Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Democracy, Identity, and Equity is a Mirage in Africa

Written by: on March 24, 2020

During the late 19th century and early 20th century, there was a scramble for Africa colonization by the different European countries. The British, French, Italians, Portuguese, Germans, and Spanish took over various parts of Africa and exploited them well. They came established the development they had founded in their countries, which they knew would not be sustainable at all. They developed cities equivalent to those from their country of origin, and this was something very new to the Africans. In Kenya, they took a good number of people trained them how modern leadership is and worked with them in reaching the rest of the Africans. Educational institutions were established in many parts of Africa, reflecting the learning in Europe, and many people developed their minds on the same line with the colonialism approach. It was not until after the mid-20th century that those Africans who have gotten education realized that they were being exploited by colonial leadership. They started a move to lead by themselves, and this led to the formation of liberation movements in the countries, especially in Kenya. The move to get the British colonialism out was forceful through fighting and mobilizing the Africans against the colonial regime. They felt they needed to have democracy and identity as Kenyans leading themselves where they would create equal sharing of the national wealth with its poor people they felt had been impoverished by the colonial authorities.

Fukuyama, in his book Identity: The demand for dignity and the politics of resentment, arouses many memories as human beings and draws me to the book “The Animal Farm” by George Orwell, that Man is the only real enemy we have. Remove man from the scene, and the root cause of hunger and overwork is abolished forever.[1] We seem to have a short memory when pushing for a specific change in life. Politicians would lead a multitude of people in promoting a new idea for them, but when they get in power, things change. The twentieth-century politics had been organized along a left-right spectrum defined by economic issues, the left wanting more equality and the right demanding greater freedom. …. But as necessary as material self-interest is, human beings are motivated by other things as well, motives that better explain the disparate events of the present. This might be called the politics of resentment. In a wide variety of cases, a political leader has mobilized followers around the perception that the group’s dignity had been affronted, disparaged, or disregarded.[2] We experienced this in most African countries, and we especially in Kenya, where we have hard many different leaders coming up every general election promising both left-right issues which the people have been rambling for many years. Since independence, the people of Africa have been victims of the elite society among themselves in the community. Democracy opened a door for a high level of corruption and self-enrichment. We continue to see the cities established by colonial governments remain the same, and the rich trying to live just as the colonial masters were living and oppressing the people, they promised freedom and economic empowerment. We are now over 50 years, but the gap between the poor and the rich has increased since independence. Confusion over identity arises as a condition of living in the modern world. Modernization means constant change and disruption and opening choices that did not exist before. It is mobile, fluid, and complex.[3] This has left many political transformers unprepared for such changes and therefore lead them to self-satisfaction rather than the people they were to represent. Their earlier ideology is overtaken by modernization. Identity is a big issue in Africa, and that is why we still have many people crossing the Mediterranean sea to Europe, running away from many challenges facing their countries, which they fought for in demanding democracy, identity, dignity, and equity on the national resources. The confusion of identity is messing up Africa. Identity is a crisis the Quaker church in Africa is facing now. It is not clear whether it remains orthodox Quaker practices or progressive Quaker practices. It is caught between the old traditions and the modern approach to church in the 21st century, and this creates an identity challenge. Identity is them that underlies many political phenomena today, from new populist-nationalist movements to Islamic fighters, to controversies taking place on university campuses. Identity can be used to divide, but it can and has been used to integrate. That, in the end, will be the remedy for the populist politics of the present.[4]


[1] Orwell, George. Animal Farm: A Fairy Story. New York: Mariner Books, 2009. Page 2

[2] Fukuyama, Francis. Identity: The Demand for Dignity and The Politics of Resentment. New York: Farrar, Straus And Giroux, 2018. loc 192 Kindle edition


[3] (Fukuyama 2018, Loc 2294 Kindle edition)

[4] (Fukuyama 2018, Loc 2553 Kindle Edition)

About the Author

John Muhanji

I am the Director Africa Ministries Office of Friends United Meeting. I coordinate all Quaker activities and programs in the Quaker churches and school mostly in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The focus of my work is more on leadership development and church planting in the region especially in Tanzania.. Am married with three children all grown up now. I love playing golf as my exercise hobby. I also love reading.

One response to “Democracy, Identity, and Equity is a Mirage in Africa”

  1. Jenn Burnett says:

    I love how you have pointed to the need for a united identity. I agree that is so needed! Did you find that side of Fukuyama’s work useful? He suggests that a clearer national identity would actually work against populism as there would be a united place to reach out from? What commonalities does your denomination share that could be built upon to find that new way? Bless you my brother in Christ!

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