Wednesday, 21 June 2017

frica and the Gulf crisis: the peril of picking sides

As the Gulf crisis enters its third week, the decision to cut or downgrade diplomatic ties with Qatar by eight African countries could have a long-term impact on the nationals of those countries, analysts warned.
"This is not good for Africa. This is rush decision-making and taking sides in a crisis that the leaders have no clear grasp of is dangerous and will scare investors away," Adama Gaye, a Senegalese foreign policy expert told Al Jazeera.
On June 5, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt announced that they were cutting ties with Qatar and imposing land, sea and air blockades.
The Arab countries accuse Doha of supporting "terrorism" and "extremist groups" - charges which Qatar strongly denies.

Soon after the announcement, some Gulf envoys and ministers started shuttle diplomacy, travelling between countries trying to convince allies to cut ties with Qatar. readmore

Djibouti accuses Eritrea of occupying disputed area Official says Eritrean soldiers occupied moved contested border territory, days after Qatar pulled its peacekeepers out.

Djibouti's foreign minister has accused neighbouring Eritrea of occupying a disputed territory along their border shortly after Qatar peacekeepers left the location this week.
Mahamoud Ali Youssouf said on Friday that Djibouti's military was "on alert" and that it has lodged complaints to the United Nations and the African Union.
"Qatari peacekeepers withdrew on June 12 and 13. On the same day, there were Eritrean military movements on the mountain," Ali Youssouf told the Reuters news agency.
"They are now in full control of Dumeira Mountain and Dumeira Island. This is in breach of the UN Security Council resolution," he added, referring to areas that the neighbours dispute.
Authorities in Eritrea were not immediately available for comment.
Qatar announced that it was pulling its contingent out on June 14, days after the two East African countries sided with Saudi Arabia and its allies in a major diplomatic standoff with Doha.
Qatar's foreign ministry did not give a reason for the move.

On June 5, a Saudi-led bloc of countries announced they were cutting ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting "terrorists" - allegations Doha strongly denies. readmore

The Petrodollar Is in Trouble

       The Petrodollar Is in Trouble

As Saudi Arabia continues to liquidate more of its foreign exchange reserves, it means serious trouble for the petrodollar system
Sun, Jun 18, 2017 | 8297 182
The birth of the petrodollar
The birth of the petrodollar

The U.S. PetroDollar system is in serious trouble as the Middle East’s largest oil producer continues to suffer as the low oil price devastates its financial bottom line.  Saudi Arabia, the key player in the PetroDollar system, continues to liquidate its foreign exchange reserves as the current price of oil is not covering the cost to produce oil as well as finance its readmore

Africa: Qatar's Conflict With Its Neighbours Can Easily Set the Horn of Africa Alight

It began as a squabble between Arab allies, but the standoff between Qatar and its neighbours is threatening to engulf the Horn of Africa. When Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen and the Maldives declared at the beginning of June that they were severing diplomatic relations with Qatar it appeared to be of interest mainly to the Arabian Peninsula - and the Gulf in particular.
The Saudis and their allies accused Qatar of backing international terrorism. The US, which has the Al Udeid air base in Qatar, looked askance, but did little more than use its good offices to try to ensure that the war of words did not flare into an open conflict.

But the countries just across the Red Sea have found themselves dragged into the dispute. After prevaricating for some time, Eritrea, which had hitherto good relations with Qatar, fell into line with the Saudis and broke ties with Qatar. readmore

With Qatari forces gone, tension rises between Djibouti and Eritrea

The African Union is calling for calm as border tensions between Djibouti and Eritrea intensify. The rising threat of unrest is further fallout from the diplomatic crisis embroiling Qatar.

A decades-long border dispute in the Doumeira region that, on occasion, had turned violent, was dampened in 2010 when the two sides agreed to let Qatar mediate. Since then, 450 Qatari forces have been maintaining a buffer zone between the two sides – until they up and left last week.
Qatar offered no explanation for the move, though it comes amid a diplomatic dispute with other Arab nations, most notably the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, which have cut diplomatic ties and are now trying to isolate Qatar from the rest of the world. Saudi Arabia and its allies allege that Qatar supports Islamist extremists, a charge the small gulf nation denies.
Both Djibouti and Eritrea have good relations with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and have taken their side in the Gulf row.
Djibouti says that, in the absence of Qatari soldiers, Eritrea has once again occupied the disputed territory, and hints that military clashes are not out of the question.
Foreign Minister Mahamoud Ali Youssouf warned that Djibouti's military were "on alert" and said the nation has lodged complaints to the UN and the African Union (AU). The AU urged restraint and said it would send a fact-finding mission to the disputed border.
It’s possible that the disputed Doumeira region won’t be the only place where the troubles with Qatar will be felt.

"The Qataris are involved in a number of fields outside their immediate region,” H.A. Hellyer, senior non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council in Washington DC, told FRANCE 24. “Many of those pressuring Qatar via these various measures are as well – and many times, they interact. There are probably very many arenas like the Djibouti-Eritrea scenario, and if this crisis in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) continues we may see many more such abrupt disruptions." readmore

Ending Sudan's identity crisis Amir Ahmad

Since a year before its independence in 1956, Sudan has witnessed terrible violence and bloodshed, which continues to this day. The reasons for this are numerous and complex, but one key culprit has always been our Afro-Arab identity crisis, which doesn't seem to have any near end in sight.   read more
Contrary to what many northern Sudanese may like to believe, the secession and independence of the south is not going to end the identity crisis, and it's certainly not going to magically turn the country into a genuinely Arab Islamic nation-state despite what Omar al-Bashir may want.
It won't happen, not even by force, due to the simple fact that Sudan always has been and always will be a multi-ethnic, multi-religious melting pot. Multi-ethnic given its minorities and various dominant Arab, Afro-Arab and African tribes, and multi-religious given its diverse population of Muslims, Christians and animists.
The question is: will we eventually have a democratic government that actually recognises and respects our diversity? Or will we continue to have an Islamist Afro-Arab regime, largely in denial of its "Africanness", which forcefully seeks to impose its self-serving interpretation of Islamic law and confused Arab identity on the rest of us?
It's hard to say what the future holds for Sudan, especially in light of the Arab spring, worsening economic conditions, recent northern takeover of Abyei, and the precedence of Sudan's 1964 and 1985 uprisings that succeeded in overthrowing repressive dictatorships.
What ultimately happens remains to be seen. Meanwhile, one of the things we northern Sudanese need to do is to address our identity crisis as a people. It's a crisis the southern Sudanese don't have to deal with because they are ethnically and culturally African.
However, generally speaking, we northern Sudanese are not. With the exception of a few tribes like the Rashaida, who are ethnically and culturally Arab, and some tribes in Darfur and near the south, who are ethnically and culturally African, the majority of northern Sudanese are Afro-Arab.
We're Afro-Arab in three main ways, simplified as follows.:
1. Ethnically as well as culturally Afro-Arab
2. Ethnically Afro-Arab but culturally predominantly Arab (the majority)
3. Ethnically African but culturally predominantly Arab and hence "Arabised"
Nevertheless, our attitudes don't really honour this reality. Yes, there are many of us who value our combined Afro-Arab heritage and self-identify, either as Afro-Arabs or just as Sudanese. There are also many who identify primarily as Arab or African for valid reasons that depend on which side of their cultural and ethnic heritage weighs more heavily. However, there are too many who reject their "Africanness" or "Arabness", with a few in both camps condescendingly and outspokenly showing disrespect for that aspect of themselves which they reject.
Then there are those who don't reject, but rather gently distance themselves from their "Africanness" or "Arabness" – consciously or subconsciously.
From my experience and observations, this act of distancing tends to be dynamic and evolving. It can happen for a variety of personal, social and political reasons in Sudan and within the Afro-Arab Sudanese diaspora.
For instance, many religious Sudanese Afro-Arabs I've spoken to prefer to primarily identify themselves as Arabs, because Arabs were the first Muslims and the people who spread Islam to the world. They see a certain prestige in being associated with that, and their religiosity colours their world view. (Islamic culture and Arab culture are intertwined in many ways in Sudan, and sometimes difficult to tell apart.)
Another example is how the explosion of hip-hop and rap music's popularity in the late 1990s throughout the Arab world made it "cool" for many young urban Sudanese Afro-Arabs to self-identify primarily as black rather than Arab.
And if a conversation I had in 2006 with an Afro-Arab Sudanese-American friend in Chicago is any indication, in a post-9/11 America, many like him prefer to identify as African over Arab.
I can't help but wonder how the Arab spring, which shattered global stereotypes and reaffirmed Arab dignity, might impact on them now.
Different Sudanese Afro-Arabs are obviously going to self-identify in different ways for different reasons, and they're free to be who they want to be – but confusion should not be the outcome. A nation with a confused or, worse, conflicted identity is likely to face difficulties as it tries to move forward, especially if it lacks confidence, self-esteem and a vision for its future.
Socially, the problem can be remedied through better education about our rich history and through more cultural and artistic endeavours that celebrate our pluralistic heritage. While we're at it, let's also tackle internal racism and our sometimes twisted conceptions of beauty in relation to skin colour.
Politically, the solution should be a civil multicultural democracy that recognises and respects our diversity and provides the framework within which we can negotiate our identity as individuals and as a people.
But make no mistake. This democracy will need to nurture our identity as first and foremost Sudanese citizens, which in turn will need to be based on an inclusive "Sudanism" that we'll have to negotiate. Otherwise, we risk remaining a country suffering from a terrible identity crisis – which will be a shame, given our huge potential.

Ethiopia: Action Needed to Safeguard Ethiopia's Climate-Threatened Coffee Industry

Scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and collaborators in Ethiopia have today published an innovative new study on the impact of climate change on coffee farming in Ethiopia. The research, conducted over a three-year period, investigated the potential for building a climate resilient coffee economy for Ethiopia.
The paper, published today in Nature Plants, is called 'Resilience potential of the Ethiopian coffee sector under climate change'.
Ethiopia is the world's fifth largest coffee producer and Africa's main exporter. In 2015/16, 180,000 metric tonnes of coffee at a value of US$800m was exported from the country, generating a quarter of the country's export earnings and providing livelihoods for around 15 million Ethiopians.

Against a backdrop of rapidly increasing temperatures and decreasing rainfall, there was an urgent need to understand how climate change is influencing coffee production and what the options for the future are.  READMORE