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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Indigenous Political Culture and Democratisation in Upper Guinea
Author:Fyle, C. Magbaily
Periodical:Afrika Zamani: revue annuelle d'histoire africaine = Annual Journal of African History (ISSN 0850-3079)
Notes:biblio. refs.
Geographic terms:Sierra Leone
West Africa
political systems
traditional rulers
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Politics and Government
political science
Abstract:An analysis of indigenous political culture, in revealing what held systems together and mobilized the will of the people, can play a significant role in the current democratic debate in Africa. An examination of the workings of political systems in nineteenth-century Upper Guinea, an area encompassing the present States of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, shows that kings had power, sometimes seemingly autocratic power. But it also indicates that there were institutions, such as secret societies, unisex institutions controlling the rite of passage from childhood to adulthood, to which every member of the community had a right to belong, which drastically curtailed this power. Moreover, in most Upper Guinea societies, heads of compounds represented the interests of compound members in the king's council, and these heads were not always the oldest men. Many of the institutional checks and balances on the abuse of power and authority in indigenous political culture depended on ritual and sometimes supernatural sanctions. Thus they were inimical to the ideas of the colonial rulers, who replaced them with a form of benevolent dictatorship. Two generations of Africans grew up believing that a 'good' colonial ruler looked after their interests. With decolonization, neither the departing colonial authorities nor the new African elite eager to acquire political power saw any interest in educating the masses on how democracy worked in the Western world. Bibliogr.