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Professor Ali Mazuri: Pre-eminent African Scholar, OSA Member and 2008 OSA Conference’s Keynote Speaker October 30, 2014

Posted by OromianEconomist in Africa, African Literature, Oromo Studies Association, OSA, Professor Ali Mazuri.
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The following is a statement from the Oromo Studies Association (OSA) on the passing away of Prof. Ali Mazuri.


With great sadness, members of Oromo Studies Association, along with all who are interested in African studies, heard about the passing on October 12, 2014 of Ali Mazrui. At the end of his life, he held the position of Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities and Director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies at Binghamton University, New York. He was a towering intellectual, a giant, a versatile and erudite scholar whose work played a major role not only in shaping Africans’ perception of themselves, but also the view of Africans in the eyes of the world. Ali Mazrui was unmatched in his influence on African scholarship from the 1960s to the time of his death. He travelled the globe as a teacher, filmmaker, speaker and author. He was the first African scholar to publish three books in a single year (1967); he stood out as a very creative political scientist, able to express his ideas with eloquence and charm, and he was also a courageous scholar who, among other challenges, publicly criticized Idi Amin, the brutal dictator of Uganda in 1972, while others remained silent. Professor Mazrui was teaching at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda in those years. Bonnie Holcomb, one of the founders of OSA, was at Makerere at that time and an eyewitness to his brave public speeches in opposition to Amin.

Professor Ali Mazrui was the most prolific scholar. His expertise was broad – including African politics, international political culture, political Islam, globalization and Africa’s relations with other continents, especially with Europe and Asia. He was also a highly-successful film maker. His 1986, nine-part television series, entitled The Africans: A Triple Heritage, was extremely popular and influential. In this series and in its accompanying book, Professor Mazrui demonstrated that Africans have been among the most dehumanized and exploited people in human history due to a combination of the slave trade, the ravages of colonialism, and the global racial discrimination to which Africans had been subjected as the legacy of the colonial era.

While Professor Mazrui did not reflect upon the Oromo condition in Ethiopia in his television series – only mentioning them briefly in the book that accompanied the series – he publicly expressed regret for this lapse in 2008 when he addressed the members of the Oromo Studies Association as a Keynote speaker. As a newcomer to the field of Oromo studies, Professor Mazrui was eager to learn about Oromo society. It was an OSA member, Professor Seifudein Adem, who introduced Professor Ali Mazrui to Oromo studies, after which Mazrui delved into Oromo issues.

It was in a spirit of seeking to understand Oromo issues and correcting his previous scholarship of the region, that he warmly accepted the Oromo Studies Association invitation to be Keynote speaker at its 2008 annual conference.. He delivered an impressive address at OSA in Minneapolis, MN on July 26, 2008. It was at that time that he became a member of OSA, demonstrating his genuine commitment to learning about the Oromo society. The 2009 Journal of Oromo Studies (Volume 16, Number 1, distributed by The Red Sea Press) featured his remarks at the OSA conference and focused on aspects of his scholarship which impacted Oromo Studies.

Ali Mazrui authored more than 30 books and hundreds of articles writing extensively on African politics, political economy, modernity, state building and nation building, violence, political instability, and Africa’s vulnerability to foreign domination and exploitation. He always wrote in lucid and entertaining prose, using spicy turns of phrase to reduce complex ideas and numerous facts into accessible food for thought. His fascinating interpretation of historical events, his thought-provoking generalization about the African condition and his optimism about the capacity of Africans, including the Oromo, to shape their own future, left behind an unparalleled legacy of impressive scholarship. He was a stellar African scholar who was well-known and well-connected around the globe. He wrote in English for the purpose of presenting Africa to Africans and to the world.

Ali Mazrui, this most famous global African scholar, was buried in Mombasa, Kenya, the place where he had been born on February 24 in 1933, 81 years ago and where his umbilical cord lies buried. He was laid to rest at his family’s graveyard on October 20, 2014. His death is a great loss to his vast extended family and to all who cherish the flourishing of African studies. The OSA Board of Directors and Executive Committee, on behalf of OSA members, express their deepest condolences to his family members and all those who have been nourished by his extensive scholarship as well as his infectious love for debate. He respected the opinions of all people, even those who challenged him, even those who unkindly and unfairly attacked him. May his soul rest in peace. May our Waaqa comfort his family members and all those who knew the great scholar and shared his strong optimism about the capacity of Africans, including the Oromo, to improve their condition.

Despite his passing away, his writings, his elegant prose, poetic language and his powerful ideas, will continue inspiring and informing current and future generations.

May his soul rest in peace!

The Oromo Studies Association


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