A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘africa

[LINK] “Still in Limbo, Somaliland Banking on Berbera”

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James Jeffrey reports for the Inter Press Service about how Somaliland, particularly its capital of Berbera, is trying to look forward to a bright future independent of a Somalia Somalilanders wish to separate from.

Crossing African borders by land can be an intimidating process (it’s proving an increasingly intimidating process nowadays in Europe and the US also, even in airports). But crossing from Ethiopia to Somaliland at the ramshackle border town of Togo-Wuchale is a surreally pleasant experience.

Immigration officials on the Somaliland side leave aside the tough cross-examination routine, greeting you with big smiles and friendly chit chat as they whack an entry stamp on the Somaliland visa in your passport.

They’re always happy to see a foreigner’s visit providing recognition of their country that technically still doesn’t exist in the eyes of the rest of the political world, despite having proclaimed its independence from Somalia in 1991, following a civil war that killed about 50,000 in the region.

A British protectorate from 1886 until 1960 and unifying with what was then Italian Somaliland to create modern Somalia, Somaliland had got used to going on its own since that 1991 declaration, and today exhibits many of the trappings of a functioning state: its own currency, a functioning bureaucracy, trained police and military, law and order on the streets. Furthermore, since 2003 Somaliland has held a series of democratic elections resulting in orderly transfers of power.

Somaliland’s resolve is most clearly demonstrated in the capital, Hargeisa, formerly war-torn rubble in 1991 at the end of the civil war, its population living in refugee camps in neighbouring Ethiopia. An event that lives on in infamy saw the jets of military dictator Mohammed Siad Barre’s regime take off from the airport and circle back to bomb the city.

But visitors to today’s sun-blasted city of 800,000 people encounter a mishmash of impassioned traditional local markets cheek by jowl with diaspora-funded modern glass-fronted office blocks and malls, Wi-Fi enabled cafes and air-conditioned gyms, all suffused with typical Somali energy and dynamism.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 22, 2017 at 6:45 pm

Posted in Politics

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[URBAN NOTE] “U of T students flock to ancient language Ge’ez course, funded in part by The Weeknd”

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NOW Toronto‘s David Silverberg takes a look at the course in Ge’ez, a liturgical language of Ethiopia, newly offered by the University of Toronto thanks to funding by Ethiopian-Canadian rapper The Weeknd.

How does someone teach a language when we have no idea what it might actually sound like?

That’s one of the questions for U of T’s Robert Holmsted, who’s teaching the university’s course on the liturgical Ethiopian language Ge’ez.

In its first semester at U of T, his class has five undergraduates and five graduate students enrolled, and several more students auditing the class. They all realize that deciphering ancient languages can help us learn about a country’s ancient past.

Manuscripts in the language, which hasn’t been spoken in 1,000 years, date from as far back as the sixth century BCE. In fact, contemporary scholars of such ancient languages may not be able to ascertain the true sound of the language at all.

Holmstedt agrees that no one can truly know how centuries-old languages were pronounced, but we can get some clues from other Semitic tongues.

“Without recordings, we have to do our best to reconstruct the sound from Semitic languages,” he says. “We make an approximation and can never know for sure.”

Written by Randy McDonald

February 16, 2017 at 8:45 pm

[LINK] On a failed attempt by African migrants to escape Morocco for Spain

The National Post carried Joseph Wilson’s Associated Press article reporting on a failed effort by well over a thousand Africans to storm the fences separating Morocco from the Spanish enclave of Ceuta.

More than 50 Moroccan and Spanish border guards were injured repelling around 1,100 African migrants who attempted to storm a border fence and enter Spain’s North African enclave of Ceuta, Spanish authorities said Sunday.

A regional government spokesman told The Associated Press that 50 Moroccan and five Spanish border guards were injured early on Sunday when the large group of migrants tried to enter Spain.

The spokesman said two migrants managed to reach Spanish soil. Both were injured in scaling the six-metere-high border fence and were taken to a hospital by Spanish police. He spoke anonymously in line with government policy.

A further 100 migrants climbed the fence, but Spanish agents sent them directly back to Morocco.

[. . .]

Hundreds of sub-Saharan African migrants living illegally in Morocco try to enter Ceuta and Melilla, Spain’s other North African enclave, each year in hope of getting to Europe.

Most migrants who try to cross are intercepted on the spot and returned to Morocco. Those that make it over the fences are eventually repatriated or let go.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 3, 2017 at 8:30 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “I’m a Tourist in Lagos. You Have a Problem With That?”

I quite liked the energy of Tyler Cowen’s Bloomberg View column describing why he went to Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city and commercial capital, for a visit.

People seemed surprised to see me and I did not encounter many other evident tourists. The Nigerian clerk at my (upscale) hotel expressed shock that a white person had arrived. Perhaps she thought I was a sex tourist, as she continued in full enthusiasm: “The room is solo? Don’t worry, Nigerian women just love men like you!” I believe she meant this as local hospitality, though under another reading it is a veiled critique. The truth, I admit, is indeed pretty strange. I like to go around and look at gross domestic product, and that simple fact explains much of my unusual behavior abroad.

Nigeria is now the country with the highest GDP in Africa, having surpassed South Africa, and it ranks globally at number 26. If Lagos state were a country, it would have the fifth largest GDP on the continent.

As an economist, I feel a moral pull, not to mention a personal curiosity, to see goods and services being produced. That means visiting Lagos’s renowned computer market and fabrics market as well as its fast-food shops, shopping malls, street food and ice cream parlors. I sought out its bridges, canals and electric generators, though not the oil areas — there are too many kidnappings there.

Making large-scale structures and trading goods and services are among the most human and noble of activities, so is it actually so strange to visit them, as one might enter a cathedral or make a pilgrimage to Gettysburg? For all the talk about human interactions being the key to a wonderful trip, those interactions usually require some sort of scaffolding and structure to one’s daily activities, and on that score a quest for GDP can help out. I’ve yet to go on a safari.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 3, 2017 at 7:30 pm

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly writes about the need for opponents of Trump to fight, not just the man but the root causes.
  • Centauri Dreams notes a study suggesting Proxima Centauri is gravitationally bound to Alpha Centauri A and B.
  • Dangerous Minds shares photos depicting the devastation of Gatlinburg by fire.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes that stars with close-orbiting rocky worlds seem to have above-solar metallicity, and considers the albedos of exoplanets.
  • Far Outliers looks at how Poland’s Communist government tried to undermine Pope John Paul II in 1979.
  • Joe. My. God. notes a lawsuit lodged against the American government demanding the release of information regarding the Russian information hack.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes poor working conditions in Bangladesh.
  • Marginal Revolution notes a Yoruba tongue twister.
  • The Planetary Society Blog links to China’s planned program of space exploration.

[URBAN NOTE] “Kwanzaa connects Torontonians to ancestry as it marks 50th anniversary”

CBC News’ Taylor Simmons notes that this year marks the 50th anniversary of Kwanzaa.

Zakiya Tafari remembers celebrating his first Kwanzaa over 20 years ago.

“I was introduced to it at a very young age and just found it to be really empowering,” he said.

“There are some guiding principles that really help individuals know who we are as individual black people, what are some of the great things that our ancestry came from and what we need to be doing to move that message forward.”

He sees that continuation in his 12-year-old daughter. This year, she bought a new dashiki, a colourful African garment, to wear during their Kwanzaa celebration.

“It’s really cool to see a kid who grew-up in a different generation from me, who’s very much a modern kid … but she still respects some of her African ancestry and is proud to embrace it.”

The centrepiece of Kwanzaa, according to Tafari, is spending time with each other.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 26, 2016 at 10:29 pm

[BLOG] Some Monday links

  • Apostrophen’s ‘Nathan Smith announces some of his plans for the forthcoming year.
  • C.J. Cherryh talks about her experience of early winter in Oklahoma.
  • The Map Room Blog links to a collection of electoral map what-ifs.
  • Marginal Revolution looks at the worrying connection between Rogue One and fake news.
  • The NYRB Daily shares Tim Parks’ reflections on Machiavelli’s The Prince.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer reports on the ongoing constitutional crisis in the Congo.
  • Peter Rukavina shares a photo of Charlottetown’s Province House.
  • Strange Maps shares Radio Garden, a map of the globe that lets people pick up thousands of radio stations around the world.
  • Transit Toronto notes a new boarding area for GO Transit users at Union Station.
  • Window on Eurasia shares criticism of Russia’s Syria policy that calls it Orwellian.