1 + 2 trends to watch out for in African politics in 2012

The (by now not so much) new year always provides a good opportunity to lift our eyes from the detailed aspects of our day to day and embark on broader analysis, general reflections and compilations of what will be important for the starting year – both personally and professionally. In many ways this is a totally arbitrary decision for in fact dynamics, movements and trends do not know anything about calendar years, and what was important a few months back will in all likelihood continue without disruption. So, taking the time to reflect on what may be important in 2012 is in fact partly taking note of what has been recently happening and is likely to continue. Sigue leyendo

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It’s that time of the year… On Africa’s eleven top posts in 2011

The end of the year brings with it all sorts of compilations, lists and summaries of the good, the bad and the ugly of the year that’s coming to an end. And On Africa is no exception to this – see here the top-10 stories of 2009 (in English and in Spanish/español), and the ten photos that summarise 2010 (although without photos 😦 since the links broke when I transferred from Maneno to WordPress earlier this year and I have not fixed it yet…).

This year, I have compiled a list of the most viewed original posts written this year (according to WordPress). What this means is that the list excludes posts written in the past (the post most viewed this year is this one on Conguitos, a politically incorrect Spanish brand of sweets, written in march 2010). Also excluded are those posts that serve as self-promotion for pieces published for other media but to which I have made reference here.

So, whilst technically incorrect, the list makes this up in relevance, for these posts reflect better some of the most important news and stories in the African continent and beyond; with some exceptions – South Sudan independence, the war in Côte d’Ivoire (both these stories have op-ed pieces devoted to them and can be viewed on the “Other Work” section), as well as cultural notes. What is there includes: Zambia’s presidential election, Bin Laden’s death, Kenya’s invasion of Somalia and the “Arab spring” among others…

Enjoy these stories, leave below any comments you may have, and have a wonderful festive season and end of the year and beginning of 2012! Sigue leyendo

The Role of New Media and Communication Technologies in Arab Transitions – new paper

Last week FRIDE published the policy brief titled “The Role of New Media and Communication Technologies in Arab Transitions”. It is my latest publication for FRIDE; in this case, and given that it deals with a topic outside my geographical area of expertise, it is co-authored with Barah Mikaïl, FRIDE colleage and expert on the Middle East and North Africa.
Below is the abstract of the paper, and the full document can be dowloaded by clicking here.
I hope you find it interesting, and if you have any comments, please post them below. Sigue leyendo

Zambia’s presidential election – a reflection on the power of silence

Following the September 20th presidential and pegislative elections, Michael Sata (a.k.a. King Cobra) has become the new Zambian President (here’s his inauguration speech, delivered on Friday 23rd). Sata’s victory, standing on the opposition party ticket of the the Patriotic Front (PF), constituted a surprise to most observers (although not all) who had predicted that the incumbent Rupiah Banda of the MMD would benefit from the “uneven playing field” that characterises the country’s electoral process.

In reflecting on the reasons why the PF was able to ovecome the challenges that stood ahead of them, Jack Hogan writes on the African Arguments website:

One slogan more than any other has dominated Zambia’s 2011 elections, the PF’s ‘Don’t Kubeba!’, or  ‘Don’t Tell!’. It lies at the heart of the PF’s seemingly successful campaign to negate the benefits of incumbency enjoyed by the MMD. It appeared on posters, on the lips of cadres and at rallies. Dandy Krazy’s ‘Donch Kubeba’ (with appropriate shushing dance move) has been one of the most popular tunes heard out and about during the last two months. In essence, it encouraged voters to take the chitenge, maize meal, oil, or even bribes offered by the government, even attend the rallies, but not feel they couldn’t vote against them anyway. As a way of upholding the secrecy of the ballot, and running a campaign against an opponent with resources far in excess of your own, it is a risky, but clever strategy. Indeed, the EU Observer Mission stated that unequal access to resources meant a “level playing field” was distinctly lacking during campaigning. Despite this, it appears “Dont Kubeba!” paid off. (Emphasis added)

This strategy was not only extremely intelligent, but also contains an important reflection, in my view. These are times dominated by new Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs), from mobile phones to social networks. Tools we all (including myself) praise as a powerful way to bring social change, or at least help to create alternative narratives and mobilisation opportunities. More information, and the ability to share and communicate this, will help to bring political transformation. And yet, in the Zambian case it has been precisely the opposite strategy, one of silence, which has unleashed the power of the Zambian people in voting for a change of government (something possibilitated also by Banda’s acceptance of defeat, something that unfortunately cannot be taken for granted in other African cases). In an era of abundant information and a myriad of communication channels, it has been a strategy built deliberately on remaining silent, that has proved successful in bringing about political change. Something to relfect on, I think.

But before that, have a listen to “Donch Kubeba”, which is also a great song and a prime example of “kombi music” (it was my girlfriend who came up with this label, to refer to the music commonly heard on Southern Africa’s public transport system). Enjoy!

27 year old Oxford graduate wants to be Kenya’s next President – will she succeed?

27 year old Kingwa Kamencu has just launched her bid to become Kenya’s President in next year’s elections.
Kamencu, a poet, winner of the Kenyatta Prize for Literature in 2007, was awarded the Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford in 2009. Now, the self-described “driven, passionate, intense, seeking soul” wants to become Kenya’s next (and first female) President.
And over 3,000 people support her Facebook group.

Taking the plunge greatly deserves an applause, and I wish her best of luck. The question is, on a notoriously fierce political arena like Kenya’s, does she stand a chance?

To help you decide, have a look at her recent interview with Citizen TV.

Supporting Africa’s new civil society: the case of Kenya (Nairobi Notes part II)

Never actually got down to finish posting more entries after my visit to Nairobi back in April/May. One of the reasons for this was that, among other things, I was busy putting together some of the insights I got during the visit and the interviews I has there into a publication for FRIDE. This was centred of the role wich new technologies are playing in helping a new “generation” of activists and organisations promote better governance and push for democratic consolidation.This is the teaser:

Supporting Africa’s new civil society: the case of Kenya

The spread of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and other socio-economic dynamics are contributing to the formation of a new Kenyan civil society. This includes potentially key drivers of democratisation which remain largely invisible to donors. International actors need to re-examine their engagement with civil society in order to support these emerging organisations which may be essential to achieve real democratic consolidation in Kenya and the rest of Africa.

The policy brief,  was finally published a couple of weeks ago, and I passed it on to some people on Twitter and via email;  some got back with their views. This is for example what Robert commented:

  • You need to take note that this years budget will have 13% component of external borrowing (from 5-10% component in the policy brief). Institute of Economic Affairs does provide concise info on the economic front. This is their site
  • Bunge la Wananchi is certainly something we need to watch out. i would be interested to know if they will be competing in next elections under independent candidates. I have had discussions with some of their members BUT I tend to think there are some of them who have socialist ideals. Hope you have contact on that end. I would be interested to know what is their end game
Recently also the new Kenyan Open Data Initiative platform (which I mention on the brief but assumed would take longet to be up and running to be up and running) has been launched, which has generated plenty of comment from White African & Kenyangriot among others. These are extremely exciting times regarding ICTs and governance in Kenya, so  I woud be extremely interested to get any comments on the policy brief, or ICTs generally from Kenyans and other people interested on the topic of new technologies.
The full text (pdf) of the policy brief “Supporting Africa’s new civil society: the case of Kenya”, can be accessed here.