14 March 2021

Central African Republic: The second round of parliamentary elections is being held today in 118 of the 140 constituencies. In 69, voting had not been possible in December, in 49 no candidate obtained the majority in the first round. According to the authorities, security has much improved since the first round.
BBC Africa Latest Updates 14 March 2021. 9:21

Kenya/Somalia/sea border: Kenya won’t participate in Monday’s hearing before the International Court of Justice. It accuses the court of being biased. At issue: a triangle of 160,000km2 that is thought to be rich in oil and gas. “Somalia brought the case in 2014, saying the maritime frontier should follow on in the same direction as the land border”, Kenya thinks it should go straight east from the point where the two countries meet on the coast.

South Africa: Private security undermines the state’s authority. “There are over three private security guards for every one public police officer.” “Even the state itself employs private security officers, hiring private guards to patrol the outside of police precincts and to carry out unseemly land evictions.” “Extrajudicial policing” is just one example of the privatization of traditionally state-sponsored services/duties (another is education) in the face of the dearth of public services.

13 March 2021

“The Moral Economy of Elections in Africa”: This is the title of a book that Cambridge University Press has just published (https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108265126). According to the three authors’ research in Ghana, Kenya and Uganda over four years, there are “two broad registers of virtue: one patrimonial and the other civic.” “(T)he first is civic, and emphasises meritocracy and follow(s) the official rules of the democratic game, while the second is patrimonial, and emphasises the distinctive bond between an individual and their own - often ethnic - community.”
“The patrimonial register stresses the importance of an engagement between patron and client that is reciprocal, even if very hierarchical and inequitable. It is rooted in a sense of common identity such as ethnicity and kinship.”
The authors’ research showed that “voters were fairly supportive of candidates handing out ‘something small’ as part of a broader set of activities designed to assist the community. In this context, the gift was seen as a legitimate part of an ongoing patrimonial relationship.” And the authors warn that if the patrimonial strand of the “economy of elections” was removed, this could do more harm than good by reducing voter engagement with democracy/voter turnout at elections.

Cameroon: At 88, Biya has been in power for 38 years. An article briefly evaluating his reign.
When he first came to power in November 1982, he was seen as “a breath of fresh air” – the country having been ruled by Ahidjo who “was ruthless, authoritative, and vicious. He ruled by intimidation. Under him rivals were hunted down, tortured, killed, or forced into exile.” But he all too soon reverted to his predecessor’s practices. “He packed his administration with people from his ethnic group (…). His policies targeted and undermined groups like Bamilekes, Anglophones and Northerners.” He went to World Bank and the IMF for help that proved ineffective. And “(c)orruption became endemic” and “repeatedly amended the constitution to tighten his grip on power.”
Four years ago, the military’s response to peaceful protests against the marginalisation of English-speaking people, arrests and torture, started the Anglophone that has continues to devastate the anglophone part of the country.
But Biya “remains influential in the African Union, and maintains good relations with France, the US and China.”

Ghana/Indian films: Indian films have been very popular in Ghana since independence and continue to be so, especially in Muslim communities. But only the older Hindi films and recent Indian television series, not the newer Bollywood productions. The reasons for their continued popularity? “One is their melodramatic form. This includes a clear moral universe that reaffirms the importance of community and extended intergenerational families over individuality and consumption.” “There’s also a clear delineation between ‘evil’ and ‘good’, ‘individuality’ and ‘community’, and ‘moral’ and ‘immoral’ practices.”