The Year 2020, COVID-19 and Elections in Africa

If you are from ANU, UC, or any other ACT institution or organisation and wish to share your research please send details to

Here is a piece from Ernest Akuamoah (School of Politics and International Relations, ANU)


“Across the continent, millions of people will be going to the polls to exercise their democratic rights this year. In theory, elections will provide avenues for citizens to hold their leaders accountable through either endorsing their legitimacy or replacing them if they have performed abysmally. In this regard, you would expect citizens to be enthusiastic and excited for the opportunity to vote, but this is not always the case. For the most part, election periods in many African countries are characterized by fear and panic because electoral contests are considered a ‘do-or-die’ affair . Even when incumbents are defeated, it is uncertain whether they will leave office. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic presents manifold challenges to democracy in Africa. This paper highlights some of these challenges and identify countries at high risk of contentious elections.”

Available at 2020). Available at SSRN:


This report is from Mrs Maureen Hickman, President of the Royal Commonwealth Society (ACT Branch) who took over from Colin Milner (History, RSSS ANU) earlier this year. Maureen is also the Editor of the RCS Newsletter from which this piece is reproduced.

“By 2050, Africa will have 2.4 billion people, a middle class of one billion, and every fourth person on earthwill be in Africa, figures that might ‘excite or frighten—
but cannot be ignored’, according to H.E. Isayia Kabira,
High Commissioner for Kenya. Speaking at the Commonwealth Dinner in March, Mr
Kabira added, ‘if you are thinking about the future, you should be thinking about Africa.’
‘Our challenges today are the opportunities of tomorrow.’

Describing Africa as ‘the continent of the future’
whatever you read or hear about it, Mr Kabira said
That many people have asked him where he gets ‘all
this optimism about the Dark Continent’. But what he
sees is opportunity to find alternate ways to deal with
problems such as providing clean renewable energy
where there is no electricity, and, at a
local level, where there are no credit
cards, teaching people how to use their
mobile phones to transfer money.

Having achieved ‘the political kingdom’
of freedom, with the majority of African
nations under democratic rule ‘with a
smooth handover of power and a zero
tolerance of military coups’ what Africa
is now seeking is ‘the economic kingdom’.
He continued,
‘Africa today is home to 30 per cent of
the world’s natural resources; Australia
has invested over $40 billion in 700 projects
in the extractives sector, and, to
further consolidate our economic gains,
the African Continental Free Trade
Agreement is now in its operational
phase, making it much easier to trade
with ourselves and with the world.’
Mr Kabira acknowledged that in 30 years time, a
population of 2.4 billion people would need to be fed.
But this, he sees as yet another opportunity to satisfy
that need and ‘get more money into the pockets of
farmers’, encouraged by the Kiswahili saying: Mfuata
nyuki hakosi asali—one who follows the bees will
never fail to get honey (never mind the occasional

Music, Health, and Power in The Gambia


Research Seminar and Book Launch by Dr Bonnie McConnell, ANU School of Music, Thursday May 7th, 3.30 pm.

Details of the book, ‘Music, Health, and Power: Singing the Unsayable in The Gambia
are given below

This is a virtual seminar only. You can join the Zoom meeting by selecting this link:
(If this does not open you will need to copy the link to your browser).
You will then be invited to ‘join the Zoom meeting here’ and you should click on ‘here’

The seminar will be recorded as well.

‘Music, Health, and Power: Singing the Unsayable in The Gambia. (Routledge, 2020). The book offers an original, on-the-ground analysis of the role that music plays in promoting healthy communities. It brings the reader inside the world of kanyeleng fertility societies and HIV/AIDS support groups in The Gambia, where women use music to leverage stigma and marginality into new forms of power. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted over a period of 13 years (2006–2019), the author articulates a strengths-based framework for research on music and health that pushes beyond deficit narratives to emphasize the creativity and resilience of Gambian performers in responding to health disparities.’



The Prejudice Census: Making Sense of Prejudice

How many African Australians will complete this questionnaire? 

Project Title: The Prejudice Census: Making Sense of Prejudice

Professor Michael Platow and Dr. Dirk Van Rooy from the ANU Research School of Psychology are leading this research.

General Outline of the Project:

Description and Methodology. This is an on-line questionnaire that asks you to describe an encounter with prejudice.
Participants. We have opened this Census up to the entire world, and hope to get thousands of volunteers to respond.
Use of Data and Feedback. We hope to report the results in published journal articles, chapters, books, student theses, and professional conferences. We will also periodically update our Prejudice Census Facebook page with reports on what we find; we anticipate our first update after we receive our first 1,000 responses.
Project Funding. This research is funded by the Australian Research Council.


Catherine Hamlin

In a letter to the Canberra Times on 30 April 2020 the Reverend Robert  Willson of Deakin, in a piece entitled ‘A life well lived’, noted while that the present pandemic had rightly dominated the news, the death of Dr Catherine Hamlin should not go unnoticed

Catherine was born in Sydney in 1924 and in 1958 she and her husband Dr Reg Hamlin went to Ethiopia to set up a school of midwifery in Addis Ababa. More than 60,000 Ethiopian women suffering with obstetric fistulas have received surgery at the  Hamlin Fistula Hospitals 

Over several decades the Australian government and AUSAID supported the  Fistula Hospital ( see for example )

Here are extracts from the Official Obituary from Catherine Hamlin Fistula Foundation (see )

‘The world is mourning the death of Australia’s most renowned obstetrician and gynaecologist, Dr Catherine Hamlin AC, who died, age 96 at her home in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Wednesday March 18th, 2020.

‘Catherine, together with her late husband Dr Reginald Hamlin OBE, co-founded Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia, a healthcare network treating women who suffer from the debilitating effects of an obstetric fistula – a horrific childbirth injury.’

Her husband Reg died in 1993.

‘She was much-admired for her work in Australia and globally. She was twice nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, has been recognised by the United Nations as a pioneer in fistula surgery, in 1995 Catherine was awarded Australia’s highest honour – the Companion of the Order of Australia, in 2018 she was named NSW Senior Australian of the Year. In 2012, the Ethiopian Government awarded Catherine Honorary Ethiopian Citizenship and in 2019 the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed presented her with Eminent Citizen Award in recognition of her lifetime of service to the women of Ethiopia.’

In 2020 Catherine celebrated her 61st year in Ethiopia, having lived most of her life there. 





Nigerian art at the NGA

The National Gallery of Australia in Canberra purchased six Bini/Edo items and one ‘Bronze had in the Udo style’  in 1973, some with interesting provenance.
Some of these used to be on display but are probably in store. At the time writing (April 2020) of this is irrelevant because the NGA is closed because of COVID-19.

One of the best items (with photos online) is
‘Bini or Edo people, Royal Court of Benin
Northern Niger Delta, Kingdom of Benin’
Portuguese soldier, firing a gun mid-18th century 

Asking NGA staff about a ‘Benin bronze’ will not help.

ANU Law: Dahl and Ochan

African activities at ANU are often understated. Here are two examples.


The quote below describes the experience of ANU alumnus Marcus Dahl (BSc/LLB (Hons) ’18).


‘Marcus recently concluded a six-month placement as a foreign law clerk at the Constitutional Court of South Africa. He described the country’s Constitution and Bill of Rights, forged amid the challenging transformation from the injustices of the colonial and Apartheid eras, as “some of the most progressive and aspirational such documents in the world”.

“It was a privilege and honour to be welcomed into South Africa’s highest court as a foreign clerk, and my diverse friends and colleagues in this country taught me much about the role of law and rights in society. South Africa is a beautiful and complex country, and I am very grateful for (ANU College of Law Dean) Professor Sally Wheeler having mentioned to me the opportunity to apply at a time when I was only writing applications to Australian courts.

“Australia and its legal system have a lot to learn by looking to legal systems overseas, which have tried things differently, and this particularly seems to be the case in the fields of human rights law, immigration law, administrative law and Indigenous affairs.

“South Africa and Australia have much more in common than one would assume, and I’m very glad that I ignored the advice of those who said I should never risk moving to Johannesburg, which I’ve found is one of the most amazing cities in the world,” he said


Prisca Ochan is a Uganda-born law student. Identifying as an African Australian she was President of ANUASA in 2019.

Prisca reports that she
‘was recently recognised as an Inspiring Woman at ANU Law who is “reshaping the world” this International Women’s Day. In my interview I detail the importance of particularly acknowledging the varied experiences of women and how our intersecting identities can shape our experiences. I also talk about my hope for a more diverse legal profession in the future, one in which there are more faces like mine, among other things. ‘


Caldwell Fellowship 2020 for Early Career African Researcher

In 2020, the Caldwell Fellowship will support one early career African researcher to undertake research at the ANU for a one-year period. The position will be based within the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health in the Research School of Population Health, undertaking research related to the effects of climate change (including other environmental changes such as air pollution and urbanisation) on human health. The Fellowship will fund travel to and from the ANU, and salary for a level B academic.

For more details see



ANUASA team for 2020

President : Jonathan Chikankheni *
Vice President: Aisha Setipa
Secretary: Nwaobi Sandra
Treasurer: Balkissa Gambo Illo Daoura

ANUASA’s email address is and its facebook page is

*Jonathan Chikankheni is a Master of Environment student at the Fenner School with expertise in irrigation and drainage research. His current research is on exploring the benefits of simple soil water and nutrient monitoring tools as an adaptive management in smallholder irrigation schemes in Malawi.


From the Commonwealth Day Celebration Committee


The Commonwealth Day Celebration Committee is conducting its annual Multifaith Celebration on Monday 9 March 2020 at the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture.

The celebration commences at 11 am at the chapel of the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture (15 Blackall Street, Barton) and will involve leaders from all of the major religions as well as cultural performances representing various Commonwealth countries. The Queen’s Commonwealth Day message will be read by His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd.). Representatives of Commonwealth and Territory governments, Commonwealth High Commissions and religious leaders of many faiths will participate.

The theme for this year’s Commonwealth Day Celebration is Climate Action and the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth is made up of 54 nations and is home to 2 billion people, a quarter of the world. The Commonwealth celebrates valued relationships between its nations who share common ideals in democratic governance, adherence to freedom and acknowledgement of diversity.

It is open to all to attend.

Attendees should ensure that they are present from 10.45am. Adequate onsite parking is available.

For further information:
Terry Walls, Promotion and Media, Commonwealth Day Celebration Committee
Ph: 0407 065 570 Email: