Local Governance Key to African Renewal

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By Engel Nawatiseb WINDHOEK A JOINT initiative of the African Union Commission and the Alliance for the Reformation of Governance in Africa has formulated action proposals to promote good governance in Africa following a recently concluded workshop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia two weeks ago. It proposed the enhancement of the project of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance by mobilizing potential actors at local level in order to promote ownership and facilitate the emergence of the local dimension of good governance. A councillor of the City of Windhoek, Gerson Kamatuka, who represented the Association of Local Authorities in Namibia (ALAN), stressed that the project also proposed the representation of local government associations in the African Union (AU) through an appropriate mechanism. It advocated the creation of a dialogue and reflection about the links between governance and the private sector including the informal economy. ALAN management has previously identified the need for Government to give legal recognition to the association, which is widely recognized as the local authority council’s representative in Africa. Government has not pronounced itself officially on the request for legal recognition by the association but it allegedly hinted that negotiations on future collaboration could commence early next year (2006). Kamatuka said the workshop proposed the creation and reinforcement links between local and regional peace initiatives in order to give impetus to and strengthen the Council for Peace and Security and to create an Inter-African research group on modes of governance in Africa. ” Governance is at the heart of the difficulties that affect African societies and is a major source of prevailing crisis situations, including poverty levels as well as conflicts,” stated Kamatuka. He noted that Africa needs to collectively conceive and put in place a system of governance that different actors can recognize as aimed at responding to their needs and aspirations. “The local level should be a key strategic level to renew governance in Africa. Building on effective decentralization, the local level should provide a suitable environment and apply new ways to promote local development. The local level is also key for improving the living conditions of the people and for the prevention and resolution of conflicts.” Kamatuka pointed out that in recognition of this, there is a need to integrate local governance in the draft charter on democracy, governance and elections. He added that at national level, states should be based on the principles of respect for human rights and democracy as well as on effective public action as those represent the pillars of legitimacy of government. The workshop tried to identify the limits and structural bottlenecks for governance in Africa and to agree upon priority actions needed to improve governance particularly in the framework of the AU governance agendas and ongoing programmes. The governance crisis in Africa is reportedly a multifaceted crisis of the society, which goes beyond the State to affect the relationship between individuals, households (the family) and the public, and weakening every one of them. The issues at stake are reported to be the forms of representation, structures, processes, institutions within which the contemporary African societies decide the management modalities of power, distribution of public resources and intervention between the various individual and group interests. Current debates and proposals on the fate of the African continent in the world focus on the marginalization processes emanating from the current methods of integration in the global economy as well as the need to put an end to it. Africa is said to be able to make her voice heard in the present era of economic globalization by designing its own project. Legitimate governance is defined as the art of managing public affairs and exercising power for the common good of all with the support and under the control of those on whom these powers are exercised.