African independence was fought and won on the premise of demonstrating that ‘after all the Blackman was capable of managing his own affairs’. The agenda was, therefore, an optimistic rise from squalor and underdevelopment that had characterized colonial Africa, to an Africa ‘becoming the metropolis of scientific agriculture; the Centre of philosophy and learning’; an Africa, industrialized and rubbing shoulders with the rest of the world. However, Africa’s independence was eclipsed at birth by global imperatives and/or shifts, redrawing thereby, the contours of Africa’s agenda.
Africa’s independence in the 1960s met with the height of the Cold War, an international systemic order that became (until 1990) the metaphor for determining and defining global development. The East-West confrontation meant that Africa had to abandon course and become part of a world order, over which it had no control. The numerous coups d’état on the continent had much to do with the Cold War international system. The attendant problems of the artificial creation of Africa’s nation-states by colonialism teamed up, in a jelly manner, with the Cold War to drift Africa towards new agendas – to deal with internal hiccups, including irredentism, and cautiously navigate the perilous trail of global geo-strategic politics. The path towards proper decolonization and towards rapid development was abandoned; security became the most important concern in African governance. The democracy path was lost; corruption and dictatorship took the better of governance in Africa, while the Cold War patronage system acquiesced. The meaningless wars of the Congo, Ethiopia/Eritrea, Ethiopia/Somalia, Central Africa Republic, Rwanda, Burundi, etc., and the ethnic strives in Uganda, Kenya, Ivory Coast, and elsewhere on the African continent, have much to do with colonialism as with the Cold War.
At the end of the Cold War, the expectation was that the world would find a way to have some normative ethic that would allow for free development, devoid of ideology, with multi-lateralism (e.g. through the United Nations) as the defining antenna. We were all wrong. Samuel Huntington’s prediction of the ‘Clash of Civilizations’ has come true. Ideology is still a defining metaphor in global political economy. Erroneously, the end of the Cold War created a mis-perception; theories of ‘endism’ (Fukuyama’s ‘End of History’), ‘declinism’, ‘Pax-Americana’, ‘bound-to-lead’ etc., were churned out by the academia in the US, ostensibly to urge America and the West to spread ‘democracy’, especially the type that is laced with Western values. It is the desire to effectuate this perception that has created a world of instability. It must be noted though that even before the end of the Cold War and the collapse of communism, most global institutions had been infected with ideology. The International Finance Institutions (IFIs), notably the IMF and the World Bank, impose on developing countries, especially those of Africa and Latin America, programmes that are steeped in liberal postulates (Structural Adjustment, for instance), which programmes usually end up shrinking the policy space of governments and end up derailing Africa’s development agenda. Indeed, Structural Adjustment ended up causing Africa to be heavily indebted and more impoverished. The Highly Indebted and Poor Country (HIPC) Initiative is a true indictment of Structural Adjustment.
And so it is that the spread of democracy has engendered more terrorism and Africa is having its fair share. Africa is battling with a very negative and disturbing phenomenon – the rise of sub-national groups (terrorism). Mauritania, Algeria, Mali, Niger, Chad, Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, Central Africa Republic, Cameroun, Nigeria, are all encountering insurgencies. Some other parts of Africa still have smoking guns. So, since independence, Africa has had to tread an unexpected agenda of dealing with instability. For instance, among the key decisions made in Addis Ababa, at the just ended 24th Ordinary Summit of the AU, were those that demonstrate African countries’ main focus and solidarity in tackling terrorism and resolving civil conflicts. The AU’s Peace and Security Council agreed to seek a new multinational African force of 7,500 troops to stop Boko Haram (which has already killed over 13,000 people) from spreading across the region. Incidentally, nothing was said about Al Shabaab, AQIM and others, all of whom have become an imminent threat to some of the most underdeveloped and impoverished regions of Africa. The insurgencies are a challenge both to security as well as social and economic development. Of great interest here is the fact that there are 12 high-risk elections in countries like Nigeria, South Sudan, Togo, Burundi, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, and Sudan – among others. Of major concern is the possibility of constitutional manipulation or flawed electoral processes. There is also the risk that elections will be deemed illegitimate by certain groups and this may lead to community violence, adding to the problem of terrorism on the continent.
It is clear that the combination of high-risk elections and the burgeoning violence of terrorist groups could make 2015 a particularly turbulent year for African countries. Africa’s search for progress and development has not found that agenda that would ensure success. This is because the unexpected agenda has been laid by the nature of international political economy. True Africa’s own lack of trait, visionary, and transformational leaders; and the presence of kleptomania and insipid corruption in African governance systems have combined with the aforesaid to create instability and a diversion from the needed agenda. But these threats to social stability and to the peace of the continent should also provide an opportunity for African leaders and activists to develop a long-term vision of how to address these issues and capitalize on progress. In this, reliance on powers that have a vested interest in the spread of their values would be a disaster.
The only agenda left for Africa is the intensification of integration. With integration, instability dies; with integration, there is intensity of trade and interaction among peoples; with integration, there is rapid infrastructural development; with integration, there is a sense of community. Let us unite, and rapidly too!