Augustin Cyiza: Un homme libre au Rwanda, by Thierry Cruvellier et al. Paris: Éditions Karthala, 2004; pp. 217. ISBN 2845 86552X (pb); Exilés, réfugiés, déplacés en Afrique central et orientale,by André Guichaoua (ed). Paris: Éditions Karthala, 2004; pp.1066. ISBN 2845865236 (pb); Rwanda 1994: Les politiques du genocide à Butare, by André Guichaoua. Paris: Éditions Karthala, 2005; pp.497. ISBN 2845866690 (pb). Reviewed by Helen Hintjens, Institute of Social Studies, The Hague; © Helen Hintjens 2008.
At the back of the study on Augustin Cyiza, a photocopy of a letter sent to Western diplomatic services from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in August 2003, reads as follows:
Many Rwandans and other Africans who claim to be Rwandans, regularly claim asylum in different foreign countries. On this score, and in the interest of helping the National Rwandan Police with their enquiries, the Ministry [of Foreign Affairs] would be grateful to the said institutions to request the relevant responsible agencies in their countries to kindly communicate the monthly or quarterly lists of Rwandan asylum seekers (translated from the French, p. 195).
This text struck me as significant since I have worked with, and on behalf of, Rwandan asylum seekers in the West who fear being deported back to their country. The same is true of Congolese, the UK ambassador to that country having recently been reported on Radio Okapi as having said that 4,000 Congolese from DRC would soon be deported from Britain in spite of a huge campaign to prevent this, including a legal country hearing for September 2007. The criminalisation of the opposition is endemic in Rwanda, DRC and throughout the Great Lakes region, as all three volumes here make clear. The restoration of ‘democratic’ elections in the region since 2000 or so has done little to improve the situation. It is not democracy that does not ‘suit’ this region or its people; it is the governments whose rule is based on political terror rather than seeking legitimacy, and instilling fear instead of encouraging a sense of widespread trust or allegiance. Fear and courage are the major forces battling it out in Rwanda today, and the study about Augustin Cyiza is expressive of this. A former army major, ministerial advisor, magistrate in the High Court and university lecturer, Cyiza also worked in civil society for human rights.
In 2003 he disappeared, and witnesses say he was seized in Kigali by unknown men. The Government story is that he fled to join rebel FAR (Forces armees rwandaises, the former genocide army) forces in DRC. Devoted to his memory as a well‐known victim of the current Rwandan regime, the twenty one chapters in this book show how divided Cyiza's compatriots have become. He was widely respected as a man of strong convictions, humour and immense personal integrity. However in 1998, Cyiza was abruptly ‘demobilised’ from the army (i.e. sacked). According to Guichaoua, he never found work again, except in early 2003 when he was reinstated and paid his salary for just one month, only to be demobilised right away, on the occasion of a visit by James Wolfensohn, World Bank President, to Rwanda. The ‘cunning state’ was at work here. A few months after losing his job in 1998, Cyiza had converted to Pentecostalism, and soon found himself constantly followed by the Intelligence Service. But his persecution had started much earlier, before the genocide, when he advocated political dialogue and supported the Arusha Accords. His status as a survivor, his position for peace and his efforts to help Tutsi civilians during the genocide did nothing to endear him to the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF). They in turn persecuted him after 1998 for 'divisionism’. He was identified as among the ‘negative forces' besetting Rwanda.
When he disappeared on 23 April 2003, the Government claimed Cyiza fled across the Ugandan border. His disappearance was just one week after a stormy meeting with Kagame, and he disappeared along with a manyamulenge (Tutsi) student companion (a strange choice of travel companion for a divisionist heading off to complete the genocide)! Cyiza is presumed to have been killed on Kagame's orders; several accounts in this book confirm that Cyiza consistently refused to flee Rwanda, even though he was advised to do so, and knew of the plot to kill him. In March 2003, Kagame gave a speech (extracts pp.185–9) ‘deploring’ that certain people ‘wanted to be hit’ (i.e. killed). Cyiza was taken to be one of those being referred to by the President.
The contributors to this volume include a former Minister of Defence, James Gasana, a former Prime Minister, Faustin Twagiramungu, now both in exile, as well as a survivor who was saved by Cyiza towards the end of the genocide, former military generals and one or two personal friends, many in exile. The last contribution is from Claudine Vidal, a well‐known scholar of pre‐colonial Rwanda. The volume also includes annexes, which reproduce official letters concerning Cyiza's case, newspaper reports, and a police official report on his disappearance. The conclusion of the police investigation is that Cyiza joined ‘his friends’ among the FAR in Congo (DRC), and that his Tutsi companion joined the DRC army (p. 204). These findings would be laughable were they not so preposterous. The denial of criminal responsibility by the Rwandan state explains why a book like this is more than a sentimental journey; it needed to set the record straight.
In the space of a short review piece, it is hard to do justice to each of these texts. Reading the 1,700 pages, I was awed by the painstaking work involved in the two larger studies, respectively written and edited by Andre Guichaoua. It is in the shorter Cyiza volume, that Guichaoua recognises his own intellectual debt to the man, remembering how Cyiza instructed him in the workings of the Rwandan military, among other things. Cyiza was reputed to be ‘too open to be a Rwandan’ (p. 91). The study on Butare during the genocide especially is quite a different story, and should become a resource for future researchers on the genocide. It would be good to see it translated into English, at least. Guichaoua's research displays a thoroughness one rarely seen in studies on Africa ‐ and this was true of his approach well before 1994. But it concerns me that he accepts, elsewhere, the ‘French’ thesis that the RPA shot down the plane ofHabyarimanainApril1994 (Guichaoua (ed.) 2004:165).
Whatever the case, in this study of Butare during the genocide, Guichaoua is at his best, describing in minute, hair‐curling detail how genocide was resisted in Butare for almost two weeks and then finally unfurled and was enforced across all Rwanda. The study is constructed ‘for the record’ rather than to argue any clever social science line. Like Scott Straus's recent study onThe Order of Genocide (2006), this study on Butare similarly concludes that fear and authority structures determined the daily ac tions and inactions of Rwandans during the genocide, rather than culture, animosity or even unquestioning obedience. Books published in France tend not to have an index ‐ the volumes on Cyiza and on exiles and refugees in the Great Lakes region are two cases in point ‐ but fortunately this study on Butare has a full index of names which is very useful. The recording of people's identities by ethnic ‘labels’ (i.e. by Hutu, Tutsi or Twa paternity) throughout the study was a minor, but perhaps unavoidable, irritant. Butare was an area of high intermarriage, so overlapping identities were more or less the norm, not the exception. Guichaoua notes that the choice of Butare was also partly dictated by practical considerations, since it was one of the only places where administrative records and archives were not pillaged at the start of the genocide (p. 9ff). This study is the best and most carefully documented study of what happened ina particular locality prior to, during and immediately after the genocide, that I have read.
Guichaoua uses all sorts of archival material, as well as his own interviews, detective work and reproduces some original documents in their entirety (all three studies do this). Among the most important in the Butare study is an extraordinarily banal, but very revealing diary kept by a Minister of the interim government, Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, from 6 April until she fled to Zaire on 18 July (pp. 369–430). The lists and notes it presents are given in full, with a running commentary by Guichaoua. The overall effect is of a detailed painting surrounding you on all side, a ‘panorama’, which has no start and no end. At times the effect of so much detail is dizzying. What is clear is that chance as well as planning and order played a role, and that no one, not even Tutsis, were spared the job of killing once genocide started. What comes across is how, from the start, a priority was to eliminate all those who ‘knew’, and might later bear witness that this genocide was planned. People could, and did, make a difference, but only at the very margins. The civil, political and economic crimes of genocide are reconstructed, day by day, and issue by issue, a sort of record for posterity. Who went where, with whom, to do what, who phoned whom, who wrote what, ordered what, what decisions were made, actions carried out. All this is described in detail that can only be described as loving. To my mind, it is an amazing achievement.
The study edited by Guichaoua on exiles, refugees and displaced people in the Great Lakes region is another very impressive study, and twice the length of the Butare study, with many very long chapters, as well as a full chronology by country by the editor and a very substantial editor's chapter providing an overview on migrants, refugees and displaced people in central and East Africa (pp. 105–209). There is a concise summary of each chapter at the start of the book, in French and English. All but three of the eleven contributors are Congolese, Rwandan or Burundian. Most are based in the region, in Bukavu, Bujumbura, Kinshasa and Butare.
The highly critical and sophisticated chapters by Remy Bazenguissa‐Ganga on Congo‐Brazza‐ville (pp. 247–67 and pp. 379–423) question the categories and assumptions typical of most studies on refugees. Charles Ntampaka's relatively brief chapter on Rwandan refugees in Belgium (pp. 529–65) explains the categories of people who have fled Rwanda, including unacknowledged victims who find themselves squeezed between the identities of genocide suspects and old caseload returnees in the new Rwanda. Very few have any intention of returning, and prefer to go underground and become illegals rather than face deportation (p. 539). There are also two very long chapters by Arnaud Royer, who like Bassangui‐Ganga is at the University of Lille. The first is on internal displacement in Burundi (pp. 269–376), also dealt with in a chapter by Julien Nimubona (pp. 213–45). The second is a very much less quantitative and ultimately much better piece on Rwandan refugees in Kivu from 1994–96, a critical time and place for understanding what came later. Royer brings home the twin role of brutal massacres of refugees in flight and UNHCR facilitation of continued returns to Rwanda (pp. 425–528). The missing were estimated in 1996 at between 300,000 and 500,000, showing the scale of the human loss ‐ so many people were never accounted for (p. 523). Horrendous abuses carried out with impunity involve most of the displaced populations in the region, but especially in DRC. Here there have been mass refoulements, refugee massacres, forced returns, pursuits and hunt and kill operations against ‘infiltrators’. The sheer vulnerability of the displaced increases the tendency for armed groups to target them, as they are mostly without defence or defenders. The editors points to the relative indifference of Western countries, stating diplomatically that:
the pacification of this region of Africa exceeds the willingness of external actors in terms of their desired level of engagement and the means they wish to deploy … neither passive or intervening, [these external actors] … have opted for a strategy of accompanying local actors through incentives (p. 151).
This is putting things too politely. As long as mineral and material interests are protected, Western powers could not seem to care less what happens to displaced and refugee populations in DRC, Burundi, Rwanda or elsewhere in the African Great Lakes region. Legal instruments used by Rwanda and DRC to classify and control displaced populations are explored in a chapter by Severin Muganga (pp. 633–93); repatriated people returned to Butare are the focus of a chapter by Jean Rugagi Nizurugero, and Christian Thibon concludes by looking at return, reconstruction and reconcilia tion among Burundian refugees in Western Tanzania (pp. 731–65). That Burundi's politics is much more complex than Rwanda's seems as true today, if these studies are anything to go by, as forty years ago when Rene Lemarchand made this observation. Totalitarian control by the Rwandan government over its population is clear from disappearances, arrests and the flight into exile of prominent survivors, human rights activists, military people and other senior figures. Most are branded traitors, divisionists and criminals by the regime in Kigali (p. 151). The list of enemies of the state is long and depressing and includes Cyiza, of course, who was guilty of sharing what he knew about Rwanda with outsiders (p. 166). More complex even than Burundi, where reconstruction is making little headway, is the DRC, with its partial and painful political reconstruction combined with a continued and steady economic deconstruction of the country among political entrepreneurs and private companies. By the end of this study there are laid out before us the gargantuan range of possibilities for the future of the region, as well as a dense panoply of understandings of who people are, their motives and how reconstruction can be achieved.
What for me eventually distinguishes these studies from many others recently published on Rwanda is an intense focus on the hopes, fears, characters and ideas of people themselves. There are relatively few amalgam groups like ‘Rwandan peasantry’, ‘refugees’, ‘Burundian youth’ or ‘Congolese democrats’. Instead, those about whom scholars are prone to generalise are examined in detail, from close range, as it were. A marvellous eye for detail emerges especially in the Butare study, but also in some of the chapters in the edited volume on exiles, refugees and the displaced. The intertwining of people's lives as they are thrown together and torn apart again is carefully analysed and described. Forced to shift habits, skills and ideas by intransigent, greedy and exclusionary econo‐military leaderships withglobal allies lurking in the background, most poor people always and everywhere come off badly, yet are capable of demanding peace and making alliances with other victims. Guichaoua more than most scholars working on this region, appreciates that Rwandans, Burundians or Congolese are not there so that various theories can be tested out on their societies and interpretations made according to this or that predilection of their actions and ideas. Instead, these studies stand or fall on the basis of whether they get us beyond banal understandings of conflict as naturalised and timeless, impersonal and immutable. The genocide, and its poisonous regional aftermath are central to each of the studies, and the quality of all three volumes is their uncompromising focus on Rwandans and Great Lakes people themselves and their priorities and views on their situation, and how things have come to be as they are. All three studies, especially the two longer ones, are important for scholars of the region to take on board, and could be selectively used in teaching as well.
The Congo: Plunder and Resistance, by David Renton, David Seddon and Leo Zeilig. London & New York: Zed Books, 2007; pp. 243. £16.99 (pb). ISBN 9781842774854. Reviewed by Theodore Trefon, Royal Museum for Central Africa, Brussels; © Theodore Trefon 2008.
Rich country ‐ poor people. The Democratic Republic of Congo epitomizes the ‘paradox of plenty’ and ‘resource curse’ more so than any other nation in the world. The private domain of Leopold II … paternalistic, but vicious, colonisation by Belgium … and more recently, involvement of nine African countries and numerous multinational companies vying for Congo's resources and territory in what was described as ‘Africa's first world war’. The International Rescue Committee reports over three million casualties.
Ransacked and exploited, the wealth of the continent's second largest country has been systematically denied to its people. Human development indicators such as nutrition, literacy, life expectancy at birth and availability of clean drinking water reveal that the Congolese are amongst the poorest of the poor. Natural resources have begot greed, brutality, violence and under‐development. Mining and logging revenues are divvied up between a small number of foreign businesses and government elites within the presidential entourage. Today, the entire national budget (approximately $2.4 billion), half of which comes from the international community, amounts to little more than the annual budget of a mid‐sized American university.
This is the tragic setting ofThe Congo: Plunder & Resistance whose subject is the historic relationship between Congo/Zaire and the West. The authors explain the longstanding and ongoing plunder of the country by its integration in the global capitalist economy, going back to 15th century contact with Portuguese explorers. The strength of this book is its political economy approach: the Congo is indeed a rich case study to discuss plunder. Like Nzongola‐Ntalaja (2002) before them, the authors succeed in making explicit the links between real and perceived interests of foreign actors and the political manipulation and economic exploitation of ordinary Congolese. They argue that:
the Congo can be seen most accurately as prefigurative of an essential element of late capitalism, shorn of any of the normal pretence of modernisation and development (p. 210).
The authors fall short, however, with respect to their second objective. They are much less convincing with respect to resistance. We are familiar with the names of numerous resistance figures (Msiri, Lumumba, Kimbangu, Mulele, Tshisekedi) and events such as the January 1959 riots in Leopoldville, the Kwilu rebellions, the Lubumbashi student ‘massacre’ and looting sprees in Kinshasa in 1991 and 1993. While the history of the Congo is very much a story of resistance, this book unfortunately fails to tackle the fundamental ‐ but still unresolved ‐ question of why the Congolese have never been able to successfully transform resistance, whether it be in the form of nationalism, popular uprising, political mobilisation, civil society actions or informal economic creativity, into positive social change. Addressing this question would have been a major contribution to our understanding of the social history of the Congo.
Although lacking in originality, conceptually, this book makes sense and thus provides a readable overview. It is structured chronologically and based on a selective use of the wide body of literature on Congo/Zaire available in English and French. The chapters, however, are uneven in quality: one wonders if the book was written collectively by the three authors or, inversely, if it is a compilation of texts written individually.
Starting with a presentation of the Leopold period, the first chapter adds little to the abundant literature on the subject. Chapter two examines the colonial period (starting in 1908) up until the end of World War Two. Chapter three looks at the pre‐independence years when the Congolese started thinking aboutde‐colonisationandstatebuilding, presenting an overly sympathetic view of the role played by Patrice Lumumba before and after the 1960 transition. Chapter four is a superficial account of the rise and decline of the Mobutu dictatorship. One of the more nuanced parts of the book, chapter five, focuses on the transition years, describing how the protest movement was unable to replace Mobutu.
Instead, the enduring poverty of the country, in a context of declining trade and production, served fatally to undermine the opposition, making it a movement of people with anger but no confidence in their own ability to affect change (p. 5).
The final chapter describes how private capitalism has replaced military state capitalism, concluding that ‘the collapse of the DRC can only be explained by the combined effects of economic crisis, neoliberal programmes of structural adjustment, and the consequent loss of state power’ (p. 204). The attractive ring of this conclusion is, nonetheless, inadequately developed throughout the book to make it fully convincing. Many other factors clearly need to be integrated into the explanation of state collapse.
The credibility of this volume suffers from a plethora of factual mistakes, typographical errors and inconsistencies resulting from both lack of field experience and maturity with the literature on Congo and from a, less excusable, poor job of proofreading. Too numerous to indicate here, a few annoying examples include: it was in Elizabethville (Lubumbashi) that the Union Minière set up the first schools and hospitals for Congolese workers, not Stanleyville (Kisangani) as indicated (p.58); Lovanium was the name of a university (today University of Kinshasa), not the name of a university town (p. 103); Mobutu's mother's name was Marie Madeleine Yemo, not ‘Yerno’ (p. 112); ‘Kitwit’ should read Kikwit (p. 162); the author of the brilliantRiver of Wealth, River of Sorrow … (note 16, p. 214 and again note 14, p. 218) is Harms not ‘Harris’; T. K. ‘Biaga’ (note 50, p. 224) should read Biaya. Another problem is the misuse of Congolese names. Admittedly confusing, the authors frequently use the Con golesepost‐nom where they should use the nom. For example, the Tshondo entry in the index (p. 241) should be under Omasombo, Omasombo being the ‘family’ name and Tshondo being the particular Congolese post‐name. Name change was instituted by Mobutu during the ‘recourse to authenticity’ period in the 1970s. One can also deplore the masking of ethnic explanations where the authors limit their analysis to economic determinants: Congolese migration to South Africa from Katanga in the early 1990s resulted largely from the Katangese‐Kasian ethnic conflict which is surprisingly overlooked (pp. 150–151).
Western capitalist interests have been the big winners on the Congolese chess board, as appropriately argued by the authors of this book (but Chinese interests are present too, a situation which should have been addressed in the final chapter). Yet, their analysis fails to integrate other Congolese realities. While a handful of local elites do indeed benefit from the system and contribute to its reproduction, Congo's failed institutions are kept alive because they serve the interests and agendas of individuals at all levels of society. Elites and ordinary people alike all derive some form of benefit from the state. For many at the bottom of the social hierarchy, the state offers a minimum level of predictability about public life and the opportunity to form relatively stable expectations about power and resources. The Congolese have adjusted to the ambiguities of their state and have learned to survive in what appears as a context of chaos.
Never be Silent: Publishing & Imperialism in Kenya, 1884–1963, by Shiraz Durrani. London: Vita Books, 2006: pp.271. £21.99 (pb). ISBN 9781869886059. Reviewed by Daniel Branch, University of Exeter; © Daniel Branch 2008.
Lenin but not Lonsdale; thus canNever Be Silent be summarised in both content and tone. In presenting his history of publishing in colonial Kenya, Durrani has jettisoned the subtlety and ambiguity that characterise so much of the scholarship produced in the field over the past few decades. Instead, Durrani prefers the more fixed analytical categories of race and class that give little room for contradiction or flexibility. The end result stands in stark contrast to the regrettably under‐appreciated work of Pugilese and others, who have sought to demonstrate the broad and complex range of views represented in the newspapers and other printed matter produced by Kenya's colonial subjects and citizens.
Following a rigidly nationalist chronology, Durrani outlines chapter by chapter the major newspapers and publishers operating amongst the African, South Asian and European communities. Within those racial categories, little attempt is made to consider the spectrum of political and social positions represented by the different newspapers. Instead, Durrani prefers to present each in homogenous terms informed by his Marxist approach. In so doing, Never Be Silent contains a great mass of primary source material assembled by Durrani from collections in Britain and Kenya. Durrani has thereby highlighted a number of important sources which will prove invaluable for future research in the areas of African and South Asian publishing in colonial Kenya. It is somewhat a pity then that Durrani has largely chosen not to analyse this material himself, preferring instead to simply identity which newspapers were being produced, where, when and with what overarching editorial message. This contributes to a very strange feel to the prose as a whole, which at times reads more like an annotated bibliography rather than a substantive study. Too much space is given over to lengthy quotes from other existing and well‐known studies that could have been easily paraphrased. Similarly, the use of bullet points and a disjointed chapter structure do not aid the progressive construction of a coherent argument.
The coherence of argument in relation to the colonial period is further complicated by the fact that Durrani's dissatisfaction with post‐colonial political developments is never too far from the surface. This perspective informs much of the work, lending it the feel of an extended, historically informed polemic. Indeed, given the tone of the book it is perhaps a little unfair to review it as a scholarly piece when its audience is so obviously not primarily meant to be found amongst academics. Durrani's commitment to his political beliefs and his insistence that knowledge should be as widely disseminated as possible is supported by his praiseworthy decision to distribute this book as an Open Access publication. It is available at no cost via the internet. However, Durrani would be better served presenting their work in terms that their subjects and their audience would themselves recognise. While trade unionists and the labour movement as whole played important historical roles, it seems a stretch, for example, to characterise the period of 1922–1948 as the ‘Consolidation of the Working Class.’ To do so is to simply retrospectively impose an abstraction.
By virtue of his courageous, vocal and ultimately costly criticism of authoritarianism in Kenya, Durrani the activist is fully deserving of the praise bestowed upon him in the preface by Ngugi wa Thiong'o. In insisting the dissent to which he claims ancestry be adequately historicised, Durrani cannot be faulted. He has the scars to prove its significance as a subject of historical enquiry. And Durrani's particular focus upon the role of South Asians, a still much overlooked component within Kenyan society, is laudable. As a guide for future research and indeed as a primary source itself for those interested in late 20th century political history, Never Be Silent is not without merit. With more time, greater critical engagement with existing secondary material, a more nuanced, analytical approach to its sources and a rigorous editorial process,Never Be Silentmay have ended up as an important book. Ultimately, however, as a scholarly historical study, Durrani's work suffers from too many significant flaws to be considered a major contribution to the field.
History Making and Present Day Politics: The Meaning of Collective Memory in South Africa,by Hans Erik Stolten (ed.). Uppsala: The Nordic Africa Institute, 2007; pp. 376. £25 (pb). ISBN: 9789 171065810. Reviewed by Steffen Jensen, Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims, Denmark; © 2008 Steffen Jensen.
For all who are interested in South African history and historiography, this book should be a must. It features some of the most prominent stalwarts of South African history writing like Chris Saunders, Colin Bundy, Merle Lipton, Martin Legassick, Bernhard Magubane, Thiven Reddy and Saul Dubow, along with a number of interesting contributions from newer or less prominent scholars.
The book concerns the role of history in post‐apartheid South Africa, and editor Hans Erik Stolten makes a powerful argument for its importance, as he states that ‘History writing is an important part of a nation state's collective memory and history is not simply a product of the past, but often an answer to demands of the present’ (pp. 6–7).
Having established the importance of the subject, Stolten goes on to outline the historiographic development of progressive history writing. Together with the chapter by Dubow, the introduction serves as a competent state of the art of South African historiography. The second purpose of the introduction is to outline the ways in which history has been and is being put to use and abuse in contemporary South Africa. Most important is the multiple history making processes with the memorialisation projects and the Truth Commission as high points. A number of the contribution speaks directly, and interestingly, to these subjects, from Chris Saunders' and Martin Legassick's quite personal accounts to more analytical contributions from Elaine Unterhalter, Anna Bohlin and Gary Baines.
Apart from these obvious (in the good sense) contributions on history and history making, a number of the chapters also opened up new territory for me at least. Merle Lipton's account of business' role in apartheid is succinct and well‐balanced. But maybe the most interesting part of it ‐ and we can only guess to the politics of this ‐ is the appendix where Lipton appears to have been asked to answer a number of questions about method and theory. This probably indicates how sore her points still are. Also Wessel Visser's contribution opens up new territory, and although it is hardly surprising that the Nationalists were somewhat negative towards communism, Visser's analysis provides a good and entertaining read. I was also enlightened by Anna Bohlin and Elaine Unterhalter's accounts of land and gender.
All in all, the volume stands as a competent and thorough state of the art contribution to South African historiography. However, this is also its biggest problem. It is so ‘state of the art’ and so heavy on historiographic stalwarts that it becomes somewhat stale. Particularly two elements annoyed me. First, there is a ‘oncewe‐were‐important‐now‐we‐are‐not’ feel to it. Clearly, progressive South African history writing had an almost disproportional political importance and it did turn the tables on a number of issues, like bringing in new, especially African voices and Afro‐centric accounts ‐ both by African and white scholars. But to lament the present insignificance extensively as it is done here is somewhat excessive for my taste. Second, the book is organised along, and speaks to, the long‐rehearsed debate between liberals and Marxists, that is, it reproduces the race‐class debate with a few add‐ons from feminism and African scholarship. It is fair to say that this debate more than anything else has organised what is relevant to discuss in South African history, to the exclusion of most other approaches. It is a typical example of how a disagreement can determine relevance.
It seems to me that there is a larger point to be made here about methodology. Most of the contributions are quite traditional in approach to the study of history. Apart from Bernhard Magubane ‐ who does question the salience of the liberal‐Marxist debate ‐ there is no attempt, in the words of Jean and John Comaroff, to read against the archive. Although Van Onselen's book The Seed Is Mine is quoted, no chapter attempts to write history from a subaltern perspective to any great degree. Although one should not judge the value of a book from what is not in it, it is a pity that perspectives like Isak Niehaus' fascinating study of witchcraft and politics or Jeff Peires' analysis of the cattle‐killing movement are absent. The consequence is that politics is reduced to high politics ‐ or indeed white politics. Clifton Crais' analysis of Eastern Cape politics is a good example that an analysis, reading against the archive to elucidate African politics, is possible. Crais' work also points to another omission of a more theoretical nature, that is, the absence of inspirations from Michel Foucault's work on governmentality. By focusing only on the race‐class structures, the productive sides of apartheid and colonialism seem to disappear from view. History writing is reduced to accounts of structural oppression and not accounts of how subjects were produced and how they in turn took up the task of challenging the regime from these very subject positions. Hence, post‐colonial studies à la Mahmood Mamdani, Clifton Crais, Achille Mbembe and the Comaroff's could have added additional insights to an otherwise competent and interesting volume on South African historiography.
Everyday Corruption and the State. Citizens and Public Officials in Africa, by Giorgio Blundo and Jean‐Pierre Olivier de Sardan with N.B. Arifari and M.T. Alou. London: Zed Books, 2006; pp. 298. £18.99 (pb). ISBN 1842775634. Reviewed by Laura Routley, University of Aberystwyth; © Laura Routley 2008.
Corruption in Africa is a subject which has received a lot of attention, has it not? Denouncements of corruption and protestations that ‘good governance’ offers an answer abound in the discourses of NGOs and wars on corruption have been announced by numerous African governments. Yet there has been little empirical research done on corruption at the ‘everyday’ level. Everyday Corruption and the State: Citizens and Public Officials in Africa is therefore original, timely and significant for all who research in this area. The book addresses this yawning empirical gap in the literature through detailed examinations of the interactions of users with various state bodies: law courts, health systems, police road blocks. For Blundo and Olivier de Sardan these ‘everyday’ interactions open up questions about the informal privatisation of public services and, indeed, about the nature of these states. This, ‘everydayness’, also demonstrates that in the countries examined ‘corruption has become rooted in the daily lives of their citizens' (p.106).
Blundo and Olivier de Sardan's book is the result of research undertaken in three West African francophone states: Benin, Niger, and Senegal. The breadth and depth of the research is obvious and the geographical spread of the undertaking allows for more general trends to be drawn out. The examination of similarities of corrupt practices between African states is something which other contributions based on local anthropological empirical research such as Daniel Jordan Smith's (2007) excellently observed work on Eastern Nigeria does not allow. Blundo and Olivier de Sardan analyse the examples of corruption and from this identify and define types of practices of corruption. These observations are then systematised as practices are categorised and examined not only as a type of corrupt activity, but by their degree of legitimacy within local discourses. Discussion of these practices also sites them within ‘socio‐cultural logics’, which operate more broadly but ‘communicate’ with corruption (p.96).
The empirical research focuses particularly on the legal system, public procurement, and transport and customs, all of which have their own chapters in the second part of the book. These chapters offer much corroboration of the points made in the first part of the book, as well as being new work in their own right for, as the authors point out, there is a lack of study on specific sectors. Nassirou Bako Arifari's descriptions of some of the customs ‘scams’ read almost like com plex film plots as smugglers make use of different customs laws and mis‐register goods and their destinations, in one memorable case the destinations of second‐hand cars, in order to make money. These chapters, however, play a much more significant role than just unravelling the ingenuity of these practices. The sectoral studies serve to substantiate the systematic, pervasive nature of ‘everyday’ corruption, asserted in the first part of the book, through their sheer weight of examples and testimonies of the ‘normal’ nature of these practices.
The significance of this work for scholars who study corruption cannot be denied. As a scholar interested in politics rather than an anthropologist (which of course Blundo and Olivier de Sardan are), and especially given the title of the book, there is a feeling that the questions raised in the book about the nature of the state could have been further interrogated. The authors realise that their ‘bottom up’ approach, which examines the state at the public service delivery end offers many insights. Yet they shy away from exploring further the implications of these insights, whilst acknowledging that the widespread nature of corruption means ‘that the states in question are no longer the same type’ (p.107). The authors see this further analysis of the state as outside of their expertise. Despite the invocation of this disciplinary boundary the focus of the research on the everyday interactions of the state is in itself important for those who are interested in the African state, as it highlights the ways in which the ‘real’ functioning of the state is removed from its ‘official’ functioning, and that the state is experienced by most at this everyday interface.
The book trains its analytical eye on to the state's ‘real’ functioning in everyday interactions and argues persuasively that corruption cannot be understood outside of broader forms of everyday sociability within which it is embedded and with which it communicates. Its exploration of corruption through its focus on public service provision and its enviable accumulation of a sizable amount of empirical information is a challenge to both those working on issues of corruption to empirically embed their research, and to those theorising the state not to neglect its everyday functioning.
The Shock Doctrine. The Rise of Disaster Capitalism,by Naomi Klein. London: Penguin Books, 2007; pp. 576. £25.00 (hb) ISBN 9780713998993. Reviewed by Graham Harrison, University of Sheffield; © Graham Harrison 2008.
Naomi Klein'sThe Shock Doctrine is ‐ from an academic point of view ‐ a more substantial book thanNo Logo. Klein develops an argument that neo‐liberal social engineering has a strong tendency to traumatise societies, the better to establish a form of corporate capitalism upon the debris of whatever nationalist or developmentalist institutions might have existed before.
This concept of ‘shock’ is not just a way to conceptualise the nature of neo‐liberalism; it is also a set of concrete practices, borne from an unholy alliance between techniques of torture/psychological manipulation and massive drastic state roll‐back. This traumatising‐remaking continuum is constantly undone by the fact that, to borrow from Hannah Arendt, ‘violence can destroy power; it is utterly incapable of creating it’. Far less so creating legitimate state authority, which is why post‐trauma democracies hardly merit the adjective ‘democratic’. Instead of remaking societies, the shock doctrine's advocates and scientists (based in a now‐transnational Chicago School, the corporate‐political elite based around Dick Cheney, and the rump of staff in the International Financial Institutions) endlessly follow the frontier of neo‐liberal reform in search of their view of perfection which is ‘hollow governance’, that is, a complete privatisation of the state.
This is not the state's rolling back into a ‘nightwatchman’ but the privatisation of its core competencies. In the present day, this is manifest in the privatisation of security, information generation/management, surveys/audits, and disaster management, those last bastions of the public in the US. Like the ‘double dipping’ in which landmine manufacturers were contracted to remove the products they sold to South Africa after the end of apartheid, key Bush officials can ‘profit from the disasters they help unleash’ (311).
This is powerful stuff. There are many conclusions and new directions that can be drawn from the book. It is fantastically well‐written and its scope of ambition means that it would be churlish to point out that there is a certain amount of licence taken in respect to the country cases. Klein is clearly on to something, and I am sure that this will become a secular contribution to the activist/intellectual left.
For readers of ROAPE, it is striking that the case of South Africa is perhaps the least convincing in the book. Here, Klein goes through the ways in which South Africa's transition has proven to be limited and riven with tensions largely because of the locking in of liberal economic rostrums. But, if there is a narrative of large‐scale systemic trauma or shock to be derived from South Africa's history, it surely begins earlier than 2004. One might wish to begin in the sixteenth century and catalogue the various acts of dispossession that characterised Dutch settlement; or one might begin in, say, 1913 with the establishment of the Land Act which ushers in the barrage of apartheid legislation which dispossessed, humiliated, exploited, and brutalised all non‐white people; or one might wish to recall South Africa's traumatisation of the region through destabilisation and ‘Total War’ from the mid‐1970s.
Perhaps what the South African case suggests is that ‐ for some parts of Africa at least ‐ ‘shock’ was already all too familiar to peoples before the age of neoliberalism. There is enough suggestive evidence to associate shock/trauma and torture with the development of colonial capitalism throughout the continent. Indeed, systemic trauma/torture seem to emerge in exactly those spaces of accumulation: cotton and rubber production in central and east Africa, the development of commercial ‘white’ farming in the Kenyan highlands, or the development of diamond and gold mines in southern Africa. Within these spaces of accumulation we see colonial practices of beating, forced labour, amputation, concentration camps, the stripping naked of black bodies in public, executions, and a range of more specific forms of torture.
And, in a broad historical sweep, it does not stop there. The winning of independence brought with it its own traumas: authoritarian rule, brutal militaries, topdown social engineering in the name of 'development’ or ‘socialism’ and a substantial continuity in the linkages between African states and the global economy. Some evidence of economic growth and slender threads of progressive politics were all but extinguished by the coming of the first oil price hike in 1973 ‐ the year in which Klein's story begins in the besieged presidential palace in Santiago.
Although Klein mentions structural adjustment frequently, it is largely in passing. The South African transition which commenced in the early 1990s was itself part of a broader regional reconfiguration based in the defeat of nationalist projects or at least the imposition of structural adjustment from the mid 1980s. In this sense, South Africa's transition constituted the last act in the preparation for a regional convergence towards ‘open regionalism’, that is, integration led by economic liberalisation. What makes South Africa different is not its policies as much as its relative economic power.
Structural adjustment is too important an instrument in the neo‐liberal ‘toolbox’ not to merit more attention. Universally, SAP has caused job losses, massive uncertainty in prices, continuing or exacerbated mass poverty, and an economic openness characterised by both a weak response from international companies and an extremely limited capture of benefits within the host country. SAP provoked social unrest in many places. In some countries, such was the political‐economic stress associated with SAP that a range of extremely brutal civil wars broke out in the 1990s which ‐ in cases where conflict was protracted ‐ led to forms of warlordism and violent forms of accumulation. The complex but interrelated nexus of liberalisation and conflict rendered sub‐Saharan Africa a world region particularly prone to unstable and febrile economic growth, armed violence against peoples, and mass dislocation. This is a context within which the human immunodeficiency virus has flourished.
These brief notes suggest that South Africa's transition might be one instance in a layering of traumatic impositions on African societies in all their diversity. This is not to challenge Klein's arguments as much as to ask broader questions about the relation of violence to capitalism as a social project, whether articulated through colonial ‘civilisation’, national ‘development’, the Washington Consensus, the post‐Washington Consensus, or neo‐conservatism. Might it be that, in a continent historically so badly damaged by the emergence of global capitalism, Klein's shock doctrine constitutes the latest layering of shock on repeatedly traumatised peoples?
If we need more evidence, we might go back to what Marx calls capitalism's ‘original sin’, primitive accumulation which ‐ as Marx notes in one of his few references to Africa ‐ manifested itself through the Atlantic slave trade. A more drastic and massive social trauma is difficult to imagine than the forced transportation of millions, not to the torture rooms of Freidmanite generalissimos in Latin America, but to the labour gulags of the sugar plantations of the Americas, dedicated to the working to death of the labour force, new corporal punishments and tortures such as theescalera, the splitting up of families, the imposition of new proprietorial names on slaves by their owners, and of course for many ‐ death in the middle passage.
This might all sound like a victimology of Africa, and of course in all of these moments one can discern agencies, resistance, forms of escape, and weapons of the weak. But, following Kline's concluding chapters, to what extent can the resiliences and social imaginations of African peoples lead us to entertain the possibility of a ‘people's reconstruction’?
Perhaps one way of thinking about this question is to consider its definitions: what do we mean by ‘people’ and ‘reconstruction’? Both of these terms are commonly premised on the existence of some form of a nation‐state. Such has been Africa's experience with this political form that it is extremely difficult to identify countries in which the couplet nation‐state can be easily assumed. This is not to deny any form of national identity or state structure but to recognise that these identities and structures do not currently make internally sovereign states in many cases. This is not just to highlightin extremis cases of state absence as in Chad, Somalia or parts of the DRC; it is also to note the more mundane lack of taxation, census, and national infrastructure that persists in a wider number of cases. It is also to recognise the persistence of ‘shadow politics' in which political largesse, authority, and legitimacy are distributed privately in order to shore up a form of state power. In this context, what is the meaning of a people's reconstruction?
And what are the prospects for reconstruction amongst peoples who have been repeatedly traumatised by external projects of capitalist imposition? Here, we might return to South Africa for more positive answers to these questions where the struggles of ‘the poors’ are becoming increasingly salient. In this sense, Klein's focus is apposite.