Monday, 29 August 2011

On Boko Haram..

John Campbell of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) sounding the alarm on Boko Haram in November 2010. Mr Campbell was pointing out that "deteriorating economic and social conditions in Northern Nigeria are behind the recurring upsurge in Boko Haram's activity".



Mr Campbell also wrote this blog after the bombing of the UN office building in Abuja, Nigeria last Friday, in which he suggests that although Boko Haram has not been part of an international terrorist movement, the group has doubtlessly had contact with Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb and with Al-Shabaab. (For more of Campbell on Nigeria, click here).

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Witchcraft and superstition in Africa (a view from Australia)

Yesterday, (23/08/2011)

I heard a broadcast.

Click here for the broadcast

It featured Leo Igwe, I had never heard of the man before. He was introduced as a humanist, and a founder of the Nigerian humanist movement, Nigerian skeptic society. He is also a Director – International Humanist and Ethical Union for West and Central Africa.

Since I didn’t know what a “humanist” was, I looked it up.

“Humanism is the belief that we can live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs. Humanists make sense of the world using reason, experience and shared human values. We seek to make the best of the one life we have by creating meaning and purpose for ourselves. We take responsibility for our actions and work with others for the common good..

So now I know what humanist is. Ok, back to Leo Igwe.

He kicked off his introduction with this line

…"My country is deeply religious and we have very little to show for that in terms of progress, development, tolerance and civilised values. Deep religiosity in my country has brought us so much hatred, conflict, division and discrimination…

This is a point of view, I would never have expected someone in a prominent position from Nigeria to ever say, speaking the truth so clearly, unambiguously and addressing issues head-on, without a huge dose of denial of basic facts. Unlike the former foreign minister Ojo Maduekwe, who said “there are no gays in Nigeria”. People of the ilk of Mr Maduekwe , all too often occupy prominent positions in Nigeria. So to hear someone like Mr Igwe speaking was literally a breath of “fresh air”, he didn’t gloss over the gory facts . Anyway, he talked about how religion has been twisted and used to persecute individuals within society based on the idea that they are perceived to be witches or wizards.

Society has been effectively hijacked by religious zealots (from many faiths), that many of politicans whom you would expect to defend the defenseless are rendered impotent, due to them either believing the doctrine pedaled by many Pentecostal churches (in this particular case), or they rely on the followers of Pentecostal churches.

Step in reason, logic, self-responsibility to dispel this mania of superstition that pervades Nigeria and much of sub-Saharan Africa. The skeptics society and humanist society, are slowly changing minds, encouraging people to think for themselves, so hopefully this practice of targeting individuals on account of sorcery will come to an end.

This behaviour is not confined to Nigeria alone.

"Cases of children being accused of witchcraft occur particularly in at least eight countries in west and central Africa: Benin, Gabon, Nigeria, Liberia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo Brazzaville and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)."

Click here

To hear of people like Mr Igwe, shows that the candle of hope still flickers against the odds in Nigeria.

Some other relevant links can be found below.

Belief in Witchcraft in Africa

The religious climate in Nigeria

Friday, 19 August 2011

Human Trafficking: The Nigerian Connection





Some really interesting stuff. A direct consequence of the dereliction of duty by government and the potent combination of poverty and ignorance. I have previously discussed this issue in my post Sex, Lies and Black Magic.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Climate Change Adaptation and Conflict in Nigeria

"Climate change, a growing number of voices in media and policy circles warn, is raising the risks of violent conflict in the twenty-first century. Dire futures are predicted for some of the world's poorest, least prepared countries and their most vulnerable citizens. This report, (authored by Aaron Sayne, who in July 2011 published policy recommendations with background on Nigeria's Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB)), is sponsored by the Centers of Innovation at the U.S. Institute of Peace and evaluates these claims for conflict-prone Nigeria.

Based on a comprehensive literature survey, interviews with senior government officials, academics and private sector figures and the author's work as a conflict analyst in Nigeria, the report calls for a more nuanced approach to mapping the links between climate change and conflict. It reviews evidence of such links in Nigeria and outlines a process for achieving conflict-sensitive adaptation to the effects of climate change."

Click on this link for the 16-page Special Report

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Friday, 12 August 2011

Hot Cities: Dakar, Senegal

From the Rockefeller Foundation's landmark documentary series, 'Hot Cities', which premièred on BBC World News in 2009 and explores the impact of climate change on urban areas. The series was released just as world leaders were conducting negotiations leading up to the United Nations Climate Conference in Copenhagen.

Click here to watch in full all of the episodes in the 8 - part series.







The underlying message in the case of Senegal, as with several other African nations in a similar situation and facing similar circumstances, is, in my estimation, that in a world with a rapidly changing climate, governments should understand more acutely the need for investment in food security. The problems of 'climate change migration' and 'climate change refugees' that were predicted, are now becoming a reality.

Increased urbanisation will make the dangers of global poverty and climate crises especially acute in cities. The concentration of low-income people in high risk areas and on an ecologically fragile land will increasingly expose millions to the consequences of imminent and worsening climate disruption.

The problems associated with climate change are among the most serious that many African countries face. Yet I fear that too few on the continent are aware of this, understand the seriousness of the situation and recognise the potentially dire consequences of failing in a timely manner to tackle the looming crises head on.

Monday, 8 August 2011

On climate, hotspots and poverty..



It is, of course, poor people – and especially those in marginalised social groups like women, children, the elderly and disabled – who will suffer most from [climate] changes. This is because the impact of humanitarian disasters is as much a result of people’s vulnerability as their exposure to hazards. – CARE International (2008), Humanitarian Implications of Climate Change: Mapping Emerging Trends and Risk Hotspots.

What is a climate hotspot?

A climate hotspot is an area that is facing particularly high impact from global warming and climate change and is most vulnerable to its deleterious (or injurious) effects. With regard specifically to environmental factors and global warming, a hotspot can be assessed using the indicators below (from http://www.climatehotmap.org/). It’s important to keep in mind that the impacts from climate change reach well beyond the natural world, affecting social, political, and economic arenas as well.

Fingerprints

Indicators of a widespread and long-term trend toward warmer global temperatures, including:

Heat waves and periods of unusually warm weather, which can lead to increases in heat-related illness and death, particularly in urban areas and among the elderly, young, ill, or poor.

Ocean warming, sea-level rise, and coastal flooding. “A continuing rise in average global sea level would inundate parts of many heavily populated river deltas and the cities on them, making them uninhabitable, and would destroy many beaches around the world,” according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of 2,000 scientists which advises the United Nations (Tacio, 2009).

Glaciers melting. As glaciers continue to shrink, summer water flows will drop sharply, disrupting an important source of water for irrigation and power in many areas that rely on mountain watersheds.

Arctic and Antarctic warming. Melting permafrost is forcing the reconstruction of roads, airports, and buildings and is increasing erosion and the frequency of landslides. Reduced sea ice and ice shelves, changes in snowfall, and pest infestations affect native plants and animals that provide food and resources to many people.

Harbingers

Events that foreshadow the types of impacts likely to become more frequent and widespread with continued warming.

Spreading disease. Warmer temperatures allow mosquitoes that transmit diseases such as malaria and dengue fever to extend their ranges and increase both their biting rate and their ability to infect humans.

Earlier spring arrival. An earlier spring may disrupt animal migrations, alter competitive balances among species, and cause other unforeseen problems.

Plant and animal range shifts and population changes, in some cases leading to extinction where warming occurs faster than they can respond or if human development presents barriers to their migration.

Coral reef bleaching, which results from the loss of microscopic algae that both color and nourish living corals. Other factors that contribute to coral reef bleaching include nutrient and sediment runoff, pollution, coastal development, dynamiting of reefs, and natural storm damage.

Downpours, heavy snowfalls, and flooding

Droughts and fires. Along with the human toll, sustained drought makes wildfires more likely, and crops and trees more vulnerable to pest infestations and disease.

The case of Burkina Faso

What makes Burkina Faso a hotspot? Along with heat waves and prolonged periods of unusually warm weather, Burkina Faso has been increasingly facing a number of the harbingers listed above, including extended droughts, downpours, and flooding, along with unpredictable planting seasons.

Jan Egeland, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on conflict, has called the Sahel region of West Africa, which includes northern Burkina Faso, “ground zero” for vulnerabilities to climate change (IRIN, 2008, “Sahel: Region is “ground zero” for climate change – Egeland”). He further observed, “Climate change in Burkina Faso does not mean there is less rain, it means that rainfall has got less predictable. And weather overall has become much more extreme. . . . [in 2007] in Burkina Faso, there were eight rainfalls over 150mm – that means eight major floods in one four month period. The alternative to floods is basically no rainfall – it’s all or nothing, and either way is a crisis for some of the poorest people on earth” (IRIN, 2008, “Sahel: Climate Change Diary Day 1”).

A report on the The Humanitarian Implications of Climate Change (2008) commissioned by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and CARE International identifies the Sahel region of Africa as facing “high overall human vulnerability” to climate change in the coming decades. Burkina Faso is identified as one of the hotspots at risk from climate change in another recent study as well, which focuses on countries in sub-Saharan Africa most vulnerable to climate change (Thornton et al., 2008). Both studies looked at a combination of environmental, social, and economic factors in assessing vulnerability.

Burkina Faso has one of the highest poverty rates in the world, and the majority of the population relies on subsistence agriculture, making the Burkinabe particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. These factors combined with a high rate of illiteracy, a poor communications and technology infrastructure, and a struggling education system combine to make Burkina Faso an important country of focus for a study not only of climate hotspots.

Friday, 5 August 2011

My fifteen minutes of fame..

For a while, I was undecided whether to title this post 'Fifteen Minutes to Save the World', a play on Madonna's song '4 Minutes'. I settled for the one above though, because this more accurately describes what happened last evening, when I was invited by a Dublin radio station, Dublin City FM 103.2, to participate in a 'lively discussion' on the crisis in the Horn of Africa, broadcast live. My role, I think, was to bring to the discussion arguments from the perspective of the angry and frustrated African, since I have previously strongly made the assertion that African governments and their peoples have repeatedly demonstrated an almost shameful lack of interest in, and concern for, the very serious human tragedy that is the drought and famine in Somalia and other countries in the Horn of Africa.

I received the invitation only a few hours before the scheduled live broadcast and hence had insufficient time to notify everyone, although I did put out the word on Twitter and Facebook. The last time I was on a radio show was on the BBC World Service and as far as I am aware, nobody who knows me tuned in then. When BBC Radio 5 invited me subsequently to join in a discussion on the then impending Nigerian National Assembly Election, I dis-invited myself, for reasons I had no control over. So yesterday, it was important to me that somebody listened and that they should give me some reaction afterwards.

And fortunately, just five minutes before the show began my niece who lives in Lagos, Nigeria said "Hi Uncle" on Facebook. After hurriedly explaining to her that I was on the cusp of joining in a live radio show, I sent her the web link to the radio station's website, since the show was to be broadcast online as well. And so, apart from the several thousand Dubliners who were tuned in and would have heard my "passionate" and "heartfelt" remarks, a member of my family too listened in.

And the reaction she gave when we chatted afterwards was good too. I mean my niece is no pushover, (she holds a Masters Degree in International Business from a top UK university and holds down a senior position in the banking world), so her reaction really did matter to me. I was concerned, because I know of my tendency to be ardent and impassioned, (which even years of advocacy before the courts has done little to improve), especially when the subject-matter is one about which I feel strongly, as yesterday's was. I feared that I would stall and stammer, as occurred while on the BBC World Service, when uncharacteristically I stuttered and became tongue-tied and ran out of words altogether, lol.

But no, It was great to have the opportunity to express my views concerning this very important issue, the importance of which going by the evidence, few Africans seem to be aware of, or to be interested in. Many are nonchalant - the African Union has coughed up a measly $300,000 in relief aid, whereas, the British public alone has so far put together donations amounting to in excess of £44 million. My niece later commented that there was little talk, appreciation or awareness in Nigeria of the seriousness of the crisis; in a situation where even the governments of Africa believe that in times of crisis such as this, relief ought always to come from elsewhere other than Africa..