The Biggest Development Challenge Is Having Inclusive Governance

President Bio.jpg
His Excellency,  Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio

By Amin Kef Sesay

Truth be told as long as a region, tribe of class of people feel that they are not part of the governance system, development programs that benefit one and all would be difficult to achieve, as the Government will be pulling in one direction whilst those that do not want it to succeed will be pulling in the opposite direction.

As such, it is the quality and characteristics of the political party that is in power that will shape the level of peace and stability as well as enhance the prospects for rapid socio-economic development.

Given the frequent disagreement between the ruling party and the opposition on important State matters, there is no more critical variable than inclusive governance where all voices are heard before decisions are reached.

It is inclusive governance that determines whether there are durable links between the State and the society it purports to govern.

The nature of this governance superstructure is central because it determines whether the exercise of authority is viewed as legitimate by majority of the society.

Legitimate authority, in turn, is based on accepted laws and norms rather than the arbitrary, unconstrained power of the rulers. Within the context of decentralization, good State governance also has an important regional dimension relating to the institutional structures and norms that guide a region’s approach to challenges and that help shape its political culture.

The State should at all times be aware of the critical role of political and economic inclusion in shaping peace and stability and points to some of the primary challenges leaders face in deciding how to manage inclusion: whom to include and how to ‘pay’ for it in achieving resilient governance.

For the above and other reasons, the State-society gap lies at the heart of the problems faced by the State.

Government that relies on foreign counterparts and foreign investment in natural resources for a major portion of the budget—rather than on domestic taxation—tends to have weaker connections to citizens and domestic social groups.

This adds to the challenge of building national identity. This ‘identity vacuum’ increases the risk that political elites and social groups will capture the State for narrower, self-interested purposes that weaken, rather than strengthen, social cohesion.

Conflict can develop along the lines of ethnic cleavages which can be readily politicized and then militarized into outright ethnic violence. In which light, the challenge facing the current leadership above all others—is how to govern under conditions of ethnic diversity.

When conflicts evolve along ethnic lines, they are readily labelled ‘ethnic conflict’ as if ‘caused’ by ancient hatreds.

However, in reality, it is more often caused by bad governance and by political entrepreneurs.

Poor leadership can result in acts of commission or omission that alienate or disenfranchise geographically distinct communities.

Another bad governance pattern flows from the authoritarian reflex where ‘big men’ operate arbitrary political machines, often behind a thin democratic veneer.

Typically, such leaders scheme to rig elections or to change constitutional term limits—actions seen in recent years in such countries as Rwanda and Uganda.

Critically, where the rule of law is in competition with the rule of men, leaders play a strikingly critical role, for good or ill. Another basic question is, whom to include? Non-official institutions and civil society may have very different ideas from the national Government on this issue, leading to debates about legitimacy.

Government (central and local) is expected to govern and make decisions after consulting relevant stakeholders.

Ideally, the nation will benefit when civil society respects the State’s role (as well as the other way around); rather than one-sided advocacy.

Both sides should strive to create a space for debate in order to legitimize tolerance of multiple views in society.

The imperative for inclusion raises many questions: should the priority be to achieve inclusion of diverse elites, of ethnic and confessional constituencies, of a sample of grass roots opinion leaders?

Should inclusion be an ongoing process or a single event?

For example, is it more effective to negotiate a power-sharing pact among key parties and social groups (as in Kenya) or is there possible merit in a periodic ‘national dialogue’ to address issues that risk triggering conflict? Building an inclusive political system also raises the question of what levels of the society to include and how to assure that local communities as well as groups operating at the national level can get their voices heard.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here