Democratization in Africa: The Theory and Dynamics of Political Transitions

By Earl Conteh-Morgan | Go to book overview

6
The Ethnopolitical-Democratization
Conflict Nexus

Born in iniquity and conceived in sin, the spirit of nationalism has never ceased to bend human institutions to the service of dissension and distress.

Thorstein Veblen Absentee Ownership

Africa's imperial colonial legacy means that Africa continues to struggle with the overall problem of nation-building, as well as with the specific ways in which questions of political legitimacy are being grappled by and for Africans. The externally imposed European colonial structures created massive historical transformations that resulted in not only carving up the continent, but in producing major political anomalies that affected nearly every African society. In the nineteenth century, in particular, developments were taking place within Africa itself that made the various societies more susceptible to European impositions. The consequence was that the contradictions, the fluid internal situation, or the internal political crises, were not permanently transcended by the imposition of European order, but were instead given new complications as part of the legacy of colonial rule. In other words, the Europeans used their knowledge of nineteenth-century African societies and political dynamics to achieve their imperial goals and thereby satisfy more of the systemic value of the hisorical period: the acquisition of colonial territories.

While European impositions in Africa created and certainly exacerbated many of the ethnic divisions, the bases for most of the groups were already active forces. The impostion of European equilibrium on African societies brought about the inclusion of different groups into a larger structure called the state, where, for the first time, they engaged in sustained interaction as a

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