Ochonu responds to Ayittey:

I have responded to you below to clarify my critique and comments on your
write-up. I have done a point-by-point response. We may not agree on some things but we need to understand each other.

Ayittey:  I have NEVER advocated for the "second colonization"
of Africa. Where did you get this idea? I have always
advocated the "second LIBERATION" of Africa, not

Moses:   apologize for the semantic slippage that made me
substitute "colonization" for "liberation." But I
suppose that you only have a problem with my
semantics, not my characterization of your idea of
ìsecond liberationî as idea which denotes the
supplanting of African ruling elites with Western
expatriates and institutions of neo-liberal economic
and political superintendence. If this is a
misreading, I also apologize.

Ayittey : 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.

Moses: Exactly. And that is why I pointed out in my response
that the biggest challenge is not that of
disseminating the SNC model to the trouble spots of
Africa but rather that of clearing a sovereign
operative space for it, which would put it beyond the
meddling hands of political incumbents who insist on
exercising dubious sovereignty on behalf of the
people, the real repository of sovereignty. It is
precisely this obstacle in the form of anti-reform
incumbencies that has thrown up the imperatives of
international pressure and involvement.

Thus, it seems to me that for it to succeed, the SNC
solution would require more, not less, foreign
engagement with and involvement in African crisis
resolution efforts and political reengineering. What
is apparent, then, is that the ìindigenousî SNC
solution requires immense ìforeignî pressure and
involvement to succeed. Not all of Africaís leaders
are as self-reflexive as Matthew Kerekou of Benin or
as contrite as De Klerk of South Africa. In the case
of the latter, international pressure was crucial in
forcing the National Party to yield to the SNC
solution and to accept its outcomes.
Ayittey: 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
Search for "Indigenous African Institutions" or my
name "Ayittey."

Moses: I am not entirely convinced that ìthe SNC is just a
modernized version of the African village meeting.î
The ideological genealogy of the SNC seems to me to be
in the post-Cold War upsurge in demands for liberal
political and economic reforms, inclusive politics,
and transparent and equitable leadership, principles
that Cold War politics had put in abeyance. Nor do I
believe that the examples that you listed above, which
I am deeply familiar with, are representative of
Africa. The African precolonial past offers us
examples of a wide range of judicial and political
arrangements, the village meeting being only one of
them. In states like the Sokoto Caliphate, Buganda,
Bunyoro, Great Zimbabwe, Benin, Ethiopia, Zanzibar, to
name a few, various forms of despotism held swayósome
undergirded by religion, others semi-secular in
natureóbut all subject to the unquestionable whim of a
sovereign. In these states and more in precolonial
Africa, the idea of a ìrepublicanî village meeting for
crises resolution and/or political decision making was
anathema. Other states possessed a hybrid of the
despotism and republicanism. Here village meetings
were occasionally convened but ultimate verdicts
resided with the kings.

In any case, what I am mostly concerned about is not
the archaeology of the SNC; it is, rather, that you
seem to be leaning on the supposed antiquity of the
model to exaggerate its conflict resolution benefits
and to sidestep its limitations. I believe that even a
traditional system of crises management is neither
foolproof nor necessarily superior to liberal,
Western-derived models. The problem, in other words,
is not so much your slapping of a traditional label on
the SNCóas debatable as that isóas it is your attempt
to normalize that label as a mark of superiority and

It is always good to be aware of the limitations of an
approach and to acknowledge that, perhaps, pressures
and factors extraneous to it might be needed for its
success. It seems to me that you are making the
mistake that fanatical advocates of Enlightenment
values and neo-liberal economic and political reforms
make: conveniently forgetting that the Enlightenment
was not a wholly glorious moment in human history and
that while it brought modernity, rationality, and
other liberal values, it also sowed the seed of
several evils, including fascism and racism. All the
celebrated moments of progress in recent history,
including the current era of the free market and
globalization have also produced new evils. The truth
is that ìtraditional Africaî was a messy, fluid, and
sometimes unstable social formation. The coherence and
order that your discourse gives to it hardly reflects
its true unfolding. As a historian, I know.

Ayittey: These institutions are NOT dead. Read about the
kgotla in today's New
York Times. Here is the link:


Moses: Yes, they are not dead. But what obtains in much of
Africa today is hardly a pristine bequest from the
precolonial era. In today's Africa, we have all kinds
of cultural, religious, and ideological syncretisms
and hybrids, which have become as important in the
lives of Africans as their "pristine" precolonial

Ayittey: To heal social wounds and restore harmony after the
genocide, Rwanda is returning to its TRADITIONAL
gacaca court system.
Check this or do a Google search for "gacaca":î

Moses: I know about the gacaca and its successes. But gacaca
has also produced new problems. Many Rwandan victims
of the genocide and other observers are hardly
satisfied with the work of the gacaca courts, which
they see as being too lenient on suspects and accused
people. The result, we know from several reports, are
new forms of social tensions, divisions, animosities,
and anger brought on by the spectacle of freed
genocide perpetrators/suspects being reintegrated by
governmental fiat into communities that regard them as
eternally tainted criminals. Whether these new
problems will cause a new implosion in the future, no
one knows. It is my hope that they donít. But their
existence is not exactly a testament to gacacaís
successes. Furthermore, gacaca has been profoundly
supplemented and made easier by the work of many
foreign NGOs who did PTSD work in the immediate
aftermath of the genocide. I am aware that the work of
these NGOs are now being subjected to critical
scrutiny, but even my friend who is a part of this
revisionism acknowledges that the foreign PTSD
infrastructure helped in bringing about healing,
normalcy and some form of reconciliation before the
gacaca courts were established. Similarly, the gacaca
courts have been supplemented by a system of
international judicial accountability in the form of
the UN special tribunal which sat in Tanzania.

These facts prove that the matter is not an either/or
situation whereby the choice of a traditional model
automatically excludes or discredits the ìforeignî
models, and vice versa.

Ayittey: It is just preposterous to claim that using Africa's
own indigenous systems to resolve conflicts is
"romaticizing" about the past.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 seekfor
Africa's problems can be found by building upon your

Moses: Yes, there are indeed many sad monuments to ìfailed
foreign systemsî in Africa. But there are just as many
reminders of failed indigenization, back-to-our-roots
projects on the continent. And the funny thing is that
the some of the initiators and architects of these
ìtraditionalî rejuvenation projects were/are the same
rapacious, brutal, and despotic dictators that bear
much of the responsibility for the social upheavals
tearing the continent asunder. Back-to-our-roots
projects are romantically, not to say emotionally,
appealing. But they are sometimes either escapist or
dubious contrivances calculated to distract attention
from official misconduct and recklessness, which are
bound to elicit international outrage. What's more,
puritanical and radical advocacy of traditional
African solutions like yours have unfortunately found
allies in Western political leaders who advise against
Western involvement in African crises not out of
respect for Africa's indigenous crises management
mechanisms but because they do not think that Africa
is strategically important enough to service
financially costly political and economic

Ayittey: The problem is not me romanticizing about Africa's
institutions but intellectuals who know nothing about
their African heritage and institutions.î

Moses: You are certainly not talking about this African

Moses Ebe Ochonu