Category Archives: Law

Korea’s Few Muslims, and Few Africans

I recently published a piece in The Islamic Monthly about Muslim immigrants and refugees in South Korea. A good number of these Muslim immigrants to Korea are African, and East Africans have been at the forefront of pushing the boundaries of Korean refugee policies. For clarification, an immigrant chooses to leave their home country, often for improved economic opportunities. A refugee is forced to flee their home country out of fear of violence or persecution.  An asylum seeker is a refugee who has officially applied for protection in the country that received them. South Korea has all of these.

Much of the social stigma Muslim immigrants to South Korea experience is not unlike that Nigerians and other West Africans face when moving abroad. See below for the text of the article.

Korea: A Land of Few Muslims
I took Ramadan for granted when I lived within the diversity of New York. Even as a non-Muslim, it was a beautiful time of year. I remember the explosion of smell of cumin and curry wafting from family-owned restaurants just before sundown. I loved hearing the noisy laughter of families as they lingered over their Eid tables, allowing their playing children to stay up later than usual. It buoyed me to see posters reminding everyone to pay their zakat (alms) for the year to charities. The contemplation the holy month inspires in observers somehow made parts of the city more sober, yet also more joyful for the same reason.

But after moving to South Korea last year, this Ramadan was a very different experience. There are so few practitioners of Islam here — Muslims comprise less than 0.5% of the population — that one must know how to search for acknowledgement of Ramadan at all. The small-but-growing Muslim community is largely centered in the capital, Seoul, on a hilly street hosting the Central Mosque and the core of Islamic culture for the country. The mosque is over-capacity each Friday, with worshipers sometimes laying their pray rugs on the sidewalk outside, an indicator of the slowly rising number of Muslim immigrants in the city.

Seoul’s Muslims have created their community in the international Itaewon neighborhood, interestingly, right near the Yongsan U.S. Army base. A stroll up a colorful side street reveals halal restaurants and grocers, electronics stores, pilgrimage travel agencies, offices of immigration attorneys and cosmetics vendors. The range of Muslim immigrants is so great here that one can eat Malaysian-Egyptian food, exchange Thai baht for Emirati dirham and book a trip to Bahrain or Brunei. Some women wear gauzy shayla veils barely covering their hair, a few others a black niqab revealing only eyes. The street very much flows with the rhythm of daily prayer, and many of these doors are closed during salah (prayer) times, which I noticed confused some Korean visitors.

As-salaam alaykum” (peace be on you) is the most common greeting on this street, one I have seen embraced also by non-Muslims doing business here. There are Chinese tailors, Nigerian cell phone salesmen and Korean nail salons alongside these Muslim shops. They buy, sell and trade among each other. Many long-time Muslim residents — I spoke with Pakistanis who had been in Seoul for 20 years — speak Korean, and they benefit from and contribute to the local economy. Spending just a day on this peaceful street might lead a visitor to believe these Muslim immigrants have a solid foothold in South Korea.

However, this religious minority must tread softly. I have written elsewhere about my outreach efforts to a local mosque here, which were not welcomed by mosque leadership. In better understanding the complicated terrain Muslims navigate in South Korea, I can appreciate the leadership’s defensiveness. I received a distant reception (admittedly due in part to language barrier) again when I recently visited the mosque to try to learn more about the history of Korean Muslims. I understand: They are trying to practice a marginalized religion in a country unaccustomed to diversity. The small number of Muslims in South Korea, and the country’s uncharted path to dealing with them, is precisely why the Muslim presence here is so intriguing.

We read often of the unstoppable tide of Muslims migrating to Europe, but little of those who seek out developed countries with few practitioners of Islam at all. What follows is the background story of how Muslims experience this vulnerable social space in one of the most ethnically homogenous countries in the world. It also explores the inconsistent way in which the government approaches immigration, and a few of the factors influencing policies toward outsiders. South Korea struggles to maintain social harmony and economic prosperity in the face of unprecedented immigration, which is difficult.

Who are the Muslims of South Korea?

 There are approximately 250,000 Muslims among a population of about 51 million, largely non-religious, South Koreans. A small fraction of these Muslims, up to 75,000, are ethnic Koreans born in the country. A spokesman at the Seoul Central Mosque says this number is even smaller, about 40,000.

Middle Eastern traders and later Mongols introduced Islam to the Korean peninsula beginning in the 9th century. The greatest rise in the number of Korean Muslims occurred in the 20th century, after Koreans fled to Muslim areas of China to escape Japanese occupation, and later returned converted. At the same time, Turkish troops stationed by the United Nations during the Korean War had an Islamizing effect.

Yet, there are three times more foreign-born Muslims than ethnic Korean ones, numbering about 150,000. These are Muslims living and working on that Itaewon street with the Central Mosque. There is a steady rise in Muslims each year in the form of foreign university students and Muslims staying in the country as they intermarry with Koreans. These spouses are from other Asian countries typically. These two groups have helped quadruple the number of Muslims in South Korea since 1994. Admittedly, the size of the Muslim population is challenging to verify because the government has not done a census on their numbers in five years, and just under 20% of Muslim immigrants are in the country illegally (an issue explored in the latter half of this article).

The burdens of trailblazing

 The challenges begin for many Muslims upon arrival at Seoul’s Incheon airport. For hopeful Muslim refugees who don’t have all their necessary paperwork, some of whom stayed during a layover or traveled via a “safe” country, their arrival is a grim one. Hundreds of immigrants have been held at the airport in a space meant for 50, for up to six months at a time. These have included men from war-torn parts of Africa and Syria. During their weeks and months of wait, they are given three meals per day of only a hamburger or chicken burger with a soda. There are reports of devout Muslims living off just the bread to avoid non-halal meat. There are no beds, so they sleep on the floor. There are two showers, one for each gender. They take occasional walks through duty-free stores to look at goods they will never be able to afford.

When the government announced plans to build a “Welcome Center,” a refugee housing facility called Young Jong Reception Center, nearby residents protested. They voiced concerns about a flood of immigrants and a rise in crime in the area, the general concern of many Koreans. This backlash was unsurprising to many. According to a 2013 WorldValues Survey,more than 1 in 3 South Koreans responded they didn’t want a neighbor of a different race.

In trying to better understand the experiences of those who make it past the airport, I spoke with Aman Ullah Khan, a Pakistani Ph.D. candidate and a Korean-Urdu interpreter and translator who has been living in Seoul for almost five years. He described to me the challenges of practicing Islam in South Korea.

He has found that many Koreans don’t understand the basic tenets of Islam, and a lack of legal protections allows some to deny religious freedoms to those Muslims who work under them. For example, the most pressing of these is the need to pray five times per day. Some employers deny Muslim employees prayer breaks during the workday, and no law explicitly protects this right, he says. Ramadan is always particularly difficult. Koreans work extremely long hours typically; 10 hours per day is not unusual. Muslim employees do not have shortened workdays or days off for fasting or Islamic holidays. He feels that “the belief among many employers is that religious needs are not their problem.”

In addition to rights protections, religious infrastructure is lacking in this largely secular society. While Muslim migrants account for two-thirds of all Muslims in South Korea, they make up over 90% of attendees at religious services — meaning immigrants are far more actively engaged in the religious community outside their homes than Koreans of any religion. Yet there are only about 15 mosques and 60 Islamic centers in the country. There is no Muslim cemetery, even for Korean Muslims, and there is a single halal chicken slaughterhouse run by a Pakistani-Korean.

Yet for many, it is difficult to make the argument that South Korea has an obligation to meet the religious needs of foreigners, especially those who were not invited in the first place. Any public relations campaign for foreign Muslims in South Korea would be a challenge. In addition to a pervasive desire for sameness-based harmony, Koreans have reacted strongly to reports of Islamic violence. There was the 2004 decapitation of a Korean missionary in Iraq, then the 2007 kidnapping of Korean missionaries in Afghanistan. South Korean news was flooded with reports in 2015 of an 18-year-old Korean man who traveled to Turkey, a post-exam gift from his mother, and then purportedly disappeared into Syria to join ISIS. Last year, it was widely reported that ISIS hackers had gained information to attack U.S. military bases in South Korea. These incidents have fueled the notion of the “Islamic terrorist.” Islamophobia is as prevalent in South Korea as anywhere in the West.

Refugees to an unwilling refuge 

Khan is certainly not the typical Muslim in South Korea. Even a cursory glance at population statistics demonstrates that the country does not open its doors to immigrants, and it certainly doesn’t do so for Muslim refugees from the Middle East or Africa. Although South Korea legally could begin accepting refugees in 1994, it didn’t take in the first one, an Ethiopian, until 2001. As of August 2015, only 600 non-ethnic Korean refugees have been legally admitted, out of 18,800 applicants. This makes South Korea’s refugee acceptance rate 3% to 4% overall. In 2014 alone, the U.S., a close ally, accepted 745 refugees for each one that South Korea did — 70,000 by Washington compared with 94 by Seoul. South Korea has the highest denial rate of refugee applications in Asia, after Japan.

South Korea has granted asylum to only three Syrians, ever. Almost 700 are there on temporary humanitarian and G-1 temporary residence visas, but these visas limit their access to employment and complete social services. Those Syrians and other refugee applicants denied protection have been told that fleeing civil war is not considered grounds for refugee status by the Korean government. This reaction to Syrian refugees indicates that Korean officials see far-off humanitarian crises as, in Khan’s words, “not their problem.”

“Foreign wars don’t wait for domestic bureaucrats”

Here is the rub with asylum applications in places like South Korea: Applicants are given a small stipend to live on while their cases are evaluated and are not permitted to work for up to six months while awaiting approval. If they do work, they are deemed an employment migrant. These people are seen as exploiting the asylum application system. However, what applicant from Africa, the Middle East or South Asia shows up to a country of possible refuge with enough supplemental money for six months? The system puts applicants in a position in which they need to find illegal work, but then uses that illegal work as proof that they really only came to South Korea for employment, not safety. The application can then be denied.

Khan, in his interpretation work for the High Court, estimates that 99% of immigration appeals are denied. “Those who appeal never win,” he says. Indeed, 2015 was the first year that an asylum seeker won an appeal to even have his asylum case reviewed, after the Immigration Authority had refused to process his application because he had been in the country over a year.

Ha Yong-guk, a Justice Ministry official, reported that 4 out of every 10 people who applied for asylum last year did so while staying in the country illegally. It is understandable that a government doesn’t sympathize with an illegal immigrant, but it is this same government that constructs the laws that make this immigrant an illegal one to begin with. Simply put, foreign wars don’t wait for domestic bureaucrats.

A visitor to Seoul, however, doesn’t need these numbers. Even a day riding on the metro system shows how few foreigners are allowed into the country.

A legal paradox

South Korean notions of immigration, specifically of refugee seekers, are still focused on an outdated ideology of anti-communism. During the Cold War, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was mostly concerned with those fleeing communist countries to seek asylum in the West. Refugee protections were expanded in the past decades to cover those forced from home due to violence and war. The UNHCR’s convention, which South Korea ratified in 1992, has moved past this 20th-century Cold War perspective while South Korea has not. This disadvantages Arab and African Muslims who do not come from socialist or communist states. The country readily accepts defectors from North Korea (as it should), but denies the urgency and relevancy of other immigration cases.

However, here is the contradiction. South Korea actually has one of the most progressive immigration laws in Asia. The Law on the Status and Treatment of Refugees, or the Refugee Act, enacted in 2012, was the first set of refugee protections separate from general immigration laws in East Asia. The Refugee Act allows for refugee applications on arrival at the airport, bans deportation until a final decision is made and allows the applicant to work after six months if no decision is made. It is a vast improvement on immigration laws that were in place before, but Korean refugee activists argue it is still not nearly comprehensive enough to protect the thousands of refugees who arrive each year. Yet it was a clear step forward considering how South Korea came to have such closed borders to non-White immigrants to begin with.

A country ready for refugees?

By exploring the Korean perspective, and the perspective of countries like it, we can better understand its tightly secured borders. There are historical, economic and cultural reasons why the government strives to firmly control incomers from developing countries, particularly those from a minority religion. Here are questions to ask when considering why some populations of developed countries may be hesitant to accept refugees and other immigrants.

How long has this country been dealing with immigration issues?

We need to consider the level of experience a country has with integrating refugees. WWII forced Europe and the U.S. to resettle Jews, Roma and other displaced people, and they have been doing so for over 70 years. The current refugee crisis with Muslims, especially out of the Middle East, has been ongoing for five years, perhaps longer if one also considers East African civil wars. In fact, until the democratic transition of the 1980s, South Korea was an origin country of refugees, rather than a recipient. South Korea simply hasn’t had decades of practice with immigrants.

How long has this country been a developed one?

South Korea is extraordinary in the speed with which it pulled itself out of poverty in a single generation. After the Korean War ended in 1953, South Korea had a GDP and per capita income similar to that of North Korea. South Koreans labored with great intensity, sacrificing even individual liberties to meet economic goals, and turned their country into a fully developed one within about 40 years. They did this without bountiful natural resources or helpful border neighbors. Based on the work ethic of today’s pensioners, who can still remember childhoods of food insecurity, South Korea is now one of the Four Asian Tiger economies (along with Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan). Those pensioners, and the country as a whole, are understandably slow to share that hard-earned prosperity with outsiders. The collective memory of poverty still lingers.

How do the people believe the country came to be developed?

South Korean society is based on harmony, and many see Muslim refugees as a threat to that harmony. The country struggles to overcome its emphasis on racial purity, minjok, and only within the past few years were such concepts removed in writing from schools and the military. Its only experience with non-Koreans was the brutal Japanese occupation, a traumatic one that contributed to an aversion to outside ethnicities.

In addition to racial attitudes, some Koreans fear that current social welfare systems are not sufficient to support refugees. Social welfare programs are not as expansive as one might expect based on the country’s wealth, perhaps since unemployment is only a significant problem among youth and familial ties are often strong enough to support those who would otherwise seek government help. Some worry that if immigrants couldn’t support themselves, perhaps they would turn to crime. The rate of stranger-on-stranger crime is low in South Korea, and citizens understandably want to keep it that way.

What do the government and the people fear most?

Many countries in South Korea’s position, developed but not yet home to many outsiders, have a clear anxiety about a flood of immigrants. Most pressingly, an inundation of refugees from North Korea would be highly problematic for Seoul. It’s easiest for governments like these to deny asylum applications as much as possible.

“Not their problem” until it is

As an admirer of South Korea, I have thought about how the country could change its policy to benefit from the rapid increase in Muslim immigrants. There is a population gap due to low birth rates. Maybe accepting refugees could bolster the number of employees in low-skilled jobs? The country will need 15 million immigrants in the coming years to maintain the balance of the labor force. Koreans have an appetite for English. Perhaps immigrants could contribute to an increase in English acquisition among the population as they seek a common language? As the economy continues to grow, it will need to expand its reach of trading partners. Could taking in Muslim refugees help do this, and increase goodwill with countries in the Middle East? I don’t believe immigration is a zero-sum game in which taking in a refugee means fewer resources for a citizen.

Here is the challenge for newly developed countries like South Korea, trying to maintain the population status quo: A government can’t both seek to be a global player and then close its borders to global forces. One of the realities of being a developed country is that people from underdeveloped countries will try to come to build a better life. So, the best course of action is to create policies and infrastructure that galvanize the power of immigrants advantageously. In these times of unprecedented migratory patterns, developed countries can do their best to keep outsiders away for only so long. No government can avoid refugees in the 21st century because they’re “not their problem.” Refugees are everyone’s problem.

*All images via author. 

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Homi Baba: Why We are Still Afflicted by Colonialism Everyday

For Bhaba, would internalized oppression be a form of mimicry? Or, can someone engage in mimicry outwardly while still be unaccepting inwardly of their inferior status? I have observed Nigerians engaged in what seems to be mimicry, while still maintaining intense tribal pride, e.g. the Ogonis.

The paragraph on revolting against “doubling” in India, or indigenous clerks realizing they no longer wanted to perform colonial functions, is also applicable to Africa. It is a catalyst for self-emancipation when men go away to foreign wars as soldiers. Anglophone West Africans who fought for the British during WWII returned to their countries after fighting side-by-side with White European comrades; they had been brothers in battle. Those African men reclaimed their homes with a new sense of autonomy that contributed to the golden year of independence later on—1960. I would argue that WWII helped to end some of Bhaba’s manifestations of oppression, like doubling, in that sense.

The Conversation Room

Author: Anand Bose

Homi Baba is one of the foremost thinkers of Post Colonial Criticism and belongs to the school of thought known as Post Structuralism.

Homi Baba has made intrusions into the philosophy of language where texts become constructs for post colonial criticism. For Baba Colonialism has not been a straight forward clique between the oppressed and the oppressors but an evolving semantic machine marked by psychological anxiety and tension between the oppressor and the oppressor.

Here in this article I would like to articulate some ideas of Homi Baba on Post Colonial Criticism. They are hybridization, mimicry, uncanny, doubling, difference, ambivalence and anxiety. For Baba, a nation is always in the process of evolution and a nation is not a fixed entity.

Hybridization is a process through which cultures interact, mix and develop new cultural and evolutionary tendencies. A common example can be taken is that of the…

View original post 650 more words

One of My Presentations on Women’s Protests

Below is an excerpt from part of a talk I gave on women’s role in Nigerian protests against oil extraction. Oil activities are blamed for environmental destruction, police violence, corruption, and lack of economic growth.

One of my research findings on Niger Delta oil politics was what I termed “positional arbitrage.” This means that local chiefs and male elites used their positions to help incite protests against oil companies and the government at times, as they were well positioned to gain from women’s demonstrations.

The talk also covers some other details about the oil reform movement in the region.

The U.S. Travel Ban on Muslims, Nigeria, and Why It’s Such a Bad Idea

Although Nigeria has little potential (at this point) to make the U.S. travel ban, Trump’s Executive Order signed last week is bad news for everyone. There is great potential that it will last beyond the initial 90 days. I don’t believe Nigeria would ever be considered for the ban, despite the coverage of the 2012 “Underwear Bomber” and Boko Haram’s activities. The oil-based trade relationship between the countries is too important (5% of all U.S. oil comes from Nigeria). Trade in oil is also the reason that Saudi Arabia is not on the travel ban list, despite the large role of Saudi attackers in 9/11. Additionally, the travel ban gives preference to visas for Christians, which comprise a large number of Nigerian applications.

However, about a quarter million Americans claim Nigerian ancestry. Some of those may well be trying to bring family members to the U.S. There are tiers of prioritization of family-based visas, from Family First (minor children of citizens) to Family Fourth (brothers and sisters of citizens). I found a report from last year showing that Africans make up just under 4% of all family visa requests, far eclipsed by those from Central America. Here is the list by region:

list.PNG

To visually show you African applications compared to other regions:

chart

Although this may seem like a low number of application, Yomi Kazeem points out that Nigeria “may be caught in diplomatic cross-hairs of Trump’s ‘America First’ visa policies. In 2015, Nigeria accounted for 32% of the nearly half a million non-immigrant American visas issued to nationals of African countries and received more visas than the four other countries that make up the top five in Africa when combined.”

He also argues that with the understanding of reciprocity, Nigeria and any other country has the capacity to treat American visa applicants in the same manner that the U.S. treats their foreign citizens. Securing my Nigerian visas was an incredibly difficult feat several years ago, and I can’t imagine what it will be like if there are any more demands on applicants.

Why the Travel Ban Makes No Sense At All:

Although The Executive Order currently only includes three African countries—Somalia, Sudan, and Libya—it is disastrous on so many levels across the globe.  It endangers U.S. citizens by fostering animosity among those who are already anti-American, and alienating potential Muslim allies. (Why would pro-democracy Afghanis or Iraqis support our cause on the ground now?) It stokes the irrational fears of Americans who fail to recognize that less than 70 Americans have been killed on U.S. soil by terrorism (attackers included) since 9/11. Most clearly, it denies refugee status to those who would otherwise become important actors in the U.S. economy, and instead created furthers the burden on our ally countries in already-taxed Europe. Or worse, it forces immigrants and refugees back to the very countries that are an environment that is ripe for radicalization.  It is much safer for Americans to have teenage boys from Syria trying to build a life in the U.S. than leaving them to the Aleppo streets, where their options for radicalization are infinitely greater.

Did I yet mention how the travel ban creates a “brain drain” for us as we lose thousands of talented PhDs, scientists, engineers, and technology experts from the Middle East?  The U.S. is now turning away people who could find the cure for cancer, create more energy efficient buildings, and revolutionize the way we understand the world. Even if the ban is lifted after 90 days, many may not want to return to a hostile environment.

Ethical and legal implications aside, the travel ban is inherently…irrational, in both the everyday and the economic sense.Then again, no one ever claimed that a politics of fear makes sense.

State impunity is back in fashion – we need the international court more than ever – the guardian

https://apple.news/Ap1RoBvPMRW6CzlKl6rIlCQ

African Immigration’s Future in the Age of Trump

The number of African immigrants arriving to the United States has roughly doubled each decade since the 1970s. There are almost 2 million African immigrants currently living in the U.S., accounting for about 4.5% of the immigrant population. Although this is not a large number, they have the fastest growth rate of any immigrant group.  Almost half of all Africans are Muslim, which means a notable portion of the African immigrants arriving to the U.S. each year are too. This is significant considering Trump’s stance on Muslims in the United States.

Under a Trump administration, there would certainly be a reduction in the number of refugee and asylum statuses granted, including to Muslims seeking protection from fundamentalism in their home countries. The U.S. admitted a record number of Muslim refugees in 2016, almost 40,000. Most of them were from the Middle East, however, and I have not been able to find numbers on African Muslim refugees. Trump argues that allowing Muslims into the U.S. puts the country at risk for terrorist attacks, although there is no evidence that this is true.  Anecdotally, terrorist attacks on U.S. soil have been perpetrated by those on student visas or those with long-time ties, including citizenship.

Cutting off a safety route to Muslims who are seeking to separate themselves from the homelands that have oppressed them is exactly the opposite of what a security-minded Trump should be doing to minimize terrorism.  By allowing Muslims to enter the U.S., we strengthen ties to global Islamic communities, improve our image, and separate disaffected Muslims from the places that foster malcontent towards Americans. African countries from which the U.S. would be wise to accept more immigrants include those with growing extremist tendencies, e.g. Sudan, Nigeria, and Mali. Barring such individuals’ entry into the U.S. system keeps them in fundamentalist locations, where they can then live with a much more jaded view of the West.

These are all hypothetical concerns because, although Trump will be arguably the most powerful head of state in the world, bureaucracies are still bureaucracies. He will (hopefully) still have to make such inhospitable immigration changes within the confines of a government slow to change.  He will be bolstered by a Republican Congress, but it is yet to be determined how much GOP support he will enjoy. Since he is divisive among his own party at this point, he may very well get in his own way when it comes to realizing his goals of isolating Muslims from the American mainstream. Let’s hope that is actually the case, that he, and his ill-chosen words, is his own greatest obstacle. If not, if he does what he claims he wants to do, American-Muslim relations can only become more precarious.

 

Africa’s Future in the Age of Trump

Humanitarian efforts in Comoros

Most Africans don’t seem to find great hope for their continent in the outcome of the U.S. presidential election.   I’m not convinced that Africa is of much concern to the future American President, but his win creates direct and indirect economic effects across the continent beyond just the disrupted world markets following the election results.

Africa may be much more on its own economically under Trump than it has been under previous American administrations. It is unclear what Trump will do with the 2000 African Growth and Opportunity Act, which offers tangible incentives for African countries to continue their efforts to open their economies and build free markets. As of now, he appears only interested in fostering relationships with world economies that can benefit the U.S. immediately through trade. This may be good news to Nigerians, who enjoy the largest economy on the continent, but less promising for growing economies such as that of Ghana.

Trump’s probable business-like emphasis on what the U.S. can gain from African relationships does not bode well for human rights practices. I would presume that American financial gain would be foremost in Trump’s mind during negotiations, far more than concerns over human rights practices. This is troubling since the U.S. benefits economically from some African countries with disturbing human rights records.  Equatorial Guinea is the 6th largest oil producer in Africa and 3rd largest supplier of African oil to the U.S. Yet, President Obiang has been in office since his coup in 1979, and the country has been plagued by reports of underground torture of dissidents, extrajudicial killings, repression of the press, and high level corruption. Similar human rights challenges exist in Angola, Algeria, and Sudan, which are also top ten oil producers in Africa, and with whom the U.S. has trade arrangements. I am also concerned for human rights standards in Central Africa, which are large mineral producers, if the robustness of their economies is more valuable to Trump’s administration than their human rights practices.

This potential fostering of relations with countries with dubious human rights records would come at a troubling time, when African countries are withdrawing or threatening to withdraw from the International Criminal Court.

In terms of humanitarian aid, it certainly wouldn’t increase under Trump, and would most likely fall into decline. The U.S. currently gives around $12 billion per year in aid to Africa. It is less than 1% of the U.S. annual budget, which is very little and less than many European countries donate. To his credit, Trump has spoken in favor of the Bush-era PEPFAR program, which has given millions to help fight communicable diseases like HIV/AIDS and malaria across the continent. These funds have been wide spread across countries, and I helped put some of that money to good use as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mozambique in 2005. We implemented a nationwide girls’ empowerment conference in Maputo using much needed PEPFAR funds.

For most, a reduction in aid to Africa would be unequivocally bad. There are nations that rely for almost 100% of their national budgets on international aid, producing nearly nothing, e.g. Central Africa Republic (CAR). Conditional economic aid to Africa has been heralded as helpful to democracy in some places, e.g. Uganda. U.S. aid also acts as a potent antidote to the immense investments that China is making in the continent, investments which certainly do not come with conditions. (Many blame China for allowing Sudanese genocide under Omar al-Bashir, as China has great business investments in Sudan and thus blocked UN intervention that could have stopped the Darfur killings.) Trump would certainly not take the time or effort to fight for conditions to American economic aid.

However, there are anti-aid advocates who highlight the lack of evidence that economic aid actually helps pull countries out of poverty at all. In fact, Angus Deaton, Nobel Prize winner in economics, represents a growing body of scholars and policymakers who believe the developed world may actually be corrupting those more impoverished nations’ governments and slowing their overall growth.  They say that economic aid allows lackluster leaders to stay in power when they would otherwise be ousted for their performance; also, aid replaces revenue flow that should come from taxes, which are a fundamental building block of strong democracy. These folks argue that economic aid simply creates dependency. If you agree with this idea, then a Trump presidency may be a positive. His disinterest in the continent could create the conditions for self-sufficiency.

What is your forecast for Africa under a Trump Presidency?

Ending Child Marriage Step-by-Step

Across sub-Saharan Africa, marriage of minors is still a prevalent problem, particularly among young girls from impoverished families. In Nigeria, the practice is far more common in the Muslim North, where some areas practice Sharia law that allows for child marriage. “The Nigerian government made child marriage illegal in 2003, but according to campaigners from Girls Not Brides, 17% of girls in the country are still married before the age of 15. In the Muslim-dominated northwest, 48% of girls are married by the age of 15 and 78% are married by the time they hit 18.”

This is obviously a challenge for development, as girls who marry young are unlikely to finish schooling or stay within the protective proximity of their parents. There are countless health problems associated with childbearing at a young age, common among child brides. It threatens both the health and human rights of young girls.

For this reason, it was lauded news that “Malawi banned child marriage last week through new legislation that increases the legal age of marriage from 15 to 18, representing a major victory for girls in a country that has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world.” Malawi could function as a model nation in Africa for reforming the ways marriage and girls’s rights are approached.

Report on the Impact of Nigerian LGBT Law

Human Rights Watch just published a report that Nigeria’s Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, 2013 (SSMPA) “encourages widespread extortion and violence.” I blogged about the similarities between Nigeria’s legislation and that of Uganda several years ago, after reading about anti-LGBT violence in East Africa.  Then, anti-gay legislation was in its nascence in Nigeria, but is now codified. It encourages Nigerians to report suspicions of same-sex relationships, which can lead to jail time for those convicted. Nigeria is just one of many African countries that make the continent one of the most difficult for members of the LGBT community. Assuming that gay marriage laws are an indication of attitudes toward the gay community in general, this legislative map shows which world countries are most challenging:

 

 

Human Rights Watch just published the following:

Nigeria’s Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, 2013 (SSMPA) has made a bad situation much worse for Nigeria’s beleaguered lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The law has led to an increase in extortion and violence against LGBT people and imposed restrictions on nongovernmental organizations providing essential services to LGBT people in Nigeria.

A gay man in Bariga, a neighborhood in Lagos, Nigeria, who said he hides his identity from his friends and family.

The 81-page report, “‘Tell Me Where I Can Be Safe’: The Impact of Nigeria’s Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act,” shows how the law, which took effect in January 2014, is used by some police officers and members of the public to legitimize abuses against LGBT people, including widespread extortion, mob violence, arbitrary arrest, torture in detention, and physical and sexual violence. The law has created opportunities for people to engage in homophobic violence without fear of legal consequences, contributing significantly to a climate of impunity for crimes against LGBT people.

“The Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act effectively authorizes abuses against LGBT people,” said Wendy Isaack, LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “While Human Rights Watch found no evidence that anyone has been prosecuted under the SSMPA, its impact has been far-reaching and severe.”

The report is based on in-depth interviews conducted between October 2015 and April 2016 with 73 LGBT people and 15 representatives of Nigeria-based nongovernmental organizations in Abuja, Lagos, and Ibadan. Human Rights Watch research indicates that since January 2014, there have been rising incidents of mob violence, with groups coming together to attack people based on their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

Former President Goodluck Jonathan passed the law, even though same-sex activity between consenting adults was already illegal and activists had not been advocating legalization of same-sex marriage. The law provides for prison terms of 14 years for anyone who enters a same-sex marriage or civil union and is so vague that “civil union” could include any form of intimate co-habitation.

The law also punishes establishing, supporting, and participating in gay organizations and public displays of affection with 10 years in prison.

The passage of the law was strongly opposed by domestic, regional, and international human rights groups, including the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. On February 5, 2014, Commissioner Reine Alapini-Gansou, the African Commission’s special rapporteur on human rights defenders in Africa, voiced concern about “physical violence, aggression, arbitrary detention and harassment carried out against human rights defenders dealing with sexual minority rights issues” in the wake of the law.

“Basically, because of this law the police treat LGBT people in any way that they please,” said an Abuja-based leader of a nongovernmental group. “They torture, force people to confess and when they hear about a gathering of men, they just head over to make arrests.”

Punitive legal environments, stigma, and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, together with high levels of physical, psychological, or sexual violence against gay men and other men who have sex with men, impedes sustainable national responses to HIV, Human Rights Watch found. When officials or national authorities, including law enforcement officials, condone and commit violence, it leads to a climate of fear that fuels human rights violations. The fear also deters gay men and other men who have sex with men from seeking and adhering to HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support services.

The law contravenes basic tenets of the Nigerian Constitution and violates several human rights treaties that Nigeria has ratified. In April 2014, the African Commission adopted its groundbreaking resolution 275, calling on governments to prevent and punish all forms of violence targeting people on the basis of their real or imputed sexual orientation or gender identity. In November 2015, the African Commission urged the Nigerian government to review the law, to prohibit violence on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and to ensure access to HIV prevention, treatment, and care services for LGBT individuals.

Nigerian authorities should act swiftly to protect LGBT people from violence, whether by state or non-state actors. Law enforcement officials should act without delay to stop all forms of abuse and violence against LGBT people, and ensure that LGBT victims of violence can file criminal complaints against their attackers.

The government of Nigeria should repeal the specific provisions of the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act that criminalize forming and supporting LGBT organizations and ensure that key populations, including gay men, men who have sex with men, and transgender people have access to HIV services, care, and treatment.

“LGBT people in Nigeria are not advocating for same-sex marriage, but they want the violence to stop and for human rights defenders and organizations that provide services to LGBT people to be able to operate without fear,” Isaack said. “Nigeria should respond to the African Commission’s recommendation to review the law, rather than remaining silent about the human rights abuses LGBT people are facing.”

Washington Is Unhappy That Burundi Is ‘Very Happy’ to Be Leaving the ICC — Foreign Policy

The Burundian government wants to leave the International Criminal Court. They’re well on their way.

via Washington Is Unhappy That Burundi Is ‘Very Happy’ to Be Leaving the ICC — Foreign Policy. Also see my post on if certain African leaders are anticipating their own bad behavior by leaving the ICC.