George: Thank you for your response. Some debates are useful, others are not. I am afraid this present debate is in the latter category.
A. The External Solution
I asked you for your own solution to the crises in Africa because people
are dying. With all due respect, what you offered us was "an academic
solution" of little practical utility. It is no different from what
African leaders have been calling for: foreign intervention. It is the
product of what I call the "externalist orthodoxy" that has held sway
for much of the post-colonial period. This orthodoxy, together with its
attendant "slavery/colonialism/imperialism paradigm," maintains that
Africa's woes can be attributed to the unequal, exploitative and
oppressive historical relationships between Africa and the West and
adverse global forces. By implication, the solutions to Africa's woes
must come from "external sources," "foreign intervention" or some
restructuring of its relationship with the rest of the world.
Moses: The solution I advocate does not fit your reductive and simplistic "externalist orthodoxy" label. I advocate for a combination of external pressure/attention and local initiatives of civil society and policy makers. I totally reject your call for the exclusion of international and external actors from African conflict resolution efforts because it is not only utopian and escapist, its underlying assumption that Africa has the material and symbolic resources to resolve its problem ALONE WITHOUT EXTERNAL INVOLVEMENT flies in the face of what we know to be the geopolitical realities of our world, and Africa's lack of the logistical and financial resources necessary to generate the pressure and clout for conflict resolution.
I have declared here that I am not part of the blame-the-white-man brigade, so your invocation of that school of thought is either a red herring or a straw man. Being a pragmatic advocate of strategic foreign intervention in situations where they are clearly necessary and where the concept of "African solutions to African problems" is clearly a bankrupt recipe for disaster, does not amount to subscribing to an "externalist orthodoxy." You seem incapable of thinking outside of smug binaries and neat opposites. The world is not black and white. Calling for foreign intervention where necessary does not exclude local agency. It's not an either/or situation or a zero sum game. I made that clear in my previous contribution. A combination of necessary foreign resources and local agency (not necessarily tradition or antiquity) is what I have advocated. If there is any orthodoxy here, it is your solution, which, in the name of staying true to a so-called African traditional essence, seeks to exclude foreign agency from Africa's conflict resolution efforts even when international resources are clearly needed to make up for Africa's resource and logistical deficiency. I, on the other hand, am willing to accept solutions to Africa's many problems regardless of their source (and whether they are local or foreign) AS LONG AS THEY WORK and have the potential or proven capacity to bring some relief to Africa's trouble spots. So, between you and I, who is the unbending and idealistic purveyor of orthodoxy? Mine is a flexible, fluid solution that thrives not on labels and ideals but on pragmatism and workability. I pointed out in my previous posting that Africans living in trouble spots are not interested in labels or the sources of the solutions to their problems; and that they are interested in solutions that work, period.
Yes, ultimately, the relationship between Africa and the West may have to be restructured. The burden is however on African rulers to push for this and to, in the meantime, struggle for maneuvering room in the present structure of global geopolitics and economics. But the crucial question is: what do we do before this lofty goal is realized-continue to invoke African pride as a substitute for much-needed, sometimes urgent, external relief and logistical expertise and resources while our people are dying? Or is it your submission that, like a Geobellian mantra, if we continue to repeat the patently fallacious statement that Africans can solve their own problems and do not need external resources or intervention, it will become a material verity? We can do without this genre of wishful thinking in the effort to craft workable, realistic, and pragmatic solutions to Africa's problems.
George: But like I said, we part company here. While we all agree that Africa
has been harmed and exploited by foreign actors and external factors, I
do not subscribe to "external solutions." True, somebody knocked us down
but it our responsibility to get up. There are so many deficiencies with
the "externalist orthodoxy." I pointed out a few in my previous posting
but here are some more:
1. You can't go to the same people, who you claim exploited you,
oppressed you and are constantly meddling in your internal affairs, to
become involved in resolving a problem that you have. It defies logic
and makes no sense - none whatsoever.
Moses: It is obvious from the above statement that you are not invested in the truism that Africa has been a victim of historical and, in some ways, continuing, injuries inflicted by the West. Your crude and thinly disguised attempt to mock what is a scholarly consensus is noted. But I did point out to you in my previous last contribution that, while I am not in the "slavery-and-colonialism-as-alibi" school of thought, I think that those who are but are courageous and pragmatic enough to insist that the West and its resources, logistical and financial, must be tapped in the service of solving crises on continent, especially where these resources are clearly urgently needed to stem the tide of disaster, if not provide enduring relief, should be commended, not demonized. Don't forget that most of these crises are direct or indirect legacies of Africa's voluntary and involuntary interactions with the West.
George: 2. The call for "foreign intervention" flies in the face of recent
experience. The international community has not shown much appetite for
involvement in Africa's crises. In 1993 when the going got tough in
Somalia, they cut and ran. The following year, they fled Rwanda. They
were nowhere to be seen when Burundi, Zaire, Sierra Leone, and Liberia
blew up. In the cases of Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast and Liberia, it was
the former colonial masters who intervened: Britain, France and the U.S.
Africa is the only continent that year after year unloads its problems
onto the world stage. The international community is thoroughly fed up
with Africa. Since 1960, there have been more than 40 crises in Africa.
Name me just 10 which the United Nations or the international community
successfully resolved in the post-colonial era.
Moses: I am not a big fan of statistical discourses or crude empiricism, because they are very simplistic and reductive. But if I must remind you, the statistics on Africa's conflict resolution favors foreign intervention over the alternatives. Although I must quickly add that foreign interventions ALONE was never fully successful in resolving the conflicts where such interventions were deployed. Often, foreign military intervention, whether directly or through the UN, have provided the template of calm necessary for negotiations. Also, international pressure on heads of warring factions have proved decisive in forging breakthroughs at some of Africa's conflict resolution talks. Rwanda, which you are invoking as an example of why foreign intervention should be rejected, is a bad example, because the UN and US have officially apologized for withholding intervention, an intervention that EVERYONE agrees would have prevented or seriously minimized the scale of the genocide. So, Rwanda does not make the case for non-intervention; it makes the case for foreign/international intervention. DRC has a measure of stability today partly because of the presence of UN troops and the political intervention of the UN. Sierra Leone was stabilized and the ECOWAS peace mission there sustained because the UN took it over when financial strain on Nigeria almost forced the withdrawal of the ECOWAS forces. The sustenance of that mission and its subsequent internationalization through the UN was crucial to the disarmament program, the peace talks, and the successful elections in that country. Liberia was stabilized after its first civil war because of Nigeria's magnanimity in funding the ECOWAS peacekeeping mission and due to INTERNATIONAL PRESSURE on Taylor and the NPFL and their diamond mining/smuggling and other underground dealings. Taylor agreed to elections when he saw that international arms embargoes, sanctions, and condemnation spelled doom for his guerilla movement. I have already commented on the dramatic impact of the involvement of France (and UN troops) in the Ivory Coast, the highlight of which is Gbagbo's recent conciliatory moves in the wake of the decisive action against his forces by the French air force. In all these instances, a combination of foreign and African (not traditional, but contemporary political African) actions led to complete or partial resolution of the crises.
George: 3. In my view, the call for MORE foreign involvement is a dead-end
street. In fact, it is really an alibi for INACTION. Do we seriously
think we can get the U.S., France, Russia, Iran and China to agree on a
united action on Sudan? Each country has its own interest in Sudan to
protect. Witness how difficult it is to apply the term "genocide" to
what is going on in the Sudan. If we call the slaughter of 800,000
Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994 "genocide," how about the deaths of 3 million
Sudanese, mostly black Africans in Sudan's civil wars? U.N.
Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, is often frustrated trying to get member
countries to contribute peace-keeping troops for an African mission.
Moreover, if you, Moses, can't get Nigerian elites to put pressure on
the Obasanjo government to convene a sovereign national conference, how
do you expect to get FOREIGN governments to put pressure on Obasanjo?
No, Moses, foreign intervention is not my bag. You will never hear me
call for one for the resolution of any African crisis. If this is the
road you want to take, I wish you all the best of luck.
Moses: I don't know what to say to this, except to observe that it is consistent with your pattern of generalization and exaggeration. Every crisis has its own complexities. The Sudan crisis is not representative of African crises. In fact in many ways it is unique in that it is a racial crisis in which the traditional alliance between Arab and Negroid Africa and between Africa and the Arab world and their powerful allies in the UN Security Council, has come under increasing strain. It is thus not surprising that there is such schism in deliberations on the crises. Other crises on the continent have lower incidents of cleavages and are thus more amenable to international consensus than Sudan. In any case, if international consensus could emerge-albeit belatedly-on the way forward in Apartheid South Africa, with its multiple levels of geopolitical and ideological complexities, the possibility of the same thing happening in the case of Sudan may be remote but not non-existent. The difficulties in the Sudan crises speak to the unique complexity of the crises; it is not an indictment of foreign intervention or the use of foreign political and economic resources to make peace and solve problems.
George, have you been to the Niger Delta Region of Nigeria to see the devastation wrought there by foreign (Western) oil companies who take the resources, repatriate profits, corruptly evade taxes, and refuse to clean up the environment? If you have, then you should not have a problem seeing that at some level, the logistical, technical and financial partnership that Africa requests from the West and from the UN is in fact deserved and that the so-called "aid to Africa" has always been and still is a meager, negligible percentage of the super-profits that the private and corporate citizens of Western countries harvest in African countries. Of course, no one is saying that Africa should become a charity case or that the West has an obligation to or owes Africa handouts. What cannot be discounted, however, is that, given the immense economic benefits derived from Africa by Western countries, African countries should neither hesitate to ask for logistical and financial help nor, should they, in the name of foolish pride, turn down same when it is offered. Where such help is needed to save lives and bring relief to a desperate situation, the discourse of pride is inhuman. And Africa should not be ashamed to receive in the form of relief, aid, or logistical resources, a tiny fraction of what they contribute to Western economies yearly. Japan, Germany, South Korea, and many other countries got and gladly accepted enormous Western aid and logistical help, which, unlike African countries, they applied judiciously and relatively transparently to their developmental needs. So, instead of constructing this discourse of guilt and shame, shouldn't George be concerned rather with how aid to Africa is utilized or not utilized on the continent? For me, this is the main issue, because as we know, aid monies and logistical assistance are often embezzled by local politicians who, with the help of Western financial networks, stash them away in overseas banks and investments.
George: Instead of calling for foreign intervention in Ivory Coast and Sudan, I
would rather call for an AFRICAN intervention. Are African governments
not part of the international community? In 1979, the late and former
president Julius Nyerere sent his military across the border to remove
Idi Amin of Uganda from power. Why hasn't Ghana sent its military over
the border to oust Laurent Gbagbo? Why haven't Nigeria and South Africa
sent their troops to remove Omar el Beshir from power? I am fed up with
the spectacle of seeing African leaders ALWAYS running to the white man
to come and solve our problems for us. It deprecates my dignity and
pride as a black man.
Moses: This is the most intellectually and pragmatically bankrupt prescription I have ever encountered. Have you heard about the logistical and financial difficulties that have bedeviled the African cease-fire monitors in the Sudan? Have you not read that that "African intervention" is a sheer waste of time and resources and that it is ineffective and of no consequence-a view recently corroborated by its frustrated Nigerian commander, General Okonkwo? But, I guess as far as you are concerned an ineffective "African intervention" is better than potentially decisive "foreign intervention" because it satisfies your emotional need for African pride and honor. At what cost should we continue to delude ourselves?
The Nyerere-Idi Amin example is a huge exception. Nyerere succeeded and got away with that intervention for two reasons:
1. Idi Amin was universally loathed and had alienated all his allies. Everyone was happy to see him go.
2. Idi Amin was the aggressor; his brinkmanship was carried to the ridiculous height of launching cross-border raids into Tanzania.
In this era of fetishistic sovereignty, any attempt by powerful states to invade neighbors will cause nothing but spiraling regional conflicts. The last time an African state invaded its neighbor, the result was what has been described as Africa's World War-a war which in which at least six countries were involved and which devastated the second largest country in Africa, bequeathing a legacy of ruin and tension. Your recommendation of the Nyerere solution is nothing but a recipe for endless crises. The DRC is a visible and living example of what happens when your "African" (Nyerere) solution is implemented.
George: Moses: B. Demagoguery, Mischievous Distortions and Literal Interpretations of My Positions. Moses, I would rather we debated the inherent merits of my positions instead of you placing ugly labels on them, distorting them or associating them with discredited figures in order to attack my positions. I drew your attention to this distortion: "second
colonization" of Africa which you falsely attributed to me. I have
advocated for the "second liberation" of Africa.
Moses: I am usually a very gracious debater. If you show me a specific example of distortion or misreading I will apologize. I did that when you pointed out my substitution of "second colonization" for "second liberation." I wonder why you're bringing it up again when I apologized for it and you accepted my apology. It was a semantic mistake; this is evidenced by the fact that you only objected to my use of the wrong terminology, not to my explanation or interpretation of the idea. So, where is the problem? In my last post, I pointed out to you a specific case in which you distorted my position on the issue of village government-despotic rule. You attributed a position to me that is actually the exact opposite of what I had written in clear English. You have not apologized as an honorable debater should do. Yet you are making vague accusations about distortions, demagoguery, etc. This charge is at best a self-serving distraction.
George: I object to your mischievous attempts to place literal interpretations
on my viewpoints and place them in narrow straight jackets in order to
attack them. My call for "self-reliance" and "African solutions for
African problems" are such examples.
"Self-reliance" does not mean complete and total exclusion of all
external influences or factors. No economy in this world today can be
autarkic. Even China had to open up its economy. Nonetheless, if you
want to buy a car, you start from your own savings first. It is basic
common sense. You do not plan on buying a car based upon the help you
EXPECT to receive from others. But look at the African Union (AU). It
drew up NEPAD, expecting to receive $64 billion in investment from the
West. Need I ask if NEPAD will ever get off the ground? The AU is
afflicted with the same "externalist orthodoxy" or mentality that seeks
the solutions to Africa's woes from external sources. This orthodoxy got
us nowhere and will not extricate us from our current quagmire. Again,
if you want to stick with this orthodoxy and seek foreign solutions, all
the best of luck to you.
Moses: I am not being mischievous. Your repeated declaration of your aversion to foreign intervention and foreign solutions and involvement in Africa's conflict resolution makes my interpretation fair. If anything, the last sentence above is mischievous since you have obviously and rather un-intellectually demarcated Africans into those who advocate "foreign" solutions and those who advocate "African" ones. You do this without regard to my effort to get you to acknowledge that the boundary between "African" and "foreign" is by no means settled, that hybridities and syncretisms have been a feature of African life for hundreds of years, and that a solution could be "foreign" and "African" at the same time.
Again, the NEPAD example, like Governor Bukola Saraki's poorly conceived foreign farmers project in Kwara state of Nigeria, is probably an example of how not to craft a developmental agenda and how not to be overly optimistic in making developmental projections. It is an indictment of African development economics and economists, not an indictment of foreign investment or foreign technical or financial support, which, as I pointed out, was the catalyst for the industrialization of Japan, Germany, Singapore, South Korea, and other states too numerous to mention. These states developed not by declaring their independence from foreign technological and financial patronage but by first embracing this patronage, after a harsh but realistic acknowledgement that their indigenous technology and financial industry was inadequate to support their ambitious developmental projects.
There is a right way to do things and there is a wrong way. If an idea or agenda is poorly conceived or poorly implemented, I don't see how the problem can be attributed to the idea itself. Even lofty practices like democracy can be misused, abused, and poorly actualized, leading to a nostalgia for military dictatorships. We have seen this in many parts of Africa where the citizenry actually supported the overthrow of elected civilian governments. Are such situations indictments of democracy as an idea and a practice?
George: Moses, here is a quote:
" Then our people lived peacefully, under the democratic rule of their
kings...Then the country was ours, in our name and right. The land
belonged to the whole tribes. There were no classes, no rich or poor and
no exploitation of man by man. All men were free and equal and this was
the foundation of government. Recognition of this general principle
found _expression in the constitution of the council, variously called
Imbizo, or Pitso or Kgotla, which governs the affairs of the tribe. The
council (of elders) was so completely democratic that all members of the
tribe could participate in its deliberations. Chief and subject, warrior
and medicine man, all took part and endeavoured to influence its
decisions. There was much in such a society that was primitive and
insecure, and certainly could never measure up to the demands of the
present epoch. But in such a society are contained the seeds of
revolutionary democracy (Winnie Mandela, Part Of My Soul Went With Him.
New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1985; p.53).
Moses, you think Mandela is nuts? The comments you made, as well as
those by Kissi, and Emetulu, about traditional Africa or Africa's
heritage amounted to academic nit-picking that serves little purpose.
Everyone knows that diversity is the hallmark of black Africa's
heritage. Yet, certain commonalities can be discerned and generalities
made. For example, most traditional African societies did not have
standing armies. Less than 20 out of the over 2,000 ethnic groups had
standing armies. Therefore, I can safely say that standing armies were
not a feature of most traditional African societies. You can point to a
few exceptions but the exceptions do not make the rule.
Moses: Winnie Mandela is not nuts; she is naïve and ill-informed about African history, just like most of our politicians. Some of our politicians know otherwise but persist in painting an irritatingly romantic picture of the African past in order to score political points and to get away with misbehavior. I don't believe that Winnie belongs in this category, so I must put her incredibly romantic proclamation above down to naivety and lack of or selective knowledge about the African past. Unlike these politicians, I have no political points to score or make. I am a scholar trying hard to present an independent, accurate picture of the African past. I don't believe my obligation is to pander to or validate the ignorance of African politicians no matter how honorable or credible they are. As a historian, my job is to illuminate the African past, warts and all, not to present a sanitized, emotionally appealing version of it. What is wrong is wrong. A statement like: "Then our people lived peacefully, under the democratic rule of their kings" is not only historically untrue, its generalization is egregious to say the least. That admittedly emotive statement does not cohere with the African past that I have spent many years studying and teaching. Yes, even Winnie Mandela can be wrong about our history, even if for instrumental political reasons and even if her being wrong is a product of a lack of or selective knowledge about the African past.
I have supplied several examples of ignorant or manipulative African leaders engaging in all kinds of malfeasance, taking irrational decisions and rationalizing them with the discourse of "African tradition" or "African heritage." Why should I, as a scholar, merely go along with these distortions of African history? I think that it is scholarly laziness to merely consecrate the words and claims spoken by African politicians and/or policy makers as historical or sociological truth. If we cannot transcend pedestrian and popular discourse and offer historically and sociologically accurate information on our societies then what makes us credentialed "experts"?
George: Similarly, I can
also make the following statements about traditional Africa:
1. The basic social unit is the extended family, not the individual as
in the West.
2. Strong sense of group (ethnic, religious or community) solidarity
pervades traditional Africa, exemplified by these sayings: "I am because
we are," and "It takes a village to raise a child." These resonate with
3. Food production in Africa is a female occupation. It has been for
centuries and remains so today because of sexual division of labor.
About 80 percent of peasant farmers in Africa today are women
4. Free village markets, free trade and free enterprise have been the
rule in traditional Africa for centuries and remain so.
5. Village market activity is dominated by women.
6. Bargaining is the rule in Africa's village markets
7. Village government consists of 3 units: The chief, the Council of
Elders, and the Village Assembly (Meeting). In stateless societies, the
village government is composed of only two: Council of Elders and the
8. Village governance is one of participatory democracy based on
Moses: Here you are engaging in a monologue. No one is saying that there are no commonalities among and between Africans. If geography and race were all that held Africans together, we might all have rejected the Cold-War inspired institutionalization of African Studies as a separate domain of knowledge production after the Cold War ended. The fact that such categories of knowledge are still considered relevant by institutions and practitioners alike speaks to the commonalities that exist between different African societies, the caveat being that the need for us to keep our jobs might never allow for the disintegration of such homogenizing epistemological categories even if they became irrelevant. That said, I should say that no one in this debate-not I, Kennedy, or Edward Kissi, has argued that there are no commonalities binding Africans together. My main points are these:
1. Village government, which you said was common to Africa, and thus represents an African precursor to the SNC, was NOT common. Village Government, as Kissi has also pointed out, was a minority among the several political arrangements we had in precolonial Africa. Different degrees of despotism and one-man rules were more prevalent. You have neither acknowledged this nor answered our very empirical refutation of that generalization on your part. You brought up the issue of decentralization, but I reminded you that decentralization did not necessarily connote democratization and the presence of the village model, and that, in any case, decentralization was often episodic, not permanent.
2. There are almost as many differences among and between African groups as there are commonalities. Thus, one must be circumspect when using labels such as "African political heritage," "African tradition," "African culture," etc.
I believe that as a scholar and teacher it is my responsibility to write and teach about the commonalities and the differences, and to stress the intellectual and practical difficulties involved in pigeonholing Africa into an emotionally attractive but historically false homogenizing conceptual devices. I have told you, for example, that I know that any attempt in my home country to sell the SNC as a modern Ama-Ala might scuttle the idea.
George: You CANNOT develop an African country by ignoring the traditional and the informal sectors. I challenge you to dispute this.
b. Nor can you develop the traditional and informal sectors if you do
NOT understand how they operate. They do not operate by the same logic
and systems as the modern sector does. I challenge you to dispute this
But these are precisely the two sectors African governments and elites
ignored and held in contempt after independence. They spurned the
traditional sector as "backward," "primitive" and "eye-sore." Over 70
percent of Ivory Coast development was concentrated in Abidjan, the
modern sector. The elites were for industrialization, not agriculture -
the main occupation of Africa's peasants.
Whether you Moses like it or not, Africa's peasants still go about their
activities using ANCIENT practices, institutions and customs. They still
use the hoe and the cutlass. Some even still practice female
circumcision - an ancient practice. It is preposterous to characterize
this as "glorifying or romanticizing about antiquity" when this is stark
reality staring at you in the face.
Economic development means improving the lot of these peasants - not
developing the pockets of vampire elites. But you cannot improve their
lot if you do not understand THEIR institutions and systems. We are not
talking about those you learned from textbooks in Western universities.
To improve their lot, you must go down to THEIR level and start from the
"bottom-up." That is what "grassroots development" is all about. "Back
to roots" captures the same essence. To get these peasants to produce
MORE food, you must speak the language THEY -- not you -- understand.
You can't be speaking GREEK to them when what they understand is
"profit-sharing", "susu," "esusu," "tontines," and "stokvels." You
probably don't know what these mean. Go back to your roots and learn
Tragically, we, African elites, did not do this in the post-colonial
period. Our approach was "top-down." We went abroad and copied all sorts
of FOREIGN systems and paraphernalia and transplanted them in Africa.
Name the foreign system and you will find some dysfunctional replica
somewhere in Africa. We even borrowed from Jupiter! Haba! The continent
of Africa is littered with the carcasses of these failed foreign
systems. Black man, have you thought of IMPROVING or CREATING your own?
Moses: George, I don't know what you are getting at in this rambling lecture. But I have to say that if understanding African practices and institutions means pandering to ignorance and technological backwardness, count me out of it. I asked you in my previous post if you have ever participated in "traditional" agriculture and used the crude tools that our people use. You haven't answered me. I have participated in and directly observed peasant agriculture. I don't think there is a better way of understanding "traditional" African agriculture than participating in it. I observed then, as I do now, that that kind of agriculture-devoid of scientific intervention-is a delayed death sentence. Why are most young men and women in Africa deserting the agricultural hinterlands in search of non-agricultural work in cities? Please spare me the armchair discourses. I still go to my hometown in Benue State, Nigeria whenever I visit home, and almost everyone you speak to laments (not celebrate) the agricultural system, which leads the peasants to economic dead-ends. They talk about the lack of-and their inability to afford- land clearing equipment, the lack of fertilizer, the lack of herbicides, the lack of advanced tools, etc. Everywhere I go I see a yearning for advanced farming techniques and technology and a concomitant rejection of existing agricultural practices and tools. Well, I guess the pristine, rustic, rural African folks in my village have been corrupted by African elites like me. What's more, these "traditional" folks teeter on the verge of starvation in the crucial months between planting and harvesting, which indicates to me a lack of self-sustaining surplus. How can such a people afford modest luxury if they cannot even feed themselves adequately from year to year? Yet this is the lifestyle that a self-declared proud African celebrates and valorizes.
George: Moses, as an African, I am proud of my African heritage. Perhaps, you
don't think you have one. If so, what is it? Like I said, I get
irritated when I feel I have to defend Africa's heritage to an African.
I have never said African heritage is all edifying and honky-dory. Like
American heritage or British heritage, it too comes with its warts and
all. But if it strange how some Africans denigrate their own heritage
while others still revere theirs. The Japanese still have their Emperor,
the Fins their King, and the Brits their Queen. The Americans are still
ruled by a Constitution that is more than 200 years old and constantly
talking about their Founding Fathers. I do not hear you accusing
Americans of romanticizing about their antiquity. And you, Moses, accuse
me of "romanticizing about antiquity"? I am sure you will also dismiss
President Thabo Mbeki's "African Renaissance" as "phantamastic."
Moses: The above would normally not get a response from me, since it is the irritating emotional performance of African identity that one encounters from time to time. But some discourses need to be deconstructed for what they really are. My response to the above emotive declaration is best captured by the indelible words of Wole Soyinka, who declared amidst the rising wave of negritude and other movements of African authenticity that a tiger does not (have to) exhibit its tigritude; and those of Mamadou Diouf, who in a recent personal conversation, said quite aptly that negritudist, Pan-Africanist, and African authenticity discourses and performances do not make sense for a continental African. They are understandable for people located on the "fringes" of African identity, but almost silly for a continental African.
I have already stated my views on Thabo Mbeki's "African Renaissance." Go and (re) read it in my previous post. No need for repetition.
George: BOTSWANA is the only African country that did not spurn its indigenous
institutions. It went back to its roots and build upon them. And it is
doing very well, thank you. Botswana is not starving, it has not
imploded. Nor do you see Botswana, with a bowl in hand, begging foreign
institutions to come and solve its problems. As a matter of fact,
Botswana does not borrow from the World Bank; it rather lends money to
the World Bank.
So why don't you, Moses, crow about Botswana as a truly AFRICAN success
story and a model which Nigeria should emulate?
Moses: What do you mean by Botswana being "the only African country that did not spurn its indigenous institutions"? Are you saying that the Botswana of today is the Botswana of precolonial times, that the country is trapped in some precolonial time capsule, and that despite being colonized extensively as a settler colony, its "African" institutions never underwent any modifications and changes, or were never affected by colonial "modernity" and culture? You should clarify what you mean because I see bizarre falsities in your claim above. You tend to claim here that Botswana has preserved its indigenous institutions best and has been a success story because of this. The chain of causality is as flawed as its anchor. The former claim is not true. Therefore, the latter claim, which is anchored on the former, cannot be true either. Botswana has been a success story, not because it has preserved its indigenous institutions-whatever that means-but because of political stability, transparent democratic government, intolerance for corruption, and the development of the diamond mining industry and tourism industries. In fact, Botswana is the most modern and most Western-looking republic among the small Southern African states. It practices a presidential system of democracy, with an executive president, has deliberately courted Western investment, with great success, and has engaged in developmental endeavors that verge on modernization and Westernization.
May I remind you that Lesotho and Swaziland, two neighboring Southern African states, who have preserved their monarchy and have tried since independence to recreate a semblance (or is it a façade) of traditionalism are doing badly today. The latter even has an absolute monarch, the last in Africa. How much more indigenous and traditional can a state get? Yet, Swaziland remains an eye sore in Southern Africa and is mired in poverty.
George: D. Sovereign National Conference (SNC)
Moses, the national conferences held in Zaire and Togo, for example, did
not succeed because they were not "sovereign", nor "independent." They
were manipulated by the incumbents and, moreover, their decisions were
not binding on the incumbents. Therefore, you CANNOT say the SNC did not
succeed in Zaire and Togo when they were not sovereign nor independent.
It succeeded in Benin and South Africa precisely because they were
sovereign and independent. Now, participants in both cases affirmed that
it was derived from Africa's own indigenous institution: The village
meeting or ndaba, as the Zulus call it. For you to claim that you know
better than the Beninois, the South Africans and even the Afghans takes
intellectual arrogance to new heights of absurdity. I won't argue over
this. I take what the Beninois and South Africans tell me, not what you
Moses tell me.
Moses: Again, let me tell you that my obligation as a scholar is not to parrot or validate what African politicians (with sometimes very little knowledge of African history and sociology) say. I am required by my training to go beyond popular and emotionally useful invocations of the African past and African "tradition" to unearth a picture of the African past that is as true as possible. The search for truth is what drives history; I don't know about other disciplines. Of, course postmodernists will have a field day tearing apart this postulation. However, I will never shirk my responsibility to present a picture of the African past that is as accurate as possible in light of existing evidence, even if such an exercise contradicts what politicians and other Africans believe and proclaim.
George: This was a student who frequently argued with me in class "external
factors." When she walked into my office to hand in her paper, she was
profuse with thanks. She said the course had had a tremendous impact on
her and has changed her way of thinking completely. [Aarh, brown-nosing
again. Students will say anything to get an A, I said to myself. In her
case, it was not necessary as I had told my students at the beginning of
the semester that they do not have to agree with me to get an A for the
Another African graduate student from Nigeria is writing a paper on how
to apply indigenous Igbo conflict resolution mechanisms to modern day
African conflicts. The Igbo mechanisms employ the liberal use of women
in conflict resolution. Note that in my original piece, I called for the
inclusion of CIVIL SOCIETY or those directly and indirectly affected by
the conflict to be involved in its resolution. It takes a village to
resolve a conflict.
Moses: George, If your pedagogical priority is the creation of your own intellectual (or is it ideological) clones, good luck. My aim in the classroom is much less ambitious. I seek to present to my students an Africa that by virtue of its multifaceted connections to the West and to non-Western parts of the World, cannot discount foreign involvement in her affairs or afford to abruptly reject foreign aid, logistical support, or diplomatic support for conflict resolution.
George: Moses, what we need is PEACE. If the indigenous conflict resolution
mechanism will bring peace, why not use it? Who cares whether this
mechanism was used in 1367 or 1973?
Moses: The above statement would be poignant but for the fact that you have failed to:
1. prove that the solution that you advocate-the SNC model-is an "indigenous conflict resolution mechanism
2. give even ONE (1) example in Africa where an "indigenous conflict resolution mechanism" ALONE brought resolution to a conflict. I challenge you to name one conflict in which a so-called indigenous or traditional mechanism of conflict resolution ALONE without foreign involvement was decisive in resolving a crisis. Thank you.
Conclusion: This discussion is getting cyclical and boring. You have been repeating the same points over and over again, giving new examples for the same phenomenon as previously examples are shot down and disproved. While doing this, you have failed to answer the empirical and theoretical criticisms that Kennedy, Kissi and myself have offered. You have now resorted to the emotional blackmail of questioning my African pride, as if that has anything to do with anything. I will continue to respond to you, but please try and address points and criticism that I have raised without simply dismissing them as "academic nitpicking" and "academic solution." We are both academics, not policy makers, so offering criticisms from academic perspectives should not be abhorrent or strange to you. Besides, I have been just as practical in my contributions as you have been.