Where Has the Lost Generation Gone?

Youth and State in West Africa
  • Donal B. Cruise O’Brien


To talk of one’spowerlessness may be a political resource, among the limited resources of the young, a way of bidding for power perhaps, or a way of disguising die power one already has. Young people in Africa in the early 1990s often presented themselves as more or less helpless victims, dominated by elders in a stagnant politics. While one listened sympathetically to lamentation of diis kind, in political situations which did not appear to afford many opportunities for regeneration, die following decade has tended to reveal some potentialities which were less than obvious in 1991. If one is to review the situation overall in terms of Albert O. Hirschman’striple choice of strategies,1 the option for loyalty might not have looked too promising to the young, loyalty to dieir immediate elders or to dieir political superiors, as economies declined and patronage resources tended to shrink. Even here the young may have overdrawn the impasse, obscured the resources which continued to trickle down. The second option, for the use of voice, has become more viable with the extension of multi-party competition in a range of African states together with the proliferation of independent radio and press.2 Don’t write off the possible rewards for loyalty—raise your voice with more freedom than before, and take the third option, for exit, if you will. The number of Africans choosing to emigrate, often of necessity by unpublicised routes, is impossible to know precisely, but the Senegalese government estimates that there are half a million Senegalese now living and working abroad, for the most part in Europe or in the United States.3


Young People Youth Violence African State Military Coup African Diaspora 
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© Donal B. Cruise O’Brien 2003

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  • Donal B. Cruise O’Brien

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