Outside the Hotel Ivoire in Abidjan, Cte d'Ivoire's main city, loyalist youths recently milled around the site where as many as ten protestors were killed days earlier in a confrontation with French peacekeepers. As I began talking to one of the young men--a member of the self-styled Young Patriots movement of pro-government militants--a small crowd quickly gathered, watching me closely. Fortunately, I passed the initial nationality test.
On a Sunday just before Christmas in a village near Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, the silent air is more reminiscent of a church service than of the presidential election taking place that day. A young woman approaches the open-air voting table, picks up a paper showing President Obiang Nguema's picture, and hands it to an officer for sealing and posting in the ballot box.