Africa and Political Leadership Essay

Africa and Political Leadership Essay

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Western perception often draws dissimilarities between Africa and the rest of the world, treating it as an exotic and eccentric region. Africanists commonly reinforce this mindset, for in their attempt to analyze and understand the continent they often define it through its idiosyncrasies and abnormalities, as opposed to examining its similarities to societies history is better acquainted with. While Africa is indeed a unique place in many aspects, the striking similarities it bears to the rest of the world are often overlooked or understated. Nothing more clearly illustrates this fact than the perception of African leaders in Traditional States. Most would point to elements such as their mystical reputations, unconventional marital practices, and barbaric methods of discipline when describing these rulers, and overlook the qualities that resemble that of any ruler: their struggle to promote loyalty, inspire faith in their subjects, and establish their own legitimacy. Among the many African Traditional States, the tactics used to achieve these goals vary considerably. Shaka, a famous leader of Zululand, and the Manikongo, kings of the Kongo are two rulers whose systems of government epitomize African diversity, while simultaneously exemplifying the necessity of loyalty. Shaka secured absolute allegiance through military emphasis and political centralization to the point of despotism, while the Manikongo maintained their power through economic monopolies, political hierarchies, and mystical standing. Yet ultimately they both utilized these tactics to secure universal qualities of any leader: loyalty, respect, power, and legitimacy.
Shaka created revolutionary military tactics to develop a strong and faithful army that allowed him t...


... middle of paper ...


...tal and societal conditions. However each ultimately delivered loyalty, respect, and legitimization to its sovereign, exactly like any other system of rule throughout the world. Therefore in this case, Africa should not be treated as an abnormality, but instead as an indication of the universal truth that humanity demands respect for its leaders, who in turn require loyalty and legitimacy to effectively rule. And perhaps this example will lend pause to future Africanists by positing that the striking differences between Africa and the rest of the world may be more superficial than they appear.



Works Cited

Hilton, Anne. The Kingdom of Kongo. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985. Print.

Omer-Cooper, J.D., “The Zulu Aftermath.” Problems in African History: The Precolonial Centuries. 3rd ed. Ed. Robert O. Collins. Princeton: Markus Wiener Publishers, 2005. 103-108. Print.

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