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On the impact of the occult on state legitimacy and democratization aid in Africa

Kohnert, Dirk (1997): On the impact of the occult on state legitimacy and democratization aid in Africa. Published in: Sociologus , Vol. 47, No. 1 (1 September 1997): pp. 1-27.

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Abstract

Among politicians and development experts in Africa alike there is a growing awareness of the ever decreasing importance of the belief in magic and witchcraft on political decision-making since pre-colonial times. Demonstrating control over occult forces as a means of strengthening their legitimacy had been the prerogative of traditional rulers and their marabouts for over a century. Today, it is effective for the modern political elite and the modern state as well. A growing number of African states have officially recognized the existence of witchcraft and magic, and they are adapting the colonial law imposed accordingly. In addition to magico-religious belief systems, represented by vodun or independent African churches (for example, the Kimbanguists), benefiting from controlling witchcraft, are promoted by African political leaders to strengthen the legitimacy of both the class state policy and governance. At the same time, development experts have tried to take into account the cultural dimension of socio-cultural development. They called for an “endogenization” of development aid. This call was justified, because "endogenization" should be seen as a prerequisite for sustainable aid. However, under certain conditions it can be ambiguous and dangerous too. Regarding the consideration of occult belief it can lead to the promotion of the illegitimate state and the violation of basic human rights.

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