Category Archives: Africa

Interview with a King

ZauI reviewed George Osodi’s photo series Royals and Regalia, on display at the Newark Museum through August 9, 2015. The exhibit explores the role and function of Nigeria’s ceremonial rulers in the colorful yet fractious nation:

Photojournalists in the American tradition, from Jakob Riis to Dorothea Lange, often depict their subjects with a gritty realism. Osodi turns this accepted formula on its head…Nigeria’s radiant monarchs are shown in their most colorful finery through the eyes of their subjects as they would like to be seen. And what we gain from it is a sense of Nigeria’s place in the world, a window into centuries of history that engages us in the present, and an eagerness to transform borrowed items from the past to make peace in the present day.

I even interview a king, the Nigerian Dein of Agbor Benjamin Ikenchuku Keaboreku I! Read the whole thing at The American Interest.



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Nigeria: A Tenuous Transition

Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan peacefully conceded the presidency to challenger Muhammadu Buhari in a watershed election. Goodluck Jonathan’s concession bodes well for the country, but our celebration has concealed lingering challenges that will complicate the transition of power in the months to come.

To begin, hundreds of South African mercenaries are believed to be operating in northeastern Nigeria. Nigeria is a signatory to an international treaty that makes such mercenary use illegal, though Goodluck Jonathan insists that he is simply training Nigerian troops with his hired guns. Foreign Policy explains why the problems won’t go away with a change in government:

Aside from whatever else the APC [Muhammadu Buhari’s party] may have planned, were it to take power, there is the possibility that the foreigners will soon run into trouble in Nigeria. All it will take is an allegation of complicity in human rights abuses, similar to the one the Nigerian military has had to deal with. If this happens, it would be deeply embarrassing for both Nigeria’s government and, especially, South Africa’s.

Secondly, Nigeria has always been notorious for its corruption that has grown in tandem with its fabulous oil wealth. Continue reading

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Postpone Nigeria’s Elections

Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan just began last-minute discussions to delay Nigeria’s mid-February elections. It’s the right decision, as the upcoming election will be a nightmare. 68 million voters require plastic identification cards to cast their ballots, but only 24 million have been distributed. Voter confidence in fair elections has accordingly plummeted, from 51% in 2011 (the last presidential race) to a chilly 13% today.

The opposition seeks to stay the course; they fear, with reason, that President Jonathan’s electoral meddling could fudge the election’s outcome. While observers, including John Kerry, have echoed this concern, it’s even more critical that 30 million of these votes can be properly tracked. It doesn’t matter how carefully the votes are counted if only 13% of the population believes in the results.

Former U.S. ambassador Princeton Lyman proposes a year-long Directory à la romaine to exorcise both Boko Haram and local corruption before another round of elections are held. It would be difficult to form this year-long coalition, but even a short delay still improves upon Nigeria’s current situation.

No matter the outcome, we are likely to witness post-electoral religious violence on a greater level than that of 2004, 2007, and 2011. The country will limp on as it has before, hobbled by its corrupt institutions even as it cowers from the depredations of Boko Haram.

UPDATE: Nigeria’s elections have been delayed until March 28.

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Mali Maleficarum

My article for The American Interest. Al-Qaeda’s back in Mali, it seems:

Al-Qaeda militants may have infiltrated Mali’s pro-government militias, which the African state has relied on to fight Tuareg insurgents. The BBC notes that a pair of recent suicide bombings follow the pattern of al-Qaeda attacks…

And another incident where allied militia sympathizers fought with UN troops:

The UN attempted to disarm the region’s allied militias this month, but soon found that it had no way to force the parallel disarmament of the Tuaregs. Riots against these unilateral disarmaments led UN peacekeeping troops to shoot three protesters this week (an inquiry is pending).

Mali’s government leans on its allied militias in its contest to control the country’s far North. Any sign that these militias have gone rogue bodes ill for the region as a whole. Read the full article here.

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