'The Real Politics of the Horn of Africa': Making Sense of Current Developments

Thursday, 21 April 2016 - 7:30pm to 9:00pm

Date & Time: Thursday 21st April, 19:30-21:00  Venue: Djam Lecture Theatre, SOAS, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London, WC1H 0XG
Speaker: Alex de Waal (Executive Director of the World Peace Foundation) Chair: David Styan (Lecturer in Politics, Birkbeck University)

This compelling account provides a contemporary history of how politicians, generals and insurgents in the Horn of Africa bargain over money and power, and use of war to achieve their goals. Alex de Waal reveals the business model through which leaders run their countries, determined by oil exports, aid funds and Western military assistance for counterterrorism and peacekeeping. In this presentation, de Waal will address recent developments in the region, including the South Sudan peace agreement, the Red Sea crisis that has reconfigured the politics of Eritrea and Somalia, and the wave of anti-government protests in Oromia region of Ethiopia.

‘Drawing on a thirty-year career in Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia, including experience as a participant in high-level peace talks, Alex de Waal provides a unique and compelling account of how these countries leaders run their governments, conduct their business, fight their wars and, occasionally, make peace. De Waal shows how leaders operate on a business model, securing funds for their political budgets which they use to rent the provisional allegiances of army officers, militia commanders, tribal chiefs and party officials at the going rate. This political marketplace is eroding the institutions of government and reversing statebuilding and it is fuelled in large part by oil exports, aid funds and western military assistance for counter-terrorism and peacekeeping. The Real Politics of the Horn of Africa is a sharp and disturbing book with profound implications for international relations, development and peacemaking in the Horn of Africa and beyond.’

This event is free but registration is required on Eventbrite. Please note that due to high demand, seats will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis from 19:15.






Book Discussion on ‘City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World's Largest Refugee Camp’

Wednesday, 27 April 2016 - 7:15pm to 8:45pm

Date & Time: Wednesday 27th April, 19:15-20:45   Venue: Khalili Lecture Theatre, SOAS, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London, WC1H 0XG
SpeakersBen Rawlence (author of City of Thorns) & Nadifa Mohamed (author of The Orchard of Lost Souls and Black Mamba Boy

City of Thorns is a vivid and powerful account, bringing together stories of nine individuals living in the Dadaab refugee camp,  northern Kenya. Created 25 years ago to hold 90,000 Somalian refugees, the camp has since expanded to hold around half a million people from several nations. This book interweaves stories of its residents within the wider forces of regional politics and humanitarian aid. 

‘Situated hundreds of miles from any other settlement, deep within the inhospitable desert of northern Kenya where only thorn bushes grow, Dadaab is a city like no other. Its buildings are made from mud, sticks or plastic, its entire economy is grey, and its citizens survive on rations and luck. Over the course of four years, Ben Rawlence became a first-hand witness to a strange and desperate limbo-land, getting to know many of those who have come there seeking sanctuary. Among them are Guled, a former child soldier who lives for football; Nisho, who scrapes an existence by pushing a wheelbarrow and dreaming of riches; Tawane, the indomitable youth leader; and schoolgirl Kheyro, whose future hangs upon her education.’

Author Ben Rawlence will be joined by fiction writer Nadifa Mohamed to discuss the personal experiences depicted in the book, the challenges of the region, and the politics of storytelling and narrative.

This event is free but registration is required. Please register your place on Eventbrite



This event is part of Africa Writes 2016, the Royal African Society’s annual literature and book festival. Celebrating its 5th anniversary in 2016, it has become the UK’s leading platform celebrating the best contemporary African writing. The festival showcases established & emerging literary talent from across the continent & its diaspora, connecting UK audiences to leading authors, poets, publishers and experts. Held 1-3 July at the British Library, the festival will bring together over 60 participants to deliver a diverse programme, including book launches, panel discussions, performances, workshops, & a book fair.





Parliamentary report suggests mistrust between communities, governments and respondents hindered the initial Ebola response

Wednesday, 9 March 2016
Hetty Bailey (Africa APPG)

A report from the Africa All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) and think tank Polygeia has suggested that initial awareness messaging may have exacerbated the fear felt by communities affected by Ebola and even discouraged those with symptoms from seeking medical attention. 


Parliamentary inquiry

At Westminster between October 2014 and May 2015 the Africa APPG held a series of panel discussions on the international Ebola response. Panellists who had worked in Ebola-affected communities stressed repeatedly that the response was being hindered by a fear and a lack of trust between national actors, international actors and affected communities. 

Consequently, the Africa APPG together with Polygeia launched an inquiry into attempts to engage the affected communities in the response. The inquiry received 31 written submissions and held numerous evidence gathering meetings. To ensure the voices of affected communities were represented in the report, 23 key informants were interviewed. In Sierra Leone these were conducted by Restless Development and the Public Health and Development Initiative in Liberia. 


An epidemic of mistrust: fear & resistance

The report finds that in the initial stages of the response, mistrust of and resistance to responders was indicative of a lack of community engagement with initial responses being impersonal and fear inducing. Like other international actors in the crisis, the UK’s initial response to the Ebola outbreak has been criticised as authoritarian. Many UK actors were not educated about traditional beliefs and practices (such as washing and dressing bodies for burial) and so in the rush to save lives foreign aid workers frequently ignored these aspects and some even tried (largely unsuccessfully) to tell Sierra Leoneans that they must “put aside tradition, culture and whatever family rites they have”.  

This resulted in resistance, and at times hostility, towards the Ebola responders. The WHO recognised in April 2015 that “inadequate engagement with affected communities and families” was a “significant obstacle to an effective response”. Many NGOs responding to Ebola operated at community level but community respondents to the inquiry interviews highlighted a gap between NGO activities and the communities’ priorities.  


Bottom-up and community led approaches: fostering local ownership of health systems

The report finds that community groups played crucial roles in creating successful strategies to control Ebola and build trust between responders and communities. The chief finding being that efforts to curb the outbreak were most effective when local leaders of affected communities led the demand for assistance from their governments and the international actors, and played an essential leadership role in the management of that assistance.  

It advocates that although a top down approach (nationally and internationally) may always be necessary in a health crisis, it is only effective when the affected communities trust that response. 

However, the report also acknowledges that the need to react rapidly in a health crisis makes it almost impossible to consult communities immediately. Therefore, the key lesson in ensuring preparedness for future health crises is that health systems should be developed horizontally, local ownership should be prioritised and investment made at community level. Such approaches foster trust and create demand for health services. Communities should be consulted about their needs and local facilities and systems developed to provide permanent services which local people trust and access and which can respond effectively during a crisis. 

Co-Chair of the Africa APPG Lord Chidgey who led on the report commented: 

"The UK has a rich history of supporting programmes which focus on community engagement. However, the report finds that it is essential if we are going to achieve universal health coverage under the SDGs that all donors, actors and NGOs give much higher priority to community ownership of health. Investing in earlier community consultation and working through existing community structures would strengthen local health systems and enable them to respond more effectively to a crisis. I hope the findings of this report will help guide responses to future epidemics and long term approaches to strengthen health systems." 


For further information  

The PDF is available to download here and hard copies have been depositied in the House of Commons and House of Lords libraries. If you would like a hard copy of the report, please contact Hetty Bailey, Coordinator of the Africa APPG at the Royal African Society- baileyh@parliament.uk or (+44)20 3073 8339


#UgandaDecides: How Museveni survived, grabbed donors by the balls, and became the very thing he warned against

Wednesday, 17 February 2016
Richard Dowden

If Shakespeare were alive today, he would probably be writing plays about African presidents rather than medieval kings. Nowhere else in the world has such dramatic and personal politics. Uganda is a case in point.

In this East African nation, the re-election of President Yoweri Museveni on 18 February has always been a foregone conclusion. Having ruled for 30 years now, he will almost certainly extend his rule after the election tomorrow and probably keep extending it until he dies in office.

Victory was ensured when his two main rivals and former associates – Amama Mbabazi and Kizza Besigye – would not unite. But even if a single opposition candidate had emerged and won a majority, the election would be annulled or a quick “recount” would reverse the results.

[See: Uganda: The opposition’s missed opportunity in parliamentary and local elections]

In the early days, Museveni did not mind criticism and discussion; he was sharp enough to debate and defend his rule. But today, anyone who gets close to challenging him gets beaten up, jailed or both. Museveni has become the stereotypical African dictator that he once denounced.

I will declare an interest here. I lived in Uganda as a teacher in the first two years of Idi Amin’s rule. And I went back as a journalist after General Tito Okello took power in 1985, when I managed to visit Museveni’s fighters in the bush. I was in Kampala the following year just his fighters took power, and I was in the front row a few days later when Museveni was sworn in as president. I interviewed the new president several times and found him an impressive debater.

After the Amin years and the subsequent political chaos, Museveni was a model of sense and stability. He opened up debate and tried to create a layered national structure for discussion and decision-making from the village to parliament. But it was only later that I realised this was only in the south. In the north, especially Acholiland where the previous regime’s leaders had come from, it was a different story. Chiefs and leaders were arrested and disappeared, and the Acholi’s precious cattle were stolen by soldiers. The region has never fully recovered.

In these early years, I saw Museveni frequently. He liked to call journalists together and debate with us. It was like bowling against a first rate batsman. He dealt with our questions thoughtfully and wittily. And in Uganda more broadly, there was open debate about policy and the presidential succession.

But the longer Museveni has ruled, the more dictatorial and remote he has become. He has reverted to crude practices such as distributing bags of money to buy votes, while his former comrades have abandoned him. The best went first, and he is now just left with servants rather than comrades.

Making politics personal

One of Museveni’s most loyal former followers was his childhood sweetheart, Winnie Byanyima. Her father, Boniface Byanyima, was headmaster of Mbarara High School, one of the best in the country, when the young Museveni came to beg for a place. Her father gave the young boy from a poor family a spot and even let him stay in his house during term time.

Winnie, 14 years younger, became close to the house guest. And several years later, she was one of the first to join Museveni’s movement and join him the bush. The two formed a close relationship, and at his inauguration, Winnie was standing just metres behind him sporting her battledress and huge afro.

After Museveni became president, she soon moved into State House too, until Museveni’s wife Janet came back from Sweden where she had lived for many years. Winnie was evicted.

Shortly after, Winnie married Museveni’s close friend, personal physician and one of the “originals” who had formed the National Resistance Army in 1981: Kizza Besigye.

The political struggle between Besigye and Musevevi today is thus personal as well as political. That’s why his supporters get extra beatings from the police and Musveni’s gangs of thugs.

Former Prime Minister Mbabazi is different. Museveni previously allowed discussion of successors, but more recently, anyone who has hinted Museveni has overstayed , that it’s time for change, or made a bid for power, has have been side-lined, sacked from government or threatened. They usually return to Museveni’s camp and keep a low profile.

Nevertheless, Mbabazi seemed to be quietly marked out as a likely successor. He was Musveni’s loyal servant, smart and hard-working, but always looked like a gofer rather than a potential boss. When Mbabazi realised he was being strung along, he left and ran on his own platform.

[See: Uganda’s 2016 elections: same same but different?]

[See: Podcast: Who will win Uganda’2016 elections?]

[See: Why it’s too early to rule out Kizza Besigye]

A tight grip on donors

Although the election will likely be about personalities, cash payments and lost ballot boxes, Uganda’s economy will also be an important factor. The economy grew at an average 7% in the 1990s and 2000s, but has now slowed to closer to 5%. Museveni had hoped the discovery of oil would be transformative but with oil prices low, the whole project is on hold.

However, Museveni does still have Western donors by the balls – donors who donate hundreds of millions to the country. Museveni’s single most powerful tool for gouging these donors is his army. By sending troops into the likes of Somalia, South Sudan and Central African Republic, he presents himself as the region’s peacekeeper. He knows that almost no European countries are willing to send troops to these places and that no other Africa country has the capacity to quickly step in. Furthermore, it is well understood that Museveni’s “peacekeepers” can also be war makers. In South Sudan – contrary to UN agreements – he has sent troops to support only one side. And with a single phone call, Museveni could withdraw from any of these countries and leave chaos behind – or even ensure it.

In 1986, Museveni wrote: “The problem of Africa in general and Uganda in particular is not the people but leaders who want to overstay in power”. 30 years later, Museveni has become the very intractable, narrow-minded, authoritarian leader against which he warned.

Richard Dowden is the Director of RAS.

Historicising Afro-European experiences with Dr Olivette Otele & Johny Pitts

Thursday, 10 March 2016 - 6:30pm to 8:00pm
Speaker: Dr Olivette Otele, Bath Spa University Respondent: Johny Pitts, Afropean.com. Chaired by: Professor Kevin MacDonald, UCL
Date & Time: Thursday 10 March, 18:30 - 20:00. Venue: UCL Common Ground, - South Wing, Wilkins Building, Gower Street, , London WC1E 6BT
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Dr Olivette Otele is a Historian and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. Her current research centres around transnational history and in particular the linkage between history, collective memory and geopolitics in relation to European colonial past. As one of the recipients of an AHRC-LABEX Pasp grant, Dr Otele will start a 30 months funded research entitled “Telling one’s story, redefining collective memory: the challenges of African refugees and migrants in 21st century Europe”. Dr Otele’s work includes volumes and publications such as: “Does Discrimination Shape Identity? Identity Politics and Minorities in the English-Speaking World and in France: Rhetoric and Reality”, Journal of Intercultural Studies, (Routledge 2011) and “Bristol, slavery and the politics of representation: the Slave Trade Gallery in the Bristol Museum”, The Cultural Politics of Memory Social Semiotics, (Routledge 2012).
Johny Pitts is a writer, photographer, and broadcast journalist.  He has received various awards for his work exploring Afro-European identity, including a Decibel Penguin Prize and an ENAR (European Network Against Racism) award. Johny has had work published by Penguin, Franklin Watts, Harvard University’s Transition magazine and the journal of post colonial studies, amongst others. As a photographer he has had work published by Cafe Royal Books and recently collaborated with author Caryl Phillips on a photographic essay for the BBC and Arts Council England. Johny also curates the online journal Afropean.com, part of the Guardian’s Africa Network dedicated to the Afro-European diaspora. He is working on a travel narrative and photo essay to be published in 2017, entitled 'An Afropean Odyssey: Travels in Black Europe’.
In this event, Dr Olivette Otele will chart Afro-European experiences from Black presence in Spain in the 16th century to memorializing the past and performing identities in European public spaces in the 21st century. Johny Pitts will draw on his research and creative work which explore the human experience of being black and European in the present day.
This is part of the joint seminar series on Heritage & Politics, organised in collaboration with the UCL African Studies Research Centre. Please reserve your place on Eventbrite.


How to Fix Nigeria’s Economy

Wednesday, 30 March 2016 - 7:00pm to 8:30pm

Date & Time: Wednesday 30 March, 19:00 - 20:30

Venue: Frontline Club, 13 Norfolk Place, London, W2 1QJ 

Tickets: Standard £12.50, Concessions & RAS Members £10.00


Speakers: Professor Charles Soludo, Former Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria; Feyi Fawehinmi, Senior investment accountant, Canada Life; Natznet Tesfay, Head, Africa Country Risk, IHS. Chair: Funmi Iyanda, award-winning producer and broadcaster at Creation TV 

The price of a barrel of oil has fallen more than 70% since June 2014 and reverberations are being felt across the globe. Less than a year after the excitement surrounding the historic 2015 election which peacefully transferred power from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC), Africa’s largest economy and the continent’s biggest oil producer is on the brink of an economic crisis. Oil prices have fallen to roughly $33 a barrel – the lowest value since the 1990s – and in a context where oil accounts for 35% of GDP and 75% of the government’s revenue, this has had serious consequences.

President Muhammadu Buhari and his administration are grappling with a widening deficit which is expected to reach $15 billion in 2016, a plunging growth rate of 3% at the end of last year, and dwindling foreign currency reserves. The government is looking to borrow $9 billion from financial institutions, and is trying to keep the value of the naira from depreciating by banning the import of several goods and restricting the supply of foreign currency.

But what deeper structural problems does the currency crisis reveal? Can the clock be turned back on Nigeria’s deindustrialisation and over-dependence on oil? And how do social media campaigns such as #BuyNaijaToGrowTheNaira contribute to economic transformation and sustainable growth? Join award-winning broadcaster Funmi Iyanda and a panel of experts as they explore these questions.


‘How to Fix Nigeria’ is an event series conceived by Funmi Iyanda, award-winning producer and broadcaster at Creation TV and Oya Media, and organised in collaboration with the Royal African Society and the Frontline Club. The series brings together a broad range of speakers to discuss practical solutions to Nigeria’s contemporary challenges – and to definitively explore ‘How to Fix Nigeria’.

To book tickets, please visit the Frontline Club's website. 

Join the conversation by sending your question to the panel on Twitter: #HowToFixNigeria

This discussion will be live streamed, the link will be shared on the Frontline Club event page one hour before the event starts at 18:00 GMT




Red Africa: power, liberation and the geopolitics of the Soviet Union

Tuesday, 1 March 2016 - 7:00pm to 8:30pm
Soviet poster 1932, courtesy of Yevgeniy Fiks
Date & Time: Tuesday 1 March 2016, 19:00-20:30, Venue: Calvert 22, 22 Calvert Avenue, London, E2 7JP 
Speakers: Dr Meera Sabaratnam, SOAS, Dr Miles Larmer, University of Oxford; Dr Christabelle Peters, University of Warwick. Chair: Richard Dowden, Royal African Society
Following World War II, African nations embarked on a process of decolonization and the right to self-determination was recognised by the UN Charter of 1945. As the Cold War took hold and political and military tension rose between the Western and Eastern Blocs, African states were pressured to align with one of the superpowers with the promise of financial, military and diplomatic aid. Several proxy wars played out on the continent, from the Congo in the 1960s to the Horn of Africa in the 1970s and southern Africa from the 1970s to 1990s.
Across Africa, the struggle between the forces of capitalism and communism sparked coups, revolutions and political divisions, resulting in a huge impact on Africa’s post-independence landscape. In 1960 Moscow rightly judged anti-colonial fervour to be a good fit with Marxism and Soviet embassies were set up in many African countries. But was there a Soviet strategy for taking over Africa? To what extent was the USSR aware of political structures in Africa and the needs of those countries which it supported? What were the impacts of the Cold War on African national identities?
Join our panel of experts as they answer these questions and discuss power, liberation and the geopolitics of the Soviet Union in Africa. Following the panel discussion, attendees will be invited to view the exhibition Things Fall Apart'.
This event is organised in collaboration with Calvert 22 as part of the Red Africa Season. Tickets are free but booking is required. Please go to Eventbrite to reserve your place.


Africa’s Illusive Middle Class

Monday, 4 January 2016
Richard Dowden

Africa is no longer a continent of palaces and peasants. There is now a solid middle class, which is one of the chief factors that drove Africa’s economic growth from around 2000. This coincided with more aid for development, an end to many of the wars that had dogged the continent in the 1990s, Chinese demand for commodities, and internet connectivity with the rest of the planet.

These range of factors drove growth in the new century at more than 5%. In the 1970s, Africa grew at 4.2%, in the 1980s at 1.8%, and in the 1990s at 2.6%. High commodity prices – especially oil – gave countries like Angola, Equatorial Guinea and Libya growth rates over 7% between 2000 and 2010. Many non-oil countries were doing better too, in some instances thanks to the end of catastrophic wars. 

This created a new optimism about Africa. Africa Rising they called it. Some saw it as the new Asia, a soaring economic miracle that would transform the entire continent. The combination of minerals, agriculture and a new middle class drew investment from Europe and Asia and even from North America. Mobile phones meant that Africa could talk to the rest of the world. 

But last year China's economy slowed down, oil prices fell to $45 a barrel, and other mineral prices collapsed. That left only that final factor driving Africa’s growth – the middle class.

The top and the bottom of Africa’s pyramid of wealth are easy to define. At the top, a handful of people have made money honestly, but most have done so through political power. At the very top are the multi millionaire – if not billionaire - super-rich. These are mainly presidents, ministers and their cronies who control the corruption cartels. Much of that wealth is siphoned out of their countries in collaboration with non-African partners and banked in Europe or Asia. Continent-wide, these super rich probably number fewer than a thousand. They have palaces in Africa and palatial homes in Paris, London or other capitals.

At the bottom of the pile are the peasants and urban poor who live on less than two dollars a day and work long hours to stay alive. They will own a pair of repeatedly-repaired shoes, a pair of trousers and a shirt that hangs on a nail with possibly a second shirt for Sundays. Their home will be of sticks, mud and flattened tins for a door. Richer ones will have a bed. The rest will sleep on a grass mat on the floor. Thanks to cheap Chinese goods this class is better off than it was 20 years ago but the gap between rich and poor is still vast.

Who is in the middle? What do they do? The economic definition of middle class in Africa is so vague that it is almost meaningless. Outsiders’ definitions by income do not help. These are some estimates:

·       Standard Bank 2014: 7.6 million earning between $23 and $115 a day.

·       McKinseys 2008: 15.7 million earning more than $55 a day.

·       The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development 2014: 32 million earning between $10 and $100 a day

·       African Development Bank 2010: 327 million earning more than $2.2 a day.

Then there is Vijay Mahajan’s fantasy picture in his 2007 Africa Rising book proclaiming that Africa has 900 million consumers. I suppose if you count everyone who is lucky enough to eat every day as a 'consumer' and you then call all consumers 'middle class', then almost everyone can be counted.

My image of a typical middle class African is a man with a suit and tie who may be a teacher or a doctor, a businessman or a civil servant. At one time it was almost exclusively men, but several women have now joined the African middle class. She or he will have had more than 10 years education, they will speak English or French, possibly both, and be able to communicate in two or three local languages. Those at the higher end will have a university degree and a few will have been abroad for further education.

Their occupation will be civil servants, business entreprenuers or employees of large local or international companies. They will own a house and a car and will send their children to private schools. If they have the money these schools will be in Europe and America but, increasingly, middle class Africans send their children to India or other Asian countries. And in recent years there has been a rapid increase in good fee-paying schools in Africa itself. 

The most profound change in almost all African societies is the growth of the nuclear family and the slow death of the extended family. The first post-independence generation of African professionals found they had to share their incomes not just with their immediate family but for their extended families as well. Today the middle classes are gradually dropping these extended family obligations. Modern urban life means you look after your own children – two or three only – and you may pay for the funeral of a respected uncle or aunt. But you no longer pay school fees for children of distant cousins you barely know.

But few of Africa’s “middle class” rely simply on their salary as they would in Europe and America. In addition to the day job, many will inherit land which will produce food for the family and another source of income. Secondly they are well placed to buy land around the burgeoning towns and build on it. Many will exploit the dying family structure by employing poor members of the extended family as domestic servants or workers on the family estate. Thirdly they will have their private businesses. For example they may own two or three cars and hire drivers to use as taxis. None of this will be declared to the taxman. Nor will it appear in any World Bank of IMF figures. Whatever the surveys say the African middle class is much bigger and richer than anyone thinks.  

Richard Dowden is the Director of the Royal African Society.

Africa in 2016: Prospects & Forecasts

Wednesday, 13 January 2016 - 6:30pm to 8:30pm


Date & Time: Wednesday 13 January 2016, 18:30-20:30

Venue: Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG

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Introduction by Zeinab Badawi, Chair of the RAS

Speakers: Patrick Smith, Chief Editor, The Africa Report & Editor, Africa Confidential; Razia Khan, Chief Economist, Africa, Standard Chartered; Fatimah Kelleher, International Women's Rights and Social Development Consultant; Dele Meiji Fatunla, Head of Communications & Editor of WhatsOn Africa, RAS. Chair: Audrey Brown, journalist, BBC Worldservice


Global and local events in the run up to 2016 present varying opportunities and challenges for African governments and their citizens.

Protests have been a significant feature of the African political landscape for the past century, but now a new wave of youth-led protests are sweeping through the continent in countries such as South Africa and the Republic of Congo. Will these protests succeed in transforming issues such as unemployment and socio-economic exclusion? What will be the long term implications of movements such as #FeesMustFall?

Being the world’s second largest economy, China’s slowdown is likely to affect African countries. The slowing demand for exports from China is already taking place, contributing to the rapid fall in value of South Africa’s rand. How will the slowdown for natural resources affect oil-dependent economies such as Nigeria and Angola? Can African policymakers use this opportunity to make a big push for regional integration and industrialisation?

Exploring contemporary challenges against this backdrop are the continent’s artists and writers. Independent publishing houses continue to be established across Africa transforming the African literary scene with popular fiction from sci-fi to digitally consumed romantic fiction.

Join our panel of experts as they discuss all of the above and more in our annual not-to-be-missed event that sheds light on the key issues facing the continent for the year ahead.


Please confirm your attendance for this event by registering on Eventbrite.






The Niger Delta: a future without conflict?

Wednesday, 9 December 2015 - 6:00pm to 7:30pm


Date & Time: Wednesday 9 December, 18:00-19:30

Venue: UCL Common Ground, South Wing, Wilkin's Building, Gower St, London WC1E 6BT

Speakers: Brigadier General Paul Boroh, Chairman of the Presidential Amnesty Programme for the Niger Delta; Ken Saro-Wiwa Jr, journalist, writer and political risk consultant; Murray Last, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at UCL; Joseph Hurst-Croft, Director, Stakeholder Democracy Network

Chair: Richard Dowden, Director of the Royal African Society; Host: Professor Kevin MacDonald, UCL Institute of Archaeology

The Niger Delta, an area of swamps, creeks, waterways and lowland rainforest, covers approximately 75,000 square kilometres and includes 9 states and a population of about 30 million people. It is the world’s eighth largest oil exporter, and seventh largest source of natural gas reserves. The Niger Delta typifies a modern conflict zone, repeated low-intensity conflicts are driven by a powerful mixture of corruption, underdevelopment, poverty and violence.

The region shot to international attention in 2004 with the outbreak of a violent militancy crisis. Militants fought with government forces, sabotaged oil installations, took foreign oil workers hostage and demanded oil revenue concessions to go to groups within the Delta. In August 2009 the Nigerian government halted the crisis through the set-up of an Amnesty programme which promised training, employment and government pardon for the surrender of weapons. According to the government 8,000-15,000 gunmen surrendered their weapons, however many militants are still untrained and unemployed, and the grievances behind militancy have yet to be addressed.

As the new administration attempts to translate the amnesty’s short term success for long term stabilisation, violence in the Niger Delta is increasing and former militant youth are re-arming. Join Brigadier General Paul Boroh, Chairman of the Presidential Amnesty Programme for the Niger Delta, and a panel of experts as they assess the programme and explore the opportunities and challenges for ending militancy and building peace in the Niger Delta. 


This event has been organised in collaboration with Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN) and UCL African Studies Research Centre

As we have limited capacity for this event, registration is advised. Please confirm your attendance on Eventbrite