Africans in Exile: Mobility, Law, and Identity

Africans in Exile: Mobility, Law, and Identity

Africans in Exile: Mobility, Law, and Identity

Africans in Exile: Mobility, Law, and Identity


The enforced removal of individuals has long been a political tool used by African states to create generations of asylum seekers, refugees, and fugitives. Historians often present such political exile as a potentially transformative experience for resilient individuals, but this reading singles the exile out as having an exceptional experience. This collection seeks to broaden that understanding within the global political landscape by considering the complexity of the experience of exile and the lasting effects it has had on African peoples. The works collected in this volume seek to recover the diversity of exile experiences across the continent. This corpus of testimonials and documents is presented as an "archive" that provides evidence of a larger, shared experience of persecution and violence. This consideration reads exiles from African colonies and nations as active participants within, rather than simply as victims of, the larger global diaspora. In this way, exile is understood as a way of asserting political dissidence and anti-imperial strategies. Broken into three distinct parts, the volume considers legal issues, geography as a strategy of anticolonial resistance, and memory and performative understandings of exile. The experiences of political exile are presented as fundamental to an understanding of colonial and postcolonial oppression and the history of state power in Africa.


This volume is the first of its kind to introduce exile as the major theme when analyzing political developments in Africa during colonial and postcolonial times. Not only do the introduction and the sixteen chapters add new dimensions to the concept of exile and its use as a political tool, but they provide us with new interpretations and a better understanding even of well-known histories and well-researched crisis situations.

After reading this volume I was struck by how political exile has deeply affected Uganda over the centuries, even to the present day. This collection really stimulated my thinking about recasting Ugandan history in light of exile as a vehicle of power beginning with the early colonial “encounter” and continuing up into the postcolonial present. the brief survey I provide here of eight examples from Uganda where exile has been used as a political tool with dramatic and lasting effect foreshadows exile’s remarkable impact as demonstrated in the various chapters in this volume, stories that span the length and breadth of African time and place.

Hardly had the British government in 1894 accepted the area west and north of Lake Victoria as a new protectorate and enrolled it in the colonial empire before it was faced with Uganda’s perpetual challenge: how to turn this highly heterogeneous area with arbitrary boundaries into a functional state. Not least of the challenges was the presence of a number of kingdoms with their traditional rulers as heads of well-established hierarchies. When the colonial administration was faced with a rebellion from the Kabaka (king) of the leading kingdom Buganda they quickly turned to exile as a way of solving the crisis, and Kabaka Mwanga was deported to the Seychelles. Yet the amenities which were to be provided for him during his exile became a matter of controversy: Anglican missionaries strongly opposed the government’s concession of permitting four girls as his companions. Only after a compromise allowing Mwanga to be accompanied by two girls could he be sent into exile.

The Buganda issue haunted the British administration throughout the colonial period, and it came to a head in 1953 when, during the initial negotiations for Uganda’s independence, the then Kabaka Mutesa demanded secession and the full independence of Buganda. in response, the Governor returned to an old tool and deported the Kabaka to the United Kingdom. Once again a controversy regarding the “amenities” of exile unfolded as the missionaries opposed the Kabaka being accompanied by any women other than his lawful wife. Local protests enjoined the administration to allow the Kabaka to return after two years . . .

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