Links this week: Elections in Kenya & Mauritania, Ghana’s satellite, books & more

Here’s what we’re reading and learning from the continent this week:

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission in Kenya has officially declared incumbent president Uhuru Kenyatta the winner of the presidential election. Georgetown University professor Ken Opalo (@kopalo) has some initial reflections on his blog about Kenyatta’s win, including a preliminary debrief on pre-election predictions. While he considers this election a tough loss for supporters of opposition candidate Raila Odinga, Ken also sees it as a step forward for Kenyan political development. Ken promises in his post that shortly he’ll write another on the significance of Odinga’s likely exit from the political stage. Make sure you add Ken’s blog to your feed or follow his shorter insights via Twitter.

Mauritania’s previous and current flags, adapted from Wikimedia images.

Going to the other side of the continent for a different kind of election, Mauritanians voted in a referendum last week to adopt a new flag. 86% of voters approved of the new flag, which alters the existing flag by adding two red bars — one at the top and one at the bottom of the flag. These red bars are meant to “symbolize the blood of patriots in the country’s struggle against their French colonizers.” Read Anne Quito’s article in Quartz Africa to learn more about the referendum.

There’s really exciting news coming out of Ghana this week. Ghana’s first satellite, GhanaSat-1, began its orbit. A Ghanaian engineering team at All Nations University College built the satellite, which will monitor the coastlines of Ghana and be used to integrate satellite technology into Ghana’s high school curriculum, according to Richard Damoah, a Ghanaian professor and assistant research scientist at NASA.

For those of you following our summer book series on the Monkey Cage, I just wrote a review of historian Jennifer Tappan’s book, The Riddle of Malnutrition: The Long Arc of Biomedical and Public Health Interventions in Uganda. Tappan traces childhood malnutrition — and responses to it — in Uganda for over a half century. While the story is really bleak at the start of the period of study, by the end, we see much more success and promise. In short: this is my favorite book in the summer series. Even though it’s an academic history book, it reads like a novel.

Also on the Monkey Cage this week was a post by Alex Noyes (@AlexHNoyes), a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. His post is titled “Will there be a military coup in Zimbabwe? Probably not. Here’s why.” Noyes writes about recent remarks by President Robert Mugabe about military leaders’ alleged involvement in the post-Mugabe succession debate to highlight how much control Mugabe has over the Zimbabwean. Of course, Noyes points out that the potential for a coup in Zimbabwe would dramatically increase should Mugabe die in office. In this week’s episode, I chatted with Dr. Chipo Dendere (@drDendere), and we talked about Zim politics and Robert Mugabe’s excellent health.

Bonus link this week: Read this piece in The Economist that features Mugabe’s sons and their lavish lives as shared with the world via Instagram. Sadly, there’s no link to their IG profiles for us to compare to Obiang’s… anyone follow them?

Back to more serious stuff:  Yale PhD student Hilary Matfess (@HilaryMatfess) and US Military Academy assistant professor Jason Warner (@warnjason) co-authored a must-read report released this week, “Exploding Stereotypes.” Drawing on original data of all Boko Haram suicide bombings, Matfess and Warner find that at least 56% of Boko Haram’s suicide bombers were women, and at least 81 bombers were specifically identified as children or teenagers. Hilary Matfess was interviewed on CNN International this week sharing more from the report:

Ms. Matfess will be a guest on the podcast later this year, talking about her forthcoming book, Women and the War on Boko HaramStay tuned!

We mentioned a few books in this week’s episode:

Chipo recommended Nnedi Okorafor’s (@NnediWho Fears Death (2014) to me because she knows I love Game of Thrones. And both of us talked/raved about Petina Gappah’s (@VascoDaGappah) book, An Elegy for Easterly (2009) and our keen interest to read her latest book, Rotten Row (2016). I wish I could have remembered during the taping of the episode to also recommend The Book of Memory (2015).

Thanks for reading. If you like links round-ups like this, consider subscribing to the Africa newsletters “This Week in Africa” curated by Jeff Paller (@JWPaller) and Phil Dube (@Thephilospher) and “Africa Update,” curated by Rachel Strohm (@RachelStrohm). Please share any additional newsletter recommendations in the comments section below.


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