Aug 15 2014

Book Review: Africa’s Peacemakers: Nobel Laureates of African Descent Edited by Adekeye Adebajo

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LSE’s Atta Addo calls Africa’s Peacemakers: Nobel Laureates of African Descent an illuminating and well-researched volume which, despite a lack of a strong central concept, should be read by all those interested in Nobel Peace Prize winners of African descent.

Adekeye Adebajo, Executive Director of the Centre for Conflict Resolution in Cape Town, South Africa, and author of works such as The Curse of Berlin: Africa After the Cold War and Building Peace in West Africa, has assembled an impressive list of fourteen expert African and African-American contributors — a mix of scholars and practitioners—to write for this illuminating and well-researched volume. The book, dedicated to the memory of perhaps Africa’s most esteemed Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (18 July 1918- 5 December 2013), is a collection of abridged biographical essays on the thirteen African and African-American winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. The collection is an attempt to, in the words of Adebajo, “draw lessons for peacemaking, civil rights, socio-economic justice, environmental protection, nuclear disarmament and women’s rights” against a backdrop of what eminent Kenyan scholar, Ali Mazrui has called Pax Africana (an African-owned peace) (p.4).

The thirteen winners whose stories are told have championed nonviolence and human rights and fought oppression in various spheres and contexts. They include, in chronological order of winning: Ralph Bunche (1950) for having arranged a cease-fire between Israelis and Arabs during the war which followed the creation of the state of Israel in 1948; Albert John Luthuli (1960) who won as leader of the African National Congress (ANC) for its non-violent resistance again apartheid; Martin Luther King Jr. (1964) for combatting racial inequality through nonviolence; Anwar Sadat (1977), joint winner with Menachem Begin of Israel for their contributions to peace in the Middle East; Desmond Tutu (1984) for his role as a unifying force in black South Africa’s non-violent struggle for liberation; Nelson Mandela and Frederik Willem de Klerk (1993) for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundation for a new democratic South Africa; Kofi Annan (joint winner with UN, 2001) for his work for a better organized and more peaceful world; Wangari Maathai (2004) for her contribution to sustainable development that embraces democracy, human rights and women’s rights; Mohammed El Baradei (2005), joint winner with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for efforts in support of nuclear disarmament and world peace; Barack Hussein Obama (2009) for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples; Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Neyma Gbowee (2011) for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work. Continue reading

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Aug 14 2014

Book Review: Dissent and Revolution in a Digital Age: Social Media, Blogging and Activism in Egypt by David Faris

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Dissent and Revolution in a Digital Age is essential reading for those interested in online activism, inasmuch as it provides a case study for Egypt as well as potentially for the rest of the world, writes Samaya Borom. This book tracks the rocky path taken by Egyptian bloggers operating in Mubarak s authoritarian regime to illustrate how the state monopoly on information was eroded, making space for dissent and digital activism.

The keen interest in the role that social media played in the lead up to the dramatic ousting of president Hosni Mubarak during early 2011 in Egypt was evident in virtually every media outlet and news organisation worldwide. Images of revolution were splashed across television screens, media devices and online and were coupled with commentary concerning the willingness of the Egyptian people to be frontier digital activists. Yet what wasn’t reported was the pre-existing intimate relationship that the Egyptian people already had with social media, and how these historical relationships forged the way for the more open types of communication that characterised the Arab Spring and ultimately, lead to the fall of the Mubarak regime in 2011.

Egypt_SocialMediaDavid Faris‘s book Dissent and Revolution in a Digital Age: Social Media, Blogging and Activism in Egypt concentrates on political events in Egypt between 2005 and August of 2011- a time when multi-candidate elections were held and there was a consensus that Egypt was becoming more open to ideas of government transparency. Of course, because of the nature of the socio-political landscape, quantitative data and metrics about the use of social media during this time was notoriously difficult (if not impossible) to obtain, so Faris relied on a qualitative approach through in-depth interviews with bloggers, activists, journalists and others. Data was also obtained via the American University in Cairo, the Middle East Monitor and by personally attending conferences, meetings and strikes, which together provides for comprehensive coverage of the use of social media throughout Egypt.  The breadth of scholarship undertaken is undoubtedly related to the author’s doctoral dissertation, from which this book originates. Continue reading

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Aug 13 2014

Photo blog: Taking back the coastline of Cape Town

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Charlotte Scott tells the tale of the two sides of Cape Town.

Cape Town is my home, but it is not always a city of opportunity or safety.

Decades of racial segregation have left behind a tale of two cities, one prosperous, the other poor and riddled with violence. Black and coloured ‘townships’ lie all along the fringe of one of the world’s most beautiful cities.  They are characterised by informal housing, blocked public toilets, inaccessible roads, under-resourced schools, periodic flooding and violent gangsterism. In a cruel twist of fate, many are also situated along some of the most breath-taking coastline this city has to offer. A coastline home to spectacular marine biodiversity, the best surfing conditions around the country and a culture that is uniquely South African.


Yet, to many township inhabitants the coast is just one more dangerous place to avoid and one more affluent area where they won’t feel welcome. The City’s tagline “This City Works For You” has been appropriated by some into “This City Works For A Few”. Continue reading

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Aug 11 2014

#GreatWarInAfrica – Equatorial Guinea and the German Schutztruppe during the First World War

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LSE’s Mahon Murphy explores the loyalties of Cameroon soldiers who fought for Germany in World War 1.

The battle for control of Cameroon during the First World War involved five Empires (Britain, France and Belgium versus Germany, with neutral Spain looking on) and was not confined within the borders of the country itself. Cut off from supplies by Britain and France’s control of the sea and virtually surrounded on land, German soldiers were faced with defeat and the threat of internment and forced labour in the prison camps of Dahomey (Benin). The only option left for the German troops was to retreat across the River Campo to the south and into Spanish-controlled Rio Muni. This retreating army comprised approximately 200 German officers, 6,000 Schutztruppe (troops recruited in Cameroon), 6,000 Cameroonian women and roughly 4,000 servants and carriers.

Cameroonian troops ready for action during World War 1

The German-trained Cameroonian troops were viewed as excellent fighters

The Governor of Spanish Guinea (Equatorial Guinea), Ángel Barrera y Luyando, like the majority of Spain’s military elite, was pro-German and saw the possibility of earning the “Prussian” military decoration he had coveted before the war if his German charges were treated well. On reaching Rio Muni in mid-1916 and surrendering to the Spanish authorities, Barrera had the German Officers and 3,000 Schutztruppe brought to the capital on the island of Fernando Po, to be interned until the end of the conflict in Europe. Continue reading

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Aug 11 2014

#GrandeGuerreEnAfrique – La Guinée Equatoriale et les Schutztruppe allemands pendant la Première Guerre Mondiale

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Mahon Murphy de la LSE interroge la loyauté des soldats Camerounais qui ont combattu auprès des Allemands pendant la Première Guerre Mondiale.

Les combats pour le contrôle du Cameroun pendant la Première Guerre Mondiale ont impliqué cinq empires (la Grande Bretagne, la France et la Belgique contre l’Allemagne, avec l’Espagne, neutre, en arrière-plan) et ont été limités au territoire de ce pays. Coupés de leurs ressources par les Anglais, La France contrôlant la mer, et cernés sur terre, les soldats allemands s’acheminaient vers une défaite et la menace de l’emprisonnement et du travail forcé dans les camps de Dahomey (Bénin). Leur seule alternative restait de battre en retraite vers le Sud à travers le fleuve Campo pour entrer dans le Rio Muni sous contrôle espagnol. Cette armée se composait d’approximativement 200 officiers allemands, 6000 Schutztruppe (des troupes recrutées au Cameroun), 6000 femmes camerounaises et environ 4000 serviteurs et porteurs.

Les troupes camerounaises entrainées par les Allemands étaient reconnus comme étant d’excellents combattants

Les troupes camerounaises entrainées par les Allemands étaient reconnus comme étant d’excellents combattants

Le gouverneur de la Guinée Espagnole (la Guinée Equatoriale), Ángel Barrera y Luyando, à l’image de la majorité des élites militaires espagnoles, était pro-allemand. Il perçut la possibilité d’obtenir la décoration militaire « prussienne » tant convoitée avant la guerre si ses charges Allemandes étaient bien traitées. A leur arrivée à Rio Muni au milieu de l’année 1916 et après s’être rendus aux autorités espagnoles, les officiers allemands et 3000 Schutztruppe furent amenés à la capitale sur l’île de Fernando Po par Barrera pour y être emprisonnés jusqu’à la fin du conflit en Europe. Continue reading

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Aug 8 2014

Favouritism under Social Pressure in Football and in Life

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Economics seeks to answer important questions about how people, industries, and countries can maximise their productivity, create wealth, and maintain financial stability. So is it possible that it can learn from the beautiful game of football? LSE’s Professor Ignacio Palacios-Huerta believes so and his latest book, Beautiful Game Theory: How Soccer Can Help Economics deals with this topic.

If you live in England or follow English football closely, you will be well-acquainted with the phenomenon of Fergie Time. This is a well-established idea among football fans that during the heyday of Sir Alex Ferguson as manager of Manchester United, the club would receive an extra helping of added time when they were losing.

fergie-timeAs you would expect, former Premier League referee Graham Poll does not believe in Fergie Time. However, he did say, “I think it would be too easy to just say it’s rubbish. When you analyse and think psychologically what happens, the pressure that’s on you at Old Trafford or the Emirates or Stamford Bridge, the pressure that is implied upon you must have an effect, even if subconsciously.”

It is a fact that social environments influence individual behaviour. Professor Palacios-Huerta’s interest was in the effect of nonmonetary incentives on behaviour, in particular, with the study of social pressure as a determinant of corruption. However, social forces are difficult to quantify or even observe accurately and the influence on behaviour cannot be established unless it is clear how a person would have acted in the absence of such forces. Continue reading

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Aug 7 2014

Book Review: Justifying Interventions in Africa: (De)Stabilizing Sovereignty in Liberia, Burundi and the Congo by Nina Wilén

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Analyzing the UN interventions in Liberia, Burundi and the Congo, Nina Wilén poses the question of how one can stabilize a state through external intervention without destabilizing sovereignty. She critically examines the justifications for international and regional interventions through a social constructivist framework. Vladimir Rauta finds a clear and detailed book, of use to students of IR and development studies.

The study of military intervention precipitates academic anxieties. Even after decades of research, writings on military intervention remind readers of James Rosenau’s quasi-prophetic words: “the deeper one delves into the literature on intervention, the more incredulous one becomes”. Indeed, the more attention that is paid to intervention, the less clear the concept becomes. Studying intervention in the 21st century has seemingly become an adventure of imprecise interrogations that often considers evidence but does not inspire theoretical advancements. However, challenging this pattern of research is Nina Wilén’s recently published book Justifying Interventions in Africa: (De)Stabilizing Sovereignty in Liberia, Burundi and the Congo.

Africa_interventionsAmbitious in its aims, the book sets to uncover the relationship between sovereignty, stability and intervention. It understands the relationship between intervention and sovereignty as having a paradoxical effect on stability and it challenges the mainstream assumption that intervention is constructive and beneficial to the reconstructing of sovereignty in a post-conflict setting. The book focuses on the set of justifications for intervention and the interpretations of sovereignty that the rationale for intervention circumvents. More precisely, Wilén unpacks the construction of sovereignty by external actors and questions the effects these processes have on the general stability of a country – or rather three so-called target states: Liberia, Burundi and the Congo. The main question is, thus, how does one “stabilize a state through external intervention without destabilizing its sovereignty?” (p. 179). However, although being straightforward in its intentions, the book is not similar in its analysis and demonstrates, at several points throughout the book, a curious case of compromised aptitude in grasping the intricacies of the intervention-sovereignty-stability triptych. Continue reading

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