A version of this post originally appeared in the Enough Said Project blog. The views expressed are the author's own.
The campaign brings together NGOs, citizens, and governments to stop the illegal trade of ivory – currently at its highest point since 1989, when the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) decided to ban the sale of ivory throughout the world.
The partnership is innovative. Hillary Clinton argues that stopping the poaching of elephants is critical to American national security; the illegal yet highly profitable sale of ivory helps fund terrorist groups such as Al Shabab she notes.
In June, the Enough Project published a report that confirms the role of poaching and the ivory sale in financing the Lord’s Resistance Army.
Though Joseph Kony’s notorious army is currently a shadow of its former self with only a few hundred combatants, ivory helps this indicted war criminal continue to avoid capture.
The initiative allocates $80 million in funding for the goal of preventing the killing of elephants, halting the smuggling of ivory, and reeducating global consumers.
Most critically, the plan is to hire and train over 3,000 new park rangers at a number of targeted sites across Africa. With better trained staff and cutting-edge technology, the increase in capacity at these 48 national parks across Africa should effectively protect two-thirds of Africa’s entire elephant population.
As part of a conservation movement which has sometimes been criticized as anti-African, this initiative has the support of several African countries: Malawi, Ivory Coast, Uganda, Botswana, South Sudan, Kenya, and Gabon.
Public advocacy is a key component of the campaign. At the time of posting, 49,261 people had already signed the petition to call on President Obama to declare a moratorium on ivory sale in the United States. The US is one of the largest markets for ivory in the world, second only to China, where a burgeoning middle class has drastically increased a seemingly-insatiable demand.
There are, however, some signs of hope coming out of ivory-hungry Asia. Thailand announced that it will soon begin the process to ban the trade in its legislature. In China, retired basketball star Yao Ming uses his celebrity to raise public awareness around the issue.
But with 35,000 elephants killed on average each year, more work is needed to reverse this trend. The death of 96 elephants each day is more than just a tragedy; it destabilizes countries by funding dangerous armed groups and international criminals, disrupts the order of delicate ecosystems, and brings the already endangered species of African elephants, who now number around 420,000, ever closer to extinction.
A version of this post originally appeared on the Africa in Transition blog. The views expressed are the author's own.
He looks at US counter-terrorism operations in Africa, including questions about their legality under international law and their impact (often unintended) on weak African states.
I agree with his point that US military engagements can -- and have -- caused greater instability in some African venues, rather than countering successfully terrorism and other forms of instability.
Vines recalls on-again, off-again American involvement since 1993 in Somalia, and makes a convincing argument (at least to me) that the effect was to promote radicalization in that country.
Turning to contemporary terrorism, he reiterates the crucial point that “jihadi” terrorism is far from homogeneous: Boko Haram in Nigeria is very different from Al Shabab in Somalia. But, such groups do well in weak states that are poorly governed. That reality implies that institution building, promotion of good governance, and more jobs is the way to address terrorism, rather than the quick fix of military action.
But that prescription requires sustained attention, now sorely lacking in paralyzed Washington.
Also salutary is Vines’ reminder that “counterterrorism policies live on the edge of international law.”
They can have consequences that are directly contrary to U.S. long-term interests.
A version of this post originally appeared in the Enough Said Project blog. The views expressed are the author's own.
Despite mass protests against austerity measures in Sudan in recent weeks -- leaving about 210 protesters dead and over 2000 arrested and detained -- the international community, including the United States, has been far too silent.
Despite a few condemnations, the relations of most countries with Sudan have continued without interference. Graphic images of injured and dead protesters have spread widely through social media, visually portraying the story of an incipient Sudanese revolution and the government’s brutal crackdown in response. The hopes of opponents to the regime for international solidarity and support have so far been disappointed.
In fact many seem to believe the protests are over, despite the fact that hundreds have been going out on the street.
Last week the Interior Minister of Sudan, Ibrahim Mohamed Hamed, was in New York to discuss humanitarian aid access for vaccinations for children under five years old. The mere fact that the Sudanese government holds these types of services hostage to politics is appalling.
While in New York, he also participated participated in an event in New York hosted by the International Peace Institute to discuss “how to strengthen the resilience of communities in Sudan and deliver a more efficient and sustainable humanitarian response.”
While this a worthy idea in principle, it sends the wrong message to a country where large numbers of Sudanese are mourning the deaths of 210 people at the hands of Sudanese police led by Mr. Hamed and millions more in Darfur, Abyei, South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
The visit also provided him with a platform to continue to spread falsehoods that have been disseminated by the government on the protests, the dire conditions in the Nuba Mountains, and the rising violence in Darfur.
Hamid gave a preview of the government’s line in a press conference in Khartoum when he was asked about the excessive force used against the protesters. According to him, “The police have it under control…. They have been around for 150 years and they work with organization and strategy that we trust.” According to him, the protesters are “saboteurs” who were trying to burn gas stations and government property, forcing the police to take action to control the situation.
Meanwhile,videos of police and military shooting at peacefully demonstrating protesters have circulated the internet acting as a testament for how the police really have handled the situation.
When asked about the graphic images of obviously Sudanese protesters slain by the police, Hamid cynically answered that they were fabricated images taken from the Egyptian revolution.
It is the responsibility of the international community and governments with influence to make clear that the actions of the Sudanese government are not acceptable.
One way not to do that is to invite senior officials with bloody hands to events at which they can showcase their positive spin, while brushing an inconvenient reality under the rug.
A version of this post originally appeared in Africa In Transition. The views expressed are the author's own.
Significant African opinion appears hostile to the International Criminal Court at The Hague (ICC). In Kenya, President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto, both under ICC indictment for crimes committed during post-election violence in 2007-2009, included in their campaign rhetoric that the ICC was a tool of Western imperialism. This view is shared by many.
Others argue that the ICC is somehow “unfair” because its current cases all involve Africa. In Kenya, the parliament has called for the withdrawal from the Treaty of Rome that established the ICC.
The African Union has called for the Kenyatta and Ruto cases to be referred back to the Kenyan judicial system. A special African Union (AU) summit meeting is convening in Addis Ababa [Oct. 11-12] to discuss the Union’s relationship with the ICC. Some hope that the AU member states will withdraw as a block from the Treaty of Rome, though few expect that will actually happen.
Misunderstandings, even outright lies, about the ICC and the Kenyatta and Ruto cases in particular are underpinning much of this current anti-ICC sentiment in Kenya and elsewhere.
Under those circumstances Human Rights Watch (HRW), a distinguished non-governmental organization based in the United States, has performed a service by publishing a short primer on October 7 entitled Perceptions and Realities–Kenya and the International Criminal Court.
It sets out eight common perceptions about the Kenyatta and Ruto ICC prosecutions–and then demolishes them.
Along the way it shows that the Kenyan judicial system does not have the capacity to prosecute Kenyatta and Ruto and that it has failed to hold perpetrators of electoral or political violence accountable throughout its post-colonial history. It also exposes a lack of substance to the Kenyan government’s cooperation with the ICC in the Kenyatta and Ruto cases–despite the two’s formal cooperation with The Hague court.
The HRW primer is the first place to go when looking at the alleged legal arguments for delaying the trials, either by transferring them to Kenyan jurisdiction or through UN Security Council action.
HRW also discusses the consequences for the future of Kenya’s failure to hold accountable perpetrators of human rights violations. Impunity in the past implies impunity in the future.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu has also weighed in on the key role of the ICC in ensuring that perpetrators of violence are met with justice not impunity.
In an op-ed published in the New York Times on October 10, Tutu states that “without this court, there would be no brake on the worst excesses of these criminals.” He also highlights the fact that while the ICC has so far prosecuted only African cases, the ICC could also “not be more African if it tried.”
The United States is also a signatory of the Treaty of Rome, but it has never been ratified by the Senate. US policy is, however, highly supportive of the International Criminal Court. In light of non-ratification, many African critics view US support for the ICC as fundamentally hypocritical.
A version of this post originally appeared in Africa in Transition. The views expressed are the author's own.
The horror of student and teacher killings in Nigeria is amplified by Amnesty International’s almost clinical recounting and enumerating of their deaths at the hands of radical jihadists. Its report, “Keep Away from Schools or We’ll Kill You: Education Under Attack in Nigeria” is a grim must-read.
The report’s release comes less than a week after the murder of more than forty students at an agricultural college.
Based on UNICEF sources and their own research, Amnesty estimates that at least seventy teachers and over one hundred school children have been killed since January 1, 2012. At least fifty schools have been destroyed or damaged and sixty additional ones have been forced to close. Amnesty also acknowledges that casualty figures are probably significantly understated.
Amnesty shows that attacks on schools have increased since 2012, and their character has changed.
At first, schools were destroyed at night, when students and teachers were absent. Now, the attacks occur during the day, with teachers often killed in front of their students, and often students themselves are killed.
Amnesty quotes Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau: “Teachers who teach Western education, we will kill them. We will kill them. We could burn down the schools, if they are not Islamic schools. We don’t touch small children. Our religion does not allow that, but we’ll burn down the schools.”
Shekau’s claim that “small children” are not targets of violence would seem to be frequently violated. Amnesty points out, however, that on occasion Shekau and Boko Haram did not claim responsibility for attacks on a specific school, even though they express approval for it. Hence, the murder of children may be committed by other groups not under Shekau’s control.
This would appear to be yet another indication of the diffuse nature of the jihadist insurrection, and its lack of central direction or coordination.
Amnesty notes that the jihadist school attacks have largely shut down education in the northeast. The region already had the lowest education levels in the Federation.
A version of this post originally appeared in A View from the Cave blog. The views expressed are the author's own.
Africa, it turns out, is the new frontier for the booze industry.
Developing countries plus the right demographics make for the right market opportunity. The major beverage companies know it and they are making a move.
The thing is, Africa has a drinking problem, as reported by Jessica Hatcher for Time this month. Health systems are unable to cope with the increasing number of people affected by alcohol.
Chronic corruption means every new control measure is an opportunity for police to solicit bribes. While average per capita consumption figures (excluding South Africa) are very low, Africa has the highest proportion of binge drinkers in the world: 25 percent of those who drink drink too much, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Beverage companies dismiss that figure as poorly sourced, and certainly the problem is under researched.
A closer look at the data reveals a more complicated story. Yes, the Africans that do drink have a high rate of alcohol abuse, but the overall drinking levels are right about on par with the rest of the world. That appears to be due to the fact that many Africans, particularly Muslims, do not drink at all.
The fact-checking blog Africa Check took a closer look at the WHO data about drinking in Africa. The continent of Africa barely out-consumes (12.9 pints per person) the global average (12.8 pints). Seven countries, for some reason, are excluded from the Africa region: Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Djibouti, Morocco, Somalia and Sudan. All are home to a significant number of Muslims that may further drive down the continent’s averages.
Americans and Europeans drink far more, on average, than Africans. In fact, more than 70 percent of Africans said they did not consume alcohol in the past year (compared to 17.7 percent in the US). Africa Check rightly points out that the Time article neglects to mention that an overwhelming number of Africans do not drink at all.
Alcohol abuse can have detrimental effects on individuals and societies. A thorough understanding of the problem is a prerequisite to intervention.
However, the claim that “Africa has a drinking problem” reveals less about Africa’s drinking habits than it does about Time’s perception of Africa.
The “Dark Continent” has merely been renamed the “Drunk Continent.”
However, amid the defense of the continent and the criticism of Ms. Hatcher’s reporting is an inconvenient fact: The pints per capita comparison is incomplete given that an estimated half of all Africans have never had a single drink. If that number is considered a safe estimate for non-drinkers, than the number of drinks consumed by a single person sees an increase.
Removing the people who are lifetime abstainers from the WHO data causes a dramatic shift. The average drinking American consumes 24 pints of alcoholic beverage per year. Meanwhile the average drinking Kenyan consumes just under 34 pints liters and South Africans take in 57 pints on yearly average. In the case of Kenya and South Africa more than half of all people do not drink at all. That reduces the per capita rate to levels that look to be lower than that of the United States.
What the information reveals is that Africa does and does not have a drinking problem.
The majority of people on the continent do not drink at all, but the few that do tend to consume at extremely high rates. The adjusted averages help to show why the binge drinking rate in Africa is the highest in the world.
Does Africa have a drinking problem? No. That is because it is not a monolith.
Are there Africans who abuse alcohol at worrying rates? Yes.
For there to be appropriate solutions to say the drinking of moonshine in Kenya (locally called chang’aa) it would make sense to understand the nature of the problem and where it exists. It is why the South African-owned SABMiller is trying to get more people to drink beer.
“If governments are looking to encourage a low-alcohol society, then actually beer ought to play a substantial role in that,” SABMiller’s Nigel Fairbrass said to Time.
There is reason to be skeptical. But beer companies are out to win markets and that means competing with illicit alcohol. That may end up being a good thing. Or it may be a part of reversing the number of people who do not drink in Africa.
It was a historic week for Senegal. Not only did Aminata Touré become the country's second ever female prime minister, but she enters office with a reputation as one of the country's greatest corruption fighters.
A 2011 Transparency International Report indicated that 88 percent of Senegalese believed corruption had increased. The Global Integrity Report gave the country a “very weak” rating in government accountability and administration and civil service. Senegal watchers, impressed with Ms. Touré's record, see her appointment as a major step forward.
And it hasn’t taken Touré long to get to work. She was appointed prime minister on Sunday, and by Monday she had revealed her new cabinet. She is already making human rights activists happy by choosing a new justice minister with a strong track record on human rights. But as the minister is known for fighting to decriminalize homosexuality in this predominantly Muslim country, the appointment is not as popular with conservative members of society.
Touré has a long history of activism. As justice minister she brought to trial many government officials accused of corruption, including Karim Wade, the son of a former president.
And she hasn’t stopped with Senegal. “Africans should be judged in Africa,” she told Jeune Afrique, a French language newspaper. Under her guidance, Senegal and the African Union signed an accord to create a special tribunal to prosecute the former president of Chad Hissène Habré, accused of numerous crimes against humanity, including mass killings and torture, during his eight years in power. He was finally arrested and formally charged this summer.
And previous to her entrance into politics in 2012, Touré championed gender mainstreaming and reproductive rights for the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF). After working in various countries for almost a decade, she became the chief of the Gender, Human Rights, and Culture Branch of the UNPF.
As if that’s not enough: She’s also known for her athleticism. When she was younger, she played forward for the soccer team “Les Gazelles de Dakar” in Senegal’s capital.
She may need some fancy footwork to maneuver the hurdles that lay ahead as prime minister of a country known more for conflict and poverty. But if Touré’s first couple years in government are any indication, Senegal may just have been given a game changer.
A version of this post originally appeared in Africa in Transition. The views expressed are the author's own.
As President Obama and the Congress decide how to respond to the apparent use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime, Alex Thurston has published a sobering post on his Sahel Blog.
In his “A Northern Nigerian Prediction about Syria, Validated,” Mr. Thurston briefly recounts a conversation from 2011 with a northern Nigerian Muslim who predicted that the US would “bomb Syria.”
Thurston observes that “many Muslims, and not just Arab Muslims, look at American military actions in the Middle East as habitual, predatory, and destructive.” He observes that he is not a pollster, and I am not one, either.
But his conclusion fits my own experience. The US approach to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, Iran, Libya, and perhaps soon, Syria, is seen by many in northern Nigeria as fundamentally anti-Islamic.
Evidence is, of course, anecdotal. For example, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 some 70 percent of all baby boys born in a particular Kano hospital were named “Osama.”
It’s sad. Northern [Nigerian] Muslims are by no means predestined to be hostile to the United States. For example, the US refusal to endorse the third term aspirations of President Olusegun Obasanjo, who was deeply unpopular in the north, resulted in a momentary boost in American popularity.
Like everywhere else, in northern Nigeria, “all politics is local.” Manifestations of American friendship and respect for the north and for Islam in a local context can overcome or mitigate anger at US policies in other parts of the world.
Here is the full text of Alex Thurston's short blog [Ed.]:
In late 2011, in Kano, I was talking about Syria’s crisis with a friend of mine.
“Soon America will bomb them,” he said.
At the time, I thought his prediction was wrong. But his tone – which conveyed his sense that the bombing was inevitable – stayed with me.
Time has proven him right, and me wrong.
I am not a pollster and I cannot say how a billion Muslims feel about anything. But I think my friend is not alone. I think that many Muslims, and not just Arab Muslims, look at American military actions in the Middle East as habitual, predatory, and destructive.
My friend also said that “men with long beards” would eventually rule Libya, and that the US had not understood this when it intervened there.
We’ll see if he is right about that as well, and we’ll see what unintended consequences stem from American strikes in Syria.
A version of this post originally appeared on Africa in Transition. The views expressed are the author’s own.
The Africa Center for Strategic Studies, a part of the National Defense University in Washington, DC, has published a security brief by Michael O. Sodipo on jihadist radicalism in northern Nigeria. The brief proposes practical suggestions as to how to respond to radicalization.
Less than eight pages in length, it provides a superb overview, both for a general but also a more specialized audience.
To illustrate his main points, Mr. Sodipo peppers his narrative with fascinating insights -- and facts. For example, by 2011 Nigeria was tied with Somalia at sixth place out of 158 nations on the Global Terrorism Index. Or, in another example, in the months following 9/11, seven of ten boys born at a hospital in Kano (Nigeria’s second largest city and the largest in the north) were named Osama.
Sodipo's general discussion emphasizes the role of, inter alia, fear, poverty, youth (unemployment and more general marginalization), and terrorism.
He deftly reviews the history of jihadist radicalism in the country since 1802, with comments on aspects often overlooked, such as the influence of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and his role in the establishment of an Islamic government in Iran in 1979.
His coverage of these themes in only four pages of clear prose is a model of compression.
What to do about radicalism? Sodipo describes a local, Kano initiative, the Peace Club, a project of the Peace Initiative Network (PIN), of which he is a founder and coordinator. This consists of strategies to bring together youth from a variety of communities.
However Sodipo points out that any such initiative cannot on its own solve the radicalization of northern Nigeria. He then precedes with a useful -- and short -- survey of de-radicalization programs elsewhere, especially Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and Indonesia, with a focus on what has worked.
His conclusion is sound: countering radicalism requires a spectrum of initiatives. He says the key is for initiatives to be rooted in local realities. They do not require the treasury of Saudi Arabia.
However I would note that they do require political will and focus from the Nigerian government, and the elites that run it. Thus far, that political will has not been much in evidence.
The math was alarmingly simple. Nearly 25,000 students took the entrance exam for the University of Liberia this year, and every one of those nearly 25,000 failed.
In a sheepish press conference last week, the university announced that not a single applicant received a passing mark to attend one of the West African country’s flagship institutions, and that they would be required to lower their standards in order to populate a new freshman class.
"In English, the mechanics of the language, [our students] didn't know anything about it,” said Momodu Getaweh, a vice president for university relations at the school, in an interview with the BBC. “The government has to do something.”
It was an unmitigated public relations disaster for a university at the center of an educational system that President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson bluntly declared in March is still “a big mess,” 10 years after the end of a vicious civil war that killed more than 150,000 people and sent 250,000 fleeing to neighboring countries.
And from the West, it read as yet another bad news Africa story. Here, after all, was a country so hobbled by the aftershocks of conflict that it couldn’t produce a single college-ready high-school graduate.
But numbers can be slippery, and university officials say there’s another, less obvious explanation for the 100 percent failure rate: They were trying to root out a grinding culture of corruption in the country’s higher education system.
“There is a perception in our society largely that once you take the University of Liberia admission exam, if you do not pay money to someone, or if you do not have appropriate connections, you would not be placed on the results list,” said James Dorbor Jallah, who was hired by the university to administer the entrance exam, in an interview with Voice of America. “The University has been grappling with how they could manage the process whereby people’s abilities would be truly measured on the basis of their performance on the examination.”
This year, he said, was the first time in the university’s history that admissions were to be determined by score alone, guaranteeing – at least in theory – that a spot at the school couldn’t be earned through a bribe or family connections. In a country with a long history of closely policed social hierarchies, the new exam was meant to be the beginning of a Liberian educational meritocracy, he said.
But that plan backfired when not a single student met the rigorous new standard – a score of 50 percent on the math section of the exam and 70 percent in English. (Several hundred students, however, passed at least one section of the test.)
Scrambling to fill the open seats, the university announced that it would offer admission to some 1,600 students with lower scores, requiring them to complete two remedial courses before beginning their program of study.
Meanwhile, the “Freshman Class of Zero” headlines have drawn renewed attention to Liberia’s halting transition to peacetime. Its former president, Charles Taylor, was the first sitting head of state to be indicted for war crimes (for his role in the civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone) since the Nuremberg trials. He was convicted last year.
Meanwhile, the administration of the current president – and Africa’s first elected female head of state – Ms. Sirleaf Johnson, has been riddled with charges of corruption and inefficiency, with many critics complaining that she has done little to improve the shattered educational system she inherited. As The News, a Liberian newspaper, wrote in a recent editorial, in many arenas the country’s stalled progress has led to an uneasy nostalgia for the wartime administration.
Liberia is politically a better place today than it was between 1998 and 2003. Our people are pleased with the peaceful environment they now enjoy, but regrettably, they are exasperated that the current administration is unable to economically address serious issues of poverty and unemployment ….
The Taylor Regime was considered as tyrannical and despotic, thus reducing Liberia to a rogue and failed state … but the Liberian people were at least comfortable, although they were never happy with his belligerence.