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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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Brazil's Evangelical Surge Threatens Survival Of Native Afro-Brazilian Faith

Followers of the Afro-Brazilian Umbanda religion in four traditional communities in the country’s northeast are resisting pressure to convert to evangelical Christianity.

image of Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Agencia Publica
Géssica Amorim

Among a host of images of saints and Afro-Brazilian divinities known as orixás, Abel José, 42, an Umbanda priest, lights some candles, picks up his protective beads and adjusts the straw hat that sits atop his head. He is preparing to treat four people from neighboring villages who have come to his house in search of spiritual help and treatment for health ailments.

The meeting takes place discreetly, in a small room that has been built in the back of the garage of his house. Abel lives in the quilombo of Sítio Bredos, home to 135 families. The community, located in the municipality of Betânia of Brazil’s northeastern state of Pernambuco, is one of the municipality’s four remaining communities that have been certified as quilombos, the word used to refer to communities formed in the colonial era by enslaved Africans and/or their descendents.

In these villages there are almost no residents who still follow traditional Afro-Brazilian religions. Abel, Seu Joaquim Firmo and Dona Maura Maria da Silva are the sole remaining followers of Umbanda in the communities in which they live. A wave of evangelical missionary activity has taken hold of Betânia’s quilombos ever since the first evangelical church belonging to the Assembleia de Deus group was built in the quilombo of Bredos around 20 years ago. Since then, other evangelical, pentecostal, and neo-pentecostal churches and congregations have established themselves in the area. Today there are now nine temples spread among the four communities, home to roughly 900 families.

The temples belong to the Assembleia de Deus, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the World Church of God's Power, the latter of which has over 6,000 temples spread across Brazil and was founded by the apostle and televangelist Valdemiro Santiago, who became infamous during the pandemic for trying to sell beans that he had blessed as a Covid-19 cure. Assembleia de Deus alone, who are the largest pentecostal denomination in the world, have built five churches in Betânia’s quilombos.

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