Thomas searches half-heartedly for the SIM card he discarded yesterday. He is exhausted. Worn out after three days of protests. He has only been home once to change his clothes since the beginning of the protests against President Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term, which was announced at the ruling party’s long-awaited congress on Saturday. Thomas is being watched. Sitting in his sofa in a modest but tidy room in Kamenge, a northern suburb of Bujumbura, Burundi’s capital, he seems to be running out of steam. He discarded the SIM card after receiving threatening phone calls. “We know what you are doing”, they said. “The next time you go out onto the street, you’d better bring flowers to honour the president, or else…” Continue reading
While the presidential election was anticipated to be close, there were still doubts that it would be possible to unseat an incumbent president in Nigeria. So when Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives’ Congress (APC) was declared as winner of the election, Nigerian democracy has entered a new stage that will contribute to set the standard for coming elections in Africa. Continue reading
The cruel death of my friend’s cousin during the demonstration of students from high school and university in N’Djamena on 9 March, hits hard, the photo of the tortured body sent via whatsapp showing useless violence. The family will bury the young man in the village after they refused the 3 million Francs CFA (4,573 Euros) offered by the government that some interpreted as money to silence them.
A week and a half before Nigeria’s presidential election was scheduled, the military declared in a letter to the chairman of the electoral commission that they would not be able to assist with security measures for another for six weeks due to a major offensive to be concluded in the north-east. As a result, the elections were postponed for six weeks. Observers posed the question on what could be done in six weeks when the insurgency has lasted for close to six years. Now it seems like President Jonathan has intensified the struggle and at the moment gives the insurgency the priority he has been criticised for not showing before. Continue reading
40 years ago, the town of Baga was bustling with an industry and a commerce born of the body of water that had given its residents life for as long as anyone could remember. Nestled in the most northeasterly corner of Nigeria along the shoreline of Lake Chad, Baga served as the piscine midwife for tens of thousands of fishmongers all across the country, providing roughly 135,000 tons of smoked and dried fish a year. Today, thanks to the construction of dams on the lake’s feeder rivers, excessive irrigation and the effects climate change, Lake Chad has shrunk to less than one-fifth of its original size. The massive body of water that locals used to refer to as “an ocean” is now a shriveled imitation of its former self and Baga, which used to sit right on the water, is now twelve and a half miles away from its shores.The fish, which used to be so plentiful and served as the lifeblood of the community, have all but vanished from the Nigerian side of the lake, leading many locals to give up fishing and try their hand at farming or finding work in the city of Maiduguri, more than 120 miles away. Left in dire straits, the people of Baga hoped that the Nigerian government would come to their aide and try to replenish the lake by pumping water up from the nearby Congo River, enforcing more water-efficient irrigation methods and rebuilding wasteful dams. Put simply, Baga needed water. It would get only fire. Continue reading
The conflict that broke out in Northern Mali in January 2012 delayed yet again a long awaited return to the place where I had undertaken fieldwork, and long before that, spent one whole year of my adolescence. While my parents worked for a Norwegian NGO, I lived for one year in the then drought-stricken town of Gossi making friends that were now eagerly awaiting my return. More than one year after the French intervention drove the Islamists back to the fringes of Northern Mali, it was finally considered safe for me to set out towards Gossi. That is, my best friend initially very much wanted me to come, but was soon discouraged by his father and younger brother, who no longer lived in Northern Mali, but in the capital Bamako. The younger brother, a captain in the National Guard, frequently went to North Africa on training missions, and during the conflict was sent there by the military authorities to keep him out of harm’s way when he, as a Malian Arab, risked being conflated with the rebels, who were predominantly Tuareg. In fact, his entire family, whether in Northern or Southern Mali, fled to Burkina Faso during the conflict. Visibly shaken by his own experiences and by what had befallen others, the father urged me not to go lest I be abducted. These days, he said, conflicts between different communities had created so much bad blood that people might designate a person connected to a rival group as a potential kidnap victim only for the sake of inflicting harm upon them. Continue reading
Since 2001, Jos, Nigeria is internationally known for intermittent bursts of violent, inter-religious conflict. In addition, for the past several years Nigeria has faced terror attacks by the Islamist group Boko Haram, what many would call the worst violent crisis since independence. On 20 May 2014, two bombs went off in the center of Jos, killing at least 118 people and injuring 56 more. The area targeted was Terminus Market, arguably the busiest and most densely populated location in town, a market used by all ethnic groups and by Christians and Muslims alike.
I’ve been living in Jos this past year, researching connections between formal education, the state, and armed conflict and lecturing at the university whenever classes are in session. In the course of my normal activities, I pass the location of the bomb blasts several times a week. The Nigerian government seems unwilling to describe what is happening as a war, but I lived through the tail end of the civil war in Sierra Leone, and this fear, these checkpoints, it feels a lot like a war to me. Actually, not knowing where or when the next bomb blast will occur feels worse (to me) than living in war.
“Anarchy”, “religious war”, “genocide” and, recently, “cannibalism” – these are some of the most commonly used words in Western news media when referring to the crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR), at least since the takeover of power by the rebel coalition Séléka in March 2013. The conflict, which in December alone resulted in approximately one thousand deaths, has uprooted one-fifth of CAR’s population. This conflict was by and large a consequence of former rebel leaders’ and some of their soldiers’ lack of future prospects within the troubled political-economy of the country. It is not easy to control military forces during a war – even less so after a war, when the minimum unifier (typically, regime change) has been achieved. In many cases, this is when the real problems start, as interests begin to diverge and promises made by the politicians to the fighters are not kept. This is very much the case in CAR.
Kenya has witnessed series of terrorist attacks since the year 2011 when its soldiers began operation in Somalia dubbed: Operation Linda Nchi (Operation protect the nation). The most recent attacks, was the Likoni church attack on March 23rd 2014 and in Nairobi’s Eastleigh estate on March 31st 2014 – each of which left behind 6 casualties. The Alshabaab has not claimed responsibility in any of them but following that, the government launched Operation Usalama Watch (Operation Peace Watch) on April 2 in a bid to alleviate the threat of terrorism from the country once and for all.
As the sun goes down in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the sound of tropical birds and insects is slowly overtaken by the groaning hums of an army of small Chinese-made generators. They each light up a few light bulbs and a transistor, creating the much-valued ambiance for which Congo is well-known—an ambiance that is consistently lubricated with fair amounts of Congo’s finest beer, the eternal leader Primus. Sweet-voiced Lingala phrases and guitar riffs from the blown speakers pay playful homage to the bliss that the beer has brought the country; as the melodies bounce off the faintly illuminated hand-painted Primus ads all over the country, they form a pleasant multisensory immersion into Congo’s soul. Just like you can get a Coca-Cola everywhere in the world, so you can get a Primus everywhere in Congo. In addition to its contracts with celebrity singers, the brewery has exclusive deals with 68.857 bars in Congo, which carry Primus-branded tables, chairs, and ashtrays. Hand-painted signs for Primus seem to paper every surface in the DRC, making Bralima’s slogan Toujours Leader! (‘Always the Leader!’) into the most-read phrase in the country.