From Episode #1: What we’re reading this week

On the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog, UCLA political scientists Sarah Brierley and George Ofosu have a post with everything you need to know about the December 2016 Ghanaian elections – a perfect complement to our conversation with Dr. Kojo Asante. They give us some background on the opposition candidate and now new president Nana Akufo-Addo, who Brierley and Ofosu say won because Ghanaians saw the opposition as a credible alternative. They draw on data from Afrobarometer to highlight the importance of citizens’ perceptions of government corruption in unseating President John Mahama and in driving Ghanaian expectations of the new administration.

Gambia is in the headlines because its president Yaya Jammeh, who lost in the country’s December 1st election, has refused to step down. Security forces have shut down two private radio stations in the country, limiting Gambians’ access to information during this critical period. Buzzfeed’s Mitch Prothero and Monica Mark published a piece a couple of days ago on reports that Jammeh has begun recruiting mercenaries from across West Africa. Drawing on an interview with a former Liberian army commander, Prothero and Mark wrote that Jammeh’s request to hire mercenaries is “a backstop to any efforts by the international community to enforce the outcome of the election that deposed Jammeh.”

Rhodes University doctoral student Nimi Hoffman has a piece in Quartz that raises the question, “Should Bridge International Academies be allowed to experiment on African children?” Bridge is a US-based education organization backed by the World Bank, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and others. Bridge has been the center of controversy. One report Hoffman points to “found that Bridge provides poor quality education in unsafe and unhygienic buildings, and that their curriculum is divorced from the country’s context…” Bridge’s education programs will be implemented in Liberia as a randomized controlled trial – an experiment – to see what impact it can have on Liberia’s failing education system. But Hoffman raises important questions about the ethics of experimenting on African children, connecting it to the history of colonial experiments in Africa.

Political analyst Nanjala Nyabola has an article in the special winter 2016/2017 edition of World Policy Review in which she examines parliamentary gender quotas in East Africa. She focuses in particular on the experiences of Kenya and Somalia, where electoral quotas have not led to significant representation of women in parliament.

Finally, check out the investigation by Nick Turse in The Intercept on the dramatic increase in the US’s number of elite troops in Africa. Ten years ago, only 1% of commandos sent abroad were deployed in the Africa command area, but that number increased to 17% in 2016. Turse mapped out the 33 African nations where U.S. special operators were deployed in 2016:

Special Operations Forces deployments in 33 African countries in 2016. Map: The Intercept

Listen to the episode here.

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