Africa Blog Roundup: Mali, Abdel Aziz Shooting, Illegal Fishing, Haiti and the AU, and More

Mohamed Vall: “Why Sorting Out Mali Remains an Uphill Task.” For more on the state of play with the United Nations Security Council, the Economic Community of West African States, and the situation in Mali, see Lesley Anne Warner.

The Moor Next Door on the shooting of Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz:

As things stand now, with Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz in France, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mohamed Ghazouani is the man in charge and among opposition types and some closer to the government there is a feeling that Ould Abdel Aziz is a dangerous position, and that remaining abroad too long could invite coup plots, political unrest or attacks from AQIM. Key variables at this point include the political ambitions of Gen. Ghazouani and the loyalty of the armed forces and intelligence service to the president – especially the commando units and BASEP (the republican guards), which Ould Abdel Aziz founded and led until ‘leaving’ army in 2009.

A public relations firm (that has the government of Kenya as a client) has produced a helpful timeline (.pdf) of Kenya’s “Operation Linda Nchi” in Somalia. The anniversary of the operation’s launch occurred last week on October 16.

Sarah Lazare and John Wesley Jones:

We look at the media strategies, messages, and images that underlie the dizzying success of the film Kony 2012 and Greg Mortenson’s book, Three Cups of Tea. We also examine the role that exploitation of children and youth, as well as concepts of education and child welfare, play in their respective fundraising efforts. We investigate the broader conditions that enabled their viral spread and allowed them to receive millions of dollars in donations from around the world. We aim to cut through the veneer and shed light on the gap between the stated and real impact these nonprofits have on the world and expose the acceptance of militarism that underlies their supposedly apolitical solutions to real problems.

Gernot Klantschnig:

Having observed West Africa’s role in the drug trade for more than 10 years, it is puzzling that Africa is still described as ‘the new frontier’, particularly by the experts who are supposed to know the situation best. An intention to galvanise public interest in drugs in Africa and a short institutional memory might explain some of these a-historical statements. I would also argue that the neglect of Africa’s long history in the drug trade has lead to some misunderstanding of its present and future role.

Dan Moshenberg: “Kenya’s #purplezebra Spring.”

A CNN/UNICEF report on child stunting.

Baobab on monitoring illegal fishing in Sierra Leone.

Joshua Keating on how Haiti may join the African Union.

What else is everyone reading?

Africa News Roundup: South Sudanese Oil, ECOWAS Meeting in Mali, Flooding in Nigeria, and More

AP: “South Sudan ordered oil companies to restart production Thursday and officials said oil export could resume in about 90 days, ending a nearly nine-month shutdown following a dispute with Sudan over borders and oil.”

IRIN with a piece that is worth thinking about in the context of how the Islamist coalition in northern Mali works to attract support:

Hundreds of displaced northerners in southern Mali are risking life under Sharia law to return home, lured by the prospect of jobs, free water and electricity, and in some parts, relatively cheaper food, Malians in the north and south told IRIN.
Islamist groups have removed taxes on many basic goods, say traders in the region, provide erratic electricity and water services at no charge, and have fixed the price of some basic foods. They are also paying youths to join their ranks, as talk of intervention by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) mounts.

A major meeting of ECOWAS, the African Union, the European Union, and the United Nations took place in Bamako yesterday.

Lagun Akinloye on recent flooding in Nigeria.

Garowe writes that talks between the Ethiopian government and the rebel Ogaden National Liberation Front have hit “deadlock.”

The United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia and others have raised the possibility that al Shabab, now that its major strongholds in southern Somalia have fallen to African Union forces, may seek to establish more of a presence in Puntland. The BBC reports on a seizure of weapons imported into Puntland that were apparently meant for al Shabab.

Yesterday I wrote about border issues in Niger, but neglected to mention that this week Niger and Burkina Faso were at the International Court of Justice to settle a border dispute. It’s worth noting how colonial legacies still come into play: “During the hearings, Burkina Faso explained that the delimitation of the disputed part should be based on a 1927 French colonial decree, when both countries were part of French West Africa, while Niger contended that the decree was not precise enough to define the frontier in certain areas and asked the Court to delimit it by using a 1960 map of the French Institut Géographique as adjusted with factual evidence of territorial sovereignty.”

What else is happening?

Africa Blog Roundup: US Strategy in Africa, Kenya and Somalia, the AU and Ethiopia, and More

Tom Murphy on the recently released “U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa” (.pdf).

Asch Harwood, “Evaluating the Failed States Index and U.S. Africa Policy”:

If you identify state failure not as a single incident but as a continuum of insecurity, alienation, and poverty, the Failed States Index provides a useful model.

 

The United States, therefore, might benefit by testing its foreign policy against the index’s findings, particularly for any “cognitive dissonance” between the USG’s image of a country that underpins that policy and the reality on the ground.

Dibussi Tande posts a video of his talk at a recent event on Boko Haram.

Lesley Anne Warner on Kenya’s invasion of Somalia: “The relative successes we’ve been seeing on the military fronts may not mean much if the political process falls apart or doesn’t result in increased stability across Somalia.”

Amb. David Shinn on VOA’s recent polling in Somalia.

Bruce Whitehouse reflects on a trip to Sikasso, in southern Mali (map), while Celeste Hicks writes that northern Mali is experiencing “a silent crisis”: “While all eyes are on the ongoing political stalemate in Bamako, and the growing radicalism of groups such as Ansar Dine, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and MUJAO (Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa) in the north of Mali, it’s easy to forget that 1.3 million Malians are facing drastic food shortages this year.”

Jason Mosley on land and violence in Ethiopia:

On April 28, five farm workers were killed and eight wounded in Gambella. Those attacked included five foreign nationals (Pakistanis), including one of the dead. The attack prompts the question of whether we are seeing a significant shift in the dynamics of large-scale land investments in Gambella, or Ethiopia?

Reuters Africa Blog: “Is [the] Africa Union justified in moving its summit to Ethiopia?”

What are you reading today?

Egypt Enters Sudan-South Sudan Conflict

Reuters, yesterday:

Egypt is mounting a diplomatic offensive to defuse tensions between Sudan and South Sudan that have raised fears the two former civil war foes could return to a full-blown conflict.

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr arrived at Khartoum airport on Sunday for talks after the two countries clashed during the past week for control of an oil field.

“Egypt will make every possible effort to try to bridge the gap in viewpoints between Sudan and South Sudan and contain the existing border tensions between them after the occupation of Heglig,” Egypt’s state news agency MENA reported.

Tensions have run high between Khartoum and Juba since South Sudan seized control of the disputed Heglig oilfield on Tuesday. Sudan has vowed to recapture the region, which produced about half of the country’s 115,000-barrel-a-day oil output.

The fighting, which has halted production at the field, has been the worst since South Sudan declared independence in July.

As Reuters writes, the seizure of Heglig (more on Heglig here) marks a tense moment in the conflict between Sudan and South Sudan. The larger conflict stems from the history of violence between the two areas and from the issues left unresolved after South Sudan’s secession, namely oil revenue sharing, border demarcation, and the fate of various communities on the Sudanese side of the new border.

Egypt’s role in Sudan is complex. Egypt has been preoccupied with its own transitions during the last fifteen months, but historically Egypt has exercised tremendous influence in Sudan. Even if we just take the period post Napoleon, Egypt occupied Sudan from 1820 until the rise of the Mahdi in 1884/5, and acted as the UK’s partner in the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium from 1899 to 1955 (Sudan gained independence in 1956, having chosen not to remain part of Egypt). Since independence, strong cultural and political links have remained between the two countries – for example, Egypt and Sudan have presented a united front against the upstream Nile countries in arguing that the status quo for water-sharing (which the upstream countries say favors Egypt) should remain in place.

I bring up the Nile issue deliberately, because that conflict has often pitted Egypt against Ethiopia, the most outspoken of the upstream countries. Ethiopia has also been the site of African Union-mediated talks between Sudan and South Sudan in recent weeks. In light of that, will Egypt’s new diplomatic push be seen to imply Egypt’s lack of confidence in the diplomatic effectiveness of Ethiopia and the AU? Will Egypt be seen as pro-(north) Sudan? This is yet another illustration of how the break-up of Sudan is affecting relationships in the region: Egypt’s relationship with South Sudan remains to be fleshed out.

In any case, I think Egypt’s new level of involvement demonstrates how worrying the situation in the Sudans has become to their neighbors (and other countries with an interest in the Sudans, particularly China). It is not like Egypt has resolved all of its own internal uncertainties, so the fact that Egypt is making the Sudans such a high priority right now says that Egypt is quite concerned. We will see if Egypt can make headway where others, thus far, have failed.

Roundup of Reactions to the London Conference on Somalia

Yesterday, the British government hosted the “London Conference on Somalia.” You can read a statement of the conference’s aims here, and view a list of attendees here.

Below I have rounded up statements made at the conference and reactions to it from governments, organizations, and individuals.

British Prime Minister David Cameron (full text of his speech here):

The world had ignored Somalia for too long, said British Prime Minister David Cameron in his opening statement, because the problems were seen as too difficult and too remote.

“That fatalism has failed Somalia and it has failed the international community, too. So today we have an unprecedented opportunity to change that and I believe there is real momentum right now,” said Cameron. “International aid has pulled Somalia back from the brink of humanitarian crisis. Thanks to the extraordinary bravery of African and Somali troops, the city of Mogadishu, once beautiful, now a bullet-hole-ridden city has been recovered from al-Shabab. Crucially, across the country al-Shabab are losing the support of ordinary Somalis.”

Video of Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmad’s speech here.

Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali:

Ali said that he supported international airstrikes against al-Qaida militants in his country because they were “a global problem” that “needs to be addressed globally.”

He emphasized Thursday that he wanted the airstrikes to be properly targeted.

“That’s what we support,” Ali said. “Not necessarily killing innocent lives.”

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

The people of Somalia have waited many years. They have heard many promises, they have seen many deadlines come and go, and it is time – past time – to buckle down and do the work that will bring stability to Somalia for the first time in many people’s lives. The position of the United States is straightforward: Attempts to obstruct progress and maintain the broken status quo will not be tolerated. We will encourage the international community to impose further sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes on people inside and outside the TFG who seek to undermine Somalia’s peace and security or to delay or even prevent the political transition.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon:

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said more money is needed to spread security beyond the capital.

“We need the surge in Mogadishu to show what is possible in southern and central Somalia. We need to reconsolidate military gains, provide the basic social services and contribute to reconstruction,” said Ban. “Sixteen United Nations agencies and our partners are working hard to make progress. But they are underfunded… this is a bold agenda, we have no more time to wait and see. To any donors still wavering, I say get off the fence, help prevent another famine and offer new hope to Somalia.”

Kenyan Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula:

Moses Wetangula, foreign minister of neighbouring Kenya, told Reuters he wanted to see “a renewed and reinvigorated international commitment to Somalia”.

“We hope it’s not going to be the usual talking shop where we make flowery speeches and get clapped and go away without caring whether it will be followed up or not. I hope we will have a commitment to assist the warring factions in Somalia to instil a sense of peace and working together.”

Oxfam:

While we recognise the huge efforts of the UK Government to make the conference a success, what we had hoped for was a recognition that 20 years of internationally imposed solutions have failed. However, what we’ve seen once again are externally driven solutions that haven’t worked, aren’t working and will not work.

Amnesty International: “London Conference on Somalia hasn’t adequately tackled the dire human rights situation in the country.”

The BBC’s Mary Harper:

There seems to be a bit of a contradiction in the final communique. On the one hand, it states in bold type that decisions on Somalia’s future “rest with the Somali people”. On the other it talks about outsiders taking some control of the government’s budget, with the establishment of a Joint Financial Management Board.

It is also outsiders who have decided that the time for political transition is over; they even say they will “incentivise progress” towards representative government.

Al Shabab:

Al-Shabab said the London conference was another attempt to colonise Somalia.

“They want us under trusteeship and we will not allow that. God willing we will face the outcome with full force and stop it,” said al-Shabab spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage.

Some other Somali criticisms of the conference can be found here.

I unfortunately could not find a statement by Turkey, which is an increasingly important actor in Somalia (see a recent piece on their aid efforts here, and a piece on the praise Turkey won from a Somali businessman here). Turkey will host another international conference on Somalia this June. I also could not find a reaction from Russia, which sent a delegation to the conference.

Please use the comments to post additional reactions and to share your own. Do you think the conference will make a difference in/for Somalia?

Summits around the Continent: AU, ECOWAS, and Arab Maghreb Union Discuss Crises, EAC Rejects Sudan

This past week saw important meetings of four important regional and continental organizations in Africa. Political crises, particularly in North Africa and the Sahel region, topped the agenda for the African Union, the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS), and the Arab Maghreb Union. Meanwhile, the East African Community reportedly rejected Sudan’s bid for membership.

The African Union:

African Union Chairman Boni Yayi will visit some of the continent’s conflict areas including Sudan and South Sudan, Mali and Libya for direct talks, an aide said on Saturday.

Yayi, also president of Benin, had been hosting an informal summit of the continent’s leaders in Cotonou focusing on security, especially in the Sahel, piracy and the threat posed in Nigeria by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

ECOWAS:

Over the course of its two-day summit in Abuja, the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, discussed the region’s many crises, as well as its successes.  On Friday, the confederation also elected Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara as its new chairman.
[...]
The litany of crises facing the region could not be overlooked.  Said Djinnit is the head of the United Nations Office for West Africa.  He urged ECOWAS states to exercise the same vigilance and cooperation they have shown so far.

“Despite the complexity of the region’s immediate problems – namely, food crisis in the Sahel, new flow of refugees, increased numbers of smuggled arms in the fallout of the Libyan crisis, piracy, and terrorist activities – the leadership of the region spared no effort to address them, with the support of the international community,” said Djinnit.

(In related news, the AU and ECOWAS will be sending a team to Senegal this week in an attempt to help defuse pre-election tensions.)

The Arab Maghreb Union:

Ministers from Arab Maghreb Union (UMA) member states Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania and Libya convened Saturday in Rabat, the first high-level conference since 1996.

During the meeting, Algeria proposed to boost cooperation with North African neighbours against terror and organised crime.

Algeria sought “true and effective Maghreb cooperation in the fields of terrorism, organised crime, illegal arms and drug trafficking and clandestine immigration,” Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci told counterparts in Rabat.

The meeting is also the first since two members, Tunisia and Libya, went through the upheavals of the Arab Spring.

Finally, members of the East African Community met last Wednesday. They rejected Sudan’s bid for membership for two reasons, according to one account: first, on geographical grounds (too far) and second, because it applies shari’a, which no other member state does.

It will be interesting to see whether there is more momentum toward regional and continental integration in the wake of all the political changes that 2011 brought.

Africa Blog Roundup: AU Elections, New Aid Models, South Sudan, Kenyan Crime and Twitter, and More

The Economist‘s Baobab calls the recent African Union elections – which failed to produce a new head of the organization – “a humiliating defeat” for South Africa.

At Reuters’ Africa Blog, Alex Whiting argues that emerging donors are “chip[ping] away at aid industry’s status quo.”

Until recently most emerging donors focused their aid on their own regions. Some, like India, China and Brazil, were also major recipients of international humanitarian aid.

But as their economies and political clout have grown, so too has their influence on the humanitarian aid system, which has traditionally been dominated by the mostly Western members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC).

The piece has an interesting snapshot of Turkey’s humanitarian activities in Somalia.

The State Department’s Dipnote highlights the work of fourteen activists in the Horn of Africa diaspora community.

Aly-Khan Satchu on “South Sudan’s Oil Cutoff.”

Kim Yi Dionne promotes the University of Oregon’s new “African political ephemera collection.” It looks really cool.

The BBC’s “From Our Own Correspondent” from February 2nd contains a segment on Nigeria’s Boko Haram.

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s Vanguard looks back at the chaotic month of January and what it has meant to the country.

Last but not least, Chris Blattman flags a new crimefighting initiative in Kenya that uses Twitter.

What’s on your screen today?

Africa News Roundup: Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia, and More

A few notable pieces on Sudan:

  • VOA asks, “What’s Next for Sudan?”
  • The New York TimesJeffrey Gettleman reports from the Nuba Mountains, where he says the situation “seems to be sliding inexorably toward war.”
  • The BBC looks at the recently signed border demilitarization agreement between North and South Sudan.
  • The Sudan Tribune quotes President Omar al Bashir as rejecting a reported agreement to create a vice president post for Darfur.

Reuters says Nigerian unions may strike later this month if state governments do not start implementing the new minimum wage.

Two pieces on Somalia: International Crisis Group’s EJ Hogendoorn writes on Somali piracy, and the Toronto Star‘s Michelle Shephard assesses the pressures new PM Abdiweli Ali faces.

A poll from Kenya indicates an anti-incumbent mood there.

Jeune Afrique (Fr) profiles the president of Burkina Faso’s Independent National Electoral Commission, saying he is “alone against all,” and looks ahead to the legislative and municipal elections of 2012.

I leave you with this video from Al Jazeera English on the AU summit and the “shadow” of Col. Qadhafi.

Will Clinton Hasten Africa’s Turn Away from Qadhafi?

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking to the African Union in Ethiopia:

There is, of course, another country whose security matters to all of us, and that is Libya. Libya has been the subject of many of our discussions during the past few months. And I believe there is much on which we can agree. There is little question that the kind of activities that, unfortunately, have affected the Libyan people for more than 40 years run against the tide of history. And there is little question that despite having the highest nominal GDP in Africa, thanks to oil, Libya’s wealth was too concentrated within Qadhafi’s circle.

But of course, all the countries here are not in agreement about the steps that the international community, under the United Nations Security Council, have taken in Libya up to this point. Having looked at the information available, the Security Council, including the three African members, supported a UN mandate to protect civilians, prevent slaughter, and create conditions for a transition to a better future for the Libyan people themselves.

Now, I know there are some who still believe that the actions of the UN and NATO were not called for. And I know it’s true that over many years Mr. Qadhafi played a major role in providing financial support for many African nations and institutions, including the African Union. But it has become clearer by the day that he has lost his legitimacy to rule, and we are long past time when he can or should remain in power.

So I hope and believe that while we may disagree about some of what has brought us to this place, we can reach agreement about what must happen now. For as long as Mr. Qadhafi remains in Libya, the people of Libya will be in danger, refugee flows by the thousands will continue out of Libya, regional instability will likely increase, and Libya’s neighbors will bear more and more of the consequences. None of this is acceptable, and Qadhafi must leave power.

I urge all African states to call for a genuine ceasefire and to call for Qadhafi to step aside. I also urge you to suspend the operations of Qadhafi’s embassies in your countries, to expel pro-Qadhafi diplomats, and to increase contact and support for the Transitional National Council. Your words and your actions could make the difference in bringing this situation to finally close and allowing the people of Libya, on an inclusive basis, in a unified Libya, to get to work writing a constitution and rebuilding their country. The world needs the African Union to lead. The African Union can help guide Libya through the transition you described in your organization’s own statements, a transition to a new government based on democracy, economic opportunity, and security.

Clinton’s speech follows a trend of leaders in the Sahel, some of whose countries border Libya, breaking with Qadhafi. These include Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who chairs an AU committee on Libya, but as Reuters notes, “the AU’s position has been murkier and the organization — long itself the beneficiary of Gaddafi’s largesse — has declined to join calls for Gaddafi’s ouster, instead accusing Western nations of undermining its own efforts to find a solution to the conflict.”

The momentum, in Africa, appears to be with those leaders who are turning away from Qadhafi. Clinton’s urgings may have little relevance to heads of state whose calculations are made on the basis of their own interests, and not the United States’. But to the extent that a trend is underway, and that some countries may believe siding with the US against Qadhafi is actually in their interest, Clinton’s speech may help tip the balance.

Sahelian Leaders Look to a Post-Qadhafi Libya

During his long rule Colonel Moammar Qadhafi has exercised substantial influence over Africa. The Colonel has aided client regimes, helped bring rulers to power or ruin, and intervened in conflicts as participant or peacemaker. As this map shows, his influence has been particularly pronounced in Sahelian countries like Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Chad.

The civil war in Libya has dramatically affected the Sahel: Niger and other countries are absorbing thousands of refugees, Sahelians are being accused of serving as pro-Qadhafi mercenaries, Libyan weapons have reportedly traveled south, and money flows have been disrupted or altered. Perhaps reflecting the interlinked fates of Libya and the Sahel, the latter has been well represented in the African Union’s peace efforts, providing two of the five members of the AU’s committee on Libya (they are President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz of Mauritania, who chairs the committee, and President Amadou Toumani Toure of Mali). This AU group, at least initially, tried to broker a peace that would have allowed Qadhafi to remain in power.

Given all that, it is significant to see several Sahelian leaders begin to speak about – and act to bring about – a post-Qadhafi Libya. Senegal appears to have led the trend, with President Abdoulaye Wade establishing relations with the Libyan rebels in mid-May. Last week, Wade met with rebel leaders in Benghazi and said that Qadhafi should step down. Gambia also recognizes the rebels. Wade’s call for a transition was seconded last week by Mauritania’s Abdel Aziz, who said that Qadhafi’s “departure has become necessary.” With this, Abdel Aziz seemed to speak for the African Union as a whole. Another Sahelian leader, Chad’s President Idriss Deby, soon added his voice to the chorus. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Chadian Foreign Minister Moussa Faki met on the sidelines of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) forum in Zambia last week, and afterwards Clinton announced that “the Chadian government does not support Gadhafi.”

To say there is an emerging Sahelian consensus against Qadhafi would be going too far. I have not seen a statement from Mali’s Toure calling for Qadhafi’s resignation, nor to my knowledge has newly elected Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou gone beyond calling for a solution to the crisis (without stating a preference on who rules Libya). President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, according to one source, has continued to proclaim solidarity with Qadhafi. And further east, Sudanese President Omar al Bashir has not demanded Qadhafi’s ouster either. So if the baseline position among Sahelian leaders three or four months ago was support for Qadhafi, or neutrality, many of them have not moved. But the movement that has occurred in the region has been toward breaking with the Colonel.

AFP has discussed the Senegalese and Mauritanian statements in the context of a larger African shift away from Qadhafi. Attention to the Sahelian context is also important, though, as Qadhafi’s departure could affect the Sahel more than any other region in Africa. The calculated risks that Wade, Abdel Aziz, and Deby are taking indicate that the political landscape in the Sahel has already shifted even though Qadhafi still clings to power. These decisions also suggest some confidence on the part of Sahelian leaders that siding with Qadhafi’s foes is a better bet than staying neutral, or continuing to support the Colonel on the chance that he might weather the storm. If and when Qadhafi does go, the relationships forged in this time of crisis, both between the Sahelian countries and the rebels as well as among the Sahelian countries themselves, will influence the direction of regional relations in the future.