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Urbanization in Nigeria

The population of Nigeria has grown significantly and this among other factors has lead to fairly rapid urbanization. The cities in Nigeria, especially Lagos, have had a hard time keeping up with the influx of people leading to a housing crisis, issues with waste disposal, water access, air pollution, and diseases often related to the increase in drug use. From now to 2020 three countries; Nigeria, India, and China, are projected to account for 37% of the world’s population growth. 7 of the biggest cities in Nigeria have had a 1000% population increase in the last 50 years. 10.1% of Nigeria’s population was urban in 1950, about 60% of Nigeria’s is projected to be urban by 2020.

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In the late 1970’s about 200,000 housing units were planned to accommodate the influx of people but under 15% of the planned units ended up getting built. A similar plan was made for another 200,000 units in the mid 1980’s but only about 19% of those units ended up getting built. From 1960 to 1980 the total housing requirements in Nigeria rose by a little over 3 million units. Nowadays in four of Nigeria’s largest cities there are an average of 3 people per room. It is estimated that it would take about 100 million US dollars to fix the housing crisis.

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This many people living so close together has lead to issues with access to clean water and in turn, waste disposal. In Lagos, Nigeria’s biggest city only 9% of people have access to clean piped water. Almost 40% of people in Lagos’s source of water is street vendors. This lack of piped water means that most people do not have toilets in their houses. In fact there are no cities in Nigeria with a central sewage system. Human waste is often dumped in uncontrolled landfills on the sides of the road. These can sometimes get onto the roads themselves and block traffic. The wastes are often burned in order to prevent this which can lead to fire accidents, the spread of disease, and contributes to air pollution.

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38% of the manufacturing industries in the country are located in Lagos. Values far >0.02 part per million limits of automobile exhaust recommended by the World Health Organization have been reported in most Nigerian cities. 612,000 tons of dust are kicked up in the air by motor vehicles per year for unpaved roads, which are most of the roads in Nigeria. Nigeria has about four vehicles per 1000 inhabitants, the lowest level of motorization in West Africa. Only about 30% of all categories of roads in Nigeria are in good condition and 70% are in various stages of disrepair. 584,000 tons of smoke particles were emitted into atmosphere for burning about 80 million m3 of fuelwood.

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Cities have furthered the spread of disease as well. Much of this is due to drug use. Of the commercial motorcyclists in Zaria city, North West Nigeria, 25.8% use marijuana and 24.5% use solution. The transmission of HIV/AIDS went up in the 1980s and 1990s along with urbanization. Cities can lead to a change in the social norms including sexual activities and the use of illicit drugs. Hospitals report >15% of admissions are due to malaria, especially in urban areas. Many soil transmitted diseases have made a comeback due to urbanization including helminthiasis, schistosomiasis, and lymphatic filariaisis.

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Due to rapid population growth many cities in Nigeria, especially Lagos, have had a hard time keeping up leading to a housing crisis, issues with waste disposal, water access, air pollution, and diseases often related to the increase in drug use.

It’s Always Rush Hour in Rwanda

As the population of Rwanda grows, so does the total amount of people considered urban, with the official figure hovering around 17%. But a true sign of the times, even the concept of what constitutes urbanization is becoming increasingly outdated. Using a looser interpretation, the urbanized portion of the population has almost doubled at 31% today, compared to roughly 16% in 2002. Recently, Rwanda’s rapid period of growth has leveled off, signaling the end of true large scale urbanization. Looking towards the future, however, the overall population is expected to be on the rise again due to a combination of outside investors and scaled up agriculture production.

The large shift of citizens out of rural areas is fueled by the lack of advancement opportunities while stuck on a fixed income. A new urban environment is substantially more conducive to economic growth than dying communities with limited option in terms of land and jobs. Rwanda as a whole is still largely reliant on the profits generated from farming, but a sizeable subset of farmers are subsistence farmers, with entire families relying on agriculture to supply their basic needs.

However, the ability to find steady work is not guaranteed as an increasing amount of people flock to cities, mainly the capital Kigali. The Rwandan minister himself has been forced to acknowledge the correlation between rural urban migration and growing unemployment rates in an already competitive market. The job gap is widening, as those in rural areas seeking to escape their situation add to the pool of those searching for available work with varying levels of success. Those lucky enough to find positions often accept jobs they are overqualified for, or alternatively take on unfamiliar roles. Beyond the obvious, unemployment has broader effects, such as negative social impacts. This influx of people is arguably too much of a good thing, as the amount of people existing below the poverty line is increasing.

Many of the problems stemming from urbanization surround the ill-planned use of land during the building of many new structures. This includes physically illogical layouts that don’t maximize the space available as well as environmental concerns such as erosion. Post-genocide Kigali is one of the most visible examples of this change.

Both rural to urban and urban to rural migration is occurring, with each case presenting unique challenges. The process is cyclical, as people in search of work move to the city, while those alienated by the increasingly high concentration of people move to rural areas. The very nature of real estate transactions in rural areas have changed, with outside buyers fueling the market and driving up prices.  Those with the means to buy plots of land in these quiet areas (whether it be the government or an independent buyer) have the ability to take over villages in order to maximize profit through expansion or avoid bringing down their own property value with the sight of modest homes.

To stave off of the negative effects of urbanization, the Rwandan government is looking towards the future and focusing on developing so-called secondary cities in all four provinces, namely Muhanga, Huye, Rubavu, Rusizi, Nyagatare and Musanze. These secondary cities are being formed as an alternative to the densely populated and landlocked capital, and some commerce has shifted accordingly. This is a huge step, as the government prepares to invest in the future by developing areas with the potential for resource expansion and continued economic growth. Rwandan officials are looking not only to contain current issues, but facilitate sustained success. The lofty aims of the government include eventual classification as a middle class country and a target of 35% urban population growth. Moderate measures such as an effective bus route could contribute to these goals and the overall infrastructure, with increased transportation allowing for the spread of business centers with less dependency on one area. Concrete and manageable propositions like this are what will define the path of Rwanda as the country works towards bridging the gap between rural and urban areas.

Rwanda Urbanization

Rwanda has experienced the highest urban growth of any African country since 1990. Rwanda is not the most urban country in Africa, but its recent rapid growth is significant. Part of this growth can be attributed to the mass population shift caused by the Rwandan Genocide from 1990 to 1993. The Tutsi minority, who were the victims of the genocide, fled their local villages and settled in cities after the genocide ended. In addition, Tutsis exiled decades ago by the previous government began populating the cities. Hutu refugees returned later, settling in overpopulated cities. At this time, urbanization grew at 18% annually, which is unmatched by any country in the last 60 years. The new Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) government quickly developed Kigali, the largest city and capital. The RPF was formed from military officials and their methods were authoritarian, which allowed for rapid development.


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Rwanda faces several challenges to becoming a developed urbanized country. The GDP is still largely made up of agriculture, which is not sustainable because of Rwanda’s small land area. Industry has only grown 3% in the last 10 years, which may slow the potential for urban growth. Rwanda’s recent stabilization also caused a surge in births. A young population is helpful for the economy in the short term, but in the future, it will be difficult to support a older population.

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Rwanda’s growing population and the lack of flat land makes rapid urbanization a necessity. The urban population is expected to grow at a steady rate over the next 30 years. Cities are also expected to grow in population density as the infrastructure is developed further. Rwanda’s cities are spaced evenly throughout the country with Kigali at the center. These secondary cities are developing at a fast rate, but not to the extent of Kigali.

The RPF government focuses on sustainability and security within Rwanda’s cities, which is uncharacteristic of an African country. Kigali is one of Africa’s cleanest cities because the government is still moderately authoritarian and has the ability to enforce laws to keep the city clean. In addition, Rwandan culture is based on individual citizens’ accountability, causing citizens to volunteer to help the cities. This “top down” system also mitigates the need for a large police force. Rwanda’s environmental policies are more progressive than those in many western countries, which will help Rwanda remain a tourist destination in the future.

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In the future, Rwanda plans to continue to modernize its economy and cities. Rwanda is different from other African governments because it actively facilitates urbanization rather than preventing it. The government also makes quick decisions, which may make rapid growth in the future possible. One of these decisions is to modernize the city as part of their Kigali 2040 plan, which includes building high-rises to accommodate the growing population. Kigali is already a distribution hub for tourists and the government is trying to make the city a main attraction to fund the Kigali 2040 plan.


As with any African country, building infrastructure is expensive and takes time. Instability in the region is also turning away investors. These factors may slow urbanization, but urbanization is still expected to revolutionize Rwanda and all African countries.


Hezbollah: Government Within a Gang

Hezbollah is a Shiite Islamic group, beginning as a loose connection of terrorists, and has now become a dynamic organization which is intertwined with the structure of Lebanese society. When Lebanon gained its independence in 1943, the Shiite population was economically and politically excluded. A man named Musa al-Sadr began mobilizing segments of the Shiite community in the early 60s. This led to the emergence of a new Shiite organization in 1975, called Amal. This is the group from which Hezbollah was created.

Hezbollah is now an internationally recognized terrorist group and has been operating out of Lebanon since the early 1980s. Despite its claim of unified control, there are two parts, one being its military wing and the other its political. This is tricky because some countries recognize the entire organization as a terrorist group, whereas others only consider its military wing terrorist. Hezbollah appears to be an Islamic-nationalist group utilizing its political power in Lebanon in order to keep its military wing powerful and functioning.

An important question to ask about Hezbollah; What are its motives? Ideologically, the group has always sought to promote a strict Islamic way of life. In its earlier days the group’s leaders implemented harsh codes of Islamic behavior on various towns and villages. Despite this strict focus on Islam, the group insists that they do not intend to force Lebanese to be a part of an Islamic-only society. Hezbollah officially published it’s manifesto in 1985. It included key goals for the group, such as: destroying Israel, expelling Western influences from Lebanon and the wider Middle East, and combatting their enemies within Lebanon, particularly the Phalanges Party. Along with these goals, the manifesto also identified the USA and the Soviet Union as Islam’s main enemies. It also claimed that the international system and 1985 Lebanese government were subject to imperial influences and thereby hostile to Islam. However, more recently in the 2009 Lebanese elections Hezbollah won ten parliamentary seats. Months after this, the group’s leader. Hassan Nasrallah, gave an updated manifesto for the group, essentially shifting the group from it’s Khomeinist roots towards an Islamist nationalist approach.

Hezbollah’s rise in the government hasn’t been a cakewalk, in fact it has had to use military force in order to not get squashed by the Lebanese government. In 1989 Lebanon’s civil war ended, and an accord called for all militias to disarm. Hezbollah, however, re-branded itself to be an “Islamic Resistance” force focused on ending Israeli occupation, allowing it to stay armed. After this, the group became more active with Lebanese politics, participating in it’s nation elections in 1992. When Israeli forces withdrew in 2000, the group was credited for this success, but once again received pressure to disarm. However, again they resisted and held their military presence near Israeli occupied areas in the south. In 2008 Lebanon’s government attempted to shut down Hezbollah’s private telecommunications and specifically remove an airport security chief as a result of believed ties to the group. Hezbollah retaliated to these actions and seized a large part of the capital and began fighting other opposing Sunni groups. This retaliation led to 81 deaths and almost caused a new civil war in the country. To end this conflict, the government conceded some of its power by agreeing on a power-sharing agreement. This is how the group’s veto power came to be.

Despite these military means, Hezbollah has demonstrated its professionalism and effectiveness in times of crises and in general for the Shiite Lebanese. The group provides crucial social services, including the management of schools, hospitals, and news and agricultural services. After the country’s civil war ended, the group rebuilt homes and businesses of Christian families returning to southern Beirut. Also, after a 1996 Israeli bombing campaign, Hezbollah led the rebuilding effort. The group rebuilt 5,000 homes, helped repair roads and infrastructure, and provided compensation to over 2,000 farmers in the area.

Despite the good that this group has been able to do through its political power, almost all of it has been specifically for Shiite Lebanese. Although some countries only recognize its military wing as a terrorist group, due to the many notable terrorist attacks carried out by Hezbollah, its use of military force to maintain political power, and events such as the country’s anti-Hezbollah Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigning and fleeing Lebanon due to supposed assassination attempts, Hezbollah appears to be an Islamic nationalist terrorist group effectively feigning its political aptitude to stay active and dangerous.

al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb: The Making of an Islamic Caliphate

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is a militant group that operates in the Sahara and Sahel regions in Africa. It is a Salafi-jihadist group, though its ideology also includes regionally resonant ideas, such as those that allude to the Islamic conquest of Maghreb and the Iberian Peninsula.

AQIM branched out from a guerrilla Islamist movement called the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) that, in the 1990s, opposed and revolted against Algeria’s secular leadership. Some members of the organization disapproved of the group’s indiscriminate methods and the killing of civilians and decided to split from the group and form the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC). This organization was initially popular due to its intentions of rebelling without harming civilians, though it failed to move away from this type of killing. The GSPC became an al-Qaeda affiliate in 2006 and was then renamed al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Even with this new affiliation, AQIM’s original interests and goals were safeguarded.

AQIM has its roots in the Kabylie Mountains of Algeria, though the group has expanded into other countries in the recent past. Its businesses of smuggling, trafficking, and kidnapping for ransom are carried out within communities that stretch across the Maghreb region. The group has been very successful and is considered al-Qaeda’s wealthiest affiliate.

Although AQIM’s tactics qualify the organization as a guerrilla group, it acts as a gang and its recent activities demonstrate the group’s aspirations to become the government of a caliphate within the Maghreb region of Africa.

AQIM’s operations include raids, assassinations, suicide bombings, executions, and kidnappings, all of which are guerrilla-style actions. The majority of its funds come from kidnapping for ransom and trafficking various items, including people, vehicles, weapons, cigarettes, and narcotics. This behavior suggests that AQIM acts as an institutional gang. Its activities go beyond guerrilla warfare to money-generating activities for the sake of sustenance and influence.

The immense wealth of the group alone is appealing to possible members, though its association with al-Qaeda boosted its numbers as the affiliation widened AQIM’s audience to the massive number of online jihadists who now see the group as fighting on behalf of al-Qaeda. AQIM became more of an international presence and was able to boost recruitment.

Since becoming affiliated with al-Qaeda, AQIM’s goal of overthrowing the Algerian government has expanded to include the governments of Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia, and Mali, and to the reclamation of the lost Islamic lands in Southern Spain. The group’s center has shifted progressively southward to the Sahara and Sahel regions. AQIM now has the potential to unite North African militant groups by bringing them together under the common umbrella of al-Qaeda.

The potential of this unification has already been displayed through AQIM’s efforts in Mali. Following the Arab Spring, Libyan Tuareg fighters ended up in Northern Mali, where AQIM and its various splinter groups allied with the Tuareg fighters and took control of much of Northern Mali. The group hoped to create an Islamic state in Mali and use that as a platform to launch a movement southward. Other countries intervened and forced AQIM out of some major strongholds, though the group continues to operate in Northern Mali, demonstrating that it hopes to reassert itself in the areas that it once controlled. Due to this setback, AQIM has turned to Libya, using its instability as an opportunity to expand eastward, and uses it as a new platform to strengthen its presence in the country and carry out powerful attacks in Algeria. AQIM’s ultimate goal is to establish an Islamic Caliphate in the Maghreb region, where the group would enforce Sharia Law. The group does not currently appear to be able to create such a state in the area, though it will presumably continue behaving as it has been, completing both jihadist and criminal operations to strengthen its finances and further its goals.

Schoolgirls, Shoot-outs, and Salafis, oh my!

Boko Haram, whose name roughly translates to “Western education is sin”, is a terrorist organization that has tormented Nigeria for the past decade. Beginning originally as a cross between a peaceful protestation of Nigeria’s corrupt government and a biker gang, Boko Haram has quickly grown into the deadliest terror organization in the world, having claimed over twenty-thousand lives and displacing approximately 1.5 million others. Boko Haram’s power is derived from unrest between Nigeria’s impoverished, Muslim north and the Christian south; having Africa’s largest economy and most populous country in conjunction with its 350 ethnic groups proves difficult for the Nigerian government to control on its own. Empowering the underrepresented Muslims of the north, Boko Haram easily amassed a following by promising prosperity for Nigeria through the establishment of a caliphate governed by Sharia law, which they believed would root out corruption from Nigeria’s government. Boko Haram also taps into general anger towards the remnants of Nigeria’s colonial past, most likely using the Sokoto caliphate of the early 20th Century as a model.

Founded by the overtly charismatic Mohammed Yusuf, Boko Haram quickly gained traction and incited many protests, some of which became violent. Worried that this new movement was undermining its authority as a government, the Nigerian government used these outbursts of violence as justification for the kidnapping and extrajudicial execution of Boko Haram’s leaders, forcing the group to go underground, as it had no real direction without Yusuf’s command. Despite the arguably aggressive nature of Boko Haram, the global community condemned the Nigerian government’s response to the uprising, with the Human Rights Watch condemning the barbaric fashion of the killings, in which the bullet-ridden corpses of the victims were publically displayed as a warning sign to other insurgents.

The death of Yusuf served as a turning point for Boko Haram, and fueled by revenge and the rising tensions between Nigerian Muslims and Christians, it was driven to Islamist violence. Beginning with a series of suicide bombings and lone wolf attacks, Boko Haram slowly gained more sophistication in 2013, orchestrating mass violence: murdering college students while they slept, beheading truck drivers on a Nigerian highway, and killing of hundreds of civilians on the roads of northern Nigeria. The savagery reached its climax in April, 2014 when Boko Haram kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from the rural village, Chibok, which attracted international attention and put even more pressure on the Nigerian government to quell the hysteria.

Teaming up with its neighboring countries of Chad, Cameroon, and Niger, the Nigerian government launched a successful military campaign against Boko Haram, pushing it out of urban areas into the rural North and forcing it to relinquish the majority of its territory by 2015. Tremendously weakened and in need of supplies and reinforcements, Boko Haram pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, an Islamist insurgency in Syria, that same year, despite Boko Haram’s declaration of its own caliphate but a year prior. Many members of the global community believe that this merger is superficial; a way for Boko Haram to cling to some legitimacy, but it may in fact serve as a symbolic precursor to the emergence of a more globalized terrorist organization.

Boko Haram has lost the majority of its media attention, but still poses a threat to the Nigerian government and continues to terrorize its civilians, having killed more than twenty people this year so far, in a series of suicide bomb attacks. There are signs it is weakening, however, with the Nigerian military recovering the majority of the Chibok girls kidnapped nearly four years ago along with other victims of Boko Haram’s tirade.

It is truly difficult to categorize Boko Haram as an organization. It is comprised of numerous factions; all working ultimately toward the same goal, but also operating on separate fronts, whether it be increasing its territory into Nigeria’s neighboring countries or supporting other Islamist insurgences such as the one in Mali. Boko Haram relies heavily on its social hierarchy and rituals to maintain some sense of authority, enforcing titles and initiation rituals that mimic those of gangs. On the other hand, Boko Haram shows more sophistication than its Middle Eastern counterparts, utilizing firearms over crude pipe bombs as means of attack and focusing its attack predominantly on the Nigerian military instead of its civilians. Boko Haram can be most appropriately called an insurgency, for it fills the void of strong Islamic leadership that the northern part of Nigeria lacks, as well as for its combatting of a government that is nearly as violent and as corrupt as the organization itself. The future of Boko Haram is also uncertain, it had appeared to have almost completely died down, thanks in part to the joint efforts of the Nigerian government and its neighbors, even resulting in the release of 1,130 hostages. This weekend, however,  a story developed out of Dapchi, Nigeria, where approximately 100 schoolgirls were kidnapped on February 19th, 2018. Military might can only do so much when combatting an ideological warfare that stems from economic inequality and religious oppression, two factors which allow for fractured groups such as Boko Haram, to thrive.


After decades of civil war and colonial rule, Angola has seen a major turnaround. The capital, Luanda, is lush with 5-star hotels and wealthy businessman driving Lamborghinis. But, what isn’t shown to the world is the multitudes starving and living on a less than a dollar a day, just kilometers from the rich.6  Angola and the state-run oil company, Sonangol,  boast huge numbers for their annual export revenue. Last year they exported $34.2 Billion in crude oil, which accounted for more than 75% of their total exports.  The recent president, who stepped down last year, José Eduardo dos Santos, has repeatedly asked for loans from the International Monetary Fund to help improve the poverty and child mortality rate in Angola. The lingering question that everyone asked was, if the government and Sonangol reported such high numbers of revenue; where did all of the money go?

Angola gained independence from Portugal in 1975, the country broke out into a deadly civil war between 4 political powers, the MPLA, FNLA, UNITA, and FLEC.  The MPLA was victorious and their leader José Eduardo dos Santos became the ruler of their one-party nation. He would hold power for 38 years. During his time in office, Angola found peace and funded infrastructure improvement. Sonangol thrived from deals with foreign investors like the Queensway Group and Cobalt. Dos Santos’ family and close friends rose from the slums around Luanda. The only reason Angola saw such economic gain was due to corruption surrounding their oil revenue.

José Eduardo dos Santos was only the face of Angola, operating behind the scenes was a shadow-government of elite families and close friends that hoarded the oil wealth of the country. This close-knit web of families became known as “The Futungo”. Dos Santos’ Futungo is comprised of about 100 families, all coming from the Futungo de Belas. These families focused on the privatization of power. Almost all of the government and Sonangol positions were filled by members of this group.  By doing this, the entire of wealth of the country circulated through the hand of the elite, and remained within the families that had connections with foreign investors like those of China Sonangol. The Chinese partner company of Sonangol made deals with the Futungo that would promise the Angolan government firearms, while Sonangol exported billions in crude oil. This deal insured absolute power for the “indestructible” Futungo, while fueling China’s rising economy.

To ensure the growth of their dark and private economy, the “Oil Gang” (Sonangol and the Futungo) remained nepotistic and secretive. In recent years, President dos Santos appointed his daughter, Isabel dos Santos, as the head of Sonangol. He also appointed his son, José Filomeno dos Santos, to the head of Angola’s sovereign wealth fund. Both of the dos Santos children were fired in 2017 by newly elected president João Lourenço in hopes of ending the reign of corruption and the secret shadow-state of The Futungo. Isabel and José Filomeno were both found to have been making secret deals with foreign investors that would basically strengthen other government’s and oil company’s relations with The Futungo.

Last year, the IMF looked into the government and Sonangol’s financial accounts. There was a $32 Billion gap between what they had reported and what the IMF officials discovered.  They traced about $28 Billion to private deals between Sonangol and offshore investors, but there was $4.2 Billion unaccounted for. It went unsurprisingly to the members of The Futungo. The government of Angola was run essentially run by the wealth of Sonangol, which was controlled in all aspects by The Futungo. This “Oil Gang” comprised of elitist families, high-up Sonangol officials, and foreign investors, have created a complex and very secure organization that laundered money and engaged in secret business deals to maintain total control and wealth in Angola.

The First Female President of Africa

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was the first freely elected female president of Liberia, and of many African nation beginning in 2005 at the age of 67. She was a popular president, not just because she was the first female president of the continent, but because her policies were effective, and they improved the lives of the citizens of Liberia.

In August 1985, She was placed under house arrest because she campaigned against Samuel Doe, who was the president at the time. She was sentenced to ten years in prison, but she was allowed to leave the country as an exile by September of the same year.

In 2011, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peacebuilding work. She was the second African woman in to win a Nobel Peace Prize, after the previous one passed away.

In 2006, She vowed to make reduction of the national debt. At the time, Liberia had approximately US $4.9 billion of debt, which was about seven times the country’s annual national income. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf negotiated until the United States became the first country to grant debt relief to Liberia. In 2010, Liberia met the completion point of the HIPC, and made the country free from its entire external debt.

After she gained debt relief for the country, she could focus and spend more money on education for children. She launched a girls’ education national policy on 18 April 2006. Girls could have free and compulsory primary school and reduced secondary school fees by 50%. Female teachers were important, as they could understand girls better, so female teachers were trained more. Since abusing students by teachers often happened. Sirleaf made punishment, for teachers who committed sexual abuse and assault of students more severe, and their impunity would be ended. At the same time, School offered life skills to raise the self-esteem for girls, so they could resist sexual abuses.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf studied economics in the United States. She moved to Nairobi, Kenya in 1981, and served as a vice president of the African Regional Office of Citibank. While she was serving as the president of the country, she had improved the Liberian economy from a negative growth, which was caused by civil wars, to a rate of more than 8.7% in 2013.

During the civil wars, it was estimated around 70% of women were sexually assaulted. But after Ellen Johnson Sirleaf came to power, she brought in new legislation to widen the definition of rape. The UN found only 2% of reported rape and sexual violence cases in 2015. She had also inspired other women to enter politics. In 2017, 16% of house of representatives candidates were female. It was the highest proportion in history of Liberia.

October 2017, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf stepped down from being president after two six-year terms. It surprised a lot of people, because this doesn’t usually happen in Africa. After she has brought so much to the people of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf deserves all her awards and a rest.


He Puts the “Kenya” in Kenyatta

A populist leader is a leader who stands for the “people.” They aim to aid the common folk whom they see as the naturally good and intelligent. These leaders see the people as held back from their potential by both the political and economic elites. Sometimes a populist will be remembered for improving their already stable country and other times for wrecking it and implementing controversial policies that split the populous for the good of their supporters.

Many view the President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta as a conservative populist with a strong sense of African nationalism. Kenyans elected him president of Kenya in 2013, making him the youngest to date. He is son of Jomo Kenyatta who was Kenya’s first ever president, serving for 14 years from 1964-1978 when he died. His father came to power with his nationalist pro-Kenyan policies. He wished for Kenya to be its own republic instead of just a colony, and he emphasized his goal to split from the British Empire. Rather than a Kenyan nationalist like his father Jomo, Uhuru is a conservative who sees great importance in pan-African nationalism.

To win his first election Uhuru had to take on Raila Odinga, an advocate for reform and democracy. Odinga’s father served as the first vice president of Kenya. Does this sound somewhat familiar? Well, interestingly enough, his father Jaramogi Odinga was vice president to Jomo Kenyatta. So, to say the least there is some history between the two. Uhuru won the 2013 election with just over 50% of the vote, while Odinga received slightly less at ~44%.

When he took office in 2013, Kenyatta’s set his aim on refocusing Kenya’s foreign policy to display an aggressive African-centered approach. This may seem an authoritarian-like action, however, it is simply due to Kenyatta’s strong African nationalistic beliefs. At his inauguration, to show his turn to a pan-African policy regarding Kenya’s region and the world, he had the anthem of the East-African community sung. He aims to strengthen ties between Kenya and the EAC member states – Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi, as well as South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Somalia. Kenyatta stated that the future of Kenya is inseparable from the future of the region around it.

A clear example of his populist style can be seen through his suspicion and disrespect for the media. He often insults newspapers, once actually saying their only purpose should be for wrapping meat. Also, his administration has passed laws aiming to increase the difficulty of being an independent reporter. The administration has abused journalists who ask questions that might wall in the person being asked. These journalists have reportedly been beaten and arrested, as well as having their reports pulled or even been fired.

Regarding terrorism, Kenyatta refers to Muslims and Muslim refugees in vague, villainizing terms. Kenya is involved in the African Union Mission in Somalia, aimed at halting the Islamist militant group al-Shabab, currently requiring an extra 28,000 troops to do so. The group has murdered nearly 800 Kenyans so far, with most of the violence occurring since Uhuru took office in 2013. Kenyatta’s opposition, Odinga, has continued to demand the withdrawal of troops, which would put the mission in severe danger. Kenyatta on the other hand has urged for more troops to be deployed and has even reached out internationally for help.

Kenyatta is a leader with a very colorful personality, and his supporters see him as very down to earth and approachable. He argued that the decision to annul his second consecutive win in the election for the Kenyan presidency was overthrowing the will of the Kenyan people. Kenyatta is truly a leader who claims to represent ‘The People,’ however, he then actively disregards those people who do not support him. Although this may not seem ideal, as he is not for every single Kenyan, he is a populist, for he is one for the common man.

The World Gets Ready to Say Goodbye to Jacob Zuma (Finally)

After almost 9 years of leading South Africa into the ground, the people, including government officials within Zuma’s own party, have finally spoken. Many prominent leaders within the African National Congress (A.N.C) have spoke against the rule of Zuma, and some members even suggested that he resign peacefully well early into his first term. His actions have forced South Africa into social, economic, and political devastation. But as Zuma approaches the conclusion of his second term, set to end in 2019, his past has finally caught up with him in what appears to be the breaking point for South Africa. Beginning his early career and commonly considered a populist, Zuma has transitioned into an authoritarian. Although South Africa is technically a democracy, Zuma’s endless political scandals and acts of self-interest have forced people to question their government closely. And who can blame them?
Jacob Zuma has been considered one of the world’s most corrupt leaders. Zuma began his political career as president – May 9, 2009 – by winning the sentiments of the people and promising to listen and base his decisions on the wishes of the people. The people soon learned that the intentions he voiced did not mirror his actions in office, yet Zuma is still president. Even though his second and final term ends just over a year away, many people want him out, and want him out now. Why?
Most commonly, critics look to Zuma’s use of government funds to remodel and luxurize his personal home, yet in total, Zuma has been charged with roughly 783 allegations of corruption. Such claims include rape and association in a multibillion dollar arms deal, but evidently there are many other claims. Zuma denies all allegations; however, Zuma was forced to pay back the money that he used to renovate his house with. But still, why has he not been ousted?
Zuma was born into poverty, which has allowed many people to attach themselves to him. His charisma and important role during the fight against apartheid worked, and apparently still work, as a significant backbone of his support. The people looked to him as a fighter, a person who would listen to their emotions and their wishes, but in large part, Zuma has failed the people. Zuma has a poor habit of appointing unequipped and ill-trained members, simply based on their loyalty, within his office. The second a member shows any action of disloyalty, Zuma finds a way to replace them. Such actions have brought South Africa under the rule of an uncredited and insufficient staff. Finally, from recent social uprisings and large dissent within the government, it appears that loyalty has begun to play a minimal role within the politics of South Africa.
One of the most devastating problems that have stemmed from Zuma’s presidency is the diminishing respect and approval of the A.N.C as a whole. Nelson Mandela was a key member of the party, but Zuma’s actions have created a lot of criticism for the entire party, both past and current members. Zuma actions have limited the right to freedom of speech, increased unemployment rate – to which explains South Africa’s current economic recession, diminished security machinery, and forced institutions to submit under his will. The A.N.C lost the support of major cities – Johannesburg and Pretoria – during the 2014 election, and the election results were the worst the party has seen since the fall of apartheid. It appears that Zuma, although, is not naive to his country’s disapproval. Aware that his term soon will come to an end either way, Zuma made a sly move to clear the road of competition for his successor in the firing of a well-liked and respected finance minister, Pravin Gordhan. A previous wife of Zuma, – Zuma is a proud polygamist, currently has four wives and fifteen kids – Nkosozana Dlamini-Zuma, currently works as a politician within the A.N.C and plans to succeed Zuma. Millions took to the streets earlier this year in April in protest after the scandal broke out, and it finally seems that others are listening.
Although he remains president for now, that is not to say that his presidency has not been contested. Amazingly, Zuma has survived a total of 8 ‘no confidence’ votes, barely winning the last one earlier this year by a margin of 21 votes. Zuma’s party has backed him throughout much of his presidency, but his support is dwindling to nothing. The A.N.C holds 249 of the 400 seats within the parliament, yet the opposition since Zuma’s election has begun to gain significant numbers in parliament due to Zuma’s controversial rule. In particular, as recent data shows, the opposition has gained so much support – especially from members within the A.N.C, that Zuma most likely would not survive the next vote, for the opposition only needs 50 A.N.C votes.