Editorial staff
 Table of Contents
 The ECOMOG intervention in...
 From genocide to regional war:...
 African culture and personality:...
 Book reviews

Title: African studies quarterly
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00091747/00013
 Material Information
Title: African studies quarterly
Series Title: Gale Group
Uniform Title: African studies quarterly (Online)
Physical Description: Serial
Language: English
Creator: University of Florida -- Center for African Studies
Publisher: University of Florida, Center for African Studies,
University of Florida, Center for African Studies
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla
Publication Date: Spring 2000
Copyright Date: 2010
Frequency: quarterly
Subject: Electronic journals
Study and teaching -- Periodicals -- Africa   ( lcsh )
Gainesville (Fla.)
African studies -- Periodicals
Genre: Electronic journals   ( lcsh )
Electronic journals.
periodical   ( marcgt )
Abstract: Presents "African Studies Quarterly," an electronic journal published quarterly by the Center for African Studies at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Posts contact information for the editorial office via street address, telephone number, and e-mail. Lists advisory board and staff members. Offers access to the current issue, as well as to previous issues. Contains articles and related book reviews. Provides information on submissions and links to "African Anthropology."
Restriction: Licensed for access by authorized UF users (current UF students, faculty and staff -- and others within a UF Library.) Some e-journal service providers may offer only selected articles.
System Details: Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Dates or Sequential Designation: Vol. 1, issue 1 (May 1997)-
General Note: Title from title screen (viewed Aug. 6, 1999).
General Note: An online journal of African studies.
General Note: Latest issue consulted: Vol. 7, issue 4 (spring 2004) (viewed at publisher's Web site, Aug. 19, 2004).
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00091747
Volume ID: VID00013
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: alephbibnum - 003331589
oclc - 40217685
issn - 2152-2448
lccn - 99030079
lccn - sn 99030079


This item has the following downloads:

v4i1 ( PDF )

Table of Contents
        Page i
    Editorial staff
        Page ii
        Page iii
    Table of Contents
        Page iv
        Page v
    The ECOMOG intervention in Liberia
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
    From genocide to regional war: The breakdown of international order in Central Africa
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
    African culture and personality: A reply to D.A. Masolo
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
    Book reviews
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
Full Text

African Studies Quarterly

Volume 4, Issue 1
Spring 2000

Published by the Center for African Studies, University of Florida

ISSN: 2152-2448

African Studies Quarterly

Editorial Staff

Michael Chege
Maria Grosz-Ngate
Parakh Hoon
Alice Jones-Nelson
Carol Lauriault
Todd Leedy
Ken Mease
James Meier
Hannington Ochwada

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000

University of Florida Board of Trustees, a public corporation of the State of Florida; permission is hereby granted for
individuals to download articles for their own personal use. Published by the Center for African Studies, University of Florida.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000

Table of Contents

"Every Car Or Moving Object Gone" The ECOMOG Intervention in Liberia.
Christopher Tuck (1-16)

From Genocide to Regional War: The Breakdown of International Order in Central Africa
Christian R. Manahl (17-28)


African Culture and Personality: A Reply to D. A. Masolo
James E. Lassiter (29-35)

Book Reviews

The Criminalization of the State in Africa. Jean-Francois Bayart, Stephen Ellis, and Beatrice
Hibou. Oxford, Bloomington & Indianapolis: James Currey & Indiana University Press. 1999.
Fuabeh P. Fonge (37-38)

Agencies in Foreign Aid: Comparing China, Sweden, and the United States in Tanzania.
Goran Hyden and Rwekaza Mukandala (eds.) New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999.
Steven Hook (38-40)

Globalisation, Human Security and the African Experience. Caroline Thomas and Peter
Wilkin (eds.) Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publications, 1999.
Seyoum Hameso (40-43)

People Are Not the Same: Leprosy and Identity in Twentieth-Century Mali. Eric Silla.
Portsmouth: Heinemann, 1998.
Timothy Cleaveland (43-45)

UNESCO General History of Africa Vol. IV: Africa from the Twelfth to the Sixteenth Century
(abridged). Joseph Ki-Zerbo and Djibril Tamsir Niane (eds.). Paris, Oxford and Berkeley:
UNESCO, James Currey, & University of California Press, 1997.
Martin A. Klein (45-46)

White Slaves, African Masters: An Anthology of American Barbary Captivity Narratives.
Paul Baepler, (ed). Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.
Samantha Manchester Earley (46-48)

Juan Maria Schuver's Travels in North East Africa 1880-1883. Wendy James, Gerd Baumann,
and Douglas H. Johnson (eds.). London: The Hakluyt Society, 1996.
Dennis D. Cordell (48-51)

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000

The Rise and Fall of Swahili States. Chapurukha M. Kusimba. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira
Press, 1999.
David S. Fick (51-52)

Religious Ethics in Africa. Peter Kasanene. Kampala: Fountain Publishers (distributed by
ABC Ltd. Oxford, UK), 1998.
Nimi Wariboko (52-54)

Griots and Griottes: Masters of Words and Music. Thomas A. Hale. Bloomington: Indiana
University Press, 1999.
Ramenga Mtaali Osotsi (54-55)

Guinea: Malinke Rythms and Songs. Famoudou Konate. Budamusique, 1998.
Lilian Friedberg (56-57)

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000

"Every Car Or Moving Object Gone"The ECOMOG

Intervention in Liberia.


Abstract: This article examines the ECOMOG intervention in Liberia in terms of its
usefulness as a model for future African peacekeeping operations. Whilst the holding of
elections in 1997 and the subsequent withdrawal of ECOMOG dearly indicate that the
operation was not a failure in the way that, for example, Somalia was, this article argues
that its success did not lie in its achieving answers to perennial peacekeeping problems.
In terms of its intent, method and outcome, the intervention was deeply flawed and its
eventual success lay in compromises made by Nigeria in the face of ECOMOG's inability
to produce the desired end-state at an acceptable cost.
October 1999 saw the final withdrawal from Liberia of the ECOMOG peacekeeping force.
For much of its seven year duration, the vicious civil war in the West African state of Liberia
barely touched Western consciousness. From the beginning of the war in 1989 to its formal
conclusion in 1997, 200,000 died and 1.2 million were displaced out of a pre-war population of
only 2.5m. The conflict itself exhibited all the manifestations of post cold-war intra-state conflict:
state collapse; ethnic conflict; political fragmentation; warlordism; and a late and inadequate
response from the United Nations.
Yet despite the severity of the conflict, 1997 saw an agreement to end hostilities, the
disarmament of warring factions, the establishment of political parties and elections in July 1997
which returned Charles Ghankay Taylor as President of the Republic of Liberia. A key
component of the process by which conflict termination was achieved was the deployment of a
peacekeeping force sent by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) the
ECOWAS Ceasefire Monitoring Group, or ECOMOG.1 The achievements of this deployment
have been favourably compared by some commentators with the failures of Western operations
in Somalia and held up as "an example for the rest of the world to follow"2 and a "unique feat in
both military and peacekeeping terms."3
Understandably, therefore, there is a growing interest in the idea of a more developed
African peacekeeping capability building in part upon this perceived success. In 1997 France
established its RECAMP programme 4 and the US has introduced its Active Crisis Response
Initiative. 5 ECOMOG troops have been actively engaged in Sierra Leone and deployed into
Guinea-Bissau. There are, of course, good reasons why specifically regional responses make
sense, not least the manifest unwillingness of the international community to countenance
significant engagement.6 Nevertheless, the problems concomitant with an African regional

Christopher Tuck is a lecturer at the Joint Services Command and Staff College (JSCSC) in the United Kingdom. He
has previously been a lecturer at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and a researcher with a foreign policy
lobbying group.

University of Florida Board of Trustees, a public corporation of the State of Florida; permission is hereby granted for individuals
to download articles for their own personal use. Published by the Center for African Studies, University of Florida.
ISSN: 2152-2448

2 I Tuck

initiative are many. The purpose of this paper7 is to examine the ECOMOG deployment in
Liberia from 1989 onwards, focusing on its applicability as a model for African peacekeeping


A comprehensive examination of the origins of the Liberian conflict lies outside the scope of this
paper.8 It is sufficient to identify that in December 1989, Liberian rebel forces of the National
Patriotic front of Liberia (NPFL), led by Charles Taylor, crossed into Liberia from Cote d'Ivoire
intent upon overthrowing the regime of President Samuel Doe. As the fighting escalated, and
the international community displayed marginal interest, ECOWAS initiated a regional
response to the crisis, establishing a Standing Mediation Committee (SMC) to try and encourage
a diplomatic solution. On August 7th 1990, a lack of progress on the diplomatic front prompted
the SMC to begin the insertion into Liberia of a military monitoring group (ECOMOG).
ECOMOG was deployed in order to overawe the warring factions, and to oversee the
implementation of a cease-fire, the disarmament of the warring factions, the cessation of arms
imports and the release of prisoners.
The ECOMOG operation began on 24 August 1990 with deployment of 3,000 West African
troops into the Liberian capital Monrovia. It was tasked with "assisting the ECOWAS Standing
Mediation Committee in supervising the implementation and in ensuring the strict compliance
by the parties with the provisions of the cease-fire throughout the territory of Liberia."9 Whilst
the commander initially envisaged a six month operation, the force continued to be deployed
until late 1999, and, indeed, expanded its operations into neighboring Sierra Leone.
The contributing nations and troop strengths varied, but included at one time or another
Nigeria, which provided the bulk of the forces, Ghana, Guinea, Senegal, Gambia, Mali, Benin,
Cote d'Ivoire, Uganda, Tanzania, Niger, Burkino Faso and Sierra Leone. In February 1995, for
example, the force consisted of 8, 430 troops organised into ten battalions; of these troops 4,908
were Nigerian, 1,028 were from Ghana, 609 from Guinea, 747 from Tanzania, 760 from Uganda,
359 from Sierra Leone, and ten each were provided by Gambia and Mali.10 The force peaked at a
strength of around 16, 000 in 1993 and by early 1997 consisted of around 11,000 troops.
During the period of its deployment, ECOMOG engaged in a variety of missions including
protection of humanitarian aid, disarming of factions, cantonment, mediation, and peace
enforcement. ECOMOG's formal peacekeeping role ended in February 1998, but a contingent of
5,000 remained deployed after this in a "capacity-building" role, helping to train the new
Liberian security forces and to maintain order. Further withdrawals commenced in January
1999 after disputes between ECOMOG and Taylor over the treatment of ECOMOG soldiers by
Liberian forces."


The ECOMOG operation was never likely to be easy given the complexity of the situation in
Liberia. Whilst ethnicity was much less of a factor early on in the struggle, as in Bosnia the
manipulation of ethnic differences by faction leaders for political purposes led to a conflict

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000

"Every Car or Moving Object Gone" I 3

increasingly fought along ethnic lines. As well as embittering the fighting, this led to a rather
"zero-sum" approach to negotiations12: cease-fires, for example, were often used in a calculated
fashion to provide breathing spaces during which to consolidate and re-arm. In its early
incarnation, the civil war pitted the troops of Doe's Liberian government, the Armed Forces of
Liberia (AFL), against the insurgents of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) under
Charles Taylor, the former drawn predominantly from the Krahn ethnic group, the latter from
the Gio and Mano tribes. As the war continued, the situation became increasingly confused as,
often with outside support, new groups appeared and existing groups fragmented. The NPFL,
for example, spawned the Independent National Patriotic Front of Liberia (INPFL), as well as
the Central Revolutionary Council. A new group, ULIMO (the United Movement for
Democracy and Liberation in Liberia), emerged in 1991 only to fragment into a Krahn faction
(ULIMO-J under Roosevelt Johnston) and a Mandingo faction (ULIMO-K under Alhaji
Kromah). By 1995 there were at least eight major factions as well as many more minor ones.13
The progressive splintering of the militias (which was caused by, but also contributed to,
the longevity of the conflict) created a range of problems.14 As with Bosnia, there was a
pronounced shift towards "localism" within militia groups in which weak central control led to
the emergence of warlords whose objectives extended no further than personal gain; for
example, economic motives such as the control of diamond mining and rubber plantations
became an important dynamic in the continuation of the war. This made the formulation of an
over-arching political solution very difficult.
Moreover, ethnic hatred and the progressive factionalisation of the militias made concrete
advances on issues such as disarmament and demobilisation very difficult. Since weapons and
troops were the basis of faction power in Liberia, agreements regarding the handing over of
weapons and so forth could only succeed if every faction, however small, was included (a
problem also experienced in Somalia). In reality, such difficulties meant that some factions
excluded themselves from political agreements; for example the Lofa Defence Force (allied to
Taylor) and the Bong Defence Front (allied to Kromah) were not signatories to the Cotonou
Agreement of 1993. 15Neither was the Liberian Peace Council, which operated in NPFL areas
with clandestine support from the AFL.
The situation was further complicated by strife in Sierra Leone, one consequence of which
was that Sierra Leonean resistance groups based themselves in Liberian territory; these
competed with ULIMO for control of territory and resources.16 The overall situation was also
exacerbated by the composition of the militias. At least a quarter of the soldiers were children17
who, as the conflict progressed, naturally found it harder and harder to integrate back into
society. Warlords also vied for a predominant position within their ethnic group as was the case
with the struggle between the Krahn groups of Roosevelt Johnson's ULIMO-J and George
Boley's LPC. This provided yet another autonomous dynamic behind the war. Thus, as the war
became more prolonged, the nature of the war shifted, complicating ECOMOG's attempts to
formulate a coherent strategy and encouraging "mission creep".
At face value, the question of whether ECOMOG has been a success would seem to be
redundant. Given the termination of conflict, despite the considerable difficulties posed by the
complex nature of war outlined above, the case for "The ECOMOG Miracle"18 might appear to
be self evident: sceptics who characterise the operation as "unwarranted aggression and

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000

4 I Tuck

illegality camouflaged as a peacekeeping operation"19 might seem to have missed the point. In
reality, however, ECOMOG provides a poor peacekeeping role model. In terms of intent,
method, and outcomes, the ECOMOG operation embodied serious flaws which make it an
imperfect model upon which to build future African intervention capabilities.


Even at its inception, ECOMOG was controversial, not least because the justifications given
for intervention were questionable. ECOWAS maintained that intervention was a duty as
prescribed by the 1981 ECOWAS Defence Protocol. According to Article 16, the Head of State of
the member under attack may request action or assistance from the Community. Article 4 of the
Protocol empowers ECOWAS to initiate collective intervention in any internal armed conflict,
within any state, engineered and supported actively from outside likely to endanger the
security and peace of the entire community. Article 6(3) and Article 17 empower the Authority
to decide on the expediency of military action, to impose a peacekeeping force between the
warring factions or to engage in political mediation. Also Article 13(1,2) provides for creation of
Allied Armed Forces of the Community (AAFC) from earmarked units.
The problem was that whilst Doe did request aid, it was from Nigeria not ECOWAS. It was
Nigeria who then took the issue to ECOWAS for consideration. Whilst attempts were made to
justify the intervention in terms of the existence of a crisis that would "endanger the security
and peace of the entire community", ultimately there does not exist (and probably never will)
any objective criteria to decide when a problem might or might not fit into this category. Given
this, the issue was one of political interpretation; in the case of Liberia, this interpretation did
not command consensus and provoked resistance from Francophone states such as Cote
d'Ivoire and Guinea who were themselves sympathetic toward or actively supporting the
As justifications for intervention, democracy and human rights prove to be equally
problematic; humanitarian considerations provide no legal reason for intervention20, nor could
one ignore the irony of states such as Nigeria in 1990 tasking ECOMOG with "creat[ing] the
necessary conditions for free and fair elections." Nor could the intervention draw on
international legitimacy, since the UN did not authorise ECOMOG from the outset: the first UN
political response was not until October 1992 when it retrospectively approved ECOMOG's
actions under Chapter VIII of the UN Charter.


It might be thought that a regional operation would stand a much better chance of avoiding
common peacekeeping problems, if only by virtue of a greater interest in, and understanding of,
local conditions. In dealing with a complex dispute, however, the ECOMOG force faced many
of the same problems of UN operations. Indeed, in key areas, such as strategic direction, the
formulation of mandates, the use of force, co-operation with other organizations, and the
question of resources, the operation proved to be little more effective than other international

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000

"Every Car or Moving Object Gone" I 5

Divisions at the strategic political level had a significant impact on the operation. Whilst, in
theory, a multi-national operation is a method of reducing tensions by preventing unilateral
advantage, it can, in practice, simply act as a catalyst for conflict. This was indeed the case with
ECOWAS, which was the mandating body for ECOMOG and which was supposed to exercise
political control over it. ECOWAS was divided by conflicting ideas over how the ECOMOG
force should operate, a situation attributable to the diverging geo-strategic interests of its
member states and to emerging problems over contributions to the operation.
The clearest problem resulted from the clash between the interests of Nigeria and those of
other West African states, notably Cote d'lvoire.21 Nigeria, which provided the bulk of the
ECOMOG troops and financial contributions opposed Charles Taylor's NPFL. It provided
Samuel Doe with assistance; despite denials by the then President Ibrahim Babangida, the
Nigerians supplied weapons and ammunition to Monrovia during the AFL campaign in Nimba
county.22 Once Doe had been killed, Nigeria continued to provide support for factions opposed
to the NPFL, including the AFL, ULIMO, and the Liberian Peace Council (LPC). Nigeria's
opposition to Taylor was founded on a number of pillars. Whilst Doe was a good friend of
Nigeria's President, Taylor's actions, including the killings of up to 1,000 Nigerian nationals in
Monrovia in 1990, and his close links with Nigeria's regional rival Cote d'Ivoire, seemed to
threaten Nigerian interests in the region.23 Fear of a "ripple of instability" that might be
generated by the Liberian war and concerns that once Taylor was in power, Liberia might
become a refuge and source of aid for opponents of Nigeria's military regime, were also
contributory factors.
According to Babangida:
"[In] a sub-region of 16 countries where one out of three West Africans is a Nigerian, it is
imperative that any regime in this country should relentlessly strive towards the prevention or
avoidance of the deterioration of any crisis which threatens to jeopardise or compromise the
stability, prosperity and security of the sub-region....We believe that if [a crisis is] of such level
that has [sic] the potentials to threaten the stability, peace and security of the sub-region,
Nigeria in collaboration with others in this sub-region, is duty-bound to react or respond in
appropriate manner necessary to .... ensure peace, tranquillity and harmony."24
Nigerian policy towards ECOMOG-its methods and objectives-were therefore coloured by
its fundamental antipathy toward Taylor's NPFL. Taylor, on the other hand, received support
from Cote d'Ivoire and Burkino Faso as well as from further abroad, e.g., France and Libya.25
The manoeuvrings of the rival Anglophone group, dominated by Nigeria, and the
Francophone's, dominated by Cote d'Ivoire, had profound implications for the ECOMOG
operation. There existed considerable resentment of Nigeria's rather heavy-handed use of its
influence: for example the dispute with Ghana and Benin regarding Nigeria's unilateral
replacement of the ECOMOG Force Commander Arnold Quainoo (a Ghanaian) with the
Nigerian Joshua Dogonyaro. One member of the SMC stated that "ECOMOG ... is nothing but a
convenient camouflage for an effective Nigerian war machine."26 Moreover as Nigerian
influence within the operation grew, it became increasingly difficult to isolate ECOMOG from
Nigerian domestic politics. Thus Dogonyaro's eventual removal as commander has been
attributed to Babangida's fears about the former's successes and the possible emergence of a
future rival.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000

6 I Tuck

The economic and political costs to those involved also contributed to divisions. As the
operation became progressively more dangerous, costly and protracted, the willingness of
ECOWAS states to support potentially dangerous options often reduced correspondingly. The
Senegalese contingent, for example, was withdrawn after initial casualties caused the
Government to forbid its contingent to engage in combat operations without significant
Nigerian support.27
Divisions at the strategic political level eroded the decision-making capability of ECOWAS
and led to an inability to decide which objectives to pursue at any given time. The effect on
ECOMOG was to commit it to a composite "operation of the lowest common denominator", in
which political priorities often triumphed over military practicalities. Moreover, in time
honoured fashion, the national governments intervened directly in ECOMOG operations by
giving instructions to their own contingent, undermining the cohesion of the force and
sometimes creating potentially disastrous situations.28
Another related difficulty was the lack of clarity in the mandates given to ECOMOG.
Initially, the ECOMOG Force Commander was tasked with the "conduct of military operations
for the purpose of monitoring the cease-fire" and "restoring law and order to create the
necessary conditions for free and fair elections to be held in Liberia".29 However, as the situation
evolved, the operation found itself tasked with various functions in which the mandates were
often very vague, particularly over the situations in which force would be used.30 For example,
within a month of deployment the Force Commander, Arnold Quainoo, found himself subject
to a major NPFL offensive. Far from "monitoring" a cease-fire "The military situation [is such
that] my forces now have no choice but to mount a limited offensive in order to protect their
positions .... and enforce a cease-fire".31 Yet the Nigerian president stated soon after that
"ECOMOG is a peace force .... Our mission there is clear, precise and attainable .... ECOMOG
forces are soldiers without enemies or favoured faction in the conflict; they can open fire only in
self defence."32
Agreements at Bamako (November 1990) and Lom6 (February 91) tasked ECOMOG with
"monitoring" cease-fires, drawing up buffer zones, the establishment of check points, and the
disarmament of militias without any clear guidelines about how this would be achieved in a
non-permissive environment. At Lom6 for example the ECOMOG cease-fire was to be
"supervised and maintained" by ECOMOG through the take-over of airports and ports, the
establishment of roadblocks at strategic locations, patrols into the countryside,
escorts/transports to repatriate displaced persons and so forth.33 How they were to be
maintained, given the paucity in the numbers of troops, and what would happen if ECOMOG
were resisted, was not stated.
Another example of the confusion surrounding mandates was the later decision relating to
implementation of the Yamoussoukro IV agreement: ECOMOG was tasked on the one hand
with using "all necessary measures" to ensure compliance with sanctions34, whilst on the other
an explicit assumption of the forces status as peacekeepers continued to be made.35 The
mandates were thus often only tenuously linked to the reality of ECOMOG's material and
political circumstances and provided little guidance on how the use of force could be linked to
the attainment of the operations wider strategic objectives.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000

"Every Car or Moving Object Gone" I 7

Closely linked to the difficulties caused by strategic level political differences and the issue
of mandates were the problems associated with ECOMOG's military strategy, which oscillated
between peacekeeping and peace enforcement without decisive breakthroughs in either.
Peacekeeping in Liberia was always likely to be difficult; the examples of Bosnia and Somalia
illustrate the problems associated with trying to apply the Cold War concept of peacekeeping in
post Cold War conflict environments. The value-based nature of disputes and the complexity of
the politics lead to circumstances in which risk escalates, consent is contested, violence is
vicious and endemic, and where impartiality is difficult to maintain. In Liberia, the traditional
essentials for a peacekeeping operation, the consent of the protagonists and a working cease-
fire, did not really exist-indeed the ECOMOG force was fired upon even as they landed.
Through ECOMOG enforcement, a measure of stability was then established which lasted
until October 1992 with ECOMOG in control of Monrovia and the NPFL controlling most of the
rest of Liberia. Sporadic violence continued, but at a much lower level and ECOWAS was able
to establish an Interim Government of National Unity (IGNU) in November 1990. However,
attempts by ECOMOG to establish buffer zones and police the UN arms blockade were
complicated by continued conflict between the militias. Indeed the early cease-fire did not
represent any significant change in the NPFL's opposition to ECOMOG and was instead a
tactical decision designed to consolidate the NPFL's position before returning to the offensive.36
It became clear that peacekeeping was essentially a temporary solution, capable only of
freezing the situation, without reducing the capabilities of both sides to resume fighting. It
could not address one of the critical reasons for the prolongation of the conflict-Taylor's belief
that he could obtain more through continuing the violence than by agreeing to a political
settlement. In circumstances where ECOMOG appeared divided and its commitment to
"staying the course" was questionable, ECOMOG could provide neither the neutral reassurance
necessary to overcome problems associated with "co-operational insecurity," nor could it coerce
an unwilling NPFL into implementing political agreements.
The early failure of peacekeeping was indicated on 15 October 1992 when the NPFL
launched Operation Octopus, a surprise attack against Monrovia and the predominantly
ECOMOG forces defending it. This precipitated another switch from peacekeeping to peace
enforcement by ECOMOG forces in the defence of Monrovia and subsequent ECOMOG
counter-attacks. The move to peace enforcement had some early success. The NPFL were beaten
off and in January 1993 ECOMOG went onto the offensive, drafting in 5,000 extra troops, and
using air and naval assets as well as co-operating with ULIMO and the AFL. Significant gains
led the ECOMOG field Commander Major General Olurin to expect victory. This victory,
however, eluded ECOMOG and ultimately it accepted a negotiated settlement in July 1993 with
the signing of the Cotonou Agreement. This agreement, which paved the way for the
deployment of a UN mission, failed to provide a lasting settlement and, after a progressive
breakdown in order, serious fighting broke out in 1996.
The problem for ECOMOG was that effective peace enforcement was difficult. One effect of
increasing the risk and intensity of operations was that it further eroded consensus within
ECOWAS because of the progressive "Nigerianisation" of the Command Structure and the way
in which ECOWAS operations were directed specifically against the NPFL. The friction

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000

8 I Tuck

generated by this contributed to a lack of strategic direction as to where force ought to be
applied and the outcomes that ECOMOG wanted to achieve.37
This problem was exacerbated by several other factors. One was the NPFL's move towards
a guerrilla strategy which meant that, despite holding Monrovia and extending the area
controlled by the IGNU, ECOMOG found it difficult to exploit their success. Another was that,
despite being a West African force, ECOMOG displayed a remarkable ignorance of the
geography, people and politics of Liberia even to the extent that the initial planning for the
operation was carried out on the basis of a tourist map.38 Often lacking an understanding of the
context in which it operated, it is not so surprising that ECOMOG found that its military
strategy did not always produce the desired results. Moreover, ironically, the early territorial
gains made through peace enforcement tended to encourage the view within ECOMOG that a
military solution could be found which served to undermine attempts to find a political
solution, particularly early on.39
Moving to peace enforcement, of course, also undermined the already partial consent for
the ECOMOG deployment. The loss of consent in itself, may not have been a critical weakness if
ECOMOG had retained its impartiality, but this too was further compromised through its
attempts at peace enforcement. Nigeria's determination to get rid of Charles Taylor reinforced
the perception that ECOMOG was not neutral.40 Even before ECOMOG was deployed, Taylor
had announced his intention to resist the operation, making Babangida's comment that
ECOMOG was "going to Liberia not to fight but to keep the peace" rather optimistic.41 The
NPFL's concerns about ECOMOG were also extended to IGNU which had little ability to secure
itself and, as a result, was seen by the NPFL as a government imposed by Nigeria through
Finding it difficult to score a decisive success against the NPFL, ECOMOG tried to exploit
the civil war situation by allying itself with some of the warring factions; for example the AFL,
ULIMO, and forces controlled by IGNU co-operated with ECOMOG in the attacks on Taylor's
HQ at Gbarnga in 1993.42 During the outbreak of violence in April 1996 ECOMOG forces were
alleged to have helped clear a way for the forces of Kromah and Taylor in their assaults on
Prince Johnson's positions in Monrovia.43
The impartiality issue was significant since, after the signing of the Cotonou Agreement in
1993, ECOMOG attempted to shift into a new peacemaking phase in co-operation with the UN
and OAU. The problem was, however, that the disarmament, and cantonment of the factions
was always going to be difficult if the NPFL and its allies had no confidence in the willingness
of ECOMOG to treat all the factions equally.
Even without the preceding difficulties, ECOMOG's task would have been a challenge,
simply because of a lack of resources. Financial and material constraints left ECOMOG
consistently short of the means necessary either to inflict a "defeat" decisive enough to deliver
lasting political gains or to implement the ambitious peace-making programmes. This in part
explains the initial force of only 3000 which was inadequate for anything except a holding
operation. Indeed, without heavy investment from Nigeria, the operation could never have
been mounted, a fact which made it easier for it to adopt a leadership role.44
Estimates made at the time indicated that the complete occupation of Liberia would have
required Nigeria to increase its ECOMOG forces to 15,000 at a cost of $135m. Although, as one

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000

"Every Car or Moving Object Gone" I 9

ECOMOG commander pointed out, the sum was "what NATO spends in a few days in Bosnia",
it represented a prohibitive expense for ECOWAS.45 The lack of troops was one explanation for
the inability of the force to seal off the border and cut the NPFL's access to finance and materiel
and also the failure to prevent the war from spreading into Sierra Leone in March 1991. Even
when numbers were sufficient, there were critical equipment shortfalls, not least with regard to
communications equipment and transport, particularly helicopters.46
The lack of resources also had important implications for the effectiveness and morale of
the troops; according to Jean-Daniel Tauxe of the ICRC, ECOMOG forces were variously unpaid
or underpaid, and in such conditions are peacekeepers in name only".47 This created friction
with the UNOMIL personnel whose operation was much better funded but who depended
upon ECOMG to function.48 It also led to numerous alleged incidents of corruption,49 including
the sale of fuel purchased by the US and intended for ECOMOG vehicles; hence the local joke
that ECOMOG was an acronym for "Every Car or Moving Object Gone".50 The issue of low and
irregular pay was worsened by the lack of an organised system of roulement to relieve troops
deployed in Liberia. As one UN officer commented "They're not motivated, not rotated, often
not paid".51
The poverty of the ECOMOG contributors highlighted the significance of external sources
of aid; this was, however, a double-edged sword. The degree of dependency on outside sources
gave leverage to aid donors and led to considerable discontent in ECOMOG, discontent which
was unlikely to foster faith in their mission. The US, as the largest contributor to the UN Trust
Fund for Liberia, held what amounted to a veto over expenditure, even to the extent of
cancelling some fuel purchases.52 The US also created resentment through its tardy provision of
promised logistics, transport and communications equipment for ECOMOG forces.53
One area in which ECOMOG might have scored highly was in its relationship with the UN.
The UN established the United Nations Observer Mission in Liberia (UNOMIL) in 1994
following an agreement reached by the protagonists at Cotonou in the previous year, and
UNOMIL and ECOMOG worked in tandem to implement the peace accord. This represented
the first ever such arrangement and its potential utility as a method for resolving other disputes
makes it a relationship worth examining.
The relationship between UNOMIL and ECOMOG was often less than harmonious. The
difficulties were partly practical, such as who should be in control of joint operations, and
partly psychological, not least a certain degree of resentment of the UN on the part of ECOMOG
and thus an unwillingness to relinquish control. There were tensions at the higher level,
between the respective force commanders, the central issue being which should be the lead
force ECOMOG was already deployed and was the larger formation UNOMIL, on the other
hand, was entrusted under Cotonou with "supervising" implementation, which implied some
kind of directing role.54 Additional friction was caused by perceived UN high-handedness and
an alleged lack of appreciation of the realities on the ground including a failure to keep
ECOMOG properly briefed and naivete in their dealings with the NPFL. In part, these problems
could be attributed to the late involvement of the UN; the lack of effective political direction
exercised by ECOWAS in the period before UNOMIL involvement led ECOMOG to become in
some senses self tasking, taking control of both the political and military aspects of operation.
This naturally made it more difficult to accept co-operation with a UN agency.55 Some

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000

10 I Tuck

ECOMOG soldiers also viewed the whole idea of being "monitored" by the UN as being at best
irrelevant and at worst an act which undermined them; according to the Gambian contingent
commander in July 1994 "...it is like an inconvenience. Monitoring Ecomog symbolises distrust."
These problems were worsened by the UN's own attempts to improve its local profile; the "trust
the UN" public information campaign in Liberia was seen by some ECOMOG members as an
implied criticism of the West African force's credibility with the population.56 It is, therefore, no
surprise to find a certain tension in the UNOMIL/ECOMOG relationship at the lower level as
The difficulties outlined above stemmed directly from the very vague nature of Chapter
VIII of the UN Charter, which does not lay down any detailed guidelines on the relationship
between the UN and regional organizations.58 Chapter VIII of the UN Charter permits a degree
of "farming out" of responsibility; allowing regional organizations to deal with matters
concerning threats to international peace and security, as long as "such arrangements or
agencies and their activities are consistent with the Purposes and Principles of the United
Nations."59 There is no detail elaborating the exact relationship between the regional
organisation and the UN, beyond the restriction that "no enforcement action shall be taken
under regional arrangements or by regional agencies". This causes particular problems in
respect of multi-organisation operations; which organisation, for example, should lead ? Who
should have overall political authority? How does one avoid dual chains of operational and
political control?60
In Liberia, the late involvement of the UN left it "imprisoned within the framework of
strategies determined by ECOWAS."61 This problem also extended to command and control
structures, with UNOMIL having to compete with arrangements that in many cases had been
established for years. This problem was compounded by the Cotonou peace accord which also
failed to address such issues. The executive powers given to Special Representative of the
Secretary-General were widely regarded as too weak and the degree of authority over
ECOMOG was unclear; the SRSG was cast in the role of "co-ordinator" with UNOMIL and
ECOMOG having separate and autonomous chains of command. There was no one to decide
categorically when, where, or how ECOMOG was to support the UNOMIL teams.62
These problems caused enormous practical difficulties. The coordination between the
deployment of the UNOMIL and ECOMOG forces was often very poor. UNOMIL observers
were sometimes deployed into areas without ECOMOG backup, leaving them in an exposed
position. Thus UNOMIL personnel deployed into Lofa County and Northern Nimba were
without ECOMOG protection and in summer 1994 observers were subsequently held hostage
following a dispute over alleged arms deals with a warring faction.63 Even where UNOMIL and
ECOMOG were deployed together, UNOMIL was sometimes subject to so many ECOMOG
restrictions that the credibility of the UNOMIL operation was undermined.64


The issue of whether or not the ECOMOG deployment prolonged the war is a controversial
one.65 Eight years on, Taylor occupied the position that he might have occupied in 1989; as he
himself commented, "If we had been allowed to win on the battlefield, we would have finished

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000

"Every Car or Moving Object Gone" I 11

the war in six months in 1990. "66 Taylor's assessment is perhaps overly optimistic, given that
Liberia had antagonistic neighbours that may well have been willing to provide support to anti-
Taylor factions in continuing the struggle. Nevertheless, even a prolongation of the conflict
might have been acceptable if it had resulted in a better quality of outcome--a long-term
solution for Liberia's instability and the promotion of regional stability.
Clearly, in some respects, the outcome was initially positive. The election process was at least
inclusive, ensuring that the major factions became involved in a political process. A military
victory by Taylor in 1990 might simply have pushed opposition factions across the border,
leading to continuous low-level conflict in Liberia. Another crucial difference between the
situation in 1997 and that which might have occurred in 1990 is that it has been brought about
with the active support of Nigeria and at least the acquiescence of other major protagonists,
such as Cote d'Ivoire; thus the current Taylor government is at least not subject to outside
efforts to de-stabilise the regime. Moreover Taylor's electoral victory shored up his legitimacy in
the eyes of the international community, opening up the prospect of financial and other aid.
Yet there remain several areas of concern. In many respects Taylor has succeeded in
squandering the early advantages that accrued to him through his landslide election victory. It
is clear that Taylor's electoral victory was the result of a number of factors including having
more resources, better organisation, and better media coverage, but it is also apparent that the
strength of his support was related to a fear on the part of the electorate that if he were not
elected, violence would return.67 Whilst Taylor's approach in the immediate aftermath the
election was generally benign,68 he could afford to be magnanimous given the scale of the NPP
victory in the elections and its grip on the levers of power. Yet in 1992 Taylor dismissed "All this
foolishness about multiparty democracy. "69 More recent incidents indicate that Taylor's
commitment to democracy may be questionable: the use of predominantly ex-NPFL manpower
to fill out the nucleus of the new Armed Forces of Liberia,70 the summary sacking and
reinstatement of cabinet ministers,71 and attempts by Taylor to curb the media.72 The
government remains heavily centralised with the legislature exerting little meaningful power
over the Executive. The Government's human rights record is poor with frequent harassment of
political opponents and democracy and human rights activists.73 Taylor's relationship with
some of his rivals remains tense; the President recently accusing Alhaji Kromah of raising forces
in Guinea in preparation for an assault on Liberia.74 Renewed tension between Taylor and
Roosevelt Johnson led to armed clashes in September 1998. These issues have negatively
influenced Liberia's relationship with potential aid donors, and resulted in an unwillingness of
states such as the US to diplomatically engage with the Taylor regime.
Regional stability also remains problematic. With regard to Sierra Leone, for example,
ECOMOG proved unable to contain the Liberian conflict thanks to its inability to seal off the
borders. In March 1991 the war spilled over into Sierra Leone when NPFL elements made
incursions in collaboration with the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), a Sierra Leone rebel
group. The NPFL took around 25% of Sierra Leone75 and disrupted the areas which provided
most of Sierra Leone's export earnings. The prolonged Liberian conflict thus made a direct
contribution to the prevailing instability in that country.76 Liberian-Nigerian relations also
remain strained; notwithstanding the emergence of a new Nigerian civilian government under
Olusegun Obasanjo, which itself raises issues regarding future Nigerian policy towards Liberia.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000

12 I Tuck

Tensions were already emerging over a range of issues. Nigeria has accused Taylor of breaking
the arms embargo and distributing weapons to the Liberian security forces. The military/RUF
Government of Johnny-Paul Koroma contained many Taylor allies and the Liberian president is
thus at odds with Nigeria over ECOMOG's reinstatement of the deposed president Ahmad
Tejan Kabbah.77 The ECOMOG commander has made claims that Taylor is supporting the rebel
forces in Sierra Leone, claims which Taylor denies.78 Thus, long-term Nigerian support for the
Taylor regime cannot be taken for granted.


There can be no doubt that the ECOMOG intervention in the Liberian crisis provides an
interesting case study in post-Cold War peacekeeping. Intrastate conflicts are on the rise, with
their associated humanitarian problems and "insecurity ripple" effect. Calls for greater
intervention by the United Nations have tended to founder upon legal wrangling, worries
about feasibility, a lack of consensus and a certain crisis fatigue.79 The question of the success or
otherwise of the ECOMOG deployment thus has considerable bearing not only on Africans'
view on the utility of UN/regional interventions in general and on peacekeeping in particular,
but also on the whole issue of Chapter VIII co-operation. It is less clear, however, whether the
operation provides any new answers to perennial themes with regard to the problems of
peacekeeping or if it represents a more effective model for new regional peacekeeping
Ultimately, ECOMOG's success was less in peacekeeping, since the fighting may well have
been more prolonged and heavy than if it had not intervened. The ECOMOG operation was, in
reality, an ambiguous exercise in attrition, sustained by Nigeria's willingness to accept heavy
material costs,80 which succeeded largely because of eventual compromises made bilaterally
between the then Nigerian President, Sani Abacha, and Charles Taylor which gave Taylor much
of what he sought. Prolongation of the war was the key reason for its eventual termination, but
this prolongation was made possible by the fact that the Liberian crisis was viewed by Nigeria
as an issue of national interest: it did not stem from a new approach to conflict resolution.
The ECOMOG deployment was in several respects a very poor choice of role model for
future African peacekeeping operations. Whilst it was in many ways no worse than other
contemporary peacekeeping operations, it struggled to be much better and it provided few
answers to enduring peacekeeping problems. Indeed, to answer the question "how might it
have been done better?" one would be on familiar post-Cold War territory--resources,
commitment, speed, appropriate strategies, well defined end-states, and so forth. For answers to
vexed questions on the best way to keep the peace in complex emergencies and on the
appropriate co-operation between regional and international institutions, the search continues.


1. ECOWAS: founded in 1975 by the states of Dahomey, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-
Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone,
Togo and Upper Volta (now Burkino Faso). Its original purpose was the promotion of

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000

"Every Car or Moving Object Gone" I 13

regional economic and social integration. In 1981 a Protocol on Mutual Assistance on
defence expanded the remit of the organisation into the sphere of security.
2. Alex Okunnor, "Africa's Shining Example", West Africa, 16-22 June 1997.
3. Ben Asante, "The ECOMOG Miracle", West Africa, 24-30 March 1997.
4. "Renforcement des Capacites de Maintien de la Paix en Afrique": for details see Melanie
Bright, "African Peacekeeping Comes of Age", Jane's Defence Weekly, 26 May 1999, pp.22-
5. See Bright, Ibid., and Ebow Godwin, "Blueprint for Enforcement", West Africa, 6-12
October 1997.
6. For a discussion of the potential advantages and disadvantages of regional approaches
to peacekeeping see Paul Diel, "Institutional Alternatives to Traditional UN
Peacekeeping: An Assessment of Regional and Multinational Options", Armed Forces and
Society, Vol.19, No.2 (Winter 1993).
7. The opinions expressed are the authors own and should not be taken as representative
of HM Government policy.
8. For a useful examination of the origins and nature of the conflict, see Stephen Ellis,
"Liberia 1989-1994: A Study of Ethnic and Spiritual Violence", African Affairs (1995), 94,
9. ECOWAS Standing Mediation Committee, Decision A/DEC.1/8/90, Article 2 in Marc
Weller (ed.), Regional Peace-Keeping and International Enforcement: The Liberian Crisis
(Cambridge; Cambridge University Press 1994).
10. Figures from The UN and the Situation in Liberia, UN Reference Paper (UN Department of
Public Information April 1995), p.18
11. Segun Adeyemi, "Nigerian Monitoring Troops Leave Liberia", Jane's Defence Weekly, 27
January 1999, p.19.
12. For a summary of the ethnic and religious characteristics of the protagonists during the
war, see "Liberia on a Knife-Edge", New African, March 1995.
13. These included the NPFL (led by Charles Taylor), ULIMO-K (led by Alhaji Kromah),
ULIMO-J (Roosevelt Johnson), the AFL (Lt.General Joshua Bowen), the Liberia Peace
Council (LPC, under George Boley), Lofa Defence Force (Francois Massaquoi), Central
Revolutionary Council (CRC, Tom Woewiyu) and the Movement for Justice in Africa
(Moja, Amos Sawyer). See Anthony Clayton, "Factions, Foreigners and Fantasies: The Civil
War in Liberia" (Conflict Studies Research Centre 1995).
14. For a more detailed examination of warlordism in Liberia, see Paul B. Rich, 'Warlords,
State Fragmentation and the Dilemma of Humanitarian Intervention', Small Wars and
Insurgencies, Vol.10, No.1 (Spring 1999), pp.78-96.
15. An important milestone in the peace process, signed 25 July 1993, which tried to arrange
a ceasefire, the disarming of warring factions, de-mobilisation, the establishment of a
transitional government and a timetable for elections. See "Letter from the Charge'
d'Affaires a.i. of the Permanent Mission of Benin to the United Nations," Addressed to
the Secretary-General, 6 August 1993 in Weller, Op. Cit., pp.343-352.
16. "Liberia: Problematic Peacekeeping", Africa Confidential, 4 March 1994, pp.2-3.
17. "Beware the Children", Time Magazine, 4 December 1995.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000

14 I Tuck

18. Asante, Op.cit.
19. Baffour Ankomah, "The UN: Taking Sides in Liberia", New African, November 1993.
20. See Comfort Ero and Suzanne Long, "Humanitarian Intervention: A New Role for the
United Nations", International Peacekeeping, Vol.2, No.2 (Summer 1995) pp.140-156.
21. For more details on these and other external players, see George Klay Kieh, Jr.,
"Combatants, Patrons, Peacemakers, and the Liberian Civil Conflict", Studies in Conflict
and Terrorism, Vol.15, pp.125-143.
22. Clement E. Adibe, "Coercive Diplomacy and the Third World: Africa After the Cold War."
Paper presented to the Workshop on Coercive Diplomacy, King's College London, 7-9
June 1995, p.14.
23. Ibid. p17.
24. Ibrahim Babangida, "The Imperative Features of Nigerian Foreign Policy and the Crisis in
Liberia", Contact 2 (3) (November 1990) from Adibe, Ibid. p.12.
25. For examples, see Emmanuel Kwesi Aning, "The International Dimensions of Internal
Conflict: The Case of Liberia and West Africa, Copenhagen Centre for Development
Research, Working Paper 97.4 (June 1997), p.12. (Http//www.cdr.dk/wp-97-4.htm).
26. W. Ofuatey Kodjoe, "Regional Organisations and the Resolution of Internal Conflict: The
Ecowas Intervention in Liberia", International Peacekeeping, Vol.1, No.3 (Autumn 1994),
27. Abiodun Alao, "ECOMOG in Liberia-the Anaemic Existence of a Mission", Jane's
Intelligence Review, (September 1994), p.430.
28. Herbert Howe, "Lessons of Liberia", International Security, Vol.21, No.3 (Winter 1996/97),
29. Ecowas Standing Mediation Committee, Decision A/DEC.1/8/90. Article 2(2) from
Weller, Op.cit., p.67.
30. Alao, Op.cit., p.430.
31. "Call for Ecowas Summit: ECOMOG given 'Fresh mandate'", BBC Monitoring Report, 21
September 1990, in Weller, Op.cit. p.100.
32. "Speech at Press Briefing of Media Executives by the President of Nigeria", 31 October
1990, in Weller, Op. Cit. p.105.
33. "Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities and Peaceful Settlement of Conflict, Lome, Togo,
13 February 1991", Article 1(1) & Article 2(7) from Weller, Op.cit. pp.136-139.
34. ECOWAS, A/SEC.1/10/92, Article 6, in Weller, Op.cit. p.227.
35. "Final Communique of the First Joint Summit Meeting of the ECOWAS SMC and the
Committee of Five, Article 10.20/10/92", in Weller, Op.cit. p.230.
36. For a more detailed examination of Taylor's strategy see Jinmi Adisa, "Nigeria in
ECOMOG: Political Undercurrents and the burden of Community Spirit", Small Wars
and Insurgencies, Vol.5, No.1 (Spring 1994), pp.83-110.
37. Nigeria was always keen to target Taylor's NPFL whereas others, including Cote
d'Ivoire, sought to resist this. Ofuatey-Kodjoe, Op.cit., p.290.
38. Howe, Op.cit.,p.164.
39. "Liberia:The Battle For Gbarnga", Africa Confidential, Vol.34, No.11, 28 May 1993, pp.1-2.
40. Ofuatey-Kodjoe, Op.cit., p.293.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000

"Every Car or Moving Object Gone" I 15

41. "ECOWAS Peace-keeping Force to be Sent to Liberia; Foreigners Released by the NPFL",
BBC Monitoring report, 9 August 1990, in Weller, Op.cit., p.66.
42. "Liberia: The Battle for Gbarnga".
43. "Liberia: Out Of Control", Africa Confidential, 10 May, 1996, pp.1-4.
44. Ofuatey-Kodjoe, Op.cit., p.291.
45. Thomas L. Friedman. "Warlords Versus the People, Who Have No Voice", International
Herald Tribune, 22 January, 1999.
46. Howe, Op.cit. p.168.
47. Jean-Daniel Tuaxe, letter to the International Herald Tribune, 17 May 1996.
48. See, for example, Funmi Olonisakin "UN Cooperation with Regional Organisations in
Peacekeeping: The Experiences of ECOMOG and UNOMIL in Liberia", International
Peacekeeping, Vol.3, No.3 (Autumn 1996) pp.33-51.
49. Friedman, Op.cit.
50. "Witness to insanity", Newsweek, 29 April 1996.
51. Ibid.
52. "Liberia: problematic Peacekeeping", Op.cit.
53. "Liberia: Keeping What peace?", Africa Confidential, 16th February 1996, pp.2-3.
54. "Liberia: Problematic Peacekeeping", Op.cit.
55. See the United Nation's Secretary-Generals Report on Liberia 1995.
56. "Liberia: Problematic peacekeeping", op.cit.
57. Olonisakin, op.cit., p.41.
58. For example Article 52 (1) and Article 53 (1) of the UN Charter.
59. UN Charter, Chapter VIII, Article 52 (1).
60. Olonisakin, Op.cit., p.44.
61. "The UN: Taking Sides in Liberia", New African, November 1993, pp.16-17.
62. Olonisakin, op.cit., p.42.
63. Ibid, p.41.
64. Ibid., p.40.
65. See, for example, Karl P. Magyar, "Liberia's Peacekeeping Lessons for Africa," in Karl P.
Magyar and Earl Conteh-Morgan, "Peacekeeping in Africa: ECOMOG in Liberia"
(Macmillan: London 1998).
66. "Liberia: The First 100 Days", New African Special Report, December 1997, p.6.
67. Terence Lyons, "Liberia's Path from Anarchy to Elections", Current History, May 1998,
68. For example, giving his previous enemies minor positions within his cabinet as well as
making great play of the human rights issues.
69. Jinmi Adisa, Op.cit., p.104.
70. "The Key to Security," West Africa, 24-30 November 1997.
71. "Liberian President Re-instates Sacked Cabinet," BBC Online Network, 22 May 1999
72. Lyons, op.cit., p.233.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000

16 I Tuck

73. 1999 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices Liberia, US Department of State,
February 25th, 2000
74. "Cross border incursion into Liberia", BBC Online Network, 21 April 1999
75. Ofuatey-Kodjoe, Op.cit., p.283.
76. See, for example, Earl Conteh-Morgan and Shireen Kadivar "Sierra Leone's Response to
ECOMOG: The Imperative of Geographical Proximity," in Magyar and Conteh, op.cit.
77. "A Diplomatic Coup", Africa Confidential, 6 March, 1998, p.4.
78. "Liberia Denies Backing Rebels", BBC Online Network, 10 April 1999
79. Ofuatey-Kodjoe, op.Cit, p.261.
80. According to Nigeria $8bn and 500 dead, although Nigeria may well have an interest in
talking up its efforts. "Liberia Peace Cost Nigeria 8 Billion Dollars," BBC Online
Network, 25th October 1999.

Reference Style: The following is the suggested format for referencing this article:
Tuck, Christopher. 2000. "Every Car Or Moving Object Gone". The ECOMOG Intervention in
Liberia. 4(1): 1. [online] URL: http://web.africa.ufl.edu/asq/v4/v4ilal.htm

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000

From Genocide to Regional War: The Breakdown of
International Order in Central Africa


The 1999 crisis in Kosovo has been interpreted as the end of an era of international relations
ruled by the UN Charter and the Security Council, and the beginning of a new world order.'
NATO's air raids against Yugoslavia in order to halt ethnic cleansing and oppression of the
Kosovars was indeed the first major military intervention in violation of national sovereignty,
which was justified by the need for the protection of human rights.2 One would wish that the
Kosovo intervention does not remain an isolated case where a conflict between the two major
pillars of modern international law--national sovereignty and human rights--is resolved in
favour of the latter. The establishment of an International Criminal Court of Justice and the
indictment of President Milosevic for crimes against humanity are encouraging initiatives
pointing in this direction.
It remains to be seen, however, whether the industrialized countries on both sides of the
North Atlantic will defend with similar determination the victims of dictatorship and ethnic
hatred in other regions of the world. The relative indifference of the international community
towards notorious human rights violations in various parts of the world (Algeria, Myanmar,
Tibet, both Congos, Sudan, etc.) sheds some doubt about the willingness of the major global
powers to defend the basic rights of life, freedom and human dignity wherever they are
threatened. Admittedly, human rights are not and cannot be the only factor to be taken under
consideration in case of a foreign military intervention. Nonetheless, "feasibility" and "tradeoffs"
are ambiguous arguments when it comes to basic principles. To defend human rights manu
military only where it can be done with little casualties, or where it is economically not too
damaging, is not only morally questionable, it also has a profoundly negative impact on the
nature of international relations. Intervening where it is convenient, but not wherever it is
necessary and possible, opens the way for an erosion of state sovereignty which will not be
balanced by a corresponding revalorisation of human rights.
This erosion did not start in the Balkans, where previous military action in Bosnia was
taken in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions, but in Somalia after the withdrawal
of a tragically unsuccessful UN peacekeeping mission. A serious acceleration of this process has
recently occurred in Central Africa, where it has been accompanied by a dramatic erosion of
human rights that seriously puts at stake the credibility of the international community to
impose the respect of a new international order based on universal human rights principles.
The series of conflicts from the Great Lakes region to Angola, which has uprooted several
million people, is gradually destroying the achievements of more than three decades of
development efforts; entire populations are sinking back into misery, inter-ethnic violence,


University of Florida Board of Trustees, a public corporation of the State of Florida; permission is hereby granted for individuals
to download articles for their own personal use. Published by the Center for African Studies, University of Florida.
ISSN: 2152-2448

18 I Manahl

illiteracy, and a daily struggle for survival. But while this political and humanitarian disaster
has gone largely unnoticed by the international media, it is worthwhile to consider the
unravelling of the Central African crisis from the Rwandan genocide to the regional war in the
Congo basin in the light of basic principles of international law. It will have a severely
destabilising effect on the geopolitical structure of Africa, and probably on the structure of
international relations in general.


From April to June 1994, hundreds of thousands of Rwandan Tutsi and Hutu opposed to
the Habyarimana regime were brutally massacred by the army and extremist militia of Rwanda.
This genocide, the second one recognized as such by the United Nations, has silenced the
resounding "never again" declarations that followed the end of the Second World War and the
capitulation of the Nazi regime. After the extermination of European Jews, the world powers of
the 20th century have failed to react to another genocide, this time not behind the frontline
established between the Allied Powers and a powerful dictatorship, but in a small country with
a weak and ill-equipped army, where western military intervention could have stopped the
slaughter within a few days or weeks. There was no risk of an international escalation--the
Berlin Wall had fallen five years earlier--and there was no international rivalry over Rwanda, a
rather insignificant country somewhere in the middle of Africa. Worse still, the genocide
happened literally under the eyes of 2,600 UN peacekeepers.
The reasons that led to this tragic failure have been analysed by a consortium of European
and North American donors as well as by the Belgian and French parliaments.3 An investigation
of the UN's role was launched in early 1999 by Secretary General Kofi Annan, who was at the
time heading the UN department for peacekeeping operations. Perhaps these critical
evaluations have contributed to the decision of Washington and its European NATO allies to
act in Kosovo before it was too late. None of these investigations, seem to have contributed
significantly to a prevention of the steadily continuing breakdown of humanitarian principles
and international order that followed the Rwandan genocide and the exodus of several million
people in the Great Lakes region.
More than three million Rwandan refugees fled to Zaire and Tanzania, mostly Hutu who
feared the revenge of the FPR.4 The UN High Commissioner for Refugees and non-
governmental aid agencies were overwhelmed by the sheer size of this humanitarian disaster
and had to accept, nolens volens, the establishment of huge refugee camps in walking distance
from the Rwandan border, in a blatant violation of international humanitarian rules. Very
quickly it became apparent that the camps were controlled by the same people who had
perpetrated the massacres of Rwandan Tutsi and moderate Hutu. The army of the ancient regime
of Kigali and the extremist Interahamwe militia had emigrated under the cover of the refugee
exodus and prepared for a return to Rwanda with military means. The refugee camps were
turned into military bases from which regular cross-border incursions were launched in order
to destabilise the new Rwandan government.
The attitude of Kinshasa towards this flagrant abuse of its territory was a mixture of
complacency and political arson. Zairian troops were sent to the east to provide security in and

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000

From Genocide to Regional War I 19

around the refugee camps, but many officers and soldiers collaborated or made business with
the Rwandan extremists. A UN report on arms trade to the former Rwandan Armed Forces (ex-
FAR), published in March 1996, established that arms deliveries negotiated by one of the major
instigators of the genocide, Theonest Bagosora, had benefited from connivance, if not co-
operation, of Zairian authorities.5
The alarming appeals by Sadako Ogata, UH High Commissioner for Refugees, and Emma
Bonino, the former EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Assistance, who denounced the abuse
of emergency aid as an alibi for political in-action, were left unanswered. The international
community assisted passively at the diversion of humanitarian aid to finance the rearming of
the extremist Hutu militia. The spread of the genocidal ideology in the vicinity of the camps led
to mounting tensions among ethnic communities in eastern Zaire. During 1995 and early 1996,
attacks against ethnic Tutsi in Northern Kivu multiplied, and thousands were driven from their
homelands and forced to emigrate. Most went to Rwanda, where a combination of the external
security threat and the unhealed trauma of genocide led to generalised insecurity and a rapid
deterioration of the political climate. The north-western provinces became a war-zone; 2,000
people were killed when the new army emptied a camp of internally displaced people in
Kibeho in April 1995; more than 100,000 genocide suspects were arrested and kept in
abominable conditions in prisons and municipal detention centres. A number of political
figures from various parties, whom the FPR had invited in July 1994 in a remarkable gesture of
political openness to participate in a coalition government, were forced to resign and went into
exile.6 By attacking both Rwanda and ethnic Tutsi communities in eastern Zaire, the ex-FAR and
Interahamwe contributed to the hardening of the ethnic polarisation of Rwandan society and
succeeded in exporting their extremist ideology to the country of asylum.


On the 9th of October 1996, the Vice-Governor of South Kivu, Lwabanji Ngabo, summoned all
Banyamulenge (ethnic Tutsi of the highlands to the east of the Rusizi river and Lake Tanganyika)
to leave the country. He thus sparked off an escalation of a scope nobody could yet imagine: a
war of seven months, involving troops from Zaire, Rwanda, Uganda and Angola as well as
logistic support from Zimbabwe, leading to the ousting of President Mobutu and his entire
political entourage.
However, the war between Rwanda and Zaire did not come as a surprise. Vice-President
Paul Kagame told diplomats in early 1996 that if the international community was unable or
unwilling to stop the delivery of weapons to the ex-FAR and Interahamwe and the military
training in the refugee camps, the Rwandan government could decide to take preventive
military action. Furthermore, the notorious corruption of the Mobutu regime had left Zaire a
hollow state that only continued to exist thanks to the skilful manipulation of political
opponents and foreign allies by the master of Gbadolite;7 once the external support had faded
because of the end of the Cold War, and as soon as the internal manipulation was hampered by
organised democratic opposition, the country was precipitated into protracted political

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Summer 2000

20 I Manahl

In spite of this structural weakness, the war did not immediately lead to a wholesale
violation of Zaire's national sovereignty and territorial integrity. First of all, the military
campaign by Rwanda and Uganda in eastern Zaire did contain a genuine Congolese
component, crystallised in a coalition of four movements opposed to the Mobutu regime, the
Alliance des Forces Democratiques pour la Liberation du Congo-Zaire (AFDL), even if most military
operations were conducted or commanded by Rwandan and Ugandan soldiers.9 In addition, the
rebellion supported by Kampala and Kigali spent considerable time to consolidate its power on
a narrow strip of land from Lake Tanganyika to the Sudanese border, and this did not seem to
pose a serious threat to the Government, which retained control of 85% of the national territory,
including all major cities.10 Furthermore, the AFDL rebellion counted only some 3,000 to 4,000
combatants, whereas the combined Zairian security forces numbered officially more than
100,000. Until the fall of Kisangani, nobody in Kinshasa took the security challenge in Kivu very
In December 1996, President Museveni proposed to Mobutu's special security advisor a 12-
point peace plan, which was explicitly based on the respect for national sovereignty and
territorial integrity of Zaire, in accordance with international law. Kinshasa rejected the plan;
Prime Minister Kengo announced on 20 January 1997 "a total and crushing counter-offensive"
("une contre-offensive total etfoudroyante"). This counter-offensive backfired not only on the
Mobutu regime, but also on the principle of inviolability of national borders, established by the
UN and OAU Charters and specifically reaffirmed for Africa in the Cairo Declaration of 1964 of
the OAU.11 After taking Kisangani in mid-March 1997, Rwandan and Ugandan troops walked
all the way across the country to Kinshasa.
Despite a flurry of diplomatic activities to negotiate a political settlement, involving the
UN, US and EU Special Envoys, as well as President Nelson Mandela and Mwalimu Nyerere,
nobody in the international community bothered any more about the foreign military
intervention.12 Even in Zaire itself, the Rwandan and Ugandan troops met little resistance from
government soldiers, who preferred to flee or to join the ranks of the rebels instead of fighting
for a dictator hated by the Zairian people. In the end, everybody was relieved that the war did
not cause too many victims and that Mobutu, his family, and his entourage were leaving the
country. Kabila and his foreign allies were received by cheering masses in the Zairian capital.
The donors were hoping that the new government would engage in a vigorous policy of
national reconciliation and reconstruction, and generally agreed "to give Kabila the benefit of
the doubt".


The EU, the leading donor of former Zaire, now re-named Democratic Republic of Congo,
nonetheless subordinated the offer of development aid to two essential conditions: respect for
human rights and a clear commitment to democracy.13 There were good reasons to be
suspicious about the new leadership in Kinshasa. The AFDL military advance had been
accompanied from the very beginning by massacres and persecution of refugees amply
documented by concurrent reports from humanitarian agencies.14 There was considerable

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000

From Genocide to Regional War I 21

argument about the number of the victims, but even the most cautious estimates amounted to
tens of thousands being systematically attacked, driven into the forest, and denied vital
humanitarian assistance. Mass graves were discovered and rumours abounded about rebel
troops burning corpses in order to destroy compromising evidence of their sanguinary
Even before the attack of the refugee camps in mid-November 1996, the international
community was fully aware of the risk of another major human rights catastrophe involving
Rwandan victims, only two years after the genocide of the Tutsi. The United Nations was
compelled to react. On 15 November 1996--for the first time since the Somali debacle--the
Security Council decided to launch a military intervention in order to stop a humanitarian
disaster (UNSC Resolution 1080/1996). Canada offered to lead this multinational force designed
to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid and the voluntary repatriation of Rwandan
refugees and other displaced people.
The decision was taken very quickly--little more than a month after the beginning of the
conflict--but it came too late: Two days before the Security Council decision was taken,
Rwandan and rebel troops attacked the refugee camps and triggered a geographical explosion
of the conflict, which had until then been confined to parts of North and South Kivu. The
majority of the refugees returned to Rwanda, but tens of thousands fled westwards into the
rainforest, and in the course of the following months, across Zaire to half a dozen countries of
the region with the AFDL forces at their heels. While the military experts of several Western
countries spent weeks discussing the modalities of deploying the multinational force, the crisis
spread over a vast area and reached a degree of complexity that was totally incompatible with
the original mandate. The multinational force never materialised.
After Kabila's exultant arrival in Kinshasa, the international community was at pains to
forget the humanitarian catastrophe and AFDL's role in it, despite the gratitude for having
accomplished what the combined pressure of the Zairian civilian opposition and the donor
countries had failed to achieve--to get rid of Mobutu.15 The UN and the EU insisted in an
independent investigation of the allegations of massacres by the AFDL; Kinshasa resisted. The
issue of the human rights investigation quickly became the main bone of contention in the
relations between the international community and the government of Kinshasa. In addition,
the Democratic Republic of Congo soon became notorious for the harassment of opposition
politicians, human rights activists, and journalists. Within weeks, the illusion of an early
improvement of the human rights situation had faded.
Developments in the political field were equally disturbing. When Kabila was sworn in as
President, he issued a decree giving him unlimited legislative and executive powers as well as
the right to nominate and sack the supreme judges.16 Rarely in contemporary history has a new
head of state so bluntly ignored the principles of separation of powers and concentrated the
main functions of state authority in his hands. The opposition parties and civil society, which
had worked towards democratic change by peaceful means for six years, found themselves the
victims of a bitter irony. By the time the former dictator, Mobutu, would have relinquished
power by natural death (he passed away in Morocco on 7 September) his successor had firmly
established himself as the supreme ruler of the "new Congo."

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Summer 2000

22 I Manahl


Another irony was soon to follow--the unwillingness or inability of President Kabila to
rally the major political forces of the country around him in order to establish a broad-based
transition regime soon made him unpopular with his former allies. Not that they were
excessively concerned about democracy, on the contrary; a genuine and rapid democratisation
process in Congo would have put more than one regime of the region into the embarrassing
position of explaining to its population and to the donors its own reluctance to engage on a
similar path. But Congo's neighbours and Kabila's allies feared regional destabilisation. Kabila's
bras defer with the internal opposition and the international community, the tensions between
various ethnic communities in the new army, and the deteriorating security situation in Eastern
Congo were observed with growing anxiety in neighboring capitals. The Banyamulenge mutiny
and the Butembo massacre in February 1998 turned out to be the precursors of a political
earthquake that was going to hit Central Africa with the outbreak of the second rebellion later
in the year.17
By the time the Congolese government proposed to hold a regional conference on
"Solidarity and Development in the Great Lakes region", in May 1998, the relations between
Kinshasa on the one side, and Kampala and Kigali on the other had already soured too much to
mend the fences. The proposals made for this conference by Kinshasa were very reasonable and
reflected many of the ideas circulating in diplomatic chancelleries in Europe as well as at the
UN, but President Museveni and Vice-President Kagame declined the invitation to the
meeting.18 The summit, which should have coincided with the first anniversary of the AFDL
victory, was called off a day before the planned opening.
Interestingly, the proposals for the conference were presented to the diplomatic missions in
Kinshasa by Foreign Minister Bizima Karaha, who was considered to have the confidence of
Kigali. One wonders whether this was an act of hypocrisy or whether Karaha, like the other
Congolese Tutsi of the new regime, decided only after the aborted summit to abandon Kabila
and, about a month later, to quit the capital.
In either case, the former allies of the Congolese President had decided to turn their back
on him long before the mutiny of the 10th battalion in Goma, on 2nd August. The Rwandan and
Ugandan concerns about a rampant deterioration of the security situation in Congo,
compromising the stability of the entire region, were shared by the Angolan Government.
Luanda was afraid that the remainders of several former armies were recruited or financed by
rebel leader Savimbi, who could try to form "a coalition of the outcasts". Indeed, a string of rebel
groups along Congo's eastern border, pockets of ex-FAR soldiers and Interahamwe in the east
and south and in several neighboring countries of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a
devastating war of attrition among the militia of Congo-Brazzaville, all added up to an
explosive mixture, with the government in Kinshasa at the political, and the Kivu Provinces at
the geographical, centre of the powder keg.19
Kigali, Kampala, and Luanda could have come to similar conclusions in the analysis of this
situation; their respective security interests did not seem to be incompatible. Why, then, did the
second Congo rebellion lead to a regional war, opposing three countries of Southern Africa to
the Rwando-Ugandan coalition, and threatening the security of practically all neighbours of the

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000

From Genocide to Regional War I 23

ailing giant of Central Africa? A combination of factors provides elements to answer this crucial
question. Among these factors are rumours that three leading Mobutist generals with
longstanding contacts with Savimbi were seen in Kigali around the time when the rebellion
started. Furthermore, the decision of Rwanda and Uganda to launch a rebellion against a recent
SADC member was taken without proper consultation of the other countries concerned.
Angola, with its aspiration to become a regional power, might have found it difficult to accept
that Museveni and Kagame play the kingmakers in Kinshasa. Zimbabwe's and Namibia's
precipitation to assist Kabila motivated probably by financial interests in Congo also put
Luanda into a delicate position. Taking the side of the rebels would have meant to accept a split
within SADC and to offer Savimbi a welcome opportunity to find new friends in the region.
The main reason, however, appeared to be the parachuting of Rwandan, Ugandan and
rebel troops at Kitona on the lower Congo river, without involving Angola. Luanda might have
remained relatively indifferent towards a Rwandan and Ugandan military campaign in eastern
Congo, where it has no direct interest, but the lower Congo region was a totally different story.
The oil-rich Cabinda enclave is vital for the economic survival of the Angolan regime, and it is
equally vital for Luanda to prevent chaos in its immediate neighbourhood, which could be
exploited by the Cabinda separatist groups, or even by Savimbi's UNITA. The situation in
Congo-Brazzaville was bad enough to tolerate a further deterioration of the security situation in
Cabinda's vicinity. Hence, Angola entered the war on Kabila's side, and the stage was set for a
regional confrontation.


The escalation sometimes described as "Africa's first World War" presents a number of
paradoxes and it has led to worrying developments with regards to the relations among
countries in the region and with the international community. The most striking paradox is
evident in the mutual accusations of the belligerents of the first hour. Kabila denounced the
aggression and the violation of his country's national sovereignty, with feigned obliviousness to
the fact that it was exactly the same type of aggression by the same countries that had brought
him to power. Rwanda and Uganda claimed the Congolese government had been unable to
ensure the security of their common borders, expecting that the international community would
forget that they had never totally withdrawn their troops from eastern Congo and that a
Rwandan officer had commanded the new Forces Armees Congolaises (FAC) precisely during the
time when the relations deteriorated.20 Finally, the international community had a certain
comprehension for Rwanda's and Uganda's security problems, but it was rather ridiculous to
make the world believe that their national borders had to be defended on the banks of the lower
Congo river.
Unlike the first Congo rebellion, this second one immediately targeted Kinshasa and
Kabila. It was an outright aggression, although it was never recognized as such by the United
Nations Security Council, which remained divided over the issue of the responsibility for the
Congo crisis. Not until the 9th of April 1999, eight months after the beginning of the war, did
the Security Council find an awkward compromise formula with the term of "uninvited forces"
(UNSC Resolution 1234/1999). At the same time, the United Nations was also reluctant to

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Summer 2000

24 I Manahl

criticise the military intervention of Kinshasa's allies, which is controversial in the light of
international law. Article 51 of the UN Charter confirms the inherent right of individual or
collective self-defence, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international
peace and security. However, Article 53 clearly states that no enforcement action shall be taken under
regional arrangements or by regional agencies without the authorisation of the Security Council.21
Consequently, the intervention of Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe to rescue Kabila appears to
be in contradiction with the UN Charter.
Ignorant of or indifferent to prevailing international law, the heads of state of SADC and
the Central African countries supported this intervention.22 SADC's endorsement would have
remained controversial had the issue not been discussed only a week before South Africa's and
Botswana's military adventure in Lesotho. President Mandela viewed the Congo intervention of
Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe with suspicion, a suspicion shared by some other SADC
countries, which feared a spill-over of the conflict into Southern Africa. But South Africa would
have been in an embarrassing position to vote against the resolution supporting the Congo
intervention and then do the same in Lesotho a few days after.23 The SADC decision was
therefore dictated by Realpolitik and an accidental coincidence between the Congo and the
Lesotho crises. This coincidence left no room for a careful assessment of the long-term interests
of all the countries concerned, let alone for a debate about the legitimacy of a regional
intervention in the light of international law.
In general, part of the problem stems from the fact that the UN Charter remains silent
about what to do if there is a stalemate in the Security Council, which prevents the United
Nations from taking the necessary measures referred to in Chapter VII of the UN Charter to
maintain or restore peace and security. Such a stalemate had not been foreseen by the founding
fathers of the United Nations, although it became the structural feature of the Security Council
during the four decades of the Cold War.
The original vision of a UN acting efficiently as the guardian of international peace and
security, as enshrined in the Charter, appeared to be materialising immediately after the fall of
the Berlin Wall, when the UN launched its first real "peace enforcement" missions according to
Chapter VII in Kuwait and Somalia. However, the failure of the latter mission to restore a
lasting peace has shaken the renewed confidence in the UN to deal with complex military and
political conflicts, although this failure can probably be attributed to the inability of a restricted
humanitarian mandate to address the broader nature of this crisis.
The reluctance of the Security Council to approve "peace enforcement" missions and to
provide them with the necessary resources--a reluctance tragically demonstrated in the
Rwandan genocide--does not remove the challenge that massive human rights violations pose
to the international community. If a global society is to be built upon basic human values, then
these values have to take precedence over national sovereignty in all parts of the world. In other
words, crimes against humanity have to justify the crossing of national borders. However, the
new rules of the game for such "crossing of borders" have yet to be established, and this is what
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan called "the dilemma of humanitarian intervention".
With the Kosovo intervention, NATO has crossed a threshold and decided that preventing
crimes against humanity justifies military action against a sovereign state, even without the blue
flag of the United Nations. This humanitarian legitimacy, as one could call it, will be difficult to

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000

From Genocide to Regional War I 25

defend, if the powers intervening in Kosovo continue to tolerate human rights violations in
other parts of the world. From a moral point of view and according to all relevant international
conventions, all human beings enjoy the same basic rights and are therefore equally entitled to
international protection. This right of protection must not be biased by economic or political
"convenience". As Kofi Annan says, in order to remain credible, the humanitarian legitimacy
has to be applied wherever there is a just cause, and where an intervention is possible.24
In Central Africa, the human rights situation is dramatic and well known-- ethnic
massacres in eastern Congo, abduction and enslavement of people in Northern Uganda and
Southern Sudan, widespread laying of landmines, denial of humanitarian assistance to people
in dire need in Angola and Congo-Brazzaville.
In spite of these extremely grave violations of human rights, the UN Security Council has
been reluctant to decide upon an intervention with an extensive mandate, although this is
explicitly called for in the Lusaka peace agreement.25 This reluctance, and the relative
indifference of the international community, may be explained by the complexity and the
immense geographical scope of the Central African crises, which would require resources
possibly beyond the capacity of those countries that could provide troops for a UN intervention.
But "letting the crisis burn out", i.e. allowing it to linger on until the belligerents reach physical
exhaustion, will eventually lead to a de facto establishment of different and ultimately racist
human rights standards. The Kosovars and the people in East Timor are entitled to international
protection against ethnic cleansing, but the peoples of Africa have to sort out their problems on
their own, whatever happens to them. This is the unpleasant aspect of the "African solutions to
African problems".
In this situation, where military leaders and warlords are making the law, old and new
concepts emerge. Considering the perspective of protracted foreign occupation of both Congos,
certain experts talk of the establishment of protectorates.26 In Somalia and Southern Sudan, the
belligerents have shown a surprising capacity to wage low-intensity civil wars with an economy
based on a permanent precarisation of the populations and the highjacking of humanitarian aid.
In Angola, a similar concept of "sustainable warfare", although based on highly valuable
resources --crude oil, diamonds--allows for an alternation of low and high intensity war. Both
result in the total destruction of infrastructure, the perennialisation of poverty, the blocking of
all development perspectives, and ultimately the systematic denial of basic human rights to
millions of people. International investors are retreating towards certain key cities or areas and
concentrate on the well-targeted exploitation of certain strategic resources, preferably offshore.
With this trend continuing, relations between Africa and the rest of the world will end up
resembling pre-colonial times--retour a I'Afrique des comptoirs.
But not only investors and diplomats are pulling out of much of Africa. The international
community as such is doing the same, taking in its baggage the basic human rights which are
supposed to be universal. What is left behind is an area where international order has ceased to
exist, because nobody is ready to uphold it when it comes under threat. If Joseph Conrad
travelled today to the interior of Congo, he would probably recognize a familiar environment.27
The Kosovo and East Timor crises have created a strong motivation for changing
international law with a view toward giving more weight to human rights and curtailing
abusive interpretations of national sovereignty. At the same time, the international community

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Summer 2000

26 I Manahl

ignores the plight of millions of people in Central Africa. Today, this region is marginalised
more than ever before in contemporary history. Not only has it become irrelevant in terms of
international trade, much of it has also slipped into lawlessness and is scourged by the
combined dismantling of international order and human rights. The OAU military observer
mission in Burundi and the UN mission to Angola (MONUA) were terminated in 1996 and 1998
respectively, at the outset of renewed escalations of violence in both countries. The planned
inquiry into allegations of massacres of Rwandan refugees in former Zaire in 1996 and 1997 was
systematically boycotted by the regime in Kinshasa;28 the human rights observer mission in
Rwanda was unilaterally cancelled by the government in Kigali in July 1998, officially because
of a lack of agreement on the future of this mission. The international community bends to the
pressure of local military leaders, and behind the frontlines of various conflicts in Southern
Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, both Congos and Angola, human rights violations with frightening
proportions are regularly reported by humanitarian agencies.
We are about to establish human rights intra muros. The industrialized countries (and their
immediate neighbourhood) on the one side, the least developed countries on the other, in the
uncontrollable suburbs of our global village. Unconsciously, the world leaders are abandoning
the fundamental principle of human rights--their universality. Human rights are universal, or
there are no human rights.


1. Ignacio Ramonet, '"' .'Ai I ordre global", in le Monde diplomatique, June 1999.
2. In the course of history, many military interventions were (partly) justified by, or more
often conducted under, the pretext of protectionist purposes. Outstanding examples are
the Crusades and the "Indian wars" that led to the westward expansion of the United
States. However, such interventions were usually aiming at the protection of one's own
kin or members of religion, not at the protection of human rights in a universal sense,
and they were often accompanied by massacres and other forms of violence that would
today be considered as massive violations of human rights.
3. "The International Response to Conflict and Genocide: Lessons from the Rwanda
Experience", published by the Steering Committee of the Joint Evaluation of Emergency
Assistance to Rwanda, Copenhagen, 1996; "Rapport de la Commission d'enquete du Senat
belge sur les evenements au Rwanda", Bruxelles 1997; "Enquete sur la tragedie rwandaise
(1990-1994)", Assemblee Nationale Franqaise, Paris 1998.
4. Front Patriotique Rwandais, the rebel movement that attacked Rwanda in October 1990
and eventually ousted the Habyarimana regime in July 1994, thus putting an end to the
5. Report of the International Commission of Inquiry [into arms trade to the ex-FAR], New
York 1996 (UN doc. S/1996/195 of 16 March 1996). Bagosora was arrested on 9 March
1996 in Cameroon and is awaiting trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for
Rwanda in Arusha.
6. The Prime Minister and the Ministers of Justice, Interior, and Information left the
Government in August 1995, accusing it of ethnic exclusion.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000

From Genocide to Regional War I 27

7. Gbadolite, called the "Versaille in the jungle", was Mobutu's lavish residence in Equator
8. See Endnote 15 below.
9. Kampala and Kigali denied or banalised for several months their intervention, but
Kagame finally admitted, in an interview published in the Washington Post of 9 July
1997, that Rwanda had planned, led, and directly fought the rebellion that toppled
10. It is interesting, in this respect, to look at the main dates of this first Congo rebellion. The
AFDL fought for five months before taking Kisangani, the major city not too far from the
eastern border (15 March 1997); once this city had fallen, the rebellion crossed the huge
country in only two months (arrival in Kinshasa on 17 May 1997).
11. This declaration consecrates the acceptance and inviolability of African national borders
that were largely established by colonial powers.
12. Four days before the rebel troops and their allies arrived in Kinshasa, Nelson Mandela
made a last-minute attempt to mediate a cease-fire in order to prevent a blood-bath in
the Zairian capital (such fears turned out to be unfounded). Mandela, accompanied by
UN and US diplomats, waited in vain on a South African vessel anchoring in the port of
Pointe Noir; Kabila did not turn up.
13. Conclusions of the Amsterdam EU summit, 16/17 June 1997.
14. The UN Rapporteur for Human Rights appointed by the Commission for Human
Rights, as well as an investigative team appointed by the UN Secretary General, were
prevented throughout the civil war and after the seizure of power by the AFDL to carry
out an independent inquiry into the allegations of massacres. The team appointed by
Kofi Annan nonetheless prepared a report drawing largely on information and
testimony from humanitarian sources. It was presented to the UN Security Council in
June 1998 (S/1998/581). The report concludes that "the massacres committed by the AFDL
and its allies during the period October 1996 to May 1997 and the denial of humanitarian
assistance to displaced Rwandan Hutus were systematic practices involving murder and
extermination, which constitute crimes against humanity."
15. From early 1992 onwards, a group of opposition parties led by the Union pour la
Democratic et le Progras Social of Etienne Tshisekedi, tried to coax the Zairian Government
into democratic reform. A Conference National Souveraine and a transitional parliament
(Haut Conseil de la Republique) were established. However, Mobutu managed to
manipulate the process to avoid concessions that would have curtailed significantly his
power. The "transition" dragged on with little progress for six years, before it was
aborted by the AFDL rebellion.
16. Decret-loi constitutionnel of 28 May 1998.
17. In mid-February 1998, a group of Banyamulenge soldiers refused to be affected to several
contingents in various regions of Congo, and left the new Congolese armed forces
(FAC). On 20 February, an inexperienced FAC contingent recently deployed to North
Kivu entered Butembo after an attack of the local Mai-Mai militia. The Mai-Mai had
already left, but the soldiers took revenge on the population considered to be complices.
NGO sources estimate that several hundred civilians were killed.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Summer 2000

28 I Manahl

18. A Conference document entitled "Sommet des Chefs d'Etat sur la solidarity et le
developpement dans la sous-region des Grands Lacs" was given to diplomatic mission at the
beginning of May 1998.
19. e.g. Gerard Prunier, "Une poudriere au coeur du Congo-Kinshasa", in Le Monde Diplomatique,
July 1998.
20. James Kabare (or Kabarehe, as his name is sometimes spelled), became (interim) chief-
of-staff of the new army after the arrest of Masasu Nindaga, one of the four founding
fathers of AFDL, in November 1997. Kabare was only replaced by Celestin Kifwa on 13
July 1998, three weeks before the outbreak of the second rebellion.
21. The following wording in Article 53 that provides for an exception to this rule with
regards to any state which during the Second World War has been an enemy of any of the
signatory of the present Charter (i.e. Nazi Germany and its allies) is today outdated. In any
case, no interpretation of this article would make this exception applicable to any of the
countries intervening in Congo.
22. Summits of Mauritius and Libreville, on 13/14 and 24 September respectively.
23. On 22 September, security forces from South Africa and Botswana entered Lesotho upon
request of its President who had lost control over the country after civilian unrest and an
army mutiny.
24. Kofi Annan, "Deux concepts de la souverainete", Le Monde, 22 September 1999.
25. The Lusaka cease-fire agreement was signed on 10 July 1999 by the belligerent states
militarily involved in the Congo war, and by the two rebel movements at the end of July
and August respectively. It calls upon the UN to dismantle a series of "non-statutory
forces" including the ex-FAR/Interahamwe and UNITA.
26. Mwayila Tshiyembe, in a presentation at a colloquium of the Mario Soares Foundation on
the Great Lakes region and Southern Africa, Porto, 21-23 May 1999.
27. Joseph Conrad was the author of the famous novel Heart of Darkness, which describes the
travel of a young man into the interior of the Colonial Congo, where he discovers the
inhuman world of merciless colonial agents, hostile tribal warriors, and greedy ivory
28. See endnote 14. After the outbreak of the second Congo rebellion, the government in
Kinshasa invited the UN investigators back to the country; although this looks pretty
much as a political manoeuver, it would be worthwhile to launch this inquiry now and
to make an attempt to end impunity in the region.

Reference Style: The following is the suggested format for referencing this article:
Manahal, C. R. 2000. From Genocide to Regional War: The Breakdown of International Order in
Central Africa. 4(1): 1. [online] URL: http://web.africa.ufl.edu/asq/v4/v4ila2.htm

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000

African Culture and Personality: A Reply to D. A. Masolo


I read with great interest Professor D. A. Masolo's response to my article on African culture
and personality (see Masolo 1999 and Lassiter 1999).1 I fully welcome comment and criticism on
the issues raised in my paper and am happy that scholars such as Masolo are responding.
I believe that the issues raised in my paper are very important for the future of African
studies and culture and personality inquiry in the social sciences. Therefore, given the nature of
Masolo's comments, I believe a full and detailed reply is called for. Let me begin by briefly
summarizing my paper's main themes which were unfortunately either misrepresented or
ignored by Masolo:
African scholars outside the social sciences continue to identify and analyze what they
believe are broad psychological and cultural patterns and processes in sub-Saharan Africa. They
do so despite the lack of interest in or support for such lines of scholarly inquiry within the
social sciences.
Although the African scholars' use of social science terminology and concepts is sometimes
questionable and their opinions and propositions are not always tied to historical and
ethnographic data, most of their insights and arguments are well reasoned and compelling.
As such, the African scholars' insights and arguments cited should be studied by African
and non-African social scientists. Social scientists should support and join non-social scientist
African scholars in pursuit of the broader psychological and cultural patterns and processes in
Africa. They should conduct investigations to see if assertions such as those I cite are supported
by the historical and ethnographic record, and conduct new research on the continent to test
such claims and develop new areas of inquiry.
It is hoped that social scientists and non-social scientists, Africans and non-Africans, will
make significant contributions to the identification and elimination of recurring psychological
and cultural patterns and processes that form barriers to community, national, and regional
development in Africa.
Having studied in detail Masolo's African Philosophy in Search of Identity (1995), I was
surprised by the sketchy and defensive note Masolo submitted as a comment on my paper. I
fully expected a philosopher with his experience and academic stature to fully address the key
issues raised in my paper. Regrettably, he chose to comment on the paper cursorily, declared it
an attack on African scholarship, misunderstood and misrepresented my writing, and ignored
James E Lassiter is currently a Senior Refugee Program Manager in the U.S. Department of Justice, Immigration and
Naturalization Service (INS), Office of International Affairs in Washington, D.C. He was trained in anthropology and
African Studies at the University of Oregon (M.S., 1975; Ph.D., 1983) and has published in his area of expertise. In
addition to conducting anthropological research in Swaziland from 1980-83, he served as a Peace Corps administrator
in Tanzania and Ghana and as a Senior Desk Officer at the U.S.
Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya.


University of Florida Board of Trustees, a public corporation of the State of Florida; permission is hereby granted for individuals
to download articles for their own personal use. Published by the Center for African Studies, University of Florida.
ISSN: 2152-2448

30 I Lassiter

the key issues and my suggestions for further research along the lines suggested by the African
scholars I survey. Suffice it to say, the significance of my paper has little or nothing to do with
me, as Masolo's title tries to indicate. My paper's value derives from the purported patterns and
processes of African psychological and cultural adaptation it reveals, and its recommendation
that scholars from all relevant disciplines address these subjects for the sake of furthering
knowledge and finding solutions to Africa's problems.
My main objective in this reply is to refocus attention on the crucial issues the African
scholars persuasively raise, and the implication these issues have for Africa and ethnology. I
will do so by addressing the major misunderstandings and misrepresentations of my paper as
found in Masolo's critique.
First, Masolo claims I argue that the "pollution of the social sciences in African studies is
occurring mainly as a result of the freelance attitude and practice (of) African scholars". Further,
he asserts that I believe African scholars' writing on social science topics are "devastating to the
integrity and growth of a tradition of scientific and respectable African social studies". The "old
ethnology" of culture and personality died for good reason in the 1970s not at the hands of
African scholars; rather it succumbed from its abandonment by social scientists themselves.
Currently, other than ongoing studies of ethnicity and identity, there really is no recognizable
social science study of the broader aspects of culture and personality for African scholars or
anyone else to pollute, devastate or otherwise influence. In my paper, rather than condemn I,
overall, commend the efforts of African scholars for sustaining intellectual inquiry into such
topics. Most importantly I praise the scholars for identifying and seriously exploring broad
psychological and cultural patterns and processes they believe exist in Africa, without resorting
to the stereotyping and useless modernity quantifiers of the past.
My call for social scientists to join African scholars outside the social sciences in this effort
is a tribute to the persistence and insight of the African scholars. Social scientists are not being
called upon to get the Africans on the right track or right a wrong done by them. I seek to have
social scientists join in the pursuit of what appear to the African scholars surveyed and to me to
be extremely fruitful lines of psychological and cultural inquiry in Africa.
Second, Masolo asserts that the selection I made of a "handful of works by scholars in East
and South Africa" was made to support a "demonstration of the extent of this devastation (of
African social studies)". Masolo also writes that my sample contains "particularly weak and
clearly problematic publications by Africans" and that I discuss the issues the authors raise
"widely out of context". My sample includes more than a handful of the writings of a diversity
of imminent scholars from East, Southern and West Africa. It includes, for example, works by
Ali Mazrui (Mazrui and Mazrui 1995), Augustine Shutte (1993) and Kwame Gyekye (1988 and
1996), respectively. The works of the scholars sampled, despite occasional social scientific
methodological shortcomings, were put forward as examples of innovative analysis, compelling
argument and leadership in a long-neglected area of inquiry that I believe social scientists
should no longer ignore.
Masolo also claims that I am a proponent of the "noble rules and methods of ethnographic
studies set in place by Western cultural and social anthropologists". Accusations of nobility in
anthropology aside, if anything I make it clear that I am disappointed in the lack of interest in
the social sciences in the study of the broader aspects of culture and personality. The subtitle

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000

African Culture and Personality: A Reply to D. A. Masolo I 31

and content of my paper, in fact, call for social scientists, African and non-African, to reinvent
ethnology by expanding its theoretical focus and methodology to encompass such studies as
those I laboriously cited from the African scholars surveyed. This misrepresentation by Masolo
is made worse by his misunderstanding of my comment-"such inquiry (becomes) no more than
unscientific stereotyping, usually with malevolent intent and effect" (Lassiter 1999:2)--which he
believes I wrote to refer to the African scholars cited. Here, and in using the term 'bad social
science" in my title, I refer to the works of Western social scientists of the 1950s and 1960s, not
African scholars such as Thairu, Nyasani, and the others.
Finally, regarding the sample, Masolo writes that I "hide behind a wide but unused list of
reference texts". Quoting from my paper's fifth endnote, I thoroughly reviewed a wide range of
texts written by African scholars and chose to omit many from my paper 'because they make
little or no reference to pan-African culture and personality traits or patterns and processes of
African cultural adaptation" (Lassiter 1999:13). I omitted these texts because they focus either
on philosophy in the strictest sense of the term or social, economic and political development
issues in Africa, yet give no attention to the broad or general patterns and processes of cultural
and psychocultural adaptation on the continent.2
Third, Masolo claims that I conveniently leave out of my discussion a much wider tradition
of literature, namely, the ethnophilosophical, Afrocentric and Pan-Africanist movements. To
have ventured into the literature on these movements as Masolo believes I should would have
taken me far from the main points I was trying to make. Masolo also writes that I fail to "take
note of recent advances in anthropological discourse." Again, in my endnotes I "deferred for the
time being trying to place my findings within the contemporary intellectual context that
includes non-African scholars writing on African ethnicity and identity" ibidd).
He further asserts that I failed to "read Nyasani's (1996) text (The African Psyche) at least
partly in relation to the rest of the history of African professional philosophy". A careful reading
of Nyasani's book shows that he did not write it as philosophy, per se. In fact, except for his
introductory chapters on elementary philosophy, Nyasani made virtually no effort to place his
subsequent writing in the historical context of philosophy. Nyasani's main point was to
illuminate broad patterns of African psychological and cultural adaptation to indigenous social
influences and external cultural interference. His book in essence is a wake up call to Africans to
take note of what he sees as negative psychological and cultural adaptive patterns and
processes on the continent, and to apply the knowledge gained toward realizing a more positive
and productive socioeconomic future for Africa.
Fourth, Masolo describes the work of Nyasani and others I reviewed as "particularly weak
and clearly problematic." I believe this is a mistake. Though it was Nyasani's use of social
science terminology I objected to most among all the scholars surveyed, it was, nevertheless, his
analysis of the impact of indigenous African social organization and non-African cultural
influence on Africa during the colonial period and after that I found most persuasive of all the
writers surveyed, with the possible exception of Gyekye (1988 and 1996). Despite its flaws,
Nyasani's work should be regarded as ground breaking, not weak and problematic. It is
significant as a contribution to the study of African psychological and cultural adaptation, and
as an innovative and plausible way of understanding many national and sociocultural problems
in Africa's post-colonial history.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 2 I Summer 2000

32 I Lassiter

Fifth, Masolo surprisingly asserts that I might believe "(African) scholars lack the
legitimacy to talk of who they think, imagine, or believe they are, or what their beliefs and
practices are or should be". By implication, I believe Masolo is referring to the long-standing yet
erroneous argument that only social scientists can speak objectively about the psychology and
culture of their subjects, because their subjects are ill-equipped intellectually or are too
subjectively immersed in their culture to do so. I do not question anyone's ability to legitimately
and credibly speak or write about their own ethnicity, and there is nothing in my paper that
suggests that I do.
Finally, Masolo writes that I take a "swipe" at Ali Mazrui (Mazrui and Mazrui 1995)
concerning his use of the terms "East African mind" and "African Personality". Neither do I
write from an "ignorance of the historical genealogy of that term and others", nor do I suffer
from a "serious misreading of the intent and context" of the Mazruis' text. In my paper (Lassiter
1999:11) I cite Mazrui and Mazrui's purported link between the spread of Kiswahili and ethnic
behavior and loyalty in East Africa as one of four primary areas I think are of extreme
importance and of greatest need of further examination. Surely I am complimenting and
showing appreciation for their lead, not taking a swipe at the Mazruis.
I have gone to much greater length than I wanted in this reply. However, I felt it was
necessary due to the significant number of misunderstandings displayed and
misrepresentations committed by Masolo. The tone and snide remarks found throughout his
comment show that Masolo seeks to portray me as an unqualified, insensitive amateur
meddling in areas I know little and care less about Africans and their philosophy, psychology
and culture. He tries to depict me as what he regards to be the typical Western social scientist,
one with a superior attitude toward non-social science African scholarship. Note his remark:
"One hopes here that Lassiter is not suggesting that these scholars lack the legitimacy to talk of
who they think, imagine, or believe they are, or what their beliefs and practices are or should
be." His sarcastic comment about the "noble rules and methods of ethnographic studies set in
place by Western cultural and social anthropologists" is also noteworthy in this regard. Finally,
his attack becomes personal and unprofessional when he accuses me of attempting to "hide
behind a wide but unused list of reference texts". Regrettably, it appears that Masolo's comment
is an attempt to stifle discussion on the issues addressed in my paper by focusing attention on
I regard my paper to be a seminal effort calling for a revitalization of social science inquiry
into the broader patterns of African psychological and cultural adaptation. This call for an
expanded approach to the study of culture has been of interest to me for over twenty years as
shown in my professional publications and presentations. See Lassiter 1979, 1980a, 1980b, 1983a,
1983b, 1990 and 2000. Despite Masolo's opinion to the contrary, I believe my Africa-focused
education and experience are sufficient qualifications to explore the matters addressed in my
paper, and perhaps contribute to the theoretical and methodological shift in anthropology and
the social sciences I am calling for. This experience includes three and a half years service as a
Peace Corps Volunteer in rural Swaziland (1980-83), and five and a half years as Peace Corps
Country Director in Tanzania and Ghana (1985-91). Also, as Assistant Immigration Attach6 at
the U. S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya from 1996-98 and a survivor of the August 7, 1998
bombing, I traveled extensively throughout rural and urban Africa to interview thousands of

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000

African Culture and Personality: A Reply to D. A. Masolo I 33

UNHCR-referred refugees regarding their detailed persecution claims and applications for
resettlement in the U.S.
Upon further reflection, the strength of Masolo's reaction to my paper reminds me of what
my late father-in-law, the imminent Ugandan education administrator Mzee Lawrence
Mukhama Kiondo, once told me. When I asked him early in my research if he thought I was
playing with dynamite in addressing the topics found in my paper he said, true to his
characteristic wit and humor: "No, not really. There is no particular problem in handling
dynamite, as long as you keep it pointed in the right direction!"
Regrettably, Masolo seems to think that the targets of my figurative dynamite are the
African scholars I survey, including him. That I should not be or am unfairly or disrespectfully
criticizing African scholars. The fact is, despite my selective criticism of their methodology, I am
not only respectful of the scholars, I am overall very much impressed, motivated, and
encouraged by their work, especially their overall handling of these complex topics. I also fully
agree with the scholars that these are matters of profound importance to Africa's future.
It is at my own discipline anthropology (especially ethnology) and the social sciences in
general, not African scholars, that I am "aiming". I do so in the hope of encouraging my
colleagues to take up a reinvented, more objective and useful study of the broader patterns and
processes of African psychological and cultural adaptation, as suggested by the African scholars
I survey.
As I state in my article's conclusion, "anthropology should not allow itself to be influenced
by or become the exclusive domain of popular Western culture, political correctness, or social
and political activism. Anthropology, and ethnology in particular, should freely pursue a full
range of understandings of culture, specific cultures and their similarities and differences, the
processes of regional and global cultural adaptation, and how such knowledge can improve
human living conditions" (Lassiter 1999:12). In the future, thanks in no small part to Masolo's
critique and Mzee Kiondo's advice, I will be more careful in the handling and aiming of
scholarly dynamite!
Again, I am happy Professor Masolo submitted his comment. I hope he and I are able to
continue this dialog on African matters of utmost importance and mutual interest. I also
continue to fully welcome all reactions to my paper via the African Studies Quarterly and other
journals, or at my e-mail address: Majahonkhe@yahoo.com.


Appiah, Kwame Anthony. 1992. In my Father's House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture. New
York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gyekye, Kwame. 1988. The Unexamined life: Philosophy and the African experience. Accra: Ghana
Universities Press.

------------. 1995. An Essay on African Philosophical Thought: The Akan Conceptual Scheme. Revised
Edition. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 2 I Summer 2000

34 I Lassiter

------------. 1996. African Cultural Values: An Introduction. Philadelphia and Accra: Sankofa
Publishing Company.

------------. 1997. Tradition and Modernity: Philosophical Reflections on the African Experience. New
York: Oxford University Press.

Lassiter, James E. 1979. "Meta-anthropology, normative culture and the anthropology of
development," a paper read at the 1979 Annual Meeting of the Northwest Anthropological
Conference, Eugene, Oregon, March 23, 1979.

------------. 1980a. "Perspectives on worldwide development and the role of social scientists,"
awarded the Luther S. Cressman Prize for Outstanding Anthropology Graduate Student Paper
1980, University of Oregon, Eugene, 68 pages.

------------. 1980b. "The relevance of sociocultural theory for practicing anthropology," Practicing
Anthropology, 1980, Volume 2(4):9, 23-25.

------------. 1983a. Culture and personality aspects of socioeconomic development in Swaziland:
An analysis of student attitudes and values. Doctoral dissertation, Department of
Anthropology, University of Oregon.

------------. 1983b. "Participant observation in the Peace Corps," Practicing Anthropology, 1983,
Volume 5(2):11.

------------. 1990. "The United States Peace Corps and social development in Africa," a paper read
by invitation at the Department of Sociology, University of Ghana Legon, Accra, April 27,

------------. 2000. "African culture and personality: Bad social science, effective social activism or a
call to reinvent ethnology?", African Studies Quarterly: The Online Journal of African Studies,
Volume 3, Issue 3. URL: http://web.africa.ufl.edu/asq/v3/v3i2al.htm

Masolo, D. A. 1995. African Philosophy in Search of Identity. Nairobi: East African Publishers.

------------. 2000. "African Culture and Personality: A Comment on James E. Lassiter", African
Studies Quarterly: The Online Journal of African Studies, Volume 3, Issue 3. URL:

Mazrui, Ali A. and Alamin M. Mazrui. 1995. Swahili State and Society: The Political Economy of an
African Language. Nairobi: East African Educational Publishers.

Mudimbe, V. Y. 1988. The Invention of Africa. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000

African Culture and Personality: A Reply to D. A. Masolo I 35

------------. 1994. The Idea of Africa. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.

Nyasani, J. M. 1997. The African Psyche. Nairobi: University of Nairobi and Theological Printing
Press Ltd.

Shutte, Augustine. 1993. Philosophy for Africa. Rodenbosch: University of Cape Town Press.


1. The opinions and conclusions expressed in this reply are solely those of the author. They
in no way reflect or otherwise represent the policies or official positions of the United
States Immigration and Naturalization Service or any other U. S. Government entity.
2. A brief note: Since returning from Africa, I have been able to acquire and study in depth
additional works by Appiah (1992), Gyekye (1995 and 1997), Mudimbe (1988 and 1994)
and others. Contrary to Masolo's assertion, these works were not readily available
during my refugee processing travel and concurrent research on the paper in Africa. For
the most part, I am finding that these outstanding works, which I will treat in future
articles, lend further support to the main points in my paper, specifically, that the works
of non-social science African scholars on African culture and personality are extremely
valuable and their arguments compelling. And that the authors of such works should be
joined by social scientists in conducting further studies in these areas.

Reference Style: The following is the suggested format for referencing this article:
Lassiter, J. E. 2000. African Culture and Personality: A Response to Masolo. 4(1): 1. [online]
URL: http://web.africa.ufl.edu/asq/v4/v4ila3.htm

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 2 I Summer 2000

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000


and Beatrice Hibou. Oxford, Bloomington & Indianapolis: James Currey & Indiana
University Press, 1999. 126 pp. cloth $ 39.95. paper $ 18.95.

The study of corruption and various forms of criminal activities in Africa is not new. Since
the early days of independence, the subject of criminology (including corruption, smuggling,
the plundering of national resources, kleptomania, money laundering, etc.) has been the focus
of fierce debates in many academic circles. As many sought to provide a comprehensive
explanation for the origin and operation of various forms of infractions in Africa, explanations
tended to remain as controversial as they were doctrinaire. At the end of the twentieth-century,
these problems have been magnified, transcending national territorial boundaries and assuming
an international dimension.
Consequently, the study of various criminal activities in Africa has shifted from analyzing
the individuals' roles to group responsibility. Thus, the subject has been approached and
observed from various dimensions. Jean-Francois Bayart, for instance, gave a fascinating
account of group responsibility for this problem in his 1989 book, L'Etat en Afrique: La politique
du venture [The State in Africa: Politics of the Belly].
In The Criminalization of the State in Africa, Jean-Francois Bayart, Stephen Ellis, and Beatrice
Hibou expand the study of corruption to include the most recent incidents of state-supported
criminal activities in Africa. Whereas many studies on corruption in Africa often reveal
individual responsibilities, these scholars include the role played by the state in aiding and
abetting corrupt practices. It is this process that they call the "criminalization" of the state.
The Criminalization of the State in Africa chronicles in fascinating detail the totality of state-
supported criminal activities. The book analyzes the impact of criminal activities on African
nations. It examines the future of public life in Africa, and reveals how African states have
become vehicles for organized crimes. It addresses the manner in which African states, through
criminal means, cover up the corrupt practices of those in power. The book exposes the linkages
between government and institutionalized fraud: smuggling, the plundering of natural
resources, the growth of private armies, the privatization of state institutions, and the
development of "economies of plunder." The result is an incisive and authoritative exposure of
Africa's entanglement in a web of internal and international crimes. More innovative than
anything else is the analysis of the internationalization of crime in Africa from two fronts. First,
the study deals with criminal activities initiated in Africa by corporate officials, employees of
parastatal organizations, and government officials at both the national and continental levels.
Secondly, the book examines Africa's role in the internationalization of certain criminal
activities involving non-Africans, but supported by African entrepreneurs and policy-makers.


University of Florida Board of Trustees, a public corporation of the State of Florida; permission is hereby granted for individuals
to download articles for their own personal use. Published by the Center for African Studies, University of Florida.
ISSN: 2152-2448


Although originally written in French, the book's scope is not limited to francophone
Africa. It dwells on the involvement of all African nation-states, south of the Sahara, in the
international drug trafficking, money-laundering, currency counterfeiting, credit card fraud,
conversion of cash of dubious origin into legal goods, and theft of international food aid, just to
mention a few. Throughout the book, the authors contend that "politics in Africa is becoming
markedly interconnected with crime" (p. 25). They examined six main indicators of the
criminalization of African politics (pp. 25-26) and, interestingly, conclude that "only Equatorial
Guinea, the Comoros and Seychelles could be correctly classified as criminal states at the
moment." The majority of other African states, write the authors, exhibit classical symptoms of
what Bayart calls "la politique du venture a Cameroonian popular adage that means [loosely
translated], a goat eats where it is littered.
On the whole, the book is a beautifully conceived, richly textured work. Powerful,
intriguing, and essentially transcending national territorial boundaries, it offers an important
analysis of state-supported corrupt practices in contemporary Africa. The authors might have
further explored the varied levels of democratization in specific African nations, and discussed
how the leadership of those nations either promoted or discouraged state-supported
criminality. Such an exercise would likely reveal the emergence of a "moi je m'enfou"
(colloquially translated as "I don't give a damn") attitude among some African leaders. It is this
"moi je m'enfou" attitude, resulting from the gross lack of accountability in the performance of
government duties, that weakened rigid press censorship imposed by totalitarian governments
and now gives a false sense of democratization. Regardless, each chapter pulls the reader deep
into the innermost circles of corruption, kleptomania, criminal actions by governments in
power, and the resultant destitution of independent Africa.

Fuabeh P. Fonge
Department of History
North Carolina A&T State University

Agencies in Foreign Aid: Comparing China, Sweden, and the United States in Tanzania.
Goran Hyden and Rwekaza Mukandala (eds.). New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999. 256 pp.
Cloth: $ 69.95.

Foreign aid researchers have endured a frustrating decade since the Cold War. It was
widely expected in the early 1990s that the many problems associated with foreign aid,
particularly its manipulation by donors and recipients in the East-West ideological struggle,
would give way to a new era of "sustainable development." Unfortunately, the aid regime
confronted a new set of obstacles during the decade: widespread cynicism and resentment
stemming from the Cold War experience, cutbacks in aid budgets among most OECD donors,
and regional economic crises that shifted attention from development aid to damage control,
largely in the form of massive IMF bailouts. At the same time, neo-liberal calls for private
investments to replace government transfers fueled the backlash against aid while only
selectively bringing foreign capital into the world's poorest economies.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000


Among other lessons of the 1990s, the need for effective development aid was again made
clear in areas that could not attract large-scale private investment. This included much of sub-
Saharan Africa, which was still reeling from the "lost decade of development" in the 1980s. As
many African governments struggled to implement democratic reforms, along with market-
driven economic reforms recommended by the OECD and other international organizations, the
reduced aid flows hampered their efforts to lay the groundwork for long-term development.
Education programs went unfunded, technical assistance to farmers was cut back,
environmental reforms were delayed or canceled, and steps to reduce population growth fell
victim to religious debates among donors and within some recipient governments.
Into this morass comes the informative, if not uplifting, edited volume by Goran Hyden
and Rwekaza Mukandala, Agencies in Foreign Aid: Comparing China, Sweden, and the United States
in Tanzania (New York: St. Martin's, 1999). Their comparative case study brings well-deserved
attention to Tanzania, the "darling" of aid donors during the Cold War whose government
somehow managed to attract large-scale aid from such diverse sources as the communist
government of China, the kingdom of Sweden, and the hotbed of global capitalism based in
This volume succeeds in several ways. First, its focus on Tanzania is justified for the
reasons already noted. Second, the cross-national approach offers a wide variety of lessons for
all members of the current aid regime, including donors and recipients. Scrutiny of the Chinese
program is especially illuminating given the lack of attention previously paid to China as an aid
donor. Third, the longitudinal coverage allows readers to assess the successes and more
common failures of aid programs to Tanzania during an extended period (1965-1995). Finally,
the volume goes beyond the "macro" level of aid as a foreign-policy instrument and explores the
role of government agencies in devising and implementing aid programs. This is particularly
helpful because, as we learn in reading the six chapters, these agencies often played a crucial
independent role in determining the shape and outcome of aid projects.
The case study on U.S. development aid to Tanzania most aptly makes this point. Stephen
L. Snook examines the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID) and finds that the
agency's work in Tanzania often departed from the government's general foreign policy goals,
which were based on the realism of the Cold War. "Much altruism came from within," notes
Snook (p. 107). The AID mission throughout this period was "replete with expressions of
humanitarian concerns. AID's officials and the private contractors and consultants who work
for the agency do not appear to be driven by narrow self-interest."
The point here is not to exonerate the U.S. government, whose aid program frequently
rewarded military dictators at the expense of development. Snook instead illustrates the book's
central thesis that aid agencies serve not merely as conduits of aid, but as vital instruments of
aid policy development and delivery. A similar lesson is advanced by Ole Elgstrom, who
describes how the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) enjoyed
"considerable freedom of manoeuvre" (p. 122) and frequently changed direction in
administering aid to Tanzania. Specifically, SIDA's early emphasis on solidarity with social
democracies yielded in the 1990s to concerns for efficiency and market reforms that had become
central to IMF, World Bank, and OECD officials. In this respect SIDA moved from the
"solidarity trap," as outlined earlier by Hyden and Mukandala, to the "coordination trap." In
neither case, however, was the success of SIDA-funded projects adequately safeguarded.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000


The Chinese case provides a less convincing example of bureaucratic autonomy. According
to Ai Ping, China's government initially viewed development aid as a vehicle for exporting its
program of "proletarian internationalism" (p. 158). In the 1980s and 1990s, however, Chinese aid
to Tanzania, as elsewhere, became infused with enhancing its own economic self-interests and
integrating the PRC into the "donor community." The evidence put forward in this case
suggests a more determinant role by Chinese government officials, and less flexibility for the
agencies involved with delivering the aid to Tanzania. But again, the results for development
were disappointing. "By first and foremost transplanting its own experience from home,
Chinese aid did not have much incentive to develop a full understanding of Africa's social
formation and economic characteristics" (p. 200).
In the concluding chapter Hyden is joined by Kenneth Mease, a colleague at the University
of Florida. They review the diverse experience of the three donors and argue again for the
central role of aid agencies as "front-line organizations" in the struggle for Tanzanian economic
and political development. Taken together, the case studies reveal the agencies to be "part not
so much of the solution as the problem" (p. 228) either by falling into the two traps noted above,
or by succumbing to the "accountability" and "insularity" traps outlined in the introductory
chapter. Hyden and Mease conclude that not all of the blame for Tanzania's poor economic
performance should be directed toward the donors. Tanzania's government routinely failed to
make use of the massive inflows of aid that came from almost every developed country during
the three decades under review.
Taken together, this important volume sheds much-needed light on one of the world's most
complex networks of aid delivery. Although instructive, the depiction of foreign aid to
Tanzania as a "tainted enterprise" (p. 232) may only add to the cynicism that provoked rampant
withdrawals of aid from sub-Saharan Africa in the 1990s. In the years to come, one hopes that
temptations to let the Africans "fend for themselves" are overcome by leading members of the
aid regime. The humanitarian disasters that have plagued Africa in recent years--from Somalia
and Sudan across central Africa to Nigeria and Liberia-make it painfully clear that the world's
affluent states can and must seek a more constructive role in this embattled region.

Steven Hook
Department of Political Science
Kent State University

Globalisation, Human Security and the African Experience. Caroline Thomas and Peter
Wilkin (eds.). Boulder: Lynne Reinner Publications, 1999. 211pp. Cloth $49.95.

This book aims to explore "security from a human perspective" (as opposed to the more
orthodox state perspective) and "to illustrate this perspective by drawing on case material from
sub-Saharan Africa" with the objective to help generate "an alternative debate and
understanding of security in a global economy" (p.1). The human security perspective (HSP) is
put forward as emanicipatory, focusing on the household (as opposed to the neo-liberal
individual) and collectivity (rather than individual market choice). It centres on both basic

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000


survival needs and liberation from oppressive structures as necessary for human security (p.3).
Broadly speaking this approach is designed to "encompass non-conventional concerns such as
ecology, human rights, and social capital" (p.127).
The book is divided into two main sections. The first part deals with the concept of security
and globalisation. The second part demonstrates the human security experience of specific
African societies. These case studies make a grim but informative reading if human security is
to be positively effected. In the introductory chapter, Caroline Thomas highlights how
globalisation affects human security by compounding inequities of power and resources. In the
process "power is located in global social formations and expressed through global networks
rather than through territorially based states"(p.2).
Africa's plight is complicated by a variety of factors which "have served to undermine the
possibility of legitimate states developing around an inclusive politics." The conventional state-
centric security approach did not help. For one, the assumption of state as a provider of security
rather than a source of citizen insecurity was misplaced. Indeed states happened to be
instruments that destroy the security of populations.
In conceptualising the alternative approaches, Peter Wilkins offers a critique to orthodox
security by questioning the past assumptions about the relationship between security and state
in international relations. He also explains why Africa is chosen as an object for such a debate. It
is because Africa "stands as the most marginalised continent in geopolitical terms in orthodox
international relations and represents perhaps the most dramatic area of concern for those
focusing on human security" (p.23).
In Chapter Three, J. Ann Tickner discusses gender, globalisation and human security.
Though the approach is broad to confirm a global, modern feminist perspective, the author
correctly points out that women in Africa, as elsewhere, "face multiple oppressions" (p.49). In
Chapter Four, Jan Aart Scholte deals with the crucial but insufficiently addressed aspects and
effects of globalisation on communities. Aswini Rays deals with the topic of justice and security
in Chapter Five. The author is optimistic that at this age of globalisation, a wider consensus
might emerge in the form of democratised UN, reinforced human rights, regional development
and support with "the NGOs monitoring the process" (p.97). Yet it remains to be seen if any of
these elements are new and how far non-governmental organizations could avoid the problems
associated with their governmental counterparts.
In the second section of case studies, Ann Guest argues that the governments of Senegal
and Mauritania did not seriously consider the human security of the adjoining valley
populations (p.105). The study reveals the interconnections, the pressures and influences of the
local and the global, the displacement and violence, as well as the partisan attention of the states
towards their ethnic in the apportionment of "economic goods in the state" (p.116). Guest is of
the view that while the said governments had the chance to listen to their citizens they chose
not to, and therefore posed a more immediate challenge to the population of these valleys than
any global forces.
Michel Chossudovsky's brief analysis dwells on the case of Rwanda, arguing that economic
liberalisation is contributing directly to anarchy and civil war. Chossudovsky argues that
"Rwanda's plight highlights the malign impact of neoliberal policies on the current world order
in stark and brutal fashion" (p.118). He relates the colonial legacy and the impact of neo-liberal
donor policies on the economic structure and social fabric. The author counters the widely held

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000


belief that blames "deep-seated tribal hatred" for genocide. In fact such a belief "exonerates the
great powers and the donors" while distorting the "exceedingly complex process of economic,
social, and political disintegration affecting an entire state of more than seven million people"
Writing on the Horn of Africa, Mohamed Salih argues that the state can be the source of
citizen insecurity. He notes with dismay that the end of the Cold War in the Horn of Africa did
not lead to prosperity "as the result of reduced military expenditure" and the end of super
power rivalry. In other words, globalisation and interdependence did not bring desired political
stability of decreasing the utility of force (p.128). Indeed state actions led to more human
insecurity, human rights abuse, and absence of democracy and general political discontent.
Salih further opines that the end of bipolarity created new forms of polarisation along ethnic,
religious, and economic ones. Thus, the deterioration of human security is one of the major
drawbacks of the New World order (p.139). He rightly concludes that the end of the Cold War
failed to induce significant changes in the Horn of Africa or to improve the mutual security of
states and citizens (or subjects) causing "real struggles and wars fought by the dispossessed, the
displaced, the hungry, and the victims of human rights abuses" (pp. 142-43).
Moving to West Africa, Max Sesay details the historical, social and political factors at work
in Sierra Leone and Liberia. In both countries, economic decline and state collapse were
exacerbated by global capital accumulation (with enclave mono-economies exacerbated by debt
accumulation and external intervention). The eventual civil war and state collapse instituted the
gravest form of human insecurity in both countries.
Ali Mazrui offers a final touch to the topic of African security in the nineties as he
described the African condition in the eighties. He is of the opinion that the place of states and
races has shrunk. This assertion seems superficial but in a stylistic Mazurian way he keeps on
asking more questions and, in the process, invites the aspirants to jump on the answers. The
problem is that the questions are simpler than the answers. What to do with Bismarck's legacy?
Why states collapse? Can the UN do better? How can human security advocates turn their
attention to where their mouth is, as opposed to the Orthodox preoccupation with militaristic
national security, balance of power, and terror?
True, Africa needs alternative solutions. But what alternatives? Regional integration,
recolonisation or self-colonisation? African pax-Africana? Five African states-cum-big brothers
"who would oversee the continent?" The employment of an associated "African commissioner
for refugees linked to UN high Commission" etc. (pp.166-7)? The trouble with seemingly
limitless choices is that most of these were tried at different times but failed. The author is
definitely concerned with human security in Africa, but the mixture of his approaches weigh
more heavily towards the orthodox conception of state security than the remainder of the book.
All considered, the book demonstrates that neither market nor state "has attended
adequately to the human security of Africans" (p.179). Moreover the case studies bring to
attention the impact of the policies and actions of the World Bank, IMF, the former colonial
powers, regional governmental co-operation arrangements, etc. The gap in human security
needs is projected to be filled by "micro-communities" at the village level supported by global
political activism drawing from the pool of gender, environmental, and human rights concerns.
The analysis in the book calls for a new agenda, with new aims, new methods and results. There
is also a demand for fair trade, instead of free trade for African human security (p.181).

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000


In sum the book is readable and a timely contribution on human security, democracy, both
globally and in Africa. It comes at a time when much of the promises of the end of the Cold War
and the fervour of globalisation have but reinforced generalised misery and uncertainty in

Seyoum Hameso
Thames Valley University
United Kingdom

People Are Not the Same: Leprosy and Identity in Twentieth-Century Mali. Eric Silla.
Portsmouth: Heinemann, 1998. 220 pp. Paper: $26.00.

People Are Not the Same is an excellent examination of the social and political experience of
leprosy patients (Hansen's disease) in colonial and post-colonial Mali. Eric Silla's book is based
on an extraordinary variety of oral and written evidence. The author conducted extensive
interviews with "lepers," indigenous healers, African and European doctors and nurses, and
missionaries. He also examined French colonial archives in Mali, Senegal, and France; Catholic
missionary records in Rome; and selected Arabic manuscripts drawn primarily from the famous
collection at the Centre de Documentation et de Recherche Ahmad Baba in Timbuktu. Silla
synthesizes this rich variety of sources into a very readable and engaging account of the social,
political, and medical history of leprosy during an extremely dynamic period of regional and
global change.
Silla sets for his book the difficult task of examining both the patient's personal experience
of leprosy as well as the broad political, administrative and medical histories that affected those
personal experiences. He succeeds in this task and even reveals much about how individual
lepers and leper organizations were able to influence government policies towards them, and to
participate in broader historical events. But the double focus on the personal and institutional
leaves its mark on this book. Much of it is organized by topics, such as the process of being
diagnosed and socially labeled as a leper; the process of becoming a leper patient in indigenous
and colonial health systems; the development of colonial medical institutions and the influence
of administrators, missionaries, and the broader European medical establishment on those
institutions; and finally the development of a leper community. These topics constitute mini-
narratives of their own that as the reviewer of Choice magazine pointed out, interrupt the
narrative flow of the book. For example, each of the middle chapters (3-5) begins in the early
colonial period and ends in the late colonial period. Yet, despite this problem, Silla made the
correct choice in organizing the book as he did. The processes that he examines in individual
chapters would have been obscured if they had been buried in a single, broad narrative. The
book's organization disrupts the chronological progression of the larger story, but it also
enhances the coherence of its disparate elements.
Certainly the most compelling mini-narrative in People Are Not the Same is the first chapter,
which tells the story of Saran Keita, a Malinke woman born sometime around 1915 in a rural
village in Mali. Saran Keita contracted leprosy as a young woman and was progressively exiled

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000


from her husband's household and later his village. After returning to her mother's village,
Saran lived for a time with her older sister Hawa, also a leper, in their mother's house. There
they led lives of internal exile, unable to marry and enjoying little contact with others in the
community. They were even segregated from family members, as they were forced to sleep and
eat alone. Hawa soon left the village to seek treatment in a big town. Saran finally left home in
1939, after several years of treatment by local healers in and around her mother's village. She
resettled in Bamako, the colonial capital, at the invitation of European administrators. In
Bamako Saran became part of a leper community that formed around the Institut Central de la
Lepre, and was reunited with Hawa, who had married a fellow leper in the community. Saran
likewise married a patient and had children. Saran and her husband survived by farming a
small plot of land obtained from a local chief associated with the colonial government. In the
late 1960s Saran lost her husband and sister to the complications of leprosy. Later she suffered
additional economic and personal hardships, some of which were the effects of rapid
urbanization on Saran's small community.
The most important contribution of People Are Not the Same is its description of the process
by which leprosy victims were labeled and marginalized, as well as their personal and
collective efforts to resist, and to form families and communities. This process is best revealed in
the personal histories of patients such as Saran Keita. But the chapter on Saran Keita is brief and
leaves the reader hungry for more details about her life and struggles. Silla also paints brief
portraits of a few other patients, chief among them Aldiouma Kassibo and Fousseyni Sow, who
reappear, as does Saran Keita, in several chapters, helping to weave together the various
narrative threads in the book. People Are Not the Same is extraordinary because it humanizes
leprosy patients while also placing them in a broader history of large events and processes, but
it also leaves the reader wishing to learn more of their stories. Africanist teachers are in
particular need of detailed biographies and autobiographies, similar to Charles Van Onselen's
study of Kas Maine and Mary Smith's edited version of Baba of Karo's life story. One would
certainly welcome such a biography of one of the patients introduced in People Are Not the Same.
Another measure of the quality of this book is that it raises as many questions as it answers,
effectively pointing the way for future research in the social and political history of illness.
Although Silla's narrative of Saran Keita's life demonstrates some of the ways in which the
experience of leprosy was shaped by gender, much more could be done along these lines. Did
leprosy and migration affect women's view of their own femininity and their role in the family
and society? How were they changed by their exposure to European doctors and missionaries?
Also, precisely how did one's identity as a leper mediate one's occupational and ethnic identity?
What significance did ethnic identity retain in the relationships among individuals within the
multi-ethnic leper community? It seems that very few 'Moors' and Tuareg became part of the
community around the Institut Central de la Lepre, and relatively few Songhay. Why was that?
One would hope that Silla will continue to draw on his extensive interviews to answer these
and other questions in future work on leprosy in Mali.
In summary, People Are Not the Same is an excellent and unusual study of the personal and
political experience of leprosy in twentieth-century Mali. It should be of interest to anyone
teaching graduate or advanced undergraduate courses on 1) West Africa, in history or the social
sciences; 2) medical history or the social history of health and illness; 3) the history of

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000


colonialism and the role of secular and missionary medical policies in colonialism; and 4) the
history of migration and urbanization in twentieth-century Africa.

Timothy Cleaveland
Department of History
University of Florida

UNESCO General History of Africa Vol. IV: Africa from the Twelfth to the Sixteenth
Century (abridged). Joseph Ki-Zerbo and Djibril Tamsir Niane (eds.). Paris, Oxford and
Berkeley: UNESCO, James Currey, & University of Claifornia Press, 1997. 316 pp. Paper:

One sign of the maturing of African history has been the publication over the last twenty
years of two massive eight volume collective histories -- the Cambridge History of Africa and
the UNESCO General History of Africa. They differ in several ways. The Cambridge volumes
were produced by scholars, most of whom were linked to the School of Oriental and African
Studies. The volumes were divided into a small number of long chapters, usually fifty to eighty
pages long. The volumes thus have a greater unity and maintain a consistent standard. They are
available only in English. The UNESCO History has a very diverse set of authors. Like most
UNESCO enterprises, a lot of politics were involved in the assignment of chapters. They are,
however, shorter, and the volumes often seek to present different perspectives. More
importantly, although the list of contributors is truly international, the UNESCO project is
dominated by Africans. Both the scientific committee and the list of authors are over half
Africans. Thus, when published, they represented an effort by African historians to present a
predominantly African view of the African past. Given the domination of agendas in the field
by non-Africans, and the difficulties scholars within Africa have in publishing, this is important.
The UNESCO volumes were also designed to reach a larger audience. Initial publication
was to be in three languages (English, French and Arabic) with the hope of eventual publication
in thirteen other languages, five of them African. Equally important, abridged editions of
several volumes have been published. In volume IV, the bibliography was cut from forty-one to
ten pages, the number of plates were reduced, footnotes eliminated, and chapters reduced in
length to a little over a third of the original. There is also no author listed for any of the
chapters, but rather a separate list of the authors of the originals. One can only assume that the
original authors were not involved in the abridgement and not willing to put their names on the
chapters that resulted. This is understandable. Most of the abridgements are atrocious. They are
fact-laden and often incomprehensible to a reader not already familiar with the subject. There is
little attention to causation and little effort to delineate processes of change. Although the chief
editor, Niane, lays out some methodological concerns, discussions of methodology are brief and
rare. There is little sense of the larger questions and the debates that mark the history of the
Since this is not a period on which a great deal of research or synthesis has been done, a
more elaborate discussion of problems and questions would have been useful. In addition, it is

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000


dated. One of the problems with large collaborative histories is that chapters submitted early
are often out-of-date when the volume comes out, but in this case, thirteen years passed
between the original and the abridged edition. A lot has been written since 1984 and even the
questions being asked have changed. The selection of themes and the division of chapters also
reflects a West African orientation, both in the amount of space accorded West Africa and in the
central themes Niane lays out in his introduction: the triumph of Islam, the expansion of trade
and trade relations, and the formation of large empires.
Some chapters survive abridgement better than others. Mahdi Adamu's chapter on the
Hausa deals with causation and nicely sums up the views of the Abdullahi Smith school on
processes of change. Tadesse Tamrat's discussion of the Horn is a coherent picture of process.
B.A. Ogot's chapter on the Great Lakes shows that the complicated mosaic of that region can be
dealt with coherently. The same is true of A.F.C. Ryder and Yves Person on different stretches
of the Guinea coast and Jan Vansina on equatorial Africa. Ogot stresses different patterns of
pastoral-agricultural interaction and state formation, but he also underlines that decentralized
societies have a history, which is as important as the history of large empires.
The editors' introduction rightly stresses the importance of oral tradition, but the few
references to it stress its limited applicability to the period covered in the book. This being true,
it is disappointing that few authors use language data. This deficiency is particularly striking in
V. Matveiev's treatment of the Swahili. Authors often give language classification, but few use
language as a source. Most rely heavily on documentary sources, although Fagan's article on the
Zambezi and Limpopo valleys is based almost exclusively on archeology.
The result is a volume that presents basic facts on a period of African history not yet well
studied. Some chapters are useful, but there is little reason for anyone to buy or use this book.
Students should be directed to the original volume where ideas are developed more fully and
there are detailed references that would send the student on to other sources. The original is
also uneven. Some chapters stress naked data with little analysis, but many are still excellent.
They also present African views of the past, written by outstanding African scholars. Anyone
teaching African history should try to come to grips with that. The abridged version of this
volume will not help them very much.

Martin A. Klein (Emeritus Professor)
Department of History
University of Toronto

White Slaves, African Masters: an Anthology of American Barbary Captivity Narratives. Paul
Baepler, (ed). Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999. pp. 310. Cloth: $46.00. Paper: $19.00.

White Slaves, African Masters is a collection of nine narratives written by Americans who
were held captive in North Africa. Those narratives included are: Cotton Mather's The Glory of
Goodness (1703); John D. Foss's A Journal, of the Captivity and Sufferings of John Foss (1798); James
Leander Cathcart's The Captives, Eleven Years in Algiers (1899); Maria Martin's History of the
Captivity and Sufferings of Mrs. Maria Martin (1807); Jonathan Cowdery's American Captives in

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000


Tripoli (1806); William Ray's Horrors of Slavery (1808); Robert Adams The Narrative of Robert
Adams (1816); Eliza Bradley's An Authentic Narrative (1820); and Ion H. Perdicaris's In Raissuli's
Hands (1904).
The anthology begins with an introduction by Paul Baepler, in which he outlines the
historical circumstances of the capture of these Americans, most generally the political tensions
between North Africa and the United States that included the Tripolitan War of 1801-5. Baepler
traces the development of several themes throughout these narratives. The nine authors all have
a very strong pro-Christian, anti-Muslim message, a notion of racial "othering," and a
condemnation of slavery and captivity, which may or may not be applicable to the slave system
in the United States.
The Barbary captivity narrative flourished alongside the American slave narrative, the
Indian captivity narrative, and the Christian conversion narrative. Various rhetorical tropes and
strategies can be found in all of these narrative types, including a search for God's divine will as
a reason for the captivity and minute descriptions of the captors, the surroundings, and the
tortures of the captivity itself. Because of these striking parallels, White Slaves, African Masters
would work well in an early American literature or history course, a course on slavery or slave
narratives, or a course on conversion or confessional narratives. Moreover, the texts in the
anthology provide excellent comparative resources for those working in any of the above-
mentioned fields.
For instance, the Barbary narratives might be read in conjunction with Frederick Douglass'
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845). One may wish to juxtapose William Lloyd
Garrison's "Preface" to that narrative, in which he declares that white men who have been held
in slavery in North Africa lose their language skills and their trappings of civil humanity, with
Jonathan Cowdery's American Captives in Tripoli and William Ray's Horrors of Slavery, allowing
for fruitful investigation into the strategies of American abolitionists. It is also interesting to
note that Robert Adams is the only African American included in the anthology and that the
white scribe who took down Adams' story indicated that he was speaking an odd mixture of
Arabic and English when he was captured, a trauma specifically mentioned by Garrison as
happening to white slaves in North Africa.
For this reason, one may want to read Adams' narrative alongside other American slave
narratives. His views of the continent appear to be, by and large, similar to the dominant white
American culture of the nineteenth century, possibly owing in part to his white scribe.
However, Adams does note that he and a fellow slave of Portuguese descent appear to have
gotten special treatment from the Africans. Adams assumes this treatment comes from being
lighter skinned than the Africans themselves (Adams was of mixed race origins) but not as light
as the northern Europeans who were captured with them. In fact, Adams claims that he excited
"uncommon curiosity" among the Moors who captured him because they "had never seen [a
white man] before" (229). At the same time, the scribe parenthetically notes that Adams was "a
very dark man, with short curly black hair" (229). By including Adams in this anthology,
Baepler exposes multiple levels of racial ideology and prejudice existing during the 1800s.
Interestingly, the social class of the captive was used by the North Africans to determine
the treatment the captive received in slavery. Cowdery's and Ray's narratives read together
produce a clear picture of this system. Cowdery was a naval doctor, became the personal
physician to the Bashaw of Tripoli, and spent his days treating his patients and strolling in the

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000


personal gardens of the Bashaw. Ray, on the other hand, was an enlisted seaman aboard the
same vessel as Cowdery. His narrative is a corrective to the vision of North African slavery that
Cowdery produces. Ray proclaims, in fact, that "when the Doctor says we, it is the very same as
if he had said we officers only" for the enlisted men suffered from hunger, cold, and abuse that
the officers knew nothing of (189). The officers and upper class passengers that were captured
fared far better in North African slavery than the common people.
Of course, differentiation among slaves emerged in the American system of slavery. This
classification system, however, was imposed on the captives by their oppressors and had no
reference point in the captives' own social systems. In fact, the American system existed only to
distinguish house slaves from field slaves or female concubine slaves from others. An
interesting comparison may be drawn between African American women's slave narratives,
such as Harriet Jacobs's and Mary Prince's narratives, and the narratives of Eliza Bradley and
Maria Martin. Neither Bradley nor Martin claim to have been sexually assaulted, while a great
deal of Jacobs' and Prince's stories detail their maneuverings around the sexual advances of
their owners. Bradley's narrative is generally acknowledged to be fictive; the author liberally
borrowed sections of the narrative from an account authored by James Riley. One must keep in
mind, however, that Jacobs's narrative was also thought to be fiction (or written by a white
woman) until the 1980s.
While this collection is by no means exhaustive, White Slaves, African Masters can be
considered a welcome addition to early American literature and early American history.
Baepler has assembled these narratives from a racially and economically diverse group of men
and women cutting across many centuries. Those studying American racial or religious
ideology will find his collection a convenient starting place for an archaeological comparison of
dominant American thought about Africa and Africans, about Muslims, and about slavery.

Samantha Manchester Earley
Department of English
Indiana University Southeast

Juan Maria Schuver's Travels in North East Africa 1880-1883. Wendy James, Gerd Baumann,
and Douglas H. Johnson (eds.). London: The Hakluyt Society, 1996. pp. 392. Cloth: $ 63.00.

The youthful Juan Maria Schuver's detailed descriptions of the Sudanese-Ethiopian border
region in the early 1880s constitute an extremely valuable and exciting new contribution to the
travel literature of late nineteenth-century Africa. Published by The Hakluyt Society, this
lengthy volume is a sort of "recueil de textes" assembled, introduced, annotated, and, in some
cases, translated by the editors with great care. They most appropriately dedicate the book to
Richard Hill, one of the great scholars of modern Sudan.
The editors open with an essay of a hundred pages. They introduce Schuver, provide
political and geographical background about the regions he visited, describe his almost
embarrassingly self-conscious efforts to make his mark as a major traveler with a blockbuster of
a story to tell, and situate him in his time. Shorter items follow presenting Shuver's texts and

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000


manuscripts, a concordance to guide the reader through their various versions in various
languages, an outline chronology, a glossary of Sudan Arabic, notes on ethnic and place names,
and biographical sketches of major historical figures in Sudan at the time. Several of Schuver's
maps are also reproduced to illustrate his text, but because they are not enlarged, they are not
very useful (between pp. 52-53, 180-181, 255).
Schuver's two major texts are entitled Between the Two Niles and On the Abyssinian Frontier.
Written in English and French, and meant to be two versions of a single account, they appear
here for the first time in their totality, although abridged versions were published in German
the year of Schuver's death (Gotha: Justus Perthes, 1883). The tale of their modern discovery is
the stuff of historians' fantasies. Long lost, they were found in Amsterdam in 1985, in a space
above folding doors which pierced thick double walls between the dining and living rooms of a
house belonging to a son of Schuver's cousin, Jan Schuver (pp. xiii-xiv, 361).
In addition to these accounts, editors James, Baumann, and Johnson have assembled a third
book, Last Journey South, from extant letters written by Schuver in the course of his final and
fatal expedition to the White Nile region. The volume also includes eight appendices made up
of Schuver's shorter texts-letters, journal entries, vocabulary lists for languages that remain even
today little-known, along with record books, and autobiographical materials--either written to
geographical societies in Europe, or found among his papers in Cairo and elsewhere.
Schuver's Travels are valuable for several reasons. First, he visited the volatile border region
between the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan and Ethiopia during a very critical few years. In the early
1880s, the region lay between the sphere of English and Egyptian authority, and that of the
expanding imperial Ethiopian empire. Aware of this "big picture," because the support of the
Anglo-Egyptian authorities in Khartoum and regional centers was vital to the success of his
expedition, and yet attentive to the realities of local power, because his survival depended upon
it, Schuver offers numerous examples of how local chiefs and warlords maneuvered to maintain
their independence, while at the same time avoiding retribution by Sudanese colonial
authorities. Indeed, Schuver walked the same tightrope-identifying himself with the "Turkish"
(or Sudanese) authorities when it was required, and condemning them when it helped him to
gain access to a chief or a region otherwise off limits. Schuver also records specific examples of
tactics adopted by Ethiopian rulers and their local governors to extend their authority over the
Oromo (Schuver's Galla) in the Blue Nile region. Ethiopian incursions set the stage for the
incorporation of the area into the Ethiopian empire in the years that followed.
In addition, Schuver traveled "between two Niles" during the years when the rise of the
Islamic fundamentalist movement called the Mahdiyya in central and western Sudan
increasingly threatened Anglo-Egyptian rule. The Dutchman records the comings and goings of
Mahdist emissaries--usually Islamic clerics--who brought news of the Mahdiyya's successes in
the west and encouraged local people and their chiefs to reject Anglo-Egyptian authority.
Finally, the traveler documents the abandonment of vast areas by people fleeing the "ghazzias"
of slave raiders, includes vivid mini-biographies of slaves given to him by his hosts or
purchased during his travels, and estimates that slaves "constitute at least one half of the
population" (p. 11).
Second, Schuver's writings are of interest because they offer several examples of how he
strategized to make his mark as a professional traveler. A young man, Schuver was ambitious
and eager to identify the errors of his elders: "The larger animals have disappeared from these

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000


parts during the last 20 years. [...] I do not disbelieve travelers, if they affirm to have seen lions
in parts where they may be found, as is the case on the banks of the Blue Nile, but I know
Matteucci cannot have met one between Beletava and Fadasi, because there are none in the
whole Berta country" (p. 14). Or: "The forest is nowhere heavy; notwithstanding the enthusiastic
descriptions of some of my predecessors in these parts, there is nothing in this quarter of Africa
to rivalise [sic] with our splendid Northern oakforests" (p. 23).
During his travels, Schuver also clearly sought to pave the way for the eventual publication
of his account. He wrote letters to the major European geographical societies--usually in their
national languages; furthermore, he exchanged "notices" and letters with their officers and
prominent members. He also may have tailored the various versions of his "r6cits" to different
European audiences. A comparison of the English and translated French texts of "Between the
Niles" and "On the Abyssinian Frontier," for example, suggests that Schuver adopted a much
more dramatic style in French than he did in English-perhaps because he thought it more
appealing to his Romance readers. Of many, I cite but two examples; the first in English:
"However, I had made it a principle never to furnish the natives with means of destroying each
other. The Arabs import into Central Africa the most loathsome of diseases; shall it be said that
the European makes himself the apostle of the demon gunpowder?" (p. 39). The second is in
French: "[...]of the one Beelzebub, who will survive all the believers in invented demons, of the
great Satan who has the name 'The Powder,' of the infernal God adored by all oppressors and
the ambitious, of him who reigns over the unhappy human species he calls his cannon fodder?"
(p. 59).
Finally, a letter written to the Royal Geographical Society in 1880, and included in an
appendix, demonstrates Schuver's efforts to acquire the training deemed necessary for a
successful explorer: "Dear Sir, I wish to receive instruction in practical astronomy, which might
enable me to be of some use during my intended protracted journeys through Asia Minor &
Mesopotamia. Could I be allowed to receive this instruction from the R. G. Society's instructor?"
(p. 251).
The third major reason that these writings are valuable is because they offer a clear
example of European ambivalence about Africans. To Schuver, local, non-Muslims were, in
turn, docile infants, ignorant savages, and trusted fellow travelers. He writes in defense of the
Amam (probably today's Mao-speakers or Kwama-speakers): "Let me just correct a few others
of his hallucinations regarding these poor, calumniated negroes. They are not 'the Patagonians
of Africa'. [...] They do not 'prefer raw meat.' [...] "They do not wear loincloths of human skin..."
(p. 48). Shortly thereafter, however, he denigrates African intelligence: "But neither the
penetrating cry of the muezzin, nor the disciplined exercises and almost military appearance of
the Muslims have generated in the negro's heart the need to search for more clearly and
strongly formulated ideas about supernatural powers than the fainter notions he already has"
(p. 62).
Moreover, Schuver's antagonism towards Muslims and Islam is palpable. This antagonism
also was shared by many fellow travelers. Such scorn and xenophobia characterized the French
in particular; hence, it is not surprising that Schuver's French account is particularly virulent:
Can it be said that the negro turned Muslim shows himself superior in a moral sense to the
black who is pagan, or who has such vague ideas about a supreme being, that they must be
classed among those ineffectual dreams which have never had significance for human action?

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000


For myself, I say No! I have observed thousands of blacks professing Mohammedanism, and
never in a single case have I been able to find the least trace of humanitarian sentiments, of
justice, or morality, of family duties, of brotherhood, of respect for the truth, which develop in
the rays of what I have heard called: the spiritual sun of monotheism. This monotheism,
introduced under the sign of the Crescent, on the contrary has seemed to me a dark cloud,
extending its somber veil over the serene sky of negro primitivism" (p. 59).
Juan Maria Schuver's Travels in Northeast Africa should find a prominent place in the library
of European travel literature on the continent. However, this authoritative edition is useful not
only for understanding a pivotal period in the region's past, it is also relevant to the
contemporary world. The editors underscore this point in the preface: "As the editorial work
progressed and the translation became more lucid our fascination grew for the way in which
Schuver's writings evoke a North East African past which resonates in so many striking ways
with the present" (p. xx). Researchers at Human Rights Watch/Africa and Amnesty
International would undoubtedly agree.

Dennis D. Cordell
Department of History
Southern Methodist University

The Rise and Fall of Swahili States. Chapurukha M. Kusimba. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira
Press, 1999. Pp. 237. Paper: $27.95. Cloth: $55.00.

The purpose of this book is to document the growth of Swahili civilization on the eastern
coast of Africa, from 100 B.C. through the European colonialism in the sixteenth century. By
using archaeological, anthropological, and historical information, Dr. Kusimba endeavors to
describe the origins of this unique and powerful culture, including its Islamic components,
architecture, language, and trading systems. He combines the results of his own anthropological
surveys and archaeological excavations, providing a comprehensive study of the origins, rise,
and collapse of societies on the Swahili Coast and their broader influence on African history.
Dr. Kusimba definitely views the origins of the Swahili States as distinctly African in
nature and he offers historical, anthropological and archaeological evidence in support of this
idea. The underlying basis of Swahili societies were long-established populations and cultural
mores of African origin. Despite other scholars suggestions supporting extensive Arab
settlement and even colonization along the Swahili Coast, Dr. Kusimba maintains that Swahili
culture was not simply imported or derivative, but a rich fabric of African manufacture, one
woven with threads spun from local fiber as well as imported yarn (p 26). The author
repeatedly emphasizes that the ancestors of modern Swahili settled in East Africa long before
the ancestors of many ethnic groups. The evidence presented in this book suggests that the
Coastal peoples are not biologically different from other East African groups. The cultural
diversity of Coastal peoples is similar in magnitude to the general diversity one finds among
African peoples. The author proclaims such diversity should be celebrated rather than
demeaned by who believe that the Swahili states originated from foreign settlement (p. 202).

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000


The author maintains that the Swahili elite (during the Omani regime) wished to be
associated with places from which power and authority emanated. Therefore, they emphasized
traditions of blood ties to Oman and Persia while minimizing their African roots. They even
claimed to be Sharifs, the reputed descendants of the prophet Mohamed (p. 174). Because of this
myth that Swalili states originated from Arab settlements, many modern Africans consider the
story of the Coast to be outside the African experience. Thus, the descendants of that colonial
heritage occupy only a marginal position in the current order of things. Anti-Swahili sentiments
among post-colonial East Africans have arisen from an under-appreciation of the relevance of
Swahili history and culture (p. 202).
Dr. Kusimba's book is very well organized. The geography, resources, languages and
peoples of the coast are described in detail. The earliest settlements and those that followed
between 300-1000 are well documented and clearly described. The role of iron working, the
importance of interregional trade, and the impact of Islam prior to 1500 are all discussed at
length. Dr. Kusimba also examines the hierarchy of Swahili Coast society. This book not only
provides for a better understanding of the complex Swahili polities between 100 B.C. and the
sixteenth century, but also lends itself to an appreciation of the relevance of Swahili society and
culture in East Africa today.

David S. Fick
Overland Park, Kansas

Religious Ethics in Africa. Peter Kasanene. Kampala: Fountain Publishers (distributed by
ABC Ltd. Oxford, UK), 1998. Pp.110. paper $11.25.

For teachers eager to whet the appetite of undergraduates for religious ethics, this is a good
text. The author presents the positions of African traditional religion (ATR) and three world
proselytizing religions on moral issues for a largely African readership. The book provides a
basic discussion of the teachings of ATR, Christianity, Islam and Baha'i Faith. It is an adequate
elementary text for explaining each religion's position on moral issues such as sacredness of life,
smoking, abortion, the use of contraceptives, euthanasia, fornication and adultery. Kasanene
manages to distill the various sectarian or denominational views on these moral issues and
presented a representative account of an otherwise cacaphonous plurality of positions. It
informs the reader about the culture of Africa and the pressures exerted by Christianity, Islam
and Baha'i Faith on African ethical systems. However, it does not engage any new theoretical
discussion or contribute significantly to the literature on religion in Africa.
The book has nine chapters. Chapter One provides an overview of the value of morals to
the individual and society. Chapter Two guides the reader through the fine distinctions
between ethics and morality, and makes explicit the various internal and external guides to
moral decision-making. Chapter Three opens with a discussion on the interconnectedness of
religion and morality, and closes with the differences between African traditional religious
ethics and those of the three imported religions. The next five chapters are concerned with
specific moral issues and the position of each of the four religions on them. The final chapter

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000


makes a plea for the return of Africans to their original worldview if they want to maintain their
identity in the face of modernization.
However, Kasanene provides no scholarly evaluation of each religion's position or even a
comparative analysis of each of them. Merely listing each religion's position on issues is not
what one expects from a book that purports to educate university students. Moreover, the book
discusses smoking and alcoholism, but is surprisingly silent on dietary rules. Dietary theory is
an important aspect of every religious system and its analysis is central to understanding, at
least, the connections between ethics and classifications in any society. Mary Douglas (1966
&1992) has shown the relationship between systems of knowledge and the systems of society by
examining dietary rules and projections from diet to health. Often the vast rules of food
prohibitions in Africa are the projection or extension of rules from human life to animal life and
are also a reflection of principles of social and political relationships. "Eating the right foods and
abstaining from the wrong one publicly exemplifies the system of social categories" (Douglas
Kasanene's book would have yielded more benefits if the author had also discussed the
conversion process, especially in light of his call for Africans to go back to their traditional
worldview in the face of activities of foreign agents. An analysis of the conversion process
would have provided historical context for his argument, and perhaps reveal whether the
dominance of the universalistic concept of God over the indigenous African concept of localized
spirits is concretely related to the whole process of economic development or is just a reversible
fad. Indeed Robin Horton (1971) has explained the 'conversion' of African peoples to
Christianity and Islam as a result of economic/societal development and increasing exposure to
the outside world. He has suggested that "acceptance of Islam and Christianity [in Africa] is due
as much to development of the traditional cosmology in response to other features of the
modem situation as it is to the activities of the missionaries" (1971:103). What Horton argues is
that the conversion to world religions does not represent a rejection of traditional African
religious cosmology. Instead Islam and Christianity played the role of 'catalysts,' that is,
stimulators and accelerators of religious changes and conversion which were 'in the air' anyway
for purely indigenous reasons (p.104).
Horton's anthropological theory is affirmed years later by Nelson Goodman's philosophical
analysis. Goodman (1978) has argued that the conditions for distinguishing right from wrong--
the stuff of ethics--and the remaking of world version are not based on comparison with a
"world undescribed, undepicted, unperceived." Goodman's (1978:138) idea that "rightness" and
"wrongness" or "true" or "right" version is a matter of fit with practice; "that without the
organization, the selection of relevant kinds, effected by evolving tradition, there is no rightness
or wrongness of categorization, no validity or invalidity of inference..." is key in understanding
why foreign pattern of moral order prevailed over the indigenous pattern. In the light of Horton
and Goodman's ideas that worldmaking (whether through conversion or scientific paradigm) is
from worlds already at hand, Kasanene's failure to examine how existing African worldview
interacted with the foreign ethical systems and the kind of synthesis that ensued undermines
the value of his book.

Nimi Wariboko
New York

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000



Douglas, Mary. 1966. Purity and Danger. New York: Routledge and Kegan.

Douglas, Mary. 1992. "Rightness of Categories" in How Classification works in Mary Douglas
and David Hull (ed.) Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. pp. 239-271.

Goodman, Nelson. 1978. Ways of Worldmaking. Indianapolis: Hackett Horton, Robin. 1971.
"African Conversion," Africa, 41,2: 85-108.

Griots and Griottes: Masters of Words and Music. Thomas A. Hale. Bloomington: Indiana
University Press, 1999. pp 410. Cloth: $35.00.

This study brings together widely scattered information on the griots and griottes,
traditional artists who have survived for more than a millennium in West Africa. Thomas Hale
examines these artists in order to understand how verbal art is created and used in African
societies to achieve personal or social goals.
Apart from the introduction and the appendices, the work is composed of ten chapters.
These chapters easily sort themselves into two groups: the first group is a summary and
confirmation of results by scholars spanning the fields of folklore, oral literature, anthropology,
literature, etc. Indeed, Hale explains in his introduction the need to summarize what scholars
have previously found in the course of studying the griot. Clearly, the art of the griot is one of
the oldest to be found on the African continent. Yet despite such an ancient lineage, this art and
its practitioners should not be perceived as trapped in some traditional past. Instead, the art and
the artists consciously evolve in response to the demands of their age, constantly making
themselves relevant to the needs of the society without compromising their original mandate
(serving as the memory of the society). Hale also confirms, as many have done before, that
difficulties arise when trying to study African poetics in translation (pp. 114, 145). This is
especially problematic if the researcher assumes an external perspective that fails to surmount
the barriers griots and griottes erect around themselves (p. 191).
A second important aspect of this work are the insightful new contributions to the study of
griots and griottes. This group includes Hale's meticulous discussion of the origins of the word
griot, revealing that it is not indigenous to the communities in which griots and griottes are
found. In fact, he states that there are many indigenous artists and scholars who find this term
offensive and would rather avoid using it all together. Hale points out convincingly, and with
numerous examples, that there are many other terms in indigenous languages that are used by
these artists to refer to themselves and their craft. The name griot has, however, tended to stick
because scholars, largely Western and foreign, have found it more convenient than having to
learn relevant indigenous names. Thus, Hale demonstrates the powerful impact of the external
researcher upon the subject under scrutiny. The retention of the term "griot" continues despite
the objections of both artists and their societies.

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000


The most appealing chapter is "A Job Description of the Griots" which thoroughly
demonstrates the socio-political importance of these artists and their "multi functional role"
(p.17). It also exemplifies some of the broader characteristics of African art (socially-based,
public, and multi-disciplinary). "Griottes: Unrecognized Female Voices" is also a contribution of
some significance. It raises the issue of an urgent need to study the role of gender in
performance arts in Africa. The evidence in this chapter illustrates that the male emphasis in
most studies of the griot has been created by the researchers' own biases rather than a true
reflection of gender relations in society. Indeed the author stresses that "women are viewed as
more talented" than their male counterparts when it comes to discussing music and griots
This work is a culmination of Hale's research which he began in 1964 and, with few
interruptions, has continued for more than three decades. The study reflects the author's
extended experience in West Africa. Hale has interviewed, talked to, and interacted with
hundreds of artists and other scholars in this field. Yet he is quick to admit that without certain
skills--a knowledge of music, a better understanding of the many cultures, and overall
acceptance by the griot society--a researcher in his position finds it difficult to penetrate beyond
the superficial when studying this important group of artists.
The target audience of this work is primarily a Western academic audience. Because of this,
the actual contribution of the griots and those most familiar with their work, remains muted.
The author points out the need to include contributions from the griots themselves for a more
in-depth understanding. Hale reiterates that "we need to reframe the perspective on griots by
including them in discussion" (p.317). This perspective is appropriate, since there is growing
recognition of the need to approach African art forms through the artists who create them.
The other area of the text's strength lies in the extensive and valuable appendices. The
richness of this topic can be seen in the various audio-visual media that Hale utilizes to create
the multifaceted approach required to study African artists. The detailed sources/contacts the
author provides will be of value to anyone interested in carrying out library and field research
in West Africa or the United States.

Ramenga Mtaali Osotsi
Department of English
James Madison University

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000


Guinea: Malinke Rhythms and Songs. Famoudou Konate. Budamusique, 1998.

Famoudou Konate's latest CD "Guinea: Malinke Rhythms and Songs," while long overdue,
has been well worth the wait. This is Famoudou Konate at his very best at home in the music
with a family of master musicians, "L'ensemble Hamana Dan Ba." For djembe aficionados
throughout the world, Konate is something of
a living legend. Now, for the first time on a
commercial label, this legacy comes to life. _____Q -- "--..
Born and raised in the Hamanah region
of Guinea, Konate was recruited by Les Ballets
Africains at its inception in 1958. For 26 years,
he was first soloist for this world-renowned
national ballet before setting out on his own
to make a name for himself on the European
circuit. Since the mid-eighties, he has been
establishing a reputation in Europe as the
foremost Mande master drummer. This has
contributed greatly to the legitimation of
Malinke music as a formal, complex musical
tradition by introducing it to the curriculum
of Western institutions of higher learning. In GUNE RCUSSINSEC NTSMAN
1996, he was awarded an honorary degree by cra:Mrheraeason s
the Hochschule der Kiinste in Berlin.
Konate's music is as much story as it is song. As co-producer Nassar Saidani explains in the
liner notes: "His music is primarily language. Like a griot making us live out a story with
accurate details in his gestures, words and even silences, Famoudou makes his drum talk."
These words come to mind, particularly so on "Borokoni", where Konate himself speaks while
playing the borokoni, or "sorcerer's harp." Inasmuch as Konate's solo techniques can be likened to
language, he is not a man of many words. He speaks with clarity, precision, and the power of
understatement. The solo phrasing accentuates the melody created by the rest of the ensemble;
it does not overwhelm or blur it. His is a subtle song -- refined, not flared. The result is
Konate's solos on this CD leave no room for doubt about this: there are at least twenty-five
distinct sounds emanating from the drum in his hands. On track six, "K6n6nari," a series of
slaps in the solo seem like sounds from somewhere else. Of course, Konate's tones do more than
punctuate the pieces -- indeed, they carry them. But what seems most striking at times, for
example on "Siwe," a song from the Konyan people, is the depth of the bass tones Konate draws
from the djembe. Non-initiates might even be led to believe a fourth bass drum has been added
to the weave. But this is the deep bass of the djembe.
The "dundunba" selections, clearly identifiable based on the pronounced emphasis of the
kenkeni in the off-beat, are more refined by comparison to the "dundunbas" on the 1996 release,
"Hamanah," which features both Famoudou Konate and Mamady Keita. On "Malinke Rhythms
and Songs," we encounter the softer side of this form in "Donaba," an ancient Dunun piece
combined with a contemporary version of the song to honor a beautiful woman whom the

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000


community had chosen as the village princess. What really comes to the fore here is the
youthful spirit of play that has marked Konate's career, from its village beginnings in
Sangbarala and throughout the quarter-century he spent touring the world with Les Ballets
Africains. The sharpness and accuracy of the beat is irresistible. More so here than anywhere else
before, the complex interplay between dunun, dance and djembe drum emerges. This is the first
recording in which Konate has enjoyed complete artistic freedom to "choreograph" and direct
an ensemble of his own choosing, according to his own aesthetic standards.
One cannot help but note the conspicuous presence of women and children on this
recording. They feature prominently and Konate has placed them in the foreground. Indeed,
many of the musicians -- Nankouma Konate, Fode Konate, Bijou Konate, Cadet Konate, joined
by the Kourouma's and Keita's cited in equal number -- are Famoudou's "children," literally and
figuratively. One special featured artist is Konate's nephew, Nansedy Keita, who came down
from the village of Sangbarala especially for the recording to solo on several cuts, "Dibon II,"
"Sirankuruni," "Donaba," and "Lambe".
Most striking perhaps about this 73-minute release is the strength of song throughout. A
capella vocals set the tone on the opening track, "Damba", where praises are sung for a young
woman about to be married. A splendid blend of versatile voices in varying constellations carry
the celebratory spirit of song on this CD and underscore the element of (his)story. There isn't
one purely instrumental selection in the 13 story-songs recorded in Simbaya, Guinea. At the
same time, the instrumental diversity of the Malinke tradition is displayed here with the
inclusion of lesser known instruments like the borokoni, the kodo-kodo, the d5nsakoni, the bolon,
and the djabara. The track "K6n6nari" even includes a rare recording of Konate playing the
This release promises to become a milestone in the Malinke musical tradition. With any
luck, it will finally provide recognition for a master musician who has gotten far too little
exposure this side of the Atlantic. It is perhaps fitting that this long-established djembe master
should be the one to make clear to Western listeners that the djembe, while it is a solo
instrument, does not stand alone. Rather, the collective effect of story, song, celebration and a
skilled ensemble of musicians makes up the magic of Malinke music.

Lilian Friedberg
Humanities Department
University of Chicago

African Studies Quarterly I Volume 4, Issue 1 I Spring 2000

University of Florida Home Page
© 2004 - 2010 University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries.
All rights reserved.

Acceptable Use, Copyright, and Disclaimer Statement
Last updated October 10, 2010 - - mvs