Sustaining the energy of the debate, in the spirit in which it was initiated, George responds to Moses, as Kissi watches from a distance:

I agree with many of the points that you made and share some of your concerns regarding Western involvement and the role of Cold War intrigues and global forces in the ruination of Africa. But at the end of the day, SELF-RELIANCE is the imperative. As Reverend Jesse Jackson once said: "It is true somebody knocked you down but it is YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to get up."

We may rail all we want about slavery, Western imperialism, neo-colonialism, hostile global forces, or geo-political intrigues. But at the end of the day, it is OUR  RESPONSIBILITY to get up. Arguing about who knocked Africa down and whose responsibility it is to pull Africa up, in my view, serves no useful purpose. And taking this position does NOT mean a denial of Western culpability. Rather, it constitutes a ruthlessly PRAGMATIC  position.

In the piece that I wrote for the Wall Street Journal, I proposed two "African" solutions to deal with conflict resolution and political crises.

1.   Conflict resolution in Africa has had such abysmal record in Africa.
Peace accords failed in Africa because of the Western approach often
foisted on combatants by Western donors. I suggested that the indigenous
African approach might be better. It requires 4 parties: an arbiter, the
two disputants and CIVIL SOCIETY or those directly and indirectly
affected by the conflict. Africans believe that it takes a village, not
only to raise a child but also to resolve a conflict.

2.      The "sovereign national conference" (SNC) is a vehicle that can be
used to resolve political crises. It was successfully used to dismantle
apartheid in South Africa and to craft a new democratic political
dispensation in Benin, Cape Verde Island, Zambia, Malawi, and other
African countries. SNC is a modernization of an African institution (the
village meeting) and can also be used to chart a new political future
for Nigeria, Sudan, and many other African countries.

I call these "AFRICAN SOLUTIONS", informed by a "back-to-roots" agenda;
that is, modernizing an indigenous African practice or institution and
using it to resolve a modern problem. Now, if you believe these
solutions won't work, then please suggest BETTER SOLUTIONS. You have
not. Please tell us what solutions you would offer for Ivory Coast and
Sudan. Second, if you feel this "back-to-roots" is "phantamastic", then
offer us a BETTER SLOGAN. You have not.

A debate over what is "African", in my view, is not very useful. The people of Benin themselves said their sovereign national conference was modeled after their own traditional village meeting. Inkatha Freedom Party says South Africa's Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA) was derived from "ndaba" - a Zulu word for "village meeting." It is exceedingly arrogant on your part to dismiss these as "phantamastic." I have pasted their own view below.

For your information, Afghanistan convened under the auspices of the United Nations a "loya jirga", which the Washington Post described as " a centuries-old form of grass-roots tribal democracy" to make the transition to democratic rule. I have pasted this reference below.

More relevant to the debate is this question you asked me: "Since you (Ayittey) don't believe in any foreign involvement in African conflict resolution, my question to you would be: how do we ensure that those recalcitrant incumbents who are resistant to either the convening of an
SNC or to the implementation of its outcomes are made to yield their defiance a la De Klerk and the National Party in South Africa?"

Here's my "back-to-roots" solution. It is NOT copied from the West nor Jupiter; it is derived from Africa's own political heritage. If you an Igbo, then consider your own Ama-ala (village meeting). Here is a description:

        "In routine matters the elders ruled by decree and proclamation but where decisions likely to produce disputes were to be taken, the Ama ala could order the town crier to announce a village assembly in the market place or in a ward square.    At the assembly, the elders laid the issues before the people. Every man had a right to speak, the people applauding popular proposals and shouting down unpopular ones. Decisions had to be unanimous...If the Ama
ala acted arbitrarily and refused to call the assembly, people could demand it by completely ignoring them and bringing town life to a halt (a VILLAGE STRIKE!). By ignoring and refusing to speak to an unpopular elder, social pressure often compelled the elder to bend to the popular
will. The village assembly was considered the Igbo man's birthright, the
guarantee of his rights, his shield against oppression, the expression
of his individualism, and the means whereby the young progressive
impressed their views upon the old and the conservative (Boahen and
Webster, 1970:170).

So, Moses, if Igbo villagers can bring the village to a halt and put pressure on the elders to change policy, why can't Nigeria's civil society, and professional bodies (bar association, university lecturers, students), church groups, trade union groups, etc. bring social pressure
to bear on Obasanjo by calling for a "village strike"?

George Ayittey,
Washington, DC


Indaba and Codesa

At a joint  Councillors Meeting between Inkatha Freedom Party and the
Democratic Alliance, Tony Leon, leader of the AD, said on March 15, 2002

"Perhaps the most significant interaction, until now, took place during
the eight months of the "Natal KwaZulu Indaba," back in 1986.

The Indaba foreshadowed the negotiations of the 1990's in important
ways. It brought to the same table South Africans from every group and
background; it was premised on a need to overcome the racial divides and
inequalities of Apartheid without resorting to violence; it considered
and adopted a set of proposals that were inspired by many of the same
values and principles now enshrined in our democratic constitution.

Our joint experiences in the Indaba foreshadowed another joinT, and at
its time, pioneering initiative, when our two parties joined together to
launch a national movement for a National Convention. Although this
venture did not achieve its purpose because it was ahead of its time, it
helped show South Africans that the path to democracy lay through a
negotiated settlement, not through protracted violence. Rejected and
scorned thought we perhaps were, it was noteworthy that when we stoop up
together in sometimes lonely places on the political map, South Africans
over time converged around these concepts. And so the Indaba inaugurated
the principles and articles of the Indaba Constitution, which prefigured
many of the details in the Republic of South African Constitution.
Likewise, the National Convention inaugurated the later reality of
Codesa and the Multi-Party Negotiation Process." (IFP website:

>From the Washington Post:

"Nur Karkin, a scholar from the ethnic Turkoman minority, is one of 21
Afghan professionals and intellectuals from all major ethnic groups who
have been asked to plan and regulate the loya jirga, a traditional
nationwide conclave that is scheduled to meet in June to choose a
government to serve while a new constitution is written and the nation
prepares for elections.

Across Afghanistan, the poor and mostly illiterate populace of 26
million is focusing enormous hopes on the loya jirga, a centuries-old
form of grass-roots tribal democracy that has been convened from time to
time to resolve national crises. After 23 years of war, civil conflict
and religious repression that ended with the collapse of the Taliban
militia in November, most Afghans yearn for a system that will bring
them peaceful, stable and tolerant rule. But the task of setting up the
conclave will be monumental, and the road to June is mined with an
explosive mix of political and ethnic tensions, logistics obstacles and
potentially violent opposition from regional militia leaders who have
dominated Afghanistan for years and view the fledgling democratic
process as a challenge to their power" (The Washington Post, Feb 23,
2002; p.A1).