Vol. III, Issue 3 (Summer, 1996): Democracy in Botswana

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Editorial: Multiparty Democracy in Botswana

African Studies, CCSU, in collaboration with the Department of Political Science, CCSU, had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Mpho Molomo, of the University of Botswana, as Visiting Fulbright Scholar, in the 1995/96 academic year.

Before his return to Botswana a few weeks ago, Dr Molomo kindly agreed to analyze the phenomenon of multiparty democracy in Botswana. Botswana has been able to confine the military to the barracks during the last thirty years and has held seven free and fair elections since it regained independence in 1966.

Molomo's comments on Botswana's electoral system and the phenomenon of proportional representation provide useful insights into some of the basic pillars of political culture in that region. His discussion also constitutes the first of a two-part series on multiparty democracy in the continent.

In the Fall issue we will conclude Molomo's analysis and shift our focus to multi-partism in Cameroon. Nigeria's recent defeat of two of the world's superpowers in soccer, namely Brazil and Argentina, at the Olympics in Atlanta, has once more highlighted the great significance of Africa's most populous country. Because of NBC's jaundiced coverage of the games, we were denied the opportunity of seeing the new world superpower in soccer for more than a few moments. NBC showed us only those games where Americans were winning, it seems. In any case, the Nigerian success on the football field is a major victory that not even NBC can wish away.

In the political arena, however, the present situation in Nigeria remains alarming, and few have articulated this disenchantment more effectively than Funso Aiyejina, one of the outstanding poets of contemporary Nigeria. In his poem, "I, the Supreme," Aiyejina reflects on the arrogance and authoritarianism of military power at the present time. His memorable masterpiece reminds us of the urgency with which the world's new superpower in soccer must transform its political playing field.

This issue of Africa Update also addresses one of the most significant intellectual events to have taken place in cyberspace, the "Black Athena" debate, sponsored by Harper Collins and triggered by the publication of Mary Lefkowitz's largely polemical, Not out of Africa. We are particularly fortunate to have a summary of the debate by none other than Paul Manansala, one of the debate's most active and knowledgeable participants.

Finally, we note that African Studies, CCSU, will host its Third Annual Conference, on Saturday, November 2nd, 1996.

Gloria Emeagwali - Chief Editor

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Prologue from The Book of the General

F. Aiyejina, Visiting Scholar, Lincoln University

They labour in vain: termites aspiring to devour rocks!

Futile is their plot to surprise the crab in a trance
The back of the cat is not for the ground to embrace.

I have consumed the lion and inherited his courage.
I am the vulture, armed with the gift of old age.

They schemed tunnels into the castles in my shell
In pursuit of secrets with which to build for me a hell.

But I, the wily part-hero of many previous tales
Struck and erected the one-hero-tale-to-end-all-tales:

Installed myself sole Patriarch of the House.
Displaced the mirthless duo from the slaughterhouse.
Ascended the throne of an always grateful nation
And unchained my secret sharers from the jaws of damnation.

With the silent support of silver-tongued informers
From the reformed Fraternity of Mysterious Letters

Who had wormed their ways into the people's dreams,
I acquired dominion over the land and its headstreams

Injected instant doubts into the dongoyaro tree
From which they plot to create a magical blend

With which to set their malarial futures free,
I cast my shadows, eagle-spanned, over the land.

Invisible like a harmattan wind from a distant desert
I suckled the milk from the silk-cotton landmark

Envisaged by pilgrims with an ancient thirst
As the ultimate guide to the lake in the dark.

Self-assured in my might and the royalty of my marksmen
I painted the future of the nation in my choice colours

And ignored the distracting cries of misguided children
Who insist that destinies immersed in fugitive colours

Are doomed to run whenever submerged in rivers
However adroit the skills of the dyemasters.

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Multiparty Democracy in Botswana by Mpho G. Molomo


Botswana has, since independence in 1966 without fail, followed the constitutional provision of regular elections after five years. These seven successive elections illustrate that the process has become more than just a ritual, but is an integral part of the political culture. They are now institutionalised mechanisms of selecting leaders to the highest legislative institution on the land, the National Assembly. This commitment has been attested by the fact that people have always left their important daily chores, sometimes facing the odds of travelling long distances and bad weather, to cast a vote.

The Constitution provides for non-racial multi-party democracy which is based on the basic democratic tenants of regular free and fair elections, equality of all citizens, freedom of association, assembly and belief, and the rule of law. It also provides for a unicameral legislature where Members of Parliament (MPs) represent their respective constituencies.

Botswana operates the Single Member District (SMD) electoral system where 40 MPs are elected, on a constituency basis, based on the simple plurality system (SPS) sometimes referred to as the "winner-take-all" to the National Assembly. The National Assembly then elects four specially elected MPs and the Speaker of the House. Botswana, however, does not have presidential elections. It operates the Westminster Parliamentary system in which the presidential candidate whose party wins the majority of the National Assembly seats takes office as President and selects cabinet from among his/her party members in the National Assembly.

In addition to the National Assembly there is also the House of Chiefs, which is not an elective office, but a house that draws its membership from the traditional authorities, dikgosi (chiefs). This house, which has 15 members, has no legislative powers it only advises government on matters of tradition and custom. Dikgosi and dikgosana (sub-chiefs) preside over the kgotla (village assembly), which is the traditional forum for discussing tribal matters, and adjudicate cases falling under the purview of customary law.

The study of Botswana's democratic process is warranted, despite its distinctive record as longest surviving multi-party democracy in Africa. There is obviously the need to explain why Botswana has maintained a good track record. The growing trends towards democratisation in Africa, particularly Southern Africa, have provided a new and comparative context within which to study Botswana's political institutions and processes. Needless to add, the eulogy that Botswana has received for its democratic process should not lead to complacency but should be an inspiration for further research.

In this article I argue that good governance and democracy can not only be enhanced by a government that comes to power through the popular will of the people, that is, universal adult suffrage, but also by the use of electoral system that ensures greater proportionality of representatives to the popular vote. The constitution of Botswana, especially the electoral act, can be amended to make it responsive to the new democratic wave. There are three areas in which this article seeks to make a contribution, and they are: to suggest ways in which Botswana's democracy can be strengthened with a view to be in line with the new democratic wave; to suggest how electoral law can be reviewed; and to argue for the need for presidential elections. To sum up, the quality of democracy must be enhanced by the use of appropriate electoral systems. In sum, to study how electoral system in Botswana affects the practice of democratic governance.

The Conceptual Framework

Botswana has over the past thirty years marshalled an impressive record where democratic norms set by the constitution have been legally and politically observed. In a continent where formal democratic structures and processes have been wanting, she has been described as a flagship of democratic practice. The import of this text however is not to eulogise Botswana's democratic achievements. Rather, it is to embark on a critical appraisal of its political process, in particular, the electoral process.

Botswana is undoubtedly a front runner in multi-party democracy in Southern Africa, yet its constitution pales by comparison to that of the emerging democracies in the region. The constitutions of the newer democracies in Southern Africa (Namibian and South Africa), even though they have not stood the test of time, rival that of Botswana especially in matters relating to electoral law and empowerment of the citizens.

It is important to begin with a review some theoretical assumptions about elections, as an abstract icon, because empirical data can only be interpreted on the basis of relevant theories. Studies which have been conducted on Botswana, such as; Molutsi and Holm (1989); Molomo and Mokopakgosi (1991) and Stedman (1993) have characterised the country as a beacon of democratic practice, but this as shall be shown below is slowly eroding. They have also concluded that the weaknesses in its multi-party system make it a de facto one party state (Molomo and Mokopakgosi, 1991:13) as the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) gains at the polls indicate.

While the above studies have made valuable contribution to Botswana's political process, none of them, except some reference to the origins of political parties (Nengwekhulu, 1979), is a study of the electoral process. Perhaps the most valuable contribution with respect to the study of electoral law in Botswana is to be found in Otlhogile and Molutsi (1993) done under the auspices of the Democracy Research Project (DRP).

It has increasingly come to light that democracy and good governance are not measured solely by regular free and fair elections, but also by the extent to which governments are "responsive to the needs of the population and properly accountable to their actions" (Danevad, 1995:381). The extent to which government reforms electoral law to suit the interests of the people will illustrate the extent of its responsiveness.

Botswana's Electoral System

Electoral democracy in Botswana is guaranteed by law. The Constitution and, more specifically, the Electoral Act specifies the conduct of elections. It specifies when elections are to be held, who is eligible to vote and who can run for office. In short, electoral systems control the rules of the game, how elections are won and lost.

Elections and electoral systems stand second to none as mechanisms for, not only, choosing leaders to public office but also institutionalizing an accepted mode of changing a government. They are some key instruments through which leaders gain the consent, credibility and legitimacy of being lawful leaders.

Botswana's electoral system is noteworthy in the sense that it has adapted complex set of theoretical assumptions about the conduct of elections to the specific situation in Botswana. Most of the population lives in the rural areas and has low levels of education. Many cannot read and write. In recognition of this fact the political system has adapted voting procedures to make it easier for these people to participate in voting. Every political party has its own voting disc bearing a particular shape and colour coinciding, to the extent possible, with party colours.

However, Botswana's electoral system has been known to be rigid. Many cases of this rigidity have been noted but for purposes of illustration reference will be made to one case observed by the Democracy Research Project (DRP) during the 1994 election. This was a case in one ward in Kgatleng East constituency where the returning officer, as with all of them, was not sufficiently empowered to take decisions that would help the voters. In this particular instance, about ten names of bonafide voters were not printed in the voter's roll. These people had voter registration and the national registration cards that are the only requirements to enable them to cast a vote. Needless to add, these people were not only well known to both the council candidates but one was the wife of the candidates. Despite pleas to have them vote under oath they were denied their democratic right to choose a government of their choice.

If past events are anything to go by, the contrary was equally damning. Had the returning officer used his discretion to allow them to vote under oath, that may have been sufficient ground to support an election petition. There is already a precedent in this regard. In 1989 in Mochudi the returning officer, contrary to the provisions of the electoral law, extended the voting time to avoid turning back voters who had showed up to cast their vote2. This act was petitioned in the High Court which ordered a reelection. This shows that matters between the law and democracy often represent a catch-22 situation. This study recognises the new wave of democratic practice where free and fair elections, while taken as a good measure of democracy, are viewed only as an aspect of a much more complex set of political arrangements. It recognises that democracy is not just about polling, the people freely electing a government of their choice. Rather that it also has to address matters of how voters' choices are circumscribed and, in particular, the manner in which the electoral system is organised.

To further emphasize, the fairness of the electoral system cannot only be attested by the freedom of the poll. It has to do, among others, with a whole series of processes, such as monitoring of the whole electoral process; registration of political parties; the delineation of constituencies; freedom to campaign and to have access to resources to campaign effectively; access to the media; registration of voters; voter education and the impartiality of the electoral process.

In Botswana voting age is set at 21 years and above. The lowering of the voting age to 18 has been one of the most contested issues in recent years. The ruling party has been against it saying that the majority of 18 year olds are school-going kids and many of them are not mature enough to make informed political choices. The opposition, on the other hand, argues that 18 year olds are mature people many of whom hold positions in government and in the army.

The opposition has on occasion, particularly during the 1994 elections, threatened to boycott the elections if government did not accede to their demands of lowering the voting age from 21 to 18 years. Government has since accepted these demands and is now calling for a referendum on the issue constitutional validity.

In addition to lowering the voting age the opposition also argue that there is also the need to introduce the absentee ballot. The absence of the absentee ballot, they argue, disenfranchises significant numbers of Botswana who at any given moment are out of the country pursing studies or other matters of national interest. To this government has declined saying that it would be expensive to run.

In Africa to ensure fairness of elections, where allegations of rigging and gross irregularities are reported, international and local election monitoring and observation groups have become a growing industry. Botswana during the 1994 elections, while credited as one of the countries running relatively free and fair elections, attracted the attention of five observer groups, namely; Poll Watch Africa, the National Democratic Institute, the Catholic Peace and Justice Commission, the Democracy Research Project and the Botswana Christian Council. However, Poll Watch Africa and the Botswana Christian Council, even though granted permission, were not able to observe the elections. All the observation groups declared that the conduct of elections was free and fair, save for some administrative irregularities.

Botswana operates the single member district (SMD) simple plurality system (SPS) which is sometimes referred to as the "winner-take-all" or "first-past-the-post" system. The dominant trait of the SPS system is that it is said to produce two party systems or a multi-party one party dominant system. This system is said to produce strong cabinets which are drawn from one party. The next section seeks to discuss the pros and cons of the PR System versus the SPS, with a view to determine which one leads to greater democratic governance.

Proportional Representation vs. Simple Plurality

Electoral systems come in many forms. The two main electoral systems, which also have numerous variations, are the simple plurality system (SPS) and proportional representation (PR). Over the years there have been debates on which of the two electoral systems is most democratic, and they center on five main factors: how representative are the outcomes of the election; which system creates greater equality for the citizens; which allows for greater participation of the people; which allows for greater accountability and transparency; and which leads to greater efficiency and stability of government? To be sure, there are no easy answers to these questions. This section seeks a detailed discussion of the two electoral systems.

The greatest debates over electoral systems have been entered into by, among others, Quade (1991), Lijphart (1991), Lardeyrat (1991),Reynolds (1995) and Barkan (1995). Lijphart(1991) and Reynolds (1995), are the great proponents of the PR system. They advance several reasons why PR is the best electoral system. First, they argue that it is the "fairest" method of electing members of parliament because it ensures proportionality between the number of seats and popular vote. Second, PR is said to be most "inclusive" it ensures that all shades of opinion, so long as they have a political voice, are represented in the government.

Third, PR is rule by consensus in that it allows all political parties with some following, depending on the threshold, to participate in government. And fourth, PR "enhances the prospects for democratization in plural societies" in which political diffe\rences manifest themselves along ethnic, linguistic, religious and regional basis.

The SPS as outlined by Lijphart, among others, "favour the two party system and single party governments." The strength of this system is that it accounts for greater "governmental stability and decision-making capacity" which is lacking in coalition governments. The greatest strength of the single member district is that political parties can maintain a link between an individual MP and their constituency. This allows for effective leadership and accountability because an ineffective MP would be voted out in the next election.

In the new era of democracy where the catch words are "good governance," "political accountability" and "political transparency" the SPS system has won great acclaim. It is said that the above virtues can best be achieved by one party cabinets which are solely responsible for mismanagement and non performance of government. The SMD is said to be not only accountable but also offers "firm leadership" which is effective in policy formulation and implementation.

However the SPS is widely criticized for being inadequate for representing sectional interests, such as the rights of minorities; youths, women, ethnic groups, etc. It is said to marginalise smaller political parties. But, we think, for democracy to be effective it must enjoy complete support and participation by the people. ________________________

This paper will be continued in our Fall issue, along with the citations

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The "Black Athena" debate in cyberspace

Paul Kekai Manansala
Sacramento, California

From mid-April to the end of May in 1996, the publishing company, Harper Collins, sponsored an Internet debate between Mary Lefkowitz and Martin Bernal. Lefkowitz's new book, Black Athena Revisited, her direct response to Bernal's Black Athena, is published by Harper Collins.

However, even more interesting and informative than the debate itself was the sometimes fierce discussion on the related discussion list, also sponsored by Harper Collins.

The Bernal-Lefkowitz "debate" consisted of only one rather brief exchange between the two. The discussion on athena-discuss, the mailing list where list members posted messages to all other members was voluminous, with over six million bytes of cyberspace exchange. Many illustrious scholars participated, although many of the more well known names in Afrocentrism, who would have had little trouble in the English-speaking forum, such as Molefi Asante, Maulana Karenga, Marimba Ani et al., were not present. At least one very active anti- Afrocentrist, Bernard Ortiz-de-Montellano, was among the participants.

There were enough noteworthy scholars on both sides, though, to make the event one of unusual magnitude for the Internet. These scholars included Tom Anderson, Ayele Bekerie, Joycelyn Landrum-Brown, Eric Cline, Peter Daniels, Douglas Deal, Gordon Fisher, Errol Henderson, Ed Kent, Scott MacEachern, Harold Marcus, Diriye Abdullahi Mohame, Tom Powers, Anthony Preus, Gloria Sampson, Ray Winbush, Clyde Winters, and Gloria Emeagwali. Some members of the academy chose anonymity, such as one Near Eastern scholar known only as "Kate." Although she supported Bernal's work and even considered it a great inspiration, she feared repercussions if she revealed her identity.

In addition to scholars, list members came from a wide spectrum of backgrounds and included activists such as "Emiliano Zapata," students Jason Banta and "Dalton," African religionists, Wole Mongo Ife and Kwesi Otabil; writer/engineer S. F. Thomas; and history buff John Servais. The range of topics was exceptionally broad. Often, the main topic of the discussion, Martin Bernal's thesis on the Afro-Asiatic roots of classical culture, was just tangentially related to the subjects being discussed. On a number of occasions, tempers flared and charges of racism were hurled in both directions. Even a few instances of name-calling and racial slurs occured although generally the "flame wars" common in other Internet forums was avoided. Although many participants, numbering over 2,000 at the outset, remained quiet, a real percentage of "non- professionals" freely expressed themselves.

A few of the scholars quite openly attempted to intimidate others by frequently inquiring about credentials and the authority of persons to speak on specific subjects. Despite this resistance, there was enough representation on both sides to provide for a healthy and continuous debate throughout the list's existence. Topics ranged from the "blackness" of the ancient Egyptians to modern racism and ethnocentrism in the academy.

At times, the depth of discussion on this electronic forum was comparable to that found in any other medium. Substantial discussion on the cultural relations and exchange between the Egyptians and Greeks occured through most of the debate, although the area of relationship between Greek and Egyptian philosophy was not covered thoroughly enough for some members. Some very detailed exchanges were made on the possible Egyptian origin of Greek science and mathematics. Near the middle of the debate, the use of the word, "Amerikkka," in particular, set off a long battle in cyberspace. The use of "Amerikkka," as pointed out by Prof. Winbush has a long history among African- Americans.

In the latter half of the discussion, the topic of the "race" of the Egyptians began to take center stage. Obviously, from the depth of the postings that ensued, this subject was close to the hearts of many participants. The "blackness" of the Egyptians may indeed be the original argument upon which Afrocentrism was founded. Mention was made of early black leaders who espoused such views going back at least to the Civil War. According to Afrocentrists, multiculturalists and like- minded thinkers, Western scholarship has falsified, or otherwise falsely interpreted the history of civilization. Ancient Egypt is one of the classic examples of this corruption of history. According to the Greek sources themselves, Greek civilization owed a great debt to Egypt a civilization which Afrocentrists argue was of "black" African origin. The anti-Afrocentrists questioned the Greek sources, and engaged in "source criticism" of direct quotes provided to the list. In the end though, it was clear that most in the discussion were already dug into their positions before the debate began.

Concerning Lefkowitz and Bernal themselves, only a small portion of the discussion centered on the arguments they posted to the debate list. More participants were concerned about the funding of Lefkowitz and other "anti- multicultural" elements by institutions like the Olin Foundation. The latter organization is funded by a defense related corporation that has sponsored writings by Dinesh D'Souza and other thinkers who are generally considered "right wing." Other well known books or studies funded by Olin or similar organizations include The Bell Curve and Phillip Rushton's study on the supposed inverse relationship between penis size and intelligence.

Although some specialists lamented the lack of in-depth discussion in their particular fields, all in all the output was quite impressive. The future for Internet conferences of this type is bright if such quality and quantity can be duplicated in the future.

At least one Internet site on the World Wide Web has been set up highlighting some of the discussion on the list and offering other resources on the subject. At the address: http://www.he.net/~skyeagle/afro.htm one can find this web site known as The Afrocentric Debate Homepage.

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Africa and the Net

Haines Brown, C.C.S.U. History Department

Much discussed is the relationship between the Internet and African rural development. How can one achieve Internet connectivity without electrical power or phone lines?

The Christian organization, Mission Aviation Fellowship, has excellent connectivity using packet radio modems tied into a cellular phone network in Kinshasa.

At the other extreme, AT&T is building a fiber optic cable around the entire African coast (Project AfricaOne). It will undoubtedly bring excellent bandwidth to coastal cities, but the need for profitability will sharply limit its effect on rural areas.

For an analysis of the limits and potentials of African connectivity, read Saul F. C. Zulu, "Africa's Survival Plan for Meeting the Challenges of Information Technology in the 1990s and Beyond," Libri, 44 (1), 77-94.

But there are some successes in rural connectivity. Relying on a telephone line is the SOS Children's Village for orphans, in Mamelodi, South Africa (http://ekhaya.sos.pta.school.za/), which offers full internet connection in a rural area. This is done with Codan radios, 9002 high speed (2400 bd) modems, and 9102x software on a web server connecting to a high quality (19.2 Kb) leased telephone line. The server supports thirty 386-machines in a computer lab.

An example of e-mail in a very remote area lacking public telephone lines is the "Emailing Sisters of Mercy"(http://www.mg.co.za/mg/pc/96j une/18june/18june-nuns.htm). They purchased a cellular phone-modem from Siemens and connect with it to the South African cellular network at the University of Pretoria.

Abstracts from the 2nd Annual Conference of African Studies November 18, 1995

Civil Society: A new paradigm for democratization and economic development in Southern Africa

Mpho G. Molomo, the University of Botswana, Gaborone, and Visiting Fulbright Scholar at Central Connecticut State University

This paper seeks to develop an understanding of the interface between civil society and the post-colonial state in the democratic development of the Southern African region. It starts from the basic premise that a vibrant civil society is the basis for good democratic governance and sustained economic development.

The paper attempts a survey of the contributions of organs of civil society in the democratization process in the region. A study of the region suggests that, though transitions of democratic governance are still at formative stages, by and large, multi- partyism alone is not a sufficient condition for democracy. In addition to multi-partyism, there is need to institutionalize a civic culture in the political system. Increasingly, people in the region are looking toward civil society, notwithstanding i ts own limitations, as the hope for developing democracy and sustained economic development.

Reflections on the political and economic challenges confronting post-apartheid South Africa

Dr. Ben Magubane, Professor of Anthropology, University of Connecticut, Storrs.

After reviewing the history of the establishment of white minority rule in South Africa, this paper discusses the meaning of the transition to African majority rule. I then review the economic and political challenges facing the Government of National Unity (GNU). I argue that the challenges facing the GNU are as formidable as the long struggle to overthrow white minority rule. First, the government has to consolidate the new democracy by agreeing on a final constitution. Second, the government has to restructure the commanding heights of the economy that are exemplified by the dominance of Anglo- American Corporation of South Africa. Third, the government has to achieve economic growth equivalent to that of the so-called "Asian tigers." Indeed, few political movements, if any, have managed as complex political and economic a transition as that faced by the African National Congress (ANC) that heads the GNU. Of the many statistics that illustrate the immensity of the task ahead, few are more striking than unemployment, substandard housing conditions and the high crime rate. Yet, in the last eighteen months not only has democracy been consolidated as demonstrated by the recent local elections, but South Africa is also now a leading member of the Southern African region, with enormous potential. The vision of the industrial muscle and technical expertise of South Africa as a driving force in the region is, thus far, no more than that but with statesmanship and foresight that vision will likely become a reality.

The Third Annual Conference of African Studies, CCSU, will take place on November 1st- 3rd, 1996, at C.C.S.U., Diloreto Hall, New Britain CT. For more information, contact Gloria Emeagwali (860-832-2815); Peter Osei (860-832-2657); or Gabriel Alingbe (860-832- 1824) The Regional Editors of AfricaUpdate

Zenebworke Bissrat served for several years as Senior Management Expert at the Ethiopian Management Institute, Addis Ababa. She is at present associated with the CMRS, Ethiopian Catholic Church, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Julius Ihonvbere is a Professor of Government at the University of Texas, Austin. He has taught at the Obafemi Awolowo Univeristy, Ife, and at the University of Port Harcourt. He has published extensively.

Paulus Gerdes is the Rector of Mozambique's Universidade Pedagogico, Maputo, Mozambique. He has extensive publications on African mathematics and is the Chair of the Commission on the History of Mathematics in Africa, based in Maputo, Mozambique.

Mosebjane Malatsi is a Senior Policy Analyst at the Development Bank of Southern Africa, based in Johannesburg. He is a leading member of the Pan-African Congress.

Alfred Zack-Williams is from Sierra Leone. He teaches in the Department of Historical and Critical Studies at the University of Central Lancaster, UK. He is also a member of the Editorial Board of the Review of African Political Economy (ROAPE), United Kingdom.

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