Godfrey Mwakikagile

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Godfrey Mwakikagile
Born 4 October 1949
Kigoma, Tanganyika
Occupation scholar, writer
Nationality Tanzanian
Alma mater Wayne State University (1975)
Notable works Africans and African Americans: Complex Relations – Prospects and Challenges (2009)
Africa 1960 – 1970: Chronicle and Analysis (2009)

Godfrey Mwakikagile (born 4 October 1949) is a prominent Tanzanian scholar, writer and specialist in African studies.


He was born in the town of Kigoma in western Tanganyika – what is now mainland Tanzania – on 4 October 1949.[1] He was named Godfrey by his aunt, Isabella, one of his father's younger sisters, and lived in different parts of Tanganyika - Western Province, Coast Province, Southern Highlands Province, and Southern Province - in his early years.

He was baptised as a member of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) in Kigoma, Western Province, but was brought up in the Moravian Church in Rungwe District in the Southern Highlands Province. The pastor of the church was his maternal grand uncle.

He spent his first twelve years under British colonial rule in a decade when agitation for independence was at its peak, finally leading to independence for Tanganyika, the first country in East Africa to emerge from colonial rule.

Tanganyika was a racially stratified society during colonial rule. Godfrey Mwakikagile lived under this system of racial segregation and discrimination when he was growing up in Tanganyika in the fifties. Africans were subjected to indignities of colour bar similar to those under apartheid in South Africa. There were signs designating racial categories. Lavatories were labelled "Europeans," "Asians" and "Africans." Some hotels and bars were labelled "Europeans." There were separate schools for Europeans, Asians and Africans.

African leaders, including Julius Nyerere, campaigning for independence were subjected to the same racial indignities which continued even after the end of colonial rule, especially during the early years, but drew a swift response from the new government which was predominantly black and multi-racial. As Godfrey Mwakikagile stated in his book Nyerere and Africa: End of an Era:

"Mwalimu himself had experienced racial discrimination, what we in East Africa – and elsewhere including southern Africa – also call colour bar. As Colin Legum states in a book he edited with Tanzanian Professor Geoffrey Mmari, Mwalimu: The Influence of Nyerere:

'I was privileged to meet Nyerere while he was still a young teacher in short trousers at the very beginning of his political career, and to engage in private conversations with him since the early 1950s.

My very first encounter in 1953 taught me something about his calm authority in the face of racism in colonial Tanganyika. I had arranged a meeting with four leaders of the nascent nationalist movement at the Old Africa Hotel in Dar es Salaam. We sat at a table on the pavement and ordered five beers, but before we could lift our glasses an African waiter rushed up and whipped away all the glasses except mine.

I rose to protest to the white manager, but Nyerere restrained me. 'I am glad it happened,' he said, 'now you can go and tell your friend Sir Edward Twining [the governor at the time] how things are in this country.'

His manner was light and amusing, with no hint of anger.'

Simple, yet profound. For, beneath the surface lay a steely character with a deep passion for justice across the colour line and an uncompromising commitment to the egalitarian ideals he espoused and implemented throughout his political career, favouring none.

Years later his son, Andrew Nyerere, told me about an incident that also took place in the capital Dar es Salaam shortly after Tanganyika won independence in 1961 near the school he and I attended and where we also stayed from 1969 - 1970. Like the incident earlier when Julius Nyerere was humiliated at the Old Africa Hotel back in 1953, this one also involved race. As Andrew stated in a letter to me in 2002 when I was writing this book:

'As you remember, Sheikh Amri Abeid was the first mayor of Dar es Salaam. Soon after independence, the mayor went to Palm Beach Hotel (near our high school, Tambaza, on United Nations Road in Upanga). There was a sign at the hotel which clearly stated: 'No Africans and dogs allowed inside.' He was blocked from entering the hotel, and said in protest, 'But I am the Mayor.' Still he was told, 'You will not get in.' Shortly thereafter, the owner of the hotel was given 48 hours to leave the country. When the nationalization exercise began, that hotel was the first to be nationalized.'

Such insults were the last thing that could be tolerated in newly independent Tanganyika. And President Nyerere, probably more than any other African leader, would not have tolerated, and did not tolerate, seeing even the humblest of peasants being insulted and humiliated by anyone including fellow countrymen." - (Godfrey Mwakikagile, Nyerere and Africa: End of an Era, New Africa Press, 2010, pp. 501 – 502).

There was also residential segregation in urban areas reminiscent of apartheid South Africa and the United States during and even after the era of segregation. Members of different races lived in their own areas. Dar es Salaam was a typical example. As Trevor Grundy, a British journalist who worked in Tanzania at the same newspaper where Godfrey Mwakikagile also worked as a news reporter during the same period, stated in his review of Professor Thomas Molony's book, Nyerere: The Early Years, "The British turned Tanganyika into an undeclared apartheid state that was socially divided between divided Africans, Europeans and Asians....It was British-style apartheid - their secret was never to give racial segregation a name."

The years Godfrey Mwakikagile spent under segregation when he was growing up in different parts of Tanganyika shaped his thinking and perspective on race relations and on the impact of colonial rule on the colonised when he became a writer of non-fiction books about colonial and post-colonial Africa.

There was also racial discrimination in employment during colonial rule when Godfrey Mwakikagile was growing up in the fifties. Europeans, Asians and members of other races earned more than Africans did even if they had the same skills and level of education. His father was a victim of such discrimination when he worked for the colonial government, as he has stated in his autobiographical writings.

The struggle for independence in Tanganyika in the 1950s, Mwakikagile's formative years, was partly fuelled by such racial injustices which, years later, became the focus of some of his writings.

He has written about that in his book Life in Tanganyika in The Fifties and other works in which he has described some incidents of racial injustice. One such incident involved his father when a white supervisor where he worked told him he could not have lunch in the office they shared or even put it on the table. But the supervisor could eat there.

Another one had to do with Godfrey Mwakikagile himself when, as a six-year-old walking to school with other boys, he was severely injured after being chased and bitten by a dog owned by a white couple who lived in a house the children went by everyday, on a public road, on their way to and from school. Decades later, after 2000, he stated in his autobiographical writings that he still had a highly visible scar on his right knee where he was bitten by the dog. It was a large dog and it could have killed him.

The couple had two dogs, including a German shepherd, which used to chase the boys. They knew the children went by their house and saw them on their way to and from school everyday but did not tie the dogs or keep them on leashes.

The house was on a tea plantation at Kyimbila, the children passed through, and the husband was the manager of Kyimbila Tea Estate.

That was in 1956 when Godfrey Mwakikagile was in Standard One in primary school in Rungwe District in the Southern Highlands Province, as he states in his books Life in Tanganyika in The Fifties, My Life as an African, and Tanzania under Mwalimu Nyerere: Reflections on an African Statesman.

After being bitten by the dog, he stated in his autobiographical writings that he went on to school where he attended class without getting any help – there was no medical assistance at the primary school, not even a First Aid kit – until he returned home in the evening. He continued to go to school in the following days. And nothing could be done to the dog owners during those days. It was colonial rule, blacks did not have the same rights whites had, and knew their place as colonial subjects not as equal citizens in a racially divided society which was vertically structured not only to keep whites on top of other races, especially blacks, but also virtually above the law.

Godfrey Mwakikagile also stated in his autobiographical works that when he was bitten by the dog, the attack was seared in his memory but as a six-year-old he did not see it in terms of racism until he became a teenager. Years later, he stated in some of his writings that had the children been white, the white couple would probably not have allowed the dogs to roam freely knowing they could attack them.

He also explained that East Africans who were born and brought up during colonial rule had more direct experience with racism than West Africans did because of the larger white population in East Africa with significant settler communities, especially in Kenya, although smaller and fewer in Tanganyika. Many of them had bitter experience with the colonial rulers and the white settlers because of the racial injustices perpetrated against them, including doubts about their intelligence and even common sense expressed by some whites. As he stated in his book Africa and The West:

"Colonialism, as a system of oppression and exploitation, not only continued to plunder Africa but sought to instill in the minds of Africans feelings of inferiority to justify such domination...This is just one example – what Colonel Ewart Grogan, the doyen of the white settlers in colonial Kenya and leader of the Kenya British Empire Party, said about Africans attending the renowned Makerere University College in Uganda:

'Just teaching a lot of stupid monkeys to dress up like Europeans. Won’t do any good. Just cause a lot of discontent. They can never be like us, so better for them not to try.'

Another (Kenyan) settler in the 'Dark Continent' had this:

'I’ve actually got a farm hand who wears a tie – but the stupid bastard doesn’t realize you don’t wear a tie without a shirt!'

The implication is obvious. It is a sweeping indictment against all “native Africans” as a bunch of idiots.

Yet another one, Sir Godfrey Huggins, Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia, acclaimed as a British liberal, shot point-blank at a press conference in London:

'It is time for the people in England to realize that the white man in Africa is not prepared and never will be prepared to accept the African as an equal, either socially or politically. Is there something in their chromosomes which makes them more backward and different from peoples living in the East and West?'" - (Godfrey Mwakikagile, Africa and The West, Huntington, New York: Nova Science Publishers, Inc., 2000, pp. 9 - 10, 69; Colin M. Turnbull, The Lonely African, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1962, pp. 89, 21, 90, 97; G. Mwakikagile, Africa and The West, p. 97: "A man with a flair for controversy and an outspoken racist, Grogan described himself as 'the baddest and boldest of a bold bad gang.' He also gained notoriety for publicly flogging Africans in Nairobi. The settlers from South Africa also came 'with the racial prejudices of that country. Frederick Jackson, Sir Charles Eliot’s Deputy Commissioner, told the Foreign Office that the Protectorate was becoming a country of 'nigger-' and game-shooters.'" G. Mwakikagile, ibid, p. 113: "Colonel Ewart Grogan, a leader of the white settlers, bluntly stated: 'We Europeans have to go on ruling this country and rule it with iron discipline…If the whole of the Kikuyu land unit is reverted to the Crown, then every Kikuyu would know that our little queen was a great Bwana'"; E. S. Grogan, in the East African Standard, Nairobi, Kenya, 12 November 1910; Elspeth Huxley, White Man’s Country, Vol. I, London and New York: Macmillan, 1935, pp. 222 - 223, 261 - 262; George Padmore, Pan-Africanism or Communism?: The Coming Struggle for Africa, London: Denis Dobson, 1956, pp. 255, 256).

The humanity of Africans, and their lives, meant absolutely nothing to many whites, demonstrated by the injustices and indignities black people suffered under colonial rule.

School children who grew up in the fifties were among the victims. The problem was compounded by inequalities in the provision of funds and facilities for education. Meagre resources were allocated to education for African children in sharp contrast with the amount spent on schools for European and Asian children. The school Godfrey Mwakikagile attended was no exception. It was also the dawn of a new era in the history of Tanganyika.

He stated in his autobiographical works that the fifties which was a decade that preceded independence was a transitional period which symbolised the identity and partly shaped the thinking of those who grew up in those years as a product of both eras, colonial and post-colonial. They also served as a bridge between the two.

Godfrey Mwakikagile also stated in his work, Life in Tanganyika in The Fifties, that it was in the same year he was bitten by the dog on his way to school that Princess Margaret visited Mbeya and Sao Hill in the Southern Highlands Province, as well as other parts of the country, in October 1956; a visit that symbolised British imperial rule over Tanganyika but also at a time when the nationalist movement was gaining momentum in the struggle for independence. The party that led the country to independence, Tanganyika African National Union (TANU), had been formed just two years before, in July 1954, and within months succeeded in mobilising massive support across the country in its quest to end colonial rule. Independence was inevitable.

Godfrey Mwakikagile has written about other incidents of racial injustice and other subjects to show how life was in colonial Tanganyika in the fifties from the perspective of colonial subjects who hardly had any rights in their own country ruled and dominated by whites. Africans were lowest in the racial hierarchy, with Asians and Arabs ranked next to whites.

According to his autobiographical works, he grew up in a politically conscious family. His father knew some of the leading figures in the independence struggle who came from the Southern Highlands Province and other parts of Tanganyika. They included Austin Shaba who did not come from the Southern Highlands Province but was his classmate at a medical training centre at the national hospital in Dar es Salaam and later became a cabinet member in the first independence cabinet serving as minister of local government. Shaba was also a member of parliament for Mtwara and later served as deputy speaker of parliament and as minister of health and housing.

Although Austin Shaba was brought up in Tanganyika, he lost his "citizenship" and cabinet post as well as other government positions in October 1968 because the government found out that both of his parents, who moved to Tanganyika from Nyasaland, were born in Nyasaland and were not Tanganyikan citizens. Therefore he himself was not a citizen and lost something he never had, although it had been assumed through the years that he was a citizen; he was not, according to the law. He and his parents came form Mzimba, Nyasaland.

There was also a time when Elijah Mwakikagile and Austin Shaba worked together when they were medical assistants. Years later, when Godfrey Mwakikagile was a news reporter, he states that he once interviewed Austin Shaba on the telephone when Shaba was chairman of the Tanganyika Sisal Marketing Board based in Tanga. Shaba asked him: "Are you Elijah Mwakikagile's son? I know your parents and knew you when you were a child."

When he was growing up, Godfrey's parents told him about some of the people they knew, especially his father's classmates, schoolmates and co-workers who were involved in the nationalist movement during the struggle for independence. Godfrey knew some of them. They came from the same area where he grew up in Rungwe District.

Godfrey's father, Elijah Mwakikagile, attended Malangali Secondary School, one of the top schools in colonial Tanganyika, where he was head prefect. His classmates there included Jeremiah Kasambala who became a cabinet member in the early years of independence under Prime Minister (later President) Julius Nyerere and represented Rungwe District in parliament; and John Mwakangale who in the 1950s became one of the leaders of the independence movement in Tanganyika. Mwakangale also served in the cabinet as minister of labour under Nyerere in the early part of independence before Kasambala became a member serving as minister of trade and cooperatives and later as minister of industries, minerals and energy.

In his British Empire article, "Danger of Spilling Blood," Humphrey Taylor, a British colonial administrator who served as a District Officer (D.O.) in Njombe District in the Southern Highlands Province from 1959 to 1962, wrote about John Mwakangale when he was a cabinet member serving as minister of labour stating that "Mwakangale was believed to be the most aggressively anti-white or anti- British member of the government" and was very defensive of the interests of African workers. He also stated:

"Soon after Tanganyika became independent, and near the end of my time as a District Officer in Njombe, I received a call from the British manager of the Commonwealth Development Corporation’s wattle plantation and factory a few miles from the District Office. The factory took the bark that was stripped from the wattle trees and used it to make tannin. The workers there were on strike for higher pay, in part because they expected to earn more now that the country was no longer a British colony.

The manager called me because he was afraid that a large crowd of strikers near the factory might attack and damage it. He asked for police protection. I arrived a little while later with ten or fifteen African policemen. I cannot remember if they were armed with anything other than truncheons. It is possible that they also brought rifles. Anyway, everything passed off peacefully without a serious incident. The police and I stood for a couple of hours between the strikers and the factory. The strikers then dispersed and went away. There was no violence of any kind.

However the local union leader sent a fiery telegram to the Minister of Labour, John Mwakangale in Dar es Salaam, in which he wrote that there was a dangerous crisis with provocative action by the British colonial District Officer and the police and that there was a 'danger of the spilling of blood.'

Mwakangale...telegrammed back to say he was coming to Njombe the next day and he sent us a very sharp message criticizing my action and asking to meet with us as soon as he arrived.

At the start of the meeting he was very aggressive and hostile, but as he listened to the manager, the police and to me, he understood what had, and had not, happened. At the end of the meeting we went off and had some beers together.

A little while later, I was in Dar es Salaam to catch the plane on my way home at the end of my brief colonial career. As I was walking on a street there I saw a small group of African cabinet ministers, including Mwakangale, walking towards me on the other side of the street. When he saw me, he dashed across the road, welcomed me enthusiastically, took me by the hand, and brought me across to meet his cabinet colleagues. He told me how sorry he was to hear that I was leaving Tanganyika."

Professor John Iliffe in his book A Modern History of Tanganyika described John Mwakangale as a "vehement nationalist," an assessment underscored by some of the remarks Mwakangale made in parliament. According to Professor Paul Bjerk in his book Building a Peaceful Nation: Julius Nyerere and the Establishment of Sovereignty in Tanzania, 1960 - 1964:

"In October 1961, racialist sentiments sprang up even among his (Nyerere's) own party members when a proposal was brought forward to delay citizenship for non-Africans for five years after independence. Christopher (Kasanga) Tumbo urged for a distinction between 'native' and 'immigrant races.' A TANU member from Mbeya, J. B. Mwakangale, went so far as to call for the resignation of non-African ministers after independence. 'We have no proof of their loyalty. They are bluffing and cheating us,' Mwakangale alleged.

In response, Nyerere threatened that he and his ministers would resign if the assembly did not support TANU's policy. Nyerere denounced the hypocrisy of a policy favoring Africans in a country that was just about to emerge from a racially prejudiced colonial state. Visibly angry, he argued that once racial bias was introduced to Tanganyikan politics its logic would take a life of its own, leading to widespread ethnic animosity:

'A day will come when we will say all people were created equal except the Masai, except the Wagogo, except the Waha, except the polygamists, except the Muslims, etc...You know what happens when people begin to get drunk with power and glorify their race, the Hitlers, that is what they do. You know where they lead the human race, the Verwoerds of South Africa, that is what they do...

I am going to repeat, and repeat very firmly, that this Government has rejected, and rejected completely any ideas that citizenship with the duties and rights of citizenship of this country, are going to based on anything except loyalty to this country.'" - (Paul Bjerk, Building a Peaceful Nation: Julius Nyerere and the Establishment of Sovereignty in Tanzania, 1960 – 1964, Rochester, New York: University of Rochester Press, 2015, pp. 72 – 73).

John Mwakangale also strongly opposed the recruitment of American Peace Corps to work in Tanganyika contending that they were there to destabilise and topple the government. "Wherever they are we always hear of trouble, you hear of people trying to overthrow the government. These people are not here for peace, they are here for trouble. We do not want any more Peace Corps." He was quoted in a news report, "M.P. Attacks American Peace Corps," which was the main story on the front page of the Tanganyika Standard (renamed Daily News in 1972), 12 June 1964.

John Mwakangale was also the first leader of Tanganyika whom Nelson Mandela met in January 1962 when Mandela secretly left South Africa to seek assistance from other African countries in the struggle against white minority rule in his home country. Tanganyika was the first country in the region to win independence; it was also the first independent African country Mandela visited after he left South Africa for the first time on 11 January 1962. And in May 1963, Tanganyika was chosen by other African leaders to be the headquarters of all the African liberation movements when the leaders met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to form the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).

Mwakangale was also one of the leaders of the Pan-African Freedom Movement for East and Central Africa (PAFMECA) which was founded in Mwanza, Tanganyika, in September 1958 under the leadership of Julius Nyerere. PAFMECA mobilised and coordinated the independence struggle in the East-Central African region composed of Tanganyika, Kenya, Zanzibar, Uganda, Nyasaland, Northern Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia and played a major role in forming the Organisation of African Unity.

Mandela met John Mwakangale in Mbeya, the capital of the Southern Highlands Province bordering Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. The two countries were renamed Zambia and Malawi after independence.

Mwakangale had been assigned to receive Mandela in Mbeya on behalf of the government of Tanganyika. Mandela flew from Bechuanaland to Tanganyika in a small plane and arrived in Mbeya on the same day. Bechuanaland was renamed Botswana after the country won independence.

After meeting Mwakangale, Mandela flew to Dar es Salaam the next day where he met Julius Nyerere. Nyerere was the first leader of an independent African country Mandela met. In his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela recalled his meeting with John Mwakangale at a hotel, formerly for whites only, in the town of Mbeya and how, for the first time in his life, he felt free and proud to be in an independent African country. As he stated:

"Early the next morning we left (Bechuanaland, now Botswana) for Mbeya, a town near the Northern Rhodesian border....(In Mbeya) we booked in a local hotel and found a crowd of blacks and whites sitting on the veranda making polite conversation. Never before had I been in a public place or hotel where there was no color bar. We were waiting for Mr. John Mwakangale of the Tanganyika African National Union, a member of Parliament and unbeknown to us he had already called looking for us. An African guest approached the white receptionist. 'Madam, did a Mr. Mwakangale inquire after these two gentlemen?' he asked, pointing to us. 'I am sorry, sir,' she replied. 'He did but I forgot to tell them.' 'Please be careful, madam,' he said in a polite but firm tone. 'These men are our guests and we would like them to receive proper attention.'

I then truly realized that I was in a country ruled by Africans. For the first time in my life, I was a free man. Though I was a fugitive and wanted in my own land, I felt the burden of oppression lifting from my shoulders. Everywhere I went in Tanganyika my skin color was automatically accepted rather than instantly reviled. I was being judged for the first time not by the color of my skin by the measure of my mind and character. Although I was often homesick during my travels, I nevertheless felt as though I were truly home for the first time....

We arrived in Dar es Salaam the next day and I met with Julius Nyerere, the newly independent country's first president. We talked at his house, which was not at all grand, and I recall that he drove himself in a simple car, a little Austin. This impressed me, for it suggested that he was a man of the people. Class, Nyerere always insisted, was alien to Africa; socialism indigenous." - (Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, New York: Little, Brown and Co., 1994, p. 538).

When he received Nelson Mandela, John Mwakangale was a member of parliament (MP) representing Mbeya. A few months later in the same year, he was appointed by Prime Minister Nyerere to be the regional commissioner of the Southern Highlands Province, a position equivalent to that of governor of a state in the United States. He also continued to be a member parliament.

Nyerere became president of Tanganyika on the first anniversary of the country's independence on 9 December 1962 when it became a republic.

John Mwakangale and Elijah Mwakikagile came from the same area in Rungwe District in the Southern Highlands Province. Their home villages were five miles apart. They were classmates from Standard One at Tukuyu Primary School in the town of Tukuyu, the capital of Rungwe District, all the way to Malangali Secondary School in Iringa District in the same province.

Another classmate of Elijah Mwakikagile and John Mwakangale from Tukuyu Primary School to Malangali Secondary School was Brown Ngwilulupi who was appointed by President Nyerere as secretary-general of the largest farmers' union in the country, the Cooperative Union of Tanganyika (CUT). He later left the ruling party and became one of the founders of the largest opposition party in Tanzania, Chadema, and served as the party's vice chairman under Edwin Mtei.

Brown Ngwilulupi and Elijah Mwakikagile came from the same village four miles south of the town of Tukuyu (John Mwakangale's was five miles north of theirs) and became relatives-in-law when they got married. Their wives were first cousins to each other and came from the area their husbands came from. Brown Ngwilulupi's younger brother, Weidi Ngwilulupi Mwasakafyuka - their father was Ngwilulupi Mwasakafyuka - who once served as a senior diplomat at the Tanzania Mission to the UN and later as Tanzania's ambassador to France and Nigeria, also left the ruling party and the government and joined one of the opposition parties and became head of its foreign affairs division.

Another classmate of Elijah Mwakikagile, Brown Ngwilulupi and John Mwakangale from Tukuyu Primary School to Malangali Secondary School was W.B.K. Mwanjisi who later became a doctor and a leading figure in the nationalist movement fighting for independence. His home was near Tukuyu where he returned to work at the hospital in town after leaving government service in 1954, the same year the nationalist party, TANU, was formed. He became a prominent member of TANU.

Mwanjisi once served as president of the national organisation of African government employees. Many of its members supported the nationalist struggle for independence but could not openly support it because of their position as employees of the colonial government. Some of them left government service to support the nationalist movement that was formally launched when the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) was formed in Dar es Salaam on 7 July 1954 and Nyerere was elected president of the nationalist party.

It was also in 1954 that Godfrey Mwakikagile and his family moved from Morogoro in the Coast Province to Mbeya in the Southern Highlands.

He has stated in his autobiographical works that he moved to Rungwe District in 1955 with his parents and siblings when he was five years old after living in different parts of Tanganyika: Kigoma, Ujiji, Morogoro, Kilosa, and Mbeya.

Rungwe was the home district of his parents, and they were members of an ethnic group indigenous to that part of Tanzania.[2]

His father Elijah Mwakikagile worked as a medical assistant for the British colonial government. He was one of the very few medical assistants who formed the backbone of the medical system in colonial Tanganyika, as was the case in other British colonies across Africa.

Medical assistants in Tanganyika underwent intensive training for three years (after finishing secondary school) at the national hospital which also served as a medical training institute in the nation's capital Dar es Salaam and became the country's medical school in 1963.

In a country with an acute shortage of doctors, medical assistants played a critical role in the provision of vital medical services. Well-trained and with a lot of practical experience, they were a substitute for doctors during colonial rule and even after Tanganyika won independence.

When the country won independence from Britain on 9 December 1961, it had only 12 doctors in a vast expanse of territory of about 365,000 square miles with millions of people to serve. According to Professor John Iliffe in his book, East African Doctors: A History of the Modern Profession, there were only about 300 medical assistants in January 1961, in the whole country, the same year Tanganyika won independence. Tanganyika had a population of 12 million during that time. With only 12 doctors, that was one doctor for one million people; and one medical assistant for 40,000.

Elijah Mwakikagile also worked at Amani Research Institute in Muheza District in the Coast Province. During German colonial rule, Amani Research Institute was world-renowned for its research in a number of areas including tropical medicine and biological and agricultural sciences and had highly trained scientists. It excelled in high-quality research and retained its international reputation under British rule after Germany lost its colony in World War I. Tanganyika was then known as Deutsch-Ostafrika or German East Africa which included Ruanda-Urundi, now Rwanda and Burundi, as one colony.

Education and early employment[edit]

Godfrey Mwakikagile attended Kyimbila Primary School near the town of Tukuyu and Mpuguso Middle School in Rungwe District, Mbeya Region, in the Southern Highlands. He then attended Songea Secondary School near the town of Songea in Ruvuma Region which was once a part of the Southern Province, and Tambaza High School (through Form Six) in Dar es Salaam.[3]

One of his teachers at Kyimbila Primary School was Eslie Mwakyambiki who was later elected member of parliament representing Rungwe District. He was also appointed by President Nyerere to serve in the cabinet as deputy minister of defence and national service.

Godfrey Mwakikagile's headmaster at Mpuguso Middle School, Moses Mwakibete who was also his math teacher, years later became the registrar of the High Court of Tanzania and afterwards was appointed judge of the high court by President Nyerere. And his headmaster at Songea Secondary School, Paul Mhaiki, later became director of adult education at the ministry of national education, appointed by President Nyerere. Mhaiki went on to work for the United Nations and was appointed director of UNESCO's Division of Literacy, Adult Education, and Rural Development.

While still in high school at Tambaza, Godfrey Mwakikagile joined the editorial staff of the Standard, later renamed the Daily News, in 1969 as a junior reporter.[4] Founded in 1930, it was the oldest and largest English newspaper in the country and one of the three largest in East Africa, a region comprising Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

After finishing high school in November 1970, he joined the National Service in January 1971, which was mandatory for all those who had completed secondary school and college or university studies.

Sometime after leaving the National Service, he returned to the Daily News. His editor then was Benjamin Mkapa, who also helped him to go to school in the United States and years later became president of Tanzania, serving two five-year terms (1995–2005).[5] Mkapa also served as President Nyerere's press secretary, high commissioner (ambassador) to Canada, ambassador to the United States and held a number of ministerial posts. He was minister of foreign affairs before he became president.

Godfrey Mwakikagile also worked as an information officer at the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (now known as the Ministry of Information, Youth, Culture and Sports) in Dar es Salaam before going to school in the United States in November 1972.[6]

Mwakikagile was president of the African Students Union while attending Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, USA. He graduated from that university in 1975.[7]

He then attended Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1976. One of his professors of economics at this college was Kenneth Marin.[8] Marin had worked as an economist for the government of Tanzania in Dar es Salaam in the late-1960s and early-1970s.[9]

Before going to Tanzania, Professor Marin worked as an economist for the United States federal government under President Lyndon B. Johnson. President Johnson appointed Marin as a member of the White House Consumer Advisory Council where he served on Wage and Price Control during the mid-sixties. In 1966, Professor Marin was a member of a U.S. State Department evaluation team that was assigned to review various performances in the economic and political arena in six South American countries.

Years later, one of his students, Godfrey Mwakikagile, became a prominent author and wrote books about economics and other subjects, mostly about Africa.


Mwakikagile's first book, Economic Development in Africa, was published in June 1999. He has maintained a steady pace since then, writing more than 60 books in 20 years as his bibliography shows, mostly about Africa during the post-colonial era. He has been described as a political scientist, although his works defy classification. He has written about history, politics, economics, as well as contemporary and international affairs from an African and Third World perspective.

Book: Nyerere and Africa: End of an Era[edit]

He is known for his book Nyerere and Africa: End of an Era,[10] published not long after Nyerere died. The book brought Mwakikagile into prominence in Tanzania and elsewhere. He is considered by many experts to be an authority on Nyerere and one of his most prominent biographers.[11] Professor David Simon, a specialist in development studies at the University of London and Director of the Centre for Development Areas Research at Royal Holloway College, published in 2005 excerpts from the book in his compiled study, Fifty Key Thinkers on Development.[12] The book was reviewed by West Africa magazine in 2002.[13] It was also reviewed by a prominent Tanzanian journalist and political analyst, Fumbuka Ng'wanakilala of the Daily News, Dar es Salaam, in October 2002, and is seen as a comprehensive work, in scope and depth, on Nyerere.[14] The same book was also reviewed by Professor Roger Southall of the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), formerly of Rhodes University, South Africa, in the bi-annual interdisciplinary publication, the Journal of Contemporary African Studies (Taylor & Francis Group), 22, No. 3, in 2004. Professor Southall was also the editor of the journal during that period.

Others who have reviewed the book include Professor A.B. Assensoh, a Ghanaian teaching at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, in the United States. He reviewed the first edition of Nyerere and Africa: End of an Era in the African Studies Review, an academic journal of the African Studies Association, in 2003.

The book has also been cited by a number of African leaders including South African Vice-President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka in one of her speeches about African leadership and development in which she quoted the author.[15]

The premier of Western Cape province in South Africa, Helen Zille of the Democratic Alliance (DA), the main opposition party in the country, also mentioned Godfrey Mwakikagile in her speech in parliament on 28 March 2017 in defence of what she wrote about colonialism in her Tweets, stating that he was one of the prominent intellectuals, as she described them, who articulated the same position she did on the impact of colonialism on the colonised. Others she mentioned were Professor Ali Mazrui, an internationally renowned scholar from Kenya, and Nigerian award-winning author Chinua Achebe. She also cited Nelson Mandela and former prime minister of India, Manmohan Singh, saying they expressed similar sentiments these leading intellectuals and herself did on the impact of colonialism on Africa and elsewhere.

Book: Africa and the West[edit]

Godfrey Mwakikagile's 2000 book Africa and the West was favourably reviewed in a number of publications, including the influential West Africa magazine by editor Kofi Akosah-Sarpong, who described Mwakikagile as an author who articulates the position of African Renaissance thinkers.[16] The book has been described as an appeal to Africans to respect their cultures, values, and traditions and take a firm stand against alien ideas that pollute African minds and undermine Africa. A strong condemnation of the conquest of Africa by the imperial powers, it is also a philosophical text used in a number of colleges and universities in the study of African identity, philosophy, and history.

But in spite of his passionate defence of Africa, past and present, Mwakikagile is highly critical of some Afrocentric scholars who propagate myths about Africa's past and even reinvent the past just to glorify the continent, claiming spectacular achievements in the precolonial era in some areas where there were hardly any or none; for example, in advanced science, technology, and medicine. They also inflate achievements in some areas. He contends that true scholarship requires rigorous intellectual discipline and entails objective enquiry and analysis of facts and evidence including admitting failures and shortcomings, a position he forcefully articulates in Africa and The West and Africa is in A Mess: What Went Wrong and What Should be Done, among other works.

It is a position that led one renowned Afrocentric Ghanaian political analyst and columnist Francis Kwarteng to describe Godfrey Mwakikagile as a "Eurocentric Africanist" in his article "End of the Dilemma: The Tower of Babel," on GhanaWeb, 28 September 2013.

It is a case of Africans themselves, especially the leaders, contributing to the underdevelopment of Africa. Bad leadership including corruption in African countries is one of the subjects Mwakikagile has addressed extensively in his books. He contends that bad leadership is the biggest problem most African countries have faced since independence, and everything else revolves around it.

Mwakikagile has written extensively about ethnicity and politics in Africa in the post-colonial era and how the two phenomena are inextricably linked in the African political context. He has used case studies in different analyses of the subject in different parts of the continent. One of his works, Ethnicity and National Identity in Uganda, has been described by Tierney Tully as "a great book, but very dense."

Mwakikagile's other books on the subject include Identity Politics and Ethnic Conflicts in Rwanda and Burundi: A Comparative Study; Burundi: The Hutu and The Tutsi: Cauldron of Conflict and Quest for Dynamic Compromise; Civil Wars in Rwanda and Burundi: Conflict Resolution in Africa; Ethnic Diversity and Integration in The Gambia; and Belize and Its Identity: A Multicultural Perspective, re-published as British Honduras to Belize: Transformation of a Nation, a scholarly work on the Central American nation founded by the British colonial rulers and African slaves as British Honduras and which, culturally and historically, is considered to be an integral part of the Afro-Caribbean region, hence of the African diaspora. Although written by an African, the book is an important part of Afro-Caribbean literature.

One American journalist who interviewed Godfrey Mwakikagile described him as an independent scholar who was also a widely read and highly regarded author. Mwakikagile responded by saying that he was just an ordinary African, like tens of millions of others, deeply concerned about the plight of his continent.

In his book African Political Thought (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), Professor Guy Martin has described Godfrey Mwakikagile as one of Africa's leading populist scholars and thinkers who refuse to operate and function within the limits and confines of Western ideologies – or any other external parameters – and who exhort fellow Africans to find solutions to African problems within Africa itself and fight the syndrome of dependency in all areas and create a "new African."

Professor Martin examines the political thought of leading African political thinkers throughout history dating back to ancient times (Kush/Nubia, sixth century BCE) and systematically introduces the reader to the ideas of specific theorists and their biographies. The thinkers and theorists he has examined include Julius Nyerere, Amílcar Cabral, Kwame Nkrumah, Cheikh Anta Diop, Steve Biko, Claude Ake, and Godfrey Mwakikagile.

Professor Edmond J. Keller, chairman of the political science department, director of the UCLA Globalization Research Center-Africa and former director of the James S. Coleman African Studies Center at the University of California-Los Angeles, described Godfrey Mwakikagile as a "public intellectual" and an "academic theorist" in his review of Professor Guy Martin's book, African Political Thought. The review was published in one of the leading academic journals on African research and studies, Africa Today, Volume 60, Number 2, Winter 2013, Indiana University Press.

Professor Ryan Ronnenberg who wrote an article about Godfrey Mwakikagile in the Dictionary of African Biography, Volume 6 (Oxford University Press, 2011), edited by Harvard University professors, Emmanuel K. Akyeampong and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., as a prominent African scholar and writer stated that Mwakikagile has written major works of scholarship which have had a great impact in the area of African studies and continue to do so. He went on to state that Mwakikagile embraced Tanzania's independence, and the independence of the African continent as a whole, with fierce pride. 'I was too young to play a role in the independence movement, but old enough to know what Mau Mau in neighbouring Kenya was all about, and who our leaders were: from Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana to Julius Nyerere in Tanganyika; from Nnamdi Azikiwe in Nigeria to Jomo Kenyatta in Kenya and Patrice Lumumba in Belgian Congo' (Africa and the West, 2000). His experience also inspired his thinking regarding Africa and its relationship to the Western world, which led to several academic works dedicated to the subject.

Mwakikagile's early works focused on pressing issues in African studies, particularly the theory and realisation of development in Africa. Economic Development in Africa (1999) uses the rich case study of Tanzania's transition from socialism to free-market capitalism as a foundation for broader conclusions concerning the continent's development failures.

Mwakikagile writes about Africa as a whole in such a way as to suggest that he possesses not only a keen understanding of the way things are, but also a deep understanding of the way they should be. The acerbically titled Africa Is in a Mess: What Went Wrong and What Should Be Done reflects on the decades since independence with pragmatism and regret, observing the loss of both leadership and ingenuity as the continent's intellectual elite settle abroad, while suggesting how this process might be reversed.

In fact, as the years have passed, and as those early optimistic moments after independence have slipped away, Mwakikagile has taken it upon himself to write about why Africa has fallen short of its vision.

Mwakikagile has translated his experience as a youth in colonial East Africa and his adulthood in postcolonial Tanzania into provocative scholarship concerning topics vitally important to African studies.

Mwakikagile has been invited to give lectures at different universities and as a public intellectual has also been sought for interviews by BBC, PBS and Voice of America (VOA), among other media outlets.

Although he has been exposed to Western cultures, was educated in the Western intellectual tradition and lived in the United States for many years, Mwakikagile's perspectives and philosophical conceptions have undoubtedly been shaped by his African upbringing and are deeply rooted in African cultures and traditions. And he rejects the notion that Africa was a blank slate until Europeans came to write on it. He argues that the history written about Africa by Europeans when they first went to Africa and even during colonial rule as well as after independence is not African history but the history of Europeans in Africa and how they see Africa and Africans from their European perspective.

He also contends that traditional Africa has produced philosophers and other original thinkers whose knowledge and ideas – including ideas at a high level of abstraction – can match and even surpass the best in the West and elsewhere in the world. He forcefully articulates that position in his book, Africa and The West.[17]

And although he sees Africa as an indivisible whole, he argues that all nations, including those in Africa, have different national characters. He looks at the concept of national character in the African context in his book Kenya: Identity of A Nation, and makes a compelling case for this idea, which is sometimes highly controversial. The work is, among other subjects, a study of comparative analysis in which the author looks at the national characters of Kenya and Tanzania. Kenyans themselves have had to grapple with questions of identity, ethnic versus national, and how to reconcile the two for the sake of national unity, peace and prosperity.

Tanzania is one of the few countries on the continent to have been spared the agony and scourge of ethnic conflicts, unlike Kenya which Mwakikagile has used for comparative analysis in looking at the identities of the two neighbouring countries. In his books, including Nyerere and Africa: End of an Era, he has also explained how Tanzania has been able to contain and even neutralise tribalism unlike other countries on the continent.

Mwakikagile has written extensively about tribalism, contending that it is one of the biggest problems Africa faces and is the source of instability in many countries on the continent, including civil wars.He expresses strong Pan-Africanist views in his writings and sees Africa as a collective entity and one organic body and has strongly been influenced by staunch Pan-Africanist leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Ahmed Sekou Toure and Patrice Lumumba whom he also strongly admires.[18]

He also strongly admires Thomas Sankara as a man of the people like Nyerere and contends that among the new breed of African leaders, Sankara showed great promise but was eliminated by some of his so-called compatriots working for France and other Western powers before he could realise his full potential the same way Lumumba was, eliminated by the United States and Belgium. Mwakikagile has written about Sankara in Military Coups in West Africa Since The Sixties and in African Countries among other works.

But some of his critics contend that he overlooks or glosses over the shortcomings of these leaders precisely because they are liberation icons and played a leading role in the struggle for independence and against white minority rule in Southern Africa.[19]

He also seems to be "trapped" in the past, in liberation days, especially in the 1970s when the struggle against white minority rule was most intense. But that may be for understandable reasons.[20] He was a part of that generation when the liberation struggle was going on and some of his views have unquestionably been shaped by what happened during those days as his admiration for Robert Mugabe, for example, as a liberation icon clearly shows; although he also admits in Nyerere and Africa: End of an Era that the land reform programme in Zimbabwe could have been implemented in an orderly fashion and in a peaceful way and without disrupting the economy.

But his admiration for Mugabe as a true African nationalist and Pan-Africanist remains intact, a position that does not sit well with some of his critics although he does not condone despotic rule. He admires Mugabe mostly as a freedom fighter and liberation hero who freed his people from colonial rule and racial oppression and exploitation, and as a strong leader who has taken a firm and an uncompromising stand against Western domination of Africa.

By remarkable contrast, his contempt for African leaders whom he sees as whites with a black skin also remains intact. He mentions Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda as a typical example of those leaders. He has written about Banda and other African leaders, among other subjects, in Africa After Independence: Realities of Nationhood.[21]

Mwakikagile also contends that only a few African leaders – Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Ahmed Sekou Toure, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Ahmed Ben Bella and Modibo Keita – strove to achieve genuine independence for their countries and exercised a remarkable degree of independence in their dealings with world powers; and Mugabe is the only African leader today who fits this category, in spite of his shortcomings.

Mwakikagile's background as a Tanzanian has played a major role in his assessment of many African leaders because of the central role his country played in the liberation struggle in the countries of Southern Africa.[22]

Newspaper background[edit]

In those days, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, was the headquarters of all the African liberation movements, under the leadership of President Julius Nyerere, and Mwakikagile got the chance to know many of the freedom fighters who were based there when he worked as a young news reporter in the nation's capital.[23] They included Joaquim Chissano, who was the head of the FRELIMO office in Dar es Salaam, and later became the minister of foreign affairs and then president of Mozambique when his country won independence after 500 years of Portuguese colonial rule.[24]

In his seminal work Nyerere and Africa: End of an Era, he has written extensively about the liberation struggle, and the liberation movements in Southern Africa in what is probably one of the best accounts of that critical phase in the history of Africa, as well as an excellent analysis of the Congo Crisis during the turbulent 1960s.

Mwakikagile has also written a book entitled South Africa in Contemporary Times (2008) about the struggle against apartheid and the end of white minority rule in South Africa and on the prospects and challenges the country faces in the post-apartheid era.

The years he spent on the editorial staff at the Standard and the Daily News were critical to his future career as a writer. Those were his formative years, and had he not become a news reporter, his life, and his career as an author, might have taken a different turn.

As he states in Nyerere and Africa, he was first hired by renowned British journalist David Martin who was the deputy managing and news editor of the Tanganyika Standard. The managing editor was Brendon Grimshaw, also British who, in the 1970s, bought Moyenne Island in the Seychelles and became its only permanent inhabitant. Brendon Grimshaw also played a major role in recruiting Mwakikagile as a member of the editorial staff at the Standard.[25]

It was a turning point in Mwakikagile's life. That was in June 1969 when he was a student at Tambaza High School in Dar es Salaam. He was 19 years old and probably the youngest reporter on the editorial staff at the Standard during that time.

The Standard, the largest English newspaper in Tanzania and one of the largest and most influential in East Africa, served Mwakikagile well, not only in terms of providing him with an opportunity to sharpen his writing skills but also – after it became the Daily News in 1970 – in helping him to attend school in the United States, where he became an author many years after he graduated from college.

David Martin, when he worked at the Tanganyika Standard and at the Daily News, and thereafter, was the most prominent foreign journalist in Eastern and Southern Africa in the 1960s and '70s, and wrote extensively about the liberation struggle in the region for the London Observer and the BBC. In Nyerere and Africa, Mwakikagile has written about the role Martin played as a journalist during the liberation struggle in Southern Africa. But Martin was also instrumental in opening the door for Mwakikagile into the world of journalism, writing every day, after which both became successful writers.[26]

As Mwakikagile has stated in his books, including Nyerere and Africa, Africa after Independence: Realities of Nationhood, The Modern African State: Quest for Transformation, Military Coups in West Africa Since The Sixties and in Africa is in A Mess: What Went Wrong and What Should Be Done, his background as a news reporter, which included meeting deadlines when writing news articles, prepared him for the rigorous task of writing books.

Criticism of post-colonial Africa[edit]

Mwakikagile grew up under the leadership of Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere, a staunch Pan-Africanist and one of the most influential leaders Africa has produced. In his writings, Mwakikagile has defended his socialist policies because of the egalitarian ideals they instilled in Tanzanians, despite the poverty they endured under ujamaa, Nyerere's African version of socialism.

Mwakikagile, however, has been highly critical in his writings of other African leaders from the same generation who led their countries to independence. He has contended that most of them did not care about the well-being of their people.[27]

Mwakikagile belongs to a generation that preceded independence and was partly brought up under colonial rule. He even wrote a book, Life in Tanganyika in The Fifties, about those years.

Independence from Britain was very important to Mwakikagile. When he was 12 years old, his uncle took him to Tukuyu to participate in the independence celebrations when Tanganyika attained sovereign status under Nyerere. He witnessed the flags changing at midnight when the Union Jack was lowered and the flag of the newly independent Tanganyika went up. His recollections are stated in his book, My Life as an African: Autobiographical Writings.

Early in his life when he was a teenager, he developed strong Pan-Africanist views under the influence of Nyerere and other Pan-Africanist leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah and Ahmed Sekou Toure. He still holds those views today, crystallised into an ideology for a new African liberation and forcefully articulated in his writings.

As Professor Guy Martin states in his book African Political Thought (pp. 8, 6) about Mwakikagile and other Pan-Africanist theorists and thinkers, their individual national identities are secondary to their primary identity as Africans and even irrelevant when they articulate their position from a Pan-African perspective: "Note that all these scholars are dedicated Pan-Africanists and many would shun the reference to their nationality, preferring to be simply called 'Africans'.... Some of the most prominent Africanist-populist scholars include... Godfrey Mwakikagile...."

One of Mwakikagile's critics has described him as "a shrewd intellectual in defence of liberation icons" and accuses him of not being intellectually honest about leaders such as Nyerere, Nkrumah and Sekou Toure for not criticising them harshly for their failures because he admires them so much as staunch Pan-Africanists.[28]Some of the confusion among his readers about his position on African leaders of the independence generation has to do with his own background since he was an integral part of that generation in the sense that he witnessed the end of colonial rule and the emergence of the newly independent African states although he was not old enough to have participated in the independence struggle.[29]

He admires the leaders who led their countries to independence, yet he is highly critical of them in most cases for their failures during the post-colonial period. He became disillusioned with the leadership on the continent through the years, filled with broken promises, and not long after the countries won independence. He admires many aspects of Nyerere's socialist policies in Tanzania, yet concedes the policies were also a failure in many cases. And he strongly favours fundamental change in African countries, yet he is nostalgic about the past.[30]

His advocacy for fundamental change is articulated in many of his writings including The Modern African State: Quest for Transformation, which was published in 2001 and which is also one of his most well-known books.

In his review of the book, Ronald Taylor-Lewis [born of a Sierra Leonean father], editor of Mano Vision magazine, London, described it as "a masterpiece of fact and analysis."[31]

The book has also been reviewed in other publications. Tana Worku Anglana reviewed Godfrey Mwakikagile's Modern African State: Quest for Transformation in Articolo and described it as "unbiased literature."[32]

Ethnic conflicts in Rwanda and Burundi between the Hutu and the Tutsi is one of the subjects Mwakikagile has addressed extensively in his book The Modern African State: Quest for Transformation.

In many of his writings, Mwakikagile focuses on internal factors – including corruption, tribalism and tyranny – as the main cause of Africa's predicament, but not to the total exclusion of external forces.

The union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar and the Zanzibar revolution are subjects Mwakikagile has also addressed in detail in two of his other books: Why Tanganyika united with Zanzibar to form Tanzania and Africa in The Sixties.

And his diagnosis of – and prescription for – Africa's ailments has also been cited by scholars and other people for its relevance in other parts of the Third World. As Dr. Hengene Payani, a political scientist at the University of Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, stated in his review of Mwakikagile's book Africa is in A Mess on amazon.com, "the book is excellent, honest and thought-provoking and is relevant even in the context of Papua New Guinea, a country which has been ruined by greedy politicians."

Although he has written mostly about Africa, and as a political scientist or as a political analyst, his works cover a wide range of scholarship including American studies.

But there are limitations to the role played by people such as Godfrey Mwakikagile in their quest for fundamental change in African countries. Their contribution is limited in one fundamental respect: They are not actively involved with the masses at the grassroots level precisely because of what they are. They belong to an elite class, and the concepts they expound as well as the solutions they propose are discussed mainly by fellow elites but rarely implemented.

African writers such as Mwakikagile and other intellectuals are also severely compromised in their mission because most African leaders don't want to change. Therefore, they don't listen to them—in many cases the entire state apparatus needs to be dismantled to bring about meaningful change.[33]

In spite of the limitations and the obstacles they face, many African writers and other intellectuals still play a very important role in articulating a clear vision for the future of Africa, and Mwakikagile's writings definitely fit this category because of his analysis of the African condition and the solutions he proposes, although he is not a political activist like other African writers such as Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o in neighbouring Kenya or Wole Soyinka in Nigeria.

But even they had to flee their homelands, at different times, for their own safety, in spite of the courage they had to contend with the political establishment in their home countries, and sought sanctuary overseas although that has not been the case with Mwakikagile and many other Africans who once lived, have lived or continue to live in other countries or outside Africa for different reasons.

Writers including Mwakikagile and other members of the African elite have a major role to play in the development of Africa.[34] They affect constructive dialogue involving national issues. But it is not the kind of effect that reverberates across the spectrum all the way down to the grassroots level precisely because they are not an integral part of the masses, and also because they are not actively involved with the masses to transform society.

So, while they generate ideas, they have not been able to effectively transmit those ideas to the masses without whose involvement fundamental change in Africa is impossible, except at the top, recycling the elite. And while they identify with the masses in terms of suffering and as fellow Africans, many of them – not all but many of them – have not and still do not make enough sacrifices in their quest for social and political transformation of African countries. Mwakikagile is fully aware of these shortcomings, and apparent contradictions, in the role played by the African elite. He's one himself.

Yet, he has not explicitly stated so in his writings concerning this problem of African intellectuals; a dilemma similar to the one faced by the black intelligentsia in the United States and which was addressed by Harold Cruse, an internationally renowned black American professor who taught at the University of Michigan for many years, in his monumental study, The Crisis of The Negro Intellectual. The book was first published in 1967 at the peak of the civil rights movement, five years before Godfrey Mwakikagile went to the United States for the first time as a student.

But that does not really explain why he has not fully addressed the subject, the dilemma African intellectuals face in their quest for fundamental change, especially in his books – The Modern African State: Quest for Transformation, Africa is in A Mess: What Went Wrong and What Should Done, and Africa After Independence: Realities of Nationhood – which are almost exclusively devoted to such transformation in Africa in the post-colonial era.

Still, Mwakikagile belongs to a group of African writers and the African elite who believe that the primary responsibility of transforming Africa lies in the hands of the Africans themselves, and not foreigners, and that acknowledgement of mistakes by African leaders is one of the first steps towards bringing about much-needed change in African countries; a position he forcefully articulates in his writings. For example, Political Science Professor Claude E. Welch at the State University of New York-Buffalo, in his review of one of Mwakikagile's books – Military Coups in West Africa Since The Sixties – published in the African Studies Review (Vol. 45, No. 3, December 2002, p. 114), described the author as being merciless in his condemnation of African tyrants.

Vision for an African Federal Government[edit]

Mwakikagile advocates for a closer union within Africa in the form of an African confederation or African federal government starting with economic integration, leading to an African common market, and eventually, resulting in a political union. Concretely, he proposed the following plan for a Union of African states: "If the future of Africa lies in federation, that federation could even be a giant federation of numerous autonomous units which have replaced the modern African state in order to build, on a continental or sub-continental scale, a common market, establish a common currency, a common defense and maybe even pursue a common foreign policy under some kind of central authority - including collective leadership on rotational basis - which Africans think is best for them" [35]

Mwakikagile identifies the type of government best suited for the African situation as a democracy by consensus, which, in his view, would allow all social, ethnic and regional factions to freely express themselves. Such a democracy should take the form of a government of national unity, inclusive of both the winners and the losers in the electoral process, and would entail a multiparty system approved by national referendum; it should also be based on extreme decentralization down to the lowest grassroots level to enable the masses, not just the leaders and the elite, to participate in formulating policies and making decisions which affect their lives. That is the only way it can be a people's government and federation that belongs to the masses and ordinary citizens instead of being a government and federation of only the elite and professional politicians. Let the people decide. He has elaborated on that in his other books, Africa at the End of the Twentieth Century: What Lies Ahead and Restructuring The African State and Quest for Regional Integration: New Approaches.

He also believes that in this democratic system the tenure of the president must be limited to one term (preferably five to six years), and the tenure of the members of the national legislatures to two three-year terms.[36]


In what is probably his most controversial book, Africa is in A Mess: What Went Wrong and What Should Be Done, Mwakikagile strongly criticises most of the leaders of post-colonial Africa for tyranny and corruption, and for practising tribalism, a common theme in the works of many African writers and other people including well-known ones and many African scholars in and outside Africa. But his book stands out as one of the most blunt ever written about Africa's rotten leadership.

Unfortunately, because of its vitriolic condemnation of most African leaders during the post-colonial era, the book has been cited by some people as a clarion call for the re-colonisation of Africa although the author says exactly the opposite in his work.[37]

Yet in spite of all that, Mwakikagile unequivocally states in Africa is in A Mess that he does not support any attempt or scheme, by anybody, to recolonise Africa, but also bluntly states that African countries have lost their sovereignty to donor nations and multilateral institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) dominated by Western powers including those who once colonised Africa and are therefore virtual colonies already.

The premier of Western Cape Province in South Africa, Helen Zille, in her speech in the provincial parliament on 28 March 2017, also cited Godfrey Mwakikagile's analysis of the impact of colonial rule on Africa in defence of her tweets which her critics said were a defence of colonialism and even called for her resignation. She said her analysis was the same as Mwakikagile's and those of other prominent people including Nelson Mandela, Chinua Achebe, Ali Mazrui, and former Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh, and wondered why she faced so much criticism when she made exactly the same point they did.

Mwakikagile also contends that African countries have really never been free in spite of the instruments of sovereignty they are supposed to have. He also warns about the dangers of the Second Scramble for Africa by the industrialised nations which are busy exploiting Africa's resources for their own benefit and contends that globalisation is in many ways a new form of imperialism.

Yet he has wrongly been portrayed, along with some prominent African and European scholars including Professor Ali Mazrui, Christoph Blocher, Mahmood Mamdani, Peter Niggli, and R. W. Johnson, as someone who advocates the recolonisation of Africa.[38]

Mwakikagile says exactly the opposite in Africa is in A Mess. In fact, the title, although not the sub-title, comes from President Julius Nyerere who used exactly the same words in 1985: "Africa is in a mess." Mwakikagile explicitly states that he got the title from Nyerere's statement and felt it was appropriate for his work, although the tone and content might be disturbing to some people. He is brutally frank about the continent's deplorable condition.

And in the same book, Mwakikagile is also highly critical of Western powers for ruthlessly exploiting Africa even today in collusion with many African leaders.

His harsh criticism of bad leadership on the African continent prompted Ghanaian columnist and political analyst Francis Kwarteng to put him in the same category with George Ayittey, a Ghanaian professor of economics at The American University, Washington, D.C., and author of Africa Betrayed and Africa in Chaos, among other books.

Academic reviews[edit]

Mwakikagile's books have been reviewed in a number of academic publications, including the highly prestigious academic journal African Studies Review, by leading scholars in their fields. They include Military Coups in West Africa Since The Sixties, which was reviewed in that journal by Professor Claude E. Welch of the Department of Political Science at the State University of New York, Buffalo; and Ethnic Politics in Kenya and Nigeria, reviewed by Nigerian Professor Khadijat K. Rashid of Gallaudet University, Washington, D.C.[39]

Other books by Mwakikagile have also been reviewed in the African Studies Review and in the Journal of Contemporary African Studies, including Nyerere and Africa: End of an Era and The Modern African State: Quest for Transformation which were reviewed in the African Studies Review. Nyerere and Africa was also reviewed in the Journal of Contemporary African Studies.

His book, Western Involvement in Nkrumah's Downfall, was reviewed by Professor E. Ofori Bekoe, in Africa Today, an academic journal published by Indiana University Press.

Mwakikagile has also written about race relations in the United States and relations between continental Africans and people of African descent in the diaspora in his titles such as Black Conservatives in The United States; Relations Between Africans and African Americans; and Relations Between Africans, African Americans and Afro-Caribbeans. Professor Kwame Essien of Gettysburg College, later Lehigh University, a Ghanaian, reviewed Relations Between Africans and African Americans: Misconceptions, Myths and Realities, in Souls: A Critical Journal of Black Politics, Culture, and Society, Volume 13, Issue 2, 2011, an academic journal of Columbia University, New York, and described it as an "insightful and voluminous" work covering a wide range of subjects from a historical and contemporary perspective, addressing some of the most controversial issues in relations between the two. It is also one of the most important books on the subject of relations between Africans and African Americans.

Selected bibliography[edit]


  1. ^ Godfrey Mwakikagile, Life in Tanganyika in The Fifties, ISBN 9789987160129, New Africa Press, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, 2009, p. 19. See also, G. Mwakikagile, My Life as an African: Autobiographical Writings, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: New Africa Press, 2009, p. 21. ISBN 9789987160051.
  2. ^ My Life as an African, p. 87.
  3. ^ Life in Tanganyika in The Fifties, pp. 44, 77, 122; My Life as an African, pp. 47, 48, 78, 89, 92, 117, 119, 138, 154, 172, 175; Tanzania under Mwalimu Nyerere: Reflections on an African Statesman, ISBN 9780980253498, New Africa Press, Pretoria, South Africa, 2006, pp. 15–16.
  4. ^ My Life as an African, pp. 89–90; "Newsman Leaves for America," Daily News, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, 7 November 1972, p. 3; Life in Tanganyika in The Fifties, p. 56.
  5. ^ "Newsman Leaves for America," Daily News, 7 November 1972, p. 3; Life in Tanganyika in The Fifties, p. 123; My Life as an African, p. 90.
  6. ^ "Newsman Leaves for America," Daily News, 7 November 1972, p. 3; Life in Tanganyika in The Fifties, pp. 122–123; My Life as an African, p. 176.
  7. ^ Wayne State University Alumni, 1975; My Life as an African, pp. 76, 86, 120, 140, 164, 188, 190, 192, 246, 250, 266, 281; Godfrey Mwakikagile, Nyerere and Africa: End of an Era, 5th Edition, 2010, pp. 86, 491, 509–511, 658, 664–665.
  8. ^ My Life as an African, pp. 306, 328; Nyerere and Africa, p. 649.
  9. ^ "Former CUNA (Credit Union National Association) chairman Ken Marin dies," Credit Union Times, Hoboken, New Jersey, 8 January 2008. See also My Life as an African, p. 306; Nyerere and Africa, p. 649, 664.
  10. ^ Godfrey Mwakikagile, Nyerere and Africa: End of an Era, 5th Edition, ISBN 0980253411, Pretoria, South Africa: New Africa Press, 2010.
  11. ^ A. B. Assensoh, review of Nyerere and Africa, in African Studies Review, Journal of African Studies Association, 2003.
  12. ^ David Simon, ed., Fifty Key Thinkers on Development: Routledge Key Guides, ISBN 9780415337908, London/New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2005.
  13. ^ Kofi Akosah-Sarpong, "Nyerere's Vision," in West Africa, 25 November–1 December 2002, p. 41; K. Akosah-Sarpong, "Back to The Roots," in West Africa, 21–27 January 2002, p. 43.
  14. ^ F. Ng'wanakilala, "Nyerere: True pan-Africanist, advocate of unity," in "Three Years After Mwalimu Nyerere", Daily News, 14 October 2002, p. 19.
  15. ^ Godfrey Mwakikagile quoted by South African Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka in "Address Delivered by the Deputy President, Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at the Third Annual Julius Nyerere Memorial Lecture at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa." Issued by the Presidency through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Pretoria, South Africa, 6 September 2006.
  16. ^ Kofi Akosah-Sarpong, "Back to The Roots," in West Africa, 21–27 January 2002, p. 43.
  17. ^ Godfrey Mwakikagile, Africa and The West, ISBN 9781560728405, Huntington, New York, 2001, pp. 1–46, and 201–218.
  18. ^ Godfrey Mwakikagile, Nyerere and Africa: End of an Era, 5th Edition, 2010. For Mwakikagile's Pan-Africanist views and perspectives, see also Professor Eric Edi of Temple University, "Pan-West Africanism and Political Instability: Perspectives and Reflections," which cites Mwakikagile's books Military Coups in West Africa Since The Sixties and The Modern African State: Quest for Transformation.
  19. ^ Kwesi Johnson-Taylor, "Author, a shrewd intellectual in defence of liberation icons," review of Nyerere and Africa, amazon.com, 21 February 2006.
  20. ^ Nyerere and Africa: End of an Era.
  21. ^ Godfrey Mwakikagile, Africa After Independence: Realities of Nationhood, 2006, pp. 86, 91, 168–171; Godfrey Mwakikagile, Africa 1960 – 1970: Chronicle and Analysis, 2009, p. 510; Roger Pfister, Apartheid South Africa and African States: From Pariah to Middle Power, 1961–1994, London/New York: I.B. Tauris & Co., International Library of African Studies 14, 2005, p. 40, ISBN 1850436258; Joseph Hanlon, Beggar Your Neighbours: Apartheid Power in Southern Africa, ISBN 0852553072, London: James Currey/Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1986, p. 237; Mwesiga Baregu and Christopher Landsberg, eds, From Cape to Congo: Southern Africa's Evolving Security Challenges, London/Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2003ISBN 1588261026; ISBN 1588261271.
  22. ^ In May 1963, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was founded in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The OAU chose Tanzania to be the headquarters of the African liberation movements under the auspices of the OAU Liberation Committee which was based in Tanzania's capital Dar es Salaam.
  23. ^ Life in Tanganyika in The Fifties, pp. 92–93. See also Nyerere and Africa, pp. 10–12, 65, 314, 363, 375, 484.
  24. ^ Nyerere and Africa, pp. 224, 487–488; "Newsman Leaves for America," Daily News, 7 November 1972, p. 3.
  25. ^ Nyerere and Africa, pp. 360, 486. See also, "Brendon Grimshaw Dead," Seychelles Nation, Victoria, Seychelles, Thursday, 7 July 2012; "Brendon Grimshaw is dead," Daily News, Dar es Salaam, 7 July 2012.
  26. ^ Nyerere and Africa, pp. 486, 500, 569; My Life as an African: Autobiographical Writings, pp. 89, 156, 176, 375–376, 378.
  27. ^ Africa is in A Mess: What Went Wrong and What Should Be Done, 2006; Africa After Independence: Realities of Nationhood, ISBN 9789987160143, New Africa Press, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, 2006; The Modern African State: Quest for Transformation, ISBN 9781560729365, Nova Science Publishers, Inc., Huntington, New York, 2001; Military Coups in West Africa Since the Sixties, ISBN 9781560729457, Huntington, New York, 2001; Military Coups in West Africa Since the Sixties, 2001. George B. N. Ayittey, Africa Betrayed, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, ISBN 9780312104009, 1993, p. 294.
  28. ^ Kwesi Johnson-Taylor, "Author, a shrewd intellectual in defence of liberation icons," in his review of Mwakikagile's book, Nyerere and Africa: End of an Era, on amazon.com, 21 February 2006.
  29. ^ Life in Tanganyika in The Fifties, pp. 7–8.
  30. ^ Life in Tanganyika in The Fifties, pp. 31 – 32. See also Africa is in A Mess and Africa and The West.
  31. ^ Ronald Taylor-Lewis, in his review of Godfrey Mwakikagile, The Modern African State: Quest for Transformation, in Mano Vision, London, Issue 23, October 2001, pp. 34–35. See also Professor Catherine S. M. Duggan, Department of Political Science, Stanford University, in her paper, "Do Different Coups Have Different Implications for Investment? Some Intuitions and A Test With A New Set of Data," in which she cites Mwakikagile on fundamental changes in African countries. See also Godfrey Mwakikagile, cited in Christopher E. Miller, A Glossary of Terms and Concepts in Peace and Conflict Studies, p. 87; and in Gabi Hesselbein, Frederick Golooba-Mutebi, and James Putzel, "Economic and Political Foundations of State-Making in Africa: Understanding State Reconstruction," Working Paper No. 3, 2006.
  32. ^ The Modern African State: Quest for Transformation; Wole Soyinka, The Open Sore of a Continent: A Personal Narrative of The Nigerian Crisis, ISBN 9780195119213, Oxford University Press, 1997; Chinua Achebe, The Trouble with Nigeria, ISBN 9789781561474, Enugu, Nigeria: Fourth Dimension Publishing Co., 2000.
  33. ^ See also Ismail Rashid, a Sierra Leonian in exile in Canada, in the New African, London, May 1992, p. 10; Rashid Ismail in G. B. N. Ayittey, Africa Betrayed (1993), p. 295. See also George B. N. Ayittey, Africa in Chaos: A Comparative History, ISBN 0312217870, Palgrave Macmillan, 1997; Wole Soyinka, in a speech at Wellesley College, Massachusetts, quoted by Zia Jaffrey, "The Writer in Exile as 'Opposition Diplomat,'" in the International Herald Tribune, 2 May 1997, p. 24; Africa is in A Mess, pp. 63–64; Peter Anassi, Corruption in Africa: The Kenyan Experience, p. 209; Peter Anyang' Nyong'o, in Popular Struggles for Democracy in Africa (London: Zed Books, 1987), pp. 14–25.
  34. ^ Alfred A. R. Latigo, The Best Options for Africa: 11 Political, Economic and Divine Principles, ISBN 9781426907678, Trafford Publishing, Victoria, BC, Canada, 2010, pp. 114–115; Senyo B-S.K. Adjibolosoo, The Human Factor in Developing Africa, ISBN 027595059-X, Praeger Publishers, Westport, Connecticut, USA, 1995, p. 64; John Mukum Mbaku, Institutions and Development in Africa, Africa World Press, 2004, ISBN 1592212069, p. 236.
  35. ^ Mwakikagile, Godfrey (2001-01-01). The Modern African State: Quest for Transformation. Nova Publishers. ISBN 9781560729365. 
  36. ^ Martin, G. (2012-12-23). African Political Thought. Springer. ISBN 9781137062055. 
  37. ^ Dr. Kenday Samuel Kamara of Walden University in his abstract "Considering the Enormity of Africa's Problems, is Re-Colonization an Option?" cites Africa is in A Mess: What Went Wrong and What Should Be Done and related works by other African leading academic authors, including Professor Ali Mazrui, and Professor George Ayittey's Africa in Chaos. See also Tunde Obadina, "The Myth of Neo-Colonialism," in Africa Economic Analysis, 2000; and Timothy Murithi, The African Union: Pan-Africanism, Peacebuilding and Development.
  38. ^ Professor Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni, a Zimbambwean teaching international studies at Monash University, South Africa campus, in his abstract "Gods of Development, Demons of Underdevelopment and Western Salvation: A Critique of Development Discourse as a Sequel to the CODESRIA and OSSREA International Conferences on Development in Africa" (June 2006), advances the same argument as Mwakikagile and cites Africa is in A Mess to support his thesis. See also Floyd Shivambu, "Floyd's Perspectives: Societal Tribalism in South Africa," 1 September 2005, who cites Mwakikagile's Ethnic Politics in Kenya and Nigeria, in his condemnation of tribalism in post-apartheid South Africa; Mary Elizabeth Flournoy of Agnes Scott College, in her paper "Nigeria: Bounded by Ropes of Oil," citing Mwakikagile's writings, including Ethnic Politics in Kenya and Nigeria; Professor Eric Edi of Temple University, in his paper, "Pan West Africanism and Political Instability: Perspectives and Reflections," citing Mwakikagile's books Military Coups in West Africa Since The Sixties and The Modern African State: Quest for Transformation.
  39. ^ Professor Claude E. Welch, Jr., in African Studies Review, Vol. 45, No. 3, December 2002, pp. 124–125; and Ethnic Politics in Kenya and Nigeria, reviewed by Nigerian Professor Khadijat K. Rashid of Gallaudet University, Washington, D.C. in African Studies Review, Vol. 46, No. 2, September 2003, pp. 92 – 98.