Hereditary Office and the Tribulations of Power: A View from Togo, by Nadia Lovell

Togo seems to be next in line, after Burkina Faso and Mali, to flare up in violence and instability, albeit so far on a limited scale. Old conflicts relating to the political legitimacy of power holders, and perennial questions over the establishment of fairer democratic institutions, have led to vociferous demonstrations in Lomé, the capital and, particularly, in the Quartier de Bé, a known hotbed of trouble-making for the regime, as it houses not only some of the poorer strata of the population, but also religious leaders, students, and other political activists and opinion makers. The Quartier de Bê often acts as a barometer of political tension. Violent clashes between thousands of pro-democracy advocates and security forces took place last week-end. The protests were very efficiently and quickly quietened through the use of force. Riot police intervened to squash what could herald the beginning of renewed long-term political unrest. Continue reading

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Nigeria’s 2015 elections and the politics of (avoiding) violence, by Henrik Angerbrandt

The opposition is called “cockroaches” to be “crushed” by a governor. The speaker of the House of Representatives is teargased by the police. Security agents raid a party data office. Several events last week indicate that Nigerian elections are approaching. When the president and 28 (out of 36) governors are to be elected in February next year, more than who will be voted into office is at stake. The elections are anticipated to be more competitive than previous ones, and there are concerns that violence will erupt in relation to the elections. Apart from the Boko Haram insurgency, the behaviour of the political elite contributes to raise tension. Continue reading

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The Math behind the Numbers: When Cash and Promises Soar, by Charles Lawrence

Liberia’s bi-cameral legislature comprises of 73 members of the lower house, called the House of Representatives and 30 members of the upper house, called the Senate. In 2014, Liberians will go to the polls to elect 15 of the 30 Senators for a tenure of nine years. These ‘mid-term’ elections are a constitutional requirement that ensures that all the Senate seats are not vacant at the same time. In this piece, I argue that elections should be a growth industry where best ideas and character flourish above cash and false promises. Continue reading

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Sweeping for Change in the Burkinabe Revolution, by Jesper Bjarnesen

As the dramatic scenes of public protests have given way to political negotiations of the terms of a transition towards new elections in Burkina Faso, the initial reports on events unfolding hour by hour are gradually being replaced by reflections on the overall implications of the overthrow of Blaise Compaoré. Questions are now being asked about the possible spill-over effects of the popular uprising – the possibility of an “African spring”, mirroring the wave of uprisings in Northern Africa in 2011. We might also begin to ask more anthropological questions of the potential for more enduring social and political change in Burkina Faso. Which changes in terms of political participation can the uprising be expected to have? Which actors were the driving forces for the public protests that brought Compaoré’s reign to an end, and are they included in the current negotiations? What has the monopolisation of power by the CDP at the national level meant for ordinary citizens? This brief text suggests some possible answers. Continue reading

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Ebola: the ripple effect, by Brian James

The 117 emergency call is placed to the Ebola response unit. Within the hour, a medical convoy descends on the community from which the call came, complete with a military escort. Normally, few would have expressed any concern or interest at rumours of Mammy Marah’s fever spike but these are not normal times. The outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus has left many on edge and highly suspicious of the manifestation of any physical symptoms in neighbours, colleagues and acquaintances. The intimidating presence of the Ebola response unit has been cited as one of the myriad reasons for the rising body count accrued by the disease, as the sight of armed men triggers the instinct of family members to “protect” their Ebola infected relatives. Other explanations go that the Ebola response unit’s armed escort is for their protection, as initial reactions to their presence often turned violent. This resistance to Ebola health workers has been as much an obstacle to the fight against the disease as false alarms raised by the overzealous or mean spirited.
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Popular Uprising led to Political Turnover in Burkina Faso – Struggles over Legitimacy and Legality, by Sten Hagberg

The last very dramatic days has led to a particularly complicated, and yet, fascinating political process of society and change in Burkina Faso. Even though the popular uprising last week did not come as a surprise for observers of Burkinabe politics, the rapidity of the ending of the 27 years of reign of Blaise Compaoré was unexpected. After years of attempts by Compaoré and his regime to find ways of changing Paragraph 37 of the Constitution, the Burkinabe government finally crossed the Rubicon at its extraordinary council meeting on 21 October 2014 when it took the decision to send the proposed Bill to the National Assembly. This was the ultimate decision that would definitely open for a change of Paragraph 37 and, in practice, allow Compaoré another term, and possibly even up to 15 years more in power. That decision became “a pill too difficult to swallow” (une pilule trop difficile à avaler) for the Burkinabe. Continue reading

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Burkina Faso uprising – between popular participation and military intervention, by Cristiano Lanzano

Is this a people’s revolution, or a coup d’état? The uncertain definition of recent events in Burkina Faso, after former president Blaise Compaoré resigned and the army announced they would take control of a transitional phase and suspend the constitution, is not only haunting international press but also lingering in the internal debate. These are confusing days. Politicians from the opposition have stated that “the army has confiscated our revolution” and asked people to demonstrate in order to put pressure on the military forces, asking for a civil transition toward the next elections. On the opposite side, representatives of Balai Citoyen (“the civic broom”, a youth movement created about one year ago and represented publicly by local well-known artists like reggaeman Sams’k Le Jah or rapper/singer Smockey), the main actor in the organization of recent demonstrations, on the opposite side, have confirmed for the moment their cautious support to the idea of the army managing the transition, and suspect the opposition parties of trying to appropriate a mass movement that they have not created in the first place. Indeed, the opposition parties have been quite hesitant in questioning Compaoré’s regime, at least until recently.
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