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City of Banjul
Monday, September 21, 2020

The challenge of African scholarship

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Prof Mazrui dedicated his whole life to the exposition of a viable African identity and to defend the image of the motherland. With 26 books of great importance and relevance to the current debate on Africa and Islam, he was one of the great voices who stood up to the challenge in giving Africa credibility at a time when the onslaught of western academia has been persistent.

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Losing such genuine voices, there should be reflections on both sides of the spectrum. Whether it is the Diaspora or the people in the mainland, there is a need to rise up to the challenge that has been handed down to us by the forces of history.  Africa needs people who will give her the rightful place in the arena of dignity and integrity within the constellation of nations. It’s a sad reality that many of those who write and speak about the problems and solutions for Africa are outsiders, mainly Western intellectuals. This has given birth to many issues that are irreconcilable to the reality on the ground. On one hand is the narrative of the colonialist and on the other is the sociologist and anthropologist who can’t probe deeper into our life and ethos. This only brings a biased view of things in the grand discourse of the African tradition and cultural set-up. 

 

Since the era of independence there have been talks of the African personality and more importantly of writing our own history. But then we are always driven to the fallacious notion that what is needed most in these times for the continent is development. But then the question begs itself as to how can we develop when the African mind is the dumping ground of all types of erroneous ideologies and beliefs regarding him? Or how can a man develop when he is in crisis over his historical identity and position in the phenomena of things? Historians say history is nothing but challenge and response, so when the challenge over Africa which started centuries back, with the distortion of our history is still here, how do we respond except with intellectual and historical accuracy. Authentication of history is ultimately our main weapon of choice, if we must restore the dignity that got lost.

 

African scholarship should be something that all Africans with conscience cherish. When Lumumba of blessed memory made prophecy that Africa will write her own history, what he was implying is the fact that so long as Africans don’t take upon themselves to write their own narrative, our history will only glorify the victor and demonize the victim. Until that day when the lion write his own story, the tales of the hunt will only glorify the hunter. What Prof Mazrui, Cheikh Anta Diop, John Henrik Clark did was to provide for the millions of Africans a narrative that reflect the worldview of all African people. However much work in the fields of African anthropology, sociology and the Africanisation of history is needed. 

 

To bring about a renaissance the motherland must produce erudite academicians and historians who match the caliber of Mazrui and Cheikh Anta Diop – scholars who will set the record straight once and for all. The inferiority complex that we witness within Africans and people of African descent is fueled mainly by ignorance of their glorious roots that stretch all the way back to the great Egyptian civilasation. There is no development in any meaningful way when the mind is shackled with shame and self hatred. Because development is a process which starts in the mind before it’s replicated in the world of matter. So when the mind is not fully developed, all infrastructural and material development will serve as a tool of alienation rather than being a means of harmonization and unity. 

 

Many of the pacesetters of the rewriting of African history and geopolitics are gone. History has once again given each and every African a challenge and the only fitting response is to create a cadre of scholars that will take up the task and fulfill the prophecy of Lumumba once more. African universities and higher schools of learning must not shy away in making this a reality. It’s a duty upon the back of an entire generation; we either fulfill it or betray it.

 

Rest in peace Professor Mazrui.

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