07 January 2023

Encroachment of animal habitats: We humans “are making a lasting imprint on (…) insects”, we may even “be negatively affecting their behaviours, their reproduction and their very evolution”. Yet insects, despite their lowly reputation, play important roles in the ecosystem. The author studied African grasshoppers, more specifically Bullacris unicolor, a species of bladder grasshopper found in South Africa’s coastal regions, concentrating on their reaction to human noise. Comparing two populations, one living in a very noisy, the other in a quieter site, she found far-reaching behavioural differences.

Forced marriage/Child soldiers/Lord’s Resistance Army/ICC:  On 6 May 2021, Dominic Ongwen, a former commander of the LRA, was sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment on 61 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Northern Uganda by the International Criminal Court. He appealed, but the ICC Appeals Chamber confirmed the sentence on 15th of December 2022. According to the article’s two authors, this is significant for several reasons, the first being that it sets a precedent regarding forced marriages and forced pregnancies (which are not dealt with explicitly in the ICC’s Rome statute). In the authors’ view, this should in future further “prosecution of sexual and gender-based violence within armed conflict and post-war contexts”. The decision also sets a precedent where child soldiers are concerned – a victim himself, the ICC did not absolve him “from criminal liability for crimes committed after (he) rose to (a) high command position(…)”.

Rooibos tea: Aspalathus linearis, which grows mainly in Cederberg area in Western Cape, is not only tasty, anti-inflammatory, eases pain, reduces allergies and is good for heart health, it also reduces anxiety and can slow the ageing process. The article’s author found the last two effects by studying unfermented/green rooibos effects on zebrafish (respectively their 2mm-long larvae) – who are genetically surprisingly similar to humans.

Tracks of small rats and spiders from the Pleistocene: “(U)nder favourable circumstances Pleistocene palaeosurfaces on the Cape south coast have the capacity to preserve fine detail made by tiny trackmakers” such as gerbils (rats 11cm long or smaller) and even rain or baboon spiders. “Their tracks were preserved in aeolianites – the cemented remains of dune surfaces – and cemented beach deposits”, but they are ephemeral, wind and water erode them or rocks slump into the sea.

Bee colonies in South Africa: Mostly because of continuing use of traditional beekeeping practices, the country has so far been spared the decline in bee populations witnessed elsewhere in the world because of pesticide use, habitat loss, et al. At the University of the Western Cape, fluorescent light was used to research sperm quality: “Assessing sperm quality as part of drone quality will allow for early detection” of decline in colony health and performance and thus threats to colony survival.

06 January 2023

Cruelty against Migrants: For once, it is not state institutions who are at fault. According to Interpol, the head of a criminal organisation responsible “for the kidnapping, extortion and murder of East African migrants” has been arrested. The concerned, “Kidane Zekarias Habtemariam, from Eritrea, was wanted by police in Ethiopia and the Netherlands”. He was arrested in Sudan thanks to international police cooperation.
BBC Africa Live 06 January 2023. 4:31

Somaliland/Puntland: The town Las Anod is claimed by both Somaliland and Puntland. Demonstrators there “took to the streets after gunmen killed a politician”. Somaliland troops are accused of killing at least 10 protesters. Now, troops have been ordered “to return to barracks so that the situation could normalise.”
BBC Africa Live 06 January 2023. 5:42

Chad: Ever since 8th of December, people have been arrested for their involvement in a coup plot. Authorities are accusing Baradine Berdei Targuio, president of the Chadian Human Rights Organisation, to be the head of the plotters. 11 army officers are said to have been involved.
BBC Africa Live 06 January 2023. 5:14

Nigeria: The article’s author has done research from January to September 2021 into marine litter along the Araromi seaside in Ilaje in the country’s south-west and found that the beach “was dirty during the dry season (…) and extremely dirty in the rainy season” by the standards of the Clean Coast Index. Cleaning up is urgent. Recommendations what to do close the article.

Kenya: Especially in poor areas that feel let down by police, policemen who brutally deal with alleged criminals tend to be seen as heroes. And their supporters do not want the state to arrest such “super cops” for atrocities they may commit, do not want the state to interfere “in local security arrangements that they consider effective and efficient”.