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I've been reading up on pre-Athenian democracy (sometimes referred to as primitive or tribal democracy) where leaders were selected by some or most members of a group and were subject to established rules in order to retain power. Benjamin Isakhan and Christopher Boehm in The Edinburgh Companion to the History of Democracy refer to tribes oscillating between despotism and democracy due to participatory mechanisms. (12) A consensualised group decision process is also mentioned (36) with egalitarian features are mentioned as a balance against a leader becoming too powerful.*

From anthropology, translations, and political science, there seems to be a growing academic basis for the Dorians, Phoenicians, Assyrians, and Vedic-era Indians engaging in some form of democratic procedure or at least a limited oligarchic system before the Greco-Roman era.

Are there any instances of something similar in sub-Saharan Africa be it a migratory group, a smaller tribe, or merchant city where there was power sharing and some kind of input from citizens?

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    Most pre-agricultural societies are governed by participatory mechanisms. I see no reason why Africa would be unique in this regard. Perhaps you can clarify what you mean by "primitive or tribal democracy"? Link to a definition or cite your research? – Mark C. Wallace Mar 26 '16 at 0:58
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    Yeah, I think we need an academic definition of primitive democracy before we can help. Not to lead you up the garden path, I don't know the answer in any case. But I think that will help you to get one. – Ne Mo Mar 26 '16 at 13:07
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    Sure, the definition I have is from Benjamin Isakhan and Christopher Boehm in The Edinburgh Companion to the History of Democracy where they refer to tribes oscillating between despotism and democracy due to participatory mechanisms. (12) A consensualised group decision process is also mentioned (36) with egalitarian features are mentioned as a balance against a leader becoming too powerful - they also seem to be ad hoc. There are also references to more ritualized and specific forms of democracy such as with Vedic councils in 7th Century BC India. – David of America Mar 26 '16 at 17:25
  • I guess I should have asked two separate questions. Do we have any records referring to specific sub-Saharan tribes which had the more common participatory mechanisms? Were there any larger kingdoms or civilizations which featured a deliberative or codified form of democracy whether alongside or instead of a monarch? – David of America Mar 26 '16 at 17:26
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    You might consider the Carthaginians - they are variously described as oligarchs. Fukayama suggests that once society crosses a certain size, participatory democracy is no longer viable and social organization must rely on autocracy. So a "democratic kingdom" is unlikely (you're going to have variations of oligarchies), but I think that the participatory consensus persists today in small scale organizations from street gangs to PTA's. – Mark C. Wallace Mar 26 '16 at 19:44
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The definition of "democracy" used today is generally "whatever the US state department labels as a democracy". Hunter gatherer groups usually practiced some sort of democracy, but this isn't considered "democracy" in the academic sense because there is no state.

If you are interested in looking into these sort of loose federations which operated on democratric principles there are several examples, such as the Bhagdana and Nok cultures. I direct you to:

http://www.academia.edu/184702/What_is_so_Primitive_about_Primitive_Democracy_Comparing_the_Ancient_Middle_East_and_Classical_Athens

http://www.ancient-origins.net/ancient-places-africa/highly-advanced-and-mysterious-ancient-civilization-nok-00679

http://en.radiovaticana.va/storico/2011/10/28/africa_from_traditional_democracy_to_modern_democracy/en3-532923

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    Thanks, I've been reading some of Isakhan's work but the mention of the Nok with links definitely helped. – David of America Mar 27 '16 at 9:28
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    There are any number of think-tanks and ngos who assess countries' democratic claims, such as the probity of their elections. To narrow it down to one US government department makes no sense. – Ne Mo Mar 27 '16 at 19:09
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    The academic definition of democracy is the polity index developed by the state department and it's affiliated think tanks. – D J Sims Mar 27 '16 at 19:23
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    That's one of the many things tracked by multifarious pro democracy NGOs, many of which are hostile or indifferent towards the US government. – Ne Mo Apr 9 '16 at 18:28
  • An NGO? Hostile to the US government? Nigga please – D J Sims Apr 9 '16 at 19:16

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