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Tuesday, November 30, 2010


From -


Burkina Faso Mauritania Somalia
Chad Mali Sudan
Ethiopia Niger Western Sahara




 OTEC Project
 The Sahel is defined by its climate, on the margin between the high rainfall areas of the west African coast - southern Nigeria, for example - and the arid zone of the Sahara. In this zone rainfall is variable. The countries on the southern edge of the Sahara have been suffering from prolonged drought. It is too soon to know whether this is a result of climatic change.
There are other possible causes including increased population of nomads and cultivating unsuitable crops for export. The whole area is suffering an ecological disaster.
In most of these countries the nomadic herders of cattle, camels, sheep and goats - the Fulani and Tuareg - have had to leave their traditional way of life. In Mauritania many of them are camped outside the towns, destitute. Many of the nomads have moved to Nigeria and other countries south of the area of drought.
Traditionally this was the country of the horsemen who ruled the ancient empires of Ghana, Mali and Songhai and the Hausa-Fulani states of northern Nigeria, Niger and Chad. Timbuktu, the center of Islamic learning, was found in this area (in modern Mali). Mansa Musa the king of Mali caused astonishment at his wealth when he visited Cairo on his way to the Makkah pilgrimage in 1324. Thus its modern condition of poverty is a great decline from a glorious past. There was trade in gold from the area of modern Ghana (not the same as ancient Ghana) and also salt. The gold reached Europe in Medieval times and was probably the main source of gold in Europe before the colonial expansion to the Americas. That expansion doomed the trade and caused the decline of these important cultures.
Islam spread along the trade routes which the camel caravans followed from the Red Sea to the Atlantic and north to the Mediterranean.
Climate future
The long term future of this area is uncertain. If the world climatic change now believed to be underway results in the further drying out of the area, with even less rainfall, most of the population may have to move. But it is possible that rainfall may increase as rain belts from the south expand, in which case the area might be able to carry a larger agricultural population. So far, climate models show either change is possible. One model shows the more important influence to be a northerly push of the Monsoon type rainfall pattern, caused by increased temperatures in the Sahara. This would bring rain further north and more reliably. If this happens the area could support more people. However, in the past when rain moved north there was a greater difference between the temperatures of the north Atlantic and the equatorial waters. At present the north Atlantic is warming. So, a second model suggests that rain will not push north and the Sahel could actually become drier.
A speculative future for the area might be as a site for large scale solar energy if the necessary devices are produced cheaply enough. It is also possible that the current drought is part of a natural cycle and the rainfall will return.
Another theory is that the 1980s drought was caused by increased sulphur oxides in the higher atmosphere - something that has eased as a result of pollution controls in the western industrialised countries.
In 2002 the Journal of Climate published an astonishing proposition: that the great droughts which had devastated the Sahel region of Africa had been caused in part by sulphate pollution in Europe and North America. Our smoke, the paper suggested, was partly responsible for the famines that killed hundreds of thousands of people in the 1970s and 1980s. Sulphate emissions have declined since their peak, as coal and oil have been scrubbed of sulphur. From Guardian
There are signs (in Burkina Faso) that appropriate policy - building simple rain capture dams and tree planting - could restore at least part of the area.
July 2005 showed a serious drought throughout the area, especially in Niger. However, September 2007 has seen serious floods over the whole region. Could this be an example of the Monsoon extending further north as the Sahara borders move north?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Morocco rejects probe into Western Sahara incident

Morocco rejects probe into Western Sahara incident

Sat Nov 27, 11:35 AM
MADRID (AFP) - Morocco rejects a probe into violent clashes between its security forces and residents of Western Sahara by the United Nations, its foreign minister said in an interview published on Saturday.

Rabat also refuses any role by the UN mission in the territory in the question of human rights, Taib Fassi Fihri told Spain's El Pais daily.

The European Parliament called Thursday for an independent UN probe into the clashes that followed a Moroccan raid on a protest squatter camp near the Western Sahara capital of Laayoun on November 8.

The Strasbourg parliament said it "strongly condemns" the incident and voiced the "greatest concern about the significant deterioration of the situation in Western Sahara."

Fihri said he would go to the parliament on December 1 to "show the one-sided, unfair and unbalanced nature" of its resolution.

Referring to demands for the UN to oversee human rights in the former Spanish territory annexed by Morocco in 1975, Fihri said, "We are not going to waver on this question."

He said the demands "serve our enemies," in reference to the separatist Polkisario Front and its chief backer Algeria, adding, "We are at war."

The minister also rejected reports of torture and disappearances carried by Spanish media and ruled out a referendum on the future of the territory.

In a report released Friday the New York-based Human Rights Watch said security forces repeatedly beat and abused people they detained.

"The Moroccan authorities should immediately end the abuse of detainees, and carry out an independent investigation into the abuse," it said.

Morocco says 11 security officers and at least two civilians were killed in the violence, while the Polisario Front, which wants independence for Western Sahara, said the toll was much higher.

The UN Security Council also deplored the raid, which coincided with a new round of UN-brokered peace talks between Rabat and the Polisario that ended with both sides agreeing only to meet again in December.

Morocco annexed Western Sahara after Spain pulled out of its former colony in 1975, but the Polisario Front fought the Moroccan presence until the United Nations brokered a ceasefire in 1991.

The Polisario wants a UN-organised referendum on self-determination, with independence as one of the options.

Morocco has so far rejected any proposal that goes beyond greater autonomy.
Moroccan forces dismantle a camp housing thousands of refugees in 
the Western Sahara, near Laayoune, on November 8, leaving four dead and 
scores injured, according to the rival sides. The North African nation 
has rejected a probe into the violent clashes by the UN, its foreign 
minister said in an interview.  Photo:/AFP
AFP Photo: Moroccan forces dismantle a camp housing thousands of refugees in the Western Sahara, near Laayoune,...