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Article

Ellis Goldberg

Egyptian jurist, government official, and author of one of the most important and controversial books of the twentieth century on Islam and politics, Islam and the Foundations of Governance. This short book, published in 1925, caused a storm of protest, and ʿAbd al-Raziq was arraigned before a jury of Egyptian religious leaders (including the grandfather of the late-twentieth-century al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri) and officially stripped of his status as a religious scholar (ʿalim).

Abd al-Raziq was born in the Upper Egyptian province of Minya to a well-known and relatively well-off family. He studied at Al-Azhar University. Although he was too young to have known the prominent Egyptian ʿalim Muhammad Abduh (d. 1905), his work appears to have been influenced by Abduh’s break with prevailing orthodoxy. Abduh was the highest jurisconsult (mufti) in Egypt at the time of his death. In 1915 ʿAbd al Raziq became a ...

Article

Terence M. Mashingaidze

nationalist politician, first titular president of independent Zimbabwe, statesman, peace broker, clergyman, author, soccer administrator, academic, poet, and journalist, was born on 5 March 1936 at Esiphezini, in Essexvale (now Esigodini) District near Bulawayo in Southern Rhodesia. The versatile Banana’s father, Aaron, was a migrant laborer from Malawi while his mother, Jese, was a Zimbabwean Ndebele woman. Banana married Janet Mbuyazwe in 1961; the marriage produced three sons and a daughter. Banana attended Mzinyati primary school and Tegwani High School. He trained as a teacher at Tegwani Training Institute and then attended Epworth Theological Seminary, resulting in his ordination as a Methodist preacher in 1962 Subsequently he worked as a Methodist schools manager principal chairperson of the Bulawayo Council of Churches and member of the Rhodesian Christian Council and World Council of Churches In the 1970s Banana attained a BA with honors in theology through distance learning from ...

Article

Ndeh Martin Sango

president of Cameroon, was born Paul Barthélemy Biya’a bi Mvondo on 13 February 1933, in the village of Mvomekaʾa (Meyomessala), in French Cameroon. Biya was from a peasant background; his parents, Etienne Mvondo Assam and Anastasie Eyenya Elle Mvondo, had little money. However, through hard work, determination, perseverance, and dedication to education, the younger Biya was able to forge his way to the top. His rise from a humble background indicates the importance of education in promoting upward mobility in post-World War II Cameroon.

Biya a Christian began his education at the age of seven at a Catholic mission school in Ndem some thirty miles from his home village At school his hardworking and devoted nature won the admiration of his tutor a French national who recommended him for admission into the prestigious Akono Junior Seminary There is no record of his life at the seminary but he eventually left for the ...

Article

Eric Young

Paul Biya was born to poor parents of the Bulu ethnic group in southern French Cameroon. After his primary education, Biya briefly entered the seminary, but ultimately attended a French secondary school in Yaoundé. Later he studied in France at the Sorbonne, the Institut des études politiques, and the Institut des Hautes études d’Outre Mer. Returning to Cameroon in 1962, he began serving in administrative positions in the office of the presidency. Biya held a variety of administrative and cabinet posts until President Ahmadou Ahidjo appointed him minister of state in 1970. Five years later, Ahidjo named him prime minister.

In November 1982 Ahidjo resigned and Biya became the second president of Cameroon. Ahidjo, however, retained his position of head of the sole legal party. Conflict ensued as Biya moved away from the autocratic style of his predecessor, but in 1983 Biya prevailed He later ...

Article

Matthew LeRiche and John Young

Sudanese journalist, politician, and government official, is the son of a Dinka chief from Twic Mayardit County in the province of northern Bahr El Ghazal, in southern Sudan. Bona has pursued careers in journalism, academia, and most prominently, politics. After the 2010 national election, he was named advisor to President ʿUmar al-Bashir, of the National Congress Party (NCP).

An accomplished student and athlete, Bona went to the US on scholarship. While there, he earned an MA in journalism and communications before returning to Sudan, where he became a leading southern Sudanese nationalist. Building on his academic training, Bona became the editor-in-chief of The Advocate, an early publication defending the human rights of southerners and calling for devolution of power to the south. He was a cofounder of the Southern Front and served as its first secretary-general. He was then elected to the national assembly in 1968 only to ...

Article

Michael Kevane

Burkinan author, canton chief, and civil servant, was born in Sao village, about 60 kilometers northwest of Ouagadougou, in the Mossi region of the present-day country of Burkina Faso. His mother was Datoumi Yaaré, from the village of Kaonghin; and his father, Gueta Wagdogo, was the son of Yiougo, the naba (Mossi chief) of Sao. Naba Yiougo supported Mogho Naba Wobgo (Boukary Koutu), the principal king of the four Mossi kingdoms, against a rebelling vassal, the naba of Lallé. In 1896, Mogho Naba Wobgo supported Gueta Wagdogo to attain the chieftaincy (whereupon he assumed the name “Naba Piiga”) after the death of Naba Yiougo. The meaning of Dim Delobsom’s name, “The king has returned the favor,” acknowledged the relationship between the two rulers.

Naba Piiga was unable to help his suzerain when the French column led by Captain Paul Voulet seized Ouagadougou on 1 September 1896 Mogho Naba ...

Article

Michael Dash

Joseph Antenor Firmin was born in 1850 in the town of Cap Haitien in the north of Haiti. He was a lawyer, a minister of government, and a diplomat. Haitian politics in the late nineteenth century were dominated by two major groups: the nationalist and liberal parties. These parties representing black and mulatto factions fought for supremacy in the 1870s and 1880s. The nationalist party championed a black ideology and claimed to speak on behalf of the masses against the elite. The liberal party played down the color question and advocated that Haiti be governed by the most competent. Firmin is particularly interesting because he was black and associated himself with the liberal party. He was a liberal candidate for the legislature in 1879. In 1889 he became a cabinet minister under President Florvil Hyppolite and as foreign minister he worked with Frederick Douglass to foil ...

Article

Olutayo C. Adesina

Herbert Babington Macauley, born on 14 November 1864, was a Nigerian nationalist, journalist, and politician who played a significant role in defining and mobilizing anticolonialist proto-nationalist forces and strategies from the first decade of the twentieth century. Between 1891 and 1894, Macauley studied land surveying and civil engineering in England. On his return to Nigeria, he joined the colonial administration in Lagos as Surveyor of Crown Lands. In 1898, apparently resentful of the racial discrimination in the civil service, he resigned his appointment to go into private practice as a licensed surveyor.

He also began to emerge as the voice of opposition to British rule in Nigeria. He became a leading advocate of traditional rights in Lagos. His political career flowered immeasurably in 1923 when he established Nigeria s first political party the Nigerian National Democratic Party NNDP His political advocacy his mastery of the ...

Article

Richard Pankhurst

Ethiopian statesman, prime minister, and writer, was born the son of Balambaras Endalkachew Abreqe, a respected warrior, and Weyzero Abonesh Tekle Maryam, in the district of Addis Addisgé, near Tegulet in northern Shewa, which had become prestigious during the reign of Emperor Menilek. His maternal uncle was one of that monarch’s principal noblemen, Ras Tesemma Nadew, later regent for Lij Iyasu. Mekonnen received a traditional Ethiopian church education, partly at the renowned church of Debre Libanos, and was an accomplished traditional church artist. He also learned French at the then new Menilek II school in Addis Ababa.

Joining the Ethiopian government service in 1916, Mekonnen held a number of different posts, including inspector of the Jibuti-Addis Ababa railway company, kentiba, or mayor, of Addis Ababa, deputy minister of the interior, and governor of Illubabor, with the title of dejazmach. In 1924 he accompanied Regent Tafari Makonnen the ...

Article

Luis Gonçalves

Angolan doctor, writer, and first president of independent Angola from 1975 to 1979, was born António Agostinho Neto in Kaxicane, in the county of Icolo e Bengo, near Luanda. His father was a pastor of an American mission, and his mother was a teacher. He went to school in Luanda, where he finished high school in 1944. He then went to Portugal, where he studied medicine at the prestigious University of Coimbra. It is there that he started his anticolonial activities. In 1947 he was a founding member of the movement of young Angolan intellectuals, “Let’s Discover Angola.” In the following year he received a study grant from the American Methodists, and he transferred to the University of Lisbon.

In 1950 Neto was arrested in Lisbon by the Portuguese political police PIDE Polícia de Intervenção e Defesa do Estado while he was collecting signatures for the World ...

Article

Eric Young

The son of a Methodist minister, António Agostinho Neto received his high school education in Luanda. In 1947, after spending three years in the government health service, Neto traveled to Portugal to attend medical school on a Methodist church scholarship. While there he met his Portuguese wife, Maria Eugénia da Silva, and other students from Portuguese Africa, including future nationalist leaders Amílcar Cabral of Guinea-Bissau and Eduardo Mondlane of Mozambique. He also became involved in the youth organization of the Portuguese opposition movement. Between 1952 and 1962, during various stays in prison for his political activity, Neto began writing poetry. The publication of his nationalist poetry and his subsequent detention delayed his graduation from medical school until 1958.

By mid 1957 he had joined the recently formed opposition group the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola MPLA He fit in well with the MPLA s educated ...

Article

Roy Doron

Nigerian general, military ruler, and president, was born Olusegun Mathew Okikiola Aremu Obasanjo in Abeokuta in southeastern Nigeria. His parentage has been the source of some controversy and speculation. After attending Abeokuta Baptist High School and the Mons Officers Cadet School in England, Obasanjo enlisted in the Nigerian army in 1958 and served in the British Cameroons, where he was commissioned a second lieutenant and was sent with the United Nations (UN) force to the Congo in 1959. After independence, Obasanjo remained in the military and was sent for further training at the Indian Defence Staff College and the Indian Army School of Engineering and was subsequently given command of the only Nigerian engineering unit and promoted to captain in 1963.

In January 1966 a group of Igbo officers overthrew the civilian government in a bloody coup that virtually eliminated the entire political elite of the Northern ...

Article

Eric Bennett

Olusegun Obasanjo was born in Abeokuta, in Ogun State, Nigeria, to a Christian Yoruba family that lacked the means to send him to college. He excelled at the provincial Abeokuta Baptist High School, however, and when he enlisted in the army in 1958, it was partly with an eye toward further schooling. During his tenure as a soldier, he studied in both India and England.

Obasanjo specialized as an engineer and rose through the ranks of Nigeria’s Engineering Corps. Later, while serving as head of state, he credited this training for the systematic clarity of his thought. Between 1959 and 1976 Obasanjo advanced from second lieutenant to chief of staff, supreme headquarters. During this time he led Nigerian forces in the country’s civil war (1969–1970), and he accepted the surrender of the Biafran troops in 1970.

Obasanjo was devoted to military service but appeared to have ...

Article

Benedicte Boisseron

Cameroonian novelist and statesman, was born on 14 September 1929 in N’Goulémakong, a small village near Ebolowa in southern Cameroon. His mother, Mvodo Belinga Agnès, a pious Catholic woman, separated from Ferdinand’s father, Etoa Jean Oyono, when the latter, though baptized, opted for a polygamous lifestyle. The young Ferdinand and his sister, Mfoumou Elisabeth, were raised by their mother who, after the separation, supported the family as a seamstress in Ebolowa. To help his mother, at the age of ten, Oyono joined the Catholic Mission as a choirboy and a houseboy at the service of missionaries. His early intimate experience with Catholic missionaries fueled his revolutionary imagination as an anticolonial writer well known for his satirical portrait of priests and colonial officials.

When Oyono earned his primary school certificate his father an educated city official learned of his son s success in the newspaper which published such educational results and ...

Article

Haggai Erlich

Egyptian writer, was born in January 1872 to a landowning family in Lower Egypt. He attended a local traditional Islamic school (kuttab) and chose to go to the khedivial secondary school rather than to al-Azhar. Having read translated scholarly works, notably Darwin’s Origin of Species, he was admitted in 1889 to the Khedivial Law School, the alma mater of many of Egypt’s modern politicians and leaders. As a young student, he founded Egypt’s first law review, Majallat al-Tashriʿ (Legislative Review). He graduated in 1894, entered government service, and in 1897 began collaborating with the nationalist leader Mustafa Kamil, who had the support of Khedive ʿAbbas II. They advised him to go to Switzerland and acquire Swiss citizenship so that he would enjoy immunity as a journalist and would be able to criticize the British occupiers freely. However, in Geneva in 1897 he came under ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Rwandan politician, was born in 1963 to a Tutsi family in Rwanda In Kinyarwanda; his name means “chief shepherd.” His parents were both Seventh-Day Adventists. Sebarenzi’s father was a successful farmer with three wives, and Sebarenzi had a large number of siblings. Both his father and mother became fearful for their son’s life after the Rwandan government promoted widespread attacks on Tutsi families in 1973 and the systematic discrimination made against placing young Tutsi people in middle and high schools led Sebarenzi s parents to send their son to a school on Idjwi Island in Lake Kivu which was a part the Democratic Republic of the Congo He spent his remaining years in middle and high school on Idjwi Island and the large city of Goma Sebarenzi eventually received his undergraduate degree in sociology from a Congolese university He met a fellow Rwandan exile Liberata and the couple married ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Chadian writer and politician, was born in 1927 in Abéché, the capital of the eastern Chadian sultanate of Wadai. Little is known about his early life, but he grew up listening to stories about powerful sultans of Wadai from times past, such as the early nineteenth-century ruler Sabun. By the late 1930s he was living in the southern Chadian town of Sarh (Fort-Archambault). There, he attended classes at the local Catholic mission with a French priest, Father de Belinay, in 1938 and 1939. Under de Belinay’s tutelage, Seid decided to switch from the Islamic faith of his family to Roman Catholicism. Seid’s parents brought the priest salted bread and oil on the day of Seid’s baptism.

Seid then attended secondary school and became involved in politics. He helped to establish the small Mutuelle Amicale Tchadienne political party in 1945 with Mahamat Yakouma Mustapha Batran Abdoulaye Toure Souleymane Naye ...

Article

Abiola F. Irele

The name of Leopold Sedar Senghor has become associated with the concept of Négritude, which provides the keynote of all his work, both as poet and as philosopher. There is a fundamental connection between the two aspects of his career and expression, for Senghor’s poetry represents an effort to invest Africa with poetic significance and thus provides the most sustained expression of Négritude’s imaginative revaluation of Africa. The thought processes reflected in the poetry are clarified in the ideological writings, which can be said to elaborate in discursive terms the themes expressed by means of images in the poetry.

Senghor was born in 1906 at Joal a coastal village in the Sine Saloum valley in central Senegal He began to learn French when at the age of seven he entered the Catholic elementary school in the nearby village of Ngasobil He received his secondary education at the Lycée van ...

Article

Janet Vaillant

Senegalese poet, philosopher, politician, and first president of Senegal (1960–1980), was born in Joal, a small coastal town south of Dakar in what was then the French West African Federation, now Senegal. His father came from the Serer people and was successful in the peanut export trade. His mother, one of several wives, came from a small country village, where Senghor spent his early childhood. His father sent him away for education when he was seven, and at eight he entered a Catholic mission boarding school. A pious and academically gifted child, he excelled in his studies, gaining support from the missionaries to continue his education in Dakar. He also acquired a deep Catholic faith, from which came his conviction that peaceful solutions exist for the most difficult of problems and from which he drew sustenance throughout his life. In 1928 he went to Paris to continue his education ...

Article

David P. Johnson

Demonstrating a rare combination of intellectual, artistic, and political skill, Léopold Sédar Senghor towered over modern Senegal, unlike any other figure in that country’s history. Senghor’s quest to find an artistic and political synthesis between African and European ways of life inspired his lifelong record of creative achievement. Although as a youth he immersed himself in French culture, his ultimate inability to become “a black-skinned Frenchman” led him to cultivate his “Africanness.” He helped to define two of the key political and intellectual movements of twentieth-century Africa: African Socialism and Négritude.

Born in Ndjitor, Senegal, to a Serer father and a Fulani mother, Senghor strove to represent all of Senegal’s peoples in his writing and politics. He attended Roman Catholic mission schools in what was then French West Africa, and in 1922 entered the Collège Libermann a seminary in Dakar where he intended to study for the priesthood He ...