Category: AIF Issue 51

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Contested, but difficult to ignore

African history: quo vadis? Newly emerging African histories in the 1950s and 60s served as an antidote to the views of imperial and colonial historiography African history has gone through many incarnations as an academic discipline. Most recently, there’s been a global turn in African historiography. This shift has been prompted by a greater awareness […]

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A revolution of the aspiring bourgeoisie

African communism: a pragmatic approach Communism was not a decisive force anywhere in Africa until the cold war made the continent a priority for the Soviet Union A high level of industrialisation is, according to Marx and Engels, the crucial trait of societies ripe for revolution. Since they first published The Communist Manifesto in 1848, […]

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Time for change

African leadership: the golden age The continent’s current crop of leaders is more acquiescent than their post-colonial predecessors in dealing with external attempts at unwarranted interference Former Nigerian military leader Yakubu Gowon had a telling exchange with US President Richard Nixon in 1971. Invited for a state visit, Gowon, according to a recently declassified American […]

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A long and winding road

China: the special relationship Economic and political ties between Africa and China have led to infrastructural development on a monumental scale but their roots go back millennia No one knows exactly how long ago the friendship between China and Africa began but contact and trade between the two can be traced as far back as […]

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Altered states

Africa: the age of revolutions A broader view of history reveals Africans to have been decisive actors in shaping global changes, both inside and outside the continent One big difficulty historians of Africa face is the need to articulate historical changes in African experience through language accessible to a wide audience. Communicating widely means using […]

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The ‘door of the return’ to a new humanism

Gorée Island: memorial to slavery Visitors to Senegal’s notorious Gorée island learn about a 400-year old Slavery in Africa was one of the worst violations of human rights in history, extending over an entire continent and spanning 400 years. Its purpose was to make people objects of commerce and tools of work, stripping them of […]

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A painful history

Africa: the transatlantic slave trade Slavery was virtually a universal institution in countries around the world for thousands of years It is safe to say that in the popular imagination slavery is seen as an evil, racist system that was imposed on Africans by Europeans. Images of a ravaged African hinterland and uprooted communities are […]

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The ancient libraries of Africa

Africa: the written word Africa’s great libraries are stories of state formation and empires, and of people who thirsted for knowledge Reading and writing are miraculous activities; they transform the human condition, making possible new modes of social life. In a world which is slowly approaching total literacy, it can be difficult to recall that […]

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Troubled and ambiguous

Heritage: the long shadows of past and present Commemorating heritage in Africa is no longer the exclusive province of governments There was an interesting exchange between Thabo Mbeki and Constand Viljoen in the late 1990s. The former was an aristocrat of an African liberation movement who would become South Africa’s president, and the latter was […]

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Military nightmares, martial fantasies

Nigeria: 20 years of democracy Political scientists agree that unfettered access to oil cash was a key factor in the character and duration of military rule in Nigeria Until the return to civil rule in 1999, the military was in power in Nigeria for a combined total of 28 years. And, as is perhaps to […]

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The facts are stubborn

Rwanda: the genocide archives Amid mounting calls for an honest investigation into the Rwandan genocide, the UN and certain governments appear to be opposing full disclosure “Everyday we learn to forgive,” President Paul Kagame told a commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Rwanda genocide in Kigali in April this year, “but we do not […]

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