West Africa invaded by... locusts -- Chad oil pipeline: a precedent?
In recent days, the big story out of Africa, aside from Darfur, has been the invasion of locusts. A huge swarm of the creatures caused a wide swath of devastation especially in Mauritania, but also in Senegal, Gambia, Mali and Niger. It's also threatening Chad, which has a large number of refugees from Darfur.
It is feared that the locust attack could threaten up to a million people with famine. The locust invasion coincided with the beginning of the planting season, so many farmers have put off sowign their crops. A locust can eat its own body weight in a day and the BBC reported that swarms were so heavy that they contained up to 50 MILLION of the creatures in a single square kilometer.
Government officials from the affected regions have appealed to the international community for at least $75 million to help control the pests, mainly with insecticides.
But a UN official conceded, "The problem is that the international donor community is being pressed on all sides to help with different problems globally. It takes a while for the penny to drop in terms of realizing that the situation really is serious."
Ominously, the worst may be yet to come. "In the weeks to come, there will be many more locusts than those that have arrived so far", Annie Monnard, an FAO locust specialist told IRIN from Rome.
Ivorian rebels have rejoined the government of national union, according to the BBC. Rebel ministers had boycotted after an opposition march was violently attacked by the forces of "order," but agreed to participate again. This follows a peace summit in Ghana where the parties agreed to abide by the terms of the Marcoussis peace agreement... they already signed in France last year.
However, several challenges lie ahead [the BBC reporter] says, including voting in controversial laws on nationality and eligibility to run for president.
And, I might add, the apparent inability of Gbagbo to control the 'Jeunes patriotes' militias that are acting in his name. This is further inflamed by a viciously xenophobic and partisan national press.
The Christian Science Monitor reports on the new oil pipeline in Chad and its potential implications to see if the benefits of development aid can be made to benefit the people.
According to the terms of the country's agreement with the World Bank, Chad is committed to spend 80 percent of oil revenues on schools, clinics, roads, and other basic needs. Five percent goes to a fund for future generations. Another 5 percent goes to develop the southern oil region, near the Cameroon border. And 10 percent is socked away in case oil prices fall.
[I wonder why something like this wasn't thought of a long time ago]
Most of the cash is held by the World Bank in a London account to avoid "leakage." And a citizens committee, with four members from nonprofit groups and five from government, must approve all oil- revenue expenditures.
Already, people in one Chadian village are already feeling the benefits.
Villagers were hired to help build the school. The construction firm also bought bricks from local brick makers. And after the building was finished, villagers realized they needed yet another classroom. So they pooled their profits and spent about $50 to build an addition to the school, a one-room building with a tin roof. Even the chief, who's a brick mason, pitched in.
While this plan won't singlehandedly transform Chad (per capita income: $250 a year) into Saudi Arabia, or even Gabon, it will certainly set a precedent. It will raise expectations about what kind of governance Chadians demand of their leaders.
The PBS program Wide Angle, on American public television, recently did a show entitled Ladies First. It reported on the role played by women in rebuilding Rwandan society following the 1994 genocide.