Ghana: Where to now? Election Panel Discussion and launch of 'Positioning Ghana'

Friday, 11 November 2016 - 6:30pm to 8:00pm

Date & Time: Friday 11th November 2016, 18.30-20.00

Venue: Alumni Lecture Theatre, Paul Webley Wing, Senate House, SOAS, Thornhaugh Street, London WC1H 0XG

Speakers: Nana Ampofo, Partner & Co-Founder, Songhai Advisory; Michael Ansah, Chairman, New Patriotic Party (NPP) UK; Gideon Okai, Communications Team, National Democratic Congress (NDC) UK; Jeff Turner, Visiting Lecturer, Institute for Transport Studies, University of Leeds & Positioning Ghana contributor.
Chair: Richard Tandoh (Star 100)

We will begin with a statement by Prof. Nana Araba Apt (Emerita Dean of Academic Affairs, Ashesi University College, Ghana, & Editor of Positioning Ghana) who is unfortuantely no longer able to join us in person.

Over the past 20 years, governing parties have made tremendous efforts to achieve economic development, reduce poverty and boost living standards in Ghana, with varied results.  As the country heads to the polls this December, it is a good time to consider what the priorities should be for her next government.

This event brings together representatives of Ghana’s two main political parties, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP), alongside academics and analysts to discuss key issues such as democracy and governance, infrastructure, education, health and technology.   

These themes are explored in depth in a newly published book, Positioning Ghana: Challenges and Innovations, which will also be launched at the event.  This collection, edited by Professor Nana Araba Apt, who will be speaking on the day, brings together 18 academics, public officers and human development activists to present their ideas about strategies needed to advance Ghana’s development.  The focus is very much on solutions.

Light refreshments will be served.  Signed copies of the book will be on sale at £20.

Presented in partnership with Star 100 - The Professional Ghanaian Network
 

 £5. Please register on Eventbrite
Free for RAS Members - email ras_events@soas.ac.uk for info
 

 

 

 

Democracy in the Digital Age: How Ghana is preparing to deliver the 2016 Elections

Wednesday, 2 November 2016 - 7:00pm to 8:30pm

Date & Time: Wednesday 2nd November 2016, 19:00 - 20:30

Venue: Alumni Lecture Theatre, Paul Webley Wing, Senate House, SOAS, University of London, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG

Listen to podcast

Speaker: Mrs. Charlotte Osei (Chair of Ghana’s Electoral Commission)

Chair: Dr Michael Amoah (Research Associate at the Centre of African Studies, University of London)

Mrs. Charlotte Ama Osei has over two decades of legal, administration, and executive board level experience, and is now the first female Chair of Ghana’s Electoral Commission.  Prior to her appointment, Mrs. Osei served for nearly 4 years as the first female Chairperson of the National Commission for Civic Education, which is the constitutional body mandated to educate Ghanaians on their civic rights and responsibilities, voting rights and knowledge of the constitution.

Mrs. Osei has served as a Barrister-at-Law and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Ghana and as General Counsel & Company Secretary for major financial institutions including the Ghana Commercial Bank, UniBank Ghana Ltd. Mrs. Osei also holds a Master of Laws (LL.M) from Queen's University, Canada; a Masters in Business Leadership (MBL) from the University of South Africa; a Qualifying Certificate in Law from the Ghana School of Law; and a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Ghana.   

Ahead of the general elections on 7th December 2016, Mrs. Osei joins us to speak about the transformation, planning and delivery process of the commission, with a particular focus digital technology.   

Dr Michael Amoah is a Research Associate at the Centre of African Studies at SOAS. He specializes in the International Politics of Africa, Foreign Policy and Diplomacy. His doctoral work on Ghana was published as Volume 19 of the International Library of African Studies under the Tauris Academic Series, with the title "Reconstructing the Nation in Africa: the politics of nationalism in Ghana". His publications include "The Most Difficult Decision Yet: Ghana's 2008 Presidential Election", African Journal of Political Science and International Relations (April 2009). He is also the author of "Nationalism, Globalization, and Africa" (Palgrave Macmillan 2011)
 

This event is free and open to all, but space is limited. Please reserve your place on Eventbrite.
 

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In conversation with Nuruddin Farah and readings of newly translated Somali works

Thursday, 27 October 2016 - 6:00pm to 10:00pm

Date & Time: Thursday 27 October 2016 18:00 – 22:00

Venue: Oxford House Derbyshire Street London E2 6HG

Speakers: Nuruddin Farah, Abdisalam Hereri, Mahamed Mahamud Yasiin “Dheeg”, CaashaLul Mohamad Yusuf, Clare Pollard  Elmi Ali and W.N. Herbert

Somali culture has two lives. It lives both in the Somali language and in translation. It comes from Somali people writing in many different languages and making connections between Somali culture and the wider world.

From the launch of the Somali translation of From a Crooked Rib by Nuruddin Farah to performances by Somali poets, both from the Somali territories and living in the UK, this event will showcase the literary work of Somali artists and the translators who have brought their work to a larger audience.

This event is the result of a partnership between Africa Writes (the Royal African Society’s literature and book festival), Poetry Translation Centre (PTC) and Somali Week Festival.

Panel 1: Book launch and in conversation with Nuruddin Farah and Abdisalam Hereri

From a Crooked Rib by Nuruddin Farahwas first published in 1970. It tells a coming of age story about a young nomad woman escaping an arranged marriage. Farah wrote the book in English while studying in India. After the novel was published in Europe,Nuruddin Farah quickly gained international acclaim, but his work was never available in Somali.

During a book tour in Europe during the 1970’s Farahwas warned that Somali authorities planned to arrest him. Since then he has lived abroad, writing many more novels in English and becoming a leading figure in Somali Studies. After 46 years, From a Crooked Rib has now been translated into Somali by a renowned TV and radio producer, Abdisalam Hereri.

Somali Week Festival is proud to celebrate this achievement by inviting Nuruddin Farah &Abdisalam Hereri to launch the Somali translation of From a Crooked Rib at the festival. Nuruddin Farah and  Abdisalam Hereri.

Panel 2: Somali Poetry  - Readings and Panel Discussion

This evening will continue with readings of Somali poetry from poets living in the Somali territories and based in the UK. The poems will be read in Somali by the poets and in English by their translators. After the readings the poets and translators will hold a discussion of Somali poetry and translation, relating their different perspectives as poets and translators from different backgrounds working in different traditions.

Poets Cabdul qaadir Cabdi  Shube and Mahamed Mahamud Yasiin “Dheeg” who live and work in the Somali territories will launch their newly translated poems. The English versions have been prepared by Maxamed Hassan ‘Alto’ and English poet Bill Herbert thanks to our collaboration with the Poetry Translation Centre. Alto, a Somali translator and journalist and Bill have worked on many translations of Somali poets together, including poems by Hadraawi and Garriye.

They will perform alongside CaashaLul Mohamad Yusuf and Clare Pollard. Caasha grew up in Somalia but has lived in the UK since 1990. She is fast emerging as one of the most exciting young poets living in the Somali diaspora. Caasha, Clare, and Alto have worked together for years translating Caasha’s poems from Somali into English and their collaboration continues.

These poets will be joined by Elmi Ali, a British born Somali writer, and spoken-word artist based in the North-West of England. He has performed his work in the Power House Library in Mosside and at the British Library, as part of the Africa Writes festival. He has been published in Sable15 and Critical Muslim.

The Participants

Nuruddin Farah is a world renowned, prize winning Somali novelist. Writing in English, Farah established his international reputation in 1970 with his first novel From a Crooked Rib. Farah lived in self-imposed exile for 22 years after the publication of his second novel A Naked Needle. Since then he has lived and worked away from his homeland as a novelist, playwright and leading figure in Somali Studies. He has said he sees his work as an attempt "to keep my country alive by writing about it".

Abdisalam Hereri is a renowned TV and radio producer.

Caasha Lul Mohamad Yusuf is fast emerging as one of the most exciting young poets living in the Somali diaspora. Like all Somalis, Caasha grew up in a culture steeped in poetry and while she was young she started to compose her own poems. Her work began getting published on Somali websites in 2008 and, since then, she hasrapidly garnered a great deal of praise for her ability to infuse her poetry with fresh imagery enlivened by telling details. Caasha came to the UK in 1990 having fled the Somali Civil War. She now has three children, a steady job, and a growing career as a poet.

Mahamed Mahamud Yasiin “Dheeg” is a poet, first generation Somali playwright, and songwriter, born and bred in the suburbs of Hargeysa district, Somaliland. He is a former member of the first artist troupe established in the city in the early 50s called WalaalahaHargeysa. His literary production is acclaimed for its variety and combination of the serious poetic style conforming to tradition, and the modern song poem known for its captivating appeal and easiness. Dheeg is a symbol of the older generation and its passion for poetry, but also an entertainer who appeals to the young urban middle classes.

Cabdul qaadir Cabdi Shube was born in the Nugal region, and raised in a nomadic area. He comes from a long line of poets who are popular for preserving the tradition of their ancestors.He was also member of Horseed band, and his artistic work touched on many topics, including politics, peace, and reconciliation. He currently lives with his wife and children in Garoowe.

Elmi Ali is a writer, performer/facilitator based in the North-West of England. He writes poetry, short fiction and for the stage. His performances have been received in venues across the country from the Power House Library in Mosside to the British Library. His latest work is published in Sable15 and Critical Muslim 13 respectively.  He facilitates voicing it, a weekly Creative Writing Lab at Contact Manchester and is associate editor at Scarf Magazine.

Maxamed Hassan 'Alto' was born in 1960. He studied in Somalia and Soviet Union and has an MA in Journalism. Since 2004 he has been a teacher in Somali language at SOAS London. He is a writer and freelance journalist and has published and edited many books in Somali language. He has worked closely with Dr Martin Orwin on a number of Somali poetry translations and is closely involved with the Poetry Translation Centre.

W.N. Herbert is an acclaimed UKpoet. His most recent collection, Bad Shaman Blues (Bloodaxe, 2006), was shortlisted for the TS Eliot and Saltire Prizes. He’s currently working on a book of translations of contemporary Chinese poetry with Yang Lian. Bill is based in Newcastle.

Clare Pollard received an Eric Gregory Award in 2000 and was named by The Independent as one of their 'Top 20 Writers Under 30'. Her first poetry collection, The Heavy-Petting Zoo, was published in 1998 and her second and third collections, Bedtime and Look, Clare! Look!, were published in 2002 and 2005 respectively. As a writer, Clare is very concerned with bearing witness to the times in which we live. Her work has frequently engaged with contemporary concerns, from our confessional media culture in Bedtime, to climate change in her play The Weather and globalisation in Look, Clare! Look!.

 

Tickets £5.90. Book now on Eventbrite.

 

 

 

Cancelled: Fed up and not afraid: Zimbabwe’s new citizen activism

Tuesday, 18 October 2016 - 7:00pm to 8:30pm

Date & Time: Tuesday 18th October, 7.00-8.30pm

Venue: CLM2.02, Clement House, London School of Economics, London, WC2B 4JF

Speakers: Pastor Evan Mawarire, Standrick Zvorwadza and Patson Dzamara

Chair: Professor Stephen Chan (SOAS)

It is with regret that we announce this event has been cancelled due to events outside of our control.

Zimbabwe’s citizens have taken to the streets and to social media to organise and speak out against social injustice in what has been described as the country’s largest protest movement in almost a decade. Speaking about #ThisFlag, the national stay-away and the response of the current government, we are joined by three prominent activists - Pastor Evan Mawarire, Standrick Zvorwadza and Patson Dzamara.

Pastor Evan Mawarire is a religious leader, motivational speaker and author. He gained national and then global notoriety after his video This Flag went viral, spurring the start of the #ThisFlag hashtag online. Along with protests and stayaways, the online movement has mobilised Zimbabweans to demand an accountable government. The Pastor was later arrested in early July 2016 after successfully calling for a national 'Stay Away' dubbed 'Shut down Zimbabwe'. His arrest sparked an international uproar by human rights groups. He was later acquitted by the Magistrate citing violations Constitutional rights. He has since fled to South Africa and then to the United States.

Standrick Zvorwadza is a political and civil rights activist. A teacher by profession, he acts as the board chairman of the National Vendors Union of Zimbabwe. With an estimated 80% unemployment rate, the highest in Southern Africa, the economy relies on a large number of vendors. Standrick has been arrested several times defending the rights of vendors in Zimbabwe against the confiscation of their goods by authorities.  Standrick gained international publicity when he led the protest against Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko's continued stay at a five star hotel for almost 2 years at public purse in June 2016. He was arrested by the police and charged with malicious damage to property. The Vice President has since left the hotel after the protest. He has been prominent in the use of social media under the #thisflower and #tajamuka hashtags. Tajakuma means 'outraged', 'angry' with an implicit component of 'action' - something like: "Let's act".

Patson Dzamara is an academic, leadership consultant and motivational speaker. He travels extensively speaking on leadership in presentations based on the 7 books he has published to date. His brother Itai Dzamara, who started the Occupy Africa Unity square Movement, calling for the end of President Mugabe’s rule was abducted in March 2015 and has not been seen since.  Patson has been campaigning to demand the return of his brother, for the government to address economic hardships, and calling for the end to Mugabe rule. An active social media user, he has popularised the #occupyafrica hashtag, and has also been arrested for his activities. 

This event is held in partnership with The Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa (@AfricaAtLSE), which aims to strengthen LSE’s long-term commitment to placing Africa at the heart of understandings and debates about global issues.

This event is free and open to all but space is limited. Please reserve your place on Eventbrite.

When registration for this event is full, please consider attending a discussion the following day (19th October) in Parliament with the Africa & Zimbabwe APPGs

Image: Themba Hadebe, Associated Press

 

 

RAS Annual Lecture 2016 - Africa's Growth Story: A New Chapter

Friday, 21 October 2016 - 6:00pm to 8:00pm

 

The Royal African Society's Annual Lecture 2016
Delivered by Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB)

Chaired by: Zeinab Badawi, Chair of the Royal African Society

Date & Time: Friday, 21 October, 6-8PM

Venue: Royal Society of Medicine, 1 Wimpole Street, London W1G 0AE

In recent years much of the media has documented the fall in commodity prices and the impact of global and regional downturns in African countries. How can African governments increase their resilience to external shocks and what are the pitfalls they should avoid? Join President Adesina as shares his insights on the next chapter of Africa’s growth story.

Akinwumi Ayodeji Adesina is the 8th elected President of the African Development Bank (AfDB). He is a distinguished development economist and agricultural development expert with 25 years of international experience.

Adesina has held a number of high-level roles including at the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), and in the Food Security division of the Rockefeller Foundation in New York. He has received international recognition for his leadership and work in agriculture, and in 2010 was appointed by the UN as one of 17 global leaders to spearhead the Millennium Development Goals.

During his service as Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development (2010-2015), he implemented bold policy reforms in the fertilizer sector and pursued innovative agricultural investment programs to expand opportunities for the private sector. Now at the AfDB, the priority areas for his five-year term as president include growing the private sector for industrialization and wealth creation, jobs for youth and women, rural economies for inclusive growth and regional integration.

We invite guests to attend a wine reception in the atrium of the Royal Society of Medicine before the lecture (included in the ticket price).

Tickets: £16 / £8 / Free for RAS members. Register on Eventbrite.

 

 

 

 

 

Why Comrades Go to War: Liberation Politics and the Outbreak of Africa’s Deadliest Conflict

Tuesday, 11 October 2016 - 6:30pm to 8:00pm

Date & Time: Tuesday, 11 October 2016, 18:30-20:00

Venue: Wolfson Lecture Theatre, Paul Webley Wing, Senate House, SOAS, University of London

Speakers: Philip Roessler (College of William and Mary) and Harry Verhoeven (Georgetown University)
Discussant: Richard Benda (University of Manchester)
Chair: Phil Clark (SOAS)

In October 1996, a motley crew of ageing Marxists and unemployed youth coalesced to revolt against Mobutu Seso Seko, president of Zaire/Congo since 1965. Backed by a Rwanda-led regional coalition that drew support from Asmara to Luanda, the rebels of the AFDL marched over 1500 kilometres in seven months to crush the dictatorship. To the Congolese rebels and their Pan-Africanist allies, the vanquishing of the Mobutu regime represented nothing short of a ‘second independence’ for Congo and Central Africa as a whole and the dawning of a new regional order of peace and security.

Within fifteen months, however, Central Africa’s ‘liberation peace’ would collapse, triggering a cataclysmic fratricide between the heroes of the war against Mobutu and igniting the deadliest conflict since World War II. Uniquely drawing on hundreds of interviews with protagonists from Congo, Rwanda, Angola, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Africa, Belgium, France, the UK and the US, Why Comrades Go To War offers a novel theoretical and empirical account of Africa’s Great War. It argues that the seeds of Africa’s Great War were sown in the revolutionary struggle against Mobutu—the way the revolution came together, the way it was organized, and, paradoxically, the very way it succeeded. In particular, the book argues that the overthrow of Mobutu proved a Pyrrhic victory because the protagonists ignored the philosophy of Julius Nyerere, the father of Africa’s liberation movements: they put the gun before the unglamorous but essential task of building the domestic and regional political institutions and organizational structures necessary to consolidate peace after revolution. 

Join us for a discussion with the book's authors Philip Roessler and Harry Verhoeven and discussant Richard Benda, chaired by Phil Clark.

This event is presented in partnership with SOAS Department of Politics and International Studies. Copies of Why Comrades Go to War Liberation Politics and the Outbreak of Africa’s Deadliest Conflict (Hurst, 2016) will be on sale at the event. Further details

This event is free and open to all but seating is limited. Please register your place on Eventbrite.

 

 

 

 

Crisis: South Africa’s political economy after the local elections

Monday, 19 September 2016 - 7:00pm to 8:30pm

 

Date & Time: Monday 19th September, 19:00 - 20:30
Venue: TW1.G.01 in Tower 1 - London School of Economics, Clement's Inn, London, WC2B 4JF

Listen to podcast

Where next for the ruling party after the watershed local elections? We unpack the implications of the results, the growing fractures in the ANC, allegations of state capture and its effect on the economy. With Dr Desné Masie and Nick Branson.

Speakers:

Dr Desné Masie is an economist and visiting scholar at the Wits School of Governance, who works on international economics, financialisation, poverty and inequality, and African geopolitical economy. She is the co-host of the African Arguments podcast, an economics contributor to The Times, and an associate of the Democracy Works Foundation.

Nick Branson is Senior Researcher at Africa Research Institute (ARI) and an expert in African politics, governance, and the rule of law. He is working towards a PhD in the Department of Politics and International Studies at SOAS.

Chair:

Sandy Balfour is an author and social entrepreneur. He was the founding chair of Divine Chocolate, served as CEO of the Canon Collins Trust and sets crossword puzzles for the Guardian. He is a member of the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission and lives in London. He is currently writing a novel.

 

This event is held in partnership with The Firoz Lalji Centre for Africa (@AfricaAtLSE), which aims to strengthen LSE’s long-term commitment to placing Africa at the heart of understandings and debates about global issues.

This event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. Please register your place on Eventbrite

Image: Occupy Luthuli House, 5th September, by Ihsaan Haffejee

For a map and directions to LSE, click here.
The lecture theatre is in building TW1 at the end of Clement's Inn

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ethiopia: into the danger zone

Friday, 26 August 2016
Author: 
Richard Dowden

Ethiopia seems to be heading for another breakdown. Since the war with Eritrea ended - or maybe paused in stalemate - the country has developed rapidly. The level of poverty fell from 44% to 30% between 2000 and 2014 falling and a new dynamism emerged in the cities. But most Ethiopians are still subsistence farmers and the economy is not changing fast enough to provide jobs for the millions of school leavers and graduates. 

Ethiopia, one of the world’s oldest nation states, has been ruled for millennia by emperors who often fought their way to power and tried to hold its  “nationalities” together. When the Tigrayans fought their way to power in 1991 they were not strong enough to hold the whole country. So they drew up a peculiar constitution that allows, in theory, the nations to rule themselves or even secede and become independent if a majority of that nationality voted for it – Ethexit. Of course there was never a possibility of that happening, but it created a political settlement that has lasted 25 years.

Unsurprisingly the Tigrayans found like-minded representatives from all the other groups and created parties for them that followed the Tigrayan line. Up to a point. The problem is that the largest nationality, the 35 million Oromo, live close to the capital Addis Ababa. When the government tried to extend the boundary of the growing city into Oromo territory, the inhabitants protested and their marches clashed with police and soldiers. The government backed off but frustration is growing among young Oromo and many other educated but unemployed Ethiopians. Despite reasonable if exaggerated economic growth figures, employment especially for young Ethiopians is hard to find.     

Ethiopia is fairly unique in Africa having a figurehead president while the country is ruled by a Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalagne. An efficient but uncharismatic technocrat, he is answerable to the Central Committee. But real power still lies in the hands of the behind-the-scenes Tigrayan generals and their allies. The constitution will count for little if they feel threatened.

A stable Ethiopia is vital for the region. To the north is Eritrea, repressive and turned in on itself, still smouldering with anger after two border wars with Ethiopia in the late-1990s. They have still not been concluded with a peace treaty. On the Red Sea is Djibouti where the French, Americans and now Chinese have huge military bases for guarding the shipping route through the Red Sea – the vital east-west route which is threatened by Islamist militancy. To the west is Sudan – historically an enemy of Ethiopia and South Sudan which is still wracked with civil war. To the east is unrecognised but peaceful Somaliland, and Somalia, which still lies broken, much of it dominated by al-Shabaab. If Ethiopia implodes, the shockwaves will shake the entire region. 

An honest assessment of post-apartheid South Africa

Friday, 19 August 2016
Author: 
Richard Dowden

John Campbell’s new book Morning in South Africa ends with a simple judgement: “On balance even with the clouds, it is morning in South Africa.”

Having cited and analysed the failings of the ANC government, the paragraph that precedes this judgement gives a balanced assessment of South Africa’s remarkable transformation, listing “a consistent pattern of credible elections… a range of political vices are heard… freedom of speech in absolute… no infringement on the guarantees of human rights … the rule of law holds sway…. The judiciary has remained independent. Civil society is strong.”

Campbell points out that while the apartheid legacy will mark South Africa for generations to come, social and economic change has been slow. Campbell has been one of the most stringent commentators on South Africa for decades. In articles and at conferences he's has torn into the jargon of the anti-apartheid struggle and exposed the ineptness of some of the decisions of the African National Congress. Though he has given no comfort to the apartheid regime.

He points to the positives that have taken place since 1994, for example how in 2008 black people made up 14% of the middle class compared to just 7% in 1993. And that proportion is increasing, gradually changing the perception that while the black majority dominate politics, the white minority dominates and still owns much of  the economy. 

But it is the land that remains the difficult area. The ANC’s Freedom Charter, the document drawn up in 1955 which became the constitution of the ANC, states: “The mineral wealth beneath the soil, the banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole.”

This was written at the height of the Cold War. It mattered then whose side you were on, and the ANC, driven largely by pro-Soviet communists and supported with money and weapons by Moscow, was clearly in the Soviet camp. The anti-apartheid movement was led by the South African Communist Party which was close to Moscow. Its language was laced with Marxist phrases and driven by a Marxist vision of South Africa. Liberals like the white South African Peter Hain and Anthony Sampson, who was an old friend of Mandela, were ignored or even shunned by the leadership of the anti-apartheid movement.    

When the Soviet Union collapsed, Washington was left with a free hand in the world. It brought an end to the war in Angola and prised Namibia from South African control. The ANC continued to speak in Marxist slogans but gradually dropped its commitments to state ownership of key industries and giving land to “the people”.

But unlike the struggle for Zimbabwe where land and ownership was the core issue, South Africa’s revolution came from urban and industrial struggles. The people who took a new stake in the land and the wealth were many of the ANC leaders and the new African middle class. Many of them have bought farms but, as Campbell says: “Some large commercial farms have therefore been distributed to black collectives rather then being broken up into individual plots. These have not been notably successful.”

Morning in South Africa by John Campbell is published by Rowman and Littlefield.

Richard Dowden is Director of RAS

Zambia decides between an opportunist and a rich businessman

Thursday, 11 August 2016
Author: 
Richard Dowden

Today’s election in Zambia pits an opportunist president against a rich, slick contender. It could be tight. President Edgar Lungu of the Patriotic Front won 48% of the vote in 2015 to 47% for Hakainde Hichelema of the United Party for National Development.

Lungu made his way to the top by switching parties to join the Patriotic Front after President Michael Sata came to power in 2011. After Sata died in 2014, Lungu made it to the top at a questionable national convention where there was no ballot. He pushed out Vice President Michael Scott, who had been Sata’s wing man allegedly with threats of violence.

 

Hichelema – HH as he is known – is the outsider. Smart, fast talking, the businessman calls himself a farmer and identifies agriculture and agricultural processing as the main driver of Zambian growth in the future. In a country owned and run by old men, he appeals to younger voters. The median age is just 16 and the young face an uncertain future. With copper prices low and little prospect of growth in mining, concentrating on agriculture may be a smart move.

 

Zambian politics are always rough and combine smart political manoeuvres with street level thuggery. But political rivalry within the ruling class rarely results in more than a few broken heads in street battles and endless court cases. Zambia watchers say that citizens respect the law and process but despise their politicians. The more cynical say they are too lazy to take effective action on the streets. One trusted voice in the country has been The Post, a newspaper which the government has tried to close down but faced huge popular outcry. 

 

But the biggest immediate issue facing the country and the region is drought. Consequently there is a possibility that the Kariba Dam on the Zambezi built in 1959 may stop producing power. It is in desperate need of rehabilitation. Some say that if the controlled jet of water that spurts through the dam becomes so weak that it falls on the concrete base of the dam it may collapse altogether.

Today’s election in Zambia pits a sleazy opportunist president against a rich, slick, smart talking contender. It could be tight. President Edgar Lungu of the Patriotic Front won 48% of the vote in 2014 to 47% for Hakainde Hichelema of the United Party for National Development.

 

Lungu made his way to the top by switching parties to join the Patriotic Front, in 2014 after President Michael Sata died. He finally made it to the top at a dodgy national convention where there was no ballot. He pushed out Vice President Michael Scott, who had been Sata’s wing man with threats of violence.

 

Hichelema – HH as he is known – is the outsider. Smart, fast talking, the businessman calls himself a farmer and identifies agriculture and agricultural processing as the main driver of Zambian growth in the future. In a country owned and run by old men, he appeals to younger voters – a huge population bulge. The median age is just 16 and the young face an uncertain future. With copper prices low and little prospect of growth in mining, concentrating on agriculture may be a smart move.

 

Zambian politics are always rough and combine smart political manoeuvres with street level thuggery. But political rivalry within the ruling class rarely results in more than a few broken heads in street battles and endless court cases. Zambia watchers say that Zambians respect law and process but despise their politicians. The more cynical say they are too lazy to take effective action on the streets. The one trusted voice in the country is The Post, a newspaper which the government has tried to close down but faced huge popular outcry. 

 

But the biggest immediate issue facing the country and the region is drought. Consequently there is a possibility that the Kariba Dam on the Zambezi built in 1959 may stop producing power. It is in desperate need of rehabilitation. Some say that if the controlled jet of water that spurts through the dam becomes so weak that it falls on the concrete base of the dam it may collapse altogether.

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