From left: GTA V, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, Overwatch. Composite: The Guardian Design Team

The 50 best video games of the 21st century

From left: GTA V, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, Overwatch. Composite: The Guardian Design Team
From left: GTA V, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, Overwatch. Composite: The Guardian Design Team


SingStar (2004)

Karaoke complexes might be relatively common now, but back in 2004 singing into a PlayStation was the closest most of us could get. SingStar’s discs of party classics formed the caterwauling soundtrack to millions of student gatherings, hen parties and five-pint Fridays all over Europe for more than a decade. Like Just Dance, it harnesses the infectious joy of pop music in a way that anyone can play.


Katamari Damacy (2004)

A gleeful absurdist masterpiece in which you start by rolling up pencils and apple peel and end up absorbing buildings, trees and, eventually, most of the planet in your big sticky ball, because why not? From the infectious soundtrack to the endearingly mad “plot”, it’s a work of pure joy.


Journey (2012)

Game as art … Journey.

Journey is a short and moving shared experience whose music, evocative colour palette and simple play come together as they only can in games, for a powerful emotional effect. It’s often picked as an ur-example of games as art – including by curators at the V&A, where it was front and centre at a recent exhibition.


Dead Space (2008)

Resident Evil meets Alien seems like such an obvious game pitch that it is incredible it wasn’t realised until 2008. In Dead Space, the player becomes lowly engineer Isaac Clarke, who finds himself investigating the “planet-cracking” ship Ishimura after radio contact with the vessel is lost. The craft is, of course, infested with alien creatures – the Necromorphs – who utilise the reanimated corpses of human victims in horrible ways. This is a dark, bloody and atmospheric survival-horror thrill ride.


Limbo (2010)

Extraordinary … Limbo. Photograph: TriplePoint

The central character here is a boy on the run from death, or perhaps already dead. One of several games that kicked off the indie-game renaissance of the 2010s, Limbo’s monochrome style and relatively short running time belie the extraordinary effort and fastidiousness that went into its creation, evident in everything from the sinister movements of a giant spider to the precise physics that power its puzzles.


Papers, Please (2013)

You are a border officer in a war-torn country where people are constantly trying to smuggle things past you: drugs, weapons, falsified IDs. But what about the mother and young child using a fake passport to rejoin the rest of their family? Or an undocumented refugee who you could reject as a possible terrorist, but who may in fact be a desperate civilian? Papers, Please is a powerful illustration of how we can become complicit in inhumane systems, and the ways games can invite us to explore complex ethical dilemmas.


Forza Horizon (2012)

Racing treat … Forza Horizon. Photograph: Microsoft

Combining an open-world structure with the energy of a music festival, Forza Horizon made arcade-style racing games fun again. Boasting a gigantic selection of cars and an inventive AI-assisted multiplayer component, the game was designed around simply letting the player have fun, no matter what they did or where they drove. Barn finds and destructible signs rewarded exploration, while a multitude of driving challenges provided structure and challenge. It’s an accessible, multifaceted racing treat.


Rocket League (2015)

“Football, but with remote control cars” is a likely pitch for Rocket League, but who expected it would become one of the most skilful and enduring multiplayer games released in decades? Rocket League is elegant and ageless: it will probably still be played in 20 years, in living rooms and in tournaments.


Burnout 3: Takedown (2004)

Guildford-based developer Criterion built its Burnout series of arcade driving games around two principles: speed and style. Taking place through traffic-packed city streets, the races rewarded players for risky manoeuvres, providing extra time to shoot past competitors. The third title in the series perfected the recipe, adding a “takedown” feature that encouraged players to smash rivals from the circuit. The detailed slow-motion physics engine heightened every smash into art.


Overwatch (2016)

After years of gritty, military shooters filled with macho spec-ops nobodies, Overwatch stormed on to the online gaming scene in 2016 like a giant kawaii robot bunny wielding a hot pink grenade launcher. This is a game about outlandish hero characters, joining forces in condensed team-based skirmishes. There is no levelling up, there are no weapons unlocks; it’s all about combining the different capabilities – from Mei’s endothermic blaster to Mercy’s healing staff – in effective ways. Loved for its brash, hyper-colourful aesthetic, Overwatch is the generation Z answer to Counter-Strike.


Gears of War 2 (2008)

So macho it’s machine guns have chainsaws … Gears of War 2. Photograph: Microsoft

Imagine a science-fiction war film directed by an early-career Kathryn Bigelow. Now imagine it’s interactive. This, in essence, is Gears of War, the definitive third-person space marine blast-’em-up – a game so macho, its machine guns have chainsaws. The second title in the series improved the cover system, added new weapons and bloody finishing moves and took the battle to the Locust alien invaders. It was thrilling, chaotic and beautiful and, with the brilliant co-op Horde gameplay mode, it invented new ways to play online.


Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 (2000)

Fondly remembered by anyone who had a PlayStation in their dorm room, this is still probably the best skateboarding game around, and there hasn’t been much competition since (perhaps due to the sport’s waning cultural presence since the 1990s). It is a time capsule of energetic college rock, endless point-chasing skate combos and irresistibly fun play.


Super Smash Bros Melee (2001)

The 2018 game Ultimate is, well, the ultimate expression of Smash Bros’ maximalist tendencies, with 74 characters and hundreds of references to Nintendo history. But Melee is the game that turned Nintendo’s anything-goes brawler from a living-room classic into a competitive fixture. It is still the most popular Smash game at tournaments, beautifully balanced and extraordinarily fun.


Silent Hill 2 (2001)

Konami’s answer to Resident Evil ditched zombie shocks for psychological horror. The second title in the series is the most disturbing. The game follows grief-stricken everyman James Sunderland as he arrives in the eponymous town searching for his supposedly dead wife. What follows is a descent into Sunderland’s psychosexual dysfunction, a viscera-splattered nightmare of undead nurses, animated shop window dummies and the giant fetishistic monster, Pyramid Head. Toying with Japanese horror and exploitation cinema, it cast a sombre spell over all who played.


Spelunky (2008)

Holds its mystique … Spelunky.

Derek Yu’s cave-diving platform game is fun to play on every single run, yet might take years to actually finish. Each time a different arrangement of cave creatures, unfortunate accidents and hostile geography conspires to bring your adventure to an abrupt close, and only the extremely skilled and extremely lucky will ever get right down into the depths. Even after years of play, Spelunky holds its mystique.


Assassin’s Creed 2 (2009)

The original Assassin’s Creed promised a rich historical adventure with an interesting sci-fi overlay – Assassin’s Creed 2 actually delivered it. Set in a luxuriously detailed approximation of Renaissance Italy, the game sees attractive assassin, Ezio Auditore da Firenze, taking on the dastardly templars while bumping into the likes of Machiavelli and Leonardo da Vinci. The freeform structure of the game, its mass of side quests and objectives, along with its range of abilities and items set the blueprints for modern open-world game design.


Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009)

Gothic monstrosity … Batman: Arkham Asylum

With a script by veteran Batman writer Paul Dini and all the key voice talent from the brilliant animated series, Arkham Asylum exudes authenticity from every pixel. This is the Batman of Frank Miller and Christopher Nolan – dark, twisted and violent – and it’s perfectly realised as a third-person action adventure. The combat is smooth and empowering, the silent takedowns are gratifying and the asylum setting is a superb gothic monstrosity. A comic-book lover’s dream.


Battlefield 1942 (2002)

With the first title in the Battlefield series, developer Digital Illusions brought large-scale cooperative combat and historical authenticity to the online shooter genre. Two teams of 32 players fought for dominance of vast environments, taking control points and commandeering vehicles. The multifaceted battles required players to assume complementary roles, some sniping from a distance, others running in as infantry. The excitement of a well-organised attack paying off felt like something truly new.


Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007)

The online deathmatch of the decade … Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Photograph: Activision

Bringing cinematic verve and explosive pace to the military shooter market, 2003’s Call of Duty provided gunfights of epic intensity. But it wasn’t until Modern Warfare that the series made a major impact, introducing an innovative multiplayer online mode that offered character progression alongside unlockable single-use mega-attacks. Add in its blistering animation and intense, claustrophobic maps, and it’s little wonder this game defined the online deathmatch experience for a decade.


God of War (2018)

God of War still sets the bar for its genre of expansive, visually spectacular interactive storytelling. Guiding a reformed violent god and his more sensitive son through settings from Norse mythology, you’ll see things that take the breath away: the corpse of an immense giant, frozen where he fell; parallel realms of vicious elves and shining, endless lakes; crumbling relics to absent gods. The pleasing thwock of Kratos’ axe as it hits the skulls of mythological monsters punctuates video games’ grandest odyssey.


Shadow of the Colossus (2005)

In this meditation on the selfish nature of grief, a young man sets out to topple mountainous, mournful and majestic giants in the hope of reviving a lost love. Each colossus is a puzzle; clambering up their mossy fur and plunging a sword into their hides, we soon learn that this hero’s quest isn’t what it seems. Subtle and profound, Shadow of the Colossus is disciplined in its storytelling and artistic direction, with ample space for reflection in its bleak and beautiful wilderness.


Deus Ex (2000)

Combining first-person shooter and action role-playing with real-world conspiracy theories and cyberpunk mythology, Ion Storm’s agenda-setting sci-fi adventure was a cultural event. The player character, JC Denton, is a “nano-augmented” government agent caught in a labyrinthine, globe-stomping plot about bioengineered viruses and alien technology. There are dozens of routes through the story, providing incredible freedom and inspiring a creative community of modders and fan-fiction writers.


Wii Sports (2006)

Accessible, inclusive and great fun … Wii Sports. Photograph: Nintendo

Few games have been played as widely as Wii Sports, from grannies bowling to toddlers enthusiastically playing tennis. Wii Sports was the world’s introduction to the Wii and a whole generation’s introduction to Nintendo’s philosophy of game design: accessible, inclusive and great fun.


Guitar Hero (2005)

What warm-blooded person has never dreamed of busting out an impeccable guitar solo on stage, revelling in the adoration of a baying crowd? Anyone born after about 1995, it turns out. But Guitar Hero was a product of its time and catered so brilliantly to the near-ubiquitous rock star fantasy, with its impeccable soundtrack of 1970s, 80s and 90s power rock, that tens of millions of people were wielding plastic guitars in living rooms within a couple of years.


Left 4 Dead (2008)

A co-op online zombie shooter with an AI system that orchestrated enemy attacks based on player actions, Left 4 Dead was ridiculously ahead of its time. Valve built excellent mechanics around its collaborative gameplay, encouraging highly tactical teamwork, and loaded its apocalyptic world with brilliant monsters, such as the grotesque tongue-lashing Smoker and the terrifyingly lachrymose witch. It would do amazing business in the multiplayer-obsessed, YouTuber-streaming world of modern gaming.


Ico (2001)

Experimental designer Fumito Ueda built this quiet, thoughtful adventure around the idea of two people holding hands, which is what the eponymous lead character and jailed princess Yorda must do if they are to escape their castle prison. Using all the conventions of a third-person action game, Ico is really about fear, solitude and the possibilities awakened by making physical contact with another human being. A minimalist masterpiece.


The Last of Us (2013)

Extraordinarily memorable … The Last of Us. Photograph: Sony

What looks at first like a standard entry in gaming’s extensive zombie-apocalypse canon soon turns out to be something more. Watching the relationship between grieving, grizzled Joel and guarded but optimistic teenager Ellie develop as they travel a ravaged America, creeping past unsettling “clickers” and coming face-to-face with desperate, violent fellow humans makes for an extraordinarily memorable game in an often boring genre.


The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask (2000)

Possibly Nintendo’s most unsettling game, Majora’s Mask is also one of its most creative, trapping you in an apocalyptic time loop where the leering moon draws ever closer to the hapless Earth and its denizens cower in fear. Here, Link is a hero that nobody knows about, having gone forward in time to thwart an evil that was due to swallow up the world, before being returned to his childhood body and deserted by his only companions. Its time-loop structure and eerie atmosphere remain little-imitated.


Mario Kart 8 (2014)

We have yet to encounter a person who doesn’t enjoy Mario Kart, and Mario Kart 8 is as good as it gets: gleeful, freewheeling, with a marvellously jazzy score, colourful characters and courses that continually defy expectations. It is riotously enjoyable. One of the few modern games that is still best enjoyed shoulder-to-shoulder with friends, family or friendly strangers.


Mass Effect 2 (2010)

The defining chapter of BioWare’s space epic tackles everything: race, genocide, romance and heroism, all against a backdrop of impending galactic doom. It is brilliantly performed and exciting to play, with futuristic guns and biotic powers, and totally engrossing on a character level. Creating something of this scope that also feels personal to each player is no small feat.


Fortnite (2017)

 A global phenomenon … Fortnite

Launched as a forgettable co-op zombie shooter in 2017, developer Epic Games saw the success of Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds and decided to create its own battle royale mode, inviting 100 players to land on an island, then fight it out until only one survived. Colourful, silly and filled with daft outfits and infectious dance moves, Fortnite became a global phenomenon, attracting more than 250m players. It’s been featured in everything from Fox News to Avengers: Endgame and shows few signs of slowing down.


Grand Theft Auto IV (2008)

Niko Bellic comes to New York looking to escape the life of crime he had been leading in eastern Europe – but as in all Grand Theft Auto games, the American dream swiftly turns sour, and nihilistic violence turns out to be the only currency Bellic can deal in. GTA IV’s New York is stunning to inhabit, so detailed and full of life that it is hard to believe it’s powered by code.


Red Dead Redemption 2 (2018)

Only a developer with Rockstar’s extremely deep pockets and fanatical attention to detail could have made something like this, a re-creation of turn-of-the-20th-century US so lifelike that it is at times difficult to believe. Its story, of a dwindling gang of outlaws trying to outrun the march of time (and an ever-growing list of enemies) is impressive enough, but the world in which it takes place – vast, picturesque, full of people and strange encounters that most players will probably never even find – is a true monument to interactive achievement.


The Sims (2000)

One of the most successful and influential games ever made, The Sims is an outlet for megalomania, mad materialism or compassion – depending on the player. Controlling the lives of computer people, from their loves and careers to designing the homes they live in, is so compelling that it raises troubling questions about human nature.


Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (2009)

Breathtaking set pieces and exciting lore … Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. Photograph: Sony

Indiana Jones-style hero Nathan Drake came into his own in this spectacular cinematic adventure sequel. Crammed with breathtaking action set pieces, exotic locations and exciting lore, Among Thieves established the Uncharted series at the forefront of big-budget narrative game design. From the wrecked train opening to the epic finale amid the ruins of the mythical kingdom of Shambhala, the pace doesn’t let up. While baby boomers have nostalgic memories of Saturday-morning action cinema, millennials have Uncharted.


Resident Evil 4 (2005)

This wasn’t just an exciting horror story about a supercop rescuing the US president’s daughter from a Spanish cult. With Resident Evil 4, the creator of Capcom’s survival horror series, Shinji Mikami, completely changed the structure and style of the games, abandoning the slow-burn tension of the original titles in favour of raw action while (crucially) shifting from an expressionistic third-person camera to an over-the-shoulder perspective. The game established a whole new era of third-person shooters.


Super Mario Odyssey (2017)

After his galactic adventures in the Super Mario Galaxy games, Odyssey brought the cheerful plumber back down to Earth. Well, not Earth per se, but a bunch of different self-contained planets that provide ample room for Nintendo designers’ wild imaginations. From possessing a Chain Chomp to bounding around in low gravity, chasing rabbits or racing yetis, Odyssey is irresistibly exuberant.


World of Warcraft (2004)

Launched in 2004, Blizzard’s massively multiplayer role-playing adventure was not the first entry in this complex genre (Ultima Online and Everquest got there earlier), but it perfected the key elements, from combat mechanics to quest design to background lore, building an obsessive fanbase that has stayed loyal through multiple add-ons and updates. The game reached 100m player accounts in 2014, but the real stories have been much more personal – with its emphasis on close team-play, WoW has hosted real-life weddings and funerals, becoming as much a part of players’ lives as their own families.


Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (2015)

Bloated, idiosyncratic and troubling in places, The Phantom Pain is the perfect culmination of Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear vision as it has evolved over the last 30 years. Big Boss wakes up from a coma and finds himself carrying out covert missions during the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, rescuing civilians, kidnapping military leaders and managing his aquatic Mother Base as the typically nonsensical plot rolls on. It is unlike anything else out there … at least until Hideo Kojima’s forthcoming game Death Stranding turns up.


The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011)

Magic and might … The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

For decades, games have aspired to create a fantasy world that caters to your every whim – and Skyrim comes closest. Dragon-flavoured, largely unmemorable plot notwithstanding, it is an extraordinary playground where magic, might, words and weapons can all be wielded against the inhabitants and monsters that populate a snow-touched northern realm, and where subplots about assassins, vampires, lost relics and a thousand other things await the curious player.


Bloodborne (2015)

An extraordinary work of horror, Bloodborne conjures a dilapidated city whose inhabitants, rather than abandoning God, have become so obsessed with getting closer to their eldritch masters that they’ve become diseased. Hunting the creatures of Yharnam, an exhilarating and sometimes painfully challenging endeavour, the player uncovers an extraordinarily intricate, disturbing fiction of blood, beats and human folly. There are sights and fights in Bloodborne that no player could ever forget.


BioShock (2007)

Set in a doomed undersea utopia, BioShock is part shooter, part role-playing game, part morality fable, propelling players through a haunting and ambiguous quest to escape Rapture while learning its awful secrets. Famed for the hulking Big Daddy antagonists, the genetic modifications, the art deco architecture and designer Ken Levine’s exploration of objectivist philosophy, the game has been one of the most discussed and dissected of the century so far.


Portal 2 (2011)

Ingenious and inventive … Portal 2. Photograph: Electronic Arts

Building on the solid foundations of its predecessor, Valve’s 2011 sequel adds a more involved narrative to the ingenious physics puzzles, with tyrannical computer system GLaDOS providing an endlessly funny and inventive exploration of humanity and hubris. Here, the Aperture Lab is a giant, almost gothic, ludological construction, its weird research rooms and robotic production lines crammed with light bridges and lasers. It is the combination of Red Dwarf, 2001 and Crystal Maze no one knew they were waiting for.


Halo: Combat Evolved (2001)

One of the first shooters where the aliens fought back. Playing Halo today, especially on the Legendary difficulty setting, it is amazing how quickly those chattering, cackling Covenant can flush you out. Halo has spawned a beloved universe of space-opera shooters, but it’s the first game – released at a time when the idea of a first-person shooter on a console was laughable – that made the biggest impact.


Grand Theft Auto V (2013)

Split personality … GTA V.

In this, the best-selling entertainment product of all time, Rockstar painstakingly created a bizarre pastiche of southern California, seen through the eyes of three decidedly unheroic protagonists: a retired gangster whose family hates him, a young man from the inner city trying to escape a seemingly pre-destined life of crime, and a violent trailer-dwelling psychopath. Cleverly, these three characters also handily partition GTA’s split personality: biting satire of modern US, filmic storytelling, and directionless violent mayhem.


The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015)

Many games offer the superficial choice between good and evil, but the Witcher asks what happens when you’re adrift on waves of history and politics that are beyond your control. Geralt of Rivia isn’t a hero; he’s just an outcast, present at a tumultuous time in his realm’s history. Turns out that far more interesting stories can be found when you’re not preoccupied with a facile objective to save the world.


Half-Life 2 (2004)

 You live every moment … Half-Life 2. Photograph: EA

Video games aren’t short of alien invasion stories but Half-Life 2 is so good it makes the whole concept seem fresh and frightening. Taking place several years after the original, Gordon Freeman wakes to find an Earth utterly subjugated by the Combine forces – but a resistance movement is forming. The shrewd environmental puzzles and the famed gravity gun exploit the intricate physics engine to make this hellish world feel authentic. You truly hate the enemies, you live every moment. One of the greatest narrative video games ever made.


Dark Souls (2011)

You are dead, which comes with few advantages, but at least you can’t die again – not for good, anyway. Plunging you into a never-ending cycle of death and rebirth in a world where almost nothing still breathes, Dark Souls sets you off with nothing and lets its horror-tinged dark fantasy unfold as you flail and struggle to survive. Invigoratingly uncompromising and influential, it was the breakthrough game of FromSoftware and visionary director Hidetaka Miyazaki. Despite two more Dark Souls games and a raft of imitators, there is still nothing like it.


Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017)

Doing for the open-world game what Half-Life 2 did for the first-person shooter, Breath of the Wild tears up and throws away all the things that make exploration a chore – checklists, objective markers, forests of icons – to make way for true adventure. Breath of the Wild counts on your curiosity, intelligence, self-determination and ingenuity, giving you a thousand ways to apply them. Its thrillingly open wilderness makes other games feel like a quaint miniature train ride by comparison.


Minecraft (2009)

 A dozen experiences in one … Minecraft

Swedish coder Markus “Notch” Persson didn’t invent the concept of the block-based building game – Minecraft arrived just after Zach Barth’s experimental title Infiniminer. However, the founder of Stockholm studio Mojang took the idea of a Lego-like construction game based in a procedurally generated environment and perfected it. Originally launched as a work in progress in the summer of 2009, word about this unusual blocky simulation quickly spread on PC gaming forums and a community of enthusiastic modders started to gather around the project, downloading Persson’s version but adding their own rules and graphics. From the very beginning Minecraft was a shared endeavour – a labour of love, shared between creator and fans.

By the time of its full release in November 2011, Minecraft already had 10 million registered players. Later came conversions from PC to Xbox, PlayStation and smartphones, bringing in new audiences. The game was split into two experiences: the Survival mode where players had to battle zombies and giant spiders while mining for resources, and the Creative mode where they were given an unlimited inventory of wooden, glass and stone blocks to concentrate on crafting their own ambitious projects.

This has always been the vital element of Minecraft’s success and importance: it is a dozen experiences in one. It’s about making models, but also exploration, combat and resource management. Participants can build alone or join friends, introducing a new form of online creative collaboration. Using the game’s red stone component, which allows objects in the world to be electrically powered, fans began to build complex machines including working calculators. Others constructed scale models of the USS Enterprise, Hogwarts and King’s Landing. Art galleries and museums began to take notice. The Tate Modern commissioned expert modellers to create versions of modernist artworks in the Minecraft world; the British Museum was officially recreated in the game, as was Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Over the past decade, Minecraft has become a hobby and a social space. Servers have been set up for people on the autistic spectrum, providing a vital means of meeting with and communicating with others. Hundreds of schools throughout the world use the Education edition of Minecraft to teach physics, geology, drama, art, electronics and sustainable farming. The cultural and educational reach of the game is enormous. Minecraft was vital in the rise of the celebrity gaming YouTuber – with names like StampyCat and DanTDM familiar to millions.

With more than 175m copies now sold on an array of devices from smartphones to virtual-reality headsets, Minecraft has transcended the idea of what games are and what they can achieve. When you load the game, what you do is up to you – it gives you the experience you want, and that is different for everyone. There has never been an interactive entertainment experience like it. Game makers truly believe that video games have the power – just like literature, cinema and art – to change lives. This one unquestionably, demonstrably has. Time and time again.

European football leagues’ popularity and increased internet access make football betting attractive among young people in Nigeria. Catherine Ivill/AFP via Getty Images

A ban on football betting Nigeria is not the answer to the problems it creates

European football leagues’ popularity and increased internet access make football betting attractive among young people in Nigeria. Catherine Ivill/AFP via Getty Images

By Saheed Babajide Owonikoko, Modibbo Adama University of Technology

In Nigeria, football betting has a long history that can be traced to colonial times, when pool betting was popular, especially among older adults. Since then, more younger people have taken up betting on the results of football matches, including European league football.

The country has many betting outlets where people can place a bet manually. They can also open an account online with a betting company, using a debit card, and place bets on the website or app.

A report revealed that about 60 million Nigerians between the ages of 18 and 40 are involved in active sport betting. They spend almost ₦2 billion on sports betting daily. This translates to about ₦730 billion annually. In an economy where the 2020 national budget is almost ₦11 trillion, this is huge.

Two factors are responsible for increasing football betting among youth in Nigeria. One is the increase in poverty and unemployment. Among Nigeria’s estimated population of around 200 million, around 87 million are said to be extremely poor. The youth unemployment rate in 2018 was put at 36.5%.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, 29.7% of youths between the ages of 15 and 34 were unemployed at the third quarter of 2018. Betting may appear to be a way to make quick money, either as a betting operator or as a gambler.

The second factor driving and enabling football betting in Nigeria is the growing use of the internet and smart mobile phones. In 2017, 84% of Nigerians had mobile phones. The number of internet users in Nigeria is 122 million based on figures from the Nigerian Communication Commission. This is more than half of Nigeria’s estimated population. The increase in internet users in Nigeria can be attributed to affordability of internet access; with less than ₦100 (less than US$1), internet connectivity is assured. It is easy and convenient for people to place bets online using their phones.

I was interested in the potential consequences of this situation for Nigerian society and particularly for young people. I wanted to know whether the ease of online betting for economically hard-pressed young Nigerians was creating any social problems such as conflict, crime and addictive behaviour.

For my study, I collected data from in-depth interviews with fans of European football clubs, betters, parents and guardians of fans and betters, security personnel, owners and operators of betting outlets as well as football viewing centres in Lagos, Ibadan, Oyo State, south west Nigeria and Yola, Adamawa State, north east Nigeria. In addition, I observed betting activities and collected data from recent online news reports and other published works.

From the various interviews conducted and my observation, I found there was a link between football betting by young Nigerians and a perceived increase in violence and criminal activities. But in my view the answer is not to ban such betting but to address the unemployment and poverty which propel people into it.

Behaviour around betting

My interviews and observations in the field show that there is a concern about teenagers stealing to fund their football betting. I was in a security meeting in Adamawa State where parents complained to the police that they had noticed unprecedented theft of their money by their teenage children/wards to fund football betting. A parent interviewed in Adamawa State explained that:

I noticed that money was getting lost in our house on daily basis. At first I thought it was mere misplacement. Later I started to hear from my neighbours also complaining of loss of money within their homes. We later got to know that our sons were the ones stealing the money to play football betting because we always see them with receipts of bet and we know that they do not have business from where they can get money for betting.

Interactions with these teenage betters show that they spend between ₦1,000 (about $2) and ₦3,000 (about $7) on betting daily. But the jackpot rarely comes. At football viewing centres, customers are routinely warned about fighting. One operator of a viewing centre in Yola told me:

In recent times, we have witnessed outbreaks of violence among our viewers. Some of these fights are over unresolved longstanding issues. Sometimes, it is as a result of anger sustained from major loss in football betting.

Football betting may also sometimes promote ritualism, especially the use of “good luck charms”. I spoke to one gambler who said:

You cannot just go and put a huge amount of money into betting without any form of spiritual enhancement that will guarantee and insure you. If you do that without spiritual enhancement, you will just continually give your
money to bet companies with their managers and staff to feed fat on while you continue to stay broke. Even bet company operators use spiritual power to ensure that their clients do not win…

There have been calls from moralists, especially in religious circles, for the government to criminalise betting, especially football betting. I witnessed two such discussions during an Islamic preaching in Yola, Adamawa State. In fact, one state has been urged to take the first step. I believe this is unlikely to be effective. It would only push betting into the background and make it more difficult for the government to regulate and control it. Government should instead pay more attention to widespread poverty and unemployment.

Saheed Babajide Owonikoko, Researcher, Centre for Peace and Security Studies, Modibbo Adama University of Technology

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Buhari’s COVID-19 economic plan: old wine in new wineskins

President Muhammadu Buhari raises his fist during an inspection of honour guards on parade to mark Democracy Day in Abuja, on June 12, 2019. Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP via Getty Images

Stephen Onyeiwu, Allegheny College

COVID-19 is increasingly wreaking havoc on the health of Nigerians, but its economic impact may well be more devastating. Before the pandemic, the Nigerian economy was growing at an anaemic rate of 2%. The country has also been suffering from high poverty and unemployment rates. This is paradoxical for a country endowed with humongous natural resources.

Determined to blunt the economic trauma of COVID-19 and minimise its impact on poverty, unemployment, insecurity and violence, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari announced the establishment of an inter-ministerial Economic Sustainability Committee. He gave it the remit to recommend measures that would prevent further economic collapse. Headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the committee submitted its report to the President in mid-June.

There are two main pillars to the economic sustainability plan. The first is job creation and the second an infusion of cash. These will be achieved through targeted investments in agriculture and agro-processing, manufacturing, renewable energy, housing, information technology. The proposal also included cash transfers as well as “survival funds” for medium and small scale enterprises. The plan is remarkable by its emphasis on the use of local contents to support its initiatives.

But most of what’s in the plan is neither novel nor ground-breaking. It includes projects that had been bandied around by previous administrations, with little success.

The difference appears to be the scale and intensity with which the projects are to be undertaken.

In fact the plan sounds very much like the doomed Vision 2020, which was a long-term strategic intent launched by the Nigerian government in 2009 to promote economic growth, socio-economic development and structural transformation. The overarching goal was to enable Nigeria to become one of the top 20 economies in the world, as well as achieve an annual GDP of at least $900 billion and a GDP per capital of $4000. These goals are far from being achieved.

Post COVID-19, what Nigeria urgently needs are initiatives and projects that instantaneously infuse massive cash into the coffers of severely cash-strapped individuals, households, traders, small enterprises and corporations.

The gaps

Perhaps the greatest shortcoming of the report is that it delegates implementation to government ministers, each of whom is expected to set up an implementation committee. This is very reminiscent of previous government efforts.

It is no secret that the wheels of the Nigerian bureaucracy grind excruciatingly slowly. The economic recovery plan should have set up a special implementation taskforce outside of the bureaucracy.

History may offer a useful lesson here. During the post-World War II when European economies were devastated, the US led its allies to launch the Marshall Plan for Europe’s economic reconstruction. Rather than delegate implementation to government bureaucracies, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were specifically created to undertake the task.

In times of unprecedented crisis, your worst enemy is the bureaucracy.

Unfortunately, Buhari’s Economic Sustainability Plan has fallen into the same trap as its antecedents: it is likely to gather dust in government ministries and agencies.

Murky roadmap

Apart from the lack of novelty, the report is vague and speculative about how initiatives would be accomplished.

For instance, the plan proposes the creation of 5 million jobs within 12 months by bringing 20,000 – 100,000 hectares of land per state into cultivation. The private sector is expected to drive the process. But it’s unclear what mechanisms would incentivise profit-maximising enterprises to employ this number of farm workers.

And how might state governments be encouraged to provide land for farming, when many of them vehemently refused to provide land for the Federal Government’s botched Rural Grazing Areas scheme?

Some of the key provisions in the plan are not implementable without the cooperation of state governments. The frosty relationship between the Buhari administration and states controlled by the opposition People’s Democratic Party, which now stands at 16 out of 36 states of the Nigerian federation, suggests this could be a bottleneck.

More intriguing, however, is the fact that most of the projects proposed in the report may not be completed before the end of the Buhari administration. One such example is the solar energy project. The plan proposes supplying 5 million Nigerian households (or about 25 million individuals) with solar energy. The report requires that solar power equipment be produced in Nigeria.

This isn’t particularly realistic in a country that imports toothpicks, petrol and generators. The US, with its technological prowess, has been able to supply only about 12 million households with solar energy since 2008.

Another proposal that has a very murky implementation plan is the goal of creating 1.8 million jobs through the construction of 300,000 homes (400 in each local government area). The Ministry of Works and Housing is tasked with its implementation. But the report concedes that the ministry is yet to figure out the “design and template” for the houses. This is a manifestation of the lack of preparation for this project.

The report recommends an increase in the number of cash transfer recipients. But it doesn’t say how big the cash transfers should be and what mechanisms will be used to transfer cash to the new recipients, many of whom are expected to be rural dwellers.

Furthermore, the funding of the plan is nebulous. Recognising that the Nigerian economy would contract by 4.40% if no measures were taken, the recovery plan opted for a Naira 2.3 trillion stimulus package. This, it’s been estimated, will ensure that the economy doesn’t decline by more than 0.59%.

But the report is evasive about how the proposed projects will be financed. While about 70% of the estimated cost of the plan is expected to come from “Special Accounts” and the Central Bank of Nigeria’s “structured lending,” the source of the rest is not clearly defined.

The plan calls for local sourcing of most of the inputs to be used in the various projects. But it does not discuss in detail the foreign exchange implications, especially in light of uncertainties in the global oil market.

To hedge against foreign exchange risks and avoid inflation from high cost of imported goods, the plan should have specified a forward exchange rate at which participants in the plan can purchase foreign exchange.


The plan should have been divided into phases, starting with one devoted to initiatives that would immediately pump cash into the economy.

Without an instantaneous infusion of massive cash, the Nigerian economy risks an inexorable slide into stagflation, which is a lethal combination of a recession and hyperinflation.

Stephen Onyeiwu, Professor and Chair of the Economics Department, Allegheny College

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Slavery. We know why Covid-19 is killing black people in the US

People waiting for a distribution of masks and food in Harlem, New York City.Credit…Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press

By Sabrina Strings
Dr. Strings is an associate professor of sociology at the University of California at Irvine

About five years ago, I was invited to sit in on a meeting about health in the African-American community. Several important figures in the fields of public health and economics were present. A freshly minted Ph.D., I felt strangely like an interloper. I was also the only black person in the room.

One of the facilitators introduced me to the other participants and said something to the effect of “Sabrina, what do you think? Why are black people sick?”

It was a question asked in earnest. Some of the experts had devoted their entire careers to addressing questions surrounding racial health inequities. Years of research, and in some instances failed interventions, had left them baffled. Why are black people so sick?

My answer was swift and unequivocal.


My colleagues looked befuddled as they tried to come to terms with my reply.

I meant what I said: The era of slavery was when white Americans determined that black Americans needed only the bare necessities, not enough to keep them optimally safe and healthy. It set in motion black people’s diminished access to healthy foods, safe working conditions, medical treatment and a host of other social inequities that negatively impact health.

This message is particularly important in a moment when African-Americans have experienced the highest rates of severe complications and death from the coronavirus and “obesity” has surfaced as an explanation. The cultural narrative that black people’s weight is a harbinger of disease and death has long served as a dangerous distraction from the real sources of inequality, and it’s happening again.

Reliable data are hard to come by, but available analyses show that on average, the rate of black fatalities is 2.4 times that of whites with Covid-19. In states including Michigan, Kansas and Wisconsin and in Washington, D.C., that ratio jumps to five to seven black people dying of Covid-19 complications for every one white death.

Details of the death certificate for a black man who died of the coronavirus in April.
Details of the death certificate for a black man who died of the coronavirus in April.Credit…David Ryder/Reuters

Despite the lack of clarity surrounding these findings, one interpretation of these disparities that has gained traction is the idea that black people are unduly obese (currently defined as a body mass index greater than 30) which is seen as a driver of other chronic illnesses and is believed to put black people at high risk for serious complications from Covid-19.

These claims have received intense media attention, despite the fact that scientists haven’t been able to sufficiently explain the link between obesity and Covid-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 42.2 percent of white Americans and 49.6 percent of African-Americans are obese. Researchers have yet to clarify how a 7 percentage-point disparity in obesity prevalence translates to a 240 percent-700 percent disparity in fatalities.

Experts have raised questions about the rush to implicate obesity, and especially “severe obesity” (B.M.I. greater than 40), as a factor in coronavirus complications. An article in the medical journal The Lancet evaluated Britain’s inclusion of obesity as a risk factor for coronavirus complications and retorted, “To date, no available data show adverse Covid-19 outcomes specifically in people with a BMI of 40 kg/m2.” The authors concluded, “The scarcity of information regarding the increased risk of illness for people with a BMI higher than 40 kg/m2 has led to ambiguity and might increase anxiety, given that these individuals have now been categorised as vulnerable to severe illness if they contract Covid-19.”

Promoting strained associations between race, body size, and complications from this little-understood disease has served to reinforce an image of black people as wholly swept up in sensuous pleasures like eating and drinking, which supposedly makes our unruly bodies repositories of preventable weight-related illnesses. The attitudes I see today have echoes of what I described in “Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia.” My research showed that anti-fat attitudes originated not with medical findings, but with Enlightenment-era belief that overfeeding and fatness were evidence of “savagery” and racial inferiority.

Today, the stakes of these discussions could not be higher. When I learned about guidelines suggesting that doctors may use existing health conditions, including obesity, to deny or limit eligibility to lifesaving coronavirus treatments, I couldn’t help thinking of the slavery-era debates I’ve studied about whether or not so-called “constitutionally weak” African-Americans should receive medical care.

Fortunately, since that event I attended five years ago, experts focused on the health of African-Americans have continued to work to direct the nation’s attention away from individual-level factors.

The New York Times’1619 Project featured essays detailing how the legacy of slavery impacted health and health care for African-Americans and explaining how, since the since the era of slavery, black people’s bodies have been labeled congenitally diseased and undeserving of access to lifesaving treatments.

In a recent essay addressing Covid-19 specifically, Rashawn Ray underscored the legacy of redlining that pushed black people into poor, densely populated communities often with limited access to health care. And he pointed out that black people are overrepresented in service positions and as essential workers who have greater exposure than those with the luxury of sheltering in place. Ibram X. Kendi has written that the “irresponsible behavior of disproportionately poor people of color” — often cited as an important factor in health disparities — is a scapegoat directing American’s attention from the centrality of systemic racism in current racial health inequities.

Evaluating the inadequate and questionable data about race, weight and Covid-19 complications with these insights in mind makes it clear that obesity — and its affiliated, if incorrect implication of poor lifestyle choices — should not be front and center when it comes to understanding how this pandemic has affected African-Americans.Even before Covid-19, black Americans had higher rates of multiple chronic illnesses and a lower life expectancy than white Americans, regardless of weight. This is an indication that our social structures are failing us. These failings — and the accompanying embrace of the belief that black bodies are uniquely flawed — are rooted in a shameful era of American history that took place hundreds of years before this pandemic.

Sabrina Strings is an associate professor of sociology at the University of California at Irvine and the author of Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia.

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Who said churches, mosques and synagogues are not essential services?

By Tope Fasua

Let me start with a caveat. I am not exactly religious. I could attend church like 4 times a year and no one could compel me to. I also cannot be intimidated by some of the scare tactics employed by those who want to lure me. I believe one can have a relationship with God on his own. I am not arrogant enough to call myself an atheist, and though I could engage anyone on the subject, I am aware that there are grey areas in life that even the most ardent atheist or agnostic has to leave in the realm of some superior being. Science has not explained a lot of things about life no matter how it tried.  I therefore respect anyone’s belief systems.

One of my issues with religion is the proselytization bit. The constantly jostling for souls among the Abrahamic religions. It reminds me of Nigerian banks seeking endlessly for customers that they don’t intend to assist but take from. I don’t like the idea of some people trying to convince others that their own ways are right and others are wrong. I detest even more some of the tactics and languages employed against the other side by the born again or ‘izala’ (true muslim) members of each side.

Well, we are in very odd times.  I was a bit surprised at how easily many religious people folded and took it on the lam the moment Covid-19 was announced. Most of them did not even try to exercise their faiths. Some smart ones have been trying to justify behind their laptops on many a Zoom-talk how their steps were logical and how the church is not the building and so on, but clearly, many of the miracle claims have been revealed to be pure shams. We cannot compare 2020 with 1918. Churches were closed 1918, but they laid no claim to curing the lame, the blind, the deaf, or even raising dead people to live again. These new churches especially, have done just that. Anyhow, they shut their doors, and but for a few whimpers here and there, the monstrosities they built have remained symbols of helplessness, and a departing era.

Then Donald Trump, the POTUS, spoke a few days ago, announcing that in his view, churches, mosques and synagogues are essential services, and that got the world thinking again. It also got a certain section of the liberal press into a flap. Trump accused some state governors for categorizing abortion clinics and liquor stores as essential services, while locking down firmly on these religious houses. For me, the argument is water tight, even as many people believe that Trump is as usual, playing to the gallery and trying to win some November votes. Add to the liquor stores and abortion clinics, large malls where hundreds have congregated, touching trolleys and items on the racks for the past 4 months, have remained open as ESSENTIAL SERVICES, while religious houses are closed. Yet, no word had been said as to how the religious houses can begin to resume howbeit gradually. Liquor stores are there for people to stock up on their booze. There is a new culture among those who prefer to remain at home, to get drunk by 10am. This has increased incidences of child abuse and domestic violence. Idle ‘Uncles’ are preying on kids.  Small crimes are climbing due to hunger and idleness.  Marriages are crashing the more, and the alcohol is only weakening the immunity of hundreds of millions of people around the world. I would have put this down to some deliberate desire for some powerful people to reap more cadavers, but I think the strategy so far – especially after data has emerged – is down to simple stupidity. Those who say they are smart are just not so smart anyway – Michelle Obama said as much that she had been in many top-level thinktank meetings and been disappointed at the level of thinking of those who run the world.

I am interested in one question and one question only; why do people think religious houses are NOT ESSENTIAL while these other centres of mass gathering (markets, malls etc) are essential for a time like this? Do we really understand what people get when they visit their religious houses and how important they see these contacts?  Are we being merely elitist and dismissive, from a public policy angle, seeing issues only from our ivy league perspective? Is there any representation from the really vulnerable or are we shutting down their voices from afar?

Abortion clinics sometimes provide essential services, but also their prioritization could encourage promiscuity among the young who know that there is a place to terminate pregnancies around the block, round the clock. It seems the world is working hard at devaluing the worth of humans by the choices we have taken. Is this deliberate? Again, real data has emerged, enough time has elapsed, and it should have since been time to recalibrate our strategy. What is going on? People love to bash Trump naturally, but I try not to follow the herd; the herd is usually wrong. Thinking about the goings-on again, I think there is a need to point out to the world, using some short points, that indeed religious houses may be essential services. Recall that I am no religious fanatic. I however believe that subject to limits, religion has played and continues to play a good role in organizing society, offering succor to billions around the world, and indeed, religion has been central to the evolution of science and innovation the way we know them today. The end of religion has not arrived, and may not in a while to come.  We can reform religion, but we must not hold religion in disdain because we have the power of bureaucracy or the mob on social media. I personally like the fact that people head to churches and mosques and billions actually get calmed down by doing so. Perhaps it is the best that humanity can manage. Let us see just how essential religion is, especially from a Nigerian perspective:

PSYCHOLOGICAL SERVICES: In a country like Nigeria where visiting the ‘shrink’ is not as popular as it is elsewhere, only our religious houses offer such services. There is a spike in mental cases presently. People trust their pastors and imams more than they do the odd psychiatric doctor or psychologist. Many churches I know serve as rehab centres for poor drug addicts where governments have no provisions. Okay, why are these religious leaders not being actively pressed into service to assist the medical doctors in a world going into total mental meltdown at this time? Why are they shut out and told they don’t matter?

MARRIAGE COUNSELLING (OF COLLAPSING MARRIAGES, SPIKE IN DOMESTIC VIOLENCE): There is a spike in domestic violence lately, including serious strains on many marriages. Many men in our clime, are wired to be on the road – hunters and foragers. Now they are at home, dissecting the behaviors of madam and the children in microscopic fashion and also being dissected and cheapened. Well, mostly the religious houses offer this service in our country. Yes, you could say the pastors are still otherwise available at home or via the internet. But with the fear around this disease, they are discouraged from seeing anyone – except if their services are rightly recognized as essential and their counselling considered as value-adding. There should be a way of continuing this service. And no, Zoom cannot help very well in many bad situations. Perhaps the goings-on at this time is meant to damage the family institution. The liberals seem more in favour of same sex marriages, no marriages at all or any arrangement that do not product children.

SUICIDES AND DEPRESSION: This is part of the mental issues mentioned above but these two needs to be specially emphasized. You see, the promises of the hereafter is what gets billions of people hopeful around the world. Atheism cannot explain what happens hereafter. Atheists are unsure of the hereafter but religion offers some ideas, even if one can pick holes in them. More people believe in the explanations of religion and this saves many from suicide and depression around the world. Already there is a spike in suicides and depression because of COVID19. Many people ‘offed’ themselves and still do, because of the fear sold with the disease. In Bangladesh, USA, India, peasants, ordinary folks and medical doctors have been killing themselves while medical doctors are mainly focused on COVID. The medical personnel could use the help of religious bodies.

FOOD AND SHELTER FOR MILLIONS: Many religious houses provide food for millions of hungry people, and shelter for millions of homeless. Yes, they could still provide cooked food, but they are just mostly now dismissed as charlatans, not people who provided a service even if in the recent past. Some of them have provided these services on a large scale in the past but now find this difficult to do because of strict lockdown rules. Their staff cannot make it to work, and even markets open only a few times in a week. To make matters worse, this is the time that more Nigerians are going hungry and in need of such services. Some religious organizations have been dismissed as mere criminals and this is not encouraging to them to continue the work they have been used to. I think as much as we want them to be more responsible and we want to weed out charlatans we are often being very unfair to these people.

EXTRA-MEDICAL ISSUES (AND WHERE HOSPITALS REJECT PATIENTS): In the USA and elsewhere (including Nigeria), hospitals were told to cancel elective surgeries and people were told not to go to hospital except they had emergency the moment this covid thing showed up. Most people even elected not to go near hospitals anyway, especially given the fear with which the disease was enveloped no thanks to mainstream media. Religious houses have always been a half-way house; somewhere people in our kind of country go for pre-medical services, succor and advise. Many go to their pastors for some encouragement before embarking on surgeries for example. The jab in the arm often offers the hope that sees them through. Even medical doctors agree that a bit of hope helps in the healing process. Many doctors tell patients to put their faiths in God when they are about to go through a difficult and risky procedure. So, even though covid is a dangerous disease and no Pastor, Imam or Rabbi should interfere or expose themselves, we should at least acknowledge that they had a great role to play in the medical value chain in peace time. No, religious houses are not useless; they are essential.

FIRST LINE OF SUCCOUR: Religious houses are the first lines of succor for hundreds of millions of people especially in Africa. They are where our people find peace, succor and calm, away from the maddening crowd. They offer an escape, some offer tranquility. Others, a spiritual connection. Yes, our people need to visit churches and mosques less frequently but the succor that weary souls get in these places, is simply priceless, and often helps to save society from more trouble.

INCOME REDISTRIBUTION: Some of the religious houses offer a great income redistribution service. Some of the leaders are modest people who understand that they need to constantly lift up the vulnerable with the resources they get from the more affluent. That service seems to be in abeyance presently. Millions of Nigerians are able to meet some of their obligations through what they get in the religious houses. A certain Pareto principle plays out. Only the top 10% provides the resources which sustains the churches and the bottom 30% who give next to nothing also benefit from the largesse of the 10% especially in the good religious places.

SOME RELIGIOUS HOUSES MORE EFFICIENT THAN GOVT: That is a fact. Some of the religious houses have a better handle on resources compared to government. Some have created whole, efficient communities out of the resources they get, and some are far better focused than government could ever be. They operate like private-sector enterprises. They are not all useless. The resources given to them go a lot further than it could ever go if given to government. That is why millions of our people don’t miss their obligations to these religious houses. Whereas this is odd, but our governments must do better in resource management in order to reverse the distrust of the people.

CRADLE TO GRAVE SERVICES:  We disparage religion as being useless and religious houses as being a bore, but whether we like it or not, life’s most important events have been colonized by them. They offer cradle to grave services. One of the sadder episodes of this covid disease is that many have died in the epicentres of America and Europe, without the normal consecration of their souls to God by their religious leaders, who have been kept out of reach and rendered into nothingness. Many of the sick and infirm who later died in the hospitals have been treated no better than experimental lab rats by the medical ‘experts’. A number of them died frightened, confused and disappointed because they couldn’t get those final assurances from their religious leaders, about a better hereafter. Life’s most important events are the forte of religious houses – childbirth and christening, coming of age, marriages, death. No secular institution can replace these roles except we want to turn human beings to mere machines.



I aver that there is better crowd management in religious houses, more than there could ever be at malls. So why the continuous victimization? I was at Abuja’s NEXT supermarket today (23rd May, 2020) and it was filled to capacity, with everyone roiling around the alleys, touching goods, replacing them and shopping. Why are malls more important than churches, mosques and synagogues? Is this more than the business of stopping covid in its tracks? Can one catch the disease in a church but not in a mall? A scientific explanation is urgently required please. I believe if we cannot manage more than a hundred per church, per service, or 200, now is the time to start.


Many have said the people are the church and not the building. Top pastors have also said it. They are only half-correct. The building is also important. I personally like the tranquility of a Catholic Church when I attend. People are usually very nice to each other inside churches (except in a few I have been in times past where they get all rude and aggressive when trying to collect offerings and tithes). I personally like the history that stares down on me in the more traditional and orthodox churches. Whereas in Europe they have turned most of the old churches into bars and pubs, I don’t believe it is the way for us to go here, even though I detest the competition for whose cathedral is largest in a country whose people are dying of hunger. Europeans, Americans and others, are generally more depressed than we are here, in spite of their stratospheric GDP per capita. They are not happy. For pastors who think internet or TV services are just as good, they should remember that the poorest amongst us cannot find electricity or internet data money and so have remained cut-off. We must not boil down religious services to mere elitism.


I grew up listening to sermons about a day that will come when Christians will have to worship in secret lest they be killed or arrested. I didn’t see most pastors referencing the possibility of this when the covid lockdown started. They aren’t even writing now. Many have shown up to be total cowards. Why are they not engaging the governments very logically on this matter? Why me, a non-church goer?  Some are busy talking up a storm on the internet, devising ways of optimizing tithes and offerings using internet banking in the ‘new normal’. For those ones, it is still all about the Benjamins.  The danger is that even if this present lockdown is justified, can the same strategy be deployed in the future; announce a big disease and lock religion down? If COVID does not clear early, do we lock down religious houses forever? Does it also count for anything that yesterday May 23rd, 2020 Nigeria lost nobody to COVID? Or that our fatalities in Africa are so few? Are we locking down in solidarity or subservience to the West counties?


Some believe it is a good time to punish religion for its excesses, especially in Nigeria. The flash, the bling, the boasts, the conjobs. The proliferation of religious houses as if they were mamaput joints. Chances are religious houses are more ubiquitous than mamaputs in Nigeria. The Abrahamic religions are often in a mortal combat. As the Christians vow that they heard from God himself that there should be a church in every Nigerian building – and don’t forget the hotels – the Muslims (especially up north) don’t joke with building their mosques. Most of the palliative monies sent up north end up being used to build mosques.  Political leaders embezzle, but ensure they put these buildings in place to mesmerize their people. What do we do about the pastors who acquire fleets of Rolls Royces and pay no tax because ‘thou shall not touch my anointed’? What do we do with the private jets? What do we do with regulating false claims of miracles on TV? Don’t we now need a Charity Commission as proposed earlier but shut down by the same pastors who have since gone limp? What do we do with proliferation of sects up north? Or the fact that many religious bodies just spring up spontaneously in Nigeria, with no registration at the CAC or anywhere, leading to non-traceability of their prime movers when trouble starts?  Can we direct the attention of the rich churches back to Nigeria’s futile economic diversification quest? Can churches lead the next industrial push for Nigeria? It will not be odd. Islam, Christianity and Judaism in the past have been majorly catalytic to the opening of new epochs in development, science, the arts, knowledge at different periods of history. Perhaps they can try again

It is a new day. Let us refrain from punishing and lampooning religious houses. If they aren’t useful to us now, they surely were in the past. And they would usually be there when we finally close our eyes and depart the world. Yes, I support Trump on this. Religious houses are essential services. In Nigeria at the peak of the lockdown, essential services became a political matter. Those of us left at home couldn’t help but feel useless while a few ran the nation. It was a classic case of ‘if you are not seated around the dinner table, then you are most likely on the menu’. Thank God we can now go to work.  Let’s get the religious houses off the menu. They are literally being carved and made ready for gastric digestion presently. Religious houses are very essential services; they save a few million lives yearly.

Rule of law has moved centre stage in lockdown: what it is and why it matters

South African police and military enforcing lockdown regulations in Cape Town, South Africa. EFE- EPA/Nic Bothma

Cathleen Powell, University of Cape Town

A court in South Africa recently passed a judgment that berated the country’s military and police for their conduct in enforcing the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown.

The case involved the death of a man, Collins Khosa, after he was brutally assaulted by members of the South African National Defence Force, in Alexandra, outside Johannesburg. The military was deployed to help the police enforce the lockdown.

In his judgment in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, the country’s administrative capital, Judge Hans Fabricius highlighted the “social compact” between a government and its people, set out in the country’s constitution. He referred, in particular, to the founding values in section 1, including human dignity, equality, the supremacy of the constitution and the rule of law.

The court was asked for a declaratory order on the rules applicable to the military and the police. It was also asked to order them to conduct proper investigations of the incident, and suspend those involved until the investigations were over. It granted all that it was asked, and added that the police and military have to report back on their progress.

According to the court, people need to be able to trust the government to abide by the rule of law, make rational regulations, and not intrude on the rights of those subject to the law.

The judgment was remarkable for how limited it seemed to be: it didn’t find that the military or police were responsible for Khosa’s death; it didn’t convict anybody of a crime; and it didn’t award damages to his family. All it seemed to do was to tell the defence force and the police to obey the law.

At first glance this may appear inadequate. But it is in fact highly significant and important. To find out why, we need to explore the meaning of one of the founding values referred to by the court: the rule of law.

The rule of law is a popular term among politicians, and most people have an intuitive sense that it protects the people from arbitrary government action. But it’s more than that: it’s the very thing that makes law “work”.

That’s why it deserves a closer look.

The rule of law

The rule of law sets requirements both for the content of law and for the process of its application. It has eight specific aspects, on which most legal theorists agree.

A society complies with the rule of law if

(1) there are generally applicable rules, and

(2) the rules are publicised,

(3) understandable, and

(4) not retroactive.

(5) The rules do not contradict each other,

(6) they are relatively consistent over time,

(7) compliance with them is not physically impossible, and

(8) the administration of law reflects the rules as announced. This means that the government is bound to give effect to the rules that have been publicised.

The problem with the lockdown is not just that it violates the eighth requirement, although this particular violation is the most obvious in cases of government brutality. As the Khosa case shows, the soldiers acted beyond the powers conferred on them by law, and committed the crimes of assault and homicide. (This evidence, put before the court by eye witnesses, was not contradicted by the police or the military in the case.)

But most of the other requirements of the rule of law are not being met, either. Many new lockdown regulations and directives have been promulgated since April, from several different government departments, and are published online in government gazettes. They have been appearing at such a rapid rate that even lawyers with expertise in this area are battling to keep track of the details.

Soldiers share a light moment on a COVID-19 lockdown patrol in Johannesburg. EFE-EPA/Kim Lubrook

While a professional law site and an NGO now offer free overviews and summaries of the lockdown rules, the government website is a dead end. It purports to set out “consolidated” sets of the four main regulations from the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, the department coordinating the lockdown regime.

But it omits the other departments, which are authorised by the main regulations to issue directives in addition to the regulations. Furthermore, the links to the regulations lead nowhere for three of these sets.

This means that the gazettes are not readily available to a majority of the public who must obey them. As a result, they are not properly publicised. They are so complicated and extensive that not even expert lawyers can keep up with them (so they are not understandable).

They change frequently and contradict each other.

Finally, they appear to be demanding the impossible from citizens. This is in part because they expect conduct – such as not leaving one’s residence and maintaining distance from other people – which is impossible in some areas, particularly informal settlements.

Public buy-in

Even without the government acting brutally, this system of rules would lack legitimacy. In the view of one legal philosopher, Lon L. Fuller, the system would not be “law” at all. He challenged the widely held view that law was a separate matter from morality by identifying the central moral quality of law: it recognises, honours and depends on the agency of people subject to it.

If the eight requirements set out above are met sufficiently, then the people have a stable basis for planning their own conduct. Through law, people can make choices about their own lives. This, in Fuller’s view, generates “fidelity” to the law – what we might also call “buy-in” or “legitimacy”.

The government appears to be aware that it does not have the buy-in of the public, because it justifies so many of its arbitrary rules as measures designed to facilitate enforcement by police. And it had soldiers on the streets before the lockdown even started on 27 March.

In his judgment, Judge Fabricius notes that the soldiers were briefed in military terms, as though they were setting out on a battle with lawbreakers. This won’t work. If you have to enforce compliance like this, you don’t have “buy-in”. You don’t have law. The fact that these officials have brutalised the people they were meant to protect has merely worsened the situation.

The confusion, resistance and violence accompanying the current lockdown are an object lesson on the value and necessity of the rule of law. If the country doesn’t get this right, it’s not going to win the fight against COVID-19.

Cathleen Powell, Associate Professor in Public Law, University of Cape Town

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Gears Tactics review – brains meet brawn in strategic spin-off

Rating: 4 out of 5.

PC (version tested), Xbox One; Microsoft Game Studios
It wouldn’t be Gears of War without gore, and combining strategy with viscera dispersal aplenty, this cerebral twist on an old favourite remains true to form

Slabs of virtual muscle with added pizzazz … Gears Tactics. Photograph: Microsoft

Bloody sci-fi shooter series Gears of War and the term “tactics” may not seem like natural bedfellows, given that these games are best known for their macho space soldiers and chainsaw machine guns. Yet strategy has always played a far bigger role in the games than may be initially apparent. After all, the key innovation of the titles was to add cover-and-fire manoeuvres into a fast-paced action game. Gears Tactics simply inverts the emphasis. Whereas previously the tactical layer existed to complement the action, here all that gore greases the cogs of a smart and fiercely entertaining strategy machine.

Set before the original Gears of War, Gears Tactics sees players control squads of soldiers led by two veterans of its seemingly eternal conflict: walking chin Gabe Diaz and weaponised moustache Sid Redburn. Together, they seek to eliminate a troublesome general of the Locust Horde, a race of brawny subterranean monsters who have taken over Earth.

Gears of War’s storytelling has always held ambitions somewhat beyond its ham-fisted reach, but if you’ve previously enjoyed watching its slabs of virtual muscle do emotions, know that Tactics tells its story with pizzazz if not subtlety, featuring lovingly crafted cinematics, top-tier voice acting and some fairly major reveals for what is essentially a spin-off.

 Strategy that feels like action … Gears Tactics. Photograph: Microsoft

Indeed, Gears Tactics has lost little of the series’s perennially high production values in the switch from shooter to strategy, boasting stunning visuals and slick animations alongside an incredibly intuitive interface. Also like earlier games, it is ferociously violent, with your soldiers frequently bursting and dismembering the Locust with bombs, bayonets and chainsaws.Advertisement

Gears Tactics is a strategy game designed to feel like an action game, and this philosophy goes beyond the sharp visuals and the viscera dispersion rate. Any given mission sees your squad pitted against a much larger number of Locust, with each side taking turns to move their units between cover and eliminate as many of the opposing force as possible. Your soldiers have a limited number of “action points” per turn. These can be used to move, shoot at an enemy or deploy special abilities such as “overwatch”, which lets you set up ambushes, firing at any enemy who wanders into its cone-shaped kill-zone.

This foundation is familiar among tactics games, but Gears adds to it abilities such as “executions”, where theatrically killing an incapacitated enemy gives teammates an additional action point. Moreover, certain soldier-types sport powers such as “bayonet charge”, letting them rush across the battlefield to quickly take an enemy out of commission. Many abilities can be upgraded to provide free actions or even add actions to your pool. Some of the combinations you can pull off are truly exhilarating. In the late game, one of my snipers could pop the heads of a half-dozen Locust in a single turn.

Gears Tactics constantly encourages players to push forward into battle, to be aggressive and daring and think on their feet. Yet, while boldness is often rewarded, recklessness will be punished severely. Even the lowliest Locust grunt can blast half a health bar off one of your soldiers, while together they create overlapping overwatch traps that need to be surgically dismantled to prevent your squad from being wiped out.

The way the game injects pace and momentum into a traditionally slow-burn genre is its greatest success, so it isn’t surprising that it is weakest when the pace falters. Gears Tactics lacks the broader strategic layer of games such as XCOM, featuring instead a linear story campaign. This is the right call, but problems arise with the side missions embedded into this structure. Initially, they’re a welcome opportunity to flex your tactical muscles, whether you need to hold two separate control points against assault, or retreat from an encroaching artillery barrage as the Locust try to slow you down. In the latter acts, however, Gears Tactics forces you to complete two or even three side missions before moving on to the next story beat.

There is a logic to the idea – soldiers sent on one side-mission cannot be deployed in another, so you need to manage your squads carefully to ensure success. But it has the effect of slowing progress to a crawl when the story should be ramping up to the conclusion. There also aren’t enough mission types to prevent a sense of repetition creeping into those final hours. The latter half of the third act is a slog when it should be a sprint.

Nonetheless, Gears Tactics is a triumphant twist on an old favourite, capturing the fury and spectacle of its shooter-based brethren while also offering a more cerebral experience. Gears has always exhibited shades of American football, from the hypermasculine tone to its disconcertingly swole characters. Now it has the conspicuous brains to match its conspicuous braun.

Lagos makes it hard for people living in slums to cope with shocks like COVID-19

An aerial view of a waterfront slum in Lagos, Nigeria.

Oluwafemi Olajide, University of Lagos

The Nigerian government has adopted a range of strategies to manage the spread of COVID-19. However, as desirable as the strategies may seem, the urban poor are disproportionately negatively affected. Lagos city is a case in point.

The Lagos state government introduced a food relief package to cushion the effects of lockdown. But the distribution of the relief package has been hampered by governance challenges. The situation, to a large extent, reflects the opposite of good governance. Good governance is about relationships and interactions between citizens and government based on the principles of equity, efficient service delivery and sustainability.

This points to a larger problem that’s been highlighted by the impact of the COVID-19 interventions – the disconnect between urban development policies, housing, slums and the livelihood realities of the majority.

The state government must see this pandemic as an opportunity to address this disconnect. In particular, it needs to develop inclusive action plans aimed at building the capacity of poor people to accumulate livelihood assets – known as asset accumulation – that they can draw on to cope with future shocks. This will involve urban development policies supporting the initiatives of the urban poor to accumulate assets and, in turn, reduce dependence on palliative measures.

It will also require the state government to change its approaches of neglect, demolition and forced eviction of slums to participatory slum upgrading and urban regeneration. This will also help stimulate economic growth after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Multiple vulnerabilities and limited assets

A significant number of people who live in Lagos are poor and are accommodated in slums. Their lives are precarious. Housing conditions are poor and there’s overcrowding and a lack of basic services. For example, in my research I found that about 80% of the residents of Sari-Iganmu live in one room with an average of seven people. An average of seven households share toilet and bathroom facilities with no running water.

Research has shown that assets are the bedrock on which livelihoods are built. They are essential to coping with shocks.

To cope with shocks a combination of assets is required. They include social networks and physical and financial assets. All are required to adequately meet basic needs and cope with shocks. The reality, however, is that the majority of slum residents in Lagos have a limited ability to accumulate a portfolio of assets to fall back on.

Financial assets – such as earnings, savings, investment returns and credits – are essential for daily living and for accessing adequate housing, sanitation facilities and food. A typical slum resident lives on an irregular income with limited capacity to save for future needs. Saving can only be a dream for someone earning an inadequate and irregular daily income. As one resident of Oko-Baba, a slum community, noted in my research:

How do I save when I don’t even have enough money to put food on the table… What could be worse in life than that? All we earn in this house is not enough. It is of no use, even impossible to save when one is still struggling to eat.

In the absence of adequate income, the urban poor turn to social networks for social security in terms of food, finance and credit. These sources, particularly from friends and relatives, have become more unreliable during the pandemic.

Unsupportive urban development policies

Over the years, the Lagos state government’s approach to slums has been a mixture of neglect, minimal upgrading and demolition and forced eviction. As a result there is now inadequate infrastructure such as sanitation facilities and housing.

Forced eviction from slums, particularly in prime locations with better access to livelihood opportunities, has become prevalent across Lagos. In some cases, intended beneficiaries of slum upgrading have become victims of displacement, loss of social networks and livelihood opportunities.

This is exemplified by the case of Badia East community. Between 2013 and 2017, the community suffered multiple forced evictions. This resulted in the displacement of more than 3,000 households, with little or no compensation.

Badia East is part of the larger Badia community, one of the nine beneficiary communities targeted for slum upgrading under the World Bank loan for the Lagos metropolitan development and governance project. The forced eviction of Badia East residents was clearly at variance with the reason the loan was secured – to upgrade low income communities.

These kinds of interventions have further hindered people from accumulating asset portfolios.


Lagos’s urban poor continue to try to make ends meet in the context of multiple vulnerabilities and unsupportive urban development policies.

The challenge of coping with economic shocks is a reflection of poor political, economic and governance systems. Good governance is a necessary condition if poor people are going to be able to begin accumulating assets.

Good governance will encourage co-production of slum regeneration programmes, and the equitable delivery of public goods and services. It will also create an enabling and supportive environment for individuals, particularly in the informal sector, to accumulate livelihood assets.

Only then will the current unsupportive institutional context be changed to one that enables the poor.

Oluwafemi Olajide, Lecturer in Urban and Regional Planning, University of Lagos

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Why covid-19 seems to spread more slowly in Africa

It was not what fishermen usually mean by a good catch. Last month a worker at a fish factory in Tema, a port city in Ghana, infected 533 people with the virus behind covid-19. President Nana Akufo-Addo linked the “super-spreader” to about 10% of the country’s 5,408 cases.

That Ghana could identify the person is a tribute to its response. It has tested more than 155,000 people, the fourth-highest per-person rate in Africa, according to data from cdc Africa, a public-health body. Elsewhere a lack of testing makes it harder to assess the true course of the disease. But what data there are, and new analysis by the World Health Organisation (who), suggest the virus is spreading more slowly in Africa than elsewhere—and that its path will vary across the continent.

Africa, which contains about 17% of the world’s population, has less than 2% of its confirmed cases of covid-19. By May 13th cdc Africa had counted 69,947 cases and 2,410 deaths. Over the past month reported cases have doubled roughly every two weeks. Until recently American cases were doubling about every three days.

This may partly reflect insufficient testing. Africa has checked just over 1m people—a day’s work for officials in Wuhan. South Africa and Ghana account for nearly half. The Partnership for Evidence-Based Response to Covid-19, a public-health consortium, notes that “the true number of infections is likely to be much greater than currently known.” Its rough estimate suggests a tally eight times higher.

Another sign of undercounting is the share of covid-19 tests coming back positive. The “test-positivity-rate” is an imperfect guide. But assuming those being tested have covid-like symptoms, a rate above 5-10% suggests there are many uncounted cases, says Jason Andrews of Stanford University. At least 22 African countries have rates above 10%, including Algeria (91%), Sudan (87%) and Tanzania (78%).

John Magufuli, Tanzania’s president, does not believe his country’s results. “We only see them releasing positive, positive, positive results,” he said. He claims that the national laboratory was sent papaya, goat and sheep samples that tested positive. (The lab denies this.) No new official data have been released since April 29th.

Opposition activists and ngos say that there have been dozens of burials of covid-19 victims in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city. On May 12th the American embassy said that hospitals there were “overwhelmed”. “It is a cover-up,” says Zitto Kabwe, an opposition leader.

There are similar reports of undocumented surges in other countries. In Kano, in northern Nigeria, hundreds of unexplained deaths have been alleged by gravediggers. In Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, medics claim that the deaths they are seeing do not chime with official totals.

Nevertheless there are few signs that these “ghost hotspots” are ubiquitous. Some countries, including Mauritius, Namibia and the Seychelles, have not reported a new case for two weeks. Ethiopia, Rwanda and Uganda have fewer than 700 cases between them and positive-test rates below 1%. Nor are there reports of surges. “In a society like ours there’s simply no way this could be kept secret,” says Berhanu Nega, an Ethiopian opposition leader.

Crucial in slowing the early spread of covid-19 was the swift introduction of containment measures. Most African countries implemented lockdowns far earlier than rich countries did. By the end of April at least 42 African countries had done so; 38 of these were in place for at least 21 days.

So despite undercounting, official data are still a rough reflection of reality in many countries, say those leading the response. “While covid-19 likely won’t spread as exponentially in Africa as it has elsewhere in the world, it likely will smoulder in transmission hotspots,” says Matshidiso Moeti, the director for the who in Africa.

Her view of a slower, longer pandemic is explained in a paper by who colleagues, published by bmj Global Health on May 14th. Unlike other models, which tend to apply patterns seen elsewhere in the world to Africa, theirs claims to make assumptions based on the continent’s “unique socio-ecological context”. For example, it takes into account the fact that Africans travel less, thanks to sparse road networks.

The authors reckon that without containment measures 16-26% of those in the who Africa region would be infected in the first year, with higher shares in well-connected countries like South Africa. About 29m-44m people would be symptomatic. This is a lower estimate than other models yield. The who also calculates that there would be 83,000–190,000 deaths without mitigating steps—implying a lower rate of infected people dying than in rich countries, mostly because Africans are younger. However, Africa does not have rich countries’ hospitals. Surges in cases would overwhelm health systems.

Because the model assumes no mitigating measures such as lockdowns, the actual tallies should be lower. Yet many African governments are in the midst of loosening restrictions, as they try to balance the harm of covid-19 with that to their economies and public health more broadly. Researchers at Imperial College London reckon that in some countries the knock-on effects on treatment for hivtb and malaria could be of the same order of magnitude, in terms of years of life lost, as that of covid-19.

Many rich countries are easing lockdowns after reaching, in theory, peaks in new cases. African countries may be doing so while case-rates accelerate. Africa seems to be suffering a slower pandemic, but the risks are still immense. ■

Why malaria treatment shouldn’t take a back seat to COVID-19

Children are a high-risk population prone to severe complications from malaria.

By Jaishree Raman, National Institute for Communicable Diseases

Ridding the world of malaria in the near future is a very ambitious goal. Efforts to achieve it have already been weakened by governments shifting resources from malaria control and elimination initiatives to the fight against COVID-19.

And those efforts were recently dealt another sucker-punch.

Catharina Boehme is the chief executive of the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics and adviser to the World Health Organisation (WHO). She reported that financial incentives have encouraged many companies to dramatically downscale – or even stop – the production of tests for a number of infectious diseases, including malaria. Instead, they are now focusing on the mass production of novel tests for COVID-19.

This decision could erode the gains made against malaria over the past 20 years.

Malaria rapid diagnostic tests are easy to use at the point of care. They produce a result within 15 to 20 minutes. Their widespread deployment, particularly across Africa, expanded access to prompt, quality diagnosis. This enabled early treatment so that severe illness and death could be avoided.

It is widely accepted that the global uptake of this innovative tool played a significant role in the reduction of malaria-related illness and deaths. The decrease in the global malaria burden by over 60% since the early 2000s is very impressive. Yet it remains a major health problem in Africa, where a child dies from malaria every two minutes. This is an unacceptable reality for a treatable and preventable disease.

In 2018 over 90% of the 228 million malaria cases and 405,000 malaria deaths reported were from Africa. This shows why interventions to control this disease must continue.

Malaria control

When there is a break in control activities, malaria rebounds rapidly – with catastrophic effects. This could be seen when the WHO-led malaria eradication campaign in the 1950s ended. More recently, it was evident during the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. A detailed review of the data collected during the Ebola outbreak revealed that more people died from malaria and HIV than from Ebola virus disease.

The WHO is well aware of this. It has issued an impassioned appeal to malaria-endemic countries not to compromise on the delivery of malaria control activities and healthcare services as they battle COVID-19.

Maintaining malaria services during the COVID-19 epidemic, however, comes with challenges. Control practices and protocols have to be modified. This is because of restrictions on the movement of people and supplies, and the close contact required for malaria testing.

But modifications must not compromise the safety of the healthcare workers, malaria programme staff and community at large, or the efficacy of the interventions.

Urgent messaging

Now more than ever there is a need for focused malaria health awareness and education campaigns. It is very important to remind communities and healthcare workers that a fever does not always mean a COVID-19 infection.

Fever is a symptom of many different diseases, including malaria. As malaria often rapidly becomes very severe, individuals with a fever should test for COVID-19 and malaria as soon as possible. This is particularly true in malaria endemic areas.

It is even more crucial that children with fever are tested for malaria. Children are a high-risk population prone to severe complications from malaria.

Africa’s fragile and under-resourced health systems are being stretched thin by the responses required to address the COVID-19 outbreak. The continent can’t afford a massive influx of critically ill malaria patients requiring specialised intensive care.

African governments – with the support of the relevant stakeholders – must therefore take a leading role in ensuring that there are minimal disruptions to the delivery of appropriately tailored essential malaria control activities and services.

South Africa has adopted an innovative strategy to ensure the continuation of its malaria test and treat campaign. In malaria-endemic districts selected for community-based COVID-19 screening, all patients presenting with a fever will be tested for both COVID-19 and malaria. Any patient found to be malaria-positive by malaria rapid diagnostic test will be treated on site.

And African governments and international organisations like the WHO must lobby hard to ensure that there’s no downscaling in the production of tests and treatments for non-COVID-19 infections like malaria.

In the interim, countries should consider stockpiling supplies of malaria rapid diagnostic tests, malaria treatment and essential malaria control commodities. This would include insecticides for indoor residual spraying, and personal protective equipment.

We all must play our part in ensuring malaria is controlled and eliminated so a malaria-free world can be achieved during our lifetime.

Jaishree Raman, Laboratory for Antimalarial Resistance Monitoring and Malaria Operational Research, National Institute for Communicable Diseases

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Sudan must pay billions to terrorism victims, Supreme Court rules

A bombing at the United States Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1998, as well as one in Tanzania the same year, killed hundreds and wounded thousands.Credit…Agence France-Presse

The Supreme Court on Monday unanimously reinstated as much as $4.3 billion in punitive damages awarded against Sudan to victims of truck bombs detonated in 1998 outside United States Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

The attacks, conducted by Qaeda operatives, killed hundreds and wounded thousands. Starting in 2001, many of the victims and their family members sued Sudan in federal court, arguing that it had helped Al Qaeda in carrying out the bombings.

After a trial in which Sudan did not participate, Judge John D. Bates of the Federal District Court in Washington found in 2011 that Sudan had provided crucial assistance to Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, its leader.

“Sudan harbored and provided sanctuary to terrorists and their operational and logistical supply network,” Judge Bates wrote.“Bin Laden and Al Qaeda received the support and protection of the Sudanese intelligence and military from foreign intelligence services and rival militants. Sudan provided bin Laden and Al Qaeda hundreds of Sudanese passports. The Sudanese intelligence service allowed Al Qaeda to travel over the Sudan-Kenya border without restriction.”

Judge Bates awarded the plaintiffs about $10.2 billion in damages, including roughly $4.3 billion in punitive damages.

Foreign nations are ordinarily immune from suits in American courts. But Congress has made exceptions, including one in 1996 for acts of terrorism conducted by nations designated as state sponsors of terrorism. Under the 1996 law, plaintiffs were allowed to seek compensation for their losses but not punitive damages, which are meant to punish and deter wrongdoing.

After the lawsuit was filed, Congress amended the law in 2008 to allow plaintiffs to seek punitive damages in at least some settings. The basic question for the court was whether that amendment applied retroactively.

Sudan appealed the judgment against it on various grounds, including that the punitive damage award was improper. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit agreed, vacating in 2017 the punitive awards.

Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, writing for the Supreme Court on Monday, said it was true that legislation ordinarily applied only prospectively. “This principle protects vital due process interests,” he wrote, and allows people and groups to “rest assured after they act that their lawful conduct cannot be second-guessed later.”

If a federal law is to apply retroactively, Justice Gorsuch wrote, Congress must say so clearly. Here, he wrote, “Congress was as clear as it could have been when it authorized plaintiffs to seek and win punitive damages for past conduct.”

Sudan argued that the law failed to authorize retroactive punitive damages sufficiently clearly because the law said only that awards “may” include them. That was enough, Justice Gorsuch wrote.

“This language,” he wrote, “simply vests district courts with discretion to determine whether punitive damages are appropriate in view of the facts of a particular case.”

Judge Bates awarded punitive damages to two classes of plaintiffs, and the ruling on Monday applied to one of them, including United States nationals, members of the military and government employees and contractors. Justice Gorsuch said the appeals court should address whether the second class of plaintiffs, foreign-national family members of government employees and contractors, were entitled to punitive awards.

Justice Gorsuch also left open the question of whether the law was constitutional, saying that Sudan had not addressed it.

“It’s true that punitive damages aren’t merely a form a compensation but a form of punishment, and we don’t doubt that applying new punishments to completed conduct can raise serious constitutional questions,” he wrote. “But if Congress clearlyauthorizes retroactive punitive damages in a manner a litigant thinks unconstitutional, the better course is for the litigant to challenge the law’s constitutionality.”

Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh recused himself from the case, Opati v. Republic of Sudan, No. 17-1268, presumably because he had considered an aspect of it when he served on the federal appeals court for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Move on up! The most joyful dance clips to raise the spirits

How will live performance adapt? … Ellen Yilma and Alejandra Gissler in Voices and Light Footsteps, from the Richard Alston company’s final performance, March 2020. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

Being over 70, I have obediently stayed in my flat for six weeks now. It has been an extraordinary time as I had just gone through the biggest change in my working life. My dance company of 25 years gave its last performances at Sadler’s Wells in March and almost immediately that wonderful theatre was closed by Covid-19 restrictions. I found myself confined to my home and woke up a couple of days later absolutely unclear as to whether I was avoiding the coronavirus or adjusting to a rather sudden retirement.

I have been blessed with help from marvellous friends who were formerly dancers. One of them brings food shopping each week and leaves it at my door and in the warmer weather of the last few weeks we have stood socially distanced from each other on my doorstep having a good gossip. It helps to fill the long day before I settle down in the evenings with a damn good bottle of wine and watch dance online.

What do I watch? Such “virtual” achievements as the young dancers of Ballet Chicago doing the slow opening of Balanchine’s Serenade in isolation – on their decked patios, on a windswept beach, or in their living spaces; it’s something I found truly touching. I soak myself in the work of the most inspiring choreographers and companies, George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, the gifted young Justin Peck, Merce Cunningham, Trisha Brown, the Royal Danes dancing Bournonville and, of course, the sublime Fred Astaire.

One oddity that I revisit again and again is a YouTube clip called “Il piu piccolo e bravo ballerino di pizzica” – a young boy in Puglia launching himself joyously into elaborate and springing steps, his sneakered feet weaving in and out, and his small body hardly seeming to touch the ground. All these small jewels of dance raise my spirits high (or is it the wine?).

Meanwhile, in lockdown, I have been collaborating with another of my dancers (virtually of course) on preparing and designing my own new website. I can’t tell you how much I have obsessively enjoyed the detailed conversations and choices that have gone into making it what I wanted it to be. I have chosen 22 dances to include, each with a video extract and a few words to explain what I’d set out to do in each piece.

It has been an inspiring and soul-cleansing exercise. I didn’t really comprehend how many of my dances have been well and imaginatively recorded on camera, and I’ve been thrilled. So now I’m beginning to understand how exhilarating can be the marriage of a moving camera and dancers flying by. It’s made me seriously think about whether the speed and detail which I so love in dance does indeed come across more clearly with good camerawork and sensitive use of totally engaging close-ups – and more engagingly perhaps than on stage. What a thought! But it could well be true.

Pierre Tappon and Sonja Peedo in Light Flooding Into Darkened Rooms by Richard Alston at the Place, London, in 2010. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/the Guardian

Juxtaposing these dance excerpts has been exciting and has enabled me to re-evaluate what I’ve been doing. In all the uncertainty of the prevailing threat to everything we have come to rely on as normal, how will live performance adapt to survive? And if, perish the thought, I should never have the opportunity to choreograph again, then how thankful I am that these dances exist on screen – and the videos reassure me that yes, I did something well.

• Explore Richard Alston’s archive on his website

Will the legacy of Ebola help Liberia fight coronavirus?

Ebola tore through the tattered health care systems of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea from 2014 and 2016, killing more than 11,000 people CREDIT: Getty

As coronavirus cases begin to soar in Africa, some have raised hopes that the west African nation of Liberia could learn from its hard-won fight against the Ebola virus to fend off the new threat. But while some lessons have been learned, a baffling decision from the government may hamstring Liberia’s response.


During the 90s and early 2000s, Liberia and neighbouring Sierra Leone suffered some of the most devastating civil wars in recorded history. 

Twelve years after the fighting stopped, Ebola struck. The disease tore through the tattered health care systems of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea killing more than 11,000 people from 2014 to 2016.  Liberia, with its tiny population of 4.5m, was hit hardest with close to 5,000 deaths. 

Complete meltdown was only averted by an unprecedented international response costing billions of dollars and countless acts of heroism from local health workers, who faced almost certain death if they were infected. 

All three countries trained thousands of community health workers to go into hard to reach areas, check for symptoms and educate local populations.  These workers made up the backbone of complex networks which tracked the disease and isolated the infected.

The new threat to Liberia

Now four years on, Liberia is scrambling to fend off the coronavirus pandemic.  After detecting their first case of coronavirus in March, the Liberia authorities reportedly reopened five Ebola intensive care units and started screening new arrivals on international flights.

On April 11, President George Weah declared a state of emergency and locked down in the capital, Monrovia, warning that coronavirus posed the greatest threat to his country since Ebola.

Experts and officials say there are some significant advantages from the last epidemic. 

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Africa, told The Telegraph, that old Ebola laboratory networks in west Africa meant that they could move very quickly to increase capacity for testing for coronavirus. 

Dr Moeti also said that one of Ebola’s important legacies is that west African governments try to act on a community level and use civil society effectively to mobilise people. 

Last week, Francis Karteh, Liberia’s chief medical officer, echoed this sentiment. “We already had our contact tracing teams set, the community teams were still intact, and we only needed to reactivate them,” he told  AFP news agency.

Dr Mosoka Fallah, Director General of Liberia’s General National Public Health Institute, told The Telegraph, that he was ‘cautiously optimistic’ in part because of the experience of Ebola. 

Currently, Liberia’s laboratories are managing about 75 tests a day and planning to get to about 150 tests a day, he says. For Dr Fallah this is significant. “Before Ebola, we did not have a platform to test for viral diseases.”

A baffling decision 

However, there are fears that the Liberian government may now be squandering the Ebola-era advantages the country has for its fight against coronavirus.

According to an investigation by FrontPage Africa, the country’s most reputable newspaper, the government has bizarrely sidelined 2,000 highly skilled and well connected Ebola-era community health workers. Instead of using seasoned veterans, the government is reportedly recruiting and training 6,000 new contact tracers. 

“I do not see any possible reason for not employing [the 2,000 health workers]. They are trained and they beat Ebola and have also proved highly effective against outbreaks of Lassa fever and cholera,” says Dr Dougbeh Chris Nyan, an award-winning Liberian infectious diseases specialist.

These 6,000 recruits have no confirmed training and have not been tested for coronavirus and “the government is just sending them out into communities,” adds Dr Nyan. “It is just out of order.” 

Details about why the government has chosen to use new recruits are still emerging but in all likelihood, there is a highly politicised reason behind the decision. 

For now, the situation looks increasingly grim. Any headstart Liberia had from having relatively little international air travel is fading fast. The government’s initial lockdown of the capital was roundly condemned as chaotic and the virus has spread out of the capital into 7 out of Liberia’s 15 counties. Doctors and nurses have reportedly not had enough PPE equipment to protect themselves from the virus. 

Liberian authorities have now recorded 150 confirmed cases and 16 deaths, an extremely high death rate. Dr Fallah says that his team’s cars are running out of fuel trying to track the cases down. 

Ban on begging in Nigeria is not fit for purpose

An Islamic school in Nigeria.

By Dr Hadiza Kere Abdulrahman, Bishop Grosseteste University

Earlier this year, begging bans were announced in two states – Nasarawa and Kano – in Nigeria. There are some similarities as well as some differences between the two bans, and to a prior one in Kaduna state.

I have been reminded several times that the bans are street begging bans rather than a ban on the practice of Almajiranci – a system of Qur’anic schooling predominant in Northern Nigeria which sees young boys sent off to live with a Malam (teacher) to study the Qur’an. The boys often end up begging on the streets.

Nevertheless, based on my insights into Almajiranci during the course of my research, I would argue that the bans are really aimed at the practitioners of Almajiranci. In the case of Kano, the statement by the government went as far as to make this clear.

The issue has been back in the news in Nigeria again recently following the Northern Nigeria’s Governors forum coming together to insist on a ban in the light of COVID-19. States have started the process of repatriating young almajirai.

Almajiranci-related begging hurts the sensibilities of Nigerians. This is not without reason. The sight of young boys on the streets, shivering in unseasonal temperatures and sleeping in the open, is very hard to take.

In my research I examined the mainstream discourses around Almajiranci. Populist policies such as the recent begging bans fit into mainstream narratives that seek to represent the Almajirai only in a negative light. What I found is that sensationalist story lines that portray Almajirai as beggars and violent misfits can cause the young men – and the system of education – to be viewed antagonistically. The COVID-19 pandemic and the headlines reporting that some almajirai have been infected also fits into this scenario. Almajirai as ‘vectors of disease’.

The point here is: if almajirai are only conceived as beggars and as a nuisance then a ban, to many, takes care of that.

In this clip, I acknowledge why people would advocate for a ban. Almajiranci as it stands can be quite ugly to watch.

A look at the ban

There are lots of similarities in the structure of the bans announced by three different governments, with the focus appearing to be on all beggars on the streets rather than young almajirai per se.

But in the case of the Kano state ban it specifically sought to penalise Almajiranci. According to the Kano state government

when almajirai are caught begging, it is not only the beggar caught but his parents or guardians, and they will be taken to court to face the full wrath of the law.

In the course of my research, I found that young almajirai often beg for sustenance and that as soon as they reach a certain age, would much rather work than beg. There is, therefore, a temporal nature to this begging and it is something which can be stopped given other alternatives.

Many of Nigeria’s urban poor also get by working in the informal economy, often for pittance. It’s sometimes a wonder that the country doesn’t have more beggars. In this light, why find creative ways of increasing the suffering of the already suffering?

The issue with the bans is not only that they are ill thought through, they are also premature and not enforceable. Not in a society that has no welfare system in place to care for its most vulnerable. Or a society which doesn’t have the justice or prison system to accommodate those who will inevitably fall foul of the law. There are many steps to be taken first, before we get to a ban.


The logical steps would be to make sure every almajirai has been accounted for, and taken basic care of, before moving on to a ban in the long term. To use the cover of a pandemic to quickly rush through a ban seems disingenuous.

My argument as a scholar remains that, if you have a system of education in place with an estimated 8 to 10 million boys already in it, the logical thing to do would be to modernise these schools, widen the curriculum, improve living standards, improve the Malam’s pedagogical skills, feed the boys and provide extra vocational training.

Even though it is quite problematic as it stands, the Almajiranci system was once functional. It did not deteriorate to what it is in a day. A ban will not undo decades of decay, so the government needs political will and continuity. It needs to acknowledge the need for a more holistic reform across its education system, to find a way to integrate Almajiranci. Northern Nigeria governors also need to act with one voice on this.

I consider a ban a knee-jerk reaction that would drive the system underground. This might work for some of the governments of the states in northern Nigeria, if all that they want is for the poor to go and be poor elsewhere. A case of out of sight is out of mind.

Using the cover of a pandemic to push through an Almajiranci ban only panders to populism, it does not address the system’s many other drivers and sustainers – social and economic. The country’s groaning public school system is also incapable of absorbing millions of young Almajirai. As the schools stand, they are the preserve of the poor and the choiceless anyway.

Dr Hadiza Kere Abdulrahman, Lecturer in Inclusive Education, Bishop Grosseteste University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How oil and water create a complex conflict in the Niger Delta

Oil smeared fishboats on oily mud in the river during low tide at K-Dere, near Bodo in the Niger Delta region
Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP via Getty Images

Abosede Omowumi Babatunde, University of Ilorin

In the Niger Delta’s coastal communities, oil pollution of the marine environment has depleted the fishing and water resources that people have traditionally depended on for their livelihoods. This has led to a complex pattern of conflicts in the region since the late 1990s.

Oil spills, gas flaring, and other activities of oil companies have led to massive degradation of land and marine resources. Environmentalists and scientists have provided varying estimates of the magnitude and frequency of oil spills in the region.

Local people blame the oil multinationals and the Nigerian government for the environmental degradation, and feel they have not been properly compensated for its impact. Communities have also developed conflicts within and between themselves over these issues.

The Nigerian government has failed to compel oil multinationals to adhere to local environmental protection regulations. This is not surprising since the government benefits from oil revenue, the mainstay of the Nigerian economy. But the damage to the natural environment has exposed the region’s people to poverty. The high rate of poverty in the Niger Delta in contrast to the enormous oil wealth has been clearly depicted in the 2015 United Nations’ Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index. Oil-related activities have also damaged sources of clean water. This has fuelled conflict over the limited available resources.

The actions of aggrieved locals – including attacks on oil facilities and pipeline vandalism – have made the situation even worse.

And there’s another dimension: the complicity of local elites and elders. Their quest for monetary gain through oil benefits, including contracts to clean up oil spills and monitor pipelines, has complicated the environmental problems.

The roles of diverse local actors in this environmental and conflict landscape have been downplayed by analysts. But it is important to grasp how all the players – locals, oil companies and government – have contributed to the protracted insecurity.

I studied oil communities in Ondo, Delta and Rivers states between 2010 and 2016, focusing on how the interactions among these players aggravate environmental pollution and conflicts in local communities. A nuanced analysis like this is necessary, in my view, if solutions are to be found.

Complex connections

My fieldwork took place in states that have experienced oil-induced environmental problems and destructive conflicts.

I selected the following coastal communities: Awoye and Ayetoro in Ondo state, Owodokpokpo-Igbide and Isoko South LGA in Delta state, and Goi in Rivers state. I conducted in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with a diverse group. They included traditional and community leaders, farmers, fishers, and representatives of women and youth associations. I also interviewed officials from government, oil companies and the Niger Delta Development Commission (whose mission is to advance economic, social and ecological goals).

The respondents provided deeper insights into the connections between global, national and local actors. They showed how the actions of these players have fuelled a cycle of environmental degradation, conflict and insecurity in the oil communities.

Oil spills, gas flaring and other activities of oil companies have had a huge environmental impact on fishing and subsistence farming. Rivers are polluted and fishing nets and boats are damaged by oil. The pressure on land has increased, leading to deforestation and exploitation of marginal land. People have lost sources of income and have few alternatives.

This has led to multifaceted conflicts. The initial conflict between oil communities, oil companies and the Nigerian government has escalated to conflict within and among oil communities. People are pitted against one another in the quest for oil-related benefits or means of livelihood.

Oil benefits can take the form of contracts for oil spill clean-ups, pipeline surveillance and development projects. A few local actors control what little benefit trickles to communities from the oil companies and government. But the majority are sidelined and looking for ways to challenge their exclusion or to survive.

The coping strategies of the alienated local actors tend to wreak further havoc on the fragile environment and marine resources. They include criminal activities like pipeline vandalism, in retaliation against being excluded from oil benefits. This also creates the need for cleanup contracts. Some locals also siphon oil and refine it artisanally to sell on the black market. These activities result in a vicious cycle of environmental degradation, poverty and conflict.

Solving the problem

A nuanced analysis of this network of global, national and local interactions and their consequences is critical when looking for ways to tackle the conflict in the Niger Delta region.

The problem calls for a joint approach to a solution: broad consultation, collaboration and effective dialogue. The stakeholders are not just the oil companies, Nigerian government and local elites, but also the local fishers, farmers, traders, youth and women.

Abosede Omowumi Babatunde, Senior Lecturer, Centre for Peace and Strategic Studies , University of Ilorin

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Pedophiles are destroying the society

By Agbaka Gift Lynda

Pedophilia is a menace that has eaten deep into our society. It affects the general health, mental, academic and psychological stability of children thereby hindering adequate physical, moral and economic development in the Society.

Pedophilia is one of the current dangers we are facing in Nigeria and an adequate knowledge on how to combat this obstacle will lead to an all-round development of the society. Pedophilia can come in form of a rape or an act done willing but however, the willing child will not know the meaning and implications of what he or she  has agreed to do.

Who is a Pedophile?

A Pedophile is an adult above the age of 18 who is sexually attracted to children way below his/her age. These are mature adults that take advantage of little children below the age of proper reasoning. Pedophiles include fathers, mothers, religious leaders, teachers, family relations, neighbours and any other mature adults living in the society.

Instances of cases of pedophilia include: A man of ninety (90)  years raping a child of six(6) years, an uncle of thirty (30) having canal knowledge of a baby of nine(9)months, a school teacher defiling the pupils/students under his care, a religious leaders taking advantage of his young church member, a domestic staff sexually abusing the child under his/ her care, a mature neighbour defiling a little child kept under his/her care,  admist other similar cases.

These mature adults know the implications of their actions but tend to cease the opportunity of the innocence and  ignorance of these minors placed under their care. It is pathetic how these dogs tend to enjoy the bones tied around their own necks for safe keeping. The rate at which pedophilia is increasing in Nigeria is alarming and if something is not drastically done about it, many lives of naive children will be ruined and it will hence keep contributing to moral decadence in the society.

Reasons/ Causes of Pedophilia

1. Lack of self control of the adults: when a mature adult lacks control and desires to have sexual knowledge of everyone he or she sees.

2. Ignorance of children: many children don’t understand the meaning and implications of what they are made to do.

3. Failure to teach children sex education: when children are not properly educated on sex, they are left to be taught wrongly by other people. You can simplify sex education to suit the age of the child to be prepared in case of mishaps.

4. Diabolic purposes: some adults engage in this act as instructed to them by evil people. They do it only as a means of sacrifice for evil reasons.

5. Excessive trust on certain individuals: when as a parent, you have so much trust on certain individuals not actually trustworthy, and leave your kids under their care.

6. Always silencing children whenever they want to talk.

7. Not having a good bond with your child: This prevents them from opening up to you in cases of such.

8. Raising children that lack self- confidence.

These and many more are the possible reasons/ causes of pedophilia in our society.

Effects of pedophilia on children

Children who have in one way or the other being sexually abused usually suffer from the  following effects:

1. The children usually become withdrawn from others.

2. Their psychological life is affected.

3. Inferiority complex sets in.

4. Lack of self confidence

5. Poor academic performance

6. Inability to trust people anymore.

Children sexually abused usually have one or more of the above listed effects on them.

Ways to combat this menace

Here are the ways to fight against pedophilia as a parent, child, government and responsible adult in the society:

1. Children should be taught sex education early enough in life. As a parent, try to look for a simplified way of instilling this knowledge in the children otherwise, wrong values will be taught to them by irresponsible adults. Government should also include sex education in the curriculum of children so as to be taught early enough before they can come across such suitation.

2. Parents should bond well with their children. This will keep the channel of communication open, so that they can feel free to tell you anything bothering them.

3. Never train children by constantly silencing keep. This affects their self confidence as they grow.

4. Adults should be encouraged to have self control.

5. Parents shouldn’t trust certain individuals as to leave them in custody of their kids. These people are always the first to defile the children.

6. Government should make sure that pepetrators of such acts don’t go scot free. They should be duely punished to serve as a deterrent to others.

7. Children should be taught to speak out in case of an attempt.

8. Parents should teach their female children not to be too attached to any male adults. 

9. Parents shouldn’t accept any adult to refer to his or her child as ” my wife” or ” my husband”. This can send wrong interpretation to the child who may now actually begin to perform the role of a husband or wife to the adult.

10. Children should be taught never to accept unnecessary gifts from adults. These gifts can serve as a bait to keep luring the children to them and also to make them feel indepted to those adults.

11. CCTV cameras should be mounted in schools and homes where there are care givers to monitor the relationship between the children and these adults.

12. Children should be monitored closely at all times.

13. Teach your children not to believe that all adults are always right and are to be trusted. They should know that some adults are irresponsible and shouldn’t be trusted.

In conclusion, pedophilia is a serious crime that shouldn’t be taken lightly because it destroys the entire personality of the child, but if we join hands together to combat this evil, our society will become a better place. 

Shaping Africa’s urban areas to withstand future pandemics

Urban areas are a fertile ground for contagion
Getty Images

By Astrid R.N. Haas, International Growth Centre

The power of cities comes from the number of interactions they enable, between people, firms and markets – they are centres of social interaction. For all their virtues, however, cities have a major downside. They are a fertile ground for contagion, such as the rapid spread of COVID-19.

This is because cities are by definition places of density, with large numbers of people living and interacting in close proximity. Furthermore, many cities are deeply embedded in national, regional and global networks. This is embodied by infrastructural features such as airports, ports and other transport terminals ferrying goods and people at a high frequency. As such, the potential for transmission rates of COVID-19 within them may be far higher relative to national averages.

This is aptly illustrated by New York City, which already accounts for approximately half of all known cases in the US. Perhaps even more shocking, it accounted for 5% of all confirmed cases in the world – and it is just one city of about 8.6 million people.

Contagion in African cities

Given the characteristics of many African cities, the situation, without appropriate mitigation measures, could be far worse. For example, density levels in certain parts of African cities, most notably in slums and other informal settlements, may be even higher than New York’s. It is estimated that about 2/3rds of Nairobi’s population lives on just 6% of its land. In Kampala, 71% of households sleep in a single room.

These congested settlements have few amenities. Only an estimated 56% of the urban population in sub-Saharan Africa have access to piped water. And even those with access, they can spend 30 minutes or longer sourcing it.

This begs the question whether frequent hand-washing – one of two of the main measures to prevent transmission – is even feasible. The same goes for social distancing, the second recommended preventative measure, both given density and also because it runs contrary to many African societal norms, which are inherently deeply communal.

At the same time, one of the drivers of rural-urban migration in Africa is the relatively better access to services in the city. This includes health services. Data from the countries with already well-developed and funded health systems show that they are experiencing immense strain with COVID-19 patients. In the US, it is predicted that at least 200,000 intensive care unit (ICU) beds will be needed in the case of a moderate outbreak. The whole of Uganda on the other hand has 55 ICU beds in 12 operational units. It is clear that with similar infection rates African health systems would collapse. Yet people are still more likely to be treated in urban areas. In Uganda’s case, 80% of these ICU beds are located in Kampala.

Economic distress from lockdowns

To reinforce social-distancing, many governments in Europe and US are enforcing strict temporary lockdown measures. African governments, which still lag behind in terms of the known infection rate, are quickly following suit – some with even harsher measures. Given that urban centres are major economic nodes they will naturally bear a disproportionate economic burden of any lockdowns. This effect will rapidly percolate through the whole economy.

Urban dwellers working in the informal sector will be the first and potentially some of the hardest hit. About 85% of workers do not receive a reported wage. Rather in many African cities, the majority earn their daily keep from the informal service sector, particularly selling or providing manual labour. Here there is no option to work from home: both because of the lack of necessary infrastructure such as power and more importantly because their jobs are predicated on face-to-face interactions.

Even though they are working, their daily earnings are small. In Kampala, for example, a survey of informal sector firms showed that 93% of them are already operating below the poverty line. Therefore lockdowns, for these populations, will mean not earning a wage and affect their survival.

This is exacerbated as urban populations are largely beholden to food prices, given in general they are not able to grow their own food. Early indications already show that some countries like Ghana have seen rise in food prices by nearly 30% already due to panic buying and disruptions in food supply chains.

This is particularly worrisome for some countries already concerned about a food crisis this year, due to the plague of locusts affecting supplies. With the timelines of the overall COVID-19 crisis remaining unclear, feeding one’s family, particularly in urban areas, with no income and rising prices is already becoming an increasing struggle.

Lockdowns may support curbing transmissions, but by potentially pushing millions more people across the continent below the poverty line, it could have other detrimental, and potentially worse, longer-lasting effects beyond the health impact. Therefore, reshaping African cities in the pandemic’s aftermath to ensure they can be engines of economic growth in the future, will be key.

Shaping the urban future

Cities across the globe and throughout history have adapted and reinvented themselves in the face of crisis and disaster. Some analysts are predicting that cities in the US, will emerge and be reshaped by this crisis, for example, as a result of people working from home. This means the need for centrally located offices will diminish.

The nature of jobs is different in African cities. Working from home is not likely to be an option. Rather, it may even be that, in the aftermath of the crisis, rural-urban migration actually increases as people flock to cities in search of more economic opportunities.

Preparing for this by ensuring urbanisation is well managed will be critical to providing the engine to ramping up national economic growth.

A critical element of this and in particular to prepare for the next pandemic, is the need for cities to invest in productive infrastructure, focused on improving health outcomes. This includes water and sewage infrastructure as well as increasing the number of health facilities.

The density of cities that make them susceptible to disease, also make them more efficient to provide infrastructure to a large number of people. In managing and shaping Africa’s urban future there should be a central role for public health officials, working alongside planners, economists and others. This can help reduce the potential of contagion whilst maintaining the power of cities.

Astrid R.N. Haas, Policy Director, International Growth Centre

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Nigeria’s lack of transparency in fighting Coronavirus will backfire

By Mike Ikenwa

During a public health crisis, a government’s credibility is a vital asset. To slow the spread of a virus, the government must convincingly inform and instruct the public. And to do this, it must inspire trust.  Trust by following the science, acting out of the interests of the population, and enforcing measures that will help to keep the public safe. Trust depends on transparency. If governments appear to be concealing the truth or withholding information, their credibility can quickly crumble.

Nigeria’s transparency in fighting coronavirus has been in question since the first outbreak of the disease on 28th February 2020.


The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has been consistent in publishing the number of new cases recorded on daily basis, as well as the number of deaths and recovery but in the beginning, it was beyond this. The agency started by detailing new cases with the origin of the individual that contracted the virus, their movement and latest information on them but as more cases are  recorded, they dropped this information.

A sample of their first announcement of the first case reads: The case is an Italian citizen who works in Nigeria and returned from Milan, Italy to Lagos, Nigeria on the 25th of February 2020. He was confirmed by the Virology Laboratory of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, part of the Laboratory Network of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control. The patient is clinically stable, with no serious symptoms, and is being managed at the Infectious Disease Hospital in Yaba, Lagos.

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The questions on the level of transparency by The Nigerian government in the fight against the pandemic started when it was rumoured that  the country has recorded its first death of coronavirus. The story was first published by The Punch Newspapers but was later deleted and was announced days later by the NCDC which forced the citizens to begin to question how open the agency has been in the fight and if there are more that are being hidden intentionally and why?

Another case was when it was rumoured that The Chief of Staff of the Nigerian president, Abba Kyari, has tested positive for coronavirus, following his recent visit to some of the countries with the worse cases. Later on that evening, the NCDC published an update on the cases recorded with “one case in Abuja” without stating, as has been the case, who the person is, which further fueled the question of transparency and started the rumour of how safe the country’s leader, President Muhammadu Buhari is following his closeness to His chief of staff.


Recently, it was reported that before the death of the second person who died of the disease in Nigeria, he visited Imo state on his return to Nigeria from visits to the UK, Italy and US which are some of the hottest areas of the virus but till date the NCDC is yet to release any statement regarding his movement and is being accused of shielding the case and covering up possible viral cases within Owerri and Mbaise.

Another point of accusation on the agency’s transparency is the donation being made by some individuals and businesses in Nigeria which as at today is over 21 billion Naira. The Federal government still laments on lack of funds to purchase ventilators and testing kits for the virus.

The Federal Ministry of Finance was recently embroid in a show of shame after their twitter handle sent out a tweet to Tesla founder, Elon Musk asking for support in the acquisition of new ventilators and testing kits, leading to a public questioning on what all the donations Nigerians have been making so far is being used for and how it’s being managed?


An environment of opacity and suspicion has made the Nigerian government into its own worst enemy and aggravated what Nigerian officials seemingly fear: that Nigerians could suspect they are covering up the real scale of infections.

Nigerian government and the NCDC may have nothing to hide at all. Thus far, there is no evidence of an orchestrated cover-up of infections. Nigeria government responded faster and more aggressively than other African countries and even the US and UK, by speeding up contact tracing, shutting schools and universities and even religious activities. The government has halted political fights with the opposition parties and seem to be more focused on getting the country back to normal and putting an end to the spread of the disease.

Moreover, no country can claim a perfect response – the scientific consensus about the virus is still emerging and nobody yet knows how much devastation it will ultimately wreak. Nigeria could have acknowledged that most countries undoubtedly have more infections than confirmed numbers because testing is still limited.


The UK itself is contending with two dramatically different models: one from Imperial College London researchers, who argue the country is still early in its fight with the virus and another from researchers at Oxford University, which suggests that as much as half the population (over 30 million people) may have already been infected. In the absence of data about the virus, such models are partly reliant on assumption and speculation.

Indeed, its persistent aversion to transparency has led many observers and foreign governments to view most official claims with a degree of suspicion.

Recently, an army general was dismissed from his post leading the fight against Boko Haram when a video surfaced on social media showing the general lamenting on the killing of his men by the terrorists which is, according to him as a result of insufficient arms and ammunition and being obviously overpowered by the insurgents who are well equipped with superior firearms.

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Not only was the government’s response harmful, it was also unnecessary. After the news broke and went viral, the government released a statement on improvement in supplies of arms and adequately equipping the soldiers to clear out the terrorists. But the damage to its reputation had already been done and would last for years.

It’s the same story with coronavirus. The government would do far better by responding transparently to concerns and being open about the measures it is taking. During a pandemic, transparency is not a liberal luxury, but a vital feature of effective governance.

Buhari, Buratai: Best gifts to Nigerian army

PRESIDENT BUHARI MEETS SERVICE CHIEFS 2A&B. President Muhammadu Buhari receives the Chief of Army Staff LT Tukur Yusuf Buratai during a Security meeting at the State House Abuja. PHOTO; SUNDAY AGHAEZE. FEB 24 2020


The world is replete with very many tinges of experiences. A man’s bad deeds lives long after his demise, but his good deeds are interred with his bones.

President Muhammadu Buhari accepted the burden of leading Nigeria at a time in its history every aspect of existence in the country was in extreme shambles.

It is repeating the obvious to say, the Military is the strength of every nation. The Army is its first treasured gold and hub of preserving and securing the territorial integrity and sovereignty of a nation from external aggressors.

The Army is the foremost in many ways and ought to pass fitness test all the times to respond to security emergencies.


Unfortunately, President Buhari met a Nigerian Army that was completely in disarray and neglected in infrastructural development; signposted by defaced and dilapidated barracks, ill-equipped armouries and populated by unprofessional and undisciplined soldiers.

Worse of it all, the Nigerian Army was politicized, enmeshed in partisanship and polarized along Nigeria’s faultlines of ethnicity, religion and regionalism.

Equally saddening was the reality that Nigerian soldiers who were formally famed nationally and globally for their gallant exploits in wars and Peace-Keeping Missions could no longer boast of such accomplishments.

Even combating the menace of Boko Haram terrorism and other insurrections in the country was a big challenge to soldiers. Troops disgracefully faltered many times on the battlefield in the face of enemy forces.

The dignity of the Nigerian Army was rubbished by a basketful complaints of favoritism in postings, stalled promotions, unpaid salaries, denial of basic allowances, poor or non-existent welfare packages; lack of motivational incentives to soldiers deployed on special assignments on Internal Security (IS), absence of a reward system for excellence, brazen abuse of Rules of Engagement (ROE), widespread professional misconduct and constant mutinies.

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In effect, Nigeria operated and paraded a demoralized and depressed Army, where promotions were earned based on a soldier’s link or affinity with the President or other top notchers in Government.

A soldier’s hard work was not recognized and appreciated with a promotion as reward for excellence unless he either knows ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo or former President Goodluck Jonathan, the serving Presidents of Nigeria at that time.

Military Guard rooms were looking better than barracks where soldiers and their families were living. Army offices across the country were pigsties, and like dwelling places for animals.

The most fatal blow on the Nigerian Army was the deep-seated issue of religion and ethnicity.

They became strong factors in the force to the extent that it gravely affected the operations of the Army as an institution; shattered the coherence and the cord of comradeship among soldiers.

Infinitely politicized, the Nigerian Army was more enthusiastic in performing political duties than their constitutionally assigned professional roles.


So, officers and soldiers had redirected their loyalty and patriotism to specific political parties which their brothers and sisters professed. It was not to Nigeria, the Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces, Army leadership or field Commanders. The productivity of soldiers was on a steady, generous and dangerous decline in a sphere of the Nigerian Army operations.

President Buhari could not accept the eroded values and degradation of the Nigerian Army. He knew he owes Nigerians and the Nigerian Army a sacred obligation to change its status of a degenerated Army to a responsive, responsible and professional Army.

But the President needed a marksman for the job. Thus, came the appointment of Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai, as the Chief of Army Staff and leader of the Counter-insurgency operations in Nigeria.

The COAS was briefed by his Commander-In-Chief on the task at hand. But ab initio, Gen. Buratai was also aware that he needed a standard Nigerian Army to deploy as solution to the countless security challenges which were tormenting the nation.

Having carved a niche for himself as a professional soldier of enviable standing, Gen. Buratai, also a notable administrative guru, launched far-reaching reforms and innovations in the Nigerian Army. And he followed their implementation reverently and meticulously.

Within a short time, the Army began to recover its lost glory and trampled shadows. Today, and with every sense of pride, the narrative of the institution of the Nigerian Army has changed for the better.


Its reputation has soared incredibly. It is attested by the sustained successes of troops over Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorism in the Northeast; soldiers’ professional candour, discipline and adherence to the appropriate code of service loyalty anywhere they serve.

And as long as Gen. Buratai is on the saddle, he has maintained the tempo and is improving it with each passing day. One can assert with certainty, that so long as Gen. Buratai continues to remain on the saddle, the Nigerian Army will keep getting better and excelling in all tasks assigned to it, as it sails gradually to the destination of perfection.

A peep into Gen. Buratai’s leadership of the Nigerian Army shows a pleasing reversal of all the aforementioned odds and negativities, which demoralized, afflicted and hindered our soldiers from performing their professional duties. He has succeeded in insulating our soldiers from partisan politics.

Even when on Election Duty, soldiers remained apolitical and neutral in the exercise of their duties as recently confirmed by the Ebonyi state Governor, Chief David Umahi while assessing the Army’s participation in the 2019 general elections.

Salaries and allowances of troops are paid regularly and promptly; almost every Army Barrack in the country has undergone renovation; new offices have been built for the Army and old ones renovated; the reward system based on excellence has been restored and very active. Even on the battlefield, Gen. Buratai decorates soldiers who have displayed exceptional courage and gallantry in terrorism combats.


Soldiers need not to know Mr. President or have affinity with him to have their promotions effected and timely. All that is required of a soldier is his loyalty, dedication to duty and hard work to earn what he deserves.

Army Hospitals have been animated and stocked with drugs and other modern medical equipment for soldiers and their families. In -service training of soldiers is open to all indiscriminately and once a soldier qualifies or is due for refresher courses, he does not lobby anybody to get the approval.

New training institutions like the Nigerian Army Aviation School and the Nigerian Army University, Biu have been established under the leadership of Gen. Buratai.

Gen. Buratai has introduced multiple incentive packages for the Nigerian Army. These are initiatives that ginger performance enhancement for soldiers.

Interestingly, the Army Chief has repositioned the Nigerian Army in a manner that it has developed its internal capacity to contribute to the economic development agenda of the present political leadership of Nigeria under President Buhari.

Besides establishing new Army Divisions and Units, Gen. Buratai’s leadership has ventured into economic initiatives like the Nigeria Army Farm and Ranches; the Nigerian Army Post-Service Housing Development Limited; the Command Engineering Depot; the Nigerian Army Property Limited and the Nigerian Army Welfare Guarantee Limited among others.


These economic concerns are the first in the history of Nigerian Army and designed to serve both the Army and the Nigerian public.

Therefore, the arrival of President Buhari on the leadership podium of Nigeria and the right choice of Gen. Buratai as the COAS have been the saving grace of the Nigerian Army, which was fast sinking into oblivion. The duo have remained the best thing to have ever happened to the Nigerian Army.

Every soldier today looks at himself with pride and dignity. Troops no longer shirk at the warfront, but fight the enemies even at the cost of their lives. It is not controvertible that the Nigerian Army today stands as one of the best in Africa.

There is every optimism that it can still be the best in considering the various limitations in terms of technology. Nigerians believe it can be the overall in the world one day and Gen. Buratai can make it possible as evident in his determination to leave a legacy for the nation.

Tsav who was commissioner of police in Lagos and served at the Public Complaints Commission, Abuja wrote from Makurdi, Benue state.

There’s something ‘suspicious’ about Abule Ado explosion

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has called on the federal government to carry out a forensic investigation on the explosion that rocked Lagos on Sunday.

Scores were killed and more than 50 houses destroyed in the explosion. 

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had said the explosion happened when gas cylinders were hit by a truck in the area where NNPC has its pipelines.


But Akinbode Oluwafemi, ERA/FoEN deputy executive director, said the explosion could be likened to some military aerial bombardment and does not sound like pipeline explosion.

“There is something suspiciously different about this explosion. The scale of destruction is nothing like any of   the pipeline explosions we have monitored and documented for several decades,” the statement read.

“The Sunday incident’s scale of destruction could only be likened to military grade explosions or aerial bombardment. We can’t treat this casually as an accident caused by a truck.

“With the current security without conducting forensic investigation on this particular blast. Not even the accidental detonation of bombs at the Ikeja cantonment caused this scale of destruction and ruins. Government must conduct comprehensive investigation to establish if this was a crime or an accident.

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“And there are questions begging for answers: Who drove the truck? What is the truck doing on a pipeline on Sunday morning? Was the gas plant opened on a Sunday? Was the content of the truck weaponized? And for the NNPC that has admitted some level of culpability by confirming that the primary explosion came from its gas truck, it should immediately initiate the process of providing remediation for the affected families and businesses while its officials found to have through negligence orchestrated this massive destruction should be made to face the law.”

The group asked the federal government not to conclude that the incident was an accident, adding that the accounts of the NNPC on  the real cause of the blast is “unconvincing and raises some questions.”

Coronavirus and culture – a list of major events canceled


  • Disney postpones indefinitely release of MulanThe New Mutants and Antlers.
  • Steve Martin and Martin Short cancel shows in Dublin and London (13-15 March).
  • Record Store Day postponed until June.
  • BAM in New York cancels all live events and announces it will run its cinemas at 50% capacity.
  • BPM festival (Miami, 22 March) postponed, new dates TBA.
  • Under the Southern Stars Australia tour (3-19 April) cancelled.
  • Rage Against the Machine postpone North American tour (26 March to 20 May), new dates TBA.
  • Paris Opera cancels all performances of Manon until 3 April, George Balanchine until 10 April, the concert of MonteverdiRossi and Handel on 18 March, Don Giovanni from 21 March to 24 April.
  • Lifeboat (Catherine Wheels production) at East Linton Community Hall, Scotland, on 14 March cancelled.
  • London Irish Centre announces cancellation of St Patricks Day events.
  • Rathbones Folio prize ceremony cancelled, winner will be announced 23 March.
  • International Booker prize shortlist ceremony cancelled (was 2 April).
  • Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at Charing Cross Theatre postponed.


The release of Bond film No Time To Die was postponed from early April to late November. Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA

13 March: Belfast film festival (1-9 April) postponed until autumn.
13 March: Release of Rocks (10 April) postponed
13 March: Disney postpones indefinitely release of Mulan, The New Mutantsand Antlers.
12 March: Release of A Quiet Place 2 (20 March) cancelled indefinitelyFast 9postponed from May 2020 to April 2021.
12 March: Tribeca film festival (15-26 April) postponed.
12 March: Disney announces closure of Disneyland Paris and Disneyworld in US; Universal Studios theme park also announces closure.
12 March: WonderCon (10-12 April) cancelled.
12 March: The Lovebirds (3 April) cancelled. US release of Blue Story (20 March) cancelled.
12 March: Release of Sooryavanshi (27 March) postponed indefinitely.
11 March: Large-scale cinema closures in India, Poland, Lebanon and Kuwait
11 March: Miami film festival (6-15 March) cancelled mid-run.
11 March: All Italian cinemas closed.
10 March: UK release of A Secret Garden postponed from 3 April to 13 August.
10 March: Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway postponed from early April until 7 August.
10 March: Release of Polish slasher film W lesie dzis nie zasnie niktpostponed.
10 March: David Di Donatello Awards – Italy’s Oscars – postponed from 3April to 8 May
10 March: Prague international film festival (19-27 March) postponed until later in the year.
9 March: Beverly Hills film festival (1-5 April) postponed until further notice.
9 March: AFI’s lifetime achievement ceremony to honour Julie Andrewspostponed from April until the summer.
9 March: Beijing international film festival (April) postposed indefinitely.
8 March: All Italian cinemas closed.
8 March: Restrictions imposed on French cinemas to run at 50% capacity; some cinemas closed. 
6 March: SXSW festival (13-22 March) cancelled.
6 March: International Indian Film Academy Awards – Bollywood’s Oscars – postponed from 27 March.
4 March: Bond film No Time to Die postponed from early April to late November.
3 March: Red Sea international film festival (due to start 12 March) cancelled.
1 March: Most South Korean cinemas closed.
28 February: Disneyland Tokyo closed.
22 February: Iran closes most cinemas.
13 February: Hong Kong film festival (24 March to 6 April) cancelled.
31 January: Chinese film Enter the Fat Dragon cancels all cinema plans and debuts online.
24 January: China closes most of its 70,000 screens.
23 January: Chinese New Year releases of seven major titles cancelled.
22 January: Cinema release of Chinese blockbuster Lost in Russia cancelled; film is fast-tracked to streaming services.

Billie Eilish has postponed her North American tour. Photograph: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

13 March: Japanese Breakfast postpones March tour, new dates 16-21 June.
13 March: Shopping North American tour (13 March to 10 April) postponed, new dates TBA.
13 March: Davido suspends ‘A Good Time’ tour (April 11 in North America.)
13 March: Celine Dion postpones North American tour (24 March to 27 April), new dates TBA.
13 March: J Cole postpones Dreamville festival (4 April) to 29 August.
13 March: Radio 1’s Big Weekend (22-24 May) Dundee cancelled.
13 March: Jens Lekman cancels US tour (14 April to 21 May).
13 March: Record Store Day postponed until June.
13 March: BPM festival (Miami, 22 March) postponed, new dates TBA.
13 March: Under the Southern Stars Australia tour (3-19 April) cancelled.
13 March: Rage Against the Machine postpone North American tour (26 March to 20 May), new dates TBA.
12 March: Snowbombing festival (Mayrhofen, Austria, 13-18 April) cancelled.
12 March: Pixies postpone remaining Australian tour dates (12-17 March), new dates TBA.
12 March: Avril Lavigne cancels world tour (13 March to 24 May).
12 March: Bikini Kill cancel US and Canada tour (13-23 March), new dates TBA.
12 March: Underworld postpone Norway and Denmark dates (13-15 March), new dates TBA.
12 March: Big Ears festival (Knoxville, Tennessee, 26-29 March) cancelled.
12 March: Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony (Cleveland, Ohio, 2 May) postponed, new date TBA.
12 March: Juno awards (Saskatoon, 15 March) cancelled.
12 March: LOVR Benefit ft Chris Martin (Los Angeles, 21 March) postponed, new date TBA.
12 March: Bob Weir postpones US tour (13-25 March), new dates from 7 October.
12 March: C2C festival (London, Dublin and Glasgow, 13-15 March) postponed, new dates TBA.
12 March: Lollapalooza Brazil (Sao Paolo, 3-5 April) postponed, new dates TBA.
12 March: Tool postpone 16 March concert in West Valley City, Utah; remaining tour dates proceeding.
12 March: Dan + Shay postpone US arena tour, new dates from 30 July.
12 March: The Who postpone UK tour (16 March to 8 April), new dates TBA.
12 March: Iggy Pop reschedules French tour, new dates from 10 September.
12 March: Capital One JamFest (Atlanta, 5 April) cancelled.
12 March: Billie Eilish postpones North American tour (13-28 March), new dates TBA.
12 March: Chelsea Wolfe postpones European tour (13 March to 1 April), new dates TBA.
12 March: My Chemical Romance postpone Australia and Japan tour (20-29 March), new dates TBA.
12 March: Mumford and Sons Teenage Cancer Trust show (23 March) postponed, new date TBA.
12 March: Days of Summer Cruise festival (Miami) postponed to 1-15 July 2021.
12 March: Cher postpones US tour, new dates from 8 September.
12 March: Mount Eerie postpones North American tour (12-19 April), new dates TBA.
12 March: Bonnie “Prince” Billy cancels US tour (12-15 March).
12 March: Willie Nelson cancels Luck Reunion festival (19 March).
12 March: Best Coast postpones North American tour (14 March to 2 April), new dates TBA.
12 March: Pussy Riot postpone North American tour (13 March to 19 May), new dates TBA.
12 March: Blood Orange postpone North American tour (12-20 March), new dates TBA.
12 March: Wilco postpone certain US tour dates (18 March to 5 April).
12 March: TNGHT postpone European tour (16-22 March) to July, new dates TBA.
12 March: Maluma postpones European tour (13 March to 4 April), new dates TBA.
12 March: Action Bronson cancels US tour (25 March to 21 May).
12 March: Kenny Chesney postpones US tour (18 April to 28 May), new dates TBA.
12 March: Chris Stapleton postpones US tour (12-21 March), new dates TBA.
12 March: Blake Shelton postpones tour (12-21 March), new dates TBA.
12 March: Jay Som postpones UK and European tour (17 March to 8 April), new dates TBA.
11 March: Pearl Jam postpone first leg of North American tour (18 March to 19 April), new dates TBA.
11 March: Berlin club Berghain cancels all self-produced events until 20 April.
11 March: They Might Be Giants postpone US tour, new dates starting 8 September.
11 March: Poppy postpones European tour (13-30 March), new dates TBA.
11 March: Treeford Music festival (Boise, Idaho) postponed until 23-27 September.
11 March: Stagecoach festival (Indio, CA) postponed to 23-25 October.
10 March: World Tour Bushfire Relief Concert (Melbourne, 13 March) cancelled.
10 March: Zac Brown Band postpone US tour (12 March to 25 April).
10 March: Coachella festival (Indio, California) postponed to 9-11 October and 16-18 October.
10 March: Bans Off My Body benefit with Courtney Love and Melissa Auf Der Maur (New York City, 14 March) postponed, new date TBA.
9 March: Madonna cancels Paris dates (10-11 March).
9 March: Carlos Santana cancels European tour (14 March to 5 April).
9 March: Pearl Jam postpone North American tour (19 March to 19 April), new dates TBA.
7 March: SXSW festival cancelled (Austin, 13-22 March).
6 March: Ultra festival (Miami, 20-22 March) cancelled.
5 March: Tomorrowland Winter festival (Alpe d’Huez, France, 14-21 March) cancelled.
28 February: BTS cancel South Korea tour (11-19 April); US dates (from 4 May) still proceeding.
28 February: Green Day postpone East Asian tour (14-28 March).
13 February: Stormzy postpones Asian leg of world tour.

The London Philharmonic Orchestra has cancelled its tour of Luxembourg, Germany and Austria. Photograph: Antonio Zazueta Olmos/The Guardian

13 March: Paris Opera cancels the concert of MonteverdiRossi and Handelon 18 March, Don Giovanni from 21 March to 24 April.
12 March: London Philharmonic Orchestra cancels tour of Luxembourg, Germany and Austria (13-19 March).
12 March: Salzburg Easter festival cancelled.
12 March: LA Philharmonic cancels all performances until end of March.
12 March: New York Philharmonic cancels all performances until end of March.
12 March: Washington Ballet reschedules Swan Lake to June 2020.
12 March: Philadelphia Orchestra cancels all events and rehearsals until 23 March.
12 March: LA Opera cancels Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux.
12 March: Seattle Opera cancels all events until end March.
12 March: Metropolitan Opera cancels all performances and rehearsals until end of March.
12 March: André Rieu and Johann Strauss orchestra cancels remainder of US tour.
11 March: Yuja Wang cancels European tour.
11 March: Bavarian State Opera cancels all performances until 19 April.
11 March: San José Opera cancels The Magic Flute.
11 March: Lang Lang cancels Freiburg concert; new date TBA.
10 March: San Diego Opera cancels March performances.
10 March: Paris Philharmonic cancels March performances.
10 March: Cleveland Orchestra cancels European and Abu Dhabi tour (16 March to 4 April).
6 March: Edinburgh International Harp festival (3-8 April) cancelled.
28 February: Venice Teatro la Fenice cancels all events until 5 April.
28 February: Lausanne Chamber Orchestra cancels March concerts.
27 February: National Symphony Orchestra cancels Japan tour.

 Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella has been postponed. Photograph: Nigel French/PA

13 March: Jenna Friedman at Soho theatre (17-28 March) cancelled. To be rescheduled.
13 March: Melbourne comedy festival cancelled.
13 March: Odeon theatre in Paris cancels performances until further notice.
13 March: Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at Charing Cross Theatre. To be rescheduled.
13 March: Steve Martin and Martin Short cancel shows in Dublin and London (13-15 March).
13 March: Paris Opera cancels all performances of Manon until 3 April and George Balanchine until 10 April.
13 March: Lifeboat (Catherine Wheels production) at East Linton Community Hall, Scotland, on 14 March is cancelled.
12 March: Greek theatres closed until 28 March.
12 March: Larger theatres in Ireland including the Abbey and Gate in Dublinclosed until 29 March.
12 March: Broadway theatres closed until 12 April.
11 March: Berlin’s larger theatres, operas and concert halls including Schaubuhne and Volksbuhne closed until 19 April.
8 March: Italian theatres closed, including the Scala until 3 April.
6 March: Chester Storyhouse postpones Brewster’s Millions and Antigone. New dates not yet announced.
5 March: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cinderella postponed from September 2020 to 9 October, now at Gillian Lynne theatre, London.

13 March: Rathbones Folio prize ceremony cancelled, winner will be announced 23 March.
13 March: International Booker prize shortlist ceremony cancelled (was 2 April).
12 March: Jenny Offill’s UK book tour for Weather, scheduled 12-19 March, cancelled.
11 March: John F Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Bostonclosed until further notice.
11 March: rescheduled Bologna Children’s Book Fair cancelled.
10 March: Windham-Campbell prize ceremony, scheduled for 19 March in London, cancelled.
10 March: Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, scheduled for April, postponed to October.
4 March: Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, scheduled for 15-21 April, cancelled.
4 March: London Book Fair, scheduled for 10-12 March, cancelled.
3 March: Leipzig’s book fair, scheduled for 12-15 March, cancelled.
1 March: Paris Book Fair, scheduled for 20-23 March, cancelled.
24 February: Bologna Children’s Book Fair, scheduled for 30 March to 2 April, postponed until May.

13 March: San Francisco shuts the Asian Art Museum, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) until the end of the month.
13 March: Sadie Coles makes London galleries appointment-only until further notice.
13 March: BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels closes until 3April.
12 March: All major New York museums including the Whitneythe MetropolitanSculptureCenterNeue Museum, GuggenheimBrooklyn Museumthe Shed, the Frick and MoMA close to the general public until further notice. 
12 March: Gagosian closes all its galleries including London, New York, Los Angeles and Rome until further notice. Most private galleries also announce closure.
12 March: The Broad and J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles announces closure until further notice; LACMA stays open but cancels public events of more than 50 people.
12 March: National Gallery of Art, Washington DC closed until at least 4 April.
12 March: Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam closed until at least 31 March.
12 March: All cultural institutions (including theatres and nightclubs) closed in Berlin, Germany until at least 20 April.
12 March: Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin closes until at least 29 March.
11 March: In Madrid, Spain, government-run museums including the Pradoare closed indefinitely.
11 March: La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona limits visitors to 1,000 people.
10 March: Dark Mofo music and art festival in Tasmania, Australia, cancelled.
9 March: In Paris, the Louvre announces that only visitors with pre-booked tickets will be admitted. Musee d’Orsay caps visitors at 1,000.
9 March: The Photography Show, Birmingham moved from March 14–17 to September.
8 March: Museums and heritage sites closed throughout Italy.
4 March: Venice architecture biennale postponed, due to open 29 August.
28 February: Japan closes all museums until 17 March.
23 February: South Korea closes all museums until further notice.
26 February: Milan Furniture Fair postponed until June.
28 January: All museums in Hong Kong closed until further notice.
23 January: Museums closed throughout China.

Africa’s policies hold key to LGBT rights on the continent: here’s how

An activist poses for the camera outside Botswana High Court which ruled in favour of decriminalising homosexuality in June 2019.
Tshekiso Tebalo/AFP via Getty Images

By Boniface Ushie, African Population and Health Research Center; Chimaraoke Izugbara, University of the Witwatersrand, and Frederick Wekesah, African Population and Health Research Center

Questions of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression have continued to divide opinion across the globe. This is primarily driven by legal, cultural and religious beliefs and interpretations.

In Africa, colonial-heritage laws have been applied to proscribe and criminalise same-sex relationships, behaviours and expressions. These laws stipulate penalties for same-sex relationships ranging from 10 years to life imprisonment and the death penalty.

Some countries, including Uganda, Nigeria and Togo, have passed these kinds of punitive laws. Others, like South Africa, have reviewed their constitutions to permit homosexuality.

Mainstream public sentiment remains largely anti-homosexual and overshadows constitutionally guaranteed rights in Africa. This is to blame for several instances of civil harassment, killing and mistreatment of people who identify as or are suspected to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), among other varieties of sexual and gender minorities.


Yet African governments have signed onto regional commitments and agreements to guarantee the human rights and inclusion of all people. One of the most important legal instruments is the “The African Charter”, which was adopted in 1981 and ratified by all African countries except Sudan. The Charter grants rights to everyone without exception, with its Article 2 stating that

every individual shall be entitled to the rights and freedoms recognised and guaranteed in the Charter without distinction of any kind.

In Article 4, the Charter asserts that

every human being shall be entitled to respect for his life and the integrity of his person. No one may be arbitrarily deprived of this right.

As we concluded in our recent paper, regional policy documents such as this offer African countries that don’t protect LGBT rights the basis to draft domestic legislation as the first step to protection to all.

Ambitious aspirations

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights is charged with ensuring that African Union member states protect the rights of all. The Commission has several instruments that set out to ensure this happens. Frameworks include key terms such as “all” and “everyone”, among others, and reflect the commitment to “leaving no one behind” as espoused in the Sustainable Development Agendas.

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Some of the frameworks this principle is enshrined in include: Agenda 2063: the Africa we want; the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights; the Common African Position Post 2015 Development Agenda; and the Africa Charter on Democracy.

Even in the face of conservatism, these frameworks set out ambitious aspirations of inclusion that, if read with the liberal intentions of the drafters, highlight the rights of LGBT members of society. They lay the foundation for reasonable social action and progress because they advocate for inclusion in economic opportunities, justice, equality, repudiation of discrimination, and freedom from arbitrary and unjust treatment. They therefore envisage that all members of society should enjoy this wide array of freedoms.

Notwithstanding the broad and liberal tones of these instruments, they fail to clearly and explicitly mention or recognise LGBT people as a minority group that deserves protection. Not mentioning LGBT people, unlike women, girls, the disabled, people living with HIV, youths, etc., leaves ample room for the discrimination of this group and their continued maltreatment.


But national governments need to step up to the plate. Those that don’t protect LGBT rights must put these guarantees into their domestic laws. They must also then show a commitment to interpreting existing supportive regional instruments broadly and in sweeping terms. A narrow interpretation of the regional policy documents runs the risk of excluding LGBT communities because they aren’t explicitly named in the frameworks.

Practical changes

State policies, laws and public attitudes have subjected LGBT individuals to exclusion, discrimination and fear. They are daily targets of threats; they face sexual harassment and are prosecuted and persecuted. They are also denied sexual and reproductive health care and are seldom protected by state laws and security apparatuses.

In a number of African countries, several legal guarantees sought by LGBT individuals and groups have been adjudicated on the basis of the African Charter. These include the case of Attorney General of Botswana v. Thuto Rammoge and 19 others. The High Court of Botswana in 2019 ruled that private consensual sex between adults of the same sex is no longer criminal.

Another case came before the Appeal Court in Kenya in 2018. The court ruled against forced anal examinations for gay persons, citing Article 5 of the Charter.


There have also been favourable rulings for LGBT people using the African Charter in Zimbabwe and Namibia.

These rulings also provide the basis for countries developing and implementing policies and programmes that protect LGBT people.

The AU also needs to strengthen the commission’s monitoring mechanisms.


In countries with homophobic laws, the next level of engagement is to translate constitutional and policy stipulations into practical changes for LGBT people to protect them from public and summary punishment by mobs, among others. Countries with constitutional protection for LGBT people must also ensure that the guarantees actually translate to protection in practice.

Boniface Ushie, Associate Research Scientist, African Population and Health Research Center; Chimaraoke Izugbara, Professor-at-large, School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand, and Frederick Wekesah, Research Officer and PhD candidate, African Population and Health Research Center

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Why a rise in court cases is bad for Nigeria’s democracy

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari at a campaign rally ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Stefan Heunis/AFP via Getty Images

By Ini Dele-Adedeji, University of Bristol

One year after the 2019 general elections in Nigeria, courts are still busy deciding who the winners were in dozens of them.

One of the most recent cases was in Bayelsa State . The candidate of the All Progressives Congress was initially thought to have won the election. But, he was sacked by the Supreme Court 24 hours before his swearing-in ceremony because, the court found, his running mate had presented fake documents and was therefore disqualified. You can’t be a candidate without a qualified running mate.

There is also a case in Imo State. There, the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party was sworn into office like others on 29 May 2019. But he was removed by the Supreme Court following a dispute over the electoral result. In its ruling, the court declared the candidate of the All Progressives Congress the winner. He’d come fourth at the polls.

Looking at the rate at which courts, rather than the electorate, end up determining actual winners of the polls, is the credibility of the Nigerian elections at stake?

I believe the answer is yes.


The power to determine who is elected into political office ought to be decided by voters. Judicial recourse is perfectly allowed and is preferable to extra-judicial measures to redress perceived electoral slights. But this should be an exceptional option taken to rectify an electoral impropriety of some sort.

But, it’s not the exception in Nigeria. The Independent National Electoral Commission recently announced that it had so far withdrawn 64 certificates of return –documents issued to election winners – and reissued them to people declared winners by courts of law following the 2019 general elections. The election saw 1,031 candidates contested for presidential, governorship, national assembly and state houses of assembly seats.

The reality is that there’s merit to a large majority of the cases brought before the law courts seeking electoral redress. This is because electoral malpractice has become part of Nigeria’s electoral culture. These malpractices take place before, during and after elections. Some of the most common examples include multiple thumb-printing, falsification of result sheets, fake ballot papers, manipulation of voter registration and the use of violence to disrupt voting.

The history

There is precedence for the Nigerian courts acting as a last resort in cases of electoral result disputes. Arguably the most monumental episode was the case between the late Obafemi Awolowo and late Shehu Shagari following the 1979 presidential election.

Awolowo, a Nigerian nationalist and statesman who played a key role in the country’s independence movement, was a presidential candidate of the Unity Party of Nigeria in that year’s poll. Shagari, was a presidential candidate of the National Party of Nigeria. Shagari won, emerging as Nigeria’s first democratically elected president.


But Awolowo contested Shagari’s victory on the grounds that it had not satisfied the requirement in the electoral decree of the time that the winner had to secure one quarter of the votes cast in two thirds of all the states of the federation.

The election tribunal dismissed Awolowo’s claim and the case came before the Supreme Court. The judges also ruled in favour of Shagari except for the dissenting judgment of Justice Kayode Eso.

The current situation is different because of the rate at which election results are being annulled. This means that the courts are essentially determining the winners.

It unnecessarily places the courts and judges under the spotlight and the attendant pressure that comes with it, since it shifts the role of the judiciary from being an umpire to an arbiter.

Courts have upturned several electoral victories since after the 2019 polls.
Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP via Getty Images

Weaknesses in the system

Nigeria has a strong Electoral Act. It has been amended a few times over the years and it is not different from the electoral constitutions being used in other democratic climes.

But the law can only go so far. The bigger problem is an absence of strong democratic institutions to support it. The strengthening of democratic institutions, I would argue, would result in an increase in free and fair elections.

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In particular the electoral commission and the police force need to be strengthened. The police are usually left out during elections. Instead of being trained and given the wherewithal to assist electoral commission officials in safeguarding voters, electoral officials and ballot centres, the army is usually deployed during elections. This puts the police and army at cross purposes. It also increases the possibility of violence ensuing.

Another problem is the Independent National Electoral Commission. The root of a lot of the election-related cases brought before the courts can be traced to its limited ability to anticipate and address known recurring election-related problems. Examples include it’s inability to secure ballot boxes and tally votes in a timely fashion.

These things could be achieved if the commission was strengthened by the executive and given the statutory, logistical, financial support, and independence it requires.

Voters are often left with a shorter end of the stick.
Adekunle Ajayi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Who benefits?

Politicians – and those close to them – are the only ones to benefit from the current state of affairs. The Nigerian voting public will always come off worse. This is because voters are likely to become apathetic about voting if they feel that their vote doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Low voter turnout is an indictment of the electoral process.

In addition, the argument over whether the courts are partial or impartial is a moot one. The fact remains that appointments to positions in almost every aspect of Nigeria’s public sector are politically influenced. Nigerians are, therefore, right to question the partiality – or otherwise – of the courts.


The current trend also has the potential to embolden politicians to forego the polls and instead try to “win” elections by influencing the judiciary in underhand ways.

Making a habit of by-passing elections as a means of determining elected officials due to electoral irregularities, and forcing the judiciary to constantly have to annul elections doesn’t bode well for Nigeria’s fledgling democracy.

Ini Dele-Adedeji, Research Associate, University of Bristol

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Nigeria: why having fewer political parties isn’t enough

Electoral commission officers count votes after the polls were closed during the 2019 General elections. Luis Tato/AFP via Getty Images

By Olayinka Ajala, University of York

During the last general elections Nigeria in 2019, about 28 million of the 84 million registered voters filed out to elect the president, vice president and members of the national assembly.

In addition to security concerns in some areas, allegations of rigging and the generally tense atmosphere in several states, the other major issue that bogged the electoral process was voters’ complaints about the long ballot paper which had to accommodate 73 presidential aspirants. And there were 91 political parties presenting candidates at the national, state and local government elections on the ballot.


Voters complained about how difficult it was to locate their preferred choice because ballot papers carried the names and logos of all the political parties, some with similar acronyms. Some voters also noted that they spent a long time voting, sometimes resulting in mistakes and eventually invalid votes.

Since the election a year ago, there has been a growing clamour for reform. In response, the Independent National Electoral Commission recently announced the de-registration of 74 out of the 92 registered political parties in the country. The electoral umpire based its decision on the provision of the 1999 Nigerian constitution as amended in 2018, which, it says, empowers it to de-register political parties.

This suggests that reducing the number of parties is an important step in streamlining Nigeria’s electoral system. But the actions of the electoral commission might not be enough to solve some deeper systemic issues facing the country’s electoral processes which result in the abuse of the system.

Electoral commission officers and voters discuss while votes are counted.
Luis Tato/AFP via Getty Images

The drivers

Since the country returned to democracy in 1999, floating a political party is sometimes viewed as a “business venture”. This is for two main reasons.

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First, the Independent National Electoral Commission provides funding to political parties. Section 228c of the Nigerian constitution allows for the disbursement of annual grants to political parties to assist them in discharging their functions.

For instance, ahead of the 2003 general elections, the electoral commission disbursed N420 million to seven political parties including the People’s Democratic Party at an average of N60 million per party.

Problem is, the money is often difficult to account for. This is in spite of the fact that the electoral commission is expected to audit the account of registered political parties.

Second, nobody can stand in an election in Nigeria unless they’re attached to a political party. What this means is that parties sell nomination forms to any candidate who wants to contest under their banner. This system has led to a situation in which application forms to contest electoral positions are believed to be one of the most expensive in the world. Some parties charge more than N25 million ($69,000) for the purchase of presidential nomination forms. This encourages corruption as would-be politicians try and rustle up the money.

Different schools of thoughts

There isn’t unanimity among Nigerians about the problem. Opinions about the number of political parties are often split along at least three main lines.


The first group argues that the number of political parties in the country is an indication of the strength of its democracy. The basis of this argument is that more political parties result in more participation.

A second group believes that many parties are formed only for personal aggrandisement and not in the interest of the electorate. They don’t believe they’re electable and are quick to form alliances to support larger parties. This is usually done closer to elections and often after personal benefits in form of cash rewards or promise of political patronage have been promised.

A third group argues that some of the political parties are too small to have any national significance or the resources to reach out to over 200 million Nigerians. This argument has it that they should either merge with other parties or be deregistered. The electoral umpire falls under this category.

The electoral act sets down certain conditions under which parties can be deregistered. It was on the basis of these that the electoral commission deregistered 74 political parties. Its chairman argued that most of them could not garner up to 20,000 votes in the last presidential elections and, thereby, fell short of the electoral Act. The decision has been challenged in court by some of the affected parties.

Lastly, there is the issue of voter apathy. Millions of Nigerians stayed away from the polls in the last election.

A presiding officer counts ballots after voting ended at a polling station in Kano.
Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP via Getty Images

What to do

A survey of Nigerians showed that voters were pleased with the step taken by the electoral commission. But not everybody was happy. Some, including party leaders, kicked back against the action stating that it posed a threat to the country’s democracy.

The bigger question is whether the commission’s decision will solve the abuse of the country’s electoral system. I believe not. This is because the criteria for the registration of political parties remain loose and there are over 100 pending applications. The criteria for the registration of political parties must be clarified and tightened to prevent politicians from continuing to use political parties for their personal gain.

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In addition, the electoral commission needs to address three key issues. First, it must stop the payment of annual grants to political parties. This would allow parties to find sustainable means of funding themselves. One avenue could be through party membership contributions.

Second, the commission must put a cap on the prices of nomination forms for electoral positions.


Third, there is a need to criminalise the “cash for stepping down” practice, whereby larger parties induce smaller ones with cash incentives and political patronage during the election cycle.

Deregistering political parties will only lead to registration of new parties by the same people if these key issues are not addressed.

Olayinka Ajala, Associate Lecturer and Conflict Analyst, University of York

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Juliet wins six prizes at WhatsOnStage awards

Pop-meets-Shakespeare show split critics but wins big at awards voted on by public.

Miriam-Teak Lee, centre, the show’s Juliet, won best actress in a musical. Photograph: Ken McKay/ITV/Rex/Shutterstock

A musical which one theatre critic hated, calling it “silly, misguided and idiotic”, and another loved as “fun, sharp and witty” has emerged as the big winner at the only major theatre awards voted on by the public.

The show & Juliet imagines Shakespeare being persuaded by his wife, Anne Hathaway, to change the ending of Romeo and Juliet.

Instead of the downer of death it becomes a cheery story of female empowerment as Juliet goes on a wild trip to Paris with her girlfriends, to the backdrop of pop songs by the Swedish super-producer Max Martin which include Britney Spears’ Oops! … I Did it Again and Kesha’s Blow.

It divided critics. In the Guardian, Michael Billington called it silly and idiotic. “I still fail to see the point of a show like this: if the audience want to hear just the songs, why not present them in concert form?” Gregory Robinson, in the Observer, praised it for packing “a lot of fun into its sharp, witty story of self-discovery”.


On Sunday, the show won six prizes at the 20th annual WhatsOnStage awards. Among them were the show’s Juliet, Miriam-Teak Lee, who won best actress in a musical.

The show won the most awards at the ceremony, which was held at the Prince of Wales theatre in London on Sunday night and broadcast, for the first time, on BBC Radio 2. But it missed out on the best new musical prize. That went to Come From Away, which tells the true story of planes from across the globe being grounded in a tiny Newfoundland community because of the September 11 terror attacks. It won five awards in total.

The Old Vic picked up three acting awards, with Claire Foy winning best actress in a play for Lungs, Andrew Scott winning best actor and Sophie Thompson winning best supporting actress, both for Present Laughter.


Dear Evan Hansen, which was last week praised by Prince William for the way it tackles mental health issues, won two awards: best actor in a musical for Sam Tutty and best supporting actor for Jack Loxton.

Jamie Lloyd won best director for Evita at Regent’s Park Open Air theatre and best play revival for Betrayal, the culmination of his wildly ambitious Harold Pinter season.

The best new play award went, for the first time, to a production not in London: Lolita Chakrabarti’s adaptation of Yann Martel’s Booker prize-winning book The Life of Pi, which was staged at the Sheffield Crucible. It will transfer to the West End this year.

The Equity award for services to theatre was presented to ERA 50:50, which campaigns for gender balance on stage and screen. Maureen Beattie, the president of Equity, presented the award to the actor Denise Gough.

The inaugural Radio 2 audience award for best musical, voted on by listeners, went to Six the Musical.


Sita McIntosh, the chief operating officer of WhatsOnStage, thanked audiences who had voted in their tens of thousands. “Their support and championing of shows is what keeps our industry alive.”

The Life of Pi win was a significant moment, she said. “It’s galvanising to see that a play that has never been staged in London has picked up the best new play award, showing how the WhatsOnStage awards really are decided by audiences across the nation.”

Should Nigeria release Boko Haram suspects?

Military commanders inspect arms and ammunitions recovered from Boko Haram jihadists.
Audu Marte/AFP via Getty Images

By Jideofor Adibe, Nasarawa State University, Keffi

The Nigerian government recently announced that it had released about 1,400 Boko Haram suspects. The reason given was they had repented and were to be re-integrated into society. The government said the releases – which happened in three tranches – were part of its four-year old de-radicalisation programme called Operation Safe Corridor.

The announcement generated a lot of angst. Opposition leaders attacked the decision, as did soldiers fighting the terrorists.

These reactions mask a fundamental challenge facing governments in conflict situations: how does it deal with defectors? Simply executing combatants, or detaining them indefinitely, aren’t viable options. De-radicalisation and re-integration programmes therefore become unavoidable.


As several commentators on the Boko Haram conflict have repeatedly maintained, such as the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a purely military solution won’t defeat the group.

Generally ‘de-radicalisation’ is understood to involve having people with extreme and violent religious or political ideologies adopt more moderate and non-violent views. The approach is predicated on the assumption that terrorists, and others with extremist views, can be engaged in a way that can reduce their risk of re-offending.

But there are a number of questions that ‘de-radicalisation’ and ‘re-integration’ programmes raise. These include: is it possible to screen the combatants well enough to measure what level of threat they pose? This is a problem in a country like Nigeria where the basis of selecting those who are being released isn’t transparent. For example, there are allegations that criminal elements in the military have colluded with Boko Haram to secure the release of unrepentant terrorists.

Soldiers inspect a damaged Armoured Personnel Carrier recovered from Boko Haram jihadists.
Audu Marte/AFP via Getty Images

And is it fair to rehabilitate the combatants without also rehabilitating their victims?

Most countries faced with violent extremism and terrorism have adopted one form or another of de-radicalisation programmes. Whether they have worked or not is hard to judge because assessments are very often made by people responsible for the programmes. But one thing is clear: governments don’t have many viable alternatives.

Nigeria’s programmes

Nigeria has three main de-radicalisation programmes. One is located in Kuje prison, Abuja, and was set up by the Nigerian government in 2014. Participants are combatants convicted of violent extremist offences and inmates awaiting trial. The aim of the programme is to combat religious ideology and offer vocational training as a prelude to re-integrating them into communities.

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There is also the Yellow Ribbon Initiative which is located in communities in Borno State, in the epicentre of the Boko Haram insurgency in the north of the country. This is organised by a not for profit organisation, the Neem Foundation. It was set up in 2017 and targets women, children and young people associated with Boko Haram.

The third is Operation Safe Corridor, which was set up in 2016 by the government. It targets Boko Haram combatants who have surrendered. This approach targets three key issues: religious ideology, structural or political grievances and post-conflict trauma.

The project engages Imams to work with those in the programme on religion. Participants are also offered training in rudimentary vocational skills. And they are offered therapy to overcome the trauma they faced as members of Boko Haram.


Experiences elsewhere

A wide range of countries have introduced de-radicalisation programmes.

In Africa, the four Lake Chad basin countries – Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad – have their own versions. In Somalia, the Serendi Rehabilitation Centre in Mogadishu offers support to ‘low-risk’ former members of Al-Shabaab.

In Northern Ireland, the Early Release Scheme ensured the conditional release of convicted terrorists under the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. It was deemed essential to sustaining the country’s peace process.

In Colombia, former guerrillas who fought for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia were invited to join a peace building programme called the ‘collective reincorporation’.

Do they work?

There is no consensus on what constitutes success in reforming a terrorist.

There is, however, general acceptance that a narrow focus on recidivism as the key metric has been discredited. This is because the reasons for peoples’ behaviour isn’t always understood. For example, re-offending could well have been stimulated by new impulses after release. On the other hand, not re-offending does not necessarily mean the person has abandoned extremist views.


There is also confusion about whether any kind of rehabilitation is necessarily brought about by the de-radicalisation programme. For example, it could be more about the desire for freedom, or to access some benefits that go with a rehabilitation programme.

Measuring success isn’t easy. Official information is likely to be biased as the state and groups running programmes are wont to paint a rosy picture to justify the expenditure.

Inmates walk in a line after they were handed over to state officials for rehabilitation.
Audu Marte/AFP via Getty Images

Additionally, whether a de-radicalisation programme is deemed successful or not may be subjective depending on what metrics are used. A good example is the research done for the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change. It praised Nigeria’s Operation Safe Corridor to the high heavens, arguing that it was a model of rehabilitation for Africa as well as the Western world. Yet a report for the Carnegie Foundation was very critical of the programme on several grounds. This included a lack of clarity on eligibility and as well as how former combatants would be re-integrated into civilian life.

Not many options

The question often not asked about de-radicalisation programmes is: what’s the alternative?

Framed this way, it’s obvious that governments facing challenges of terrorism and violent extremism have virtually no other alternative.

But that shouldn’t stop criticism of the way in which programmes are run. The Nigerian government’s release of 1,400 former Boko Haram fighters is a case in point. It was handled badly, not least because the public was told after the event.


The timing was also inauspicious. There is currently a resurgence of attacks by the terrorist group. At the same time President Muhammadu Buhari’s government is facing a declining sense of legitimacy . These factors helped harden attitudes and drove the push-back from Nigerians.

Jideofor Adibe, Professor of International Relations and Political Science, Nasarawa State University, Keffi

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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How radio is giving voice to the people in Ghana

Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images

By Jacob Nyarko, University of Cape Coast

The roots of broadcasting in Ghana – particularly radio – are traced to its former colonial power under Sir Arnold Hodson who was British governor of the Gold Coast in 1935. The short-term objective was to enable the crown to communicate with its subjects in the colonies and to spread propaganda.

But, over time, radio served a wider and more significant role. By the 1940s it had earned the accolade of being regarded as ‘theatre of the mind’ because of the music, drama and news broadcasts it offered.

The transition to a post-colonial environment wasn’t easy. Like print, the new government inherited the assets of the colonial media, as well as its liabilities, which included control mechanisms to constrain their operations.

As a country that has had more military than civilian administrations, the major challenge to the growth of radio in Ghana has been political.


For a start, radio is the quickest medium through which ‘coup-makers’ can announce that they have seized power, and successive administrations have monopolised the airwaves. Even after the 1992 Constitution enforced privatisation of the airwaves, the ruling Peoples National Defence Council couldn’t give up control. The shutting of Radio Eye in Accra circa 1994 was a case in point.

More recently, some radio stations were shut down because their licenses had expired under new rules introduced in 2017 . This triggered an angry response as some people believed the shut-downs were political. Most of the affected stations were affiliated to the main opposition party, the National Democratic Congress.


The growth of the sector has also been hampered by poor infrastructure. For instance, frequent power outages, called dumso in the Akan parlance, have threatened operations. A lack of money has also led to some engaging the services of laymen as journalists, which has led to many radio stations becoming increasingly unprofessional.

Despite these challenges, there has been a steady rise in radio production in Ghana over the past 20 years. It is the most consumed medium in the country, with a penetration rate of about 90%. According to the National Communications Authority, in 2018 Ghana had: 31 public radio stations; five foreign radio stations; 71 community radio stations; 22 campus radio stations, and 358 commercial radio stations.

This illustrates the growing democratisation of Ghana’s airwaves, where private radio has outstripped state-owned radio. With the ongoing transformation from analogue to digital terrestrial transmission, radio in Ghana is expected to become even more vibrant.

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Reach and impact

Radio continues to have an immense impact on Ghanaian society.

Firstly, its reach has improved the dissemination of information on matters of national interest, especially in an emergency. Radio has been used to deliver messages to the public in mass registration campaigns and health education around HIV, Ebola, polio, malaria and, most recently, coronavirus.

Secondly, radio has boosted the private sector. Three-quarters of radio stations in Ghana are commercial operations.

Thirdly, radio production has offered employment opportunities. And stations pay taxes.

Fourthly, radio has enhanced pluralism through the use of a multiplicity of languages. These include Ga, Hausa, Twi, Dagbani, Nzema and Fanti. Radio stations also facilitate diverse viewpoints being made, and, unlike other media – such as print and television – is able both rural and urban listeners are reached.

All these factors make it an important medium in the political terrain.


Integrated approach

The relevance of radio in Ghana cannot be underestimated amid the advent of social media. A 2018 report by Afrobarometer showed that 56% of those interviewed in the survey listened to radio, 42% watched television, 13% had access to the internet and 15% to social media.

This pattern of consumption calls for the need for integrated strategies. Almost all radio stations own websites and have links to social media platforms enabling them to stream live online. This has ensured a two-way discourse through phone-ins and online postings.

With this convergence, the question of which medium is used to source news hinges on affordability for the consumer. With a smartphone and bundled data, users can also access social media.

But there are dangers. Social media is besieged with the fake news epidemic which defeats the purpose of professional journalism.

Writing on fake news, Ghanaian blogger and social media entrepreneur Ameyaw Debrah notes :

Fake news is very much a problem in Ghana. The challenge is that I don’t want it to get to a point where people no longer believe what they’re reading or seeing online. People are already tending to describe news in the digital space as fake, and are reluctant to engage with it.

In comparison, radio is deemed more credible due to its meticulous gatekeeping procedures coupled with the ease of identifying the source of a story – both the station and the reporter.

In addition, both public and private radio have provided the information needs of people, especially during elections. In particular, private radio has been an alternate voice and contributed immensely to the vibrancy of Ghana’s airwaves.


But it’s not all plain sailing. According to Mamolise Martha Falatsa , a Public Relations Officer of the Department of Teaching Service in Lesotho, a major drawback is that

most radio stations, both government and privately owned, are controlled by politicians who use them as mouthpieces for advancing their political agendas.

Another concern is that the syndication of content tends to defeat the concept of community radio because material from mainly major cities is imposed on smaller communities.

Nevertheless, radio has overall served Ghana well.

Jacob Nyarko, Lecturer of Communication Studies, University of Cape Coast

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Why is China’s approach to peace in Africa is different?

Chinese soldiers and police serve in eight UN peace missions in Africa.

By Steven C Y Kuo, University of Pretoria

China has steadily increased its participation in United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations in Africa since its first mission in 1989, when the UN monitored the independence of Namibia from South Africa. Its funding and personnel have both grown.

In 2019 China contributed $7 billion to UN peacekeeping, which accounted for 15.22% of the global peacekeeping budget. This was up from 10.28% in 2018 and makes it the second largest financial contributor after the US. Of the 14 current UN peacekeeping missions, seven are in Africa, which absorbs about two thirds of the budget.

China has 2,458 military and police personnel serving in eight missions around the globe. This is far more than the combined contribution of personnel by the other four permanent members on the UN Security Council – Russia, the US, France and Britain.

Since 1989, over 40,000 Chinese peacekeepers have served on 24 UN missions, mainly in Africa.

In my book, Chinese Peace: From Peacekeeper to Peacemaker, I argue that a Chinese model of participating in peacekeeping, peace-building and peacemaking differs fundamentally from that of Western nations.


Whereas the “liberal peace” model draws on Western experiences of democracy and free-market economic policies, the Chinese model draws from traditional Chinese political philosophy and its domestic developmental experiences of the past 40 years.

Chinese model

What then is the China model for peace in Africa? How does Beijing understand African insecurity and how ought African countries to engage with Beijing?

Since China joined the UN in 1971 (displacing Taiwan), it has adopted a multilateral and non-confrontational approach. As a permanent member on the UN Security Council, it has won respect from African countries for championing issues of the South. For example, former South African president Thabo Mbeki called on China and Russia to veto Western sponsored UN sanctions on Zimbabwe in 1998.

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The Chinese peace model prioritises societal stability and economic development over political reforms and individual rights. The recipe for economic growth is for the government to kickstart it by revitalising infrastructure.

The model rests on three pillars:

  • Respect for sovereignty: noninterference in internal affairs of other nations is the foundation of Chinese foreign policy, and can be seen in all official documents. There are two primary reasons for this.

First, China suffered Western and Japanese invasions in the 19th and 20th centuries. It also had treaty ports imposed on it, such as Shanghai and Hong Kong. China still sees the colonial invasions and loss of territory as the “century of humiliation”.

Second, Beijing is sensitive to outside interference in its internal affairs, especially in its peripheries such as Xinjiang, Tibet and Taiwan. It guards against peacekeeping becoming a tool for regime change.

  • Political stability and guojia liyi (national interest) supersede individual and group interests. Political stability is central to China’s own “reform and opening up” – the course Deng Xiaoping set for China after Communist Mao Zedong’s death in September 1976.

There have been significant economic reforms in China over the past 40 years, but no fundamental political reforms.

  • State-directed infrastructure economic development. Chinese participation in the UN mission in Liberia , a large scale comprehensive peace-building mission that started in 2003, best depicts the Chinese model. The mission’s poverty reduction strategy is the blueprint for the post-conflict reconstruction of Liberia.

The blueprint has four parts: infrastructure rehabilitation; economic revitalisation; peace and security; and strengthening governance and the rule of law. China helped fund the infrastructure and economic revitalisation part of the strategy, but not its rule of law projects.

While Western discourse criticises China for disregarding human rights, China points to its poverty alleviation record. It argues that improving the welfare of the majority is more important than protecting the civil liberties of minorities. And, whereas the West hails elections as a sign of progress, China highlights the violence and the policy discontinuity that often accompany them.

Philosophical considerations

There are two fundamental issues that Beijing needs to address when it engages in peace missions in Africa. The first is that it does not have a tradition of peace and conflict studies, and its intelligence comes mostly from its embassies and news agencies.

This means it doesn’t fully understand the internal dynamics of African countries, and its views are skewed towards favouring incumbent African governments, irrespective of their track records. It has sometimes aligned itself with despotic leaders on the continent.

Secondly, whereas the West is guided by human rights, democracy and Christian values in its approach to peace operations in Africa, China is at a loss, relying simply on adopting a pragmatic approach. But pragmatism may not be enough going forward as Africa looks to China to provide leadership in development, peace and security.


There is vibrant debate among Chinese scholars about the alternative values China brings in its conduct of world affairs. My notion of the three pillars is only a small piece of the puzzle.

Chinese academics Yaqing Qin and Xuetong Yan are the two most prominent figures in Chinese international relations theory. Both draw on Confucianism, an indigenous Chinese philosophical system that emphasises social harmony. Qin argues that societal harmony is the goal of a government, and this is achieved when members of a polity have the correct reciprocal relationships. Yan draws on the concept of Ren (benevolence), where it is the leaders’ duty to care for their people.

Alternative view

China’s infrastructure-led approach offers an alternative to the mainstream Western model for development and peace in Africa.

France is reviewing its relationships with African countries and the US has arguably lost its dominant position in Africa.

This paves the way for China to play an even more prominent role in African peace and security.

Steven C Y Kuo, Research Associate, University of Pretoria

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Art is struggling to depict pregnancy

From the Virgin Mary to Demi Moore, art history swells with iconic mums-to-be. But can a single image ever do justice to such a head-scrambling state of flux – especially one made by a man?

‘How brilliant to paint yourself changing’ … Chantal Joffe’s 2004 self-portrait Photograph: © Chantal Joffe Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London/ Venice

Pregnant. A single word has to capture so many states. There’s early pregnancy, with its peculiar secret knowledge of change. The nausea, the exhaustion, the understanding that multiplying cells are forming themselves into the shape of lentils, hazelnuts, plums; the fear (or hope) of miscarriage; the strange, triumphant certainty of the heartbeat, beamed into the consulting room – that first call from a creature who is telling you that in eight, seven, six months, it will be there to claim you, your child. And all the while, your body appears unchanged. Historically, many women didn’t even know they were pregnant at this stage.


Then, months later, there’s the weight, pushing down hard against your back, your ribs, your bladder. There are the kicks – charming flutters that become more insistent, reminding you that this will become a child with needs, a child whose shouts of “Mummy” will become impossible to ignore, rousing you to provide food, help or the finding of lost things. And all along, the changes are not month by month, not even week by week, but hour by hour. Why is it that at one moment a foot protruding outwards can bring a contented feeling of companionability but an hour later can feel more like an invading alien – stealing your iron, your nutrients, your warmth. No wonder that, as an adjective, we use “pregnant” to mean “full of meaning”.

Three-way complicity … Augustus John’s 1901 portrait of his wife Ida. Photograph: Bridgeman Images

So how do you represent so fluctile a state in art? Susan Hiller did it, with matter-of-fact clarity, by taking day-by-day photographs of her growing belly, in her 1977 work Ten MonthsMany artists have recorded single moments, but the best find some way to suggest movement and change. We can see an impressive selection of the British artists who have attempted it across the centuries in Portraying Pregnancyat the Foundling Museum in London. The exhibition, curated by Karen Hearn, takes us from the Medieval Books of Hours, with their depictions of the Virgin Mary’s pregnancy, to Annie Leibovitz’s iconic naked photographs of Demi Moore and Serena Williams in Vanity Fair.

Historically, the majority of these images were made by men, which opens up the question of who pregnancy belongs to: this state where women are filled with both agency and vulnerability seems to put them unusually at the mercy of the male gaze. The women are sometimes serene, as in Hans Holbein’s wonderfully delicate 1527 drawing of Cecily Heron, daughter of Thomas More; sometimes smug, as in Peter Lely’s 1664 portrait of Charles II’s mistress Barbara Villiers, garbed as the Virgin Mary, pictured pregnant while holding a cherubic floating toddler aloft, intended to advertise the king’s saintliness and fertility.


But it may be the male portraitist’s feelings we’re seeing – especially when he’s the father of the child. It can be tough, when you’re pregnant, hearing a partner describe your state. I remember being unreasonably maddened, months later, by my husband’s announcement that the birth had gone well for me, at a point when every hour of labour still felt painfully present and was still playing out in my mind.

I felt something of this, too, in early pregnancy with my first child. The jubilant privacy of being alone with this new person got mixed up with how indescribably awful the exhaustion and the nausea could become. Other people’s descriptions sometimes felt as if they were trying to take the experience away from me, even when they were sympathetic and nuanced. Early on, I was also frightened that talking about it might somehow jinx it, because these peculiar changes were so invisible that I couldn’t quite believe a baby would follow.

So to be painted looking mutinously glum – as Kitty Garman was by Lucian Freud in 1947, a year before their marriage – may not be very welcome. It’s an extraordinary picture though. Garman, pregnant with their daughter Annie and draped in swathes of black velvet, is clutching a rose and seems to be staring white-faced into the future with a kind of electrifying foreboding. This is a moment of taking in the reality of change: presumably for the painter, as much as the sitter.

Celebration of the body … Jenny Saville’s Electra (2012). Photograph: Prudence Cuming/© Jenny Saville. Photo: Prudence Cuming Associates. Courtesy the artist and Gagosian.

More pleasing, I find, is Augustus John’s portrait of his wife Ida, pregnant with her first child in 1901. They’d recently married and were enjoying domestic life, though Augustus had already hinted that he wasn’t going to consider himself overly constrained by domesticity. And Ida, while lovingly acquiring baby clothes by day, was experiencing the baby as a monstrous invader by night: “I dreamt last night that the baby came – an immense girl, the size of a two-year-old child – with thick lips, the under one hanging – little black eyes near together and a big fine nose. Altogether very like a savage – and most astonishing to us.”


In Augustus’s portrait, Ida leans backwards, showing off her belly. She glances sideways at the painter, appearing partly amused, partly irritated. It’s a look that tells him he can’t possibly understand. There’s a pleasure – even a three-way complicity between Augustus, Ida and the viewer – in seeing him take this in. Augustus knew that Ida’s life was about to get harder. And, imminently, there was the danger of death in childbirth. About five of every 100 births still resulted in death at the turn of the century. Today, it’s hard to recapture the feeling of terror this must have brought on, but the danger of childbirth emerges as a theme in this exhibition. There are several subjects here who didn’t survive the ordeal.

Most historically significant among these is Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales, painted in 1817 by George Dawe while pregnant with the child who would have succeeded her as heir to George IV’s throne. She sits in regal splendour looking away from the viewer, not yet visibly pregnant but wearing a silk blue tunic (that has survived and is included in the exhibition). The baby was stillborn, and the mother died shortly after. It was because of this that George was succeeded by his younger brother, William, and we ended up with Queen Victoria.

Mutinously glum … Kitty Garman portrayed by Lucian Freud in 1947. Photograph: Bridgeman Images

Perhaps unsurprisingly – perhaps because I trust them more – I found it was the female artists here who had most to say. The exceptions are the medieval and early-modern portraits of the Visitation: that moment in the Bible when the Virgin Mary, pregnant with Jesus, visits her cousin Elizabeth, pregnant with John the Baptist. At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth apparently felt her baby quicken in her womb and representations usually depict the two women touching each other’s bellies, comparing flutters. It’s an affecting moment that speaks easily across centuries and cultures, humanising these women and their changing bodies, bringing out the volatility of pregnancy: here, now, a moment of change.


In more recent times, two of the women included here get across the strange flux of pregnancy very powerfully. In Chantal Joffe’s 2004 self-portrait, we can still see the paint dripping, changing colour as it dries. There’s a provisionality to the lines and shapes that suggests we’re seeing a painting in the act of being made, just as we’re seeing a body in the act of being formed. “Being pregnant,” Joffe says, “was like, ‘Wow, how brilliant to paint yourself changing so much.’” Even the spotted mismatched underwear has a carelessness that suggests this is a moment about to be succeeded by others.

In Jenny Saville’s 2012 Electra, lines and bodies multiply before our eyes. Saville gave birth to her first child in 2007, drawing herself throughout pregnancy and having herself photographed during the birth. She had always celebrated the bodies of women – bruised, contorted or mutilated – in portraits that owed something to Lucian Freud’s images of female fleshiness. Here she made the most of the opportunity to represent growth, layering images on top of each other. “You’re literally reproducing yourself when you’re pregnant,” she says, “like the way the lines reproduce themselves.”

Electrawas originally a drawing of one pregnant woman, but then Saville added a larger figure, clutching a child. It is unclear whose limbs are whose, and it seems possible that there are more people hidden amid the mass of charcoal lines. It’s an image of fleshy fecundity that’s both terrifying in its unstoppability and ecstatic in its profusion of touch. She takes charge of Freud’s imagery and makes it more fully yielding. As in the Visitations, there are hands at the centre of this picture, made all the more striking because they are gripped on to naked flesh. This is pregnancy and motherhood without serenity, without smugness, but given tenderly embodied form.

  • Portraying Pregnancy is at the Foundling Museum, London, until 26 April. Lara Feigel is the author of Free Woman: Life, Liberation and Doris Lessing.

Nigerian students still don’t have good knowledge of safe contraception

Emergency contraception can help prevent pregnancy after sex.

By Anthony Idowu Ajayi, African Population and Health Research Center and Meggie Mwoka, African Population and Health Research Center

Nearly half of pregnancies among adolescent girls in developing countries are unplanned. In Africa, about 46% of these pregnancies end in unsafe abortion. Deaths from abortion account for 10% of maternal deaths in sub-Saharan Africa.

In Nigeria, nearly 28% of women were found to have had an unwanted pregnancy. The rate of unplanned pregnancy is especially high among young people. But women can only get a legal abortion if the pregnancy poses a threat to the life of a woman or in cases of rape or incest.


Emergency contraception can help prevent unwanted pregnancies. Emergency contraception includes the use of drugs or devices to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex, contraceptive failure, coerced sex or rape. Some, like the morning-after pill, have been in use for four decades.

We asked female university students in Nigeria about emergency contraception and what practices they used to prevent pregnancy after sex. Our study explored barriers to the use of emergency contraception.

We found that their knowledge about conventional methods was patchy. And that most used unconventional and unproved methods. These included douching with mixtures of salt and hot water as well as a selection of soft drinks.

Our studies confirm earlier findings in Nigeria that found that knowledge of after-sex contraception was low and unprotected sex common among young people, especially students.

Our research

We conducted 20 in-depth interviews and five focus group discussions with unmarried female students in two universities in southwestern Nigeria.

Our analysis shows that female students in sexual relationships consider themselves to carry the risk of unintended pregnancy. For example, they said there was a chance that their partner might not inform them if the condom they were using burst.

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All the students interviewed considered unplanned pregnancy to have dire consequences, including stigma, alienation from parents, a high likelihood of school dropout or delay in attaining their degree, and financial implications.

Most indicated that they knew about after-sex contraception methods and had used them. When asked to name the specific methods they knew or had used, many of them mentioned unconventional methods. Respondents who did not have any knowledge of after-sex contraception were relatively young and mainly in their first year of study.

Some interviewees relied on what was locally termed “concoctions”. These included mixtures of substances with unproven efficacy, such as salt and hot water, soft drinks, a local brand of analgesic known as Alabukun, lime and potash, and lime and Alabukun.

Respondents were convinced that these concoctions were highly efficacious as after-sex contraceptives.

A 24-year-old fifth-year student said:

If unprotected sex happens, instantly, there are some drugs like lime and “Alabukun” at the same time; they work in most cases.


An 18-year-old first-year student:

A nurse once told me that you can drink the mixture of cold “7UP” [a brand of carbonated drink] and “Alabukun” to wash the womb.

Beside concoctions, at least half of the participants said they could personally testify to the efficacy of certain non-emergency contraceptive drugs. These included antibiotics and Cytotec which is used to induce labour or to induce abortion, and Menstrogen injection which is used when a period is missed.

The study found that students used combinations that could prove quite dangerous. One 22-year-old respondent said that such a combination eliminated any chance of pregnancy after unprotected sex:

Menstrogen first, then lime and potash, can be used to prevent unwanted pregnancy. I have used this combination and it works.

Another method that worked for some was removing semen by vaginal douching immediately after intercourse. As this 28-year-old fourth-year student stated:

I stand up immediately and go to the bathroom and try to bring out the sperm.

Most of the participants knew about approved emergency contraception pills, such as Levonorgestrel or Postinor, that are available without a prescription for less than $2. The majority (63%) were familiar with Postinor and 27.4% had used it.

This 23-year-old fourth-year student is one of them.

I have used Postinor and it works.

But some participants had doubts about the efficacy of medically approved pills. They also exaggerated the side effects of these drugs and associated them with infertility.


Some respondents thought a combination of emergency and non-emergency contraceptive pills worked best. Others, like this 21-year-old third-year student, preferred the combination of emergency contraceptive pills and concoctions.

I will use Postinor immediately and then use very hot water and plenty of salt – just to be sure.

Looking forward

It was clear from our study that knowledge of emergency contraception was inadequate among these Nigerian university students. There is a need for comprehensive sexuality education that begins early, before the initiation of sex, and continues into their university years.

Anthony Idowu Ajayi, Postdoctoral Research Scientist, African Population and Health Research Center and Meggie Mwoka, Policy research officer, African Population and Health Research Center

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Exposed: Britain’s shameful role in the Biafran war

It is a good thing to be proud of one’s country, and I am – most of the time. But it would be impossible to scan the centuries of Britain’s history without coming across a few incidents that evoke not pride but shame. Among those I would list are the creation by British officialdom in South Africa of the concentration camp, to persecute the families of Boers. Add to that the Amritsar massacre of 1919 and the Hola camps set up and run during the struggle against Mau Mau.

Starving children in a refugee camp near Aba in 1968. Photograph: AFP

By Frederick Forsyth

The northern and western regions were swept by a pogrom in which thousands of Igbo were slaughtered

But there is one truly disgusting policy practised by our officialdom during the lifetime of anyone over 50, and one word will suffice: Biafra.

This referred to the civil war in Nigeria that ended 50 years ago this month. It stemmed from the decision of the people of the eastern region of that already riot-racked country to strike for independence as the Republic of Biafra. As I learned when I got there as a BBC correspondent, the Biafrans, mostly of the Igbo people, had their reasons.

The federal government in Lagos was a brutal military dictatorship that came to power in 1966 in a bloodbath. During and following that coup, the northern and western regions were swept by a pogrom in which thousands of resident Igbo were slaughtered. The federal government lifted not a finger to help. It was led by an affable British-educated colonel, Yakubu Gowon. But he was a puppet. The true rulers were a group of northern Nigerian colonels. The crisis deepened, and in early 1967 eastern Nigeria, harbouring about 1.8 million refugees, sought restitution. A British-organised conference was held in Ghana and a concordat agreed. But Gowon, returning home, was flatly contradicted by the colonels, who tore up his terms and reneged on the lot. In April the Eastern Region formally seceded and on 7 July, the federal government declared war.


Biafra was led by the Eastern Region’s Oxford-educated former military governor, “Emeka” Ojukwu. London, ignoring all evidence that it was Lagos that reneged on the deal, denounced the secession, made no attempt to mediate and declared total support for Nigeria.

I arrived in the Biafra capital of Enugu on the third day of the war. In London I had been copiously briefed by Gerald Watrous, head of the BBC’s West Africa Service. What I did not know was that he was the obedient servant of the government’s Commonwealth Relations Office (CRO), which believed every word of its high commissioner in Lagos, David Hunt. It took two days in Enugu to realise that everything I had been told was utter garbage.

I had been briefed that the brilliant Nigerian army would suppress the rebellion in two weeks, four at the most. Fortunately the deputy high commissioner in Enugu, Jim Parker, told me what was really happening. It became clear that the rubbish believed by the CRO and the BBC stemmed from our high commissioner in Lagos. A racist and a snob, Hunt expected Africans to leap to attention when he entered the room – which Gowon did. At their single prewar meeting Ojukwu did not. Hunt loathed him at once.

My brief was to report the all-conquering march of the Nigerian army. It did not happen. Naively, I filed this. When my report was broadcast our high commissioner complained to the CRO in London, who passed it on to the BBC – which accused me of pro-rebel bias and recalled me to London. Six months later, in February 1968, fed up with the slavishness of the BBC to Whitehall, I walked out and flew back to west Africa. Ojukwu roared with laughter and allowed me to stay. My condition was that, having rejected British propaganda, I would not publish his either. He agreed.

‘Weapons and ammunition poured in quietly as Whitehall and the Harold Wilson government lied and denied it all.’ Photograph: Wood/Getty Images

But things had changed. British covert interference had become huge. Weapons and ammunition poured in quietly as Whitehall and the Harold Wilson government lied and denied it all. Much enlarged, with fresh weapons and secret advisory teams, the Nigerian army inched across Biafra as the defenders tried to fight back with a few bullets a day. Soviet Ilyushin bombers ranged overhead, dropping 1,000lb bombs on straw villages. But the transformation came in July.

Missionaries had noticed mothers emerging from the deep bush carrying children reduced to living skeletons yet with bloated bellies. Catholic priests recognised the symptoms – kwashiorkor or acute protein deficiency.

That same July the Daily Express cameraman David Cairns ran off a score of rolls of film and took them to London. Back then, the British public had never seen such heartrending images of starved and dying children. When the pictures hit the newsstands the story exploded. There were headlines, questions in the House of Commons, demonstrations, marches.

As the resident guide for foreign news teams I became somewhat overwhelmed. But at last the full secret involvement of the British government started to be exposed and the lies revealed. Wilson came under attack. The story swept Europe then the US.


Donations flooded in. The money could buy food – but how to get it there? Around year’s end the extraordinary Joint Church Aid was born.

The World Council of Churches helped to buy some clapped-out freighter aircraft and gained permission from Portugal to use the offshore island São Tomé as a base. Scandinavian pilots and crew, mostly airline pilots, offered to fly without pay. Joint Church Aid was quickly nicknamed Jesus Christ Airlines. And thus came into being the world’s only illegal mercy air bridge.

On a visit to London in spring 1969 I learned the efforts the British establishment will take to cover up its tracks. Every reporter, peer or parliamentarian who had visited Biafra and reported on what he had seen was smeared as a stooge of Biafra – even the utterly honourable John Hunt, leader of the Everest expedition.

Throughout 1969 the relief planes flew through the night, dodging Nigerian MiG fighters, to deliver their life-giving cargoes of reinforced milk powder to a jungle airstrip. From there trucks took the sacks to the missions, the nuns boiled up the nutriments and kept thousands of children alive.


Karl Jaggi, head of the Red Cross, estimated that up to a million children died, but that at least half a million were saved. As for me, sometimes in the wee small hours I see the stick-like children with the dull eyes and lolling heads, and hear their wails of hunger and the low moans as they died.

What is truly shameful is that this was not done by savages but aided and assisted at every stage by Oxbridge-educated British mandarins. Why? Did they love the corruption-riven, dictator-prone Nigeria? No. From start to finish, it was to cover up that the UK’s assessment of the Nigerian situation was an enormous judgmental screw-up. And, worse: with neutrality and diplomacy from London it could all have been avoided.

Biafra is little discussed in the UK these days – a conflict overshadowed geopolitically by the Vietnam war, which raged at the same time. Yet the sheer nastiness of the British establishment during those three years remains a source of deep shame that we should never forget.

  • Frederick Forsyth is a former war correspondent and an author

Sex Education: a horny and morally good teen classic

On paper it should have been a disaster, but the second season of Netflix’s high-school drama is more than the sum of its parts.

On the prowl… Asa Butterfield and Ncuti Gatwa in Sex Education. Photograph: Netflix

Idon’t want to get all “surveillance state” about it but I’m pretty sure Netflix is on to us re: what we all do, in front of it, relentlessly, and is now commissioning TV appropriately. That’s the only explanation for Sex, Explained (Janelle Monáe-narrated PSHE-lesson-but-make-it-fun series where a bunch of hip young nose-ring Americans stare into a well-lit studio camera and say “spanking”) and Sex Education (second series of the bizarre English-but-make-it-American high-school sex counselling drama) dropping in the same miserable winter month.

I don’t know if Netflix can “see” us exactly, but if it can, and if they are commissioning based on the sheer concept of Netflix & Chill as a result, I’d appreciate them deleting the footage they took of me on 1 June last year in front of, inexplicably, two episodes of Rick and Morty.

Anyway, to Sex Education (from Friday, Netflix), which, on paper, is a disaster. Every attempt to describe it makes it so much worse than it is: a high school-based ensemble drama that deals head-on with Teen Issues, set in a sort of ageless period between 1970 and 2020 that makes you genuinely jolt when someone pulls a laptop out, with episodes that are frequently punctuated by glee band covers, and – and I cannot stress both how weird this is and how unacknowledged it is – is set in a sort of British parody of an American high school, with varsity jackets and teachers-as-friends and stuff like that.

The main characters are Nervous Boy (Asa Butterfield), Tough Girl Who Reads Books But Isn’t Afraid To Flip The Bird (Emma Mackey), Gay Best Friend With A Heart Of Gold And Complicated Struggles (Ncuti Gatwa) and then a roving cast of characters around them – Conflicted Bully, Anxiety Jock, Turbo-Horny Nerd Girl, Gleaming-Haired Popularity Queens, Headmaster With A Chocolate Addiction – and the entire concept is that our nervous boy, Otis, has become the school’s de facto sex education guru after learning so much from the straightforward therapising of his actual sex counsellor mother, Gillian Anderson (Open-Minded Mum With Sexy Wise Owl Energy). And everyone is like: “OK. We’ll go and visit the nervous virgin boy in the bathroom and tell him we’re afraid of anuses.” Everyone does that. Like it’s normal.

But somewhere between the descriptive paragraph and the screen some unseen alchemy happens, because Sex Education is brilliant: smart, woke without clanging you over the head with it, about teens but not only for teens, funny, aesthetically rich, and dramatic but without the usual drama of teen-set TV, where someone is always trashing a bedroom then sliding down a bathroom door crying because of an unplanned pregnancy. Series two shows early signs of picking up exactly where the first one left off: getting the old gang back together, STI panic across the school, a stellar selection of on-screen vintage jacketing and an incredibly visceral cumshot.

Again: this is a show that has sprays of ejaculate in it, but somehow manages to be wholesomely horny and morally good. A TV miracle.

The tiny ostrich eggshell beads that tell the story of Africa’s past

You can tell a lot about a person by the things they wear, and this has likely been true throughout human history. The earliest kind of decoration was probably ochre, which we know humans have used for at least 200,000 years.

By 75,000 years ago, people begin wearing beads. Since that time, ornaments and other symbols have been central to the way we express our identities and signal our relationships. In fact, this is probably one of the things that makes us human.

Ornament production really took off about 50,000 years ago, when we see the earliest standardised jewellery in the form of small disc beads made from ostrich eggshells. In Africa, ostrich eggshell beads are one of the most common type of archaeological artifacts, particularly from sites dated to the last 10,000 years. They are also found in smaller numbers throughout Asia where 12,000-year-old ostrich eggshell beads have been discovered in China.

Since ostrich eggshell bead jewellery is still produced today, this is one of the longest running cultural traditions in the world.

Beaders in Botswana.

But what can these beads tell us about the ancient peoples who made and wore them?

In a recently published paper, we analysed 1200 ostrich eggshell beads from 22 sites in southern Africa and 8 sites in eastern Africa. Although beads are found at many African archaeological sites, they tend to be overlooked in research. Many of the bead measurements for this study were taken from decades-old, unstudied collections and are being reported for the first time. We believe that this research demonstrates the importance of studying existing museum collections and approaching old questions in new ways.

Our aim was to see how ostrich eggshell bead size has changed over the past 10,000 years. Bead size has become an informal way to estimate the age of archaeological sites in southern Africa. Yet beads overall have received relatively little attention compared to other types of artefacts and there is much we still don’t know. Our study increases the number of published bead measurements from less than 100 to over 1000, allowing us to study patterns on a larger scale and gain new perspectives on the African past.

Ostrich eggshell beads at an archaeological site. Elizabeth Sawchuk

Our findings provide important insights into how ancient peoples responded to change. Topics like migration and the economy dominate today’s new cycle. Yet ancient peoples also faced issues like climate changecultural contact, and economic shifts. The things that people made and used, like ostrich eggshell beads, can help us understand the impacts of these changes on their lives.

Herders versus hunter-gatherers

Three decades ago, the archaeologist Leon Jacobson noticed a pattern in ostrich eggshell beads from Namibia. Those associated with hunter-gatherer sites tended to be smaller than those associated with herder sites. Since we know that herding entered southern Africa around 2000 years ago, Jacobson suggested that sites with beads larger than about 7.5mm might be younger than that.

Other studies confirmed the same pattern within the western part of southern Africa. Some researchers also argued that bead size might help distinguish which sites were used by herders versus hunter-gatherers. But this remains contested.

Until now, the idea that ostrich eggshell beads changed with the introduction of herding had only been tested in the southern part of Africa, and with a limited number of sites. We therefore decided to test this with a much larger dataset, and in other places like eastern Africa where herding also spread some 3000 years earlier.

Modern ostrich eggshell beads. Hans Sell

Regional variations

At the southern African sites, we also found that larger beads appeared after 2000 years ago. However, contrary to previous studies, our data show that these larger beads did not replace long-standing bead traditions. In fact, the vast majority of ostrich eggshell beads continued to be quite small. On the other hand, beads from the eastern African sites were highly variable in size and showed no change when herding entered that region around 5000 years ago.

Ostrich eggshell beads in eastern and southern Africa seem to tell a different story about herding’s spread. Cattle, sheep and goats are not native to either of these regions and must have been introduced by contact with peoples living farther north.

In both places, groups also made ostrich eggshell beads before and after herding spread.

In eastern Africa, the lack of change in bead size could suggest that local hunter-gatherers adopted livestock, or that incoming herders possessed similar traditions and/or quickly adopted local styles.


In southern Africa, the appearance of larger beads around 2000 years ago suggests the introduction of livestock stimulated a change in bead traditions, or that new styles were introduced at the same time as sheep.

Yet in both places, local bead traditions remained dominant. Curiously, the larger beads in southern Africa fall within the range of eastern African beads, hinting at contact between these regions as suggested by other archaeological evidence and ancient DNA.

Our research findings suggest that the spread of herding into new areas did not lead to the replacement of local peoples and practices. Rather, people responded in more nuanced ways and maintained certain cultural traditions.

This research not only helps us understand the African past, but is important for considering how we as humans use culture to cope with the changes in our world.

How did Nigerian and Kenyan media handled Cambridge Analytica

Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta recently signed into law the Data Protection Bill. Passed after several years of debate and delay, the new law places restrictions on the collection and use of digital data by governments and private corporations. The restrictions are similar to those included in a new data protection regulationpassed by Nigeria this year.

There’s a growing awareness that Cambridge Analytica harnessed social media and personal data to influence elections. Shutterstock

These protection laws are welcome advancements in the light of investigations that revealed that British political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica had worked on presidential campaigns in both countries.

It’s been widely known for some time that the firm helped elect Donald Trump in the US and worked on the Brexit referendum in the UK. But in March 2018 a number of startling exposés were published by The Guardian, The New York Times and Channel 4 showing the firm’s dubious campaign practices in Nigeriaand Kenya. An ongoing leak of tens of thousands of internal documents is set to show in great detail Cambridge Analytica’s work in 68 countries around the world.

What is the Cambridge Analytica scandal?

The legal responses to the revelations suggest a growing awareness that social media and personal data are being harnessed by outside actors to influence elections around the world.

In a recent article we analysed press coverage of Cambridge Analytica in Nigeria and Kenya. We wanted to see if local coverage reflected international media coverage of the scandal. To do this we focused on three key themes: data privacy and protection, unethical political campaigning on social media, and foreign involvement in African elections.

We found that most newspaper articles focused on data privacy and social media campaigning. The Nigerian and Kenyan press focused on Facebook and data. But very few stories wrestled with the role of foreign actors in national elections. Important questions about campaigning and election interference received less attention.


This could mean that the door has been left open to ongoing foreign involvement in future elections, given that Cambridge Analytica used African elections as a testing ground for campaign tactics it later exported into more lucrative markets. It did this with little regard for the negative consequences on the emerging democracies.

Cambridge Analytica in Africa

It is easy to overstate the impact of Cambridge Analytica in Nigeria and Kenya. So let’s review what the March 2018 exposés revealed.

According to a detailed report, Cambridge Analytica was hired by a wealthy Nigerian to support the 2015 reelection campaign of then-president Goodluck Jonathan. During the campaign, the firm worked with the Israeli intelligence firm Black Cube to acquire hacked medical and financial information about Jonathan’s opponent Muhammadu Buhari.

Cambridge Analytica also promoted a graphic anti-Buhari video. It suggested Buhari would support the terrorist group Boko Haram and end women’s rights.

Jonathan eventually lost the 2015 election to Buhari. Earlier this year Buhari was reelected to a second term.


In Kenya, the firm worked on both Uhuru Kenyatta’s 2013 presidential campaign and his 2017 reelection campaign. To date, it is unclear exactly what it did during either campaign. One bit of evidence emerged in an undercover video of executive Mark Turnbull in which he made a number of claims. These included claims that the firm had rebranded Kenyatta’s party twice, had written their manifesto and had done two rounds of 50,000 surveys.

Cambridge Analytica Uncovered: Secret filming reveals election tricks.

Covering Cambridge Analytica

To gather articles for our study, we searched the archives of two Nigerian newspapers — Punch and Vanguard — and two Kenyan newspapers — Daily Nation and East African Standard. We looked for mentions of Cambridge Analytica in relation to Nigeria or Kenya.

We found 31 articles in the Nigerian newspapers and 74 articles in the Kenyan newspapers published prior to December 2018.


All 31 articles in Nigerian newspapers were published after March 2018. In the case of Kenya, 17 of the 74 articles were published prior to this. Cambridge Analytica was little known at the time of the 2015 elections in Nigeria. But the firm had garnered significant public attention in 2016 because of its connection to Trump and Brexit. As a result the Kenyan media was paying attention when the firm joined the Kenyatta campaign in 2017.

After March 2018, national newspapers in Nigeria and Kenya published several articles that summarised what Cambridge Analytica did in their respective countries.

But none of the articles we examined provided any further details on specific activities by Cambridge Analytica. They simply repeated what had already been reported in the international media.

Nigerian newspapers quickly framed the Cambridge Analytica scandal as a partisan issue between two competing political parties.

Kenyan newspaper coverage, on the other hand, was more comprehensive in quantity and quality. For one, the Kenyan press was covering Cambridge Analytica prior to March 2018; the first story appeared in May 2017.


Because Cambridge Analytica had become known for its work with Trump and Brexit, Kenyan journalists and writers were discussing the implications of the firm working in their country early on. They cautioned readers that the firm might be involved in targeting sensational messages and misinformation on social media. They also considered the ramifications of foreign actors interfering in local political campaigns.

After the March 2018 revelations, Kenyan newspapers responded with more news and opinion pieces. These wrestled with the implications for data privacy, political campaigning on social media, and Kenya’s democratic institutions. For example, a column asked plainly whether the firm undermined democracy and made a mockery of elections by manipulating people’s emotions. The column also questioned whether the firm deepened ethnic division in society.

Digital colonialism?

Recently, the Kenyan writer, political analyst and activist Nanjala Nyabola asked whether Africa was entering a new era of digital colonialism. By this she means a form of exploitation in which foreign actors use African nations for their own benefit without regard for the safety of citizens and the stability of institutions.


In the context of Cambridge Analytica’s work in Nigeria and Kenya, the answer may be yes. It’s important that African countries update their data privacy and protection laws. But as the ongoing document leak demonstrates, the Cambridge Analytic scandal runs deeper than access to Facebook data.

How do we talk to boys about sex?

Teenagers and young men still don’t have the right vocabulary. Can we help them get there?

A while back, during a discussion I was having with a group of high school students about sexual ethics, a boy raised his hand to ask me, “Can you have sex without feelings?” The other guys in the room nodded, leaned forward, curious, maybe a little challenging. Strictly speaking, of course, even indifference is a feeling, but I knew what they meant: They wanted to know if they could have sex without caring:devoid of vulnerability, even with disregard for a partner. To put it in teenage parlance, they wanted to know whether it was truly possible to “hit it and quit it.”


I thought about those boys this week as I watched Harvey Weinstein, in an Oscar-worthy performance of abject harmlessness, hobble on his walker into the New York Supreme Court in Manhattan. The #MeToo movement has exposed sexual misconduct, coercion and harassment across every sector of society. But shining light on a problem won’t, in itself, solve it, not even if Mr. Weinstein ends up with (fingers crossed) the longest prison sentence in history. To make real change we need to tackle something larger and more systemic: the pervasive culture that urges boys toward disrespect and detachment in their intimate encounters.

Despite a new imperative to be scrupulous about affirmative consent, young men are still subject to incessant messages that sexual conquest — being always down for sex, racking up their “body count,” regardless of how they or their partner may feel about it — remains the measure of a “real” man, and a reliable path to social status. As one high school junior explained: “Guys need to prove themselves to their guys. So to do that, you’re going to be dominating. You’re going to maybe push. Because, it’s like the girl is just there as a means for him to get off and a means for him to brag.”


I never intended to write about boys. As a journalist, I have spent over a quarter of a century chronicling girls’lives — that has been my calling and my passion. But four years ago, after publishing a book about the contradictions young women still face in their intimate encounters, I realized, perhaps inevitably, that if I truly wanted to promote safer, more enjoyable, more egalitarian sexual relationships among young people, I needed to have the other half of the conversation. So I began interviewing young men — dozens, of different backgrounds, in their early teens and 20s — about sex and love, hookup culture and relationships, masculinity and media, sexual consent and misconduct. #MeToo wasn’t the impetus for my work (I began well before the Weinstein story broke) but it quickly underscored the urgency.

Few of the boys had previously had such conversations. Certainly not with their parents, most of whom would rather poke themselves in the eye with a fork than speak frankly to their sons about sex. I can’t say that I blame them: It’s excruciating, and it’s not like our own parents offered a template.

Yet that silence has troubling implications. According to a 2017 national survey of 3,000 high school students and young adults by the Making Caring Common Project, a large majority of boys never had a single conversation with their parents about, for instance, how to be sure that your partner “wants to be — and is comfortable — having sex with you,” or about what it meant to be a “a caring and respectful sexual partner.” About two-thirds had never heard from their parents that they shouldn’t have sex with someone who is too intoxicated to consent. Most had never been told by parents not to catcall girls or use degrading terms such as “bitches” or “hoes” — this despite the fact that nearly 90 percent of the girls in the survey reported having been sexually harassed.

Adults may assume those ideas are self-evident, beyond the need for comment, but given the rates of coercion, misconduct and assault among men both young and old, boys are clearly not getting the message by osmosis. The vast majority of teenagers, though, who did have conversations like these with their parents — and boys even more than girls — described them as at least somewhat influential on their thinking.


Nor will schools pick up the slack. Most states still require sex education to stress abstinence (a legit option, for sure, as long as it’s one among many: not a mandate that equates sexually active teens with, say, chewed pieces of gum). But many more progressive, supposedly comprehensive classes aren’t much better, often focused predominantly on risk and danger: avoiding pregnancy and preventing disease. Increasingly, sexual consent is being added to that cautionary to-do list, as it should be. Too often, though, that question of yes or no becomes a stand-in for all conversation about sexual decision-making: another way to dodge more nuanced discussions of personal responsibility, open communication, establishing relationships, understanding gender dynamics and — the third rail of sex ed classes — reciprocal pleasure and the L.G.B.T.Q.+ perspective.

I found gay boys, by the way, to be notably more willing and able than others to negotiate the terms of a sexual encounter — they had to be, since who was going to do what with whom could not be assumed. They often seemed puzzled by heterosexuals’ reticence. “I don’t know why straight guys see consent as a mood-killer,” one college sophomore said. “I’m like, ‘if we’re talking, that means we’re going to have sex — this is great!’”


Dan Savage, the syndicated sex advice columnist, refers to “the four magic words” gay guys will use during a sexual encounter: What are you into?” That’s a very different perspective than that of straight boys, who usually aim for one-word assent to options they define. I do fear, though, that since girls, as I’d previously found, are so often disconnected from their bodies’ desires and responses, their answer to an authentic conversation-starter might well be, “I have no idea.” What might happen, though, if teenagers learned to start talking to each other that way early on?

Absent guidance from trusted adults, boys look to the media as a default sex educator, where they are bombarded by images of female sexual availability and male sexual entitlement. With the rise of the internet, smartphones and video-sharing sites like Pornhub, parents worry about the potential impact of pornography on teens’ sexual expectations. Let me be clear: Curiosity about sex is natural. Masturbation? Great! What’s more, there is all kinds of porn — ethical porn, feminist porn, queer porn. But the most readily available, free content portrays a distorted vision of sex: as something men do to rather than with a partnerand women’s pleasure as a performance for male satisfaction.

Boys frequently expressed ambivalence to me about their porn habits. “I think porn affects your ability to be innocent in a sexual relationship,” a high school senior commented. “The whole idea of exploring sex without any preconceived ideas of what it is, you know?”

Even if parents could block all the triple-X sites (and good luck with that), the reality is that exposure to sexual content in media consumption of anykind — TV, movies, games, social media, music videos — is associated with greater tolerance for sexual harassment, belief in rape myths and the objectification of women. “I think music has some of the biggest impact on how guys treat girls,” another high school senior told me. “In the car, my friends and I listen to all this stuff that’s just” — he rattled off several oh-so-unprintable lines about women and sex. “When you hear that, like, five, six, 10 times a day, it makes it hard to escape having that mind-set.”

The promise of hot sex with a cold heart animates college (and increasingly high school) hookup culture — which is why, according to Lisa Wade, a professor of sociology at Occidental College, getting wasted beforehand is so crucial: Alcohol girds young people against the near-fanatic generational fear of the awkward while creating what Ms. Wade calls the “compulsory carelessness” necessary for a possible one-off. Most of the guys I met knew that sex with an incapacitated person is assault. Yet because, in their minds, you need to be hammered in order to hook up, the trick became being (and finding someone who is) drunk enough to want to do it but sober enough to be able to express a credible “yes.” And who is to be the judge of that?

Drunk boys, as it turns out, tend to vastly overperceive a girl’s interest in sex, often interpreting expressions of friendliness as It’s on. Alcohol has also been shown to diminish their ability to hear “no” or notice a partner’s hesitation. Wasted young men are more likely than they would be sober to use coercion or force to get what they want and — still looking at you, Brett Kavanaugh — they are less aware of their victim’s distress.

In consensual drunken hookups, the sex still tends to be meh. It “can feel like two people having two very distinct experiences,” a second-semester college freshman who’d had multiple partners told me. “There’s not much eye contact. Sometimes you don’t even say anything. And it’s weird to be so open with a stranger. It’s like you’re acting vulnerable, but not actually being vulnerable with someone you don’t know and don’t care very much about. It’s not a problem for meIt’s just — odd. Odd, and not even really fun.”

According to Andrew Smiler, a psychologist specializing in adolescent male behavior who surveyed over a hundred teen boys about dating and sex, most guys, in fact, prefer physical intimacy with someone they know, trust and with whom they feel comfortable. I found that to be true, too, though they seemed to view it as their personal quirk, not shared by their peers. Mr. Smiler suggests, then, that adults can ask boys what kind of sexual experience they want. “Not just whether they are looking to have an orgasm,” he said, “but about the context and quality of that orgasm. If we’re willing to be more vulgar and pointed, we might even ask, ‘Do you want a partner who’s more than just someone to masturbate into?’”

It occurs to me, after a quarter-century of talking to teens, that the activism on behalf of girls could offer a model to better guide boys. Back in the 1990s, when I first began writing about young women’s quandaries in a changing world — loss of confidence, stunted ambition, negative body image, sexual shaming — there was both a desire for and an apprehension about change: Some parents worried, not irrationally, that raising a daughter to be outspoken or sexually empowered would come at a social cost, that she would be labeled a bitch or a slut. Others raged that girls were being pushed, against their nature, to become “more like boys.”

But years of attention to girls’ experience, of work by parents and professionals, has reduced some of those fears, eased constraint, expanded girls’ roles and opportunities: Things aren’t perfect, not by a long shot, but they are better. Nonetheless, I found myself wishing, in my conversations with girls, that their early sexual experiences did not have to be, as they so often were, something they had to get over. That will require reducing the harm boys cause, whether out of monstrous venality, entitlement, heedlessness or even (maybe especially) ignorance.

For their own well-being, as well as their partners’, they need a counternarrative to the one that elevates the transactional over the connected, the sensual, the kind; boys need to value mutual gratification in their sexual encounters, whether with one-offs or long-term partners. That won’t be accomplished in a single “sex talk,” nor, really, any one easy fix, any more than you could teach your child table manners in one sitting. But at the very least, listening to their struggles is a start. I think about a guy I talked to early on, a rising college junior who’d equated a girl’s invitation back to her room with sexual consent. “I want to do the right thing,” he told me, “but I don’t know what the right thing is. I just know what I know, which is a lot of really confusing and wrong” stuff. He pressed forward unthinkingly, one might say manfully — or as he described it, “boom, boom, boom, boom” — until she put a hand on his chest, saying, “Whoa! I don’t want to do that.”

“And in that moment,” he said, “I could see just how wrong it was. The utter lack of communication that took place in those five to 10 minutes. And even realizing that I didn’t feel great myself about what we were doing. I just…” He shook his head regretfully. “I thought that was the only option. I thought that was the way things were supposed to be.”

Let’s Talk About Sex

Readers, we want to hear from you. Your responses may be used in a follow up article.

Young adults, what was missing from your early education about sex? What messages did you receive from parents, friends and society, and how did they influence your approach to sexual encounters?You must be 13 or older to have your submission considered for publication; those younger than 18 must have a parent’s permission.

We asked Nigerian students about transactional sex on campus

Transactional sex – the exchange of sex for money, gifts or favour – is not uncommon on Nigerian university campuses. Local media and previous researchhave reported that some students on Nigerian campuses engage in transactional sex. They exchange sex with men in positions of power for grades, money and gifts. These men are known as blessers, aristos, sugar daddies or sponsors.

Transactional sex is linked to an increased risk of sexually transmitted infections. Shutterstock

The trend is of concern because it is linked to an increased risk of HIV and sexually transmitted infections. Transactional sex also increases the risk of unplanned pregnancies, unsafe abortions and exposure to sexual and gender-based violence.

Very little research has been done on why students engage in transactional sex. To fill this gap we conducted a study among male and female Nigerian university students. In particular, we examined the relationship between family structure, family support and transactional sex.


Understanding this is important and can inform interventions to reduce transactional sex. For example, we found that lack of family support and the death of one’s mother increased the likelihood of engaging in transactional sex. Interventions could target students with specific family vulnerability.

Our research

We surveyed 630 sexually active students on two Nigerian campuses between February and April 2018.

We used the term ‘transactional sex’ as giving or receiving money, gifts or favour in exchange for sex. We asked students in the questionnaire if they had been engaged in such sex.

We used a statistical model to examine the relationship between family structure, family support and transactional sex while taking into account the effect of other important factors such as age, sex, alcohol consumption and psychoactive drugs.


The family structure hypothesis we used was threefold:

  • first, that polygamous homes could be a source of stress and instability for young adults in the household.
  • second, we thought that living with only one parent might increase vulnerability.
  • third, that a lack of family (and financial) support could affect students’ behaviour.

Family structure was measured by asking participants to describe their family type. We gave them a mutually exclusive list (single parent, nuclear family, polygamous family, and foster family) to choose from. Also, we asked participants if their fathers were alive and whether they currently lived with their fathers. Similarly, we asked if their mothers were alive and if they lived with their mothers.

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Family support was measured in this study by asking participants to rate the support they received from their family. We provided a list of mutually exclusive responses: I receive adequate support from my family; I receive moderate support from my family; I receive insufficient support from my family; and I receive no support from my family. Participants could pick one response. The main support in question is financial support.

What we found

Of the 630 participants included in the analysis, 17.9% had given and 23.8% had received money, gifts or favour in exchange for sex.

One out of four males compared to one out of ten females had given money, gifts or favour in exchange for sex. Surprisingly, there was no significant difference in the proportion of male and female students (23.7% of males versus 24% of females) who had ever received money, gifts or favour in exchange for sex.

Individuals from a polygamous family were about twice as likely to engage in transactional sex compared to individuals from a nuclear family. But the evidence for this link was not as strong as the contribution of alcohol and drug use in risky sexual behaviour.


Overall, the evidence of the relationship between family structure and transactional sex was weak. We observed that it is the number and roles of parents that make a difference in students’ outcomes rather than the structure of the family itself.

There was no evidence in support of our hypothesis that living in the same household as one’s father would make a difference to the behaviour in question. But there was some evidence that living with one’s mother reduced the odds of receiving money in exchange for sex.

Our paper lends support to the assertion that family structure and family support are protective factors against transactional sex among adolescents and young adults. The nuclear family is a more protective factor than other family types.

The findings of this study have important implications for sexuality studies and public health policies.

In Nigerian universities, little or no support is available for indigent students on campuses. Considering the broad societal implications of transactional sex on adolescents and young adults, providing funding opportunities for indigent students could be a timely intervention.

Nigerian government hits Sowore, and a US town is fighting back

When the Nigerian government went after a prominent detractor in the midst of a broad crackdown on free speech, it didn’t expect to stir resistance 5,000 miles away.

Opeyemi Sowore, whose husband is jailed on political charges in Nigeria, with family members and neighbors tying yellow ribbons to a tree in Haworth, N.J., where they live.Credit…Gabriela Bhaskar for The New York Times

Opeyemi Sowore watched the videos on her phone in bed in her New Jersey home, the children still asleep, the Christmas tree twinkling downstairs.

The videos showed her husband — a former presidential candidate and the publisher of a website known as Africa’s WikiLeaks — being wrestled to the floor in a Nigerian courtroom by a man in a black suit, as lawyers in wigs and gowns crowded around shouting.

The court had ruled that her husband, Omoyele Sowore, should be free on bail while awaiting trial on charges of treason, money laundering and, for criticizing President Muhammadu Buhari on television, cyberstalking. But on Dec. 6, while his wife slept more than 5,000 miles away, Mr. Sowore was taken from the courtroom back into detention, where he has been held for nearly all of the past five months.


Before Mr. Sowore was led away by Nigeria’s equivalent of the Secret Service, he was videotaped saying that these “might be my only words on record before they kill me.” His wife has had no contact with him since.

When Mr. Buhari was elected in 2015 as president of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and largest economy, it was hailed as a triumph for democracy. Since then, however, his government has turned toward harsh authoritarianism, putting the country’s thriving civic organizations and news media to the test.

Omoyele Sowore in court this month in Abuja, Nigeria.Credit…Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters

Protests have been met with deadly force. The country’s chief justice was summarily sacked. Humanitarian organizations that criticize the state were threatened with closure, and newspaper offices were raided. One journalist, Jones Abiri, has been in detention so long that for a time, he was thought to be dead.

One bill now making its way through Nigeria’s Senate proposes the death penalty for some instances of “hate speech.” A second, the Anti-Social Media Bill, modeled on a new Singaporean law, calls for government critics to spend as much as three years in prison.

Nigeria is not alone in clamping down on freedom of expression. ​A punitive new security law ​in traditionally media-friendly Burkina Faso, a proposed hate speech measure in Ethiopia, a harsh crackdown in Tanzania and routine internet and social media shutdowns across Africa point to a wider trend toward censorship.


“The people in power just don’t want to have to tolerate the voices of the people,” said Ayisha Osori, head of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa.

African leaders feel emboldened to strangle the news media because of a perceived global rollback in democracy, she said.

Mr. Sowore founded a website in 2006, Sahara Reporters, that specializes in exposing corruption and government malfeasance. With funding from American foundations and about 50 staff members working in Nigeria and the United States, the site’s publication of leaked, often unfiltered information disrupted Nigeria’s traditional media scene.

By basing his operation in New York, Mr. Sowore for years had a degree of protection from the consequences of publishing often scandalous information about Nigeria’s most powerful people. He shuttled between his family home in New Jersey and Nigeria, where he is a citizen, without much interference.

Mr. Sowore’s supporters demonstrating in front of the Nigerian Consulate in New York this month.Credit…Gabriela Bhaskar for The New York Times

Then, on Aug. 3, in the middle of the night, he was arrested by Nigeria’s Department of State Services, or D.S.S., in his Lagos hotel room.

At first, Opeyemi Sowore told no one in Haworth, a well-off suburb about 20 miles from midtown Manhattan, about her husband’s arrest. None of them knew much about Nigeria, or what Mr. Sowore, known as Yele, did for a living. As far as they were concerned, he was just a dad and a keen runner.

One day, though, texting with another mother with children at the local school, Ms. Sowore explained why her husband had been away so long.

Word traveled fast in Haworth, a town of 3,500 people.

In Haworth, a group of women assembled what one described as “a crisis management team.”Credit…Gabriela Bhaskar for The New York Times

“One mom told another mom, told another mom, told another mom, and next thing we knew we had assembled what really is functioning as a crisis management team,” said Alanna Zahn Davis, one of the mothers in that chain.

If Mr. Buhari’s government had gotten tough, so would Haworth.

A core group of 10 women raised the alarm at the State Department. Then they reached Amal Clooney, the human rights lawyer, who demanded Mr. Sowore’s release. They worked with Amnesty International, which declared him a prisoner of conscience.

Sometimes they prepared meals for Ms. Sowore, a marketing executive, or looked after the couple’s two children. Inspired by an American tradition of using yellow ribbons to remember hostages, they held “Yele ribbon” ceremonies in Haworth’s tree-lined town center, attended by hundreds of people.

After the courtroom melee, they called members of Congress, engaging New Jersey Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker. Six members of Congress sent a letter on Friday to Nigeria’s attorney general condemning the treatment of Mr. Sowore.

His detention “will only serve to tarnish Nigeria’s international reputation and its standing as a leading African democracy,” they wrote.


Before his arrest, Mr. Sowore was often accused of favoring Mr. Buhari, even helping him get elected. Sahara Reporters’ relentless exposés of graft under the previous government meant Mr. Buhari’s vow to sweep the country clean of corruption resonated with voters. One of Mr. Buhari’s earliest interviews as president was with Sahara TV.

However, Mr. Buhari’s administration turned out to have a corrupt bent, too, along with authoritarian tendencies, said Chidi Odinkalu, the former chairman of Nigeria’s Human Rights Commission.

“Yele ribbon” ceremonies in Haworth’s tree-lined town center were attended by hundreds of people.Credit…Gabriela Bhaskar for The New York Times

“The Buhari administration has proved to be at least as bad, if not much worse” than the prior administration that Mr. Buhari had promised not to emulate, said Mr. Odinkalu, who is facing prosecution himself after he criticized one of the president’s close allies.

This was not a great surprise to those who remember how Mr. Buhari, now 77, first came to power in 1983 as a major general in the wake of a military coup. Before being overthrown in another coup, he jailed hundreds of people, made tardy civil servants do frog jumps and had three men executed.

By the time he was democratically elected three decades later, in 2015, it was on promises to tackle corruption and insecurity. Nigeria was battling Boko Haram, oil theft and violent clashes across the country. He often appeared frail, said little in public and spent many months of his first term being treated for a mysterious illness in London.

Sahara Reporters wrote about the absences and allegations of his allies’ corruption, and Mr. Sowore openly condemned the government for failing to meet its promises. He ran unsuccessfully for president against Mr. Buhari in February, and was preparing to lead a protest calling for revolution when he was arrested on August 3.


At the time, La Keisha Landrum Pierre, Sahara Reporters’ chief operating officer back in New York, was heavily pregnant. When she gave birth five days later, she was managing the company’s biggest crisis ever. It keeps getting bigger.

She said that the Nigerian government had frozen the site’s financial account.

“There have been armed D.S.S. men standing outside our offices” in Nigeria, said Ms. Landrum Pierre, in between calls and meetings in Manhattan. She had to cut the staff by 70 percent, and said that most of the remaining employees, feeling intimidated, were staying at home.

On Dec. 6, the court scheduled Mr. Sowore’s trial for February, but he did not remain free on bail as previously ordered. Instead, Mr. Sowore’s lawyers and family maintain, D.S.S. agents attacked Mr. Sowore while still in the courtroom and ultimately took him back into custody.

The D.S.S. said in a statement that it had rearrested Mr. Sowore because of public comments it claims he made the prior night promising to pursue his cause. A D.S.S. spokesman also claimed that Mr. Sowore’s supporters had staged the courtroom attack and were trying to frame its agents.

Ms. Sowore said that watching the videos made her afraid for his life.

“The hardest part about it for me was — how do I tell my kids?” she said.

Ms. Sowore with her children, Komi and Ayo.Credit…Gabriela Bhaskar for The New York Times

They have tried to help. For the Haworth school fair in early December, their 12-year-old daughter Ayo made and sold slime and stress balls, planning to put her profits toward her father’s bail. Her mother had to explain that he had already posted bail, but still wasn’t allowed out. Ayo gave her $80 to Amnesty International instead.

A version of this article appears in print on Dec. 23, 2019, Section A, Page 4 of the New York edition with the headline: Nigeria Cracks Down on Critic, and a New Jersey Town Hits Back. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker review – a thrilling, fun-filled, light-speed finale

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Sexual tension … Adam Driver as Kylo Ren and Daisy Ridley as Rey in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Photograph: Allstar/Lucasfilm/Walt Disney Pictures
Flying stormtroopers, lightsaber duels and a resurrected evil lord … the hugely entertaining final episode in the nine-film saga brims with euphoric energy 

So the ninth and last (we think) movie in the Star Wars saga arrives, and there’s only one thing on our minds. When will Darth Vader’s disturbing grandson, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), and Rey (Daisy Ridley) do something about their outrageously obvious telepathic sexual tension and just get a room already? When will they do something about the symbolism of these lightsaber duels of theirs, secure a furtive daytime booking at some intergalactic Premier Inn and give us the most rock’n’roll sex scene – come to think of it, the only sex scene – in Star Wars history? Surely the suits at Disney would be OK with it? Well, oddly, the symbolism of Romeo and Juliet (as well as Dunkirk) might just occur to you in the course of this crazily but very entertainingly grandiloquent adventure.


Now, The Rise of Skywalker has been rather coolly received in some quarters, and I certainly think it isn’t quite as strong as The Last Jedi, around which critical consensus has gathered. (In this trilogy of trilogies, incidentally, it is the second film in each trio – The Empire Strikes Back, Attack of the Clones and The Last Jedi – that has been the strongest episode, though Clones did not have much competition.) There is, I admit, some excessive MacGuffinism (the use of arbitrary objects to drive the story), especially when everyone conceives a great desire to get hold of a supernaturally potent glass tetrahedron, which is then smashed before someone miraculously comes across another mystically significant glass tetrahedron, murmuring: “Oh, there were two!”

 The gang’s all here … Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron. Photograph: Allstar/Lucasfilm/Walt Disney Pictures

Which brings us to the second flaw in episode nine: a habit of nullifying jeopardy by perpetually bringing dead people or things back to life. People are forever dying and then returning to the screen, either as poignant memories, or quasi-ghosts, or horribly unnatural resurrections. Partly, I think this is an over-writing flaw, with director JJ Abrams (having taken over from Colin Trevorrow over “creative differences”) working with co-writer Chris Terrio and perhaps over-zealously trying to correct what fans saw as the fault with The Last Jedi and to cover as much ground and as many alternative realities as possible, in the service of a resounding finality. In fact, the ending is no cop-out. There is real sacrifice.


And, to some degree, the dying-not-dying motif was forced on Abrams and Terrio by the fact that Carrie Fisher, who plays General Leia Organa died after the last film, and her marginal presence here has been fabricated with a piece of unused footage in which Fisher is making general-purpose observations that have been ingeniously sewn into dialogue scenes.

The situation now is that Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) has returned, after we all thought we’d heard the last of him. He has been resurrected in an almost satanic procedure as the artificially galvanised undead Sith lord, wired up to some source of daemonic Sith energy. From here, Palpatine plans to embark on a new insurgency of evil from the First Order, in which General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and Allegiant General Pryde (Richard E Grant) will be complicit and which involves the agonised, almost tragic figure of Kylo Ren, the Order’s leader. And Driver’s performance is genuinely excellent – he brings an absolute commitment to the role, distinguishing it from the tongue-in-cheek black comedy of Gleeson, and, however absurd it sounds, there is subtlety and even delicacy in his vocal range.

Riders in the storm … John Boyega and Naomi Ackie. Photograph: Allstar/Lucasfilm/Walt Disney Pictures

What this means is a gallant fightback from the Resistance and the old gang springing into action: Rey, Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac), Chewie (Joonas Suotamo) and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels). There is great chemistry and ésprit de corps between them all as they helter-skelter anarchically and almost plotlessly from exotic planet location to exotic planet location, going into full Indiana Jones mode as they barrel about – incidentally discovering, to their enormous chagrin, that stormtroopers can fly these days.

Of course, just as with The Last Jedi and The Force Awakens, very familiar tropes and plotlines are being revived, and maybe the distinctive theme of this trilogy is this fan-fiction-style tribute to the first films. But, however preposterous, The Rise of Skywalker is socked over with such energy, such euphoric certainty. And it’s such fun: full of the rackety exuberance of the now forgotten Saturday morning movie serials that were an influence on George Lucas. Comedy was, incidentally, the keynote of Ron Howard’s excellent and very underrated non-Skywalker-saga Solo: A Star Wars Story. It’s right now for the saga to end, or at any rate to lie fallow, and to leave us with such an exhilarating flourish.

Best Songs of 2019 – world

Young women blurring genres, global artists pushing boundaries and a rapper playing with a meme made the most exciting tracks of the year.

Going way, way over the top, Lizzo’s knowing but wholehearted take on an old-fashioned, orchestral soul ballad tosses around profanities as she belts it to the rafters.

A few tolling piano notes open a world of loneliness, cavernous and barren, around FKA twigs’ voice as she copes with self-doubt, jealousy and aching need.

The calm, husky tone and understated beats of Burna Boy, from Nigeria, belie a determination to unite Africa and its diaspora. This track from his 2019 album, “African Giant,” is both insinuating and ambitious.

Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker.Credit…Amy Harris/Invision, via Associated Press

Carried by pulsing keyboards and a bashing beat, Kevin Parker — the one-man studio band Tame Impala — confronts all the misgivings of being a grown-up still making pop music.

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From the album “Ghosteen,” Nick Cave’s magnificently sustained reverie on grief, family and eternity, comes this billowing waltz, a mythic vision that falls to earth and finds another way to ascend.

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Crescendos rise like tidal waves in this retro, string-laden torch song that carries girl-group drama to an operatic peak.

A meditative, mysterious song about time, transformation and connection, fervently sung over folky acoustic guitars.

Khalid pleads for conversation on “Talk.”Credit…Mackenzie Sweetnam/Getty Images

Khalid’s approach couldn’t be more sensitive — “Can’t we just talk/Figure out where we’re going?” — as synthesizer chords tiptoe forward ever so tentatively, even as the tryst proceeds.

In a whispery, bedroom-sized reduction of grungy indie rock, Clairo ponders whether physical attraction will outweigh a lovers’ quarrel, striving to maintain her deadpan as feelings surge.

A Mexican-American born in Los Angeles, Angelica Garcia proclaims her bicultural heritage — “wearing my roots and flying this flag” — over a snowballing, polyrhythmic buildup that melds Mexican rhythms and electronic savvy.

The perpetually rebellious Algerian songwriter Rachid Taha left behind an album in progress when he died in 2018. Its title song, “Je Suis Africain,” praises an African heritage that extends worldwide, and backs it up with a Pan-African groove fusing elements from Congo, Senegal, Algeria and beyond.

Bruce Hornsby melds chamber music, jazz, Minimalism and a folksy hoedown with some science-based metaphors to offer advice and warnings for the future of humanity. Cosmic enough?


Soul music’s gospel foundations sustain Baby Rose’s strikingly deep, tearful voice as she faces a modern quandary: Should she drunk-dial her ex?

A Venezuelan singer who moved to the United States and attended Berklee College of Music, Nella won the 2019 Latin Grammy for best new artist. She forged a trans-Atlantic musical partnership with Javier Limón, a Spanish producer and songwriter who brought out her affinity for flamenco and wrote “Voy” (“I Go”), a lean, lilting song about picking up and moving into the unknown.

Rockabilly meets Radiohead, with a backbeat below and a canopy of feedback above Adia Victoria’s voice, in “A Different Kind of Love.” It’s a checklist of failed romances from a songwriter pushing Americana toward sonic experimentation.

Inua Ellams transfers Chekhov to Nigeria

Buoyed by first-rate performances, this production transforms the Russian classic into an eye-opening account of the Biafran war.

Chekhov sometimes gets in the way in this too-faithful adaptation … Three Sisters at the National Theatre, London. Photograph: Richard Davenport/The Other Richard

Inua Ellams describes his new play, his first since Barber Shop Chronicles, as “after Chekhov”. He has taken the characters of Three Sisters and relocate them from provincial Russia to Nigeria between 1967 and 1970 during Biafra’s attempted secession.

The result is a startlingly vivid account of the civil war and a direct assault on British neocolonialism. I just wish Ellams had been less faithful to Chekhov. Structurally, the play stays close to the template. It is set in a village in Owerri, where three sisters think back longingly to Lagos. One of them, Lolo, is a hard-working teacher; the married middle sister, Nne Chukwu, has an affair with a military commander; the youngest, Udo, sees her dreams of happiness shattered.


All of this is true to Chekhov. But we also see the brutal consequences of civil war, including death and starvation, and at the end we witness Biafra’s doomed attempt to create a separate republic.

Ellams brilliantly uses the context to sharpen specific relationships. The hostility of the sisters to their brother’s wife, which in the original seems like snobbery, is explained by the fact that they belong to the dominant Igbo ethnic group, while she is a Yorùbá. The reason for the failure of Nne Chukwu’s marriage also becomes clear when you realise it was arranged when she was 12. Above all, the play offers a searing attack on British responsibility for the war dating to the time when they created Nigeria out of 250 ethnic groups and languages.

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While the play offers an eye-opening account of the civil war, Chekhov sometimes gets in the way. The point of the original is that, in the course of three years, nothing essentially changes. Here, however, we see a brave vision of Biafran independence being fatally shattered. Although Nne Chukwu attacks Udo for worrying about private problems during a period of public upheaval, her own affair with the commander also loses some of its dramatic significance as the country is being torn apart.

For all my cavils about Ellams grafting a new play on to an old model, Nadia Fall’s visually impressive production contains a host of fine performances. Sarah Niles makes Lolo a politically vigorous figure who vehemently attacks both British colonialism and Igbo tribalism. Natalie Simpson movingly conveys Nne Chukwu’s lifelong resentment at an enforced marriage and Racheal Ofori shows Udo’s transition from naive optimism to acceptance of tragic reality.

But there is strength in depth throughout the company. Ken Nwosu hints at the vanity behind the commander’s philosophising, Tobi Bamtefa disintegrates memorably as the sisters’ once high-flying brother and Jude Akuwudike is all growing disillusion as the brigade doctor. Ronke Adekoluejo also has the right brashness as the brother’s Yoruba bride, whose own clandestine affair actually ensures the family is fed, and Anni Domingo as an elderly retainer embodies the bolshy outspokenness of age.


The production and the performances are first-rate, and the house rose spontaneously at the end of a long evening. Yet I still wish Ellams had been even more ruthlessly radical in rewriting Chekhov.

Time to fight against oil companies causing deaths

Repentance, reparation and remedy for the terrible damage done to the people of Bayelsa state in Nigeria is long overdue.

‘Bayelsa produces approximately one-third of Nigeria’s oil wealth, but its two million people are some of the poorest in the country.’ Photograph: Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters
  • By John Sentamu

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights begins: “All human beings … should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” It is now widely acknowledged that human rights cannot be enjoyed without a safe, clean and healthy environment. The right to a healthy environment is enshrined in more than 100 constitutions all over the world because human and environmental rights are intertwined.

However, despite the endorsement of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, oil companies exploiting irreplaceable resources in the Niger Delta are callously flouting fundamental human rights. That is the conclusion I have been forced to draw from my work as chair of the Bayelsa State Oil and Environmental Commission (BSOEC).


In numerous recent visits with my commission colleagues, I have had first-hand experience of the chronic damage being inflicted on the people of Bayelsa state and their environment. Colossal oil spillages across the land have contaminated the air they breathe, the water they drink and fish in, and the food they grow. As many as 10m gallons of oil may have been spilled over the past 50 years. That’s equivalent to an Exxon Valdez disaster, an oil tanker that ran aground off Alaska in 1989, causing one of the worst environmental disasters.

Bayelsa, in southern Nigeria, produces approximately one-third of the country’s oil wealth, but its 2 million people are some of the poorest in the country. Estimates suggest that pollution may be causing 16,000 infant deaths a year. Unique ecosystems have been destroyed, resources depleted and communities destabilised. It’s getting worse every day.

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The burgeoning worldwide demand for energy, with its adverse impact on the world’s climate, is now well documented. But insufficient attention is being paid to the price paid in terms of health and welfare by the communities who live in the shadow of exploitation.

Human Rights Day offers a prime opportunity to tell the world about the Bayelsa people’s hitherto unpublicised plight. We owe it to them. The degradation of their environment is directly linked to the loss of their universal right to “a standard of living adequate to health and wellbeing … including food, clothing, housing and medical care”, asserted by article 25 of the Universal Declaration. Article 26 refers to the duties we have to the community to protect one another’s rights and freedoms.


The BSOEC has been set up to investigate the regional catastrophe in Bayelsa state and to propose solutions to end the pollution crisis and resultant human suffering. The BSOEC comprises leaders from government, NGOs, faith communities and international experts. It has collected evidence from more than 500 individuals directly affected and has visited polluted sites across the country. An interim report was published in November 2019. The full report will be published next year, with recommendations for changes to the legal, policy and regulatory framework.

Nearly 50 years ago, Dr EF Schumacher wrote the prophetic book Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered. Among his conclusions are these spine-chilling words: “In the excitement of his scientific and technical powers, modern man has built a system of production that ravishes nature and a type of society that mutilates man.” I cannot think of a more apt description of what has been happening in Bayelsa state.

‘Those who bear the immediate cost are the people of Bayelsa, where human life appears to be disposable in the pursuit of wealth.’ Photograph: Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters

The legal system in Nigeria is cumbersome, costly and inefficient. Victims are rarely able to afford the means to justice and redress. While governments must accept a share of responsibility for this catastrophe, the onus lies largely with the multinational oil companies that dominate the scene. They drill and export the oil and gas. They own the inadequate and poorly maintained and poorly guarded infrastructure that have allowed oil spills and other forms of pollution to become systemic for people in Bayelsa.

All too often they do not respect their fundamental human rights and are getting away with a pollution footprint with global consequences, including climate change. Yet those who bear the immediate cost are the people of Bayelsa, where human life appears to be disposable in the pursuit of wealth.

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Repentance, reparation and remedy for damage done for decades is long overdue. Too many people treat distant parts of the world like giant rubbish dumps. If you or I behaved like that in our locality, albeit on an infinitely smaller scale, we would be rightly prosecuted for fly-tipping.

We are all temporary tenants on this planet and will be held accountable for its management. Future generations will look at the state of their inheritance and will want to know who in the past benefited from its irresponsible exploitation and who paid the price for it.


If there is still an opportunity for the present generation to make amends, we had better get on with it with the utmost urgency. Otherwise, history will judge us as planetary vandals and abusers and our subscription to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will be mere lip-service.

• John Sentamu is the archbishop of York

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Sowore Vs Dss: unending dance of shame

I saw the various viral videos of scuffles in and outside the court premises, and I said to myself, this is really bad!

  • By Gbenga Adesanya, a Bloomgist Columnist

That, added to the comment of Femi Falana, SAN, it was a bad day for law and order in Nigeria. I said to myself, it’s better not to premise my opinion on a one-sided story, so I waited for the othe party to affirm or deny the claim that the court was invaded by the DSS operatives to rearrest Omoyele Sowore. Some hours later, a statement was issued by the DSS Spokesperson, giving a different account entirely. I said haba, how could the revered Femi Falana be this economical with the truth! Still something didn’t look right.

Again another yet to be confirmed story came up that Falana admitted he was informed Sowore was to be rearrested, hence a drama to forestall it was quickly concocted, starting with Sowore whose case was already concluded for the day, to run back into the court wherein another session had already begun. The latest story went as far saying the DSS official purportedly shown in the video was actually a Sowore man. The biblical injunction to seek out and affirm truth made me wait again. I watched, listened and questioned.


Few hours later, another story was in the air that the DSS had apologised for invading the court. I wanted to say, finally, but I cautioned myself again that we might not have seen the end of this ‘dance of shame’. That was the title of a television serial drama that aired on Galaxy television many years back while I was a staff there.

Anyway, all these actors know more than we all, so whether we like or not, we are a willing part of a play we do not know the full story, and we will continue to be until the very end of the fatalistic story line. That’s not to say Nigerians don’t have a sense of right or wrong, it simply means, in my own understanding, that we have learnt a bitter lesson of betrayal since the old days of labour unionism when we followed and trooped onto the streets the moment a call to action was made. It stopped with Adams Oshiomole when we realised we were simply being sold from one selfish interest to the other. Does anyone remember George Orwell’s Animal farm?

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The animals thought the pigs, so soft spoken and articulate, were messiahs and would bring relief, but they turned out to be tormentors-in-chief. My point is that Nigerians have grown to know the diffrence between the needed and the necessary. Plus or minus, I am hoping innocent Nigerians wouldn’t be drawn into some people’s personal wars, because they always come out to ask the masses to fight for them when they need, but who fights for the masses when we need it?

Do we see the members of the house of representatives or the senators fighting for Nigerians? Do we see the ministers, governors and or local government chairmen fighting for Nigerians? Do we ever see their children or family members near protests? Do we see any of them leading a campaign for genuine change and standing by it? Those who pretended to do so in the name of activism, when they got a taste of money, did they not turn against us? Yes, of course, their wars are always personal until we see a clear and genuine thrust in desire for a meaningful change. Noted though, there is no saint anywhere.


We just need someone that has a measure of genuine will. This is the point where I think Sowore’s biggest mistake came from. The revolution now became a personal fight, otherwise he would’t have made some questionable moves he made immediately after elections.  Note this, a political party offered some truce and alliance to Sowore”s party, AAC during the 2019 general elections in a state, can’t remember if it was Rivers State or not, but he declined and preserved the party integrity. Great. It was a smart decision, not just for that moment, but for a foreseeable future. Then, he lost the election, which everyone knew he couldn’t have won, anyway, an his arms were suddenly open to every dick and harry? Hmmm, that  bothered and still  bothers a lot of people.

Revolution now, with the way it was being touted would not have gained the people’s support, except for those on social media who would also not step near protests, but would allow the willing tools of chaos who were waiting on the sideline to start a war that benefited their patrons alone. Personally, I believe Sowore corrupted his activism and tainted his motive with some ill advised alliances.

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With all the bitterness flying around at various corners for losing out on elections, even an idiot would interprete Sowore’s actions as troubling. Anyway, whether he has actually done anything wrong or not is for the court to determine, and not by the DSS. The questions that truly bother me now are numerous, but I will make them few.

Does the DSS have the power and right to rearrest Sowore wherever and whenever?

Why would the DSS take such a drastic step to rearrest Sowore alone?

Would the DSS not have known rearresting Sowore in such manner would cause uproar?

What would the DSS gain by bringing itself to disrepute over Sowore?

What happened between the hours Sowore was released and was rearrested?

What would Sowore gain or lose if his rearrest had not been fought?

Would Sowore and Falana be capable of staging such drama, and to what purpose?


Why did Nigerians not rise up in support of a fight expected to make Nigeria better?Some of these questions already have my personal opinions inferred earlier,  and some are begging answers yet. Nevertheless, it would be in the interest of everyone to tread softly, obey the rule of law and abide by every judicial decisions. What is at stake in this matter is bigger than Sowore, DSS or the presidency.

sideline to start a war that benefited their patrons alone. Personally, I believe Sowore corrupted his activism and tainted his motive with some ill advised alliances. With all the bitterness flying around at various corners for losing out on elections, even an idiot would interpret Sowore’s actions as troubling.

Anyway, whether he has actually done anything wrong or not is for the court to determine, and not bythe DSS. The questions that truly bother me now are numerous, but I will make them few.


Does the DSS have the power and right to rearrest Sowore wherever and whenever? Why would the DSS take such a drastic step to rearrest Sowore alone? Would the DSS not have known rearresting Sowore in such manner would cause uproar? What would the DSS gain by bringing itself to disrepute over Sowore? What happened between the hours Sowore was released and was rearrested? What would Sowore gain or lose if his rearrest had not been fought? Would Sowore and Falana be capable of staging such drama, and to what purpose? Why did Nigerians not rise up in support of a fight expected to make Nigeria better?

Some of these questions already have my personal opinions inferred earlier, and some are begging answers yet. Nevertheless, it would be in the interest of everyone to tread softly, obey the rule of law and abide by every judicial decisions. What is at stake in this matter is bigger than Sowore, DSS or the presidency.

Gbenga Adesanya is a Bloomgist Columnist. He’s been writing for over 20 years, with his many of his works published.

The Bloomgist is committed to publishing stories that our readers care about. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email:

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Abandoned baby Giraffe dies with dog by its side

The giraffe had bonded with a watchdog, named Hunter, at a South African animal shelter. It collapsed after a brain hemorrhage.

Hunter, a young Belgian Malinois, keeping an eye on Jazz last month.Credit…Jerome Delay/Associated Press
  • By The Associated Press

A baby giraffe that was befriended by a dog after he was abandoned in the wild has died, a South African animal orphanage said.

The giraffe, named Jazz, collapsed after suffering a brain hemorrhage, the Rhino Orphanage in Limpopo Province said in a Facebook post on Friday.

“Our team is heartbroken,” the orphanage said. “The last two days before we lost him, Jazz started looking unstable on his legs and very dull, almost like he wasn’t registering everything,” it added. “He suddenly collapsed and we could see blood starting to pool back into his eyes.”


The baby giraffe had arrived at the orphanage a few weeks ago, just days after its birth. A farmer found him in the wild, weak and dehydrated, and called the center for help.

A baby giraffe that was befriended by a dog after he was abandoned in the wild has died, a South African animal orphanage said.

The giraffe, named Jazz, collapsed after suffering a brain hemorrhage, the Rhino Orphanage in Limpopo Province said in a Facebook post on Friday.

“Our team is heartbroken,” the orphanage said. “The last two days before we lost him, Jazz started looking unstable on his legs and very dull, almost like he wasn’t registering everything,” it added. “He suddenly collapsed and we could see blood starting to pool back into his eyes.”


The baby giraffe had arrived at the orphanage a few weeks ago, just days after its birth. A farmer found him in the wild, weak and dehydrated, and called the center for help.

When the giraffe became ill, Hunter seemed to realize something was wrong and did not leave the baby giraffe’s side, the orphanage said. The dog was there when the giraffe died, and sat in front of the empty room for hours before going to its carers for comfort.

Orphanage staff members had assumed that the mother giraffe had abandoned the baby for a reason, and had suspected an illness, Arrie van Deventer, the orphanage’s founder, said.

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“We finally know that Jazz didn’t have a bad giraffe mother that left him,” the orphanage’s statement said. “She just knew.”

In its farewell to the giraffe, the orphanage said, “You have taught us so much in the last three weeks, and we will remember you fondly.”

The giraffe was buried close to the orphanage, Mr. van Deventer said.

The post had thousands of views and hundreds of comments expressing sadness for the giraffe’s death and concern for how Hunter would handle the loss.

Janie Van Heerden feeding Jazz, then 9 days old. The giraffe was abandoned by its mother at birth.Credit…Jerome Delay/Associated Press

The orphanage said that Hunter was doing well and would continue training to be a tracking dog.

A final photo showed Hunter sitting in front of the closed door of the room where he and the giraffe had spent time together. The orphanage also paid tribute to Hunter’s loyalty.

“He stayed till the end and said his goodbyes,” it said. “Such a good boy.”

President Buhari recently held a closed-door meeting with Governor Nyesome of Rivers state as regards the recent activities of the Niger Delta Avengers

Buhari loves Nigeria, believe me

President Buhari has in recent years tried very hard to make known his love for Nigeria in so many ways. Some of these ways we have denied to see and understand even when it’s obvious they are meant for us and of the good of pour failing country.

  • By Sade Olakunke

Like since coming into power, he has approved so many new laws that past presidents has refused to approved, and gone after so many political powers that many are afraid of going after, and is still doing more.

It’s, from all indications, his love for the country that President Buhari even came back to power, knowing that he is definitely going to drop his former title “General” which sounds more of who he is and who he is known for, to bowing to the democratic founders who rather take up the title “President” as their titles. That is not an easy decision to make, you think it is? Now let’s see it this ways.


Dropping that title [general] while in power obviously means you have to do away with so many things you can do, and what you really crave for, even though those that don’t understand it calls it ‘tyranny’, but it’s not, it’s just a way of seeing things done in a country where its people don’t have regards for the president and don’t plan to obey whatever he says.

Another reasons to show His love is to forget about what it feels like giving command which doesn’t need any validation from anyone or approval from anybody, to subjecting himself to a position where he needs the approval of the house of assembly to execute his plans. who does that, if not one that love his country?

Another view of his love for the country is how he quickly warned of foreign nations from interfering with our politics and to allow us settle our fight in our own house.

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The Nigerian government said it will not accept “foreign interference” in February’s presidential elections after the EU, UK and US spoke out against the sudden suspension of the chief justice.

The three western powers issued statements voicing concern over how President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to suspend the judge might affect the conduct of elections in Africa’s most populous country. As Nigeria’s senior judge, Walter Onnoghen would have played a key role in deciding any legal challenges to the results of the presidential race between Mr Buhari and former vice-president Atiku Abubakar.


In a statement, Mr Buhari’s spokesman, Garba Shehu, warned that the government “will fiercely and assiduously promote the will and the right of Nigerians to choose and elect their leaders without pressure or assistance from persons or entities that are not constitutionally empowered to participate in the process”.

He added the security forces were ready to confront any attempt to interfere with the process “whether by elements within or from outside the country” and reiterated the government’s “insistence on free and fair elections”.

Buhari’s love for Nigeria has continued to make manifest through different policies he has introduced in recent times, like the bother closure, which despite the suffering and not-so-good strategies and no serious plans to improve life at this point of the president is still in place.

The president said the activities of the smugglers threatened the self-sufficiency already attained due to his administration’s agricultural policies.

In the statement to explain the bother closure, the presidency made a statement saying “Now that our people in the rural areas are going back to their farms, and the country has saved huge sums of money which would otherwise have been expended on importing rice using our scarce foreign reserves.

“We cannot allow smuggling of the product at such alarming proportions to continue,” he said.

The Nigerian President said the limited closure of the country’s western border was to allow Nigeria’s security forces develop a strategy on how to stem the dangerous trend and its wider ramifications.


There are more ways to note Buhari mean well for Nigeria, like how he quickly go against anyone spewing hates on social media on the politicians which he is doing through the introduction of the hate speech bill. How he is making sure that people can’t speak any time they want and express themselves freely on the only platform where everyone has a voice by introduction the Social Media Bill.

Other ways include the clamp down on the media houses and its journalists who dare to speak evil of our beloved President and His colleagues in Abuja, arrest of opposition who have made it difficult for our dear president to come change the situation of the masses from bad to [worse] good, and how he is doing His best that everyone get what they deserved either by the SSS going after the big boys, or the SARS after our young entrepreneurs doing their best, or the EFCC going after some rich guys that can’t afford a lawyer, whichever ways, this is all but for the love of the country, Nigeria.

Movie review: When Lambs Become Lions

The documentarian Jon Kasbe spent years among elephant hunters in Kenya, and his movie is an intense 74-minute distillation of his efforts.

A view from the documentary “When Lambs Become Lions.”Credit…Oscilloscope

By Glenn Kenny

Ivory poaching is a practice no one could possibly approve of: To further endanger the elephant species by killing individual animals is immoral. Some will tell you this isn’t just conventional wisdom; it’s a bedrock truth. Maddeningly, the ivory trade exists nevertheless.

So the documentarian Jon Kasbe gave himself a particularly daunting challenge when he set out to make “When Lambs Become Lions,” a picture about ivory poaching told largely from the perspective of those who do it.


In the economic wasteland of Kenya, an ivory dealer here called X plays the slick outlaw. “God has given me a sweet tongue and a sharp brain,” he says, adding, “I have no fear in my heart.” He’s easy to dislike, but he’s a desperate character who was born into the practice. He speaks of how he never kills elephants himself. That’s up to his comrade Lukas, who shoots the great beasts with poison arrows.

X has a cousin, Asan, who works as a ranger in a patrol assigned to stamp out poaching. His outfit hasn’t been paid in months. So he’s tempted to abet X and Lukas on an expedition. “The devil will burn you,” Asan’s young son yells at him.

Kasbe spent years among these people, and his movie is an intense 74-minute distillation of his dedication. It doesn’t go into the origins of the trade or how pressures from Western countries feed it. Rather, it’s a striking, human portrait of men in trouble, looking for escape and possibly redemption.


When Lambs Become Lions

Not rated. In Swahili, with subtitles, and English. Running time: 1 hour 14 minutes.

  • Director: Jon Kasbe
  • Running Time: 1h 19m
  • Genre: Documentary

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