Think Africa Press: How Much Longer Can Compaoré Rule Last?

On October 15, President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso will celebrate his 25th year in power. To spend that much time in office, he had to run coups against two governments. In the first in 1983, he helped his friend and fellow revolutionary Thomas Sankara become president. In the second, four years later, Compaoré took power. Sankara was killed and Compaoré lost all appetite for socialism. He put in place a system of power so exploitative that 25 years later Burkina Faso remains one of the least developed countries in the world. During this time, Compaoré has expertly managed to ...

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African Arguments: Blaise Compaoré And The Politics Of Personal Enrichment

I’m extremely happy to have a piece about Burkina Faso/Blaise Compaoré published on the excellent African Arguments blog of the Royal African Society today. The article developed from this earlier rant and develops some arguments further. By African standards, Burkina Faso is not a particularly spectacular country. It is small, has a tiny population and internal politics which most foreign correspondents tend to find somewhat pedestrian. No wonder that it receives only little attention, even in Africa-focused publications. In those rare cases when something is published on the internal politics of Burkina, it often only scratches the surface and conveys ...

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World Politics Review: In Ethiopia, Post-Zenawi Void Could Create Opening for Reform

My latest piece over at World Politics Review on the continuing absence of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi: For 20 years, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has been the undisputed ruler of Ethiopia. Zenawi was the leader of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which in concert with its sister rebel group from Eritrea toppled the Moscow-aligned dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991. He led his country in the 1998-2000 war against his former Eritrean allies and oversaw multiple Ethiopian military interventions into neighboring Somalia. An active and outspoken leader, Zenawi is also credited with a pragmatic approach to economic development despite his ...

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Waging Nonviolence: The Arab Spring you haven’t heard about — in Mauritania

Waging Nonviolence: The Arab Spring you haven’t heard about — in Mauritania
You may not have heard of it, but the West African country of Mauritania has what is probably one of the most vibrant and active protest movements in the world today. Protests drawing tens of thousands of people (out of a total population of just three million) take place almost weekly in the capital Nouakchott, with many smaller protests happening on a daily basis around the vast country. The protests are overwhelmingly nonviolent — even in the face of frequent violent suppression — and have been going on since February 2011. It would be comfortable to file these protests as another part of the Arab ...

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ThinkBrigade: Hunger, rebellion, coup: Mali’s crisis has its history

I’m part of the new project ThinkBrigade, which brings together reporters and citizen journalists from around the world to experiment with new forms of collaborative and interactive journalism. This is my first piece for the project, but others will follow: Mali is a landlocked country in West Africa, about two times the size of France. It is dominated by vast expanses of sparsely inhabited desert and the fertile surroundings of the Niger river. In historical times, the area was home to powerful empires and the ancient city of Timbuktu, with its architectural wonders, still tells of this era. Mali is again ...

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Waging Nonviolence: Why democracy prevails in Senegal but fails in Mali

Waging Nonviolence: Why democracy prevails in Senegal but fails in Mali
People took to the streets in Dakar, Senegal, yesterday, celebrating what many had feared would never happen: opposition leader Mack Sall gained around two thirds of the vote in the second round of the presidential elections, and incumbent Abdoulaye Wade accepted defeat, personally calling Sall to congratulate him. Meanwhile in Bamako, the capital of Senegal’s neighbor Mali, people were slowly starting to venture out to the streets again after a sudden coup d’état brought normal life to a standstill for several days. Why did democracy prevail in Senegal and not in Mali? Why were people in one country able to express the ...

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