Monday, October 12, 2009

Why the Social Contract Theory Fails in Africa.


The social Contract Theory is the political theory that people form government for their welfare and protection, and that government must only rule with the consent of the people. Most governments in Africa are not formed by the people, and those governments too have never represented them. For the Social Contract Theory to happen, the citizen must give up some rights to form government, and the government must then give the citizen other rights by protecting him/her[1]. The question then would be "are governments in Africa formed by the people, and do those governments protect the people?" Can anyone tell me who formed the fondoms and lamidads? How elected was the government of Omar Bongo or Teodoro Obiang Nguema? Would those presidents who have ruled for 30 years plus say that they are voted by the people? This article will explore five main reasons that handicap this theory from flourishing in Africa.

Old Traditions that do not want change.
There is a serious problem with some African traditional structures that were not benign inherently. Those structures have not only failed but have brought in resentment. Take for instance the Northwest tradition of fondoms in Cameroon, though the polity of fondom itself is not intrinsically evil, some aspects of it thereof are, yet those aspects have not evolved for the good of the people. For example, when the fon dies, his successor who could be his son would marry all his surviving wives. It does not matter whether the woman is his grandmother or his own mother; she is his wife. Not to talk of the fact that an 18 year old may traditionally be obliged to use his pestle on the mortar of his grandmother.

Another weakness in that tradition is making the fon a demigod. Because the government was not voted by the people; it was inherited, the government of the Fon does not seek the welfare of his subjects. That is why with a little cocktail of multipartism, the explosion could be lethargic, culminating to the burning down of fondoms and Fons, and the killing of subjects.

While I am not advocating for the dismantling of fondoms and Lamidads, I do however posit that they should not bear absolute power since “absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Though some of these traditional structures must be dismantled, others should be kept for posterity as their identity because it does not necessarily mean that African traditional government is bad.

When one flashes back at history, there is a huge contrast with the Mudjadji popularly called the Rain Queens of South Africa. Though they were not voted, they were there solely for the good of the people. Unlike the Fons today who align themselves with the government party for their personal benefit, the Mudjadji called down rain so the people would experience fruitful harvest season. Can anyone tell me how the Fon is helping the common man in Bambui village? Nonetheless, let me state those reasons why the social contract cannot work in Africa.

The Angry Young People
Africa has too many angry young men, and rightly so. In the 60s alone, the continent experienced 21 military coups[2]. If you look deeply into those coups, they are young military rulers snatching power. Mobutu seized power at the age of 25, Gaddafi at 27, Yahya Jammeh at 29, Rawlings at 32, Gowon, Nasser and Sankara at 34, Compaore at 36, Mutala at 38 and Moussa Dadis at 44 just to name these few. In most occasions, even the Corrupt Bargain of the military taking over to instill peace and eradicate corruption has failed since they end up perpetuating the same cycle of despotism, corruption and nepotism.

Africa is a gerontocratic society where age is equated with wisdom and status. If you are old, you are wise and you automatically have a place in the society, despite serious revelations that some people have refused to grow, and though some have grown, they have the wisdom of children. Most adults in African communities are the greatest trouble makers who incite and manipulate the young people to fight amongst themselves while they amass the benefit for their own kids and posterity. These young people know that if they have to wait for their turn to rule, it may never come, so they use coup d’états. African governments must learn to involve young people in their governments; not out of nepotism but meritocracy so that there is a promissory note of successful handing over. Why must they rule at 80 and above? Why can't they just do their two terms and leave? The young people are right to seize power if the old people cannot behave themselves. There is a reason why in the Bible the old mean dream dreams while the young men see visions. The old men will dream dreams because they have experienced many things. They are now old and have not got the strength to do new things. The young men will see visions because they have the strength, but they have not experienced new things. They have the ambition.

Émigrés who refuse to change
As you may have experienced it yourself, most African émigrés are social misfits and western wannabes; ever learning but never attaining knowledge. Educated people should be able to stand apart and be independent in their thoughts, yet most want to be seen only with their governments which muzzle their mental abilities to think rationally. Why are Africans in Diaspora enjoying the freedom and liberty in foreign countries, yet they support their governments who deny the people their inalienable rights? They cry racism abroad, but they encourage tribalism at home. If they will form a veritable challenge to their home governments, then history will record the annals differently.

Corrupt Foreign governments (embassies) dealing with corrupt government.
The foreign governments through their embassies have successfully contributed to the non workings of the Social Contract Theory. No one would tell me that all the foreign governments in Africa do not see the non representation of the people in their governments, yet they have maintained a blind eye when it favored them but cried on mountain tops when it did not. Bongo and Eyadema were corrupt despots but because they flung open the oil fields to them, they were benevolent. Meanwhile, because Mugabe did not buy into exploitation of the Zimbabweans by westerners, he is a rogue. Foreign governments have brought more darkness to Africa than they have brought light. They have refused to see the oppression and repression when there is a conflict of interest. Arguably, they have endorsed the belief that democracy cannot work in Africa, and that Africa is not ripped for democracy.

The belief that democracy could be interpreted subjectively, and that Africa is not ripped for pluralistic democracy.
Democracy is relatively new to many Africans where one person has been ruling since the country had its independence like in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. Libya, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, and many other African countries with benevolent despots have enjoyed relative peace and prosperity unlike those who have attempted to experiment with democracy. In the days of Ahidjo ruling as a benevolent dictator, Cameroon enjoyed relative prosperity and peace unlike when Biya experimented with democracy. Many Africans believe that democracy is a target one can see with their own kind of looking-glasses. Some ban all political parties, arrest all existing journalists and make ministerial appointments by political affiliations, yet they still call the process, democratic. Others arrest political opponents, object to dissension, refuse to develop opposing communities, rig elections, refuse to issue voters cards, register more voters than the population, but they still call the elections free and fair. Although the people may not be able to fight such governments, they make it difficult for it to rule and progress.

For the social contract theory to work, Africans must start to embrace Consensus Building which will resolve most of their conflicts by a win-win solution. They must form democratic governments at the village levels. Once these governments start to rule with the people, the idea that government was of the people, for the people and by the people will settle in because any government that doesn’t rule with the consent of the people will automatically not provide welfare and protection for the people. That is why it seems many African governments have taken a walk through the pages of their history rather than lead because if a man thinks he is leading but there is no one following behind, he is merely taking a walk. That does not mean there must be direct democracy. Not at all; representative democracy will still work but only if it comes from the people. It is only when a government is formed by the people and represents the people that the rule of law will gain a foothold. Without which we will hear of human rights year in and year out though we all believe “..... these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, but we will never taste it.

Until then, it high time to hand power to the people.

Prince & PA Hamilton Ayuk.




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[1] http://www.csus.edu/indiv/g/gaskilld/ethics/sct.htm

[2] http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/report/1985/WJ.htm#



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