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AfricaFocus Bulletins with Material on Politics and Human Rights - 2008

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Nov 27, 2008  Africa: Gift Books Issue
    Looking for gifts that are not too expensive, but still attractive, enjoyable, and perhaps even educational as well? Take a look at the 15 books below and click on the links below each book for more information - or to view all the images, just go directly to

Nov 18, 2008  USA/Africa: Reflections on the Transition
    "The problem [with projections of President-elect Obama's foreign policy priorities] is that for a new leader promising change, they have tended to reflect the most traditional sorts of Washington priorities, neglecting other parts of the world that are starving for American moral and political leadership; places where Obama, by virtue of his unique background, offers particularly compelling potential for impact. ... The most obvious and important omission Africa, a continent of nearly one billion people today that according to United Nations projections will count an astounding two billion people by mid-century." - Howard W. French

Nov 11, 2008  Kenya: Call for Accountability
    "We are witnessing a situation where the politicians in government are satisfied that they are now sharing power and that it is business as usual. It is disturbing that they prefer to push all issues that contributed to the crisis under the carpet ... We as Kenyan civil society are certain that the crisis we witnessed is not over. These same politicians will certainly break this country if they go unpunished. We demand the full implementation of the Waki recommendations and immediate disbandment of the Electoral Commission of Kenya." - Kenyans for Peace through Truth and Justice

Oct 15, 2008  Western Sahara: Nonviolent Intifada; Diplomatic Impasse
    In 1975, as the last prolonged stage of Africa's decolonization process began with the fall of Portuguese colonialism, Portugal's neighbor Spain decided to dispose of its colony of Western Sahara by handing it over to Morocco and Mauritania, defying a World Court decision in favor of self-determination. For thirty-three years, Morocco has continued its occupation, with military and diplomatic support from the United States and France.

Oct 11, 2008  Congo (Kinshasa): War Goes On, Little Pressure for Peace
    The war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, site of the United Nations' largest peacekeeping operation, attracts little attention from the world's media. Conditions vary from place to place in that vast country. But violence continues at high levels in parts of the country, particularly North Kivu, and efforts to rebuild functional state security and oversight over the economy still face enormous obstacles.

Sep 27, 2008  Angola: Election Free and Fair, Sort Of
    "Election free and fair, sort of," was the headline from the UN's Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) news service after Angola's long-awaited parliamentary election early this month. The news service notes that its stories do not represent the position of the United Nations, and there was no official United Nations observer team. But the comment was an accurate summary of the consensus of observers from Africa and Europe.

Sep 13, 2008  USA/Africa: New Policy Prospects?
    "If the United States takes a narrow view of Africa, as a recipient of charity, a place to pump oil, and an arena for fighting terrorists, then African hopes being evoked by the Obama candidacy will almost certainly be disappointed. If, however, the United States takes a long view, understanding that its security depends on the human security of Africans, then there are real prospects for a new era of collaboration and good will." - Merle Bowen and William Minter, commentary in Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette

Jul 28, 2008  Guinea-Bissau: In Need of a State
    "Drugs arrive by boat or by air from Venezulea, Colombia, or Brazil to be stored in Guinea-Bissau before being redistributed in smaller lots to Europe. The process is relatively easy for the traffickers. The state of Guinea-Bissau has no logistical capacity to control its territory, particularly some 90 coastal islands." - International Crisis Group

Jul 16, 2008  Nigeria: Curse of the Black Gold
    "This book lays out the dynamics of oil and development in Nigeria and Africa. It reveals the complicity in this perfect storm of international oil companies, foreign governments, corrupt oil-producing states and U.S. consumers. ... the future of oil in Nigeria is now in question in an unprecedented way. As we speak, something like 25 percent of Nigerian oil is locked in or deferred because of the attacks by militants." - Michael Watts

Jun 22, 2008  Africa: AfricaFocus Web Updates
    In the almost five years of publication of AfricaFocus Bulletin, the number of sources available to readers over the internet, by web and e-mail, has continued to grow exponentially. I am pleased that so many of you continue to find this occasional bulletin of carefully selected analysis useful.

Jun 14, 2008  Zimbabwe: African Leaders Speak Out
    Two weeks before the presidential run-off elections in Zimbabwe, over forty prominent African leaders have released an urgent call for free, fair, peaceful, and transparent elections. The open letter was published on June 13 and June 14 in full-page advertisements in South Africa's Business Day, the Financial Times, and the New York Times. The initial signatories included 18 former presidents or prime ministers, two Nobel Laureates, musicians Youssou N'Dour and Angelique Kidjo, and former United Nations Secretaries General Kofi Annan and Boutros Boutros-Ghali. It was sponsored by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, founded and directed by African mobile phone magnate Mo Ibrahim.

May 26 , 2008  Zimbabwe: "Democracy is Not a Privilege"
    "Africa waged a century-long struggle against colonialism and apartheid precisely to establish the principle that governments should derive legitimacy through the consent of the governed. Democratic institutions are therefore not privileges that may be extended or withheld at the discretion of those who wield power." - Pallo Jordan

May 26, 2008  Zimbabwe: A Dream Deferred
    This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains the text of "Zimbabwe: A Dream Deferred," a summary report from TransAfrica Forum on the joint observer mission sent by TransAfrica Forum and Africa Action to the Zimbabwe election in March. The summary is written for a U.S. audience, to provide a progressive alternative to misleading and simplistic characterizations of the crisis in Zimbabwe, often characterizing news coverage and debate in the United States.

May 20, 2008  South Africa: Migrants under Attack
    "Xenophobia is rife in South Africa. However, repression of immigrants, refugees and undocumented people goes beyond naked violence in poor communities. Earlier this year, police raided the Central Methodist Church in Johannesburg, beating up and arresting immigrants, mainly from Zimbabwe. The state systematically abuses the rights of immigrants: health workers deny treatment, home affairs officials demand bribes and police assault immigrants regularly." - Treatment Action Campaign

Apr 28, 2008  South Africa: Women, AIDS, and Violence, 2
    "In the Southern African region the results of a large scale household survey conducted in eight countries showed that nearly a fifth of the women interviewed reported being a victim of partner physical violence in the preceding year. ... South African based-studies have found that women who experience intimate partner violence are at long-term increased risk of HIV infection, particularly where their partners were involved in multiple concurrent, unprotected sexual relationships." - Amnesty International

Apr 28, 2008  South Africa: Women, AIDS, and Violence, 1
    "Despite gradual improvements in the government's response to the HIV epidemic and the adoption of a widely-welcomed five-year plan, five and a half million South Africans are HIV-infected - one of the highest numbers in any country in the world. Fifty-five percent of them are women. South African women under 25 are three to four times more likely to be HIV-infected than men in the same age group. ... the level of new HIV infections amongst women in South Africa continues to increase, while overall incidence of the disease has levelled off." - Amnesty International

Mar 31, 2008  Zimbabwe: Writing on the Wall
    "Mugabe: The Writing is on the Wall," headlined Daniel Howden in a report from Bulawayo today in the UK Independent ( He was perhaps making a risky prediction, as official results continued to be delayed. But he was also referring to the fact that a late change in the electoral law had resulted in the public posting of results in constituencies around the country, and that this had made it possible for unofficial counts to speed around the country by text message, email, and mobile phones.

Mar 20, 2008  Kenya: Post-Crisis Agendas
    "The Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation between the political parties provides Kenya's leaders with a historic opportunity to step back from the brink and to reform and establish institutions that can help build long-term stability. ... However, challenges remain in ensuring that the institutions created actually deliver accountability for recent and previous violence, correct injustices ignored by previous administrations, and tackle the systemic failure of governance that gave rise to the recent crisis." - Human Rights Watch

Feb 26, 2008  Nigeria: Prison System Report
    "Nigeria's prisons are filled with people whose human rights are systematically violated. Approximately 65 per cent of the inmates are awaiting trial most of whom have been waiting for their trial for years. Most of the people in Nigeria's prisons are too poor to be able to pay lawyers, and only one in seven of those awaiting trial have private legal representation." - Amnesty International

Feb 21, 2008  USA/Africa: Images and Issues
    As President Bush winds up his 5-day trip to Africa, the initial focus on his legacy in the fight against AIDS and malaria has been enlivened with debate on the new and highly controversial AFRICOM military command (See, for example,, Commentators have also highlighted the contrast between Bush's itinerary (Benin, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana, and Liberia) and unresolved crises in Kenya and Sudan. But from AIDS to AFRICOM, coverage of the trip was also revealing for points hardly mentioned by either Bush boosters or critics.

Feb 1, 2008  Kenya: More Pressure Needed to Stop Violence
    "The deep frustrations that are felt on all sides of the Kenyan divide are understandable. There is no doubt that much more work remains to be done for Kenya to become a more equitable and democratic society. But Kenya has come too far to throw away decades of progress in a storm of violence and political unrest. We must not look back years from now and wonder how and why things were permitted to go so horribly wrong.- Senator Barack Obama, on Kenyan radio, January 29, 2008

Jan 8, 2008  Africa: Talking about "Tribe"
    The Kenyan election, wrote Jeffrey Gettleman for the New York Times in his December 31 dispatch from Nairobi, "seems to have tapped into an atavistic vein of tribal tension that always lay beneath the surface in Kenya but until now had not provoked widespread mayhem." Gettleman was not exceptional among those covering the post-election violence in his stress on "tribe." But his terminology was unusually explicit in revealing the assumption that such divisions are rooted in unchanging and presumably primitive identities.

[Update January 17, 2008: Since this Bulletin was written last week, Gettleman's coverage of Kenya in the New York Times has avoided the indiscriminate use of the word tribe in favor of "ethnic group," and has noted the historical origins and political character of the continued violence in the country, as well as its links to ethnic divisions. Thanks to those AfricaFocus readers and others who contacted the New York Times about its coverage.]

Jan 8, 2008  Kenya: Causes and Solutions
    "It is the Kenyan People Who Have Lost the Election," headlined Pambazuka News in its special Kenya election edition on January 3. "But the real tragedy of Kenya," the editorial continued, is that the political conflict is not about alternative political programmes that could address ... landlessness, low wages, unemployment, lack of shelter, inadequate incomes, homelessness, etc. ... [instead] it boils down to a fight over who has access to the honey pot that is the state. ...[citizens] are reduced to being just being fodder for the pigs fighting over the trough."