African Presence in Western Politics: An Acceptance of Excellence, or Political Correctness?

March 4, 2021

Preamble

The recent interview of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle by Oprah Winfrey stimulated discussions around black presence in western politics, with specific focus on the stereotypical comments and reactions based on the projection of the color of their baby – Archie – by members of the Mountbatten-Windsor royal household. Contributors to this debate have touched on the legacy of exclusion based on colorism, while reemphasizing the need to re-contextualize the presence of Africans in leadership positions in the West. Accordingly, it is important to tease out the implications of the nature and context of ascension of Africans to leadership positions in the West for the aspirations of the African diaspora, as well as those of Africans on the continent, to excellence. This debate formed the thrust of discussions of the inaugural meeting of the Africanist Scholars’ Forum organized by the West African Transitional Justice Centre (WATJCentre) on March 4, 2021.

 

Observations

The forum noted that the rise of far-right extremism in the West had partly been triggered by the increase of African presence in decision-making positions. The emergence of former President Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States, for instance, created a reawakening among certain color-entitled individuals and groups; who suddenly latched on to the narrative of threats of disenfranchisement by immigrants while posing as ‘custodes rei publicae’ (guardians of the republic).

The narrative of disenfranchisement, however, could be objectively framed within the context of the system of governance, rather than of ethnically-induced disenfranchisement. For one, the recent invasion of the US Capitol by a coalition of white supremacist groups seeking to overturn the result of the presidential elections – purportedly in the defence of their electoral rights, laid bare some of the challenges of the practice of representative liberal democratic governance that has become the acquiesced model of governance within global polities today. With economic models founded on aggressively profit-driven capitalist motives, administrative policies on socioeconomic activities have served to accentuate the gaps between the haves and the have-nots.

In spite of the perpetration of a system of elite dominance in economic prosperity, the fate of the rich remains intertwined with those of the disenfranchised poor; especially as both classes experience the negative impacts of societal decay. As it were, the ruptures within democracies, often characterized by violence and insecurity, indicate that the election of wrong leaders into positions of governance undermines the value of democracy as a noble system of governance. For instance, the emergence of a pseudo-nationalistic presidency through fascist rhetoric signals a protective cover for far-right extremist values and an endorsement of their use of violent methods.

The recent exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union came with layers of reasoning that induces the need for a holistic consideration of the challenge of extremist nationalism in the West. The same rhetoric of disappearing livelihoods due to economic disenfranchisement had been alluded to by far-right extremists with the sense of entitlement, mostly through white privilege. However, the Brexit context advances beyond color considerations to a phobia for immigrants whose countries of origin are from the European Union; within an aspiration of resuscitating the empire through ties with the commonwealth.

While the process of immigration is integral to man’s existence, the rise in the number of outflows from the countries of origin, especially in the developing world, remains rooted in the challenge of misrule that has become the aberration of the ideals of democracy. Immigrants have, however, had to face more hostilities in host countries amidst their strive for excellence in their chosen fields. The persistence of hostilities by white supremacists against immigrants who hold positions of power, as well as the attendant aggression against their (Africans) kith and kin, have led to questioning the motive(s) behind their endorsement within western democracies. The context of African presence in western leadership and politics needs to be unpacked as to whether it is based on abilities and achievements, and/or the showcasing of political correctness within a neocolonial agenda.

Recommendations

It is important that societies reevaluate the governance architecture of their countries and revisit the peculiarities of their living experiences, in order to invent or adapt political systems that fit into their realities.

There is need to go beyond media narratives in understanding the motivations and ambitions of nationalist groups to properly categorize them. This is an important step towards developing strategies of engagement to re-orientate far-right extremist groups along the lines of the ethics of nationalism and nation building.

There is need for nation-states to revamp the systemic culture of marginalization based on affiliations of ethnicity, religion, gender, class, age and other such categories that have been used as the bases of exclusive politics. Individuals and groups within societies should be guaranteed equal access to leadership positions with emphasis on competence using same standards.

Africans should be self-assured in expressing their competence and redefine their existence beyond labels of developing / third world. More specifically, home countries should address the challenges of inequality and exclusion to manage excessive rates of economic migration. As progress could be enduring and take some process, there is need for resilience among all stakeholders to ensure sustainability of efforts.

In spite of the hostilities and challenges, African excellence in global polities remain a source of inspiration to aspiring individuals. A system of communal support should thus be integrated to foster the spirit of ‘together we can!’ in fulfilling aspirations to excellence.