Anarchism is not dead in Africa
Last year, a Jura Collective member travelling in Africa conducted an interview with Sam Mbah - Nigerian author, lawyer, academic and anarchist. The interview has been published as a blog: sammbah.wordpress.com. "Anarchism is not dead in Africa", says Mbah.Mbah's book African Anarchism, co-written with fellow Nigerian I.E. Igariway, was the first and best anthropological study of the anarchistic elements of traditional African societies (with a particular focus on West Africa). The book also discusses the failure of State Socialist governments in Africa, and the future prospects for anarchism in the world's second-largest continent.In the new interview - the first in many years - Mbah speaks about a range of topics from the 'fuel-tax' uprising in Nigeria early in 2012, to climate change, to the fate of the Awareness League - a large anarchist organisation that fought against the military dictatorship in Nigeria in the 1990s.The interview has been published in full-text and audio forms, and as a series of short articles on Mbah's blog. Two short videos are also available of Mbah speaking about anarchism in Africa.Mbah offers a fascinating analysis of the Nigerian 'fuel-tax' revolt that took place in early 2012, also known as 'Occupy Nigeria'. Over several weeks, tens of thousands of people took to the streets in actions that included shutting down motorways and petrol stations, and a series of massive strikes. It was probably the most significant mobilisation to have occurred in the last decade in Africa's most populous country. The government was forced to roll back its plans to increase the everyday cost of fuel. "I would say, it is an unfinished struggle… The people are mobilizing. Just as the government is devising other strategies through which it will increase the price of petroleum through the back door, the people are reviewing the last encounter and trying to find out what other ways they can employ that advance their cause."Mbah also gives a Nigerian perspective on the global economic crisis, the Occupy movement and the Arab Spring. He reports that the global movements have inspired a lot of people in Nigeria. "The resolve and the courage that has been demonstrated by the Occupy movement in different parts of America and European capitals, is a pointer to the endless possibilities that abound if people decide to struggle. The Arab Spring on its part, has been a most refreshing experience for those of us in Africa… I have no doubt that people are beginning to draw lessons from what is happening in the Arab world, and asking themselves some searching questions – if it can happen in the Arab world, why not us?"Also invaluable is Mbah's account of the rise and decline of the Awareness League in the 1990s and early 2000s. The Awareness League was a Nigerian anarchist organisation that had over 1000 members at its peak and played a significant role in the movement against the Nigerian military dictatorship. "The Awareness League, first of all, derived its lifeblood from the resistance against military rule in Nigeria. The continuation of military rule acted as a spore." However, "the struggle against military rule ended with the coming of civilian rule in 1999. I would say that the antagonism of not only the Awareness League but all the civil society, community-based groups, and leftist organizations in the country, virtually evaporated. Because the military was a uniting factor… with the coming of civilian government, we did not have that kind of common enemy any longer."The so-called 'war on terror' is also examined in Mbah's blog - in both global and Nigerian contexts. The Nigerian State has embraced the ideology of terrorism and counter-terrorism for its own ends, in a country where both Islam and Christianity are highly politicised. "The State in Africa is the greatest source of terrorism. I think that the society would be a lot better, the day the State ceases from acting and deploying its agencies as instruments of terror against the ordinary population, and the common people." "I would say that in the past 20-30 years the influence of Christianity and Islam has been considerably negative on the society in the sense that both religions have become sources of political manipulation of ordinary people… Politicians are using religion to manipulate the ordinary people into fighting for the political positions and beliefs of the elite."In other pieces, Mbah discusses the realities of climate change and environmental degradation in Nigeria, and the activities of militants in the oil-rich Niger Delta. Mbah also describes the state of unions in Nigeria today. He sees their weakness as a lasting effect of military rule, but also a consequence of deindustrialization and the opportunistic careerism of some within the union bureaucracy.Mbah is once again doing a great service by bringing an anarchist perspective to African struggles, and an African perspective to anarchism. "It is difficult in this part of the world to begin to build a movement based on anarchist principles alone. But we can build a movement based on trying to hold the government accountable, trying to fight for the environment, trying to fight for gender equality, trying to fight for human rights. Because these are minimum principles on which a broad swathe of the population agree, and it makes sense for us to continue to interact and interrogate social existence and public policy on this basis. And seek to ensure that civil society is not extinguished completely. While also those of us who genuinely believe in anarchism will continue to organise and develop tools of organisation that will some day lead to the emergence of an anarchist movement."Read more and please share the blog with your friends: www.sammbah.wordpress.com.