On February 15, 2016, three days before Ugandan general elections, the four-times presidential candidate (and never a winner) Kizza Besigye was stopped by anti-riot and military police with his convoy in Jinja Road, central Kampala. Following a script reenacted at each election, scuffles between the opposition candidate and police started, with heavy use of tear gas, stones thrown and bullets shot. Besigye was detained for few hours by police (that denied rumours of arrest, claiming that the candidate was instead just “being advised” on which route he should take for his campaign through the city). Escorted back to his home in Kasangati, a suburb on the city’s outskirts, Besigye came quickly back to town and was stopped again at the big crossroad that separates Makerere University from Wandegeya Police station, famously active in countering students’ strikes. A young man seeking refuge in a building near the crossroad lost his life, shot by police. Continue reading
In Uganda, the campaigns for the 2016 elections are on. On the 16th of October president Yoweri K. Museveni was the guest of honor at a dinner party comprising of a dozen of the country’s most popular singers, as they revealed their song Tubonga Nawe (luganda for We Are With You) supporting the president and his party The National Resistance Movement (NRM) for another term. Amidst intense press coverage, the president also donated 400 million shillings to a fund to promote the development of the music industry.
The song has sparked passionate discussions about the proper relationship between politics and popular music among media elite, the aspiring urban cool, as well as on the streets of Kampala. Are popular musicians obligated to praise the political elite? Or do they have a special responsibility to protest injustice because of their popularity? Continue reading
I took the family for a holiday on the paradise island Zanzibar. White sand, turquoise water and colorful marine life. Easy living. The last two days we left our resort and toured the island. It was a week after the Tanzanian and Zanzibari elections. Mindful that elections can be rough, and with previous research experiences of elections in Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone, I kept an ear to the ground, talked to Zanzibaris and consulted some experts on Zanzibari politics. The Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) had on Wednesday annulled results of the presidential election for semi-independent Zanzibar, but affirmed the result for the larger Tanzanian election. The ZEC proposed a re-election within 90 days on Zanzibar due to voting irregularities in some districts, particularly on Pemba. It was suggested that the opposition Civic United Front (CUF) had stuffed ballot boxes particularly in regions they controlled. From a CUF perspective the election commission was not considered an independent body but part of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) machinery and the announcement of annulling the election was simple seen as CCM thieving their victory. Most Zanzibaris I talked to believed so too. Surprisingly few had good things to say about CCM – but then again I was on holiday and did not talk to that many.
Last week, Burkina Faso was breaking international news. In the midst of a government meeting, soldiers of the president’s security forces – the notorious Régiment de Sécurité Présidentielle (RSP) – took President Michel Kafando, Prime Minister Isaac Yacouba Zida and other members of the government in hostage and seized power under the command of General Gilbert Diendéré. The Burkinabe public reacted with anger and resistance. The One-Year Transition in power since the Burkinabe revolution ousted the President Blaise Compaoré from power when he tried to change the constitution and pave the way for a new term now witnessed the return of the phantoms of the past. Continue reading
In the afternoon on Wednesday 16 September 2015, soldiers of the infamous Regiment of the president’s security forces – Regiment de Sécurité Présidentielle (RSP) – entered the Presidential Palace Kosyam where the Government Council meeting was ongoing, and took the government in custody. This is the fourth time during the less than one-year-transition that the RSP threatens and assaults the Transition regime. This time, just a few weeks prior to the presidential and general elections scheduled on 11 October 2015, the RSP’s intervention is an outright attack on the painstaking paths towards a veritable democracy in Burkina Faso. Continue reading
Recently, I have been trying to keep up with the situation in Bujumbura, the capital city of Burundi in light of the protests and the violence. And while mainstream Western media only mention the situation sporadically, Burundians are busy on social media like Facebook and Twitter. I am struck by the amount of detail that is uploaded every day. It is as if every single arrest is documented, place, name and time recorded and spread through social media together with photos and video clips, recorded on smart phones. Not only do the updates seem to cover a lot of ground and document as many incidents as possible; they are also uploaded so fast that we almost can follow the events in real time – in front of our screens in our offices, on the train to work or at home. The various groups posting these pictures and updates such as ‘Journalistes Et Societé Civile En Danger De Mort Au Burundi’ appear thus to be pretty media savvy and up beat in the social media. The question then whether social media and mobile phones make a big difference. Is the present online, real-time coverage having an impact on the nature of the conflict? In order to answer this, let us go back in time and see how power, violence and media have played themselves out in Burundi’s tumultuous past. Continue reading
A month ago, on the 25th April the CNDD-FDD, the ruling party in Burundi, announced its presidential candidate for the upcoming elections scheduled for June 26. To nobody’s surprise the candidate was Pierre Nkurunziza, the current President who has already served for two terms. This decision was met with heavy protests in the streets of Bujumbura, also to nobody’s surprise. These were the two events that had been predicted and anticipated since long before my arrival in the country early this year. How things would evolve from there was anyone’s guess. But I feel like few people actually thought the protests would last this long, be this organised, and this determined. Now we have witnessed a month of protests, about 30 dead, hundreds injured. And on the 13th of this month there was the failed coup attempt. Continue reading
This seems to currently be the question in Bujumbura, where uncertainty governs at the moment. This coup/non coup led by Major General Godefroid Niyombare is not coming out of nowhere but taking place after over two weeks of deadly protests that have shaken many neighbourhoods of the city and affected all its inhabitants in one way or the other. It’s been a difficult time. People look tired. The people taking active part in the protests must certainly be tired. But other people also look drained and sad, tired of the situation and uncertainty created since the ruling party, CNDD-FDD, announced President Nkurunziza as their candidate for the Presidential elections on April 25. This being a violation of the constitution according to his opponents. Continue reading
The current political situation in Burundi poses significant challenges for organizing credible elections in 2015. Thousands have fled to neighbouring Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Tanzania. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), what started as a trickle of a frightened few has grown into a swell of over 50,000 in a matter of weeks. After two weeks of demonstrations in Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura, the government decided to dismantle barricades that were blocking movement in the city’s outer neighbourhoods. The first thing to happen was a surge of 200 women marching into the city centre on Sunday, 10 May. Their non-violent protest almost made it to Independence Square. But not quite. They too were stopped. Many are. Well over a dozen people have been killed and hundreds injured in the political protests. Continue reading