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Timothy J. Stapleton


In British colonial Nigeria, the military was more heterogeneous than previously thought and British ideas about “martial races” changed depending on local reactions to recruiting. In the early twentieth century British officers saw the northern Hausa and southwestern Yoruba, who dominated the ranks, as civilized “martial races.” The Yoruba stopped enlisting given new prospects and protest, and southeasterners like the Igbo rejected recruiting given language difficulties and resistance. The British then perceived all southern Nigerians as lacking martial qualities. Although Hausa enlistment also declined with opportunities and religious objections, the inter-war army developed a northern ethos through Hausa language and the northern location of military institutions. The rank-and-file became increasingly diverse including northern and Middle Belt minorities, seen by the British as primitive warriors and as insurance against Muslim revolt, enlisting because of poverty. From 1930, military identities in Nigeria polarized with uneducated northern/Middle Belt infantry and literate southern technicians.

The Rise and Demise of the Boys’ Company

From Coup Makers to a Footnote in Ghana’s Political History

Humphrey Asamoah Agyekum


Graduates of Ghana's defunct Army Boys’ Company, a specialized military training institution for boys, participated to varying degrees in all five successful coups in the West African country. Most significantly, their prominent role in the coups of 1979 and 1981 catapulted them into the heart of the Ghanaian political arena. They thus became political actors; a position with far reaching consequences for the Boys’ Company. Coups in Ghana have received considerable academic attention. However, the focus of this body of literature tended to be on the coup leaders with rarely any attention for the soldiers who facilitate the power seizures by conducting the fighting. This article addresses this lacunae by assessing how the so-called “ex-Boys” radicalized politically, while bringing to the fore their experience at the Army Boys’ Company and in the military. Additionally, the article scrutinizes the conditions that led to demise of the Boys’ Company.

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Special Issue on New Perspectives on World War Two In West Africa

Enock Ndawana and Mediel Hove


This article examines the role of traditional leaders during Zimbabwe’s war of liberation. Contrary to the generalisations that traditional leaders and their subordinates were either absolutely supportive of the liberation war or were against it supporting the Smith regime, this paper uses the case of Buhera District to demonstrate that traditional leaders and their subordinates contributed in various ways to Zimbabwe’s war of liberation. Guided by a combination of primary and secondary sources, the article argues that traditional leaders were in a dilemma because they were victims of the contending forces. However, they employed various survival tactics as they faced equally dangerous conflicting forces who put them in complex, ambiguous and contradictory relationships. The article concludes that the strategies and tactics employed by the Rhodesian Security Forces and the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army guerrillas had debilitating effects on traditional leaders and their subordinates during the liberation war.

“What Are They Observing?”

The Accomplishments and Missed Opportunities of Observer Missions in the Nigerian Civil War

Douglas Anthony


Three separate observer missions operated in Nigeria during the country’s 1967–1970 war against Biafran secession, charged with investigating allegations that Nigeria was engaged in genocide against Biafrans. Operating alongside UN and OAU missions, the four-country international observer group was best positioned to respond authoritatively to those allegations, but problems with the composition of the group and its failure to extend the geographical scope of its operations beyond Nigerian-held territory rendered its findings of limited value. This paper argues that the observer missions offer useful windows on several aspects of the war and almost certainly delivered some benefits to Biafrans, but also effectively abdicated their responsibility to Biafrans and the international community by allowing procedural politics to come before commitment to the spirit of the Genocide Convention.