Secretary Clinton, Algeria, and Mali

As Mali’s interlocking crises continue and regional and international powers work to plan a military intervention for 2013, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Algeria yesterday. The State Department has the text of Sec. Clinton’s remarks following her meeting with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. An excerpt:

We had an in-depth discussion of the region, particularly the situation in Mali. I very much appreciated the President’s analysis, based on his long experience, as to the many complicated factors that have to be addressed to deal with the internal insecurity in Mali and the terrorist and drug trafficking threat that is posed to the region and beyond. And we have agreed to continue with in-depth expert discussions, to work together bilaterally and with the region – along with the United Nations, and the African Union, and ECOWAS – to determine the most effective approaches that we should be taking.

Reuters quotes an anonymous US official:

“The secretary underscored … that it is very clear that a political process and our counter-terrorism efforts in Mali need to work in parallel,” the official said.

“We have an awful lot at stake here, and an awful lot of common interests, and there’s a strong recognition that Algeria has to be a central part of the solution,” the senior U.S. official told reporters traveling with Clinton.

VOA and AP have more.

Algerian-Malian relations are increasingly a subject of discussion in the international media and in US policy circles. The Moor Next Door recently rounded up new reports on the topic by Dr. Anouar Boukhars at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the journalist Peter Tinti, Alexis Arieff of the Congressional Research Service, and others.

Finally, it is worth mentioning Mauritania in the context of Sec. Clinton’s visit to Algeria. Prior to the shooting of Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz on October 13, Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights María Otero had been scheduled to visit Mauritania from October 15-17. The visit has been postponed. While Otero’s stated agenda for discussion emphasized Mauritanian domestic issues, the trip – which the State Department called “the most senior-level U.S. State Department visit to Mauritania in five years” – would, I imagine, have touched on Mauritania’s relations with Mali as well. Additionally, General Carter Ham of US AFRICOM visited Mauritania, Morocco, and Algeria in September, a tour that focused on the Malian crises. Senior US officials, in other words, are regularly reaching out to northwest African governments in connection with Mali, especially (but not only) Algeria, a key US partner on security issues in the region.

Africa Blog Roundup: Hunger in the Sahel, Northern Nigeria’s Hereditary Muslim Rulers, Ivory Wars, and More

Celeste Hicks writes – in a message that needs to be reiterated ceaselessly – that the hunger crisis in the Sahel is a long-term, not a short-term, problem:

Across the region, above average rainfall has been recorded in 2012. Predictions for southern Mali by Fewsnet, the US early warning system, suggest at least 93% of the millet crop will be successful. Although there have been pockets of drought, and the rains may be in danger of petering out before October in some regions, anecdotal evidence suggests prices in local markets are starting to ease.

But good news on the rains risks signalling that everything is back to normal. Oxfam is trying to stop donor and media attention turning elsewhere, saying: “The food crisis is far from over and an increase in aid is still needed to help farmers and herders overcome the triple challenges of recurrent droughts, persistent poverty and political instability.”

The Sahel crisis is about much more than rain, or lack of it. Yes, in the years when the rains fail more people are pushed into hunger, but the NGO message is that this is something that will take years to fix.

Via Twitter user Chike Chukudebelu, a piece by Salisu Suleiman on Northern Nigeria’s hereditary Muslim rulers:

All over the North, the inbred respect for ward and district heads, as well as emirs, is fast diminishing and, consequently, the authority and the myths behind the traditional institutions they head. For those who feared the institutions, a new boldness is in place; for those who had high regards for them, a subtle disdain has emerged and for members of the ruling clans, the rewards of being part of the royal classes are fast ebbing.
This is not to say that the North’s emirs have lost their powers: they remain largely powerful and able to influence economic and social policy. But events of the last few years have eaten away the basis of their legitimacy.

Louisa Lombard on the killing of people and elephants in Africa:

At least 25,000 elephants may have been slaughtered in Africa in 2011 — more than in any year since reporting began in 2002 — according to Kenneth Burnham, the statistician for Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants, an intergovernmental research agency.

Hundreds of humans have also died as a result of the elephant slaughter — not just from scattered maulings or tramplings, but from bullets fired by other humans fighting on the animals’ behalf.

The State Department’s Dipnote reports on an event on food security headlined by Secretary Hillary Clinton and Malawi’s President Joyce Banda.

Lesley Anne Warner on reactions in South Sudan and Kenya to the US presidential campaign.

Roving Bandit asks some interesting questions about policy research priorities in South Sudan.

Owen Barder: “Three Lessons from Britain’s Multilateral Aid Review.”

A call for papers for a conference on “India in Africa.”

Africa Blog Roundup: Clinton in Africa, Oil in Uganda, Senegal and Habre, and More

Habiba Osman: “On Hillary Clinton’s Recent Visit to Africa.”

I am therefore not surprised that this African tour has come up now considering the diminishing role that the US is now finding itself in with the Chinese almost taking over as the biggest African donor and trade partner. Sub Saharan Africa, especially, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi in the South have felt the presence of the Chinese greatly with infrastructure being built everywhere in these countries, courtesy of the Chinese government.

Politically, Clinton’s visit is therefore timely as some of most African states have openly declared that they are in favour of the Chinese donations, which seem to have no strings attached. By strings, I mean, adherence to the rule of law, respect for human rights and observance of good governance. Africa’s relationship with China has gained international attention and is a sure factor in destabilising America’s role as the sole super power.

Tony Otoa Jr. on oil and civil society in Uganda.

Lesley Anne Warner: “Kenya’s Coast Province Could Be Flashpoint in Run-Up to Elections.”

Amb. John Campbell on recent violence at a South African platinum mine.

Peter Dorrie on President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso:

To adequately judge Blaise Compaoré’s record of bringing development and prosperity to his people, it is first of all important to remind oneself that he has been in power since 1987, a full quarter of a century. More than half the population of his country has only known his rule.

Despite the period of peace that Burkina experienced during this time, and a comparatively generous 13 Billion US Dollars in international development assistance, the country still ranks only 181st out of 187 countries in terms of human development. All of the other bottom ten countries in the HDI ranking experienced devastating civil wars during this time – except Guinea, which instead had to put up with a brutal military dictatorship. To put it bluntly: Blaise Compaoré is the only African head of state who managed to dramatically limit the development of his country without declaring outright war on it.

Jason Stearns asks, “When Will Donors Un-Freeze Aid to Rwanda?”

Writing in Nigeria’s Daily Trust, Idang Alibi comes out against Senegal’s planned trial for former Chadian leader Hissene Habre.

Anne Campbell weighs in on the issue of African presidents and overseas educations.

Baobab on electricity in Somalia.

Last but not least, a reflection from Carmen McCain on fasting during Ramadan as a non-Muslim.

Africa News Roundup: Refugees in Darfur, Clinton and Nigeria, Meles Zenawi, Kenya’s Elections, and More

Darfur:

All 25,000 people living in a refugee camp in Sudan’s Darfur region have fled amid fighting between armed militia groups and Sudanese government forces, U.N. officials said Friday.

Many of the refugees have sought shelter in nearby Kutum town or the Zariba area, the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) said, but lack water, food and sanitation.

[...]

A UNAMID statement Monday said the violence began after an incident on August 1, when three armed men carjacked the local district commissioner and his driver and shot them dead.
“Subsequently, on the same day armed men surrounded Kassab, looted the market, burnt down the Sudanese Police post in the camp and reportedly killed four persons (three civilians and one police officer) and injured six others,” the statement said.
Security continued to deteriorate over the following days in Kutum town, Kassab camp and another camp, Fataborno, “including fighting between the armed elements and government forces, as well as looting and displacement of civilians,” it said.

Map of Kutum. And a story from IRIN: “Chad: Darfur’s Forgotten Refugees.”

A New York Times editorial on the negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan:

Sooner rather than later, both sides also have to deal with even more fundamental challenges: improving governance, ending human rights violations and eradicating corruption. Sudan and South Sudan are inextricably intertwined. If the two can carry out the [recently announced oil transit] fee deal, they will have a better chance to resolve other critical issues.

AP reports that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged Nigerian security officials to  “create an ‘intelligence fusion cell’ that would combine information from the military, spy services, police and other federal, state and local agencies.” The US is apparently ready to enhance its intelligence cooperation with Nigeria.

A video is circulating showing French hostages held by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Burkina Faso’s Foreign Minister Djibril Bassole traveled to northern Mali this week to meet with Iyad Ag Ghali, leader of the Islamist militia Ansar al Din.

As rumors of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s death circulate, the Ethiopian government says Meles will return from his sick leave in September. Think Africa Press asks, “What Might A Post-Meles Era Bring?”

Arrests of journalists in Djibouti.

Kenya:

Kenya needs to improve security to ensure that voters are not deterred by recent grenade and gun attacks and threats by a coastal separatist movement to disrupt the election due next March, the head of the electoral commission said on Friday.

What else is happening today?

Two Points on Secretary Clinton’s Tour of Africa [Updated]

Yesterday United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton kicked off her 2012 tour of Africa. Today she is in Senegal, where she is expected to give a speech about China that does not name China. Other scheduled stops on the tour include South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, and Ghana.

Press coverage of the tour has emphasized three issues: terrorism, Chinese economic influence in Africa, and democracy. Let’s leave the first of those aside for this post. I have just two brief points to make:

  1. American rhetoric will not deter African countries from accepting Chinese investment. However forceful the Secretary’s speeches, however persuasive her arguments, African countries will continue to partner with China. Money will speak louder than words.
  2. Democratic achievements sometimes seem firmer in the present than they do in hindsight. I too applaud Senegal’s democratic transfer of power from one leader to another. I applaud Malawi’s peaceful succession process, and Ghana’s. But each country’s trajectory is different, and today’s democrat may become tomorrow’s autocrat. Defeated Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade earned plaudits as a democrat when he came to office in 2000, only to become another leader seeking an exemption to term limits by 2012.  I am not saying that Senegal, Malawi, and Ghana are headed for autocracy, but I am saying that “democratization” often proves fragile.

What do you expect from Secretary Clinton’s visit? What significance do you see in her choice of destinations?

[UPDATE]: Find the transcript of Sec. Clinton’s remarks in Dakar here. An excerpt:

Africa needs partnership, not patronage. And we have tried to build on that challenge. And throughout my trip across Africa this week, I will be talking about what it means, about a model of sustainable partnership that adds value rather than extracts it. That’s America’s commitment to Africa.

[...]

So the links between democracy and development is a defining element of the American model of partnership. And I acknowledge that in the past our policies did not always line up with our principles. But today, we are building relationships here in West Africa and across the continent that are not transactional or transitory. They are built to last. And they’re built on a foundation of shared democratic values and respect for the universal human rights of every man and woman. We want to add value to our partners, and we want to add value to people’s lives. So the United States will stand up for democracy and universal human rights, even when it might be easier or more profitable to look the other way, to keep the resources flowing. Not every partner makes that choice, but we do and we will.

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?

AQIM: Western-Sahelian Cooperation Deepening

In recent days General Carter Ham of the United States’ Africa Command (AFRICOM) and French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe have both visited Mauritania, signaling a positive Western response to Mauritania’s recent offensives against al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) as well as a continuation of the trend toward deeper cooperation between Western and Sahelian governments on counterterrorism. Mauritania, which has undertaken the most aggressive military campaign of the three Sahelian countries most affected by AQIM (the others are Mali and Niger), is receiving the lion’s share of the attention right now, but visits by top Western officials come as the entire region is asking for outside help.

AFP reports on Gen. Ham’s trip:

“I congratulated him for the success of the Mauritanian army in its fight against AQIM, in collaboration with Mali and other countries in the region,” Ham said after a meeting with President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz in Nouakchott.

The general, who has been in the capital since Sunday, also welcomed the Mauritanian peoples’ rejection of the north African Al-Qaeda branch, and committed to work to “advance security co-operation between America and Mauritania.”

ANI (Ar) reports on Juppe’s trip to Nouakchott, which spanned Sunday and Monday. Juppe met with Abdel Aziz and affirmed French “solidarity” with Mauritania on counterterrorism. CBS adds that Juppe combined praise for Mauritania with pressure on other goverments:

Juppe told reporters on his visit to Nouakchott that Mauritania has “led an exemplary fight.” He said France wishes other nations in the Sahel “would be more engaged.”

Juppe and Abdel Aziz also discussed the crisis in Libya, an issue with broad political significance in the Sahel as well as direct significance – in terms of potential movement of Libyan weapons to AQIM – for counterterrorism.

Mauritania’s government is not the only one in the region exploring a deeper partnership with the West. Niger’s President Mamadou Issoufou recently visited France (Fr), and the crisis in Libya and security issues were major themes in his meeting with President Nicolas Sarkozy. Mali, though Western powers have sometimes seen its government as less willing to engage fully in counterterrorism, has partnered with Mauritania in recent efforts against AQIM. Malian-Mauritanian relations have recovered substantially from the low they hit in February 2010 when Mauritania recalled its ambassador from Mali in protest over the latter’s engagement in negotiations with AQIM.

Mauritania, Mali, and Niger may not be on exactly the same page when it comes to AQIM, but they are moving toward greater cooperation. Regional cooperation may in turn facilitate deeper partnerships with the West. The existence of such partnerships is not new – all three countries have participated in US training exercises and counterterrorism programs for years, and all three are planning to attend a summit in Algeria this September where US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to attend – but the degree of cooperation seems to be increasing. That could have diverse implications for Sahelian counterterrorism efforts in the Sahel: on the one hand, stronger partnerships with the West could enhance local military capacity; on the other hand, perceptions of ever stronger political ties to the West could generate local political opposition. For now, though, the Mauritanian military’s star seems to be rising, both overseas and within the region.