Category Archives: Ernest Wamba dia Wamba

Prospects for Sustained Peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Professor Wamba dia Wamba is a leader of the Rassemblement Congolais la democratie (RCD-Kisangani), and is based in Kinshasa, the capital town of the Democratic Republic of Congo. He is a recipient of the prestigious Prince Claus Award for Culture and Development in recognition of his “scholarly contribution to the development of African philosophy and for sparking off the philosophical debate on social and political themes in Africa.” He has written innumerable articles in various scientific and non-scientific journals on the politics in Africa. He has taught at Harvard University and at the University of Dar-es-Salaam, to name but a few. He is a member of the Honorary Board of the Ota Benga Alliance. We are pleased to present this thoughtful analysis from July of 2003, recently posted on Transcend Africa Network, September 15, 2008.


1. Since the creation of the Congo, at the Berlin Conference (1884-1885) as a result of the resolution of the conflict opposing imperial Africa conquering powers, the struggle for or against the Congo has always been international, roughly opposing two camps: the pro-Congolese people camp and the Congolese people ignoring/marginalizing/repressing camp. The identity of the various actors in each camp is very complex and situational. In the 1960’s, President Kwame Nkrumah, in his Challenge of the Congo (1967), gave an interesting indication of some of the then actors.

2. The camps are not distinguished along the lines of the distinction, internal (domestic) vs. external (foreign) forces. At times, during the epoch of the Congo Free State for example, external forces such as the Morel Movement seemed more pro-Congolese people than domestic ones. Even today, a great part of the Congolese “political class” seems to be compradorian. The status of domestic forces, in each camp, is decisive for the outcome of the struggle. The weakest the position of the pro-Congolese people domestic forces leads to the defeat of the Congolese people; i.e., the outcome is less favorable to them.

3. The Congo has always been at the center of the globalization process since the beginning. For a long time, the very hot Cold War, in all its various phases (peaceful coexistence, rivalry, détente, new rivalry, the end) shaped the struggle for or against the Congo. The secessions (first balkanization of the country), the assassinations of P.E. Lumumba and other nationalists and the dismantling of the nationalist regime were explained with reference to the Cold War.

4. The history of the Congo has been marked by a process of a never- ending crisis. The Congo Free State was marked by what Adam Hochschild (King Leopold’s Ghost, 1998) has called an ignored holocaust, the result of a brutal way of organizing the looting of the country’s natural resources (Red rubber). The Morel led international conflict resolution gave rise to Belgian Congo whose Colonial Charter’s application was crisis bound. Prophetist (Kimbangu) and trade-unionist uprisings were violently repressed. Starting with the crisis of Independence, on and off, the Congo has gone through wars since 1960, the one being ended is the eleventh. Or rather the war of emancipation (?) is in its eleventh phase. 1960-1963, the conflict led to the first balkanization of the country as a result of the Western dismantling of the nationalist regime ( with the assassination of Lumumba and other nationalist leaders), Katanga and Kasai mining companies and settlers organized secessions and the proclamation of the Stanleyville Peoples Republic. 1963-1967 and beyond: the defeat of the Second Independence armed struggle and Mobutu’s Coup d’Etat (1965) led to the reunification of the country under the banner of repression as policy by a clientelist and discriminatory State.

1967-1985: wars against mercenary (Jean Schramme) led rebellion and maquis resistance in eastern Congo and the so-called Shaba wars (1977-1978) took place. 1989-1997: with the end of the Cold War (on the basis of the collapse of the State-Party formations), the West nearly abandoned the Western friendly tyran, Mobutu, and supported the SNC movement of democratization based on a restored multipartyism. The truth based national reconciliation was not achieved and this led to a non-ending transition to democracy. Refusing to be replaced or significantly reformed, Mobutu’s regime resorted to a destructive policy of regionalism, ethnic cleansing, State repression of Tutsi Congolese minority and regional destabilization: through involvement in supporting genocidaire Rwandese regime and Angolan UNITA, for examples. This gave the occasion to the region, with the USA conniving, to militarily and diplomatically intervening on the side of the Congolese people to overthrow Mobutu’s regime. Countries involved included: Tanzania, South Africa, Rwanda, Uganda, Erytrea, Angola. The AFDL regime failed to go into the roots of the never-ending crisis: no truth based national reconciliation was contemplated, no resumption of the democratization process, as Congolese people have hoped, its governance fell very quickly into Mobutuist-like solitary exercise of power and repression covered by an anti-Western phobic Lumumbist sounding discourse and a resumption of regional destabilization policy starting with the humiliation of some of its former allies and military backers. This made the re-building of the decomposed State more difficult. Military and political dissidence arose and received regional backing. This led to the so-called ” African First World War” ( Madeleine Albright), the second balkanization of the country into five “administrations” (Kinshasa, Goma, Gbadolite, Bunia and Isiro), and an estimated human cost of 3 million people dead.

5. So far, each phase has ended without having resolved the basic underlining fundamental problems generating protracted armed conflicts. Each phase has been also marked by direct involvement of external forces through an “alignment” with some clientelist internal forces. The strategic position of the country in Africa (if not the world), its rich natural resources potential (strategic resources for the succeeding capitalist phases: from tropical agriculture experienced slaves, rubber, copper, cobalt/uranium, oil, coltan, biodiversity and soon, water; without neglecting the money laundering diamond) and the relative absence of strong national pro-Congo leadership institutions make the country a continuous prey for protracted external interventions and easy target for continuous people exploitation and pauperization. People resistance, passive and active, makes the country a war zone. The Congo has never had a sustained peace.


6. The capacities of the national leadership at independence were not sufficient to start tackling correctly the problems of the country in the World divided by Cold War, given the country’s strategic position. In fact, very soon the leadership that fought for independence and had some sense of its significance was replaced as a presumed solution to the crisis of independence. The resulting troubled Congolese history made it difficult to develop those necessary capacities. Western dependency mentality, on the part of would-be-leaders, has increased than decreased: each time the country faces a problem the call is made for outside help. To the extent that Western direct involvement tends to be a problem, basic problems remain unresolved. The impression given by the nature of help which comes is that the Congo is seen as ‘ a sick person that must be kept alive in an intensive care unit, but not allowed to be totally cured.” There has been no real vision to guide the transformation of a conquered and colonized territory, freed with precipitation, into a self-reliant Nation, responding positively to the basic interests of the Congolese majority of people. The Congolese people have, thus, had no confidence in the existing institutions and their actors. The latter have failed to develop mutual trust with each other, and each actor, in the main, has had no self-confidence. And while occupying a strategic position, the country’s public consciousness has never reached the level required by that position.

7. Crucial problems have not been mastered. The country, so large, has not been even physically sufficiently integrated. Surrounded by 9 bordering countries, the country’s well understood national interest can only be articulated with some consideration of its relation to those of the neighboring countries. 6 out of the 9 countries have had or are still undergoing civil wars: which, due to the decomposition of our State, have been slipping over the DRC, making it easier for external interventions into the country. The international dimension of the country has not been mastered. The nature of the post-colonial State, as a colonial legacy, i.e., a State created through conquest and non-responsive to the basic needs of the conquered peoples, has not been problematized and transformed to make it responsive to the needs of all Congolese. The economy, dominated by a problematic of extraction of natural resources whose markets are outside of the country, entertains violent forced labor relations of production and a dynamics of looting. This makes it unresponsive to the basic needs of impoverished masses of people. The centuries’ history of the Congo’s foreign capital investment and wealth creation based on resource extraction has been a complete and total failure in terms of human and socioeconomic conditions of the Congolese society. In the absence of a true middle class and a patriotic political class, it is difficult to achieve and sustain the necessary structural break from the existing political economic structure. This break, if accomplished, would allow both foreign investors and Congolese society conceptualize, define and articulate their respective interests, requirements and needs as equal stakeholders in mutual beneficial partnership based relationships. The primary sources of conflict, in the Congo, are political and socioeconomic structural problems. They have national, regional and global dimensions.

8. The protracted crisis has always had concrete symptomatic forms of expression in each situation. Presently, we are facing principally a major political crisis, whose symptoms are as follows: a) an absence of legitimate political institutions serving openly all the Congolese and responding positively to their basic needs and aspirations and in which they have confidence and trust; b) an absence of a democratically rooted constitutionalism, since the 1965 coup d’Etat, constitution-making has been devoted to underwrite and justify dictatorial powers; c) the incumbent President, in a state of emergency it is true, was designated by a small circle with no constitutional known powers and endorsed by a parliament appointed by a self-proclaimed President, the late L.D. Kabila; d) an absence of a relatively independent, self-reliant and truly patriotic national political leadership mobilizing the population to keep at bay interventionist forces and tendencies; e) an insufficient national consciousness among the people; f) a de facto balkanization of the country; g) a continuous militarization of the politico-administrative structure; being closer to or having recourse to arms as a way of getting to or keeping power is seen as a good thing and warlords seen as heroes awarded with the title of ‘leader’; h) an absence, especially within the structures and institutions of leadership, of political ethics ( public morality, respect for the res publica, active opposition to corruption and other negative values, the will to truth, active pursuit of a healthy interethnic conviviality, ultimate concern for human life, respect for political adversaries or dissidents, etc.); i) the debasing of Congolese intellectuals, devoting their intellectual work to the celebration of dictators, to spreading fear in the population or in gravitating around mediocrity; k) with the lapsing of the political model of ‘liberation movements’ and the crisis of Party form, the existing numerous Parties (close to 400 registered) function as NGO’s almost the same way as civil society NGO’s with no clear vision or organized people mobilization; l) even after the end of the Cold War and the overthrow of Mobutu’s one-Party State kleptocratic ‘dictatorship’, a transition to democratic rule has been indefinite: the country giving the impression of having embarked on a self-destructive course and a real possibility of partition.


9. SADC sponsored search for peace in the DRC– leading to the Lusaka Cease-Fire Accord– and the long lasting Inter-Congolese political negotiations: leading to the Global and Inclusive Accord– have singled out the end of war, peace, the re-unification of the country and a transition towards a new political dispensation as their targets. The complexity of the problem, the shaky determination of the African leadership and its relative financial and material poverty allowed the international community to take over the active “sponsorship” of the overall process. The SADC group was particularly sidelined.

10. Political problems aside, peace negotiations have suffered from conceptual confusions. When the people are not at the center of the search for peace, situations of conflict are not correctly grasped: what makes peace impossible in each situation is grasped through generalities drawn from a context-free conceptual framework model which guides the peace negotiations. The silencing of weapons seems to be the end-result target. The so-called realist politics, centered around the notion of might is right, or the idea of the ’strong man’ coupled with the notion of a zero-sum game provide for the conceptual apparatus to deal with peace negotiations. ” How and by whom are people represented in peace negotiations?” This question is often not contemplated. Negotiations are centered around warlords i.e., anyone posing a visible threat to peace has more consideration, not the most victimized. In a situation where we refuse to think on our own, refuse to take our history seriously or to see things from a long perspective, we don’t start from a rational sum-up of past outcomes of conflict resolutions: the lessons of the failures and/or successes of the 1993 Arusha Peace Agreement for Rwanda, the 1994 Peace Protocols for Angola, the Namibia Accords, etc. The ICD lasted so long and cost so much because it was badly organized and too much groping in the dark. This allowed pandora boxes to be drawn in and be open.

11. The long and frustrating process of inter-Congolese negotiations eventually led to the Global and Inclusive Accord, now being implemented. Due to the nature of the Congolese “political class” and the mediation methodology, no real dialogue over the Congolese crisis really took place. Negotiations were subordinated to the imperatives of power sharing: you must get a State post or chair or die! The mediation team was composed of representatives of the UN (the UNSG’s Special Envoy, Moustapha Niasse) and the South African government. It followed a strategy which, while making it possible to reach the result faster, did not facilitate confidence building and trust among the Congolese parties. From the beginning to the end, no point of agreement was reached between Congolese themselves without outside pressure. Informal consultations and discussions were used and only results were presented in the plenary meetings. Questions of procedure were entirely handled by the moderation, with no room for organized input from the Congolese parties. The mediation paid more attention to negotiations with the components referred to as ‘big belligerents’: Kinshasa Government, MLC and RCD-Goma. The other components and entities (Civil Society, Non-armed Political Opposition, RCD-ML, RCD-N and Mai Mai) were more or less called upon to endorse points of agreement reached by the big belligerents. The exchanges between delegates were indirect, passing through mediators. At no time, almost, did any of the delegates meet and discuss, face to face, to defend each other’s positions. No real palaver took place. The pressure was permanent on the delegates; thus avoiding a situation where certain parties could behave as if they had a veto right. And yet, the so-called ‘big belligerents’ knew they counted more than the other parties. As a consequence, the other parties, especially the Non-armed Political Opposition and Civil Society, lost their relative autonomy. Each organization of those components felt obliged to align itself with one or the other big armed component in the hope to have access to important posts in the transitional institutions. Almost all groups developed a strong tendency to seek more posts in the State institutions rather than lowering their demands for them, at the expense of national reconciliation. The armed groups continue to seek to implant themselves politically throughout the whole country through the acquired posts in the transition. Instead of focusing primarily on resolving the current Congolese crisis, they are more concerned with how to win elections through the use of their positions in State structures. Briefly, the logic of negotiations was predicated on the realist politics of ‘might is right’. It did contradict the very thrust of the Accord which puts emphasis on inclusiveness, consensus, working/moving/winning together and not at the expense of some. For the big armed groups, inclusiveness meant trying everything to get their members and perhaps their allies or clients in as many important posts of the transitional institutions as possible. There was no attempt to make sure that nobody felt being excluded; and the issue of how to regenerate the Congolese people’s confidence in the transitional institutions and officials was never raised.


12. No transition, so far has succeeded in the Congo. A new attempt has taken off, with the formation of the transitional government. The transition, starting with the end of the first balkanization, to a federal democracy was stopped by the 1965 coup d’Etat. The SNC organized transition was resisted by the refusal of Mobutu’s regime to give up and eventually ended with the overthrow of that regime by AFDL led armed struggle supported by a regional unified effort. The AFDL proclaimed plan of transition never even took off. Will this transition succeed? Of course, the crisis of legitimacy has been at the center of the Congolese political crisis, not size of the country, ethnicity or the mere presence of the ‘fabulous’ potential of natural resources. Transition to democracy aims at dealing precisely with the legitimacy question. Forces (domestic and external), opposed to democracy, have made democratic transition in the Congo almost impossible.

13. To assess the chances of success of this new attempt, two questions need to be addressed separately: what is ending and what is starting? Basic principles which guide the process of transition have been arrived at on the basis of a formal consensus between Congolese parties reached and sustained under foreign pressure. Mistrust between Congolese actors still prevails. The profound pauperization of the population at large, the absence of people political mobilization and the absence of political will on the part of ‘leaders’ to deal with crucial issues of the crisis make the people at large uninterested and politically powerless to exercise pressure for the transition to be non-conflict bound and successful. While we have been lucky to have had both dictators, Mobutu and L.D. Kabila, and we should now know what not to do, even if we may not know what to do differently, would-be leaders are behaving as if nothing has been learned. Mobutist legacy weighs heavily on the leaders’ and the people’s minds and behaviors. External actors do not seem to have drawn any positive lessons from the dictators’ political catastrophes either. The overall powerful and mostly negative external influence on the course of events shows that the national question remains unresolved and more bloody future historical episodes are likely. The very way the transitional institutions are being put in place, with the re-activation of so-called anti-valeurs (clientelism, regionalism, ethnicism or tribalism, corruption, etc.) makes their sustainability precarious. Democratic values are spoken about only with the strong desire on each party to mend the process to win the elections, not to act positively according to those values. The adversary pluralist cohabitation (with 4 Vice-Presidents), in the presidential political space, does not help eradicate mistrust at all. Rumors of possibilities of a coup d’Etat are already being heard. Neo-Mobutism haunts the political scene; this is a Mobutism that has not self-criticized and likely to be revengeful. Are we headed towards one more tragedy or a farce? Did we need to sacrifice close to 3 millions Congolese to reach this result?

14. So, what is ending? People want the war and balkanization to end as a way also of ending the State decomposition and collapsing. The reconstructed State is supposed to transform the conditions of existence of the protracted Congolese crisis. Foremost, it is supposed to organize credible, free and fair elections to lay to rest the problem of legitimacy. With the warlike Presidential collegiality, the spectre of the “strong man” or “providential man” politics seems to have diminished. Perhaps, such as a situation may end the destruction of the relative autonomy of State by the past dictators. Even if there is no debate, and thus clarity, on what type of State is going to be reconstructed. The people want it to be the one responsive to their needs; this will need to be struggled for. While party politics are still conceived within the horizon of State-party as a party-form, party pluralism is now inscribed within the State institutions and may enhance pluralism. The only worry is that even the armed forces seem to be marked by such adversary pluralism making their unity, apolitical, professional and republican characters precarious.

15. And what is starting? Pluralism is creating a real possibility of debates on national issues. Political battles are likely to be conducted on the basis of ‘policy against policy’ (politique contre politique) and battles may be more focused on points of public consciousness. With this, different forms of political organization of politics are likely. The question of what kind of relationship to power is possible for power to be openly serving the Congolese people is going to be raised and confronted more consciously. If institutions of democratic empowerment are allowed to function relatively independently, transition will be more focused on bringing about credible, free and fair elections. These possibilities will be very much constrained by the everlasting weight of external forces opposed to the transformation of the structural socio-economic conditions of the Congolese crisis. The result of the now being planned international conference on the Great Lakes region will be the test of the political will of the regional political leadership and the international community to opt for sustained regional peace, equity, representative democracy, social justice, mutual trust based pursuit of regional security and pro-people developmentalist regional cooperation. It is a big challenge; it requires stronger and more open and trustworthy types of political leaderships within each country and in the region.


16. I tried, in a very condensed form, to provide basic elements to grasp the Congolese precarious history of bloody conflicts. I could not deal with all the cases that needed to be discussed. The Ituri situation alone would require a full paper and so would require the Kivu focalized Rwanda-Congo relations. I wanted to provide a broader picture which may help the understanding of specific crucial issues. If time allows it, I will entertain questions on issues not dealt with.

Kinshasa, July 26, 2003.

L’Afrique repoussera…

Another poem by Ernest Wamba dia Wamba, director of our sister organization in Kinshasa, the Center for Human Dignity.

Par la houe esclavagiste
Par la faucille colonialiste
Par le tracteur néolibéraliste
Par le marché mondialiste
L’Afrique enterrée

De belles fleurs multicolores
De cultures noires ardentes
Les masques millénaires

A l’ouragan américain
A la tempête chinoise ou indienne
A la pluie d’union européenne
A la douce brise brésilienne
Les épis ne fléchiront pas
L’Afrique repoussera..

De savoureux fruits
Les survivants des cataclysmes
Armés de persistance et de courage
D’ardeur et de vigilance
L’Afrique de demain
Boussole du monde nouveau
Se tiendra….

Ernest Wamba dia Wamba.
Nkiutomba, 28 novembre 2007.

Pour que l’université redevienne le cerveau de notre pays

Click here for English Translation

1. Notre pays, la République Démocratique du Congo, est devenu un corps dont le cerveau est en crise profonde et dont le cœur est malade. C’est donc un corps mourant. On entend souvent les gens dire que le poisson commence à pourrir par la tête. C’est rarement qu’on se rend compte que la tête pour notre pays ce sont les structures de l’intellectualité, à commencer par les universités. Celles-ci, on le sait, sont en crise grave. Aucune déclaration soutenue sur la situation catastrophique de notre pays n’émerge de ces universités.

2. Il en est de même des nombreuses églises et maisons de spiritualité qui ne produisent aucune déclaration prescriptive de compassion envers les masses populaires qui vivotent dans leurs souffrances et misères indicibles. Même les déclarations prophétiques, émanant de ces églises, deviennent des moyens de s’enrichir sans cause. L’Archibishop Kutino Fernando, qui avait émis une vigoureuse déclaration sur la nécessité de sauver le Congo, par une mobilisation populaire, s’est vu écrouer à Makala, sans que les autres églises se dérangent. Il rappela la douloureuse expérience d’une grande mémoire : Kimpa Vita Nsimba alias Dona Béatrice, qui, en son temps voulut sauver le royaume du Kongo.

3. Les universités confrontent au moins quatre types des problèmes : 1) l’insuffisance organisationnelle interne ; 2) la dynamique économique du pays fortement orientée vers le gaspillage organisé des forces humaines et donc la négligence systématique de la formation et du développement du capital humain comme facteur stratégique et aussi l’absence d’une vraie politique de l’université ; 3) l’incapacité, dans le contexte de la mondialisation, de maîtriser les forces techniques et managériales disponibles ; et 4) la rupture culturelle avec les masses populaires qui constituent la majorité du pays.

4. Si la mission universelle de l’université est la recherche de la vérité, toute la vérité et rien que la vérité, nos universités ne s’organisent pas pour réaliser cette mission. Même si l’objectif principal n’était que la production des diplômes, nos universités sont incapables de produire à temps ces documents. Le fait que le pouvoir en place n’a pas de politique du futur, et donc celle qui devait s’occuper de la préparation systématique de la jeunesse, les universités comme les autres écoles, n’ont pour mission que de garder les jeunes gens hors des rues ou sinon pour les universités, de décerner des titres académiques pour besoin de simple statut social et satisfaction morale.

5. C’est pourquoi l’UNAZA était conçue prioritairement comme une structure de sécurité et non celle de la production des connaissances et de la recherche de la vérité, toute la vérité et rien que la vérité. Le personnel « administratif et sécuritaire », au lieu d’être un personnel de support au personnel académique, était considéré comme le moteur même de l’université. La recherche scientifique et l’enseignement ne pouvaient qu’en souffrir profondément. C’est cela aussi qui explique que les anciens de l’université, ceux qui finissent leurs études, une fois partis, ne regardent plus à l’université et, au contraire, lui tournent le dos. Alors qu’ailleurs, ce sont les Associations des anciens des universités qui prennent en main la protection, la défense et le développement de leurs universités.

6. En ligne avec la dynamique qui caractérise notre pays en général, notre université, dans sa double face étatique et privée, est extravertie. Peut-on réellement dire que l’université congolaise fait preuve d’esprit d’initiative et de découverte ? Si oui, l’UNIKIN n’allait pas vendre une grande partie de son terrain. L’Université de Dar es-Salaam, par exemple, utilise une partie de son terrain pour générer des ressources financières supplémentaires. On loue, à une durée déterminée, une partie du terrain à une compagnie qui y construit un supermarché ; le prix de chaque marchandise inclut une taxe qui va à l’université, en plus de la rente. Sur une autre partie, on construit des appartements taxés aussi par l’université. Une commission permanente de l’université étudie toutes les possibilités d’utilisation de toutes les ressources ou forces intellectuelles disponibles pour générer des ressources financières supplémentaires. Le bureaucratisme, pour aller vite, est incapable de mobiliser les forces intellectuelles. C’est toute la question de l’exigence des libertés académiques..

7. A notre connaissance, notre université n’entretient pas une institution qui veuille à la promotion et la défense des libertés académiques ainsi que le monitoring des violations de celles-ci. Les rapports interuniversitaires, en ces matières, sont presque inexistants. A l’université même, l’esprit scientifique qui doive orienter tout le travail académique ne semble pas se manifester dans la défense des libertés académiques. L’université tend à devenir très disciplinaire. Les évaluations de ce travail ne sont pas démocratiques.

8. Ailleurs, même les résultats des examens, par des examinateurs internes, sont réévalués par des examinateurs extérieurs venant d’autres universités, souvent étrangères. Les points sexuellement transmis seraient facilement dépistés. Les promotions académiques font aussi objet d’une telle justesse et rigueur.

9. Certaines universités permettent les étudiants, à chaque fin de terme, de faire et publier, dans leurs bulletins, les évaluations de chaque cours—son contenu scientifique, la relevance de la bibliographie utilisée et la disponibilité de celle-ci, la ténue pédagogique des enseignements, la capacité communicative et explicative des enseignants, la rigueur scientifique et administrative de correction des travaux pratiques, le contact avec les étudiants, etc. Les autorités académiques, dans notre université, n’ont pas de temps ni de volonté de se rencontrer avec les étudiants qui solliciteraient une audience. Alors qu’ailleurs, même un étudiant de première année peut obtenir une audience avec le recteur de l’université sans aucune difficulté. Les autorités comprennent que l’université c’est d’abord, et prioritairement, le travail académique. Leur audience primordiale ce sont les étudiants, les professeurs et les chercheurs. Où va le temps de travail des autorités académiques ? Aux professeurs, chercheurs et étudiants, en priorité. Et chez-nous ?

10. Notre université, au lieu d’être un lieu d’expérimentation de la démocratie, semble être un cas retardataire de féodalité. L’argumentation scientifique est souvent remplacée par une argumentation d’autorité non-scientifique. L’assemblée de tout le personnel académique, dirigé par un comité exécutif démocratiquement élu par les membres, fait défaut dans notre université. Le secrétariat permanent de l’Association des anciens de l’université (avec un Bulletin de liaison mensuel) organisant annuellement une convocation des membres, est absent dans notre université. C’est pourquoi, notre université n’est pas présente dans les esprits des anciens de l’université qui sont dans d’autres institutions. L’université doit travailler pour rendre sa présence effective dans la société. C’est elle qui pèserait dans la dynamique des débats budgétaires. Le personnel académique doit participer dans la conception et la rédaction de la Charte de l’université. Une Charte imposée ne favorise pas les conditions de fonctionnement créatif du travail académique.

11. En Europe, la science avait décollé après avoir réalisé un lien effectif entre savants et artisans. Notre université doit provoquer ce décollage en créant aussi de tels liens : des ateliers où des ingénieurs et des artisans travaillent de façon complémentaire, des « think tanks » où des universitaires et des managers ainsi que des capitaines de finance forment corps, des structures de production mettant ensemble, par exemple, pharmaciens et herbalistes ; etc. Notre université doit, en outre, développer des liens organisés avec l’université de l’Amérique latine et celle de l’Asie, en plus de celle de l’Occident. C’est par les têtes formées de partout aussi que la technologie de pointe peut être transférée. La dynamique de la technologie repose sur le fait que différents instruments, peuvent en se combinant, donner naissance à des instruments supérieurs. Il faudra encourager les échanges des professeurs par ces liens. Ce qui avait fait la force de l’Université de Dar-es-Salaam, dans le temps, c’était le fait que son personnel académique était constitué des académiciens venant d’au moins 4 continents : Europe (Est et Ouest), Amérique (Nord, Centre et Sud), Afrique (Est, Ouest, Nord et Sud) et Asie.

12. Notre université, pour provoquer un développement endogène, doit être enracinée dans nos cultures qu’elle aidera à développer. Même l’UK n’a pas en son sein un Institut de développement de la langue Kikongo et civilisations Kongo. Cela pourra résoudre la question des rapports entre l’université et les masses populaires. Sans le développement de nos langues, il sera difficile de les utiliser dans les enseignements et les publications. Il faut un plan pour réaliser cette vision. Le fait qu’on continue de faire appel aux langues mortes, montre qu’une langue n’est pas seulement un outil de communication, mais bel et bien, un moyen d’accumulation et de conservation des connaissances et du savoir. Différentes expériences culturelles humaines entretiennent différentes formes de savoir. La crise de la civilisation occidentale et orientale, se manifestant par l’incapacité de protéger l’environnement, peut obtenir sa résolution par le recours à d’autres civilisations.

13. L’université est un lieu où se tiennent, en permanence et chaque jour ou presque, toutes sortes de séminaires et des conférences. Des séminaires de recherches constituent le moteur du travail académique de la recherche de la vérité. Les conférences publiques vulgarisent les nouvelles connaissances. La démocratie exige aussi d’autres types des conférences visant à améliorer les rapports sociaux. L’université doit être le lieu de la stimulation intellectuelle générale. Ceux qui ont la curiosité intellectuelle vont, au moins une fois par semaine, à l’université assister ou participer à un séminaire ou une conférence. Il faut qu’il y ait donc ces conférences ou séminaires. Sans ceux-ci, l’université est dormante.

14. Il est clair qu’un peu de rigueur est nécessaire dans les nominations des autorités universitaires. Ailleurs, le personnel académique propose cinq noms parmi les scientifiques à l’autorité qui nomme pour chaque poste. Les nominations arbitraires, à caractère ethnique, clientéliste, ou régionaliste ou policier ou sexiste, n’encouragent pas le développement de la science.

15. Voilà quelques idées, livrées en vrac, qui peuvent servir de commencement pour un débat sur la question de l’université congolaise.

Ernest Wamba dia Wamba
Nkiutomba, le 29 décembre 2007.

Reviendras-tu de si tot?

The following poem was submitted by Honorary Board member Ernest Wamba dia Wamba who lives in Kinshasa, DRC.

En sommeil de profondeur
Mortelle—mon pay
Par moments rarissimes d’éveil
Est souvent pincé des cauchemars
Face à ses extérieurs partenaires
Culturels et économiques assassins

J’aime mon pays—même mourant
Et ses filles et fils surtout
De grande intransigeance—
Pour que redevienne vie—la survie
Et les zombies hommes et femmes
De grande dignité respectée
–partout et toujours.

Même ses nombreux fous..
En plein air accoutrés vivant
Des restes enfouis dans les immondices
Des marionnettes occidentales
Et ses phaseurs, shegues indignes face
Aux officiels voleurs d’absolue méchanceté
Ou les adorateurs sériels de Dieu….
Je les aime..

Ernest Wamba dia Wamba
Nguzo, le 22 octobre 2007.

Comment Comprendre Notre Situation Actuelle, en RDC?

1. Nous sommes dans une situation d’après les élections nationales et provinciales avant les élections locales. Les premières ont eu lieu dans des conditions d’ignorance civique et des textes de base dans la grande population ainsi que de la grande misère des celle-ci. Le choix était affecté par les urgences d’exigences de la survie (tant alimentaire que sécuritaire) humaine.

2. Les électeurs ne savent toujours pas exiger de leurs élus de répondre á leurs obligations constitutionnelles devant la misère rampante de la grande population. Les élus, très attentifs aux exigences des forces extérieures, ne s’obligent que rarement devant la population qui continue d’être gardée dans l’ignorance. A part les vexations sécuritaires et fiscales, les gens ne ressentent pas l’existence d’une autorité qui gouverne.

3. Les institutions de formalisme démocratique semblent être bloquées par la majorité mécanique, construite comme AMP autour du Président de la République et le Premier Ministre ; une situation dans laquelle les décisions importantes se prennent surtout en dehors des débats qui se font dans les institutions et donc sans considération réelle des résultats de ceux-ci.

4. Les dossiers qui ne plaisent pas à cette majorité sont constamment mis en veilleuse : le dossier des massacres au Bas-congo, le dossier concernant les officiels avec double nationalité en violation des lois en vigueur, le dossier de Kahemba, les dossiers des contrats léonins—surtout dans le secteur minier, le rapport d’audit diligenté par le Premier Ministre, le dossier Sénateur Jean-Pierre Bemba, soutenu aux élections par 42% des électeurs congolais, le dossier de la Cour Suprême de Justice qui avait pris des décisions, concernant les résultats définitifs, entachées des irrégularités et de violation flagrante des lois—renforçant ainsi l’impunité, et j’en passe.

5. En subordonnant les institutions à l’esprit et les intérêts partisans de la majorité mécanique—allergique a l’opposition, même légalisée par une loi superflue, on est en plein Parti-Etat : la majorité, dirigée par le parti PPRD, se soumet l’Etat, comme à l’époque de Mobutu, il n’y a pas de vrais serviteurs de l’Etat. Ce qui renforce le caractère discriminatoire de l’Etat qui fait de celui-ci—pour ce qui en reste—un Etat non pas pour tous mais pour des factions clientélistes, ethniques, régionalistes, etc. On entend dire : « C’est notre tour ! »–de bouffer s’entend. C’est pour mieux asseoir cette majorité mécanique que celle-ci voulait amender la Constitution.

6. Les aspirations et les besoins de la grande population ne retiennent pas l’attention des occupants des institutions—sinon en parole et dans les actes de la propagande.

7. Les questions de grande urgence, pour la construction du projet de l’Etat digne—qui traîne depuis longtemps— : l’organisation d’une vraie armée républicaine nationale, des vrais services de sécurité, une vraie administration publique, l’autoconstruction de la nation et du peuple, une vraie politique de l’éducation, etc. traînent. A part les actes de propagande, aucune mobilisation réelle de toute la population autour de chacun des cinq chantiers ne se fait : il devrait s’agir d’une politique de grands travaux qu’il faut déclencher. Celle-ci exige une vraie vision couchée dans une forte idéologie capable d’imprégner les gens de la population entière. Les grèves (éducation, santé, etc.), décriées plutôt que d’être considérées comme des occasions pour débattre chacun des chantiers pour en fixer les priorités dans les tâches et de mobiliser les forces humaines et fixer clairement les étapes, n’ont attiré que l’attention négative des autorités. On compte non pas sur ses propres forces humaines congolaises, mais sur celles chinoises. C’est le peuple, et le peuple seul, qui est le créateur de son histoire–disent les camarades chinois ; on refuse cela au peuple congolais parce qu’on veut utiliser les résultats pour des fins de propagande pour se maintenir au pouvoir.

8. La tergiversation des autorités centrales sur la question de la rétention des 40% des ressources en provinces, viserait à empêcher les autorités provinciales de se rapprocher de leurs gouvernés, c’est, une fois encore, essayer de subordonner ces autorités aux intérêts partisans des factions clientélistes, ethniques, partidaires, maffieuses de ce qui en reste de l’Etat. La créativité provinciale est ainsi frustrée et pour certaines, bloquée. La décentralisation devient un simple formalisme.

9. La difficulté d’émergence d’une citoyenneté active, qui sache conquérir et défendre quotidiennement les droits des gens, est aggravée par les vexations sécuritaires et surtout le fait que l’opposition en dehors des institutions s’oriente vers une politique partidaire, c’est-à-dire une politique d’entrisme futur dans l’Etat. Cela la frappe d’attentisme et d’incapacité de produire, à partir des gens, des prescriptions capables de forcer l’Etat de modifier les modalités de son fonctionnement. Cet attentisme est favorable au régime en place.

10. La crise judiciaire se manifeste par le fait que, à cause de sa composition, la Cour Suprême de Justice a pris des décisions injustes entachées d’irrégularités et violant certaines lois du pays pour satisfaire les autorités cherchant à s’innocenter ou à caser (au Parlement, par exemple) leurs clients. Ces décisions feront malheureusement jurisprudence et servent donc des bases juridiques de la continuation de l’impunité.

11. L’insécurité dans la zone de production de nobium et de coltan, très recherchés par les grandes entreprises transnationales de technologie de pointe, expose au public le caractère de fonctionnement maffieux de ce qui reste de notre Etat—sans parler des autres Etats voisins. Nkunda est l’incarnation de quelle maffia étatique ?

12. Dans le court terme, le seul espoir c’est que les élections locales s’organisent de façon à corriger le caractère extraverti des précédentes élections. Il faut trouver, dans l’actuelle situation, les possibles de sortie. A bon entendeur salut !

Ernest Wamba dia Wamba Bazunini
Nkiutomba (Kinshasa), le 18 décembre 2007.

La parité homme/femme, en RDC, comme specificité de la 3ème République?

English translation coming soon.



  1. La Constitution de la Troisième République consacre la parité homme/femme. Voici ce qu’elle en dit, dans son préambule:« Réaffirmant notre adhésion et notre attachement à la Déclaration Universelle des Droits de l’Homme, à la Charte Africaine des Droits de l’Homme et des peuples, aux Conventions des Nations Unies sur les Droits de l’Enfant et sur les Droits de la Femme, particulièrement à l’objectif de la parité de représentation homme-femme au sein des institutions du pays ainsi qu’aux instruments internationaux relatifs à la protection et à la promotion des droits humains ; (p.11) » Et plus loin, à l’article 14, on peut lire : « Les pouvoirs publics veillent à l’élimination de toute forme de discrimination à l’égard de la femme et d’assurer la protection et la promotion de ses droits. –Ils prennent dans tous les domaines, notamment dans les domaines civil, politique, économique, social et culturel, toutes les mesures appropriées pour assurer le total épanouissement et la pleine participation de la femme au développement de la nation—La femme a droit à une représentation équitable au sein des institutions nationales, provinciales et locales—l’Etat garantit la mise en œuvre de la parité homme-femme dans les dites institutions.—La loi fixe les modalités d’application de ces droits. »<
    La compréhension/l’interprétation de cette position s’avère difficile ; son opérationnalisation, comme par exemple, dans la loi électorale s’est montrée peu démocratique. Elle donnerait naissance au recours aux listes zébrées bloquées. Beaucoup de gens la comprennent comme une égalité plus fondamentale que la seule égalité d’opportunité accordée à tous les citoyens. Il s’agirait de corriger l’idée commune que la nature humaine est vouée à l’inégalité et que celle entre l’homme et la femme n’est qu’un aspect. A l’égalité, l’idée commune oppose l’équité qui serait plus pertinente eu égard à ce qu’est la nature humaine. L’équité, en pratique, ne fonctionne pas comme une catégorie opératoire qui corrigerait l’inégalité, non plus. La parité ne serait donc pas la proposition de l’égalité comme programme : réaliser l’égalité foncière de la nature humaine dans ses deux pôles.
  2. Bref, on peut dire qu’il s’agit d’une maxime d’orientation surtout dans une situation où la condition de la femme est à la fois d’être victime et porteuse d’espoir. La parité est considérée comme principe égalitaire fonctionnant comme principe de l’action politique. La vraie difficulté pratique est que la politique, en RDC, est rarement orientée sur la base des principes. La parité se comprend donc comme un argument de réalité. Il faut traiter la femme comme on traite l’homme vaut comme principe d’action politique et non comme argument de réalité.
  3. La question peut se comprendre comme un principe d’orientation pour traiter les grandes différences dont celle entre l’homme et la femme. Les autres différences sont : entre la ville et la campagne rurale, entre le travail manuel et le travail intellectuel, entre l’industrie et l’agriculture et peut-être entre une culture et une autre. La liste n’est pas exhaustive. Il n’ y a aucune politique, à ce jour, qui traite de façon satisfaisante ces autres grandes différences.
  4. Il s’agit de s’orienter intellectuellement et politiquement, au sujet de la différence homme/femme, dans les conceptions culturelles (tout le poids culturel issu des matriarcat, patriarcat, mouvement révolutionnaire des femmes, etc.), dans le poids historique du retard imposé à la femme et dans les conditions de fonctionnement de la femme (tâches maternelles, domestiques, etc.,) qui l’empêchent de fonctionner dans les affaires publiques comme l’homme. Comment faire de sorte que la maxime de parité soit praticable dans les créations et les consommations culturelles ? Comment faire pour que le retard historique soit éradiqué. Comment faire pour que les tâches maternelles et domestiques cessent de garder la femme en situation d’inégalité par rapport à la participation dans les affaires publiques ? Les lois organiques prévues dans la Constitution doivent répondre à ces questions.
  5. Aujourd’hui, on ne voit pas que la politique de l’Etat de la 3ème République s’inscrit dans une telle orientation. Sur 60 membres du gouvernement, il n’y a que 10 femmes et sur 608 membres du Parlement, il y a au moins 43 femmes. C’est surtout, dans les institutions où les membres sont nommés, où on devrait voir à l’oeuvre l’engagement du gouvernement. Le législateur avait rejeté l’idée d’un quota des femmes au Parlement, en plus de celles qui seraient élues normalement. On peut dire que ces inégalités reflètent encore le retard dont a été victime la femme congolaise depuis longtemps (dès la traite négrière, le colonialisme jusqu’aujourd’hui.)
  6. A supposer que cette maxime soit une prescription, quelles en seraient les conséquences ? Par fidélité à cette maxime comment réaliser ces conséquences ? Il faut un nombre égal d’hommes et des femmes dans toutes les institutions du pays. Il faudra séparer le rapport d’amour et celui de mariage qui est en fait une contrainte ; il faut réorganiser la famille dans le sens de celle communautaire et spécifier le caractère d’appartenance communautaire des enfants (éviter tout rapport d’oppression, parentale, par exemple), il faut trouver une forme communautaire de gestion des tâches maternelles et domestiques pour permettre que les positions de l’homme et de la femme soit de parité ; il faut repenser tout l’enseignement et le contenu de l’éducation. Certainement, l’égalité numérique, à tous les niveaux de l’enseignement, peut avoir un effet de rupture épistémologique et culturelle. On espère que la nouvelle famille sera à mesure d’éradiquer les préjudices en faveur des garçons contre les filles ou vice-versa. Le Code de famille, tel qu’il est aujourd’hui devra être revu. Il est difficile de dire que l’Etat, tel qu’il est, serait en mesure de prendre de telles mesures. L’Etat doit fixer un temps de discrimination positive en faveur de la femme pour que celle-ci extirpe son retard sur l’homme. Ces décisions pourraient violer certaines des dispositions constitutionnelles. Mais si cela protège la Nation future mieux que la poursuite légale du retard de la femme, il faudra le faire.
  7. Le système éducationnel fonctionne aujourd’hui comme structure d’aggravation de l’inégalité entre l’homme et la femme. Les points sexuellement transmis, dont on fait grand cas dans les universités, ne sont qu’un symptôme. La culture dominante, il suffit de voir le contenu des programmes de la TV, est nettement en faveur de l’infériorisation de la femme. Dans les conditions de misère, la femme porte le plus grand poids pour la survie de la famille. Ce n’est pas étonnant que l’on puisse penser que l’homme aurait un droit de taper sa femme. Des femmes croient que l’homme qui frappe sa femme l’aime beaucoup ; il est jaloux et la jalousie est un indice d’amour !
  8. L’appel lancé par l’UNICEF que toutes les filles, sans exception, aillent à l’école ne rencontre pas un soutien réel de l’Etat. La proportionnalité des filles, par rapport aux garçons, dans le groupe des enfants qui ne fréquentent pas l’école ( 30 à 40 % paraît-il) reste encore plus élevée, surtout en milieu rural. Notre Etat n’est pas encore une structure civilisationnel capable d’influer sur les cultures en les aidant à s’émanciper. Nos villes n’ont pas encore de vraie culture urbaine qui serait un creuset d’émancipation des cultures et les écoles, dans les mains des enseignants clochardisés, n’entretiennent aucune initiative respectable de changement des mentalités.
  9. Même si la parité homme-femme était réalisée, par une prise de pouvoir par les femmes, les survivances culturelles pèseront encore dans les mentalités des gens. Le consumérisme, dominé par l’American way of life, continuera d’orienter les désirs, les sentiments et les mentalités des gens. Ce modèle n’entretient pas encore la maxime de la parité femme-homme, comme telle.
  10. Peut-être que la maxime est un symptôme du spectre qui hanterait notre contexte actuel, celui qui est marqué, selon Alain Badiou (séminaire de juin 2007), par les trois idées suivantes : l’idée égalitaire comme maxime d’action ; l’idée qu’un Etat coercitif séparé n’est pas nécessaire ; et l’idée que l’organisation de la spécialisation des tâches n’est pas nécessaire puisqu’il y a une essentielle polymorphie du travail humain. En d’autres termes, c’est dans une société émancipée que la parité homme-femme sera praticable. La maxime est un aspect d’orientation de la lutte pour la société d’émancipation. Elle inaugure un type important des batailles pour l’émancipation. Elle doit être purgée du fétichisme étatique.

3ème Maboke
Ernest Wamba dia Wamba
Kinshasa, le 28 juillet 2007.

Lettre ouverte à son Excellence Sassou N’Guesso, Président de la République du Congo

For an English translation, click here.


Nous vous écrivons suite au traitement récemment infligé par les organisateurs du Festival Pan Africain de Musique au groupe de pygmées invités à y participer. Nous espérons qu’en lisant cette lettre vous comprendrez les raisons qui nous amènent à vous adresser ainsi, faisant fi des pratiques protocolaires.

Il nous est difficile d’imaginer que vous-même n’aie pas été choqué par un acte qui nous laisse, nous les Africains, surtout, complètement abasourdis, incrédules et se posant intérieurement la question, « mais comment en sommes-nous arrivés là ? ». En partageant notre ahurissement, nous pensons, naïvement peut-être, que nous parviendrons à vous faire partager avec vos collègues dirigeants de l’Union Africaine la nécessité urgente de mettre fin à ce processus, en apparence sans fin, de toujours chercher à tomber plus bas que les bas-fonds où nous y ont envoyé les ancêtres de ceux qui poursuivent frénétiquement le blanchiment de notre histoire comme s’il s’agissait d’un vulgaire fonds de commerce.

Pour qu’il y ait sursaut de conscience, serait-il que nous devrions dire que les pygmées sont aussi respectables, si pas plus, que les survivants d’Auschwitz, d’Hiroshima ou du génocide rwandais ? A entendre les explications –inspirées de bons sentiments– des responsables du logement de nos sœurs et frères pygmées à Brazzaville, on croit entendre l’écho de Léopold II qui défendait (certains continuent de le défendre, d’ailleurs) son Etat Indépendant du Congo comme une œuvre civilisatrice et salvatrice gratuitement offerte aux Congolais.

Malheureusement, nous avons tendance d’oublier les pires crimes dès lors que ceux-ci sont dirigés contre les plus déshérités. Comment peut-on oublier qu’un autre pygmée, Ota Benga, extrait de la forêt de l’EIC pour être exhibé à la Foire Mondiale de Saint Louis (USA) en 1904, avait été traité de la même manière, en 1906, dans le jardin Zoologique du Bronx à New York. Au retour de la Foire Internationale, Ota Benga n’ayant pu retrouvé sa bande accepta l’invitation de retourner aux Etats-Unis. On peut raisonnablement penser que la bande d’Ota Benga fut décimée par les agents de Léopold II à la recherche du caoutchouc rouge, ainsi nommé suite au sang qu’il avait fait coulé parmi les habitants de la forêt équatoriale.

En nous adressant à vous, nous pensons que l’Afrique peut aller encore plus loin que là où Nelson Mandela est allé, nous osons imaginer que vous pourriez démontrer que les preuves de solidarité, de fidélité aux valeurs les plus profondément humaines sont encore tellement enracinées dans nos consciences que même un Chef D’Etat, libéré des entraves protocolaires du pouvoir, ne peut résister à l’appel d’égalité venant des plus humiliés.

Nous vous demandons d’agir par vous-même, non par délégation, non par un représentant de votre autorité. Nous pensons que l’acte qui vient d’être commis contre les pygmées est tellement plus dévastateur qu’un désastre naturel, cyclone, épidémie laissant des centaines de morts sur son chemin que seule une intervention choc de votre part pourra vraiment être à la hauteur de ce qui vient de se passer à Brazzaville. La science n’a pas encore développé un appareil de mesure pouvant nous décrire ce que les pygmées réels et génériques (juifs, tsiganes, enfants de la rue, victimes du SIDA, chômeurs, sans papiers, réfugiés, etc.) ont souffert face aux humiliations physiques, aux tortures invisibles de l’âme et de l’esprit. Ce qui vient de se passer à Brazzaville démontre la virulence du virus destructeur de ce qui nous reste encore d’humanité en cet âge de la globalisation.

Nous vous demandons de montrer que de l’intérieur de cette humanité menée –sans le savoir ?– à sa destruction, il y a encore des citoyens du monde capables de résister l’apparente irrésistibilité de la globalisation et le balayage sans honte des valeurs les plus sacrées de nos ancêtres communs.

Par votre action vous pourriez vous ranger du côté de certains scientifiques préoccupés des effets destructeurs du modèle de développement issu de la Traite Négrière et de ce que nous pouvons appeler l’Ota Bengisation de la Planète, commencent à admettre que le modèle de comment vivre en harmonie avec la nature, avec tout le monde, avec la vie, n’est pas à chercher : il suffit de se tourner vers ceux qui, comme les survivants Indiens des Amériques, comme les pygmées, comme les Dogon, comme les San, comme les nomades de tant d’autres régions du monde vivent en respectant tout ce qui vit.

La conscience de l’humanité conservatrice des valeurs les plus sacrées a été dangereusement affaiblie par l’Ota Bengisation systématique. Nous vous demandons de dire et faire pour que ce qui s’est passé à Brazzaville devienne un point de référence non seulement de tous les Africains, mais du monde entier parce que là, le plus grand de l’Etat s’est mis au même rang que les plus petits, avec amour, humilité, solidarité. Un tel geste non seulement effacerait la honte ressentie de par le monde, mais contribuerait aussi à la revalorisation de nos valeurs ancestrales de solidarité. Au bout du compte, ce geste pourrait devenir un événement dont les répercussions guérisseuses de l’humanité sont aujourd’hui difficilement calculables. De grâce, ne vous préoccupez pas de ce que les pharisiens contemporains et autres mauvaises langues diront, comme : « de quoi se mêle-t-il ? » Ce qui s’est passé à Brazza est trop grave, mondialement parlant, pour laisser n’importe quel chef d’Etat, Africain de surcroît, indifférent.

En vous remerciant de votre écoute, nous vous prions d’ accepter nos salutations les plus respectueuses.

Ernest Wamba dia Wamba, Coordonateur
Ota Benga Centre Pour La Dignité Humaine

Jacques Depelchin
Directeur Exécutif
Ota Benga Alliance for Peace Healing and Dignity
in the DRCongo and in the USA

Le 20 juillet 2007.

The Beginning of the DRCongo Third Republic

1. “Democratic elections” have taken place, the first ones in about 37 years or so. As a UN diplomat said: ‘not the best ones’. Outsiders claimed them to be fair and free, with only minor cases of fraud. But many Congolese felt that they were manipulated and fraudulent. More precisely: would-be Congolese demos was manipulated to the extent of getting it to accept a somewhat imposed conception of democracy. Less than 1% of the electorate in the referendum on the Constitution had read the text before going to vote for or against it. Cases of fraud brought to the Supreme Court of Justice have been said to be unfairly resolved. The case concerning the presidential election was said to have been dealt with as a farce. The winners claimed it to be just and the losers to be unjust. On moral grounds — due to the fear of the possibility for many Congolese being massacred by the winning side — people supporting the case for J-P Bemba’s victory, refrained from going to the streets to protest. This, had it happened, would have alerted the outside world to what actually transpired.

2. The expected political break from the dictatorial past has yet to be experienced: the new civil institutions are not yet hegemonic nor do they have real control over the repressive ones; the autonomy of the state has not yet been felt. Among the first acts of the elected Head of State (inauguration with a military parade in lieu of a people’s one, resolving the case concerning J-P Bemba’s protection guard, the massacre of citizens protesting against corruption in the elections in Bas-Congo, etc.) were more of a recourse to a politics of use of a heavy stick rather than a carrot. They made it look like the Mobutuist Presidency was continuing to serve as the model rather than the dawning of a truly democratic presidency. Although leaders were advocating the necessity for the eradication of corruption (to please the partners?), the Bas-Congo massacre re-instated, instead the use of corruption in elections.

3. Kengo wa Dondo was elected as President of the Senate, defeating the presidential camp’s (AMP) candidate, She Okitundu. This was “unexpected” and was difficult to swallow by that camp. Kengo wa Dondo claims to be independent. His victory stopped the country from sliding towards a Party-State regime, where the presidential camp would have controlled the three powers: legislative, executive and judiciary. The victory thus created a new equilibrium, at least in the Parliament. It is ironic that it is one of the key cornerstones of Mobutuist dictatorship that gives a certain hope of legislative autonomy. One of the Senate President’s first acts was to rule out, as illegal, the request by the pro-AMP Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ) to withdraw Senator J-P. Bemba’s parliamentarian immunity. This stopped, in a sense, the dangerous slide towards a politics of vengeance.

4. The formal crisis of legitimacy has received a formal solution. Congolese people at large still do not have confidence in the leaders or institutions and a real crisis of legitimacy remains. People are still treated as children and not as adults worth talking to. Silence is given a mysterious political value. As said the Minister Mayobo: “governing is not speaking; it is doing things.” But things done remain to be seen. For a long time, after it had been put in place, the government went silent, supposedly engaging in an exercise of self-empowerment and preparation for decisions such as the National Budget. Interesting early decisions, such as the requested material audit to retrieve resources stolen by departing members of the Transitional Government and the creation of a commission to review mining contracts, have not produced any results presented to the public. On crucial issues, such as the Bas-Congo massacre, no substantive statement of policy was made by government. Later on, a few months after it took place, the government claimed to have sent the matter to the judiciary. This in a country, where sending a case to the judiciary has tended to be equated with shelving it altogether.

5. The National Assembly (NA), has resorted to holding discussions in camera — thereby pleasing the Executive — of issues claimed to be oversensitive, forgetting thus their obligation before the people who elected them. Issues such as the Bas-Congo massacre, the Angolan military occupation of Kahemba and the violation of the Constitution’s law on nationality by 150 people or so in government institutions who have a double nationality were all tabled in camera. The AMP majority in the NA and the latter’s monolithic composition of its leadership by AMP members, facilitate that way of functioning.

6. On a number of issues, it is clear that constitutional dispositions and other laws are being ignored. The law bars any commissioned military officer from being part of the government or other political institutions. Yet General Kalume is the Minister of Internal Affairs. The SCJ seemed to have failed to uphold the legal limit, required by the electoral law, to officially proclaim the results of the elections. Under the pretext of the absence of the decentralization law, the Executive has threatened to ignore the constitutional right of locally retaining 40% of the revenue by the decentralized provinces. So far, 60 % of the Central Government budget, it is said, comes from the Bas-Congo province. Yet no proportionate representation of the province in the Central government has been accepted. This is one of the reasons for the abusive use of force in handling protests in Bas-Congo. The former head of the worst police house of torture and arbitrary imprisonment, KinMaziere (Mr Rous) has been nominated to be a Police Head in Bas-Congo.

7. The political will to build a professional armed force that would defend the territorial integrity of the country, protect all citizens and property and resist allegiance to particular groups of people or regions, has been lacking. The President’s recent nomination of members the officer corps shows that we have not moved away from Mobutu’s practice. 85% of the nominees are from the Eastern part of the country, with the predominance of Katangese. By 1985, during Mobutu’s time, 85 % of the officer corps came from Equateur, his region. (It is also said that around ½ of the members of the present government are from the Eastern part of the country). Despite that proportion, the insecurity in the East remains still rampant. The double dealing, by the Executive, with cases such as that of General Nkundabatware or the long lasting failure to drive out the 1994 Rwandese genocidaires still operating in the country to ‘liberate Rwanda”, leads to all kinds of speculation — including the embarrassing question: whom does the Executive serve?

8. The usual prescriptions for ‘Development’, by the Bretton Woods Institutions, to the country are still taken as Moses and the Prophets. Development here means the incremental reduction (or eradication?) of poverty, in a country where the majority of people hardly have one meal a day and where people are dying of hunger, malnutrition and diseases already eradicated elsewhere — even in the past in our own country. None explains when this poverty arose in a country said to potentially be, perhaps the richest in the world. The farce of what is called the Ministry of Planning cannot even address such a question, let alone produce a true plan of development. Most economic contracts are primarily signed for the corruptive fee to the signer rather than for the Congolese people’s profit.

9. The political opposition has been given a law to organize itself! The so-called politics of shadow government à l’anglaise have been adopted. The boss of the opposition will have the rank of a Minister. In a sense, it is tragic. But, how else do you occupy and entertain an idle Congolese elite that sees politics as the only way to materially survive? Becoming a bum while waiting for the next elections may be an impossible task and the Government may have at its back so many protesters to deal with. The success of this democracy of the rich would be to avoid, for good, the recourse to armed rebellions. The message of the opposition has always been: the incumbent regime is doing a poor job, people should wait until the opposition gets to power for everything to be okay! The Executive badly wants that law to use it as a reminder for the opposition to make only “constructive criticism”. Neither Government nor opposition seem to have much compassion for the miserable people.

10. The elites who took over the machinery of the state, and who did not know how independence was fought for (1921-1960), how many lives were lost in the Flemish jails, in the bush — resisting people fleeing persecution — in the deportation (some were sent into the deep forest to die); those elites could neither know that they had to make a greater effort to make the independence become real, nor did they even appreciate the suffering of leaders such as Simon Kimbangu dying in jail after 30 years of political imprisonment. There is no official trace of recognition, by government, of that profile of courage until today. Do the present self-proclaimed pioneers of the dawning democracy understand that they need to make a greater effort to make it real? Do they understand that without putting the masses of people, their aspirations, their creativity and resilience; their dreams of a better society — in short, their miserable lives — at the centre of politics, democracy too will fade away like the independence did?

This is my first Maboke, others to come, Wamba Mpungu Tulendo Dezo and the ancestors willing.

Kinshasa, July 5th, 2007

Ernest Wamba dia Wamba Bazunini

Experiences of Democracy in Africa: Reflections on Practices of Communalist Palaver as a Method of Resolving Contradictions

This article by Ernest Wamba dia Wamba originally appeared in Philosophy and Social Action XI (3) 1985, and has been edited for clarity. You can read it below, or click here to download it in PDF format.

Discussions about democracy in Africa, the lack of it or the need for it, have become rather fashionable. Radical intellectuals (Marxist or not) are demanding democracy—often understood as a multi-party system, i.e., as a formal political scheme—to be authorized by the existing one-party state—through which people will “participate” in the decision-making of the entire country, society and people. In this perspective, democracy is seen or viewed from the point of view of the dominant/ruling classes. It is a modification of a form of class rule which is being demanded, i.e., a form of association or partnership to the possible sharing in the class interests rather than a construction of community solidarity geared towards restricting the ruling class. Democracy, from the point of view of the ruling class, is just a project of founding and re-founding (i.e. legitimatizing) class rule, and not that of strengthening the community solidarity against the very basis of the strength of the class rule, namely the absence of independent (from that class rule) forms of organization of community solidarity. It is also a way of resolving differences among members of the ruling class.

This conception of democracy is due, in part, to the history of development of democracy in the western world. From ancient Greece to the bourgeois world, democracy was a way of politically organizing (demobilizing) some dominated classes (whose support is needed for legitimizing dominant class rule) to be associated (or neutralized) in the intense exploitation of one section of society excluded from the “real humanity.” It has always been a form of class leadership of the ruling class vis-à-vis ruled classes. Ancient Greek democracy was based on the exploitation of slaves—whom Aristotle described as “animated machines.” The social group called “free people” were accommodated through democracy. To them, the slave masters’ exploitation was made to seem normal. Socrates’ claim that slaves were people even capable of philosophizing must have been one of the crimes that led him to death. Did the “free people,” arising on the basis of community exchange, win their inclusion in the democratic participation? Why could they not unite with slaves—even in slave uprisings?

Bourgeois democracy “developed” on the basis of intense exploitation of Black slaves, the murdering of native Americans and, later on, colonized non-European peoples. The “’European nation,’” as wrote Attila Agh “is the one which oppresses other nations. Oppresses, that is economically exploits them, politically keeps them in subordination and through direct and indirect means. It hinders them in the construction of a national state, and on the cultural level it subordinates them to “Western values” and therefore hinders the formation of a national consciousness and the feeling of a particular national identity.” Bourgeois dominated classes were thus democratically entertained and associated—no matter how marginally and for the legitimacy of bourgeois class rule—in the class exploitation of classes and peoples excluded from the “genuine humanity” (or in the bourgeois epoch: excluded from civilization and “universal history”).

In this perspective, one may say that African intellectuals, already thriving on the basis of the drips of blood and sweat of the imperialist—through local bourgeois-super-exploited poor peasants and workers—within the context of the imperialist separation of manual and mental labor—are demanding full participation in the decision-making over the governing of those workers and poor peasants. This is how one intellectual put it: “We want an open forum to be able also to address the workers and the peasants.” Fortunately or unfortunately, the reigning and the dominant imperialist bourgeois classes are opposed to providing such an open forum. An “open forum” can only be won through struggles of the masses of peasants and workers who, ultimately, must also address the intellectuals themselves.

The question of popular democracy is basically geared towards the development and reinforcement of an organic solidarity link that ultimately transforms the class-antagonism-divided society into a real classless and stateless community. The people’s conception of democracy is in line with people’s historical struggles for and towards the classless and stateless community. It aims at harassing imperialist-based bourgeois representative power that does not come from the large masses of people. Historical experiences of that movement, centered around the people’s mastering of contradictions among the people, have to be the starting point from which to examine the process of development of people’s capacity for popular democracy.

It would be good, for example, to study situations in which African peoples have succeeded, through real organic links of solidarity, in overthrowing oppressive, exploitative and divisive forces and powers. How, for example, did the masses of people of Congo-Brazzaville overthrow the puppet regime of F. Youlou and its organic allies, or more recently, how did they succeed in removing former president Joachim Yhombi Opango?

It is in this spirit that I want to reflect on a specific experience, that of the “lineage or community” palaver as I experienced it in my region of origin among the Kongo-speaking people (Zaire, Angola and Congo).
It is rather difficult to say exactly when the practice of the palaver started in our African communities and what were its stages of development, its apogee and even its recent gradual disappearance. African legends link the origin of the palaver to mythical ancestral foundations. As I experienced it, as it was practiced in our village communities, the palaver is an appropriate community method and practice to resolve contradictions among the people, to strengthen organic mutual links of solidarity among all the members of the community (clan, lineage, village etc.), to completely isolate divisive tendencies and forces from each member of the community as well as from the entire community.
As in the case of historical practices of democracy, the palaver assumed diverse forms, depending on the time, the place and the type of the dominant political regime prevailing in society. The class which rules society determines positively or negatively the real content of the palaver: either the entire community participates in and organizes itself into a palaver or certain social strata of privileged and ruling groups only do palaver effectively; the palaver is, in this case, aimed at directly resolving contradictions among the members of the ruling minority. Properly speaking, this is not a real case of palaver, i.e., a public debate involving everybody. The following remarks are based on my experience, as an active member of palavering community, in Kongo-speaking society. Although in a degenerate manner, the palaver is still practiced there as part of the so-called “the custom of the land” (“Fu-kia Nsi”).

The palaver is not very often well understood. Colonialist anthropologists (organic intellectuals of colonialism) and leaders of neo-colonial Africa and their organic intellectuals have spread/created too much confusion on the question; they have made the infallibility of the Chief or the leader as the core of the so-called “Africanity”—the specificity of the African cultural heritage. They went as far as claiming that democracy is un-African—to ideologically legitimize, and secure the reproduction of, their power. Power, so it is claimed, in its “traditional African conception” was based on the worshipping of the Leader —who derived his/her power from the ancestors, to worship the ancestors was also to worship their representative in the community. This of course, has often been the dominant ideology of the aristocratic class rule. Our new pharaohs very rarely speak of the palaver; when they do, it is implied that only the Leader palavers himself/ herself in front of the people’s crowd, whose only role is restricted to that of applauding hysterically. When the Leader has spoken, the sacred words, ancestrally revealed to him/her, become the law. (Truth is arrived at, not through Socratic dialectic, but through the ‘bad rhetoric’ of the sophists).

As an organizational form of a generalized organic community criticism and self-criticism, the palaver has never been a useless verbal disputation nor a form of generalized anarchy, as it is claimed by all sorts of oppressors and dictators. As a kind of community strike, one day the entire community rises up and emerges on the ‘historical’ scene. It demands, and must be given all rights to speak—to shout out ‘all it has on its chest.’ Women, men children; old and young people; everybody speaks on all matters pertaining to the community’s life. The palaver takes form as a thorough process of ‘spiritual’ cleaning-up of the community’s “house” (oikos)—including its most remote corners (i.e., individual and collective unconscious), collectively desacralizing the community’s taboos, if only temporarily. It is a collective/individual cleaning-up of people as community (physically, biologically, anthropologically, sociologically and spiritually). The palaver appears as a mass bursting of active involvement in matters of the entire community and of “free” or “liberated” (i.e., with no taboos, no restrictions, no “diplomacy,” etc) speaking. It is in this sense that the palaver can be assimilated to a communal expression of “mass ideological communism.’’ At least, in so far as expressive communicability is concerned, in a palaver, the principle is: to each according to one’s spiritual and bodily wants.

The palaver emerges first of all as a semi-organized/mostly spontaneous form of mass total outrage against experienced restrictive one-sidedness in the community. It asserts the living autonomy of the living humanity, of each individual in the community as well as the cementing organic solidarity of the whole community in its originality, complexity and living (as opposed to artificial) organizability. It asserts the “lifeness” of life in each individual and of the entire community against all the obstacles to its normal flowing.

When the palaver is artificially organized by oppressive ruling powers, however, it degenerates—into a formal exercise without life and void of mass spontaneous creativity: people speak, as it is said, with “tied tongues or with tongues in the cheek.” We see this even today with the ‘famous dialogues with the masses of people’ called for by today’s African obscurantist dictators.

In the palaver, as a social moment, it is important that major, even very serious, conflicts be resolved and not just be re-channeled elsewhere. Those conflicts, emerging in, and threatening the life/existence of the community qua community, need to be resolved with appropriate methods. That is why the masses of the community rise up and demand that they be integrally heard. No order is destroyed by another order; it is only from disorder that new order may emerge. The palaver thus develops and is practically ended only after those conflicts are positively resolved, i.e., after the order which gave rise to them is destroyed. Conflicts are not resolved if such an order ended up being strengthened. How a palaver ends determines the length of the period before another one emerges. The more conflicts emerge in the community, the more palavers that are organized. I say the palaver is organized; it is more correct to say that the palavers take shape with the gradual intervention, eruption of the masses of the community on the scene.

Palavers appear as ideological struggles assuming appropriate form to resolve real community’s conflicts giving rise to ideological tensions (called in Kikongo-”ntuntani’’, “ntantani” or “mbengelele”—literally: war of ideas, cultural or spiritual terrorism). Those conflicts threaten to bring about a crisis of unity of the entire community or of its subdivisions (village, clan, lineage, etc). The thread which holds the community members together is said to be threatening to break. Such an ideological tension which develops into a palaver is usually focalized on the practice of sorcery (“kindoki”), i.e., the exercise of power in the manner that divides or splits the community into antagonist camps of oppressed (victims) and oppressors (sorcerers). The ultimate principal objective of the palaver is first of all, to impose organically in the entire community a new form of exercise of power—a good sorcery, a sorcery of protection of the entire community (“kindoki kia ndudila kanda”) which must overthrow the bad one (sorcery to kill) from the post of command and its complete banishment from the entire community (through rituals). And secondly, it is to strengthen the community people’s power—people’s determination of selves and the community’s organic affairs—being threatened to be dismantled through a politico-spiritual terrorism. For example, one hears recited the following sayings attributed to the ancestors: “In the clan, there must be no poor, no rich, no chief, no slaves; they all must be chiefs, all philosophers; they all must sleep and wake up together.” It is because the organic equality between community members is threatened—that is why the palaver demands its re-installment. As I saw it practiced, the palaver appeared to be a process of mass ideological struggles to prevent the formation and consolidation of classes.

The community crisis may be revealed, initiated, foretold, provoked or precipitated by a significant event—the sudden death of a community member, for example—or an insignificant one such as an elder says a ‘bad word,’ to a non-elder who reacts with unexpected indignation. It is like a workers’ strike, almost anything—when conditions are ripe and this can be seen only retrospectively—can initiate it. Those events will be referred to as evidences of practices of sorcery—i.e., cases of ‘bad exercise’ of power in the community. The ‘social causes’ of the death of the deceased community members reveal the existence of a real division in the community social relations. It is, of course, assumed that social crisis has an impact on the psychology, biology and physics of the community. Through ‘spiritual terrorism’ entertained/unleashed by the “bad forces” of the sorcerer (i.e., the most powerful member), the community member had to die. The elder says ‘bad words’ to a non-elder, without any “reason,” because, it is said that in a community where ‘spiritual terrorism’ prevails, “some people think that they can just sit on others’ heads.” Those types of events may precipitate the mass demand for a complete say on the community affairs. An exchange of “bitter words” between two or more individuals, or even songs of protest sung by some people at the funeral of the deceased, may ultimately force community members to take sides.

The deliberate organization of the palaver may thus, sooner or later, be demanded to make “all of us, without exception, lay our cards on the community’s public table,” so that the long lasting terrorism inside our bodies and minds be at last removed. The extremely provocative, taboo-free language used forces everyone in the community to be ultimately concerned. Symbolic scenes such as an old woman taking off all her clothes to protest against (or contribute to) the ‘spiritual terrorism’ are not uncommon.

The community crisis is viewed as a non-reproduction of social relations sanctioned by the line of ‘founding ancestors’ or a form of regulation, by a minority, of the contradictory evolution of those relations. As people say, “in the name of the ancestors, some ‘bad people’ want us to be stepped upon.” Political leadership is always a class question; the main difficulty in the analysis of the palaver is that of clearly determining what its class character is. My hypothesis is that the palaver, in my region, was a mass rebellion against an emerging ‘bureaucratic’ class of elders.
It is against class rules—bringing terrorism (“ntantani”) in the community—that the masses of people appeal to the founding ancestors. Dreams about a particularly ‘communalist’ founding ancestor—real or imagined—are announced as clear directives from the founding ancestors to reinstall the nostalgic “past community free of ideological terrorism.”

As a political line in a given historical period of transition to classes, however, the so-called “line of the ancestors” assumes a specific class content; it is the line of an emerging class, which wants to lead and dominate the entire community. This class is not yet able to exercise a real class economic domination—due to the level of development of productive forces—and a class ideological hegemony in the community. It must still have recourse to the community ideology of ‘ancestor worship.’ It thus wants to lead the community and does so in the name of and under the cover (‘protection’) of the ‘founding ancestors’: the power of the living, but the ideology and language of the dead. It is a form of bureaucratic class, i.e., a class which oppresses the masses through its bureaucratic positions—as head of the village, head of the clan, head of the fire place (“ntumu mbongi”), elder, uncle, etc.—allowing the members of this class to present themselves as the real servants (seat, representation, agency, incarnation, voice) of the powers of the ancestors. When they open their mouths, it is claimed that it is the ancestors speaking through them, and the masses of the community must obey them without question and reservation. The ideology, so tied to the ancestors, is precisely that of sorcery, i.e., the ideology of making people believe that this class has a power of direct communication with the dead ancestors (who always remain watchful of the living community’s well-being). Class directives or guidelines are presented as “visions,” “revelations” (“Kimona meso”), “dreams instigated by the ancestors who came through revelations to give new directives” for the organization of the community or “ancestors’ sayings” (“ngana zata bambuta”—proverbs left by ancestors).

Of course, against such a veiled (mystified) usurpation of the community power (“kundu”), elements of the masses of the community also call for the community non-elders to rebel, to rise up in the name of ancestors who came through visions and dreams to say that the community has deviated from the ancestor line; it is imperative that it be re-oriented on the correct trajectory. The division of the community into two is thus reflected through the conflict of interpretations of the “ancestral line” and each camp must prove publicly the soundness of its interpretation. The palaver is thus organized to confront those two antagonist interpretations.

The power of the oppressive class is exercised through a mastery of “sorcery’s tricks” and an intimidation of the community’s masses based on the mythology of the ancestral omnipotent power that the class members are armed with. By all kinds of tricks, the members of the ruling group frighten (or kill ‘mysteriously’ by sorcery or magic) the most rebellious members of the community. That is why the mass resistance is often expressed through accusations of members of the ruling group of cannibalism. “The elder-uncle ate my son,” is a common cry. An ideology of techniques of protection (fetishism?) against the sorcerer’s power also develops. Some herbalist charlatans exploit it to their advantage. Intra-class struggles also take the form of sorcerers’ confrontation (“mekana”).

Any bureaucratic class uses secrecy as the preferred form of the practice of the class rule. That is why the mass bursting, demanding the organization of the palaver, requires that all secrets be made public. Confidentiality is a form of class rule. For, as it is said in Kongo community, once a sorcerer is publicly exposed in the presence of the whole community, he/she becomes unable to destroy or to hurt anybody; his/her power of sorcery transforms itself into its opposite and this fact has serious consequences— including the possibility for the sorcery’s power to boomerang on the sorcerer him/herself. It is interesting to note that in the matrilineal Kongo community, a women sorcerer is viewed as the most powerful of all; it is also interesting to note that initiation to the real foundations (as opposed to appearances) of the class power in the community, done under strict oath for respect of secrecy, was a very secret affair. People were said to have been eliminated because of their having disclosed secrets.

With colonial penetration, after the defeat of the mass resistance against such a penetration, some members—if not all of this elder class–became the candidates to fill lower bureaucratic positions in colonial local administrative or church hierarchies. A new social stratum very often emerges through those hierarchies. Former ‘notorious sorcerers’—according to the masses of people’s view—became deacons in leading local Christian communities or colonially appointed chiefs (“chiefs rnedailles”) imposed as leaders of different colonial administrative units. When it was called for, the palaver was demanded then against the leadership of “people in the service of foreigners,” later on called “white blacks” (“mindele ndombe”) to “restore the ancestors’ line in the post of command.” The content of this line might not have been fixed—it could have been even a pure utopia. Whatever it was, it represented a theory of mass resistance. This line was now and then understood as conforming to that of the national independence “the right of, the first occupant”) or, and above all, as a sort of egalitarian anti-hierarchical dictatorship of the masses of people often described as “communalism.” The powerlessness of sorcerers in front of colonial power was ridiculed and a call for an organic unity of the community was issued.

The call to that organic community unity was theorized in a number of ways (songs, “ancestral sayings,” etc.). The following Kongo poem was often recited:
Mu kanda ka mukadi mputu
Mu kanda ka mukadi mvwama
Mu kanda ka mukadi mfumu
Mu kanda ka mukadi nnanga
Babo mfumu na mfumu
Babo nganga na nganga
Mu kanda, sekila kumosi
Mu kanda, sikamana kumosi
Mu kanda mbeni ku mbasi
Mu kanda kinenga ye dedede
Mu kanda, kingenga/kimpambudi mwanana.
As might be expected, it was on the pretext of the colonial state or church demands/obligations that members of the new bureaucratic stratum gave themselves a right to a derogation from their traditional ancestral obligations. They see themselves as having become people—consecrated people—in the service of the state or the church (“Beto twayikidi kweto bantu ba Leta evo ba Dibundu”).

The palaver requires of and provides to each community member the right to carry out, and the obligation to be subjected to, an integral critique of/by everyone without exception. It inaugurates, if only temporarily, an egalitarian collective dictatorship (=communal organic centralism). Such a radical mass demand, under the colonial over- determination, becomes unfortunately impossible to carry out completely: small dictators, under colonial (administrative or church) protection, bypass the mass call requiring them to submit themselves to an integral and public criticism and self-criticism. In the early 1950s, for example, the catechists and “chets medalles” (‘mfumu mpalata”) were among the leaders of the boycott of the “munkukusa” (a public individual and collective oath to give up all forms of sorcery)—a deformed kind of palaver in Luozi region (Zaire). Besides colonial over-determination, there was another crucial problem: a mass call for egalitarianism or communalisn where classes are already formed can only be organized by a specific class rule. Structurally, the peasant class is unable to politically and permanently organize such a call. That is why the palaver tended to be spontaneous and short-lived.

There was a time, it is true, when the Church was seen by village community members as a true shelter against the “bad sorcerers” who, under all kinds of pretexts, were acting as small dictators in the community—often in the name of the resistance against colonial domination. Sorcery intimidation trying to block the evangelical expansion made the church take openly a stand against sorcery—now redefined through the doctrine of sin. Sorcery was viewed as the exercise of power against the opening of the community to a new form of ideology—Christianity. The notion of the integral equality of all people before god, recalling the ancestors’ sanctioned integral equality and the idea of the “spiritual immunization” against sins (sorcery) recalling the ideology of techniques of production against powers of sorcerers, were seen as being truly in favour of the egalitarian community. Some even claimed that some missionaries were actually known dead ancestors who came back. Seen from the ancestral point of view, however, such equality was to be realizable here on Earth, and not in the world beyond.

The weak members of the community-in-crisis (under colonial assault) found shelter in the Church. The egalitarian character of the Church, proving practically nonexistent in reality, will be one of the causes of the rising syncretic religious movements (Ngunzism, etc.) agitating for direct communication with god against any foreign or native intermediaries.

Many mass uprisings in the community end in failures: the real targets of the generalized critique and self-criticism find protective shelter in imperialist structures of domination and the unity of the community, aimed at by the palavering mass movement, fails to materialize. The village thus becomes a focal point of continuous ideological tensions, which make life there unlivable. “The village has died: it has become a place of continuous disputes. There is no more any social, spiritual or personal peace and rest”—it is said in the village. (“Vata. diafwidi: Diayikidi myuma ye mayuma, bwagimunina kwaku nkutu nkatu.”) From the view of ideological formations, the rural migration to cities becomes a way of seeking shelter against those continuous disputes. But even in the cities where ‘sorcerers did follow,’ private property and its ideology of individualism relied on the ideology of techniques of protection against sorcerers— protective fetishism entertained by herbalist nganga.

It can be seen, nevertheless, and very schematically, why the palaver gradually disappears as more imperialist socio-economic transformations fatally attack the rural community. As an elementary form of struggle for “people’s democracy,” must we not study the lessons—whatever they may be—of the palaver? To do this does not imply restoring the ante-capitalist African commune but as a historical experience of prefiguration of “proletarian people’s democracy”—or more appropriately by people’s organic centralism to emerge with communism.
A mass ideological uprising against the division of community into oppressors and oppressed forces the community leaders to let the entire community organize into a palavering community. Even if, at the end of the palaver, those leaders retained their leadership position, the rebelling masses temporarily had succeeded in democratizing completely debates on all the affairs of the entire community.

How then is a palaver organized? At the express request of those who feel wronged as a result of some deviation from what is seen as the line of the ancestors (understood as the mass line or line of mass democracy), deviation seen as being practiced by certain members of the clan, and following a general consensus of all the members of the clan, the head of the clan calls for a palaver (‘ntungasani’=generalized self-questioning) to resolve those contradictions within the community whose unhealthy development would bring about a social, psychological and even physiological imbalance in the community. The “kinenga kia nsi” (equilibrium within the community) is in danger of being upset and broken; the real causes can only be identified by having the palaver. In this sense, the palaver can also be assimilated to a generalized Maoist inquiry—with the whole community being a self-investigation squad. This community war without weapons, this self-questioning of all the community’s members, this ntungasani, is carried out following guiding principles and in a manner sanctioned by the ancestors. Every clan member, including children who can speak, has an equal right to speak, the distinction between initiated and uninitiated (“babulua meso ye biyinga”) and the right of seniority are subordinated to the rigorous equality of all clan members as sanctioned by the ancestors’ line. The crisis is often experienced as the breaking of the ancestral thread, by some clan members or especially by the ‘bad head of the clan’ tying all members of the clan together. For, as it is said: “nsinga dikanda ninga kaka ka tabuka ko,” the ancestral thread which holds together all clan members including those who are already dead but who still ‘live’ as witnesses against power usurpers, this thread can well be stretched and even vibrate from tension, but it must not be broken. It is because the thread of the clan is about to be broken that there is a crisis and that the palaver is required to resolve it. The palaver is thus a struggle which must restore the unity of the community; one can recognize here the familiar formula:
unity-division-struggle—stronger unity.

Since unity here is ‘erroneously’ conceived as a primordial ancestral state to which one should return, the unification process leading to a new unity is not subject to the class systematization of its stages. There is no exploited revolutionary class which would be able to realize the revolved peasants’ demand. “… a certain type of collective communism”, write Badiou and Balmes, “comes forth unavoidably on the basis of mass revolts, even non-proletarian ones. In the ideological sphere, thought of as a contradictory sphere, a relatively stable contradiction develops which opposes egalitarian ideas, the whole thing tied up to the question of private property and the state. A certain ideological mass communism is the affair of the people, and does not wait for the proletariat. It is evident that this ideological communism of popular revolt does not possess the historical means for its immediate realization; the real forces of power which it sets in motion are not necessarily those in whose name it has affirmed itself.” The relative immobility of rural productive forces means that the egalitarian unity of the community can be conceived only as a return to the golden age of ancestral communalism.

The new pharaohs of our independent countries, giving themselves the title of “founding fathers of the independent nation”, will use this theory of the primordial unity at the origin of the community as a key to justify the perpetuation of their dictatorial bureaucratic power (that is claimed to be the reproduction of the old and original community power). The process of unification through struggle is, by them, declared alien to the temple of ancestral authority that the nation’s new architects attempt to build around themselves. Even new mass uprisings, in line with the process of unification through struggle, are said to be fomented from the outside.

One is here neither divided into two nor are two fused into one; there is only the eternal return of the primordial unity at the origin—an hermetically compact one, i.e., a fossil-monument—incarnated by the chief. The masses demand an opening up to the people; the new pharaohs impose a compact enclosure, a restoration of an obscurantist rule of the cave (pyramidal pharoahic eternalization). It is not so strange that our new pharaohs act as their predecessors. These were devoting the country’s resources to the building of pyramids, i.e., eternal monuments—tombs; their present successors devote the national resources to the building of the one Party monuments. Incidentally, defenders of the restoration of the ancient Egyptian Negro-African world view don’t always realize that the Bokassas, Mobutus and Kenyattas are not far from acting as modern pharaohs.

The palaver starts off with a statement, a sort of oath of loyalty to the ancestors, in the presence of all community members, by the head of the clan or by a spokesman for the entire clan (when the head is himself being openly called into question). After having heard the accusatory statement of the case by the victim who, by means of a protest which is often symbolically violent (exposing one’s nudity, for instance), initiates the necessity for the palaver, the head of the clan or the spokesman begins by “ta bungu”—taking an oath—i.e., to re-affirm solemnly the line of the ancestors (what is viewed as its correct interpretation), invoking them in opposition to the apparent deviationist line, which is the cause of the crisis in the clan, without necessarily specifying by name those who are being accused, speaking in an analogical way—“tela mu bizenga.” Those who feel accused must defend their line as clearly and as honestly as possible before the whole community of the living as well as the dead. Very quickly the accusers and the accused become generalized: it is the whole community which is accusing and being accused—the whole community is called on by the whole community to answer. Sometimes every clan member is made to speak in turn, and for several times following a contingent topological order. For several hours sometimes, different people speak, bringing forth everything in their hearts and on their minds so to speak, without any visible direction seeming to emerge. The debates are interrupted now and then by small meetings taking place aside from the palaver (in a corner) called for by those who ask for them and go to prepare their statements of positions and counter-positions. These meetings in the corner are called “mfundu”—(from “mamfundu”, whispered conversation).

In order to make communication easier, in this completely free (sometimes even heated) free-speech carnival of debate, already known specialists, or occasional ones emerging on the spot, of systematized popular wisdom (proverbs, etc.), the Nzonzi. are called forth. The Nzonzi are literally “speakers”, masters of the clarification of speech. They function as competent handlers of dialectics: they are therefore dialecticians. They can and do make use of rhetoric but they are not above all rhetoricians. They are very able detectors of the divisive “bad word”—and stimulators of the palaver and they help to assure that it does not degenerate into violent antagonism. They know how to make very severe criticisms without offending or silencing the one criticized: it is crucial that the latter continues to speak. The Nzonzi are thus the cadres of the popular democracy organized through the palaver. There are those who emerge and discover themselves competent Nzonzi through the very dialectics of the palaver.
To evoke the ancestors is to re-affirm their line, the one which allowed the community to reproduce itself before the present crisis. What is at stake in the process of generalized self-criticism is the destruction of erroneous lines whose theses (“bad speech”) have to be harassed and obstinately pursued in each statement made or each accomplice silence by posing correct statements (theses) of the ancestral line with the help of the specialists of ideological clarification, the Nzonzi. The latter’s principal role is to assure that all obstacles which might slow down the normal process and proceedings of the palaver to their conclusion be eliminated. Since the more the community is united the more it is divided, in order to be truly united it must have been thoroughly divided. The palaver is an appropriate means of thoroughly dividing the community in order to truly unify it more strongly than before. Silence, intimidating anger, evil eye (“lundeso”), menacing gestures, etc., are attacked, discouraged and exposed. It is also the Nzonzi who facilitate bringing this about. This is why, in order to be a good Nzonzi, one must know how to listen attentively and tirelessly, to rapidly pick up the essence of each word spoken, to attentively observe every look, every gesture, every silence, and to grasp their respective significance (their target) and at the same time to elaborate, in conformity with the axiomatics of popular wisdom (ideology), arguments to counter these unjust positions and/or to re-affirm or reinforce correct positions. The Nzonzi is thus a thinker engaged in mental dialogue interacting in words and gestures with the members of the community organized in a palaver (in the process of community unification through struggle) successively and simultaneously to seek out and destroy the “bad word” exposed as a thesis deviating from the ancestral line. The incarnates of this “bad word” are said to be witches (sorcerers), ‘‘ndoki”.
The role of the Nzonzi is not to openly take sides with a thesis of a member of the community but to assure that the criticism and self-criticism are carried out according to the ancestral procedure of mass democracy. It happens at times that the various Nzonzi may be placed on two strongly opposed sides or camps which are formed in the very process of the palaver. In any case, a Nzonzi who shows himself to be blind to the correctness of the theses put forward by both sides is seen to have been corrupted and as a result unable to act as a true specialist in ideological clarification and becoming a mystifier (“Nzonzi za luvunu”—lying Nzonzis). He is thus transformed into a target of the palaver.

The collective self-criticism is carried out under the intellectual (dialectical) leadership of the Nzonzis who articulate positions and counter-positions in relation to the theoretical, ideological and symbolic requirements of the palaver. The Nzonzis, by using all sorts of stylistic turns of phrases, symbolic analogies full of imagery, songs, etc., express more clearly the “correct theses:” those which reflect the political and ideological line of the ancestors as well as the “deviationist theses.” The intellectual and symbolic gymnastics directed by the Nzonzis is aimed at leading the holders of “erroneous theses” to admit publicly, not by use of physical or moral threat or by witchcraft (spiritual terrorism), but by the sole generalized collective debate, that they deviate from the “community right line.”
Although the objective of the palaver is to resolve intra-community contradictions by tracking down and isolating “the enemy in our midst”, as they say, the defense, the elaboration and the classification of theses and counter-arguments make necessary repeated theoretical interventions and collective assessments by stages. It is thus through the palaver that the techniques of theoretical interventions are developed : proverbs, theses—songs, paradoxes (=“bimbangumuna”), stories, riddles, allegories and other figures of style, philosophical turns of phrases, all sorts of strategies of clarification/demonstration/questioning, uninterrupted discussion, analogies, brain storming, group therapy, dialectical inquiry, meditation, provocative silence, a sort of spiritual community message to get rid of the spiritual terrorism in the community. The democratic demand made by the palaver on everyone is to be simple and clear; for, “wata ngana; bangula ngana; mumbongi a zingana walembana zo bangula wafwila mu zingana” (we say proverbs in order to be clear, to explain: those who have said proverbs to confuse have died because of the confusion they caused). The meanings of words are constantly shifting; words being caught in the movement of destruction/construction “which is that of true knowledge”. What counts is reaching the target and harassing it. The palaver is an industry of creation of new ideas.

The uninterrupted discussion must push those who practice the deviationist line in an unconfessed way to expose and identify themselves (“Nkewa swama uswamanga nkila ukusolose”-the monkey hides but his tail can still be seen), and to publicly admit their mistakes; and then together with the whole community to set out a plan for the rectification of their errors. The chief, as leader, intervenes only to sum up the gains made at each stage; this sum-up announces and opens the next stage. At the end, the head intervenes again at the request of the community to summarize clearly the group decision and to reconstruct with the participation of the whole community the procedure and the stages through which the decision was arrived at. The community’s decision, the ultimate outcome of this whole spiritual community massage, is announced and expressed by a general consensus often in the form of a statement-song-(chanson-these). It goes without saying that the process of the palaver can be very long indeed, but it is only the thorough carrying out and final outcome of this process, that is to say, the complete resolution of the contradictions among the people, which guarantees the correct solution to the community crisis.
As one can see: the palaver, besides being an ideological and philosophical struggle organized and carried out communitarily, is also and above all a process of very intense generalized mass education (the palaver as a hot medium). Not only does the chief have an opportunity to become aware of the various ideas which form the social consciousness/unconsciousness of his people, he also sees more clearly the image which the community has of him and the role which this community assigns to him. (Power comes from the people). At the same time he has the opportunity to lay before the community the difficulties of his task, his own personal limitations and past errors, etc. The unity of the community is reinforced after the palaver. The people’s respect for the chief, who was able to let the palaver take place and to adhere to the technique passed down, becomes greater and deeper. Both the true “community enthusiasm” and warmth towards the chief come forth It is through the systematization of the ideas collectively produced during the palaver that the chief, with the help of the Nzonzi and other sages of the community, formulates correct directives based on the ancestral line of which the community is the incarnation, in its movement of popular democracy, to assure that it continues in the right direction/trajectory.

At the same time, one must not forget the divided nature of the palaver: according to whether it constitutes a form of development of a mass resistance movement against power within the community, against the formation or consolidation of classes, against tendencies toward division within the community, or whether it is an instrument of domination of power against the people (the palaver as a spectacle organized by power). In the first instance the palaver is truly a process of generalized self-criticism able to bring about a strengthening of the people against power and therefore a control by the people of power within the community. This, in an elementary way, foreshadows the correct exercise of proletarian dictatorship—a people rooted rule. And it is only in the this sense that the palaver is a process of popular democratization: One must imagine the great feeling of rejoicing in the community at the end of a palaver: thus the latter ends up with a celebration, a kind of carnival where people feel again the spirits of the great dead ancestors ‘truly living amongst us’ as it is said.

But, when the power is oppressive and uses all means—often classified under the category of “bad witchcraft or sorcery’’—to consolidate this power against the people, then the palaver, often artificial, is nothing more than a means of identifying the true “agitators for democracy” that those in power have to put down in order to reinforce their authority, that is to say, their oppression on the entire community. The palaver then becomes a humiliating cross-examination of those who dare to contest power and is therefore a disputation process full of arbitrariness and deformation of people’s statements to spread fear and authority in the members of the community. The Nzonzi, those real people’s cadres, becomes true “sophists of those in power”, policemen of free, spontaneous and creative speech who demagogically intimidate the people on behalf of the powerful. Such a palaver ends up in a suffocating silence which weighs down on the whole community. Secrecy, taking over the post of command, and political and ideological ignorance becoming the only community knowledge, the masses’ directive becomes: “keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut.” (“Duka munuaku, zibula makutu ye kiesa meso.”) Already resistance for the popular counter-attack is being prepared.

It was in such an oppressive perspective that the colonial state was using the “nzonzi” and the “mfumu za nsi” (so-called “customary chiefs”), very colonially selected, as its organic intellectuals with one foot in the colonial state and one foot in the reproduced pre-colonial traditions. It is this (at least in part) which gave the practice of “sorcery” (=techniques in the most general sense of the word)—“kindoki”—its divided character: that which was a weapon for defense against all internal usurpation of power, had also become a means of oppressing the members of the community on behalf of the minority exercising power oppressively. Every technique that is not controlled by the community people riots, as it were, and boomerangs against that same people. It was noted that people who were formerly respected “sorcerers” (sages or technicians) became real allies and organic intellectuals of the colonial state. The masses of the villagers referred to them as “those who have ceased to be themselves, those who ceased to be real people” (“ka basala moko” or “ka basala bantu ko”).

We must also recognize, as Babakar Sine suggests, that with the process of the so-called “enlargement of scale” that African societies are undergoing, within the context of imperialist dominated urbanization processes, the efficacy of the palaver as practice of democratization, of generalized popular education and of resolution of contradictions among the people, may be considerably modified. It will be necessary, in those conditions, to deal with the material bases of the inevitable extension and qualitative transformation of the practice of the palaver at the national level. And to do so in the framework of the organization of the class alliance between workers and poor peasants. The practice of the palaver under the proletarian class leadership, might well lead to new conception and uses of modern audio-visual techniques. In cities such as Kinshasa, some aspects of the palaver are more and more taking new forms “radio trottoir’’ (“street radio’’), criticism made through singing, through preaching/praying aloud in a church, through meanings of proper names (adopted with the policy of authenticity); through popular drama, etc.
Of course, what we have said about the palaver was not necessarily universal in Africa. Feudal Africa, for example, could not possibly have organized the palaver as a process of democratization and of people’s control of power, but, instead as a spectacle of paternalist mystification. The palaver, in the framework of a study of popular cultures of the African masses, must be thoroughly studied. I have just hinted at some important aspects. It is, however, true that only a regime that practices a generalized and conscientious self-criticism will agitate in favor of such a study.
Let us draw some lessons from the teachings of the palaver as we have tried to analyze it. (1) There cannot be any people’s consensus through silence; the latter is also seen as accomplice, i.e., as an obstacle to the process of democratization. (2) Democracy is first of all a free collective and individual exercise of free speech by everyone and by the whole community. It is a complete freeing, allowed by the democratizing community, of one’s whole body, its senses, its gestures, etc., so that no aspect of bodily creativity is fixed or blocked. The integral freeing of the community speaking (la parole communautaire) requires and stimulates the very attentive listening to each other and thus the mutual respect for each other’s right to speak—no matter how insignificant. (3) A true leader is the one who listens tirelessly, attentively and strictly respecting the most insignificant meaning of the community’s spontaneous and diverse speaking before concentrating it into directives. The leader is not the one who silences that speaking. (4) A true cadre, Nzonzi, has as a duty to surmount every obstacle to clarification, democratization, simplification, creative community spontaneity, integral community spiritual massage, people’s grasp of what is new, community life process, etc. That is why the turns of Zones speaking please so much those who participate in the palavering community. They are so constructed as if they were actually made to express the real “intended meaning” by the now unified and revivified community. (“Muanki, nkatia Nzonzi yena! “—He is, indeed, a really true Nzonzi—the participants say.)

Despite all the pompous speeches on the recourse to ancestral traditions, in today’s Black Africa, no country, as far I know, has been able to organize a generalized free discussion to collectively deal with the profound crisis of politico-socio-economic institutions of our countries. Leaders behave here as if they made no mistakes and thus are above criticism; and the people as a whole has nothing to teach the leader, who knows everything. (This is often experienced as leaders behaving as if they were in fact above the constitution and the law.)

When elections are organized (often on imperialist pressure), they are nothing but a bureaucratic police practice: even through them, it is not allowed to express one’s real point of view. Results are often known even before the votes are counted. Elections are no longer a way of assessing what the community actually thinks of power, but a simple confirmation of what the community must think of it. To wish to be a candidate for the presidency when the “father of the nation” has not said the last word is the highest crime in our societies. The one Party has become such an ivory tower that its principal role has become to institutionalize the silence of the masses of people, and claim this silence to be “people’s general consensus”. The all-powerful “normal channel” and its very technical “normal procedure” keep the people’s spontaneous speaking shut up. Small dictators, incapable of listening attentively, crown themselves as “fathers of the nations” to thus silence any possible criticism. A father is a father—no matter how evil he may be and nobody chooses one’s father or changes him to get another. The history of a whole people becomes transformed into a series of tasty tales of the natural genealogy of the “father of the nation” whose acts, deeds and words are the “naturally incarnated will of the people”. The sad thing is that it is imperialists that often pressure these “fathers of the nations” to listen a little bit to their “children”.

Their Excellencies ‘‘fathers of the nations” get their ‘‘knowledge” and directives from somewhere else outside of their people whom they actually view as a mass of imbeciles. National congresses of the political parties are organized not as real palavers but as festivals of confirmation of the opinions of the “leader-guide.” They talk about everything except the mistakes of the “father of the nation” and the community procedure for the process of their rectification. Those congresses are not organized on the basis of a free uninterrupted discussion but on that of fear, silence, threatening intimidation and approval with no questioning of the directives of the “leader-guide” that he is himself incapable of getting the community as a whole to validate. These directives, it goes without saying, don’t come from the palavering community.

To govern has become to silence the governed
The “one-party cadres”, who know the “leader-guide’s” thought before he opens his mouth, are overzealous in harassing, terrorizing, and imposing silence on the people in the name of the “father of the nation”. This is, of course, known as “political mass mobilization”—done by people recruited from the lumpen proletariat and with no clear political shrewdness. A people to whom free spontaneous and creative speaking is forbidden is an oppressed people—who can only speak with “a tied tongue”. African peoples must be given back all their free and creative speaking. As we saw, such a restoration is won through a mass struggle; it is never a gift from “the father of the nation”. The attentive listening, by the leader, or all the members of the community and every member’s speaking before the leader, outside of palavering community situation, are not necessarily indication of liberation and creativity—the leader’s silence is also accomplice (it is a cat taking the snake’s poison).

It must be clear why self-proclaimed ‘‘socialist leaders” who make the farce of trying to make their countries be socialist from a subjective choice basis cannot succeed. That is to say, those who think of themselves as the originating source which must spread socialism in the country forget that it is the rebelling masses who make history. Historically, democratic rights have been the results and victories of sharp mass struggles and not gifts from “fathers of the nations”. Those are the same struggles which do transform the leaders themselves: self-cultivation and asceticism of a leader don’t guarantee any democratic rights. The class suicide that Cabral speaks of is imposed, forced by the mass struggles and not just subjectively selected.

Before concluding, brief remarks on the significance of the palaver on the question of “African philosophy” are in order. The palaver is also a philosophical situation: as it materializes the possibility of a real critical effort by the participants (individually as well as collectively), the palaver calls forth the emergence or constitution of the philosophical element. The African ideology (“African philosophy”) in search of its philosophical foundation must look for it through practices of the palaver, and not in meanings buried or hidden under “elements of discursivity” it effectively helps to produce or develop. The articulation of those elements into a discourse must be grasped through the one that the palaver gives rise to. The role of the chief in the process of a successful palaver is not far from the one Plato wished for “the philosopher-king”, absolutely the opposite of one acting arbitrarily.

“I shall present”, says Plato “what I think and, if someone among you thinks that I am asserting a proposition that is not true, he must summon me and refute me. For, I don’t allow to myself what I say about a truth I am not sure of. I shall enquire together with you, so that if the one who opposes me seems to be right, I’ll be the first to pass my arms to him.’’ (Gorgias 506—a rough translation from the French.) Any participant in the palaver may effectively say the same thing. But even more every participant knows that the validation of conditions of validity does not point to the imitations of an individuality, nor is it of “forms” (ancestors?) outside of the living community as such, nor even that of the limitations of the community in its integrality (including the “dead ancestors’’—forms), but instead to the very activity of the palavering community.

Thus, marks and distinctive signs or the mechanism of the articulability of meaning for the treatment of speaking in its pluridimensionality don’t get their full signification but through the balance of forces in/of the palavering community, since it is here that variations of meaning of words, marks and distinctive signs are critically experienced. The appeal to distinctive signs, in isolation, does not validate anything—if anything it is a form of attachment to fixed traditions. That is why it is not sure that hermeneutics is meaningful outside of interpretations of theological writings whose target is a pre-given world. “For whom does one philosophize”? aims at the requirement of a palavering situation. This is what P. Hountondji may also mean by “philosophy as a public debate.”

The Anglo-Saxon tradition of analytical philosophy which made “common language” the foundation of validity is not very far: “common language” is nothing but a poor form of the palaver—as there is no fixed “common-language. To reduce philosophy to a “written palaver” (what Plato tried in his dialogues) is the same thing as reducing the palaver to a discussion among the sole Nzonzi. That is the crux of the matter in philosophy in general and “African philosophy” in particular. Against sophists’ rhetorical method, philosophy developed through dialectical method. The latter cannot successfully be practiced, on paper, by an individual—this is why there is a tendency to return often and often to Plato. Outside of a philosophical situation, similar to the palaver. philosophy becomes derailed, and a minority’s folly. One can imagine why the palavering Socrates left no writings. Is it not true that major breakthroughs in philosophy are related to major mass movements?

1 Attila Agh, National Development in Third World. Budapest: Institute for World Economics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, 1984, p. 37.
2 M.N. Marando, Party Democracy in Africa. Paper presented at the Marxism in Africa Symposium, UDSM, 9th-10th March, 1983, p. 7.
3 Alain Badiou & Francois Balmes, De ‘ideologie. Paris: Yenan “Syntheses”, F. Maspero, 1976, p. 68.
4 Rough translation of: Mukanda ka mukadi mputu, ka mukadi mvwama, ka mukadi mfumu, ka mukadi minnanga; babo mfumu ye mfumu, mganga; ye nganga; babo sekila kumosi, sikama kumosi.
5 Translation:
In the Clan, there must be no poor
In the Clan , there must be no rich
In the Clan, there must be no chief
In the Clan, there must be no slaves
They must be all chiefs
They must be all philosophers
In the Clan all must sleep together
In the Clan all must wake together
In the Clan there must be no enemies
In the Clan there must be only equilibrium and justice
In the Clan there must be no individualism.
6 A. Badiou & F. Balmes, op. cit. p. 68.
7 Babakar Sine, Imperialisme et Theories Sociologiques du Development, Paris: Editions Anthropos, 1975, pp. 180-181.