Mirjam de Bruijn ~ ‘The Telephone Has Grown Legs’: Mobile Communication And Social Change In The Margins Of African Society
Inaugural Address – September 2008
My phone at home in the Netherlands never stops ringing nowadays and on the display I often see the Malian, Chadian or Cameroonian country codes. And in the evenings there are always ‘missed calls’ from African numbers too. This was unimaginable when I started doing my PhD research in central Mali in the early 1990s. For the people at home then, I was far away. People’s understanding and experiences of distance are very different today.
At breakfast I often speak Fulfulde to Ahmadou, a herder from central Mali who tells me how he is sitting under the trees next to his cows. The costs of communication have apparently dropped so much that he can afford just to call to greet me, the owner of a part of his herd.
We met in 1990 and became like a brother and sister sharing life in the Fulani cattle camp where his father hosted me and my husband. Ahmadou is his eldest son and married two wives and has today 7 children. After the death of his father in 2006, he became the head of his family and clan.
The telephone has given him the chance to change his life, as was apparent when he asked our family to support his political campaign. We agreed; after all it was the least we could do since he had herded our cows for so many years.
Ahmadou has big plans. He would now like to build a house in the city. In one of our phone conversations, he asked me to bring him a television on my next visit. His last call was to communicate his victory in the political campaign!
For 35 years, the people of Chad have been living in the midst of a civil war and with repressive state machinery. But even in the regions where war and hunger are a daily reality, people now have access to mobile telephony in spite of widespread deep-rooted poverty. Mongo, the country’s fifth largest
city, has had access to mobile telephony since 2005. I worked and lived in 2002/2003 in Mongo and met with Ousmanou who became one of my research assistants.
Ousmanou did some investigation on his own, being a literate, and together we developed a plan for a NGO (Non-Governmental Organisation) to help impoverished children who live in the streets of Mongo. He is married and has four children. The mobile phone helps to continue our exchanges.
Ousmanou regularly sends text messages to keeps me updated of the recent ups and downs of his family and the city. The telephone has also been a good help to raise some funds for this NGO. However during the last upsurge of fighting in Chad (in 2008, and also before in 2006 and 2007), all telephone connections were cut, which led to a high degree of panic amongst our Chadian acquaintances (and us). With no way of contacting the outside world, their
lives were suddenly once again in the hands of the authoritarian regime of President Idriss Deby.
It will be clear that the way information from these ‘remote’ parts of Africa is being transferred to those in the West has changed with these new methods of communication. The growth of mobile telephony in Africa became possible after the liberalization of the telecommunications market and its
escalation has been astonishing. The unexpectedly high access to mobile telephones has risen from 1 in 50 persons at the beginning of the 21st century to 1 in 3 just a few years later in 2008. Even the inhabitants of remote rural areas in Africa are being introduced to the world of wireless telephony.
Ahmadou and Ousmanou live in marginal regions of the world where modern technology is sparse and where it is not easy to survive due to the difficult natural and economic circumstances of these harsh regions and their political instability. Government interest and investment in marginal regions are usually minimal as they are considered to be areas of little economic or social interest. But Ahmadou and Ousmanou do not see themselves as being marginalized at all. For them, these regions are part of their identity and their use of the mobile phone makes it clear that these marginal areas are not isolated at all, in spite of the absence of good infrastructure. On the contrary, these regions’ relations stretch as far as Europe.The margins cannot be demarcated geographically; they are social margins.
I am interested in the question if and how mobile telephony, a new communication technology, will change the social, political and economic dynamics in the social margins of our world in the coming years? Does it reflect a revolution in communication and development, or will nothing ultimately change at the end of the day?
Ahmadou and Ousmanou and their families in Mali and Chad have become part of these changes. I have been following them and their families since 1990 and 2002 respectively and will continue doing so. And I have recently started a project in the Grassfields area in Cameroon. In the coming years I will be following families in Mali, Chad and Cameroon and try to understand the new dynamics in their societies also through their eyes.
Here, therefore, I am not presenting a completed story but an initial exploration of possible changes in the social margins of Africa. To be able to look into change I will introduce my understanding of the social margins, elaborate on the concept of communication ecology and social relations in the margins. And then I will explore possible social changes that are the result of the new communications technology. I will thus introduce a current and important field of study within African Studies, where interdisciplinary collaboration can make a contribution to the study of mobility and migration, of poverty and of social conflict.
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‘If there is ever violence again in Rwanda, it will be because of land’. This is what a Rwandan friend told me in February 2011, just a few weeks after I returned home from my last period of fieldwork in Rwanda. I nodded more or less intuitively in response because this was in line with what other Rwandans had told me, and some had even said ‘when’ instead of ‘if’; it was only later that I would fully grasp the seriousness of his remark. It should be read in the context of Rwanda’s post-independent history in which ethnic violence dominated, leading to a civil war (1990-1994) and culminating in the 1994 genocide that targeted the Tutsi population.
With still about 90% of the population engaged in subsistence farming, access to land is of crucial importance in present-day Rwanda (Ansoms 2009b: 299). Land remains a scarce resource in a country that has the highest population density in Africa and where many people were displaced as a result of massive violence in the past. It is estimated that the average Rwandan cultivates 0.75 ha (Huggins 2013: 1) but most peasants have only about 0.5 ha and this is spread across several small plots (Huggins 2014a: 2).[i] Because of its importance and its increasing scarcity, land has become a growing cause of conflict in recent years (Musahara & Huggins 2005; Ansoms & Claessens 2011: 4). During my first fieldwork period in 2008, respondents tended to deny or downplay conflicts over land. Although they more or less confirmed that such conflicts did exist, they rarely admitted that they had been party to any conflict themselves and always stressed that the local authorities had been able to solve these conflicts. However, during my last fieldwork period in November and December 2010, it seemed that land disputes were omnipresent. It was at this time that land registration, which was introduced in the 2005 (and later 2013) Land Law, was being carried out in the research area and my research assistant and I were often confronted with land disputes. We witnessed them when watching the demarcation procedure during land registration. They were mentioned, often without any probing on our part, by many of the people we encountered: villagers who were queuing to meet the village authority, the authorities themselves and numerous other respondents. Sometimes people even called on us for advice about solving their problems. Most conflicts that came before local mediators also concerned land and, indirectly, these conflicts often had to do with land sharing between the Hutu population and returned Tutsi refugees that took place in 1996 and 1997.
The tensions and conflicts we came across were an indication of the state of social relations among Rwanda’s rural population, which were already strained following the 1994 genocide and the ethnically-related violence that occurred around the time of Rwanda’s independence.[ii] In addition, recent, but also older, land-tenure policies like the above-mentioned land registration and land sharing seem to have had a negative impact on social relations between Rwanda’s various ethnic and social groups. The central question in this thesis is: How do government policies concerning access to land and land tenure in rural post-conflict Rwanda influence local community relations (including ethnicity) and land conflicts?
The reason why I wanted to research land issues was because I am ultimately interested in Rwanda’s current social relations and the role of ethnicity in these relationships. Land access is thus used as a lens through which to look at present-day Rwandan society and its current social tensions.
This introduction is divided into four parts. The first discusses Rwanda’s recent history and examines the 1994 genocide that targeted the Tutsi population, the issue of land scarcity and conflict and genocide-related violence. The second section takes us to present-day Rwanda and considers the nature of the Rwandan government, its strong social-engineering policies and the role ethnicity plays in social relations and politics. The third part of the chapter presents a brief introduction to the research area, the research questions and some general remarks about the research itself. It does not, however, delve into the research methods used as these are described in Chapter 2. The last section discusses the way land access is related to social relations and authority in general and applies this to the Rwandan context, before finishing with an outline of the chapters.
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[i] According to Huggins, statistics on the average size of land holdings vary slightly and the average size decreased by 25% between 1990 and 2000. In a 2012 report used by Huggins (2013: 1), the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources estimated that the average size was 0.76 ha, which was higher than previous estimates.
[ii] This ethnic violence is described in more detail in Chapter 3.
ISBN: 978-90-5448-145-4 -© Margot Leegwater, 2015
Nkululeko Mabandla ~ Lahla Ngubo – The Continuities And Discontinuities Of A South African Black Middle Class
This work explores the role of land in Mthatha’s Black [Black is used in this thesis to refer to ‘Black African’] middle class during the apartheid and democratic eras. Mthatha’s Black middle class, which developed at the turn of the twentieth century, is a particular type of middle class that is defined not only by occupation but also by ownership of land. The path to land came about when the Mthatha municipality auctioned land to both Black and white buyers in 1908. This allowed the accumulation of land in the hands of a hitherto occupation based, mission educated Black middle class. The study traces the development of this class from the mid nineteenth century to the democratic era, and focuses on how this middle class reproduced and transformed itself during this time.
The study builds on Redding’s (1987) historical study of Mthatha (1870-1950). In addition to the first generation discussed by Redding, this study identified two more generations: A second generation which developed from the 1950s onwards, and their descendants, the third generation, which continues to combine occupation and landownership to date.
The role of land in the definition of the Black middle class is sorely missing from studies of this class in the democratic period. Recent studies have drawn attention to the growth of this class in post-apartheid South Africa. This growth was supported by employment policies such as affirmative action (AA) and Black economic empowerment (BEE). Studies have generally focussed on income/occupation as the main determinants of middle class location (e.g., Udjo 2008; Unilever Institute 2007; Rivero et al. 2003). Thus, Rivero et al. (2003) analyse the advances made by Black South Africans in the managerial and professional categories between 1994 and 2000. Their sole criterion for identifying membership in the Black middle class is occupation. Meanwhile, Unilever’s much publicised ‘Black Diamond Study’ (Unilever Institute 2007) deals almost exclusively with consumption patterns of Black professionals, that is, their affluence based on income. And indeed, much interest has been generated in the popular press, where the Black middle class is often portrayed as ‘young and driving a BMW’ (Carrol 2004).
While the new Black middle class might have considerable disposable income, it seems to lack investment in more durable assets such as property. Studies of residential mobility suggest that home ownership, for example, remains relatively low within the ‘new’ Black middle class (Beavon 2000; Prinsloo & Cloete 2002; Crankshaw 2008). The general absence of property within this class has led Southall (2005: 1) to compare it with the proletariat:
The ‘new middle class’, which is typically in government and corporate employment, shares many of the characteristics of the classic proletarian, notably in the sense that it has no direct ownership of the means of production and is in a subordinate relationship to capital owning employers.
Pascal Touoyem ~ Dynamiques de l’ethnicité en Afrique. Éléments pour une théorie de l’État multinational
Le projet épistémologique qui nous habite, est déterminé par deux considérations théoriquement distinctes mais pratiquement imbriquées : à savoir d’une part la nature problématique du domaine d’étude et d’action qu’est l’ethnicité et d’autre part, l’historique exceptionnelle ou marginale de l’objet Afrique. En s’interrogeant en sens inverse sur l’affirmation de Spinoza d’après laquelle l’ordre et la connexion des idées est le même que l’ordre et la connexion des choses, nous voudrions d’entrée de jeu, attirer l’attention sur le présupposé théorique d’après lequel l’ethnicité, comme objet de recherche ne participe pas du domaine des données consacrées et légitimées de la recherche en Afrique. Cette disposition de l’attention scientifique dominante est dans une large mesure en rapport de complicité avec la doxa. Le silence et partant l’interrogation ou l’absence de réflexion sur l’ethnie et/ou la tribu tels que cristallisés au fil du temps sont loin d’être neutres. Ce silence correspond à l’émergence des savoirs dits indigènes, autochtones ou encore hétérodoxes. Ce contexte est marqué d’une part, par le reflux des doctrines de l’émancipation, héritage des luttes nationales de libération et d’autre part, par l’affirmation des théories postcoloniales depuis la fin des années 1960. D’inspiration postmoderne, les théories postcoloniales ont emprunté leurs outils heuristiques et méthodologiques aux Subalterns et aux Cultural Studies. C’est l’éclatement des cadres analytiques de la modernité, qu’il s’agisse de l’ethnicité, de l’identité, de l’Etat, de la nation, de la citoyenneté, de la production des savoirs interculturels ou encore de l’universalisme alias mondialisation qui a suscité un vif intérêt pour le « monde d’en-bas ».
Notre démarche est guidée par la conviction qu’il ne faut point négliger le « monde d’en bas » qui est le lieu pertinent où l’on peut observer l’Afrique en mouvement aujourd’hui. Une Afrique qui, en marge des grands discours prophétiques sur son effondrement, ses crises, toutes les catégories pathologiques par excellence,…construisent des formes de transactions informelles et neuves, malmenant les civilités conventionnelles et officielles, mais qui justifient la perdurance sociale. Derrière les métamorphoses de la désintégration sociale et de l’anarchie, une vie sociale et créative se poursuit en Afrique. Un tableau complexe de la vie culturelle est entrain d’émerger. Des formes reconnaissables de développement coexistent avec des trajectoires originales de création ; des conceptions identitaires naissent ou se sont reformulées. Arc-boutée à une immense réserve d’endurance et d’imagination et portée par une extraordinaire puissance de résistance, contre la brutalité du destin, l’Afrique est au travail. Ni la prodigieuse singularité de l’expérience humaine en Afrique, ni les nouvelles formes d’engagement du marché avec les politiques internationales ne peuvent être restituées à partir des catégories et discours traditionnels. Plus que jamais, il faut une nouvelle stratégie de description et d’interprétation de nouvelles façons de percevoir ces réalités, de nouvelles catégories d’expression des potentialités et surtout un nouveau discours pour décrire l’Afrique et dépeindre les expériences et les souvenirs de ceux ou de celles qui sont au centre de ces transformations.
C’est donc à une objectivation plus approfondie de la dynamique anthropo-sociale et politique de la modernité négro-africaine que voudrait s’essayer la présente étude. Le titre éponyme de cette étude : « Eléments pour une théorie de l’Etat multinational », nous permet de scruter les diverses modalités de la cohabitation inter-ethnique en Afrique noire. Il est question de ressortir les lieux, les niveaux, les questions et les diverses médiations institutionnelles de la crise de l’ethnicité dans l’institution étatique elle-même en crise en Afrique. L’enjeu c’est de dégager désormais une sorte d’exploration, au sens de Balandier, des territoires de la socialité en Afrique, de les rendre descriptibles et intelligibles, afin de s’initier à la découverte de l’inédit. Le « fait ethnique », caractéristique des sociétés africaines, fait l’objet d’un silence épistémique néfaste. Ce silence, au niveau de la production des savoirs interculturels constitue pour nous, un obstacle quasi-infranchissable en même temps qu’il se présente comme la source de notre détermination. On ne peut tenter une telle étude sur les enjeux anthropologiques et épistémo-politiques des structures et dynamismes fondamentaux de l’Afrique noire, sans esquisser un inventaire de l’état des lieux. C’est une vieille démarche aristotelicienne qui recommande, pour chaque question, d’explorer sa topique, autrement dit l’ensemble de ses lieux communs.
Marc-Antoine Pérouse de Montclos ~ Boko Haram: Islamism, Politics, Security And The State In Nigeria ~ Introduction And Overview
Introduction and Overview
As I write this introduction in November 2013, Boko Haram is making the headlines. Paradoxically, it is seen in the media as clandestine and invisible, according to Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who said he would not negotiate with “ghosts”. The sect of Mohammed Yusuf was not always famous, however.
When I began to investigate the so-called Taliban on the Niger–Nigeria border in 2005, no academics had written anything on Boko Haram. At that time, security analysts focused on violence in the oil-producing Niger Delta, and very few paid attention to a marginal group of extremists in remote Borno and Yobe states.
Since then, the sect has become a fashionable topic of research as well as an international issue. More so than the Maiduguri uprising of July 2009, the attack on the UNDP office in Abuja in August 2011 attracted much attention. Thus a considerable number of articles on Boko Haram are now being written in the field of security studies. Many of them speculate on an Al-Qaeda franchise in Nigeria and possible links with AQIM (Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb) in Mali.[i]
Some even suggest that the US should fund the Qadiriyya and Tijaniyya brotherhoods to counter radical Islamism (Hill 2010). Such articles are oriented towards policy making. Accordingly, they make recommendations on the way to fight terrorism in the Nigerian context (see for instance Waldek & Jayasekara 2011; Aghedo & Osumah 2012; Forest 2012; Onuoha 2012; Idowu 2013; Sampson 2013). But they do not investigate Boko Haram from a political, sociological, religious, and anthropological academic perspective.
Hence the necessity for a different type of analysis. Written by Nigerian, French, British, German, and American contributors, this book is the first of its kind. It not only offers different perspectives from northern and southern Nigeria, but also combines fieldwork and theory, qualitative and quantitative analysis.
Moreover, it is not just another monograph study on Boko Haram. Rather, the following chapters investigate how radical Islamism destabilises the Nigerian state and challenges its secularity. In a pluralistic society, the jihad of Boko Haram raises many fears regarding Shariah, freedom of religion, the clash of civilisations, and the prospect of a civil war with Christians. Yet all these issues are usually oversimplified in the rhetoric of the war on terrorism.
Shariah, for instance, is a whole way of life for Muslims. It should not be reduced to criminal law. Likewise, jihad is first and foremost an internal spiritual struggle, rather than a holy war against Christians (Cruise O’Brien & Coulon 1988; Westerlund & Rosander 1997; Levtzion & Pouwels 2000; Vikør 2005; Soares 2007; Hefner 2011). As for freedom of religion, it is often understood by legal practitioners as a right to follow a rite, to preach, to express religious beliefs in public and, more generally, to be allowed to build a church, a mosque, or a temple.
Goede, M.de ~ Consuming Democracy: Local Agencies & Liberal Peace In The Democratic Republic Of Congo
This thesis is about democratisation as a central pillar of liberal peace building in the Congo and focuses on Parliament and parliamentarians in this process. The picture above captures many of the themes that will be discussed in the chapters that follow: that of the interaction between Members of Parliament (MPs) and their electorate, the self-perception and popular perception of MPs in the Congo, and the roles of MPs as providers that redistribute. The picture shows a painting made by a popular artist from Kinshasa that criticises MPs and by extension Parliament as an institution. When I bought it the painter explained to me what he intended to express by this image. ‘Kuluna en cravate’ is a reference to MPs used by Kinois and refers to the recent phenomenon of Kuluna, violent and thieving youth gangs. The MP is a Kuluna in a tie (cravate). He gives money to some people. He has three ladies by his side, ‘because he is very rich’, and the media is present to record his well doing and expose the MP as a provider for the people. But the painter also expressed a critical reflection on these practices by mockingly referring to the MP as a Kuluna in a tie. Although the MP appears to do something for the people, he has in fact stolen his wealth from the people and he is acting against them (contre la population congolaise).[i]
Liberal peace building in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Liberal peace building in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC, the Congo) started after the signing of the Sun City Peace Agreement (2002). The 2006 general elections marked the end of a transitional period and in November 2011 the Congolese electorate went to the ballot box to elect a President and Parliament for the second time. Until then, results of liberal peace building interventions in the Congo have been disappointing and discouraging. Nearly a decade of peace building has had a limited impact on people’s daily lives. Freedom House consistently ranks the Congo as ‘not free’ with political rights and civil liberties marked six out of seven (one being most free and seven being the most unfree). In 2011, the country was ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the world and has sunk to the bottom of the Human Development Index.[ii] During the first term of his Presidency, Kabila has firmly established his regime and taken control over the state and its institutions. This has on the one hand brought some stability after the turbulent past decades, while on the other hand it has been cause for concern. People feel that the regime is developing dictatorial tendencies. It swallows all power and leaves little space neither for the opposition nor for state institutions such as the courts or the security forces to be non-partisan. Particularly in the pre-electoral period of 2011 the Kabila regime has shown a concerning side of itself, that of violence, and intimidation, and sometimes magnificent strategies of political and electoral manipulation. Within five years after the celebration of the country’s first elections as the launch of a new democratic era for the country people already speak of a return to ‘Mobutism-without-Mobutu’. The country is as corrupt as ever, the state is malfunctioning and there are little signs of any improvement. The armed forces continue to be a source of insecurity to an already battered population, and poverty and human suffering aggravates instead of reduces. The liberal peace seems to have derailed and lost its momentum, right under the noses of its agents (the donor community, the international community), and with their financial support.
The liberal peace is founded on the idea that liberal market democracy fosters domestic and international peace. Political and economic liberalisation is therefore employed as a means to end and prevent violent conflict (Paris 2004, 40-42). It thus ‘combines and conflates’ democracy with peace. This has resulted in a project of social transformation which aims to transform dysfunctional societies into peaceful societies by including them in the liberal world order (Duffield 2001, 11). This project of social transformation comes in different graduations – conservative, orthodox, emancipatory – reflecting graduations in the balance between coercion, top-down intervention and externalisation on the one hand, and local ownership, bottom-up peace building, consensus and social justice on the other (Richmond 2005, 214-15). Liberal peace building involves democratisation and liberal market reform (Richmond 2006, 292). This thesis is concerned with post-war democratisation in the Congo, as one of the central pillars of liberal peace building. Democratisation in liberal peace building terms prioritises a rights based approach which focuses on elections, the institutions of democratic governance, civil society building, the rule of law, and human rights. This thesis focuses on the Congolese National Parliament as a site of democratisation. Although democratisation as part of liberal peace building in the Congo only started after the signing of the 2002 peace agreement, the efforts for democratisation in the Congo date back more than 20 years. The past two decades have been extremely volatile in the Congo. In the early 1990s Mobutu’s dictatorial regime crumbled and a process of political change towards democracy was launched.
Since then the Congolese population has been awaiting elections, while undergoing various phases of democratisation. They were insecure and turbulent times. The democratic transition of the 1990s failed eventually and was overtaken by a civil war. The first Congolese war (1996-7) had its origins in the disintegration of the Zaïrian state, the genocide in neighbouring Rwanda followed by a security crisis in Zaïre and the inability of the Mobutu regime to respond adequately to these developments. Under these conditions of weakness of the state, the challenges posed by the crisis in neighbouring Rwanda easily spilled over to Zaïre to become a Zaïrian crisis. With support from Rwanda and Uganda, an alliance of four rebellion or opposition parties known as the Alliance des Forces Armées pour la Libération du Congo (AFDL), under the leadership of Laurent-Désiré Kabila, launched a successful war against Mobutu in September 1996, accessing power on May 17 1997. However, it was not long before the Kabila coalition fell apart. In August 1998 a new war was launched by RCD (Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie), a new rebel movement with the support of Rwanda, shortly followed by MLC (Mouvement pour la Libération du Congo), which was supported by Uganda. The Second Congolese war involved many neighbouring countries. While Uganda and Rwanda were fighting on the anti-Kabila front, Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Chad continued to support Kabila. On the side of the resistance another three movements developed in due course: RCD-K/ML (Kisangani/Mouvement de Libération) (also backed by Uganda) and RCD-N (National) split away from what now became known as RCD-Goma. In addition, the Mai Mai, groups of armed fighters that have existed since the 1960s, became involved in the war, as well as various rebel movements from neighbouring countries that were operating from in the Congo. In addition, several African countries sent their armies in support of Kabila’s regime. Within a short period of time, the war had become a complex patchwork of armed rebellions and foreign armies roaming around Congo.
[i] Author’s conversation with artist, Kinshasa 23 July 2011.
[ii] www.freedomhouse.org; http://cpi.transparency.org/cpi2011; http://hdr.undp.org.
Thesis published in 2015 ~ ISSN: 1876-018x ISBN: 978-94-6173-720-5