New Book on Somali Political Culture

A friend of African Security Central, Dr. MJ Fox, has recently published a fantastic new book entitled The Roots of Somali Political Culture. See a brief summary below, along with the following link on where to purchase it.

This comparative study of the three primary political divisions in Somalia today considers the historical role of political culture in contributing to those divisions. When dictator Siad Barre fled Somalia in January 1991, the country quickly fragmented into three main polities, and it has predominantly remained so for almost twenty-five years. Throughout this period, the attempted political paths of Somaliland and Puntland in the north proved to be almost consistently as well as intentionally liberal. At the same time, southern Somalia descended into a pattern of violent conflict which has persisted over time despite changes in actors and numerous negotiated solutions. In providing a theory-based understanding of political culture, the case is made for considering political culture as a long-overlooked factor in the absence and presence of violent conflict.   
 FOX

Connecting US Company with African Software Developers

Sounds like a great opportunity: any leads that I could pass along to a friend who sent this message recently?

“I’ve begun working with a company…that trains a pool of developers from across Africa to be “fellows,” and then connects them with US software companies’ remote teams. I’m hoping to connect with people familiar with both software development and African-Western exchange, and I was hoping you might know a couple folks to talk to about this.”

Compendium of Sources Related to the African Peace and Security Architecture

Below is arguably the most comprehensive collection (perhaps outside of ASC?!) of sources related to the African Peace and Security Architecture, the African Union, and regional security cooperation, assembled by CivCap.info. It is well worth a look. 

https://www.civcap.info/home/african-civilian-capacity-afcap/literature-on-african-peace-security-architecture-apsa-peacekeeping-peacebuilding.html

Scholarship to Mauritius for African Undergraduates

See the full link here: 

http://africanscholar.com/2014/04/21/mauritius-africa-scholarships-2014-for-undergraduates/ 

Mauritius-Africa Scholarships 2014 For Undergraduates

in ScholarshipsStudent BlogUniversities

mauritius govt 3Known for its stability and racial harmony among its mixed population of Asians, Europeans and Africans, the Republic of Mauritius is offering scholarships for African undergraduates. The Government of Mauritius through its Ministry of Tertiary Education, Science, Research and Technology is offering scholarships for undergraduate studies in public tertiary education institutions in Mauritius to 50 deserving African students in 2014.

The Scholarship will cover: 

(i) a monthly living allowance of Rs 8,300 (USD 266 approx.),

(ii) tuition fees up to Rs 100,000 (USD 3205 approx.) yearly, and

(iii) airfare (economy class) by the most economical route to and from Mauritius at the start and the end of the studies.

 Scholarship Duration

The duration for the scholarship will be a maximum of 4 years depending on the course duration.

 Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for this scholarship, students must have:-

a) passed in 3 subjects at General Certificate of Education “Advanced Level” / Cambridge International A level or at an equivalent level acceptable to the Scholarship panel; and

b) secured a conditional offer in a fully accredited and on-campus undergraduate programme on a full-time basis at a public tertiary education institution.

c) Candidates should be resident citizens of a member state of the African Union.

d) Scholarships are not awarded to students on:

(i) top-up degree programmes;

(ii) foundation programmes; and

(iii) mixed modes (distance and on-campus learning)

e) Candidates should not be more than 25 years of age at the date of application.

 Deadline for Submission of Applications: 30 June 2014 

 Documents to be Submitted

(i) Application forms

(ii) Birth certificate

(iii) Certified copies of education certificates,

(iv) Transcripts of secondary school results,

(v) Mark sheets relating to their qualifications,

(vi) Letter of conditional offer by a public tertiary education institution in Mauritius.

 Important Information

Candidates should indicate in their applications, the name of the institution and the title and course code of the programme to which they have been admitted.

Submitting Application

All applications should be made through the Ministry of Education or the equivalent Ministry of the country of the applicant, on the prescribed format with the necessary supporting documents. After endorsement by the Ministry of Education or the equivalent Ministry, the nomination form must be sent through diplomatic channel to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade of Mauritius.

All applications should include a medical report and an AIDS-free certificate before the scholarship is approved.

Other conditions

  • Self -financing candidates already studying in Mauritius in an undergraduate programme before July 2014 will not be converted into studentships.
  • The scholarship holders would be required to sign an undertaking to return to their home country as soon as the studentship comes to an end.

Once a student has been awarded a scholarship, the student visa will be issued by the Government of Mauritius.

List of Public Tertiary Education Institutions 

1. University of Mauritius – www.uom.ac.mu

2. University of Technology , Mauritius – www.utm.ac.mu

3. Université des Mascareignes – www.udm.ac.mu

4. Open University – www.open.ac.mu

5. Fashion and Design Institute – www.fdi.mu

6. Mauritius Institute of Education – www.mie.ac.mu

7. Mahatma Gandhi Institute – www. mgirti.ac.mu

8. Rabindranath Tagore Institute – www. mgirti.ac.mu

This is another opportunity to advance your education in a foreign country. Applying for the scholarship requires an applicant to have a conditional offer letter from the institutions listed. Login into the approved tertiary institutions websites, make your application for a course you would like to pursue and once you have an offer letter use it to apply for the scholarship. If you already have the offer letter, download the forms, fill them and take them to your country’s ministry of education. For more information, visitMauritius ministry of education and human resources.

 

– See more at: http://africanscholar.com/2014/04/21/mauritius-africa-scholarships-2014-for-undergraduates/#sthash.nDqjlMWA.dpuf

Africa’s Other Enormous Cost from Extremism and Conflict: Polio

The following article was originally published in the November 2013 issue of the Foreign Military Studies Office (FMSO) Operational Environment Watch, http://fmso.leavenworth.army.mil/. It is reprinted here courtesy of FMSO.

Africa’s Other Enormous Cost from Extremism and Conflict: Polio

     Robert Feldman

As Nigeria buries the 40 students slaughtered by Boko Haram and Kenya buries the 67 people massacred (a number likely to rise as many others are reported wounded or missing) from the mall attack by the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab, the world is reminded of the extremism and conflicts present in parts of Africa. There is, however, another potential casualty in Nigeria and Somalia, two of Africa’s bloodiest countries, that threatens to dwarf the numbers dead and disabled from the recent school and mall attacks – the polio eradication campaign.

For most Americans born after the advent of large-scale polio vaccination in the early 1960s, polio outbreaks such as the one in the U.S. in 1952, which left 3145 dead and 21,269 paralyzed, are historical events they have read about but never witnessed firsthand. The last cases of naturally occurring polio in the U.S. were recorded in 1979, when the disease broke out in several Amish communities where people were not vaccinated.[i] Therefore, what many say was at one time America’s most feared childhood disease has by and large been vanquished in the U.S., as well as many other countries, through ongoing vaccination campaigns.

Eventually it was recognized that polio, as had earlier happened with smallpox, could be eradicated not from just some nations but worldwide. That would translate into not only a tremendous number of lives saved from death or disability, but also significant monetary savings from no longer having to treat polio, as well as eventually no longer needing to continue vaccination programs (this would be especially important for those many African countries with extremely limited healthcare budgets). Thus was born the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, a public health endeavor involving the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Rotary International and others.[ii] For 23 years the battle has been waged to eliminate this terrible disease, and while there have been many successes, including a reduction of over 99.9% in the number of annual cases of polio, tremendous obstacles in the forms of extremism and conflict have hindered reaching the necessary 100%. If there is one area, even a small area, where people are still contracting polio because they were not vaccinated, then any future plans to stop global vaccination would have to be put on hold until that area was polio free. As WHO puts it, “As long as a single child remains infected, children in all countries are at risk of contracting polio. Failure to eradicate polio from these last remaining strongholds could result in as many as 200,000 new cases every year, within 10 years, all over the world.”[iii]

There have been successes in eliminating polio in many African countries. Unfortunately, however, Nigeria was never free of the disease, and a low vaccination rate in Somalia enabled the disease to reestablish itself there. In the latter case, genetic testing shows the polio strain to have been one circulating in northern Nigeria.[iv] It is not for lack of trying on the part of local authorities and international aid organizations that Nigeria and Somalia still harbor the disease.

Nigeria has encountered several obstacles in its eradication program, including weaknesses in its health infrastructure, but perhaps most daunting have been the rumors circulating in northern Nigeria that the vaccine causes severe side effects. Two quotes from 2003 demonstrate the strong religious undertones against the vaccination campaign.[v]  The first, by the governor of Kano, a northern Nigerian state, states, “Since September 11, the Muslim world is beginning to be suspicious of any move from the Western world…Our people have become really concerned about polio vaccine.” Datti Ahmed, a Kano-based physician who headed the Supreme Council for Sharia in Nigeria, stated the polio vaccines were “corrupted and tainted by evildoers from America and their Western allies…We believe that modern-day Hitlers have deliberately adulterated the oral polio vaccines with anti-fertility drugs and…viruses which are known to cause HIV and AIDS.” Ten years later the extremism would be bumped up a level. In February 2013 nine female polio vaccinators were shot in northern Nigeria.[vi] Indications are the killings were by Boko Haram, though this is uncertain. Still, with an organization whose name in English means “Western education is a sin,” it would not be surprising to find that this militant Islamist group is indeed behind the murder of these health workers who were bringing modern day medicine to the people.

The effort to eradicate polio in Somalia has, as in Nigeria, run afoul of extremists. The present scale of conflict in Somalia, where foreign armies in conjunction with the Somali military are battling al-Shabaab, a militant Islamic group which controls large swaths of Somalia,[vii] includes violence against healthcare workers. In fact, vaccination campaign workers dare not enter those areas under al-Shabaab control. Besides blocking the vaccination campaign workers, al-Shabaab has tried to convince the locals that the vaccine is dangerous, blaring through loudspeakers that circle through towns and villages that it will cause sterility or AIDS, with an additional, “This vaccine is a Western agenda against Muslims” included to be sure the people know the West is targeting Muslims.  Even those who do not believe the propaganda are frequently unable to be vaccinated as travelling to government-controlled areas is prohibitively expensive for the impoverished population.[viii] As Liban Nur, a 65 year old traditional elder in the al-Shabaab-controlled town of Bulo Burde said, “Polio cannot be eradicated without first eliminating al-Shabaab from Bulo Burde and anywhere else under the group’s control.” Unfortunately, eradicating al-Shabaab, like eradicating polio, is not proving easy.

Somalia has paid a high price for al-Shabaab’s intransigence regarding vaccination. Six years ago the country had no cases of polio; now it has over 100, more than the rest of the world combined.[ix] Reflecting how nervous healthcare workers are in Somalia, in August 2013 Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) pulled out of the country after having been there for 22 years, citing attacks on its staff, including the murder in December 2011 of two of its workers in Mogadishu.[x] MSF is an organization known for its willingness to provide medical care in many of the world’s hotspots. For the indigent people of Somalia in desperate need of health care, their country was too dangerous even for MSF.

Though vaccination efforts continue in both Nigeria and Somalia, the setbacks in these countries have led to polio spreading to other countries which had previously eradicated the disease within their borders. Now it is present in Kenya, South Sudan, and the Somali region of Ethiopia.[xi] Three other countries – Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Niger – have circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV). Before progressing to an explanation of cVDPV, at the risk of oversimplification it is important first to review some basic principles regarding polio. The disease is caused by a virus, of which there are three naturally occurring strains (or were three as one of the strains, type 2, is believed to have been eradicated). These are called wild types and are mainly transmitted via the fecal-oral route, meaning the viral strains, which replicate in a person’s intestinal tract, are shed in the feces. People who ingest food or water contaminated with polio-laden feces can become infected and, in turn, further spread the disease. The oral polio vaccine is comprised of live but attenuated strains of the wild type strains, often but not always all three types. These weakened strains reproduce in the person’s intestines, just like the wild type strains, and eventually produce an immune response.  For approximately six to eight weeks the child excretes the attenuated strains in its feces, once again similar to what he or she would do if infected with the wild types. However, unlike the wild types, these attenuated viruses do not normally cause polio in people who ingest food or water contaminated with them. On rare occasions, though, when the immunization rate is extremely low in a community, such as is happening in parts of Africa because of extremism and conflict, attenuated viruses can circulate for a very long time, allowing them to undergo genetic mutations that eventually let them act as if it they are wild types, capable of causing paralysis and death.[xii] Whether wild type or vaccine-derived, it is necessary to immunize the population against polio in order to prevent its spread.

There are two other countries in the world where wild type polio remains endemic: Pakistan and Afghanistan. They suffer from some of the same religious intolerance and intransigence as Nigeria and Somalia. Conflict-laden areas, as well as violence against healthcare workers, draw additional parallels between these South Asian countries and their African counterparts. At least 22 polio workers have been murdered in Pakistan.[xiii] Still the vast majority of new polio cases are in Africa. Thus, while the world certainly cannot take its eyes off South Asia, Africa remains a key battleground to contain, if not eliminate, the disease.

Many in the international public health community remain optimistic that through perseverance, diplomacy, education, and other means it is still possible to eradicate polio. For them, to quit now, after all these years of effort and all the money spent, when it is down to a fraction of 1% of the world population that needs to be vaccinated in order to rid humankind of a terrible scourge forever, is unthinkable. Their optimism, however, is offset by a number of voices saying the world is losing ground in the fight against polio, especially in the Horn of Africa; that some areas are just too dangerous or too rabidly anti-vaccination for an eradication campaign to succeed.

There is an additional variable to factor in regarding the staying power of the polio campaign: money. Many countries, including the United States, are struggling with deficits. Though in the long run total eradication of polio would reap enormous cost savings, setbacks such as the ones occurring in Africa make donors doubtful that the goal of a polio-free world is attainable. Indeed, the campaign has already experienced funding shortages.[xiv]  Thus, without some success stories from Nigeria and Somalia, donations could dry up even further. Moreover, additional fallout may occur with attempts to eradicate other diseases being eliminated, as they might be considered unlikely to succeed based on the problems with the polio campaign.

Because a large part of the problem with the vaccination campaign in Africa is the inability of healthcare workers to reach conflict-ridden areas, military interventions can make a difference. This is already happening in Somalia. As an example, last year Kenyan forces were able to wrest control of the coastal city Kisumu from al-Shabaab, allowing health officials to vaccinate 13,000 children.[xv] On the outskirts of the city, considered to still be quite dangerous, children went unvaccinated.

It thus appears that it might not take just an army of healthcare workers to eradicate polio from areas such as Somalia and Nigeria, but an actual army. Well armed and entrenched extremists are obstructing this effort. In turn, as seen by the Kenyan example in Kisumu, it may take a well armed military to re-establish the vaccination initiative. Time, though, is working against the polio eradication campaign. The longer al-Shabaab controls areas of Somalia or Boko Haram areas of Nigeria, the more likely polio will spread to even more countries that are now polio free, making eradication that much harder. Though it is rarely stated as a means for justifying foreign intervention in Somalia, polio containment, if not eradication, could serve as a particularly strong one.

Thus, based on the situation on the ground, it appears reasonable to expect African militaries have a major role to play in eradicating polio by defeating extremists and eliminating conflict-ridden areas. That foreign assistance to these African forces, either direct or indirect, has a role, and perhaps even needs to have a role, also appears reasonable. Perhaps the best way to summarize the situation is to paraphrase Liban Nur, the traditional elder mentioned earlier, who lives in the Somali town of Bulo Burde: “to eradicate polio you first have to eradicate al-Shabaab.”

Disclaimer:  The views expressed in Foreign Military Studies Office publications and reports are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government

 

 

Notes


[i] “Polio Disease – Questions and Answers,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 18 Mar 2011, http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/polio/dis-faqs.htm .

[ii] Polio Global Eradication Initiative, 27 Sep 2013,  http://www.polioeradication.org/

[iii] “Poliomyelitis,” World Health Organization, April 2013, http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs114/en/

[iv]  “Somalia Records Its First Wild Polio Case Since 2007 – Updated,” Nature News Blog, 13 May 2013, http://blogs.nature.com/news/2013/05/somalia-records-its-first-wild-polio-case-since-2007.html

[v]  Ayedele Samuel Jegede, “What led to the Nigerian boycott of the polio vaccination campaign?” Public Library of Science – Medicine, 20 Mar 2007, http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040073

[vi]  “Nigeria polio vaccinators shot dead  in Kano, ” BBC News Africa, 8 Feb 2013, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-21381773

[vii] “Nigeria Christians Threaten religious civil war,” United Press International, 23 Apr 2013, http://www.upi.com/Top_News/Special/2013/04/23/Nigeria-Christians-threaten-religious-war/UPI-73101366742735/

[viii] Dahir Jibril, “Somalia: Polio widespread in regions under al – Shabaab control,” Sabahi, 4 Sep 2013, http://allafrica.com/stories/201309050099.html?viewall=1

[ix] “Somalia dealing with ‘explosive’ polio outbreak,” Washington Post, 16 Aug 2013, http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-08-16/world/41417402_1_somalia-kenyan-polio-eradication-initiative

[x] “MSF forced to close all medical programmes in Somalia,” Medecins Sans Frontieres, http://www.msf.org/article243/msf-forced-close-all-medical-programmes-somalia

[xi]  “Polio in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and  South Sudan,”  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7 Oct 2013,  http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/alert/polio-somalia-kenya-ethiopia-south-sudan

[xii] “Vaccine-derived polioviruses,” Global Polio Eradication Initiative,” 2010, http://www.polioeradication.org/Polioandprevention/Thevirus/Vaccinederivedpolioviruses.aspx

[xiii] Saima Mohsin, “In Pakistan, vaccinating children against polio can be a deadly job,” CNN, 9 Oct 2013, http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/09/world/asia/pakistan-polio-workers/index.html

[xiv] Debora MacKenzie, “Threatwatch: Taliban action risks polio resurgence,” 22 June 2012, http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn21968-threatwatch-taliban-action-risks-polio-resurgence.html

[xv] Jason Straziuso, “New push against polio and new vaccines in Somalia,” Associated Press, 25 Apr 2013, http://bigstory.ap.org/article/somali-violence-down-new-push-child-vaccines