From Wikipedia, 03 June
Godfrey Mwakikagile is
a Tanzanian writer who was born in Kigoma in western Tanganyika on 4 October 1049.
was baptised Godfrey about two months later on Christmas day, 25 December 1949, in Kigoma as a member of the Church Missionary
Society (CMS) among whose supporters was Scottish explorer and missionary-doctor, Dr. David Livingstone of the London Missionary
Society. Dr. Livingstone campaigned against slavery and the slave trade but also helped pave the way for the colonisation
As Godfrey Mwakikagile
states in one of his books Africa and America in The Sixties which is partly autobiographical
and – among other subjects – also covers members of the baby boomer generation including himself born after the
end of World War II, he was, according to his birth certificate, baptised by Reverend Frank McGorlick (from Victoria, Australia),
a Scottish minister of the CMS Church in Kigoma his parents belonged to. But he was brought up as a member of the Moravian
Church in Rungwe District in what was then the Southern Highlands Province in colonial Tanganyika.
He moved to Rungwe District
with his parents when he was 5 years old after living in different parts of Tanganyika where his father worked as a medical
assistant for the British colonial government. Rungwe was his parents' home district.
Both were born and brought up in Rungwe District and were members of a tribe indigenous to that part of Tanzania.
Rungwe District, ringed by misty blue mountains,
is close to the border with Malawi and is located in the Great Rift Valley north of Lake Nyasa.
Godfrey Mwakikagile went
to school in Tanzania and in the United States1.
Tanganyika united with
Zanzibar in 1964 to form Tanzania.
primary school (up to Standard 4) at Kyimbila near the town of Tukuyu and middle school (up to Standard 8) at Mpuguso in Rungwe
District in Mbeya Region in the Southern Highlands, secondary school (up to Standard 12 or Form IV) at Songea in Ruvuma Region,
and high school (up to Standard 14 or Form VI) at Tambaza in Dar es Salaam.
He once worked as a news
reporter at the Standard, which was later renamed Daily News, and
as an information officer at the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in Tanzania's capital Dar es Salaam before going
to school in the United States in November 1972.
He first joined the editorial
staff of the Standard as a junior reporter when he was still in high school, in
Form V, in 1969.
Coincidentally, his editor
at the Daily News, Benjamin Mkapa, who also helped him to go to school in the
United States, years later became president of Tanzania (1995 – 2005).
The president of Tanzania
during that period, Julius Nyerere who led the country from 1961 to 1985, was the editor-in-chief of the Daily News. But
his role was only ceremonial rather than functional.
Godfrey Mwakikagile graduated from Wayne
State University in Detroit in the state of Michigan, USA, in 1975.
He also went to Aquinas College, Grand
Rapids, Michigan, in 1976. One of his professors of economics at Aquinas College was Kenneth Marin who once worked in Tanzania.
It was just a coincidence that he went
to Aquinas College where he ended up being taught by someone who had worked in Tanzania years before. He did not know anything
about Professor Marin before then and met him at that school for the first time.
Professor Marin once worked
as an economist for the government of Tanzania in Dar es Salaam in the late sixties and early seventies. Before then, he worked
as an economist for the United States federal government. He was appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson to
serve on Wage and Price Control during the mid-sixties.
Years later, one of his students, Godfrey
Mwakikagile, also ended up writing about economics, among other subjects, mostly about Africa. And coincidentally, Mwakikagile's
first book was also about economics.
came into prominence in Tanzania and elsewhere after he wrote a major book about Julius Nyerere not long after the former
Tanzanian president died.
He is considered by many people, including
those who have reviewed his books about President Nyerere in different newspapers, magazines and academic journals in a number
of countries, to be an authority on Nyerere and one of his most prominent biographers.
One scholar who has cited
Godfrey Mwakikagile as an authoritative source on President Nyerere is Professor David Simon who teaches development studies
at the University of London and who is Director of the Centre for Development Areas Research at Royal Holloway College at
the university. Professor Simon has published excerpts from Godfrey Mwakikagile's book on Nyerere in his compiled study, Fifty Key Thinkers on Development, published
Professor David Simon is
also editor of the scholarly Journal of Southern African Studies and is on the editorial
staff of another academic publication, the Review of African Political Economy.
Godfrey Mwakikagile's works have been getting
serious attention among many people including academics in many countries who have also reviewed some of his books in scholarly
His first book, Economic Development in Africa, was
published in 1999 and he has maintained a steady pace since then, writing books, as demonstrated by the number of titles he
has on the market. He is one of Tanzania's most well-known authors and one of Africa's most prolific
He has written more than
20 books (since 1999) mostly about Africa during the post-colonial period, and has been described as a political scientist
although his works defy classification. He has written about history, politics, economics, as well as contemporary and international
affairs from an African and Third World perspective and is known for such works as Nyerere and Africa: End of an Era, and
and the West.
Both have been favourably
reviewed in a number of publications including the highly influential West Africa magazine
(founded in 1917 and based in London) which reviewed two of his books in the same year; a rare accomplishment in such a major
The books were reviewed
Africa magazine editor Kofi Akosah-Sarpong, a Ghanaian who also once was a visiting lecturer and
scholar-in-residence at the University of Botswana. They were excellent reviews.
Godfrey Mwakikagile's book,
and Africa: End of an Era, his magnum opus and probably his most well-known title, was
reviewed by West Africa magazine in 2002 three years after Nyerere died of leukemia
in October 1999 at the age of 772.
It was also reviewed by
News, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in October 2002 and is seen as a comprehensive work, in scope
and depth, on Nyerere3.
Others who have reviewed
the book include Professor A.B. Assensoh, a Ghanaian teaching at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, in the United
States. He reviewed the first edition of Nyerere and Africa: End of an Era in
Studies Review, an academic journal of the African Studies Association, in 2003.
The same book was also
reviewed by Professor Roger Southall of the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), formerly of Rhodes University, South Africa,
in the bi-annual interdisciplinary publication, the Journal of Contemporary African Studies (Taylor
& Francis Group), 22, No. 3, in 2004. Professor Southall is also editor of the journal.
The first edition of Nyerere and Africa: End of an Era was
published in November 2002, and the second, an expanded edition, in January 2005. The third edition, also an expanded version,
was published in November 2006. And the fourth edition, also expanded, was published in December 2008.
The book has also been
cited by a number of African leaders including South African Vice President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka in
one of her speeches about African leadership and development in which she quotes the author4.
She was the main speaker at a conference
of African leaders, diplomats and scholars at the University of the Western Cape in South Africa in September 2006 when she
gave her speech.
Although his books have been able to get
the attention of some African leaders, it is impossible to know if they have had any influence on any of them. But the mere
fact that they are cited by them shows that he is taken seriously as an author, not only in Tanzania but also in other African
countries and elsewhere.
Godfrey Mwakikagile's other
book, Africa and the West, which is a sweeping survey of the continent
before the advent of colonial rule and during the colonial era as well as after independence, was also reviewed by West Africa magazine
in its edition of 21st - 27th January 2002.5.
The book, which was published
in 2000, has been described as an appeal to Africans to respect their cultures, values and traditions and take a firm stand
against alien ideas which pollute African minds and undermine Africa. It is also a philosophical
text used in a number of colleges and universities in the study of African identity, philosophy and history. It is also a
strong condemnation of the conquest of Africa by the imperial powers.
West Africa magazine,
in its January 2002 edition, also described Godfrey Mwakikagile as an author who articulates the position of African Renaissance
And one American journalist who interviewed
him described him as an independent scholar who was also a widely read and highly regarded author.
Godfrey Mwakikagile responded by saying
that he was just an ordinary African, like tens of millions of others, deeply concerned about the plight of his continent.
But there is no question that he is a serious
writer whose writings are widely read even if he considers himself to be just an ordinary African like millions of his brethren
across the continent and elsewhere.
He has also been invited to give lectures
at different universities because of the books he has written. And his role as a public intellectual has been demonstrated
in other ways. For example, he has been sought for interviews by BBC, PBS (America's public television netowork), and by Voice
of America (VOA), among other media outlets. This is documented in the interview he had with the American journalist.
The interview, which focused
on Julius Nyerere as a leader and on other subjects about Africa, is reprinted in its entirety in one of Godfrey Mwakikagile's
books, Nyerere and Africa: End of an Era.
Although he has been exposed to Western
cultures, was educated in the Western intellectual tradition and even lived in the United States for many years, his perspectives
and philosophical conceptions have undoubtedly been shaped by his African upbringing and are deeply rooted in African cultures
and traditions. And he rejects the notion that Africa was a blank slate until Europeans came to write on it.
He passionately argues that the history
written about Africa by Europeans when they first went to Africa and even during colonial rule as well as after independence
is not African history but the history of Europeans in Africa and how they see Africa and Africans from their European perspective
He also contends that traditional
Africa has produced philosophers and other original thinkers whose knowledge and ideas – including ideas at a high level
of abstraction – can match and even surpass the best in the West and elsewhere in the world. He forcefully articulates
that position in his book, Africa and The West6.
And although he sees Africa
as an indivisible whole, he also argues that all nations, include those in Africa, have different national characters. He
looks at the concept of national character in the African context in one of his books, Kenya: Identity of A Nation, and
makes a compelling case for this idea which is sometimes highly controversial. The work is, among other subjects, a study
of comparative analysis in which the author looks at the national characters of Kenya and Tanzania, thus demonstrating that
nations do indeed have different national characters and have been that way throughout history.
He undoubtedly has strong
convictions but does not neatly fit into any ideological category. He expresses strong Pan-Africanist views in his writings
and sees Africa as a collective entity and one organic body and has strongly been influenced by staunch Pan-Africanist leaders
such as Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Sekou Toure and Patrice Lumumba whom he also strongly admires7.
says Africa does not have those kind of leaders anymore.
He also strongly admires Thomas Sankara as a man of the people like Nyerere and contends that
among the new breed of African leaders, Sankara – who has been described as the African Che Guevara – showed great
promise but was eliminated by some of his so-called compatriots working for France and other Western powers before he could
realise his full potential the same way Lumumba was, eliminated by the United States and Belgium.
Godfrey Mwakikagile has written about Thomas Sankara in his book Military Coups in West Africa Since The Sixties and in African Countries among
But some of his critics contend that
he overlooks or glosses over the shortcomings of these leaders precisely because they are liberation icons and played a leading
role in the struggle for independence and against white minority rule in Southern Africa8.
He also seems to be "trapped"
in the past, in liberation days, especially in the seventies when the struggle against white minority rule was most intense.
But that may be for understandable reasons9.
He was a part of that generation
when the liberation struggle was going on and some of his views have unquestionably been shaped by what happened during those
days as his admiration for Robert Mugabe, for example, as a liberation icon clearly shows; although he also admits in his
book, Nyerere and Africa: End of an Era, that the land reform programme in
Zimbabwe could have been implemented in an orderly fashion and in a peaceful way and without disrupting the economy.
But his admiration for
Mugabe as a true African nationalist and Pan-Africanist remains intact; a position
that does not sit well with some of his critics although he does not condone despotic rule as he clearly states in his writings.
He admires Mugabe mostly
as a freedom fighter and liberation hero who freed his people from colonial rule and
racial oppression and exploitation, and as a strong leader who has taken a firm and an uncompromising stand against Western
domination of Africa.
And by remarkable contrast,
his contempt for African leaders whom he sees as whites with a black skin also remains intact. He mentions Dr. Hastings Kamuzu
Banda as a typical example of those leaders10.
He has written about Dr.
Banda and other African leaders, among other subjects, in his book, Africa After Independence: Realities of Nationhood.
Godfrey Mwakikagile also contends that
only a few African leaders – Nkrumah, Nyerere, Sekou Toure, Nasser, Ben Bella and Modibo Keita – strove to achieve
genuine independence for their countries and for Africa as a whole and exercised a remarkable degree of independence in their
dealings with world powers. And Mugabe is the only African leader today who fits this category, in spite of his shortcomings.
Godfrey Mwakikagile's background as a Tanzanian
has played a major role in his assessment of many African leaders because of the central role his country played in the liberation
struggle in the countries of Southern Africa, and not just in South Africa – the bastion of white minority rule on the
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is one
of the African leaders who have had strong ties to Tanzania, Godfrey Mwakikagile's home country, since liberation days. Others
with strong ties to Tanzania include Thabo Mbeki, former president of South Africa; Joaquim Chissano, former president of
Mozambique; and Sam Nujoma, former president of Namibia.
days, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, was the headquarters of all the African liberation movements, under the leadership of President
Julius Nyerere, and Godfrey Mwakikagile got the chance to know many of the freedom fighters who were based there when he worked
as a young news reporter in the nation's capital.
They included Joaquim Chissano who was
the head of the FRELIMO office in Dar es Salaam and who later became the minister of foreign affairs and then president of
Mozambique when his country won independence after 500 years of Portuguese colonial rule.
Many other freedom fighters who were based
in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, also went on to become national leaders in their respective countries after the end of white minority
rule in Southern Africa. And they all still have strong ties to Tanzania even today.
In his seminal work, Nyerere and Africa: End of an Era, Godfrey
Mwakikagile has written extensively about the liberation struggle, and the liberation movements, in Southern Africa in what
is probably one of the best accounts of that critical phase in the history of Africa. He has also, in the same book, written
an excellent analysis of the Congo Crisis during the turbulent sixties.
Godfrey Mwakikagile has
also written a book about the struggle against apartheid and the end of white minority rule in South Africa and on the prospects
and challenges the country faces in the post-apartheid era. The work is entitled, South Africa in Contemporary Times.
The years he spent on the
editorial staff at the Standard and the Daily News were
critical to his future career as a writer. Those were his formative years, and had he not become a news reporter, his life,
and his career as an author, might have taken a different turn.
As he states in Nyerere and Africa: End of an Era, he
was first hired by renowned British journalist David Martin who was the deputy and news editor of the Tanganyika Standard. It
was a turning point in his life.
That was in June 1969 when
he was a student at Tambaza High School in Dar es Salaam. He was 19 years old and probably the youngest reporter on the editorial
staff at the Standard during that time.
The Standard which
was renamed Daily News in 1970 was the largest English newspaper in Tanzania and
one of the largest and most influential in East Africa. And it served Godfrey Mwakikagile well, not only in terms of providing
him with an opportunity to sharpen his writing skills but also – after it became the Daily News – in
helping him to go to school in the United States where he became an author many years after he graduated from college.
David Martin, when he worked
at the Tanganyika Standard and at the Daily News, and
thereafter, was the most prominent foreign journalist in Eastern and Southern Africa in the sixties and seventies. And he
wrote extensively about the liberation struggle in the region for the London Observer and
He went to the combat zone
with FRELIMO guerrilla fighters in Mozambique many times and also covered the Angolan civil war for BBC and for CBC (Canadian
He knew and worked closely with all the
leaders of the liberation movements including Robert Mugabe, Dr. Eduardo Mondlane, president of FRELIMO, who was assassinated
in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in February 1969; and Mondlane's successor Samora Machel who died in a mysterious plane crash
in 1986 when he was president of Mozambique.
The plane crashed on the
South African side of the border with Mozambique and the apartheid regime was suspected of
having caused the "accident." He was succeeded by Mozambique's foreign affairs minister, Joaquim Chissano, as president.
David Martin was also very close to many
Tanzanian leaders including President Julius Nyerere, and President Benjamin Mkapa who was also his close friend for many
years since the sixties when they worked together in the media.
He also interviewed President
Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia many times during the liberation struggle when many freedom
fighters were based in that country and used it as an operational base as they did Tanzania.
He wrote more than 20 books. He died at
his home in Harare, Zimbabwe, in August 2007, where he went to live after Zimbabwe won independence in April 1980.
President Mugabe delivered an official
condolence message and David Martin was accorded a state-assisted funeral in recognition of his works exposing apartheid South
Africa's destabalisation campaign in neighbouring countries, racial brutalities and injustices under white minority regimes
throughout Southern Africa and for his outstanding role as a champion of racial equality.
The report of his death
which included President Robert Mugabe's long message of condolence on behalf of the government and the ruling party ZANU-PF was
published in the Zimbabwean government-owned newspaper, The Herald, 22
August 2007, and was headlined, "President Mourns David Martin."
Another report on David
Martin's contributions as a journalist when he reported extensively on the liberation struggle in Southern Africa, and on
his support for regional integration of the countries in that part of the continent
after the end of white minority rule, was published in the same paper on August 24th and headlined, "Martin - Man of Many
He was buried in Harare,
the capital of Zimbabwe. Mozambican President Armando Guebuza and former Tanzanian President
Benjamin Mkapa were some of the African leaders who sent condolence messages.
Zimbabwean government leaders
including cabinet members, Tanzanian officials, war veterans who fought for Zimbabwe's independence during the liberation
struggle in the sixties and seventies, and diplomats, attended the funeral, according to The Herald, Harare,
Zimbabwe, 25 August 2007, in a report headlined, "Martin Laid to Rest."
David Martin often said he credited his
education to the 10 years he spent working as a journalist in Tanzania and was inspired by President Nyerere and by the liberation
leaders and movements based there. He interviewed many of those leaders many times during the liberation struggle and thereafter.
In his book Nyerere and Africa: End of an Era, Godfrey
Mwakikagile has written about David Martin and the role he played as a journalist during the liberation struggle in Southern
Africa. But David Martin was also instrumental in opening the door for Godfrey Mwakikagile into the world of journalism, writing
everyday, after which both became successful writers.
As Godfrey Mwakikagile
himself has stated in his books including Nyerere and Africa: End of an Era, Africa after Independence: Realities
of Nationhood, The Modern African State: Quest for Transformation, Military Coups in West Africa Since
The Sixties and in Africa is in A Mess and
others, his background as a news reporter which included meeting deadlines when writing news articles prepared him for the
rigorous task of writing books.
Criticism of post-colonial Africa
lived and grew up under the leadership of Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere, a legendary figure, liberation icon and staunch
Pan-Africanist and one of the most influential and most respected leaders Africa has ever produced, whose socialist policies
he has also defended in his writings because of the egalitarian ideals they instilled in the people of Tanzania enabling them
to form a peaceful, cohesive nation in which they saw themselves as one people and equal in terms of rights and dignity as
fellow human beings in spite of the poverty they endured under ujamaa, Nyerere's African version of
Yet, in spite of his admiration
for liberation icons, he also is highly critical of African leaders from the same generation who led their countries to independence,
contending that most of them did not care about the well-being of their people; a position he forcefully articulates in his
He sometimes seems to be
a contradictory character, or simply difficult to understand, but he is actually torn between two worlds because of the generation
to which he belongs, having been born before independence and partly brought up under colonial rule. He even wrote a book,
in Tanganyika in The Fifties, about those years.
One of his critics has
described him as a shrewd intellectual in defence of liberation icons and accuses him of not being intellectually honest about
leaders such as Nyerere and Nkrumah for not criticising them harshly for their failures12.
In a way, some people may see him as a
complex character not always easy to understand, although he articulates his position clearly and forcefully.
Some of the confusion among
his readers about his position on African leaders of the independence generation has to do with his own background since he
was an integral part of that generation in the sense that he witnessed the end of colonial rule and the emergence of the newly
independent African states although he was not old enough to have participated in the independence struggle himself13.
He admires the leaders
who led their countries to independence, yet he is highly critical of them in most cases for their failures during the post-colonial
period. He admires many aspects of Nyerere's socialist policies in Tanzania, yet concedes the policies were also a failure
in many cases. And he strongly favours fundamental change in African countries, yet he is nostalgic about the past14.
His advocacy for fundamental
change is articulated in many of his writings including The Modern African State: Quest for Transformation, which
was published in 2001 and which is also one of his most well-known books.
In his review of the book,
Ronald Taylor-Lewis, a Sierra Leonean and editor of Mano Vision magazine, London, described
it as a masterpiece of fact and analysis15.
The book has also been
reviewed in other publications. Tana Worku Anglana reviewed Godfrey Mwakikagile's Modern African State: Quest for Transformation in
described it as unbiased literature16.
Other people have also
cited the book in their different analyses of the African condition. They include Dr. Elavie Ndura, a professor at George
Mason University in Virginia, USA, who used Godfrey Mwakikagile's book, The Modern African State: Quest for Transformation, among
other works, in supporting her central thesis in her study, "Transcending The Majority Rights and Minority Protection Dichotomy
Through Multicultural Reflective Citizenship in The African Great Lakes Region," in Intercultural Education, Vol.
17, No. 2, published by Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, in May 2006.
Professor Elavie Ndura,
a Hutu from Burundi where her family experienced genocide, has taught for many years at a number of schools in the United
States, including the University of Nevada-Reno and George Mason University. Ethnic conflicts in Rwanda and Burundi between
the Hutu and the Tutsi is one of the subjects Godfrey Mwakikagile has addressed extensively
in his book, The Modern African State: Quest for Transformation.
In many of his writings, Godfrey Mwakikagile
focuses on internal factors – including corruption, tribalism and tyranny by African leaders – as the main cause
of Africa's predicament, but not to the total exclusion of external forces.
And the position he articulates
in his writings on many issues is cited by other people to support their arguments in their works. One of the works in which
Godfrey Mwakikagile is cited and quoted is a compiled study by Professor Robert H. Bates, When Things Fell Apart: State Failure
in Late-Century Africa: Cambridge Studies in Comparative Politics, published by Cambridge
University Press in February 2008.
Godfrey Mwakikagile is
also quoted by Professors Robert Elgie and Sophie Moestrup in their book, Semi-Presidentialism Outside Europe:
A Comparative Study - Routledge Research in Comparative Politics, Routledge, 2007; Mueni
wa Muiu and Guy Martin in A New Paradigm of the African State: Fundi wa Afrika, Palgrave
Macmillan, 2009; Minabere Ibelema, The African Press, Civic Cynicism, and Democracy - The PalgraveMacmillan Series
in International Political Communication, Palgrave Macmillan, 2007; James Crawford and
Vaughan Lowe in British Yearbook of International Law 2005: Volume 76, Oxford University Press,
2007, and in other works.
Godfrey Mwakikagile's books
have been used by many other scholars in different analytical contexts in a number of countries in the Third World and
in industrialised nations.
And his diagnosis of –
and prescription for – Africa's ailments has also been cited by scholars and other people for its relevance in other
parts of the Third World. As Dr. Hengene Payani, a political scientist at the University of Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby,
Papua New Guinea, stated in his review of Godfrey Mwakikagile's book Africa is in A Mess on
amazon.com, the book is excellent, honest and thought-provoking and is relevant even in the context of Papua New Guinea, a
country which has been ruined by greedy politicians. He also contacted Godfrey Mwakikagile to congratulate him for his work.
Although he has written mostly about Africa,
and as a political scientist or as a political analyst, his works cover a wide range of scholarship including American studies.
One of Godfrey Mwakikagile's
books, Black Conservatives in The United States, has been cited by Christopher
Alan Bracey, a professor of law and African-American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, in support
of his research when he also wrote a book about black conservatives entitled Saviors or Sellouts: The Promise
and Peril of Black Conservatism, from Booker T. Washington to Condoleezza Rice, published
in February 2008.
But there are limitations to the role played
by people like Godfrey Mwakikagile in their quest for fundamental change in African countries. Their contribution is limited
in one fundamental respect: They are not actively involved with the masses at the grassroots level precisely because of what
they are. They belong to an elite class, and the concepts they expound as well as the solutions they propose are discussed
mainly by fellow elites but rarely implemented.
This should not be misconstrued as unwarranted
criticism of Godfrey Mwakikagile's writings or the role he plays in the quest for fundamental change in Africa. It is mere
acknowledgement of the limitations he faces in his attempt to accomplish this task in conjunction with his brethren across
Still, there is no question
that in many cases, only a few members of the African elite have played and continue to play the role of intellectual activists
like Dr. Walter Rodney who wrote his best-selling book How Europe Underdeveloped Africa in
the early 1970s when he was teaching at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania; coincidentally during the same period
when Godfrey Mwakikagile was a member of the editorial staff at the Daily News in
Tanzania's capital Dar es Salaam.
Before he went to Tanzania, Dr. Walter
Rodney was actively involved with the masses when he taught at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus, in Jamaica
in the late sixties. He was also expelled from Jamaica by the government because of his political and intellectual activism
and went to Tanzania in 1968 to teach at the University of Dar es Salaam in a country where his views and his role as an activist
intellectual found acceptance under the leadership of President Julius Nyerere who was a superb intellectual himself and who
was acknowledged as one even by some of his critics such as Kenyan Professor Ali Mazrui.
In his book On Heroes and Uhuru-Worship: Essays
on Independent Africa and in his other writings, Professor Mazrui has described
Nyerere as the most original thinker among all the leaders in Anglophone Africa, and Senegalese President Leopold Sedar Senghor
in Francophone Africa. Mazrui has also described Nyerere as the most intellectual of the East African presidents, an attribute
which enabled Walter Rodney to thrive in Tanzania as an intellectual activist.
After Rodney left Tanzania in 1974 and
returned to Guyana, he continued to be actively involved with the workers at the grassroots level until he was assassinated
in June 1980 by a government agent when Guyana was under the leadership of Prime Minister Forbes Burnham.
Most African intellectuals don't do that.
They don't work with the masses at the grassroots level. And that severely limits their role as agents of dynamic and fundamental
change in Africa.
African writers like Godfrey Mwakikagile
and other intellectuals are also severely compromised in their mission because most African leaders don't want to change.
Therefore they don't listen to them – in many cases the entire state apparatus needs to be dismantled to bring about
But, in spite of their limitations and
the obstacles they face, many African writers and other intellectuals still play a very important role in articulating a clear
vision for the future of Africa. And Godfrey Mwakikagile's writings definitely fit this category because of his analysis of
the African condition and the solutions he proposes, although he is not a political activist like other African writers such
as Ngugi wa Thiong'o in neighbouring Kenya or Wole Soyinka in Nigeria.
But even they – had to flee their
homelands, at different times, for their own safety, in spite of the courage they had to contend with the political establishment
in their home countries, and sought sanctuary overseas although that has not been the case with Godfrey Mwakikagile and many
other Africans who once lived, have lived or continue to live in other countries or outside Africa for different reasons.
Writers like Godfrey Mwakikagile and other
members of the African elite have a major role to play in the development of Africa. They do have an impact on constructive
dialogue involving national issues. But it is not the kind of impact that reverberates across the spectrum all the way down
to the grassroots level precisely because they are not an integral part of the masses, and also because they are not actively
involved with the masses to transform society.
So, while they generate ideas, they have
not been able to effectively transmit those ideas to the masses without whose involvement fundamental change in Africa is
impossible, except at the top, recycling the elite. And while they identify with the masses in terms of suffering and as fellow
Africans, many of themm – not all but many of them – have not and still don't make enough sacrifices in their
quest for social and political transformation of African countries. And Godfrey Mwakikagile is fully aware of these shortcomings,
and apparent contradictions, in the role played by the African elite. He's one himself.
Yet, he has not explicitly
stated so in his writings concerning this problem of African intellectuals; a dilemma similar to the one faced by the black
intelligentsia in the United States and which was addressed by Harold Cruse, an internationally renowned black American professor
who taught at the University of Michigan for many years, in his monumental study, The Crisis of The Negro Intellectual. The
book was first published in 1967 at the peak of the civil rights movement, five years before Godfrey Mwakikagile went to the
United States for the first time as a student.
But that does not really
explain why Godfrey Mwakikagile has not fully addressed the subject, the dilemma African intellectuals face in their quest
for fundamental change, especially in his books – The Modern African State: Quest for Transformation, Africa is in A Mess: What Went Wrong
and What Should Done, and Africa After Independence: Realities of Nationhood – which
are almost exclusively devoted to such transformation in Africa in the post-colonial era.
African leaders have failed Africa. But
African intellectuals themselves have not done enough to help transform Africa into a better society.
Still, Godfrey Mwakikagile
belongs to a group of African writers and the African elite who believe that the primary responsibility of transforming Africa
lies in the hands of the Africans themselves, and not foreigners, and that acknowledgement of mistakes by African leaders
is one of the first steps towards bringing about much-needed change in African countries; a position he forcefully articulates
in his writings. For example, Political Science Professor Claude E. Welch at the State University of New York-Buffalo, in
his review of one of Godfrey Mwakikagile's books – Military Coups in West Africa Since The Sixties – published
in the African Studies Review (Vol. 45, No. 3, December 2002) described
the author as being merciless in his condemnation of African tyrants.
The same book was also
cited by J.C. Owens of the University of Virginia in his article, "Government Failure in Sub-Saharan Africa: The International
Community's Response," in the Virginia Journal of International Law, 2002. He used Godfrey
Mwakikagile's book, Military Coups in West Africa Since The Sixties, among
other works, to document the failure of leadership in many African countries in the post-colonial era.
And that is valid criticism of African
leadership in post-colonial Africa by Godfrey Mwakikagile. Corrupt and despotic rulers don't deserve mercy. They don't deserve
sympathy. They are not entitled to it. They have destroyed Africa.
In what is
probably his most controversial book, Africa is in A Mess: What Went Wrong and What Should Be Done, he strongly
criticises most of the leaders of post-colonial Africa for tyranny and corruption, and for practising tribalism, a common
theme in the works of many African writers and other people including well-known ones and many African scholars in and outside
Africa. But Godfrey Mwakikagile's book stands out as one of the most blunt ever written about Africa's rotten leadership.
because of its vitriolic condemnation of most African leaders during the post-colonial era, the book has been cited by some
people, who obviously have not read it well if at all, as a clarion call for the re-colonisation of Africa (because things
are so bad, colonial rule was better) although the author says exactly the opposite in his work17.
One of the people he has quoted in his
book articulating a similar position is Moeletsi Mbeki, the younger brother of South African President Thabo Mbeki and head
of the South African Institute of International Affairs, who said in September 2004 that Africans were better off under colonial
rule than they are today under African leadership in the post-colonial period.
Mbeki also said African leaders and bureaucrats
are busy stealing money and keeping it in foreign countries while colonial rulers built and maintained the infrastructure
and ran their African colonies efficiently. He was quoted by BBC Africa in a report, on what he said, entitled "Better Colonial
Times" published on 22 September 2004.
Yet in spite of all that,
Godfrey Mwakikagile unequivocally states in his book, Africa is in A Mess, that
he does not support any attempt or scheme, by anybody, to recolonise Africa, but also bluntly states that African countries
have lost their sovereignty to donor nations and multilateral institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary
Fund (IMF) dominated by Western powers including those who once colonised Africa and are therefore virtual colonies already.
He also contends that African
countries have really never been free in spite of the instruments of sovereignty they are supposed to have. And in one of
his books, Investment Opportunities and Private Sector Growth in Africa, he
warns about the dangers of the Second Scramble for Africa by the industrialised nations which are busy exploiting Africa's
resources for their own benefit and contends that globalisation is in many ways a new form of imperialism.
Yet he has wrongly been
portrayed, along with some prominent African and European scholars including Professor Ali Mazrui, Christoph Blocher, Mahmood
Mamdani, Peter Niggli, and R. W. Johnson as someone who advocates the recolonisation
Godfrey Mwakikagile says
exactly the opposite in his book Africa is in A Mess.
In fact, the title, although not the sub-title,
comes from President Julius Nyerere who said exactly the same words back in 1985: "Africa is in a mess."
Godfrey Mwakikagile explicitly states that
in his book, saying he got the title from Nyerere's statement and felt it was appropriate for his work, although the tone
and content might be disturbing to some people. He is brutally frank about the continent's deplorable condition.
But the book echoes the sentiments of tens
of millions of Africans across the continent who live in misery and those who are frustrated by lack of fundamental change
in African leadership notorious for corruption and other vices including tribalism and tyranny as Godfrey Mwakikagile bluntly
states in his work.
His fellow Africans who
have reviewed the book on amazon.com and elsewhere in different publications and on
the Internet strongly support the author and share his concerns about Africa's plight and the misguided leadership the continent
has had to endure for decades since independence19.
One African reviewer, Mona
Kabba, a member of Sierra Leonean President Ahmed Tejan Kabba's family, also contacted the author to congratulate him for
writing such an honest book, as she stated in her review of the book on amazon.com. And she provided an additional perspective,
as an insider, that shed more light on Africa's predicament in her review of Godfrey Mwakikagile's book, Africa is in A Mess, and
said she was going to work with him on a joint project about Africa.
And in the same book, Africa is in A Mess, Godfrey
Mwakikagile is also highly critical of Western powers for ruthlessly exploiting Africa even today in collusion with many African
Godfrey Mwakikagile's books have
also been reviewed in a number of academic publications, including the highly prestigious academic journal, African Studies Review, by leading
scholars in their fields. They include Military Coups in West Africa Since The Sixties which was
reviewed in that journal by Professor Claude E. Welch of the Department of Political Science at the State University of New
York, Buffalo; and Ethnic Politics in Kenya and Nigeria reviewed by Nigerian Professor Khadijat K. Rashid
of Gallaudet University, Washington, D.C.20.
His other books have also
been reviewed in the African Studies Review and in the Journal of Contemporary African Studies. They
include Nyerere and Africa: End of an Era and The Modern African State: Quest for
Transformation which were reviewed in the African Studies Review; and
and Africa: End of an Era which was also reviewed in the Journal of Contemporary African Studies.
See also an analysis of
Godfrey Mwakikagile's book, Ethnic Politics in Kenya and Nigeria, in A. Simpson and B.
Akintunde Oyetade, "Nigeria: Ethno-linguistic Competition in the Giant of Africa," published in Language and National Identity in
Africa, Oxford University Press, 2007, pp. 172 - 198; and Godfrey Mwakikagile's Military Coups in West Africa Since
The Sixties in P.J. McGowan, "Coups and Conflict in West Africa, 1955 - 2004: Part
II, Empirical Findings," in Armed Forces & Society, Sage Publications, in
For more reviews of his
books, see also Expo Times, Sierra Leone; The Mirror, Zimbabwe,
and other publications including those featured on the Internet21.
He has also written about
race relations in the United States and relations between continental Africans and people of African descent in the diaspora.
His titles in these areas include Black Conservatives in The United States; Relations Between Africans and African
Americans; and Relations Between Africans, African Americans and Afro-Caribbeans.
Godfrey Mwakikagile's books
are found in public and university libraries around the world and have been adopted for class use at many colleges and universities
in the United States and other countries. Most college and university libraries
in the United States have his books.
Titles by Godfrey Mwakikagile:
Economic Development in Africa, 1999
Africa and The West, 2000
The Modern African State: Quest for Transformation,
Military Coups in West Africa Since The Sixties,
Ethnic Politics in Kenya and Nigeria, 2001
Nyerere and Africa: End of an Era, 2002
Africa is in A Mess: What Went Wrong and What
Should Be Done, 2004
Tanzania under Mwalimu Nyerere: Reflections on
an African Statesman, 2004
Black Conservatives: Are They Right or Wrong?,
Nyerere and Africa: End of an Era: Expanded Edition
with Photos, 2005
Relations Between Africans and African Americans:
Misconceptions, Myths and Realities, 2005
Life in Tanganyika in The Fifties: My Reflections
and Narratives from The White Settler Community and Others, 2006
African Countries: An Introduction, 2006
Africa After Independence: Realities of Nationhood,
Life under Nyerere, 2006
Black Conservatives in The United States,
Africa and America in The Sixties: A Decade That
Changed The Nation and The Destiny of A Continent, 2006
Relations Between Africans, American Americans
and Afro-Caribbeans: Tensions, Indifference and Harmony, 2007
Investment Opportunities and Private Sector Growth
in Africa, 2007
Kenya: Identity of A Nation, 2007.
South Africa in Contemporary Times, 2008.
writer: Godfrey Mwakikagile" web site.
Kofi Akosah-Sarpong, "Nyerere's Vision,"
in West Africa, 25th November - 1st December 2002, p. 41.
Fumbuka Ng'wanakilala, "Nyerere: True
pan-Africanist, advocate of unity," in "Three Years After Mwalimu Nyerere, " in the Daily News, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania,
Monday, October 14, 2002, p. 19.
Godfrey Mwakikagile quoted by South
African Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka in "Address Delivered by the Deputy President, Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
at the Third Annual Julius Nyerere Memorial Lecture at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa." Issued by the Presidency
through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Pretoria, South Africa, 6 September 2006.
Kofi Akosah-Sarpong, "Back to The Roots,"
in West Africa, 21st - 27th January 2002, p. 43.
Godfrey Mwakikagile, Africa and
The West, pp. 23 - 24. See also pp. 1 - 46, and 201 - 218.
Godfrey Mwakikagile, Nyerere and
Africa: End of an Era. For Godfrey Mwakikagile's Pan-Africanist views and perspectives, see also Professor Eric Edi of
Temple University, in his paper, "Pan-West Africanism and Political Instability: Perspectives and Reflections," in which he
cites Godfrey Mwakikagile's books, Military Coups in West Africa Since The Sixties and The Modern African State:
Quest for Transformation.
Reviews of his book, Godfrey Mwakikagile,
Nyerere and Africa: End of an Era on amazon.com.
Godfrey Mwakikagile, Nyerere and
Africa: End of Era; and Godfrey Mwakikagile, Africa After Independence: Realities of Nationhood.
Godfrey Mwakikagile, Africa After
Independence: Realities of Nationhood, pp. 156 - 163.
Godfrey Mwakikagile, Africa is in
A Mess: What Went Wrong and What Should Be Done, and Africa After Independence: Realities of Nationhood.
Kwesi Johnson-Taylor in his review
of Godfrey Mwakikagile's book, Nyerere and Africa: End of an Era, on amazon.com, February 21, 2006.
Biography on the web site, "Tanzanian
Writer: Godfrey Mwakikagile."
Godfrey Mwakikagile, Africa is in
A Mess, Africa and The West, and Life in Tanganyika in The Fifties.
Ronald Taylor-Lewis, in his review
of Godfrey Mwakikagile, The Modern African State: Quest for Transformation, in Mano Vision London, Issue 23,
October 2001, pp. 34 - 35. See also Professor Catherine S.M. Duggan, Department of Political Science, Stanford University,
in her paper, "Do Different Coups Have Different Implications for Investment? Some Intuitions and A Test With A New Set of
Data," in which she cites Godfrey Mwakikagile on fundamental changes in African countries. See also Godfrey Mwakikagile, cited
in Christopher E. Miller, A Glossary of Terms and Concepts in Peace and Conflict Studies, p. 87; and in Gabi Hesselbein,
Frederick Golooba-Mutebi, and James Putzel, "Economic and Political Foundations of State-Making in Africa: Understanding State
Reconstruction," Working Paper No. 3, 2006.
Articolo: http:// www.africansocieties.org/n1/paginaarticolo2.htm.
Dr. Kenday Samuel Kamara of Walden
University in his abstract, "Considering the Enormity of Africa's Problems, is Re-Colonization an Option?" in which he cites
Godfrey Mwakikagile's Africa is in A Mess and related works by other African leading academic authors including Professor
Ali Mazrui, and Professor George Ayittey's Africa in Chaos. See Mwakikagile's book on the subject, Africa is in
A Mess: What Went Wrong and What Should Be Done. See also Tunde Obadina, "The Myth of Neo-Colonialism," in Africa Economic
Analysis, 2000; and Timothy Murithi, in his book, The African Union: Pan-Africanism, Peacebuilding and Development.
Hobbit, in "Gaire: Africa Re-Colonized,"
28 March 2007.
Professor Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni,
a Zimbambwean teaching international studies at Monash University, South Afica campus, in his abstract, "Gods of Development,
Demons of Underdevelopment and Western Salvation: A Critique of Development Discourse as a Sequel to the CODESRIA and OSSREA
International Conferences on Development in Africa," June 2006. Professor Ndlovu-Gatsheni advances the same argument Godfrey
Mwakikagile does and cites Mwakikagile's work, Africa is in A Mess, to support his thesis. See also Floyd Shivambu,
"Floyd's Perspectives: Societal Tribalism in South Africa," September 1, 2005, who cites Godfrey Mwakikagile's Ethnic Politics
in Kenya and Nigeria, in his condemnation of tribalism in post-apartheid South Africa; Mary Elizabeth Flournoy of Agnes
Scott College, in her paper, "Nigeria: Bounded by Ropes of Oil," citing Godfrey Mwakikagile's writings including Ethnic
Politics in Kenya and Nigeria; Professor Eric Edi of Temple University, in his paper, "Pan West Africanism and Political
Instability: Perspectives and Reflections," in which he cites Godfrey Mwakikagile's books, Military Coups in West Africa
Since The Sixties and The Modern African State: Quest for Transformation.
Professor Claude E. Welch, Jr., in
African Studies Review," Vol. 45, No. 3, December 2002, pp. 124 - 125); and Ethnic Politics in Kenya and Nigeria,
reviewed by Nigerian Professor Khadijat K. Rashid of Gallaudet University, Washington, D.C. in African Studies Review,
Vol. 46, No. 2, September 2003, pp. 92 - 98).
Godfrey Mwakikagile in Expo Times,
Freetown, Sierra Leone, and in The Mirror, Harare, Zimbabwe, 2002.
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From amazon.com customer reviews
of Godfrey Mwakikagile, Africa is in A Mess: What Went Wrong and What Should Be Done.
scholarship and statesmanship,” review written by tony, 6 January 2005:
This is a
work of scholarship. It is also a work of statesmanship as opposed to the kind produced by politicians and others to score
political kudos or advance a particular agenda for personal gain. And that is what sets the author apart, like a few others
I know. It is also important to know what type of person he is in order to understand, or at least try to understand, why
he wrote this kind of book, and why he says the things he says in his book which has become a subject of hot discussion and
spirited debate among many Africans; at least the ones I know and those whom I am around and I'm sure many others.
I go any further, let me first say that I know the author both as a colleague and as a mentor. When we first met more than
30 years ago, I came to know him as a man of principle and stubborn convictions who rarely conceded defeat, if at all. And
he became one of my mentors, and not just a colleague, because of his unwavering commitment to principle in spite of the fact
that he was younger than I am. We are roughly the same age, but I am about three years older than he is.
Of all my
fellow African students I went to school with in Africa and in the United States, Godfrey Mwakikagile is one of the very few,
in fact extremely few, whom I know to have remained true to their convictions, their core beliefs, without sacrificing principle
for the sake of political expediency or in pursuit of personal interests at the expense of public interest. Most talk about
commitment, but few live that way. He is one of those few among us.
him well. He was a very serious committed Pan-Africanist more than 30 years ago when he was a mere youth in his early twenties
in college in the United States. He firmly believed that Africa is one, and Africans are one people, including those in the
diaspora. And he still is a very serious committed Pan-Africanist today, more than 30 years later, as shown by his scholarly
works (found in university libraries in many countries) addressing serious economic and political issues and problems across
Africa from a Pan-African perspective. His book "Africa is in A Mess" is one of his best in terms of analysis, honesty, commitment,
and candor. It may also be his most controversial.
Whereas many of us are afraid to tell the
truth because we don't want to ruffle the feathers of our leaders in Africa or make Africa look bad before the rest of the
world especially among those who despise us and make fun of us as a backward and ignorant people, Mwakikagile is one of those
Africans who sincerely believe that nothing is going to change in Africa for the better if we don't tell the truth about our
condition; and if we don't explain why our leaders are part of the problem and not part of the solution.
Anyone who reads his book, "Africa is in
A Mess," as well as his other books about Africa, can easily see why all our talk of African solutions to African problems
means absolutely nothing if we continue to have the kind of leadership we have in Africa today. The people are not the problem,
the leaders are.
I remember asking him, I don't know if
he remembers this but he probably does since he had excellent memory, but I remember asking him about 30 years ago if he thought
that Africa would ever develop like Europe did. He responded quickly and said, no, not in our life time; it is too short a
time. Even Europe did not develop that fast. It took hundreds of years for Europe to develop, he said. I agreed with him on
that. But he also brought up the Soviet Union and said it was able to industrialize (in heavy industry) within 40 years since
the Russian Revolution because of central planning, although he emphasized that the foundation of modern Russia was laid before
then by Peter the Great, an achievement that helped facilitate progress at a faster pace years later, especially in education
and heavy industry, after the Bolsheviks seized power and started implementing their strategy of central planning.
Mwakikagile also strongly believed back
then, during our student days, that even with all their weaknesses, African governments had a major role to play in economic
development because it was they, and not the people, who had large amounts of capital at their disposal; it was they who had
control over national resources; and it was they who had access to foreign capital. Our people did not have that. And he was
a firm believer in regional integration as the way of the future for Africa. Without it, the continent will never develop,
he said. Years later, regional integration did, indeed, become a reality in Africa, with formation of regional economic blocs
in West Africa, East Africa, and southern Africa. Many of us of his generation did not foresee that, the way he, and may be
a few others amongst us, did.
He was also a strong admirer of leaders
such as Nkrumah and Nyerere who also adopted central planning as a strategy for rapid economic development and because of
their Pan-African commitment. He saw them as true Pan-Africanists unlike most African leaders. He also greatly admired Sekou
Toure for that, as a true Pan-Africanist and great African leader. I strongly disagreed with him on that and said Sekou Toure
had jailed and killed many people in Guinea. He agreed but countered by saying Sekou Toure still had African interests at
heart, and was a true African leader in spite of his faults, unlike Senghor who was more French than African. I also remember
that Sekou Toure was a very close personal friend and ideological compatriot of Nyerere and Nkrumah, both of whom were Mwakikagile's
Pan-African ideological mentors.
I vividly recall that Mwakikagile had no
respect for Senghor and Houphoutet-Boigny and the rest of the leaders in Francophone Africa anymore than he did for Mobutu.
None whatsoever! Absolutely none, as leaders. He saw them as French puppets, and their countries still French colonies, except
Guinea under Sekou Toure. By the way, I come from West Africa and remember the rivalry between Nkrumah and Houphouet-Boigny
of the Ivory Coast. Mwakikagile also knew about this rivalry and defended Nkrumah when the Ghanaian leader said we will see
who will develop faster, Ghana or the Ivory Coast.
Yet, in spite of our disagreements on a
number of issues, and in spite of the arguments we had on African subjects on several occasions, I must admit that Mwakikagile
was more far-sighted than many of us even back then in the seventies when he was just a young man in his early twenties. In
fact he was, in spite of his youth, even elected president of the African students union at Wayne State University in Detroit,
Michigan, against much older, more "mature," African students because of what people saw in him as a natural leader of the
pack. Many people used to say he was very wise and acted far more mature than his age; in fact way beyond his age. Even just
the way he looked at you, you felt as if you were in the presence of an elder. Yet he was nothing but a youth, in his early
He had a serious look, was basically quiet,
and very humble in spite of his great intelligence and knowledge, and did not talk much. But when he talked, people listened.
He radiated confidence and was very popular. Yet he was also an enigmatic character and could be extremely difficult to decipher;
a combination of sharp wit, remarkably high intelligence, humility and simplicity making it even more difficult to understand
his personality. But it was all for a purpose and provided him ample room to think; the product of which is what you see today:
the books he has written on a wide range of subjects.
He was thinking all the time, a subject
brought up now and then especially by one Nigerian student who knew him well. He was so simple, and so humble, that you could
easily underestimate him, but only at your own risk. And, for whatever reason, he liked to be underestimated, and to be considered
as just a simple African among hundreds of millions, no better than the poorest peasant in some remote part of Africa. This
also explains why he wrote this book, "Africa is in A Mess." It is about the well-being of the toiling masses across Africa
more than anybody else. And that is why, in order to help improve the condition of the masses, and probably out of desperation,
he proposes the following in his book (p.144):
"African countries should also liberalize
their immigration laws to attract highly skilled farmers from the former colonial powers and elsewhere and enable them to
lease land or become citizens. Africa is an agricultural continent, and it can greatly benefit from them. They have much-needed
skills they can impart to local peasants and farmers to boost production. And because they have large capital, they will also
be able to invest in the economy and provide much-needed employment....South African white farmers who are also leaving their
country because of conflict over land and the polarized racial situation down there should be encouraged to settle in other
He goes on to say (p. 145):
"If we want foreigners - no matter where
they come from - with skills and money to invest in our economies and help develop our countries, we should welcome them with
open arms. We are going to have investors or no investors. We don't have enough local investors with enough capital to fuel
our economies. Therefore we need foreign investors. And we need highly skilled people to work and even settle in our countries.
All this will have multiplier effect and help to develop our economies and create jobs our governments have failed to create
for our our people. But local people, and the government, must have a controlling share in all investment ventures in our
countries. Otherwise our countries are going to be owned by foreigners."
some of us may have trouble with some of that, and I do because we don't need foreigners to help us or teach us how to work
on our land or develop our agricultural economies, what he says shows the depth of his commitment to the well-being of our
people, the poorest of the poor in our continent and indeed of the entire Africa in general. May be he says this out of desperation
as I said earlier, as a last resort, to see how we can help our people since nothing else seems to be working and our governments
are doing nothing to seriously address the problem. I have not seen or talked to him in years to find out what he really thinks
about all this. But his book raises a lot of important questions.
Many of his critics do, of course, probably
wonder why he decided to live outside Africa for many years if he thought he had some solutions to some of our problems. But
I think it is easy to understand why. I don't believe that he had any political ambitions to be a leader in Africa after finishing
his university studies, although he had the potential to be one within the limited context of his home country Tanzania, even
if not necessarily as a leader of continental stature. If he did have such an ambition, he would not have chosen to live abroad.
His decision to live outside Africa for
whatever reasons, and even if he has returned to the continent now and then through the years, was obviously a well-calculated
move (knowing him) as the best way for him to help Africa. As a writer, he has far more opportunities to get his books published
if he lives abroad than anywhere in Africa. If he did not, and stayed in Africa to write, he probably would not have written
the books he has, including this one, "Africa is in A Mess."
Besides the hostile political climate in
African countries which discourages many of our people to write anything let alone books, we hardly have any publishers in
our continent. And Mwakikagile is by no means the only African writer and scholar who has lived abroad for many years. Far
better known and more influential African writers and scholars such as Professor Ali Mazrui, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka,
Ngugi wa Thion'go, Dennis Brutus, Lewis Nkosi, Ezekiel Mphalele (who is now back in South Africa) and many others have also
lived abroad for years even if for different reasons. Yet they are no less committed and no less patriotic than their fellow
countrymen who still live in Africa. And Mwakikagile fits this category.
Of course, quite a few of us back then
in the seventies when we were in college together thought that Mwakikagile was destined for high office and would end up in
public life, as a public figure in a high government position when he returned to Tanzania. But he ended up as somebody else
instead, as a writer, a public figure nonetheless, speaking for the underdog, and guided by his foresight and gifted intellect.
Most of us during those days were excited
about our newly won independence, just like he was, of course. Remember, in the early and even in the mid-seventies, most
African countries had been independent for only about 10 years or so or less. Yet, Mwakikagile was one of the few among us
who were able to look beyond all that excitement and see that one of the biggest problems we already had even back then and
would have in the future was our leaders, not just Western or Eastern imperialism. And he did emphasize that, yes, there was
also Eastern imperialism, Russian and Chinese, and not just Western.
Those were also the days of the liberation
struggle in southern Africa, especially in the seventies, and almost all of us paid close attention to what was going on down
there, perhaps ignoring what our leaders were doing to us. Godfrey Mwakikagile and a few others did not ignore that, in spite
of the fact that his country Tanzania was in the thick of the struggle especially as the headquarters of all the African liberation
movements and guerrilla camps, training freedom fighters to wage war against the white minority racist regimes in southern
Africa and Portuguese Guinea in West Africa.
The point of all this is that, had we looked
at the weaknesses of most of our leaders as an incompetent lot, mired in corruption and motivated by greed for power at whatever
cost more than anything else, we probably would have begun sooner to demand fundamental change way back then in the seventies,
and even in the sixties. And we would not be in the kind of situation we are in now as destitute nations surviving on international
And that brings up another question Mwakikagile
has also addressed in his book, "Africa is in A Mess." Although he was optimistic about the future back in the seventies,
he was mature enough to realize that Africa's problems were not entirely our fault or that of our leaders only. He did not,
for one moment, believe that industrialized nations will ever listen to us at the conference table if we demanded fair treatment
and tried to protect our interests. And the reason was simple, he said. We were weak. Without power, you are nothing in this
world, he used to say. Power respects power. Morality does not count. If it did, Africa would not be ignored or exploited
by powerful nations. And I agreed with him on all that. He said the international system, created and dominated by powerful
countries especially after the end of World War II, had built-in biases against us and the rest of the Third World. It is
an issue he also talks about in his book "Africa is in A Mess" and in his other works.
His book is a must read. But I hope that
he will write another one on how we are going to escape from the grip of the powerful nations who dominate the world, stipulating
terms of international trade and controlling everything else that affects us in the global arena and even in Africa itself.
For example, as he states in his book citing declassified documents, the United States even had contingency plans to invade
Nigeria in the mid-seventies, especially when the fiercely independent Murtala Mohammed was the military head of state, had
the country cut off oil supplies to the West in case of another oil embargo by the OPEC nations or as a unilateral move in
pursuit of national and Pan-African interests. He also points out that the American government had plans to neutralize the
Nigerian military because it was becoming very powerful and Nigeria was playing a major role in the liberation struggle in
Do we Africans have solutions to such domination
of our continent by Western countries and other powerful nations? Much as I admire Mwakikagile and his works, and much as
I respect him as a scholar and as a thinker, I don't think he or anyone of us has fully addressed the issue. That is one of
the weaknesses of his book, "Africa is in A Mess," if not its major weakness. If it wasn't for that, and may be a few other
things he says in this controversial work, I would have given him five stars. But I give him four, instead. There's nothing
wrong with being a four-star general!
Continue to marshal facts, Godfrey. Remember,
you were even nicknamed "professor" back then when you were still a young university student barely out of your teens! And
I'm sure you will also remember me, who I am, after you read this review. Thank you for "Africa is in A Mess" and your other
books. Keep up the good work, fellow compatriot in Africa's redemption.
and honest book, especially for African leaders,” review written by Mona Kabba, a Sierra Leonean, on amazon.com, 8 May
This is a
brilliant and honest book worth reading, especially by African leaders.
My first reaction after spending a whole
night reading this brilliant book was to send comments of gratitude to the author for being this honest and courageous to
write such a coherent and thought-provoking book. A book difficult to refute, even if you may not like how he says it. Well,
I succeeded in my quest to contact him and I must say he belongs to those groups of authors who respond to letters from their
readers and appreciates comments made to him even if they may not coincide with his point of view. I have been in touch with
him ever since and he has answered all my letters. He is also working on another project in which I am going to participate
as he has asked me to. I have told him I will.
One of my first comments to a Zambian friend
was "If we had more of this kind of honesty and straight talk from our leaders and people in Africa, our continent may have
been different and somewhat in a better shape." However, it is not, and something needs to be done, which is what Godfrey
Mwakikagile's book is all about and more. I applaud the author because his book is based not only on the critical hard facts
about our continent and alternatives (which some people may not agree with), but demonstrates one of our fundamental flaws
in Africa, which is the failure of being honest to ourselves and using that as a stepping stone to progress.
If we were honest with ourselves, we would
not first of all want our condition to be sugar-coated with semantics but told as it is with all honesty. And we would also
acknowledge the fact that the problem lies within, and not without, as the author pointed out. Because constantly shifting
the blame for one's predicament is not helpful in solving one's problems at all. Yes, the West has contributed and still is
contributing to our deplorable condition one way or another, but what are we doing to get up from that dogmatic slumber for
lack of words? What have we really done besides constant, self-inflicting deterioration? We must remember that we were not
the only countries colonized or relatively poor. So what have we done to improve our condition?
Without over-emphasizing the fact and echoing
the words of the author, Africa is indeed in a mess which is due to various factors, but largely due to our corrupt leaders
as discussed by the author and rightly so. However, I must say that we as people must share some of the blame, because we
do not tell the hard truth to our leaders but help them in some cases (countries) in their quest for personal aggrandizement
by supporting their "sultanism" and "fuherism" kind of governance for our own individual selfishness. As a Sierra Leonean
having lived most of my life in my country, and being a very close relative of the President of Sierra Leone, Tejan Kabba,
I know what I'm talking about.
We help to create the monsters we call
corrupt leaders. We do not tell them the truth and help them to become relatively honest and dedicated leaders, but instead
support them and demand exorbitantly for ourselves regardless of the rest of the millions they are supposed to serve and provide
for. As soon as a relative is in a position that wields power and money, we see it as our opportunity to get rich and powerful
at the expense of the masses. It is not the story for all African states but common in some which is one of the fundamental
contributing factors to corruption in Africa.
On the 27th of April this year my country
celebrated 44 years of independence. But what is there really to celebrate? A country that, in spite of its enormous potential
to be one of the richest countries in Africa due to its natural resources, has hardly achieved any progress, is one of the
poorest in the world, and has as legacy to show - chopped arms and limbs of innocent civilians who did not deserve such brutality
for just being Sierra Leoneans. A devastated infrastructure and economy that would require writing a whole book to explain
and analyze, Sierra Leone, a country once known as the "Athens of West Africa," is one of the countries that have suffered
tremendous brain drain and continues to do so. That is why Mwakikagile's suggestion of opening up our borders and liberalizing
our immigration policies to allow large numbers of foreigners to become citizens and invest in our economies is one of the
possibilities our leaders should consider seriously.
This idea may not be favourable to some
Africans who believe that our leaders may have already sold our countries to foreigners in this era of globalization. But
for want or lack of alternatives, what is really left to sell in some of our African states besides our total independence?
We therefore do not only need to criticize our leaders but examine ourselves and contribute in a meaningful way by finding
and implementing alternatives to improve conditions in our continent.
To the author, I say, Bravo! And, please,
do not relent in telling the truth in whatever way you can.
manifesto,” review written by Kofi Mensah, Ghana/USA, on amazon.com, 4 March 2005:
6th, my country Ghana is going to celebrate her 48th independence anniversary. It was the first black African country to win
independence under the leadership of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.
But, in spite of this distinction, and
in spite of the fact that our country has enormous potential, throughout most of those years, almost half a century, we have
hardly achieved enough progress, economically, to justify our claim to independence. The same is true with the rest of black
Africa. And that is where this book, "Africa is in A Mess," by Tanzanian writer Godfrey Mwakikagile, a fellow Pan-African
patriot, comes into relevance as a manifesto for post-colonial Africa.
"Africa is in A Mess" is a political manifesto
and an economic blueprint written by one of Africa's most brilliant and committed sons. His works are taken seriously by many
people, including African leaders.
He has been sought for interviews by the
BBC, by Voice of America (VOA), and even for an appearance on PBS (American public television) in a documentary on the history
of socialism since Lenin as a commentator on President Julius Nyerere's policies and other issues. His books have been reviewed
by leading scholars and by influential publications, including WEST AFRICA magazine. And he has been interviewed by others
including an American journalist who once worked in Tanzania for a major African weekly news paper, "The East African". All
this is a testament to the importance of his works addressing issues that affect Africa as a whole. He is not a narrow-minded
nationalist only concerned about his country, Tanzania. He is concerned about the whole continent, as his books, including
"Africa is in A Mess," clearly demonstrate.
He was one of the most promising intellectuals
of our generation, and one of the most inspiring, to emerge out of the seventies, when he graduated from university, and has
lived up to his full potential. But may be not quite. Expect more from him.
He probably would not have made a good
politician - he's too honest for that on issues of public policy - and would, instead, have made a lot of enemies had he decided
to go into politics, unless he decided to look the other way. Most politicians thrive on corruption, exactly the kind of enemy
the author is waging war against. He would never have been able to write this kind of book, "Africa is in A Mess," as a politician,
unless he was suicidal, surrounded by vicious sharks which swim in the rough waters of African politics. Writing is what he
does best. And I look forward to reading his next book about Africa, or on any other subject for that matter.
Like any other book, by any human being,
"Africa is in A Mess," has its weaknesses. It may be too pessimistic in some cases but, overall, it's an excellent book, and
brutally honest, the kind African leaders need to read, whether they like it or not. And most of them probably won't like
it, even though, privately, and deep down in their hearts, they will find it hard to disagree with what Godfrey Mwakikagile
says. Fortunately, like any honest scholar or just any other honest writer, he did not write this book to please them. He
wrote it to demand fundamental change. And it will come one day. It is for the people to decide when, and how.
And when the change comes, many of those
in power would wish they had never sought public office.
It is this cry for justice and fairness,
this deep anguish of the masses demanding the fruits of independence, which is the central message of "Africa is in A Mess."
But that is only one man's perspective on this very important book. You may have a different perspective, may be even radically
different from mine. All you have to do is read the book, and see for yourself what the author has to say.
You may not like how he says it, all the
anger and the bitterness which also is the anger and bitterness of the masses across Africa, but you will have a hard time
refuting what he says. Just try it, after you read the book.
point but, could, and should, have said more,” review written by Melvin Mitchell, independent scholar, Detroit, Michigan,
USA, 15 February 2005:
I just finished
reading this book a couple of days ago and couldn't wait to comment on it, partly in response to what many of the reviewers
have said here, but mainly because of what the author himself says.
all know Africa is in a mess. So that's nothing new. It's not just what we see and read in the media, it's the evidence itself
(including depressing images on television) coming out of Africa that shows the continent is indeed in a mess. That is what
this book is all about, and more than that.
But the author is so focused on Africa's
misery and corrupt regimes that sometimes his readers may be lost in a maze of details he has compiled in this compact study
(which, by the way, is a credit to him to pack so much in so few pages). Although his work is highly focused, it may also,
because of its harsh message, blind some people to other harsh realities about Africa, mainly the negative role played by
the West in the continent's underdevelopment since its conquest and subsequent colonization by the imperial powers.
Most of the reviewers here, even if understandably,
have indeed or seem to have been blinded by their anger at Africa's corrupt leaders, a position they share with the author,
to the point where they lay the entire blame for the continent's misery and predicament on African leaders, hardly any on
the West especially the former colonial powers and the world's leading imperialist nation, the United States, whose multinational
corporations are busy ripping off African countries and the masses. That is one of the weaknesses of this book (fueling misdirected
anger in some cases), and of the angry Africans who have reviewed this work here on amazon.com and probably others elsewhere
who support the central thesis of this book.
Yet, having said that much from a critical
perspective, I must also acknowledge the work's strong points, while at the same time being critical, of course, in order
to provide a balanced account of what has taken place on the African continent through the years.
The book is written from a Third World
perspective, not just from an African perspective. The author is highly perceptive and, for good reason, wary of multinational
corporations (probably unlike some of his supporters) operating with impunity in Third World countries. But he also realizes
that Africans and other Third Worlders can't do anything about this. He also knows that in this age of globalization, they
can't do without multinationals. As an African American, born as a disadvantaged person because of our minority status in
a predominantly white society, I know how the author and other Africans feel about all this. We ourselves here in the United
States complain about white domination and racism, the equivalent of imperialism in the international context. But we also
know that we are an integral part of America, we are here to stay, we are going nowhere, and we need America in order to survive
and to develop as much as Africans and others are an integral part of the global economy which they also need in order to
develop and sometimes even simply to survive as a people and as countries. It's tragic but true. This world is ruled by one
race, a reality the author knows so well.
I don't want to get much into this but
suffice it to say that I also happen to know something about the author, Godfrey Mwakikagile, although not as much as two
of the reviewers do, as they have stated here. In fact I have more than just superficial knowledge of him as a student at
Wayne State University because I used to interact with a significant number of African students in Detroit in the seventies
when he was a student there. I did not go to Wayne State like he did - I had already graduated from another college in another
state - but knew Mwakikagile more than just superficially, as I just said, as much as I knew one of his colleagues, a Ghanaian
student, who went to school with him at Wayne State and who later became a cabinet member in the government of President Jerry
Rawlings when he returned to Ghana. And both, he and Mwakikagile, had a lot in common in terms of political beliefs. They
also knew each other very well.
The tragedy of all this, and this is relevant
in terms of their political beliefs and that's why I bring it up here, is that many African students did not want to criticize
the leaders they admired most, like Nkrumah and Nyerere or Kaunda and Sekou Toure. And such shortcomings are still evident
today, reflected, for example, in Mwakikagile's book, "Africa is in A Mess."
While he should be commended for being
honest about the rotten leadership in Africa through the decades, he should also be taken to task for not being very honest
about the failures of the president of his country (whom I also highly admire), Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, in the economic field.
He admits socialism failed. But that's about it. He does not go into details WHY it failed, not just in Tanzania under Nyerere,
but also in Ghana under Nkrumah, in Zambia under Kaunda, in Mali under Modibo Keita, in Guinea under Sekou Toure, in Uganda
under Obote, in Benin under Kerekou, in Ethiopia under Mengistu, in Somalia under Barre, and in all the other African countries
where it had been adopted as economic policy. That is one of the biggest shortcomings of this book, "Africa is in A Mess."
He may have addressed this subject in one of his other books, "Economic Development in Africa," but I have not read it to
make a definitive statement on that. Even if he has, he should also have addressed it in this book, "Africa is in A Mess."
And I hope he has dealt with the subject
in his other book or books, if he is to be taken seriously as an honest scholar, not one of those African intellectuals who
rationalize Africa's failures and mistakes from an ideological standpoint, especially since socialism was the dominant ideology
in post-colonial Africa and during the liberation struggle in southern Africa partly in response to Western domination of
Now, on the plus side. I have already said
the author has been forthright in his condemnation of corrupt politicians and governments on the African continent. He should
be commended for that. He should also be commended for being resolutely opposed to the recolonization of Africa, as some people
including a number of Africans themselves have suggested, although one may get the wrong impression when reading the first
chapter in which he has thoroughly discredited the leadership in post-colonial Africa, so much so except in a few cases that
some people may misconstrue what he says and think that he wants Africa to be recolonized. In fact, he argues exactly the
opposite, and very forcefully. He is one staunch Pan-Africanist and committed intellectual.
The chapter on the brain drain is equally
excellent. So is the rest of the book in which he displays his formidable knowledge of Africa from a historical and contemporary
perspective. He knows his subject well, not just about Africa but also when he writes about the United States as well, as
he has clearly demonstrated in his illuminating study of black conservatives, also published as a book that has been favorably
reviewed by other readers here on amazon.com and elsewhere.
But there is another shortcoming in his
book, "Africa is in A Mess." Given his analytical ability and intellectual depth, he could have said more about the negative
and devastating impact of Western penetration of Africa, past and present, to provide a a balanced account. He seems to have
focused squarely on the failures of post-colonial Africa. I know a whole book can be written about that alone, and he has
done that, just like others have. But many readers would also like to see the other side of the coin. He condemns colonialism
and imperialism in his book and categorically states that his intention is not to exonerate the colonial and imperial powers
who conquered and continue to dominate and exploit Africa. All that's fine. But he has done it in shorthand. A deeper and
longer analysis would have been more satisfying even if it would have meant writing a bigger book, something he's capable
of doing since he has already done that more than once; for example his book about Nyerere and Africa, the second edition,
is a monumental study almost 700 pages: quite an accomplishment.
Any way, in short, what lacks here is balance.
But the author seems to overcome that with his formidable analytical skills and engaging style he has used well when addressing
other issues from a continental perspective. And for that, he should be highly commended. After all, it is not easy to write
a fully balanced book on such a highly emotionally-charged subject as the disintegration of post-colonial Africa, especially
when the author himself is an African who is intimately involved in the affairs of the continent (read about this in his book,
"Nyerere and Africa: End of an Era," and about his personal high-level contacts with African leaders including presidents)
as a dedicated scholar; as a public intellectual (in fact, top-notch, in terms of intellectual power, especially on African
and Third World issues, even if flawed in some cases as the rest amongst us as mere mortals); as a staunch Pan-Africanist
and may be even a militant one; and simply as a human being who would like to see his people, fellow Africans, especially
the masses, do better, much better, than they are now.
A job well done, illuminated with sparkles
thought-provoking,” review written by Hengene Payani, Ph.D. (Political Science), Senior Research Academic, Papua New
Guinea (PNG) National Research Institute, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, 9 February 2005:
I come from
Papua New Guinea (South Pacific). I have read "Africa is in A Mess." It's excellent, honest, and thought-provoking. It has
some relevance for a developing country like Papua New Guinea which is currently on the verge of collapse caused by greedy