Articles

Dictating Democracy – On Recent Elections in East Africa

These are frustrating times for supporters of liberal democracy in East Africa. Over the last two years, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda have all held deeply problematic presidential elections and the latter two countries have tabled radical constitutional reforms that threaten to cement these so-called democracies into dictatorships. East African leaders have proved themselves very capable of manipulating liberal donor expectations by implementing democratic reforms in name only. The tools and language of democratic politics become means to achieve the elite’s capitalist and ethnocentric goals, while maintaining popular legitimacy.

A few days before the 2017 presidential election in Kenya, Chris Msando, the electoral officer in charge of technology and communications was tortured and murdered under mysterious circumstances. His death may equally have been committed by ruling party supporters (because they went on to win) or the opposition (as they wished to discredit the election). In any case, bloodshed at election time is nothing new in Kenya. The two previous Kenyan elections were hotly contested, with the allegations that the ruling party were cheating being supported by international observers. In 2007, the opposition leader from western Kenya denounced the results of the election as fake. Political leaders of both sides then cynically manipulated ethnic hostility, which boiled over into nationwide riots bordering on civil war. There were over a thousand deaths and mass displacement of hundreds of thousands of people. [Read more →]

Lewisham ’77 – Myth and Anti-fascist History

Fourty years ago this summer [2017], one of the most decisive events in 1970s UK anti-fascism took place in South East London.

On 13 August 1977, the far right National Front (NF) set off on a march from New Cross to Lewisham in what was intended to be a major show of strength. Lewisham NF organiser Richard Edmunds had promised the NF’s ‘biggest-ever rally… Everybody will know that the Front is marching’, while national organiser Martin Webster had talked of the march as part of its racist and anti-communist struggle: ‘The Reds have had it all their own way and the only way you can fight Communism is to confront it. We believe that the multi-racial society is wrong, is evil and we want to destroy it’. Earlier that year the NF had won over 119,000 votes in the Greater London Council elections and, although it did not succeed in winning any seats, the party had cause to believe that it was a growing force.
In the event, thousands of people mobilised to oppose the march, and as it started from New Cross there was hand to hand fighting as anti-fascists broke through police lines and seized NF banners. The local paper reported:

‘Suddenly the air was filled with orange smoke, and a hail of bricks, bottles and pieces of wood fell onto the Front from demonstrators and householders leaning out of their windows… At one point the Front marchers stopped. Half the marchers remained in Pagnell Street, afraid to walk into the hail of missiles… One young man, perhaps 16 years old, rushed into the Front ranks and grabbed a flagpole from one of them, broke it in half and held the pieces up while the crowd cheered. Others hurled dustbins and fence stakes into the Front column from close range’ (Kentish Mercury 18.8.77). In later clashes in Lewisham town centre, police used riot shields for the first time in England as they confronted anti-fascists and local young people. [Read more →]

Most Read Datacide Articles in 2017

Not entirely without hesitation we publish our “traditional” list of the most read articles of the previous year. The hesitation comes from the fact that it looks like it’s mostly the same articles that are read year in and year out. It has been suggested before that perhaps we should be making a list of the least read, or simply a list of recommendations.

Don’t get us wrong: all the articles on this list are well worth reading. However there is a wealth of material on this site which tends to be overlooked – especially newer additions.

Of course by publishing this list we somewhat contribute to the ‘problem’, but we’re not creating it. A key reason that the most read article list has become increasingly similar over the years seems to be the way that search engines and social media are now the dominant ways to find content on the internet. So articles which have already found many readers and are linked to more than others and will rank higher on search engines than new additions. In other cases an intense social media buzz or a link from a prominent web site can cause a (often short term) spike.

But what seems to be missing is much of a direct readership navigating the web site, as readers are increasingly and unwittingly turned into passive consumers.

Granted: There is much room for improvement on this site, and we will be working on it this year.

Below: The usual top 20 of 2017 + 3 recommendations + the least read article ever on this site! [Read more →]

G20 in Hamburg

The 2017 summit of the G20, which is comprised of the leading seven industrial countries (G7), Russia, and a number of ‘emerging economies’ as well as the European Union, took place in the German city of Hamburg July 7 and 8, 2017. After the G8 (G7 plus Russia) summit of 2001, which had taken place in Genova, this was the first summit to take place in a major city in Western Europe. One reason for this had been that it was easier to police summits in remote locations and enforce restricted areas by only allowing counter-demonstrations far away from the actual summits.

The 2016 summit had taken place in Hangzhou, China, without any public protests. The Chinese authorities had made sure of that, simply by clearing a large part of the population out of the city altogether, either by issuing travel vouchers, shutting down factories (and thus forcing day labourers to look for work elsewhere), or putting dissidents under house arrest.

The German government couldn’t turn Hamburg – the second biggest city after Berlin – into a ghost town, but they too made it a priority to guarantee the seamless proceedings of the summit. The police force was later accused of prioritising the safety of delegates over that of the inhabitants of the host city. Apparently the police thought that by fiercely repressing any protest they would remain in control of the situation. Thus the first (legal) anti-G20 demonstration which took place July 6 under the slogan ‘Welcome to Hell’ was not allowed to march and was basically wiped off the street by water cannons, creating a panic situation that could potentially have caused casualties. [Read more →]

Political News Datacide 17

Endless War

Chelsea Manning, US army intelligence officer and whistleblower, received a commutation by President Barack Obama in January 2017 of her prison sentence after she served seven of the 35 years for convictions of espionage and related offenses. Manning leaked 750,000 classified military and diplomatic documents to Wikileaks, known as the Reykjavik 13, the Iraq War Logs, the Afghan War Diary, the Baghdad airstrike collateral murder video, Cablegate, the Guantanamo Bay files, the Grainai airstrike, and others. In May 2017, Manning, a trans-woman, who suffered torture and a myriad of other abuses while in US prison custody, was released, and she presently lives in New York City. She is involved with various protests and social justice actions, and maintains a presence in the media by writing columns in newspapers, as well as personal Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts. On September 13, 2017, Harvard University Kennedy School Institute of Politics named Manning a visiting fellow, however, in protest, former CIA deputy director Michael J. Morell resigned from his position as Senior Fellow at the Kennedy School. Harvard’s close ties to the CIA became even more apparent when CIA director Mike Pompeo cancelled his speaking visit to Harvard also in protest, leading the Kennedy School Dean Douglas Elmendorf on September 15 to cancel Manning’s appointment as visiting fellow (although she is invited to campus for a day to talk to students). Harvard’s actions can be seen within the larger context of fights over ‘free speech’ at American university campuses, and institutional support for CIA war criminals and tortures. Manning tweeted “honored to be the 1st disinvited trans woman visiting @harvard fellow. they chill marginalized voices under @cia pressure #WeGotThis”. On September 25, Manning took to Twitter, detailing that she had been barred from entry into Canada on September 22. Manning was unauthorized to enter Canada because of her felony conviction in the US. The Canadian immigration document states that “if committed in Canada, this offence would equate to an indictable offence, namely Treason…for which a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment may be imposed.” Manning stated she will formally challenge Canada’s refusal, and The Guardian reports that Manning was detailed by Canadian officials overnight before being sent back into the US. [Read more →]

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