AFRICA IS A COUNTRY

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Saturday, December 7th, 2013

Mandela had an Ethiopian passport under the name David Motsomayi. Where did he go?

We don't live in a world of heroes, but at rare moments we celebrate those who emerge from the shadows to push them further back. I don't know if Nelson Mandela had heroes. He must have done. We all know he had comrades, both within the ANC and without. When he visited Mali in 1996, he wanted...

Monday, August 12th, 2013

Mali’s Elections: First Thoughts on Round Two

In Mali, it’s taken to be a good sign when a journey begins under the rain. Yesterday’s voting in Bamako began under torrents, keeping people from the polls. When the skies cleared, the voters turned out for...

Friday, July 19th, 2013

The New Yorker’s Jon Lee Anderson Goes to “Mali”

Where to begin with the foolishness that is Jon Lee Anderson’s recent article on Mali in the New Yorker? Maybe with my own disclosure. Before it was published, one of the magazine’s fact-checkers called me about the...

Monday, April 1st, 2013

Afrique 3.0, Version 2.0

Flying back from Dakar and Bamako to my home near “Little Senegal,” I snatched up Courrier International’s special issue “Afrique 3.0″ while passing through Paris. Tom made a quick survey of it just as it hit the...

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

Welcome to Mali

Bamako doesn’t feel like the capital of a country at war. True, people are stressed, and the pace of life might have slowed. The city’s building frenzy has subsided. Ça va pas, but things are calm, even...

Friday, March 15th, 2013

Mali needs heroes at the moment–even cinematic ones will do

Mali is short of heroes at the moment. War in the north has produced very few, only villains aplenty, some of them in uniform. The same holds for Bamako’s deep, existential political crisis. Many people have tried...

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Timbuktu: It’s like a library has burned

News came yesterday, violent, rotten news. It’s been a steady rhythm from Mali, a country that has already suffered too much. But there’s something brutal in the news that Salafist fighters burned hundreds of rare manuscripts, some...

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Would Susan Rice have been a good choice for US Secretary of State?

Remember Susan Rice, the U.S. Secretary of State who wasn’t? It might seem old news now, as Senator John Kerry sits in front of his colleagues seeking their constitutionally-mandated “consent” to his appointment to become the next...

Monday, January 14th, 2013

France in Mali: the End of the Fairytale

Whew, Mali. French air raids against Islamist positions in Mali began Thursday night, and the dust hasn’t settled yet. The news is changing fast, but, three things emerge from the haze. First, fierce fighting in the North...

Friday, December 21st, 2012

French President François Hollande went to Algeria

Ah, the warm bath of public affection in the post-colony. French President François Hollande’s visit to Algeria this week was a little odd, on more than one count. Algeria is about the last place you’d think a...

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

First thoughts on Mali’s second coup

Mali’s interim Prime Minister—and NASA’s ex-interplanetary navigator—Cheikh Modibo Diarra was chased out of office Tuesday morning. He’d been arrested the night before by soldiers under the orders of Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo, the man who led the...

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Foreign correspondents and false notes

Two things I’ve learned about the popular press in the last few months: you don’t get to pick your own headline, and you don’t want anyone thinking that the inevitable picture of the guy with a machine...

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

President of France, King of Africa?

Why should it be a big deal if a French president gives a speech in Dakar? Lots of reasons. Rarely does anyone walk softly and carry a big stick in quite the same way that François Hollande...

Monday, October 8th, 2012

When Animal Collective’s Deakin went to Mali to make an album and to end slavery

I’m not in the music business. I am, however, in the bullshit business. So my ears prick up when I hear some guy’s launched a Kickstarter project to go to Mali and make music and instead wound...

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Timbuktu: whatever happened to the African Renaissance?

Mali in the rainy season has its own rhythm, especially in the South: long days under heavy skies anticipating rain; moments when it comes so powerfully the world seems ready to end. Afterwards, a peculiar freshness and...

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Mali’s Rebels and their Fans–Suffering and Smiling

Strange bedfellows in the Malian Sahara of late. The Tuareg rebel movements that took control of northern Mali last month looked to have struck a deal over the weekend, only to have it come into question since....

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Mali’s problem–Not child soldiers, but soldiers acting like children

Ah, Mali. From bad to worse. Monday, “protestors” found a seventy-year old man sitting in his office and beat him unconscious. Preliminary reports had him lying in hospital with head wounds. Apparently he’s been released, but after...

Monday, May 7th, 2012

The other African election, Round 2: Sarkozy K.O.’d

Paris 20ème, Sunday, 8 p.m. Shouts, people banging pots from the windows, children running in the streets—in our neighborhood of workers and immigrants everybody else is upstairs, glued to the television. A man—African by his accent—is declaiming...

Monday, April 30th, 2012

Mali–don’t talk about somebody’s mama

Monday evening, and it’s hard to tell who’s shooting up Bamako, or why. But someone cracks on Twitter “béé b’i ba bolo.” It’s one thing to stage a counter-coup or settle a score (if that’s what’s going...

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

The other African election: France’s first round

What is there to say about that other African election, the one in France? Sunday was the first of two rounds in this presidential contest, which is a lot more about Europe—specifically Brussels, but also Berlin—than it...

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Why is so much outside coverage of the Mali crisis so bad?

Why is so much outside coverage of the Mali crisis so bad? I don’t mean the conventional wallowing in clichés / recycling old images / harkening back to colonial stereotypes kind of bad, although there’s all that...

Monday, April 16th, 2012

The war in Mali’s North–to what effect?

There is war in Mali’s North, and there doesn’t need to be. Some of this conflict is hard to stop–the shadow boxing of distant powers, the scattering of weapons, the spiraling circuits of revenge. But some of...

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

Bamako-sur-Seine

You don’t stand in one place to watch a masquerade, as Chinua Achebe famously said. It moves. You move with it. Same goes for demonstrations. On Saturday a few hundred people marched in Paris for peace in...

Saturday, April 7th, 2012

The racial politics of Tuareg nationalism

Like good nomads ought to be, Tuareg desert blues super group Tinariwen are on tour. I hear good things about them as individuals, and I’m sure they’re all fine human beings, but I’m not a big fan....

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Mali’s Democracy–Down but not out

It’s windy in Bamako, says Martin Vogl, a journalist who’s been there for about three years now. Vogl and some of his peers are doing a great job in reporting what’s going on. But with all that...

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Mali’s coup — ‘Politics is bad’

Columbia history professor Gregory Mann writes the second of his of posts (here’s the first) on last week’s military coup in Mali for Africa is a Country:

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Mali’s coup—first thoughts

Gregory Mann, associate professor of history at Columbia University in New York City,* writes a guest post for Africa is a Country on the coup in Mali:

Friday, May 27th, 2011

When You Refuse, You Say ‘No!’

Gregory Mann Guest Blogger I had to buy The New York Post this week. It’s something I never do because, as the letters page reminded me, it’s something of a Zionist rag. But Tuesday the cover caught...

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

Letter from Tunisia

Gregory Mann, Guest Blogger Have we already forgotten that the ‘Arab Spring’ began in the winter? Ben Ali and co. took flight in January, before the whole word learned that the Arabic word for ‘liberation’ is ‘Tahrir,’...