Africa News Roundup: Nigeria, Mali, South Sudan, Somalia, and More

Africa Review:

Senegal’s Attorney-General Serigne Bassirou Guèye has began a probe into one of the biggest drug scandals ever to rock the country’s police force.

As a first step, he ordered on Wednesday the arrest and detention of a Nigerian believed to be behind the whole scandal.

The issue came to a head after a top Senegalese police was accused of having connections with the detained Nigerian.

Reuters:

Malian troops deployed in the northern town of Kidal on Friday after attacks by light-skinned Tuareg separatists on black residents killed at least one, a week before elections meant to unify the fractured nation.

Nigeria reportedly plans to withdraw some 850 of its 1,200 soldiers from Mali following the elections there.

Garowe:

At least two persons including an African Union soldier (AMISOM) in the southern Somali port of Kismayo were killed in a roadside explosion Wednesday.

Human Rights Watch: “South Sudan: Army Making Ethnic Conflict Worse.”

Nigeria:

Nigerian governor Rotimi Amaechi and four of his northern counterparts have been pelted with stones by opponents in his home state.

Their convoy was attacked as it left the airport of Port Harcourt, the capital of his oil-rich Rivers state.

The northern governors [of Niger, Kano, Jigawa, and Adamawa] were visiting to show their support for Mr Amaechi.

He was suspended from the ruling party for what analysts see as his opposition to President Goodluck Jonathan.

What else is happening?

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 Blog Roundup: Benghazi, Oil, Achebe, Kismayo, and More

Josh Rogin:

The State Department’s Accountability Review Board (ARB), meant to review the circumstances surrounding the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, met for the first time at the State Department Thursday.

[...]

The ARB is charged with determining the extent to which the incident was security-related, whether the security systems and procedures at that mission were adequate and were properly implemented, the impact of intelligence and information availability, and any other facts and circumstances that might be relevant to the appropriate security management of the United States missions abroad.

Roving Bandit on the oil deal between Sudan and South Sudan:

Whilst this seems like a good deal for North Sudan in the short run and a good deal for South Sudan in the long run, my main concern is the hold-up problem. What is stopping North Sudan ripping up the agreement in 3 years, demanding a higher cut, and just confiscating oil (again)?

Texas in Africa on child soldiers:

The dilemma in the Congo is this: while everyone agrees that the use of child soldiers is a horrible, inexcusable human rights violation, it is far from clear that disengaging from the Congolese government on military issues will end those abuses.

Loomnie excerpts two reviews of Chinua Achebe’s There Was a Country.

Emeka Okafor on hip hop in Nigeria.

Baobab on the potential impact of debt forgiveness on Guinea, and on cultural differences between Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

Somalia Newsroom: “Al Shabaab, Jubbaland, and the Future of Kismayo.”

At Focus on the Horn, Dr. Samson Bezabeh discusses Djibouti’s politics with reference to Sasha Baron Cohen’s “The Dictator.”

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: Kismayo, Boko Haram Arrests, Sudan and South Sudan Agreements, and More

Kenya’s Daily Nation reported yesterday that the Kenyan Defense Forces have taken the Somali port city of Kismayo, a stronghold of Al Shabab. Al Shabab has pulled out. More here and at the video report below.

IRIN reports that Somalia is becoming even more dangerous for journalists.

AFP:

Nigeria’s military said Friday it had arrested a number of security personnel over links to Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, whose insurgency has killed hundreds of people.
The arrests came after soldiers from a special military unit deployed in the northeastern city of Maiduguri arrested an immigration officer, Grema Mohammed, for allegedly being an active member of Boko Haram, a military spokesman said.

Even more details on this week’s agreements (and lack of agreements) between Sudan and South Sudan:

Sudan and South Sudan plan to avoid future disputes over oil exports with a metering system, but have failed to end a $1.8 billion row over how much Juba will pay for seizing northern oil facilities after its secession.

[...]

Under the final deal, South Sudan will pay between $9.10 and $11 a barrel to export its crude through the north. Juba will also pay $3.08 billion to help Sudan overcome the loss of three quarters of oil production due to southern secession.

All Africa interviews Senegalese President Macky Sall.

Cuts to fuel prices in Niger, and a glimpse at the intersection of Niger-Chinese relations, oil wealth distribution, and domestic politics:

Niger will reduce the cost of fuel at the pumps by about 7 percent next year as a result of China cutting the interest rate on a loan taken out to pay for the West African country’s sole oil refinery, the oil minister said on state television.

The move will curb the threat of further social unrest in the West African state, where riots over fuel prices have cost at least two lives this year. There have also been several strikes by taxi drivers over the cost of locally produced fuel.

VOA: “Nigeria’s Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) will soon issue millions of permanent voter cards in time for the next general election, according to Nick Dazang, the INEC deputy director public affairs…Dazang added that the new security features will reduce or eliminate voter fraud in future elections.” Maybe.

NTV Kenya on Kismayo:

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?

Africa Blog Roundup: Meles Zenawi, Drug Cartels, South Africa, Kismayo, and More

Toni Weis on the late Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi:

When I recently asked someone who knew Meles well about his legacy as a person, not just a political leader, my interlocutor rejected that distinction as artificial: “Meles was a profoundly political person”.

I’m not sure all of those who penned his obituaries – the eulogists as much as the detractors – have understood the importance of this point. If there is a consensus among the multitude of voices, it seems to be that Meles left behind a “mixed” legacy, a “checkered” or “conflicted” one: good for the Ethiopian economy (the famous ‘double-digit growth’), less so for Ethiopian politics (the infamous ‘authoritarian tendencies’).

What the commentators fail to understand is that, to Meles, these were two sides of the same coin. Development, in his eyes, was primarily a political process, not an economic one.

Ken Opalo: “The Drug War Moves East As Cartels’ Influence in Africa Grows”

The Economist on Christian religiosity in Ghana and Nigeria, with special attention to issues of security in the latter country.

Two complementary takes on mining strikes and violence in South Africa:

  • Keith Somerville: “Under a democratic government committed to righting the wrongs of apartheid, distributing wealth and providing services to ALL South Africans, events like the Marikana strikes and killings should never happen. Even before the strikes, the living conditions of the miners were appalling and wages had not improved to match higher costs of living.  Yet, senior politicians who had fought their way to prominence as union leaders and opponents of apartheid, are seen to be reaping the benefits of investments in mining and of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE). They have become increasingly distant from those whose support made them national leaders.  Every newspaper I read told this story and it was reflected in a general atmosphere of gloom, brooding resentment and a certain amount of fear.”
  • Amb. John Campbell: “The Zuma government is handling poorly the upsurge in mining unrest at the Marikana platinum mine, which is spreading to gold mines near Johannesburg. Julius Malema, expelled African National Congress (ANC) bad boy, is exploiting these government errors to discredit President Jacob Zuma in the run up to the African National Congress (ANC) December party convention.”

Lesley Anne Warner on Kenya, Somalia, and the battle for Kismayo.

Africa News Roundup: Kismayo, Somali Presidential Selection, Boko Haram and Mobile Phones, Senussi, Flooding, and More

VOA: “Politics Hinders Capture of Somalia’s Kismayo” – a major port city and stronghold of Al Shabab.

Somalia’s new parliament plans to select a new president for the country on Monday.

As Nigerian forces continue to battle militants from Boko Haram in Maiduguri and elsewhere, Boko Haram claims responsibility for attacking a number of mobile phone towers in Northern Nigeria.

“The Movement … is fighting to establish an Islamic state and we will wage war against anyone who tries to stop us,” Abul Qaqa, a spokesman, said in a written statement issued from the group’s headquarters in the northeastern city of Maiduguri.

“This is the reason we attacked the telecoms firms, because they are providing the security personnel with information used to track our members. We will continue attacking them until they stop,” he said.

The shift in tactics underscores how much trial and error figures in Boko Haram’s thinking, and how unpredictable the group can be. This move will undoubtedly elevate investors’ concerns, as it is the first time I am aware of that the group has conducted a major attack against private businesses. (As commenter Chavuka points out, Boko Haram has attacked newspaper offices in the past.)

Two developments connected to associates and family of dead Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Qadhafi occurred this week: Mauritania, after months of refusing to extradite former intelligence chief Abdullah al Senussi, deported him to Libya; and Niger has granted the Colonel’s son Saadi permission to travel. Saadi was previously under house arrest.

Also in Niger, the government has charged that international aid for flood victims “is being [illegally] diverted to other places.”

IRIN on flooding in Chad.

A video has been released showing four French hostages in northern Mali, held by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

The employees of the French company Areva were kidnapped in Arlit, Niger on September 15, 2010 and were transferred to northern Mali which is now controlled by armed Islamists.

What else is happening in the Sahel?

Somalia: Kenyan Troops Begin Assault on Kismayo

The port city of Kismayo, Somalia (map) is one of the rebel movement Al Shabab’s last strongholds. In June, Kenyan leaders vowed that their soldiers, who have been fighting Al Shabab inside Somali territory since last October, would move to take Kismayo by August. Now August has come, and the assault will reportedly begin soon:

Kenyan troops, now in Afmadow are expected to advance towards Kismayu, probably using Biibi, a town located 75 kilometres from Kismayu, as a forward operations base.

They are expected to fight alongside Ethiopian units and allied militia. The Ethiopian air force may also take part in the air bombardment.

Sources familiar with military thinking suggest that the initial air strikes would target Al-Shabaab command and control sites, troop concentrations and convoys and defensive fortifications.

Two potential targets are Kismayu Stadium, believed to be a key logistical and operational hub, and Jilib Beach District, where senior Al-Shabaab commanders are thought to live.

More details at the link, and more background on key commanders and decision-makers here. As of last night, sources on Twitter were saying the attack had already begun.

The conquest of Kismayo would build on military gains that the African Union Mission in Somalia and other foreign forces have made in the country in recent months. Kismayo’s significance lies partly in the revenue its port generates for Al Shabab, and its loss could weaken the movement even further. The United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia wrote in its report in July (pp. 11-12),

Al-Shabaab’s fortunes have declined dramatically, ceding much of southern Somalia to the forces of AMISOM, Kenya and Ethiopia, and their local Somali allies. The loss of so much territory has also deprived Al-Shabaab of some lucrative border taxation points, and a Security Council ban on the importation of Somali charcoal threatens to further erode the group’s income. An anticipated joint offensive towards Kismaayo would also deprive Al-Shabaab of its single most important source of revenue and its principal training bases. Confronted by such pressures, serious rifts
have emerged within the group’s leadership, threatening to produce a formal rupture, and Al-Shabaab fighters have begun to migrate northwards towards Puntland, Somaliland and Yemen. A steady trickle of foreign fighters is reported to
be leaving Somalia.

From what I understand, many analysts expect Kenyan forces to succeed in their effort to conquer Kismayo.

One key question that surfaces in the Monitoring Group report and other analysis is whether Somalia’s government, currently in a transition set to culminate with presidential elections by August 20, can deliver effective governance to these reconquered areas. Another key question is what will become of Al Shabab – fragmentation, dissipation, relocation, reorientation? The two questions are, of course, interrelated; how well Somali authorities perform on the governance front will affect the choices Al Shabab makes, and shape the options available to it.

Somalia: Al Shabab Loses Afgoye and Afmadow, Kismayo Next?

On Friday, troops from Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) captured the town of Afgoye from the rebel movement al Shabab, in what the Associated Press called “the biggest victory over al-Shabab since the pro-government forces took control of the capital last August” (more here). Further south, troops from the Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF), who have been fighting in Somalia since October, took the town of Afmadow from al Shabab some time between yesterday and today (Kenyan troops also took the town of Hayo). The KDF’s next major goal is to capture the port city of Kismayo – al Shabab’s “last key bastion” – by August.

McClatchy says the importance of Kismayo lies in the fees al Shabab charges at the port. Its loss would therefore deprive the group not only of territory but of much of its income.

Brief fighting occurred in Kismayo earlier this week, when Kenyan warships reportedly came under fire and shelled the city in response. “For the past couple of months,” VOA says, “Kismayo has come under fire targeting al-Shabab from air and sea.”

Here is a map showing Afgoye, Afmadow, and Kismayo, as well as the capital Mogadishu.

Military conquests by the government and its allies are coming at the same time as some political progress – namely a framework for holding presidential elections by August 20. This combination has generated significant optimism about Somalia’s future. It is important to note, though, that there has been some criticism of and disagreement with that line. Dayo Olopade, for example, notes that the Kenyan intervention in Somalia has lasted much longer than Kenyan leaders first implied it would, and decries “unacceptable side effects” of the conflicts, namely bombings inside Kenya that seem to be reprisals by al Shabab and its sympathizers. Roland Marchal, meanwhile, asks important questions about what political arrangements conquerors will create in areas formerly held by al Shabab:

The question is, and we see that everywhere, what kind of political answer you give to the population after having beaten Shabaab. In Beledweyne and Boosaaso, two big cities that have been taken from Shabaab, the Ethiopians promoted their friends, their allies. That makes a lot of sense. But if you don’t have local reconciliation with clans that explicitly supported Shabaab – because they had some good interest to do that, some very real interest beyond the jihaadi rhetorics – if you don’t do that, then sooner or later you create tensions and new problems come up.

[...]

So if you look at the very short term, you may believe that there are still incidents, but there is no longer a battle, and therefore the situation is going to improve. If you take a longer perspective, however, then it becomes a very concerning issue. Look at Mogadishu: the number of people who were killed last week is basically the same as the number of people who were killed ten or twelve weeks ago, so that means that the intensity hasn’t diminished. What has changed is the targeting.

To put it in a nutshell: it is very dangerous for the Somalis and the international community to assess the condition of the current war with the parameters of what was the war in 2011. And I believe that is exactly the mistake the Ethiopians made in 2007. They had been able to crush Shabaab in December [of 2006] in a very easy and very radical manner, because they fought face-to-face, and of course Shabaab couldn’t confront a professional army and therefore lost with many casualties. But then Shabaab shifted to an urban-style guerrilla, and that created a new problem for the Ethiopian army.

What do you think? Where is this all headed?