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The ISN Quiz: Nigeria Navigates Turbulent Times

What do you know about the eighth most populous country in the world? Take this week’s ISN Quiz to test your knowledge of Nigeria, our theme for this week.

[QUIZZIN 13]

Quiet Corruption: Not Just an African Problem

Corruption, quiet and invisible / Photo: xiaming, flickr

The World Bank is pouring old wine into new bottles in a publication on corruption in Africa. The insight that everyday corruption is detrimental to Africa’s development is old wine. The new bottle is “quiet corruption,” a term created “to indicate various types of malpractice of frontline providers (teachers, doctors, inspectors and other government representatives) that do not involve monetary exchange.”

To be fair, the World Bank’s communication strategy is to redirect the media focus from high-profile corruption involving politicians and business leaders to small corruption by civil servants. Such ‘quiet’ forms of corruption includes “absenteeism,” “lower level of effort than expected or the deliberate bending of rules.” However, the claim that “one of the main reasons Africa is lagging behind is the poor service delivery that is a consequence of quiet corruption” is hardly surprising.

Power and Moral Hypocrisy

When it comes to corruption, I find more insightful a recent research article entitled “Power Increases Hypocrisy.” Joris Lammers and Diedrik A Stapel (Tilburg University) along with Adam D Galinsky (Northwestern University) conducted a series of experiments in political psychology. They found that powerful people impose strict moral standards on others but practice less strict moral behavior themselves – a phenomena they call moral hypocrisy (note that the experiments were not conducted in Africa, but with students at a Dutch university). » More

Gay Rights (and Wrongs) in Africa

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 1, photo: Riacale/flickr

The African continent has long been described as one of the most homophobic places on earth. And lately this appears more true than ever. From Uganda and Senegal to Malawi and The Gambia, gays are being attacked with alarming new vitriol.

While western media has been abuzz with shocking stories of gay-bashing across the continent, the reasons for this tragic turn have been less discussed. In fact, many western media outlets – not to mention human rights groups championing the gay-rights cause – have failed to provide proper context for this new wave of homophobia. And an informed view of the complex cultural and political factors that undergird anti-gay fervor is critical – especially if it is to be properly combated.

An ugly colonial legacy

Africa’s heated homophobia is fueled largely by anti-western sentiments. In colonialism’s wake, African strongmen solidified their newfound political power and cultivated nationalist fervor by stirring up anger against purported western influences – a real ‘us vs them’ construction of national identity. Among these so-called western values was homosexuality, an ‘evil’ to be expelled along with the colonial rulers who brought it.

The ironic truth, of course, is that homophobia – not homosexuality – is largely a product of the continent’s colonial past. By jumping on the homophobia bandwagon, some of these ‘Africa-first’ champions are actually perpetuating one of the ugly legacies of colonialism itself. » More

Rwanda’s Mutsinzi Report: A Diplomatic Coup

hundreds of skulls and bones on a shelf

Genocide memorial in Nyamata church, Rwanda/ Photo: hoteldephil, flickr

Could it be that sometimes historical truth and political gain really do go hand-in-hand? It appears so for Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

A Rwandan investigative committee has just issued a massive new report on the 1994 assassination of President Juvenal Habyarimana – a murder that sparked the genocide of nearly one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus in the hellish hundred days that followed.

Drawing on extensive research and nearly 600 interviews, the report concludes that Hutu extremists in Habyariman’s own government took him out to curtail the power-sharing peace agreement he was about to implement with Kagame’s Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).

Habyarimana’s plane was shot down in his own backyard on the fateful night of 6 April 1994 by a pair of surface-to-air missiles. The role of the plane crash in launching the small central African country into a swift and shocking spiral of violence has been well documented. The question of ‘who done it?’, however, has remained in dispute.
» More

Mobile Phones Transform Development

Before the internet comes the mobile phone / Photo: Esthr, flickr

They are among the most underdeveloped countries in the world. Only a minority of their people has access to electricity. Clean drinking water remains a distant dream. Many of their children continue to die of diseases that have long become extinct here in the West or are easily preventable.

But in one area, developing countries are clearly ahead of the industrialized world: the use of mobile phone applications.

Three-quarters of the world’s mobile phones are believed to be owned by people in developing countries.

In Africa, more people own mobile phones (37 percent) than have access to electricity (25 percent). (Note: Phones are often charged using rather ingenious methods, such as old car batteries). According to one estimate, about a billion people, most of them in the developing world, don’t have a bank account but – guess what? – own a cell phone.
» More

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