Category Archives: Democracy

JEFCAS SEMINAR SERIES : Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory: The Kenyan Elections of 2017

Venue: Pemberton Room 2.11

Date: Wed 29th November 2017

Time: 4:00pm – 6:00pm

Speaker: Prof Nic Cheeseman, University of Birmingham

Prof Nic Cheeseman

About Prof Nic Cheeseman: Nic Cheeseman is Professor of Democracy and International Development at the University of Birmingham. In addition to numerous book chapters, he is the author of Democracy in Africa: Successes, failures and the struggle for political reform (CUP, 2015) and over twenty journal articles including “Rethinking the ‘presidentialism debate’: Conceptualizing coalitional politics in cross-regional perspective” (Democratization, 2014), which won the inaugural GIGA prize for the best article published in Comparative Area Studies.

Professor Cheeseman is also the editor of the collections Our Turn to Eat: Politics in Kenya Since 1950 (2010), The Handbook of African Politics (2013), and African Politics: Major Works (2016), and two special issues of the Journal of Eastern African Studies on the Kenyan elections of 2007 and 2013. As well as being the former editor of the journal African Affairs, the #1 ranked journal in Area Studies, Professor Cheeseman is the founding editor of the Oxford Encyclopaedia of African Politics, the Oxford Dictionary of African Politics, and the co-editor of the Handbook of Kenyan Politics (forthcoming). These days, he spends much of his time writing about contemporary events in Africa in a bi-weekly column for Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper. Professor Cheeseman also regularly provides analysis to the UK and US governments, and is an advisor to, and writer for, Kofi Annan’s African Progress Panel.

P.S: This is a rescheduled seminar from 25th October 2017


JEFCAS Seminar Series: The Interest in Inclusivity in Peace Negotiations

Venue: Pemberton Room 2.11

Date: Wed 8 March 2017

Time: 16:00 – 18:00

Speaker: Dr Devon Curtis, University of Cambridge


About Dr Devon Curtis:

About Dr Devon Curtis:

Devon Curtis is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Emmanuel College. Her main research interests and publications deal with power-sharing and governance arrangements following conflict, UN peacebuilding, non-state armed movements in Africa, and critical perspectives on conflict, peacebuilding, and development. Her field research concentrates on the Great Lakes region of Africa, especially Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Previously, Devon worked for the Canadian government and the United Nations Staff College, and she has been a consultant for the UK Department for International Development, the Overseas Development Institute, and a Visiting Senior Advisor to the International Peace Institute. She has had fellowships at the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University and at the Centre for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) at Stanford University.

JEFCAS Seminar Series: Radicalisation and Violence in Africa

Venue: Pemberton Room 2.11

Date: Wed 11 January  2017

Time: 16:00 – 18:00

Speaker: Professor Charles Abiodun Alao.

Professor Charles Abiodun Alao, King’s College London: Radicalisation and Violence in Africa.


About Professor Abiodun Alao: Abiodun Alao is Professor of African Studies at King’s College London. His areas of Research interests include: Emerging Powers and Global Leadership; the Politics of Natural Resources Management; Religious Radicalisation and Political Violence; Politics, Security and International Relations in Africa.

His authored books include Mugabe and the Politics of Security in Zimbabwe, (McGill-Queens University Press, 2012); Natural Resources and Conflict in Africa: The Tragedy of Endowment, (Rochester University Press, 2007); The Burden of Collective Goodwill: The International Involvement in the Liberian Civil War, (Ashgate Publishers, 1996); and Brothers at War: Dissidence and Rebellion in Southern Africa, (British Academic Press, 1994). He Co-authored Peacekeepers, Politicians and Warlords: The Liberian Peace Process, (United Nations University Press, 1999); and Co-editor of Africa after the Cold War: The Changing Perspective on Security, (African World Press, 1998); Nigeria and the United States: Twists and Turns over 50 Years, (African Peace Support Publishers, 2011); and China and Africa – Building Peace and Security Cooperation (Forthcoming Palgrave – Macmillan, 2016).

Apart from extensive publications on African security issues, Prof Alao has undertaken numerous assignments for international organisations, including the United Nations, African Union, European Union, World Bank, ECOWAS and for individual countries.

JEFCAS SEMINAR SERIES: Governance Reforms and the Re-emergence of the Old Order in Sierra Leone

Venue: Pemberton Room 2.11

Date: Wed 9 November 2016

Time: 16:00 – 18:00

Speaker: Dr Felix Marco Conteh

Countries emerging from conflicts are likely to relapse, depending on the political settlements on which peace processes are anchored. In Sierra Leone, despite the fact that the peace has largely held, there have been fears that the country might relapse into conflict if the causes of the 10-year war continue to linger. But to what extent are these fears justified? Using decentralization reforms and drawing from other recent governance reforms and political events, a case is made that the two likely masterminds of conflict – the All People’s Congress (APC) and Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP,) have used reforms such as decentralization as processes of political compromise and accommodation. While decentralization has helped facilitate the reemergence of the old political order, the APC and SLPP have secured a consensus through which they have reconfigured the post-war state on their own terms. The narrative of a ‘divide’ within the political class, it is argued, is grossly exaggerated. The extent to which the peace will be sustained by the existing compromise and accommodation is uncertain, but this framing is useful in understanding the political economy in which fragility and political compromises co-exist, and illuminates the political class’ agency, as well as its capacity to ‘unite’ and act against ‘others’.

About Dr Felix Marco Conteh: Dr Conteh is a development and governance specialist, with over a decade of well-earned experience. He currently works at the Office of the President as a special Assistant/Adviser to the chief of Staff. His research interests include decentralization and chiefdom governance, and extractives and community development. He has recently published in the Review of African Political Economy and Critical African Studies Journals.

Felix holds a Bachelor of Arts from Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, a Master of Arts in International Development Management from the University of Bradford, and a PhD from SOAS, University of London.

Annual Peace Studies & International Development Conference: Resources, Conflict and Development in Africa

The annual Peace Studies & International Development conference for Africanist doctoral students and early post-doctoral career scholars and practitioners is scheduled to take place on the 11th May 2017 at the University of Bradford in United Kingdom.

The conference theme is: Resources, Conflict and Development in Africa.

Conference cluster themes include:

1) Natural Resources and Conflict

2) Transition from Resource Conflict to Peace and Peacebuilding

3) Natural Resources, Demographic Change and Development

4) Conflict, Security, Peace and Development Nexus

5) Regional Integration, Security and Development

6) Africa and the Rest of the World
The conference is open to doctoral students and early career scholars, researchers and practitioners. Potential participants and paper presenters are required to submit an Abstract of 200 – 300 words on or before 15th November 2016 to:    
All shortlisted participants will be required to submit the first draft of their papers at least two months before the conference. The conference is expected to result in a co-edited book (Lead Editor: Professor Kenneth Omeje, Senior Research Fellow, John & Elnora Ferguson Centre of African Studies, University of Bradford). Kindly note that all short-listed participants will be responsible for the full-cost of their participation, including visa, travels, accommodation and subsistence.

For full details on the conference: conference-call-oct-2016-revised-version-1

Tanzania Multi-party Politics and Poverty

[Image: CHADEMA-UKAWA rally in Dodoma]

Ananilea Nkya is a PhD researcher on media engagement with development, University of Bradford, UK. Before joining the university, she was Executive Director of Tanzania Media Women’s Association (TAMWA) for 11 years. The organization advocates and promotes women’s human rights through the media.

Tanzania’s general elections will take place on October 25th. 

After 25 years of single party rule, Tanzania saw the re-introduction of multi-party democracy in 1992. General elections were conducted in five year intervals with the aim of putting into power political leadership that could end poverty among the majority of people. Poverty, along with ignorance and disease have been identified as key enemies of Tanzania since independence (Nyerere, 1979).

In 1995, Tanzania was among 117 countries that attended the World Summit on Social Development and adopted a global plan of action for eradicating poverty by 2015. The UN then defined absolute poverty as a condition characterised by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information. It depends not only on income but also on access to services (Gordon, 2005).

Unfortunately, after two decades of multi-party democracy and implementation of the global action plan poverty is still a prominent problem for the country’s growing population. The population has grown from 12.3 million people in 1967 to 44.9 million in 2012 (Statistics and Office of Chief Government Statistian 2013).

Evidence of poverty in Tanzania includes poor child health due to lack of food. UN Tanzania 2014 Human Development Report, estimates that 35 per cent of children below the age five in the country were facing chronic malnutrition making the country one of the 28 poorest countries in the world (Guardian, 2015). A nutritionist from Tanzania central region of Dodoma region, Stella Kimambo observes that malnutrition is a disease because if child miss proper food nutrients during 270 days in the womb and 730 days after delivery it cuts intelligence quotient to between 10 to 15 and that the sickness could never be cured (Magubira, 2015).

Afrobarometer data on lived poverty rates in Tanzania
Afrobarometer data on lived poverty rates in Tanzania

Millions poor in midst of richness

Although millions of Tanzanians are currently languishing in poverty, it is one of Africa’s natural resource rich countries. In 2009 alone gold earned Tanzania four billion dollars compared to negligible foreign currency earned from the mining in 2000 (Mjimba, 2011). By 2010, Tanzania had joined South Africa and Ghana in becoming the three leading African countries exporters of gold (Coulson, 2013).

Tanzania also attracts foreign financial assistance for its annual budgets mainly from Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the African Development Bank, the European Commission and the World Bank. Thus, the question is: If in Tanzania huge sums of foreign monies arrive annually and multi-party politics supports governance checks and balances, why are the majority of citizens still poor?

Operating multi-party politics in single party framework

Tanzania adopted multi-party democracy, not by choice, but as an IMF loan condition. A situation shared by many states exposed to hegemonic Bretton Woods’ financial institutions following the developing countries debt crisis in the 1980s (Moyo, 2009). Samuel Makinda observed that multi-party democracy was expected to end authoritarian rule in Africa associated with ‘weaknesses in the structures and performance of public institutions’ (Makinda, 1996:555).

But has multi-party politics strengthened public institutions in Tanzania?

Realities on the ground suggest that a lot needs to be done. Jacques Morisset, a World Bank lead economist for Tanzania in July this year, observed that though some people in the country working in the informal sector earned huge amounts of money, the current level of tax revenues in the country was one of lowest in the world, Therefore ‘‘the problem reflected systemic issues in policy and administration’’ (Aman, 2015).

Not only does the government not collect taxes effectively but its agents also engage in thievery of public funds to accomplish party strategic goals in order to cling onto state power. In 2014, 306 billion shillings (about $204 million US dollars) were dubiously withdrawn from Tegeta escrow account in the Central Bank and no legal measures were taken against the high level public figures involved (Citizen, 2015). Indeed, grand corruption and thievery of public funds occurring in the last ten years saw Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) and its government losing public credibility by being branded grand thief (fisadi) (Mtulya, 2015).

Arguably, thievery of public resources is taking a toll because the government re-introduced multi-party democracy before implementing recommendations by commission chaired by Judge Francis Nyalali mandating the establishment of an Independent Electoral Commission and repealing of 40 laws undermining news media and political freedoms (Nyirabu, 2002).

As a result, four general elections were conducted, in 1995, 2000, 2005 and 2010. CCM won with landslide victories in both presidential and parliamentary seats. For example, the 2010 elections saw the CCM winning the majority of seats in the parliament as the opposition won only 22 percent or 80 seats out of 357 seats (Coulson, 2013).

The main opposition party CHADEMA accused CCM of manipulating presidential votes (uchakachuaji), and demanded writing of a new constitution which among others, would establish an independent electoral commission before the 2015 elections. Unsurprisingly, it did not happen because although in 2011 President Jakaya Kikwete formed a Constitution Commission chaired by Judge Joseph Warioba which collected views from the citizens countrywide and prepared the Draft Constitution. However, CCM members who constituted more than 80 percent of Constitutional Assembly, refused to endorse the citizens Draft Constitution (Nkya, 2014),

CHADEMA-UKAWA presidential candidate, Edward Lowassa rallies voters
CHADEMA-UKAWA presidential candidate, Edward Lowassa rallies voters

Interestingly, CCM’s refusal to adopt the citizens’ Proposed New Constitution saw four opposition parties- CHADEMA, CUF, NCCR-Mageuzi forming a Union of Citizens Constitution- Umoja wa Katiba ya Wananchi (UKAWA) as a strategy to disrupt the power base of the CCM in elections.

Future possibility of ending poverty

This year’s elections have attracted national and international attention for a number of reasons. Firstly, UKAWA have filled single candidates for Presidential, Parliamentary and Councillorship posts. Secondly, two former Prime Ministers, Fredrick Sumaye and Edward Lowassa, a key CCM founder Kingunge Ngombale Mwiru, former Home Affairs minister Laurence Macha and ambassador Juma Mwapachu are among CCM members who so far have abandoned CCM and are for UKAWA campaign theme change (mabadiliko). Thirdly, arguably, citizens are tired of CCM empty promises.

Therefore, there is cut throat competition between CCM and CHADEMA-UKAWA presidential candidates as well as candidates in junior posts.

CCM presidential candidate, John Magufuli demonstrates fitness for office at recent rally
CCM presidential candidate, John Magufuli demonstrates fitness for office at recent rally
 However, the possibility of eradicating of poverty in Tanzania in the near future depends on the winner of 25 October elections. This is because while CHADEMA under UKAWA manifesto indicates that the coalition will write a new constitution based on the citizens’ proposed constitution, the CCM manifesto contains nothing on the matter.

A new constitution among other developments, will establish an independent electoral commission for conducting free and fair elections. In this way any political party elected in future will work harder to accomplish its promises as well as avoiding corruption and thievery of public funds and resources (ufisadi); practices which undermine efforts to end poverty in Tanzania.


Aman, F. (2015) WB hits govt for poor revenue collection [Medium].Place Published: The Guardian, Updated Last Update Date. [cited Access Date]. Available from:

Citizen, T. (2015) Escrow saga still matters in donor help, says IMF [Medium].Place Published: The Citizen, Updated Last Update Date. [cited Access Date]. Available from:–says-IMF/-/1840392/2585310/-/eli8jb/-/index.html.

Coulson, A. (2013) Tanzania: a political economy. Oxford University Press.

Gordon, D. (2005) Indicators of Poverty & Hunger. In: Expert Group meeting on youth development indicators. pp. 12-14.

Guardian, T. (2015) Human Development Report has invaluable lessons for us [Medium].Place Published: The Guardian, Updated Last Update Date. [cited Access Date]. Available from:

Magubira, P. (2015) Malnutrition takes toll on TZ: expert [Medium].Place Published: The Citizen newspaper, Updated Last Update Date. [cited Access Date]. Available from:–expert/-/1840340/2908366/-/xrvxr3/-/index.html.

Makinda, S. M. (1996) Democracy and multi-party politics in Africa. The Journal of Modern African Studies, 34 (04), 555-573.

Mjimba, V. (2011) The nature and determinants of linkages in emerging minerals commodity sectors: a case study of gold mining in Tanzania. In: Unpublished working paper prepared for Making the Most of Commodities workshop.

Moyo, D. (2009) Dead aid: why aid makes things worse and how there is another way for Africa. London: Allen Lane.

Mtulya, A. (2015) How corruption rocked Kikwete’s govt in the past decade [Medium].Place Published: The Citizen, Updated Last Update Date. [cited Access Date]. Available from:

Nkya, A. (2014) ‘Proposed Constitution not people-centred, bears no 50-50 representation’ [Medium].Place Published: The Guardian, Updated Last Update Date. [cited Access Date]. Available from:

Nyerere, J. (1979) Freedom and development:The Tanzanian experience. In: Coulson, A. (Ed.) African socialism in practice. Spokesman, pp. 27-35.

Nyirabu, M. (2002) The multiparty reform process in Tanzania: The dominance of the ruling party. African Journal of Political Science, 7 (2), 99-112.

Statistics, N. B. o. and Office of Chief Government Statistian , Z. (2013) The 2012 Population and Housing Census:Population distribution by administrative units key findings. Dar es Salaam:

Global Governance and the Politics of Aid: Behemoth and the Business

[UK MoD- DfID worker checking supplies on a RAF C17 bound for the Philippines (2013)]

The following is a short review of the University of Bradford’s recent symposium Global Governance and the Politics of Aid, held on April 30th to May 1st.


David Hulme, as the keynote speaker, set the tone for what is clearly the current trend in global governance, development and aid, quoting Lawrence Finkelstein,

Does it really clarify matters, however, or facilitate the research enterprise, to toss them in a hopper along with states, intergovernmental organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and Moody’s Investor’s Service? “Global governance” appears to be virtually anything…we say “governance” because we don’t really know what is going on.’  

Hulme also identified tensions between UK DfID-style “results based management”, gettinWEF Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Thabo Mbeki, Tony Blair, Bono, Olusegun Obasanjo - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2005g UK taxpayer “value for money”, and, more globally, increased scope of private investment and, of course, the Chinese. Aid, confusingly is now operating in a “post-aid” world, but perhaps still subject to likes the usual suspects at a “global governance” level (see image). With Bill Gates being campaigned to take on the battle for climate change it seems that if global governance is anything, it is high-level players operating outside the traditional realm of international politics.

This behemoth comes complete with own set of generalized metrics with which most are familiar: Millennium Develop Goals (and whatever “child” this framework will spawn for the future), and the so-called lightening rod rhetoric of a “dollar a day”. The latter is critiqued by many, and notably by Thomas Pogge arguing for the insufficiency of this tool, due to the difficulty of measuring poverty itself. Pogge implicates the World Bank in offering a skewed picture of decreasing poverty,

The World Bank’s own data show that, if they had chosen a more adequate poverty line, perhaps one twice as high at $2.50 per person per day, US dollars of the year 2005 converted at purchasing power parities, then they would have found a slight increase in the number of poor people between 1990 and 2005, the last year for which full data are now available. So it is essential to the World Bank’s upbeat picture that it chooses an extremely low poverty line. As every resident of the US can confirm, you could not have met your basic needs here in 2010 on $1.40 per day or $510 per year.

It seems that in some respects the institutions of the behemoth produce and consume their own “truth” in a high-level, closed-loop space. A space where, as Hulme points out, Bono’s special red card can sooth the souls of western capitalists, so-called “conscience consumers”, buying and spending their way to the delivery the poor and hungry.

According to another symposium participant and presenter, Emma Mawdsley, the business man now reigns supreme in the barracks of DfID, where the simplistic conflation of development and growth means the politics, power, and purse are being increasingly handed over to hedge funds, private public partnerships, and technocrats measuring the poverty of a single life through evidence-based metrics. Yet, Mawdsley holds out some glimmer of hope in face of the inevitability of the business takeover of DfID, with the promise of an injection of new approaches and ideas on the ground. Nonetheless, warnings abound for DfID to mutate into a “export credit agency”, when is ignores emphasis on labour rights of those exposed to this new delivery of aid.

South-South cooperation and the likes of institutions such as BRICS also came under scrutiny. Whilst it is true that China offers its aid, development, and emerging economic power without the pesky strings of human rights guarantees, it is perhaps not a free-wheeling as some would believe. According to participant, and Bradford professor Prathivadi Anand China gives out more than it receives from OECD countries, and deploys various financial-development instruments (lines of credit, infrastructure investment, loans, grants). From 2000-2011, it gave $104 billion in Africa, with Nigeria and Ghana as top recipients, and dominating the sectors of transport, energy and “unspecified” aid. Despite all the fuss made about Chinese neocolonial interests in Africa’s natural resources, it in fact gives more to South America than it does on the rising continent.


A slice of consensus from the symposium, stemming from Hulme’s critique of NGOs, was that if the above directions of aid and development are in fact true, then it is up to NGOs to engage on a grassroots level politically to fight for rights of aid recipients. This might be the only hope for more participatory methods of development where recipients are treated as constituents in a political climate capable of facilitating of accountability, peace and justice. Some African states themselves are also coming into their own with what the Dean of Bradford’s Faculty of Social Sciences Donna Lee termed “African agency” by utilizing James Scott’s “weapons of weak”. Doing discursive battle with Western donors, African states, she believes are engaging donors with a mimetic challenge, holding up the mirror of norms and preconditions of delivery. If the encroachment of special or corporate interests and the rights of the recipient, it looks like the challenge lies at the feet of those still struggling to feed, clothe, and survive in pressuring governments and NGOs to practice good governance, transparency and grassroots representation.

***Watch this space for audio/visual of David Hulme’s lecture***

References and Further Reading:

Lawrence Finkelstein, ‘What is Global Governance,’ Global Governance 1 (1995).

Nicola Banks, David Hulme, Michael Edwards, ‘NGOs, States, and Donors revisited: Still Too Close for Comfort?’ World Development 66 (2015).

Duncan Green, ‘Book Review of ‘Advocacy in Conflict’ – a big attack on politics and impact of global campaigns,’ From Poverty to Power (2015).

China’s Global Reach graphic

[WEF Bill Clinton, Bill Gates, Thabo Mbeki, Tony Blair, Bono, Olusegun Obasanjo - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos (2005)]

Demise of Development and the Future of Anti-Colonialism: A New Narrative?

[Image credit: Walter Rodney, political activist and author of How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, assassinated in 1980]

Jason Hickel, an LSE anthropologist, recently published a piece on the ‘death of development’. He argues that the lofty claims of eradicating poverty and making trade fair are stillborn good intentions, as they neglect the structures of poverty and ‘architecture of exploitation’. Yet, this critique goes beyond a lament,

‘We would do well to grasp the opportunity it provides to evolve new narratives and new visions, speaking to the public about the imperative of justice, and uniting people in opposition to an economic system that impoverishes and degrades. We dare not allow the development industry to stand in for the political struggle that this moment demands’

Reading Hickel’s piece one could be forgiven for seeing the influence of Pikettyism (chartered growth in global inequality), and a host of anti-colonial thinking from Frantz Fanon to Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt, and Walter Rodney (pictured above). Hickel also briefly contextualizes ‘de-development’ and ‘over-development’, offering didactic examples of Costa Rica and Cuba as spaces of efficient living, without the ills patronage of Western development. De-development receives little attention, however, it points toward a debate that acknowledges the disparity of global wealth, and the present, existential threat of anthropological climate change. Also supporting the demise of development is the crisis of confidence in Western polities of funding development and relief; this trend is undoubtedly fueled by the humming minority of populist right-wing groups in western countries with foothold political power (think US, UK, France, Netherlands, and Greece).

How does this all come together under the possibility of a new anti-colonial narrative? Hickel argues, that we may have reached a threshold where development as Western salvation for Africa and the ‘undeveloped world’ is no longer viable, and as such new tools and institutions are needed against a now global political struggle for freedom from exploitation and empire. In the 1950s, the era of independence for many once African colonies, the post-colonial emerged, both in terms of politics, culture, literature, and history. Some post-colonial substance was more specifically anti-colonial in that discourse and action was radical and Marxist. Since then, according to Hickel, countries of the Global South have been cradled through Western economic development, and have become indebted annually to the tune of $600 million. Global inequality is being replicated as the “successes” of development pop-ups throughout Africa. In many ‘rising Africa’ countries rural poverty leads to mass urbanization and real estate development in dense urban areas impoverishes and escalates homelessness. Charles Ledford_LagosIf neo-liberal structures combining finance and politics represent the advent of new empire since the end of the Cold War, as many, including David Harvey and Hardt and Negri suggest, then is the anti-colonial narrative and political struggle now an instrument of necessity? [Right- image credit: Charles Ledford, urban poverty in Lagos, Nigeria (2010).]

Simmons and Dei distinguish ‘anti-colonialism’ as a more pointed and aggressive narrative that looks beyond the full cast of actors party to post-colonialism and independence, and towards the ‘bad guys’. But how productive is this justice and accountability-heavy approach? Advocates of and participants in global social movements, such as those seen in the last few years, argue, yes, anti-colonialism can and should be part of the debate and logic of action. But as Hickel indirectly demonstrates are we not then conflating global social justice and inequality in the post-colonial space? Is the plight of the homeless man, or the evictees in London empathically or strategically connectable with comrades in Lagos, Cairo, or Cape Town?

The historical implications of anti-colonialism, thanks to the work of Frantz Fanon, are that violent struggle is necessary, in responding to the violence of the colonial power. Taking back what was stolen, liberating the people, was certainly contextualized by his experiences and perceptions derived from colonial Algeria, but how how is this logic relevant today? Given the global scale of complicity in inequality, de-development, certainly seems more attractive than armed struggle. Revolutionizing economics is imperative. Reconsidering debates about reparations might also lead to economic and political justice. Yet, the promise of such is not apparent without global change in economic and financial systems. Anti-colonialist claims for reparations have been widely debated and demanded, but rarely paid. Fanon, as quoted in the recent documentary Concerning Violenceclaimed that

From all these continents, under whose eyes Europe today raises up her tower of opulence, there has flowed out for centuries toward that same Europe diamonds and oil, silk and cotton, wood and exotic products. Europe is literally the creation of the third world. The wealth which smothers her is that which was stolen from the under-developed peoples…. So when we hear the head of a European state declare with his hand on his heart that he must come to the aid of the poor under-developed peoples, we do not tremble with gratitude. Quite the contrary; we say to ourselves: ‘It’s a just reparation which will be paid to us.’

From the documentary Concerning Violence

Alternatives to the current notions of development range from greater consultation to the recommendations made by some of the above authors (de-development of the West, reparations). Questions remain: does the anti-colonial narrative offer something productive and unifying in the struggle against neo-liberal empire and global inequality, whilst still effecting change in Africa? Can global change in economic systems and promoting justice for the ‘wretched of the earth’, through political movements create impact on a scale that reaches those furthest from the institutions of power? Is such political action, under the banner and narrative of anti-colonialism, an alternative to the struggles of development?

Further reading:

Duncan Green, ‘Why we should be worried by the World Bank shoveling $36bn to “financial intermediaries”,’ From Poverty to Power (2015). 

Hamza Hamouchene, ‘A new Fanonian moment? the legacy of Frantz Fanon,’ Pambazuka Press (2015).

Marcus Power, ‘Anti-racism, deconstruction and “over-development”,’ Progress in Development Studies (2006). 

Upcoming event at SOAS: Whatever happened to the developmental state? April 27th 2015.

Illusions of Democracy: LSE Study on Mobile Phones and “Statebuilding”

[Image credit: UNHCR_Displacement in South Sudan A Camp Within a Camp, K.McKinsey/ January 2014; Here camp residents are charged $50 to power-up their mobile phones]

Recent research at the London School of Economics in South Sudan’s state of Equatoria, has revealed a complex picture of the impact of mobile phone technology in democracy.

Whilst mobile phones and social media had less of a role in South Sudan independence than they did in the so-called Arab Spring, they apparently are having an unexpected effect on political participation in the country.

The following findings were made:

People living in areas with mobile phone coverage, while more likely to feel well-informed and more likely to hold political and administrative leaders to account, were less likely to vote with a sense of being able to influence political change and no more or less likely to be satisfied with political and administrative leaders.’

‘In fact, it seems that those with mobile phone access are less likely to vote—because those in areas with coverage were more frustrated with the experience of the last election. Those living without mobile phone coverage had retained a sense that elections might bring change.’

This may seem alarming (undoubtedly shatters the perceptions of many about the transformative nature of mobile phone technology), and yet unsurprising. Is it not common wisdom that democracy (at least for those in countries that posses it, or aspire to it) is the best but flawed form of governance? There is an illusive quality to democracies everywhere, which will vary according to interpretation. Consider for instance the disaffection of many Western civic bodies with contemporary politics as demonstrated by poor voter turn out? Does cynicism  and disappointment come with increased in involvement in democracy? In South Africa the case of the ANC is perhaps symptomatic of this paradox.

On surface value the LSE report does not seem to distinguish between satisfaction and support for democracy or political actors and processes, on the one hand, and criticality of participants on the other. European Democracy researcher Han-Dieter Klingermann, based on a longitudinal study, suggests that at least a third of democrats in Europe support the idea of democracy, but are dissatisfied with its functioning.

The specific features of South Sudan today (long civil war, “resource curse”, communal tensions, political divides, threat of sanctions) certainly have little to do with Western democracy, yet the globality of mobile technology and social media in politics may yield the same generalization: democracy is illusory, but it is the only oasis we have.


Further reading:

Off the Hook: Can Mobile Phones Help with Statebuilding? LSE Blog.

Schomerus and Rigterink, ‘‘And Then He Switched off the Phone’: Mobile Phones, Participation and Political Accountability in South Sudan’s Western Equatoria State,’ (2015).

Justice and Security Research Programme, South Sudan Survey Report, LSE (2013). 

Herman Wasserman, ‘Mobile phones, popular media and everyday African democracy: transmissions and transgressions,’ (2010).

Democracy Emerging/Submerged in Africa

From the Economist Intelligence Unit, via the Guardian, this collection of data describes some dynamics of democracy in Africa at present.

The intersections of authoritarian regimes and high voter registration and turnout is telling of the complex nature of democracy and what is means in different parts of the continent. If Mauritius is the Economist’s only ‘full democracy’ in Africa, then how easily can massive countries with histories and presents of raging inequality and conflict be comparable? It seems that hopeful candidates for good democratic indicators here include (outside the troubling case of South Africa) Namibia, Senegal and Ghana. Note also the leader hall of shame: oppressors and dictators driving their countries in a race to the bottom!

Guardian article here

Your comments on the content and presentation of this data are welcome!