Links this week: Films, “Big Brother Africa” and voiding the Kenya election

Raila Odinga (left) will face off against Uhuru Kenyatta (right) in fresh elections scheduled for October 17, 2017.

Here’s the round-up of links from this week’s episode, which features a chat with Dr. Kathleen Klaus (@KathleenKlaus), Visiting Assistant Professor of Government at Wesleyan University. ICYMI, Klaus and I talk about the recent election in Kenya, including Friday’s Supreme Court announcement to void the presidential election. Here are a few good reads about the election and the court’s decision:

  • Nairobi-based political analyst Nanjala Nyabola (@Nanjala1) has a great piece in Al-Jazeera arguing that the procedural failures in the electoral process “undermined the core of Kenyan democracy.” Nyabola points out how important this case is more broadly in that it reaffirms judicial independence in a context where many scholars and analysts think of the presidency as wielding almost all political power.
  • Read also Ken Opalo’s (@kopaloinitial reflections on the court’s decision. We chatted with Opalo before the election in Episode 23. Particularly helpful to listeners who are less familiar with the Kenyan electoral context, Opalo’s post explains how the transmission of results from polling and tallying centers was supposed to work, including explaining what a Form 34A is and why it matters. Opalo raises questions about whether elections will actually be held in the next two months, given the likelihood that opposition candidate Raila Odinga will want changes in the electoral commission before the fresh election.
  • There’s a post by writer Helen Epstein in the New York Review of Books that came out before the court decision. Epstein chronicles in her piece the many irregularities leading up to the election, including the mysterious torture and death of the election commission’s IT manager Chris Msando and questionable procurement practices for printing ballot papers.
  • Finally, I can’t believe I’m linking to excellent reporting on Kenyan politics in the New York Times. And the paper of record didn’t stop there – see what Grieve Chelwa (@gchelwa) called the #NYTimesHumblePieEdition: an editorial calling the court decision a giant step for fair elections. It really must be a new era.

There’s lots of other interesting news that wasn’t about Kenya’s election:

  • OkayAfrica recently published a great listicle of films from the African diaspora to look out for at the Toronto International Film Festival Sept 7-17. Even if – like me – you’re not going to be in Toronto for the festival, the OkayAfrica post has trailers of what looks like some great films. For example:
    • The first film listed – Félicité – was shot in Kinshasa and directed by Senegalese filmmaker Alain Gomis. From a review of Félicité in Variety: “Gomis gives audiences a burning sense of the economical and administrative blight still holding this part of Africa down, as well as the regressive gender politics that make it a challenge for women like Félicité simply to be.”
    • There’s also Five Fingers for Marseille, a neo-western film shot entirely in the Eastern Cape in South Africa. It tells the story of an outlaw who had fought against police oppression returning home after a long absence.
    • Since romantic comedies are my guilty pleasure, I was also happy to see Nollywood rom-com The Royal Hibiscus Hotel will be premiering at the Toronto festival.
  • There’s a new version of Big Brother Africa and it’s not a TV show. Yomi Kazeem (@TheYomiKazeem) of Quartz Africa reported last week on the growing trend of African governments requesting user information from global tech companies. For example, Facebook received requests from 18 African governments, with Egypt, Sudan, and South Africa making the most requests for user data.  Kazeem’s piece draws on a recently published policy brief that summarizes African government requests for user data and content removal.

And some miscellaneous stuff:

  • The book Kathleen Klaus recommended in Episode 28 was Dust by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor. A 2014 review in the NYT by Taiye Selasi called it “dazzling” and encouraged us to skip the review and just get the book.
  • Next time I’m in Mchinji, I’m going to go over the Zambian border to have a meal at this place:


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