Africa Blog/Reports Roundup: Somalia Famine, Mali Elections, Baga, and More

Famine Early Warning Systems Network (.pdf): “Mortality Among Populations of Southern and Central Somalia Affected by Severe Food Insecurity and Famine during 2010-2012.”

Africa Research Institute: “After Boroma: Consensus, representation and parliament in Somaliland.”

Somalia Newsroom: “Toward an Economic Recovery in Somalia.”

Bruce Whitehouse: “Why Mali Won’t Be Ready for July Elections.”

AFP:

Senegal and Chad signed an agreement on Friday to allow special tribunal judges to carry out investigations in Chad into former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre, ahead of his trial for war crimes.
Habre’s prosecution, delayed for years by Senegal where he has lived since being ousted in 1990, will set a historic precedent as until now African leaders accused of atrocities have only been tried in international courts.

Financial Times:

“A French writer from Algeria,” was how a tight-lipped Albert Camus characterised himself in October 1957 on accepting his nomination as the second-youngest winner of the Nobel prize in literature. These simple words concealed a churning heart. The normally voluble Camus, then 43, was in the midst of a period of self-imposed silence.

After years of championing equal rights for Arabs in his native Algeria, Camus, the son of a Pied-Noir family descended from European settlers, found himself in the uncomfortable position of rejecting any notion of his homeland gaining independence from France.

Jacques Enaudeau: “In Search of the ‘African Middle Class’.”

Baobab: “Djibouti’s Development: Location, Location, Location.” A video with a link to a report.

Africa in DC: “Anti-Federalism, Colonial Nostalgia, and Development in Nigeria: Lagos State Governor at SAIS.”

Alkasim Abdulkadir: “After Baga, JTF Lost in a Maze of Rocks and Hard Places.”

Al Jazeera: “Jailed Boko Haram Members Seek Pardon from Nigeria.”

Africa News Roundup: UN Political Mission in Somalia, Governor in Kidal, Coup Attempt in Chad

Reuters: “At Least Four Dead in Chad Coup Attempt.”

WSJ: “South Sudan to Resume Oil Exports.”

Magharebia: “Maghreb Minister Back Security Cooperation.”

IRIN: “A Long Road Ahead for Justice in Cote d’Ivoire.”

BBC: “Why Libya’s Militias Are Up in Arms.”

UN News Centre: “Security Council Unanimously Approves New UN Political Mission in Somalia.”

Maliweb (French): “The Government Appoints a Governor in Kidal.”

Times Live: “Ethiopia Confirms Jail Terms for Blogger, Opposition Figure [Eskinder Nega and Andualem Arage].”

What other news is out there?

Back from Hiatus

I’m back today from roughly a month’s hiatus, which I spent working intensively on my dissertation. I plan to maintain a regular blogging schedule through May and the summer, though some travel this week may prevent me from resuming daily blogging until the weekend.

It’s good to take a step back from this project, but I’m returning to blogging with a few more frustrations than when I left. The big advantage of what I write here is that I can react rapidly to events and add a little meaning, context, and analysis to them, with a lag of as little as a few hours in some cases. An academic journal article, in contrast, might take as long as two years from the time of submission to the time of publication. The big disadvantage of blogging is that almost all of what I write day-to-day is provisional or, at worst, inaccurate or irrelevant in light of later information. I’m simplifying, I admit; there are a slew of options and genres in between the academic article and the blog post. In general, though, longer-form, better-researched pieces take more time to craft, but offer deeper insights into trends and the long-term meaning of events. All this is merely to state the obvious, but also to say that my evaluation of the trade-offs among different media has shifted a bit. At present I’m less satisfied with the blogging medium than I used to be; I would like to find a way to present information more holistically.

In the short term, I’ll likely stick with the blogging model I’ve been using: quick reactions to events as they occur. In the medium term, I plan to start experimenting with different ways of presenting information, including visually: the Syria Files at Syria Deeply offer one model of how to make crucial contextual information available, accessible, and compelling to readers (viewers?). At the same time, I am wary of duplicating content already available at Wikipedia, BBC country profiles, etc. I welcome suggestions from you on how to make the site better and how to diversify its content without reinventing the wheel. What kind of content would someone new to the Sahel need, that is not available, or not well presented, already?

Turning to other matters, during April I wrote two pieces for World Politics Review: one on Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan (April 2), and one on Chad‘s role in (and announced withdrawal from) Mali (April 16). A few other external pieces are in the works; I’ll post those here as they come out. I should be back by Saturday at the latest with more news-based content.

Roundup on the Rebel Conquest of Bangui, Central African Republic

On March 24, after months of rebellion and negotiations, the rebel coalition Seleka took control of Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR). For more background, see herehere, and especially here. This roundup attempts to capture key events and implications of the rebels’ capture of the capital:

  • VOA: “CAR Leader Flees; Rebel Chief Declares Self President.”
  • BBC: “CAR Rebel Head Michel Djotodia ‘Suspends Constitution’.”
  • Jeune Afrique (French) has a profile of Djotodia.
  • Al Jazeera: “CAR President [Francois Bozize] Seeks Refuge in Cameroon.”
  • Al Jazeera: “Looting and Gunfire in Captured CAR Capital.”
  • CSM: “Rebels Capture Central African Republic: Now Can They Govern It?”
  • Reuters: “Regional peacekeepers said that leader of the Seleka rebel coalition, self-proclaimed president Michel Djotodia, appealed for their help in restoring order after his own men joined in a second day of looting on Monday in the riverside capital Bangui.”
  • France24 reports that Seleka promises to hold elections after a three-year transitional period.
  • LA Times: “African Union Suspends [CAR] After President Ousted.”
  • IRIN: “CAR Coup Comes Amid Deepening Humanitarian Crisis.”
  • Statements by UN Secretary General Ban Ki MoonUS State Department, UK Foreign Secretary, and French President Francois Hollande.

Africa Blog Roundup: CAR, Mali, Kenya, Nigeria, and More

First, news from the Central African Republic:

Rebels in the Central African Republic have taken the capital, Bangui, after President Francois Bozize fled.

Witnesses reported gunfire as the Seleka rebel coalition took the presidential palace, followed by chaos and looting in the city centre.

Mr Bozize arrived with his family in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a Congolese official said.

The rebels, involved in an on-off rebellion since December, say Mr Bozize failed to honour a peace deal.

Gregory Mann: “It is looking ever more likely that France will claim to win its war while Mali fails to win its own.”

Bruce Whitehouse: “Mali’s Coup, One Year On.”

A podcast on Sudan-South Sudan agreements.

Sean Jacobs: “Chinua Achebe: The Writer Lives On.”

Amb. John Campbell comments on a recent BBC report from Maiduguri, Nigeria.

Neha Paliwal: “Kenyan Government Yanks Condom Ad Featuring Unfaithful Woman.”

Roving Bandit: “Kigali to Oxford.”

Africa News Roundup: Malian Refugees, Seleka, Ethiopian Pastoralists, and More

Rest in Peace Chinua Achebe.

Reuters:

Fears of ethnic reprisals by government troops in Mali have driven thousands of Arabs and Tuaregs in the country’s north to abandon their homes and flee to Mauritania, undermining efforts to reunite their war-torn homeland.

At least 20,000 civilians have trekked westward across the dunes to the crowded Mbera refugee camp since mid-January when government forces reentered northern Mali on the coattails of a French ground and air campaign that swept Islamist rebels from the region.

The refugees joined 54,000 others who already fled to Mauritania when the rebels seized northern Mali in April 2012 and went on to impose a violent form of sharia law involving amputations and public whippings.

ICRC:

In northern Mali – where cholera is endemic – maintaining the drinking-water supply to the cities of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu is a major public-health issue. The lives of 115,000 people are at stake. This is no mean feat in an area that has been gripped by heavy fighting since the beginning of 2012.

IRIN: “Keeping Pastoralist Children in School in Ethiopia.”

RFI (French): “Centrafrique: inquiétude à Bangui à l’approche des rebelles de la Seleka.”

UN News Centre: “Central African Republic: Ban, Security Council Urge Parties to Immediately Halt Fighting.”

VOA: “Will There Be Enough Water for Everyone?”

Africa Blog Roundup: Qadhafi and the Sahel, Sankara, Mali, and More

Lesley Anne Warner summarizes General Carter Ham’s testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee: parts one and two.

Alex de Waal: “African Roles in the Libyan Conflict of 2011.”

Louisa Lombard: “Post-Gaddafi Repercussions in the Sahel.”

Haba Na Haba: “Report on Mutharika’s Death.”

Internally Displaced: “Workshops, the Plague of Juba.”

Alemu Tafesse: “The Ethiopian Muslim Civil Rights Movement.”

Africa Is A Country: “Who Killed Thomas Sankara?”

Africa in DC on an event about northern Mali.

What are you reading today?

Africa News Roundup: Kenya, South Sudan, Algeria, Nigeria, and More

VOA:

The runner-up in Kenya’s presidential election is filing a petition with the Supreme Court Saturday challenging the results.  The party of Prime Minister Raila Odinga says it will present to the court evidence of electoral fraud. Odinga’s CORD alliance has refused to accept the first-round victory of Jubilee candidate Uhuru Kenyatta.

Results released last week by the country’s electoral commission, the IEBC, declared Mr. Kenyatta had won 50.07 percent of the vote, just enough to avoid a run-off with Mr. Odinga.

Reuters: “After a Long Fight for Freedom, South Sudan Cracks Down on Dissent.”

Bloomberg:

South Sudan’s government said it signed an agreement with Ethiopia and Djibouti that may enable the East African nation to export oil by truck from July, while a study on a pipeline linking the three countries is completed.

An accord signed on March 12 in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, envisages crude being exported via Djibouti’s Red Sea port of Douraleh, South Sudan Deputy Petroleum Minister Elizabeth James Bol said in an interview today. Douraleh is 1,469 kilometers (913 miles) northeast of Juba, the South Sudanese capital.

[...]

South Sudan is considering building two pipelines, one via Ethiopia and another across Kenya to the port of Lamu, as an alternative to the conduit that runs through neighboring Sudan.

Magharebia reports on Morocco’s diplomatic outreach to Mauritania, which is partly motivated by concern over the crisis in Mali.

IRIN: “Call to End Neglect of Emergency Education in Mali.”

Bloomberg: “Senegal Seeks to Become West Africa Hub for Islamic Finance.”

Al Jazeera: “Thousands Protest Unemployment in Algeria.”

VOA: “Development Improves in Ethiopia, But Just Slightly.”

The Guardian (Nigeria): “Northern Christians, Emir [of Anka, in Zamfara State] Oppose Amnesty for Boko Haram.” The titular Christians are the Northern Christian Elders Forum (NORCEF).

Osun Defender:

Two top leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party in Borno State were yesterday assassinated by gunmen suspected to be operatives of the Islamist militant group Boko Haram. The slayings came less than one week after the officials participated in welcoming President Goodluck Jonathan during his tour of the troubled state.
The victims were Usman Gula (who was the PDP’s vice chairman for Southern Borno), and Hajia Gamboa, who served as the party’s women’s leader for Shehuri ward in Maiduguri.

What else is happening?

Muslim First Names in West Africa

Names carry associations. We aren’t always even aware of what associations our own names carry, let alone those of others. Over time, I’ve done a certain amount of thinking about Muslim names in West Africa. Perhaps what I have to say will be painfully obvious, but I thought I might share a few simple points in case they are helpful to other outsiders working to understand cultural context. What I say below draws heavily on my experiences in Nigeria and Senegal and I hope you will assume neither that these remarks apply everywhere in West Africa, nor that my observations apply only to West Africa (if that makes sense). I talk here almost entirely about people’s first or given names, rather than family names.

The first thing to know is that Muslims often name their children for prominent religious figures. Let’s take a few male names. Muhammad (rendered in many different ways), Ahmad (which derives from the same h-m-d root in Arabic), and Mustafa (Arabic, “the chosen one”) refer, of course, to the Prophet Muhammad. Male children are also often named for other prophets, such as Adam, Ibrahim (Abraham), Yusuf (Joseph), Musa (Moses), Harun (Aaron), Dawud (David), Sulayman (Solomon), and Isa (Jesus). The names of the four men considered Rightly Guided Caliphs by Sunnis are also popular choices – Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, and Ali. Companions of the Prophet Muhammad, such as Hamza, also have many namesakes. A fourth category for names includes those that refer to God by combining the word ‘abd (Arabic for servant) with one of God’s names – ‘Abd Allah, ‘Abd al Rahman, ‘Abd al Razik, etc. Muslim men are also named for the Prophet Muhammad’s family members – his grandsons Hasan and Husayn.

Muslim women are often named for members of the Prophet Muhammad’s family, such as his wives Khadija, A’isha, and Zaynab, or his daughter Fatima. Muslim women’s names also sometimes come from feminine nouns in Arabic, such as Rahma (“mercy”). 

Second, in West Africa, two distinctive phonetic changes may occur to these names. One is that Muslims may pronounce Arabic case endings that are sometimes left silent – for Muhammad, we find Mahamadou; for Zaynab, Zaynabou; for ‘Ali, Aliyu. Additionally, Muslims for whom Arabic is not their first language may alter certain sounds, particularly the “th” as in the English “think.” So for example we find Usman or Ousman or Ousmane for ‘Uthman; or, putting these two phonetic changes together, Usmanu. In Francophone contexts, further spelling changes may occur: Abdoulaye for ‘Abd Allah, Ramatoulaye for Rahma Allah, etc.

Third, a name may stand in for another name. For example, if more than two sons in a northern Nigerian Muslim household are named Muhammad, the first may be called Auwalu (from the Arabic “awwal,” which means first), the second Sani (from the Arabic “al thani”), etc. Muslims who share a name with a famous historical Muslim personage, or with an older relative, may be nicknamed in honor of that person. In northern Nigeria, a Muslim named Usman may be called Shehu (from the Arabic shaykh) in honor of Shaykh Uthman dan Fodio (1754-1817), the reformer and conqueror. In Senegal, a boy named Malik/Malick may be called “Al Hajj” (even though he has not yet completed the pilgrimage himself) in honor of the Sufi leader Al Hajj Malik Sy.

To talk just a little about last names, they can be structured in a variety of ways. Two forms I am familiar with from northern Nigeria are descent-based names and place names. In the first model, a Muslim man’s middle name may be his father’s name, and his third name his grandfather’s name. “Muhammad Ibrahim,” in this format, would be Muhammad the son of Ibrahim. In the second model, we find a place name as the last name. Shaykh Abubakar Gumi (1922-1992), for example, came from the village of Gumi.

I hope these observations are helpful. It is difficult to generalize, of course. My main goal is to get outsiders thinking about the symbolic associations different names carry, and especially the ways that the early Muslim community and the prophets are constantly invoked in Muslim daily life through people’s names.

Africa Blog Roundup: Kenya, Mali, Algeria, Ethiopia, and More

Ken Opalo gives some important information about the results of the Kenyan presidential election, as well as some things to look out for in the coming weeks.

Kate Almquist Knopf: “Send an Ambassador, Not an Envoy, to Khartoum.” (via Amb. David Shinn, who gives the idea his qualified support.)

Bruce Whitehouse on Mali: “The North, the Army, and the Junta.”

Amb. John Campbell: “Mali Intervention Becoming a Partisan Issue in France?”

The Moor Next Door: “Algeria Plays Defense.”

The Gulele Post: “Ethiopia’s ‘Jihad’ Film and Its Boomerang Effects.”

Dibussi Tande: “Cameroon’s New Senate: An Unnecessary (Anti)Democratic Anachronism.”

Baobab: “Laurent Gbagbo and the ICC: Watching and Waiting.”

Carmen McCain rounds up reviews of the novel Sin Is a Puppy, and asks, “How many Nigerian novels published in Nigeria get this kind of critical response? We need to do better.”

Africa Is A Country: “Dirk Coetzee Is Dead: The Legacies of Apartheid’s Death Squads and the TRC.”

Shelby Grossman with a few links on piracy in Somalia and poverty in Nigeria.