Discover more from This Week in Africa
This Week in Africa
September 1, 2023
Quote of the week
“It’s almost impossible to undo a coup once it’s happened. Former colonial powers like France, regional bodies like Ecowas or countries like Nigeria have been exposed as very weak in their efforts to push for anything to be undone. They’re becoming very predictable. It’s what I call déjà coup.” – Kholood Khair, director of the Confluence Advisory think-tank in Sudan
Coup in Gabon
Gabon experienced a coup this week, days after incumbent president Ali Bongo Ondimba was declared winner of Saturday’s disputed election. He removed term limits in 2018 to extend his rule. With the spate of coups across the region, African generals are newly emboldened to take power, especially as citizens are frustrated by incumbent regimes and France’s “neocolonial” presence. And, because they are more effective than they were in the past. Despite this, Yousra Elbegir argues that these coups should not be mistaken for “people power.” Coup leader Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema is Bongo’s first cousin, after all. But the coup leaders do have popular support. Nanjala Nyabola asks: Are you getting something better or simply trading one oppressor for another? Here is a summary of what has happened. Lionel Essima explains the triggers behind the coup. Ken Opalo provides this excellent explainer, suggesting that Gabon has a possible path toward democratization.
The Bongo family has run the country since 1967: Omar Bongo was president from 1967 until his death in 2009, when son Ali Bongo took over. Over the years, he has signed sweetheart deals with many countries, including France. Howard French explains the role that France played in Gabonese politics, undermining democratic elections and popular legitimacy. Le Monde calls for France to pull back from its African commitments. Analysts are wondering: Is Cameroon’s Paul Biya next? How will France respond?
Ali Bongo and his family have been pilfering the country for decades. They own real estate in the US, France, and Canada that is worth more than $40 million. The head of the Gabon coup, Brice Clotaire Oligui Nguema, bought three properties in Maryland for over $1 million, mortgage-free. This is a remarkable story of Bongo’s relationship to singer James Brown. And, remember the time Bongo wanted his family to have a snowy Christmas?
President Bongo now appeals for international support from house arrest. Ryan Cummings tells it like it is: “The irony that the only way Ali Bongo could get this appeal out to the world was because the military who overthrew him turned on the internet which he had switched off to facilitate electoral fraud.” In recent years, Bongo tried to use conservation efforts and sustainability policies to draw support from the West, a tactic that some have called “green authoritarianism.” He auctioned off the country’s rainforests for carbon credits (which would be essentially worthless). Professor Lee White is his Minister of Forests. Coup proofing didn’t and doesn’t work.
Building fire in Johannesburg
A devastating building fire in Johannesburg’s Central Business District killed at least 70 people yesterday. The “hijacked building” was overtaken by squatters, and operated as an informal settlement. The lack of shelters and affordable housing contributed to the growth of these hijacked buildings. Many of the residents are migrants searching for work, as the buildings are “inexorably linked to the currents of history that precipitated its downfall.” Ramaphosa declared, “It’s a wake-up call for us to begin to address the situation of housing in the inner city.”
Nigeriens struggle with daily life after the coup. Protesters rally to demand French withdrawal. The junta tries to strengthen its grip on power. Gilles Yabi explains how Niger’s coup is having a major impact internationally.
Coups in Africa
The international community is failing with its coup responses. Hannah Rae Armstrong argues that Washington should push for mediation, not military intervention. Nate Allen discusses the role that African-led peace operations could play. Ken Opalo explains how Ghana escaped the coup trap. Ebenezer Obadare discusses the rise of the gangsta militariat.
Flawed election in Zimbabwe
Emmerson Mnangwa was announced victor in Zimbabwe’s election. The country is accused of holding an election full of irregularities. The flawed election ensures that its pariah status endures. Even Zimbabwe’s neighbors questioned the legitimacy of the polls. Diana Højlund Madsen and Shingirai Mtero argue that women continue to be sidelined in Zimbabwean politics.
Migration and displacement
What can Africa learn from the rest of the world about migration? The United States knew Saudi Arabia was killing African migrants. Tunisia’s migrant challenge is a microcosm of the global challenge of migration.
Struggle for rights and freedom
Violence in Burkina Faso continues to get worse, as recent military coups have exacerbated the insecurity. These are four good reasons for Kenya to decriminalize homosexuality. A man in Uganda faces the death penalty after being charged for “aggravated homosexuality.” Don’t get excited about the RSF’s peace proposal in Sudan. Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan has reshuffled her cabinet leading up to civic and general elections. Is civic space getting more constrained?
Learn more about the East African community’s language problem. Uganda’s succession crisis is fracturing its ruling regime. CDD-Ghana publishes this important report “Democracy Capture in Africa (Benin, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria).” Sudan’s treasures are in the line of fire. Here is what you need to know as South Sudan is gearing up for its first election. This is a helpful summary of Nigeria’s recent election. The bitter legacy of the war splits Ethiopia’s church. Liberia has experienced twenty years of “negative peace.” Andrew Harding writes a fond farewell to South Africa. Will the EU and its members stand for justice in Ethiopia?
Africa’s rapid urbanization
Check out this new World Bank Report on creating sustainable cities in Sierra Leone. This article examines adaptive governance in Mathare, Nairobi. This piece discusses qualitative research in urban planning and design. Cape Town’s taxi strike exposes a highly unequal city and the legacy of Apartheid. This startup is building sustainable houses in Senegal. This is what we need to do to deal with the rise of informal settlements across the world. The influx of diaspora returnees hikes the cost of living for Ghanaians. The UN issued this report on inclusive policies to end homelessness.
The violence of slum photography.
This is cool: Kristof Titeca’s Nasser Road: Political Posters of Uganda. Get a copy of the Routledge Handbook of Contemporary African Migration.
Learn more about pastoralist politics and election violence in Kenya’s north. Daniel Paget explains why people care about how many people attend rallies. This APSR is awesome: “Drinking Tea with the Neighbors: Informal Clubs, General Trust, and Trustworthiness in Mali.” This article examines the political legacy of the Marikana massacre. James Musonda examines the role of music and gatekeeping in Zambia’s Patriotic Front. This is an interesting article about belonging in Zimbabwe. Check out Andy Harris and Peter van der Windt’s “Empowering women or increasing response bias? Experimental evidence from Congo.” Thalia Gerzso examines judicial resistance during electoral disputes in Kenya. Eric Kramon’s “Candidate Debates and Partisan Divisions Evidence From Malawi’s 2019 Presidential Elections” looks great.
The week in development
Play-based teaching improves childhood education in Ghana. Tunisians brace for a grim fall. How not to do development: Nigeria’s train to nowhere. This is an interesting documentary about elderly care. China’s Africa strategy shifts from extraction to investment. Egypt and Ethiopia resume negotiations on the Nile Dam. Political instability is costly. The Gulf of Guinea nations discuss maritime security.
Africa and the environment
The Africa Climate Summit is a chance to accelerate climate development solutions. Here is what to expect at Africa Climate Week. Children have the right to sue nations over climate. Dubai Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook Al Maktoum leads a scramble for Africa.
All the best,
Jeff and Phil