Monthly Archives: March 2011

The Hottest New YouTube Station

The Rift Valley Institute, an education and advocacy non-profit that puts on the sexiest summer institutes about Great Lakes and Horn of Africa politics has taken a step that every research based NGO aspires to: it has created its own YouTube Station. It includes shorts from guest lecturers, which is both enlightening and gives you the knowledge about what all those wacky experts you like actually wear. Here is anthropologist Bob White on the relationship between Congolese politicians and musicians:

Definitely worth checking out all the videos, and if you have a Great Lakes Scholar Sugar Poppa, making your way over to the summer institute in Bujumbura.


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Friday Afternoon Africana

Because Nigerian pop singer Timaya raps about plaintains, riches, and markets in awesomely rhythmic ways:

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This Week in the Great Lakes

1. In BBC interview, Paul Kagame claims “Rwandans can speak for themselves.” Then takes Kagame-embroidered mouth gag out of fellow Rwandan sitting next to him.

2. Toilet twinning projects gain more popularity in Burundi. Advocacy groups contend that bidets truly signal development.

3. UNEP breaks news that 51 million people in the DRC lack access to clean water at conference filled with marble water fountains.

4. Belgium gives Burundi 5 million Euros for agriculture. Burundi gives Belgium colonial history in return.

5. News breaks that Joseph Kabila loves Nollywood. And junior mints and popcorn.

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How Much HIV Does Conflict Cause?

Increasing reports of rape in the Eastern DRC over the past two years has illuminated the relationship between conflict and sexual violence. The question follows then, does conflict cause increases in HIV and if so, by how much? Isaac Kalonda Kanyama answer this question his paper, “Civil War, Sexual Violence, and HIV Infections: Evidence from the Democratic Republic of the Congo“:

Specifically we find that (i) HIV prevalence is 1.64 % higher in war-affectedzones than elsewhere in the DRC; (ii) the impact of sexual violencein conflict-affected regions is 55 times greater than on average (1.10% versus 0.02 %); (iii) Civil war and sexual violence jointly increaseHIV infection rates by 1.45 %; (iv) Finally, economic conflict-relatedvulnerability does not explain HIV infection rates. In contrast, a onepercent point decrease in the poverty incidence, that is a reductionin economic vulnerability, increases HIV prevalence rates by 0.048 %regardless of the situation of conflict.

To get these results Kanyama compares conflict prone zone areas of the Eastern DRC to bordering provinces that don’t experience conflict using DHS data from 2007.  Kanyama does a great job with bad data, and caveats aside, deriving these types of estimates is extremely important for policy in the region.  Kanyama’s paper is well worth a read for anybody thinking about these issues or the tricky methodology surrounding these questions.

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Congo’s Special K

Over at Coding in the Congo, colleague and friend Peter van der Windt asks why do so many places in the Eastern Congo begin with the letter K? Analyzing a sample of 8,000 villages in four province in the East, he provides the following visualization of letter-beginnings (LLUs correspond to villages):

So, why all the K’s?I recruited professor Brent Henderson, a leading specialist in Bantu linguistics, to determine whether Congo’s deep love of places that begin with K really might have to do with a national appeal to development aid in the form of healthy cereal. His response:

As for the question, I have two related guesses.

One would be that the very word for ‘village’ starts with ki- (kijiji) and this is a diminuntive of the word for city (mji). One can imagine people naming their villages in an alliterative way (Kijiji Kivu, Kijiji kitanga, etc. ) and this catching on as a trend. This might also explain why the runner up is the sound /m/ since ‘mji’ is in class 3 and one can imagine something similar happening (Mji matanga, etc. )

A related idea is simply that ki- is the endearing diminutive and people tend to love their home towns and have a lot of affinity for them.

Finally (OK, this makes three ideas), your friends stats are interesting, but probably only meaningful when checked against a statistical analysis of non-animate words in the language. Villages are named for things and perhaps the distribution here simply reflects the fact that most non-animate things that one would think to name a village after (a product, a tool, a languages) are in class 7. And maybe this is slightly less true for words starting with /m/.

So, Congo’s special-K problem solved: villages are definitely named after klondike bars.

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5 Questions for Paul Kagame

In the BBC’s special edition of Africa Have Your Say later today, Rwandan President Paul Kagame will be responding to the questions you ask (and he wants to answer). Questions abound for this leader, but here are a few that Kagame should be asked:

1. Why did you threaten to withdraw peacekeeping troops from the Sudan when the UN mapping report on violations committed in the DRC was released? Isn’t it just a tad ironic that you would try to hold a UN peacekeeping mission hostage that is trying to stop a genocide because you don’t like what the UN said about you?

2. Given the recent success of rooting out FDLR leaders in the Eastern Congo, what are your military and security plans for a post-FDLR Great Lakes?

3. Isn’t there a legal contradiction in the fact that you have yet to try former CNDP rebel leader Laurent Nkunda because his military position requires he be tried by a judge that is a general when you expedientely tried oppositional leader and ex-army chief of staff Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa in his absence? What date will Laurent Nkunda be tried?

4. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Journalists without Borders, and other human rights organizations have criticized Rwanda’s repression of political opposition and dissent. In light of the ongoing democratic revolutions in North Africa, do you plan to open up the political space in order to create a more stable democracy?

5. Any particular reason you decided to use the Jurassic Park font on your election victory t-shirts? Do you think of yourself as a velociraptor?


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Every Post-Conflict City Deserves a Volcano

The Boston Globe’s Big Picture Series of Congo’s Nyiragongo Crater features amazing photos of the volcanic activity going on 20 miles north of Goma:

And the incredibly odd outfits volcanologists wear that future generations will one day ridicule and parody:

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