Where is Togo South Africa?

Fighters for Libya's interim government rejoice after winning control of the Kadhafi stronghold of Bani Walid in 2011. (Photo: Flickr/ Magharebia)THE situation in Libya right now is often described as fractured, chaotic, anarchic, and even bloody. But there is a big surprise awaiting us there.

The country is the epicentre of tragic news coming out of North Africa this week – first, an estimated 800 African migrants drowned in the Mediterranean, having set off sail from the Libyan coast hoping to reach Italy.

Then Islamic State militants beheaded and shot 30 Ethiopian Christians in Libya, which sparked off protest marches in Addis Ababa.

After the fall of dictator Muammar Gadaffi in 2011, various armed groups that opposed him refused to disarm; they have now formed two parallel governments, both jostling for the control of Libya’s capital Tripoli.

The internationally-recognised administration headed by Abdullah al-Thinni was ousted from the capital Tripoli last year, and operates out of hotels in the eastern city of Benghazi – and all the while, the Islamic State has taken advantage of the anarchy to establish a foothold on the African continent.

Thrill and elation

It suggests that outsiders have probably underestimated the joy that came with the fall of Gadaffi - a strict, controlled and repressive society suddenly had its shackles cast off, like a child being set loose in a candy shop.

And even if it appears to be disorder and lawlessness ruling the day, in it all there’s likely to be an odd element of thrill and elation.

Algeria is the second-happiest country in Africa, and in contrast to Libya, has been spared most of the turmoil that has rocked North Africa in the past four years.

So depending on a country’s initial conditions, falling into near anarchy, or the opposite - remaining stable in a tumultuous neighbourhood, can strangely have the same happy result.

In Africa, money doesn’t buy you happiness – at least, not always.

Mauritius comes third in Africa, the little island nation regularly tops all the “good” rankings in Africa.

In fourth place is Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy, which remains happy despite the havoc wreaked by Boko Haram attacks in the north in recent years.

Fifth is Zambia, which tends to be a quiet land, at least by African standards. And the self-declared Somaliland republic comes in sixth.

The autonomous territory in the north of Somalia has a stable, functioning government, with several successful and democratic elections, a large contrast to the instability that has wracked southern Somalia, particularly in the past few years with the rise of the Shabaab terror group.

The most miserable countries in Africa are not the poorest, or even the ones most affected by terrorism, war or instability. They are a mixed bag, and in fact, some of them have posted strong economic growth figures.

Togo is the unhappiest country in Africa, and neighbouring Benin is third from last. It’s intriguing that two gloomy countries could be right next to the very happy Nigeria.

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