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Efforts to tackle official abuses in Kenya are failing

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FINDING evidence of police brutality in Kenya should not be too tricky. Amateur footage of officers shooting suspected crooks in the back of the head is shared on social media. Vigilante police groups post photographs of suspects they have killed, or intend to kill, on Facebook. “Let them have their time in hell,” one officer wrote beneath an image of a bloody corpse. Yet since starting work six years ago, Kenya’s police watchdog has managed to secure convictions against just three officers, despite receiving nearly 10,000 complaints of abuse. The Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) was among a raft of state institutions established under Kenya’s constitution of 2010. The new dispensation was meant to make the country fairer and less corrupt after 1,400 people were killed, h

The Egyptian authorities crack down on culture

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She sings so high that birds explode KHEDIVE ISMAIL looms large in Egyptian history. During his 16-year rule the 19th-century Ottoman pasha modernised the country, laying down railways and irrigation canals that remain in use today. A statue of him towers over a square in Ismailia, the city that bears his name. When the current governor ordered workers to spruce up Ismailia, they naturally repainted the sculpture. But they did so with gaudy coats of black and silver. Even his eyes got an eerie metallic glow. The great pasha now looks like a character from a low-budget cartoon. Egyptians are proud of their rich culture. Statues and reliefs carved in antiquity draw millions of tourists. In the 20th century Egypt produced cultural icons like Naguib Mahfouz, a Nobel-prizewinning author, and...

Eager to please America, the Gulf states want a role in Afghanistan

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NEXT month the American war in Afghanistan will pass a surreal milestone. The army will begin recruiting soldiers who were not yet alive during the attacks of September 11th that led to the invasion. For most Americans, the conflict is all but forgotten. Not so for America’s closest allies in the Middle East, who have suddenly taken a fresh interest in it. The Gulf monarchies are sending more troops and vying for a role in peace talks. But their involvement probably says more about their own internal squabbles than about Afghanistan’s future. Before this summer’s NATO summit in Brussels, both Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) offered to send troops to train the Afghan army. The UAE, which already had 200 men in Afghanistan, will increase that by nearly a third. (Qatar’s contribut

A year after big protests, Faure Gnassingbé hangs on in Togo

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TWO weeks ago sword-wielding soldiers flanked the red carpet as the leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) filed into a fancy hotel in Lomé, the capital of Togo, for a two-day summit. Gendarmes closed off a chunk of the city. Traders in the market griped about a slowdown in business. The streets fell silent. Last September those same streets were packed with thousands of protesters calling for the president, Faure Gnassingbé, to step down after 13 years in power. (His father, Gnassingbé Eyadéma, led Togo for 38 years before that.) The country was in turmoil. Ultimately, the government offered concessions, including a promise to hold a referendum on presidential term limits. Mr Gnassingbé’s departure seemed possible. Yet little has changed. Mr Gnassingbé (pict