Governance and the challenge of state reconstruction
GOVERNANCE AND THE CHALLENGE OF STATE RECONSTRUCTIONKayode FayemiWhy Governance matters?The task of creating and maintaining a viable and legitimate State that isaccessible, efficient, accountable, transparent and equitable has been one of themost critical and complicated challenges of the transformation process thatAfrican countries are currently undergoing. Governance has been the majorvehicle for attaining this legitimacy and viability. Fundamental to the notion ofgovernance is the ability of the state to provide efficient and well functioninginstitutions and infrastructures of government – legally backed and sociallycoherent – that together establish and maintain an enabling environment inwhich human security and human development takes place.The notion of good governance has gained greater prominence in thedemocratisation discourse since the collapse of the cold war in the early 1990s.Equally, its meaning has been the subject of contestation between promoters ofthe shrinking State and the champions of the inclusive State in which theestablishment of a wide range of governmental and non-governmentalinstitutions enable people to participate in society. Despite the debate thatraged on the nature of the state, there has been a great deal of unanimity onthe need to arrest the ‘desertion’ by citizens that characterised the ‘old’ cold warState, in Africa in the quest for a transparent, trusted and accountable State.In that old State – the constitution became the defining instrument fororganising unaccountable governments and it was largely viewed as a set ofrules and administrative arrangements, meant not to regulate or limit excessivestate power, but rather to validate the newly independent states. Post-colonialgovernments used the letter of the law as the instrument for control andrepression, and the military regimes that overthrew them perfected the art ofmanipulating the law to justify their hold on power. Helped by the dominantsuper-power politics of the cold war era that facilitated monopolies on power bycoercive rulers, the manipulation, trivialisation, and disregard of the constitutionbecame the defining characteristic of governance in much of post-colonialAfrica.1 Constitutions that sanctioned one-party states and racial segregationhave been not only seen as legal, but also legitimate documents regulating theconduct of state affairs, often to the detriment of the population.21 Julius Ihonvbere, Towards the New Constitutionalism in Africa (CDD, 2000).2 Thus, some of the technical and administrative concessions known as “sun-set clauses” granted in the post- independence constitutions of Kenya, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa remain key sources of neuralgia in the current struggle for constitutional change in these countries.
Yet a constitution by its very nature should be more than a mere set of rules andlaws regulating society and government. It is more than a social contract or eventhe grundnorm. It is rather an expression of the general will of a nation. It is areflection of its history, fears, concerns, aspirations, vision, and indeed, the soulof that nation. A constitution is obliged to express the mind of the majority; but,in doing so it also has to take into account the fears and concerns of theminorities. The constitution is that single document under which diverse andeven ideologically opposed groups unite and rally in defence of democracy.However, for this to happen, the citizenry must claim ownership of thedocument. It must be respected and revered by all.Indeed, the hostility to the old State in the intervening cold war years hasencouraged the notion of a new constitutionalism that is people driven andprocess led – aimed at reconstituting the African State along equitable,transparent, socially responsible and just lines in the post cold war era. At everylevel on the continent, the idea has taken root that the African State must berefashioned to reflect the realities of their multifaceted societies. This has beenreflected in the constitutional conferences in Benin, Mali, Niger, the DemocraticRepublic of the Congo, and Cameroon in the early 1990s, in the successfulconstitutional arrangement of South Africa, and in the process-basedConstitutional commissions in Uganda, Ghana and Eritrea.From the experience of these countries, the last decade in Africa has witnessedan upsurge in the demand for constitution-based governance that broadlyreflects, in terms of process and outcome, the will of the people. Today, thestruggle for constitutional reform is on going in at least twenty African countriesand typfies to the generality of the people why rule-based and consensus drivengovernance matters.The change in focus from constitutionality - where these documents are merelylegal instruments with no standing with the people to constitutionalism - whereconstitutions are now seen as a tool for bridge-building among members of civilsociety, represents the first and perhaps most critical step in shifting stateownership from the leaders to the people. Yet, focus remains mainly ongovernment, giving less importance to consensus building amongst civil societyand between the ordinary citizen and the state.Yet in order to formulate African political cultures grounded in human rights andgood governance, an organic link is needed between the constitution as a rule oflaw instrument primarily concerned with restraining government excesses, andthe constitution as a legitimation of power structures and relations based on abroad social consensus in diverse societies. Many have seen the task at hand isto move away from the old constitutionality which overemphasised law and state
power towards a new political and socio-economic constitutionalism aimed atrestoring trust in the State whilst arresting desertion from it.Governance in the Public SectorAlthough governance has always featured in the management of public sector, itwas rarely defined as a partnership between the rulers and the ruled aimed atthe efficiency of State structures. While the clamour for this type of partnershiphas featured in the struggles for the transformation of authoritarian structuresand one-party states, the idea of a people driven governance was largely ignoredby the command economies that dominated the world in the cold war era. Theidea that the people ought to have a say in deciding governance strategies wasseen as an anathema and generally discouraged. In the search for strong states,strong rulers were seen as the sine-qua-non. The more unaccountable theserulers were, the more legitimate they became in the hands of the metropolitanpowers and their supporters. Even when the command, interventionisteconomies of the 1970s and early 80s gave way to structural adjustmentprogrammes in the mid-1980s, governance defined as partnership aimed atachieving ownership, social equity, equality and development was still missingfrom the equation.Indeed, the end of the cold war brought economic globalisation – thehomogenisation of the world economy which tended to separate the State fromthe market in the belief that a strong state cannot produce a strong market.Given the above, it was not surprising that even most of the electedgovernments in Africa collapsed in the wake of the structural adjustmentprogrammes and the succeeding authoritarian regimes sharpened the stateinstruments of coercion in coping with the resistance that developed againsteconomic reform programmes of the period.It was only later that the notion of governance became acceptable to thepromoters of structural adjustment programmes and policies. This coincidedincidentally with the collapse of the Berlin wall and the various ‘people power’revolutions in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Indeed, before the WorldBank’s 1989 report “Sub-Saharan Africa: From Crisis to Sustainable Growth”,governance was a rarely used term. Even when it was introduced into the IFIsliterature, its operational use was limited. In its use of the term, the World Bankidentified three distinct aspects of governance:1) the form of the political regime;2) the process by which authority is exercised in the management of a country’s economic and social resources for development; and,
3) the capacity of governments to design, formulate and implement policies and discharge functions.(World Bank, 1994b)Although they recognise the holistic nature of governance, the World Bank andother multi-lateral agencies have concentrated mainly on the third aspect in theirgovernance related work – the capacity of governments to design, formulate andimplement policies and discharge functions. Public sector reform andmanagement has been the most visible area of activity in this regard. Thisranged from capacity building and institutional strengthening in civil servicereform; government budget, public investment programme, modernisation ofpublic sector accounting and auditing; government financial managementinformation systems, development assistance and aid coordination, economicmanagement agencies and all other sections of government that are pivotal to awell functioning public sector. Governance in the public sector has also beenconcerned with the levels and quality of relationship between different layers ofgovernment – central government and its subordinate tiers as well as the publicand private sectors.The basic thrust of this reform process has been state retrenchment in all itsramifications and this has been manifested in the shift from a highlyinterventionist paradigm in many African states to one in which the role ofgovernment is primarily that of an enabler for the private sector, a regulatoryframework and a provider of public infrastructure for the efficient running of themarket. Tied to the structural adjustment reforms whose objective was toestablish market friendly set of incentives that can encourage accumulation ofcapital and more efficient allocation of resources, this shift often necessitatedconflict between capital and labour and it resulted in huge labour cuts arising outof privatisation of inefficient state institutions with serious social consequences –leading often to a disconnect between the shrinking State and the deprivedSociety.The challenge with institutional reform in many of the sectors highlighted abovehas always been one of building convergence between the demands of the newcorporate governance environment and the legitimacy for enforcement providedby the local context. It is for the problems associated with reconciling the Stateand Civil Society in the public sector reform process that sustainable institutionalcapacity building has been difficult. (Dia, 1996)Governance in the security sectorAlthough the quest for ‘good governance’ began to touch on many aspects of theState reform agenda in the late 1980s, one sector that was hardly touched wasthe security sector. Except in the narrow sense of the concerns expressed aboutlevels of military expenditure, development agencies and multilateral institutions
hardly connected governance in the security sector with the notion of improvingthe capacity and efficiency of security forces to effectively meet changingchallenges in their local and international environment. Even in their exclusivefocus on militarisation and military expenditure, this was seen more as a bean-counting exercise in which reduction in military expenditure automaticallytranslated to increase in development and social spending. Several studies havesince argued, including those produced by World Bank staff (Landau, 1993) thatthe evidence for this trade-off hypothesis is very thin.More fundamentally, the fact that militarisation and military expenditure were notseen as a process whereby the civilian sphere of society is increasingly militarised– a multi-dimensional process that is qualitative and quantitative - containing arange of phenomena including defence spending, the growth of armed forces,the increasing use of force in conflict management and resolution, the role of themilitary in political decision making process and the spread of militaristic valuesin society underscored the limited understanding of governance in the securitysector. Equally, the fact that this trade-off hypothesis’ focus was exclusivelymilitary, rather than the entire security sector had negative policy implications asit not only failed to take cognisance of objective security threats that states facedbut also encouraged States to shroud security issues in needless secrecy. Stateswere quick to rebuff any effort at subjecting security sector affairs to publicscrutiny as “undue interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state”.Consequently, in many of the states in question, the defence and security budgetwas not a subject for public debate, even in the few elected parliaments in thecontinent at the time. This was partly due to the culture of secrecy thatsurrounded military and security activities, but more fundamentally to the lack ofcapacity to offer effective, civilian oversight of security sector activities.The transitions to democracy in the last decade however presented Africancountries with two key challenges in this sector: on the one hand, that ofestablishing effective and accountable security agencies, capable of protectingthe security not only of the state but also of its citizens, and, on the other, thatof establishing effective civilian oversight of the armed forces and securityagencies. The decade of the 1990s - which saw the rise of people drivenchallenges to militarisation and authoritarianism of African politics—alsowitnessed a sharp deterioration in the security environment in a large number ofAfrican countries. Paradoxically, these two processes were somewhat inextricablyintertwined. As Hutchful observed, “the decomposition of the security apparatusof the state was intrinsic to the collapse of authoritarian arrangements on thecontinent and hence facilitated the transitions to democracy; at the same time,however, it also undermined the ability of the state to extend security, erodingtoo the professionalism essential to democratic control of the armed forces.”(Hutchful, 2000)
Democratic consolidation requires that both issues — that of ‘security’ and thatof ‘accountability’ be addressed in a comprehensive manner. For this reason,security sector reform is a deeply political issue, not a technical one. Equally, forthe transformation of the security sector to work, it must not be pursued inisolation, but rather form part of a more comprehensive restructuring agendaaimed at improving governance and promoting democratisation.Hence, the crux of the debate about governance in the security sector is also adiscussion about the development of effective oversight mechanisms, as well asof viable security institutions able to attain security for the state as well as forordinary citizens, in the quest for democratic development and ownership of thestate. As we argued above, the current constitutional reform taking place in manycountries on the continent is the latest episode in a long search to construct stablepolities and civil-military relations. No aspect of institutional design in Africa hasproved more elusive, problematic and vexatious than that of civil-military relations.Building viable security sector institutions has been no less difficult. This isindicated by the alarming deterioration in the security situation in Africa, and thehigh visibility of issues of civil-military relations and security in the new politicalequation, evident in the emergence of new force structures (in particular regionalsecurity complexes) and relations of force, rethinking of the very concept ofsecurity, demands for security sector reform, and much more open (and active)international and regional engagement with issues of security –including the entryin recent years of an array of non-traditional actors and institutions.To put it in another way: the democratic transitions have given rise to attemptsto bring security structures into the mainstream of constitutional governance andoverall public sector management reforms. A recent DFID document (DFID 2000:46) has attempted to define the benchmarks of ‘good governance’ in thesecurity sector in the following words:‘The key principles of good governance in the security sector can be summarizedas follows: • Security sector organizations, particularly in the security forces, are accountable both to elected civil authorities and to civil society; • Security sector organizations operate in accordance with the international law and domestic constitutional law; • Information about security sector planning and budgeting are widely available, both within government and to the public, and a comprehensive and disciplined approach to the management of defence resources is adopted; • Civil-military relations are based on a well-articulated hierarchy of authority between civil authorities and the defence forces, and on a
relationship with civil society that is based on the respect for human rights; • Civil authorities have the capacity to exercise political control over the operations and expenditure of the security forces and civil society has the capacity to monitor the security forces and provide constructive input to the political debate; • An environment exists in which civil society and be consulted on a regular basis on security policies, resource allocation, and other relevant issues; • Security-force personnel are adequately trained to discharge their duties in a professional manner consistent with the requirements of democratic societies; • Fostering an environment supportive of regional and sub-regional peace and security has a high priority for policy-makers”.Meeting these benchmarks poses a significant challenge to current Africanregimes. Governance structures and practices have traditionally been weakestand least defined in the security sector. How much progress has there been inthis area? And what legacies did the departing authorities bequeath to the newgovernments that now have to confront these demands by the populace. Anyevaluation is complicated by the fact that, while civil-military relations in Africa(as in many newly democratising regions) are in a state of flux, these changesare occurring in varied political contexts, with their own local dynamics andchallenges, and incorporating rather different prospects for the development ofdemocratic norms and controls. Divergent trajectories of transition haveproduced a wide assortment of post-transition political configurations on thecontinent – some complementary and progressive, others contradictory andworrisome. This necessarily inhibits generalisation. Nevertheless, it is clear thatmost African countries are far from achieving the elements of ‘good governance’in the security sector as described above.