Africa Blog Roundup: Mali, Libya, Jubaland, Sudan Maps, and More

Peter Tinti appears on the BBC to discuss the ongoing French military action in Mali.

Bridget Conley: “Libya in the African Context.”

Somalia Newsroom: “Jubaland Close to Becoming Somalia’s Next State.”

Shelby Grossman: “FOIA Cables on Lebanese in Sierra Leone”:

The thing that is most striking is that the documents assert over and over again that Lebanese in West Africa are funding Hezbollah (”hundreds of millions of dollars” according to one cable), but it’s unclear if these assumptions are based on any evidence other than hearsay, as none is provided.

Internally Displaced on the search for a map showing the 1956 border between Sudan and South Sudan:

The strength of the British administrators was, as John Ashworth rightly points out, their obsession with recording things.  This obsession however was bureaucratic (and they were hardly preoccupied with recording in mile-by-mile detail what was, to them, an internal border).  But this means that the entirety of the South Sudan National Archives collection from the 1950s – and its counterpoints in the Durham Sudan Archives and in the Khartoum Sudan National Archives – are the border proofs.  What is needed is a careful examination of who administered which areas, and which villages; that is the proof of the real border.  The detail is there; there are files here in Juba that trace disputes over single cows in the border regions, let alone administrative and taxation rights.  You’re not going to find a simple, easy, 1:10,000 scale map that will solve this (and who said even finding the map would resolve anything anyway?).  The map is in the notes.

Roving Bandit: “Does Policy Work?”

Niger-Libya: Another Round of Struggle over Extraditing Saadi Qaddhafi

During his reign, Colonel Muammar Qaddhafi of Libya exercised substantial influence over neighboring Niger. Niger has working relations with the new Libyan government, but the presence of the Colonel’s son Saadi in Niger since September 2011 has been a source of dispute. Saadi Qaddhafi is not the only prominent Libyan in Niger – as of October 2011, “at least 32 Libyans, including three generals, had sought refuge in Niger.” Niger’s government has given permission for Libyan authorities to question the Colonel’s son – but has refused several demands to extradite him to Libya. Mauritania’s government was in a similar position for a time, as Libyan officials sought to extradite Col. Qaddhafi’s former intelligence chief Abdullah al Senussi. Mauritania handed Senussi over to Libya in September of this year.

This week, Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan visited Niger and again asked for the extradition of Saadi Qaddhafi and others. Uganda’s Daily Monitor reports that Niger has refused the request. That article contains a brief description of Qaddhafi’s life in Niger, writing that he remains under house arrest and that “it is alleged that the Niger authorities have also curtailed his access to communication gadgets as well as receiving guests due to his open criticism against the host government for restricting his movement.” Earlier reports had given a much different picture of his lifestyle in exile, suggesting that his “house arrest” involved a great deal of freedom. In September, one his lawyers told the press that Niger had given him the freedom to travel, despite a United Nations travel ban against him. Given these different reports it is hard to tell what restrictions Saadi Qaddhafi does or does not face.

I could not find the Libyan Prime Minister’s statement requesting Qaddhafi’s extradition, but Arabic readers may be interested in:

  • the PM’s office’s statement after his trip to Niger, which emphasizes themes of cooperation against terrorism and touches on the situation in Mali, and
  • his office’s approvingly worded statement concerning remarks Chadian President Idriss Deby made on Chadian-Libyan relations during the PM’s stop in Chad (after his visit to Niger).

Niger, Nigeria, Boko Haram, AQIM, and Border Security

The border between the Nigeria and Niger divides a zone with many cultural, religious, ethnic, and linguistic linkages, and under normal circumstances many people cross back and forth on a frequent basis. The uprising in Northern Nigeria by the Boko Haram sect has brought attention to the porousness of the border and its regional security implications: for example, some suspected Boko Haram members were arrested in Diffa, Niger in January/February 2012. Around the beginning of the year, Nigerian authorities imposed a state of emergency in the Northeastern states of Yobe and Borno that included international border closures. The closures have had a substantial economic impact, hurting agricultural and livestock trade between Nigeria and its neighbors, elevating food prices in southern Nigerien towns like Diffa, reducing trade to Cameroon and Chad, and contributing to economic devastation in Nigerian cities like Maiduguri and Potiskum.

Earlier this month, Niger’s government announced its desire to form joint border patrols with Nigeria, mentioning its concern not only about Boko Haram but also about Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Yesterday, with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in Niamey for the meeting of the High Authority of the Nigeria-Niger Joint Commission for Cooperation, he and his counterpart President Mahamadou Issoufou agreed that joint patrols should begin immediately. As Vanguard writes, they took several other steps as well:

The two  countries also agreed to equip their National Boundary Commissions with requisite logistics to ensure fast re-demarcation of the Nigeria-Niger International boundary.

[...]

President Jonathan also signed bilateral agreement on Defence and Security with the Nigerien government.

In a communique issued at the end of the session yesterday, the two Heads of States expressed worries over the danger of terrorism in the region and emphasised the need to jointly tackle the security challenge in the sub region  which is a big  threat to peace and stability in the West African sub-region.

Vanguard quotes from the communique at length.

The border issue concerns not only the national governments of Niger and Nigeria but state and local authorities as well. Accompanying Jonathan to Niamey were the governors of Jigawa, Katsina, and Borno states, all of which lie along the northern border (map of Nigeria’s states here). Borno State has been the epicenter of Boko Haram.

The details of how the governments implement these patrols will matter greatly, of course. This Day notes that authorities have not yet specified which portions of the border they will patrol, and that the border is some 930 miles. This Day also reports that the US State Department may provide some technical assistance for closer border control.

The issue of borders goes beyond just Nigeria and Niger. The rest of Jonathan’s itinerary for this brief trip through the region is a reminder that Nigeria has more than just its immediate neighbors on its mind. Vanguard (see link above) also discusses Niger and Nigeria’s support, as expressed at the meeting yesterday, for the deployment of foreign soldiers to Mali in order to reunite that country. Jonathan is supposed to stop in Mali today an Economic Community of West African States/African Union/European Union/United Nations meeting on Mali.

For Niger, meanwhile, the issue of border security has multiple complicated components: not only is there the threat of Boko Haram to the south, there is Mali to the west and Libya to the north. Border security for northern Niger falls under the rubric of its recently announced Security and Development Strategy; between the new joint border patrols with Nigeria and the new Strategy program, Niger has plans in place for improving security along much of its border. We’ll see how effectively those plans are implemented, and how security developments in Mali and Nigeria affect Niger.

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.”

Africa Blog Roundup: Violence in Kenya, Theater in Somalia, Pensions in Nigeria, and More

The World Policy Journal recently interviewed UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. The interview touches on Libya and the Sahel, especially Mali.

Keith Somerville on Kenya:

In the last six weeks there have been a number of violent clashes in areas of Kenya where the existing political, social and religious structures are contested or fail to meet the subsistence or security needs of the local populations.  Many derive from long-lasting grievances, which periodically reach the pitch of violence, but usually simmer just below the surface. As soon as elections approach, the actions of politicians (both local and national) are frequently the trigger for violence.

One of the conflicts Somerville discusses took place in the Tana River region. Human Rights Watch recently wrote about the violence there as well.

Baobab on the current state of Somalia’s National Theater, which reopened in March only to become the target of a suicide bombing shortly thereafter:

In late August the theatre manager, Abdiduh Yusuf Hassan, announced that the first stage of renovations was complete and shows would begin again in a few weeks. The first production is scheduled to be “Somalia’s Got Talent”, presenting a brighter face for a country so scarred by conflict.

But violence is never far below the surface in Somalia. On September 20th, two suicide bombers attacked “The Village” cafe opposite the theatre, where journalists and MPs are known to mingle, killing at least 14 people. The Village has been a bright spot in Mogadsihu’s re-emergence, and if businesses like that start closing, other ventures may not be far behind.

G. Pascal Zachary on changing presentations of Africa in the media: “That the New York Times, in its influential ‘Lens’ blog on visual journalism, is featuring the work of Peter DiCampo, highlights the sea-change in attitudes on the part of the mainstream media towards even the possibility of African normalcy.”

Amb. John Campbell on how institutions define Africa – and what analytical and policy consequences those choices bring.

Think Africa Press on social pension programs in Ekiti and Osun States, Nigeria.

The State Department’s Dipnote on “community-led conservation” in Namibia.

And last but not least, is it ethical for scholars to cite wikileaked cables?

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?

Sahelian Governments Continue to Resist Extraditions to Libya

In March, a delegation headed by Libya’s Deputy Prime Minister Mustafa Abu Shagour attempted – and failed – to convince Mauritanian authorities to extradite Colonel Muammar Qadhafi’s former intelligence chief, Abdullah al Senussi, to Libya. About six weeks ago, a Mauritanian court indicted al Senussi, suggesting Mauritanian authorities’ desire to keep him in their country, where he was first arrested. On Wednesday, Libyan Prime Minister Abdel Rahim visited Mauritania (note that Libya sent an even higher-ranking official this time) and asked again for al Senussi’s extradition. AFP adds, “The head of Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC), Mustafa Abdel Jalil, had on Tuesday reiterated his administration’s demand for Senussi’s extradition in a phone call to the Mauritanian president.” The Libyan government really wants al Senussi, but I am not sure they will get him.

Meanwhile, Niger reportedly remains unwilling to extradite Col. Qadhafi’s son Saadi back to Libya.

Since Gadhafi arrived [in Niamey], he has led a normal life, eating at restaurants and dancing at nightclubs early into the morning, according to restaurant and nightclub owners and local journalists.

Over the past three months, though, Niger’s government has ordered him to keep a low profile and stay inside his mansion, after comments he made to al-Arabiya television that he was in contact with Gadhafi loyalists and wanted to retake power in Libya.

At the same time, Niger’s government has refused to extradite him, saying that Gadhafi would never receive a fair trial, raising tensions with Libya’s new rulers. “We won’t accept this demand,” said Morou Amadou, Niger’s justice minister. “We won’t extradite someone where he is certain to face the death penalty.”

Here at the blog, commenters and I have puzzled over Sahelian governments’ reasons for such refusals before, without coming to any definitive conclusions. The article excerpted above is worth reading in full, as it notes lingering loyalties to Qadhafi (the father) in Niger but also mentions Niger’s incentives to cooperate with the new government in Libya.   Maybe the loyalties outweigh the other incentives, at least for now.

Sahelian governments may also be internally divided on these issues. The case of Tunisia is instructive:

A row inside Tunisia’s ruling alliance over the extradition of Libya’s former prime minister took a fresh turn late on Monday [June 25] after reports that he had suffered a beating in a Libyan jail.
[...]
Tunisia’s post-revolution political alliance had already been plunged into crisis over the affair.
President Moncef Marzouki is furious that Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali ordered Mahmudi’s transfer to Libya without his consent.
Marzouki had always opposed the extradition, arguing that Libya’s new regime offered insufficient guarantees of a fair trial. But when Jebali approved the move Sunday [June 24], the president was in southern Tunisia for an official ceremony.
Marzouki, a veteran human rights activist did not sign the extradition order and, according to his adviser, he only found out about Mahmudi’s transfer through the media.
The presidency “considers this decision is illegal, all the more so because it has been done unilaterally and without consulting the president of the republic,” a statement from Marzouki’s office said late Sunday.

Mauritania and Niger may fear, then, that handing over their respective prisoners to the Libyans could result in news of torture, news that might play badly with domestic constituencies in the Sahel and cause public relations headaches. Or, simpler still, perhaps the Sahelian governments simply prefer keeping these controversial figures in their own hands for as long as possible, because in that way they have the most control.

What is your read of these situations?

Africa News Roundup: Boko Haram Suicide Bombing, the MNLA and Compaore, Sudan-South Sudan Talks, Locusts, and More

Yesterday there was a suicide bombing at the police headquarter in Maiduguri, Nigeria. Officials suspect the rebel movement Boko Haram.

According to AFP, members of the northern Malian rebel group MNLA (National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad) met with Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaore and his foreign minister today. Compaore is the mediator appointed by the Economic Community of West African States.

The latest round of talks between Sudan and South Sudan ended without progress, but the two parties are set to try again on June 21.

Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam, AFP reports, could reduce water levels in Lake Turkana, with terrible consequences for “The fishermen and herders eking out an existence on the shores of the majestic lake.”

If you have not already heard about the plague of locusts that may descend on the Sahel, read here. A key excerpt on how politics has affected the situation:

Locusts are usually managed by spraying chemicals that stop the swarms from spreading. Algeria and Libya ordinarily attack the swarms, preventing them from hitting Mali or Niger.

But in the last year, as Libya was wracked by fighting between rival militias in the aftermath of the ouster of Moammar Kadafi and Algeria suffered insecurity along its border, local teams and international experts have been blocked from stopping the swarms, the U.N.  Food and Agriculture Organization  said.

VOA on new businesses and signs of revitalization in Mogadishu, Somalia.

Turkey and Ethiopia:

Saygin Group of Turkey said its Ethiopian subsidiary may generate $100 million in revenue a year from textile manufacturing, amid plans by the Horn of Africa country to boost the industry’s exports to 10 times that amount.

What else is happening today?

Libya, Mauritania, and Abdullah al Senussi

During the civil war in Libya last year, various lieutenants and family members of Colonel Muammar Qadhafi fled to North African countries like Algeria and Tunisia, and to Sahelian countries like Mauritania and Niger. The new Libyan government wants to extradite them so that they can stand trial in Libya, but it is getting more cooperation from some countries than others.

One important case concerns Abdullah al Senussi, Qadhafi’s former intelligence chief, who was arrested when entering Mauritania in March. Libyan officials traveled to Mauritania at the time, and for a moment it looked like they had struck a deal to extradite al Senussi. It turned out Mauritanian authorities had not agreed to let him go. This week brought a new chapter in the story when al Senussi was indicted by a Mauritanian court (more here). It seems al Senussi is likely to remain in Mauritania for the time being.

Contrast the approach in Mauritania with the one in Tunisia:

Tunisia will extradite former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s prime minister to Libya and the handover could take place in “days or weeks”, Justice Minister Noureddine Bouheiri said on Tuesday.

Should he be handed over, Al Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi would be the first senior official to be sent back for trial under Libya’s transitional leadership and his extradition could establish a precedent for other countries who have given refuge to or arrested members of Gaddafi’s old entourage.

Mahmoudi served as the Libyan dictator’s prime minister from 2006 until he fled to neighboring Tunisia around the time that rebel fighters took the capital Tripoli in August.

As for the Colonel’s son Saadi Qadhafi, who has taken refuge in Niger, I have seen no news on his extradition since earlier this month, when Niger was still in talks with the Libyan government. It will be interesting to see what fault lines emerge in the region in terms of which countries agree to extraditions, and which refuse or delay.

Sudan Hosts Conference on Small Arms

This week, the First Regional Conference on Small Arms and Light Weapons will take place in Khartoum, Sudan:

The two-day event, organized by Sudan’s Ministry of Interior and Sudan’s Disarmament Demobilization and Reintegration Commission in collaboration with the Embassy of Germany, the United Nations Development Programme and the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur, will involve participation by representatives from Libya, the Central African Republic, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Specific objectives of the conference include creating a forum for regional dialogue on the illegal trade, circulation and use of small arms; developing a harmonized regional approach to control small arms; developing a strategy for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of combatants; and creating a unique and holistic mechanism to monitor small arms control programmes across the borders of participating countries.

The absence of South Sudan from the list of organizers and invitees raises immediate questions: Has South Sudan indeed not been invited? If not, will the conflict between Sudan and South Sudan, and the rebellions within both countries, receive serious examination at the conference?

The conference organizers are stressing border security as a key theme. Given the list of invitees, it looks major topics of discussion might also include the Lord’s Resistance Army (whose violence has affected the DRC and CAR, as well as other countries not on the list of invitees) and weapons flows out of Libya since the fall of Colonel Muammar Qadhafi last year.

For more information on small arms flows in the Sudans, you can visit Small Arms Survey. Their latest brief on Sudan, from April, is here (.pdf). One key paragraph says:

Steady supplies of small arms and light weapons to all parties are fuelling these conflicts, threatening to extend and prolong them significantly. Since independence, official bans on materiel acquisitions by the Government of South Sudan (GoSS) have been lifted and the government is exploring expanded defence contracts with a number of
interested states. At the same time, an increasing number of non-state actors
in South Sudan, including tribal groups and rebel militia groups, are acquiring weapons illicitly at what appear to be increasingly rapid rates. As the demand for weapons in South Sudan grows, external actors are meeting supply needs.

This paragraph points to the importance, then, of looking at the issue not just from a regional perspective, but an international one as well, taking account of suppliers.

What do you expect to come of the conference?