How to Truly Decolonise the Study of Africa (Al Jazeera English)

From Cape Town to Cairo, Bahia to Bombay, recent calls to "decolonise the university" have gained traction across the globe. These demands correctly challenge the legacies of colonialism and attempt to subvert them in institutional structures of higher learning.

But the problem with this 21st-century "scholarly decolonial turn" is that it remains largely detached from the day-to-day dilemmas of people in formerly colonised spaces and places. Many academics mistakenly maintain that by screaming "decolonise X" or "decolonise Y" ad nauseam, they will miraculously metamorphose into progressive agents of change.

Some tragically believe that by ignoring leading thinkers who were "decolonising" long before it became a fad - including Edward Wilmot Blyden of Liberia and WEB DuBois of the US who were prominent as early as the mid-to-late 1800s - they can carve out "decolonisation" as their scholarly fiefdoms.

Still others erroneously contend that "decolonial" street credibility can be acquired by simply adding non-whites to their reading lists, journal editorial boards, speaking panels, research collaborations, book contracts, etc.

Despite these flawed assumptions, 21st-century "epistemic decolonisation" cannot succeed unless it is bound to and supportive of contemporary liberation struggles against inequality, racism, austerity, patriarchy, autocracy, homophobia, xenophobia, ecological damage, militarisation, impunity, corruption, media muzzling and land grabbing.

For those who research and write about Africa, this is particularly important given the continent's fraught relationship with itself and the outside world. Though Africa remains captured today by the same forces that fuelled colonialism, African activists and artists have responded by commanding revolutionary change.

The Struggles for Liberian Citizenship (Al Jazeera English)

It has been exactly one year since newly inaugurated Liberian President George Manneh Weah sparked controversy by declaring staunch support for enacting dual citizenship and repealing a constitutional "Negro clause", which prohibits non-blacks from obtaining citizenship by birth, ancestry or naturalisation.

Although the footballer-turned-president acknowledged the historical preoccupations of Liberia's settlers who fled 19th century economic servitude in the United States and the Caribbean, he claimed that upholding the "Negro clause" and prohibiting dual citizenship would impinge upon the country's 21st century post-war progress and prosperity, especially given the vital development contributions by Liberians abroad.

Yet, my research on how Liberians view citizenship in general and dual citizenship in particular - based on over 200 interviews in cities in West Africa, Europe, and North America - shows that the laws remain unchanged because objections to amendments are deeply socioeconomic in nature, and cannot be simply wished away by presidential proclamations. Liberians experience citizenship differently based on their class, gender and ethnicity, and this largely influences whether they reject or accept dual citizenship and the "Negro clause".

Between Rootedness and Rootlessness: How Sedentarist and Nomadic Metaphysics Simultaneously Challenge and Reinforce (Dual) Citizenship Claims for Liberia (Migration Studies)

(2018) "Between Rootedness and Rootlessness: How Sedentarist and Nomadic Metaphysics Simultaneously Challenge and Reinforce (Dual) Citizenship Claims for Liberia." Migration Studies 6 (3): 400-419. 

When Foreign 'Do-Gooders' Do More Harm Than Good in Liberia (Al Jazeera English)

Released last week to howls of outrage, ProPublica's Unprotected is a chilling expose about a rotten and unaccountable international charity industry. In particular, it peels away the shroud of secrecy around an American NGO, More Than Me (MTM), whose white American cofounder gallivanted around the globe for years raising millions of dollars for an academy she founded in Liberia's capital, Monrovia, while her Liberian partner repeatedly raped young female recruits.

Gbagba: A Multi-media 'Revolution from Below' Teaching Children about Corruption (UNESCO blog)

“Police officer, what does the Liberian government need to do to encourage you to stop taking bribes?”, said a young girl from a packed audience at Monrovia City Hall Theatre in Liberia’s capital. Dressed in black and white uniform with her school’s signature red beret, the student held a microphone tightly pressed under her mouth.

Why President Weah Should Read My PhD Thesis on the Promise and Peril of (Dual) Citizenship (The Bush Chicken)

When President George Weah announced in his inaugural address to the legislature last month that he would actively advocate for the passage of a contested dual citizenship bill and the removal of a so-called “racist” Negro clause from Liberia’s Constitution, I was bombarded with calls and e-mails...

Completed in 2014, my thesis is the first comprehensive scholarly investigation of the promise and peril of dual citizenship for Liberia, based on fieldwork conducted in five countries spanning three continents, during which I spoke to Liberian officials of government, homelanders, returnees, and diasporic Liberians, as well as Sierra Leonean policymakers. I embarked on this study because I wanted to fill an important gap by elevating our public discourse and policymaking around citizenship. Since then, I have published two scholarly journal articles in *Citizenship Studies and *Migration Studies and a book manuscript is forthcoming.

What Liberian President-elect George Weah Must Do (Al Jazeera English)

When footballer-turned-politician George Weah is inaugurated on January 22 as Liberia's 25th president, he will face the challenging task of reviving a resilient yet deeply divided, poorly managed, post-war country.   

Weah was the frontrunner among 20 candidates who ran in the first round of elections last October 10. After an electoral litigation battle that dragged on for weeks, he won the December 26 runoff with 61.5 percent of the vote. Though turnout was low - 55.8 percent compared with 75.2 percent in October - Weah's die-hard followers delivered his most decisive victory.  

But the euphoria will be short-lived if he repeats the mistakes of his predecessors, including Africa's first elected woman head of state - Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. 

Dance When the Spirit Moves You and Four Other Lessons in Effective Leadership for Development (Mo Ibrahim Foundation blog)

I applied for an Ibrahim Leadership Fellowship, not because of some blind faith in the international development industry, but because I’d acquired a healthy skepticism of it.

Having analysed and obsessed over the pitfalls of post-war recovery in my country Liberia and in other contexts in West, Central and North Africa, I’d been itching to put my policy-oriented development research expertise to practice. I wanted to escape the ivory tower of academia in Europe and work in a regional institution based in an African metropolis.

The African Development Bank ticked all of those boxes. That the Bank credits its very existence to Dr Romeo Horton – a Liberian central bank governor who believed strongly that Africa needed its own development finance institution – made my appointment here even more symbolic.

My first 100 days were a steep learning curve in how to manage people, projects and priorities.

Fahamu@20: Schooled in the Ways of Activism (Pambazuka News)

In October 2006, I barreled into the Oxford office of Fahamu, Networks for Social Justice, looking for something socially redeeming to do with my limited free time. Back then, I was a 25-year-old firebrand just starting a masters degree in African history and politics at the University of Oxford.

Quite pompously, I thought I knew everything there was to know about political, economic and social transformation in Africa. I thought community activism was my forte. I couldn’t have been more naïve or wrong.

The nine months I spent at Fahamu as a multi-media producer intern felt like an incubation period, a launch pad of sorts for deepening my commitment to radical social justice, scholarship and storytelling about and for Africa. These were some of the most transformative moments of my lifetime.

Silver Lining, Silver Bullet or Neither? Post-War Opportunities and Challenges for Liberian Diasporas in Development (Liberia Strategic Analysis)

(2017) "Silver Lining, Silver Bullet or Neither? Post-War Opportunities and Challenges for Liberian Diasporas in Development" in Liberian Development Conference Anthology: Engendering Collective Action for Advancing Liberia’s Development. Monrovia, Liberia: USAID/Liberia, Embassy of Sweden and University of Liberia: 211-228.

Liberia Has a Big Election Next Week — and a True Test of Democracy in Africa's Oldest Republic (The Washington Post)

In landmark elections slated for Oct. 10, Liberians will vote in the country’s third postwar presidential and legislative races. Incumbent Ellen Johnson Sirleaf — Africa’s first female president — is ineligible to run because of constitutionally mandated term limits. So January 2018 will mark the first time in recent memory that a democratically elected Liberian president will hand power to a similarly elected head of state.

Is Liberia's Sirleaf Really Standing Up for Women? (Al Jazeera English)

In a public statement earlier this month, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf - Africa's first woman elected head of state - vowed to campaign actively for female candidates running in presidential and legislative elections in October. While her pronouncement may appear praiseworthy, it is too little, too late.