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Kenya: The Politics of the Permanent Electoral Cycle

8 min read.

With the 2022 succession games already well underway, a cold war in Jubilee rapidly developing into an all-out fight, could the government collapse before the next election? At least five governors will be eyeing the national political arena with interest. Will any of them run? What does all this mean for future political alliances. NIC CHEESEMAN does some scenario-setting.

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Kenya - the Politics of the Permanent Electoral Cycle
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We have not yet reached end of 2018 and the next election campaign has already been underway for a number of months – even though there is still three years until the polls come around. This is the intensification of a long-term trend that began in the 1990s, in which political decisions and alliances are shaped not simply by what would make for good policy, but with a view to winning the next election. Indeed, one could even say that Kenya has been embroiled in an almost continuous election campaign that is recalibrated, but not actually brought to an end, by the elections themselves. This is really important: it means that everyday politics is not about solving current problems, but winning future contests.

It is also exhausting, because it ensures that there is no let up for party leaders, activists, and ordinary citizens. Being in a continuous election campaign means that there is little time to take a break, lick one’s wounds, and recover. It is therefore unsurprising that the Kenyan media has seen an upsurge in stories about election fatigue. Despite this, there is no sign that the politics of continuous elections is going to stop any time soon. Instead, the high levels of uncertainty surrounding the next polls mean that early campaigning is likely to be particularly intense this time around. Not only will the country have a new president in 2022, but the political manoeuvrings of the last two years mean that the elections are likely to be contested by a new set of political alliances.

Nothing is more likely to inspire Kenyan political leaders to start mobilizing their supporters than the prospect of a vacant presidency and an open playing field.

But what kind of election will Kenya have in 2022? As things stand, the country seems to be at the start of a process of political fragmentation that may result in the most complex, messy and unpredictable general election since 1992. Not only are the two broad coalitions that have dominated the last couple of elections coming apart at the seams, but we may well see the first ever presidential run-off. If this comes to pass, it will significantly increase the potential for a divisive and controversial contest.

The fate of the Jubilee Party

For the past few months the political headlines have been dominated by the succession battle within the Jubilee Party. Feeling insecure about the loyalty of some of his supposed allies, and aware that he is not well liked in many areas, Deputy President William Ruto has begun to criss-cross the country in a bid to strengthen his support base. In turn, this has angered his rivals within the government such as Jubilee vice chairman, David Murathe, who became the latest in a long line of Kenyatta allies to bemoan the fact that Ruto has effectively started campaigning for the next election, when he complained that: “When you go to an area and all you speak about is 2022, it is upsetting some of us because it will distract the President from achieving his promises to Kenyans.”

What kind of election will Kenya have in 2022? As things stand, the country seems to be at the start of a process of political fragmentation that may result in the most complex, messy and unpredictable general election since 1992.

In response, Ruto’s supporters have accused his critics of being ethnic chauvinists who want to maintain a Kikuyu in power at all costs, and argue that there is no harm in him campaigning as he is Kenyatta’s natural and chosen successor. After all, many of Jubilee’s rallies during the 2017 campaign explicitly invoked Ruto as the party’s next leader.

The growing tensions between Ruto and his rivals within the Jubilee party may play out in a number of ways. It is possible that this war of words will continue to escalate until a point where the cold war within the government becomes so hot that the Jubilee government falls apart. One development that could trigger this process is the president’s anti-corruption drive, which some Ruto supporters have argued is deliberately being used to disadvantage the Deputy President’s allies, weakening his grip in the party. If the flow of funds dries up, Ruto will become increasingly desperate, and that could provoke a more open confrontation.

A second option is that the current feud rumbles on without a clear resolution until the next election, rendering parts of the government dysfunctional, and leading to a final implosion on the eve of the next campaign. Given that Jubilee would struggle to command authority in some areas without Ruto, this seems more likely. It would also fit with what we know about the president. If Kenyatta’s history is anything to go by, he is unlikely to throw a close colleague under the bus a long time before he needs to. A much more sensible option, and one that fits better with his sense of loyalty, would be to continue to pledge his support to Ruto personally while doing little to further the Deputy President’s campaign and allowing his allies in the party to direct their funding to rival Jubilee candidates.

The growing tensions between Ruto and his rivals within the Jubilee party may play out in a number of ways. It is possible that this war of words will continue to escalate until a point where the cold war within the government becomes so hot that the Jubilee government falls apart. One development that could trigger this process is the president’s anti-corruption drive, which some Ruto supporters have argued is deliberately being used to disadvantage the Deputy President’s allies, weakening his grip in the party. If the flow of funds dries up, Ruto will become increasingly desperate, and that could provoke a more open confrontation.

The third option, of course, is that the president stays true to his word and not only publicly endorses Ruto but also cajoles his allies into backing him. In this context, the main question that would need to be answered would be whether or not Kenyatta has the personal authority to persuade some of the country’s most powerful individuals to do something that they don’t want to do, and which many believe is not in their interests. The balance of probabilities suggests that now that relations between the Kenyatta and Ruto camps have deteriorated to such a great extent, a small proportion of leaders and voters in Central Province may follow their leader, but many more will not.

Political fragmentation and generational change

Whichever of these three scenarios comes to pass, it seems unlikely that the political system will coalesce back into the two broad coalitions that have characterised the last few elections. For one thing, Jubilee will be left deeply fragmented. If Ruto stands, drawing some support from within Jubilee and forming new alliances with figures that are currently in the opposition, it seems likely that we will also see a representative of the anti-Ruto faction within Jubilee on the ballot. This may be a prominent governor or one of Ruto’s rivals within his own community, such as Gideon Moi.

But we may also see other strong candidates throwing their hats into the ring. Of course, Kenya is no stranger to third party candidates capable of mobilizing their communities. In 2007, Kalonzo Musyoka split from his ODM colleagues and polled just under 9%. Six years later, Musalia Mudavadi also went it alone, although he only managed 4% of the vote. But in both of these cases, it was clear before the election that the third party candidates were bit part players and that in reality the election remained a two-horse race.

This time around, things could be very different. If Raila Odinga decides to take one more short at the presidency – something that his supporters such as Makadara MP George Aladwa are already talking about – then Kenya would have three viable presidential candidates for the first time since the 1990s. And that would be without any of the newly empowered governors such as Hassan Joho and Mike Sonko moving into national politics.

Importantly, this may the beginning of a new trend. If Odinga does stand, it will surely be his last election. Many other opposition stalwarts such as James Orengo are close to 70. On the other side of the fence, Kenyatta will be stepping down and some of the other prominent Kikuyu leaders of the past such as Martha Karua have either suffered a decline in their political fortunes, or have not proved to be popular with voters – as with Peter Kenneth. One consequence of these developments is that all of the main alliances are in real need of new leaders who can take over the mantle and reinvigorate their support base. In turn, this means that the 2022 election has the greatest potential yet to generate a changing of the political guard.

From this election onwards a stream of governors who have served two-terms will be relinquishing their posts. Having served as the heads of counties, they are unlikely to be interested in the positions of MP and Senator. In other words, for figures such as Alfred Mutua (Machakos) and Josphat Nanok (Turkana), the only way is up. The increasing number of governors seeking to move into the national political arena will increase the potential for political fragmentation – especially as these figures will bring with them a support base, patronage network and war chest from their time in office.

Integrating this new set of ambitious and influential leaders back into two political coalitions – which only have limited positions that can be used to accommodate people – is likely to prove extremely difficult.

The prospect of uncertainty

A three-way election contest between candidates of this stature would result in a very different presidential contest in at least two ways.

From this election onwards a stream of governors who have served two-terms will be relinquishing their posts. Having served as the heads of counties, they are unlikely to be interested in the positions of MP and Senator. In other words, for figures such as Alfred Mutua (Machakos) and Josphat Nanok (Turkana), the only way is up. The increasing number of governors seeking to move into the national political arena will increase the potential for political fragmentation – especially as these figures will bring with them a support base, patronage network and war chest from their time in office.

First, and most obviously, with three candidates capable of securing around 30-40% of the vote each, it would be extremely unlikely that any one candidate could win an absolute majority in the first round, making a second round much more likely. Such a development would have two important consequences.

On the one hand, the electoral commission will face a significant challenge to prepare a run-off election in a short period of time – a challenge that it clearly did not meet in 2017. On the other hand, the losing candidate will be placed in the position of “kingmaker”, able to decide who wins the presidential poll on the basis of who they encourage their supporters to back. This would encourage the kind of patronage politics seen in 2007/8, when Kalonzo Musyoka effectively sold his support – and legislative influence – to President Mwai Kibaki in return for being made Vice President.

Second, and perhaps less obviously, a three (or four) horse race would increase the focus on ethnic politics during the campaign. Although many commentators have rightly been critical of some of the consequences of coalition politics in Kenya, the emergence of CORD, NASA and Jubilee has at least brought different leaders together into broad alliances that represent a number of communities. In turn, this has encouraged them to identify election messages that do not only appeal to one community, ensuring that even if campaigns remain grounded in an ethnic logic, it is a least a multi-ethnic logic.

Things will be very different in 2022 if we see a larger number of more ethnically concentrated campaigns. In this case, leaders will face stronger incentives to appeal to a smaller number of more homogenous supporters, and hence to run more divisive campaigns. This development will be particularly problematic if the fragmentation of Jubilee exacerbates tensions between the Kalenjin and Kikuyu communities, ending the marriage of convenience that helped to prevent political violence in the Rift Valley in 2013 and 2017.

Perhaps less obviously, a three- (or four-) horse race would increase the focus on ethnic politics during the campaign. Although many commentators have rightly been critical of some of the consequences of coalition politics in Kenya, the emergence of CORD, NASA and Jubilee has at least brought different leaders together into broad alliances that represent a number of communities. In turn, this has encouraged them to identify election messages that do not only appeal to one community, ensuring that even if campaigns remain grounded in an ethnic logic, it is a least a multi-ethnic logic.

The combination of a more fractious campaign and greater time pressure on the electoral commission is a potentially dangerous one. Against a backdrop of uncertainty, ethnic polarization and the breakdown of the government, anything other than responsible political leadership and a high-quality process may result in further controversy and unrest.

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Nic Cheeseman (@fromagehomme) is Professor of Democracy and the editor of www.democracyinafrica.org

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Haiti: The Struggle for Democracy, Justice, Reparations and the Black Soul

Only the Haitian people can decide their own future. The dictatorship imposed by former president Jovenel Moïse and its imperialist enablers need to go – and make space for a people’s transition government.

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Haiti: The Struggle for Democracy, Justice, Reparations and the Black Soul
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Haiti is once again going through a profound crisis. Central to this is the struggle against the dictatorship imposed by former president Jovenel Moïse. Since last year Mr. Moise, after decreeing the dismissal of Parliament, has been ruling through decrees, permanently violating Haiti’s constitution. He has refused to leave power after his mandate ended on February 7, 2021, claiming that it ends on February 7 of next year, without any legal basis.

This disregard of the constitution is taking place despite multiple statements by the country’s main judicial bodies, such as the CSPJ (Superior Council of Judicial Power) and the Association of Haitian Lawyers. Numerous religious groups and numerous institutions that are representative of society have also spoken. At this time, there is a strike by the judiciary, which leaves the country without any public body of political power.

At the same time, this institutional crisis is framed in the insecurity that affects practically all sectors of Haitian society. An insecurity expressed through savage repressions of popular mobilizations by the PNH (Haitian National Police), which at the service of the executive power. They have attacked journalists and committed various massacres in poor neighborhoods. Throughout the country, there have been assassinations and arbitrary arrests of opponents.

Most recently, a judge of the High Court was detained under the pretext of promoting an alleged plot against the security of the State and to assassinate the president leading to the illegal and arbitrary revocation of three judges of this Court. This last period has also seen the creation of hundreds of armed groups that spread terror over the entire country and that respond to power, transforming kidnapping into a fairly prosperous industry for these criminals.

The 13 years of military occupation by United Nations troops through MINUSTAH and the operations of prolongation of guardianship through MINUJUSTH and BINUH have aggravated the Haitian crisis. They supported retrograde and undemocratic sectors who, along with gangsters, committed serious crimes against the Haitian people and their fundamental rights.

For this, the people of Haiti deserve a process of justice and reparations. They have paid dearly for the intervention of MINUSTAH: 30 THOUSAND DEAD from cholera transmitted by the soldiers, thousands of women raped, who now raise orphaned children. Nothing has changed in 13 years, more social inequality, poverty, more difficulties for the people. The absence of democracy stays the same.

The poor’s living conditions have worsened dramatically as a result of more than 30 years of neoliberal policies imposed by the International Financial Institutions (IFIs), a severe exchange rate crisis, the freezing of the minimum wage, and inflation above 20% during the last three years.

It should be emphasized that, despite this dramatic situation, the Haitian people remain firm and are constantly mobilizing to prevent the consolidation of a dictatorship by demanding the immediate leave of office by former President Jovenel Moïse.

Taking into account the importance of this struggle and that this dictatorial regime still has the support of imperialist governments such as the United States of America, Canada, France, and international organizations such as the UN, the OAS, and the EU, the IPA calls its members to contribute their full and active solidarity to the struggle of the Haitian people, and to sign this Petition that demands the end of the dictatorship as well as respect for the sovereignty and self-determination of the Haitian people, the establishment of a transition government led by Haitians to launch a process of authentic national reconstruction.

In addition to expressing our solidarity with the Haitian people’s resistance, we call for our organisations to demonstrate in front of the embassies of the imperialist countries and before the United Nations. Only the Haitian people can decide their future. Down with Moise and yes to a people’s transition government, until a constituent is democratically elected.

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Deconstructing the Whiteness of Christ

While many African Christians can only imagine a white Jesus, others have actively promoted a vision of a brown or black Jesus, both in art and in ideology.

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When images of a white preacher and actor going around Kenya playing Jesus turned up on social media in July 2019, people were rightly stunned by the white supremacist undertone of the images. They suggested that Africans were prone to seeing Jesus as white, promoting the white saviour narrative in the process. While it is true that the idea of a white Jesus has been prevalent in African Christianity even without a white actor, and many African Christians and churches still entertain images of Jesus as white because of the missionary legacy, many others have actively promoted a vision of Jesus as brown or black both in art an in ideology.

Images of a brown or black Jesus is as old as Christianity in Africa, especially finding a prominent place in Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which has been in existence for over sixteen hundred years. Eyob Derillo, a librarian at the British Library, recently brought up a steady diet of these images on Twitter. The image of Jesus as black has also been popularised through the artistic project known as Vie de Jesus Mafa (Life of Jesus Mafa) that was conducted in Cameroon.

The most radical expression of Jesus as a black person was however put forth by a young Kongolese woman called Kimpa Vita, who lived in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century. Through the missionary work of the Portuguese, Kimpa Vita, who was a nganga or medicine woman, became a Christian. She taught that Jesus and his apostles were black and were in fact born in São Salvador, which was the capital of the Kongo at the time. Not only was Jesus transposed from Palestine to São Salvador, Jerusalem, which is a holy site for Christians, was also transposed to São Salvador, so that São Salvador became a holy site. Kimpa Vita was accused of preaching heresy by Portuguese missionaries and burnt at the stake in 1706.

It was not until the 20th century that another movement similar to Vita’s emerged in the Kongo. This younger movement was led by Simon Kimbangu, a preacher who went about healing and raising the dead, portraying himself as an emissary of Jesus. His followers sometimes see him as the Holy Spirit who was to come after Jesus, as prophesied in John 14:16. Just as Kimpa Vita saw São Salvador as the new Jerusalem, Kimbangu’s village of Nkamba became, and still is known as, the new Jerusalem. His followers still flock there for pilgrimage. Kimbangu was accused of threatening Belgian colonial rule and thrown in jail, where he died. Some have complained that Kimbangu seems to have eclipsed Jesus in the imagination of his followers for he is said to have been resurrected from the dead, like Jesus.

Kimbangu’s status among his followers is however similar to that of some of the leaders of what has been described as African Independent Churches or African Initiated Churches (AICs). These churches include the Zionist churches of Southern Africa, among which is the amaNazaretha of Isaiah Shembe. Shembe’s followers see him as a divine figure, similar to Jesus, and rather than going to Jerusalem for pilgrimage, his followers go to the holy city of Ekuphakameni in South Africa. The Cameroonian theologian, Fabien Eboussi Boulaga, in his Christianity Without Fetish, see leaders like Kimbangu and Shembe as doing for their people in our own time what Jesus did for his people in their own time—providing means of healing and deliverance in contexts of grinding oppression. Thus, rather than replacing Jesus, as they are often accused of doing, they are making Jesus relevant to their people. For many Christians in Africa, therefore, Jesus is already brown or black. Other Christians still need to catch up with this development if we are to avoid painful spectacles like the one that took place Kenya.

This post is from a partnership between Africa Is a Country and The Elephant. We will be publishing a series of posts from their site once a week.

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In Magufuli’s Shadow: The Stark Choices Facing Tanzania’s New President

One immediate concern is what steps Hassan will take on the pandemic, and whether she will change direction.

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In Magufuli’s Shadow: The Stark Choices Facing Tanzania’s New President
Photo: Flickr/Gospel Kitaa
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The sudden death of Tanzania’s President John Pombe Magufuli has thrown the East African nation into a period of political uncertainty.

Vice-president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, has been sworn in as his successor, making her Tanzania’s first woman president.

The transition is all the more challenging given the major rupture – both political and economic – caused by Magufuli’s presidency. Magufuli, who won a second term in October 2020, dramatically centralised power and pursued an interventionist economic policy agenda. He courted controversy on a number of fronts, most recently, by claiming that Tanzania – contrary to mounting evidence – was Covid-free.

Hassan has called for unity and counselled that now is not the time to look at what has passed but rather to look at what is to come.

Despite the 61-year-old leader’s forward-looking stance, questions remain about how Magufuli’s legacy will shape her time in office.

The authoritarian turn

Magufuli oversaw the marginalisation of opposition parties and a decline in civil liberties. His first term was defined by heightened intimidation and violence against opposition leaders, including disappearances and physical attacks.

Thanks to five years of repression, the October 2020 general elections saw the opposition all but wiped out of elected office. The ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi now controls all local government councils. It also holds 97% of directly elected legislative seats, up from 73% in 2015.

In addition, media freedom and civil liberties were also restricted. A law passed in 2018 imposed jail terms for questioning the accuracy of official statistics.

But Magufuli’s authoritarian tendencies were not unprecedented in Tanzania. For instance, the rule of his predecessor Jakaya Kikwete was also marred by human rights abuses as well civil society and media repression. Kikwete also cancelled Zanzibar’s 2015 election due to a likely opposition victory.

It remains to be seen whether Hassan will adopt a more liberal approach, loosening restrictions on opposition parties, the media and civil society. Even if she does, the damage will take time to repair. Opposition parties, for instance, may well struggle to regain their strength. Among other setbacks, they have lost almost all local elected representatives – a core element of their organisational infrastructure built up painstakingly over decades.

Centralising power in the party

Another key pillar to Magufuli’s legacy is the centralisation of power within the Chama Cha Mapinduzi.

In the early years under founding president Julius Nyerere, Tanzania’s ruling party was dominated by the president and a hierarchy of appointed state and party officials. But, following economic liberalisation in the 1980s and Nyerere’s retirement from politics, the party became steeped in factional rivalries. These were spurred by new political alliances and an emerging private sector business elite.

This factionalism reached its height under Kikwete amid accusations of widespread corruption. Magufuli’s nomination as party presidential candidate only occurred because the rivalry among these factions left him as the unexpected compromise candidate.

Once in office, though, Magufuli quickly signalled he would be nobody’s puppet. He used his position as ruling party chairman to create a “new” Chama Cha Mapinduzi. This involved breaking with party heavyweights, including Kikwete, suppressing factional organising, and consolidating his own support base.

Magufuli’s new base was a cohort of freshly appointed party officials as well as civil servants and cabinet ministers. His loyalists likened these changes to a revival of Nyerere’s Chama Cha Mapinduzi. But, in our view, the comparison is misleading.

Like Magufuli before her, Hassan will be taking office – and party leadership – without her own political base. She will also have to contend with revived factional manoeuvring as sidelined groups try to regain an upper hand.

Hassan could align with a loyal Magufuli faction, which includes influential figures within the party. But, early indications suggest she intends to follow the advice of “party elders”, notably Kikwete. The former president reportedly attended the party’s most recent central committee meeting on Hassan’s invitation.

Aligning herself with Kikwete will likely lead to the reemergence of the internal factional rivalries that characterised the former president’s tenure.

Implications for economic policy

If president Hassan does continue to take a political steer from Kikwete, one likely outcome is that there will be a change in economic policy. In particular, a return to growth that’s led by a more business-friendly approach to the private sector.

Calls are already being made for such a course of action..

The danger for Hassan, however, is that under Kikwete this model was associated with high levels of corruption and unproductive rent-seeking.

A careful reassessment of the Magufuli era is needed to guide future policymaking.

Magufuli used his control over the ruling party to pursue an ambitious policy agenda. This was also linked to his political project of centralising power.

Although this trend actually began under Kikwete, Magufuli accelelrated a move towards more state-led investment. Under his leadership, both state-owned and, increasingly, military-owned enterprises were offered strategic contracts.

This ambitious programme initially won him praise. But over time, his authoritarian decision-making, mismanagement, and lack of transparency prompted a more critical response.

Many state enterprises remained cash-starved, relied on government financial support, and registered losses.

When the government’s controller and auditor general called for more scrutiny of public finances, his budget was slashed. And he was ultimately forced to retire and replaced by a Magufuli loyalist.

Alongside state investment, the president also sought to discipline private sector actors. Some observers suggest that this led to more productive investment, notably by domestic investors. But others point to renewed crony capitalist ties.

Magufuli’s most high profile corporate battle was against Canadian-owned Barrick Gold and its former subsidiary, Acacia Mining. From the two, he demanded USD$190 billion in tax arrears and a renegotiation of operating terms.

Many saw this resource-nationalist approach as an inspiration and a model for African countries seeking to take greater control of their mineral wealth. But in the end – partly due to externally imposed legal and economic constraints – Magufuli walked back on some of his demands. Instead he opted for cooperation rather than confrontation.

He negotiated a joint venture in which Barrick took a majority stake of 84% and Tanzania the remaining 16%. Key elements of the nationalistic mining legislation passed in 2017 were also reversed.

On the plus side gold overtook tourism as Tanzania’s biggest foreign-exchange earner. In addition, some small-scale miners saw their livelihoods improve. Results were more mixed elsewhere, especially for Tanzanite miners in the country’s north.

Ultimately, Magufuli leaves behind a mixed economic legacy. It combines misdirected authoritarian decision-making with positive efforts to pursue an active industrial policy. Reining in unproductive domestic investors and renegotiating adverse contracts with foreign investors were part of this agenda.

There is a risk, given this complex mix, that Tanzania’s policymakers may learn the wrong lessons from his presidency, leading back to the flawed model existing before.

Significantly, neither Magufuli nor his predecessors managed to achieve more inclusive growth. For this reason poverty levels have remained stubbornly high.

The pandemic and beyond

One immediate concern is what steps Hassan will take on the pandemic, and whether she will change direction.

Whatever she does, the health emergency and associated economic crisis will likely define her presidency. It could indeed define the economic trajectory of the African region in years to come.

Both Kikwete and Magufuli ruled through an economic boom period. Commodity prices were high and access to international finance was fairly easy. This gave them latitude to choose between various development approaches.

If Tanzania reverts to the status quo of the Kikwete years, the risk is a reemergence of rent-seeking but without the same highly favourable economic growth conditions. Indeed, as external conditions worsen, Hassan may find her options far more limited.The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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