Africa Blog Roundup: Kenya’s Elections, Nigeria’s Trains, DDR in South Sudan, and More

Ken Opalo: “Who Will Win the Kenyan Presidential Election?”

If the polls are right Uhuru Kenyatta still leads Raila Odinga by about 740,000 votes.  I estimate that Mr. Kenyatta will get 48.87% of the votes cast to Mr. Odinga’s 41.72%, which means that a run-off is almost inevitable. I don’t expect Mr. Kenyatta to hit the 50% mark since my model is slightly biased in his favor (especially coming from the Rift Valley turnout figures from 2007 that I use as a basis of estimating turnout in 2013).

Trains: Will Ross with a link to a BBC podcast segment on the Lagos-Kano Express. And Shelby Grossman with a photograph of a terminal under construction along a planned railway from Lagos to Cotonou.

Afendi Muteki: “The Oromo of Harerghe: On the Evolution of Urban Centers [in Ethiopia],” parts one and two.

Jairo Munive: “Disarmament, Demobilization And Reintegration In South Sudan: Feasible Under Current Conditions?”

Nasser Weddady on George Bush, Francois Hollande, and Mali.

Aaron Zelin compiles three new reports from Somalia’s Al Shabab.

I was thinking yesterday that my “Local Media Sources” list (in the right sidebar) was looking a bit thin, so I made some additions. Any suggestions for others to add?

Africa News Roundup: Burkina Faso Election Results, MUJWA Terrorist Designation, Eastleigh Bombing, and More

I wrote recently about elections in Burkina Faso and Somaliland. Here are legislative and municipal election results from Burkina Faso:

[President Blaise] Compaore’s CDP party secured 58 seats while allies in the broader coalition secured a further 22 seats in the December 2 vote, according to results for 102 constituencies announced late on Thursday.

The results for a further 25 seats have not yet been announced but Compaore’s majority has been secured despite the opposition UPC party winning 15 seats, a record for the opposition in the poor, land-locked nation.

I have not found full results for Somaliland, but preliminary results were released Thursday, causing protests in Hargeisa.

IRIN:

The African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) 2009, also known as the Kampala Convention, came into force on 6 December; it is the world’s first legally binding instrument to cater specifically to people displaced within their own countries.

Adopted at an AU summit in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, the Convention required ratification by 15 member countries before it could enter into force; Swaziland became the 15th country to do so on 12 November, joining Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Togo, Uganda and Zambia. At least 37 AU members have also signed the Convention but have yet to ratify it.

The Committee to Protect Journalists on the shooting of a South Sudanese columnist, the detention of two Al Jazeera employees in Mali, and the convictions of three Cameroonian journalists.

Nigeria’s Guardian on recent attacks by Boko Haram, including the destruction of twenty-seven schools in Borno and Yobe States.

A bombing claimed three lives in Eastleigh, Nairobi, Kenya yesterday.

McClatchy: “Visit to Kismayo, Somalia, Shows al Shabab Militants Still Roam Countryside.”

Yesterday, the US State Department labeled the Movement for Tawhid and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA), part of the Islamist coalition in northern Mali, as Specially Designated Global Terrorists.

What else is happening?

Somalia: Amid Continued Fighting with Al Shabab in the South, Fresh Attacks in Puntland

The Islamist militia al Shabab’s home region is southern Somalia, but the group has a presence in Puntland, a semi-autonomous territory in northeastern Somalia. Several of the group’s recent attacks have occurred there.

As Somalia government troops, Kenyan soldiers, and African Union forces have pushed al Shabab out of its urban strongholds in southern Somalia, the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia (.pdf, pp. 15-16) and other analysts have observed a partial shift of the group’s operations into Puntland. In February, a militia based in the Golis hills in Puntland formally joined al Shabab, and al Shabab promised to increase its attacks there. In April, Puntland’s President Abdirahman Farole told the BBC that more al Shabab fighters were moving into his territory. The BBC wrote, “Correspondents say the move of some members to Puntland could signal a significant regrouping for al-Shabab.”

The implications of this reported northward move should not be overblown. Losses through the summer, and the loss of the port city of Kismayo in October, have weakened al Shabab. And al Shabab is still attacking targets and attempting to hold territory in southern and central Somalia – for example, this week has seen “fierce fighting” around Jowhar, a reportedly al Shabab-controlled town north of Mogadishu. But with all that said, al Shabab attacks this week in Puntland will likely draw serious attention to the group’s presence there. The BBC has details:

Puntland Information Minister Mohamed Aydid told the BBC Somali Service that a truck carrying soldiers was targeted by a roadside bomb near Bossaso, the main commercial hub in the semi-autonomous region.

Ten soldiers were either killed or wounded in the attack, he said.

Heavily-armed al-Shabab fighters also launched an assault on a military base in the area, but were repelled by troops, Mr Aydid added.

“They fled to their hide-outs in the Galagalo mountains,” he said.

In a statement, the Puntland government said two of its soldiers were killed in this attack.

Its intelligence suggested that at least seven al-Shabab fighters were killed and more than 12 wounded as Puntland government troops fought back, the statement said.

Garowe has more.

Africa Blog Roundup: M23, South Sudan, Mali, al Shabab, and More

Commentary on the Democratic Republic of Congo and the fall of Goma to forces from M23:

Dipnote/US State Department:

What surprised me on this trip, however, were the enormous logistical challenges faced by humanitarians who were trying to help and protect both the refugees and the communities that host them. Yida in Unity State and the Maban camps in Upper Nile are very difficult places to reach and quite far from South Sudan’s capital city of Juba. In the rainy season, the dirt roads to both areas are completely cut off for months at a time. This has meant that aid supplies have to be stockpiled in advance of the rains or flown in at incredible expense.

Internally Displaced: “The South Sudan National Archive: Taking Stock.”

Peter Tinti: “What Has the US Already Tried in Mali?”

Two pieces on Somalia’s al Shabab:

  • Abdi Aynte: “The Somali militant group al-Shabaab is currently losing ferocious battles against Kenyan troops in Southern Somalia –  part of an African Union peacekeeping mission. However, they are winning a strategic war back in Kenya; this is the battle for hearts and minds.”
  • And Amb. David Shinn flags a new study (.pdf), “Lights, Camera, Jihad: Al-Shabaab’s Western Media Strategy.”

Justin Scott:

The richest literary prize in the world, the Nobel Prize, carries a US$1.1 million purse. The richest lit prize in Africa, the NLNG Nigeria Prize for Literature, doesn’t quite match up, but it does guarantee the winner a whopping US$100,000. It’s been around since 2004, with the purse increasing from $20,000 to $40,000 in 2006 and finally to $100,000 in 2008. The latest prize, awarded at the start of November, went to Chika Unigwe for her novel “On Black Sisters Street.” Though there has been widespreadpraise for Unigwe across the Naijanet, talk of the politics of her win has been muted.

These politics have been addressed before, but critiques focus mostly on the kinds of novels — those that confirm Westerners’ pessimism and faithlessness about Africa’s future — that tend to win. Thus far, talk of who sponsors the prize and why that matters has been nonexistent.

What are you reading today?

Africa News Roundup: ECOWAS and Mali, French Commanders in Mauritania, Muslim Protests in Ethiopia, Karim Wade, and More

Details on the Economic Community of West African States’ battle plan for Mali:

“International forces will not do the ground fighting, that role will belong to the Malian army,” a military officer familiar with the plan, who asked not to be named, said on Friday.

“Air strikes will be the responsibility of the international force,” he said, adding foreign partners would also provide logistical and intelligence support and soldiers and police to secure areas captured by the Malian army.

Military planners from Africa, the United Nations and Europe in Mali’s capital Bamako last week drew up a battle plan that would involve a foreign force of more than 4,000 personnel, mostly from West African countries. It remains unclear how much of the force would come from Western nations.

The plan covers a six-month period, with a preparatory phase for training and the establishment of bases in Mali’s south, followed by combat operations in the north.

Top French military commanders visited Mauritania this week to discuss Mali and terrorism.

The ongoing Muslim protests in Ethiopia merit a full post, but two items of note are the announcement of new members of the Islamic Affairs Council and a statement by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom expressing concern “about the increasing deterioration of religious freedoms for Muslims in Ethiopia.”

In other Ethiopia-related news, “Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan have agreed to resume jointly working on organizing sustainable management, utilization and development of the Nile waters under the Eastern Nile Basin. The agreement was reached after water Ministers and representatives of the three countries held a meeting in Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, on Thursday.”

VOA:

The United Nations warns survivors of Nigeria’s worst flooding in five decades are at risk for waterborne and water-related diseases.  Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency reports the heavy rains have killed 363 people, affected 7.7 million and made more than two million people homeless.

Reuters: “Somalia’s al Shabaab, Squeezed in South, Move to Puntland.”

Senegalese police will again question Karim Wade, a former minister and son of former President Abdoulaye Wade.

What else is happening?

Africa Blog Roundup: Ethiopia and Eritrea, Somalia, Uganda, and More

Aaron Maasho:

Ethiopia and Eritrea are still at each others’ throats. The two neighbours fought hammer and tongs in sun-baked trenches during a two-year war over a decade ago, before a peace deal ended their World War I-style conflict in 2000. Furious veRed Sea, UNrbal battles, however, have continued to this day.

Yet, amid the blistering rhetoric and scares over a return to war, analysts say the feuding rivals are reluctant to lock horns once again. Neighbouring South Sudan and some Ethiopian politicians are working on plans to bring both sides to the negotiating table.

Reem Abbas: “Escaping Military Service and Kidnap, One Eritrean Woman’s Ordeal.”

Somalia Newsroom: “Al Shabaab’s Changing State in Somalia.”

Laura Mann:

On October 11ththe Rift Valley held its first ‘Nairobi Forum’. They invited Ken Menkhaus, Amal Ismail, Jabril Abdulla and Matt Bryden to discuss the post-election climate in Somalia. The former Kenyan ambassador to Somalia, Mohamed Abdi Affey, who was chairing the proceedings, joked: “We wanted to show Kenya what it means to be a democratic nation”.

All parties agreed that Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is a man who combines two clean hands with enormous street cred. There is reason for ‘cautious optimism’ even amidst the challenges ahead. Ken Menkhaus argued that it was not the election of this single remarkable man that was important, but the extensive support network behind him. Describing this network as a ‘constructive elite,’ Menkhaus clarified that this was not a mass uprising ‘Somali Spring’ but a civic mobilization of determined professionals tired of warlordism and ineffective foreign interventions alike. These individuals have been on the ground for the past 20 years, building hospitals, schools, universities and private businesses. They have spent the past 20 years “navigating the streets” as Ken Menkhaus put it. They have learnt how to negotiate deals with difficult parties, how to build trust across clans and most importantly, they know how to get things done. Jabril Abdulla added that these negotiating skills are important. The gradual expansion of the state will not just involve institutions, but people, some benign and some less palatable. Getting warlords to engage in politics is one of the key challenges.

Sociolingo flags UNECA’s 2012 report “Unleashing Africa’s Potential as a Pole of Global Growth.”

UN Dispatch: “UK, Ireland, and Denmark Suspend Aid to Uganda.”

Roving Bandit: “Cash Transfers in Northern Kenya.”

Shelby Grossman: “The Monotony of the Generator Guy’s Work.”

What are you reading today?

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?

Somalia: Two Sobering Perspectives on Kismayo

The Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF), which invaded southern Somalia last October, recently achieved one of their major goals, capturing the port city of Kismayo (map). Taking Kismayo represents a military, political, and economic loss for the rebel group al Shabab. Kismayo was al Shabab’s last major urban stronghold, and this defeat leaves them in search of places to regroup. In the meantime, Somali government forces have arrived to take control of the city. Several explosions have occurred, at least one of them claimed by Al Shabab, but KDF and Somali soldiers appear to have imposed a preliminary kind of order.

Despite the military triumph for the KDF and the Somali government, voices from various sides are warning that the political battle for Kismayo is only beginning.

AP:

Bitter clan rivalry is expected to hamper the creation of a new administration needed to run the city and port, say residents.

“We want peace, not clan feuds and a cause for al-Shabab’s return,” said Muhummed Abdi, an elder in Kismayo who spoke to The Associated Press by phone.

[...]

The clan rivalry centers on control of revenues from the port, which is one of Somalia’s most lucrative business hubs.

[...]

“The situation of Kismayo has always been a difficult one and the clan rivalry will be further exacerbated by alleged siding by foreign troops with one of the clans in the city,” Mohamed Sheikh Abdi, a Somali political analyst says. “Only an inclusive administration will dictate the future of Kismayo. Also if Kenya, with its history with Somalis, does not leave, I think they will just add more fuel to the fire already raging Kismayo” he said.

Dr. Ken Menkhaus makes similar points:

Since the onset of state collapse and civil war in 1991, Kismayo has been Somalia’s Sarajevo — a chronically contested city, at times half-emptied by armed conflict, at other times bloated with hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons. It has changed hands many times over the past two decades but has always been in the control of warlords or jihadists and has never enjoyed a day of good governance. Rival Somali clans in Jubbaland — the region of southern Somalia where Kismayo is located — have never been able to agree on how to share the city and have repeatedly fought over it. Even al-Shabab suffered an internal armed battle over control of the seaport in 2008. Thanks to years of political violence, Kismayo has a well-earned reputation as the most difficult and dangerous place for aid agencies to operate in all of Somalia.

Menkhaus goes on to underline the important of Kismayo and the impact of its loss on al Shabab. He discusses several scenarios for Kismayo’s future, including the role of Kenya and Somalia’s new government.

The issue of how and whether the government will truly rule recaptured areas has loomed large since the African Union Mission in Somalia began to dislodge Al Shabab forces from Mogadishu, Afgoye, and elsewhere. Establishing a sustainable peace in Kismayo will be a serious test for the new government of Somalia, and an indication of whether the country is headed for a period of stronger central control or another phase of fragmentation.

Africa News Roundup: Sudan-South Sudan Talks, Al Shabab, the UNSC and Mali, and More

First in the roundup, there’s a lot of news coming out of Sudan and South Sudan now:

  • President Omar al Bashir of Sudan and President Salva Kiir of South Sudan are set to meet tomorrow in Addis Ababa.
  • Reuters: “Former civil war foes Sudan and South Sudan have told mediators that they are ready to end one of Africa’s longest conflicts this weekend, but behind the diplomacy their relationship is one of enduring mistrust and enmity. With an army of advisors and experts pressuring both sides, the leaders of the neighboring nations may feel compelled to reach a limited agreement in Addis Ababa to end hostilities, for now, after coming close to war in April.”
  • The African Union is applying pressure on the two sides to reach an agreement, and the US, the UK, and Norway have issued a joint statement also calling for an agreement.
  • Sudanese authorities denied protesters permission to stage another demonstration over an anti-Islamic film yesterday.

The Atlantic: “How Al Shabab Lost Control of Somalia”

The UN Security Council issued a press release yesterday on the situation in Mali.

The members of the Security Council take note of the Interim Malian Government’s request for assistance to ECOWAS.  They further take note of the ongoing strategic planning efforts of ECOWAS and stress the need for ECOWAS to coordinate with the Interim Government of Mali, the African Union, other Sahel countries, bilateral partners and international organizations, including the European Union, with the support of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, in order to prepare detailed options regarding the objectives, means and modalities of the deployment of a regional force in Mali.  They express their readiness to consider a feasible and actionable proposal from ECOWAS addressing such a request from the Interim Malian Government.

In Nigeria, state governors are taking the Federal Government to court over the country’s sovereign wealth fund. “The operation of the fund by the federal government violates a constitutional provision that all government revenue must be shared among that states and the center, the governors said in a joint statement.”

Reuters on Niger’s 2013 budget.

What else is happening?

Somalia: Assuming Kismayo Falls, What Next for Al Shabab?

The port city of Kismayo, Somalia (map) has long been a target of the Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF), who entered the country last October to help defeat the rebel movement Al Shabab. Under pressure from both the KDF and forces from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), Al Shabab has withdrawn from a number of cities and towns, leaving Kismayo as its last major stronghold and a critical source of income. Kenyan forces have been steadily shelling Kismayo and preparing for a final battle since August. On Monday Kenyan troops battled Al Shabab in Birta-dher, a town some 24 miles from Kismayo, and now they are reportedly closing in on the city itself. Al Shabab seems to feel the city’s capture is likely:

Young armed men from the Islamist army, Al Shabab, still patrolled, but higher-ranking officers had today disappeared from their usual tea shops and command bases. Even Al Andalus, Al Shabab’s radio station, was off the air.

“They are fleeing toward various locations, some are going north, some are going into the forests. It is all the senior men; the young boys are still here in town,” says Abdi Qani Ahmed, a Kismayo trader.

[...]

Kenyan forces Tuesday were reported to be less than 50 miles from Kismayo, battling for control of at least two towns on the road into the city, according to Abdinasir Seyrar, a Somali Army officer. “We are a short distance from Kismayo now and we can reach it immediately we want to,” he says.

The looming fight has already created serious humanitarian concerns:

The United Nations and United States warned Wednesday that civilians must be protected as forces battling Somalia’s Islamist fighters tightened the noose around the key insurgent bastion of Kismayo.

More than 6,000 civilians have fled ahead of the anticipated assault on the strategic port city, the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said Wednesday, with aid agencies preparing for a potential swift escalation of those needing support.

The capture of the city would not necessarily end these humanitarian concerns, nor will it answer the political questions concerning who will rule Kismayo and how. As Horn of Africa analyst Tres Thomas comments, “It does not appear that there are adequate plans to manage Kismayo if taken.”

Assuming Kismayo does fall, what will Al Shabab do? Three answers occur to me. One is that they will continue to carry out terrorist attacks, including suicide bombings targeting key buildings and persons in Mogadishu and elsewhere. Part of that trend may include continued attacks outside Somalia, especially in Kenya. A second answer is that they will retain a presence in rural areas of southern Somalia. And a third answer, suggested in the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia’s most recent report (pp. 15-16), is that Al Shabab may seek refuge in the semi-autonomous polity of Puntland and also head for destinations outside Somalia, such as Yemen.

Find more speculation about Al Shabab’s future at Al Jazeera. What are your thoughts? Do you expect Kismayo will fall easily? What comes next for Al Shabab?