Read Indigenous African Institutions by George B.N. Ayittey Free Online
Book Title: Indigenous African Institutions|
The author of the book: George B.N. Ayittey
Edition: Transnational Publishers
Date of issue: January 1st 1991
ISBN 13: 9780941320658
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 35.15 MB
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Reader ratings: 7.9
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I found this author through a book review he wrote for the WALL STREET JOURNAL. This book was really long and has an overview of Indigenous African Institutions, such as economic, judicial, and governing structures. The primary purpose, however, is not ethnographic or in depth history but rather to demonstrate the indigenous tools that should be used to govern Africa. Ayittey, a Ghanaian, is completely disgusted with the despotic authoritarian dictators that corrupted many of the countries throughout Africa. He also argues against the silence of Western governments to more openly criticize these regimes who instead send all kinds of ineffective financial and food aid to African nations. He argues that this is a form of "Politically Correct" racism that comes from guilt around slavery- don't criticize terrible black leaders because of fear of being called a racist, instead just blindly send financial aid.
Another point that stands out is the authoritarian nation-state arrangement as it is organized today, for the most part, is not an indigenous African institution. He demonstrates how most Africans make semi-nomadic tribal affiliation so the legal and social infrastructure like courts, ownership, and communal decisions were better managed through these smaller units. The national despots have taken over simply by force to fill the void that the West demands to have a large nation-state.
What was most interesting was the descriptions of the combination of consensus based policy making with monarchical rulers. Ayittey describes many instances of how the monarch of a tribe is balanced by advisors that are elected by other families, and how the general population can participate in communal discussions. Essentially the monarch, which could be king or queen, is not so far removed from the people. A monarch's power has another safeguard because his/her advisors are not related to the ruling family and represent people throughout the tribe. Although not purely democratic these systems have checks and balances. He offers interesting alternatives to the hegemonic assumption that nation-states is the only way to organize politically.
Ayittey also cites Botswana as an example of a fairly successful post-colonial nation that has integrated some indigenous procedures in the government. Government officials are mandated to hold consensus style meetings "under a tree" (as was the tradition) with those they represent.
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