Common People’s Uganda

Volume 16, Issue 2 | Published 30/10/2019  

Author: Yash Tandon

Publisher: Zand Graphics, 2019.

Reviewer: Karim F Hirji

Yash Tandon is a dedicated, experienced and knowledgeable Ugandan, Pan-African activist and scholar who has been in the trenches for over fifty years. A prolific author, he has focused on elucidating the nature and scope of imperialist economic intrusion in Africa and analyzing contemporary African societies. His latest work, Common People’s Uganda (CPU), shines with his accumulated insights on these issues.

CPU covers Uganda’s political and economic history from the colonial times to the mid-1980s, the struggles for freedom, the realities of that nation from the end of the Iddi Amin period to the present, and reflects on the theoretical and practical aspects of the Ujamaa days in Tanzania. It concludes by examining the relevance of past struggles to the present struggle for the liberation of Africa.

Chapter 5 presents the Marxist analytic framework utilized in the book. Today, it is rare for a book on Africa to declare its analytic method and rarer for it to use the Marxist one. Implicitly framed within the neo-liberal mode of analysis, most are inclined towards the interests of the local and external business groups, and those holding state power. In that regard, CPU is a commendable exception.

The material is well organized and clearly presented, making it an excellent resource for both beginners and those somewhat familiar with of the subject. The historic photos interspersed throughout add to its appeal. And the relevant questions for discussion posed at the end of each chapter make it a valuable educational text.

Wanjiru Gikonyo is the National Coordinator of The Institute for Social Accountability.

The views expressed herein are her personal views. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


The adequate financing of subnational governments is a central pillar of devolution. A review of the Kenyan-South African Dialogue on Devolution provides valuable insights on the subject. This is particularly relevant in view of the standoff which has stalled financing of sub-national government and portends a shutdown of basic public services in Kenya.

Khumulo and others writing on the South African intergovernmental fiscal system, reflect on lessons from 20 years of implementation. Kirira by contrast, captures Kenya’s devolved system a mere two years into its implementation, and takes a historical and predictive approach. It is telling that several of his concerns have been borne out in practice.  To reconcile the chronological gap, this article takes both a comparative and interpretative approach.

Similarities between the two systems

Kenya adopted a form of devolution which closely mirrors South Africa’s, and both systems demonstrate many similarities.  Both country constitutions have a very similar fiscal devolution architecture. In both cases, national and subnational levels of government are distinct and are assigned exclusive or concurrent functions. They are to conduct their mutual relations based on cooperative governance and are strongly interdependent. 

Justice and Ethics in Tourism

Volume 16, Issue 2 | Published 30/10/2019  

by Tazim Jamal.  Routledge, 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14, UK, pp. 260, 2019.  (ISBN: 978-1-315-16294-2 (ebk))

 Review by Shehina Fazal

This book provides a comprehensive review of the ideas of justice and ethics and their application in the academic field of tourism. It makes an interesting read particularly, given a recent news item regarding the overcrowding which resulted in long delays in getting to the summit by climbers near Mt. Everest, in the Himalayas. The resulting tragedies of some climbers waiting for long periods in the freezing conditions reminds us not only of the care and responsibilities that we need to give to popular tourist sites, but to understand the implications of socially and environmentally just practices that protect not only the tourists, but the hosts as well.

The author, Tazim Jamal makes powerful arguments on conceptualising and implementation of justice and ethics in tourism. The book consists of seven chapters which are interspersed with interesting case studies from various scholars.

In the introduction, Jamal quickly demolishes the romanticism around tourism and states that “….it is a chimera, this thing called tourism. It can offer fun, joy, rich existential experiences, ways to contribute constructively to conservatism and to individuals as well as social well-being. Yet there are also possibilities to wreak thoughtless harm on the destination, the environment and those who inhabit them”.

Such statements dispel the myths of beneficial tourism and the book gets to grips with its title, where the author addresses the foremost issues of climate change, particularly the migration of people because of climate change, and refers to the 21st century era of the Anthropocene, a term used to refer to the period whereby our planet has been significantly affected by human activities that have impacted on the climate and the natural environment.

Author: Karim F Hirji

Publ: Daraja Press

Reviewer: Salim Vally

Karim Hirji’s erudite yet accessible collection of essays is bound to become an essential companion and a classic for all concerned with the underdevelopment of Africa and its educational doppelganger, under-education.

While the essays focus on Tanzania, they have continental resonance and remain globally relevant. His dialectical, fine-grained and multi-scalar analysis of educational issues traverses the period of colonialism, the first flush of independence through neo-colonialism to present day capitalist neoliberalism. The essays draw inspiration and critical lessons from many countries. Hirji’s education commentary is grounded in a dedicated praxis of over forty years. The collection reflects this breadth of experience and the depth of multifaceted struggles. It embraces many pertinent issues valuable for contemporaneous endeavours against miseducation as these relate to democracy, dependency, violence in schools, the privatisation and corporatisation of education, the uses and abuses of technology, cultural imperialism, academic dissent, publishing, reading and the qualities of an effective teacher.

The book, a milestone in connecting past and present struggles through the tools of political economy and historical materialism, recounts how after independence, students from the University Students African Revolutionary Front together with some progressive staff members such as Walter Rodney, John Saul and others contributed to making the University of Dar es Salaam a beacon of progressive scholarship. They championed decolonisation and while critically supportive of President Nyerere’s humanism and policies of Ujamaa, also warned of the dangers of neocolonialism - their critiques celebrated as the ‘Dar es Salaam Debates’ remain germane to revitalising the African academy today. The legendary student magazines Cheche and MajiMaji discussed in the book should be seen as exemplars of socially engaged and rigorous scholarship exposing the poverty of many academic journals today.

Author: Talat Ahmed

Publ: Pluto Press

Reviewed by: Harjeevan Gill

Talat Ahmed’s new book chronicles the life of Mohandas Gandhi, who was one of the leaders in the Indian Independence movement. She critically examines Gandhi’s political career and provides an understanding on how socialists should view him and his legacy. This is important because, in the UK especially, Indian history is taught with a rose-tinted lens regarding either the British state or Gandhi himself.

Ahmed initially addresses the impact Gandhi has had over various political movements over the years, with many mass movements citing Gandhi as a major influence. However, she makes it very clear that she wants to challenge the existing narrative of Gandhi, which she does through placing him within history, rather than focusing the history around him. In doing this, Ahmed argues that Gandhi was not the total driving factor behind Indian Independence, and that this process was plagued with violence.

Ahmed lays out the factors that shaped Gandhi’s politics, with his time in London and South Africa having had a major influence. While he was in London, he read a lot of religious texts such as the Bible and the Bhagavad Gita. When in South Africa, his lack of class politics was shown. This was where his policy of compromise was first put into place, as he took actions that led him to compromise with the imperial government.

After examining what shaped his politics, Ahmed then shows how the Gandhi who returned to India was a different type of politician from existing Indian nationalists. Ahmed looks into Gandhi’s politics regarding oppressed groups, where she argues that Gandhi’s cross-class interests meant he could not be a complete champion of the oppressed. Also, she notes that Gandhi used his fasting technique to rein in groups that were shifting out of his personal control, like the Dalit groups led by Ambedkar.

Albertina Sisulu [Abridged]

Volume 16, Issue 2 | Published 06/11/2019  

Authors: Sindiwe Magona and Elinor Sisulu

Publ: David Philip Publishers (Pty) Ltd Pp129

ISBN: PB: 978-1-4856-2285-7

Reviewed by: John Sibi-Okumu.

It stands to reason that Africa, a continent with a reputedly young population, should be preoccupied with literature for young readers and, specifically, with books which present them with home-grown role models. This is aptly expressed in the foreword to Albertina Sisulu, an abridged publication, inspired by a much more detailed biography, Walter and Albertina Sisulu: In Our Lifetime.

When young people can locate themselves and their place in the history of the world, it strengthens their sense of self, as individuals and as Africans (…..) Girls especially need to know they can achieve goals and overcome challenges. For all young people, stories of people who went before them, people from backgrounds similar to theirs, are very important to their sense of identity.

Albertina Sisulu bears the imprint of a South African publisher, as can be expected when its subject is a South African woman who was hailed, after that country’s first universal elections in 1994, as the Mother of the Nation. In this simplified version the trajectory of her life is allowed to stand alone but, for a large part, in tandem with that of her husband, Walter Sisulu. He it was who was driven off at the end of the notorious Rivonia trial in the days of apartheid or ‘separate development,’ to spend 25 years of his life in detention on the equally notorious Robben Island. Nelson Mandela went with him on that occasion, as did several others who became less famous, worldwide.