Ken Olende

Boko Haram: Nigeria's Islamist Insurgency

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A number of people have written recently trying to explain the growth of the Islamist group known as Boko Haram in northern Nigeria. Many over-simplify the issues involved.

Virginia Comolli goes out of her way to avoid making wild generalisations, but that sometimes leads to equivocating about events.

Nonetheless, the book is rich in facts, background information and details of earlier writing on the crisis.

From Kinshasa

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Kinshasa is the capital of the long suffering Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and From Kinshasa is the latest remarkable music to emerge from it. It is a startling mix of innovation and tradition. The music is recognisable yet new. The album’s cover shows a spaceman in Kinshasa exploring new places and new soundscapes. His suit is a patchwork created from recycled materials.

Given how long DRC has suffered under colonialism — Cold War dictatorship and one of the world’s most brutal and least known wars — the quality and breadth of music it has produced is astounding.

African Titanics

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The people who risk their lives on the African Titanics, the barely seaworthy boats that set out to bring migrants across the Mediterranean to Europe, are rarely seen as individuals.

But some of their perspectives are brought to life in this novel, newly published in English. Author Abu Bakr Khaal is from Eritrea, the east African country that provides a disproportionate number of the people who risk death on the seas to get to Europe.

Africa Uprising

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Africa Uprising examines recent political uprisings in sub-Saharan Africa. It places them in the context of existing, and sometimes forgotten, traditions of resistance.

Its authors lament, “Again and again protests across Africa seem unable to effect substantive reforms in national politics despite their success in bringing tens of thousands of people onto the streets.” They describe protest movements in Nigeria, Uganda, Ethiopia and Sudan.

Cugoano Against Slavery

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Ottobah Cugoano was one of the three leading black activists fighting slavery in late 18th century Britain. Though he published his book before Olaudah Equiano and Ignatius Sancho became known, he is little remembered today. So it is timely that Martin Hoyles has produced a biography which places him in the context of the international struggle against the Atlantic slave trade.

New spin on same old story

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Ken Olende demolishes the new arguments put forward by liberal commentators about the "dangers" of immigration, and the intellectual cover they give to right wing ideas over race.

BBC political editor Nick Robinson's programme, The Truth About Immigration, was the latest step in a concerted attempt to redefine the "liberal" agenda on immigration.

Two recent books, Britain's Dream by David Goodhart and Exodus by Paul Collier, try to stake the same ground with more intellectual clout. Both are dreadful and shallow.

Goodhart is director of the Demos think-tank and former editor of Prospect magazine. Collier is an Oxford professor and former advisor to the World Bank. All three deploy similar arguments in favour of controlled immigration.

Black Against Empire by Joshua Bloom and Waldo E Martin Jr

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Published by University of California Press, £24.95

Given that the Black Panther Party marked the high point of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements, it may seem odd that this is the first serious history of the organisation.

Many of the party's leaders have produced fascinating and valuable memoirs, but this excellent history puts them in context.

Huey P Newton and Bobby Seale founded the organisation in Oakland, California in 1966. They were angry that so many people talked about the legacy of Malcolm X, but weren't prepared to pursue the revolutionary logic to the armed overthrow of the state.

Call me Kuchu

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Directors Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall


Release date: 2 November

This gripping new documentary follows a group of Ugandan LGBT activists as they campaign against an attempt to push an anti-homosexuality bill being pushed through the east African country's parliament in 2010 and 2011.

Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda. The new law would punish anyone who did not report LGBT people and would introduce the death penalty for "aggravated" homosexuality. The film focuses on campaigner David Kato, the first out gay man in Uganda, and chief organiser for the somewhat unfortunately named SMUG (Sexual Minorities Uganda).

Brown Skin, White Masks

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Hamid Dabashi

The anti-colonialist writer Frantz Fanon's first book was a howl of outrage called Black Skin, White Masks, published in 1952. It explored the psychology of colonial subjects who came to identify with their oppressors.

Hamid Dabashi has written a new howl of rage with Brown Skin, White Masks against these "native informers".

A Small Act

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Director Jennifer Arnold
Release date: 15 April

This documentary celebrates how sponsoring the education of a child in a poor country can change their life. Usually this kind of story reeks of self-righteous "do-gooding" and repels me, but A Small Act avoids the worst pitfalls and is genuinely moving.

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