68 - 75 | SO­CI­ETY

Nairobi Law Monthly - - Contents - PROF MAKAU MU­TUA

Mazrui could be the con­sum­mate provo­ca­teur and truth teller, es­pe­cially in po­lite com­pany. Barkan was the ex­act op­po­site. He pre­ferred gen­tle per­sua­sion more in the tra­di­tion of diplo­macy

2014 was a very bad year for Africa and Africana Stud­ies. The large com­mu­ni­ties of schol­ars that study and ex­plore the worlds of Africa and the African Di­as­pora lost two in­tel­lec­tual gi­ants. The first to go, on Jan­uary10, while on a fam­ily visit to Mex­ico City, was Joel Barkan, for­merly a pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Iowa, but at the time of his pass­ing a se­nior as­so­ciate at the Cen­tre for Strate­gic and In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies in Wash­ing­ton. Then on Oc­to­ber 12, Ali Mazrui, an­other gi­ant, de­parted while at his home in Vestal, New York, out­side Bing­ham­ton Univer­sity.

Within one year, the col­lege of schol­ars con­cerned with Africa lost two of its lead­ing lights. The two were sep­a­rated by a decade – Mazrui died at 81, while Barkan passed on at 72. Both had wit­nessed Africa come of age in its post-colo­nial it­er­a­tion. They watched keenly the growth pains of a ma­ligned con­ti­nent, and prodi­giously wrote about it with a zeal and in­sight that knew few par­al­lels. This much was clear – they were both at­tached to Africa with a con­ta­gious philia. They were not po­lar op­po­sites, nor could they be; para­dox­i­cally, their dif­fer­ences resided within their sim­i­lar­i­ties. In this brief es­say, I ex­plore the le­ga­cies of th­ese two ti­tans and link them within Africa’s jour­ney for full mem­ber­ship in the com­mu­nity of na­tions.

Mazrui’s and Barkan’s ori­gins could

not have been more dif­fer­ent; they lit­er­ally came from op­po­site ends of the earth. Barkan was born of Jewish par­ents in Middle Amer­ica, in Toledo, Ohio. Yet this kid from Amer­ica’s heart­land would be­come an un­abashed cos­mopoli­tan. Mazrui, on the other hand, was born a prince in the real sense of the word. He was a na­tive of Mom­basa, scion of the Mazrui dy­nasty which ruled part of the Kenyan Coast and man­aged to keep the Bri­tish at bay. He came from a de­vout Mus­lim fam­ily, al­though he was, in many re­spects, a lib­eral.

Thus, al­though they came from dif­fer­ent branches of the Abra­hamic faiths, Barkan and Mazrui were joined by re­li­gion. While Mazrui made the big­gest leap from his tra­di­tional roots to for­mal Western education, Barkan stayed closer to home. Barkan was ed­u­cated in his own cul­tural mi­lieu. He at­tended Cor­nell as an un­der­grad­u­ate and re­ceived his MA and doc­tor­ate de­grees in political sci­ence at UCLA. In con­trast, Mazrui, ini­tially a poor stu­dent, had trou­ble mak­ing it to col­lege. Once he got there, how­ever, he grad­u­ated with a BA with Dis­tinc­tion from Manch­ester Univer­sity in the UK, go­ing on to ob­tain an MA from Columbia Univer­sity and a PHD in Phi­los­o­phy from Ox­ford (Nuffield Col­lege) in 1966. Th­ese early years from their re­spec­tive an­ces­tral homes and tra­di­tions – and col­lege and grad­u­ate ed­u­ca­tions – had a pro­found im­pact on both men and for­ever shaped their in­tel­lec­tual out­looks.

Lo­ca­tion and iden­tity

Even though Mazrui was born a Swahili, from the coastal peo­ple of Kenya with a heavy Mus­lim and Arab in­flu­ence, he was a Brah­min. His fam­ily was con­spic­u­ously wealthy and pow­er­ful. His pedi­gree was Arab-like, al­though he was con­sid­ered racially a black African. He was born in Bri­tish colo­nial Kenya even though his fam­ily en­joyed sub­stan­tial au­ton­omy from the Bri­tish colo­nial state. The fam­ily’s vast land hold­ings were specif­i­cally pro­tected from en­croach­ment by the Mazrui Land Trust Act of 1914 (Chap­ter 289 of the Laws of Kenya), a colo­nial-era par­lia­men­tary law. The Kenya govern­ment re­pealed the law in 1989, but a sub­se­quent court rul­ing in 2012 re­stored the land to the Mazrui fam­ily.

Mazrui’s so­cial sta­tus – as a Bri­tish colo­nial sub­ject from an au­tonomously wealthy and pow­er­ful fam­ily, was one of the many du­al­i­ties that would come to de­fine him. Em­bed­ded in his per­son were so many con­tra­dic­tions that it is re­mark­able he was able to har­ness all the com­pet­ing en­er­gies to be­come one of the lead­ing in­tel­lec­tu­als of our time. A few ex­am­ples will suf­fice. He was an African Mus­lim ed­u­cated in the finest in­sti­tu­tions in the West. He em­bod­ied – as he later wrote – Africa’s triple her­itage (Mazrui 1986) – the doc­u­men­tary of the same ti­tle pro­duced jointly by Mazrui and BBC as a TV se­ries with him as the nar­ra­tor. In it, Mazrui cap­tured the re­al­ity of the African as an al­loy of three her­itages – the in­dige­nous African, the Is­lamic tra­di­tion brought through ji­had and evan­ge­lism, and the Euro­pean colo­nial/ Chris­tian/cap­i­tal­ist en­counter. He was a child of all th­ese trau­mas and a med­ley of their African fact.

More than any­thing, it is this work that crys­tallised in the mind of the world Mazrui’s tor­ture of the African soul, the roots of his faith, the ba­sis of his lib­eral Mus­lim out­look, and the bril­liant cos­mopoli­tan that he was. He was a prod­uct of the con­tra­dic­tions of the Arab slave trade in Africans, of the bru­tal Euro­pean coloni­sa­tion of Africa, and of the re­silience of the African. He had a love-hate re­la­tion­ship with the West, al­though his af­fec­tion for the lib­eral West clearly trumped any dis­quiet of the Oc­ci­dent.

Barkan, on the other hand, was a child of the Amer­i­can Em­pire. He was born dur­ing WWII, a con­test that would cat­a­pult the United States to global lead­er­ship and supremacy. Dur­ing most of his life, the United States was the most dom­i­nant state in world his­tory. He died just as the United States, though still clearly the dom­i­nant power, had be­come one of sev­eral key play­ers in an in­creas­ingly mul­ti­po­lar world. Barkan and I of­ten de­bated the im­pli­ca­tions of the less dom­i­nant lev­er­age of the United States in global affairs. He re­mained con­vinced that the United States could be a force for good. Even though the US was not an em­pire in the clas­sic Euro­pean 19th and 20th Cen­tury sense – and cer­tainly not in Africa – it was the most suc­cess­ful state to come out of the Age of Europe, the epoch of white Euro­pean dom­i­na­tion of the globe.

In that sense, Amer­ica could be seen as an ex­ten­sion of the An­glo-saxon dom­i­na­tion of the world. For much of the post war pe­riod, Amer­ica came to see it­self as the cen­tre of the uni­verse and its val­ues as a gift to the rest of hu­man­ity. Noth­ing ex­em­pli­fied this at­ti­tude bet­ter than the use of hu­man rights as a weapon in the US’ for­eign pol­icy arse­nal. Democ­racy pro­mo­tion and hu­man rights cru­sades be­came an in­te­gral part of Amer­i­cana. Th­ese were the lan­guages used by Wash­ing­ton to blud­geon states and cul­tures that were ei­ther anti-western or il­lib­eral. Barkan, as a child of this era, re­fused to sub­scribe to naked im­pe­ri­al­ism. In­stead, he be­lieved that “soft” Amer­i­can power could be used to pro­mote political democ­racy and ba­sic free­doms around the world.

Thus both Barkan and Mazrui saw the world through the his­tor­i­cal dis­tor­tions of their lenses – from dif­fer­ing van­tage points. Mazrui was op­posed to the no­tion of the hi­er­ar­chy of cul­tures. He did not think one cul­ture could be su­pe­rior to an­other. He thought all cul­tures had some­thing to con­trib­ute to the com­mon fund of hu­man wis­dom. There was no doubt that he was a lib­eral who spent the vast ma­jor­ity of his life teach­ing and writ­ing from the West. Many of the so­ci­eties


that he de­fended against im­pe­ri­al­ism – like Uganda – were ei­ther il­lib­eral or out­right dic­ta­tor­ships. He never made Kenya, his na­tive coun­try, his in­tel­lec­tual home be­cause of the hos­til­ity of the state to­wards his sup­port for democ­racy and hu­man rights. This is where I be­lieve Mazrui’s nu­anced prag­ma­tism con­verged with Barkan’s more de­ter­mined view of democ­racy as an “En­light­en­ment” pro­ject. Barkan be­lieved that so­ci­eties can evolve into more hu­mane poli­ties. And he be­lieved that it was the obli­ga­tion – the duty – of those in wealth­ier and more pow­er­ful coun­tries to pay their “debt” by fos­ter­ing democrati­sa­tion in opaque, cor­rupt, and im­pov­er­ished states. It is in this sense that Barkan be­lieved in the use of “soft” Amer­i­can power abroad.

Ca­reer and schol­ar­ship

Barkan and Mazrui en­joyed aca­demic ca­reers that took them to the pin­na­cles of higher education. Barkan taught in some of the finest univer­si­ties in Amer­ica. In his early ca­reer, Barkan taught at Ucirvine be­fore set­tling into a long and cel­e­brated ca­reer at the Univer­sity of Iowa where he taught political sci­ence with a bias to­wards Africa. It was while at Iowa that he emerged as one of the fa­thers of Kenyan stud­ies in the US. He es­tab­lished him­self as a key voice on schol­ar­ship and pol­icy on Africa, writ­ing and edit­ing sev­eral books (1976, 1984, 1994 and 2009) and writ­ing nu­mer­ous ar­ti­cles for schol­arly and pol­icy jour­nals and news­pa­pers.

His works were an­a­lyt­i­cal, care­fully writ­ten, and of­ten laced with doses of pol­icy rec­om­men­da­tions and cri­tiques. Barkan left no doubt that he was not a by­stander to his­tory. He be­lieved in re­forms to cre­ate stronger and more ef­fec­tive in­sti­tu­tions. His par­tic­u­lar fo­cus was the role that leg­is­la­tures play in pass­ing good re­form-ori­ented laws, hold­ing the ex­ec­u­tive ac­count­able, and forg­ing a re­spon­si­ble political class. He was con­cerned with elec­tions and the role they play in cre­at­ing a le­git­i­mate state ca­pa­ble of pro­ject­ing pop­u­lar will to ad­vance democ­racy and political lib­er­al­i­sa­tion. Th­ese are themes to which he of­ten re­turned in his shorter pieces in jour­nals like “For­eign Affairs” and in opin­ion ar­ti­cles in news­pa­pers.

Barkan’s prag­matic side was high­lighted by his work on the ground in East Africa when he served as the US Agency for In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment’s Re­gional Democ­racy and Gov­er­nance Ad­vi­sor for East­ern and South­ern Africa in 1990s. One could say he fell in love with his work as he re­peat­edly re­turned to Kenya and other parts of Africa af­ter his tour to do short term projects on democrati­sa­tion, elec­tions, and de­vel­op­ment for the World Bank, USAID, and other agen­cies. On th­ese trips, he would meet with nu­mer­ous lo­cal academics, se­nior politi­cians, US em­bassy of­fi­cials, and com­mon cit­i­zens to share ideas and re­ceive in­for­ma­tion. This is what he fo­cused on mostly in the last stanza of his life while based at CSIS in Wash­ing­ton.

Mazrui’s ca­reer was solely based in the academy. His world was gov­erned by ideas right from his con­tro­ver­sial ten­ure early in life at Mak­erere Univer­sity be­fore he ran afoul of Idi Amin, the late Ugan­dan dic­ta­tor. Kenya would not wel­come him home be­cause of his sharp pen, but the United States took him in. His first stop was at Stan­ford and then Michi­gan where his aca­demic ca­reer truly blos­somed. Fi­nally, he chose Bing­ham­ton Univer­sity, New York, as his last aca­demic home. He was also a vis­it­ing pro­fes­sor in many lead­ing univer­si­ties.

In all th­ese in­sti­tu­tions, in­clud­ing at Mak­erere, he ei­ther held dis­tin­guished chairs or headed im­por­tant de­part­ments. He was a much sought af­ter speaker, and in 1979 he de­liv­ered the pres­ti­gious BBC Reith Lecture fa­mously en­ti­tled “The African Con­di­tion”. Widely re­garded as an ora­tor and an un­equalled wordsmith, Mazrui was a mas­ter of the turn of phrase. His witty and hu­mor­ous de­liv­er­ies were al­most as fa­mous as his jar­ring de­bates in which he chal­lenged con­ven­tion and mer­ci­lessly at­tacked some of the totems of the West. In all, he was grip­ping and to­tally in­sight­ful. He could not be ig­nored. When he spoke, African dic­ta­tors and democrats alike lis­tened. He was so

pro­lific in vir­tu­ally ev­ery writ­ten genre that a com­pen­dium of his writ­ings tra­verses large swathes of the hu­man in­tel­lect. He was such a tow­er­ing in­tel­lec­tual that in 2005 the US jour­nal “For­eign Pol­icy” and the Bri­tish pub­li­ca­tion “Prospect” named him one of the world’s top 100 pub­lic in­tel­lec­tu­als. Like Barkan, Mazrui moulded and in­flu­enced gen­er­a­tions of academics and pol­icy-mak­ers. Lofty rhetoric and the se­duc­tive ca­dence were not Barkan’s forte but he was an ag­ile de­bater on TV and ra­dio pro­grammes and at aca­demic con­fer­ences, where he was widely re­spected. Like Mazrui, he got his mes­sage across and he had a mes­sianic zeal when it came to mak­ing the case for a more en­light­ened US pol­icy to­wards Africa.

Barkan, un­like Mazrui, was not a con­tro­ver­sial aca­demic. He did not seek to chal­lenge the ideas of his col­leagues the way Mazrui did. Mazrui rel­ished in­tel­lec­tual com­bat. There are many sur­viv­ing and de­parted academics – African and Amer­i­can – that are still smart­ing from his ver­bal jabs. The late Wil­liam Ochieng, a Kenyan aca­demic who held un­pop­u­lar views about the role of the Mau Mau in Kenya’s in­de­pen­dence, was one of those at odds with Mazrui. A fa­mous slugfest pit­ted Mazrui against Nige­rian No­bel lau­re­ate and writer Wole Soyinka af­ter the for­mer at­tacked Won­ders of the African World, the TV se­ries by Har­vard aca­demic Gates (2000). Soyinka, a close as­so­ciate of Gates, was up­set by Mazrui’s re­view of the Gates doc­u­men­tary.

Th­ese hot spats be­tween Mazrui and Soyinka go back to “Tran­si­tion”, the Kam­pala-based lead­ing in­tel­lec­tual African mag­a­zine in the 1960–1970s. An­other no­table de­bate pit­ted Mazrui against Archie Mafeje, the South African aca­demic, where the lat­ter bit­terly ac­cused the for­mer of ad­vo­cat­ing the re­coloni­sa­tion of Africa (Mangu 2008; Mafeje 2008a, 2008b, 2008c; Mazrui 2008a, 2008b). Both Mafeje and Mazrui proved to be ef­fec­tive pugilists, but the de­bate was not the finest mo­ment for ei­ther of them. Even so, such epic en­coun­ters came to de­fine Mazrui. He was un­afraid to pro­voke con­tro­versy; he, in fact, courted it.

Barkan was the ex­act op­po­site. He pre­ferred gen­tle per­sua­sion more in the tra­di­tion of diplo­macy, which he greatly val­ued, rather than the bare-knuck­led world of univer­sity cor­ri­dors. I sus­pect that Barkan’s ap­proach was in­flu­enced by his de­sire to keep doors open to pol­icy-mak­ers and key di­plo­mats with whom he had fre­quent con­tact. He al­ways strove to reach them at the in­di­vid­ual level and sought to con­vince them of the wis­dom of one pol­icy choice over an­other. He knew how sen­si­tive di­plo­mats and pol­icy-mak­ers could be, and so he kept their con­fi­dences un­less there was a com­pelling rea­son to call them out. In con­trast, Mazrui pre­ferred the blunt in­stru­ment of pub­lic de­nun­ci­a­tion but iron­i­cally ended up at­tract­ing se­nior pol­icy-mak­ers and of­fi­cials wher­ever he went by the pas­sion and per­sua­sive­ness of his thought. Thus, while Barkan strad­dled the worlds of diplo­macy/pol­icy and the academy, Mazrui stayed within the aca­demic podium and the writ­ten word to con­vey and foster his vi­sion of the world. Barkan could, how­ever, take off the gloves and hit out at African klep­to­crats, as he did in a num­ber of ar­ti­cles on Kenya un­der Pres­i­dents Daniel arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki.

Barkan’s aca­demic and pol­icy work was de­signed to ed­u­cate Amer­i­can academics, stu­dents, di­plo­mats, and pol­i­cy­mak­ers about Africa and why it mat­tered to the United States. Since his first trip to Kenya shortly af­ter in­de­pen­dence, Barkan was con­vinced that Kenya could pros­per and achieve a larger des­tiny in Africa. He strongly be­lieved that a more en­light­ened US pol­icy to­wards Kenya – sup­port­ing ef­fec­tive and ac­count­able in­sti­tu­tions like the leg­is­la­ture and le­git­i­mate elec­toral sys­tems – would so­lid­ify Kenya as an an­chor state in Africa. He worked prodi­giously to make pos­si­ble vis­its by Kenyan academics, politi­cians, and di­plo­mats to the United States to at­tend meet­ings and be ex­posed to their coun­ter­parts. He be­lieved that strong and eth­i­cal Kenyan up­per and middle classes were nec­es­sary for the in­cu­ba­tion of a vi­able democ­racy.

He fought hard against US State Depart­ment views that den­i­grated Africa’s place in its cal­cu­lus. He wanted Amer­i­can di­plo­mats, politi­cians, and pol­icy-mak­ers to un­der­stand why Africa mat­tered to the United States – for Africa’s sake and for the larger US in­ter­ests abroad. To this end, he nur­tured many an African academics and in­tro­duced them to the larger worlds of Amer­i­can academy, pol­icy, and pol­i­tics. He kept strong links with Kenya’s young civil so­ci­ety and of­ten col­lab­o­rated with it, col­lect­ing data and in­for­ma­tion for use in his pol­icy ad­vo­cacy as an aca­demic and within the cor­ri­dors of power in Wash­ing­ton – I ar­gued in a eu­logy for Barkan that he was the clos­est an Amer­i­can could come to be­ing a Kenyan with­out ac­tu­ally be­ing one.

Mazrui wrote about many sub­jects, even try­ing his hand at lit­er­a­ture when he penned The Trial of Christo­pher Okigbo (1971) a novel that cri­tiqued the Nige­rian writer for al­legedly be­tray­ing the larger Nige­rian pro­ject and art by join­ing the civil war on Bi­afra’s side. The works he pro­duced early on in his ca­reer painted a young man with large ideas full of in­tel­lec­tual am­bi­tion. He was serv­ing no­tice that he would be play­ing on the global stage with the big­gest minds of the era.

His 1967 books (“Pax Africana”, “On He­roes and Uhuru Wor­ship”, and “An­glo-african Com­mon­wealth”) fore­told a con­tro­ver­sial pen­man­ship. Sev­eral other books, in­clud­ing “The African Con­di­tion” (1980), “Cul­tural Forces in World Pol­i­tics” (1990), and “Is­lam: Be­tween Glob­al­iza­tion and Coun­tert­er­ror­ism” (2006) so­lid­i­fied his iconic sta­tus. He was

an in­tel­lec­tual war­rior in the best sense of the word. While their styles were con­trast­ing – and their reach dif­fer­ent – both Mazrui and Barkan wrote and acted with pas­sion and con­vic­tion. One got the im­pres­sion they lived for their ideas and work. Each seemed pre­pared to de­fend his work to the death. In the end, it must be con­ceded that each suc­ceeded in his cho­sen path and the uses to which he put his in­tel­lect. While Barkan closed his life at a think-tank do­ing largely pol­icy work, Mazrui’s ca­reer ended the way it started – in the academy. Each hued to his strengths toil­ing at the cor­ner in which he was best suited.

Phi­los­o­phy and world­view

Both Mazrui and Barkan were born and lived dur­ing a time of roil­ing ide­o­log­i­cal fer­ment. Both lived dur­ing the height of the Cold War, and they saw the col­lapse of the Ber­lin Wall and the end of the Soviet Union as well as the uni­fi­ca­tion of Ger­many. But most im­por­tantly for them, they wit­nessed Africa’s In­de­pen­dence Decade – the vir­tual political lib­er­a­tion of a con­ti­nent, ex­cept for Western Sa­hara. They saw the end of Apartheid in South Africa. They were ju­bi­lant about Africa’s de­coloni­sa­tion, but de­pressed by the in­er­tia and dys­func­tion – dystopia – of many an Africa post-colo­nial state.

They watched as early ex­per­i­ments in lib­eral con­sti­tu­tion­al­ism col­lapsed un­der the weight and pres­sures of a scan­dalous in­ter­na­tional eco­nomic or­der, rav­en­ous tribal elites, and cor­rupt political classes. In their place, one-party dic­ta­tor­ships and bru­tal mil­i­tary regimes pro­lif­er­ated in the African con­ti­nent as it en­tered one long night of tyranny. In­fra­struc­tures col­lapsed, economies were brought to their knees, geno­cides and pogroms be­came all-too com­mon, and the African univer­sity vir­tu­ally died. Africa be­came a by-word for hu­man mis­ery. But nei­ther Mazrui nor Barkan lost faith in Africa’s hu­man­ity and its abil­ity to bounce back from ad­ver­sity. For Mazrui, Africa’s resur­gence would be a mat­ter of time. Af­ter all, the con­ti­nent had al­ready en­dured two of the largest his­tor­i­cal trau­mas the world had ever seen: slav­ery and colo­nial­ism.

Al­though Mazrui and Barkan came from con­trast­ing cul­tural mi­lieus, they both be­lieved – deeply – in hu­man dig­nity. Peo­ple like them – men of their era – were gen­er­ally forced by his­tory to choose which side of the political di­vide to in­habit. This was par­tic­u­larly true for men of ideas such as them­selves. For an African like Mazrui, the pres­sure to join the Marx­ist col­umn in vogue through­out sec­tors of the African in­tel­li­gentsia dur­ing the 1960s–1980s was in­tense. One’s bonafides as a true African pa­triot de­pended on which side of the fence one fell. Lib­eral ide­o­logues were mocked as “cap­i­tal­ist run­ning dogs”. Even worse, they were viewed as traitors to the cause of full African lib­er­a­tion from the West, cap­i­tal­ism, and ex­ploita­tion.

Mazrui, one of the first Africans truly steeped in the lit­er­a­ture of the West and its pol­i­tics, did not ac­cept this easy schism. He thought that this di­chotomy dem­a­gogued the com­plex­ity of the African con­di­tion. The East African cir­cles in which he started his ca­reer were dom­i­nated by left­ist academics, many of them ex­press­ing an openly Marx­ist/ Maoist/lenin­ist view of the world. But Mazrui never ceded ground to them. He es­chewed most forms of fun­da­men­tal­ism and his world­view was de­cid­edly lib­eral, al­though he re­mained through­out his life a critic of the West.

Mazrui could be the con­sum­mate provo­ca­teur and truth teller, es­pe­cially in po­lite com­pany. Many times he wrote to kill totems. For ex­am­ple, al­though he held the Dr Al­bert Sch­weitzer Chair at Bing­ham­ton, he once said that the revered doc­tor was a “benev­o­lent racist” for call­ing Africans “savages” and “prim­i­tives” and treat­ing them in sep­a­rate and un­equal wards in pre-in­de­pen­dence Gabon. In the doc­u­men­tary, “The Africans: A Triple Her­itage”, Mazrui rooted for a black-ruled state to in­herit South Africa’s nu­clear arse­nal once Apartheid was de­feated. Blacks, he ar­gued, would have nu­clear arms for the first time in his­tory and could use it for lev­er­age in white­dom­i­nated global affairs.

A hue and cry fol­lowed but Mazrui was un­fazed by his Amer­i­can crit­ics who in­cluded Lynne Cheney, the Chair of the Na­tional En­dow­ment for the Hu­man­i­ties and wife of Dick Cheney, the fu­ture Vice Pres­i­dent un­der Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush. Though a lib­eral – and a Mus­lim who was known to en­joy good wine – Mazrui was a fierce critic of the West’s treat­ment of Is­lam and Mus­lims. He de­fended Is­lam, which he saw as part of Africa’s rich her­itage, from de­mon­i­sa­tion. But he also vir­u­lently op­posed Is­lamic fun­da­men­tal­ism and ex­trem­ism. He be­lieved that Sharia was not com­pat­i­ble with democ­racy. An equal op­por­tu­nity critic, he de­nounced Marx­ism as un­suited to Africa but was also deeply crit­i­cal of cap­i­tal­ism and its im­pe­rial ex­ploita­tion of Africa. In sum, Mazrui op­posed all forms of dom­i­na­tion and in­stead sought a new hu­man­ism for Africa – an ide­ol­ogy grounded in lib­er­al­ism but an eco­nomic sys­tem that was anti-im­pe­rial and re­spect­ful of the dig­nity of Africans

and Africa’s re­sources.

Barkan, like Mazrui, had no time for Marx­ism. I think he was never tempted, or se­duced, by the logic of Karl Marx. A true lib­eral in the Amer­i­can sense within the Demo­cratic Party, he be­lieved in the Amer­i­can ex­per­i­ment with democ­racy and the po­ten­tial for the United States to play a con­struc­tive role in emerg­ing states, es­pe­cially in Africa. He was par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in three African states that he saw as an­chors in Africa. Th­ese were Kenya, Nige­ria, and South Africa. He thought Egypt, the fourth an­chor state, was an im­por­tant player, al­though he did not fo­cus his work there. For Barkan, the Amer­i­can val­ues of democ­racy and the rights lan­guage could be used as a link to cul­tures emerg­ing out of despotic pe­ri­ods.

But he was sen­si­tive to charges of Amer­i­can pa­ter­nal­ism, or soft big­otry, un­der the guise of hu­man rights and de­vel­op­ment. He fre­quently ar­gued that demo­cratic val­ues had to be deeply em­bed­ded in the bone mar­row of other cul­tures to suc­ceed. Elites and com­mon peo­ple had to con­nect their own as­pi­ra­tions for free­dom with th­ese val­ues to le­git­imise any role that the United States could play through its diplo­matic mis­sions and de­vel­op­ment agen­cies. The key to suc­cess would be a press that was vi­brant, a strong civil so­ci­ety, and an ex­pand­ing middle class. There is no ques­tion that Barkan rep­re­sented the best of the Amer­i­can academy study­ing and work­ing on pol­icy in Africa. His schol­ar­ship, work, and global vi­sion – un­like Mazrui’s – were not forged, or born, in protest. It was not anti-im­pe­rial, nor did it have to be ex­plic­itly so to be a gen­uine giv­ing of self to the larger hu­man­ity. He took the best of the United States and shared it with Africa.


I will deeply miss both Mazrui and Barkan. They were among my men­tors and fore­bears in the academy. I learned a lot from both, and I shared sev­eral plat­forms with them. I re­mem­ber be­ing on a panel with Mazrui at the OAU in Ad­dis Ababa in 1994. In front of us sat for­eign min­is­ters and am­bas­sadors of many African states. Mazrui did not mince words as he blasted them for cre­at­ing a refugee cri­sis in Africa. He de­cried the cor­rupt and bru­tal post-colo­nial African state and won­dered whether it would be washed in rivers of blood. That was Mazrui – fear­less and di­rect be­fore the pow­er­ful.

In 2003, I in­vited him to ad­dress a truth com­mis­sion con­fer­ence in Nairobi when I chaired the Task Force for the Es­tab­lish­ment of a Truth, Jus­tice, and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion. At short no­tice, he made the long jour­ney from Bing­ham­ton to Kenya and de­liv­ered an un­equiv­o­cal en­dorse­ment for a truth com­mis­sion for Kenya. That, to me, un­der­lined his com­mit­ment to a just so­ci­ety.

Barkan was no dif­fer­ent. We spoke on sev­eral pan­els to­gether, one of the last com­ing at the an­nual meet­ing of the Amer­i­can So­ci­ety of In­ter­na­tional Law in Wash­ing­ton. He was en­gag­ing and in­vig­o­rat­ing. But he did not suf­fer fools well ei­ther. Barkan’s con­cern for jus­tice was well known. One of his last pre­oc­cu­pa­tions be­fore he left us was the cases against Uhuru Keny­atta and Wil­liam Ruto for crimes against hu­man­ity at The Hague­based In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court. He be­lieved the two – who were de­clared elected Pres­i­dent and Deputy Pres­i­dent of Kenya – were guilty of the heinous charges against them.

But he was aghast at the slow pace of the tri­als and be­lieved that the Of­fice of the Pros­e­cu­tor was un­likely to se­cure a con­vic­tion be­cause of wit­ness tam­per­ing and poor in­ves­ti­ga­tions. Th­ese are the mem­o­ries of my friends and men­tors that I am go­ing to keep. I de­lib­er­ately chose the con­trast/com­ple­ment of Barkan and Mazrui to show how two lead­ing schol­ars and ac­tors on the African re­al­ity could con­verge on the pro­ject of the con­ti­nent’s re­nais­sance. One was born free and white in the Amer­i­can heart­land.

The other came into the world black and a Bri­tish colo­nial sub­ject in the Kenyan Colony. Both be­came lead­ers in the Amer­i­can and global acad­e­mies on Africa. Mazrui’s was the voice of protest – ex­pos­ing the West’s machi­na­tions and vices against Africa and ask­ing for fun­da­men­tal change in Africa-west re­la­tions. Mazrui told the world that he, and by ex­ten­sion Africa, could stand in the most hal­lowed halls of the global academy; that Africa was an equal in global affairs and should be treated as such. Barkan’s claims were not that force­ful, nor could they be. That is be­cause he saw him­self as an out­sider to Africa, but an out­sider in­sider. He was acutely aware of the lim­i­ta­tions of the Amer­i­can ex­pa­tri­ate and Western African­ist in Africa.

But it is what both Mazrui and Barkan did to ad­vance the study of Africa in Amer­ica and the world that will live for­ever. Mazrui was deeply in­volved in the African Stud­ies As­so­ci­a­tion (ASA), and even served as its Pres­i­dent. Barkan was a long term mem­ber and se­nior of­fi­cial of the ASA. Both were “states­men” within the col­lege of African­ists, the African Di­as­pora, and Africans within the ASA. The pass­ing of both gi­ants leaves a unique void. Their le­ga­cies – and their good works – will live for­ever.^


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