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Bondage of boundaries and identity politics in postcolonial africa: The ‘northern problem’ and ethno-futures

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What has confounded African efforts to create cohesive, prosperous and just states in postcolonial Africa? What has been the long-term impact of the Berlin Conference of 1884-5 on African unity and African statehood? Why is postcolonial Africa haunted by various ethno national conflicts? Is secession and irredentism the solution? Can we talk of ethno-futures for Africa? These are the kinds of fundamental questions that this important book addresses. Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni and Brilliant Mhlangaís book introduces the metaphor of the enorthern problemi to dramatise the fact that there is no major African postcolonial state that does not enclose within its borders a disgruntled minority that is complaining of marginalization, domination and suppression. The irony is that in 1963 at the formation of the OAU, postcolonial African leaders embraced the boundaries arbitrarily drawn by European colonialists and institutionalised the principle of inviolability of ebondage of boundariesi thereby contributing to the problem of ethno-national conflicts. The successful struggle for independence of the Eritrean people and the secession of South Sudan in 2011 have encouraged other dominated and marginalised groups throughout Africa to view secession as an option. Ndlovu-Gatsheni and Mhlanga successfully assembled competent African scholars to deal exhaustively with various empirical cases of ethno-national conflicts throughout the African continent as well as engaging with such pertinent issues as Pan-Africanism as a panacea to these problems. This important book delves deeper into complex issues of space, languages, conflict, security, nation-building, war on terror, secession, migration, citizenship, militias, liberation, violence and Pan-Africanism.

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RETHINKING AFRICAN DEMOCRACY Claude Ake Claude Ake, a Nigerian political economist, is currently a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. Formerly professor of political science and dean of the faculty of social sciences at the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, he has served as president of the Nigerian Political Science Association and of the Council for Development of Economic and Social Research in Africa (CODESRIA). He is the author of numerous books and articles on politics and political economy in Africa. Issues of democratization and human rights are increasingly dominating the world's interest in Africa, overcoming a legacy of indifference to the fate of democracy on the continent. This legacy has its roots in the colonial era, when political discourse excluded not only democracy but even the idea of good government, and politics was reduced to the clash of one exclusive claim to power against another. This attitude persisted even after Africa gained political independence. By deciding to take over the colonial system instead of transforming it in accord with popular nationalist aspirations, most African leaders found themselves on a collision course with their people. Faced with this challenge to their newly won power, they opted for "development," using it largely as an ideological blind. Resisting pressures for structural transformation and redistribution, they claimed that the overriding priority for Africa must be to seek development -- the cake had to be baked before it could be shared. To discourage opposition and perpetuate their power, they argued that the problems of development demanded complete unity of purpose, justifying on these grounds the criminalization of political dissent and the inexorable march to political monolithism. The rest of the world heartily encouraged these political tendencies. Africa's former colonial masters, anxious for leverage with the new leaders, embraced the idea of partnership in development and gave these regimes their indulgent support. The great powers ignored human rights Journal of Democracy Vol.2, No.1 Winter 1991 Claude Ake 33 violations and sought clients wherever they could. All these factors helped crystallize a climate of opinion in the West hostile to democracy in Africa. From time to time (as during the Carter administration in the United States) human rights abuses in Africa became an issue, but never democracy. On the rare occasions when Western leaders did discuss democracy in Africa, it was mainly to raise doubts about its feasibility. Why is the West now suddenly preoccupied with the prospect of democracy in Africa? The reforms in Eastern Europe have contributed to this change of heart by providing the West with a dramatic vindication of its own values and a sense of the historical inevitability of the triumph of democracy. The aggressive vacuity of the Cold War has been replaced by the mission of democratization, a mission which, it is widely believed, will firmly consolidate the hegemony of Western values all over the world. Thus the West has come to regard democracy as an important item on the African agenda. This change in attitude also reflects the fact that the long struggle for democracy in Africa is beginning to show results, results too impressive and too widespread to be ignored: the popular rejection of military rule in Nigeria; the demise of apartheid in South Africa; the downfall of Samuel Doe in Liberia and KErrkou in Benin; the gains for pluralism and multipartyism in Niger, Madagascar, Cameroon, Zambia, Algeria, Gabon, Crte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Zaire, Mozambique, Angola, the Congo, and S~o Tom6 and Prfncipe; and the growing pressures for democratization in Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Togo, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Cameroon, and Zimbabwe. The West's changing attitude toward democracy in Africa draws additional impetus from Africa's economic marginalization. The world economy is now driven less by trade than by capital movements; there has been a massive shift from the production of goods to the provision of services, and from material-intensive to knowledge-intensive industries. At the same time, advances in science and technology have created an increasing number of synthetic products more flexible and more versatile than those that Africa has traditionally exported. These changes have made Africa's primary economies far less relevant to the current economic needs...
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Zimbabwe, like many other post-colonial African states, has a ‘northern problem’. As a metaphor, the concept of ‘northern problem’ refers to the disgruntled groups in a state claiming a particular history and identity that differ from those of the dominant ‘other’. The metaphor does not necessarily imply that these forms of disenchantment and their fissures are found in the northern parts of every African nation-state. Rather, certain groups in a state may not consider themselves to be citizens and also hold the view of state boundaries as fictitious. Matebeleland, in Zimbabwe, serves as an example, with calls for devolution of power or a form of irredentist secessionist bid. The ‘northern problem’ results from feelings of being dominated, excluded and marginalised in terms of national resource distribution and leadership (power as a resource) arrangements. This article will project into the future challenges that may be faced given the region of Matebeleland as a political hotbed in Zimbabwe and the possibility of violent conflict if their concerns are not addressed. It will also attempt to provide a detailed engagement of the devolution of power conceptualised as part of administrative decentralisation. I conclude by arguing that if the devolution of power is properly implemented, starting with inclusion in the Zimbabwean constitution, the challenge of Matebeleland as a ‘northern problem’ may cease to pose a threat that is likely to fan secessionist calls.
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An analysis of Morocco's claims to the Western Sahara and of the International Court of Justice rulings of 1975 reveals the ambiguities that surround the principle of sovereignty and the futility of claiming neutrality or the high moral ground in settling disputes involving equally sound interpretations of what sovereignty means. Morocco's claims to the Western Sahara are related to an early process of nation-state building that renders untenable any attempt to grant the disputed territory a status different to that of other Moroccan provinces. The Spanish government and European NGOs would have advanced the cause of self-determination of the Sahrawi population more effectively if they had pressed Morocco on democracy, human rights and meaningful regional autonomy.
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This paper contributes to a growing body of literature on the socio-economic impact of the Second World War on Africa. The focus is on the inter-relationship between the state, settler farmers and African labour in Southern Rhodesia. The war presented an opportunity for undercapitalized European farmers to enlist state support in securing African labour that they could not obtain through market forces alone. Historically, these farmers depended heavily on a supply of cheap labour from the Native Reserves and from the colonies to the north, especially Nyasaland. But the opportunities for Africans to sell their labour in other sectors of the Southern Rhodesian economy and in the Union of South Africa, or to at least determine the timing and length of their entry into wage employment, meant that settler farmers seldom obtained an adequate supply of labour. Demands for increased food production, a wartime agrarian crisis and a diminished supply of external labour all combined to ensure that the state capitulated in the face of requests for Africans to be conscripted into working for Europeans as a contribution to the Imperial war effort. The resulting mobilization of thousands of African labourers under the Compulsory Native Labour Act (1942), which emerged as the prize of the farmers' campaign for coerced labour, corrects earlier scholarship on Southern Rhodesia which asserted that state intervention in securing labour supplies was of importance only up to the 1920s. The paper also shows that Africans did not remain passive before measures aimed at coercing them into producing value for settler farmers.
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Most so–called ‘collapsed states’ in Africa are extreme cases of the complex and contradictory processes of state–making and unmaking which are unfolding in the continent. Beneath the veneer of sovereignty, virtually all these nations started their independent existence in the 1960s as shell states. Since then, they have either followed the path of self–destruction (state collapse) or have sought to fill the shell with institutional content (state–making). Private military intervention is one of the key external factors undermining the state–building project. Whether in its traditional ‘soldier of fortune’ form, or in its current corporate cloak, the privatization of security injects an inflammatory element into the governance process in weak states. Since independence, the populations of Africa have been subjected to structural violence that has highlighted force and de–emphasized human security as the cornerstone of governance. Civil society reactions to this have become more pronounced since the end of the Cold War, and have led to negative reconfiguration in weak states that are least equipped to manage the new challenges. The privatization of security impedes efforts to fashion accountable governance, and entrenches the culture of violence. Private military companies, their partner arms brokers and local warlords are the principal actors in illegitimate resource appropriation — a major cause of ongoing asymmetric warfare in Africa — and the proliferation of weapons — an incendiary element in these wars.
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While many cite the February 2003 outbreak of violence in the Darfur region of Sudan as the beginning of what a chorus of international actors are now calling genocide, the conflict in Darfur has quite complicated historical roots. This essay examines the regional, ideological, and historical factors that have helped form the modern Darfur states, focusing particularly on the rise of the Islamist movement in Khartoum. It asserts that understanding these factors is necessary to devise an effective international response to the current crisis in the Darfur region.
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The creation in 1996 of the Eduardo dos Santos Foundation (FESA) is the culmination of a long process of developing a clientelist system which makes substantial use of privatization, both legal and illegal. The establishment of FESA is also part of a wider presidential strategy which is intended as a response to two related challenges: first, the failure to resolve Angola's armed conflict; and second, the exacerbation of factional rivalries within the ruling elite, the aggravation of the country's social crisis, and the tarnished reputation of the regime as a result of war, predation and corruption.
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Five factors contribute to humanitarian crises in Africa. They are: stagnating and declining incomes, rising income inequality, avaricious competition to extract Africa's mineral wealth, military centrality, and a tradition of violent conflict. One factor - ethnic differences - turns out to be a symptom, not a cause of violence. The article discusses these, then continues to suggest that while recognizing that a number of African countries vulnerable to humanitarian emergencies are not amenable to political economy solutions, industrialized countries and international agencies bear substantial responsibility for modifying the international economic order to enhance economic growth and adjustment.
Trumping the ancestors: the challenges of implementing a land registration system in Madagascar
  • Evers S.