Re: Lessons of Zimbabwe (Mamdani)

16 March 2009

Returns in the 2008 election suggest that Zimbabwe is a deeply divided society. This is so whether you go by the official count or that of the government. I have argued that this split has three fault lines: urban-rural, ethnic and class. R.W. Johnson ([London Review of Books] Letters, 18 December 2008) and Timothy Scarnecchia et al disagree, but they have not offered a satisfactory alternative explanation. Instead, they suggest, apparently in unison, that the splits in Zimbabwean society are a result of the machinations of those in power — ‘Mugabe and his cronies’ — who wish to hang on to it at all costs.

Continue Reading…


Re: Lessons of Zimbabwe (Timothy Scarnecchia, Jocelyn Alexander, et. al.)

16 March 2009

For a number of scholars, Mahmood Mamdani’s ‘Lessons of Zimbabwe’ requires a further response, given Mamdani’s stature as a scholar and public intellectual. Some aspects of his argument are uncontroversial: there was a real demand for land redistribution — even the World Bank was calling for it in the late 1990s as the best way forward in Zimbabwe — and some of the Western powers’ original pronouncements and actions were hypocritical. There is a real danger, however, in simplifying the lessons of Zimbabwe. It isn’t just a matter of stark ethnic dichotomies, the urban-rural divide, or the part played by ‘the West’.

Continue Reading…


Re: Lessons of Zimbabwe (Terence Ranger)

16 March 2009

Mahmood Mamdani is correct to stress that Robert Mugabe is not just a crazed dictator or a corrupt thug but that he promotes a programme and an ideology that are attractive to many in Africa and to some in Zimbabwe itself. Mamdani takes care to balance this by recognising Mugabe’s propensity for violence. Yet this balance is hard to maintain and towards the end of his article Mamdani lets it slip.

Continue Reading…


Lessons of Zimbabwe: Mugabe in Context

16 March 2009

t is hard to think of a figure more reviled in the West than Robert Mugabe. Liberal and conservative commentators alike portray him as a brutal dictator, and blame him for Zimbabwe’s descent into hyperinflation and poverty. The seizure of white-owned farms by his black supporters has been depicted as a form of thuggery, and as a cause of the country’s declining production, as if these lands were doomed by black ownership. Sanctions have been imposed, and opposition groups funded with the explicit aim of unseating him. There is no denying Mugabe’s authoritarianism, or his willingness to tolerate and even encourage the violent behaviour of his supporters. His policies have helped lay waste the country’s economy, though sanctions have played no small part, while his refusal to share power with the country’s growing opposition movement, much of it based in the trade unions, has led to a bitter impasse. This view of Zimbabwe’s crisis can be found everywhere, from the Economist and the Financial Times to the Guardian and the New Statesman, but it gives us little sense of how Mugabe has managed to survive. For he has ruled not only by coercion but by consent, and his land reform measures, however harsh, have won him considerable popularity, not just in Zimbabwe but throughout southern Africa. In any case, the preoccupation with his character does little to illuminate the socio-historical issues involved.

Continue Reading…


Reflections on Mahmood Mamdani’s ‘Lessons of Zimbabwe’

16 March 2009

Mahmood Mamdani, a university professor of anthropology at Columbia University in New York City remains one of the pre-eminent scholars of African Studies in the West. He also remains prolific, often taking the lead in unpacking controversial debates. For example, this month he has a new book out on the Darfur crisis, Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror (Knopf, 2009). And few can disagree about the impact of his previous two books. Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror (Pantheon, 2004) certainly contributed—especially in popular media—to our understanding of the historical roots of the “War on Terror”: to the United States’ engagement in proxy wars in Southern Africa, Latin America and Afghanistan and the antecedents of “collateral damage.” A decade earlier, his Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism (Princeton, 1996) became a must-read in universities. So when, in early December 2008, the London Review of Books published a long essay by Mamdani on the ongoing political and economic crises (at least for a decade now) in Zimbabwe, it was inevitable that it would provoke debate. As one critic of Mamdani’s concedes in this issue, “…whatever Mamdani writes he is always brilliant and provocative.”

Continue Reading…


Making Peace or Fueling War in Africa

14 March 2009

At the end of President Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony, civil rights leader Rev. Joseph Lowery invoked the hope of a day “when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors.” No one expects such a utopian vision to materialize any time soon. But both Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have spoken eloquently of the need to emphasize diplomacy over a narrow military agenda. In her confirmation hearing, Clinton stressed the need for “smart power,” perhaps inadvertently echoing Obama’s opposition to the invasion of Iraq as a “dumb war.” Even top U.S. military officials, such as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, have warned against overly militarizing U.S. foreign policy.

Continue Reading…


Rwanda: Fifteen Years Post-Genocide: Peace Review Call for Essays

13 March 2009

In light of the fifteenth anniversary of the 1994 Tutsi genocide, Peace Review is soliciting submissions for a special commemorative issue on post-genocide Rwanda. We invite scholars from all disciplines, NGO workers, activists, writers, refugees and survivors to consider issues related to post-genocide Rwanda that concomitantly, contribute to progressive work in peace and conflict studies.

Continue Reading…


Will Africa become a priority for the Obama Administration?

3 March 2009

University of California at Irvine Faculty Working Group for Middle East and African Studies, Program in African American Studies, Darfur Action Committee and Association of Concerned Africa Scholars Present: “From AFRICOM to oil and Darfur to Zimbabwe: Will Africa become a priority for the OBAMA Administration?” A discussion with activist and educator Prexy Nesbitt

Continue Reading…


Why we said ‘No’ to A.I.D. (1977)

1 February 2009

In 1977, Congress authorized the expenditure of one million dollars for “the preparation of a comprehensive analysis of development needs of southern Africa to enable the Congress to determine what contribution United States foreign assistance can make.” AID was instructed to present specific proposals on how to spend this one million dollars. AID seems to have approached several groups of scholars heretofore critical of U.S. policy in southern Africa on the possibility of serving as “consultants” to draft this analysis. AID in late November approached the four of us as scholars in contact with persons knowledgeable about the region (and not ostensibly because of our links to the Association of Concerned African Scholars)** to meet with them to discuss what kind of work ought to be done, could be done, and might be done by us. We agreed to meet with them in December in Washington.

Continue Reading…


Southern Africa and Liberal Interventionism (1977)

1 February 2009

The Carter administration has been asserting of late that it is seeking to bring about majority rule in southern Africa. It has put forward an image of liberal interventionism-on the side of the Africans. Yet Joshua Nkomo and Sam Nujoma have insisted that all they want is for the US not to help the white regimes. Liberal interventionism stands forward as the most dangerous enemy of African liberation movements in southern Africa, and the Africans know it.

Continue Reading…