Links this week: Congo in Harlem, Liberia’s elections, and more

This week’s episode featured a conversation with filmmaker Christiane Badgley about her latest film, Guangzhou Dream Factory (trailer below). The film was mentioned by Dr. Lina Benabdallah in Episode 4. Dr. Benabdallah reviewed Badgley’s film in Africa is a Country. The film is currently only available for sale to educational institutions. People at colleges and universities that subscribe to Kanopy can stream the video here.

Soldiers of the 11th East African Division crossing the River Chindwin by ferry before moving towards the village of Shwegyin, Burma, December 1944. (Wikimedia)

During our conversation, Badgley recommended a book and related film by veteran reporter Barnaby Phillips, Another Man’s War: The Story of a Burma Boy in Britain’s Forgotten Army and “The Burma Boy,” available on Al Jazeera. No doubt the current crisis for the Rohingya in Myanmar brought this example to mind and it offers an opportunity to think more about the broader colonial and post-colonial experience. Her recommendation to learn more about the role of African soldiers fighting in colonial armies reminded me of our conversation with Dr. Michelle Moyd in Episode 7, when we talk about her book, Violent Intermediaries.

Here are links to things I mentioned in this week’s episode:

  • There are elections in Liberia next Tuesday. Robtel Neejai Palley writes a must-read pre-election report published in The Monkey Cage last week. Her piece puts Tuesday’s election in historical context. Nobel Peace Prize winner and incumbent president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – the first female African president – is not running for re-election because she’s completing her second and constitutionally final term in office. There is a crowded field of 20 candidates vying for her seat and there is no clear frontrunner in the pre-election polls. Palley says a runoff for the presidency is inevitable, given the 50% + 1 majority required for winning.
  • In case you missed it, there was a brawl in the Ugandan parliament a couple of weeks ago. Lawmakers threw chairs and wielded mic stands in a fight over whether the constitution should be amended to remove the presidential age limit. The constitution currently bars anyone aged 75 years or older from running for the presidency. Current president Yoweri Museveni is 73 years old, meaning he would be ineligible to run for yet another term in 2021 were the constitution not amended. In The Monkey Cage, I wrote a piece that used Afrobarometer survey data to show overwhelming support among Ugandans that the presidential age limit be maintained. I also draw from Museveni’s own inauguration speech from 1986: “The main problem in Africa is of leaders who do not want to leave power.”
  • There’s some interesting research that came out of Uganda late last month that shows how an inspiring movie can help students pass their math exams. David Evans (@tukopamoja) of the World Bank wrote a blog post summarizing the study conducted by Emma Riley, titled, “Increasing students’ aspirations: the impact of Queen of Katwe on students’ educational attainment”. In Riley’s experiment, some students were shown “Queen of Katwe,” a film about Phiona Mutesa, a poor, out-of-school Ugandan girl who learned to play chess and went on to great success. Other students were shown the film Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, a fun adventure movie. In comparing the two groups, Riley found that 84 percent of those who watched “Queen of Katwe” later passed an exam, compared to only 73 percent of those who watched “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.” The results were even larger for girls.
  • Last week marked the release of Alexis Okeowo’s (@alexis_ok) book, A Moonless, Starless Sky: Ordinary Women and Men Fighting Extremism in Africa. My copy came Saturday and I’m already more than halfway through it because it’s just not something you can put down. On Wednesday, October 11th, Okeowo will speak about A Moonless, Starless Sky at New America in DC, with Washington Post Global Opinions Editor Karen Attiah (@KarenAttiah) moderating. Last I checked, there are still seats available to hear the midday talk. And for those of you – who, like me, are not in DC on Wednesday – there will be a livestream of the talk as well.
  • For folks in the New York area, the 9th Annual Congo in Harlem is being held later this month. Congo in Harlem is an annual series of films, panel discussions, performances, and special events focused on the history, politics, and culture of the Democratic Republic of Congo. I’m excited to be going this year to see the mockumentary N.G.O. (Nothing Going On), which will feature a Post-Screening Discussion with filmmaker Arnold Aganze and reception with Congolese food and live music by Nkumu Katalay and the “Life Long Project” Band. There are still tickets available – just go to www.CongoInHarlem.org to see the full schedule and buy your tickets. Here’s the film’s trailer:

And here are a few things that didn’t make it into this week’s episode that you might also find interesting:


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