31 May 2022

Somalia/Horn of Africa/US: Washington has announced the redeployment of troops in Somalia. While the internal situation (al-Shabaab, Somali government, AU forces) has hardly changed since the US pull-out in 2020, rivalry with Russia seems to be the reason for this new US engagement. Under president Farmaajo, who has just been voted out of office, Somalia aligned with Ethiopia and Eritrea (and even had troops fighting at their side against Tigre) – both of these countries being close to Moscow. The new Somali president Hassan is rather seen as a US ally. The US redeployment will “shore up a president with the will and potential to withstand the Russian-backed alliance of Eritrea and Ethiopia in the Horn” and thus broaden US support in the region of the Horn.

East Africa/Sea cucumbers: The coastal zones of Eastern Africa are being depleted of sea cucumber because of high demand in China (food and medicine). Prices locally are at most 40 USD per kg, in Hong Kong or China, 1 kg fetches up to 300 USD. From 2012 to 2018, 3,800 tonnes of sea cucumber were exported from East Africa to Hong Kong. Sea cucumbers have been listed as an endangered species. They perform an important role “in the marine ecosystem by recycling nutrients and breaking down other organic matter that enables biodegradation. They have been described as the ‘vacuum cleaners of the ocean’ – they eat dead plant and animal matter, and then expel cleaner, oxygenated sand.” As a first step to reduce sea cucumber over-exploitation, the different countries’ laws should be harmonised.

Sudan: After lifting the state of emergency, the junta has freed 125 political prisoners, leaders of the Resistance Committees that have spearheaded anti-military protests since the October coup d’état. The junta now hopes for face-to-face talks with civil society.
BBC Africa Live 31 May 2022. 8:27

Madagascar/Photography: Ramily – Emile Rakotondrazaka is his real name – is considered “the grandfather of Malagasy photography”. He died in 2017. A major exhibition now goes on show at Antananarivo’s Hakanto Contemporary art space. BBC shows 8 of the photographs on show there.
BBC Africa Live 31 May 2022. 16:52

30 May 2022

One cannot repair a fallen tree
BBC Africa Live 30 May 2022. 4:29. Our proverb of the day. A Beti proverb sent by Sandrine Mengue Essomba in Yaoundé, Cameroon.

Senegal/Rape: Lady Mounass, a Senegalese singer, has dared to speak out openly about when she was raped by two men in 2011. The song she made about it became the soundtrack of a government campaign that toured the country to sensitize about sexual violence and to inform about the legal support available to women. While Lady Mounass had decided that the shame was not hers to carry, in many circumstances, rape victims are the ones who are shamed. And then there is that terrible concept of “sutura” omnipresent in Senegalese society – something like “discretion” – that puts pressure on victims to stay silent. The BBC article goes on to tell the stories of two 19-year olds who have been expelled from their families because of the shame of their being raped and who now live in the country’s first refuge for victims of domestic and sexual violence in a suburb of Dakar. Rape has been made a crime in Senegal in 2020, punishment for it goes from 10 years to life. Police officers are being trained so as to make it easier for women and girls to report rape and other cases of sexual violence.

Nigeria/Violence against women: The article’s author’s research looked into the question whether work status played a role in violence against women from their partners. It certainly does. There is an absolute side to the answer to this question: women in prestigious occupations are overall less likely to experience spousal violence; on the other hand, men in prestigious occupations are more violent towards their spouses than men in less prestigious occupations. Secondly, there is a relative side to the question: “Women in occupations of similar rank to their partners were twice as likely to experience physical and emotional violence, compared to women ranked lower than their partners. Women in more prestigious jobs than their husbands were seven times more likely to experience physical and emotional violence, compared to women ranked lower than their husbands.”

Chad: The junta proves inventive: all public demonstrations have been banned in N’Djamena because of a “very high terrorist alert”.
BBC Africa Live 30 May 2022. 9:26

South Africa: President Ramaphosa, in his non-political years after 1994, was one of the biggest beneficiaries of Black Economic Empowerment. He has now announced an overhaul of the programme, because results were not satisfactory: “We have gone backwards when it comes to increasing black management control, upscaling skills development, entrenching enterprise development and broadening procurement to give opportunities to black women and the youth.” Black ownership of stock exchange-listed companies, for example, is still minimal.
BBC Africa Live 30 May 2022. 10:37

African UN peacekeeping missions: According to the aricle’s author – who is a peacekeeping mission expert – most such UN missions are a success and do good. Media, however, focus on things going wrong and thus present a wrong image. The biggest 4 of the current 12 UN peacekeeping missions worldwide are in Africa (Congo-Kinshasa, Central African Republic, Mali, South Sudan) and African countries supply most of the troops.

Somalia: Hassan Sheikh is assuming office in a tense and volatile context with inflation and unemployment high and drought affecting millions. The first time Hassan was president, he did not reign in his inner circle – which proved extremely corrupt. Hope is that he’ll appoint other people this time. And there is the problem of Al-Shabaab, negotiations with them seem possible and could prove profitable – but they go against the US strategy that relies on the military only.

Somalia: The recent announcement of the USA that it would once again send about 450 soldiers to Somalia will not mean much of a change – what US soldiers did without being stationed inside Somalia, they will now do from within the country. The article’s author calls al-Shabaab a “symptom” of the general and persistent “lack of consensus about governing” in the country. Reconciling the many factions of the elite should be a first step – and then negotiations with al-Shabaab, which “has proved a deadly and resilient opponent for over 15 years with the ability to generate the resources, fighters and administrative systems to carry out a persistently high tempo of attacks.” A purely military victory seems out of reach.

Congo-Kinshasa/Coltan: Worldwide, DRC is by far the biggest coltan producer. Coltan is used to “make heat-resistant capacitors in laptops, cellphones, and other high-end electronic devices.” But the mining of coltan causes deforestation, erosion, pollution of rivers, thus “large-scale environmental degradation (and also) human rights abuses, violence and death.” There are tens of thousands of children working in coltan mining.

South Africa/Marine environment: The article’s author’s study of False Bay, a 30km wide bay at the perimeter of Cape Town, looked at seawater, sediment, seaweed, and five marine invertebrates and fish. There is plenty of reason to worry. The study found the presence of numerous pharmaceuticals, chemical compounds and pollutants which all “point to major flaws in the city’s wastewater treatment plants”.