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In Africa the interplay between power and the lack of it has reached unprecedented dimensions which call for deeper investigation and explanation. Like in the Asiatic Mode of Production with what Marx called general slavery, African powerholders exercise seemingly limitless power, in fact they are prisoners of the support or the withdrawal of it by the people. The latter swing between powerlessness and power just as they are both passive subjects and active citizens. Present day Africa is indeed at a crossroads because the potential for genuine democracy alternates with helplessness in facing the authoritarianism of both elected leaders and usurpers. Political culture in Africa has a potential to acquire decisively civic features, depending on the development of grass-root inspired civil society. Each African country has specific conditions, historically molded, which should be discussed against the theory of democracy, both in order to understand better present trends in concrete cases and to enrich the general theory by incorporating African experience with power and powerlessness.