A Panegyric on Ali Muzrui - Revisiting General History of Africa since 1935

International Journal of Legal Developments and Allied Issues, World Human Rights Review Edition, Volume 3, Issue 3, May 2017

3 Pages Posted: 5 Feb 2021

See all articles by Atul Alexander

Atul Alexander

West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences

Date Written: May 2017


Volume 8 on the General history of Africa since 1935 edited by Ali A. Muzrui is one of its kind dealing with African history post Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia, the author hailing from Mombasa, Kenya with European education has played a massive role in the field of non-doctrinal research. The volume published courtesy of the International scientific committee of United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (hereinafter referred to as ‘UNESCO’) took four decades to be completed. The preface by director-General of UNESCO Amadou-Mahtar M’Bow is a startling revelation on the underlying myth and prejudice surrounding African history. The earlier works on African societies done by the likes of Leo Forbenius, Maurice Delafosse lacked scientific study of the society at large. The volume underscores the rich and diverse African oral tradition trumping the European yardstick of mode of production, social relation and political institution. The Sahara was often presented as an impenetrable space preventing any intermingling of ethnic groups and peoples or any exchange of goods, beliefs, customs and ideas between the societies that had grown up on either side of the desert. Another roadblock that laid in the study of African history is the deep-rooted phenomenon of slave trade, colonization, racial stereotype, economic and psychological enslavement, which highlighted the marred history in the real sense. The first stage, from 1965 to 1969, was devoted to gathering documentation and planning the work. The collection of unpublished manuscripts in Arabic and Ajami. The second stage, which lasted from 1969 to 1971, was devoted to shaping the History and linking its different parts. The third stage has involved actual drafting and publication. This began with the appointment of the 39-member International Scientific Committee, two-thirds African and one-third non-African, which assumes intellectual responsibility for the History.

The method of study adopted by the author is inter-disciplinary understanding, the first among the study include archeology, history and cultural identity. The volume according to the Editor Ali Muzrui is split into cultural, economic and political domain. The economic side is more concerned with the nation-building process in search of new international economic order. The volume is titled Africa since 1935 because 1935 triggered was the exact point of time where Mussolini invaded Ethiopia. The politics of liberation is inextricably connected with the politics of Africa. Even Ngugi wa Thiong'o's populist play Ngahiika Ndenda (‘I will marry when I want to’) was arguably a play of liberation rather than development in literature the preoccupation with Shakespeare was evident. Neyere’s translation of merchant of Venice is a case in point. The assassination and the following coup were quite palpable in the African context. Fifty percent regicide rate six out three head of the states were assassinated. President (King) Mutesa in 1966.Binaisa's succession to Lule in1979 is another Ugandan coup with a civilian succeeding a civilian. In 1985 Sudan repeated this style of democratic uprising - bringing down Nimeiri's regime and compelling the military to promise a restoration of democracy within a year. The promise was kept, though civilian rule did not last. In Nigeria Jerry Rawlings brief transfer of power to civilians in Ghana was quite a drastic leap in terms of democracy. In Ghana the charismatic charm of the young leader was evident in the streets of Accra. The real question that glowed in the midst of the tumultuous conscience of the people was the identity syndrome amongst the people as to who were Africans? It was the poet-diplomat of Sierra Leone, Davidson Abioseh Nicol, who once wrote: You are not a country, Africa, You are a concept, Fashioned in our minds, each to each to hide our separate fears, to dream our separate dreams. More than fifty territorial entities with artificial boundaries created by Europe have in the period covered in this volume called themselves 'nations'. Africa is a concept, pregnant with the dreams of millions of people. The two important contributions of the Europeans in the context of African history could be summarized as in naming the continents and lakes across the borders of Africa thus scientific and intellectual fostering and secondly shaping the process of racism in Africa. Particularly relevant for both the re-humanization of Europe and the re-Africanization of Africa were two global cataclysms. The volume pictures the impact of the Great Depression on the front of liberation process, Was the depression a catastrophe for Western capitalism but a future blessing for the colonies? If so, what was the precise nature of that equation? In what ways was Europe subsequently made more humane? Under what circumstances did Africa become more pan-African? Some of these issues will be made clearer in the relevant chapters. The volume covers the much debated Suez Crisis, was it a global crisis or African conflict globalised. Moreover the volume also hinges on the Biafra war which according to the author is world war in microcosm.

Keywords: Africa, Ali

Suggested Citation

Alexander, Atul, A Panegyric on Ali Muzrui - Revisiting General History of Africa since 1935 (May 2017). International Journal of Legal Developments and Allied Issues, World Human Rights Review Edition, Volume 3, Issue 3, May 2017, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3093526

Atul Alexander (Contact Author)

West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences ( email )

IA-273, Sector 3, Salt Lake City, Kolkata
Kolkata, Salt Lake City 700097
9043267555 (Phone)

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