Whenever I look at the charismatic churches in Ghana and Africa I am reminded of the “modernisation theories” I read long ago. The most poignant were by Samuel P. Huntington.
He theorised, and based on theory predicted, that the military in Africa would be forced to convert their ‘latent power’ into ‘overt power’ (I’m summarising crudely in my own phrases).
The reason for this inevitability was the fundamental nature of military culture itself. Any kind of military develops organisational cohesion. If it grows in size and resources the cohesion becomes ‘heft’.
In an environment where little is organised and most things are under threat of erosion, the military becomes ‘exceptional’ and their ‘manifest destiny’ as natural ‘dominants’ become so obvious as to become self-actualising and self-fulfilling. In short, the military ‘couldn’t help themselves’ but take power.
Half a century later, I look at an Africa where political parties, after the brief surge in capacity following democratic liberalisation, have begun to stagnate. In the more advanced states in Africa, like Kenya and Nigeria, we already see a ‘post-partisan’ big-boy politics, where the parties are merely instruments for trade-offs among personality blocs grounded on very loose and non-ideological ethnic coalitions.
The trade unions are barely ghosts of their former power. Outside South Africa, and even there COSATU is in the sunset of its career, the unions no longer represent a growing force for ‘counter-positional’ politics.
The academic movements have long dissolved into a vat of permanent nostalgia.
Civil society has professionalised and shrank on purpose, into compact organisational units that use branding rather than mobilisation to project relevance.
Only the Churches continue to maintain cohesion as they grow in size and resources. Only the churches have a rendezvous with destiny.
Only the Churches have the luxury of courting the overreach that finally shackled the African military into its current state of ordinariness.
Because only the Churches have reached a certain ‘peak’ from which point latent power has to burst forth into overt power or the container itself will be consumed from within.