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January 05 2014

De la pyramide au cerf-volant

Au Japon, les naissances sont rares alors que les gens vivent de plus en plus longtemps ; en France, la population vieillit mais le taux de natalité demeure relativement élevé — moins bien sûr qu'au Niger, où le taux de mortalité reste très fort. / France, Japon, Démographie, Niger - (...) / France, Japon, Démographie, Niger - Démographie

December 19 2013

3 Initiatives Working to Make Niger a Better Place

Power grid in Niger via the Mapping for Niger Project

Power grid in Niger via the Mapping for Niger Project

Positive stories from Niger are a few and far between these days. Economic hardship combined with threats of terrorism paint a gloomy outlook for much of the country. Yet, if you take a closer look, you'll find initiatives trying to turn the tide. Learn more about three projects working to make things better in Niger:   

Safe Cooking Energy Programme

Chidimma C. Okeke in Niamey explains that the Niger government has launched the Safe Cooking Energy Programme in order to extend the benefits of safe cooking energy to half a million households: 

The newly launched programme would replace traditional use of firewood in the rest of public institutions with efficient wood-burning technologies. It would build a stove production plant in the state and create over 1,500 new jobs. The programme will empower women by training them to produce and sell stoves. It will also reduce deforestation.

The new stoves are designed to reduce the risk of mortality attributable to indoor smoke from solid fuel, sometimes referred to as indoor air pollution and domestic fire. The international NGO Sentinelles reports that domestic fires are an under-covered issue [fr] in Zinder, Niger:

Les enfants gravement brûlés sont malheureusement nombreux. Les «cuisines» des familles se composent généralement d’un simple feu de bois, où est posé le chaudron qui va servir de récipient pour préparer le repas familial. Souvent les enfants jouent autour du feu sans surveillance. Un coup de vent, un enfant trop près du feu, le pagne qui s'enflamme

The severely burned children are unfortunately numerous. The family “kitchen” usually consist of a simple wood fire, on which is placed the pot that will serve as a container for preparing the family meal. Children often play around the fire unattended. A gust of wind or a child too close to the fire and his or her clothes can catch fire.

Here is a video of the Burn Unit at Zinder Hospital in Niger by Christian Lajoumard. The video tells the story of Rachida, 12 and Hindatou, 5 both burn victims:  

Rachida, 12 ans, est hospitalisée depuis 10 mois, les fesses et les deux jambes gravement brûlées. Pour tous soins médicaux, de la bétadine pour badigeonner ses plaies qui ne cicatrisent pas. Rachida, qui ne peut plus s’asseoir ni se coucher sur le dos, passe ses longues journées à plat ventre sur son lit d’hôpital sans pouvoir se mouvoir, sans jeux ni télévision pour se distraire. 

Rachida, 12, was hospitalized for 10 months, her buttocks and both legs severely burned. The only medical care she received was some betadine [skin ointment] to brush her wounds that cannot seem to heal. Rachida, who cannot sit or lie on her back, spends all day long flat on her belly on her hospital bed; unable to move, without any games or television set to taker her mind off of her wounds.

Birth Registration Initiative

Across all regions of Niger, a birth registration initiative led by the Nigerien administration with the logistic help of UNICEF, has enabled a more secure future for the country's youngest citizens. Registration allows young people to be eligible to take exams, go to university, or get a national identity card or a driving license. This video shows how the initiative works to reach out to all Nigerien communities:

In Akoubounou, a village of 47,000 inhabitants in an area of 5,300 square kilometres in northwestern Niger, 600 children recently received their birth certificates delivered from the villages’ primary schools. On the UNICEF blog, Khamed Attayoub, the mayor of Akoubounou, reported:

With the ongoing decentralization process, communes have a strong interest in civil registration. We have a major role to play, notably with sensitization at village level. It’s also important to be involved with the follow-up, to make sure that we are not excluding anyone.

The mobile courts provided free hearings for unregistered youth. Between 2009 and 2011, more than 600,000 judgments were delivered to children under 18.

Mapping the Niger Territory  

Tackling the challenges that come with a managing a vast territory is the Mapping for Niger project, a Rising Voices grantee. The initiative is a partnership between the Department of Geography at the Abdou Moumouni University and students from the campus Geography Club who have together formed a Volunteer Technical Community (VTC) to discover the needs and the stories of their surrounding community.

Additionally, team members use OpenStreetMap tools, to map key landmarks such as schools, streets, and hospitals in cities and rural villages, listening to what people have to say along the way. One of the recurring needs of communities, access to electricity, is described in Adama Salou's blog post [fr]:  

A l’instar des autres villages du canton de Gorouol, le village de Kolmane, un village ou je passais mes vacances, souffre d’une précarité électrique notoire. Le réseau électrique est quasis absent en dehors de quelques panneaux solaires et de générateurs des batteries. Quant à l’électrification des routes, le constat est amer et inquiétant. Cela occasionne souvent des attaques des bandits armés notamment sur l’axe Kolmane – Ayorou, long de 30 km.

All the villages in the canton of Gorouol, including Kolmane where I spent my off time, suffer from a lack of electrical access. The electricity grid is quasi-absent except for a few solar panels and battery generators. As for the electrification of national roads, the situation is alarming and disturbing. This often leads to armed attacks from road bandits on the 30 km long road from Kolmane to Ayorou.

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December 12 2013

Nelson Mandela's Death: ‘Left Us in Body, But His Spirit Is Eternal’

Since former South African President and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela's death on December 5, 2013, people throughout the world have reflected on the beloved leader's life and the legacy he leaves behind.

Here are 6 reactions from around the world :

United Kingdom

Musa Okwonga, a poet and author based in London, noted on his blog that Mandela was first and foremost a revolutionary who went to war against injustice in his country before he was a symbol of peace and reconciliation:

Over the next few days you will try so, so hard to make him something he was not, and you will fail. You will try to smooth him, to sandblast him, to take away his Malcolm X. [..] You will say that Mandela was about nothing but one love, you will try to reduce him to a lilting reggae tune. “Let’s get together, and feel alright.” [..] Well, try hard as you like, and you’ll fail. Because Mandela was about politics and he was about race and he was about freedom and he was even about force, and he did what he felt he had to do and given the current economic inequality in South Africa he might even have died thinking he didn’t do nearly enough of it.


Mialisoa, a blogger in Antananarivo, Madagascar, expressed her deep respect and gratitude for the life lessons she's taken from Mandela in a post titled Bonne Route, Monsieur [fr] (Safe Travels, Sir):  

Un jour, Monsieur, je m’assoirais près de mes enfants et je leur lirais votre histoire. Un jour, mes enfants s’assoiront près de leurs enfants et ils leur liront votre histoire. Grâce à vous, je sais et grâce à vous, je continuerais à apprendre:
Je sais de qui parler, lorsque viendra le temps d’expliquer à mes enfants ce qu’est un homme de courage et de conviction.
Je sais de quels principes s’inspirer lorsque viendra le temps d’élever les miens.
Je sais l’importance de la réconciliation. Avec soi-même et avec son prochain.
Je sais la valeur du pardon.
Je sais le précieux de l’égalité.
Je sais qu’il est possible de rendre les hommes et soi-même, meilleurs.
Je sais le bien que créent l’humilité, l’humour et l’audace. [..] 
Je sais, Monsieur, que je n’en sais pas assez. Je sais bien que je suis loin de savoir. Aussi, la meilleure manière de vous rendre hommage, Monsieur, est de continuer à apprendre et apprendre à agir. Et que Dieu nous vienne en aide, car le temps d’agir est maintenant venu.
Monsieur, merci. Je vous souhaite une bonne route.

One day, sir, I will sit with my children and read them your story. One day, my children will sit with their children and read them your story. Thanks to you, I know and thanks to you, I will keep learning:
I know of whom to speak, when the time comes to explain to my children what makes a man of courage and conviction.
I know what principles to draw on when the time comes to raise mine.
I know the importance of reconciliation. With ourselves and with our fellow people.
I know the value of forgiveness.
I know the value of equality.
I know it is possible to make humankind and ourselves better.
I know the good that humility, humor, and boldness can do. [...] 
I know, sir, that I do not know enough. I know very well that I am far from knowing. So the best way to pay tribute to you, sir, is to continue to learn and learn to act. God help us, for the time to act has now come.
Thank you, sir. I wish you a safe journey. 

Toavina, a political analyst from Antananarivo,  recalled on his Facebook page Madagascar's role [fr] in supporting Nelson Mandela's African National Congress (ANC), the  resistance movement against apartheid and now South Africa's governing political party: 

N'oubliez pas chers Malgaches, que MADAGASCAR a aidé le peuple Noir Sud-Africain ! Nous avons hébergé sous la Deuxième Rep la Radio de l'ANC. Piet Botha, Ministre des affaires étrangères de l'Afrique du Sud est venu à Madagascar pour discuter du cas de l'afrique du Sud avec l'ancien président Ratsiraka. De Klerk est aussi venu à Mada dans les années 90.

Do not forget, dear Madagascans, that MADAGASCAR helped the back people of South Africa! We broadcasted ANC's radio station during our Second Republic. Pik Botha, South Africa's Minister of Foreign Affairs, came to Madagascar to discuss the South African situation with former President Ratsiraka. De Klerk also came to Madagascar in the '90s. 


While it was hard for him to find the words, Boukary Konaté, a Global Voices contributor in Bamako wanted to commemorate the man [fr]:

« repose en paix », car je n’ai pas de mots. Je n’ai pas de mots car tous les mots sont insignifiants pour exprimer ce que je veux dire. Alors, je me tais, je me tais dans mes murmures internes

“Rest in peace,” for I have no words. I have no words because no words are sufficient to express what I want to say. So, I'll stay silent, I'll keep quiet with my inner thoughts.

He added [fr]: 

Je suis fier qu'il y ait une Rue Mandela et une Ecole Mandela à Bamako au Mali. Je vais toute de suite pour une interview avec le Directeur de l'Ecole Mandela.

I am proud that there is a Mandela Street and a Mandela School in Bamako, Mali. I'm going to have an interview right away with the Mandela School's principal.

Here is the school in question:

This teacher at the #Mandela school began the morning by talking about the man with his first-grade students #Mali
— Boukary Konaté (@Fasokan) December 6, 2013


Aminatou, a women's right activist in Niamey, Niger shared this thoughts [fr] about Mandela and education:

Mandela est une source inépuisable d’inspiration. Sa phrase sur l’éducation résonne fortement aux oreilles de tous :
« L’Éducation : l’arme la plus puissante que l’on puisse utiliser pour changer le monde. »

Mandela is an endless source of inspiration. What he said about education resonates strongly with everyone:
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”


Archippe, a French-based Cameroonian blogger and president of Internet sans frontières, pointed out a lesson for African countries to take away on his Facebook page [fr]:

Nelson Mandela nous aura enseigné une chose essentielle à nous africains, à nous humains: on peut vraincre par les armes, le nombre, la rhétorique, mais la vraie victoire, celle qui marque les siècles, est celle de l'esprit enchanté. Le corps de mandela n'est plus, son esprit est éternel.

Nelson Mandela will have taught us, us Africans, us humans, one essential thing: We can conquer with weapons, with numbers, and with rhetoric, but the real victory, what leaves its mark for centuries, is that of the soul. Mandela has left us in body, but his spirit is eternal.

An Algerian leader, through Alexandre Adler, a well-known french political blogger, commented on the impact the “Mandela approach” [fr] of inter-ethnic reconciliation could have had in Algeria:

Il y a quelques années, un dirigeant algérien nous confia que la «ligne Mandela» de réconciliation inter-ethnique aurait évidemment mieux convenu à l’Algérie de 1962 que le départ précipité des Européens et des juifs qui fut consommé en moins d’un an. Mais, ajoutait-il, «à cette époque, nous n’avions pas les idées de Mandela, et celles-ci nous serviraient bien aujourd’hui».

A few years ago, an Algerian leader confided that the “Mandela approach” of interethnic reconciliation would have evidently been better for Algeria in 1962 than the sudden departure of Europeans and Jews that came to pass in less than a year. “But,” he added, “At the time, we didn't have Mandela's ideas, and today they would serve us well.”

December 04 2013

Football, Building Social Cohesion in Niger

Football tournament organised in the region of Tahoua, Niger. Republished with permission from Mapping for Niger blog

Football tournament organised in the region of Tahoua, Niger. Republished with permission from Mapping for Niger blog

Niger is twice as large as France in area, composed of eight regions and six different ethnicities. It was also the country with the lowest Human Development Index in 2012. These factors make for a fragile social fabric in Niger, due perhaps to increasing inequalities and heterogeneous demographics. Sport is at times an ideal vehicle to reinforce social links in Nigerian communities. This is why the community of Kalfou in the department of Tahoua organise an annual football tournament, bringing together various clubs from around the region.

Hamzajaba, a member of the Rising Voices’ project Mapping for Niger, participated in this tournament. He says [fr]:

Ce tournoi a été organisé par un ressortissant d’un village appelé « Guidan Toudou ». Le tournoi est composé de huit (8) villages qui sont répartis en deux poules A et B. La poule A est composée de : Guidan Toudou, Alibou, Toudouni et Tounga et la poule B est composée de : Samo, Karaji Sud, Guidan Gara et Galmawa. [..] la finale a opposée Guidan Toudou& Karaji Sud avec un score de 3 buts à 0 en faveur de Guidan Toudou suite au forfait de Karaji Sud. Ce tournoi s'est déroulé dans une parfaite ambiance, pleine de faire play et l’objectif a donc été atteint. J’ai rencontré pas mal des jeunes et même des collègues avec qui j'ai été au collège. Guidan Toudou a gagné le trophée avec comme récompense 70 000 FCFA; le 2ème, Karaji Sud, a été recompensé de 40 000 FCFA et le 3ème Galmawa 20 000 FCFA. Toutes les équipes qui ont participé ont bénéficié d’un ballon.

This tournament was organised by the village group Guidan Toudou. The tournament is composed of eight (8) villages who were divided into two groups, A and B. Group A is composed of: Guidan Toudo, Alibou, Toudouni and Tounga and group B is composed of: Samo, Karaji Sud, Guidan Gara and Galmawa. [...] the final placed Guidan Toudou and Karaji Sud with a score of 3 goals to 0 in favor of Guidan Toudo, following a forfit from Karaji Sud. This tournamet took place in a perfect ambiance, full of fair play and thus the objective was obtained. I met quite a few young people and even some colleagues with whom I attended secondary school. Guidan Toudou won the trophy with 70 000 FCFA as a reward; the second, Karaji Sud, was awarded 40 000 FCFA and the third Galmawa 20 000 FCFA. ALl of the teams who participated received a football.

Le département de Tahoua, cartographié par le projet Mapping for Niger

The department of Tahoua, mapped by the project Mapping for Niger. See the larger map here.

Football has always been a passion for Nigerians. One of the most well known celebrities in Niger is a former footballer, Moussa Kanfideni, who was the captain of the national team in the '80s. His name was immortalised in the the creation of the first training center for future leaders in football, the Souley Académie Sports (SACA-Sports). Ousmane Keïta explains the role of this training center and foodball [fr] in general in the education of young Nigerians:

L’ambition de la Souley Académie Sports est claire : combler un grand vide en contribuant non seulement à la formation du champion, mais aussi de l’intellectuel de demain. En d’autres termes, le centre vise à forger le citoyen modèle, préparé pour évoluer dans l’adversité, la concurrence.

The goal of the Souley Académie Sports is clear: to fill a large gap and to contribute not only to the training of champions, but also to the intellectuals of tomorrow. In other words, the center aims to form a model citizen, prepared to perform in the face of adversity, competition.

Tournoi de football dans le département de la Tahoua, Niger. avec la permission du projet mapping for Niger

Football tournament in the department of Tahoua, Niger. Republished with permission from Mapping for Niger.

Other academies, like Atcha académie [fr], have created programs to target the schooling of young people through sport. Equally, the technical center of the Nigerian Federation of Football (FENIFOOT) was recently established in the north of Niamey, the capital of Niger. News blog A Niamey explains the goals of this center [fr]:

Les premiers pensionnaires du centre sont au total 52 jeunes talents, de moins de 15 ans, qui ont été présélectionnés sur l’ensemble du territoire national. le Niger compte sortir de ces jeunes formés l’équipe nationale qui va représenter le pays à la Coupe d’Afrique des moins de 17 ans prévue en 2015 à Niamey.

The first members of the sport center are in total 52 talented youth under age 15, who were preselected through the national territory. Niger counts on these young trainees of the natinoal team who will represent the country in the uner-17s African Cup in 2015 in Niamey.

The national team is also a vehicle for solidarity and national mobilisation. The following video is a message from members of the Nigerian football team about the famine in Niger:


November 22 2013

More Transparency Needed in Uranium Negotiation in Niger

Anne-Sophie Simpere reports that the Uranium exploitation contract between Niger and Areva, a french energy company, are set to be re-negotiated as it comes to an end as of December 2013. She writes [fr]:

Il est incompréhensible que le Niger, 4ème producteur d’uranium au monde, et fournisseur stratégique d’Areva et de la France, ne tire pas davantage de revenus de cette exploitation et reste l’un des pays les plus pauvres de la planète. Les négociations en cours représentent une occasion historique pour le Niger d’obtenir de meilleures conditions pour l’exploitation de ses ressources, y compris de plus grandes retombées financières. [..] En France, une ampoule sur trois est éclairée grâce à l’uranium nigérien. Au Niger, près de 90% de la population n’a pas accès à l’électricité. Cette situation ne peut plus durer. La France doit prouver que le temps des contrats secrets, des négociations opaques et des pressions sont finies.

It is beyond comprehension that Niger, the fourth largest uranium producer in the world, and strategic supplier of the Areva group and France, do not draw more income from such exploitation and remains one of the poorest countries in the world. The current negotiations represent a historic opportunity for the Niger to obtain better conditions for the exploitation of its resources, including greater financial benefits. [..] In France, one in three light bulbs is powered by uranium from Niger. In Niger, about 90% of the population has no access to electricity. This situation cannot continue. France must prove that the time of secret contracts, opaque negotiations and diplomatic pressures are over.

November 19 2013

Massive Railway Project between Niamey and Cotonou Underway

A 1,500 km-long railway project between Niamey, the capital city of Niger and Cotonou, the capital city of Benin has been green lighted by the authorities of the two countries and construction will begin on March 2014 [fr].  Francois Ndiaye in Niamey unpacks the set up of the financial agreement [fr] that includes multiple stakeholders and will be overseen by the investment group Bolloré [fr]. Benoît ILLASSA in Cotonou wonders why private investing groups from either Niger or Cotonou were not selected to pilot such projects. The projected budget  is set at 100 billions CFA (about 2 billions USD).  The railway should extend in the future to three other capital cities of the west african region : Abidjan, Ouagadougou and Lomé.  

November 07 2013

‘How Can We Stay Indifferent?': A Concern for Niger's Orphans

A sobering statistic found in UNICEF's annual “State of the World's Children” report revealed that the country of Niger has 970,000 orphans living within its borders out of a total population of approximately 17 million people. Those children left orphaned as a result of the death of one or both parents may face difficult times ahead, including lower school attendance and being obligated to work at a much younger age to support themselves or other siblings.

This video produced by UNICEF follows the story of a 15-year-old Nigerien girl who found work as a street vendor, during which she was indecently propositioned by older men. She then took a job as a domestic household employee at the age of 12, eventually leaving the house because of the abusive family: 

The heartbreaking stories of these orphans affect many Nigeriens, including one of the new bloggers from Rising Voices grantee project Mapping for Niger, which chose to address this topic. Fatiman writes in the Mapping for Niger blog: ”To be an orphan in Niger is a very important problem, and a situation very close to my heart – as I live surrounded by orphans.”

She continues by summarizing some of the troubles that orphans may face without a parental figure in their lives [fr]:

Mais malheureusement je constate que l’orphelin, quelque soit la société, vit dans des problèmes sérieux de plusieurs ordres. Surtout au niveau de l’éducation, car n’ayant pas profité de l’amour parental. Il s’est trouvé sans modèle, sans guide ou maitre qui soit le garant de son avenir et de son devenir. Par ailleurs, il faut aussi rappeler que la famille constitue le premier moyen pour l’enfant de s’épanouir. La société vient en second lieu. Et en plus ce dernier reste toujours insensible à la situation des orphelins, pire, elle les utilise pour d’autres fins. A ce niveau, les enfants orphelins sont voués à plusieurs phénomènes sociaux tels que : le grand banditisme, la délinquance juvénile, les travaux forcés, l’esclavage moderne. Cet ainsi que les enfants issus des milieux défavorables sont les plus touchés, car n’ayant aucun revenu dans ce monde purement matérialiste et capitaliste.

Unfortunately, orphans in any society live with a variety of serious problems. Especially when it comes to education, and a life without parental love. These orphans find themselves without a model, guide, or master who can guarantee them a future and prospects. Also, one must also keep in mind that that family is the first way for a child to blossom. The society takes second place. And it is this society which continues to be indifferent to their situation, and worse, at times uses them for other ends. Child orphans can end up the victim of social phenomena including organized crime, juvenile delinquency, forced labor, modern slavery. Thus, it is these children coming from the worst situations who will suffer the most, living without income in this purely materialist and capitalist world.

Religious organizations play a major role in providing relief and care to orphans in Niger. Both Muslim and Catholic organizations have helped build facilities where orphans can receive food and shelter. Alher takes a photograph of one of these orphanages built by a Qatari-based organization, which is located near his house:

Photo of orphanage in rural Niger taken by Alher

Photo of an orphanage in rural Niger taken by Alher with his permission

Fatiman concludes by asking a serious and reflective question [fr]:

En définitive, il faut noter que l’orphelin, en tant qu’être délaissé pour son propre compte, est exposé à des sérieux problèmes. Cependant, le soutien de l’État reste à désirer dans ce sens, bien que la situation des orphelins doive toucher au plus profond de notre humanisme. Comment rester insensible face à la situation que vivent les orphelins du monde?

Finally, we have to say that an orphan, when all is taken into account, is exposed to serious problems. The support given by the state leaves a lot to be desired, even though the situation of these orphans touches the most profound depths of our humanity. How can we stay indifferent to the situation of the lives of orphans of the world?
Special thanks to Laura Morris for translating the excerpts in this post.

October 16 2013

On Blog Action Day, Thousands of Blogs on Human Rights

Today, thousands of bloggers join forces for Human Rights. It is Blog Action Day – a massive event that reaches a collective audience of millions and unites bloggers around the world.

Global Voices is a partner of Blog Action Day again this year, and we have been looking forward to another round of dedication to an important and ever-relevant topic. Some Global Voices contributors have also taken part in the event, and below you'll find excerpts from their personal blogs.

To participate in Blog Action Day, you can register your own blog on Blog Action Day's website. On Twitter, the hashtags to keep an eye on is #BAD13, #HumanRights, #Oct16.

Braille block floor in Japan helps guide the visually impaired. By Miki Yoshihito on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Braille block floor in Japan helps guide the visually impaired. By Miki Yoshihito on Flickr (CC BY)

This post will be updated throughout the day as new blogs are published.



Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

August 28 2013

Afrique Image poétique

Afrique Image poétique

« Image d’Afrique »

Niamey (Niger) en 2000

A mettre en lien avec cette image d’une merveilleuse photographe hélas disparue il y a une vingtaine d’année : Anne-Cécile Lacoste

« Soleil d’encre »

#photographie #niger

August 07 2013

Niger : le marché régional des oignons d'Agadez - RFI

Niger : le marché régional des oignons d’Agadez - RFI

A Agadez, au nord du Niger, c’est actuellement la période de production de l’oignon. Oignon destiné essentiellement à l’exportation vers les pays comme le Nigeria, le Bénin ou encore la Côte d’Ivoire. Ces exportations génèrent d’importants revenus pour les paysans.

Mais surtout surtout à voir le merveilleux film de Sani Magori

Doc Net Films Editions - Pour le meilleur et pour l’oignon

Pour le meilleur et pour l’oignon DVD 12,90 €

Un film de Sani Elhadj Magori

Le violet de Galmi, l’oignon nigérien, irrigue les marchés ouest-africains avec ses 400.000 tonnes produites par an. À Galmi même, Salamatou attend son mariage depuis 2 ans. Pressé par la belle-famille et les commérages du village, son père Yaro se décide : « Le mariage aura lieu à la récolte ! » Yaro sait que pour honorer cet engagement il doit cette fois-ci produire plus, et vendre plus cher…

#afrique #niger #agriculture #oignon #sani_magori #cinéma #film #documentaire

May 23 2013

Double Suicide Car Bombings in Niger, 23 Killed

Benjamin Roger for Jeune Afrique reports [fr] that 18 soldiers, one civilian and 4 terrorists were killed early morning in an suicide car bombing in Agadez, Niger on May 23. He adds that military school students are currently being held hostages by another attacker following the bombing. Simultaneously, another car exploded in an uranium mine exploited by the Areva Group in Arlit, Niger. The militant group MOJWA has claimed responsibility for both terror attacks.

March 10 2013

Niger : How the Nomads Find Their Way in the Desert

Adouma Alghoubas writes about the life of nomads in the desert of Niger [fr] :

Nomadic people do not have the technological means at their disposal to get their bearings, but what they do have is knowledge of astronomy, inherited from their ancestors. They navigate their way as they travel by looking at the stars. At first nightfall, it is the Pleiades constellation (“the ladies of the night” in Tamajeq) and Orion ( “the guide” in Tamajeq) that shows them the way East. Then, it is Venus (tezzug wulli aka “goat milking” in Tamajeq) that points them to the West.

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 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 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.

February 25 2013

Touaregs, la « marche en vrille »

Les soulèvements armés touaregs qui ont jailli depuis les années 1960 au Mali, au Niger ou en Algérie ne sont pas surprenants ou imprévisibles : ils s'inscrivent dans la prolongation de la résistance des Touaregs aux empires coloniaux. / Algérie, Burkina Faso, Libye, Guérilla, Identité culturelle, (...) / Algérie, Burkina Faso, Libye, Guérilla, Identité culturelle, Minorité nationale, Droits des minorités, Mali, Niger, Touaregs, Sahel, Nomades - 2012/05

November 19 2012

On World Toilet Day, Introducing the Crap Map Project

With both big technology players and local partners in Ghana, we’ll be hacking together our “crap map” using existing open source tools and software paired with meaningful offline facilitation around behavior change in sanitation.

Molly Norris of explains the objective of the Crap Map project: “to stimulate collective action to improve community-wide behavior and pressure the public sector and others to make investments in improved sanitation solutions.” On World Toilet Day, it's worth noting that in West Africa, only 37 percent of inhabitants can access a clean toilet, posing important issues of public health and human dignity. The WHO/UNICEF joint monitoring program (JMP) estimates that Eritrea and Niger have the highest ratio of population forced to defecate in the open.

November 12 2012

Coalition of African Nations Agrees to Send 3,300 Soldiers a year to Northern Mali

Seven African nations of ECOWAS namely Nigeria, Senegal, Niger, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire and Togo have agreed with Malian government [fr] to send 3,300 soldiers a year to Northern Mali to take back control of northern Mali from Islamist fighters. Other nations outside the ECOWAS might also send in troops.

September 05 2012

Mauritania: A Diplomat's Take on the Azawad

Mauritanian writer and diplomat Mohamed Mahmoud Weddady writes a series of posts in his blog entitled: “Papers about Azawad” [ar], about history and people of Azawad region. This post, for instance, focuses on the relationship between the Azawad and Libya.

September 03 2012

Africa: Children Film Education and Jobs

Our Africa is a project which lets children across Africa film education and jobs in their countries the way they see them.

August 25 2012

Niger: Floods leave thousands Homeless in Niamey

Barmou Salifou in Niger posts the following request after floods devastated Niamey [fr] since August 19:

Reposted bycamotarpscamotarps

June 13 2012

Africa: Improving Governance and Accountability with New Media

Kwami Ahiabenu, II, is a team leader of International Institute for ICT Journalism, the co-ordination organisation for African Elections Project (AEP). With over nine years of experience in management, marketing, new media, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and development, Kwami was Executive Director of AITEC Ghana and a former board member of Ghana Information Network for Knowledge Sharing (GINKS).

He served as a key committee member for the organization of World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) African Regional Meeting 2005. He has undertaken several training sessions on new media across Africa. He is a Steve Biko and Foster Davies Fellow.

African Elections Project was established in 2008 with the vision of enhancing the ability of journalists, citizen journalists and the news media to provide more timely and relevant elections information and knowledge while undertaking monitoring of specific and important aspects of governance.

AEP has covered elections in Ghana, Cote d‟Ivoire, Guinea, Mauritania, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana, Togo, Niger and Liberia. African Elections Project uses social media tools and ICT platforms such as blogs, interactive maps, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and Facebook.

L. Abena Annan (LA): What is your affiliation with the African Elections Project?

Kwami Ahiabenu, II (KA): I am part of [the] founders, currently serving as a consultant to the project, providing management support and serving as the training director.

LA: How long have you been involved with the project?

KA: Since the birth of the project in year 2008. We started the project by launching the coverage of Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire and Guinea elections. Ghana elections did take place in 2008 but Cote D’Ivoire and Guinea took place in subsequent years.

LA: How would you describe this project for the average person to understand? What do you intend to accomplish with it?

KA: It is an online, SMS, mobile service which provides authoritative elections information and knowledge specifically news, analysis, elections powered by ICTs and new media. The service is brought to our audience by a team of dedicated journalists supported by civil society actors and citizen journalists

LA: What countries have you worked in? Do you intend to go to other countries as your website states only 10?

KA: We have worked in 11 countries to date, namely Botswana, Namibia, Ghana, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, Mauritania, Mozambique, Malawi, Togo, Liberia and Niger working across English, French and Portuguese speaking countries. We currently cover each election happening on the continent on our homepage with Ghana elections 2012 being the current country we are covering. In addition to elections coverage, we have done some work in post-elections focusing on transparency and accountability issues and currently in partnership with Africatti we are monitoring health and education issues in two districts of Ghana under “Enabling Governance and Economic Transparency in Ghana using new media Project,” with plans to roll out to other African countries in the near future.

LA: How can people effectively use your website or information provided on it?

KA: Our audiences come to our website because of the high quality content which we generate and they consider it useful for themselves, so we can only improve our services by ensuring we constantly provide timely and relevant content to our audience base.

LA: Do you believe new technologies have improved democracy in Africa? Why?

KA: Democracy is a long journey, in this direction new technologies are assuming important roles in ensuring our people benefit from the fruits of democracy. That said, the journey is a long one; though we are recording some improvements we still have a long way to go to ensure that Africa as a whole nurtures its democracy.

LA: How empowering would you say technology has become to citizens of Africa?

KA: Technology can only play a role when the fundamentals are in place. If there is no true freedom of speech or free press, technology role becomes limited, though one may argue that technology can contribute to empowerment but it is important to stress the fact that technology plays a facilitating role and it works best when empowering environments are in place and protected to ensure technology’s role strive.

LA: What do you think the effect of technology on democracy will be 10 years from now?

KA: Technology roles cannot be discussed in isolation. Rapid growth of the tenets of democracy on the continent is a sure guarantee that technology impact on democracy is going to grow and become very important each passing day.

LA: What are your biggest challenges as an organization?

KA: We like to deploy cutting edge technologies in our coverage, but the high cost of ICT tools coupled by expensive bandwidth are always a challenge. Also user content generation is picking albeit slowly and our work will be made more interesting if the grandmother in the village can also contribute to our project.

LA: Any successes so far?

KA: The project has contributed significantly to building the capacity of journalists and citizen journalists in covering elections using new technologies, more importantly providing them with skills set they need to cover elections impartially thereby contributing to better elections which is a cornerstone of any democracy. One key achievement worthy of mention is the successful pilot of Ghana Post elections Project (”Because Accountability Counts”), where we contribute to the promotion of the culture of political accountability by providing a mechanism for citizens to match campaign promises and manifesto versus action and inaction of the ruling government.

The project incorporates citizen journalism mostly driven by mobile phones and has so far covered elections in 11 African countries namely Botswana, Cote d'lvoire, Ghana, Niger, Togo, Guinea, Malawi, Mauritania, Mozambique, Liberia and Namibia. This is one of key result area.

The project has also contributed local content from an African prospective for the global market, thus, presenting the African story using African voices.

We have also contributed to the body of knowledge in African elections and democracy through our country specific countries and recently we contributed “A JOURNEY THROUGH 10 COUNTRIES - Online election coverage in Africa” article in the Journal of Journalism Practice.

At its innovation fair, “Moving beyond Conflict”, Cape Town, South Africa 2010, the World Bank ranked African Elections Projects as innovative in the area of improving governance and accountability through communication technologies.

Thumbnail image: An elderly lady being escorted by his son to vote. Photo courtesy of @liberiaelection.
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