This week’s episode focused on Zimbabwe. Following a week of shifts in power, Robert Mugabe ultimately resigned from office and on Friday his former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa was sworn in as president.
We discuss these changes in the political climate with Dr. George Karekwaivanane (@ghkare) a lecturer in African Studies at the University of Edinburgh and the author of The Struggle over State Power in Zimbabwe: Law and Politics Since 1950, which was recently published by Cambridge University Press. Dr.Karekwaivanane recommended Rotten Row, an amazing book by Zimbabwean author Petina Gappah (@VascoDaGappah).
For more on Zimbabwe, read Dr. Chipo Dendere’s piece on Grace Mugabe, the former first lady and a key figure in the Zimbabwe crisis. Gucci Grace, as she has been known, had been campaigning for months to oust Mnangagwa from the ruling party, ZANU-PF.
There’s also a great explainer post on authoritarianism and coups written by Andrea Kendall-Taylor and Erica Frantz. Kendall-Taylor and Frantz ask, “What went wrong for Mugabe?” – since most aging dictators don’t get toppled by coups. They help define what a coup is and show that the definition may be evolving as authoritarian regimes also engage new strategies to stay in power.
Finally, Dr. Kristen Harkness of the University of Saint Andrews has a piece cautioning against too much celebration at Mugabe’s ouster. Titled, “Without Mugabe, is democracy coming to Zimbabwe? Probably not,” Harkness’s piece offers three reasons why democracy in Zimbabwe is an unlikely outcome: recent trends in African coups, the loyalty of Zimbabwe’s military to the ruling party, and because the new president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, is deeply implicated in the corruption and human rights abuses that occurred during Mugabe’s rule.
In Kenya last week, the Supreme Court upheld Uhuru Kenyatta’s win in the repeat election held in October that was boycotted by Raila Odinga, the leading opposition candidate. Kenyatta is due to be sworn in as president on Tuesday. Meshack Simati, a doctoral student at Georgia State University has written about Kenya’s Supreme Court and the 2017 elections, providing a broader context to the role judiciaries play in African elections, particularly as it relates to reducing violence. In his research of 392 African elections, Simati finds that courts can mediate disputed elections, but losers won’t rely on courts in countries where the judiciary is not independent. His research shows the importance of judges having the security of office with removal procedures divested from the executive or legislature. Otherwise, we should expect to see competitive elections potentially leading to violence.
See also this interesting piece in the Ugandan Daily Monitor about women who bore children of Chinese nationals who were working on a dam construction project. The women and children have been abandoned by the Chinese fathers and local communities are petitioning the Chinese power company that brought the workers to Uganda to provide support for the children. The piece raises a lot of interesting questions. Kim read it at the same time as reading Peter Kimani’s new book, Dance of the Jakaranda, a beautiful work of historical fiction set in colonial Kenya that has similar stories of mixed children fathered by empire.