Power and Landscape in Atlantic West Africa

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Ogundiran, Akinwumi

Left Coast Press. Journal of African Diaspora Archaeology and Heritage 3 1 : Lane, eds. Journal of Social Archaeology 13 1 : International Journal of Historical Archaeology 71 1 : Ogundiran, eds. By the whole country resembled a military camp with arms and ammunition being trafficked to all sides. There was a total breakdown in state structures and institutions. At various times, there were agreements between the sides in hopes that a stable government could emerge, but the agreements broke down and the country continued to scramble for civility.

Nigerian forces were actively fighting in the conflict. In , British troops were employed to help evacuate foreign nationals and establish order. Military forces from neighboring Guinea also entered the country to attack RUF bases. UN forces with US support eventually established a sense of control of the country. By , major fighting was over and attempts were made to establish a civilian government. Approximately fifty thousand people were killed in this civil war and as many as two million people were displaced, many of them refugees.

Sierra Leone set up a special court to address crimes against humanity, and the country has been working to establish a stable government and maintain a sense of order. A miner in Kono District, Sierra Leone, searches his pan for diamonds. Diamonds have been used as currency to fund armed conflicts in this region, hence the term conflict diamonds or blood diamonds.

The term blood diamonds was first used in the wars in Angola. United States Agency for International Development — public domain. The diamond trade still dominates and political factions still vie for control. Much of the diamond mining is uncontrolled, allowing considerable smuggling operations to operate. The civil war destroyed the infrastructure of the country, and most of the resources were looted by forces on one side or another.

The economy has had a difficult time recovering. Most of the people make their living in subsistence agriculture. Medicine, food, and goods have been in a short supply.

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Many people have died due to the lack of these items during and after the civil war. Today the country struggles to recover and work toward stabilization. To fully understand where Liberia is today as a country and as a people, one has to understand its background and its geopolitical history. Liberia has a unique background in that it was not a European colony and was not included in the Berlin Conference of as a country up for grabs in the scramble for African territory.

The conference of colonial European powers who divided up Africa did establish borders for the majority of African countries. In , Liberia became an independent country patterned after the US government, even naming its capital Monrovia after President James Monroe, the fifth US president.


Many of the freed slaves from the United States returned to Africa and relocated to Liberia. The slavery experience in the United States gave returning Africans a different culture and history from those indigenous to the African continent. Assimilation between the two groups was difficult. The division between the Americanized settler communities along the coast and the indigenous Africans of the interior continued to widen over the years. Students in Liberia study by candlelight to catch up on missed time during the civil war. Centrifugal forces within the country surfaced in when a military-backed coup overthrew the government.

This event became a turning point that escalated into social division and political unrest. Elections were held in , which resulted in accusations of election fraud. Successive coups by various factions continued to plague the political arena.

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By , civil war had commenced. Military forces from the neighboring countries of Ghana, Guinea, Senegal, and Nigeria entered the conflict. Whoever was in charge of the government at any one time had plenty of opposition from the various factions. A warlord by the name of Charles Taylor became a major player and eventually took control of the government in following a bloody insurgency in the capital.

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US marines were deployed to protect the US embassy and personnel. Nigerian military troops pushed into the conflict. By , more than fifteen thousand UN peacekeeping soldiers were active in Liberia. The power of the government was reduced to a minimum, and the warlord president Taylor was allowed asylum in Nigeria and later brought before the UN court in The Hague for war crimes against humanity.


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In the end, more than two hundred thousand people were killed and the country was devastated. With UN troops bringing stability, the presidential election brought Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, an economist with a Harvard degree. She became the first elected female head of state in Africa. Poverty and the lack of goods and services have been a persistent problem for the people of Liberia. An agrarian society, few global corporations have made investments because of the long-standing civil war.

As was true for Sierra Leone and other African countries such as Angola, the diamond trade helped fund the civil war.

Diamonds from these countries are often called blood diamonds because of their use as currency to fund death and destruction. The concept of blood diamonds originated in the civil war in Angola years earlier.

Power And Landscape In Atlantic West Africa

The UN banned the export of blood diamonds from Liberia during the war and finally lifted the ban in During the s and s, the economy grew, and its production of cocoa beans became the largest in the world. Its coffee production became the third highest in the world after Brazil and Colombia. Ivory Coast is the leading exporter of palm oil and pineapples in Africa. The potential for economic prosperity remains but has been diminished over the past two decades because of the economic downturn in commodity prices and political instability that resulted in a devastating civil war.

From to , the country only had one political leader. Though this brought continuity to the government and the economy grew in the early years, authoritarian rule resulted in civil unrest and dissatisfaction with the conditions in the country. Coups in and triggered the beginning of political division. Rebel groups took over the northern regions and vied for control over the prime cocoa-growing lands. Fighters under warlords and militias from Sierra Leone and Liberia encroached on the western sectors to gain a foothold.

By , French troops patrolled the western border region to provide security and stability. The country experimented with a unity government, but this broke down when the rebel groups failed to disarm. By the government and rebel leaders from the north worked out an agreement to reunite the country and dismantle the dividing zone between the north and south.

French and UN troops remain to help implement the peace process.