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This week's editor

Rosemary Belcher-2.jpg

Rosemary Bechler is openDemocracy’s Editor.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

From Angola to Somalia, Rwanda to Zimbabwe, conflict and poverty scar Africa. But Africans everywhere are investing huge energies in search of democratic change and social betterment. openDemocracy writers examine the new worlds of an old continent.

Côte d’Ivoire: getting it right

A decade’s war and a election drowned by violence are a tough legacy. Côte d’Ivoire’s president must be generous to overcome it, says Rinaldo Depagne.

Egypt, the Nile and the revolution

The fate of Egypt across the centuries is indissolubly linked to the river which gives it life. Today, a range of problems - environmental, political, economic - threaten the provision and the quality of the Nile waters. They present another challenge for the young post-Mubarak order, says Vicken Cheterian 

Eritrea: the politics of food security

Eritrea’s people are sharing in the food hardships of the wider region. But their government’s authoritarian rule is intent on keeping their fate from wider view, says Selam Kidane.

South Africa: rights, accountability and maternal mortality

A study of the healthcare environment of expectant mothers in the Eastern Cape region of South Africa reveal severe problems that both the national government and overseas donors should address, says David Mepham.

Mandela, communism, and South Africa

The documentary evidence of Nelson Mandela’s membership of the South African Communist Party can contribute to a more truthful assessment of the country’s modern history, says the scholar who uncovered it, Stephen Ellis.

Africa’s development: the global bond

A great economic transformation across the world presents Africa with new opportunities in which its diaspora should play a key role, says Chukwu-Emeka Chikezie.

Africa: progress and risk

Africa’s economic dynamism is echoed in a radical shift of perception about the continent’s prospects. But these realities in turn are creating tough new tests for all involved, says Stephen Ellis.

Down a long and difficult road

As the newest country in the world, South Sudan faces huge challenges. But the perseverance of the people and their determination to construct a functioning state raise hopes for the country's future.

South Africa’s media: the Zimbabwe precedent

South Africa’s liberation from apartheid promised, as one of democracy’s essential supports, a climate of media freedom to ensure the accountability of those in power. But the country’s ruling ANC now proposes legislation that would endanger this freedom. The echoes of Zimbabwe are too close to ignore, says Roger Southall.

Kenya’s referendum: “in the name of God, no!”

The opposition of Kenya's Christian churches to constitutional reforms is in part rooted in a new and disturbing hostility to Islam. This attitude marks a significant retreat from the churches’ past role in Kenya’s democratisation, says Daniel Branch.

Eritrea and Isaias Afewerki: a cold logic

The achievement of Isaias Afewerki’s regime in Asmara is to have used confrontation with its neighbours to entrench its survival. It is a political lesson that the international community still needs to learn, says Selam Kidane.

The Sahara's new cargo: drugs and radicalism

A fusion of illicit money-making and radical politics is turning the big empty spaces of the western half of the Sahara into a profound security challenge, says Stephen Ellis.

Somaliland: time of trial

A relatively stable statelet in the Horn of Africa needs wise international intervention to bolster its nascent democracy, says EJ Hogendoorn.

Killing aid

Dambisa Moyo's anti-aid thesis is poorly argued, ignores the facts and is unrealistic in its recommendations. That is not to say all is right with the aid system argues the blogger on the Zambian Economist

DR Congo: arc of war, map of responsibility

The political dynamics of conflict in Africa’s most complex region must be understood if enduring solutions are to be found. Martin Shaw reads fellow openDemocracy contributor Gerard Prunier’s book “From Genocide to Continental War”. 

Guinea-Bissau: the post-election test

The west African state’s unique power-structures combine with the interests generated by a modern drug-economy to present a tough challenge to the international community, says Richard Moncrieff.

(This article was first published on 10 August 2009)

South Africa’s unequal prospect

The gap between South Africans’ incomes and life-chances undermines their dream of an inclusive future, says Tom Burgis.

Somalia: between violence and hope

The endemic conflict in Somalia continues to devour lives and divert resources from the reconstruction of the country. Only a political solution that offers Somalis the promise of a better life will bring it to an end, say Harun Hassan & David Hayes.

(This article was first published on 15 July 2009)

The elephants of Phirilongwe Forest

The transportation of elephants from their home in southern Malawi is justified by environmental arguments and supported by a leading international animal-welfare group. But behind this act lies a story of injustice, conflict, manipulation and lost opportunity that deserves to be better known. Stuart Weir reports.

Rwanda: law, justice and power

The international tribunal charged with investigating the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 has some significant achievements to its credit. But a series of problematic decisions casts a shadow over its reputation, says Gregory Mthembu-Salter.

Isaias Afewerki and Eritrea: a nation’s tragedy

The political character of Eritrea's leader has transformed the hope of Africa's youngest independent nation-state into a nightmare, says Selam Kidane.

(This article was first published on 22 June 2009)

Kenya: it’s our turn to read

A book on corruption in Kenya is finding its way to the country despite an unofficial ban. Michela Wrong, its author, reveals how ingenuity is outfoxing power.

Africa: constitution-building vs coup-making

The experience of creating new constitutions in Africa promises a transformation in the continent's landscape of governance that will render coups obsolete, says Winluck Wahiu & Paulos Tesfagiorgis.

South Africa’s election: a tainted victory

The African National Congress will win a fourth consecutive triumph - yet its dominance of South Africa’s electoral arena is crumbling, says Roger Southall.

Ethiopia's famine: deny and delay

Millions of Ethiopians once again face misery and famine. Addis Ababa's desire to project an image of a new dynamic country has led to callous denial of the reality

Madagascar: roots of turmoil

The coup that ousted Madagascar’s elected president reflects political and social tensions related to the island's colonial legacy, says Stephen Ellis.

Somalia: beyond the quagmire

A new alignment of forces is a moment both of opportunity and danger in the shattered east African country. Gérard Prunier maps the political landscape and assesses what is likely to - and should - happen.


Snatching war from the jaws of peace

A multi-national offensive against the Lord's Resistance Army was meant to crush Uganda's rebels once and for all. Instead, the cautious gains of two years of ceasefire and delicate negotiations are about to be squandered.

Somalia: ends and beginnings

The cycle of conflict in Somalia is entering a new phase with three possible outcomes. All are shadowed by a deep humanitarian crisis that demands immediate attention, says Georg-Sebastian Holzer.

Somalia: piracy and politics

The increased hijacking of international vessels off the Horn of Africa reflects the world's neglect and misjudgment of Somalia's internal conflicts, says Georg-Sebastian Holzer

The eastern DR Congo: dynamics of conflict

An eruption of war and displacement in east-central Africa is rooted in the complex recent politics of an unsettled region, explains Gérard Prunier.

(This article was first published on 17 November 2008)

Beyond the icon: Nelson Mandela in his 90th year

A key to understanding South Africa's renowned former president is the very contrast in how he is seen in his own country and on the global stage, says Elleke Boehmer.

Guinea-Bissau: drug boom, lost hope

The expansion of drug-trafficking networks in west Africa is further corroding Guinea-Bissau's institutions to produce the region's first narco-state, says Emmanuelle Bernard.

(This article was first published on 13 September 2008)

Zimbabwe: the death of “quiet diplomacy”

The resignation of Thabo Mbeki as South Africa’s president is linked to the failure of Zimbabwe’s power-sharing agreement. The result is to restore the political initiative to Robert Mugabe's regime, says Roger Southal.

(This article was first published on 20 October 2008)

Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir: a useful war criminal

The controversy over the International Criminal Court's possible indictment of Sudan's president centres on a judgment of the character of his regime, says Gérard Prunier.

(This article was first published on 15 October 2008)

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