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Regional Specialization: East Africa


Admission requirements

Free and compulsory for students enrolled in the RESMAAS program and for students of the 1-year MA African Studies. Those from other MA programs and exchange students may be admitted with prior registration (contact coordinator).


East Africa is here defined as the region stretching from Eritrea to Tanzania, and from the coast to the Western Rift and the borders of Sudan. In many ways a contrast has to be made between “East Africa proper”, (Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania) and the Horn, including Ethiopia and Sudan. Geographically, it is characterised by the juxtaposition of areas of high agricultural fertility, often but not always in the mountains, with areas which can only be exploited through extensive pastoralism. The deep history of the region was notable for the co-existence, not necessarily easy, of Kingdoms (Buganda, Ethiopia) with extensive statelessness, among both agricultural and pastoralist groups. In addition, questions of slavery, both in terms of the external slave trade and of the establishment of a slave society in East Africa itself, shaped much of the region’s history and its relationship with the extra-African world. The great diversity of religious experience within the region has also proved a source of conflict. The level of colonial exploitation also varied sharply, with the Ethiopian kingdom largely escaping formal colonial domination. Nevertheless, the “Nile Question” dominated, and still dominates, much of the region’s political economy. In terms of modern politics, the prime focus of analysis has been with regard to the accommodation of ethnic diversity, which has frequently led to warfare.

Course objectives

The course provides knowledge about the region in terms topics:

  • historical processes

  • current events

  • canonical studies

  • recent trends in research agenda’s


Mondays 12.30-14.30

Mode of instruction


Course Load

  • The course comprises 10 EC and the total course load is thus 280 hrs

  • 36 hrs of these will be spent attending lectures (6 lecture of 2 hrs x for 3 regions)

  • 4 hrs will be spent in planning examination papers, determine topics, guidance on the structure and presentation

  • 100 hrs to be spent on studying compulsory literature: 100 pages literature per week

  • 140 hrs for writing a final paper

Assessment method

The final mark of the course is established by assessment of a paper submitted at the end of the course.
If a student fails to attain a pass on the basis of the paper evaluation, a second chance will be offered to rewrite the paper and resubmit for evaluation.


Course information and documents are made available for registered students via blackboard. Students submit the final paper via Blackboard and instructors place feedback and evaluation using this tool.

Reading list

A list of compulsory and recommended literature is provided via Blackboard.


Enrollment through uSis for the course and the examination or paper is mandatory.


Azeb Amha
Academic Coordinator
P O Box 9555, 2300 RB Leiden, NL
Tel. +31-71-527-3364


  • Among the instructors listed above, Prof. Pels will be the course instructor and he will streamline the link among the various guest lectures, evaluate students’ papers and provide feedback on their essay.

  • It is expected that students read assigned literature before class and actively participate in the discussions.