The Political Relevance of Religion in Africa

Akaniobio Church, Old Calabar, Calabar, Nigeria, ca. 1900-1910
The Political Relevance of Religion in Africa - Kristina Kempkey


Religion is a subject academia often overlooks when it considers the origins of the modern African state. This paper aims to analyze religion’s role in shaping African society through its complex, political relationship with colonial administrations under indirect rule. In order to understand this historical process, the hegemonic-culture thesis is examined, critiqued, and applied to the case studies of Nigeria and Rwanda. Based on its findings, this study suggests that the hegemonic-culture thesis elucidates the process of state formation as manipulated by colonial rule, but cannot fully explain contemporary conflict because it fails to account for religion’s influence on the development of the African state and society.


Historically, the study of conflict in Africa has focused too narrowly on the politics of class and ethnicity, while neglecting to examine the link between the spread of religion and the evolution of modern political structures. Consequently, social scientists have downplayed religion by trying to demonstrate that it was apolitical or subsumed by ethnic politics.[1] The legacy of this literature in Nigerian academia, for example, has led some scholars to conclude that religious conflict was a new phenomenon that emerged in Nigeria after the 1980s.[2] By failing to examine the dynamic relationships between religion and society, this literature has failed to fully recognize religion’s important role in African history.

Recent scholarship has shown that struggles for political power in Africa have in fact entailed the manipulation of religious symbols and beliefs of both Islam and Christianity. Actors seeking political influence have used religion to gain legitimacy.[3] The relevance of this point for contemporary African states is important, for when “elites believe that their positions are threatened they fall back on the religious element, emphasizing religious differences in an attempt to draw sympathy from those of their original faith.”[4]

Accordingly, it is the goal of this paper to examine the role of religion in Africa before and during colonial rule. I propose to do this by: a) providing a summary and critique of David Laitin’s hegemonic-culture thesis, b) examining the cases of Nigeria and Rwanda to support my critiques of Laitin’s argument, and c) explaining the implications of Nigeria and Rwanda for those studying Africa or attempting to create policies for Africa.[5]

From this analysis, I will show that religion should be seen as its own institution and as a mechanism for gaining political power, both through the colonial native authority system and as an alternative route to it. In the cases of Nigeria and Rwanda, I will demonstrate how religion helped determine the trajectory of politics and societal relations. Furthermore, I will argue that the hegemonic-culture thesis more clearly elucidates the process of state formation as manipulated by colonial rule, but cannot fully explain the increasing religious polarization in many African societies because it fails to account for religion’s influence.

The Hegemonic-Culture Thesis

Building upon recent literature, David Laitin makes a significant contribution to the study of religion and politics by considering African society in Yorubaland.[6] Laitin theorizes inHegemony and Culture that tolerance in Yorubaland of religious differences is due to “British colonial rule which politicized one cleavage (between ancestral cities) while depoliticizing another (between religious groups).”[7] In this way, the British privileged the cultural identity of “ancestral city”[8] over religion in their administrative system of indirect rule.[9] The structure of an externally imposed hegemony[10] becomes the decisive factor in society, while political divisions are a function of the conflict within the framework of the privileged subsystem (i.e., ethnicity, race, or religion).[11] According to this theory, for example, political divisions in Northern Nigeria are religious because Islam was the privileged cleavage in Northern Nigeria.

A critical element in Laitin’s theory is that in hegemonic theory, the privileged cultural subsystem is maintained because it has embedded in it a commonsensical notion about practical life and political relationships. Therefore, “a new hegemonic bloc, including at least the reinvigorated elites along with the imperial bureaucrats, will have a joint interest in enhancing the role of the chosen cultural subsystem as the framework of ‘tradition.’”[12] Which cultural elites are chosen is a function of the degree of their legitimacy within the social structure and the hegemon’s perception of the society being ruled.

Finally, according to Laitin, mobilization within “non-privileged cultural subsystems,” or what he calls counter-hegemonies, is hard to achieve. According to his counter-hegemony theory, the system in which culture and hegemony operates is “one in which competing social forces with different interests vie to associate themselves with a cultural framework and to make their framework the relevant one to inform political discourse…Ideological competitors appear to be utopian or irrelevant.”[13] Only through complete political upheaval can this hegemonic system be overturned and replaced.

By extending Laitin’s thesis to Rwanda and Nigeria, however, it becomes clear that by limiting his analysis to “subsystems” privileged by the state, Laitin cannot adequately describe the significant influence of religion when it is not the dominant, hegemonic cleavage. Furthermore, Laitin’s “counter-hegemony” theory is not always applicable because he frames the discourse as a contest between hegemony and counter-hegemony, leaving out all other possible gradations of cooperation and contestation both within and between different subsystems. In this way, Laitin’s thesis is insufficient because it does not fully appreciate the dynamic role religion plays in forming society.


Tensions between religion, the state, and interpretation of religious doctrine for political gain existed for centuries before the advent of colonialism in Nigeria. Relationships between different subsystems were multivariate, rather than simply contested or collaborative. In the precolonial era, religion and the state were intrinsically entwined and formed, in part, the basis for identity construction.[14] Consequently, as argued by Muhammad Umar, “the relevant conclusion here is that, if viewed from both the perspectives of the colonizer and the colonized, colonialism emerges less as a unilateral imposition by the former over the latter, but more as an historical process of appropriation and counter-appropriation.”[15] These interactions have produced long-lasting ramifications for Nigerian society that are not adequately explained by hegemony or counter-hegemony theory.

The following two sections on Islam and Christianity demonstrate both the strengths and weaknesses of Laitin’s argument. On the one hand, the British had an alliance with the Muslim intelligentsia in the North while alienating the Christian intelligentsia in the South, supporting his theory. On the other hand, Christian missionaries in the South created a system where the Southerners were equipped with resources and skills that would allow them to capture political power through civil positions within the state structure. As Laitin aptly notes, identity became markedly rigid and politicized after the introduction of colonial rule. Limiting his observation to this main point, however, he excludes the crucial and dynamic role that religion played before, during, and after colonialism in each of these cases.

I. Islam and Nigeria[16]

Islam in Nigeria has played an influential role by: 1) politically privileging the “more advanced” Muslims over the pagan South according to a revamped Hamitic hypothesis,[17] 2) constraining the Northerners’ access to Western education and resources which ultimately had long-lasting effects on development in the North, 3) creating mistrust and antagonism between the Northern and Southern Nigeria colonial constructs, and 4) framing the politics of rebellion and protest in Northern Nigeria.

Prior to colonialism, Islam had a very close relationship with political power in Northern Nigeria.[18] Islamic identity was very fluid and not characterized by the rigid, static identities created by colonialism. By converting to the Islamic religion of their conquerors, for example, indigenous elites in Northern Nigeria quickly discovered that they could enhance their rank and position in society.[19]

By the seventeenth century, Islam had become well-established and political leaders enhanced their careers and interests by waging jihad and building Islamic schools whose education impacted the North’s social and political behavior.[20] During this phase, the taquia orders, characterized by a strong political character with sociopolitical and religious motivations, emerged.[21] In the nineteenth century, these orders produced Islamic leaders who used their political power to wage jihad to purify Islam and promote hadith.[22]

One of the most successful attempts to link political power and religion was the establishment of an Islamic state by Shayhk Uthman B. Fudi. In response to pagan rule, Uthman led a hijra(migration) of his followers from the Hausa state of Gobir while declaring jihad against the other Hausa states that he claimed were unbelievers. Through his efforts, Uthman created a loose federation of Islamic states, including Northern Nigeria and other non-Hausa lands. Usman’s jihad had tremendous support from Fulani pastoralists who were discontented with their exclusion from higher levels of government and wanted to establish the political power of the Hausa people.[23] While this new Islamic state entity incorporated many polities into a loose federation, it was by no means a unitary state and its emirs governed with a great degree of autonomy.[24] Thus, some scholars have argued that the political advantage enjoyed by Muslims during the colonial period was not just due to the colonial policy of indirect rule, but also to the “religio-political roles” that Muslim leaders had inherited from the precolonial days.[25]

It was on this federal system that the British introduced their indirect colonial rule. The British thought that the emirate system of the Sokoto Caliphate was the most efficient form of governance, so they co-opted the Caliphate and eventually extended Muslim rule over non-Muslim groups in the North. The North, in contrast to the South, was seen by the British as superior to other ethnic groups. Consequently, the lighter-skinned Fulani race was chosen to lead Nigeria,[26] echoing the Hamitic hypothesis myth prevalent across Africa. Since Islam was the religion of the Fulani, the British viewed it as superior to the paganism in the South. Consequently, the British privileged the North under their colonial political state structure.

Another important interaction between religion and colonial rule was the decision of the British to forbid the incursion of Christian missionaries into Northern Nigeria. The British feared that the attempt to convert Muslims into Christians would create a virulent backlash among the Muslim population and destabilize British rule. Muslims saw Christianity as “aggression and encroachment on Muslims and their religions. Christianity was associated with imperialism and foreigner intervention in the North.” This viewpoint has persisted and further polarized[27]Muslims and Christians and was one of the main causes of tension between them in Nigeria.[28]More importantly, this restriction of foreign missionaries in the North meant that while the British privileged the Muslims politically, the same Muslims were put at a disadvantage because they could not enjoy the access to civil service and economic advantages that Christian missionary education could bring them. This educational gap would later prove to be a source of antagonism between the North and South, as will be discussed later in this paper.

The British approach to Islam in Northern Nigeria, however, was not uniform or consistent, which becomes obvious when the practice of indirect rule is more closely examined.[29] Attitudes towards Islam were, in fact, greatly varied among individual colonial officials.[30] Although Lord Lugard believed that the spread of Christianity caused disorder among African societies, he also believed that Islam was susceptible to fanaticism. As such, it was crucial for the British to support and protect “good” Muslims over “bad” Muslims.[31] Consequently, the relationship between Muslims and the British was dynamic as well as interactive.

Thus, the relationship between Islamists and the British was more contextual than previous scholarship has suggested. According to Umar, there were four main responses of Muslim intellectuals to British rule: 1) invoking hijra to avoid armed confrontation with the British, 2) using the Islamic legal doctrine of maslaha[32] (among others) to argue that continued Muslim armed resistance to the British would be self-destruction, 3) invoking shahada (the belief in the oneness of God and acceptance of Muhammad as his final prophet) and Hausa beliefs of bravery which informed armed Muslim confrontation, and 4) actively seeking alliances with the British to take advantage of their military superiority.[33] Over time, the legacy of these dynamic interactions has been to provide an important ideological base for future resistance movements while framing both postcolonial rebellions and protest politics in the North.[34]

II. Christianity and Nigeria

Although Christianity’s history in Nigeria is not as old as Islam’s, its legacy is equally as important in terms of Nigerian state formation. While Laitin’s analysis is important, it proves too narrow and thus largely excludes the impact of religion in the South because Christianity is not the dominant subsystem. As I will demonstrate, this omission is critical to the development of the modern Nigerian state because Christian missionary “education was the most powerful and most influential missionary technique in Nigeria that still has long lasting ramifications for contemporary Nigeria.”[35]

Hence, apart from introducing Christianity to Nigeria, missionaries significantly impacted societal change in the country by creating an educational system that privileged the South over the North. This in turn created a state political structure dominated by Western-educated Southerners that was regarded with mistrust and trepidation by the North. This perception transformed Nigeria from a religiously peaceable federation to the more religiously polarized federation that exists today.[36]

Prior to colonialism, political and cultural identities in the South were relatively fluid and flexible, similar to those in Northern Nigeria. With the introduction of indirect rule, however, ethnic identities became the “privileged subsystems” in Southern indirect rule, creating more rigid and permanent political identities.

To Africans in the nineteenth century, Christian missionaries were no different from other European traders, officials, and soldiers. Like other Europeans before them, these missionaries became involved in politics and “thus religion was used to manipulate ethnic groups, and to acquire and consolidate political and/or economic positions.”[37] By adapting the “morals” of the colonizer, “one could obtain a guarantee for success and survival.”[38] Thus, religion and politics served as part of the motivation for mass conversions to Christianity.

Christian missionaries also used their influence to introduce the contemporary European idea of nation-building and to train a group of Nigerians who carried out these ideas as the seeds of Nigerian nationalism.[39] The most important consequence from this activity was the “huge historical southern head start over the North in virtually every aspect of modernization, including education, per capita income, urbanization, wage employment, commerce, and industrialization” due in large part to the Christian missionary activities which were modernizing and transforming forces in the southern half of the country, and to a lesser extent in the ‘Middle Belt’ of Nigeria.”[40]

Thus, Christian-educated Southerners dominated Nigeria’s civil service and the “economic arm” of the state while the Northern Muslim elite occupied the “political arm” of the state, due in large part to preferential treatment of Muslim intelligentsia by the British.

Social change in Nigeria initiated by the “Christian missionaries, though less powerful and less extensive in its immediate effects [than Islam], was more far-reaching in its ideas. This was largely because it pointed to the future rather than the past.”[41] As demonstrated earlier, the legacy of Christianity and its institutions created a system privileging the South over the North, thus aggravating the colonially imposed cleavage between the Muslim society of the North and the Christian South. The net result of religion’s influence on society, according to many scholars, has been to encourage political polarization while increasing the threat of religious conflict in Nigeria.[42]


According to Laitin’s hegemonic theory, one would assume that “race” would be the sole determinant of conflict in Rwanda, and religion would play a minor factor. As many scholars and studies indicate, however, Christianity played a crucial role in the Rwandan genocide. Although Christianity was not an official state institution, it was indeed politicized and a means by which groups in Rwanda gained political power. For these reasons, Laitin’s theory falls short. His analysis is limited to the hegemony of one cultural system over another and does not fully appreciate how different subsystems interact. Therefore, while an extension of Laitin’s analysis to Rwanda succeeds in pointing out that race was privileged by the colonial powers through indirect rule, it fails to capture: 1) the role of religion in racial-identity formation and indirect rule, and 2) the Church’s role in providing education and resources that translated into political power for both the Tutsi and Hutu. As Mamdani correctly notes, “After all, but for the army and the Church, the two prime movers, the two organizing and leading forces, one located in the state and the other in society, there would have been no genocide.”[43]

Without considering the role of religion in Rwanda, one would miss the historical origins ofwhy the Tutsi were deemed to be a superior race to the Hutu. As most scholars have acknowledged, the colonial powers did not institute in a vacuum native authorities and indirect rule throughout Africa.[44] Before colonial rule, however, Hutu and Tutsi identities were very loose constructs in which “the predecessors of the Hutu were simply those from different ethnicities who were subjugated to the power of the state of Rwanda. Tutsi, in contrast, mayhave existed as an ethnic identity before the establishment of the state of Rwanda,” while both groups came from a single community of Kinyarwanda speakers.[45] Additionally, before colonialism the Tutsi identity was “sufficiently porous to absorb successful Hutus” and the Hutu/Tutsi distinction could not be considered ethnic or even socioeconomic.[46]

Rather, colonial powers imposed their racial indirect rule on the basis of missionary interpretations of Rwandan societal structure according to the Hamitic hypothesis. As noted by Timothy Longman, “In Rwanda, missionaries played a primary role in creating ethnic myths and interpreting Rwanda social organization—not only for colonial administrators, but also ultimately for the Rwandan population itself. The concepts of ethnicity developed by the missionaries served as a basis for the German and Belgian colonial politics of indirect rule, which helped transform relatively flexible pre-colonial social categories into clearly defined ethnic groups.”[47]

I. Christianity and Rwanda

In Rwanda, Catholic missionaries had already determined that the Tutsi were a superior race to the Hutu based on the Hamitic hypothesis. In fact, the Church was the original ethnographer of Rwanda and the original author and proponent of the Hamitic hypothesis.[48] “While authority had been complex and diffuse in precolonial times, the Church had become the generator and stabilizer of class structures.”[49] Hence, colonial rule solidified identities and race because the “privileged subsystem” was ethnicity as determined by the Hamitic hypothesis. This is predicted by Laitin’s hegemonic theory.

It is important to note that it was the Catholic Church that created the social environment in which colonial indirect rule was superimposed over precolonial Rwandan social order. By working closely with the colonial administration, the Church legitimized and institutionalized the Hamitic myth and ethnic divisions.[50] Leading up to the genocide, the “official political use of the Hamitic Myth—and thereby the legitimating of a society divided along “racial lines”—was still generally supported by the Church of Rwanda.”[51]

Historically, just like the state, the Church was “used by competing indigenous groups as a channel to power, prestige, and wealth” in Rwanda.[52] As in Nigeria, access to the state meant political power and wealth. Therefore, missionary schools in Rwanda provided a significant avenue to power.[53] Additionally, the Church and state were intrinsically entwined as the state set the racial quotas by which the Church had to abide, while the Church controlled the provision of education and health care. Similar to the North-South antagonism in Nigeria, “Catholicism gave the added impetus to this crystallization of a sense of group oppression and resentment [of the Hutu] against the Batutsi [Tutsi] en masse.”[54]

Initially, the Tutsi minority enjoyed the benefits of missionary education and power within the Church and state bureaucracy. Just a few decades later, however, a newly sympathetic generation of Belgian missionaries and colonial administrators—spurred by what they perceived as injustice suffered by the Hutu majority[55]—would provide the opening for a Hutu counterelite to gain power and resources. Consequently, the Tutsi minority were unseated as the political elites in Rwanda. Because the Church was such an important actor in Rwanda, however, even though “the Tutsi were driven out of public office, they ‘would not let go of the Church’ as a channel for influence” as the Hutu dominated the public sphere and the Church became the biggest employer after the state.[56] Thus, most of the lower clergy were Tutsi, while the Hutu comprised the bishop caste.


Through my case analysis of Nigeria and Rwanda, I have argued that religion should be seen as its own institution and as a mechanism for gaining political power, both through the colonial native-authority system and as an alternative route to it. Struggles for political power historically have entailed the manipulation of religious symbols and beliefs in both Islam and Christianity. As such, actors seeking political influence use religion to gain legitimacy.[57]

As David Laitin theorizes, the hegemonic-culture thesis captures the impact of colonial rule on African society when one subsystem is privileged over another. Accordingly, Islam in Northern Nigeria is a major cleavage in society. Laitin’s gains in conceptual simplicity and clarity are offset, however, by the lack of scope and depth of his religious analysis. A closer examination of Islam in Northern Nigeria, for example, shows a dynamic and multidimensional history that is lost in Laitin’s analysis.

Additionally, Laitin’s model lacks the same utility when examining cases in which religion was not the privileged subsystem, such as in Rwanda and Southern Nigeria. The privileged cultural subsystem of Belgian colonial rule in Rwanda was race, not religion. The role of religion, however, was important because it acted as an alternative mechanism for the Hutu and Tutsi to gain access to resources and power outside the native authority structure, ultimately impacting Rwanda’s state and society.

In these two cases, I have shown that religion still plays a crucial role in determining the trajectory of politics and societal relations in both states. Religion and politics cannot be compartmentalized, as Laitin advocates. Consequently, any analysis of postcolonial contemporary Africa should use a multidimensional approach that considers religion.

This last point is of particular importance for both students of Africa and politicians creating policy for Africa. Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, there has been a tendency to regard religion as a new, modern movement with potentially dangerous implications for the international system, including Africa. This belief is misconceived. The danger lies not in a “resurgence of religion” in twenty-first century African politics, but rather in the radicalization of religion, particularly Islam, on the continent.

Religion in Africa has always been linked to some extent to politics and society, even before the advent of colonial rule. Prior to colonialism, however, religious identities were more fluid and malleable than the strictly defined categories that today’s religious extremists subscribe to. By dehistoricizing religion’s role in Africa, however, academics and politicians run the risk of seeing only part of the equation—radicalization of religion—while glossing over religion’s historical role in forming political structures. This is a risk that carries many critical implications, as radicalization is in part a reaction to these very same political structures. Therefore, as I have argued, it is imperative that any study of postcolonial Africa strive to not artificially decouple politics from religion. As Carl Schmitt cautions, “A religious community which wages wars is already more than a religious community; it is a political entity.”[58]

Notes & References

  1.  Iheanyi M. Enwerem. A Dangerous Awakening: The Politicization of Religion in Nigeria. IFRA, Ibadan, Nigeria: 1995. p. xi.
  2. Toyin Falola. Violence in Nigeria: The Crisis of Religious Politics and Secular Ideologies. University of Rochester Press. Rochester, NY: 1998, p. 7.
  3. Folala, p. 2.
  4. Casimir Chinedu O. Nzeh. From Clash to Dialogue of Religions: A Socio-Ethical Analysis of the Christian-Islamic Tension in a Pluralistic Nigeria. Peter Lang Press. Berlin, GER: 2002, p. 176.
  5. Although Laitin limits his analysis primarily to Yorubaland, he suggests that his theory will have explanatory power for other states in Africa. Therefore, his theory has important implications for the entire continent. Additionally, I have chosen Nigeria and Rwanda as my case studies for two important and different reasons. I chose Nigeria because when analyzed as a single unit, it demonstrates the strengths and weaknesses of Laitin‘s arguments; religion plays a key role in Nigerian society, regardless of its status as the hegemonic culture or not. I chose Rwanda, on the other hand, because religion’s role in shaping Rwandan society is largely underestimated when considering significant factors that led to societal breakdown during the 1994 genocide.
  6. The term “Yorubaland” is used to refer to the Yoruba-speaking areas within the present boundaries of Nigeria, specifically the Yoruba living predominately in Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, and Kwara states in southwestern Nigeria. For further elaboration, see David D. Laitin,Hegemony and Culture: Politics and Religious Change among the Yoruba. University of Chicago Press. Chicago, Il.: 1986 p. 243.
  7. Laitin, p. 154.
  8. An ancestral city is defined as “the city to which a Yoruba traces his family origins after the conquests of today’s Yorubaland by the descendents of Oduduwa, the mythical founder of the Yoruba people (Laitin, p. 109). The concept of ancestral city is not limited to the Yoruba, however, and is found in many other African societies as well.
  9. Direct rule under colonial administration distinguished between a political minority group (the colonizers) and a political majority (the colonized). Under direct rule, colonial society was separated into two racialized groups under one legal code (however riddled with discrimination it might be), thus turning race into the primary legal difference between colonizers and colonized. In contrast to direct rule, indirect rule treated colonizers and colonized as two distinct legal groups. Furthermore, indirect rule legally divided Africans according to ethnicity groups as well. Under indirect rule, African legal rights were dependent upon membership to an ethnic group classified as either “indigenous” or “nonnative.” Only those considered ethnically “indigenous” to the state could claim ethnic citizenship and thus a Native Authority as an ethnic home and enjoy both civic and ethnic citizenship; “nonnatives” could not. For further reference and explanation, see Mahmood Mamdani, p. 20-29.
  10. Hegemony is defined as “the political forging—whether through coercion or elite bargaining—and institutionalization of a patter of group activity in a state and the concurrent idealization of that schema into a dominant symbolic framework that reigns as common sense” (Laitin, p. 183).
  11. Laitin, p. 183.
  12. Ibid, p. 164.
  13. Ibid, p. 92-93.
  14. Folala, p. 5.
  15. Muhammad S. Umar, Islam and Colonialism: Intellectual Responses of Muslims of Northern Nigeria to British Colonial Rule, Koniklije Brill NV, Leiden, the Netherlands: 2006, p. 255.
  16. For the purpose of this paper, I will discuss Nigeria in regards to a “Muslim North” and a “Christian South.” Even though these categories might be too broad and not completely representative of Nigeria’s diversity—including the West and East—I have decided to use these terms because that is how the debate in most of the literature pertaining to religion and Nigeria is framed. Additionally, Laitin locates the Yorubas in the South (Laitin p. 8).
  17. The Hamitic hypothesis was a “widely held belief in the Western world that everything of value ever found in Africa was brought there by the Hamites, a people inherently superior to the native [African] populations.” For a more detailed historical discussion of the evolution of the Hamitic hypothesis, see Edith R. Sanders. The Hamitic Hypothesis: Its Origin and Functions in Time Perspective.
  18. John Hunwick, “An African Case Study of Political Islam: Nigeria,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. Vol. 524. Political Islam. Nov 1992: p. 143.
  19. Lissi Rasmussen. Christian-Muslim Relations in Africa: The Cases of Northern Nigeria and Tanzania Compared. British Academic Press. London, UK: 1993, p. 5.
  20. Falola, p. 25.
  21. Rasmussen, p. 6.
  22. Hadith is the term given to a statement, action, example, or affirmation attributed to Muhammad and considered to be an essential clarification and supplement to the Qur’an.
  23. Rasmussen, p. 7.
  24. Hunwick, p. 147.
  25. Rasmussen, p. 42.
  26. Enwerem, p. 24.
  27. Rasmussen, p. 32.
  28. Nzeh, p. 154.
  29. Rasmussen, p. 18.
  30. Jonathan Reynolds, “Good and Bad Muslims: Islam and Indirect Rule in Northern Nigeria,” The International Journal of African Historical Studies, Vol. 34, No. 3: 2001, p. 603.
  31. According to the British, the good Muslims were the Qadiriyya brotherhood who maintained a close relationship with the colonial state through indirect rule. This perception led the British to support the Qadiriyya and try to establish it as the basis of a regional Islamic orthodoxy. Many of the early resisters to British rule came from the Qadiriyya, but they were either deposed of their rule or decided that supporting the maintenance of the British rule was in their interests. On the other hand, the Mahdi sts, Sanusiyya, and Tijaniyya represented the “bad” Muslims (Reynolds, p. 605).
  32. Maslaha, meaning “public interest,” is a concept in traditional Islamic Law that is closely related to Istislah, or the pursuit of the public interest.
  33. Umar, p. 14-16.
  34. Rasmussen, p. 18.
  35. Nzeh, p. 174.
  36. Rotimi T. Suberu. Federalism and Ethnic Conflict in Nigeria. United States Institute of Peace Press. Washington, DC: 2001, p. 133.
  37. Nzeh, p. 174.
  38. As quoted in Nzeh, p. 170.
  39. J. Ade Ajayi. “Nineteenth Century Origins of Nigerian Nationalism.” Course Reader, p. 71.
  40. Suberu, pgs. 22-23.
  41. Ajayi, pgs. 70-71.
  42. Falola, p. 5. Rwanda. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ: 2002, p. 233.
  43. Mahmood Mamdani. When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism and the Genocide in Rwanda. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ: 2002, p. 233.
  44. Mahmood Mamdani. Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism, Princeton University Press. Princeton, NJ: 1996.
  45. Mamdani. When Killers Become Victims. p. 73-75.
  46. Ibid.
  47. As quoted in Bjornlund et al. The Christian Churches and the Construction of a Genocidal Mentality in Rwanda. Ch. 10 in Genocide in Rwanda: The Complicity of the Churches?. Carol Rittner et al. (eds.) Pargon House. St. Paul, Minnesota: 2004, p. 149.
  48. Mamdani. When Victims Become Killers. p. 232.
  49. Saskia Van Hoyweghen. The Disintegration of the Catholic Church of Rwanda: A Study of the Fragmentation of Political and Religious Authority. African Affairs. 1996, 95: p. 380.
  50. Matthias Bjornlund, Eric Markusen, Peter Steenberg, Rafiki Ubaldo. The Christian Churches and the Construction of a Genocidal Mentality in Rwanda. Ch. 10 in Genocide in Rwanda: The Complicity of the Churches? Paragon House. St. Paul, MI: 2004, p. 151.
  51. Bjournlund et al., p. 155.
  52. Van Hoyweghan, p. 380.
  53. Ibid, p. 80.
  54. Helen Hintjens. Explaining the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda. The Journal of Modern African Studies. Vol. 37, No. 2, 1999: p. 253.
  55. Bjournlund et al., p. 152.
  56. Van Hoyweghan, p. 382.
  57. Folala, p. 2.
  58. As quoted in Mamdani. When Victims Become Killers. p. 233.
KRISTINA L. M. KEMPKEY studies International Security Policy with a focus on Africa at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). Before attending SIPA, she was actively involved in African affairs, working in African development in Washington, DC and Nairobi, Kenya. Ms. Kempkey graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a B.A. in Political Science.