Solutions to poverty, population growth, global warming [Google+ Hangout]

As experts from three continents convene this week at UC Berkeley to discuss rapid population growth, climate change and other intractable problems, The Times will hold a live online video discussion -- via Google+ Hangout -- Thursday on potential solutions.

The newspaper explored such issues around the world in its recent five-part series on population growth in the developing world. Among other topics, the "Beyond 7 Billion" series examined chronic hunger and mass migration in East Africa -- trends that Dr. Malcolm Potts believes will soon extend across the Sahel, an arid region of Africa just below the Sahara desert.

LIVE VIDEO DISCUSSION: Join us at 3:30 p.m. Thursday

"What you've been seeing from Somalia is going to happen in all those countries, all the way across from the Red Sea to the Atlantic Ocean," said Potts, a UC Berkeley professor of public health. "You've just seen a fraction of what's going to happen in the next 10 or 20 years."

Potts, who co-organized the conference focused on the Sahel region, will join The Times at 3:30 p.m. Pacific time Thursday to discuss solutions to the problems facing this part of Africa and other impoverished nations with soaring populations. He will be joined by Dr. Ndola Prata of UC Berkeley, William Ryerson of the Population Media Center and Fatima Adamu from Usmanu Danfodiyo University in Sokoto, Nigeria.

We invite you to join the conversation by posting comments or questions below, on The Times’ Facebook and Google Plus pages, or on Twitter using the #asklatimes hashtag.

-- Kenneth R. Weiss

Photo: Somalia refugees, driven from their land by sectarian violence and drought, gather outside the United Nations' camps in eastern Kenya. Credit: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times


Clinton promises 'partnership, not patronage,' to African nations

Hillary Clinton promises 'partnership' to African nations

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton launched a tour across Africa on Tuesday by promising "partnership, not patronage," with African nations.

"America will stand up for democracy and universal human rights even when it might be easier or more profitable to look the other way, to keep the resources flowing," Clinton said in a speech in Dakar, Senegal, the first stop on her 11-day trip across the continent.

Her words were widely seen as an implied swipe at China, which has ramped up trade with African countries while coming under fire for human rights abuses. Beijing has outpaced the West in courting African leaders, recently pledging $20 billion in loans over the next three years.

South African President Jacob Zuma recently said China treated Africans more equitably than Europeans. But China has also been criticized by some African leaders for using Chinese rather than African labor and for focusing on extracting raw materials as opposed to other kinds of trade.

In her speech, Clinton depicted the U.S. as a partner that would protect human rights and democracy. "The days of having outsiders come and extract the wealth of Africa for themselves, leaving nothing or very little behind, should be over in the 21st century," Clinton said.

Clinton also praised Senegal for its long and stable history as a democracy, reaffirmed this year when power was peacefully handed off to newly elected President Macky Sall. She drew a stark contrast between its democracy and coups this year in Mali and Guinea-Bissau.

Clinton is expected to stop in South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Malawi and South Africa on her trip, according to the State Department. The Associated Press reported she would also go to Ghana to attend the state funeral for late President John Atta Mills.

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-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

Photo: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton kicks off her visit to Africa at the Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, Senegal, on Wednesday. Credit: Tanya Bindra / EPA 


Senegalese music legend N'Dour gets political post

Youssoundour

REPORTING FROM JOHANNESBURG -- Senegalese music legend Youssou N'Dour, who helped spearhead the opposition campaign to oust former President Abdoulaye Wade last month, has gotten his political reward. He has been named minister for culture and tourism by the new president, Macky Sall.

Grammy award winner N'Dour, the country's must successful musician, put aside his musical career to compete against Wade, who angered Senegalese by trying to evade a constitutional limit to seek a third term in office.

The constitutional court ruled out N'Dour's bid to run for office, but the musician played a prominent role in the campaign against Wade. Street protests against the incumbent were mounted daily, and N'Dour was hit in the leg by a projectile in one of them.

After Wade failed to win an outright majority and was forced to a run-off against Sall, N'Dour thew his weight behind Sall. After Sall's victory, a democratic milestone for the country, he held a celebration concert in Sall's honor.

Before entering politics, N'Dour, who started performing at the age of 12, had toured the world for more than three decades and was hailed as one of Africa's greatest artists. Adored in Senegal, he has millions of fans globally.

Sall cut the number of Cabinet posts from 40 to 25.

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-- Robyn Dixon

Photo: Senegalese singer Youssou Ndour speaks during a meeting in Dakar ahead of the second round of the presidential elections. Credit: Tourebehan / Agence France-Presse/Getty Images


Senegal's president concedes defeat; victory for African democracy

Senegal-election
REPORTING FROM LAGOS, NIGERIA -- Incumbent Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade's move to swiftly concede defeat after Sunday's presidential runoff election is being viewed as a major positive step for democracy in a region better known for military coups and violence-tinged election campaigns.

Wade, 85, who faced a massive public backlash after defying a constitutional provision limiting presidential terms to two, was defeated by a former ally, Macky Sall, 50.

Wade had been in power for 12 years, and was seeking a third term despite his age and the fact that  he developed the two-term limit. His bid to remain in office sparked massive street protests in which seven people died. The protests were joined by Senegal's most famous musician, Youssou N'Dour, and Senegalese rappers who formed the movement Y'en ai Marre, or “I'm fed up.”

Rising prices and high unemployment contributed to Wade’s defeat, as did the perception he was more interested in monumental projects than in helping ordinary people, symbolized by a $27-million, 160-foot bronze statue called “African Renaissance” he commissioned on a hill outside the capital. The statue was built by North Koreans.

Continue reading »

Senegal president in for tough second-round vote

Macky sall
REPORTING FROM DAKAR, SENEGAL -- “He’s finished,” said Aliou Samba, 50, as he handed over money for a newspaper on a sandy side street in Dakar, referring to the chastened incumbent president of Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade. “He needs to go to bed now.” 
 
He laughed at the idea he might vote for anyone but leading opposition candidate Macky Sall, in a likely second round to Senegal’s controversial election. “Yes, of course I’m voting for Macky!”
 
“It feels like the end!” screamed one headline Tuesday morning. “Wade suddenly becomes a lamb!” shouted another. “It’s finished,” said another. 
 
Wade appeared at a news conference Monday, looking less gung-ho than usual, acknowledging he might not have won the required majority of votes to avoid a runoff.
 
One day later, it looked certain that the election will run to a second round, pitting Wade, 85, against  Sall, 50, a former prime minister and ally.
 
With more than half the votes counted, Wade said Monday that he was leading the 13 other candidates with 32.17%. But he needs more than 50% to avoid a runoff. So far, Sall has between 29% and 30% of the vote.
 
Many believe Sall cannot fail to win in a second round -- with most opposition voters likely to unite behind him, but others say Wade still has a chance.
 
“Despite the protests, people still voted for Wade, so you see, the protesters aren’t everyone,” pointed out Cheikh Diakhate, 30. “And supporters of [Moustapha Niasse, 72, another former prime minister] say they will never vote for Macky, so it’s no foregone conclusion.”
 
Wade ignited controversy when he sought a third term despite a constitutional provision limiting presidents to two terms. Wade himself was responsible for the provision.
 
He said Monday that he would “explore all possibilities of collaboration with other political forces” and added that the votes showed that his nation was still “solidly anchored in the limited circle of modern, mature and peaceful democracies.” 
 
He thanked the population for exhibiting maturity and tolerance on polling day.
 
Wade has become unpopular in recent years as the people struggle with rising unemployment, crippling power cuts, spiraling food and petrol prices and a growing food crisis in the north of Senegal.  
 
Albert Bourgi, African politics expert at France’s Universite de Reims, said Wade was noticeably more humble during his first speech since the election.
 
“I thought his speech was good,”  Bourgi said. “He was mainly full of humility. ‘Here you go,’ he was saying, ‘Here’s the truth: I won 32%.’ ”
 
Meanwhile, Dakar seems to have returned to normal after weeks of protests, with most people glued to the radio and TV for news on what is happening in the vote count.

There's an air of hope as suddenly the choice for president is more clear-cut than it has been for weeks: Abdoulaye Wade versus Macky Sall.
 
Final results of the election will be announced Friday, with a second round scheduled for March 18.

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Photo: Senegalese presidential candidate Macky Sall, center, will probably face off with incumbent Abdoulaye Wade in a runoff election. Credit: Nic Bothma / European Pressphoto Agency


Senegal fears violence as it prepares for runoff vote

Senegalwade

People in Senegal fear that if their president wins a third term in elections Sunday, the country may descend into chaos. At least six people have already died in protests.

"At first I thought it would all calm down," tradesman Moustapha Ndiaye told The Times. "But now I'm afraid of what will happen after the election if Wade wins. That's when the real violence will begin."

Instead the country is gearing up for another election. Incumbent Abdoulaye Wade fell short of the 50% needed to win the presidency outright, putting him into a runoff with an opposition candidate.

Every day on World Now we choose a remarkable photo from around the world. Today we picked this shot from Senegal, where backers of Wade chanted slogans after he announced he would go to a runoff.

Senegal, long seen as an African success story, has been racked by turmoil since Wade set his sights on a third term in office. The Senegalese Constitution limits presidents to two terms, but Wade argues he is exempt from the rule because he was elected before the term limits were put into force.

After a Senegalese court ruled in his favor, protests erupted throughout the country, spearheaded by young people. His opponents see him as megalomaniacal and wasteful, deriding extravagances such as a $27-million bronze statue called the "Monument to the African Renaissance."

Wade told media that with more than half of the votes counted, he was leading 13 other candidates with 32.17% of vote, the Associated Press reported. He was followed by Macky Sall, an opposition candidate who could defeat Wade in the next round if the president's critics unite behind him.

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-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

Photo: A Senegalese woman holds a picture of President Abdoulaye Wade as she chants slogans with other Wade supporters after a news conference outside the presidential palace in Dakar on Monday. Photo: Nic Bothma / European Pressphoto Agency


Why is Senegal -- an African success story -- becoming unstable?

 

People in Dakar, Senegal, demonstrate against President Abdoulaye Wade


This story has been updated. See the note below for details.

 

Senegal has been regarded as a rare success story in West Africa, a stable democracy that has never had a military coup. But it looked a lot less stable on Monday when paramilitaries opened fire on protesters.

What is behind the unrest in Senegal?

The trouble swirls around President Abdoulaye Wade, who has been criticized for increasing presidential power since he was elected. Roughly two-thirds of Senegalese senators are now chosen by the president, and he successfully pushed to extend presidential terms to seven years. He also tried to make it possible to win the presidency outright with just 25% of the vote.

His opponents see him as erratic and wasteful, pointing to pet projects like a hulking Soviet-style bronze statue called the Monument to the African Renaissance, which cost $27 million. Wade once said he had never made a mistake in a decade in power.

Many are fearful that he is grooming his son Karim as a successor. When Wade tried to create the position of vice president, a job that critics believed was a stepping stone for his son, protests erupted and he backed down.

What triggered this round of protests?

The elderly president has been in office since 2000 and has set his sights on a third term in 2012, even though the constitution limits presidents to two terms. Wade argues that he is exempt from the rule because he was elected before the term limits were put into force. Last week, a constitutional court ruled in his favor.

Protests erupted across the country, spearheaded by young people.

“They’re not going to put up with Wade sticking around in office,” said Richard Downie, deputy director of the Africa program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “Whether he wins fair or unfair, there are going to be large protests.… This election will be decided on the streets.”

Senegalese police say an officer was hit in the head by a brick and killed during riots Friday. A Senegalese journalist told the Associated Press that after police ran out of tear gas Monday and couldn’t get protesters to disperse, they turned to bullets. The gunfire reportedly killed a high school student and a woman in her 60s.

What happens now?

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns said Monday that Wade's bid for reelection threatened Senegal's political stability. Amnesty International condemned the violence and the detention of a Wade opponent.

The violence could also put international aid at risk. Two and a half years ago, the country was awarded $540 million over five years to reduce poverty from the Millennium Challenge Corp., a U.S. foreign aid agency that requires grantees to “demonstrate a commitment to just and democratic governance.” The MCC was not immediately available for comment Monday afternoon. [Updated 1:21 p.m. Feb. 2: An MCC official stated that the agency is closely monitoring the events in Senegal in coordination with the U.S. embassy in Dakar.]

Downie said the military is another wild card. “Will they come out in defense of the constitution and prevent Wade from remaining in power?” he asked.

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-- Emily Alpert

Photo: People demonstrate in Dakar, Senegal, against President Abdoulaye Wade seeking a third term. Credit: Seyllou/Agence France-Presse


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