The Nordic Africa Institute

Publication

Federal solutions to state failure in Africa

Soldier talking to a man

Mogadishu, Somalia, August 2012. A Burundian officer serving with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) gestures with a Somali man in front of a war damaged building. Photo: Stuart Price, AU-UN IST.

Date • 4 Sep 2020

As a legal-constitutional system of government of fairly rigid rules and practices, federalism in Africa might not have a positive image. But the overall relevance and utility of federalism for state-building on the continent has been grossly underestimated, according to Eghosa E. Osaghae, Professor of Comparative Politics at University of Ibadan.

"State failure is a harvest of the anomalies of colonial acts of creation. It is is a consequence of the fact that the contemporary African state is neither African nor state", Professor Osaghae argues in a new paper co-published by NAI and Uppsala University Department of Peace and Conflict Research.

In the paper, entitled Federal Solutions to State Failure in Africaexternal link, opens in new window, he shows that federal solutions offer the relevant framework and principles for rebuilding the state as a decolonial construct of collective ownership, shared rule and self-rule. The central argument is that the unravelling of the received state, whose failure is manifest in the contestations, conflicts and wars, and overall inability to function, provides the opportunity for renegotiating and re-bargaining the state.

"Federalism is a system of continuous bargaining", Osaghae states and examplifies with cases that have offered opportunities for state-rebuilding bargaining. Such as the separatist agitation by Anglophones in the southern regions of Cameroon, and the aftermath of the overthrow of President al-Bashir in Sudan.

About the paper

Federal Solutions to State Failure in Africaexternal link, opens in new window by Professor Eghosa E. Osaghae was published in the Claude Ake Memorial Papers (CAMP) series, which honours the memory of late scholar-activist Professor Claude Ake. The series is co-published by NAI and Uppsala University Department of Peace and Conflict Research. This and all other papers in the CAMP-series are open access and can be linked to and read by all.

About the author

Eghosa E. Osaghae is professor of comparative politics at University of Ibadan in Nigeria. He is one of Africa’s leading political scientists and scholars on ethnicity and federal studies. Professor Osaghae has published extensively on ethnicity, federalism, governance and state politics.

In the fall of 2019, Professor Osaghae was the Claude Ake Visiting Chairexternal link, opens in new window holder in Uppsala.