Apr 14 2014

(In)security Groups and Governance in Gulu, Uganda

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Holly Porter & Rebecca Tapscott[1] examine the operation of security groups in Gulu, northern Uganda.

Last November, at three in the morning, a man was murdered on the street not far outside Gulu Town. There were tens of witnesses, yet there was no investigation, no prosecution, and no compensation provided to the victim’s family. A common reflection on the event was that the victim “did good to die”.

People recount the story in different ways: one version describes the victim as a notorious and unrepentant drug dealer and crook. On the night he was finally caught, a mob of frustrated neighbours banded together and beat him with a machete, resulting in his unintentional, if not surprising, death. Another version explains that the murdered man was a petty thief and marijuana smoker who made enemies with a community leader. That night, he either burnt the kitchen of the leader or was framed for arson.  The more powerful man responded immediately, taking the law into his own hands and brutally murdering the victim in public, thereby asserting authority over the jurisdiction.

gulu-town

Such stories of people taking justice “into their own hands” are common in northern Uganda. This particular instance happened just outside Holly’s house. In the past two weeks, as we have looked closer at local responses to community insecurity, people have recounted other recent events of citizen-driven violence. Among these stories, there is wide variation in the victims’ personal details (professionals to lay-people, men and women, adults and youth) and originating crime (theft, prostitution, over-drinking or drug abuse, violating curfew, etc.). Some can be categorized as “mob justice” or “mob violence”— they share a collective, spontaneous, and potentially fatal, beating. Continue reading

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Apr 10 2014

Book Review: The Struggle for Egypt: From Nasser to Tahrir Square by Steven A. Cook

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Steven Cook‘s master-class in Egyptian political history since the military coup in 1952 is essential to understanding the political tensions between militarists, Islamists, and democrats which persist up to the present day, finds Matthew Partridge. Essential reading following the election of Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Struggle for Egypt: From Nasser to Tahrir Square. Steven A. Cook. Oxford University Press. September 2011.

Although the first dictator in the region to depart in 2011 was Tunisia’s Ben Ali, no country epitomises the changing narrative around the Arab spring more than Egypt. It was Mubarak’s resignation in the middle of February that prompted London, Washington, and Paris to break with their previous policies of public silence on the behaviour of incumbent regimes. However, as the protests showed, the final destination of the Egyptian transition remained in the balance for months, with continued military rule, an Islamist coup, or a genuine move to democracy all possible outcomes. This weekend the Arab Spring entered its next chapter however, as Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was declared Egypt’s first democratically elected president.

struggleforegypt

Steven Cook’s The Struggle for Egypt: From Nasser to Tahrir Square doesn’t attempt to make any definite predictions about Egypt’s political future. Instead, he argues that an understanding of Egyptian political history since the military coup in 1952 is essential to understanding the political tensions between militarists, Islamists and democrats, which have persisted up to the present day. With the exception of the thirty pages of the first chapter, which delivers a potted history of Egyptian politics from the nineteenth century to the “Free Officers” coup d’etat, the focus of the six remaining chapters is strictly on the last fifty-nine years. Continue reading

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Apr 9 2014

New Visiting African Research Fellow at LSE

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Dr Asnake Kefale is the 2013/2014 Visiting African Research Fellow based in the LSE IDEAS. He is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Addis Ababa University. I met with him on his arrival at the School to talk about his research.

What are your research interests?

My interests lie very much in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa. My background is in political science and international relations. I primarily focus on conflict management. The region has been affected by conflicts over the past century and this is a situation which we still face today. I look at the issues behind these conflicts and how institutions are involved in conflict exacerbation and resolution as well as the role of international actors.

Asnake-KefaleWhen and why did you develop an interest in this subject?

I started studying politics at a young age in Ethiopia back in the late 80s and early 90s around the end of Cold War. The study of the Cold War was about ideological and geopolitical conflict. Although there were many regional conflicts in the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia was one of the countries seriously affected by the conflicts involving the two superpowers. There were insurgency movements and civil wars. This situation motivated many students of politics to look at the reasons behind conflicts whether ideological, historical, resources, economic. This kick-started my interest in the study of conflicts in our region. Continue reading

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Apr 9 2014

Book Review – Emerging Africa: How the Global Economy’s “Last Frontier” Can Prosper and Matter

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LSE’s Sakina Badamasuiy calls Emerging Africa: How the Global Economy’s “Last Frontier” can Prosper and Matter a valuable addition to the growing discourse to the roadmap of Africa’s economic direction.

“The place to start is to be clear who is not responsible for Africa’s progress. Despite conventional wisdom in certain quarters, the so-called “international community” has neither the responsibility nor the ability to bring Africa out of its developmental torpor”.

We have heard such strong opinions before. What Dr. Kingsley Chiedu Moghalu does differently with his latest book is provide a comprehensive guide on how to deconstruct any doubt we have in our ability as Africans to carry the “Africa rising” narrative to its full conclusion. The above quote is the fundamental message carefully laid out in different chapters of the Deputy Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria’s new book, Emerging Africa: How the Global Economy’s “Last Frontier” Can Prosper and Matter. In short, Dr Moghalu pulls together his vast international experience to offer a roadmap for African economic engineering and renaissance in this book.

emerging_africa

In charting the continent’s road to success, Dr Moghalu first asks us to come to terms with the state of the world – globalised yet unfit for Africans. Continue reading

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Apr 7 2014

Photo blog: Rwanda in Photographs: Death Then, Life Now

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As the world reflects on the lessons learned from the Rwanda genocide which took place 20 years ago, a photo exhibition at King’s College London is choosing to look forward, not backwards.

Too often the country is reduced to images of violence and death, as seen through the eyes of outsiders. For this exhibition, Rwandans have challenged this gaze and now show us their country through their own eyes.

Photo by Mussa Uwitonze

Men carrying bags of charcoal
Photo by Musa Uwitonze

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Apr 7 2014

Reflecting on Rwanda 20 years after the genocide

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Twenty years on from the Rwanda genocide, LSE’s Omar McDoom reflects on what lessons have been learned and what changes have been effected as a result.

Rwanda’s genocide, twenty years ago this month, symbolises the zenith of ethnic violence in Africa and international indifference toward it.   How did this defining event change our world?  It is true that mass atrocity is still not a ghost of the past and international inaction in the face of it is still not an unthinkable choice.  Events in the Central African Republic and Syria today serve as dark reminders of each of these realities.   Yet we would be overly cynical to think nothing has changed.   The hundreds of thousands of lives brutally taken in Rwanda left a mark on the world’s conscience and moved us a little closer towards making ‘never again’ a credible promise.

rwanda-genocide-crosses-in-kigali

Inaction over Rwanda moved Kofi Annan in 2001, as UN Secretary-General, to ask when intervention is ever justified.  “[I]f humanitarian intervention is, indeed, an unacceptable assault on sovereignty, how should we respond to a Rwanda, to a Srebrenica—to gross and systematic violations of human rights that offend every precept of our common humanity?”  A year later, in a paradigm-shifting answer, an international commission re-cast state sovereignty as responsibility rather than control.  While neither universally accepted nor legally binding, the notion of a ‘responsibility to protect’ (R2P) decisively entered the lexicon of international relations.  R2P signifies more than mere rhetorical change.  In authorising intervention in Darfur in 2006, the UN Security Council took the unprecedented step of explicitly invoking R2P.  Its normative power is reflected in the more robust mandates of UN peacekeeping missions since Rwanda.  The protection of civilians is now central to UN operations in the DRC, Mali, Ivory Coast, and South Sudan. Continue reading

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Apr 3 2014

Book Review: Performative Revolution in Egypt: An Essay in Cultural Power by Jeffrey C. Alexander

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Performative Revolution in Egypt provides a sociological analysis of competing symbols and narratives in a chronicle of the uprising in Egypt through the lens of media reports and activist-generated accounts. Ryan Evans reviews the essay and finds that despite the author’s explicit focus on the ‘performance’ of the revolution itself, it brings the dissonance between this performance and its deliverables to the fore.

Performative Revolution in Egypt: An Essay in Cultural Power by Jeffrey C. Alexander. Bloomsbury Academic. 144 pages. October 2011.

Over one year after the rule of Hosni Mubarak ended, the most striking impression to this observer is how the Egyptian chapter of the ‘Arab Spring’ has failed to live up to the breathless democracy-and-liberty rhetoric that defined its coverage in the Western and international Arab press. To illustrate this point, one could look askance at a number of scandals from the last year that strike one as something worse than democracy’s ‘growing pains.’

Perhaps the most arresting, in both senses of the word, is the winter closure of American and European-funded pro-democracy NGOs and the filing of criminal charges against democracy activists, including American citizens (some of whom managed to escape to the safety of the US embassy until a deal was struck that allowed them to leave Egypt).

egyptian-uprising

Despite the fact that he explicitly focuses on the ‘performance’ of the revolution itself and avoids its effects, Jeffrey C. Alexander’s excellent Performative Revolution in Egypt: An Essay in Cultural Power brings the dissonance between this performance and its deliverables to the fore. Continue reading

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