Governance, leadership and the rise of African nationalism in sub-Saharan Africa: an ethical critical study.
Mushohwe, Christopher Chindoti.
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The African continent is the global region to have experienced the worst oppression under the Europeans imperialists. Colonialism was a system based on the imposition and acceptance of superiority of the coloniser over the colonised. Before the colonial intervention, many African governing systems were traditional monarchies, many of which seem, by design or accident, to have struck a viable balance between autocracy and democracy, due to the ritualised control of power. Within such systems, extensive powers were accorded the monarch but only on trust and in reciprocity. From the 1950s right up to the 1980s, the African continent was ravaged by wars of liberation which were part of the momentous mission to remake African societies, to regain Africa’s historical agency so cruelly seized by the west through colonialism. The anti-colonial wars were protracted and brutal. These were defensive, unavoidable wars, waged at enormous cost in African lives and livelihoods, driven by the desire to maintain or regain political autonomy, the precondition for establishing the social contract of democracy, the political culture of human rights, and the economic possibilities of development. Thus the hallmark of African nationalism was to establish autonomous African democratic systems that would allow Africa to develop and build institutions rooted in the African systems of governance. Unfortunately, independence brought little respite from the ravages of war for people in many sub-Saharan African countries. The instabilities and insecurities of post-colonial Africa are rooted in the political and cultural economies of both colonialism and the post-independence latched on to the shifting configurations and conjunctures of the international division of labor, especially the legacies and challenges of state-making and nation-building. Sub-Saharan Africa has been caricatured as a place of continuous civil wars and conflicts. There are also the struggles over underdevelopment, dependency, and sustainable development, and how to establish modern societies that are politically, economically and technologically viable in a highly competitive, unequal and exploitative world. The diversities of sub-saharan Africa’s nation-states, the fact that they are almost invariably multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-lingual, and multi-cultural in the midst of relatively high levels of material poverty and uneven spatial and social development, dominated by authoritarian governments, created a combustible mix that periodically erupted into civil wars. At the heart of all these conflicts and wars were struggles over power and resources; power concentrated around the state and its governance structures, developmental capacities, delegative practices, distributional propensities, and resources in terms of their availability, control and access. Typical examples are countries such as Angola, Mozambique, and Democratic Republic of Congo who experienced conflicts soon after independence, inspired and or instigated and supported by the former colonisers. The process of trying to bring about peace, security and development by adhering to the democratic practice proved to be very difficult to achieve to an extent that many Africans in the post-colonial era began to question the relevance of the western democratic precepts in Africa. The African nationalists borrowed the values of democracy from the western philosophers and used these in prosecuting the wars of liberation but post-independent Africa witnessed the failure to adhere to this to achieve the merit of peace and security even under the western democratic principles characterized by periodic elections. This study explores the ways through which dominant democratic frameworks inherited from western liberalism can be renegotiated and adapted to account for historical and cultural realities in the Sub-Saharan Africa milieu, in order to stimulate political and economic development. This study contends that western liberal democracy can be adapted to suit African contexts although there is a lack of solid linkages between western liberalism and African democratic practices. In order for sustainable development to be realized in Sub-Saharan Africa, democracy must be implanted in the vital nodes of the African cultural and ethical values. It is instructive to note that western imperialism has affected this ethic resulting in numerous challenges assaulting both leadership and governance in post-colonial Africa. Concomitant with imperialism, Western liberal views of democracy have been appropriated in countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. In academic circles, attempts are increasingly being made to universalize such Western values on the basis of Nationalism discourse articulated by African nationalist leaders. However, indications are that the dominant liberal framework is not universally applicable, for in post-colonial African countries it appears not only to be at odds with humanistic values and principles that gave impetus to the rise of African Nationalism, but also responsible for governance and leadership challenges afflicting most post-colonial states in Sub Saharan Africa. Against the background of attempts to universalize Western liberal democracy, this study examines the resultant tension that arises in an African post-colonial context. As an example, the study reviews the presence and continued resonance of the ideology and practice of nationalism and nationalist politics in most African countries such as Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Mozambique, and examines how such politics may collide with other different forms of democratic frameworks. The current democratic frameworks within which post-colonial African states function are devoid of the African ethic and therefore need to be adapted to suit the African context viewed in light of its past. Drawing from post-colonial theory, the study argues for a renegotiation of the dominant democratic frameworks inherited from Western societies in the context of not only nationalist politics but also of the historical and cultural realities of Sub-Saharan Africa. This thesis is an academic and political intervention where post-colonial critical analysis is deployed as a methodological locus of enunciation as opposed to conventional and dominant methodologies of the western centric episteme. A hybridized model of democracy in Sub-Saharan Africa is achievable.