Monthly Archives: March 2014

Map created with data available for download.

Download GIS data: Sudan and South Sudan

To download Sudan GIS data or South Sudan GIS data (shapefiles), click “download” below or visit our Sudan or South Sudan pages. This package includes:

  • Sudan counties shapefile (with state attribute data to allow for clean visualization)
  • South Sudan counties shapefile (also with state attribute data)
  • Sudan and South Sudan roads shapefile
  • Sudan and South Sudan rivers shapefile
  • Sudan and South Sudan lakes shapefile
  • Sudan and South Sudan railroads shapefile

Boundaries do not imply endorsement by Map East Africa or any of its affiliates (click to download GIS data Sudan/South Sudan: 5 MB). 

Top: Mercator projection, preserving direction and exaggerating the area of regions farther from the equator.
Bottom: Mollweide Projection, preserving relative area of landforms while distorting shape.

A Critique of “Geopolitics and the New World Order” by Robert D. Kaplan (Time magazine)

Russia looms huge on the two-page map that serves as the title page for Robert D. Kaplan’s article “Geopolitics and the New World Order,” published in the March 31st issue of Time.  The Mercator projection, which significantly exaggerates northern landmasses, is the same map chosen by Cold War propagandists to emphasize the “red menace”; the center of the map is, of course, Ukraine – the focus of the article, which recalls a century-old argument set forth by Halford Mackinder’s famous “Geographical Pivot of History” (1904). Kaplan begins by asserting that “Geography increasingly fuels endless chaos and old-school conflicts in the 21st Century.” Kaplan proceeds, as he has many times before, to show how “geography” explains conflicts across the world. While Kaplan makes a number of good points, his typically dire predictions for a future dominated by chaos in which the bonds of blood and territory are apparently stronger than human reason, cultural development, and consensus should make us pause and consider what is really being said. Does “geography” – defined simply as the areal differentiation of the earth’s surface in terms of physical features, ecosystems, and human population and culture – necessarily mean endless conflict? Or is there more to the story that does not necessarily fall within Kaplan’s conception of geography?

Continue reading

Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Axmed, leader of ARS, joins TFG and becomes president of moderate Islamist coalition, gaining support in central and northern Somalia (probably not as much support as the map suggests, but these are general areas of support, broadly speaking).

Maps of Territorial Control in Somalia, 2007-2010

I just came across this series of maps of territorial control in Somalia in my map archive. Note that these maps are based largely on James Dahl’s map series on territorial control in Somalia and on UN maps of displacement, combined with my own research on conflict events. Forgive me if I mix my Somali and English while transliterating.

Clearly, any map purporting to show areas of control in Somalia is likely oversimplified; alliances are constantly shifting, and multiple insurgencies may exist within an area shown to be under control of a certain force. However, this represents an attempt to map the story of the aftermath of Ethiopia’s invasion in 2006, and show how foreign intervention may have affected the growth of extremist insurgency, specifically in southern Somalia. “Unaligned” territories reflect those areas where it was unclear who was supported or in control. This is a work in progress, so please provide feedback if there are inaccuracies or changes that need to be made.

2007-2009: The Aftermath of the Ethiopian Invasion

December 2008: Cabdullahi Yuusuf Axmed resigns as president of TFG.

2009-2010: The TFG strikes an alliance and begins an offensive

As the TFG in exile brokered a truce with ASWJ, ARS, and ICU elements, they began to gain support and nominal control over parts of the country. Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Axmed, formerly of ARS, was elected TFG President. Along with AU forces, the TFG launched an offensive against the now divided Al Shabaab and Xisbul Islaam forces in southern Somalia.

Again, please let me know if there are corrections to be made. This is an ongoing initiative to map territorial control in Somalia, part of a more comprehensive effort at creating conflict maps of Somalia.

MEA Book Summary and Review: Economic and Political Reform in Africa: Anthropological Perspectives, by Peter D. Little (2013)

Economic and Political Reform in Africa – A re-examination of economic development, markets, food aid, and wildlife conservation based on analysis of local outcomes.

Note: This is an expansion of a review posted on the Amazon product page for Economic and Political Reform in Africa, and was written by the same author as the Amazon review.

Economic and Political Reform in Africa: Anthropological Perspectives (Indiana University Press, November 2013) represents anthropologist Peter Little’s work in numerous contexts from Accra to Nairobi to Maputo over the past two decades. Little uses data and ethnographic interviews in a series of case studies to show how market-oriented, “pro-poor,” and democratic reforms have actually worked in society and in local economies, as well as how locals targeted as beneficiaries of economic reform or foreign aid programs perceive themselves, the programs, and the outcomes. Based on seven case studies in Ghana, The Gambia, Mozambique, Ethiopia, and Kenya (including the Somali borderlands of Kenya), Little argues primarily that 1) despite the focus on “market liberalization” by development agencies such as the World Bank, the state has in many cases been an important actor during the period of neoliberal reform in Africa (sometimes as an active presence, sometimes more passively); 2) the extension of global markets into various African contexts has often disempowered smallholders and the poor; 3) democracy and “community empowerment” (including community conservation initiatives) have in some cases heightened communal/ethnic tensions; and 4) “pro-poor” development may serve as justification for African states to pursue political agendas targeting certain elements of their populations. Continue reading

Bullet holes in a shopkeeper's jacket, Thokoza, South Africa. Photo by author.

Anti-foreigner violence: At the Intersection of Identity and Economics

The conflation of foreign individuals in a country with their country’s political agenda or identity is often used as an explanation for anti-foreigner violence. In South Africa, foreigners – in particular, African immigrants from Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Malawi, Somalia, and Ethiopia (although also many immigrants from Bangladesh) – have been targeted for years in bouts of xenophobic violence. South African voices sometimes cite these immigrants bringing their countries’ lawlessness or poverty with them into South Africa; yet more often, the targeting of foreigners has a strong economic component. Furthermore, it is not only locals who engage in anti-foreigner violence: rumors abound in the South African Somali refugee community about Somali shop owners fomenting violence against shops owned by other Somalis. Anti-foreigner violence takes place under a range of conditions, and itself has the potential to create a unique opportunity structure for foreigners.

To put anti-foreigner violence in context, we can look numerous other places, from attacks on Korean businesses during the 1992 L.A. race riots to attacks on foreigners in Germany in the early 1990s. Yet xenophobic violence in South Africa provides perhaps the clearest example of conditions conducive to violence against foreigners in the African context. Continue reading