Category Archives: Central African Republic

Africa’s Great Green Wall

Here’s a spot of good news. I have seen articles about low key plant based geo-engineering, but I didn’t realize it was so advanced. There is a Great Green Wall being built in an effort to hold back the rapidly advancing Sahara.

Sahara Desert

Sahara Desert

The numbers cited in the brochure on the project are encouraging:

  • 500,000 hectares of Acacia woodlands restored in Burkina-Faso, Senegal, and Niger
  • 5,000,000 hectares of farmland rehabilitated in Mali, Burkina-Faso, Niger, and Ethiopia
  • $1 billion invested in Sahel & West Africa Program

The last time I can recall a quoted figure in a documentary, I believe the Sahara was advancing south in the Sahel at a rate of ten miles per year. Climate change will continue to drive that advance, but if it can be slowed by wiser practices across tens of thousands of square miles, that is a good thing.

The Sahara is a major feature on a large continent and it’s also a global climate force, cooling the Iberian peninsula, fertilizing the Atlantic, and impacting air quality in the Caribbean. Best of all, from my perspective, the dust drives California snowfall.

The most interesting effect of the dust is this – when it was less, the warming of the Atlantic drove a stronger monsoon, which kept the Sahara wetter – a positive feedback loop.

I’ve covered ice cores here and the more I look the more I find mention of sediment cores, such as the one that exposed the details of the end of the African Humid Period.

 

Climate is complex and I would argue that it is the existential threat for our species, in conjunction with our inability to maintain our population at a sensible level. The Great Green Wall is a rear guard defense, but it’s a line of defense for South Africa, our species theoretical redoubt during the Toba Catastrophe. Keep in mind that while the Toba theory has been debunked, our species did survive a genetic bottleneck, and there are signs that the refuge was the costal caves near Cape Town.

Muslim Ban? Fragile States?

 

Here’s Trump’s list of banned Muslim countries in red, and the ones where he has business interests are in gold. The unlabeled one at the uper right is Azerbaijan.

Trump's Muslim Ban Countries

Trump’s Muslim Ban Countries

And here’s a fragile states index for the region.

Fragile States Worst

Fragile States Worst

The banned countries are places where the governments have basically collapsed. People are complaining about the relationship between Trump businesses and the presence or absence of a ban. I’m not justifying, nor am I criticizing, I’m just noting that here is some data that hasn’t commonly appeared in conjunction with the coverage of the issue.

This map originally appeared in Fragile States Index 2016.

Fragile States Index 2016

The Fragile States Index 2016 was just mentioned on beBee and I saw a nice dataset to visualize in Tableau. Here is the original high resolution image:

2016fragilestates

And here is the image that resulted from my very simple import of the data into a Tableau workbook:

FragileStates2016Tableau.png

The states of the Mideast, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa have been an interest of mine for the past several years. Here’s a nit with Tableau, but it’s probably a deficit on my part – the only way I could make Syria visible would be to suppress the appearance of Lebanon. Tableau also treats Western Sahara as Terra Nullius, when it’s an ongoing problem between Morocco which administers it and Algeria which hosts many refugees.

MENAFragileStates.png

Here are the grimmest of the grim, seven states with fragility scores in excess of 110. Iraq is one bad summer away from joining them.

FragileStatesWorst.png

I’ve made a copy of the Fragile States 2016 workbook available. I really should start pulling in other data, but what I want here would be food and water security information, and that’s often scattered and dated.

Updated Central African Republic Maps

The Central African Republic’s troubles were obvious to foreign policy watchers a year ago and now conflict has boiled over into outright ethnic cleansing. As a former French colony the best sources on this area are still in French and as a resource poor, land locked area there simply wasn’t much available in February of last year. Now that things have gotten really bad some new maps have emerged.

Central African Republic Ethnolinguistic Map

Central African Republic Tribal Map

Central African Republic Languages

Central African Republic Languages

Central African Republic Conflict Map

Central African Republic Conflict Map

And these are the original Central African Republic maps collected on February 3rd, 2013.

Central African Republic

Central African Republic Topo

Central African Republic precipitation

I would normally provide some sort of unifying commentary for a collection of maps. All I have to offer today is that someone commented on the lack of quality maps for the Central African Republic, and I decided to go digging.

The Simmering Maghreb

Arab Spring

Arab Spring

Starting in Tunisia with the self immolation of Mohammed Bouazizi in late December of 2010, Arab Spring spread like wildfire, bowling over four governments and straining all their neighbors. Three years have passed and a wave of weapons from Libya, coupled with fighters from all over, have destabilized the ring of nations adjacent to those which have already revolted.

North Africa Islamist Troubles

North Africa Islamist Troubles

The nations in the next tier to the south are equally disturbed, with Boko Haram in Nigeria to al Shabaab attacks in Kenya, while the Central African Republic is melting down due to internal issues and unfinished business due to the separation of South Sudan threatens to revive their conflict with Sudan.

Central Africa

Central Africa

Imperial implosions are always messy affairs. North Africa bear the marks of lines that have been repeatedly redrawn over the last 1200 years. The continent had hardly finished digesting the 20th century collapse of the English and French imperial efforts before the Soviet Union took a tumble. The U.S. is in a similar position to what the Soviet Union faced in the late 1980s, militarily and financially exhausted, staggering home from long running low intensity conflicts.

I mentioned AFRICOM’s expansion in U.S. Military in Africa and 2014 will bring both a Quadrennial Defense Review as well as the second ever Quadrennial Diplomacy & Development Review. I am looking forward to comparing the 2010 documents to what will be presented for 2014, seeking clues as to what our stance will be in this region.

Central African Republic Maps & Media

Central African Republic

The Central African Republic is a former French colony and it’s in the middle of the pack of Africa’s Human Development Index hall of shame.

HDI-hall-of-shame

The government of the C.A.R. has been chronically unstable since they split with France. Unlike the rest of the conflicts I have covered, lack of water does not seem to be part of the problem. There is just a tiny piece of the country that is near the conditions of the very dry sahel area.

Central African Republic Topo

Central African Republic precipitation

I recently published Visualizing Mali’s Meltdown, an exercise in using RecordedFuture‘s observation features. One of their claims is that by watching social media closely they can produce early warning of impending events. Given how badly U.S. mainstream media handle foreign affairs anything would be a relief, and the region of Africa formerly ruled by France is particularly troublesome for me, since all the good sources are in French.

Central African Republic Timeline

RecordedFuture’s classification algorithm sees militia movements as ‘travel’ and low intensity conflict as ‘protests’, but once you understand that the output is quite usable. They use the same sources of information as Radian6, but the pre-existing framework of event categorization, mapping, and timeline handling is vastly superior for this sort of work. You can’t touch Radian6 for less than $300/month and if you want history and you have a big volume that number goes to $525/month. RecordedFuture is $149/month per seat, half the cost of Silobreaker, which provides similar features.

All three systems have merit and the calculus changes depending on what sort of situation you wish to observe and whom will be receiving the results. I’ve handled both Radian6 and Silobreaker for this sort of work. As soon as I round up another paying engagement I am going to fold the cost of a month of RecordedFuture into the deal so I can review the professional feature set.