Mahmood Mamdani

Mahmood Mamdani is the director of the Institute of Social Research at Makerere University and also teaches at Columbia.

The African University

Mahmood Mamdani, 19 July 2018

It​ is striking, in the postcolonial era, how little the modern African university has to do with African institutions. It draws its inspiration from the colonial period and takes as its model the discipline based, gated community that maintained a distinction between clearly defined groups: administrators, academics and fee-paying students. The origins of this arrangement lay in...

The Logic of Nuremberg: Nuremberg’s Logic

Mahmood Mamdani, 7 November 2013

In March, General Bosco Ntaganda, the ‘Terminator’, former chief of military operations for the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity, voluntarily surrendered himself at the US embassy in Kigali and was flown to the headquarters of the International Criminal Court at The Hague. The chargesheet included accusations of murder, rape,...

What is a tribe?

Mahmood Mamdani, 13 September 2012

A new form of colonialism was born in the second half of the 19th century, largely in response to the Indian Mutiny of 1857. Of its many theorists by far the most influential was Henry Maine, a brilliant historian of jurisprudence, barrister, journalist, colonial civil servant and eventually master of Trinity Hall, Cambridge. Maine made an eloquent case for the historicity and agency of the...

Short Cuts: Protest in Uganda

Mahmood Mamdani, 16 June 2011

The events identified with Tahrir Square have resonated in sub-Saharan Africa, and suggested a new way of doing politics: politics without recourse to arms. This has bewildered officialdom and sometimes sent a chill running down its spine. Uganda is a good example: Tahrir Square has enabled us to understand a new form of protest we call ‘walk to work’. The immediate background to...

For the institutions that claim to represent ‘the international community’ – the Western press, international NGOs and UN agencies – the armed conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been a paradigm of senseless violence. The number of casualties is indeed staggering. In 2001, the New-York-based International Rescue Committee started providing estimates of...

Lessons of Zimbabwe: Mugabe in Context

Mahmood Mamdani, 4 December 2008

There is no denying Mugabe’s authoritarianism, or his willingness to tolerate and even encourage the violent behaviour of his supporters. His policies have helped lay waste the country’s economy, though sanctions have played no small part, while his refusal to share power with the country’s growing opposition movement, much of it based in the trade unions, has led to a bitter impasse. This view of Zimbabwe’s crisis can be found everywhere, from the Economist and the Financial Times to the Guardian and the New Statesman, but it gives us little sense of how Mugabe has managed to survive. For he has ruled not only by coercion but by consent, and his land reform measures, however harsh, have won him considerable popularity, not just in Zimbabwe but throughout southern Africa.

Blue-Hatting Darfur: Can the UN rescue Darfur?

Mahmood Mamdani, 6 September 2007

Significant changes are currently taking place on the ground in Darfur. The peacekeeping forces of the African Union (AU) are being replaced by a hybrid AU-UN force under overall UN control. The assumption is that the change will be for the better, but this is questionable. The balance between the military and political dimensions of peacekeeping is crucial. Once it had overcome its teething...

The similarities between Iraq and Darfur are remarkable. The estimate of the number of civilians killed over the past three years is roughly similar. The killers are mostly paramilitaries, closely linked to the official military, which is said to be their main source of arms. The victims too are by and large identified as members of groups, rather than targeted as individuals. But the violence in the two places is named differently. In Iraq, it is said to be a cycle of insurgency and counter-insurgency; in Darfur, it is called genocide. Why the difference? Who does the naming? Who is being named? What difference does it make?


The Logic of Nuremberg

7 November 2013

R.W. Johnson seeks to naturalise forced movements – specifically, ethnic cleansing in Europe, and later in Israel – as if they were in the main a result of spontaneous flight, obscuring the role of conscious decisions by those in power. I will focus on postwar Europe. First, the figure of those forcibly moved was in the millions – they were mainly Germans. Only the opening phase,...

Lessons of Zimbabwe

4 December 2008

Mahmood Mamdani writes: Returns in the 2008 election suggest that Zimbabwe is a deeply divided society. This is so whether you go by the official count or that of the government. I have argued that this split has three fault lines: urban-rural, ethnic and class. R.W. Johnson (Letters, 18 December 2008) and Timothy Scarnecchia et al disagree, but they have not offered a satisfactory alternative explanation....
The letters written in response to my article on Darfur (Letters, 22 March) raise five main issues. First, Iraq and Darfur. Gérard Prunier begins by contrasting the counter-insurgencies (Letters, 5 April). True, ‘the counter-insurgency in Iraq is organised by a foreign power and is the result of foreign occupation while the counter-insurgency in Darfur is organised by the national government...

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