Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Rioting in Kano -- Cell Phones Popular in Africa

Sectarian violence in northern Nigeria is about as rare as sectarian violence in Northern Ireland. But the Tuesday's mayhem in the city of Kano was still disturbing enough to be called "shocking" by the country's The Guardian paper. [A]t least 20 persons were feared dead, while several shops were either looted or razed. Ironically, the killings resulted from an attempt by some citizens to protest the on-going killings over religious differences in Plateau State... One eyewitness told The Guardian that he saw at least 10 bodies hacked to death by some of the protesters.

The BBC reports that violence is continuing into Wednesday in Kano. Riots spread to suburbs not secured by police, after an overnight curfew was lifted. Police say 10 people have died but other reports have higher figures. Thousands of people have fled their homes after Muslim youths went on the rampage burning homes and vehicles. They are demanding that the government take action after a massacre of Muslims last week by a Christian militia. Islamic leaders in the mainly Muslim town of Kano have joined Nigeria's president in urging calm.

The Sudanese government reportedly issued a statement claiming its determination to resolve the conflict in the eastern province of Darfur. In Darfur, Arab militias, believed to be sponsored by the central government, are accused engaging in ethnic cleansing against black African residents. Over 30,000 have been killed and over 1 million forced to flee. The central government's Foreign Ministry's declaration read: The government has reiterated its keenness to achieve a lasting solution to the problem of Darfur, as well as normalisation of the situation and maintaining stability there. Skepticism of Khartoum's intentions remains.

South Africa's reports that Darfur desperately needs aid and quickly. Aid agencies say help to the victims of the conflict in western Sudan is too slow in coming, and that relief efforts have been delayed by the Khartoum government. "Since the beginning of May we have waited for the necessary permits to distribute aid to around 100 000 displaced people in and around the town Kutum", Ruediger Ehrler of the aid organisation German AgroAction said on Wednesday. Ehrler said over 1 000 tons of food was sitting in the town Kutum in Darfur, waiting to be distributed. The World Food Programme (WFP) said they too had faced some constraints in delivering aid. "There are still difficulties in reaching all the locations we want to reach", a WFP spokesperson said on Wednesday.

The Addis Tribune reports on the rush for mobile phones in Africa. Use of mobile phones has been increasing at an annual rate of 65%, more than twice the global average, the Ethiopian daily explained. This remarkable expansion is, in part, a reflection of the wretched state of many fixed line networks throughout the continent. They have often been confined to cities and have suffered from decades of under-investment. Customers have embraced the opportunity to have reliable telephone service, largely free of government interference, and at a relatively cheap price. The fact that mobile phone calls can be funded on a pay-as-you-go basis makes it easier for less well-off customers to budget. Yet another industry that flourishes in Africa in the absence of state meddling.


At 5:38 AM, Blogger Abiola said...

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Don't you find it interesting that Obasanjo had no problem declaring martial law in predominantly Christian Plateau State, and removing that state's incumbent governor, while he's done nothing whatsoever about the situation in Kano, despite not just the sectarian violence there but also the obstructionism of Shekarau with respect to polio eradication?
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At 9:08 AM, Blogger Brian said...

Despite PDP efforts to make Nigeria into a one party state, my impression is that Obasanjo is a weak leader. Maybe that's why he's focusing so much on his continental profile with the Zimbabwe thing and NEPAD lobbying.

Frankly, I think he's afraid that if he uses strongarm tactics in the north that it will either provoke a backlash. Or, worse in his eyes, northern officials will simply defy his authority and it will lead to civil war or a breakup of the federation.

I'm not sure that the latter would necessarily be a bad thing. I'm not sure the federation has worked since the beginning. Muslims and Christians get along reasonably well in places like Senegal and Guinea but not in Nigeria for whatever reason. Cote d'Ivoire is starting to have similiar sectarian violence, though there it's mostly "Christians" who are provoking it. I really do fear that Cote d'Ivoire might become the next Rwanda because I see a lot of similiarities. A friend of mine in Guinea just received two dozen of his family members who fled Cote d'Ivoire. Sigh...


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