Closed fists of Ebola, by Diana Szántó

The arrival is always a shock. When the door of the aeroplane opens, there is a sudden rush of heat, of odours and colours. It does not take too long to get used to it. When I am outside of the airport, it is as if I had never been gone. The last time I was here was before the Ebola. I remember, one of my friends called me one week after my return, speaking of an Ebola case in Kailahun. Since then the country had had more than 12 000 cases and have counted more than 3000 deaths. These are the official numbers, although I have always found these statistics strange, knowing that Ebola kills with a 50% probability, as health experts affirm. The numbers suggest that or too many people got identified who finally were not sick, or Salone has a secret method of treating Ebola with a better success rate than all the others. Also, the epidemics drew a special curb here compared to the two other countries affected. While in the beginning Liberia seemed to be the most vulnerable of the three, Sierra Leone soon caught up and experienced a sharp increase of cases in the middle of the year, when elsewhere the disease seemed already to be withdrawing. It would be interesting to find out what factors shaped the statistical curbs in the three countries in this particular way and what accounts for the difference in the development and the soothing of the epidemics. Today Sierra Leone is Ebola-free, and the whole country is counting down to the 7th of November when the 2 times 21 days with no new case will be reached – as everybody hopes. Now new cases are reported only from neighbouring Guinea and people pray that the virus does not cross the border. Continue reading

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A Burkina Faso where “nothing should be as before”: presidential and legislative elections in perspective By Sten Hagberg

On Sunday 29 November, Burkina Faso organized successful presidential and legislative elections. They marked the end of a one-year-political transition and a step in consolidating the country’s democratic achievements over the last year. There are now opportunities for a veritable democratic breakthrough.

The favorite Roch Marc Christian Kaboré of Mouvement du Peuple pour le Progrès (MPP) won 53,49% of the votes cast, followed by Zéphirin Diabré of Union pour le Progrès et le Changement (UPC) who scored 29,65%. The losing candidates were soon to recognize their defeat and congratulate the newly elected president. Most importantly, Diabré accepted the result and did not contest the elections.

In this article written just days after the elections, I put the elections in perspective and discuss opportunities for the newly elected president Kaboré and his government, as well as for the National Assembly. Continue reading

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Bujumbura Burning, Part II: Misrepresentations of the Burundian Crisis and their Consequences, by Jesper Bjarnesen

Since April, Burundi’s capital of Bujumbura has been the scene of violent confrontations between security forces and civilian protesters who deplore president Pierre Nkurunziza’s candidacy in July‘s presidential elections. Both his candidacy and his overwhelming electoral victory have been denounced by the African Union, the European Union, the UN and a range of governments around the world but Nkurunziza has so far succeeded in calling the bluff of the international community and continuing his authoritarian leadership. For the past several months, assassinations have been reported on a regular basis, alongside reports of attacks against the security forces by, as of yet, unidentified armed actors opposing the regime. Continue reading

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“We Are With You” – Musicians and the 2016 general elections in Uganda, by Nanna Schneidermann

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

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“Rogue, Rogue, Rogue…” – Marketscapes, Criminality and Society in Liberia’s Postwar Borderlands, by Richard Akum

“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.

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Zanzibar in trouble?

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.

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“You think this is an Ebola Office?” Rebuilding trust in the aftermath of Sierra Leone’s outbreak, by Luisa Enria

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

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