Rawlings, Sankara, Ghaddafi, and Nasser: Soldiers as Intellectuals, Nationalists, Pan-Africanists, and Statesmen

Sabella Abidde's picture
Call for Papers
May 30, 2021
Alabama, United States
Subject Fields: 
African History / Studies, Area Studies, Black History / Studies, Middle East History / Studies, Political Science

Rawlings, Sankara, Ghaddafi, and Nasser                                       

Soldiers as Intellectuals, Nationalists, Pan-Africanists, and Statesmen

Editors: Sabella Abidde, Ph.D. and Felix Kumah-Abiwu, Ph.D.


In the annals of modern African political history, four soldiers and coup plotters -- Jerry Rawlings (Ghana), Moammar Gaddafi (Libya), Thomas Sankara (Burkina Faso), and Gamal Abdel Nasser (Egypt) -- were rarities. They were at once intellectuals, nationalists, pan-Africanists, and statesmen. Their exceptionality is the reason for this edited volume. For more than four decades, beginning in the early 1950s through the tail-end of the twentieth century, Africa was the bastion of military coups bested perhaps only by Latin America. These sudden and extralegal overthrows of governments were so routine that many came to view coupists as unprofessional and unpatriotic members of the military that were ill-equipped to govern modern states and their various institutions. 


Nonetheless, there were exceptions to the typical: soldiers who transformed their immediate communities and, by extension, the continent. While the military’s role in politics is still a subject of intense debate in the scholarly/public domain, it is indisputable that some of Africa’s former military leaders went on to become icons and respected leaders of their time. The aim of this paper, therefore, is to examine why and how Rawlings, Gaddafi, Sankara, and Nasser became rarities in African and world politics. It also seeks to understand their enduring legacies -- how their lives and policies continue to impact the African psyche and worldview. Of the four personalities, Thomas Isidore Noël Sankara – a Marxist–Leninist – was the most enigmatic having spent fewer years in office. He was assassinated at a relatively young age of 37 in 1987.  Nonetheless, thirty-four years after his murder, he continues to capture the imagination of several generations across the continent. Jerry John Rawlings was larger than life: Charismatic, brilliant, and an excellent orator. He successfully transited from a military head of state to become a civilian president of Ghana in 1993.


Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar Gaddafi was for most of his life universally known as Colonel Gaddafi. Not only was he in office the longest (42 years), but he was also the most reviled by the western media and capitals. His overthrow and assassination were, by some accounts, encouraged and endorsed by some western capitals. Gamal Abdel Nasser was the prime minister (1954-56), and later the president of Egypt (1956–70). His priority was the sovereignty of Egypt, then the Arab world. In later years, he turned his attention to Sub-Saharan Africa where he found a kindred spirit in Kwame Nkrumah (one of the giants of Pan-Africanism).


How did these men -- Rawlings, Sankara, Ghaddafi, and Nasser -- shaped and influenced the African world? What made them different from all the other soldiers who staged successful military coups on the continent? What was their leadership style and legacy? What do we know about their personality, intellect, ideology, and commitment to the emancipation, growth and development of the continent? What were the criticisms against these men? We know some, but there are much more we do not know about them. Hence, we invite scholars and public intellectuals to contribute chapters to this book project. While we have suggested topics, we also invite prospective contributors to submit abstracts on topics that are not listed – especially if such topics fall within the overall theme of this project. The suggested topics are:



  1. The African Military: The Colonial and Post-Colonial Years - An Overview
  2. Civil-Military Relations in Ghana and Burkina Faso – A Comparative Assessment
  3. Civil-Military Relations in Libya and Egypt – A Comparative Assessment
  4. A Survey of Military Coup D’état 1953-2021





  1. Jerry John Rawlings: A Concise Biography
  2. First Era of Jerry Rawlings as a Military Leader (June 4th, 1979): A Critical Analysis
  3. Second Era of Jerry Rawlings as a Military Leader (1981 to 1993): A Critical Analysis
  4. Third Era of Jerry Rawlings as a Democratic President (1993-2001): Ideology and Leadership Style



  1. Thomas Sankara: A Brief Biography
  2. Thomas Sankara In the Eyes of France
  3. Thomas Sankara: Ideology and Leadership Style
  4. Burkina Faso: Thirty-Four Years Later



  1. Muammar Gaddafi: A Brief Biography
  2. Muammar Gaddafi: The Soldiering Years, Revolution in Africa/and the Arab World
  3. Colonel Gaddafi: A Pan-Arabists, A Pan-Africanist, or both
  4. NATO and Libya: A Decade of Instability and Unrest



  1. Gamal Abdel Nasser: A Life, A Biography
  2. Egypt in Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Years
  3. Gamal Abdel Nasser: A Hero in Africa and the Arab World
  4. Egypt and the Arab World: Five Decades After Nasser



  1. Please submit a 300-350-word abstract plus a 150-250-word biography (About the Author) by 30 May 2021. You will be notified of acceptance or rejection of your abstract by June 15, 2021
  2. The completed chapter, 8000-9000 words (including notes/references) is due on 30 November 2021. Information regarding the publisher will be transmitted later. For formatting/citation, please adhere to the Chicago Manual of Styles (Chicago: Endnotes/References, no intext-citations)
  3. Please send your abstract, contact info, and inquiry about topics to Sabidde@gmail.com and please cc the coeditor at fkumahabiwu@gmail.com



Sabella O. Abidde is a professor of political science and a member of the graduate faculty at Alabama State University. He is an interdisciplinary scholar with an MA in political science from Minnesota State University, and a Ph.D. in African Studies, World Affairs, Public Policy and Development Studies from Howard University. His scholarship includes published volumes on Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Dr. Abidde is the author/editor/co-editor of several publications including Reflections on Exile and Migration: African Scholars and Intellectuals in North American Academies (Routledge, 2020); and African Migrants and the Refugee Crisis (Springer, 2020). He is a member of the Association of Global South Studies (AGSS); the Caribbean Studies Association (CSA); the Latin American Studies Association (LASA); and the African Studies & Research Forum (ASRF).


Felix Kumah-Abiwu is an Associate Professor at the Department of Pan-African Studies at Kent State University. He is also the Founding Director of the Center for African Studies at Kent State. He received his Ph.D. in Political Science from West Virginia University. He also studied at Ohio University and the Legon Center for International Affairs and Diplomacy (LECIAD), University of Ghana. He is the author of The Dynamics of U.S. Narcotics Policy Change: Implications for the Global Narcotics Regime (2012). Dr. Kumah-Abiwu’s scholarly articles have also appeared in the Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs (The Round Table), Journal of Pan African Studies, West Africa Review, International Journal of Public Administration, Journal of Economics/Sustainable Development, Journal of Men’s Studies and Commonwealth & Comparative Politics.

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Dept of History and Political Science

Alabama State University

Montgomery, AL 36104

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