ON 7 November 1996 a Boeing 727 Jet crashed into a lagoon North East of Lagos in Nigeria, killing more than a hundred passengers aboard including one Claude Ake, a gifted African political scientist and development theorist.
In all the essays and books that he wrote, Claude Ake never mentioned the word “coloniality” or its antithesis “decoloniality.”
Like many other African intellectuals of his generation Claude Ake understood himself as a good Pan-Africanist, a nationalist too and also a critical political economist who had understood well his Marxism. Part of the archeological work of decoloniality at present has been to identify its apostles and prophets throughout the world.
Thinkers such as Edward Said and Frantz Fanon that were for a long time considered post-colonial philosophers have been firmly claimed and established as decolonial theorists in that they questioned more than they confirmed post-colonial thinking. In the like, Claude Ake challenged more than he sustained assumptions of nationalism, Pan-Africanism and Marxism in Africa, exposing their poverty and how they sustained the same colonialism that they promised to dethrone.
The decoloniality of Claude Ake is projected mainly in two of his major books: The Feasibility of Democracy in Africa (1992) and Social Science as Imperialism (2000). To Claude Ake the tragedy of democracy in the world and in Africa is that it has been infected by the same autocracy that it claims to overthrow.
Democratic elections have become a regular ritual where political elites use the power of money, ideas and arms to get elected to power while the “demos,” the multitudes remain in their original misery. So called democratic elections have become popularity and personality contests that have nothing to do with the ability of the politicians to perform and deliver to their mandate, making democracy itself a form of a tyranny.
The social sciences that include economics and political science are all academic disciplines that promise to advance the causes of development and human progress, yet, in the argument of Claude Ake, these disciplines of thinking fortify rather than dismantle the imperial domination that they claim to challenge. By raising such stubborn and durable questions on the African condition and the condition of the world,
Claude Ake has given oxygen to decoloniality by showing that under different fashionable guises, mythologies, fictions and myths, colonialism and imperialism remain intact, alive and in flourish in the African continent. The critical ability to unmask the continuities of coloniality beyond decolonisation, to prove that decolonisation was not liberation is perhaps one of the first qualifications of a decolonial thinker. Like all philosophies, decoloniality has its archeological and eschatological homework.
In its archeology decoloniality excavates for evidence, carries out diagnoses to decipher the problem of coloniality and its hegemonic domination in the Global South. In its eschatology, or its utopia, the paradise that it promises, decoloniality recommends liberation beyond decolonisation. For that reason, the first wisdom and the baptismal truth of decoloniality is that decolonisation was not liberation because coloniality continues after political independence.
How Coloniality survived Decolonisation
It is the archeological assignment of decoloniality in Africa to diagnose, dig up, how exactly coloniality at the political, economic, social, cultural and other levels managed to remain alive after African countries achieved political independence.
To start with, the political scientists, economists and other thinkers that were supposed to propel Africa to liberation used ideas and theories given to them by Eurocentric social sciences which are the sciences that created colonialism in the first place. A people cannot successfully solve a problem using the same thinking and logic that created the problem.
The founding fathers of the African decolonisation movements were Pan-Africanists. Pan-Africanism is a philosophy of African unity whose ultimate goal was to do away with colonial borders that were created by imperialists in the 1884 Conference of Berlin. The aim of Pan-Africanism under the stewardship of Kwame Nkrumah was to fashion a United States of Africa. This dream of African unity collapsed because individual leaders of African countries resisted the idea of giving up their power and control of their individual states to a central African government. It is a historical irony that African leaders resisted the eradication of colonial borders and sustained colonial nation states. By keeping control of their countries and nations and rejecting the ultimate goal of Pan-Africanism, the United States of Africa, African leaders who were led by Julius Nyerere in rejecting the USA became true nationalists.
Nationalism as a philosophy emphasises patriotism to one’s country and loyalty to the state. The darker side of nationalism is that it creates insiders and outsiders. It has those who belong to the nation and those that do not belong. Soon enough the African nations degenerated into sub-nations and tribes, resulting in ethnic conflicts and civil wars. Xenophobia, the fear and hatred of those who are not nationals is another dark side of nationalism.
Like Pan-Africanism, Negritude emphasised pride in being black and extolled black solidarity. Soon enough Negritude degenerated into reverse racism. Negritude also became solidarity of the powerless and the poor who could not help each other but worship black pride in poverty and misery. Marxism came promising to dethrone capitalism as the economic system that drove the enslavement and colonisation of Africans.
Sadly, the same Marxism had racism inside its ideology; Karl Marx himself celebrated the colonisation of non-European peoples as the civilisation of primitive peoples that saved barbarians from their “rural idiocy.” Clearly, all the philosophies that were used to drive the decolonisation of Africa, Pan-Africanism, Nationalism, Negritude and Marxism somehow took Africa back to the same problem that they claimed to solve. At the end of it all, decolonisation resulted in new flags, black leaders and new states but the ideas of government and leadership remained hostage to the same social sciences that created colonisation, racism and imperialism. Social sciences, as scholars like Claude Ake have stated, need to be decolonised and freed from their connection with imperialism and coloniality. Otherwise the ideologies and philosophies that emerge from social scientific thinking will continue to take Africans back to coloniality. It was not for nothing that Polish-British sociologist Stanislav Andreski described the social sciences as a form of “sorcery.”
In its diagnoses of the problem in the world, decoloniality has excavated through the social sciences and observed that a Colonial Power Matrix exists that keeps coloniality intact even after decolonisation.
Europe and America as the imperial centre of the world maintain control of the Global South as the periphery through a Colonial Power Matrix. The domination of the periphery is maintained through control of economies of the Global South that started with appropriations of lands and natural resources in colonialism and is ending with the financial tyranny of IMF and World Bank.
There is also the monopolisation of world military might that is fronted by the NATO allies. Globalisation has created a global interstate system that has centralised authority in Europe and America, with the UN as a shadow. Christianity has been used to model the idea of the family after the Euro-American model of family and its values. Finally, using the same social sciences, the Euro-American Empire controls knowledge and thinking in the Global South.
The Colonial Power Matrix works like true sorcery because it allows colonialism to continue in the physical absence of the coloniser and even after the colonial administration has been dethroned. Right inside African nationalism, Pan-Africanism, Negritude, Marxism and other ideologies of decolonisation, coloniality long found a place to hide and continues plying its imperial business in comfort.
The Decolonial Eschatology
Nationalism, Pan-Africanism, Marxism and Negritude ideologies, and others, have managed to deliver decolonisation but have failed to deliver liberation. Decolonisation removed colonial administrations and administrators but left the Colonial Power Matrix intact. Because they are children of the social sciences, ideologies maintain rather than dismantle the status quo of coloniality, they are reformist and not revolutionary.
Decoloniality rejects ideology in preference for Utopia. Utopia aims at a total overhaul of the Colonial Power Matrix to create a new world order. While ideologies are either on the left or on the right of the political divide, Utopia rejects both the left and the right and seeks rehumanisation.
Europe and America are scrambling to maintain the westernisation of the world while China, Russia and others are scrambling to dewesternise the world. Decoloniality sees westernisation and dewesternisation as contesting imperialisms and fundamentalisms, what is needed are the dethronement of the Colonial Power Matrix and humanisation of the world.
Decoloniality fights for liberation beyond decolonisation.
Decoloniality is a philosophy of liberation that is humanistic, planetary, postideological and postcontinental. The question is can African scholars and Africa leader imagine the world beyond the limits and blinkers of the social sciences ?
Cetshwayo Zindabazezwe Mabhena writes from South Africa: firstname.lastname@example.org.