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Bondage of Boundaries and Identity Politics in Postcolonial Africa

The ëNorthern Problemí and Ethno-Futures

Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni, Brilliant Mhlanga

Publication Year: 2013

What has confounded African efforts to create cohesive, prosperous and just states in postcolonial Africa? What has been the long-term impact of the Berlin Conference of 1884-5 on African unity and African statehood? Why is postcolonial Africa haunted by various ethno national conflicts? Is secession and irredentism the solution? Can we talk of ethno-futures for Africa? These are the kinds of fundamental questions that this important book addresses. Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni and Brilliant Mhlangaís book introduces the metaphor of the ënorthern problemí to dramatise the fact that there is no major African postcolonial state that does not enclose within its borders a disgruntled minority that is complaining of marginalization, domination and suppression. The irony is that in 1963 at the formation of the OAU, postcolonial African leaders embraced the boundaries arbitrarily drawn by European colonialists and institutionalised the principle of inviolability of ëbondage of boundariesí thereby contributing to the problem of ethno-national conflicts. The successful struggle for independence of the Eritrean people and the secession of South Sudan in 2011 have encouraged other dominated and marginalised groups throughout Africa to view secession as an option. Ndlovu-Gatsheni and Mhlanga successfully assembled competent African scholars to deal exhaustively with various empirical cases of ethno-national conflicts throughout the African continent as well as engaging with such pertinent issues as Pan-Africanism as a panacea to these problems. This important book delves deeper into complex issues of space, languages, conflict, security, nation-building, war on terror, secession, migration, citizenship, militias, liberation, violence and Pan-Africanism.

Published by: African Books Collective


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-3


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pp. iii-iv


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pp. v-6

Notes on contributors

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pp. vi-xii

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INTRODUCTION - Borders, identities, the ‘northern problem’ and ethno-futures in postcolonial Africa

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pp. 1-22

African leaders must now organise a new Berlin conference on their own conti-nent. While the decision to freeze the map of Africa in the 1960s was wise in a sovereignty-obsessed era, Africans must now muster the ingenuity to negotiate new arrangements that reflect their own current realities better. Federations and regional trade blocs must be negotiated and territorial concessions made ...

PART I - Space, boundaries and countours of the ‘northern problem’

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CHAPTER 1 - Space matters. Rethinking spatiality in discourses of colonial and postcolonial ‘boundaries’

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pp. 24-44

Rethinking spatiality in discourses of colonial and postcolonial The earth is in effect one world, in which empty, uninhabited spaces virtually do not exist. Just as none of us is outside or beyond geography, none of us is completely free from the struggle over geography. That struggle is complex and interesting because it is not only about soldiers and cannons but also about ...

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CHAPTER 2 - Africa in search of (in)security. Beyond the bondage of boundaries

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pp. 45-60

Understanding identity-based claims across individual, communal and societal levels necessitates a rethinking and a re-negotiating of identities in an effort to secure well-being and survival within imposed territorial structures, economic systems, and political allegiances. Borrowing the concept of the ?everyday?, we suggest that a wider understanding of human security may offer the possibility ...

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CHAPTER 3 - State-building, conflict and global war on terror in the Horn of Africa

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pp. 61-78

This chapter explores the interconnection between state, conflicts and global war on terrorism in the engendering of the extremely volatile situation in the Horn of Africa (HOA). The HOA comprising Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti has been the most conflict-ridden region on the continent for the last 50 years or so. The recent expressions of the conflicts ravaging the region ...

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CHAPTER 4 - The burden of ‘national languages’ and the bondages of linguistic boundaries in postcolonial Africa

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pp. 79-98

The topic of borders, borderlands and boundaries in Africa is both old and new. It is old in the sense that it dates back to pre-colonial (and colonial) periods of pastoralist seasonal migration and human population movement for purposes of trade and other social and cultural exchanges. This topic is new in that it continues to evolve, is being shaped and mediated by the ever changing social, ...

PART 2 - Autochthons, minorities and politics of secession

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CHAPTER 5 - ‘Northern problem’. Postcolony, identity and political [in]stability in Cote d’Ivoire and Togo

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pp. 100-116

Postcolony, identity and political [in]stability in Cote d?Ivoire and TogoColonialism bequeathed African states with contested and conflict-generating legacies, rooted in problematic boundaries, fragmented identities and the frag-ile nature of the postcolony. These legacies cut through territories inhabited by different indigenous peoples and societies with varied internal diversities, and ...

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CHAPTER 6 - Ken Saro-Wiwa, the Ogoni struggle and the logic of spectacle

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pp. 117-129

In many of his writings, Ken Saro-Wiwa, the slain Nigerian dissident writer and minority rights activist, shows a consistent preoccupation with the bur-dens of minority citizenship in a multi-ethnic state. In Nigeria?s vast political and cultural landscape, Saro-Wiwa?s Ogoni are a small peasant community in the South Eastern tip of the Niger Delta region ? a region where for half ...

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CHAPTER 7 - The state and the ‘southern problem’ in Sudan. Marginalisation, self-determination and secessionism

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pp. 130-147

In Africa, political conflicts including armed responses have emerged in a number of narrowly based political systems. This is explained to a large degree by the failure to accommodate certain sections of elites and their constituencies which have a potential claim to a greater share of political power and national resources. In Sudan, this dynamic has been particularly controversial due to ...

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CHAPTER 8 - The Anglophone problem and the secession option in Cameroon

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pp. 148-162

The Anglophone problem has stimulated extensive research and debates in Cameroon?s history. There has been substantive publication on this subject es-pecially by sociologists, anthropologists, historians, political scientists, lawyers and journalists. Nonetheless the focal point of these studies has always revolved around the causes, manifestation and impact of the Anglophone problem. This ...

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CHAPTER 9 - Manumission from black-on-black colonialism. Sovereign statehood for the British Southern Cameroons

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pp. 163-184

The right to self-determination and the principle of territorial integrity are sometimes presented as oppositional concepts. But they are not necessarily so. In this chapter, the author considers successful self-determination claims in the past two decades, highlighting the interplay of the right to self-determination and the concept of territorial integrity, including the principle of uti possidetis ...

PART 3 - Migration, conflict, citizenship and violence

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CHAPTER 10 - A quest for belonging. Migration, identities and the politics of belonging in Africa

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pp. 186-204

There is a growing body of historical and anthropological literature on the sub-ject of migration and the politics of belonging in Africa. The literature covers subjects such as land, autochthony, rootedness, and citizenship. This chapter explores the interplay between migration and perceptions of belonging. Mi-gration brings about the question of how both ?first comers? and ?late comers? ...

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CHAPTER 11 - ‘Discipline and disengagement’. Cross-border migration and the quest for identity among the Ndebele of South-western Zimbabwe

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pp. 205-221

Cross-border migration and the quest for identity among the NdebeleThis chapter is a tale of a punitive state and an ethnic minority ? ostracised not least for being politically different ? but also, the presumed threat to postcolo-nial nation building. The setting is the Ndebele occupied areas of Zimbabwe, and the time, the period following the country?s independence from the Uni-...

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CHAPTER 12 - Homo sacer. Citizenship, exclusion and irregular labour migration from Matabeleland, Zimbabwe, to South Africa

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pp. 222-236

Homo sacer is a concept that was used by the Italian philosopher Giorgio Ag-amben (1998) to refer to a naked or bare life that is depoliticised. Though he has a biological life, homo sacer, has no political significance. The term homo sacer was borrowed from ancient Roman law under which a man who com-mitted a certain kind of crime was banned from society and all his rights as a ...

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CHAPTER 13 - Colonialism, postcolonial violence and repression. Reflections on the northern question in Uganda

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pp. 237-256

In recent years, there has been a rethinking of a whole range of taken-for-granted categories and concepts in the social sciences. One such concept is boundaries, which has re-emerged as a topic of substantial research. This has mainly been due to the emergence of a counter narrative of a borderless world advanced by the globalisation theory. Although one cannot rightly say that the ...

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CHAPTER 14 - Ethnicity, conflicts, and the rise of militia groups in Nigeria

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pp. 257-272

At the attainment of political independence in 1960, Nigeria was divided into three main regions by the British colonial administration, representing the major ethnic groups, thus laying the foundation for ethnic politics and conflicts in the country. These different regions, led by their dominant ethnic groups ? Hausa/Fulani in the north, Yoruba in the west, and Igbo in the east ...

PART 4 - Territorial nationalism, regionalism and pan-Africanism

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CHAPTER 15 - The betrayal of liberation. On the limits to emancipation under post-liberation governments in Southern African post-settler societies

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pp. 274-289

...?Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.? ? Lord Acton?We can easily become like that which we oppose or hate most.? ? Desmond TutuThis chapter explores some aspects of the narrow translation of a liberation movement ? an agency of transformation ? into an exclusivist apparatus claim-ing to represent the interest of all people and a total monopoly in advocating ...

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CHAPTER 16 - Sovereignty, self-determination and the challenges of nation building in contemporary Africa

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pp. 290-304

In an era of strong group feelings, where ?nationalism? stands as a paramount value, the precise boundaries of a ?nation? remain under debate. Should each ?people? or ?nation? enjoy a right to sovereign independence? Can a multi-ethnic or multi-national state survive in the face of conflicting group claims for power? The rapid collapse of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, and ethnically based ...

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CHAPTER 17 - The ‘northern problem’. Is pan-Africanism or regionalism the answer?

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pp. 305-322

The colonially imposed borders on the African continent have posed significant problems for newly established states. Striking examples include the social and cultural divisions of various groups and the inter-communal animosity and vi-olence that have become defining features of most African states. As a response to these divisions and tendencies, the pan-African movement was formulated ...

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CHAPTER 18 - Pan-Africanism and African regional economic integration

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pp. 323-340

The delineation of most of Africa?s international boundaries took place in the nineteenth century. The twentieth century provided an appropriate opportuni-ty to reflect on the predominantly conflictual-laden African boundary regimes and suggest the alternative future of the boundaries as stimulants not of con-flicts and wars, but of international cooperation and regional integration. The ...


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pp. 341-382


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pp. 383-386

Back Cover

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p. 387-387

E-ISBN-13: 9780798304061
Print-ISBN-13: 9780798303910

Page Count: 398
Publication Year: 2013