Africa Blog Roundup: Kenya’s Elections, Nigeria’s Trains, DDR in South Sudan, and More

Ken Opalo: “Who Will Win the Kenyan Presidential Election?”

If the polls are right Uhuru Kenyatta still leads Raila Odinga by about 740,000 votes.  I estimate that Mr. Kenyatta will get 48.87% of the votes cast to Mr. Odinga’s 41.72%, which means that a run-off is almost inevitable. I don’t expect Mr. Kenyatta to hit the 50% mark since my model is slightly biased in his favor (especially coming from the Rift Valley turnout figures from 2007 that I use as a basis of estimating turnout in 2013).

Trains: Will Ross with a link to a BBC podcast segment on the Lagos-Kano Express. And Shelby Grossman with a photograph of a terminal under construction along a planned railway from Lagos to Cotonou.

Afendi Muteki: “The Oromo of Harerghe: On the Evolution of Urban Centers [in Ethiopia],” parts one and two.

Jairo Munive: “Disarmament, Demobilization And Reintegration In South Sudan: Feasible Under Current Conditions?”

Nasser Weddady on George Bush, Francois Hollande, and Mali.

Aaron Zelin compiles three new reports from Somalia’s Al Shabab.

I was thinking yesterday that my “Local Media Sources” list (in the right sidebar) was looking a bit thin, so I made some additions. Any suggestions for others to add?

Africa Blog Roundup: Algeria and Mali, MPs in Kenya, the Sudans, and More

At the Francophonie summit in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Siddhartha Mitter writes, “The roster [of musical acts] replicates the schism that has occurred in Congolese music over politics – specifically, whether to endorse President Joseph Kabila, and gain from official patronage; or whether to oppose him, either from outside the country, where numerous soukous veterans have sought shelter, or domestically, in the largely hip-hop-driven Kinshasa underground.”

Loomnie, responding to a recent interview on Boko Haram at the Economist, discusses how Nigeria’s oil wealth affected Northern Nigeria’s economy.

The Moor Next Door on Algeria and Mali:

It appears likely that French efforts to assert control over the regional setting through ECOWAS will go ahead, as its leaders have said ‘with or without Algeria’; what success or buy in these will get from Algiers is not clear to this blogger at this time. What Algeria is seeking to work out in Mali, beyond avoiding military intervention and the expansion of AQIM and its fraternal organisations beyond Mali, is also relatively obscure; the Algerian end state has not been articulated clearly as much as its preferences for a process, or style of process, that allows Algiers to remain central and with some measure of control (or perception of control) especially with respect to the parts of Mali bordering southern Algeria. Since last winter Algeria has been seeking out its traditional role as a mediator and facilitator in northern Mali; this comes from both internal priorities as well as regional ones.

Texas in Africa, “Realities of Rape in War.”

Amb. David Shinn flags new reports on the United States and the Sudans and on pastoralists in northern Kenya.

Zanele Hlatshwayo: “Time To Improve State Participation In Africa’s Extractive Industries.”

Roving Bandit: “The State of the Game between Juba and Khartoum.”

Amb. John Campbell: “Nigeria’s Economic Reforms in Trouble?”

The Economist on Kenya:

As they swish past in their flashy cars on their way to parliament, members of Kenya’s legislature are often greeted nowadays by protesters shouting “Mwizi !”, Swahili for “thief”. Having lost the power to vote for a rise in their basic salary, thanks to a new constitution endorsed in a referendum two years ago, the lawmakers found a sneaky way to boost their pay. It has not been popular.

A student newsletter from Somaliland.

Art installations at the Lagos Business School.

Africa News Roundup: Traore Returns to Mali, Constituent Assembly Meets in Somalia, Senegal Boosts Electricity, and More

Mali’s interim President Dioncounda Traore returned home yesterday from France, after a two-month recuperation.

In Somalia, the National Constituent Assembly “began a marathon-nine-day meeting on Wednesday to debate on a provisional constitution, before final ratification by a national referendum.” This is a critical step in the transition process, though it comes behind schedule.

AP on evictions in the Makoko area of Lagos, Nigeria:

Makoko is a sprawling community of bamboo homes and shacks built out of driftwood, close to the University of Lagos campus and visible to daily traffic that plies the Third Mainland Bridge, the link from the mainland to the city’s islands. Those living in Makoko subsist largely as fishermen and workers in nearby saw mills, cutting up water-logged timber that’s floated into the city daily. Some work jobs outside of the slum as gate guards and in other industries, though most live almost entirely within its watery boundaries.

The people of Makoko have created their own life independent from the state, with its own schools and clinics, however ill-equipped. Commerce goes on in its creek alleyways as women sell sizzling dishes and goods from canoes. Others sell videos and telephone airtime cards from the shacks just above the waterline, where a maze of wooden planks connects the homes.

Senegal has received an $85 million loan to help boost electricity.

The Guardian: “Burkina Faso’s School for Shepherds Thrives”

Kenyan presidential candidates Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, even if one of them is elected in March 2013, would still have to stand trial at the International Criminal Court, where they face charges of fomenting post-electoral violence in 2007-2008.

After a strike that cost twelve production days, work has resumed at First Quantum’s Guelb Moghrein mine.

What else is going on?

Africa Blog Roundup: Dakar Fashion Week, South Sudan, Dual Citizenship, Lagos, Djibouti, and More

PEN’s statement on the sentencing of Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega.

Also from Ethiopia, reports of clashes between police and Muslim protesters (some background here).

Africa Is A Country on the cultural politics of representing Africa in fashion (and how Dakar Fashion Week breaks the mold):

As designers continue to release fantasy collections inspired by their latest trip to exotic, mystical and faraway lands (Michael KorsGiorgio Armani) and fashion editorials feature white models amidst backgrounds of hyper-sexualized dark bodies in seemingly equally dark continents (Daria Werbowy for Interview Magazine), it is clear that for the fashion world, Africa represents a sort of otherness. That otherness, and especially the sexuality of the other, is marketed as flavor and spice, something new, sexually raw and stimulating. Whether depicted in high-fashion advertisements or on the runway, racial difference becomes both at once threateningly pleasurable and seductively dangerous, positioning it at the intersection of most intimate obsessions with desire and death.

Lesley Anne Warner on Washington and Africa policy:

On one hand, DC is a highly intellectual, international city brimming with opportunity and access. On the other hand, it can be very insular and one can easily fall into the trap of assuming all knowledge can be found in DC or its immediate vicinity. It’s the latter that irks me.

On top of having writer’s block, I’ve also had a very introspective week – which is why I was reminded of this Beltway dichotomy at an Africa event I recently attended. The speaker was addressing a pretty controversial topic, but was very politic in their remarks and when it came to Q&A. Their remarks did not spark a heated debate, which should have been the case given the subject matter. Instead, it sounded like a pitch for maintaining the status quo of U.S. engagement in Africa – regardless of the inherent idiosyncrasies of our approach (security at the expense of democracy, for example), or any potential areas for improvement.

Amb. David Shinn flags two items from the US Institute of Peace on the trajectory of South Sudan.

Dr. Kim Yi Dionne on “Diaspora, Development, and Dual Citizenship”:

Last month, Malawi President Joyce Banda traveled to the UK and US to participate in international summits related to aid and development. During President Banda’s visit to the US, she spoke at a specially convened meeting of the Malawi Washington Association (MWA), an organization of the Malawian diaspora in the US.

There has been a lot of chatter recently about harnessing African diasporas to develop their home countries, and the MWA is no exception. The MWA discussion (at least as seen on the email listserv) focuses on the need for Malawi to offer dual citizenship.

Amb. John Campbell on Lagos, taxation, and success.

Reflections on Djibouti from an American soldier.

Don’t forget, if you are in DC, do come to discuss these topics (including the relationship between DC and Africa!) at Science Club on Tuesday.

Lagos on the Up and Up: French Aid for Buses

I don’t often write about Southern Nigeria on this blog, nor do I often write about my interest in urban transportation issues in Africa (especially because I am no expert on either topic!), but this AP story on French aid to Lagos’ bus system ($100 million total) is definitely worth a read:

The French Foreign ministry said in a statement Friday that the funds will go toward Lagos’ $330-million urban transport plan.

[...]

Lagos launched its first bus rapid transit line in 2008. However, the city still relies mainly on individually-owned and poorly-run rickety buses.

Lagos has won a lot of plaudits in recent years for the development strategy pursued by Governor Babatunde Fashola, who has relied on local taxes to broaden government services in the city and in the state. Lagos isn’t perfect – crime, poverty, and pollution are still major problems – but a lot of eyes are on the city as a potential model for other Nigerian and African cities.

A transportation revolution in Lagos could contribute to that perception. Around the world, public transportation in cities is a major concern, including in the US where I personally believe most major cities have a public transportation deficit. Having strictly private transportation in megacities is a recipe for a high rate of fatal accidents, massive pollution, congestion, and overall inefficiency. There are relatively few strong public bus systems in Africa (Dakar has one, and I used it frequently when I lived there), and even fewer urban train systems (on a side note, check out this article on the subway in Algiers), so it could be very important that Lagos is taking this step forward.

Africa Blog Roundup: Mauritania and Malawi Protests, Lebanese in West Africa, India and China in Africa, and More

Protests:

Baobab writes about how Lebanese businessmen are prospering in West Africa:

Those in business say several factors have helped them to succeed. Most crucial are trade networks among the Lebanese diaspora and beyond, says Abdallah Shehny whose office-equipment business spans Sierra Leone, Liberia and Dubai. Contacts in countries Brazil to China—little trade is done with other African countries due to costs of overcoming poor infrastructure—are important for trade. But they also act as substitutes for the lack of local services such as access to finance. Family workers bring down costs.

Thousands Lebanese fled Liberia’s long civil war; those who stayed found plenty of opportunities for reconstruction. Many educated and well-off Liberians also left. But competition from businessmen from India and China is now growing.

Flexible responses to the changing political and economical situation has been key to the diaspora’s success, according to Mara Leichtman, an American academic who studies the Lebanese in Senegal.

Scott Baldauf looks at Indian-Chinese competition in Africa:

If it wasn’t already clear, India’s announcement of $5 billion in development deals in Africa should certainly put to rest any question of whether India is dedicated to doing business on the African continent over the long haul.

The pledge of development aid to African countries – essentially a fund to help African countries to meet their development goals – stands in stark contrast to Africa’s largest single trading partner, China.

While China trades large infrastructure projects (built mostly by Chinese labor) for access to African raw materials, India spends money on training Africans to develop their own countries. And while Indian countries certainly have come into Africa as investors, Indian diplomats are quick to stress that the relationship between India and African countries is more one of equal partners.

Loomnie posts an Al Jazeera documentary on Lagos.

G. Paschal Zachary gives his take on a recent article about corruption in Nigeria.

USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah discusses the organization’s response to the crisis in Abyei, Sudan.

Aaron Bady takes down Paul Theroux’s “myth of native intolerance” in Africa.

Any new blogs springing up?

Quick Guide to Nigeria’s Gubernatorial Elections This Week

This post gives an overview of what will happen in Nigeria’s state elections this week. These gubernatorial elections will conclude a three-stage electoral process that began with legislative elections on April 9 and continued with presidential elections on April 16.

Details About Dates

Today, Nigerians in 29 of the country’s 36 states will cast votes for state governors. On Thursday, voters in Kaduna and Bauchi States will do the same (the elections in these two states were postponed due to the violence that followed last week’s presidential elections). In the remaining five states – Bayelsa, Cross River, Adamawa, Kogi and Sokoto – elections will not take place this week “because the elections that brought the governors of the states in 2007 were flawed and new elections and governors were the results.” Courts and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) are currently reviewing the situations in those five states.

Details About Candidates and Parties

According to Wikipedia’s list of Nigerian state governors, of the 31 states holding elections this week, the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) holds the governors’ seats in 21. The PDP also has governors in all five of the states not holding elections. The remaining ten governorships are held between the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which controls Edo, Ekiti, Lagos, and Osun; the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP), which controls Borno, Kano, and Yobe; the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), which controls Abia and Anambra; and the Labour Party (LP), which controls Ondo.

Again according to Wikipedia, only six governors are hitting their two-term limit and are therefore ineligible to run again. That means that many incumbents are running this year. One important incumbent candidate to watch is Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola (ACN), who is seeking – and is likely to win – another mandate to continue his reforms in Nigeria’s largest city. One important open race to watch is the contest in Kano, home to the largest city in Northern Nigeria. Governors’ races in the North will test the strength of a new party, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), and will help determine the fate of the ANPP, from which the CPC split. For more on Kano, including struggles within the CPC, see here. Finally, it is worth watching the ACN, which did very well in legislative elections earlier this month. Will the ACN be able to extend its victories in Nigeria’s South West?

News Coverage

News organizations are focusing on issues of electoral violence and are looking at what the elections of governors mean for ordinary people. On the topic of violence, see reports from CNN and Reuters. Violence is gaining even more attention with yesterday’s bombing in Borno State, the stronghold of the Muslim rebel group Boko Haram. AP reports on violence against poll workers.

Turning to the significance of the gubernatorial contests, the BBC highlights the proximity of governors to ordinary people: “For many Nigerians, governors – who control big budgets in the oil-producing country – represent the closest embodiment of power many ever see in African’s most populous nation of some 150 million people.”

Business Day argues that governors are symbols of both failure and hope:

The State level represents the most important sub-national level, and it is generally acknowledged that if governors had performed even at 50 percent since 1999, Nigeria would have seen some measure of economic progress. But for most States, governors come and go and the people are left wondering what is the whole purpose and essence of their office. In the same vein, the members of State assemblies have not lived up to the expectation. They are supposed to be a constructive check on the governors but in most cases, they are appendages of the executive.

Nigerians, when they go to the polls tomorrow, are hoping to elect new governors that will transform their lives through the building and repairing of infrastructure in the states, the support of agricuture and industry, provide platform for the improvement of education and health.

The hopes and frustrations that accompany these elections only increase the importance of the vote. US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson, in an interview with VOA, says how the gubernatorial elections conclude in Nigeria will help determine the success of this entire electoral season.

Conclusion

I expect there will be a lot of news today, so please leave a comment and let us know what you’re hearing. And definitely let me know if I’ve made any mistakes above – there are a lot of details to keep track of. Most of all, I wish Nigerians a safe and successful vote today.

Sunday Africa Blog Roundup: Somalia, Kenya, Sudan, Nigeria, and More

I’m pretty skeptical of some of the claims in this post on improved living standards in Somalia (and the article it links too) – improved for whom? – but here is the link anyways.

Kal looks at “lions and foxes” in Mauritanian politics.

The amazing AfriGadget posts on toys in Nairobi.

Dipnote has a statement on the Sudanese elections from the “troika”: the US, the UK, and Norway. And Sean Brooks writes up his assessment of the elections.

Reuters on Iran and Zimbabwe.

Katrin Schulze points us to the BBC’s series on Lagos.

Inside Islam continues its series of videos of interviews in Senegal.

Gregg Carlstrom and Aaron Zelin update us on the situation in Yemen.

Arabic is not going anywhere.”

And finally, Africa Is A Country alerts us to another interesting music project, involving Nigerian disco.

What are you reading today?