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Unit One: The African State: Its precolonial and colonial inheritance.
• The pre-colonial inheritance
• The colonial inheritance
• State and civil society.
The Pre-colonial Inheritance
• Lines of continuity from pre-colonial
Africa to post colonial Africa.
• What in Africa’s past still influences
politics in Africa today?
1.Non-hegemonic states: ( State
systems and Stateless systems).
Non-hegemonic states
Common Features:
a)No Permanent, precisely delineated
b)Free movement of people (voting with
the feet).
c)Pre-colonial African governments
broadcast power only over a limited
The Pre-colonial Inheritance
• Lineage.
This relates to the idea of ‘kinship’, the
idea of the extended family. A lineage
kinship group can theoretically trace its
past back to the same ancestor, and
these bonds of origin bind communities
The Colonial Inheritance
• The Berlin Conference of 1884–85 and
the partition of Africa.
• African territories that were not
affected were the empire of Ethiopia
and the territory of Liberia.
The Colonial Inheritance
• France - North, West and Central Africa;
• Britain - West, East, Central and
Southern Africa;
• Portugal - the territories of Angola,
Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau;
• King Léopold of Belgium - the Congo;
The Colonial Inheritance
• Italy – Libya, Eritrea and part of
• Spain - north Morocco, the Spanish
Sahara and Spanish Guinea;
• Germany - south-west and the east
Africa, the Cameroons and Togoland.
The Colonial Inheritance
• Duration of colonialism in Africa - 1880s
or 1890s through to the 1960s.
• The influences of colonialism on
modern African states.
• the incorporation of Africa into the
international modern state structure;
• the imposition of arbitrary boundaries;
The Colonial Inheritance
Influences of colonialism on modern African
• the reinforcement of the non-hegemonic
• the weak link between state and civil
• the promotion of an African state elite;
• the building of specialist export economies;
• and the absence of strong political
The Incorporation of Africa into The
International Modern State Structure
• Integration of Africa into the international
state system.
• States are associations/communities that
establish sovereign jurisdiction within
defined territorial boarders and exercise
authority through a set of permanent
institutions (governmental institutions)
(Heywood, 2007:91). The state therefore
encompasses the various institutions of
government, as well as the courts.
The Incorporation of Africa into The
International Modern State Structure
• States are the main political communities of
the world. The main elements of the state
a) Population (the people who constitute the
citizens of the state).
b) Government. The set of permanent
institutions of the state through which
political authority is exercised.
The Incorporation of Africa into The
International Modern State Structure
• Sovereignty. The exclusive legal
authority of a government over its
population and territory independent of
external authorities.
• Territory. The geographical territory
which houses the people of the relevant
Arbitrary Boundaries
• The boundaries of modern African
states were imposed. The state
boundaries do not match existing precolonial political, social or economic
divisions. They are ‘arbitrary’ in the
sense that they reflected the short-term
strategic and economic interests of the
imperial powers.
Reinforcing the Non-hegemonic
• In many of the colonised regions of
Africa the intension was to exploit the
resources rather than establishing
states. There were however pretensions
of building modern states in South
Africa, Southern Rhodesia, Kenya,
South West Africa and Algeria.
• There was thus no desire to invest
resources to ensure the state could
project its authority into every corner of
the new colonies. Instead, they only
concentrated on economically
productive or strategically important
• There was no wholesale economic or
political development plan for the
• The actual penetrative capacity of the
colonial state was relatively weak.
• The post colonial state has inherited
this phenomenon.
Weak links between state and
civil society
• Independent Africa inherited weak links between
state and society.
• Colonial political authority was gained on the
continent through conquest, and political
institutions imposed.
• Coercion acted as a substitute for legitimacy.
Weak links between state and
civil society
• The state, in this sense, never rested on
a social contract between government
and people.
Weak links between state and
civil society
• Functions of government. The
maintenance of law and order,
balancing budgets and overseeing the
extraction of raw materials for export,
rather than the provision of public
services for citizens.
• At independence the states inherited
these imported institutions of
government of the colonial state, the
new leaders behaved like the colonial
• Africans were simply left out of any
representative relationship between
government and people. Consequently,
trust and shared political values never
developed between the rulers and the
ruled. State institutions never sought or
gained the respect of the people.
• A successful interaction between the
state and society in post-colonial Africa
was never developed. The provision of
public services for citizens continues to
be a major challenge as government
officials privately appropriate public
The Formation of State Elites.
• Initially, colonial administrators relied on
traditional leaders to be the intermediaries
of imperialism.
• Later they used the services of the emerging
educated Africans.
• These individuals also gained their position
from their proximity to state power. Access
to an education (usually from a mission
school) brought access to the state.
The Economic Inheritance
• Monocrop economies.
• Potential problems:
• Disadvantage in the international
• Underdevelopment of human resources
• Lack of public services
• Economies over-reliant on primary
• Over-reliance on exports
• Bias towards European, not local or
regional, markets
• Colonial states had been highly bureaucratic
and authoritarian. They never sought
legitimacy from their subjects; they were
highly interventionist; they had few
pretensions about representing the views of
their subjects; and they ruled through
domination, supported by coercion.
• The post colonial state inherited this
character of the colonial state.
Weak Political Institutions
• Potential problems:
• Fragile liberal democratic
institutions without historical
• Return to colonial-style
authoritarian and bureaucratic
State and Civil Society
• The State is defined as “a political
association that establishes sovereign
jurisdiction within defined territorial
borders, and exercises authority
through a set of permanent institutions”
(Heywood, 2007:87).
• The post colonial African state was
faced with several challenges.
• The main ones were to achieve
economic and political development
after independence.
• Other Constraints.
1) The challenge of nation-building.
The unification of the people
within the state so that it remains
politically stable and viable in the
long run. The use of the power of
the state to construct or structure
a national identity.
• Other Constraints.
2) Irredentism.
A political principle or policy
directed toward the incorporation of
“irredentas” within the boundaries of
their historically or ethnically
related political unit.
3) The Need to Diversify the Economies
to address the associated challenges.
These include the following:
• Monocrop insecurity.
• Creating wealth for the state.
• Civil Society
• The realm of organised social life or
voluntary associations that operate
outside of the direct control of the
state. The state and its institutions
operate in political society while
organised social life or voluntary
associations operate in civil society.
• They function to protect the
interest of their members.
• Render state institutions
accountable to society in general.
• Maintain society’s influence over
state policies.
• Challenges faced by Civil Society in
post independent Africa.
• Domination by the state.
• The End
African Politics at the Crossroads?
•Neo-patrimonialism, Clientelism
•Personal rule, the centralization
of the African state.
•Tyranny in Africa: Repression of
Freedom of Speech, The looting
of Africa.
Legitimacy of the Post African State.
•Legitimacy can be defined as “a
psychological relationship between
the governed and their governors,
which engenders a belief that the
state’s leaders and institutions have
a right to exercise political authority
over a society” (Thomson, 2010:109110).
Legitimacy of the Post African State
•Max Weber’s three pure sources
of legitimacy:
•charismatic and
•legal-rational authority
Legitimacy of the Post African
•Max Weber defines the state as
“that human community which
(successfully) claims the
monopoly of legitimate physical
violence within a given territory”
and again as
Legitimacy of the Post African State
•“a relationship of rule (or
dominion) by men over men, one
that rests on the use of
legitimate (that is considered to
be legitimate) violence (Brown
2000: 147).
Legitimacy of the Post African State
•He then adds that “those who
are ruled must obey the
authority claimed by those who
rule at any given time” (Brown
2000: 147).
Legitimacy of the Post African State
• Weber emphasizes that the
authority of the state rests on what
he calls “three notions of
legitimacy and their inner
justifications” (Brown 2000:147).
These therefore constitute the
three sources of state legitimacy.
Legitimacy of the Post African State
• They are
1) the traditional authority – the
long established customary
practices which have been
certified by habituation and so
have assumed a taken-forgranted fashion;
Legitimacy of the Post African State
2) the charismatic authority – the
exceptional personal qualities of
the leader, and
3) the legal-rational authority the validity of clearly and legally
defined set of rules
(institutions)(Brown, op. cit)
Legitimacy of the Post African State
•Weber thus emphasizes that
political authority necessarily
rests on the consent of the
people, a relationship which
renders the “human community”
(the state) legitimate.
Legitimacy of the Post African State
•State authority in post-colonial
Africa was supposed to be
supported by legitimacy based
on legal-rational government.
•Legal-rational government, in
this respect, is government
based on a social contract.
Citizens obey the state because
state institutions have been
specifically constituted to serve
their interests.
•Governments rule on the
citizen’s behalf, formulating,
executing and enforcing laws
designed to advance the
collective good.
• Yet legal-rational institutions did not
prosper in Africa after independence.
Liberal democracy was soon
abandoned. At first glance, the
continent’s political institutions, such
as parliaments and executives, may
seem familiar,
•but a closer examination reveals
these institutions to be very
different from those found in the
West. Example the United
Kingdom, the USA, France and
• The Post Colonial State in Africa
failed to establish legal-rational
bonds between itself and their
• The political leaders that emerged
at independence centralised
political activity.
• Power was removed from civil
society and peripheral institutions
of the state, and kept instead within
the core political executive, often
with just one individual being
•For example Kwame Nkrumah of
Ghana, Julius Nyerere of
Tanzania, Jomo Kenyata of
Kenya, and Kenneth Kaunda of
Centralisation of the African
•Representative, accountable and
efficient government usually
requires political power to be
distributed across society. No
one area should become
Political power in such states are
thus distributed as follows:
1) Among the arms of government
which then act as checks and
balances upon one another. The idea
that power be made to check power
and ambition counter ambition.
•Such a ‘separation of powers’
deters a dangerous
accumulation and concentration
of authority within a single area
of government.
2) Power should also be
dispersed between the state and
civil society. State institutions
should not come to monopolise
the political process.
•Political parties must be able to
compete freely and fairly for
control over the state, and
interest groups (or civil society
organizations) should be able to
influence the making of public
•The generation of political
pluralism in a state.
•Achieved through the ability of
the politics and institutions of a
state to successfully disperse
power between the state and
•Accountability to the citizens along
two lines – vertical and horizontal
•Horizontal accountability: achieved
through the existence of effective
institutions of checks and balances
among the arms of government.
•Vertical accountability: achieved
through regular and periodic
democratic elections.
•The diffusion of political power
thus occur among these three
elements of society - the state,
civil society and the electorate
as a whole.
•The achievement of this
institutional arrangements
ensures that effective
representation and
accountability become
Characteristics of a Centralised
•Limited dispersal of political
•Concentration of political power
normally in the executive arm of
the government.
• The subordination of ‘peripheral’
state institutions to the core
•The absence (or insignificance)
of opposition political parties.
• The one party state
•Elites’ tight control of the
official state party.
•Control of civil society
organizations and their leaders.
•State domination and control of
economic activities.
The One Party State Phenomenon.
• One party states in post independent
Africa. It was presented as a most
desirable political method for the young
African state.
• Justifications for the introduction of
one party regimes. ( A political regime
is a system of rule/government or a
political method).
• Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana: multiparty system was socially divisive.
• Houphouët-Boigny of La Côte
d’Ivoire: no opposition actually
• Sekou Touré of Guinea: the
country’s socialist ideology
demanded it.
• Julius Nyerere of Tanzania: he
considered it the most appropriate
way to build democracy in
• General Reasons.
• National unity:
• One-party system had organic links
in African traditional political
• Imperatives of economic
The performance of One Party State
in Africa
Justifications offered have not
been confirmed by results.
• Common Flaws:
•The one party system reduced
links between the state and civil
•Political and bureaucratic elites
abused their position within the
state due to the monopoly they
•The military was dragged into
• The single parties rarely became central
institutions of policy-making and debate
in post-colonial Africa. The political
executive usurped all these powers.
• Political corruption. This took the form
of political patronage as the leaders
used state resources to win political
The Subordination of ‘Peripheral’ State
Institutions to The Political Executive
•African executives retained a
monopoly over political decisionmaking within their societies.
•The judiciary became an
appendage to the political
executive. Politicians and
bureaucrats felt disinclined to
obey the constitution if their
private interests were
Personal Rule
•Independent African states
inherited legal-rational
institutions and the challenge of
generating legitimacy for these
•A situation where the political
leadership, elites and the general
public abide by clearly defined laws
and practices, (as established in
the constitution of the states,
written or not) and the entire
governing process gains
•In short, institutional norms take
precedence over personal
whims, and this is where
legitimacy is generated.
•There is also a clear distinction
between private and public roles
within a legal rational system of
government. Public interest is
distinctively differentiated
private interest.
•The reality in Post Colonial
1.The rule of law is not always
• (The rule of law refers to the
principle that law should rule. This
is in the sense that the law
establishes the framework within
which all conduct or behaviour
conform, applying equally to all the
members of society be they private
citizens or government officials).
2. Abuse of public office by
public officials.
•Political power is concentrated
in the personal authority of one
individual ruler. This is the
phenomenon of personal rule.
•Neopatrimonialism: A political
system in which legal-rational
rules operate side by side with
patrimonial norms.
•The Characteristics of Personal
• ‘a
relation of exchange between