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December 05 2013

Five Little-known Energy Resources in Africa

Electricity supply problems are once again news in several African countries with recurring power outages in Benin, Cameroon, Côte d'Ivoire and Madagascar, to name just a few of those most recently affected.

In Benin, a private Nigerian company supplies much of the country’s electricity.

A report on the Kongossa blog [fr] describes the current situation in Cameroon.:

Malgré des investissements réalisés ces dernières années par la firme américano-camerounaise AES-SONEL chargée de la production, du transport, de la distribution et de la commercialisation de l’énergie électrique, le problème est loin d’être résolu.[..] Si à Douala et Yaoundé, les coupures d’électricité durent en moyenne quatre à six heures, dans d’autres localités des pays, notamment dans les zones rurales, des témoignages concordants rapportent que les coupures d’électricité peuvent durer jusqu’à trois jours d’affilé

Despite investments made these past years by the American-Cameroonian firm AES-SONEL in charge of production, transportation, distribution and sale of electrical energy, the problem is far from being resolved. [...] Power cuts in Douala and Yaoundé last on average four to six hours while in other areas of the country, notably in rural zones, eyewitnesses consistently report that power cuts can last up to three days in a row.

In Côte d’Ivoire, outages are so frequent that they are listed on the Facebook page of an imaginary supervillain, Delestron [a play on words with the French term for outage], created by Ivoirian internet users.

Finally, in Madagascar, many communities are furious with the national electricity company Jirama, accused of frequent failures to meet requirements. For example, in the community of Ambohibao Iavoloha [fr]:

Par exemple, la coupure totale sans avertissement qui a eu lieu entre le 06 et 11 novembre dernier. A partir du 11 au 15 novembre, les habitants ont été confrontés au délestage et l’électricité ne revient que le lendemain vers 2h du matin. Tel est le cas de l’électricité mais la faible pression de l’eau de la Jirama fait aussi grogner les habitants.

For example, the complete loss of power which happened without warning from November 6th to the 11th. From November 11th to the 15th, inhabitants had to put up with controlled outages and electricity was only available around 2am the following day. That is the situation regarding electricity, but the low water pressure from Jirama also gives inhabitants something to grumble about.

Rural populations in sub-Saharan Africa are the worst off since only 8.4 percent have access to electricity. However, in light of the growth projected [for Africa], the needs of the continent are certainly going to increase. In 2007, annual energy consumption from primary sources was only 15.4 British thermal units (Btu) per person. By comparison, global energy consumption per person per year was 70.8 Btu while that of Americans was 337.1 Btu (almost 22 times that of the mean in Africa).

However, the African continent is not lacking in natural resources which could meet the energy requirements. Any problems are exacerbated by the global intensification of the race towards energy independence. Many countries are turning to the natural resources of the African continent to supply their energy.

PIDA Africa Electricity Transportation Map

Programs for production and transportation of electricity in Africa by 2040. Map by PIDA, used with their authorisation.

Here are five of the lesser known energy sources  on the African continent:

Heavy Oil of Madagascar

Although Madagascar oil remains relatively unknown internationally-speaking, it has been the object of much speculation. Despite the political crisis, interest in the oil of Madagascar [from overseas] has never lessened. Madagascar news website author Antsa explained [fr] Japan’s interest:

Une délégation japonaise a rencontré les responsables du ministère des Hydrocarbures, à la recherche d'information sur la situation actuelle du secteur des ressources pétrolières, ainsi que des lois et règlementations en vigueur. «Malgré la crise politique, les investisseurs sont restés et d'autres viennent encore pour l'exploration de pétrole. Même s'ils ne sont que dans la phase d'exploration, des avantages sont déjà acquis, à l'exemple de la création d'écoles, d'hôpitaux, l’amélioration et le renforcement de capacité, etc. De plus, le gouvernement ne paie rien, malgré le partage de production», a informé le DG des Hydrocarbures. Notons que trois compagnies pétrolières japonaises ICEP, Jog Meg et Mitsibushi, s'intéressent actuellement à Madagascar.

A Japanese delegation met with representatives from the Ministry of Hydrocarbons to find information on the current situation within the petroleum resources sector, as well as on the laws and rules in force. “Despite the political crisis, investors have stayed while others continue to come for the oil exploration. Even if they are only in the exploration phase, some advantages have already been seen, for example, schools and hospitals have been built or expanded, etc. What is more, the government pays nothing, despite sharing production”, stated the Hydrocarbons Manager. Three Japanese petroleum companies – ICEP, Jog Meg and Mitsibushi – are currently interested in Madagascar.

This growing interest from petroleum businesses could however bring risks. Holly Rakotondralambo, Madagascar partner of Friends of the Earth, explained [fr]:

Alors que les prix du pétrole et des métaux sont de plus en plus élevés en raison d’une demande mondiale croissante, les grandes entreprises et les investisseurs se ruent sur Madagascar. Dans un contexte politique très fragile, ce phénomène risque d'exacerber des conflits avec les populations et de dégrader, encore davantage, des écosystèmes très riches déjà en sursis.

Although oil and metal prices are higher because of growing global demand, big business and investors are rushing to Madagascar. In an extremely fragile political context, this phenomenon threatens to worsen conflicts with the people as well as further despoiling rich ecosystems already living on borrowed time.
natural ressources of Madagascar and the corporations vying for them. Graph posted by  Front Patriotique Malagasy on Facebook, with his permission

 
Natural resources of Madagascar and the companies competing to exploit them. Map published by the OMNIS agency on Facebook, used with permission

 

Tar Sands of the Republic of Congo

Tar sand deposits are an important source of synthetic crude oil. However, they are difficult to exploit and controversial because of their environmental impact. Italian company ENI is the first oil company to exploit the African tar sands. In the Congo, ENI collects tar sands 70km from Pointe-Noire, Congo-Brazzaville, in the Tchikatanga and Tchikatanga-Makola regions. Exploitation of these bitumen-rich sands can be risky, as explained here by the blog Vivement la désintox [fr] [I can’t wait for the detox]:

Exploiter les sables bitumineux est la façon la plus sale, la plus chère et la plus énergivore de produire du pétrole. Extraire 1 baril de pétrole bitumineux nécessite 5 barils d'eau et émet jusqu’à 5 fois plus de gaz à effet de serre que le pétrole conventionnel. L’extraction des sables bitumineux est également synonyme de déforestation et de pollution des eaux. En effet, afin de séparer le pétrole du sable, les compagnies injectent des solvants qui polluent massivement les sols et les rivières.

Exploiting tar sands is the dirtiest, most expensive, most energy-demanding way to produce oil. Extracting one barrel of tar oil takes five barrels of water and releases up to five times more greenhouse gases than normal oil. Extraction of tar sands is also synonymous with deforestation and water pollution. In order to separate the oil from the sand, the companies inject solvents which pollute massively the soil and rivers.

The Windmills of Cape Verde

The Cape Verde islands are the site of the largest windmill farm in Africa. The electricity production equipment on four of the islands could lead to the greatest supply of electricity from wind energy in the world (in proportion to the size of the country), as explained in the following video:

Juan Cole explained the country’s wind energy gamble:

The lack of electricity and its high price have been serious obstacles to economic development and job creation, and thus major reasons for mass emigration of the population. Whereas European wind power often depends on substantial subsidies, the project in Cape Verde is based on strong winds. Electricity generated from wind power is distinctly cheaper than the power sources used hitherto in the islands.

The Potential of Solar Energy in Benin

With energy consumption growing rapidly in Benin, (and estimated to grow by 11% in future years by the state Electrical Energy Company), lack of investment in the sector coupled with losses during distribution and transportation (of around 18-30%) are the main reasons of the current necessity for controlled outages. Leomick Sinsin, a blogger from Benin, described the potential advantages of investing in photovoltaic energy [fr] in his country:

Avec un rayonnement variant de 3 à 6 kWh par m² selon la position géographique, le principal atout d’une installation solaire en Afrique est sa capacité à fournir suffisamment de puissance pour répondre aux besoins quotidiens. D’autre part, l’avantage d’un système solaire est la décentralisation du système de production. Quand l’on connait la vétusté des infrastructures existantes, nul ne saurait contredire le bien fondé d’un système où le site de production juxtaposerait le point de consommation. Le bon exemple est la maison isolée avec des modules surplombant la toiture. [..] Le dernier argument et pas des moindres est le travail d’efficacité énergétique qu’ impose une installation solaire. Un système solaire est une énergie intermittente qui dépend de plusieurs paramètres comme la météo, la qualité de l’installation etc. De ce fait, la consommation implique un recours vers des appareils sobres et peu énergivores. Nous réduisons ainsi le niveau de consommation tout en préservant le même niveau d’utilité.

With power varying from 3 to 6 kWh/m2 depending on geographical position, the main advantage of solar installations in Africa is their capacity to provide enough power to answer daily needs. Another advantage of solar power systems is decentralisation of production. Knowing the antiquity of the existing infrastructure, no-one could be against starting a system where the production site is beside the point of use. A good example is a remote house with panels on the roof. [...] Last but not least, the work towards energy efficiency that a solar installation imposes. Solar power gives intermittent energy which depends on several parameters such as the weather, quality of the installation, etc. As a result, its usage implies a move towards energy-saving equipment. In this way the level of consumption can be reduced while keeping the same degree of usability.

Geothermic energy from the Rift Valley

Recently, several energy companies have stressed the importance of geothermic energy as both a response to the energy needs for countries within the Horn of Africa [Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia] and the Rift Valley as well as an integral part of the program for “green growth”. SciDev.Net reported that Djibouti could become a major player [fr] in geothermic energy:

Le potentiel d'énergie géothermique de la région du Lac Assal de ce pays, qui se trouve dans la vallée du Rift, est à l'étude [..] La production d'énergie sur le lac Assal pourrait commencer en 2018 pour un coût de US$ 240 millions, générant 40 à 60 mégawatts. La BAD recommande que les partenariats entre les secteurs public et privé développent ces projets d'énergie en raison de leurs coûts élevés.

The potential of geothermic energy in the Lake Assal region of this country in the Rift Valley is being studied [...] Energy production around Lake Assal could start in 2018 for a cost of 240 million US Dollars, generating 40 to 60 megawatts. The BAD recommend that public and private sector partnerships develop these energy projects due to their high cost.

G. Pourtier added that Ethiopia is also starting to explore thermal energy [fr]:

Située à 200 km au sud d'Addis-Abeba, la capitale éthiopienne, la nouvelle centrale produira d'abord 20 MW à partir de 2015, puis 500 MW en 2018 et enfin 1 GW quelques années plus tard [..]. La surface acquise par Reykjavik Geothermal en Éthiopie couvre 6500 km2, dont 200 km2 ont déjà été identifiés et où la température s'élève à 350°C.

Located 200 km south of Addis Abbaba, the Ethiopian capital, the new power station will start producing 20 MW from 2015, then 500 MW in 2018 and finally 1 GW several years later [...] The area acquired by Reykjavik Geothermal covers 6500 km2, of which 200 km2 have already been identified as having temperatures reaching 350°C.

June 15 2013

Ambassadeurs sous les projecteurs

L'outil diplomatique est d'abord question de personnes. Directrice de recherche au Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), Marie-Christine Kessler étudie avec minutie les ressource humaines du Quai d'Orsay et l'organisation de ses services de la IIIe République jusqu'à nos jours . (...) / Afrique, Burkina Faso, France, Rwanda, Histoire, Relations internationales, Djibouti, Diplomatie - 2013/06

April 10 2013

Djibouti: Arrests follow ‘Democratic’ Elections

Several opposition leaders were arrested [fr] in Djibouti, a small, but strategically important country in the Horn of Africa, after demonstrations which followed the February 22, 2013 general elections. The elections saw yet another victory for the party in power, the People's Rally for Progress. President Ismail Omar Guelleh, who has ruled since 1999, received 80% of votes cast, leading to allegations of fraud on a massive scale. The arrests followed the demonstrations about allegations of massive fraud [fr]. According to the Djiboutian League of Human Rights organisation and the International Federation of Human Rights, 90 people were retained in the famously tough Gabode Central Prison. Arrests were still continuing at the time of writing, April 2013.

Spokesperson for opposition party Union for National Salvation, Daher Ahmed Farah, was sentenced [fr] to two months in the same closed prison for calling for rebellion after the election results were announced.  The following video shows fighting in the streets between opposition demonstrators and the police (via Dillipress):

Elections in Djibouti have still not resulted in a real political alternative for power. Ismaïl Omar Gelleh has been president of the republic since April 9, 1999, and his ideologically conservative party, the People's Rally for Progress, has been in power since the country gained independence.

James Schneider from Think Africa Press has always believed that the elections only gave the appearance of democracy:

His most recent re-election, in 2011, came after he changed the constitution to be allowed to run for a third time; the vote took place without election observers and Guelleh won practically unopposed after the opposition withdrew citing harassment and the unfair nature of the poll [..] Guelleh’s illusion will have worked, at least in the short term: he will still have power but now with the veneer of a parliamentary opposition.  Indeed, many people have much to gain from the electoral illusion. But sadly, this group is unlikely to include most ordinary Djiboutians. After all, you cannot improve freedom, development and wellbeing with illusions alone.

Djibouti European Quarter via Wikimedia - Public Domain

Djibouti European Quarter via Wikimedia – Public Domain

The party in power is contesting these allegations of fraud. Abdi Ismail Hersi, head of the independent National Electoral Commission, has stated that the elections took place in a transparent manner. This verdict was shared by a Malian commentator from the African Union, Cissé Mariam Kaïdama Sidibé, who stated:

The citizens of Djibouti were able to carry out their civic duties in total transparency.

On its facebook page [fr], the opposition party reported that arrests [fr] of opposition members were still continuing in the city of Arhiba:

A Arhiba, la journée du dimanche 7 avril a vu l'arrestation musclée avec force brutalité d'Abdo Mohamed Ahmed et Houssein Mohamed Kamil avant d’être conduits tous deux au centre de Nagad. Puis c’est vers 2 heures du matin dans la nuit du dimanche 7 au lundi 8 avril que la police a procédé à de nouvelles arrestations directement aux domiciles des individus pour tirer de leurs lits au moins trois hommes dont les noms ont été révélés : Abdo Ibrahim Mohamed, Abdo Ali Bouha et Abbatte Gadid Merito.

In Arhiba, Sunday April 7 saw the arrest with brutal force of Abdo Mohamed Ahmed and Houssein Mohamed Kamil, before they were both driven to the center of Nagad. Then, around 2 am on Monday April 8, the police made more arrests at individuals homes, to pull from their beds at least three men whose names have been revealed: Abdo Ibrahim Mohamed, Abdo Ali Bouha et Abbatte Gadid Merito.

The strategic position of this country in the Horn of Africa makes Djibouti a significant ally for Western countries including France, its previous colonial power, in the fight against the pirates and Islamic terrorists of the region.

President Ismaïl Omar Guelleh (right) with Donald Rumsfeld (left), 2002 via wikimédia Public Domain

President Ismaïl Omar Guelleh (right) and Donald Rumsfeld (left), 2002 via wikimedia Public Domain

Luke Lythgoe of Think Africa Press explained how this background makes it difficult for Western countries to criticise the current government:

Djibouti may be a country few in the West know about, yet Western foreign policymakers have placed disproportionate emphasis upon the tiny nation as a strategic base for their operations in the Horn of Africa – particularly in combating piracy and the militant Islamists al-Shabaab in Somalia. Perhaps understandably, considering the higher profile crises on its doorstep, the West has treated Djibouti as little more than a tool in its arsenal – as a military base, launch pad for drone strikes, or venue for regional diplomacy – rather than a situation worth addressing in its own right.

January 18 2013

Gabon to Mali: History of French Military Interventions in Africa

[All links forward to french articles unless otherwise stated] 

The French military intervention in Mali, known as Operation Serval [en] started on January 11, 2013 following the advance of terrorists groups towards Bamako. Lauded by a substantial part of the Malian population [en] and many outside observers, the military intervention diverts, however, from the non-interventionist line professed by French President Hollande in Africa.


View L'intervention militaire étrangère au Mali in a larger map
Google interactive map of the Malian conflict by Jeune Afrique

Francis d'Alençon wonders why French interventions in Africa do not raise protests around the world:

Bizarre, bizarre… L’intervention française au Mali ne dérange personne alors que des actions américaines similaires soulèveraient des tempêtes de protestation… De l’avantage de ne pas être une super puissance.

This is odd… The french intervention in Mali does not bother anyone whereas similar actions by the USA would have raised a storm of protests.. There are perks to not being the world's top super power.

To illustrate his point, he quotes from the Cech newspaper Lidové noviny :

Les Français sont intervenus plus de 50 fois en Afrique depuis 1960. Ils ont combattu au Tchad, dans la guerre non déclarée avec la Libye, protégé les régimes de Djibouti et de République Centrafricaine des rebelles, empêché un coup d’état aux Comores, sont intervenus en Côte d’Ivoire. Que ce soit pour préserver des intérêts économiques, protéger les ressortissants français ou démontrer le statut de grande puissance du pays, les locataires de l’Élysée, de gauche comme de droite, ont fréquemment manifesté leur penchant pour les actions unilatérales. … Pourtant personne n’a jamais protesté. … Si les États-Unis intervenaient avec une telle véhémence, il y aurait des protestations interminables en Europe. Et les ambassades américaines verraient défiler des diplomates fâchés, à commencer par les Français.

The French have now intervened more than 50 times in Africa since 1960. They fought in Chad, in the war with Libya, protected regimes in  Djibouti and the Central African Republic from rebels, prevented a coup in the Comoros and intervened in Côte d'Ivoire. Whether to preserve economic interests, protect French nationals or showcase the still imposing power of France, the main tenants of the Palais de l'Élysée, either from the left or from the right wings, have frequently expressed their penchant for unilateral action. But … nobody has ever protested. If … the United States intervened in such a manner, there would be an endless sequence of protests in Europe. U.S. embassies would see angry diplomats coming through their doors, starting with the French ones.

Carte de la rébellion touareg au Azawad, au nord de Mali indiquant les attaques des rebelles au 5 avril 2012

Map of the Tuareg rebellion in Azawad, Northern Mali showing rebel attacks as of April 5, 2012 (CC-BY-3.0)

Below is a chronology of these interventions [There are indeed quite a few of them but contrary to what the Cech newspaper stated, there were less than 50 french interventions in Africa ]. It is based on two articles:  one is a review written by  Nestor N’Gampoula  for Oeil d'Afrique and  another one by Jean-Patrick Grumberg for Dreuz Info. Grumberg adds that most of the French interventions in Africa took place on former colonial soil :

In 1964, airborne french troops landed in Libreville, Gabon after an attempted coup against the regime back then.

From 1968 to 1972, French troops took part in the fight against the rebellion in the Tibesti region in northern Chad.

In 1978 in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo), 600 French legionnaires went into the town of Kolwezi, in the south-east to help thousands of Africans and Europeans threatened by Katangan rebels. The mission was in response to a call for help made by President Mobutu Sese Seko to help his country. The operation cost the lives of five legionnaires, but allowed the evacuation of 2700 Westerners.

In 1979 in CAR, Emperor Jean-Bedel Bokassa is removed by French paratroopers during the Operation Barracuda.

From 1983-1984 in Chad, France undertook Operation Manta, a 3,000 men strong operation to face armed rebels supported by Libya. Two years later, another French military action, composed of mostly aerial attacks called “Operation Epervier“, was deployed after an anti-government attack.

In Comoros in 1989, after the assassination of President Ahmed Abdallah and the takeover of the country by the French mercenary Bob Denard, about 200 French soldiers arrived in the country to force them to leave the country.

In 1990, Paris sends troops to Gabon in Libreville and Port-Gentil in reinforcement of the French contingent after violent riots erupted. The operation allowed the evacuation of some 1,800 foreigners.

In 1991 in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo), the Belgian and French troops managed to evacuate foreigners after violent riots and looting occurred in the country.

In 1991 still, French troops based in Djibouti help the Afar rebellion to disarm Ethiopian troops that had crossed the border following the overthrow of Ethiopian President Mengistu Haile Mariam.

In 1994, French and Belgian soldiers evacuate Europeans while Rwanda Hutus massacred hundreds thousands of Tutsis. Later in the year, some 2,500 French soldiers, supported by african troops, launched “Operation Turquoise“, described as a humanitarian effort, in Zaire and in eastern Rwanda.

In 1995, a thousand men involved in Operation Azalea ended another attempted coup against Comorian President  Said Mohamed Djohar by Bob Denard.

In 1996 in the Central African Republic (CAR), operation Almandin secured the safety of foreigners and the evacuation of 1,600 people after the army mutinied against President Ange-Félix Patassé. The following year in 1997, specifically after the murder of two French soldiers, a French operation against the mutineers was mandated in Bangui (Central African Republic).

The same year, 1997, some 1,200 French soldiers rescued French and African expatriates during fighting between the Congolese army and supporters of the military leader Denis Sassou Nguesso, now President of the Republic of Congo.

In 2002, French forces undertook Operation Licorne to help Westerners trapped by a military uprising that effectively divided Côte-d’Ivoire in two regions.

In 2003, Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo), Operation Artemis in Ituri  secured the area and put an end to ongoing massacres. This was followed by the deployment of 2,000 peacekeepers,  80% of which were French.

In 2004 in Côte-d’Ivoire, France destroyed the small Ivorian airforce after government forces bombed a French base.

In 2008 a new French intervention strengthens the regime of Chadian President Idriss Deby and evacuated foreigners while rebels from neighboring Sudan attacked.

In March 2011 in Libya had the French airforces were the first to bomb Gaddafi forces after the vote at the United Nations authorized intervention in Libya to protect civilians caught up in the rebellion against Gaddafi. NATO took command of the overall mission on March 31, a mission that helped the Libyan rebels to defeat the forces of the government and take power.

In 2011 in Côte-d’Ivoire,  French forces alongside UN forces tip the balance in favor of Ouattara during the civil war. The war broke out after the refusal of Laurent Gbagbo to resign and accept the verdict of the election that pronounced Alassane Ouattara as president.

France had decided to break with his role as “policeman of Africa” by refusing to intervene again in the Central African Republic  where François Bozizé (former army chief who came to power by overthrowing the elected president Ange-Félix Patassé on March 15, 2003) faced a rebellion uprising. Little did he know that the events in Mali would force his hands :

In 2013 in Mali,  French bombarded Islamist rebels after they tried to expand their powerbase  towards the Malian capital, Bamako. France had already warned that control of the north of Mali by the rebels posed a threat to the security of Europe.

At the same time, France has mounted a commando operation to try to save a French hostage held by al Shabaab militants in Somalia, also allied with al-Qaeda. The hostage was  killed by the militants.

January 26 2012

Djibouti: 2012 Djibouti Whale Shark Expedition

Seychelles Whale Sharks blogs about the the 2012 Djibouti whale shark expedition: “…Gareth has passed on the important statistics for the last week which yielded a further 369 encounters which makes the total of 1077 over the three weeks of expedition…Also, Gareth managed to deploy two satellite tags, one on a five metre female and the other on a five meter male…”

August 25 2011

Somalia: Food Security Emergency Spreads Despite Aid

This post was commissioned as part of a Pulitzer Center/Global Voices Online series on Food Insecurity. These reports draw on multimedia reporting featured on the Pulitzer Gateway to Food Insecurity and bloggers discussing the issues worldwide.

As the Horn of Africa deals with what the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is calling the “most severe food security emergency in the world today,” experts warn that conditions in famine-stricken Somalia are likely to further deteriorate.

Over 12 million impacted

People line up for food at a camp in Mogadishu, Somalia. Image by UN Photo/Stuart Price on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

People line up for food at a camp in Mogadishu, Somalia. Image by UN Photo/Stuart Price on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Triggered by a combination of the worst drought in 60 years, conflict and high food prices, the food crisis in northeast Africa is affecting more than 12 million people, according to the FAO. While countries such as Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya have been severely impacted, Somalia has been hardest hit, facing the worst food security crisis in Africa in the last 20 years.

Five areas of Somalia are now suffering from famine, which is expected to spread to two more regions soon and even further in coming months. It has already killed tens of thousands of people, including some 29,000 children in the past three months. Another 3.7 million people across Somalia are in crisis. Of these, 3.2 million are in need of immediate lifesaving assistance.

In response, the FAO has held two emergency meetings in less than a month, the most recent of which was last week, to determine steps for dealing with the disaster.

But David Dorward, a professor at Australia’s La Trobe University, says on website The Conversation, that there is one reason why Somalia has been more severely affected by this food crisis:

While droughts are caused by weather - the failure of the rains - famines are invariably political…

Crops have failed and livestock perished for want of pasture. But the problem is not spread evenly across the drought-affected region…

The famine has affected each part of the Horn in different ways. In each port, each capital, each refugee camp, politics decides who, and how many, will starve.

Continuous conflict

Somalia has experienced ongoing conflict since its civil war began in 1991. While there is a transitional government in place in the capital Mogadishu, the Islamic militant group al-Shabaab controls large portions of southern Somalia, where much of the famine is occurring. Al-Shabaab has banned many international aid groups, alleging ulterior motives on their part, and preventing hungry people from leaving the country, according to media sources.

John Campbell, blogging on the Council on Foreign Relations' site, mostly blames al-Shabaab for the crisis:

In effect, al-Shabaab bears the most responsibility for the famine. The terrorist group continues to block Western aid workers during a drought that has displaced close to two million people, or a quarter of Somalia’s entire population. A few years ago, Shabaab dismantled a child vaccination campaign, claiming it was a Western plot; that program could have saved many children who have since succumbed to measles.

Suspected measles cases in Somalia have increased by over 660 percent compared to the same time last year, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and cases of cholera are also on the rise. But a report released last week by Human Rights Watch says all parties to Somalia’s armed conflict are contributing to the catastrophe.

An Associated Press investigation revealed last week that sacks of food meant for starving Somalis are being stolen and sold in markets. Soaring prices are also adding to the population's inability to access food. The prices of local food staples in Somalia have increased by up to 240 percent in the past nine months, exceeding the previous record high in 2008, according to media reports.

Another cause of the crisis, says Dave Algoso, an international development professional in Kenya, on his blog Find What Works is the failure to respond to the crisis early. Rebecca Sargent, blogging on a peace of conflict, also blames, among many other factors, large land lease “land grabs.”

The crisis has forced Somalis to flee to neighboring countries, including Ethiopia, Djibouti and, particularly, Kenya. The number of refugees at Kenya's Dadaab complex has reached around 400,000, even though it was built to hold 90,000, with an average of 1,300 Somalis arriving daily. In a series for the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, Samuel Loewenberg reports on Dadaab's “disastrously overcrowded” refugee camps.

As aid workers struggle to get food and water to those in need, some bloggers wonder what they can do. Ann Freeman, blogging on Upside My Head (Pay Attention Now), lists three ways to help, including increasing awareness. The World Food Programme has created a quiz to do just that. Cynthia Bertelsen, blogging on Gherkins and Tomatoes, wonders why more food writers and bloggers aren't discussing the famine.

Search for solutions

While emergency aid and short-term solutions are necessary, international agricultural experts who gathered at the FAO emergency meeting last week also stressed the need for long-term actions and policies to prevent future famines. Kenya's agriculture minister, for example, emphasized the need for drought-resistant seeds, small irrigation projects and infrastructure and examining the link between food production problems and climate change.

Hannah Ellison, writing for the Population Institute's blog, says for other reforms to work, family planning must also be part of the strategy. Jeffrey Swindle, blogging on USAID’s Global Broadband and Innovations site, discusses information and communications technology's potentially important role in organizing humanitarian relief efforts and preventing famines. United States professor Marion Nestle, blogging on Food Politics, says Somalia's politics must also be addressed:

We keep making the same mistakes.

This is because it seems—and in the case of Somalia is—much easier to deal with the immediate demand for food aid than to address the underlying politics that caused the problem in the first place.

But if we don’t deal with the underlying politics, the same tragedies occur again and again.

Despite the dire situation, some bloggers try to remain hopeful. Somali model Iman, blogging on The Huffington Post, lists five seeds of hope for Somalia, including the strength of the country's women. Ed Carr, blogging on Open The Echo Chamber, points out that if humans have caused this disaster, we can also prevent the next one. Dave Algoso injects a little hope on his blog, Find What Works, by sharing three uplifting videos. He says:

Images of starving famine victims often reinforce pessimistic stereotypes of hopeless Africans unable to do much for themselves. Against such images, we like to inject nuance and point to the complexity of the situation, in the hope of countering the stereotypes and provoking a better response from the consumers of Western media.

But another possible antidote is to simply combat simplistic hopelessness with simplistic hopefulness.

March 03 2011

Africa: Sub-Saharan Africa censors Mideast protests

Written by Ndesanjo Macha

Some African leaders do not want citizens to know what is happening in North Africa and Middle East: “As news of Middle Eastern and North African protests swirl around the globe, satellite television and the Internet prove vital sources of information for Africans as governments fearful of an informed citizenry and a free press such as in Eritrea, Equatorial Guinea, and Zimbabwe impose total news blackouts on the developments.”

February 21 2011

Djibouti: Will it become another Egypt?

Written by Ndesanjo Macha

Protests are taking place in Djibouti against President Ismail Omar Guelleh who succeeded his uncle Hassan_Gouled_Aptidon in 1999. Somaliland Press reports that 300 protesters demonstrated near the governmental palace on Friday.

Jones says he can not avoid to write about Djibouti's current political situation:

I haven't written much about Djibouti's current political situation, for many reasons, but I don't think I can avoid it much longer. With events in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Bahrain, Algeria…protest fever seems to be in the air and Djibouti is not immune.

We have experienced strikes when students are dissatisfied with teachers, lack of supplies or their grades. There have also been occasional, small-scale demonstrations over political issues or if the khat plane fails to arrive. But in the seven years we have lived here, nothing has been major enough to alarm us, just enough to keep us in the house for an afternoon or so.

Someone told him (Jones), “Djibouti isn't peaceful today, go home”:

Today there are planned protests, to begin sometime after 1400. We are just planning to stay inside. The only difference we have noticed lately around town is a vast increase in police presence, more rocks than normal in the streets and this morning while I ran and Henry biked around in the desert, someone said to us, “Djibouti isn't peaceful today, go home.”

Daniel McCurry, a blogger based in Djibouti, posts a video from the recent student protests and writes, “2nd day of protests and fatalities”:

I was in a cafe tonight watching Djibouti News and they showed pictures of burned out cars and several semi trucks burned. There was even a gas tanker burned. Another friend told me there were skirmishes with police until about 1 am last night. In Belbela right outside of the city there were rock throwing protests against police this morning. Currently all the schools are on vacation but the university is not. Attendance was very low today at the university many students stayed home because of the events of yesterday and today.

Harawo posts a statement from Union for Democratic Transition:

The protests continue not only in the capital but in many towns and villages. We are informed that they would have started early this morning Yoboki Ali Sabieh, Dikhil Obock and who also had expressed yesterday as Djibouti and Tadjourah, now under high tension.

#Djibouti Tweets:

@amanamongmen says:

News coming out of Djibouti. If they know what is healthy 4 them, they should release the activist they jailed 4 insurrectionary movements.

@texasinafrica can't keep up with uprisings anymore:

It was so much easier when social movements happened one at a time. Gabon, Libya, Djibouti, Cote d'Ivoire - I can't keep up.

@FelixPax retweets:

@acarvin RT @Sentletse: #Djibouti experienced its share of pro-democracy protests where an estimated 30,000 took to the streets on Sunday

January 20 2011

A Djibouti, la première base du Japon à l'étranger depuis 1945

Djibouti, petit Etat stratégique à l'entrée de la mer Rouge et de l'océan Indien, permet au Japon d'ouvrir cette année sa première base militaire permanente à l'étranger… depuis sa défaite de 1945. Engagées depuis 2009 dans la lutte anti-piraterie au large de la Somalie, les Forces d'« autodéfense » du Japon vont bénéficier, pour la première fois dans un pays étranger, d'installations en dur aux côtés des militaires français et américains déjà implantés dans la Corne de l'Afrique. Une étape supplémentaire sur (...) - Défense en ligne / Japon, Mer, Djibouti

November 12 2010

Djibouti: Djiboutilicious

By Ndesanjo Macha

Djiboutilicious is a Djibouti Cookbook celebrating culture and cooking in a country as hot as your oven.

Djibouti: Two evenings in Djibouti

By Ndesanjo Macha

James Ferguson blogs about his experience while working in Djibouti: “‘The Beverley' is a place which is a very tiny elevator ride four floors above some kind of eatery, or convenience store, or pharmacy - I'm not sure which - that has very mysteriously, and misleadingly, borrowed it's name and logos from ‘Planet Hollywood'.”

October 04 2010

June 20 2010

Retour à Djibouti

Après de longues années d'exil, Djibril retourne à Djibouti, son pays d'origine. Sa mission : scruter, consigner, analyser, informer pour le compte d'une agence de renseignement américaine. La région est instable et l'arrière-pays contrôlé par les groupes islamistes. Par sa position stratégique, (...) / Histoire, Idéologie, Littérature, Djibouti - 2010/04

May 30 2010

Francophone Africa : blogging about African literature in French, one book at a time

By Claire Ulrich

Réassi Ouabonzi

The Best of blog Awards 2010 shone light on a sleuth of fascinating blogs in eleven languages. A close runner-up for the Best blog in French award is Chez Guangoueus (fr). Réassi Ouabonzi blogs about  African and diaspora litterature in French from a reader's perspective since 2007, one book at a time.  With time, Chez Guangoueus has built up into a unique online  guide to African and diaspora writers. (Editor's Note:

GV : Why did you open a blog about books in the first place?

I was an avid reader as a teen, I devoured  every book available in the French cultural center in Brazzaville (Congo), where I lived. I was born in France of Congolese parents, I spent 18 years  in each country, and now live in France. Reading is time consuming, I dropped it during my  studies in physics. Then, one day, I saw Beloved, a film by Jonathan Demme based on the book written by Nobel Prize Toni Morrison. It gave me such a jolt  I decided to read all of  one her books. She brought me back to reading.

- Why do you concentrate on black literature in French ?

It was a deliberate process. I'm interested in reading how black people see themselves and are represented. I opened a blog to document my readings, and let's face it, also because it's quite a violent reality, not to find any resources about African or black literature on the Francophone web, save for the online magazine Cultures Sud.

"Les écailles du ciel" by Tierno Monenembo

- What are the current trends in Francophone African literature?

-  I review authors from any African countries, French West Indies or in diasporas, black literature at large. But let me think: in Congo, a new generation of writers is budding, inspired by award-wining writer and intellectual Alain Mabanckou. In Sénégal, I'm struck by the current emergence (empowering) of women writers, in the wake of  best selling author Marie Ndiaye.  I notice writers from Cameroon write with the same “in your face” directness and energy that they are are famous for. I must confess that I am in awe of Nigerian writers,  like the great Chinua Achebe. Among francophone writers, I could mention so many: Abdourahman A.Waberi from Djibouti,  Jimi Yuma from Congo, Patrice Nganang and Leonora Miano from Cameroon… they're all in my blogroll.

"Saisons sauvages" by Kettly Mars (Haiti)

- African authors now regularly win French literary awards, but most of your finds are totally unknown, invisible in French bookstores

- Black literature in French has trouble  finding a publisher, but also a readership. In francophone Africa, books are difficult to publish, expensive and hard to find. But the problem is elsewhere. We  West Africans can write and publish our own perspectives, but we should read them, too. Somehow, Africans have trouble reading books about themselves. They look elsewhere for references. My blog offers authors  some coverage:  I get a thousand visitors per month, 50% come from Metropolitan France, 30% from West Africa..

- You sometimes stray to review Japanese or South American books on your blog, but never French “white” literature.

"Le passé devant soi" by Gilbert Gatore

French literature is too navel-orientated. We're not on this earth for long. Let's get going. And French white writers are still totally blind to the true challenges in France, the plight of black or Arab youths disenfranchised  in poor suburbs.

"Trois femmes puissantes", the award wining book and best-seller in France, by French-Senegalese author Marie Ndiaye

Why did you pick this name for your blog, “Chez Gangoueus”?

Ngangoué is my second Congolese given name.  I consider myself  of African and Western background and culture, I looked for a handle that would reflect this, and added the us suffix, in reference to latin culture, names like Brutus, Octavius or Britannicus. Gangouéus reflects my dual identity.

You alway take a picture of the book you are reading and most of the time, in public transports.

Because that's where I read! Work is work, family is family. Time spent commuting to and from work in Paris became my reading time!

"Les phalènes" by Tchicaya U Tam'Si

Reposted bySigalon02 Sigalon02

May 11 2010

Djibouti: Food insecurity in Djibouti

By Ndesanjo Macha

A blogger based in Djibouti writes about food insecurity in the country: “Food instability is about to hit Djibouti. The rainy season ends in a month and there hasn’t been much rain this year. Meaning, an estimated 120,000 people will need food assistance through December. Meanwhile the lazy overweight woman that eats all day long (aka Gilligan) is joking about starving Africans and complaining she has to walk 100yards to get her food since the place next door is closed.”

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