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The conceptual status of the phrased- failed State (2)

By John Moyibi Amoda

WHAT would we say specifically of societies in Africa? Why can’t we capture their political conditions through the concept of failed state?

The reason this is a difficult theoretical enterprise is because security and order like other goals and objectives are projects. They are not an inheritance. This is why weak states can be developed into strong states.

This is why enemy states can plot the weakening or destruction by states they describe as enemies. Invaders have destroyed weaker states. Europe was victim of such aggression under Atilla The Hun. Africa’s Carthage was successfully invaded by the Romans and other states have been destroyed or developed through wars.

This being the case, the pertinent question to ask concerning Africa is not why is Africa a region of failed states in contrast to the European and North American regions but what are the prospects of state making and state development project in Africa?

The importance to Africa of effective states, strong states, developed states its history teaches. If Africa were a region of state ordered and secured societies, when these societies were threatened with invasion or were invaded, they would have organised the defence to ward off their invaders and secured their societies thereby. Africa suffered the consequences of destroyed states, being not strong enough to ward off or defeat their invaders; they suffered the fate of the conquered.

For centuries, Africa was invaded for the purpose of enslaving its population for the development of European settlements in the Americas and the Caribbean; the invaders came from Europe and Arab lands for the same purpose.

Africa depleted of its peoples also suffered the fate of societies whose states were defeated in empire- making invasions. And Africa’s incorporation into European empires was radical, it entailed the capitalist reconstruction of Africa as opposed to the feudalist empire making. Capitalist empire building involves the economic reconstruction of conquered societies.

So Africans, pre-colonial, colonial and post colonial have long histories of living with the consequences of defeat in war, whatever the aims of such wars might have been. Africans understand the difference that victory in war makes and how destinies have been shaped by courses of war.

The struggle to end colonialism could not but involve a struggle to build state that will minimally protect post colonial Africa from the consequences of defeats in empire making wars or the restoration of empire state in Africa.

When Africa’s colonial and post colonial history are viewed in terms of the building of states that would secure Africans against threats of re-enslavement or re-colonisation, can it be said that such projects have been seen as necessary and fundamental project by governments of societies that have historically been involved in the enslaving and colonisation of African peoples?

Has the appreciation of politics in Africa being conducted within the framework of the building of states that can protect the peoples of Africa from the political uses of war to enslave and colonise Africans? President Obama is familiar with Africa’s history and has expressed his impatience of excuses of crimes committed by African leaders against their peoples. He is on morally strong grounds when he takes such a position and makes a model out of Ghana’s electoral successes.

The question that must yet be asked is can  African entrust their security to those that yesterday were their masters and owners? Is it immoral to situate governance issues within security issues and not the other way round?

Does the granting of independence to a country by itself settle the question of who will be sovereign in the planning and implementing of the security of the post independence society? The granting of independence does not by itself transform a society that was a colony yesterday into a secure country the day after.

Similarly the granting of independence does not also ipso facto reconstitute the government into a country securing state. Finally the granting of independence does not transform a colony that was a sector of the imperial economy into a nation building economy. All these observations identify the politician tasks’ for the post colonial society of today.

These tasks and the conflicts they generate must be managed. (And electoral politics is but only one of the strategies to manage and resolve these conflicts). It is important to note that it is only in a secured society that these conflicts can be effectively resolved and decision reached be legitimised. Who owns Nigeria therefore, precedes the question of how is Nigeria to be administered. If the how question is made the condition for solutions to conflicts generated by the who questions, then the ensuring crises and disorder are what are the logical outcome of such putting the cart before the horse.

States are to built in Africa and the attempts to accomplish the task may be effective. What is to be addressed therefore is not the issue of state failure but exploration of how the project may be effectively and democratically accomplished.

There are external threats to the sovereignty ambitions of Africa’s post colonial state power politicians just as there are internal sovereignty rivalries over state making project. These two contestations define the context of state making in Africa and African state making. No society can survive state failure and remain intact.

State failure describes Hobbes State of War, not Locke’s State of Nature. When a state fails it is often through failed and stalemated sovereignty wars, civil or expansionist that results in anarchy in which life is invariably short, nasty and brutish.

Because there is more that is similar between the beginning of state making and the disintegration of states, the latter is confused for the former. They are not. This is why Italy, an example of a failing state and Somalia an example of failing efforts at state making are not to be confused.

Italy still has a stable society managed by unstable coalition of national politicians. Its economy is still a first world economy, for all the fragmentations of its elites. State failure is not the same as anarchic contestation for sovereign control of state making projects. The latter is Africa’s epochal challenge.

A systematic professionalized effort to the study of Africa post colonial politics of state making is a necessary security project. It is a dialectical project like all security projects are- involving the roles of politicians and external observer consultant participants.

Appreciating the importance of this aspect of Africa’s security politics is the pressing challenge of the moment.


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