Taking Back Ownership of Afrika Habitat: Book Review

Okot Nyormoi

Who will shortly be taking over editorial control of Nile Journal

When I first saw the book, Taking Back Ownership of Afrika Habitat by Jack Stevens Alecho-oita, published in 2014 by Alawi Books Ltd, the title and the front cover captured my attention. First, Africa was spelled with a “k” instead of the more familiar spelling of Africa with a “c”. Second, African countries were referred to as Afrika habitat. Confronted with the unusual choices of words and spellings, I became curious about the book.

To me, the images on the front cover conjured up the thought that taking back ownership of Afrika habitat means waging war with shields and spears as the African ancestors did years ago. The image of a woman also conveyed the idea that while men wage war, women take care of the homes. Considering what I know about contemporary Africa, I did not believe that such a plan would be an effective way to take back Africa. Nevertheless, I preserved my curiosity and hope of discovering the true meanings of the images on the front cover of the book.

This book was written at a time that many books have already been written about the struggles against colonialism and neo-colonialism. Thus, why another book on the same subject? The answer is simple, the same subject, different perspectives. It is on this basis that the book should be welcomed as a valuable addition to the existing body of literature about the African continent.

I must congratulate the author for creating all the colorful graphical illustrations of the complex subject tackled in the book. I must also congratulate him for his creativity and boldness in thinking outside the box in using African traditional objects like the stool, shield and spear, and practices as metaphors for explaining political, economic, and social concepts. Whether or not such approach will secure its place in a field already crowded with well-established concepts and analytical lexicon is yet to be seen.

While it is admirable that the author provided his unique perspectives, laced with a barrage of parables and metaphors, the style creates a mountain of problems of readability and understandability. Even when the author makes heroic efforts to define the various terms, they remain difficult to follow by those who are not familiar with the author’s style.

The second major weakness of the book lies in the author’s deliberate choice not to use conventional socio-political terms to describe and analyze the struggle for taking back Africa. For example, he generously uses terms such as nationalities, daughters and sons of the nationalities and Afrika person, which left me scratching my head.

Analytically, the author also introduces three social groups: remainers (DA1), quasi-dissidents (DA2) and rejectionists (DA3). However, it is not clear whether these are categories of countries based on how they struggled to win independence from colonialism or categories of people based on their role in production. If it is the former, it must refer to the winning faction at a specific time. Otherwise, any of the three groups could exist at different times in a country’s history. If it is the latter, it is also difficult to understand how to classify peasants, workers, bureaucrats, and monarchists.

Another analytical difficulty arises from the author’s frequent use of the term nationality and sons and daughters in a way which suggests classlessness. Yet African societies have different degrees of social class differentiation.

When it comes to the strategy for taking back Africa, the author suggests that sons and daughters must be sent to acquire tools for making better decisions. Such an assertion raises many questions. For example, Africans who belong to DA1, DA2 and DA3 are all sons and daughters of African people. Yet their interests are different. If so, then who will determine the criteria for selecting who goes to acquire tools for making better decisions, what tools to acquire, when and for what.

In anticipating these questions, the author asserts that undergirding the acquisition of the tools for making better decisions is the expectation that at each stage of development, children are forever tasked with improving the quality of life and the challenge is in the accounting for the tools to those who sent them to acquire them. In turn, accountability culminates in better governance. However, for this to happen, the older generation must become conscious and organized to hold the younger generation accountable for the tools they have acquired.

While this sounds good, it ultimately poses the chicken and the egg question. What comes first? Since most parents of the sons and daughters are peasants, how will they ensure that their sons and daughters will not privatize the tools they have acquired?

Finally, the author employed colorful graphics with explanatory narratives to propose a hierarchy of organizations which progressively hold dialogue conferences to develop a consensus on national governance. Although this proposal appears novel, a closer comparison with past efforts reveals that it is not. For example, various ethnic and political party representatives met in Lancaster House in London to reach a consensus on Ugandan independence. Ugandan exiles also assembled at the Moshi conference in 1979 to strategize for taking back Uganda from fascist dictator Idi Amin Dada. Similarly, after Amin was ousted, various interest groups held a Consultative Conference to forge a new constitution. Furthermore, individual African countries or the whole continent already have various organizational levels ranging from local, district and regional councils, parliament, and the African Union? Thus, it is not clear how the proposal is different from past and existing organizations.

Regardless of the writing style, presentation and content of the book, the author must be applauded for his effort in proposing a way forward for taking back Africa. Whether we agree with his proposal or not, his challenge is particularly pertinent at this time when Africa is being threatened with recolonization by the rising power from the east, China.