Archive for March, 2009

Good youtube video
March 25, 2009

the video caled hunger in africa

by elvinapratiwi


Pulitzer winner 1994
March 25, 2009

this pic won pulitzer awards in 1994, Kevin Carter the photographer died 3 months after he shot this. He was so overwhelmed by the situation in Sudan where this picture was taken. He died of suicide because of depression.

by kevin carter

by kevin carter

Africa: Facing the Facts of Hunger (can be a start to our storytelling)
March 25, 2009

Never before has the entire human population been subject to possible malnourishment. Once used solely to depict the underfed, the unparalleled swell of improper nutrition found among those in advanced nations has rearranged the entire problem. Once malnutrition was due solely to world hunger, but now it may be caused by overeating. Where one child under the age of five suffers from starvation, another is overfed, overweight, and overwhelmed with the deficiency of a healthy life-style. Both are more susceptible to disease, physical impairment, and other consequences derived from such an imbalance. Efforts appear to be futile while the numbers shift and rise wit h time. While the global trend of those who suffer from malnourishment has declined from 1970 to 1997, dropping from 203 million to 166 million hungry children, the hunger epidemic is far from being solved (McLaughlin). In Africa alone, the numbers have nearly doubled over the 27 year span, surging from 18 million malnourished children to the recorded 32 million in 1997 (McLaughlin). Meanwhile, many families in countries similar to the United States sit down to family meals around a McDonald’s booth four to maybe five times a week. While the prepackaged and fast food industries work diligently for their cause, consumers suffer outcomes such as obesity and heart disease. Meanwhile, little is being done for those who are hungry while the millions being pumped into increasing calories to the overfed are needed elsewhere. Nearly 500 billion dollars will be invested this year into the U.S. military with America spending one-thirteenth of that amount to address world hunger (Sachs). This one-thirteenth set forth to help the 800 million starving people is in fact a mere .15% of U.S. income (Sachs). Each year, this amount declines and still serves as a pittance of what is continually promised. Some have recognized the need for help in continents like Africa, many sporting the “Make Hunger History” wristbands to spread hunger awareness. On a bigger scale, much more is needed to save the failing countries in Africa, and goals have been set in an attempt to develop the world’s most poverty-stricken continent. Recently, the United Nations launched “The Millennium Project,” specially designed to fight hunger and poverty. Between 1990 and 2015, efforts are expected to cut in half the number of people with an income of merely a dollar a day as well as those who suffer from hunger. Records from 2002 provide new hindsight showing child mortality rates falling to 88 from the previous 103 per every 1000 children, plus a life expectancy boost from 63 to 65 years of age (Elliot). These effects most likely are derived from the extra 8 percent receiving access to water and the additional 15 percent gaining access to better sanitation services (Elliot). Though the outcomes are more than promising, new reports show the progress being made is far from uniform world-wide, causing the United Nations to call for urgent action this past spring. Countries in Africa especially will not meet the goals aimed to overcome poverty and hunger by a large margin unless more efforts are made to help their economy. According to the United Nations poll, Africa has not yet joined on the development band-wagon, and in fact improvements appear to be less likely. In 2015, an estimated 5 million children under the age of five will be dying from hunger related causes, more than present time if the United Nation goals are not met, totaling 29 million over the next decade (“Faces”). When compared to the 2 million if goals are reached, it is obvious efforts must double soon. Every minute, nine children under the age of five surrender their lives to hunger (“Faces”). With the overwhelming facts, it is seemingly impossible to reverse the damage that has been done and many view the problems answerless. With combined efforts, much can be done though, beginning at the root of the problem. Those countries suffering most from hunger are linked in one major way: poverty. Nearly half of the African population survives on less than 65 cents a day (McLaughlin). A bulk of eight million people die each year for the very fact that they are simply too poor to remain living (Sachs). Since recorded history began, advancements are made once the basic necessities have been met. While the majority of the world surges forth, African society is left in the economical dust, forced to put all efforts into merely surviving. From here, a cycle begins. Those who grow poorer grow hungrier, those who grow hungrier fall sicker, those who fall sicker are unable to work and from this point, staying alive is the only priority. When the mass of people become entrapped, the society as a whole collapses and can no longer compete with global trade and investment, making it nearly impossible to lift a country back on her feet.

Not only is poverty a key cause for the hunger crisis infecting Africa, the outrageous population growth within the past decade has made the job of feeding the masses a difficult one, stretching nearly to the point of no return with a fear that despite advanced agricultural techniques, the fertility of man will far surpass the development of the land. Perhaps another great physical difficulty is the very fact that the inadequate food output does not meet the present population and unless agricultural advances are made, Africa will continually fail to advance elsewhere, which will inevitably cripple the nation and her people and ultimately the world. Many factors other than poverty effect hunger and a large majority of these contribute to the stale agricultural situation. In many countries, misuse of the land alone threatens permanent resource loss. Important examples of misuse include “overgrazing, destruction of vegetation by fire, over cropping, and improper rotational practices” (Moore). All these result in poorer soil, erosion, and worst of all, reduction of available water, a known key factor contributing to the sickness and disease of the African people (Moore). Nearly 29.4 million Africans suffer from the H.I.V./AIDS epidemic alone, a number which provides for almost three fourths of the worlds infected caseload (Bearak). Not only are the people affected, much of the plant and animal life is plagued by disease as well. The problems appear innumerable: when one issue is discussed and is answered with a worldly plan for improvement, another surfaces and may, in fact, contradict all efforts of those trying to help. From deep with in the heart of Africa, the people are beginning to talk, claiming that poverty can be beaten by feeding the masses, sickness can be overcome by appointing better medical care, cleaner water, and sturdier homes, yet the problem not only lies in the characteristics of poverty, but also in the corruption of the country. According to coffee farmer Peter Kanans, “’even if they give our governments aid money, ordinary Africans will not benefit…[it] will only make the corrupt people richer and Africans international beggars for decades to come’” (Wax). What the African people need is not only debt relief and aid to poverty related conditions, but more importantly, better court systems focused on ending corruption, improved banking, and most significant of all: secondary education. The people need more help in educating, not appointing leaders to attempt to revive the country, to but create a passion within her very citizens, which will in turn create the necessary risk-takers and leaders who will rise above and change their country. Africa needs a “fore-fathers and fore-mothers” of her own, with a passion and drive to create better lives for the neglected citizens and victims of ongoing corruption.In the great scheme, where does one begin though? Once again, a cycle begins: starving people cannot be taught, those who are uneducated cannot advance, the less advanced cannot compete in a world making daily advancements, and those who cannot compete simply fall behind even further. Yet, before the countries of Africa can begin standing on their own feet,  others must continue to make the necessary first steps. Aid money and debt relief are beneficial appetizers, but the main course is yet to come. Meanwhile, in advancing countries such as the U.S., many are focusing on main courses of their own. Globally, there are over 1 billion overweight adults with obesity creating an epidemic of its own, affecting nearly 300 million adults around the world (“Obesity”). Nearly 22 million children are overweight, a number that has more than doubled since the 1960’s (“CDC”). While some parts of the world scrounge around for bugs to eat, another part is bombarded with calories and other high -in-fat foods, both situations creating long term malnourishment due to the lack of balance; where one over eats, another does not consume enough, the greatest of two extremes. Like the hungry, those who gorge themselves begin a “battle of the bulge,” and those who grow sicker from overeating invest less energy to the usual daily activities; those who use less energy only grow sicker until a cycle of their own begins. The continual growth of numbers of those overweight states a lot about nations such as the U.S. and “reflect profound changes in society and the behavioral patterns of communities over the recent decades” (“Obesity”). Despite hereditary influencing many cases, “energy balance is determined by calorie intake and physical activity”; therefore, worldwide nutrition transitions are a key belief to the drive of the obesity epidemic (“Obesity”). When compared to the nation’s top competitor, those overweight in China account for only five percent of the country’s population (“Obesity”). The presence of both paradoxical issues may, in fact, work hand in hand. Perhaps a balance could be reached in the $39 billion dollars a year invested in obesity through Medicare and Medicaid to cover sicknesses and disease caused by the daunting health problems in nations like America (“CDC”). Despite the promises of companies such as Coca-Cola and Kraft to cut back on appealing to kids, or McDonald’s efforts to promote salads, America has become a nation of junk food. To face the facts, the government’s recent actions result in a major slap in the face for those who believe America is making healthier commitments. During recent hearings held on childhood obesity and food marketing, the Federal Trade Commission declared their intentions of doing absolutely nothing to stop the rise in junk food advertising to kids (Ruskin). Perhaps worldly powers are contributing a little less than expected.Like the nations fending for themselves under the mediocre efforts of governments, African people have felt separated from efforts as well, some realizing the truth in the necessity of hard labor to save their families. Improving agriculture and food delivery systems are projects moving under way within African countries in attempts to fight hunger and poverty. Due to the fact that most of those struck by poverty live in rural areas, improved means of transportation for food are a dire necessity, along with food input as well as output. Nearly 70% of employment is accounted for through agriculture; not only would improvements save those suffering from hunger, but it would also increase income for many families, allowing many families to educate their children (“Africa”). Education is believed to be a key factor in saving nations. Not only do educated women give birth to less children, making the task of providing for their families less of a hassle, but also a mere 4 years of schooling increase agricultural productivity by 9 percent (“Africa”). According to a small African farmer’s opinion, when women especially “’obtain… levels of education, experience, and farm inputs…they produce significantly higher yields’” (Nduru). Recent research shows that a simple 1% increase in crop production may in fact help 6  The number of deaths are proving significant decline, yet Africa stands alone in her slow increase, and the worldly problem of hunger alone still stands as a basic issue all must face. Not only should the issue of food distribution be addressed, but coinciding problems such as wealth and poverty are being fought both internally and externally as well. Poverty and hunger cannot stand the test of time. Perhaps these very obstacles have an upside, for though issues appear to be multiplying, opportunities for overcoming these obstacles are growing with each given day. Projects to educate, relieve, and encourage the African people are key in the countries’ developments. Meanwhile, on the other end of hunger, much can be done to decrease the bulk numbers in primarily overweight countries. Promoting healthy behaviors is a fine start, and some businesses in America have even began taking the next steps to encourage active lifestyles by installing programs within their companies to encourage workers to reach certain weight goals. Some businesses have even eliminated the use of elevators and escalators or are providing parking areas off work sites to encourage extra walking. In both cases on their grand scale, the drive to better a nation must come from within. Diligence and individual effort, along with worldly encouragement to meet the basic needs, can make the greatest difference in solving the paradoxical issue of those who are over and underfed.



by: Kakay.

african hunger, what cause it?
March 25, 2009

click on the link above, =)

by elvinapratiwi

Did you know?
March 25, 2009


Africa, second-largest of the Earth’s seven continents – covering about 30,330,000 sq km (11,699,000 sq mi), which makes up about 22 per cent of the world’s total land area.

Largest Country 
Sudan, Republic of, republic in north-eastern Africa, the largest country of the African continent. Sudan has a total area of 2,505,800 sq km (967,490 sq mi). 

Smallest Country 
The smallest African country is The Seychelles covering an area of 453 sq km but Gambia is the smallest of the mainland African states, covering an area of 11,300 sq km (4,363 sq mi). 

Largest City
Egypt’s capital city, Cairo, is the largest city in Africa with an estimated 9.2 million population

Highest Point
Mount Kilimanjaro – Uhuru Point – (5895m/19,340 ft) in Tanzania 

Lowest Point
the lowest is Lake ‘Asal (153 m/502 ft below sea level) in Djibouti 

Northernmost tip 
is Cape Blanc (Ra’s al Abyad;) in Tunisia 

Southernmost tip 
is Cape Agulhas in South Africa 

Largest Lake 
Lake Victoria is the largest lake in Africa and the is the world’s second-largest freshwater lake – covering an area of 69,490 sq km (26,830 sq mi) and lies 1,130 m (3,720 ft) above sea level. Its greatest known depth is 82 m (270 ft). 

Deepest Lake
Lake Tanganyika is the deepest lake in Africa reaching at its greatest depth is 1,436 m (4,710 ft), making it the second deepest freshwater lake in the world after Lake Baikal. 

Longest River
The River Nile drains north-eastern Africa, and, at 6,650 km (4,132 miles), is the longest river in Africa and in the world. It is formed from the Blue Nile, which originates at Lake Tana in Ethiopia, and the White Nile, which originates at Lake Victoria. 

The Great Africa Rift Valley
The Rift Valley extends more than 4,830 km (3,000 mi) from Syria in south-western Asia to Mozambique in south-eastern Africa. 

The width of the valley ranges from a few miles to more than 160 km (100 mi). In eastern Africa, the valley splits into two branches: the Eastern Rift and the Western Rift

The fault in which the Rift sits is still moving: the western side of the rift is pulling away from the eastern ridge at about 6 mm per year, while in the south it is moving together at a rate of 2 mm per year.

Lake Malawi
Lake Malawi contains the largest number of fish species of any lake in the world, probably over 500 from ten families. Particularly noteworthy are the Cichlidae, of which all but five of over 400 species are endemic to Lake Malawi. The lake contains 30% of all known cichlid species. Of particular interest is the ‘mbuna’ rock fish. 

Namib Desert
The Namib is the world’s oldest desert, and the only desert in Africa inhabited by elephant, rhino, giraffe and lion

Namibia – Fish River Canyon
The Fish River canyon is the second largest canyon in the world.

The Sahara Desert
The Sahara Desert alone is expanding southwards at an average of 0.8 km (½ mile) a month.


90% of all malaria cases are in sub-Saharan Africa 
3,000 children under the age of five die each day from malaria in Africa
1-5% of GDP in Africa covers costs of malaria control and lost labour days

Did you know, that Africa would have been an estimated US $100 billion better off in 1999 if malaria had been eliminated years ago? 

17 million people in sub-Saharan Africa have died of AIDS 

At least 25 million people in Africa are HIV-positive. 

12 million children who have lost their parents to AIDS face a precarious future. 

The world’s biggest hospital is in Soweto.


The world’s largest diamond was the Cullinan, found in South Africa in 1905. It weighed 3,106.75 carats uncut. It was cut into the Great Star of Africa, weighing 530.2 carats, the Lesser Star of Africa, which weighs 317.40 carats, and 104 other diamonds of nearly flawless colour and clarity. They now form part of the British crown jewels. 

Did you know there are about 280 000 windmills on farms across South Africa, second in number only to Australia? 

Most Populated Country
With a population of more than 113 million, Nigeria is easily the most populated country in Africa and the 10th most populous country in the world.

Myths of African Hunger
March 25, 2009

Good article, here is a link to it: 

So far, what i learn from the history in hunger in africa are because of the;

1. the mismanagement in the goverment. 

there are corruption and nepotism.  the officials are to greedy, they dont care for the country people’s wellfare

2.  A shortage of a appropriate technology to develop the land

3. Policies that undermined food crops

4. most countries in africa are trap in trade traps

5. Foreign aids failed to help eliminate to hunger, on the contrary they are more likely to perpetuate the hunger crisis

Africa’s hunger – a systemic crisis
March 25, 2009

BBC Africa analyst 


More than half of Africa is now in need of urgent food assistance.The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is warning that 27 sub-Saharan countries now need help. 

But what appear as isolated disasters brought about by drought or conflict in countries like Somalia, Malawi, Niger, Kenya and Zimbabwe are – in reality – systemic problems.

It is African agriculture itself that is in crisis, and according to the International Food Policy Research Institute, this has left 200 million people malnourished.

It is particularly striking that the FAO highlights political problems such as civil strife, refugee movements and returnees in 15 of the 27 countries it declares in need of urgent assistance. By comparison drought is only cited in 12 out of 27 countries.

The implication is clear – Africa’s years of wars, coups and civil strife are responsible for more hunger than the natural problems that befall it.

Critical issues

In essence Africa’s hunger is the product of a series of interrelated factors. Africa is a vast continent, and no one factor can be applied to any particular country. But four issues are critical:


  • Decades of underinvestment in rural areas, which have little political clout.

Africa’s elites respond to political pressure, which is mainly exercised in towns and cities. This is compounded by corruption and mismanagement – what donors call a lack of sound governance.


“ With good governance, most African countries could be net exporters of agricultural produce ” 
Darren, Lobatse, Botswana 

“Poor governance is a major issue in many African countries, and one that has serious repercussions for long-term food security,” says a statement by the International Food Policy Research Institute.

“Problems such as corruption, collusion and nepotism can significantly inhibit the capacity of governments to promote development efforts.”


  • Wars and political conflict, leading to refugees and instability. 

In 2004 the chairman of the African Union Commission, Alpha Oumar Konare, reminded an AU summit that the continent had suffered from 186 coups and 26 major wars in the past 50 years. It is estimated that there are more than 16 million refugees and displaced persons in Africa.Farmers need stability and certainty before they can succeed in producing the food their families and societies need.


  • HIV/Aids depriving families of their most productive labour. 

This is particularly a problem in southern Africa, where over 30% of sexually active adults are HIV positive. According to aid agency Oxfam, when a family member becomes infected, food production can fall by up to 60%, as women are not only expected to be carers, but also provide much of the agricultural labour. 

  • Unchecked population growth 

“Sub-Saharan Africa ‘s population has grown faster than any region over the past 30 years, despite the millions of deaths from the Aids pandemic,” the UN Population Fund says. 

“Between 1975 and 2005, the population more than doubled, rising from 335 to 751 million, and is currently growing at a rate of 2.2% a year.”In some parts of Africa land is plentiful, and this is not a problem. But in others it has had severe consequences. 

It has forced farming families to subdivide their land time and again, leading to tiny plots or families moving onto unsuitable, overworked land.

In the highlands of Ethiopia and Eritrea some land is now so degraded that there is little prospect that it will ever produce a decent harvest.

This problem is compounded by the state of Africa’s soils.

In sub-Saharan Africa soil quality is classified as degraded in about 72% of arable land and 31% of pasture land.

In addition to natural nutrient deficiencies in the soil, soil fertility is declining by the year through “nutrient mining”, whereby nutrients are removed over the harvest period and lost through leaching, erosion or other means.

Nutrient levels have declined over the past 30 years, says the International Food Policy Research Institute.



The result is that a continent that was more than self sufficient in food at independence 50 years ago, is now a massive food importer. The book The African Food Crisis says that in less than 40 years the sub-continent went from being a net exporter of basic food staples to relying on imports and food aid.

In 1966-1970, net exports averaged 1.3 million tons of food a year, it states.


“By the late 1970s Africa imported 4.4 million tonnes of staple foods a year, a figure that had risen to 10 million tonnes by the mid 1980s.”

It said that since independence, agricultural output per capita remained stagnant, and in many places declined.

Some campaigners and academics argue that African farmers will only be able to properly feed their families and societies when Western goods stop flooding their markets.

Causes of hunger in Africa
March 25, 2009

There is perhaps no greater tragedy in the world today than the fact that there are millions of starving people in the world. What is even more startling is that according to the Red Cross, over thirty million people in Africa alone are starving. Why, you may ask, is starvation so rampant in Africa? The answer is complex as there are many unique reasons this crisis is so heavily concentrated in Africa.

African farmers also do not have access to the equipment and technology that would enable them to grow crops. In some cases, there is a lack of seed and pesticides. These pesticides might not only increase the yield of the crops, but it could also make the labor of the farmers much easier. When these items are available, they are priced so high and taxed so that most farmers in Africa cannot afford them. The majority of African farmers have to chop weeds using a hoe or even their hands which severely limits the yield not to mention the fact that it keeps farmers from being able to complete other important tasks related to growing food.

Finally, the poor health of the majority of Africans plays a large role in keeping the inhabitants hungry. Due to the fact that there are many Africans who suffer from deadly diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria among others, there is a decreasing labor force available to grow crops. Add to this the lack of education on the part of many Africans and it is easy to see why there is a never ending cycle of poverty and hunger.

Until these problems are attacked and solved, it remains a sad fact that many Africans including many children will go to bed hungry. For those who battling serious illnesses other than starvation, it is quite possible that they will not wake to see another day.

Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture (the history of agriculture)
March 25, 2009

Hi guys,

 there’s a link for history/ background on the lack of food in africa. the article is quite long so i just post the link  =)!

Useful links.
March 24, 2009

  • Elliott, Larry. “Africa Still on the Road to Disaster.” 8 June. 2005.



  •  “Africa: Hunger to Harvest.” Bread for the World. 2005.



  • Bearak, Barry. “Why People Still Starve.”. 13 July. 2003.


  • Nduru, Moyiga. “Ending Hunger in Africa.” 26, Mar. 2005.


  • “Obesity and Overweight.” World Health Organization 2005.


  • Wax, Emily. “Among Ordinary Africans, G8 Seems Out Of Touch.” 3 July. 2005.


African Hunger Facts.
March 24, 2009

• Today, one in three Africans are malnourished, and about half of it’s nearly 700 million people live on less than $1 a day; most (80 percent) live on less than $2 a day.

• Income growth in Africa barely has kept pace with population growth, remaining below the 2.5 percent and causing Africa’s share of the world’s absolute poor to increase from one-fourth to nearly a third.

• Africa is a diverse continent that contains nearly a fourth of the lands total land area. Despite its immense size, only 430 million areas – less than one-fifth of the entire United States – are considered suitable for farming. Land degradation is a major threat to Africa’s agricultural productivity growth. 

• Any effort to develop agriculture and improve household food security must include a focus on women. Most African farmers are women, and female headed households are more prone to hunger and poverty. African women generate two-thirds of Africa’s agricultural production, and participate in trade and processing.

• Sub-Saharan Africa enters the new millennium as the one area of the world where hunger is both pervasive and increasing.

• Most Africans are small-holder farmers. Poverty keeps them from investing in land improvements, irrigation and fertilizer. Thus, African farmers are extremely vulnerable to drought, flooding, and political conflict.

• A problem most African countries have is providing sufficient food for their people. The reasons for this are complex and include declining world prices for commodities as well as escalating debts.

• The rapid spread of AIDS also affects hunger. In some African countries, between 30 percent and 40 percent of adults are infected. 

• Conflict also affects hunger in Africa. In 2001 civil conflict and war affected 16 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Internal conflicts interrupted progress in countries, such as Uganda, that have achieved a measure of food security in recent years. 

• In eastern Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia continue to suffer from prolonged periods of drought. The pastoral regions of these countries are the most vulnerable, and almost 2 million people in the Horn of Africa received emergency rations from World Food Program in 2001.

March 24, 2009

African Civil War
March 24, 2009

Africa, Modern U.S. Security Policy and InterventionsAfrica, Modern U.S. Security Policy and Interventions



United States policy in Africa since World War II has generally been non-interventionist, in the sense that U.S. troops have seldom actually engaged in military or quasi-military activities on the African continent. Exceptions, however, do exist, most notable among them being a limited commitment (both of troops and of covert operatives) during the Congo civil war in the early 1960s, the bombing of Libya in 1986, and the humanitarian mission to Somalia in 1993. More often, the United States has provided assistance to African movements, such as anticommunist guerrillas in Angola during the 1970s and 1980s. America has also used diplomatic and economic pressure, both against South African apartheid in the


Children follow a United States soldier patrolling the Green Line, a heavily contested area in the Somali civil war of the 1980s, during Operation Restore Hope in 1992. ©PETER TURNLEY/CORBIS.

Children follow a United States soldier patrolling the Green Line, a heavily contested area in the Somali civil war of the 1980s, during Operation Restore Hope in 1992. ©




1980s and criminal activities in Nigeria during the twenty-first century.


After the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, the United States conducted bombing raids over both Afghanistan and Sudan, attempting to neutralize Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terror network. The fact that the same terrorist group later caused the 2001 bombings in New York City and Washington, D.C., serves to illustrate the fact that events in Africa are not removed from impacting American security and policy. As of July, 2003, the U.S. made a limited troop commitment to secure stability in Liberia and considered a more extensive involvement.

In choosing their policy priorities for Africa, American leaders managed a fine line between appearing interventionist or imperialist on the one hand, and insensitive to Africans’ misery on the other. Generally, U.S. policy in Africa has been guided by assessments of the strategic importance of a given nation, its existing alignment or non-alignment with U.S. interests, and the stability of its government.

With the exception of Liberia and Ethiopia, every nation in Africa—more than 50 in all—was at one time a European colony. This is true even in North Africa, whose people are linguistically and culturally distinct from their neighbors to the south. At the beginning of the twentieth century, France held much of west and central Africa; Britain southern and eastern Africa, as well as parts of West Africa; Belgium what is now the Congo, and Portugal a few notable colonies, among them Angola and Mozambique. Germany and Italy, latecomers to African colonialism, controlled some of the sites less rich in natural resources.

In the period between 1945 and 1975, virtually every nation in Africa gained independence, with the Portuguese—first Europeans to colonize in Africa—becoming the last to relinquish colonies. High hopes attended independence, but with few exceptions (a notable one being Botswana), the history of modern Africa has been an unrelieved tale of cruelty, corruption, mismanagement, and rampant disease and poverty. Funds given to help the African people have often ended up in the Swiss bank accounts of dictators, and money intended to build schools and feed children has instead been used to fund civil wars.

The Congo, Rwanda, and Africa’s “First World War”

The Congo exemplified this problem. In 1960, Belgium granted its former colony independence, but this proved only the beginning of new troubles. Civil war ensued, and initially the United States, as a participant in a United Nations (UN) peacekeeping force, seemed to back Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. But as Lumumba drifted increasingly into the Soviet orbit, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) considered means of assassinating him, in the words of the local CIA station chief, “to avoid another Cuba.” Meanwhile, the United Stated provided assistance to army officer Joseph Désiré Mobutu, whose troops captured and killed Lumumba.

Although conditions in the Congo were difficult under Lumumba, they were at least as bad under Mobutu, who became unquestioned leader of the nation in 1966. He renamed the country Zaire and himself Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu wa za Banga, which means “the all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, will go from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake.” For the next three decades, Mobutu, supported by the United States and the World Bank, looted his country, building vast palaces for himself and fattening the pockets of his cronies while the majority of his people lived without electricity, running water, or basic medical care.

Mobutu was overthrown in 1997 by Laurent Kabila, who proved just as corrupt, and who was killed by his own bodyguards in 2001. By then, the Congo had become embroiled in events described collectively as “Africa’s First World War.” The opening salvo of that larger conflict—a series of conflicts involving Rwanda, the Congo (which returned to its original name in 1997), and other nations—was the infamous Rwandan genocide in 1994.

The conflict involved age-old disputes between the Hutu and Tutsi peoples, who together constitute most of the population in Rwanda, Burundi, and neighboring states. After Rwanda’s Hutu dictator, Major General Juvenal Habyarimana, died in a plane crash on April 6, 1994, his supporters blamed the Tutsi-controlled Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), and launched a campaign of genocide that resulted in more than 800,000 deaths over a period of a few weeks. By July, the RPF had driven the remnants of the Habyarimana government, along with some 1 million refugees, into neighboring Zaire. This influx served to so destabilize the Mobutu regime that it helped provide the opportunity for Kabila’s takeover.

Somalia, Ethiopia, and Angola: Marxism, Anarchy, and Intervention

The United States was criticized, both at home and abroad, for not intervening in Rwanda, an extremely poor and landlocked nation with almost no strategic importance to Washington. It is possible that had America intervened, it would have been condemned for interfering in other nations’ internal affairs. Such was the case in Somalia just a few months earlier, when U.S. attempts to provide humanitarian assistance so inflamed resentment that even after the terrorist attacks of September, 2001, Muslim critics of U.S. policy would cite Somalia as an example of American imperialism.

Located on the horn of Africa, Somalia also achieved its independence in 1960, and also succumbed to dictatorship, in this case under Major General Mohamed Siad Barre. After overthrowing the government in 1969, Siad Barre launched the country on a disastrous experiment in Soviet-style socialism, complete with posters in the capital city of Mogadishu that featured his face alongside those of Karl Marx and V. I. Lenin. In a country where the principal form of organization is by clan, modern political forms of any kind were foreign, and it would have been difficult to find a more inadequate prescription for Somalia’s challenges than Siad Barre’s Marxist Leninism.

Ironically, the takeover of neighboring Ethiopia by Communists in 1974 proved Siad Barre’s undoing. In the chaos that befell Ethiopia after the downfall of longtime emperor Haile Selassie, Somalia went to war with its neighbor over the Ogaden Desert, and by September, 1977, had all but won. At that point, however, the Soviets switched their allegiance to Ethiopia’s Marxist government.

The Soviets’ change of allegiance created a strange alliance between Siad Barre and the United States. The proxy war in the Horn of Africa nearly became an entanglement involving U.S. troops, as Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor under President James E. Carter, briefly considered deploying the U.S. carrier Kitty Hawk to the region in March 1978. The United States and Somalia concluded military agreements in 1980 that allowed U.S. access to naval ports at Mogadishu and other cities.

The military alliance with the United States did not result in any meaningful changes in Siad Barre’s style of rule, and over the next decade, his influence slowly declined until he was ousted in 1991. By then, with the Cold War all but finished, the United States—which had strategic naval bases farther south in Kenya—had no particular interest in preventing Somalia from sliding toward anarchy. Then, in 1992, during the last weeks of his administration, President George H. W. Bush committed 25,000 U.S. troops to a UN force involved in distributing famine relief supplies.

Bush was influenced by the fact that the UN had performed well during the crises surrounding the Persian Gulf War of 1990–91, but the experience in Somalia was not to be as successful. By 1993, U.S. forces had become caught in the middle of conflicts between local warlords, and on October 3, 18 U.S. Rangers were killed in a firefight on the streets of Mogadishu. Prior to this debacle, Secretary of Defense Les Aspin had outlined an agenda of “nation-building” in a nation that had no true government, and in the aftermath of the Mogadishu disaster, Aspin resigned.

Ethiopia and Somalia were just a few of the nations that attempted to apply the Marxist formula to their problems during the 1970s. Numerous other nations aligned with Moscow, but few did so as openly as the former Portuguese colonies of Angola and Mozambique. The United States provided help to the rebels fighting in both countries, though aid to Angola was much greater. In 1985, President Ronald Reagan, under pressure from both the Department of Defense and the CIA, transferred some $15 million in antiaircraft and antitank missiles to the rebel movement.

The United States commitment to Angola was in part a response to the fact the Soviets and Cubans had become heavily involved on the side of the government, but it was also a product of the magnetism exerted by the rebels’ charismatic leader, Jonas Savimbi. In 1966, Savimbi had formed the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, known by the initials of its name in Portuguese, UNITA. First he fought against the Portuguese, then against the MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola) when it took control of the government after the Portuguese left. Because the MPLA was aligned with Moscow, Savimbi gained support from a wide array of nations opposed to the Soviet Union: the United States, China, and South Africa. Savimbi managed to convince American conservatives that he was an anti-communist, just as he presented himself to the Chinese as a Maoist. To the regime that maintained the system of apartheid in South Africa, Savimbi’s victory would help keep blacks from getting the idea that they should gain a share of whites’ wealth.

In reality, the war was not about ideology, but about control of the nation’s diamond resources and other natural wealth. The Communist regime of José Eduardo dos Santos was corrupt and cruel, but Savimbi matched its record. In 1989, even Mobutu tried to step in and pressure him to accept a ceasefire. In 1992, with the Cold War over, Savimbi lost U.S. funding. He spent the remainder of his life fighting the government and opposition in his party, looting the populace, and resisting efforts toward peace. Six weeks after his death in February, 2002, the two sides signed a ceasefire agreement.

Liberia and South Africa: Oppression and Economics

In deciding to intervene, whether by military, economic, or diplomatic means, prudent leaders tend to favor a conservation of resources. An example was America’s response to chaos in Liberia in 1990. The West African nation, founded by freed American slaves in 1847, has proven no more stable or successful than any of its neighbors that had been colonies. Nor has the American influence yet fostered a greater degree of respect for human rights: ironically, the freed slaves, known as Americo-Liberians, virtually enslaved the native Liberians, who lived under conditions of forced labor and extreme poverty.

Finally, in 1980, Sgt. Samuel K. Doe led a revolt against President William Tolbert, ending 133 years of oppression. Doe, however, proved a tyrant, and he benefited from some $500 million in U.S. aid even as the quality of life for the Liberian populace continued to decline. When rebels overthrew Doe in 1990, the United States quietly evacuated its diplomatic personnel and other citizens from the troubled nation.

In part because the nation-state is a western construct imposed on Africa, life in post-colonial times has often been characterized by the oppression of one ethnic group by another: first Hutu by Tutsi, then the reverse, first native Liberians by Americo-Liberians, then the reverse, and so on. As most of these situations involved native African ethnic groups, they have attracted little attention in the outside world. By contrast, the regime of apartheid that prevailed in South Africa for more than four decades after 1948, involving as it did oppression of a black majority by a white minority, invoked sharp criticism throughout the western world.

Although many Americans had long condemned apartheid, the issue did not become a part of American popular culture until 1985, as entertainers and college students took up the cause. Activists pressured the Reagan administration to deal aggressively with South Africa, and to isolate the nation economically. In fact the United States did impose a number of economic restrictions on South Africa, but not to a degree demanded by activists. The solutions that worked with recalcitrant U.S. states during desegregation in the 1960s would not necessarily be as successful with an independent nation in the 1980s. Reagan reasoned that while apartheid did not comport with U.S. values, South Africa was of far greater value to the United States than many of its most outspoken critics—among them Zimbabwe, home to the notorious dictatorship of Robert Mugabe.

Reagan’s administration used a combination of limited economic and diplomatic pressure, while allowing South Africans—who at least had a framework of European-style representational government—to work out their own differences. In the end, opposition leader Nelson Mandela was released from prison, apartheid fell, and Mandela became the president of a new South Africa.

Other Interventions and Non-Interventions

In terms of economic intervention, Sierra Leone and Chad may offer positive examples of what the world community can do to affect policy in Africa. In 2000, the UN imposed a ban on the purchase of diamonds from Sierra Leone, sales of which had been used in large part to fund that nation’s civil war. Two years later, the 11-year war ended in a ceasefire.

Also in 2000, construction began on a pipeline through Chad, an extremely poor country in which oil had been discovered. Rather than permit a repeat of past mistakes, a consortium of companies (including America’s Exxon and Mobil), along with the World Bank, devised a strategy to prevent the nation’s rulers from misusing funds. Agreements included stipulations that 80% of all oil revenues would be spent on improving health, education, and welfare for the populace. Another 10% would go into escrow accounts for future generations, 5% would be directed toward the local populations in the area of the oil fields, and only 5% would be placed in the hands of the government to do with as it pleased.

Nigeria: counterfeiting and advance-fee scams. Another economic and legal battleground—one where problems remain is Nigeria. One of the leading nations in Africa in terms of size and potential wealth, with its oil riches, Nigeria is only slightly more stable than its neighbors, and criminal activity is rampant. The country is particularly notorious for its counterfeiting operations and its business scams.

Nigerian counterfeiting involves not banknotes, but consumer and industrial goods, including garments and textiles, electronics, spare parts, pharmaceuticals, personal products, and even soft drinks. The reason, in part, is that intellectual property owners, frustrated with the national bureaucracy, have done little to put a stop to counterfeiting efforts there. Additionally, owners of rights to these products are often unaware of counterfeiting activities in Nigeria. The Nigerian government has injunctions against these crimes, but has been largely ineffective in pursuing them.

In 1999, years of military rule in Nigeria ended, and U.S. officials took advantage of this opportunity to strengthen law enforcement efforts there. In July, 2002, the two countries signed an agreement for increased lawenforcement cooperation. Part of the agreement was a grant of $3.5 million from the United States, intended to help Nigeria modernize its police force and provide additional resources to the country’s special fraud unit, which targets 419 known scams.

African Civil War in Sudan
March 24, 2009

CRIME OF WAR magazine

April 2004

The Darfur Conflict: Crimes Against Humanity in Sudan

Since February 2003, Sudan‘s western province of Darfur has been the site of an extremely violent conflict between the province’s nomadic Arab tribes, supported by the government in Khartoum, and the native African settled peasant tribes.

Sudanese refugees wait during a sandstorm to get medical attention from a mobile clinic of Medecins sans Frontieres near the city of Bamina in eastern Chad, March 6, 2004. (AP Photo/Boris Heger)


The Roots of the Conflict


Sudan’s westernmost province bordering on Libya and Chad, Darfur is very large (almost 400,000 square kilometers) and quite populous in comparison with other regions of the Sudan (with around eight million people). Geographically, the province is centered on the Jebel Mara volcanic massif. The amount of rainfall determines the character of the population in broad bands going from north to south: camel herders in the northern arid zone, settled peasants in the center, cattle nomads in the south bordering on the Bahr-el-Ghazal Province. The black African Fur tribe makes up over half of the population, hence the name of the province Dar (home) of the Fur, and the rest is divided between over fifteen different ethnic/linguistic groups. All the inhabitants are Sunni Muslims.


The region was home to the independent Sultanate of Kayra between the mid-17th century and 1916 when it was finally annexed to the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. This long tradition of independence from the center of power in the distant Nile Valleyhas been a continuing source of alienation between Darfur and the rest of Sudan ‘s Muslim North. At independence in 1956 the province soon became a bastion of the Mahdist religious movement and a stronghold of its political wing the Umma Party. Twice in the history of the Sudan (in 1968 and in 1986) it was a solid bloc of Umma voters in Darfur that gave the Umma Party and its leader Sadiq al-Mahdi victory at the polls.


There are two other aspects of Darfurian politics that played a key role in the development of the present conflict. First, the inhabitants of the province, whether settled “African” peasants or “Arab” nomadic tribes (these words have to be put between inverted commas since there are no “pure” Arabs in Darfur but only people of mixed ethnic origins whose mother tongue is Arabic), have consistently identified with the Muslim north of Sudan in the conflict with the Christian and animist south that has persisted on and off since 1955. Members of the various Darfur ethnic groups, mostly from the “African” tribes, made up a very large proportion (between 40 and 60%) of the northern troops fighting against the southern rebellions between 1955 and 1972 and then again between 1983 and the present. Thus Islam proved to be a stronger identity factor than racial/cultural origins.


At the same time, the political gap in Darfur between those who identified themselves as “Arabs” and those who identified themselves as “Africans” widened from the mid-1960s onwards. The 1980s saw repeated ethnic clashes that were precariously terminated by a locally brokered peace agreement in 1989, the same year in which the National Islamic Front (NIF) radical Muslim organization took power in a military coup. There was thus a contradiction between the national political positioning of the African tribes, which were aligned with the Nile Valley Arabs in their struggle to retain control of the country against the southern challenge, and their provincial positioning where they fought the local representatives of those same Arabs.


In 1991 Daud Bolad, a Muslim Brother activist of Fur ethnic origin who had initially supported the new NIF regime, tried to organize a revolt against his former friends after he realized that as a black African he was not the social equal of the Arabs, even within the supposedly egalitarian ethos of the radical Islamic movement. Daud Bolad was defeated and killed but his attempted uprising marked a turning point in many people’s consciousness in Darfur.


Uprising and Repression

The present conflict started in February 2003 and has rapidly developed into one of the most violent military confrontations on the continent. There have been an estimated 30,000 casualties, one million people are displaced within the province and over 120,000 have fled into neighboring Chad. The fight is basically between black African insurgents and the Khartoum government and its local agents, the Arab militias. The deep causes of the rebellion lie in the feeling of superiority and cultural elitism of the “Arabs”, and of resentment and perceived oppression and neglect on the part of the “Africans”. The “African” rebels point out that in spite of being a loyal part of the Muslim north, Darfur is in fact as badly off in terms of lack of infrastructure, neglect of education and economic underdevelopment as the Christian south.

There are two rebel movements struggling against the Khartoum forces. One is the Sudan Liberation Movement (SLM), which was initially named the Darfur Liberation Movement but chose the broader appeal of a “national” name to increase its potential reach. The SLM is based mostly on the Fur and Masaleet tribes and is politically moderate. It has tried to ally itself with the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), the Asmara-based umbrella organization which unites all Sudanese opposition groups, whether North or South.

The second rebel group is the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), based mostly on the Zaghawa tribe. It is linked with the radical Popular Patriotic Congress party led by the veteran Islamist Hassan al-Turabi who has now fallen out with his former NIF disciples. (At the end of March 2004, Sudanese authorities arrested al-Turabi, ostensibly for involvement in a plot to overthrow the country’s president.) The relationship between JEM and SLM remains one of the obscure points of the Darfur conflict, even if the two organizations claim to be collaborating militarily. The JEM is by far the richer of the two and the one with the greater international media exposure, even if its radical Islamist connections make it an unlikely candidate for fighting a radical Islamist government.

The insurrection started slowly in February and March 2003 and went into high gear on April 25 when the SLM rebels attacked the provincial capital at el-Fasher, killing 72 troops of the garrison, destroying four aircraft on the ground and capturing General Ibrahim Bushra, the garrison commander. The reaction of the Khartoum government was a mixture of panic, unrealistic accusation (Israel, the United States, the southern Sudanese rebel movement the SPLA and Eritrea were all held responsible for the uprising) and denial of the political reality. The insurgents were either called “armed bandits” or else described as nomadic groups fighting each other in “traditional conflicts over grazing rights”. Although this last claim contains more than a grain of truth (the “Arabs” are nomads while the “Africans” are settled peasants and in a drought period part of the motivation for fighting is indeed related to grazing) it is far from a full account of the situation. Economic deprivation, cultural spite and administrative marginalization are the key causes of the conflict.

Although SPLA intervention appears to have been minimal and that of the United States or Israel belong to the domain of fantasy, Eritrean involvement has been confirmed, albeit at a low level. The main financial support for the uprising comes either from contributions from the Fur diaspora to the SLM (there are many Fur working in the Gulf countries, in Khartoum, in Port Sudan and in the Gezira) or, in the case of the JEM, from foreign funds under the control of Hassan al-Turabi. It is the importance of this last financial source that explains the fairly impressive and modern equipment of the rebel forces.


During May and June 2003 the fighting grew in intensity and government forces reacted with increasingly violent attacks on the civilian population. Many young Zaghawa and Fur living away from the province returned, at times from a great distance, in order to join the fighting. The guerrillas opened training camps on the uninhabited slopes of Jebel Mara and recruits flocked in. Incapable of controlling the situation because it had few troops (and many were made up of Westerners who refused to fight their brothers) the government used three types of tactics to try to curb guerilla activities:


•  Extensive use of airpower. Mil Mi-24 combat helicopters engaged in indiscriminate bombing and machine-gunning of civilians while Antonov An-12 transports were used to drop makeshift bombs on villages and IDP concentrations.

•  Recruitment of large numbers of “Arab” militiamen called “Janjaweed”, mounted on camels or horseback. These were at times recruited in neighboring Chad and were motivated by a mixture of cultural/racial prejudice and the lure of looting. They mercilessly engaged in the massacre of civilians.

•  Destruction of the means of livelihood of the population. Wells were filled, cattle were killed and foodstuff stores were destroyed. This caused massive displacement of civilians who either fled to what they hoped were “secure” areas of the province or to Chad.


The government’s hope was that the civilians would be terrorized into submission and that the civilian pool on which the guerillas depended for their political and logistical sustenance would dry up. Neither seemed to happen. Some desultory attempts at negotiating were made in early September. A government team headed by the notorious NIF activist al-Tayeb Mohamed Kheir, nicknamed “Sikha” (“iron bar”, a nickname coming from his preferred weapon), signed a ceasefire agreement in the Chadian town of Abeche . It soon appeared that what the government wanted was in fact a simple surrender of the guerillas, without any kind of political negotiation. When the desired surrender failed to materialize, military operations were resumed, with the same violent anti-civilian actions.

The Khartoum government used every possible excuse to stop any humanitarian aid reaching the Darfur population. For example on November 16th it refused to unload US food aid bound for Darfur, saying that the cereals it contained were genetically modified. This was not the case but the food aid was nevertheless not distributed. In early January 2004 two Swiss NGOs, the HenriDunant Center and the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, arranged a humanitarian conference in Geneva to organize relief for Darfur. After promising to come, the Sudanese government refused at the last moment, saying it did not want to internationalize the conflict and that such a conference should be organized in Sudan by the government itself.


On February 9 2004 Sudanese President Omar el-Beshir declared that the war had been won and there should be a political reconciliation conference organized in Khartoum. The rebels refused the idea of reconciliation without negotiation1Ž4 and shot down two more government helicopters on February 12. At the time of writing, the conflict not only goes on but is apparently intensifying, with a corresponding loss of human life, mainly civilian.


The Conflict’s Wider Impact

The country primarily impacted by the Darfur conflict is of course Chad . But the main impact is not of a humanitarian nature, in spite of the magnitude of the refugee problem. The main impact is political. President Idris Deby is an ethnic Biday. The Bidayat are a tribe closely related to the Zaghawa and to other Tebbu groups who live astride the Sudano-Chadian border. Several of these, the various Zaghawa clans in particular, are closely linked with the insurrection, while President Deby is closely allied to the Khartoum government which supported his armed takeover in December 1990. But President Deby is at the same time heavily dependent on his Zaghawa/Bidayat support group, particularly to keep control of the oilfields in Southern Chad.

Chadian soldiers guard the border with Sudan , Tuesday, Jan 27, 2004 in Tine, Chad. Sudanese planes dropped bombs in western Sudan on Monday, sending hundreds of people fleeing across the border into Chad where aid workers scrambled to provide them food and shelter in the barren desert. (AP Photo/Karel Prinsloo)

Southern Chad , which is ethnically and religiously very different from the North, was the site of frequent rebellions during the 1970s and 1980s. The president’s ethnic allies provide his main insurance against threats to the southern oilfields. But since unlike him they support the insurrection of their cousins in Darfur, there is a major contradiction between the head of state and the people who most closely support him. The result is that the power structure in Ndjamena is split, with elements fighting the Darfur rebels (the Chadian Army has intervened several times on Sudanese territory in support of Khartoum ‘s forces) and other elements which support the uprising. This situation has considerably weakened the Chadian regime and there are fears, particularly in Paris and in Khartoum, that president Deby might fall, a victim of these contradictions.


The second effect of the Darfur conflict on regional politics is the influence of the violence on the intra-Sudanese peace talks now being held in Naivasha (Kenya). The main question is bluntly whether it makes any sense to be negotiating peace for one section of the country while another is on fire. There has been no answer so far to this question because the SPLA which has fought Khartoum for over twenty years is as desperate to make peace as the government is eager to give the appearance of wanting to do so. The southern movement is both exhausted and hopeful that any kind of peace, even a bad one, will put it in a better tactical position in the future. The government is not in the same dire straights financially or technically, but it needs at least a semblance of peace to retain political control in the North where it has in effect been in a minority position ever since it seized power in 1989. Out of these converging needs, some kind of a (weak) common ground can be found.


The Darfur conflict has deeply upset this delicate balance between North and South. The SPLA has accepted not to mention the Darfur crisis in the course of the negotiations while the Khartoum government is trying to delay the signature of any agreement with the South long enough to crush the western insurrection. Some observers had predicted that on the contrary Khartoum would want to sign quickly in order to be able to take a good slice of its 70,000 strong military force out of the South in order to send it fighting into the West. But many of these theoretically “northern” troops are in fact from Darfur itself and their discipline could break down if they were sent back home to fight their brothers. Therefore Khartoum has delayed signing, in spite of intense US pressure to reach an agreement before the American presidential elections of November 2004 (some of President Bush strongly religious supporters are keen on an agreement to “protect the Christians” in the Sudan).


The author of this article is a journalist based in East Africa. He has asked that his name be withheld to prevent possible retribution.

African Hunger and Nelson Mandera’s Images
March 24, 2009