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'The Africans': An Insider's Non-western View

October 06, 1986|JUDITH MICHAELSON | Times Staff Writer

That comparison, made in the original production aired in Britain last spring, was "softened because of American sensibilities--the American side of the production," Mazrui said. "I'm saying there is a heroic side to Kadafi, that he has established his credentials on the world stage, and there is a bad side, the fickleness, not the fact that he supports radical Palestinians."

Is it good that Kadafi supports the radical Palestinians? "That depends on whether you agree with the movement," Mazrui replied. "He supports the radical Palestinians, the IRA (Irish Republican Army), some of these causes are worthy. . . . I don't like terrorism in places other than the battlefield."

But haven't radical Palestinians been terrorizing outside battlefields, Mazrui was asked?

His voice rose slightly: "We don't know that. We just have the United States' word for it. I don't take American evidence. I don't take that as gospel truth."

"The film," Cheney wrote, "moves from distressing moment to distressing moment." After Kadafi, "pictures of mushroom clouds fill the screen and it is suggested that Africans are about to come into their own, because after 'final racial conflict' in South Africa, black Africans will have nuclear weapons."

Does Mazrui consider that good?

"It's not something that can be contradicted by Mrs. Cheney," he replied. "The 1990s will prove whether I was right. . . . Actually, I'm against nuclear bombs, but I'm against them in the hands of anybody, not just blacks. I'm very uneasy Reagan can start a nuclear war, or (Soviet leader) Gorbachev. I want black Africa to have the bomb to frighten the system as a whole."

While Cheney claims that in the original proposal "many, many" interviews were promised with Africans of competing views, Mazrui disclosed that "a very solemn decision" was made not to have interviews in front of cameras. "Interviews," he said, "are inherently artificial events; we happen to be there. (And) we had interviews for research."

He contends that the humanities endowment should have known about his point of view "at the very beginning."

"At the time the application was submitted (in 1984 while Secretary of Education William J. Bennett was chairman) anybody who didn't know my views didn't want to read. I've written 15 books, hundreds of articles, including articles in the leading academic journals of the United States, American Political Science Review, World Politics. I gave lectures for the BBC, which were published here, and many of these same issues were articulated."

Toward the end of the series, Mazrui is shown teaching in a classroom at Michigan, and a student is asking: Who are the Africans, would the colonials be considered African too? Mazrui's answer is a definitive no.

"Living in a country doesn't make you a part of that country, doesn't make you belong," Mazrui said. "It wouldn't matter even if, theoretically, I lived a thousand years in this country," he would be, "psychically, a Kenyan"--an African.

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