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A pageant with a feminist cause in Liberia

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“THEY want to strike fear into the hearts of their opponents!” remarked an onlooker, tapping his chest. Fighting words, perhaps, for a staff fundraiser—but hyperbole is the name of the game at the Liberia National Police (LNP) Queen Contest. Trading their uniforms for ballgowns and flanked by raucous entourages raining confetti and cash, a half-dozen policewomen peacocked to their seats under a balloon-lined marquee. They vogued, cat-walked and delivered impassioned speeches. This was no normal beauty pageant. The contestants were chosen for their professional ambitions, their appearances almost incidental. For all its pomp, the contest is a practical affair to raise money to send policewomen to Australia for training. Guests and officers of all ranks put banknotes into the basket of th

Kenya’s fresh election is preposterously flawed

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CLUTCHING a large rock on his shoulder, Sam Ogada is ready for battle. “This”, he says, gesturing with it, “is the only language our government understands”. A little way down the street, in Kisumu, a large city in western Kenya, piles of burning tyres spew black smoke into the air. Policemen, dressed in full camouflage and clutching assault rifles, mill about. The sting of tear gas hangs in the air. On the streets men have fashioned bricks, stones and tree branches into crude roadblocks, where, when not fighting with the police, they ask somewhat menacingly for donations from passing motorists. The people of Kisumu are used to this. The city is the stronghold of Raila Odinga, Kenya’s veteran opposition leader. It has been a centre for discontent with Kenya’s government for as long as m