Federation and Devolution

The True African Way of Governance 

Home

Must-see downloads

 Federation and Devolution

Projects to watch

MASSOB (Biafra) 

FLEC (Cabinda) 

Free Ambazonia 

MAIB (Bioko Island)  

"Yet, with Matope's death the Empire began to break up. Why? Notwithstanding all the forces mentioned above that should have made for unity and stability, the actual fact is that the traditional African political system was fundamentally and structurally anti-empire. The very circumstance of the endless process of segmentation, of forever splintering off to form little independent mini-states, developed a built-in disunity, reinforced by the attending growth of different languages. But self-government or chiefdom was a way of life, not a theory. Chiefs and Elders, as we have seen, were leaders, advisors and representatives of the people, and not their rulers. The same operating principle prevailed when a group of states united to form a kingdom and kingdoms united to form an empire, but with a disturbing difference: Centralization tended to erode local autonomy, transferring chiefs from the control of their people to the control of the central government. In the case of conquered territories this change was abrupt and painful. And it was one of the principal reasons for later rebellions and the break-up of kingdoms and empires."

 - Chancellor Williams, The Destruction of Black Civilization: Great Issues of a Race from 4500 B.C. to 2000 A.D.

 

 In his book, Williams, who gave one of the most underrated narratives on Africa, its people, and why they have suffered throughout history (and continue to suffer, even in the 21st century world in which we live), detailed an underlying factor in Africa's orientation to law and governance: the tendency of nation-states and empires, such as Mali and Monomotapa, to devolve within the short timespans that they did.


He noted that the kingdoms and empires usually began as a band of smaller, local chiefdoms who joined together under some charismatic leading militant, such as the aforementioned Matope of Monomotapa (in present-day Zimbabwe), for some specific purpose, such as resistance against a foreign menace from across the desert or sea. Eventually, they began to unite into even greater cohesions as the military leader married the daughters of the chiefs in order to unite them all under one paramount chief, namely himself. However, these were soon to devolve upon the death of the "Emperor", as the charisma which united the empire died along with him, thus resulting in successors who were of lesser incentive and capability than the Emperor, thus encouraging other militant leaders to assume power through violence or some other ill gain. The process continued for years afterward, repeated until the empire passed on into oblivion, with little to remain of it for others in succeeding ages to to pass by on their sojourns through the region which once held host to it.


However, as we are now seeing with the continuing evolution of post-colonial sub-Saharan Africa, maybe the road to empire was something that was proven to be incompatible with the most immediate realities that have faced the many-tongued peoples of this region of the world. Maybe, as was seen with the fate of Yugoslavia, or the fate of the West Indies Federation, or is being seen in Indonesia with Aceh and West Papua, or is even being seen in the United States of America with California and Hawai'i, its really not an infinitely-sustainable solution or goal for others and their locales, either.

Third-World countries - heck, just about all large countries and their governments - have this heartfelt belief which sits at the very core of their mandate that their way - toward unity under one government, one language, one code of law, one religion, one this, one that, one other - is the best way, and any division or deviance from such a unity is a threat to the society in which said government plays a key role in the creation and building of.

Therefore, in order to preserve said society, the government must take offensive action against such deviance for defensive purposes. To Abuja, MASSOB is a threat. To Yaounde, ALIP is a threat. To Dakar, MFDC is a threat. To Ottawa, le Bloc Quebecois is a threat. To Jakarta, Free Papua is a threat.  To Colombo, the LTTE are a threat.

These offensive measures include imprisonment, torture, curfews, execution, and mass murder of supporters (real or supposed).


For African nations, however, there's been more than just preserving the "territorial integrity" at stake when it comes to moves for autonomy, federation, or simple secession: there's the belief that African countries are imbued with this obligation of making up for the face that was lost during the Slave Trade(s) and - if nothing else - colonialism and (for Southern Africa) apartheid. This, of course, is measured up against their "former" colonial masters - Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal.

Not surprisingly, this is also a common train of thought which makes round trips throughout Latin America, which was the greatest recipient of those slaves from Africa, and, in spite of that, is not that much better off from its neighbor from across the South Atlantic (save, maybe, for the rather tiny minority of predominately-European-origin upper-class residents).

Both of these areas were victims of colonialism and imperialism, and the remains of those "glories" of Euro-Christian civilization are left behind to bear witness. Currently in Latin America, a general backlash has surfaced against the current state of affairs in which the region is residing; however, in spite of what's going on in this region's politics, Latin America has long been known for retaining the status quo in some form or fashion, and ultimately resisting drastic internal change (such as kicking out the Roman Catholic priests, or the landowners, or even - as in Haiti - throw out or kill all the white people). Thus, whatever that is to become of the populisms of Chavez or Morales in the Andes, or whatever serious effect that they are to have on Latin America, has a long time to be truly judged.


But there are a few things in this issue of sovereignty which are certain: for a government to remain relevant to its people in a given region, its mandate must be extended deep enough to allow for the residents in whichever region to receive the benefits of the mandate. In return, the public (and its interests) in this region must have adequate representation in the government and its functionings. If either of these two are to lack in any degree of substance or strength, the imperative for withdrawal of that region from the above governance is bound to increase. 

Ironically, this was at the core for the movements of African and American independence from European colonization. Now, however, such an assessment has long departed from the existences of most of these same nations and their governments. In essence, these countries have become what the movements for their independence vervently fought against: the Europes of the South.