Sunday, January 29, 2012

State of Africa

Friday night the African Presidential Archives and Research Center (APARC) at Boston University hosted an Ambassadorial panel to discuss the “State of Africa.” APARC director and American ambassador Charles Stith hosted the panel. Also on the panel was Ambassador Steve Matenje from Malawi, Ambassador Tebelelo Seretse from Botswana, and retired American Ambassador Walter Carington who was Ambassador to Nigeria and Senegal.  
After giving a quick background on their countries the African Ambassadors commented on the need for US investment in their countries and emphasized how their countries were advancing.  Ambassador Matenje described poor road infrastructure, climate change resulting in a lack of rains, and HIV/AIDS as the greatest challenges facing Malawi.  Ambassador Seretse spoke of Botswana’s success being punished by the international community as aid and funding decreased as a result of their progress.  She also said that China has come to Africa big time and although Africans love Chinese products and appreciate Chinese offers of aid, their projects come with restrictions such as the labor must come from Chinese companies.  Ambassador Carrington (US- Retired) spoke about the recent protests in Nigeria over the removal of a fuel subsidy. Ambassador Carrington said the Nigerian unrest is more related to recent elections and not an “occupy” movement or the Arab Spring.  He also didn’t think that the recent problems in Nigeria were related to religion as Muslims and Christians had mostly peacefully coexisted for the past 50 years since independence.
After their initial statements the panel took questions from the audience.  I was chosen to ask the second question and asked their opinions of the recent (within two hours) Senegalese Constitutional Court’s decision to allow President Wade to run for third term.  Ambassador Stith replied that power is a seductive mistress and once she has kissed you on the lips its hard to walk away.  He added that Africa is making progress in this area as ten years ago there were only eleven retired African heads of state but now there are 33.  Ambassador Matenje from Malawi compared the current struggle in Senegal with an unnamed Malawian former head of state who tried to amend the law to allow him to run for a third term, but was defeated in Parliament.  Ambassador Seretse commented that Senegal is not facing a unique challenge as power corrupts and many other countries have dealt with this issue and Africa will continue to deal with this issue, as African countries are still young.  Retired American Ambassador Carrington said that President Wade was about to destroy democracy in Senegal and lamented we will all be poorer for Senegal becoming an autocratic country.  Ambassador Carrington reflected on when he was the US Ambassador to Senegal and attended President Senghor’s retirement commemoration at the Senegalese Constitutional Court and how it was sad that democracy could now be ending in Senegal.
The panel of Ambassadors also responded to questions on African brain drain and the recent (October 2011) visit of Sudanese President al-Bashir to Malawai.  Ambassador Seretse commented that brain drain balances itself out as Africans who study abroad and choose to remain abroad to work gain valuable experience that they eventually bring home.  In addition, while abroad Africans share stories about their home countries and encourage others to visit and immigrate to Africa where they add to the community.  Malawian Ambassador Matenje responded to the question about Malawi’s refusal to arrest al-Bashir during his visit to Malawi that they decided not to arrest al-Bashir since Sudan is not a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and also believed that sitting heads of state are immune to prosecution.  Ambassador Matenje continued that the United States did not have authority to comment on Malawi’s inaction since it is not a member of the ICC and especially should not push the ICC to take action on another non-ICC member. 
More information on the African Presidential Archives and Research Center at Boston University can be found at

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Thoughts on Colonialism

In class on Friday we had a warmup debate after reading the syllabus and introducing ourselves. The Professor started off the discussion by asking if perhaps colonialism was ended too soon and would Africa have benefited from a further extended colonial period.  After some general discussion where the merits of colonialism were lauded I offered that colonialism was bad for a number of reasons and to wish for the extension of colonialism was to recommend the continued oppression and subjugation of Africans.   Colonialism varied in its degree of severity from the Belgian Congo where family members were captured and held ransom to force the collection of rubber to kinder systems of colonial control as in Senegal where Africans were given the right to vote and had a voice in French Parliament.  However, all forms of colonialism began with the slave trade, invasion, and violent oppression of the local population. As the export of slaves became less popular Africans instead were pressed into service on plantations and other work that equated to little more than local slavery.  The people lost the right of self determination and a ruling external foreign class controlled the government.  Colonialism was primarily an exploitive activity where foreign invaders subjugated the population, made their own rules, took what they wanted, and gave little back compared with what they took.

A Nigerian student countered that colonialism wasn't that bad and varied from location to location. She commented that of course colonialism in Congo was bad but in many places it was ok and wondered if things could have turned out much better for some African nations if the colonists had resisted the demands for immediate independence in the 1960s. 

I was surprised at an African's defense of colonialism as I thought that most Africans would condemn colonialism. But I was also reminded of when my African-American friend was visiting in Ghana and met a local girl who was upset because her ancestors weren't captured as slaves and brought to America.  I wonder if the lack of progress since independence due to many corrupt governments that continue practices similar to the oppression of colonialism is the reason why some Africans look longingly back to the colonial days.  In many places infrastructure has not been maintained or improved since independence and many of the sparse colonial structures are falling into disrepair.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Kenyan Elections update

Kenya's high court ruled today that elections will be held in March 2013 instead of August or December 2012 unless the government is dissolved or the ruling coalition breaks up.  Judge Isaac Lenaola declared that parliment "expires on 14 January 2013, the elections shall be held within 60 days of 15 January 2013," allowing parliment to serve its full term before the next election.  The date of the elections has been controversial with August 2012 set as a date in the new constitution but also the current president was re-elected in December 2007 for a second five-year term.  Under the new ruling President Mwai Kibaki will remain in power until a new president is elected and takes office. Kibaki was elected to his first term in 2002 and is not allowed to run for a third term.

Kenya polls in 2013 unless government dissolved
UPDATE 2-Kenya high court delays elections to March 2013
Kenya’s polls in 2013 unless coalition fails – court

Nigerian Wedge

Next time I go to Nigeria I am gonna have to bring my board.  Check out this wave in Nigeria:

Surfer Magazine does a bit on Nigeria in the February 2012 issue.  I am gonna have to buy this issue.

Monday, January 9, 2012

2012 Elections +1: Guinea-Bissau

     President Malam Bacai Sanha of Guinea-Bissau died today in Paris after a lengthy hospitalization and illness.  He has only been in power for two years and was the first elected president following the 2009 assassination of former President Joao Bernardo "Nino" Vieira.  National Assembly leader,  Raimundo Pereira, is expected to rule until elections can be held as required by the constitution within 90 days.  Pereira had previously assumed control of the government following the assassination of Vieira. 

The recent attempted coup (Dec 2011) that resulted in the arrest of Rear-Admiral José Americo Bubo Na Tchuto threatens a peaceful change of power in Guinea-Bissau.  Bubo Na Tchuto was identified by the US Government as a drug king-pin who had used navy boats to transport drugs.  Bubo Na Tchuto was recently reappointed the chief of Navy after fleeing following his participating in a 2008 coup attempt.  Guinea-Bissau is a major drug transit point between South America and Europe and the government and military of Guinea-Bissau have been accused of assisting drug trafficking.  In 2010, the US accused both Bubo Na Tchuto and Air Force Chief of Staff Ibraima Pap Camara of assisting drug trafficking.  Colombian drug lords were also accused of orchestrating the assassination of the former president in 2009 and Army Chief.

National radio: Guinea-Bissau president dies
Navy chief held in Guinea-Bissau after alleged coup attempt
US concern over G Bissau's 'drugs kingpin' appointment
U.S. Government Names African Military Official A Drug 'Kingpin'

Friday, January 6, 2012

African Conferences

I got an invitation to attend the International Conference on Democracy, Governance and Curbing Corruption in Sub-Saharan Africa at Cheyney University 8-10 August 2012. Sounds like an interesting topic and its tempting to write a paper for it, but what other conferences on Africa are out there that I should consider?  I want to attend this one, but what are my other options? 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

2012 African Elections

Here are the key elections I will be following in 2012 in Sub-Saharan Africa:

a.     Senegal- 26 Feb 2012. President Abdoulaye Wade is running for a third term claiming that the constitutional limitation of two terms does not apply to him since his first term was already underway when the restriction went into effect.  The Senegalese opposition has not coalesced behind a single candidate and more significant candidates announce their candidacy each week.  A recent shoot-out at a nightclub resulted in the arrest and incarceration of an opposition leader who claimed he was acting in self-defense when attacked by PDS.  If the opposition can’t solidify behind a single candidate or create a coalition like Wade did when he came to power in 2000, then Wade will win a third term. Many Senegalese have threatened riots if Wade wins.

b.     Angola- Sometime 2012. MPLA has controlled Angola since independence and President dos Santos took power upon the death of the first president Augustino Neto in 1979.  Last elections were held in Sept 2008 and are scheduled again in September 2012.  Voter registration is currently underway and scheduled to conclude 15 April 2012. 

c.     Kenya- 14 Aug 2012. The 2010 constitution abolished the position of prime minister and established a bicameral legislature.  The new constitution also requires a second round of voting if no candidate achieved more than 50% of the vote which may be necessary as current President Mwai Kibaki is ending the second of his two allowed presidential terms.  Kibaki was first elected in 2002 and relected to his second five-year term in 2007.

d.     Mali- 29 Apr 2012. President Amadou Toumani Touré was first elected in 2002 and reelected to his second and constitutionally final five-year term in 2007.  In 2007 Touré won 71.2% of the vote running as an independent, but still widely supported by the Alliance for Democracy in Mali (ADEMA).  Touré was able to run as an independent based on his popularity from his 1991 coup where he led a group that deposed a military government and surrendered power to civilian authorities the following year.  An ADEMA candidate is likely to succeed Touré as they are the most popular party in the country and control 51 seats and the majority of parliament.

e.     Ghana- 7 Dec 2012.  President John Evans Atta Mills narrowly defeated Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in a runoff election in Jan 2009 and will run for a second and final term in Dec 2012.  Popular candidates include the daughter of Nkrumah, Samia Nkrumah and former first lady Nana Konadu Agymang Rawlings.  Elections in Ghana have been generally free and fair and hopefully will be in 2012 as well.

f.      Sierra Leone- August 2012.  President Ernest Bai Koroma (APC) was elected to his first five-year term in September 2007 and will run for his second and final term in 2012.  Julius Maada Bio is the candidate for the largest opposition party (SLPP). The 2007 elections were generally considered free and fair although there were some irregularities. 

g.     Zimbabwe- 2012? President Robert Mugabe isn’t happy with his powersharing agreement with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in place since the 2008 presidential elections.  Tsvangirai won the majority in the first round of elections but withdrew before the runoff vote due to violence against his supporters.  The next round of elections should be held in 2013 but Mugabe has been trying to move up elections to end the tense powersharing relationship.