18 April 2023

It is easy to steal a village drum but difficult to find a safe place to play it
BBC Africa Live 18 April 2023. Proverb of the day. A Yoruba proverb from Nigeria sent by Winston Tinubu in Florida, the US.

Rwanda: The power Kagame wields is both hard and soft, the former being based on Rwandan soldiers helping Mozambique in Cabo Delgado and, more recently, Benin, the latter meaning power based on “economic, cultural or reputational influence”. On the basis of this, Kigali has been able to get away with arrests of government critics and assassinations, also abroad. The Rusesabagina abduction was the first real test as the concerned is a US citizen, but Kagame seems to have weathered the storm by pardoning him. Rwandan support for the M23 in neighbouring Congo has the potential to yet evolve into a serious problem for Kigali.

African sovereign debt: Over the past 15 years, there was a steady increase of debt-to-GDP levels in Sub-Saharan Africa, with the ration doubling on average. In Zambia it went from 21.9% in 2007 to 140.2% in 2020, in Ghana from 22.6% in 2007 to 88.8% in 2022. The default of the two countries had and has serious consequences for the population, amongst others because of the IMF (to whom almost all turn) imposes austerity politics including cuts in social expenditure. The article gives an overview of the different indicators that point to future defaults. Debt forgiveness is not necessarily a good solution, whether pre- or post-default, whether voluntary or non-voluntary.

Sudan: The Rapid Support Forces have – “in a mere decade – become the dominant power in Khartoum” and their leader “Hemedti has become the face of Sudan’s violent, political marketplace”. With no formal training, he became a “general” because of his success in commanding the Janjaweed brigade in Southern Darfur in the 2003-05 Darfur war. Treated by Bashir like a son, “Hemedti ably used his commercial acumen and military prowess to build his militia into a force more powerful than the waning Sudanese state.” Gold and state mercenarism (renting out RSF troops to Yemen) were and are his – very important – sources of income.

Burundi/Congo-Kinshasa: Burundi was the first country to send troops to neighbouring Congo under the 2022 East African regional agreement. It is most concerned about “the absence of stability and security, especially in the DRC’s South Kivu”, which is seen “as a serious threat”. The article explains Burundian interests in the matter.

17 April 2023

William Kentridge/Epic theatre: “The Head & The Load” was premiered in London in 2018. Its South African staging was long delayed by Covid. It means to tell “the forgotten stories of Africans in World War 1”. 1 million Africans are estimated to have participated, 150,000 to have died. But their contribution was mostly played down or ignored outright. The Head & The Load can be seen in Jo’burg from 21st of April to 6th of May.

Ghana/Seaweed: Pelagic sargassum seaweed, originally from the western tropical Atlantic, started arriving in Ghana in 2009. This “floating ecosystem” supports many species of fish, providing habitat and/or food – but it has gotten abundant and that “is affecting communities’ ability to fish and use their beaches”, breaking and filling nets, clogging outboard motors, creating seaweed mats where no boat can navigate, causing skin irritations and smelling bad. So pelagic sargassum seaweed needs to be managed – but too little is known yet to be able to do that.

History & migration: Genetics can contribute to historical knowledge. Present-day Kanuri and Kotoko in Cameroon have for example been shown to strongly resemble people living in coastal West Africa and to others in North Africa and the Levante. The intermixing happened around 600 years ago and was most likely caused by the Kanem-Bornu empire which attracted people from afar. Lessons have also been drawn about the great Bantu migration starting about 4,000 years ago in western Cameroon towards the east and south.

Kenya/Press: The article tries to give an overall picture of media and journalism in the country, starting with the various threats to media freedom and ending with what the industry’s professionals, accused for example of partisanship and poor journalism, are to blame for.