Boko Haram – A Force to be Reckoned With?

The militant Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram has gained infamy throughout the world after its atrocious kidnapping of over 200 schoolgirls in Chibok in 2014. Of course, this wasn’t the first of the group’s crimes. Founded in 2002 by Muhammed Yusuf, the original purpose of Boko Haram was to abolish the spread of Western education; not necessarily through violence and aggression. After several years of spreading its beliefs, the group eventually began committing terrorist acts to try and further its cause. Its first large attacks were in 2009, mainly directed toward police stations and government buildings in Maiduguri, a city in northeastern Nigeria. The Nigerian army was able to fight back against the militants rather successfully. Many believed the group would dissolve after the death of Yusuf and many of his supporters with this defeat. However, this was not the case. Abubakar Shekau rose as the new leader of Boko Haram, and ever since has spawned multiple increasingly violent attacks against Nigeria and countries surrounding it, causing the deaths of over 6,000 people. This represents a casualty figure even higher than that of ISIS.

Boko Haram began appearing in the news more and more frequently after its notorious kidnapping of the Chibok girls. The incident spawned anger internationally, and allowed the group to recruit more supporters into its ranks with the publicity. Many of the kidnapped girls were converted to Islam and married off to members of the group, in addition to being used as bargaining chips to exchange for imprisoned fighters. There have been many successful counter-attacks aimed toward the militant group by the Nigerian military. Boko Haram had grown extremely powerful and almost unstoppable as it expanded its authority into other countries besides Nigeria, but the Nigerian government began launching its own counter-attacks to weaken the group in January of 2015, sending over 8,700 troops to fight against the group. Most of these measures proved useful and after several months, Boko Haram was driven into the Sambisa Nature Reserve. In the spring of 2015, almost 700 people were freed by the Nigerian army from capture inside the forest. In October of 2016, 21 of the girls were released from imprisonment in the Sambisa forest. According to those girls who were freed, many Boko Haram members were lacking in guns, ammunition, and transportation. They also were allegedly speaking about abandoning the group and their distaste for the current leader Shekau, according to a statement made by one of the freed girls, Amina Ali Nkeki.

Boko Haram allegedly pledged its allegiance to the Islamic State in early 2015. The pledge was accepted by Nigerian ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It was believed that the allegiance to the Islamic State would provide more legitimacy for Boko Haram and allow its message to be spread. They looked to gain more supporters who would be unable to join the fighting in Syria or Iraq and make use of social medias to help mesh with other Jihadi groups. These things did prove to work for Boko Haram for a time, but the new leader of the Nigerian ISIS faction,  Abu Musab Al-Barnawi and Shekau became rivals. Shekau also began to be known for indiscreetly making decisions and not making use of the internet and social media to spread Boko Haram’s message. Shekau’s authority is still a mystery, allegedly Al-Barnawi broke off from Boko Haram and took some of Shekau’s followers with him. This caused Boko Haram to split into two separate groups, one led by Al-Barnawi and the other by Shekau. Shekau still has command over those kidnapped in the Sambisa forest and his remaining followers, but it is believed that his group is growing steadily weaker. Boko Haram, which was once believed to be a rising threat among other terrorist groups, has now been reduced to only a small area of Nigeria. Its command no longer is as menacing as it once was.

Is Tourism Helping South Africa?

I love to travel. I have been to countries across the world, but I have never been to Africa. I hear, however, the scenery and the animals are to die for. Whenever I go to another country or another state, I always think about the effects I generate by traveling there. I look at the luxurious resorts on tropical islands and think about the surrounding community and how these titanic buildings affect them. I’ve always been curious if tourism can be used to help the local community instead of taking away from it.

Tourism may have major affects on newly developing countries. It can bring quick economic success but also cause the reliance on that industry to become too high. The countries that thrive the best in this industry most likely have apathetically pleasing views whether they are in the mountains, on a beach or in the forest. Many people debate whether or not tourism helps or hurts a country. Tourism can have positive and negative effects on a country economically, socially and environmentally.

Recent statistics shows that the tourism industry has positively impacted South Africa’s economy. Tourism in South Africa is growing rapidly. According to the Statistics of South (http://www.southafrica.info/travel/tourists-290514.htm#.WECTixRqf7Z) Africa there has been a 10.4% (http://www.southafrica.info/travel/tourists-290514.htm#.WECTixRqf7Z) increase in visitors from 2012-2013. International travelers visiting South Africa grew at an annual rate of 7.4% from 2011-2014 (http://www.southafrica.info/travel/tourists-290514.htm#.WECTixRqf7Z). This number is well above the global average of 4.5% (http://www.southafrica.info/travel/tourists-290514.htm#.WECTixRqf7Z). Marthinus Van Schalkwyk, South Africa’s outgoing tourism minister claims that “South Africa’s tourism industry continues to show good growth, and we remain confident in the ongoing performance and sustainability of the sector.” Tourism contributed 3% to the country’s GDP in 2012, which equates to R93.3 billion ($6,751,085,384). In 2011, tourism created 4.6% of the total employment.

Many tourism companies in South Africa allow visitors to interact and work with the local community, which seems to have a positive effect on the locals and especially the children. South Africa has a lot to offer its tourists in the form of traditional tourism but also volunteer opportunities. There are a lot of national and international organizations that offer volunteer possibilities to tourists. There is even a lodge on the Eastern Cape (http://country.southafrica.net/country/us/en/articles/entry/community-tourism-projects-enus) that sits near one of the poorest communities in South Africa. This lodge allows its occupants to have access to this area and interact with the local South Africans. In this community visitors will be able to help make bricks, brew beer, or stamp corn. and learn about the life of a member of this community. There is another opportunity where visitors may interact with students in a classroom (http://country.southafrica.net/country/us/en/articles/entry/community-tourism-projects-enus), which allows them to get a taste of the education system. If time allows, the tourists may be able to introduce a little bit of their profession to the small community. A lot of the volunteer work offered involves working directly with younger children, who are able to benefit from attention from older role models, especially if they do not receive loving attention at home. Through these interactions, tourists will have a new appreciation of the South African culture and vise versa.

Unlike the other two sectors, however, tourism requires a lot of high-end maintenance that may have a detrimental effect the local communities. In many areas, lavish resorts are constructed to attract wealthy travelers who want the luxury of viewing the picturesque country with the comfort of hot water, expensive food and soft beds. There are very few individuals who would choose to live like the lower class in South Africa. Development in tourism puts strain on countries with limited natural recourses. Land must be cleared in order to construct these large buildings to house travelers, which in turn leads to loss of habitat and overall degradation of the ecosystems. The biodiversity that is lost during the clearing of land threatens food supplies, decreases opportunity for tourism and reduces accessibility to natural resources. There are efforts to bring awareness to this issue in various countries but it’s not a main focus of this growing industry.

Tourism in South Africa has proven to be a current success. This industry has created more job opportunities for a country that has a very high unemployment rate and has contributed greatly to the country’s GDP. A friend of mine has just returned from spending her past summer in South Africa and has gushed about the great impact it has had on her. She often reflects on the South African children she spent time with and tells us of her new insight into their culture. I have come to the conclusion from my research that most of the accommodations are modest relative to other more extravagant resorts in the world and do not strain the natural resources as much. At this stage, tourism does not pose a threat to South Africa. However, once it is the main source for the country’s GDP it will create a reliance on this industry to keep the country functioning and will begin to pose a threat.

Poaching in Africa

Poaching is one of the world’s most prevalent issues in relation to certain animal species. In Africa where poaching is the most problematic, the economy also suffers because of the increasing amount of poaching over the last decade. Poaching has mainly affected the black rhino, the African elephant, the lion, the mountain gorilla, and the gravy’s zebra, and all are now very close to extinction because poaching and its effects on the environment. Now fewer than 900 mountain gorillas remain, 85% of the lion’s historic range has been lost, approximately 2,000 zebras are left, up to 35,000 elephants were killed last year and the black rhino’s population has dropped 97.6% since 1960. Though the zebras, gorillas, and lions are an extremely serious case, what’s currently a rising problem is the poaching of elephants and rhinos for their ivory horns or tusks.
The reason for this rising demand for rhino horn and elephant tusks is because the wealthy of certain countries have somehow created the belief that consuming these things will cure hangovers, cancer, fevers, and impotence. None of these “cures” have been scientifically proved, but even so, poachers continue their trade. Being able to buy these items also demonstrates status because the price is extremely high. A pound of rhino horn costs $30,000, which is $8,000 more than a pound of gold. The ivory taken from these animals can also be used for jewelry, utensils, trinkets, and religious figurines.
Because of this rising demand for ivory, environmental groups, animal rights groups, government agencies, and even the Duke of Cambridge are calling for an end to wildlife poaching. Other groups such as The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), The World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), and the International Anti-Poaching Foundation (IAPF) are leading international efforts to end wildlife poaching. Since their collaboration in this effort, eight people have been sentenced to jail between 2010 and 2012 for trying to smuggle over three tons of ivory over the border. Every bit of help in this effort to end the cruel poaching of the animals is vital, but unfortunately stopping poaching altogether is a very difficult task that will take many years to accomplish.
When approaching the issue to end poaching, officials cannot just target the African poachers, they must also target the countries receiving those valuables. The officials must find a way to create more security in areas where valuables are commonly received. Though there is international help, Africa must also provide help in their realm as well. In Africa, there are few troops in the wildlife parks, so there’s little to no one monitoring the animals or the activity tat goes on around the area all the time. One of the main factors in ending poaching is to have the full cooperation from those in Africa and international authorities.
The approach to ending poaching goes even farther than just having cooperation on all sides. Africa has a failing economy with many people earing less than $1.50 a day. Finding the money to hire, train, and pay people to protect the wildlife, is another difficult task. In the past, Africa’s economy relied on its wildlife and animals to bring in tourists and business. Some animals that weren’t intended to be targeted by poachers become caught in the traps and are killed in the process. These animals are often ones that the poorer citizens catch and live off of. By losing much of the wildlife and animals, Africa is suffering about $20 million in economic losses each year. About 9 million of that loss is from the tourists’ direct spending, which includes hotels and souvenirs. If trends continue this way, the economy will continue to drop and the people will continue to suffer, not just the animals. Poaching is not only an international problem but it’s also the reason for the suffering of many people in Africa.