A Decade of Democracy in Africa by Stephen N. Ndegwa

By Stephen N. Ndegwa

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Under neo-patrimonialism, power battles among the elite are amoral competitions to gain resources to share with clients. The only political norm is Joseph’s (1998) prebendalism: “the offices of the existing state may be competed for and then utilised for the personal benefit of office-holders as well as that of their reference or support group” (p. 54). Relations between patrons and clients, largely confined within recognized ethnic groups, are personal and individualized, undermining the modern concepts of impersonal but equal citizenship and citizen-state relations (Berman 1997).

Women forming local self-help groups, or an association concerned with domestic violence or female genial mutilation, would clearly be part of civil society, no matter how “local” or informal their activities might be. For examples of both, see Ndegwa (1996) and Uvin (1998). This account is based on Villalon’s (1995) excellent study of the relationships among the Senegalese state, marabouts, and their disciples. See Fadiman (1993) for the best history of this subject from which I derive the historical material here, especially Chapters 7 and 11.

Rst 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.

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