Category Archives: history

Read an excerpt from Charles van Onselen’s The Cowboy Capitalist

The South African historian and writer Charles van Onselen has walked down history lane. He reached the days of the Jameson Raid, a pivotal event in the history of Southern Africa. Charles has focussed on the American John Hayes Hammond, a man with a close relationship with Cecil Rhodes and Jameson. He brought with him the spirit of the conquest of the West of the United States to the veld of southern Africa. In this way this well researched book is upsetting the prevailing views on the Jameson Raid.

Read an excerpt here.


Changing History: Jan-Jan Joubert talks to Charles van Onselen

The South African historian, sociologist and writer Charles van Onselen takes us back to the year 1896. In this year the Jameson Raid took place, a raid in which British people tried to overthrow the government of the Boer leader Paul Kruger. The attempt turned out to be a failure.

Van Onselen gives a new angle to this story, he did so after much research. During his research he came upon an American, who played a role in the attempted attempt to dethrone Paul Kruger. This American capitalist was John Hays Hammond. Van Onselen titled his book The Cowboy Capitalist. 

Read more about this book here.


Listen to John Conyngham

Hazara? Yes, Hazara. It did not recognize the name so I did q quick and very short research into the name and I found myself in Afghanistan and surrounding countries. Did the South African John write about these people, called Hazara? Well, it could be, no need to stick to the familiar. Great to widen your scope.

But when I extended my research I discovered that the subtitle is about an African farm. An African farm in Afghanistan? Well, it could be, Africans like to move around.

The next step showed that the African farm, of the subtitle fame, was at the coast of the Indian Ocean in Natal, South Africa. It got the name Hazara from the regiment of the British Indian Army in which James (married to Mia) served. James and Mia started this farm in 1924, when they were newly weds.

Listen to John Conyngham tell about the farm that is intertwined with his own life. 

Professor wins ACLS fellowship for work on modern Ghana

The Ghanaian historian Naaborko Sackeyfio-Lenoch has won a fellowship. She did her Ph.D. on African History and she published her The Politics of Chieftaincy: Authority and Property in Colonial Ghana, 1920-1950.

She has not stopped her research, as a true academic. Now she has the opportunity to continue her work with this Fellowship and we hope another publication is on the way.

You will find more information here.

Naaborko Sackeyfio-Lenoch


I just finished a brilliant book, written by the American investigative journalist Andrew Rice.

In this book I found three lines of investigation that all come together:
* the story of Duncan Laki who searches for his father Eliphaz Laki who disappeared during the reign of president Idi Amin. He was a chief in Ankole. After his disappearance silence took his place.
* the story of Uganda (starting with the Brit Speke 😦 ) to put the search by Duncan into a proper context. Rice traces the different groups, the influence of colonialism, the way to hold sway among many oppositions.  
* the search for an answer to the question of forgiveness and rememberance and confession. What do communities and countries want to remember about their past? What is the role of justice in it all? Can there be forgiveness when there is no confession of guilt?

All these lines come together in a fascinating story, built upon research and many interviews with the people concerned (except Laki senior and Idi Amin), but Rice had contact with Obote and with Museveni, who took a personal interest in the case and who was present at the reburial of Eliphaz Laki.

We follow the lives of Eliphaz Laki, the rise to power by Yoweri Museveni, the lives of three people who were brought to court for the death of Eliphaz, one of them being Gowon, a close associate of Idi Amin, and also from the West Nile area.

We see the outcome of the courtcase and the shaping of a post-Amin judicial system. We see the changes of Museveni, from a communist/socialist fighter to a man who prefers the liberal capitalism. We see the fragility of a nation that smiles but cannot forget (a saying of the Banyankole, to which Duncan and his father and Museveni belong). We meet people who want to embrace Idi Amin once again. We see Duncan Laki in his search for his father, while close relatives prefer to let the dead be dead. Every answer could lead to complications.

Near the end of the book we see the difficulty Museveni has with a legal opposition in his country, Bisegye is a victim of this attitude. He has been fighting with Museveni during the rebellious days and now he tries to run for president, just like Museveni.  Now recently a second edition of  Museveni’s “Sowing the Mustard Seed” has been published. The name of Besigye, who was present in the first edition, has been wiped out of the second edition. This reeks of oldfashioned communist rewriting of history.

On page 248 I came across the name of the American Roy Innes (1934). I did not recognize the name and did not get much information on him in the book (notwithstanding the many and extensive notes). In the book it is mentioned that in 1973 Innes was in Mbarara, in the company of Idi Amin. 
At the time of this visit, Roy was the National Chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). He was elected in 1968. Under his leadcership CORE supported the presidential campaigns of Richard Nixon in 1968 and 1972. 
This trip to Uganda was not the first trip in Africa for Innes. Two years earlier he and other delegates of CORE visited seven countries in Africa and had met with peple like Kenyatta (Kenya), Nyerere (Tanzania) and Tolbert (Liberia). And on that very same tour the CORE group also went to Uganda and met with Idi Amin, who was awarded a membership for life of CORE. I do not know if this included a medal, that could be pinned on the uniform of the president. Strange bedfellows: an American Black Nationalist Movement and Idi Amin.

A well researched and documented book. Warning: you might want to read it in one go!

Andrew Rice – The teeth may smile but the heart does not forget. Murder and memory in Uganda – 2009

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor the teeth may smile


the so-called jewish question

As far as I know many Jews in South Africa were involved in the struggle for liberation in the apartheid decades in South Africa. Many Jews had fled oppression in European countries, and now they (or their children) were fighting again. A new book on the position of the Jewish community in South Africa has been published. It covers the period of 1930 – 1948. The story has been written by Milton Shain, who is the emeritus professor in the History of South African Jewry and Antisemitism. This is not his first book on the history of the Jews in South Africa.

Milton Shain

adhiambo’s ‘dust’ best depicts

It is possible to read a novel and learn about the history of a country. The writer of this article is of the opinion that reading the book ‘Dust’, written by Kenyan Yvonne Odhiambo Owuor, tells a story about the people in Kenya. Characters are highlighted, and so Kenyan history is highlighted. 

Author Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor gives a speech