Africa Blog Roundup: Uganda’s Elections, Qadhafi and Africa, Civil War Fears in Cote d’Ivoire, and More

Baobab and Louisa Lombard offer their takes on Uganda‘s recent elections, which maintained President Yoweri Museveni’s reign.

Amb. John Campbell looks at the challenges Nigeria‘s voter registration body, the Independent National Electoral Commission, is confronting.

Inside Islam profiles a revolutionary rapper from Tunisia.

Geoffrey York examines Qadhafi’s relationship with Africa and the implications for the continent of the leader’s likely fall:

When he pronounced himself the “king of kings” on the African continent, Moammar Gadhafi was widely seen as a buffoon and a megalomaniac.

But behind the absurd titles, behind the crown and sceptre that were awarded to him by his hand-picked collection of African tribal monarchs, Col. Gadhafi had a profound impact on Africa. And for better or worse, he will leave a vacuum behind him on the African landscape if he is toppled from power in Libya.

Col. Gadhafi was the last major global leader who promoted the dream of pan-African unity.

Andrew Harding explains “Africa’s Silence on Libya”:

For years the rest of Africa has treated Colonel Muammar Gaddafi like an embarrassing uncle – the sort who arrives for Christmas lunch five hours late and insists on rambling through a long-winded speech, but then makes up for it all by tucking a £50 note into your top pocket, or paying off your mortgage.

It’s that combination of embarrassment and generosity – with a heavy emphasis on the latter – which must surely explain the continent’s abject silence regarding events in Libya and the fate of its “king of kings”. Plus, in some of the more opulent state houses, a “there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I” reticence.

The African Union – chaired until recently by Col Gaddafi himself – waited on the sidelines for days before daintily suggesting “dialogue and consultation”, while South Africa’s government left it to the governing African National Congress (ANC) to deplore “the unprecedented deaths”. Only gallant little Botswana has come out swinging.

Elizabeth Dickinson writes that the conflict in Cote d’Ivoire “is becoming a civil war again, and fast.”

Reuters wonders whether activist Birtukan Mideksa’s exit from Ethiopia removes the last major opposition to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

I leave you with this report from Euronews on suspected sub-Saharan African mercenaries in Libya. The video raises some of the important issues connected with mercenaries and accused mercenaries:

Sunday Africa Blog Roundup: Sudan, Ethiopia, Qat, Western Sahara, and More

Sudan: Dipnote (the State Department’s blog) posts Special Envoy Scott Gration’s recent remarks in Washington on US diplomatic efforts with Sudan.

Ethiopia: Barry Malone of Reuters Africa Blog asks what comes next for recently freed political activist Birtukan Mideksa.

Somalia: Mogadishuman reports on Islamists’ campaigns against Qat.

DRC: Chris Albon runs the idea of a “humanitarian use of force” in the DRC through the matrix of the Powell Doctrine.

Sahel: Kal writes about how governments in the Sahel play the “terrorism card” and discusses other developments in the region.

Western Sahara: At Africa Monitor, Drew Hinshaw says, “Dormant Western Sahara Threatens to Heat Up.”

While UN envoys have been coaxing Saharan rebels and Moroccan royals to the table, human rights conditions in refugee camps along the Algerian border have deterioatated. The Potomac Institute for Policy Studies has released at least two reports documenting how those camps have become recruitment targets for Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb – a terrorist organization and crime syndicate which benefits from any conflict from Morocco and Algeria, the two powerhouses of the Saharan region and with the most at stake in the region’s camapign against lawlessness.

It’s going to take more than a third round of informal chats, [former UN spokesman Abdel Hamide] Siyyame says, to bend Morocco and Polisario, not to mention Algeria and Mauritania (which has intermittently attempted to annex parts of Western Sahara), into a compromise.

“There must be a third party that can propose a serious, comprehensive solution to bring everybody to the negotiation table,” he said.

Yemen: Inside Islam writes on rap in Yemen.

Nowadays, Yemen is often associated with a growing Al-Qaeda movement and seen to be a breeding ground for terrorism. Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemeni-American cleric, has become an example not only of the growing terrorist influence in Yemen but also in America. However, this is obviously not all there is to Yemen, just as it is not all there is to Islam. Many Muslims artists have used hip-hop and rap to relay messages of change and peace. While one may not think of rap in the context of Yemen,  this needs to change. Yemeni-American Hagage “AJ” Masaed, has been rapping for many years and is using this medium to reach the younger generation and to counter extremist messages.

Algeria: Inside Islam also has a cool post on women soccer fans in North Africa.

I leave you with two more: Africa Is A Country posts on deaths of asylum seekers in the UK, and Chris Blattman asks why more development economics studies focus on Latin America than on Africa.

Ethiopia: Birtukan Mideksa Released as Meles Zenawi Further Consolidates Power

Four and a half months after Ethiopia’s most recent parliamentary elections, in which Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) scored a massive victory, Meles continues to consolidate his already substantial power. After his swearing-in ceremony earlier this week, Meles moved to re-structure the government. Changes include increased responsibility for Hailemariam Desalegn (a rising figure in the EPRDF), an increased emphasis on poverty reduction, and a continued “preference for the Chinese model of government-driven economic growth.” Growth has been a core achievement for Meles and his party, and they appear committed to a platform of “more of the same.” The forward-looking and confident mood of the party (they hold 545 of the parliament’s 547 seats) apparently also goes hand in hand with a willingness to ease up on adversaries. Yesterday, the government released Birtukan Mideksa, a prominent opposition activist.

VOA gives some background:

The 36-year-old former judge was among scores of opposition leaders sentenced to life in prison on treason charges following violent protests that followed Ethiopia’s disputed 2005 election. All were pardoned in 2007, after signing a letter admitting they provoked the violence. But Birtukan was ordered back to jail after she publicly denied responsibility for the troubles and said she had not asked for the pardon.

Ethiopia’s Justice Ministry issued a statement saying President Girma Woldegiorgis had pardoned Birtukan on the recommendation of the federal prison board.

The statement said Birtukan had made a formal request to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi last month regretting that she had ‘deceived’ the Ethiopian people by denying she had asked for the earlier pardon, and begging the prime minister for a second pardon so she could care for her aging mother and child.

[…]

Birtukan’s pardon is seen as a magnanimous gesture to the international community at a time when Ethiopia’s weak opposition parties have been effectively demolished. The U.S. State Department’s latest human-rights report listed Birtukan as a political prisoner, while independent human-rights groups described her as a prisoner of conscience.

Several outlets reported that hundreds of supporters greeted her upon her release, but to me her freedom indicates the EPRDF’s confidence that she poses no political threat to them. Her release also strikes me as an indication that Meles, despite his government’s orientation toward the Chinese and his occasional criticism of the West, wants to maintain goodwill with Western countries who are concerned about Ethiopia’s human rights record. With Western support – or at least indifference – and internal control, Meles’ political position will be strong indeed.