "With reference to decentralization, I would simply like to say that we have to look at things from the point of view of democratic society. . . . Are we going to tolerate diversity? . . . If it's a dialogue among peers, then we can't concentrate the political and economic power in the hands of just a few people. . . . I think we have to tolerate this diversity, and political and economic decentralization should be admitted as having the right to exist. . . . We do not have to try to achieve uniformity because it is perhaps not the best thing. I think that decentralization of power is not bad. . . . It will, of course mean that there is a limitation on the centralization of power in both the political and economic fields." There was clear agreement that centralization and personalization of power by rulers has been a major obstacle to democracy in African countries: "Africa's problem is unequivocally and fundamentally political. . . . Political centralization has led to economic centralization, which has led to economic crisis. . . . Institutionally, because most African countries are overly centralized, there needs to be both horizontal and vertical decentralization of power." One specific suggestion was to decentralize politics first so that the legislative and judicial branches of power could become independent and their powers strengthened, in order to act as a check on the powers of the executive. Participants further pointed out that the power and authority of most African heads of state blatantly override the powers of the legislature and the judiciary. In other words, because of the personalization of power by the rulers, an enormous gap exists between the rulers and the people. In some African countries, constitutions and other laws have been revised to give rulers the right to exercise exceptional powers. For example, in Sierra Leone and Kenya, constitutional amendments and statutory provisions have
OCR for page 42
Democratization in Africa: African Views, African Voices, Summary of Three Workshops allowed the presidents to exercise emergency powers anywhere in the country at any time. Most participants believed that, in the future, it would be necessary to limit the excessive concentration of power in the hands of the executive in order to ensure some level of accountability through the other branches of government. There was a clear sense that the role of the centralized state must be limited. As one person suggested: "Local government must be allowed to work. . . . The state's monopoly control must be broken down. . . . The formal structures in the state are highly centralized, whatever way you look at it. This is the problem as far as the issue of centralization is concerned." Another suggestion was for a reexamination of state-societal relations in the context of decentralization as it relates to democratization. One participant advocated that the state communicate with societal elements, such as clans and tribes, and not just with one ethnic group in society: "Decentralization can absorb ethnic issues at the middle level; groups have something they can control at their level. . . . Decentralization will be territorial and ethnic based." "But minorities will have to be protected, if they live, for example, in the 'wrong' area," argued one participant. Another participant, however, cautioned that decentralization should not be allowed to result in the replacement of authentic, grass roots leaders with party members. In short, the participants agreed that decentralization could be useful in encouraging local autonomy, strengthening civil society at the grass roots level in both rural and urban areas, and providing ways for women to participate in issues of immediate local concern to them. The discussions on decentralization also focused on the devolution of power. One participant argued that "decentralization has been cloaked in rhetoric without devolution, resulting in the further illegitimacy of the state and the weakness of civil society. As African states became increasingly incapable of delivering [on their economic and political promises], associational life emerged at the local level. This often took the form of a shadow state, where people organized themselves to provide basic services that, in their communities, had been ignored by the state. In this bubbling up process, these groups would then try to extract necessities from the state in order to provide services. Civil society, therefore, emerges in this form to meet basic human needs at the local level, not resulting from macro-level concerns. If there is to be an efficient link between state and society, with effective articulation by associations, then local government, in the form of devolution, would be most appropriate. In this way, devolution could provide the missing link between the center and periphery in rural areas. Yet autonomous local governments hold out important prospects, not only in rural areas, but also in urbanized areas, such as those in South Africa." Some participants, however, expressed caveats in the discussions about decentralization: "As far as decentralization is concerned, it can be a little
OCR for page 43
Democratization in Africa: African Views, African Voices, Summary of Three Workshops dangerous, because the more we try to decentralize, the more we come up against certain community realities that may dismantle or destroy the greater community. . . . In such situations, there is an inordinate amount of stress on certain ethnic communities or characteristics. This may not always be optimal, as far as the Africa of tomorrow is concerned. . . . But, if we are aware of these dangers, I think we can overcome them." Another participant suggested that societies with diverse ethnic groups centralize power primarily because that has been the easy and cheapest way out of anticipated problems. He maintained, "When we talk of decentralization, I can tell you that I participated in a number of discussions in my country in which the people of certain regions said they were opposed to decentralization because they were the rich sections of the community and they had the mineral resources. Therefore, they argued, they should have more money and their incomes should be bigger than the other areas, as they supply the resources. Consequently, if centralization were developed in some areas, it was because it was the cheapest way out. . . . Democracy, of course, calls for money and for financing." MODES OF REPRESENTATION The issue of modes of representation in African countries also was a topic of discussion in the three workshops. Many participants argued that federalism might be the best known mechanism, although not the only method, of giving autonomy to different societal groups, thereby accommodating what participants termed the "ethnic variable." There was some support for regionalism, in the form of a unitary state with some federal character. Yet the difficulty in coming to any clear agreement concerning representation was illustrated by one participant, who asked, "On what does one base federalism? If one resorts to ethnic groups, which primarily are territorially based, then people worry about ethnicity. They see that disputes can lead to intergroup conflicts when groups live in proximity, such as is the case in Lebanon. If groups live in the periphery, it can lead to separatism. . . . If groups are interspersed, then violent conflict can emerge, as it has in the Balkans and in Nagorno-Karabakh. There are no simple solutions." Another participant further argued, "Regarding the devolution of authority in the form of a federal or regional state, I see a problem with the concept of a federal state dividing the country into local governments that have absolute sovereignty over their units. Can a country, like Ethiopia, staff about 15 different governments? Moreover, I fear that tribal and ethnic problems could emerge, perhaps leading to disintegration, as in Yugoslavia. Therefore, maybe a regional state organized along economic units might make more sense." Another participant from South Africa expressed similar cynicism: "In
OCR for page 44
Democratization in Africa: African Views, African Voices, Summary of Three Workshops talking about regionalism and federalism, is one trying to weaken the central government in order to recognize ethnicity, or in order to ensure that a future, majority-controlled government won't be able to function?" Yet another participant who is engaged in the negotiation process of the Convention for a Democratic South Africa expressed further reservations with the "federal option as it is being used by white South Africans to divide and concentrate power without question. For us, the redistribution of power and resources is essential. Blacks have had to stand up as South Africans who have been victims of apartheid. Is it necessary to recognize ethnicity in order to move to democracy, as in Ethiopia, or should we not keep our South African unity? Whereas the South African government is pushing for the constitutional entrenchment of ethnicity, the African National Congress believes that to be the Soviet model, which it cannot accept. I agree that regional concerns should exist, as should regional governments, but the state should be given central powers to allow it to function effectively and to redistribute resources where needed. To this end, I doubt that the efforts under way in Nigeria would be an option for South Africa." The question of what kind of future constituencies might be more productive for African countries produced various reactions from participants. Some argued that smaller units might be more manageable, as more people would be involved and ethnic divisions would be minimized, because, in the latter case, the larger ethnic groups would be broken down into smaller states. Others argued that regional representation with bigger followings offers enormous possibilities to help smaller states. A few participants, however, advocated representation based on something more than territorial constituencies. This view was well argued by one participant: "Initially, representation was territorially based, which is the basic system almost everywhere. But, in Eastern Europe, as in Africa, it has been argued that territorial representation isn't enough. One also needs functional representation, perhaps through an electoral college, where individuals would represent functional groups. In the French Fourth Republic, for example, this took the form of an economic and social council." Another participant pointed out that Namibia was undertaking to "capture with representation the influence of traditional rulers in rural areas," by incorporating functional representation into government through the establishment of a second House. The crucial point to be made is that, democracy must always be prepared to recognize differences among groups of people, but whether these should be institutionalized within a federal system is something that may legitimately vary from state to state. A nonfederal Nigeria, for example, is barely conceivable, but federal systems in other states may carry different implications. If federalism is to work, there must be a real commitment to the center, as well as to the individual units. As the former
OCR for page 45
Democratization in Africa: African Views, African Voices, Summary of Three Workshops Soviet Union and Yugoslavia demonstrate, federalism does not provide a means of keeping together peoples who don't want to stay together anyhow. Despite the overwhelming acknowledgment that effective systems of governance are needed in African countries, participants were unsure of how African countries could proceed to create new models of governance in a climate of decline and economic stagnation. To this end, there was a strong sense among participants that donors need to address the linkages between the economic and political reforms they suggest to African countries, particularly in relation to their compatibility and sequencing. Participants noted how economic reforms have caused deep despair, unemployment, and malnutrition and have not been as successful as was originally hoped. In this context, it also was noted that many African governments have become more, not less, authoritarian since they accepted such conditionalities on economic assistance. The government of Ghana, for example, ''was able to carry out its reforms because it used force.'' In the future, participants thought that, before imposing conditions, donors should encourage discussions and seek consensus through dialogue with African countries.
Representative terms from entire chapter: