Zimbabwean pastor and activist Evan Mawarire talks to the press soon after his release from Chikurubi prison on the outskirts of Harare, Zimbabwe, Jan. 30, 2019 (AP photo by Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi).

When the late Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe was ousted in 2017, celebrations broke out across the country as people cheered the end of his 37-year grip on power. Among them was Evan Mawarire, a pastor and pro-democracy activist who has been imprisoned and tortured for demanding political reforms and an end to rampant corruption and poverty. But the hopes of Mawarire and his fellow Zimbabweans were quickly dashed, as the country’s crisis only deepened under Mugabe’s successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa. His government has brutally suppressed popular demonstrations, while subjecting dissidents and journalists to the threat of harassment, arbitrary detention and torture. […]

Southern African leaders during a meeting in Maputo, Mozambique, to discuss the insurgency in Cabo Delgado, April 8, 2021, April 8, 2021 (AP photo by Ferhat Momade).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Africa Watch, which includes a look at the week’s top stories and best reads from and about the African continent. Subscribe to receive it by email every Friday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. The international militarization of the response to the jihadist insurgency in northern Mozambique is accelerating, as Southern African leaders agreed Wednesday to deploy a regional force to help contain the Islamist extremists. A European Union military mission to support Mozambican troops battling the […]

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, during a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi at the Heliopolis Presidential Palace, in Cairo, May 26, 2021 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

During his first four months in office, U.S. President Joe Biden did not speak with his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi—a notable departure from precedent given the history of close security ties between the two countries. But after months of silence, Biden spoke with Sisi twice over the course of five days in May, extending his “sincere gratitude” to Egypt “for its successful diplomacy” in securing a cease-fire that ended 11 days of intense fighting between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian faction that runs the Gaza Strip. Two days later, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Egypt and Jordan as […]

Former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda, right, and former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe attend the inauguration ceremony of the Patriotic Front's Edgar Lungu, in Lusaka, Jan. 25, 2015 (AP photo by Moses Mwape).

When Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia’s former president and founding father, died last week at the age of 97, what followed in the Western media was a series of entirely predictable and desultory summations of an African leader’s long career in politics and public life. There was mention of his upbringing in the church in a part of Africa then known as Northern Rhodesia, and its lasting effects on Kaunda’s moderating humanism. There were the unfailing descriptions of his affectations, like carrying a white pocket square, which he pulled out to daub his eyes when occasionally shedding tears in public, or his […]

A new border wall stretches along the landscape near Sasabe, Arizona, May 19, 2021 (AP photo by Ross D. Franklin).

Back in 1990, when the Soviet bloc was crumbling into new nations, Kenichi Ohmae, a Japanese organizational theorist and management consultant, had the audacity to suggest that humankind was on the cusp of a new “borderless world,” in a book of the same name. Ohmae’s goal was mainly to sketch out new ways for businesses to adapt and take advantage of a world that he argued would be increasingly globalized, where nation-states and the borders that help define them would become less and less relevant. For more than two decades, the world seemed to be moving in the direction of […]

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed speaks at a final campaign rally in the town of Jimma, in the southwestern Oromia region of Ethiopia, June 16, 2021 (AP photo by Mulugeta Ayene).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Africa Watch, which includes a look at the week’s top stories and best reads from and about the African continent. Subscribe to receive it by email every Friday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. Ethiopia is preparing to vote in long-delayed national and regional parliamentary elections Monday—at least, part of it is. Voting won’t take place in the Tigray region, which is still mired in a grinding conflict and humanitarian catastrophe. With other constituencies facing logistical delays […]

A demonstration in front of a mural of Adama Traore and George Floyd, who both died in police custody, in Stains, north of Paris, June 22, 2020 (AP photo by Thibault Camus).

I first met Salim, a 35-year-old French citizen of Algerian origin, about 10 years ago at a cafe near Levallois, the Parisian banlieue—or peri-urban ghetto—where he lived at the time. In the course of our wide-ranging discussion about French history and identity, part of the fieldwork for my doctoral dissertation, he told me that while it is possible for some immigrants to become “French,” that isn’t the case for everyone. “To actually be French, you have to forget yourself a little bit [and] adopt the behaviors that are imposed on us,” he said. “There is a path to follow to […]

Protesters take part in a Campaign to Ban Killer Robots demonstration in front of the Brandenburg Gate, in Berlin, Germany, March 21, 2019 (Photo by Wolfgang Kumm for dpa via AP Images).

In late May, news broke that a Turkish-made Kargu-2 drone had possibly taken action without the intervention or command of a human operator to hunt down, engage and possibly kill or injure human beings in the Libyan desert last year. The incident, described in a recent United Nations report, spurred a rash of media coverage and commentary along the lines of an Axios article, titled, “The Age of Killer Robots Has Already Begun.” Though some observers argue that what happened, as described by the U.N. report, is less serious than what the media is reporting, the event represents a watershed […]

A man walks past a mural on how to wear a face mask to prevent the spread of coronavirus, in Soweto, South Africa, May 15, 2021 (AP photo by Themba Hadebe).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Africa Watch, which includes a look at the week’s top stories and best reads from and about the African continent. Subscribe to receive it by email every Friday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. COVID-19 cases are rising across Africa, just as the limited supply of vaccines the continent has received is running dangerously low. Health officials are now asking Western nations that have hoarded early vaccine supplies to share more doses in a desperate bid to […]

Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan attends the funeral service of her predecessor, John Magufuli, in his hometown of Chato, Tanzania, March 26, 2021 (AP Photo).

Samia Suluhu Hassan was sworn in as president of Tanzania in mid-March, while the country was still reeling from the sudden death of her predecessor, John Magufuli, two days earlier. Dressed in a black suit, the 61-year-old former vice president spoke sorrowfully about the passing of Magufuli, officially from a longstanding heart condition. “Today I have taken an oath different from the rest that I have taken in my political career,” Suluhu Hassan said upon becoming the country’s first female president and the first from the semi-autonomous Zanzibar archipelago. “Those were taken in happiness. Today I took the highest oath […]

A crowd of protesters in Algiers, Algeria, April 2, 2021 (AP photo by Fateh Guidoum).

On May 21, Algerian authorities arrested some 800 protesters who had gathered to decry continued economic hardship and political stagnation across the country. It was one of the regime’s most visible shows of force yet against the yearslong popular uprising—known as Hirak, Arabic for “movement”—which resumed weekly mass demonstrations in February after suspending activities for almost a year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Hirak activists first began organizing in 2019 to demand the resignation of then-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, but their demands quickly evolved to include calls for an overhaul of the political system. More recently, the protests have also been […]

French President Emmanuel Macron, right, welcomes Rwandan President Paul Kagame, left, at the Elysee Palace, Paris, May 17, 2021 (AP photo by Thibault Camus).

In late May, French President Emmanuel Macron traveled to Rwanda with the aim of turning the page on three decades of tortured relations with the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front, or RPF, over France’s role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The door to Macron’s visit was opened after a French government-sponsored commission found that the country bore “serious and overwhelming” responsibility for the genocide, though it also found that France was not complicit in this crime. The highlight of Macron’s visit was a speech he gave at the genocide memorial in the capital, Kigali, in which he spoke of the need […]

People mainly from Morocco stand on the shore as the Spanish Army cordons off the area at the border of Morocco and Spain, at the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, May 18, 2021 (AP photo by Javier Fergo).

As it has unfolded over the past several years, the migration crisis linking Europe and Africa has revealed many facets. At its simplest, it is one of the worst ongoing human tragedies in the world today, but one that only commands the attention of a broad public under specific circumstances. One is when it is discovered that a large number of Africans have died at sea while trying to reach Europe, whether from thirst or after their boat capsizes. The other episodic way we learn about the fate of these desperate people is when their overloaded vessels are intercepted close […]

Women march in a procession to celebrate the 25th anniversary of proclaimed independence in Hargeisa, Somaliland, May 18, 2016 (AP photo by Barkhad Dahir).

On May 18, the people of Somaliland celebrated the 30th anniversary of their decision to unilaterally declare independence. Like the 29 such occasions before it, the jubilant fanfare was tempered by a cloud of formal diplomatic exclusion. The government of this self-ruling republic in the Horn of Africa has yet to be recognized by any United Nations member state, despite offering functional, peaceful and inclusive leadership to its citizens. However, this time feels different. While Somaliland’s final status remains in limbo given its existence within the internationally recognized territory of Somalia, geopolitical conditions have changed, opening up unprecedented political and […]

A large crowd gathers to listen to then-presidential candidate Kumba Yala speak in Bissau, Guinea-Bissau, June 26, 2009 (AP photo by Fid Thompson).

Back in 2000, Paula Silva de Melo, a veteran journalist, took to Guinea-Bissau’s national television channel, RTGB, to read aloud a communique that openly criticized the government. Guinea-Bissau had just come out of a civil war that had left media institutions and journalists in a precarious position. Many broadcasters and publications had suffered serious damage to their equipment, and the few outlets that remained active were little more than propaganda tools for the war’s belligerents. But the country was embarking on a liberalization process that promised to expand press freedoms. Journalists like de Melo were eager to hold power accountable, […]

A delegation of Herero and Nama people from Namibia in Berlin, Germany, Aug. 27, 2018 (Photo by Kay Nietfeld for dpa via AP Images).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Africa Watch, which includes a look at the week’s top stories and best reads from and about the African continent. Subscribe to receive it by email every Friday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. Following years of negotiations between the German and Namibian governments, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas officially acknowledged last week that Germany had committed genocide against Namibia’s Herero and Nama people at the start of the 20th century. As part of the agreement, Berlin […]

Herero women sit in a mile-long queue of voters in Katutura, Namibia, Nov. 7, 1989 (AP photo by Billy Paddock).

A decade ago, while researching a book about Chinese migration to Africa, I made an extended stay in Namibia, then one of a small number of African countries I had never visited in a lifetime of writing about the continent. To get to know the place as well as I could, I rented a car and drove with my brother, James, throughout much of the country, a land more than twice the size of Germany. The reference here is appropriate, because it was Germany, a relative latecomer to European imperialism in Africa, that colonized Namibia toward the close of the […]

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