Africa Blog Roundup: Kaduna Easter Bombing, War in Mali, China in Ethiopia, Succession in Malawi, and More

A bomb near a church in Kaduna, Northern Nigeria, killed dozens this morning.

The war in northern Mali may be “over,” but events remain fast-paced and complex. Andrew Lebovich writes about the interactions between various armed groups in “The Blag Flag Flies in Mali.” And African Arguments writes up the contents of a roundtable with several experts on Mali.

Lesley Warner weighs in on the prospects for international recognition for the newly declared independent state of “Azawad” in northern Mali. She offers several important insights, especially the following:

Previous cases of post-colonial state creation in Africa demonstrate that the success stories were administered as separate entities during the colonial period. Eritrea became an Italian colony, then a governorate of Italian East Africa, then a UN-mandated British protectorate, then an autonomous unit federated to Ethiopia in 1950 by a UN-resolution, and then was annexed by Ethiopia in 1962. The case of South Sudan is a bit different. As part of the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium (1899-1955), southern Sudan was administered separately from the northern part of Sudan between 1922 and 1946 as a result of the Closed Districts Ordinance (also known as the “Southern Policy”), but was then reintegrated with northern Sudan during preparations for independence in the late 1940s and early 1950s. With respect to this point on a region’s history of administration by colonial powers, Somaliland, which declared its independence from Somalia in 1991, is a slight exception. This region was administered as British Somaliland (with the exception of a few years as part of Italian East Africa), and then united with the Trust Territory of Somalia in 1960 to become the Somali Republic.

History is important. I have less and less patience for the policymakers, investors, and other audiences who so often tell report authors or conference presenters, “Keep the history stuff to a minimum.” The history matters, and it’s worth taking the time to examine.

Christian Science Monitor on China in Ethiopia.

Dr. Kim Yi Dionne on the presidential succession in Malawi.

Abdi Aynte writes that a split has taken place within the southern Somali rebel movement al Shabab.

Africa Is A Country on Cape Town:

In 2008, while living and studying in Cape Town, I heard, over and over, two observations about the city: it was a place of singular beauty, perhaps even the world’s most captivating city. Visitor and local alike seemed incapable of seeing other landscapes than the physical one, and some claimed that the city’s insularity was a result of the mystical, domineering influence of Table Mountain. The second perception, loosely related to the first, was that Cape Town was not an African city or, at least, not a “real African city.”

What are you reading today?

10 thoughts on “Africa Blog Roundup: Kaduna Easter Bombing, War in Mali, China in Ethiopia, Succession in Malawi, and More

  1. Kaduna, like Jos sits at the fault-line between the Muslim far-North and the Middle Belt. If anything will trigger the breakup of the Nigerian state, it is likely to come from the Middle Belt. As I said earlier a lot of time, effort and energy has been spent trying to understand the Muslim far-North, but precious little is understood about the incredibly ethnically and religiously diverse Middle Belt.

    We may regret that oversight.

    At this time, let us spend a few moments reflecting on the victims of this cowardly attack and their loved ones. A lot of analysis tends to be sterile, antiseptic, casually brushing aside the human face of tragedy. As a Nigerian I will be the first to tell you that anger is rising rapidly in the Christian community – and the refusal of the US government to label Boko Haram as a “terrorist organisation” is being interpreted as “tacit support by the West of the Northern Muslim elite”. (The Nigerian Christian community strongly suspects that elements of Northern elite are behind Boko Haram).

    In the wake of 9/11, it was anger, not good sense that led to the adventure in Iraq. The Christian community in Nigeria is being pushed to the wall and up till now, they have demonstrated remarkable restraint. Let us pray that cool heads will prevail, it is becoming extremely difficult to restrain the “hot heads”.

    • You offer an important reminder when you talk about the antiseptic nature of much analysis. I struggle with issues of tone – how to present information in a human way, but without being sensational. Certainly it is easy, especially when I’m in a rush, to write about things in a way that presents tragedies as mere events. I will work on that.

      • I’ve followed your blog for quite some time and you write like an academic. The problem with academic social scientists is that they tend to write like hard scientists. This might be useful, but it doesn’t tend to take into account the fact that the World is full of irrational actors.

        There is no politician anywhere in the World (elected or non-elected) that does not appeal to emotions (greed, insecurity, ethnic identity). The emotional environment in Northern Nigeria will determine the future of that part of country. When Northern Nigeria erupted in an orgy of violence and looting after the last presidential election, most Western analysis was clinically focused on the “grievance and sense of alienation” triggering the crisis.

        Precious little was spent on the victims of the “aggrieved and alienated” youth. True to form, the Southern Nigerian News Media, Nigerian News blogs and Christian websites not only published pictures of the (mainly Christian) victims, but ran stories about their personal lives and the circumstances surrounding their death. There were touching stories about the last phone calls some of these people made to loved ones and tributes on their “Facebook” pages.

        The same applies to Muslim victims of the inter ethnic/religious crisis in Northern Nigeria.

        On the one hand, Western analysts are excited about the mobile telephony/internet revolution in Africa. On the other, they are yet to come to terms with the implications – readily available information, competing narratives, less dependence on “Western news sources/conventional wisdom”.

        Alex, these are no longer the 1970’s. Write with the understanding that millions of young Nigerians/Africans are now active participants in the global community of ideas.

      • I don’t really know what to say to you. I appreciate that you bring a critical perspective to issues and I try to take your criticisms into account, not just in the moment but over time. Because of you I have devoted more attention to Christian reactions to Boko Haram (not enough for your taste, I know), and I am thinking a lot these days about your focus on the Middle Belt.

        But relentlessly denying my individuality, lumping me in – in every comment you make – with “Western analysts” and “academics,” is really alienating. I feel that whatever I write, you will see me through the same lens. Every comment you make is directed at me personally and demographically, devaluing my ideas because of who I am, never content just to disagree on the merits – or, hell, to say something positive every once in a while. I have never claimed to know everything about Nigeria or Africa or to be right all the time, and I try to write with an awareness that real people make up the events I discuss here. I try to understand where people are coming from and why they act as they do, and I try to give them dignity.

        From what I understand of where you’re coming from, I can say too that if I were a Nigerian on the internet, I would probably resent Westerners’ commentary about my country, just as I as an American sometimes resent what outsiders say about this country. But what is our exchange worth, yours and mine, if it is just comment after comment after comment telling me that I have failed? Who would not get tired of that? Generally when I respond to you these days I regret it, because you tend to come back with something even more demeaning. It hurts my feelings, and I am frankly puzzled as to what value you find in sticking around here.

    • I am very sorry. I think it would be better for both of us if I keep my distance from this blog. I think I am too sad, too angry and probably too frustrated.

      I am too involved emotionally to be objective or to even think clearly.

  2. Alex, I think what Maduka is trying to say, though in an emotional way, is that there seems to be a subtle attempt to justify the acts of Boko Haram usually lead by well known Northern friends like Ambassador Campbell and Jean Herskovits and then recycled by others on the internet (these so-called experts are not new to Nigerians and we know them to have been friends to ex-Nigerian military dictators and politicians of Northern origin. Campbell sits on the board of Abubakar Atiku’s University and Herskovits sits on the board of the foundation of Nigeria’s military strongman, Theophilus Danjuma. As a Nigerian, if you read ‘Nigeria, Dancing on the Brink’ by John Campbell you will surely come to the conclusion that the book is just about Northern Nigeria. Even most of the characters he interviewed are Northerners. So it either implies that Ambassador Campbell has few Southern and Middle Belt friends or acquaintances or it was a deliberate attempt to attack Southern administration especially if the time of publication is taken into consideration) . These justifications are usually done without regard to the sufferings of the victims who are mainly non-Hausa Fulani Muslims.

    Ethnic and religious relations in Nigeria is very complex and sensitive. It can only be understood if one goes back history lane, I mean as far back as the British Conquest of Nigeria and the way Nigeria was structured and administered during colonial times, the fight for independence, and especially the long years of military rule. But the Northern apologists in the West always made it seems as if Nigeria did not exist before 1999. Before 1999, Northerners have ruled Nigeria for most of her history (about 35 years of rule) so there is no way the South will be responsible for the so-called marginalization and alienation.

    Regarding the Middle Belt, that is the easiest and probably the only place such attacks can be carried out successfully by outsiders. It will be difficult for a Hausa-Fulani militants to operate in the Niger Delta, South East or Southwest as is done in the Middle Belt. Similarly, it will also be difficult for militants from the South to operate in the far North. That leaves the Middle Belt as the arena where every group can operate and also serves as a buffer between the South and the far North. This region currently bear the brunt of these sectarian and ethnic crisis, yet it is rarely mentioned in the analyses of the Northern apologists. Southerners and most Middle Beltans believe that this is intentional.

    • An addition … go through the following sites whenever possible. You will see that the issue of Boko Haram and ethnic crisis in Nigeria has a very very long history. The foundation started over a hundred years ago.

      • The issues above were not and have not been dealt with. That is why we are still having such crisis as in the North and elsewhere in Nigeria.

    • The accusations that I am a stooge for Campbell, a “Northern apologist” (whatever that means), and ignorant of Nigerian history before 1999 are insulting and unfair. I do original research on Northern Nigerian history, including the colonial period – I was in Nigeria earlier this year and I am in London currently, looking at colonial archives and documents. You have certainly made a lot of assumptions about me based on one line I wrote for a news roundup, a line that was intended to be a simple factual statement about a current event.

  3. Alex, well I apologize if that is what you make of my post. I don’t think I referred to you as a Northern apologist in my posts, again, if that is what you deduced from my posted comment then, please, accept my apologies.

    This is the first time I have posted comments on your blog. But I do read your posts and also other blogs. I also observed your exchange with Maduka and was only trying to express my understanding of the reason he posted such comments. Its good to hear that you are doing a research on Northern Nigerian history. But I will appeal that you also consider the history of Southern Nigeria too, especially the Niger Delta and their relationship with European powers that span centuries, and why with all Southern literacy and sophistication during colonial times, the British prefer to deal only with the North and sidelined the educated South (recalled that as far back as the 1920s Southern Nigeria has British trained graduates, but was sidelined by the Colonial administration).

    Lets leave the meaning of Northern apologists for another time. But in a nutshell, there is always that believe from the Colonial times that it is easy to deal (or manipulate?) with the North than the South hence, all efforts should be made to ensure that they are in power. Another of their premise is that the only way the North can meet up with the North is by ensuring that they rule Nigeria. This school of thought is very old, since the days of Luggard and it is a sensitive issue in the South when Westerners try to present that line of argument.

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