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.”

12 March 2021

Algeria: Early legislative elections will be held on 12th of June. The president had dissolved parliament on 18th of February, one year ahead of schedule, amongst other measures to try and calm protesters.
BBC Africa Live 12 March 2021. 7:32

Central African Republic: While “confirming Touadera’s re-election, the constitutional court revised the voter turnout from 76% (as announced by the National Electoral Commission) to 35%. It then decided to confirm the election of only 22 members of Parliament, out of 140 seats. The remaining 118 seats will have to be filled by 2 May”, thus casting doubt on re-elected president Touadera’s legitimacy and the entire election’s credibility which “does not bode well for stability” in the country.
On 6th of February 2019 the government and 14 armed groups signed the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation. With the attacks of the Coalition for Change (Coalition pour le changement/CPC) that was formed by six armed groups/signatories of the agreement, the agreement could be considered dead. But “the AU and the UN have reaffirmed that the agreement is the only viable framework for peace and reconciliation in the CAR. It will, however, take more than pronouncing the agreement alive for it to be so.”

Mozambique: The president has sacked Ezequiel Isac Muianga, head of the army, Messias André Niposso, head of the air force and also the commander and deputy commander of the Marechal Samora Machel Military Academy and the deputy commander of the Higher Institute of Defence Studies. No reasons were given. In a report published on 2nd of March, Amnesty International had accused the army, private military contractors and militants operating in Cabo Delgado of committing war crimes.
BBC Africa Live 12 March 2021. 10:58

Nigeria: Once more, students have been abducted last night. In Mando in Kaduna State in the country’s north-west, an unknown number of students, mostly female, have been abducted by attackers storming the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation located near a military training academy.
BBC Africa Live 12 March 2021. 8:15

30 students are thought to be missing. 180 are said to have been rescued by the army. “A recent report released by Kaduna state authorities said nearly 3,000 people in the state were killed or abducted by criminal gangs last year.”

Mauritius: The “Chinese-flagged fishing vessel that ran aground on reefs off the coast of Mauritius on Sunday has been safely towed to port.” The incident had caused anguish – 8 months after the environmental catastrophe when a Japanese vessel leaked hundreds of tonnes of fuel oil off the Mauritius coast.
BBC Africa Live 12 March 2021. 5:13

South Africa: King Goodwill Zwelithini of the Zulu nation has died of diabetes at age 72. He had ruled “the Zulu nation under the Traditional Leadership clause of South Africa's republican constitution” since 1968.

Cameroon: Human Rights Watch has published a report stating that hundreds of people have been kidnapped by separatist fighters since 2017. Very often, this has been for ransom. The report gives the example of a doctor released for 544 USD. Sometimes the separatists kidnap and kill to punish cooperation with the military, for example three chiefs from Essoh Attah village in the South-West region. “The rights group said the Cameroon military was also guilty of abuses in its operations against the separatists.”
BBC Africa Live 12 March 2021. 16:55

South Africa quelling protests: Despite a 2018 Constitutional Court judgment (Mlungwana and Others v S and Another) affirming people’s right to protest there is “(m)unicipal over-regulation of protests, coupled with over-policing (…). Instead of recognising protests as a democratic right and legitimate form of expression, increasingly protests have been framed as threats to domestic stability and, consequently, national security.”