SOCIETY is comprised of systems and structures to which the individual adheres to or is expected to adhere to. These systems serve the purpose of ensuring the continuance and sustenance of society whilst ensuring that the individual lives in peace and that the community and the society at large are both progressive and productive. These systems are made up of service providers, lawmakers, the protectors and enforcers of such laws and educational systems, etc.
The State comprises all those permanent institutions that ensure the continuance of society and the wellbeing of every individual within a clearly defined territorial boundary. It is a political association that has sovereign jurisdiction within a defined territorial boundary i.e. a country, and exercises authority through a number of permanent public institutions. The mentioned institutions are public in the sense that they serve the purpose of collectively organizing communal life and serving the population. What makes the State all encompassing is the fact that it is said to be everywhere. It inhabits all those permanent institutions of government like the courts of law, the police, the military, the banking systems and numerous other service providers. What the State then does is that it employs individuals that shall ensure its upkeep and continuance; it places these individuals in offices and establishes a set of rules and regulations that the said individuals are expected to follow to ensure that it (the State) is run effectively.
Another distinguishing characteristic of the State is the fact that it claims a monopoly over the use of violence. By this we mean that the State consists of individuals that have been given the legitimate right to use violence to the benefit of the State and the citizens. In this sense the State is thus the army and the police, and only they have the right to use the said violence. But why do people give the State power and why are they willing to obey it even if it may come into conflict with them at times, why do you obey police officers and acknowledge the power that they have to arrest and reprimand you? Following Thomas Hobbes’ logic, people fear the chaos of an unsupervised society, a society where any man can do as they please even if it means hurting others, and because of this fear, citizens willingly give up some of their rights and pay (taxes) to uphold a system that invigilates society and ensures the protection of their other rights. The State is thus an overarching monster that drives society and maintains social order, it is everywhere and includes almost everything; individuals are employed by it and/or contribute to its upkeeping. Furthermore the State needs inputs to function, be it manual labour, monetary, or epistemological, it therefore possesses the legitimate right to exploit the resources found in its territory, whether natural or human, it exploits and employs them to its benefit. Hence the State belongs to the population.
But because the entire population cannot occupy these decision-making offices and participate in the daily decision-making processes that orchestrate the actions of this monster, in a democratic setting, the population thus choose for themselves a group of people that they feel have their best interests at heart and shall therefore repre-sent them; utilize their resources; create avenues for their manual labour and ensure massive wellbeing on their behalf, this same group of people are better known as the government. The political national go-vernment in a democratic setting is a group of elected individuals that serve the purpose of managing the state apparatus, maintaining rule and order, putting the natural resources to use, making and enforcing collective decisions and ensuring that their populace to which they are accountable are protected and have their basic needs met. The government is thus the servant of the people and its main duty is to operate a system on behalf of the masses. Picture the following: people need to be transported from point A to B, they band together and pool their resources and acquire a car. They are too many and don’t possess all the necessary skills to operate the vehicle so they choose a qualified person to be their driver. In the aforementioned scenario, the car symbolizes the State, the people, the populations and the driver the government. As is clear, the car belongs to the people and not the driver, if at any point the people are no longer happy with the driver, they have the legitimate right to replace him.
In reality the relationship between state, government and population is much more complex yet shares the same crux. Like the general population, government officials are remunerated by the State for their service but unlike the populations they are servants to it and not owners of it. It is here where African nations experience a problem, whereby government officials privatize the State in the sense that they use it to their own benefit and not to that of the population at large. Once put in charge of running the State apparatus, many African governments are renowned for abusing the power vested in them by the population one way or another. A case study worth analyzing to shed light on this dilemma would be that of Angola. Angola is a country that obtained its independence from Portugal in 1975, whereafter the MPLA proclaimed itself as the official representative of the people.
For the next four years Angola came to be governed by MPLA under the presidency of Agostinho Neto who passed away in 1979, where’ after José Eduardo Dos Santos took over and has been the president ever since. Angola is rich in a variety of natural resources, ranging firstly from petroleum which makes Angola, as of 2001, the second largest oil-producing country in sub-Saharan Africa pumping 900 000 barrels a day, secondly from diamonds of which Angola is the fourth most important source in the world (Hodges, 2001), hydroelectric resources and plentiful land amongst many others. But in the light of all this, research shows us the fact that there are great disparities between economic potential and the state of the populace.
So much so that a study carried out by the World Bank in 1999 showed that as late as 1997, Angola had an annual oil revenue of US$4 500 000 000, whilst having a GNP per capita of US$195. Many reasons can be brought forth as culpable for this imbalance, amongst them - the colonial legacy, the civil war, the mismanagement of the State apparatus, the lack of transparency and corruption. In the words of Tony Hodges, the aforementioned views “are consistent with a body of evidence emerging from comparative studies on the relationship between resources, governance, conflict and development” (Hodges, 2001). Furthermore, the fact that Angola’s economy was dependent on specialized sectors of the economy namely diamonds and petroleum exploration, certain scholars have argued that such a phenomenon usually leads a country to economic demise. As explained by Karl (1997) “commodity dependence shapes social classes, the nature of regimes and the very institutions of the State. The fact that the revenues from mineral exploitation accrue mainly to the state does, indeed, suggest that the problems of mineral rich developing countries are closely related to the relationship between the State and society, including the competition and conflict that may arise to gain or maintain access to these revenues through control of the State.
In other words, since the revenues that drive the economy are derived from specialized sectors of the economy, revenues that are channeled and accumulated directly into the state, logic follows that whoever is in control of the State apparatus shall be in control of an abundant source of wealth. When this is assimilated with corruption, you end up with a faulty system, this being a notable characteristic of several oil-exporting countries like Nigeria, Venezuela, Angola, etc. Another contributing factor for the disparities between economic wealth and a low popular standard of living would be the nature of the Portuguese colonial legacy. Here focus is on the failure of the Portuguese colonial government in preparing Angola for a stable transition to independence. The main colonial powers in Africa followed a trend whereby once local rebellions had escalated and the inevitable reality of independence had dawned upon them, they began preparing their colonial territories to be politically self-sufficient in their absence, as was the case with Britain and France in the mid- 1950s. The Portuguese Salazarist regime in Lisbon on the other hand regarded their African provinces as ‘integral parts of Portugal’.
The Salazarist regime was a renowned authoritarian political system both at home and abroad in their colonies. Therefore, there was no democratic tradition in the African colonies before its disintegration in 1974-1975. Thus what ensued in all its colonies (Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau) after its sudden disintegration was that independence followed an armed liberation struggle. The phenomenon of this improper colonial legacy was a further blow to the Angolan State. After the outbreak of the civil war in 1975, when the Portuguese left, they left en mass, numbering around 340 000, which is estimated at around 5 percent of the Angolan population at the time. Because of the failure of the colonial regime to invest in African education, this exodus meant the loss of the vast majority of the countries qualified personnel. Hence the State’s capacity to sustain itself slowly decayed. This along with the outbreak of civil war retracted Angola into a great economic crisis from which it has not yet entirely recovered. With that being said, in the last decade a certain level of positive transition has been felt. Since the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between UNITA and the Angolan Government on April 4th 2002 relating to the Lusaka Protocol, the country has passed from a state of war into a state of peace, where Angolans no longer have to fear for their lives. The government thereafter began with various national reconstruction programmes making linkages throughout the country by building national roads. This marked the entrance of the country into a new era that after 27 years of war it had never witnessed. This transition brought about the free circulation of people and goods but above all it brought about the silencing of arms. But can we say that peace merely consists of the free circulation of people and goods and the silencing of arms? No! Peace too should be the peace of liberty, peace of justice and peace of wellbeing.
As expressed on the 7th of April in Folha 8, a national Angolan newspaper, during the time of war it was evident that the State could not provide for its real functions of guaranteeing a credible social state to all its citizens due to the fact that all its efforts were channeled into buying the materiels of war, but ten (10) years after that, one may argue that it no longer has a credible reason for not being able to guarantee a number of social rights such as the the right to dignified accommodation, quality education, health for all, employment and a salary compatible to the cost of living, technological development, liberty of manifestation, association, expression and freedom of the press, all of which are stipulated as rights in the same constitution that the regime approved.
Therefore it should be argued that peace should also include:
Development and improvement of life for all Angolans and not have it be exclusive to some.
Fair and equitable distribution of public funds.
Fair distribution of economic and social gains for all and not merely for one political party, a group of people or a ‘leader’.
Equal avenues of opportunities for all, and not corruption, nepotism and exclusion based on trivial attributes such as race, ethnicity, region of origin etc.
Transparency in the allocation of public funds, expenses and political elections.
Freedom to express, manifest, contest, associate and freedom of press and the media.
Once and only once this has been achieved may the current regime in Angola be praised. I think that it is of utmost importance that we start questioning the system which we willingly though at times thoughtlessly obey and collaborate in its upkeep; a system whose faults we now accept as a norm due to constant exposure to it. We should never be ashamed or reluctant to claim and demand what is rightfully ours, and that is the right to have a share in the fruits of a State in which we were born. Arise Africans, arise!