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African Feminist Thought  

Amina Mama

African feminist thought refers to the dynamic ideas, reflections, theories and other expressions of intellectual practices by politically radical African women concerned with liberating Africa by focusing women’s liberation, and as such cannot be easily defined or captured. However, the conditions out of which Africa’s feminist movements form, and the intellectual labor that they carry out in the pursuit of women’s rights and freedoms can be explored and discussed. African feminist thought is the potentially limitless product of movements that are themselves constantly in the making, succeeding in changing the conditions of their formation by their very existence. African feminist political thought can be traced to the world’s women’s movements that formed in the context of transnational liberal and emancipatory political discourses of the late 19th and 20th centuries of European empire. Out of these liberal emancipatory reformist, international labor, communist, socialist revolutionary, and Pan-African Diasporic and African nationalist movements were all formed. However, following the flag independence of over fifty nation-states, women who joined the anti-colonial freedom movements have had to pursue further struggles in independent nation-states, because Africa’s new states often hesitated or reverted to conservative patriarchal views when it came to extending freedom and equality to African women. It is as citizens of new nations that 20th century African women have formed independent feminist movements that continue to demand freedom, equality and rights, for example, by seeking freedom of movement, political representation, educational and economic equality, and perhaps most commonly of all, freedom from sex and gender-based violence. Contemporary publications and writings by African feminists are the primary sources consulted here, because of the need to correct the spurious mis-representation of African feminism as “un-African,” a position that hinges on the definition of feminism as exclusively Western. This view is advanced by conservative African men and women who seek the restoration of pre-colonial cultures, as well as in some of the early scholarly literature on the subject. African feminism is a radical proposition: it refers to the liberatory political philosophies, theories, writings, research and cultural production, as well as the organizing work of the transnational community of feminists from Africa. These respond to objective conditions of global systemic inequality that have led African women to resume the struggle for freedom and liberation. African feminists in 2019 identify with earlier generations of women freedom fighters but enunciate visions of a future in which the women of Africa will be afforded human rights and freedoms, on a continent liberated from a global neoliberal capitalist system that continues to marginalize the vast majority of the world’s peoples and exploits natural and human resources to a degree that now threatens planetary survival.

Article

African Military History and Historiography  

Timothy Parsons

African military history is more than just the study of “tribal warfare,” imperial conquest, military coups, and child soldiers. Moving beyond conventional questions of strategy, tactics, battles, and technology, historians of precolonial Africa are interested in the role of armies in state formation, the military activities of stateless societies, and armed encounters between Africans and foreign visitors and invaders. Scholars working in the 19th and 20th centuries are similarly focused on the role and influence of African soldiers, military women, and veterans in society. In this sense, African military history is part of a larger effort to recover the lived experiences of ordinary people who were largely missing from colonial archives and documentary records. Similarly, Africanist historians focusing on the national era are engaging older journalistic and social science explanations for military coups, failed states, and wardlordism. The resulting body of literature productively offers new ways to study military institutions and collective violence in Africa.

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The Ahiara Declaration  

Samuel Fury Childs Daly

The Ahiara Declaration was a speech made by Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the head of state of the secessionist Republic of Biafra, on June 1, 1969, in the town of Ahiara. It was issued in the final year of the war between Nigeria and Biafra, also known as the Nigerian Civil War. The Eastern Region of Nigeria seceded from Nigeria as the Republic of Biafra in May 1967 following a series of mass killings of easterners, especially members of the Igbo ethnic group, in northern Nigeria the previous year. In his address, Ojukwu gave a partisan account of the war and the events leading up to it, rallied Biafrans to continue the fight, and set out a political philosophy that would guide Biafra from that point on. It was written by a committee of Biafran intellectuals, most notably the novelist and poet Chinua Achebe. The declaration had multiple meanings: it was both ideology and propaganda, and it served both proscriptive and descriptive purposes. Its influences included the broader intellectual currents of black internationalism, a novel theory of radical anticolonialism, and the idea of “African Socialism”—a communitarian philosophy that emerged in distinction to socialist thought in other regions of the world. The Ahiara Declaration was not meaningfully implemented, both due to limited resources and to the fact that Biafra was defeated six months later. Nonetheless, the declaration is an important source for Nigeria’s history, and for the broader study of political philosophy in postcolonial Africa.

Article

ʿAlī Eisami Gazirmabe  

Richard Anderson

ʿAlī Eisami Gazirmabe, later known as William Harding, was one of an estimated 99,752 “Liberated Africans” intercepted by the British Royal Navy from slave ships at sea and taken to the colony of Sierra Leone as part of Britain’s 19th-century campaign against the transatlantic slave trade. Eisami was born in the metropolitan district of Borno. He was enslaved c. 1812–1813 during the jihād waged by Hausa-Fulani jihadists against Borno. He was taken westward through the nascent Sokoto Caliphate and eventually to Oyo Ile, the capital of the Oyo Empire. For four or five years he was enslaved to a member of the Oyo aristocracy. In 1817, a Muslim uprising at Ilorin prompted his enslaver to sell Eisami to European slave traders on the coast. British naval forces captured Eisami’s slave vessel at sea, transporting him to the abolitionist colony of Sierra Leone. In Freetown, ʿAlī Eisami took up the name William Harding. In extensive interviews with the missionary linguist Sigismund Wilhelm Koelle from 1848 to 1852, he provided detailed accounts of his native Borno. This included stories, historical accounts, and poetry in his native Kanuri, as well as a substantial narrative of his enslavement. Harding’s linguistic work with Koelle represented an important step in the study of the Kanuri language, while his “Biographical Sketch,” as published by Koelle in 1854, has become a canonical account of enslavement in Africa. Eisami’s eyewitness accounts are important sources on the 19th-century jihād movement, experiences of enslavement in Africa and the transatlantic slave trade in its final half-century of existence, and the experience of being a Liberated African in Sierra Leone.

Article

Amílcar Lopes Cabral, 1924–1973  

Abel Djassi Amado

Amílcar Cabral, the founding father of Cabo Verde and Guinea-Bissau, was one of the African political leaders who masterfully exercised key and decisive roles in the twin realms of political action and theoretical development. As the founding leader of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cabo Verde, Cabral wore several hats: he was the chief diplomat and the commander in chief of the liberation movement; he was also the master organizer of the party and of the incipient state in the liberated areas. Yet, Cabral was far from solely a man of action; he developed a complex and sophisticated political theory of national liberation that gave substance and meaning to political action.

Article

Aminu Kano  

Mohammed Bashir Salau and Oyedele Oluokun

Aminu Kano was born into the family of Mallam Yusufu and Malama Rakaiya of the Sudawa quarters of Kano city in 1920. He obtained Islamic education and attended various local Western schools before serving as a teacher at the Bauchi Provincial Middle School. After leaving Bauchi, he attended the University of London, where he became more politically active. Upon returning to Nigeria from London, Kano served in different capacities, but mainly as a politician, a statesman-parliamentarian, and a cabinet minister. In the context of serving in these capacities, he was primarily committed to attacking the corruption and oppression of the emirate system, fighting for the liberation of women, fighting for Nigeria’s independence, promoting the democratization of Northern Nigeria, and fighting for Nigeria’s unity. By 1980, Kano’s focus on such issues had led to some important victories including the weakening of the emirate system. By this same date, Kano had had many wives even though he never embraced polygamy. In 1983, Kano died of a stroke. However, his ideas and work still have an impact on 21st-century Nigeria. The primary materials for the study of his ideas, work, and legacy include those Kano himself wrote, those written by other individuals, and oral data. Some of the extant literature based partly on such materials have primarily provided biographical details on Kano, while others have considered either his social and political thoughts or his legacy. Despite this, there are still significant gaps that exist in the relevant literature, which provides future research opportunities.

Article

Ancient Developments in the Middle Senegal Valley and the Inland Niger Delta  

Alioune Dème

The study of West Africa has contributed to the expansion of comparative arid-lands floodplain prehistory, from both the data collection (cultural and historical) and the theoretical aspects. The neoevolutionary approach that often pictures Africa as a backward continent has been successfully challenged. In the Middle Senegal Valley and in the Inland Niger Delta, research on their societies’ complexity done along these two subcontinent’s floodplains has described new processes (including urbanization) that were not previously featured in the archaeological literature. The two floodplains, because of their ecological diversity, with the richness of their ecological diversity, attracted Saharan populations affected by drought at the end of the second millennium and the first millennium BC. However, after their initiation occupation the two areas took different trajectories in complexity and settlement organization. Large complex settlements have been found at Jenne-jeno and in the Ile a Morphil that illustrate whole new trajectories of civilization. These forms of complexity, found in areas with historically known polities, were not included in the range of possibilities predicted by standard complexity theories regarding civilizational development. Ethnographic and historical data, reveal the existence of societies with a central authority embedded within and balanced by a diffuse, segmented and heterarchical power structure; often as a strategy to resist the individual consolidation of power. These societies exhibit evidence of horizontal differentiation and consensus-based decision making. All these types of organization are characterized by the presence of several sources of power vested in corporate entities, such as lineages, age groups, cults and secret societies.

Article

The Anlu Rebellion  

Jacqueline-Bethel Tchouta Mougoué

From 1958 to 1961, Kom women in western Cameroon cast aside their regular domestic and agricultural duties to engage in a revolt against British administrative interference in agriculture—normally their domain—and the alleged plan by the ruling political party, the Kamerun National Congress (KNC), to sell Kom land to Nigerian Igbos. In keeping with the practices of anlu, a centuries-old women’s organization generally deployed against people who violated the Kom moral code, women interfered with burial rituals; hurled insults at men in public; demanded the closing of schools, courts, and markets; set up roadblocks; destroyed and burned property; and defied both traditional and British authorities in the Bamenda Grassfields of western Cameroon. Their tactics included stripping naked in front of men. While local men considered the sight of the vagina in public to be a bad portent and thus understood the seriousness of the revolt, flabbergasted British officials had no idea what was to come. By seizing control of resources and demonstrating in public, Kom women disturbed local political power, and protested against British rule in the Southern Cameroons. They were a crucial force in the victory of the Kamerun National Democratic Party (KNDP) in 1961, which brought a restoration of political order at the time of independence.

Article

Banda, Hastings Kamuzu  

Joey Power

Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda was an American- and British-trained medical doctor born in Nyasaland at the turn of the last century. He became leader of the Nyasaland African Congress (NAC) from 1958 to its banning in a state of emergency in 1959; became president of its successor party, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), after his release from detention in April 1960; and in September became that party’s “life president.” He was the prime minister of Malawi’s first independent government formed in July 1964, its first president when Malawi assumed republican status in 1966 under a single-party system, and in 1971 became its life president. Schools, airports, highways, and hospitals bore his name, and his portrait could be seen in every public and private office and home. He was the embodiment of personal rule. The Banda regime became known for its collaborationist politics vis-à-vis apartheid South Africa and Portuguese Mozambique and for the ruthless repression of all political dissent at home. Banda defended his foreign and domestic politics as necessary evils. White regimes were far too powerful to be antagonized by a small land-locked emerging nation state. To do so would be to cut Malawi’s economic, political, and military throat. He maintained cordial relations with the United Kingdom after 1964 and formally eschewed association with communist states during the Cold War. Western states ignored widespread allegations of human rights abuses until the early 1990s when economic decline, the beginning of the end of apartheid, and the thawing of the Cold War led to a resurgence of protest, both foreign and domestic. In the face of this pressure, Banda allowed for a 1993 referendum on multiparty democracy, which led to multiparty elections the following year. He stood and lost as the MCP presidential candidate, and Bakili Muluzi, leader of the United Democratic Front (UDF), formed a government. The Muluzi administration approved a commission of enquiry into the May 1983 deaths of four MCP politicians in a “car accident” that had long been suspected as a cover for state murder. The Mwanza Enquiry (so named for the highway near the border with Mozambique where the “accident” took place) resulted in a criminal trial in which Banda and four others (see Cabinet Crisis and the Establishment of the Politics of Single-Party Personal Rule) were charged with conspiracy to murder but acquitted for lack of evidence. Banda went into retirement and stepped down as life president of the party in July 1997, a move, it has been suggested, to secure his legacy as elder statesman and father of the nation. He died at the Garden Clinic in South Africa on November 25, 1997.

Article

Berbers and the Nation-State in North Africa  

Bruce Maddy-Weitzman

Throughout history, North Africa’s native Berber-speaking populations have been central to the mix of political, social, cultural, and linguistic attributes that rendered the region distinct. At the dawn of the 20th century, Berbers still constituted a substantial majority of sharifian Morocco’s population, and a significant minority of French Algeria’s Muslim populace; their numbers were smaller in Ottoman Libya and smaller still in France’s Tunisian protectorate. Nationalism began to spread in North Africa during the first decades of the 20th century. Each nationalist movement was shaped by a particular combination of factors; all of them, however, foregrounded the Arab and Islamic components of their collective identities, downplaying or ignoring the Berber ones. Berbers actively participated in the struggles for independence in both Algeria and Morocco, often in leadership roles. This pattern would continue during the decades after independence, even as both the Algerian and Moroccan states placed supreme value on the Arabization of the educational system, and of public life in general. The state’s overall view of Berber identity was that it should be consigned to the realm of folklore. However, even as the number of Berber speakers continued to decline, there arose a modern Berber (Amazigh) identity movement that demanded a reexamination of the underlying premises of their countries’ collective identities, one that would bring the Berber language and culture to center stage. It also demanded genuine amelioration of the dire conditions of poverty that characterized much of the rural Berber world. As ruling regimes struggled to maintain their legitimacy after a half century of independence, the Berber “question” now took on a new salience in North Africa’s increasingly contested political space.

Article

Boko Haram: History and Context  

Hilary Matfess

Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, better known as “Boko Haram,” is the most violent phenomenon of the Nigerian Fourth Republic. It is responsible not only for a regional food crisis that has devolved into famine in some areas, but also the displacement of millions and the deaths of tens of thousands of people. The insurgency in Nigeria began as a dissident religious sect’s venting of local grievances in Maiduguri, the capital of the northeastern Borno State. The movement was founded at the turn of the century by Mohammed Yusuf, a Salafist preacher notorious for his rejection of Western education and government employment. Boko Haram only gained significant international attention in the aftermath of the 2014 abduction of more than 270 schoolgirls from their dormitory in the remote town of Chibok, but the group did not always employ such deplorable tactics. Although policymakers in capitals the world over have been eager to emphasize the group’s connections to international terrorist groups, the movement is localized and often more akin to an African insurgency than to a prototypical terrorist organization. The group’s initial years were characterized by relatively benign activities like the provision of social services, punctuated by occasional bouts of criminality that, over time, escalated into a series of targeted assassinations that provoked federal government response. A series of violent actions ultimately transformed Boko Haram from a largely nonviolent fundamentalist religious movement into the lethal and resilient force it is today, known internationally for its brutality: notably, the group’s interactions with the Nigerian security sector, categorized by indiscriminate state violence; leadership changes within the insurgency’s ranks that elevated Abubakar Shekau following Mohammed Yusuf’s execution; and regional trends in weapons flows and ideological currents.

Article

The Bretton Woods Institutions and Economic Reform in Africa  

Adeoye O. Akinola

The activities of International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (together comprising the Bretton Woods Institutions) in Africa have continued to generate questions about the impact of economic reforms on democratization and economic growth. The Bretton Woods Institutions strongly believe that economic growth contributes significantly to poverty alleviation efforts and hence generates improvements in living standards, particularly in developing countries, including those in Africa. In the mid-1980s, as many African countries struggled to service their external debts and qualify for additional credit to provide services to their citizens and promote economic growth and development, the World Bank and the IMF offered to help them. However, the Bretton Woods Institutions conditioned their assistance on the willingness of each African country to undertake necessary structural reforms, which included a reduction in the public sector, devaluation of the national currency, deregulation of the foreign trade sector, and more reliance on markets for the allocation of resources. These aid programs, which came to be known as Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) consisted of conditional lending to African countries in economic crisis. At this time, the World Bank felt that the effectiveness of its development programs in Africa and other regions of the world was being undermined by bloated and dysfunctional bureaucratic structures and governmental systems that were hostile to the market generally and entrepreneurship in particular. The World Bank’s desire to condition the extension of credit to African countries on institutional reforms was supposedly to improve bureaucratic efficiency, as well as economic performance, and enhance the effectiveness of the World Bank’s projects in these countries. Thus, the IMF and the World Bank emerged in the 1990s as major players in efforts to improve economic growth and development in Africa. The SAPs were expected to improve macroeconomic performance, produce rapid economic growth, achieve economic diversification, and provide each African country with the resources that it needed to confront poverty and improve national living standards. In fact, in 1994, the World Bank expressed a lot of optimism about the impact of SAPs on African economies. However, many critics have argued that SAPs had virtually no positive impact on the macroeconomic performance of African economies and, instead, created a series of internal political and economic contradictions that have continued to haunt the continent to this day. As a result, critics say, many countries that implemented SAPs continue to suffer from high levels of poverty and became more dependent on external financial resources (such as loans, development aid, and food aid) than before they got involved with the Bretton Woods Institutions and their adjustment programs.

Article

The Central African Federation  

Andrew Cohen

The late 1940s and early 1950s saw British government policy align, albeit briefly, with European settler desire in Southern and Northern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe and Zambia) for a closer association of their territories. Widespread African opposition was overlooked, and on September 1, 1953, the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (more commonly known as the Central African Federation) came into existence. Nyasaland was included at the insistence of the British government. The federation was a bold experiment in political power during the late stage of British colonialism and constituted one of the most intricate episodes in its retreat from empire. Explanations for the creation of the federation center on attempts to stymie the regional influence of apartheid South Africa and the perceived economic advantages of a closer association of Britain’s Central African colonies. African opposition to the formation of the federation was widespread. Although this protest dissipated in the early years of the federation, the early promises in racial “partnership” soon proved to be insincere, and this reinvigorated African protest as the 1960 federal constitutional review drew close. The end of the Central African Federation is best explained by several intertwined pressures, including African nationalist protest, economic weakness, and hardening settler intransigence. By the end of 1962, there was large-scale African opposition to federation in both Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, and the Rhodesian Front had come to power on a platform of independence free from the federation. The final death knell for the federation rang with the British government’s decision that no territory should be kept in the federation against its will.

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Christian Missions and the State in 19th and 20th Century Angola and Mozambique  

Teresa Cruz e Silva

Christian missionary work in Angola and Mozambique during the colonial and postcolonial eras was shaped by a complex of factors related to religion, education, and politics. Missionaries’ networks of local support played an outstanding role in their humanitarian work, particularly in the 20th and 21st centuries. By the end of the 19th century, Catholic and Protestant missions had established themselves in Angola and Mozambique. Until 1974, Protestants had a tense relationship with the Portuguese authorities, as they were suspected of serving the political interests of some European countries against Portugal, and later of supporting African opposition to colonial domination. Unlike the Protestants, the Catholic Church enjoyed a close collaboration with the ruling regime. Under the Concordat and the Missionary Accord of 1940 and the Missionary Statute of 1941, which were agreed between the Vatican and Portugal, Catholic missions enjoyed a privileged position to the detriment of Protestants, whose activities were severely restricted. The years that followed the independences of Angola and Mozambique in 1975 were characterized by open hostility to religion, aggravated by the nationalization of missions’ assets and properties in both countries. Mission activities related to education and health became hard to carry out. With the civil wars in Angola and Mozambique, warfare and dislocation gave a new social role to the churches. Between the mid-1980s and 1990 the first signs of new policies emerged. While in Angola the relationship between church and state was marked by ambiguity and mistrust, cooperation and collaboration prevailed in Mozambique, where the 1980s saw a rapprochement and constructive dialogue between the two institutions. This was sealed by the roles both Protestants and Catholics played in the peace and democratization processes. The political opening that characterized the 1990s and 2000s brought significant changes for both countries including the presence in the public space of new churches, especially those of Pentecostal denominations. The new sociopolitical contexts in Angola and Mozambique between the late 20th and early 21st centuries shaped the new roles of the missions, which remain more focused on social, rather than political, activities.

Article

Climate Change in Eastern Africa  

Rob Marchant

The climatology of East Africa results from the complex interaction between major global convergence zones with more localized regional feedbacks to the climate system; these in turn are moderated by a diverse land surface characterized by coastal to land transitions, high mountains, and large lakes. The main climatic character of East Africa, and how this varies across the region, takes the form of seasonal variations in rainfall that can fall as one, two, or three rainy seasons, the times and duration of which will be determined by the interplay between major convergence zones with more localized regional feedbacks. One of the key characteristics of East Africa are climatic variations with altitude as climates change along an altitudinal gradient that can extend from hot, dry, “tropical” conditions to cool, wet, temperate conditions and on the highest mountains “polar” climates with permanent ice caps. With this complex and variable climate landscape of the present, as scientists move through time to explore past climatic variability, it is apparent there have been a series of relatively rapid and high-magnitude environmental shifts throughout East Africa, particularly characterized by changing hydrological budgets. How climate change has impacted on ecosystems, and how those ecosystems have responded and interacted with human populations, can be unearthed by drawing on evidence from the sedimentary and archaeological record of the past six thousand years. As East African economies, and the livelihoods of millions of people in the region, have been clearly heavily affected by climate variability in the past, so it is expected that future climate variability will impact on ecosystem functioning and the preparedness of communities for future climate change.

Article

Communism in South Africa  

Irina Filatova

The history of communism in South Africa began with the formation in 1921 of the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA). The party was entirely white, as was the majority of organized labor—its main constituency. The CPSA attempted to fight for equality of black and white workers, but white labor refused to desegregate, and the party’s support among Africans was practically nonexistent. In 1928, the Communist International (Comintern), of which the CPSA was a member, sent it an instruction to work for an “independent native republic.” This slogan helped the party to attract a black membership, but resulted in much infighting. The CPSA’s position strengthened during World War II, but in 1950, after Afrikaner nationalists came to power, the party was banned. It re-emerged in 1953 as the underground South African Communist Party (SACP). Since then, the party has worked closely with the African National Congress (ANC). Many of its cadres were simultaneously ANC members. In 1955, communists helped to formulate the Freedom Charter, the ANC’s overarching program. In 1960, the SACP launched the armed struggle against apartheid. The ANC took the nascent liberation army under its wing in 1963. In the early 1960s, many party members, including Nelson Mandela, were arrested or forced into exile. The party had a deep ideological influence on the ANC: from 1969, its ideas on South Africa as a colony of a special type and on the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) have become part of all ANC programs. After the end of apartheid, communists occupied important positions in all ANC governments. Despite this, many in the SACP have been unhappy with the direction the ANC has taken. However, the party has not contested elections on its own, trying instead to influence ANC policies from inside. This has cost it its reputation as a militant revolutionary party.

Article

Early Factionalism in Zimbabwe’s Liberation Struggle  

Brooks Marmon

The course of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle was fundamentally shaped by tensions among competing nationalist factions. The impact of this dynamic is typically observed from 1963, when Zimbabwe’s long-serving ruling party, the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU)-Patriotic Front, was founded following a fissure in the liberation movement. Earlier instances of intranationalist competition in Southern Rhodesia (colonial Zimbabwe) have generally escaped scholarly attention despite their pioneering contributions to the dynamics of political pluralism in Zimbabwe and the presence of noted political figures amidst their leadership. In 1961, the Zimbabwean nationalist movement experienced its first significant split with the formation of the Zimbabwe National Party (ZNP) which broke away from the National Democratic Party. The ZNP, in turn, experienced its own rupture a year later when the Pan-African Socialist Union (PASU) was formed. Although these were the two only two nationalist challengers of note in the early 1960s prior to ZANU, several other short-lived Black-led political parties emerged at this time in settler-dominated Southern Rhodesia. The ZNP and PASU appealed to rising grievances with the prosecution of the anticolonial liberation struggle. They were also a consequence of the changing geopolitics wrought by Africa’s decolonization. The two parties sought to consolidate their position by appealing to the emerging cohort of African anticolonial leaders across the continent. These efforts induced extensive backlash from the main wing of the nationalist movement, then led by Joshua Nkomo. Both the ZNP and PASU were short-lived, effectively collapsing by 1963. While neither party was able to effectively overcome these intense assaults, their comparatively fleeting existence shaped the political environment by influencing tactics and providing a template for subsequent nationalist contenders seeking greater longevity.

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Eduardo Mondlane  

Livio Sansone

Eduardo Chivambo Mondlane (1920–1969) was one of the founders of the Mozambique Liberation Front (Frelimo) and its first president until his assassination. Generally considered one the “fathers” of independent Mozambique and the unifier of this young country, in recognition of that and his academic standing—he had a PhD in sociology—the main university of Mozambique is named after him. His singular, exciting, cosmopolitan, and engaged life has thus far attracted less international attention than could be expected, even though, over the last decade, also on account of his centennial in 2020, a growing national and international scholarship is developing around several facets of Mondlane’s biography. One aspect that is still relatively unexplored is his academic training and many years spent abroad studying in South Africa, Portugal, and the United States. His international training and showing how this had a profound impact on his performance as leader of Frelimo.

Article

The Empire of Ghana  

Nikolas Gestrich

The Empire of Ghana is one of the earliest known political formations in West Africa. Within the context of a growing trans-Saharan trade, Arabic sources begin to mention “Ghāna,” the name of a ruler as well as of the city or country he ruled, in the 9th century. Repeatedly named in connection with fabulous riches in gold, Ghāna had acquired a preeminent role in the western Sahel and was a leader among a large group of smaller polities. Ghāna’s influence waned, and by the mid-14th century its ruler had become subordinate to the Empire of Mali. Over the course of a complex history of research, the Empire of Ghana became equated with the Soninké people’s legend of Wagadu and the archaeological site of Kumbi Saleh in southern Mauritania was identified as its capital. Yet between historical sources, oral traditions, and archaeological finds, little is known with certainty about the Empire of Ghana. Most questions on this early West African empire remain unanswered, including its location, development, the nature and extent of its rule, and the circumstances of its demise.

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The Empire of Mali  

Sirio Canós-Donnay

The Mali Empire is one of the largest and most widely known precolonial African states. It has featured in films, video games, works of fiction, and its memory is still a profound force in the articulation of social and political identities across Mande West Africa. Founded in the 13th century in the south of modern Mali, it quickly grew from a small kingdom to a vast empire stretching from the Senegambia in the west to Ivory Coast in the south. Before its disintegration in the late 16th century, its connections to distant trade networks stretched from Europe to China and its rulers became famous across the Old World for their wealth. In the absence of indigenous written histories, knowledge of the Mali Empire has been based on a complex combination of oral traditions, medieval Arabic chronicles, European accounts, oral histories, and archaeology. Through a critical analysis of these sources, it has been possible to learn much about Mali’s history, including aspects its social organization, political structure, belief systems, and historical evolution. However, there is much we still do not know, including the location and nature of its capital(s).