Vol. 14 (January - April 2012)
GOVERNANCE AND ETHNICITY
By Timothy Gachanga It is clear that much healing is still required to address the deep trauma caused by injustice, ethnic violence and forced displacement in the wake of Kenya's disputed 2007 general elections. Timothy Gachanga here traces the roots of this trauma in a perceptive analysis of decades of corrupt, ethno-centric governance and patronage. He also identifies three encouraging processes of change—since the searing experiences of the last elections—towards greater democracy and unity.
By Teke Ngomba Once the "poster child" for successful development, Côte d’Ivoire is now seen as an example of what to avoid, a lesson on how not to do things. Among the numerous causes of this country’s recent conflicts, Teke Ngomba finds the instrumentalization of ethnicity and regionalism by different political elites to be at the very centre. While the involvement of the International Criminal Court, the creation of the Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and other measures can provide a way forward for Côte d’Ivoire—and, by example, for other countries—in this writer’s assessment, it will not happen without real political will and a commitment to real justice.
By Ukoha Ukiwo No one can deny the tremendous potential of Nigeria, with its very large population, great oil wealth and rich diversity. Yet, wracked by ethnic and religious conflict, rampant corruption, and ruthless competition for power, it has had a tumultuous history thus far, and has become one of the most challenging countries in Africa to govern. In this article, Ukoha Ukiwo provides real insight into the prospects for unity and equality under the Fourth Republic. Though created through a "forced marriage" almost 100 years ago, the partners that make up this great federation are still together after 50 years of independence. The potential is still there.
By Wendy Gichuru In 2011, Africa's largest country, the Republic of Sudan, was divided into two sovereign states—Sudan and South Sudan. This marks the first time since the colonial era that state partition as a resolution to deep-rooted conflict has been tried. Although the creation of South Sudan was achieved with overwhelming popular support in a referendum, it nevertheless sets a precedent, raising many questions regarding the new country's own future as well as that of other African states. With the benefit of recent, first-hand exposure, Wendy Gichuru here considers the challenges of ethnicity and governance in the new Republic of South Sudan.
By the Ezine editors
by Timothy Gachanga
|Kenya: Ethnic Agendas and Patronage Impede the Formation of a Coherent Kenyan Identity|
Kenya is a nation in mourning. In December
2007 and into 2008, the country experienced unprecedented ethnic violence that
erupted after the disputed general election. The elections sparked chaos that escalated
into ethnic violence pitting supporters of incumbent President Mwai Kibaki (a
Kikuyu), against those of challenger Raila Odinga (a Luo), who was later named
prime minister in a power-sharing agreement. Over 1,800 people lost their lives and more than 340,000 were displaced
from their homes. The violence not only shattered the foundations
of Kenya as a nation but also painted a picture of a country severely fractured
by ethnic cleavages. Many scholars (Lotte 2011; Branch et al. 2010; Otieno 2009)
and journalists have tried to explain how we arrived at this low point in our
history. They conclude that the crisis revealed a fundamental failure of the
nation-building project in Kenya. While Kenya had been
perceived as a strong democratizing country, its institutions of governance
remained in fact weak, fragmented, corrupt, and unable to deal with underlying
causes of conflict and the emerging violence. Successive Kenyan regimes
politicized and "ethnicized" state institutions and used the various
offices as political tools for maintaining a system of ethnic patronage. The
corruption at the highest level of governance created a political, economic,
and social barrier between the citizens and their rulers. As a consequence, a
profound level of distrust and fear exist between some of the 42 ethnic groups
that make up the Kenyan population. Many citizens are therefore deeply ignorant
of one another's histories and cultures, and have erected imaginary walls
between ethnic communities, failing to appreciate the shared histories,
narratives, memories, cultural practices and values that unite them.
independence in 1963 from the British government and Jomo Kenyatta, a Kikuyu,
became the first president of Kenya. Kenyatta inherited a colonial legacy of
authoritarianism and ethnic divisions which he and his successor Daniel arap Moi
maintained and perfected. As many scholars (Elkins 2008; Berman 1998) have
noted, the British government had instituted legislative measures that ensured
that Kenyans would not unite and rebel against the colonialists. The short-lived
Luo-Kikuyu alliance in the late 1950s attests to this. It hastened Britain's
retreat from Kenya and forced the release of Kenyatta from a colonial detention
camp. But three years after independence in 1963, the Luo-Kikuyu alliance fell
apart and Kenyatta and his Kikuyu elite took over the state. The Kikuyu then
enjoyed many of the country's spoils throughout Kenyatta's reign. A similar
alliance in 2002, led to the defeat of the dictatorial Moi regime.
| ||Ethnic cleavages were
also manifested in the struggle for independence ... The political parties that
championed the nationalist struggle were basically distinct "ethnic unions".|| |
Ethnic cleavages were
also manifested in the struggle for independence. The struggle, which took
various forms—intellectual, political, trade unionist, active non-violence and armed
struggle—was marked by ethnic activism (Atieno-Odhiambo 1996). The political parties that
championed the nationalist struggle were basically distinct "ethnic unions".
The most consistent movement was the Kikuyu Central Association (KCA) which had
set its agenda in the 1924–1932 period (Atieno-Odhiambo 1966). This was a period ridden with
culture conflicts, political tensions and strenuous socio-economic upheavals.
In 1920, for instance, the country had officially become a British colony and Kenyans
had started experiencing the effects of colonialism, which included land
alienation, forced labour requirements, carrying of kipande (identity documents), paying taxes
and cultural impositions. At the same time the KCA started organizing the
disaffected Kikuyu and administered oaths so as to galvanize their unity. The
entire community became dissatisfied with the colonial regime and saw the birth
of many anti-mission and anti-government movements that focused on liberating
the country from their colonial masters. This was given impetus by the return
of soldiers from World War One who told the people what violence meant
The KCA agenda for
recruitment at that time was articulated around the twin issues of ancestral
land and continued validation of a historic sense of Kikuyu nationhood. Jomo
Kenyatta embraced this agenda and internationalized it. When he became the
president in 1963, he embarked on implementing the content of his Kenyan
nationalism which was dedicated to his people the Kikuyu. His awareness and
knowledge of rural Kenya was limited to those areas where the Kikuyu lived
The Land Issue
On the eve of independence, Kenyans had great
expectations that poverty, illiteracy and disease would be things of the past.
They also hoped that the land would revert back to them and that there would be
greater cohesion and integration. This was never to be. On the contrary, Kenyatta
ethnic patronage to maintain power and to distribute resources. He blatantly showed bias in the distribution of land
by favouring Kikuyus at the expense of other ethnic groups. He also
appointed members of his own ethnic group to key government positions and
excluded other communities. For
instance, 31 percent of all the permanent secretaries were from his Kikuyu
community. There was no Kalenjin PS during this time, not to mention many of
the other smaller ethnic groups. Most of the directors of the many financial
institutions were Kikuyu. This created a highly ethnically imbalanced society.
| ||On the eve of independence, Kenyans ... hoped that the land would revert back to them and that there would be
greater cohesion and integration. This was never to be.|| |
On the issue
of land, subsequent hopes that the land would revert back to the
Africans were never fully realized. Under
the independence agreement with Britain, the Kenya government was to buy the
land from the settlers. The British government advanced a loan to Kenya to
facilitate this purchase. This in turn meant that there was no free land for
distribution. The price-tag made land
very scarce and the majority of landless people were unable to raise
even the basic sum needed as a down payment for the purchase of "their
land". They had no option other than to let go of the land which they
regarded as their mother or the umbilical cord through which their spiritual
and mental contentment could be realized (Harold
1984; Gachanga 2006). The largest beneficiaries
of this land distribution programme, however, were the Kikuyu and their allies,
i.e. the Embu and Meru. The Kikuyu with their allies quickly formed land buying
companies and cooperatives with the blessing of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. They were
also given preferential treatment in the award of loans for buying land. As a
consequence, Kikuyus bought much of the land even in non-Kikuyu regions. This
resulted in Kikuyu families holding land in the midst of other ethnic groups,
especially in the Rift Valley, the main region of turmoil in every election
that Kenya has seen since a multiparty system was introduced in 1992. Land-tenure
therefore became a factor of ethnicity and this created a sense of animosity between the Kikuyu and "original"
occupants of the land in these areas.
of the strongest critics of Kenyatta's style of governance was Jaramogi Oginga Odinga,
a Luo leader and the then Vice President of Kenya and the ruling party, the Kenya
African National Union (KANU). Odinga
wanted to nationalize foreign-owned corporations, to seize settler farms in the
former "white highlands" without compensation, and for Kenya to
follow a non-aligned foreign policy (Throup 1993), in contrast to Kenyatta, who
sought to reassure European settlers, telling them they were welcome to stay
and farm, without fear of the bogeyman and that his government would protect
them (Lotte 2011). Their ideological differences
took an ethnic turn and became a struggle for domination between the Kikuyu and
the Luo. Odinga was seen as a threat to Kenyatta's government and had to be
removed. In 1966, he was maneuvered out of his post and sidelined. He responded
by forming his own political party—the Kenya Peoples Union (KPU). Shortly after, in 1969, Tom Mboya, a
Luo leader and key trade unionist, was assassinated. A few months later
Argwings Kodhek, another prominent Luo politician, was also assassinated. Other
nationalist leaders who are believed to have been assassinated by the
government included Pio Gama Pinto and J.M. Kariuki who were
viewed as threats to the regime and potential contenders for political power. Those
who refused to support the status quo experienced various types of repression
and even detention without trial. At the same time, individual members of the
opposition were weaned back to the fold through appointments to government
positions and allocations of land as well as the provision of other perks.
who refused to support the status quo experienced various types of repression... At the same time, individual members of the
opposition were weaned back to the fold through appointments ... (and) land as well as the provision of other perks.|| |
Three months later in
1969, ethnic animosity between the Kikuyu and Luo was manifested when Kenyatta
visited Kisumu to officially open the New Nyanza Provincial Hospital. The town
residents went into an anti-Kenyatta frenzy, pelting the presidential motorcade
with stones after a public quarrel between Kenyatta and Odinga at the opening
ceremony. Kenyatta's security responded by firing on the crowd killing hundreds
of people in what is referred to as the "Kisumu massacre". Odinga was
imprisoned and his party was banned, effectively introducing the single party
state (Oloo 2011). The government accused the KPU of being subversive,
intentionally stirring up inter-ethnic strife, and accepting foreign money to
promote anti-national activities. According to Korwa and Munyae (2001), Moi
explained that the KPU leaders were detained because "any government worth
its salt must put the preservation of public security above the convenience of
a handful of persons who are doing their utmost to undermine it." Following
these incidents, Nyanza Province, like other non-Kikuyu areas, was virtually
written off with regard to "national" development plans. This
heightened ethnic animosity between the Kikuyu and the Luo.
By 1978, when President
Kenyatta died, the Kikuyu had amassed a lot of wealth, far more than all other
ethnic groups put together. They had bought the bulk of the so-called "white
highlands" and were the main beneficiaries of the government's settlement
plan for the landless, at no cost or at minimal rates. They thus expanded their
land ownership and settlement beyond their traditional home—Central Province—into
the Rift Valley Province, and into the Coast Province, apart from their
widespread networks in urban centres within Kenya. They also enjoyed good modern roads, abundant
school and education facilities, expanded health services, piped water,
electricity and other forms of infrastructure. They visibly outdistanced other
ethnic groups at a pace that posed immediate political risks to their newly
acquired positions in government structures. The Kikuyu regions were envied by
other ethnic groups. It was perceived as unfair and heighted ethnic hatred
between the Kikuyu and other communities.
Kenyatta was succeeded in
1978 by Daniel arap Moi, who had been vice-president for ten years. Since Moi
was a Kalenjin, this marked a new era in which political and economic power
shifted to the Kalenjin. Moi's first move was to centralize and personalize
power. This he did by amending Section 2(a) of the Constitution which
transformed the country in to a single party state. He then reinstated the
detention laws that had been suspended since 1978. This was followed by
withdrawal of the parliamentary privilege that gave representatives the right
to obtain information from the Office of the President. It meant that members
of parliament, and by extension their constituents, surrendered their
constitutional rights to the president. Parliamentary supremacy became
subordinate to the president and the ruling KANU party (Korwa and Munyae 2001).
Having taken control of
power, President Moi started restructuring Kenya's
political economy by diverting resources and patronage from the Kikuyu to his
own ethnic group in Rift Valley and to his political allies, the Abaluhya of
Western Kenya and various groups from Coast Province. He began to "de-Kikuyunize"
the civil service and the state-owned enterprises previously dominated by the
Kikuyu ethnic group during Kenyatta's regime. He appointed Kalenjins to key
posts in, among others, the military, the Agricultural Development Corporation
(ADC), Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB), Kenya Posts and Telecommunications (KPT),
Central Bank of Kenya (CBK), Kenya Industrial Estates (KIE), National Cereals
and Produce Board (NCPB), and the Kenya Grain Growers Cooperative Union
(KGGCU). He created Nyayo Tea Zones (NTZ), Nyayo Bus Company (NBC) and Nyayo Tea
Zones Development Corporation (NTZDC) (Korwa and Munyae 2001). Road maintenance in the formerly flourishing
Kikuyu areas was also abandoned. As a result business and financial
institutions owned by Kikuyu inexplicably deteriorated and begun to have problems.
As a consequence, their access to
development was diminished.
| ||President Moi started restructuring Kenya's
political economy by diverting resources and patronage from the Kikuyu to his
own ethnic group ... It became the norm to call any politician who
complained of economic and political problems a "tribalist".|| |
the economy collapsing, disenchantment with the government among the Kikuyu
intensified. Moi exploited this and it became the norm to call any politician who
complained of economic and political problems a "tribalist". Politicians
had no right to complain of atrocities committed in their constituencies, lest
they be called tribalists and lose their jobs (Macharia-Munene 1992; Throup
and political trials, torture, arbitrary arrests and police brutality
reminiscent of the colonial era became common. Kenyans began advocating for
As demands for
competitive elections and an end to detention without trial continued, Kenya's
Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr. Robert Ouko, was assassinated in February 1990.
Demands to reveal his real murderers amplified those for pluralism and respect
for human rights. To save his regime from collapse, Moi adopted even greater
authoritarian tactics, arguing on a number of occasions that multipartism would
cause chaos in the country because Kenya was not "cohesive enough".
This heightened ethnic hatred between the Kalenjin and other communities in
Kenya (Korwa and Munyae 2001).
By early 1990 disillusionment with the Moi government was widespread. This
was exacerbated by increasing pressure from the international community for
Kenya to embrace political pluralism. Moi reluctantly gave in to the pressure amidst
a warning that a multiparty system was not suitable for Kenya. In December
1991, Section 2(a) of the constitution which banned multipartism was repealed
and multiparty politics were re-introduced. This created new opportunities for ethnic "power barons"
to profile themselves as defenders of their ethnic groups. It also led to
ethnic suspicions, hostility and witch-hunting which culminated in massacres,
destruction of property, socio-economic uncertainties and insecurity. In
addition, it generated a vicious struggle for political power, capital
accumulation and unseen cutthroat rivalry for domination and control of
strategic resources across the nation (Osamba 2001, 39).
Multipartism and ethnic
29 December 1992, the first multiparty elections (both presidential and
parliamentary) since 1966 were held. To
prove that a multiparty system was not fit for Kenya, the KANU
government went as far as instigating ethnic violence in the Rift Valley which
spread to other districts within a few days.
The government also hired militia groups to instigate violence and
attack opposition groups. This was repeated in the 1997 general elections.
According to Osamba (2001), the motives for the violence were three fold: to
prove the government's often stated assertion that political pluralism was
synonymous with ethnic chaos, to terrorize ethnic groups allegedly supporting
the opposition, and to intimidate non-indigenous people to vacate Rift
Valley. Under this ethnic cleansing
policy, the province was supposed to be the preserve of the Kalenjin, Maasai,
Turkana and Samburu (KAMATUSA).
In 2002, Mwai Kibaki (a
Kikuyu) became the president after defeating Uhuru Kenyatta, Jomo Kenyatta's
son and Moi's chosen successor in KANU. He succeeded after joining forces with
Raila Odinga (a Luo) and forming the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC). This
was heralded as a great milestone in the democratization process for Kenya. His
government introduced free primary school education, making education
accessible to all Kenyan children. School enrolment levels also increased
greatly and senior citizens even got an opportunity to enroll to increase their
literacy. Mzee Maruge was one of Kenya's seniors to begin primary school at the
age of 84, becoming the oldest person to begin primary school, according to the
Guinness World Records. Kibaki's government also started providing free drugs
for treatment and management of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (TB). It has also
improved the standard of health services in all public hospitals. Kenya's
economic growth rose from less than one percent in 2002 to 6.1 percent in 2006.
Efforts were also made to revive many local public industries that had
collapsed or were on the verge of collapsing. Many rural areas were also supplied
with electricity. The introduction of devolved funds, such as the constituency
development funds (CDF) and local authority transfer funds (LATF), led to
improved rural road infrastructure and better social services. The government
has also worked to provide clean piped water to many rural areas. Kenyans also enjoyed
unprecedented freedoms of speech and assembly.
However, squabbles over
power and the rise of an ethnic chauvinist clique around Kibaki isolated Odinga,
who never rose above the post of cabinet minister during Kibaki's reign. This
slight helped push him into the opposition, and he quickly drew his supporters
to the cause. The fallout from the failed power-sharing government was
acrimonious. Leaders on both sides reverted to base ethnic stereotyping as the
political row developed. This went on up to the 2007 general elections.
As the campaign heated
up for the 2007 presidential and parliamentary elections in Kenya, animosity
persisted and ethnic slurs and hate speeches intensified. Kikuyu politicians
who supported Kibaki ran on his record of economic growth, provision of free
primary and secondary education for all and reform. They consolidated their
base on a platform of continued reform but also appealed to Kikuyu nationalism.
They portrayed Odinga as a dangerous man, playing on the fear of the unknown.
They argued that Odinga had been involved in a failed coup in 1982 and alleged
that he had communist leanings because he had studied in Eastern Europe. In
addition, they drew on the negative cultural stereotype that Luos are
irrational and impulsive. They also claimed that Odinga would take revenge on
certain ethnic groups if elected.
| ||As the campaign heated
up for the 2007 elections in Kenya ... ethnic slurs and hate speeches intensified. Kikuyu politicians ... appealed to Kikuyu nationalism ... For their part, some opposition
politicians both openly and covertly stoked ethnic hatred against the Kikuyu.|| |
For their part, some opposition
politicians both openly and covertly stoked ethnic hatred against the Kikuyu,
citing the political behavior of Kibaki and his clique as arrogant and greedy. Odinga
explicitly challenged the balance of power between the country's ethnic groups.
As a member of the Luo tribe, he charged that the Kikuyus, whose members
include both Mr. Kibaki and the country's founder, Jomo Kenyatta, have long
gotten more than their fair share of government benefits. He promised to end
ethnic favoritism and spread the country's wealth more equitably. These actions
degenerated into the 2007–2008 ethnic clashes whereby members of President
Kibaki's Kikuyu community were targeted following the announcement of his
Hope out of violence
can succeed in forming a coherent Kenyan identity. The post-election violence generated
some positive change as well as processes that can facilitate such change. First,
it led to a negotiated power-sharing deal that was signed in March
2008. It included the appointment of a President and a Prime Minister from the two
main parties that had been in contention and involved in the post-election
violence. The agreement was designed to
create an environment enabling Kenya's political leaders to look beyond
partisan considerations to the greater interests of the nation, and
so far it has contributed to some degree of stability. On one hand, it led to the
cessation of most inter-communal violence and to greater peace in
Kenya. Many, though not all, of the people displaced by the post-election
clashes have been able to return home. On the other hand, the two principals, the President and the Prime
Minister, have projected the image of a "unified executive" and have helped
to create conditions conducive for a more coherent Kenyan identity.
the post-election violence heightened Kenyans' consciousness of the need to
deal with historical issues and injustices. This led to importing national
reconciliation as a strategy for governance. A Truth, Justice, and
Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) was instituted in 2009 to address historical
injustices and the culture of impunity in Kenya.
it increased momentum for reviewing and renewing the country's Constitution,
which Kenyans accepted in a landmark referendum on 4 August 2010. To begin with, the new Constitution
exalts equity and diversity, including cultural diversity. It also provides for
a broadly popular President who must have an absolute majority of votes cast
and at least 25 percent of the votes cast in more than half of the 47 counties.
And it provides checks and balances over key public appointments which cease to
be the exclusive prerogative of the President. On the issue of land, the new Constitution
establishes the Kenya Land Commission which is supposed to investigate present
or historical land injustices and recommend redress. Under the Bill of Rights,
it provides for equality and freedom from discrimination. In addition, it
guarantees the basic economic and social rights of all, while encouraging
respect for diversity and fostering a sense of belonging. It also obliges the
state to provide for the representation of minorities and marginalized groups
in governance, and to provide access to employment and special opportunities in
educational and economic fields. Finally, on the issue of elections, the new Constitution
overhauled the electoral system and provides for a new electoral body—the
Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). Unlike the former Electoral
Commission of Kenya (ECK), the IEBC has built-in safeguards to help insulate commissioners
from political manipulation.
| ||The post-election violence generated some positive change ... Kenyans are hoping for peace.|| |
another general election approaches in less than a year, Kenyans are hoping for
peace. This election will be a kind of a referendum. It will be time to choose between the rule of
law and impunity, between reform and a reversal of recent gains, between order
and anarchy. One positive sign is that the new Constitution has evidently empowered Kenyans, and
it will not be possible to ignore the document's key provisions. Another
positive sign is that people are becoming more tolerant as far as
political differences are concerned. This should be encouraged. Kenyans must start
looking at each other as brothers and sisters sharing the same resources but
having different political preferences when elections are called. And such
differences must not be allowed to lead to violent conflict.
Korwa G., and Isaac M. Munyae. 2001. "Human Rights Abuse in Kenya under
Daniel Arap Moi, 1978–2001."
African Studies Quarterly
5 (1): 1. http://web.africa.ufl.edu/asq/v5/v5i1a1.htm.
E.S. 1996. "Reconditioning the Terms
of Fact: Ethnicity, Nationalism and Democracy as Political Vectors." In Ethnicity, Nationalism and Democracy in
Africa , edited by Bethwel Ogot. Maseno, Kenya: Maseno University College:
Institute of Research and Graduate Studies.
B.J. 1988. "Ethnicity, Patronage and the African State: The Politics of
Uncivil Nationalism." African
Affairs 97 (388): 305–41.
C. 2008. "What's Tearing Kenya Apart? History, for One Thing." Washington Post , 6 January.
Foeken, D., and T. Dietz. 2000. "Of Ethnicity, Manipulation and
Observation: The 1992 and 1997 Elections in Kenya." In Election Observation and Democratization in Africa , edited by Gerti Hesseling and Jon Abbink. Basingstoke,
Hampshire: Macmillan Press.
T. 2010. "Pacifist Presence in Kenya." Unpublished paper presented at
the British Institute of East Africa (BIEA), 6 May.
D.K. 1987. Islands of
White: Settler Society and Culture in Kenya and Southern Rhodesia, 1890-1939 . Durham,
NC: Duke University Press.
Klopp, J., and P. Kamungi. 2007.
"Violence and Elections: Will Kenya Collapse?" The World Policy Journal 24 (4): 11–18. http://wpj.sagepub.com.
Lotte, H. 2011. "'Truth be Told':
Some Problems with Historical Revisionism in Kenya." In Special Issue: "Heritage,
History and Memory: New Research from East and Southern Africa." African Studies 70 (2): 182–201.
Harold. 1984. Kenya: A Country Study.
Foreign Area Studies , The American University.
William. 2011. "Anger and Violence in Kisumu." In Defining Moments: Reflections on
Citizenship, Violence and the 2007 General Elections in Kenya , edited by Njogu
Kimani. Nairobi: Twaweza
J. 2001. "Violence and Dynamics of Transformation: State, Ethnicity and
Governance in Kenya." Africa
Development 26 (1 and 2): 37–54.
2009. "One Year after—A Reflection on the Causes of the Post-election Violence
and the State of Democracy in Kenya." Horn
of Africa Bulletin 21 (2): 1–9. http://www.life-peace.org/index.php/download_file/view/116/154.
D. 1993. "Elections and Political Legitimacy in Kenya Africa." Journal of the International African
Institute 63 (3): 371–96.
C.C. 1993. Men Who Ruled Kenya: The Kenya
Administration, 1892–1963 . London: Radcliffe Press.
David. 1996. "Ethnicity in Sub-Saharan Africa." International Affairs 72 (3): 477–91.
by Teke Ngomba
|Ethno-Regionalism and the Governance Challenge in Africa: |
Lessons (Again!) from Ivory Coast
In the early hours of Wednesday, 30 November 2011,
Laurent Koudou Gbagbo, erstwhile president of Ivory Coast, was locked up inside
a cell at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. He was flown to
The Hague from Korhogo, a town in northern Ivory Coast, where he had been in
detention since April 2011—after he was forced to stop clinging to power
following fiercely disputed presidential elections.
According to a statement issued on 30 November 2011
by the Office of the ICC Prosecutor, Laurent Gbagbo, "presumed innocent
until proven guilty," was brought to the ICC to "account for his
individual responsibility in the attacks against civilians committed by forces
acting on his behalf." Laurent Gbagbo, according to the ICC, allegedly
bears "individual criminal responsibility" as "indirect
co-perpetrator" of four counts of crimes against humanity: "murder;
rape and other sexual violence; persecution; and other inhuman acts"
committed in the context of post-electoral violence in Ivory Coast between 16
December 2010 and 12 April 2011.
With his transfer
to and detention in The Hague, Laurent Gbagbo has become the first elected
former head of state to face trial at the ICC. With his trial, according to the
30 November statement from the Office of the ICC Prosecutor, there will be
assurance that "Ivorian victims will see justice for massive crimes"
committed during the post-electoral violence. Human Rights Watch has also
contended that the transfer of Laurent Gbagbo to the ICC constitutes a
"major step toward ensuring justice" in Ivory Coast. Elise Keppler, a
senior international justice counsel at Human Rights Watch hailed Gbagbo's
transfer to The Hague as a "big day" for the victims in Ivory Coast's
"horrific post-election violence" and said his trial by the ICC
"sends a strong message to Ivorian political and military leaders that no
one should be above the law."
transfer to The Hague is being hailed by international human rights groups,
there are fears expressed that the move might re-open what Patrick Meehan
(2011) has termed "ill-healed wounds" in Ivory Coast. The country is
yet to fully heal from the effects of more than a decade of serious political
stalemate and armed conflict which culminated in the 2010–2011 post-election
violence that left an estimated 3,000 people dead and more than 500,000 displaced.
This particular violence was the "most serious humanitarian and human
rights crisis" in Ivory Coast since 2002 (Amnesty International 2011, 8)
and, according to Human Rights Watch, it "capped decades of human rights
violations and impunity" in Ivory Coast.
| ||The country is
yet to fully heal from the effects of more than a decade of serious political
stalemate and armed conflict ... (including) more than 500,000 displaced.
interpretations given to Gbagbo's transfer to and subsequent trial in The
Hague, the move clearly marks a significantly new development in the unfolding
story of post-1990 Ivory Coast. This story has been marked by political and armed
conflicts which have "old and wide-reaching roots" (Kohler 2003, 45).
The causes of the political stalemate which Ivory Coast is currently struggling
to overcome are indeed multidimensional. These causes include, but are not
limited to, the country's colonial past and its relations with its former
colonial master, France; the lack of strong institutions; the nature of the
country's economic structure and state-society relations; the patterns of the
distribution and exercise of political power since 1960; and the effects of
Bretton Woods-imposed structural adjustment programmes in worsening the
precariousness of the socio-economic life of Ivorians (for a detailed
discussion of these and other causes of the stalemate in Ivory Coast, see for
instance Amnesty International 2011, 13–14; Bovcon 2009, 2; Cornwell 2000, 86; Human
Rights Watch 2011, 120; and Toungara 2001, 64).
The plethora of causes
for the Ivorian political stalemate notwithstanding, one somber characteristic
of the Ivorian crisis on which almost all scholars agree is that, since the
early 1990s in particular, a central factor that has triggered political and
armed crises in Ivory Coast has been the political instrumentalization of
ethnicity and regionalism by different political elites. This
instrumentalization has been both a cause and a factor in the direction of the
conflict in post-1990 Ivory Coast.
Causes of the Ivorian Conflict
Like most, if not all,
countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Ivory Coast is a multiethnic and
multi-religious country. With a predominantly Muslim population in the north
and Christian population in the South, Ivory Coast has over 60 different ethnic
groups which are "classified into five cultural clusters": Akan,
Krou, Northern Mandé, Southern Mandé and Gur (Bah 2010, 601; see also Bassett
2011, 476; Chirot 2006, 66; Kohler 2003, 25; and Toungara 2001, 66).
death of Ivory Coast's first president, Felix Houphouet-Boigny, in 1993, members
of the main ethnic elites who have contested the leadership of the country (Henri
Konan Bédié, Alassane Ouattara, Laurent Gbagbo and General Robert Guei) have
all tended to "play the ethnic card" in their efforts to mobilize
support and, in the process, the country's "underlying ethnic and
religious heterogeneity became a major site of political contestation"
(Meehan 2011; see Kirwin 2006, 44; and also Marshall-Fratani 2006, 9).
of the main ethnic elites ... have
all tended to "play the ethnic card" in their efforts to mobilize
contestation reached epic levels when, in the 1990s, some intellectuals close
to Henri Konan Bédié, who had succeeded Felix Houphouet-Boigny as president,
developed the concept of Ivoirité . Literally meaning
"Ivorianness," Ivoirité became the "major political
discourse of the 1990s" positing contentiously that the country's problems
are rooted in decades of "excessive immigration" and its attendant
consequences on the "pollution of true Ivorian identity" (Meehan
"ultra-nationalist discourse that defined what it meant to be an
Ivorian," Ivoirité was subsequently used by Bédié, Guei and Gbagbo
to marginalize northern Ivorians and accuse immigrants of "trying to
control the economy" (Human Rights Watch 2011, 17; see also Bah 2010, 602;
and Klass 2008, 117). As this xenophobic Ivoirité discourse became
conflated with patriotism (Ngomba 2004), the result was the systematic
discrimination against northerners and migrants and the controversial
disenfranchisement of several northerners—and prominent among them was Alassane
Ouattara, a former prime minister (currently president) who had been barred
from contesting presidential elections on grounds that he was not Ivorian.
Bédié and Guei before him, Gbagbo, as president, showed "systematic
favoritism" to ethnic groups in the south ensuring that these groups got
preferential positioning in the political system, the economy and army, while
northern ethnic groups experienced "growing political exclusion to add to
the socio-economic inequality" they were already suffering from (Meehan
2011; see also Human Rights Watch 2011, 5). Such blatant ethno-regional
favoritism dismantled the "carefully crafted ethnic balancing act"
which Houphouet-Boigny instituted (Toungara 2001, 64), notably his logic of
ensuring the "proportional representation" of different ethno-regional
groups in the country's main administrative divisions (Boone 2007, 70; see also
Human Rights Watch 2011, 16).
discriminatory moves "further aggravated the north-south divisions in the
country" and led to "disgruntled elements in the army, predominantly
of northern composition, to attempt an unsuccessful coup in 2001" (Ogwang
2011, 5; see also Bah 2010, 603). As we now know, this was a further trigger to
the events leading up to the 2010–2011 post-election violence.
| ||"Deep-seated cleavages revolving around ethnicity,
nationality and religion" ... were encapsulated in the xenophobic Ivoirité discourse.
looked at through this ethno-regional prism, the conflict in Ivory Coast can be
seen as a "by-product of deep-seated cleavages revolving around ethnicity,
nationality and religion" (Ogwang 2011, 1). These "cleavages"
were encapsulated in the xenophobic Ivoirité discourse. The periodic
repetition of this discourse by some media "close to those in power over
the last 15 years" (Amnesty International 2011, 13) merely further infused
and heightened a "divisive form of ethnicity into Ivorian politics"—a
divisiveness which "inadvertently sowed the seeds of war" (Bah 2010, 602).
Alassane Ouattara was proclaimed winner of the 2010 presidential elections, the
incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, refused to cede his place and what ensued
was six months of intense armed conflict that only ended when Gbagbo was
captured by pro-Ouattara forces and forced to leave power in April 2011. Since
the genesis of the 2010–2011 post-election violence could arguably be traced to
the ethno-regional tensions discussed above, although horrific, it was not
entirely surprising that the course of the six months' violence took an
ethno-regional and religious bent.
to the ICC, the attacks in Ivory Coast, for which Gbagbo is now being held to
account, were "widespread and systematic; were committed over an extended
period of time and over large geographic areas and followed a similar
pattern." This pattern, according to the ICC, included attacking
"specific ethnic or religious communities." Several human rights
groups have also indicated the same.
conflict, according to Human Rights Watch (2011, 4) was "often waged along
political, ethnic and religious lines" and as Amnesty International (2011,
37–38) pointed out, before some victims were killed, they were asked to
"give their names or show their identity card." For detailed reports
on the systematic ethno-regional and religious bent of the killings in the
2010–2011 post-election violence as allegedly carried out by both pro-Gbagbo
and pro-Ouattara forces, see for instance Strauss (2011), Amnesty International
(2011) and Human Rights Watch (2011).
several respects, the post-1990 crises in Ivory Coast are reflective of the
"resurgence of local identities" and "vernacular forms of
autochthonous exclusions" that has followed the reintroduction of
multi-partyism in most countries in sub-Sahara since the early 1990s (Zenker
2011, 64). As one of the latest manifestations of this phenomenon and in the
context of the continuous confirmation of the enormous challenges of governance
in sub-Saharan Africa (see for instance page 10 of the 2011 Mo Ibrahim Index of
African Governance), the Ivorian crisis also forces to the fore a
reconsideration of the problematic link between ethnic diversification and
governance—understood broadly as "the manner by which government power is
exercised" especially with a focus on spheres like accountability,
participation, transparency and rule of law (McFerson 2009, 253–54).
| ||Ethnic-fractionalization as in the case of Ivory Coast
negatively affects overall quality of governance ... ethnically diverse societies are more "prone to ... conflict and slow economic growth."
has shown that ethnic-fractionalization as in the case of Ivory Coast
negatively affects overall quality of governance in a country and that
ethnically diverse societies are more "prone to corruption and poor
governance, conflict and slow economic growth" (see Kimenyi 2006, 65; see
also Bossuroy 2006, 1; and Opalo 2011, 1). According to Kimenyi (2006, 64), the
high degree of ethnic fractionalization in sub-Saharan Africa (over 2,000
distinct ethnic groups) could thus be "one of the reasons for poor
governance in the continent" since in sub-Saharan Africa's multi-ethnic
countries, resource allocation—as in the case of Kenya—is determined "more
by political and ethnic considerations rather than established criteria of
economic efficiency" and appointment of senior civil servants is
"largely influenced by ethnicity" (Kimenyi 2006, 88).
discussed earlier, the successive past presidents of Ivory Coast have all acted
in similar ways to the situation in Kenya which Kimenyi describes and the
results are there for all to see. Will Alassane Ouattara be any different?
After more than a decade of serious and bloody political unrest, Ivorians
(slightly over 20 million of them) look forward to and deserve a better future.
The challenge to deliver this is undoubtedly tough and past experiences can
easily lead one to be cautiously optimistic at best and pessimistically
dismissive at worse.
Challenges for the New President
Alassane Ouattara has the hard task (and urgent one too) to address at least
three key issues facing Ivory Coast today: reconcile the divided country;
ensure that all perpetrators of past and future violence face justice; build
stronger institutions and work towards an inclusive and participatory political
and development process.
regards to the first challenge—reconciling a divided country—as Marshall-Fratani
(2006, 37) aptly noted, the manner in which the different armed conflicts in
Ivory Coast have taken place have "multiplied by a hundredfold the climate
of suspicion, paranoia and hatred already in gestation before the crisis."
The challenge now is for Ivorians to overcome these divisions and fears.
Conscious of this challenge and in a bid to tackle it, Alassane Ouattara has
created an eleven-member Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission which is
headed by Charles Konan Banny, a former prime minister. This is a first step in
the right direction and if given the means and latitude to do their job freely,
the commission will play a major role to forge unity and reconciliation in the
Amnesty International (2011, 58) has pointed out, to ensure that the rule of
law is re-established in Ivory Coast and that justice and reparations are meted
out, "much more is needed than just a process of truth and
reconciliation." In other words, Alassane Ouattara needs to ensure that
perpetrators of past and future violence face justice. For instance, human
rights groups and even the ICC have pointed out that both pro-Ouattara and
pro-Gbagbo forces committed crimes under international law, including war
crimes and crimes against humanity, during the 2010–2011 post-election
violence. In a statement following the detention at The Hague of Laurent
Gbagbo, the ICC Prosecutor reiterated: "Let me make it clear:
investigations continue. We will collect evidence impartially and independently
and bring further cases before the judges irrespective of political
affiliation… Mr. Gbagbo is the first to be brought to account, there is more to
| ||... both pro-Ouattara and
pro-Gbagbo forces committed crimes under international law ... (but) no member of the pro-Ouattara
forces has been "arrested on charges for crimes committed during the
organizations have welcomed this statement and both Alassane Ouattara and his
prime minister, Guillaume Soro (formerly a rebel leader), have publicly pledged
that they will collaborate with the ICC and hand over to the ICC anybody,
irrespective of affiliation, who is wanted by the ICC in connection with the
crises in Ivory Coast. While laudable, these assurances need to be taken with
the proverbial pinch of salt because the on-going local dynamics in terms of
rendering justice necessitate the questioning of such commitments. For
instance, Human Rights Watch recently pointed out and warned that since Gbagbo
was arrested on 11 April 2011, Ivorian civilian and military prosecutors have
charged "more than 120 people linked to the Gbagbo camp with post-election
crimes" and, in "stark contrast," no member of the pro-Ouattara
forces has been "arrested on charges for crimes committed during the
conflict even though several human rights organizations have all documented
grave crimes" committed by these forces (Human Rights Watch 2011, 7). If
this tendency continues, the risks that it could lead to further instability
are real and President Ouattara needs to match words with actions on this
to the last major challenge—to build stronger institutions and work towards an
inclusive and participatory political and development process—emerging
tendencies and past experiences both in and out of Ivory Coast also necessitate
cautious optimism. For instance, on 11 December 2011 legislative elections (the
first since 2000) took place in Ivory Coast. Coming on the heels of the
contentions presidential elections, it was hoped that the elections would lead
to the constitution of a truly representative parliament that would further the
political healing process of the country.
Gbagbo's party, the Front Populaire Ivorien boycotted the polls, citing a
pro-Ouattara bias in the Independent Electoral Commission as one of the main
reasons. On 16 December 2011, the Independent Electoral Commission published
the results of the legislative elections and Ouattara's Rassemblement des
Republicains (RDR) emerged largely victorious, obtaining 127 of the 255 seats
in the national assembly. It was followed by the Parti Democratique de Côte
d'Ivoire (PDCI) which obtained 77 seats. Since the RDR, headed by Alassane
Ouattara, and the PDCI, headed by Henri Konan Bédié, are now allies (the latter
supported the former during the second round of the 2010 presidential
elections), arguably Ouattara's party now has the lee-way to pass legislation
without much resistance.
will use the executive and legislative powers he has now is yet to be clearly
seen but the emerging tendencies at least, as shown in the events leading up to
the legislative elections and the results, are indicating that Ivory Coast is
entering yet another potentially dangerous cycle of political exclusion of
significant segments of the population. While Ouattara's strategic alliance
with Bédié may allay the fears that the northerners will totally sideline
southerners, it is obvious that after years of political marginalization, the northerners
will want to "taste" different spheres of power in Ivory Coast and it
is possible that in an attempt to secure his power and "redress" a de
facto legacy of marginalization of northerners, Alassane Ouattara may
significantly turn to his northern ethnic groups to achieve these.
(2006, 71) has aptly noted that often forced to choose between "efficiency
and stability" in order to maximize their tenure in office, rulers from
sub-Saharan Africa "almost always recruit disproportionately from their
ethnic groups in order to maintain the supporting coalition intact." So it
is very likely (and should not be surprising) that politics and public
administration in Ivory Coast will continue to "fall straight along ethnic
lines" (Kohler 2003, 24) and the political institutionalization of
regional divisions and ethnicization of constituencies (Boone 2007, 70) will
continue to be manifested especially during electoral contests—with all the
known risks that these involve. Such tendencies and practices, which are
paradoxically shared and contested by elites and the general population alike,
significantly curtail prospects of entrenching good governance and are, in
particular, "profoundly unfavorable to the prospect of development"
(Chabal 2002, 460–61). In several respects therefore, the challenges to be
surmounted by Alassane Ouattara are enormous and there is a great need to be
cautious about his prospects of success.
for its political stability and economic development, Ivory Coast is now the
"poster child for successful development gone awry" (Klass 2008, 117).
On the surface of things, the ethno-regional causes and the course of the
conflict in Ivory Coast that have made it to go "awry" leave room for
"primordialists" to point to Ivory Coast as yet another vindication
of the thesis that there is a "supposedly immutable propensity for
violence inherent in tribalism within countries displaying a high degree of
ethnic heterogeneity" (Meehan 2011; see also Bah 2010; Mousseau 2001; and
Shaw-Taylor 2008). While it is undeniable that this has been the case in Ivory
Coast, the challenge is for Ivory Coast to forge ahead in peaceful ethno-regional
observers have noted that instituting a federal system (or even a South Sudan-like
partitioning), can cure the problem posed by ethnic heterogeneity in relation
to good governance (see for instance Mbaku et al. 2001 for a general discussion
of these; and for specific discussion on Ivory Coast, see for instance Chirot
2006, 75). While this could be an appealing solution, in practice it will not
solve Ivory Coast's problems, as the experience of Nigeria has eloquently
shown. This is because even if the different regions were to be given some
autonomy in a federation based for instance on their main ethnic composition,
as Kohler (2003, 25) has argued, there would still be substantial diversity
even within the main ethnic groups in Ivory Coast where there exist
"numerous smaller ethnicities." So federation will not eliminate the
ethnicity problem since the reality in Ivory Coast—as it is in the rest of
sub-Saharan Africa—is that "ethnic heterogeneity is a given and cannot be
wished away" (Kimenyi 2006, 95).
heterogeneity cannot be "wished away" ... when particular groups of citizens ... are constantly marginalized, these form the "bedrock of political
protests and civil war."
heterogeneity cannot be "wished away" how can it be
"managed" in a way that positively fosters good governance in
sub-Saharan Africa? The descent into chaos in Ivory Coast shows sadly that
African political leaders rarely learn from history. From Nigeria through Kenya
to Madagascar, it has been shown over and over that when sections of a country
are treated as second-class regions, when particular groups of citizens are
deprived of their right to participate in the running of the country, and when
their voices are constantly marginalized, these form the "bedrock of political
protests and civil war" (Bah 2010, 603). To avert these situations,
African countries need to "better manage" their ethnic diversities,
notably by developing "inclusive, non-factional" democracies (Bodea
and Elbadawi 2008, 50–51). In line with this contention, Elliott Skinner, in a
1998 essay entitled "African Political Cultures and the Problems of
Government," opined, and rightfully so, that:
African countries will continue to be racked by conflicts unless leaders
agree about how to govern their multi-faceted nation-states and how to
distribute their economic resources equitably… Without a compromise that would
ensure "ethnic justice", neither so-called "liberal
democracy" nor any other species of government will succeed in Africa.
did not learn this lesson. It has provided a lesson (again!) on this issue for
other countries in sub-Saharan Africa to learn from—if only they will.
Teke Ngomba is currently a doctoral student in the Department of
Aesthetics and Communication, Aarhus University.
2011. "They Looked at His Identity Card and Shot Him Dead": Six
Months of Post-Electoral Violence in Côte d'Ivoire . London: Amnesty
A. 2010. "Democracy and Civil War: Citizenship and Peacemaking in Côte
d'Ivoire." African Affairs 109 (437): 597–615.
T. 2011. "Winning Coalition, Sore Loser: Côte d'Ivoire's
2010 Presidential Elections." African Affairs 110 (440): 469–79.
Bodea, C. and I.
Elbadawi. 2008. "Political Violence and Underdevelopment." Journal
of African Economies 17 (2): 50–96.
Boone, C. 2007. "Africa's
New Territorial Politics: Regionalism and the Open Economy in Côte d'Ivoire."
African Studies Review 50 (1): 59–81.
T. 2006. Determinants of Ethnic Identification in West Africa . Accessed
on 15 December 2011. http://www.csae.ox.ac.uk/conferences/2007-EDiA-LaWBiDC/papers/206-Bossuroy.pdf.
Bovcon, M. 2009. "France's
Conflict Resolution Strategy in Côte d'Ivoire and its Ethical Implications." African Studies Quarterly
11 (1): 1–24.
P. 2002. "The Quest for Good Government and Development in Africa: Is
NEPAD the Answer?" International Affairs 78 (3): 447–62.
Chirot, D. 2006. "The
Debacle in Côte d'Ivoire." Journal of Democracy 17 (2): 63–77.
Cornwell, R. 2000.
"Côte d'Ivoire: Asking for It." African Security Review 9 (1):
Human Rights Watch. 2011.
Côte d'Ivoire: "They Killed them like it was Nothing": The Need
for Justice for Côte d'Ivoire's Post-Election Crimes. New York: Human
Criminal Court. 2011. Situation in the Côte d'Ivoire. Accessed on 15
December 2011. http://www.icc-cpi.int/iccdocs/PIDS/publications/GbagboEng.pdf.
M. 2006. "Ethnicity, Governance and the Provision of Public Goods." Journal
of African Economies 15 (1): 62–99.
Kirwin, M. 2006. "The
Security Dilemma and Conflict in Côte d'Ivoire." Nordic Journal of African Studies 15 (1): 42–52.
Klass, B. 2008. "From
Miracle to Nightmare: An Institutional Analysis of Development Failures in Côte
d'Ivoire." Africa Today 55 (1): 109–26.
J. 2003. From Miraculous to Disastrous: The Crisis in Côte
d'Ivoire . Geneva: Centre for Applied Studies in International
R. 2006. "The War of 'Who is Who': Autochthony, Nationalism and
Citizenship in the Ivoirian Crisis." African Studies Review 49 (2):
Mbaku, J., P.
Agbese, and M. Kimenyi. 2001. Ethnicity and Governance in the Third World .
McFerson, H. 2009.
"Measuring African Governance: By Attributes or by Results?" Journal
of Developing Societies 25 (2): 253–74.
Meehan, P. 2011.
The "Problem" with Côte d'Ivoire: How the
Media Misrepresent the Causes of Conflict. Accessed on 17
December 2011. http://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/patrick-meehan/problem-with-c%C3%B4te-d%E2%80%99ivoire-how-media-misrepresent-causes-of-conflict.
Ibrahim Foundation. 2011. 2011 Ibrahim Index of African Governance . Accessed
on 15 December 2011. http://www.moibrahimfoundation.org/en/media/get/20111003_ENG2011-IIAG-SummaryReport-sml.pdf.
Mousseau, D. 2001. "Democratizing
with Ethnic Divisions: A Source of Conflict?" Journal of Peace Research
38 (5): 547–67.
T. 2004. "Côte d'Ivoire: The 'Ivoirité' Crisis: Xenophobia as Patriotism."
Accessed on 17 December 2011. http://www.africafiles.org/article.asp?ID=7157.
T. 2011. The Root Causes of the Conflict in Ivory Coast . The Africa
Portal, Backgrounder Number 5, April 2011. Accessed on 17 December 2011.
Opalo, K. 2011. Ethnicity
and Elite Coalitions: The Origins of "Big Man" Presidentialism in
Africa . Accessed on 15 December 2011. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1853744.
Shaw-Taylor, Y. 2008.
"Measuring Ethnic Identification and Attachment in sub-Saharan Africa."
African Sociological Review 12 (2): 155–66.
Skinner, E. 1998.
"African Political Cultures and the Problems of Government." African
Studies Quarterly 2 (3). Accessed on 17 December 2011. http://www.africa.ufl.edu/asq/v2/v2i3a3.htm.
Straus, S. 2011.
"'It's Sheer Horror Here': Patterns of Violence during the First Four
Months of Côte d'Ivoire's Post-electoral Crisis." African
Affairs 110 (440): 481–89.
Toungara, J. 2001.
"Ethnicity and Political Crisis in Côte d'Ivoire." Journal of
Democracy 12 (3): 63–72.
O. 2006. "Autochthony, Ethnicity, Indigeneity and Nationalism:
Time-Honoring and State-Oriented Modes of Rooting Individual-Territory-Group
Triads in a Globalizing World." Critique of Anthropology 31 (1): 63–81.
by Ukoha Ukiwo
|Governance and the Prospects of Unity and Equality in Nigeria|
From independence, there were many who were
skeptical that the new country of Nigeria could last. How could such an amalgam
of three large territories with three major ethnic groups, conflicting
religions, and distinct histories stay together as one state? The five decades
since then have witnessed much struggle, outbreaks of violence, and little real
prosperity—despite tremendous oil wealth. Would the situation be any better if
there were a division into two or even three smaller states where there is now
one larger one whose presidency must alternate between a Northerner and a
Southerner? Or would things be worse?
Interestingly, both Nigerian and external actors started
expressing concerns about the survival of Nigeria as one indivisible, united
country as early as 1914. This was a sequel to the amalgamation of the largely
autonomous Protectorate of Southern Nigeria and Protectorate of Northern
Nigeria by the British colonial authorities. The feasibility of a united
Nigeria was ab initio a cause for concern because of the top-down,
non-participatory process of amalgamation. Since the decision to amalgamate
hinged on the fiscal expediency of averting a subvention to the administration
of the Northern Protectorate by British tax payers, amalgamation was
consummated through administrative fiat rather than consultations and
negotiations with and among the colonized peoples. Consequently, as is common
with victims of forced marriages, the parties coupled as Nigeria only had the
option of checking their compatibility and complementarity while in
cohabitation. Consent was given after marriage in the various constitutional
conferences convened by the British colonial authorities cum "marriage
counsellors" to address the crises of forced marriage.
| ||As is common
with victims of forced marriages, the parties coupled as Nigeria only had the
option of checking their compatibility and complementarity while in
became the emergent consensus arrangement for continued cohabitation.|| |
The constitutional conferences were inadvertently
empowering to the Nigeria marriage partners. The debates and negotiations
during such conferences rejuvenated and reinvigorated the partners. The
partners easily began to conceptualize their relationship as courtship when the
prospects for independence brightened in the context of post-Second World War
United States foreign policy support for decolonization. The constitutional
conferences offered the partners the opportunities either to opt out of the
relationship or to give conditions for continued cohabitation. Federalism
became the emergent consensus arrangement for continued cohabitation as it was
considered the best political institution to address the perennial assertive
nationalism and fears of domination haunting the marriage.
As the Union Jack was replaced by the Nigerian flag
on 1 October 1960, to signify independence, the euphoria of Nigerians was not
so much born out of a celebration of wedlock as of a decision to experiment
with a marriage of convenience. This is because addressing assertive
nationalism and fears of domination was a work in progress.
of disunity and inequality
Central to the discussions at the constitutional
conferences was how to deal with disunity and inequality. Disunity, to a large
extent, was the product of differential incorporation—the piecemeal fashion of
colonization. The colonial construction of Nigeria occurred through random encounters
with the disparate groups co-existing in the geographical space allotted to the
British government at the 1884 Berlin Conference. Whether annexed through
conquest or consent, most of the groups entered into a covenant with the
colonizing power. A fundamental clause of the agreement, euphemistically
referred to as a "Treaty of Protection", was the undertaking of the
colonizing power to preserve the autonomy of the colonized and protect them
from external aggression. Since the Berlin Conference had mitigated conflicts
over spheres of influence among European powers, external aggression
practically implied aggression from neighboring and
proximate groups. The promise to protect colonized peoples from each other
inevitably bred mutual suspicion and mistrust.
| ||Since constituency delimitation and representation hinged on
cultural differentiation, the colonial state created conditions salubrious for
ethnogenesis and the politicization of ethnicity.|| |
Such suspicion and mistrust among the colonized
communities was aggravated by the policy of indirect rule. This policy, which
was born out of administrative expediency, contributed to the politicization of
difference. Since constituency delimitation and representation hinged on
cultural differentiation, the colonial state created conditions salubrious for
ethnogenesis and the politicization of ethnicity. The colonial state was
therefore an historical enigma as it wittingly or unwittingly embarked upon
nation-state building by incentivizing assertive micro-nationalism among the constituent
units of the proto-nation-state.
The challenges of unity and equality became more
pronounced following the partitioning of the amalgamated state into three
regions. This is because regionalization contributed to the emergence of major
and minority ethnic groups. The major ethnic groups (Hausa cum Fulani, Igbo and
Yoruba) are groups that dominated the regional governments while the minorities
are other ethnic groups that opposed the dominance of the major ethnic group in
their region. Regionalization provided the incentive for political elites to
establish parties overtly aimed at mobilizing ethnic votes and purporting to
support ethnic or ethno-regional interests. The electoral successes of parties
with overt ethnic and regional agendas led to the eclipse of fledging national
and pan-Africanist parties. The three parties that controlled the governments
of the regions emerged as the dominant parties which competed for supremacy in
the central government.
Against the backdrop of the jostling for so-called
ethnic and regional interests, it is not surprising that it was challenging to
forge national consensus on any issue. For instance, even the advocacy for
independence, which should have been a rallying point for unity, was divisive
as party positions were jaundiced by ethnic and regional interests. The
northern parliamentarians elected under the platform of the Northern Peoples'
Congress (NPC) opposed the motion for independence sponsored by southern parliamentarians
of the Action Group (AG) and National Council for Nigeria and Cameroun (NCNC)
in 1953. The NPC wanted the motion for "independence in 1956" to be
amended to "independence as soon as practicable." The northern
parliamentarians' preference for a later date for independence was based on the
imperative of the north bridging the inequality gaps with the south before
independence. As Mallam Ahmadu Bello, Sarduana of Sokoto and Leader of the NPC,
opined in the parliamentary debate on the motion for independence:
We in the North are working very hard
towards self-government although we were late in assimilating Western
education, yet within a short time we will catch up with the other Regions and
share their lot. We have embarked upon so many plans of reform and development
that we must have time to see how this works in practice. We want to be
realistic and consolidate our gains (Sklar 2004, 128ff).
In response to allegations by some southern
parliamentarians that NPC leaders had connived with British officials to
perpetuate colonial rule, Bello said: "the mistake of 1914 has come to
light and I should like to go no further." The regret expressed regarding
Nigerian unity by the NPC leader was followed up by the adoption of an eight
point program by the NPC which if implemented, according to Coleman (1958),
would have led to "the virtual secession of the Northern region from
Nigeria." The independence date palaver culminated in riots in Kano which
claimed 36 lives, mostly southerners living in this northern city.
Although leading southern politicians that
championed an early date for independence emphasized nationalist and
pan-Africanist motivations, their credentials as nationalists had been tainted
by their antecedents. Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who described Nigeria "as a
mere geographical expression," had established the AG to checkmate the
NCNC whose leader, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, had openly expressed the belief that his
Igbo ethnic group had the manifest destiny to lead Africa. Moreover, it was
evident that a political context, where the Northern Region was larger than the
two southern regions put together, provided incentives for southern political
parties to develop a national orientation. The national outlook of the AG and
NCNC was necessitated by the fact that winning votes outside their spheres of
influence was critical to their success. The NPC for its part stood to benefit
from a regionalist outlook because it could win a majority of seats in the
central legislature by winning a majority of seats in its own domain.
intervention and civil war
The challenge of addressing disunity and horizontal
inequalities was not helped by the class character of the emergent political
elite. Without a strong economic base, most of the aspirant political elites
instrumentalized political power for private accumulation. The result was that
politics became a zero-sum game in which the end justified the means. It is
therefore not surprising that the political elites manipulated and mobilized
ethnic and religious identities for political purposes. The extant inequalities
between North and South and between the major ethnic groups and minorities in
the regions were harnessed by politicians to mobilize sympathetic captive
communities. In these circumstances, the fortunes of ethnic groups became
inextricably linked to the fortunes of the political parties they were
associated with. In practical terms this meant that an ethnic group floated or
sunk with the political party it was deemed to have supported. Ruling parties
used political power to reward loyal and friendly ethnic communities and to
punish and deprive unfriendly ethnic communities.
| ||The challenge of addressing disunity and horizontal
inequalities was not helped by the class character of the emergent political
elite... The extant inequalities ... were harnessed by politicians to mobilize sympathetic captive
This became the norm at the attainment of flag
independence, as the departure of the British colonial administrators eroded
all semblance of state neutrality. The state and its apparatuses became
indiscreetly enmeshed in class and ethnic conflicts. In the emerging scenario,
which Nigerian political economist Claude Ake aptly described as "political
anxiety" (Ake 1996), the post-colonial Nigerian state could not conduct
any credible election and population census. Political alliances were very
fluid due to shifting interests. Ethnic arithmetic coloured virtually all major
public policies such as budgets, infrastructural development, etc. For
instance, although minorities in all regions had been agitating for the creation
of states since 1952, the NPC-NCNC coalition government only acceded to the
agitation of minorities in the Western Region, which was controlled by the
The country drifted from one political crisis to
another, culminating in a military coup on 15 January 1966. Although most
Nigerians welcomed the coup as a relief from the corrupt and divisive political
class, the legitimacy of the first military regime was rapidly corroded by its
ethnic bias. While it was able to crush a feeble secessionist rebellion in the
Niger Delta area of the Eastern Region, the regime could not survive the
insurrection from civil society that greeted its controversial unification
policy. The intent of the policy was the transformation of Nigeria from a
federal to a unitary state. Given the atmosphere of pervasive ethnic suspicion,
the policy was ill-advised. Granted that federalism was divisive in practice,
it moderated the winner-takes-all logic of politics as it allowed a sphere of
influence to the major political stakeholders. The unification policy appeared
to reverse the gains of Nigeria's marriage partners who, driven by fear of
domination, desired a balance of powers between the central and regional
governments. It was particularly anathema to the northern political class and
intelligentsia who sponsored a counter-coup that toppled the Igbo-centric
regime and fanned the embers of hatred and recrimination that led to the
killing of Eastern Nigerian (mostly Igbo) civilian residents in some Northern
Challenges to the authority of the second military
regime and angst over the killings of thousands of Igbo civilians in the North
led to the declaration of the Republic of Biafra by the Eastern Region
government. The secessionist attempt was crushed after three years of bloody
responses to disunity and inequality: Producing the president
Central to the end of the Biafran secession was the
creation of twelve states on the eve of the commencement of the civil war.
Deprived of its coastal sections, which had been carved into two states that
satisfied the longstanding aspirations of eastern minorities, the Biafran
territory lacked access to supplies and lost expected revenue from oil and gas.
The creation of states not only contributed to the defeat of Biafran secession
but also to the stabilization of the federation. This is because the
decomposition of the all-powerful regions into relatively Lilliputian states
indirectly strengthened the federal centre. It created a situation where no
state had the resources to challenge the authority of the federal government.
Federal power was also fortified by the rising boom in the sale of crude oil
that made the states fiscally dependent on, and ipso facto subservient
to, the federal government.
Oil wealth enabled the federal government to
implement several policies aimed at promoting unity and reducing inequality.
The government initiated the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) program where
graduates from tertiary institutions were sponsored to serve the country for a
one-year period outside their state of origin. Government sought to transfer
allegiance from religious and communal groups to the state by taking over all
schools and hospitals established by religious and communal organizations. The
federal government took over universities established by regional governments
and established new universities to meet its one state one university policy.
The objective of the establishment of universities and ancillary admission
policies was to improve access to education to all sections of the country,
especially among the so-called educationally less advantaged states. The
federal government also subsidized petroleum products to ensure that the pump
price of petroleum products were not variable across the country. Many of the
redistributive policies aimed at reducing horizontal inequalities were also
expected to promote unity by giving all groups a sense of belonging. A
"federal character principle" was also enshrined in the constitution
to ensure that all constituent states or local councils are represented in the
federal or state executive councils.
| ||Many of the
redistributive policies aimed at reducing horizontal inequalities were also
expected to promote unity... However, some of the policies have generated several unintended
consequences... (including) another
vicious form of communalism at the state level.|| |
On balance, post-civil war national integration
policies have been largely successful. This is especially the case if the
yardstick for evaluation is the termination of secessionist conflicts. The
country has not experienced any secessionist conflict since the end of the
civil war. However, some of the policies have generated several unintended
consequences. For instance, while the "federal character principle" has
promoted a fairer distribution of political offices, it has engendered another
vicious form of communalism at the state level. Many parts of the country,
notably Plateau State, are rocked by bloody conflicts arising from exclusion of
so-called non-indigenes. Moreover, it is important to acknowledge the
limitations of the integrationist and redistributive politics and policies. A
fundamental limitation is the inherent incapacity of such policies to affect
civil society and market dynamics. The latter forces, which are driven by a different
logic, have made the dreams of disadvantaged groups catching up a mirage. Market
forces are naturally motivated by profit rather than equity. The ideology of
progress that inspires civil society entails that each group continues to
strive for improvement but has no incentive to wait for others, especially
competing groups, to catch up.
Finally, post-civil war policies to strengthen the
federation have dialectically sown the seeds for perennial instability and
crises in the federation. Like Thomas Hobbes, who was afraid of insecurity, the
architects of post-civil war Nigeria created a virtual omnipotent presidency to
guarantee the security of the federation. Not surprisingly, the Nigerian Leviathan
generates insecurity rather than security among Nigeria's disparate civil
society. Fear derives largely from the incapacity of Nigerians to control what
a clairvoyant presidential adviser aptly called the "imperial presidency"
(Maduekwe 2003). Incapacity to control the leviathan engenders an endless
striving to produce the leviathan from among competing groups. Filial bonding
with the leviathan has a therapeutic effect on fear.
| ||Post-civil war policies to strengthen the
federation have dialectically sown the seeds for perennial instability and
crises in the federation ... an endless
striving to produce the leviathan from among competing groups.|| |
In lieu of a conclusion: united we stand, divided we fall
My argument is that many of the crises and conflicts
that have debilitated the Nigerian state since the early 1990s, as economic
crises and corruption undermined the gains of redistributive integrative
policies, are either directly or indirectly linked to the struggle to be
president or to "produce" the president and to the fear that this
struggle generates. The annulment of the 12 June 1993 elections triggered
almost a decade's long political crisis that was only resolved by the decision
of the dominant political class to allow the Yoruba to "produce" the
president. The Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra
(MASSOB) adopted a secessionist rhetoric. However, it failed to mobilize the
type of support that the Odua Peoples' Congress (OPC) earned among the Yoruba
because what the Igbo people wanted was the actualization of an Igbo presidency,
not secession. In any case, advocacy for an Igbo presidency was farfetched as
power had to shift back to the North having stayed in the South for eight
years. Meanwhile, the Niger Delta militancy over resource control was inspired
by the desire of the people of the region to ultimately produce the president of
the country. Not a few Niger Deltans believe that the expropriation of oil and
gas from their land to "develop other regions," is symptomatic of
their not having produced the president. No small wonder then that the
unexpected emergence of a "Niger Delta" president (Goodluck Jonathan)
as well as the implementation of an amnesty program for the Niger Delta have
had a sedative effect on militancy. Again, as devastating as the attacks were
on oil installations (the lifeblood of the Nigerian state), the militants were
not seeking secession from the central state. Even the suicidal Boko Haram
sect, the current headache of the Nigerian state, is not seeking dissolution of
the Nigerian state. Their attacks on state agencies and destabilization
campaigns are rather driven by their sense of alienation and hopelessness regarding
Nigeria's version of modernity and democracy (see Mustapha 2009). The demand
for rule under a theocratic Sharia state really implies a desire to produce the
president. The sect has clearly harnessed widespread discontent in the North,
evidenced by post-election violence in April 2011, over the return of power to
the South after the short-lived Yar'Adua presidency.
| ||Attacks on state agencies and destabilization
campaigns are driven by their sense of alienation and hopelessness... What Nigerians seek is a government that is responsive and accountable.|| |
All told, the division of Nigeria is not yet on the
agenda. What Nigerians seek is a government that is responsive and accountable.
Remaking the presidency and the devolution of powers and resources to the
people would likely contribute to good governance.
Ake, C. 1996. "The Political Question."
In Governance and Development in Nigeria: Essays in Honour
of Professor Billy J. Dudley, edited by O. Oyediran,
22–32. Ibadan: Oyediran Consults
Coleman, J. 1958.
Nigeria: Background to Nationalism. Berkeley: University of California
Maduekwe, O. 2003.
"Keynote address." In Governance and Politics at the Local Level:
Proceedings of CASS Policy Dialogue No. 1, edited by L. A. Jinadu and C.
Omelle. Port Harcourt: CASS Publications.
Mustapha, A. R. 2009. "Caught
between Boko Haram and 'Governance Haram.'" The Guardian, August 8.
Sklar, R. 2004. Nigerian
Political Parties: Power in an Emergent Nation. Trenton, NJ: Africa World
by Wendy Gichuru
|South Sudan: A Beacon of Hope?|
In January 2011, over 98 percent of Sudanese in
South Sudan and in the diaspora voted in favour of secession from Sudan. Six
months later, the media were filled with images of joyous celebrations from
around the world that marked the birth of world's newest country, the Republic
of South Sudan. It was an historic moment with powerfully moving scenes of
people hugging each other and jubilation in the streets of Juba, capital city
of the new republic. After decades of a brutal civil war that left millions of
people dead and millions more displaced, this was truly an occasion for
rejoicing. For many South Sudanese (and indeed for many Africans as well), South
Sudan represents a golden opportunity: a blank slate, a chance to "get it
right" by learning from the myriad of post-independence mistakes made by
other African countries.
Building the Republic of South Sudan (also referred
to as RoSS or RSS) will require significant resources and hard work. Imagine
for a moment everything that currently exists in established, functioning
societies in the 21st century: from village markets to merchant banks, from
rural clinics to specialized hospital complexes, from nursery schools to
universities, and the list goes on. Today's societies depend on structures that
require ever more skills. Every type of labour and entrepreneurship imaginable
is needed in order for them to thrive: teachers, doctors, engineers, manufacturers,
agriculturalists, plumbers, electricians, lawyers, nurses, judges, and civil
service technocrats, to name only a few. South Sudanese themselves will need to
determine what the priority issues are, and play an active role in addressing
them if all are to benefit from the hard-won dividends of peace and
History has many lessons to offer the people of
South Sudan and its leaders, and much can be done now to set South Sudan on the
path toward creating a just, peaceful, democratic, economically viable and
self-sustaining country that could be a beacon of hope and an example to Africa
and the world. But six years after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace
Agreement, the two Sudans are still embroiled in conflict, wrestling over
issues of border demarcation and the sharing of oil revenues. This article will
point out a few of the possibilities and dangers ahead for the new country of
South Sudan. It will look at the evolving relationship between the "new"
and the "old" Sudan—including border issues and whether or not the
new entity will be economically viable.
Questions of governance
The current transitional government has to secure
and allocate the resources required to meet the demands of a restive society that
has endured huge suffering and that now seeks to enjoy the fruits of peace and build
a sustainable and successful nation state. The international community has
pledged support for the development of the Republic of South Sudan. Similar
past promises fell far short of expectations, however, including several made
after the signing of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (or CPA) that ended
the 21-year civil war between north and south Sudan. Will the international
community now live up to pledges it has made to this new member state? With
what conditions will the RSS have to comply, and at what price? Might the price
of development assistance from donor states mean only nominal sovereignty for
the Republic of South Sudan? What processes must be put in place immediately in
order to ensure that decisions made in these early days are genuinely arrived
at in the best interests of the South Sudanese themselves? How can they involve
all sectors of RSS civil society—particularly women—in all areas of
decision-making, and be sustainable and equitable for the longer term?
The South Sudanese government needs to tap into the potential
and the indomitable sense of purpose within the civil society of South Sudan
and the diaspora for the task of nation-building. A diverse range of voices
representing the different sectors of society should have input into
determining the content of a governing Constitution for South Sudan. However,
there are concerns about how effectively and equitably or democratically this
will be done. At Independence, Salva Kiir Mayardit of the Sudan People's
Liberation Movement (SPLM) became the first elected president of South Sudan. There
is a strong historical link between the SPLM and the Dinka people of South
Sudan. Of course, this raises questions regarding the SPLM's capacity to govern
such a diverse society as South Sudan, which has over 60 ethnic groups (Verjee 2010,
23). Lessons can be learned
from conflicts experienced in neighbouring countries like Kenya. Even as an
interim document, the current Transitional Constitution of South Sudan must
address the powers and limitations of government, the roles and
responsibilities of other governance institutions, and the rights and
obligations of citizens regardless of ethnicity. Representation at all levels
of governance and in state institutions must take into account the ethnic
diversity of South Sudan, even as the country works to firmly establish a
rights-based culture to eradicate the dangerous divisiveness that results from
a focus on ethnicity. Cattle-grazing on other people's land and land-grabbing are
major sources of conflict among communities. Lessons from Sudan's history
demonstrate that unequal access to resources, marginalization, and neglect are
often at the root of so-called ethnic conflicts.
| ||Representation at all levels
of governance and in state institutions must take into account the ethnic
diversity of South Sudan.... Lessons from Sudan's history
demonstrate that unequal access to resources, marginalization, and neglect are
often at the root of so-called ethnic conflicts. || |
Infrastructure, oil and security
of socio-economic infrastructure should be a top priority for South Sudan. The
provision of social services in a country the size of South Sudan requires
large capital investments. From all indications, South Sudan will rely on oil
revenues to underwrite much of its economic development. The sharing of oil
revenues between South Sudan and Sudan continues to be contentious. In November
2011, the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) hosted
delegates from the Republic of Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan in Addis
Ababa. This was a resumption of negotiations on post-Referendum issues
including border demarcation, transitional financial arrangements, oil, trade,
and assets and liabilities. It is evident from a press release issued by the
South Sudanese delegation on November 30th that these issues are far from being
resolved. Among other things, the RSS offered:
billion over a period of four years to the Government of Sudan (GoS) in the
north, as part of transitional financial arrangements;
of $2.8 of the $5.8 billion in arrears and outstanding debts that Sudan owes the
RSS and its people;
wealth transfer to the north of $5.4 billion—70 percent of the International
Monetary Fund calculated fiscal gap of Sudan of $7.7 billion. (The GoS
apparently rejected this, stating that its fiscal gap is $10.4 billion, $3
billion of which it can cover itself, requiring the RSS to transfer $7.4
concessions on its prior position regarding Abyei and North/South borders, beginning
with financial transfer arrangements if "the SAF [Sudan Armed Forces]
fully withdraws from Abyei and timebound processes are established to i) secure
the final status resolutions on Abyei, ii) complete the demarcation of the
defined borders of the area, and iii) settle the six disputed areas by
arbitration" (African Union 2011).
At this time, armed conflicts continue to rage
between the forces of the Sudan and South Sudan in Abyei, South Kordofan and
Blue Nile regions. Unless the border issues can be justly and peacefully
resolved in the immediate future, progress on sustainable economic development
in South Sudan remains precarious. This might work to the advantage of foreign
oil companies who may try to justify high oil prices (and record profits) as
the cost (and benefit) of doing business in "dangerous places" but it
will do nothing to support development in South Sudan. The insecurity will make
engaging in long-term sustainable economic development risky.
Church and civil
The Sudanese Christian churches, Catholic and
Protestant, have been among the most dedicated institutions working for peace
and justice in South Sudan. During the decades of civil war, the church
accompanied those affected by the conflict, ministering to those who stayed
behind, the internally displaced and refugees. Together with the All Africa
Conference of Churches and the World Council of Churches, it worked tirelessly
to bring the Khartoum government and the Sudan People's Liberation
Army/Movement to the negotiating table. Now, the church is a key part of civil
society's efforts to build the new nation from the ground up. The church, writ
large, has arguably the largest grassroots network in South Sudan, connecting
with every socio-economic sector of the community, and it has the opportunity
to hear directly from the people about their hopes and concerns. This author
had an opportunity to visit with the Sudan Council of Churches in Juba in March
of 2011. Staff working for the Council spoke frankly about the colossal
challenges ahead. I was privileged also to sit in on meetings with various communities,
and heard first-hand from those I met about their hopes, dreams and fears. The
unanimous sentiments expressed were hope for the future and anxiety about the
vulnerability of their sovereignty and the very real possibility of a return to
war with Sudan.
unanimous sentiments expressed were hope for the future and anxiety about the
vulnerability of their sovereignty.... Developing a representative and
inclusive framework of decision-making processes ... is a key first step. || |
These are also the challenges and mixed feelings
about the future with which South Sudanese civil society as a whole is
wrestling. To succeed in nation-building, it is first of all clear that women's
participation is essential at all levels and needs to be prioritized and
effectively supported by the RSS government and the international community.
Currently, gender-based violence and cultural barriers hinder women's effective
participation as citizens and agents of change. Developing a representative and
inclusive framework of decision-making processes based on just and equitable
rules and laws is a key first step. Equally crucial is the building of societal
structures based on respect for human rights, ethnic and religious diversity,
and special needs. South Sudan
civil society seems eager to roll up its collective sleeves and get to work. At
a convention held on July 26-29, 2011 at the Nyakuron Cultural Centre in Juba,
representatives of civil society groups from all ten states of South Sudan
acknowledged themselves capable of contributing to the task of nation-building
and social transformation. This event marked the birth of the South Sudan Civil
Society Alliance, which declared:
[We] bestow upon ourselves the responsibility to
facilitate the improvement of the lives of our people, kick start
socio-economic development, promote democracy/good governance, raise issues of
concern to the Government, promote the rule of law, peace, stability, development
as well as to influence transitional processes in the country. (South Sudan
Civil Society Alliance 2011)
Convention participants declared that they "look
forward to a people-driven constitution making process, a sustainable
democratization process, the consolidation of peace, community security and
meaningful beginning of socio-economic development." It made important
recommendations to citizens of South Sudan, civil society, government, donors
and parties to the CPA. All of these people must work closely and
constructively together to ensure that democracy and development become
Returning, rebuilding and the ethnic reality
Sudan is not a completely blank slate. There is existing infrastructure on
which to build. However, over two decades of war between the north and south
destroyed much of what existed, so reconstruction and rehabilitation are
urgently needed. More importantly, lives were destroyed, people were
traumatized and many displaced from their homes and communities. In those two
lost decades, the opportunities for many South Sudanese to develop their
potentials were non-existent. While many became highly skilled and educated in
a range of vital professions, particularly among the diaspora, many more were
unable to complete their education and training. Some never had any opportunity
for schooling. During my visit, I heard from young and old people alike that
they are eager to access educational opportunities and training in technical
skills. They lamented that all they have known is war, and that many have never
had the opportunity to learn to read and write. They were now facing the
daunting task of building their country without many of the basic skills.
However, they expressed readiness to take up the challenge of engaging in the
hard work ahead.
| ||It would be dangerous ... to ignore or discount
the role and impact of strong ethnic loyalties... the tribe offers acceptance, socio-economic safety and security, and a sense of belonging. || |
Where and how to begin? South Sudanese
society, culture, history and politics are complex enough that it would be a
mistake to think the answer is either obvious or simple. There are, however,
many lessons from recent history about what not to do (both from within
Africa and beyond). It would be dangerous, for example, to ignore or discount
the role and impact of strong ethnic loyalties. For many societies, the tribe
offers acceptance, socio-economic safety and security, and a sense of
belonging. These are vital for any society, but most particularly for people
who have experienced the trauma and dislocation of violent conflict. Ethnic
groups are often also connected to particular geographic locations and ways of
life. People feel connected, "rooted" to a particular place. I met
with a group of returnees to a region south of Juba, close to the Ugandan
border. They spoke of their concerns with regard to one particular ethnic
group, saying that the government had resettled members of this other group "on
our land". One man who had returned from exile told me:
Before repatriation, the information we were given
was, "come back home; there is peace." So we came back, assuming this
was true from what was told to us. But we found it was not so. We found others here.
We were told we had to look for another place; we were told we have no place in
our own home. We have no voice. Our original home has been taken by IDPs
[internally displaced persons]. We have nowhere else to go.
I asked why the different ethnic groups resettled
here could not share the land and develop peaceful ways to live together. I
heard that, for those finally able to return to land they had been forced to
flee (land which has been held by their community before anyone could
remember), this is yet one more forced displacement. To an outsider, their
attitude might seem discriminatory and exclusionary. After all, both
communities were forced to flee; both are looking to return home to South
Sudan. However, they perceived it as yet another decision imposed upon them
without consultation or due consideration for differences in culture,
livelihood and language.
Some of the people who remained during the war years
harbour resentment toward those returning from exile even though, when pressed
on it, they can relate to the need to seek refuge from war. Some South Sudanese
in the diaspora in Europe, North America and Australia are eager to return to
South Sudan and contribute their skills in development. The international
community needs to facilitate their return, and the RSS government should put
mechanisms in place and prepare local communities to receive them.
order to try and resolve problems before they erupt into violent conflicts, the
churches have come together to create peace committees made up of local people
trained in what they call people-to-people peace building. Some of the peace
committees I met with said that, in addition to the issue of tribal tensions,
the problem is that there are no roads, hospitals, schools or running water in
the home areas from which some re-settled IDPs originally fled. So it is
understandable that returnees are reluctant to return to their home
communities. The situation results in tension between them and the host
communities in which they now live, with many of the latter feeling that they
themselves are being forced out of their own homes to make way for "others".
The host community has to share or compete for already limited resources with
re-settled IDPs and returnees. A real and present danger in the new South Sudan
is that community-based conflicts will become the focus. Citizens' attention
will be diverted away from the important tasks of monitoring regional and
national governments to ensure accountability.
| ||The hard but necessary work that needs to happen now is ... to determine the distribution and allocation of resources, including land and water. || |
told by a variety of people from different sectors, including NGO groups, that
these so-called "low-level" conflicts are manipulated by those at the
"higher" level. It was implied that those in governance positions may
be involved and responsible, if not for instigating the conflicts, then for
exacerbating them. The insecurity destabilises communities and retards
sustainable development. The lack of basic social services and abuses of human
rights increases people's frustrations and anger, intensifying and escalating
conflicts. The inter-tribal dynamics are manipulated to turn communities
against each other. When communities are displaced because of on-going
conflicts, a vacuum of authority is created, allowing for resources to be
plundered at will. At the community level in many areas, there is little or no
law enforcement. Small arms and light weapons are readily available for use in
inter-tribal conflicts and by gangs who exploit people. The insecurity is
heightened by attacks on South Sudanese soil from the neighbouring Ugandan
rebel group, the Lord's Resistance Army.
hard but necessary work that needs to happen now is to ensure that all
stakeholders are part of decision-making processes to determine the
distribution and allocation of resources, including land and water. Peaceful
mechanisms to resolve disputes must be put in place to avoid violent conflict.
The government of South Sudan must work with communities at the local level to
establish community-based systems of governance, and law and order, as well as
with neighbouring states to prevent violence from crossing into South Sudan and
further destabilising the country.
the issues affecting the viability and future of South Sudan are certainly not
limited to the ones raised in this article, these are at least among the most
crucial requiring immediate and careful attention. Civil society actors play a
key role in their just resolution and in creating a just, participatory
democracy founded on respect for human rights and the rule of law. The failures
and successes from Africa and other regions of the world offer South Sudan a
map with which to chart its course ahead. The possibility for an economically
viable, peaceful, democratic South Sudan awaits only the wisdom to heed the
lessons, and the courage to walk a different path—and perhaps this different
path can be what the creation of South Sudan offers Africa and the world in
African Union. 2011. "The AUHIP Welcomes the Resumption of the Sudan-South Sudan
Talks." Press release. Addis Ababa. November 25. http://au.int/en/sites/default/files/AUHIP.Welcomes.Resumption.of_.Sudan_.South_.Sudan_.Talks_.pdf.
South Sudan Civil Society
Alliance. 2011. "Communiqué." Juba: First South Sudan Civil Society Convention. July 26–29.
Verjee, Aly. 2010. Race Against Time: The Countdown to the
Referenda in Southern Sudan and Abyei. Nairobi: Rift Valley Institute. http://www.sudantribune.com/IMG/pdf/Race_Against_Time_-_Aly_Verjee_-_30_Oct_2010-2.pdf.
by the Ezine editors
|Governance and Ethnicity in Africa|
The idea for this series on ethnicity and governance
first arose at the end of 2010. We heard a paper on the problems of governance
in Rwanda. Though the country was everywhere praised for its order, security
and progress, the tensions involved in keeping a lid on discussions of
ethnicity and politics made it a difficult place to understand or work in. The
possibility of a series on Rwanda and Burundi into the second decade of the
twenty-first century was suggested since we had never focused on the inter-lakes
However, given all that was happening to ethnicity
and governance everywhere else in Africa, a focus on that one region seemed too
narrow. Sudan was on the verge of a referendum to decide whether or not South
Sudan would become a country on its own. The Ivory Coast, once a model of peace
and prosperity, was into its tenth year of an ethno-religious war. Nigeria,
Africa’s most populous country, was from its beginnings troubled by ethnic and religious
tensions that made good governance a difficult and infrequent occurrence. Violence
in that country continues to increase in intensity and frequency. In 2007,
Kenya held a disputed presidential election that led to such unbelievable
violence between its two largest ethnic groups that it is still a concern as
preparations begin for the next election in December 2012. Even in Libya, the
third North African country to experience the "Arab spring," the liberation war
against Colonel Gadhafi is said to have a subtext of ethnic tension that may
complicate governance in the new country.
What is the attitude of the African Union (AU) to
all of this? Its predecessor, the Organization of African Unity (OAU),
resolutely discouraged changes to colonial borders in the pursuit of ethnic and
religious peace and good governance. Will the AU continue this policy or will
it be more flexible and encourage such changes as a possibility for which a
successful border change in Sudan might be seen as a precedent? The following
passage from a press release (February 8, 2011) entitled "The African Union
Applauds the Referendum in South Sudan" isn’t entirely clear.
The Chairperson, recalling the solemn declaration on
the Sudan adopted by the AU Summit of January 2011, expresses his conviction
that with the completion of this referendum, Sudan has decisively overcome its
tragic history of division and its exceptional legacy inherited from its past.
In recognition of the Sudan’s unique political circumstances, Africa recognized
the right of self-determination for the people of southern Sudan, and supported
the free and fair exercise of this right. Indeed, the AU will be keen, at the
end of the interim period, on 9 July 2011, to welcome into its ranks the 54th
member state of the Union.
There is praise for the events in Sudan; however,
the words "exceptional" and "unique" seem to suggest that such a process would
not be encouraged elsewhere in Africa. Anyway, we took it upon ourselves to
pose some questions about Sudan’s border change as a precedent which other
African nations in similar circumstances might follow:
- What are the
Republic of South Sudan’s prospects for peace and prosperity?
- Would similar
changes in other countries with ethnic and religious differences make things
better or worse?
articles that follow by people with knowledge of the countries and regions
involved will address these questions.
Opinions expressed in the articles appearing in this ezine are those of the writer(s) and not do necessarily reflect the views of the AfricaFiles' editors and network members. They are included in our material as a reflection of a diversity of views and a variety of issues. Material written specifically for AfricaFiles may be edited for length, clarity or inaccuracies.