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.”

Africa Blog Roundup: Senegal’s Marieme Faye Sall, Guinea Bissau Coup, Algeria Campaign, Boko Haram, Malawi, DRC, and More

(I’ve mixed in a few news reports with the blog roundup this week, given the importance of several stories.)

Africa Is A Country on Senegal’s First Lady Marieme Faye Sall:

Joyce Banda of Malawi, the newest President of an African country–and only the second sitting African president who is a woman–is getting all the love for her achievements.* (So what if her ascendency came about due to the death of an aging president and his politically weak, colluding brother?). There is also much chatter on the internet about Malawi’s new First Gentleman, retired Chief Justice Richard Banda (with whom Madame Banda has two children). However, the Senegalese might suggest that their country’s new first lady, Marieme Faye Sall, represents a “bigger” deal in how her move to the presidential palace breaks with Senegal’s political history after independence.

Madame Sall’s husband, Macky Sall, has just been elected as President of Senegal. Her significance lies in the fact that she is the first woman of Senegalese birth and ancestry to become First Lady of Senegal. (Previous First Ladies have either been French or in the case of Madame Diouf of Lebanese descent.) This has made her a sensation, especially amongst Senegalese women; this is the first time they are seeing someone they recognize as one of their own in the presidential palace. Some more poetic accolades for her—within Senegal—have included “daughter of the land,” “a committed housewife,” “real Senegalese lady,” and “future burner of thiouraye (a secret mixture of oils, perfumes, seeds and fragrant wood used as a body [perfume], with an exotic, sweet, spicy, herbal aroma) and harbinger of Africa-ness to the state residence.” Top that if you can, Madame Banda.

Some Senegalese women hope that seeing Madame Sall by the president’s side will send a message to their men: They do not need to be married to a “white” French woman before they achieve success in the country. Another important dimension of her ascendancy is the fact that she is a Muslim. All the three previous First Ladies of Senegal were Christians in a nation that is 90% Muslim. Madame Sall’s carefully constructed story includes her having always been there as a support pillar for her husband, leaving her university studies to tend to his career and well being, and having his children.

Check out the whole piece. The significance of such cultural/political symbolism has been debated on this blog before, and will be again. At the very least it is an interesting set of issues to think about.

Lesley Anne Warner on the coup in Guinea-Bissau.

Electoral campaigning kicks off in Algeria in advance of May 10 parliamentary elections.

Boko Haram’s spokesman assassinated over plans to defect?

The New York Times on art in Senegal, Mali, and Cote d’Ivoire.

Owen Barder, “How Will the UK Cast Its Vote for the World Bank?”

The UK has repeatedly said that it favours merit-based appointments of the heads of the World Bank and IMF. It is also a leading advocate for transparency and accountability in development. Now it can live up to both these commitments.

The UK Executive Director will shortly be casting a vote on behalf of British citizens for the next President of the World Bank. At the beginning of the process it was widely assumed that all the European countries would back Dr Jim Kim, because he is the American nominee. Now that all three candidates have been interviewed by the board, I gather that is no longer being taken for granted.

Chris Blattman writes that “identity has crowded out substance” in the debate over the Bank presidency.

Speaking of Malawi’s new President Joyce Banda, The Economist‘s Baobab says that it “looks like she is off to a good start.”

Dr. Laura Seay, “What’s Next for the DRC?”

In light of a new report from the International Crisis Group on China and South Sudan, Amb. John Campbell assesses the relationship between the two nations. Roving Bandit looks at DFID’s livelihoods program in South Sudan.

What are you reading today?

Africa News Roundup: President Joyce Banda, Boko Haram, the Sudans, Mali, and More

Following the sudden death this week of Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika, Vice President Joyce Banda has been sworn in as the country’s new president and thereby become “first female head of state in southern Africa.”

The Los Angeles Times has published a long article discussing civilians’ and police officers’ fears of the Northern Nigerian rebel movement Boko Haram.

Sudan and South Sudan return to the negotiating table after several false starts and delays earlier this week.

Meanwhile in Sudan, Southerners resident in the North are set to lose their residency rights tomorrow, an event that will place them in “legal limbo.”

IRIN presents a timeline on conflict in northern Mali, covering the period 1891 to the present.

Eurasia Review writes up an interview with Dr. Adriana Piga on Mali, Libya, and the Sahel:

According to Piga, “…our reasoning must start from this preliminary observation: the conflict in Libya last year and its outcome have had and continues to have consequences in all countries of the Sahel. Mali is the most obvious case, but Niger is watching with concern what is happening in the neighboring country. From Libya, the Tuareg have not only returned well armed and trained, they have also had access to considerable financial resources. Migrants have also returned and their remittances supported very weak local economies, a case involving several countries including as far away Burkina Faso.”

Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia said Friday that Algeria will not tolerate the secession of the region rebels call the Azawad from Mali.

Following the kidnapping of Algerian diplomats at the consulate in Gao, northern Mali, on Thursday, News Ness (French) writes that Algerian special forces are mobilized to intervene in an attempt to rescue the diplomats. The site Algerie1 (French) has more.

In Niger, a major market in the capital Niamey suffered a devastating fire on Wednesday.

What else is going on?