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February 21 2014

February 14 2014

What Guinea Needs Now is Peace and Stability

Conakry Ville via wikimedia license CC-BY-2.0

Downtown Conakry via wikimedia CC-BY-2.0

Serge Lamah reports on his blog[fr] that Oyé Guilavogui, the communication minister has pointed out the pressing needs for Guinea today :

Vous vous rappelez, en 2011, les avions en direction de Conakry ne désemplissaient pas. Les hôtels étaient pleins à tout moment, aujourd’hui, allez-y, il y a de la place toutes les saisons. Les avions viennent à moitié vides parce qu’il n y a pas eu de calme, on ne s’est pas acceptés. Donc on est obligé de tout remettre à plat pour faire revenir les investisseurs. Pour qu’un investisseur mette son argent dans un pays, le premier critère est qu’il faut qu’il y ait la stabilité, la paix.

You remember in 2011, planes bound for Conakry never emptied. Hotels were always but today, there are always empty rooms all year long. The planes are half empty because there is always uncertainty and we have yet to learn to live with each other again. So we are forced to get back to the drawing board and in order to appeal to investors again. For an investor to invest in a country, the first criterion is that there must be stability and peace. 

February 05 2014

8 Irrresistable Food Blogs From Sub-Saharan Africa

A display of foodstuff. Public domain image from  National Institutes of Health (USA).

A display of different types of food. Public domain image from the United States National Institutes of Health.

Food is life. It unites us all. Here at Global Voices, we love food, so we bring you eight yummy food blogs from Sub-Saharan Africa.

1. Scrumptious South Africa

The logo of Scrumptious South Africa blog. Used with permission.

The logo of Scrumptious South Africa blog. Used with permission.


Scrumptious South Africa is a food blog run by Jane-Anne Hobbs Rayner, who is a cook, food writer, recipe developer and professional freelance journalist:

My site Scrumptious, which pioneered recipe blogging in South Africa almost seven years ago, is an independent food blog all about careful, patient home cooking, and about how to prepare excellent food for family and friends.

The recipes on this blog are, with a few early exceptions, my original work: I have devised, developed and thoroughly tested them myself. Of course, there are very few recipes these days that can be called truly original: every recipe builds on the work and patient testing of many generations of talented cooks, chefs and alchemists. Where I've adapted an existing recipe, or drawn on the work of other cookery writers, or found inspiration in someone else's recipe, I always say so.

2. Dobby's Signature

This is a Nigerian food blog by Nigerian blogger Dobby:

I'm dobby, a culinary enthusiast with a flair for Local Cuisines in Nigeria and around the globe. Welcome to my online recipe diary where I explore and showcase dishes from my Nigerian kitchen to inspire meals in yours. Let me confess, i'm not a professional chef…..Yeah! i'm not. But Cooking is one of my major hobbies and i do it well. Whenever i'm not cooking, i do illustrations/graphic designs too as shown on the blog. So, Stick around and explore Nigerian food from my own point of view.

Dobby's signature is a Nigerian Food Blog focused on Showcasing Nigerian dishes, Exploring Traditional food recipes and Flavors with strong emphasis on Photography, Diversity, Vibrant colors and Health benefits… Just the way Mama makes it ;)

3. Kadi African Recipes

Oumou Bah from Guinea shares her passion for food on her blog. The blog also uses YouTube videos:

I love the fact that in Africa, mealtimes are moments of great gatherings for big families. In most African countries such as Mali, Somalia, through Guinea, Nigeria and Eritrea, people use their fingers instead of a spoon, fork and knife to eat which make the meals more special and taste so unique.

The dishes are mostly made of meat, chicken, fish and vegetables all usually accompanied by the staple such as rice,FouFou, Tô, ugali and many more . Peppers and spices are widely used, which gives the taste especially African cuisine. Also without forgetting the vegetable leaves such as sweet potatoes leaves, Ukazi, bitter leaves and so on . Yams, corn, okra, and tomatoes and many other vegetables are also heavily used varies according to the region.

The YouTube video below from Kadi African Recipes show how to make Attiéké, the main dish of the Ivory Cost:

4. Taste of Tanzania

After sharing recipes online on various sites since 2004, Miriam Rose Kinunda now runs the Taste of Tanzania blog:

Tanzania is located in East Africa (Indian Ocean is on the East). Since Persians visited the coast of East Africa dated as early as 17th century, they introduced many things including spices and some recipes; example, Pilau, Haluwa, samosa, Bagia, etc. Our diet is a mainly African, and a little bit of Indian and Arabic. I hope you will enjoy these simple recipes from Tanzania and a few of my favorate from other countries.

Miriam Rose Kinunda started to post Tanzanian recipes just for fun in June 2004 with the domain name miriammalaquias.com; In 2006 I changed to mirecipe.com and started to blog, In July 2009, I decided to give this site a name that fits, A taste of Tanzania

5. Chef Afrik

Adhis, the owner of Chef Afrik, plans on “cooking my way through Africa one country at a time”:

First started in November 2011, Chef Afrik is my African food and travel lovechild. The site's motto, “Cooking my way through Africa one country at a time”, indicates my pursuit as a Kenyan diasporan to discover the continent of Africa through its food. As well as showcasing food from all over the continent “In the Kitchen”, I also enjoy interviewing people who work with African food, whether as food writers, bloggers or chefs in my “Get to know” series.

6. Foodie in the Desert 

Breadcrumbs sweet potatoes dish. Photo by Wangeci Wandere. Used with permission. from

Breadcrumbs sweet potatoes dish. Photo by Wangeci Wandere. Used with permission. from

Wangeci Wandere believes that anyone can cook no matter where they live. She started her food blog in a Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya:

Thanx for stopping by Foodie in the desert, my online home for recipes I try out and my culinary journeys from all around the place. Here, I share recipes that I have tried and loved anything from a simple stew to a complicated dessert, a few kitchen disasters and I will give you a few tips and tricks here and There.

I am a big believer that ANYBODY can cook whether you live in a bedsitter (studio apartment) or a lavish duplex, whether your a bachelor who just moved out of home or a wife with 4 kids. I started this blog in Kakuma refugee Camp, I live in a tiny studio apartment and I barely get any supplies so if I can do it so can you. So join me in discovering how to spice up your meals using supplies that you can find in your local supermarkets.

7. A Hungry African

This is a blog written by Brandi Phiri, a graduate student in Botswana, who despised cooking until recently:

Madombi (dumplings), a local cuisine in Botswana,  in chicken stew. Photo by Brandi Phiri. Used with permission.

Madombi (dumplings), a local cuisine in Botswana, in chicken stew. Photo by Brandi Phiri. Used with permission.

I’ve never really been a fan of the kitchen or any chores involving it. Until very recently I despised the Kitchen, I mostly especially despised cooking, anyone in my family will attest to that!

But after finally moving into a campus flat equipped with a kitchen I realised I didn’t want to eat boring food. If I was forced to feed myself everyday it would be with good food!

Traditional African cooking (at least in southern Africa) doesn’t allow for much experimenting or variety. We don’t play fast and loose with spices like the west Africans or Indians, our baking is mostly limited to plain cakes,breads and buns, our staple food is nsima/pap/sadza/ugali/posho/fufu/bugari/phaletshe and we tend to favour meat stews. Of course there is slight variation from country to country. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with traditional African food, nothing at all however I yearn for something different at times, something to surprise my taste buds and that is how my culinary adventures began.

8. Mzanzi Style Cuisine

South African blogger Thuli started Mzansi Style Cuisine in 2011 to encourage young people to cook and provide them with an online platform to access traditional and indigenous dishes:

Indigenous dishes are not widely documented reason being that the knowledge was passed down from generation to generation by training young women. Nowadays things have changed, young women move to the city to get education and jobs before they could have that entire food heritage passed down to them by the older generation. Well, I hope to bridge that gap through this blog. In addition to that, I urge young people, both women and men, to spend more time with the older generation. By that I mean our grandparents, parents, uncles and aunts. Let us embrace them, listen and learn from their experiences. Knowing where one comes from makes for a grounded individual and there is nothing cooler than that.

There are many more African food blogs than those listed above. Do you have a favorite African food blog? Please share it in the comments section below.

January 09 2014

Silent Treatment on Violence against Women in Guinea

Boubacar Sanso Barry for Guinée Conakry Info wrote an in-depth report on the undercovered issue of violence against women in Guinea. Even though the National Agency on Gender reports that 80% of Guinean women were victims of psychological or physical abuse [fr], the topic seems to be too often ignored by national media. His report underlines one of the factor [fr] for the lack of coverage : 

La question de la violence conjugale ne fait pas partie des politiques publiques. Je n’ai jamais entendu un homme ou une femme politique faire de cela un sujet de débat. Plusieurs informations non officielles font état de violences conjugales au sein des familles de ceux qui dirigent ou qui ont dirigé ce pays. En fait, dans le paquet des droits que les femmes de Guinée revendiquent, il n’y a pas la question des violences conjugales. On parle surtout de l’accès à des postes de responsabilité, de la représentativité au niveau des institutions..

The issue of domestic violence is yet to be fully integrated in the public policy discussion. I never heard of any politician make this a topic of debate. Several unofficial reports indicate that domestic violence exists within families of those who lead or have led this country. In fact, in the ensemble of women rights that Guinean women demand, there is mention of the issue of domestic violence. The topics mentioned are mostly about rights such as access to positions of responsibility, representation in political institutions etc..

January 07 2014

The Challenges of Daily Life in Conakry, Guinea

Conakry from above via wikipedia CC-license-BY

Conakry from above, via Wikipedia CC-license-BY

For many outsiders across the world, the buoyant capital city of Conakry in the West African country of Guinea probably recalls September 29, 2009, a date that saw the rape and massacre of at least 157 people who protested the attempt by Junta head Dadis Camara to become president. 

But for better or for worse, there is much to this port city of 1.5 million people beyond that grisly headline. BAH Mamadou Lamine is a contributor for the Guinean weekly magazine Lynx [fr]. On the blog Konakry Express, BAH shares his point of view on the challenges of everyday life in Conakry and explains the gloomy reality of the city that has yet to fully recover from the recent tragedy. His analysis goes in-depth into three main themes: criminality, lack of structure and public health and sanitation. 

Criminality

Crime is a daily concern in this dynamic urban center. BAH explains why [fr]: 

Dès que la nuit tombe, les Conakrykas sont bercés par les tirs d’armes de guerre effectués par les bandits, des bandits souvent en tenue militaire. Ces mêmes individus sèment la terreur dans les rues partout en opérant des car-jackings brutaux et sanglants. Tous les jours des magasins sont dévalisés, des essenceries pillées, des citoyens tués.

When night falls, the residents of Conakry are rocked by gunfire at the hand of bandits, bandits often dressed in military uniforms. These same individuals spread terror in the streets with brutal and bloody car-jackings. Everyday stores are robbed, gas stations are looted, citizens are killed.

The army is often accused of contributing to the lack of safety felt in the city. Increasing mistrust of the regular armed forces has roots in Guinean history: During his mandate from 1958 to 1984, President Sekou Touré kept much of the armed forces in poverty. This situation has not changed much since so a few soldiers are often caught racketeering citizens  because they are poorly compensated.
 The International Crisis Group reported that

conditions of service were deplorable, even for officers. The senior officer corps lived on meager rations and saw its privileges and family allowances curtailed over time. Soldiers of all ranks had to find ways to supplement their rations

In the following French-language video, one can see the trial of gang members who were accused of manslaughter during a robbery at an Asian supermarket:

Traffic

BAH argues that the lack of structure [fr] is also an important factor in the daily uncertainty of the city:

Tout est sens dessus-dessous ; les sens interdits sont autorisés et/ou négociables; nos flics lorsqu’il y en a sont pour le dialogue, surtout tarifé. Très souvent ces flics-ripoux sont aidés dans les carrefours compliqués par des citoyens sans tenue. C’est une première mondiale.  

Everything is topsy-turvy here; one-way streets are negotiable and our cops are open to discussion on enforcing them, especially if you are willing to sweeten the pot. These so-called cops are often assisted in the regulation of cross-roads by regular citizens pacing traffic. This is only in Guinea.

Public health and sanitation

Yet, the most worrisome aspect of life in Conakry seems to be public health and sanitation [fr]: 

trash in Conakry on Konakry express vith the author's permission

Trash on the streets of Conakry via Konakry Express. Republished with the author's permission

Les générations d’ordures accumulées depuis des temps immémoriaux dégagent des odeurs pestilentielles renforcées par celles des immondices brûlées à même les rues. Ajoutons à cette savoureuse mixture, les eaux évacuées des fosses sceptiques surannées [...] La poussière aussi est omniprésente, obsédante, irrespirable, morbide. [Pour réparer les voies routières] une société industrielle riveraine a versé de la latérite sur la chaussée. C’était au cours de la dernière saison sèche. La boue d’alors s’est transformée en poussière.

The accumulation of waste since it seems, the beginning of times, emits pestilential odors that are only reinforced by the waste that is burned directly on the streets. Added to that “delicious” mixture of smells is the one coming from sewage discharged in obsolete septic tanks [...] Dust is also ubiquitous, haunting, unbreathable, morbid. [To repair roadways] an industrial company paved the main road with mud. That was during the dry season. Now the mud has turned to dust.

Possible solutions

Despite these conditions, as BAH points out, the city and the nation are filled with potential for economic growth, mostly from mining resources. The endemic poverty (ranked 178th out of 187 on the Human Development Index) that has held back Guinea could be solved by assertive economic planning and clear management of the military forces. Doing Business, part of the World Bank, highlights some positive economic reforms:

Guinea made starting a business easier by enabling the one-stop shop to publish incorporation notices and by reducing the notary fees. Guinea also put up a one-stop shop for company incorporation and by replacing the requirement for a copy of the founders’ criminal records with one for a sworn declaration at the time of the company’s registration. 

The armed forces are also still a potential source of instability that could trample Guinea's quest for recovery and growth. NGO International Crisis Group recommends the following actions to reform the army:

  • Frame a national security strategy, including a white paper, to elaborate the role and mandate of the security and defense forces, and work to establish national consensus around reform, including armed forces’ buy-in
  •  Protect the army from political manipulation by :  
  • building civilian oversight capacity by a training program for members of the key oversight institutions and improving conditions of service, so as to tackle the army’s widespread malaise and corruption. 

October 05 2013

Interview with Guinea Boxing Champ Turned Belgian Politician

Six time intercontinental International Boxing Federation middleweight boxing champion, Lansana Bea Diallo, better known as Bea Diallo [fr], born in Liberia and of Guinean stock, is also a Belgian politician.

Béa Diallo, boxeur. Photo extraite de sa page Facebook

Bea Diallo, Last Fight as boxer. Photo taken from his Facebook page (with permission) 

 

Elected to the Brussels regional parliament and to the parliament of the French community, Bea Diallo is alderman for Youth, Employment, Family, Inter-generational relations and Equal Opportunity in Ixelles, one of the nineteen municipalities of the Brussels-Capital region.

Global Voices put some questions to him.

Global Voices (GV): We know you as a boxing champion, but you are also a local representative in Belgium?  What a career!

Bea Diallo (BD): Yes, well, Guineans knew me as a boxer, but most of all as a man who tried to promote the image of Guinea and today. Not only have I been a member of the Belgian parliament for nearly ten years, but soon I will have been a local representative for almost seven years. I became a man of experience and recognised by the political world which was not a given.

GV: It is often difficult to combine high level sport with studying, you have a degree in Economics.

BD: Yes, high level sport is often incompatible with university studies, but, as I often say, with determination you can achieve many things and my dream was to succeed at both to be able to serve my country of origin one day. To help Guinea become a truly independent country and most of all to benefit the people with this blessing.

GV: How did you enter into politics?

BD: I really managed it by chance, I had never wanted to work in politics, but being a fighting man, committed to lots of causes, one day it was proposed that I supported a party as consensus candidate without even being in a position eligible for office as I occupied 69th place on the list. I found myself fifth out of twenty-five representatives.

GV: You fought in a boxing match in Guinea, what memory do you have of this?

BD: I think that it was the best moment of my sporting career. That is an unforgettable time, to box in front of 60,000 people and to have over 300,000 in the streets. It was quite simply magic.

GV:   You have tried to help inhabitants of Conakry [capital of Guinea], notably in the sphere of transport. What lessons do you take from this, and how?

BD: You know I have no regrets, I imagined that it was necessary to do it at that very moment; if I lost a lot of money with the bad faith of our politicians who were, besides, continuing to kill the people while living in opulence without any projects for Guineans.

GV: Do you have other ambitions for your country of origin, Guinea?

Béa Diallo en homme politique. Photo extraite de sa page Facebook, oeuvre de Francine Verstraeten

Bea Diallo in political mode. Photo taken from his Facebook page, taken by Francine Verstraeten

 

 

BD: The sole ambition that I have for Guinea is still the same – to help this wonderful country to free itself from the shackles imposed by our own Guinean brothers: the politicians, mostly in the opposition.

GV: Facebook, twitter and a blog! Should we conclude from this that Bea Diallo is like Barack Obama with social media, using it regularly, or do you just use it occasionally?

BD: No, unfortunately not enough, I still have to optimise and most of all be more professional in my use of these networks which are a real communication force.

GV: There are more and more young Africans who try to come to Europe, despite the serious risks to which they are exposed. What would you advise them?

BD:  It is difficult to give advice to these young people who are trying to improve their living conditions as well as those of their families with all the risks this brings. At the same time, no policy exists to encourage these young people to stay in their home country or continent.

But, in Europe today it is difficult to find work and to sort yourself out when you come from Africa so the fight must continue in the continent [of Africa] with a new generation taking power to give it to the people.

GV: Do you have a thought to leave us with?

BD: My conclusion is my dream! I would like Africans to come to Europe just as Europeans can go to Africa, in other words, on holiday and to go home because they have work and a family waiting for them.

GV: Thank you for answering our questions and good luck with your projects.

July 19 2013

60 Deaths during Fights in Nzérékoré, Guinea

Guinee News reports the latest tally, 60 deaths, from the killings in Nzérékoré, Guinea [fr] :

Les cinquante deux corps qui étaient non identifiables ont été enterrés dans une fosse commune hier. Les autres corps reconnaissables ont été remis à leurs familles.

52 non-identified bodies were buried in a mass grave yesterday. The other bodies were returned to their families.

July 17 2013

Judges Go After Soldiers Suspected of Slaughter in Guinea

[All links lead to French-language websites unless otherwise noted. This article was written before the recent events in Guinea.]

The head of presidential security in Guinea is the latest person formally accused of having a hand in the brutal crackdown [en] by security forces on an opposition protest in 2009, in which of at least 157 people were killed and countless women and girls were raped.

On September 28, 2009, soldiers opened fire on opposition demonstrators protesting against military head of state Dadis Camara and his intention to run for president during the January 2010 election.

Following the massacre, Camara and members of the junta denied any responsibility for the killings. The international community sanctioned the junta [en] with an arms embargo and a travel ban, and froze any bank accounts owned by the officers in charge at the time. A year later, Camara was shot by soldiers [en] in his entourage.

A few weeks after the massacre, Camara ordered an independent investigation by a commission composed of 31 members. However, families of the victims have asked human rights organisations to look into the massacre [en] and the alleged clandestine burials performed by the military.

Investigating judges opened prosecution against Colonel Claude Pivi, the head of presidential security, on June 27, 2013 after hearing the previous day's testimony from the high commander of national police General Ibrahima Baldé. Pivi appeared in court the next day to hear the charges against him, and was due to appear in court again on July 4, but he did not respond to the judges’ summons.

Blogger Assanatou Baldé expressed her delight on afrik.com:

L’heure de rendre des comptes est arrivée pour Claude Pivi alias Coplan.

The time to settle scores has arrived for Claude Pivi alias Coplan.

Human Rights Watch presented charges against this high-ranking official from President Alpha Condé’s government who was decorated in 2011:

Le suspect, le lieutenant-colonel Claude « Coplan » Pivi, est le ministre guinéen chargé de la sécurité présidentielle, un poste qu'il occupait déjà au moment des crimes de 2009. Selon les médias, Pivi a été inculpé de meurtres, viols, incendies, pillage, destruction d’édifices et complicité. Conformément au droit international, Pivi est présumé innocent jusqu’à ce qu’il soit jugé et reconnu coupable.

The suspect, lieutenant colonel Claude “Coplan” Pivi, is Guinean Minister for Presidential Security, a post he occupied at the time of the 2009 crimes. According to the media, Pivi was accused of murder, rape, fire-raising, looting, destruction of buildings and complicity. To conform with international law, Pivi is to be presumed innocent until judged and recognized guilty.

Website aminata.com published a press release in conjunction with many human rights organisations in Guinea. The introduction read:

Depuis le début de l’instruction, les victimes que nous accompagnons dans cette procédure craignaient que Claude Pivi, en raison des fonctions qu’il occupe et de sa place dans la hiérarchie militaire, échappe à la justice. Hier, les juges d’instruction ont apporté un premier élément de réponse en l’inculpant formellement.

Since the start of the preliminary investigation, the victims that we are accompanying in these proceedings fear that Claude Pivi will escape justice due to the positions he occupies and his place in the military hierarchy. Yesterday the investigating judges produced an initial response by formally accusing him.

Sarifou Barry reported in an article on website guineenews.org the words of Dr Thierno Maadjou Sow, president of the Guinean Human Rights Organisation (OGDH):

Nous considérons du point de vue des principes que c’est quelque chose de très important surtout dans la lutte pour le respect des droits de l’homme et aussi dans la lutte contre l’impunité qui est le terreau des crimes. Il ne faut pas oublier qu’il y a eu des personnalités qui ont été inculpées déjà dans cette affaire mais malheureusement, cela n’a rien donné. Ces personnes occupent encore des postes extrêmement importants au sein de l’administration. Vous savez, dès après les crimes commis, le Conseil de sécurité de l’ONU, les organisations de défense des droits de l’homme avaient déclaré que ces crimes commis étaient des crimes contre l’humanité.

We will be considering this from the point of view of the principle that this is something very important, especially in the fight to respect human rights and also in the fight against the impunity which sowed the seeds of these crimes. It must not be forgotten that there were officials who had already been accused in this affair but unfortunately, this has led nowhere. These people still occupy extremely important posts at the heart of the administration. You know, just after these crimes were committed, the UN Security Council and human rights defence organisation had declared these crimes to be crimes against humanity.

Asmaou Diallo,  the president of the Association of Victims, Parents and Friends of September 28 (AVIPA), and who was also interviewed by Sarifou Barry, expressed her feelings in the same article in the following terms:

C’est la réaction d’une victime qui crie toujours à ce qu’il y ait justice dans cette affaire. Si le colonel Claude Pivi a été inculpé, cela nous fait du bien mais ça ne suffit pas. Il ne s’agit pas seulement d’inculper et de laisser par la suite le dossier dans les tiroirs. Cette inculpation nous remonte quand même le moral mais, nous voulons plus. Nous voulons que tous ceux qui ont été inculpés dans ce dossier, quittent leurs postes de responsabilité pour qu’ils se mettent à la disposition de la justice.

It is the reaction of a victim always crying out for justice in this affair. If Colonel Claude Pivi has been accused, that does us some good, but it is not enough. It is not a matter of just accusing and then afterwards leaving the case in a drawer. Anyway, this indictment takes us back to the moral issue, but we want more. We want all those accused in this case to leave their positions of responsibility so they can be brought to justice.

This article inspired some lively comments from readers. For example, Ardho underlined the courage of the judges who accused Colonel Pivi and other high up members of the security forces:

Je pense qu'il faut encourager ces juges qui vont lentement dans des conditions que nous connaissons tous, mais qui entreprennent des actions importantes dans cette procedure… Nous esperons que le gouvernement prendra ses responsabilites aussi en ecartant ces maboules des postes de responsabilite qu'ils occupent.
I think we must encourage these judges who are going slowly in conditions we all know, but who are undertaking important actions in these proceedings… We hope that the government will take responsibility as well as getting these lunatics out of the positions of responsibility that they occupy.

In their previously mentioned press release,  the Guinean Human Rights Organisation expressed similar worries:

nos organisations expriment leur préoccupation quant à la sérénité de la procédure judiciaire et la sécurité de ses acteurs ou des victimes qui ont témoigné dans ce dossier, en raison du poste qu’occupe M. Pivi aujourd’hui. Comme nos organisations l’avaient recommandé concernant le colonel Moussa Oumar Tiegboro Camara, inculpé en février 2012, ou que le commandant Sekou Resco CAMARA, Gouverneur de Conakry, inculpé dans une affaire de torture en février 2013, qui ont tous deux été maintenus à leur poste, nous recommandons aux acteurs concernés de prendre toutes les dispositions afin garantir l’indépendance et l’impartialité du processus judiciaire en cours, dans le respect du droit à un procès équitable. Nous les invitons donc à envisager la mise à l’écart de ces hauts responsables, mis en cause pour des faits d’une exceptionnelle gravité.

Our organisations express their worry concerning the equanimity of the judicial proceedings and the safety of actors or victims bearing witness in this case, because of the post that Mr Pivi occupies today. As our organisations had recommended [independence and impartiality] for Colonel Moussa Oumar Tiegboro Camara, accused in February 2012, and Commander Sekou Resco Camara, Governor of Conakry, accused in a February 2013 torture trial, but both kept their posts, we recommend that those concerned take all provisions to guarantee the independence and impartiality of the ongoing judiciary process with respect to the law and an equitable trial. Therefore we invite them to consider sidelining these high-ranking officials, called into question by facts of an exceptionally serious nature.

Almamy Camara wrote the following in an article on afrik.com:

L’organisation internationale Human Rights Watch (HRW), a appelé ce mercredi 3 juillet à la suspension des accusés de leurs fonctions gouvernementales et invite les autorités à protéger les juges ainsi que les victimes dans le dossier du massacre du stade du 28 septembre, en 2009. Cet appel fait suite à l’inculpation du ministre de la Sécurité présidentielle, Claude Pivi dit Coplan par le pool des juges d’instruction le mercredi dernier.

The international organisation Human Rights Watch (HRW) this Wednesday July 3 called for the suspension of the accused from their governmental duties and invited the authorities to protect the judges as well as the victims in the case covering the Stadium Massacre of September 28, 2009. This appeal followed the indictment of the Minister of Presidential Security, Claude Pivi AKA Coplan, by the pool of investigation judges last Wednesday.

Boubacar Bah expressed his doubts on the continuation of this affair in an article published on guineedirect.org, which deals with the impunity with which the other people in charge of the national security forces by the same Guinean justice as Colonel Pivi:

Mais pour des observateurs avertis, quelque soit la volonté du pool des juges d’instruction à éclaircir ce dossier, s’il n’y a pas de volonté politique, tous les efforts seront vains. Des soupçons forts sont portés sur le Président Alpha Condé qui ne souhaiterait pas du tout se débarrasser de Claude Pivi et de Tiegboro. Notamment parce que ces deux hommes puissants du temps du capitaine Dadis, lui avaient apporté tous leurs soutiens à l’occasion de la présidentielle de 2013. En prélude aux législatives de 2013, Alpha Condé ne veut pas perdre son électorat de la Guinée Forestière dont sont originaires Pivi et Tiegboro. Entre la justice pour les victimes du 28 septembre et la campagne pour les législatives, Alpha Condé a choisi la deuxième.

But for informed observers, whatever the will of the pool of investigation judges to shed light on this case, if there is not political will, all efforts will be in vain. Strong suspicions rest on President Alpha Condé who it is believed does not want to be rid of Claude Pivi and Tiegboro at all. Notably because these two powerful men from the time of Captain Dadi, had brought to him all their support during the 2013 presidential election. Before the 2013 general election, Alpha Condé does not want to lose his Guinean Forestry electorate of which Pivi and Tiegboro are originators. Between justice for the victims of September 28 and the general election campaign, Alpha Condé has chosen the second.

Commenting on an article in guineenews.org, Mr Sylla wondered:

Comment voulez vous qu'il est une justice dans un zoo. En tout cas sa sera pour la première fois alors attendons de voir mais sa m'étonnera que justice soit faite .déjà il est venu avec ces gardes du corps pour une simple interrogation chose qui n'est pas admissible dans des pays civilisés et de droit .Alors le jour du jugement si jugement ai il viendra avec tout le camp militaire.je vous dis que ce pays est un zoo .
How do you expect justice in a zoo. In any case it would be the first time so let’s wait and see, but I will be astonished if justice is done. he came already with his bodyguards for a simple questioning, something which is not admissible in civilised countries or by law. So the judgement, if there is a judgement will come with the whole military camp. I tell you, this country is a zoo.

To measure the dangers to which the judges brave enough to accuse Colonel Pivi have exposed themselves, here is his reaction as reported in another article by Boubacar Bah:

lorsque le Pool des juges d’instruction a informé Pivi de son inculpation dans le dossier du massacre du 28 septembre, l’officier a piqué une colère noire. “Si les gens pensent qu’ils peuvent m’humilier comme ça dans ce pays, ils se trompent. Nous, nous avons servi ce pays”, aurait rouspété Coplan.

When the pool of investigation judges informed Pivi of his indictment in the case of the September 28 massacre, the officer had a tantrum. “If people think that they can humilate me like that in this country, they are fooling themselves. We served this country.” Coplan is reported to have complained.

Pivi's supporters have mobilized to express their support for him during the investigation.

The international community and Guinean supporters of human rights must apply pressure to President Alpha Condé for protection of the judges as well as the witness and so that all officials accused of crimes or figuring on the lists of individuals suspected of crimes against humanity are relieved of their positions and judged.

June 11 2013

Senegal's Democratic Tradition Takes Worrisome Turn

[All links forward to French-language webpages unless otherwise noted.]

Senegal has a solid tradition of democracy and protection of freedom of expression and human rights. But recent months have seen the West African nation's reputation as a stronghold for democracy in Africa seriously damaged with the evictions of a Chadian journalist and Gambian dissident, both opponents of the governments in their home countries.

Chadian [en] blogger and journalist Makaila Nguebla [en], an opponent of his country's President Idriss Déby [en] who has ruled Chad for more than two decades, was deported on May 8, 2013 to neighboring Guinea. Nguebala runs a highly critical blog about his country's regime.

Well-known Gambian [en] opponent Kukoi Samba Sanyang [en], who led the 1981 rebellion against the regime of former President Dawda Kaïraba Diawara, was expelled April 17, 2013 to Mali.

Mamadou Oumar Ndiaye, author for the Senegalese weekly Le Témoin, detailed Senegal's democratic character, giving credit to the country's first President Leopold Sedar Senghor, a poet and intellectual who served from 1960 to 1980, in his post titled “Senegal, your excellent traditions are falling apart!“:

Le Sénégal n’a ni or (ou alors très peu, dans la région de Kédougou), ni diamants, encore moins du pétrole, du gaz ou de l’uranium … De plus, la pluviométrie n’y est pas abondante et la plupart de nos paysans ne travaillent que trois mois dans l’année … Malgré tout, notre pays tient une place honorable dans le concert des nations africaines. Et, à franchement parler, il a un niveau de développement que beaucoup de pays incroyablement gâtés par la nature nous envient. Cela est dû, bien sûr, à la qualité des ressources humaines du Sénégal produites par un système éducatif de qualité mis en place par le premier président de la République, le poète, agrégé de grammaire et académicien Léopold Sédar Senghor. Un système public d’éducation dont l’actuel Président est un pur produit, soit dit en passant. … Ce niveau de développement enviable, notre pays le doit aussi à sa stabilité politique légendaire qui a fait que, depuis l’indépendance en 1960, il n’a jamais connu de coup d’Etat militaire. En Afrique, notre pays est l’un des rares à avoir toujours été gouverné par un pouvoir civil. Et au moment où partout ailleurs, les pouvoirs militaires étaient la règle, le Sénégal a constitué une joyeuse exception, un îlot de démocratie dans un océan de dictatures … Bref, de quelque côté qu’on le prenne, le Sénégal a toujours fait figure d’exception en Afrique.

Senegal has neither gold (or very little, in the Kedougou region) nor diamonds, let alone oil, gas or uranium … In addition, rainfall is not abundant and most of our farmers only work three months per year … However, our country holds an honorable place among the African nations. And frankly speaking, Senegal has a level of development that many other countries with more natural blessings would envy. This is, of course, due to the quality of human resources in Senegal which is itself, a byproduct of the quality of the educational system established by the first President of the Republic of Senegal Leopold Sedar Senghor. Senghor was also a poet, a grammar scholar and the first African elected as a member of the Académie françaiseBy the way the current president is a pure product of this same public educational system. … This enviable standard of development, our country also owes it to its legendary political stability; since its independence in 1960, it has never experienced a military coup. In Africa, our country is one of the few to have only been governed by civil authorities. And when everywhere else, military authorities were the rule, Senegal was a happy exception; an island of democracy in a sea of dictatorships … Anyway, whichever way you see, Senegal has always been an exception in Africa.

But some consider that Senegal has moved away from that legacy left by Sedar Senghor. Last year, former President Abdoulaye Wade [en], who was accused during his tenure corruption, nepotism and curtailing freedom of the press, was defeated in his highly criticized bid for a third term [en] in office.

With Wade’s regime at an end, some expected a return to those democratic roots. But these recent measures taken by the current government raise questions about its commitment to do so.

Even Wade, who was much criticized [en] during his regime, was always respectful of Senegal's tradition as a host country for freedom of speech activists. The failure of Wade's government was not about free speech activists, but was not regularizing the situation of refugees.

As deported Chadian blogger Nguebala told Global Voices in an email exchange:

“Under Abdoulaye Wade's regime, I was never arrested once by the police”

A coalition called “Right of Asylum and Freedom of Expression” was created to demand Nguebla’s return. In the following video, the coalition unpacks the context of the evicitions and the risks that the bloggers are facing:

Boly BAH, journalist for La Gazette (a Senegalese website) called for the sliding of Senegal's democracy to be stopped in his post “The Deviant Turn of a Democracy“:

Une dérive à stopper. Qui est le prochain sur la liste ? En moins de deux mois, le Sénégal a chassé deux opposants africains de Dakar. … C’est une concession grave à des régimes anti-démocratiques … Cette expulsion d’un défenseur des droits humains et leader d’opinion vers la Guinée, un pays « non sûr » et en proie à des tensions politiques, laisse apparaître un deal entre les autorités politiques sénégalaises et tchadiennes, en vue d’extrader Makaila Nguebla au Tchad où sa vie est menacée.
Le combat sera mené jusqu’au retour de Makaila et de Kukoi Samba Sanyang. …

Les pays n’ont pas d’ami mais des intérêts. En procédant aux expulsions de Kukoi Samba Sanyang, le Sénégal défend peut-être les relations de bon voisinage avec la Gambie. Et fait un clin d’œil à Yaya Jammeh, président gambien au cœur du règlement du conflit de la Casamance. La Gambie avait même facilité la libération des otages sénégalais, il y a quelques mois. C’est peut-être compréhensible de lui renvoyer la monnaie en expulsant son opposant-rebelle, Kukoi Samba Sanyang. Avec le Tchad, certes, il n’y a pas cette grande amitié, mais la nouvelle posture africaine de Idrisss Deby Itno vaut peut-être cette largesse.

Deby a le vent en poupe et avec sa forte colonie militaire dans le désert malien, le président tchadien est en pleine puissance sous-régionale. Le Tchad contribue aussi au financement du procès d’Habré. Maintenant, si le jugement d’Habré participe au renforcement de l’indépendance judiciaire africaine, l’expulsion de Makaïla reste plutôt suspecte. Le blogueur était un combattant de la démocratie. Un relais entre son peuple et l’extérieur. Il était la voix des sans voix tchadiennes, il informait des dérives de Deby parce que bénéficiant de cette liberté d’expression qui fait défaut à ses confrères restés au pays.

This drifting away from our legacy has to be stopped. Who is next on the list? In less than two months, Senegal deported two African political activists. … This is a serious concession to all anti-democratic regimes… This deportation of a human rights activist and opinion leader to Guinea, an “unsafe” country plagued by political tensions suggests a deal between Senegalese and Chadian political authorities. Next might be the extradition of Makaila Nguebla back to Chad where his life is under threat.

This struggle will continue until both Makaila and Kukoi Samba Sanyang return. …

Countries do not have friends, they have interests. In carrying out the evictions of Kukoi Samba Sanyang, Senegal may be maintaining good relations with the Gambia. He might also reach out to Yaya Jammeh, the Gambian President who is at the heart of the conflict in Casamance. Gambia has even facilitated the release of some Senegalese hostages in Gambia a few months ago. It is perhaps understandable to pay him back by expelling his rebellious opponent, Kukoi Samba Sanyang. With Chad, of course, there is no such great friendship, but Idriss Deby’s new african posture (his involvment in Mali) might be worth it.

Deby is on the rise and with his strong military forces in the desert of Mali, Chad's president is showing his full might in the region. Chad also contributes to the financing of [former leader of Chad Hissène] Habré’s trial. Now the Habré trial may help strengthen African judicial independence but on the other hand, Makaila’s deportation is rather dubious. The blogger was an advocate of democracy, a bridge between his people and the outside world. He was the voice of those Chadians without a voice; he informed the world about Deby’s excess because he enjoyed freedom of expression that his colleagues back home could not have.

Another recent issue is also symptomatic of the worrisome turn taken by Senegal on the protection of human rights.

Taking advantage of the media circus in Senegal caused by these two cases, a member of parliament of the presidential majority wants to file a bill for the return of death penalty.  Senegal abolished the death penalty in 2004 and the last execution was held in 1967.

Even Fekke Maci Bolle, a political movement led Youssou N'Dour, the current Minister of Culture and Tourism, has come out against this bill. The movement published its stance on its Facebook page:

Celui ou celle qui affirme que l'on vit confortablement dans le couloir de la mort n'y a de toute évidence jamais mis les pieds … On voit rarement une personne riche ou aisée monter à la potence … La peine de mort est la négation absolue des droits humains. Il s’agit d'un meurtre commis par l'État, avec préméditation et de sang-froid. Ce châtiment cruel, inhumain et dégradant est infligé au nom de la justice.
Cette peine viole le droit à la vie inscrit dans la Déclaration universelle des droits de l'homme.
Amnesty International s'oppose à la peine de mort en toutes circonstances, quels que soient la nature du crime commis, les caractéristiques de son auteur ou la méthode utilisée par l'État pour l'exécuter.

Whoever says that one lives comfortably on death row has obviously never been there … You rarely see a rich or wealthy person being executed … Death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights. It is a planned and cold-blooded murder committed by the State. This cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment is inflicted in the name of justice.
It violates the right to life enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all circumstances, regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or how he committed the crime.

May 31 2013

Guinea: Special Guest at the 2013 Turin International Book Fair

The 26th International Book Fair took place in Turin, capital of the Italian Piedmont region, between May 16 and May 20, 2013. The Francophone West African country of Guinea was the sole representative of the African continent to be invited as a special guest country. This news did not pass unnoticed in Conakry and on the Guinean blogosphere – both at home and abroad.

Maria from Babia gave her opinion of the Guinea exhibition stand on blog guineeconakry.info [fr]:

Pour marquer sa participation à ce Salon International du Livre de Turin, les Guinéens ont tablé sur l’organisation de conférences-débats avec les auteurs invités, l’exposition-ventes d’objets d’art  et les rencontres informelles avec les enfants, les jeunes et les personnes âgées. Par exemple, le caricaturiste Oscar Ben Barry  a pu croquer quelques invités en compagnie de petits italiens ; tandis que Tierno Monemebo et Salif Keïta, Justin Morel Junior et Cheick Oumar Kanté débattaient de l’avenir de la littérature guinéenne.

To mark its participation in the Turin International Book Fair, Guineans took part in the organisation of debates and conferences with guest authors, an art exhibition and sale, as well as informal meet-ups with children, young people and the eldery. For example, cartoonist Oscar Ben Barry sketched several guests together with Italian youngsters while Tierno Monemebo, Salif Keita, Justin Morel Junior and Cheick Oumar Kanté were debating the future of Guinean literature.

Amadou Tham Camara wrote on website guineenews.org [fr]:

Le stand exotique guinéen, très achalandé, a suscité beaucoup de curiosités. En marge des visites du stand, les auteurs Thierno Monenembo, Cheick Oumar Kanté et le sénégalais Pap Khouma ont animé dans l’après-midi une conférence sur la problématique de la culture orale et de la culture écrite en Afrique occidentale….

A la faveur de la crise économique et de son corollaire de délocalisation, la ville de Turin est en train de remplacer son industrie automobile par une industrie culturelle. A la Guinée, unique pays africain présent à ce salon du livre, de s’en inspirer pour mettre son industrie culturelle à la place de… rien.

The exotic Guinean exhibition stand was very busy and generated a lot of interest. As well as visiting the stand, Guinean authors Thierno Monenembo, Cheick Oumar Kanté and Pap Khouma from Senegal participated in an afternoon conference on the problems with oral and written culture in Western Africa [...]Due to the economic crisis and associated delocalisation, the city of Turin is in the process of replacing its car industry with cultural industries. Guinea, sole African nation present at this book fair, has been inspired by this to use its cultural industry to replace … nothing.

Here is a video showing Guinean Culture on display in Turin

Website laterzapagina.net covered [it] the presence of Guinea at the book fair and the hope that it would encourage the country to become next year’s ‘guest of honour.’:

La Guinea è ospite speciale del Salone 2013 e presenta la propria candidatura quale Ospite d’onore per il 2014.
Il progetto OnGuinea è curato dall’Associazione italo-guineana [Nakiri] in collaborazione con il Ministero della cultura e del patrimonio storico della Guinea, il Ministero degli affari esteri e dei Guineani all’estero e il Ministero del Turismo della Guinea.
Numerosi gli incontri con personalità guineane fra cui l’ex ministro dell’informazione e comunicazione Justin Morel Junior, scrittori, giornalisti, antropologi.
Fra i temi affrontati: la cultura orale, le guerre, la cultura come motore di sviluppo per l’Africa.
Letture, poesia e musica e sabato 18 alle 21, per il Salone Off, al Jazz Club di via Giolitti 30 concerto dei Ba Cissoko, uno dei gruppi musicali guineani più famosi nel mondo.

Guinea is the special guest of the 2013 Book Fair, and is applying to be 2014’s guest of honour.
The project On Guinea was started by the Italian-Guinean association together with the Ministry of Culture and Historical Patrimony of Guinea, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Guineans Overseas and the Guinean Tourism Ministry.
There were many meetings with Guineans including the ex-Minster of Information and Communication, Justin Morel Junior, writers, journalists and anthropologists.
Among the topics covered: Oral culture, wars, culture as a driver of development for Africa.
There were lectures, poetry and music from Saturday 18th until the 21st, by Salone Off at the Jazz Club at Via Giolitti 30, a concert by group Ba Cissoko, one of the most famous Guinean groups in the world.

zeinabKoumanthio Zeinab Diallo Kazédi, Guinean post, photo used with her permission

Among people who came from Guinea to take part in the Book Fair were poet Koumanthio Zeinab Diallo Kazédi who website onguinea.org introduced as follows [fr]:

Elle est l'héritière d'une tradition poétique peulhe extrêmement riche. Son premier ouvrage est dédié à ses enfants, Dalanda (Lynda), Ousmane (Mawdo), Mamadou (Vieux) et Tiguidanké (Nene). Koumanthio Zeinab Diallo est fondatrice de la section guinéenne du PEN Club International, membre du Comité International des Femmes Ecrivains et de plusieurs autres associations littéraires. Elle a obtenu un premier prix de poésie pular en 1990 et Les rires du silence a reçu le prix du président de la République de Guinée au concours littéraire organisé par la Pan Africaine des Ecrivains en 2005.

She follows an extremely rich poetic tradition. Her first work was dedicated to her children, Dalanda (Lynda), Ousmane (Mawdo), Mamadou (Vieux) and Tiguidanké (Nene). Koumanthio Zeinab Diallo founded the Guinean branch of the International PEN Club, is a member of the International Committee of Women Writers and of several other literary associations. She won her first poetry prize in 1990 and Les rires du silence (The Laughs of Silence) received the Guinean President’s Prize at a literary competition organised by the Pan African Writers’ Assocation in 2005.

Tierno Monénembo, author of around ten novels, also took part. Website fr.starafrica.com introduced him [fr]:

Guinea's Exhibition Stand at the Turin Book Fair. Photo from Facebook page On Guinea

Guinea's Exhibition Stand at the Turin Book Fair. Photo from Facebook page On Guinea with their permission

Après l’étape de Casablanca, Monénembo est attendu successivement à Paris et à Genève pour la réception de différents prix remportés par son tout dernier roman « Le terroriste noir ».
Le 15 mai prochain, il est attendu à Turin en Italie, pour animer des conférences, tout en prenant part au Salon International du livre de Turin où seront notamment exposées ses œuvres traduites en Italien.

Monénembo a écrit les Crapauds-brousse (1979), Les Ecailles du Ciel (1986), Un rêve utile (1991), Un attiéké pour Elgass (1993), Pelourinho (1995), Cinéma (1997), L’Ainé des orphelins (2000), Peuls (2004), la Tribu des gonzesses (2006), le Roi de Kahel (2008) et le Terroriste noir (2012).

After the Casablanca stage, Monénembo went to Paris then Geneva to collect an assortment of prizes won for his latest novel, ‘The Black Terrorist.’
He was expected at Turin in Italy from May 15 to participate in conferences while taking part in the International Book Fair where his books were to be displayed translated into Italian.
Monénembo wrote ‘les Crapauds-brousse’ (1979), Scales of the Sky (1986), A Useful Dream (1991), Un attiéké pour Elgass (1993), Pelourinho (1995), Cinema (1997), The Eldest of the Orphans (2000), Peuls (2004), la Tribu des gonzesses (2006), The King of Kahel (2008) and The Black Terrorist (2012).

Guinea’s preparations for participation in the fair started several months ago. In January 2013 Mame Diallo wrote on website boubah.com [fr]:

Parlant de la participation de la Guinée au Salon du Livre à Turin (ex-capitale italienne), M. Adramet Barry, président de l’Association Nakiri dira que « la Guinée après sa phase d’essai va bénéficier cette fois-ci en tant qu’invitée spéciale d’un espace plus large de 90 mètres carré ». Pour ce dernier, cet espace qui aura l’occasion d’être visité du 16 au 21 mai 2013 par une moyenne de 360 000 personnes permettra à la Guinée de mettre en valeur son patrimoine culturel.

Dans l’espoir d’être les invités d’honneur en 2014 avec un stand de 300 mètres carré, les représentants guinéens entendent gagner le pari cette année et sollicitent pour ce faire, l’appui financier, technique et moral du gouvernement guinéen et de tout le peuple de Guinée.

While talking about Guinea’s participation in the Book Fair of Turin (once capital of Italy), Mr Adramet Barry, president of the Nakiri Association said that ‘Guinea after its trial phase will benefit this time as a special guest with a space of more than 90 square metres.’
For Guinea, this platform which will be visited by an average of 360,000 people from the 16th to the 21st of May will allow the country to highlight its cultural heritage.
Hoping to be the 2014 guests of honour with an exhibition stand of 300 square metres, the Guinean representatives intend to win their gamble this year and to do this are requesting financial, technical and moral support from the government and the people of Guinea.

Naby Soumah recalled [fr] on website galanyi.com that the invitation had been confirmed in Conakry during the celebration ‘des 72 heures du livre’ organised each year to commemorate World Book and Copyright Day [fr]:

L’information a été donnée ce matin au cours d’une conférence à la maison de la presse par le Président de l’association ‘’Nakiri’’, Adramet Barry en provenance de l’Italie. Pour cette association composée de guinéens vivant à l’étranger, la Guinée est invitée spéciale cette année en Italie au salon de livre de Turin.

Ainsi, la Guinée va être représentée par le comité des 72 heures libres, qui aura à présenter les œuvres guinéennes sur cette place. Pour l’association, à l’Edition prochaine, la Guinée aura le titre d’invité d’honneur à cette grande Edition. Ensuite, elle pourra être présente au salon international du livre qui se tiendra en Italie en 2014. Une véritable aubaine pour la promotion de la culture guinéenne. 

This news was given this morning during a press conference by the President of the Nakiri Assocation, Adramet Barry, who is Italian. For this association of Guineans who live abroad, Guinea was definitely the special guest this year at the Turin Book Fair.
Therefore, Guinea will be represented by the 72 heures libres committee, who will have to present Guinean works. According to the association, Guinea will be the Guest of Honour at the next event. After which, the country could be present at the next International Book Fair which will take place in Italy in 2014. A real dawn for the promotion of Guinean culture.

The capacity of the Italian-Guinean Nakiri Association [fr] to organize this participation is proof that when Guineans forget political tension they can give the country a more positive image.

 

May 27 2013

From Guinea to Italy to France and Back: An Interview with Blogger Abdoulaye Bah

Global Voices author and translator Abdoulaye Bah, originally from Guinea, is a retired Italian citizen who has worked for the United Nations. He splits his time between Rome and Nice and has collaborated [fr] with GV since December 2008, having contributed to thousands of written posts and translation in French as well as a considerable number of posts [it] for the Italian group and some more in English.

Bah also runs his own blog, the Konakry Express, where he writes about Italian and African politics. His latest post unfortunately details [fr] his recent encounter with racism in an Italian restaurant in Nice in which a man roughly shoved him out the door of a restaurant, an incident he is speaking to anti-racist NGO SOS Racisme for help.

Before that terrible incident, we had the opportunity to speak with Bah about his life, from his experience hiding in a bathroom to enter Italy without the proper papers, to his marriage in the Vatican, from his foray into cinema to his multi-belief family.

Global Voices (GV): You are originally from Guinea Conakry. When did you arrive in Italy? How would you describe your experience of arriving clandestinely in the country?

Abdoulaye Bah (AB): Precisely last April it was 50 years since I first arrived in Italy, in Florence, to study. However, it wasn't then that I arrived clandestinely in the country. Nevertheless, shortly after my arrival, my documents expired and I was faced with the experience of being “sans-papier”. The life of a student without a scholarship is difficult, however the Italian police didn't employ all the xenophobic measures that they use today.

Despite the help I received from many friends, I experienced hunger to the point where I sat my first university exam in a state of dizziness. Luckily, the Archbishop of Florence, H.E. Ermenegildo Florit, under the recommendation of Mayor Giorgio La Pira, offered me the possibility to eat at the charity Caritas’ canteen and sleep at the homeless shelter [it].

GV: So when did you illegally enter Italy?

AB: It happened after the end of my studies in Florence, in 1967, just after obtaining my diploma in statistics. I continued with a specialisation course, then I went to Paris where I wanted to work and save up to buy a ticket to return to my country. When my father found out, he came to find me and advise me against returning to Guinea because the dictatorship had become more merciless, with tens of thousands of arrests and massacres of innocent people, particularly among the academics of our ethnicity.

Not having any documents, it was not easy to obtain a visa to return to Italy. I took the train from Paris to Rome the day after Che Guevara's death, 9 October, 1967. Arriving on the border at Ventimiglia, I instantly felt the police controls, I went into the bathroom leaving the door open and clung to the partition above the toilet cubicle. When the police agents entered they looked around without noticing me and closed the door. And that's how I managed to re-enter Italy.

A priest who had just founded UCSEI [it, Ufficio centrale studenti esteri Central Office for Foreign Students] took me on as a writer for 20,000 lire a month, with which I could pay the rent. I also managed to find extra activities to earn a little more. I summarised and translated scientists’ biographies, in particular for the Pontificia Accademia delle Scienze [Papal Academy of Science], and later I worked for the IRI [Institute for Industrial Reconstruction] as a public relations consultant in their office for international co-operation.

I clandestini di oggi,

Today's clandestines, “I'm in Italy, I'll become rich!!”, by Gianluca Costantini (2005) under licence CC 3.0

GV: Your nation is, from a religious point of view, predominately Muslim. What can you tell us about marrying in the Vatican and can you explain how it came about?

ABIn Guinea, religion is practised in a tolerant manner. From a young age I experienced a lot through contact with my grandfather, who was an important religious leader and died at Mecca. I followed many of his sermons, full of compassion. After secondary school my father paid for my studies at a school run by priests, the best in Guinea. Given the environment in which my personality developed, different religions have never been a problem for me.

In 1969, when I met my soulmate and we decided to marry, I couldn't obtain any documentation from my country. I was living illegally in Italy. I couldn't supply complete documentation to ask for a civil marriage. Father Remigio Musaragno [it], the director of UCSEI, made the proposal of marrying in the Vatican. The instruction on mixed marriages issued on the 18th March 1966 [it] solicited a few guarantees from me – relevant also in my country -, the respect of my wife's religion, the commitment to not obstruct the religious education of our children, and the understanding of the indissoluble nature of marriage contracted in church.

By and large I've kept to my commitments, we are still married and I have not obstructed the Catholic education of our children. Our eldest has even become a Franciscan Tertiary, on this past 7 April, while our second-born is agnostic. I've become a member of the Radical Party.

GV: Would you like to tell us something about your son's experience who became a Franciscan Tertiary?

AB: In all the countries I have visited, my wife and my three children have always practised the Catholic religion. Furthermore, in our house we have always received priests as much as in Addis Abeba, my first place of work for the United Nations, and in Vienna, where we lived for a longer time.

In Vienna we tried to teach our children about the Muslim religion as well, in order to allow them to choose between Islam and Catholicism. However, teaching Islam is difficult in a European environment because one should learn to read and write Arabic. So we asked some North African students who studied in Vienna to explain the foundations to them.

When our children decided to be baptised, Ahmed, the eldest, didn't want to do it and leave me being the only Muslim follower in the family. We had already explained to him that it wasn't the case because I didn't practise any religion. Only then did he too get baptised. Returning to Rome, to carry out work, he started to attend a Franciscan community and work voluntarily for Caritas, discovering his vocation.

GV: Your relationship with the Catholic Church also includes a small role in Nanni Moretti's film “Habemus Papam“: How did that come about and what role did you have?

AB: That participation was pure coincidence. When the director set about making the film, he needed immigrants of a certain age from all over the world. Unfortunately when filming started I was ill and I only took part in a few scenes. I was close to Michel Piccoli, to his left. I was the Cardinal of Zambia. I've never dreamed of working in film even though I had the fortune of participating in films by famous directors such as Federico Fellini and Gillo Pontecorvo in the 1960′s in the Cinecittà and De Laurentiis studios.

Abdoulaye Bah

Abdoulaye Bah

GV: How did you get involved with Global Voices? And the blog Konakry Express [fr]?

AB: One evening in December 2008, by then I had retired, to avoid arguing with my wife about what to watch on TV, I started to search on the Internet for a voluntary activity I could undertake. Among the sites I came across was Global Voices. I read a few posts and liked them. Immediately, I contacted Claire Ulrich, the person in charge of the French group and I started to partake.

I didn't have any blogging experience beforehand. I didn't even know what Facebook, Twitter, netizen, citizen media, blogs or posts were. My only previous activity had been the creation of a forum for the victims of the dictatorship in my country. I became a blogger thanks to the patience of Claire Ulrich, who helped me create Konakry Express [fr], a blog designed to broadcast information of the grave violations of human rights that occurred in Guinea on the 28th September 2009.

GV: What relationship is there between your activity as a blogger and your involvement in politics with the Radical Party?

AB: I experienced the 1968 protests in Italy, I followed or took part in many of the youth protests for the decolonisation in Africa, the fight against Apartheid, condemnation of the Vietnam War, the fight against segregation in the USA. The topics which were at the forefront for the Radical Party in Italy could not but engage me: the fight for the rights for abortion and divorce and against world hunger. It is also thanks to the radical initiatives which arose in the 1990′s with the creation of the International Criminal Court, with the discussions about suspension of capitol punishment worldwide or the successes against female genital mutilation.

My sensitivity towards human rights is the fruit of the experience faced in my country and during the peace missions in which I participated, in places where these rights were being violated, such as Cambodia, Haiti and Rwanda. In my blogs, I try to write or translate posts on these topics which are in my heart.

GV: Speaking of which, what is your opinion of the situation in Guinea Conakry today?

AB: In 2010, Alpha Condé, a former academic professor of rights at Sorbona, was elected as president. Many citizens expected improvements but, unfortunately, he is the worst president the country could have had so far due to the rifts his politics are creating among ethnic groups. In his government, there are people accused of crimes against humanity, not only by international NGO's or the UN, but also by Guinean justice, and yet they maintain the same positions of responsibility which they occupied when they committed these acts or they have even been promoted. They should have been able to have elections a few months after the presidential elections but there is no common ground of understanding between the government and the opposition. The future doesn't look promising. [Read this previous interview [it] with Abdoulaye for more on this topic.]

 

May 15 2013

Interview: Chadian Blogger and Journalist Expelled from Senegal to Guinea

[All links forward to French-language pages unless otherwise noted.]

Senegalese authorities have expelled Chadian journalist and blogger Makaila Nguebla, an opponent of his country's President Idriss Déby [en] who has ruled Chad for more than two decades, to neighboring Guinea after refusing to grant him political refugee status.

Nguebla, who had lived in exile in Senegal's capital city of Dakar since 2005, was deported on May 8, 2013. He settled in Senegal after being arrested in Tunisia in 2005; thanks to international pressure, Tunisian authorities did not deport him back to Chad, as he explains in this YouTube video:

Global Voices had the opportunity to interview Nguebla by phone after he was expelled. He began by telling the story of his transfer to Conakry, the capital city of Guinea:

Mes ennuis ont commencé le lendemain du départ du ministre de la Justice tchadien Jean-Bernard Padaré au Sénégal où il était venu rencontrer les autorités en vue du procès de l’ancien président tchadien Hissène Habré. Jean-Bernard Padaré a rencontré le ministre de la justice et chef de l’état sénégalais seul sans la présence d’aucun autre officiel tchadien. Il a quitté Dakar le dimanche 5 mai. Le lundi 6 mai, la Division de la surveillance du territoire sénégalaise (DST) me convoque pour le mardi 7 mai à 15H. Je me rends à la convocation en présence d’Amnesty International Sénégal à qui il est demandé de quitter les lieux. Je reste donc seul avec eux.
Ils me mettent dans un avion pour Conakry dans la nuit du mardi au mercredi. Une « maman » me voyant pleurer durant le vol me prend sous son aile : elle m’aide à passer les formalités de police une fois à Conakry – les autorités sénégalaises n’avaient pas informé leurs homologues guinéens. Je suis actuellement logé chez cette dame dans les mêmes conditions que les Guinéens : coupures d’électricité le soir et connexion internet avec une clé qui marche à peine.

Makaila Nguebla (MNG): My troubles began the day after Chadian Minister of Justice Jean-Bernard Padaré left Senegal where he had come to meet the authorities in connection with the trial of former Chadian President Hissène Habré. Jean-Bernard Padaré had a private talk with the minister of justice and the Senegalese head of state without the presence of any other Chadian official. He left Dakar on Sunday, May 5. Monday, May 6, the Surveillance Division of Senegal summoned me to their offices for Tuesday, May 7 at 3 p.m. I went to the appointment accompanied by members of Amnesty International Sénégal who were asked to leave. Therefore, I remained alone with them.

They put me on a plane to Conakry on the night of Tuesday to Wednesday. A “Mama” who saw me crying during the flight took me under her wing. She helped me through the police formalities once we arrived in Conakry–the Senegalese authorities had not informed their Guinean counterparts of my arrival. I am currently staying with this lady and I live in the same conditions as the Guinean people: power cuts in the evening and Internet connection with a key that barely works.

Senegal is known for having a stronger human rights record than much of West Africa, and has strong laws governing protections for asylum-seekers. Makaila explained to Global Voices that, like many other political refugees, this is what made him seek asylum in Senegal.

Global Voices (GV): How would you explain that Senegal, given its strong human rights record, gave in so easily on something that looks like pressure from the Chadian authorities?

Makaila Nguebla : Le conflit au Mali a donné une nouvelle autorité à Idriss Deby, notamment parce que l’armée tchadienne est la seule à connaître parfaitement le terrain et la seule des armées africaines à être en mesure de soutenir effectivement l’armée française. De plus, grâce à l’argent du pétrole tchadien, Idriss Deby a pu contribuer au financement de la campagne de Macky Sall au Sénégal. Dans les négociations sur le dossier Hissène Habré, il est demandé que l’on me livre aux autorités tchadiennes. J’ai été arrêté en Tunisie en 2005 je ne dois qu’à la pression internationale de ne pas avoir été expulsé vers le Tchad.

MNG: The conflict in Mali [en] has given Idriss Deby a new weight, especially due to the fact that the Chadian army is the only one to perfectly know the ground and the only African army able to effectively support the French army. In addition, due to the money earned with the Chadian oil, Idriss Deby was able to support financially [Senegal President] Macky Sall‘s [en] campaign when he was running for president. During the negotiations on the Hissène Habré case, it was requested that I should be handed to the Chadian authorities. I was arrested in Tunisia in 2005. I owe it to international pressures that I wasn't deported back to Chad.

GV: Do you feel safe in Guinea?

Makaila Nguebla : Non. J’ai rencontré le Ministre des droits de l’homme de la Guinée qui m’a dit qu’il ne peut pas garantir ma sécurité dans le contexte actuel de son pays. Depuis plusieurs années, la Guinée traverse une période difficile. Les élections législatives n’ont pu se tenir après les dernières élections présidentielles. Et il y a depuis plusieurs semaines des manifestations de l’opposition.

MNG: No. I met with the Guinean Minister of Human Rights and he told me that he could not guarantee my safety in the current context of his country. For several years now, Guinea has been in a dire situation. The general elections could not be held following the last presidential election. And there have been opposition protests [en] for several weeks now.

GV: You told me earlier that you are staying with the lady that you met on the plane. But where do you stand when it comes to your administrative status with the Guinean authorities?

Makaila Nguebla : Ce matin [samedi 11 mai], accompagné de membres du Conseil National des Organisations de la Société Civile Guinéenne et du HCR, j’ai pu introduire une première demande de statut de réfugié.

MNG: On Saturday, May 11, escorted by some members of the National Council of Organizations of the Guinean Civil Society and of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, I was able to proceed with an initial application for political refugee status.

Meanwhile, the Senegalese blogosphere called for Nguebla's return to Senegal, especially on Twitter under the hashtag #FreeMakaila. Cheikh Fall, the blogger behind citizen media monitor Sunu2012, rallied behind Nguebla:

Non seulement ceci constitue une atteinte aux droits de Makaila Nguebla qui n’a aucune attache en Guinée et s’est construit sa vie au Sénégal depuis 8 ans, mais ceci est une atteinte à la liberté d’expression de tous les Sénégalais : si les autorités commencent à livrer des opposants aux régimes dictatoriaux, elles n’hésiteront pas à s’en prendre à leurs propres opposants sur n’importe quel prétexte.

Not only is this a violation of Makaila Nguebla’s rights who has no tie to Guinea and has built his life in Senegal for the past eight years, but this is an attack on freedom of speech for all Senegalese: if the Senegalese authorities are starting to deliver opponents to their dictatorial regimes, they will not hesitate to go after their own opponents under any pretext.

The Senegalese government issued a statement three days after Nguebla was expelled through its spokesman, saying:

Sa présence était simplement tolérée. Mais sous certaines conditions : qu'il s'abstienne de faire un certain nombre de choses et de déclarations que le gouvernement sénégalais estime contraires à sa volonté de vivre chez nous.

His presence was merely tolerated. But under certain conditions, to refrain from doing a number of things and statements that the Senegalese government considers contrary to his desire to live among us.

African Twitter users quickly responded. Fall (@cypher007) noted:

@cypher007: « Situation irrégulière, Présence tolérée sous conditions … » Depuis quand un statut pareil existe au #Sénégal?

@cypher007: “irregular situation, presence tolerated under certain conditions …” Since when does such a statute exist in #Senegal?

User “wirriyamu2011″ (@wirr2011) theorized in a series of nine tweets that the Senegalese government has deliberately unsettled Nguebla for eight years in order to be able to pressure him if necessary.

BBC journalist Yacouba Ouédraogo (@Bambyam) replied to one of those tweets, referencing former leader of Chad Hissène Habré, whose rule was characterized by widespread atrocities but was allowed to live in Senegal for years after he was deposed:

@Bambyan: Quand on a offert le gîte à Habré et à mains ensanglantées, on peut continuer à “tolérer” un parleur.

@Bambyan: If you offered Habré a shelter despite the blood on his hands, you can go on “tolerating” a talker.

Several Twitter users found it ironic that the government spokesman [en], Abdoul Latif Coulibaly, holds the position of Minister of Good Governance. Previously a journalist, Coulibaly was persecuted under former President Wade, a leader who faced numerous allegations of corruption and civil liberties violations from critics and journalists including Coulibaly. Twitter users lamented the fact that this former leader in exposing government wrongdoing has been reduced to such shameful practices.

March 15 2013

Global Voices Podcast Special: Habemus Podcast!

Global Voices Podcast HomepageSubscribe in iTunes

Hello, World – welcome to a special edition of the Global Voices Podcast.

On Tuesday, March 12, 2013 the college of cardinals assembled at the Vatican to elect the new head of the Roman Catholic church, following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI on February 28. On Wednesday evening the Cardinal Protodeacon emerged onto the central balcony as St. Peter's Basilica and uttered the words “Habemus Papam!” (“We Have a Pope!”), and presented Pope Francis.

With two African cardinals considered at one point to be potential successors to Pope Benedict XVI, we spoke with Steve Sharra and Abdoulaye Bah from our Africa team about the possibility of an African pope, the continent's expectations of the next pope, and why cardinals at this week's papal conclave might have played games like volleyball.

Did you like the public domain Gregorian chants featured in the podcast? Get yours from Partners in Rhyme.

Thanks to Laura Morris for her support in producing this show!

March 04 2013

The Conflict in Mali: Who is Fighting Whom, and Why?

Since the bloody conflict in Mali began one year ago, the crisis has evolved in fits and starts, all the while immersed in a historical framework that the mainstream media too often oversimplifies. Here we will try to unpack the complexities of the conflict by putting into context the violent fighting currently engulfing the northern African country.

The conflict in the north of Mali pits the Malian army and its allies against many rebels groups fighting for greater autonomy or independence in the region. These groups include Islamist groups such as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in Western Africa, and Ansar Dine, and Tuareg nomads who belong to the political and military Azawad National Liberation Movement.

Let's try to look at what the real causes of the war in Mali are [fr]:

Tout était en place pour que le Mali s’effondre et que le Sahel explose. Affaibli par les politiques d’austérité du FMI, longtemps paralysé par la Françafrique, victime du réchauffement climatique et de multiples sécheresses, le Mali est devenu l’une des pièces centrales du nouveau grand jeu sahélien. Revendication touarègue, djihadistes enrichis par le narcotrafic, déstabilisation libyenne et ambiguïtés algériennes, financements occultes saoudiens, stratégie à court terme des États-Unis et de l’Union européenne… Voici toutes les raisons de la guerre.

Everything was ripe for Mali to collapse and for Sahel to explode. Weakened by austerity policies that had been imposed by the IMF [fr], paralyzed for so long by the policies of Françafrique, and a victim of global warming [fr] and multiple droughts [fr], Mali became one of the key players in the great new Sahelian game. The Tuareg demands; the Jihadis who had become powerful from drug trafficking; the destabilization of Libya and the uncertainty in Algeria; hidden investments from Saudi Arabia; short-sighted strategies of the United States and Europe… These are all the reasons for the war.

Timbuktu residents protest against extremism on Wikpedia CC-License

Timbuktu residents protest against extremism on Wikipedia CC-License-2.0

How did modern Mali come to be? Mouhamadou el Hady Ba and Pierre Amath Mbaye in their work “The Malian crisis and lessons for Senegal” [fr] explain how Mali emerged from the post-colonial failure of a federation in the region [fr]:

Conscients des risques liés à une fragmentation de la région et suivant leur idéal panafricaniste, Léopold Sédar Senghor, Mamadou Dia, Modibo Keïta et d’autres dirigeants avaient pourtant formé l’idée de reprendre l’ensemble constitué par l’administration coloniale, l’Afrique Occidentale Française, en le portant vers l’indépendance sous la forme d’une fédération. … l’opposition marquée des autorités françaises de l’époque associée à celle de Félix Houphouët Boigny futur Chef de l’Etat ivoirien, réduiront cette fédération à un face à face entre le Soudan français (aujourd’hui Mali)  et le Sénégal, au sein de la Fédération du Mali . Cette tentative échouera sur fond d’options politiques différentes et de compétition pour le pouvoir, avec, en arrière-plan, l’engagement du Mali aux côtés des partisans algériens, lors de leur guerre d’indépendance. Le 20 aout 1960, voit donc s’éteindre avec la dissolution de la Fédération du Mali …

Keenly aware of the risks tied to a fragmented region, and following their Pan-African ideals, Léopold Sédar Senghor, Mamadou Dia, Modibo Keïta and other leaders still had the idea to carry on with the group that had made up the colonial administration known as l’Afrique Occidentale Française, by pushing for independence as a federation. …However, there was strong opposition from the French authorities, which at the time were linked to Félix Houphouët Boigny — an eventual Head of State of Côte d'Ivoire. This gave rise to a power struggle between French Sudan (today Mali) and Senegal, within the Mali Federation. This attempt at federation would eventually fail based on various political options and power struggles, while the Malian engagement in support of Algerian independence played out in the background. August 20, 1960, ends with the dissolution of the Federation of Mali…

Eros Sana on bastamag.net continues in his article, Mali : les véritables causes de la guerre (Mali: the Real Causes of the War [fr]) describing how Mali then experienced a brief window of socialism before a military coup brought a dictator to power:

Nous sommes en 1960, le Mali accède à l’indépendance. Le premier président malien, Modibo Keïta, instituteur et panafricaniste, élu démocratiquement, a à peine le temps d’entamer une profonde réforme agraire avant d’être renversé en 1968 lors d’un coup d’état mené par Moussa Traoré, soutenu par la France. [Les vingt-trois ans de règne seront sanglants]. Moussa Traoré ne se contente pas d’appauvrir et d’affamer son peuple, il mène aussi une forte répression contre la minorité Touareg du Mali. Les Touaregs représentent environ 2 % de la population malienne. Ils sont également présents au Niger, au Burkina-Faso, en Mauritanie, en Libye et en Algérie.

We are in 1960, Mali is gaining independence. The first president of Mali, Modibo Keïta, teacher and Pan-Africanist, democratically elected, barely has time to begin sweeping agricultural reforms before being overthrown in 1968 during a France-backed coup d’état orchestrated by Moussa Traoré. (The 23 years of rule that followed would be bloody). Moussa Traoré was not happy with simply impoverishing and starving his people, he also carried out powerful repressive measures against the Tuareg minority group in Mali. The Tuaregs represented about 2 percent of the Malian population. They are also present in Niger, Burkina-Faso, Mauritania, Libya and in Algeria.

Mouhamadou el Hady Ba and Pierre Amath Mbaye add another important factor to the equation: the rise of drug trafficking [fr]:

L’Afrique de l’ouest est ainsi devenue un espace stratégique de négoce des stupéfiants, à la suite du renforcement de la répression aux Etats-Unis et au Canada. Cette situation va amener les narcotrafiquants à se redéployer vers l’Europe en trouvant de nouvelles routes, et à exploiter le potentiel de corruptibilité de l’Administration des Etats de la région pour assurer leur tranquillité. En 2009, la drogue était expédiée de Colombie, du Venezuela et du Brésil, et arrivait par les ports de Guinée Bissau et du Cap-Vert au Nord, et ceux du Ghana au Sud. Les cargaisons étaient ensuite réparties entre le Nigéria, la Guinée, le Sénégal, la Mauritanie, puis, remontaient vers le Maroc et l’Algérie. En novembre de la même année, le monde entier découvrait l’atterrissage clandestin dans le nord du Mali d’un triréacteur Boeing 727 chargé de cocaïne, l’évènement donnant lieu à une affaire popularisée sous le nom d’Air Cocaïne, avec des ramifications en Amérique du sud et en Europe. Un symbole stupéfiant d’insertion de l’Afrique dans l’économie mondialisée, pourrait-on dire avec malice, si la situation n’était à ce point inquiétante.

And so, West Africa became a strategic point for the drug trade, following heightened efforts to snuff it out in the US and Canada. This situation would eventually cause drug traffickers to focus their efforts more on Europe by finding new routes, and to exploit the state administrations of the region that were susceptible to corruption, in exchange for guaranteeing peace. In 2009, drugs were exported from Colombia, Venezuela, and Brasil, and arrived at ports in Guinea-Bissau and Cape-Verde in the north, and at those of Ghana in the south. The cargo was then split up between Nigeria, Guinea, Senegal, Mauritania, and reassembled once again near Morocco and Algeria. In November of the same year, the entire world would come to know of the clandestine landing of a three-engine Boeing 727 loaded with cocaine. The event gave rise to a scandal popularly known as Air Cocaine, which had repercussions in South America and Europe. A confounding symbol of Africa's insertion in the world economy, one may say mischievously, if the situation had not been so perplexing.

With respect to Saudi influence, Sahel expert Maurice Freund explained in an interview on website Afrik.com that Islamic extremism began to take root more than two decades ago when Saudi-financed organizations helped Malian people where their government failed them. “It's too late for Mali, we should have acted 20 years ago!” he said:

Il y a déjà plus de 20 ans, je rencontrais des Pakistanais et des Soudanais financés par les Saoudiens qui prêchaient le wahhabisme sous forme d’organisation humanitaire, en effectuant la construction de puits, de mosquées. Ils comblaient les carences des autorités dans le domaine social. D’où la prolifération des djihadistes. Le développement du wahhabisme dans le nord-Mali a commencé il y a déjà 25 ans.

More than 20 years ago now, I met Pakistanis and Sudanese people financed by Saudis. They preached [ultra-conservative branch of Sunni Islam] Wahhabism through humanitarian organizations by building wells and mosques. They made up for the shortcomings of the authorities on the social level. Hence the proliferation of the Jihadist movement. Wahabbism in the north of Mali began 25 years ago.

While trying to trace the genesis of the Djihadi movement in Sahel,  Abou Djaffar explains on his blog that:

En 1996, pourtant, il ne s’agissait même pas d’un front secondaire, mais simplement de l’arrière-cour de la guerre civile algérienne.

In 1996, however, it wasn't even a question of a being secondary front in the Algerian civil war, but it was in fact the Algerian civil war that just extended in the backyard.

Repercussions [fr] of the overthrow of Muammar Kadhafi, who supplied Mali with large amounts of funding, during the Libyan Civil War in 2011 added to the volatile situation brewing in Mali, Eros Sana writes:

En plus d’investissements lourds, Kadhafi multiplie les financements à petite échelle : écoles, dispensaires ou routes dans l’ensemble du Mali. Lorsque Kadhafi et son régime disparaissent, ce sont d’un côté de très nombreuses armes et des centaines d’hommes aguerris qui s’exilent dans le Sahel ; et de l’autre, des flux de plusieurs centaines de milliers d’euros qui se tarissent. Pour un pays dont plus de la moitié de la population vit avec moins d’un dollar par jour, c’est une importante manne qui s’envole. Après avoir appuyé militairement le renversement du régime libyen, les puissances de l’Otan auraient dû prévoir ce vide causé par la chute du colonel et le combler. Cela n’a pas été fait.

Aside from large investments, Kadhafi increased financing on the smaller scale: schools, health centers, roads throughout all of Mali. When Kadhafi and his regime disappeared, there was, on one side a large number of weapons, and hundreds of hardened men who were exiled in the Sahel region; and on the other side the evaporation of several hundred thousands of euros that had once flowed in. For a country where half of the population lives on less than one dollar a day, it is an important source of bread and butter that disappears. After having lent military support to the overthrow of the Libyan regime the NATO forces should have foreseen this vacuum that was was caused by the fall of the Colonel and worked to address it. That was not done.

Twitter user @Abdou_diarra foresaw on his blog the creation of new regions [fr] in northern Mali prior to the military coup that would overthrow President Amadou Toumani Touré in March 2012:

Blogger ASKIAMOHAMED writes about the Tuareg [fr] and their demands::

Elle commence le 17 janvier 2012 soit 2 mois avant le coup de force à Bamako, les rebelles attaquent Menaka, Tessalit et Aguel’hoc avant d’y être chassés par l’armée malienne.
Un véritable jeu de chaises musicales a lieu durant près de un mois dans les villes à la frontière algérienne entre l’armée, le Mouvement national de libération de l’Azawad (MNLA) ainsi que le groupe Ansar Dine et leurs alliés d’ al Qaida au Maghreb islamique.

Le massacre de militaires maliens par les rebelles et leurs alliés à Aguel’hoc, à l’arme blanche va profondément choquer le peuple malien et mettre à jour les failles de l’armée et l’animosité de cette rébellion.

Début avril le coup d’état consommé le MNLA et leurs alliés islamistes contrôlent les deux tiers du Mali, l’armée malienne désorganisée par le coup ayant déserté.

En effet le coup d’état a désorganisé la chaine de commandement de l’armée et a mis à jour la fragilité de cette dernière et a donc conduit à cette débandade ou « retrait stratégique ».

Le MNLA proclame l’indépendance de cette zone le 6 avril 2012 car elle considère que c’est le berceau de la civilisation touareg, un fait inédit dans l’histoire car aucun peuple nomade ne s’est jamais réclamé d’un territoire avec des frontières bien dessinées.

De plus historiquement sur cette terre il y avait l’empire Songhaï fondé à Koukia au 7ieme siècle, par les Sonrhaïs, et les Berbères et dirigés par le chef Za el-Ayamen, qui fuyaient devant l’invasion arabe.

Ce métissage entre Sonrhaïs et Berbères donnera la dynastie des Dia. Puis vint la dynastie de Sonni ali ber et des Askia avec Gao pur capitale, avant de sombrer au 16ieme siecle sous l’invasion marocaine. Il y a également eu l’empire peul du Macina et l’empire toucouleur au 19ieme siècle. De plus de nombreuses tribus, Bozos (pécheurs) et dogons peuplaient cette zone.

Donc il n’y a aucune légitimité historique à cette demande.

It begins on the January 17, 2012, about two months before the showing of force at Bamako, the rebels attack Menaka, Tessalit, and Aguel’hoc before being driven out by the Malian Army.

A bonafide game of musical chairs takes place for almost one month in the towns on the Algerian border between the army, the National Azawad Liberation Movement (MNLA) as well as the group Ansar Dine and their Al-Qaeda allies from the Islamic Maghreb.

The massacre at knifepoint of Malian soldiers by Malian rebels and their allies at Aguel’hoc, severely shocks the Malian people and bring to light the failings of the army and the bitterness of this rebellion.

At the start of April, the coup [against President Amandou Toumani Touré] already executed, the MNLA and their Islamic allies control two-thirds of Mali. The Malian army, having been taken by the surprise by the coup, have deserted.

In fact, the coup ambushed the chain of command within the army and highlighted its vulnerability thereby driving this disbanding or “strategic withdrawal”.

The MNLA proclaims the independence of this zone on the April 6, 2012 because it believes that the region is the cradle of the Tuareg civilization, an unprecedented act because no nomadic people have ever claimed a territory with precisely defined borders.

Moreover, historically in this region there was the Songhai empire founded at Koukia in the 7th century by the Songhai and Berbers and led by chief Za el-Ayamen. They fled before the Arab invasion.

The mixing of Songhai and Berber people would eventually give rise to the Dia dynasty. After this came the Sonni Ali Ber dynasty and the Askia with Gao being the capital, before succumbing, in the 16th century to the Moroccan invasion. There was also the Massina Empire and the Toucouleur Empire of the 19th century. Not to mention various tribes, Bozos (a tribe of fishermen) and Dogons inhabited this zone. Therefore, there is no historical legitimacy to this demand.

It is in this context that France is intervening [fr] in its former colony to oust the Islamists, a move known as Operation Serval.

Though some think that France's intervention in Mali is driven purely by self interest, such as the author of this article entitled Nouvelles de la turbulence (News of the Unrest) [fr], such speculation [fr] should be treated with caution:

… il y aurait plus d’uranium au Mali qu’au Niger, et après avoir sécurisé les ressources libyennes (en excluant les émergents), les Français chercheraient à faire de même dans le Sahel. … qu’on ne fait pas de guerre pour des ressources qui ne sont encore que spéculatives, puisqu’on n’en connaît pas la quantité réelle et qu’on n’en voit pas encore la couleur. Arguments assez naïfs mais peut-être corrects pour le cas d’espèce.

Supposedly, there could be be more uranium in Mali than in Niger, and after having secured the Libyan resources (not counting those currently being currently explored), the French would be seeking to do the same thing in the Sahel region. …We wouldn't go to war for “potential” resources unless we knew the real quantity and quality of these resources. The resource-speculating arguments might be naive at first but perhaps not entirely off-base in this case.

Wirriyamu responds in this article Ne pas laisser dire (3) [fr] (Do not let it be said):

Je suis convaincu désormais que certains trouvent totalement anormal le soutien de l’opinion malienne, et au-delà africaine, à cette intervention. Ils mettent cette adhésion le plus souvent sur le dos de la naïveté ou de l’ignorance, c’est selon. Ce qui montre que beaucoup, trop nombreux à mon goût, pensent encore que les Africains n’ont pas leur place sur le chemin de l’histoire qui se fait sans eux, hors d’eux. Bref, ils subissent tout.

I am now convinced that some find the support of the Malian public, not to mention African support for this intervention, to be completely abnormal. They usually place the blame for this support squarely on the back of naivete or ignorance, as the case may be. This shows that many — too many for my taste — still think that Africans have had no active role in the course of history [fr]. It happens without them. In sum, they are victims.

March 03 2013

Violence Erupts in Guinea, Holding its Youth Hostage

Diallo Thierno Sadou [fr] analyzes the political situation in Guinea where violence erupted between police forces and the opposition since February, 27. The fightings has led to multiple casualties and lootings in the capital city Conakry. To note, the current governor of the city, officer Sékou Resco Camara [fr], was charged in october 2010 with commiting “Acts of torture”. Diallo notes about the current administration [fr]:

They must take notice that their biggest problem now is the unemployed, destitute youth without a hope for a better tomorrow. This youth has nothing to lose anymore and is ready to fight for better governance, an independent justice system, free and transparent elections and paying jobs.

February 19 2013

African Reactions to the Pope’s Resignation

The announcement by Pope Benedict XVI of his intention to resign with effect from February 28, 2013 provoked many reactions in Francophone Africa, both in traditional media and on social networks. The predominant feeling was that of admiration for the Pope combined with the wish that certain African leaders would follow his example.

The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI

The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. Photo Catholic Church (England and Wales) on Flickr, licence CC by-nc-sa/2.0

Varied opinions, with underlying admiration

In a well-reported article from Togocouleurs blog entitled ‘Must the Pope Die Pope?’, Charles Lebon wrote that [fr]:

La nouvelle est tombée ce 11 février comme un coup de tonnerre dans un ciel serein. Ce coup aurait été moins violent si c’était le décès du pape, qui, dans ce cas et trop souvent prévisible, obligeait les journalistes à attendre sous les fenêtres du saint homme en agonie avec micro, camera et bougie. Mais ce n’était pas le cas. Il s’agit de la démission du souverain pontife au sens de : « renoncer à sa charge ».

The news hit on February 11 like a thunderclap in a quiet sky. The shock would have been less violent if they had announced the death of the Pope who, on this occasion, as on many others, made journalists wait under his windows in agony with a microphone, camera and candle. But this was not the announcement that was made. It was actually the resignation of the reigning pontiff, in the sense of: ‘renouncing his burden’.

Diery Diallo’s blog quoted Father Jacques Seck of Dakar [fr] :

Je dis que je suis heureux que le Saint-Père (Pape Benoît XVI) ait pris cette idée personnellement. Les hommes de Dieu que nous sommes (…) ne sont pas des fonctionnaires qui travaillent. Je suis heureux que le Saint-Père à la tête de l’Eglise nous donne l’exemple. Les évêques, Cardinaux, Pape, ne sont pas des fonctionnaires, quand ils ne peuvent plus ils cèdent la place aux autres », a réagi Abbé Jacques Seck sur les ondes de la Rfm. Rappelons que le Pape Benoit XVI a annoncé sa démission de ses fonctions de Pape pour le 28 février 2013. Il a donné comme raison, son âge avancé qui ne lui permet plus d’exercer le ministère Pétrinien.

I say that I am glad that the Holy Father (Pope Benedict XVI) has taken this step personally. Men of God such as we [...] are not functionaries with a job. I am pleased that the Holy Father as the head of the Church has given us the example. Bishops, Cardinals, the Pope, are not functionaries, when they can no longer go on, they give their place to others.” reacted Father Jacques Seck on the airwaves of RFM. Let us remember that Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation from his papal duties would take effect on February 28, 2013. As reason, he gave his advanced years which no longer allow him to fulfil the duties of the Holy See.

On the facebook page of Radio France International, a widely-listened to station in Francophone Africa, many reactions were posted [fr] during a programme dedicated to this event:

File:Benoît XVI synode 2008.jpg

Many Africans seem to wish their leaders would be inspired by the courageous act of Pope Benedict XVI. Source photo:
commons.wikimedia.org

From Conakry in Guinea Hilal Sylla [fr] wrote that:

Pour peu que cela ait du sens, cette démission de Benoit XVI me renvoie au Film culte sur l'église et les illuminatis. Une façon de dire que l'église n'a plus de force dans un monde dominé par tant de perversion. Une question : la fin du monde n'est-elle pas proche?

Although it doesn’t make much sense, Pope Benedict’s resignation reminds me of the popular film about the church and the Illuminati. A way of saying that the church no longer has strength in a world dominated by so much perversion. One question: Is the End of the World nigh?

For Samuel Azabho [fr] from Kisangani in the Democratic Republic of Congo:

Cette démission est normale par le fait de l'age. son pontificat est positif dans la mesure où il est le précurseur de la lutte contre la pédophilie. je pense qu'il était un homme de décision. Et celui qui doit venir après lui doit relever le défis de l'avenir de l'église catholique et de toute l'humanité peu importe sa race et ses origines.

This resignation is not unusual because of the matter of his age. His papacy was mainly positive in so far as it was the precursor of the fight against paedophilia. I think that he acted as a decisive man. And whoever follows him must be up to the challenges in the future of the Catholic Church, and of all humanity, no matter his race or origin.

From Yaoundé, Ben Mbele remarked that [fr]:

nous pouvons cependant dire ke le pontificat de benoit xv1 n'a pa été un fleuve trankil, de son discours sur l'islam et la violence en passant par le scandal des prêtres pédophiles et enfin du débat sur le mariage gay,au demeurant notons ke la décision salutaire de benoit xv1 fera un précédent car il lancera le débat sur la modification du droit canon en matière du mandat du pape, personnellement il ne faut pa trop attendre du nouveau pape en matière d’émancipation sur certains sujets car la plus part des cardinaux actuels ont été nommé par benoit xv1 et jean paul 2 eux très conservateurs.

However, we can say that the papacy of Benedict XVI has not been plain sailing, from his speech about Islam, through the scandal of paedophile priests, finishing with the gay marriage question, for all that, we note that the salutatory decision of Benedict XVI will set a precedent because it will launch a debate on whether Canon Law regarding the Pope’s mandate should be modified, personally I don’t think we should expect too much from the new Pope regarding emancipation of certain groups of people because most current cardinals were named by Benedict XVI and John Paul 2, and are very conservative.

Alpha Ulrick Marcellus from Brazzville, in Congo thought that [fr]:

La décision du Pape est courageuse. Il ne démissionne pas mais il renonce, il renonce au ministère pétrinien. Une décision qui n'est pas facile à prendre. Son pontificat a été à mon avis celui des grandes épreuves, des discours aux vérités sans détours et choquant. Benoit XVI à donné le meilleur de lui-même, dans la direction d'une Église en conflit avec un monde de plus en plus excentrique. Pour le futur Pape plaise à Dieu de choisir celui qui est apte, valide à prendre des décisions courageuses contre les déviations que le monde légalise pour préserver l'intégrité de la foi et de l'Église.

The Pope’s decision was courageous. He did not resign, but renounced, he renounced the Holy See. Not an easy decision to take. In my opinion, his papacy was one of great trials, of shocking and hard-hitting speeches about truths. Benedict XVI has given the best of himself, for a Church in conflict with a world becoming more and more eccentric. Let us hope that, for the future Pope, God chooses the one who is best-suited, capable of taking courageous decisions against the deviations that the world legalises, to preserve the integrity of faith and of the Church.

The BBC also broadcast special programmes about Francophone Africa, which were played by local radio stations. The BBC’s facebook page about Africa has more than 17,000 fans [fr]. During the programme about this resignation, Africa Live on February 16, many Africans gave their points of view. Michel Djadji Anigbe from Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, wrote that [fr]:

Relativement à la décision de démission du Pape, son motif me laisse perplexe et pantois. Comment un grand intellectuel tel que lui a pu accepter ce pontificat avec tous les sacrifices que cela demande. Surtout avec ce que son prédécesseur, le vénérable Pape Jean Paul II , a fait du sien. De plus, son argument est trop facile avec le scandale qui nous a été servi par l'affaire de son majordome. Et quand on sait aussi que le Vatican n'est pas ignorant et étranger à tous ce qui passe actuellement dans le monde.

Relative to the Pope’s decision to resign, his motive leaves me perplexed and speechless. How could a great intellectual like him have accepted this papacy with all the sacrifices which that demands? Especially with what his predecessor, the venerable Pope John Paul II, had achieved with his. What is more, his argument is too simplistic regarding the scandal of this business with his majordomo. And when you also realise that the Vatican is not ignorant of or a stranger to what happens in the world today.

Didier Didou Mady posed an interesting question [fr]:

Le rejet de la démission du Pape est-il envisageable au regard du droit canon? Quoi de plus normal que les touristes au Vatican visite à la fois le pape et l'ex-pape. Difficile d'avoir un pape infatigable!

Is the rejection of the Pope’s resignation conceivable with regards to Canon Law? What could be more normal than tourists at the Vatican visiting the Pope and the ex-Pope at the same time? It is difficult to have an indefatigable Pope!

An Example for some African leaders?

Africa has many badly run countries. Is this linked to the fact that on this continent we also find heads of State who have been in power the longest?:

Many Africans have commented on the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI by relating it what has happened on their own continent. Josiane Kouaghe from Cameroon wrote [fr] on his blog:

Passés ces moments de disputes, les vraies questions s’imposent. Et les comparaisons ne tardent pas à suivre. «Ah…Il me rappelle Nelson Mandela. Tu te rappelles, en 1999, quand il a démissionné après seulement cinq ans? », demande Éric Ntomb, 64 ans, à son ami. «Tu parles Éric. C’est la même chose avec le pape. Il n’est là que depuis 2005. Si seulement nos dirigeants africains pouvaient faire comme lui», répond l’ami en poussant un long soupir. L’ami dit haut ce que des millions de personnes pensent bas. Et je vous arrête. Ne dites pas que le pape a démissionné parce qu’il est un homme de Dieu. Non!  Il dirigeait le plus petit et puissant État du monde.

After these disputes, the real questions make themselves felt. And the comparisons are quick to follow. “Ah, he reminds me of Nelson Mandela. Do you remember, in 1999, when he resigned after only five years?” Eric Ntomb, 64, asked his friend. “Now you’re talking Eric! It’s the same thing with the Pope. He’s only been there since 2005. If only our leaders in Africa could do the same as him”, answered the friend with a deep sigh. The friend said out loud what millions of people think deep down. And I am stopping you! Don’t tell me that the Pope resigned because he is a man of God. No! He was leading the smallest and most powerful state in the world.

Josiane Kouagheu then reviewed the list of African presidents who resigned their duties voluntarily:

However, by far the most famous of all African leaders to leave power voluntarily was unquestionably Nelson Mandela, in 1999, a fact which has invited these comparisons between Mandela and Pope Benedict XVI.

February 11 2013

10 Best African Food Blogs

MyWeku compiles a list of 10 best African food blogs for 2013: “There are seemingly a million food blogs out there, but only a handful showcase African food. Even so it has still been a struggle to pick 10 of our favourites for this year (2013).”

November 16 2012

What Role for the Army in Africa Today ?

[All quotations have been translated from the French and can be viewed in the original post]

The army has often held a crucial but ambiguous role in the running of the political process in Africa. Between the years 1950 and 2000, 53 African countries have suffered 85 military coups leading to regime change. After a period of respite in the 1990s, the African continent was once more that with the most military coups in the first decade of the 21st century with 27 takeover attempts. Being both a factor in consolidation or destabilisation of regimes [fr], the army is blamed in many countries and does not seem to know how to adapt to this change in people’s mentalities.

l'armée entoure Rajoelina lors de la prise de pouvoir en mars 2009 - Domaine publique via Topmada

The Army of Madagascar supported Rajoelina during his seizure of power in March 2009 - Public Domain via Topmada

A Question of Competence and Remuneration

In Mali, the lack of resolution in the conflict in the North of the country was the main reason invoked by Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo to remove Amadou Toumani Touré from power. However, since the military coup of 22 March 2012, the army remains powerless regarding reclaiming North Mali and seems resigned to wait for help from international armed forces to chase the Islamic groups from the area. If Captain Sanogo gives the impression of having left the civil authorities and the interim president, Dioncounda Tractor, to assume leadership of the country, he is nevertheless a major figure of the current transition and remains at the head of the CNRDRE military junta.

Captain Sanogo, Leader of the Military Junta, photo via @Youngmalian

Captain Sanogo, Leader of the Military Junta, photo via @Youngmalian

Captain Sanogo began his military training in the Kati Military Academy in Mali then continued it in the United States, firstly in Lackland,Texas then at Fort Benning, Georgia and Fort Wachica in Arizona. During Sanogo’s brief period at the head of the country, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, MNLA, linked to various Islamic groups including the AQMI, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, conquered half of North Mali and declared independence for Azawad. If there is a debate about Sanogo’s military competences, there is little doubt that he has not acquired the necessary political competence in light of his multiple interference and unilateral decisions regarding the management of the country. Here is a video interview given by Sanogo after having handed power to the interim president by MrMaliweb [fr]:

 

In Madagascar the army played a crucial role in the advent of the ongoing political crisis there. A video captured during Rajoelina’s takeover tells of the unfolding of the military coup and the army’s role in the taking of power:

 

The Tananews website wrote of how the army of Madagascar sacrificed its mission [fr] all because of a problem with remuneration:

Money and corruption have played a significant role in supporting this interminable crisis.
Under the eyes of the whole world, the army of Madagascar will have much to do to restore its tarnished image.
A number of officers have preferred to sacrifice their honour and pride to accede to positions which are here today, gone tomorrow! Are they proud to wear their new stripes, attributed to them by an illegal power?
Let’s hope they ask themselves the question […] To save our country, there are no two ways about it:
Either the army of Madagascar takes itself in hand and comes to swell the ranks of the Vahaoaka;
Or the army of Madagascar continues to act as puppets..

Juvence Ramasy, political scientist in Madagascar, published an article on the role of the armed forces in political and democratic stability for CODESRIA, the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa. He explained [fr]:

In order for the political neutrality of the army to be really effective, the demilitarisation of political power must be achieved, because the retreat of military personnel from the direct exercise of executive power and the subordination of the military to civil decisions is not sufficient to assure this political neutrality. This retreat has been achieved through the third wave of democratisation. However, the transition goes wherever the militaries go.

Mathieu Pellerin, researcher at the French International Relations Institute, IFRI, explained that during each crisis, political players in Madagascar try to curry favour with the armed forces [fr]:

The army of Madagascar has a legalistic tradition […] This is not to say however that the army plays no part, quite the opposite. I would describe it as the force of deterrence because of the threat that it poses. Each side knows it will have to submit to its will. In 2002, the development of Marc Ravalomanana’s reservist forces has weighted the balance of power. [..] Andry Rajoelina has surrounded himself with military personnel, including the general of the retreat, Dollin Rosoloa, who was Chief of Staff for the Mayor of Antananarivo, Madagascar’s largest city, and generals Blake and Organes who used to serve under Marc Ravalomanana. They should therefore have an influence on certain sections of the army of Madagascar.

In his book “Madagascar, le coup d'Etat de mars 2009” [fr], Professor Solofo Randrianja explained the mechanism of the army’s corruption [fr] during the current crisis:

Rajoelina gives various benefits [to the military] to ensure their support and loyalty. The granting of loans of 3.2 billion ariary across the armed forces during 2009 Independence Day celebrations is a product of this mindset […] to ensure that this clientelist redistribution does not continue, it is necessary that the institution of the military be under democratic control and no longer under civilian control.

 

An Army often Divided and Under Pressure

In Côte d'Ivoire, after a civil war which has left scars, the army, Republican Forces of Côte d'Ivoire, FRCI is still under pressure from militia faithful to the old Gbagbo regime. Confrontations took place in August 2012 [fr] near the capital, Abidjan, leading people to fear a reduction in public safety. Richard Banegas, professor at Ceri-Sciences-Po, stated that the disturbances were justified [fr]:

Many of the Gbagbo ex-militia are still at large, in Ghana or Liberia, even in Abidjan, in relative secrecy. The most radical have a Messianic warmongering mindset sowing a ‘rhetoric of return’ of their leader. […] What is more, reforms for a national army are well underway, but sometimes hide growing numbers of soldiers who have come from the pro-Ouattara rebellion, to the detriment of an ordered and therefore more just hierarchy.

In Guinea, the military coup of December 2008 led Captain Moussa Dadis Camara to power. His regime came to an end during the country’s first ever democratic elections in 2010, but not before a bloody suppression in 2009 which killed more than 1,000 during an anti-junta demonstration. Internal divisions within the army are still palpable with regard to current tensions.

In Mauritania, leading figure in the 2005 and 2008 military coups and current president Mohamed Ould Aziz was recently shot at, which led to his evacuation to France. Rumours abound regarding the origin of these shots and measures that soldiers could take if Aziz’s convalescence abroad lasts longer than predicted.

The return of Pretorianism, that is, corrupt military despotism, is an unmentionable fact in many African countries. As Juvenal Ramasy stated, demilitarisation of politics coupled with depolitisation and professionalism of the army must take place urgently in these countries where democracy is still fragile.

August 31 2012

Mali: Can Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb Be Stopped?

This post is part of our International Relations & Security coverage.

A solution to the Mali crisis seems to be vanishing as time goes by. It has been five months now that the country has been divided into two parts: the South is ruled by a fragile [fr] government while the North, which includes the historic cities of Timbuktu and Gao, is the theater of the Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb's (AQIM) expansion in the Sahel.

North Mali indirectly in the hands of AQIM

In April 2012, after the cities of Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal had fallen, the Tuareg rebellion group National Movement for Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) unilaterally proclaimed the secession of the northern part of the country.

Mali begins Touareg dialogue. Image by Flickr user Magharebia (CC BY 2.0).

Mali begins Touareg dialogue. Image by Flickr user Magharebia (CC BY 2.0).

Currently, the region is under the influence of four [fr] different groups: the MNLA, Ansar Dine, which defines itself as Salafist, the Movement for the Unity of Jihad in West Africa (Mujao), and AQIM.

However, a report [fr] by AFP, suggests that it is actually AQIM that coordinates and funds the three other organisations; this suspicion is reinforced by the alleged presence in Mali of Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a founding member of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (SGPC), which became the AQIM.

In March 2012, israeldefense.com wrote about Belmokhtar's visits to Libya, and already reported fears of a possible AQIM expansion in the Southern Sahara:

According to Mali’s security sources, the leader of al-Qaeda's North African branch, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, has been in Libya for several weeks with the goal of procuring arms. (…) Malian security sources claim that Belmokhtar's activities in Libya confirm the premise that AQIM intends to extend its sphere of influence and that “terrorists will do anything to create a sweeping network in the Sahel and the Sahara.”

Political and diplomatic deadlock

It appears that AQIM is consolidating its grip on Northern Mali.  On August 9, Koaci.com reported that members of the Mujao cut the hand [fr] off of an alleged thief in the city of Ansogo. This followed the July 30 stoning of an unwed couple in the region of Kidal.

To date, regional response  to the crisis have been muted. While West African leaders appointed Blaise Compaoré, President of Burkina Faso, as a mediator [fr] in this crisis after the March 22 Mali coup, the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) has yet to send military forces to restore the territorial unity of Mali.

And while Afrik.com [fr] reports that the de facto Malian government and ECOWAS have reached an agreement aimed at resolving the crisis, military intervention remains the preferred option of many netizens. Thierno A. Diallo from neighboring Guinea writes on his blog [fr]:

Ce qui se passe au Mali est grave. Notre pays, frontalier au sud et pas tellement éloigné de cette zone de non-droit a tout à perdre d'une victoire des fanatiques à nos portes. Le landernau politique guinéen, la tête dans le guidon des interminables législatives voulues par Alpha Condé, risque d'avoir un réveil en sursaut très douloureux. La zone la plus proche géographiquement et donc  la plus menacée étant la Haute-Guinée.

What happens in Mali is serious. Our country, bordering the south and not so far from this zone of lawlessness has everything to lose in the case of the victory of these fanatics at our doors. Guinean politicians with their heads in the sand due the endless parliamentary elections wanted by Alpha Condé [President of Guinea], may have a sudden and very painful awakening. The area closest geographically and therefore being increasingly threatened is Upper Guinea.
ISN logoThis post and its translations to Spanish, Arabic and French were commissioned by the International Security Network (ISN) as part of a partnership to seek out citizen voices on international relations and security issues worldwide. This post was first published on the ISN blog, see similar stories here.

August 11 2012

Guinea: Statistics on Poverty on the Rise

Mamadou Aliou Barry wrote on the Facebook page Voice of the Guinean Youth [fr]: “According to the results of the study on poverty and inequality in Guinea from 1999 to 2012 published [fr] on July 30, 55.2% of Guineans are poor in 2012, as compared to 53% in 2007. What might have caused did this increase ?”

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