The North Africa Journal | By Arezki Daoud | North Africa is in an accelerated downward spiral, and the bottom is nowhere near. All indicators, whether they are economic, political, and social point clearly to the the fact that the entire region has sunk to a new low. While it would be easy to equate today’s North Africa to yesterday’s American wild west, there is a massive difference and that is there is no “Sheriff in town” in North Africa. The region and its populations are left to fend for themselves, abandoned by their politicians, abused by their business leaders.
In many cases, the protagonists use violence and intimidation against those seeking or saying the truth, using a repressive police system. Some use the ultimate measure of assassination, as it was the case for the anti-Ennahda crusader in Tunisia, Chokri Belaïd. Mr. Belaïd was gunned down because he did not agree with the people in power, namely Rached Ghannouchi and the agents of the Salafism and Wahabism in his country. These were the same sort of things ex-dictator Ben Ali did to his opponents. These acts of violence are meant to force people to forget about democracy, justice and the rule of law, so that officials in power and their allies in the Gulf and the West do their business without scrutiny.
Evidence in the region prove almost beyond reasonable doubt that government officials there tend to be utterly corrupt, and sometimes outright dangerous. Global corporations doing business with these rogue officials are facilitating and even enhancing the act of corruption, and the general public and the tax payers are left holding the bag. Ironically, even the flamboyant ex-Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has recently suggested to decriminalize bribery so that Italian companies pay for favors in third-world nations without being bothered.
The latest accusations of wrongdoing allegedly involve Algeria’s ex-Oil Minister Chakib Khelil, and an obscure intermediary the nephew of ex-Foreign Minister Ahmed Bedjaoui.
These cases are just the tip of the iceberg in what could be the massive fleecing of North African economies. These acts of theft, corruption, and abuse of power, if proven to be the case, involve a network of solid global corporations. Those implicated in the Sonatrach and East-West motorway scandals include Italian oil servicing firm Saipem, its parent company the giant ENI, and now one of the protagonists, Farid Bedjaoui, the nephew of the “respectable” Minister is dragging Canada’s engineering firm SNC Lavalin into yet another PR headache. This company is not new to scandals. Not too long ago, it was involved in so many bad things in Libya, even seeking to help one of the Gaddafi sons to flee his country amid a civil war. This time, fresh allegations of wrongdoing in Algeria are surfacing, with the company accused of paying bribes via Farid Bedjaoui to secure contracts there.
Corruption is endemic in the entire region. The case of Saipem, ENI and SNC Lavalin surfaced because of a diligent judiciary in Italy and Canada, and a very aggressive media system that allows reports to cover such cases and the public to know about them. They happen to be high-profile companies so the media is very interested. In Algeria, these cases have been dragging for years. The intelligence services have long known about these wrongdoings but Judges, which happen to have their hands tied due to a broken legal system, have been prevented from doing anything at all. They are now trying to play catch up, but they are afraid to move further in fear of finding deep ramifications and links going further up along the pyramid of power.
Elsewhere in the region, the situation in no better or different. In Morocco, where the economy is struggling, partly because of an economically depressed Europe, and largely because of structural rigidities, ideologues in government, aided by the Islamists of the PJD party of Prime Minister Benkirane launched an initiative to reform the audio-visual sector (TV and radio) by pushing for a set of laws that have not been subjected to public debate or third-party scrutiny.
For them, what the Moroccan voter thinks is irrelevant. Another symbol of a broken government controlled by a few came in the form of the release of a list of individuals who were granted licenses to operate public transportation lines. The list was never vetted, discussed or pre-published for public comment. It was simply imposed by the monarchy without the normal public tender process. Interestingly, the list contains names of powerful individuals, including the father of Fouad Al-Himma, a close friend and ally of the King, who often oversees security matters on behalf of the monarchy. Many others who are in no need of running a transport business and are known to be wealthy were granted lucrative licenses. Prime Minister Benkirane may not have been behind the list, but his inaptitude to stop it shows how deeply dysfunctional the governance system is.
In Libya, global corporations and shadowy contractors are back with a vengeance, seeking multi billion dollar contracts to rebuild the battered nation. Although in normal circumstances I would say “good for them,” all this is happening when the country has no laws to protect it and an efficient judicial and security system to enforce the laws. The constitution does not exist yet, and so politicians are making arbitrary decisions based on their ideological allegiances and whomever is paying them. Consider the illogical and arbitrary ruling from the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court that allows a husband to marry a second wife, or additional wives, without the consent of his first wife (wives). This arbitrary call is meant to overturn laws that were in place during the Gaddafi era. Although I understand the need to distance oneself from the era of the dictator, it makes no sense to promote a law that completely demean women and do it in contradiction to Sharia teachings that require the first wife's permission. This is a return to a medieval era in the hands of men who abide by no law but their views only.
As North Africa's politicians and businesses destroy their countries with their bad behavior, they are aided by very powerful outside forces that are in there to advance their own interests. The West usually comes to mind with its centuries of meddling. France's recent intervention in Mali is the latest episode of a war where the endgame is not clearly defined. But there is also the so-called emerging powers that are using their money to buy influence, sometimes in deadly ways. Perhaps the most devastating competition for influence is the race between Qatar and Saudi Arabia to insure that their ideologies dominate the region. Fueling the radical religious movements in the region, their competition within North Africa is illustrated by the very fights that we are witnessing between the moderate Islamists (perhaps Tunisia PM Hamadi Jebali was one of them) and the more extremist voices that resort to violent actions such as the killing of opponent Belaïd. In this Saudi-Qatar competition, Analysts believe that Qatar carries the Wahabist ideology, formerly driven by Saudi Arabia, which is now said to be promoting the more aggressive Salafist faction. Infightings in political Islam in places like Egypt, Tunisia, and elsewhere are proxy fights on behalf of these rich and dangerous regimes of the Gulf. Their fight has apparently extended to beyond North Africa and into the Sahel/Sahara, which is home of many shadowy organizations from MUJAO to Ansar Eddine and Ansar Sharia, and Al-Qaeda proper. Relatively new in this game, and first emerging as a central player during the Libyan civil war, Qatar is now front and center in many international crises, and is accused of pushing a religious agenda all around. When the Islamist rebels took control of Gao, Timbuktu and other Mali towns, all NGOs left, and were immediately replaced by Qatar-based "charitable organizations."
But Qatar is not alone and Saudi Arabia has billions of dollars to spend pushing its agenda. These Gulf countries are also facing new competition. While Mali is sinking in despair with no government or authority to make proper decisions, China has been showering it with free money and donations, making sure that the corrupt trade officials of Bamako endorse a complete removal of custom taxes on 95% of goods imported from China. The decision to establish a free trade-zone to the benefit of China was made in July 2012, as Mali was in the middle of one of its worst political crises. In other words, China bought Mali’s favors long before it even has a functioning government. While it is easy to be suspicious of the Chinese motives of engaging in “business as usual” with a dysfunctional Mali government, the case of Turkey is both alarming and puzzling. Turkish religious interests, in the person of the Mufti of Eyyub, accompanied by his colleague from Istanbul, has decided to build a brand new grandiose mosque in Mali to also act as the headquarters of the High Islamic Council, Mali’s highest Islamic authority. Charity and solidarity with other people are always good things. But pushing for these types of initiatives when a war is being waged is highly suspicious. China and Turkey should be working to influence stability in Mali and not just free gifts to advance their own strategic agendas.
There are plenty of bad cases to report and not too many good ones. But one glimmer of hope comes to mind that certainly might have positive implications on the region and its people in the longer run. In the face of bankrupt governments, dysfunctional legal systems and corrupt practices is the emergence of new technologies that allow individuals to talk, exchange ideas, share information and keep track of events on the ground. The explosion in the use of smartphones, equipped with cameras and Internet access, the proliferation of civil society groups on Facebook and other web platforms, the massive use of communications tools like Twitter are relatively new factors that are likely to change some of the old behaviors practiced by the regimes. It is unclear how this will reshape the political landscape exactly, but at least these tools are providing a platform for the average citizen of the impoverished Ain-Leuh in Morocco, Djanet and the Kabylie mountains in Algeria, Ghat in Libya and Siliana in Tunisia to tell their stories. As for the rogue politicians and their business allies, they can run for a short while, but they cannot hide.
These topics and more are discussed in our latest report. Please go here to download full copy.
By Arezki Daoud
Source: North-Africa Journal
The 'Africa rising' narrative may be questionable and misguided, but so too is the suggestion Africa should blindly follow the authoritarian developmental states of East Asia.
In his recent Foreign Policy article, Rick Rowden makes the case that Africa's low levels of manufacturing and industrialisation suggest the continent is not the 'growth miracle' that some commentators believe.
His piece, a response to bullish outlooks from McKinsey, The Economist and Time magazine among others, dismisses talk of Africa's rise as a "myth". Since African economies make up a very small share of global manufacturing, he argues, they cannot be spoken of in the same breath as the Asian economies.
Leading by example?
But while Rowden rightly draws attention to the irrational exuberance common in the 'Africa rising' narrative, his argument is deeply flawed in both its analysis and prescriptions.
Firstly, Rowden gives a glossy, airbrushed description of the East Asian 'growth miracle'. Rowden says this group - often referred to as the 'East Asian tigers' of South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore, followed by China - managed to rapidly build manufacturing capacity, creating jobs very quickly. Since East Asia's industrial policies "worked so well", Rowden argues, African economies should, by implication, follow suit.
While East Asia's industrial policies certainly delivered rapid growth, however, they have been largely deployed via authoritarian, repressive frameworks that entailed frequent and sustained infringement of people's rights.
We hear plenty about benevolent technocrats, generous subsidised credit, carefully designed export strategies, and industrial protection for domestic companies from advocates. But we hear much less about military rule, labour repression, opaque lending to industrial bigwigs, or mass protests against undemocratic constitutional changes, all of which were also integral features of this 'developmental state'.
Imagine if an African government today imposed martial law and hold down wages in the name of export-competitiveness, to crush labour rights and arrest union leaders, give an amnesty to corrupt industrialists as long as their companies meet export targets, and to allow large-scale US food aid to sweep farmers off their land and out of their livelihoods.
Sound appealing? This is South Korea during its 'miracle' growth phase. And while South Korea's land reform programme (initiated, it should be said, by the US military) led to greater equity in land distribution, some argue it did not improve the situation for farmers, whose debts had to be repaid in five years and who faced usurious interest rates to pay the government which was also keeping producer prices artificially low.
But even with repression and authoritarianism, the likes of South Korea and Singapore did not achieve transformation in a single decade, the period which 'Afro-optimists' are referring to in their analysis, and which Rowden dismisses on account that it has not delivered a structural revolution yet.
And this is a caution not just borne out by East Asia's experience. Consider England - mentioned (normatively) in Rowden's article as another (in fact, the original) example of the 'development as industrialisation' mantra.
Let us refresh our memory about what England's 'industrialisation' involved: enslavement and colonisation of half the world to deliver raw materials, exploitation of the domestic working class to deliver cheap labour, and the enclosure movement to privatise land for the purposes of lifting agricultural output, pushing all but the landed gentry out of their livelihoods and into the factories and mines where many perished.
Even if we focus purely on economic data, Rowden's analysis is weak. His view of the continent's manufacturing sector seems to be based on just two reports, one from the UN, the other from the African Development Bank (AfDB). Any AfDB analysis should be taken with a pinch of salt. This, after all, is an institution which recently claimed there were 300 million middle class people in Africa, classifying 'middle class' as those earning between $2 and $20 per day. 60% of this group earned between $2 and $4; barely out of poverty.
Based on such limited data, the critique misses on-the-ground advances in manufacturing. Industrial processing zones are emerging across many African markets, from Ghana to Ethiopia, providing assembled goods to a range of Western and Eastern firms including textiles, footwear, wood and furniture, leather, auto and consumer products. The Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, an item of US legislation, has resulted in the three-fold increase in US non-oil imports from Africa across a range of sectors, including textiles and apparel, processed agricultural products and footwear.
Rowden's analysis is also limited because it seems to take manufactured exports as a simple proxy for manufacturing. This misses value-added in manufacturing to meet domestic needs.
A recent study from Johns Hopkins University shows the rise in Chinese private, as opposed to state-backed, investment in Africa, with a focus on meeting domestic needs in larger markets like Nigeria and on labour-intensive manufacturing activities, followed by service industries. By primarily focusing on manufactured exports, Rowden misses this completely.
The export focus is further problematic because it propagates a simplistic view of manufactured items as 'good' and primary commodities and natural resources as 'bad' types of exports, stating that a heavy dependence on natural resource-based manufactures is an indication of a "low level of economic diversification and low level of technological sophistication in production".
This is a long-standing view, famously articulated by economists Raul Prebisch and Hans Singer. But is it that simple? Some have already pointed out that on this narrow view, a country full of industrial sweatshops would be called 'developed' regardless of the quality of life for citizens.
More fundamentally, the idea that countries move from natural resource-based exports to manufactured ones is too simplistic when we look at how economies actually function. The trade profile of many of the now rich and industrialised economies of the world - including Canada, the US, Norway, Australia, and New Zealand - still includes major export shares of natural resources and commodities.
Emerging market powerhouses are often dominated by natural resource-based exports too, yet few people talk them down. Agricultural, fuel and mining products account for 63% of Brazil's exports, compared to 32.8% manufactured exports - and it imports 72% of its manufactured goods.
While significantly reliant on natural resources, this is a country that - through its policy initiatives, especially in the areas of social protection - has reduced inequality at a steeper rate than almost anyone historically, and has achieved the highest improvement in wellbeing of any country over the last five years, according to the Boston Consulting Group.
Chile, now an OECD member, has an economy dominated by natural resources, notably copper. Manufactured items account for a mere 13% of its exports. And one of Africa's most successful 'developmental' states - and one of the few globally that has a representative democratic model of governance - is diamond-rich Botswana.
Rowden seems to take natural resource-based exports as a proxy for development by noting that they dropped "as low as 13 per cent in 2008' in East Asia and the Pacific, seemingly signifying success. That is simply an error.
These economies have low shares of natural resource exports because they do not have many natural resources beyond what they consume, thus they are not major exporters. One only needs to look at the feverish efforts of even lower tier Asian national oil companies in Africa to know that these economies would be very pleased to have more of such assets under their feet at home if geological fate had so ordained it.
The point to make here is that countries do not necessarily 'do away' with natural resource-based exports once they become industrialised or head in that direction, like children discarding stabilisers on their bicycle. What matters for developmental success is not simply whether a country sells natural resources of manufactures. Success hinges on much more complex issues, surrounding institutions and the incentives they generate.
Bullish accounts of Africa may have fallen victim to irrational exuberance, with talk of soaring incomes, flat-screen televisions and a 300 million-strong middle class.
But glibly dismissing Africa's rise as mythical will not do, especially on the grounds Rowden gives. If economists are to prescribe the East Asian model and advocate rapid industrialisation, they should not airbrush its social and political realities - the authoritarian power structures integral to rapid capitalist transformation - out of the picture. Moreover, much more fieldwork is needed to establish exactly how much value addition is occurring in Africa. Citing two reports will not do.
African economies will, of course, need to develop labour-intensive sectors, spanning assembly-based production, services and a range of manufactured goods. Indeed, this is already happening. But it may occur in a distinctive manner. 'Rapid' change is not a value-neutral term and if you advocate it, be prepared to accept the policy frameworks that have enabled it.
'Developmental state' advocates may argue that pain is the price of success, and that future generations will benefit. But we ought to keep in mind both the process and the goals, and not ignore the realities of the former. At the least, before pushing such models, we should accept Confucius' charge: "Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself".
Adam Robert Green is senior reporter for This is Africa, a bimonthly publication from the Financial Times Ltd., and a contributor to beyondbrics, the emerging markets news and blog website from FT.com. He has a masters in development studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies. His writing has also been published in China Post, the Middle East Institute, and Daily News Egypt.
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Read the original of this report on the ThinkAfricaPress site.
By Adam Robert Green
Source: Africa Think Press
Applications (Apps) built by Kenyan students ahead of the March 4th elections were unveiled Wednesday at event, where they all highlighted the need for information to be availed to every Kenyan. Their focus was centered on: Civic Education; Party and Politicians; Lifestyle; Resource Monitoring; and the Electoral process. The Apps include: Tukumbuke (Swahili meaning let us remember), spotlight, Jijulishe (inform yourself in Swahili), wenyenchi (the owners of the country), Opinion yetu,Haki II (justice) and Raslimali (resources). The Apps will provide technological solutions to governance and the electoral process challenges.
The Apps were developed at the Elections DevFest themed “Software Solutions for Elections”, an interactive 3- day event organised by Strathmore University’s iLab and sponsored by Google in partnership with IEBC and various Civil Society organizations.
According to Ory Okolloh, Google Africa Manager, Policy and Government Relations, Google has been very active in promoting access to relevant information; access to information is especially important in the electoral process. Through the Elections hub, the YouTube channel, Shabikika Amani na Kura Yako (Sports4peace campaign) and supporting these students to create tools for engagement with this information, we hope to reach as many Kenyans as possible.
"We aim to provide civic education about the electoral process to every Kenyan, especially because most people don't have the urge to go through the whole constitution; it is pretty much breaking down the constitution," said Mercy Orangi, whose team developed Jijulishe applications.
By Eric Akasa
Source: Africa News
Imagine being charged $100 for a medical certificate issued by a doctor proving that you have been raped before you can go after the culprit — and then during his trial having to feed the man who raped you.
Recounting such stories, Zainab Bangura, the UN Secretary-General’s special representative on sexual violence, allows a glimpse of the passion and energy she is known for.
Up until 2002, women and girls in her country, Sierra Leone, were subjected to widespread and systematic sexual violence, including rape and sexual slavery.
As a women’s rights campaigner and activist, she documented, reported and monitored such crimes and other human rights violations.
When the Special Court for Sierra Leone set up jointly by the Government and the United Nations opened, to try those responsible for crimes during the civil war, she testified as an expert witness.
Ms. Bangura’s resume is impressive: She has worked as an international civil servant, was responsible for the peacebuilding commission in her country and served as foreign minister and health minister.
“I come into this job” at the UN, she told Africa Renewal, “with both perspectives — being an activist on one side, knowing what the real experience is on the ground, and at the same time I have been a government minister and the voice of the government in the international arena.”
Ms. Bangura is the second person to hold the post. Her Swedish predecessor, Margot Wallström, ended her two-year term in May 2012. During Ms. Wallström’s stint, the office was able to push for a so-called “naming and shaming” list through a UN resolution that authorizes the publication of detailed information on perpetrators. The resolution also gives the Security Council the option to enforce sanctions on groups or nations in order to stop ongoing sexual crimes.
Ms. Wallström also pushed for legal reforms, convincing military courts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to try cases of sexual violence. She got 250 prosecutions. “I am extremely lucky my predecessor laid down a very good foundation for me,” says Ms. Bangura, “and I have extremely capable staff.”
The UN envoy already has her hands full with the escalating crises in the Central African Republic, DRC, Syria and Mali, where there are reports of increases in sexual violence against women and girls. With a small staff and limited resources, she is actively enlisting the help of UN agencies.
But for Ms. Bangura, sexual violence in conflict is not just a UN issue. The UK recently pledged $1.6 million to support the activities of her office. More broadly, she says, “member states have the primary responsibility to protect the people.” So she works with governments and regional organizations on a regular basis to address the problem. “You need to work with the government to be able to have a very strong and constructive dialogue on the issue and to be able to make sure they provide the political leadership at the national level.” She adds: “It’s only government that will be able to take action to put an end” to sexual crimes.
Biggest perpetrators are in uniform
Ms. Bangura is also trying to establish dialogues with national armed forces and armed groups. Her first fact-finding mission was to the Central African Republic (CAR), a country that has experienced years of political violence and instability and where scores of women and girls are under the control of armed groups. She described the CAR as “one of the worst countries” she has experienced, with very few resources and international actors focusing on the issue. “If we can make a difference in the CAR,” she explains, “I think it will be much easier in the other countries.”
Ms. Bangura’s visit was timely. The recent peace agreements drafted by the main parties to the conflict had a glaring omission: There was no mention of human rights or sexual violence. So she negotiated with the two sides. As a result, “We had an agreement both from the government’s side and the armed groups that they will mainstream the issue of sexual violence. We’ve asked for very specific actions that we expect from them.” She also insisted that sexual crimes be investigated and that commanders send a message to their troops that sexual violence must stop.
The police force is also often guilty of such crimes, Ms. Bangura notes. “We have a lot of evidence where prisoners are sexually violated when they’re arrested and detained, and when they’re being forced to give evidence, or confess. The biggest perpetrators are people in uniform.”
In countries where military and police personnel are seconded to work with the UN, Ms. Bangura believes they should be trained to “detect when and where sexual violence is taking place to prevent it. But also so they do not commit sexual violence when they are in a peacekeeping mission.”
Breaking the culture of silence
Prevailing cultural norms are often an obstacle to addressing issues of sexual violence. Most women in war zones find it difficult to say they have been sexually abused. In these often “traditional societies,” silence prevails, says the UN representative. Women are frequently stigmatized, even threatened. In Libya a law obliges a rapist to marry his victim in order to “save her honour.” Often, Ms. Bangura believes, “culture just wants to forget about it and not deal with it.”
Working amid continued insecurity is also challenging. She says that she cannot stress enough that “insecurity breeds sexual violence.” When a state apparatus collapses, she says, armed elements become the law and use rape as a war tactic.
Ms. Bangura is adamant: One cannot deal with sexual violence without peace or security. So women in war zones often give her a similar message to share with world leaders: “Tell them to take the guns from the armed groups. We don’t feel safe. We are not secure.”
By Jocelyne Sambira
Source: Africa Renewal
Recent events in Mali, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Sudan seem to confirm one of the most durable stereotypes of Africa, namely that the continent is unstable and uniquely prone to nasty political violence.
Writing in Foreign Policy two years ago, New York Times East Africa correspondent and Pulitzer Prize winner Jeffrey Gettleman espoused this view. He painted a dismal picture of pointless wars waged by brutes and criminals "spreading across Africa like a viral pandemic."
Gettleman is right that warfare and political violence are changing on the continent, but he is wrong to portray that change as one of brutal violence increasing out of control.
In fact, as I show in a recent piece in African Affairs, looked at since the end of the Cold War, wars are not becoming more frequent in Sub-Saharan Africa.
To the contrary: according to the Uppsala Armed Conflict Data Program, the preeminent tracker of warfare worldwide, wars in the 2000s are substantially down from their peak in the early 1990s. Even if one counts an uptick during the past two years, there were about one-third fewer wars in Sub-Saharan Africa in the period compared to the early-to-mid 1990s.
Another prevailing view is that Sub-Saharan Africa is the most war-endemic region. Not so, especially if one looks at the continent's history since 1960. Wars in Sub-Saharan Africa (compared to other world regions) are not longer or more frequent on a wars-per-country basis. Those distinctions effectively go to Asia, where between wars in India, Afghanistan, the Philippines, and Vietnam, among others, wars are more frequent and longer lasting.
The pattern holds true for extreme cases of mass killing, like Rwanda in 1994 and Darfur in the mid-2000s. Such events are on the decline in Africa; viewed across time, Africa is also not the regional leader of such events on a per-country basis.
My point is not to engage in crude regionalism, but rather to suggest that what often transpires as common sense about Sub-Saharan Africa is wrong.
The bigger point is that we may be witnessing significant shifts in the nature of political violence on the continent. Wars are on the decline since the 1990s, but the character of warfare is also changing. There are today fewer big wars fought for state control in which insurgents maintain substantial control of territory and put up well-structured armies to fight their counterparts in the state - Mali not withstanding.
Such wars were modal into the 1990s. From southern Africa in Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, and even Zimbabwe to the long wars in the Horn in Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Sudan to the Great Lakes wars in Rwanda and Uganda, the typical armed conflict in Africa involved two major, territory-holding armies fighting each other for state control.
Today's wars typically are smaller. They most often involve small insurgencies of factionalized rebels on the peripheries of states. Today's wars also play out differently. They exhibit cross-border dimensions, and rather than drawing funding from big external states they depend on illicit trade, banditry, and international terrorist networks.
Typical of today's wars are the rebels in Casamance, in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia, various armed groups in Darfur, and the Lord's Resistance Army. The latter typifies an emerging trend of trans-national insurgents. The LRA moves across multiple states in the Great Lakes region.
Northern Mali is another case in point - prior to seizing control of the north, the Islamists moved across multiple countries in the Sahel. Once they gained territorial control in 2012, they attracted fighters from Nigeria and across North Africa. Moreover, these are not non-ideological wars, as Gettleman claims. The jihadis in Mali and Somalia, the separatists in Casamance, and the rebels in Darfur are certainly fighting for a cause.
To be sure, no one in his or her right mind could claim that warfare or political violence has ended in Africa. Many countries in the region have features that political scientists believe make countries vulnerable to armed conflict: weak states, high dependence on natural resources, and horizontal inequalities.
Of the recent armed conflicts in Somalia, Sudan, Mali, the Central African Republic, Chad, and eastern Congo, one obvious commonality is the lack of effective state control. Rebels survive in remote regions where state authority is tenuous. The fact of weak states in these and other countries will not end any time soon.
Moreover, other forms of violence deserve greater scrutiny. Consider, for example, electoral violence. As African states have turned to multiparty elections, so too has the risk of violence during those electoral campaigns increased.
Electoral violence on the scale of Kenya in 2007 and 2008, Côte d'Ivoire in 2010, or Zimbabwe in 2008 is not the norm, but in many locations there is often some form of violence between incumbent and opposition forces. Yet we know substantially less about patterns and causes of electoral violence.
Consider too violence over vital resources, such as land, water, and pasture. Trends are harder to detect, but one new data collection effort from the University of Texas shows an increase in such violence events since the early 1990s. With climate change, rapidly growing urbanization, and other changes that increase the pressure on vital but often scarce resources, we can expect more violence of the type recently seen in northern Kenya. Yet again, we know much less about this form of violence.
What explains the recent decline in warfare across Africa? I don't know for certain, but would point to geo-political changes since the end of the Cold War.
First, the end of the Cold War meant that the opportunities for rebels to receive substantial weaponry and training from big external states declined. To be sure, states across Africa still meddle in the affairs of their neighbors, but insurgent funding from neighbouring states is usually enough to be a nuisance to, but not actually overthrow, existing governments.
Second, the rise of multi-party politics has sapped the anti-government funding, energy, and talent away from the bush and into the domestic political arena.
Third, China is a rising external force in Sub-Saharan Africa. China's goals are mainly economic, but their foreign relations follow a principle of non-interference. To my knowledge, China supports states, not insurgencies.
Finally, conflict reduction mechanisms, in particular international peacekeeping and regional diplomacy, have substantially increased on the continent.
Peacekeeping is more prevalent and especially more robust than in the 1990s. Regional bodies such as the AU, ECOWAS, ECCAS, IGAD, and SADC are quite active in most conflict situations. They have exhibited greater resolves in conflicts as diverse as Côte d'Ivoire, Sudan, the Central African Republic, and Madagascar.
The four posited mechanisms are hypotheses, each of which deserves greater scrutiny and empirical testing. But taken together, they suggest plausible ways in which the incentives of insurgents and even state leaders to fight have been altered in recent years.
They give reason to expect that while war is clearly not over in Sub-Saharan Africa, we should continue to observe a decline in its frequency and intensity in coming decades.
Scott Straus is a Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin.
Pic: Kate Holt/IRIN
By Scott Straus
Source: African arguments
International Condoms Day is now being observed on February 14th in conjunction with Valentine’s Day, a day when love is all over the air especially amongst youths and young adults, with whom condom use is very low, says AIDS Healthcare Foundation Sierra Leone (AHF-SL).
AIDS Healthcare Foundation Sierra Leone (AHF-SL), in collaboration with key stakeholders including the Network of HIV Positives in Sierra Leone (NeTHIPS), Voice of Women Sierra Leone (VOWSL), National HIV/AIDS Secretariat (NAS), National HIV/AIDS Control Program (NACP), Western Area District Health Management Team (DHMT), Reproductive Health Program (RHP), would be joining other countries globally to celebrate International Condoms Day on the 14th of February 2013. The campaign is aimed at scaling up access to free condoms. It is also intended to educate and make people, especially youths, aware of why condoms are so necessary and why everyone ought to opt for a safer sex.
“To achieve the vision of zero new infection, UNAIDS is promoting revolutionary prevention methods. As part of its responsibility UNAIDS has put evidence together to demonstrate that condoms can save lives
and prevent unwanted pregnancies,” says Dr. Job A. Sagbohan, Head of UNAIDS.
When used consistently and correctly, condoms are the only forms of protection that can help stop the transmission of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) such as HIV and also prevent unwanted teenage pregnancy.
The celebration is however targeting only Freetown as it is the first ever it has been celebrated in Sierra Leone.
Miss Miatta Jambawai, Country Programme Manager AHF, said they would encourage couples to come for HIV test particularly on Valentine’s Day.
Dr. Brima Kargbo, Director of NAS, stressed on effective condom use which he said was low amongst youths in the country, but was gradually increasing to prevent HIV/AIDS and unwanted pregnancies. He, however, blamed the low use of condoms in the country to people being shy to purchase condoms openly and so there would be free distribution of condoms on the 14thof February.
The HIV/AIDS infection is still stable at 1.5% for the past years in the country, according to Dr. Kargbo. There will be a float parade from Jenner Wright Clinic through some of the crowded streets of east end Freetown to Attouga Mini Stadium where key stakeholders such as DHMT, NAS, NeTHIPS, Miss University of Sierra Leone, SLIRAN will make statements and the key note address and official launching of AHF-SL will be done by the UNAIDS Representative in Sierra Leone.
In addition, there will be ‘Condom Flash Mobs’ who will visit ghettoes, crowded fishing areas and market areas during the day, and night clubs and pubs at night to distribute free condoms.
There will also be free distribution of condoms by NACP counselors in some provincial areas of the country.
By Alhassan Jalloh
Source: Africa Young Voices