Subnationalism in Africa: Ethnicity, Alliances, and Politics

Subnationalism in Africa: Ethnicity, Alliances, and Politics

Subnationalism in Africa: Ethnicity, Alliances, and Politics

Subnationalism in Africa: Ethnicity, Alliances, and Politics

Synopsis

Forrest explores the trend toward regional autonomy in contemporary Africa, analyzing the growth of ethnic subnationalist movements and their implications for African politics.

Excerpt

This study investigates the rise of subnationalism in contemporary Africa, focusing on the process of political mobilization by regionally based forces. Subnationalist movements aim to widen the degree of political autonomy of a particular region, achieve outright territorial autonomy within an existing nation-state, or secede from that nation-state and establish a new nation. Although there are as yet few examples of outright secession in Africa, it is the argument of this study that a growing tendency toward regional assertion and autonomy seeking is gradually posing a significant challenge to African nation-states.

I argue that in analyzing the mobilization of subnationalist movements, it is crucial to distinguish between uni-ethnic and interethnic forms of regional autonomy seeking. Uni-ethnic movements are based on alliances created among activists pertaining to a single ethnic group, while interethnic movements pursue regional autonomy on the basis of alliances among activists from two or more such groups. The alliance building aspect of uni-ethnic and interethnic movements represents an important and overlooked aspect of the study of subnationalism.

I further suggest that while colonial states in Africa reshaped the structure of macro-level politics and often transformed patterns of social identity, in a number of regions the political basis of mobilization reflects considerable consistency with precolonial patterns of alliance building. In Chapter 2, I argue that collaborative political behavior in precolonial times—among villages, localities, groups, leaders, and polities—provides a historical and cultural subtext for . . .

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