This week’s update on Africa is the bee’s knees with some encouraging and heartwarming news amidst updates on the political scene.
Political and Conflict Updates
Since I missed this article last week, I’m leading with it because it’s a very important update on women’s issues. UN envoy Zainab Hawa Bangura, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, recently visited Bangui, Central African Republic, where she announced two agreements on conflict-related sexual violence. She (well, the UN) intends to fight impunity on these war crimes while also providing greater support for survivors. Yes! I really hope that moving forward, justice will be accomplished and that these terrible crimes will be punished accordingly.
Currently, South Africa’s ruling party–the African National Congress (ANC)–is moving to establish a boycott on Israel in light of recent Israeli/Palestinian conflicts. In South Africa, Jews are outnumbered 10 to 1 by Muslims, and the ANC is pro-Palestinian, a feeling leftover from anti-apartheid struggles. However, South African Jews and many religious leaders have voiced alarm at this move, believing that it would only pit South Africans against each other. In an open letter addressed to the ANC, these citizens said:
The current renewed conflict in the Middle East is a deep-rooted religious conflict and a human tragedy for everyone caught up in its escalating violence. We all must do what we can to lower tensions and help create conditions for peace. If rash partisan action by one part of our South African society results in our country becoming a new front in the confrontation – pitting South Africans of different religious backgrounds against each other in support of one or other of the protagonists in the Holy Land conflict – peace suffers over there and over here…
When South Africa’s ruling party chooses sides in this bitter conflict, our country loses the credibility to be a voice for peace between the parties, and only the agenda of conflict is served. Such actions impede a peaceful solution that would enable Jews to live in their ancient Biblical land in peace side by side with their Muslim neighbors.
I’m curious to see how this situation unfolds.
Although South Sudan is now a separate, recognized nation, there are still conflicted areas along the border between Sudan and South Sudan. Back in September, The Peace and Security agreements were made between the two nations in an effort to implement several critical arrangements that would resolve ongoing conflict between the two nations. Their deadline to come to an agreement was December 5th, which has come and gone. The African Union is not pleased with the lack of progress, but currently, the Security Council is holding off on stepping in until Presidents Omar Bashir and Salva Kiir can meet to discuss these issues in person.
Agriculture and Conservation
One of the answers to poverty in Africa? It’s a sweet, sweet answer that comes in the form of honeybees! Honey Care Africa, started in Kenya, provides starter hives to local farmers who can manage the bee colonies on their property, which will help bolster their income both by promising a steady harvest of honey that can be sold at fair trade prices and with helping to boost crop productivity.
As human populations in Africa continue to expand, the savannahs continue to shrink, threatening animal species native to that geographic habitat. Lions are one of these animals, and researchers at Duke University estimate that there are now only 32,000 lions left, down from nearly 100,000 in 1960.
Due to continued ivory poaching, Africa’s elephant populations are dwindling dramatically. Conservationist Jane Goodall places blame on China for providing a market for the illegal merchandise. Because ivory has to be smuggled out of Africa, people must provide it through the black market. The sale of ivory is linked to the conflict in DR Congo in much the same way diamonds were linked to conflicts in West Africa. There are tens of thousands of elephants killed each year for their tusks.
It’s a Small World After All:
As Stephens pointed out in the last News in Asia, there are people around the world who have voiced solidarity and sympathy with the citizens of Newtown, CT, in light of the tragic shooting that happened last Friday. Liberian schoolchildren are the next to join this chorus of support. They presented the US ambassador with a giant sympathy card following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, which moved the ambassador deeply. To me, I feel like this is an especially poignant gesture knowing that Liberia suffered over a decade of civil war in recent years and is still recovering from their own extended tragedy.