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POLSC325: African Politics

Unit 3: African Society and the Politics of Identity   *This unit introduces four elements of identity politics in Africa: ethnicity, religion, gender, and class.  Scholars and the media often portray African politics in ethnic terms.  Ethnicity is a broad concept encompassing language, tribe, and other identity markers.  Ethnicity is not always politically salient, but it can become politicized through strategic manipulation or institutional mechanisms.  By many measures, African countries are some of the most ethnically diverse in the world.  In the post-colonial era, this diversity has complicated efforts to build crosscutting national identities.  Whereas some countries, like Tanzania, have implemented successful nation-building campaigns, others struggle to accommodate cultural pluralism.  Although there is no scholarly consensus on whether ethnic diversity increases the risk of civil conflict, the correlation between ethnic diversity and low economic growth is one of the most robust in political science.  Therefore, forging national identities may be of critical importance for Africa’s long-term development.
 
In contrast to the economic drawbacks of ethnic diversity, strong religious identities may be beneficial.  For example, despite the international attention that Nigeria’s deadly religious riots receive, some Nigerian Muslims and Christians have forged interfaith partnerships in the name of social justice.

This unit will also highlight encouraging trends in gender politics.  While many African women are still marginalized and vulnerable to human rights abuses, they are pivotal in their communities through their roles in agriculture, family care, and entrepreneurship.  Microfinance agencies and other aid organizations have recognized this and are increasingly targeting women with their interventions.  Some prominent African women, such as Wangari Maathai of Kenya and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, are also paving the way for female political participation.

Finally, this unit will examine class identity.  Although labor unions were central in the struggle against colonialism, the conventional wisdom is that class politics gave way to ethnic politics in the post-colonial era.  This unit will challenge that assumption by highlighting the emergence of an African middle class.*

Unit 3 Time Advisory
This unit should take you approximately 9.5 hours  to complete.

☐    Subunit 3.1: 4 hours

☐    Subunit 3.2: 2.25 hours

☐    Subunit 3.3: 2.75 hours

☐    Subunit 3.4: 0.5 hours

Unit3 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:
- Discuss how ethnicity and class shape African politics. - Discuss the role of religion in African social structure and politics. - Discuss the role of gender  in the African political sphere.

3.1 Ethnicity and African Politics   - Reading: African Press International: Prime Minster of Kenya Hon Raila A. Odinga’s “What Role Does Ethnicity Play in Africa’s Elective Politics?” Link: African Press International: Prime Minster of KenyaHon Raila A. Odinga’s “What Role Does Ethnicity Play in Africa’s Elective Politics?” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read the entire article.  Ethnicity continues to shape every sphere of life in Africa, including politics.  Raila Odinga, Prime Minster of Kenya, points out that the colonizers created identity-based politics, but he indicates that it has continued to influence contemporary politics in Africa.  As you read, ask yourself how ethnicity has influenced politics in various African countries. 
 
This reading should take you approximately 1 hour to complete.
 
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  • Reading: Transformation: Dr. Claude Ake’s “What is the Problem of Ethnicity in Africa?” Link: Transformation: Dr. Claude Ake’s “What is the Problem of Ethnicity in Africa?” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: The link above takes you to the table of contents for the 22nd issue of the academic journal Transformation. Click on the title of the reading to access a PDF file.
     
    In this 14-page journal article, the renowned Nigerian political scientist, Dr. Claude Ake, explores the concept of ethnicity as it relates to African political processes.  Please compare and contrast Dr. Ake’s and Hon. Odinga’s accounts of the development of ethnic identities in Africa. Do they maintain divergent views on the significance of ethnicity with respect to democratization and conflict? Also, please note the brief discussion on language in Dr. Ake’s paper. The adoption of the colonial language as the official or national language by independent African states poses concrete problems for political participation.
     
    This reading should take you approximately 2 hours to complete.
     
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  • Reading: NDU Press’ JFQ Journal: Clement Mweyang Aapengnuo’s: “Misinterpreting Ethnic Conflicts in Africa” Link: NDU Press’ JFQ Journal:Clement Mweyang Aapengnuo’s: “Misinterpreting Ethnic Conflicts in Africa” (HTML/PDF)
     
    Instructions: Click on the link above to access the html version of this short essay on ethnic conflict in Africa. A pdf version is also available; click on the link just below the title. Aapengnuo argues that the politicization of ethnicity and not ethnicity itself is at the core of many conflicts. Using the label ‘ethnic conflict’ may be an erroneous practice when exploring conflict in Africa.
     
    This reading should take you approximately 1 hour to complete.
     
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3.2 Religion and African Politics   - Reading: Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies: Peter M. Lewis’ “Politics and Religion in Africa” The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

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  • Reading: The Nordic Africa Institute: Jibrin Ibrahim’s and Toure Kazah-Toure’s “Ethno-religious Conflicts in Northern Nigeria” Link: The Nordic Africa Institute: Jibrin Ibrahim’s and Toure Kazah-Toure’s “Ethno-religious Conflicts in Northern Nigeria” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read the article linked above for a case study on the interplay between politics and religion in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous state.  Nigeria’s ethnic, regional, and religious diversity makes the country an ideal case for studying identity politics.  According to the authors, what are the causes of ethno-religious conflicts and in what ways do they manifest themselves?
     
    This reading should take you approximately 1 hour to complete.
     
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  • Reading: BBC: Pumza Fihlani’s “Religion, Politics and Africa’s Homophobia” and The Guardian: Madeleine Banting’s “African Homophobia has Complex Roots” Link: BBC: Pumza Fihlani’s “Religion, Politics and Africa’s Homphobia” and The Guardian: Madeleine Banting’s “African Homophobia has Complex Roots” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read the two 2010 news articles on homophobia in Africa. These articles shed light on the complexities of the relationship between politics and religion in African societies. While anti-gay rhetoric is not a new phenomenon in Africa (the controversy surrounding the 1995 Zimbabwe International Book Fair and accompanying disparaging commentary by political leadership is one example), the recent rash of reinvigorated homophobic expressions is extremely concerning from a human rights viewpoint. Religious leadership, both African and foreign, have immense influence over political leaders when it comes to homosexuality. Is this merely a religious issue in African societies or do other socio-economic factors coalesce to provide a strong political base for religious activism vis-à-vis this issue?
     
    These readings should take you approximately 45 minutes to complete.
     
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3.3 Gender and African Politics   - Web Media: YouTube: Ted Talks: Sheryl WuDunn’s “Our Century’s Greatest Injustice” Link: YouTUbe: Ted Talks: Sheryl WuDunn’s “Our Century’s Greatest Injustice” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: Please note that this resource is optional.  Please click on the link above, and watch this TED talk by journalist Sheryl WuDunn.  WuDunn speaks on themes from her book, Half the Sky, about women’s struggles around the world and women’s importance in economic development.  She uses anecdotes from different regions, highlighting the fact that gender issues are not exclusive to Africa.  Indeed, growing appreciation for the interconnectedness of development issues has led some universities to place less emphasis on “area studies” and more emphasis on comparative fields.
 
This video should take you approximately 30 minutes to complete.
 
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  • Reading: African Women’s Development Fund: President of the Republic of Liberia H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s “African Women and Political Participation” African Women’s Development Fund: President of the Republic of Liberia H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s “African Women and Political Participation” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please read the linked material above.  Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first elected female head of state in Africa, delivered this message on the occasion of the 10th Anniversary of the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF), held in Accra, Ghana, on Friday, November 12, 2010. She discusses the developments regarding women’s participation in African political processes and explores the dynamics challenging such participation.
     
    This reading should take you approximately 1 hour to complete.
     
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  • Reading: Konrad Adenauer Stiftung: SADC Law Journal: Mulela Margaret Munalula’s “SADC Protocol on Gender and Development: Road Map to Equality?” Link: Konrad Adenauer Stiftung: SADC Law Journal: Mulela Margaret Munalula’s “SADC Protocol on Gender and Development: Road Map to Equality?” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Please click on the link above to access volume 1 of SADC Law Journal, then scroll down to the title of the article, click on the title to access the PDF file, and read the entire article (8 pages).  The SADC (Southern African Development Community) is a regional IGO with 15 member states.  In 2008, this body passed the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, which is a legally binding document that aims to achieve gender equality in the member states.  It is one example of efforts taken at the state and regional level to address the issue of gender inequality and discrimination.  Munalula’s short article offers an overview and assessment of this Gender Protocol.  Is it likely that this document will lead to progress and ameliorate women’s lives in southern Africa?
     
    This reading should take you approximately 1 hour to complete.
     
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  • Reading: BBC: Pumza Fihlani’s “Religion, Politics and Africa’s Homophobia” and The Guardian: Madeleine Bunting’s “African Homophobia has Complex Roots” Link: BBC: Pumza Fihlani’s “Religion, Politics and Africa’s Homophobia” (HTML) and The Guardian: Madeleine Bunting’s “African Homophobia has Complex Roots” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Please click on the links above, and read the two 2010 news articles on homophobia in Africa.  These articles shed light on the complexities of the relationship between politics and religion in African societies. Religious leadership, both African and foreign, have immense influence over political leaders when it comes to homosexuality.  How can African leaders reconcile religion and civil rights?
    These readings should take you approximately 45 minutes to complete.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpages above.

3.4 Class and African Politics   - Reading: Pambazuka News: William Gumede’s “South Africa's Success Is about 'We,' Not 'Me'” Link: Pambazuka News: William Gumede’s “South Africa's Success Is about 'We,' Not 'Me'” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read the entire article.  Political elites everywhere enjoy greater power due to their political and economic resources.  The masses, however, have the capacity to change political systems if they mobilize.  Many have noted that changes in Africa have occurred via popular movements.  In this article, Gumede argues that South Africa's success in eliminating apartheid was due to “mass mobilization.”  However, the political and economic system in post-apartheid South Africa came to be controlled by new elites, which gave rise to a new class system.  As you read, note the way in which Gumede presents his case and pay attention to his explanation of the impact that the new class system has had on politics in South Africa.  Do you think South Africa’s experience can be seen in other parts of Africa as well?
 
This reading should take you approximately 15 minutes to complete.
 
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  • Reading: The Guardian: David Smith’s “One in Three Africans Is Now Middle Class, Report Finds” Link: The Guardian: David Smith’s “One in Three Africans Is Now Middle Class, Report Finds” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read the news article about the African Development Bank’s 2011 study on the middle class in Africa. While Africa’s middle class is still comparatively small, it is growing.  This is significant, because the middle class  is often a catalyst for political change.
     
    This reading should take you approximately 15 minutes to complete.
     
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