CategorySocial protest

Fragile Security or Fatale Liaisons? Reflections on 2 March 2018 Attacks in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, by Sten Hagberg

On Friday 2 March 2018 around 10 o’clock, two coordinated of terrorist attacks took place in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. The first attack involved gunmen seeking to enter the Embassy of France, exchanging fire with soldiers from Burkinabe and French special forces. Four gunmen were killed in the attack against the Embassy, and no casualties among the special forces. The second attack took place a few minutes later. A vehicle stuffed with explosives detonated at the Chief of Defence staff’s headquarters (État-major des Armées), followed by shootings between attackers and Burkinabe defence forces. Eight Burkinabe militaries were killed together with another four attackers. Moreover, there were many wounded in the headquarters. The car bomb seems to have targeted a high-level meeting of senior military staff of the G5 Sahel Joint Force. The blast destroyed the room where the meeting would have taken place had it not been relocated shortly before the attacks.

In total, the attacks led to 16 deaths, including eight assaulters. The number of wounded people amounted to some 80 persons. Yet in the afternoon the same day, French media outlets held that as many as 30 people had been killed. While this information was rejected by Burkinabe public authorities, and soon turned out to be false, it did fuel rumor and speculation, fear and anxiety. Continue reading

Generation Terrorists: The Politics of Youth and the Gangs of Freetown, by Kieran Mitton

Youth at Risk – Youth as Risk

On the evening of the 15th February, six leading presidential candidates for the Sierra Leone presidential elections took to the stage. Over three hours of a live broadcasted debate, each answered questions about their plans for the country. Seen by some as a milestone in Sierra Leone’s post-war political development, the following morning the capital Freetown was abuzz with talk about who had acquitted themselves, who had failed to impress, and what – if anything – this might mean for the election result on the 7th March. In the offices of a youth development organisation, staff enthusiastically discussed the event.

In an adjoining room, I met with their colleague Mohamed*, a man with decades of experience working in the city’s poorest informal communities. What did you think of the debate? I asked. Was it a sign that Sierra Leone’s political scene is moving towards serious discussion of policies, or as one report put it, ‘growing up’?

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A poster in Susan’s Bay calls on Sierra Leone’s youth to be peaceful during elections. Photo by the author

Mohamed smiled. Pointing to his colleagues next door, he replied: ‘Each person there is arguing about why their preferred candidate won the debate. What the candidate actually said, how they performed – it doesn’t matter.’ He went on to make a familiar point; voters put party, tribe and personal loyalties ahead of policies. Whilst certainly not new or unique to Sierra Leone, this he contended, meant such debates had little bearing on the electoral outcome. The promise of some candidates to provide free education, surely a positive development for the country’s youth, was just rhetoric, he concluded. In fact, ‘politicians keep the youth uninformed and uneducated so they can use them to their own advantage.’ Continue reading

The New Gambia, by Niklas Hultin

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President Adama Barrow greeting the people. Photo by Katarina Höije

It finally became clear on January 21, 2017, that Yahya Jammeh, the long-serving autocratic president of The Gambia would step down and leave the country. The road to this point was a twisty one. Jammeh had lost the December 1, 2016, election to Adama Barrow (who represented a coalition of opposition parties). Although Jammeh, much to everyone’s surprise, initially conceded the election he quickly reverted to form and suggested that the election was not valid and called for a new one to be held–a position rejected by the opposition and the international community. Most notably, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) took a firm line and recognized Barrow as the legitimate president and suggested that they might use military force to oust Jammeh. As negotiations between the parties remained inconclusive,arrow and his associates travelled to Senegal where, on January 19 he took the oath of office at the Gambian High Commission in Dakar. Meanwhile, ECOWAS forces, consisting primarily of Senegalese troops with Nigerian air and naval backing, mobilized to enforce the election results. After a tense period that saw ECOWAS forces briefly enter the country only to pull back, Gambians–and West Africans–could breath a sigh of relief as the by now completely isolated Jammeh agreed to go into exile with not a drop of blood shed. In the evening of January 21, Jammeh boarded a plane for Equatorial Guinea. Continue reading

The protest march in Guinea and the tragedy of the stray bullet, by Joschka Philipps (Conakry, August 18, 2016)

Thierno Hamidou Diallo, may he rest in peace, was fatally shot on August 16th, 2016. He is the tragic victim of the anti-government demonstration in the Guinean capital Conakry, which he had nothing to do with. The 21-year old man was hanging out the laundry to dry on a balcony when the bullet hit him.

Until then, it had been the most peaceful anti-government demonstration that one could imagine, and probably the first after which the Guinean opposition and the Guinean government congratulated one another for “the discipline and professionalism of the security forces“ (opposition leader Cellou Diallo) and for having successfully taken “another step in our democratic advancement” (government spokesperson Albert Damantang).

About half a million people had attended the political rally at the central stadium, the atmosphere was hopeful, and when the rally was over, the great majority went back to their homes in peace. Continue reading

One year after the elections: a deceptive calm in Burundi? by Mimmi Söderberg Kovacs

Burundian army

Burundian soldiers patrolling the streets of Bujumbura. Photo by the author

The car stops and the driver turns off the ignition and leans back in the seat. Before us winds a long queue of cars and minivans in the afternoon sun. People have gone out of their cars and sit in the shade along the roadside. Talking, eating, listening to the radio. The atmosphere is calm and quiet, but also restrained, subdued. Everyone is careful, observant. The scenario has become common in the capital Bujumbura in recent times. Streets and intersections blocked off to all traffic, often for several hours, waiting for the President’s convoy to pass. Usually it occurs when Nkurunziza is on his way in or out of the capital to the countryside where he prefers to stay most the time. When the convoy eventually passes, nobody is allowed nearby, no cars and no people. All street corners are emptied. Even the security personnel guarding the streets must physically turn their heads away, direct their weapons in a different direction, and may not look at the passing cars.

 

Continue reading

Elections in Uganda 2016: Rumours and the Terror of the Unknown, by Henni Alava and Cecilie Lanken Verma

Two parallel realities appear to exist in pre-election Uganda, especially when seen from the northern region of Acholiland ten years after it was declared ‘post-conflict’. In one, everything is ‘fine’: the elections will be smooth. There will be no problems and things will continue as normal. In this view, it seems, elections have to be fine, as peace is the main priority. It simply must not be jeopardized, not even if that means to keep the sitting President in power. In the other, the nation is preparing for war, amid breaking news about pre-election violence and rumors about violence committed and building up to momentum in the scenes. In some towns at the far periphery of the Ugandan political hub you can find mothers preparing to run from their homes with their children and most valuable belongings – just in case things turn sour. Continue reading

A Burkina Faso where “nothing should be as before”: presidential and legislative elections in perspective By Sten Hagberg

On Sunday 29 November, Burkina Faso organized successful presidential and legislative elections. They marked the end of a one-year-political transition and a step in consolidating the country’s democratic achievements over the last year. There are now opportunities for a veritable democratic breakthrough.

The favorite Roch Marc Christian Kaboré of Mouvement du Peuple pour le Progrès (MPP) won 53,49% of the votes cast, followed by Zéphirin Diabré of Union pour le Progrès et le Changement (UPC) who scored 29,65%. The losing candidates were soon to recognize their defeat and congratulate the newly elected president. Most importantly, Diabré accepted the result and did not contest the elections.

In this article written just days after the elections, I put the elections in perspective and discuss opportunities for the newly elected president Kaboré and his government, as well as for the National Assembly. Continue reading

Bujumbura Burning, Part II: Misrepresentations of the Burundian Crisis and their Consequences, by Jesper Bjarnesen

Since April, Burundi’s capital of Bujumbura has been the scene of violent confrontations between security forces and civilian protesters who deplore president Pierre Nkurunziza’s candidacy in July‘s presidential elections. Both his candidacy and his overwhelming electoral victory have been denounced by the African Union, the European Union, the UN and a range of governments around the world but Nkurunziza has so far succeeded in calling the bluff of the international community and continuing his authoritarian leadership. For the past several months, assassinations have been reported on a regular basis, alongside reports of attacks against the security forces by, as of yet, unidentified armed actors opposing the regime. Continue reading

South Africans and our emotions (Guest post by Claudia Forster-Towne)

Over the weekend I read a blog entry titled “The trouble with South Africa”. The author was mystified as to why the social networking world wasn’t more outraged at the shooting of 34 protesting miners in Marikana. Continue reading

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