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December 27 2011

A Radical Solution For Global Poverty: Open Borders

The 18th of December was the occasion to celebrate The International Migrants Day [fr]. During the current global financial crisis, immigration from developing countries is often blamed by several political parties as the source of unemployment in their countries. Even though there hasn't been a single study, so far, that has proved that immigration has had in fact a meaningful role in the employment crisis, this belief remains strongly anchored in the minds of many.

Another phenomenon is also strongly anchored in the fabric of many developed societies: the increase in frequency of humanitarian campaigns around the holiday season.

Indeed, at every year's end in the more developed countries, one can observe campaigns that encourage their citizens to make donations to fight poverty in distant, less fortunate countries.

In addition to the recurring images of extreme poverty around the holidays (also referred to as “poverty porn” in the development sector whenever pictures of poor people are excessively exploited by charities), there are some worrying statistics: 1.4 billion people live with less than $1.25 a day. Despite some undeniable economic progress in many African nations, social inequality is still even more striking on the African continent. Economists also project that 1/3 of the poor in the world will reside on the African continent by 2015. In fact, economic hardship is one of the key factors mentioned by the 700 billion people worldwide who are eager to leave their countries of origin.

Nomads in Maroc on Flickr by Antonioperezrio (CC-NC-2.0)

It often seems that the least developed countries just cannot escape the scourge of poverty, apparently powerless against the magnitude of the task at hand. Moreover, these countries are often reminded of their inability to meet the needs of the population without international support. Although international aid is a consequence of urgent crises, this situation is often felt as a recurring affront to national pride.

Various experts postulate, however, that extreme poverty isn't inevitable. The most radical solution to drastically reducing global poverty would be, for many economic experts, opening the borders between countries and allowing workers to migrate where labor is most needed.

Professors Marko Bagaric and Lant Pritchett are two of the first scholars to introduce the concept of “open borders” as a solution to reducing global poverty.

To this effect, Bagaric writes::

Sending resources to impoverished places has merit. But it is a slow and fickle way of enhancing well-being. Instead, we directly pursue this aim by freeing up the flow of people so they can travel to where the goods are. [..] The starvation crisis is simply one of food distribution, not shortage.  The best way to ameliorate Third World poverty is by massively increasing migration to the West. Left to their own devices many people would gravitate to life-sustaining resources, leading to a rough equilibrium between the world's resources and its population.

Lant Pritchett explains this notion in details in his book: Let Their People Come: Breaking the Policy Deadlock on International Labor Mobility. He quotes the results of a study claiming that:

Eliminating the planet’s remaining trade barriers would increase global GDP by around $US100 billion.
Eliminating immigration barriers, by comparison, would as much as double world income: that is, increase global GDP by $US60 trillion.
This added wealth would be shared, but the overwhelming beneficiaries would be people who now live in poor countries.

Demonstrations held in favor of the immigrants’ right to work in Paris by austinevan on Flickr (CC-NC-SA-2.0)

The World Bank published a study about immigrants' contribution to the economy of their native countries through remittances from abroad. The study also shows that remittances are expected to reach as high as 351 billion dollarsto the developing countries, and 481 billion dollars globally including the high-income countries. The study also mentions that:

Remittance flows to four of the six World Bank-designated developing regions grew faster than expected — by 11 percent to Eastern Europe and Central Asia, 10.1 percent to South Asia, 7.6 percent to East Asia and Pacific and 7.4 percent to Sub-Saharan Africa, despite the difficult economic conditions in Europe and other destinations of African migrants.

Needless to say, these non-orthodox theories are questioned by various experts and politicians. Frank Salter explains that the main concerns come from the inherent dysfunctions of every multicultural society:

Unrestricted migration would harm (Australia’s) national interests in ways documented by scholars in economics, sociology and related disciplines. Much of the harm is predictable from what is known about the dysfunctions of diversity. They include growing inequality in the especially invidious form of ethnic stratification [..] Diversity has also been associated with reduced democracy, slowed economic growth, falling social cohesion and foreign aid, as well as rising corruption and risk of civil conflict

From a political point of view, Europe is far from opening the borders, rather the contrary. In France, the Guéant Act restricts foreign graduates' possibility of recruitment, giving birth to various reactions. Julie Owono, Global Voices member, describes the implications of this law and the reactions of various African bloggers that see this law as an additional reason to contribute to the development of their countries. On the Rue89's blog, Owono adds that the Guéant Act also ostracizes financially limited foreign students [fr].

In Africa, only a few experts have studied the concept of open borders, an idea that is, without doubt, too distant from the continent realities to persist. McGill University philosophy professor, Arash Abizadeh, doesn't encourage the opening of borders, yet states that the current border system can't be justified by a liberal egalitarian logic. Abidazeh states that if we want to stick to the belief that “All men are born free and equal”, the constitution of borders is by itself a violation of such a principle.

Malagasy blogger Sly writes about the risks of opening the borders:

I'm African and while it seems that this would be a good idea there are some drawbacks
-child trafficiking
-drug trafficking
-spread of HIV and other diseases.
-refugees will form camps in more prosperous nations causing some problems.
Having said this some countries in Africa do have open borders with some neighbourig countries.

Sly refers to the fact that opening the borders between Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia, in an attempt to increase regional economic integration, raised some major challenges in the region during the recent food crisis.

This concept of using open borders to reduce global social inequalities implies that reducing global poverty would be the highest priority in the world. It would come before other important considerations such as national security and the national interests of each country. This theory of Pritchett and Magric certainly has a contentious side that aims to provoke a debate. However, despite the claims of the international community that wants to reduce poverty worldwide, the open borders solution is only to be considered in specific contexts and won't take precedence over other items on the international agenda.

Reposted bydatenwolfsofias

November 22 2011

Kenya: Life in Dadaab, the World's Largest Refugee Camp

An aerial photograph, posted on Oxfam International's Flickr page, of the world's largest refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya, illustrates how extensive the problem of displacement can be. The camp is home to 450,000 refugees, most of which have fled drought and a civil war in Somalia waged since 1991. A further 1,500 arrive every day.

Hoping to find respite from conflict, famine and natural disaster, 75 percent of all refugees are believed to reside in countries neighboring their own, sometimes creating a humanitarian crisis that can stretch the resources of national governments and international organizations.

An aerial view of the world's largest refugee camp, Dadaab © Oxfam International

Not only is the international relief organization using the Internet to spread information and images about the situation in the camp on Twitter and Flickr, but it has also posted a video journal by actress and Oxfam Ambassador Scarlett Johansson on YouTube:

Of course, so serious is the situation in Dadaab that Oxfam is not the only international organization working in the camp and one aid worker, Amy Burke, is providing regular updates on the Lutheran World Relief blog:

The worst drought in 60 years has left millions of people at the brink of starvation. Their crops have died along with their livestock. Without any means to feed themselves, tens of thousands have flocked here to Dadaab, Kenya — home to the world’s largest refugee camp.

Refuge in Dadaab © Lutheran World Relief

With the media now reporting that cholera is once again spreading in the camp, Burke highlighted the danger at the beginning of November:

The rains are coming.

This may sound like a beautiful sentiment for the East African refugees who have suffered from severe droughts in the Horn of Africa during this past year. While the rains bring new life and revival, they also bring many waterborne diseases. It’s estimated that about 75,000 people in Dadaab alone could fall ill due to the spread of disease.

Indeed, accounts such as Burke's are crucial in getting information out from the camp once media attention has died down:

The headlines have ceased. The struggle is silent. Only the crisis remains.

While the drought in East Africa and the mass relocation of hundreds of thousands of people to the overcrowded refugee camps in Dadaab have stopped making headlines, the nature of the situation is still incredibly dire.

Refugees are real people, not just an overwhelming statistic. Each one of the 400,000 residing in Dadaab is a real person with a real life and real needs–but often, we push them and their plight to the back of our minds believing that there is nothing we can do.

A Forgotten Crisis © Lutheran World Relief

It's perhaps for that reason that Burke has also painted a more human picture of life in the camp, highlighting personal stories that many outside of Dadaab would consider ones of bravery and courage:

Ambiya lived in Somalia with her daughter, mother, and grandmother. Due to an increasing drought situation and famine spreading throughout her country, it was time to flee to a safer location. She was in no state to leave however; and after eating little to nothing for 18 days, 20-year-old Ambiya gave birth to her son Hamza.

[…] Being a new mother isn’t easy; making sure your baby is healthy, safe and that his or her needs are met is a full time responsibility. While this is stressful enough, imagine leaving your home country, walking by foot for at least a week, losing every one of your material possessions to a drought, and arriving to a new place in order to start a new life with nothing but the clothes on your back.

Without delay, the day after she gave birth, Ambiya left with her newborn, daughter, mother and grandmother on a long trek from Somalia to Kenya. […] Most people’s only goal is to survive the journey — a lofty, and in many cases, unobtainable hope. For Ambiya, her goal was to get her whole family to Dadaab alive, especially her one-day-old newborn.

[…] The problem with distancing ourselves from her story and her feat is that we tend to fictionalize her. Ambiya is a real person who persevered during what was probably the most difficult experience of her life. She represents pure strength. Her action was real and it was emblematic of how the love and strength of a mother extends beyond logic and self-preservation far into love and self-sacrifice.

East African Refugees: Strength from Love © Lutheran World Relief

Burke also posts accounts of how refugees are creating communities and attempting to make a living:

Refugees once artisans, tailors, farmers, etc. have found ways to utilize their skills and exchange resources within their new communities in Dadaab.

While aid remains a necessary and life-sustaining component to those living in Dadaab, markets have begun to spring up helping the refugees find ways to meet some of their own needs.

Trade is abundant while those lucky people who still own livestock sell milk and cheese, tailors with a few bits of extra fabric make garments, basket weavers once again take to their craft, and whoever has the means to buy seeds, grows a garden and sells the vegetables, etc.

The markets have helped improve individual livelihoods, built a larger community, and provided easier access to some resources. With the recent influx of people and new goods to trade, the markets are flourishing — creating within Dadaab a small market economy of its own.

Reuters Multimedia Producer Natasha Elkington has also put together a video of life in the camp with the same aim:

I wanted to see if I could tell their story through a different lens, showing their daily lives instead of just glaring down at their ribbed bodies and swollen eyes.


[…] Many of Dadaab’s children are dying. And then there are others who, despite living in the world’s oldest refugee camp, embrace their childhood; they play, go to school, care for their siblings and collect water for their families. I wanted to incorporate all of these aspects of life for Dadaab’s children into this project.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the number of refugees has now reached approximately 43.7 million people worldwide, the highest in 15 years. The number of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) has also risen and stood at 27.5 million at the end of 2010.

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October 06 2011

Africa: Famine is Man-made but…

Famine is man-made but….:”21st century solutions should be founded on collective responsibility. Describing famine as “man-made” is a step in the right direction, but let's not just look to foreign governments for handouts let's have the courage to call for responsibility and action from those closer to home.”

August 25 2011

Somalia: Food Security Emergency Spreads Despite Aid

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

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

Over 12 million impacted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continuous conflict

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Search for solutions

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

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

We keep making the same mistakes.

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

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

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

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

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

August 20 2011

Somalia: Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan In Mogadishu reports [fr]  on Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan's visit in Mogadishu: “The prime minister, his wife Emine and other [Turkish] political and business leaders, as well as artists, are in Somalia to meet the victims of the drought and famine raging in the country.”

July 31 2011

Somalia: Happy Ramadan

Happy Ramadan wishes from Terror Free Somalia Foundation: “In the spirit of Ramadan, I pray that Ramadan gets into our hearts and minds and make us embrace all factions of Muslims without undermining their tradition and further pray that we treat every human on the earth with dignity, respect and care.”

July 25 2011

Africa: Africa Cartoon Stirs Famine Pornography Debate

Natasha Elkington looks at satirical newspaper cartoon commenting on media priorities around the Murdoch scandal and the East Africa famine has sparked debate about pornography: “The image, labelled “Priorities”, depicts three naked, emaciated children holding empty bowls, with swollen bellies, ribs sticking out and flies swarming above them.”

July 22 2011

Consciences awakened by the camera | Jonathan Jones

Debates about the ethics of famine photography miss the point. By seeing pictures of suffering, we are spurred into action

The eye of a dead cow stares at the camera focused on its hollow sack of a body. Photographer Colin Crowley has taken the shot at a diagonal so the head, the face, of the ruined animal is given emphasis, as if to accuse, or warn, its unknown watchers.

It has died of hunger and thirst. Its carcass is a shell that tells us this. Loose bones, picked clean, form a broken tent. The brown hide of the animal is slung over emptiness, a body eaten away from the inside. Pastoralist Bishar Hassim, who stands with his blue shirt in the blue sky above a parched earth in Jowar village, Wajir, Kenya, has seen all his animals die in the drought that has hit east Africa. This week famine was declared in Somalia. Children are especially at risk. It is a food crisis of catastrophic proportions.

This photograph displays what starvation is. The cow looks as if it was eaten away from inside. There are complex causes behind every famine, "but what the photographs fail to show is the reason why so many people have reached this state of destitution", writes an expert. Of course. But photographs tell the physical, immediate facts. This picture does give some very concrete information about what has happened: pastoralists have lost their animals, and as Hassim explained, "we can no longer rely on them for food or income". But its power lies in making people thousands of miles away see the facts of hunger.

I am writing this on a full stomach. I will eat again soon. All around me are shops loaded with food. But this animal has experienced death by drought, and the reality of what happens when water and food are taken away is there to see.

"Being a spectator of calamities taking place in another country is a quintessential modern experience," wrote the critic and essayist Susan Sontag, "the cumulative offering by more than a century and a half's worth of those professional, specialised tourists known as journalists." There's no way to avoid the fact that I am a "spectator" of this scene, a well-fed observer of faraway suffering. Do photographs of famine do any good? Sontag made her jaded remark in her 2003 book Regarding the Pain of Others, a pessimistic critique of war photography. Since the invention of the camera war photographs have proliferated; and so have wars. Photographing the horrors of war did nothing to prevent new conflicts – looking at "calamities taking place in another country" is just a refined voyeurism of despair.

Photographing famine has sometimes been questioned in a similar way. A decade before Sontag's essay appeared, photojournalist Kevin Carter took a picture of a vulture stalking a young child in southern Sudan in 1993: after it appeared in the New York Times he was accused of voyeurism and passivity, of observing when he might have acted. An editorial called him "another predator, another vulture on the scene". Carter killed himself soon afterwards.

Yet what nonsense all these sophisticated criticisms of photojournalism are. It seems shocking that commentators in 1993 wasted their breath on the ethics of a photograph instead of urging action to deal with the suffering it showed. The fact that people far away can see with visceral immediacy the facts of a crisis like the one now hitting the Horn of Africa is one of the most optimistic aspects of the modern world. Consciences are awakened by the camera. Don McCullin's pictures of Biafra in 1969 are moving examples of the way photographers have forced the world to see the reality of hunger. In fact, the history of photography and famine leads to the opposite conclusion to the refined bleakness Sontag finds in the history of war photography. It is only since the dawn of modern photojournalism that global conscience has accepted the hunger of others as a responsibility.

Before the camera it was almost incredibly easy to ignore famine. Victorian Britain ignored it in Ireland, so near and yet so far. Artists painted beautiful landscapes that rarely even hinted at the real lives of the rural poor. Only in paintings of apocalyptic horror such as Bruegel's Triumph of Death do we glimpse the experience of famine in pre-modern art.

A photograph can put suffering on the front of your paper while you eat breakfast. But there is a danger of merely inviting exhausted pity and helpless horror if the photographs seem to come after the fact – a photograph is by its nature a document of something that has already happened – and to tell a story no one can change.

This picture tells a story whose end is not yet certain. It demands that we act. It shows not the last, but the first stage of crisis: the animals have died. The intimation of what might come next is there in the animal's shattered tent of a body. But it is not too late to stop the worst happening. In parts of Somalia, that nightmare scenario – famine – is already here. This picture tells the whole world what will happen across the region unless urgent international action comes immediately. Don't look: act. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

July 09 2011

Nuruddin Farah: Windows on the World

The Somali novelist reflects on the Mogadishu he knew as a child and the contrast with its brutal present

Often, I live in one place but write about another place very much unlike it. I wrote my first novel as a student in India and I wrote my latest while commuting between Newcastle in England, Minneapolis and Cape Town, where I reside. As befits a writer who lives more in the mind than in my physical surroundings, I base my work on memory, which I enrich with my knowledge of Somalia – where my novels are set – and supplement it with my imagination.

When I start a work, I first visit Mogadishu to do research, then return just before publication. During this time, the attitudes of the city's residents, their dress habits and even their diet will have undergone changes, depending on the politics of the country's competing factions.

On a clear day, the beauty of the city is visible from various vantage points, its landscape breathtaking. Even so, I am aware of its unparalleled war-torn decrepitude: almost every structure is pockmarked by bullets and many homes are on their sides, falling in on themselves.

From the roof of any tall building you can see the Bakaara market, the centre of resistance during the recent Ethiopian occupation; its labyrinthine redoubts remain the operations centre of the militant Islamist group Shabab. Down the hill are the partly destroyed turrets of the Uruba hotel, no longer open. Now you are within a stroll of Hamar Weyne and Shangani, two of the city's most ancient neighbourhoods, where there used to be markets for gold and tamarind in the days when Mogadishu boasted a cosmopolitan community.

So what do I see when I am in Mogadishu? I see the city of old, where I lived as a young man. Then I superimpose the city's peaceful past on the present crass realities, in which the city has become unrecognisable. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

June 20 2011

Somalia: Prime Minister Forced To Resign

Terror Free Somalia Foundation analyses the resignation of Somalia’s Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo: “Farmajo was an unknown quantity when he was appointed in October last year, taking over from Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, who resigned after a long-running spat with Sheikh Sharif. However, analysts say since he took over soldiers began to receive regular wages for the first time, he took a stand against widespread corruption and the government began to press al-Shabaab…”

May 20 2011

Africa: African Cartoonist Top Somalia Cartoon competition

African cartoonists win cartoon competition: “Cartoonists either based in or originally from Africa have made a clean sweep of the prizes on offer during the inaugural edition of the Hadaf Somalia International Cartoon Competition. The competition was organized by the Association of East African Cartoonists (KATUNI).”

May 02 2011

Africa: African Atheists and Freethinkers

Graham writes a post highlighting Africa atheists and freethinkers:”There are many individuals in Africa who break the mould and challenge our traditional stereotypes. These people challenge our view that every African holds religious beliefs.”

March 11 2011

Libya: Sub-Saharan Africans in Serious Danger

Written by Abdoulaye Bah · Translated by Mairi Mcgivern · View original post [fr]

This article is part of our special coverage on the uprising in Libya.

The crisis in Libya since the uprisings against Colonel Mouammar Gaddafi has not only had dramatic consequences for Libyans, but also for Sub-Saharan African citizens residing in Libya. Thousands of refugees are exposed to terrible conditions on journeys to the nearest borders, and numerous black Africans currently do not dare to leave their homes, not even to find something to eat. Why is this?

The digital portal for the civil society of Maghreb explains in an article [fr] published on March 2:

De peur d'être pris pour des mercenaires à la solde du pouvoir de Mouammar Kadhafi, les migrants subsahariens vivant en Libye se cachent depuis le début de la répression sanglante, au risque de se retrouver oubliés dans ce pays qu'ils veulent quitter.

For fear of being mistaken for mercenaries working to uphold the powerful regime of Mouammar Gaddafi, Sub-Saharan migrants living in Libya have been forced to hide themselves ever since the onslaught of the bloody repression began. Yet they run the risk of finding themselves forgotten in a county they wish to leave.

Hundreds of thousands have migrated to Libya from all over the African continent, notably from the countries within close proximity, such as approximately 300,000 from Chad, 50,000 from Nigeria and 10,000 from Mauritania. In an article on Mediapart [fr] (subscription required), Carine Fouteau remarks:

“Regrouped according to nationality in certain areas of the larger cities, they call for help without being heard. ‘The Sub-Saharan Africans are afraid. After the information we received from the Malians, they gather together as much as possible, up to 10, 20 or 30 at a time. They cannot get out, they live underground.  Anyone with black skin is in hiding due to certain individuals who have supported the violence’ reports Alassane Dicko, one of the co-ordinators/leaders of the Malian Association of Deportation (AME), situated in Bamako.”

Global Voices previously shared citizen videos related to the African mercenary question.

Al Jazeera English shares a video report on the dangers faced by black Africans in Libya.

In a report of Malian testimonies on the website, Abdou Karim Maiga recounts the experience of certain individuals [fr] who are refusing to flee.

“Mamadou Diakite, who is around thirty and works as a civil servant, recounts that “since the beginning of the conflict, we have been persecuted and especially since the press began to speak of the implication that many blacks are mercenaries working closely with Gaddafi. We state here that our president should support Gaddafi and as a result we are considered as traitors.”

Another Malian, Chaka Sidibe, arrived in Libya just four months ago. He affirms that for several nights he and his friends have not slept and adds that [fr]:

“We have been abandoned by our Chinese bosses who have been evacuated by their country and their villagers have asked us to leave as quickly as possible. We grouped ourselves together and crossed the Egyptian boarder by foot.”

The website Relief Web reports real life stories of people who have attempted to save their own lives:

“Fearing for their lives, given the targeting of Sub-Saharan Africans, and desperate to leave Libya, they had paid a human trafficker to take them to Egypt in a sealed and refrigerated truck”

The information agency of the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Irin News, reports the experience of some Somalis [fr].

Their food reserves are almost totally exhausted, he explained, “The landlord did the shopping for us but we are missing a lot. We had a little bit of money when the troubles first erupted, but we are labourers and it has now been 12 days since we last worked.

Additionally, it is the women who have paid the heaviest price during this conflict, Shamso Mohammed, a Somali refugee, told IRIN in the same article:

The Somali women are particularly worried about what might happen. “I arrived here almost a year and a half ago in order to try to get myself to Europe, but so far I have not succeeded and now I find myself in the exact same situation I was trying to escape from by fleeing Somalia.”

Maryan Ali, who lives under the same roof as Shamso, has said that she fears they may come and attack them in their homes. “The residencies of several Somalians would have been, in effect, the target of attackers”, she added.

Three of her friends disappeared five days ago, she revealed. “We called them for work and they went; the last news we have of them is that they were taken by a car driven and accompanied by armoured men. We have no idea what the men have done to them and we have no one to turn to for help.”

Boukary Daou wrote in an article published on

“On this Wednesday, (2nd March), there are around 134 migrants, who have trampled the soil of home. But this is just a small fraction of our compatriots living in Libya.

According to the last administrative census carried out by the vocational electorate of the civil State, (Ravec) there are more than 9000 Malians still to be accounted for.”

The site Podcast Journal signaled other sources of worry for the HCR and the OIM:

‘Melissa Fleming, spokesperson of the HCR, made known to the HCR some concerns over the destiny of a ‘large number of refugees of Sub-Saharan African origin who are not yet authorised to enter into Tunisian territory.’ This is an issue equally signalled as a concern by the spokesperson of the International Migration Organisation (OMI), Jemini Pandya, who also works to help with the evacuation process of non-Libyan nationals.’

In another article by Carine Fouteau on Mediapart (reproduced on Centrafrique Presse), Jean-Phillipe Chauzy, spokesman of International Organisation of Migration (IOM), explains:

“Those who do not have any official papers are literally restricted over there. What’s more is that there are copious levels of people in this situation; from Mali, Guinea, Nigeria, Niger, Toga, Benin, Burkina Faso etc. Without a passport it is improbable that they would be authorised to leave the country. Their situation is a particularly pressing issue.”

This article is part of our special coverage on the uprising in Libya.

February 21 2011

Somalia: Welcome to Poet Nation

Written by Ndesanjo Macha

Poet Nation is a multimedia brand dedicated to Somali art and culture that combines a mix of original and user generated content. The Poet Nation features poets, musicians, writers, storytellers and other artists.

February 15 2011

Africa: Pivot 25: East Africa’s Mobile Competition & Conference

Written by Ndesanjo Macha

Pivot 25 is an event bringing together East Africa’s top mobile entrepreneurs and startups to pitch their ideas to an audience of 400-500 people, with a chance of winning monetary prizes and increasing awareness of their work to local and global investors and businesses.

February 01 2011

Africa: Top 6 African Models of 2010

Written by Ndesanjo Macha

Top 6 African models of 2010 from Haute Fashion Africa: “Without a Doubt, the 2010 fashion calendar was well saturated & influenced by African Fashion; from western designers designing collections that were African-Inspired to Trends that were African-inspired, The African Fashion Industry is definitely a budding one.”

January 24 2011

A Korean Vessel Rescued from Somali Pirates, Worries of Retaliation Grow

Written by Lee Yoo Eun

Last Friday, South Korean special forces successfully rescued its 21 crew members who had been held as hostages by Somali pirates in the Arabian Sea. During a military raid, eight pirates were killed and five captured. When the news was heard, most Koreans cheered and joined the festive atmosphere. Prudent net users raised concerns over possible retaliation from pirates and complained about the mainstream media who, too busy praising the government's feat, neglected important domestic issues and belittled the efforts of individuals who have actually saved the crews.

Image by Andymangold, Originally posted to Flickr, Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

Many Korean news shows played a live video and related images of the rescue mission on the hijacked Korean freighter, ‘Samho Jewelery', for more than 20-30 minutes of their regular 50 minutes news segments. It was fairly interesting to watch on day 1. But as the pirate news continued throughout the next day and the next, all the praise seemed to be going to the President who ordered the mission, prompting audiences to say ‘enough!'.

In a public discussion forum site, net user ID:Larry Diamond criticized the KBS (Korea Broadcasting Station, one of three major broadcasting stations in Korea) for ignoring severe domestic issues, such as the foot-and-mouth disease. South Korea is facing its worst foot-and-mouth outbreak and almost two million cattle have been culled.

저 역시 청해부대가 기분 좋은 소식을 전해줌에 있어 큰 박수를 보내는 입장입니다. 그러나[…]어제 토요일! KBS 9시뉴스는 20여분동안 온통 이번 사건으로 도배했고, 국내뉴스전달은 없었습니다. […] KBS뉴스는 해외언론의 반응과 이명박정부의 신속한 대응이라는 귀결문구로 결국 나는 관영매체다!라고 전국민을 상대로 선포한것이나 다름없습니다. […]이제 정도껏합시다. 토요일 KBS뉴스에서 사라진 구제역 뉴스! 정말 심각합니다…. 구정을 앞두고 차라리 고향내려가지 않기! 캠페인방송하는게 구제역 막는 지름길인지도 모를 갈림길에 서 있는 상태입니다.

I am giving a round of great applause to the Chunghae (:Korea's Navy task force) troops for granting us this welcoming news. BUT […] yesterday (Saturday), KBS filled their news segments exclusively with reports on this pirate rescue case, and shared no time on domestic issues. […] KBS concluded the news show by quoting foreign press (positive) comments on the government and (praising) Lee Myung Bak administration’s prompt response, as if it is declaring itself as a state-controlled media in front of Korean public. […] It is more than enough. The foot-and-mouth stories went missing from KBS news on Saturday…. With the Lunar New Years holiday approaching, [note: its from Feb.2-4 in Korea] we are standing at a critical point, and KBS (could have) done some kind of public campaign to discourage people from visiting their hometowns in order to halt the spread of the disease (to clean areas).

On same public forum site, Daum's Agora, net user ID: BaeksuBaeksu posted an article blaming mainstream media for overselling the current administration's accomplishment.

무엇보다 이번 피랍사건을 해결한 청해호 일원과 UDT 대원들에게 격려와 박수를 보넵니다. 근데 현재의 언론이나 일부 몇몇 아고라인들의 MB의 업적만들기적 칭송에 정말 고개를 젓지 않을수가 없네요. 일단 이일 자체에 있어서는 MB가 잘못한 것은 아닙니다. 잘한 일이지요.[…]하지만 이것은 한 국가의 통수권자이자 통솔자로서 자국민을 보호하기위한 어떠한 대통령이라도 내릴수 있는 결정입니다.[…] 이번작전의 성공은 MB에 결정에 따라 잘된 것이 아니라,작전 자체를 사상자가 없이 성공적으로 치루어낸 각부 관계기관과 현장의 대원들의 몫이 되어야 마땅한 것입니다.

First and foremost, I send words of encouragement and appreciation to the Cheng-hae and UDT (Underwater Demolition Team) members for solving the hijacked vessel case. But the mainstream media and some of the Agorians (: Daum Agora's net users) are busy lauding this as if this feat was solely MB’s (:Korean President’s initials) accomplishment. This kind of attitude makes people shake their heads. Of course, it is not MB’s fault. It is something he had done right. […] But this decision is what any President should be able to make, as the supreme commander and as the head of the state to protect its citizen.[…] The military operation was done successfully not only because MB made a right decision, but also because everyone from concerned departments and each individual from the special forces have managed their parts successfully at the scene without injuring our people.

What concerns Koreans more than bugging news reports is the fact that there are still other Korean crew members who held as hostages by Somali pirates. Net users have filed an online petition[ko] urging the government to rescue seamen from the Guemmi, a Korean vessel hijacked last October.

Blogger Cyberbong 75, even though he titled his post as ‘Extremely Amazing Rescue', called for caution about possible revenge.

하지만 문제는 이제부터입니다. 90년대 중반 말라카 해협에서 일본의 S사 상선을 공격했던 해적들이 그 배의 선원들에게 진압을 당하여 체포된 이 후 S사의 배가 지나갈 때 마다 해적의 위협에 특히 더 시달려야 했습니다. 해적들에겐 자신들만의 마케팅이라고 할까요. 특유의 리번제 성향이 있기 때문에 당분간은 우리나라 상선에 대한 위협이 더욱 거세일 것입니다. 물론 이런 작전을 몇 번만 더 성공적으로 수행하게 되면 ‘감히 건들어선 안되는 나라의 배'라는 인식을 심어줄 수 있습니다.

Actually, it is the beginning of the problem. Around the Strait of Malacca, a Japanese vessel that belonged to S (:initial) corporation had been attacked by the pirates in the mid 90's. Those pirates were captured by the crew members and later arrested. But after that incident, any vessel from the S corporation received severe threats from the pirates when they passed through nearby waters. The pirates have their own (marketing) strategies, or a tendency to revenge. The Korean vessels in future will face intensified threats from them. But if we continue to succeed in military operations several more times, they will perceive our vessels ‘as ships from a country we should not dare to touch.’ [note:It is unclear what ‘S' stands for but it is true that another Japanese ship was hijacked in 2005 in the Strait of Malacca]

In line with this speculation, Reuters reported this morning that Somali pirates have threatened to kill any South Korean seamen that they take hostage in future to pay back the death of their fellow pirates. Pirates from two bases on the Somali coast said they were taking hostages further inland to block future rescue attempts, the report added.

However, some bloggers, such as Nest of pnix, reasoned that it is implausible to expect killings from pirates. The blogger explained that since the Somali pirates share a very basic level of camaraderie, the weak emotional bond between pirates will not prevent them from obtaining ransom from countries, which is their top priority.

January 23 2011

Somalia: Those with guns should be allowed to govern

Written by Ndesanjo Macha

Ken Opalo reacts to a story that Somali transitional government is reported to be soliciting for help from the American security firm Blackwater: “My position on Somalia remains that those with power – guns and the majority of the people’s (revealed) hearts and minds – should be allowed to govern, regardless of their ideological leanings.”

December 30 2010

Somalia: How do you solve a problem like Somalia?

By Ndesanjo Macha

Daniel Kalinaki discusses ways to solve a problem like Somalia in global politics: “Somalia is not a new conflict; the country ‘failed’ in 1991 and has since then been a collection of tribes and clans struggling to control the territory and the people.”

December 09 2010

Somalia: Photo of the week: Anti-piracy Militia

By Ndesanjo Macha

MyWeku's photo of the week: “Photo of Somalia’s Puntland region’s anti-piracy militia. The militia is funded by an unamed donor nation.”

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