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Power and Society in Postcolonial States of Central Africa. A lecture by Alexander Panov

Public program Congo Art Works: Popular Painting
31 May 2017


African history expert Alexander Panov will talk about the main features that distinguish the political regimes of the Central African subregion. He will outline a portrait of the elites, the structure and evolution of their ideologies, the language of their communication with society and the intelligentsia, the forms the authorities choose for self-representation, and the mechanisms of power shift, as well as the role and status of opposition within the political landscape.

Central Africa is considered the most deprived subregion of the African continent. Dubbed “a forest civilization” by the Belgian anthropologist Jaque Maquet, this part of Africa is infamous for its paradigmatically corrupted kleptocratic regimes, while the scale of social problems in the countries it embraces is, tragically enough, directly proportional to the richness of its natural resources. It can be easily defined as an authoritarian reservation, since it is the region where the most odious and bloodstained governors of all the African dictators have ruled: the missionary of “Zaire Authenticity” Mobuto Sese Seko, the eccentric Central African emperor Jean-Bédel Bokassa, Francisco Macías Nguema— the first President of Equatorial Guinea who proclaimed himself a living god, the Pinochet of Africa, Hissène Habré, indicted for crimes against humanity… In the 1990s, the majority of African states, slowly and reluctantly, but inevitably took the course of liberalization. In Central Africa, however, despite some minor political alleviations, the formal establishment of a multi-party system and regular elections did not undermine the fundamentals of its autocratic political culture. Cases of power shifting because of elections remain extremely rare, while the overall term of reign of four out of the eight Central African heads of state has reached 133 years, as of today.


Alexander Panov is an historian specializing in African Studies, junior research associate at the Center for History and Cultural Anthropology at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for African Studies, and senior editor at the Russian News Agency TASS.

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