Essays

African Futures essays reflect on African protest and democracy movements, with original contributions from both scholars and practitioners.


August 2, 2013

Popular Mobilization and the New Politics of Resource Sovereignty in Tanzania

In 1972, a resident of Tanzania’s impoverished southeastern region of Mtwara penned an angry missive to the editor of a national newspaper. “In Tanzania, there are two groups of people,” he began. “Those in northern and central regions are the ones who enjoy the country’s fruits of independence and those in southern regions are left behind without any progress.” He cited the government’s geographically lopsided investment in infrastructure and industry as evidence of this inequality, and concluded by posing a poignant question that cut to the heart of the young East African country’s aspirations of national unity: “Why are the southern people ignored?”
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May 20, 2013

Amnesty for Boko Haram: Lessons from the Past

On April 24, 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria inaugurated the “Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North.” The committee, a presidential statement said, “has been given the task of identifying and constructively engaging key leaders of Boko Haram, and developing a workable framework for amnesty and disarmament of members of the group.”
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February 21, 2013

New Media in Africa and the Global Public Sphere

In analyzing the relationship between a “global public sphere” and social media on the African continent, the generalizations hide a far more interesting set of observations. Debates and discussions about what passes for a global public sphere often overlook and obscure dynamics of power or take themselves too seriously.
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December 19, 2012

The Language of the Political Crowd in Tunisia

The 17th of December 2012 marked the second anniversary since the start of the Arab Spring in Tunisia. The actions of the Tunisian people helped inspire profound transformation across North Africa and invigorated similar discussions and protest movements throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. African Futures wishes to pay tribute to this occasion with an essay by Andrea Khalil, which analyzes the power of collective mobilization and language in Tunisia’s on-going revolution. – eds.
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December 8, 2012

A History of Resistance in the Congo

In light of the recent escalation of violence in the Kivus, the emergence of M23 rebellion and the on-going negotiations in Kampala, we thought it important to place the latest cycle of conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo in its proper historical context. Emeritus Professor of Political Science Herbert F. Weiss of City University of New York and Senior Policy Scholar at the Wilson International Center offers his reflections, in a re-posting of African Futures first contribution written in February 2012. — eds.
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September 27, 2012

Africa as a Mirror of Democratization

Africa as Subject v. Africa as Object

Too often, academic approaches to the subject of democracy in Africa confine themselves to static and quantitative approaches that emphasize ordinal rankings, national units of analysis, and institutional presence or absence, rather than grapple with inevitably messy and complex subjective and interpretive approaches to the topic. Read More…

July 14, 2012

Democracy and Change: What are the Prospects for an “African Spring?”

High unemployment and expectations among a bulging youth population, cost of living pressures, aging long-time rulers and government that is unresponsive and unrepresentative. The coexistence of these factors helped drive the 2011 uprisings in North Africa. In varying degrees and combinations, they are also evident across much of the rest of the continent, generating, over the last year, a mini-literature on the prospects for equivalent protest movements and moments in sub-Saharan Africa. Read More…