Africa News blog

African business, politics and lifestyle

Are African governments suppressing art?

By Cosmas Butunyi

The dust is finally settling on the storm that was kicked off in South Africa by a controversial painting of President Jacob Zuma with his genitals exposed.

The country that boasts one of the most liberal constitutions in the world and the only one on the African continent with a constitutional provision that protects and defends the rights of  gays and lesbians , had   its values put up to  the test  after an artist    ruffled feathers by a painting that questioned the moral values  of the ruling African National Congress .

For weeks, the storm ignited by the painting  called  ‘The Spear’, raged on, sucking in Goodman Gallery that displayed it and City Press, a weekly newspaper that had published it on its website. The matter eventually found its way into the corridors of justice, where the ruling ANC sought redress against the two institutions. The party also mobilised its supporters to stage protests outside the courtroom when the case it filed came up for hearing. They also matched to the gallery and called for a boycott of City Press , regarded as one of the country’s most authoritative newspapers.

The controversy  has cooled down now that the newspaper  has  removed the artwork from its website, the gallery pulled it down  after it was defaced. The ANC  has withdrawn its lawsuit.

Has Kenya learned from the 2007/2008 post-election violence?

By Isaac Esipisu

Kenya is set to hold in December of this year its first elections since the 2007 vote that was marred by deadly violence. The east African country’s election will come under intense scrutiny because it will be the first under a new constitution and the first since the 2007 poll in which more than 1,220 people were killed, mostly in post-election violence.

The bloodshed and property destruction were unprecedented. Many Kenyans were rendered homeless as well; many as I write are still leaving as internally displaced persons (IDPs)

Sudan-a tale of two countries

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KHARTOUM, Jan 14 (Reuters) – As delighted southern Sudanese vote in a long-awaited referendum on independence, visitors to the north and south could be forgiven for thinking they were already two separate countries. Far from the orange dusty landscape of Khartoum with heavy security, newcomers landing at the airport in south Sudan’s capital Juba wander off the runway to be greeted by a smack of wet, humid heat driven by the surrounding lush tropical forests. Beer adverts and often drunk soldiers adorn the few tarmacked roads in the would-be capital of what is likely to be the world’s newest nation state, a culture shock to anyone coming from the Islamic north where alcohol is banned. Visitors enjoy river Nile-side restaurants where they can sip a glass of wine and eat pork products unavailable up north. The south’s population is mostly Christian or follows traditional religions. African music blares throughout the town’s markets, run by a web of Ugandan and Kenyan traders. Residents shout at each other in an Arabic dialect almost incomprehensible to northerners. But window dressing aside, south Sudan has effectively been operating as a separate nation since it was given a semi-autonomous government under the 2005 peace deal. Juba then set about creating what has become a state within a state. “Is (the south) ready to govern itself? That’s what they’ve been doing for the last six years, doing just that,” Daivd Gressly, the top U.N. official in the south said. It has its own constitution, a separate central government,  10 state governments all answering to Juba, its own parliament and even its own laws. The two regions even have different banking systems – the north operates under Islamic sharia law while the south uses a conventional banking system. Few northern banks operate in the south, dominated by new southern Sudanese or East African banks. Ministries which began in pre-fabricated buildings often with just a minister in a lonely office with a few tea ladies and cleaners for company have become fully functioning institutions, complete with staff. “Frankly, the started with a president and a vice president and built everything from there,” Gressly said. Khartoum’s government was enraged when the south began opening “liaison offices” around the world which local newspaper began to call embassies. And Khartoum complained that Juba was not transferring any of the money it was collecting from customs or immigration. Juba in fact kept an entirely separate immigration system. Sudan visas, notoriously difficult to get, were bypassed by visitors who would get “Government of Southern Sudan” permits in Nairobi, travel to Juba and then fly on a domestic flight to Khartoum. One friend who entered the south overland across the Ugandan border got a “New Sudan” stamp on his passport from immigration. When Khartoum’s interior ministry saw the stamp, they panicked, fined him and stamped his passport with “British infiltrator.” “This is crazy – we are supposed to be one country but we can’t coordinate our immigration!” One Khartoum official grumbled to me as yet another journalist arrived with papers issued in the south, but not recognised in the north. One wonder what will really change once the south becomes independent on July 9.

South Sudan President Salva Kiir votes in a referendum on independence

As delighted southern Sudanese voted in a long-awaited referendum on independence, visitors to the north and south could be forgiven for thinking they were already two separate countries.

Hopes of a nation hinge on a document

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On July 7, 1990, fear spread around Kenya. It stretched from the capital, where the opposition had called demonstrations to press for a multi-party system and constitutional changes, right into rural areas.

When a lorry carrying packed milk, under a now long-discarded school-feeding scheme, approached a rural schoolyard during a break, schoolchildren ran into their classrooms because the black stacked crates looked suspiciously like the helmets of armed police.

Nigerian president on the way back?

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Yar'AduaSo Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua has ended weeks of silence with comments on the BBC that he is getting better and hopes to be back home soon.

That at least appears to have answered speculation in local media that he could be brain damaged, in a coma or even dead.

Africa back to the old ways?

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The overthrow of Madagascar’s leader may have had nothing to do with events elsewhere in Africa, but after four violent changes of power within eight months the question is bound to arise as to whether the continent is returning to old ways.

Three years without coups between 2005 and last year had appeared to some, including foreign investors, to have indicated a fundamental change from the first turbulent decades after independence. This spate of violent overthrows could now be another reason for investors to tread more warily again, particularly as Africa feels the impact of the global financial crisis.

How ill is Nigeria’s president?

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yaradua_portrait.jpgNigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua left for Saudi Arabia more than two weeks ago for the Islamic obligation of the lesser Hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca. Yar’Adua, who is known to have a chronic kidney problem, has sought medical attention in Jeddah and has still not returned, raising fears about the state of his health. A medical source in Saudi Arabia told Reuters he had undergone an operation.

Government and presidency officials have been tight-lipped about the president’s condition and have not said exactly when he will be back. The opposition has demanded clarity on the president’s health, adding that his absence is having an adverse effect on the workings of government and that the official silence is fuelling speculation and uncertainty.

How will Zuma’s resumed court battle affect South Africa?

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Jacob Zuma, the embattled leader of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) launched a big fight for his political life on Aug. 4, asking the  Pietermaritzburg High Court to dismiss a graft case against him that could stop him becoming president next year. If his application is rejected, a full corruption trial could follow later this year and South Africa could head into a protracted period of tension and uncertainty. Read the following insights from leading analysts and have your say on how the legal process could affect South Africa:

gottschalk_resized1.jpegKeith Gottschalk, the University of the Western Cape (see full analysis)

“Jacob Zuma’s Zuma’s legal team has already proved, year after year that, if you have a bottomless pocket such as taxpayers, you can protract litigation, U.S.-style for the better part of a decade.”

Markets shrug off Zuma case

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Adenaan Hadien, Cadiz Holdings

adenaan_resized.JPGPietermaritzburg may well have been brought to a standstill with the resumed corruption case of Jacob Zuma in the High Court, but I suspect the same would not be true for local markets.  Certainly, if last week’s market performances are anything to go by, then reactions are likely to be muted.  Last Thursday, the Constitutional Court dismissed all four of Zuma’s appeals to prevent the state from using potentially damaging evidence against him in his corruption trial.  On Monday, Zuma’s legal team submitted an application for a permanent stay of prosecution, arguing that his constitutional rights have been violated.  This application and the round of appeals which may follow if, as is expected, it was rejected, would again delay things.
On the week, the local currency gained over 4% against South Africa’s trading partners’ currencies and bonds enjoyed gains last seen in the late-1990s.  Equities put in a more mixed performance on the week, due to the oscillating woes of resources against financials and industrials.  The performances of bonds were even more impressive, given the higher-than-expected consumer inflation figures released on Wednesday.  Granted, Thursday’s producer inflation numbers were more encouraging.

Holding pattern dawns in Zuma saga

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 Raenette TaljaardHelen Suzman Foundation
 

taljaard_resized.jpgANC President Jacob Zuma’s quest for a pre-trial stay of prosecution looks certain to  perpetuate uncertainty and an uncomfortable ongoing holding pattern and turmoil inherent in these dramatic events.

These compounded uncertainties do not only affect the South African economy with perceptions of political risk ratcheting up as key members of the new ANC leadership step up the rhetoric as Zuma goes to court but also creates tremors for core constitutional institutions and the bench in South Africa. After upholding the search and seizure warrants used against Zuma and rebuking his legal team for what amounts to delaying tactics, the Court also discouraged pre-trial legal wrangles of the kind that started in Pietermaritzburg.

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