As the year comes to an end, Grace Thompson looks at 8 events that marked 2017:
Death of Botswana’s former president
Quett Masire, the second president of Botswana, passed away on June 22. Although not as famous as his predecessor, Seretse Khama, Masire had a decisive impact on the progress and success of Botswana. In his article, “Former Botswana President Quett Masire deserves to be remembered as one of the greatest post-colonial African leaders,” LSE’s Elliot Green explains what made Masire a great leader and an example for other African leaders.
Tedros Ghebreyesus took office as Director-General of World Health Organization
The World Health Organization now has its first African Director General, Tedros Ghebreyesus. He took office in early July after several years in the Ethiopian government, and has put forward five priorities for his time in leadership. Dorcas Gwata and Tarik Endale discuss these priorities and what they mean for Africa in an article for the Africa at LSE blog, “Will the appointment of Tedros Ghebreyesus mark a turning point for WHO?”
Somalia experienced one of the most devasting attacks in its history
Over 300 people were killed over the weekend of 14th and 15h of October 2017 in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu. The attack was the deadliest attacks in Somalia’s history. A truck filled with explosives collided with a fuel truck in Mogadishu, causing a blast which left hundreds dead and several more injured. A second bomb was set off soon after. The Somali government stated that the attacks were carried out by the al-Shabab extremist group.
Heightening conflict in DRC as elections still delayed
Whilst Joseph Kabila continues to delay elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), parts of the country are still plagued by violence. Buhenda Mema explains the country’s paralysis“Contesting ‘Le Glissement’: analysis of election gridlocks and the constitutional coup in DRC”. Beyond elections, in the past year several UN personnel have been targeted by militia groups. In December 2017, 15 Tanzanian U.N. peacekeepers were killed and 53 others were wounded in a raid on a base in Congo. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called it the worst attack on the organization in recent history.
Elections in Kenya
Tensions were high in Kenya in the lead up to the August presidential election, as voters were split almost evenly between the two major candidates, Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga. As onlookers and voters remembered the election violence of 2007, Lolan Sagoe-Moses wrote an article for the LSE blog comparing Odinga’s party, National Super Alliance, to Ghana’s New Patriotic Party (NPP), and suggesting mechanisms to ensure fair elections. Kenyatta won the elections by a slight margin, but Odinga contested the result, violent protests arose in parts of the country. Two writers for the Africa at LSE blog explored the impact of social media on the elections, particularly on its role in furthering or entrenching ethnic hatred: “Social media fuels tribal hate after #ElectionsKE,” and “The Tyranny of numbers on social media during Kenya’s 2017 elections.” In a surprising move, the Kenyan Supreme Court annulled the election result and called for new elections to be held in October. Odinga, however, claimed that the sufficient changes still had not been made in the electoral system. He withdrew from the election re-run and called on his followers to boycott it, leaving Kenyatta with 98% of the votes and a deeply divided country. In her article for the Standard, “It is time to dust up, let politically divided Kenya recover,” Macharia Munene discusses some of the issues around the election for the Kenyan people.
“Case for Colonialism” Controversy
This year Bruce Gilley, an academic from Portland State University, published “The Case for Colonialism”, arguing that colonialism should be brought back as a development policy. The article was published in the journal Third World Quarterly, and sparked widespread criticism. Gilley claimed that countries under colonial rule did well economically, and that colonial regimes actually had legitimacy among the peoples they ruled. With the disenchantment with post-colonial states, this was an opportunity for re-colonialism with the support of the local population. His article was met with robust critique from the academic community, as well as outrage and protest more widely. The journal was forced to retract the article after receiving death threats, sparking a debate on academic freedom.
In their blog post for Africa at LSE, “There is no “Case for Colonialism”: insights from the colonial economic history”, Yannick Dupraz and Valeria Rueda highlight some of the excellent rebuttals of Gilley’s article before explaining why colonialism cannot simply be viewed in terms of the economic costs and benefits.
In early November, Robert Mugabe, who had been president of Zimbabwe for 37 years, fired his vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa. The move sparked widespread criticism, as it was perceived by many as maneuvering to ensure that his wife, Grace Mugabe, would be his successor. On November 15, the military moved into Harare and took physical control of major government buildings. Protestors demanded Mugabe’s resignation, and his ruling party, the ZANU-PF, set a deadline for his resignation. When the deadline passed, the party began the impeachment process, until finally Mugabe stepped down. On November 24, Mnangagwa was sworn-in as his successor. As these events were taking place, the Africa at LSE blog wrote about “Understanding the military takeover in #Zimbabwe,” asked “How did Zimbabwe get there?” and compiled the “Best of the blogosphere: Mugabe’s long goodbye #Zimbabwe.” Looking into the future, Fortunate Machingura wrote “#Zimbabwe after #Mugabe: three reasons for hope,” explaining what needs to be done to make hopes into realities in Zimbabwe.
Slavery in Libya
The international community has been aware for years of the dangers that face migrants attempting to flee to Europe, demonstrated by the 2016 post in the Africa at LSE blog, “Migrants and the ‘business’ of the boat journey from Libya to Europe’. In November, CNN published an investigation revealing that a number of African migrants were being sold by smugglers in Libya. The report’s video of what appeared to be a slave auction outraged the international community, and led leaders of several European and African countries to agree to attempt to free migrants. Protests erupted in Paris, London, US and other places renewing an intense critique of European migration policies.
Grace Thompson is an Msc student in Conflict studies at the London School of Economics and Political Sciences.
The views expressed in this post are those of the author and in no way reflect those of the Africa at LSE blog or the London School of Economics and Political Science.