The Weekend Politics Thread Visits West Africa

Let’s find out what’s happening in West Africa, home to over 350 million people and 16 independent countries. Shall we? Yes we shall.

Nigeria

Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa – about half of West Africans live there. So their ongoing attempts to rely less on oil money (which benefits few) and more on agriculture (which could potentially benefit many) are a big deal. Let’s hope things move in the right direction.

Nigeria to diversify economy away from oil

Meanwhile, the basic security situation in the northeast of the country remains, uh, insecure. Boko Haram, an ISIS-like gang of moronic but well-armed criminals with a veneer of religious fanaticism, continues to take advantage of the government’s patchy presence in the area.

Boko Haram storm military base in northeastern Nigeria

Benin

Patrice Talon has been the plutocratic President of Benin since 2016. Before that, he was just a regular plutocrat, making his millions in the cotton industry, and occasionally trying to assassinate his predecessor. Anyway, fake elections were just held (no opposition candidates allowed), which the vast majority of the electorate boycotted (because of the fakeness). Former President Thomas Boni Yayi, supporting protests and a restoration of Benin’s democracy, said “Talon will walk over our dead bodies.” Talon seems to be willing to oblige.

Shots fired as post-election violence grips Benin

Oh, and my fellow Americans may find this quote interesting:

Interior Minister Sacca Lafia said security forces had been ordered onto the streets to stop protests, but called reports they were trying to arrest Boni Yayi “fake news”.

Thanks to Matt HelpingIsFutile for posting this article a few days ago.

Senegal

Macky Sall was recently re-elected as Senegal’s President in a not-so-fair election, what with two of his opponents being excluded due to convenient corruption charges.

Senegal’s Macky Sall starts second term with call for dialogue

So that’s not great, but Senegal still has its reputation as a stable and peaceful place, and accordingly, business is booming. Of course, that goes with its own set of problems, like the impact of air pollution on the famously outdoorsy inhabitants of Dakar.

On Dakar’s Streets, Working Out Is a Way of Life. Pollution Is Spoiling the Rush.

Ghana

First off, the picture in the header is Ghana’s presidential palace. I think it’s cool.

Next is some truly terrible stuff: child slavery. Yes, that’s right, CHILD SLAVERY – according to CNN. That last bit will be important in a minute.

Troubled Waters: A CNN Freedom Project documentary

The documentary claims that 20,000 children are kept as slaves by the fishing industry of Lake Volta. This is a cut-and-dried example of human depravity. Why won’t the government step in and liberate these children?

Some Ghanaians, though, found these claims a little fishy.

How CNN reported on ‘child slaves’ who were not really enslaved

Fishing is one of the few guaranteed avenues of subsistence for islanders and residents of riverine communities along Lake Volta, and children are rightly taught fishing skills by their parents. …

… The ILO study confirms, as we also acknowledge, that aspects of children’s work on the lake take place under dangerous and exploitative conditions. This is clearly a problem that has to be addressed. However, the study did not find any evidence of children involved in servitude or enslavement, contrary to the persistent claims by some NGOs and journalists.

The response provides quite a lot of detail about the situation in the Lake Volta area, including some examples of serious exploitation of children. But the take-home message is this one:

The language employed by NGOs and journalists when reporting on child rights problems in rich powerful nations is usually more tempered or considerate. They do not describe as “child enslavement”, for example, the blatant curtailment of the freedoms of children who are cruelly caged in immigration detention as a matter of state policy in the US, the UK, Australia and other countries. We only ask for the same nuance and considered examination in recounting similar problems in Ghana and elsewhere in the Global South.

We shouldn’t even be surprised. This is a cut-and-dried example of patronizing attitudes and racism in reporting.

Right? Well, yes it is, but not so fast…

Ghana child slavery: When seeking context overlooks harm

I agree with the authors that NGOs often make harmful and sensationalised claims about Africa with a Western audience in mind, but insisting on adding nuance to the narrative should not obscure real suffering.

An overarching issue here is not individual culpability or culture, but poverty and the failure of the Ghanaian state to adequately address it. …

… We must have national conversations on what constitutes an acceptable childhood for all children in Ghana, and governments, civil society and well-off Ghanaians must do the work that is needed to lift the most vulnerable to that acceptable level. Children should never be in a position where they have to work to earn a living. When this happens, the nation has failed them.

And with that, we commence our own conversations about government, society, and more. Let’s have no threats against Mayor McSquirrel or anyone else.