Before our break: Dr. Mampilly’s decolonizing questions, Ugali politics, sanitary pads for Kenyan schoolgirls, and more

Q&A session at AALAC 2017 workshop following Dr. Zachariah Mampilly’s remarks. (Kim Yi Dionne)

This is our last blog post before Ufahamu Africa takes a break for the month of July. As promised in our latest episode featuring Dr. Zachariah Mampilly (@Ras_Karya), below we have transcribed the questions he asked as the end of his remarks at our May 2017 AALAC workshop on decolonizing the study of African politics in the West:

  1. What does it mean to engage in the study of African politics based in the West?
  2. Who is the audience, real or imagined for our intellectual work?
  3. How do existing modes of scholarly dissemination shape our choices regarding our real or perceived intellectual communities?
  4. What are the intended and unintended political consequences of our work?
  5. What are the “best approaches” to understanding African political life and how is this determined?
  6. What are our relationships both to our own institutions and to African institutions and what role do new communications technologies play in subverting or reinforcing these dynamics?

During the second half of our first season, we’ll have the opportunity to ask some of these questions of our guests. We’ll start airing new episodes in August. First in our lineup is Anna Mwaba (@annakapambwe), a PhD candidate in political science at the University of Florida who studies the African Union and election monitoring. Be sure to tune in August 5th!

Here’s a list of what we’re reading and learning from the continent this week, including a few bonus links we didn’t get to mention in this week’s episode:

  • There’s a good piece recently published in Africa is a Country that we recommend: “The right to ‘eat’.” It examines the relationship between politics and consumption and how Ugali politics is dominating Kenyan headlines. Ugali is a staple food made from maize, and as we learned in our conversation with Georgetown University’s Dr. Ken Opalo (@kopalo), there has been a shortage of and steep price increase for maize in Kenya this year. 
  • Some good news out of Kenya this week: President Uhuru Kenyatta signed into law an amendment to the education act that requires girls registered in school be provided “free, sufficient and quality sanitary towels.” Evidence the world over shows how the high price of sanitary products can have a negative impact on girls’ education. We’re excited to see Kenya being a leader on this. Inshallah other countries will follow Kenya’s lead.
  • Sticking to the topic of girls’ education, IRIN published earlier this week an opinion piece by Sandra Olsson, a programme manager at Child Soldiers International, which is a human rights organisation that seeks to end the military recruitment of children. Her piece, “Hear the voices of Congo’s girl child soldiers”, draws on interviews with 150 Congolese girls formerly associated with some of the country’s multiple armed groups. The main takeaway from Olsson’s piece is that girls faced significant stigma and discrimination when they would return home. And what did these girls want? To return to school.
  • Former Botswana president Sir Ketumile Masire dies at 91.
  • Like we’ve said in earlier episodes: “Uganda may be best place in the world to be a refugee. But that could change without more money.”
  • Analyst Kris Berwouts (@krisberwoutsexplains who is on whose side in the complicated, factional politics in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • This week’s episode of Kenya Election Watch with Dickens Olewe (@DickensOlewe) is on women in politics, a recent public opinion poll, and free secondary education.
  • Finally, from this OkayAfrica piece: “residents of the blackest part of Colombia, the Pacific coast, recently went on strike to protest centuries of neglect at the hands of the central government.”

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