‘Move On to the Sovereignty of the People’

Posted on 11 February 2011 by admin

Halifa Sallah. Credit: courtesy of Freedom Newspaper.

Ebrima Sillah interviews HALIFA SALLAH, researcher and sociologist

DAKAR, Feb 11 (TerraViva) – The final two days of the World Social Forum are devoted to working out shared positions on a range of issues. Academics taking part in a parallel forum organised by the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, have been discussing the nature of social movements, liberation and how to achieve “the sovereignty of the people”.
Noted Gambian sociologist Halifa Sallah spoke to Ebrima Sillah. Excerpts of the interview follow.

Q: What have the academics at the CODESRIA event been discussing?

A:  Africa must recognise that we have gone through one phase, and maybe we can help the world to conceptualise the other phase.

The first phase we went through is to create nations that are independent, that have a right to self-determination and independence. There was a democratic struggle to open the base for the public to intervene in participating in creating republics.

What we need to move on to is the second phase of the sovereignty of the people. From the sovereignty of nations to the sovereignty of the people, which will require the people themselves to be conscious that they are the depository of power, they are, they contain the sovereign will of nations. And therefore their civil, economic, political, social and cultural rights must be embedded in them, inviolable.

They must be conscious of how to transform that into policies, into programmes, into institutions, into instruments and various personalities – whether in academia or in the political terrain – must be able to enunciate what is necessary at the policy level, at the programme level to address people’s aspirations.

So African social movements must be conscious of this. We are not just copying, but we must see that our reality demands that we move to the second phase of national liberation, and that is the state that many parts of the world are in.

You will find economic achievement in China, but if you look at the civil, political, cultural situation, you will still have some big questions to address. And if you look at the Western world, there are still some economic questions, there are still some civil questions, there are still some issues of politics to address.

Q: What role for social movements in addressing these?

A: First, we must redefine what we mean by social movement. Unless we know what these are, we cannot proceed to determine what they should do.

There are perhaps three categories of social movements.

First you have fringe movements, where you have people who are often characterised as fundamentalists – Muslim, Christian, Jewish, whatever – coming from a religious base, and there are also ethnic fundamentalists of one sort or another.

These are people who by virtue of some grievances, group together and create a social movement, sometimes even a radical social movement and engage in militancy.

But if you were to ask them what ideas they have for solving the problems of a particular country or a particular  region, or the world, they would not be able to enunciate a concrete programme.

Then there are social movements for social reform, where systems have tried to subsist by ensuring they create a space for them, and those social movements become pressure groups. They can be NGOs, etc in given countries where they try to impact on government certain policies, so that those policies will serve the community as a whole.

And then are social movements for social transformation, the changing of the state. Those who feel that the state is no longer serving and no matter what pressure you bring to bear, the state can never deliver, either to eradicate poverty, or deliver to eradicate injustice. [For these social movements], there is need for social transformation.

Therefore it is necessary that we identify when [transformation] is needed, when reform is needed, and how to contain the fringe social movement so that there is more social inclusion.

Q: How does this kind of analysis address the core issues: of access to healthcare, access to education, access to clean drinking water and all other things that are of concern to the majority of people?

A: Clearly that was the emphasis is. That now the social movements must be concerned with social transformation, the transformation that will address the civil, political, economic, social and cultural needs of people. It must be global. It cannot be sectoral.



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