Ufahamu Africa

Ep. 126: Season 5 Finale

August 21, 2021 dadakim
Ufahamu Africa
Ep. 126: Season 5 Finale
Show Notes Transcript
Kim and Rachel close up Season 5 highlighting some of the major events on the continent and enjoying hearing some good news from friends of the podcast. Have a listen and you'll hear Grieve Chelwa, Anne Meng, TJ Tallie, Hilary Matfess, Judd Devermont, and Laura Smith share some great updates so we can celebrate some wins as we look back on this challenging year. … More Ep. 126: Season 5 Finale
Kim Yi Dionne:

Welcome to this season's last episode of Ufahamu Africa, a podcast on life and politics on the African continent. I'm Kim Yi Dionne, your host, and I'm joined by my co host, Rachel Beatty Riedl. Hi, Rachel.

Rachel Beatty Riedl:

Hi, Kim. Welcome all to the end of season five. This week, we share some reflections and updates on episodes from this past season and a few recent reads we'd recommend and some good news updates from friends and loyal listeners of the show. And we want to give a big shout out to our biggest supporter this season. The Carnegie Corporation of New York has graciously supported to Ufahamu Africa for season five. So if there's anything you've loved about season five, it's really thanks to their generous support, which has really upped our game in terms of sound quality allowed us to hire our producer Megan DeMint who's done an excellent job this season. And they'll also be supporting season six, and we want to hear your feedback about what you want to see and hear in season six. And we look forward to more collaboration with some of their other programs like the African peacebuilding network and other partners of the Carnegie Corporation. We also want to make a mention for our listeners that we have just this final last call to apply to be a Ufahamu Africa non resident fellow, you can apply on our website, and the fellowship will run from September 2021 through May 2022, and the application deadline is 5pm Greenwich Mean Time on August 31, 2021. So that's the end of this month, there's a few more days left to apply. We've already got some great applications, we're looking to see a few more. Now we've gotten a few emails to ask us, what does it mean to be a non resident fellow? Well, what we mean by that is, it means you can do this work remotely, and you don't have to move or travel to participate in the fellowship. What we are looking for are people who have experience with either research or media dissemination, you know, talking to regular people about things that are happening on the continent, and to have a demonstrated commitment to open access knowledge and to engaging with the general public, but also engaging with policymakers, researchers on topics of a wide range, anything that could be broadly construed as part of life and politics on the continent. So please go ahead and submit your ideas for what you want to hear on the show and let us know you know what, what it is that you think you would bring to Ufahamu Africa and its listeners. We are especially encouraging applications from African nationals, scholars, journalists, or content creators that are based in Africa and from female applicants. Team proposals are also welcome. So if you wanted to propose doing something with a friend of yours, or a fellow podcaster that you've been working with, please do so. Familiarity with Ufahamu Africa's podcast or just podcasting in general is preferred, though it's not required. So if you don't have experience as a podcaster, you should still consider applying to be a non resident fellow. Absolutely Kim we are looking forward to getting those applications in and seeing all of the potential for ideas and working with some of these fellows in season six ahead. Now in this season's finale, we wanted to return to a few big stories, top stories of the year, top episodes. I mean, there are so many important events that have happened in this last year. But a few of our favorite episodes we wanted to highlight and the first one that Kim's going to be talking with a little bit more is the ongoing conflict and political context in Ethiopia. And that was with Goitom Gebreluel about the conflict in the Tigray region and much, much more. So we'll highlight that a few others include an episode 114 on Chad, and especially the death in office of the Chadian President Idriss Deby with Dan Eizenga, also Episode 111, where Kim and I discussed the political protests in Senegal and put those in context in terms of what it means for democracy and governance and especially for gender rights and due process including the power of the courts and the legitimacy and fairness of the judicial proceedings. So that was one of my favorites because I got to talk with Kim. Two others I want to highlight and call out is our ongoing discussions about COVID-19 and particularly, the death of Tanzanian president John Magufuli. And here we want to highlight Nanjala Nyabola's writings on COVID-19 vaccine nationalism that we discussed. And finally, a new note that we'll be bringing up this week but harkens back to earlier discussions that we've had, for example with Muna Ndulo and others on the podcast in the past about the Zambian elections and the peaceful transition to a new president, Hakainde Hichilema, so we're looking forward to hearing a few more notes about those those big events.

Kim Yi Dionne:

Let's start with our most widely listened to episode this past year. And that was my conversation with Goitom Gebreluel, who drew on his expertise, studying politics in Ethiopia and in the Horn of Africa more broadly, to talk about conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. Now, we're grateful to the team at foreign policy playlist for re-sharing that episode and giving it a broader audience. Unfortunately, the conflict in Tigray is still ongoing. Our listeners might want to read political scientist Hilary Matfess' recent piece published in Lawfare blog. So our listeners might recall when I was speaking to Goitom Gebreluel, one of the first things he brought up in that interview was actually about the sexual violence that's happening in this conflict. And Hilary Matfess' piece in Lawfare blog goes into pretty great depth about what we know to date based on existing reports, which we all know are very difficult to get during a conflict period. But with all the evidence that she's able to gather and present to us, there are some suggestive patterns about which groups are responsible for sexual violence in the war in Tigray. And the nature of the violence is being practiced by each of these belligerents, whether we're talking about rebels in Tigray or about the Ethiopian state and state security forces. And she points out how important it is for us to understand the patterns of sexual violence that correspond to each of these belligerents, because that can be complicated by the frequency of which reports of sexual violence are are being made and whether or not those reports by you know, usually, of course, the victims of this violence, whether or not those reports will include information on the perpetrators. And we know that you know, in that conversation I had with Goitom, it's very complicated what's happening, because it's not just a rebellion in Tigray, and state forces quashing that rebellion, right? We know, for example, that Eritrean troops have been involved in in this conflict as well. And so understanding, you know, who's doing what in this setting is actually quite challenging. We'll continue to follow what's happening in Ethiopia in the Tigray region. But also as you know, I spoke with him about what's happening with the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and challenges that Ethiopia is facing not just with its rebellion in the north, but also with its neighbors because of this dam project. And because of tensions in a land border with Sudan.

Rachel Beatty Riedl:

Exactly, Kim and so, so much to follow there. I saw just recently that Turkey has offered to be an ambassador in terms of negotiating that very tense relationship between Ethiopia and its neighbors of Sudan, around water rights, as we have discussed in the past and a few of our news wraps. So a lot to follow there. We'll continue that conversation in season six, to be sure. Now I wanted to also share some exciting news out of Zambia this past week with another democratic transition for the country. So in in this last week, incumbent president Edgar Lungu, who is at the Patriotic Front, the PF was actually running for a third term, right and this third term was following the Constitutional Court ruling that his bid was not a breach of the two term limit. His Challenger and longtime opponent Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development came up with the necessary votes to defeat Lungu's third term bid, even in the face of many accusations of manipulations by the incumbent and the Electoral Commission of the electoral register to disenfranchise voters, particularly in regions that support opposition candidate H.H. So this is really I mean, in context, it is a major victory for democracy on the continent, in Zambia and across the world. There were many, many concerns leading up to the elections that they would not be free and fair, that the opposition candidate would indeed garner enough votes to defeat Lungu but that that would not be the announced outcome. So it's really a time in Zambia and for Zambian voters and citizens to be proud of this transition, I think in terms of process and the expressed will of the people. And it's a time when third term elections are becoming more common, right. The fact that this is yet another time when an incumbent can run for a third term, according to the constitutional ruling, and it's in the context of a global trend, not just in Africa and North America. You have, you know and across every continent in terms of democratic backsliding, where incumbent presidents are trying to shift the playing fields in their favor, harass and limit opposition, and otherwise secure their continued rule, despite the will of the voters to the contrary. Now, coming back to Zambia, I wanted to just point our listeners to Danielle Resnick's, really fantastic monkey cage article that provided a pre election report. So it analyzed the stakes of the election, the economic concerns of the voters, the political concerns of the voters what was happening in terms of political process, and how Zambia has been, and now continues to be a leader in democratic transitions since the 1990s. Now, of course, that's not to say that, of course, there are not concerns and ongoing issues with strengthening democracy and democratic governance. And that is indeed the way in which democracy can at times be strengthened through those kinds of protest challenges. And, and really citizens going out and and requiring it. So that's great news for Zambia.

Kim Yi Dionne:

That is really great news, Rachel. And in fact, you know, I've been thinking there's something quite special going on in South Central Africa, where these landlocked countries are doing a great job of showing the rest of the world, you know, how democracy is really done, and how elections can really bring change, how elections, I don't know, can sometimes inspire hope that you know, politics isn't just about those who already hold power. So congratulations to all of our Zambia listeners out there. This is I feel like the whole Zambezi region has just got a lot to celebrate this year and talking about celebration, this is a perfect segue in to something new here at Ufahamu Africa. For the first time ever, we are sharing a few voice notes from friends of the podcast. We're I guess calling this our good news wrap up segment. And this is inspired by one of my favorite podcasts. So in case anyone is you know, looking for more podcasts to listen to, and I'm a big fan of a podcast called It's Been a Minute by Sam Sanders at National Public Radio. Now, if you've never listened to It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders, I highly recommend his episode with icon Tracy Ellis Ross, the actor who's known for a great many things, but probably most famously known as the matriarch in the show Blackish. It's been a tough year. So we at Ufahamu Africa wanted to focus not just on, you know the challenges of this year, but you know, let's celebrate the wins when we can and given the really exciting news out of Zambia this week. Let's start with hearing the good news from our friend, economist Grieve Chelwa, who was our guest in Episode 76. Listeners might recall that in that episode, Grief spoke about his essay, Economics has an African problem. Some good news that Grieve didn't mention is that essay that he wrote for Africa is a Country way back in 2015, has evolved and become a peer reviewed academic article that was just published this year in the journal Economics and Society. I had the chance to interview Grieve for Episode 76 because I was in Cape Town, and at the time, he was a professor at the University of Cape Town Business School. But listen all the way to the end of Grieve's note to hear where he's headed next.

Grieve Chelwa:

Greetings, Kim, Rachel, Megan and all the wonderful people at Ufahamu Africa. This is Grieve Chelwa, your friend broadcasting from Lusaka. The old BBC news bulletins used to start with London calling. This is Lusaka calling. It's been a wonderful, incredible week for those of you know, for Zambians. We had an election, which went rather smoothly, has led into a change of power. We have a new president elect who will be sworn in on the 24th of August next Tuesday. And he won by a landslide victory. It's really a victory for the people of Zambia, victory for democracy. And it was just fascinating and fun for me to be to have voted and to participate and to observe it and to engage in debates, discussions with my countrymen and women. It's the first time I'm in Lusaka for an extended period for 14 years. So I moved back to Lusaka not temporarily, but I've been here 10 months. So I've been here in the lead up to the election. And it was just fascinating to watch. And we're very hopeful about the new president and you know, everybody's hopeful, especially the youth. Preliminary evidence, one has to sort of study this carefully, but preliminary evidence seems to suggest the youth vote tipped the balance, especially the sort of social media savvy youth. You know, I mean, the Patriotic Front, which is an outgoing ruling party really dismissed the President Elect Hakainde Hichilema, saying that he was very popular on social media, and not really on the ground. But it turns out that the ground has now shifted to social media at least in Zambian politics, so politicians and future scholars of Zambian politics, you have to watch social media quite quite closely. So this constituency, the social media constituents is highly expectant of Hakainde Hichilema's presidency and he has huge huge burden on his shoulders to deliver huge expectations from him. The other thing that Ufamahu Africa asked me to share is that I've subsequently transitioned from teaching at the University of Capetown where I used to teach economics at the business school. And I'm moving on to New York City. I'm joining the Institute on race and political economy at the new school, where I'm an inaugural postdoctoral fellow, but I'm also responsible for the institute's research work, director of research for the Institute. I'm joining the very well known black American economist, Derek Hamilton, who set up this new Institute on race and political economy. So I look forward to much more interactions with Kim, Rachel, Megan, and everybody else who's been touched by Ufahamu Africa. Thanks a lot for asking to do this. Bye-bye.

Rachel Beatty Riedl:

Kim, that is so exciting. It is great to know that Grieve will be here in the great state of New York. I look forward to many potential collaborations. Another piece of good news that we want to share from our prior guests is Annie Meng's news, Annie Meng was on episode 101, and her new book Constraining Democracy is really a great read, I'd highly recommend it. I'll let her share her good news with everyone. But I wanted to point to our listeners to a really interesting written conversation dialogue between Annie Meng and Ken Opalo, another former guest, in the democracy and autocracy, April 2021, APSA section newsletter, which really revolves around their, their joint work or their their separate but related work about executive constraints and the role of formal institutions. So I really enjoyed this, this exchange between them. And I contributed to that newsletter discussion with a set of questions for the authors that I want to share here, because I think they're pushing boundaries in seeking to understand the ways in which autocratic regimes develop strong or weak institutional constraints on the leader, and what effects those institutions have on regime stability, peaceful turnover of the leadership and the potential for democratization. So just like what we were talking about here, and in Zambia, and in many other places, right, when do incumbents stepp down? and under what constraints? And how do they aggrandize themselves when there aren't those constraints in place? So I'm going to flag here three sets of questions that are raised by both of these works, Annie's and Ken's, because they're food for thought for future research. So for those of you who are listeners who are doing your doctoral work, or other stages in the process, the first question I think is relevant here is how do we conceive of and measure presidential strength? What do we mean when we're talking about strength of the executive? And what are the varied sources of those strengths? Where do they emerge from? And do different sources have different time horizons or types of durability? Secondly, what counts as institutional constraints? And how do different types of constraints potentially shape the relative capabilities and incentives of both incumbents and opponents? So what types of constraints allow opponents to potentially take one path or another to try this or that opposition tactic? And what types of constraints push incumbents potentially in one way or another, as they endeavor to hang on to power or potentially aggrandize their

base? Finally, third question:

when and how to intra-elite credible commitments, whether they be autocratic commitments or democratic commitments, right ways in which elites constrain themselves break down. So I know Annie's working on this last question in the autocratic context, and I look forward to following her research to find out more.

Annie Meng:

Hey, there, this is Annie Meng. I'm an assistant professor of politics at UVA. I'm so excited to share that my book "Constraining Dictatorship, from Personalized Rule to Institutionalized Regimes," published last year by Cambridge University Press, has won the 2021 APSA Riker prize for the best book on political economy published in the last three years. Check it out if you haven't already. There's a lot of riveting stories about dictators in it.

Kim Yi Dionne:

Congratulations to Annie on her award. Now this might sound totally out of left field for our listeners, but hang on with me for a second, there's been some breaking news about Jeopardy, the trivia quiz show that has been popular for decades here in the United States, but it's also available around the world. They were going to have a new host, but there was a lot of scandal about this person. And now that person who's the executive producer of the show has stepped away from being the host and so they're gonna have to find a new host again. And what does that have to do with Ufahamu Africa? This just to say, I don't know if our listeners know but one of our guests and one of our dear friends and a guest in Episode Five, which was the first ever Black History episode of Ufahamu Africa, associate professor of history, TJ Tallie was actually a winning contestant on Jeopardy earlier this year. In fact, one of the one of the last episodes that beloved Jeopardy host Alex Trebek was still the host. So TJ Tallie sent us a voice note and he talks about that experience of being on Jeopardy and some other great career updates in his good news share.

TJ Tallie:

Hi, this is TJ Tallie and I am a professor at the University of San Diego and it's been a weird wild Panera Bread year for me, as I'm sure for many people. But I had some great highlights. I got to go on Jeopardy and definitely made a phrase popular. I definitely started people saying "Ooh fireworks!" after one of the categories. Also I got tenure this year. So I am now an associate professor of African history so muahahaha, and I continued to write a few things and not go completely out of my head here in San Diego. So it's been not too bad for me out here.

Rachel Beatty Riedl:

I love this Kim. I love hearing from our former guests and all of their good news. We also got a great career update from Hilary Matfess, who we've just discussed in terms of her her work on Ethiopia and who you interviewed in Episode 36 about her book, Women and the War on Boko Haram. So Hilary's recording is great and I'm gonna let her share her good news.

Hilary Matfess:

Hi Ufahamu Africa. This past year, even though it's been insanely challenging, has brought a lot of things for me to be grateful for. I got a job as an assistant professor at the Korbel school at the University of Denver. I received my PhD from Yale University, I began a ton of really exciting co-authored projects, including APSA funded research with Susanna Campbell and the Research on International Policy Implementation Lab. I also got married to this hilarious, handsome, insanely supportive man. And last but not least, we just got a puppy. Thanks for all you do.

Kim Yi Dionne:

A puppy! I love it! That was so great to hear hear Hilary's good news. Now one thing she didn't mention in her good news wrap is that Hilary started a podcast this year. It's called Say More on That, and, you know, nerds who love books, it's your show, you should tune into Hilary's podcast Say More on That. And one more bit of good news update comes from another dear friend of the show, who's been on the podcast twice, actually, Judd Devermont, who was with us we did our first ever podcast mash up. Judd together with Nicole Willet at the Open Society Foundation has launched a new podcast 49 and we're excited to share his good news share update with our listeners.

Judd Devermont:

Hi, Kim and Rachel. This is Judd Devermont, director of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic International Studies, and my good news is that I just launched a new podcast called 49 with my friend and former colleague, Nicole Wilett, chief of staff at the Open Societies Foundation. This is a insane, definitely overly ambitious attempt to talk about the past, present, and future of U.S. policy towards every country in Sub-Saharan Africa. Fifteen minutes each episode, 49 episodes, but we talk to former U.S. diplomats, former African government ministers, thought leaders from across the region about what the Biden administration's policy should be. What are some of the best practices, both the good and the bad news from the past? And then how within a U.S. government context, do you actually make this happen? I've learned so much and had so much fun hearing from different experts thinking about, you know, big ideas and how we can move the ball forward, talking about some of the missteps in the past. Ending each episode with a little bit of culture, you know, music, movies travel. It's been really fun. I'm learning a lot. I know you will, too. We dropped 10 episodes on Southern Africa in July and the next 16 on West Africa will come at the end of August. And I hope you listen. Thanks so much.

Rachel Beatty Riedl:

That is wonderful news from Judd. Thanks so much for sharing, and we'll look forward to future collaborations regarding 49. Also, we have one last piece of good news from our friend and colleague Lahra Smith, who in collaboration with other political scientists, favorites like Lauren Morris McLean and others, is providing access to a new virtual resource called Digital fieldwork. We'll share the link to this resource for all of our listeners who are looking to collaborate on ways to find data and access to fieldwork in a more virtual world on our website and take a listen to what Lahra has to say about the project.

Lahra Smith:

This is Lahra Smith from Georgetown University wanted to share some exciting updates from the digital fieldwork website. We have a variety of sources over at our website, on doing digital fieldwork, both during the pandemic and for those who are also not able to get to the field for other reasons. Our website is sigla.georgetown.domains/digitalfieldwork. We have some wonderful new reflections written these are original reflections written by scholars and researchers who are out doing fieldwork both in the field and remotely. We have one by Tracy Mensah at Georgetown talking about accessing the archives in Ghana during the pandemic and the limitations of that. We also have a wonderful reflection from Lucia Vitale at UC Santa Cruz, about doing remote fieldwork. We have some wonderful new references up, which are resource articles and resources where folks are writing about doing digital fieldwork, such as a new article by Jay John, talking about politics online conducting sensitive focus groups during the Covid-19 pandemic, from the APSA migration and citizenship newsletter. We also feature on the website events that are happening. So for example, one of the featured events will be coming up later in September. It's an event on doing socio-legal research in a pandemic, how, why, when and where. So again, I invite you to visit our website to find out more about these events, these references that might be useful to scholars doing remote, digital, or virtual fieldwork, or those who would like to read original reflections that's sigla.georgetown.domains/digitalfieldwork and learn more about what we've been up to.

Kim Yi Dionne:

Yeah, Laura was actually a guest on the show in season one, I believe it was Episode 15, where she talked about her book on citizenship and gender in Ethiopia, which you know, is a great kind of reminder of another way of thinking about Goitom Gebreluel's episode this season, right, kind of looking at the looking at this through a gendered lens, right? And considering, like, what does it mean to be a woman and a citizen of Ethiopia. But in that episode with Laura, we also talked about her more recent research, which was on refugees and migrants in the Horn of Africa, and, you know, and beyond, and that's making me think of, you know, one of these topics that we said we wanted to talk about, you know, at the end of the year reflecting on what are some of the big news stories coming out and you know, when I think about migration, I can't help but think of, you know, one of our you know, I don't know, I guess we're not really supposed to have favorite episodes of the season, but it really was, um, I'll just be real, our episode with Nanjala Nyabola this year was my favorite because she is literally one of my favorites on the internet. I love learning from what she has to say and following her work. And it's, it's really hard to think about migration and movement in this world without thinking about Nanjala Nyabola's work and I think that in addition to writing about migration and having that special podcast mashup with Eleanor Paynter and the Cornell podcast migrations on the move, was that we we also had a chance to read some of Nanjala Nyabola's writings on the covid-19 pandemic. And in fact, when we talked about John Magafuli's death in Episode 111 we were talking about what Nanjala Nyabola had written in a tweet thread, about his death and how you know, How there was one of these things that typically happens when leaders die in office, and that is we write nice things about them, and we don't think about them critically. And so, you know, COVID-19, of course, took many lives this year. And I think it's important for us to remember not just the people in power that lost their lives, but the ordinary people all around the world, who, you know, they're, they weren't here long enough to have a vaccine, to protect themselves, or to know more of the science about the things we could do to try to keep ourselves safe, or who because of the precarities of the world and, and the challenges of living in it just didn't have the power to protect themselves from getting sick. And, and I think that Nanjala Nyabola's writings about these inequalities, and in particular about vaccine nationalism and hoarding here in the West, are really important and, and should provoke us not just to think more about these inequalities, but to do something about them, and to try to take some political action to make sure that people elsewhere in the world have, you know, a better chance of protecting themselves from this deadly disease.

Rachel Beatty Riedl:

That's exactly right, Kim. And you know, i think that our conversations here, we hope to be able to share resources, information, dialogues that will help to share that information. And we hope that all of you will do your part to share information and how we can keep each other safe across our global public. So here we are at Ufahamu Africa, thanking you for a wonderful season five. We look forward to being with you again next season. And we will post all of the links to the information that we've shared on our website, ufahamuafrica.com

Kim Yi Dionne:

And don't worry, folks, you won't miss our voices all summer long. We'll be having a few short clips where we'll be reading reviews from the African Politics Summer Reading Spectacular. So keep it tuned to Ufahamu Africa. But until next season, safari salama. That's all for this week. Thanks for listening to this episode of Ufahamu Africa. To find any of the articles, books or links we talked about, head to ufahamuafrica.com. Don't forget to follow and share your thoughts with us on Twitter @UfahamuAfrica. Our podcast is available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, SoundCloud, and Stitcher. If yo like what you're hearing o Ufahamu Africa, please shar this episode and review our sho on Apple podcasts. This podcas is produced by Megan DeMint wit help from research an production assistant Fuly Felicity Turkman. We ar generously supported by th Carnegie Corporation of New Yor and receive research assistanc from Cornell University and th University of Californi , Riverside. Our music is courte y of Kevin MacLeo