Turkish Journal of International Relations

Turkish Journal of International Relations

Volume 4, Numbers 1 and 2, Spring-Summer 2005


Control Freakery and the Moral Hazard Problem in Sub Saharan Africa
By M.H. Khalil Timamy



One of the most salient characteristics defining post-independent African regimes has been the fantastic degree of control the vampiristic government leaders have exerted on their political and economic systems. A vampire state is a regime underpinned by personalization of authority and the private use of national assets. It is a system characterized by patronage, ethnic exclusiveness, and discriminatory clientilism designed to secure political loyalty and unequivocal support from special interest groups.

Since the early days of independence, Africa witnessed the rapid ascendance of small but powerful interest groups whose methods of governance were marked by corruption, nepotism, and dictatorship. These particular features drove many countries in the continent to experience bloody upheavals and/or severe economic impoverishment generally. Until the early 1990s, most governments in the Sub Saharan region were oneparty dictatorships or military oligarchies that exercised absolute and hegemonic control over domestic processes in all their diversity. Civilian regimes did display democratic trappings of governance yet, in essence, the states were steeped in totalitarianism. In many respects, the Cold War politics between the then superpowers nurtured conditions that tended to foster and legitimize the breadth of ubiquitous control, though one should hasten to add that the extensive scale and depth of control freakery also stemmed from the desire of dictatorial leaders to guarantee their own self-preservation. In short, Sub Saharan African states endured at least four decades of totalitarian dictatorship as leaders of these regimes served as control freaks.

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