“At a time when the scholar, dedicated to excellence, has spread wings and taken flight, the public intellectual has turned into a government-linked consultant or an agitator in the ranks of the Opposition,” Prof Mahmood Mamdani, the Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR) director, said on Tuesday.
This was during the commemoration of the 57th anniversary of Transition Magazine at Makerere University.
The magazine, founded by Ugandan-Indian Rajat Neogy in 1961, featured articles of various authors such as Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Ali Mazrui, Christopher Okigbo, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Tom Mboya and Julius Nyerere.
It was banned in Uganda in 1968 and is currently published at Harvard University in the United States.
Prof Mamdani said today’s intellectual focusses on abuse of power or the brutal silencing of Opposition – whose energies are invested totally in regime change that the intellectual has little time to reflect on larger social issues.
Other speakers who bemoaned the state of intellectualism on the continent included; Makerere’s Deputy Vice Chancellor for academic affairs, Dr Okello Ogwang, African Centre for Media Excellence co-founder Bernard Tabaire, Dr Laury Ocen, a former MISR post-doctoral fellow and Dr Benedetta Lanfranchi, a research fellow at MISR.
Dr Ogwang said the magazine deserves credit for, among other things, providing a platform and occasion for heralding a new mode of critical debate about African literature.
Its founder, Rajat Neogy, died in 1995 aged 57 in the US, but his daughter Tayu Neogy, who spoke briefly on Tuesday, said “even when he died, Uganda remained his home.”