From the Palaver Tree to the State House: A Reflection on the Tension between Dialogue and Governance in Africa
AbstractThis paper proposes a reflective approach to exploring the complex relationship between dialogue and governance. It first recalls the different dimensions of dialogue and its centrality in governance and discusses the fundamental tension between these two practices that constantly challenges power dynamics in decision making. Through analyses of how different governance systems tend to domesticate, shape, and regulate dialogue in responding to this tension, this paper further identifies three types of dialogue that come into play in three different contexts: (1) ‘open-ended’ dialogue practised by the African endogenous systems of governance, (2) ‘locked dialogue’ imposed by the African Nation States, and (3) ‘biased dialogue’ promoted by international and transnational organisations. Such analyses are particularly meaningful in enabling us to draw lessons from these three cases of interaction between dialogue and governance. Ultimately, this paper seeks to reconcile the requirements for multidimensional and relational practices of dialogue with the rational processes of governance in an increasingly globalised and interdependent world.
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