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Withdrawal of Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame from the World Economic Forum in South Africa Last Week was an Honorable Act for Africa
September 13, 2019 | 0 Comments

By James N. Kariuki

Rwandan President Paul Kagame

Rwandan President Paul Kagame

On Friday last week in one of South Africa’s national newspapers, The Citizen, Ralph Mathekga, usually insightful political analyst, was reported to have rebuked Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame for declining an invitation to attend the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Cape Town.

The issue at hand related to African reaction to the on-going xenophobic attacks on non-South African nationals in SA. In Mathekga’s view, Kagame’s response to the attacks reflected ‘weak leadership’ and lack of ‘political maturity’ in Africa. In assessing the facts realistically, such a conclusion was not only unduly harsh; it was misleading, unjustified and disingenuous.

To begin with, besides Rwanda other African states had voiced grave reservations about attending the WEF under the prevailing circumstances in SA. These included Nigeria, Malawi, the DRC, Zambia and Tanzania.  Kagame was hardly alone. More to the point, he had nothing to do with the causes, spread and execution of the xenophobic carnage and had virtually no influence over its perpetrators.  After all, South Africa is a sovereign nation.  The only avenue available to Kagame was indirect influence via the local South African authorities.

Yet, no utterances were forthcoming from the SA Government officialdom or the organizers of WEF that a plan was underway to stem or alleviate the impact of the savage and senseless attacks on innocent and defenseless fellow Africans. Obviously Kagame felt helpless and frustrated that the WEF seemed to be bent on proceeding as if nothing alarmingly critical was happening in its host country.

Mathekga’s reasoning would have been sound had it proposed that an urgent consultative meeting of African leaders be called by the SA government just before, or along the WEF, to discuss on emergency basis the crisis of the on-going Afrophobia-driven brutality. In the absence of the African Union in the WEF, the obligation to solicit such give-and-take views from other African leaders rested squarely on the shoulders of the host, President Cyril Ramaphosa.  President Kagame was certainly not in a position to summon such a sub-meeting; he was a guest, not the man-in-charge. To repeat ourselves, South Africa is a young sovereign nation and is understandably ultra-sensitive to matters touching its jurisdiction.

By all indications, a give-and-take meeting of African leaders at, or parallel to the WEF, was not forthcoming. Conceivably, President Kagame felt that it would be a betrayal to his personal conscience and the people of Rwanda for him to sit among global leaders to discuss economic issues while innocent fellow Africans around them were being decimated with impunity. Meanwhile, the global leaders would be sitting at the majestic International Convention Center in Cape Town, securely protected by state security forces, possibly oblivious to the woes of the violence outside.

Viewed from this angle, President Kagame’s conscious and deliberate choice to formally exclude himself from Cape Town’s WEF was a carefully considered act of ultimate decency, political maturity, and diplomatic savvy. It was his way of protesting how victimized ‘foreigners’ in SA were being handled virtually indifferently by the country’s officialdom and to inform the victims of Afro-phobia that, “yes, we hear you and we do care. Indeed, you matter to us.”

Such a reaction is truly understandable coming from a leader who, in all likelihood, still encounters occasional sleepless nights, haunted by memories of man’s savagery to fellow man from the ghastly Rwanda Genocide which took place twenty five years ago and senselessly wiped out ten percent of his nation’s population.

It was indeed a misplaced judgment for Mathekga, otherwise a seasoned and compelling political  analyst, to condemn President Kagame for finding it unacceptable to visualize himself sitting in an economic meeting while innocent people outside faced war conditions of life and death.

Seen in this context, President Kagame’s self-imposed ‘exclusion’ from WEF was indeed a dignified and decent diplomatic act to show that he, as a mature and committed African leader, drew the line in the sand to assert  that what was happening in SA at that juncture was far from acceptable. To see this gesture any other way than honorable, verges on blaming the victim.

*James N. Kariuki is a Kenyan Professor of International Relations (Emeritus).  He comments on public issues in various international publications.He runs the blog Global Africa

 

 

 

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Life In A War Zone : 30 Days in Ambazonia/Anglophone Cameroon (3)
June 8, 2018 | 0 Comments

After Fleeing from the Marauders – Refugee Stories

By Solomon Ngu*

The Humanitarian crisis has attained alarming proportions tens of thousands displaced from their homes

The Humanitarian crisis has attained alarming proportions tens of thousands displaced from their homes

Why the Biya government decided to launch war in the countryside, I suspect, was because he feared a Maoist-style revolution whereby villages mobilize enough fighters who eventually move en masse to capture the cities. Whether the government is succeeding in this or not is questionable. What we know is that some of the villages in the countryside have, through guerrilla tactics, put up strong and unbelievable resistance to the government forces. The Fighters are currently talking of cruising into Buea irrespective of whether they control the countryside or not. I must stress that the government forces barely occupy deserted portions of the villages; they haven’t captured any territory through combat. Those in the occupied parts of the countryside are living in the forests, have fled to unaffected villages or the city.

Photos and videos depicting the living conditions of Anglophone refugees in Nigeria and those living in the forests in Cameroon circulate daily on social media. Despite their condition, they – especially those living in the forests in Cameroon – go an extra length to take videos and photos within a setting where they do not have access to electricity to charge their phones. I recently got a call from one of my childhood friends, a farmer living in the burnt farming village of Munyenge and he said they have found a way to charge their phones by sneaking into those houses that have not been burnt down.

Villagers in the war zone, especially those in the thick forests region, do monitor the moves and location of the soldiers. They know which paths and routes to take if they want to leave the countryside. This task is further made easier by the Amba Fighters located in the villages. I met several people whose escape to Anglophone cities and to the Francophone side of the country was facilitated by these Fighters. These escapes are sudden and those fleeing have just a small window of opportunity to pick up a handful of their belongings.

To get a deeper understanding of the experiences of those who fled the countryside, I decided in mid April to visit some of the families hosting refugees. I talked with the refugees and must say their ordeal, courage and resolve to run for their lives in the face of advancing soldiers are worth commending. Take for example, the horrifying experience of Agnes (a pseudonym) who escaped into the forest for two days, leaving behind her very sick mother. She was too old to run with the others into the forest. Luckily, the grandma was still alive when Agnes returned from the forest. In less than an hour, she picked up her few belongings and was already on the run again to a neighboring village. The compound they fled into hosted more than 25 people. They all slept on the floor. She eventually reached Buea thanks to transportation money sent to her by her sister. In her words:

“We were told that there had been confrontations between the Fighters and the La Repubique [government] soldiers in a neighboring village which is about one day trekking from our village. We didn’t know the fight would reach us so soon. But events unfolded so quickly. I was on my way from the farm when I heard the sound of the guns. It sounded like the end of the world.  Bullets rained on our roof. One of the falling bullets pierced through my new jacket.”

Agnes showed me scars of the wounds she sustained on her legs and arms as she ran through the forests with her children and mother. Amidst the commotion, she had forgotten to take money. She took another risk of returning to her house alone. She came face to face with the Fighters who were all dressed in Cameroon military uniform. The uniforms and weapons had been taken from killed and capitulated government soldiers. To her surprise, one of the Fighters called her by her name and instructed her to leave the village as soon as possible. This, she did.

Another story is that of a woman who is in her early 60s. Transport services into and out of her village were completely cut off after the government forces attacked. She took into the forest, trekking for more than 50km. It took her two days before she finally got to the Francophone town of Dschang from where she took a bus to Buea.

But here comes another problem, the challenge of living in the city. With tears in her eyes, Agnes described how life in Buea is strange and unfriendly. She had thought her refugee status would last only a few days but two weeks after getting to Buea, her village, including a semi-urban settlement around it, was completely deserted by mid April 2018. Agnes had lost her freedom and privacy and needed money to survive in the new place. She was a farmer, a money-lender and a trader in the countryside. She left the village at the beginning of the planting season meaning that there is a possibility she may starve next year if she returned to the village. In my recent communication with her, she wasn’t sure if she would ever return to her house.

During my stay in Cameroon, I traveled to a few border towns hosting refugees. I spent two days in Dschang where the car parks serving Anglophone passengers were scanty. Listening to the hardship of those hosting the refugees was heartbreaking. Nearly everyone I met in Dschang was hosting refugees from Lebialem. There is this friend of mine whose five relatives fled the village to live with her in late March. As of the time of writing this article, the number has increased to six. She has a two-bedroom apartment. She avoids loss of privacy and stress at home by spending most of her free time in the church and farm.

The government has refused to recognize the Anglophone refugee disaster. Talk less of any conversation about the Anglophone Crisis at the national parliament. Responding to my first post on this series, someone insinuated that ‘this mad war [has been] initiated by desperately power hungry Cameroon diaspora’. What he failed to mention was that the war was declared on Anglophones, the ‘terrorists’, by the president in November 2017. The Anglophone diaspora started supporting the Fighters after they realized that the soldiers were killing Anglophones indiscriminately. The minister of defense actually praised the soldiers for massacres in villages in Manyu Division where people resorted to fleeing to Nigeria. It is estimated that between 40.000 and 50.000 Anglophones have sought refuge in Nigeria.

The narrative put forth by the government surrogate such as the one who commented on my first post specifically aims at excusing the government of war against people it sees as despicable. How do I know this? How the Cameroon government choose to treat – or choose not to treat – its citizens who happen to be refugees tells a lot about who is considered a true Cameroonian. We have all seen how the government provides humanitarian relief to Francophone refugees fleeing Boko Haram attacks. They have been treated as unfortunate people whose humanity is being destroyed by terrorists. The Anglophone refugees, to quote Franz Fanon, live in a zone of non-being; a zone where people are not recognized as full humans and their lives are less valued.

In my next post I will focus on the Amba Fighters – how they are perceived in Anglophone Cameroon. Part of my argument will be that they do no longer want to condone the dehumanization they experience daily in their country.

*This is part of the series Life in a War Zone:30 Days in Ambazonia by  Solomon Ngu for PAV under the blog Kamer Blues

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Life in a War Zone: 30 Days in Ambazonia/Anglophone Cameroon
May 20, 2018 | 1 Comments

In early April 2018, I decided to visit Cameroon to enliven my family bond through face to face contact. I knew this was risky. Friends and family cautioned me, warning about the insecurity and war in the country. I have been to Cameroon two times ever since Anglophone Cameroonians took a bold step in late 2016 to openly talk about their oppression. Increasingly, the crisis has escalated and we now witness a full-scale war against the people, a form or punishment, meted on Anglophones by the Cameroon government.  Anyone familiar with the political developments in Cameroon is not surprised that Anglophones are fighting against what they see as occupational forces of La Republique du Cameroun (LRC). As an Anglophone Cameroonian, albeit with roots on the Francophone side, I find it is hard not to write about the marginalization we have experienced all our lives in country where we are made to understand we are undeserving citizens.

My name is Solomon Ngu . I migrated to Europe and eventually to USA at the turn of the 21st century. Like most Anglophone Cameroonians, I left the country in search for a better life abroad. Over the years, I have witnessed and researched the ways in which young Anglophone Cameroonians navigate through hard life in the country. Just as our generation at the turn of the 21st century, most of these young men and women paint a gloomy picture of life in Cameroon; they believe a better future awaits them out of their country. That the migrants constitute a heavy weight in the war and are the most vocal anti-LRC citizens is a point I turn to later.

This is an introduction to a series of articles that I will publish on Pan African Visions. The articles are ethnographic notes that bear testimony about the ongoing war in Ambazonia/Southern Cameroons. I will report on what I heard and saw in the urban areas as well as first-hand accounts from villagers who have escaped the villages to the towns. As of the time of writing this introduction, most of the fighting is concentrated in the villages all over Ambazonia. Villagers’ testimonies and the fact that they have left the rural communities to seek safety in the urban areas tell that there is a nasty war going on. In fact, Achille Mbembe, a Cameroon philosopher and human rights activist, says on Facebook that this is a ‘dirty war’, a description reminiscent of Argentinean state terrorism of the 1970s where thousands of people simply disappeared.

It is in fact a dirty war, a war that was totally avoidable had leadership taken into account the humanity of those who live in Ambazonia. The war is described as ‘nasty’ or ‘dirty’ primarily because of the meanness with which it is conducted. Take for example, the military burning down entire villages and properties, torture of civilians and the looting. As to how civilians and their properties – cattle, pets, farms, houses, shops, etc, provoke the soldiers is still unknown but what we know is that the rampaging soldiers’ actions are informed by a belief that they are dealing with people who are less humans, the monsters and aliens. So far, the villagers caught between the government troops and those fighting to restore the dignity of South Cameroons are paying the highest prize. It is a topic I turn to in one of the articles.

Before leaving Cameroon, I had a feeling that this was the last time I saw Ambazonia the way I know it; that is before a full-scale war engulfs the urban areas. Civilians in the major cities of Buea, Limbe, Bamenda and Kumba were making plans on where to escape to should the war reach their city. As I write, there are reports of people fleeing Buea en masse; they want to avoid what they foresee as potential confrontation between the Amba fighters and the Cameroonian army on the 20th of May, a day designated as the National Day.  The 20th of May is significant in that on that day in 1972, many legacies of Anglophone Cameroon were erased; it was a day the name of the country changed from the Federal to a United Republic of Cameroon. Much could be written about this but it suffices at this level to say those fighting to restore the independence of Anglophone Cameroon, do not want 20th May to be designated as Ambazonian National Day. Going by history, they see 1st Oct, as their day of independence – and rightfully so, for Anglophone Cameroon gained independence on this day in 1961. Recall that the conflict in this section of Cameroon escalated after the government massacred citizens who were out celebrating their independence on Oct 1st 2017.

I presume anyone reading this introduction and subsequent articles must be familiar with Cameroon – its colonial and postcolonial history. A very short version of this history is: Cameroon was a creation of Germany in late 19th century. Following the defeat of Germany in WWI, France occupied the eastern part of the country. The western part was colonized and governed alongside Nigeria by the British. The two parts evolved differently in socioeconomic and political spheres. The French governed their section of the country in the most colonially-belligerent manner imaginable; a type of French colonialism eloquently described in Franz Fanon’s works. French repression led to many Francophone political activists seeking asylum in the English part where governance was in the hands of the indigenes. East and West Cameroon reunited and formed a federation in early 1960s as equal states.

Over the years, the Anglophone legacy was erased such that by the mid-1980s, the country became known as La Republique Du Cameroun, a name Francophone Cameroon acquired at independence on January 1st 1960. The Francophonization of Cameroon has been resisted by Anglophone both openly and privately. As time progressed, the resistance was very much limited within the circle of the elite. In fact, the informed Anglophone elite couldn’t transmit the processes and forms of marginalization to the ordinary citizens but the situation was to change through the use of new media technologies during and post 2016 massive uprising. Thanks to social media, and more especially, the Smartphone, information about the marginalization, distorted history and police torture of peaceful protesters was readily circulated among Anglophone Cameroonians. This further fueled the conflict, emboldening young people to go to the street. Some of the articles in this blog focus on how social media is transforming the course of the conflict.

I will leave the reader here. My ethnographic notes will start appearing soon on this blog.

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Helen Zille and the Race Factor in Mandela’s ‘Rainbow Nation’
July 4, 2017 | 0 Comments

By James N. Kariuki*

Professor James Kariuki

Professor James Kariuki

In March 2012 South Africa’s Helen Zille triggered an animated public feud by referring to black students as refugees for flocking from black-ruled Eastern Cape Province to the Western Cape Province in search for better educational facilities. She spoke in her capacity as the Premier of the only white-ruled Western Cape Province and the former head of predominantly white Democratic Alliance (DA) political party.

Black South Africans were outraged that, consciously or not, Zille had attached a ‘foreign’ stigma to her fellow citizens in their own country. In response, Zille dismissed that innuendo of ‘foreign’ stigmatization and tried to debate substantively a largely knee-jerk public reaction. She failed drastically in the endeavor to direct the mind to an emotional issue.

Exactly five years latter in March this year, Zille again got caught in another political storm for suggesting publicly in a tweet that not all aspects of colonialism are negative; some of its legacies can still be adapted today to positive ends. Again, public response to this seemingly innocuous proposition has been brutally scathing. Against it, Zille has been charged by her own party for bringing it into disrepute and damaging it. Until further notice, she has been stripped of the rights to participate in her party’s activities except as the premier of the Western Cape.

In 2017, Zille has been specifically accused of racism for glorifying colonialism, the mother of slavery and African peoples’ ultimate anathema. In response, she has apologized profusely for sounding like an apologist for colonialism but, for a while she adamantly refused to retract her initial proposition that we can learn a thing or two from our bumpy encounter with colonialism. Was this also a case of Zille addressing an issue of the heart intellectually?  For several weeks, Zille and her critics, within and outside her party, were locked in a dialog of the deaf.

In subsequent statements, Zille emphasized that her public colonialism remarks were largely distorted by the South African specter of racial ‘bogeyman.’ Presumably, the colonial inference had touched a raw public nerve because it was she, a white public South African, who had uttered it, casting it into the public domain. The suggestion here was that the logic in Zille’s colonial statement was inherently sound; it had been disfigured by viewing it through the prism of ‘political correctness.’

To affirm the point, Zille reasoned publicly that others of different hues had made similar remarks regarding colonialism without triggering public outcry, arguably because the ‘others’ were non-whites. In her list, she included Kenya-born Professor Ali Mazrui by name as a case in point. He was one of those who had ventured into similar wilderness of wrongdoing as herself, with impunity. Was Zille trying to make the issue one of reverse racial discrimination? Whatever the case, in pointing to Professor Mazrui as having been spared of criticism on the grounds of his race, Zille was factually wrong.

Undoubtedly, late Professor Ali Mazrui possessed one of the finest scholarly minds in post-colonial Africa. But on his way to global intellectual stardom as an academic (not active a politician), he occasionally slipped and bruised African sensibilities in a manner akin to Zille’s. Yet, contrary to Zille’s beliefs, he was hardly spared of harsh treatment.  And his harshest critics were indeed fellow Africans, not white Africans.

Mazrui once ‘complimented’ Malawi’s Hastings Banda for being ‘open-minded’ about South Africa’s apartheid. Banda had welcomed the notion of doing ‘business as usual’ with the much detested apartheid regimes in southern Africa. He indeed went further to entertain the ‘outlandish’ notion of engaging a running ‘dialogue’ with the same white supremacist oligarchies of the region.

Banda’s views were considered inimical to the newly emergent post-colonial Africa’s thinking of ‘freedom indivisible,’ and corresponding continental policy of isolating what Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere once dubbed the ‘monster of un-freedom.’ The stipulation was that, as long as southern Africa denied freedom to any African on the grounds of his race, all Africans were not free.

Congo’s Moishe Tshombe was another homegrown iconoclast who scornfully challenged post-colonial Africa’s collective will. His most provocative offense against that African collective ‘will’ was to hire white mercenaries from southern Africa to fight in his country, first for the secession of mineral-rich Katanga Province and, subsequently, for a united Congo.

 Jacob Zuma and former Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille attend a media breakfast in Cape Town. AFP e Picture -

Jacob Zuma and former Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille attend a media breakfast in Cape Town. AFP e Picture –

Although  stated with misgivings, Mazrui saw a silver lining to the dark clouds of Banda’s and Tshombe’s self-serving practices and policies. In his logic, Banda’s political bent of thought reflected admirable pragmatism and courageous independent thinking.

Regarding Tshombe, Mazrui asserted the view that using white soldiers-of-fortune to commit some of the atrocities in the Congo was not necessarily a bad thing. After all, if foreign mercenaries perpetrated lasting damage on the country, Congolese had less to forgive each other for, and that could be a good thing for the realization of the country’s future peace.

Like Zille’s remarks on colonialism, Mazrui’s statements on Banda’s and Tshombe’s transgressions against continental African thought contained a grain of truth; they were beyond reproach if aimed exclusively at the mind. The assertions were indeed entirely consistent with the notion of ivory tower intellectualism and academic freedom, encouraged and welcomed in university settings.

Publicly, however, such proclamations were taboo precisely because human beings respond to more than the mind. We are also subject to emotional reactions that often transcend intellectual inquiry. In this context, Banda’s pragmatism and Tshombe’s contribution to future peace in the Congo were of little consolation to the deeply bruised African psyche, beleaguered as it was by the existence of repulsive apartheid and colonialism.  Mazrui’s semi-positive projection of the two African political iconoclasts’ was ‘politically incorrect’ and unwelcome.

That African reaction to Mazrui’s remarks was hardly unique.  Jewish people at home and their Diaspora in all likelihood would have been just as ‘tuned off’ as black South Africans have been by Zille’s twitters on colonialism were they approached to learn a thing or two from the holocaust. What about African-Americans if challenged to inherit something from their horrific past of slavery days or the 19th century Jim Crow laws?

Ali Mazrui was my fine friend and superb intellectual hero. Yet, in 1974 I became one of his early critics by objecting in print to his occasional trampling on African sensibilities as in the cases of Banda and Tshombe. Personalities bigger than me followed suit as critics in the years to come, including Nigerian Wole Soyinka and South Africa’s Archie Mafeje. The point here is that, even Professor Ali Mazrui, Africa’s beloved intellectual icon, at times yielded to the temptation to emphasize scholarship at the expense of observing African feelings in treating ultra-sensitive African issues. He was duly challenged.

To many informed Africans, it was ‘unthinkable’ to find anything positive in retired white South African soldiers perpetrating injury, destruction and death upon Congolese in their own country, for any reason. For this reason alone, even an iconic intellectual of Ali Mazrui’s proportions did not walk unscathed when he occasionally made stoic remarks on our tormented continent. Yet, Mazrui and his critics were neither white nor South African. Among them, the issue of ‘racial bogeyman’ did not arise.

Admittedly, Zille has a clear and penetrating mind. Perhaps that fact is what drives her to insist on deploying cold factual analyses which in turn push her into political controversies. Yet, unlike Mazrui whose central domain was in academia, Zille is a politician, a practitioner elected to serve a constituency of assorted expectations. Her legacy will ultimately be judged by the votes that she delivers to her party. That is why in a mixed society, the illustrious political leader is he who considers carefully both issues of the head and those of the heart.

*James N. Kariuki is a Kenyan Professor of International Relations (Emeritus).  He comments on public issues in various international publications.He runs the blog Global Africa

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Kenyan band takes Afro-pop music worldwide
June 10, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Ilya Gridneff*

In this photo taken Wednesday, April 6, 2016, members of the Kenyan music group Sauti Sol, from left to right, Bien-Aime Baraza, Savara Mudigi, and Willis Austin Chimano, perform at an event in Nairobi, Kenya. Not many musicians can boast they’ve made President Barack Obama get up and groove to their tunes but Kenyan band Sauti Sol did just that with their mix of Afro-pop, soul and R&B, which has won a number of international awards. (Ben Curtis/Associated Press)

In this photo taken Wednesday, April 6, 2016, members of the Kenyan music group Sauti Sol, from left to right, Bien-Aime Baraza, Savara Mudigi, and Willis Austin Chimano, perform at an event in Nairobi, Kenya. Not many musicians can boast they’ve made President Barack Obama get up and groove to their tunes but Kenyan band Sauti Sol did just that with their mix of Afro-pop, soul and R&B, which has won a number of international awards. (Ben Curtis/Associated Press)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Not many musicians can boast they’ve made U.S. President Barack Obama get up and groove to their tunes. But Kenya’s Afro-pop band, Sauti Sol, did just that.

Obama, whose father hails from a village in western Kenya, put his heritage on full display at a state dinner in Kenya last July when he boogied down to the traditional Lipala dance that the band revived with their hit song “Sura Yako.”

“Singing and dancing with the world’s most powerful man was incredible,” said Bien-Aime Baraza, a vocalist for the four-man band. “He really was feeling us. It was wonderful for Kenya.”

A savvy mix of catchy tunes, appealing looks and social media promotion has brought success to Sauti Sol, Swahili for voices in the sun. The band has worked to make traditional East African music cool again, said Rand Pearson, who runs Nairobi’s hip monthly, UP Magazine.

“I first remember seeing Sauti Sol in a dingy Nairobi club 10 years ago. My first impression was that finally there it was, a modern pop version of Kenyan music,” he said, crediting the band’s growth internationally to “visionary management, styling and its ever-evolving musical talent.”

Sauti Sol’s have won a number of international awards including the All African Music Awards Best African Group in 2015 and MTV’s Best African Act.

Pop music is big in Africa, where there are more than 200 million in the 15-to-24 year age group. It is also big business. The entertainment and media industries of Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya together will grow to be worth $24 billion in 2018, according to a 2014 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The band recently toured Kenya and performed in South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique.

In November last year Sauti Sol launched their latest album “Live and Die in Afrika” free on their website, the first Kenyan album to be released online. The demand was so high that the site crashed and soon it was offered on the website of Safaricom, East Africa’s biggest mobile-phone operator with more than 25 million subscribers.

“This is testament to the fact that an increasing number of users in this market are using high speed data connectivity to access a whole new world of entertainment,” said Bob Collymore, CEO of Safaricom,

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta booked the band for his inauguration in 2013. “He definitely likes our music. We’ve even played at his last private birthday party,” said Savara Mudigi, drummer, vocalist and producer for the band.

The band, whose members grew up in modest conditions in Nairobi, are now gaining fame across the continent. Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama invited Sauti Sol to play at the West African country’s national holiday in March.

Social media is one of the main driving forces propelling Sauti Sol to African and worldwide audiences, according to band manager Marek Fuchs.

“Cheaper handsets and data plans have allowed the fans to be continuously in touch with the group and we strive to give them a dynamic and interactive story to follow every day,” he said.

Sauti Sol has a dedicated social media team who, along with the band members themselves, run campaigns on Twitter and Facebook, competitions on Instagram, instrument tutorials, Q&As and behind-the-scenes snippets on Snapchat and YouTube.

“We also have to adjust our strategy to fit the local context, language and time zones. It is a balancing act between posting for our traditional Kenyan base, our pan-African and worldwide fan base in different time zones,” he said.

Willis Austin Chimano, a vocalist, said this strategy is new for Africa.

“You’ve got to get with the times. More and more Africans are online, on their phones, using social media and that’s where we are,” he said.

Despite their international successes Sauti Sol remain with their feet firmly on Kenyan soil. The band members say their latest album is an ode to loving and loathing the good and bad of Kenya and the continent.

 

*Source AP/Washington Post

 

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Troubling Vestiges of Apartheid
March 24, 2016 | 0 Comments

By James N. Kariuki*

Nelson Mandela at his presidential inauguration with his deputies, FW de Klerk and Thabo Mbeki. Photograph: Photoshot

Nelson Mandela at his presidential inauguration with his deputies, FW de Klerk and Thabo Mbeki. Photograph: Photoshot

On February 3, 2016, a relatively new organization called Anti-Racism Action Forum (ARAF) lodged 22 criminal charges against South Africa’s  former president, FW de Klerk (FW), for crimes committed against Blacks between 1990 and 1994. What is the story behind the dramatic news?

 When apartheid finally collapsed in the mid-1990s, the SA Parliament established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as a mechanism to cleanse the country of its past political sins. For the preceding four decades, the body politic had endured ravaging, racially-driven abuses. 

 Hopefully, the TRC would drain infections of human rights violations of 1960 – 1994 and help the country out of its globally-acknowledged outcast status. The TRC was empowered to pardon political crimes, including killings, to boost the spirit of forgive-and-forget. The only requirements for amnesty seekers were full disclosures and affirmation that their crimes were politically-motivated.

  The incumbent president of the early 1990s, FW, did not approach the TRC for a pardon. To him, forgiveness was unnecessary because, he had done no wrong. As he put it, his conscience was clear.

 Yet, FW’s nemesis Eugene de Kock, disagreed. He was adamant that FW’s hands were ‘soaked in blood’ of political killings. In his capacity as the leading assassin for apartheid‘s officialdom, de Kock was in a position to know some secrets.  Who of the two was telling the truth? 

 History spared FW of immediate, in-depth legal probing in the 1990s for understandable political considerations. To begin with, once the future of apartheid became doubtful, FW quickly established himself as a vital link between the contesting forces in the bid to transform SA’s political landscape. And his credentials for the task were indeed compelling.

FW was astute enough to detect and acknowledge that apartheid was doomed. Further, he was sufficiently bold to insist on personal involvement in the process of shaping the next political order for the benefit of all. After all, he was the sitting state president. Who else could be entrusted with such a monumental assignment?

Secondly, thanks to FW, the iconic Nelson Mandela had freshly emerged from three decades of apartheid imprisonment professing a disarming attitude of forgiveness and reconciliation. He, his followers and a sympathetic world, expected SA to shed permanently traces of crippling apartheid to a nation of equals. In this euphoric atmosphere, Mandela and FW became two towering leaders-in-alliance which was captured in the joint 1993 Nobel Peace Prize.

Under these encouraging circumstances, FW became bigger-than-life in the quest to dismantle apartheid. He was leading from the front.  He had established access to the tenacious black liberation movements and had overwhelming backing of the privileged but tentative Afrikaner community.

Those forces converged, if uncomfortably, to cushion FW from serious probing about his possible involvement in past political atrocities despite de Kock pointing a finger at him. At that stage of SA history, FW’s unassailable attributes were crucial to the survival of the body politic; his freedom and safety were non-negotiable.

The question still remained:  did FW walk away with unpardoned murders which could come back to haunt him?  Could the issue re-emerge as a ‘storm deferred’ for SA in the years to come?

Critics have traditionally doubted FW’s commitment against apartheid on the grounds that it lacked compelling moral conviction. Specifically, he has never convincingly condemned the system on ethical basis, even though it reduced its non-white citizens to refugees in their own country.

 For falling short to condemn apartheid without reservations, the name of FW has continued to be intertwined with memories of apartheid and racism. To make matters worse, since he left office, he has increasingly embraced white causes making himself a ‘political issue’ more than is desirable.

 The first two months of 2016 have already witnessed excessive instances of volatile racism prompted by Penny Sparrow, a white woman whose Facebook post of January 2, 2016 referred to Durban beachgoers as monkeys. Racially-charged Tsunami of anger erupted in the social media raging from simple dismissals of Sparrow to stinging suggestions that white South Africans should be exterminated.

 

Professor James Kariuki

Professor James Kariuki

Through his foundation, FW joined the toxic exchange.  He admitted that Penny Sparrow was wrong for insulting black people but, in comparison, black people were more vibrant racists in their social media reactions. For that reason, the FW’s foundation had submitted 45 complaints about social media postings by Blacks to the South African Human Rights Commission for investigation, claiming that such racially-charged postings could incite violence against white South Africans.  

  Psychologists advise against burying the past; we should deal with it. Yet, there is such a thing as unhealthy wallowing in the past. The Israelis, for instance, have been hunting down Nazi Germany’s victimizers of Jews worldwide since the very establishment of the state of Israel to bring them to justice. Is ARAF’s 2016 case against FW approaching a similar scale of preoccupation?

Nelson Mandela used to tell us to always remember that, in the Afrikaner, we are not dealing with a defeated enemy. His grandson, Chief Mandla Mandela, is now urging us to desist from action that may re-waken the ghosts of apartheid.

 *James N. Kariuki is a Kenyan Professor of International Relations (Emeritus) and now resident in South Africa.  He comments on public issues in various international publications.He runs the blog Global Africa

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Apartheid Reincarnated?
February 5, 2016 | 0 Comments

By James N. Kariuki*

Nelson Mandela at his presidential inauguration with his deputies, FW de Klerk and Thabo Mbeki. Photograph: Photoshot

Nelson Mandela at his presidential inauguration with his deputies, FW de Klerk and Thabo Mbeki. Photograph: Photoshot

A year ago, South Africans welcomed 2015 but were quickly repelled by its agonizing reminders of apartheid. On January 30, 2015 Eugene de Kock was granted parole after serving over twenty years in prison. His freedom sparked an agitated national debate on the apartheid regime’s crimes generally and those of de Kock particularly. It was an alarming déjà-vous experience.

De Kock was a self-confessed killing-machine that assassinated hundreds of anti-apartheid activists in the 1980s and early 1990s. Nicknamed ‘Prime Evil’ for his excesses, he was sentenced to two life terms plus 212 years in prison for six apolitical murders and other brutal acts as the head of the infamous official hit-squad near Pretoria. Yet, upon conviction de Kock launched a spirited campaign for his freedom. After two decades as a model prisoner, he was indeed set free, destiny unrevealed.

‘Prime Evil’ objected to his incarceration because he allegedly was singled out as a scapegoat; he did not act alone in the political carnage of apartheid’s sunset years. Indeed, he further alleged, the highest political office in the land was involved in what was mislabeled as black-on-black violence of the era. Yet, de Kock lamented, apartheid’s top brass walked unscathed. To him, that was ‘selective justice’; universality of justice was compromised.

De Kock’s release occasioned a public outcry that, for the life of each of his victims, he spent barely minutes in prison. Did that punishment match the crimes? Did de Kock’s freedom depreciate the lives of his black victims who paid the ultimate price?

Concurrently, in January 2015 South Africa was locked in another racially-tinged debate: should Cape Town re-name one of its major streets after F.W. de Klerk? Two days before de Kock’s parole was announced, Mother City actually renamed its Table Mountain Boulevard after de Klerk despite audible public objections. Cape Town’s obliviousness to loud objections was spiteful and reminiscent of the objectors’ painful apartheid days. Why so?

F.W. de Klerk was the last of apartheid’s seven presidents. He was a product of that political order and prominent enough to have served in several of its cabinet positions. When de Kock claimed that the top brass of the apartheid’s regime was guilty of political killings of the early 1990s, de Klerk topped his list.

By the end of January 2015, South Africa was thus bedeviled by two contrasting apartheid legacies. To Kock, a confessed mass murderer, was ultimately set free which prompted a public outcry. But in his case there was a mitigating factor: he regretted his crimes. Still, the price he paid was minuscule compared to the plight of his fallen struggle victims and their bereaved families.

Meanwhile, de Klerk was spared of criminal scrutiny for his ‘alleged’ sins. In fact January 2015 saw him elevated to a towering historical figure by re-naming a major Cape Town street after him.

Did the virtually uncontested freedom for a confessed and an alleged apartheid ‘murderer’ denigrate the sacrifices of the Black anti-apartheid martyrs?

De Klerk’s culpability slipped legal scrutiny partly because he had entrenched himself as a convincing link between the principal contestants in the bid to dismantle apartheid. After all, he was astute enough to accept apartheid’s inevitable doom and bold enough to attempt to shape the incoming order. Conversely, Nelson Mandela’s leadership craved to see apartheid’s quick demolition and the birth of a rainbow nation of equals. Hence, its devotion to racial reconciliation.

Under these inspirational circumstances, De Klerk became an indispensable asset in the quest for a better South Africa. He had the ear of both the tenacious liberation movements and the skeptical Afrikaner community. His freedom and safety were non-negotiable; they were in the national interest. But still, did de Klerk walk away with murder?

SA did negotiate a peaceful transition to constitutional democracy. Well-wishers and genuinely interested parties, Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize Committee included, were convinced that the feat was worthy of awarding the 1993 Peace Prize jointly to de Klerk and Nelson Mandela.

But skeptics doubted that the SA president was worthy of the honor. After all, de Klerk never condemned apartheid morally, or expressed regrets that the evil system ever existed. His sadness was merely that, when it faced considerable stress, apartheid wilted became dysfunctional.

To his detractors, de Klerk’s stance was flawed for lacking moral conviction. To this day, he continues to defend aspects of apartheid despite its universal condemnation as a crime against humanity.

Stubborn questions still endure: to cross the line from apartheid to the negotiations table, did de Klerk jump or was he pushed over the cliff? Was the thrust to dismantle apartheid derived from a moral impulse or from seeing a window of opportunity to obliterate an already dying order? Was the collapse of apartheid fuelled by a ‘discovery’ of its injustice or from de Klerk’s acute instinct for survival?

By failing to discredit apartheid morally, de Klerk fell short of Abraham Lincoln’s stature of a compelling historical crusader who led a bitter civil war against American slavery because it was intrinsically wrong. De Klerk remained a crafty tactician and a bona fide believer in apartheid to the bitter end. He only abandoned apartheid to the old slogan, “If you cannot beat them, join them.”

As a political schemer, de Klerk was not deserving of the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize. To countless Black South Africans he was their oppressor not their liberator. He did not merit having a Cape Town street named after him either.

In January 2015, the city of Cape Town was mindful of the Black community’s skepticism about de Klerk’s role in their history. Yet it proceeded, with an air of bravado, to exalt him to higher prominence by renaming its street in his honor, not because it was politically fitting, but just because it could.

Was this apartheid under another guise? If not, it certainly smacked of what has been dubbed “transmission of trauma and humiliation from one generation to the next” for a large segment of the society.

*James N. Kariuki is a Kenyan Professor of International Relations (Emeritus), now an independent writer based in South Africa.  He runs the blog Global Africa

 

 

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Lazarus Angbazo Unveils GE’s Manufacturing Capabilities in Nigeria
June 19, 2015 | 0 Comments

GE Oil & Gas is continuously seeking to increase the competitiveness of the solutions for the Nigerian Oil & Gas industry

The President and CEO of General Electric Nigeria Dr Lazarus Angbazo

The President and CEO of General Electric Nigeria Dr Lazarus Angbazo

LAGOS, Nigeria, June 18, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ General Electric (NYSE: GE)  has commenced fabrication of subsea wellheads at its Onne facility in River State.  This achievement comes at the culmination of 4 years of planning, capital investment and training of Nigerian personnel to establish the first of its kind capability in Nigeria.  The new investment has resulted in a 40% increase of covered work shop area at Onne facility and additional permanent staff.

This was disclosed in Lagos by the President and CEO of General Electric Nigeria Dr Lazarus Angbazo. With this development, surface well head systems used in drilling for Oil and gas on land and offshore will now be done in GE’s Oil and gas facility in Onne, Rivers state. Nigerian engineers have also been trained within and outside the country to operate these facilities.

This development aligns with the Federal Government’s local content law and the clamour for capacity building, skill acquisition and technology transfer. However, Uzo Nwagwu says for GE, this milestone represents a lot more than complying with the laws on local content. “This is not about ticking the box on local content compliance. “It’s about localizing our people, localizing our capabilities; localizing our suppliers and localizing the training and the human capital. This is the only thing that makes sustainable business sense to support our huge investments in the country,” said Nwagwu.

GE Oil & Gas is continuously seeking to increase the competitiveness of the solutions for the Nigerian Oil & Gas industry, the domiciling of subsea wellhead fabrication will give Nigeria based operators the opportunity to buy locally and avoid delivery related delays/save on cost while supporting the growth of the Nigerian Oil & Gas industry.  Dr. Angbazo referred to the establishment of the Subsea wellhead fabrication capabilities in Onne as a ‘true win-win proposition for the indigenous industry and the Nigerian Content agenda.’

GE Engineers and Technicians in its Oil & Gas facility in Onne, Rivers state

GE Engineers and Technicians in its Oil & Gas facility in Onne, Rivers state

Nearly all the engineers and technicians that will be involved in the fabrication are indigenous Nigerians who have been trained within and outside the country. Only recently GE announced that it had sent the first batch out of the 15 newly recruited technicians and engineers to Brazil for training in the assembly and test of subsea equipment.

Actual manufacturing operations will begin in GE’s oil and gas facility in a couple of months in Onne, Rivers state. Operating since 2002, this purpose-built facility is the first and only quayside facility of its calibre in Nigeria. It has an exceptional safety record, and is a cornerstone in GE’s commitment to the country’s Oil & Gas industry. With continually expanding capabilities, the site provides complete assembly, testing and life cycle service for subsea tree systems, subsea control modules, specialty connectors and pipe. It also includes a dedicated on-site training center and offers broad business development opportunities for local suppliers.

*Source APO

 

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Checkered Legacy of Africa’s Last White Ruler: Case of South Africa’s F.W. de Klerk
January 29, 2015 | 0 Comments

Nelson Mandela at his presidential inauguration with his deputies, FW de Klerk and Thabo Mbeki Nelson Mandela at his presidential inauguration with his deputies, FW de Klerk and Thabo Mbeki[/caption] Since the beginning of this year, South Africa has been gripped by the issue of whether or not to name one of Cape Town’s major streets after Frederick de Klerk. To ordinary South Africans, street name changes are no big issue; many do not even notice them until they come to a newly changed street name and have to figure out their own whereabouts. In short, street name changes are usually a mere inconvenience and a nuisance. Why is it then that, suddenly, plans to change the name of the Table Mountain Boulevard to F.W. de Klerk Boulevard in Cape Town (Mother City) have become such a major and controversial issue of national proportions? Indeed, the matter is now so huge that is has captured and divided the nation racially and politically. F.W. de Klerk was the last of seven presidents of apartheid South Africa. He was an integral part of that socio-political order, prominent enough to have held several of its cabinet positions. When apartheid finally started to show signs of cracking, however, de Klerk was astute enough to entertain the possibility that change was inevitable and he entertained the idea of harnessing that change, while there still was time. His method of choice was peaceful negotiations rather than wait until violence engulfed the country. South Africa did achieve that negotiated transition to democracy peacefully. Many observers around the world, including the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize Committee, were convinced that that was an achievement enough to earn de Klerk the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize jointly with the struggle icon, Nelson Mandela. In a recent interview de Klerk himself reiterated that he would like to be remembered as “… a politician who helped to lead South Africa from the dead end apartheid to a non-racial, constitutional democracy.” If the story had ended there, there would not be much dispute today over re-naming a Cape Town street after de Klerk. But, as fate would have it, that is where the theme really thickens, triggering the question: to cross the line from the status quo to negotiating away apartheid, did de Klerk jump or was he pushed? In other words, was this a case of recognizing the impracticality of apartheid or was it a matter of moral bankruptcy of apartheid by a truly reformed de Klerk? This is the essence of today’s public debate. Antagonists insist that the former president was a bona fide offspring of apartheid, one of its prominent and loyal foot soldiers, to the very end. He resorted to negotiations only when he saw the writing on the wall, that the end of apartheid was inevitable, with or without him. So, de Klerk embraced the old jungle logic of ‘if you cannot beat them, join them?’ Was he an opportunist or a reformer? Some would say a reformed realist. The narrative continues that in the late 1980s when de Klerk came to power, he realized that his old order of apartheid was doomed. After all, it was condemned worldwide. International sanctions were largely in place and were biting so deeply that South Africa’s economy was already sluggish. A cordon of an arms embargo was tight and squeezing tighter. And in 1987-88 the apartheid war machine had suffered humiliating military defeats at the hands of Cuban-Angolan military forces in Cuito Cuanavale in southern Angola. Those unwelcome defeats made the military option questionable at best for the South African white regime. Finally, social unrest and violence had intensified inside the country, giving substance to the much dreaded rhetoric of ‘making South Africa ungovernable.’ The Republic was indeed on the verge of imploding. From the above logic, opponents of the bid to re-name Table Mountain Boulevard after de Klerk insist that, on balance, he was ultimately their oppressor. Why should they honor him by endorsing plans to change the name of a major street in Cape Town after him? He was not their liberator! This is the same position articulated publicly by the ANC, the ruling political party in South Africa, and COSATU, the huge black trade union. Conversely, de Klerk’s supporters dismiss the above logic on the grounds that, when he succeeded P.W. Botha in 1989, he became a legitimate President of the Republic of South Africa. He could have chosen to remain defiant, like his predecessor, in defense of apartheid, despite evidence against its life expectancy. That attitude on de Klerk’s part would have plunged South Africa into the abyss of a civil war that nobody wanted. To the extent that he embraced the view that there was no alternative to a negotiated settlement, de Klerk did play a major role in peaceful dismantling of apartheid. We are reminded that the negotiated settlement approach was not necessarily the easy route for De Klerk to take. Some members of his white constituency, specifically the ultra-conservative right-wing, were dead set against negotiated democracy with Nelson Mandela, the ANC, PAC or any other black organizations. To that end, they were prepared to go to war. Viewed from this angle, de Klerk did take ominous political risks by resorting to negotiations. He even did what was then ‘unthinkable’ by releasing Nelson Mandela from prison. To be redundant, that is precisely the background against which de Klerk was awarded the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize. Is that contribution worth naming a Cape Town street after him? Why are the victims of apartheid being so unforgiving? What is in a Cape Town street name any way? Prof James N. KariukiThe tragedy of de Klerk’s attachment to this scenario is that it embraces deeply-felt sentiments, much larger than itself and it is a smelly package. De Klerk’s contribution to the liberation of South Africa is and will always remain contentious. Indeed there are allegations that his regime connived at human right abuses against Blacks to the very end of apartheid. Additionally the city of Cape Town itself has had an uncomfortable relationship with the rest of country during the post-apartheid era, especially with the ruling ANC. This is so mainly because Cape Town is mainly white with the customary class/race delineations of wealth. And last, but not least, it is governed by the Democratic Alliance (DA), the home base of former apartheid diehards. Indeed, Cape Town is the capital of Western Cape, the only DA-run province. In terms of race relations, the province and the Mother City have had an appalling record in attending to the needs of its black citizens. The prevailing perception is that when it comes to Blacks, the views of the powers-that-be are simply ‘we do not care if we offend.’ Renaming Table Mountain Boulevard after F.W. de Klerk, in spite of the opposition of the voiceless, is likely to dovetail neatly into that image. Yet, in terms of political sloganeering, the DA claims that Western Cape is the best governed province in the country. The ANC responds that Western Cape and the Cape Town are still victims of apartheid and require to be liberated from that bondage. The name of de Klerk, for no fault of his own, seems to conjure up all those less than pleasant images. As the biggest opposition party in the country, the DA has had an adversarial relationship with the ruling ANC. The two at times behave like enemies rather than opposition political parties. Yet, despite today’s political posturing, long-term mistakes may be made. Currently, the DA focuses on its constitutional rights to change its street names as it sees fit. But this should hardly be done at the expense of sensitivity to the deeply-felt passions of the marginalized segments of the society. Such would enhance a sense of alienation and anger already there. And that is exactly what changing the name of Table Mountain Boulevard to F.W. de Klerk would do. More immediately, the DA faces the problem of being a minority party. For this reason, it longs for opportunities to penetrate the poor non-white society that the ANC claims to be its domain. It is one of its ideals to do this prior the forthcoming 2016 local government election. Being insensitive to the deep passions of the marginalized constituency misses the point regarding the renaming of Table Mountain Boulevard. It is politically naïve for the DA to engage in an issue that dividesSouth Africa racially and politically. It puts itself in a race it cannot win. Finally, ignoring the voices of the voiceless now is not the way forward because it threatens South Africa’s democracy. Democracy requires good governance which in turn means more than just numbers. It implies listening extra hard and respecting the minority’s views; what the voiceless and marginalized, have to say. This minority may represent the silent majority of tomorrow. **James N. Kariuki is a Kenyan Professor of International Relations (Emeritus), now an independent writer based in South Africa.  He runs the blog Global Africa]]>

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Cuba, Fidel Castro and Liberation of Africa
January 19, 2015 | 1 Comments

Mandela with former Cuban leader Fidel Castro Late South African President Nelson Mandela with former Cuban leader Fidel Castro[/caption] My hope for the legacy of Barack Obama’s presidency was dashed in 2012 when Obama launched what he called New Alliance for Food and Nutrition (NAFSN), a new program designed to feed Africa in a decade. NAFSN has been criticized for many reasons but its core crime was to open the door for American agribusiness corporations to enter Africa and to sanction the entry of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into the continent. Obama was dishonest to the extent that he did this without mentioning the dangers inherent in GMOs and the controversy surrounding them in the US and around the world. Thawing of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the US as announced on December 17, 2014 was a redeeming move because it is a wise gesture for all concerned. It was an act of good leadership that gives the Obama’s presidency a human face. Cuba and Fidel Castrol entered the world stage with a bang in October 1962. It was at that time that the US and the Soviet Union, then the uncontested global superpowers, stared at each other eyeball-to-eyeball with fingers on the buttons of their nuclear weapons. This is what came to be known as the Cuban Missile Crisis. The showdown started when American spy planes discovered that the Russians were installing in Cuba nuclear missiles capable of striking mainland USA. To stop the venture, Americans resolved to stop and inspect Soviet vessels on the high seas if they were destined for Cuba. Before the dust finally settled, it was mankind who came to the brink of a nuclear holocaust. Was Cuba’s overzealous in inviting installation of nuclear weapons a mere ninety miles from Florida? To fair-minded critics it did not seem so. After all, Americans had nuclear bases in Turkey, within a striking distance of the USSR. Additionally, the weapons in Cuba were never intended to be used; they were meant to be mere deterrents to the mightier and provocative USA. The logic of ‘nuclear deterrents’ was commonplace among the nuclear nations of that time. Did Cuba need deterrence? It was US President Dwight Eisenhower who initially severed US-Cuba diplomatic relations in January 1961, two years after Fidel Castro took power. When John Kennedy became president shortly thereafter, he tightened tighter the screws on little Cuba. After all, the Cuban government had moved closer to a one-party communist state and had nationalized US assets on the island. It is no surprise that months after coming to power, JFK approved a CIA paramilitary initiative intended to overthrow the government of Fidel Castro. The JFK-approved venture, known as the Bay of Pigs Invasion, went terribly wrong and was indeed classified as one of the greatest military disasters of modern history. Many of the invaders were killed at sea and more than 1,300 CIA mercenaries were captured and imprisoned. From that point Cuba became a flash point, culminating in the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. In that context, Cuba and Fidel Castro earned the dubious distinction of being the main actors on the stage that brought the world closest to an all-out nuclear holocaust. By introducing nuclear weapons in the Western Hemisphere was Cuba being provocative to the US? To objective sympathizers, the answer to this question was negative. In Castro’s view, the attempt to bring nuclear weapons to Cuba was a matter of survival for him and his regime. After all, American sustained provocative intrusions into his country’s affairs were unrelenting and had made deterrence essential. Indeed, a case can be made that since the 1959 Cuban Revolution until about a month ago, American foreign policy to Cuba has been unduly hostile. The US can brag of having imposed ruthless and longest ever economic sanctions on a small island of less than 12 million people. In addition, there have been hundreds of confirmed assassination attempts on the Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, by the USA. What prompts such irrational and extreme behavior? Is the US alarmed by positive ‘demonstration effects’ of the Cuban socialist ideology? What accounts for this inhumane instance of the Cuban tail wagging the American dog? [caption id="attachment_15187" align="alignright" width="194"]Prof James N. Kariuki Prof James N. Kariuki[/caption] During the 1979 Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Havana, I personally witnessed the practical impact of the Cuban socialist ideology that so concerned the USA. On the streets of Havana there were makeshift healthcare shacks, including dental clinics, offering free medical services to the public for those who needed it. The US is still struggling to devise a universally acceptable health care coverage for its citizens. I do not speak Spanish, Cuba’s national language, but the sense of dignified affirmation was unmistakable among the ordinary Cubans. I remember clearly one black policewoman directing heavy rush-hour traffic of Havana. Unwittingly, her body language told it all. She knew that she was somebody, a Cuban by right and Cuba was her country. Subtly but unequivocally, she was affirmed; she knew that the color of her skin was not held against her. The sense of insecurity, alienation and corresponding defiance, commonplace among the Blacks of North America was conspicuously non-existent here. Absence of crime in Havana was startling. Obviously the security of foreign delegates to the Havana Summit was critically important to the Cuban authorities. Yet, we were not assigned protection, armed or unarmed, on the streets of Havana or elsewhere. And no place was no-go zone for us at any time, day or night. Amid all this, I kept remembering that Cuba was the only country in the world that exported medical doctors as an official state policy. By all external indications, the Cuban socialist system was not so bad after all; it seemed to work for the Cubans. Should they have dropped it just to suit the whims of the USA? The impact of the Cuban Revolution on the entire society is obvious. During the regime of Fulgencio Batista who was overthrown by Fidel Castro, Cubans suffered from abject poverty, had scant access to education, healthcare and dignified jobs. In addition the Batista regime ruled with an iron fist. It was known for brutal and arbitrary arrests, torture and rampant executions. Corruption was commonplace and Batista was well connected to the US mafia. He was a major beneficiary of American-ran rich hotels and casinos in Havana. Contemporary Cuba enjoys identical life expectancy as the US and has lower infant mortality. Cuba’s literacy rates are some of the highest in the world; the US is 21st. Cuba has one of the best disaster response medical systems anywhere. It has recently sent 250 doctors to West Africa to combat Ebola. All this has occurred despite the American-imposed economic embargo. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, Cubans indeed offered to send 1, 500 Cuban doctors to assist. The George W. Bush administration was too embarrassed to respond. Relative to Global Africa, Cuba’s foreign policy has been guided by two convictions. First, that Cuba’s liberation from Spain in the 19th century needed and got active cooperation of Afro-Cubans. Second, the Cuban society is what it is today because of inputs of Afro-Cubans. They injected vital elements into the Cuban way of life. For these reasons, the Castro leadership felt a profound sense of indebtedness to contemporary Africa. On Nelson Mandela’s 1994 inauguration day as the first democratically elected President of South Africa, Fidel Castro was the guest of honor at the ceremony and one of only four heads of state who spoke. On that occasion, Mandela gave Castro a big bear hug and whispered to his ear, “We owe this day to you.” These were words of profound gratitude and deep affection. Was Mandela overstating his case? In 1987-1988 Cuban, along with Angolan MPLA forces, engaged apartheid South African troops for 137 days in southern Angola, ultimately driving them back to Namibia. Though not entirely crushed, the apartheid war machine was profoundly humiliated by the defeats in Cuito Cuanavale. The myth of invisibility of the white military might in Southern Africa was forever shattered. The Cuban triumphs so embarrassed and shocked the apartheid regime that its eventual liquidation was a matter of time. Various sources have indicated that the Cuito Cuanavale military confrontation was important enough to the apartheid regime that use of nuclear weapons was considered. In a 2007 autobiography, Fidel Castro: My Life, the Cuban icon revealed that he was aware of the nuclear factor in the Angolan confrontation. As he stated, “for Angola’s freedom, Cuban and Angolan troops fought against an apartheid army and government that had eight Hiroshima/Nagasaki-size atomic bombs secretly provided by the US through … Israel.” The political fallout of the Cuito Cuanavale military encounters was indeed far-reaching. With South Africa’s intrusions out of the way, Angola was able to focus on consolidating its independence. The way for Namibia’s independence was also paved. Equally critical, military action inside South Africa itself was intensified. These and other pressures hurried the post-apartheid days for South Africa and its white supremacists allies in Southern Africa. It is against this background also that Nelson Mandela was released. Meanwhile the West continued to see the world through the lenses of the Cold War. The ANC was classified as a terrorist organization and, accordingly, Western support went unhindered to the apartheid regime. On the other hand, Cuban support to the African cause proceeded without reservation. As Fidel Castro has noted, Cuba had staked everything, including the existence of its own Revolution in the battle of Cuito Cuanavale. Meanwhile, both US President Ronald Reagan and British Margaret Thatcher made no bones about branding Nelson Mandela as a terrorist. This dubious distinction was sustained until 2008. All that time Mandela’s visa to enter the US, even as president of South Africa, had to be approved by the US Secretary of State, personally. Yes, Mandela meant every word that he whispered to Castro’s ear in 1994, that he had played a pivotal role in his nation’s liberation. And all that Cuba expected in return was for its soldiers to be allowed to “bring home the remains of their dead.” *James N. Kariuki is a Kenyan Professor of International Relations (Emeritus), now an independent writer based in South Africa. He was a professional and personal friend of Professor Ali Mazrui. He runs the blog Global Africa]]>

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Botched Western Diplomacy Sabotaged ICC’s Case against President Uhuru Kenyatta
January 6, 2015 | 0 Comments

James N. Kariuki*

Cheering crowds welcome Kenyatta on return from The Hague

Cheering crowds welcome Kenyatta on return from The Hague

Until December 5, 2014, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta was under indictment by the International Criminal Court for orchestrating Kenya’s post-elections violence of 2007-08. Curiously, The charges emerged almost simultaneously as the international stature of the Court itself was waning against allegations that it targeted African leaders unduly.

According to this logic, Western leaders are the worst abusers of human rights and they are never indicted. Why were US George W. Bush and Britain’s Tony Blair not accused of human rights violations in the Iraq War? How is it that American President Barack Obama walks free of ICC indictments for the drones that the US continues to drop on the Islamic world? Had the ICC become a neo-colonial tool of the West?

By a strange twist of fate, the hunter had suddenly become the hunted; the ICC itself was on trial in the world opinion. Unfortunately for an international court, the campaign against it was driven mostly by none other than the continental African Union.

After his indictment in 2012, Uhuru ran for Kenya’s presidency. In the contaminated atmosphere where ICC’s legitimacy was being questioned, it seemed somewhat over-zealous that in Kenya’s election campaign, the same Western powers posed as crusaders for human rights by taking it upon themselves to remind the Kenyan electorate that the Uhuru ticket was composed of ICC inductees, unworthy of their presidency. Put another way the Uhuru ticket, also known as the Jubilee Alliance, was portrayed as a burdensome liability to the Kenyan voters.

For its part, Britain announced unequivocally that, in the unlikely event that Uhuru won Kenya’s presidency, it would distance itself and maintain only ‘essential contacts’ with that government. At that time the Jubilee Alliance objected angrily to a “shadowy, suspicious and rather animated involvement of the British High Commissioner in Kenya’s election.”

The Americans also issued a thinly-veiled threat that “choices have consequences.” These were code words of an American diplomatic envoy, Johnnie Carson. They were widely taken to mean that, if Kenyans voted the Uhuru ticket into power, there would be a price to be paid for it.
The Anglo-American West thus showed a clear pre-election resolve to deprive fellowship and goodwill to a possible democratically-elected Uhuru-led government. From a legal standpoint, this was a crude betrayal of a Western principle of innocent until proven guilty.

Meanwhile, in the same Kenya’s campaign the West was actively supporting Uhuru’s major political rival, Raila Odinga. With this conspicuous support behind him, Odinga was so assured of victory that he even ‘eased up’ on campaigning in the run-up to the 2013 voting. To him, winning was a foregone conclusion, “it wouldn’t even be close.” Odinga was wrong on both counts. The elections were close and he happened to be on the losing end. Could it be that the meddling of the West on

Raila Odinga’s behalf in Kenya’s 1913 elections cost him the presidential bid?
What is certain is that Kenyans were irritated by the Western excessive meddling in their domestic political affairs. In the end, Western condemnation of Uhuru backfired, boosted his popularity by triggering support in form of sympathy and protest votes against the ‘unwelcome’ push for Raila.

Until the 2013 elections, the Anglo-American West seemed to share a monolithic view regarding Uhuru’s ICC indictment. That ‘understanding’ was largely a legal perspective, driven by political ends of course. It held that, since Uhuru was charged, he must defend himself in person before the ICC. He had to be tried like any other suspected criminal.

There have been whispers this ‘attitude’ was part of an elaborate politico-legal scheme. If Kenyatta was personally at The Hague to defend himself in a protracted and expensive trial, there was no way that he could possibly discharge his responsibility as the President of Kenya. At the very least, he could not be at two places at the same time.

Presumably, Raila Odinga would then step in and take over power. Hence the Western initial insistence that Uhuru had to be tried at The Hague. But before the alleged Anglo-American strategy materialized, politics of national interests subtly but profoundly entered the picture and drove a wedge between Britain and the USA.

In May 2013, Kenya’s newly-elected President, Uhuru Kenyatta, travelled to London at the invitation of the British Government of David Cameron. Officially, the purpose of the trip was to participate at a Somalia Summit, a subject that had become a critical security issue in the Eastern Africa region.

At first Uhuru was probably skeptical about making the trip, mindful that when his father visited the UK in 1962, he was pelted with rotten eggs by the British public, a show of utter contempt. After all, in the 1950s it was the colonial authorities of the same British who branded daddy Kenyatta a satanic pervert for allegedly masterminding the Mau Mau rebellion. Jomo Kenyatta was stigmatized as “a leader unto darkness and death.”

In the end Uhuru went to London. The Somalia ‘issue’ was important enough to Kenya’s security to demand a presidential presence. During this visit, no eggs were thrown but the British news media dubbed Uhuru with a hostile label of ‘Criminal President.’

Prof James N. Kariuki

Prof James N. Kariuki

The epithet of May 2013 referred to the fact that the ICC had recently indicted Uhuru for crimes against humanity. All the same the millions of Kenyans who had just voted him into office were insulted by the verbal slap. Indeed Kenya’s social media was abuzz with objections to the ‘crude diplomacy’ of the British public. After all, Uhuru was indicted; not yet found guilty.
The British Prime Minister was understandably cautious to avoid displaying exuberance at being in the company of the ‘discredited’ Kenyan leader. He delicately avoided photo sessions with Uhuru; there could be domestic political fallout if Cameron seemed to coddle an ICC inductee. But there comes a time when a leader must lead.

Cameron understood fully that British interests in Kenya and Eastern Africa were too important for him to dismiss Uhuru. After all, accused or not, he was the elected president of Kenya. This reality posed a serious problem for the policy of maintaining only ‘essential contact’ with the Uhuru government as pronounced by the British-American axis a few months earlier.

In the US, Uhuru’s official visit to Britain in all likelihood raised eye brows. Question must have been asked: Is Uhuru’s visit to the UK consistent with our mutual pledge to maintain only ‘essential contacts’ with his government? Was the British going it alone in conferring political legitimacy to Uhuru, an ICC inductee? Whatever the case, Britain had displayed a higher form of diplomatic realism than the US.

When Barack Obama made his first official visit to East Africa the following month, he bypassed Kenya altogether. Indeed at the University of Cape Town, he did state that he did so because he did not want to be associated with an ICC inductee in Kenya. Critical observers viewed this as pouting because Kenyans had rejected Obama’s candidate of choice for their president, Raila Odinga. Remember the code words, choices have consequences! Yet, in terms of US national interests, Kenya was by far amore critical force in Eastern Africa than Tanzania that Obama chose to visit.
The effect of internal Western soul searching and contradictions was that, by the time that Obama’s US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington came around in August 2014, few noticed that Uhuru was there as a vibrant and active participant. In the US too, Uhuru ICC stigma of ‘criminal president’ had apparently receded into distant past. Self-interests of the Anglo-American worlds had prevailed and superseded the quest to ‘un-do’ Uhuru Kenyatta.

Once they became preoccupied with their conflicting national interests, the US and Britain ceased to be a potent ‘invisible force’ pushing for Uhuru Kenyatta to be tried at The Hague. And yet the ICC had compromised itself by indicting the same Uhuru before it had developed a watertight case against him, enough not only to indict but to convict him. The Anglo-American breakdown of a united front for Uhuru’s trial sapped the ICC the single-mindedness and enthusiasm to continue the pursuit of the Kenyan President.

Ultimately, it is the Kenyan victims of 2007-08 violence who have been betrayed by the ICC_Uhuru fiasco. If anybody has to bear that responsibility, it is the West and the ICC. But it would be fitting if Uhuru could find a way to assist the innocent victims of the 2008 violence. After all, they have stood by him to the bitter end. Additionally, he has the means, personally and officially, and the heart to extend a hand of kindness. This would be a political act, not legal. He would be doing it because he chooses to, not because he is instructed to do so

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Ali Mazrui, Julius Nyerere and Apartheid South Africa: A Tribute
January 5, 2015 | 0 Comments

indexProfessor Ali Mazrui died two months ago at his home in Binghamton, New York. He was a Kenyan in the Diaspora and a scholar of monumental standing. Julius Nyerere was President of Tanzania from independence in 1961 to 1985 when he voluntarily stepped down. He died in 1999. In a historical sense then, the two global icons were contemporaries. Ali Mazrui and Julius Nyerere were my leading East African public heroes. Mazrui, a fellow Kenyan, was an outstanding scholar. He joined the teaching staff of Makerere University in Uganda in 1963 and, after only two years, he jumped to full professorship, bypassing the ranks of Senior Lecturer and Associate Professor. That happened before Mazrui had defended his dissertation for a doctorate degree at Oxford University. He indeed was a bona fide scholar in the Western tradition of objective inquiry. On the other hand, Nyerere was a politician from Tanganyika (mainland Tanzania.) But he was much more than a political ideologue. He was an astute, seasoned man of letters, a giant intellectual in his own right and a remarkable leader. In addition, he was by all accounts a decent human being of impeccable integrity. Most importantly, Nyerere was also a man of action, an exceptional African of vision and conviction. He was sufficiently audacious to act if that would improve Tanzania’s and Africa’s tormented condition. Little wonder that many enlightened Africans today are convinced that, in terms of political leadership, Nyerere is by far the best that free Africa has produced. Both Nyerere and Mazrui shone in their respective fields. In 2004, the London-based magazine, The New African, invited its readership to respond to the question: Who are the greatest Africans of all time? Both Nyerere and Mazrui were featured in the results as numbers 4 and 50, respectively. This was one year before Ali Mazrui was selected as the 73rd topmost intellectual on the list of top 100 public intellectuals worldwide by Prospect Magazine (UK) and Foreign Policy (United States.) As a ‘back door’ salute to the two East African icons, we pose two questions: What set Mazrui and Nyerere apart? What was their relevance to the all-important issue of apartheid in South Africa? After all, South Africa’s racist policy did trigger public comparisons between the two giants. Historically, no issue has bedeviled post-colonial Africa as deeply and uniformly as apartheid. The racially-driven policy actually united the entire Black world in an alliance-in-adversity. How did our two East African heroes handle apartheid’s existence on their continent? Rooted in the firm conviction that apartheid was a repugnant moral abomination, Nyerere was decidedly and unalterably against it from the outset. He made this clear before his country became independent in 1961. On October 22, 1959, he made a powerful pledge before the colonial Legislative Council, “We, the people of Tanganyika, would like to light a candle and put it on top of Mount Kilimanjaro which would shine beyond our borders giving hope where there was despair, love where there was hate and dignity where there was before only humiliation.” images.jpg 1Henceforth, Nyerere effectively became a diplomatic globe-trotter, urging the Western world to desist from supporting apartheid. Meanwhile, Dar es Salaam quickly transformed into a Mecca for all the liberations movements from across white-dominated Southern Africa. In sum, Nyerere provided moral, political and material support to the struggles against white-rule in southern Africa. In the end, his contribution was consummated by his peers when they installed him as the Chairman of the Frontline States upon its establishment in 1970. Ultimately, Nyerere’s dedication to the liberation of the African sub-continent earned him the distinction of being glorified as the ‘carrier of the torch that liberated Africa.’ Nyerere was thus a hands-on political actor regarding South Africa in particular and southern Africa generally. Ali Mazrui entered the South African scene differently, as a scholar steeped in the Western orientation. After apartheid, the next most agonizing issue in post-colonial Africa was arguably that of white mercenaries. Indeed apartheid and white mercenaries were often perceived and projected as one and the same thing to the extent that the latter was a byproduct of the former. As rejects of apartheid, mercenaries were jettisoned out of the white war-machine and were happy to become soldiers-of-fortune who hired themselves out to the despots in black Africa. This tradition of mercenaries continued until 1998 when it was legally banned by democratic South Africa. The first captive in this ‘dogs of war’ aberration was Congo’s Moishe Tshombe. He first engaged the much despised mercenaries in the mid-1960s to fight for the secession of Congo’s mineral-rich Katanga Province, and subsequently for a united Congo. As a result of this illogical flip-flopping, a question arose: Was Tshombe having fellow Africans killed by South African white racists in the interest of his country or for his personal ambitions? Mazrui of that time was the ultimate scholar in the Western tradition of genuine inquiry and free speech. Regarding the presence of white mercenaries in the Congo he argued that there was a silver lining to it in the long run, because the Congolese had less to forgive each other for if the killing was done by foreign mercenaries. In his own words, “…the use of foreigners to commit some of the atrocities (in the Congo) might cynically but truly, be a positive contribution to the realization of future peace.” As far as pure logic goes, Mazrui’s proposition here was certainly viable. However, human affairs do not happen in a vacuum. In an abstract sense, there was coherence to Mazrui’s logic but, in an African setting, there was something about that logic that was cold-blooded and abrasive. Regardless of the fate of peace in future Congo, the very idea of entertaining (and paying) racist South Africans to spill African blood anywhere in freed Africa, was itself anathema, absolutely unacceptable. It was a classic case of the ends not justifying the means. What is more, the collective will of post-colonial Africa was total isolation of apartheid South Africa. Mazrui’s logic-of-the-head overlooked those deeply-held sentiments in black Africa. By repeatedly employing insensitive and unpalatable reasoning, Mazrui was nearly tagged with a pejorative stigma of being stoic to pan-African causes, the critic of orthodoxies of African thought. At least he earned the label that, in his earlier scholarship, Mazrui was an aloof and pointlessly combative polemicist. Yet, there was another side to Ali Mazrui, a kinder and gentler person who was deeply devoted to Africa and easily moved by the misfortunes of fellow Africans. Unfortunately, this side of Mazrui remained largely unknown except to those who got to know him personally. Relative to South Africa, Mazrui-of-the heart was exposed to me in the late 1960s by a South African event. In 1969, the University of Cape Town tracked Mazrui down to Makerere University in Uganda and invited him to give a public lecture at the ‘world class’ institution. This was at the height of the dark days of apartheid. UCT is the same university where in 1966 the US Senator Robert F. Kennedy had directed some brutally challenging remarks at apartheid. Mazrui took the bull by the horns by stating three conditions for accepting the offer. He was prepared to give the lecture at UCT provided (a) he was free to say whatever he wanted (b) that he addressed only a racially mixed audience and (c) he could bring along his British wife. UCT responded that it was prepared to risk the first two conditions but the third one was ‘going too far.’ Indeed bringing his white wife to South Africa would make Mazrui liable to prosecution under the Immorality and Mixed Marriage laws. So, in 1969 Mazrui did not go to the old South Africa but he made his point of protesting against apartheid by upholding pan-African sentiments. So, he was indeed capable of being moved by feelings after all!   [caption id="attachment_15187" align="alignleft" width="194"]Prof James N. Kariuki Prof James N. Kariuki[/caption] In the early 1970’s, there was a propensity among upcoming African scholars to ‘dismiss’ Ali Mazrui. To them, he had succumbed to becoming a detached, ivory tower academic committed to being a negative critic of orthodox African thought. Why did he not animate his scholarship by applying it to public affairs of society in the mold of Julius Nyerere, Martin Luther King or WEB Dubois? Yet, by the time his body started to fail him, Mazrui was deeply involved outside the academy in gigantic global projects of denouncing injustice. Such included campaigning on behalf of the African Union for reparations for slavery and seeking justice for the Palestinians. Similarly, after the presidency, Julius Nyerere took on a global responsibility of becoming Chairman of the South Commission, comprising of the continents of the Southern Hemisphere. What is the moral of this story? The two East African icons travelled different routes to international acclaim but they arrived at the same destination of combating injustices of this world. Beneath the façade in their external appearances, what they had in common transcended those differences. Perhaps African critics should allow time and space for their homegrown intellectual treasures to shine when they are ‘good and ready.’ *James N. Kariuki is Professor of International Relations (Emeritus), a consultant and an independent writer. More of his work and the Special PAV edition on Prof Ali Mazrui can be found on his blog Global Africa]]>

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Ali A. Mazrui in Historical Context: A Tribute
December 15, 2014 | 0 Comments

Professor James Kariuki Professor James Kariuki[/caption] In 2004, one of the major South Africa’s national newspapers, City Press, came to an agreement with Professor Ali Mazrui that he would write a regular column for it. The association was not entirely accidental. The paper had acquired a new editor and the new management team had decided to adopt a new ideological orientation summed up in a new motto: Distinctly African. For that, City Press could hardly find a better match than Ali Mazrui. Adoption of the paper’s new motto came in the wake of the historic African Union-organized Diaspora Conference of Intellectuals in Dakar, Senegal. The conference was a formal affirmation that African intellectuals have a role to play in shaping post-colonial Africa and its Diaspora. The launch of the Mazrui column in the City Press came one month after the announcement of 100 greatest Africans of all time. Earlier in the year London-based publication, The New African, had invited nominations from its readers to respond to the question: Who are the greatest Africans of all time? Their editorial offices were awash with nominations. The result, published in August 2004, was a unique mix of some of the most significant Africans in history. But the list of nominations manifested three biases. One was a gender bias: there were very few women in that list of African luminaries. Secondly, there was a political bias. The selected nominees were disproportionately political heroes and giants of statecraft.  Finally, there was a temporal bias in that the nominated Africans ware primarily Titans of the 20th century.  Not enough heroes from the previous centuries were nominated. The list included Ali Mazrui, an African scholar and the distinguished author of the relatively new ‘Africana Column’ in City Press, as a historical hero. Mazrui shared the 50th place with F.W. de Klerk, the former president of South Africa who was instrumental in dismantling apartheid. It was surprising even to Mazrui himself, that of the East Africans who made the list he is the only scholar to have earned that distinction. Literary gaps in the list included the absence of Kenyan novelist Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Tanzania’s Swahili poet Shaaban Roberts, and Okot p’Bitek, author of Song of Lowino, from Uganda.  Mazrui was in splendid isolation among East African academics. African founding fathers of post-colonial era did feature prominently in The New African’s list. Those included Kwame Nkrumah, Robert Mugabe, Jomo Kenyatta, Julius K. Nyerere, Milton Obote and others. Also recognized were some of Africa’s martyrs such as Kenya’s Tom Mboya who was assassinated in 1969, and Dedan Kimathi, who was executed by the British during the Mau Mau war in Kenya. Some of the nominations for historical greatness were obvious such as Shaka Zulu. Some omissions were inexcusable, such as the absence of Menelik II of Ethiopia. It was impressive that The New African recognized that the Diaspora was part of Africa. Thus, the 100 greatest Africans included such Diaspora giants as W.E. B. Dubois, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, the boxer Muhammad Ali and others. Coincidentally, the idea of selecting 100 greatest Africans of all time followed in the wake of an earlier pan-African proposal by Ali Mazrui for nomination of 100 greatest African books of the previous 100 years. Mazrui made the suggestion at the Zimbabwe International Book Fair in 1988, and the international publishers and others acted upon the proposal. Nominations of great books were invited internationally, and a distinguished panel of judges was set up. Since the concept of 100 greatest African books had originally come from Mazrui, his own books were disqualified from the competition. However, he was recognized as the ‘founding father’ of the whole exercise. When the awards of the final list of Africa’s greatest books of the previous 100 years were at last ready to be given to the authors in Cape Town in 2002, Mazrui was given a special role. This included presenting an award to Nelson Mandela personally for his book written in prison, Long Walk to Freedom.  Just as Mazrui had helped to honor Mandela among the authors of Africa’s 100 greatest books of the century, The New African ranked the same Mandela as the greatest African in history. This was the same year, 2004, when both Mandela and Mazrui were honored with honorary doctorates by the University of Transkei, but this time the great Kenyan novelist, Ngugi wa Thiong’o was included in the honor list. [caption id="attachment_14858" align="alignright" width="168"]From left standing President Mbeki, Prof James Kariuki & Prof Mazrui seated From left standing President Mbeki, Prof James Kariuki & Prof Mazrui seated[/caption] From the point of view of honorary doctorates, the year 2004 was exceptional even for Ali Mazrui.  In that year alone he received four honorary doctorates in four different countries—doctorate in divinity form Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, USA, one in political economy from the University of Transkei in South Africa, another in humane letters from Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia and, finally, one in science and human resource development from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Kenya. Incidentally, Mazrui was so pan-African that not all Africans knew which country produced him.  As he spent 10 of his formative years as a scholar at Makerere University in Kampala, many Africans believed that he was Ugandan. On the basis of his Swahili affiliations, attire and cultural background, other Africans believed that he was Tanzanian. And since he was married to a Nigerian, some Africans were convinced that he was Nigerian. Finally, because of his four decades residence in the USA, many Africans were convinced that he had become African-American. The New African described Mazrui as a Tanzanian intellectual and writer who represented a positive image of Africa and its people. Mazrui was actually from Kenya but, as the essay here by Uganda’s Jude Kagoro indicates, some other African countries are almost ready ‘to take up arms’ to claim him in death. Mazrui himself regarded the mistake about his nationality as a tribute to his pan-African orientation. City Press newspaper, under the editorship of Mathatha Tsedu, hoped that their association with Professor Ali Mazrui foretold of the golden days when all Africans would be African first and foremost and Nigerians, South Africans and Kenyans last. City Press could not have picked a better choice. Ali Mazrui was the epitome of the golden days’ aspiration. May his soul rest in eternal peace! *James N. Kariuki is a Kenyan Professor of International Relations (Emeritus), now an independent writer based in South Africa. He was a professional and personal friend of Professor Ali Mazrui. He runs the blog Global Africa            ]]>

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ALI MAZRUI: The Human Dimensions
December 15, 2014 | 0 Comments

Prof Elaigwu Prof Elaigwu[/caption] An urbane gentleman, Ali Mazrui could easily have westernized himself, as some Africans have done. Some Africans in the West and in Africa are more Western than Westerners in their life-styles. But Ali Mazrui was a mixture of Western urbanity, African tradition, and Islamic values – part of the Mazrui Triple heritage. A liberal Muslim, Mazrui was genuinely committed to his faith, without necessarily making a show of it. He might not have met the numerical requirement for daily prayers, but he had a good heart, a kind heart, and the fear of God.  Religion and Tradition Ali Mazrui’s family background and the values he learned in early life under his Grand Khadi father, always seemed to remain as some kind of check, even in the materialistic Western context he found himself. He was tolerant of other religions and made no fuss over religious differences. He could also engage anyone in debates over religion, without getting emotional about it. This was why he was incensed when critics accused him of religious bigotry – such as his position on Salman Rushdie or critiques of his narrative of Islamic events in The Africans documentary ­ Indeed, Mazrui did not regard religious borders as impenetrable. He got married to his first wife, Molly, a Christian and British lady. His second wife, Pauline is Christian and Nigerian. Both have Islamic names. Mazrui never insisted that his wife should change her religion. Nor did Ali Mazrui insist that all his children be Muslim. One cardinal human trait of Ali Mazrui was his religious ecumenicalism in the family and among his circle of friends. Religion hardly came into his calculus of inter-personal relations. However, I observed that his early religious belief had much to do with his trust for people (until they proved themselves otherwise), his kindness, and his willingness to give without expecting returns. In a moment of introspection Mazrui once noted – “I grew up in the shadow of Mau Mau; I am aging in the shadow of Al-Queda.” To what extent did Ali Mazrui grow up in the shadow of his family’s Islamic tradition, and age under the shadow of stronger personal conviction as a Muslim? May be the answer is to be found in his experience in Africa with the BBC team as he shot scenes in various parts of Africa in the mid-eighties for The Africans. The documentary examined indigenous, Islamic and Western civilizations. In the process of filming, something new happened to Ali Mazrui. As he wrote: “I studied more closely than ever the religion of my birth within my own ancestral continent. Something in me was affected during those years.” If something affected Ali Mazrui in those years, the telecast of The Africans exposed him to new Islamic constituencies around the world. His lectures and writings on Islamic topics increased. In 1995 alone, he gave 10 lectures on various topics on Islam – from Oxford University through San Francisco and Columbus, Ohio, to Hong Kong and Canada. Another interesting aspect of Mazrui was his interest in African tradition. He was a collector of traditional African art, handicrafts and others. He was passionate about Africa. A humble and amiable personality, the only area I noticed his vanity was whenever he wore African clothes. He showed off African clothes, from all over the continent, with pride. Even when he wore a Western suit, he proudly adorned it with ‘kente’ muffler from Ghana. For Mazrui, Africa had many things of which to be proud. One of these was the rich variety of African fashions.  Large Heart and Generosity  I have never met anyone as generous as Ali Mazrui. In fact, the late Omari Kokole and I, believed that if Ali Mazrui managed his resources by himself, he would be broke in three months. He easily identified with the down-trodden and the less privileged. Like a typical African, he believed in the maintenance of an extended family and his wards also became members of the family. Several Ugandans became his wards. In many cases he assisted them with admissions to educational institutions and others with cash and jobs. This also applied to Nigerians and other Africans. Until his death, his house in Binghamton was a typical African family house with extended family members of three generations. He retained that African elder’s propensity to be his brother’s keeper. In capitalist, nuclear family-oriented America, Mazrui still played the typical African. Ali Mazrui had a large and forgiving heart. As an illustration, there was this ward of his who stole his checkbook, forged his signature, and cleared large sums of money from his bank account. Mazrui found, to his chagrin, that checks written to pay his children’s school fees were not being honored. He discovered that his ward had ‘sanitized’ his account.  Mazrui did not cut off this ward; he still visited with this man when he was in his country. Similarly, on the faculty of the Department of Political Science in Jos, there were a few colleagues, who out of career insecurity made false academic allegations against Mazrui, and even tried to instigate students against him. They had painted him as a conservative agent of liberal western civilization. Of course, none of these colleagues had the courage to challenge Mazrui to debate. I learnt quite a great deal from the maturity with which he handled these junior colleagues. He treated them with courtesy and politely tried to erode their sense of insecurity. It showed maturity, humility and good skills in inter-personal relations.  Leadership and Influence Ali Mazrui provided leadership in largely very informal but definite ways. The late Kokole and I always braced ourselves to the usual Mazrui yellow ruled sheets, a day after he travelled. Late Nancy Levis, his Secretary then, usually had the largest number of yellow sheets. He discussed freely with one; he was the boss without being bossy; and took time to spend evenings with us, his friends. A number of times Omari, Ali and I would meet at my apartment or at Ali’s in Binghamton till the early hours of the morning, chatting over the trivial, the humorous and even highly debatable issues. I missed those informal friendly sessions. Ali and I also had such sessions in Jos with Prof. Nurudeen Farah. I often teased late Dr. Omari Kokole, over his attempt to become an Ali Mazrui clone. Omari copied many traits of Ali Mazrui without knowing that he was doing so. His writing was almost exactly like Mazrui’s. However, I stopped teasing Omari when I realized what happened to me in Paris in 1979, at the conference on “Historical and Socio-Cultural Relations Between Black Africa and the Arab World from 1935 to the Present,” organized by UNESCO Committee on the General History of Africa. I had just finished delivering my paper, when the former teacher of King Hassan of Morocco (I believe it was His Excellency, Mr. Mohammed El Fasi) called me aside and congratulated me, but advised me to be slower in my delivery especially when there were translations. He then turned to Ali Mazrui and said – “Professor, goodness you are reproducing yourself, only that he is faster in his delivery. Tell him to slow down.” Ali Mazrui smiled. I could not detect, even today, the ‘mazruiness’ in my style of presentation. In short, Ali Mazrui could be very infectious in his influence. I have been teased by many Nigerian colleagues and others as a “Nigerian Mazrui.” I have strongly denied this. One, I am nowhere as prolific as he was; two our writing styles are different, and, three, our modes of presentation are different. Moreover, I always argue that I would rather be Elaigwu, because that is what I would like to be, and that is what I believe Ali Mazrui would like me to be – myself, even if I had learnt some tricks of the profession from him. How does one draw the boundaries of influence?  Humanity, Humility and Africanity I was personally touched by Prof Mazrui’s humanity. You only needed to put Ali Mazrui on a carpet to debate any topic of interest to him to see his strength of personality. The image of a very strong orator, polemicist, writer and academic, belied the deeply human, empathetic and emotional aspects of Ali Mazrui. Ali Mazrui valued relations with people, family and friends in very emotional terms.  He did not pretend to be unemotional. He was very committed and loyal to his family and friends, no matter what differences existed. He did not pretend not to get incensed or offended, but he was quite patient. Nor was he vindictive. He forgave very easily, even if he might not have forgotten. Past wrongs so forgiven, did not affect his relations with the person. I once witnessed moments of Ali Mazrui’s anguish. The occasion was the death of Maureen, one of Ali’s Ugandan wards. I had never seen Ali Mazrui weep before, but he did. He was devastated.  Omari and I had to devise ways to console him. It was not easy. Warm, emotional in relationships and honest, Ali Mazrui found himself, feeling like he had lost part of himself. But he picked himself up and travelled to Uganda to make funeral arrangements with Brenda (Maureen’s sister.) Omari and I were relieved by the assumed stoicism. Ali brooded like any human being, then put himself together and took up what he considered to be his responsibilities. Another example of Ali Mazrui’s anguish was the death of Omari Kokole. I knew Omari’s role in Mazrui’s life and vice versa, and I could imagine how the latter felt at the death of Kokole.   As he wrote to me later – “What a shock, Jonah. We are quite bewildered.” I fully empathized with his situation. At that point I was not sure what I was more concerned about – Omari’s death or Ali’s health. I resorted to prayer for the Mwalimu. Again, like a strong character, he gradually overcame the tragedy and moved on. In a typical African way, Mwalimu Mazrui not only arranged for the funeral, he visited Omari’s mother, sister and two daughters to console them. Mazrui was really disturbed by the debate with Wole Soyinka and its depreciation into pettier levels than he had expected. In Nigeria, whenever anyone challenged Ali Mazrui publicly about it, one could feel the personal anguish he was going through. His usual explanation that he did not start the debate and the gutter-type vituperations which followed did not seem to convince, even himself. His anguish was, I believe, “why should two elder academics debase themselves before younger and junior colleagues?” In African tradition, elders are conscious about how they settle their squabbles, such that wrong signals are not sent to younger ones. Mazrui’s dilemma was whether to stop or continue to reply to charges he felt were untrue and unfair, in view of the side-effects on younger colleagues. In 1995, Ali Mazrui was given the Distinguished Africanist Award at the 38th Annual Meeting of the African Studies Association, meeting in Orlando, Florida. At a party held in his honor by the African Studies and Research Centre of Cornell University, Ali Mazrui paid tribute to the five pillars of his professional career, two of which were in Africa – Makerere University in Uganda and the University of Jos in Nigeria. The other three were American universities – the University of Michigan, the State University of New York at Binghamton, and Cornell University. Ali Mazrui’s commitment to Africa was beyond dispute; his ability to interpret it has been accepted world-wide, even if there is no consensus on such interpretation; and his spirit of congeniality towards fellow Africans and Africanists has been confirmed by many Africanists themselves. The impact of Ali Mazrui’s works transcends countries and continents, race and ethnic groups, religion and languages. Mazrui was a modern Aristotle, his peripatetic style did not merely involve walking while talking in the classroom, it involved flying to Tokyo, a car-ride in Brazil, and walking in the rural areas and the bushes of Nigeria, as he filmed and lectured all over the world. There was no stopping this African in his intellectual crusade as a globalist, trying to make the world understand Africa, and Africa, the world. Professor Mazrui’s works reflect his beliefs and concerns about Africa, Africa and the world; the contradictions in the continent’s developmental process; the alternative mechanisms for conflict resolution; the socio-psychology of the African elite and the dilemmas of development; the politics of globalism and Africa’s position; the third World and the North – issues of dependency and liberation; modalities for South-South cooperation; religion, language (culture) and the State; academic freedom and the freedom of the writer, and many others. Some of the issues highlighted in his writing and public lectures are matters that gave him personal causes of agitation. Even in these circumstances, he tried to maintain as much academic objectivity as humanly possible, driven by powerful logic and incredibly coherent and impressive prose. You may not always agree with Ali Mazrui, but you will agree that he was a distinguished academic and Africanist. Ali Mazrui thought, wrote and spoke about Africa with passion and patriotism. It is important to note that although Ali Mazrui resided in the United States for forty years, he retained his Kenyan passport and citizenship. He could easily have become an American, possibly British, citizen. Even at eighty (four score years) Prof. Ali Mazrui still made frequent international trips to give lectures. While the wheel chair came to his aid at the airports, Mwalimu Mazrui still soldiered on in spite of his ill-health. His persistence, hard-work, determination and commitment to the cause of expanding the parameters of knowledge, has been a great lesson to those of us coming behind him. Conclusion Professor Ali Mazrui journeyed to the “Hereafter”, after eighty one years. For me, it has been an honor to be associated with Ali Mazrui from Palo Alto to the Nigerian Plateau and beyond. Professor Mazrui had been a role model, an inspiration, a mentor, a teacher and a boss. He represented noble characteristics of an urbane western-educated African who is Islamic and yet traditional. From Ali Mazrui I learnt not only skills in intellectual work but in interpersonal relations. I must confess that Mazrui’s Africa-centric concerns encouraged me to remain in Nigeria, even amidst massive exodus of Nigerian intellectuals from the country. I did not want to be far away from the field of my study. Let me salute this great African Globalist and Global African, this orator and master of English Language; outstanding academic, scholar par excellence, novelist, excellent narrator, an amazingly efficient teacher, meticulous editor, and astute administrator. I salute his humanity, humility and Africanity. I salute his passion and patriotism, and above all, the courage to be himself even when others disagreed. I salute this true “African child of a mountain called Kenya, a river called Niger and a lake called Victoria.” May God grant his SOUL eternal rest in the “Hereafter.”  Amen!! *J. Isawa Elaigwu is Professor Emeritus of Political Science, University of Jos; President, Institute of Governance and Social Research, Jos, Nigeria]]>

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The Ali Mazrui I Knew
December 15, 2014 | 0 Comments

Esther Githinji Esther Githinji[/caption] I knew Professor Ali Mazrui for only ten years, 2004 to his death. Yet, in that short period, we got to know each other fairly well because we talked and worked on both personal and professional levels, at times, quite intensely. When he passed away on October 12, 2014, I asked myself a simple question:  What principles guided this remarkable man in life? I share here a handful of thoughts which have occurred to me, keeping in mind that this is still a work in progress. Speak Up for the Downtrodden Since his days at Makerere University, Ali Mazrui would not be silenced on matters of principle or public interest, even if this meant provoking the powers that be of East Africa. As Mazrui himself came to put it, “Obote was sometimes tempted to detain me or expel me (from Uganda); Idi Amin eventually wished he had eliminated me, and Julius Nyerere is in recurrent debates with me. Moi does not know what to do with me.” But in terms of live and hot political issues, it was Uganda’s Milton Obote who bore the brunt of Mazrui’s challenges. This was so in part because Mazrui lived and worked in Uganda in most of the 1960s.  Indeed, Obote was once driven to summon him for a warning coded in form of a pointed rhetorical question, “Professor Mazrui, do you know the difference between a professor of political science and a politician?” In the days to come Mazrui would pay a hefty professional price for the reputation of being ‘politically engaging.’ Indeed it was precisely for that reason that the University of Nairobi declined to offer the otherwise popular professor a job when Uganda became too dangerous for him during Idi Amin’s era. Why did Mazrui get involved in politically charged issues?  Was he a man inclined to taking chances?  It was startling, for example, that in the 1980s, at the height of general oppression and human rights abuses in Kenya, he dared call a news conference in Nairobi to challenge President Daniel Arap Moi to step down from power; that he had outlived his usefulness. Many a man had lost their lives for less. If Mazrui took chances, it certainly was neither because he was oblivious to the risks involved nor because of blind audacity. Moi knew the Mazrui name; Mazrui’s nephew, Alamin Mazrui, was in his ‘den of political detainees’ without trial in the same 1980s. More importantly, the President was certainly acutely sensitive to Alamin’s internationally famous uncle. After all, he had personally banned his scholarship in Kenya, including telecasting of his world famous television documentary, “The Africans: A Triple Heritage.” It was not that Mazrui was indifferent to his personal security.  The point was that there was a bigger, more powerful imperative: to speak up for the downtrodden, the voiceless people of Kenya. As has been said, “…he dined, wined and argued with Kings, Presidents, and Generals but he never lost his common touch.” Forgive but Not Necessarily Forget Professor Ali Mazrui left Makerere in the early 1970s pushed to do so by Idi Amin’s widespread inhumanity against his own people. By that time Mazrui had already established himself worldwide as a towering scholar. If he needed a job abroad, all he had to do was say so.  Odds are that most Africans in his shoes would have opted for a secure and lucrative position in more stable and wealthier West. Mazrui’s first choice was to teach at the University of Nairobi, in his home country.  And indeed he did approach the Vice-Chancellor of that institution to offer his services. However, the VC informed him with regrets that, ‘higher ups’ had conveyed a message that at the University of Nairobi, Mazrui was a persona non-grata. Hurt and disappointed, Mazrui departed for the USA where he worked at some of the finest Americans educational institutions. Mazrui did not disintegrate for being rejected by his mother country. As the old saying goes, it is impossible to keep a good man down. During his years away from Uganda and Africa, Mazrui became infinitely more productive. In addition to rolling out prolific publications, he undertook his defining work of writing and producing his legendary television documentary, “The Africans: A Triple Heritage.” Meanwhile, back in Kenya, Mazrui’s works, including the documentary were prohibited material, thanks to the regime of Daniel Arap Moi. The ban remained in effect until President Mwai Kibaki came to power and revoked it.   [caption id="attachment_14866" align="alignright" width="586"]From left standing, Esther Githinji, President Mbeki, Pauline Mazrui & Professor Mazrui seated From left standing, Esther Githinji, President Mbeki, Pauline Mazrui & Professor Mazrui seated[/caption] Kenya’s powers that be attempted to dismiss Ali Mazrui because they dreaded his liberating ideas. Mazrui kept writing newspaper commentaries on Kenya (and in Kenya) when issues of national interest arose, such as the post-election violence of 2007 erupted. He never ceased to suggest political solutions.  As fate would have it, ordinary Kenyans refused to abandon their intellectual gem, their finest political thinker. Secret love affair between Mazrui and Kenya never died; it was deeply entrenched. Those tempted to question this claim should review the Kenyan news media—electronic and printed— of the two weeks after Professor Mazrui passed away. The queues at his burial, the editorials, the tributes, the crowds at his funeral would make you think that the country had lost its beloved head of state. Loudly and clearly, Kenyans claimed their intellectual giant, their favorite son, even in death. Give a Helping Hand where You Can I was lucky to visit Mazrui’s home in Binghamton, New York, for professor’s 80th birthday celebrations. So, I state with certainty that when you hear it said that the Mazrui home was an African Center of sorts, it is meant literally. When African visitors arrived in Binghamton, they wanted to visit Ali Mazrui and his family. They did not care that Mazrui was perhaps too “big a name” and might be too busy or snobbish to welcome them. They felt and knew otherwise. Residents at that home were Mazrui’s extended family that covered three generations, mostly from Uganda and Nigeria. Some were family.  Others were friends while others were children that Mazrui had legally adopted so that they could benefit from his name. In another essay in this collection, an unequivocal assertion is made that Mazrui was generous to a fault.  This could indeed be an understatement. I became involved in the management of Professor Mazrui’s affairs in South Africa in 2004. I noticed immediately that it was expected of me to contact and arrange Mazrui’s meetings with people from everywhere in Southern Africa; he wanted to meet and see them in the flesh to personally verify how they were doing. One time it was a Zambian ex-soldier who Mazrui was assisting financially because somehow he had come to hard financial times. Next, it was a Ugandan student at Fort Hare University who Mazrui was sponsoring through school. When they came to Johannesburg, I booked them in hotels. Mazrui was footing the bill for their travel, room and board. Mazrui never talked much about these extra-curricular ventures; they were private between him and his friends. What has to be remembered is that this was Mazrui spending time and money on nameless ‘John Does.’ This is the same man for whom we had no difficulty securing meetings and appointments with Thabo Mbeki when he was President of the country and after. Along this same line, many of us know that Wangari Maathai was the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.  What is less known is that towards the end of the candidates’ review, the Norwegian Peace Committee consulted Professor Mazrui regarding Wangari’s candidacy. His strong endorsement that she was ‘eminently qualified’ probably tipped the scale in her favor. Let No One Push You Around I was witness to one running disagreement between Professors Ali Mazrui and James Kariuki.  Kariuki was pushing the opinion that Mazrui should quit responding to those who criticized him in print. In Kariuki’s view, Mazrui as a scholar had become too big for such engagements and his work spoke for itself anyway.  Additionally, his writings were so vast that he could not effectively keep up with all his academic nemeses. Mazrui’s reaction was that he had to respond because “ignoring the critics was a higher form of arrogance.”  Kariuki was later to confide in me later that, in his view, the reasoning that Mazrui  state was partly correct, but there was an additional factor. When challenged, the small giant in Mazrui had to rise to the occasion and show his critics that there was a tiger in his tank. On many occasions, Mazrui himself lamented that his whole life had been one long debate. You can see why. He relished a good debate. Unfortunately, some of these written exchanges eventually degenerated to undesirable levels. The most notorious of these was the exchange between Mazrui and Nigerian playwright, Wole Soyinka and, to a considerably lesser degree, South Africa’s late Archie Mafeje. The barrage of attacks and counter-attacks became acrimonious and virtually ad hominem (playing the man not the ball) which grieved Mazrui deeply but he could not stop himself from continuing the duels.  The tiger in Mazrui had been roused.  Shake them up occasionally lest they doze off [caption id="attachment_14867" align="alignleft" width="586"]From right seated Esther Githinji, Professor Ali Mazrui & Professor James Kariuki standing From right seated Esther Githinji, Professor Ali Mazrui & Professor James Kariuki standing[/caption] At some point in my involvement in the management of Professor Mazrui’s affairs in South Africa, he was given an honorarium in check form for a lecture that he had delivered.  It was on a Friday and he was leaving for home the following day, a Saturday. It was critical to cash his check in South Africa; he could not just deposit it (in South African rand) in his bank account in New York.  So, on Saturday morning we went to the bank in Sandton and he carefully handed over the check and his passport for ID to Professor Kariuki to go to the counter and cash it for him. Meanwhile, Mazrui and I sat down; his legs were already getting fragile. At the bank we were served in about ten minutes and we proceeded back to Prof. Mazrui’s hotel to get him ready for his departure in about four hours. We were sitting at the hotel lobby sipping coffee and talking casually when, out of nowhere, Mazrui dropped a bomb. He said to Professor Kariuki, “James, where is my passport?” Kariuki’s heart skipped a beat but, for emphasis, Mazrui continued, “I remember giving it to you at the bank but I do not remember you giving it back to me!” Kariuki knew that he had received the passport and was also sure that he did not have it now. The question remained: where was that travel document? The banks were already closed; we could not check there.  James and I drew a blank! Professor Mazrui did not seem particularly perturbed about the agonizing state of affairs.  But you rewind and consider the state of mind for Kariuki and me. Here is an elderly international icon in South Africa and he will be stuck here for an indefinite period of time because we, his ‘handlers,’ had lost his diplomatic passport. How long will it take to get him another diplomatic passport from Kenya?  Where will he be staying meanwhile?  Will a new visa be required for Mazrui to enter the US? Who will be responsible for his bills in South Africa?  Did he bring with him enough of his medications? What about his professional duties back in New York? Can you imagine the newspaper headlines in South Africa, Kenya and even the USA? These questions ran through our minds in bewilderment. As usual a woman’s mental intervention’ came to the rescue. I recalled that when we returned from the bank to the hotel, Professor Mazrui changed his jacket which I folded neatly and put it in his suitcase. I thus asked him for the keys, went to his room, opened the suitcase and voila! There was the passport in the inner pocket of his jacket. Kariuki’s heart started beating regularly again and we continued with our conversation and coffee sipping as if nothing had ever happened. Mazrui never uttered another word about his alleged lost-and-found passport. Was he pulling Kariuki’s leg about the passport fiasco to stop us from dozing off? He never told; we will never know. May your soul rest in eternal peace, my special friend!  *Esther W. Githinji is a Kenyan business lady who is currently doing philanthropy work in South Africa.]]>

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WE WILL MISS PROF. ALI MAZRUI’S CONTRASTS
December 15, 2014 | 0 Comments

Mathatha Tsedu Mathatha Tsedu[/caption] When South Africa’s weekly newspaper, the City Press, decided in early 2004 that it would reposition itself and become a more distinctly African publication, part of the challenge was to find appropriate content that would be in line with this new philosophy. The challenge was to find hard news about daily and weekly developments in our country and the rest of Africa to feature pieces and columnists whose writing, thinking and stature would affirm the new approach. Professor Ali Mazrui’s was one of our first names on the list for columnists. The other was another towering Africanist intellectual and writer, Molefi Kete Asante. After hearing what City Press was trying to do, Mazrui agreed to write for us without even discussing payment arrangements. And so began a relationship between the City Press and Ali Mazrui that saw him come into the country as a guest of the paper to address staff and other meetings. This giant of African and world intellectuals was a soft-spoken man with minimal demands. He always met his deadlines for article submissions and was more than a worthy addition to the mix that made City Press a must-read every Sunday for people interested in African thought and politics. And this showed in the rising circulation of the paper. Just to emphasize the point, Mazrui cared more about where his articles were going to appear than about how much he would be paid. A rival publication offered him double our rate but he declined, saying the environment created by the City Press as an Africa-focused publication meant his views were sharing space with similarly focused articles. For us he wrote about US policies towards Africa, Islam and the problems of African leaders who were more inclined to stay in office than to serve their people. He had been a victim of one such dictator, Idi Amin, when he was based at Makerere University in its heyday. He was forced to leave Uganda and Makerere which he dearly loved or share the fate of many highly visible personalities of Uganda who disappeared during Idi Amin’s the reign of terror. Mazrui truly believed in Africa and its good side without denying the sad realities of poverty in many countries. When the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization – in line with the new world information order in the late 80s – decided to write a different view of African history, Mazrui was appointed editor of one series even though he was not part of the team of experts put together to manage the project. The series that emerged from this exercise provided the world with a different view of African history, which did not start with colonization but went back to civilizations and African kingdoms before white settlers set foot on African soil. Not one to shy away from expressing his views, Mazrui often stirred controversy, especially on Islam, to a point where new words such as Mazruiana and Mazruiphobia were coined to describe his philosophy and reactions to it. Mazrui received death threats, especially after the World Trade Center attack by al-Qaeda militants in 2001. While he condemned the attacks, he argued that the US needed to look at why it attracted such hostile reactions from some quarters of militant and extremist Islam. But in that post-9/11 attack mode, the US was in no mood for ifs and buts, and wanted unmitigated condemnation of Islam. [caption id="attachment_14840" align="alignright" width="300"]From left to right Prof Ali Mazrui, Mathatha Tsedu and Prof James Kariuki From left to right Prof Ali Mazrui, Mathatha Tsedu and Prof James Kariuki[/caption] A father figure with his signature trademark of Kente cloth scarf, Mazrui oozed fatherly wisdom, intelligence and dignity that did not need to be dug up. You just felt secure in his presence where he served as a fountain of knowledge, kindness and limitless insignts. This is borne out by the recognition that he received across the world for his work and the demands on his time. On one occasion, he served as a senior lecturer-at-large for three institutions in three countries at the same time. Professor Ali Mazrui wrote profusely and in one of his relatively recent works of 2006, A Tale of Two Africas: Nigeria and South Africa as Contrasting Visions, edited by his colleague and friend, James Karioki, he examined and contrasted Africa’s two powerhouses and how differently they approached several issues. The above is a subject has since been revisited recently by former South African and Nigerian Presidents, Thabo Mbeki and Olusegun Obasanjo, as they called for the harmonization of relations and approaches. Mazrui reveled in contrasts and in many of his writings he contrasted one issue with another instead of stating a point outright. It is the trademark of Mazruiana approach that we will sadly miss. *Mathatha Tsedu is former editor of the City Press. He is currently the Director of the South African National Editors Forum. And also the Manager of Media 24’s Journalism Academy.]]>

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Prof. Ali Mazrui: The Kenyan, the African and the De Facto Ugandan
December 15, 2014 | 3 Comments

Jude Kagoro and Prof. Ali Mazrui Jude Kagoro and Prof. Ali Mazrui[/caption] On 27th October 2014, a Ugandan news magazine, the Independent, published an article, “Prof. Ali Mazrui: Remembering a Giant Mind of Africa.” The article attracted several comments, most of which were centered on the claim that Prof. Mazrui was a Kenyan and also a de facto Ugandan in many ways. In the same article I highlighted Mazrui’s connections to and love for Uganda. A comment purportedly written by a Kenyan retorted, “Ugandans stop claiming our Mazrui. Just because he taught at Makerere does not make him Ugandan….” Another writer sarcastically noted, “hahaha, Ugandans are amazing; first Amin [former Ugandan president] claims Kisumu; then Museveni [the incumbent Ugandan president] claims Migingo [an Island in Lake Victoria]; again newspapers claim Barrack Obama [the American president] and now Dr. Kagoro and his supporters are claiming Prof. Mazrui. Why do you always want to steal from Kenya?” Then a Zambian, Precious Chilufya, countered, “Not too fast Ugandans and Kenyans to claim Mazrui. To me, growing up in the 1990’s, Prof. Ali Mazrui was Zambian because he was a weekly feature on our TV screens with his documentary “The Africans: A Trple Heritage.“ This man is a legendary African scholar who transcended being Kenyan.” The preceding comments, among others, are a microcosm highlighting that Prof. Ali Mazrui was an inspiration, a larger-than-life intellectual and a symbol of scholarly pride for many Africans. The Ali Mazrui brand has been enormous across Africa and beyond. One has to excuse Ugandans for emphasizing the “Ugandaness” of Mazrui. Who would not want to identify with an iconic personality? He is considered a Meta figure who nurtured many academics in the country. For that matter, I beg the reader to tolerate my own emphasis of Mazrui’s Ugandan connections. In fact, some press reports in Uganda have highlighted that Prof. Mazrui once made attempts to add the Ugandan citizenship to his Kenyan one. Moreover, Makerere University, the most prestigious and oldest university in Uganda, holds a proud record of having given Mazrui a platform to blossom and his first high profile appointments in the intellectual world. He joined the famous Hill as a political science lecturer in 1963, before becoming Head of Department of Political Science and later the first African Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences. During his time at Makerere, the incumbent Chancellor of the University, Prof. John Ddumba-Ssentamu writes, Mazrui laid a firm foundation for Political Science Studies. This included the introduction of courses in International Relations and Law, which have since gone a long way in making the Department more relevant for both local and international issues. Fittingly, in Mazrui’s honor, Makerere University initiated the Mazrui Endowment Chair and the East African Ali Mazrui Centre for Global Studies in 2009. Mazrui was an outstanding speaker whose addresses and lectures were always popular and were attended to maximum capacity at the university’s historic Main Hall. During his time at Makerere, Prof. Anyang’ Nyong’o writes that Mazrui was always steaming with fresh thoughts which he engaged with his students, colleagues and the general public in forums such as open lectures, academic journals and in Ugandan newspapers. Similarly, a renowned Ugandan scholar, Prof. Mahmood Mamdani, remembers that Mazrui established a tradition of bringing contentious and urgent socio-political issues into the university for debate. Hon. John Ken Lukyamuzi, a prolific debater, a leading opposition figure in the Ugandan legislature and a product of Mazrui’s debating initiatives at Makerere University describes Mazrui as a man with a voice of command and that every word he stressed was worth stressing. Mazrui was a fearless intellectual who profoundly influenced macro-political debates within the framework of Uganda. He sharply and uprightly criticized the former Ugandan President, Milton Obote, for suppressing Ugandans and for abrogating the country’s 1962 constitution. Indeed, Mazrui went further to describe Obote as “a great leader with great mistakes” in a time when it was deemed very dangerous to criticize Obote. For a while, when self-proclaimed Field Martial, and “Conqueror of the British Empire,” Idi Amin, took over power through a coup in 1971, Prof. Mazrui was his blue-eyed intellectual. Prof. Mazrui revealed later to the New York Times in 1986 that Amin had invited him to be his “Kissinger” or his chief adviser on foreign affairs. Instead, Mazrui rebuked Amin and his excesses, an epoch that sadly led to him having to flee the country. Noteworthy, Mazrui had the reputation of being courageous enough to concurrently critique both Idi Amin‘s and Kenyan President Jomo Kenyatta‘s regimes. Those activities eventually forced Mazrui to choose the US as his exile destination. While by now much has been said and written about the life and works of the late Prof. Ali Mazrui, I personally would like to celebrate his ability to sharply generate debate, pro and con, an idea he espoused. I am particularly reminded of a scholarly debate I unintentionally generated by citing his work. In April/May 2010, I was invited to present a paper at an international conference hosted by the Center for Contemporary Theory and the Committee on African Studies at the University of Chicago. In the course of presenting the paper titled “Politics, Military and Society in Uganda,” I read out a citation from Ali Mazrui’s 1975 thesis, “Soldiers and Kinsmen in Uganda: The Making of a Military Ethnocracy.” The citation was: “Statehood has so far been the final consolidation of the marriage between politicization and militarization and what we have now is a basic transition from the warfare state to the welfare state. This welfare state has been marked by a paradoxical process of attempting to divorce the military from politics in the state.” At the end of my presentation, one American professor made a comment to the effect that I should not have quoted Mazrui because in his perspective, Mazrui was a “journalist” and not an academic. Before I could respond an argument ensued among senior professors in the room. Many thought that Mazrui was too big a name to ignore and in fact, another professor in the room inferred that any academic work on the socio-politics of Uganda and Africa as a continent could not be considered complete if Mazrui was not mentioned. Perhaps one may excuse the professor’s description of Mazrui as a “journalist” but not the additional comment “not an academic.” One of Mazrui’s main strengths was his ability to creatively simplify heavy academic texts for the interest of non-academics. He wrote many articles in Kenyan, Ugandan, and South African newspapers. Ultimately, in 1986, Mazrui’s legendary reputation travelled beyond academia when he authored and hosted the nine-part television series, “The Africans: A Triple Heritage.” This master piece was aired on the BBC in England, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in the United States and subsequently, as the comment from Zambian Precious Chilufya indicates, was also embraced by television audiences across Africa and the world. In April 2013, I was honored to be invited by the New York African Studies Association (NYASA) to attend to participate at its 38th annual conference in Binghamton University, New York. The conference with the theme, “Global Africa, Triple Heritage and Pax-Africana: Looking Back and Looking Forward,” was a truly a most stimulating academic events. The organizers purposely synchronized the conference with the grand celebration of Prof. Mazrui’s 80th birthday as well as the 50th year of his publishing career. Despite his already declining health, Prof. Mazrui attended several presentations, freely interacted with his guests and found time to individually encourage young scholars in their academic endeavors. He was humorous and refreshingly down-to-earth, a true inspiration. The conference/celebrations exemplified Mazrui’s love for Makerere University and Uganda in general. Makerere had a special exhibition stand and was represented by a large delegation led by the Vice Chancellor Prof. Ddumba-Ssentamu. Uganda had the largest number of invitees, including the King of Buganda, Princess Elizabeth Bagaya of Toro and other high profile politicians, businessmen and academics. At the function, Prof. Mazrui personally spoke highly of Makerere University and referred to Uganda as home, just like Kenya. I am therefore gratified and proud to have met Prof. Ali Mazrui the Kenyan, the African and de facto Ugandan. He greatly influenced debates on Africa and the world at large and I hope – indeed, expect, that his towering influence will shape academia beyond the continent for many years to come. *Dr. Jude Kagoro is a Ugandan and a Post-doctoral Fellow, Institute for Intercultural and International Studies, University of Bremen, Germany.   ]]>

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How Ali Mazrui, the Global Kenyan, Charted my Path
December 15, 2014 | 0 Comments

  [caption id="attachment_14873" align="alignleft" width="275"]Ngugi Wa Thiong’o Ngugi Wa Thiong’o[/caption] Late Prof Ali Mazrui and I were not social friends; and we did not always see eye to eye on politics and art. In the analyses of African politics he emphasized ethnic conflicts where I saw class conflicts as the prime mover. But our lives interacted in the most amazing of ways. In a documentary that Dr. Ndirangu Wachanga has made of the life of the late Ali Mazrui, he asked me what I thought of my fellow countryman. Mazrui, I said, is primarily a political scientist with a literary bent; and I, primarily a literary artist with a political bent. I knew he had this bent because, way back in the early 1960s, as a guest editor of a special issue of Ghala, then the literary arm of the East African Journal, I had published one of his short stories. Later he would write the novel, The Trial of Christopher Okigbo that would confirm this bent. Our first international conference together was at the 1969 International Congress of Africanists in Dakar, Senegal, where, on the eve of the conference, President Sedar Senghor received us in his palace and who, on shaking my hands, told me proudly that he knew Jomo Kenyatta. The conference was attended by the leading Africanists of the time. When it was the turn of Ali Mazrui to speak a day later, the hall was already packed, standing room only, with intellectuals from all over the world, pushing and shoving each other for space. I had seen similar crowds at his lectures in Makerere where he was the Professor of Political Science, the new wonder kid newly crowned with a Ph.D. from Oxford, towering over a campus that once rejected his application for admission as a student. I had just resigned over issues of academic freedom from the University of Nairobi in the English Department; and it was Mazrui together with David Cook who came up with a rescue package that enabled me to teach creative writing in the English Department and a class on Pan-Africanism in the Political Science Department at Makerere. It was from there that Mazrui and I had jetted to Dakar for the Congress of Africanists.  Asthma attack: It was on the way to Dakar that Mazrui came up with the possibility of both of us I, as a creative artist and he, a political scientist, writing a biography of Jomo Kenyatta. The plan would later be shot down by those around the State House Nairobi but the idea was fascinating: Mazrui the first African Professor of Political Science and I the first published African novelist writing about the First President of independent Kenya. It was in the dark alone in my hotel room that I had my first serious attack of Asthma. I had no idea that I had this ailment. It was just that, one night, alone in my room at the hotel, I found myself unable to breathe. I remember crawling on all fours from my room down the stairs to seek help at the lobby. It was dawn. I hardly knew French, and my neighbors were equally, deficient in English, but somehow I managed to scribble down Mazrui’s name. It worked. They tracked him to his hotel and in no time he was with me, now a prostrate figure on the ground, fighting for every breath. Kenya had no diplomatic mission in Dakar; so it was finally the British Embassy that represented Kenya’s interests there and it promptly managed to get me a doctor. It was magical: one moment I was literally dying for lack of air, and the next minute, I was breathing normally. I was really grateful but vaguely disappointed that we had sought the offices of our former colonizer for my rescue. It was the same way that the newly independent East African states in 1964 had sought help from the same quarters to quell the African military mutinies.  Wrath of KANU After my one-year-stint as a Makerere Fellow in Creative Writing Mazrui, through his good contacts with the late Gwendolyn Carter of North Western University in the USA, enabled my invitation as Visiting Associate Professor of English and African Studies, there, from 1970 to 1971. It was there where I begun writing my third novel, Petals of Blood. It was this novel together with the play, I Will Marry When I Want that would, in 1978, have me sent to Kamiti Maximum Security Prison and later forced into exile. In the course of it, somehow, Mazrui and I had earned the wrath of the KANU regime, I for work with the London-based Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners and him for his outspokenness on human rights abuses. Years later Mazrui and I would return to Dakar, Senegal, as special guests of the Council for the Development of Social Research in Africa (Codesria), at their 30th conference, where we were made life members. My Honorary Doctorate from Walter Sisulu University in 2004 became special to me because Mazrui and Mandela received theirs on the same occasion. It was all remarkable. Two Kenyan intellectuals being honored at the same time by the prestigious research institution in West Africa, and by an African University in South Africa! We leave it to political scientists to assess Mazrui’s intellectual legacy. But for me, taking his output as a whole, he more than lived up to the description of the global African. He made Kenya and Africa visible in the highest echelons of intellectual production.  Very heaven To see Ali Mazrui on the platform, quoting from poets and philosophers alike in support of his arguments, was to witness a master intellectual performer. He dined and wined and argued with Kings, Presidents, and Generals but he never lost his common touch, attentive to the voice of the student with the same respect that he gave to the Mighty. He belonged to Generations; they saw themselves in him. I witnessed this at close quarters at the 2013 New York African Studies Conference in Binghamton to celebrate Mazrui’s 80th birthday. Intellectuals of his generation and others who could as easily have been his grandchildren gathered and read papers in his honor. Among these grandchildren was my 20-year-old Mumbi Wa Ngugi from Harriet Wilkes Honors College of Florida Atlantic University, who gave a paper on the Politics of Silence and Agency. She opened her address by saying that there was no way she could have been left behind when it came to the celebration of a Kenyan legend and global African. Ali Mazrui sat through most of these, listening keenly to what the young had to say. Mazrui was very fond of William Wordswoth poem welcoming the French Revolution, particularly the lines: Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive/ But to be young was very heaven! I may no talk about Heaven but it was truly bliss to have witnessed Ali Mazrui intellectual performance at the height of his powers. He shone; he dazzled; he enlightened. Some of that bliss can be found in his numerous publications that will keep his spirit alive for generations to come. *Prof. Ngugi Wa Thiong’o is a Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Irvine, USA. The Piece is culled from Standard Newspaper.]]>

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Celebrating Mwalimu Ali Mazrui
December 15, 2014 | 1 Comments

Lindah Mhando Lindah Mhando[/caption] Situated at the intersection of the indigenous, Islamic and Western influences (the triple heritage), Mazrui’s philosophy in life, embodied the triple heritage of African, Western trained and Muslim. Mazrui’s scholarship was also influenced by Ghanaian leader Kwame Nkrumah’s ideas on Pan Africanism, as evidenced in his doctoral thesis at Oxford University, Towards a Pax Africana: A Study of Ideology and Ambition. But Mazrui’s brilliance was vivid in his analysis of the Triple Heritage, through the nine-part television series, “The Africans: A Triple Heritage.” In the convergence of “triple heritage” Mazrui ascertains the coalitional strategies for resisting racialized and oppressions of global capitalism. The Africans is widely considered one of the most comprehensive assessments of African politics, economics, culture, and society. In it Mazrui established his global reputation, and also generated strong controversy. The series were condemned by the National Endowment for Humanities as anti-Western and ironically, banned in Mazrui’s homeland of Kenya, for being too anti-African. Mazrui was a master wordsmith, gifted with oratory ability, eloquence, unconventional style, originality of ideas, and fierce independence of thought. There are many memorable moments elaborating his prowess, including the town hall debates at Makerere University and the debates he had with Dr. Walter Rodney at the University of Dar-es-Salaam. Although some of us were too young to be at the University then, the legacy lived on. Mazrui was also known for stimulating the audience by his “Millennium Harvard Lectures” that drew large, engaged audiences for three consecutive days. The lectures were subsequently published as The African Predicament and the American Experience: A Tale of Two Edens in 2004.  He was considered to be a leading scholar in the field of African studies and a major African public intellectual, who has been the subject of numerous articles and books. Some scholars argued that, it is perhaps fitting to compare him with the likes of W.E. B. Du Bois, who had stolen similar titles in the last century. He truly captured the world’s imagination with his knowledge and ideas; influenced multiple fields within academia, but has also sent reverberations outside the ivory towers and scholarly journals, and clearly, revolutionized African studies. Mazrui’s writing has evolved into what is now termed as the “Mazruiana” collection; a paradigm with its own scholarship. Some of his most innovative and perhaps most enduring contribution to political philosophy has been, the re-invention of the “triple heritage” (the convergences of three civilizations: Islam, Euro-Christianity and indigenous), “Nkrumah: The Leninist Czar” (complexities of leadership/power) and “Afro-Saxon” (importance of cultural linguistic). In many ways his scholarship, situates a research agenda and praxis in order to challenge the assumption of neutrality. This resonates with me,  and in fact, the process forced me to even retrace the contours of my own  personal history; in other words, the way I understand myself and how I see others in relation to me. Mentoring Of his many accomplishments, mentoring his students was one of Mazrui’s proudest joys. He became my mentor when I was a graduate student at Binghamton State University, and our association developed in unanticipated ways. He was super busy, but at the same time making sure I was busy enough to hold on my own. From very early on he knew that my interest was to decolonize the capitalist supremacist patriarchal ways of thinking, and creating a trope that gives the marginalized, voices. One can just imagine the spirited conversations we had about these issues. I spent as much time in conversation with his ever-growing body of scholarly work, as in conversation with him. His works challenged me to think about different categories; from slavery to freedom, choices, citizenship, community and subjectivity. He created opportunities for me and through his mentorship, dozens of graduate and undergraduate students he supervised, trained, empowered, and challenged others to do the same. As a mentor, I can attest to the fact that not only was he my advocate, and understood that what I needed was interdisciplinary preparations for my future endeavors. He made my reading and writing a politically useful activity and a collective endeavor. I vividly remember how my intellectual confidence was boosted, when I was invited to write a comparative analysis piece on his Festschrift, I compared him to Mwalimu Nyerere. I received a complement from him, saying “your intellectual strength is in making comparisons” – it was perhaps the first time that I felt like a working scholar. At that time in many ways I was a poster child; the first Ph.D. African woman in the Sociology Department at Binghamton, fascinated by the notion of transnational feminism, social movement and political economy. The time we spent together was incredibly valuable to my intellectual development and my ability to be myself in the very white department. Being a first is not easy; you are carrying many burdens for the race, for the gender, being judged as a representative, not simply as a human being. In those ‘first positions’, stumbling is not an option. I tried and navigated well. After graduation, I joined St. Cloud University, but before long, I was hungry for more challenging opportunities. Given job market scantiness, I asked Mazrui, what areas should I focus my job talk on? With a grin on his face he said “anything you are going to talk about has to be authentic.” Mazrui never ceased encouraging me and following his advice I ended getting job offers at two prestigious institutions. In my naïveté, I was so proud to enter Black Studies and I was trying to weigh which institution would give me more resources. I was fortunate that his advice did not allow me to play that game. I ended up going to Penn State University. I moved from a traditional department of Sociology to Black Studies. In a very frank, paternal talk, Mazrui cautioned me that I would encounter resistance to my chosen scholarly and career paths. He urged me that, I should allow myself to read quite a bit about the history of Black studies. Indeed, efforts at institutionalizing Black Studies have their roots in the heroic work of W. E. B. Du Bois and others in an attempt to forge local and international alliances toward a larger vision of radical social change. Mazrui echoed what Manning Marable has argued, “Black Studies is simultaneously descriptive, corrective and prescriptive” insisting that, in black scholarship, there is a practical connection between scholarship and struggle, between social analysis and social transformation. While several African intellectuals of preceding generations have fought battles for the recognition of African scholarship in the global knowledge society, the challenge for the emerging generation of scholars is to complete the move; in the words of Micere Githae Mugo, ‘from the periphery to the center’ of African Studies scholarship. [caption id="attachment_14885" align="alignright" width="200"]Charles Gray, Honorary Consul of Tanzania, Prof. Lindah L. Mhando and Prof. Ali A. Mazrui in New York at the launching of the book "Julius Nyerere: Africa's Titan on a Global Stage" in 2013.Pic credit Tanzania Consul,USA Charles Gray, Honorary Consul of Tanzania, Prof. Lindah L. Mhando and Prof. Ali A. Mazrui in New York at the launching of the book “Julius Nyerere: Africa’s Titan on a Global Stage” in 2013.Pic credit Tanzania Consul,USA[/caption] Mazrui has been my advocate, through my academic and personal journey. He had numerous sons, but no biological daughter. Like his adopted daughter Grace, many of us considered ourselves as his daughters. He made us feel heard, seen, loved, special and worthy. He stood behind us, and was always available to offer advice. When I invited him to Penn State, and met some of my students, he said this was one of his proudest moments, saying “when a mentor gets to witness his/her mentee taking a role of a mentor, it is very satisfying.” In turn I learned humility! Mazrui also took special interest in my contributions, certainly another expression of his encouragement. We ended co-authoring the book Julius Nyerere, Africa’s Titan on a Global Stage: Perspective from Arusha to Obama, allowing me to take lead in the project, which culminated into a recognition award from our peers at NYASA on his 80thBirthday. The last time we shared a stage and spotlight was in October 2012, at the United Nations, in New York, where we were invited to launch our book, in commemoration of Nyerere Day. Mazrui was on wheel chair then. We had moments to have lunch, conduct interviews and chat. As always, he was ever generous and sensitive; he was concerned about my well-being, since I looked thinner than usual. Our families were close. My partner is originally from Tanga, the Tanzania side of the border from Mombasa, Kenya. He was the only one I knew who would converse with Mazrui in ‘their’ native Swahili tongue, of which Mazrui was very proud. The young sons with his wife Pauline were about the same age as my old daughter, so he would tease me that he could be an in-law to one of my girls. As a couple, Mazrui and his wife complemented each other well. Pauline is extremely generous and their house was always open. Every New Year eve, the couple would invite the Binghamton African community to his house, have a great meal, and just talk about the world! Mazrui was well informed, knew sports, music, mass culture and was an avid follower of the television program 60 minutes.  On Islam  I was not aware how deeply involved Mazrui was in intellectual commitment to denouncing all forms of violence. Cognitively he had a sense of urgency in his call for collective struggle to overcome the burden of discrimination and criticized violence against innocent people. He outspokenly criticized both the US and European  imperial war on terror, exploitative capitalism, intervention in the global south;  as well as extremists such as Boko Haram and other Jihadists; the enslavement of women; the bombing of civilians, or the drone attacks. Distinguishing between violence and power, he maintained that, although theorists of both the Left and Right regard violence as an extreme manifestation of power, the two concepts are, in fact, antithetical. Mazrui was highly critical of Salman Rushdie’s 1988, The Satanic Verses, he urged Muslims not to attack Rushdie physically. He was also passionate for humanity, and peace (has written quite a bit about Gandhi’s and Martin Luther King’s non-violence tactics), challenging neo-liberal imperialism, understanding the living reality of race, and his call for collective struggle to overcome the burden of discrimination. This resonates with the corpus of my scholarship and political belief, and I began to think hard about unpacking the question of positionality, my intellectual assumption of what would a de-colonial trajectory, particularly in relation to feminist solidarity and transnational feminism look like? I am deeply honored to have worked with Mwalimu Mazrui, I shall miss him dearly. What I know for sure is that he would not want any of us to remain immobilized by grief at his death. He would want us to celebrate life and carry on his legacy.  Buriani Mwalimu (RIP) *Lindah Mhando (PhD) is currently a Visiting Associate Professor of African & African America Studies and Women Studies & Research Associate – Center for Study of Race, Gender Ethnicity and Gender in the Social Sciences at Duke University]]>

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Professor Ali A. Mazrui: A study of an African Scholar with Global Significance
December 15, 2014 | 0 Comments

images (9) Professor Ali A. Mazrui has left our world and now resides in what he once described as “After Africa.” In writing this brief essay on the man and his works, my mind is directed by a number of books written during his lifetime. Each book In his catalogue of essays and comments about Africa and the world corresponded with what I once talked about some thirty four years ago at the 1980 annual meeting of the African Studies Association. At that time, when Ali was being examined for immediate and global attention among Africanists, I suggested that, those who had the determination and the endurance to look at his essays and followed his train of thought, were destined to journey into what I called a galaxy of planets of insights and illumination. That expectation was first trigged by the first chain of books and essays now called Mazruiana. In writing about Ali and his works, I intend here to do a number of things to shed some light about the Man who just left us in a moment of shock and sadness. Drawing from my Senegambian background, I am going to deploy our ethnic art of staging the biographies of individual members of society. In both the Wolof and Mandinka narratives about life and death, the age-grade system of profiling members of society proves to be instructive. Among both the Mandinka and the Wolof, the human being can be categorized through stages of development from the womb to the grave. First of all, among these two groups, who are a part of minimally six most powerful ethnic groups that formed the demography and ethnography of the Gambia and by extension Senegal, the lowest level of membership and socialization is the Din-Din category for the Mandinka, and Haliyi for the Wolof; Kambano/Wahamande as the post adolescent and socialized member of the society; and finally, one evolves into the top level of membership in society. This is to say, you get elevated to the status of Kebba for Mandinka and Mak for Wolof. By drawing from this scheme of identifying and describing members of society, one could here argue that Ali was an Afro-Arab who went through the stages of development noted almost all over the world by different languages and cultures in terms of measuring your contributions to the human conditions.The reason I decided to deploy the anthropological tools of these two groups from my area of origin is to translate how Ali is perceived by our people. Here is a man who grew up in colonial Kenya, where White power ruled and the English language became the badge of social assimilation and the dominant currency of power and exchange. In analyzing Professor Mazrui, we can focus on him as a young teenager in Kenya and how his ethnic and cultural background combined to define his role and place in Kenyan society.  Truth be told, both Ali and those who wrote about him have discussed his Arab roots and how this background explained how he felt about the history of his Swahili-speaking people in Mombasa. Five things need to be addressed in this narrative. First of all, as a Din-din or Halibe, Ali was raised just like his Senegambian counterpart. Exposed to traditional African languages and cultures, Ali too became familiar with the mythologies and traditions of his people. Just as the Senegambian child learned to develop a command of Mandinka or Wolof, Ali too embraced Swahili and Arabic. Here is a parallelism between Ali and his Senegambian counterparts. Exposed to two major civilizations and cultures, Ali and his Senegambian counterparts learned their mother tongues as well as those of their colonial masters. For the Senegambian who shared much in command culturally and linguistically, the different colonial masters put forward French and English as rival cultural tools in advancement of their political control. Because of the primacy of English, the Gambians therefore had more in common with Ali in terms of British colonial legacies. Gambian economist and poet, Dr. Tijan Sallah of the World Bank, who had an opportunity to respond to Professor Ali A. Mazrui when he came to Howard University as the keynote speaker when Howard University conferred the lifetime achievement award to Professor Sulayman S. Nyang, reminded that audience and elsewhere how the Gambians defined themselves separately from their Senegalese cousins, who speak French and other similarly shared languages. As the first point of analysis about Ali as a young Swahili-speaking Kenya, it must be asserted here that as a Din-Din or Halibe in the Senegambian narrative, he too faced the challenges of English and Arabic. Since both Ali and his Senegambian counterparts are products of Arabic and Islamic cultural training, one could argue here that Ali’s concept of triple heritage had its origins in this common pattern of socialization between two or more cultures. Affected by Islam and the Arabic language, Ali mentally travelled in the same domain as Senegalese scholar, Cheikh Anta Diop who came from a prominent Muslim scholarly family in Senegal. He too recognized the impact of religion in African thought, but his lines of reasoning were not necessary driven by Islamic metaphysics. Rather, for Diop, the ancient Egyptian legacies long lost by Africans warranted immediate retrieval. What is striking to me is the fact that, when Ali went to Senegal to underscore the relevance and impact of his triple heritage in Africa, his visit to Touba, the spiritual center of the Muridiyya Sufi order, served as a major bone of contention. Indeed, no one can define Islam in Senegal without the murids as faithful companions of Senegambian Islam. The second point that deserves attention in this analysis of Professor Ali A. Mazrui and his works is the transition from being a Din-Din/Halibe to being a Kambano/Wahamande in Kenyan society. In reading the writings of Ali and others who commented about his life and times in Kenyan society, one can see how British colonialism shaped his perception of the world. Learning the English language opened new doors of opportunity for him. The role of the British colonial governor in his education is part of his Kambano phenomenon. At that time, the young Mazrui, who spoke Swahili and had some familiarity with the Quranic Arab deployed in prayers and other related rituals, was now attracted by the British center of cultural gravity. What needs to be emphasized here is that, Ali like his Senegambian counterpart s went through the colonial assimilation process. Certainly, his education in English and his engagement with an English spouse sent signals of cultural assimilation. This cultural development on the part of Ali Mazrui paralleled the life and times of Cheikh Anta Diop and Leopold Sedar Senghore in Senegal. Both in Senegal and in the Gambia, we had highly educated Africans who came back home with a white wife. As a Kambano/ Wahamande, who is sufficiently trained in the ways of the ancestors, both Ali and his Senegambian counterpart, went to the Western world prepared culturally and returned home undamaged. In looking into the story of Professor Ali A. Mazrui, it is important for us to take a closer look at the third factor in this equation. What is this third factor? It deals with the transition from being a socialized adult in one’s culture to being exiled abroad as a Kebba. Ideally, Ali would have loved to spend his life in Africa. The transformations in his life rested in the hands of the political leadership of his country. Unlike many Kenyan, East African and African contemporaries, Ali was not politically connected to run for office in Kenya. Rather, history decreed that Ali would be a major literary force in Kenya and beyond, and his impact would be felt .not only through his speeches and lectures, but also in his relationships with the rulers and the ruled in Africa and beyond. As a Kebba, Ali certainly played the role of a Kebba known to the Senegambians, but his Kebbaya (patriarchal influence) was limited by political circumstances in his life. Three things ought to be mentioned here briefly and in passing. One is the agony of rejection from his Kenyan leaders; the second is the uncertainty in Uganda, where Idi Amin made life dangerous and deadly; thirdly, there was the distance between family members in Kenya and pangs of divorce from his first wife. A combination of these developments made his Kebbaya real but difficult. . In examining Professor Ali A. Mazrui and his works, there is the need to focus on the fourth factor that helped us define the Man and his achievements. Truth be told, Ali was a Din-din, who never lost his cultural grip in Mombasa society. As the African-American folks say, he “was a homeboy who mastered the lingo of the neighborhood and was widely celebrated by those who knew who he was.”  Taking this as a point of departure, we can now argue here that, the late Professor from Kenya, who went to Uganda and made a name for himself, is now a factor to be recount with. Not only was he seasoned to negotiate relationships in Swahili and English, but he earned certain opportunities and privileges as a scholar, teacher, advisor and a colleague to the politically powerful and economically well-endowed. Those who tried to study and measure the man must devote a greater deal of time and attention to his books, essays, lectures and speeches to navigate the planets in his galaxy. There are five things that beg for attention in this revaluation of Ali as Din-din, as Kambano and as a Kebba. Fate in its ways of paradoxes and ironies has taken Ali away from us. His mourning wife and living children, younger and older, are now charged with the delicate tasks of keeping memories alive. Those of us who are long-term friends and colleagues owed it to him to pass on his words honorably and magnificently. 41WMOXvr3YL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Finally, in writing the fifth point in this narrative about the man and his works, let us go back to the evolution of Professor Ali A. Mazrui. From Mombasa to Manchester to Columbia to Oxford and to Kampala, Ali has many numerous stops on the way to fame and glory. . This cultural and physical geography of Ali’s journey to a homeland other than his own Kenya has been the bone of debates among his colleagues and ideological foes. During the Cold War, Ali as a person was deeply wedded to the West and for this and other related reasons, three groups have been at logger-heads against Ali. One is the ideologically motivated African socialist. His strong opposition to African dictatorship was evident in his earlier writings. Much has been said about his characterization of Kwame Nkrumah as a “Leninist Czar.”  However some of his critics in his latter days were disturbed by his relationship with men like Muammar Gaddafi of Libya and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.  The second groups against Ali were theoretically motivated. In their view, Ali was a traditional scholar who was somehow allergic to statistical data and mathematical calculation as it is now celebrated among the behaviorists. The third and final groups against Ali were politically and religiously inspired. These were either Zionist element who despised his association with the Arab/Palestinian cause and were determined to challenge and if possible humiliate him. As I have stated elsewhere, Professor Mazrui had the nerve and the verve to confront his foes. His pugilistic skills led one of our colleagues over thirty years ago to project him as the Muhammad Ali among African scholars.   . *Prof Sulayman S. Nyang is a professor and former chairman of the African Studies Department at Howard University in Washington, D.C]]>

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Professor Ali Mazrui Confronted Cultural Genocide
December 15, 2014 | 0 Comments

Chief Taku Chief Taku[/caption] A major contribution of Professor Ali Mazrui was to reawaken and affirm the humanity of the black race and the underlying liberating values that sustain this reality.  An enduring effect of centuries of crimes that were perpetrated against the black race from the slave trade, to the “Berlin Bazaar”, colonialism, neo-colonialism and other variants of international conspiracy that are ongoing is cultural genocide. In this cultural genocide, African cultures were vandalized; interdicted and sub-human foreign values imposed in their place.  A hallmark of the cultural genocide first to destroy the humanity of the black race was to impose an image of God that was totally foreign to the black race.   In this situation, while other races recognized God in themselves and in their own cultures, Africans did the contrary. The result is that the creative genius in the black race that inspired the marvelous inventions and developments in the sciences, architecture, arts, religion, and philosophy was suppressed or simply lost. The evidence of this is found in a fragmented continent, lost kingdoms, endangered human species, a devastated cultural heritage, valuable artifacts and precious treasures in western museums, palaces, universities, religious sanctuaries and imperial homes. This is explained or depicted as the glorious prizes of gallantry at wars against savage black people living in the caves of the Dark Continent. African intellectuals were trained or taught to participate in the destruction of their own cultures, to resent indigenous values, to abdicate their own cultural identity and forsake their common spirituality. Franz Fanon in his classic book, The Wretched of the Earth (1966), laments that during the period of decolonization, certain colonized intellectuals began to dialogue with the bourgeoisie of the colonialist countries and during this period, the indigenous population was discerned only as an indistinct mass. Fanon posits that during the period of liberation, the colonialist bourgeoisie feverishly looked for contacts with the elite to carry out rearguard action with regard to culture, values, techniques etc. According to Fanon, the most essential value for the people is land because it brings bread and above all dignity; dignity which has little to do with dignity of the human person for natives can be arrested, brutalized, starved, and dehumanized and no professor of ethics, no priest, ever comes to be beaten in his place or share his bread with him.   Fanon sees the so-called elite and black intellectuals as either mere opportunists or agents of oppression. Nwafor Orizu in “The Corrupting Influence of the West” casts the so-called colonial educated intellectuals, among them lawyers, for considering African cultures and traditions as heathenism which they surveyed with high contempt, obeying no laws,   and observing no rules. Ali Mazrui broke ranks with these categories and took upon himself the responsibility of researching, studying, and presenting to the world, the distinct supreme human values in African cultures and their unique contributions to world civilization.  Like Franz Fanon, he identified the humiliating and dehumanizing predicament of the black race and Western vampire proclivities that threatened and continue to threaten the very existence of the black race.  This dehumanizing predicament was brought about by a policy of cultural genocide which aimed at destroying the Africans, in whole or in part, on the basis of their culture and race. With his towering intellectual acumen, he led the crusade to marshal the contributions of African intellectuals towards the study of African cultures and values for the amelioration of the African condition. He critically legitimized the creation of cultural awareness among Africans in particular, and the black race in general, as critical tools for our freedom, liberation and collective survival. He taught the world that the cultural, environmental, spiritual, socio-economic and political attributes that Africa possessed like the hydra shall rise to serve and save humanity. In this he was profound, relevant and commanded with significant success the battle for the re-conquering of black humanity as the very canon of its own collective survival and existence. At the time of his death, Ali Mazrui had eternalized the fight to roll back the cultural genocide that was ongoing for several centuries, an impressive legacy for the present generation and posterity. The battle is ongoing with intensive ferocity. However, looking at the record and legacy of Professor Ali Mazrui, I am hopeful that the future of a peaceful, prosperous world belongs to the cradle of human existence, Africa.  In his television series, “The Africans: A Triple Heritage,” he was optimistic about this. So am l.  *Chief Charles A. Taku is a Pan-Africanist lawyer, writer and author of books and professional articles on international law. He led counsel at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal -UNICTR, Special Court for Sierra Leone and the “ICC Continuing investigation in the Republic of Kenya for Dr. David Matsanga. With co-counsel, Betty Lyons, he obtained a remarkable acquittal in the Military II trial at the ICTR.      ]]>

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In Celebration of an African Hero and Global Citizen: Professor Ali Mazrui
December 15, 2014 | 0 Comments

Ajong Mbapndah L* at-DR-ALI-AL'AMIN-MAZRUI-DIES_hugeSandwiched between the outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa and the people’s revolution that swept Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso from power, the passing of Professor Ali Mazrui was lost to many. Yet, the life of the towering intellectual that Professor Mazrui was deserved greater attention than passing headlines in the media. Professor Mazrui spent a lifetime fighting for Africa. He wrote profusely, and used a distinctive television documentary, “The Africans: A Triple Heritage” to share objective history of Africa with Africa and the world. To people like Professor Mazrui, there is reason to take pride in the rich cultural and historic contribution of Africa to modern civilization. Unfortunately, instead of promoting the African heritage that Ali Mazrui advocated, many of contemporary leaders in Africa have excelled only in pushing the continent in the wrong direction. As someone who endured a fair share of personal hardships from homegrown political detractors, Professor Mazrui no doubt would have supported the people of Burkina Faso in their heroic resistance against changing constitutional term limits by a leader that had held power for 27 years. images (1)Had Professor Mazrui been alive, he would have continued to educate the world that far from stigmatizing an entire continent of over a billion people with the Ebola, the virus is largely restricted to three countries in one region—Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in West Africa. Simplifying understanding of the continent, its peoples and its history for the world was part of the mission to which Ali Mazrui devoted a lifetime When Pan-African Visions thought of a special edition to celebrate Professor Ali Mazrui’s relationship with Africa and Africans, we turned to Professor James Kariuki who runs the Global Africa Blog. We did so aware that Professors Mazrui and Kariuki were professional colleagues and close personal friends. They knew each other over the years as they taught at different US universities and worked jointly on several projects in the US and Africa. Kariuki graciously accepted the challenge of coordinating this issue. When we approached him, his response was, with tongue in cheek, who am I to say no? [caption id="attachment_14827" align="alignleft" width="300"]Ajong Mbapndah L Ajong Mbapndah L[/caption] To celebrate Ali A. Mazrui, this Special Edition of PAV has pulled together African intellectual Titans living thousands of miles apart. From Willy Mutanga, the Chief Justice of Kenya and President of the Supreme Court of Kenya, the thread stretched to link to the Distinguished Professor and world-famous novelist, Ngugi wa Thiong’o at University of California in Irvine, California, Professor Sulayman S. Nyang of Howard University in Washington, D.C., Professor Isawa Elaigwu of the University of Jos, Nigeria, and others. In so doing, these contributors have conquered time and space to join hands in fellowship with other influential academicians, legal luminaries and common people to commemorate one of their own, the late Professor Ali Mazrui. The life and works of a giant in the mold of Professor Ali Mazrui can never be amply dissected in a single publication like this but kudos to Professor Kariuki for taking the lead in this venture. Our gratitude goes out to him as well as to the contributors who responded to his call for submissions that have made this edition possible. As we, Africans, vilify tyrants and visionless leaders who hold the continent hostage, we must also celebrate our heroes and this special edition is one small step in that direction. Ali Mazrui was truly the epitome of Africa’s finest and his legacy will transcend generations to come. Happy reading!! *Managing Editor PAV]]>

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Kenyans Must Reconcile Themselves to Excellence of Thought?
December 15, 2014 | 0 Comments

Matthew 13:57: “…only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor.”  images (5)Those familiar with the writings of Mjomba (Uncle) Ali Mazrui know that he loved comparative approaches, drawing out contradictions and paradoxes and generating rich insights in the process. And in a way his own life is an illustration of this stylistic device that he employed so effectively.  Mjomba Ali Mazrui’s life captures the promise and tragedy of our nation—the Kenyan paradox. It is a paradox or contradiction that his death must help us resolve. On the one hand, his achievements represent the excellence of the Kenyan spirit and abilities: a people confident enough to conquer and rule the world. On the other hand, his exile from his home soil represents our discomfort with excellence at home, a penchant to reward the most undeserving and punish the most meriting. A strange habit of making competence a burden in this country! We must stop insecurities that free thinkers seem to stir in us—insecurities that made us deny Mjomba Ali an appointment for public service but after we atoned for our sins by making him Chancellor of the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (KUAT), we let him exit yet again without deserving honor. We have punished thought by exiling these free and great thinkers. And these free thinkers have succeeded in shaming us by their sheer excellence in the foreign lands to which we banished them. We rejected the intellectual confidence of Barack Obama Senior and now he has produced the first black American President. We exiled Professor Anyang’ Nyong’o to Mexico, now he has given us the first African Oscar. We exiled Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, now he has been in the top running for the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature.  We exiled Ali Mazrui, a man listed both by Foreign Policy and Prospectus Magazine of the United States and United Kingdom respectively as one of the world’s top 100 most influential thinkers. That is no mean feat even though exiling him was a very mean act. We exiled the eminent and distinguished Professor Yash Pal Ghai to the UK and finally to Hong Kong, recalling him home to write our Constitution only to end up frustrating him in that patriotic duty. Professor Ghai has continued writing and rewriting Constitutions for other nations, a great project that made the Queen honor him with a CBE (we honored him with an EBS but are yet, after two years, to give him the medal)! We exiled Professor Alamin Mazrui after we detained him without trial and he prospered and achieved greatness in the US. We exiled Micere Mugo, a great professor of literature to Syracuse University in New York. We exiled Wangui wa Goro to London since she was in her 20s. We exiled Kamonji Wachiira to Canada where he ended up holding diplomatic and development positions with the Canadian government and Canadian Sida, respectively. We exiled Professor Maina  Kenyatti, the first Kenyan historian to show passionate interest and conduct research on the Mau Mau War of Liberation. We exiled Professor Shadrack Gutto to Zimbabwe and South Africa where he has excelled in matters of constitutions and constitutionalism. We exiled John Samuel Mbiti, a re-known and brilliant philosopher who taught at Makerere and could not get a job at home after Idi Amin came to power in Uganda and his life working in Uganda was in danger.  He now works in Switzerland and continues to write and recently translated the Bible in Greek into the Kikamba national language. We exiled the brilliant historian ES Atieno-Adhiambo to the US where he has distinguished himself as a scholar par excellence. We exiled Professor Makau Mutua who is now a distinguished professor at Buffalo Law School, constantly glorified by the Governor of New York and the Chief Judge of New York. And there are many more great scholars we have exiled! So if there is anything to be learned, it is that our nation’s culture of constant discomfort with excellence, of exiling thought because ideas terrify us, only succeeds in shaming us abroad and costing us dearly at home. The rest of the world benefits from our rejected gems, as we continue to suffer from underdevelopment and poverty and constant attempts to sabotage a promising constitutional democracy. We are only proud of one small and useless idea: that we have perfected the art of ethnic calculus and other divisions in our politics, and elevated corruption as a high science of our nationhood. These are two traditional sins of Africa’s governance that Mjomba Ali spent his lifetime in scholarship and public service fighting. Kenyans have a big spirit; a great potential and an in-built confidence to lead and conquer the world. However, to realize this potential, we must learn to be at ease with excellence and stop punishing and exiling thought. As we wish Mjomba Mazrui to rest in peace in death, may we also learn to live and be at peace with great ideas—and with great thinkers among our women and men! Finally, we all agree that Mjomba Ali was a global African. Born in Mombasa, he was a Kenyan, a native of the continent of Africa, and a global citizen. If we are serious about implementing the 2010 Kenyan Constitution, particularly the provisions on patriotism, nationhood, and unity in diversity (be it ethnic, religious, regional, religious, gender, generation, clan, class), then Mjomba Ali gives us the ideological, political, and cultural template for necessary political leadership to succeed in that endeavor. We need not suffer from the crisis of political leadership anymore. We only need to internalize the virtues of Mjomba Ali in our transformation. I end where I started. The “hometown” and the “house” in this case must both refer to “Kenya” and “Kenyans!” May the Almighty Allah rest Mjomba Ali’s soul in Eternal Peace! Allahu Akbar. *Willy Mutunga is a Kenyan leading scholar and Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court of Kenya.]]>

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Homage to Professor Ali Mazrui – a Global Citizen
December 15, 2014 | 0 Comments

By Harold Acemah* images (4)On October 13, 2014, an intellectual giant passed on at Binghamton, USA. Prof Ali A. Mazrui was one of a kind and his death at 81 marks the end of an era. He did Africa proud as a teacher, a scholar, an author and as a global citizen. I first met Prof Mazrui in 1967 when I enrolled at Makerere College of the defunct University of East Africa. He was professor and head of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration. As one of a handful of African heads of department at Makerere during the 1960s, Mazrui was at 34 the youngest, but easily the most prolific and most admired professor on the hill. Students fondly called him “The University Orator” which did not go well with his detractors who were obviously jealous of him. His public lectures at Makerere’s Main Hall attracted, in droves, students, academicians and Uganda’s political elite. Prof Mazrui taught an introductory course (POL 1.2) in Political Science for First Year students. I enrolled for the course during the 1967/68 academic year. Our class of about 120 students often welcomed “visiting students” from other departments who came weekly to listen to and be mesmerised by our Mwalimu whose two-hour lectures were so absorbing and so engrossing that time always flew unnoticed. He had the unique ability to explain complex ideas and theories to the level where all students in his class would answer or nod “Yes” when he asked: “Are we together?” When I requested Prof Mazrui in 1988 to be a referee for my application to the Graduate School of the University of Toronto, he not only agreed without any hesitation, but also gave me a fantastic recommendation which enabled me secure admission to “U of T” which is Canada’s leading university. I am grateful for the guidance, encouragement and support he extended to me as a student. Prof Mazrui’s legacy A graduate of Oxford University, Dr Ali Mazrui was professor and head of the Department of Political Science at Makerere from 1966-1973; he taught at several universities thereafter, such as the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, the University of Nigeria at Jos and from 1989 until his death he was the Albert Schweitzer Professor of Humanities and Director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies (IGCS) at the State University of New York (SUNY), Binghamton. Prof Mazrui has left a powerful, impressive and enduring legacy in the academic and literary world; he published more than 20 scholarly books, including Towards a Pax Africana which was a must-read for students of Political Science in the 1960s. Ali’s finest hour for me was in 1979 when he delivered BBC’s prestigious Reith Lectures under the theme “The African Condition” which brought vintage Ali Mazrui to the whole world. This was followed in1986 by the TV series “The Africans: A Triple Heritage” produced jointly by BBC and America’s Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Prof Mazrui continued to write, teach and travel across the world to give lectures on a wide variety of subjects. I often wondered what kept him working tirelessly and unceasingly even at old age. He will be missed by the Political Science fraternity. In September 1996, I visited Prof Mazrui at Binghamton; my visit regrettably coincided with the death and funeral of Ali’s right hand man at the IGCS, Dr Omari Kokole, who was my friend. Omari was a student of Political Science at Makerere and Dalhousie University, Canada. He was like me from West Nile, but brought up in Jinja and spoke fluent Lusoga and Luganda in addition to Kakwa, his mother tongue. After the funeral, Prof Mazrui invited me and some friends of Omari for lunch at his residence and later on I had a one- to- one talk with him at his office at the IGCS. During our conversation, I came to realise how much Omari’s death at the tender age of 44 years had affected him, because he spoke with tears about his departed colleague; Ali was human and was overcome by emotion at one stage. He told me that Omari was like a son to him and that he had groomed him as his successor at IGCS. I was deeply touched and for those who knew Dr Kokole, they will recall how much he sounded like Mazrui. Omari did not resemble Mazrui at all, but when he spoke at meetings one would think it was Prof Mazrui. Dr Kokole was a renowned political scientist in his own right and a professor at SUNY. What pains and riles me about Ali Mazrui, Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiongo, Okello Oculi and hundreds of Africa’s best and brightest sons and daughters, is the fact that they were forced to flee their countries of origin or Africa by a hostile political environment poisoned by callous, ignorant and worthless African dictators! Prof Mazrui was blacklisted and harassed for over two decades by the notorious Moi regime; he died in exile. The enemies of the African revolution who have caused a massive brain drain from the continent have deprived Africa’s youth of the knowledge, skills and wisdom of scores of great African intellectuals and scholars who are languishing in exile in Europe, USA, Canada and elsewhere. Instead of Ali Mazrui and Chinua Achebe, the men who deserve to languish in exile are the greedy, violent and useless African dictators, such as Yahya Jammeh, Teodoro Obiang and Isaias Afewerk who have turned Africa into a laughing stock! How long must patriotic Africans and people of goodwill put up with such outrage? One hopes not long. May Ali Mazrui’s soul rest in eternal peace! * Source Daily Monitor . Mr Acemah is a political scientist, consultant and a retired career diplomat. hacemah@gmail.com  ]]>

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Napping Again? Where is African Leadership in Fighting Ebola?
October 20, 2014 | 1 Comments

 

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon poses for a group photo with leaders attending the African Union Summit, which marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Organization of African Unity. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon poses for a group photo with leaders attending the African Union Summit, which marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Organization of African Unity. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

As the Ebola virus that is currently  concentrated in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone rages on, Africa seems to have been caught napping again leaving the response to the international community which is still to strike the right cords in a coherent strategy for the fight.

Complains have been flying right and left about paucity of funds, conspiracy theories making the rounds, and the unjustified stigma flying beyond the confines of the continent. An African resident based in Europe and not even a native of one of the affected countries was recently subjected to a grueling experience at an airport in a South American country where she had traveled to for work. In the U.S, there is debate going on whether or not flights from West Africa should be banned.

For sure with a virus like Ebola, precautions are worth taking and no one should fault non-African countries for taking precautions. The response of Africa itself has not helped matters at all and tales of Africans stigmatizing Africans are making their way into the international press.

Sierra Leone's John Kamara is grounded by his Greek club. The stigma from Ebola is on the rise affecting Africans who do hail from countries currently battling the virus

Sierra Leone’s John Kamara is grounded by his Greek club. The stigma from Ebola is on the rise affecting Africans who do hail from countries currently battling the virus

The NY Times recently ran a story of the anguish that layers from Sierra Leone were subjected to in the last month or so while participating in the qualifying games of the Nations cup. As uncontrollable as fans may be sometimes, taunting Sierra Leone players with chants of Ebola are simply disgusting. Having them live in secluded hotels, cut off from the public is already demoralizing enough. On his return from the qualifying games to his Greek Club PAS Lamia, of Sierra Leone’s John Kamara  was grounded from training for three weeks despite the fact that there were undergoing daily checkups while in Yaoundé Cameroon during the two leg game.

While Nigeria and Senegal may have gained credit for successfully taming the spread of the virus, the response of the continent as a united entity has fallen short. Where is the African Union? While Cuba is sending Doctors and the US and Britain sending troops, why have African countries not shown greater solidarity? Where are Nigeria and South Africa who are supposed to be leaders of the continent? The leadership fight should not only be about fighting for a fictional Security Council seat but showing the lead in marching the continent head on to confront crisis.

The Ebola crisis are a reminder for the continent to get its priorities straight. The gaping holes in health care services have been exposed in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Liberia. The situation is not different in most other African countries where health care is not considered a priority. It is not just about resources, but getting the priorities straight. There are many African leaders who rush to Europe at the sign of any malaise, but why can there not invest in building adequate health care facilities?

When we compare amounts that have been embezzled from state resources, what is lost from mismanagement, one can only imagine the difference it could have made in using such sums to invest in infrastructure, education, and health care. Even the aid and loans received from the international community has often lined up the pockets of corrupt officials and not used for intended purposes.

Ivory Coast and global soccer Icon Didier Drogba  takes the Ice Bucket Challenge. Many African sports and entertainment stars took the challenge ,there could equally take the lead in making sure ebola does not define Africa

Ivory Coast and global soccer Icon Didier Drogba takes the Ice Bucket Challenge. Many African sports and entertainment stars took the challenge ,there could equally take the lead in making sure ebola does not define Africa

On the international scene one has heard about forums where the President of the AFDB has spoken forcefully on behalf of Africa. The AFDB has equally dedicated resources to the fight against Ebola. What is done by the AFDB should not make African countries shirk the need for expressing solidarity with the affected countries. The D.R.Congo has pledged help, and Ghana seems to be talking of help too. If Doctors can come all the way from Cuba why not from Nigeria , South Africa, Kenya, Uganda etc.? Instead of renegading on hosting the African Nations Cup next year as Morocco did , how about King Hussein’s country thinks of the support it could give to the affected countries to curb the spread of the virus?

And what about the global stars from Africa? All those UNICEF Ambassadors, children are been killed by in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Africa needs their advocacy now.When it came to the Ice bucket challenge, there were so eager to come along, nominating others to take the challenge. How about that same enthusiasm is transferred in helping raise not only awareness but resources needed by these affected countries? The continent needs the global appeals of Genevieve Nnanji, Samuel Eto’o, Didier Drogba, D’banj, P Square and all others who fly high the African flag on the global stage.

Back to government priorities in Africa, research is one area where funding is often not available. The brilliant minds are there, the intellect is in abundance, and there is the added advantage of knowing the continent. What about Traditional medicine, which has suffered from acute neglect over the years?

In the Ebola crisis comes the reminder that where ever there is a leadership vacuum in Africa, someone out of the continent will fill it up. It is not enough to murmur in silence why the USA sent the military to help Liberia in its response, the question should also be asked, what did African countries do? What did the African Union do to coordinate a response? What did the business moguls in the continent do when it came to rallying financial support or should we continue to think it has to be the Bill Gates and the Mark Zuckerbergs doing it? Africa has its own global brands in Dangote, Mo Ibrahim and others.

Dr. Gabriel Logan is one of two doctors at the Bomi county hospital, which serves a county of 85,000 people. In a desperate attempt to save Ebola patients, he started experimenting with an HIV drug to treat them. John W. Poole/NPR

Dr. Gabriel Logan is one of two doctors at the Bomi county hospital, which serves a county of 85,000 people. In a desperate attempt to save Ebola patients, he started experimenting with an HIV drug to treat them.
John W. Poole/NPR

It is not late for Africans to rally together and not remain indifferent to the plight of those in countries affected. There are many who still long for a United Africa as advocated by Nkrumah. Such unity means the continent bonds in good and bad times. No one should make the mistake to think it is something limited to the three West African countries, the virus may have broken out in any of the other countries.

Far from dividing Africa, the crisis should reinforce the need to come together, the need for all Africans to speak truth and call on leaders to get priorities straight, the need to challenge African countries to make the investments needed in health care, infrastructure, technology, research ,education and others. Without these investments, and without getting these priorities right, the continent will continue to remain way short of meeting its potential. Nigeria and Senegal have already gained credit by keeping the virus under check, the continent needs to aggressively rally behind Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea and send a message to the world that the continent can take care or at least take the lead in the quest for solutions to crisis of this magnitude. Africa should lead the world in the response to Ebola and not follow the world in response.

 

 

 

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Shekau, Nigeria, Cameroon, and the politics of Boko Haram
September 26, 2014 | 0 Comments

Biya of Cameroon and Jonathan of Nigeria Biya of Cameroon and Jonathan of Nigeria[/caption] So it is been reported with more certainty that Shekau or the guy who use to pass around for Shekau is now dead. All the bravado in those videos, standing behind armored tanks and using innocent girls in his background was all for nothing. No doubt the guy could barely read well. His absence will certainly not be missed .Any individual or cause which takes delight in ambushing innocent civilians, preaching hatred and kidnapping innocent girls is not worth the trouble at all. As news of Shekau or his double makes the rounds, the tussle for credit as to who killed him is subsiding. Was it the Nigerian Military or their Cameroonian counterparts? Although claims from the Cameroonian side have remained low, there was information from social media last weekend that the fellow passing around for Shekau was dead killed by Cameroon arm forces. The news was accompanied by pictures on a military face book page. However, the Nigerian side came up with a forceful arguments culminating in a formal announcement from the military top brass that indeed, the gentleman known for the taunting visitors met his waterloo at the hands of the Nigerian military as the sect tried to get into Konduga. “The troops captured some of the terrorists and their equipment.  In the course of those encounters, one Mohammed Bashir who has been acting or posing on videos as the deceased Abubakar Shekau, the eccentric character known as leader of the group died.    Since the name Shekau has become a brand name for the terrorists’ leader, the Nigerian military remains resolute to serve justice to anyone who assumes that designation or title as well as all terrorists that seek to violate the freedom and territory of Nigeria,” a statement from the Director Defense Information, Major General Chris Olukolade. The forces doing the fighting deserve a lot of credit irrespective of which party got him. It is hard to understand how things metamorphosed to this level, but there are so many unanswered questions about Boko Haram and its supersonic rise. How comes the sect has evolved to the point where it can threaten to go toe to toe with the Nigerian military? Nigeria is a country that has been laying claim to a security seat on behalf of Africa, it has flexed its muscles in peace keeping missions from Liberia to Sierra Leone and its military was supposed to be one of the best trained and equipped in the continent. If the giant of Africa is unable to protect its citizens from Boko Haram, how can the rest of Africa rely on it for their security? Who is training the Boko Haram folks, where are their funds coming from, how and from where are there able to obtain fire power superior to that of the Nigerian military in many instances? [caption id="attachment_12366" align="alignright" width="300"]Cameroon's Paul Biya and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fanius celebrate the liberation of the molin-Fournier family last April. The wife of Vice Prime Minister Amadou Ali was kidnapped in August and has not been returned. Cameroon’s Paul Biya and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fanius celebrate the liberation of the molin-Fournier family last April. The wife of Vice Prime Minister Amadou Ali was kidnapped in August and has not been returned.[/caption] In Cameroon, the situation in the Northern part of the country remains preoccupying. Hardly had the dust settled on the first armed incursions of the sect when President Paul Biya declared that Cameroon was at war with the sect. Cameroonians grew curious about Boko Haram when a French family vacationing in the Northern part of the country was kidnapped. The Molin-Fournier family was released after some two months in captivity and the Cameroon President received the family before their departure to France. Though the French President indicated that no ransom was paid to release the hostages, it turned out that huge sums were indeed paid to secure the release of the Molin Fournier family. How much was given to secure the release of this French family? How much was given to secure the subsequent release of other foreigners kidnapped? Who received the ransom, and was the money out of the Cameroon treasury or from the home countries of the kidnapped folks who have been released? What is the relation between Boko Haram in Nigeria and Boko Haram in Cameroon? Here again more unanswered questions. It was perplexing to see that instead of Jonathan doing the two hour or so flight to meet Biya in Yaoundé or Biya doing vice versa to Abuja, both leaders preferred to honor an invitation of the French President to discuss security challenges. It borders on the absurd that it will take an initiative of the French for Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad to meet and talk about common threats from Boko Haram? A few months back, the wife of Amadou Ali one of the most senior and influential members of the Biya government was kidnapped in an attack that killed several members of the ministers family. Ministers Ali’s wife is still a hostage of whatever group keeping her. Dr Stephen Davis a negotiator from Australia recently ruffled feathers in Nigeria by announcing the names of some sponsors of Boko Haram. Fingered in his revelation were former Chief of Army staff, General Azubuike Ihejirika and former Governor Modu Sherriff of Borno State. It may not have been news that people in leadership were backing Boko Haram but it was one of the few rare times that names have been called. After a largely unconvincing press conference to clear his name, to the chagrin of most Nigerians, former Governor Modu Sheriff was pictured with President Jonathan during a visit to Chad. The optics could not have been any worse, at a time when the press was rife with reports of the Nigerian military taken refuge on Cameroon to flee from attacks from the sect.   [caption id="attachment_12370" align="alignleft" width="300"]L–R: A former Borno State Governor, Ali Modu-Sheriff, President Goodluck Jonathan, and Chadian President, Idriss Deby, at a meeting in Chad. this was a few days after Sheriff was cited by the Australian negotiator Stephen Davis as a key sponsor of Boko Haram L–R: A former Borno State Governor, Ali Modu-Sheriff, President Goodluck Jonathan, and Chadian President, Idriss Deby, at a meeting in Chad. this was a few days after Sheriff was cited by the Australian negotiator Stephen Davis as a key sponsor of Boko Haram[/caption] In the midst of the chaos, the innocent Chibok girls are still missing and nothing is heard from the help that western powers promised Jonathan. With the recent victories of the Nigerian military, releasing the girls will not only bring relieve to aggrieved families, but will also boast that struggling credibility of the Jonathan administration. The biggest resource of every country should be its people and be it in Nigeria or in Cameroon, it is the people that are suffering most. It is unfathomable to understand that for all its wealth, the Nigerian military should be complaining of been ill equipped. This is one struggle which calls to test the leadership mantles of both countries. The struggle for Boko Haram needs no politics, it is not a Northern thing in Cameroon and succession politics should not mingle with it. It should not a North v South fight in Nigeria, or unscrupulous politicians using the sect to work on 2015 agendas of sorts. No one doubts the dent that Boko Haram has put on the continental and international aura of Nigeria, hopefully the recent victories give the military the momentum to actually take the fight to Boko Haram so it can become history. In both Nigeria and Cameroon, openness and transparency in sharing information will help. The people can read in between the lines too and  so far there have been too many missing links and unanswered questions in the whole Boko Haram fight. *Insights Africa is a Blog that seeks to de-complex the complexities of developments in Africa  ]]>

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Jacob Zuma’s Presidency under Siege?
September 25, 2014 | 0 Comments

James N. Kariuki*

imagesAt the end of August this year, South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma embarked upon what was called a ‘working visit’ to Russia. Officially, Zuma’s objectives in Moscow included discussing trade enhancement between the Russian Federation and South Africa, searching for investment opportunities and for the South African president to get some rest. But, given their propensity for curiosity, the news media immediately wondered aloud why the details of an official presidential visit seemed to be shrouded by a veil of secrecy in both South Africa and Russia.

Curiosity verged on frustration.  First, the ‘resting’ claim for the president was unconvincing. It is true that the Zuma may have needed some rest given his grueling election campaign earlier in the year, his generally questionable health condition and the turbulent events of the first three months of his second term. But, since the trip coincided with the beginning of one of Russia’s notoriously brutal winters, weather alone virtually ruled it out as a vacationing destination of choice for an aging African leader.

On the other hand, if Zuma went to Moscow to promote bilateral trade cooperation and investment opportunities, why is it that his delegation did not include personnel from the relevant Department of Trade and Industry or from the cabinet’s economic cluster? Oddly, the president’s senior official entourage was composed of only the State Security Minister and the International Relations Deputy Minister. To consummate the intrigue, Zuma was not accompanied by a single journalist.

Given the mystique, news reporters were prompted to speculation. What was the ‘real’ purpose of the trip? Why now and why Russia?’

Analysts reminisced that Zuma’s presidency has always been dogged by controversy. But it was precisely in late August 2014, just prior to the Russian trip, that the same presidency became truly embattled. It was at that time that two domestic political crises converged and seemed to escalate uncontrollably to a crescendo.

Political challenges posed by these crises were indeed daunting, sufficiently unsettling to prompt observers to liken them to the infamous US Watergate scandal of the early 1970s. That political scandal pushed President Richard M. Nixon to his historic resignation of 1974 and infected the American body politic forever. It is said that, as a result of the Watergate scandal, the American political system lost its innocence.

The two issues that may forever define the Zuma’s presidency are captured in the general category of corruption and, specifically, they include the so-called Zuma spy tapes and the Nkandla scandal. Remarkably, the otherwise streetwise President has so far fallen short of finding a way to make either of the two problems go away.

Meanwhile, the public passions that the scandals continue to trigger are inflamed by the fact that each is embraced as a crusade attitude of three influential and highly visible public figures. These include Helen Zille, the leader of Democratic Alliance (D.A.) and the largest opposition party; Julius Malema, the leader of the recently formed and recalcitrant Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and Thuli Madonsela of the Office of Public Protector. Though they act as separate and distinct entities, these have become Zuma’s political nemeses and are hell-bent to the proposition that, come hell or high water, Zuma will be forced to pay for his political indiscretions.

The most enduring of Zuma’s catalogue of political ‘sins’ is what has come to be known as his spy tapes. Just before South Africa’s 2009 national elections, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) cited the tapes as the basis for withdrawing over 700 counts of fraud and corruption allegations against Zuma. But this issue has stubbornly remained unsettled for half a decade and as the core and immovable element in the President’s gathering storm.

The dismissal of the spy tape charges was indeed an indication that the NPA had concurred with Zuma’s contention that the taped conversations between the NPA and the-now-disbanded Scorpions Investigative Unit were convincing evidence that there indeed was a ‘political conspiracy’ against him. The withdrawal eliminated a major legal hurdle for Zuma, clearing the way for him to become president.

However, Helen Zille’s Democratic Alliance (DA), was not convinced.  The timing and alleged grounds for Zuma’s exoneration appeared too convenient to be true. For this reason, the largest opposition party was determined to listen to the spy tapes to determine if there indeed was a bona fide legal justification for exempting Zuma. All told, the DA has spent R10 million for this purpose in six court cases during the past five years to get its hands on the Zuma spy tapes.

Clearly, the DA’s hope in this lengthy pursuit has been to ‘uncover’ whether or not the 2009 decision to withdraw the 700 corruption charges against Zuma was politically-driven rather than legal. More than any other figure, Helen Zille has championed this cause with a devotion far greater than a mere political issue would warrant. This is so because, if the spy tapes can demonstrate that the 2009 withdrawal of charges against Zuma was politically-motivated, those charges can be reinstated in court to the detriment of Zuma and his presidency.

Precisely for this reason, it is said, Zuma has fought tooth and nail for nearly half a decade against the tapes’ lease and at a hefty legal fee borne by the tax payers.  Unfortunately, his animated objection against the release started to crumble in the same, infamous August 2014.  Specifically, on August 28, 2014, the Supreme Court of Appeal ordered that the NPA had to release the contested spy tapes to the DA in five days.  Three days later, Zuma departed for Moscow.

The other volatile issue is the Nkandla scandal, the allegation that Zuma has spent R246 million of public funds on his private residence under the guise of presidential security upgrades. In March this year Thuli Madonsela, in her capacity as the Public Protector, released a two-year investigation report that some of the Nkandla modifications were inconsistent with claims of security upgrades and that the President had to pay back for the misspent public funds.

Politically, Julius Malema and Thuli Madonsela are indeed strange bedfellows. The former is the leader of recently formed radical political party, the EFF. As indicated, the latter is the incumbent Public Protector, a government official. Ideologically, they have nothing in common. It is thus a measure of the mounting pressure on Zuma’s presidency that an alliance-of-sorts seems to have emerged between the two in opposition to the Nkandla issue, especially in Parliament. In August, both were demanding from President Zuma a transparent accounting for Nkandla, insisting on the right of the public to know when he planned to pay back for the alleged non-security expenditures.

On August 21, as the EFF aggressively grilled Zuma in Parliament regarding the Nkandla affair, a heated verbal exchange erupted between the Speaker of the House and Julius Malema. As a result of an ensuing chaos and stand-off between the two, the Speaker adjourned the National Assembly while riot police were summoned to physically remove EFF members from the building.

To the extent that the EFF MPs were unrelentingly heckling President Zuma in demanding answers to the Nkandla upgrades, was the President’s failure to provide satisfactory answers undermining proper and respectable functioning of a key branch of government? Are we witness to a specific political scandal of Nkandla escalate into a scathing constitutional crisis of national proportions?

The week before the parliamentary humiliating spectacle, Madonsela had accused Zuma in written form of “being guilty of an attack on the constitution and the rule of law by granting the Police Minister of Police the power to review her (Madonsela’s) findings” on Nkandla. Had the Nkandla infection ballooned into a constitutional crisis for the nation, a matter vastly larger than the original tag of corruption?

Prof-James-Kariuki21Besieged by such rugged news and punishing headlines, President Zuma found himself in a corner.  To think through the bombshells thrown at him, he was probably well-advised to seek a few days of solitude and privacy of far away from his troublesome home.

A week after the fiasco in the National Assembly, Zuma left for Moscow.  But why to Russia?

Reportedly Zuma and the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, have evolved a bond in which the South African leader derives considerable comfort, a personal friendship that goes beyond the call of duty. It is said that the two have now become very good friends.

Especially in context of the BRICS fraternity, Zuma and Putin meet fairly often and take time to discuss ex-officially matters of mutual concerns. Those include global issues such as the on-going turmoil in Syria, the Israeli-Palestine recent military crisis and the deteriorating condition in the Ukraine.

In all likelihood, Putin feels that he has received bad publicity over Ukraine and probably needs Zuma to boost his quest for political support in Global South. He is basically fed up with the Western negative campaign against what it calls Russian aggression. He is thus may be eager to garner support from Africa and the developing world in general to counter the sustained ‘propaganda’ of the US and its traditional European allies. Presumably, Zuma can be invaluable in this regard.

Conversely Zuma, given his political woes at home, probably needed a shoulder to cry on and a word or two of encouragement from the world’s greatest political survivor of the twenty first century. In recent years, Putin has defied and successfully resisted attempts of powerful Russian forces to unseat him. Could it be the case that Zuma is seriously concerned about political survival at home and went to Russia to seek consolation and advice from the ultimate expert on ‘how to?’

Seen in the above context, Zuma’s real purposes for the visit to Russia several weeks ago was not so puzzling after all. But it could not be public information.

*James N. Kariuki is Professor of International Relations (Emeritus) and an independent writer.  He is based in South Africa. Views expressed in the blog Global Africa are his

 

 

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Multinational Corporations in the African Economies: Bane or Blessing?
August 23, 2014 | 9 Comments

By TANGWE Abraham

download (18)Multinational corporations (MNCs) are companies with plants or direct investments in one or more foreign Countries. There are also known as Transnational corporations. They have their home or headquarters in one Country and owns and run subsidiaries in other Countries. It is therefore a corporation that operates in a multiplicity of environments. Africa after independence was inundated by a plethora of such companies which have hard a stranglehold on the African economies. They have had some positive fallout but with the limitations of such companies the main reason why African development is still farfetched.

Their origins and evolution in the African economies was well crafted and executed. After the Second World War, their presence was effectively felt and this was explained by the fact that instead of trying to break through tariff and other barriers to be able to export goods to other Countries, many of these companies found it easier to gain access inside such Countries in order to save transportation and other costs so as to make their goods more competitive. Also, many of these Countries offered cheap labour, special tax treatment or exoneration, the new technological innovations and the spread of communication and travels, the containerization of cargo and the emergence of computers capable of storing large amount data all made it possible for MNCs to expand their operations.

Postcolonial Africa faced a mountain of socio-political and economic problems which brought untold misery to the African people and  thereby forced them to look for means and ways of tackling the problem and this made the MNCs to appear useful in salvaging them from such precarious settings.

MNCs provided the much needed capital?, technological and marketing skills in exchange for a very profitable market. This has been compounded with their use of sophisticated marketing methods and organization with maximized linkages with their metropolitan base.  The talk of transferring technology is a farce because you cannot transfer technology and expect it to stick. Technology has to be invented taking cognizance of the inherent societal peculiarities for it to thrive.

However, their activities have helped in job creation, nay, employment improving in the process the national income through their payment of taxes which the Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union is sure to put into jeopardy. Such employment and improved income for governments led to improve development, standards of living and the undertaking of reforms.

At first glance, MNCs appear to be real developmental partners but a careful examination of their intrinsic undertones would disclose their devilish savvy in exploitation as they retard African economies, sap resources living the hitherto buoyant natural resource base barren thereby leading to an anomalous situation that injects underdevelopment than development. MNCs are neo-colonialist creation or agents bent on advancing the capitalist ethos.

The dependent theory of Wallerstein is a good base for this argument. This theory argues that the African economies are peripheral or based on primary products to be exploited by the industrialized nations or their agents who are the MNCs. Other theorists like Frank simply posit that the world economies were divided into the developed economies or metropoles and the peripheries or underdeveloped economies with the peripheries dominated by the metropoles. These ideals at face values refer to an era akin to the colonial period but a critical look reveals a different scenario.

As such, we realize that independence to African states was a smokescreen with diminished control over the elites and a “behind the scene” stranglehold of the African economies by the MNCs and their agents otherwise referred to as neo-colonialism. The metropole has therefore ceded that exploitative role to the MNCs who are more ruthless in their drive for profit which has left the African economies under permanent anesthetics or the economic surgeons “thieving” knife.

Unlike the colonial enterprise that was contingent on purity and as far as procedure and end results were concerned, the MNCs opted for a mélange of both; they used all the local mechanisms to extract profit even at the expense of looking for indigenes to control capital. MNCs are in quest of amassing wealth at the detriment of other variables like the welfare and developmental needs of the given societies.

Underneath the MNCs is found a vicious lethal drive for an outright extinction of the African economies. They were seen as offering the so –called modern industries to Africa but their interests in doing so conflict in part with African developmental goals and given the marginality of Africa to global goals or operation, they are in a position to drive very hard bargains.

Perhaps, referring to them as “devils incarnate” may be hard but their destructive base far exceeds their productive base. This could be discern via the Oguni crisis where the late environmentalist Ken Saro Wiwa vigorously  challenged the American oil consortium Shell for environmental pollution without a corresponding  fallout to the affected masses. This led to a kangaroo court trial session for him on trump up charges for allegedly masterminding  the murder of some Oguni chiefs who were against his campaign and was later executed. The late dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha therefore cooked this alibi with Shell to silence him.

In 1997, ELF, the French oil company sponsored and masterminded the overthrow from power of Prof. Pascal Lissouba because it was alleged that he was about to grant the exploration of new oil wells to American companies on a better deal. ELF decided to sponsor a stooge in the person of Denise Sassou Nguessou to reverse this trend and allow them a permanent monopoly. In fact, this is what has forced President Yahyah Jammeh of the Gambia to remark that is better to allow the resources to remain in the ground than exploiting them with nothing to show for it by the people.

We can go on and on. What happen to the contract of construction of a bridge linking the economic capital of Cote D’Ivoire, the French, Laurent Gbagbo and the Chinese? Of course, the Chinese who had a better deal were sidelined with the French and their Shylock terms holding sway and with Gbagbo standing trial for war crimes! Take a walk down memory lane with Charles Taylor and the Americans. Is Charles Taylor really guilty of fanning and abating war in Sierra Leone and for war crimes?

What is glaring is that MNCs wield impressive political, economic and social power. It does not matter whether that power is sought or unsought. It exists! More so, if the political survival of the host government is therefore at stake due to the economic operation of an MNC, that host government is pressured unless it can provide expertise through alternative sources to grant favourable concessions to guest MNCs. You can check the former Zaire under Mobutu where extremely favourable concessions were granted to a number of MNCs for exactly the same reasons and suffice to state here that Zaire is just a storm in the tea cup.

images (9)MNCs decisions can either reduce or increase employment levels within a Country, compromise or enhance the security of a Country (Nigeria and Congo Brazzaville) and lead to greater or lesser dependent on it by one country or another. One scholar has rightly remarked that the relationship between MNCs and  the nation-states can be termed as “sovereignty-at-bay” meaning that the power and authority of national governments is being at least challenged if not completely overtaken by MNCs.

MNCs are therefore a bane or trauma to African governments and to solve the problem, nationalization or getting a majority of shares in these corporations is a condition sine-qua-non. Nationals should be allowed to group themselves and allowed to put resources together, safeguarded by national governments for their development. Zimbabwe is trying in this direction but this must be accompany by the requisite through quality education.

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Didier Drogba retires from international football
August 9, 2014 | 0 Comments

Chelsea striker made 104 appearances for Ivory Coast and captained side for eight years

 

 

Didier Drogba has retired from international football after winning 104 caps with the Ivory Coast and captaining the side for eight years. Photograph: Warren Little/Getty Images

Didier Drogba has retired from international football after winning 104 caps with the Ivory Coast and captaining the side for eight years. Photograph: Warren Little/Getty Images

Didier Drogba has announced his retirement from international football with the Ivory Coast.

The 36-year-old, who last month re-joined Chelsea following a two-season absence with spells in China and Turkey, made his 104th and final appearance for Les Elephants during the World Cup in Brazil.

“It is with much sadness that I have decided to retire from international football,” Drogba said.

“I am very proud to have been captain of this team for eight years and to have contributed to placing my country on the world stage of football, taking part in three World Cups and two African Cup of Nations finals.

“I cannot convey enough thanks to the fans for all the love and support during these years. All my goals, all my caps, all our victories are for you.

“I also owe much gratitude to my team-mates – the players with whom I have shared all these emotions and I wish you all much success for the future and a very warm welcome to the new manager (Herve Renard).”

*Source irishtimes
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USA-Africa Relations and the Factor of Counter-Penetration
July 31, 2014 | 0 Comments

James N. Kariuki*

kwame nkrumah and martin luther king

kwame nkrumah and martin luther king

April 4, 2014 marked the 46th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination. One of his most publicized acts was to denounce publicly the American involvement in the unpopular Vietnam War. The fact that King was killed exactly a year to the day that he made the anti-Vietnam War announcement still raises eyebrows. Was a bigger force than a lone assassin involved in his murder?

Reverend King was many things to different people but, fundamentally, he was an African American civil rights activist. By condemning American involvement in the Vietnam War King risked alienating Lyndon B. Johnson, an immensely influential and sitting US president who was sympathetic to his civil rights agenda. When asked why he took that chance, Dr. King responded that, to him, justice was indivisible, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Viewed from another perspective, King’s declaration was broader: he could not honestly oppose racial injustice in America yet turn a blind eye to an obvious case of racial injustice in Southeast Asia. Built into this reasoning was a pointed indictment that President Lyndon B. Johnson could not forever get away with the claim of supporting civil rights for Black Americas while presiding over a costly, racially-tainted and brutal war in Vietnam.

Since King’s time, the world has become increasingly sensitive to its demarcation into distinct beneficiaries and victims. At the bottom of the pile, the ultimate casualties as in the North-South divide are Africans and Black people worldwide. But there have been progress in the quest for a solution, partly as a result of Reverend Martin Luther King’s inspiration.

Regarding the gross universal inequalities, the prolific Professor Ali Mazrui has consistently advocated that Global Africa should embrace the strategy of counter-penetration. This means that Black folk who were once openly and blatantly penetrated by Western colonialism should now turn the tables by working to occupy high positions of power within the Western world itself. From such heights, it is said, they are positioned to dispense justice for their fellow brethrens worldwide.

The Ali Mazruis, Chinua Achebes, Ngugi wa Thiong’os, Wole Soyinkas etc. and other American Africans intellectual giants are un-appointed ambassadors of this strategy in the universe of academia. As prominent educators in US educational institutions, these African Diasporans-of-the-Willing have unbridled opportunity to sensitize upcoming generations of future American decision-makers to the agonies and aspirations of continental Africans and Black folk worldwide. Post-colonial American African ‘Diasporans’ in academia are especially suited for this version of counter-penetration.

Equally critical is the role of the black Diaspora of the Unwilling, Diaspora of Enslavement, the descendants of those Africans who were transplanted to the West against their will. They are an integral part of Global Africa lodged in the West, including the most powerful nation on earth, the USA. What has their penetration of power dispensed for Africa so far?

 

James N. Kariuki

James N. Kariuki

The strategy of counter-penetration attributes substantial credit to itself for the reality that the US was less close-minded in condemnation of Kenyans than its European counterparts regarding the 2007 post-elections violence. This open-minded approach was instrumental in ultimately resolving the crisis. Remarkably, it was the African American, Jendayi Frazer, who made an on-site visitation to Kenya and reported her findings to her African America boss, Condoleezza Rice. It is noteworthy that, in addition to being African American, Frazer had studied in Kenya and her doctoral dissertation was on the same country. Presumably, her report on the post-election violence reflected that Kenyans were people with human faces.

The same counter-penetration perspective points out that African American, Colin Powell, reached the pinnacle of American military hierarchy and became the US Secretary of State. Powell had more than a passing interest in the agonies of the Sudan.

African American Condoleezza Rice followed Colin Powell to become the Secretary of State during the George W. Bush presidency. Granted, Rice was not a flag-waving black activist, but her skin is black. At some point, she was touched by one black cause or another. Was it not uniquely symbolic that she wept publicly when Barack Obama won the US presidency to take over from her own white boss, George W. Bush?  Blackness seemed to have overridden the fact that Obama was a Democrat while Rice and her boss were Republicans?  There was more.

In April 2008, Condoleezza Rice, urged the US Senate to pass a law to remove South Africa’s ANC categorization as a terrorist organization from the US database. The unflattering classification was originally attained during anti-apartheid era when the apartheid regime portrayed the party as a terrorist organization. Ten years after the demise of apartheid, ANC members still could not get visas to enter the US without personal waivers by the Secretary of State. In most cases, the mere requirement of the waiver amounted to visa denial.

In 2008 Rice told a Senate hearing that she found it discomforting to have to personally waive visa restrictions for her South African counterpart, the Minister for Foreign Affairs. More disconcerting, she had to do the same for the world-acknowledged icon of peace, Nelson Mandela.

The 2008 bid against ANC categorization was spearheaded by a Californian liberal lawmaker, Representative Howard Berman.  His language was more biting. “It is shameful that the US still treats the ANC this way, based solely on its designation as a terrorist organization by the old apartheid South African regime.” Regarding Mandela requiring a special waiver of the Secretary of State to obtain entry visa for the US, he simply stated, “What an indignity.”

This was not the first time that African American Diasporans-of-the-Unwilling fought for black-ruled South Africa within the confines of the American political system. One of the unsettling landmarks for the demise of apartheid was the passage of the 1986 Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act. That legislation resulted from unrelenting work of the US Congressional Black Caucus under the leadership of a black Congressman, Ronald Dellums. Most notably, its passage was an override over the veto of a popular President, Ronald Reagan.

Before Reverend King, Black Americans in South USA could not vote, much less become legislators. Today, the same black Americans have occupied virtually every political position, including the US presidency. Behind it all is King’s powerful notion that injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. After all, Barack Obama’s political calling was first triggered by racial injustice in South Africa. This is a case of counter-penetration at its finest.

**James Kariuki is Professor of International Relations and a private consultant based in South Africa.The views expressed in this blog are his

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