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Title: Comparing and Contrasting De Marias article, Does African Corruption Exists, with Metzs African Moral Theory and Public Governance

Lecture: Dr Murove F M

1. De Marias Article : Summary

In this article, De Maria tries to unravel the mystery underlying the lacuna between the formal (and most often international) condemnation of the so-called African act of corruption and their frequency, and outright cultural legitimacy amongst ordinary people. In other words, he is asking: why is the west so bordered about what is acceptable among the ordinary people? He tries to show that the West peculiar intervention on issues relating to corruption in Africa is simply but a third phase of colonialism. Certain belabouring of o the problem corruption in Africa is simply the wests mechanism purported at keeping Africa continuously under control. Such understanding of corruption in Africa is based on events such: as rigged election, raid of state treasuries, officers propensity towards bribes, among others. He asks: who defines these as corruptions? Corruption, defined in terms of the exploitation of private benefits under the guise of public duty, is sociologically naive, and is to be rejected for its western sympathies (:362).

Meanwhile, it must be understood from the onset that De Maria is not denying the reality of corruption either in the world or in Africa. What he questions are basically what acts constitutes corruption especially in Africa? Is it what the West has tagged as corruption or something else? He is of the opinion that any exploration of corruption divorced from the cultural context misses the point, while suggesting that a proper understanding of corruption in Africa is imperative to finding a lasting and indigenous solution to the issue. Hence, to understand corruption from an African perspective, it is required that the African culture be taking into serious consideration. By so doing, we might discover some ulterior motives behind some of the wests anticorruption movement across Africa, and the possible reason(s) behind their obvious failure.

Taking into consideration the import of culture in the whole understanding of corruption, De Maria draws on the difference between the wests understanding of corruption and Africans. Corruption viewed from the western perspective is basically a polarization between the public and private sector but such viewpoint does not seem to correspond to the Africans. He explains this ethnographical dichotomy in the understanding of corruption based on the work of three writers, namely, Eke, De Sardan, and Smith, whose prolific works showed vividly how the idea of corruption could be wrongly imposed on Africans. According to Eke, the public-private divide is not applicable in Africa society. Rather, in Africa there is the private realm, which is differentially associated with two public moral universes namely, the primordial public (as associated with kinship) and the civic public (associated with colonial structural administrations) (:365). Eke contends that unlike the primordial public, which entails a life characterised by obligations to the

larger group and concern for its welfare and continuity, the latter has no moral linkage with the private realm. This makes political actors operate in two different realms. Obligations to the primordial are not exchangeable with rights as in the case of western understanding of obligations. The western conception of rights presupposes that one is obliged to acts incorruptly especially with regard to the use of public resources.

However, the Africans sustain their primordial public through the gains acquired from involvement with the civil public. Hence the unwritten law is that it is legitimate to rob the civic public as long as the purpose is to strengthen the primordial public (:366). The African person is morally obliged towards the family and neighbourhood rather than to the governments. This dialectic conflict between the civil and primordial realms that characterised the modern African politics undermines the western notion of corruption (:367). In the same vein, Smith highlights the central place of the primordial realm as opposed to the civic realm among the Ibos of Nigeria. Allegiance to the family even at the expense of the government is not considered as corruption. Hence, what may appear as corruption to the western eye may be seen as moral behaviour from local perspectives? De Sardan also shares the view of Smith by arguing that there is no shared and internalised conception of the public domain due to the traumatizing experiences of colonialism, the absence of public property at the village level, and inter-tribal rivalries. In nutshell, the three authors converge on the claim that what the West may tag as corruption in Africa may not be seen as such by Africans person because of the cultural promotion of loyalty to the family and relations, as well as because of the division created by colonialism.

Metz article: Summary The crux of Metz articles is the debate around concepts such as nepotism, preferential hiring and other partiality, from an African perspective. In his article, Metz gives a description of the guiding ethical principles informed by the sub-Saharan values and how they apply to states allocation of resources to its citizen. He notes certain factors that qualify the attitude of high-ranking officials towards the use of public resources as being considered unjust or corrupt, pointing out the divergent positions of the impartialists and partialist on matters of preferential treatment in African states. While for the former, government officials must act for the sake of the public as a whole, the latter contends that civil servants may occasionally act for the sake of certain individuals (:335).

Metz underscores what qualifies a moral theory as African, claiming that it ought to be informed by many of the firm ethical beliefs of a variety of sub-Saharan peoples, though such may not be exclusive to African. Metz claims that an African moral theory with regards the topic of discussion, namely impartialism and partilism, judges as act as right insofar it is a way of prizing harmony with others, that is, relationships in which people share a way of life and are in solidarity with one another (:339). While an African moral theory concerning public governance may find certain correlations in western moral theories, they are certain distinctive features that differentiate such theory from western theories such as Kantianism and utilitarianism, namely the notion of relationship and harmony as embedded in Ubuntu. For the African, it is not merely duty to self and duties towards others nor is it simply the maximization of good that brings about morality; rather, it is all the above in the context of interaction with others, such that it promotes harmonious relationship (:340).

Arguing from the standpoint of African Moral theory, as opposed to western Moral theory, the article tries to provide a new unified explanation as to why sub-Saharan values reject the extremes of both impartiality and partiality, but advocates for moderate partialism. Metz article, while strongly claiming that African moral theory condemns strong partialism, contends that an ethics that values close relationship forbids the preferential treatment of those closest. Fundamentally, Metz avers that African moral theory forbids strong partiality in a state on grounds that such promotes substantial discord rather than harmony.

Meanwhile, Metz further underscores a defence of affirmative action from an African perspective, arguing that certain circumstances justify partiality for two reasons. The first is on the grounds of gratitude and the expression of remorse and reconciliation with those who have being wronged. The second is that such moderated partiality does not promote discord in society, which overall promotes the African vision of harmony in society. He highlights the difference between African and westerns notion of preferential hiring of veteran.

Comparative Analysis Answering De Marias question: does African corruption exist? could prove very difficult given the cultural dimension to the a proper understanding of corruption itself. As the author rightly notes, divergent interpretations of the term corruption abounds. However, the point of convergence for these very many different western understanding of corruption seems to hinge on

what De Maria refers to as the private- public dualism. This implies the western understanding of corruption, for example, as the diversion of public resources to non-public purposes Werlin (1973:73). According to De Maria, such conception of corruption becomes oblivious to the African understanding owing to the fact that there is no such private-public dichotomy. Where such exists, the public realm is considered as amoral and as such, no act under this realm attracts any ethical verdict. Therefore, no corruption exists at that level. Yet this is the level from which Africans actions have been judged by the universalized notion of corruption in the West. Given the plausibility of the above argument especially in relation to how Africans actually behave as opposed to how they are supposed to behave (if there is such a how), I do agree with De Maria, as well as with Metz, who also acknowledges cultural dimension in the interpretation of corruption, that there is a difficulty is judging certain acts among Africans as corruption. Corruption is likely to be misunderstood and misinterpreted outside a cultural context De Maria maintains that the western dominated interpretation of corruption is being determined, to a great extent, by the canonical power of individualism, as it pertains to matters such as personal conflict of interest and extracting private benefit from public office(:362). Such understanding takes no cognisance of other salient factors such as family, village, history and ethnicity. The Wests generalization of such parochial interpretation of corruption is a brash deception, according to De Maria (:363), since it fails to recognise the irrefutable reality of cultural variance. Corruption does not necessarily have universally agreed definition. De Maria also highlights that corruption is disputably inimical to economic growth. This is evident from the fact some countries in the developed world with high rate of corruption recorded a higher growth rate than the countries with lower corruption rate in both the developed and the developing world according to the 2004 World Bank, Transparency International, facts book (:363-4). One wonders why there is such a difference given the link between economic growth and corruption. One common feature in both articles is the centrality of relationship in African moral theory and how it is understood vis--vis corruption and the whole notion of nepotism and preferential hiring. While the two authors agree that Africans value relationship even when it comes to the use of public resources, they disagree on how far such values affect the appropriation of public resources. Metz for his part underscores the importance of moderating the interference of relationship with regards the use of public resources by civil servant in order to promote the good of all. De Maria, however, seems to be quite general and descriptive in his position vis--vis relationship. It must be noted that while, Metz is condemning the notion of strong partiality, and he does recognize certain exceptions. For instance he argues that one may and should save the life of ones child should it be necessary to choose between rescuing ones child and a stranger

I found De Marias argument lacking in substance apropos what should be properly considered as corruption as understood from an African perspective. De Maria does not give us concrete example(s) as to what constitutes corruption in Africa at the primordial realm, if the commonly noted acts of corruption lack adequate representation in the African context. Which unethical behaviour (s) could be termed as corruption in the African context? If what could be commonly termed as nepotism in Smiths narrative of the Ibos is not corruption, then there is need to outline what is corruption in Africa. A salient contribution of this article however, is that it challenges researchers to delve deeply into a proper understanding of corruption in African context capable of finding its root cause and right solutions. As Dele Olowu (1993: 227), an expert in public administration in Africa, rightly observes one of the reasons why governmental corruption has grown to be pervasive in Africa today is primarily because much efforts has been spent on trying to remedy the problem rather than understanding it. What is deducible from such observation is the undeniable fact that the phenomenon, corruption, exist in Africa, which apparently seems neglected by this article. But it appears that only Metz quite strong substantiate on corruption in Africa as rooted in the whole partiality phenomenon. Metz article emphasizes the importance of moderate partiality, while condemning extreme impartiality or extreme partiality, claiming that these run athwart with African Moral stands. De Maria on the other hand is quite general and vague, providing no concrete explanation of any particular act considered as corruption in Africa. He generally tries to justify the understanding of partiality and how it is misjudged as corruption from the lenses of western moral theories. Meanwhile, I also do agree with the De Marias claims that the anticorruption crusades of the West, while they may not be considered as unnecessary or evil, have somewhat been designed to further the political and economic self interest of the Western world in Africa. This is not to say corruption ought not be fought against where it exists. Rather it is to show that the unprecedented clamour of the West to eradicate something that is not necessarily peculiar to Africa, namely corruption in Africa, is arguably not without any ulterior motivations. Little wonder the so-called problem of corruption in Africa, rather than decreasing as result of the foreign interventions, has being on the increase for decades in many African countries. As the author rightly pointed out, unless the deep factors of African cultural life is put into consideration by any Western solution to African corruption, the latters anticorruption campaign, for all its worth, is bound to fail. And to do this, the question: does African corruption exist? ought to be answered as doing so is tantamount to finding what African corruption is and finding its root cause which are all very vital to cubing to this menace where it exists. According to De Maria, the Wests anticorruption campaign is only a disguise of its expansionist economic interest in Africa because they are simply saying corruption is not good for the (First

World) trade (:364). We could ask: are some of the Western anticorruption movements solely geared towards political and economical self interest? The answer to the question, the author believes, is vital to answering the main question: does African corruption exists? And if it does, then a better indigenous solution to the problem of corruption in Africa is discernable. Metz seems to have answered this question by highlighting the problem of nepotism in Africa by his advocacy for moderated partiality. The condemnation of strong partiality presupposes that there is such at thing as corruption in Africa, which consequently means that western anticorruption campaign in Africa is not necessarily self interested or out of place.

Bibliography De Maria, W 2009. Does African Corruption Exists? in Murove M (ed) African Ethics: An Anthology of Comparative and Applied Ethics. Pietermaritzburg: University of Kwa-Zulu Natal Press. Metz, T 2009. African Moral Theory and Public Governance: Nepotism, Preferential Hiring and Other Partiality. in Murove M (ed) African Ethics: An Anthology of Comparative and Applied Ethics. Pietermaritzburg: University of Kwa-Zulu Natal Press. Olowu, D. (1993). Ethical violations in Nigerias public services: Patterns, explanations and remedies. In S. Rasheed, & D. Olowu (Eds.), Ethics accountability in African public services. Nairobi: African Association for Public Administration and Management. Werlin, H. H. (1973). The Consequences of corruption: The Ghanaian Experience. Political Science Quarterly, 88(1), 7185. Accessed on 13th March 2012