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  • Title: [SW Country] Accra (The Dispatch, June 15, 2000) Governance & Managing Conflict In Africa (Part I)
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  • Date :[Thursday, June 15, 2000 10:58 AM EST ]

 

Governance & Managing Conflict In Africa (Part I)

Story Filed: Thursday, June 15, 2000 10:58 AM EST

Accra (The Dispatch, June 15, 2000) - The World Bank recently launched a report, Can Africa Claim the 21st Century? The second chapter is on Improving Governance, Managing Conflict and Rebuilding States in Africa. Given the fact of the issue of governance, conflict prevention and management are keys to Africa's future. we start serializing the chapter today.

Poverty brings about instability and insecurity, which breed under- development. The reverse is also true. Democracy must deliver on the bread and butter issues, otherwise the Continent could slide back into situations where the politics of poverty gives rise to the poverty of politics.

Governance, conflict management, and state reconstruction are interrelated issues. Governance is the institutional capability of public organizations to provide the public and other goods demanded by a country's citizens or their representatives in an effective, transparent, impartial, and accountable manner, subject to resource constraints. Conflict management refers to a society's capacity to mediate the conflicting though not necessarily violent interests of different social groups through political processes. State reconstruction combines national and supranational competencies for resolving violent conflicts, sustaining peace, and undertaking economic and political post- conflict reconstruction. In the past decade this nexus of governance, conflict management, and state building has moved from relative obscurity to being a central issue on Africa's development policy agenda. Why?

The first impulse has come from within Africa, where the political landscape has been changing rapidly. After years of authoritarian regimes and political and economic decline, there has been resurgent popular demand for multiparty elections and accountability in public resource management. Since the early 1990s, 42 of 48 sub-Saharan states have held multiparty presidential or parliamentary election. Though these elections have not always been completely fair, they have often generated high voter turnout sometimes more than 80 percent. This trend has been bolstered by the end of the Cold War, which has made donors less inclined to favour trusted allies over competent development partners New aid relations emphasize ownership, accountability to domestic stakeholders, and good governance. Moreover, a number of African countries are ready to undertake "second generation" reforms, which require building social consensus and bargaining among social groups.

Globalization also explains the increased importance of these issues. Like other countries, African states face growing pressures both to decentralize and to adapt to emerging global governance structures and standards. These extend beyond trade to encompass many areas once considered within the purview of national policy. Globalization also brings risks of increased economic instability, which can lead to social conflicts. All these factors have increased the importance of sound governance and institutions for mediating conflicts and promoting social cooperation.

This chapter analyzes Africa's post-independence performance in governance and conflict management and highlights opportunities for resolving conflicts, building peaces, promoting social cooperation, and improving governance in the 21st century. A first theme of the chapter is that it is wrong to think that Africa's ethnic diversity dooms it to endemic civil conflicts. Poverty, underdevelopment, unemployment, and political exclusion are the root cause lurking behind social fractionalization. But socially fractionalized societies like most in Africa require careful management. Thus African countries need to seek inclusive, participatory, and democratic polities compatible with their ethnic diversity. Under the right conditions diversity can promote, rather than impede, social cooperation and stable growth. Active and collaborative involvement by regional institutions and international donors is also critical for resolving conflict and building peace in Africa.

A second theme involves options for improving institutions for national economic management. Africa has seen many such initiatives as part of reform programs, but success has been limited. One reason for past failures is that externally inspired technocratic measures to streamline and strengthen the bureaucracy have not been matched by complementary action by incumbent states, or by measures to generate demand for good governance by local constituencies. This too is changing. A new breed of African reformers now places far more emphasis on transparency and on measures to empower the users of public services, in part through decentralization. Such measures have significance beyond their immediate impact, helping over time to develop the civic organizations and the capacity needed to sustain a robust democratic system.

Together these two themes point to the following implication: political and economic governance are inseparable, and together they underpin sustainable development. Especially with the spread of modern communications, a corrupt, ineffective state is unlikely to meet the popular and economic demands of the 21st century. As East Asia's experience suggests, states that successfully manage and develop their economies are likely to strengthen their legitimacy. Indeed, African countries with well-managed economies saw an increase in stability, political rights, and civil liberties in the 1990s. Conversely, states in conflict perform poorly on political criteria and have weaker economic policies and institutions.

Characteristics of a Well-Functioning State

Well functioning states share certain characteristics. Not all of these are necessarily preconditions for development many countries, including many industrial ones, fall short on a number of relevant attributes. Nor is there a single model toward which all African countries should aspire. Successful options include "consensual democracy" in Japan, unitary liberal democracy in parts of Europe, and federalist democracies and confederacies in other regions. All of these approaches preserve political competition through popular participation in regular elections, but they differ in many ways.

Yet while the diversity among successful democracies suggests a variety of functional institutional arrangements, effective public institutions generally have some common fundamental characteristics. The first is the capacity to maintain nationwide peace, law, a order, without which other government functions are compromised or impossible. Second, states must secure individual liberty and equality before the law, a process still working itself out in the West and elsewhere. This has been a major institutional inadequacy in many African states. Secure property rights and transparent adjudication of disputes arising thereof are critical in shaping investment decision. Third, the state needs workable checks and balances on the arbitrary exercise of power. Public decision-making must be transparent and predictable. Oversight mechanisms should guard against arbitrariness and ensure accountability in the use of public resources, but need no eliminate the flexibility and delegation needed to respond quickly to changing circumstances.

Once this institutional infrastructure is in place, the public sector has an important role in financing and providing key social, infrastructure, and dispute resolution services. Effective states raise revenue and supply these services in ways that contribute to development. Where corruption is detected, legal and administrative sanctions are implemented, regardless of the social and political status of perpetrators. A free press and public watchdog organizations guard against abuse of power and reinforce checks and balance effective service delivery. The political process is broadly viewed as legitimate and provides an anchor of predictability for private investment economic development more broadly. Besides enhancing individual liberties, a participatory civil society, free speech, and an independent press are indispensable for promoting productive and healthy investment.

It would be naive to expect these characteristics to be adopted automatically as the political platform of any country's leadership. Governments the world over are susceptible to factional contests for political power, motivated by incentives other than those that encourage good governance. But without political stability and checks and balances on power, public responsibility for key service and social legitimacy for government are in jeopardy and economic development may not be achieved. Without these foundations of good political and economic governance, Africa's development will be sluggish - or stalled.

African Governance since Independence

Perceptions of African governance have been bedeviled by a tendency toward sweeping generalization and unwillingness to acknowledge not just failures but also mixed outcomes and some successes. Any review of Africa's governance track record since independence thus confronts the challenge of both describing general patterns and highlighting variations across countries.

By definition, colonial rule tended to be unaccountable to Africans and overly reliant on the military to suppress dissent. Its departure was rapid and unanticipated by both colonizer and colonized. Part of the early caution about the departure of colonialists was perhaps a response to the recognition that local skills were inadequate and the institutional foundations of incoming African governments were poor. For example, when Congo gained independence in 1969, it had just 16 postsecondary school graduates - for a population of 13 million.

The constitutional innovations introduced at independence partly sought to promote long-repressed local values. But these were unavoidably blended with the formal structures of national governance introduced by European colonialism. With notable exceptions like Kenya and Zimbabwe, British colonialism bequeathed to its former dependencies the legacy of "indirect rule," which provided considerable autonomy to "traditional" rulers - whether these were genuinely traditional or not against the backdrop of English common law.

In contrast, former French colonies inherited a metropolitan-centered system of direct rule extending to the remotest rural cantons, circles and communes. Belgian administration in Burundi, Congo and Rwanda was comprehensive and highly autocratic. Until its cataclysmic end in 1974, Portuguese colonialism in countries like Angola, Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique abjured local participation in governance, much less indigenous representation. This complex patchwork of old and new state institutions produced a varied but generally disappointing record in national governance. But there were exceptions - like Botswana, Cote d'Ivoire (until the 1980s), Kenya and Mauritius - where public institutionally capability was considerable. Overall, the political transition between the 1960s and the early 1990s can be divided into three phases:

Guarded experimentation - 1960s to early 1970s. Former British colonies inherited variants of the Westminster system, with competitive parties, independent judiciaries and cabinet governments based on a merit-recruited, politically neutral civil service. Former French-ruled states got a powerful presidential system wielding strong executive authority. Under this system the comparatively weak office of the prime minister headed the public service and was answerable to a chamber of deputies elected on a run-off constituency- majority system. But confronted by the divisive, ethnic-driven politics of redistribution in the 1960s, innovations were made to introduce all-purpose nation-building ideologies. Single parties emerged encompassing dissidents and competitors, sometimes using patronage to consolidate power - and not always peacefully. Thus conceived, national unity was expected to facilitate faster, friction-free growth.

Though many presume that economic and institutional decline set in almost immediately after independence, that was not the case. With limited aid, African economies grew by more than five percent a year between 1965 and 1973. Primary school enrolments rose sharply, and new universities, infrastructure and public service training programmes were developed. At the same time, driven by the development orthodoxy of the day, the supposed scarcity of indigenous entrepreneurs, and the fear of commercially dominant expatriate minorities, many countries laid the foundations for increased state control and centralization of resource allocation in a broad range of economic activities.

Military rule, dictatorships and economic regress - mid 1970s to 1990s. After military takeovers in the early 1960s in Congo-Brazzaville, Dahomey (Benin) and Togo, the first gush of military coups in 1965-66 in Burundi, Central African Republic, Congo-Kinshasa, Ghana, Nigeria and Upper Volta (Burkina Faso) opened the way to autocratic military rule. External involvement played a major role in such cases. Many proved disastrous from an economic and institution-building point of view, as evidenced by Ethiopia (1974-91), Ghana (1966-69 and 1972-83), Mali (1968-91), Nigeria (1983-98), Somalia (1969-91), Uganda (1971-79) and Zaire (1965-97). By 1990, half of Africa's states had military or quasi-military governments. In parallel with authoritarian military governments came a trend towards single-party rule under autocratic civilian leaders, largely pursuing interventionist economic policies, in some cases under the banners of socialism or Marxism. Especially when combined with external shocks, the resulting economic decline and politicization of the bureaucracy eroded much of what remained of institutional governance capacity and undermined many of the accomplishments of the 1960s.

Political and economic liberalization - late 1980s and 1990s. Recurrent balance of payments crises and economic regress, together with pressure from donors, led a number of African governments to adopt structural adjustment policies in the 1980s, opening up markets, encouraging deregulation and private initiative, and reducing state economic intervention. The popular processes that led to the collapse of Benin's military government in 1989, the fall of the Berlin Wall in late 1989 and the release of Nelson Mandela from prison in early 1990 increased demands for constitutional reform. Under popular pressure, some francophone states (Benin, Congo-Brazzaville, Mali) held national conferences that replaced authoritarian constitutions with French-style democratic ones. Especially after 1989, popular discontent with military or autocratic regimes found vent in mass demonstrations in favour of individual freedoms and multiparty government. Most remaining African governments conceded the principle of democracy in the first half of the 1990s. By 1999 nearly all countries had held multiparty elections with varying degrees of credibility.

 

 

Copyright 2000 The Dispatch. Distributed via Africa News Online.

 

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