In Uganda, the campaigns for the 2016 elections are on. On the 16th of October president Yoweri K. Museveni was the guest of honor at a dinner party comprising of a dozen of the country’s most popular singers, as they revealed their song Tubonga Nawe (luganda for We Are With You) supporting the president and his party The National Resistance Movement (NRM) for another term. Amidst intense press coverage, the president also donated 400 million shillings to a fund to promote the development of the music industry.
The song has sparked passionate discussions about the proper relationship between politics and popular music among media elite, the aspiring urban cool, as well as on the streets of Kampala. Are popular musicians obligated to praise the political elite? Or do they have a special responsibility to protest injustice because of their popularity? Continue reading
“Rogue, rogue, rogue!!” In many communities in Liberia where the state faces security service provision challenges, this chorus whips up the pent-up wrath of violent mobs. The “rogue, rogue, rogue” chorus metes out swift and immediate ‘justice’. It results from the social interpretive dehumanization of the “rogue”, exacerbated by challenges posed by inadequate social and rational-legal control when borderland marketscapes overlap with residential communities. The postwar state and its international NGO partners have liaised with local community leaders to encourage communities to seek recourse through formal rational-legal justice processes. However, rational-legal justice processes are seen as costly, time-consuming and largely ineffective, hence the arbitrary lynching of some alleged “rogues” persists. The “rogue” who gets lynched is often more a victim of their method than their action. Two narratives of the “rogue’s” outcome emerge in the interpretation of postwar socio-political processes in Liberia’s borderlands – that of the community leader and that of the community member. Meanwhile, a geo-spatial interpretation of physical borderland spaces in two cities – Foya and Gompa – further elucidates the difference between the method and the action, which contribute to divergent outcomes for “rogue” transgressions. Focusing on marketscapes as dedicated zones of human and material exchange, connections arise between the “rogue” and markets. These connections are crafted to circumvent social controls, collude with the state and escape the arbitrary mob-lynching outcome reserved for the individualized “rogue.” Hence all “rogues” are not created equal to face certain death because of their actions. The difference in outcomes is in their operational and embeddedness rather than their actions per se.
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