Africa News Roundup: Alleged Boko Haram Peace Talks Offer, Kismayo, Uganda and Somalia, Flooding in Niger, and More

A spokesman claiming to represent Nigeria’s Boko Haram sect has outlined conditions for peace talks with the federal government. Demands include holding the talks in Saudi Arabia and having former military ruler and presidential aspirant General Muhammadu Buhari as a mediator. Coverage from the Guardian, This Day,  Business Week, and News 24.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International released a new report, “Nigeria: Trapped in the Cycle of Violence,” on November 1, writing, “The brutal actions of Nigeria’s security forces in response to Boko Haram’s campaign of terror are making an already desperate situation even worse.”

Nigerian security forces reportedly killed thirty people in Maiduguri on Friday.

AP writes, “Weary from years of kidnappings, the inhabitants of Algeria’s rugged Kayblie mountains are finally turning against the al-Qaida fighters in their midst and helping security forces hunt them down. And that turnaround is giving Algeria its best chance yet to drive the terror network from its last Algerian stronghold.”

The BBC:

Nearly 400 people have been arrested in a major security operation in the Somali port city of Kismayo, officials there have told the BBC.

African Union troops, the Somali army and a pro-government militia gained control of the strategic port last month from al-Qaeda-aligned militants.

A militia spokesman told the BBC those arrested were believed to be supporters of the Islamist al-Shabab group.

Since al-Shabab’s withdrawal there have been frequent bombings in the city.

VOA: “Uganda is threatening to pull its troops from African peacekeeping missions, including the one in Somalia, because of a U.N. report that accuses Kampala of supporting Congolese rebels.”

IRIN on internally displaced people in Mogadishu.

Gambia has appointed its first female foreign minister, Susan Wafa-Ogoo.

Ethiopian Muslims continue their weekly Friday protests against alleged government interference in Muslim affairs.

IRIN writes that more flooding may occur in Niger.

What else is going on?

Africa News Roundup: Protests in Nigeria and Sudan, New PM in Ethiopia, Senate Scrapped in Senegal, and More

Following protests in Egypt, Libya, and elsewhere this week, Muslims protested yesterday in Jos, Nigeria and Khartoum, Sudan against an inflammatory anti-Islamic video. The Chief Imam of Jos Central Mosque called for restraint and discouraged the turn to street protests.

Ethiopia is expected to name a new prime minister this weekend, to replace the late Meles Zenawi.

IRIN: “Kenya’s Deadly Mix of Frustration, Politics and Impunity”

Senegal’s National Assembly voted Thursday to disband the country’s Senate as a means of freeing up funds for flood relief.

Also in Senegal, a Gambian opposition group sets up shop.

Burkina Faso will hold legislative elections on December 2. The opposition (French) has written to President Blaise Compaore complaining that only 55% of voting-age citizens are registered to vote, and calling for a delay of the elections until 2013.

Leaders from the northern branch of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement were in Washington, DC this week, meeting with officials at the State Department.

What else is happening?

Africa Blog Roundup: Nigeria Security Map, Sudan and China, Arming South Sudan, Congolese Independence, and More

Amb. John Campbell posts on his project to map violent incidents in Nigeria.

Amb. David Shinn makes some key points about Sudanese President Omar al Bashir’s recent visit to China.

Aly Verjee argues against providing anti-aircraft weapons to South Sudan:

The last thing East Africa needs is more weaponry, high tech or otherwise.  The United States should not contribute to an arms race between North and South Sudan – the two future states are well on their way to achieving that already. Instead, the US should remain an honest broker and encourage both North and South to choose the path of responsible statehood, without further contributing to already tense relations.  This is a less sexy policy than giving the South fancy weapon systems, to be sure.  But it is a policy of pragmatism that de-escalates rather than antagonizes.

Jason Stearns reflects on the Democratic Republic of Congo’s 51st anniversary of its independence.

Robert Zeliger posts aerial photographs of the Arab Spring, and A Bombastic Element looks at corporate advertising that tries to tap into the revolutionary spirit in Egypt and elsewhere.

Africa Is A Country writes on graffiti in the Gambia.

What are you reading today?

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.

Africa Blog Roundup: Guinea Elections, Western Sahara, Somalia and Piracy, Etc.

Guinea: Andrew Kessinger discusses where things stand in post-election Guinea.

Western Sahara: Alle writes on the recent violence in the Western Sahara.

This is without a doubt a very significant moment for Sahrawi nationalism. Exactly how things will play out remains to be seen, but the violent nature of the crackdown and the protests, and the scale of public protest, is unprecedented. I believe this will become as significant an internal turning point for Sahrawi nationalism as the May 2005 Sahrawi “intifada” in el-Aaiun. While that event passed unnoticed in the larger world, it was the starting point of the recurrent Sahrawi protests and human rights lobbying that has since dominated the nationalist side of the argument, and it has seriously affected the parameters of the conflict.

Gambia: King Jammeh?

Nigeria: Loomnie writes on developments in the banking sector.

Sudan: Maggie Fick writes about portrayals of Sudan in the international media (h/t Texas in Africa):

[Recent] news clips illustrate the tendency—rather, modus operandi—of the international media coverage of Sudan to highlight the worst case scenarios surrounding the key upcoming events instead of the best possible outcomes. Since I’m a member of this media corps, I can affirm that this is the case. My short experience to date as a journalist has taught me that—surprise!—editors do not think a story with a headline to the effect of “All looks set to go smoothly in Southern Sudan’s crucial independence vote” is newsworthy. Instead, a headline to the effect of “tensions rising,” “concern mounting,” and the like is what editors want to read, because they know it is what readers online around the globe will be likely to click on as they skim the news.

This is definitely worth thinking about. Perhaps my own coverage of the referendum here has been too negative. I’ll look forward to reading more of Maggie’s writing.

Somalia: Dipnote talks about anti-piracy efforts in the Horn of Africa.

What are you reading?

Tuesday Links, Oil Spills in the Niger Delta, Ethiopia and VOA, West African Drug Trade

There are a lot of stories I haven’t had time to cover here, but that I would urge readers to check out:

Finally, here’s an excerpt from a BBC piece on the drug trade in West Africa:

In the last three years, seizures of narcotics have gone down in the region. The latest figures available from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) show that 5.5 tonnes of cocaine were seized in West and Central Africa in 2007 whereas an unconfirmed 15 tonnes passed through a year previously.

But despite the falling figures, the UNODC and people on the ground in West Africa say that the drugs trade is on the increase.

It is just that the traffickers are getting more sophisticated and the narcotics are getting harder to seize.

Consider this thread open.

Sunday Africa Blog Roundup: AQIM, Sudan, Gambia, CAR, and More

Tommy Miles on AQIM attacks in Niger.

Making Sense of Sudan gives us an update on the run-up to elections in Sudan.

Reuters on Gambia:

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh is either lucky or paranoid. After all, it isn’t often that a head of state lifts the veil on the second plot to overthrow him in less than five years.

Will the Central African Republic exist in fifty years? Louisa Lombard argues another arrangement might benefit the people there.

Dipnote profiles a Kenyan activist, Rebecca Lolosoli.

Lolosoli’s empathy for widows and children compelled her to speak out on behalf of victims of rape, forced marriage, female genital cutting, and homelessness. In the 1990s, she too became homeless. Determined to improve the lives of others facing similar situations, Lolosoli and 15 other women created the Umoja Uaso Women’s Organization in the Samburu District of Kenya.

Since the program’s establishment, Umoja Uaso has become a refuge for women who refused to tolerate the cattle raids, gender-based and sexual violence, lack of property rights, and more recently the impact of small arms. The program has become both a sanctuary and a training center for those seeking to promote human rights and economic empowerment, and it promotes the preservation of indigenous art and crafts.

Africa is a Country on African migrants to the EU.

Roving Bandit with an informative chart on African countries’ economic growth rates.

And via Roving Bandit, a new (to me) blog: Whirled Citizen.

What are you reading?

Cocaine in West Africa

Journalists, governments, and international organizations are paying more and more attention to cocaine smuggling and use in West Africa. Earlier this week, representatives from Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Cape Verde, Mali, Mauritania and Senegal met in Dakar to discuss anti-drug measures. Here are some related stories from the region:

This issue is rising in importance, and we’re going to hear a lot more about it. Feel free to contribute any insights you have in the comments section.

Tension Continues in Gambia Over Jammeh’s Threats

In a televised interview earlier this week, Gambian President Yahya Jammeh made death threats against human rights activists, provoking outcry from the opposition and from international rights and press freedom groups. The BBC follows up on the controversy:

Banjul, The Gambia

Banjul, The Gambia

An online petition has been launched in protest at the Gambian president’s threat to kill human rights workers[...]

The campaign by a coalition of pressure groups wants the African Union’s human rights commission HQ moved from Gambia[...]

The Open Society, along with the African Court Coalition, is now campaigning to have the offices moved to a different country.

Their aim is to secure as many signatures as possible from non-governmental organisations involved in the work of the AU’s human rights commission before 28 September, when the petition will be forwarded to the African Union.

I don’t know what effect it will have, but the technique and what the petition asks may have an element of novelty and surprise.

In a separate piece, guest writer Umaru Fofana skewers Gambia’s political elite, turning as much heat on the disorganization and “petty squabbles” of the opposition as he does on the president. It seems I hear that sentiment fairly often now among African essayists who write in the Western press – a distaste for their countries’ leaders, but an equal distaste for their opponents.

Gambia: War of Words between Jammeh and Opposition

Via Ibn Kafka, I read this article on Gambian President Yahya Jammeh’s threats against human rights activists (French) – and, by extension, against the journalists to whose treatment the activists object.

My (shoddy) translation from the French:

“Those who want to collaborate with these alleged defenders of human rights and imagine they will be defended by them are mistaken. If you want to destabilize the country, sow trouble, and make my people suffer, I will make sure that you’ll be dead,” the president declared [in a television interview].”

[...] Many organizations for defending human rights and the press in the world regularly denounce the repression exercised in Banjul against independent media. Private media work in a “very menacing climate,” according to Reporters without Borders, since the assassination of a journalist in 2004 and the disappearance of another in 2004.

For its part, the Gambian opposition condemned the president’s threats, though at least one Gambian journalist suggested the opposition had more work to do in presenting a clear alternative to the regime and its language.

More on Gambian journalists at CPJ.