Blog entries from: African Arguments

African Arguments

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December 3 2014

From African Arguments Wed Dec 3 2014, 02:15:51

Fatima Akilu's office is located within a smart new building near the Nigeria's National Assembly in the capita city Abuja. The building houses the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) which is drawing up the Federal Government's non-military strategy for tackling the Boko Haram insurgency in the country's north east. Akilu, a softly-spoken academic with international experience, has been brought in to design and run the country's first ever Countering Violent Extremism Programme. This is a sophisticated and research-based attempt to understand and address the causes and effects of the insurgency. It is clearly needed. Whilst I have been in Nigeria there have been three large Boko Haram attributed bombings in the north, the last of which targeted the Central Mosque in Kano, and ...

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December 2 2014

From African Arguments Tue Dec 2 2014, 12:56:45

Turkana, Kenya's poorest county, is once again experiencing a spate of violence. The situation in Turkana, and Kenya more widely has become so bad, that John Githongo, a highly esteemed whistle-blower of regime malfeasance, has called it a "security meltdown... unprecedented in Kenya's independent history". Writing in the Star, Githongo suggests that collapsing public confidence in Kenya's internal security apparatus has in part been driven by the government's mishandling of badly needed security and policing reforms. Instead of following through on reforms that should have come after Kenya's successful 2010 plebiscite, President Uhuru Kenyatta has, instead, increasingly turned to the military to address violence. Githongo notes that Kenya has descended into the absurd, where ...

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From African Arguments Tue Dec 2 2014, 08:50:15

Sudanese social media has been buzzing about a video poem by Sara Elhassan, a retort to a Sudanese professor who claimed that most Sudanese women were ugly. For Making Sense of the Sudans, Elhassan explains what the episode reveals about Sudanese society. On October 13, 2014, I performed a spoken word piece, titled Video Response, at an open mic event in Khartoum. The performance was recorded and uploaded to YouTube, along with other pieces that were performed that night. In the weeks that followed, Video Response received a staggering number of views, and sparked a fascinating response of its own. But first, some background. In June, I was tagged in a Facebook video post by a cousin, with a message that read, "I thought you should see this". The video was a clip from a program aired on ...

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December 1 2014

From African Arguments Mon Dec 1 2014, 02:04:00

A shopping centre in Harare's smart northern suburbs demonstrates the dichotomies in Zimbabwe ahead of a critical ZANU-PF national congress scheduled for early December.  A regional fast food chain displays a massive sign bearing the Zimbabwean flag, proclaiming that Chicken Inn has "that original Zimbabwean taste we luv (sic)."  The establishment competes with a new KFC franchise, located just on the other side of the parking lot, proudly bearing the image of Colonel Sanders. The indigenization versus liberalization struggle is mirrored in the political realm, too. Internal divisions in both major political parties threaten the recent economic success that enabled the return of international establishments like KFC to Zimbabwe following nearly a decade of hyperinflation. ...

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From African Arguments Mon Dec 1 2014, 01:00:54

When politicians, fund managers and development professionals look to highlight the success of democratic Nigeria, they typically point to one, key statistic: when the military stood down in 1999 after an almost unbroken generation in power, per capita income in Africa's most populous state was USD1,940; by 2013, under civilian rule, it had leapt to USD5,360. Growth in GDP has been robust, foreign reserves are up (on the precarious levels of 1999, although currently under pressure as revenues drop), debt is down, telecoms and banking have boomed. The international media regularly contrasts Nigeria's vibrant private sector in the South with the apocalyptic brutality of the Islamist insurgency that has been sweeping the North-East of the country. A rather less heralded statistic associated ...

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November 27 2014

From African Arguments Thu Nov 27 2014, 14:23:29

Abuja - It's harmattan time in Abuja - a hot, dry wind from the sahara blows through the city and stirs up the dust, bringing a haze to the air. Nigeria's capital, constructed under military rule in the 1980s, is a place designed for the car and not one that is easy to get to know. You drive from meeting to meeting without really getting much of a sense of place or atmosphere. The rooms are air conditioned, the conversations (depending on the interviewee) often repetitive and sprinkled with acronyms: PDP, APC, BH, INEC et al. I am here to scope out contributors and ideas for our new 'Nigeria Forum'; an analysis project that is building towards the elections in February 2015.  A week is not nearly long enough to get to know the scene. But it gives me a chance to meet a variety of ...

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November 26 2014

From African Arguments Wed Nov 26 2014, 07:07:25

The party congress of Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)'s, an electoral exercise  whose main purpose was to reinvigorate the party in preparation for the 2018 elections, has come and gone. Much of what happened was conveyed by the headlines in local newspapers; 'Tsvangirai emerges weaker from the Congress,' 'Without Unity, MDC is fighting a hopeless cause', and  'Did the MDC-T Congress enhance 2018 electoral chances?'. Often, a sad, dithering photo of Morgan Tsvangirai, the party leader, accompanied such headlines, completing the media's suggestion that the opposition group is a cause that continues to retreat. As the MDC's congenital failure, Tsvangirai's retention as leader has not gone down well with some sections of the party's traditional ...

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From African Arguments Wed Nov 26 2014, 01:27:41

Yet another international donor conference on Somalia. "A history of broken promises" might have been a rather more appropriate title for the Ministerial High Level Partnership Forum (HLPF) which was held in Copenhagen on 19 and 20 November. The conference was intended to review progress against Somalia's New Deal Compact endorsed in Brussels in September 2013 and chart the way ahead to the implementation of Vision 2016. This "blueprint for action" entails three main threads, the "democratic formation" of regional interim administrations and Federal States, the revision and adoption of the Constitution and the holding of national elections in 2016. The goals are ambitious, but they seem to be contained within a floating bubble. Blown by the international community, the bubble is ...

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November 24 2014

From African Arguments Mon Nov 24 2014, 03:00:34

In filthy camps for the displaced, thatched huts in half-forgotten villages, and Juba's proud new concrete buildings, South Sudanese are waiting. As the rainy season peters out, and the deadlines rush to expiration, everyone wants to know whether a meaningful peace agreement will be signed. Alongside the sort of optimism born of desperation, there is also the fear that the squabble over power, and other issues, will lead to renewed heavy fighting. Can leaders from both sides overcome their differences, their desire for revenge, and their overwhelming need for power? If not, if the war rumbles back to a heightened state of intensity, if thousands more are killed, and hundreds of thousands more displaced, there must be consequences. Already the US and the EU have imposed sanctions on ...

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November 23 2014

From African Arguments Sun Nov 23 2014, 07:23:15

Oh the irony. In 1982, Cyril Ramaphosa, presided over the establishment of one of South Africa's largest trade unions, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). Exactly thirty years later, Ramaphosa, in his capacity as board member of Lonmin PLC, presided over the worst state violence against civilians since apartheid, many of whom were NUM members, when police shot and killed 34 miners during the wildcat strike at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine. Ramaphosa, currently the deputy president of South Africa, has a long history as a firebrand trade unionist, skilled negotiator and senior member of SA's ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC). He was a key figure in South Africa's transition to democracy in 1994. So how did Ramaphosa turn into a millionaire businessman with substantial ...

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