Africa News Roundup: Mali, Algeria, Senegal, and More

Reuters: “Mali’s interim government has removed General Amadou Sanogo, who led a coup last year, as head of a military committee tasked with reforming the West African country’s armed forces, a government statement said.” For more on Sanogo’s promotion to general, see here.

On Friday, Mali’s President-elect Ibrahim Boubacar Keita visited Cote d’Ivoire (French).

Magharebia: “Algeria is offering pardons to thousands of armed extremists, provided their hands are unstained with citizens’ blood…Army units are distributing leaflets and flyers in Tlemcen, Sidi Bel Abbes and Ain Témouchent, urging extremists to lay down arms and benefit from the 2005 Charter for Peace and National ReconciliationEnnahar daily reported this week.”

Imams in Touba, Senegal (French) complain of a lack of water, electricity, and other amenities, and cast blame on political authorities.

Reuters: “Nigerians Seek Refuge in Niger.”

Moulid Hujale: “My Journey Back to Somalia.”

What else is happening?

Africa News Roundup: UN Political Mission in Somalia, Governor in Kidal, Coup Attempt in Chad

Reuters: “At Least Four Dead in Chad Coup Attempt.”

WSJ: “South Sudan to Resume Oil Exports.”

Magharebia: “Maghreb Minister Back Security Cooperation.”

IRIN: “A Long Road Ahead for Justice in Cote d’Ivoire.”

BBC: “Why Libya’s Militias Are Up in Arms.”

UN News Centre: “Security Council Unanimously Approves New UN Political Mission in Somalia.”

Maliweb (French): “The Government Appoints a Governor in Kidal.”

Times Live: “Ethiopia Confirms Jail Terms for Blogger, Opposition Figure [Eskinder Nega and Andualem Arage].”

What other news is out there?

Africa News Roundup: Abdel Aziz Back to France, Jubaland Plans, Muslim Protests in Ethiopia, Trials of Mutineers in Burkina Faso, and More

The United Nations Security Council is considering a plan by the Economic Community of West African States and the African Union to deploy troops in Mali. The French government has urged the UNSC to pass the resolution approving the force by December 20.

Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who was shot on October 13, returned to Mauritania one week ago after an extended convalescence in France. Yesterday he announced that he will return to France briefly for further medical treatment, raising questions about the state of his health. At the same press conference, Abdel Aziz also stated his opposition to an external military intervention in Mali.

AFP: “Renewed Flooding Threatens Niger Capital.”

Garowe on “Jubaland”:

According to Jubaland authorities, there have been five committees set up to establish the Jubaland state in southern Somalia.

The committees include a Security Committee, Election Committee, Selection Committee, Logistics and Financial Committee, and an Awareness Committee, according to Jubaland sources. Each committee consists of 11 members.

The committees will be fundamental in creating the Jubaland state that has been backed by IGAD regional bloc.

IRIN:

After almost a decade of rebel rule, northern Côte d’Ivoire is coming to terms with a new authority as the government of President Alassane Ouattara, who assumed power some 18 months ago, establishes its presence in a region which effectively split from the rest of the country.

Aman Sethi’s op-ed on the Muslim protests in Ethiopia.

Reuters:

Seven gendarmes were jailed on Thursday for taking part in last year’s military mutinies in Burkina Faso, in the first trial linked to the outburst of deadly riots, protests and looting in the normally peaceful West African nation.

A new video from Abubakar Shekau of Nigeria’s Boko Haram.

What else is happening?

Africa News Roundup: Clinton in Africa, Strikes in Chad, Oil in Niger, and More

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s tour of Africa continues. Yesterday she traveled to South Sudan and also met with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. In Uganda, she seemed to indicate that Washington is looking toward a post-Museveni future. Today she is due in Kenya where she will also meet with Somali leaders and exhort them to complete that country’s political transition in a timely manner.

Sudan and South Sudan have reached an agreement on oil sharing.

An apparent suicide bombing wounds nine “near an air base” in Nairobi, Kenya.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation has announced that the country’s oil production has reached a record high of 2.7 million barrels per day.

In Yobe State, Nigeria, it appears that a suicide bomber tried to kill the Emir of Fika, but failed.

Strikes in Chad have gone on for over two weeks (French).

Niger announces new discoveries of oil.

Violence in western Cote d’Ivoire:

“The events in Duékoué, including the collective blame and mob justice, underscore the need for a concrete reconciliation process, as well as the restoration of the rule of law and state authority across the country,” Bert Koenders, the UN Special Representative to Côte d’Ivoire, told reporters on 27 July.

The attack, blamed on ethnic Malinkés and traditional hunters known as Dozos, was the second in about six weeks in the restive western region. On 8 June, armed militia killed seven UN peacekeepers and more than a dozen civilians in the Para area near the Liberian border.

Christian Science Monitor: “In Mauritanian Refugee Camp, Mali’s Tuaregs Regroup.”

What else is happening today?

Another Post on a Potential Foreign Intervention in Mali

Talk of foreign intervention in Mali continues. Leaders of nearby countries, especially but not only Niger, have expressed alarm about Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and its alliance with the Islamist group Ansar al Din, which now controls key areas in northern Mali. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), France, the United States, and others have talked (with varying degrees of enthusiasm) about military intervention in Mali for months. Over time the level of seriousness seems to be gradually increasing. Yesterday (French), President Alassane Ouattara of Cote d’Ivoire told a French newspaper, “Negotiations are continuing but, if they were not to succeed, we would be obligated to utilize force to clear northern Mali of these terrorist and Islamist groups.”

More significant still is the Malian military’s reported willingness to allow a foreign force into the country, a change from their previous stance.

Coup leader Capt. Amadou Sanogo had initially expressed opposition to accepting assistance from foreign troops, and Thursday’s announcement appeared to be a softening of that position.

[...]

[Military chief of staff Ibrahim] Dembele said Thursday that Malian officials would agree to “security assistance” in addition to help in taking back the troubled north.

“Before deployment of the foreign troops, there should be public awareness about the mission’s objective,” he said. “Once people understand, it will facilitate the presence of foreign troops.”

This week, the European Union also suggested a readiness to back an external force in Mali:

EU foreign ministers gathered in Brussels asked EU High Representative for Foreign Policy Catherine Ashton to make “concrete proposals” on support for “the possible deployment of a well-prepared ECOWAS force in Mali, under a UN mandate and in conjunction with a government of national unity and the African Union.”

Washington, in the person of Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson, has seemed fairly unenthusiastic about the idea of an intervention throughout the spring and summer. This week, however, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflicts Michael Sheehan spoke of a need to “accelerate” US efforts to foster political progress in southern Mali, deny Al Qaeda access to “ungoverned places,” and keep all options open in the face of a “looming threat.” More on Asst. Sec. Sheehan’s remarks here.

Commentators such as Todd Moss have argued compellingly that the crisis in northern Mali cannot be solved until the political situation is clarified in the south. That concern seemed present in Sheehan’s thinking as well. But as an ECOWAS-imposed July 31 deadline for the formation of a national unity government in Mali approaches, southern Mali politics appear bitter and confused. This state of affairs leaves many wondering where political resolution will come from.

In short, then, it seems there is increasing international talk of and enthusiasm for an intervention, but limited progress (at least in public) on the political and logistical conditions that would make such an intervention feasible. Various players favor an ECOWAS-led, European- (and American-?) backed force, but it is not clear how such a force would obtain sufficient troops or what its goals and strategies would be.

Africa News Roundup: ECOWAS Troops, Malian Politics, Displaced Persons in Cote d’Ivoire, and More

The Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) voted on Thursday to deploy troops to Mali and Guinea-Bissau, both of which have suffered coups this spring. The junta in Mali says it will treat any foreign soldiers on Malian soil as enemies. Readers who understand French may be interested in RFI’s article entitled (my translation) “In Mali, Confusion and Uncertainty on the Role of the Military Junta.”

In Guinea-Bissau, meanwhile, soldiers have released former PM Carlos Gomes Junior and interim President Raimundo Pereira.

AFP analyzes the “unlikely role” of Burkinabe President Blaise Compaore as “the Sahel region’s troubleshooter.”

In negotiating [Swiss hostage Beatrice] Stockly’s release from the Islamists [in northern Mali], Compaore proved he’s in tune with the shifting realities on the ground, observers said.

“We have in Compaore a serious intermediary with a serious network,” said one western diplomat.

[...]

Compaore is perhaps an unlikely fit for this partly benevolent role: he took power in a 1987 coup that saw his predecessor and once brother-in-arms Thomas Sankara assassinated, and his democratic credentials have been steadily questioned since.

But his skills at navigating among the sometimes shadowy armed groups operating in the Sahel were reinforced last month when fellow heads of state from the west African bloc ECOWAS named him mediator for the Mali crisis.

IRIN reports that displaced persons in western Cote d’Ivoire “feel forgotten.”

Most displaced families told IRIN they could not return to their homes because they were destroyed, or because their farms were taken over by other groups and are now being guarded by armed guards or “dozos”.

Téhé comes from a village 5km outside of Duékoué but he has not returned home because his fields were taken over during his absence. “It’s because we’re Guéré,” he says, referring to his ethnic group, whose members overwhelmingly supported the former president, Laurent Gbagbo.

Much of the long-term inter-community conflict in the west is rooted in issues of land tenure, as members of different ethnic groups claim ownership to the same land.

President Ouattara recognized that the west is still very unstable, with forests “infested with armed persons”, which is “not acceptable”. Nonetheless, during his visit to the towns of Toulépleu, Bloléquin and Duékoué he repeated calls for the displaced to return home, and called on Ivoirians to leave it to the justice system to punish those who have committed crimes. He stressed that he is the president of all Ivoirians, regardless of ethnicity, religion or region.

VOA: “Sudan Fighting Damages Both Sides’ Oil Industry.”

I leave you with a video on hunger in Chad from the World Food Programme:

Africa Blog Roundup: Senegal’s Marieme Faye Sall, Guinea Bissau Coup, Algeria Campaign, Boko Haram, Malawi, DRC, and More

(I’ve mixed in a few news reports with the blog roundup this week, given the importance of several stories.)

Africa Is A Country on Senegal’s First Lady Marieme Faye Sall:

Joyce Banda of Malawi, the newest President of an African country–and only the second sitting African president who is a woman–is getting all the love for her achievements.* (So what if her ascendency came about due to the death of an aging president and his politically weak, colluding brother?). There is also much chatter on the internet about Malawi’s new First Gentleman, retired Chief Justice Richard Banda (with whom Madame Banda has two children). However, the Senegalese might suggest that their country’s new first lady, Marieme Faye Sall, represents a “bigger” deal in how her move to the presidential palace breaks with Senegal’s political history after independence.

Madame Sall’s husband, Macky Sall, has just been elected as President of Senegal. Her significance lies in the fact that she is the first woman of Senegalese birth and ancestry to become First Lady of Senegal. (Previous First Ladies have either been French or in the case of Madame Diouf of Lebanese descent.) This has made her a sensation, especially amongst Senegalese women; this is the first time they are seeing someone they recognize as one of their own in the presidential palace. Some more poetic accolades for her—within Senegal—have included “daughter of the land,” “a committed housewife,” “real Senegalese lady,” and “future burner of thiouraye (a secret mixture of oils, perfumes, seeds and fragrant wood used as a body [perfume], with an exotic, sweet, spicy, herbal aroma) and harbinger of Africa-ness to the state residence.” Top that if you can, Madame Banda.

Some Senegalese women hope that seeing Madame Sall by the president’s side will send a message to their men: They do not need to be married to a “white” French woman before they achieve success in the country. Another important dimension of her ascendancy is the fact that she is a Muslim. All the three previous First Ladies of Senegal were Christians in a nation that is 90% Muslim. Madame Sall’s carefully constructed story includes her having always been there as a support pillar for her husband, leaving her university studies to tend to his career and well being, and having his children.

Check out the whole piece. The significance of such cultural/political symbolism has been debated on this blog before, and will be again. At the very least it is an interesting set of issues to think about.

Lesley Anne Warner on the coup in Guinea-Bissau.

Electoral campaigning kicks off in Algeria in advance of May 10 parliamentary elections.

Boko Haram’s spokesman assassinated over plans to defect?

The New York Times on art in Senegal, Mali, and Cote d’Ivoire.

Owen Barder, “How Will the UK Cast Its Vote for the World Bank?”

The UK has repeatedly said that it favours merit-based appointments of the heads of the World Bank and IMF. It is also a leading advocate for transparency and accountability in development. Now it can live up to both these commitments.

The UK Executive Director will shortly be casting a vote on behalf of British citizens for the next President of the World Bank. At the beginning of the process it was widely assumed that all the European countries would back Dr Jim Kim, because he is the American nominee. Now that all three candidates have been interviewed by the board, I gather that is no longer being taken for granted.

Chris Blattman writes that “identity has crowded out substance” in the debate over the Bank presidency.

Speaking of Malawi’s new President Joyce Banda, The Economist‘s Baobab says that it “looks like she is off to a good start.”

Dr. Laura Seay, “What’s Next for the DRC?”

In light of a new report from the International Crisis Group on China and South Sudan, Amb. John Campbell assesses the relationship between the two nations. Roving Bandit looks at DFID’s livelihoods program in South Sudan.

What are you reading today?

Burkina Faso: Amid Police Firings, Eyes on Last Year’s Riots – and on 2015 [UPDATED]

Last spring, Burkina Faso experienced weeks of protests by trade unions and students, with an overlapping series of mutinies by soldiers and police. For a time it looked as though President Blaise Compaore, who has ruled the country since 1987, might be losing his grip on power. In June, a combination of personnel changes, policy reforms, and crackdowns on mutineers brought the nation’s intersecting uprisings to a close. But nearly a year later, Burkina Faso and its rulers are still sorting through the fallout of last year’s explosion – and looking ahead to 2015, the year of the next scheduled presidential elections.

The 2011 uprisings were back in the news last week when the government announced the firing of over 100 policemen accused of joining the mutinies. A list of the fired officers (French) shows that most came from units in Ouagadougou, the political capital, and Bobo-Dioulasso, the economic capital. Both cities were centers of protest last year. Given earlier disciplinary firings of mutinous soldiers, the firing of mutinous police came as no surprise (French).

The firings suggest that last year’s uprisings are still on the government’s mind, but also that the government is feeling relatively strong. International actors seem to share that view of the Compaore regime’s strength. The US State Department‘s conclusion regarding the 2011 uprisings is, “As of late July, the government’s actions had produced greater calm and stability.” The IMF’s December review of loan programs to Burkina Faso makes no mention of the uprisings, but generally depicts the country as stable and making progress on the IMF’s desired reforms. The IMF does say, however, “In view of the Burkinabè economy’s vulnerability to exogenous shocks that affect the most vulnerable in the population, the authorities need to place special emphasis on the preparation of a social safety net.” This is noteworthy because two frequently cited drivers of the uprisings were the post-electoral crisis in neighboring Cote d’Ivoire and increases in the price of basic foods.

The Africa Report adds more perspective on the regime’s new strategy and how it has been received internationally:

The new government has increased its actions, most notably by reducing prices of fast-moving consumer goods and agricultural input products, promoting civil servants or suspending unpaid penalties for delayed electricity bills.

In pole position is Luc Adolphe Tiao, who has embarked on a campaign to seduce Burkinabes and economic partners. The former journalist and diplomat has a somewhat pedagogical approach to his duties.

[...]

They also seem to desire an improvement in governance, social dialogue and the economic environment, in line with the recommendations of the World Bank.

[...]

Moreover, while meeting in Paris in the beginning of February, international partners gave their support to the Burkinabe government’s social and economic programmes, with a total budget of US$14.3bn for the period 2011-2015.

Their ambition is to reach a two-digit GDP growth, the only lever to real sustainable poverty reduction.

Many observers, then, agree that calm has been restored for the present. But those same observers are questioning whether stability can hold. The Africa Report wonders whether population growth will overwhelm economic growth. Morale among soldiers and police may have taken a hit from firings. And the shocks – particularly rapid increases in food prices – that contributed to crisis not only last year, but also in previous episodes, could return.

Some uncertainty about Burkina Faso’s political future centers on the president and his intentions. In Jeune Afrique (French), Marwane Ben Yahmed writes that Compaore is facing pressures (including from abroad) to step down when his term ends in 2015, but also getting encouragement (especially from his circle) to remain. Ben Yahmed writes (my translation) that Compaore already knows what he intends to do, but that “he cannot commit himself to leave, at the risk of undermining his authority and launching a premature war of succession, just as he could not, evidently, announce that he will cling to power.” The guessing game about the president’s intensions, which could run for over two years, will ensure that a hint of tension remains in Burkina Faso’s politics for some time to come.

UPDATE: IRIN tackles the same topic. Definitely worth a read.

Africa News Roundup: Sahel Food Crisis, Ethiopia to Leave Somalia, Boko Haram, Senegal Opposition Rally, and More

Oxfam now says, “Some 13 million people are at severe risk from a food crisis which is set to escalate into a full scale humanitarian emergency in the Sahel region of West and Central Africa if urgent action is not taken.” AFP has more.

VOA: “A senior Sudanese negotiator said he sees little hope for progress in talks with South Sudan on contentious issues left over from the two countries’ separation last July. Mediators in Addis Ababa are measuring progress in millimeters.” The BBC reports on conflict in the borderlands between the two countries.

Ethiopia plans to remove its forces from Somalia by the end of April. Kenya’s troops in Somalia, meanwhile, will soon officially become part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

In other Kenya news, “The International Criminal Court on Friday rejected bids by Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya’s former finance minister and three others to have charges dropped against them related to the country’s 2007 election violence.”

Gen. Soumaila Bakayoko of Cote d’Ivoire told reporters yesterday that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) may intervene militarily in Mali’s civil war. The Wall Street Journal reports on the more than 100,000 people who have been displaced by the fighting in Mali.

News continues to trickle out concerning the failed rescue of two European hostages in Northwestern Nigeria on Thursday. Weekly Trust has published a detailed account of the raid. Boko Haram, suspected of involvement in the kidnapping, has denied that it played a role. Nigerian authorities have made at least five arrests in connection with the killings. Meanwhile, another battle between Boko Haram and the police took place yesterday in Kano.

Elsewhere, another hostage crisis may be over: “Ethiopian rebels say they have released two German tourists who were taken captive during a gun-battle in January.”

Prominent politicians will rally in support of Senegalese presidential challenger Macky Sall tomorrow.

Last but not least, Burkina Faso “has fired 136 policemen who were involved in a mutiny last year.”

I’m especially curious to hear readers’ reactions to this idea of an ECOWAS intervention in Mali. Is it possible?

Africa Blog Roundup: Abuja Bombings, Erdogan in Somalia, the LRA, Cote d’Ivoire, and More

Ambassador John Campbell and Tolu Ogunlesi offer thoughts on Friday’s bombing of the UN building in Abuja, Nigeria. Next republishes and updates part of an editorial posted after the June bombing of the police headquarters in Abuja.

Baobab on Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent visit to Somalia:

BAOBAB…was moved beyond cynicism by the Turkish prime minister’s visit to Mogadishu on August 19th. Mr Erdogan is not the first head of state to visit Somalia’s wrecked capital since central authority collapsed there in 1992. But the nature of his visit was different. It was not about regional security. He came with his wife and daughter, his cabinet ministers and their families. The trip was brief and choreographed to boost standing at home. But that should not diminish the courage shown. The Turkish plane scraped the runway on landing. Even though the Shabab had been forced out of the city, the visit was an extraordinary security risk.

Osiama Molefe, meanwhile, writes that the $70 million that African leaders have raised for Somalia calls their commitment to “Africans solutions for African problems” into question.

Kal offers his initial thoughts on the fall of Colonel Moammar Qadhafi.

Kim Yi Dionne posts some results from her team’s study of protests in Malawi.

Sanou Mbaye asks, “Can Senegal Succeed?” (h/t Loomnie)

Philip Lancaster on the intractable problem of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

Ashley Elliott takes a look at where things stand in Cote d’Ivoire.

What are you reading today?