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Deeper Than The Headlines: Aluu 4, Herero Genocide, EU Nobel Prize + More

African news headlines including Aluu 4, Herero Genocide, EU Nobel Prize + More


Okay okay, here is our second installment of "Deeper Than The Headlines." If you missed last week's, take a look for some in-depth pieces covering topics from Thomas Sankara to Die Antwoord. Keep checking back every Thursday for pieces that go a bit deeper than the headlines. 

1. "'Perplexed ... Perplexed': On Mob Justice in Nigeria"

By: Teju Cole

In this compelling piece for The Atlantic, critically acclaimed author, Teju Cole takes a closer look at mob justice in Nigeria, particularly the haunting lynching of four students earlier this month in Port Harcourt, Nigeria known as the "Aluu 4." The murders were widely circulated throughout the web, with Youtube videos, and explicitly disturbing photos of the young men- what is particularly interesting to Cole is the response. He states: "I found the response to the incident among the Nigerian public interesting. The outrage was loud and long. It was as though this were the first time such a thing had ever happened, as though Nigerian society were not already mired in frequent and almost orgiastic spates of violence. Somehow, this incident had differentiated itself from the terrorist attacks by Boko Haram, the endless killings by "unknown gunmen," the carnage on the roads, the armed robberies, the dispiriting catalogue of crimes in places high and low." Throughout his piece, Cole explores mob justice, or the more loaded term "jungle justice", as a consequence of a crisis in modernity in which "mobs arise out of this crisis [as] a form of impatience." For a really powerful examination of the Aluu 4- just read it. It's long, but worth it, and a unique exploration of the causes and responses to the lynchings and general mob justice throughout the region.

 

2. "Memories of Genocide at the Hands of Germany Fuels Radicalism in Namibia"

By: Geoffrey York

In this piece for The Globe and Mail, Geoffrey York suggests that radicalism is growing in Namibia as a response to the German-led Herero Genocide (which took place at the beginning of the 20th century). Germans killed over 80% of the Herero population"through starvation, thirst, and slave labour in concentration camps." The Herero Genocide is often cited as "a significant influence on the Nazis in the Second World War. Many of the key elements of Nazi ideology – from racial science and eugenics to the theory of Lebensraum (creating “living space” through colonization) – were promoted by German military veterans and scientists who had begun their careers in South-West Africa, now Namibia, during the genocide." Today, the few Herero in Namibia are beginning what may be a long battle to reacquire land lost during the genocide. York's article features Vetaruhe Kandorozu, the elected regional councillor for Okakarara, unofficial capital of the Herero, who is championing for Herero rights, in spite of local Germans, who argue that "For a hundred years it was not an issue. It's because their population has increased and they don’t have enough land and they don’t live nicely. So they blame the Germans for it." If you haven't read much about the Herero Genocide, then definitely take a look at York's article- and after that, take a look at this response from Dan Moshenberg from Africa is a Country.

 

3. "EU Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize but what about Africa?"

By: Sitinga Kachipande

In comparison to issues of leadership in Africa (which we covered last week with the lack of a recipient for the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership), this week was filled with praise for leadership and governance in Europe. In her piece for Think Africa Press, Sitinga Kachipande examines the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the European Union, and asks "What about Africa?" Here's a quote that pretty much sums things up: "Many African countries are still trapped in a neo-colonial relationship with European nations which promote uneven and unequal development, and European policies to Africa have at times contributed to chaos, conflict and destabilisation. Peer outside the narrow confines of Europe and the Nobel committee’s fantasy about the EU being the 'biggest peacemaker in history' quickly unravels."

 

4. "Moroccan Rock Stars, Hassan Hajjaj"

By: Orlando Reade

For some different news out of the MENA region, Orlando Reade's article in Africa is a Country takes a look at Moroccan photographer Hassan Hajjaj. Here's a short excerpt for some context: "Hassan Hajjaj’s first memories of photography are from his childhood in Morocco. His mother would occasionally dress him in clothes sent from his father in England, cover him in perfume and take the whole family to the local photography studio for a family portrait. Then there were the street photographers in Lamache, the harbour town where he lived until the age of fourteen, “who would take pictures of you on a plastic horse, wearing cowboy hats and so on…” There is a similar colour and spontaneity to My Rockstars: Volume 1, a series of studio portraits Hajjaj has been working on since 1998, exhibited for the first time at The Third Line gallery in Dubai last month." Check out the photography: it's colorful, lively and a nice interruption to general discourses of chaos in the region.

 

5. "Algeria’s Ghosts: France Acknowledges a 1961 Police Massacre"

By: Bruce Crumley

There seems to be a growing trend of colonial apologies. Earlier this month, France apologized to Senegal and pledged a new beginning in the relationship between France and Francophone nations, and now France again has recently acknowledged a colonial massacre which took place in Algeria in October 1961 (Actually maybe it's just France). In Time (World) Bruce Crumley provides a history of the massacre, and French President François Hollande's recent "call for France to recognize what they maintain was premeditated police brutality that led to as many as 200 deaths." The piece also features really interesting photos from Algeria's Independence in 1962- It would have been nice if Crumley had considered the implications of these "apologies" as well, but it's still worth a read.

For more African news check back next Thursday.

 

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Nigerian Officials Drop Charges Against Naira Marley for Violating Coronavirus Lockdown Order

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Naira Marley has been pardoned by Lagos authorities, after being arraigned in Lagos for attending a party at the home of Nollywood actress Funke Akindele last weekend, which violated the city-wide lockdown.

According to a report from Pulse Nigeria, the "Soapy" singer and two other defendants—politician Babatunde Gbadamosi and his wife—were ordered to write formal apologies to the Government of Lagos, give written assurance that he will follow the ordinance going forward, and go into self-isolation for 14 days.

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To combat the spread of misinformation due to the coronavirus outbreak, users are now restricted from sharing frequently forwarded messages to more than one person.

The rise of the novel coronavirus has seen an increase in the spread of fake news across social media sites and platforms, particularly WhatsApp—a platform known as a hotbed for the forwarding of illegitimate chain messages and conspiracy theories (if you have African parents, you're probably familiar). Now the Facebook-owned app is setting in place new measures to try and curb the spread of fake news on its platform.

The app is putting new restrictions on message forwarding which will limit the number of times a frequently forwarded message can be shared. Messages that have been sent through a chain of more than five people can only subsequently be forwarded to one person. "We know many users forward helpful information, as well as funny videos, memes, and reflections or prayers they find meaningful," announced the app in a blog post on Tuesday. "In recent weeks, people have also used WhatsApp to organize public moments of support for frontline health workers."

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Photo courtesy of CNOA

These Colombian Civil Rights Activists Are Fighting to Make Sure Afro-Colombians are Counted in the Census

When 30 percent of Colombia's Black citizens disappeared from the data overnight, a group of Afro-Colombian activists demanded an explanation.

It was the end of 2019 when various Black organizations protested in front of the census bureau—The National Institute of Statistics and Informatics (DANE)—in Bogotá, Colombia to show their dissatisfaction about what they called a "statistical genocide" of the black population. The census data, published that year, showed 2.9 million people, only 6 percent of the total population of the country, was counted as "Afro-Colombian," "Raizal," and "Palenquero"—the various terms identifying black Colombians.

For many years, Afro-Colombians have been considered the second largest ethno-racial group in the country. Regionally, Colombia has long been considered the country with the second highest number of Afro-descendants after Brazil, according to a civil society report.

Why did the population of Afro-Colombians drop so drastically?

Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenquero civil-rights activists protesting erasure of Afro-descendants in front of the census bureau.

Last year, a crowd of activists gathered in Bogota to protest what they saw as erasure of Black communities in the Colombian census.

Photo courtesy of CNOA

In the latest national census report from 2018/2019, there appeared to be a 30.8 percent reduction of the overall group of people that identified as Black, Afro-Colombian, Raizal, and Palenquero, as compared to the 2005. After this controversial report, an Afro-Colombian civil rights organization known as the National Conference of Afro Colombian Organizations (CNOA), officially urged DANE to explain the big undercounting of the black population.

This wasn't a small fight. Representatives who hold the special seats of Afro-Colombians in Colombia's congress asked the census bureau to attend a political control debate at the House of Representatives in November 2019 to deliver an accountability report. "The main goal of doing a political debate was to demand DANE to give us a strong reason about the mistaken data in the last census in regard to the Afro population," said Ariel Palacios, an activist and a member of CNOA.

At the debate, the state released an updated census data report saying that, almost 10 percent of the Colombian population—4.6 million people out of 50.3 million—considers themselves Afro-Colombians or other ethnicities (like Raizal, and Palenquero). But despite DANE trying to confirm the accuracy and reliability on the latest census report it was clear that, for a variety of reasons, Black people were missed by the census. The state argued that their main obstacles with data collection were related to the difficulties of the self-recognition question, as well as security reasons that didn't allow them to access certain regions. They also admitted to a lack of training, logistics and an overall lack of success in the way the data collectors conducted the census.

How could they have counted Black populations better?

Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenquero civil-rights activists playing drums in front of the census bureau.

Drummers performing during a protest against the Colombian census bureau's erasure of Afro-Colombians from the 2018 census.

Photo courtesy of CNOA

These arguments were not reasonable for the civil rights activists, partially because the state failed to properly partner with Afro-organizations like CNOA to conduct or facilitate extensive informational campaigns about the self-identification questions.

"CNOA has worked on self-recognition and visibility campaigns among the Afro community and this census ignored our work," says priest Emigdio Cuesta-Pino, the executive secretary of CNOA. Palacios also thinks that the majority of Afro-Colombians are aware of their identity "we self-identify because we know there is a public political debate and we know that there is a lack of investment on public policies."

That's why it is not enough to leave the statistical data to the official census bureau to ensure that Afro-Colombian communities are fully counted in the country. And the civil rights activists knows that. They made a big splash in the national media and achieved visibility in the international community.

Thanks to The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), a human rights organization, Palacios traveled to D.C to meet with Race and Equality institution and a Democratic Congressman. "We called for a meeting with representative Hank Johnson to talk about the implementation of Colombia's peace accords from an Afro-Colombian perspective but also to address the gross undercounts of its black population," says Palacios.

For the activists at CNOA, the statistical visibility of the Black population is one of their battles. They have fought for Afro population recognition for almost two decades. "Since the very beginning CNOA has worked on the census issue as one of our main commitments within the statistical visibility of the Afro-Colombian people," says priest Cuesta-Pina. Behind this civil organization are 270 local associations, who work for their rights and collective interests.

The activists want to raise awareness on identity. Because according to Palacios, "In Colombia, there is missing an identity debate—we don't know what we are. They [the census bureau] ask if we are black, or if we are Afro-Colombians. But what are the others being asked? If they are white, mestizo or indigenous?" Palacios believes that for "CNOA this debate is pending, and also it is relevant to know which is the character of this nation."

Afro-Colombian Populations and the Coronavirus

Afro-Colombian, Black, Raizal, and Palenquero civil-rights activists use mock coffins and statistics to protest erasure of Afro-descendants

Colombian civil-rights activist insist that undercounting Afro-descendants can have a real impact on the health of Afro-Colombian communities, especially during the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis.

Photo courtesy of CNOA

Even though the state recently "agreed with to give us a detailed census report" and make a different projection with the micro data, says Palacios, now with the Covid-19 emergency, CNOA and the government has suspended all meetings with them, including cancelling a second congressional debate and the expert round table meeting to analyze the data.

Unfortunately, it is exactly in situations like the Covid-19 emergency where data analysis and an accurate census report would have been useful. According to the professor and PhD in Sociology Edgar Benítez from Center for Afro Diasporic Studies—CEAF, "Now it is required to provide a reliable and timely information on how the contagion pattern will spread in those predominantly Afro regions in the country and what is the institutional capacity in those places to face it," says Benítez.

He adds that this information is "critical at the moment because the institutional capacity is not up to provide it at the current situation". That's why the Center for Afro Diasporic Studies plans to work with DANE information from the last census. According to Benítez, "We are thinking of making comparisons at the municipal level with the information reported in the 2018 Quality of Life Survey, in order to have a robust and extensive database as possible on the demographic, economic and social conditions of the black, afro, Raizal and Palenquera population in Colombia."









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