[in] focus

Whither the DRC’s ‘unattractive’ democracy?

Despite lingering uncertainties, the citizens of the DRC are scheduled to go to the polls on 28 November 2011 to elect a new president and members of the national legislature. In the context of the country’s democratic transition, the November polls should ideally serve two overarching and related purposes – assist in assessing the degree of democratic maturity that has been attained after seven years, and serve as a mechanism for renewing what was thought to be a collective commitment to building a peaceful, democratic and prosperous society.

The preliminary phase of the current electoral process has been quite successful in meeting these expectations, even if the reality it has exposed is an uncomfortable one. It has brought to the fore a significant deficiency in the Congolese polity as it relates to the fundamental values of openness, tolerance, inclusiveness and the propensity to dialogue, which are central to the good health of every aspiring democracy.

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Does Africa Matter Enough to Africa?

The title of a recent research report by Standard Bank economists is provocative: "Does Africa Matter Enough to Africa?" It is about missed opportunities and untapped potential, but the debates about it are about what Standard Bank represents in the minds of critics. And this is very important.

In many media spaces including blogs, this concern about the patronizing attitude of South Africa Inc, which is predominantly white has surfaced. There is very little discussion of the contents of the report. This too is important as how we are perceived has a bearing on how our admonition or advice is received.

Very little of this discussion has reached the South African media. I suspect this is to do with a general disconnect between the SA media (including electronic) and its counterparts in the rest of Africa. The SA media frequently publishes opinion pieces, columns and news articles drawn from their counterparts in the UK and other parts of the western world. South Africa is assumed to be part of this world. I have yet to see any article borrowed from the Daily Nation in Kenya, the This Day in Nigeria or The Cameroon Tribune.

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Crouching tiger, hidden hegemon

Arab revolutions will prompt minor reform in China

The recent uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East have highlighted the stranglehold many authoritarian regimes around the world have on their populations. The Arab revolutions have alarmed China in particular, and the world’s most populous state has sought to limit the Chinese people’s exposure to the destabilising effects of the “people’s revolutions” in authoritarian regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, and now Libya.

2011 has proved an eventful geo-political year thus far, and in a time of transitional turmoil sweeping across the Maghreb, China has sought to tighten its already fierce grasp on its citizens’ freedoms. In spite of significant domestic interest in the rebellions in Tunisia and Egypt in particular, the Chinese authorities introduced new Internet firewalls that have limited the ability to access any sites containing information on the revolts. Indeed, when calls went out for a copycat ‘Jasmine revolution’ in China, the establishment moved quickly to quell any dissent, employing disproportionate force to crush opposition to Communist Party rule. President Hu Jintao even called for stricter controls on the Internet “to guide public opinion” and to “solve prominent problems which might harm the harmony and stability of...society”.

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ZANU-PF Throwing Tantrums at SADC over the Elections

It is almost certain that Zimbabwe will go for elections this year, marking an inauspicious end to a rather difficult term of inclusive government after the signing of the Global Political Agreement signed between the two factions of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and the Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) in September 2008. The paralysis experienced in the government of national unity between the leaders at loggerheads has made the 2011 elections a welcome end to the present interim government for the Zanu- PF. But whether conditions are ripe for elections right now is a matter for much debate in and outside Zimbabwe. This opinion pieces reviews the political debates in Zimbabwe, which have gained momentum following the recent SADC Organ Summit in Zambia.

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The World Social Forum and the World Economic Forum: any room for convergence?

The World Economic Forum gathering held in January in Davos, Switzerland, took place a few weeks before the World Social Forum in Dakar, Senegal. Both discussed global challenges and what might be done to remedy them. But they did this from fundamentally different standpoints epitomising their focus on elite advocacy and grassroots activism respectively. Just what is the value and contribution of these networks in shaping a new world agenda after the global economic crisis and what is the potential for their cooperation and even merger to advance a progressive global consensus?

Ideational networks and global debates.

Both the WEF and the WSF are informal forums for interaction amongst non-state actors (and increasingly with governments and international organisations) to interpret global developments and influence policy responses to them. They are non-profit organisations that act as epistemic networks in the sense that they seek to promote the primacy of certain ideas, ideologies and theories as panacea for global problems.

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