Sunday, January 31, 2021

Another Dire Situation in CAR

  Central African Republic's (CAR) capital of Bangui is being defended by government forces backed by UN, Russian and Rwandan troops.

CAR is one of Africa's poorest and most unstable countries, even though it is rich in resources such as diamonds and uranium. The UN estimates that about half the population is dependent on humanitarian aid. There is daily fighting across the country. At least 12,000 peacekeepers are already on the ground in the CAR.

 92,000 refugees had fled to the Democratic Republic of Congo and more than 13,000 had crossed into Cameroon, Chad and the Republic of Congo. It said the rest were displaced within the CAR.  UNHCR, told reporters that rebel attacks had hampered humanitarian access to Bangui and that many people were now facing "dire conditions". Disease was growing and some of those displaced were so desperate they were exchanging sex for food, spokesman Boris Cheshirkov added.

Central African Republic's capital in 'apocalyptic situation' as rebels close in - BBC News

Friday, January 29, 2021

Pay for the Pollution


A Dutch court ruled that Royal Dutch Shell's Nigerian subsidiary must pay punitive restitution to Nigerian villages for oil spill contamination that brought death, illness, and destruction to Nigerian farmers and communities.

"After 13 Years, Justice!" Dutch Court Orders Shell Oil to Pay for Harm Done to Nigerian Farmers | Common Dreams News

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Power to the People

 Africa is huge, much larger than the standard Mercator map projection indicates. Africa is the size of the US, Europe, China, India and Japan combined. The African Island of Madagascar is larger than the UK. South Africa alone is the size of the whole of Western Europe. Africa is sparsely populated in comparison to other countries. 

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), some 580 million of the 1.3 billion people living in Africa are without electricity.

 Many African countries rely to a very large extent on hydropower. But much African hydro is very problematic because of unpredictable rainfall patterns, but also because dams are very wide and shallow, in comparison to dams in Nordic countries for example. So it is very challenging to maintain the pressure-head and water volume required for hydroelectricity.

Many Africans live in remote, thinly populated areas where the expansion of the central energy grid is not economically viable. Major infrastructure development of electrification such as very high-voltage power lines of over 1,000km in length are unheard of in Europe.Such power lines also traverse one of the highest lightning incidence areas on the planet. 

 Daniel Busche, leader of the energy access programme of the German development authority GIZ suggested that, "Decentralised approaches would be better for that."

While energy from a gas or coal power station can only be accessed through a central line, solar energy generated by the sun is accessible to everyone, everywhere. Decentralised approaches to energy supply are a chance to skip building large, national energy grids in order to provide all people more efficient and possibly more democratic access to energy.

But "The continent with the richest solar resources in the world has installed only 5 gigawatts (GW) of solar (photovoltaics), less than 1% of the global total," according to an IEA report.

One of the more promising solutions is flexible mini grids, which produce energy via solar panels and can span from a few houses to entire villages. But the investment costs are high, and the profitability often low, Busche says. There are few firms willing to operate such grids.

Home systems are quicker and easier than mini grids in providing solar energy. They are small modules that can be installed on rooftops. Depending on their size, the systems can charge a phone, power a television set or provide energy for the whole house. Small panels, which produce 50 to 200 watts of energy can, for instance, operate a shop - such as a phone charging station, hair salon or supermarket.

Another media report suggests nuclear power as another option. In South Africa the decision is to adopt nuclear power, a source of sustainable clean energy. At least seven African countries have signed agreements with Russian nuclear company Rosatom to develop nuclear capability.  Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) are currently being developed which are ideal for deployment in virtually any location. Large conventional nuclear can be 3,000MW in size whereas an SMR is only about 100MW in output. The term ‘modular’ refers to small sub-assemblies which can be fabricated in factories and then integrated on-site.  Nuclear and renewable energy complement each other very well. SMRs can vary power output at the will of the system operator. Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar depend on the variable weather. If a cloud is cast over a solar plant, nuclear power can be ramped up to replace the reduced output. SMR systems can be sized for the needs of any country, and be placed close to large load centres thereby reducing the need for expensive transmission networks.

Why do millions of people in Africa not have electricity? | The Star

Nuclear power: A sensible and sustainable option for Africa - Power Engineering International

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Vaccine Price Rip-off

 According to The Guardian, a Belgian minister leaked information revealing that European Union members are paying  €1.78 ($2.16) per dose for the AstraZeneca vaccine. 

Meanwhile, even as the pharmaceutical giant has said it would cap the price at €2.50 (approx. $3) per dose, South Africa's deputy director general of health Anban Pillay confirmed to the newspaper that it was quoted a price of $5.25 per dose.

South Africa paying more than double EU price for Oxford vaccine | Coronavirus | The Guardian

Friday, January 22, 2021

The Sahel Crisis

 More than two million people have been forced to flee their homes within their own countries’ borders owing to the violence engulfing Africa’s Sahel region, the United Nations refugee agency has said. The figure of two million internally displaced people had more than quadrupled since the start of 2019. On top of the internally displaced, more than 850,000 people have fled from Mali and taken shelter in other countries.

The humanitarian response is “dangerously overstretched” in an area covering parts of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Niger, the UNHCR said on Friday.

More than two million people have been forced to flee their homes within their own countries’ borders owing to the violence engulfing Africa’s Sahel region, the United Nations refugee agency has said.

The humanitarian response is “dangerously overstretched” in an area covering parts of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Niger, the UNHCR said on Friday.

More than half of the displaced in the region are in impoverished Burkina Faso, which has been under attack since 2015 when fighters swept in from neighbouring Mali. The problems in Burkina Faso have intensified in recent weeks, said Cheshirkov.

UN says two million internally displaced by Sahel violence | United Nations News | Al Jazeera

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Zimbabwe: freedom of speech, but no freedom after the speech


According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index of 2019, Zimbabwe ranked 158 out of 180 countries making it one of the most corrupt in the world.

“In Southern Africa, journalists and others working to expose corruption face an unacceptable level of risk,” Transparency International said in a statement last year.

The international press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders ranked Zimbabwe number 126 out of 180 countries in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index, making the southern African country one of the worst places to work as a journalist.

When Zimbabwe government spokesperson Nick Mangwana warned ominously last year that, “No one is above the law,” it only confirmed what many here have always feared: that the ruling Zanu PF party will not hesitate to arbitrary apply the law to silence critics.

Mangwana’s comments had come after the arrest of journalist Hopewell Chin’ono, who was accused of using social media to foment public violence. Chin’ono was back behind bars on Jan. 8 on charges of posting “fake news” on Twitter. Soon after Chin’ono’s arrest, opposition Movement for Democratic Change – Alliance (MDC-A) spokesperson Fadzayi Mahere and Job Sikhala, an opposition legislator who also serves as a MDC-A vice chairperson, were also detained by the police for posting the same story Chin’ono had shared on social media.

The widely-shared story alleged that a police officer attempting to enforce COVID-19 restrictions had aimed his baton stick at a woman carrying a child, but fatally struck the child instead. According to reports, the child died on the spot. Police, however, dismissed the story as fake news despite video footage of the mother wailing that the police officer had killed her child. 

The arrests were immediately condemned by rights defenders with Amnesty International.

“The latest arrests are part of a growing crackdown on opposition leaders, human rights defenders, activists, journalists and other critical voices,” said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s deputy director for southern Africa said. “Zimbabwean authorities must immediately and unconditionally release and drop the malicious charges against them,” Mwananyanda said.

has placed the spotlight back on Zimbabwe’s fragile press freedom, where critics say journalism has for years remained a dangerous occupation for a country not in a warzone. It has been particularly hazardous for investigative journalists in a country that makes regular appearances in global top rankings of corruption.

“I was jailed after exposing corruption,” Chin’ono wrote last year after his first arrest, which came after the authorities criticised the media for allegedly reporting falsehoods about members of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s family being involved in shady COVID-19 equipment procurement deals which prejudiced the country of millions of United States dollars.

Chin’ono’s exposé reportedly led to the firing of Zimbabwe’s health minister, yet it was to prove to be just the beginning of the investigative journalist’s brushes with the law for his work reporting corruption in high places.

“The onslaught on investigative journalists is part of the administration’s hostile campaign against human rights defenders,” Tawanda Majoni, an investigative journalist and National Coordinator of the Information for Development Trust, a local media NGO, explained. He added, “Media freedom campaigners have done a spirited job, but what they can achieve will always be severely limited in a repressive regime,

“Zimbabwe’s serious abuses of press freedom, free expression and the rights of government critics are worsening as the year begins,” Dewa Mavhinga, Human Rights Watch southern Africa director, said.

“We have a government that is driven by paranoia and doesn’t want to be held accountable,” Nqaba Matshazi, of the Media Institute for Southern African (MISA) – Zimbabwe chapter, pointed out.

“Journalists are being arrested for doing their job and our real challenge is that the arrests show an increase in the monitoring of journalists’ social media activity,” Roselyn Hanzi, executive director of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, who are representing Chin’ono and other journalists and citizens arrested under questionable charges, told IPS.

“Despite constitutional provisions, what is required are administrative reforms to weed out bad apples in the system and also human rights training for institutions that have become very partisan,” Hanzi stated.

“In Zimbabwe there is Freedom of Speech, but no Freedom After the Speech” | Inter Press Service (

Land Grab in Africa Persists

 Inequality in access to land is increasing across the African continent. Experts are calling for more rules and controls on the sale of land to counteract poverty.

A lucrative building boom for some people on Kenya's coastal regions is causing great suffering for many fisherfolkIn Tudor, the northern coastal strip in the Kenyan city of Mombasa, apartment buildings and hotels are going up at a dizzying rate.

"Big companies are building there and roads are being extended. All the landing sites for fisher boats have disappeared," said Phelix Lore, director of the human rights organization Haki Center."It affects livelihoods because, when fishermen are not able to land, they have no have a  place to put their fish and even sell them." He said "Land grabbing has been a big problem in Kenya for years." 

The example of the Kono District in the West African country of Sierra Leone shows that those responsible often do not care. Large mining companies there exploit the soil by seeking diamonds and goldThe Koidu Holdings mine was the first company to invest in the lucrative business after the end of the civil war in 2002. It is owned by Israeli Beny Steinmetz — currently on trial in Geneva on corruption charges in mining deals.

"The company and its boss have had a difficult relationship with the community in the mining area ever since they arrived," Berns Lebbie, coordinator at Initiative Land for Life Sierra Leone  said. 

The company has caused much hardship for the local population, who have to contend with dust haze, water shortages and economic deprivation.

"When an investment company takes over a piece of land and barricades the roads, so that farmers, fishermen and others lose access, people expect that alternative livelihood sources be provided," said Lebbie. "They want adequate wage labor for the young, or maybe microfinance support to the women or direct financial compensation. Without this kind of support, grievance and resentment will prevail, which can lead to violent reactions." 

Ward Anseeuw, an analyst at ILC and co-author of the report, explained,  "In many African countries land is state property. Communities only manage it. They do that with the help of land committees."

But oftentimes, the collective ideal does not work. For example, when a local leader has only his own interests in mind, or when there are no democratic structures to impose respect for the rules. According to Anseeuw, land collectives are to be welcomed, but it must be ensured that they represent all members.

Dwindling number of Africans own land | Africa | DW | 19.01.2021

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Escaping justice

 The Serious Fraud Office has dropped its investigation into British American Tobacco (BAT) over allegations it bribed government officials in Africa.  After more than three years investigating the cigarette giant, the SFO said it did not have enough evidence to support a realistic prospect of conviction. 

BAT was accused of bribing government officials from at least five African nations in an attempt to undermine a United Nations public health treaty, in breach of the UK Bribery Act. 

Monday, January 11, 2021

Fossil Fuels Will Stay

 Fossil fuels are set to remain the dominant source of electricity across Africa over the next decade, according to a new study.

Researchers found that around 2,500 power plants are planned, enough to double electricity production by 2030.

But the authors say that less than 10% of the new power generated will come from wind or solar. 

By 2030, the study suggests that coal, oil and gas will continue to dominate the generation of electricity across 54 African countries.

Climate change: Africa's green energy transition 'unlikely' this decade - BBC News

Pastoralists V Farmers in Nigeria

 For many years the clashes have been growing between  farmers and cattle herders searching for pasture and water.  Previously, the two groups usually managed to reach a mutual accommodation. In recent years, however, the climate crisis has contributed to altering that traditional order, and what used to be a fairly friendly arrangement has become a crisis marked by looting, raids, cattle rustling and premeditated killings. At the root of the crisis, according to experts, is Nigeria’s teeming cattle population, which has more than doubled from an estimated 9.2 million in 1981 to around 20 million, making it one of the world’s largest.

Nigeria’s human population has grown too, to about 200 million, the highest in Africa by far. This has led to cities sprawling ever larger and wider, in some cases into formerly designated cattle routes and reserves. Routes that dated back to the 1950s, in line with colonial arrangements, have either been overrun or dominated by new human settlements – pushing herders further into contested territories.

In rural communities, smallholder farmers are claiming large swathes of grazing land. “It means that grazing space, for example, that should originally accommodate only 10 cattle is now being grazed by 50 or more,” says Ifeanyi Ubah, a cattle rancher based in eastern Nigeria.

Nigeria is, moreover, a crossroads for cattle from other countries: transhumance migrants from Cameroon, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad routinely pass through in search of better climate, pasture and more plentiful water. Though there are fewer than 100 official border crossings into the country, Abba Moro, an ex-government official who headed the ministry of interior, was quoted as saying that there were more than 1,499 illegal entry routes into the country as of 2013.

Terrorist groups have become involved in the situation. Boko Haram has been accused of using money obtained from the sale of rustled cattle to fund its deadly operations. On one occasion, Boko Haram militants killed 19 herders as they attempted to steal their cattle. A rising number of attacks has led to the reported loss of two million cattle and the death of 600 herders, many of whom have been forced to vacate the fertile Lake Chad basin in search of new lands.

But the climate crisis is the biggest factor driving tensions. Most parts of northern Nigeria have suffered severe desertification and drought. Mean annual rainfall in this region has dropped below 600mm, compared with 3,500mm in the south coast area.

This change threatens the livelihoods of around 40 million people, especially livestock and smallholder farmers. Large numbers of cattle herders are being forced to move from traditional grazing areas to central and southern Nigeria when dry periods start – a situation that heightens competition and heralds more clashes.

“While growing up, I saw trees, forest, rivers and streams in most parts of northern Nigeria. The grasses grew and it was more than enough for the cattle,” says Bala Ardo, one of the leaders of cattle herders in south-east Nigeria. “But it’s no more. The situation has forced the average herder to seek pasture and water in places they never would have visited in the past, as he struggles to find drinkable water for himself and family and then his animals.”

 In 2018, the federal government proposed colonies for cattle and funded grazing camps across various states in the country. But local leaders were resistant, and fears grew in the south in particular that ethnic groups such as the Muslim Fulani would use the scheme to grab land. Some researchers estimate that the members of the Fulani ethnic group own 90% of Nigeria’s livestock.

The government has set up the National Livestock Transformation Plan, which aims to modernise the livestock sector through a series of phased interventions from 2018 to 2027. Ranches for breeding and processing will be created, and several pilot projects have already been established. But this plan, too, is encountering difficulties. 

According to Khalid Salisu, a journalist in one of the pilot project regions, “It doesn’t serve the needs of cattle herders adequately. The herders in the ranches are struggling to find enough water and pastures to keep their herds alive during the dry season.”

In the absence of effective solutions from the central government, states and communities are proposing various remedies. In Benue state, southern Nigeria, for example, legislation in 2017 banned open cattle grazing. The law required herders to rent or buy lands to host their ranches.

Abubakar Sambo, the leader of the northern community in Enugu state, says the herders must be consulted before fresh initiatives are launched. “The policies received by cattle herders largely on radio and television cannot work. The herdsmen, for whom the policies are meant, should be directly involved.” He believes younger herders need to be educated and sent to study model ranching systems in other countries.

“What the herders have achieved [cattle population growth] despite all the challenges is remarkable. It shows the huge potential of the livestock sector,” says Ardo. “Imagine what the result could be if the government put the right structure and policies in place.”

Nigeria cattle crisis: how drought and urbanisation led to deadly land grabs | Environment | The Guardian

Africa and Understanding the Pandemic

 Epidemiologist Salim Abdool Karim is co-chair of the South African Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19, he is the government’s top adviser on the pandemic and has become the country’s face of Covid-19 science. He also sits on the Africa Task Force for Novel Coronavirus, overseeing the continent’s response to the global crisis. Karim, who directs the Durban-based Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa and is a professor at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, has long advocated for science and speaking truth to power. For three decades, along with his wife and scientific collaborator, Quarraisha Abdool Karim, he has been at the forefront of the fight against South Africa’s substantial HIV and tuberculosis epidemics and in the early 2000s was one of the scientists who spoke out against the government’s Aids denialism. Karim and Fauci, the US’s leading infectious disease expert, were recently jointly awarded the 2020 John Maddox prize for “standing up for science during the coronavirus pandemic”. The prize is given by the UK charity Sense About Science and the journal Nature.

It is worth citing his views on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Q. Africa as a whole has seen comparatively lower Covid-19 death rates than Europe or the US. Why?
A. The number of cases and the number of deaths are underreported throughout most of Africa. But I am confident – based on the fact we don’t find as many admissions for acute respiratory distress – that we’ve still had a much less severe impact from our first wave than most of the rest of the world. Probably we rank second to south-east Asia, where the impact has been even less. We don’t fully understand the reasons. Our youthful population plays a role, and early lockdowns contributed quite a bit. The hypothesis that there is some pre-existing immunity [from other circulating coronaviruses] – my view is the evidence is flimsy. They are present across the whole world. I don’t think there is something special we have in Africa that protects us.

Q. South Africa is slated to get some vaccine doses through Covax, the global procurement initiative to distribute Covid-19 vaccines fairly around the world, in the second quarter of 2021. I imagine that can’t come soon enough…

A. We have chosen to go the route of Covax and through it we will get doses for the first 10% of our population. That will cover our healthcare workers and the elderly. Separately, we have an open line of communication with several drug companies making vaccines, and we’ll take things forward with them when their results become available and when we have assessed whether they meet our criteria. Unlike some other countries – the US, UK, Canada – we haven’t made advanced commitments. We don’t have money to buy 10m doses and then not use it if it’s inappropriate.

Q. Are you worried that low- and middle-income countries won’t get enough vaccines?

A. Vaccine nationalism is a concern. There are countries – like the US – that believe they will be safe while the rest of the world is not. It’s a fundamental fallacy. None of us are safe if one of us is not. We have mutual interdependence. We need the whole world to be part of Covax: all the drug companies should have committed all their vaccine doses to Covax, which could then equitably provide the vaccine so all healthcare workers can get vaccinated. It will be terrible if the US is vaccinating low-risk young people while we in Africa cannot vaccinate healthcare workers.

Salim Abdool Karim: 'None of us are safe from Covid if one of us is not. We have mutual interdependence' | Coronavirus | The Guardian

Saturday, January 09, 2021

A Comrade Falls

Suhuyini Nbang-Ba, the socialist activist, journalist and teacher died at home in the Gambia on 16th September 2020.  He was nine days short of his sixty-first birthday and is survived by a brother, a sister, three nieces and four nephews.

Suhuyini was born in the small town of Ejura, near Kumasi in the Ashanti Region of Ghana.  He was, however, a Dagomba, a member of the Muslim tribe of that name from Ghana’s Northern Region. He was originally named Mohammed Yacabou, and known as M.Y. to his friends, but chose the name Suhuyini Nbang-Ba in later life.  This was a political act reclaiming his ancestry and history — his Muslim name could be traced back to colonisation of the Dagomba area by traders between the 12th and 15th centuries.  Instead, Suhuyini chose a name in his mother tongue, Dagbani — ‘Suhuyini’ meaning ‘unity’ (literally ‘one heart’) and ‘Nbang-Ba’ meaning ‘I know them’— a reference to his ancestors and the act of reclaiming them embodied in changing his name.  In fact, having previously been very religious and renowned for his piety, as a young man in the early eighties he renounced Islam and publicly denounced both the activities of certain Muslim leaders and religion in general.  

As a schoolboy, Suhuyini was sent to live with his aunt in the north so he could attend Tamale Secondary School.  He was also educated at the prestigious University of Ghana, Legon, where he took his undergraduate degree and then later began an MPhil in African and European history.  While at university, he became very active politically and was a member of the United Revolutionary Front (URF), an underground anarchist movement opposed to the military junta led by Jerry John Rawlings.  However, Suhuyini later opposed armed struggle.  During his time as an undergraduate, he was beaten up by the military, hospitalised and placed under house arrest due to the student union’s opposition to the military junta.

Suhuyini then spent two years as a teacher back in the Northern Region, also setting up a self-help association for impoverished women and a drama troupe.  

In the late eighties, when the ruling regime introduced District Assemblies to lend a semblance of democracy to the dictatorship, Suhuyini contested the Nalung Constituency seat and won 75 percent of the vote. He became one of the first members of the Tamale District Assembly (a sort of district parliament.)

After his time in the north, Suhuyini returned to Accra to take his MPhil. While studying for this he joined the communist Weekly Insight newspaper as a reporter and columnist; the Insight was at that time the only non-governmental newspaper.  His column was titled “The Dark File” and targeted corrupt government officials. As he did not use a pseudonym, he started receiving anonymous threats from the top echelons of Ghanaian society and from hit-men of the military dictatorship.  Despite this he continued his political work.

When he could stand the threats no longer, and when the military turned up at his home while he was out, he fled on foot to the Gambia, having to sell the very shoes he was wearing to pay for his passage and to bribe border guards.  Once in the Gambia he continued his teaching and journalism.

During this period, five of Suhuyini’s close Gambian friends were rounded up by the military on suspicion of being involved in a failed coup attempt; all of them died while being transported between prisons.  Officials claimed at the time that they had died when the car they were in crashed, but the circumstances surrounding the event were suspicious and his fears for his safety led to Suhuyini finally giving up his political journalism in the Gambia.

However, Suhuyini continued his political work by writing for publications based outside West Africa.  He was a member of the Socialist Party of Great Britain (SPGB) and contributed articles to the party’s journal The Socialist Standard.  He also edited a magazine of the SPGB called African Socialist which was later renamed Socialist Banner.

At the time of his death Suhuyini was working on a book of essays, despite limited access to a computer and an erratic electricity supply.  Although the hospital did not give a cause of death, he had been increasingly weak for a year with little appetite.  

I came to know Suhuyini in the late nineties when he was living in Nsawam, Ghana teaching English literature and French at secondary school and working at the Weekly Insight.  Here he was known by pupils and teachers alike by yet another name: Afah, a Dagomba word meaning a Muslim teacher. This name had sprung up spontaneously and was indicative of the respect in which his pupils and colleagues held him.  

Tellingly, it was not widely known outside his home region that Suhuyini was born into Dagomba royalty.  In fact I doubt any of his colleagues in Nsawam knew of this fact.  His father was the sub-chief of the tribe and he was the only son of his mother, the tribal queen. However, when Suhuyini became an atheist he also chose not to inherit the chieftaincy and he kept his royal lineage as secret as possible.  I only became aware of it myself at the school where we both taught when one of his pupils, also a Dagomba, prostrated herself on the ground before him as a sign of respect.  Suhuyini quickly told her to get up and that she did not need to do this.  It was only when pressed by me that he explained the meaning behind her actions, otherwise he would not have mentioned it.

This was typical of the man.  There are some people who make a show of espousing socialism in theory, but fall short of its principals in the way they live their lives.  This was never true of Suhuyini — his political views were deeply held and stemmed from his character; he lived socialist principles.  Unlike some of his nominally socialist colleagues in West Africa, he refused to bribe his way into a lucrative post, preferring to remain a poorly-paid teacher with his principles intact.  He tenaciously battled depression, ill-health and constant technical problems to work on his political writing, and throughout his life he campaigned tirelessly, experiencing violence and risking death many times for his principles.

More than that, Suhuyini treated everyone he met as an equal and spoke to everybody with the same friendly respect, from the highest born to the most lowly street-seller.  While teaching in Nsawam he sponsored a schoolboy through his education, even though the child was no relation, out of pure compassion.  He sponsored a child again later in the Gambia, despite his own limited means.  When he died in the Gambia, the family where he rented a room told me he had been like a son to his landlady and like a second father to her grandchildren, who knew him affectionately as ‘Baba.’

He certainly had a life-long effect on me.  When I first met him I was seventeen, and my discussions with him then and over the intervening years helped form the political beliefs I still hold today.  

Indeed, Suhuyini left his mark on everyone he met.  He held strong views, yet was always willing to hear others out — debates never became rows — and with his humanity, sharp wit and easy, infectious laugh he enriched the life of all who knew him, no matter which name they knew him by.  He is deeply missed by those he left behind and the world is a lesser place without him.

Suhuyini Nbang-Ba, political campaigner, journalist, teacher and loved one, born 25th September 1959; died 16th September 2020. 

Anoushka Alexander

Friday, January 08, 2021

Kenya's Climate Crises

 Kenya accounts for less than 0.1% of global emissions and has a per capita emission of less than half the global average but suffers disproportionately from related disasters. 

Kenya needs $62bn (£46bn) to mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis in the next 10 years, according to a government document sent to the UN framework convention on climate change. It equates to almost 67% of Kenya’s GDP.

The report illustrates the scale of the challenge as the country aims to cut greenhouse gases by 32% within the next decade. It will rely on international sources to fund close to 90% of the expenditure. Securing such a colossal amount of often contentious climate financing from rich countries yet to honour their commitments to the $100bn target pledged during the 2015 Paris agreement will be a tall order.

Low-emitting countries such as Kenya are suffering the most from the effects of climate change, and are poorly equipped to effectively respond or build resilience to key hazards such as drought and flooding. For example, a 2011 drought in Kenya caused damage estimated at $11bn, while another in 2014-18 left 3.4 million people in food insecurity and half a million lacking access to water. In 2018, floods displaced 230,000 people in Kenya, including 150,000 children, drowned 20,000 livestock and led to the closure of 700 schools.

The country also lost 8,500 hectares (21,000 acres) of crops in a country where 84% of the land is “arid and semi-arid, with poor infrastructure and other developmental challenges, leaving less than 16% of the land to support over 80% of the population”. Such losses, the document says, continue to knock about 3-5% off the country’s GDP.

Food security, warns the report, will worsen because Kenyan farmers are almost entirely weather-dependent. In addition, major rivers are seeing reduced flow as glaciers on the country’s biggest water tower, Mount Kenya, shrink. They are already down to 17% of their original size and will disappear in 30 years, the report says.

Erratic rainfall has hampered hydroelectric generation and forced Kenya to look at exploiting 400m tonnes of coal reserves with proposals to build two power plants: one using local coal and the other imported coal. Providing cheap fuel will come with negative environmental and social impacts. The report says: “The use of coal is accompanied by strong environmental impacts, such as high emissions of sulphur dioxide, heavy metals and harmful greenhouse gases. The country is therefore faced with choosing between the exploitation of her fossil fuel resources to realise her development objectives and forgoing their exploitation for environmental reasons. To forgo all the benefits of exploiting the fossil fuel resources, Kenya will need significant international support.”

The climate crisis is also having an impact on national security with the scramble for meagre natural resources leading to violent conflicts. The report says: “Increased intensities and magnitudes of climate-related risks in Kenya aggravate conflicts, mostly over natural resources. This has frequently forced the country to reallocate development resources to address climate-related emergencies.”

Imperial College Business School and Soas University of London for the UN in 2018 showed how developing countries lack the resources required to stem the tide of climate crisis, with the lack of resilience and mitigation measures driving them into unsustainable debt. “For every 10 dollars paid in interest by developing countries, an additional dollar will be spent due to climate vulnerability. This financial burden exacerbates the present-day economic challenges of poorer countries. The magnitude of this burden will at least double over the next decade,” the research findings state.

Kenya faces $62bn bill to mitigate climate-linked hunger, drought and conflict | Global development | The Guardian

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

The Year of the Locusts

 In 2020, a locusts plagued the Horn and East Africa, ravaging crops and pastures and driving the level of human hunger and economic hardship higher in parts of the region. 

Now in 2021, the United Nations has warned that a second and maybe even deadlier re-invasion of locusts has already begun.

"It's a continuation of the 2020 locusts swarm. The adults have flown to various areas and are laying eggs", Frances Duncan, Professor of Animal, Plant & Environmental Sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand, told DW. "If we have good rains like it is the case at the moment in most areas, the hoppers will hatch, and we get the second wave of the swarm." 

Five countries have been especially hard hit by the African migratory locusts: Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. As a result, more than 35 million people suffer from food insecurity. FAO estimates this number could increase to 38.5 million if nothing is done to control the new infestation.

The FAO warns that numerous immature swarms have already formed in eastern Ethiopia and central Somalia during December, now they have reached northern Kenya. More swarms will arrive in January and spread throughout Ethiopia and Kenya. In northern Somalia, swarms laid eggs in areas affected by Cyclone Gati. Heavy rains in the region had turned out to favor the locusts, the UN says. New immature swarms could start to form in early February. Adult groups and a few swarms appeared on the coast of Sudan and Eritrea in December.

"If the locust swarm is not controlled, it can completely destroy the crop and wipe out animal feed. This poses a serious threat to food security in the region and can lead to human and social crises," Amh Yeshewas Abay, Head of Natural Resources Office in South Omo Zone Hamer Woreda in Ethiopia, said in a DW interview. "We are working to eradicate locusts in northern Kenya and on the border with Somalia."

Keith Cressman, FAO's Senior Locust Forecasting Officer, explains,  that the livelihoods of the population need to be protected. 

"If a farmer has crops planted and his crop has been wiped out, and he does not have resources to buy new seeds to replant, the FAO can assist. For pastoralists, if there is not enough food for animals, the FAO can provide animal feed." 

According to Daniel Lesego from Kenya's National Disaster Management Unit, the locust invasions come with multiple risks apart from food insecurity. "If there will be competition over pasture, space, and water, then it is likely to trigger conflict, resource-based conflict, and that is something that we do not want to see in Kenya," 

East Africa braces for a return of the locusts | Africa | DW | 05.01.2021

Africa's Slump

 The World Bank said that in Sub-Saharan Africa activity shrank an estimated 3.7% last year.

The decline in per capita income is expected to set average living standards back by a decade or more in a quarter of Sub-Saharan African economies.

South Africa and Nigeria, the two largest economies in the region, saw output fall sharply in 2020 and agriculture growth slowing. Both countries also saw a dramatic drop in per capita income, which has pushed tens of millions more people into extreme poverty.

It said in a press statement that the pandemic has caused “a heavy toll of deaths and illness, plunged millions into poverty, and may depress economic activity and incomes for a prolonged period”.

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Nigeria and the threat of famine

 Before colonisation, hunger and famine were almost alien to most African countries as there was widely-acknowledged food sustenance. 

Each household practiced one form of farming or the other and consequently, there was enough to feed the family while the excess was exchanged by barter through some other forms of payment. This boom in food production had the effect of boosting the economy and therefore, the concept of begging for alms was nearly unheard of. There was no poverty, famine, or the incidence of begging in Africa. Such is the importance attached to food sustenance that the Yorubas have a saying that, “once feeding ceases to be a challenge to a man, he has conquered poverty”.

Lord Macaulay, in his address to the British Parliament on February 2, 1835, aptly remarked thus:

"I have travelled across the length and breadth of Africa and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage and therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient educational system, her culture. For if the African thinks that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation."

However, it seems that this is no longer the state of affairs as regards poverty and hunger. Nigeria is currently experiencing its most severe food crisis which is manifested in the country’s inability to produce enough food to feed its population. Food shortage and hunger have resulted in the incidence of malnutrition and forced some Nigerians to engage in armed robbery, prostitution, child trafficking, corruption, among others, to sustain themselves. Since time immemorial, food shortages has been linked to lawlessness as the hungry are easy targets for recruitment by ill-meaning politicians to foment trouble. 

As a result of this insecurity, food scarcity is imminent, and if left unbridled, famine is inevitable, particularly in the coming year. The killing of farmers in northeastern Nigeria by armed Jihadists and disputes with the pastoral Fulani herdsmen, food production has grossly reduced from this region. Farmers now have to submit to the payment of harvest fees from the farmers. Farmers who failed to comply would either be killed or maimed, with the whole harvest getting destroyed. As a result of this insecurity, food scarcity is imminent,

As the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, which occasioned a lockdown of business activities in several states in Nigeria, many farmers were for months, at the time they were supposed to be planting, unable to access their farms and suppliers. By the time the government relaxed the lockdown to allow farmers the opportunity to farm, the damage had been done. While the lockdown was laudable and was the Nigerian government’s immediate response to the pandemic just as in other foreign nations, the Nigerian government, however, failed to put in place the measures taken by those foreign governments to alleviate the sufferings of the masses. Several foreign governments gave out financial assistance to individuals and businesses. Therefore, the paralysis of business activities and the failure of the Nigerian government to effectively put adequate mitigating measures in place, no doubt, contributed to unemployment and the incidence of begging particularly among Nigerians who depend on the daily income for sustenance.

Then, of course, there is the effects of climate change as a contributory factor to the incidence of food scarcity in Nigeria. The planting season usually commences in March, particularly in Southwest Nigeria. From time immemorial, much rainfall use to occur in the months of March, April and May to late August, September, October, November. However, in 2020 farmers’ expectation of rain failed. Between May and July, the farms were flooded. The crops which were planted in late August and early September dried up due to unexpected drought in the month of November. The immediate effect of this, therefore, is that farmers that planted maize, rice, beans, etc., in early September lost most of if not all the crops. This has resulted in an increase in the production cost of poultry farming, frozen chicken and egg production.

Maize will be scarce in 2021; Maize farmers raise alarm, farmers in Oke-Ogun area of Oyo State reportedly decried the failure of the Nigerian government to support agricultural production and unstable rainfall.

The head of the maize farmers’ union reported:

"...They lost millions in bank loans and borrowing from family and friends to plant maize, many cannot even pass by their farms to see the withered maize farms, we are so hurt by this occurrence… Our fear, for now, is what will be the fate of poor Nigerians that depend largely on basic food items that are sourced from maize. It is easy to predict that there will be a scarcity of maize next year..."

 2021 presents a gloomy near-future for food production and sustenance in Nigeria which possibly be plunged into full-fledged famine.

2021 may be year of famine (