ALGERIA. <---<<<<••••in Africa (north west) Declared July 5 1962. The largest country in Africa with 38.5 million. The majority of Algerians speak Arabic and because of their colonial history, French is also spoken widely. 99% of Algerians are Arab-Berber descent. Berber being the indigenous ethnic group from that part of the Nile valley. 99% of Algerians practice Islam. 70% of their lawyers are women. 60% of their judges are women. Grapes, olives, figs, eucalyptus, agave, cacti and palm plants grow there. Natural gas and crude oil are exported. There are 4000 Palestinian refugees living in Algeria. 'Le pouvoir' may hold more sway over government then their elected officials. Their capital is Algiers, to the north. If you have anything to say about Algeria, please do.
ANGOLA -----<<<<| Is in southwest Africa, touching the Atlantic. It's coastal locale spans largely, producing both temperate and tropical climates throughout - with a forested, wet north and dry south. Neat animals are found there: elephants, lions, rhinos, impala, hippos, hyenas. In the 1600's. Millions of people were taken from Angola - by Portugal; Most were sold into slavery in Brazil. The country was finally liberated in 1975, and unsurprisingly, a horrific 27-year long civil war ensued. Various tribes and groups grasped for order, power, title and resources. Meanwhile, the present government was squandering/embezzling billions of dollars in revenue from Angola's resource-rich lands--diamonds, petroleum and crude oil. Even now, it retains an incredibly uneven distribution of wealth and intense poverty---good health and water supplies are scarce, the life expectancy is only 41 years. Almost 6% of people between the ages of 15-50 have HIV. The official motto of Angola is "Virtue is stronger when united". The capital is Luanda.
BENIN >>>>>is a tiny sliver of a country next to Nigeria --shaped like a torch or a penis & balls, your choice....the bottom edge touches the gulf of guinea (part of the Atlantic) Despite being on the 'slave coast', Benin has been able to mostly avoid the scramble for Africa and redevelop a strong civil society, post-French-ruled. The kingdom of Dahomey ruled Benin beforehand (1600-1900) infamously recruiting Amazon fighters; an all-female militia, also called mino or 'our mothers'. Benin's also known for beautiful bronze sculpture...brass, iron and ivory, too. Roughly 40% are Christians of some sort, 25% are Muslim and almost one fifth are 'Vodun'--an older, traditional west African religion - This country is the fascinating birthplace of Voodoo. 10 million people live and love there.
BOTSWANA: The Tswana are the leading ethnic group here (80%) with the Basarwa, Bayei, Bambukushu (Really fun to say) Baherero and Bakgalagadi (also fun) filling out most of the population. Botswana is landlocked in south Africa and the Kalahari desert spreads across most of it - causing insane drought and water shortage. Some say it's the least corrupt nation in Africa, with the longest surviving democracy on the continent (since 1966, once freed from Britain) Even with progressive social politics, a higher literacy rate (83%) and a rising economy, Botswana still suffers severely from the AIDS epidemic, with 1 in 6 people infected - perhaps more. Botswana has and continues to campaign aggressively against the virus, seeking more outside funding, info and assistance than many countries surrounding it. Botswana has the richest diamond mine in the world, dedicates 17% of its land to nature reserves, has 2 million people, 2 TV stations, 5 radio stations, 34 airports and - despite having the most African elephants in the world (130,000) - celebrates the ZEBRA as their national symbol. The blue in the Botswana flag represents the rain they desire. The black and white stripes represent racial harmony.
BURKINA FASO is the size of Colorado, nestled above Ghana and below Mali. A tribe of hunter/gatherers arrived there between 12000 & 5000 BCE, and somewhere that time and the 1400's, the Mossi Kingdom rose to power. The Mossi were impressive people, becoming fruitful farmers and fierce fighters, with an origin that began with a warrior princess. When they learned to tame and ride the horse, they became unbeatable; at one time ruling a vast area of West Africa. France overtook the region in 1896, establishing French as the major language today. Granted independence in 1960, a series of mostly bloodless coups began, with each ruler attempting to eradicate the current constitution. Finally in 1983, Burkina Faso was renamed (from Upper Volta) by a left-wing idealist who had become ruler. Thomas Sankara began advocating for social welfare and justice, earning him the title: 'The Che Guevara of Africa,'. Sankara advocated swiftly for health vaccination, strict transparency of wealth and corruption and championed women's rights - appointing many to ministerial positions upon taking office. He made bitter enemies with his mission to eradicate poverty and his general intensity. In 1987 he was murdered in a violent coup d'etat by his friend Blaise Compaore (backed by the French) -who has ruled the country ever since. Most recently, Compaore has been attempting to change the constitution to prolong the limits of his presidential term. Burkina means "Men of Integrity" in Mossi. Faso means "Fatherland" in Mande (another predominant ethnic group) causing the full name translate to "Land of Honest/Incorruptible People"
BURUNDI: A tiny nation in southeast Africa, Burundi is landlocked with a population of nearly 10 million people. It was considered German East Africa from 1899 until WWI when Germany was defeated and Belgium took over. They renamed it Ruanda-Urundi and it was ruled under 2 kingdoms and dynasties until being freed in 1962 on July 1st (now Burundi's Independence day) The country Rwanda is located to Burundi's north and both have shared a historical/political/cultural past and present - with a civil unrest and fierce conflict between the Hutu and Tutsi people that make up their population. The Hutu are the majority (85%) and their origin is from Central Africa, while The Tutsi are the minority (15%) and probably migrated from the Horn of Africa. From an outside perspective, many have difficulties citing differences between the groups: Both speak the common languages: Bantu and French, both are mostly Christians, both has oral histories. Some say there is a slight physical difference, but this has not been definitively established. However, Hutus tend to have larger families and dominate in farming - while the Tutsi tend to have smaller families and pursue cattle-ranching; a more lucrative pursuit. This often provides greater wealth for the Tutsi and establishes them with a higher social status, making for a class issue between the Hutus. The region has suffered with this bitter ethnic conflict, with some 200,00-300,00 Hutus killed in 1972 in a Tutsi-lead Genocide and again in 1994, as a Hutu-lead Genocide resulting in 25,000 dead Tutsi and an assassinated Hutu President. The current President is Pierre Nkurunziza, a peaceful intellectual whose wikipedia does not elaborate his Hutu or Tutsi status. The Burundi capital is Bujumbura and the land is made of hills and valleys - resulting in 2 wet and 2 dry seasons per year. This causes flooding, landslides alongside droughts, complicating their agriculturally-based economy. Things grown and exported: Bananas, eucalyptus, cotton, coffee, tea, sugar. (the last 3 go well together...) The Burundi motto is : 'Unity, Work, Progress'
CAMEROON is the size of California and resides in Central West Africa, touching the Atlantic. The geography is intensely diverse, containing tropical rain forest, lush plateaus, volcanic highlands, black & golden beaches and a dry savanna. Such diverse habitats cause for a plentiful array of flora and fauna, including over 8,200 plant species, 165 bird species, 410 mammal species and over 22 species of primates. This along with an incredible range of ethnic groups has earned Cameroon the nickname: "Miniature Africa" - containing compacted aspects of the vast continent into a small perimeter. There are over 250 ethnic groups here with about 40% being Cameroon Highlander, 20% Bantu, various Pygmy tribes (Baka, Bulu, Beti, Bagyeli are some) and more. This accounts for indigenous religions being of the common persuasion (40%), tied with Christianity (also 40%) and Islam leading behind (20%) The highest mountain is an active volcano named Mount Cameroon - the population is 15 million - the capital is Yaoundé - French, English and over 24 major African languages are spoken there. Mongo Beti was a well-known Cameroonian writer who fought for dignity in Africa against missionary and colonial sensibilities at a time when it ravaged his country. He criticized and rebelled the state of his nation and paid dearly for his efforts. His work was censored, banned and he was expelled, suffering in exile for decades, but eventually returned to Cameroon towards the end of his life. He wrote: "It is impossible for devils to live in men. Men do as they please and the devil has nothing to do with it" Another noble Cameroonian, Ferdinand Oyono wrote: "Our ancesters used to say: You must escape when the water is still only up to the knees."
CAPE VERDE is comprised of 10 volcanic islands in the Atlantic ocean, arranged in a horseshoe shape. It is 350 miles offshore of mainland Africa and approximately half a million people currently reside there. Before the 15th century the islands were uninhabited - until the Portuguese settled there, establishing a destination for seafarers. pirates and the like. To this day, an African/Portuguese-fused dialect remains the most popular way to communicate "Crioulo" - a unique variation of a Creole language specific to certain areas. The weather is lovely, the average year-round temperatures falling between 77-84 degrees. The ocean winds cool the islands, causing for a dryer climate then other African nations. Humpback whales are seen here often, along with over 15 species of lizards and the Egyptian vulture- alongside a wide variety of migratory birds. Back in the day, Cape Verde was a site of frequent sea traffic, with many people engaged in the slave trade, whaling, and general transatlantic shipping. Charles Darwin even stopped here on his way to South America and spent a month observing nature. When slavery started dying out, Cape Verde took a hit in frequent visitors. Nowadays the idyllic landscape draws tourists in - a welcome add to a slowly but surely developing economy. 'Morna' is a unique folk music of the region with clarinet, violin, guitar and cavaquinho (type of European guitar) being the common instrumentation. The blue in the Cape Verde flag represents the ocean- the red is a road to progress - and the 10 yellow stars are the 10 isles that make it up: Maio/Santiago/Fogo/Brava/Sal/Boa Vista/Sao Nicolau/Sao Vincent/Santa Luzia/Sant Antao.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC (CAR) It is a large country located directly in the middle of the continent - true to its name. The climate is tropical, with mostly savanna, hills and plateaus, and rainforest(8%) in the south. Attempts are made to protect and showcase the spectacular wildlife there: White rhino, forest elephant, spotted hyena, leopard, ostrich, mongoose, giraffe, over ten species of bat, lowland gorillas, amongst many other creatures and plants. Unfortunately, poaching is prevalent to the somewhat devastated country of CAR - between their troubled neighbors - Sudan, Dem. Congo, Repub. Congo - to their own issues. Violence spreads from these surrounding nations and unrest causes many to flee to Chad, in the north. Many tribes settled here thousands of years ago. Muslim slave traders came in the 1500's and the French gained control in the late 1800's - with liberation achieved in 1960. A series of violent and peaceful coups have unseated rulers from that time until now. Now over 80 tribes reside in CAR and over a third of them retain their indigenous beliefs. Christians and Muslims make up the rest and the ethnic cleansing of Muslims is a a frequent occurrence. CAR is described as "A failed state in permanent crisis" Armed militia groups travel through areas with abundant illegal weapons, sparing with the current government officials. Their mutual target are journalists, as media is a controlled and veiled sanction. Radio Ndeke Luka is a U.N.-sponsored and journalist-run station that is the sole beacon for many people. Located in the capital Bangui and meaning "Bird of Luck"- Radio Ndeke attempts to report unfiltered, civic-minded news, including raids on villages in current crises; with a mission to "contribute to democratic debate and reconstruction of the country" The average life expectancy in CAR is 51 years old and 4.5 people live here. (Note: Learning about CAR temporarily paused this project for me. I found it difficult to accept the reality of these troubles)
CHAD Located in central Africa, Chad has been known as a place for refugees from surrounding nations. With a history of flawed inner government, 80% of people are living below the poverty line. A corrupt and repressive president, Idriss Deby, ruling since 1990, has not helped. In 2005, however, oil pipelines were constructed - with a system of profit system established to benefit the health, education, infrastructure and social welfare of the country. Chad is know as the 'Dead heart of Africa' - the desert Sahara making for 33% of the land. Not only large in size, Chad contains over 11 million people and has over 200 distinct ethnic and linguistic groups. A minimum of 100 languages are spoken, with French and Arabic leading as the official dialects. Over half of Chadians are Muslim, a third are Christian, and the rest either animist or atheist. The Muslim groups tend to be found in the north and central areas, with the Christians in the south - each tending to leave each other be- a rarity. A quarter of the indigenous population are called the Sara people - some are Christians but most are traditionalists and worship the sun. It appears their name 'Sara' is derived from the Arabic (Sa-Ra) meaning "Sons of Ra"; a reference to the Egyptian Sun God and a Nile origin.The Sara make for a third of the population and are the principal agriculturalists of the region, harvesting the cotton, peanuts, millet and more that is exported. They were the largest group of Africans to fight in WWII, fighting alongside the French. François Tombalbaye, the first President of Chad, was of Sara origin. The blue of the Chad flag symbolizes the sky, hope and waters of the south. The yellow is the sun and the challenging desert lands to the north. The red recalls the blood shed for independence and the fire and unity of the people.
COMOROS is made of 4 main islands located in the Indian Ocean, off the East African coast. They are: Grand Comore (largest), Mohéli, Anjouan and lastly Mayotte - which is still technically owned by France. The islands are volcanic, many beaches are white and so - along with their crescent shape, this dictated their name; 'Comoros' is derived from the Arabic word qamar which means 'moon' or 'whiteness'. Since the 9th century, Comoros has been a trading post frequented by Arab traders. Many settled there, resulting in the resonating 98% Sunni Muslim population that lives there today. The proximity to East Africa along with a colonization by France has fused to create a blended, unique, Francophone, Afro-Arab culture. The common languages are French Arabic and most often, Comorian - which is a Swahili dialect (Southeastern African) with a strong Arabic influence. Another multi-cultural aspect of Comoros is their approach towards legal issues. There is a reliance on 3 diverse systems: Islamic law, French legal code, and 'customary law'. More often, either elders in each village or civilian courts decide on judiciary matters. Despite Muslim customs, much of Comoros is a matriarchal society, with land and households controlled and passed through lineage of women. This is unusual in most countries ruled under Islamic law and appears to be an inheritance from more traditional African matrilineal societies. The women rule the home. while men can be found in mosques or public squares, but both can be found farming; 80% of the Comoros population are agriculturalists. Coconuts, bananas, tapioca, vanilla, cloves, spices, perfume and essential oils - all are exports. Tourism and perfume distillation are also principle economies. Sometimes cyclones happen during the rainy season (Dec-April). Mount Karthala is an active volcano on Grand Comore and has erupted as recently as 2006. The (David) Livingstone Fruit Bat is huge, endangered and only found in Comoros. The main Comorian diet includes rice, plantains, root vegetables, fresh or dried fish and coconut, in some form. Their army consists of a thousand people. This flag was designed in 2001 and adopted in 2002.
THE REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO (ROTC) is located in Central-West Africa, slightly touching the Atlantic Coast. Unfortunately, the coastal proximity steered the fate of this nation towards becoming the center of the slave trade. One minute tribes were trading with the Portuguese and soon they were named French Congo and officially colonized. Freedom came in 1960 but the Congo would continue to experience unrest, and still does. From the 60's-90's, it was known as the People's Republic Of The Congo and a series of militia governed the region, one after another. In 1979, leader Denis Sassou Nguesso came to power, implementing power until 1992 that made the nation look like a ruthless dictatorship. In 1992, Congo's first democratically elected president took office - Pascal Lissouba. Until 1997, when brutal civil war broke between his party and Sassou's, resulting in tens of thousands civilians dead and the architectural destruction of the capital city, Brazzaville. Sassou persevered in the conflict and continues to rule Congo as President to this day, albeit under a thinly veiled suspicions of corruption and voter fraud. Population is 5m, with 50% of Congolese being Christians, 48% Animists and 2% Muslims. Most land is tropical rainforest and chimps and gorillas can be found. Bananas, peanuts, mangos, cabbage are popular foods to eat and palm wine is a popular drink. A juice that is tapped from the bottom of a coconut tree trunk, within hours it ferments and tmust be consumed by the next day. One of the major tribes in Congo descended from the mighty Bantu Kingdom expansion-the Kongo. Amongst many customs vital to this group is the importance of respect given to one's elders. Older folks are rarely quarreled with; agreeing with their thoughts & knowledge is routine in the culture of Kongo. Arguing or disagreeing for the sake of one's own opinion is frowned upon. Other polite mannerisms include: Holding your left hand to your right wrist when shaking hands with the elderly: Pouring your first sip of a drink on the ground for the ancestors: Men holding hands with other men as a sign of their friendship: Children accepting gifts with both hands.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO (DROTC) Larger than all of Western Europe combined, the Democratic Republic Of The Congo is situated in Central Africa and has 75 million people. At least 1 million are refugees that have spilled over from violence inside the country and the areas surrounding. In the 1400's, Arab traders invaded and soon the Congo was handed over to Belgium for exploitation and seizure of resources (rubber & ivory, at that time) Many tribes were sold into slavery or pushed into the African bush to perish. Liberation came to the DROTC in 1960 but the scramble for power caused the nation to become overturned by a coup - organized by the US and Belgium -and install a corrupt, anti-communist, military dictator to be seated as leader. Joseph Mobutu renamed the nation Zaire and ruled from 1965-1997, rigging elections, ruling through the force of his personal army and embezzling humanitarian aid and stealing export earnings to satisfy his own extravagant lifestyle. Diamonds, gold, coltan (this is in every cell phone) uranium, petroleum, lumber, coffee, cocoa, sugar : The DROTC contains an incredible amount of wealthy exports yet it remains one of the poorest nations with devastating issues. A civil war in 1997 thankfully unseated Mobutu but it also was the beginning of a 5-year-long fight between army forces and rebels and resulted in over a million civilian deaths. The issues today continue: child soldier recruitment, horrific sexual violence against women, and random raids by armed groups in the region. "An unfolding human catastrophe" is how the U.N. describes the state of affairs. The blue in this flag represents peace & harmony - red is the sacrifice of national heroes - yellow is opulence/wealth and the single star symbolizes hope and ambition.
DJIBOUTI Arid, hot, humid and rocky, Djibouti is a tiny country of around 9,000 square miles in the Horn of Africa. Touching the Red Sea and located directly across the water from Yemen and the Middle East, the area has been a thriving port and trading zone for hundreds of years. Over 800,000 people live here now, about half the population residing in the capital of Djibouti City. French ruled until 1977 and afterwards, the country retained a rare, relative peace between its 2 main ethnic groups - the Issa (Somali origin) and the Afar (Ethiopia). 94% of Djibouti are Muslim and have been in this area for over 1000 years. Despite this, the government is somewhat less strict on Sharia law and other religions are warmly welcomed; Even the Christmas holiday is widely and enthusiastically celebrated in the region. Arabic is most common and French also still rules as a main language. The largest occupation of the French Military outside France is found in Djibouti. Natural resources include clay, gold, granite, marble, salt, limestone and petrol. A favorite activity is the consumption of qat (spelled khat, kat, chat, ghat ) an addictive green leaf with stimulating effects---such as: Holding off hunger, enhancing excitability, heightening mood (and conversation) and delaying sleep. Many will eat qat after a meal or gather together to chew and talk. While it is technically a narcotic and illegal in many countries, many say it is less harmful than alcohol or tobacco. People of the Djibouti region have been consuming qat for thousands of years--it even predates the consumption of coffee.
EGYPT; 5,000 years old and contains some of the oldest recorded history in the western civilization. Ancient Egyptians were masterful; Their culture produced and/or advanced a wide array of valuable contributions: clocks, cosmetics, paper, gravestones, door locks, bowling, candy, advanced mathematics including algebra, diagnostic medicine, surgery, wigs and fake beards, hair removal, toothbrushes, toothpaste, toothpicks, complicated architecture, complicated agriculture, farming equipment, the most accurate astronomy known to man, the first 12-month, 365-day calendar year and of course, one of the first writing systems - hieroglyphics. The Nile river was a primary reason that this place carried on the way it did, as long as it did. At over 4,000 miles long, the Nile intersects the area vertically, with arid desert land spanning on either side; a perfect fortress against invaders. Even today, 95% of the population live close to the fertile area surrounding the river. Long ago, Egyptians celebrated the time of year when the Nile would overflow and drench their crops. A polytheistic bunch, they believed the water was the tears of the goddess Isis and celebrated the event as "The Night of the Teardrop". BTW, Pharaoh means "Great House" and when Pharaoh Thutmose II died in the 1400's BCE, his wife Hapshepsut took over. She was 1 of 3 females that ever ruled and she did it well; For over 22 years, building temples, shrines and statues and posing/ruling depicted as a fierce man. After her death, her son attempted to eradicate her memory, and many artifacts and structures from her reign are difficult to find. She had pondered her legacy - her poetic thoughts were discovered inscribed on a surviving obelisk: : "Now my heart turns this way and that, as I think what people will say. Those who see my monuments in years to come, and who shall speak of what I have done" Currently, Egypt has 86 million people. In 2011, it experienced a fascinating revolution to unseat autocracy.
EQUATORIAL GUINEA In Central West Africa, touching the Atlantic, lies the tiny nation of Equatorial Guinea. Nestled below Cameroon, it consists of a small chunk of mainland with 5 inhabited islands off the coast. The first known tribes to settle here were the Pygmies and the Ndowe. Soon joined the Bantu and finally, the war-hungry Fang group, who soon dominated the area - as it does still somewhat. Colonialism occurred and it was known for a time as Spanish Guinea. Much slave trade was done off the islands and with the appearance of these Europeans invaders, the Fang were pushed back to the mainland and to this day make up the majority of that region. These events led EG to become the only African country with Spanish as the official language, followed by French and with numerous tribal dialects used more casually. Unfortunately, the nation has never known democratic rule, with a brutal dictatorships following the release of their colonial rule in the sixties. Following a coup in 1979, Teodoro Oblang Nguema Mbasogo gained power and has held it, amidst suspected election shams, corruption & more - generally keeping EG at the very top of the human rights violation watch list. Nguema's government (in theory, 'multiparty' although he controls every aspect of every branch) has been accused of discrimination, police harassment, random arrests, breach of privacy, torture, restriction of movement, lack of due process, freedom of speech, press or religion. NGO's are restricted by government, most commonly ones that focus on human rights. Domestic abuse is considered legal - and even with things like the Anti-Trafficking Law (2004) which is meant to protect children forced into labor and the sexual exploitation of both women & children - much is not enforced or simply ignored. Little investigation is done, no prosecutions are made. When an off-shore oil boom happened in 1996, the opportunity to revive this poverty and disease-stricken country arose. Instead, Nguema added the wealth from these exports into his personal fortune and declared profits from oil a private matter the government need not share with the public.He continues to do so, with less than half the population having clean water, and the total population is nearly 740,000. 70% of people work in agriculture, consisting of bananas, rice, yams, palm oil nuts. About 20% work in service and 10% in industry. Most are Roman Catholic, the terrain is tropical rain forest and there is a oral, not written, literary history/tradition amongst most tribes. Malamba is a popular alcoholic drink made from sugar cane, Ibanga is a ceremonial dance performed by the Fang tribe once a year; it is very sexual - the dancers will cover their bodies in white powder beforehand. The equator is close by but does not run directly through the nation, despite the namesake.
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