Gold The True Motor Of West African History: An Overview Of The Importance Of Gold In West Africa And Its Relations With The Wider World
While the prime sources of gold remained more or less where they had always been, hidden from the outside world, along the headwaters of the Rivers Senegal and Niger (Wright 2007: 21).
Towards a Longer Time Frame for African History
Slavery and African slaves have dominated historical perspectives of Africa and its relations with the wider world. Yet, it is gold which has been the most important and enduring element that has shaped and determined West Africa and its interactions with the wider world. For at least 1,500 years gold and not slaves has been the commodity determining not only the region’s economy and history, but also West Africa’s links with the wider world.
Beginning in the late 1700s, understandable humanitarian concerns and philanthropic motives ensured that the focal point within public discussion and history, when dealing with West Africa, came to be centred on the issue of slavery. Focussing on slavery to the detriment of gold and other commodities to some extent ensured that the export of slaves from West Africa came to be halted in the course of the nineteenth century. The persistence of slavery within Africa, as well as the continued smuggling of slaves out of Africa, in many instances served to legitimate the intervention in, and subsequent occupation of, West Africa by Europe’s imperial powers. Ironically, those opposed to colonial rule made grateful use of the historical trope of slavery that existed within European discourse to hasten the end of colonial occupation in West Africa. Thus the discourse that had in many instances been used to legitimate the establishment of colonial rule, was also used to oppose colonial rule. But, and this is the important issue, in both instances it was the trope of ‘slavery’ that determined the manner in which lay and professional observers looked at West Africa’s past. In both instances it was a dehumanising and debilitating view of history that effectively robbed, and continues to rob, West African historical actors of any agency beyond being mere pawns in the West’s insatiable thirst and desire for slaves. The persistence of this negative history continues to rob West Africa of its rightful place in global history.
The focus on slavery has overshadowed and driven from both public and scholarly perception the realisation that West Africa’s history is far more than slavery alone; it is indeed a sad irony of history that the incessant focus on the dark past of slavery has managed to eclipse the bright history of gold in West Africa. A refocus of West African history, away from the past three hundred years to the longer perspective of nearly two thousand years, brings into focus a far more constructive and less passive history of West Africa and its inhabitants. Far from being merely the subject pawns of the deeply exploitative and dehumanising trade and economic systems initiated outside of Africa, a refocus on the role of West African gold in its relations with the wider world, brings to the fore a far more energetic and virile history in which West Africa’s relations with the rest of the world are based on a far greater degree of equality and shared interest.
This essay has been written with the express purpose of drawing to the fore the long history of gold in West Africa so that a new beginning can be made to refocus views of Africa and its people away from a debilitating and ultimately nihilistic focus on slavery. A focus on the long-term history West African gold will bring to the fore an interesting history in which Africans are not merely acted upon but ultimately determined the course of global history and humanity as a whole. Read more
Professional Blindness And Missing The Mark ~ The Historical Analysis Of Four Major Crises During The First Two Decades Of The Republic Of Indonesia
Within a few days we will begin publishing Professional Blindness And Missing The Mark ~ The Historical Analysis Of Four Major Crises During The First Two Decades Of The Republic Of Indonesia. The paperback edition will be available in the beginning of 2015 (EHV Academicpress – Bremen).
This book contains six captivating articles about decisive moments in the first two decennia of the Republic of Indonesia’s existence (1945-1965); one per chapter with an introduction. They were presented at the memorial in honor of Professor dr. Wim Wertheim’s centennial birthday in 2008 – the doyen of post-war Dutch Indonesia research.
Each chapter explores a significant event from that era and was written by experienced researchers – Mary van Delden, Saskia Wieringa, Ben White, Pieter Drooglever and Coen Holtzappel – making use of source material that for the most part has been neglected by previous research. The analyses of the material reveal the new Republic’s struggle to bring together, and keep together, the colonial heritage of the Dutch East Indies in one independent and productive Republic of Indonesia. The foundation of a domestically, across the archipelago, and internationally accepted national government, as well as obedient regional governments and obliging armed forces, were deciding factors in this struggle.
Violent confrontations between armed forces and the communist party PKI took place in 1948 during the Indonesian National Revolution, as well as in 1965 after the Republic had already been independent for 14 years. The dividing issue was the power balance between politics and army top in state, government and land. A rigorous break with the past was made in 1965, which saw the installation of a junta regime under the leadership of General Soeharto that stayed in place for the following 32 years. Democracy had to wait until the army top made sure every part of politics and armed forces was finely adapted to work with the other. Not until then would the clock of government, production and control be fully set.
The articles reveal a blind spot in Western research of Indonesian developments in the discussed period; research that from 1965 onward was further, and permanently, influenced by the Indonesian army’s view. The Cold War raged domestically as well as abroad.
Coen Holtzappel – Preface
Mary van Delden – Internees from the Republic
Coen Holtzappel – The year 1948 and the Madiun affairs, a year of cheat and rumours
Pieter Drooglever – Papua Nationalism. Another blind spot
Coen Holtzappel – The Thirtieth September Movement of 1965, as viewed by the perpetrators – Part One
Coen Holtzappel – The Thirtieth September Movement of 1965, as viewed by the perpetrators – Part Two
Coen Holtzappel – The Thirtieth September Movement of 1965, as viewed by the perpetrators – Part Three
Saskia Eleonora Wieringa – Sexual Slander And The 1965/66 Mass Killings In Indonesia: Political And Methodological Considerations
Ben White – The anthropologist’s blind spot: Clifford Geertz on class, killings and communists in Indonesia
Coen Holtzappel & Pieter Drooglever – Postscript
About the authors
The articles contain the edited versions of the presentations discussed during the Wertheim Seminar, held on June 4, 2008 in the International Institute of Social History (IISH) in Amsterdam. The subject was Blind Spots and Preoccupation in the research on Post War Indonesian Political Crises. The seminar was part of the 3-day Wertheim Centennial. It was hosted by the International Institute of Social History (IISH), the ASIA Platform of the University of Amsterdam and the International Institute of Asian Studies (IIAS) and organized by a team from the Wertheim Foundation, i.e. Ibrahim Isa – secretary, Farida Ishaya – member, Jaap Erkelens – member, and Coen Holtzappel – chairman and convener of the Wertheim seminar. The speakers, guests and audience honored the legacy of Professor Doctor Wim Wertheim with this event, the distinguished academic who after World War II founded the Amsterdam school of the historical sociological analysis of modern Asian history and political development. Wertheim also played an important role in the Dutch and international resistance against the murderous war on Indonesian communism, which President Suharto started after the 1 October 1965 Affair, and his destruction of Indonesia’s Sukarno legacy. The seminar was opened by Emil Schwidder, research staff member of the IISH, with a special task on the China collection. He reminded the audience of the close professional relationship that Professor Wertheim and IISH maintained during his life, and the fact that Wertheim’s children donated their father’s correspondence, publications and other documents and tapes to the institute. The IISH was founded in 1935 and has become one of the leading institutes in the world to rescue, conserve and register important archives of socialist social movements. Before the Second World War, archives were rescued from Austria, Germany and Spain, including papers by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. War archives from Eastern Europe, Turkey, the Middle East and Asia followed. The collection of Wertheim’s personal and official correspondence, publications, personal and press photographs is now part of the archives.
Coen Holtzappel, convener of the seminar and chairman of the Wertheim Foundation, thanked Emil Schwidder for his kind opening words and welcomed the speakers, the audience, and the special guests. He called to attention the subject of the seminar, i.e. the disturbing role of political and social ignorance, taboos, neglect and denial in the study of historical events and phenomena. They should not be mistaken for “white spots” in our knowledge of the world; i.e. not yet discovered domains of research and phenomena. The real focus is on subjects and domains of knowledge that governments and political elite groups close for research, for example to hide specific aspects of their political behavior, such as crimes, irresponsible wars, blunders, and crimes against humanity. The speakers of the seminar would discuss examples of such disturbances they encountered during their studies of major political crises in and between the Republic Indonesia and the Netherlands during the first two decades of Indonesia’s existence. For many Indonesians, the Netherlands is still the former colonizer and occupier. For many Dutch people Indonesia is the former Netherlands East Indies. They call Indonesian food “Indies food.” According to Wertheim, such ‘blinkers’ have a history. In authoritarian states they are the products of carefully maintained systems of political myth formation, created by elites. To cite the closing statement of Ben White’s chapter in this book, which stems from Wertheim’s Elite and Mass, “The blind and the ignorant, in general, are not busy making themselves or others blind and ignorant. What Wertheim drew our attention to, in contrast, was a process by which elites, and scholars, choose to describe societies and history in ways which made both themselves and others blind to social reality.” In other words, the sources of blindness and ignorance that we should pay attention to, are the elite groups and scholars that use their power and influence to make people look at the things they want them to see and refrain them from looking at things they want them to ignore or deny.
Although I am convinced that such tyrants also exist in people’s personal life, bringing others to crime and suicide, in social and political history we are primarily interested in the political and public social level at which political tyranny occurs. The level where political and religious leaders program people to follow their prejudice and abstain them from using their innate human capacities to study the unknown. In this respect the chapters presented in this book reflect an effort to tackle the problem of how to approach the prejudices in the Dutch-Indonesian discourse about the history of the first decades of Independence War and subsequent decolonization. Instead of the dislikes that burden Dutch and Indonesian views of each other, we should work on a value free and neutral historiography of the shared process of separating Indonesian and Dutch households and interests, and the development of their own ways of continuance. Central in this effort should be the urgent advice to historians, social and political academics to base restudies of past crises and events on the primary sources and eye witness reports. It is the only way to stay as close to the past as possible.
The subjects covered by the seminar are as follows:
 The ignorance in Dutch and Indonesian literature regarding the role of the Republican Pemuda units as protectors of Indo-Europeans after the Japanese capitulation. The findings of Mary van Delden appear to challenge conceptions that still exist on both the Indonesian and the Dutch side,
 Coen Holtzappel calls attention to General Nasution’s analysis of the roots of the Madiun Affair of 1948 as exposed in Part 8 of his 10 volume Publication on the Indonesian Independence War. Instead of delivering a tale about how he crushed the communist Madiun coup, Nasution went back to his notes, and the available Indonesian and Dutch sources. He produced a study of the registered and unregistered events that caused the Indonesian military Madiun uprising of 1948 and the communist support of it.
 Pieter Drooglever emphasizes the ignorance regarding the roots and meaning of Papua nationalism during and after the conflict about the international status of Netherlands New Guinea between the Netherlands and Indonesia.
 Holtzappel uses the minutes of the first two martial law trials against two leaders of the Thirtieth September Movement of 1965 to show that Western and Indonesian analysts ignore the conflict that ignited the movement. Their focus is too much on the view of “winner” General Suharto and ignores the view of the “losers” which reveals a different story.
 Saskia Wieringa turns our attention to the ignorance and denial after the Reformasi of 1999 of the use of sexual slander against the communist women’s organization Gerwani by General Suharto. Sexual slander was used to stigmatize communism, and communist women in particular; and to legitimize genocide in order to destroy President Sukarno’s political and social legacy. Apparently, Reformasi has not created the clean break with the Suharto past many had hoped for in 1999. There still is no room for reconciliation and truth finding, unlike other countries with a communist past and a dirty war against it.
 Ben White points to the conservative roots of a renowned American anthropologist’s unwillingness to analyze the massacre, which fitted existing standards of scientific knowledge and morality. Referring to outsiders in order to explain the massacre as having cultural roots shows elitist escapism. It asks the question but leaves the answer to the anonymous and politically disabled victims and the perpetrators. Read more
SACSIS – the South African Civil Society Information Service – is a platform for policy dialogue that has been established as a news agency to channel social justice news and analysis about policy dialogue in South Africa to the media.
Rationale of SACSIS
SACSIS seeks to influence media reporting and consequently public policy discourse to promote the idea of the entitlement of the poor, to a higher standard of living and better quality of life.
Trustees of SACSIS
SACSIS is governed by a board of trustees drawn from civil society. Our trustees include activists and practitioners working in academia and NGOs.
Values of SACSIS
SACSIS embraces a rights based approach to development, which views poverty as a denial of human rights.
Approach of SACSIS
SACSIS releases between two and five articles per week. Our emphasis is on quality as opposed to quantity.
With an Introduction by Milton Keynes
The Ndebele of Zimbabwe, who today constitute about twenty percent of the population of the country, have a very rich and heroic history. It is partly this rich history that constitutes a resource that reinforces their memories and sense of a particularistic identity and distinctive nation within a predominantly Shona speaking country. It is also partly later developments ranging from the colonial violence of 1893-4 and 1896-7 (Imfazo 1 and Imfazo 2); Ndebele evictions from their land under the direction of the Rhodesian colonial settler state; recurring droughts in Matabeleland; ethnic forms taken by Zimbabwean nationalism; urban events happening around the city of Bulawayo; the state-orchestrated and ethnicised violence of the 1980s targeting the Ndebele community, which became known as Gukurahundi; and other factors like perceptions and realities of frustrated economic development in Matabeleland together with ever-present threats of repetition of Gukurahundi-style violence—that have contributed to the shaping and re-shaping of Ndebele identity within Zimbabwe.
The Ndebele history is traced from the Ndwandwe of Zwide and the Zulu of Shaka. The story of how the Ndebele ended up in Zimbabwe is explained in terms of the impact of the Mfecane—a nineteenth century revolution marked by the collapse of the earlier political formations of Mthethwa, Ndwandwe, and Ngwane kingdoms replaced by new ones of the Zulu under Shaka, the Sotho under Moshweshwe, and others built out of Mfecane refugees and asylum seekers. The revolution was also characterized by violence and migration that saw some Nguni and Sotho communities burst asunder and fragmenting into fleeing groups such as the Ndebele under Mzilikazi Khumalo, the Kololo under Sebetwane, the Shangaans under Soshangane, the Ngoni under Zwangendaba, and the Swazi under Queen Nyamazana. Out of these migrations emerged new political formations like the Ndebele state, that eventually inscribed itself by a combination of coercion and persuasion in the southwestern part of the Zimbabwean plateau in 1839-1840. The migration and eventual settlement of the Ndebele in Zimbabwe is also part of the historical drama that became intertwined with another dramatic event of the migration of the Boers from Cape Colony into the interior in what is generally referred to as the Great Trek, that began in 1835. It was military clashes with the Boers that forced Mzilikazi and his followers to migrate across the Limpopo River into Zimbabwe.
As a result of the Ndebele community’s dramatic history of nation construction, their association with such groups as the Zulu of South Africa renowned for their military prowess, their heroic migration across the Limpopo, their foundation of a nation out of Nguni, Sotho, Tswana, Kalanga, Rozvi and ‘Shona’ groups, and their practice of raiding that they attracted enormous interest from early white travellers, missionaries and early anthropologists. This interest in the life and history of the Ndebele produced different representations, ranging from the Ndebele as an indomitable ‘martial tribe’ ranking alongside the Zulu, Maasai and Kikuyu, who also attracted the attention of early white literary observers, as ‘warriors’ and militaristic groups. This resulted in a combination of exoticisation and demonization that culminated in the Ndebele earning many labels such as ‘bloodthirsty destroyers’ and ‘noble savages’ within Western colonial images of Africa.
With the passage of time, the Ndebele themselves played up to some of the earlier characterizations as they sought to build a particular identity within an environment in which they were surrounded by numerically superior ‘Shona’ communities. The warrior identity suited Ndebele hegemonic ideologies. Their Shona neighbours also contributed to the image of the Ndebele as the militaristic and aggressive ‘other’. Within this discourse, the Shona portrayed themselves as victims of Ndebele raiders who constantly went away with their livestock and women—disrupting their otherwise orderly and peaceful lives. A mythology thus permeates the whole spectrum of Ndebele history, fed by distortions and exaggerations of Ndebele military prowess, the nature of Ndebele governance institutions, and the general way of life.
My interest is primarily in unpacking and exploding the mythology within Ndebele historiography while at the same time making new sense of Ndebele hegemonic ideologies. My intention is to inform the broader debate on pre-colonial African systems of governance, the conduct of politics, social control, and conceptions of human security. Therefore, the book The Ndebele Nation (see: below) delves deeper into questions of how Ndebele power was constructed, how it was institutionalized and broadcast across people of different ethnic and linguistic backgrounds. These issues are examined across the pre-colonial times up to the mid-twentieth century, a time when power resided with the early Rhodesian colonial state. I touch lightly on the question of whether the violent transition from an Ndebele hegemony to a Rhodesia settler colonial hegemony was in reality a transition from one flawed and coercive regime to another. Broadly speaking this book is an intellectual enterprise in understanding political and social dynamics that made pre-colonial Ndebele states tick; in particular, how power and authority were broadcast and exercised, including the nature of state-society relations.
What emerges from the book is that while the pre-colonial Ndebele state began as an imposition on society of Khumalo and Zansi hegemony, the state simultaneously pursued peaceful and ideological ways of winning the consent of the governed. This became the impetus for the constant and ongoing drive for ‘democratization,’ so as contain and displace the destructive centripetal forces of rebellion and subversion. Within the Ndebele state, power was constructed around a small Khumalo clan ruling in alliance with some dominant Nguni (Zansi) houses over a heterogeneous nation on the Zimbabwean plateau. The key question is how this small Khumalo group in alliance with the Zansi managed to extend their power across a majority of people of non-Nguni stock. Earlier historians over-emphasized military coercion as though violence was ever enough as a pillar of nation-building. In this book I delve deeper into a historical interrogation of key dynamics of state formation and nation-building, hegemony construction and inscription, the style of governance, the creation of human rights spaces and openings, and human security provision, in search of those attributes that made the Ndebele state tick and made it survive until it was destroyed by the violent forces of Rhodesian settler colonialism.
The book takes a broad revisionist approach involving systematic revisiting of earlier scholarly works on the Ndebele experiences in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and critiquing them. A critical eye is cast on interpretation and making sense of key Ndebele political and social concepts and ideas that do not clearly emerge in existing literature. Throughout the book, the Ndebele historical experiences are consistently discussed in relation to a broad range of historiography and critical social theories of hegemony and human rights, and post-colonial discourses are used as tools of analysis.
Empirically and thematically, the book focuses on the complex historical processes involving the destruction of the autonomy of the decentralized Khumalo clans, their dispersal from their coastal homes in Nguniland, and the construction of Khumalo hegemony that happened in tandem with the formation of the Ndebele state in the midst of the Mfecane revolution. It further delves deeper into the examination of the expansion and maturing of the Ndebele State into a heterogeneous settled nation north of the Limpopo River. The colonial encounter with the Ndebele state dating back to the 1860s culminating in the imperialist violence of the 1890s and the subsequent colonization of the Ndebele in 1897 is also subjected to consistent analysis in this book.
What is evident is that the broad spectrum of Ndebele history was shot through with complex ambiguities and contradictions that have so far not been subjected to serious scholarly analysis. These ambiguities include tendencies and practices of domination versus resistance as the Ndebele rebelled against both pre-colonial African despots like Zwide and Shaka as well as against Rhodesian settler colonial conquest. The Ndebele fought to achieve domination, material security, political autonomy, cultural and political independence, social justice, human dignity, and tolerant governance even within their state in the face of a hegemonic Ndebele ruling elite that sought to maintain its political dominance and material privileges through a delicate combination of patronage, accountability, exploitation, and limited coercion.
The overarching analytical perspective is centred on the problem of the relation between coercion and consent during different phases of Ndebele history up to their encounter with colonialism. Major shifts from clan to state, migration to settlement, and single ethnic group to multi-ethnic society are systematically analyzed with the intention of revealing the concealed contradictions, conflict, tension, and social cleavages that permitted conquest, desertions, raiding, assimilation, domination, and exploitation, as well as social security, communalism, and tolerance. These ideologies, practices and values combined and co-existed uneasily, periodically and tendentiously within the Ndebele society. They were articulated in varied and changing idioms, languages and cultural traditions, and underpinned by complex institutions.
The book also demonstrates how the Ndebele cherished their cultural and political independence to the extent of responding violently to equally violent imperialist forces which were intolerant of their sovereignty and cultural autonomy. The fossilisation of tensions between the Ndebele and agents of Western modernity revolved around notions of rights, modes of worshiping God (religion and spirituality), concepts of social status, contestations over gender relations, and general Ndebele modes of political rule. Within the Ndebele state religious, political, judiciary and economic powers were embodied within the kingship, and the Christian missionaries wanted to separate the spiritual/religious power from the political power. This threatened Ndebele hegemony and was inevitably resisted by the Ndebele kingship. In the end, the British imperialists together with their local agents like Cecil John Rhodes, Charles Rudd, John Smith Moffat, Charles Helm and many others, reached a consensus to use open violence on the Ndebele state so as to destroy it and replace it with a colonial state amenable to Western interests and Christian religion. The invasion, conquest and colonisation of the Ndebele became a tale of unprovoked violence and looting of Ndebele material wealth, particularly cattle, in the period 1893 to1897.
The book ends by grappling with some of the complex ambiguities and contradictions of the colonial encounter and the equally ambiguous Ndebele reactions to early colonial rule during the first quarter of the twentieth century. Thus, from a longer-term perspective, the issues raised in this book have important resonance with current concerns around nation building, power construction, democratization, sovereignty, legitimacy, and violence in Africa in general and Zimbabwe in particular.
Milton Keynes, United Kingdom, February 2008 Read more
Rozenberg Quarterly will publish on paper and online:
Jan Briffaerts – When Congo wants to go to school. Educational realities in a colonial context. An investigation into educational practices in primary education in the Belgian Congo (1925-1960) – Pb – 420 pag. – € 39,50 – ISBN 978 90 3610 144 8 – 2014
The education system in the Congo was widely considered to be one of the best in colonial Africa, in particular because of its broad reach among the Congolese youth. At independence however, the wake-up call was brutal as soon it became clear that the colonial educational system had neglected to form an educated class of people able to cope with administrating one of Africa’s biggest and economically most important countries. To be able to understand the mechanisms and effects of missionary education it is most enlightening to go back to the classroom and investigate the everyday reality of school. What did missionary education do exactly, how did it work, what did it teach, and how did it relate to its subjects, the children of the Congo?
This study gives clear insights into the everyday realities of colonial education. It is the result of historical research into educational practices and realities in catholic missionary schools in the Tshuapa region, located in the south of the Congolese province of Equateur. It is based on a rich array of historical source material, ranging from missionary archives and mission periodicals through to contemporary literature and interviews with missionnaries and former pupils who experienced colonial education themselves. The title, “When Congo wants to go to school… ” refers to one of many articles published in Belgian mission periodicals on the subject of the education and civilisation work carried out by missionaries in the Belgian colony.
The complete book now online:
Introduction & A Few Preliminary Remarks
Educational Organisation In The Belgian Congo (1908-1958)
The Missionaries And The Belgian Congo: Preparation, Ideas And Conceptions Of The Missionaries
Catholic Missions In The Tshuapa Region