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Gerschewski Volume 20, - Issue 1. Volume 26, - Issue 7. Tremblay Volume 14, - Issue 4. Embedded and defective democracies. In most African countries, participants recognized that a tremendous amount of information does not circulate beyond a small portion of the urban population, owing to illiteracy, language barriers, and costs.

Because, as one person commented, the "individual ignorance of personal rights and understanding of what democracy means has encouraged authoritarianism in Africa," some participants wanted political education at the grass roots level about democracy. For example, someone suggested that local student councils could help teach students about real ideas and practices in democratic management.

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Others indicated practical lessons in democracy at the grass roots level could be learned by serving in local government—in as much as there tends to be greater accountability where government is in close proximity to people. Other participants, however, took exception to the view of educating only the masses, suggesting that politicians should be educated about human rights and respect for the constitution.

As one put it: "Masses do have a wisdom that intellectuals should learn.

If we want genuine democracy, the participation of the masses has to be sought by politicians, and not bought by manipulators. Politicians should try to understand what the masses know, because they sometimes lack the ability to articulate their interests and grievances. This way their contribution in society is ensured.

There was clear agreement among participants in the three workshops that some form of resocialization to promote political culture had to be undertaken, as "negative values had been inculcated for so long. One must look at the issues—what have been the costs, and what do we need to move away from?

In a moving plea in the Ethiopia workshop, one participant suggested that "if we are to recognize that our societies are heterogenous, maybe we can overcome the fear of transition with a culture of tolerance. How to reach it?

Through mutual recognition, consensus, compromise, not fear. We must encourage people to go out and demonstrate, to show their opinion regarding issues, because we must eliminate the culture of fear. The current crisis in Africa, participants pointed out, is a crisis of the state and its incompetence in development. In the three workshops, the need for an alternative view of the state was identified—a state capable of assisting in the transition from authoritarian rule to democracy.

Citing the government's breakdown of authority, lack of legitimacy, and unwillingness to bargain, a number of participants described African states as "lame leviathans. They have perfected the art of begging and dialogue with the donor community rather than with their own people.

In this manner, civil society would emerge as a counter to the state. The attempt by many African governments since independence to mold societies into an image shaped by their own governments is doomed to failure. The same, after all, has been true of former Soviet Union.

In postcolonial society, the state had become the "desired political kingdom. In this context of accelerated state formation, the autonomous needs of civil society were considered impediments that needed to be broken down. Several participants, however, objected to the view that the state crisis in Africa was the primary. In this context, privatization and the need to reduce the centrality of the state to economic means are essential.

The significance of a lively civil society in the transition to democracy was emphasized in the three workshops. The participants took some comfort in noting that one reason that Africa did not crumble into total absolutism was because civil society managed to survive, providing a mode of expression against authoritarianism, despite systematic efforts by the state to destroy it.

A participant pointed out that civil society in Africa has been shaped by its relationship not only to the state, but also with other units in society. A recurring pattern has been the retreat of organizations of civil society into discrete arenas. The participant identified three types: a "submerged society," in which needs are met through patronage networks; a "defiant society," in which state authority is openly ignored by gangs and bandits in what may be described as a Hobbesian state of nature; and a "radicalized society," mobilized to replace the existing state, which includes such disparate groups as national liberation groups and religious fundamentalists.

In all three cases, the legitimacy of the state is challenged. In the workshop discussions, it was suggested that the opening up of political space for civil society was crucial to the success of democratization. One consequence of civil institutions operating in an underground mode is that few of them are broadly inclusive of diverse elements in the community, and so they are generally unable to bridge ethnic, linguistic, or other divisions in the community.

Consequently, it was suggested that the public put pressure on the state to open up political space for civil society and that efforts be made to promote a society that includes broad cross-sections of the community. The basis of civil society is common interests, independent of the state, through which people can organize themselves and relate to one. The major institutions through which civil society has reemerged in modern Africa are religious organizations, notably the churches; trade unions; and professionals—lawyers, journalists, academics.

Participants identified varying perceptions of the state in African countries. In Tanzania, for example, as pointed out by one participant, the state is referred to as "big daddy. In other countries, the state is linked with statism, taking over everything, including how one ought to think.

Democratization in Africa Part 5. The Challenge of Conflicts

There was agreement that it would be incumbent upon civil society to promote socialization by moving people away from thinking about the state and encouraging them to think what they want without fear. One participant observed: "Under Jomo Kenyatta, there was an entrenchment of democratic institutions; but, under Daniel arap Moi, there has been a concentrated destruction of institutions.

Happily, the people of Kenya are beginning to ask what went wrong. According to a number of participants, the extreme frailty of civil society in some African countries has left the citizenry with only the voice and exit options.

Challenges to Democracy

Using the voice option, some individuals and organizations confronted the state and questioned state interference in their personal and family lives. In so doing, they had to contend with constant harassment from the state, which often led to violations of their individual and collective rights. The exit option has become common in countries such as Ethiopia, Sudan, and Rwanda, where there was a forced exodus of outspoken individuals or organizations.

It was argued that Africans have been conditioned to exercise the exit option because the state has been regarded as a hostile force.


In order to build an animated civil society, participants advocated recapturing the population that has distanced itself from authoritarian power. In southern Africa, for example, civil society has been exposed, restricted by law, or formed in secret, but it has maintained a role in articulating public values, while resisting state control. In single-party states, such as Tanzania, independent civic groups generally were regarded as subversive and therefore had been wiped out over 28 years. In several countries, including Madagascar, Zambia, and South Africa, organizations that taught elements of civic culture initially were established secretly by concerned citizens and emerged only when they gained sufficient strength and perceived a political opening.

Churches united in ecumenical movements, however, have been able to resist state control, playing a major role in articulating public values in much of the southern Africa region.