Africa Blog Roundup: Qadhafi and the Sahel, Sankara, Mali, and More

Lesley Anne Warner summarizes General Carter Ham’s testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee: parts one and two.

Alex de Waal: “African Roles in the Libyan Conflict of 2011.”

Louisa Lombard: “Post-Gaddafi Repercussions in the Sahel.”

Haba Na Haba: “Report on Mutharika’s Death.”

Internally Displaced: “Workshops, the Plague of Juba.”

Alemu Tafesse: “The Ethiopian Muslim Civil Rights Movement.”

Africa Is A Country: “Who Killed Thomas Sankara?”

Africa in DC on an event about northern Mali.

What are you reading today?

Africa Blog Roundup: Media Piracy in Nigeria, Ghana’s 2012 Elections, Malian Politics, and More

Yinka Ibukun on piracy, music, and movies in Nigeria.

Dennis Laumann: “Six Lessons from Ghana’s 2012 Elections.”

Peter Tinti: “Mali’s Coup 2.0: Adjusting to the New Normal.”

Lesley Anne Warner:

Until the political situation in Bamako becomes less unstable, the U.S. and European allies can agree on an approach to intervention, and ECOWAS can get boots on the ground (perhaps not until late 2013), I think containment is going to be the name of the game in northern Mali.

Aly Verjee on the resignation of US Special Envoy to Sudan Princeton Lyman and the trajectory of “US diplomacy in the Sudans.”

Derica: “Dear K’naan, Africa Is Not The Only Place Where ‘Politics Happens’.”

Internally Displaced:

What I am enjoying…in the South Sudan National Archives, as they take shape, is looking at how a determined researcher – with a significant amount of time on their hands – could write a very interesting, if a bit scattergun, history of women in South Sudan from these records.

The main body of the collection sits in the 1920s to late 1970s, and is dogged by the sex-centric, patriarchal mode of governments with respect to their female citizenry.  There are files and files of adultery cases, domestic violence disputes – including whole files on chiefs’ violence against their wives and resulting punishments – runaway women and girls, and prostitution; illustrated nicely by the page above, in a letter from a local Sudanese official deciding not to pursue abductors of “genuine incest children or undesirable harlots”  – clearly these are unwanted and unpleasant things.

However, there are also women in politics: local chapters of the Liberal and Federal Parties and the Southern Front include women members, at least until the government banned their participation; their role in chiefly disputes and tribal affairs includes spying, informing on disputes and suspects, protecting and harboring criminals and suspects, and encouraging clashes – and that’s just the stuff I’ve had time to read.

Jimmy Kainja: “The Virtuous Circle of Malawi Politics That Sustains Poverty.”

Richard Joseph makes recommendations concerning US policy toward sub-Saharan Africa during President Barack Obama’s second term.

What are you reading?

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.”

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.

Africa Blog Roundup: Ethiopian Orthodoxy, China and Africa, Banking in Somalia, Aikido in Mali, and More

Africa Is A Country on Ramadan traditions.

Tom Boylston on “Ethiopian Orthodoxy in post-Imperial times and…the emergence of a competitive religious public sphere.”

Ty McCormick writes about the recent Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, noting that “China has taken measures to rebalance trade ties with Africa, including the elimination of tariffs on certain African products.”

Baobab on banking in Somalia:

The doors at the aptly named First Somali Bank (FSB) opened in May. More than 100 customers have opened accounts. Some did so by bringing in sacks of Somali shillings, worth 22,000 to the dollar, while others opted for accounts in American greenbacks. Mr Egal recently set up a TedX conference on the “Rebirth of Mogadishu”. Even for an entrepreneur who took his first steps in finance with a cheque-cashing business in a rough neighbourhood of Baltimore in America, Mogadishu is a challenge. No one has seen a chequebook here since the cold war, when Somalia was in the Soviet orbit. Mr Egal, who is waiting for the still fragile government to give him a banking licence, admits that conditions are “not yet right” for ATM machines.

Jason Stearns flags a US State Department announcement on a reduction in military aid to Rwanda. Stearns writes, “It’s a symbolic amount of $200,000, but I think this is the first time Washington has cut aid to Kigali for political reasons.”

Dr. Bruce Whitehouse on Aikido in Mali:

Back in the 1960s Bamako was briefly a node in aikido’s nascent global network. Three Soviet aid workers learned the art, then unknown in their homeland, at the Bamako Judo Club from one master Van Bai, a Frenchman of Vietnamese origin. (Malians sometimes recall his name as “Henri Wambaye”.) A few years later these Soviet students brought aikido from Mali to the USSR — illustrating the unpredictable pathways of the transnational diffusion of culture.

Dr. Kim Yi Dionne marks the one-year anniversary of major protests in Malawi.

What are you reading today?

Africa Blog Roundup: Dakar Fashion Week, South Sudan, Dual Citizenship, Lagos, Djibouti, and More

PEN’s statement on the sentencing of Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega.

Also from Ethiopia, reports of clashes between police and Muslim protesters (some background here).

Africa Is A Country on the cultural politics of representing Africa in fashion (and how Dakar Fashion Week breaks the mold):

As designers continue to release fantasy collections inspired by their latest trip to exotic, mystical and faraway lands (Michael KorsGiorgio Armani) and fashion editorials feature white models amidst backgrounds of hyper-sexualized dark bodies in seemingly equally dark continents (Daria Werbowy for Interview Magazine), it is clear that for the fashion world, Africa represents a sort of otherness. That otherness, and especially the sexuality of the other, is marketed as flavor and spice, something new, sexually raw and stimulating. Whether depicted in high-fashion advertisements or on the runway, racial difference becomes both at once threateningly pleasurable and seductively dangerous, positioning it at the intersection of most intimate obsessions with desire and death.

Lesley Anne Warner on Washington and Africa policy:

On one hand, DC is a highly intellectual, international city brimming with opportunity and access. On the other hand, it can be very insular and one can easily fall into the trap of assuming all knowledge can be found in DC or its immediate vicinity. It’s the latter that irks me.

On top of having writer’s block, I’ve also had a very introspective week – which is why I was reminded of this Beltway dichotomy at an Africa event I recently attended. The speaker was addressing a pretty controversial topic, but was very politic in their remarks and when it came to Q&A. Their remarks did not spark a heated debate, which should have been the case given the subject matter. Instead, it sounded like a pitch for maintaining the status quo of U.S. engagement in Africa – regardless of the inherent idiosyncrasies of our approach (security at the expense of democracy, for example), or any potential areas for improvement.

Amb. David Shinn flags two items from the US Institute of Peace on the trajectory of South Sudan.

Dr. Kim Yi Dionne on “Diaspora, Development, and Dual Citizenship”:

Last month, Malawi President Joyce Banda traveled to the UK and US to participate in international summits related to aid and development. During President Banda’s visit to the US, she spoke at a specially convened meeting of the Malawi Washington Association (MWA), an organization of the Malawian diaspora in the US.

There has been a lot of chatter recently about harnessing African diasporas to develop their home countries, and the MWA is no exception. The MWA discussion (at least as seen on the email listserv) focuses on the need for Malawi to offer dual citizenship.

Amb. John Campbell on Lagos, taxation, and success.

Reflections on Djibouti from an American soldier.

Don’t forget, if you are in DC, do come to discuss these topics (including the relationship between DC and Africa!) at Science Club on Tuesday.

Africa News Roundup: Algerian Elections, Egyptian Early Voting, Crisis in Mali, Ethiopia’s Meles on Corruption, and More

Algeria held elections on Thursday. The government reports turnout at 43%. The Islamist “Green Alliance” has alleged that fraud occurred. Results announced yesterday showed the government-allied parties the National Liberation Front and the National Democratic Rally taking, respectively, 220 and 68 seats in the 462-seat parliament.

The first round of Egypt’s presidential elections will take place on May 23 and 24, but expatriates voted yesterday, following Thursday’s presidential debate.

IRIN on a dying port project in Malawi.

Nigerian soldiers reportedly arrested a commander from the rebel movement Boko Haram in Kano yesterday.

Three articles on Mali: one on the junta’s continued political role (or control?), a US statement on the military “stalemate,” and a third piece on negotiations to free kidnapped Algerian diplomats.

Near the southern Somalian town of Hudur, battles are occurring between rebels from al Shabab and Ethiopian forces as the former attempt to block supplies to the latter.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on corruption in Africa:

“What is the poison that leaders face when you go to national palaces, and transforms people with vision sometimes into ordinary thieves?  Let’s start with the total amount of loot in Africa, and what our role as leaders in that loot[ing] is,” said Meles. “The vast majority of the loot[ing] is done by properly organized companies through all sorts of accounting gimmicks.”

Meles said African leaders are forced to be facilitators for foreign companies who demand favors in return for their investment that might means jobs for their people.

“It’s a difficult thing to manage because our bargaining cards are very limited,” he said. “We need these companies to create jobs, in order for them to come to Africa.  The image is very negative, so the risk is artificially spiked.  And if the risk is artificially spiked, the return has to be commensurate with the risk.  And so it’s difficult to attract them without extraordinary returns.”

What else is happening today?

Africa Blog Roundup: Malawi’s Near-Coup, Attacks at BUK, Somali Piracy and the EU, Mauritania, and More

The Economist‘s Baobab on Malawi:

FOREIGN leaders and commentators have been busy congratulating Joyce Banda, Malawi’s first female president, on the smooth transition of power in one of the world’s poorest countries following the sudden death of its late president, Bingu wa Mutharika, on April 5th. But for more than 48 hours after he died, Malawi teetered on the brink of a coup as members of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) plotted to prevent Mrs Banda, the vice-president, from taking over and to thrust the late president’s elder brother, Peter, into power in her stead.

Carmen McCain reacts to Boko Haram’s attack last week at Bayero University Kano in Nigeria.

Jim Sanders writes about foreign investment in Southern Nigeria, which has apparently increased despite the violence connected with Boko Haram.

Dibussi Tande discusses the recent acquittal of Atangana Mebara, former Secretary-General at the Presidency of Cameroon, of charges of embezzlement.

Amb. David Shinn flags a critique of the European Union’s approach to piracy off the coast of Somalia.

The Moor Next Door rounds up recent articles and reports on Islamic affairs and movements in Mauritania.

Dr. G. Pascal Zachary on the New York Times‘ “disquieting pattern of presenting dead Africans on the front page of its great newspaper, while refusing to present dead Americans in the same fashion.”

And last but not least, Lesley Anne Warner asks, “Do we understand perceptions of U.S. military involvement in Africa?” The words of Blake Hounshell ring true: “Secret tip: The answer to headlines posed as questions is almost always no.” But do read the piece.

What has caught your eye today?

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?

Africa Blog Roundup: Kaduna Easter Bombing, War in Mali, China in Ethiopia, Succession in Malawi, and More

A bomb near a church in Kaduna, Northern Nigeria, killed dozens this morning.

The war in northern Mali may be “over,” but events remain fast-paced and complex. Andrew Lebovich writes about the interactions between various armed groups in “The Blag Flag Flies in Mali.” And African Arguments writes up the contents of a roundtable with several experts on Mali.

Lesley Warner weighs in on the prospects for international recognition for the newly declared independent state of “Azawad” in northern Mali. She offers several important insights, especially the following:

Previous cases of post-colonial state creation in Africa demonstrate that the success stories were administered as separate entities during the colonial period. Eritrea became an Italian colony, then a governorate of Italian East Africa, then a UN-mandated British protectorate, then an autonomous unit federated to Ethiopia in 1950 by a UN-resolution, and then was annexed by Ethiopia in 1962. The case of South Sudan is a bit different. As part of the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium (1899-1955), southern Sudan was administered separately from the northern part of Sudan between 1922 and 1946 as a result of the Closed Districts Ordinance (also known as the “Southern Policy”), but was then reintegrated with northern Sudan during preparations for independence in the late 1940s and early 1950s. With respect to this point on a region’s history of administration by colonial powers, Somaliland, which declared its independence from Somalia in 1991, is a slight exception. This region was administered as British Somaliland (with the exception of a few years as part of Italian East Africa), and then united with the Trust Territory of Somalia in 1960 to become the Somali Republic.

History is important. I have less and less patience for the policymakers, investors, and other audiences who so often tell report authors or conference presenters, “Keep the history stuff to a minimum.” The history matters, and it’s worth taking the time to examine.

Christian Science Monitor on China in Ethiopia.

Dr. Kim Yi Dionne on the presidential succession in Malawi.

Abdi Aynte writes that a split has taken place within the southern Somali rebel movement al Shabab.

Africa Is A Country on Cape Town:

In 2008, while living and studying in Cape Town, I heard, over and over, two observations about the city: it was a place of singular beauty, perhaps even the world’s most captivating city. Visitor and local alike seemed incapable of seeing other landscapes than the physical one, and some claimed that the city’s insularity was a result of the mystical, domineering influence of Table Mountain. The second perception, loosely related to the first, was that Cape Town was not an African city or, at least, not a “real African city.”

What are you reading today?