14 August 2021

Rwanda: A poor country subsidising a rich soccer club in Great Britain? Paul Kagame is an Arsenal fan & since 2018, there is a 42m USD sponsorship deal including Arsenal shirt sleeves carrying the inscription “Visit Rwanda”. In face of criticism, the government says that additional tourism revenue more than covers the sponsorship cost. But now Arsenal has lost to Brentford & Kagame has vented his anger on Twitter.

13 August 2021

Food insecurity in Africa: According to the FAO’s State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) report, 19% of Africans do not have access to sufficient calories – the highest proportion in the world. Climate change and violent conflicts play important roles in this. If you add people suffering from moderate levels of food insecurity (“their food supply is unpredictable, and they may have to reduce caloric intake due to seasonal fluctuations in income or other resources”), about half of Africa’s population is food-insecure. About 75% of all Africans cannot regularly afford a healthy diet (diets heavy in staples like cereals, roots and tubers and lacking fruit and vegetables which are relatively expensive) – which is especially bad for pregnant women and for children. In the latter, it can lead to stunting – “an irreversible condition. Children affected are less likely to develop proper cognitive functions or succeed at school, and are more likely to suffer from nutrition-related health problems, such as diabetes, later in life.” The pandemic is adding to the number of undernourished and food-insecure people (all the data are pre-Covid-19).

Kenya: Kenyan women and girls are increasingly being recruited by Al-Shabaab. In previous research, the article’s author had found that “women may participate willingly because the extremist ideology resonates with their religiously inclined cultural values. They may also join due to the financial benefits that come with belonging to or associating with the group. Also, women may be forced or coerced to join through deception or intimidation.” In her new study, she set out “to analyse the diverse motivations of women and girls to join Al-Shabaab in the coastal region of Kenya” and to establish the voluntariness of the decision to join. Some do make autonomous decisions to join, others’ joining reflects subservient attitudes in the patriarchal family and community setting. As for reasons, the author identified four main ones: defending faith/Muslims; responding to a personal crisis (e.g. the death of a husband at the hands of police); views of family/friends/peers rubbing off; indoctrination for women involuntarily recruited.
For a 13 minute podcast/interview with the article’s author see https://theconversation.com/al-shabaab-why-women-join-the-islamist-militant-group-podcast-165276

Madagascar: Has the coup plot been invented by Rajoelina to distract from Covid-19 and “the country’s dire socio-economic situation”? But “given the military’s history of meddling in politics”, the amateurish coup plot may not be so implausible after all. In any case: a coup is not what Madagascar needs: “(i)ts still shaky political foundations must be consolidated so that the country’s massive socio-economic problems can be tackled with purpose and vigour”

Libya: An arrest warrant has been issued against Saif al-Islam Gaddafi (Muammar Gaddafi’s son) “over suspected ties to Russian mercenaries”. He’s long been rumoured to be close to Moscow. Seen as the likely successor before his father’s death, imprisoned for six years by a militia, sentenced to death by a court in Tripoli in absentia, later released and still in hiding, he had recently announced that he planned to return to politics.

Algeria: Journalist Rabah Kareche has been sentenced to one year in prison with four months suspended for “spreading false information liable to damage public order”, having reported “that a minority group had demonstrated over economic and social marginalisation”. Amnesty International had called Rabah Kareche’s jailing “a blow to press freedom in the country” and fellow journalists had protested.

Islamic State/Lake Chad Basin: Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), split from Boko Haram in 2016, is being used by Islamic State (IS) “to further its expansionist agenda”. They were told to get rid of Abubakar Shekau in order to occupy his stronghold Sambisa which IS considers a much better base for extending its influence (instead of the former Lake Chad island). “ISWAP is being restructured into four caliphates – Sambisa Forest, Alagarno Forest (nicknamed Timbuktu), Tumbuma, and the Lake Chad islands, each with its own semi-autonomous leadership”, all in Nigeria’s Borno state. Combatants who had left ISWAP between 2016 and 2018 are now returning, at least 130 have already done so and another 70 or more are expected. According to the article’s author, it is high time to do something against IS/ISWAP – before they take root.