Gordon Brown spoke at the Royal African Society Business Breakfast with the drive of a man with much to say about Africa, the World and continuing inequalities within it. He delivered an impassioned barnstormer of a speech which belied the somewhat diminished figure who stumbled out of power just over a year ago. According to Brown, the global financial system is not in good shape, and global growth continues to structurally marginalise poor countries. However, Africa has performed well in recent years with growth rates exceeding those of the developed world. Brown quoted Ngozi Iweala – Nigerian managing director of the World Bank – who now makes the argument for the Sub-Saharan African continental economy to be recognised as comparable to that of the existing BRIC states (Brazil, India, China – and now South Africa). She envisions a future of ‘African lions and lionesses’ rather than ‘Asian tigers.’ In this success he paid tribute to those companies that have invested in African markets, and commented upon the steady rise of inter-African and South-South trade. Particularly important in the latter phenomenon is the rise of the Asian economies, whose drive for economic development (notably that of China) has seen them invest […]
The collapse of one of North Africa’s longest-serving rulers – Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia – sent shockwaves through the Arab world and triggered an uprising of equivalent proportions in Egypt, the most populous Arab country. The revolts, which have been on an unprecedented scale, have surprised many and prompted widespread speculation over a possible ‘domino effect’, as a result of which successive authoritarian regimes fall as the impact of developments in Egypt and Tunisia begin to be felt. In this spirit, a guessing game of ‘who’s next?’ has begun.
Article by: Markus Virgil Hoehne, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology Note: For more detailed analysis, download the full version of this essay on the Crisis in the Horn of Africa essay forum. Somalia has made international headlines for almost two decades now, first as a state of civil war characterized by clan warfare and humanitarian catastrophe, then as a failed state, and finally as a potential safe haven for Islamic terrorists. Contrary to the assumption about ‘black holes’ and ungoverned spaces voiced by politicians and some academics, the Harmony Project of the Center for Combating Terrorism at West Point has recently shown that the absence of a government in Somalia did not automatically provide fertile ground for Al Qaeda terrorism. Its researchers, who had access to declassified intelligence reports on Al Qaeda activities in the Horn in the early 1990s concluded that the foreign Islamist activists faced similar problems as did the UN and US humanitarian and military intervention in Somalia (1992-1995): they were partly distrusted as ‘foreigners’ who adhered to a version of Islam that was not popular in Somalia, they ran into problems with always changing clan and sub-clan alliances, they suffered from the weak infrastructure of […]
This article is part of a debate organized by Oxford Transitional Justice Research (OTJR) in collaboration with Moi University (Eldoret) and Pambazuka News. A selection of essays based on this debate will be published in an edited volume by Fahamu Books. For PDF documents of the debate please go to www.csls.ox.ac.uk/otjr.php.
When a Kenyan Cabinet minister suggested in early 2007 that perpetrators of corruption be pardoned if they confessed their guilt and returned the spoils, there was surprisingly little public reaction. This was perhaps taken with a pinch of salt given that Kenyan politicians are good at talking but then doing nothing. But when former anti-corruption chief John Githongo (accused by some of behaving like a drama queen and self-appointed high priest), made a similar statement in mid August 2008, his view made headlines that drew sharp reactions.
There seems to be consensus around the need to deal with injustices– gross human rights violations, economic crimes and abuse of power –perpetrated in Kenya over the last 35 years. However, Kenya lacks a coherent policy on the broader question of transitional justice: which institutions should be used (Special Tribunal for Kenya (1), Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission(2) [TJRC] or criminal courts), how these mechanisms should be deployed, how they would relate to each other, and how such mechanisms would fit within the ongoing constitutional and institutional reforms proposed under Agenda Four of the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation (KNDR) process that produced the current Government of National Unity (GNU)
The Kenyan Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) is mandated to enquire into human rights violations, including community displacements, settlements, evictions, historical land injustices, and the illegal or irregular acquisition of land, especially as these relate to conflict or violence. access to land is often cited as one of the key structural causes of violence in Kenya. However, political figures have manipulated and misrepresented the ‘land issue’ in the country, to the extent that it often seems to be an excuse, rather than a valid grievance. How should the TJRC address the land issue, which is so easily instrumentalized and so deeply linked to problematic conceptions of ethnicity? In order to answer this question, we first have to ask: why is the land issue relevant today?
It is not often that participants in ethnic cleansing confess to it openly, but William ole Ntimama has managed it twice: in a 1996 interview, and more recently. The brazenness of the impunity is revolting: it is natural to want accountability and reform, and equally natural to think we can have both. This, unfortunately, is a bit of a farce: stable reform and calling the violent to account are incompatible.
Nineteen months have passed since Kenya’s contested 2007 election, when the rapid re-inauguration of President Mwai Kibaki heralded an outburst of post-election violence – characterised by targeted attacks on ethnic ‘others’, an overzealous state security response, and retaliatory attacks on ‘aggressor’ communities – which left over 1,000 people dead and more than 350,000 displaced. The violence ended in February 2008, when a coalition government was formed, but ‘deep peace’ remains elusive and reforms unlikely. What is left is only rhetoric differentiating this administration from post-Mau Mau amnesia and investigative committees without reforms, as after the ‘ethnic clashes’ of 1991-1993.
This forum offers a space where concerned Kenyans can come together with a range of experts, scholars, practitioners, and commentators to discuss fundamental questions about how Kenya got here, and the strategies necessary to move the country forward. This essay provides an overview of recent debates on violence and accountability in Kenya and summarizes the first set of contributions to this forum.