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Civil society, democracy and good governance in Africa.

1. Introduction

In the past two decades, the idea of civil society has attracted tremendous attention in political and developmental discourse. This is because political theory presents civil society as a crucial agent for promoting democracy and development. This article examines the role of civil society in promoting democracy and good governance The terms governance and good governance are increasingly being used in development literature. Governance describes the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented (or not implemented).  in Africa. In order to lay a strong theoretical background for the analysis, the article begins by exploring the debate about what constitutes the civil society in Africa. Although the term civil society is widely used in academic and policy circles, it has yet to acquire a commonly accepted meaning. Definitions of civil society are bewilderingly be·wil·der  
tr.v. be·wil·dered, be·wil·der·ing, be·wil·ders
1. To confuse or befuddle, especially with numerous conflicting situations, objects, or statements. See Synonyms at puzzle.

2.
 diverse and the differences between them are often rooted in alternative social and political philosophies (1). Political theorists of Greek, Roman, Liberal, and Marxist backgrounds have attempted to conceptualize con·cep·tu·al·ize  
v. con·cep·tu·al·ized, con·cep·tu·al·iz·ing, con·cep·tu·al·iz·es

v.tr.
To form a concept or concepts of, and especially to interpret in a conceptual way:
 civil society. These scholars explore the complexity of the concept, showing different dimensions of civil society such as the material (Hegel, Marx and Engels), organizational (de Tocqueville and Ferguson), and ideological (Gramsci and Havel). Debates about the historical and theoretical foundations of the concept of civil society reverberate re·ver·ber·ate  
v. re·ver·ber·at·ed, re·ver·ber·at·ing, re·ver·ber·ates

v.intr.
1. To resound in a succession of echoes; reecho.

2.
 in contemporary analyses (2).

The views emerging from these discussions focus on the preconditions for the composition of the civil society. Here, one notion of civil society seems dominant. This notion is rooted in the Western tradition of liberal-democratic theory, which identifies civic organizations such as advocacy groups in Europe and the United States of America UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. The name of this country. The United States, now thirty-one in number, are Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire,  as the main elements of the civil society (3). A number of Western intellectuals and donor agencies that tend to use the terms "NGO NGO
abbr.
nongovernmental organization

Noun 1. NGO - an organization that is not part of the local or state or federal government
nongovernmental organization
" and "civil society" interchangeably have popularized this notion of civil society. These individuals and institutions see civil society as an important component of the political project of building and consolidating democracy around the world. They believe that efforts to globalize glob·al·ize  
tr.v. glob·al·ized, glob·al·iz·ing, glob·al·iz·es
To make global or worldwide in scope or application.



glob
 democracy must be accompanied by the creation and strengthening of civil society in places like Africa where it is either non-existent or at a nascent stage. The global civil society network CIVICUS, for instance, aims to "help advance regional, national and international initiatives to strengthen the capacity of civil society" (4). Scholars refer to this Western perception of civil society as the conventional notion of civil society (5).

2. The Conventional Notion of Civil Society

The individuals and institutions that propagate the conventional notion of civil society restrict its constitutive constitutive /con·sti·tu·tive/ (kon-stich´u-tiv) produced constantly or in fixed amounts, regardless of environmental conditions or demand.  elements to formal civic organizations and highlight the organizational aspects of civil society (6). They argue that civil organizations must meet specific criteria, including (7):

1. Autonomy from both social interests and the state.

2. Capacity for collective action that promotes interests or passions.

3. Absence of an intention to govern the polity.

4. Agreement to act within civil rules 'conveying mutual respect'.

The criteria also include the idea that "pronouncedly hierarchical associations do not qualify as civil associations because they are not internally democratic" (8).

The conventional notion of civil society views civic associations as organizations with formal structure that would permit the pursuit of specific civic interests. In other words Adv. 1. in other words - otherwise stated; "in other words, we are broke"
put differently
, civic organizations include only those organizations that "agree to act within pre-established rules of a 'civil' nature; that is, conveying mutual respect" (9). The organizations must eschew violence, respect pluralism, the law and other actors. Lawrence Whitehead extends this moral dimension arguing that "civil" should be construed as "civility" (10). In other words, civic organizations should act not only within constraints of legal or pre-established rules, but also with a sense of respect for the opinion and feelings of others.

The above criteria narrow the concept of civil society, allowing for the predominance of what I call the "political conception of civil society" (11). The political conception of civil society stems from the conventional notion of civil society. It limits the constitutive elements of the civil society only to "civic" organizations that pursue public interest through "civil" means. Thus, the key issues underlying civil society include the idea of civility, voluntarism voluntarism

Metaphysical or psychological system that assigns a more predominant role to the will (Latin, voluntas) than to the intellect. Christian philosophers who have been described as voluntarist include St. Augustine, John Duns Scotus, and Blaise Pascal.
, economic freedom, citizenship, rights, rule of law and democratic representation.

The political conception of civil society excludes traditional organizations in the mainstream of African public space. This is due to the inability of these organizations to measure up to the "civility" criteria. African "associational life" is most often made up of "ascriptive groupings rather than voluntary ones, and that may be entwined with the state and ravaged by outside forces (ethnicity, sectarianism, etc)" (12). Peter Ekeh notes that:
   The ... problem confronting the successful adoption of the
   elements of civil society in Africa concerns the relationship
   between individuals and kinship ... Kinship will continue to be
   relevant in the lives of millions of Africans who are either
   threatened by the state or else ignored by its agencies. Yet
   kinship distorts the expansiveness and universalism of civil
   society. Civil society requires that the worth of the unique
   individual be recognized beyond his or her ethnic group (13).


Some scholars argue that ascriptive organizations such as communal and religious associations tend to undermine the civil society (14). In order to save African civil society from the destructive activities of the ascriptive organizations, institutions like the World Bank, USAID USAID United States Agency for International Development
USAID Agencia de los Estados Unidos para el Desarrollo Internacional (Spanish) 
, and INTRAC are deeply involved in efforts to build and strengthen the African civil society. They pursue this task within the overall framework of democracy promotion (15). These institutions justify their activities by maintaining that formal organizational activity in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area.  and Western Europe Western Europe

The countries of western Europe, especially those that are allied with the United States and Canada in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (established 1949 and usually known as NATO).
 has taught its members democratic skills and promoted interests which governments might otherwise overlook. As such, they argue that the development of civil society organizations is very crucial in Africa in order to promote democracy and good governance. Since Africa is faced with the challenges of state failure and democratic disappointments, many Africans tend to embrace this conception of civil society.

The problems with the conventional notion of civil society are numerous. First of all, attempts to analyze African civil society based on this notion leads one to an empirically difficult task of deciding which civic organizations are truly "civil" as opposed to those that may be classified as "pre-civil", "uncivil" or "anti-civil". Secondly, because many traditional organizations in Africa are excluded from the civil society, most parts of Africa's rich associational life are left out in the analysis of the continent's civil society. Finally, excluding some traditional organizations from the African civil society results in the exclusion of the interests they represent. This makes the claim that civil society produces democracy contemptuous. If democracy means the opportunity for universal citizen participation in governance, one wonders the sort of democracy that can be fashioned by organizations that explicitly do not represent issues of interest to a large number of citizens. Considering the shortcomings of the conventional notion of civil society, the next section presents an alternative notion of civil society that would be useful in analyzing the role of civil society in democracy and good governance.

3. Looking at Civil Society Differently

The core problem of the conventional notion of civil society is that it excludes traditional organizations in Africa from the analysis of the civil society. Since the success of democratization de·moc·ra·tize  
tr.v. de·moc·ra·tized, de·moc·ra·tiz·ing, de·moc·ra·tiz·es
To make democratic.



de·moc
 and good governance depends on popular consent or broad acceptance of the process of acquiring and utilizing power, it is imperative for civil society organizations to have deep social roots in the society. Indeed, some African rulers have enormous power to manipulate the democratic process because they represent the interests of the strong social forces that benefit from their regime. Therefore, the prodemocracy groups that oppose these rulers must also have strong roots in the society. Although donor driven NGOs play important roles in Africa, they have tenuous ties with the citizens (16). As such, the struggle for democracy and good governance in Africa cannot be sustained through the sole effort of these NGOs.

Because donor driven NGOs cannot sustain the struggle for democracy and good governance in Africa, there is a need to reexamine re·ex·am·ine also re-ex·am·ine  
tr.v. re·ex·am·ined, re·ex·am·in·ing, re·ex·am·ines
1. To examine again or anew; review.

2. Law To question (a witness) again after cross-examination.
 the exclusion of traditional African organizations from the analysis of civil society. This is especially important because it is not in all cases that these organizations are unwilling to accept rules of "civility", compromises and democratic decisions. For instance, if communal and religious organizations perceive that state institutions offer them opportunities for rewards in the future, they may be more likely to make compromises and follow the "rules of the game". It is loss of faith in the ability of state institutions to protect their interests that push these organizations into "uncivil" behaviors (17). Therefore, "uncivil" behaviors depend on the failure of the state to reconcile various special interests in the society. In order to have a clear understanding of the role of civil society in promoting democracy and good governance in Africa, it is essential to widen the concept of civil society. Considering that traditional associations such as religious, communal, and occupational associations have a genuine base in Africa, it is useful to include them in the analysis of civil society in the continent. In order to examine the contributions of traditional civil society organization to democracy and good governance in Africa, I would adopt what I call the "sociological conception of civil society".

The sociological conception of civil society expands the concept of civil society to include a wide range of societal groups. It sees the civil society as a realm composed of all sorts of associations and organizations that exist outside of the state and market, and working to protect "collective" interests. It includes the gamut of organizations that political scientists traditionally label interest groups--advocacy NGOs, labor unions, professional associations, chambers of commerce, communal associations, students' unions, cultural associations, and sports clubs. The sociological conception of civil society is useful for the analysis of civil society organizations in Africa because it permits the combination of what Peter Ekeh described as a 'civic public realm' and 'primordial public realm' (18). The civic and primordial public realms encompass both traditional and modern civil society organizations.

Based on the above, my conception of African civil society recognizes all groups outside the ambit of the state and market as civil society organizations. This notion of the civil society is based on a tripartite view of the society, which recognizes the existence of three sectors in the society--the state, market and civil society (19). Each of the sectors function to make and enforce laws, provide avenue for exchange of goods and services In economics, economic output is divided into physical goods and intangible services. Consumption of goods and services is assumed to produce utility (unless the "good" is a "bad"). It is often used when referring to a Goods and Services Tax. , and serve as arena for debate and common endeavor, respectively. Different organizational forms have evolved fitting into the specific conditions of each of the sectors. The government and its agencies are the organizational form of the state. The firms, enterprises or corporations are the organizational form of the market. The corresponding organizational form of the civil society is the public benefit and mutual benefit organizations.

On one hand, public benefit organizations are set up to serve the common interest of society, and their mission is based on common perceptions and values of self-selected citizens who are assumed to be public spirited. Those who govern the organizations are accountable to their governance structure, and not to those who benefit from their services. The organizations may act in the interests of certain groups in society, but do not necessarily have a mandate to be their representatives. Examples of public benefit organizations include philanthropic organizations, civic organizations, advocacy groups, as well as welfare and developmental organizations. The mutual benefit organizations, on the other hand, are formed to benefit its members. These organizations include cooperative societies, trade unions, communal associations, and professional associations. Mutual benefit organizations are in principle formed by and accountable to its members. If members do not like what the leadership of the organization is doing, they are at liberty to change it. The beneficiaries of the organization are the same as those responsible for the governance of the organization; this is what distinguishes mutual benefit from public benefit organizations.

But generally, organizations in the civil society create room for debate on the direction of social development and make it possible for people to influence and control both the state and market. They also:
   ... supplement political parties as varied and flexible mechanism
   through which citizens define and articulate a broad range of
   interests, meet local needs, and make demands on the
   government. provide training grounds for democratic
   citizenship, develop the political skills of their members, recruit
   new political leaders, stimulate political participation, and
   educate the broader public on a wide variety of public interest
   issues ... serve as checks on the relentless tendency of the state
   to centralize its powers and evade civic accountability and
   control (20).


They provide a platform for citizens of a political community to take measures to make preparations; to provide means.

See also: measure
 and act for what they think is beneficial to the entire community. With regards to democracy and good governance, the basis for participation in civil society organizations is the right of each individual to participate in societal affairs, and the recognition that periodic elections and referenda, if properly conducted or held at all, are insufficient channels for popular participation in governance. In the following sections, I will apply my conception of the civil society to the analysis of the contributions of civil society to the promotion of democracy and good governance in Africa. The analysis will draw largely from the Nigerian experience.

4. Civil Society and Democracy in Africa

This section adopts the sociological conception of civil society outlined above in the analysis of the contributions of civil society to the process of democratization in Africa. The dawn of civil society activity in Africa preceded the advent of the colonial state. Civil society in pre-colonial Africa was organized around age-grades, women, youth, and brotherhood associations. These traditional organizations provided the impetus for the emergence of new forms of voluntary associations during the colonial period Colonial Period may generally refer to any period in a country's history when it was subject to administration by a colonial power.
  • Korea under Japanese rule
  • Colonial America
See also
  • Colonialism
 (for instance, hometown associations, labor unions, and professional associations). The repressive and disruptive nature of the colonial state galvanized the transformation of African civil society. The colonial state was janus-faced. On one side, the state governed a racially defined citizenry, bounded by rule of law and an associated regime of rights. On the other side, the state ruled over subjects that were under a regime of political and economic coercion (21). Consequently, individuals who belonged to the latter category organized themselves and began to confront the state (symbolized by the native authorities and the colonial administration). Many voluntary associations became openly political--offering the people a voice in their opposition to the indignities of colonial rule and demands for self-determination (22).

The quest for Verb 1. quest for - go in search of or hunt for; "pursue a hobby"
quest after, go after, pursue

look for, search, seek - try to locate or discover, or try to establish the existence of; "The police are searching for clues"; "They are searching for the
 democracy and good governance is thus, the core element behind the growth of civil society activity in Africa. The civil society's contributions to democratization in Africa during the colonial and post-colonial periods center on the struggle for decolonialization and demilitarization de·mil·i·ta·rize  
tr.v. de·mil·i·ta·rized, de·mil·i·ta·riz·ing, de·mil·i·ta·riz·es
1. To eliminate the military character of.

2.
.

4.1 Civil society and the struggle for decolonialization

In various parts of Africa, civil society during the colonial era was made-up of mainly small associations, which were informal, minimally organized, and concerned mainly with confronting local authorities. Although some scholars argue that collective action during the colonial era does not constitute civil society activity choosing to refer to it as mere "associational life" (23), others insist that collective action against the colonial state constitutes civil society struggle (24). Civil society organizations in colonial Africa had deep roots in the "primordial public realm" and constituted what is referred as the "grassroots civil society" (25).

Movements of resistance against colonial penetration and occupation dominated civil society engagement in colonial Africa. The imposition of alien political, economic, and social arrangements provoked revolts from the local people. Civil society organizations were constituted to provide psychological and emotional outlets for the tension and frustration generated by colonialism and rapid cultural change. As colonialism progressed, the less organized local movements against the colonial authorities began to give way to the rise of a more organized nationalist movement
For nationalist movements in general, see Nationalism.


The Nationalist Movement is a controversial Mississippi-based organization that advocates what it calls a "pro-majority" position.
. These developments marked the evolution of a strong mechanism for the aggregation and articulation of diverse local interests and sentiments into a broadly organized movement explicitly aimed at dislodging the authoritarian colonial state and achieving self-government.

Civil society in colonial Africa was actively involved in various forms of rural and urban protests against the colonial state. Usually precipitated and fed by specific grievances, these anti-colonial revolts were often territorially uncoordinated un·co·or·di·nat·ed  
adj.
1. Lacking physical or mental coordination.

2. Lacking planning, method, or organization.



un
 and haphazard in their occurrence. However, they reveal the tendency of the educated class residing in urban areas to mobilize and provoke uprisings in the interior areas as the 1918 Egba Uprising in Southwest Nigeria amply demonstrates (26). The uprisings also exposed the amazing capacity of the people to initiate and execute organized collective action that at times transcended clan and tribal boundaries, as shown by the Aba Women's Riots of 1929 in Southeast Nigeria (27).

On several occasions during the colonial era, residents of major urban centers in Africa vigorously protested various oppressive and onerous actions of the colonial state (28). These rural and urban mass movements contributed tremendously in creating a synergy between grassroots civil society organizations and intermediate associations that operated mainly in the cities. But besides the rural-urban synergy, they were also a collaboration between educated elites and some Africans who were leaders of religious organizations. There are many examples of the explicit use of Christianity, Islam, and indigenous religions to promote the nationalist struggles. During the Zimbabwean liberation war, a close relationship developed between the nationalist guerrillas and many traditional Shona spirit mediums, drawing on the belief that the ancestral spirits were the defenders of the land (29). In Northern Nigeria Northern Nigeria is a geographical region of Nigeria. It is more arid and has less population density than the south. The people are largely Muslim, and many are Hausa. Much of the north was once politically united in the Northern Region, a federal division disbanded in 1967. , Ahmadu Bello Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello (1910 - 1966) was a Nigerian politician, and was the first premier of the Northern Nigeria region from 1954-1966. He was one of the prominent leaders in Northern Nigeria along side Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, both of whom where prominent in negotiations about  constantly stressed the relationship between his brand of nationalism and his role as a crusader for Islam (30). While in Southern Nigeria, churches such as the United Native African Church and the African Church Incorporated seceded from white-dominated churches to enlist in the struggle against colonialism (31). The collaboration between leaders of the political and religious wings of the nationalist movement provided a notable link between religious rhetoric and the nationalist struggle (32). The activities of these separatist religious groups caused the colonialists serious apprehension, because of the level of intensity with which they fueled the undercurrent of frustration and grievance that ultimately found an outlet in political nationalism.

Meanwhile, the rise of local mass media organizations, the emergence of professional and community-based organizations, and the growth of the idea of trade unionism followed the growth of indigenous religious organizations. The mass media in particular made an outstanding impact on the development of African civil society during the colonial era (33). The proliferation of professional and community-based associations was also crucial to the growth of civil society in Africa, especially as they provided an avenue for the mobilization, recruitment and training of political leaders (34). The idea of collective action among wage-earning groups also became part of the African civil society and the decolonialization struggle. In Nigeria, this idea first took root in 1912 when African Clerks in the service of the colonial government organized under the Southern Nigeria Civil Service Union; the idea quickly became widespread. As members of new occupational groups became increasingly aware of the links that bound them together, organizational activity among them continued to expand. Obviously, the development of new economic forces and modes of production accelerated the tempo of social mobilization and opposition against the colonial state. The organizational activities generated by the struggle for decolonialization accelerated the development of African civil society and also played a significant role in the exit of colonial administrations.

4.2 Civil society and the struggle for demilitarization

Political independence preceded military intervention The deliberate act of a nation or a group of nations to introduce its military forces into the course of an existing controversy.  in the politics of many African countries (35). As a result, the focus of civil society activity in these countries shifted towards mobilizing popular resistance against military dictatorship A military dictatorship is a form of government wherein the political power resides with the military; it is similar but not identical to a , a state ruled directly by the military. . Moreover, the economic difficulties arising from bad governance and the restrictions imposed by the military on human freedom combined to encourage mass mobilization Mass mobilization (also known as social mobilization or popular mobilization) refers to mobilization of civilian population as part of contentious politics. Mass mobilization can be used by social movements, including revolutionary movements, but also by the state , political organization and political activism in many African countries (36). These factors also encouraged the creation of new civil society organizations and the strengthening of the existing ones. The strength and vibrancy of the civil society compelled many African states to make occasional, though partial and reversible concessions to popular forces.

In post-colonial Africa, collective action and pressures to strengthen civil society and foster democracy have come mainly from students (37), intellectuals (38), workers, professionals, and more recently, pro-democracy and human rights NGOs. The labor movement is perhaps the most important part of the post-colonial civil society in Africa. In Nigeria, for instance, the labor movement is the largest autonomous interest group (39). Like in many African countries, Nigerian workers are organized into a central trade union organization--the Nigeria Labour Congress Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) is an umbrella organisation for trade unions in Nigeria. It was founded in 1978 following a merger of four different organisations: Nigeria Trade Union Congress (NTUC), Labour Unity Front (LUF), United Labour Congress (ULC) and Nigeria Workers Council  (NLC NLC National League of Cities
NLC National Library of Canada
NLC National Library of China
NLC Northern Lights College (British Columbia, Canada)
NLC North Lake College (Irving, Texas) 
), of which all industrial unions in the country are affiliated (40). The NLC forged strong linkages or coalition with students, intellectuals, and progressive professional associations like the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA NMA Nederlandse Mededingingsautoriteit
NMA National Medical Association
NMA National Mining Association
NMA NetWare Management Agent (Novell)
NMA New Model Army
NMA National Motorists Association
NMA North Mississippi Allstars
) in the struggle for democracy and good governance (41). The Congress has also on several occasions outlined alternative strategies for national development (42).

Since the 1980s, there has been a steady decline in the vibrancy of African civil society. This has resulted in the failure of civil society organizations to sustain their pressures for democratization. Analysts attribute this situation to several factors of which economic consideration is the most notable (43). It is argued that the material bases of support for civil society organizations in African were eroded by the protracted economic crisis that gripped the continent from the early 1980s as well as the stringent neoliberal ne·o·lib·er·al·ism  
n.
A political movement beginning in the 1960s that blends traditional liberal concerns for social justice with an emphasis on economic growth.



ne
 adjustment measures imposed with a view to resolving it. Consequently, many associations lost much of their organizational capacity to the extent that the state found them easy targets for co-optation or neutralization neutralization, chemical reaction, according to the Arrhenius theory of acids and bases, in which a water solution of acid is mixed with a water solution of base to form a salt and water; this reaction is complete only if the resulting solution has neither acidic nor . The weakness of the private sector and the pervasive dependence on the state induced subservience toward state authority. Gyimah-Boadi notes that:
   The middle-class professionals and intellectuals who run key
   public institutions tend to be understandably preoccupied with
   their own economic survival, which often prevents their
   institutions from helping civil society to checkmate state
   hegemony. Judges depend on government for their
   appointments and for their operational budgets, and have few
   opportunities for lucrative private practice should they resign
   [or lose their job]. They can scarcely afford to maintain a
   posture of strict independence. Private newspapers fear losing
   much-needed revenue from government advertisement ... (44).


Given the state dominance in the formal sector (especially in the areas of investment and employment), many organizations found it difficult to exist without receiving support from the government. Again, with the majority of the middle and working classes tied to government through employment, and the private sector dependent on government for contracts, subsidized credit, and other favors, the basis for individual and associational autonomy has become extremely weak.

The above situation notwithstanding, the civil society in Africa has managed to survive. Much of the lifeline to the contemporary African civil society has come from donor agencies and international civil society organizations. Both the donors and the NGOs assisted civil society organizations in Africa by offering them direct material and moral support (45). The enormous amount of aid that came from International NGOs such as the National Endowment for Democracy, Westminster Foundation for Democracy The Westminster Foundation for Democracy is a United Kingdom government funded organisation set up to promote democratic institutions overseas. It was established in March 1992. , and the Political-party Foundation was instrumental to the establishment and proliferation of prodemocracy and human rights NGOs in Africa. In Nigeria, for example, NGOs like the Civil Liberty Organization (CLO CLO

See: Collateralized Loan Obligation.
), Constitutional Rights Project (CRP C-reactive protein (CRP)
A protein present in blood serum in various abnormal states, like inflammation.

Mentioned in: Pelvic Inflammatory Disease

CRP,
n.pr See C-reactive protein.
), Committee for Defense of Human Rights (CDHR CDHR Committee for the Defence of Human Rights ), and Campaign for Democracy (CD) were at the forefront of the struggle for democracy. These organizations were active during the administrations of Generals Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha, following the annulment annulment

Legal invalidation of a marriage. It announces the invalidity of a marriage that was void from its inception. It is to be distinguished from dissolution or divorce. To justify annulment, the marriage contract must have a defect (e.g.
 of the 12 June 1993 presidential election and the extension of military rule. They organized mass protests across the country (46), and printed and distributed hundreds of thousands of leaflets exposing corruption, lawlessness, and abuse of power by the military regime. The groups urged Nigerians to take a final stand against military dictatorship and subversion of popular will. The activities of the prodemocracy NGOs inspired the traditional organizations such as professional, communal and trade association, and together, they all came out against the military. For the first time in Nigeria's post-civil war history, organizations in the civil society took measures that openly challenged the authority of the state and succeeded in mobilizing millions of Nigerians in both urban and rural areas, across ethnic, regional, religious, class, and gender lines, to defy the military and take a stand for democracy (47).

The democratic rebirth in Africa has changed the fundamental concern of the continent's civil society. Civil society organizations are now shifting their focus from establishing institutions of democracy to securing the institutions. Indeed, democracy in Africa faces the threat of overthrow by anti-democratic forces (48).

In addition to the risk of relapse into authoritarian rule, democracy in Africa contends with a more insidious danger of non-performance, decay and possible retrogression retrogression /ret·ro·gres·sion/ (ret?ro-gresh´un) degeneration; deterioration; regression; return to an earlier, less complex condition.

ret·ro·gres·sion
n.
1.
 into a hybrid regime somewhere between democracy and dictatorship. Consequently, the major challenge confronting the civil society in Africa is that of consolidating democracy and good governance.

5. African Civil Society and the Issue of Good Governance

The preceding discussion provides basic insights and understanding of the role of civil society in the enthronement of democracy in Africa. This section briefly examines the contributions of civil society to the promotion of good governance and consolidation of democracy. Good governance is an offshoot of democracy and it denotes responsive governance. Its hallmarks include the application of rule of law; the operation of a fair and efficient judicial system; the promotion of broad and popular involvement in political, social and economic processes; the development of the capacity to manage development; and the promotion of a culture of accountability and transparency in the management of public affairs Those public information, command information, and community relations activities directed toward both the external and internal publics with interest in the Department of Defense. Also called PA. See also command information; community relations; public information.  (49). The contributions of the African civil society to the consolidation of democracy and good governance can be analyzed under four headings: promotion of social justice, rights and the rule of law; enhancing state performance; promotion of popular participation in public policy making; and promotion of transparency in governance.

5.1 Promotion of social justice, rights and the rule of law

The first major area where the contribution of civil society organization to good governance in Africa manifests is in the area of promotion of social justice, rights and the rule of law (50). There are two main dimensions to this issue:

1. The protective role of civil society organizations in shielding and sheltering individuals that repressive states threaten their rights. Civil society organizations achieve this by defending the rights of the vulnerable groups through the official legal process such as providing paralegal services to groups of citizens who do not have ready access to the courts.

2. The advocacy role of civil organizations in pressing for the implementation of existing laws or for the adoption of fresh legislative initiatives and institutional reforms that will enhance the application of rule of law and social justice51.

5.2 Enhancing state performance

The quality and effectiveness of public expenditures and services are integral to good governance. Civil society organizations have contributed here by working directly with government in shaping, financing and delivering public services Public services is a term usually used to mean services provided by government to its citizens, either directly (through the public sector) or by financing private provision of services.  in a variety of ways. These have taken the form of public-private partnerships in which civil society organizations work closely with state institutions in designing and providing health, education, and other social services social services
Noun, pl

welfare services provided by local authorities or a state agency for people with particular social needs

social services nplservicios mpl sociales 
, mobilizing funds from among client groups and other sources, and monitoring quality and coverage of social services (52). In some cases, this has created the basis for synergy in which state institutions acquire greater legitimacy and improve their performance by developing responsive working relationships with civil society that draw on reservoirs of social capital built up in local communities.

5.3 Promotion of popular participation in public policy making

In many African countries, civil society organizations have also played a prominent role in mobilizing the people to participate fully in politics and public affairs. Usually, wealthy and socially dominant groups in the society are better able to organize themselves and, by virtue of superior resources and social status, are able to exert considerable influence over public policy. In addition, they can form and support intermediary organizations to effectively represent and articulate their interests. However, the poor and socially disadvantaged groups--marginal peasants, landless land·less  
adj.
Owning or having no land.



landless·ness n.

Adj. 1.
 laborers, artisans, informal sector workers, and urban slum dwellers--are usually much less able to exercise influence over public policy and resource allocations. Civil society organizations have intervened in this area by mobilizing the socially disadvantaged groups and articulating their demands at local and higher levels (53).

5.4 Promotion of transparency in governance

Civil society organizations in Africa have also contributed to good governance by pressing for the improvement of transparency in government and increasing the availability of information about policymaking pol·i·cy·mak·ing or pol·i·cy-mak·ing  
n.
High-level development of policy, especially official government policy.

adj.
Of, relating to, or involving the making of high-level policy:
 and implementation. Activities undertaken by civil society organizations in this regard include the discovery, publication and dissemination of information about items of legislation, legal provisions, public expenditure allocations, the implementation of policy and programs, and special inquiries. Civil society organizations usually publish and circulate such information directly by groups, or through new or existing media outlets. Efforts to enhance transparency in government also contribute to poverty reduction by helping citizens monitor the delivery of development resources and check the appropriation of resources by bureaucrats and local elites (54). This suggests a more activist role for the civil society, in which civic actors back up information gathering and dissemination activities with mobilization and public advocacy work.

6. Conclusion

The civil society has played a prominent role in the promotion of democracy and good governance in Africa. This role includes the struggle for decolonization decolonization

Process by which colonies become independent of the colonizing country. Decolonization was gradual and peaceful for some British colonies largely settled by expatriates but violent for others, where native rebellions were energized by nationalism.
 and demilitarization as well as promotion of rule of law, popular participation in policy making, and transparency in governance. In order to provide a thorough analysis of the contributions of civil society to democracy in Africa, this article adopts the sociological conception of civil society. This conception extends the understanding of civil society to include a variety of organizations. These organizations range from contemporary advocacy NGOs that focus on issues of civil liberty, democracy, health and gender to traditional organizations like labor unions, professional associations, ethnic, and religious groups.

This article rejects the conventional notion of civil society as framework for analyzing the contribution of the civil society to democracy and good governance in Africa. It argues that any definitional notion that restricts constitutive elements of the civil society to only advocacy NGOs will leave out the role of the traditional organizations in the struggle for democracy in Africa. The article therefore underscores the need for scholars and practitioners to reflect the specific contexts as well as social and political environments within which civil society organizations operate in their analysis of the role of the civil society.

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(1) See Jean Cohen and Andrew Arato, Civil Society and Political Theory (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992).

(2) See for example, Okechukwu Ibeanu, "Civil Society and Political Theory", Nigerian Journal of International Affairs vol. 26, No 2 (2000): 41-60; Alan Whaites "Let's Get Civil Society Straight: NGOs, the State, and Political Theory", in Development, NGOs, and Civil Society, ed. Deborah Eade (Oxford: Oxfam GB, 2000); Sheri Berman "Civil Society and the Collapse of the Weimar Republic", World Politics vol. 49, No. 3 (1997): 401-429; Lars Jorgensen, "What Are NGOs Doing in Civil Society?", in NGOs, Civil Society, and the State ed. Andrew Clayton (UK: INTRAC, 1996); John W. Harbeson, "Civil Society and Political Renaissance in Africa", in Civil Society and the State in Africa eds. John W. Harbeson, Donald Rothchild, and Naomi Chazan (Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 1994); Ellen Wood, "The Uses and Abuses of 'Civil Society'" in The Socialist Register 1990 ed. Ralph Miliband (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1991); John Keane, ed., Civil Society and the State (London: Verso, 1988); Jean-Francois Bayart, "Civil Society in Africa", in Political Domination in Africa ed. Patrick Chabal (London: Oxford University Press, 1986).

(3) These groups are devoted mainly to public interest causes--human rights, the environment, gender inequality, and democracy promotion.

(4) See CIVICUS website: www.civicus.org.

(5) See Nelson Kasfir, "The Conventional Notion of Civil Society: A Critique", in Civil Society and Democracy in Africa ed. Nelson Kasfir (London: Frank Cass, 1998).

(6) The organizational aspects of the civil society include voluntarism, independent associational life and community spirit.

(7) See Philippe Schmitter, "Civil Society East and West", in Consolidating the Third Wave Democracies: Themes and Perspectives eds. Larry Diamond, Marc F. Plattner, Yun-han Chu and Hung-mao Tien (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997).

(8) Axel Hadenius and Fredrik Uggla, "Making Civil Society Work, Promoting Democratic Development: What can states and Donors Do?" World Development, vol. 24, No. 10 (1996): 1621-1639.

(9) Hadenius and Uggla, "Making Civil Society Work," 1628.

(10) Lawrence Whitehead, "Bowling in the Bronx: The uncivil Interstices between Civil and Political Society", in Civil Society: Democratic Perspectives, eds. Robert Fine and Shirinrai Rai (London: Frank Cass, 1997: 100101).

(11) See Nkwachukwu Orji, "Civil Society and Elections in Nigeria: Reflections on the 2003 General Elections", in Election and Democratic Consolidation in Nigeria eds. Godwin Onu and Abubakar Momoh (Lagos: NPSA, 2005: 558)

(12) Rooy A. Van, Civil Society and the Aid Industry (London: Earthscan, 1998: 22)

(13) Peter Ekeh, "Civil Society and the Construction of Freedom in African History". Keynote Address to Wilberforce Conference on Civil Society in Africa, Central State University, Wilberforce, Ohio, 1998.

(14) See Naomi Chazan, "Africa's Democratic Challenge" World Policy Journal, vol. 9, No. 2 (1992): 279-308.

(15) On democracy promotion in Africa, see among others, Dessalegn Rahmato and Meheret Ayenew, Democracy Assistance to Post-Conflict Ethiopia: Building Local Institutions? Working Paper No.27 (Hague: Netherlands Institute of International Relations, 2004); Gordon Crawford, The European Union and Democracy Promotion in Africa: The Case of Ghana. POLIS Working Paper No.10 (Leeds: University of Leeds, 2004); Julie Hearn, Foreign Political Aid, Democratization, and Civil Society in Ghana in the 1990s. CDD-Ghana Research Paper No.5 (Accra: Center for Democracy and Development, 2000); Thomas Carothers, Aiding Democracy Abroad: The Learning Curve (Washington: Carnegie Endowment, 1999); and Joe Oloka-Onyango and John-Jean Barya, "Civil Society and the Political Economy of Foreign Aid in Uganda" Democratization, vol. 4, No. 2 (1997): 113-138.

(16) Thomas Carothers, "Civil Society: Think Again" Foreign Policy, 117 (2000): 18-29.

(17) This is illustrated by the case of the communities in Nigeria's Niger Delta. See Okechukwu Ibeanu, "Ogoni-oil, Resource Flow and Conflict in Rural Nigeria", in Managing the Globalized Environment ed. T. Granfelt (London: Intermediate Technology Publications, 1999).

(18) Ekeh argued that one of the most important legacies of colonialism in Africa is the emergence of two public realms--the primordial and civic realms. The primordial realm is based on cultures and traditions of the people, while the civic realm is associated with colonial rule and the penetration of Western culture. See Peter Ekeh, "Colonialism and the Two Publics in Africa: A Theoretical Statement" Comparative Studies in Society and History, vol. 17, No. 1 (1975): 91-112.

(19) Jorgensen, "What Are NGOs Doing in Civil Society?" 36-37.

(20) David C. Korten, Getting to the 21st Century: Voluntary Action and the Global Agenda (West Harford: Kumanian, 1990): 99.

(21) Mahmood Mamdani, Citizens and Subjects: Contemporary Africa and the legacy of Late Colonialism. (Ibadan: John Archers, 2002).

(22) Michael Bratton, "Civil Society and Associational Life in Africa" World Politics, Vol. 41, No. 3 (1989): 407-430.

(23) See Chazan, "Africa's Democratic Challenge".

(24) See Bratton, "Civil Society and Associational Life in Africa" and Kasfir, "The Conventional Notion of Civil Society".

(25) Jorgensen, "What Are NGOs Doing in Civil Society?" 47.

(26) James Coleman, Nigeria: Background to Nationalism (Benin City: Broburg and Wistrom, 1958).

(27) Nina Mba, Nigerian Women Mobilized (Berkeley: University of California, 1982).

(28) In Nigeria for example, measures such as the proposal in 1895 for a house and land tax on inhabitants of Lagos, the Land Acquisition Ordinance of 1908, and the introduction of Water Rate in 1908, all received a resounding re·sound  
v. re·sound·ed, re·sound·ing, re·sounds

v.intr.
1. To be filled with sound; reverberate: The schoolyard resounded with the laughter of children.

2.
 opposition from the residents of Lagos. See Coleman, Nigeria.

(29) Terence Ranger, Peasant Consciousness and Guerrilla War in Zimbabwe: A Comparative Study (London: James Currey, 1985): 137-222.

(30) Anthony Kirk-Greene, "His Eternity, His Eccentricity, or His Exemplarity? A Further Contribution to the Study of H. E. the African Head of State" African Affairs, vol. 90, No. 359 (1991): 163-188.

(31) Useful accounts of the activities of the separatist churches can be found in Geoffry Parrinder, Religion in an African City (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1953); James Benin Webster, The African Churches Among the Yoruba 1888-1922 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964); John Ade F. Ajayi, Christian Missions in Nigeria 1841- 1891: The Making of a New Elite (London: Longmans, 1965); E. A. Ayandele, The Missionary Impact on Modern Nigeria 1842-1914: A Political and Social Analysis (London: Longmans, 1966); Kalu Ogbu, Christianity in West Africa: The Nigerian Story (Ibadan: Daystar, Press, 1978); and Rosalind Hackett, New Religious Movements in Nigeria (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1987).

(32) Patrick J. Furlong, "Azikiwe and the National Church of Nigeria and the Cameroons: A Case Study of the Political Use of Religion in African Nationalism" African Affairs vol. 91, No. 364 (1992): 433-452.

(33) In Nigeria for example, the Lagos Weekly Record was about the earliest newspaper established. The Record was very bold and active in the fight against colonialism. It was noted that: "[T]he record was so powerful that at one time, on the account of its uncompromising attitude in the national interest, all foreign advertisements were withdrawn, but it stood its ground unflinchingly ... (cited in Coleman, Nigeria, 185).

(34) See Coleman, Nigeria.

(35) See Claude Welch Jr., Soldier and State in Africa: A Comparative Analysis of Military Intervention and Political Change (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1970) and Ali Mazrui, "Military Intervention in African Politics", in African Today ed. Ralph Uwechue (London: African Books Ltd, 1991).

(36) See Peter Gibbon, Yusuf Bangura, and Arve Ofstad, Authoritarianism, Democracy, and Adjustment: The Politics of Economic Reform in Africa (Uppsala: Scandinavian Institute of African Studies, 1992) and Adebayo Olukoshi, The Politics of Structural Adjustment in Nigeria (London: James Currey, 1993).

(37) For detailed accounts of the role of the student movements in the struggle for democracy and good governance in Nigeria, see Said Adejumobi, "Structural Adjustment, Students' Movement and Popular Struggles in Nigeria, 1986-1996", in Identity Transformation and Identity Politics Under Structural Adjustment in Nigeria ed. Attahiru Jega (Kano: Centre for Research and Documentation, 2003); Albert I. Olawale, "University Students in the Politics of Structural Adjustment in Nigeria: Between Liberalization and Oppression", in The Politics of Structural Adjustment in Africa eds. Thandika Mkandawire and Adebayo Olukoshi (Dakar: CODESRIA, 1995); Kole Shettima, "Structural Adjustment and the Student Movement in Nigeria" Review of African Political Economy, vol. 20, No. 56 (1993): 83-91; Darlington Iwarimie-Jaja, "The Role of Student Power in Nigeria" Philosophy and Social Action, vol. 18, No. 4 (1992): 28-36; and Abubakar Momoh, "Students and Democratic Struggle in Africa" Philosophy and Social Action, vol. 18, No. 4 (1992): 3746.

(38) For accounts of the struggles of Nigerian intellectuals, see Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU and 1986 Education Crisis in Nigeria (Ibadan: ASUU, 1996); Bjorn Beckman and Attahiru Jega, "Scholars and Democratic Politics in Nigeria" Review of African Political Economy, vol. 22, No. 64 (1995): 167-181; Yusuf Bangura, Intellectuals, Economic Reform and Social Change: Constraints and Opportunities in the Formation of a Nigerian Technocracy (Dakar: CODESRIA, 1994); and Attahiru Jega, Nigerian Academics under Military Rule (Stockholm: Department of Political Science, University of Stockholm, 1994).

(39) See John Ohiorhenuan, Capital and the State in Nigeria (New York: Greenwood Press, 1987: 162).

(40) For historical and comparative analyses of the labor movement in Nigeria, see T. M. Yesufu, Introduction to Industrial Relations in Nigeria (London: Oxford University Press, 1962); Wogu Ananaba, The Trade Union Movement in Nigeria (London: C. Hurst and Company, 1969); Robin Cohen, Labour and Politics in Nigeria (London: Heinemann, 1974); Adrian Peace, "Industrial Protest in Nigeria", in Sociology and Development eds. Emmanuel de Kadt and Gavin Williams (London: Tavistock, 1974); Onyeka C. Nwanunobi, "Wage Labour and the Politics of Nigeria and Kenya: A Comparative Study" African Studies Review vol. 17, No. 1 (1974): 77-104; and Tayo Fashoyin, "Nigerian Labour and the Military: Towards Exclusion?" Labour, Capital and Society, vol. 23, No. 1 (1990): 12-37.

(41) On Labour encounters with the Nigerian state, see Dafe Otobo, "The Nigerian General Strike of 1981" Review of African Political Economy, vol. 8, No. 22 (1981): 65-81; Dafe Otobo, "Organized Labour and Political Process in Nigeria", in Dafe Otobo (ed), Labour Relations in Nigeria Vol. 1 (Lagos: Malthouse Press, 1992); John P. Tuman, "Organized Labour Under Military Rule: The Nigerian Labour Movement, 1985-1992" Studies in Comparative International Development, vol. 29, No. 3 (1994): 26-44; Julius Ihonvbere, "Organized Labour and the Struggle for Democracy in Nigeria" African Studies Review, vol. 40, No. 3 (1997): 77-110; and Jimi Adesina, "Adjustment and the Transformation of Labour Identity: What's New and Does it Matter?", in Identity Transformation and Identity Politics Under Structural Adjustment in Nigeria ed. Attahiru Jega (Kano: Centre for Research and Documentation, 2003).

(42) See for example, Nigeria Labour Congress, Towards National Recovery: Nigeria Labour Congress' Alternatives (Lagos: NLC, 1985); and Nigeria Labour Congress, "The Position of the National Executive Council of the Nigeria Labour Congress on the June 12 Presidential Elections", Port Harcourt-Nigeria, July 1993.

(43) Celestin Monga, "Eight Problems with African Politics", in Democratization in Africa eds. Larry Diamond and Marc F. Plattner (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999) and Emmanuel Gyimah-Boadi, "Civil Society in Africa," Journal of Democracy vol. 7, No. 2 (1996): 119-132.

(44) Gyimah-Boadi, "Civil Society in Africa," 127-128.

(45) For a comparative account of foreign support for civil society organizations Africa, see Mark Robinson, "Strengthening Civil Society in Africa: The Role of Foreign Political Aid", IDS Bulletin vol. 26, No. 2 (1995): 70-80.

(46) See Tell, 19 July 1993.

(47) Julius Ihonvbere and Timothy Shaw, Illusions of Power: Nigeria in Transition (Trenton, New Jersey: Africa World Press, 1998).

(48) Ehimika Ifidon, "Transition from Democracy in Nigeria: Toward a Pre-emptive Analysis" African Journal of Political Science, vol. 7, No. 1 (2003): 109-128 and Bash Olasupo, ed. Electoral Violence in Nigeria: Issues and Perspectives (Ibadan: Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, 2003).

(49) Walter O. Oyugi, "The Role of NGOs in Fostering Development and Good Governance at the Local Level in Africa with a Focus on Kenya" African Development, vol. XXIX, No. 4 (2004): 19-55.

(50) On the role of the civil society to the promotion of human rights, see Bonny Ibhawoh, "The Promise of Constitutionalism and the Challenge of Militarism: Constraints and Possibilities of the Human Rights Movement in Nigeria" Democracy and Development: Journal of West African Affairs, vol. 3, No. 2 (2003): 16-36 and Remi Aiyede, "United We Stand: Labour Unions and Human Rights NGOs in the Democratization Process in Nigeria" Development in Practice, vol. 14, No. 1-2 (2004): 224-233 for a fine analysis of this subject.

(51) For examples of this dimension, see Olisa Agbakoba and Udo Ilo, Where Did We Go Wrong?: A Review of the 2003/2004 Elections in Nigeria (Lagos: HURILAWS, 2004); Citizens' Forum for Constitutional Reform, Memoranda Submitted to the Presidential Committee on Provisions for and Practice of Citizenship and Rights in Nigeria and Presidential Committee on National Security in Nigeria (Lagos: CFCR, 2002); Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Strategic Conflict Assessment Report (Abuja: IPCR, 2002); Transition Monitoring Group, Registration of Voters 2002 (Abuja: TMG, 2002); and Joy Ezeilo, Gender, Politics and the Law (Enugu: WACOL, 1999).

(52) For an interesting documentation of these activities in Nigeria, see Edith Nwanguma, "Visioning an All Stakeholders' Health System in Enugu State Through Strategic Communication" Health Partnership News--PATHS Quarterly Newsletter (Abuja: PATHS, 2004) and Amina Salihu, ed. Summary Report of the Round Table Dialogue with Government Budgetary Agencies and Civil Society in Nigeria (Lagos: CDD, 2003).

(53) This form of social mobilization, interest articulation and representation is demonstrated in the position papers issued by civil society organizations. Good illustrations include, Centre for Democracy and Development/Partnership for Advocacy and Civic Education, Position Paper of the Working Group on the Nigerian 1999 Constitution and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Lagos: CDD) and Citizens' Forum for Constitutional Reform, The Position of Citizens' Forum for Constitutional Reform (CFCR) on the 1999 Constitution (Lagos: CFCR).

(54) See Nkwachukwu Orji, "Civil Society and Poverty Reduction in Africa" African Journal of Political and Administrative Studies, vol. 1, No. 1 (2004): 80-90.
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