Positive war vs negative peace
A war of independence was fought by 17 sub-Saharan African countries in 1960 with the flagship objective of overthrowing the colonial yoke that was foisted on them during the 1884-1885 Berlin Conference (or “Berlinisation”, as some like to call it).
It was a war that culminated in 1994 in South Africa with the symbolic erosion of the institutional structures of apartheid. Any war that goes against the grain of structural prebendalism, any war that resonates with the legitimate aspiration of the oppressed, any war that buys into the liberation theology of self-governance and people-driven ownership, is positive.
Unfortunately, the modest gains of positive wars have hardly been consolidated in Africa 50 years later. On the contrary, the path from positive war to positive peace has been strewn with petals of negative peace, watered in most cases by structural violence and fettered in all cases by gradualist discourses to African unity.
According to a Global Peace Index survey carried out in 2009 among 31 African countries, 10 countries fall under the high peace value bracket, 18 under the medium peace value, and 3 under the low peace value. These statistics show that since the re-emergence of electoral democracy in the late 1980s, more African countries have suffered from latent conflict than those that have experienced open conflict.
To circumvent the forces of negative peace, Africans will have to, in the next nominal independence years, execute a paradigm shift from governance to good-enough governance, and from electoral democracy to democratic development.
While governance is about how power is achieved and dispensed, good-enough governance focuses on humanitarian interventions, hence the opportunity to address basic service delivery systems. Good-enough governance is devoid of the personalisation of power. It is informed by the African shared community vision called “ubuntu” (South Africa), “pitso” (Lesotho) and “m’bangsuma” (Cameroon).
Added to these national values of positive peace is the battle cry for continental integration, whose practical visibility has eluded the African people since 1900.
George Ngwane. Buea, Cameroon