The attack on a European-style mall in one of Nairobi’s fashionable neighborhoods this weekend raises fresh concerns about the scale of the threat posed by the Somali terror organization, Shabab, and the capacity of the Kenyan state — already weakened by corruption charges against its political leadership and its domestic police forces — to address internal security in ways consistent with both human rights and effective anti-terror techniques. One of the most prosperous countries in the sub-Saharan, Kenya is home to all of the important positive trends in African society. However, the material and social gains brought about by a booming economy and liberal individual freedoms are now put in jeopardy by the government’s willingness to serve as a proxy counter-force for the U.S. government and the Obama administration in its war on Shabab in Somalia and its surrounding countries. How long will Kenyans and other East Africans be willing to sacrifice their own hard-won gains in order to prop up the failed U.S. campaign against radical Islamicists in Somalia? The deaths of innocents in Nairobi shopping mall make this very regional question of greater global significance.
Sep 21 2013
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Sep 16 2013
The New York Times has again featured strikingly “normal” photos of “everyday Africa” in its Lens feature. These photos, from Nigeria, highlight the growing acceptance of the idea that by concentrating on what works in Africa — and resisting the pernicious urge to fetishize the pathological — serious people around the world are revising and revamping their committment to “heart of darkness” images and ideas about life in the sub-Saharan. Long overdue, the movement to celebrate the normal, and to promote African solutions to Africa problems — conceived, delivered and sustained by Africans — continues to deepen and gain momentum. The movement is a useful corrective to mainstream images of an Africa dominated by disaster, disease and mayhem. While disorder and deprivation remain the reality in some parts of Africa, and for some Africans, the region is no longer home to the world’s worst human-rights abuses, and even such familiar problems as famine are registering at their lowest levels in decades.
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Sep 16 2013
The New York Times has again featured strikingly “normal” photos of “everyday Africa” in its Lens feature. These photos highlight the growing acceptance of the idea that by concentrating on what works in Africa — and resisting the pernicious urge to fetishize the pathological — serious people around the world are revising and revamping their committment to “heart of darkness” images and ideas about life in the sub-Saharan. Long overdue, the movement to celebrate the normal, and to promote African solutions to Africa problems — conceived, delivered and sustained by Africans — continues to deepen and grow.
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Sep 15 2013
The latest instance of Ellen Sirleaf’s monumental fraud on the international community — and her “subjects” in benighted Liberia — is the arrest and humuliation of one of West Africa’s bravest journalists, Rodney Sieh, editor of FrontPage Africa, a dissenting newspaper in Liberia of outsized proportions.
Sirleaf is hugely controversial because of her history of helping military dictators in her native Liberian, an invonvenient truth about her that no manner of international praise can seem to fully wash away. Now in her second term as Liberia’s president, Sirleaf seems only to have accomplished her own personal rehabiliation. Liberia is no closer to independent, self-sustenance than before Sirleaf reign, and there are signs that her government is proving as insidiously corrupt and ineffective as preceding Liberian administrations. While Sirleaf shows no appetite for the murderous forms of repression that animated her one-time ally, Charles Taylor (now in prison), she increasingly embraces the tools of authoritarians. Her decision to jail the enterprising and conscientious Rodney Sieh, while audacious, may prove to be a blunder too far even for a celebrated female psuedo-celebrity of African origins if not African sensibilities. In a New York Times article, in which editor Sieh makes a strong case for both his immediate release from a Liberian hospital, where he is held by armed guards for failing to pay damages awarded in a super-spurious civil suit.
Sieh contracted malaria in jail, and he alleges that Sirleaf’s government aims to bankrupt him — to shut down his dissenting newspaper. That would be convenient for Sirleaf, obviating the need to imprison him and sparing her the embarassment of another example of her hypocrisy.
Repression of talented African journalists is rare than most suspect. The African press is freer than ever, certainly during the colonial period, when European authorities periodically crushed dissenting journalists; and African journalists are freer, and better paid, than during the long night of post-independence, when many African governments monopolized the TV and radio airways and effectively purchased the loyalties of print reporters. From Kenya and Uganda to Zambia and Ghana, African journalists are exposing wrong-doing, documenting strengths and weaknesses of their societies, and expanding their core domestic audiences at levels unseen in African history. The journalism revolution faces some opposition. In Uganda, for instance, the Museveni government has harassed top reporters and even shut down news organizations for short periods. In Zambia, new president Michael Sata is growing impatient with Internet journalists. Everywhere in Africa “big men” often presume they can pay off journalists in order to prevent critical reports from appearing. Yet a new generation of African journalists, weaned on the Internet and hewing increasingly to global standards for production of journalism, appear up to the task of standing their ground. May we root for them to do so.
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