«Published by the Center for African Studies, University of Florida ISSN: 2152-2448 African Studies Quarterly E Staff Elizabeth Beaver Lin Cassidy ...»
First, Press attempts to place his journalistic accounts within an academic framework, citing academic analysis of the slave trade and colonialism, political philosophy, African literature, and other bodies of research as a prelude to each chapter. This is without doubt the most innovative part of the book. This approach works best in the first chapter, which concerns freedom and the wave of democratization in contemporary Africa. Unfortunately, this technique does not always succeed in other places. In some instances, the shift from his summaries of academic literature to his rich journalistic anecdotes or personal profiles is abrupt and awkward. The two are not so easily married, and one feels the author struggling to meld them. In an effort to keep the book to a reasonable length, some of the references to academic, historical, and philosophical works are pared down so much that it leads to oversimplification a one page summary of the debate over the slave trade's impact, for instance, simply cannot deliver an adequate explanation. Overall, this attempt to integrate academic research with a journalistic account is a good idea that meets only mixed success.
A second approach, which sets the book apart from most (but not all) journalistic accounts of Africa is Press's explicit goal of making the book upbeat and positive as an antidote to the Afro-pessimism so prevalent in journalistic accounts on the continent. He does this not by willfully ignoring the horrific catastrophes much of Africa has suffered in the past ten years - an approach which would have doomed the book - but rather by highlighting the many acts of courage, resilience, and common decency of individual Africans whom he has met and interviewed over the years. This gives the book an upbeat, intensely personal and hopeful tone, African Studies Quarterly | Volume 5, Issue 1 | Winter 2001 http://www.africa.ufl.edu/asq/v5/v5i1reviews.pdf 54 | BOOK REVIEWS and helps put a human face on crises like Rwanda's genocide, which in other hands can become numbingly statistical. Occasionally Press's agenda can come across in the text as contrived or naïve, but in general the author succeeds in spinning a hopeful portrait of average Africans managing and overcoming difficult problems. This alone makes the book a worthwhile read for students whose received knowledge about Africans is often little more than a stereotype of passive victims of drought and war. The one problem Press could not overcome is the fact that the cases he knows best and writes most about - Rwanda, Somalia, and Kenya-are all examples of things going badly wrong, and tend to work against his hopeful thesis.
The third distinct aspect of "The New Africa" is its rich collection of over 100 photographs, in both color and black and white, taken by Betty Press, the author's spouse. Betty Press is an accomplished photographer who also worked for the Christian Science Monitor, and the inclusion of some of her best snapshots from Africa gives this book an unusual added visual dimension. In keeping with the theme of the book, most of the photos are of individual Africans. The photo gallery nicely supports the book's theme that we must view Africa with a human face. Instead of a collection of crisis zones, the book portrays individuals trying to do the right thing in very difficult circumstances.
Compared to other journalists' accounts of contemporary Africa, "The New Africa" ranks in the middle of the pack, which is not bad company. It is not as brilliantly written as a work by Lelyveld, Sparks, or Maier, nor will it capture the public's imagination in the way that Richburg's controversial polemic was able to do. However, Press does succeed in carving out a distinct and hopeful niche within the journalistic genre on Africa, and his book will be remembered for that.
Ken Menkhaus Davidson College Davidson NC Africa's Political Stability: Ideas, Values, and Questions. Muyiwa Falaiye (ed). Lagos and Ontario: Panaf Publishing Inc., 1999. Pp. 312. Paper $15.
Attempts at carving out a plausible route to political stability in Africa are not new.
Students of African studies have offered divergent ideas cutting across various disciplines.
Falaiye's edited volume examines "the problem of governance in Africa with a view to prescribing the minimum conditions for stability and social justice" (p.x). Ogunkoya Jolly, one of the book's contributors, spells out the intellectual challenge of the discourse by writing that there is a need to identify "which set of criteria are to be used in determining what is good in the African traditional culture or the African man and what must be integrated from the so many foreign cultures of the world" (p.66).
Divided into two sections, the first creates a fundamental framework for understanding democracy and its relevance for the common African. The book draws on the universal concepts of man and democracy and examines how they fit into specific African connotations.
The "Lagos philosophers" explore "the nature of man in society, his desires and his ontology" from the perspectives of common democratic themes including equality, liberty, and freedom (p.x). Odeneye 'Jobi, for instance, asserts that for the philosopher to actually fashion a relevant political philosophy, he must properly grasp the ontological nature of man in the particular society for which the philosophy is meant (p.8). Conversely, Jegede Babatunde submits that "man is man everywhere, anywhere - gregarious". He argues that the African concept of fraternity and communalism, upon which the African interpretation of man is based, is not exclusively African. "The fraternal interpretation has been elevated to the status of a whole but restricted to the African personality" (p.50).
Part two examines questions on democracy, military rule and social justice with special reference to Africa. Additionally, the issue of reparations is raised by both Mimiko and Falaiye, who contend that economic stability may be achieved across the Continent if some form of compensation is paid for the atrocities associated with slavery.
Some of the minimum conditions Africa needs to meet for political stability include the following: first, there is a need to reconcile the cultural question in Africa. While decrying the attempt to portray African culture as obsolete, Jolly argues that "the problem of instability in the affairs of men in Africa is cultural and as such requires a solution rooted in the proper understanding and consideration of an African ontology" (pp.54-55). She further maintains "that man's ontology can only be properly understood within the praxis of his particular culture" (p.58). Secondly, basic conditions for socioeconomic and political equity, such as poverty reduction, an end to military dictatorships, defense of justice, and promotion of rule of law need to be met. Though they contend that the concept of equity is a myth in its strict interpretation, given the uneven distribution of abilities to individuals, Alloy Ihuah and others agree that the two most important prerequisites of democracy--equity and social justice--are never promoted or protected where poverty is pervasive (pp.69-70). The provision of able leadership is another necessity identified by the authors. Falaiye argues that a majority of the problems facing Nigeria could be solved if Nigeria begins to exercise its leadership across Africa. Able leadership, he argues, commands the respect and goodwill of the citizenry (p.187). Finally, a "Neo-African" socialist state system is proposed by Falaiye, since socialism "considers the peculiar African situation and contemporary experience that is best suited to her" (p.181). According to the author, in the African context, neo-socialism has the best chance of achieving justice, the rule of law and "justified equity" (pp.181-192).
This book obviously aspired to advance an appealing political philosophy capable of motivating an "African political renaissance" as did John Locke's in the fashioning of American constitution or Rousseau's in the 1789 Revolution in France. Unfortunately however, it deals solely with Nigeria. Considering the book's high aspirations, one expected there to be a focus on other countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
Another controversial part of the book is its belief in a unique or specific African adaptation to democracy - a claim the authors could neither back up with a convincing logic nor a practical model. This shortcoming perhaps explains the surprising allusion to African socialism on the eve of the twenty-first century. The authors could have benefited from looking closely at the misjudgments of Nyerere's Ujaama elephant project in Tanzania, as well as the failures Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc.
African Studies Quarterly | Volume 5, Issue 1 | Winter 2001 http://www.africa.ufl.edu/asq/v5/v5i1reviews.pdf 56 | BOOK REVIEWS Lastly, their contention that Africa's political ills are the responsibility of the political elite should also be criticized. Any inquiry into Africa's political situation needs to emphasize the collective failure of democracy and the necessity for collective cooperation.
Raphael Chijioke Njoku Department of Political Science/History Alvan Ikoku College of Education, Owerri, Nigeria.
Wars of Imperial Conquest in Africa 1830-1914. Bruce Vandervort. Bloomington, Indiana:
Indiana University Press, 1998. 288 pp. Paperback $16.95.
Bruce Vandervort's aim in writing this book is to examine the origins and conduct of colonial warfare in Africa in the late nineteenth century. The author investigates the history of the colonial conquests from the perspectives of the European invaders and the African resisters.
Over the course of the book, he demonstrates the impact, both immediate and long-term, of these wars upon the societies, political structures and military theory and practice of both the victors and vanquished.
Vandervort describes how relations between black Africans and Europeans were carried on largely at arm's length until the 1850's. He informs us that the interior of Africa was still mainly in the hands of the African peoples, whose hostility, combined with rigors of tropical diseases, kept European penetration to a minimum. He explains that Europeans came to Africa largely for economic reasons, thus, their presence on the continent was limited to a small number of trading enclaves along the west and east African coasts.
According to Vandervort, in 1876 more than 90% of the African continent was ruled by Africans. However, by 1914, all but Liberia and Ethiopia were controlled by European powers.
The author explains that the ability of the Europeans to recruit large armies of African troops and the technology advantage that European countries had over African countries were the major reasons for European success in the African colonial wars. The motives for participation in the imperial venture were multiple and complex and they varied considerably among European nations.
Vandervort describes the pre-colonial years of the nineteenth century as a time of movement toward a greater centralization of power. In larger polities such as the Zulu empire in Southern Africa, the jihad states of al-Hajj Umar, Ahmadu Seku and Samori in West Africa, the Mahdist theocratic state in the Sudan, the rejuvenated Solomonic empire of Ethiopia, the Sokoto empire of northern Nigeria, and the Ashanti empire of present-day Ghana, an internallygenerated change might have opened up a distinctly African path to modernity. Given the opportunity, African nations might have eventually liberalized their political, legal and fiscal institutions to make room for their more productive classes. These classes could then have commercially collaborated with the European mercantilists. If this had occurred, African nations might have retained their political and economic independence through an open door policy of trading with the world.
This process was brought to a halt as a result of two factors: first, through conquest and subsequent imperial rule, the Europeans were able to impose their own economic and political priorities onto African institutions and society conquest. Secondly, African societies were almost entirely unable to bury long-standing ethnic and political animosities long enough to forge alliances against the Europeans. Vandervort reveals in great detail the African nations' unwillingness to rethink military strategies and tactics that had proven ineffective against European methods of warfare. He shows how their refusal to abandon hierarchical and inequitable social structures inhibited the African peoples from presenting a united front against the European invasion. Europeans were able to turn ethnic groups and religious factions against each other. Ethnic divisions, tribal rivalries, religious differences and conflicts between regions all played into the hands of the Europeans.
In conclusion, the author has written a thorough and well-documented book and is able to discuss both the European and African perspectives without bias. Additionally, the military aspects of the wars are clearly explained. The social, economic and political background is illustrated to provide the reader with a greater understanding of European imperialism in Africa and the effects it still has on the Continent. Therefore, this book is a must for those readers who want to better understand the confluence of factors that led to the success of the European conquest of Africa.
David S Fick Overland Park, Kansas Independent Scholar Liberating the Family? Gender and British Slave Emancipation in the Rural Western Cape, South Africa, 1823-1853. Pamela Scully. Portsmouth: Heinemann, 1997. 210 pp. Paper: $23.95.
In the last two decades there has been a burgeoning of literature on the social history of the Cape. Scully's book augments this body of knowledge by focussing on the gendered dynamics of the post-emancipation period. The book begins by posing the questions "How widespread was the twinning of freedom and masculine authority, of freedom and feminine subordination, in the ideologies of abolition which led to the ending of Cape slavery? Did slave men and women share this gendered vision of freedom?" (p.1). Given the abundance of scholarly interrogation of patriarchy and slavery the answers are well known. It is the methodology employed to prove the thesis of the subordination of ex-slave women in the construction of post-emancipation familial relations however, that makes the book a valuable read.