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Conflicts between farmers and herdsmen are certainly not new
phenomena: they already occurred at the time of the biblical
patriarchs. In West Africa, conflicts over the use of scarce natural
resources between farmers and herdsmen are said to be on the
increase. The occurrence of such conflicts is generally attributed to
growing pressure on natural resources, caused by population increase,
the growth of herds and the extension of cultivated areas outpacing
population growth. That such conflicts appear to oppose two ethnic
groups – generally Fulbe herdsmen versus a population group
farmers – is explained by the fact that not only has overall competition
over natural resources increased due to a saturation of space, but that
at the same time a balance between the two groups has been broken.
The convergence of production systems, as a result of farmers engaging
in cattle breeding and herdsmen in agriculture, entailed the disappearance
of both ecological and economic complementarity between
the two groups – a process that is said to have been accelerated
droughts of the 1970s and 1980s. The interpretation of these conflicts
depends on the – sometimes implicit – assumption that formerly,
often unspecified epoch in the past, relations between farmers and
herdsmen could be conceived of in terms of symbiosis – a relationship
based on mutual dependence and mutual advantage with implied
complementarity in the ecological and economic spheres.
A constitution enjoys a special place in the life of any nation,
regulates not only the exercise of political power, but also the
relationship between political entities and between the state and
persons. Being the supreme law, it helps to shape the organisation and
development of society both for the present and for future generations,
and sets objective standards upon which the people and the
international community can judge government performance, thus
providing a measure of accountability and transparency in national
and local affairs. Further, a constitution sets out the rights and duties
of the citizens, and provides mechanisms to enable them to protect their
interests. Overall a constitution can contribute to the development of
a politically active civil society as well as promoting good governance,
accountability and the rule of law.
Prior to the 1990s the history of constitutions and constitutionalism
in Commonwealth Africa, as elsewhere on the continent, was bleak.
The newly independent states started life with the Westminster export
model constitution bestowed upon them by the British. There was little
or no opportunity for public debate on the document, and the
nationalist leaders themselves had no genuine choice as to its structure
and contents. The futility of forcing the model on the newly
independent states, in the words of Karugire ‘a triumph of hope over
experience’, inevitably led to constitutional instability and a round
constitution-making and amendment wholly designed to enhance
executive power, remove checks and balances, and undermine the
enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms.
At the end of June 1997, the mandate of the third United Nations
Angola Verification Mission (UNAVEM III) was completed with
conditional success, and superseded by the more modestly manned and
resourced Observation Mission in Angola (Missão de Observação
Nações Unidas em Angola – MONUA). The ‘draw-down’
UNAVEM III marked the end of one period in the UN's somewhat
chequered history of engagement in Angola. The completion of its
mandate followed the apparent commitment on the part of UNITA
(União Nacional para a Indepêndencia Total de Angola) to move
ahead to the final implementation of the Lusaka Protocol of November
1994. By the terms of this protocol, UNITA was to demobilise the
greater part of its army and integrate the remainder into the national
armed forces (the FAA – Forças Armadas Angolanas). Already
April, UNITA had complied with a central part of the political
requirements of the protocol by inaugurating a new coalition
government of national unity with the ruling MPLA-PT (Movimento
de Libertação de Angola – Partido Trabalhista).
Civil society is the space of uncoerced human association and relational
networks formed for the sake of family, faith, interests and ideology.
Supporters of civil society have argued that this conglomeration of
networks and organisations has helped to fuel democratic aspirations
and channel democratic demands in Africa. Proponents maintain that
civil society serves as a counter to the actions of the predatory African
state, which seeks to limit individual freedoms and to encroach on
societal resources. By questioning the actions of state officials and by
challenging state policies, civil society organisations can cause the state
to be more accountable and transparent, and can facilitate a positive
deconcentration of political power. A plural, vibrant civil society
encourages political liberalisation and the development of a democratic
and legitimate state. It is because the organisations of civil society
promote democratic values among their members that they are able to
challenge repressive state actions and facilitate democratic development.
Since their members trust each other and feel that they have
a say in group activities, democratic organisations are more unified and
effective at achieving their political objectives.
This article challenges these assumptions about civil society through
an examination of rural Senegalese organisations. I argue that groups
in civil society rarely teach their members democratic values because
most associations do not practice legitimate, inclusive and accountable
decision making. More often than not, social hierarchies and power
relations that define how individuals of different genders and classes
to interact in the public realm limit democracy. As a result, civil society
groups often become ineffective and disorganised, and cannot achieve
their political, economic or social goals. The inefficiency and
undemocratic nature of civil society have larger implications for
democratic transitions in Africa.
The People's Republic of China's (PRC's) policy
towards Africa in the
1990s has its roots in the crisis surrounding the Tiananmen Square
crackdown on 4 June 1989, and the heavy and persistent criticism by
the developed world levelled against Beijing's human rights record
since that date. Previous to this, the importance of the African
continent to China had become less and less important in the 1980s, as
the Cold War underwent a thawing process and China's modernisation
project demanded foreign investment and technological assistance.
Though Chinese officials paid rhetorical lip service to such issues as
South–South co-operation, the reality of the situation was that Beijing
was mainly interested in maintaining intimate relations with those
countries from which it could benefit economically. In stark contrast to
China's position in the 1960s and 1970s, exhortations and propaganda
grounded in Maoist foundations disappeared, for the ‘socialist
modernisation’ project of Deng Xiaoping demanded economic investment
and a non-conflictual approach to international politics. As a
result, non-ideological relations with the United States, Western
Europe and Japan based on expanding trade links and co-operation
took a priority in China's foreign policy formulation.
The journey of nation-building is long and complicated. Even though
bases of Eritrean nationalism have been firmly established through our
liberation struggle, it has yet to be concluded. It is known that to build
peaceful and rich country is the hardest, and more complicated than to
success in war. The National Charter of Eritrea, EPLF (1994)
Over the last several decades, officials in both the public and
sectors have applied economic, military, cultural, academic and
diplomatic tools to promote the spread of democratic pluralism in
African and elsewhere. With the fall of Africa's most resilient tyrant,
Mobutu Sese Seko, there is hope that even one of Africa's most troubled
systems may be transformed into a state that reflects the will of the
people and promotes the common good. Sober observers, however,
remain pessimistic. Laurent Kabila's spotted record on human rights,
his stubborn intolerance of political opposition, the challenging global
economic and political environments, and the long history of bad
government in Mobutu's Zaïre are obvious reasons for concern.
Furthermore, the example of most other African states is not
encouraging. With the exception of countries such as South Africa and
Botswana, even the most tenuous democratic progress in Africa is often
slowed, blocked or reversed.
Generally, blame for this state of affairs has been levelled against
African political elite, the burden of colonialism, or international
political and economic pressures. Specifically, for the Congo, Mobutu's
kleptocracy, Belgium's paternalism, America's backing of a friendly
dictator and the World Bank's support for ill-advised ‘development’
schemes all have been criticised. While such reproaches may be well
deserved, this article argues that it is important to ask if the persistent
failure of democracy in the Congo as well as in other African states is
also related to African political culture.