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Nigeria

A New Threat Of Civil War In Nigeria

Op-ed: Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, is also one of the continent’s most promising. But it has become synonymous with danger. The oil giant, which has already proven its ability to sink into terrible ethnic and religious wars, appears once agai

Young men along the Niger delta area (sosialistiskungdom)
Young men along the Niger delta area (sosialistiskungdom)

Thanks in large part to high oil prices, Nigeria is enjoying a period of sustained growth. Last year its economy grew by 8.4%. The new year has begun, however, against a backdrop of social unrest. And far more troubling for this country of 160 million inhabitants, Africa's most populous, is the very real threat of a civil war.

A general strike that could extend throughout the entire country began Monday. The strike was called by two of Nigeria's largest unions, which are protesting a decision by the government of President Goodluck Jonathan to do away with a major oil subsidy that made fuel cheaper in Nigeria than in neighboring countries. Nigeria is Africa's leading oil producer.

The government says the subsidy, which halves gasoline costs, is unsustainable and most benefited the middle and upper classes, which are far more likely to own large gas-guzzling cars. But the government failed to take into account that transportation costs fall disproportionately high on the 70% of Nigerians who live below the poverty line.

Christian churches have called the decision to drop the subsidy "immoral." President Jonathan would do well to loosen fiscal policy: he should take measures to compensate Nigeria's poorest citizens. If not, Nigeria – which is already looking at the beginnings of a civil war in the north – could be facing a long, tough and violent strike.

Religious divide

The immense country has as many Christians as Muslims. It's normal for them to mix, even as Christians are a clear majority in the south. In the north, an armed insurrection led by the Boko Haram movement, an Islamist group, has gained momentum since Christmas. Boko Haram fighters are seizing banks, public buildings and, in some cases, going directly after Christians. They have carried out multiple attacks on Christian churches, schools and neighborhoods, killing as many as 100 people since December. Here and there, the army has deployed tanks. There have been street battles as well between government forces and jihadist fighters.

Even before these latest difficulties, the army – which has a reputation for brutality – had its hands full dealing with another insurgency by people in the Niger Delta area. The Boko Haram movement, which no doubt has links to other jihadist groups – particularly from Africa's Sahel region – wants Christians out of the north. They speak openly of "religious cleansing." All of this is reminiscent of the civil war that raged in Nigeria during the late 1960s, leaving nearly a million dead.

The tragedy in the north is symptomatic. Nigeria is in the midst of a real boom and boasts an admirably dynamic economy that's driven by the private sector. But it remains under-equipped and insufficiently administered. Nigeria urgently needs to build a functioning public sector, and certainly has the capacity to do so.

Read the original article in French

Photo - sosialistiskungdom

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Coronavirus

Chinese Students' "Absurd" Protest Against COVID Lockdowns: Public Crawling

While street demonstrations have spread in China to protest the strict Zero-COVID regulations, some Chinese university students have taken up public acts of crawling to show what extended harsh lockdowns are doing to their mental state.

​Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling on a soccer pitch

Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling

Shuyue Chen

Since last Friday, the world has watched a wave of street protests have taken place across China as frustration against extended lockdowns reached a boiling point. But even before protesters took to the streets, Chinese university students had begun a public demonstration that challenges and shames the state's zero-COVID rules in a different way: public displays of crawling, as a kind of absurdist expression of their repressed anger under three years of strict pandemic control.

Xin’s heart was beating fast as her knees reached the ground. It was her first time joining the strange scene at the university sports field, so she put on her hat and face mask to cover her identity.

Kneeling down, with her forearms supporting her body from the ground, Xin started crawling with three other girls as a group, within a larger demonstration of other small groups. As they crawled on, she felt the sense of fear and embarrassment start to disappear. It was replaced by a liberating sense of joy, which had been absent in her life as a university student in lockdown for so long.

Yes, crawling in public has become a popular activity among Chinese university students recently. There have been posters and videos of "volunteer crawling" across universities in China. At first, it was for the sake of "fun." Xin, like many who participated, thought it was a "cult-like ritual" in the beginning, but she changed her mind. "You don't care about anything when crawling, not thinking about the reason why, what the consequences are. You just enjoy it."

The reality out there for Chinese university students has been grim. For Xin, her university started daily COVID-19 testing in November, and deliveries, including food, are banned. Apart from the school gate, all exits have been padlock sealed.

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