Forced into exile in 1973 by Uganda’s infamous dictator Idi Amin, Africa’s most celebrated intellectual Ali Mazrui emerged a giant straddling across the globe until his passing a week ago.
Though he was a Kenyan, his larger than life footprint on the world stage made him a citizen of the world.
Born in Mombasa, Kenya on February 24, 1933, Mazrui turned his life into a great Pan-Africanist in the mould of Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana. As Edozie Udeze records in his tribute, Mazrui did not limit his gaze or attention to the African continent.
Educated at Uganda’s Makerere University, Mazrui proceeded to acquire his Master’s degree at Manchester University in Britain and his Doctorate in Philosophy at Oxford University.
Upon his return to Uganda, Mazrui was catapulted to the position of professor at Makerere University in a short span of time. He later served as professor of political science and then director of the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
In 1989, he was appointed to the faculty of Binghamton University in New York and named the Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities and the director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies.
Sabata-Mpho Mokae in his obituary records that Mazrui’s first book “The Anglo-African Commonwealth: Political Friction and Cultural Fusion”, written in 1967, thrust him onto the world stage as an African of note.
And indeed his 1986 BBC documentary series, “Africa, a Triple Heritage” entrenched his name and the profound intellectualism he possessed.
In his homage to Mazrui, Adekeye Adebajo asserts that this nine-part television series is widely considered to have been one of the most comprehensive assessments of African politics, economics, culture, and society ever made.
Hailing from a family with strong Muslim roots – his father was Chief Qadi (Justice) of Kenya – Mazrui focused his research on indigenous, Islamic and Western influences.
Unafraid of controversies, Mazrui did not back off or remain silent on Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses”. He published an essay that in great detail explained why it was offensive to Muslims.
In 2005 Mazrui featured in Foreign Policy magazine’s list as one the world’s 100 leading public intellectuals.
Lenasia resident Abdul Samed Bemath, to his credit compiled what has been described as a great contribution to academia, a volume of over 500 entries of Mazrui’s writings into a book titled – “The Mazruiana Collection: A Comprehensive Annotated Bibliography of the Published Works of Ali A Mazrui, 1962-1997”.
His passing at the age of 81 has robbed the world of a scholar par excellence, an outstanding academic, a novelist, and above all a person imbued with a passionate concern for Africa and the world.
We at Media Review Network are fortunate to have had the honour and privilege of being associated with Mazrui and having benefited immensely from his research and writings.
His profound insights and analysis reflected tremendous intellectual honesty and fierce independence of thought as Adebajo and many more scholars affirm.
He is survived by his second wife, five sons and a daughter.
Executive: Media Review Network
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