I took the family for a holiday on the paradise island Zanzibar. White sand, turquoise water and colorful marine life. Easy living. The last two days we left our resort and toured the island. It was a week after the Tanzanian and Zanzibari elections. Mindful that elections can be rough, and with previous research experiences of elections in Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone, I kept an ear to the ground, talked to Zanzibaris and consulted some experts on Zanzibari politics. The Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) had on Wednesday annulled results of the presidential election for semi-independent Zanzibar, but affirmed the result for the larger Tanzanian election. The ZEC proposed a re-election within 90 days on Zanzibar due to voting irregularities in some districts, particularly on Pemba. It was suggested that the opposition Civic United Front (CUF) had stuffed ballot boxes particularly in regions they controlled. From a CUF perspective the election commission was not considered an independent body but part of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) machinery and the announcement of annulling the election was simple seen as CCM thieving their victory. Most Zanzibaris I talked to believed so too. Surprisingly few had good things to say about CCM – but then again I was on holiday and did not talk to that many.
We are sitting amongst the rubble of an unfinished building, a group of young men have stopped their construction work for a moment to take respite from the hot midday sun. A black jeep speeds past with its windows rolled down and one of the young workers shouts: “You think this is an Ebola office?” As the car continues on its way, the young men laugh and discuss how “those people”, meaning Ebola response workers, don’t want Ebola to end. The assumption is that response workers have “eaten” a lot of Ebola money, embodied by the large number of cars that have suddenly appeared in Kambia, Northern Sierra Leone, a town near the border to Guinea previously neglected by international development efforts. Kambia was the last hotspot of Ebola in the summer of 2015, and one of the target areas of a heavily militarised “Operation Northern Push”, which imposed a curfew between 6pm and 6am alongside strict restrictions on gatherings and movement. In late July the district discharged its last patients and released its last quarantined homes, beginning the 42-day count-down to becoming Ebola-free. As fate would have it, on the 41st day, a new case was recorded in one of Kambia’s chiefdoms, an old woman, rumoured to have caught it from her lover, an Ebola survivor. As soon as the news of the new rumour began spreading, discontent and plans to resist were palpable around town: “We will not accept it this time”. Motorbike riders were said to be planning a protest to reject that this was a real Ebola case, while others recounted having seen workers at the Ebola Treatment Centre (ETC) cheering as they received the news that Ebola was back in Kambia, and that they would therefore continue to be employed. In the end, the protest did not take place and the whole of the victim’s village, comprising over 900 people, was placed in quarantine without resistance. These episodes and the stories that they engender are, however, indicative of the prevailing sentiments amongst citizens at the tail-end of the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone. Continue reading →
Last week, Burkina Faso was breaking international news. In the midst of a government meeting, soldiers of the president’s security forces – the notorious Régiment de Sécurité Présidentielle (RSP) – took President Michel Kafando, Prime Minister Isaac Yacouba Zida and other members of the government in hostage and seized power under the command of General Gilbert Diendéré. The Burkinabe public reacted with anger and resistance. The One-Year Transition in power since the Burkinabe revolution ousted the President Blaise Compaoré from power when he tried to change the constitution and pave the way for a new term now witnessed the return of the phantoms of the past. Continue reading →
In the afternoon on Wednesday 16 September 2015, soldiers of the infamous Regiment of the president’s security forces – Regiment de Sécurité Présidentielle (RSP) – entered the Presidential Palace Kosyam where the Government Council meeting was ongoing, and took the government in custody. This is the fourth time during the less than one-year-transition that the RSP threatens and assaults the Transition regime. This time, just a few weeks prior to the presidential and general elections scheduled on 11 October 2015, the RSP’s intervention is an outright attack on the painstaking paths towards a veritable democracy in Burkina Faso. Continue reading →
During the spring term I taught African Studies at Uppsala University. Students created a blog Uppsala African Reviews where they published reviews of books with a focus on contemporary African issues. Stefan Granlund was one of the students.
Give a Man a Fish: Reflections on the new politics of distribution
by James Ferguson
Duke University Press, 2015
More and more voices today reflect and discuss giving money directly to people living in poverty as a poverty alleviation tool. It gets mentioned in articles and blog posts in e.g Washington Post, in scientific articles by researchers and social justice activists, and economists and technocrats from left to right advocates it (Hickel 2015, Bregman 2013). In the development arena, social protection (in this case meaning cash transfers to people living in poverty) is today a firmly established concept within different actors such as the World Bank, the ILO, UNICEF but also civil society organisations. It’s rise in developing countries have for the last 15 years been remarkable (De Haan 2014, Barrientos et al. 2010). While there is significant differences betweens regions and countries in the design of the programmes, the trend is clear. Social protection in low and middle income countries is on the up. It is no longer an exclusivity for richer welfare nations in the West. Continue reading →
Recently, I have been trying to keep up with the situation in Bujumbura, the capital city of Burundi in light of the protests and the violence. And while mainstream Western media only mention the situation sporadically, Burundians are busy on social media like Facebook and Twitter. I am struck by the amount of detail that is uploaded every day. It is as if every single arrest is documented, place, name and time recorded and spread through social media together with photos and video clips, recorded on smart phones. Not only do the updates seem to cover a lot of ground and document as many incidents as possible; they are also uploaded so fast that we almost can follow the events in real time – in front of our screens in our offices, on the train to work or at home. The various groups posting these pictures and updates such as ‘Journalistes Et Societé Civile En Danger De Mort Au Burundi’ appear thus to be pretty media savvy and up beat in the social media. The question then whether social media and mobile phones make a big difference. Is the present online, real-time coverage having an impact on the nature of the conflict? In order to answer this, let us go back in time and see how power, violence and media have played themselves out in Burundi’s tumultuous past. Continue reading →
During the spring term I taught African Studies at Uppsala University. Students created a blog Uppsala African Reviews where they published reviews of books with a focus on contemporary African issues. Thomas Perring is one of the students.
Dambisa Moyo, Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is Another Way for Africa, Penguin Books (2010), ISBN 978–0–141–03118–7
Branded as a ‘polemic’ by The Guardian, international economist Dambisa Moyo, in her book Dead Aid, aims to prove that the aid system put in place for Africa does not work and is — contrarily to popular thought within ‘Western’ countries — damaging for the African continent. Despite at least $1 trillion of foreign aid being transferred to Africa in the past 60 years, Moyo suggests that the ‘high hopes and ambitions’ of early independence have been replaced with juxtaposing notions of ‘near destitution and renewed dependency’ (p. 19). Continue reading →