Category Archives: Book Reviews

JEFCAS SEMINAR SERIES : Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory: The Kenyan Elections of 2017

Venue: Pemberton Room 2.11

Date: Wed 29th November 2017

Time: 4:00pm – 6:00pm

Speaker: Prof Nic Cheeseman, University of Birmingham

Prof Nic Cheeseman

About Prof Nic Cheeseman: Nic Cheeseman is Professor of Democracy and International Development at the University of Birmingham. In addition to numerous book chapters, he is the author of Democracy in Africa: Successes, failures and the struggle for political reform (CUP, 2015) and over twenty journal articles including “Rethinking the ‘presidentialism debate’: Conceptualizing coalitional politics in cross-regional perspective” (Democratization, 2014), which won the inaugural GIGA prize for the best article published in Comparative Area Studies.

Professor Cheeseman is also the editor of the collections Our Turn to Eat: Politics in Kenya Since 1950 (2010), The Handbook of African Politics (2013), and African Politics: Major Works (2016), and two special issues of the Journal of Eastern African Studies on the Kenyan elections of 2007 and 2013. As well as being the former editor of the journal African Affairs, the #1 ranked journal in Area Studies, Professor Cheeseman is the founding editor of the Oxford Encyclopaedia of African Politics, the Oxford Dictionary of African Politics, and the co-editor of the Handbook of Kenyan Politics (forthcoming). These days, he spends much of his time writing about contemporary events in Africa in a bi-weekly column for Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper. Professor Cheeseman also regularly provides analysis to the UK and US governments, and is an advisor to, and writer for, Kofi Annan’s African Progress Panel.

P.S: This is a rescheduled seminar from 25th October 2017



Venue: Pemberton Room 2.11

Date: Wed 22nd November 2017

Time: 4:00pm – 6:00pm

Speaker: Dr Giuditta Fontana, Leverhulme Fellow & Birmingham Fellow, University of Birmingham.


About Dr Giuditta Fontana: Dr Fontana is a Leverhulme Fellow and Birmingham Fellow. Her current project focuses on the interface between peace processes and reforms of cultural institutions (such as schools, the media and museums) in divided societies (such as Northern Ireland, Lebanon and the FYR of Macedonia).

Her research interests include post-conflict institution-building, power-sharing, education policy in divided societies, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern history and politics.

Giuditta is a United World College alumna and holds a BSc International Relations and History from the London School of Economics (2007) and an MA Mediterranean Studies from King’s College London (2008). Her PhD (awarded in October 2014 by King’s College London) focused on the political function of formal education in deeply divided societies and compared the experiences of Lebanon, Northern Ireland and the FYR of Macedonia.

Prior to her doctorate, Giuditta worked in a number of non-governmental and international organisations in Europe and the Middle East, including the European Commission and Minority Rights Group International.

African Peace Militaries War, Peace and Democratic Governance


About the Editor

David J. Francis is the most recent Head of Department of Peace Studies and is currently Director of the John and Elnora Ferguson Centre for African Studies (JEFCAS), at the University of Bradford, UK. He is author/editor of eight books, including US Strategy in Africa (ed. Routledge, 2010).


This book provides a critical understanding of the emerging role of African militaries in peacetime democratic Africa.

This book departs from the dominant perspective which simply presents the military as an ‘enemy’ of democracy because of the history and legacy of unending military coup d’états and interventions in civilian politics. In the context of Africa, the military has been blamed or largely held responsible for instigating wars, armed conflicts, political violence, poverty and underdevelopment due to bad governance and mismanagement of the state. Drawing from diverse case studies across Africa, including Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia and Egypt, this volume presents the argument that though the military has played a negative, and sometimes, destructive role in undermining constitutional rule and the overthrow of democratic civilian governments, the same military, now operating in a changed global environment, is making effort to support the development of democracy and democratic consolidation as well as remain subjected to civilian democratic oversight and control. Notwithstanding, the real challenge for this emerging trend of African peace militaries is the extent to which they are able to fulfil, on a predictable and consistent basis, their constitutional mandate to defend the people against ‘elected autocrats’ in Africa who try to use the military to perpetuate themselves in power.

This work fills a critical gap in the literature and will be of much interest to students of African security and politics, peace and conflict studies, security studies and IR in general.

Table of Contents

1. African Militaries in War, Peace and Support for Democratic Development, David J. Francis

2. The Military in Nigeria: War, peace and support for democratic governance, Oshita Oshita

3. The Rwanda Defence Force: from Genocide to Peace and Democratic Consolidation, Marco Jowell

4. Military in Uganda: war, peace and support for democratic consolidation, Eric Awich Ochen

5. Military Response to Boko Haram Insurgency in Nigeria: Implications for Peace, Security and Democracy in the Lake Chad Basin, Kenneth C. Omeje

6. African Solutions to Western Problems: Western-sponsored Training Programmes for African Militaries: impact on Peace and Democratic Consolidation, David Chuter

7. African Standby Force: Challenges and Opportunities for support of Democracy in Africa, Kasaija Phillip Apuuli

8. African Militaries, Security Sector Reform and Peace Dividends: a case study of Ethiopia’s post-1998 Defence Reform Experience and impact on Democratic Development, Ann Fitz-Gerald, Paula MacPhee & Ian Westerman

9. Egypt: the Military in War, Peace and Democratic Development, Joseph Lansana Kormoh

Sights and Moments from the 3rd Annual Peace Studies & International Development Conference

The Third Annual Peace Studies & International Development Conference for Africanist Doctoral Students and Early Post-Doctoral Career Scholars and Practitioners hosted by JEFCAS took place at the Bright Building University of Bradford on 11th May 2017.

The Theme for the conference was Resources, Conflict and Development in Africa.

The Conference provided a platform where Africanist researchers from various continents of the globe including Africa, Asia and Europe could exchange ideas and engage in critical intellectual debates across the spectrum of the conference theme.

Professor David Francis, Director of JEFCAS gave a thought provoking speech that provided an appropriate atmosphere for further intellectual discussions by the various panellists and presenters. The conference was closed with a well-articulated presentation by Professor Kenneth Omeje, Senior Research Fellow at JEFCAS that provided a well-rounded summation of the issues discussed at the Conference.

Below is the link to the programme as well as some of the captured moments at the conference:

JEFCAS Conference Programme…/jefcas-conference-programme.pdf

JEFCAS Seminar Series: “Eritrea- Repression and Resistance”

Venue: Pemberton Room 2.11

Date:  Wed 22nd March 2017

Time: 16:00 – 18:00

Speaker: Martin Plaut (Institute of Commonwealth Studies)

Martin Plaut

About Martin Plaut:

Martin Plaut is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of   Commonwealth Studies and author of “Understanding Eritrea” published by Hurst October 2016. The book explains how the country operates and why President Isaias Afwerki has retained in power. His main research interests and publication include Civil Rights, Colonies & Colonization, emigration & immigration, International Relations, Modern History, Political Institutions, Socialism, Communism, and Anarchism. Mr. Plaut research focus is Africa in general, South Africa and Horn of Africa in Particular.

Annual Peace Studies & International Development Conference: Resources, Conflict and Development in Africa

The annual Peace Studies & International Development conference for Africanist doctoral students and early post-doctoral career scholars and practitioners is scheduled to take place on the 11th May 2017 at the University of Bradford in United Kingdom.

The conference theme is: Resources, Conflict and Development in Africa.

Conference cluster themes include:

1) Natural Resources and Conflict

2) Transition from Resource Conflict to Peace and Peacebuilding

3) Natural Resources, Demographic Change and Development

4) Conflict, Security, Peace and Development Nexus

5) Regional Integration, Security and Development

6) Africa and the Rest of the World
The conference is open to doctoral students and early career scholars, researchers and practitioners. Potential participants and paper presenters are required to submit an Abstract of 200 – 300 words on or before 15th November 2016 to:    
All shortlisted participants will be required to submit the first draft of their papers at least two months before the conference. The conference is expected to result in a co-edited book (Lead Editor: Professor Kenneth Omeje, Senior Research Fellow, John & Elnora Ferguson Centre of African Studies, University of Bradford). Kindly note that all short-listed participants will be responsible for the full-cost of their participation, including visa, travels, accommodation and subsistence.

For full details on the conference: conference-call-oct-2016-revised-version-1

Forgotten and Not Forgiven: Angola’s Violent Past

[Image credit: Sambizanga, Luanda province, the hub of resistance to MPLA leader Agostinho Neto; it this district that saw the most froce of military and Cuban response to the coup]

In the Name of the People: Angola’s Forgotten Massacre, by Lara Pawson (IB Tauris, 2014)

Evein the namery country has its “skeletons in the closet”. Sometimes those skeletons are aired and form the substance of public or international discourse, and (rarely) some are transcended, but many are simply kept in hiding. According to Lara Pawson the 1977 coup/failed revolution is one such hidden event in Angola’s history.

The book’s protagonists’ offer multiple descriptions of this event necessarily conveying the contested nature of what happened on May 27th 1997, or as it is more commonly known, vinte e sete. Pawson, now a freelance journalist, earned her stripes as a BBC correspondent in Angola during the 1990s. But since then she has been following breadcrumbs of confusion and woe that have led her to vinte e sete. What is perhaps most “shocking” about the account is not the lack of historicization, but the swift and ruthless swinging of Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA) coercive, biopower in defense of its monopoly of “revolution”.

Pawson reconstructs vinte e sete with a parade of characters across a spectrum of events: the possibly guilty extolling their ignorance and regret at others’ actions, and the now widowed living with grief and suspicion still decades later, even leftist writers and journalists, once supportive of the MPLA are cast as hiding something. The latter apparently knowing too much to betray their ideological allegiance to the “successful” MPLA revolution.

Intriguingly, many protagonists cast these events in the light of postcolonial racial tension. Nito Alves, the disgraced deputy to the MPLA leader Agostinho Neto, drew to him an apparent mixture of Soviet sympathizers, disaffected lower ranks, and black, rural Angolans. Nito was thus accused of fomenting anti-white and anti-mestiço racism. Throughout one hears echoes of scholars like Mbembe and Mamdani who have underscored the challenge of moving past the colonial (racial/ethnic) divisions bred into the postcolonial state: it appears Angola is no different.

Those loyal to the dissatisfaction expressed by Nito and frustrated by the fraudulent puppet Neto (supposedly controlled by the ruling mestiço class and the Cubans. who had been flooding the country as professional and armed soldiers) stormed the capital’s radio station and took up other key positions in Luanda. Within 24 hours this “factionalist” coup, rebellion, or whatever, was crushed by MPLA troops, tanks, and most notably the stockpiled Cubans ready to combat counterinsurgency against the revolution. Pawson, unable to put a finger on the numbers of those arrests, tortured, disappeared, or simply executed, offers her protagonists’ claims that were in the thousands.

The real Nito Alves? This young man was arrested in connection with multiple involvements in protests against President Dos Santos and the forgetting of vinte e sete.
The real Nito Alves? This young man was arrested in connection with multiple involvements in protests against President Dos Santos and the forgetting of vinte e sete.

What remains now is a cast of characters affected in some way or another by a history of postcolonial counterinsurgency violence, in the name of socialism, most willing to live with the past, without conceptualizing it, or speaking of it. Speaking truth to power, perhaps, as the underlying modus operandi of this book, seems to be a frustrated mantra. Frustrated by the responding silence of oppression.

Post Script

I recently spoke with some friends from Angola, living here in Europe, and they expressed a similar acknowledgement of silence and suppression of this history. And perhaps, as most living in a diaspora, or those willingly away from home, as frustration about the janus-faced nature of Angola as a “good” African country that is defined by political power that is corrupt and far reaching. No one wants to speak about this, they claimed, and Pawson’s book is the only attempt, so far, that captures this feeling and history.

Further Reading:

Africa is a Country, ‘The Battle over the 27th of May in Angola’.

Pawson, ‘Nito Alves: the teenage incarnation of resistance in Angola,’ Guardian.