Year XXXVIII, 1996, Number 1 - Page 15
Democracy, Regionalism and the Search for Pax Africana
ALI A. MAZRUI
Democracy in Africa has been damaged or destroyed by the consequences of three inter-related factors – the artificial borders which were created by colonial rule, the standing armies which were inherited from the colonial order, and the painful gap between new political institutions and old cultural continuities.
The artificial borders have sometimes thrown together groups which have no pre-colonial experience of shared governance; the borders have also sometimes split asunder groups which should have been kept together. This has often put enormous stress and strain on the democratic process.
The standing armies inherited from the colonial order have repeatedly demonstrated that in Africa ultimate power does not necessarily reside in those who control the means of destruction. Soldiers in Africa have often played havoc with the democratic process, as they have staged one military coup after another. Soldiers have controlled the means of destruction.
The third factor which has destablized democracy in Africa has been the gap between the new postcolonial political institutions and the old cultural continuities in Africa. The new political gloves do not necessarily fit the old cultural hands. Democracy is one casualty of this misfit.
The balance among these three impediments to democracy varies from country to country in Africa. In Rwanda and Burundi, for example, the boundaries are not so artificial. The Hutu and the Tutsi have lived together for centuries. Why then have the two groups been committing reciprocal genocide in the second half of the twentieth century?
In Rwanda and Burundi the other two impediments to democracy have been more salient – the gap between new political institutions and old cultural realities, on one side, and the presence of new means of military destruction, on the other. Animosities between Hutu and Tutsi now lack the old institutions of conflict-resolution. They have acquired instead the new guns of mutual destruction.
In countries like Nigeria and Uganda, on the other hand, all three impediments to democracy have been at play – artificial boundaries, new means of military destruction and the gap between new political institutions and old political realities.
How can regional integration help? Paradoxically countries as Rwanda and Burundi need to have their borders artificialized. They need to be persuaded to enter into a federation with Tanzania. Such a federation would indeed artificialize the territorial context of Rwanda and Burundi by making them part of a country far less homogenous than Rwanda and Burundi had originally been, but a little more stable.
On the other hand, the Hutu and Tutsi armies would either be disbanded or become part of the larger army of the United Republic of Tanzania. Hutu and Tutsi soldiers would no longer be targeting each other, but would be integrated into military units far away from home in other parts of Tanzania.
The Hutu and Tutsi would rediscover what they have in common with each other in contrast to other Tanzanians. The gap between new political institutions and old cultural realities would be partially narrowed by the cultural reunification of the Hutu and Tutsi.
Such regional unification would (in the best-case scenario) bring stability to Rwanda and Burundi without destablizing Tanzania. Such minimum levels of stability are indispensable for democracy.
Again using the best-case scenario, a voluntary federation is usually a mother of constitutional guarantees for all contracting parties, probably including a Bill of Rights. While constitutionalism is not the same thing as democracy, it is nevertheless an important precondition for a healthy democratic order. A federation of Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania could help nurture a democratic constitutional order binding the three countries together. But are such federations in post-colonial Africa possible? Here we are up against the uneven history of Pan-Africanism as a striving for African Unity. Let us look more closely at these wider Pan-African issues.
Pan-Africanism: Liberation vs. Integration.
We start with a fundamental duality in the paradigm of Pan-Africanism – the distinction between Pan-Africanism of liberation and Pan-Africanism of integration (or, unification). Under both headings the name of Ghana’s founder-president, Kwame Nkrumah, is immortalized.
In the second half of the 20th century Pan-Africanism of liberation has been triumphant. It is the solidarity of Africans who fought against colonialism, confronted racism and struggled against apartheid. Those struggles of the second half of this century have been impressively victorious to a considerable extent.
Pan-Africanism of integration, on the other hand, has been a dismal failure. This is the Pan-Africanism which has sought regional integration – at least a free trade area, or perhaps a development alliance, or an economic union or economic community. Sometimes the effort is to sustain military co-operation. The ultimate dream has been to try and create whole new federations out of disparate nation-states.
Long before the idea of federating Rwanda and Burundi with Tanzania arose, we were talking about such efforts as the former East African Community (EAC) encompassing Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. This form of Pan-Africanism of integration has failed. Africans are better at uniting for freedom than at uniting for development. Solidarity in the cause of political independence has been easier than solidarity in the cause of collective social and economic transformation. Kwame Nkrumah symbolised this painful paradox. He led Ghana’s independence in 1957, and inspired Pan-Africanists world-wide. But his experiments with Ghana-Guinea and Ghana-Guinea-Mali union were fiascos in integration.
In reality Pan-Movements are born out of a combination of nightmare and dream, anguish and vision. What were the nightmare and the dream which released the forces which culminated in the formation of the European Union as a success story?
Pan-Europeanism had two parents – poetry and war. The poetry provided the vision and the sensibilities of being European; war provided the practical impetus either through conquest (as European nations expanded and contracted) or through a desire to avoid some future war. That was the combination of nightmare and dream. After World War II the Schuman Plan, and the European Coal and Steel Community illustrated the creation of deliberate Pan-European interdependence to avoid the future risk of war. The Cold War both divided Europe (between east and west) and united Europe within each camp. Once again nightmare and dream played their paradoxical integrative roles. The poetry of Pan-Europeanism goes back at least to the European Renaissance as Europeans were stimulated by a new sense of shared civilization. By the time of the French Revolution from 1789 onwards William Wordsworth across the Channel in England could proclaim passionately:
Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive
But to be young was very heaven.
However, the French revolution was a combination of both poetry and war – the two major stimuli of Pan-Europeanism. The French revolution was both nightmare and dream.
Does Pan-Africanism have a comparable stimulus of poetry and war? The real stimulus for Pan-Africanism has been the combined power of poetry and imperialism, rather then poetry and war. The poetry includes legends of past heroes and makers of history. More recently there have been two schools of Pan-African cultural nationalism – romantic primitivism and romantic gloriana.
Romantic primitivism celebrates what is simple about Africa. It salutes the cattle-herder rather than the castle-builder. In the words of Aime Cesaire:
Hooray for those who never invented anything
Hooray for those who never discovered anything
Hooray for joy! Hooray for love!
Hooray for the pain of incarnate tears.
My negritude [My blackness] is no tower and no cathedral,
It delves into the deep red flesh of the soil
On the other hand, romantic gloriana celebrates Africa’s more complex achievements. It salutes the pyramids of Egypt, the towering structures of Aksum, the sunken churches of Lalibela, the brooding majesty of Great Zimbabwe, the castles of Gonder. Romantic gloriana is a tribute to Africa’s empires and kingdoms, Africa’s inventors and discoverers, great Shaka Zulu rather than the unknown peasant.
Both forms of Pan-African cultural nationalism were a response to European imperialism and its cultural arrogance. Europeans said that Africans were simple and invented nothing. That was an alleged fact. Europeans also said that those who were simple and invented nothing were uncivilized. That was a value judgment.
Romantic primitivism accepted Europe’s alleged facts about Africa (i.e. that Africa was simple and invented nothing) but rejected Europe’s value judgement (that Africa was therefore uncivilized). Simplicity was one version of civilization, Romantic primitivism said: “Hooray for those who never invented anything, Who never discovered anything...”
Romantic gloriana, on the other hand, rejected Europe’s alleged facts about Africa (that Africa was simple and invented nothing) but seems to have accepted Europe’s values (that civilization is to be measured by complexity and invention).
The same country in Africa can produce both types of Pan-African nationalists. Senegal’s Leopold Senghor has been a major thinker and poet in the negritude school. Negritude is associated with romantic primitivism. Senghor’s most hotly debated statement is: “Emotion is black... Reason is Greek.”
On the other hand, the late Cheikh Anta Diop, Senegal’s Renaissance Man who died in 1986, belonged more to the gloriana school. He spent much of his life demonstrating Africa’s contributions to global civilization. And he was most emphatic that the civilization of pharaonic Egypt was a black civilization. This was all in the grand Pan-African tradition of romantic gloriana. What of the reality of Africa? It was a fusion of the simple and the complex, the cattle-herder and the castle-builder. It was more than romantic primitivism and romantic gloriana. Real Pan-Africanism must go beyond the twin stimuli of poetry and imperialism. Pan-Africanism of economic integration will be led by Southern Africa with the new community which has added South Africa to the old SADCC fraternity. The success of this economic sub-regional integration will be partly because one member of the new economic fraternity (Southern African Development Community – SADC) is more equal than the others – the Republic of South Africa. A pivotal state often helps to assure the success of regional integration.
The old European Economic Community soon after 1958 survived partly because some members were definitely more equal than others. The Franco-German axis was, under Charles de Gaulle, more "Franco" than German. But now German economic might has restored the balance in the new European Union. Similarly, Southern Africa has the advantage of having one member indisputably “the first among equals” – the Republic of South Africa. The pivotal power is the promise of regional survival. One day Southern Africa stands a chance of achieving both federation and relative democracy.
Pan-Africanism of cultural integration will probably be led by East Africa with its good fortune of a region-wide indigenous language – the role of Kiswahili binding Tanzania, Kenya, to some extent Uganda, Somalia, and potentially Rwanda, Burundi, and Eastern Zaire. Northern Mozambique and Malawi are also feeling Swahili influence. A shared language is an asset, both for the cause of democratization and for the mission of regional integration.
Swahili is spoken by more people than any other indigenous language of Africa. It will hit its first 100 million people early in the 21st Century if not sooner. Kiswahili is expanding more rapidly than any other lingua franca in the continent.
Pan-Africanism of political integration will probably be led by North Africa. There is already a kind of economic co-operation fraternity binding five countries – Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Mauritania. The economic co-operation has been limping along. However, Egypt has now expressed an interest in joining this movement towards greater North African regional integration. The sub-region is still a long way from political integration, but it is the best placed in Africa for such an adventure – since it shares a religion (Islam), a language (Arabic), a culture (Arabo-Berber) and a substantial shared history across centuries. Part of the stimulus for North Africa’s integration will be European integration. The economies of North Africa and Southern Europe are to some extent competitive. The deeper integration of countries like Spain and Portugal and Greece into an enlarged European Union is ringing economic alarm bells in North Africa. This could help Pan-Africanism in Arab Africa. Pan-Africanism of military integration is likely to be led by West Africa – with the precedent set by ECOMOG under the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). In spite of the difficulties and inconclusiveness of ECOMOG’s attempted rescue operation in Liberia, the effort has been a major pioneering enterprise in the history of Pax Africana. Democracy without some minimum peace is a contradiction in terms.
But this issue is precisely the Achilles’ heel of Pan-Africanism as a whole. Who will keep the peace in Africa as we approach the end of the millennium? If we do not want American troops in Somalia, or French troops in Rwanda, should we just be spectators to carnage in Africa?
A Bridge Across Nations: Re-colonization?
Contemporary Africa is in the throes of decay and decomposition. Even the degree of dependent modernization achieved under colonial rule is being reversed. Pro-democracy movements are frustrated. Successive collapse of the state in one African country after another during the 1990s suggests a once unthinkable solution: re-colonization.
To an increasing number of Africans, this is the bitter message that has emerged from the horrifying events in Rwanda. While Africans have been quite successful in uniting to achieve national freedom, we have utterly failed to unite for economic development and political stability. War, famine and ruin are the post-colonial legacy for too many Africans. As a result, external re-colonization under the banner of humanitarianism is entirely conceivable.
Countries like Somalia or Liberia, where central control has entirely disintegrated, invite inevitable intervention to stem the spreading “cancer of chaos” in the phrase of Brian Atwood, Director of the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The colonization impulse that is resurfacing, however, is likely to look different this time round. A trusteeship system – like that of the United Nations over the Congo in 1960, when order fell apart with the Belgian pull-out – could be established that is more genuinely international and less western than under the old guise. But even humanitarian colonization could hardly be democratic. At best it can only be a preparation for democracy. Administering powers of the trusteeship territories could come from Africa or Asia, as well as from the rest of the UN membership. The “white man’s burden” would, in a sense, become humanity’s shared burden.
In the 21st century, for example, might Ethiopia (which will by then presumably be more stable than it is today) be called upon to run Somalia on behalf of the UN? After all, Ethiopia was once a black imperial power, annexing its neighbouring communities. Why should it not take up that historical role again in a more benign manner that has legitimate international sanction? Might Egypt re-establish its “big brother” relationship with the Sudan? Might the UN implore post-apartheid South Africa to intervene to end the Angolan civil war? Surely, it is time for Africans to exert more pressure on each other, including through benevolent intervention, to achieve a kind of Pax Africana based on regional integration or unification of smaller states. Some African countries will simply need to be temporarily controlled by others. Inevitably, some dysfunctional countries would need to submit to trusteeship and even tutelage for a while, as Zanzibar did when it was annexed by Tanganyika in 1964 to form Tanzania? Democratization gives way to the imperative of averting chaos.
If Burundi and Rwanda had been similarly united into a larger state, where the balance between Tutsi and Hutu would have been part of a more diverse population, the savagery which was reported over several months in 1994 would very likely not have happened on the scale it had occurred. If re-colonization or self-colonization is the path that lays ahead for Africa, there must be a continental authority to ensure that such an order does not merely mask base aims of exploitation. What I propose as a longer term solution to problems exposed by today’s crises is the establishment of an African Security Council composed of five pivotal regional states, or potential pivotal regional states, which would oversee the continent. This Council would have a Pan African Emergency Force, an army for intervention and peacekeeping, at its disposal. And there would also be an African High Commissioner for Refugees linked to the UN’s High Commission. While Africa accounts for one-tenth of the world’s population, it has sometimes accounted for nearly one half of the world’s refugees and displaced persons.
The African Security Council that should be formed over the coming decades would be anchored in the North by Egypt and in the South by South Africa. Although it is currently experiencing troubling times, Nigeria would be the pivotal state in west Africa. Its size and resources could give it the equivalent weight of India in South Asia if it can find political stability.
In East Africa, the pivotal country is still in doubt. Ethiopia, among the more fragile of the largest African states today, is the most likely anchor because of its size. Although Kenya is more stable, it is far smaller.
In Central Africa, the presumed regional power of the future – Zaire – is currently itself in need of trusteeship. If Zaire can avoid collapse into chaos in the near future, it will be one of the major actors in Africa in the 21st century, taking Burundi and Rwanda under its wing. Zaire has the population and resources to play a major role. In the next century it will even surpass France as the largest French-speaking nation in the world. As permanent members of an African Security Council, these five states would co-ordinate among each other and with the UN. Regional integration is the order of the day in Europe, in North America, in East Asia and even, tentatively, of course, in the Middle East. If Africa, too, does not follow this path, the lack of stability and economic growth will push the entire continent further into the desperate margins of global society.
In tandem with the efforts of UN to establish a peaceful world order, Africans need an African peace enforced by Africans, from Angola to Rwanda and Burundi. In the agenda of history, stabilization comes before democratization. There are no doubt frightening ideas for proud peoples who spilled so much blood and spent so much political will freeing themselves from the control of European powers. To be sure, self-colonization, if we can manage it, is better than colonization by outsiders. Better still would be self-conquest. But that implies an African capacity for self-control and self-discipline rarely seen since before colonialism.
Such discipline will have to be found in the 21st century if Africa is to undertake successful social engineering and build resilient and solid bridges across its varied political chasms.
The Neo-Colonial Legacy: A Conclusion.
If Pan-Africanism was born out of poetry and imperialism, where does neo-colonialism fit into this? For example, has French neo-colonialism in post-colonial Africa helped or harmed the cause of Pan-Africanism? What is the balance-sheet between negative and positive consequences of neo-colonialism for Pan-Africanism?
The monetary linkages among francophone states and a shared membership of the CFA franc zone have themselves been a form of solidarity. The fact that francophone Africans conspire with each other in order to exploit the web of networking with French politicians in France has been a form of solidarity. The wider fraternity of francophonie has carried with it a partial intra-African solidarity. All in all, we can indeed conclude that francophone Africa’s shared dependence upon France on a wide spectrum of issues has itself been creating forms of solidarity among those former French and Belgian colonies themselves. But does that same Franco-African liaison harm autochtonous horizontal Pan-Africanism? Does it make it harder for francophone Africans to be self-reliant? It is true that there has been an occasion in the 1990s when Africans in a former French colony have burnt the French flag. But that was in protest against France not intervening. Those who burnt the French flag felt that France should have intervened “on the side of democracy”. This demand for French intervention was itself a form of dependency. In June 1993 Moshood Abiola apparently won the presidential election in Nigeria, and the military regime in the country prevented him from taking office. Abiola committed a colossal strategic mistake by flying to London and Washington to complain about the Nigerian military. He damaged himself almost irreparably at home. In francophone Africa, on the other hand, flying to Paris for solutions to political problems at home in Africa is almost routine. Had Nigeria been francophone, what Abiola did in 1993 as he sought intervention from the metropole would have been the natural order of things. The Nigerian military leader who thwarted Moshood Abiola’s ascent to presidential power was President Ibrahim Babangida – whether or not he acted alone (singly). One question which arises is how to encourage African Heads of State like Babangida to hand over power graciously to an elected successor. It might not have worked with Babangida, but Africa needs to create conditions in which former presidents retain dignity and national standing provided they voluntarily hand over power to a democratic process. I have suggested the establishment of a Pan-African Senate consisting of precisely former Heads of State who have either allowed themselves to be defeated at the polls (like Kenneth Kaunda), or handed over to a democratic process (like Obasanjo of Nigeria) or retired in conditions of pluralism and the open society (like Leopold S. Senghor and Julius K. Nyerere).
The purpose of such a Pan-African Senate would be two-fold. Firstly, the Senate would enable Africa to continue to tap the wisdom and accumulated political experience of some of its most historic statesmen (and, one day, stateswomen). Secondly, the Pan-African Senate would help to give African Heads of State the promise of a continuing honorific role. Is there life after State House? Africa has to find ways of assuring its presidents that there is such a thing as a dignified retirement within Africa. Africa needs to rescue the institution of the presidency from continuing to be a zero-sum game. It need not be a case of “either I am President – or I am nothing”. Membership of a Pan-African Senate would be a step –only a step. Other ways of reassuring African Heads of State about their last years need to be found if we do not want them to cling on to power until they are as sick as Hastings Banda or as senile as Habib Bourgouiba. Or until they are overthrown in yet another humiliating coup. Pan-Africanism may be able to play a part in devising appropriate institutions to help Africa solve such major concerns of succession and stability. And one day Pan-Africanism of integration may at last approximate Pan-Africanism of liberation in establishing a genuine record of achievement. After all, Africa has now reached a stage when, unless Pan-Africanism of integration (uniting for development) succeeds, the old accomplishments of Pan-Africanism of liberation (uniting for freedom) could be negated. Africa could be re-colonized in new ways. From nightmare to nightmare – with no poetry in sight.
But the ultimate dream of regional integration has to be actual federation. The most urgent is precisely a federation of Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania if the three countries can be persuaded to merge their destinies in this way. Will they one day be joined by Kenya and Uganda? This would be a kind of merger between the old German East-Africa (combining Tanganyka and Rwanda-Urundi) and the subsequent East African Community (combining Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda). A federation in Southern Africa led by post-apartheid South Africa and a federation in North Africa after the upheavals between Islamists and the secularists are also more than just feasible in the first quarter of the twenty-first century. Elsewhere in Africa federations may take longer to create. What is clear is that the search for democracy in Africa is interlinked with both Pax Africana and the unremitting search for regional integration. Democracy and Pan-Africanism are two ideals which have shared rendezvous with African history.
 See, Ali A. Mazrui, “Decaying Parts of Africa Need Benign Colonization”, in International Herald Tribune, 4 August 1994, and William Pfaff, “A New Colonialism? Europe Must Go Back into Africa”, in Foreign Affairs, vol. 74, n.1 (Jan/Feb 1995), pp. 2-6.
 See in this context, Leon Gordenker, “The United Nations and Refugees”, in Lawrence S. Finkelstein (ed.), Politics in the United Nations System, Durham, NC and London, Duke University Press, 1988, pp. 274-302, and various issues of Africa Confidential (London) 1990-1995.