“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.
Tag Archives: Africa
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.
Herdsman Ighale Utban used to be a relatively prosperous man. Three years ago, he owned around a hundred goats. Now, though, all but five of them have died of thirst at a dried-up watering hole, victims of the worst drought seen in Ethiopia and large parts of Africa in a half-century.
Utban, a wiry man of 36 years, belongs to a nomadic people known as the Afar, who spend their lives wandering through the eponymously named state in northeastern Ethiopia. “This is the worst time I’ve experienced in my life,” he says. On some days, he doesn’t know how to provide for himself and his seven-member family.
“We can no longer wander,” Utban says, “because death awaits out there.” For now, he’ll have to remain in Lii, a scattered little settlement in which several families have erected their makeshift huts. Lii means “scorching hot earth.”
‘First the Livestock Die, Then the People’
Since time immemorial, shepherds have wandered with their animals through the endless expanses of the Danakil desert. They live primarily off of meat and milk, and it was always a meagre existence. But with the current drought, which has lasted for over a year, their very existence is threatened. “First the livestock die, then the people,” Utban says.
The American relief organization USAID estimates that in Afar alone, over a half million cattle, sheep, goats, donkeys and camels have perished. Reservoirs are empty, pastures dried up, feed reserves nearly exhausted. With no rain, grass no longer grows. Many nomads are selling their emaciated livestock, but oversupply has led to a 50 percent decline in prices.
Currently, millions of African farmers and herders are suffering similar fates to Utban’s. The United Nations estimates that more than 50 million people in Africa are acutely threatened by famine. After years of hope for increased growth and prosperity, the people are once again suffering from poverty and malnutrition.
La prise d’otage à l’hôtel Radisson Blu de Bamako est une preuve supplémentaire que le phénomène terroriste cible de plus en plus le continent africain. Jadis circonscrit à la Somalie, la Libye (depuis la chute de Kadhafi), la Tunisie et les pays du bassin du lac Tchad, le fléau essaie, via la mouvance wahhabite, de se généraliser. En face, les Etats africains, déjà confrontés à la pauvreté et à des expériences démocratiques plutôt laborieuses, n’ont pas toujours l’arsenal et le savoir sécuritaires pour opposer la résistance qu’il faut. D’où l’inquiétude et l’angoisse qui hantent bien de dirigeants qui se savent impuissants.
Near the beginning of “A Bend in the River,” V. S. Naipaul’s magisterial novel about Africa, his narrator, Salim, a trader of Muslim Indian heritage, tries to explain his peculiar sense of identity:
Africa was my home, had been the home of my family for centuries. But we came from the east coast, and that made the difference. The coast was not truly African. It was an Arab-Indian-Persian-Portuguese place, and we who lived there were really people of the Indian Ocean. True Africa was at our back . . . we looked east to the lands with which we traded—Arabia, India, Persia. These were also the lands of our ancestors. But we could no longer say that we were Arabians or Indians or Persians; when we compared ourselves with these people, we felt like people of Africa.
Recent events in Burkina Faso, following the 16 September coup d’état, are a grim reminder of what can happen when the run-up to crucial presidential elections goes awry.
“Morning dawns at length in Africa. The night has been long and dark. The opening day has a hopeful outlook and also an aspect of uncertainty. … For many years little colonies, trading-posts, and slave-marts have fringed its borders; but the vast interior has remained a blank.” — Historical Sketch of the Missions of the American Board in Africa, Samuel Bartlett (1880)
On the first day of a trip to Zimbabwe, in 2008, at the height of Robert Mugabe’s campaign of land seizures, directed at his country’s minority population of white farmers, I met an American hunter. A friend and I had driven up from Johannesburg, and entered the country by crossing the Limpopo River that afternoon. We planned to spend the night in a lodge in a wildlife preserve a few hours from the border. A hunting guide, the sort of man who used to be called a “white hunter,” lived nearby, and he and his client came to the lodge for dinner.
They looked exhausted, especially the American. They had spent the day hunting for hippo, and had begun before dawn. As they told it, they had lain in wait at a concealed spot on the shores of the Limpopo, but it wasn’t until mid-afternoon that the American, who called himself Dick, was able to make a shot. He had fired a single round with his rifle, a powerful .375-calibre elephant gun, into the brain of a good-sized bull. The shot had killed the hippo, and it had remained where it died, out in the middle of the river. They had spent the remaining daylight hours arranging with some men in a nearby community to retrieve the carcass for them the next morning. In return for their labours, the local men would be given the meat; the American would take the hide and the head.
In the year 2000, the Economist ran a cover story with the title “Hopeless Africa”. Four years later, Robert Guest, who served as the newspaper’s Africa Editor, published “The Shackled Continent”, a book that pretty much concluded that, absent any miracles, Africa’s future was bleak. The book was widely praised, not least of all by all-round Africa expert Bob Geldof who said “[it] was written with a passion for Africa and Africans”. Then in 2011, the current era of Afro-euphoria signalled its triumphant entrance with the Economist’s Africa Rising cover story. In contrast to their cover story of just a couple of years back, this one declared that there was hope for the hopeless continent (TIME did exactly the same thing in 2012).
One day in October 2013, Enrico Letta, the then prime minister of Italy, stood in front of 302 coffins lined up inside a ventilated room on the island of Lampedusa. They contained the bodies of those who had perished at sea, in the biggest migrant disaster Europe had known at that point.Some of the coffins were very small: they contained the bodies of children. The smell of death hung in the air. There was complete silence, except for the creaking sound of the air conditioning. It was a moment of deep reckoning. Letta suddenly realised that Europe’s indifference, and its powerlessness, had created a situation where thousands of human lives were put at risk. For Letta, that day marked the starting point of Mare Nostrum, an operation Italy launched to search and rescue migrants attempting the perilous crossing from Africa to Italy.