17 February 2021

Adolescent girls in conflict zones: To achieve lasting peace, peacebuilding needs to be inclusive. Local actors need to be implicated. But adolescent girls are always forgotten, even where such inclusion is put into practice. In 2017 and 2018, the article’s two authors conducted a survey with 698 girls in conflict zones in South Sudan, Uganda, Niger, Nigeria and Cameroon. And found the adolescent girls to be highly aware of the security risks they faced and ready to deal with them.
Child marriage increases in times of crisis (to restore a girl’s/family’s after sexual violence; to provide physical protection from abduction, sexual violence and forced marriage by militant groups; to address economic insecurity of girls/their families – one less mouth to feed, bride price). Early marriage increases the likelihood of family violence, poverty, denial of education, and health complications associated with early pregnancy.
Conflict-related gender-based violence moreover means (fear of) abduction, sexual violence, forced recruitment by militants – which leads to restricted movement and fear of moving about the communities.
The girls’ ability to attend school is undermined. Yet school is “a protective mechanism against early marriage and family violence, a safe space to learn, a network that built their confidence and happiness, and an opportunity to develop independent pathways and future economic security”.

African Union/Gender equality: Since the AU summit, four of the six members of the AU Commission are women. While the AU Commission chairperson (Moussa Faki Mahamat) is a man, his deputy is a woman (Monique Nsanzabaganwa) – for the first time. On top of that, the female Commissioners have not been given the stereotypical gender/youth/social tasks, they are instead responsible for the blue economy, sustainable environment, infrastructure and energy, and science, technology and innovation, etc. In 2018, the AU Assembly had decided 50% women and 35% youth quotas for the staffing of the Secretariat by 2025. The new Commission points the right way. Now gender equity and equality need to be mainstreamed into all AU work (and beyond).

Birds’ orientation during migration: Studying the Eurasian reed warblers (12.5-14 cm long birds that breed in Europe and winter in Sub-saharan Africa), it has been proven that their orientation is based on a “magnetic map” that works like a system of coordinates: “if birds have learned that magnetic intensity increases as they go north, they should be able to detect their position on the north-south axis wherever they happen to be. Similarly, if they experience a declination value that is greater than anything they’ve previously experienced, they should know they’re further east. On this basis, the theory is that they can calculate their position on the grid and correct their orientation.” The big remaining question now is how the reed warblers sense the magnetic field so as to make them find their way, even when strong winds get them way off course.
N.B. Magnetism is how reed warblers and other songbirds find their way, but “(o)ther birds, including seabirds and homing pigeons, have been shown to require olfactory cues (scents and smells) to navigate. At this stage, we don’t understand the reason behind these different preferences.”

Malawi/GBV: UK’s Camellia Group will pay 3m USD to women who were allegedly (would Camellia pay if they were not?) abused, some raped, and sexually harassed at two tea estates in Malawi’s south. They had taken their case to a UK court in October 2019. The law firm representing the women said there will be compensation for the individual claimants and measures to improve the safety and security of female employees.
BBC Africa Live 17 February 2021. 13:15

Zanzibar/Covid-19: 77 year old Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad, first vice-president of Tanzania’s semi-autonomous islands of Zanzibar, has died a couple of weeks after contracting the coronavirus.
BBC Africa Live 17 February 2021. 10:21

South Africa/Covid-19: South Africa’s schools, which were closed because of second wave concerns in December, have reopened this week.
BBC Africa Live 17 February 2021. 17:17

Uganda: Several journalists reporting on Bobi Wine delivering a petition to the UN highlighting human rights abuses in the country have been beaten and injured with batons outside the UN Human Rights Office in Kampala.
BBC Africa Live 17 February 2021. 16:28

Nigeria: Gunmen have killed one pupil and abducted 27 others plus 3 members of staff and 12 of their relatives in a night-time raid on a boarding school in Kagara town in Niger state, north-west of Abuja. On Monday 20 people returning from a wedding had been abducted after an attack on their bus also in Nigeria’s Niger state.
BBC 17 February 2021. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-56095731

Mozambique: Tom Bowker, the British founder/editor of the independent website Zitamar News, has been deported and banned for 10 years from entering the country. He had been reporting extensively on the islamist insurgency in the country’s northern Cabo Delgado province while the government is trying to limit the coverage of the escalating war.
BBC Africa Live 17 February 2021. 15:25

16 February 2021

Mali/Slavery: Slavery has been banned under colonial rule in 1905. But “descent-based slavery” (slaves that are slaves because their parents were slaves) exists to this very day in Mali. While most prevalent amongst Tuareg and Fulani, it has survived everywhere in Mali. It is not known how many slaves by descent there still are. There being no specific law criminalising descent-based slavery in Mali (unlike in Niger and Mauritania), thus in the absence of a protective legal framework, victims of descent-based slavery often have little choice but to migrate, to “escape to more ‘hospitable’ areas”. Already in colonial times, instead of returning to their villages of origin, freed slaves often preferred to settle elsewhere, in so called “villages de liberté” (“freedom villages”) founded by the French, or in a city, or abroad (mostly Senegal). “The Malian authorities continue to refuse to acknowledge there are still victims of slavery in the country and claim instead that victims are not slaves but participants in ‘traditional’ practices that should be respected.”
Slavery is being largely ignored – and this “taboo legacy that is shameful to address” is silenced. Bringing it out in the open can be dangerous: in 2020 four activists campaigning against the practice were murdered in Kayes.

G5 Sahel Summit: Emmanuel Macron says there is no plan to substantially reduce its troops in the Sahel in the immediate future. This comes after increased opposition in France against the costly (in terms of money and human lives/55 dead soldiers) of the military intervention which goes into its ninth year. Yet the French president is thought to be looking for an exit. For the time being, he instead talks of “imminent success” and “consolidating military victory”.
BBC Africa Live 16 February 2021. 15:00

Central African Republic/ICC: Since yesterday, Patrice-Edouard Ngaissona and Alfred Yekatom are standing trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. The two are thought to have been high ranking commanders of the “anti-Balaka” militia. They are accused of directing attacks against civilians, murdering a deputy mayor, displacement, dislocation of Muslims from towns, villages and neighbourhoods in part of the capital Bangui, attacks against buildings dedicated to religion (in this case mosques), torture, etc. They have pleaded not guilty.
BBC Africa Live 16 February 2021. 13:52

South Sudan: The country is unwell: According to the UN’s World Food Programme, violence, extreme weather conditions and economic consequences of Covid-19 have severely affected South Sudan. Its food situation has never in its 10 year history been so bad. Some areas are at risk of famine. Overall, 7 million don’t have enough to eat.
BBC Africa Live 16 February 2021. 17:15