What we’re reading this week: Nigeria’s missing president, a marathoner in exile, and more

  • Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari is still in London, where he has been since January 19th. The 74-year-old’s trip was meant to be a short leave that included some medical check-ups. He was scheduled to return to Nigeria in early February. His prolonged absence reminds us of the long absence of Nigeria’s former president Umar Yar’Adua, who in 2009 sought medical treatment in Saudi Arabia and was outside Nigeria for months. Yar’Adua died shortly after returning to Nigeria in 2010. Georgetown professor and Nigeria expert Alex Thurston (@sahelblog) has written a great piece in IPI Global Observatory comparing the two presidents’ absences and it reads as more optimistic about the situation during Buhari’s absence. See also this piece by Ohio University political scientist Brandon Kendhammer (@Kendhammer) in Africa is a Country, which reads as less sanguine.
  • Also in Africa is a Country this week is a piece by Jamie Hitchen (@jchitchen) of the Africa Research Institute: “How do we talk about rebel groups?” Hitchen compels us to think about how dismissive characterizations of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and Boko Haram underestimate these groups, which can act as an obstacle in defeating them. Hitchen draws from a recently published book written from the perspective of an LRA foot soldier: When the Walking Defeats You: One Man’s Journey as Joseph Kony’s Bodyguard, by Ledio Cakaj (@LedioCakaj).
  • Read this very good piece in the New York Times about Ethiopian marathoner Feyisa Lilesa, who is living in exile in Flagstaff, Arizona. Lilesa is the silver medalist in the Rio Olympics this past summer who, when crossing the finish line, held his arms over his head in a crossed position as a symbol of solidarity with the Oromo Protests in Ethiopia. (For more on the Oromo Protests, we point you to this post by Mohammed Ademo, aka @OPride.) While the Ethiopian government said Lilesa is welcome to return to his home country, he does not feel safe to do so.
  • Today marks Ghana‘s 60th year of independence from Britain. We hope everyone is celebrating with some great jollof, high life music, and dancing. ICYMI, our first-ever episode focused on Ghanaian elections. Have a listen.ghana-celebrates-gyan-goal-with-a-strut-against-germany
  • Talking about Ghana, has anyone checked on former president John Dramani Mahama? We hope he’s not too depressed about the news that the Mo Ibrahim Foundation has chosen not to name a winner in its annual Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. The Mo Ibrahim Prize recognizes African executive leaders who have left office in the last three years that, “under challenging circumstances, have developed their countries and strengthened democracy and human rights for the shared benefit of their people, paving the way for sustainable and equitable prosperity.” The prize is not just a beautiful paperweight — it comes with $5 million cash paid out over ten years followed by an annual stipend of $200,000.
  •  This week’s episode featured a conversation with Dr. Laura Seay (@texasinafrica) of Colby College. We talked about minerals and conflict in Democratic Republic of Congo. Our longest episode thus far, we still didn’t have time to talk about this relevant, recent article in Foreign Affairs by our Barnard College colleague Séverine Autesserre (@SeverineAR), “What the Uproar Over Congo’s Elections Misses.” During our chat, Laura mentions two books that might be of interest to those who want to better understand conflict and minerals: What Rebels Want by Jennifer Hazen and Coltan by Michael Nest.

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