Ali Mazrui, who has died at the age of 81, is regarded as one of Africa’s foremost intellectuals. The BBC’s Frenny Jowi looks back at how the Kenyan academic and political writer influenced a post-colonial generation.
Ali Mazrui has been a household name in Kenya and beyond.
Born in the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa on Feb. 24, 1933, some 20 years before the Mau Mau uprising against British colonial rule, he always portrayed himself as a true patriot.
In his series of essays On Heroes and Uhuru-Worship, he wrote as an African scholar deeply involved in the fight for the freedom of his people, expressing empathy with those on the front line of the battle against colonialists.
“What about blaming the freedom fighter for the atrocities committed by the security forces contending him?” he asked.
Mazrui’s writings, though embedded in history, still resonate because he talks about the need to recognize national heroes, without worshipping them.
They also give insight into some of the greatest concerns currently facing the world as he wrote about terrorism and Islam.
In one of his books, Islam Between Globalization and Counter Terrorism, he explained how the religion was entrapped in the danger of rising extremism.
The professor had immense international experience in his academic career.
He studied at some of the world’s most prestigious universities, including Oxford, from where he obtained a doctorate in philosophy in 1966.
Mazrui then joined Uganda’s famous Makerere University as head of the Department of Political Science and dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences.
Throughout his career, he wrote numerous books and expressed strong opinions in widely published papers.
In the 1970s, Mazrui’s sharp criticism of the then-Kenyan and Ugandan regimes — led by Daniel arap Moi and Idi Amin respectively — displeased the ruling class, leading to his exile in the U.S.
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