The Role Of African Intelligentsia & Intellectuals/”Class Struggle Revisited”

sainey-fayeBy Sainey Faye

The role of the intelligentsia in the post Independent Africa is one that needs to be dissected, to better see how and why intellectuals behave the way they do; with regards to regimes and/or governments. Why a class of would supposedly highly educated workers join any train wagon, undemocratic — or, say even outright despotic. In his book “Class Struggle in Africa”, Kwame Nkrumah notes that ‘In Africa, as in Europe and elsewhere, education largely determines class. As literacy increases, tribal and ethnic alliances weaken, and class divisions sharpen”. In the early days of the Independence era, it was not difficult to see them infused in the anti-colonialist pro Independence Movements. Some were genuine; whilst others were opportunists — plain and simple. Indeed, the true and genuine revolutionary intelligentsia worked hard in raising the level of political consciousness.

The struggle to dismantle colonialism was a peoples struggle and an ideological one, the lack of understanding this has been one fundamental problem in achieving victory quickly over colonialism and settler colonialism. We later learned, as others have done that unless you change the ideology of a society you can never change that society. There are those on the other hand, who had joined the struggle for personal aggrandisement and selfish motives; which is now a carry over to the present post-independence period. It  got even worst  in these past decades, when they take leading roles in managing and micro-managing despotic regimes, undemocratic and dictatorial self-styled/self-imposed government. I will spare you the laundry lists of such regimes; for any informed person can name them endlessly. There are sellouts to any cause, especially political liberation in a neo-colonial era; where the lines may not be clearly defined. No wonder it is hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. Of these, Nkrumah further notes “The intelligentsia always leads the nationalist movements in its early stages. It aspires to replace the colonial power, but not to bring about a radical transformation of society. The object is to control the system rather than to change it.

But intellectuals are probably the least cohesive or homogenous of elites. Most of the intellectuals in the U.S.A.; Britain, and in Western Europe belong to the right. Similarly, the aspirations of the majority of Africa’s intellectuals are characteristic of the Middle class. They seek power, prestige, wealth and social position for themselves and their families. There is what may be described as an esprit de corps, particularly among those who travelled abroad for their education. The cohesiveness of the intelligentsia before Independence disappears once Independence is won.”

The intelligentsia and intellectuals he notes; “if they are to play a part in the African revolution must become conscious of the Class Struggle in Africa, and align themselves with the oppressed masses’. Right now, there seem to be too many sell outs teleguiding regimes that are hindering progress throughout the continent; and there numbers are growing exponentially; given the mass education/miseducation that this computer age university systems are spewing out ….half baked, medium, and rare. Now anyone, anywhere can earn enough credits online in most any field to join the club of the University educated elites; without ever setting foot on a college or university campus. Thanks to the online university colleges; their numbers are up and up and up ….just have some bucks and you’re good to go. THE ROLE OF THE MILITARY IN AFRICA Ask any African on the continent what he/she thinks about the military’s role in national development , and the majority would answer (1) Brutality , (2) Counterproductive (3)Outlived its usefulness (4 ) Obsolute.The late  Kwame Nkrumah, a victim of a military coup himself had this to say about military Coups d’état in his book” Class Struggle in Africa.” ” Coups d’état are forms of struggle the objective being the seizure of political power. Though carried out by a special organ of the state apparatus seemingly isolated from society, they reflect class interest and are part of the class struggle. They do not change the nature or content of the struggle, they only change its form. The politico-economic and social situation is in essence unchanged.” Africans and their allies in Asia , Latin America, especially the majority of the down trodden masses of the poor are testimony to what a few ; or rather handful of indigenous peasants and workers in uniform calling itself armed forces can do to a nation — any nation including Gambia. But, we may also need to ask and understand how and why Coups take place; and the effects and impact they have on our lives and Democratic institutions. Nkrumah sums it thus ”When neo-colonialist coups take place, members of the armed forces, the police and the bureaucracy work together. This is not to say that they necessarily sit down together and plot coups, though this has sometimes been the case. But they have common interests and each needs the other. Bureaucrats alone cannot overthrow a government; and the military and police have not the expertise to administer a country. Therefore they combine, and bring about a state of affairs similar to that which operated in colonial times, when the colonial government depended on the civil service, on the army and police, and on the support of traditional rulers.” Military coups occur after a country gains independence from its colonial masters, or during what is commonly called the post-Independence period. Africa alone does not have the monopoly share of military coups in the world. All territories of colonial empires of Europe, be they in South East Asia, Asia Minor,  all of South and Central America (otherwise known as Latin America); have had their share of military coups. They all have experienced, to name a few brutal and atrocious killers like Idi Amin, Thieu, Bao Dhai, Pinochet; these men created pain, suffering, carnage, never before seen in the twentieth century on a helpless poverty stricken people. How do military dictators gain the power and audacity to usurp power from a constitutionally elected government? Osagyefo notes that “In almost every case where a coup has taken place there has been no mass participation. The rank and file of army and police are from the peasantry. A large number are illiterate. They have been taught to obey orders without question. While to obey orders without question is a fundamental requirement of the ordinary soldier in most professional armies, it becomes extremely dangerous when those in a position to give orders serve the interest of only a small privileged section of society. It means that the rank and file soldier or policeman can be used to bring about, and maintain, reactionary regimes. In this, the ordinary soldier who is after all only a worker or peasant in uniform, is acting against the interest of his own class.” Interestingly though, the military in England, France, Portugal (she tried it briefly in the 70’s) but was short lived, the people sent them back to barracks; cannot usurp power. Likewise the U.S.A., but they can, and have in Africa, Asia, and South & Central America and elsewhere. In all these, especially Africa, the role of the intelligentsia and intellectuals acting as willing and unwilling collaborators with regimes inflicting pain and suffering, economically, politically, and physically, on the masses of people is something that makes us wonder why they continue to sell their souls for a mess of pottage. May be, we might need to revisit what Nkrumah wrote in “Africa Must Unite”, which is: “Africa needs a new type of citizen, a dedicated, modest, honest, informed man [and woman] who submerges self in service to the nation and mankind. A man [and woman] who abhors greed and detests vanity. A new type of man [and woman] whose humility is his [her] strength and whose integrity is his [her] greatness.



  1. As we prepare to go to Mohamed’s mosque PBUH in the next 7 hours, I do not need to listen to the Imam’s sermon as Imam Sainey Faye has already delivered one. The Gambia is an amazing country, small yet with great minds scattered all over the world. Looking at the map of Africa one tend to see the Gambia as the mouthpiece of Africa right below the nose (Dakar) Loll!
    Yaya Jammeh is sick, very sick both physically and mentally. He needs a car to go to his own mosque at State house and needs a chair to sit in to pray. He cries so often that soldiers around him wonder why is he crying so much. There are four Cuban doctors residing at State House keeping relays around his bed. Yaya is very sick for the past few months. Since he is fake and pompous, he tries to showcase healthiness and statesmanship for few minutes and go back to bed extremely tired. Throughout his recent slave farming activities in Kanilai he never showed up in public.
    GOD is showing Jammeh that He is in control of people’s health and sickness as well as life and death. People will continue to do what they have to do as well.
    Since today is Prophet Abraham’s day, a day of fear and hope for prophet Ismael, I thank GOD for making it a HAPPY day for Muslims.
    AJJ Jammeh said he has a SURPRISE message for Gambians and the world at large, we are eager to hear him yet again. My prayers to him is to offer for the first time in his 21 years rule of our motherland a simple phrase “I am sorry for all the wrongs I did to Gambians and other citizens, I will not contest the next presidential election in 2016”. If he does GOD and Gambians will feel it.
    Jammeh should learn a lot from his mentor Blaise Compaore and General Diendiere who thought that the gun is GOD. Today Diendiere ask for FORGIVENESS in the eyes of the world after one week of showcasing his foolish pride. Man made the gun and not the other round. Will Jammeh take heed? We will know in few hours time.
    As we Muslims prepare to THANK GOD yet again, I wish the world, justice, equality and PEACE. The land is wide and the wealth abundant only the greedy is not satisfied.
    May our Master Osagyfo, Kantamanto, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah RIP.

  2. The scramble and colonisation of Africa did the most damage to the Africa political evolution and progress in my opinion and this is uptill now manisfested in the western world’s vague policies and continental relationship efforts in Africa and this is a fact sadly, most African intellectuals, especially those of them in the diaspora with international appointments, wouldn’t want to feature in any African political discourse but bypass it.
    Would Gambia’s political resolve be where it is now if have had oil and diamonds and etc.,?…….the answers is definitely ‘NO’. Many noses would have been stucked in there by now.

  3. “The struggle to dismantle colonialism was a people’s struggle and an ideological one, the lack of understanding this has been one fundamental problem in achieving victory quickly over colonialism and settler colonialism.” Sainey Faye
    I can’t agree more Sainey. True talk. No wonder some University of Gambia lectures praise sing President Jammeh like they are ignorant buffoons.

  4. What most people fail to understand in these forums is that, anti-colonial opinion and opposition to the technogically and democratically advanced west, with regards to their policies and and activities in Africa, in a general African perspective, are only featured in our dictators’ ARGUEMENTS as a method of drifting attention from their wrathful deeds. This however, in my opinion doesn’t mean that the ordinary African, politically opposed to western countries’ policies and activities in Africa are pro-dictatorship.
    Perhaps Mr. Sainey himself would be wiser than thinking everybody is going to absolutely agree with his opinions. It is some Gambian’s swelly-headedness that they see the Gambia’s political resolve in a Gambian and general African perspective.
    To the benefit of the curious, perhap me and many online here have never had a serious classroom education but I think Mr, Faye himself is aware of that fact and I would even like to convince him that, in half a century’s time, we will need more laboratories and workshops than classrooms. I have never had a doubt in the intellectualism of my fellow countrymen but what we are all trying to put together here for the good of all Gambians and Africa is; to decorate and uphold that ‘INTELLIGENTSIA’ with the will power of selflessness, honesty and consideration of others in every step we take.@ Kumba, I hate praise singing as a child. I have blamed our cultures, beliefs and mentalities for our backwardness and praise singing is definitely one of those. Most of ideologies that Jammeh pretends to preach and imitate now,were not only preached but were acted upon by leaders like Thomas Sankara. You just need to decode the coded home hypocricy to understand why Jammeh fakes away with irrelevancy in his addresses and speeches. I have lived almost all my life in the west but I agree to the fact we need the tower control operators and the university lecturer in the Gambia rather than shutting them up. ‘Jammeh must go’ don’t just mean we have a popular global viewpoint as Gambians. In search of best ideals, we therefore, must be able tolerate profound reasoning likewise superficial one. You don’t have and idea @ Kumba but I know Mr. Sainey does.