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State reconstruction in Africa: the relevance of Claude Ake's political thought



    1. Research Fellow at the Centre for Humanities Research, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town.
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    • This article was originally written between September and November 2008, during which the author was a guest researcher at the Nordic Africa Institute, Uppsala, Sweden. He would like to thank the Nordic Africa Institute for organizing a seminar at the Department of History and Classical Studies at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway, in November 2008, at which the draft article was discussed. He is grateful to Adigun A. B. Agbaje, Cyril I. Obi, John K. Osei-Tutu, Partha Chatterjee and the anonymous reviewers for their painstaking and thoughtful comments on earlier versions of this article.


Studies on post-conflict reconstruction in Africa have glossed over the need for state transformation as a prerequisite for sustainable peacebuilding in post-conflict societies. This article fills this gap and discusses the relevance of Claude Ake's political thought for state reconstruction in post-conflict Africa. It underscores the need for the autochthonous transformation of the state as a central component of peacebuilding and post-conflict transition in the continent as Ake had suggested. Drawing on Sierra Leone, it theorizes Ake's works on the state in Africa against the backdrop of externally driven state reconstruction projects hinged on hegemonic discourses of ‘nation-building’ in post-conflict situations. It presents Ake's corpus as a basis for critiquing ongoing state rehabilitation attempts and urges a return to endogenous initiatives of rebuilding the state from below as a condition for achieving a sustainable democratic reconstruction of the state in post-conflict Africa.