Ep. 95: A conversation with Oumar Ba about international justice

A lot is happening in the news! Kim and Rachel highlight some of the things they’re seeing in their news feed, including: ECOWAS and Mali, African responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Takondwa Semphere’s recent review of Beyonce’s Black is King.

Kim interviews Oumar Ba, whose new book about the International Criminal Court highlights his expertise in international justice.

Listen to the episode below!

Books from the Episode

States of Justice: The Politics of the International Criminal Court by Oumar Ba

Cold War Assemblages: Decolonization to Digital by Bhakti Shringarpure

Amílcar Cabral: A Nationalist and Pan-Africanist Revolutionary (Ohio Short Histories of Africa) by Peter Karibe Mendy

Other Links and Articles

Economic Community of of West African States (ECOWAS)

The Sahel Crisis since 2012 by Clionadh Raleigh, Héni Nsaibia, and Caitriona Dowd

Emmanuel Balogun

Beyond African Royalty by Takondwa Semphere

Ancestors by Dudley Randall

Book Review: Inequality, Socio-Cultural Differentiation, and Social Structures in Africa” by Antje Daniel (Africa Spectrum Journal)

Chika Oduah on Twitter

A Separatist Group is Seeking to Break Away from Ghana to Create a New West African Nation

Book Review of Kate Skinner’s The Fruits of Freedom in British Togoland: Literacy, Politics, and Nationalism, 1914-2014

International Criminal Court

International Court of Justice

Amílcar Cabral’s Life as a Pan-Africanist, Anti-Colonial Revolutionary Still Inspires

Announcing the annual TMC African Politics Summer Reading Spectacular

Previous Episodes We Mentioned

Ep. 87: A conversation with Marja Hinfelaar on Zambian politics, environment, and energy, and more

Transcript

Kim: Welcome to Ufahamu Africa, a podcast about life and politics on the African continent. Welcome to season five. A lot has happened on the continent since our last episode and with our podcast and we’re glad you’re tuning in to catch up with us. I am Kim Yi Dionne, one of your hosts and I am joined by my co-host Rachel Beatty Riedl. Hi Rachel!

Rachel: Hi Kim! I am so glad to be talking with you this week about a lot of important developments that are unfolding and have continued to unfold over the last few months. I want to put them in a bit of broader context about regime politics and governance on the continent. So, to do that I wanted to start this week with Mali. Now, following the coup in august there’s really been mounting pressure for the military to transition to a civilian transitional government. This pressure has largely been coming from the 15 countries of ECOWAS (The Economic Community of West African States) that laid down sanctions in the wake of the coup. Now, in the last two weeks, there’s been some significant shuffling in the Malian transitional government and progress is really mixed and, in that progress, and sequence you can really see kind of the ECOWAS pressure and also their inability to get fully to a transitional civilian government.

So, last week Mali’s military junta appointed interim president Bah Ndaw, a former and now retired colonel and coup leader Colonel Assimi Goita as interim vice president and that decision really flew in the face of ECOWAS’s initial demands that the transitional government be completely civilian led now after Ndaw was sworn in on Friday. ECOWAS said it would lift sanctions if a civilian was installed as prime minister and a lot of jockeying has been going on, I think behind the scenes about who this prime minister would be.  Many seeing that as a really key post for future for future power and so this week the interim president appointed the new interim prime minister who is former Foreign Minister Moctar Ouane and he apparently has no military background. So, this move likely paves the way for ECOWAS to lift the sanctions.

So, okay, what does this tell us about Mali and the state of governance and security in the country?

So, I think the main takeaway for our listeners is to know, and I think this is already apparent when the coup took place, that the underlying concerns about security and governance emanating from the center to the periphery and the inability of the government to respond to the general needs of the public including economic concerns, COVID response, alleged corruption, general incapacity… These continue to manifest, and these were the same concerns not COVID but public health concerns, general well-being concerns security and territorial concerns that led up to the coup in 2012. And electoral competition electing presidents, you know by the ballot box, it may be certainly necessary, but many people feel it’s insufficient alone to meet the needs of the population in these domains for state capacity, for accountability, and for territorial control. The other major takeaway I think is really the key role that ECOWAS is playing. It’s striking yes France has been certainly involved in the peacekeeping missions and has been present on the territory, Macron’s still been involved… But ECOWAS is really the one right now who is putting pressure on what form the new government may take and has lessened the ambitions of the military rulers to rule the country solely and explicitly on their own. And the ECOWAS pressure has also kind of shortened the timeline that they were putting out for a multi-year transition and the agreed-upon length is now about 18 months. So, I think you know those are some key takeaways in terms of where the country is at and it relates more broadly to what the region is going through in terms of the Sahel crisis. I saw an interesting piece in African Affairs out in the last edition by Clionadh Raleigh and co-authors which is a briefing about the Sahel crisis since 2012 and it really covers the composition, the strategies, and the expansion patterns of the various jihadist movements and I think one clear takeaway that’s made in the introduction is this: The critical lesson of this briefing is that the tsunami of conflict did not initially manifest as an overtly Islamist or even ideologically coherent movement but grew instead from opportunism, populist rhetoric, displays of weakened state authority, and a brutal or absent security sector. The militarization of neighbors, livelihoods, and communities each constitute viable ways that the Sahel violence can gain through the wider region.

Kim: That’s really interesting, I had not seen that African Affairs article that Clionadh Raleigh and her co-authors had written but when you were talking about ECOWAS, you know we mean to say right in the last 10 years we’ve seen a lot of action by ECOWAS in the region, kind of clamping down on strong men. But when you talked about here in the case of Mali, it reminded me that Emmanuel Balogun’s book is coming out very soon. So, for our listeners who don’t know, Emmanuel Balogun is an assistant professor of political science at Skidmore College and he has a book actually on region building in ECOWAS. That should be coming out from Routledge Press later this year and we’ll be sure to have him on the show to talk about that and to really kind of probe him to ask him more about what he sees the role of ECOWAS in the region.

I wanted to share too, one of my favorite things I read this week was actually a review of Beyonce’s Black is King by Takondwa Semphere who you know was a guest on the show, you know way back in season one, wrote this really brilliant critique of black as king. It is very layered, and you know celebratory but also critical and I just want to read a brief excerpt from it. She writes in her piece: “Must Black be king? What if Black is pauper, apprentice, farmer, radical scholar? What if Black is non-binary? What if it does not fit neatly into this gendered notion of kinghood? What if Africans are not royals, but instead are mothers in markets, grandmothers on the outskirts, children at the rugged intersections of indigeneity and modernity with neither territory nor subjects?”

I’m really looking forward to having her and Mona Hakimi the founders of Poetry as Prayer on the show later this season. I just love the lyrical way that she writes and the thought-provoking

things she’s saying you know even just in this short piece. But I hope that our listeners will link up to Africa is a Country where her essay is posted and take a look at the whole thing. When I had shared it on Twitter earlier this week, political scientist Michael Owens at Emory University had shared a poem from Dudley Randall who’s an African American poet and publisher and the poem is called Ancestors and I’ll just read the first stanza. It says: “Why are our ancestors always kings and princes and never the common people”.

Maybe when we have Mona and Takondwa on the show, I’ll read the whole poem. It’s really quite thoughtful and like I said in last week’s episode, I’m finding a new love for poetry and I think there’s something about the way the world is in 2020 that’s making me look for new places for inspiration and for, I don’t know, time to think a little deeply about things.

Rachel: Kim, I love that, and I want to follow up on this idea of non-binaries. I think it’s so important for us to think about more generally in the context of our world today and I recently read a review in Africa Spectrum of the book Inequality, Socio-Cultural Differentiation and Social Structures in Africa. What I liked about this review and the book itself is really kind of trying to break down the binaries of social class right and the way in which as many people have previously argued. But the way in which the concept of middle class in general or kind of like the working class doesn’t fit evenly into many contexts across the African continent and I would say also, you know, doesn’t map neatly onto many contexts across regions. Yet, we keep returning to it across the social sciences it’s used, perhaps overused, and it’s particularly used recently in response to a rising tide of entrepreneurism, rising consumer power, continuing urbanization trends you know. And think about so many of the really great entrepreneurs that we’ve had on the show on Ufahamu Africa and you know talked to about their fantastic business ideas. So, this term continues to be applied in many circles and yet I find it really lacks significant kind of conceptual purchase. If we are able to move beyond these kinds of categorical low middle elite class and move instead to what this book argues is a more multi-dimensional focus on human needs which includes social links, economic links, and welfare needs. So, both in terms of kind of the inputs and the outputs what we have coming in but also the responsibilities the liabilities that we hold. And I raised this in the context of COVID because it’s reshaping both the assets and the support networks that people have, that they rely upon, the obligations many individuals face. So, good policy takes account of this kind of interconnected nature of supports and responsibilities.

So, The Financial Times has summarized Africa’s overall good COVID policy. If we look across the continent, of course there are some exceptions but overall, I think the new infections are sharply down even in hardest hit South Africa for example. This article in Financial Times really says that part of the credit for the relatively low death toll goes to early response by most African governments drawing upon knowledge of previous epidemics allowed early screening at airports, tracking down imported cases aggressively coming from outside. And countries like South Africa and Rwanda declared full lockdowns in March and many other countries responded fairly pragmatically with a patchwork of measures including school closings, banning mass gatherings, imposing curfews and really mounting public health informational campaigns. So, the early response has been fairly effective in limiting the number of early cases and therefore slowing the spread. Another factor that I don’t think has been discussed as much is really thinking about the demographic distribution. Many people were worried that the continent would be hard hit certainly in terms of comorbidity and underlying factors that might hit the most vulnerable part of the population but one of the interesting things about the demography is that Africa remains the world’s youngest continent. Median age is below 20 and only about 3 percent of the population is over 65. So, I think, you know that Kim might agree here, our public health expert, but overall, it’s better to respond quickly, effectively, and fully than to do too little.

Kim: Yeah, especially it’s easy I think for me to agree because of where I live and how little my government has done in response to COVID and how much you know the people in my country are suffering from it. So, it’s interesting you bring up COVID. Another thing I saw this week was GLD in Gothenburg had a press release about a study that they were releasing the results this week in partnership with Saipar Zambia which you know was featured in Episode 87, when you met with Marja Hinfelaar, when you were doing your field research in Zambia last year. This new research on COVID in Zambia, it’s based in Lusaka and then on the Zambian-Malawian border. And what they found is you know during COVID what they’ve found is that women and the more highly educated were experiencing more economic loss due to COVID-19. I’m sure that as they continue to analyze the data, they’ll continue to keep us updated but I really like this kind of granular information they’re getting about the economic impact of COVID in Zambia, a place that hasn’t been as hard hit of course as South Africa in terms of the number of COVID cases but we all need to start thinking about COVID-19 not just as a health problem but as a kind of a broader social crisis because of the impact that it’s having on the global economy.

Rachel: Absolutely Kim and what’s so fascinating about that finding if we think about again the cross-regional comparison or comparative analysis more generally, the ways in which in the United States it’s really as though the economic impacts are so almost dichotomies right in terms of those with high education and jobs that are quite portable or flexible or can be done virtually and remotely are having very differential impacts than those who are most vulnerable or in a service sector and are really essential to the economy and have therefore such greater risk. So, I think this is really interesting finding on the Zambian front.

Kim: Indeed, one last thing that I want to share is something that I came across in reading Chica Oduah’s Twitter feed this week. She had posted about this secession movement in Eastern Ghana. So, Western Togoland, this region of Ghana is declaring its interest in seceding from the rest of Ghana and there’s a great article giving some background on what’s happening in Deutsche Welle which we’ll include in our list of links and I’ll just say you know it made me also look to a recent book review written by Ben Talton on Kate Skinner’s book The Fruits of Freedom in British Togoland: Literacy, Politics, and Nationalism, 1914-2014. Now, this is a book that was just published in 2017 by Cambridge University Press and the African Studies book review that Ben Talton wrote is really fantastic and I think you know as we’re thinking about this event as it’s happening kind of in real time in the news, it will be really important to put that event in a broader historical perspective and understanding right that while a majority of people in what was you know colonial British Togoland had voted to be part of independent Ghana as opposed to joining Togolanders in what was then France-controlled Togo you know there was still a great number of people who had voted no during that referendum, but also you know even among the people who voted yes, this independence that Ghana had didn’t necessarily translate to an independence for Togolanders. Right, that for many of the Togo landers who voted no, Ghana’s independent simply traded British colonial authority over Togoland for domination by Ghana and therefore represented a new iteration of subjugation, rather than liberation, just reading from Ben Talton’s review. I think we’re going to need to go in depth about what’s happening in Western Togoland region and what the independence movement is trying to do there and maybe bring some of these thinkers and authors onto the show.

Rachel: I would love that Kim and for all of our listeners we’ll share this link and other bonus links on our website, ufahamuafrica.com.

[MUSIC]

Kim: This week’s conversation is with Oumar Ba, an assistant professor of political science at Morehouse College, where he teaches courses on international organization, security, protests, and race and world politics. His new book States of Justice: The Politics of the International Criminal Court highlights some of his research on international relations theory and international criminal justice. He is also an editor at Africa is a Country. Our conversation was recorded during the 2019 annual meeting of the African Studies Association in Boston.

Welcome to the podcast, Oumar!

Oumar: Thank you.

Kim: Now, we’re excited to learn from your expertise on international justice. There have been some really interesting developments in the last year at the International Criminal Court, right the ICC but also beyond that and I’d really like to hear your thoughts on some of these developments.

So, for instance in late 2019 the Gambia filed a lawsuit at the United Nations International Court of Justice, accusing Myanmar of genocide against Rohingya Muslims. As we shared in an earlier episode’s news wrap, The Organization of Islamic Cooperation and a U.S law firm, the firm Foley Hoag are supporting the Gambia in pursuing the case. Can you help our listeners to understand this case? What’s happening? What’s going on?

Oumar: Yes, that’s definitely a really interesting situation wherein you have the Gambia going to the International Court of Justice and filing a complaint against Myanmar. Why the Gambia would be doing this? One thing to keep in mind is that this case is at the International Court of Justice, which is different, as I’m sure your listeners know, from the International Criminal Court. In this case basically Gambia argues that Myanmar has committed genocide against the Rohingyas. As you may recall in the past two or three years, there’s been a lot of violence targeting this ethnic minority and some of them have been deported to nearby Bangladesh. Now, Gambia argues that Myanmar has violated the 1948 U.N convention against the genocide. Therefore, the ICJ being the U.N court is competent to hear that case.

Kim: Ok, so, that’s the right jurisdiction.

Oumar: Yes, also because of the ICJ is unlike the ICC, the ICJ is a court wherein it is states that file the complaints. It is states that are the defendant, which is not the case for the ICC, for instance.

Kim: So that the ICC has people as defendants.

Oumar: The ICC is a criminal court that has prisons and sentenced the people to prison and as you know you cannot sentence the state to prison. So, the ICC is a criminal court wherein the defendants are always individuals, not states, not organizations. The ICJ is not the criminal court it is a court that adjudicates cases against the states and issues rulings against states.

Kim: So, what kind of sentences can you give a state? To me, it makes complete sense how you would sentence an individual but how do you sentence a state?

Oumar: Well, you can rule that one state’s action has violated a U.N treaty or U.N convention. You can rule that a state has engaged in torture which has violated for instance the U.N convention against torture. I can give you a couple examples of the ICJ issuing rulings. For instance, for a very long time, the ICJ has operated mostly as a dispute settlement mechanism, like border disputes. Mali and the Burkina Faso had a case at the ICJ in the 80s where they had a border dispute which was settled by the ICJ. Another famous case was that against the DRC, DRC against Belgium. There was a time when Belgium issued a warrant for the arrest of Abdoulaye Yerodia who was minister of foreign affairs in DRC. So, DRC filed a complaint at the ICJ arguing basically that immunity applies for state officials such as foreign ministers and that Belgium has no right to issue a warrant for the arrest of Yerodia and ICJ issued in favor of the Congo saying that Belgium should annul the warrant because Abdoulaye Yerodia  as foreign minister of the DRC enjoys immunity against arrest by another state.

Kim: As an expert of international justice, can you put this Gambian case into broader perspective? You know it feels historic that one country is bringing up a case about another country like I could imagine a group of countries, a coalition of states saying we don’t like what we see happening in Myanmar but instead you have this tiny little sliver of a country that says we don’t like what we’re seeing happening to this minority group in your country and we want justice. Is this peculiar? Is it historic?

Oumar: It is historic in many ways but also, it’s easier for one state to file the complaint and having a group of states doing it because states hardly ever agree on anything and the case of Gambia is also interesting because it brings out this idea of norm entrepreneurs, individuals who take it upon themselves to do these things. For instance, the current minister of justice in Gambia has been very active after the Rwandan genocide. He worked for the tribunal for Rwanda. So, he’s been very aware of these situations. Yeah, one could argue that without him and his desire to take up this case probably wouldn’t have happened but also Gambia has a long history of being at the forefront of human rights in Africa. That was under President Javara. This, for instance, the Banjul Charter, the African Convention for the rise of people were signed in Banjul. So, it wasn’t until Jammeh came to power that Gambia became this mess basically when it comes to human rights but privately it was a country that was very active about it. But also, Gambia has the support of the Organization of the Islamic Conference which is the largest organization of Muslim majority countries. Because the Rohingyas are also Muslims and Gambia has received support in this complaint from the Muslim states.

Kim: Now another court, the International Criminal Court also in late 2019, there were reports about an ICC ruling. So, they had sentenced Bosco Ntaganda, a Congolese rebel leader to 30 years in prison and that’s the longest sentence that was ever issued by the ICC. And Ntaganda, who’s also known as the terminator was convicted on all 18 counts that were brought against him including murder, rape, sexual slavery, and using child soldiers. Now, were you surprised by the sentence?

Oumar: Yes and no. I was not surprised that he was found guilty of the 18 charges against him. I was surprised by the length of the sentence because this is clear departure from what we’ve seen at the ICC so far. The previous sentences at the ICC have been around 9 to 12 or 14 years of prison. So, this is the longest sentence that they have issued. It’s not also surprising that he was found guilty because the ICC does have quite a good record or when it comes to convicting former warlords or rebels although the number is still quite low. So far, they have achieved, as of right now, on the four convictions. Three of them are Congolese warlords and one of them is a Malian jihadist.

Kim: Now, I asked these questions about international justice because I wanted to make sure that our listeners know about your book, States of Justice: The Politics of the International Criminal Court which is published by Cambridge University Press. So, congratulations on your book! I know that it’s been a lot of hard work and long in the making. Can you tell our listeners what your book’s main takeaway is? What’s the one thing you hope that they get from it, after having read it and what lens might your book offer for how we should examine for example Bosco Ntaganda’s recent sentencing?

Oumar: So, I come to this question from a political science perspective. I’m not a legal scholar. I study politics and I focus on the politics of international justice. The main question I try to address here is going beyond the ICC versus Africa debate that ICC is a court that targets Africans.  I think the evidence is there’s a lot of questions to be raised in that, but I wanted to go beyond that debate and look at the ICC from a political science perspective, looking at states themselves or how do states engage with ICC. But also, we already know the ways in which our great powers engage the ICC. So, I was not interested in that question either. I tried to focus on how states that are not great powers, that are not the great influence in international politics are able to work with the ICC to advance their own interest. In doing so, I look at African states and I argue that African states have so far been able to use the ICC to advance their own security, political, domestic interest. And I use a few case studies to argue that. Now, the implication of this study is to try to understand why the ICC has been so ineffective or some would say even incompetent when it comes to delivering justice in general. Because the ICC has been quite good at prosecuting Africans but beyond that it has been also good even when prosecuting Africans, it has been successful at prosecuting warlords and rebels and political opponents. The ICC has been unable so far to successfully prosecute state officials or agents of the state and I’m trying to find out why that is the case.

Kim: What do you think the major myths and myths misconceptions are, like that people think about the International Criminal court? What are these popular misconceptions?

Oumar: One thing is, it’s important to reiterate the fact that it’s not just a bunch of people who hate Africa or Africans who are sitting in the Hague and trying to go after Africans. Now, the flow that the ICC has I think is partially because of how it was created, what mandate it was given and what means it has to do its work. So, it’s an institutional problem, not necessarily a personal one. Most of the criticism we hear about ICC also focuses specifically on one aspect of the ICC which is the office of the prosecutor. Now, there’s been problems with the judges as well and with the registrar also but most of what we view as problematic with the ICC comes from one specific office which is office of the prosecutor. But again, we have to go back to how the ICC was created and for what need to understand really why the ICC has been so ineffective.

Kim: How was it created? So, what was the genesis? What made people say like you know we need an international criminal court we can sentence people?

Oumar: Yes, the idea came about right after World War II when there were the Nuremberg trials to try the Nazis and the Tokyo trials. Right after that, the U.N decided that it would be a good idea to have a permanent court that could deal with this kind of crimes meaning genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity because these crimes are viewed as being so horrific that they shock the conscience of the humanity as a whole. Therefore, having an institution that is permanent to deal with this would be a good idea. So, the international law commission was tasked to make that happen, but the Cold War got in the way. So, nothing was done between 1945 and the late 80s. In the early 90s, the Caribbean states revived this idea because they wanted a court that would address international drug trafficking and with the push of a lot of NGOs and civil society organizations and some states, there was a conference that was held in Rome in 1998 and that’s when the ICC was created. But you had a lot of states that had a lot of competing interests. Some states wanted a court which would have real power prosecuted with real independence to go after anyone who commits these kinds of crimes regardless of who you are or the states who didn’t want that to happen and they would prefer that the ICC be brought under the umbrella of the Security Council. All the states wanted…

Kim: Which is deeply problematic…

Oumar: Exactly, which is deeply problematic, and this was the stance that the US government had for instance…

Kim: Naturally…

Oumar: Exactly…

Kim: So, we are the ugliest hegemons…

Oumar: Yeah, but you are not the only hegemon.

Kim: No, we’re just the ugliest.

Oumar: Yeah, yeah, I mean there are also a lot of other powerful states. In fact, three of the five permanent members of the Security Council are not part of the ICC. Russia is not a member, China is not a member, India is not a member. Israel and most of the Arab countries are not members. So, there’s a lot of people who refuse to join. Now, one interesting thing about ICC is that it is not a U.N court. It’s a treaty-based court. So, states to become members when they willingly sign and ratify the Rome Statue. Then, a lot of states refused to do so. So, the ICC became in a way a work of compromise, independent of court, states willingly join it. But for cases in which the state is not a member, the ICC can still have jurisdiction if the Security Council issues a resolution to that.

Kim: Interesting, even though it’s not a part of the U.N.

Oumar: Yes, so that’s what the Rome Statue called developing a working relationship between the ICC and the Security Council. There’s been two instances of that happening:  One was in Sudan; the ICC gained the jurisdiction over the situation in Darfur because the Security Council issued the resolution. The second one was in Libya in 2011. Those are the only two instances so far where the Security Council brought states that are not members of the ICC under the ICC jurisdiction.

Kim: I’ll just note for the record that those are Muslim majority states in Africa.

Oumar: Yes, and also there is a lot of problems with this resolution from the U.N because the resolution includes a language that says basically that to the ICC you can go in investigate but you can only investigate Sudanese in this context and you can only investigate Libyans. You cannot look into what NATO did in Libya for instance. So, it’s a very limited narrative mandate that the Security Council gave to the ICC.

Kim: Now, I hesitate to ask this as someone who also recently published and finished a book but I’m curious to know what you’re working on next. Now that you’ve got this this book is turned in, what do you have your eyes on, you know, what’s exciting you that you think you want to turn your mind to?

Oumar: Yeah, so the book is out of my hands now is for the world to really read and discuss, to critique or destroy, do whatever they want with it. I am working right now on looking at cultural heritage in terms of conflict, questioning this whole idea first of what constitutes cultural heritage to the value of humanity and how UNESCO uses or selects some of these cultural heritage sites and puts them under the list of The World Heritage Sites. And also, how international justice is trying to catch up with the willful destruction of these sites in conflict. We’ve seen it happening with the Talibans or with the Buddha.

Kim: And is there a particular place where you’re trying to study this and get a sense of things?

Oumar: Yeah, I have done preliminary work on this in Timbuktu, a few months ago, about a year ago and  I’m currently working on two papers and one of them is doing a comparative case studies of what justifications did the Islamists in Mali provide for destroying those sites and what justification did ISIS provide in destroying the sites in Syria and Iraq because one interesting thing about the jihadist group is that they produce a lot of material. They have a lot of videos out there, write a lot. They do a lot of “marketing”, and I think it’s invaluable to study those and see exactly what they say motivate him. If for nothing, that would help states in international organizations to prevent or understand what leads to destruction of these sites and maybe how to prevent them.

Kim: Now, before we go, we have to ask you the question we ask all of our guests and that is: Is there anything that you’ve read recently that you would recommend to our listeners? It doesn’t have to be academic books, right you know I know that being an academic myself, I also like to read fiction and short stories and poetry. So, I’m curious to know is there anything you would encourage our listeners to read.

Oumar: I think this is the hardest question you always ask. So, I try to read outside of my own narrow interests when it comes to research and the way I do it is through my teaching. I teach classes that are not often times directly related to my research. And one class I’ve been teaching this year was Race in World Politics and we had a module that looks at the Cold War from a Global South perspective and specifically from an African perspective. And one book that’s been recently published that I read and assigned in my class is Cold War Assemblages by Bhakti Shringarpure, who is a professor at UConn. This is a book that looks at Cold War ruins from the African perspective and she develops a really interesting theory of the nation time and assassination having been used by Western powers to derail and stop the nation time of these emerging countries. She looks specifically at Lumumba, Sankara and Amilcar Cabral and how the killing of these young, charismatic men, yes, they are men, and she talks about that idea too, of the young charismatic men and the gender analysis of that. And the promise that these leaders had for the future of their countries and how their assassination was a stoppage of the running of the nation time. And the other reason why I really enjoyed reading this book is also because it talks a lot about Amilcar Cabral and I think there is a need for more research and more work done and more publications on Lusophone Africa and Guinea-Bissau, especially during the Cold War and Amilcar Cabral himself who has produced a lot of intellectual material.

Kim: Yeah, so, I actually read Peter Mendy who is a historian and he did one of those Ohio short histories of Amilcar Cabral and of course and you know I’m happy to admit this to our listeners it was not… I remember Zachariah Mampilly telling me years ago when I asked him some questions about African politics. No, what should I, you know, I want to assign something but I’m not quite sure and I was assigning Lumumba and he was like well why don’t you assign something by Amilcar Cabral and it’s like I don’t even know who that is like you know and then I put it on my list but you know our lists get long and we don’t get to it. But then Peter Mendy has this book come out and I thought you know what it’s a short book and we added it to the African Politics Summer Reading Spectacular this past summer. So, and I said I’ll read it you know because I’ve been meaning to read this and it was one of the best books I’ve read in a really long time and I think part of that is because Peter Mendy is a great writer and he knows the material really well. But I think also it’s just Amilcar Cabral led this life that it’s very easy to admire what he did in his life and to it made me want to be a better person and then there was this part where there’s a part in the book where it talked about how young he was and he had already had 60 academic publications. I was like okay this is not good for my ego. He really is prolific.

Oumar: Yeah and he was an an agronom engineer in agronomy who started in Portugal, part of the elite definitely, but you know came back home and became a freedom fighter.

Kim: Literally sowing the seeds throughout the country. I mean, it’s so it’s so fascinating. Yeah, only an agronomist could start a revolution by going around and asking people how their crops are doing.

Oumar: Exactly, yes.

Kim: Well, thank you so much for joining us in the podcast.

Oumar: Thank you, it was my pleasure.

Kim: Thanks for listening to this week’s episode of Ufahamu Africa! To find any of the articles, books or links we talked about on today’s episode, head to ufahamuafrica.com. We are also available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud, and Stitcher. This podcast is produced by Megan DeMint, with help from production assistants Fulya Felicity Turkmen and Aliou Kamau Gambrel. We are generously supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and receive research assistance from Cornell University and the University of California Riverside. Our music is courtesy of Kevin Mcload. Until next week, safari salama!


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