- The Politics of War and the Culture of Violence: North-South-Essays by Ali A. Mazrui
Ali A. Mazrui’s writings have stimulated serious epistemological debates about Africa. The Politics of War and the Culture of Violence is a volume of essays that takes us deep into the mindset of this great scholar as he expounds on conflict and violence in Africa and beyond. In this collection the editors introduce us to some of Mazrui’s intriguing arguments, which consider a number of topics, including African warrior traditions, conflict in Africa, North–South relationships, technology, the computer and nuclear power, and ethnicity and religion.
On the subject of African warrior traditions, Mazrui argues that political authority in precolonial Africa derived more from military aspirations than from economic concerns. This resulted in sexism, whereby women were subordinated and depoliticized, because military decisions had become the preserve of men who doubled as warriors. To him, Christianity and European colonialism are responsible for the diminishment of African masculine virtues and the concept of warriorhood. Mazrui sees hope in a resurrection of warrior traditions targeted against dependency, but cautions us as to its human effects, in view of the brutality unleashed on subjects by earlier warriors—including Shaka of the Zulu Kingdom and Idi Amin of Uganda.
Writing about conflict in Africa, Mazrui notes that the disruptive regrouping of ethnicities during European colonization is a major reason [End Page 186] for current internal strife in the continent. Some of his solutions for resolving such conflicts in Africa, such as power-sharing between civilians and the military and unilateral intervention, could set a dangerous precedent, as has already been manifested in the recent upheavals in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
On North–South relations, Mazrui notes that the importance of oil as a means of diplomatic leverage and China’s admission to the U.N. marked the beginning of the rise of Third World influence, because the West found it increasingly difficult to control the flow of oil through the use of force. However, this interpretation needs more nuance, because we now know that one of the reasons for the U.S. invasion of Iraq was to control oil supplies. On the link between Africa and the “War on Terror” he contends that September 11, 2001, created a situation in which intelligence officers in the U.S. have forged ties with African states to deprive the continent of secrets. This has curtailed civil liberties and has introduced division among Africans just when the trend, one hopes, was toward democratization. Considering that the West has increasingly identified Islam as the enemy, he argues that Africa, the home to many Muslims, could become a major theater for future wars. In his view, to minimize American influence on the continent the African Union should be an equal partner with the U.S. on the War on Terror, but he fails to tell readers whether that partnership should involve shared finances as well.
Writing on the implications of the computer culture and nuclear power in Africa, Mazrui argues that their transferability only widens the North– South relationship of dependency. He draws a connection between poverty and nuclear power by maintaining that “if nuclear energy is successfully developed to levels that reduce the Western World’s dependence on oil from the Third World, that would be the greatest single blow for the prospects for a new international economic order that one could imagine” (239). He advocates democratizing nuclear technology and foresees an Africa with nuclear power, though he fails to underscore the risks involved in its proliferation in an unstable continent.
Finally, on the role of ethnicity and religion in African conflicts Mazrui notes that while the former is to a greater extent divisive, the state of religious “broadmindedness” in some states where a Christian could be elected president in a majority Muslim state (and vice versa) says a lot about religious liberalism in Africa, a...