|One of the most difficult sciences
is epistemology – the science of comprehending the
reality out there. This is particularly the case with
the social world where the subjective values and interests,
as well as the dynamics of change, inhibit a clear vision
of the outside reality.
This “limited” view of the outside world
conditions social interactions. Indeed, wars and social
upheavals are caused, among other factors, because of
the way people perceive one another. In our own times,
the wars, for example, in Rwanda, Kosovo and Iraq testify
to this observation.
At another level, at the level of positioning for political
power within countries, leaders hold political views
that dictate their policies and directions. If their
views are conditioned by looking at reality from a limited,
rather than a comprehensive, perspective, then they
are apt to make serious errors in political judgements
and the directions they take their countries. It is
in this context that the following three-tier analysis
is suggested for comprehending the African reality as
a guide to future policy and action.
A holistic analysis requires us to look at all the
following three factors in an interconnected manner:
• The Imperial Factor (at the global level),
• The Governance or Democratic Factor (at the
national or State level) and
• The Social Factor (at the level of the people).
At the very basic level is the “Social Factor”
(SF). A system is legitimate only if it is able to advance
the basic human rights (as defined above) of the people.
And this means being sensitive to the vulnerable sections
of the population – such as the children, women,
people with disabilities, the workers, poor peasants,
refugees from neighbouring countries, and minorities
amongst us – and underprivileged geo-political
regions and communities.
At the intermediate or second level is the “governance
or democratic factor” (DF) – how the political
system functions, how decisions are made and implemented,
who they benefit, the question of justice and fairness
in the distribution of the resources and opportunities,
corruption and the system of countering accumulation
and abuse of power.
And at the third, but no less significant, level is
the Imperial (or global) factor (IF) – how the
system works at the global level, how decisions are
taken and implemented (or enforced) at that level, who
they benefit, the question of justice and fairness in
the distribution of global resources and opportunities,
and the system of countering accumulation and abuse
of power at the global level.
In order to comprehend the African reality (and this
should generally apply to whole of the South) it is
necessary to take a total view of the situation and
not analyse matters in a fragmented manner. For example,
when a proposition is made that imperialism is the cause
of crisis in our countries, there is a general tendency
to counter this by saying, “Yes, but you can’t
blame imperialism all the time, it is our governments
who follow wrong policies, who indulge in corruption,
and so on”. Or if the Government is reminded about
its failure to live up to its responsibilities, it turns
around and puts the blame on outside forces, such as
donors, or imperialism, or drought.
It does not have to be an either/or proposition –
either one or the other. Indeed, an argument that isolates
imperialism as the cause of the crisis exonerates local
or national actors from responsibility. Similarly, an
argument that puts the blame entirely on local factors
shields imperialism. The above argument in quotes is
often heard in both popular and academic discourse.
There are three effects of this argument.
• One is to deflect from the analysis of the imperial/global
factor, and begin to talk about “regime change”,
because the regime in power is targeted as the single
cause of the crisis. In some cases in Africa this has
led the opposition of the regime to go to the Empire
to bring about “regime change”. Instead
of solving the problem it compounds it, because the
Empire is not an innocent or neutral bystander.
• The second effect is that it deflects from an
analysis of why governments come and go in Africa, and
each one may be as bad, or worse, than the one it replaced.
Why do the elite in post-colonial and post-revolutionary
situations have a tendency towards authoritarianism
(and corruption)? This tendency has to be analysed in
a scientific manner and not in terms of personalities.
• The third effect of this kind of fragmented
analysis is that it exonerates the people’s movement
(including trade unions and civil society organisations)
from critical scrutiny. They too must be held responsible
for errors of political judgement and lack of strategic
thinking. Why is there a tendency within the people’s
movement to throw up leaders who, when they come to
power, behave no different, or even worse than leaders
whom they have replaced? For brevity, we may call this
“the Chiluba syndrome”, but so that it does
not appear that we are personalizing it on Chiluba,
let us say that the same thing could happen to leadership
in any country, if the regime change does not take place
in a thoroughly transformational manner.
The struggle of the people must be based only on an
understanding of the total reality – not in a
one-sided but in a comprehensive manner. Ignore one
of the factors and one is likely to make serious errors
in political judgements, and lead astray the nation
or the Party (as the case may be), as well as cause
social and political tension.
From the three level analysis, three propositions follow.
• Ignore SF, and you have discontent and rebellion
• Ignore DF, and you have suppression and opposition.
• Ignore IF, and you have domination by the Empire,
From these, the following formula suggests itself as
a guiding principle to achieve peace and justice. It
may be written thus:
Peace and Justice = SF + DF – IF
The general guideline to attain justice and peace in
Africa is by fulfilling the material and social needs
of the people, especially those most vulnerable, through
a system of governance that is democratic and accountable,
and through minimizing (and if possible eliminating)
imperial interventions in African societies.