African Longreads

For the love of long-form African writing

Welcome to Mogadishu

One brightly painted brick at a time, the shelled-out city is coming back to life. Along Mogadishu’s tree-lined drags, shopfronts form a tableau of hope. Outsized poster-paint impressions of burgers, fizzy drink bottles and doughnuts daub walls where bullets once made their mark. Renderings of hairdryers, laptops and pressure pumps advertise the high-tech wares inside. Walls and gates are painted the same bright powder-blue base which matches the sea, the sky and the national flag. But the revival goes beyond shopkeeping. Scaffolding shapes the skyline, livestock and fish markets are back in action and women plunge into the sea from stunning white sands. Surrounded by the crescent of ruins that cradles the old fishing port, I speak to a young fisherman as he smears the hazel sludge of sea lion liver oil over upturned boats. He says he hopes Somalia’s latest government, formed in 2012 in the most legitimate process in years, will last. 

Writer: Katrina Manson

Length: 3852 words

Source: The Financial Times

Published: May 31st, 2013

The Enforcer: A Christian Lawyer’s Global Crusade

The prisoners looked generally emaciated and exhausted, but one man was animated. He leaned over to discuss his case with a lawyer who sat on the bench behind him. The bone-thin detainee, who was wearing a grimy lime-green oxford shirt and gray slacks barely held up by a belt, was Duncan Mutungi. He was not a political prisoner being abused by an autocratic state; he was a night watchman who had once earned thirty dollars a month for guarding a gated community in Nairobi. In 2006, a group of armed men had abducted him, dumping him miles away, at the side of a road. Desperate to keep his job, on which his wife and three children depended, he had staggered back to his place of employment, only to discover that his assailants had stolen one of the cars that he was supposed to guard. When Mutungi reported the crime to the police, he was charged with car theft and told that he faced seven years in jail. Mutungi’s fortunes changed when he received a visit from a lawyer with the International Justice Mission, a legal organization based in Washington, D.C. Ronald Rogo, a twenty-six-year-old Kenyan lawyer employed by the mission, took his case.

Writer: Samantha Powers

Length: 9307 words

Source: The New Yorker

Published: January 19th, 2009

The Casbah Revolution

For the first time since the nineteen-fifties, an Arab population will try to independently construct a constitutional democracy from scratch. Tunisia may yet be the only Arab state to attempt this following the recent upheavals. In late March, Egyptian voters approved hastily written constitutional amendments for free parliamentary and Presidential elections soon, which is precisely the sort of transition plan those in the Casbah sit-in sought to prevent. The outcomes of the protest movements in Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, Syria, and elsewhere cannot be known, but none of them appear to be close to achieving the election of a constitutional assembly. The conditions in Tunisia seem more favorable to a durable democracy than those in many other Arab nations. The population is well educated; there are no sectarian or tribal divides; and there is a foundation of civil society. Tunisia’s success would not guarantee that its neighbors will follow, but its failure would be a dark portent.

Writer: Steve Coll

Length: 6072 words

Source: The New Yorker

Published: April 4th, 2011

Afro-Europe in the World Cup 

Post-colonial migration has created a loophole in FIFA’s global apportioning of representation. This year, there will be two additional African teams in the competition: France and Belgium. If they are going to the World Cup at all, it is thanks to goals scored by the children of African migrants: Romelu Lukaku for Belgium, and Mamadou Sakho for France. I’m not sure if these old colonial powers deserve the help, but they’ve gotten it: Africa has come to the rescue. In fact, it might be worth giving new names to these two football teams: Françafrique and AfroBelgica, perhaps? What does it mean, in these two very different European countries, to depend on Africa on the pitch? And what does it mean for players like Sakho and Lukaku to be standing up for, and standing in for, different layers of belonging and identification?

Writer: Laurent Dubois

Length: 4205 words

Source: Roads and Kingdoms

Published: January 7th, 2014

What to Watch as Nigeria’s 2015 Showdown Brews

These power tussles can easily be dismissed as teething problems for a new organisation consisting of disparate political groups, but how the party handles those issues will go a long way in determining what it can achieve. Nigerian politics is not based on competing ideology but rival interests and ambitions. It is common practice for a politician to leave their party for another simply because they have been passed over for the party ticket in a forthcoming election. The prevailing attitude is summed up in a popular saying: “no permanent enemies but permanent interests.” In this way, political rivalries in Nigeria can be acrimonious and even fatal, but the flip side is that long-time adversaries can come together in power-sharing arrangements which ensure both sides win. The next couple of months will be crucial. The greatest test will be in uniting the party around a presidential candidate that is acceptable nationwide. If this is not achieved, the APC could lose the public support it currently enjoys against the ruling party whose house is in shambles.

Writer: Dawn Dimowo

Length: 2050 words

Source: Think Africa Press

Published: February 14th, 2013