Billions of dollars’ worth of gold is being smuggled out of Africa every year through the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East – a gateway to markets in Europe, the United States and beyond – a Reuters analysis has found.
Tag Archives: Africa
In Sudan, tens of thousands of demonstrators are sitting in to demand the ouster of their longtime ruler.
In Algeria, millions of protesters forced out their own octogenarian leader last week.
The hopes inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011 soured long ago. But across North Africa, the reverberations are coursing through the region once again, shaking autocratic governments and posing new questions about the future.
Veterans of the Arab Spring struggles say the scenes feel like flashbacks to chapters of a common story. The masses now clamoring for the removal of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan evoke the crowds that gathered in Tahrir Square in Cairo or outside the Tunisian interior ministry eight years ago.
Switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy is an important and necessary step towards averting climate change. However, in our efforts to go green, we also need to be mindful of other consequences, both intended and unintended – and that includes how a mass deployment of renewable technology might affect its surrounding climate.
What if the Sahara desert was turned into a giant solar and wind farm, for instance? This is the topic of new research published in Science by Yan Li and colleagues. They found that all those hypothetical wind turbines and solar panels would make their immediate surroundings both warmer and rainier, and could turn parts of the Sahara green for the first time in at least 4,500 years.
A cross section of Africa’s most powerful people gathered in Kigali this week to sell a dream – and sell it hard.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who revelled in his role as host of this extraordinary African Union (AU) summit, described this dream as “among the most consequential actions that this Assembly has ever taken”. Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo said that anyone who did not support it was a “criminal”. South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa invoked not one but three liberation heroes to underscore the significance of the moment:
“This is probably just as important as the formation of Organisation of African Unity (OAU). This is what Kwame Nkrumah dreamt of, what Julius Nyerere wanted to see, what Nelson Mandela wanted to see realised. It’s truly a new dawn for Africa,” he said.
The presidents were speaking, of course, about the signing of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, a landmark trade deal that would create a single market from the Cape to Cairo, and from Djibouti to Dakar.
The ideals of the Enlightenment are the basis of our democracies and universities in the 21st century: belief in reason, science, skepticism, secularism, and equality. In fact, no other era compares with the Age of Enlightenment. Classical Antiquity is inspiring, but a world away from our modern societies. The Middle Ages was more reasonable than its reputation, but still medieval. The Renaissance was glorious, but largely because of its result: the Enlightenment. The Romantic era was a reaction to the Age of Reason – but the ideals of today’s modern states are seldom expressed in terms of romanticism and emotion. Immanuel Kant’s argument in the essay ‘Perpetual Peace’ (1795) that ‘the human race’ should work for ‘a cosmopolitan constitution’ can be seen as a precursor for the United Nations.
As the story usually goes, the Enlightenment began with René Descartes’s Discourse on the Method (1637), continuing on through John Locke, Isaac Newton, David Hume, Voltaire and Kant for around one and a half centuries, and ending with the French Revolution of 1789, or perhaps with the Reign of Terror in 1793. By the time that Thomas Paine published The Age of Reason in 1794, that era had reached its twilight. Napoleon was on the rise.
Once upon a time, the seas teemed with mackerel, squid and sardines, and life was good. But now, on opposite sides of the globe, sun-creased fishermen lament as they reel in their nearly empty nets.
“Your net would be so full of fish, you could barely heave it onto the boat,” said Mamadou So, 52, a fisherman in Senegal, gesturing to the meager assortment of tiny fish flapping in his wooden canoe.
A world away in eastern China, Zhu Delong, 75, also shook his head as his net dredged up a disappointing array of pinkie-size shrimp and fledgling yellow croakers. “When I was a kid, you could cast a line out your back door and hook huge yellow croakers,” he said. “Now the sea is empty.”
“This is a war against normal life.” So said CNN correspondent Clarissa Ward, describing the situation at this moment in Syria, as well as in other parts of the Middle East. It was one of those remarks that should wake you up to the fact that the regions the United States has, since September 2001, played such a role in destabilizing are indeed in crisis, and that this process isn’t just taking place at the level of failing states and bombed-out cities, but in the most personal way imaginable. It’s devastating for countless individuals — mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, friends, lovers — and above all for children.
Ward’s words caught a reality that grows harsher by the week, and not just in Syria, but in parts of Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya, among other places in the Greater Middle East and Africa. Death and destruction stalk whole populations in Syria and other crumbling countries and failed or failing states across the region. In one of those statistics that should stagger the imagination, devastated Syria alone accounts for more than five million of the estimated 21 million refugees worldwide. And sadly, these numbers do not reflect an even harsher reality: you only become a “refugee” by crossing a border. According to the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR), in 2015 there were another 44 million people uprooted from their homes who were, in essence, exiles in their own lands. Add those numbers together and you have one out of every 113 people on the planet — and those figures, the worst since World War II, may only be growing.
General Thomas Waldhauser sounded a little uneasy. “I would just say, they are on the ground. They are trying to influence the action,” commented the chief of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) at a Pentagon press briefing in March, when asked about Russian military personnel operating in North Africa. “We watch what they do with great concern.”
And Russians aren’t the only foreigners on Waldhauser’s mind. He’s also wary of a Chinese “military base” being built not far from Camp Lemonnier, a large U.S. facility in the tiny, sun-blasted nation of Djibouti. “They’ve never had an overseas base, and we’ve never had a base of… a peer competitor as close as this one happens to be,” he said. “There are some very significant… operational security concerns.”
At that press conference, Waldhauser mentioned still another base, an American one exposed by the Washington Post last October in an article titled, “U.S. has secretly expanded its global network of drone bases to North Africa.” Five months later, the AFRICOM commander still sounded aggrieved. “The Washington Post story that said ‘flying from a secret base in Tunisia.’ It’s not a secret base and it’s not our base… We have no intention of establishing a base there.”
Waldhauser’s insistence that the U.S. had no base in Tunisia relied on a technicality, since that foreign airfield clearly functions as an American outpost. For years, AFRICOM has peddled the fiction that Djibouti is the site of its only “base” in Africa. “We continue to maintain one forward operating site on the continent, Camp Lemonnier,” reads the command’s 2017 posture statement. Spokespeople for the command regularly maintain that any other U.S. outposts are few and transitory — “expeditionary” in military parlance.
“I had 120 animals,” Amina Abdul Hussein, a mother of three tells me as we sit inside her ragged cloth tent in Maxamad Mooge camp, temporarily shielded from the midday glare of the sun. “But the drought killed all of them.”Dozens of unofficial camps like this are scattered across the outskirts of Hargeisa, the capital of the self-declared independent state of Somaliland in East Africa. The UNHCR reports that nearly 40,000 people have already been forced out of their native rural villages by drought in the last three months. Trigged by El Niño, the drought has been worsened by climate change, according to a new study published by the American Meteorological Society.
Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential race has more than domestic implications. The Middle East has been a major focus of US policy-making in the post–Cold War period. George W. Bush arguably engaged with it more than any other part of the world. Despite Barack Obama’s desire to rebalance toward East Asia, he was repeatedly pulled back into the Middle East by the 2011 youth revolutions and their aftermath, and by the rise of ISIL in Iraq and Syria. What impact will Trump’s policies have on the region?One difficulty in answering this question lies in the quixotic character of Trump himself. He has often taken both sides of a controversial question. For instance, he criticized his predecessors for becoming too entangled in the Middle East, then at one point last March suggested sending in a division (20,000-30,000) of US troops to fight ISIL. As it happens, ISIL as a territorial state could already have been defeated by the time he takes office. Another question is whether, given his erratic statements and behavior, Trump’s cabinet and the permanent Washington bureaucracy (the “deep state”) will actually let him change the direction of US foreign policy radically. But let us assume for the sake of argument that where he repeatedly voiced a sentiment, he will have a policy bias toward it, and that he may actually be allowed to implement it.