CategoryReligious conflict

Fear and Loathing in Jos, Nigeria, by Susan Shepler

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.

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The Crisis in CAR: Navigating Myths and Interests, by Ilmari Käihkö and Mats Utas

“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.

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The Westgate shopping mall attack and Al-Shabaab in Somalia

“The bloody Shabaab attack on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall on September 21 was an act of desperation by a jihadi group beset by internal power struggles and plummeting support”, argues Somalia expert Ken Menkhaus in a blog post. The intent according to him is to stir up anti-Somali sentiments amongst Kenyans. Kenyans may thereby turn violent and target exiled Somalis in Kenya. If Somali’s are brutalized in great numbers Al-Shabaab hope to be seen as the true protectors of Somalis – in opposition to the Somali government which is seen as conniving with the Kenyan government. This is indeed a high risk plan by a movement that has over the past few years lost much of its previous power.

Very little is known of Al-Shabaab. There are many “experts” guessing, experts citing other experts’ guesses, thus producing a lot of half-truths. An exception to this is the recent book on Al-Shabaab in Somalia (Hurst 2013). It offers a deep and detailed reading of the movement. Below is a review that I recently did on the book. I am not seeking to legitimate the horrendous crime that the attack on the Westgate mall is, but see it as crucial getting a better understanding of what Al-Shabaab really is and Jarle Hansen’s book really helps us here:

Review of Al-Shabaab in Somalia: the history and ideology of a militant Islamist group, 2005-2012, by Stig Jarle Hansen

Outstanding.
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Report from Mali (by Marc-André Boisvert)

TV host from a distant news channel: How is it in Mali now that the War is over, Marc-Andre…. Buoy-z-vert?

Marc-André: Well…

The last weeks have been a marathon for me where I have multiplied media intervention with hosts from all over the world, some not understanding a word of what I was trying to say.

This brought me to short answers to complex questions in the like of:

“The War in Mali occurs in one of the harshest, poorest and most isolated place in the world. Beyond the complexity of the terrain, there are also numerous actors with centuries of history behind. “

We, journalists, cannot tell you more than that. We need to get stories before our editorial staff will call us back to tell us that we cost too much or that we need to move to the next emergency. And the War in Mali has not been easy for us journalists. There have been a lot of complains about the media handling and military boycott at the beginning of the crisis (see: http://www.cpj.org/security/2013/01/in-mali-a-war-without-images-and-without-facts.php).

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