Does this sound familiar? It is like reading the book on the ANC.
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Africa has had to endure two different waves of liberation movements.
The first wave was established to free Africans from the political, economic and military domination of European colonial powers and post-colonial settler states.
Such political and military movements include the Front for National Liberation (FNL) of Algeria the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), the West African People’s Organisation (SWAPO) of Namibia, the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO), the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa and the African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and the Cape Verde (PAIGC).
Second-wave liberation movements were expressions of widespread discontent with the unfulfilled promises of the regimes, which inherited the colonial state apparatus.
These movements include the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF), the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) of Ethiopia, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLA) of South Sudan, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and the National Resistance Movement (NRM) of Uganda.
All these liberation movements have contributed much to defeat decaying and oppressive regimes and thus to pave the way for appreciable change. Discipline, enormous sacrifices, an admirable sense of determination mainly account for the liberation movements’ capacity to endure hard times and then successfully attain political power.
The liberation movements were also mostly inspired by Marxism, a combative political ideology which stresses mass-oriented political mobilisation, aims to effect socio-political changes by force of arms if necessary, and ascribes a vanguard role for a hegemonic movement hierarchically organised along democratic-centralist lines.
However, the idealised sense of mission of all these liberation movements gradually expired. In fact, it has become increasingly clear that it is nothing but the manifestation of the ambitions and interests of a small and ideologically driven elite group.
This elite group, which is led by secretive and ruthless leaders who tend to see enemies everywhere, simply seeks to maintain a privileged status at the expense of other groups which, in turn, become increasingly frustrated at not receiving what they consider to be their fair share of national resources and key posts in government.
These leaders have a keen sense for political timing and tactics but equally display inflexible and undemocratic tendencies as compared to a normal civilian leader in the mold of Mali’s former president Alpha Oumar Konare.
All of them have, uniformly, an indisputable ‘penchant for self-righteousness’, and forget that they have ‘an expiry date, at least biologically’. Beyond this cliché, a clear-headed analysis shows that these leaders are only interested in protecting their own wellbeing and physical security at all costs and by any means.
Indeed, they have been holding office for decades by establishing a system of secrecy and a culture of impunity, characteristics reminiscent of the struggle years. For them, the security of citizens is subservient to state security.
They lay claim on the monopoly of the truth, believing to know the virtues of the masses and what is good for them without even listening to them.
The state should always be considered right and its opponents, usually dubbed sell-outs, wrong.
There is a widespread sense among the leaders of liberation movements that they merit whatever material benefits their particular state has to offer simply because they had made many personal sacrifices by devoting the best years of their lives to protracted guerrilla warfare. They pack senior and middle-level posts in the civil bureaucracy, the military and the security apparatus with former fighters who are evidently immune from critical evaluation and even institutional scrutiny.
The simple truth is that the liberation movements retain power through networks of political allies, security forces and business partners. Having engineered a system of indoctrination and loyalty forcing the bureaucracy, military and security services into closer alignment with its political formula, the leadership of liberation movements usually surrounds itself with a very small stratum of officials and advisers.
It seriously fears confident civilian and military professionals who have the proper training and experience in government and public policy. It also fears in-depth change in the distribution of power that might negate its hegemony, and makes scant efforts to solve differences or conflicts through consensual means rather than manipulation and intimidation.
Despite variations, liberation movements have not been transparent because there will be no forceful legislature checking effectively their activities. There will also be no autonomous judiciary ensuring their adherence to the rule of law, and sometimes not even a constitution as in the awkward case of Eritrea.
They tend to interfere with the freedom of the media, which could teach both the leaders and the citizenry about the stakes involved during decision-making and implementation. Furthermore, they stubbornly resist involving civil society organisations in their states’ political process including the electoral process and the monitoring of human rights.
In short, the liberation movements have not been able to convert the remarkable participatory gains made during their struggles into participatory governance. Put bluntly, the unfair practices of liberation movements, which have little to show for their sacrifices and have fallen back to the conflict-ridden politics similar to that of their predecessors, are bound to be extremely dangerous.
This is because one form of old-fashioned authoritarianism will be replaced by a new form of veiled authoritarianism that could potentially lead to the establishment of third wave liberation movements.
In such a context, a smooth transition to democracy and prosperity is unimaginable, leaving African states and citizens worse off at a moment when they face political, social and economic problems of monstrous proportions.
Liberation movements must be delinked from the state and put on equal par with the other political parties. In concrete terms, this means that leaders must yield to a different logic of political power that involves durable institutional checks and balances.
This also means curtailing the centralisation of power, the expansion of unrestrained corruption, the capture of security forces and the irresponsible impairment of the legislature, the judiciary, civil society and the media.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Does this sound familiar? It is like reading the book on the ANC.