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Top of the Blogs 2020
In the previous Top of the Blogs, we noted the end of a large-scale Ebola outbreak in Eastern Congo. Now we read about the country’s first confirmed COVID-19 case and ask: can the DRC handle another epidemic right now? In the meantime, Namibia celebrates the 30th anniversary of its independence while its ruling party, SWAPO, has to deal with old and new problems within the country. Mauritania’s opposition has reason for celebration as one of its major supporters returns from exile. And finally, an outline of the challenges facing East Africa's bar associations.
Democratic Republic of the Congo: Out of the Frying Pan into the Fire
africablogging.org (in French)
After one and a half years, the second-largest Ebola outbreak in history came to an end in early March when the last patient was released from a treatment facility in eastern DRC. However, the Congolese had only a few days to catch their breath. On 8 March, the country confirmed its first case of COVID-19. Immediately, the government took measures to halt a major outbreak with Congolese scientists working hard to find a cure. Blogger Nsenga Kola outlines the factors working against the Congolese but also what citizens could do to prevent another epidemic.
Namibia: Midlife Crisis for SWAPO?
Namibia celebrates its 30th birthday on 21 March. On the same day, President Hage Geingob will take the oath for his second term. He is the third head of state from the country’s former liberation movement, since renamed SWAPO Party, which has ruled Namibia since the rule of Apartheid-era South Africa came to an end in 1990. The country has been comparatively stable with a wide range of civil liberties yet more than 40 percent of the population live in shacks without access to proper sanitation and corruption remains a major problem even among leading politicians. Political Scientist Hennning Melber describes the current situation of a still young nation and a Namibia that deserves better.
Mauritania: Reason for Hope
mondoblog.org (in French)
On 10 March hundreds of supporters were waiting for Mohamed Ould Bouamatou until late in the evening. He is an entrepreneur who founded Mauritania’s first private bank and later it's mobile phone company, but was forced into exile ten years ago. Today, he is still well-known for his generosity; for example, he ran a hospital which treated 5,000 cataract patients a year for free. Being a main financial supporter of the opposition, his return from exile gives hope for many waiting for a democratic change in Mauritania, according to journalist Cheikh Aïdara who has worked in the country for more than twenty years. If you don’t know much about the country’s political situation, his article might be a good start.
Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya: Where are the bar associations heading?
A well-functioning rule of law is a crucial feature of democracy. Many East Africans are still striving for both. The efforts of lawyers have played an important role by assisting the public in matters involving the law and maintaining the standards of conduct of the legal profession. However, nowadays the situation looks different: just imagine a bar association’s president rebuking a lawyer for petitioning over the conduct of a judge - this is what happened in Uganda in early March. Unfortunately, East African bar associations are struggling with more than just indifferent and lacklustre leaders, says Ugandan lawyer and human rights advocate, Masake Anthony, who outlines the current developments in those organizations in three East African countries.
This week, we report from Kinshasa where the end of the second-largest Ebola outbreak in history was declared. Meanwhile, as the globe marked International Women’s Day, a Ugandan blogger argues that there is still a lot of work to be done for gender equality in the East African country. To West Africa, we find out why the citizens of Côte d'Ivoire appreciate the president’s decision to step down in October, something unprecedented in the country’s history. Next up, we hear from a Johannesburg-based physician about the basics of coronavirus and, finally, amid dreams and struggles, a new survey shows that Africa’s youth remains cheerful about the continent’s future.
Democratic Republic of Congo: How to Get Rid of Ebola
In early March 2020, the last Ebola patient in the Democratic Republic of Congo was discharged from a treatment centre. That was the start of a countdown towards declaring the end of the outbreak after one and a half years, an outcome that is evidence of the hard work that has been done by those in the field. In his commentary, Ugandan professor Yap Boum discusses the factors which led to the end of the outbreak including a surprising conclusions related to the country’s political development.
Uganda: It’s a Long Way to Equality
The International Women’s Day was first marked in March 1911 to highlight the struggle for identical rights for all humans. Now, almost 110 years later, the UN is aiming to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls by 2030. In the meantime, the Internet serves as another male-dominated platform that has made female users feel uncomfortable while minority women, like those who are disabled, are facing double discrimination in everyday life, says Ugandan blogger Ruth Aine. In her article, she outlines where there is still work to be done for women to attain equality, respect and value as members of society.
Côte d'Ivoire: Stepping Back for Good
mondoblog.org (in French)
Côte d'Ivoire has never seen a head of state stepping back voluntarily since it gained independence in 1960. Its leaders either died in office or were deposed after a putsch or even a civil war. Thus the country will experience a new level of political development with the 2020 presidential election, scheduled for October 2020, since incumbent Alassane Ouattara declared in March that he would not stand for re-election and a third term in office. This is a great first, says Fofana Baba Idriss, considering Ouattara’s speech a turning point in Côte d'Ivoire’s history. The author gives a synopsis of the retiring president’s tenure and his achievements.
South Africa: Coronavirus for Beginners
We’re all going to die! Although this is certain, it won’t happen just yet. With the exponential rise of COVID-19 cases around the world in a matter of weeks, we have had to learn how to live with anxiety. Meanwhile, it might seem hard to stay on top of things amid widespread reporting. Are some government measures just overblown? How high is the mortality rate? What symptoms should I watch out for? Is there any treatment? To avoid common misconceptions, journalist Ina Skosana spoke to Shabir Madhi, Professor of Vaccinology at the University of the Witwatersrand. While viral misinformation stays a pandemic risk, this article comprises basic information about a sickness we can’t ignore.
Nigeria: Optimism Amid Struggles
Africa’s population is growing faster than its economy. African countries are paying too much interest for their debts, and some might even question whether governments on the continent can cater to the existing infrastructural and policy needs. Despite that, youths across Africa remain bullish about their own prospects, according to the African Youth Survey 2020. For instance, 82% of respondents believe their standard of living will improve in the next two years while 81% predicts technology will be the main driver of their changing fortunes. Yomi Kazeem, reporting from Nigeria, makes his remarks on Afro-optimism.
This week we discuss China’s evolving role in Africa and especially in Zimbabwe. Meanwhile, Nigerian voters are confused by vast numbers of candidates on their bal-lot papers. To the south, last president of Apartheid-era South Africa, Frederik Willem de Klerk’s provocative statement raises questions. Meanwhile, the Ngarbuh massacre throws its shadows over Cameroon’s politics.
South Africa: Historical Denialism at Its Worst
In early February, Frederik Willem de Klerk, last South African president under the white minority rule, mentioned that the brutalities of Apartheid had been misunder-stood and misappropriated. Making a bad story worse, his foundation doubled down and released a statement claiming that Apartheid should not be considered a crime against humanity. However, defending a system of oppression, as Apartheid was, is offensive towards its victims and inappropriate amid South Africa’s current affairs in economy and politics. Jacques Rousseau, a lecturer at the University of Cape Town, gives a critical commentary and describes such proclamations as harmful.
Nigeria: The More, the Merrier?
When Nigeria’s National Electoral Commission announced the de-registration of 74 out of the 92 registered political parties in the country in early February, voters were relieved – as a survey shows. A ballot paper that listed 73 presidential aspirants at the election in 2019 made it awkward to find the preferred candidate to choose, es-pecially as parties shared similar acronyms. However, such a flood of small political splinter groups is only a symptom of the obstacles Nigeria’s civilian rule – re-introduced in 1999 – is facing. Olayinka Ajala, a political scientist and lecturer at the University of York, explains why political diversity should not be confused with a bunch of parties and what is to be done to achieve it instead.
Zimbabwe: The Dragon On the Rise
Different experts consider the visit of China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi either a decent or a significant one in context of a Second Sharing of Africa. In Zimbabwe, President Emmerson Mnangagwa had to cut short his vacation to meet the Chinese diplomat. In reward, Wang openly called on the West to lift sanctions against Zimbabwe. While China is gaining economic influence throughout Africa, it uses the continent as an area in which it can challenge America's hegemony over the rest of the world. In this context, especially the Chinese-Zimbabwean relations have been amongst the most visible within the past decade as Harare has pursued an active relationship with Beijing more aggressively than other African states, says Blessing Vava, a PhD fellow at the University of Johannesburg. Vava shares insight into the country’s policy towards the Asian powerhouse.
Cameroon: One Massacre Too Many
mondoblog.org (in French)
In mid-February, in Ngarbuh, at least 22 Anglophone civilians were murdered by Francophone militants, accompanied by six soldiers of the Cameroonian army. The incident was unanimously considered “one massacre too many” by observers. Amongst the most prominent accusers are UN officials and, most prominently, the French president Emmanuel Macron, who described the humanitarian situation in English-speaking regions as "intolerable". In consequence, the government, under Cameroonian president Paul Biya, who has ruled the central African country for almost 40 years, is under pressure amid accusations of "crimes against humanity" and even "genocide". Blogger Yves Tchakounte gives us an account of the aftermath of the Ngarbuh massacre while analyzing the political situation in of Cameroon.
This week we find out if another coup d'état is about to come to Zimbabwe. Simultaneously, Uganda's government is outlining a new tax on mobile data usage. Alpha Condé's ongoing scramble for a third presidential term makes a bad story worse in Guinea. Ghana's women are striving for empowerment in economy and politics. And we gather why African countries are in debt – and why that’s hard to change.
Zimbabwe: Emmerson Mnangagwa under pressure?
At a press conference in early February, Zimbabwean youth politicians Lewis Matutu and Godfrey Tsenengamu claimed President Emmerson Mnangagwa was 'surrounded by criminals'. Both of them are members of the country's ruling ZANU-PF party. They subsequently lost their jobs as Deputy Secretary for Youth and Political Commissar. Suspiciously, their utterances sound quite similar to those which were used to justify the removal of Robert Mugabe from power in 2017. Blessing Vava analyses the current situation in a country still struggling from a poor economy and corruption, drawing parallels between the current situation and the incident that happened two years ago.
Uganda: The price of information
Uganda's social media policy, to put it diplomatically, can be considered as restrictive. An Over-The-Top social media service tax (OTT) which was established in 2018 already restricts access to digital networks and messengers such as Facebook and Whatsapp. In the aftermath, the usage dropped by 11% as at December 2018, with the country's poorest being hit the hardest. Now Ugandan Revenue Authority's Commissioner General Doris Akol has suggested that Internet data should be taxed directly – a blow that human rights activist Masake Anthony deems worthy of contempt.
Guinea: For – more years
Alpha Condé, Guinea's President since 2010, is struggling for a third term in office – which happens to be against the constitution. So Condé is going ahead by changing that composition of the law by holding a referendum which is highly disputed. Understandably, the opposition has shown little enthusiasm for this step, and has announced that it will boycott the legislative elections this February. In the meantime, the whole country is under strain. Medical student Alpha Omar Baldé allows us to gain insight into a clash we tend to ignore easily.
Ghana: Long road to emancipation
Ghana is a developing country with about 58% of its population aged between 15 and 35 years and – as everywhere – more than 50% are women. However, both groups have a negligible political influence. Nevertheless, empowering the youth and women plays a crucial role in the development of a society, says Emachivelli. In their analysis, the authors demonstrate that the more women are supported and empowered, the healthier families are. More children go to school as well, while agricultural production improves and incomes increase.
South Africa: Biting analysis
Regrettably, debt levels are on the rise in many African nations. In 2017, almost every second country was so much in the red that its ability to support its economy in the event of a recession was diminished, thereby making it vulnerable – according to the think tank, Brookings. However, much of this debt is being incurred through foreign currency denominated Eurobonds issued on international financial markets, according to the rules made by developed countries. The problem is not that African nations are borrowing too much, but rather that they are paying too much interest. That's at least the conclusion of South African financial lecturer Misheck Mutize, who proposes that African governments could find solutions if they got up and took action.
Top of the Blogs 2019
In this week’s Top of the Blogs, we are going to look at the reasons for Zimbabwe’s current food crisis. Meanwhile in Ethiopia, tensions are escalating between the central government and the Sidamas, who want more autonomy. The perceived impunity of Cameroon’s army comes under scrutiny. And Ivorians, along with fans all over the world, are paying homage to a DJ of many nicknames.
Zimbabwe: Bad harvests meet poor economics
5.5 million Zimbabweans will be food insecure by January 2020, according to the World Food Program. The drought during the start of this year’s planting season is one reason for this situation. Additionally, Cyclone Idai inflicted severe damage on the country. All this has caused the maize harvest to more than halve compared to last year. However, agricultural economist Wandile Sihlobo points out that the government’s economic policies have aggravated this crisis further, instead of lessening its impact.
Ethiopia: Statehood for Sidamas?
Ethiopia’s federal system was designed to allow the country’s biggest ethnic groups a measure of self-government. However, the nine regional states are far from homogenous. More than 40 different ethnicities co-exist in the “Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region”. For the last two decades, the biggest group of them, the Sidamas, have been demanding a region of their own. A delayed referendum on the question has caused deadly fighting between activists and security forces recently. The political scientist Yohannes Gedamu warns that their secession could lead to the unraveling of Ethiopia’s federal system.
Cameroon’s army: “All powerful and untouchable”
In Cameroon, the army is fighting on two fronts: Boko Haram in the far North and Anglophone separatists in the West. Multiple cases of wrongdoing have been reported, where soldiers have burned houses and villages, tortured and executed presumed terrorists and humiliated young women in a crackdown on student protests. Although NGOs such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have spoken out about these abuses, they are rarely investigated. The Cameroonian blogger Fotso Fonkam describes the army’s impunity.
Ivory Coast: A country mourns its DJ
The Ivorian musician DJ Arafat has died at the age of 33. Born as Houon Ange Didier, the DJ took on many personas throughout his career. He was one of the most famous “coupé décalé” artists, who helped make this Ivorian style of music famous far beyond the Ivory Coast. For the blogger Luc Kouade, he was first and foremost an influencer, in every sense of the word: “Until proven otherwise, Dj Arafat, the Daishikan, remains the only public figure (excluding politics) who, alongside his music, knew how to influence the actions of his fans.”