Kano is a book lover’s paradise

By | Books, Mail & Guardian, Nigeria | No Comments

I didn’t want to go to Nigeria. I have nothing against the place, I just had too much to do in too many other places that I felt I knew more about. The only time I had spent in Nigeria was changing planes in Lagos many years ago where I watched a tractor drive over my suitcase, twice, while waiting for a connecting flight to ­Johannesburg. These days I spend part of most months in Nigeria and my learning curve has been steep. Fortunately, Nigeria is a fabulous book country. Nigerians like to talk, and they like to put a lot of…

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Depressing end to Afcon for DRC team

By | AFCON, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Mail & Guardian | No Comments

The sound generated by the Congolese fan club maintained a steady deafening level until about the 75th minute of the game. That’s when it finally hit the Leopards fans that Côte d’Ivoire was leading 3-1 and there were only 15 minutes left. It was a depressing end to the African Cup of Nations (Afcon) for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – last week in what seemed like a miracle, they overcame a 2-0 deficit early in the second half against their neighbour across the river and beat Congo Brazzaville 4-2. The day before the match, I arrived in…

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Bewitching tale casts light on Kinshasa’s street children

By | Books, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mail & Guardian | No Comments

Kinshasa is the second-biggest French-speaking city in the world. One might expect it would follow in the footsteps of Paris, a fabulous book city and probably the best place to find books from and on Africa. Kinshasa bakers, after all, manage to produce baguettes and croissants that are every bit as mouth-watering as those found in the far north. And the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is not short of excellent writers. But good bookshops are as rare as hen’s teeth. The one biggish bookshop in Kin­shasa, a city with probably more than twice as many people as Johan­nesburg, was…

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Humanising hate crimes

By | Mail & Guardian | No Comments

A Man of Good Hope by Jonny Steinberg (Jonathan Ball) Xenophobia, bad governance, police violence, extreme poverty – we’re familiar with the terms and we know they are problems that must be dealt with. But it’s hard to go beyond the headlines when it’s not personal. In his new book, A Man of Good Hope, Jonny Steinberg makes it personal by dissecting a young Somali’s search for freedom, stability and dignity. Asad Abdullah is the face that makes this story personal. There aren’t many places in the world where it’s easy to be a Somali, and that includes Somalia. It’s…

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CAR is being robbed of its future

By | Central African Republic, Mail & Guardian | No Comments

NEWS ANALYSIS It seems as if everybody has a plan to save the Central African Republic but it is hard to figure out where the locals fit in. There seems to be a two-track policy when it comes to dealing with the crisis – the international community follows one route while the CAR government waits for permission to act. The political process seems to be going nowhere. A transitional government under interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has been in office since February – but saying it has been in power since then would be an overstatement. The president seems to spend…

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Disarmed to the teeth in Bangui

By | Bangui, Central African Republic, Mail & Guardian | No Comments

There’s election fever in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR). It seems as if everybody is declaring themselves a candidate for president. It’s almost hard to believe anyone would want the job. But if precedent is anything to go by, it’s a licence to loot. The popularity of the current interim administration is to the left of zero. An SMS made the rounds in Bangui earlier this week calling for a general strike if the few remaining Muslims in the city had not been disarmed by Thursday. The CAR’s interim president, Catherine Samba-Panza, has few of the…

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Bozizé out of the frying pan into SA?

By | Bangui, Central African Republic, Mail & Guardian, South Africa | No Comments

That’s the question Central African Republic (CAR) watchers have been asking all week. He is François Bozizé, the man who used to be number one in Bangui. South Africa’s foreign affairs spokesperson, Clayson Monyela, says no, but CAR analysts and people close to the former president keep saying his arrival is imminent. Whatever the case, finding a permanent refuge for Bozizé is complicated. Last week, CAR Justice Minister Arsène Sendé issued an international arrest warrant accusing Bozizé of, among other things, crimes against humanity and inciting genocide. A breakdown of the accusations claims the ousted leader is responsible for 119…

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Central African Republic descends unchecked into hell

By | Central African Republic, Mail & Guardian | No Comments

That’s how medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) describes the country that briefly dominated news in South Africa earlier this year. The CAR barely qualifies as a country. The descent into hell for many of the 4.5-million people living there is going almost unnoticed. The CAR already has the second lowest life expectancy in the world – 48 years. For years its infant mortality rate has been three times higher than the level used to define a humanitarian crisis. New figures present an even grimmer picture. This week, a group of five non­governmental organisations still operating there held a press…

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Somalians wish to forge their own destiny

By | Mail & Guardian, Somalia | No Comments

Somalia is one of those places where President Jacob Zuma does not feel the need to send peace­keepers; he refused an African Union request a few years ago. In any case, there are enough old South African army types working for private ­security firms up there to keep the South African flag flying. Political pundit Greg Mills and two United States military advisors, Peter Pham and David Kilcullen, recently wrote a short e-book, Somalia: Fixing Africa’s Most Failed State. The title sounds like it should be some sort of recipe book for nation-building. It isn’t. It reads like a long…

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CAR: Bozizé, Zuma in backroom troops deal

By | Central African Republic, Mail & Guardian, South Africa | No Comments

Central African Republic’s outsted president François Bozizé’s request for South African troops in Bangui did not go through proper channels. The government of the Central African Republic did not make a formal request to South Africa to send troops there. Ousted president François Bozizé made the request directly to President Jacob Zuma, without going through his own country’s national assembly. The doyen of constitutional lawyers in the CAR, Maître Zarambaud Assingambi, told the Mail & Guardian that there is nothing wrong with the president signing a defence agreement, but any such agreement must be ratified by the national assembly, and…

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