Somalia is one of the nightmares of the start of the 21st century – the epitome of so many of the bad things – a failed stated, a country torn by the old (post)colonial and tribal violence that torments so much of Africa, and by the new jihadist and fundamentalist violence as well. One of my professors and I once had a discussion about “social infrastructure” – the structures in society, values, beliefs and so on that allow a society to function, the social and psychological equivalents of roads, bridges, water supplies, utilities – with Somalia as the prime example of a country in which the social infrastructure seemed so devastated that it was hard to imagine any path to recovery – and the boy soldiers there as perhaps the best instance of this.
Here’s an article that offers a lot of insights into the current situation in Somalia, and also some ideas on ways out of the nightmare…
Somalia has a role model for success on its doorstep | Ioan Lewis: Torn between violent extremists and a puppet government, Somalia could look to Somaliland for a lesson in nation building… (via guardian.co.uk.)
I love that the World Cup is bringing attention not only to football (soccer), but also to Africa in general and to South Africa in particular – attention that is not just on some massacre or famine, which seem to be the dominant tropes of news coverage, showing just how much Africa is still “the dark continent” when it comes to awareness and attention in the United States.
But I was dismayed to hear a news report on the World Cup in South Africa on public radio this afternoon illustrated with some music from Mali. Sure it’s on the same continent, but actually it would be almost impossible for it to be further away and still be in sub-Saharan Africa. And, sure, Malian music is terrific, really terrific, but South Africa has terrific music of its own. Remember all that excitement over Paul Simon’s Graceland?
You can see how this would happen – some intern grabs a CD from the “Africa” section and queues up a nice, upbeat instrumental track. But, you know, the fact that it’s plausible to assume there is an “Africa” section speaks to the problem. We are never going to get to grips with the situation there if we keep collapsing the whole continent into one undifferentiated mass.
Nigeria swears in new president: “Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s acting president, has been sworn in as the country’s new leader following the death of Umaru Yar’Adua.
Jonathan took the oath of office at a ceremony in the capital, Abuja, on Thursday, just hours after officials announced the death of Yar’Adua following a long illness.
(via Al Jazeera English – Africa – Nigeria swears in new president.)
Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan sworn in as president: “Tens of thousands of men shoved and pushed their way into the stadium in Katsina to pay their respects to Nigeria’s later President Umaru Yar’Adua.
Chants of “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) began as his body – on a bamboo stretcher and wrapped in a Nigerian white and green flag – was carried in by military men.
Former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari and Ibrahim Babangida were among the mourners. Other dignitaries included Niger’s interim prime minister. There was also a government delegation, but Mr Yar’Adua’s deputy, newly sworn-in President Goodluck Jonathan, was not among them.
(via BBC News.)
For another take on Yar’Adua, check out these songs by the great Nigerian musician, Fela Kuti:
For more on Fela, check out the official Fela website or the WikiPedia entry. (And let me give a shout out to my homie, Trevor Schoonmaker, who curated an exhibit on Fela and wrote Fela: From West Africa to West Broadway.)
A new twist on globalization and colonialism in Africa:
“Ethiopia is one of the hungriest countries in the world with more than 13 million people needing food aid, but paradoxically the government is offering at least 3m hectares of its most fertile land to rich countries and some of the world’s most wealthy individuals to export food for their own populations…”
read about it here: How food and water are driving a 21st-century African land grab | Environment | The Observer.
For a crucial aspect of the larger conflicts in Nigeria…
SWEET CRUDE: A FILM ABOUT THE NIGER DELTA
In a small corner of the most populous country in Africa, billions of dollars of crude oil flow under the feet of a desperate people. Immense wealth and abject poverty stand in stark contrast. The environment is decimated. The issues are complex, the answers elusive.
The documentary film Sweet Crude tells the story of Nigeria’s Niger Delta. The region is seething and the global stakes are high. But in this moment, there’s an opportunity to find solutions. What if the world paid attention before it was too late?
via Sweet Crude: A New Documentary on the Niger Delta by Sandy Cioffi.
“Sorrow, Tears and Blood”
Violence erupted near the city of Jos in central Nigeria over the weekend as groups of machete-wielding men rampaged through villages killing 100s of mostly women and children. The attacks were apparently retaliation for similar violence less than two months ago that left about 300 dead.
The first reports on the violence putting the number of dead at 8 were quickly shown to be sadly optimistic. The government has reported that up to 500 were killed, while sources in the area have provided various figures, generally around 200 or 300 dead. All seem to agree, however, that the majority of the victims were women and children, including pregnant women and infants, many of them beheaded.