A Working Conference


Designing Constitutional Arrangements for Democratic

Governance in Africa: Challenges and Possibilities


Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis

Indiana University, Bloomington

March 30-31, 2006


Cosponsored by the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis,

African Studies Program, and Office of International Programs, Indiana University







Session 1: Beyond the Post-Colonial State—Rethinking and Redesigning Governance Institutions in Africa: Puzzles and Possibilities


Between State and Community: Challenges to Redesigning Governance in Africa

Goran Hyden, Distinguished Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Florida


Abstract: The argument of this paper is that academic as well as policy discourse on African politics and development remains split between those who adhere to a improving macro structures and those who believe the region’s future potential lies in its micro-level institutions. The former is driven primarily by international development agencies; the latter by assorted academics and activists. For ordinary Africans this is a chasm forcing them to seek solutions on their own or, if they can, opting out. The paper will discuss previous approaches that have been used to explain Africa’s predicament and point to what they all have in common: an implicit reference to Africa’s informal institutions. What potential do they have for rethinking and redesigning governance? Which are the options open for such a bold effort? These questions will be discussed with current approaches and particular country specifics in mind.



Session 2: Reconstituting Governance from the Ground Up: Possibilities for DRC, Nigeria, and Liberia


Constitution and Citizenship in Post-Mobutu Congo

Osita Afoaku, Clinical Professor, School of Public and Environmental Affairs and the African Studies Program, Indiana University


Abstract: In December 2005, an overwhelming number of voters approved a new constitution through a referendum, thereby paving the way for general elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo in June this year. Paradoxically, while constitutions and elections represent laudable steps to institute democracy in post-Mobutu Congo, they mask the elites’ inattentiveness to some unresolved, yet no less important national issues. This paper examines efforts to establish transitional constitutions in the DRC since the fall of the Mobutu dictatorship in 1977 and the implications for major issues such as citizenship and inter-group harmony that are crucial to national reconciliation and sustainable democracy.



Structural Transformation and Polycentric Governance: A Constitutional Gateway towards Nigerian Democratization

Shittu Akinola, Senior Lecturer, Department of Public Administration, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, Nigeria


Abstract: The crisis of democratization in Nigeria has its roots in the type of institutional arrangement the country adopted since independence in 1960.  The institutional arrangement is bureaucratic and monocratically centralized, separating Nigerian leaders from the rest of the society and thus creating the problem of “disconnect”.  This disconnect is consequent upon lack of people-oriented constitution and this has skewed socio-economic and political decisions in Nigeria in favour of the few ruling elite at the expense of the masses of the people.  Lack of a common thought between the assembly and the electorate has made indices of democracy and development to constantly elude the electorate in the last five years.  The masses of the people are confronted with serious constraint in gaining access to public goods and services - water, electricity, waste disposal, roads, security etc.


Accordingly, the people have learnt not to rely on governments, instead they have explored pre-colonial self-governing heritage by forming associations and through collective actions have been able to address problems of daily existence in both Yorubaland and Niger-Delta.  These groups have provided and produced infrastructure such as schools, health facilities, road networks, electricity etc.  The underlining factor that enabled these institutions to accomplish the task of provision and production of public goods and services is the constitutional power that they possessed in making rules, monitoring compliance and imposing sanctions on rule infractions.  This paper found that patriotism, selfless leadership and adaptive governance, which are glaringly missing in the modern state institutions, are the hallmarks of successful community-based and self-governing institutions in the two regions.


In order to address socio-economic and political crises in Nigeria, the paper advocates a restructuring which would emanate from people-oriented constitution.  The Nigerian people in various cultural and ecological settings should design constitutions of their own, which would eventually culminate into polycentric constitution – Nigerian constitution.  The present Nigeria’s constitution should be replaced with people-oriented and polycentric (multiple centers/layers of decision making) constitution.  The existing self-governing institutions would form the “cerebrums” of decision-making.  These institutions would also monitor financial and material resources allocated to their communities and resolve issues through self-governing capabilities.  Furthermore, the application of the concept of economic polycentricity would enhance transition from monocentric and state-driven economic development, which has failed to yield economic emancipation to the citizens, to a people-centered system that would avail the masses not only the opportunities to be partners but also constitute the drivers of economic forces at various economic centers. 


The paper concludes that in the absence of polycentric constitution, societal structural dislocation and tyranny of the majority, which some people call ‘democracy’ will continue to be the order of the day, while masses suffer. 



Elections and Unfolding Patterns of Political Change in Liberia

Amos Sawyer, Co-Director, Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, Indiana University


Abstract: For more than a century, the settler oligarchy dominated Liberia, using the True Whig Party as its principal political organization. Since its overthrow in 1980, two armed men, Samuel Doe and Charles Taylor, established short-lived dictatorships. The 2005 elections were the first in more than a century that were not dominated by a ruling autocracy or an armed dictator. Though a single event in an evolving process of post-conflict recovery, the elections provided an opportunity to observe emerging patterns of political change in post-conflict Liberia. This paper, a first draft, is part of an ongoing effort to understand the dynamics of emergent processes in the reconstitution of political order in Liberia. It focuses on the emergence of new actors and institutions at national and county levels and explains the strategies and outcomes of patterns of electoral interaction at both levels: the evolving political tendencies, the social basis of alliance formation or political aggregation, the political uses of rituals, symbols and organizations drawn from various indigenous social orders, and the implications all of these hold for the establishment of systems of democratic governance in Liberia.



Session 3: The Place of African Chieftaincy Orders in Constitutional Democracy in Africa


Self-Government or Good Government: Traditional Rule and the Challenge of Constitutional Democracy and Development in Africa

Maxwell Owusu, Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Michigan


Abstract: The massive literature – social scientific, historical and humanistic – on Africa has chronicled, analyzed and assessed the changing institutions of African States from colonial rule to independence, as well as postcolonial systems of governance. Much of the pre-independence writing has been concerned with the “prospects for democracy” or “good government”; others with the creation of stable self-governing institutions which can direct or promote economic growth and development; still others with the question of adapting traditional society and culture to the demands of modern conditions, within the framework of African self-determination. This paper is concerned with a critical analysis and assessment, from an anthro-historical perspective of the problems and prospects of efforts to craft constitutional democracy and good governance in Africa on the basis of traditional political models, focusing on case-studies from Botswana and Ghana – ‘traditional’ here denoting the pattern of institutions and processes deriving from the pre-colonial past and still remarkably persistent.



Institutions and Organization of Defense and Security among the Yoruba in the Nineteenth Century

Oyebade (Kunle) Oyerinde, Ph.D. Candidate, Joint Program, Department of Political Science and School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Indiana University


Abstract: This paper examines how the Yoruba people in Ile-Ife, Ibadan, and Abeokuta organized and maintained the security of life and property in the nineteenth century. The paper looks at the conceptions each Yoruba community drew upon in organizing defense and security in the nineteenth century to understand the differences in their respective patterns of productive entrepreneurships.



Session 4: Religion, Spiritual Capital, and Public Entrepreneurship in Africa


Strategizing for the Lord and for Self-Governance: What IGOs and NGOs Can Learn from the Missionary Experience of the Indigenization of African Christianity

Michael McGinnis, Professor, Department of Political Science, Indiana University, Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, and The Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame


Abstract: Many 19th century Western missionaries were inspired by the goal of planting self-propagating, self-supporting, self-governing churches throughout Africa and the rest of the developing world. In this task they proved remarkably successful, even though the most rapidly growing forms of Christianity found in Africa bear few similarities to traditional mission churches. In an analogous fashion, many contemporary IGOs and NGOs engaged in development, humanitarian assistance, peace-building, and human rights strive to help establish democratic forms of self-governance and sustainable development in these same areas. Yet they tend to do so by recommending adoption of Western ideals rather than building upon currently existing patterns of informal institutions and legal pluralism.


Since today’s “secular missionaries” have had considerably less success in realizing their goals, I examine whether today’s IGOs and NGOs might learn from the strategies implemented by Christian missionaries. Just as Western Christians eventually came to accept as legitimate diverse cultural expressions of their shared faith, international advisors must learn to be more appreciative of institutional diversity if they are to plant sustainable institutions of self-governance that are securely rooted in local cultures and traditions. This paper highlights both the implications and limitations of this analogy between the past experience of Christian missionaries and contemporary dilemmas facing the global developmental-democratizing-peacebuilding IGO-NGO network.



Religion and Democratization in Colonial and Post-Colonial Africa: Parallels in the Evolution of Religious and Political Governance Structures

Sheldon Gellar, Research Associate, Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, Indiana University


Abstract: This paper explores parallels between governance structures within the political and religious orders in Africa and traces the evolution and transformation of religious institutions and communities under colonial and postcolonial rule. It notes that most Africans are members of religious communities and owe some allegiance to religious institutions and creeds. It traces the decline of traditional African religions under colonialism, the governance structures of Christian and Islamic religious institutions and communities, and their relationships with the colonial state. It notes that one can look at colonialism as an authoritarian political system in which Christian states ruled over multi-religious African societies to highlight the point that ethnicity and race are not the only way to look at pluralism in Africa.  The paper then looks at the implications of dual membership of Africans in religious and political orders as congregants and citizens in the post-colonial political order, the evolution of religious governance structures and their relationships with the post-colonial state, and the extent to which globalization has influenced Africa’s post-colonial political and religious orders. It concludes that religious institutions in Africa have the potential to lay the foundations for a democratic culture and serve as a bulwark against abuses of power by the post-colonial nation-state and its rulers.                



Preliminary Musings on the Relationship Between Spiritual Capital and Civic Engagement for Democratic Self-Governance

Ann Marie Thomson, Adjunct Assistant Professor, School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Indiana University


Abstract: Questions about the effects of religious practice on public life have become increasingly interesting and important to scholars in a number of disciplines.  Books such as Religion: The Missing Dimension of Statecraft (1994), Taking Faith Seriously (2005), and Religion and African Civil Wars (2005) are representative of an emerging field of study that views religion as a devalued but significant variable in discussions about democratic governance. These scholars argue that the strongly upheld principle of separation of church and state and the distinction of public and private life that characterize Western liberal democracy have desensitized us to the fact that much of the rest of the world has never made these distinctions.  The pervasive provision of public goods by religious organizations in failed states in Africa, the religious component of many African conflicts today, and the increasing reliance on NGOs (many of them faith-based) by bi-lateral and multi-lateral donors in humanitarian and development projects (by-passing the state) suggest religion is, in fact, an important independent variable in any discussions about democratic self-governance in Africa. 


Increasingly, the term “spiritual capital” is being used by some scholars to connote the resources embodied in religious institutions (e.g. practices, traditions, formal and informal organizations) that lead to certain kinds of collective action. Spiritual capital, as any form of capital (physical, human, social), can result in both positive and negative effects on society. As a principal source of individual and communal identity (how people think of themselves and in relation to others) in most societies, spiritual capital holds significant power to affect self-governing capacity.  How communal groups move from thinking about themselves to conceptualizing the processes by which they will govern themselves and their relationships with other communal groups implies the development of skills of civic engagement that result in different patterns of participation in governance processes. If we conceive of democratic self governance as “communities of relationships” whose members specify rules about themselves and about how they relate to other self-governing associations based on the principles of mutual aid and covenanting (Ostrom, V. 1992), then civic engagement can be viewed as one mediating variable by which communal identity expresses itself into productive public action.


This research project seeks to explore the question: Under what conditions is spiritual capital likely to result in civic engagement most conducive to democratic self-governance in post-colonial African communities?  The three principal variables examined are spiritual capital, civic engagement, and democratic self-governance. Challenges implicit in the conceptualization of these complex variables are identified and discussed.  Case studies are used to help explain the varieties of civic engagement that emerge as a result of a variety of religious practices and manifestations in several African countries. We conclude the discussion with a number of propositions in hopes of moving towards testable hypotheses about the relationships among these three critical variables.



Session 5: Can Local People Become Their Own Governors? Unlocking Local Potential for Democratic Governance


Governing the Ungovernable: Leadership Skills and Accountability in Ghana’s Marketplace Commodity Groups (PowerPoint)

Gracia Clark, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Indiana University


Abstract: Since the 1930s, market and street traders repeatedly served as a scapegoat for successive governments’ inability to control Ghana’s economy and deliver to their citizens at least progress towards a reasonable standard of living.  After each violent incident during price control and street clearance campaigns, public marketplace institutions reasserted themselves as the dominant distributor for consumer goods and a major source of employment.  In Ghanaian cities, about 80% of the female population is working as traders, while men were 30% of the stallholders in Kumasi Central Market (1979).  This persistence under conditions that had brought about the collapse of many formal economic institutions testifies to the resilience of the markets’ commodity group framework, which has proved itself capable of weathering both political and climatic hazards.  Drawing on both indigenous and Western organizational models for inspiration, commodity groups have generated fierce loyalty (and condemnation) for coordinating flexible and powerful responses to dramatic shifts in the legal, political, economic and social environment. 


The indigenous innovation of these groups has produced several generations of leaders with skills and legitimacy that represent a valuable social capital asset.   Neither historical tradition nor modern imitation, they draw upon Asante chiefship institutions rooted in the pre-colonial past, Western trade union and cooperative models, and the committee structure of Christian church women’s groups.  Such groups of women traders are first documented responding to colonial government plans to relocate the Central Market, and to efforts by Gao traders from Mali to push out the local Asante women.  Despite their complete lack of formal legal recognition, they do more to regulate the daily routine of trading than either the Market Manager appointed by the city government or the market subchief designated among the Asantehene’s palace officials. 


The legitimacy of market leaders arises from the important daily services they provide to traders and their recognized standing in the wider community.  Their dispute settlement services are critical to the smooth functioning of the crowded wholesale yards from which Kumasi is fed and regional flows of foodstuffs balanced.  They represent traders as a whole in negotiations with government that have considerable public respect, although no legal force.  They and their literate secretaries are also held strictly accountable for relatively large sums of money in dues or assessments.  These sums provide for funeral contributions and attendance, assist sick members, and financed the construction and repair of sheds and the recent paving of the wholesale yards. 


The constitutions of commodity groups demonstrate creativity in devising forms of accountability that are credible without requiring technical expertise.   Market queens are chosen by the established traders in their commodity and can be removed by them for malfeasance.  Always consulting with her elders, each commodity queen disciplines the allocation of scarce space, the enforcement of credit and other dyadic agreements, and the conventional procedures of buying and selling.  In negotiations with government officials or other market groups (such as drivers), the yam queen acts as first among equals.  Market leaders always go in the company of one or two elders or other queens, to provide for consultation and witnesses.  Contribution levels for funerals and illnesses are widely known and carefully documented.  


Asante dispute settlement conventions require the consent of both parties, and traders try hard to keep their courts attractive to farmers or other non-traders.  Extra-legal enforcement of the market queen’s judgment depends ultimately on her threat to withdraw access to the group’s social capital and weight of transactions.  These services allow markets to adjust nimbly to seasonal fluctuations, drought, changing currency exchange levels or procedures, and to survive other dramatic policy shifts, including several coups d’état. 



The Politics of Poverty and Social Welfare in Africa: The Narrowing of Reciprocity by Donors, States, Informal Social Networks and the Poor

Lauren Morris MacLean, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Indiana University


Abstract: The paper is an introduction to a book manuscript that focuses on the effects of colonial and post-colonial state formation and state retrenchment on the village political economy and social system in two similar regions of neighboring Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, West Africa.  Based on over 18 months of fieldwork, the research finds that informal institutions of social support are much weaker than most scholars and policymakers presume, with fewer people participating at levels too low to resolve most urgent needs.  These networks of solidarity also differ markedly in terms of their strength and composition with implications for the meaning of citizenship, political participation, and the prospects for democracy.  The analysis shows that the African state can powerfully influence local-level social systems and makes a unique contribution to understanding why some states fail and others do not in Africa and elsewhere.



The Scramble for Property Rights: Renegotiating Livelihoods and Sustainability after Uganda's Forest Sector Governance ReformMethods for Empirically Testing Whether Local People Can Successfully Become Their Own Governors

Pamela Jagger, Ph.D. Candidate, Joint Program, Department of Political Science and School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Indiana University


Abstract: This project seeks to develop an understanding of the role that governance reform has on institutional changes in property rights and on the subsequent policy outcomes of poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability at the local level. Reforms that promote democratic decentralization or devolution of forest management are being promoted throughout the low-income tropics as integral to jointly achieving poverty alleviation and sustainability outcomes.  While the normative arguments for these outcomes are well articulated, empirical research on the impacts of governance reform is limited, and the processes and conditions that lead to favorable outcomes are poorly understood.  Often national level policies result in heterogeneous outcomes at the sub-national level and tradeoffs between poverty reduction and sustainability outcomes.  This project draws on the experience of a far-reaching forest sector governance reform in Uganda.  Institutional choice and its implications at multiple scales are explored through three interlinked questions: (1) Since the forest sector governance reform, how have property rights and the rules used to create and enforce them been renegotiated at the local level?  (2) Has the contribution of forests to the livelihoods of local resources users been affected by the governance reform? and (3) Since the forest sector reform, how have forest cover and forest quality changed? My thesis is that governance reforms alter the political and economic incentives of actors in the forestry sector leading to a renegotiation of property rights, and that the new configuration of property rights is an important explanator of the capacity of local resource users to sustainably manage and utilize forests for poverty alleviation. 


In 2003 the Ugandan government undertook a major forest sector governance reform that altered the rights and responsibilities for managing 85 percent of the nation’s forests.  Using a nested research design, data will be collected in four forest areas selected to represent the variable governance regimes and forest types in Uganda.  The forest areas are: protected afromontane forest in Rwenzori National Park; privately held tropical high forest south of Bugoma Central Forest Reserve; protected tropical high forest in Budongo Central Forest Reserve; and protected savannah woodland in Kasagala Central Forest Reserve.  Data collected for this project build upon data collected by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in a study of the contribution of forests to livelihoods in these four areas immediately prior to the forest sector reform in 2003.  The WCS data provide a baseline of community, household, and market-level data for comparisons before and after the reform.  Governance of the Rwenzori National Park forest area has not been affected by the reform and therefore serves as a control.  A comparative qualitative analysis of economic and political incentives for key forest sector actors will be used to formulate hypotheses and develop institutional variables about renegotiated property rights and how they affect livelihood and sustainability outcomes for local resource users.  Quantitative data on the contribution of forests to livelihoods and forest sustainability will be collected for each of the four forest areas including district (N=7), village (N=48), and household-level variables (N=576).  Data on markets and the ability of local resource users to secure rights of access to and significant shares of forest product commodity chains will also be quantitatively assessed.  



Session 6: Local Institutions and Local Knowledge


Democratizing Knowledge: New Information Networks and the Possibilities for Open Access in Africa (PowerPoint)

Charlotte Hess, Director of Library and Information Services, Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, Indiana University


Abstract: This is an informal session reporting on some collaborative projects between the Workshop and academic Workshop affiliates in East and West Africa. The focus is on greater access to and more effective provision of knowledge.


This will be a PowerPoint presentation.




March 29, 2006