The past few weeks have been a wake-up call for pro-democracy activists across Africa — a painful reminder that three decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall precipitated a tidal wave of democratization around the world, the gains made remain precarious. The massacre of protesters by the army on the streets of Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, last week, and the stalemate in Algeria are clear signs that nothing can be taken for granted in the second wave of citizen uprisings.
And it is not just in the regimes of North Africa, which for the most part missed the democracy boat in the 1990s, where concerns are rising.… Seguir leyendo »
The fire that gutted the roof of the Notre Dame Cathedral this week nearly destroyed a building that had stood since the Middle Ages and had come to embody the soul of Paris and perhaps France itself. The speed with which massive donations were offered toward rebuilding the 856-year-old icon is a testament to its importance. It took less than two days to raise nearly $1 billion of the estimated $1.13 billion to $2.3 billion it will take to fix the church, with much of the money coming from French business leaders and ordinary worshipers.
President Emmanuel Macron also said he wants the cathedral rebuilt within five years, noting that France had in the past seen many towns, ports and churches go up in flames and rebuilt them each time.… Seguir leyendo »
The ouster of Sudanese dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir after 30 years in power has been a long time coming. His removal and arrest — by his former military colleagues — were the culmination of popular protests in several Sudanese cities, which have effectively been going on for the past four months, initially sparked by a spiraling cost of living and the deterioration of economic conditions. However, the manner of his departure has left a sour taste in the mouths of many protesters.
That Bashir has basically been removed by his second in command, Awad Ibn Auf, implies that little has actually changed.… Seguir leyendo »
In the run-up to the recent elections in Nigeria, an article in Quartz Africa declared that “it’s become much harder to rig elections in Nigeria thanks to technology.” Looking on from about 3,000 miles away, Kenyans would be excused for stifling a laugh. The two countries share a history of electoral malpractice, and technology had been hailed as a guarantor of the credibility and integrity of the election in Kenya as well. The reality, however, turned out to be quite different. As the dust settles on Nigeria’s elections amid reports of technology failures and violence, it is clear that digital elections are no panacea.… Seguir leyendo »
On Tuesday afternoon, terrorists stormed DusitD2, an upscale hotel and office complex in the heart of Nairobi. Within an hour, security forces had cordoned off the area, evacuated nearby buildings and launched an operation to confront the attackers and rescue people.
Given the security forces’ performance during previous attacks, this was a huge improvement. Five years ago, during a terrorist attack on the Westgate Mall, it was a different story. As described in a reconstruction by Tristan McConnell, by the time security agencies organized a response, “most of those who would escape had already escaped; most of those who would be wounded had already been struck; and most of those who would die were already dead.”
Sadly, the government’s communications efforts this time did not match its security response.… Seguir leyendo »
Over the past few days, tens of thousands of Kenyans have been made homeless. This is not the result of some terrible natural disaster, but rather, the deliberate action of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration. Nearly 10,000 have been kicked out of their homes in the Mau forest in a bid to protect the country’s largest water tower. Another community of 30,000 in Kibra, the largest slum in Nairobi, saw their homes, hospitals, shops and schools flattened to make room for a road.
“Development” and “conservation” have always been pretexts for displacing Kenyans. One-hundred twenty years ago, the so-called Lunatic Line was built.… Seguir leyendo »
For the second time in three years, Kenyans have found themselves staring at blank TV screens when switching to any of the top three independent TV stations to watch the news. The government shut down three of the country’s top TV stations — a move now blocked by the courts. In February 2015, KTN News, NTV and Citizen TV went off air for two weeks following a dispute with the government over digital migration. Today, however, the reasons for the media shutdown are, however, much darker.
It is the latest act in Kenya’s long-running, slow-motion crisis over last year’s presidential elections.… Seguir leyendo »
Like President Trump, Kenya’s opposition leader, Raila Odinga, has a nuclear button, one that he now says he is not afraid to use. He has refused to recognize President Uhuru Kenyatta’s controversial reelection and has vowed to have himself sworn in as president by the end of the month. This has drawn a predictably alarmed reaction from within the government with Attorney General Githu Muigai having warned Odinga that he risks being put to death for treason if he goes ahead.
The standoff over the presidency — now into its sixth month — has witnessed the first annulment of a presidential election in the continent’s history and has taken a terrible toll.… Seguir leyendo »
This week Kenyans are going through a replay of their disastrous 2007 election, only in super-slow motion. A decade ago, the country endured a disputed election in which the incumbent president, Mwai Kibaki, was running for re-election against opposition leader Raila Odinga. Under intense pressure from the state and surrounded by armed paramilitary police, the head of the electoral commission declared Kibaki the president-elect. (The commissioner would later say that he did not know who had won.)
Within half an hour, as the sun was setting and darkness fell over the grounds of State House, Kibaki was hurriedly sworn in. “With the election now behind us,” he declared, “it’s time for healing and reconciliation.” Rather than healing, his inauguration sparked weeks of violent protests and tit-for-tat ethnic killings that left over 1,300 people dead.… Seguir leyendo »