24 April 2013 § Leave a Comment
Along the lines of Adam Elkus’ shared reading lists, here’s what I’ve picked up recently, along with their Amazon summaries:
- Catherine Boone, Political Topographies of the African State. “Examines political regionalism in Africa and how it affects forms of government, and prospects for democracy and development. Boone’s study is set within the context of larger theories of political development in agrarian societies. It features a series of compelling case studies that focus on regions within Senegal, Ghana, and Côte d’Ivoire and ranges from 1930 to the present.”
- Danny Hoffman, The War Machines: Young Men and Violence in Sierra Leone and Liberia. “Considers how young men are made available for violent labor both on the battlefields and in the diamond mines, rubber plantations, and other unregulated industries of West Africa. Based on his ethnographic research with militia groups in Sierra Leone and Liberia during those countries’ recent civil wars, Hoffman traces the path of young fighters who moved from grassroots community-defense organizations in Sierra Leone during the mid-1990s into a large pool of mercenary labor. Hoffman argues that in contemporary West Africa, space, sociality, and life itself are organized around making young men available for all manner of dangerous work. Drawing on his ethnographic research over the past nine years, as well as the anthropology of violence, interdisciplinary security studies, and contemporary critical theory, he maintains that the mobilization of West African men exemplifies a global trend in the outsourcing of warfare and security operations. A similar dynamic underlies the political economy of violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, and a growing number of postcolonial spaces.”
- Peter Little, Somalia: Economy Without State. “In the wake of the collapse of the Somali government in 1991, a “second” or “informal” economy based on trans-border trade and smuggling is thriving. While focusing primarily on pastoral and agricultural markets, Peter D. Little demonstrates that the Somalis are resilient and opportunistic and that they use their limited resources effectively. While it is true that many Somalis live in the shadow of brutal warlords and lack access to basic health care and education, Little focuses on those who have managed to carve out a productive means of making ends meet under difficult conditions and emphasizes the role of civic culture even when government no longer exists. Exploring questions such as, Does statelessness necessarily mean anarchy and disorder? Do money, international trade, and investment survive without a state? Do pastoralists care about development and social improvement? This book describes the complexity of the Somali situation in the light of international terrorism.”
- Richard Reid, Warfare in African History. “Examines the role of war in shaping the African state, society, and economy. Richard J. Reid helps students understand different patterns of military organization through Africa’s history; the evolution of weaponry, tactics, and strategy; and the increasing prevalence of warfare and militarism in African political and economic systems. He traces shifts in the culture and practice of war from the first millennium into the era of the external slave trades, and then into the nineteenth century, when a military revolution unfolded across much of Africa. The repercussions of that revolution, as well as the impact of colonial rule, continue to this day. The frequency of coups d’états and civil war in Africa’s recent past is interpreted in terms of the continent’s deeper past.”
- Thomas Risse (ed.), Governance Without a State? “For readers who think the world is steadily moving toward the Westphalian ideal of a universal system of sovereign states, this book will be a revelation. For readers who despair at the chronic problem of weak and failing states, this book contains intriguing ideas about alternative forms of stable governance.”
21 April 2013 § 1 Comment
I’m only a few months behind the curve on this one – Steven Levitsky and Lucan Way had a very interesting article in December’s issue of Perspectives on Politics called “Beyond Patronage: Violent Struggle, Ruling Party Cohesion, and Authoritarian Durability” (earlier ungated version at SSRN).
This paper argues that institutionalized party patronage — the focus of recent studies by Barbara Geddes, Jason Brownlee, and Beatriz Magaloni — is an ineffective source of elite cohesion. Patronage may preserve elite unity during normal times, but it is often insufficient to ensure elite cooperation during crises. The most durable party-based regimes are those that are organized around non-material sources of cohesion, such as ideology, ethnicity, or bonds of solidarity rooted in a shared experience of violent struggle. In particular, parties whose origins lie in war, violent anti-colonial struggle, revolution, or counter-insurgency are more likely to survive economic crisis, leadership succession, and opposition challenges without suffering debilitating defections. To demonstrate this argument, we compare post Cold War regime trajectories in Kenya, Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Pure patronage parties in Kenya (KANU) and Zambia (UNIP) that were not founded in violent struggle suffered severe defections and fell from power after the Cold War. By contrast, Frelimo in Mozambique and ZANU-PF in Zimbabwe, which were both the outgrowth of long and violent liberation struggles, remained highly cohesive and retained power in the face of powerful opposition challenges and significant economic downturn.
The RPF in Rwanda fits this narrative quite well, and in a 2006 article, Filip Reyntjens noted that the CNDD in Burundi also enjoyed some legitimacy among the Hutu majority because of its role in the civil war. I wonder if this has something to do with Joseph Kabila’s unusual longevity in power, as well. He doesn’t appear terribly interested in either governing or politicking, but he does seem to lean on his father’s legacy, perhaps getting a boost from any legitimacy he might have earned during the first war. When I was in Kinshasa in 2009 I remember noting that all of the political posters featured Kabila père rather than the current president. Would be curious to hear thoughts on this from people who are more familiar with the elder Kabila’s political legacy than I am.
18 February 2013 § Leave a Comment
A smattering of updates from around Africa:
- Burundi: Conflicting judicial mechanisms for land reallocation and titling after the civil war are keeping the potential for renewed tensions alive.
- Central African Republic: An update on the Seleka rebellion and the potential collapse of Bozize’s regime from African Arguments.
- Ghana: People who are institutionalized for mental illness were able to vote in presidential elections for the first time in December.
- Guinea: The Economist writes about business as usual under reformist president Alpha Conde.
- Kenya: An openly gay political candidate dropped out of a senate race over a lack of funding in December, and anti-corruption campaigner John Githongo spoke to the Economist back in November.
- Nigeria: Striking photos from an illegal oil refinery in the Niger Delta.
16 February 2013 § 1 Comment
The Mail & Guardian has a useful new map of the latest constellation of rebel groups in eastern Congo:
Here’s a similar map from 2011, courtesy of the Rift Valley Institute Great Lakes Course I attended last summer (click to enlarge):
And a map of regional actors in the second Congo War, also from RVI:
8 February 2013 § 1 Comment
I saw a number of interesting graphics in Ghana last summer. A few that caught my eye, rendered in Hipstamatic:
Holy furniture, Batman!
In case anyone was unaware of the differing merits of these types of promotion
26 November 2012 § 2 Comments
Reuters has a great graphic of key players and territorial control during the Congo wars and the current rebellion. Click the image to enlarge.
23 November 2012 § 1 Comment
Some friends and I spent a weekend in Bolgatanga, near Ghana’s northern border with Burkina Faso, during my annual séjour in Tamale this summer. It’s a pleasant, dusty little town, surrounded by lovely rolling hills and green fields of millet. A few photos to add to the Hipstamatic series:
Gorgeous painted houses in Sirigu