A Decade of Democracy in Africa by Stephen N. Ndegwa

By Stephen N. Ndegwa

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Lack of resources and severe economic crisis in the world’s poorest continent make all organizations of civil society weak and usually dependent on the state or foreign donors (Gyimah-Boadi 1997; Markovitz 1998; Igoe forthcoming). Because they are relatively new, disorganized, and poor, associations such as trade unions, professional bodies, and independent media have few if any roots in rural society where the bulk of the population resides. This pessimistic critique of the utility of the concept of civil society in Africa is quite sobering.

Disciples who find themselves dissatisfied with the demands made on them may opt for two types of responses. . first of all, the possibility of simply switching marabouts. Secondly [reducing]. . their affiliation with a marabout or an order to a purely nominal level. . (p. 193). The marabouts, in turn, engage, support or oppose the state in order to gain benefits for their clients. They are not dependent on the state, even when actively cooperating with it. The clients’ potential threat to shift patrons, though rarely carried out, combined with the marabouts’ relationship with the state, makes the orders a means of both political participation and accountability, a part of civil society, though clearly not characterized by liberal democratic norms.

Cambridge: MIT Press. E HRENBERG, John 1999 Civil Society: The Critical History of an Idea. New York: New York University Press. ” Comparative Study of Society and History 17(1):91-112. ” Comparative Studies in Society and History 32(4):660-700. ” Pp. 187-212 in Proceedings of the Symposium on Democratic Transition in Africa, edited by B. Caron. Ibadan, Nigeria: CREDU. FADIMAN , Jeffrey 1993 When We Began, There Were Witchmen: An Oral History from Mount Kenya. Berkeley: University of California Press.

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