George Ayittey replies to Moses Ochono (135), to correct some errors and offer new insights:
However, there are some gross distortions or misconceptions about my
1. I have NEVER advocated for the "second colonization" of Africa. Where
did you get this idea? I have always championed the "second LIBERATION"
of Africa, not colonization.
2. The sovereign national conference (SNC) succeeded in Benin and South
Africa and elsewhere because it was SOVEREIGN and there were NO
political interferences with its deliberations. This was not the case in
Togo, Zaire or Nigeria. In Nigeria, Abacha reserved for himself the
right to accept or reject the decisions of the Constitutional Conference
he convened in 1995. It was not sovereign. In Zaire, Mobutu created fake
political parties who were allowed to send their delegates to the
national conference, thereby neutralizing any opposition demands.
3. The SNC is just a modernized version of the African village meeting.
It is called asetena kese by the Ashanti, ama-ala by the Igbo, kgotla by
the Tswana, pitso by the Xhosa and ndaba by the Zulu. You do not seem to
be familiar with your own indigenous African institutions. I wrote a
book with the same name which you can find at http://www.amazon.com.
Search for "Indigenous African Institutions" or my name "Ayittey."
5. These institutions are NOT dead. Read about the kgotla in today's New
York Times. Here is the link:
6. To heal social wounds and restore harmony after the horrific
genocide, Rwanda is returning to its TRADITIONAL gacaca court system.
Check this or do a Google search for "gacaca":
... into the rural heart of the African nation of Rwanda to follow the
first steps in
one of the world's boldest experiments in reconciliation: the Gacaca
www.frif.com/new2002/gac.html - 31k - Cached - Similar pages
It is just preposterous to claim that using Africa's own indigenous
systems to resolve conflicts is "romaticizing" about the past.
7. One reason why things went so wrong in Africa is we copied and copied
a whole slew of FOREIGN systems, ideologies, and paraphenalia that did
not fit into our socio-cultural set-up. Rome has a basilica, so too must
we in Yamassoukrou, Ivory Coast. London has double-decker buses, so too
must Lagos. The African continent is littered with the carcases of all
these FAILED FOREIGN systems.
Instead of going to Jupiter to copy a whole new slate of systems,
Ayittey says go back to your roots. The solutions you seek for Africa's
problems can be found by building upon your own INDIGENOUS INSTITUTIONS.
The problem is not me romanticizing about Africa's institutions but
intellectuals who know nothing about their African heritage and
Japan didn't have to abandon its cultural heritage in order to develop.
Neither did the Koreans and other Asians. Only functionally and
culturally-illiterate African elites would condemn their own as
primitive, backward and archaic.
Democracy was not invented by the West. There are various forms of the
institution of democracy. Before the white man stepped foot on the
continent, Africans were practising their own brand of PARTICIPATORY
DEMOCRACY, based upon consensus.
Democratic decisions can be taken in two ways:
1. By MAJORITY VOTE. All those in favor of a motion, say "yes" and all
those opposed say "no." A quick count yields the decision. The advantage
here is that it is fast and transparent. But the DOWNSIDE is that it
ignores MINORITY positions. If you think minority positions in Africa
can be ignored, think again. President Museveni started his bush war
with only 27 men; Charles Taylor with 150, and Mohamed Farar Aideed with
2. By CONSENSUS. This is the traditional African way of reaching
decisions and it is also the way the Nobel Committee and the WTO reach
their decisions -- by consensus. The advantage with this method is that
it takes minority positions into account. The downside is that it is
takes LOOOONG to reach a consensus, which is why in the villages it may
take the chief and Council of Elders days, if not weeks, to reach a
In the postcolonial period, we have had several nutty military despots
claim that "democracy is alien" to Africa. Nonsense. So why don't we
build upon our own participatory democracy to give effect to
Botswana is the only African country that went BACK to its roots and
build upon its own indigenous institutions. And it is doing very well
thank you very much. Cabinet ministers are required to attend weekly
kgotla (village meetings) and discuss issues with the PEOPLE.
Why aren't African scholars accusing Botswana of "romanticizing" about