Southwest Angola has been experiencing its worst drought for the past 40 years.
- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde
- Central African Republic
- D.R. Congo
- Equatorial Guinea
- Guinea Bissau
- Ivory Coast
- São Tomé and Príncipe
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
- South Sudan
Wednesday, February 16, 2022
In November 2020, the Moroccan government sent its military to the Guerguerat area, a buffer zone between the territory claimed by the Kingdom of Morocco and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). The Guerguerat border post is at the very southern edge of Western Sahara along the road that goes to Mauritania. The presence of Moroccan troops “in the Buffer Strip in the Guerguerat area” violated the 1991 ceasefire agreed upon by the Moroccan monarchy and the Polisario Front of the Sahrawi.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made it clear in November 2021 that the U.S. government would continue to maintain the position taken by the previous Trump administration that Morocco has sovereignty over Western Sahara. The United States is now the only Western country to recognize Morocco’s claim to sovereignty over Western Sahara.
By the end of November 2021, the government of Morocco announced that it had earned $6.45 billion from the export of phosphate from the kingdom and from the occupied territory of Western Sahara. If you add up the phosphate reserves in this entire region, it amounts to 72 percent of the entire phosphate reserves in the world (the second-highest percentage of these reserves is in China, which has around 6 percent). Phosphate, along with nitrogen, makes synthetic fertilizer, a key element in modern food production. While nitrogen is recoverable from the air, phosphates, found in the soil, are a finite reserve. This gives Morocco a tight grip over world food production. There is no doubt that the occupation of Western Sahara is not merely about national pride, but it is largely about the presence of a vast number of resources—especially phosphates—that can be found in the territory.
In 1975, a UN delegation that visited Western Sahara noted that “eventually the territory will be among the largest exporters of phosphate in the world.” While Western Sahara’s phosphate reserves are less than those of Morocco, the Moroccan state-owned firm OCP SA has been mining the phosphate in Western Sahara and manufacturing phosphate fertilizer for great profit. The most spectacular mine in Western Sahara is in Bou Craa, from which 10 percent of OCP SA’s profits come; Bou Craa, which is known as “the world’s longest conveyor belt system,” carries the phosphate rock more than 60 miles to the port at El Aaiún. In 2002, the UN’s Under-Secretary General for Legal Affairs at that time, Hans Corell, noted in a letter to the president of the UN Security Council that “if further exploration and exploitation activities were to proceed in disregard of the interests and wishes of the people of Western Sahara, they would be in violation of the principles of international law applicable to mineral resource activities in Non-Self-Governing Territories.” An international campaign to prevent the extraction of the “conflict phosphate from Western Sahara by Morocco has led many firms around the world to stop buying phosphate from OCP SA. Nutrien, the largest fertilizer manufacturer in the United States that used Moroccan phosphates, decided to stop imports from Morocco in 2018. That same year, the South African court challenged the right of ships carrying phosphate from the region to dock in their ports, ruling that “the Moroccan shippers of the product had no legal right to it.”
Only three known companies continue to buy conflict phosphate mined in Western Sahara: two from New Zealand (Ballance Agri-Nutrients Limited and Ravensdown) and one from India (Paradeep Phosphates Limited).
Tuesday, February 15, 2022
Friday, February 11, 2022
DRC’s president, Félix Tshisekedi, announced a “state of siege” in Ituri and North Kivu in May 2021. Military authorities replaced civilian counterparts, and security personnel were given extra powers but violence continues. With its huge reserves of minerals vital for smartphones and electric car batteries, DRC should be a wealthy country, but the legacy of colonialism and endemic corruption keeps its people among the poorest in the world.
Uganda is now fighting alongside the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s armed forces (FARDC) in efforts to root out the rebels. Reports suggest between 1,500 and 5,000 Ugandan troops could eventually be involved. For the past three months, Ugandan forces have been bombarding Islamist rebels in its border region with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The offensive, in the Rwenzori mountain range that straddles both countries, has forced many Congolese to leave their homes and move to the cities for shelter.
Van de Walle says Ugandan investment in DRC’s roads has raised suggestions of ulterior motives over better transport links. Improved security for oil companies is a priority for Kampala – Total and the Chinese-owned CNOOC have confirmed they will begin work on a controversial multibillion-dollar oil pipeline from western Uganda to Tanzania.
There are about 120 rebel groups operating in eastern DRC, but the Allied Democratic Force (ADF) has an estimated 1,500 fighters, is a particular threat. Formed by groups opposed to Uganda’s autocratic president, Yoweri Museveni, in the late 1990s, their camps are in dense forest from where they carry out brutal raids on villages, abducting recruits.
With dozens of overlapping armed groups operating in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, accurate figures are hard to come by, but the ADF is believed to have killed at least 2,238 people and abducted 896 people since April 2017, according to Kivu Security Tracker, which monitors violence in the region.
Désiré Kilongo, a community leader, says that since the joint operation the number of displaced people in Oicha has tripled to 21,300, putting pressure on locals. “You’ll now find two or three extra families staying with friends or relatives in a two-room family home.”
In surrounding villages, families sleep in schools overnight. In the day, pupils work with heaps of belongings stacked at the back of classrooms. Meals are cooked in playgrounds and teachers lament the poor hygiene in school toilets. When subsistence farmers have to flee, they are left with nothing, risking their lives to return to their farms to harvest what they can.
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) says 1,166,200 people have been displaced by armed groups around Oicha. It has built shelters for displaced Mbuti, formerly known as Pygmies, and given money to Bantu communities to rent small houses and start businesses.
“The proliferation of armies and armed groups is expected to escalate the conflict, leading to more displacement and hardship for civilians. These communities are already at breaking point, says Caitlin Brady, the charity’s DRC director.
DRC’s forces are supported by the 15,000-strong UN peacekeeping mission, Monusco. Although effective in targeting another rebel group, M23, in 2013, Monusco has faced criticism over its record of protecting people from ADF, despite $1bn (£740m) of annual funding. Last August saw anti-Monusco protests across eastern DRC.
“The FARDC starts operations, the ADF retaliates against the population and the angry population turns against Monusco for failing to protect them,” says Nelleke van de Walle at the International Crisis Group.
The DRC state’s failure to protect communities promotes self-defence militias, known as Mai-Mai.
A new militia, the Union of Patriots for the Liberation of Congo (UPLC), came to the village. But they did not leave, and ended up taking control of the village and collaborating with the ADF.
Alphonse Kambale Mubalya, who runs a peacebuilding organisation AMIP, blames DRC’s neighbouring countries for the violence. “It’s not like other insurgencies,” he says. “We have farming communities and we wouldn’t need jobs or to take up arms if there was no insecurity. Rebel fighters from Uganda and Rwanda came here in the 1990s and that was the start of the problem.”
Bangladesh has been striving to ensure food security at home by planning to shop farmland abroad. Recently, South Sudan, an African country, has expressed interest in leasing a vast area of its fallow land to Bangladesh in order to collaborate in agricultural production, processing, and marketing in the central African countries. This is not the first time Bangladesh is going to lease foreign land and earlier, two Bangladeshi companies leased 40,000 hectares of farmland in Tanzania and Uganda. This move of Dhaka in leasing foreign land is one of the various initiatives undertaken to increase food production in the wake of the growing population and decreasing arable land.
South Sudan, a landlocked country of Central Africa, has a total 644,329 sq KM land area with a total population of 11.06 million. Most of the land of this country is fallow and not being used for cultivation or for any other productive purposes. Undoubtedly, there is a huge untapped possibility that can be accrued by utilizing these lands for agricultural production. The government of South Sudan has been discussing the issue of cultivating crops in their land with the Bangladesh government for a long time. Luckily, the issues have started seeing light as many Bangladeshi entrepreneurs have agreed in considering the proposal seriously to invest there.
There are several factors that attract a pointed direction towards why Bangladesh should accept the proposal of leasing land in South Sudan. First, we know that Bangladesh is one of those countries in the world that has one of the lowest rates of arable land per citizen. Leasing land from abroad will help the country to meet the growing food demand of 1.65 million people at home. Second, if Bangladesh can successfully start cultivating agricultural crops in South Sudan, it will bring economic gain for Bangladesh not only by selling the agricultural goods to the local market but also by exporting to 27 other Central African countries. Third, Bangladesh has sufficient expertise in agricultural sectors which can be optimally utilized, and possibly further be expanded, if Bangladesh can successfully start producing in the land leased from South Sudan. Fourth, there are many renowned agricultural scientists in Bangladesh who are doing excellent research work on the country’s agricultural sector. If Bangladesh leases land in South Sudan, these researchers can also contribute to boosting agricultural production in African countries. This is how Bangladesh can contribute, to some extent, to finding a sustainable solution to the prolonged food crisis in Africa.
Fifth, Bangladesh has huge labor, mostly notably farmers, who have expertise and experience in agricultural sectors. If Bangladeshi investors invest in the agricultural sector in South Sudan, it will create huge employment opportunities for Bangladeshi migrant labor, and ultimately contribute to increasing Bangladesh’s foreign exchange reserve. Sixth, once Bangladesh leases land from South Sudan, it will increase Bangladesh’s brand image as it is a sign of the country’s capability and financial strength. Seventh, once successfully implemented, this project will open a new window of opportunities for Bangladesh in other African countries which can be further utilized for increasing financial return for Bangladesh. Eighth, both countries can jointly produce lentils, oil, cotton, and other crops on the leased land and share the products which will bring fortune for both of them by helping them to avoid future food shortages.
Monday, February 07, 2022
In Kenya, a mass government demolition campaign began in October. Bulldozers destroyed at least 13,000 homes, along with businesses and schools, and displaced some 76,000 people. Forced evictions in Nairobi’s informal settlements are common, but demolitions on this scale, causing a humanitarian crisis, are rare.
The demolitions and evictions have shined a bright light on the historical injustices and state corruption shaping Nairobi’s rapid urban development. While these projects have provided comfort and convenience to the city’s rich, they have unleashed extreme violence on the poor of the informal settlements, who make up the majority of Nairobi’s population.
Following independence, the population of the informal settlements exploded, tripling within two decades, as scores migrated from the villages to the city in search of work. Throughout the decades after independence, widespread political corruption passed these public lands, where the informal settlements are located, into the hands of private individuals from among Kenya’s political elite. These elites often used the acquired land as collateral to access loans from banks. When landowners failed to pay back the loans they had taken out, banks assumed ownership.
Seventy percent of Nairobi’s population live in the informal settlements that make up just 5 percent of the city’s residential area. These homes are often made of corrugated tin sheets and lack access to adequate sewage, electricity, or water systems.
“No one here trusts this government,” says Frank Bett, vice chairman of the Mukuru Community Justice Center, "They have made several promises to us since the evictions, and not one of them has been fulfilled. It’s been three months since these evictions, and the government has done nothing. People are still sleeping in tents, and the police are still attacking us. We will believe what the government says when we see it. Until then, no one believes them."
Sunday, February 06, 2022
Saturday, February 05, 2022
Providing mercenaries in Libya's internal conflict has become the main source of revenue for armed groups from Sudan's own war-torn Darfur region, the United Nations said in a report Friday.
The report, drawn up by UN experts in charge of monitoring the arms embargo imposed on Sudan, said the guns-for-hire deals had been facilitated by the United Arab Emirates.
Thousands of Sudanese mercenaries are in Libya in the service of the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army controlled by Marshal Khalifa Haftar.
These mercenaries come from signatory and non-signatory movements of the Juba Peace Agreement, concluded in October 2020, the experts said, adding that they are not able to quantify the total number."Most Darfurian armed groups continued to work for the Libyan National Army in Libya during the reporting period, securing areas and manning checkpoints. In return for these tasks, the five main movements (SLA/MM, GSLF, SLA/TC, SLA/AW and SRAC) were receiving payments and logistical support," the UN experts said.
The report noted that "several sources in the movements said that the money and support were discussed and agreed upon in meetings between their military commanders and United Arab Emirates representatives in Libya."
"The payments were provided by the United Arab Emirates and channelled to the movements by the Libyan National Army, which took a cut," the report added.
Wednesday, February 02, 2022
More than 1 million farmers in the Nigerian state of Benue state once called the “food basket of Nigeria, have been displaced because of the intercommunal violence between herders and farmers competing for water and land.
Violence over the last several years has reduced crop harvests in the northcentral state of Africa’s most populous nation.
“We are heading to a food crisis,” Benue State Gov. Samuel Ortom told The Associated Press.
Across northern Nigeria, at least 13 million are now facing hunger amid a lean season, according to the U.N. World Food Program. The violence has also disrupted the sales of food as roads are too unsafe for farmers to transport crops and marketplaces have been razed by attackers. Rice production has dropped so much that its price has jumped more than 60% in Benue state as well as some other parts of the country.
“There is a very real risk of famine because both conflict and COVID-19 has made it harder to reach those most in need,” a spokesperson of the U.N. agency explained.
Thousands of Nigerians have been killed in the decades-long clashes between agrarian communities and nomadic cattle herders who are fighting over limited access to water and grazing land. The farmers often accuse the herders of encroaching in their fields while the herders, mostly from the Fulani ethnic group, claim the croplands are their traditional grazing routes.
Tuesday, February 01, 2022
In Sierra Leone, Joseph Fofana, a 36-year-old fisherman, earns about 50,000 leone (£3.30) for a brutal, 14-hour day at sea, crammed in with 20 men, all paying the owner for use of his vessel. “This is the only job we can do,” he says. “It’s not my choice. God carried me here. But we are suffering.”
Every day, about 13,000 small boats like Fofana’s cast off from Sierra Leone’s 314-mile (506km) coastline. Fisheries employ 500,000 of the West African nation’s nearly 8 million people, represent 12% of the economy and are the source of 80% of the population’s protein consumption.
Artisanal fishermen now say their catch is dwindling rapidly due to sustained overfishing on a large scale and put the blame squarely on foreign fleets. About 40% of industrial licences are owned by Chinese vessels; though legal, locals say they pay meagre fees for their permits, under-declare their catch and add little to the local economy.
Illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing is a huge problem, costing Sierra Leone $50m a year.
In addition to dominating licensed markets, China is consistently ranked as the worst offender for IUU fishing in a global index of 152 countries. Across west Africa, illegal trawling is devastating marine ecosystems and undermining local fisheries, which are a critical source of jobs and food security. A study in 2017 found that Sierra Leone, Senegal, Mauritania, the Gambia, Guinea-Bissau and Guinea lose $2.3bn (£1.7bn) a year due to IUU fishing, which amounts to 65% of the legal reported catch.
Amara Kalone, at the Environmental Justice Foundation, a charity that monitored foreign vessels in Sierra Leone until last year when funding for the project ran out, says fleets are adapting their tactics to evade restrictions brought against industrial fishing.
“Semi-industrial ships are coming closer to the estuaries, and they are in a legal grey area,” he says. “Other crews are using very fine, monofilament nets, which are illegal but hard to track.”
Experts warn that Sierra Leone’s coastal communities face devastating consequences of legal and illegal overfishing. “The Chinese fleet has been taking the profits of the fisheries for 30 years and the impact on fish stocks has been terrible,” says Stephen Akester, an adviser to Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources between 2009 and 2021. “The resources are disappearing, fishermen are suffering, families are starving. Many have just one meal a day.”
“Imagine working for weeks and not being able to catch food,” says Woody Backie Koroma of the Sierra Leone Artisanal Fishermen Union. “They are getting debts. They go to bed without food.”
Salieu Sankoh, coordinator of the West Africa Regional Fisheries Programme in Sierra Leone. “It’s a serious threat to the nutrition of the population,” he says. “Some local boats go to the sea and come back with nothing.”