Africa Blog Roundup: Hunger in the Sahel, Northern Nigeria’s Hereditary Muslim Rulers, Ivory Wars, and More

Celeste Hicks writes – in a message that needs to be reiterated ceaselessly – that the hunger crisis in the Sahel is a long-term, not a short-term, problem:

Across the region, above average rainfall has been recorded in 2012. Predictions for southern Mali by Fewsnet, the US early warning system, suggest at least 93% of the millet crop will be successful. Although there have been pockets of drought, and the rains may be in danger of petering out before October in some regions, anecdotal evidence suggests prices in local markets are starting to ease.

But good news on the rains risks signalling that everything is back to normal. Oxfam is trying to stop donor and media attention turning elsewhere, saying: “The food crisis is far from over and an increase in aid is still needed to help farmers and herders overcome the triple challenges of recurrent droughts, persistent poverty and political instability.”

The Sahel crisis is about much more than rain, or lack of it. Yes, in the years when the rains fail more people are pushed into hunger, but the NGO message is that this is something that will take years to fix.

Via Twitter user Chike Chukudebelu, a piece by Salisu Suleiman on Northern Nigeria’s hereditary Muslim rulers:

All over the North, the inbred respect for ward and district heads, as well as emirs, is fast diminishing and, consequently, the authority and the myths behind the traditional institutions they head. For those who feared the institutions, a new boldness is in place; for those who had high regards for them, a subtle disdain has emerged and for members of the ruling clans, the rewards of being part of the royal classes are fast ebbing.
This is not to say that the North’s emirs have lost their powers: they remain largely powerful and able to influence economic and social policy. But events of the last few years have eaten away the basis of their legitimacy.

Louisa Lombard on the killing of people and elephants in Africa:

At least 25,000 elephants may have been slaughtered in Africa in 2011 — more than in any year since reporting began in 2002 — according to Kenneth Burnham, the statistician for Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants, an intergovernmental research agency.

Hundreds of humans have also died as a result of the elephant slaughter — not just from scattered maulings or tramplings, but from bullets fired by other humans fighting on the animals’ behalf.

The State Department’s Dipnote reports on an event on food security headlined by Secretary Hillary Clinton and Malawi’s President Joyce Banda.

Lesley Anne Warner on reactions in South Sudan and Kenya to the US presidential campaign.

Roving Bandit asks some interesting questions about policy research priorities in South Sudan.

Owen Barder: “Three Lessons from Britain’s Multilateral Aid Review.”

A call for papers for a conference on “India in Africa.”

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5 thoughts on “Africa Blog Roundup: Hunger in the Sahel, Northern Nigeria’s Hereditary Muslim Rulers, Ivory Wars, and More

  1. The fundamental cause of Boko Haram is poor leadership at the LOCAL LEVEL, not the national level.

    The reason why I pointed this out to Alex was to expose people to the view from the ground up. Many Western analysts wrongly assume that “alienation from Abuja” is the primary cause of Boko Haram. This annoys the Christian community in Northern Nigeria and Southerners who had to endure almost thirty years of Northern dominated Military dictatorships.

    No solution to Boko Haram can be found without dealing with problems at the local level. Local politicians and traditional rulers must be held to account. Overemphasis on Abuja will not solve many problems, these problems predate Nigeria’s independence and Abuja neither has the capacity nor the funds to tackle them.

    Nigeria cannot afford to divert funds from the Niger Delta in order to invest them in Northern Nigeria, Northern Nigeria is too big, the money will be wasted and it is politically impossible to do that.

    The economy of Northern Nigeria has shrunk by 30 percent, and Northern Nigeria is going to be set back by at least a few decades if Boko Haram persists.

    The next few years will present us with the results of an interesting experiment – how well can the South do in the absence of the North from Nigeria’s economy? If Southern Nigeria’s economy grows at a blistering pace, then expect voices in the South to be emboldened to seek a destiny independent of the North.

  2. Interesting look at the emirs but the conclusion seems rather weak and confusing to me. What does the writer mean when they say that “the best way to reform is simply to be on the side of the people” or that “the monarchical systems in the Middle East – on which we modeled our institutions – are also scrambling to reform and promote more freedoms and opportunities for their people”? Be on the side of which people? Do they mean the lower and middle classes? And which monarchies are promoting freedom and opportunities?

    • For those of us who live in Nigeria, it is very straight forward – being on “the side of the people”, simply means to rule in a “people friendly manner”. It means they should use their influence to promote the education of the “Talakawas” (ordinary folk), stop stealing the money set aside for health care etc.

      Northern Nigeria is very different from the South – in the North, the traditional rulers are very influential and the class structure is more rigid (almost feudal).

      There was a movement started by the late Aminu Kano to promote the education of the “Talakawas” – this of course, was frustrated by more reactionary elements (I remember Abubakar Rimi, the governor of Kano winning an award from UNICEF for promoting education).

      Northerners travel a lot more (many of them live in Lagos). Since they tend to be less educated than Southerners (virtually all the boys from the far North who live around me are illiterate, and my gate man can’t read the numbers on my license plate), they are understandably angry that even though “Northerners” have ruled Nigeria for most of its independence, it hasn’t led to any tangible benefits for them.

      Last election, Buhari was wildly popular in the North because he is the only leader who has reputation for being straight forward and being on the side of the people. Property belonging to influential people (including Emirs) was burnt last year.

      Boko Haram primarily taps into the frustration with LOCAL LEADERSHIP, (not frustration with the center – as many Western analysts wrongly diagnose). Frustration with the center is enthusiastically promoted by the Northern elite because it absolves them of responsibility – that is wrong, and that write-up attempts to correct that.

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