John William Colenso: A Victorian Activist in South African Humanitarianism

In this post, University of KwaZulu-Natal scholar Christopher Merrett continues his reflections on controversial yet remarkable historical figures in South Africa, focusing also on their significance today. This post expounds upon the untold life of John William Colenso, a colonial activist, bishop, theologian, mathematician, imperialist and humanitarian whose candle still burns posthumously in protest against contemporary religious and political discord. In his previous piece, “What can Richard Turner, Philosopher of Hope, Tell Us About History and Humanitarianism Today?,” Merrett discussed Turner’s political ideas about “educating” the masses against an autocratic and repressive colonial regime, ideas that invited a premature death and risked perpetual obscurity. The CIHA Blog presents these posts as part of its continuous engagement with tensions in the imperialist ideologies that undergird religious humanitarianism and the ongoing problem of skewed approaches to humanitarian discourses in Africa.

by Christopher Merritt

A very remarkable people, the Zulu. They defeat our generals and convert our bishops.

John William Colenso

John William Colenso

This memorable quotation has been attributed to nineteenth-century British prime minister, Benjamin Disraeli, although it has no known source, and the bishop was John William Colenso (1814‒1883), the first Anglican bishop of Natal who lived and worked at Ekukhanyeni, Bishopstowe, just outside Pietermaritzburg, for over thirty years. Like all historical figures, we must consider him in the context of his time, but in terms of the long march of history we can legitimately extrapolate his conduct and beliefs and question their meaning for us today. Continue reading

From Manufactured Debts to Chronic Humanitarianism: Lessons from Haiti and the Democratic Republic of the Congo A8re _Aerial_View.jpg

by Cilas Kemedjio

I was struck by the massive presence of NGOs in Haiti. Shortly after the 2010 earthquake, Former Alaskan Governor and US vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin visited Haiti with a delegation of preacher Franklin Graham’s charity Samaritan Purse. Hollywood’s power couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie also visited, and donated $1 million for relief work. Beyoncé visited to take stock of the progress made in the rebuilding effort. Sean Penn stayed in Haiti for months after the earthquake. He co-founded the J/P Relief Organization in 2010 in response to the earthquake and has visited several times since. Yele Haiti, the humanitarian foundation set up by Haitian-born Hip-Hop star Wyclef Jean, came under intense scrutiny at the time of the quake for what some perceived as his less than ethical management of the foundation. On the plane to and from Haiti, I noticed that an incredible number of passengers, identifiable with the logos on their t-shirts, were associated with Christian churches or charities. During a walk in Port-au-Prince, I stumbled on this massive humanitarian presence in Haiti. One sign read “Aide humanitaire et protection civile (humanitarian assistance and civil protection”, with a European Union flag indicating who was sponsoring the effort. Next was a small structure wrapped with USAID wallpaper and this unmistaken reminder: “From the American People”. On the same wallpaper, one could see the logo of GOAL, an Irish NGO dedicated to helping the poorest of the poor. If these charitable organizations cannot lead to paradise, there’s always the ubiquitous counter selling lottery tickets, even on Sunday morning. And if gambling cannot open the gates of happiness, there’s faith, there’s God as illustrated by the many churches I saw during my morning walk in this popular neighborhood. After witnessing all this misery, I came to the conclusion that writing about Haiti would be an exercise in futility because writing would never catch up with what late French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu would call the misery of the world. Then Akosua insisted that I must write. I almost told her that it was impossible, then I waited and was finally able to see the wisdom of her intimation, or rather of her executive suggestion. I dedicate these notes to Akosua. Continue reading

Opportunities: IDEX Academy, Transitional Justice Fellowship Program and More

1267394000The IDEX Academy

What is the IDEX Academy?

A week-long training course for anyone who moves resources towards social change.

Why would you want to attend the IDEX Academy?

  • You want to see long-term social change that enables real people to take positive steps in their own lives, and with their families and communities.
  • You want to create new pathways to a healthier and more equitable world.
  • You have seen that for far too long, international development and philanthropic efforts have been ineffective in ending poverty and misguided in creating dignity, equity, and justice for the world’s most marginalized.
  • You are keen to learn about solutions from global thought leaders and practitioners in the field – leading grassroots and movement leaders, community organizers, artists, academics, and progressive philanthropists.
  • You want to be part of a community of change-makers who dare to do things differently.

Continue reading

“Dont Speak With Your Hard Nigerian Accent.” The Question of African Identity


The University of Ghana (UG) and the Institute of African Studies (IAS) continue to lead the way in remembering the dismembered Global African World with its 2nd Annual Black History Month Film Festival in 2016! This exciting event took place in the month of February and this is a first of the reviews of movies we will be sharing.

by Abena Kyere and Edwin Adjei

The issue of representation and identity involves a cascade of responses and emotions. This is due in greater portion to the fact that the subject is thorny because it revolves around power – who has the right to decide, who is what, and who should be what? This is Africa and her people’s dilemma since Africa has neither had the opportunity nor been given the license to define and refine who she is and what she stands for. The consistency and sometimes the severity with which Africa has been defined belittles the extremely complex and multi-dimensional nature of Africa and Africans. Continue reading

In the News: Yet Another June 16?

Yet another June 16? A formidable day in the history of a country still grappling with a painful past, a rather uncertain present, but for many a promising future. Commemorated under the theme ‘Youth Moving South Africa forward’ this remarkable day recalls the 1976 Student uprising in Soweto that challenged the law imposing Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in Black schools. This was seen as a move by the Apartheid government to subjugate and annihilate Black history and identity through a highly controlled pedagogical framework that disregarded the educational agency of black South Africans.

Forty years down the road, enormous strides have so far been made. However, the country continues to encounter numerous challenges, some of which are inherited from this turbulent colonial past. CIHABlog’s Co-Editor Akosua Adomako’s article – #Black Lives Matter, #Rhodes Must Fall and Afro Knowledge posted on June 10th expounds upon some of these challenges and more. Brooks J. Spector in his article ‘Soweto, 16 June 1976: ‘Freedom Is Coming, Tomorrow published in the Daily Maverick at this year’s commemoration analyses the events of the 1976 uprising and its implication on the lives of South Africans today.

Soweto, 16 June 1976: ‘Freedom Is Coming, Tomorrow’                                             by J Brooks Spector for Daily Maverick 

On Angeline Jolie Pitt and William Hague Appointments at LSE’s Women Peace and Security Programme

Earlier this week, we posted our first of two pieces discussing the impact of Angelina Jolie’s appointment at the London School of Economics. Today, we post a second piece by Njoki Wamai who considers both Angelina Jolie and William Hague’s appointments at LSE and the implications for humanitarianism as it perpetuates unequal power relations. We look forward to your comments!

By Njoki Wamai

passport photo redOn May 23, 2016 the London School of Economics announced the appointment of four Visiting Professors in Practice to teach in their new one–year MSc in Women, Peace and Security. The visiting professors are: Jane Connors, a retired humanitarian careerist and academic; Madeleine Rees, a British lawyer and current Secretary General of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Lord William Hague, a life peer,  former British foreign minister  and  the  co-founder of the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI), and Angelina Jolie Pitt,  the  Special Envoy of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and co-founder of the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI). The PSVI is a campaign based at the Foreign Commonwealth office and Department for International Development (DFID) hoping to address the culture of impunity that exists for crimes of sexual violence in conflict by increasing the number of perpetrators held to account and promoting international co-operation and increasing the political will and capacity of states to do more. Continue reading

Thoughts on Angelina Jolie and WPS

This week, we post two pieces discussing the impact of Angelina Jolie’s appointment at the London School of Economics. In the first piece, Carrie Reiling considers the effects of celebrity activism and and its implications for humanitarianism.

Picture Crown Copyright/MOD/LA(Phot) Iggy Roberts

by Carrie Reiling

The day that Angelina Jolie was appointed to LSE as a visiting professor at the Centre for Women, Peace and Security, it was all over my social media accounts, and several friends sent me messages asking if I had seen it. Even though I was in the middle of a few days of intense fieldwork, I knew I had things to say about this: Continue reading

In the News: Coping (or Not) With Refugees in East Africa

An arial view of the world's largest refugee camp. Dada.

An arial view of the world’s largest refugee camp. Dadaab.

The refugee crisis is not only happening in Europe, but as most in Africa well know, it is countries in the Global South that shelter the vast majority of the world’s refugees. We bring together a recent critique of the Kenyan government’s stated decision to close the Dadaab refugee camp which houses mostly Somali refugees, the little-known influx of Syrian refugees into Sudan (with the general approval of the Sudanese state), and a statement by religious leaders across the continent to do more to reduce violence among peoples. We exhort religious leaders, along with states in the Global North as well as Africa, to provide welcome and resources for those fleeing untenable situations, wherever they may be. Continue reading

#Black Lives Matter, #Rhodes Must Fall and Afro Knowledge [i]


UCT Students, and staff march for Transformation.

by Akosua Adomako Ampofo

This past year I have been a Visiting Scholar at Concordia University (CUI) in Irvine, California. CUI is a Lutheran school and generally provided me with a warm and welcoming environment.  While many of my students had never taken a class that focused on African or African-American studies, most were open to learning and indeed expressed appreciation for the paths we traveled in class.  One morning on my way to class I found myself behind a young man (not my student) wearing a T-shirt that read, “All lives matter”.  I was unprepared for the wave of sadness, frustration, anger and even despair that came over me.  How do people not get that saying “all lives matter” in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement in the US in 2016 shows, at best, deep ignorance, and at worst, a total lack of concern for those at the receiving end of institutional racism? Continue reading