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Civil Society In Africa

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In the early years of independence, Sierra Leone was one of the exemplary cases in Africa of a genuinely open, representative and accountable political system (Hayward 1989). The post-independence experiment with democracy began to suffer minor setbacks when Sir Albert Margai became Prime Minister in 1964 upon the death of Sir Milton Margai, the leader at independence. Executive intrusions into civil and political liberties started (Sesay and Hughes 2005). Siaka Stevens of the All Peoples Congress (APC) party exacerbated these intrusions when he became
Prime Minister in 1968 (Sesay and Hughes 2005). Among the combination of strategies used by Stevens and his party to achieve their political objectives were repression, corruption clientelism,
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Such notions however view the phenomena through a lens that ignores the historical legacy of pre-colonial and even colonial civil society and denies the civil society appellation to organizations which either do not fit with western prescriptions (because they are based on kin or ethnicity or local ‘tradition’) or which western lenses miss altogether (because the forms they take are unfamiliar).
In essence the prevailing notions of civil society for Africa are mainly prescriptive and may have little explanatory power for the complexity of African associational life. To be of value in Africa, the concept of civil society must be adapted in various ways (Maina 1998). Such adaptations should make room for activities and not just organizations, and should
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Rather than current prescription based on Western models, Edwards argues for a more open-ended view of civil society in terms of process, negotiation and as a contested domain.
This is supported by the arguments presented by the Comaroffs (1999, p. 22) who argue that there is a ‘Eurocentric’ tendency to limit civil society to a narrowly defined institutional arena’, running counter to Hegel’s original insistence that the civil sphere of relatedness has its origins in the historical particularities of capitalist production and exchange. Outside this narrowly defined category for example we might find the existence of partisan, parochial, or fundamentalist organizations each with a claim on civil society roles and membership. The narrow view also brings with it the tendency to undervalue the role of kin-based and ethnic organizations in helping to form public opinions and political pressure groups. In Sierra Leone for instance, organizations like the

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