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14: Recalling the Significance of Local Governance to Human Security in Illiberal Sub-Saharan African Contexts

  • Page ID
    75946
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    Learning Objectives

    • Local governance is crucial to human security.
    • Locally defined political liberalisms and human security are inextricably linked.
    • Africanists need to refocus their energies on matters of local governance to help identify how this can benefit human security.
    • Due to the deeply entrenched norm of central government empowerment, established during both the colonial era and the Cold War, strengthening local government institutions in sub-Saharan African states is not only challenging but broadly viewed as a ‘non-starter.’

    Christopher LaMonica

    The citizens of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) states experienced two waves of great democratic hope: the 1960s and the 1990s. Yet in the 21st century most SSA states are still troubled by undemocratic forms of governance, severe dependence on development aid, and poor human security across all four pillars. Population growth, environmental degradation, violent conflict, and corruption at all levels renders developmental prospects of all kinds less likely than in most other parts of the developing world. Indeed, many argue that SSA states are now worse off than at the time of independence, or what has been termed the “Year of Africa,” 1960.

    Today, depending on who is asked, this developmental shortfall tends to be blamed on either internal (weak African state) or external (powerful state) actors. During the Cold War, the explanatory divide over Africa’s ‘development dilemma’ was largely ideological, broadly referred to as a battle between a ‘free’ (private property oriented) First World and a (Marxist-Leninist oriented) Second World. And while each ideological side was firmly convinced of its own moral superiority and practical worth, both tended to promote change of internal African (and all Third World state) conditions. This was of course achieved through a variety of coercive methods that included proprietary loans, (later) loan conditions, and infamously, the support of one or another ideological side in protracted ‘proxy wars’. Post-Cold War, in spite of claims to the contrary, this ideological divide continues to be influential and continues to dominate both politics and policy; yet, if one can see beyond the ideological lenses of yesteryear, the truth is that both sets of stakeholders (internal and external) are crucial to developmental success in SSA. Today we all need to move beyond the ideological divide that was so firmly embedded in our governing norms and institutions during the Cold War. Today, we must speak clearly about the ongoing challenge of centralized non-democratic norms—a powerful remnant of colonial history—that have led to illiberal authoritarian circumstances throughout SSA, with grave consequences for human security. This chapter suggests that greater attention to the development of local governance norms and institutions could make a significant difference at improving the prospects for individual livelihoods, democratic hope, and ultimately, human security. Doing so would help to provide new and necessary governance frameworks for locally defined forms of liberalism that would inevitably impact people’s day-to-day affairs and, more broadly, empower communities to address their own locally identified challenges.


    14: Recalling the Significance of Local Governance to Human Security in Illiberal Sub-Saharan African Contexts is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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