PERSONAL RULE IN BLACK AFRICA: Prince, Autocrat, Prophet, Tyrant by Robert H. & Carl G. Rosberg Jackson

PERSONAL RULE IN BLACK AFRICA: Prince, Autocrat, Prophet, Tyrant

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Unfortunately, the material of real interest here--the thumbnail sketches of Black African national leaders--is buried under mounds of methodological haggling and self-justification. The authors seem to feel that they have to make a case for the political importance of individuals in emerging states; there is also the inevitable typology--per the subtitle. Finally, we get around to real people. Among the ""princes"" are Senegal's Leopold Senghor and Kenya's (late) Jomo Kenyatta, who are seen to rule through a system of clientalism and accommodation with elites. In Senghor's case, through sanctioned corruption--with the state grafted on to tribal political and economic practices; in Kenyatta's, by standing above an oligarchy and exercising political power through it--a kind of court politics. The ""autocrat,"" by contrast, can dispense with clients and has no need for accommodation because there are no entrenched sources of power outside himself. One such, Zaire's Mobutu Sese Seko, has elevated himself to the status of a Caesar as part of an effort to define the true Zairian personality (his own self-image) and amass a fortune besides. Predictably, the ""prophets"" include men like Kwame Nkrumah, first president of Ghana, and Tanzania's Julius Nyere: leaders who might less deprecatingly be called men of vision, except that the authors choose to emphasize a religious quality in their rule. Sadly, too, they are unable to see anything in the efforts of Nkrumah or Nyerere--or Sekou Toure of Guinea--except failure to bring ideals and reality into harmony. (Granted, Tanzania may indeed be evolving toward Nyerere's vision of agrarian socialism--but ""whether the result will prove to be worth the effort remains to be seen."") In the last group are the ""tyrants"" who rule without ideology or values but with the aid of ""mercenaries"" whom the tyrants implicate in their atrocities. In a more technologically advanced setting, the tyrants might be totalitarian rulers, but in Black Africa they must rely less on sophisticated organizations and more on brute force. Idi Amin Dada is here, of course, along with Francisco Macias Nguema Biyogo of Equatorial Guinea, who was ousted in a coup in 1979. Tyranny, we're reminded, generates instability. Finally, the authors ponder the possibilities for Black Africa's transition to institutionalized politics--and the return to hackneyed theoretical questions results in the usual equivocation: Senegal, Kenya, and Tanzania show signs of making the transition, but we can't be sure, etc. The middle of this study is useful, the rest is fluff.

Pub Date: Dec. 9th, 1981
Publisher: Univ. of California Press