IOA Position Papers

Community engagement and capacity-building in protection: United Nations peacekeeping during African conflicts

Civilians are the primary agents in their own protection, and international actors have only recently begun to support civilian self-protection efforts. Engaging locals in their own protection, however, does not come without challenges. 

Written by Leigh Hamilton

The protection of civilians during conflicts is one of the UN’s most significant undertakings. While the humanitarian branches of the organisation perform protection activities, it is mostly UN peacekeepers who act to prevent or respond to threats of physical violence against civilians. The UN Security Council first authorised peacekeepers to use force to protect civilians in 1999 during the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL). Since then, the UN has launched 17 peacekeeping missions, the majority of which have been mandated to protect civilians. Some missions, such as the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) and the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS), have mandates that make the protection of civilians the mission’s chief priority. Read more

How autonomous trains will drive African railway

When Africa's first high-speed rail system begins service in Morocco in 2018, travel time from Tangier to Casablanca will be cut in half, from five hours to 2 hrs 10 min. Here an engine is being loaded onto a customised truck for transport to the railroad. Africa is constantly improving its rail systems, and autonomous trains will be the next essential innovation. Image courtesy: Morocco World News https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2015/07/162167/in-pictures-moroccos-tgv-africas-first-high-speed-train/

When Africa’s first high-speed rail system begins service in Morocco in 2018, travel time from Tangier to Casablanca will be cut in half, from five hours to 2 hrs 10 min. Here an engine is being loaded onto a customised truck for transport to the railroad. Africa is constantly improving its rail systems, and autonomous trains will be the next essential innovation. Image courtesy: Morocco World News. Available from: https://tinyurl.com/hukpyqw

While upgrading national systems with an eye at a unified continental system, African railways won’t be left behind in the next technological leap toward self-driving transportation.

 

IOA analysis in briefTrains will drive themselves across Africa’s terrain in the near future, with the technology available today to make autonomous engines that are safer, more efficient, reliable and environmentally friendly than the human-driven type. If Africa’s rail systems do not adapt to the new technology, they will become extinct in a new age of self-driving long haul truck transportation.

 Key points:

  • Autonomous trains are a reality today, but require massive spending on new technology
  • Most African railroads are owned by governments or linked to governments, which hinders adaptability and innovation
  • Africa is dedicated to its rail system, with 11,000 km of new line now being built at a cost of US$ 30 billion

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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

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