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This Week in Africa
August 5, 2022
Quote of the week
“What about ordinary Kenyans or that’s too much to ask?” – W. Gyude Moore
Kenyans go to the polls on Tuesday to select a new president, as well as elect representatives for other offices (Governors matter a lot!). For president, Raila Odinga faces off against William Ruto and two others. The election is tense and competitive, as the candidates campaign to enthusiastic crowds. They are even cleaning toilets and cutting vegetables to attract voters. Women candidates face an especially difficult time in their races. This is what is at stake.
Three critical questions will determine the presidential election. Ethnicity will matter less than it has in the past, while rising costs and debt burdens dominate policy discussions. A handshake between Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta in 2018 has shaped the race, and changed Odinga’s homeland. The election might be won in Mount Kenya—or in Nakuru County. Some youth are making a political choice not to vote. Volunteers are keeping the election sweet in sugar country. Droughts may keep some herders in the north from voting. A wild-card candidate is sparking an African debate about cannabis. A murder still haunts the poll. Regional neighbors are watching the election very closely. Meanwhile, Facebook is not doing a good job of detecting hate speech, and has even created ads based on it. Kenya says it will not shut down the site. This is why dangerous content thrives on social media.
What role might the media play in the polls? Does the climate impact the elections? Will the elections lead to change? Get up to speed on the political dynamics of the election with these five posts, as well as these ones. Here is a good background piece. For broader context, check out Kathleen Klaus’ Political Violence in Kenya: Land, Elections, and Claim-Making, Jeremy Horowitz’s Multiethnic Democracy: The Logic of Elections and Policymaking in Kenya, and Mai Hassan’s Regime Threats and State Solutions: Bureaucratic Loyalty and Embeddedness in Kenya.And follow these experts.
Senegal’s legislative elections
Senegal held legislative elections this week. Key opposition figures Ousmane Sonko and Barthelemy Dias were disqualified, leading some to worry that president Macky Sall might attempt a constitutional coup to run for a third term. The governing party and the opposition both claimed victory, leading to a political deadlock. Stay tuned for this test to the country’s democracy.
Brutal beating in Italy
A man brutally beat Nigerian street vendor Alika Ogorchukwu to death in a seaside town in Italy. The killer used the disabled man’s crutch to beat him.Witnesses stood by and did not intervene. The episode has sparked outrage in the country—and across the world. Videos of the attack circulated across the media.
Floods in Uganda
Shutting down New Frame
South Africa’s left-leaning news publication New Frame announced it was shutting down this month, prompting many to wonder what happened. The funding model was never sustainable and was never a workable proposition. It was a messy demise.
Struggle for rights and freedom
This is interesting: Constructing peace in a pre-colonial African state. Police fire tear gas on anti-Junta protesters in Sudan. Learn more about the refugee women of the Cabo Delgado conflict. This map shows where violence against civilians occurred in Nigeria between 2020-2022. UN peacekeepers open fire in DR Congo, causing many casualties. 50 years ago Idi Amin expelled the Indian community from Uganda. This event examines conflict and displacement in a changed world. This is how Nigeria is getting out the youth vote. Protests against the military government shut down Guinea’s capital.
This piece makes sense of Burundi’s former leader Nkurunziza by analyzing his speeches and worldview. This is why the ANC has failed to dismantle a system of white privilege. Xenophobia is going mainstream in South Africa. This panel discussion does a good job of breaking down the main factors. Ghana’s anti-LGBTQ+ bill is blamed for recent attacks. Learn more about the Gold Coast abolitionist who helped expose British anti-slavery hypocrisy.
Ethiopia’s civil war
New evidence emerges of atrocities in Tigray. The war is undoing the success that the region has made in regreening. Tigray athletes’ victories at the World Championships should shine light on the Tigray atrocities.
African international relations
A new scramble for Africa pits the West versus Russia. The US-China rivalry is undermining efforts to address Africa’s debt. Mark Wentling discusses restructuring US assistance in Least Developed Countries. This piece unpacks the power plays over Western Sahara. It is a very fragile peace. Ghana’s president Nana Akufo-Addo says reparations for slavery and colonialism are long overdue. Kenya’s elite talk about American power in the past tense.
Africa’s rapid urbanization
South Africa’s incredible inequality—in photos. Kampala Capital City Authority is considering returning hawkers and vendors to the city. Learn more about slum upgrading in Freetown. Kigali is on the path toward green, climate-resilient growth. This is a good post on social service delivery and planning in Harare. This is a cool project on energy justice for the urban poor. Private vehicles are still a menace in Ghana. The importance of place and being present.
Check out AbdouMaliq Simone’s interesting article about the spaces of urban collective identity. This article examines lockdowns and boda bodas in Kampala. This is a cool article on the temporalities of migrant men in Zimbabwe waiting at a border-transit center. More on the development of Accra here: “A Shadowy ‘City of Light’: Private Urbanism, Large-Scale Land Acquisition and Dispossession in Ghana.” What are the political factors underpinning urban reform in African cities? Is co-production a “good” concept?
Check out the World Cities Report 2022.
Who and what is policing for in Nigeria? Akali Omeni answers this question in Policing and Politics in Nigeria: A Comprehensive History. This looks good: On the Frontiers of the Indian Ocean World: A History of Lake Tanganyika, c.1830-1890. Get your copy of WhatsApp and Everyday Life in West Africa: Beyond Fake News. Peacemaking and Peacebuilding in South Africa: The National Peace Accord, 1991-1994 is out.
Macartan Humphrey’s article “Political violence and endogenous growth” is out. Karen Ferree explains choice and choice set in African elections (summary thread here). Make sure to read this special issue on “Arrival at the margins.” This is an interesting article about left-behind older adults in northern Ghana. Check out this special issue on precarity in Africa. Learn more about security and trade on African borderlands. How do citizens assess clientelistic practices in South Africa?
The week in development
Ukraine finally ships grain. Angola awards $333m contract to improve Congo rail link. Creditors give Zambia assurances for $1.4 Billion IMF deal. Basic water services in South Africa are in decay after years of progress. A generation of Nigerian students is stranded. Kenya needs fair taxation for economic justice. Ghana’s sovereign bonds have lost half their value. Funding for African startups is surging. What went wrong in Burundi? Did dependency theorists really ignore culture?
Some good news: Healthy life expectancy in the African region has increased on average by 10 years per person between 2000 and 2019.
Africa and the environment
Congo peatlands are bigger than we thought. Famine in Madagascar is an alarm bell for the entire planet. Water stress is a global problem that is getting worse. African countries push for rich nations to help continent’s climate transition ahead of COP27. Resource and geospatial diversity could mitigate climate-induced risks in Africa’s power systems. What would an integrated approach to climate security and peacebuilding in Somalia look like?
NoViolet Bulawayo’s new novel Glory is an instant Zimbabwean classic. Superstars Sadio Mané and Mo Salah eclipse African football at home. Cycles of perpetual movement. The story of Eko Kitchen. This secondhand market is at the heart of Ghana’s fashion revolution. Netflix unveils its African originals for 2023, including Wole Soyinka’s ‘Death and The King’s Horseman.’ What a lending library in DC!
RIP Akin Mabogunje.
All the best,
Jeff and Phil