29 May 2021

Ethiopia: What held for Darfur, that “the debate over whether the atrocities were or weren't genocide became a distraction from dealing with what actually could be done to stop the atrocities”, could now well hold for Tigray too. This truly excellent BBC article written by Alex de Waal starts out with defining genocide including a brief overview over the term’s history. And then it turns to alternative terms (ethnic cleansing, atrocity crimes, starvation crimes), because one of the problems with “genocide” is that it takes a very long time to establish whether/that it has taken place (with Mengistu, it took 40 years).
As for the alternative terms, note that Rafael Lemkin, a Polish lawyer of Jewish descent who invented the term genocide in 1943/44, “was particularly concerned with food deprivation as a tool of genocide. In his book Axis Rule he devoted more space and attention to Nazi policies of limiting food rations to starvation levels than to gas chambers and killing squads.”

28 May 2021

The Nok/Honey 3,500 years ago: To research diet and subsistence practices of the Nok culture, organic residues of prehistoric pottery excavated from Nok culture sites in Nigeria were analysed. Surprise: one third of vessels contained biomarkers pointing to the presence of beeswax. The article speculates how honey and beeswax were used – taking inspiration also from present-day practices of honey production, harvesting and consumption (alsoof bee larvae). “There are several groups in Africa, such as the Efe foragers of the Ituri Forest, Eastern Zaire, who have historically relied on honey as their main source of food.”

Mozambique: SADC’s record of military interventions (Lesotho 1998, eastern Congo-Kinshasa 2013) is not good and since it lacks “deep contextual knowledge of the drivers of conflict” in Cabo Delgado, “(r)ather than the folly of an intervention (in this quagmire), the region should be encouraging the Mozambican state to address the grievances of the communities in Cabo Delgado.” Decentralising the state, working with communities and making sure the locals benefit from the riches in the ground should be central elements of this.

Mozambique: SADC leaders have agreed to form a joint armed force led by Mozambique to combat terrorists in Cabo Delgado. No numbers were mentioned. Bizarrely though, the announcement was missing from a joint communique.
BBC Africa Live 28 May 2021. 5:33

Tropical rainforests: If all farmland in the tropics was abandoned overnight and left to turn back into forests or rather replanted with trees, this would not have the major effects on climate that one would think, the authors’ research shows. Oceans and soils elsewhere would absorb less carbon, that is why. Surprising – but purely hypothetical.

Mali: The article, apparently written before Wednesday midday, gives an overview (with a few errors) of events in Mali since Monday. A provision of the transition charter apparently “clearly stipulate(es) that the vice-president cannot himself replace the president of the transitional government”. According to the author, the transition government represents French interests, while Assimi Goïta & Co are critical of the French and are said to be close to Russia. The article’s author puts all his trust in the international community, especially France: “they are the only ones able to resolve this fast-moving situation”.

Congo-Kinshasa: With tremors continuing and cracks appearing in the earth, Goma is half empty amid fears of another volcanic eruption of Mount Nyiragongo, a tsunami in Lake Kivu due to lava flows into its waters and a toxic gas cloud. As many as 400,000 people are thought to have fled and need to be taken care of. Officials have yesterday Thursday ordered a partial evacuation of the city.
BBC Africa Live 28 May 2021. 7:21