Faculty Scholarship

Document Type

Book Chapter

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Undoubtedly, human rights and the rule of law will continue to remain important in addressing a host of international issues. But, when it comes to development on the African Continent, the need to seek broader solutions has never been more urgent Africa's development challenges are extremely complex as they involve deep historical, geographic, ethnic, social, economic, and legal issues that call for multi-faceted approaches and will continue to defy monolithic solutions. Seizing upon indicators of opportunity, some important international actors, such as the United States, may now be more willing to engage in broader approaches. This chapter first critically evaluates the rule of law in the development of Africa. Next, it offers insights into the complex nature of the African society and why broader approaches now seem necessary.

To confront clearly a continuing specter, Africans largely understand both traditional modernization theory and more recent efforts targeting the rule of law to be targeted at Westernization of Africa. The practical problem is that both modernization theory and rule of law approaches assume a picture of a predominantly urban society under a modem national state that is simply inapplicable to the vast majority of Africans. Our focus differs from traditional modernization and rule of law ideals in three ways. First, modernization theory was premised largely on industrialization and, implicitly, urbanization. Meanwhile, Africa remains predominantly rural, and customary law under traditional authority largely controls in rural areas over modem national law under secular, central government authorities (and this seems unlikely to change through the medium term despite standing rural-urban migration). Second, modernization and perceived rule of law concepts predicated on a strong, liberal state may have worked unintended consequences when laid over the gap between Africa's "modem" urban capitals and still predominantly rural "traditional" societies. Third, modernization's focus on national leadership and tertiary education to the detriment of secondary education (viewed as necessary to national development particularly in Asia) may have unwittingly exacerbated the yawning urban-rural divide. We call for a reinvigorated attention to mostly secondary educational programs in order radically to transform and ultimately sustain mostly rural African communities, while remaining mindful of the imperative of authentic development rooted in contemporary African traditions, sensibilities, and social realities. [excerpt]