About Rita Abrahamsen

Professor, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs

Rita Abrahamsen

South Africa After Mandela: No Easy Walk to Freedom

The day Nelson Mandela died, I was boarding a flight to Nairobi.  Seeing my itinerary, a member of the airport staff commented off-handedly, “Africa—why are there always so many problems there?” “Perhaps we just hear more about the problems, and not the good things,” I said. “Think about Mandela.” Immediately, her face lit up with big smile. The power and ma… Read More

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The African Union, the International Criminal Court and the Politics of Justice

The African Union’s new offices in Addis Ababa stand on the site of one of Africa’s most notorious prisons, popularly known as Alem Bekagn or ‘farewell to the world’. For decades, thousands of people suffered and died here, many for simply speaking their minds or for crimes they did not commit. A memorial stone with the inscription “For all the victims… Read More

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Mali: Global Jihad, Local Struggles and the Dangers of a Single Story

In the wake of the French intervention in Mali, there is much talk of the Sahel region becoming a safe haven for extremist Islamists. Africa’s vast desert territories are perceived as ‘ungoverned spaces’, or ‘black holes’ where a dangerous underworld of terrorists and criminals operate freely and whence they will eventually launch their attacks on a West… Read More

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The Olympics, and the Rise and Dangers of Private Security

Today, Nick Buckles, the CEO of the world’s biggest private security company, will be questioned by the UK House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, which is attempting to explain how G4S managed to bungle the Olympic contract quite so badly. As 3500 soldiers prepare to step in where Group4Securicor failed, the UK government is busy assuring the publ… Read More

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Senegal: Warnings From a Model Democracy on the Brink

Senegal, one of Africa’s most celebrated democracies, hovers on the brink of electoral chaos and political violence.  At least six people have already been killed, and protests and demonstrations are continuing on a daily basis despite the violent crack-down of the riot police. The most pessimistic observers fear that Senegal might follow in the blood-… Read More

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Africa: No Longer “The Hopeless Continent”

“Africa Rising” declared The Economist’s front page last week. How things change! Eleven years ago, the front page of the same prestigious weekly declared Africa “The Hopeless Continent”. Then a young soldier brandishing an RPG peered menacingly at the respectable reader, emerging from the dark map of the continent as if to suggest its descent into sav… Read More

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‘Conflict Minerals’, Canada and African Civil Wars

The global campaign against so-called ‘conflict minerals’ is gathering pace, with Canada playing a central role.The campaign is primarily focused on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), from where reports about ‘rape’ or ‘blood’ cellphones’ have fueled our collective guilt, so much so that the names of previously obscure minerals such as coltan… Read More

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