My Ghana! Reflections on a Biafran Workshop

Thus far, The CIHA Blog has posted a number of reflections on last October’s Biafra workshop, including Anthonia Kalu on our common humanity, Philip C. Aka on humanitarian integrity, and Helen Chukwuma on arms and welfare humanitarianism. Next in our series comes from Abene Kyere, one of the Blog’s editorial assistants.

by Abena Kyere

Abena Kyere

Abena Kyere

It is amazing how a Buchi Emechata book, Destination Biafra, and a workshop can keep you awake and pondering. A workshop keeps you awake when you are one of the organizers and wondering how tomorrow, the first day of the workshop, will turn out. Luckily for us (the Ghana team) the workshop on Rethinking the Origins of Humanitarian Action in Africa turned out well and very fulfilling, thanks to the enthusiasm of all participants and modern technology! Continue reading

In the News: Innovation, Yet Another Silver Bullet for Poverty

It’s not possible to innovate people out of poverty
by Tom Murphy for Humanosphere

commentary by Cilas Kemedjio

This article points out that “innovation” is the new path to paradise in Africa. Yet it also makes us question whether, when it comes to solving intractable problems on the continent as well as in poor communities around the world, the rich really want to find sustainable solutions. Here, since development, economic adjustment, good governance programs, democracy, respect for human rights, and other “solutions” have proved unsustainable, so-called experts are searching for a new fix. It’s always about the magic wand, and the next, and the next, with no accountability when it does not work.

commentary by Akosua Adomako Ampofo

It was the early 1990s. In Ghana we were about half a decade into the Structural Adjustment Program that was meant to place us back on even keel. The medicine introduced to heal our economy, some contended, was a lot more severe than the disease. This was the time when smiling, semi-naked black children graced the cover of a World Bank publication—here was poverty glorified for your coffee table. It was also the time when a World Bank memo asserting that it was best to shift support from Higher Education in Ghana to basic education was “leaked” to some of us at the University of Ghana. Poor people did not deserve higher education, or perhaps they simply didn’t know what to do with it. (The Bank subsequently intimated the memo was not the official viewpoint.) Continue reading

Bridging the Gap Between Theory and Practice in Humanitarian Action: Seven Practical Steps to Humanitarian Integrity in Nigeria

by Philip C. Aka

In the sense it is used here, humanitarian integrity is another name for humanitarian wellbeing. It is the flipside of humanitarian catastrophe, inviting humanitarian intervention to minimize atrocities that take place during an emergency. One such emergency that formed the backdrop of the CIHA Blog workshop in Ghana October 18-20, 2015, was the civil war in Nigeria from 1967 to 1970, marked by untold human suffering, disease, and death. On the eve of the war’s end in January of 1970:

  • Much of Biafraland had turned into a mass graveyard with the death of over 3 million people through strafing from Nigerian lethal weapons, diseases, and starvation;
  • About 2 million people depended on food relief supplies, including about 700,000 refugees in camps who were completely dependent on food aid;
  • Another 3 million refugees were crowded into a 2,500-square-kilometer enclave in which not only food but medicine, housing, and clothing were in short supply; and
  • The Biafran economy, before the war ranked among the fastest-growing economies in the world, was in shambles with many cities and villages in ruins and schools, hospitals, and communication facilities destroyed.

Although not on the scale of the Biafran war, today Nigeria is still going through humanitarian troubles in the country with the rise of Boko Haram, a terrorist group based in the northeast of the country that claims an extremist Islamic ideology. Since inaugurating its violent phase in 2009, the group has killed or maimed over 20,000 people, displaced millions of others from their homes, and kidnapped hundreds. As if this is not bad enough, there are still unresolved issues facing the country related to the Biafran civil war that supposedly ended 45 years ago, revolving around the renewed agitations within and outside Nigeria for restoration of the separate statehood of Biafra snuffed out by Nigerian military weapons in 1970. Continue reading

In the News: The Humanitarian Promise of A Shared Memory / Actualités: la promesse humanitaire d’une mémoire partagée

In French/Pour Français

Photo Credit: Jeffrey O. Gustafson. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons -

Photo Credit: Jeffrey O. Gustafson. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons –

Dear Readers: In early October, Former Jamaican Prime Minister PJ Patterson wrote a letter to British Prime Minister David Cameron asking for an apology for Britain’s role in slavery. The below is a response piece from CIHA Blog co-editor Cilas Kemedjio. We welcome your comments!

by Cilas Kemedjio

The first article of the May 21, 2001 Law adopted by the French Parliament reads as follow: “The French Republic recognizes that the transatlantic slave trade and slavery perpetrated from the Middle Ages against African populations deported to Europe, the Americas and the Indian Ocean represent (constitutes) a crime against humanity”. This so-called Taubira Law is named after Christiane Taubira—the current French justice minister, then deputy representing the South American county of Guyana in the French National Assembly. Authors and defenders of the law, recruited mostly from the French left, justified its raison d’être by the need to make these tragic historical events part of the national memory and national conversation. Continue reading

Perspectives on LGBT Rights in Africa: Cilas Kemedjio on Human Rights

Today we finish our series of four pieces addressing LGBTI nomenclature, issues, and politics in Africa. The four authors whose short pieces we feature provide much food for thought, on the mythological constructions of history, religion, and culture, the abuse of power by national and international actors, and the pros and cons of communal identities and notions of “rights.” We look forward to our readers’ comments on this important series.


by Cilas Kemedjio, “Cilas Kemedjio on Human Rights

I listened, a couple of years ago, to an intervention by a young Ugandan Gay activist who was visiting the city of Rochester, New York. He made his case for gay rights in Uganda, in the context of the so-called gay death bill. Among his many arguments, he claimed that same-sex practices existed in Africa before the advent of Christian missionaries. He was repeating an argument that basically faults Western missionaries for the suppression of sexual diversity in that is alleged to have been the feature of pre-colonial Africa. Continue reading