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. Seguir leyendo

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! Seguir leyendo

15-0 united for #globalchange & Fela’s anniversary today!

Today, thousands (millions?) of people will go out to the streets in over 190 cities in 82 countries to demand political change and a system that puts people over profit. Here’s a video showing some of the protests that have already taken place this year, and giving you an idea of why today is important:

I will be attending the Madrid demonstration this afternoon and afterwards, if there is energy, may go to this tribute concert to Fela Kuti, whom today would have turned 73.
Fela was not only a great figure for African music, but also a political mind, who fought for the same reasons people are out on the streets today!

Here’s a 1978 Berlin performance of «Cross Examination»

Hip-hop: soundtrack of the revolution

Kilifeu and Thiat, members of Senegalese hip-hop band "Keur Gui of Kaolack" (Source: Africanhiphop)

This is Lara Dotson-Renta in “Hip Hop & Diaspora: Connecting the Arab Spring” at the Arab Media & Society online journal (h/t Africa Is a Country):

From the outset, these [Arab protest] movements have been accompanied by a very strong musical component, from troubadours in Cairo’s Tahrir square to the adhans uniting in both faith and protest. Yet it has been hip-hop that has become the most iconic and widespread soundtrack of the Arab Spring and, interestingly, it is having the double effect of helping to mobilize activists in the countries directly impacted by the pro-democracy movements while also solidifying links between Arab diasporic communities in the West with those still residing in the ‘homeland.’

And in today’s news (from the BBC):

Prominent Senegalese rapper Omar Toure, who is a vocal critic of President Abdoulaye Wade, has been arrested. […]
The police did not give reasons for the arrest of Mr Toure, who is popularly known as Thiat.
He spoke at an opposition rally on Saturday to urge Mr Wade not to run for re-election next year.
Several opposition leaders joined his fans outside the main court in Dakar to demand his release, our reporter says.
They said the arrest was the latest sign of growing intimidation in Senegal in the build-up to elections.
Mr Toure is a member of the We’ve Had It band.
In January, he helped launch the Enough is Enough movement, which is galvanising youth to register for the elections.

#20july protests in Malawi

It’s winter in Africa south of the Equator, but the temperature in Malawi, Southeast Africa, feels more like Spring, particularly that of the recent Arab pedigree. The Malawian air is rife with tension and anxiety over what is expected to be a clash between civil society and the Malawi government on Wednesday, July 20th. Civil Society activists have set that date as a day for the beginning of a series of mass demonstrations aimed at expressing their displeasure with the Malawian leadership.

Steve Sharra has a great backgorunder in Global Voices.

And you can follow the protests on Twitter, using this list curated by @dadakim

UPDATE – 21 july 2011

More pictures here

Yesterday’s protest ended up in violence as police tried to stop protesters in te cities of Lilongwe, Blantyre and Mzuzu. It has been reported that at least 11 people have been killed.

President Bingu W Mutharika’s address to the nation this morning has called for peace but neglected the reasons behind the protests (see speech and angry and disappointed comments here)

Tunisia, Egypt, and ¿Sudan? Don’t bet on it…

Things are moving at such an unbelieveable speed in North Africa and the Middle East, that it is difficult to keep up with events – let alone calmly think about them, dissect them, and try to extract a lesson. So it seems even more impossible to predict what will happen next, either in the countries where protests have already toppled governments (Tunisia), or look about to (Egypt), or in those vulnerable to future unrest.
On this last category we find Sudan. With the international attention focussed on the South of the country, the Al-Bashir regime now faces urban protests in Khartoum, and today, #SudanJan30 has been marked on the claendar by online activists as the day to go out on the streets, as Global Voices reports. Also, a website – Jan 30 Sudan – powered by Ushahidi has also been set up to follow the protests.
Just a few days ago, Hassan Al-Turabi, one of the country’s foremost opposition figures was arrested after calling for called a «popular revolution» if the Sudanese government did not reverse price increases, and pointing at similarities between Sudan and Tunisia.
Heavily armed police patrol Khartoum’s main streets beat and arrested students in central Khartoum [Reuters]
Following the call to protest, today a number of protesters went out on the streets and were met by the police:

Hundreds of armed riot police broke on Sunday up groups of young Sudanese demonstrating in central Khartoum and surrounded the entrances of four universities in the capital, firing teargas and beating students at three of them.

Police beat students with batons as they chanted anti-government slogans such as «we are ready to die for Sudan» and «revolution, revolution until victory».

There were further protests in North Kordofan capital el-Obeid in Sudan’s west, where around 500 protesters engulfed the market before police used tear gas to disperse them, three witnesses said.

«They were shouting against the government and demanding change,» said witness Ahmed who declined to give his full name.

The question then is whether this – as in Tunisia and Egypt – could lead to more and more protests, and whether this could threaten Al-Bashir’s position. Hypothesising on this, Khalid Mubarak, thinks this is not likely:

Will the Sudan undergo a violent intifada similar to the Tunisian or Egyptian uprisings? That is highly unlikely, for the following reasons:

1- Uprisings happen as a result of suppression. The democratic transformation brought about by the Western brokered CPA has removed this factor. The group with the ability to revolt, the SPLM/A is an ally of Bashir and his NCP. Pagan Amum, the most provocative and anti-northern SPLM secretary general told a press conference in Khartoum last December that ”having a steady government in the north and south will contribute positively to ensure security and development.” He argued against change of government in the north.

2- Uprisings happen against docile leaders who ingratiate themselves to the West and put its interests above national dignity. Bashir was never groomed by the West which (as the Palestine Papers show) gives itself the right to choose leaders and depose others, even if they win elections!

3- The alternative leaders to Bashir have been tried before. They have no credibility and are too old to represent a long term choice. Sadiq alMahdi became prime Minister twice and failed twice. A decent and generous man (he invited me and our family to a reception at his residence when I returned to Khartoum) but an inadequate leader. Mohamed Ibrahim Nugud, leader of the Communist Party – which refused to change its name after the collapse of the USSR – is a political ghost from the past, with negligible popular support. The Unionists are no longer a coherent party. They are held together by the Khatmiyya sect’s leader alone. Turabi is 100% discredited because of what he did in the early 1990s when he was the de facto ruler.

4- Before declaring austerity measures; Bashir’s government consulted trade Unions and declared a 40% rise in pay. Exemptions were made for fares in public transport.

5- Bashir leads a National Unity Government and has started negotiations to co-opt more parties.

Judging by this then, widespread protests in Sudan seem unlikely – although these days you can’t be sure of anything…