Identity, Citizenship, and Political Conflict in Africa

Identity, Citizenship, and Political Conflict in Africa

Identity, Citizenship, and Political Conflict in Africa

Identity, Citizenship, and Political Conflict in Africa

Synopsis

Reflecting on the processes of nation-building and citizenship formation in Africa, Edmond J. Keller believes that although some deep parochial identities have eroded, they have not disappeared and may be more assertive than previously thought, especially in instances of political conflict. Keller reconsiders how national identity has been understood in Africa and presents new approaches to identity politics, intergroup relations, state-society relations, and notions of national citizenship and citizenship rights. Focusing on Nigeria, Ethiopia, Cote d'Ivoire, Kenya, and Rwanda, he lays the foundation for a new understanding of political transition in contemporary Africa.

Excerpt

When I first entered graduate school and decided to, fell into, or was drawn by my mentors into the study of African development and change, the continent was at the earliest stages of its sociopolitical transitions from colonial rule to democracy. I can recall that at the time, there was a great deal of optimism that—despite what looked like a rocky road ahead—independent African states would slowly but surely transform themselves into liberal democracies similar to those found in the West. One of the primary assumptions of scholars at the time was that Africa needed both national and regional political integration; however, national integration was the most immediate objective. In other words, scholars believed that highly ethnically diverse states could be transformed into multiethnic or multitribal political systems comprised of individuals and ethnic communities that would see the nation states to which they belonged as terminal communities—the community to which one owed her/his political primary allegiance. The key was thought to be getting institutions right. Democratic political institutions and liberal economic and social institution were thought to be the panaceas necessary and sufficient to move Africa toward this destiny.

However, after a half century of independence, the goal of national political integration is as elusive as ever. Nations have been built, and the African citizens in those nations appear to accept that they have allegiance to the particular nation-states to which they belong; but, the allegiance of their citizens tend to be more often than not divided between the nation-state and the ethnic communities to which they claim ancestry. In some cases, attachment to the subnational community is more fiction than reality, but is clung to as though it were primordially based. The question I was thus confronted with is, “Will . . .

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