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lauantai 31. lokakuuta 2015

Niger, Cool Facts #75

<= 74. DR Congo                                                                                                    76. Cote D'Ivoir =>



1. Orange in Flag 

Orange is the dominant color in the Nigerien flag, which is quite rare. There are just few flags with orange color and four of these have orange as a dominant color. These flags are quite similar and they are Niger, India, Cote D'Ivoir and Ireland. 

Meaning of the Nigerien flag

Orange: savannas and deserts of the north
Green: forests and green areas of the south
White: Niger River and the color of peace and purity
Niger
India

Ireland
Cote D'Ivoir


2. Uranium and the Worst Company in the World

Niger is one of the biggest uranium producers in the world. About 70% of the export revenue comes from uranium, but only 5% of the state budget revenue. The world's biggest uranium mines in Akouta and Arlit are in French control. The French company Areva is in charge of the mines and human rights associations have declared it the world's worst company because of the radioactive waste, bad working conditions and accidents. In 2014 Areva agreed to increase the government's uranium revenues from 5 to 12%. Besides uranium there are substantial deposits of coal, iron ore, phosphates, limestone and gypsum in Niger. 

AREVA in Niger

63,6% stake in Somair
34% stake in Cominak
Cominak and Somair produce 4,500 tonnes of uranium per year
Pumps 20 million cubic meters of water each year for free, while the locals don't have enough water to even drink

AREVA's facilities in Niger

3. World's Fastest Growing Country


Niger has by far the highest fertility rate in the world. In average the women give birth to 7,6 children in Niger. The population is very uneducated and illiterate making Niger one of the most undeveloped countries in the world. This is a serious matter in a country where droughts and locust infestations occur frequently causing food shortages. There were only 1,7 million people in Niger in 1960 but now there are over 17 million and the population continues expanding. 


Fertility Rate Top 5

1. Niger - 7,6 children/woman
2. South Sudan - 6,9 children/woman
3. DR Congo - 6,6 children/woman
4. Somalia - 6,6 children/woman
5. Chad - 6,5 children/woman

A family in Niger
4. Agadez, Farthest point of the Ottoman Empire

Agadez is situated in the central part of Niger and it was the furthest point of the Ottoman Empire in Africa. In the 19th century the French came and occupied Agadez and since the year 1900 the French ruled the city. The city was an important passage for the medieval caravans and it still is important as a market town. It's a centre for the transportation of uranium, which is mined in the nearby areas. Agadez is nowadays known for its camel market besides the silver and leatherwork. 


Agadez Grand Mosque
5. Festivals in Niger

Guerewol festival 
A Fula cultural event where men paint their faces and then dance and sing trying to get the attention of the marriageable young women. This festival has got a lot of international attention as National Geographic has filmed the ceremony and showed it to the world.

Cure Salée
A yearly festival to celebrate the end of the rainy season. It lasts for three days featuring a parade of Tuareg camel riders followed by camel and horse races, songs, dances and storytelling. The festival is celebrated by the nomadic Tuareg and Wadaabe (Fula) people.

Guerewol ceremony
Cure Salee

Timeline

600-1591 Songhai Empire ruled Niger first then Mali Empire
1400s Arabs and Berbers arrive from the north defeating the kingdom established by the Tuaregs
1800s First European explorers and missionaries arrive at Niger
1885 France demanded the area for themselves at the Berlin Conference, it eventually got the area but the Tuaregs resisted the colonial conquest
1922 The whole area of Niger was managed to attach as a part of the French West Africa
1950s National movements get organized in Niger
1958 France grants autonomy for Niger
1960 Niger becomes independent and Hamani Dior becomes the first president
1968-1974 Unprecedented drought in Niger, problems in the food and emergency distribution caused protests
1974 President Hamani Dior is overthrown in a military coup and colonel Seyni Kountche becomes the new president
1987 After Kountche's death, vice president Ali Saibou steps into power
1990s Large student protests resist the single party power
1993 Mahamane Ousmane becomes elected the president in multiparty elections
1996 Colonel Ibrahmin Bare Mainassara overtakes the power in a coup
1999 Mainassara becomes assassinated in a new military coup and Niger returns into civil power, Tandja Mamadou becomes the new president
2007 The Tuaregs declare to have established the Republic of Tumoujaghan with Agadez as their capital, this event has caused fights in northern Niger
2010 Mamadou tried to extend his presidency with a change in the constitution but the army intervened with a military coup

Sources:
"Maailman maat liput ja historia" by Kimmo Kiljunen
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niger 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agadez
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sovereign_states_and_dependent_territories_by_fertility_rate

keskiviikko 28. lokakuuta 2015

Democratic Republic of Congo, Cool Facts #74

<= 73. Congo                                                                                                                       75. Niger =>



1. Congo Free State  


In the late 1870s the king of Belgium, Leopold II contracted the British explorer Henry Stanley to examine the area of the Congo basin. European countries divided Africa with each other during the Berlin Conference in 1884-1885 and Leopold II announced that he would take the whole Congo Basin region as his private property.

The region was called as Congo Free State until 1908 when it was dissolved and the area was transformed from king's private property into a Belgian colony. This period of time is known as one of the cruelest in the colonial history. About 10 million people lost their lives in forced labour collecting rubber and other resources.

Many native people had their hands chopped off as they weren't able to meet the expectations in collected rubber amounts. This event created one of the biggest international scandals in the 20th century when the actions of king Leopold were revealed in Congo Free State. 


Leopold II of Belgium


2. Most populated French-speaking country

- DR Congo is the most populated French-speaking country 
  1. DR Congo - 81,7M 
  2. France - 66,0M
  3. Canada - 35,2M

- DR Congo is the 2nd biggest country in Africa after Algeria

  1. Algeria - 2,381,741
  2. DR Congo - 2,344,858
  3. Sudan - 1,886,068

- DR Congo is the most biodiverse country in Africa 

- The Congo River which flows across the country is the second longest in Africa and the amount of water in the river is the second largest after the Amazon. 

Virunga national park
3. World's richest country in natural reserves

It's speculated that DR Congo might be the richest country in natural reserves in the world. Most of the natural resources are untapped due to the unstable political situation. 

DR is one of the world's leading producers in copper, cobalt, zinc, manganese, silver and diamonds. They also produce a lot of gold and uranium. 

Natural resources in DR Congo: 

- 70% of the world's coltan
- 33% of the world's cobalt 
- over 30% of the world's diamond reserves
- 10% of the world's copper 

So taking in consideration these facts it's hard to accept that the population of DR Congo is among the world's poorest. The natural resources are one reason why the political situation is so unstable, everyone wants to get control of these resources. The resource rich Katanga was already independent in 1960-1963 and the diamond rich South Kasai tried to become independent as well. The cold truth is that in DR Congo the wealth from the natural resources goes to the rich elite and military leaders and their foreign bank accounts. 


Map of natural resources in DR Congo

4. Mobutu Sese Seko

Joseph-Desire Mobutu or Mobutu Sese Seko like he renamed himself is one of the most notorious dictators in history. He rose in power in 1965 in a coup and the following 33 years he was the president of DR Congo until 1997 when Lauren Kabila's rebel forces expelled him from the country. Three months later in 1997 he died in Morocco because of an advanced prostate cancer. 

Mobutu's actions during his presidency

- Changed his name from Joseph-Desire Mobutu to Mobutu Sese Seko
- Changed the name of Leopoldville to Kinshasa
- Congo became Zaire and the flag was changed
- Mobutu gathered a wealth of 5 Billion dollars from the countries natural resources
- Banned skin bleaching, straightening hair, usage of ties, western music and Christian names
- Single party system and secret police suppressed the opposition
- Transformed DR Congo into a kleptocracy

Despite all of Mobutu's shocking actions the western countries supported him for a long time because Mobutu was an anti-communist and he secured the exploitations of natural resources. Gradually the lack of democracy, corruption, human rights violations and economic chaos banished the outside supporters. 


Mobutu Sese Seko with Ronald Reagan

5. African World War

The Second Congo War is also known as the Great African War or the African World War. The name comes from the fact that nine African countries participated somehow in the war either in participating in the fights or giving logistic or political support.

The Second Congo War began in 1998 when the civil war expanded into a regional conflict. Laurent Kabila had expelled Mobutu out of the country in 1997 with the help of Rwandan and Ugandan troops. In 1998 Kabila ordered the Rwandan and Ugandan troops to leave the country, which they refused to do because Kabila's relationship with his former allies had worsened.

The Rwandan troops tried to conquer Kinshasa and replace the government with their allies. Uganda and Burundi supported Rwanda but their plans didn't go like planned as the militaries of Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe came to rescue Kabila's regime. Chad and Sudan sent some troops also for a while but they were withdrawn quickly when for example the Chadian troops were accused of serious human rights violations.

In 2001 Kabila was assassinated and a ceasefire agreement was made, but still the fights continued until late 2002 before the official peace treaty was made in 2003. Despite the peace treaty, fights continued in eastern DR Congo in different conflicts like the Kivu and Ituri conflicts and the Lord's Resistance Army Insurgency.

It's estimated that about 3-4 million people died in the Second Congo War, which is the highest number of deaths in a war since World War II. 




Timeline

Before Europeans there were many tribes, the pygmies were the most ancient people on the area
About 2000 years ago the Bantu people migrated to the area
1483 The Portuguese Diogo Cao is the first at the Congo river
1506 Portuguese missionaries converted the king Nzinga Nkuwu into Christianity and he opened his country to trade
1870s British explorer Henry Stanley examines the area
1884 After Berlin Conference Belgian king Leopold II gets the whole Congo river area as his private property
1908 Congo becomes the colony of Belgium instead of being the private property of the king
1960 Belgium grants DR Congo independence, Joseph Kasavubu became the first president
1960-1963 Katanga is independent
1961 Belgian secret police assasinates the prime minister Patrice Lumumba
1965 Joseph Mobutu rose in power after a leadership crisis between Lumumba and Joseph Kasavubu, which also resulted in changing the name of the country to the "Democratic Republic of Congo"
1971 DR Congo changed its name to Republic of Zaire adopting a new flag as well
1997 The armed forces forced Mobutu to flee from Zaire and Joseph Kabila became the president
1998 The war in DR Congo evolved from a civil war into a regional conflict
2001 Laurent Kabila was murdered
2006 First multiparty elections in 46 years, which ends into armed conflicts when the results were published
2015 big protests where people demand Joseph Kabila to step down as president

Sources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Congo_War
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Congo_War
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tippu_Tip
https://wikis.engrade.com/imperialisminthecongo/6
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democratic_Republic_of_the_Congo
"Maailman maat liput ja historia" by Kimmo Kiljunen

torstai 15. lokakuuta 2015

Congo, Cool Facts #73

<= 72. Togo                                                                            74. Democratic Republic of Congo => 



1. Brazzaville

The capital of Republic of the Congo is Brazzaville, which is named after an Italian explorer and freemason, Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza. He was born in the Papal states but he naturalized as a Frenchman adopting the French spelling of his name instead of his Italian birth name Pietro Paolo Savorgnan di Brazza. 

The city of Brazzaville was established in the beginning of the 1880s by Count de Brazza. Pierre signed a treaty with the leader of the local Bateke tribe. This was the beginning of the French settlement in Central Africa. 

Brazzaville was one of the center points of traffic in the French African colonies. Goods were transported by ships along the Congo river to the railway, which passed through the Livingstone falls to the coast at Pointe-Noire. Over 20,000 people died constructing this 510 km long railway. Congo gets revenue still operating the transit traffic and the Manganese Ore transportations from Gabon. 


Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza
Brazzaville

2. French Equatorial Africa

In 1884 the French rule in Congo was confirmed in the Berlin Conference. 
In 1908 France created French Equatorial Africa

Parts of French Equatorial Africa:

1. Middle Congo = Congo
2. Oubangui-Chari = Central African Republic
3. Chad
4. Gabon

In the 1920s l'A.E.F, Society Amicable des Originaires was established to fight against colonialism and its aim was to get all the people of French Equatorial Africa the right for French citizenship.
In 1958 the French Equatorial Africa was dissolved into four autonomic parts.
In 1960 Congo gained independence.

French Equatorial Africa

3. President Denis Sassou-Nguesso

The current president Denis Sassou-Nguesso has now in the year 2015, ruled Congo 26 years of the past 36 years. Sassou-Nguesso gained power in the year 1977 when the previous president Marien Ngouabi was murdered after internal unrests in Congo. Sassou-Nguesso invested in basic education and healthcare, but otherwise he drove the country towards bankruptcy. The foreign debt was exploding and the primitive agriculture forced the country export all the food. 

In 1992 Sassou-Nguesso lost the first multiparty elections to Pascal Lissouba. The country went into civil war and in 1997 Sassou-Nguesso returned in power with the help of his "Cobra-troops" and the Angolan army. Brazzaville was ruined in the fights and over 300,000 people became refugees. Since then Sassou-Nguesso has been in power and he has ensured that he will win all the elections. 


Denis Sassou-Nguesso

4. Natural Resources

In the past the French oil company Elf got the exclusive right to drill oil in Congo. The unfavorable contract benefitted only the French and president Sassou-Nguesso and his inner circle. Congo has large natural resources including natural gas, diamonds, gold, phosphate and iron deposits. The population hasn't had the chance to enjoy the wealth of their land due to the political problems in the country. Congo was also accused of exporting diamonds that were smuggled out of the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.

French oil company Elf

5. Congolese Society

- 62 Spoken languages in total 

- French is the only official language, Kituba and Lingala are the two recognized regional languages

- Majority of the people belong to the four Bantu tribes: 
1. Kongos from the south (48%)
2. Sangha from the north (20%)
3. Bateke from the central parts (17%)
4. Mbochi from the central parts (12%)

- There are still about 10,000 pygmy people inside the impenetrable rainforests living in isolation

- The majority of people are Christians, about 2% are Muslims

Pygmy people

Timeline

1482 The Portuguese are the first Europeans at Congo River. Christian missions were started at the area but soon the slave traders arrived as well
1880s French Count Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza establishes the city of Brazzaville close the Livingstone falls
1884 The French rule in Congo is confirmed in the Berlin Conference
1908 Congo, Gabon, Central African Republic and Chad are united into the French Equatorial Africa
1920s A.E.F the Society Amicable des Originaires is established to resist colonialism
1958 French Equatorial Africa is separated into four autonomic parts
1960 Congo becomes independent
1963 First president Filbert Youlou is overthrown in a coup
1968 Marien Ngouabi takes the power and declares Congo as a peoples republic
1977 During the internal unrests Ngouabi is murdered and Denis Sassou-Nguesso gained the power
1980s Congo started liberating the economy and the political opposition was allowed to operate in the country
1992 First multiparty elections, which Pascal Lissouba won against Sassou-Nguesso
1997 Denis Sassou-Nguesso returned into power with the help of the Cobra troops and the Angolan army
2002 Pascal Lissouba isn't allowed to participate the elections
2009 Opposition unwilling to participate the elections

Sources:
"Maailman maat liput ja historia" by Kimmo Kiljunen
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic_of_the_Congo
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Savorgnan_de_Brazza
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Equatorial_Africa

tiistai 13. lokakuuta 2015

Togo, Cool Facts #72

<= 71. Guinea                                                                                                                    73. Congo =>



1. Togolese society

Togo is a tiny country with 40 different tribes. The biggest tribe is the Ewe tribe from the south but also the Kabye, Tem and Gourma people are big population groups. In the pre-colonial time, the tribes were organized in kingdoms, from which the Ashanti Kingdom in the west and the Dahomey Kingdom in the east were the biggest. 

French is the official language but some most popular vernacular languages are Ewe, Mina and Kabiye. 

In Togo 51% of the people hold indigenous beliefs, about 29% are Christians and 20% Muslims.

Ewe people 
Kabye people

2. Symbolism in the Flag


The Togolese flag was designed by a Togolese artist Paul Ahyj, who had studied in France before returning back to his native country Togo, which at the time was still the French Togoland prior to independence. 

5 Stripes = 5 regions of Togo
Red square = blood shed in the struggle for independence
Yellow = soil 
Green = forests and agriculture
White star = light, intelligence and peace



Paul Ahyj, the designer of the Togolese flag

3. German Togoland

In 1884 the German Gustav Nachtigal made an agreement with the Ewe king Mlapa III about the coast of Togo, which became a German protectorate. The Germans established cotton, coffee, palm oil and cocoa plantations. The built the railways and the harbour of Lome to transport the agricultural products. The native people resisted the Germans stubbornly, especially the Kabyje people. 

By 1912 Germany had reached its power in the whole area of Togo. The German Togoland was intended to have its own flag, which included a coat of arms with two cobras in the German tricolor flag. The German Togoland was short-lived as the French and British troops occupied Togo during the World War I. 

After the war Togo was split into two. The French Togoland consisted 2/3 of the previous Togolese territory and the rest was part of the British Togoland. The British Togoland was later attached to Gold Coast, the current Ghana. This splitting separated the powerful Ewe tribe into the territories of two countries. 



Gustav Nachtigal
German Togoland flag 


4. Independence

In 1956 the British Togoland joined Gold Coast (Ghana) after a referendum, despite the resistance by the Ewe people who now lived in the territories of two different countries. 

In the same year France announced the French Togoland as an autonomic republic, being still part of the French West Africa. France announced Nicolas Grunitzky as the prime minister in French Togoland. 

In 1960 Togo became independent and Sylvanus Olympion became the country's first president. His main objective was to reunite the Ewe tribe again. This caused tensions between Togo and Ghana. 


Eastern Togoland = French Togoland






5. Dictator Gnassingbé Eyadéma

Gnassingbé Eyadéma was the president of Togo for 38 years. In 1967 Eyadema overthrow the previous president Nicolas Grunitzky becoming the new president. Nicolas Grunitzky himself became the president as Eyadema led a coup in 1963 overthrowing Sylvanus Olympion, the first Togolese president and installing Grunitzky as the new president. 

List of Gnassingbe Eyadema's notorious actions:

1. Entourage of 1000 dancing women who sang and danced in praise of him
2. Portraits of Eyadema which adorned most stores in Togo
3. Bronze statue of Eyadema in Lomé, the capital city
4. Comic book that depicted Eyadéma as a superhero with powers like invulnerability and super strength
5. Represented himself as the only survivor of a plane crash to make himself look like a superhero who miraculously survived when all the others were killed, even though this wasn't the case and there were other survivors in fact


Gnassingbé Eyadé ma comic book
Gnassingbé Eyadéma

Timeline

1400s The Portuguese sail as the first Europeans at the coasts of Togo, the area was used for slave trade the following 300 years
1884 Togo becomes a German protectorate
1912 Germany gets the control of the whole area in Togo
1918 After World War I Togo was split into two protectorates administered by France and Britain
1957 British Togoland joins Ghana
1960 French Togoland becomes independent with Sylvanus Olympion becoming the first president
1963 Olympian is assasinated in a coup led by sergeant Gnassingbe Eyadema and Nicolas Gruntizky became the president
1967 Gnassingbe Eyadema overthrows Grunitzky in a bloodless coup
1991 Togo shifts into multiparty system after demonstrations and a general strike
1993 Unrests after presidential elections lead 50,000 to flee to Ghana and Benin
1998 Eyadema wins the elections against the former president's son Gilchrist Olympian
2005 Eyadema dies after being 38 years the president of Togo, against the constitution the military took the power and appointed Eyadema's son Faure Gnassingbe as the new president

Sources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Togo
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnassingbé_Eyadéma