Author Archive

Nic Cheeseman

Professor Cheeseman is Associate Professor in African Politics and a former Director of the African Studies Centre. He works in the field of comparative politics with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa and processes of democratization. Nic has just stepped down from being the joint editor of African Affairs. In January 2016, he became the founding Editor of the Oxford Dictionary of African Politics and the founding Editor in Chief of the Oxford Encyclopaedia for African Politics, both published by Oxford University Press. Professor Cheeseman also writes a regular column for the Sunday Nation, East Africa’s most widely read newspaper, and is the founder of Democracy in Africa, a website dedicated to fostering an online community of people that are interested in, and care about, the state of democracy in Africa.

Building democracy is a long-term project. It is also a frustrating one. Years of a painstaking process can lead to only a tiny step forwards. A moment of madness can set the process back decades. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in Egypt, where the hope and optimism of the Arab Spring has already turned to despair and fear. New democracies and foreign powers that support them often ignore this point. When opposition parties win power, they usually take little care to deliver on their promises. Donors such as the United States and France invest vast amounts of money in supporting elections but sometimes forget that this can be meaningless if they do not defend democratic principles along the way.

In July 1962, Tom Mboya set out his vision of the new nation in a speech as powerful and heartfelt as any other in Kenya’s history. Delivered to the bedrock of colonial society, the white settlers in the Kenya National Farmers’ Union, Mboya observed that “to date, our people have been dragged through history”. He promised: “Henceforth, we will write our own history.” What history have Kenyans written? This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of Kenyan independence from British rule. To mark the occasion Kenya’s Daily Nation – the largest newspaper in East and Central Africa with a circulation of over 200,000 – published a front page article written with my long time co-author Daniel Branch that discusses 50 events that have shaped Kenya since independence.