Civilians sheltering in a U.N. base in South Sudan’s capital of Juba walk by an armored vehicle and a watchtower manned by Chinese U.N. peacekeepers. (Jason Patinkin/AP)

For the past two weeks, high-ranking military officials from 50 African states have been in Beijing attending the first China-Africa Defense and Security Forum. What clues does this forum give about China’s gradual, yet steady, increase in military ties with Africa?

Until recently, many experts considered China’s relations with African states to be economically focused for the most part — and far less interested in military matters. Africa’s relations with big powers seemed to follow a certain pattern — with the United States collaborating on military and counterterrorism aspects, and China on trade and economic development.

The defense and security forum (organized by China’s Ministry of National Defense) is a sign of China’s growing military ties with Africa, as is the inauguration of the country’s first overseas military base in Djibouti in 2017 and its contribution to U.N.…  Seguir leyendo »

Pages of Mandela's letters.CreditThe Estate of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela and the Nelson Mandela Foundation

Some time ago, the writer Nikki Giovanni offered me guidance on writing about the life of a public person. Most of her advice I understood and dutifully jotted into a small notebook. However, one of her dictums confused me: “Whenever you receive a letter from a prisoner, make sure you write him back.” I frowned, confused but also a little guilty. I’d received a few letters with penitentiary return addresses and hadn’t responded. “Write them back,” she repeated. “You don’t know how much mail means to people in prison. You can’t imagine what they have to do just to get the stamp.”

Since then, I’ve heeded her advice.…  Seguir leyendo »

Injured people are attended to after an explosion at a Zanu PF rally in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, on June 23. (AP)

Zimbabweans head to the polls on July 30, in the first presidential election since the ouster of President Robert Mugabe last year. Until a week ago, Zimbabwe’s presidential campaigning had been relatively peaceful, with the exception of some violence reported during the party primary elections.

That changed abruptly on June 23, when Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe’s new president, survived a grenade blast at a political rally in Bulawayo, the country’s second-largest city. The president’s office announced on June 26 that two people died from injuries sustained during the attack, while 49 others remained in the hospital.

This was the first time Zimbabwe had seen a direct attack on the life of the sitting president.…  Seguir leyendo »

Hace poco hablé por teléfono con una periodista y activista por los derechos humanos tanzana a quien conozco bien; respondió a muchas de mis preguntas con un silencio atípico en ella. Mi amiga es una persona valiente, desinhibida y por lo general locuaz. Pero en esta ocasión, hablar de política era demasiado peligroso para ella. En momentos en que los periodistas de Tanzania son blanco de amenazas, ataques y secuestros, nuestra conversación tuvo que limitarse a temas mundanos.

Tanzania, una de las democracias más estables de África, está cayendo en el autoritarismo. El presidente John Magufuli lleva meses atacando a opositores y periodistas y cerrando medios de prensa.…  Seguir leyendo »

Yerry Mina dio un cabezazo para el gol contra Senegal. Credit Manan Vatsyayana/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Esta es la historia de dos equipos distantes que, sin embargo, están emparentados.

Lo están, en principio, porque comparten una creencia que podría enunciarse de la siguiente manera: hay que bailar hasta que venga la muerte.

Los camarógrafos encargados de cubrir a la selección de Senegal en Rusia nos han mostrado cómo sus integrantes convierten cada entrenamiento en una jarana. Cantan, palmotean, danzan.

En las muchas regiones afrocolombianas donde se juega fútbol está generalizada la misma idea: la pelota se conquista con pies bailarines. Luis Antonio Biohó, un viejo profesor que tenía una escuela de fútbol en Tumaco (en la costa pacífica), hacía los exámenes de admisión no con pruebas para los muchachos con el balón sino poniéndolos a danzar: “Quien baila bien, juega bien”, decía.…  Seguir leyendo »

Vehicles display the campaign logos for both the ruling and opposition parties outside an election nomination court in Harare, Zimbabwe on June 14. (Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters)

The June 23 explosion at a campaign rally that killed two people and injured dozens came as a shock to all Zimbabweans. This hideous attack was condemned by citizens across the political spectrum. This response shows our nation’s resilience, our yearning for peace and our common determination to restore democracy. Indeed, over the next few weeks, our beloved nation has a real opportunity to finally steer toward freedom and prosperity for all.

Our goals for restoring democracy nevertheless remain under threat by the remnants of dictatorship, their propagandists and enablers, both at home and abroad. Our upcoming election on July 30 cannot be a whitewash of democracy.…  Seguir leyendo »

On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians rallied in the famous Meskel Square, located at the heart of the capital city, Addis Ababa. Citizen groups and human rights activists had organized the event to show support for Ethiopia’s reformist leader, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed — to recognize Abiy’s commitment to democratic change and encourage implementation.

The demonstration was colorful. Many wore T-shirts bearing pictures of Abiy and his right-hand men. Others carried banners thanking Abiy for his agenda of togetherness. The prime minister wore a T-shirt with a picture of Nelson Mandela, which read, “We are not free until we all are free.” Abiy gave a rousing speech calling for national unity, and preaching love, coexistence, and democratic values.…  Seguir leyendo »

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JUNE 20: Noureddine Amrabat of Morocco throws away his skull cap during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group B match between Portugal and Morocco at Luzhniki Stadium on June 20, 2018 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Simon Hofmann - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

For Morocco, this World Cup began with defeat. We were favored to win our first match, against Iran, but in a turn of fate, with the game tied nil-all and minutes before the end, one of the Moroccan players scored an own-goal. That 1-0 loss crushed our slim hopes to shine and to advance from a challenging group. Sure enough, in our second game, against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, we proceeded to lose—despite dominating the match. On Monday, against Spain, we had little left to play for—except, perhaps, some honor. But in an amazing game that twice saw Morocco go ahead against one of the world’s top teams, we earned a 2-2 draw that left Moroccans proud of the national team despite its not making it to the next round.…  Seguir leyendo »

This woman and girl escaped their Boko Haram abductors and were living at the Dalori camp for displaced people in Maiduguri, Nigeria, in 2016. (Jane Hahn for The Washington Post)

This week, Nigerian military sources reported that Boko Haram fighters killed nine soldiers and wounded two others in northeast Nigeria. This comes just a week after two suicide bombers killed 43 people, also in northeast Nigeria.

A video released this week by Vox raises the alarm that Islamist militant groups such as Boko Haram are gaining strength in Africa. Most reporting on Boko Haram and other extremist groups in Africa warn that extremism on the continent is on the rise.

Alexis Okeowo’s award-winning book — “A Moonless, Starless Sky: Ordinary Women and Men Fighting Extremism in Africa” — offers a different perspective on Boko Haram and other extremist groups in Africa.…  Seguir leyendo »

An Ethiopian military officer stands guard in the outskirts of Badme, a territorial dispute town between Eritrea and Ethiopia.CreditTiksa Negeri/Reuters

Early this month, the Ethiopian government declared that it was finally ready to implement a peace deal it signed with Eritrea nearly two decades ago. The Eritrean government didn’t respond to the announcement for over two weeks — until Wednesday, when President Isaias Afwerki said that “the positive direction that has been set in motion is crystal clear.” Mr. Isaias also promised to send a delegation to Ethiopia “to gauge current developments directly and in depth.”

For many years, however, even as Ethiopia declared its willingness to implement a 2002 judgment about the two states’ border, it refused to withdraw its troops from Eritrean territory until other issues — about armed groups, trade, access to Eritrea’s ports on the Red Sea — were settled.…  Seguir leyendo »

Social protests are not unheard of in Morocco – indeed they are regular features of the calendar and although they have not threatened, to date, the overall stability of the country, let alone the monarchy, they point to the persistence of large income disparities, high unemployment among young people (the percentage of Moroccans between 15-24 who were neither at school, in training or had a job in 2017 was a staggering 29.3% according to government statistics) and rising living costs.

Protest took on an altogether new form in late April when an online boycott campaign against three leading Moroccan oligopolies, using hashtags such as “let it rot” was joined by 57% of Moroccans, according the Moroccan daily L’Economiste.…  Seguir leyendo »

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - JUNE 19, 2018: Senegalese football fans with painted faces before a First Stage Group H football match between Poland and Senegal at FIFA World Cup Russia 2018. Alexander Ryumin/TASS (Photo by Alexander RyuminTASS via Getty Images)

If Africa were a single country, its history and founding myths could be narrated around thrilling episodes of “the beautiful game” on the world stage. Ask any not-so-young African what their best memories of the World Cup are, and you may hear about that day in 1982 when Algeria beat the mighty West Germany—at the pre-game press conference, a German player had quipped, “We will dedicate our seventh goal to our wives, and the eighth to our dogs.” No one had told him, one suspects, about the Algerian team’s proud past, during the country’s anti-colonial struggle in 1958, as flag-bearers for a nation fighting for freedom.…  Seguir leyendo »

Figure 3: Foreign reserve consumption by percentage, 2014-2016

Over the past four years, oil-producing countries have experienced a wild ride. After oil prices exceeded $110 per barrel for Brent crude in 2014, they suddenly dropped to $50 per barrel in early 2015 and to $35 per barrel by January 2016, leaving most producers unable to balance their budgets. Observers suggested that falling oil revenue could provoke political crises, as governments implemented spending cuts that could endanger their popular support. However, since last summer, oil prices have risen steadily. For the past month, Brent crude has surpassed $75 per barrel.

How have oil-producing countries navigated the recent price collapse? Most analysis has focused on Persian Gulf oil producers, such as Saudi Arabia, or the cautionary tale of Venezuela.…  Seguir leyendo »

Why I Dream of an African World Cup Victory

The World Cup is well underway. I know because I’ve been gorging myself on a visual diet of several games a day. Maybe you have, too. They’ve been pretty exciting, since many of the teams expected to sail toward the next round have instead been stumbling: Germany, the defending champions, fell to Mexico; France just barely edged past Australia; Spain, Brazil and Argentina all tied in their first matches.

But there’s been one thing that’s disappointed me: This surge of the less-favored countries hasn’t included any from Africa. The first four to compete — Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Nigeria — all lost.…  Seguir leyendo »

Empleados de Danone protestan en las calles de Rabat. E FADEL SENNA AFP

Desde hace más de diez años, la protesta popular es un hecho recurrente en Marruecos. Ha tomado diversas formas: reivindicación de clase, denuncia de los abusos, contestación política, exigencia de derechos fundamentales, etcétera.

En 2011, en la estela de las revoluciones árabes, la calle fue escenario de la expresión de la democracia, de la demanda de igualdad de oportunidades y una mejor redistribución de las riquezas. Hace un año fue la región del Rif la que se rebelaba contra el poder central y, más recientemente, la ciudad minera de Jerada conocía a su vez un levantamiento de su población pauperizada y marginada.…  Seguir leyendo »

Congolese woman cleans an area of land to start to cultivate crops. JOHN WESSELS/AFP/Getty Images.

Movimientos sociales como #MeToo y #TimesUp han comenzado a inspirar en todo el mundo importantes diálogos sobre viejas prácticas inequitativas que enfrentan las mujeres en cada aspecto de la vida. Discusiones que, en algunos casos, llevaron a cambios medibles en el trato que reciben las mujeres en el trabajo, el hogar y otros ámbitos de la sociedad.

Por desgracia, hasta ahora la atención se concentró sobre todo en las mujeres de Occidente o residentes de áreas urbanas. Las mujeres rurales, y en particular las agricultoras pobres de África subsahariana, todavía no han visto los beneficios del reciente interés en la igualdad de género.…  Seguir leyendo »

Elizabeth Sizar, a new arrival from South Sudan and mother of two, poses for a photo with her youngest son in front of their home in the Kalobeyei settlement. (Samuel Otieno/UNHCR)

Every June 20, on World Refugee Day, the headlines invariably focus on numbers. But numbers are not the issue; only about 0.3 percent of the world’s population are refugees. The real challenge comes from unequal geographical concentration.

Most refugees will never come to the United States or Europe. Around 85 percent end up in low and middle-income countries like Lebanon, Pakistan and Uganda, and just 10 such countries host 60 percent of the world’s refugees. This means refugee protection is primarily a developing world issue, and there is a lack of global responsibility-sharing.

Refugees stay in these safe haven countries for decades.…  Seguir leyendo »

Célébration du pape François à Bangui. Centrafrique, novembre 2015. © L'Osservatore Romano/pool photo via AP

Au sud du Sahara où il y a tant de violences, l’Eglise catholique est de plus en plus sollicitée et active dans le champ politique. Le pape Jean Paul II avait interdit toute activité politique de l’Eglise (sauf en Pologne!), mais Benoît XVI a précisé sans équivoque «que la parole des évêques était attendue face aux problèmes politiques touchant les processus électoraux, les injustices, les droits humains». Aujourd’hui, le lien entre le pape François et les évêques africains est très fort.

Parmi les cardinaux que comprend son G8 pour réformer la gouvernance de l’Eglise, il a choisi, entre autres, le cardinal Laurent Monsengwo, qui incarne, en République démocratique du Congo (RDC), l’opposition de l’Eglise à Joseph Kabila.…  Seguir leyendo »

Soldiers guard a checkpoint in Gwoza, Nigeria, in 2015. (Lekan Oyekanmi/AP)

As the holy month of Ramadan ended yesterday, a prominent Muslim rights group called on Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to pardon 54 soldiers imprisoned for mutiny. In 2014, the soldiers refused to fight the terrorist group Boko Haram, claiming they were not adequately supplied with weapons and ammunition.

The Nigerian soldiers’ grievances and subsequent mutiny are consistent with other mutinies in Africa, as detailed in this week’s book in the African Politics Summer Reading Spectacular: “Soldiers in Revolt: Army Mutinies in Africa,” written by Maggie Dwyer, a research fellow at the Center of African Studies at the University of Edinburgh.

Drawing on hundreds of interviews — 50 with former mutineers — and a systematic review of high-quality reporting outlets (e.g., Africa Confidential and Africa Research Bulletin), Dwyer identifies and describes what drives soldiers to mutiny.…  Seguir leyendo »

Refugee Camp, Dadaab, Kenya. Edwina Pickles/Fairfax Media/Fairfax Media via Getty Images

En una pequeña comunidad cerca de la línea del ecuador, niños de diversos países asisten a clases en una de las mejores escuelas primarias de la región. El colegio tiene una banda de bajos, una granja, un colectivo de artistas, un club literario y otro de microfinanzas, y grupos de apoyo a víctimas de violencia doméstica. Incluso hay un programa de tutorías para ayudar a las niñas afectadas a continuar sus estudios.

Este paraíso educativo no está en un país rico con recursos ilimitados, sino en un campo de refugiados en Uganda occidental. Se financia no por flujos de ayuda extranjera, sino por refugiados que funcionan con un presupuesto ajustado.…  Seguir leyendo »