ACCRA — The modern African state is the product of a colonial enterprise, which collapsed, in the post-traumatic stress of World War 2. The pre-colonial African states were independent self-governing entities with highly sophisticated forms of government. They were based on sound political and social theories although many were suffused with religious undertones. The state had the legitimacy of the government, it had efficient systems of taxation and national mobilization. However, these traditional African states in the whirlwind of the rapacious colonial adventures of the West ceased to exist as independent entities.
They found themselves in agglomerations called colonies by the European colonial adventurers. Using Ghana as a classic case study, citizens of states like the Asante Confederacy, Dahomey, the Fante Confederacy and Dagomba with traditional rights now found themselves residents of a colonial contraption with no properly defined legal identity except that of the pejorative term natives. Independence from the western colonial adventurers created the modern African State which is practically for all purposes a forced union of traditional African states partially or fully (taking cognizance of the fact that some traditional African states found themselves divided between different colonial entities).
The issue after independence was how to forge a unified nation state from a collection of traditional African states that a priori did not come together voluntarily reaching a consensus about a voluntary union state and the rights and obligations of the traditional entities within that new nation state. Many African states like Ghana for example, to deal with this chose a unitary structure or macro federal structure of government like in the case of Nigeria. The unitary or federal structure of government was borrowed lock stock and barrel from western models without any adaption to African ethnic and traditional notions of government.
Thus arose issues of who or which ethnic groups wielded power in the new states whether unitary or federal. This resulted in long bouts of political instability punctuated by paroxysms of violence reaching their apex in civil wars. We have the exact example of Biafra that attempted to secede from Nigeria and create an independent state during the Nigerian civil war of 1967-1970.
A possible solution to such issues of power devolution is the concept of micro-federalism within the unitary or macro federal African state. We will use Ghana, which is a union of traditional states as an example to explain the practicalities of the micro-federal concept.
Ghana consists of ten regions with further sub divisions into 216 districts. The districts have a district assembly with members partially elected with the remaining one third appointed by the president in consultation with traditional authorities and other interest groups in the district. The district chief executive is appointed by the president in consultation with the members of the district assembly. The financing of the districts is through the district assemblies’ common fund that receives five percent of the total revenue collected by the central government in any given year.
This decentralized system of local government although a step in the right direction still falls short of the kind of micro-federal structure that we envisage. The all-powerful presidency appoints all the district chief executives throughout the entire country and a full one third of all district assembly members. This is a reflection of the unitary structure of the district assembly local government concept. The presidency still directs the micro activities of the various districts through their appointments of the district chief executives.
A micro-federal structure envisions that the people of the district will directly elect the district chief executive. The electorate of the district will also directly elect all members of the district assembly, which will then choose by democratic vote in the district assembly the presiding officer of the district assembly. The issues of revenue collection and financial allocation of resources can also be further decentralized. This ensures that the local residents of the district are in control of their own local affairs and can demand accountability from the district chief executive that they directly elect.
What about control over local resources like mineral and water rights that are found in the district? These resources belong partly to the indigenes of the local traditional areas that make up the district and to other non-indigene residents of the district and to the nation at large.
We propose the establishment of two types of corporations, a District Development Corporation incorporated by the district assembly at the administrative level and a Traditional Area Development Corporation incorporated by the Traditional Area/s governed by the traditional authorities. These two development corporations will split equally a third of the equity in any subsoil or water resources development in the area. This ensures that the residents of the district both traditional indigenes and non-indigene residents have a stake in the sub-soil resources on the lands they live on. This can certainly reduce or eliminate the tensions between local traditional communities and companies that exploit the mineral wealth located on the lands of these communities. The profits from such equity stakes can serve as a revenue source for district level development. The introduction of local income taxes is another possible revenue source for the districts in addition to a progressive national income tax.
This model of micro-federalism empowers local communities, gives them an equity stake in the mineral wealth of their lands, and makes them responsible stakeholders in district and national level development.
In parallel with this micro-federal structure, a confederal model on the continental level is a realistic model of African integration. Confederation is a historical conceptual model for political integration found in Africa. The earliest historical example found is the rule over Kemet and Nubia by the pharaohs of the 25’Th dynasty. Kemet and Nubia although separate states were joined together in a super state union under the pharaohs of that dynasty. Other confederal super states like Ghana, Mali and Songhai arose in the western Sudan and were marked by centuries of political stability and highly sophisticated forms of state administration.
Such a confederal African super state, which we envision as a confederal parliamentary super state can start with a few states integrating in a confederation and gradually expanding to cover the African Union. We envision the process whereas the confederal African super state expands and the African Union contracts until we reach a convergence where the entire African Union becomes a confederal entity.
This African confederal super state does not need to have a single capital. It could have four or more confederal capitals. The Russian Federation for example has two capitals Moscow and Saint Petersburg that hosts the constitutional court, Russia’s Supreme Court. Nation states within the confederal state would maintain broad autonomy and have control over their local affairs. The confederal center will have responsibility for defense foreign affairs and a unified monetary space. National military forces will partly become interior ministry troops while the rest would be confederalized for the confederal army. A confederal parliament composing of two chambers will make laws for the confederation and would appoint the upper echelons of the confederal armed forces. This will guarantee that the armed forces is accountable to the elected representatives of the African peoples of the confederacy and not to an executive branch that can act dictatorially and imperialistically if it controls the instruments of organized violence.
A confederal supreme court would interpret the laws made by the parliament of the confederation. Its decisions will be binding when it comes to constitutional matters concerning the confederal state. It would be based in one of the confederal capitals.
The head of state of the African Confederacy can be a collective body of individuals elected by universal suffrage whose collective role is ceremonial. The confederal parliament and its various committees of the upper chamber will delegate real executive power to the confederal Prime Minister chosen by the confederal parliament who will head a Council of Ministers acting as the executive branch and the government cabinet.
Ayi Kwei Armah, the celebrated Ghanaian and African writer, on March 17 2016, in a video from Senegal, the Global Conversations with students of Morehouse College and the University of Ghana, suggested an intriguing idea. A continental African language could be based on resurrecting the use of the language of Kemet. This classical African language as a base could be fused with parts of modern African languages to create a continental language taught in schools across the continent. This would solve the problem of which language to use as a unifying authentic African language. We all have the unifying consensus that it is the oldest classical and literary language existing on the continent and the earliest civilization in Africa.
This would have the effect of linguistically and psychologically linking this new confederal African parliamentary super republic with ancient Kemet and powerfully establish the confederal African state as the legitimate historical successor state to Kemet in the same way that Russia is the successor state to Byzantium and the Soviet Union.
We have a modern example of the creation of a new language to unify a diverse group of people. Indonesia after its independence in 1945 from the Dutch brought together a group of linguists to create a new language out of the disparate languages and dialects of the vast Indonesian archipelago. They succeeded and this creation is called Bahasa Indonesian, which was taught in schools and is now spoken by virtually all Indonesians and acting as a unifying factor. The task in Africa is infinitely easier; we already have a base language, the language of ancient Kemet.
The combination of micro-federalism on the local scale and a confederal republic on the continental scale with a unifying language based on that of Kemet as proposed by Ayi Kwei Armah is a viable and realistic path to achieving African political, economic and linguistic integration. We as African peoples are ready for the task. We must.