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This week's editor

“Phoebe

Phoebe Braithwaite is openDemocracy’s submissions editor.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

Don’t touch my constitution! Burkina Faso's lesson

A popular uprising in the west African country reflects a wider awakening among citizens and young people across the continent.

"Rwanda: The Untold Story": facts and fabrication

A BBC documentary on Rwanda produced great controversy, including in an article by Andrew Wallis. But his own critique is itself selective and inaccurate in important ways, replies one of those he criticised.

Nigeria, the Boko Haram risk

Abuja's response to Boko Haram's insurgency is flawed and self-defeating. Without a change of policy, Nigeria will move ever closer to becoming a centre of transational jihadist struggle. 

Somalia's displaced: the reform test

The harsh experience of Somalis driven to seek shelter in Mogadiushu 's unsafe camps should be an urgent priority for the country's new government and its foreign donors, say Jamie Vernaelde & Laetitia Bader.

The Mali effect

Many evolving disputes in north Africa and the Sahara fuse religious language and political impulse to powerful effect, says Stephen Ellis.

Kenya, between hope and fear

The violent aftermath of Kenya's previous election is present in everyone's minds as Kenyans elect a successor to Mwai Kibaki. But the past five years have brought many other issues to the fore, says Daniel Branch.

International courts: justice vs politics

The tribunals judging crimes in Rwanda and former Yugoslavia were intended to deliver justice for victims of genocide. But several recent cases suggest that politics may be getting in the way, says Andrew Wallis in Kigali.

Togo: a country of strangers?

Making peace in Togo is not a numbers game. Nor is it about searching to find out who was wrong in the past. As the next election approaches it is time to recreate our country’s history and invest in unity and peace, says Mawusse Domefaa  Atimasso.

The 'politics' in Ethiopia's political trials

The Ethiopian regime is using the legal system to eliminate dissident voices and drag protesters to court under terrorism charges. Far from guaranteeing equality and justice, the country’s courts serve as an instrument in the Government’s hands to legitimize persecution of political adversaries while justifying its practices to the west.

Rwanda: why UNHCR is wrong about Cessation

The UN Refugee Agency must not be the facilitator of a permissive attitude towards continued corruption and the absence of democracy in Rwanda. By calling on refugees who fled before 1998 to return home to the threat of persecution it risks legitimising Kagame’s autocratic regime.

The DR Congo: behind the headlines

The military and political tensions in the contested eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo are reinforced by diplomatic failures. A turn towards negotiation and compromise is vital if the area's long-term problems are to be addressed, says Andrew Wallis. 

Mali, and the next war

The growing prospect of western-backed military intervention to reverse the spread of Islamism in west Africa is good news for an evolving al-Qaida movement. 

Syria, Mali, Nigeria: war's paralysis

The conflict in Syria leaves western powers with no good choices, and their agony is intensified by Islamist advances in west Africa. The search for intelligent security responses goes on.

South Africa's massacre: peeling the onion

The shooting dead of striking miners by armed police at Marikana exposes hard truths about post-apartheid South Africa that the country's new elites have preferred to ignore, says Roger Southall.

Non-governmental diplomacy: a key to redressing human rights violations in Burundi

Burundi has come a long way, but there are still very dark stains on the country's human rights record. Non-governmental diplomacy can help.

Libya and Islamism: the deeper story

The interpretation of Libya's elections of July 2012 as a victory for secularism is misleading. A more nuanced reading of the vote must accommodate the reality and potential of Islamism, says Alison Pargeter.

The thinning world: Mali, Nigeria, India

Many powerful states tend to view current global conflicts through the lens of Islamism, and to put military action at the heart of the response. But the deeper roots and character of these conflicts are to be found in poverty and marginalisation, not ideology.

North African diversities: an Algerian odyssey

Algeria wrested independence from France in 1962 after a bitter and extremely violent eight-year struggle. The legacy has continued to shadow its efforts to create a workable model of development and a humane life for its citizens. Francis Ghilès invokes a wealth of memory from his years reporting Algeria - in particular, a pivotal few months in 1991 - to reflect on a compelling country's troubled half-century.

Libya: oil, the state and the revolution

The surge of political expectation in post-revolution Libya contrasts with the lack of realistic assessments of the country's economic - and therefore democratic - prospects, finds Vicken Cheterian.

Democracy and development: towards Busan

The capacity of new or fragile democratic regimes to deliver development is being closely debated as international agencies prepare for a landmark summit in South Korea. The core issue at stake is presented by Alina Rocha Menocal.

Kenya and Somalia: landscape of tension

"Kenya doesn’t know war. We know war." A fractious mix of violence and politics is unsettling the relationship between east African neighbours and putting more pressure on Somalis living in Kenya. The Somali militia group known as al-Shabaab is often viewed as the source of the problem. But the roots of the turmoil go deep in Kenya's own history, says Daniel Branch.

South Africa’s future: the Malema factor

The rise of the controversial populist Julius Malema is shaking the ruling African National Congress, says Stephen Ellis.

Libya's revolution: tribe, nation, politics

The Libyan war is often portrayed through a “tribal” lens that fails to explain how the country’s tribes coexist with a sense of nationhood, says Igor Cherstich. 

An African future: beyond the culture of dependency

The experience of poor farmers in Kenya is a lesson in the need for an ethical revolution against corruption in African societies, says the renowned environmentalist and campaigner, Wangari Maathai.

(This article was first published on 26 May 2009. It is republished in tribute to Wangari Maathai, who died in Nairobi on 25 September 2011)

Daniel Goldhagen and Kenya: recycling fantasy

Daniel Goldhagen’s book “Worse Than War” includes British colonial rule in Kenya in the 1950s among its case-studies of “elimination”. A close reading of the demographic evidence reveals the falsity of the argument, says David Elstein.

(This article was first published on 4 March 2010)

Sudan: prospect and lesson

The forthcoming referendum on independence in south Sudan could lead to the break-up of Africa’s biggest country. But if Sudan has failed as a unitary state its end carries dangers, says Richard Cockett.

Jacob Zuma: a year of drift

The South African president’s achievement on his anniversary in power is to leave his country rudderless and his party at war, says Roger Southall.

Nigeria and the politics of massacre

The brutal violence against people of a different ethnicity or religion seen in the central Nigerian state of Jos is the most common face of genocide worldwide, says Martin Shaw.

Eritrea: slender land, giant prison

A nation once respected for its independence struggle is now disfigured by severe political repression, says Ben Rawlence of Human Rights Watch.

(This article was first pubished on 6 May 2009)

"The Kenya we want"

The post-election violence in Kenya in January 2008 has left a bitter legacy. But the official inquiry into the mayhem is an opportunity for civil society to advance the case for justice and accountability, says Gérard Prunier.

Zimbabwe: wrong way, right way

The desperate people of Zimbabwe deserve better than a political fix that will keep Robert Mugabe in power, says John Makumbe of the University of Zimbabwe.

What is global justice and who is it for? The ICC’s first five years

The International Criminal Court was set up in 1998 and began operation in 2003. How has it discharged its responsibilties in relation to states, civil-society groups and the victims of human-rights abuse? Marlies Glasius presents an interim report-card.

(This article was first published on 21 July 2008)

Nelson Mandela: assessing the icon

The former political prisoner who led South Africa beyond apartheid remains a figure of undiminished global renown. But what of the revisionist case which highlights his flaws? On Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday, Tom Lodge assesses how far the record of his political career and judgment sustains his reputation

(This article was first published on 18 July 2008)

Sudan and the International Criminal Court: a guide to the controversy

The request to indict Sudan's president on charges of genocide and war crimes in Darfur is a historic moment in international justice. But is it wise, and will it bring peace in Sudan nearer or destabilise the country further? Alex de Waal presents the many sides of a vigorous debate

Sudan in a fix

A rooted conflict and a blocked peace spell political stalemate in Khartoum and its region, says Gérard Prunier.

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