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Malawi VP Chilima will not seek re-election on ruling party ticket in upcoming elections

6 June 2018

The sitting vice president in Malawi will not be the president’s running mate in the next elections, scheduled for May 2019. Malawi’s vice president Saulos Chilima announced this decision at a morning news conference.

Chilima’s statement calls out corruption and nepotism and while he used language of gratitude when talking about sitting president Peter Mutharika, my read of the statement is that he will leave the ruling party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

His statement refers to “united transformational leadership”, which is the theme of an ever-shifting political interest group that to my knowledge has not officially registered as a political party.

While some may read this as a blow to the DPP, if Chilima were to run for the presidency on another — especially a new — party’s ticket, it could further splinter Malawi’s already fragmented opposition.

You can read the English version of Chilima’s statement in full here. (Thanks to my friend and colleague Abdallah Chilungo for sending me the statement, among other interesting things, via WhatsApp.)

Going back to Cali

3 May 2018

While haba na haba has been dormant of late, I have some big news to share: Today is officially my last day teaching at Smith College. My partner and I have accepted positions at UC Riverside. As of July 1, I will be joining the political science department there. I’m thrilled after eight years outside California to be headed back to my home state, especially since we will live so close to my mom. I’m also really excited to work for an institution where so many students are like I was: low-income, first-generation college students fortunate to go to a great public university, in no small part because of Pell grants.

Of course, there’s a lot I’m going to miss about Smith and living in Western Mass. I’ve made some wonderful friends and gotten to do some amazing things. Here are a few things I’m grateful for and will miss (not an exhaustive list — I have to go and teach class now):

I’m particularly grateful for the experience of teaching so many students from African countries. Above, Hilda Nalwanga ’18 🇺🇬 is presenting about her start-up Malako (a fintech company in Uganda offering credit for solar energy packages), just before she won the Smith Prize in Entrepreneurship last year.

Lucky for me, I formed a bond with some of these students from African countries — they even came to my house in the dead of winter and taught me how to make mandasi and samosas and proper chai. Hilda and Priscilla Takondwa Semphere ’18 🇲🇼 pictured in my kitchen reppin’ Smith (and so is Nikki Okondo ’18 🇰🇪, in the corner — not pictured is Meseret Haile ’18 🇪🇹). I don’t have enough Kleenexes for all the tears I’m going to cry at the graduation of these Fab Four. #squadgoals


Last year at Smith, I started a podcast, Ufahamu Africa, with Sarah Agatoni ’17 🇷🇼/🇹🇿. It hasn’t been the same without her, but we had some really great episodes together and I’m hopeful for Ufahamu Africa‘s future.

I also learned a lot from advising Honors Thesis projects, including one by Eliza Cummings ’17 on how soccer can boost nationalism in African countries. Pictured above, she presented her findings at last year’s annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association. Her thesis was so 🔥 that she won the Dawes Prize, awarded to the most excellent Government major ever (at least I think that’s what it’s for).

Eliza’s honors thesis and graduation was so special that Oprah Winfrey came (proof of causality not shown). I took this picture as 👑 came through the line of faculty waiting to march into the commencement ceremony — right before I shook her hand. 13-year-old me died and went to heaven; 40-year-old me was also pretty happy.

One of the greatest parts about my time at Smith was how much writing I got done. I finished my book here! Pictured above is the MacLeish Field Station, which has an amazing space where I have hosted writing retreats over the last four years. Without my writing buddies — especially Liz Klarich, Holly Hanson, and Carrie Baker — I don’t know that I would have gotten so much done.

I lived a pretty charmed life in Northampton — especially when I was on sabbatical this fall. I used the time to get research done, but also to feed my soul with time in nature and learning something new and beautiful (🎹). Above is a shot I took of Tully Lake when I was paddling with my friend and fellow mama Tricia Loomis, who is an amazing tour de force for our kids at the local public school and in the community more broadly. Our day together is one of my most cherished memories here in Western MA.

There are a lot of great things for families with small children in Western MA, including the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Above is my little man standing for the obligatory butterfly photo two years ago!

One great benefit of Western MA is how close we are to NYC. That meant many (though still not enough) Kim + Kim Mwingine reunions. This year I crashed in Harlem with Kim, Admir, and Zizou and we got to go to Congo in Harlem. But a couple of years ago, I took the photo above when we picked apples at my fave pick-your-own orchard. I will miss apple-picking as Kim-squared.

Monday mbalimbali

27 April 2015

I Was Raped in Burkina Faso and My Rapist’s Trial Will Take 10 Years — an account of a Peace Corps volunteer

#BlackLivesMatter, the international papal edition — a brief explainer about the first genocide of the 20th century, of the Herero and Nama peoples in Namibia

At Sea, Devoured by Our Indifference — Somali-Italian writer Igiaba Scego on the inequalities in migration

International Political Economy and the 2014 West African Ebola Outbreak — my article with Adia Benton in the African Studies Review is available for free download until May 15

Why does Africa have so many languages?

Happy Meb Crush Monday.

diaspora and development in Africa

12 April 2015

On Wednesday, renowned economic historian Paul Tiyambe Zeleza came to give a talk at Hampshire College. His talk drew on his latest book, Africa’s Resurgence: Domestic, Global and Diaspora Transformations. The event was well attended and provoked a lot of interesting questions. The part that stuck with me most was Zeleza’s discussion of the growing importance of the diaspora in Africa’s future.

zeleza flyer

Going beyond the power of remittances in shaping individuals’ lives, Zeleza talked about the many different ways the diaspora contribute to development back home — and how they have been for generations. He talked in particular about an initiative he’s started, The Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program, which generously supports African-born academics in the U.S. and Canada in pursuing partnerships and research opportunities with academic institutions in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. Paul is himself part of the diaspora — a Malawian born in Zimbabwe, educated in Canada, and working in the U.S.

I’m lucky to have and come across a number of students who remind me of what a young Paul Zeleza might be like today. A few of them are engaging in just the kind of diaspora-driven development projects Paul talked about on Wednesday. A couple are raising funds for these projects. I don’t normally use this blog as a forum to solicit charity donations, but these are great projects led by thoughtful people who are trying to give back to the places they’re from.

If haba na haba readers know of other worthy diaspora-driven development programs worth supporting, please share them (with links) in the comments!

politics in everything: trees in Africa

26 March 2015

Along with Pretoria, cities across former British colonies in Africa bear the stamp of jacaranda including Blantyre in Malawi; Harare and Bulawayo in Zimbabwe; Nairobi and Nakuru in Kenya; and Kampala, Fort Portal and Mbale in Uganda, where they are associated with exam season, coming at the end of the school term. Even in Kenya’s dusty little border town with Ethiopia, the jacaranda tree stands out as a marker of British presence – Moyale on the Kenyan side has jacaranda trees around its administrative centre, while Moyale on the Ethiopian side has none.

When the ANC came to power in 1994, its environmental policy has been critical of “exotic” trees like eucalyptus, seeking their removal on the grounds that they are “not African”, says this South African environmental scholar, who sees the environmental policies of the ANC mirroring the earlier strains of white nationalism that sought to use South Africa’s unique flora and fauna to create a strong nationalist identity.

These excerpts are from one of the best news articles I’ve read this year, “Not just trees: The politics of the jacaranda, eucalyptus and hyacinth in Africa” by Christine Mungai, of the Mail & Guardian. Follow her on Twitter. I can’t wait to read more of her work.

She has forever changed the way I’ll look at jacaranda.

Malawi, road side impressions along the M1 between Blantyre and Lilongwe. Hansueli Krapf/Wikimedia Commons

Monday mbalimbali

23 March 2015


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