The following quotations are from:

Asmarom Legesse, Oromo Democracy: An Indigenous African Political System

“Why did the British colonists favor monarchies and why were they so contemptuous of decentralized or democratic political systems? In part it was a product of conservative British political theory which the colonists took with them to Africa. In part, it was also a pragmatic choice: even if a bond were to be established by treaty with elected African leaders, there is no guarantee that their successors would abide by the commitments made by the leaders. Each generation of such leaders is accountable to the people who elected them, and the relationship between them and the colonizer would have to be re-negotiated again and again.

            Secondly, the fact that the societies rely heavily on assemblies for political leadership, mean that there is no one individual who can serve as the link between the colonial rulers and their subjects. These are some of the reasons why colonial administrations were so persistent in their attempts to undermine African democracies, and had to find more suitable substitutes for them. In some areas, such as Kenya, where a ruthless form of direct rule was the order of the day, colonial administration was established by simply planting chiefs where there were none. Typologically, Kenyan colonial administration was at the opposite end of what Lugard proposed. It stood on the extreme periphery of British colonial practice, more akin to administrations of settler societies such as Rhodesia, than to those of Ghana or Uganda.

            As would be expected, the conduct of chiefs who were appointed to govern democratic societies, such as Gabra and Borana, did not mesh with British ideas of proper colonial government. They behaved as representatives of their people, which is Lugard’s idea of good government, not as hired hands, spies and tax collectors of the government, which is the settler colonists idea of good government. The problem was that these ‘chiefs’ were in the habit of discussing with their communities the orders handed down by colonial rulers. The directives were sometimes accepted, sometimes rejected. That created situations that bordered on ‘insubordination.’ Examples of such mismatches occur among the Igbo in Nigeria and the Gabra in Northern Kenya. In these situations official British contempt for African democratic societies became firmly established and the academics picked up those attitudes and gave them respectability and a pseudo-scientific aura. Their very democratic conduct was taken as evidence of ‘unruly behavior,’ demonstrating that they were ‘ungovernable’ because they ‘lacked proper forms of leadership.’ This process of intellectually and academically undermining African democracies continues right up to the present time, a half century after the demise of the empires in whose serve the attitudes were originally developed. We can at least understand the practical motives for these attitudes when expressed by colonial authorities, but there is no justification for such attitudes today, other than the inertia of old habits.

            In the colonial world, the pragmatic thinking that led to these attitudes is quite clear. Kings and chiefs could be made to serve the colonizer in perpetuity with offers of benefits, titles, gifts, legal and economic privileges and, most importantly, the legitimization of their authority in the new colonial order. Some of these rulers were knighted and others were made members of various ‘Orders of the British Empire.’ Honorifics were thus a useful currency employed by the colonial governments to buy off the local rulers. The practice was most appropriate from the perspective of British thrift, for it cost virtually nothing to give out or validate such titles.” 11-12

“The most important reason why the British colonists were so impressed with Buganda and looked down upon the Maasai, why the Abyssinians had a modicum of respect for the kingdom of Abba Jifar, but had little regard for the democratic Arsi or Borana was because the monarchic institutions of the colonizer employed the same cultural currency, the same ideas of status and honor, the same values of royalty and nobility, and the same attachment to honorifics as the subjugated kingdoms, but had little in common with the democratic societies. That is how the kingdoms of Buganda and Jimma became ‘protectorates’ and enjoyed some economic and political autonomy, while the democratic populations of the Maasai, the Arsi and the Borana were dispossessed, their land was treated as ‘game reserves’ or ‘state domains’ and, in the case of the Arsi, the population was decimated.” 21