"For instance: In the film, Muse briefly mentions foreign vessels coming to take away the fish off the Somali coast. Viewers new to the subject may not know what to make of these remarks, but they refer to what many observers believe was aprecipitating cause of the uptick in Somali piracy roughly 20 years ago. When the regime of longtime Somali dictator Siad Barre collapsed in 1991, the country was plunged into ongoing violence between rival armed groups and left without a central government capable of defending the country’s economic interests—including the “exclusive economic zone” off the Somali coast. Fleets from Europe and Asia quickly moved in, depleting the supply of fish.
As an African Development Bank report from 2011 put it, “Fishermen, dismayed at the inability of the central government to protect their country’s EEZ, and at the number of foreign fishing vessels illegally exploiting their traditional fisheries, took matters into their own hands. Initially arming themselves to chase off the illegal foreign fishing vessels, they quickly realized that robbing the vessels was a lucrative way to make up for lost income. Seeing their success, land based warlords co-opted some of the new pirates, organizing them into increasingly sophisticated gangs.” (There have also been periodic reports of toxic waste being dumped off Somalia’s shores, including by the Italian mafia.)”
As South Sudan faces up to a host of development challenges, it badly needs a unifying vision to harness the new country’s optimism. Andrew Green reports.
South Sudan’s somber anniversary.
Providing reparation for colonial abuses in Kenya is an important first step, and the UK must do the same elsewhere.
Depiction of Mansa Musa, ruler of the Mali Empire, from a 1375 Catalan Atlas drawn by Abraham Cresques. Musa, who was the tenth mansa or “King of Kings” of Mali, is shown holding a gold nugget and wearing a European-style crown, signifying his status as one of the richest and most powerful rulers in the world.
The Mali Empire, which covered much of West Africa, once produced half of the world’s gold and salt, becoming a major economic and trading power in and beyond the continent (that’s why the Malian city of Timbuktu, which was a major center in the empire, remains prominent in our vernacular to this day).
By some accounts, Emperor Musa — also known as the Emir of Melle, Lord of the Mines of Wangara, Conqueror of Ghanata, Futa-Jallon, and at least another dozen titles — amassed around $400 billion during his reign from 1312 to 1337, which would make him the richest man in human history.
A devout Muslim, he built mosques, universities, observatories, and other public works throughout his empire, often hiring Europeans and Arabs as architects. At its height, the empire encompassed 400 sophisticated cities which drew in visitors and students from Africa, Europe, and the Middle-East.
During his famous pilgrimage to Mecca, the pious Musa donated his money freely to the poor, and reportedly built mosques every Friday wherever he went. In fact, he spent and gave away so much gold that he reportedly (and inadvertently) triggered economic inflation in the region. This is the only time in recorded history that one man directly controlled the price of gold in the region. His gold even indirectly financed the Italian Renaissance.
The last known rhinoceroses in Mozambique have been wiped out by poachers apparently working in cahoots with the game rangers responsible for protecting them, it has emerged.
AFRICANGLOBE - Two African students have created a malaria-repellant soap using local herbs, and have won, consequently, a $25,000 Global Social Venture Competition award. The GSVC is the only international competition of Social Business Plans, dedicated to students, young graduates, and entrepreneurs.
David Farley travels to Ethiopia to find the source of a global obsession. The first thing Azeb wanted to know about me was if I was on Facebook. After that she got to the less important stuff: Where I was from, if I was married, had kids, believed in God—and what was I doing in southern Ethiopia.
During the Rwandan genocide, when neighbors killed neighbors and friends betrayed friends, some crossed lines of hatred to protect each other.
At the time of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, the Mufti of Rwanda, the most respected Muslim leader in the country, issued a fatwa forbidding Muslims from participating in the killing of the Tutsi. As the country became a slaughterhouse, mosques became places of refuge where Muslims and Christians, Hutus and Tutsis came together to protect each other. KINYARWANDA is based on true accounts from survivors who took refuge at the Grand Mosque of Kigali and the madrassa of Nyanza. It recounts how the Imams opened the doors of the mosques to give refuge to the Tutsi and those Hutu who refused to participate in the killing.
Lol, I wonder why narratives like *this* around Islam don’t circulate…
Feb. 22 2013
President Obama announced Friday that about 100 U.S. troops have been deployed to the West African country of Niger, where defense officials said they are setting up a drone base to spy on al-Qaeda fighters in the Sahara.
It was the latest step by the Pentagon to increase its intelligence-gathering across Africa in response to what officials see as a rising threat from militant groups.
In a letter to Congress, Obama said about 40 U.S. service members arrived in Niger on Wednesday, bringing the total number of troops based there to “approximately” 100. He said the troops, which are armed for self-protection, would support a French-led military operation in neighboring Mali, where al-Qaeda fighters and other militants have carved out a refuge in a remote territory the size of Texas.
The base in Niger marks the opening of another far-flung U.S. military front against al-Qaeda and its affiliates, adding to drone combat missions in Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia. The CIA is also conducting drone airstrikes against al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan and Yemen.
Senior U.S. officials have said for months that they would not put U.S. military “boots on the ground” in Mali, an impoverished nation that has been mired in chaos since March, when a U.S.-trained Malian army captain took power in a coup. But U.S. troops are becoming increasingly involved in the conflict from the skies and the rear echelons, where they are supporting French and African forces seeking to stabilize the region.
Obama did not explicitly reveal the drone base in his letter to Congress, but he said the U.S. troops in Niger would “provide support for intelligence collection” and share the intelligence with French forces in Mali.
A U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to provide details about military operations, said that the 40 troops who arrived in Niger on Wednesday were almost all Air Force personnel and that their mission was to support drone flights.
The official said drone flights were “imminent” but declined to say whether unarmed, unmanned Predator aircraft had arrived in Niger or how many would be deployed there.
The drones will be based at first in the capital, Niamey. But military officials would like to eventually move them north to the city of Agadez, which is closer to parts of Mali where al-Qaeda cells have taken root.
“That’s a better location for the mission, but it’s not feasible at this point,” the official said, describing Agadez as a frontier city “with logistical challenges.”
The introduction of Predators to Niger fills a gap in U.S. military capabilities over the Sahara, most of which remains beyond the reach of its drone bases in East Africa and southern Europe.
The U.S. military has been flying small turboprop surveillance planes over northern Mali and West Africa for years, but the PC-12 spy aircraft have limited range and lack the sophisticated sensors that Predators carry.
U.S. military contractors have been flying PC-12 surveillance aircraft from Agadez for several months. Those planes do not carry military markings and only require a handful of people to operate.
In contrast, Predators need ground crews to launch, recover and maintain the drones. Those crews, in turn, require armed personnel for protection.
The U.S. defense official said it is likely that more U.S. troops will deploy to Niger but declined to be specific. “I think it’s safe to say the number will probably grow,” he said.
The Predators in Niger will only conduct surveillance, not airstrikes, the official said. “This is purely an intelligence-gathering mission,” he said. Other officials said the Obama administration had not ruled out arming the Predators with missiles in the future.
Information collected from reconnaissance missions will be shared with the French and other African militaries so they can attack al-Qaeda targets, officials said.
There is evidence that al-Qaeda fighters in West Africa are already bracing for drone warfare. The Associated Press reported finding an al-Qaeda document in Timbuktu, Mali, that listed 22 tips for avoiding drones. Among other countermeasures, it advised hiding “under thick trees” and buying off-the-shelf electronic scramblers “to confuse the frequencies used to control the drone.”
Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world, signed an agreement with the United States last month that provides legal safeguards for U.S. forces stationed there. Nigerien officials are concerned about the spillover of violence and refugees from Mali, which has threatened to destabilize the entire region.
Because Mali’s coup leaders toppled a democratically elected government, the U.S. government is prohibited by law from giving direct military aid to Mali.
Johnnie Carson, the State Department’s top diplomat for Africa, told reporters Friday that security assistance and other aid could “immediately” resume to Mali “if there is a restoration of democracy.” Mali has tentatively scheduled elections for July.
The French military launched a surprise intervention in Mali last month after Islamist fighters swept south and threatened to take over much of the country.
Since then, about 4,000 French troops and a coalition of about 6,000 African forces have retaken major cities in northern Mali, chasing al-Qaeda fighters and other militants into remote areas. One French official described combat operations there as “a little like Afghanistan.”
French military leaders have said they would begin a partial withdrawal next month. Their strategy hinges on enlisting Malian troops and other African forces to act as peacekeepers, while negotiating side deals to persuade some of Mali’s many militant factions to turn against al-Qaeda.
But al-Qaeda fighters and other Islamist militants have quickly adopted guerrilla tactics and show no sign of disappearing. Car bombs and suicide attacks have flared in recent days and are likely to intensify in the coming weeks, Carson acknowledged.
“There’s no question that [al-Qaeda] has not been totally defeated, but they have been significantly degraded,” he said at a breakfast sponsored by the Center for Media and Security.
The link between violence and domestic unrest on the one hand, and population growth on the other, becomes clear from a glance at the U.N.’s World Population Prospects report, published in 2006. Of the 29 countries that were reckoned to be experiencing a population growth rate of more than 2.5 percent, almost all were experiencing high levels of violence, the clear exceptions being Malawi, Togo, Madagascar, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan. You might call this the “2.5 percent rule,” since there is a far less noticeable link in those countries experiencing a rate of growth that falls below this figure.
Many people ask me why “Africa is so messed up.” History is a very complex thing, and there are many dynamics and factors to take into account that can’t be fit into a single post. Needless to say, European colonialism remains a central cause.
Start by looking closely at a political map of Africa. You may notice that the borders appear very strange and nonsensical, and that’s because they are. Africa was carved up arbitrarily, based only on what resources were available to the colonizers: geography and ethnicity were ignored; so for example, tribal and linguistic groups with nothing in common (and thus no sense of unity) found themselves wrapped into borders that weren’t of their choosing. Other ethnic groups that were in political union for centuries were split across several states that never existed before and which they subsequently didn’t identify with. This is a major reason why civil wars remain so common on the continent.
Secondly, what are today African *countries* were designed solely to be *colonies.* In other words, they weren’t intended to be states but mere sources of labor and goods. Thus, Europeans didn’t create proper infrastructure, form a civil service, or educate their subjects. When these countries became independent, they didn’t have the expertise, training, or administrative infrastructure to run themselves. Again, they were never meant to be countries, and thus didn’t form “naturally.” The native leaders who took over were either puppets of European (and often US) interests, or - in an effort to move away from the ex-colonizers that still wanted influence - tried to form their own path, which made them subject to coups and assassinations (ex.Patrice Lumumba).
Finally, the method of colonial rule - which included mass terror, forced labor, divide-and-rule, and authoritarianism - left their mark on African political culture and society. Not only were entire regions left depopulated (the central African colonies of Portugal, France, and Belgium lost around 50% of their population), but African rulers soon adopted the same methods that had served the Europeans well. As political theorist Ibn Khaldun observed, the oppressed often end up imitating the methods of their oppressors.
Note that these reasons apply to many other third world countries, as well, such as those of the Caribbean and Central America.
A beautiful and relaxing tune from Africa. It’s been helping me get through the day.