Africa News Roundup: The UNSC and Mali, HRW on Boko Haram, Abyei, Somali Oil, and More

The United Nations, from yesterday:

Citing the threat to regional peace from terrorists and Islamic militants in rebel-held northern Mali, the United Nations Security Council today held out the possibility of endorsing, within the next 45 days, an international military force to restore the unity of the West African country.

In a unanimously adopted resolution, the 15-member body called on Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to provide, at once, military and security planners to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union (AU) and other partners to help frame a response to a request by Mali’s transitional authorities for such a force, and to report back within 45 days.

Upon receipt of the report, and acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the Council said it was ready “to respond to the request of the Transitional authorities of Mali regarding an international military force assisting the Malian Armed Forces in recovering the occupied regions in the north of Mali.”

Human Rights Watch released a new report on Thursday entitled “Spiraling Violence: Boko Haram Attacks and Security Force Abuses in Nigeria.” From the summary:

This 98-page report catalogues atrocities for which Boko Haram has claimed responsibility. It also explores the role of Nigeria’s security forces, whose own alleged abuses contravene international human rights law and might also constitute crimes against humanity. The violence, which first erupted in 2009, has claimed more than 2,800 lives.

Governor Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu of Nigeria’s Niger State speaks about Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau.

VOA:

The long term success of an oil and security deal between Sudan and South Sudan could depend on the much disputed Abyei border region.

That’s why Princeton Lyman, the U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, says Abyei’s exclusion from the agreement between presidents Omar al-Bashir and Salva Kiir is “a big, big loss.”

Abyei is a territory claimed by both Sudan and South Sudan. The residents of Abyei were supposed to hold a referendum in 2011 to determine which country they would join, but the referendum was postponed indefinitely due to disagreements over who was eligible to vote. Some are still proposing that Abyei hold a referendum, but Sudan’s government opposes the idea. More from VOA:

The Sudanese foreign ministry spokesman, Al-Obeid Ahmed Marawah, says his government prefers a political agreement over a plebiscite because “the referendum would end by attributing Abyei to one of the two countries.

“And this will not satisfy the other party. Therefore, this could cause a new conflict between the two people [ Messriyah and Ngok Dinkas] of Abyei and it might extend to between the two countries,” Marawah says.

And that, in turn, threatens the new deal over the sharing of oil-revenue, which Ambassador Lyman says “holds tremendous potential benefits for the people of both countries, particularly in South Sudan where there has been serious rises in food prices, shortages of fuel, and insecurity on the border.”

In addition to French President Francois Hollande’s trip to Senegal yesterday and his stop in the Democratic Republic of the Congo today, two other noteworthy visits to the Sahel by foreign officials: Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in Senegal for Thursday and Friday, while Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights María Otero will be in Mauritania from October 15-17 and France from October 18-19.

In Mauritania, Under Secretary Otero will meet with government officials, including President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, representatives from civil society, UN agencies and youth groups to discuss political and democratic developments in the country, electoral processes, refugees and humanitarian assistance and combating trafficking in persons. This is the most senior-level U.S. State Department visit to Mauritania in five years.

Somalia’s new government “does not plan to nullify oil and gas exploration contracts made in recent years in favour of those that were signed prior to the toppling of the government in 1991, a senior state official said on Friday.”

Fatal flooding continues in Niger.

What else is happening?

North and South Sudan Take a Step Toward (Some) Peace

This weekend Southern Sudanese President Salva Kiir met with his counterpart, President Omar al Bashir of Sudan, in Khartoum. Although the problems between the two Sudans are far from over, this visit hopefully marks a step toward a resolution of major issues. This resolution may be flawed, but hopefully it will be one that both sides can live with.

The two largest issues dividing the two sides are how to share revenues from oil and how to demarcate the border. The border issue is especially complex: a number of areas are disputed, most famously the territory of Abyei, whose referendum on whether to join the North or the South has been indefinitely postponed (currently it lies within the North). Although coming up with a formula for oil sharing and resolving Abyei’s status might be enough to conclude the major disputes between the two sides, the question of the border areas is also significant because of the violence going on in several Northern states that lie on the new border. Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan States are home to thousands of people who fought for or sympathize with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), the governing party in the South. Even though such areas are not part of the new South Sudan, Southern leaders are keen to see violence end there. So long as it continues there will be serious tensions between South Sudan and Sudan.

Sudan Tribune provides details of the framework agreed upon in Khartoum:

Sudan and South Sudan have setup five task-forces to trash out issues of economy and border security among others…

The five committees include bilateral relations, economy, higher education, humanitarian affairs and border security.

Sudan’s minister of finance and national economy, Ali Mahmud, said that the two sides had agreed on five points in the fields of economic cooperation and banking exchange as well as on establishing a joint administration to manage oil facilities and promoting cross-border trade.

VOA and AFP have more.

The next step will be a meeting in Juba on October 18, which is quite soon.

There are reasons for pessimism – talks could fall through, issues could remain intractable, implementation could falter, and violence in the border regions could worsen, bringing tensions to new highs – but the personal involvement of Bashir and Kiir, combined with the genesis of this new framework, suggests that the two sides are serious about reaching a solution. As I said above, I do not think all the disputes will be ironed out, and some level of violence in the border areas may continue to keep relations problematic, but if resolution on revenues-sharing and Abyei comes, the two countries will be able to move forward.

Regarding Abyei, I think (North Sudan) will likely hold onto it. Their de facto control of the area gives them a huge advantage, though they may have to give Juba some big concessions to keep it.

Africa Blog Roundup: Somalia, DRC, Malawi, Senegal, and More

Yesterday’s big news was al Shabab’s withdrawal from the capital of Somalia, Mogadishu. James Gundun reacts here, and here is coverage from the New York Times and the AP. The BBC’s Andrew Harding, writing several days before the withdrawal, reported on how some government and AU officials see the ongoing famine as an opportunity to break al Shabab.

Over at Al Wasat, Ibn Siqilli posts photographs of al Shabab leaders.

Jason Stearns‘ interview with Eric Kajemba, director of an NGO in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, has occasioned a lot of commentary about the impact of the Dodd-Frank “conflict minerals” legislation on the DRC. Laura Seay reacts here. A Bombastic Element, meanwhile, looks at relations between the DRC and Angola.

Dipnote has Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s expression of concern over the recent deaths of several Ethiopian peacekeepers in Abyei, a border region of Sudan.

Kim Yi Dionne details what the fuel shortages in Malawi look like on the ground.

Africa Is A Country posts a lecture by Dr. Jean Comaroff about crime in South Africa.

At African Arguments, Pascal Bianchini says Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade may fall from power.

Amb. John Campbell explores the issue of Cote d’Ivoire’s “Dozos,” their role in security, and the implications of trying to disarm them.

Rosebell Kagumire writes a powerful reaction to her interviews of female victims of the Lord’s Resistance Army in northern Uganda.

I highly recommend Kal‘s review of Robin Wright’s Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World.

Hope you’re having a relaxing Sunday.

Africa Reports: Drought in the Horn, Elections in West Africa, Western Sahara, Abyei, and More

A few reports readers may find interesting:

As always, if you read these or if you know of another recently released report, let us know in the comments. Have a great weekend!

Does the US Have Significant Leverage over Khartoum?

In early June, violence began in Southern Kordofan State (which lies inside North Sudan, on the border with South Sudan) when the government in Khartoum started to disarm residents who had fought on the side of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) during the 1983-2005 civil war. With peacekeepers from the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) unable to halt the violence, and with Khartoum pressing for UNMIS to end its mandate once Southern independence happens on July 9, many fear an escalation of conflict. The crisis in Southern Kordofan – which observers like UN Dispatch’s Mark Leon Golberg are calling “ethnic cleansing” – raises the issue, once again, of how much leverage the US has over the regime in Khartoum.

Chinese Engineers Join Peacekeeping Force in Darfur

Chinese Peacekeepers in Darfur, Sudan

Yesterday President Barack Obama released a statement praising a peace agreement in Abyei, another Sudanese border region, and condemning the violence in Southern Kordofan:

The situation in Southern Kordofan is dire, with deeply disturbing reports of attacks based on ethnicity.  The United States condemns all acts of violence, in particular the Sudanese Armed Forces aerial bombardment  of civilians and harassment and intimidation of UN peacekeepers.  With a ceasefire in Southern Kordofan, alongside the agreement to deploy peacekeepers to Abyei, we can get the peace process back on track.  But without these actions, the roadmap for better relations with the Government of Sudan cannot be carried forward, which will only deepen Sudan’s isolation in the international community. Without a cease-fire and political negotiations, the people of Southern Kordofan cannot enjoy the right to have their political grievances addressed. The negotiations now under way in Addis Ababa demand the urgent commitment from both sides to peace and to the agreement for immediate help to those civilians caught up in this conflict.

This statement highlights one of the biggest potential leverage points Washington has with Khartoum: the “carrot” of normalized relations. Yet as author Bec Hamilton wrote on Twitter, the perceived value of this “carrot” may be disappearing: “That’s no longer leverage since Khartoum doesn’t believe it will ever happen (and they are probably right).”

Former US Ambassador to Nigeria John Campbell adds that with some of the final status issues between North and South Sudan unresolved, and with voices in Khartoum pressing Bashir to act tougher toward the South, the US has less room to influence Bashir or move forward on matters like removing Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

In addition to applying pressure from afar, the US is also working on the ground to promote peace in Sudan, with Special Envoy Princeton Lyman heading to Sudan this month. Still, the limited nature of the “carrots and sticks” strategy, as the Carnegie Endowment’s Marina Ottaway told AFP, will constrain what diplomats can offer or threaten. Lyman himself portrayed US influence over Sudan as limited in this recent interview with NPR.

If the US can’t strong-arm Khartoum, can anyone? Hamilton says that multilateral institutions and China have greater leverage over Khartoum than the US. China will soon have an opportunity to exercise its influence if it wants: Sudanese President Omar al Bashir is scheduled to visit China and meet with senior officials from June 27-30. China has a stated interest in peace for Sudan. After all, with 75% of Sudan’s oil in the South, China has incentives to maintain strong relations with both North and South – and to prevent them, if possible, from engaging in conflict that would disrupt oil exports. Washington, which recognizes the possibility for Chinese influence over Khartoum, greeted news of Bashir’s trip with the hope that China would assist in peacemaking.

Stepping back and looking at what all this means for the trajectory of US influence in Africa, I have a theory that I’m not totally wedded to, but that I’d like to try out on readers. Let me know what you think:

The limits in Washington’s leverage over Khartoum throw into relief some of the ongoing changes in Africa’s political landscape. I do not believe that Washington could ever consistently dictate outcomes in Africa – certainly there were African regimes during the Cold War who stayed in power despite American opposition to them, and African rebel movements that defied America’s friends – but the end of the Cold War, and the rise of China, have altered America’s role in African politics. Rather than leaning on client states and building relationships predicated on ideological sympatico, over the last two decades Washington has pursued an ad hoc policy toward Africa, experimenting with disengagement (Somalia after Black Hawk Down), noninterference (Rwanda in 1994), militarization (such as AFRICOM and smaller military programs in Africa), pro-reform rhetoric (such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has used in her trips to the continent), and intensive diplomatic engagement (as in Sudan).

The inconsistencies in this overall strategy, combined with the rise of other actors, has given African regimes greater freedom to maneuver than they had during the Cold War. This helps explain why Khartoum, a regime that signed a US-brokered agreement partly in hopes of achieving better relations with the US, feels able to act contrary to the expressed wishes of the American president. After all, if Bashir doesn’t like what he hears from Washington he can, and will, go and see what they say in Beijing.

Africa News Roundup: Qadhafi and Africa, Abuja Bombing Aftermath, Mali Elections, Abyei, and More

A few links for your Saturday:

Reuters argues that

Moves by countries including Senegal, Mauritania, Liberia, Chad and Gambia to distance themselves from [Libyan ruler Colonel Moammar] Gaddafi are partly a gamble that NATO-backed rebels will finally succeed in ending his four decades of authoritarian and quixotic rule. But they also show Gaddafi’s waning role in a region where foreign investor appetite, trade ties with Asia and a domestic yearning for democracy are all eclipsing the lure of Libyan petrodollars and weakening the old-boy networks they propped up.

Following the bombing in Abuja, Nigeria on Thursday, which was claimed by Boko Haram, President Goodluck Jonathan visited the bombing site yesterday and urged calm, promising that security forces will resolve the issue. Vanguard looks at how the Maitatsine riots of the 1980s may have presaged the emergence of groups like Boko Haram.

One story to watch is the 2012 elections in Mali, a democratic success story in sub-Saharan Africa. President Amadou Toumani Toure, who has reached the end of his two term limit, intends to retire from politics, leaving the field of contenders wide open (French).

Another story to watch is the situation in Abyei. Despite an agreement earlier this week between North and South Sudan that would remove Northern troops from the disputed border region, shelling continued yesterday. As a reminder, South Sudan’s independence is now only 21 days away.

In Niger this week, “Troops scoured…[the] northern desert for Al-Qaeda militants who clashed with troops at the weekend after arriving from Libya loaded with explosives.”

What are you reading today?

Reports and Releases: Niger Delta; Abyei; Nile Conflict

A few reports and publications came out recently that might interest readers:

If you read one or all of these, let us know what you think!