Aug 6 2014

Q&A: Akindeji Falaki talks about the growing awareness of environmental issues in Nigeria

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LSE alumna Delphine Pedeboy spoke to fellow 2013 LSE-UCT July School participant, Akindeji Falaki about his drive to change his country’s environmental landscape for the better.

Falaki is an agricultural extension professional in Abuja, Nigeria. He currently works as Principal Program Officer on Climate Change and the Environment with the National Orientation Agency (NOA), a forward-looking organisation specialising in public awareness and mobilisation for socio-economic transformation in Nigeria.

 

Could you give us a picture of the environment scene in Nigeria? 

Interest in the environment is growing in Nigeria. People are certainly beginning to appreciate the all-important role of the environment in keeping the world going. I would say that the 2012 flooding which brought almost two-thirds of the states in Nigeria to a standstill was a watershed moment. Reports say that 363 people lost their lives, more than two million were displaced with a total of seven million people affected in some way especially women and children. Nigeria lost US$16 billion to the flood. That was a national disaster. It became a clarion call for relevant government agencies, civil society organisations and the general public to pay attention to natural disasters triggered by climate change and our unsustainable interaction with the environment.

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Falaki (pictured here with the CEO of the Climate Reality Project, Ken Berlin) would like to see more Climate Reality Conferences held across Africa

What kind of environmental challenges do Nigerians face?

The real challenge for the average person, with which I wrestle as an environmental communicator, is connecting our daily routine at home and work with its environmental impact. This is an area in which we are campaigning for change. When an individual wastes water, energy, food, paper, cuts down trees, burns bushes, s/he is leaving her/his environmental footprint and over time, s/he pays for it. This message needs to get to people irrespective of their class or clan, and especially to people at the grassroots level. Continue reading

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Aug 4 2014

#GreatWarInAfrica – Why were the British/Allied forces unable to dislodge the renowned German General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck in East Africa?

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Anne Samson looks at the reasons why ten British/Allied commanders could not defeat the renowned German General, Paul von Lettow Vorbeck in East Africa during World War 1.

Most people, when you mention East Africa and World War 1One, immediately refer to German General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck and Allied commander General Jan Smuts. However, what is not generally known is that Smuts served in the theatre for only 11 months and was one of ten Allied commanders who led forces against Lettow-Vorbeck.

Command of the British forces in East Africa was split between the Colonial and India Offices with the War Office keeping a watchful eye. The Admiralty was strategically involved, moving troops, blockading and engaging the enemy on water. So was the Foreign Office, responsible for keeping allies informed and on board despite differing, and sometimes conflicting, aims.

Fierce rivals on the battlefield, General Paul von Lettow Vorbeck (L) and General Jan Smuts (R) became great friends later in life

Fierce rivals on the battlefield, General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck (L) and General Jan Smuts (R) became great friends later in life

There had been some discussion about keeping the theatre neutral but this was felt to be impossible given the actions which had occurred by mid-September 1914. From the British perspective, naval demands dictated that German wireless stations be put out of action. This seemed to be as far as action would go because the Prime Minister was clear that the war could not be used for territorial gain. Despite this, it was agreed that two Indian Expeditionary Forces (IEF) would go to East Africa, one to help defend British East Africa and the other to attack Tanga, a port in German East Africa (now Tanzania). The outcome of the fiasco at Tanga was that the War Office assumed control of the theatre while the India Office remained responsible for supplies. Although strategy was more streamlined, by the end of November 1914 the northern sector had seen three commanders, namely Captain LES Ward (King’s African Rifles), General JM Stewart (IEF C) and General AE Aitken (IEF B). It had fallen to Ward to protect the British colony in the first days of the war working alongside a Governor who privately resisted conflict. During his watch, the Germans attacked and occupied Taveta; the only British territory held during the Great War. Continue reading

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Aug 1 2014

US-African Leaders Summit should not just celebrate Africa’s achievements, but address difficult issues

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Arthur Gwagwa presents civil society’s view of the upcoming US-African Leaders Summit on 4-6 August.

The 2014 US-Africa Heads of States Summit offers the US government an opportunity to further strengthen its ties with Africa. However, the message from the US ought to be very loud and clear: that Africa has now come of age, and can longer rely on the vagaries of history to avoid responsibility towards its people and its obligations in the global community. Reinforcing the status quo is not an option during the summit, but the leaders must make a commitment to chart a course towards a more democratic, secure, prosperous and sustainable Africa.

The Summit could not have come at a better time than now. Africa is standing at an historical crossroad where the choices it makes can either build on or reverse the monumental gains it has made in the past decade.

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The continent has witnessed unprecedented economic growth, reduction in HIV infections, and has seen 35 peaceful transitions of power. However, there are still major worrying trends of human rights and democratic backpedalling. Further, the unprecedented economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa has not translated into socio-economic development. Major reasons for this can be found in lack of accountability, endemic corruption, dysfunctional governments and lack of rule of law. Continue reading

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Jul 31 2014

Book Review: Global NATO and the Catastrophic Failure in Libya by Horace Campbell

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Horace Campbell investigates the political and economic crises of the early twenty-first century through the prism of NATO’s intervention in Libya. He traces the origins of the conflict, situates it in the broader context of the Arab Spring uprisings, and explains the expanded role of a post-Cold War NATO. This military organization is the instrument through which the capitalist class of North America and Europe seeks to impose its political will on the rest of the world, however warped by the increasingly outmoded neoliberal form of capitalism, Campbell argues. Reviewed by Inez von Weitershausen.

In Western media, academia, and public discourse, the 2011 NATO intervention in Libya has been predominantly analyzed in the context of its presumed military success, with some commentators even suggesting that it was in fact a “model intervention”. Daily battles across Libya between hundreds of militias, many  civilian casualties, and not least the killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya on 11 September 2012, have all been overshadowed by the “successful events” of regime change, the holding of elections, and the fact that – at least officially – no Western ground troops were deployed.

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It is not only this image of a successful intervention which is challenged by Horace Campbell in his account of the events in Libya in 2011. Writing in the context of anti-imperialism, Pan-Africanism, Pan-Arabism and the peace-movement, the author dedicates his book to analyzing the “failure of NATO in an economic crisis” (p.27) by intervening into the Libyan civil war. In particular he takes issue with UN Security Council Resolution 1973 as the legal basis for NATO’s “Operation Unified Protector”, and questions the former’s content as well as the way it came about. Continue reading

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Jul 30 2014

Fieldwork plays an important role in getting research and policy right

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Tim Allen is head of the Department of  International Development at LSE and research director for the Justice and Security Research Programme which is based at the the School. Professor Allen has expertise in the fields of ethnic conflict, forced migration, east Africa (especially Sudan, Uganda and Kenya) and development aid. He writes widely, and often controversially, on development and the importance of fieldwork. He is the author of “Trial Justice: the International Criminal Court and the Lord’s Resistance Army” (2006), and co-editor of “The Lord’s Resistance Army: Myth and Reality” (2010).

You are passionate about the importance of fieldwork in international development.

Yes. Once a year I try to spend some months in the field in African villages. In the past it was years. If I have one big point to make it is that this actually places me and a few other people in an unusual space. It is astonishing, the degree to which research and policy-making have remarkably little in the way of that kind of evidence base. Insights are driven by arguments put forward by academics and politicians rather than things that happen on the ground.

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Can you give an example?

Local understandings of criminal justice is a good example. I’ve worked on the way in which people in northern Uganda and South Sudan construct moral spaces to bring up their families without a functioning state. One area I’ve been looking at is witchcraft issues. There are local understandings of the way that suffering and misfortune occur, often grounded in interpersonal relationships, and the English term “witchcraft” is often misleading. With the drive towards criminal justice and the involvement of the International Criminal Court in central Africa there has been a lot of interest in local judicial mechanisms, and we now have a whole host of NGOs supporting traditional justice. But their idea as outsiders is that traditional justice is in some way similar to international justice, based upon similar notions of causality. When you have those interventions occurring without any kind of monitoring it can spin out of control very quickly. Continue reading

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Jul 29 2014

Disconnected in Detroit: Water shut-offs through the prism of African cities

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LSE’s Jonathan Silver looks at lessons Detroit can take from Johannesburg as authorities and activists deal with the city’s water crisis.

You might have seen the images circulating out of Detroit over the last few weeks of the unfolding humanitarian crisis. Utility company vehicles, highly-armed police, distressed but resisting residents (often it seems from the African-American community), warnings and condemnations from civil society and from the UN and the act of disconnection to that most basic of human rights, water. We have certainly become familiar with such images for many years now but we have fixed these moments in the grand neoliberal experiment in the African cities of countries such as South Africa and Nigeria (and of course the wider global South). This time though, our maps of the cities of the world have been fractured, turned upside-down even. For we have to leave behind those African neighbourhoods and cities, from which we have become accustomed to seeing an ongoing war against the urban poor, through controlling access to urban infrastructure services. Instead we have to take a step back into the “heart of empire” to locate these moments of infrastructural conflict that challenge how we categorise and place cities across the globe.

Detroit_Cop-detroitSince last summer over 42,000 disconnections to Detroit’s water system have taken place, concentrated in poor and African-American communities of the city’s devastated neighbourhoods, with these actions being processed on debts as low as $150 or two months non-payment. But despite the 15 day halt announced recently this might be only the start of what is viewed by the Detroit Water Brigade as a systemic campaign to stop water flowing to around 40% of the city’s population over the coming months. The consequences of these disconnections are almost unimaginable for residents left without the ability to clean, to cook or to drink, with National Nurses United calling for an immediate halting of the shut-offs before a significant public health crisis develops. Sections of the local establishment have even turned against this mass shut-off, warning not just of the cost to historically disadvantaged parts of the city but the city’s image in the wider world. Yet in the build-up to the privatisation of the water system in Detroit, maximising the value of this infrastructure has become the main driver of the actions of the authorities and has predicated a mass scale assault on water connections rarely seen in the global North. How can such an event take place in USA we might ask as we realise that on the streets of the world’s superpower access to basic services seem to be as fraught and contested as in those cities at the other end of our developmental categories and rankings. Continue reading

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Jul 28 2014

How to Roll Out the Red Carpet for Africa

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Obama’s major summit with the continent’s leaders will only succeed if the White House eschews autocrats in favor of a new generation of democratic champions, argues Jeffrey Smith.

Over the next few weeks, there is going to be an awful lot of chatter about the current and future state of relations between the United States and Africa. That is because US President Barack Obama is hosting the first-ever US-Africa Leaders Summit, which will take place in Washington, DC, from Aug. 4 to 6.

It is clear from the White House’s website for the event — and from my engagement with summit organizers — that much of the agenda will focus on the promotion of peace and security, as well as private investment, trade, and development. Obama’s renewed effort to engage with a rising Africa should be applauded: The summit is an extraordinary opportunity for the administration to fulfill its strong and repeated rhetorical commitments to promoting the twin goals of prosperity and human well-being across Africa.

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Will President Obama’s first US-African Leaders Summit be just a talking shop or can it breathe new life into US-Africa relations?

To be sure, Africa paints a complex picture. Although overall economic growth has been impressive, expected to top 5 percent this year, levels of inequality continue to rise. A stagnation or steady decline in political freedoms and democratic rights is also cause for concern. Similarly, there has been noticeable backpedaling on continental governance commitments, and ratification rates of regional conventions continue to decline, after hitting a peak in 2005. Continue reading

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