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Monday Africa Roundup

I’m spending Monday catching up on all the work I’d intended to do over the weekend before I got distracted by a series of surprisingly close football games. (American football, that is. The African match I was interested in this weekend wasn’t close. Ghana has evidently decided to celebrate their World Cup qualification by calling in sick for the African Cup of Nations. That, or they’re pursuing a brilliant strategy of throwing their friendlies before the main matches and sitting some of their best players, in the hopes of luring the competition into complacency…)

(While we’re on football, there’s a good editorial in the East African Standard about the high cost of broadcasting the matches in Africa… which means that Kenyans, at least, won’t be watching most of the games. The Times of London is running a five-part series on the African nations that qualified for the World Cup. Given the tone of the first piece – where the correspondent visits the “the footballing minnows of Africa” – I’m pretty sure Owen Slot hasn’t read Binyavanga Wainaina’s “How to Write About Africa”…)

See how distracting football can be? I brought it up to apologize for this quick, multi-subject roundup post, rather than a proper, thoughtful one. (You know, the kind that Martin Luther King Day deserves…)

– Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s inauguration is a cause for celebration. A few weeks ago, it looked like George Weah might try to prevent the Iron Grandmother from taking power – a mediated sit-down seems to have smoothed things over. ($5 says Weah is named Minister of Youth and Sport. Any takers?) Imnakoya’s got pictures of the US delegation – Condi Rice and Laura Bush – as well as links to other posts on the topic. David Ajao has a great post celebrating women in politics, connecting Johnson-Sirleaf to Chile’s new president, Michelle Bachelet, and other female leaders. Mental Acrobatics is on the case, pointing out that Tanzania’s new president, Jakaya Kikwete, has appointed women to two key ministerial posts. And, as she so often does, Sokari’s got the big picture over at “Black Looks”, talking about the enormity of the challenge Johnson-Sirleaf faces.

– Jen Brea over at AfricaBeat has an amazingly comprehensive roundup of articles on blogs and in the mainstream media about China’s role in Africa. It includes several that I’ve linked to (and one that I’ve written) as well as some great pieces I hadn’t found. It’s an excellent starting point for someone trying to understand this issue.

Uganda Conflict Action Network points to an article in the Kampala Daily Monitor about the accreditation of foreign journalists. Journalists from the Economist and the BBC are having a hard time getting accredited, prompting speculation that Museveni’s government isn’t pleased with articles they’ve been reporting and may be retaliating by cracking down on the freedom of the press. Particularly disturbing is a new regulation that forces journalists to get permission before travelling more than 100km out of Kampala. It’s going to be very interesting to see what happens if journalists report critically about the upcoming Presidential elections…

– The UN has put a plan on the table to take over peacekeeping duties in Darfur from the African Union, which has had a difficult time protecting refugee camps due to a shortage of personnel and funds. Predictably, Khartoum has dismissed this plan, asserting that the AU force has been doing fine, and that an African force should solve African problems. All of which sounds well and good, until you realize that Sudan is in line for the chairmanship of the African Union and may well assume it after a vote on Monday. African NGOs are lining up to oppose Sudan’s election, while some North African countries and Zimbabwe have lined up to endorse it. The wild card may well Thabo Mbeki, who has a great deal of sway over other Southern African nations and may be supporting Sudan’s bid.

If you believe an AU led by Sudan would adequately protect the safety of refugees in Darfur, I have a pirated cargo ship full of rice off the coast of Somalia to sell you. This is yet another time where it would be great if the UN were allowed to do what it does best – protect and peacekeep.