I want to initiate another major Internet dialogue, similar to what I did in two instances, one over the book by Keith B. Richburg, Out of Africa, and another about the Wonders of the Africa World by H. Louis Gates. Both grew energetic and passionate, drawing the best minds, from graduate students to Nobel winners, from young professors to college presidents. They were also Pan-Africanist in nature, as scholars from all over the world became involved. In both cases, the exchanges fed some journals and books.
What I have in mind is to use the Bush presidency and the American elections to provoke a number of issues as they relate to Africa and African American issues. As with the previous dialogue, I simply raise the issues, and let people respond. I serve as the clearing house, which means that all comments come to me, and I circulate to others. This way, those that are highly insulting and personal are either edited or not circulated. Also, the wish of those who want to be removed from the list can be respected.
If you want me to add your friends to the list, simply give me their email addresses. You are also free to forward to others.
Do please allow me to begin with a preliminary comment, which is not to establish the parameters or indicate the topics of dialogue/debate, but simply to start the discussion.
President Bush started his term with a contested election. Similar to what happened in Nigeria in 1979 when the court declared Shagari the winner, Bush came to the office largely because of the decision by the Supreme Court. The Nigerian court in 1979 said that the case cannot be cited as a precedent. The American Supreme Court said the same thing.Que: what does a contested elections mean, and why is there stability in one place and instability in another?Should we spend our energies on the rule of law and accountability instead?
Are we exaggerating the case of religious divide in Africa? In the USA, Sunday is the most segregated day of the week, with whites going to their own churches and Blacks to their own, and migrants have created their own places of worship. Now, under the Bush presidency, the rise of evangelical churches and their link with the Republican party has introduced something far more political. Traditionally, the role of the Church has been to use God and the power of the outer universe to bring people of different political persuasions together in one building. With the American church, especially in the South, now identifying with one party, what does this say about religion? Suppose I were a Democrat, can I go to a Church that asks me to vote for a Republican? How can we relate this to Nigeria, Sudan, Senegal and other places?
When the Soviet Union collapsed and other crises followed, the academic world that had crucified ethnicity in Africa began a process of revision. Are we exaggerating the divisions in Africa? Are we, as intellectuals, unable to contribute to nation building? The divisions along racial and religious lines in the US are sharp but why is there greater stability there than in Africa?
I have met many people who do not see corruption in the United States. This view can be contested, as they may not be using the same word for what Africans call corruptions. Americans don't use the word corruption to describe the activities of lobbyists, the behavior of Enron, the use of political influence to get contracts, things that we routinely describe as corruption in Africa and the literature. I have advanced an argument that in the US, corruption is privatized, and in Africa we democratize it.
Should we even compare? Can we begin the analysis with models internal to Africa and use those, as some have argued? If comparison is inevitable, how do we go about it?
These are just a few issues to start the debate and people can respond.
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