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The Humanities Conference 2003

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Power and Fear: Ethnonationalism and Governance in Africa

Julius Adekunle.

This paper examines the misuse of power and the concomitant fear and mistrust in the wake of increasing ethnic nationalism in African politics. Given the multiethnic and multicultural composition of African states, their adjustment to Western system of government, and the prevalence of ethnic politics, conflicts and violence have arisen and complaints of marginalization have become commonplace. Rather than growth, the result has been conflicts, genocide, and underdevelopment. The practice of democracy in Africa should be in accordance with the global concept, but instead of closely following democratic principles, leaders tend to monopolize power and preserve the entitlement to rule within their ethnic group. In global perspective, inclusiveness rather than exclusiveness makes governance thrive. While inclusive forms of government lead to political stability, sustainable peace, and equitable development, ethnonationalism hinders economic growth and creates ample opportunities for corruption. This paper draws examples from countries in Africa where political power has been misused and fear has been created in the people as a result of ethnonationalism since the second half of the twentieth century. This paper is based on primary and secondary sources.


Julius Adekunle  (United States)
Associate Professor
History and Anthropology
Monmouth University

Julius Adekunle is an Associate Professor at Monmouth University, West Long Branch, NJ where he teaches African history, Caribbean history, and Western Civilization. He taught in Nigeria and Canada before taking an appointment in America. He has published several articles and chapters-in-books on African political, economic, and social history.

  • Ethnonationalism
  • Governance
  • Conflicts
  • Democracy
  • Marginalization
  • Ethnic politics
  • Inclusiveness
  • Sustainable peace

(Virtual Presentation, English)