Archive | January, 2013

Mali and the Berlin States of Afrika

21 Jan

Thoughts from the memoir of  Nwanatifu Nwaco

While most European states are based on the Peace of Westphalia of 1648 on territorial sovereignty, almost all African states originate from the General Act of the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 regulating colonialism.The state system in Africa is an imported model lacking the sociological realities or the domestic power relations of Europe to get it implanted in Africa. African states are in contrast failing to develop into sovereign nation-states if compared in terms of institutions and state capacity to the older states. As such we must accept that States vary in how they are formed, so do their sources of legitimacy. The origins and sources of legitimacy of African states are different from those of European states formed along ethnic lines.

We all know the OAU/AU charter of 1963 and other international conventions and charters complicate issues  with their stance  against secession and the restructuring of borders manufactured at Berlin, which reiterates that states are to desist from expansionism and shall maintain the boundaries they inherited at decolonization. This in itself a very “Unwilsonian” point, as regards the 14 points that aroused nationalist demands after the 20th century World Wars. The African states have been forbidden after their urgent independence to revert to their pre-colonial contexts and frontiers or to renegotiate their territorial boundaries to merge or reunite divided ethnic groups still trapped in several neighbouring states.

The separatist map of Africa: interactive

The separatist map of Africa: interactive

The colonialists were evidently only interested in the economic gains attendant to colonization, to consider the tribal and nationalistic lines of affiliation inherent in the pre-existing African social sphere. This negligence led to ill-considered partitions of the continent usually dissecting tribes and indigenous nations as far as it suited the economic gains of the colonial power. Perhaps a landlocked Tuareg homeland and country isn’t such a bad idea, given that colonialism had split and trapped this Tuareg nation in several Sahara republics. If the unfortunate Islamist come terrorist component was deleted from the Tuareg scenario, the condition will be a perfect struggle for self-determination which by South Sudan’s example has much credit and reason.
The Malian case replicates itself all over the mother continent, where before colonization city-states and interdependent communities existed along empires. The criminalization of secession wedded strange bed fellows which had hitherto annexation coexisted in peaceful suspicion. Multi-ethnic states are long-term possibilities if African states can build equal representation governments and institutions, but in a political system where patriotism and power source ethnicity as a point of departure, foundation and pillar on which power and legitimacy rest. Hence African leaders and institutions face the difficult task of maintaining several nations within a single state and have resorted more to ethnic foundations which ensure loyalty, as in the military and civil service to maintain national cohesion and independence. Where these are lacking regime security takes centre stage over nationhood with the sole option being to resort to the international community for survival.

The dangers of reshaping national boundaries to coincide along ethnic lines has the danger of creating many aggressive resource-less petty states or resourceful self-reliant states in proximity to each other. A Tuareg state of Azawad could be such a kind state. Examples of potential states abound. As such, Africa is ripe for another phase of nationalism and decolonization of itself from its own self.
The next question is whether the Westphalian states who created the Berlin states can panel beat them. It seems easy but it is not, since the successor states of the colonial creations have evolved into unique political systems and political cultures. Gunboat tactics worked in the past, but to continuously approach today’s African state with the same colonial panacea of yesteryear is futile and no amount of bombardment can deliver the much-needed cosmetic surgery on the deformed face of nation-state-building.
Lightening strikes same spot four times yet lesson not learned. The toughness and resilience put on display by a supposedly rogue militia in Mali in the face of a conventional and very well armed and disciplined French forces, bears stark resemblance with those in Iraq, Afghanistan and other scenes of armed response to militants against the USA and the NATO coalition.The African Union, European Union, United Nations, and Arab League were encountering a hazardous reality in the war zones while negotiations to install peace have proved inefficient to curb the protracted conflict in the sub-region. I believe it is time the wrongs he or call them the deliberate mistakes of Berlin be reviewed.
Now how does one vanquish an enemy to whom death means victory?

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Legitimacy Crises and the State System in Africa

18 Jan

An introductory essay by Nwanatifu Nwaco

The constant occurrence of territorial disputes in Africa has necessitated numerous scholarly research and theoretical formulations on predicting, understanding, explaining why states wage war against each other.  What is intriguing is that most of these disputed territories might in fact have no geostrategic or economic resources that benefit the claimants. Looking at the several self determination and secessionist movements in Africa as engineers of internal and trans-border conflict, the very nature and process of state formation and building of African states explains the prevalence of conflicts in and among them, in the same way it determines their how they relate to each other. 

States vary in how they have been formed, so do their sources of legitimacy. African states comply with the Montevideo treaty’s [1] definition of a state. The Peace treaty of Westphalia in 1648 established two predominant principles of international relations among states into:

(1)   The government of each country is unequivocally sovereign within its territorial jurisdiction.

(2)   Countries shall not interfere in each other’s domestic affairs.[2]

This legitimized the ideas of sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of states. States in the modern state system always claim or invoke these principles to justify their actions. However recent African states are in contrast failing to develop into sovereign nation-states if compared in terms of institutions and state capacity to the older states that had have evolved since Westphalian state system.

The Oxford concise dictionary of politics defines a state as “a distinct set of political institutions whose specific concern is with the organization of domination, in the name of common interest, within a particular territory.” It defines further that the most influential definition of the modern state is that provided by Weber which emphasizes three aspects of territoriality, the monopoly of the means of physical violence and its legitimacy. [3]

“A state is defined as a territorial association of people recognized for the purpose of law and diplomacy as a legally equal member of the system of states.”[4]

The embedded and interacting attributes in the above definitions are the State, Government and Legitimacy. Due to the abstract nature of the state, the governmental attribute shall be used to explain how the conflict resolution process between the African states in question was acquired and exercised with dependence on legitimacy and recognition from other states. The principle of territoriality interweaves in the formulation of the theory of state legitimacy to explore the  question why the international community is successful in preventing conflicts in some border disputes but not in others?

The quest for theories to explain the causes of boundary disputes in Africa in respect to other states within the international political system and on the continent of Africa, while they stress territoriality more and emphasizing short comings from governance as established causes and potential solutions, has not gone in depth into researching how the external dependency of African states owing to their process of arbitrary creation from international action by European colonialism[5], recognition has been both a cause and choice of solution to these states. As such, the willingness and denial of the disputants in the Bakassi and Badme border disputes of international pressure for peace is more a matter of acquiring legitimacy and recognition from fellow states.

Max Weber and why do African states fail to establish this monopoly?

Max Weber offers yet an outstanding definition of Legitimacy as:

a compulsory political association with continuous organization that successfully upholds a claim to the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force in the enforcement of its order within a given territorial area.”[6]

The Weberian definition the state is the source of monopoly of the legitimate use of force which is exercised by state institutions or persons and commands obedience from the governed or the component elements of the state. Legitimacy enables the government to project authority and dominion over the internal and external sovereignty of the state it represents.

Deducing from empirical research, African states do not have the monopoly over the legitimate use of physical force, due to variations in state capacity, because of difficult geography, rough terrain, poverty, inter-state competition and warfare and the domestic political competition influence the incentives of politicians to build state capacity.[7]  Moreover, “Claims to territorial legitimacy may rest on the asserted right of a state to control all of the territory which it has occupied at some point in the past on its own right to govern the area allocated to it by international agreements or revolutionary aspirations to liberate or even salvation.”

Weak countries and failed states lack the means or competence to deal effectively with violent conflict because they are not capable of guaranteeing internal security and their instruments to execute the state monopoly of violence are inefficient. This lack of effective control over territory and sociologic components of the state, the absence of authority to advance basic rights and freedoms, enforce laws and allow for citizens participation in the political process, breeds the need for external intervention by the international community in the sovereign domain of a state if its government cannot provide the most basic state functions makes them risky to both the people of that country and to international peace and security.[8] These erode internal legitimacy and leave the state dependent on external sources of legitimacy for internal domination.

Cycles of Conflict

If a reason exists that has succeeded in replicating itself within the causal factors responsible for the emergence of disagreements and disputes between states, it is none other than boundary related disputes. The world in general and indeed Africa in particular is sated with such disputes.  Nevertheless, boundary or territorial disputes between nation-states are based on rival or competing interests…

This introduction is a prologue to a subsequent article on the theme: “Military interventions and the peace building processes in failed states.”


[1] Montevideo Convention on Rights and Duties of States; December 26, 1933, ARTICLE 1 definesThe state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: a ) a permanent population; b ) a defined territory; c ) government; and d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.

[2] Andreas Osiander, Sovereignty, International Relations, and the Westphalian Myth. International Organization  No.55, 2, Spring 2001, pp. 260-261http://www.labmundo.org/disciplinas/OSIENDER_sovereignty_international_relations_and_the_westphalian_myth.pdf

[3] Ian McLean, 1996, The Oxford concise dictionary of politics, Oxford University Press, pp 472-474

[4] Christopher Clapham, 1996, Africa and the International System: The Politics of State Survival, Cambridge University Press, pp 11

[5] Op.cit, Clapham, 2006, pp 4

[6] Max Weber, 1947, The Theory Of Social And Economic Organization, The Free Press, pp 154

[7] Daron Acemoglu, James A. Robinson, Rafael J. Santos, November 2009, The Monopoly of Violence: Evidence from Colombia, pp1 http://www.econ.ku.dk/phdstudent/Bentzen/Monopoly%20of%20Violence.%20Evidence%20from%20Columbia.pdf

[8] Herbert Wulf, 2006, Reconstructing the Public Monopoly of Legitimate Force, Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces , pp 87 – 89

Politicians as Public Administrators

18 Jan

By Nwanatifu Nwaco

Actually,there exists in practicality no clear dichotomy between managers and leaders. The goal lies in the outcomes of the organisations and institutions they both represent.
Administrators or Managers might exist within formal organizational institutions like companies or public service administrative departments, also called administrators. The goal of leaders or in other terms politicians might be to seek power or position for public office, in which case they seek the approval of the electorates from which they acquire legitimacy and followers.  Policy formulation here is largely pragmatic and hangs on socio-political consensus achieved by negotiations and compromise with other opinion and interest holders. In a typical political situation, the leader manifests his attributes through tolerance and fair play considerations. For example the recent trend in conflict prone societies has been for leaders to accept power sharing deals with members of opposition groups.

Where as in managerial positions, they are mostly elitist and guided by norms of membership and participation, such as the administrative corps where managers or leaders go through a routine process of training and must follow certain procedures in the execution of their duties. In political leadership is founded on an ideology and legitimacy is drawn from charisma such as in leaders of revolutionary or transitional circumstances and in other forms of domination as classified by Max Weber.  Managers are mostly implementers of policies formulated by political leadership and are often irresponsible for the failure of a policy. Political leaders witness consternation and can effectively seek or lose power if voted out through a statutory process or by popular revolution meanwhile mangers might maintain their positions beyond the mandate of the political leadership that brought them into office.

Political leadership may lack the benefit of interaction with immediate and remote subordinates, meanwhile public service management follows a hierarchical chain of command and there is the presence of interpersonal relationships. In political leadership, one cannot aspire to advance in position whereas public management is a career corps with possibilities of advancement in grades and remuneration. In political leadership, martyrdom may be an instrument of achieving a following but in staff/managerial leadership, martyrdom is not a norm.

A good political leader is one whose legitimacy is derived and depends on the consent of those represented, as in democracies. A good manager is one who is accountable to both the leadership that appoints or elects him and to the institution which he serves.
Leadership entails making decisions and taking responsibilities for their outcomes, be those good or bad, such as conceding to defeat by an opponent with a better public agenda and being flexible in administrative procedures and policy asking. Leadership should be able to work with groups, cross-functional teams and individually. This distinguishes it from crisis management into a culture of leadership.
Leadership means affecting the behavior of others in some desired way!
Managers though exercising leadership functions within organisations can within political systems be considered auxiliaries of political leaders.