Jun 16, 2012

Why nations succeed?

According to Acemoglu and Robinson nations that don't fail have historically nourished inclusive institutions. One aspect of this is that public policies are developed consensually, taking into account different (and probably all) sectors of the inhabitants of a nation. Fifty years ago Buchanan and Tullock claimed in their book The Calculus of Consent that the rule of unanimity was the only way in which the majority can not exploit the minorities. The rule of unanimity means absolute inclusion (see a previous post on this here). Therefore The Calculus of Consent can be also seen as a book on economic prosperity, and a predecessor of Why Nations Fail

Professor George Ayittey, an expert in African development, shared these ideas which support the argument that consensus is actually a prerequisite of the success of nations:
Why Botswana is an economic success story and the rest of black Africa in economic doldrums. In traditional Africa, governance is characterized by politics of INCLUSION, participatory democracy and decision-making by CONSENSUS. Dictatorship is not compatible with this system.
Village governments are made up of three units:
1. The Chief, chosen and removed by the Queen-Mother of the Royal Family. Stateless societies – like the Gikuyu, Igbo, Somali and Tallensi -- have no chiefs or kings.
2. The Council of Elders – an independent body comprising clan leaders or heads of extended families in the village. Clans choose their own leaders; they are not chose by chiefs.
3. The Village Assembly – a deliberative forum that discusses policy issues, laws, etc. Any ADULT, including strangers, can participate.
These three units were common among the African ethnic groups that were states and two units (minus the chiefs) in stateless societies. The larger polities – such as Kingdoms and Empires – were/are confederacies, characterized by DECENTRALIZATION of power and DEVOLUTION of authority.
In normal governance, routine decisions are made by acclamation. But on important issues, the Chief and the Council of Elders must reach a UNINAMOUS verdict. When this is not possible on a contentious issue, a Village Assembly is convened and the issue put before the people. It will be debated until a CONSENSUS is reached. Once reached, ALL in the village, including the chief must abide by it. Briefly described, it is a system that features inclusiveness, freedom of expression, participation, and consensus.
The Village Assembly was/is common among nearly all the African ethnic groups. It is variously called asetena kese among the Ashanti, Ama-ala among the Igbo, guurti among the Somali, dare among the Shona (Zimbabwe), ndaba among the Zulu, pitso among the Xhosa, and kgotla among the Tswana.
The tragedy of post colonial African development was that only Botswana went back to its roots and built upon its indigenous institutions. Today, cabinet ministers are required to attend weekly kgotlas to explain and seek the consent of the people on important matters. As Fred Dira explained:
“When they were initiated, kgotla meetings were meant to be totally apolitical. They were to be meetings at which government ministers and members of parliament would brief local communities about official policies and programs, or about issues discussed or to be discussed in parliament. It was also part of the tradition of kgotla meetings that if they were convened by the president or any of his ministers, the respective members of parliament would not only be present, but would also be given some role to play at the meeting. This was in recognition of the fact that at such meetings, MPs shared the role of host with the chiefs” (Mmegi/The Reporter, May 12-18, 1995; p.7).
Such was the case in 1991, when the government tried to explain a $25 million Okavango River irrigation project to the villagers at a kgotla in the northern town of Maun. Irate villagers vented their rage.
"You will dry the delta! We will have no more fish to eat! No more reeds to build our houses!" a village elder screamed (The Washington Post, Mar 21, 1991; p.A3). For six hours, they berated government officials for conceiving of such a dastardly project. Buckling under the wrath of the people, the government canceled the project. Only in Botswana could this happen, giving true meaning to such terms as "participatory development," "bottom-up development approach," "grassroots development," and "popular participation in development." Villagers can’t do this in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Rwanda or many other African countries. 
Furthermore in Botswana, "Chiefs still exercise considerable local authority and influence which can act as a check on too precipitate action by the government and can even swing local elections" (Colclough and McCarthy, 1980: p.38). Asked why Botswana has had better leaders than the rest of Africa, Zibani Maundeni of the University of Botswana replied indigenous Tswana culture has helped: “Before any big decision [Tswana leaders] consulted the general population. There was a strong culture of hearing the views of ordinary people” (The Economist, Nov 6, 2004; p.50). 
In the rest of post colonial Africa, the nationalist leaders REJECTED the traditional system as “backward and primitive,” went abroad and copied all sorts ALIEN systems to impose on their people. Chiefs were stripped of their traditional powers and authority. The indigenous system of participatory democracy and the tradition of reaching a consensus were spurned. In their place, African leaders erected the most heinous political systems: one-party state systems that banned opposition parties, produced presidents-for-life, squelched freedom of expression, and concentrated a great deal of both economic and political power in the hands of the state and one buffoon, who ran for elections unopposed and ALWAYS won 99.999 percent of the vote!
Over time, “government” ceased to exist. What evolved was the “vampire state” – a government hijacked by a phalanx of bandits, crooks and scoundrels, who used the machinery of the state to enrich themselves, their cronies, kinsmen and exclude everybody else – the politics of EXCLUSION. The richest persons in Africa are heads of state and ministers. Quite often, the chief bandit is the head of state himself. The result of this was the creation of APARTHEID-LIKE systems across Africa. The monopolization of both economic and political power by ONE GROUP to advance its own economic and political interests and exclude all others. This group may be:
• RACIAL – such as whites in Sought (white apartheid); Arabs in North Africa, Mauritania or Sudan (Arab apartheid),
• ETHNIC – such as Hutu/Tutsi in Burundi, Rwanda; Kabye in Todo; Hausa in Nigeria; Tigrayan in Ethiopia, etc. (tribal apartheid),
• PROFESSIONAL -- such as the military
• POLITICAL – such as one political party – MPLA in Angola, FRELIMO in Mozambique, CCM in Tanzania, ZANU in Zimbabwe, etc.
The consequences of the idiotic apartheid-like systems and the politics of EXCLUSION are all there for us to see: civil strife, conflict, wars, state collapse, failed states, economic ruination, devastated agriculture, crumbled infrastructure, etc. ALL the civil wars and conflict in Africa were started by politically EXCLUDED groups. – from Angola, Burundi, Chad, Liberia, Nigeria, Sudan, Uganda and Zaire to even Libya. 
The whites in South Africa WISELY consented to the dismantling of apartheid. But Samuel Doe of Liberia refused, leading to a destructive war. Mobutu of Zaire refused, leading to the destruction of Congo DR. The Arabs in Sudan refused, leading to war and the break-up of Sudan. The Hutus in Rwanda refused, leading to the 1994 genocide and the destruction of the country. 
I can go on and on but what is maddening is that the SOLUTION is right there in Africa, under the stinking noses of these leaders – in BOTSWANA. Though composed of 13 tribes, Botswana has not seen any civil strife or war since independence in 1966. So what is the point in African leaders trooping to Asia, China or even Jupiter to copy their models when there s a successful one right there on the continent?
Italics are mine. 

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