African Arguments 2016 Prize: And The Winner Is…

In 2016, African Arguments published several excellent articles and readers were asked to pick their favourite for 2016 award. It was incredibly tough, but five articles that are particularly engaging, thought-provoking and original has been shortlisted for the award.

It was a close contest with nearly 600 readers voting (the winner of the prize draw to win any three books on the African Arguments book series has been contacted). But in the end, one article came out on top:

Nigeria: The shattering of the Buhari mythology

– by Moses E. Ochonu

It’s fair to say that since Muhammadu Buhari took office in 2015, he has split opinion. He has been seen as Nigeria’s saviour by some while viewed very sceptically by others, and as his presidency has continued, some of these perspectives have polarised even further. In this piece, however, Moses E. Ochonu cuts across the divide and rhetoric and assesses Buhari’s record clearly, carefully and thoroughly.

He convincingly and engagingly evaluates the president’s actions against his promises, sadly concluding that: “The reality of leadership has exploded the illusion of Buhari’s messianic abilities and exposed him as a prisoner of power – in other words, as just another politician”.

The runners-up, in order of when they were published are:

Virtual mining in Cameroon: How to make a fortune by failing


– by Emmanuel Freudenthal

For this extensive and often shocking investigation into the widespread corruption in Cameroon’s mining industry, Emmanuel Freudenthal trawled through official records, spoke to company insiders, and visited projects on the ground.

Through these efforts, he uncovered numerous instances in which individuals had profited massively – one group multiplied its money by a factor of 400 in just one year – through highly questionable means. He found high-level conflicts of interest, and clearly explains exactly how well-connected elites consistently get rich off Cameroon’s mineral wealth without actually extracting any minerals at all.


“Are we animals?” Nigeriens respond to Foreign Policy’s ‘Dead Man’s Market’


– by Ibrahim Yahaya Ibrahim

When Ibrahim Yahaya Ibrahim came across a 4,000-word piece in Foreign Policy magazine about Zinder in Niger, he read it with some trepidation. Zinder is his home town, but neither the violent imagery of “sliced ears” and “slit throats” nor the tenuous attempts to link this to Boko Haram in the article rang true. Ibrahim translated the piece into Hausa to read it to the youth gangs profiled in the article as well as other residents, and they were similarly unimpressed. “Are we animals?” responded one.

In this article, Ibrahim not only deconstructs all the problems with the Foreign Policy feature, but also provides a nuanced and convincing explanation for the trends based on his own extensive research.

Where is the ‘African’ in African Studies?


– by Robtel Neajai Pailey

“Publishing about Africa is punctuated with structural inequities in which Africans are often dissed and dismissed”, writes Robtel Neajai Pailey in this reflection on African academia and the fact the number of articles by Africa-based academics in two leading journals has plummeted over the past 20 years. Taking a long view of history, she declares that Africans have always produced knowledge about Africa, but that their contributions have been “preferably unheard” in some cases and “deliberately silenced” in others.

But this is not just a complaint. Pailey outlines various measures that can be taken to reverse the trend, a challenge also taken up by Celia Nywamweru in her piece: How to put the ‘African’ back into African Studies.

Decolonise da police: How brutality was written into the DNA of Kenya’s police service


– by Nanjala Nyabola

When attorney Willie Kimani, his client Josphat Mwendwa, and their taxi driver Joseph Muiruri, were found dead in July, Kenya briefly experienced protests against police brutality and extra-judicial killings. Many condemned the police violence and called for accountability, though soon the issue petered out. Nanjala Nyabola, however, took a different approach. In this sharp and insightful piece, she keeps the spotlight on the injustices and examines the origins of Kenya’s National Police Service in an attempt to understand what underpinned this deepening record of brutality so to better tackle it.

“We don’t need to be talking about dealing with ‘rogue elements in the police service’,” she concludes. “We need to be talking about abolishing the Administration Police (AP) and decolonising the Kenya Police”.




Written by PH

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