P078 – Legacies of the past and exigencies of the present in opposition mobilisation
10 July, 14:00 – 15:30

Pearce Justin / University of Cambridge


Opposition parties and civic groupings articulate their identities in the language of demands and proposals related to contemporary needs: for social justice, for more effective representation in politics, for better or more equitable access to state resources. Yet this public articulation of organisational identity is often at odds with a longer history of political mobilisation. Political and civic groups may reflect the organisational heritage of antecedents that were constituted in earlier times, when political needs were different from the present. Patterns of organisation may reflect social cleavages that date back generations and which reveal alignments different from the distribution of ideologies and interests in the present. Organisations have a history, and this history matters to how they are perceived. Depending on contingencies, the past may be a resource that can be exploited or rearticulated to best advantage. Alternatively, actors may find it expedient to obscure their past beneath demands for the present and promises for the future. This panel examines the interplay between memories and narratives of the past, and the demands of the present, in determining the language and repertoires of action of political or civic actors.

Heranças do passado e exigências do presente na mobilização da oposição
Os partidos da oposição e a sociedade civil articulam suas identidades num discurso de exigências e propostas relacionadas com as necessidades contemporâneas : da justiça social, da representação mais efetiva na política, de acesso melhor ou mais justo aos recursos do Estado. No entanto, esta articulação pública de identidade organizacional é muitas vezes em desacordo com uma longa história de mobilização política. Os grupos políticos e cívicos podem refletir a herança organizacional de antecedentes que se constituíram em épocas anteriores, numa altura quando as necessidades políticas eram diferentes dos atuais. Os padrões de organização podem refletir clivagens sociais que remontam gerações e que revelam alinhamentos bem diferentes da distribuição de ideologias e interesses no presente. As organizações têm uma história, e essa história é importante para percepções públicas. À base de contingências, o passado pode ser um recurso que pode ser explorado ou rearticulado a melhor vantagem. Alternativamente, os actores podem achar conveniente ocultar seu passado a través das exigências para o presente e as promessas para o futuro. Este painel recebe analisa a interacção entre as memórias e as narrativas do passado, e as exigências do presente, na determinação da linguagem e repertórios de acção dos actores políticos ou civís.


Paper 1

Bach Jean-Nicolas / LAM – Sciences Po Bordeaux

Historicizing political cleavages in contemporary Ethiopia: A view from opposition parties

After having ousted the military Derg regime in 1991, the EPRDF implemented a multiparty democracy (1995 Constitution). They thus adopted the international liberal norms by organizing elections and political representation. In this ethnofederal regime, representation is twofold: a upper House represents the “Nations, Nationalities and Peoples” of Ethiopia, and the lower House, in a more classical way, represents political parties, be they “ethnic-based” or “multinational”.
Another determining alignment is ideological. It opposes the “democratic revolutionary” regime (whose elites were sometimes part of the leftist Ethiopians Student Movement in the 1960s-1970s) to a large part of opposition parties defining themselves as “liberal” (AEUP, Blue Party, UDJ). A third group has emerged, defining itself “social-democrat”.
These parties have been echoing very dissimilar historiographical discourses about what Ethiopia history “is”: rewriting Ethiopian History (EPRDF), versus nostalgia of Imperial Ethiopia (AEUP, Blue Party). Beyond these opposing views, these parties have abandoned any leftist jargon. The ruling party itself has recently adopted a “Democratic Developmental State” programme, while many former leftist opponents declare: “It is 21st century, we have to be liberal”.
The paper aims at analyzing these categories, why and how they are used by opposition parties. Based one five month fieldwork (2014-2015), the paper thus contextualizes this “end of leftist parties”.

Paper 2

Josse-Durand Chloé / LAM, Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Bordeaux

Ending Marginalization thanks to Teleologies and Narratives of grievances : the controversial use of Koitalel Samoei’s legacy in Kenya

Since the return of pluralism in Kenya, a group called Koitalel Samoei Foundation has been actively mobilizing Koitalel Samoei’s legacy, a Nandi paramount chief who fought against the colonial invasion of the Nandi escarpment from 1896 to 1905, as the pillar of the future development of the Nandi community. A Memorandum was sent to State House in 2002, listing material compensations from the Kenyan government and financial compensations from the British government for the killing of their leader and the imprisonment of his people. During the electoral campaigns of 2007 and 2013, Koitalel Samoei’s legacy became an essential asset for those who sought a political seat locally and for national politicians. Nevertheless, Gabrielle Lynch, in her book “I Say to you. Ethnic Politics and the Kalenjin in Kenya ”, explains that “narratives of communal grievances” are strong among the Nandi and could be related to the rapid turn-over of their Members of Parliament during the President Moi era (1973-2002). The reactivation of figures from the past is a contemporary product of these longlasting claims for ending political marginalization and for readdressing historical injustices stemming from colonial times. This paper will focus on the narratives of the past and the teleological discourses that led to the iconization of Koitalel Samoei, while analyzing the agenda of the actors involved in the current political and economic claims made in the name of the Nandi community.

Paper 3

Martins Vasco / CEI, ISCTE-IUL (Lisbon)

The legacy of social norms in popular and political opposition in Huambo

This presentation attempts to enunciate and explore historical identities gathered and learned in UNITA ‘liberated areas’ during the Angolan civil war by revealing the anxieties of people who lived, worked and studied there and have now been experiencing different realities. Their experiences under UNITA’s administration shaped an identity, which translated into social norms and behaviours alongside elements of ethnic custom, which stands out and is different from people who remained under government administration. Some of these people associate societal changes to the loss of important values, which were present and nurtured in UNITA areas. From criminal activities, unrestrained consumption of alcohol, prostitution, lack of respect for the elderly, for traditional authorities and tradition in general, to problems with education, clothing and language use, all of these elements are manifested in different fashion by these two very broad segments of the Angolan population in th e areas around the city of Huambo, although among this subjectivity a pattern exists. For its part, UNITA in Huambo also adopts some of these issues in order to create opposition to the government. These themes are present at least in regional politics and represent an historical legacy of articulating language that not only promotes these values but also demands the government to pay attention to particular topics. This is one of the realms where one can find gaps in social norms in Angola.

Paper 4

Mihatsch Mortiz / Future University of Egypt

Constructed histories, reconstructing politics: Political parties and their narratives in the Egyptian parliamentary elections under Sissi

Considering the increasingly constrained political space, parties will have only limited possibilities for manoeuvring at the up-coming Egyptian parliamentary elections, scheduled for spring 2015, to distinguish themselves from their competitors. As the Egyptian activist-blogger Mahmoud Salem also known as Sandmonkey commented laconically: “Our next parliamentary elections will have political factions competing on who supports our President more.” Nevertheless political differences which are currently obfuscated by the securitisation of the political discourse continue to exist under the surface and will influence future political developments. The paper looks at the ways parties are naming, referencing, contextualising and connecting different events and figures to construct their own versions of history. Was January 25 a “revolution” or a “conspiracy”? Are June 30 and January 25 one or two revolutions? Do parties reference June 30, the day of the mass uprising, or July 3rd, the day when Sissi stepped in? How do parties speak about the Egyptian presidents; Nasser, Sadat, Mubarak, Morsi and Sissi? If the presidents, or their names are used as signifiers for certain politics which should be emulated or avoided, what politics are those? Finally, how are all these aspects combined into more or less coherent histories? The paper attempts to resurface and illuminate the broader political differences through the lens of these constructed histories.

Paper 5

Pearce Justin / University of Cambridge

Mozambique: Past and present claims, civil and uncivil politics

Twenty years after the Rome peace accords, electoral politics in Mozambique remains dominated by Frelimo and Renamo, the two belligerents during the war. At various times in those two decades, Renamo’s share of the vote has increased and then dropped back, while other contenders, notably the MDM, have made some gains in national politics with a discourse that emphasises contemporary needs over the antagonisms of the past. The most recent election served to reinstate Renamo as the country’s main opposition party after years of dwindling support, a result that can only be understood in the context of Renamo’s unexpected return to localised violence in the two years preceding the election. This paper examines the persistence and the instrumentalisation of wartime antagonisms in Mozambican politics, both in the articulation of political claims and in the possibilities of organisation, and how these relate to more immediate demands of the electorate against a backdrop of change in Mozambican political economy.

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