The only people holding Africa back are the African masses who continue to allow themselves to be left out of important political matters by career politicians. The result is unsurprisingly the same old story of ‘independence’ without freedoms for ordinary men and women; an abundance of natural wealth that will not protect the poor from poverty; centralised authority and exclusive democracy that will protect certain ethnic groups over others.
What we have learned from decades of African ‘independence’ is that territorial integrity alone is just not enough. Independence without safeguard measures to protect democratic institutions and processes is antagonist to personal freedoms. Without personal freedoms there is no liberty!
Politics in Africa needs to start working for the ordinary man and woman and every ethnic group within the modern unitary state boundaries. Centralising and abusing State power in a highly diverse sociopolitical African environment alienates governments from the general population and creates a crisis in the relations between various interest groups in different countries.
African governments have, over the years, shown a bias for military measures to address internal political conflict. This over-reliance on ill-disciplined armies to suppress legitimate domestic political grievances has led to –current and historical- protracted civil wars and/or serious abuse of human rights in the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Somalia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Mozambique, Angola, South Sudan, among others while the Zimbabwean State sanctioned atrocious human rights abuses in Matabeleland between 1983 and 1987.
Evidence of the impact of military interventions in Colombia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and other regions clearly shows that military might alone will not defeat ideas of such groups as Al Qaeda, Boko Haram and others in this world. Africa needs to rebalance political power distribution across society, increase civilian participation in politics and rid itself of endemic corruption. Inclusive governance and more importantly, better protection of minority rights will help eliminate breeding and recruitment grounds for extremists.
Insidious ideologies and acts of such groups as al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Lord Resistance Army and others are vile and inexcusable but we have to acknowledge that their source of origin, support and maintenance lies somewhere within our sociopolitical institutions. Astute leadership and honesty, as opposed to arrogance, is required to deal with those sociopolitical factors that promote extremism.
What African governments need to appreciate is that virtually all of the continent’s current political problems are not susceptible to military solutions. Military might will not of itself defeat extreme ideologies; instead, better political engagement and policies stand a better chance of eliminating the source of such ideas. Direct democracy, extensive and real devolution of power will save African multinational states.