The terrain has shifted considerably since Nkrumah’s heyday as the prophet of African national liberation. Still, some aspects of his revolutionary vision appear remarkably clairvoyant, starting with the politics of the foreign extraction of Africa’s natural resources and the need for new industries. This independence anniversary offers an opportunity to reflect on how this controversial past continues to have an effect on the present – and on possibilities for charting a new way forward.
The urgency of promoting social justice in Africa as the best firewall against the spread of extremism grows daily, as we witness increasing terrorist attacks on soft targets in African cities – Bamako, Ouagadougouand Grand-Bassam. US President Barack Obama would do well to refocus America’s conversation on Africa to support this peaceful activism. Niger provides a good case study for this.
The crisis came to a head in late 2016 when lawyers, joined by teachers and others with similar grievances, led protests in major western cities demanding that the integrity of their professional institutions be protected and their minority rights respected. President Paul Biya responded by deploying troops to the region and blocking internet access. When peaceful demonstrations were met with violent repression it exacerbated tensions and escalated the conflict to a national political crisis.
On February 21, Niger will vote in the first round of a presidential election. This has barely been a blip in the western media--the New York Times published its last article on Niger in August 2015 and while The Washington Post ran a blog post this week, it has no reporters on the ground. Yet, whether the election is fair or not matters to Nigeriens and it should matter to the rest of the world, because of democracy fails in Niger, the country could become the next breeding ground for radical Islamic terror.
2015-2016: I was a Tucson Public Voices Fellow with the Op-Ed Project.
With my public voice I seek to establish connections between my scholarship and our public discourse on Africa today.
On December 30, 2018, 46 million citizens cast their votes in a historic election in the Democratic Republic of Congo. There hasn’t been a peaceful transition of power in this country since the end of Belgian rule in 1960. If this election produces a result that’s widely viewed as credible, it will cement a new era of representative government in Africa.
In our view, confidence in democracy in the country will be built through incremental steps. Understanding the complicated dynamics at work now will solidify the foundation in the future.One important factor to bear in mind is that citizens’ movements in the DRC are now more powerful than conventional political parties. They anticipated political and strategic issues and assisted political parties in raising public awareness in the run up to the elections.