News

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

Israel’s “New Labour” party

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A third way in the Jewish state AVI GABBAY has already overturned convention once—when on July 10th he won the primaries to become the leader of Israel’s Labour party just six months after joining it. Now he is causing more ructions in the main opposition, with a series of statements that are heretical to those on the far left of Israeli politics. Although other Labour leaders have, at times, espoused similar views, Mr Gabbay has done so earlier and more emphatically. He says that, should he win the next election he would not invite the country’s Arab parties to join his coalition. And he has said that he does not think that Jewish settlements built on land in the West Bank, which Israel captured in 1967, should necessarily be dismantled as part of a peace agreement. Further disconcerti

Biafran separatists are gaining support, 50 years after the civil war

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DOORS hang off their hinges. Cupboards have been emptied onto floors, walls and windows are pitted with what appear to be bullet holes. A statue of Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a Nigerian separatist group, is missing a hand and an arm. Mr Kanu’s family compound in Umuahia, the sleepy capital of Abia state in south-eastern Nigeria, was raided by soldiers on September 14th. His brother, Emmanuel, claims 28 people were killed and says he has not heard from Mr Kanu since. The army denies the raid even happened. Meanwhile Mr Kanu, who was charged with conspiracy to commit treason two years ago, failed to attend a bail hearing on October 17th. His disappearance illustrates how the unhealed wounds of Nigeria’s brutal civil war have been reopened in recent

Saudi Arabia launches a futuristic economic zone

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IT WAS like Davos in the desert: some 3,500 politicians, business bosses and bankers from around the world crowded into a vast conference centre in Riyadh for a jamboree called the Future Investment Initiative. This was a giant coming-out party for “Vision 2030”, the economic plan to move Saudi Arabia away from dependence on oil. It is the brainchild of the country’s crown prince, Muhammad bin Salman, widely known as MBS. A cornerstone of the plan is selling shares in Saudi Aramco in what is touted as the world’s biggest IPO if it goes ahead next year. The young prince proclaimed that he wants the kingdom to be “a country of moderate Islam that is open to the world and open to all religions.” As for extremist ideas, “we will destroy them today.” His striking remarks came at the launch o

The Balfour Declaration still offers lessons to Israel and the Palestinians

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IN OCTOBER 1917, in the depths of the first world war, an expectant Chaim Weizmann was waiting in a London anteroom. Britain’s war cabinet was voting on a document, now known as the Balfour Declaration, that would pledge Britain’s support for Zionists’ hopes of statehood in Ottoman-ruled Palestine. Mark Sykes, a British diplomat, rushed out to share the good news: “Weizmann, it’s a boy!” But the 67-word declaration was vague. It offered a Jewish “homeland”, not a state. Nor did Britain explain how it would be created, promising only “best endeavours” to do so. The Zionist leader’s first reaction was disappointment. The boy “was not the one I had expected,” he later wrote. A century on, his successors have no such doubts. On November 2nd Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, will