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Species Extinction in Madagascar

Madagascar, off the eastern coast of Africa, is a very unique and extremely biodiverse island that is home to over 200,000 different species.  The island contains 5% of the world’s biodiversity and between 80% and 90% of the species found in Madagascar are found nowhere else on earth. There is, unfortunately, an increasing number of endangered and critically endangered species living in Madagascar. Their populations are impacted by human activity, deforestation, and climate change.

             Lemurs, primates that are only found in Madagascar, are an especially threatened species and are considered one of the most threatened species of mammals on earth. There are 107 different species of lemurs found in Madagascar, and of the 107 different species, 103 are threatened, and 33 are critically endangered. Deforestation is the driving factor in the increasing list of endangered species in Madagascar, along with the hunting of lemurs for their meat. Other species only found in Madagascar are threatened by the international wildlife trade which is the second biggest threat to endangered species after habitat loss.

 Human activity has affected the animals, leaving many species endangered as well as facing threats that include climate change, invasive species, overharvesting, habitat loss, and deforestation. Deforestation has created an uncertain future for the people and animal species that call Madagascar home. Almost half of Madagascar’s forests have been destroyed between 1953 and 2014, destroying the habitat of thousands of animals and leading their species deeper into endangerment.

The deforestation and extinction of many species affects more than just the local ecosystem. The people of Madagascar will also be in trouble if the forests are destroyed and there are not enough animals to provide an adequate food supply. People depend on the forests to provide them with food, plants to be used as medicine, shelter, energy, soil protection, and much more. The animals call the forest home and without it, they would go extinct. With a growing population, there is demand for more food, leading to unsustainable farming practices that require large areas of land for the production of food.  The production of food has been more important than environmental protection due to the need to feed the growing population. This demand for food led the country to develop unsustainable farming practices. Ancient farming practices where forests are burned for crops and left to regrow for years after are no longer sustainable in Madagascar due to the increase of product demand per year. There is no longer the amount of forest space left to practice this type of agriculture on a large scale and allow time for forests to regrow before being used again. Research shows that if sustainable methods for farming are not implemented there will be long-term negative impacts that affect food production. Lemurs are hunted for food in some places of Madagascar because there is not access to affordable meat. Decreasing lemur populations will potentially lead to even more food security issues in the country.

The island is at risk of losing 30% of its species by the end of the twenty-first century. The island’s populations of fish, mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles have decreased by 58% from 1970 to 2012. 

Gold on the Next Frontier for War on Terror

When the term ‘radical jihadist’ is thrown around the seemingly never ending Middle Eastern conflicts pops into mind. Though in recent years a new jihadist threat has been brewing in the African Sahel. The Sahel, is a region of central Africa that closely borders the Sahara Desert, it spans across the countries of Mali, Niger, Chad, and Mauritania (this is a non exhaustive list). The U.S. military has been referring to the Sahel more and more as “the new front in the war on terrosism”.  


The war in this region has been growing rapidly. Jihadist groups killed “ten times more people were killed in 2014.” Two main groups of jihadists are involved: the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS); and Jama’at Nasar al-Islam wal Musllimin (JNIM) which is closley linked with al-Qaeda.  


 The insurgent groups have lost ground in the Middle East, and are now expanding in Africa. This takes funding. Many African countries are large exporters of gold. These terrorist groups are readily gaining control over gold mines and making money off of them, effectively funding the groups for the long term.  

Burkina Faso has an official gold industry though black market mining produces far more gold. “Just 2% of Burkina Faso’s gold output is exported through official channels”.  Most of the informally produced gold in Burkina Faso is smuggled into neighboring countries, particularly Togo. The gold is then passed to larger countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Switzerland, and India for further processing and distribution. 

Gold has historically been an optimal currency for insurgents, because it retains its value and is widely accepted as a currency in parts of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. 

William Linder, a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer who served is West Africa, states, “Violent extremists have extended their areas of control and have enhanced their ability to generate income through gold – while state actors remain poorly positioned to do anything about it. Failure to fix this problem now will only deepen and help spread the Sahel crisis.”  

While it might not be highly publicized in the media, there is already foreign involvement in the region, with some 5,100 French troops, 1,200 U.S. troops, and 15,000 UN blue helmets on the ground. With American forces leaving Afghanistan, the Sahel will soon be the West’s biggest combat zone.

Many gold mines have been shut down by the government because they are on nature preserves, and serve as a threat to the wildlife. This subsequently leaves many men jobless, and without a reliable income. One of the ways that the insurgent groups are winning over locals is by allowing them to mine in these protected areas. “In a country (Burkina Faso) with annual incomes of just $660 a head according to the World Bank, government efforts to close off mines to individual diggers – whether for conservation or to make way for big business – are unpopular.”  

In order to gain more support with native people JNIM and ISGS have framed their messages as “fighting a neo-colonial enemy bent on stealing Africa’s riches”. The radical jihadists have also fitted there narrative to local situations, “reflecting some of the concerns of the diverse ethnic groups, Tuaregs, Arabs/Moors and black African Fulani and Songhai.” 

A variable further complicating the issue is that government forces have been extremely rough with local populations, leading many people to lean toward the terrorists’ cause. “This year, more civilians in the Sahel have been killed by government soldiers than by jihadists, says José Luengo-Cabrera of the International Crisis Group (icg), a Brussels-based NGO.”  President Roch Marc Christian Kaborè of Burkina Faso privately remarked that some of his citizens would feel safer living amongst the various terrorist groups as opposed to the government’s security forces.

To make matters worse, the jihadists are gaining control in three different directions. To the south the insurgent groups threaten Benin, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Togo. In the west there have been attacks in Mali in close proximity to its border with Senegal. Towards the east with Nigeria’s insurgent groups. “The jihadists already have a “de facto safe haven in northern Mali”, says General Dagvin Anderson”.

 In Mali there are growing calls for negotiations with the jihadists. The Mali government has extended an offer to talk with JNIM, the group has agreed once foreign troops have left, though this is unlikely. Though the jihadists have little incentive to negotiate while they are winning on the frontline . 

As many western forces pull out of the Middle East, the fight against radical  jihadists grows in the Sahel. There is no easy solution, and the immediate future seems murky.   

NEW POWERS AfTER THE RWANDAN GENOCIDE

Nationalism plays an important role in Rwandan history. It once connected people together to gain independence from foreign colonialism, but it became the source of violence, conflict, and bloodshed afterwards, and it finally led to one of the bloodiest and most horrifying incidents in human history. The Rwandan genocide was a planned extermination action carried out by the Hutu against the Tutsi in order to wipe them out. The current president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, however, is not using nationalism to justify his authoritarian rule.

In 1959, the Hutu overthrew the Tutsi, and tens of thousands of the Tutsi fled to neighbouring countries like Uganda. They formed the Rwandan Patriotic Front. The new Hutu government had fought wars with the RPF from 1990-1993. The Hutu, including a lot of government officials, came to the conclusion that the Tutsi caused all the problems. So they started training armed military men to get ready to wipe out the Tutsi. On April 6th in 1994, Juvénal Habyarimana, the Rwandan president, who was a Hutu that agreed to a United Nations-enforced peace agreement with the RPF, was killed in a plane accident. His plane was shot down by a missile from unknown origin. This incident set the genocide into motion. Hutu extremists blamed the Rwandan Patriotic Front for murdering the president, and they started the well-planned slaughter at once; while the RPF claimed that the plane was shot down by the Hutu themselves to find a good excuse to start the massive killing. But the missile soon became irrelevant, because the Hutu extremists saw a great chance to put their extermination plan into action. The genocide was cruel and bloody, and the Interahamwe was killing about 8000 Tutsi every day. 

Paul Kagame, the current president of Rwanda, used to be  the leader of the Rwandan Patriotic Front. He was sworn into office on September 12, 2003, and he portrayed himself as a Rwandan rather than a Tutsi. He also tried to downplay the ethnic strife within the country. A major focus of his presidency was to build national unity and the country’s economy. In the 2010 reelection, some opposition media were repressed, and several individuals, including an independent journalist and an opposition party leader were murdered. But Kagame vowed that neither himself or his regime was involved in these killings. Under this situation, several opposing parties were not able to field candidates. Some candidates were facing arrests, and others were excluded from participating in the election. In the end, Kagame had been reelected with 93 percent of the vote, and voter turnout was reported as more than 95 percent. Kagame kept working on rebuilding the country and promoting economic growth and social conditions in Rwanda. However, there is also criticism of his intolerance of political dissent and media freedom, as well as Rwanda’s continued involvement in conflicts in neighboring countries. In a referendum held in 2015, voters approved amendments to the constitution that would allow Kagame to serve a third seven-year term; in addition, he would be eligible to serve two five-year terms after that, giving him the potential to hold the office until 2034. 

Rwanda was in ruins when Mr Kagame’s RPF took power after the genocide but its economy is now growing at an average of 7% a year, and poverty levels have fallen.As for his African peers, most of them appear to hold him in high regard, as he has been given the task of spearheading efforts to reform the African Union.“Without an African Union that delivers, the continent cannot progress, and we face the likelihood of yet another decade of lost opportunity,” Mr Kagame said in a report tabled at a meeting of African leaders in January.

It seems that Paul Kagame’s authoritarian rule is doing the country good, but it also faces a lot of criticism. Kagame has indeed contributed a lot to rebuild and to make Rwanda a better place for his people, and his approval rate remains high among the people of Rwanda.

Tanzanians Shouldn’t Be Fooled by Magufuli

With most African countries having not gained their independence until the 1960’s, it was difficult for many of them to feel such a strong identity with their nation or a trust in their government that they could be described as nationalist. Since Tanzania’s independence in 1961, nationalism has been a driving force of democratization and freedom from authoritarian rule. Julius Neyere, Tanzania’s first president after the country gained its independence, used nationalism as a tool to encourage a prosperous future for Tanzania. He “emphasized Tanzania’s need to become economically self-sufficient rather than remain dependent on foreign aid and foreign investment” which promotes economic growth rather than the dependence of foreign aid. 

Tanzania’s current president, John Pombe Magufuli, and his party, Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) or “the Party of the Revolution”, have creatively developed a variant of nationalism. Separating it from most forms of nationalism, it focuses on a past order, Nyerere’s Tanzania. This movement dedicated to development was only in a formative stage and never was set in place. It is Magufuli and his party CCM’s goal to restore this previous order and resume the developmental path to a new future for Tanzania. Having been implemented to justify the authoritarian turn which began in 2014 this variation of nationalism may not prove to be of any help for the citizens of Tanzania. Magufuli’s disingenuous promise of restoring Nyerere’s Tanzania for the people’s benefit has instead revealed itself to be a ploy for regaining authoritarian control. In March, 2018, Mr. Magufuli declared, “I want you Tanzanians to believe that you have a real president, a real rock. I cannot be threatened and I am not threatened”, pinning his form of  nationalism as  parochial and populist.  He has prevented political opposition, which was already a problem with Tanzania having only a one-party system. 

Magufuli has also interfered with the ability of his citizens to organize, participate and communicate with each other freely and without hindrance, and in doing so, influence the political and social structures. Nicknamed “the Bulldozer”, Magufuli didn’t stop his bans there. On top of banning political rallies, Magufuli made it his mission to ban foregin travel, live parliament broadcast, and metallic mineral concentrate exports. This is all being done while he cracks down on the media and increases surveillance. His distrust of other world leaders particularly those in the West has prevented many deals from being made such as the construction of Tanzania’s first electric rail, which would have linked the main commercial city Dar es Salaam to the capital, Dodoma. Another deal canceled in part due to his nationalistic ideals was the construction of East Africa’s biggest port in Bagamoyo, once the capital of German East Africa. Mr. Magufuli was quoted saying only a “madman” would accept the financial terms negotiated for the port’s construction  by his predecessor Jakaya Kikwete. Magafuli claims that he is putting the nation first and is protecting his people from the failures of the selfish leaders who came before him. Magufuli has brought back the use of the word “beberu” which literally means “a male goat” in Swahili. But the significance of this word goes beyond calling someone a goat. It was frequently used to refer to “Western imperialists”in the time of British colonial rule. Magagfuli is tactfully using the past distrust of foreign aid and control and is employing nationalism to give the illusion that he is putting the freedoms of his nation’s people first, but much evidence would suggest he has ulterior motives.

SWAPO: The (Dangerous and Deteriorating) Face of Namibian Nationalism

Following World War I, South West Africa, now referred to as Namibia, was placed under British mandate, falling under the administration of the government of South Africa. By 1960, most African countries had gained their independence, but South West Africa was held onto by the South African government, mainly due to its rich mineral resources. In its fight to gain independence, South West Africa birthed the South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO), which remains a prominent face of nationalism in Namibian politics.

Created in April of 1960, SWAPO was originally founded to unite Namibians under the idea that the struggle for independence was necessary in bringing change to the country, and fight both physically and politically for the country’s freedom. Today, the party maintains this sense of unity and nationalism, and has remained Namibia’s governing party since 1990. SWAPO’s popularity among the people has been so strong that in the 2014 elections, the party gained 80% of the country’s votes. Behind this success is a combination of funding and campaigning prosperity, which is often more difficult to obtain among smaller parties due to Namibia’s sparse population.

However, after 30 years under SWAPO rule, Namibia is beginning to see what is referred to as the “Limits to Liberation”, in which movements built on liberation and increased nationalism lead to un-democratic and increasingly corrupt leaders. SWAPO, which now maintains control over much of Namibia’s politics, has recently faced allegations of corruption, abuse of power, and failures in administration that not only threaten their standing in government, but also speak to the dangers of placing nationalistic liberation groups in power.

One of the most significant pieces of evidence pointing to corruption in the SWAPO party was a scandal in Namibia’s fishing industry labelled “fishrot”, which came to light in late 2019. Allegations stated that the Icelandic seafood company, Samherji, had bribed government officials in Namibia into granting them access to fruitful fishing grounds, allowing them to utilize international loopholes and avoid taxation. As details of the scandal continue to emerge, implication has fallen on two ministers and several officials of state-owned enterprises, shining a spotlight on SWAPO and their possible involvement in what has been labelled Namibia’s “biggest bribery scandal”.

This scandal, in combination with other evidence of corruption and abuse of power, preceded widespread dissatisfaction with the SWAPO party, which was made clear in Namibia’s 2020 elections. Regional council votes for SWAPO dropped from 83% in 2015 to 57% in 2020, local authority votes dropped from 73% to 40%, and seats held in the municipality dropped from 12 out of 15 to only 5. Even more shocking than these sharp decreases in SWAPO popularity is the party’s public response to the country’s obvious disapproval. After Namibians began to shift their gaze from the SWAPO party earlier this year, defence minister Peter Hafeni Vilho attempted to utilize SWAPO’s signature sense of nationalism to shift the blame. He accused the country’s white population of an anti-government agenda, labelling them unpatriotic and blaming them for failures of the government. SWAPO’s spokesperson, Hilma Nicanor, shared Vilho’s rhetoric, as she blamed “outside forces” for the recent rejection of the party. Following SWAPO’s drop in popularity, members of the party have reiterated their dominance over the Namibian economy, even threatening to withhold funding from starving areas of the country governed by opposing parties, though the president publicly rejected these suggestions.

The recent shift in Namibia’s political narrative suggests that citizens are becoming fed up with SWAPO; a party built on nationalism and liberation, which now uses those very ideals to maintain a non-democratic government and shift the blame of corruption. In the coming years and the leadup to the next election, we will surely see Namibia’s political climate continue to change, and perhaps see the end of SWAPO’s years in power.

Civil War in Cameroon

While there is only one Cameroon there are two ethnic groups living within the nation. One the French cultural group is much larger than the other and runs the government while the English cultural group has been fighting for years for their independence, trying to create their very own nation called Ambazonia. In Cameroon, 80% of the population speaks French while the other 20% speaks English. These Anglophones say that they are marginalized and neglected by the French-speaking government. Some people just wanted reforms and changes to happen within the French-speaking government, but full on civil war has erupted instead. 

Cameroon wasn’t always like this. The two groups lived in peace and harmony for decades. Protests started in 2016 with teachers and lawyers peacefully protesting. They were frustrated that the government had assigned French speaking judges and teachers to work in English speaking courts and schools. The government started jailing activists fighting for these causes, which made more extreme voices take up the cause. Felix Nkongho, an Anglophone human rights lawyer who helped organize several of the peaceful protests and was jailed, said “‘The movement now had to fall in the hands of people who were more extremist, who were not only clamoring for the rights but wanted independence.’” They want to create a new nation, Ambazonia.

Ever since 2018 relations have turned violent between the Anglophone separatists and the Cameroon government. Most people killed in these conflicts are civilians. The fighting has killed around 3,000 people and displaced 600,000. There are massacres happening in the Anglophone regions against civilians. On February 14, 2020, at least 21 civilians were killed in Nghabur village by military and Fulani militia forces. Fulani is a nomadic community that came from Nigeria over 100 years ago and settled in the North and Southwest parts of Cameroon. Their cattle have been stolen by rebels fighting for the Anglophone separatists so tensions have grown high between the two groups. In the attack, people were either shot while running in the street or dragged back into houses which were then set on fire. Survivors of the attack say that there were no separatists in the village and that it was an unprovoked attack. The military denied the testimonies of eyewitnesses and stated that they had information proving it was a separatist base. However, the Ambazonian forces state that they had no people in the village.

There are peace talks going on between separatist leaders, who are in jail, and the government. Most of the separatist leaders are from a group called the Ambazonia Interim Government (IG). This comes after 285 civilians were killed in 190 incidents since January 2020 in the Northwest and Southwest regions. Mr. Biya, Cameroon’s President, vowed that he would “eradicate these criminals” when one month earlier the Northwest and Southwest regions claimed their own nation. Sisiku Ayuk Tabe who is a separatist leader said, “We call for a nonviolent revolution. We call for a non-violent protest. We call for a non-violent march. This is what we are demonstrating to the world and we have resisted Mr. Biya’s army of occupation in our land, but this is a moment that we must continue to stand firm.”

Cameroon is a prime example of what excess nationalism looks like. Two groups of people believe that they have the right to land to support their own nation. Yet they are not two nations, but one group of people who want to split from the other due to fundamental language and cultural differences. This had led to violence that has killed thousands of civilians and displaced hundreds of thousands. As can be seen in many other nations in the world, language and cultural barriers can lead to civil war and unrest unless the majority government actively works to accept and integrate them into their government.