The Coup Du Jour: Zimbabwe Edition


(Punch Cartoon by Bud Handelsman*)

There appears to be a soft coup going on in Zimbabwe. Specifically no shots have been fired and no one has been killed (as far as I can tell from the reporting). There are few if any troops on the street. Mugabe has been confined at home and there is a push to remove his wife from the chain of succession. And the recently ousted Vice President, Emerson Mnangagwa, has returned to Zimbabwe.

One of the ways that you know a coup is happening is:

From The Guardian:

Robert Mugabe remains in detention at his home in Zimbabwe more than 12 hours after the military declared on national television that it had temporarily taken control of the country to “target criminals” around the head of state.

The move by the armed forces appears to have resolved a bitter battle to succeed the 93-year-old president, which had pitted his former vice-president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, against Mugabe’s wife, Grace.

Mnangagwa was reported to have returned to Zimbabwe on Tuesday evening from South Africa, where he fled last week after being stripped of his office by Mugabe in an apparent attempt to clear Grace Mugabe’s path to power.

The military takeover comes two days after the army chief – flanked by other senior officers – said he was prepared to “step in” to end turmoil in the ruling Zanu-PF party.

It is likely to signal the departure from power of the world’s oldest leader within days, weeks or at most months.

One high-profile opposition leader said there was “a lot of talking going on”, with the army reaching out to them to discuss the formation of a transitional government after Mugabe steps down.

Negotiations had been ongoing for several months with “certain people within the army”, a second senior opposition official said.

The official said Mugabe would resign this week and be replaced by Mnangagwa, with opposition leaders taking posts as vice-president and prime minister. There was no independent confirmation of his claim.

In its other reportingThe Guardian has also confirmed that Grace Mugabe has fled Zimbabwe for Namibia.

The questions now are will this remain largely non-violent and can a government emerge from the soft coup that is considered to have at least de facto legitimacy even if it doesn’t have de jure legitimacy?

* This is one of my favorite Punch Cartoons. Handelsman did a great job capturing the insane type of announcements often made when a coup is actually undertaken.

Good Reading: The Anthropoliteia #BlackLivesMatter Syllabus

The Anthropoliteia website describes itself as “critical perspectives on police, security, crime, law and punishment around the world.”

For the past 31 weeks, they have been running a series “@BlackLivesMatter Syllabus.” This series “mobilizes anthropological work as a pedagogical exercise addressing the confluence of race, policing and justice.” It is set up as a resource for college professors who teach courses that touch on such things. But it is also an outstanding resource for all of us on those subjects. Reading and other media are recommended by professors who use them in their courses, with explanation of why and how they use them. Some sample posts.

Week 30: Savannah Shange’s Key & Peele Mix Tape Because Laughter Keeps Us Honest

Week 29: Courtney Morris For Black Boys Who Look Blue

Week 26: Sameena Mulla on Missing Black Girls and Women

Week 22: Beatrice Jauregui on Humanity, Intersectionality, Inclusion

All the posts listed here.

This is How You Defeat the Islamic State and Other Islamic Extremists!

Yesterday Thanos at Little Green Footballs highlighted (highlit?) this CNN report about an attempted al Shabaab attack in Kenya. On Monday al Shabaab fighters stopped a bus who’s police escort had broken down, stormed onto it, and demanded that the Muslim passengers get off the bus so that they could easily identify and target the Christian passengers left on board. Things did not exactly go as planned. The Muslim passengers refused to follow al Shabaab’s instructions, the Muslim women gave some of their hijabs to the Christian women, hid the other Christian passengers, and the Muslim passengers told al Shabaab that: “If you want to kill us, then kill us. There are no Christians here”. While there were still two men killed in the attack – one Christian passenger that tried to flee and the driver of a truck that was on the road behind the bus – the al Shabaab attackers left and the other 100 or so passengers and the driver survived. Kenya’s security forces were reportedly in pursuit of the attackers.

The quick thinking, courage, humanity, and generosity of spirit of the Kenyan Muslims on that bus defeated al Shabaab’s attackers and their attempt to impose an extremist interpretation of Islam by violence. The actions of the Kenyan Muslims on that bus in safeguarding their Christian fellow citizens are a shining example of what needs to be done to defeat not just Islamic extremism, but the backlash rhetoric, politics, and extremism that it engenders. Al Shabaab, al Qaeda, the Islamic State and other similar groups can only achieve their objectives/ends (win) if they scare everyone regardless of religion or nationality into providing the ways and means that they do NOT actually possess. On Monday al Shabaab was denied those ways and means and lost! This is how they, al Qaeda, the Islamic State, and other extremist groups regardless of doctrine, ideology, or nationality will be defeated: by the basic humanity and courage of the very people they seek to set against each other.

A Legacy Of Hatred

Meet our suspect in last night’s terrorist attack in Charleston, Dylann Roof of Columbia, SC.

A guy with white-rule Rhodesian and apartheid-era South African flags on his jacket, that certainly seems like something you’d pick up at any mall, right?

I’m sure that doesn’t point to his motivations at all.

Here’s a concept: in a state that still flies the Confederacy’s battle flag over public buildings, pointing out that there was an organized effort to teach a young white kid about those two lovely countries when he’s the prime suspect in the murder of nine would kind of be a tacit admission that we still have a gigantic problem with race and racism in America. And maybe, just maybe the folks who gave young Dylann here his history lesson on Africa under colonial rule are the same folks who may be helping to hide him now during this manhunt.

Just throwing that out there.

Of course, as I said above that would be a tacit admission that we also have quite the domestic terrorism issue in this country, and that we’ve had such a problem for a very, very long time.

[UPDATE] Unconfirmed reports are that Roof has been caught by police in Shelby, NC.   That’s in my old neck of the woods in western NC and my parents still live near there.

[UPDATE 2] Roof’s capture has been confirmed by police officials in Charleston at a press conference and by AG Loretta Lynch.

Kickstarter Bleg: “The Tenor from Abidjan”

Because there’s at least a few opera buffs here, and many more with eclectic musical/documentary tastes. From the Kickstarter link:

THE TENOR FROM ABIDJAN is a feature documentary that will capture one West African’s quest to become a professional opera singer, despite the overwhelming odds against him. The film will focus on Landry Assokoly, a 24 year-old Ivorian from the tropical city of Abidjan, and follow him as he struggles for a spot in a top European conservatory, dealing with the implications of leaving home, moving to the Netherlands, and facing the highly competitive audition process, among other things.

The film will begin with Landry’s experience living in Cote d’Ivoire, and juxtapose his life at home with entirely different environment he will encounter in Europe. We will tag along as he endures a draconian visa approval process, says goodbye to family, boards a plane for the first time in his life, sets foot in Europe (also for the first time), finds himself alone in a foreign country, and exposes himself to criticism and acclaim from peers and professionals alike. We will see him succeed, stumble, and pick himself back up – all in the name of his deepest desire.

The Tenor from Abidjan is a film about an underdog’s hope in the face of adversity, and about daring to dream – but most of all it celebrates the unlikely story of Landry’s love for the Opera…

And because commentor Aji asked me so nicely:

You were kind enough to let me post a link to the Kickstarter campaign for a documentary film project by my spirit sister’s daughter: The Tenor From Abidjan. Kickstarter’s rule is that you must meet every single cent of the goal within the allotted timeframe, or the project gets NONE of the monies already pledged. Anyway, Taneisha is now down to the last four days, and still in need of $4,000 (out of an overall goal of $22,500)…

Her mom (shanikka at Daily Kos, and the one I call my spirit sis) posted a last-minute diary at DK today, here: A Different African Story. The Kickstarter link is here

Neunundneunzig Luftballons

Bill Gates cracks wise on Google’s plan to bring Internet access to remote parts of Africa via balloons:

[…] Gates was asked whether he thought bringing internet to parts of the world would help solve problems. “When you’re dying of malaria, I suppose you’ll look up and see that balloon, and I’m not sure how it’ll help you.”

Gates’ nonprofit organization, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has worked extensively to try to rid developing nations of malaria. “When a kid gets diarrhea, no, there’s no website that relieves that,” […]

Whatever you want to say about Gates, and certainly in the realm of education in the US he’s living in a rock-and-roll fantasy, he’s made a serious effort to understand the real problems in Africa. Google, not so much.

Invisible Children At the Heart of Darkness: Social Media, Its Uses & Abuses

So, the #StopKony Invisible Children YouTube video has gone sufficiently viral to attract the attention of even the infotainment television shows, because SO MANY celebrities!!:

… In the film, Mr. Russell explains the social media strategy, which includes getting people to enlist celebrities on Twitter, including Oprah Winfrey and others with large followings, to help get out the word about the film and Mr. Kony. The group also specifically asked people who viewed the film to share it with their personal networks on social media platforms so that “Kony’s name is everywhere.”… Soon, celebrities from the film and music worlds, including Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Diddy, Alec Baldwin and Olivia Wilde were joining in and posting links to the film on Facebook and Twitter. Many did so at the urging of their fans. And the hashtags #kony2012 #stopkony began to trend worldwide on Twitter….

Surely we can all agree (with Kim Kardashian and Justin Beiber, not to mention the International Criminal Court)that Joseph Kony is a bad, bad man. The problem is, what “we” should do next. “We” — the U.S. government — has 100 military advisors in the area, and the Invisible Children producers say there should be more American Special Ops sharing better weapons with the Ugandan Army, even though Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army is mostly located in DRC or South Sudan these days. (Those of us who remember Vietnam, or even Iraq, have an immediate aversion to any political argument that starts “It’s just a handful of advisors, some overstock weapons, and nobody in that part of the world pays attention to national borders anyways”.) The Ugandan Army has a reputation for “politically motivated abuses” of its own. Also, the “billions of barrels of oil reserves” discovered in Uganda in the last few years have raised understandable suspicions about Westerners’ sudden interest in redeeming the country from itself.

But that’s why the Internet Is Awesome: It gives reporters the chance, not just to document the mechanics of “How the Koney Video Went Viral” or to explain its techniques, however cutting-edge:

…[T]he real pipeline to big numbers was the Kony 2012 website, which features “The Culturemakers,” a slick, visual chart of twenty celebrities, including Oprah, Justin Bieber, Jay-Z, Angelina Jolie, Bill Gates, Bono, and more. “When they speak, the world listens,” the website says. And to encourage them to speak, clicking on any of the celebs’ photos automatically crafts a tweet directed at the Culturemaker, complete with the Kony 2012 web address and two related hashtags. The interface is easy, it’s quick — messaging all twenty celebs would take less than two minutes — and most importantly, it allows anyone to feel like they’re making a difference.

It’s that an organization committed to genuine reporting — the Guardian, in this case — can institute an ongoing live-blog pulling together information from all over the world as it becomes available:

This Tumblr page is collecting criticism of the project and this blog sums up a lot of the questions.
This morning, Invisible Children issued a detailed response to the criticism here.
We want, with your help, to investigate this further. Our principle approach is to attempt to gather views from Uganda about whether this film is the right way to go about campaigning on the issue. I’m going to be working with John Vidal, our environment editor, who has travelled extensively in the region and is on the phone now to his contacts there.
Do you have any relevant information? Get in touch below the line, tweet #pollycurtis or email me at…

I know just enough about the history of Central Africa to understand how much I don’t know. I’m grateful to live at a time in a place where better informed people (including those with much more at stake) are accessible with a few mouse-clicks.

(Footnote: Am I the only one here old enough to remember “buying pagan babies“? The annual campaigns were scheduled for Lent, when SAD and the failure to keep one’s personal New Years resolutions presumably conspired with religious guilt to remind all good parochial-school attendees of our obligations to the wider community. At our school, for every five dollars donated — an enormous commitment for a kid from a blue-collar family in the 1960s, so mostly each class pooled our sticky quarters and wrinkled singles — we got a beautiful certificate and the nominal right to choose a new baptismal name for “our” little orphan. I’m sure the donor foundation did just as much to alleviate Third-World suffering as the Komen Foundation does to cure breast cancer. Invisible Children’s glossy video brought back my memory of those certificates for the first time in decades, but that probably says more about my cynicism than it does about the video itself. )