IOA Position Papers

Journalists put their lives on the line to bring Southern Africa’s news to the world

Journalists face intimidation and death in parts of the sub-continent directly in proportion to a rise in political oppression in some countries. The role of the media is not appreciated by leadership in the region’s democracies, and is thwarted in non-democratic states.

A sign at a radio station in Mogadishu, Somalia. Governments across Africa attempt to silence the media to control their populations and quash dissent, a trend which is becoming more evident in Southern Africa.  Photo courtesy Tobin Jones/AU-UN IST/Flickr

A sign at a radio station in Mogadishu, Somalia. Governments across Africa attempt to silence the media to control their populations and quash dissent, a trend which is becoming more evident in Southern Africa.
Photo courtesy Tobin Jones/AU-UN IST/Flickr

Of all professions, journalism in Africa requires courage; and the reporter, whether consciously or just doing their job, becomes an activist. Intentional or not, his or her work is progressive, moving the continent forward by providing information. Despots are exposed and incompetency and criminality are revealed, while economic and social advancement is celebrated. Even in countries where democracy is stifled, the impulse of journalists to know what story is important and pursue facts is never entirely quashed. Read more

Mali: The Sahel’s gateway to Sub-Saharan Africa for jihadist terrorists

As a local election is held under a State of Emergency, jihadist militants linked with al-Qaeda mounted attacks to further destabilise a fragmented country. The Islamic State (ISIS) also seeks Mali’s breakup to open a way for the terror group’s migration southward. 

Militants from the al-Qaeda affiliate Ansar Dine on patrol in Timbuktu. The terror group held the city, and others in northern Mali for several months, until it was expelled by French troops in January 2013. Photo courtesy Magharebia/Wikimedia Commons

Militants from the al-Qaeda affiliate Ansar Dine on patrol in Timbuktu. The terror group held the city, and others in northern Mali for several months, until it was expelled by French troops in January 2013.
Photo courtesy Magharebia/Wikimedia Commons

Having postponed local elections four times for security reasons, Mali’s central government led by President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita decided the polling must proceed on 20 November 2016. Further delays would have ensured continuing governance problems at the local level, where mayors, town councillors and others were needed to do administrative duties. The local governance system had to be defended against the Islamic jihadist groups whose goal is to impede governance at all levels. With Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) to the north gradually replacing chaos with national sovereignty and driving out ISIS fighters, Mali presents an opportunity for terror groups to further exacerbate a nation in crisis. Into Mali’s vacuum of lawlessness will filter ISIS fighters, creating a southern beachhead and teaming up with militants affiliated with al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM) to expand into Sub-Saharan Africa. In Nigeria and Cameroon, Boko Haram has pledged allegiance to ISIS, and this alliance will spread their fight. Read more

Out with oil: New hope for Virunga National Park

Oil companies pose a threat to the future of Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo but cases for sustainable development approaches to park management as an alternative means to developing the region economically, present greater long-term social, economic and environmental benefits for the region.

Democratic Republic of Congo. Shores of Lake Edward in Virunga National Park. Photo courtesy MONUSCO/Abel Kavanagh/ Flickr

Democratic Republic of Congo. Shores of Lake Edward in Virunga National Park. Photo courtesy MONUSCO/Abel Kavanagh/flickr

Written by Lonnie Kehler1; Updated by Tanya Bruggemann

Through the World Heritage Convention UNESCO seeks to identify and preserve natural and cultural heritage sites that have incalculable value. Unfortunately, 55 established World Heritage sites are listed as “in danger”, and Africa has more than its fair share at 17. The high number of affected African sites reflects particular challenges of the continent, notably civil unrest and war.2 The Virunga National Park in the DRC and Uganda, Africa’s oldest national park, is one of those sites.

Instability in the region has had devastating consequences for the park, for its wildlife and for those who look after it. The park and its rangers are threatened by poachers and rebel groups, and now another threat, in foreign oil companies interested in exploration within park borders, has been developing over the last few years.

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Battle over Africa’s oceanic treasures

Surprisingly, no shots have been fired by African navies against foreign vessels that illegally plunder fish and undersea mineral resources from Africa’s territorial waters. However, as fish stocks diminish and African peoples’ understanding of the value of sea minerals grows, aggressive responses will replace government’s lackadaisical attitudes.

SOMALIA, Mogadishu: In a photograph taken 16 March 2013 and release by the African Union-United Nations Information Support Team 18 March, traders wait to sell their fish inside Mogadishu's fish market in the Xamar Weyne district of the Somali capital. Every morning Mogadishu's fisherman bring their catch from the Indian Ocean ashore upon which it is quickly unloaded and transported to Xamar Weyne's lively and chaotic fish market where it is sold for consumption on the local market and increasingly, for export to other countries. Over the last two decades, instability on land has greatly restricted the development of the country's fishing industry, but now that Somalia is enjoying the longest period of sustained peace in over 20 years, there is large-scale potential and opportunity to harvest the bountiful waters off the Horn of Africa nation, which boasts the longest coastline in Africa. AU-UN IST PHOTO / STUART PRICE.

SOMALIA, Fishermen display their catch at a fish market in Mogadishu. Photo courtesy AMISOM/flickr

The scenario in which Mozambican, Namibian, Tanzanian and South African warships or boats from other African countries’ navies chase off or even fire upon an ever-growing fleet of foreign pirate ships is easy to imagine. No, the pirates are not the old-fashioned type that raid commercial vessels or kidnap ship crews or well-heeled guests on luxury yachts as is practiced off Somalia in East Africa and in the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa. Rather, the invading armada is comprised of industrial-capacity vessels whose aim is to loot Africa’s aquatic natural resources.

In so doing, Chinese fishing ships decimate fisheries, rendering African fishermen who for generations have depended on the waters for their livelihoods unemployed and made fish expensive or unavailable to local markets and their customers who rely on fish for basic nutrition. Aquatic life is just one resource that is being looted. Mineral resources have also drawn pirates. Read more

North Korea’s African inroads come to an end

A UN panel calling Namibia out on breaking international sanctions by making military deals with Asia’s pariah state, North Korea, has wider implications. African countries can no longer blindly do what they want and laugh at international law without consequences.

The bilateral advantages were too tantalising for African countries to resist or for North Korea to withstand exploiting. Condemned in the international community as a rogue nation with a horrid human rights record, North Korea is subject to ever more strenuous sanctions aimed at hindering its nuclear and military ambitions.

A nationalist dance performance during North Korea’s annual Arirang Mass Games in Pyongyang. Photo courtesy (Stephan)/Flickr

A nationalist dance performance during North Korea’s annual Arirang Mass Games in Pyongyang. Photo courtesy (Stephan)/Flickr

The country is ruled by tyrannical Kim Jong-un, who may or may not be insane but is sufficiently ruthless to execute family members. Since 2006, the UN Security Council (UNSC) has passed five major resolutions aimed at countering North Korea’s nuclear programme. North Korea will go to any lengths to get what it wants, in this case, nuclear weapons and intercontinental missile delivery systems for those bombs that will ensure that Pyongyang gets whatever it wants in perpetuity. A foreign policy based on lies, insults, bellicosity and threats has unnerved the country’s immediate neighbours and disturbed the superpowers of the People’s Republic of China and the US.

Four African countries in particular, Ethiopia, the Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda, have leaderships that seem not to care about the prospect of a nuclear-armed North Korea, nor about the millions of North Koreans oppressed by the Kim military regime. The fulsome descriptions of a “strong friendship between development partners,” that African heads of state and diplomats use to praise their relations with Pyongyang refer to a relationship with a regime, not a silent and powerless Korean people. Read more