In this new format, I will inform you about new developments in three countries (or regions, depending on the scale). Today, it is about the war in Ukraine, the crises in East Africa which continue to worsen and the demise of Tunesia’s young democracy.
The war of aggression started by Russia continues, and while they failed in their initial objective to subdue Ukraine in a few days they now concentrate on East Ukraine.
„After Russian forces failed to overrun the country on three fronts, Moscow has claimed territorial gains in eastern Ukraine and created a land bridge between separatist regions in the Donbas and the Crimean peninsula it illegally annexed in 2014.
But Ukraine’s military, supported by weapons and supplies from Western allies, including at least $9.1 billion in security assistance from the United States, has claimed numerous victories and frustrated Moscow’s wider ambitions.“ (source: Reuters)
The current situation depicted beneath (the picture is part of the article of Reuters).
The reliefweb of the OCHA regularly updates on the casualties of the war, the most recent from August 15, 2022:
- a total of 5,514 killed (2,125 men, 1,451 women, 147 girls, and 170 boys, as well as 39 children and 1,582 adults whose sex is yet unknown)
- a total of 7,698 injured (1,560 men, 1,149 women, 164 girls, and 231 boys, as well as 200 children and 4,394 adults whose sex is yet unknown)
- In Donetsk and Luhansk regions: 7,486 casualties (3,273 killed and 4,213 injured)
- On Government-controlled territory: 6,064 casualties (2,984 killed and 3,080 injured)
- On territory controlled by Russian armed forces and affiliated armed groups: 1,422 casualties (289 killed and 1,133 injured)
- In other regions of Ukraine (the city of Kyiv, and Cherkasy, Chernihiv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kharkiv, Kherson, Kirovohrad, Kyiv, Mykolaiv, Odesa, Sumy, Zaporizhzhia, Dnipropetrovsk, Poltava, Rivne, Ternopil, Vinnytsia, Volyn, and Zhytomyr regions), which were under Government control when casualties occurred: 5,726 casualties (2,241 killed and 3,485 injured)
- In Donetsk and Luhansk regions: 7,486 casualties (3,273 killed and 4,213 injured)
According to the UNHCR, 6,865,625 Ukrainian refugees have been recorded across Europe.
In order to understand the magnitude of the crisis you need to know the population of Ukraine which, as of 2020, was 43,177,471. In numbers, that makes 15.90 % of the Ukrainian population who fled from the war (or 1/6th of the population).
There’s an inter-agency regional refugee program (consisting of the UN, NGO and other relevant partners to aid refugees in fleeing and the provision of critical protection services and humanitarian assistance), which includes Ukraine’s neighbouring countries Hungary (28,640 refugees), Romania (87,066 refugees), Slovakia (90,412 refugees), Poland (1,338,339 refugees) and the Republic of Moldova (90,785).
Internally, over 6.6 million people remain displaced.
Russia regularly attacks Ukraine with missiles, as reported by Reuters:
„Exclusive data provided to Reuters by Ukrainian officials showed there had been at least 3,654 missile strikes across the country between the start of the invasion and July 21.“
That means, on average, Ukraine was hit by 20 missiles a day.
Donetsk and Kharkiv suffered the most with 1,238 and 783 strikes respectively.
U.S. Intelligence estimates that some 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed so far.
General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi provided the toll of Ukrainians soldiers which he says is 9,000.
Their estimate on how many Russian soldiers die vary from the U.S. Intelligence, though:
„[…] but the General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces has put the Russian military death toll at 45,400. Russia has not said how many of its soldiers have been killed.“ (source: Reuters)
We will very likely know the real toll only after the end of the war, when all deaths have been confirmed and accounted for.
The impact the war has on civilian life can be seen in Mariupol, and how much devastation has been caused by Russian forces so far:
Comment: We always need to keep the psychological impact in mind as well:
Behind each killed Ukrainian are friends, family and colleagues from work or school. Each destroyed house and apartment building is the destruction of a home. They were torn away from their hometowns and -villages. Parents were robbed of their children; grandparents robbed of their grandchildren and children; children robbed of their parents, grandparents, siblings, and so on. For Ukraine as a whole, and with it its entire population, Feburary 24 marks a turning point. And the outcome of the war will determine the future of Europe too.
|Ukrainian Identity (source: Ukraine World)|
|Volodymyr Yermolenko, Editor-in-Chief of Ukraine World, defines it as such: |
„Ukrainian political culture is based upon anti-tyrannical, democratic and republican values. Most Russians tend to approve of their tsar; Ukrainians identify with opposition to him. Within politics they see a social contract. This harks back to the early modern era, when the Ukrainian warrior class known as Cossacks made agreements with their leaders which ensured recognition of their rights and freedoms. This mode of thinking runs deep and it is impossible to eradicate. The Cossack, a free warrior on the open steppe, is one of the symbols of Ukrainian identity.
Ukraine is also a political nation. It is not centred exclusively on any single ethnic, linguistic or religious identity. It is pluralistic. You can be a Ukrainian speaker, Russian speaker or a speaker of Crimean Tatar and be ready to defend Ukraine. You can be Ukrainian Orthodox, Greek-Catholic, Roman Catholic, Protestant, Muslim or Jewish and stand shoulder to shoulder for this country. Ukrainians have a
Russian-speaking president who has Jewish origins.
When Russia’s president Vladimir Putin calls such people „Nazis“, he shows his own bigotry. Ukrainians are different from Russians culturally. The Ukrainian language is not the same (it has more words in common with Belarusian and Polish than with Russian), its culture is different, its music is different, its visual codes and national clothes are different. When Mr Putin says that Ukrainians and Russians are the same people he is not just wrong. He is going beyond what Soviet propagandists claimed. They accepted the difference between Ukrainians, Russians and Belarussians.“
Six months of the war in Ukraine
Ukraine: Civilian casualties as of 24:00 14 August 2022 [EN/RU/UK]
Ukraine Refugee Situation
Ukraine Population (2020)
Almost 9,000 Ukrainian military killed in war with Russia -armed forces chief
Ukraine War: Putin demands Mariupol surrender to end shelling (31st March, 2022)
Ukrainian National Identity, Explained
For clarification purposes, here’s the region we are talking about. As I said in the very beginning: East Africa is a region, not one country (like the Central African Republic or South Africa). The region consists of 18 countries and 2 dependencies (source: worldatlas).
About 455 million people live there and Swahili is a widely used language.
In fact, Swahili is among the 10 widely spoken languages in the world with more than
200 million people who speak it. „With its origin in East Africa, Swahili speakers spread over more than 14 countries: Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), South Sudan, Somalia, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Comoros, and as far as Oman and Yemen in the Middle East. Southern African countries such as South Africa and Botswana have introduced it in schools, while Namibia and others are considering doing so.“ (source: UN) Even in the US there are 90,000 Swahili speakers.
„Somewhere in Washington DC, students at Howard University are learning Swahili. The professor enters the class and greets the students:
Prof: Hamjambo? (How are you?)
Students: Hatujambo!(We are fine!)
Howard is one of the more than 100 universities, colleges and schools in the US that offer Swahili as a course.
Kate Mensah, an American-Ghanaian undergraduate Swahili student at Howard and a non-native Swahili speaker, says she chose to study it because of her love for languages and her goal of learning one language from each continent. She plans to travel to East Africa again to immerse herself in the culture.“ (UN)
Across the Horn of Africa (which includes parts or all of Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan) there’s a child malnutrition emergency due to severe drought coupled with increasing food prices related to the war in Ukraine. Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia have been hit especially hard. Reason for the severe drought are four consective failed rain seasons which decimated crops and led to abnormally high deaths in lifestock (source: UNICEF)
The Süddeutsche Zeitung reports: „Ohne Milch und Fleisch ihrer Herden droht den Hirtenvölkern am Horn von Afrika die Katastrophe, viele können nur noch durch Hilfe von außen überleben. Auch die Existenz vieler Ackerbauern ist bedroht, weil ihre Ernten ausfallen werden.“
= „Without the milk and meat of their droves, catastrophy threatens the pastoral people in the Horn of Africa. Many can only survive through external aid. Moreover, the very existence of crop farmers is in danger, because of crop failure.“ (Dürre am Horn von Afrika)
As I’ve already mentioned in the first paragraph: the four consective rain seasons which failed are one reason for the long drought. The other main drivers behind it are the changes in climate and the phenomenon known as La Niña. On top of that comes the war in Ukraine which aggravates the whole situation: countries already affected by hunger, like Somalia, now have to face higher food prices. The same thing goes for war torn Tigre in Ethiopia where the situation has worsened, as well as the Sahel belt.
Chad (the country where the latter „E“ is located in) already declared a state of emergency.
Furthermore, the war in Ukraine led to shortages of fertilizer and an increase in fuel prices, both of which are going to have severe consequences for agricultural production.
The World Food Program estimates that in Ethiopia alone, 21 % of the corn harvest will collapse.
„Um Hunger-Hotspots zu entschärfen, wird, wie Terlinden sagt, „schnelle und massive Hilfe“ nötig sein, das Thema müsse auf die Agenda des kommenden G-7-Treffens. Gestiegene Preise und Lieferengpässe werden dabei den Finanzbedarf für die internationale Hilfe in die Höhe treiben.“
= „In order to mitigate the hunger hotspots, as Terlinden says, „quick and massive aid“ is needed, this issue must be on the agenda of the coming G7-summit. Increased prices and supply shortages are going to scale up the financial requirements.“ (Süddeutsche Zeitung)
Currently, over 15 million people are acutely food insecure due to drought. At the beginning of the year it was 12-13 Million people. In case of continued rain fails and a failure of increased relief assistance, the number of acutely food insecure could increase to 20 million people by the end of the year. (source: World Food Program)
In July a report was updated, there the WFP outlines the responds to the increased humanitarian needs across the region:
„In January 2022, the World Food Programme (WFP) released a six-month Drought Response Plan for the Horn of Africa. This Plan outlined the critical humanitarian needs and WFP’s accompanying relief requirements necessary to respond to the already severe drought.
The humanitarian situation has subsequently deteriorated so severely that this Drought Response Plan has been updated to reflect the increased relief requirements, both in terms of more people in need and additional relief programmes.
The revised Plan covers WFP’s drought response from May until the end of the year and adds Djibouti’s drought-related needs to the severely affected countries of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.“ (You can find the publication on the link I embetted above in „World Food Program“, it is a PDF file – 21 pages in total)
Remember: starvation is not inevitable, as the WFP lays it out on page 3:
„Despite these enormous humanitarian requirements, funding has not kept pace. Less than 20 percent of what WFP required in January has so far been received and the needs have since dramatically escalated. Accordingly, WFP is being forced to prioritize who receives assistance and who goes hungry. Indeed, resource shortfalls are so severe that WFP, in the midst of this devastating drought, has been forced to cut entire programmes. In Somalia for example, despite the incredibly concerning nutrition situation, WFP has been forced to completely halt malnutrition prevention programmes so as to allocate existing resources solely to the treatment of malnutrition.„ and „WFP is urgently calling for USD 982 million to help avert a major humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa and support almost 7.8 million people affected by the drought. These requirements are in line with the 2022 Somalia and Ethiopia Humanitarian Response Plans (HRP), as well as the Kenya Drought Flash Appeal. Responding now is necessary to prevent the depletion of productive assets, the dramatic worsening of food security, escalating levels of acute malnutrition and ultimately save lives. Only by addressing the multiple needs of boys, girls, men and women can the impacts of drought be effectively mitigated.“
Now to the war in Tigre. Here a short overview of the story:
„The conflict started on 4 November, when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered a military offensive against regional forces in Tigray.
He said he did so in response to an attack on a military base housing government troops.
The escalation came after months of feuding between Mr Abiy’s government and leaders of Tigray’s dominant political party.
For almost three decades, the party was at the centre of power, before it was sidelined by Mr Abiy, who took office in 2018 after anti-government protests.
Mr Abiy pursued reforms, but when Tigray resisted, the political crisis erupted into war.“
Since 1991, when Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) overthrew the military junta government, the political scene of Ethiopia had been dominated by a coalition of four ethnically-based parties – TPLF playing an influential role. The country was federalized and autonomy given to Ethiopia’s regions, but the party retained a tight grip on the central government. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (*15 August 1976), who ended a long-term territorial dispute with Eritrea which resulted in earning him a Nobel Peace Prize in 2019, dissolved said coalition in the same year and found the new Prosperity Party.
Tigray’s decision to hold its own election in September was regarded as an „unprecedented act of defiance“ against the central government. Then, both sides accused each other of being illegitimate. Since then it has only escalated: „More than two million of Tigray’s six million people have fled their homes since 4 November, when Mr Abiy ordered an invasion after the TPLF fighters captured federal military bases.“
A worsening factor is the food crisis, as we have discussed above. Additionally, Ethiopia is Africa’s second-most populous country (121,456,213 as of 2019, source: worldometers) and crucial to stability in the Horn of Africa.
There’s a concern that the conflict could worsen ethnic tensions and could even lead up to a break up of the country, given the brutality of the war it may already be underway:
„Given this limitation, we represent the spatial distribution of fully documented civilian casualties in the form of a heatmap (instead of in absolute numbers), in which the varying colors visualize the intensity or magnitude and geographical distribution of casualties (Map 13). While no numbers exist for the total amount of civilian casualties, well-documented cases of 3240 deaths (by 16 November) indicate that 8% of the dead are women, and 92% are men (Fig. 4.1). This is in line with anoften stated intention to “eradicate Tigray fighters, as well as the future generation of fighters”. Among the men, there are priests and deacons, traditionally people with authority in the community.“ (source: Tigray: Atlas of the humanitarian situation, researchgate, p. 35) There’s been a total of 283 massacres so far with at least 10,000 reported deaths (p. 39).
Comment: While the solutions for the hunger crisis are clear, at least the short-term, we are going to need solutions for the long-term as well so regions like the Horn of Africa, and East Africa in general, can cope with the changing climate (which is still going to affect us globally when we mitigate it, albeit being less severe). This includes technology transfer, cooperation with natives and investments into their future (e.g. resilient agriculture).
The war against the Tigre conducted by the Ethiopian government, with the help of the Eritrean government, is going to be more difficult. There, it is up to experts and those who know significantly more about international diplomacy.
East African Countries
Swahili gaining popularity globally
Horn of Africa Malnutrition Crisis
Dürre am Horn von Afrika: Somalia von Hungersnot bedroht
Regional Drought Response Plan for the Horn of Africa May – December 2022
Ethiopia’s Tigray war: The short, medium and long story
Tigray: Atlas of the humanitarian situation
Tunisia, officially known as the Republic of Tunisia, is the northernmost country in Africa.
To the West and Southwest it is bordered by Algeria, in the Southeast is Libya, and the Mediterranean Sea is to its North and East. It is located in the Magrheb region.
There live about 11,694,719 people in Tunisia and the capital is Tunis, it is slightly smaller than the US-state Wisconsin (169,640.0 km2 vs 163,610.00 km2).
A more detailed map of Tunisia:
Tunisia’s Independence and a Short-Lived Democracy
In 1956, Tunisia achieved its independence and, three years later, adopted a constitution which established a system that granted the president „sweeping executive and legislative powers while placing narrow limits on the authority of the elected legislature and the judiciary“.
Until 1981, the Neo-Destour Party led by Tunisia’s first president, Habib Bourguiba (1903-2000), remained the only legal party.
In 1981, some new political parties were permitted and in 1988 a multiparty system was granted. The first elections under this system was held in 1989.
However, since the new parties had neither the financial nor the organizational structure to form and mobillize a serious opposition, the Neo-Destour kept the monopoly on political activity. The Islamist Ennahda (Arabic: al-Nahḍah [“the Renaissance”]) Party was prohibited from gaining legal status due to laws that forbid political parties based on ethnicity, religion, region or language. Many of its leaders were jailed or sent into exile.
This changed in 2011 with what is now known as the Arab Spring (or Jasmine Revolution).
The Ben Ali regime was ousted and by late 2011, the Ennahda had emerged as the strongest party in the country with 90 seats in the 217 member Constituent Assembly.
They were tasked with drafting a new constitution to replace the now suspended 1959 text. At times, the tensions between the Islamists and secularists threatened Tunisia’s transition to democracy, but they showed a tendency to compromise and cooperation.
In 2014, after more than two years of negotiatons, the Constituent Assembly voted overwhelmingly for the constitution*. In the elections later that year, neither Islamists nor secularists were put in a commanding position, so the largest party from either side formed a unity government.
Said unity government sabotaged itself with partisanship which rendered it ineffective in passing important legislation or appointing members to the constitutional court.
Consequently, the court remained vacant and it plunged Tunisia into a constitutional crisis since the judicial body was unable to resolve the stand off between the parliament and President Kais Saied that began in January 2021.
In September, Saied suspended the constitution and put a new constitution to referendum in July 2022. After the constitution was certified by the referendum, Tunisia returned to a presidential system whose legislative and judicial bodies were significantly limited.
|The economic legacy of the Ben Ali regime (Economist Intelligence)|
April 14th, 2014
|I found an article on the impact of Ben Ali’s regime on the economy and how, since its fall in 2011, it still affects the Tunisian people. |
A study of the World Bank revealed the extent of the corruption, the title of said study was All in the Family: State Capture in Tunisia (PDF summary: 4 pages).
It was revealed that some 400 companies, 40 stock portfolios, 550 properties, 367 bank accounts and 48 boats and yatchs were owend by 112 members of the extended family.
By the end of 2010, this privileged group captured 21% of all private-sector profits.
According to the article, they were good at hiding it too:
„The corruption of the Ben Ali clan was well‑known to most Tunisians, although the evidence was largely anecdotal and few, perhaps, realised its scale. Some detail was provided in November 2010 by the WikiLeaks diplomatic cables from the US embassy in Tunis that described the Ben Ali clan as a „quasi‑mafia“. However, the clan’s tight control of the domestic media and its use of the repressive political system meant that its corruption was never publicly aired or challenged. Moreover, Mr Ben Ali was protected from personal criticism by a powerful cult of personality propagated by the state-controlled media. On the international scene, Mr Ben Ali’s economic management appeared to benefit from being comparatively less bad than that of the country’s regional peers. Transparency International ranked Tunisia as one of the least corrupt states in the Arab world, while the World Economic Forum frequently ranked Tunisia as one of Africa’s most competitive economies.“
|More about it: https://country.eiu.com/article.aspx?articleid=191722203|
Comment: With Tunisia’s young democracy gone, it seems like the last remnant of the Arab Spring disintegrated. Whether it is a temporary setback, or the beginning of decade-long rule, remains yet to be seen.
*You can read more about the constitution here (constitution net).
It is advantageous to know arabic, that is if you’d like to know about the Draft Preamble April 2012 (24 April, 2012) and Draft Preamble May 2012 (15 and 26 May 2012) which are only available in arabic. The January 2014 constitution got a commentary too.
The recently passed one is not yet available on the website, but that’s a matter of time.
Tunisia Maps & Facts
Government and society
The economic legacy of the Ben Ali regime
All in the Family : State Capture in Tunisia
Constitutional History of Tunesia