University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > The Smuts Memorial Fund Lecture > The Whigs and Jacobins of Africa: Traditional Authorities across Francophone and Anglophone Sub- Saharan Africa and the Different Conceptions of Political Order

The Whigs and Jacobins of Africa: Traditional Authorities across Francophone and Anglophone Sub- Saharan Africa and the Different Conceptions of Political Order

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The 1990s were marked by large-scale democratic reforms throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, which – amongst other things – ended up blowing new life into the mostly dormant traditional authorities. Francophone and Anglophone Africa display marked differences concerning the recognition and constitutionalisation of traditional authorities however. Notwithstanding the uniqueness of individual cases, in broad brushstrokes, this dichotomy reflects the foundational differences in legal cultures cemented in earlier times. The British colonial practice of ‘indirect rule’ had historically lead to the recognition, co-optation, and sometimes distortion, of the exiting traditional authorities at the time of British arrival. France on the other hand had exercised direct rule, which led to the subsequent weakening, and sometimes disappearance, of traditional authorities. This dichotomy was underscored by two respective legal traditions: the common-law tradition more open to precedent, custom, and continuity; and the more statist/reformist inclined civil law tradition. In many ways, these are two competing conceptions of political order: evolutionary and pragmatic governance seeking piecemeal long- term returns versus idealist, activist governance seeking large-scale change; the Whigs and Jacobins in other words. The lecture will seek to connect the current state of affairs with these two competing conceptions of political order.

This talk is part of the The Smuts Memorial Fund Lecture series.

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