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Foi et développement ({Faith and development}), January 2006, n°340

by Kä Mana(1)


This is an obvious fact which experts still have problems integrating in their analysis. Today, in Black Africa, real power is largely found in the streets. There, the harangue of religious sects, the threats of lords, or the tyranny of armed bands dictate the law. These local potentates rule the day to day existence. Whether on the district or regional level, they are the incarnation of these “soul-less potentates” that Kä Mana describes when he talks about “these men who have declared themselves providential”.

The article below is some sort of warning. It explains, through recent history, the slow disintegration of African States and communities for which he wishes a new start. It is not considered proper, in these times of extreme liberalism, to defend communal leadership. And yet, everything indicates that only decisions which have been well understood and accepted by the population can last and serve as stable bases for development. What is the stake at hand? To make of politics a common endeavour, through wider and more frequent consultations with populations.

Allow me to add a variable to Ka Mana’s observations: that of time. The author does not mention this, but it cannot be ignored. Consultation takes time. So does encouraging participation. Therefore, communal development cannot be reconciled with our present market societies which are rushed to sell or to immigrate to engender more wealth in a short span of time. This is the model’s Achilles’ heel and yet it is the only one to take man’s defence: it does not give immediate tangible results; it does not give its adherents the image of rapid power.

At this stage, we are tempted to suggest a guide for reflection: How to render compatible solidarity governance, with the aspirations of young Africans for a rapid improvement of their life conditions? How to reconcile the need for discussion, with dependence on misinformation through Internet? It is not only a question of ending with façade democracies. Alternative models should also be able to produce enough instant happiness, to be attractive. Without this, potentates will continue to reign as masters over the dreams of the Black Continent.

Richard Werly


by Kä Mana

Among the different causes behind the African continent’s disastrous situation in the present world order, the absence of efficient political leadership and of responsible governance deserves particular attention on the part of all those who want to change our countries’ destiny.

It deserves this attention, not only because the political factor is important and crucial in getting the social forces together, to transform the life of all peoples, but even more so because all over Africa today, our peoples’ active energy is being controlled by a political vision and practise which hinder us from building nations that could count in the global destiny of humanity(2).

Soul-less Potentates

As far as political leadership and governance are concerned, we have come up with two types of systems which have led us nowhere. The first, which has dominated the major part of our forty five years of independence, has been that of keeping faith in persons who were self-proclaimed men of providence, individuals imbued with their political strength, identifying themselves with totems of absolute power: cayman, leopard, ram, elephant, lion or lycaon. . At the summit of the pyramid of State parties which they had subjugated to their will, they reigned as soul-less autocrats and potentates who would do anything to stay in power and enjoy their status as invincible lords. Their pyramidal leadership did not tolerate any opposition, which is at the origin of the blind and incompetent governance which has caused our nations’ bankruptcy.

Faced with this bankruptcy, our caymans, leopards, rams, elephants, lions or lycaons could only resort to the worst political violence, imposing on their countries a peace of cemeteries or a state of submission carrying all future tragedies : that of chronic misery, fatal despair, stifling insecurity, endless civil wars and the unrelenting hatred from which sprung the absolute horror of the Rwandan genocide.

The disastrous results of this kind of leadership have made it not only unpopular but also rationally unacceptable and humanly indefensible. The time of providential men and their tyrannical leadership is finished. We must open up to another era.

The second system of handling power which has dominated the recent years of our independence in Africa has been that of façade democracies, to amuse the so-called international community audience. Considering the fact that, since the breakdown of the Berlin Wall, this community, under the crook of the United States and the European Community, has wanted Africa to join the joyful dance of democracy, our local potentates have decided to clothe their government practises in democratic slogans and pseudo democratic institutions, without changing any of the pyramidal essence of their power. We have since witnessed the appearance of so-called democratic constitutions and the widespread brilliance of speeches, under our tropical skies, to celebrate this new Africa and its new institutions which are meant to guarantee our permanent peace, security, stability and prosperity. With the exception of some rare countries with their one-party rule which have consistently played the game of deeply transforming African autocracy, in the advent of a society of power sharing, all other inter-tropical African countries have been intentionally deceiving the international community, in order to impress the funding agencies who themselves want to believe in a commissioned democratization. So much so that they are willing to accept certain appearances, no matter how deceitful, “It doesn’t really matter! “ reply the tropical autocrats.

Thanks to the omnipresence of shady forces and the omnipotence of the Mafiosi or esoterico-religious network whose action has consisted in strongly supporting some of our dictators, these latter have had absolutely no problem passing for patented democrats. Without really knowing who is fooling who, we have seen on our land, the settlement of systems of democratic prestidigitation and demagogic “voodoo voodoo” on the part of our chiefs, with the approval of certain presidents in Western countries.

For example : dictatorial Togo has benefited from a strange « understanding » of France, to the extent that, in Africa, we have started asking ourselves if Eyadema had hypnotized Chirac or if he had charmed him with some local grimbas and matitis, or if he had simply magically imprisoned him in a bottle of champagne, in the manner of the “marabouts” specialized in charms which intoxicate and rob human beings of their free will. At the worst moments of Eyadema’s war crimes, we heard from the very lips of Jacques Chirac, some declarations of support and understanding that made us wonder if he was bewitched or under the control of marijuana or cannabis.

Vested Interests of the West

The more lucid among Africans have not believed in these types of interpretations. In their eyes, the only true explanation is the attachment of the West to its vital interests. As long as African dictators, dressed up in a democratic fashion and hallowed by an appropriate language, serve their interests, all’s well in the best of democratic paradises. So, they try to “understand Africa” for which democracy the Western way is “a luxury”, considering the challenges of poverty and underdevelopment. They suggest we “give time to time” and let Africa evolve “at its own rhythm”, at a slow pace in keeping with its ancestral temporalities, towards a democracy it would have re-created according to its own taste, or digested “in its own way ”.

This view of things has consolidated the control of façade democracies over the imagination of African populations. These latter have become fed up with Western lies about believing in the democratization of Africa. Seeing that these democracies are not improving the citizens’ living conditions and that they are working as a system of comedies and disgraceful belly dancing among dictators and their cliques to attract the wanton and tolerant attitude of the Masters of the world, these populations feel humiliated and hurt in their dignity. Some of their leaders therefore take refuge under the wings of the ruling potentates. Others wear out their brakes in opposition parties with no means to change society nor the machinery with which to envision a future of true liberty. Still others sink in total despair and can only see the future in terms of dark necrologies, with the perspective of a fertile and efficient re-colonization: the only hopeful solution, in their eyes(3).

For us, the discouraging assessment of facade democracies is not a reason for dejection and despair but rather an opportunity to question their mode of leadership and governance… in view of reformulating democracy in Africa or of creating a new democratic approach, a way that would be different from senseless myths for blacks without a future. Something outside of a carnival of fools orchestrated by little Africans who cannot govern themselves without those deceptive slogans which place them in situations of ridiculous mimicry or atrocious lies against their own being(4).

At this point, we can ask the question : What has caused the failure of façade democracies? Three disastrous realities, we believe:

  • the persistence of a spirit of accommodation to the dictatorial way of managing power, as much on the side of governments as on the side of their peoples;
  • the power of vested interests in the political class, which has refused to seize the era of democracy as an occasion to mobilize the energies of peoples in the service of collective ambitions of progress and of communal happiness;
  • the muddled game of Western governments which do not seem desirous of a humanity wherein the common interests of civilizations and peoples are valued higher than that of hegemonic ambitions of the rich countries in the world.

A solidarity governance

What should we do now that we have identified the causes, now that we know that neither the pyramidal leadership with its autocratic governance nor the façade democracies with their disastrous management of our countries can give us a future? Our answer is the following: It is time to create a communal leadership and engage our populations and our countries in the practice of solidarity governance.

Now, we want to cry out loud and strong that breaking off with the leadership of one-party rules and their chiefs, as well as breaking off with fake African democracies are the stakes for which all political and socio-spiritual energy will have to be mobilized today. It is a battle in which religious groups that believe in the future cannot be absent, for any reason whatsoever.

Contrary to what we could believe at first, this battle does not consist in a military-political confrontation with existing powers, using as model: the revolutionary movements of the seventies. This model had engaged in too much empty and highly agitated sloganeering, without substance, for us to once more resort to its rhetorical formulas and bloody revolutions.

Neither does this involve engaging in agitated contestations in the manner of opposition movements which only aim at procuring for their chiefs a share of the national cake. If the challenge is in eating at the Caliph’s table or feeding on crumbs that fall from the Sultan’s mouth, the uproar becomes useless since the mountain will only have given birth to a mouse, as is the case in some of our fake African “new democracies”, be they “advanced” or “appeased” depending on the language in use within circles of our political powers. This really involves something deeper and more crucial: it is the education of populations in the field of communal leadership and the governance of shared responsibilities.

A new communal leadership Communal leadership is first of all the emergence of consciousness: taking into account the common interests and the participation of everyone in the machinery through which decisions on such interests are taken. What counts here is the circulation of information, putting ideas together, organizing debates and consultations, that everyone may know the responsibilities to which the existing powers are committed, in the name of all.

If such an approach were introduced concerning our countries’ indebtedness or the utilization of funds generated by the petrol industry, our nations would have been able to make better choices than those who make of us today’s poor and highly indebted countries. If popular participation in the allotment of funds under the different items in our national budgets had been solicited as an essential dimension in decision-making, we would not have witnessed the breakdown of our African economies under the weight of greediness of the sharks and vampires who often govern our States.

If we had adopted the practise of developing techniques to solicit the people’s opinion concerning the orientation of socio-political decisions that have a bearing on our future, our horizon would not be as dark as it is today. We would have understood the need to base all our politics on a future of responsibility and sharing, on actions of human dialogues which lead, not to the victory of a camp over another nor to the oppression of a majority by a governing minority, but to the sentiment that whatever is essential for a successful communal life should be safeguarded by all. This approach would lead to a governance of shared responsibility; that is: each person’s commitment to be, for each and everyone, not only a counter power, considering the demands of making communal life function, but to be a chance for happiness.

Here, there would be no absolute chiefs to make absolute decisions as in the systems of pyramidal dictatorships. There would be no clans nor cliques, nor ethnic groups nor tribes to monopolize the national wealth as in the present tyranny of counterfeiters of democracy who impoverish our peoples, with the complicity of their masters abroad. Neither would there be a “democratic dictatorship” which would make others believe that the majority is always right and that the minority has no choice but to give in to decisions of the greater number, as it is in representative democracies, the Western way, which are now going out of breath.

This whole game of democratic bluffing - wherein those who are strongest manipulate institutions and persons in order to impose their point of view and freely dominate the great social choices - would disappear; people would lose faith in the types of leadership which are so far from true human ethics. Nobody would engage the future on such corruption of the human spirit and of institutions that manage the collective destiny. A different vision of our future would arise from our aspirations for another kind of governance and another leadership.

Building up collective happiness

The great demand of this communal leadership and this solidarity governance would consist in knowing at all times that there is a collective happiness to build up, common interests to safeguard, a communal future to construct; and that each person or group, each tribe, each people or nation in Africa is responsible for this happiness, for these interests and this future which are common to us all. Instead of working on the basis of individual or clannish, tribal, mafioso-corporate or mystico-esoteric profits that destroy the quality of communal destiny, we would consider this communal destiny as the true guarantee of individual growth.

Such re-orientation of spirit and mentality demands a profound endeavour of education and training. It is in this work that the forces of faith have the duty to get involved and commit themselves, to show how this spirit will have to take shape, from the micro level of local development up to the big stakes of management of nations and the continent, without neglecting communal or tribal identities. It is in promoting this socio-communal democracy that resides the true force of peace: the capacity to share happiness and insure for everyone the development which we, in Africa, are entitled to.

Today, we can legitimately ask the following question : This communal leadership and solidarity governance, as previously defined, are they really possible ? To what conditions can we reasonably aspire to in order to establish them in Africa today?

If we have posited the problem on the level of education and the formation of social conscience, it is because we know that the ideal of leadership and of governance as proposed here is not a simple matter. It is neither on the high sphere of powers in the heart of an Africa which is now dominated by democratic bluffing, nor in the model of public management where ethnico-tribal interests and corruption lead the dance and have become a veritable way of life. Neither is it in some fringes of our populations which have already interiorized the dictatorship of private interests. It is not even in some areas of reflection and thinking which are more and more seduced by pessimism and defeatism.

A New Battle for Social Formation

The real struggle is now in fighting a new battle for social formation, that a new avant-garde may emerge, which believes in this new leadership and governance to the point of considering it as the great stake for the future and for the education of all our societies. This means that we must plant this dream in the popular imagination, through work that is of a truly missionary character: with campaigns and crusades to invest in the educational field and, right now, to make of this dream of a new governance and leadership a dream shared by all: the dream of a whole continent which would thus resolutely commit itself to the creation of a truly new aspiration.

But, this is not only about dreaming for dreaming. This is about materializing a dream into concrete commitments:

  • individual choices for other ways of structuring personal relationships with all social powers, refusing all forms of allegiance to leaderships and governances which assassinate our nations;
  • the capacity to link individual forces with collective movements of thought and action that are capable of developing the communal powers of resistance, revolt and resilience;
  • the decision to get involved in political and social struggles which are already engaged in, here and there, and which are directed towards social transformation in Africa;
  • the urgent need to participate in the deployment of a true world network for a new ethics of power and a new practise of democracy, founded on the idea of communal and shared happiness, within social dynamics that would liberate a rich alterglobalist imagination.

In all these domains, it seems imperative for us to first of all win the battle in the field of ideas and world visions before claiming to win it in the construction of new institutions. On this level, quiverings of hope are already felt in our countries. Even if our peoples are suffering under the weight of old anti-democratic practices and of all the fake democracies flourishing in our tropics, they can be permeable to all movements of ideas which contest and question these practices. They are already dreaming of a new leadership and a new governance. It is now important to channel all these dreams in our countries, to fertilize the soil of our common aspirations, where mentalities still resist due to prolonged conditioning in the African style of a power that dominates.

And we know that in this domain, there is nothing better than communities of faith to clear the horizon and open the way, starting with their own groups, and later expanding to the whole society, so that an incarnate model of new governance and leadership may become somehow convincing. That would be a new but vital step for Africa and for humanity itself.

It shall be so, for it would feed on what is most productive in humanity: the spiritual sap that has liberated Man of its animality, to construct living and organized communities governed by the rules of life and the deep aspirations of development for all. By means of a consciousness that has slowly convinced peoples, that they all belong to the same ethnic and spiritual soil, this land that religions identify in terms of God the Creator, Father and Mother of all men, of all peoples and all civilizations.

If there were a pedestal to set up for the new governance and leadership we have talked about, it would reside on this ethical soil and this spiritual assembly that our world may increasingly forget. If we allow this heedlessness to invade our societies, we shall be laying the grounds for a catastrophy which is humanity’s destruction, whether on a short or long term, as illustrated by the present irresponsibility of neo-liberal globalization.

We can understand why, throughout our countries, ethical and spiritual forces have the duty to stay together and to cooperate in using their collective energy to save Man and his destiny, to provide a future for humanity and a sublime image of the great human adventure on earth.

Kä Mana


[1] - Philosopher and Theologian from the People’s Republic of Congo, Ka Mana directs the Centre d’études et de recherches oecuméniques et socials (CEROS), in Porto-Novo, Benin. He also teaches at the Ecole des hautes etudes théologiques et socials (EFORTHESO), in Abidjan (Ivory Coast) and at the Institut supérieur de pédagogie pour société en mutation, (IPSOM), in Bandjoun (Cameroon). He is also General Secretary of the Association oecuménique des theologians africains (AOTA).

[2] - Joseph Ki-Zerbo, A quand l’Afrique ? ( For when, Africa ?), Paris, Alliance des éditeurs indépendants, 2003.

[3] - We could quote an abundant literature exposing the attitude of elite Africans in politics, giving a totally negative image of the Continent. I would rather project here a more lucid and multi-shaded image: that of the recent issue of the Revue Esprit (317, August-Septembre 2005) where a dossier directed by Jean-Pierre Chrétien and Bernard Salvain entitled “Vues d’Afrique” uncovers a horizon which gives reasons for hope.

[4] - Ka Mana, Réussir l’Afrique Yaoundé-Bafoussam, Editions CIPCRE, 2004.

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