Africa News Roundup: Fishing in Senegal, Protests in Mauritania, Ethnic Somalis in Kenya, Fuel Subsidy Probe in Nigeria, and More

First, a personal note. On Thursday this blog received its 250,000th page view since it began three years ago. The last two months have accounted for almost 40,000 views. The traffic, I hope, is a sign that I am making progress toward my core goal here: offering writing that is accessible enough to inform those unfamiliar with the region, but nuanced enough to communicate the complexity and humanity of major events in the Sahel (not that I always achieve that!). I am grateful to readers old and new, especially the commenters, for making the blog what it is; without engagement from readers, critical feedback on my ideas, debate and discussion, I would have abandoned the project a long time ago. So thank you for reading and participating. And on that note, I am looking for ways to make the blog better and to keep it from getting stale. I sometimes contemplate making substantial changes, such as taking on guest contributors, including intermittent coverage of North Africa, or writing a weekly post in French and/or Arabic, but so far I have hesitated to do so. If you have any suggestions, or if your feeling is “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” please let me know, either in the comments or by email. Now the roundup:

BBC: “Africa received its largest ever share of global foreign direct investment (FDI) last year.”

Senegal:

The new government of Senegal has cancelled the licences of 29 foreign fishing trawlers, demanding that they offload their catches in the capital Dakar before leaving the west African country’s territorial waters.

The dramatic move on Tuesday by fisheries minister Pape Diouf follows growing resentment at overfishing and alleged corruption of the previous government’s licencing system. It is expected to defuse threats by Senegal’s 52,000 small-scale inshore fishermen to take direct action against the owners of foreign trawlers.

The Economic Community of West African States plans to send troops to crisis-torn Mali “soon.”

Protests in Mauritania continue. Police broke up a mass sit-in on Thursday. Meanwhile, students at the University of Nouakchott are boycotting classes (Arabic), and several student leaders have been arrested.

Jeune Afrique profiles Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou (French), focusing on his relations with the international community and the contrast he draws with his predecessor, ousted former President Mamadou Tandja.

In a new report, Human Rights Watch says, “The Kenyan security forces have committed widespread human rights abuses against ethnic Somalis with total impunity.”

In other Kenya news, Prime Minister Raila Odinga made headlines this week for expressing fears of ethnic violence during next year’s presidential election (originally scheduled for December 2012, now for March 2013), in which he intends to compete.

Think Africa Press:

Discussions in Nigeria’s House of Representatives regarding the probe into fuel subsidy payments were concluded earlier this week.

The committee, tasked with unravelling the discrepancies between what the federal government paid to fuel importers and the actual amount of fuel imported since 2009, exposed massive fraud in the oil sector. It revealed that $6.8 billion was unaccounted for.

Reuters has more:

Nigeria’s justice ministry said on Friday it would prosecute anyone found guilty of being involved in a $6.8 billion fuel subsidy corruption scheme but urged the public to be patient and allow time for a full investigation.

The recent death of a Somali journalist cast a shadow over the celebration of World Press Freedom Day there.

What else is happening?

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14 thoughts on “Africa News Roundup: Fishing in Senegal, Protests in Mauritania, Ethnic Somalis in Kenya, Fuel Subsidy Probe in Nigeria, and More

  1. Since you are soliciting feedback…. I just wanted to tell you that this is a great blog. I’ve only been following for a few months now, but I find it a reliable source for news and informed opinions (both from you and the commenters) that is quite rare these days. Staying on top of the happenings in such a large and heterogeneous region is no small feet. Keep up the good work! I do think maybe the possibility of writing a weekly French/Arabic article might be a good way to expand the readership and thus diversify the voices/opinions commenting and enhance the discussions. But, overall – in my opinion (for whatever thats worth), this blog is a consistent ‘two thumbs up’.

    • Thanks Pete! I appreciate the encouragement. I am seriously thinking about the foreign language articles.

  2. Although I don’t agree with all you write on this blog, I think this is a great blog.

    I saw this article about US congress members writing Jonathan about Boko Haram: http://www.thenationonlineng.net/2011/index.php/news-update/45519-boko-haram-us-congress-members-write-jonathan-call-for-decisive-action.html

    What is interesting is that these people are Republicans and have strong ties to the Evangelical community in America. I also remember that a bipartisan panel (led by a Republican) suggested that the US government designate Boko Haram as a “foreign terrorist organisation”.

    When Jonathan’s powerful National Security Advisor, General Azazi wrote about Boko Haram, he wrote in “The Washington Times”, a mouthpiece of right-wing America, more likely to be read by Evangelical Christians. He quoted the Meehan report in his brief article: http://beegeagle.wordpress.com/2012/01/10/azazi-time-for-a-strategic-security-relationship-between-the-us-and-nigeria-washington-post/

    It shows the thinking of the Jonathan administration.

    However, American analysts with close links to the North like Jean Herskovits and John Campbell of the powerful Council for Foreign Relations, have been pushing an alternative narrative – Boko Haram is primarily due to poverty, Boko Haram is difuse and unclearly defined, Boko Haram has nothing to do with religion, Boko Haram is mainly a local problem and thus should be treated as such. This alternative narrative seems to have the ear of the Obama adminstration and it was echoed by Johnnie Carson in a speech at the CSIS.

    However, Carson ran into trouble both at the House hearing and with two Christians from Northern Nigeria. He was extremely uncomfortable – he could not on the one hand claim that Boko Haram had nothing to do with religion, when they had just attacked a Church service at BUK the day before.

    Why am I writing all this? It seems as if there is an intense lobbying battle around Boko Haram and the appropriate US policy response. I am extremely uncomfortable with it.

    It is one thing to observe the politics surrounding Boko Haram at home. It is another to see it being played out in Washington. It does America no favours to get immersed in extremely messy local politics. For some reason, the British seem to have done a better job of stepping outside the fray – is this because they understand Nigeria better or because they have dealt with a home grown terrorist organisation and understand the dynamics better?

    Alex, the reason I spent time writing is because probably an influential policy maker will get to read this blog and convince his superiors that the US really needs “to do more by saying less”. There is no reason why a serving US ambassador should suggest the creation of a “Ministry of Northern Affairs” – this is a politically charged suggestion and the British are too smart to talk that way.

    • I certainly agree that America should minimize its involvement. But I think the longer the rebellion goes on, the more interest and calls for action it will generate in Washington. The FTO designation is also becoming more likely, I think.

      Do you have a link to the event with Carson at CSIS? I had not seen that.

    • Well Boko Haram is a terrorist organization*. As for the U.K, it might be a better reading of the situation or it might be the difference between great powers and regional powers. The U.S is one of the few states that can (theoretically) act anywhere in the world while the U.K has lost that power and has come to terms with it. Therefore the U.S is more willing to act than the U.K. Over the next twenty to fifty years I expect the U.S to be much more cautious.

      *Or an insurgency. The lines between the two are often nothing more than a question of numbers and exact tactics.

      • I think it is quite simply a better reading of the situation.

        You cannot say that the Brits have less influence in Nigeria than the Americans. Afterall, they created Nigeria and they defined the politics of the nascent republic.

        British FDI and aid isn’t significantly smaller than American FDI and aid.

        They are also better represented. There is a DFID/British Council office at Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt in the Niger Delta, Enugu in the South East and Kano in the far North. The BBC is a much more respected media organisation than the VOA and it has a deeper appreciation of the nuances of Nigeria.

        The scope of engagement/interaction is unrivalled. They have the ability to hear several points of view, unlike the Americans who are limited to Lagos and Abuja – and it shows. (The US State department/US government has no representation in either the Niger Delta or the far North – two extremely important regions in Nigeria).

        The are also “wiser”. America is full of intelligent people, but Americans have a reputation for being naive and easily deceived. This may not be strictly true, but events in the Middle East and the utterances of American diplomats seem to support this (unverifiable) perception.

        ** The most important lesson from the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns is that “the US cannot act anywhere in the World”, period. The US is just as constrained in this part of the World as the UK – even more so, because while British public opinion might support intervention in Sierra Leone, US public opinion would not.

      • Just add.

        The scope of involvement of the British Council ranges from professional examinations like ACCA, CIPS, Prince2, CIMA, to cultural exchanges, to online education, to business links etc.

        British supported educational institutions exist all over Nigeria.

        There seems to be a closer integration between the British High Commission and the British business community than what obtains with Americans. The Brits seem to be much more enthusiastic about Nigeria as a business opportunity than Americans (Cameron came to Lagos last year just to promote Nigeria to British businesses).

      • Great powers and regional powers have been consistently shown to have different approaches to problems, as well as what they consider worth intervening in. Even if the U.K has extensive history in Nigeria it’s current geopolitical position doesn’t give it the freedom to act as it wishes.

      • Gyre,

        NOBODY has the freedom to act in Nigeria.

        John Campbell (who I almost always disagree with), was right on point when he said that there is very little America can do, if Nigeria implodes.

        The Niger Delta is a classic example. Even though the US stepped up its aid efforts in the delta, total US aid to Nigeria (military and civilian) is in the region of $500 million. This is significantly less than the budget of a single state in the Niger Delta like Rivers (about $2 billion). The capacity of the US to shape outcomes independently is extremely limited.

        Secondly, do you know how vast Nigeria is? The Niger Delta is 17,000 square miles of mangrove swamp. There is no feasible military solution in that kind of environment. There are at least 80 million Muslims and tens of millions of Muslim young men. If the US couldn’t crack either Iraq or Afghanistan, how could it possibly crack Nigeria.

        We’ve had a history of ignoring the US – Abacha did it. Since East Coast refineries depend on Nigerian crude, the taps were never shut. And if America doesn’t buy the crude, the Chinese will.

        For the purposes of Nigeria, America is a regional power, not a great power. (An unstable and weak Nigeria is more of a problem than a strong Nigeria and any attempt to weaken Nigeria will ripple right across the Sahel and West Africa).

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