Continuing Trouble in Côte d’Ivoire

via BBC News – Ivory Coast: Rebels take western town Zouan-Hounien.

Ivory Coast rebels fighting to oust President Laurent Gbagbo have taken control of a town in the west of the country, Mr Gbagbo’s forces confirm.

The rebels, who control the north of the country, seized the town of Zouan-Hounien in an overnight attack.

Witnesses say unrest has spread to the capital Yamoussoukro, and the UN has warned that the country is at risk of relapsing into civil war.


16 million people, half under the age of 15, in a country the size of New Mexico, with over 60 different ethnic groups – a recipe for disaster.

The country has 3 distinct regions – northern Sahel, southwestern forest, and southeastern lagoons.  Once upon a time, the Ivory Coast was a model of a stable African state, but the situation has deteriorated in the country that is the world’s leading producer of cocoa.  Since the troubles began after the election of Alassane Ouattara as president, exports have dropped.  Former President and loser of the election Laurent Gbagbo has refused to step down, and a stand-off has ensued.  UN forces are protecting the new president as fighting rages around the country.

Separately, the UN’s refugee agency says the number of civilians fleeing west to Liberia has surged.

“Until mid-week we were seeing around 100 people crossing the border daily. But over the past 24 hours alone, the numbers coming across have swollen to 5,000 people,” the agency said in a statement.

African leaders have urged Gbagbo to cede power to the winner, but they have not been successful in their requests.

What will happen next?  Most likely, another un-civil war in another African state.

Tribal Loyalties in Libya

A key factor in maintaining Muammar Qadhafi’s regime has been his manipulation of Libya’s tribal allegiances, much as Saddam Hussein did in Iraq.

via Libya – Tribes.

Much of the world depends on tribal/clan/family loyalties to run smoothly.  Where the balance between the clans is upset, such as in Somalia, violence breaks out.  Libya has more than 140 clans, each with its own sphere of influence.  The current outbreak of civil unrest and protest against Qaddafi’s rule is very likely to lead to a civil war between competing clans.

According to an article in the CSMonitor, Libya is considered one of the most tribal nations in the Arab world.

“In Libya, it will be the tribal system that will hold the balance of power rather than the military,” Alia Brahimi, head of the North Africa program at the London School of Economics, told Abu Dhabi-based newspaper The National.

Alliances among tribes could mean the difference in being rich or poor.


Qadhafi, despite his beduin roots, viewed tribes as anachronistic and as obstacles to modernization. Consequently, the government sought to break the links between the rural population and its traditional leaders by focusing attention on a new elite–the modernizers who represented the new leadership.

The countryside was divided into zones that crossed old tribal boundaries, combining different tribes in a common zone and splitting tribes in a manner that weakened traditional institutions and the force of local kinship.

However, even this was not enough to break allegiance to family and clan, and tribal memories remain strong.

Who’s who in Libyan tribes:  here, and here.


Mississippi River transit map

via River Maps « somethingaboutmaps.

Rivers have been a key part of urban life for centuries. They have provided us with drinking water, protection, and a transit network that links us from one settlement to the next.

This really cool map of the Mississippi River system is done in the style of 1930’s subway system maps.  It illustrates the enormity and complexity of the major transportation system of the central US.

Our lucky geography provides us with a cheap way to move goods and people across the middle of our nation.  If not for this system, would we be more like Africa, which has no way to link the interior with the coast on a waterway?

h/t to Strange Maps

It’s Really Big

Since we are studying Africa:

true-size-of-africa.jpg (JPEG Image, 2482×1755 pixels) – Scaled (28%).

Unintended Consequences

Photo: AP Photo/Daniele La Monaca
A would-be immigrant is escorted to register at a re-opened detention center on the island of Lampedusa, Italy, Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011.

via Italy Seeks to Deploy Police in Tunisia to Stem Tide of Refugees | Europe | English.

Tunisia’s interim cabinet says it plans to discuss a response to the thousands of people who have fled the country and landed on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa during the past few days.

After the revolution, thousands of Tunisians have fled the country, many taking small boats across the Mediterranean to the Italian outpost of Lampedusa.

A spokeswoman in Italy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says some Tunisians are fleeing because they are worried about violence and the instability in their homeland while others who were close to the former president are seeking protection.

Most of the refugees have been transported to the Italian mainland for processing;  however, more continue to arrive on the island.

[Italy’s Interior Minister] Maroni says he asked the European Union for emergency to intervene because “there is an institutional and political earthquake” underway in Tunisia that could “devastate” Europe.

It Only Took 6,000 Years

Fireworks over Tahrir Square a day after President Hosni Mubarak announced his resignation.

via Egypt Sees New Era After Exit of Hosni Mubarak –

CAIRO — As a new era dawned in Egypt on Saturday the army leadership sought to reassure Egyptians and the world that it would shepherd a transition to civilian rule and honor international commitments like its peace treaty with Israel.

Elvis has left the building, so to speak. And after 6,000 years of autocratic rulers, Egyptian citizens will finally get to vote on who they want to lead them.


via Pirates Seize Oil Tanker with $200 Million of Crude | Africa | English.

Armed pirates have hijacked a U.S.-bound oil tanker carrying about $200 million worth of crude off the coast of Oman. Authorities say the Greek-flagged vessel has a crew of 25, including 17 Filipinos, seven Greeks and one Georgian.

This is the second vessel seized in the past two days.  But this tanker, carrying 20% of one day’s worth of US crude oil, wasn’t hijacked in one of the usual places.

Suspected Somali pirates captured the supertankerIrene SL early Wednesday off the coast of Oman as it was transporting some 2 million barrels of Kuwaiti crude oil destined for the United States.

“The pirates are spreading their net much wider right out over the Indian Ocean, all the way over toward the coast of India,” said Box. “I mean, this hijacking of this Irene SL happened 1,000 miles from the coast of Somalia.”

By using “motherships,” pirates are able to extend their reach to places many hundreds of miles from their home ports.  This worrying development strikes fear into the hearts of shipping executives and insurance companies around the world.

According to the EU’s anti-piracy task force, pirates currently are holding at least 30 ships and more than 700 hostages.

What can we do?  How will companies and nations work together to put an end to this lawlessness?  We’ll have to wait and see, because right now, pirates definitely have the upper hand.

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