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

15 February 2021

US-trained democracy-lovers or coup plotters? In this The Conversation article, Sandor Fabian presents a résumé of his dissertation “Improving Foreign Militaries - The Effects of U.S. Military Aid in the Form of International Military Education and Training Programs” written at the University of Central Florida in 2020 (see https://stars.library.ucf.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1209&context=etd2020). By means of questionnaires – so he enquired into what people say that they think, not how they act –, he found that the effects of US military training are positive in terms of values (pro-democracy, anti-coup) instilled in the trainees and that they also share them with their subordinates afterwards.
Yet the results of the author examining 120 insurgencies between 1976 and 2003 are less clear: “The benefits of U.S. military training on domestic rule of law are more mixed”. While U.S.-trained armies are more likely to defeat insurgents, such internal conflicts are usually longer than those in other countries.
As the author himself remarks from the outset: “Several notorious coup plotters and human rights violators – among them Argentina’s 1970s-era military junta leader Leopoldo Galtieri and Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt – were trained by the United States military. So was the Islamic State group’s minister of war, Gulmurod Khalimov.” And US trained Col. Assimi Goita was the leader of Mali’s August 2020 coup and has since become vice president under the transition.

Zimbabwe/Energy: Energy availability does not mean that people can access this energy. Zimbabwe’s stepped block tariff (lower costs for lower levels of consumption) does not favour the poor as it is intended to: “First, most poor households have no connection to the grid. Second, for those who are connected, multiple households often share a single connection. This increases consumption and costs, resulting in poor households paying more than better-off users. Likewise, prepaid metering constrains capability. The system assumes consumers can purchase electricity in advance and disconnect when they don’t have money. It makes disconnection the “rational choice” of the poor. In fact, it’s an act of exclusion by the government.”
An example of energy poverty – which like poverty overall affects women more than men: “When I am cooking using semi-dry wood, no one can even enter the kitchen because of the smoke. It is like a prison cell! So, I will have to serve my sentence because I am the mother who is expected to provide. I have no choice.”

Nigeria/ Africanfuturism: Aliens make a landing in the Lagos lagoon. Alien ambassador Ayodele has interactions with three humans: Adaora, a marine biologist, Anthony, a musician from Ghana, and Agu, a military man. Ayodele has shapeshifting capabilities that allow her to change her form. She transforms fluidly between human, animal and inanimate forms.
Nigerian-American novelist Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon, “through its shapeshifting alien protagonist, challenges long held ideas of how gender and sexual identities are considered in Africa.” Besides “cheerfully disregard(ing) many literary norms”, it “imagines a bold alternative future in which there is a liberation of identities and desires from rigid norms.” Science fiction is – or can be – political writing.

South Africa: In spite of a January constitutional court order compelling him to appear before the Zondo commission, the country’s “state capture”-ex-president Jacob Zuma today defied summons to appear before the commission investigating corruption during his presidency. His lawyers claim the summons are irregular.
BBC Africa Live 15 February 2021. 11:31

Malawi: 7.7m USD are thought to have been misused. John Phuka, co-chair of a taskforce overseeing the official  Covid-19-response, and James Chiusiwa, head of disaster management, have been sacked “for showing a lack of toughness in demanding accountability”. 12 other team members have been suspended for lack of records how public funds were used. An audit is to establish responsibilities.
BBC Africa Live 15 February 2021. 9:09

When the hand has, the mouth rejoices
BBC’s African proverb of the day, a Beti proverb sent by Christian Messina Mvogo in Yaoundé, Cameroon.
BBC Africa Live 15 February 2021.

Somalia: Talks to resolve the crisis blocking presidential elections were planned to begin this morning but haven’t because of disagreements about the venue (in Puntland or in Mogadishu). In the meantime, Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble is reported to have formed a technical committee made up representatives from the five regional administrations and Banaadir region to resolve the crisis. A parliamentary resolution allows the president to remain in office until a successor is elected but the opposition no longer recognizes Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo as the country’s President.
BBC Africa Live 15 February 2021. 8:15

G5 Sahel Summit: Chad’s President Idriss Deby has appealed to “foreign powers to urgently increase funds for the development of the Sahel”, correctly arguing that “combatting poverty would help defeat (terrorist) militancy”.
The G5 summit is being held in N’Djamena today and tomorrow. Macron is taking part via video.
BBC Africa Live 15 February 2021. 17:25

Congo-Kinshasa/Ebola: 8,000 Ebola vaccines kept in reserve are being used to combat the new outbreak in North Kivu. Health workers at Matanda health centre, where the first Ebola patient was treated, were the first to be vaccinated by means of the single-dose vaccine rVSV-ZEBOV (known as Ervebo).
BBC Africa Live 15 February 2021. 17:09

WTO/Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has today named its first female, first African director general, former World Bank number 2 and twice Nigerian finance minister.
BBC Africa Live 15 February 2021. 15:47