The Monitor (Kampala)

Africa: Thabo Mbeki Speaks On African Problems - 'Ugandans Shouldn't Wait for AU to Teach Them How to Manage Oil'

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If people understand that with a challenge of that kind, you need time. Indeed when you refer to the matter of the land question in Zimbabwe, we tried to discourage the Zimbabweans from taking that position. We had become reformist ourselves. I doubt in the South African instance if we could take the same route.

Again it has to do with how you manage the political situation. South Africa has got a white minority population which is bigger than the population of New Zealand and a number of European countries. It is a big minority which has got to be integrated in this new South African reality. These are the practical challenges when dealing with this issue of internal reform. It is moving slowly but the question is can it move faster? I am not sure about that.

Josephine Agiire: It seems to me that some of the constraints around African intellectualism are some of the causes of the failure of social movements across the continent. Given that you raised an important question around African renaissance, at that time we hoped that some new discourse around africanness was going to take a new dimension but it seems that we are sliding back. What is your vision of African intellectualism?

Mbeki: I am quite sure you are better qualified to answer that question. Earlier today Prof. Mamdani made some comments which relate to this and I agree with him. He was saying that if you look at African universities, leave South Africa and North Africa, the belt in between at independence, you only had Makerere and Ibadan universities and then the others developed.

Therefore most of the universities were a product of the post-colonial period. The second point he made which I agreed with is that then the ruling groups in our countries took fright at the universities as centres of learning and knowledge which would take positions which are critical of these ruling groups and therefore acted in ways which sought to intimidate these universities and run them down. When we grew up there was indeed a very vibrant African intelligentsia which was very much engaged in these issues. I think there was a period when that intelligentsia in a sense got intimidated. It didn't have the space.

I am sure you have read the things Ngugi Wa Thiongo wrote on this matter in terms of what happened in Kenya. That narrative is correct. Perhaps the problem we have is that we haven't recovered from that in all sorts of ways; including the financing of universities. This matter requires a conscious intervention by other African intellectuals.

Prof. Mamdani: Augustine Ruzindana: "No? Wafula Oguttu? No? (Andrew Mwenda shouts out from the crowd and says Wafula has been arrested, three hours ago.) I think you see we pick people who put themselves on the line.

Andrew Mwenda: Whether it is in literature, philosophy, politics or art, there is very little output about Africa by Africans. Our freedom today is fought for by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, our press freedom is fought for by the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters without Borders, our civil wars are ended by UN peacekeepers, our refugees are fed by UNHCR, our economic policies are determined by the World Bank and IMF, our poverty is fought by Bono and Jeffery Sachs, our crimes are adjudicated upon by the ICC, our liberation is achieved through NATO war planes. I just wanted you to comment on that part of Africa that is happening today.

Mbeki: If I had the power, I would arrest you (loud laughter from audience). Of course you are quite correct. But I think part of what has happened is that the progressive movement on the continent is in retreat. That progressive voice which was trying to define where Africa should go died with the universities because of the manner in which the ruling groups in African countries acted against universities.

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