Category Archives: Links

From The Conversation:

While the Grand-Bassam attack took many people by surprise, such an event was predictable. Warnings had been issued, as they had been in Dakar, Senegal too. Reinforcements had been called on over the previous weeks.

The events come at a time when speculation has been rife about the uncontrolled proliferation in the Northern part of the country of Salafist mosques which might be used to stash weapons. These rumours have not been thoroughly verified. It is reasonable to assume that the Bassam attack was carried out using an organisational structure located outside of Côte d’Ivoire. The noms de guerre of the three terrorists, released by AQIM, suggest only one was Ivoirian (“Al Ansari”), while the two others come from a known pool of very young AQIM recruits from the Sahel region.
[…]
Clues as to how the situation will evolve can be found by examining the political class. The shock wave from the attacks seems to have bridged, however temporarily, the deep schisms of a country freshly emerged from a lengthy internal crisis. The trial of ex-President Gbagbo, accused by the International Criminal Court of crimes against humanity, began in late January. It has revived strong socio-political tensions and awakened painful memories of a lingering crisis, because of the bungled national reconciliation process.

[…]
Nevertheless, the attack benefited some on the national political scene. It diverted attention away from the bad press the government had been getting because of the trial of Gbagbo and his co-defendant, Charlé Blé Goudé. It allowed for the sudden resurgence of Bakayoko following the reasonably effective management of the attack by Ivorian security forces.

Read the full article here

What’s next for Cote d’Ivoire after the Bassam attacks?

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Why it is difficult to explain racism

The Black Voices section of the Huffington Post, ran that article Why It’s So Hard to Talk to White People About Racism earlier last week.

Mainstream dictionary definitions reduce racism to individual racial prejudice and the intentional actions that result. The people that commit these intentional acts are deemed bad, and those that don’t are good. If we are against racism and unaware of committing racist acts, we can’t be racist; racism and being a good person have become mutually exclusive. […]
Social scientists understand racism as a multidimensional and highly adaptive system — a system that ensures an unequal distribution of resources between racial groups. Because whites built and dominate all significant institutions, (often at the expense of and on the uncompensated labor of other groups), their interests are embedded in the foundation of U.S. society. While individual whites may be against racism, they still benefit from the distribution of resources controlled by their group.

Yes, an individual person of color can sit at the tables of power, but the overwhelming majority of decision-makers will be white. Yes, white people can have problems and face barriers, but systematic racism won’t be one of them. This distinction — between individual prejudice and a system of unequal institutionalized racial power — is fundamental.

The article is very US-focused, but the mechanics would apply to many situations. The article allowed me to get my head around a few concepts that I saw and witnessed, but could not completely get my head around. The fact that is it written by a white researcher gives a different perspective:

Individualism: Whites are taught to see themselves as individuals, rather than as part of a racial group. Individualism enables us to deny that racism is structured into the fabric of society. This erases our history and hides the way in which wealth has accumulated over generations and benefits us, as a group, today. It also allows us to distance ourselves from the history and actions of our group. Thus we get very irate when we are “accused” of racism, because as individuals, we are “different” from other white people and expect to be seen as such; we find intolerable any suggestion that our behavior or perspectives are typical of our group as a whole.

 

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Mandela day and corporatised activism

Great article from Gillian Schutte on Thought Leader about Mandela Day:

While every other black leader in a post-1994 South Africa has been constructed as an inferior “other” by the dominant discourse, Nelson Mandela has been deified as a saintly black and is held in high esteem by whiteness. He has been hailed as a decent and rational African by the moderate liberal white discourse and thus relegated the status of “the most like a white person” worthy of becoming a signifier for white decency and humanity. He has been acknowledged as a human being while Jacob Zuma, as an example, remains a “primitive” — often depicted as oversexed, indecent and just plain stupid.

These white constructions of blackness say more about our society than we care to admit — and the religiosity afforded Madiba by well-heeled whites speaks volumes about the morally assumed and systemic supremacy whiteness still holds in South Africa. This religiosity comes to life on Mandela Day, which takes place annually and plays out like a yearly church service in which the messianic effigy of Mandela is worshiped in a type of feel good marketing frenzy with “charitable giving” at the centre of it.

By looking back in history at the construct of whiteness we will understand how Mandela Day becomes a neocolonial exercise premised on beliefs about what white and black signifies to the larger white imaginary. In fact Mandela Day has become an exercise in white missionary saviour behaviour in which whites can showcase their “good” side for the “good” of those less fortunate than themselves. It is through the Mandela construct that whites reaffirm their transcendent selves.

Read the full article here

 The article draws quite a lot of controversy in the comments. My view is, the article is not so much about Nelson Mandela himself, rather his portrayal in the media. Therefore, I would tend to agree with her analysis.

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Immunity for African leaders?

Another example of poor leadership from the African heads of state:

Complaining of bullying in the international justice arena, African leaders are forging ahead with plans to set up their own regional court — and give themselves immunity in the process.

The African Union (AU) accuses the Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) of anti-African bias and even racism, and plans for a home-grown mechanism are inflaming a stand-off over who deals out justice on the continent.

In a decision last month, AU leaders unanimously agreed to grant sitting heads of state and senior government officials immunity from prosecution at the African Court for Human and Peoples’ Rights, which is not expected to get off the ground for several years. Source

 This would grant immunity to the likes of Omar al-Bashir and Uhuru Kenyatta. It would obviously be a huge step back for human rights in the continent, and prove once more that the African Union is failing to bring democracy to the continent.
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How to pick your World Cup team (hint: root for Nigeria)

From The New York Times: An Economist’s Guide to World Cup Rooting: The Leaders

Dean Karlan, a Yale economist, has calculated a score for each World Cup team, based on its population, poverty level and interest in soccer. He argues a Nigeria championship would bring the most aggregate happiness.

 

pick your world cup team

 

It is your moral duty to support the Super Eagles

[…]

The basic principle is simple, drawn from utilitarian principles: Root for the outcome that will produce the largest aggregate increase in happiness. So I came up with a simple index, calculated by a country’s passion for soccer multiplied by its average level of poverty multiplied by its population. It’s perhaps a bit crude, simply to multiply these factors by each other, but the exercise highlights some important truths about the world.

Why this formula? Considering soccer interest seems obvious enough — the more passionate fans are, the happier they’ll be if their team emerges victorious. I incorporate poverty into the score for several reasons. First, happiness and wealth are correlated, and all else being equal, a utilitarian would prefer to help the person who is worst off. Second, the wealthy have more outlets for dealing with sports disappointments — such as going out to a nice meal — and can bounce back faster.

worst teams to supportOn the other hand, do not go for Australia, USA or Switzerland.

 

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Boko Haram explained

We received a string of bad news from Nigeria in the past two weeks, from the terrorist attacks in Abuja to the abductions in Chibok.

Accordingly, Boko Haram, the radical group held responsible for these events has made the headlines. I picked a few stories providing context, and giving different analysis and recommendations to deal with the group.

 

Who are Boko Haram, and how did they come to be? explains the origins and history of the movement

This is currently Boko Haram’s structure: a cellular structure, and no centralised command, and seemingly no unity of purpose. This “lack of unity” makes them particularly difficult to negotiate with, as you cannot tell who exactly represents the group. When someone attempts to negotiate on behalf of the group (think Baba Fugu Mohammed), he is quickly hunted down and killed. So, as things stand, the extremist elements within Boko Haram are the ones fully in control of the narrative.

 

Why Fear Boko Haram is a great piece from Eliza Griswold, centered on the abduction of schoolgirls last week

For Boko Haram, it is about dismantling the fragile existing society by attacking its essential institutions: schools.

[…]

Boko Haram claims to oppose Western education because it threatens the purity of northern Nigeria’s centuries-old Islamic society. Their atrocities mask a legitimate grievance that most of Nigeria’s 177 million people share. Despite Nigeria’s vast oil wealth, its citizens enjoy few basic government services, including education. Most government schools require tuition, and only those with the means to pay can attend. Schooling is as much a symbol of the hope for a prosperous future as it is a practical means to achieve it. These institutions become easy targets for mobs of disenfranchised young men like the members of Boko Haram.

 

The Abuja Bus Station Bombing: A Sign of Boko Haram’s Rise or Fall? focuses on the bombing, and discusses the recent weakening on the movement.

Nigeria is not winning in the battle against Boko Haram, but neither are the Islamist militants. The Abuja bombing is more a sign of the group’s decline than ascendency.

[…]

A group which had been touted as being better equipped and trained than the Nigerian military, and which had exhibited this superiority in brazen and sophisticated attacks against hardened targets, was now waging a more conventional and risk adverse form of guerrilla warfare. Although high-profile attacks have not ceased in their entirety, as witnessed by the December 2013 attack at the Borno Air Force base and the more recent assault on the Giwa barracks, these incidents have been sporadic and mostly limited to the city of Maiduguri where Boko Haram has always maintained a strong operational presence.

While spiralling casualty figures show that the Nigerian army is certainly not winning the battle against Boko Haram, it would be wrong to suggest that Boko Haram is exactly winning either. Although tragic and brutal attacks continue relentlessly, the tactics employed by the Nigerian army have, at the very least, stymied the Boko Haram’s geographical expansion and curtailed its ability to execute attacks against targets of strategic security and/or governmental importance.

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Homosexuality in Africa

In the light of the new legislation in Nigeria, Uganda and a few other countries, African intellectuals have expressed their concern about the regression of human rights across the continent.

The best example I read so far has got to be from Chimamanda Adichie, author of Half Of A Yellow Sun and Americanah, in The Scoop:

The new law that criminalizes homosexuality is popular among Nigerians. But it shows a failure of our democracy, because the mark of a true democracy is not in the rule of its majority but in the protection of its minority – otherwise mob justice would be considered democratic. The law is also unconstitutional, ambiguous, and a strange priority in a country with so many real problems. Above all else, however, it is unjust. Even if this was not a country of abysmal electricity supply where university graduates are barely literate and people die of easily-treatable causes and Boko Haram commits casual mass murders, this law would still be unjust.  We cannot be a just society unless we are able to accommodate benign difference, accept benign difference, live and let live. We may not understand homosexuality, we may find it personally abhorrent but our response cannot be to criminalize it.

She goes to address each of the points the supporter of anti-gay laws in Africa have: religion, “normality”, abuse…

The best part of the argument is about the idea of homosexuality being against “African values”:

There has also been some nationalist posturing among supporters of the law. Homosexuality is ‘unafrican,’ they say, and we will not become like the west. The west is not exactly a homosexual haven; acts of discrimination against homosexuals are not uncommon in the US and Europe. But it is the idea of ‘unafricanness’ that is truly insidious.

If anything, it is the passage of the law itself that is ‘unafrican.’ It goes against the values of tolerance and ‘live and let live’ that are part of many African cultures. (In 1970s Igboland, Area Scatter was a popular musician, a man who dressed like a woman, wore makeup, plaited his hair. We don’t know if he was gay – I think he was – but if he performed today, he could conceivably be sentenced to fourteen years in prison. For being who he is.) And it is informed not by a home-grown debate but by a cynically borrowed one: we turned on CNN and heard western countries debating ‘same sex marriage’ and we decided that we, too, would pass a law banning same sex marriage. Where, in Nigeria, whose constitution defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, has any homosexual asked for same-sex marriage?

Read the full article here.

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