- Khadija Patel
It’s tempting to dismiss Boko Haram and its brutal, public atrocities as an aberration, a temporary road-block on Nigeria’s slow but inexorable upward trajectory. This is, after all, Africa’s largest economy and a thriving, if dysfunctional, democracy. But the violence keeps coming, and Nigeria’s leaders – despite their bullish, near-farcical declarations to the contrary – are powerless to stop it. By SIMON ALLISON.
Before Israel was chosen as the Jewish homeland, Britain offered part of Uganda to Theodore Herzl’s Zionist group in 1903. This did not eventuate but somehow a resilient Jewish community still came into existence on a dusty, hilltop town in Uganda. KIM HARRISBERG spent a Shabbat with the Abayudaya community.
Women’s groups in Mozambique have won a huge battle to prevent some serious anti-women laws from being included in the country’s new penal code – their tenacity is a lesson to us all that ordinary citizens can make change happen. It’s only a start, though as the new legislation is still far from perfect. Civil society still has plenty of work to do. By SIMON ALLISON.
After being pummeled in the last election, and riven with infighting and recrimination in the months since, Zimbabwe’s political opposition is at its lowest ebb in a decade. SIMON ALLISON asks the obvious question: if not Zanu, then who? The answer makes for disheartening reading – unless your name’s Robert Mugabe, and you’ve got a country you want to keep running.
Having finally got its calculations right, Nigeria is now officially Africa’s largest economy. What does this mean, exactly? Not all that much for Nigeria’s long-suffering citizens, whose lives are not materially affected by a few rearranged numbers on a spreadsheet. It’s a bigger deal for South Africa, actually: not only have we lost our economic crown, but we’re losing our diplomatic clout to Nigeria too. By SIMON ALLISON.
Numbers are the foundation of the humanitarian world: how many died, how many were displaced, how many need assistance. But getting these numbers is a messy, complicated business – and, consequently, often unreliable. SIMON ALLISON examines how statisticians and humanitarian organisation count the cost of conflict and disaster.
GAIL WOMERSLEY is a South African psychologist who just returned from six weeks in the Central African Republic, where she worked primarily with Doctors Without Borders staff members to help them deal with the trauma and devastation they were witnessing on a daily basis. This is her account of arriving in Bangui, and of an average working day in the capital.
With elections round the corner, it seems our politicians have no shortage of good news stories to tell. Defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula was the latest to put the positive spin machine to the test, this time on the subject of South Africa’s peacekeeping adventures on the African continent. Turns out we do a lot of peacekeeping – and it’s all good, all of the time. She may have forgotten to mention one or two inconvenient truths, however. By SIMON ALLISON.
It’s only a few months before Malawi’s presidential elections, and the race is close – too close for comfort for Joyce Banda, who is desperate to prove her presidency was not just a fortunate coincidence. The pressure is on, and with it some unforgiving media scrutiny. Banda, however, is not doing herself any favours. She’s already broken rule number one for free and fair elections: don’t, whatever happens, get the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission involved. By SIMON ALLISON.
An Egyptian court has sentenced 529 men to death for murdering one policeman in protests last year. It might seem absurd, but there is reason behind this madness. Without any real legitimacy of its own, the credibility of Egypt’s military government depends on ‘protecting’ the nation from the evils of Islamic terrorism. And if it can’t find any terrorists, it must create them. By SIMON ALLISON.
A strange virus is knocking down people in the West African country of Guinea. At the last count, 61 people have died from 87 known infections. Although symptoms are similar to the deadly Ebola virus, some tests have come back negative. If it’s not Ebola, what is it? And how do you defend yourself against a mystery disease? By SIMON ALLISON.
In Burundi, jogging has just become a high-risk activity. If you’re not careful – if you don’t jog in the right places, at the right time – President Pierre Nkurunziza might just mistake your gentle exercise for a dangerously subversive protest against his government. And the president doesn’t take protest lightly. By SIMON ALLISON.
What is the point of having women make up half of Parliament, if they vote for laws that put girls and women right back into the 19th century? This is happening today in Mozambique. In April, the country’s lawmakers will debate and approve the review of the new Penal Code, provisionally approved in December 2013. The revision is long overdue and welcome: finally, Mozambique is getting rid of the colonial Penal Code in use, which dates from 1886. That makes it 127 years old. By MERCEDES SAYAGUES.
Last week, a few unfortunate clicks revealed to the world that the Twitter account of Rwandan President Paul Kagame is run by the same person who spews pro-Rwanda propaganda under the handle @RichardGoldston. The faux Goldston is, of course, allowed to be a lot less guarded than Kagame himself, and a trawl through his Twitter cache offers up a few revelations – none of which are complimentary toward South Africa. No wonder SA-Rwanda relations are at an all-time low. By SIMON ALLISON.
Darfur has slipped off the front pages in recent years, replaced by newer, more exciting causes célèbres. This doesn’t mean the situation has got any better. As fighting flares up yet again, it’s worth remembering what is going wrong – and how it is affecting not just Darfur, but the whole region. By SIMON ALLISON.
Al Shabaab’s on-the-run leader broke cover this week to release a recorded message, in which he exhorted Somalis to fight the good fight against foreign invaders, especially old enemy Ethiopia. It was a typical Islamist propaganda piece, filled with references to God, infidels and the Holy War – but it was also surprisingly perceptive about where Somalia is at the moment, and where it’s going. By SIMON ALLISON.
Rwanda and South Africa are still on speaking terms, but only barely – and if Dirco gets its way even this tenuous relationship will be terminated in the next few days. South Africa, finally, has had enough of Rwanda doing its dirty business on South African soil and has expelled three diplomats, with the ambassador to follow shortly. It’s a bold move, but have we thought it through? By SIMON ALLISON.
Saadi al-Gaddafi – playboy, would-be pro-footballer and third son of Brother Leader himself – is back in Libya after an uncomfortable exile in Niger. It’s a diplomatic victory for the new Tripoli administration, and a very welcome public relations coup at a time when they really need one. By SIMON ALLISON.
There’s no easy fix for the Central African Republic. Even once the bloodshed stops, someone has to figure out how to rebuild a state which no longer exists, and prevent it from falling apart again. Only the United Nations has the skills and experience to confront all the country’s problems simultaneously. The good news is that Ban-Ki Moon is finally getting his act together, proposing a solid intervention plan to the Security Council. The bad news is that the UN is a slow-moving bureaucracy, even at the best of times – and it’s far from the best of times. By SIMON ALLISON.