Political Science

The Political Economy of Democratization and Federalizing Multi-Ethnic States in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Post Cold War Years in Reference to Ethiopia and Nigeria

The Political Economy of Democratization and the Federalizing Multi-Ethnic States in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Post Cold War Years about Ethiopia and Nigeria


In the study of International Relations, the end of the cold war marked a turning point, inaugurated a new era, and undoubtedly disclosed the need to puff out and contend with a recent set of political and economic practices and developments in international relations. With significant changes that range from the undermining of state sovereignty and the Westphalian state system to the disappearance of bipolar geopolitics, the end of the cold war, transcending the usual core categories of the nation-state, blurred the sharp distinction between internal and external causes of national development and replaced it by a notion of interaction within larger systems. Democratic revival and/or “wave” of democratic transition is mentioned at the forefront among the fascinating endings of the cold war years. This has, indisputably, con-sequential connotation in the “Third World” in general and sub-Saharan Africa in particular. Nevertheless, the end of the cold war, as well, witnessed the consolidation of the global capitalist order that had long been contemplated as unfavourable to the political and economic advancement of Africa south of the Sahara. The ideology of ‘neo-liberalism with its political component of liberal democracy and its economic component of free-market/enterprise became the dominant modes of thought and action within the global political economy. Hence, sub-Saharan African states, which are characterized by the problems of political instability, economic backwardness, ethnocultural division and political and economic inequality, state-building and national consensus, and state weakness and inefficiency found themselves in international position and under international scrutiny and the post cold war democratization has got unprecedented implication. Consequently, with the failure of centralized nation-state regimes and/or institutions, the federal political systems have been viewed as an alternative to strengthen democratic transitions in ethnically divided states and thereby bring about political and economic change through power-sharing and regional autonomy. Thus, this thesis has endeavoured to look at the interplay of the democratization and federalization in multi-ethnic states of sub-Saharan Africa in a political economy approach, and the post-cold war years in a reference to Ethiopia and Nigeria in a comparative analysis. Before a resort to discuss the reinforcement, an attempt is made to briefly discuss and appraise the problem of the nature of the state, and internal and external influences for democratization in the sub-continent. A comparative analysis of Ethiopia and Nigeria is carried out based on their federal constitutional arrangement, fiscal federalism and the party system. To carry out the analysis, 1995 Ethiopian and the 1999 Nigerian constitutions are used supplementary with secondary sources. The analysis of the thesis found out that there is a reinforcement and interplay of democratization and federalizing ethnically divided states in sub-Saharan Africa, and a federal structuring and restructuring of institutions increases the possibilities for state efficiency, regional autonomy of ethnocultural groups, power decentralization and political and economic equality and hence strengthens popular democracy. However, externally sub-Saharan African states are compelled to the ‘neo-liberal version of electoral and elitist democracy that appears inadequate to redress the inherent political and economic problems in ethnically divided and economically backward states of sub-Saharan Africa. Internally, although the federal system in both Ethiopia and Nigeria is rightly formalized in the constitution and aims at enhancing democratizing the state and pacifying ethnic tension, still there is a kind of power centralization at the centre, which encumbered accountability of the government to the mass. The meagre power of the regional states, the concentration of fiscal power on the federal government, and domination of power by the ruling party at the centre led to a disjuncture between a political superstructure manifested by elitist and electoral democracy and the promises of the federal political system; regional autonomy, equitable resource distribution, mass empowerment and popular democracy at the base.



1.1. Background

Coming up with a different set of political and economic practices, the changes the end of the Cold War has brought to the international system and the study of International Relations seems intolerable to deny at this moment in time. For sub-Saharan African peoples that have been dominated externally through the historical processes of imperialism, colonialism and neo-colonialism and internally by unaccountable elites, the end of the cold war has come up with a new set of opportunities and challenges. On the one hand, the world has experienced a democratic revival; dis-mantling of authoritarian regimes and replacing them with democratic ones. On the other hand, the end of the Cold War has removed the ideological, economic, and political and security hurdles to the consolidation of the global capitalist order. Therefore, it is important to note here that, today the sub-continent is in the interplay of opportunities and challenges.

The end of the Cold War in the early 1990s led some scholars in the Third World to believe and optimize that new opportunities had emerged to advance agendas of social justice, national liberation and democratization locally and in the global system. Moreover, with the collapse of the Soviet bloc, the Third World would no longer be a staging ground for East-West rivalries (Ro-binson, 2004; 47). The end of the cold war witnessed an end to the east-west rivalry that characterized the cold war period and ‘neo-liberalism 1 became the dominant mode of thought and action within the global political economy. Moreover, Merera writes that “liberal democracy and the attendant free enterprise have become the ideological hamburger both for the legitimating of the state by the regime in power and the social movements fighting to redefine the state” (Mere-ra, 2007; 2).