Islam’s old schism: Sunnis v Shias, here and there

Sadly sectarian Sidon THESE are unhappy times in the Middle East for relations between Islam’s two main branches, the majority Sunnis and minority Shias. The ugly sectarian undertones of the civil war in Syria, where the death toll may now have passed 100,000, are echoing far more widely than during Iraq’s similar tragedy a few years ago. Yet the bitter old schism may also provoke a quieter resurgence of common sense.Bullet casings litter the empty tree-lined streets of Sidon, a Lebanese port city, after three days of fighting that left perhaps 35 dead

Continue reading

Zimbabwe’s coming election: The spirit of wrath is upon us

Baba Jukwa’s avatar AS POLITICIANS wrangle over the precise date of Zimbabwe’s imminent presidential and parliamentary elections, the clarion call of “Baba Jukwa” has cut through the din. Claiming to be a disgruntled insider from President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party, the gossipy Facebook page belonging to this mysterious character, whose name echoes that of a spirit medium, has drawn more than 185,000 “likes” in just three months, with hundreds of responses to every post.Some think Baba Jukwa is a sort of Zimbabwean Robin Hood, stealing secrets from the ruling party and sharing them with the disfranchised masses.

Continue reading

Libya’s opposition: Where green refuses to fade

AS THE government struggles to assert its authority over a plethora of ethnic, tribal and party militias, some of them Islamist, others secular, a growing number of Libyans may be starting to regret the revolution. Rigorous opinion polls are few and patchy, but the best clue to people’s allegiances may be the colour of shopkeepers’ doors and windows

Continue reading

The African National Congress: A sad and sorry decline

THE ruling African National Congress (ANC), like many old revolutionary outfits, is fond of anniversaries. Reminding voters of past struggles and victories, with images of heroic Nelson Mandela prominent in its publicity, still helps win elections in a landslide. Last time round, in 2009, it won two-thirds of the vote against a mere 17% for the runner-up, the white-led Democratic Alliance (DA).

Continue reading