Wednesday 22 January 2014


On the 21st of January, 2014, I chaired the presentation of Prof. Okello Oculi's paper, titled "Violence, Democracy & Rebels in Africa" at the Centre for Democracy & Development (CDD), Abuja. Prof. Oculi, a Ugandan, is a former lecturer at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria. He is currently the Chief Executive of Africa Vision 525 Initiative, Abuja. The paper was to mark Amilcar Cabral's birthday, and what he stood for.

The following summarises some of the comments made at the event.

The concept and practice of rebellion has had varied relationships with democracy, politics and governance. In traditional Balante, Nuer, Tiv and Igbo societies, permanent rebellion, or what anthropologists regard as "balanced antagonism" in relations between individuals is kept under check. Understanding the implications of themes of democracy and African Socialism in post-colonial politics is an important challenge. The current outbreak of violence in Southern Sudan has Riek Machar Terry, the enstranged Vice President, as a rebel actor.

In European feudal legacies, rebellion has shed the blood of kings, aristocracies and the working class in the continents' evolution towards democratic politics. Important legacies out of this historical evolution are notions of civil and human rights, socialism and constitutional restraint on political power. Their impact in post-colonial African politics deserves scrutiny.

The generally violent confluence between between African and Euro-American history accorded rebellion dignity as regards the evolution of democracy in African states. The concept of proletarian revolution gained appeal in the form of "liberation armed struggle" as a tool for dismantling brutal colonial dictatorships, mainly in colonies with large European settler populations like Algeria, Kenya, Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Mozambique, South Africa, Namibia, Angola, Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde.

In Eritrea and the Republic of South Sudan, rebellion was used to violate the principle of the sacredness of borders African states inherited from colonial rule. "Internal colonialism" by the ruling black elite was rejected in Sudan and Ethiopia.

An epidemic of military coups in the 1960's, 1970's and sparingly in the 1980's in Africa was justified as rebellion against corruption and mismanagement of post-colonial governance. The discontent in these democracies is arousing new appeal to rebellion. Must African democracies continue to be plagued by violence? Can we not use the concepts of Ubuntu and Africa brotherhood/sisterhood to galvanise concensus and have less violent democracies?...

11th April, 2016

*African parliaments lead the continent's fight against weapons of mass destruction (WMD)

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