Burkina Faso Citizens Reclaim Their Democracy

 

Richard Joseph and Rachel Beatty Riedl

On October 31, Blaise Compoaré, president of Burkina Faso, was forced to resign after days of mass protest. He had been in power for 27 years and was seeking to change the constitution to run again. But the Burkinabe people said Enough! They wanted change – they took to the street, torched the parliament, and brought an end to Campaoré’s rule. Soon thereafter, the country’s military settled on Lt. Colonel Isaac Zida to lead an interim government. But this action sparked further protests and insistent demands that the military yield power to a civilian transitional government. AfricaPlus presents commentaries based on a radio interview with Richard Joseph and an op-ed by Rachel Beatty Riedl. They both situate the Burkina Faso upheavals in the context of struggles to “claim democracy” in Africa.[1]

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Chibok Girls Freedom and Boko Haram Ceasefire: Seeing is Believing

By Richard Joseph

Boy with #bringbackourgirls sign at protest

A #bringbackourgirls protest in New York City, May 3, 2014. Photo by Michael Fleshman, CC BY-NC 2.0.

The announcement by senior Nigerian military and government officials that an agreement has been reached with Boko Haram for the release of more than 200 kidnapped Chibok girls is welcome, although it has understandably been greeted with considerable caution. And news that a ceasefire has also been agreed, and that further negotiations will take place, is another positive development.

But this is a case when we will actually need to see the girls emerging from their six-month confinement before we can truly believe.

After all, it was only recently that it was announced that Abubakar Shekau, reputed leader of the jihadist group, had supposedly been killed… again. Yet Shekau, or someone claiming to be him, probably lives on in a country where much political, economic and now military affairs take place in the shadows.

Read the full oped at CNN

The Chibok Girls and an Embattled Nigeria

By Richard Joseph

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on

Two centuries ago, John Keats wrote his enigmatic “Ode on a Grecian Urn”. It came to mind after President Barack Obama’s foreign policy address at West Point. The unheard message was about the Nigerian Urn, filling with human ashes from terrorist atrocities and military counterattacks. The heard melody was about the girls of Chibok, hauled away like livestock into the Sambisa Forest: “Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave”.

 

nigeria-kidnapped-girls-1

Escaped Chibok schoolgirls meeting with Borno state governor

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Confronting Boko Haram and the Nigerian Predicament

By Richard Joseph

This post first appeared on the Brookings Institution’s ‘Africa in focus’ blog. The original text can be read here.

The mass kidnapping of girls has brought the Nigerian Predicament to global attention. The insistence by Nigerian authorities that these and other incidents reflect global terrorism is not the full story. For a long time, Boko Haram was portrayed as a local phenomenon. Now it is depicted, most recently in a UN Security Council resolution, as an al-Qaeda affiliate. There is more conjecture than hard knowledge about this elusive entity.

Photo credit: Brookings Institution

Photo credit: Brookings Institution

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Boko Haram and the Nigerian State Crisis

By Richard Joseph

This post first appeared on the Brookings Institution’s ‘Africa in focus’ blog. The original text can be read here.

“Africa will not make sustainable progress in building democratic systems and fostering economic development until the continent acquires coherent, legitimate, and effective states.”

I had Nigeria very much in mind when those words were written a decade ago.1 Today, the veil concealing the ever- deepening state crisis has been shredded. The federal government has turned to western nations for intelligence capacities to help locate the abducted school girls. France, long distrusted by Nigerian authorities, has been asked to craft a regional coalition to combat Boko Haram. However, beyond the security missions in the remote northeast, the broader aspects of the Nigerian predicament must be confronted.

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Democracy at Bay: The Arab Spring and Sub-Saharan Africa

By Richard Joseph

A great pendulum shift has occurred in the geopolitics of the Middle East and North Africa, from repressive autocracies to political liberalization to violent conflict and civil war. Enormous financial resources and military weaponry are being poured into these theatres. It is not too soon to ask, as the United States prepares to strike against the Syrian government, whether the fragile democratic gains in Sub-Saharan Africa since 1990 can withstand the winds of change. Will governing systems in this region tilt further towards authoritarianism? What can be done to shore up resistance to further democratic retreat as security operations escalate?

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“The Power is in the Street”: The Context of State Failure in Mali

By Bruce Whitehouse

In his essay on Mali, Bruce Whitehouse of Lehigh University shows how failures of elected leaders, state institutions, and external donors can shift power to the streets and an uncertain contest among armed forces.

A billboard created by a Bamako artists’ collective, 2012

A few short years ago, Mali was widely regarded as a paragon of democratic institution building in Africa. Today the global news media portray it as just another African war zone. How did it all go wrong?

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Discordant Development and Insecurity in Africa

By Richard Joseph

Richard Joseph explores how “discordant development”—deepening inequalities and rapid progress juxtaposed with group distress— is often one of the root causes of uncertainty, insecurity and violent conflict in Africa. For example, Mali and Ghana have experienced similar growth rates but Mali is sundered and in disarray, while Ghana has experienced both political and economic progress. Joseph discusses the causes of discordant development and provides recommendations for how policymakers can begin tackling this problem in order to address broader issues of insecurity. He warns development officers and political leaders against viewing Africa solely through “polarizing lenses,” either screening out security challenges in growing economies or overlooking axes of growth in conflict-plagued societies. The article can be read below, or here on the Brookings Institution’s site.

The good news about Africa is that many countries are now showing sustained economic growth. Not to be overlooked, however, are the persistent security dilemmas in many parts of the continent exacerbated by “discordant development.” Addressing these troubling problems of security and social unrest requires an understanding of the complex factors involved and the need for innovative approaches. The idea of discordant development conveys more than just “unequal development,” but rather how deepening inequalities and rapid progress juxtaposed with group distress can generate uncertainty and violent conflict. Unfortunately, continued discordant development is in the forecast for sub-Saharan Africa in 2013.

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Insecurity and Counter-Insurgency in Africa

By Richard Joseph

This post originally appeared on Brookings: Foresight Africa: Top Priorities for the Continent in 2012 

The Priority

Several years ago, I heard a senior U.S. government official discuss the war in Afghanistan. He described the challenges of the complex nation, and the even greater ones in neighboring Pakistan where large swaths of territory are outside the control of the national government. Americans, he said, should be prepared for military engagement in this multinational arena for 10 to 15 years. It was an eye-opener, not just of the quagmire the United States had rushed into, but the fact that most Americans were unaware of what he stated so convincingly.

If the current trend continues, one day the same may be said about the band of insecurity from northeast to north- west Africa. This region is likely to experience increasing instability and warfare, while narratives of jihadist revolt and terrorist technologies circulate among its citizens. The countries that may be affected, to differing degrees, include: Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Sudan, Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia. Individuals cross these national borders easily, as do ideas, trading goods and armaments. We tend to think of these countries as occupying different geographical and cultural zones, but the reality on the ground is less hermetic.

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