Faith in Nigeria

Considering the religious affiliations of citizens in Nigeria—51% of the population identify as Muslim and 47% as Christian according to the latest Pew research poll—the authors argue that faith leaders must be used by the Nigerian government to help provide an effective public health response to the coronavirus pandemic.  

The country’s faith-based organisations (FBOs) are described as crucial to disseminating information to the wider population. The authors state that one third of Nigeria’s adult population is illiterate and only 46% of people have access to the internet. Due to lack of trust in politicians, the authors assert that Nigerians are more likely to engage with information from their religious leaders than from anywhere else 

The authors then discuss the role of religious leaders in combatting the spread of other infectious diseases, such as Ebola and HIV. For example, during the Ebola crisis in West Africa from 2013 to 2016faith leaders promoted handwashing and social distancing, reported suspected cases and encouraged their communities to work with healthcare workers.  

However, the article also highlights some dangers of relying on FBOs. They report isolated cases of religious leaders promoting false information about Covid-19, including miracle cures and saying that the government’s measures are intended to “cripple religion”.  

Ultimately, the authors call on the Nigerian government to work with faith leaders to counter misinformation and encourage uptake of vaccine. This could include:  

  • prominent leaders publicly taking the vaccine themselves;  
  • setting up training programmes for leaders to enable them to speak knowledgeably about the safety, effectiveness and possible side effects of the vaccineand  
  • using worship centres as vaccination sites.  

Read the full article: Olajumoke AyandeleChioma T Okafor and Olubukunola OyedeleThe role of Nigeria’s faith-based organisations in tackling health crises like COVID-19’, Africa Portal, 27 January 2021 

Merkel’s legacy

Angela Merkel has served as Chancellor of Germany since 2005. She is due to stand down in September 2021, providing the country’s elections can go ahead. Reflecting on Merkel’s time in office, Judy Dempsey considers what the Chancellor must focus on in the next few months, who her successor may be, and the legacy that she might leave behind.  

The author outlines several “urgent matters” for the Chancellor to consider in her remaining time. Crucially, she argues that Merkel must ensure that Germany and the EU recover economically from the pandemic. Looking more globallyshe says Merkel should seek to mend the relationship between Germany and the US, as well as advise the EU on solutions to the growing threat of China and Russia. 

Armin Laschet replaced Angela Merkel as the leader of the CDU party in January 2021, and Dempsey believes he is likely to go on to run for Chancellor in September. The article highlights many similarities between the two politicians; for example, Laschet supported the Chancellor’s decision to open Germany to over 1 million Syrian refugees in 2015. Dempsey describes Laschet as a conservative centrist, who is “no pushover”.  

Finally, the author reflects on Merkel’s “inconsistent” legacy. She lists some key domestic policy directives that were enacted under Merkel; for example, the introduction of a minimum wage, the abolition of military conscription and the closure of nuclear power stations. The author then turns to Germany’s relationship with Russia and China, particularly Merkel’s decision to continue with Nord Stream 2 (the pipeline across the Baltic Seafollowing the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. The author says that this action is incompatible with the “very hard line” the Chancellor had previously taken with Russia, for example imposing sanctions on Russia following its annexation of Crimea in 2014 

Going forward, Dempsey says that the centre of German politics may be “in for a reassessment”. She says that a surge in support for the Green party may make them a possible coalition partner for the CDU at the next election. This would mean that Laschet, if he is elected, may be forced to follow policies popular with the Green party, for example a “more assertive policy” towards Russia and China and a more active role in NATO.  

Read the full article: Judy Dempsey, ‘Will Angela Merkel’s ambiguous legacy last?’ Carnegie Europe, 19 January 2021

The impact of the Arab Spring 

Made up of nine thought-pieces from scholars and researchers associated with the Middle East Institute (MEI)this article considers the lasting impact of the Arab Spring in countries such as Libya, Yemen, Syria and Egypt, ten years after the first protests.  

Most commentators agree that the Arab Spring did not result in the kind of democratic change that many protestors were initially hoping for and pushed many citizens into worse situations. However, Hafsa Halawa argues that “the success or failure of protests and uprisings is the wrong barometer by which to measure it”. She says that scholars should instead look at recent incidents of local mobilization to measure how regions have developed in the last year. 

This sentiment is echoed by other contributors. Fatima Abo Alasrar states that groups such as the Islah Party or the Southern Transitional Council in Yemen show that local people are challenging those in charge, despite no formal opportunities to participate in government. Similarly, Emiliano Alessandri states that in Tunisia “many are sticking with the power to engage”. He points to recent pushback against the country’s extension of the state of emergency as evidence of this.  

Bringing the contributors comments together, the programs director at MEI, Jessica Agostinellistates that the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement in the US sparked solidarity movements across the regions associated with the Arab Spring. She says that the BLM movement highlighted transnational issues such as state violence, incarceration and accountability, which are based on “common racial and colonial histories”Overall, she argues that the Arab Spring and more recent protest movements offer an opportunity for activists to share knowledge to “foster a more informed global network”.  

Read the full article: Middle East Institute, ‘Special briefing: the Arab Spring a decade on’, 14 January 2021