Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigeria Slides

Nigeria Population MapDear Readers,

My final lecture on the history and geography of current global events focused on Nigeria; the slides from this lecture are available at the link below.

Next week I will resume regular GeoCurrents posts. The first of these will look at issues related to Nigeria’s recent election, reflecting some of these lecture slides. Subsequently, I hope to examine Turkey’s recent election and then move on to a wide variety of other topics.

NigeriaLectureSlides

Final Maps on “Geopolitical Anomalies”

This post merely contains some of the additional maps that I prepared for my March 31 lecture on the history and geography of current global events. These maps, like those in the two preceding posts, focus on geopolitical irregularities and anomalies in a region of the world that might be called the “Greater Middle East” (for lack of a better term). The maps in this post, in general, depict anomalies that are less pronounced than those considered in the previous posts.

Unfortunately, I do not have time to prepare explanatory text to accompany these maps. I must be ready to… – Read More

Geopolitical Anomalies in the “Greater Middle East,” Part 2

(note: The introduction to this post is found in the post of April 1)

Thus far we have examined a number of geopolitical anomalies in a sizable region of the world centered on Saudi Arabia. We have not yet looked at the most serious challenge to the standard model, however, that of state collapse. Other important issues remain to be considered as well.

Feeble States MapAs mentioned in the introduction to this series, Somalia has not functioned as a coherent state since 1991. Although its internationally recognized federal government… – Read More

Geopolitical Anomalies in the “Greater Middle East,” Part I

(Note: The introduction to this post is found in the previous post, that of April 1))

U.N. Greater Middle East MapA detail from the Wikipedia map of United Nations members, discussed in the previous post, shows only one non-member in the region that we might crudely dub the “greater Middle East,” which is the focus of today’s post. That non-member is the Palestinian geopolitical anomalies map 1territory, composed of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, as can be seen the… – Read More

GeoCurrents Summer Vacation

Dear Readers,

I am sorry to say that GeoCurrents will be taking its annual summer vacation for the next five or six weeks. During this time, several guest posts may be run, but I will not be contributing any posts myself. For the next two weeks, my attention will be focused on grading papers and examinations and on finishing the book manuscript on Indo-European linguistics that Asya Pereltsvaig and I have been working on for some time. After that, I will be traveling in South Africa and perhaps Swaziland.  GeoCurrents should be able return in full strength in mid or late July… – Read More

Does the Boko Haram Insurgency Stem from Environmental Degradation and Climate Change?

Several attempts to explain the extreme violence of Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria focus on resource scarcity, overpopulation, environmental degradation, and especially climate change. A recent article in The Guardian, for example, claims that:
Instability in Nigeria … has been growing steadily over the last decade — and one reason is climate change. In 2009, a UK Department for International Development (Dfid) study warned that climate change could contribute to increasing resource shortages in the country due to land scarcity from desertification, water shortages, and mounting crop failures.
Other examples of Nigerian inter-ethnic conflict have also been attributed to… – Read More

Is Poverty the Root Cause of Boko Haram Violence?

The notion that poverty is the main cause of terrorism and insurgency is one of the most contentious ideas in global security studies. Those on the left tend to emphasize the connection between violence and the lack of development, while those on the right tend to deny or at least minimize it.

Nigeria Political Violence MapIn recent weeks, this debate has turned to the brutal extremist group known as Boko Haram, based in the northeastern Nigerian state of Borno. In early May, 2014, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry

Dark Areas on the Earth at Night Map

Korea light mapAs is well known, North Korea is a dark land when viewed from space at night, quite in contrast to well-illuminated South Korea. In the Google EarthBuilder detail posted here, the discrepancy between the two countries is extreme. In the North, Pyongyang is the only sizable bright spot, and it is dwarfed by many regional South Korean, Chinese, and Japanese cities. (The offshore lights seen on this map were generated mostly by squid fishing.)

Central Africa light mapBut… – Read More

Casamance – harmonious name, discordant reality

The Casamance has long been a region in limbo, caught between worlds: today trapped between Senegal and The Gambia, it was subject to both French and Portuguese colonial efforts before the border was negotiated in 1888 between the French colony of Senegal and Portuguese Guinea (now Guinea-Bissau) to the south. The settlement resulted in Portugal losing possession of the Casamance, which was at the time the commercial hub of its colony. – Read More

Religious Change and Tension in Ethiopia

Ethiopia Religion MapEthiopia is currently undergoing a religious transformation that could be of major significance for the rapidly growing country of 91 million people. For centuries the territory that now constitutes the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia was divided between an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian core (with a Jewish minority), a Sunni Muslim zone in the east, and an animist/indigenous-faith area in the south and the lowland reaches of the far west. Ethiopia’s Jewish community, however, as been diminishing rapidly over the past several decades, and is scheduled to… – Read More

The Paradoxes of Ethiopia’s Dam-Building Boom

African Hydropoer PotentialThe Wikipedia article on Dams and Hydropower in Ethiopia claims that “Ethiopia considers itself the powerhouse of Africa due to its high hydropower potential.” But while Ethiopia’s hydropower resources are indeed impressive, they are dwarfed by those of DR Congo, as the Congo River alone is said to account for as much as 13 percent of total global hydroelectric potential. But due to DR Congo’s political instability and lack of effective government, Ethiopia has emerged as the leader in African hydropower development. As Ethiopia is… – Read More

Egyptian Protests, Ethiopian Dams, and the Hydropolitics of the Nile Basin

Nile Hydropolitics MapWater struggles in the Nile Basin have recently intensified as Egyptian nationalists denounce Ethiopia’s building of the Grand Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile, the river’s largest tributary. Ethiopia is now diverting the river in preparation for construction, angering many Egyptians, whose country is heavily dependent on the Nile flow. Protestors gathered in front of the Ethiopian embassy in Cairo last week as the Egyptian opposition lambasted the Morsi administration for allowing the project to proceed. The reaction from the Egyptian government, however, was muted… – Read More

Intense Ethnic Divisions in the 2013 Kenyan Election

Kenya 2013 Election MapMedia reports of the recent Kenyan presidential election have generally focused on the facts that the contest was not as violent as many feared it would be, and that the winner, Uhuru Kenyatta, has been charged by the International Criminal Court with committing crimes against humanity in relation to the bloody presidential election of 2007. Some articles have also mentioned the intensely ethnic nature of the voting pattern, the topic of today’s GeoNote.

Although the election was relatively close, with Kenyatta receiving just over 50 percent… – Read More

Ethnicity and Political Division in Ghana

Ghana 2012 Presidential Election MapAfrica Democracy Index MapGhana is often regarded as West Africa’s best-governed country, with a relatively well-established system of democratic rule. Although the Economist Intelligence Unit Democracy Index for 2011 rates Ghana as a “flawed democracy,” it is nonetheless only one of two democracies listed in the region. (Mali appears in the same category on the map, but it has recently lost its democratic status.) Ghana’s December 2012 presidential election reinforced its democratic standing. The election was… – Read More

Self-Rule and Environmental Crisis in Ogoniland

In recent months, relations between the Ogoni people of Rivers State in southeastern Nigeria and the government have come under intense pressure. On August 2nd, a group of Ogoni led by Goodluck Diigbo of the pro-autonomy Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) declared their sovereignty in internal affairs while stopping short of secession. – Read More