Africa Blog Roundup: Polling from Mali, Boko Haram, Lesotho’s Elections, and More

Bruce Whitehouse on some recent polling from Mali.

The United States Institute of Peace has released a report, “What Is Boko Haram?” by the journalist Andrew Walker.

The Moor Next Door on the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA).

Charlie Warren:

History has not borne out [predictions of] “coming anarchy” of terrorism, and West Africa is not rife with international extremism. Alas, the region is not beyond terrorism’s grasp either. This means several longstanding arguments about extremism in West Africa need to be carefully revisited.

Emily Wood, “The African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean World.”

Focus on the Horn looks at the Islamic Movement in Sudan.

Earlier this month the Shura (Consultative) Council of the Islamic Movement, an extended central committee of four hundred members, held an extraordinary meeting to discuss a draft new constitution of the Movement to replace a set of ad hoc rules to which only its members had access. The new constitution identified the Movement, the parent organisation of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), as a cultural, social and religious organisation and effectively surrendered its political mandate to the ruling NCP. News of the 11 May Shura only reached the media in the form of a concise communiqué. In fact, the Islamic Movement itself can be considered a semi-clandestine organisation; it has neither headquarters nor a legal personality. A private citizen in Sudan can only access the Movement as a member, and it rarely demonstrates its existence when not in crisis.

Baobab on Lesotho’s elections:

IN A blow for African democracy, Pakalitha Mosisili, leader of Lesotho’s ruling Congress Party (CP), agreed on May 30th to step down as prime minister after 14 years in power despite his party’s having won the most seats in parliamentary elections five days earlier. A group of opposition parties, led by Thomas Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC), is expected to form the mountainous kingdom’s first coalition government.

The 67-year-old Mr Mosisili’s resignation came as a surprise. Many newspapers had already declared him the winner after his party picked up 41 of the 80 constituency seats, an absolute majority. But after a further 40 seats were awarded based on proportional representation, the CP ended up with a total of only 48 seats out of a possible total of 120. That left it still the biggest party, but without the absolute majority required to form a government.

It is not clear to me that this result is indeed a “blow to African democracy.” What do you think?

Africa Blog Roundup: Mauritania’s “Arab Spring,” Kenyan Foreign Policy, Boko Haram, Elections in Lesotho, and More

At The Guardian‘s Comment is Free, Sharif Nashashibi says that the international media have overlooked the protest movement in Mauritania. He argues:

There is…the possibility, or perhaps even the probability, that the protests in Mauritania will intensify, mainly because the government seems not to have learned from the mistakes of other Arab regimes that are under threat. It has used a combination of repression and pledges of reform that have left Mauritanians unconvinced and more frustrated.

Demonstrations have thus far been peaceful and centred around reforms. However, as in other Arab states, if protesters feel they are being indefinitely ignored or oppressed, not only might calls for reform become demands for regime change, but violence may become a means to advance those demands – a particularly dangerous development given Mauritania’s ethnic fault lines.

By the way, for those who read Arabic, Twitter user Mint Mauritanie is a great resource for news on Mauritanian politics and the protests.

Amb. David Shinn flags a discussion by Kenyan scholars of Kenyan foreign policy.

Two pieces on Boko Haram: G. Pascal Zachary parses a recent Financial Times piece’s language on Boko Haram’s alleged ties to Al Qaida, and wonders whether the US will start taking a more hands-on approach to the rebel sect. Andrew Walker compares two views on Boko Haram that are “almost diametrically opposite…except they both agree that journalists (people like me) have it wrong.” What do you think the international media has done well in its coverage of Boko Haram, and what has it done poorly?

And two others on Nigeria: Attempting Denouement on oil bunkering in the Niger Delta, and Laura Dimon on the social effects of desertification in the Lake Chad area.

Bruce Whitehouse on a sermon he heard on Friday in Bamako:

A few minutes into today’s wajilu I heard the imam utter the word CEDEAO (“sedeyawu“), the French acronym for the Economic Community of West African States.

Now I was interested. Why was the imam talking about ECOWAS in his sermon? This is a preacher who often urges parishioners in general terms to join together and work for unity, and to overcome petty differences. But I had never heard him venture into such explicitly political territory before. It soon became clear that he was coming out in full support of the agreement signed last weekend between ECOWAS and Mali’s military junta, the CNRDRE. Mali’s leaders and ECOWAS would never advocate anything that was against the nation’s interests, he said. He condemned the recent disturbances in Bamako and admonished us not to follow those who seek to destabilize the country.

[…]

From the international news media one often hears about firebrand imams throughout the Muslim world using their pulpits to whip their congregations into a political frenzy. In Bamako, however, I rarely hear imams address overtly political topics in Friday sermons. Which made the Badalabougou imam’s message this afternoon all the more powerful.

Royal Africa Society Director Richard Dowden posts excerpts from an interview with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

Zachary Rosen on the elections in Lesotho.

This year’s National Assembly contest has been marked by massive voter engagement with an especially strong showing for young and first time voters. Rallies, famo musicperformances and to a lesser extent, social media, have been used to generate support for parties and candidates. Key issues that affect the majority of Basotho include: employment, agricultural investment, union wage negotiations, access to education and labor mobility to and from South Africa. Because no party wants to resort to forming a coalition government with their rivals, competition for voters’ allegiance has been rather intense.

While each party is representing itself as the one that can best be trusted by Basotho factory workers, farmers, civil servants and students, it’s evident that other, more clandestine constituents are being courted as well. The incumbent Prime Minister Mosisili in particular has realized the value of partnerships with foreign investors, especially South Africans and Chinese. Kenny Kunene, South Africa’s infamous “Sushi King” (who also invests in mining) has reportedly been acontributor to Mosisili’s political campaign at a time when Lesotho’s diamond mines are exhuming some of the largest stones in the world. Lesotho’s mountainous highlands have long been of strategic interest to the South African government as well, with giant dams supplying essential water to the Johannesburg area for domestic and industrial use. Chinese investors, who operate many of Lesotho’s textile factories, have benefited from being able to keep wages low on Mosisili’s watch, to the vexation of Basotho factory workers. Chinese contractors have been busy with projects across Maseru. Notably, the recently opened Ying Tao restaurant in one of Lesotho’s nicer hotels, the Lesotho Sun, has quickly become a popular meeting place for Basotho elite and Chinese businessmen.

What are you reading today? Any new bloggers out there I should be reading?