Nigeria: PDP Wins Bayelsa, Rumblings of Renewed Militancy Continue

Few were surprised to see that Nigeria’s ruling party, the People’s Democratic Party or PDP, won Saturday’s gubernatorial election in Bayelsa State. The PDP controls not only the presidency but also a super-majority of the nation’s governors’ seats, and it has dominated Bayelsa politics since Nigeria’s Fourth Republic began in 1999. The victor in Bayelsa, Henry Seriake Dickson, had the strong support of President Goodluck Jonathan.

As I wrote last week, Bayelsa, which lies in the Niger Delta, has faced not only political tension but also renewed violence, some of which is electoral, some of which targets the oil industry, and all of which is in some sense or another political. The election is now over,  but that does not settle questions about where the politics of the region are headed.

For one thing, there are signs of discontent with the electoral process. Turnout was low. Minor clashes have occurred between rival partisans. And the deposed former governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva, is still awaiting a court date in April to determine whether or not he was unfairly prevented from running in this election. Somehow I doubt that Sylva will win the legal victory he seeks – but the wait for the hearing means that in some ways the election is not completely over, a feeling that could cast something over a shadow over the first two months of Dickson’s tenure.

More important still are the rumblings concerning the possibility of renewed militancy in the Delta. Fears focus in particular on the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), whose attacks disrupted oil production in the region before some militants agreed to an amnesty deal with the Federal Government in 2009. MEND has claimed a recent pipeline attack as a well as the bombing of the home of the Minister of Niger-Delta, Elder Peter Godsday Orubebe.

According to MEND’s recent statements, the fresh attacks have come about for a number of reasons, including the alleged incompetence of President Jonathan, the alleged corruption of the government, and what MEND sees as the misguided use of amnesty funds. One of MEND’s communications reads in part, “Rather than address serious issues facing the nation and its citizens, Goodluck Jonathan squanders public funds on tribalistic sycophants and thugs calling themselves ex-militants.”

The discontent surrounding the question of who has benefited from the amnesty and who has not is critical. One analysis of the potential for renewed violence in the Delta elaborates:

The Presidency and security agents may have underrated the capacity of a group of ex-militants who claim that they were not included in the ‘largesse’, coming from the amnesty programme.

Their colleagues, enlisted in the programme, collect moneys from the federal government; each gets at least N65, 000 monthly (these are juniors); many others get far more than N65,000 monthly, depending on their closeness to ex-militant leaders and politicians across the Niger Delta region.

Some have received training abroad; some have been sent to schools abroad. Ex-militant leaders are those who commanded ‘troops’ and called themselves ‘Generals’ during the militancy era.

Many of them are millionaires now. They have access to the Presidency, top government officials and high profile establishments. The presidency pacifies the ex-militant leaders to sustain stability in the Niger Delta since the leaders are thought to have control over their foot soldiers.

Indeed, many of the ex-militant leaders like Asari Dokubo (from Rivers State) Ateke Tom (from Rivers) and Tom Polo (from Delta) as well as some others have significant influence over their ex-militant members. To welcome Ateke Tom who had stayed long in Abuja, his boys staged a big party recently in Rivers State.

The ex-militant leaders are however the envy of many youths now threatening fresh militancy. Some of them feel unsafe, that some of their boys could harm them. This is mainly because the leaders have become so rich, leaving behind some of their members in anguish.

The boys insist that they fought the wars while the leaders argue that they took higher risks of providing arms and being the main persons hunted by security men prior to the amnesty regime. Some of the youths (called boys by the ‘generals’), simply cannot feed now, others want to go to school, some want to be rich, some want to drive posh cars and fly on business class seats in airlines as most ex-militants do on domestic and international trips.

The whole piece is worth reading. If the diagnosis this and other analyses make is correct – namely, that there exists a class of former footsoldiers who received little or not benefit from the amnesty, and are angry enough over their exclusion to contemplate picking up weapons again – the violence seen in the lead-up to the gubernatorial election in Bayelsa could be just the beginning of another round of problems for the Delta.

Nigeria: Elections and Violence in the Niger Delta

The Niger Delta is back in the news, both for the (alleged?) return of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND – read a backgrounder here) and for the upcoming gubernatorial elections in Bayelsa State, which was the site of a bitter primary election in November. Different sources give different views on how closely the recent oil violence is connected to Bayelsa’s electoral calendar. But clearly the Niger Delta is facing renewed political tension and renewed violence at the same time.

Nigeria last held national elections, including gubernatorial contests, in April 2011, but since then various governors have faced court challenges to their legitimacy. Some have won and remained in office, but others have not. On January 27, the Supreme Court removed five governors from office (for the back story, see here). The situation in one of these states, Kogi, is complicated by the fact that the state held a new election even before the ruling. But the other four states are holding gubernatorial elections this month. Adamawa State, in the Northeast, went already on February 4, and delivered a win for Nigeria’s ruling party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Sokoto State, in the Northwest, will go to the polls on February 18. But before that, two Niger Delta states – Bayelsa and Cross River – will hold elections on February 11. For an overview of the political situation in each state, see here.

Bayelsa State has attracted considerable attention because of the bitterness of the primary there and because it is the home state of President Goodluck Jonathan. Bayelsa has been under the control of the PDP since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999, but that does not mean the state’s politics are dull. In 1999, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha became governor, with Jonathan as his deputy. Alamieyeseigha was re-elected in 2003, but in 2005 he was arrested in London on charges of money laundering and was impeached. Jonathan became governor, only to be selected as vice-president in 2007 – and the rest of Jonathan’s story is well known. Back in Bayelsa, Timipre Sylva was elected governor in 2007, but faced a challenge in 2008 and had to contest a re-run election, which he won.

At some point before the PDP state primaries in January 2011, Jonathan and Sylva had become foes. Sylva won this first primary, despite reported attempts by Jonathan to find a candidate who could defeat him. Sylva’s victory proved short-lived. The governor was barred from participating in a second PDP primary, held in November, and the party instead nominated Henry Seriake Dickson, “a member of the House of Representatives and close associate of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan,” as its candidate. Sylva has launched a legal case over his exclusion from both the second primary and this weekend’s election, but he remains barred from running in the latter, and the case looks like it will be tied up in court through April. Opposition parties like the Action Congress of Nigeria hope to capitalize on the PDP’s infighting, but the PDP is determined not to lose. Jonathan came home to campaign and, it seems, to make sure Sylva takes the blame for the state’s current woes.

This, then, is the political context in which recent violence in the Delta has taken place. The violence has targeted both politicians and oil production. Bayelsa is reputed to have a history of electoral violence, and a bombing on January 20 in Bayelsa’s capital Yenagoa brought the present campaign in line with that trend.

Then, just this past weekend, an oil pipeline was attacked in Bayelsa. MEND, which carried out regular attacks on oil production in the Delta before 2009, when many of its leaders agreed to an amnesty with the Federal Government of Nigeria, has claimed responsibility for the attack. If the claim is true, MEND’s return will worry both the government and foreign investors. Yet the Nigerian military is denying MEND’s claim, pinning responsibility instead on criminal gangs. Whoever the true culprits are, Nigeria’s Nation argues that the pipeline incident should not be seen in isolation, but rather as part of a pattern of violence and threats in the Delta that has been intensifying in recent weeks. These events, The Nation continues, suggest a “growing disenchantment with the amnesty package and rivalry among the ex-militants.” Reuters also sees this disenchantment at work, and adds, “Some analysts suspect that regional power struggles ahead of an acrimonious election for the governorship of Bayelsa on Feb. 11 may be the root cause of the attack.”

To sum up, there is a dangerous mix of electoral tension, behind-the-scenes political struggles, grassroots anger, and violence at work in the Delta right now. I do not know whether MEND will return in full force or what will happen in the elections on Saturday, but I do think the problems in the Delta are yet another major headache for the administration, a headache which may grow worse in the coming months. As Reuters says, “President Goodluck Jonathan can ill afford a flare-up of violence in his home state as he struggles to cope with almost daily attacks by radical Islamist sect Boko Haram in the north.”

Nigeria: Boko Haram Through the Lens of the Niger Delta

“If our dear late President Umaru Yar’Adua can restore peace to a more volatile area like the Niger Delta by extending Amnesty to the militants of the region and dialogue with them by resolving most of their grievances amicably, I don’t see why we can’t do the same to the Boko Haram.”

- Governor-elect (now Governor) Kashim Shettima of Borno State, Nigeria, May 2011

In 2009, President Umaru Yar’Adua launched an amnesty program that aimed to disarm, reintegrate, and employ militants in the Niger Delta. Prior to this, local anger over the failure of oil revenues to substantially benefit communities gave rise to armed movements that disrupted oil production. The government had deployed soldiers (the Joint Task Force or JTF) and militants, but only the amnesty seemed to offer a chance of lasting peace. The government’s two-pronged approach to the Delta – crackdown, then amnesty – helped tamp down the conflict there, though rumblings of discontent in the Delta, along with new threats from militants, indicate that it could resume.

Policymakers at both the federal and the state level largely see the problem of Boko Haram, the Muslim rebel group that is spreading violence outward from its stronghold in the Northeastern city of Maiduguri, Borno State, through the lens of the Niger Delta. The precedent of the Niger Delta force-then-amnesty policy, the perception of its at least partial success, and the existence of groups with significant experience in dialogue with militants, helps explain why some officials urge the application of the same formula in the Northeast. The military is already in Maiduguri, and force has long been an element of the state response to Boko Haram. The persistence with which the idea of amnesty returns in government circles, though – even when Boko Haram rejects it time after time – shows how strongly the example of the Delta has shaped Nigerian policy responses to violent groups.

The analogy with the Delta also shapes an understanding of what the root causes of Boko Haram’s emergence are. Figures like Governor Shettima, along with virtually every analyst, believes that Northern Nigeria’s problems – poverty, feelings of political isolation, deficient infrastructure, lack of broad access to higher Western-style education, etc – play some role in sustaining Boko Haram.

The challenge lies in moving from a general understanding of factors at work in Boko Haram’s existence to a specific understanding of the movement’s grievances and, finally, to nuanced policy tools that could reintegrate members of the movement into society or undercut its grassroots support.

The analogy with the Delta is helpful in the sense that it encourages examination of root causes of violence; it becomes less helpful if policymakers stop at the level of generalities (e.g., “we need more schools”) instead of thinking about what factors make Boko Haram, and Northeastern Nigeria, unique.

One place where a general analogy between the Niger Delta and Northeastern Nigeria breaks down is in the differences between groups like the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and Boko Haram. It would be a mistake to say that religion (Christianity, local religions, and even Islam) is not a force in the Niger Delta, but the grievances of MEND have to do with the distribution of wealth resulting from one natural resource, oil. The grievances Boko Haram expresses are more diverse, less material, and are explicitly articulated as religious politics: Boko Haram wants stronger shari’a, it wants a purification of society, etc.

If the grievances are different, the solutions to address them must of necessity be at least somewhat different. More schools could help reduce feelings of marginalization in the North. But to reach a group whose very name connotes a rejection of Western education, not only as a phenomenon but also as a symbol of “un-Islamic” governance in Nigeria, an educational initiative would have to be introduced carefully indeed.

Shettima, who has shown substantial political courage, recognizes this, of course. Shettima has been the foremost proponent of an amnesty for Boko Haram, but he has also begun putting forward religious arguments against violence, invoking Islam as both theology and as a historical way of life in the Northeast:

According to him, targeting innocent souls for attacks irrespective of religion and ethnicity, among others, was alien to Islam.”The targeting of innocent and unarmed civilians regardless of their ethnicity, race and or religious beliefs is alien not only to our norms and culture, but alien to the fundamental doctrines of Islam.”

He said Borno, as a home of Islam over the years, had enjoyed great harmony among the different tribes and religious groups.

“In over the 1,000 years that Islam has taken roots in Borno, it has indeed affected the lives of our people positively, and has through its doctrines guided our daily lives.

“It also guided our interpersonal relations ranging from social to economic interactions.”

These arguments underscore the historical, cultural, and political differences between the Niger Delta and the Northeast.

There are certainly lessons that policymakers can take from the former conflict and apply to the latter. But past a certain point, general similarities end. The problem of Boko Haram will require its own solutions.

Hostilities Rise in the Niger Delta, Threatening Amnesty

A Nigerian government official with responsibility for the Niger Delta recently stated that the federal government’s amnesty program for the Delta, which began in 2009, is still in effect. But escalating violence and threats in the region are putting the amnesty to the test.

Some of the recent incidents and reports of violence include:

Significantly, not all of the violence is driven by MEND and the Nigerian military – other rebel groups operate in the Delta as well, such as the Niger Delta Liberation Force (NDLF). MEND itself is not a united group, and various sub-commanders seem to operate semi-independently. With so many actors intervening in the situation simultaneously, it is hard for anyone – journalists, the government, oil companies, even the militants – to get a clear picture of what is happening. The amnesty never received universal participation from militants in the Delta, and in the present chaos participation seems to be slipping. With everyone frustrated, lashing out in violence will come more easily, whether for a Nigerian military expected to establish security or for militants who are upset with a perceived lack of progress on their concerns. The amnesty could already be over, at least in a de facto sense.

Whither the Niger Delta Amnesty?

From the summer of 2009 through early 2010, I and many others hoped that a proposed amnesty and ceasefire deal for the conflict-ridden Niger Delta might yield peace, and even prosperity, for the region. But the transition from the late President Umaru Yar’Adua to current President Goodluck Jonathan, and the campaigning ahead of Nigeria’s upcoming elections, turned attention away from the Delta for a time even as problems mounted there. With attacks by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) during Nigeria’s 50th anniversary celebrations earlier this month, the Delta returned to the spotlight. So what next for the amnesty?

view from the Niger Delta by Terry Wha

The outlook is mixed. Tensions are still high following the independence day attacks, and yesterday Nigerian authorities seized at least one “container holding rocket launchers, grenades and other explosives in the main port of Lagos.” At the same time, though, Chevron has launched “a new five-year, $50 million programme…to build innovative partnerships with national and international organisations to address some of the socio-economic challenges of the Niger Delta region.” Even as violence continues, then, efforts to tackle the root causes of conflict are progressing.

Taking the complexity of the situation into account, Uche Igwe has written a brilliant op-ed on the future of the amnesty. I urge you to read it in full, but here’s an excerpt:

Looking at the figures, one will say that the amnesty programme has been a modest success. Reports from government indicate that oil export figures have improved from 800,000 barrels per day that it was during the hostilities in 2006-2008 to 2.3 million barrels per day in 2010. A majority of the militants have dropped their arms and embraced amnesty – at least if the last Abuja meetings with government were anything to go by. Kidnapping and hostage taking has considerably reduced, at least, in the Niger Delta, though it is in a rapid increase in the south east zone and other parts of the country.

It is my view that it is a remarkable achievement by the current administration in Abuja, but many activists in the region still see it as a mere window dressing and at best a treatment of the symptoms without a comprehensive diagnosis and political will to decisively treat the systemic malady.

No one is under any illusion that all the arms in the Niger Delta region have all, been surrendered. The routes for oil theft from the Niger Delta are alleged to be the same through which small arms and light weapons are still being funneled into the creeks. An urgent and comprehensive mop up operation is essential to ensure that any residual stockpiles of arms in the Niger Delta communities are retrieved. Some pundits believe that a United Nations assisted strategy may help as it did in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Though the contextual issues might be different, the Nigerian government can tap into the expertise, neutrality and professionalism of the United Nations in future phases of the amnesty programme. This programme as a matter of urgency must be insulated as much as possible from the vagaries of politics and fortified with both official courage and sincerity of purpose.

Igwe outlines other recommendations in the paragraphs that follow.

Pursuing the amnesty and some program of development and conflict resolution in the Niger Delta is a major priority for Nigeria. Whoever wins the elections will have some successes to build upon, but will also have a lot of work to do. And hopefully the issue will continue to receive attention from policymakers and journalists even amidst campaigning.

Sunday Africa Blog Roundup: AQIM, MEND, LRA, Sudan, China…

Haven’t done one of these in a while!

AQIM: Kal considers the geographic and economic aspects of AQIM‘s career in the Sahel, and how those affect policymakers’ decisions about confronting terrorism.

MEND: Elizabeth Dickinson posts another bomb threat from rebels in the Niger Delta.

LRA: Texas in Africa pushes back on Human Rights Watch Director Kenneth Roth’s call for a “humanitarian use of force” against the Lord’s Resistance Army in Sudan, DRC, and CAR.

I have a ton of respect for Human Rights Watch and the incredible work they do, especially in Africa’s Great Lakes region. [But] this recommendation is off base. Aside from the significant logistical and diplomatic quandaries such operations would pose (How, for example, does Roth think Khartoum would react to an American military presence on south Sudanese soil? Would the French agree to the presence of an American force in the CAR?), fighting in the dense forests in which the LRA hides without knowing the territory, the languages, or the local cultures means that troops undertaking such an operation would be at a significant tactical disadvantage.

Sudan: Dipnote (State Department) discusses Ambassador Susan Rice’s recent visit to South Sudan with the UN Security Council.

China in Africa: Loomnie calls our attention to the opening of a Chinese business school in Ghana.

I hope to update the blogroll at right soon. What links are most useful to you? What should I add or take away?

Update on Nigeria Bombings

Nigerian police have released the names of two suspects for the dual car bombings that took place during the independence celebrations in Abuja on Friday. Speculation continues about whether the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta is truly responsible for the attacks.

The police said Chima Orlu and Ben Jessy were Nigerian but gave no further details about the men.

President Goodluck Jonathan had earlier blamed “a small terrorist group that resides outside Nigeria” for the blast.

His comments cast doubts on an earlier claim of responsibility by the militant group Mend.

A statement, claiming to speak for the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend), had claimed responsibility for the bombings during celebrations in the capital on the 50th anniversary of independence.

The group apparently sent a warning shortly before the blasts, saying “several explosive devices have been successfully planted in and around the venue by our operatives working inside the government security services”.

A former leader of the militant group, Henry Okah, has been arrested in South Africa in connection with the bombings.

Mr Okah told the BBC on Friday that his group, which says it is fighting for a fairer distribution of Nigeria’s oil wealth, was not responsible.

An editorial at 234 Next urges a restructuring of the country’s security forces. What reactions have you seen to the bombings, either in the Nigerian or the international press?

Saturday Links: Nigeria, Cameroon, Sudan, Somalia

During Nigeria’s 50th anniversary celebrations yesterday, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta detonated a bomb in Abuja, killing at least eight people. Jeremy Weate gives a first-person account.

A raid by Cameroonian security forces has freed six hostages seized two weeks ago off Cameroon’s coast.

In Sudan, Al Jazeera English reports on the South’s preparations for the referendum. Meanwhile, the US prepares to participate in North-South negotiations over the Abyei border region, scheduled to take place tomorrow in Ethiopia.

The UN reports on Somalia’s refugees. The numbers are staggering:

An estimated 410,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Somalia’s violence-wracked capital, Mogadishu, have sought refuge in the Afgooye corridor, a 20-kilometre strip of land north-west of the city, up from 366,000 in September last year, the United Nations refugee agency reported today.

The rise in the number of people fleeing Mogadishu is a reflection of the deteriorating security in the city since 2007, according to the latest assessment by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

“We were able to identify and map every individual building and temporary shelter. Overall there are 91,397 temporary shelters and 15,495 permanent ones in the area,” UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming told reporters in Geneva.

In addition to the 410,000 IDPs living in Afgooye, there are another 55,000 displaced people in Dayniile, north of Mogadishu, 15,200 in the Bal’cad corridor in the northern periphery of city, and 7,260 others in Kax Shiiqaal in the western outskirts, according to the UNHCR survey. The agency also estimated that Mogadishu itself has an estimated 372,000 IDPs.

Malaria funding is down.

And finally, a little bit off-topic but relevant to readers here who study terrorism in Africa and elsewhere, is this op-ed by RAND Corporation’s Brian Jenkins:

It is highly likely that the United States will be the target of further terrorist attacks, abroad and at home. It is not an underestimation of this threat or evidence of substandard zeal in addressing it to say that these attacks will not bring down the republic. We have come through wars, depressions, natural and man-made disasters, indeed higher levels of domestic terrorist violence than that we face today. Our foes cannot destroy this nation. That capability is ours alone.

Have a good weekend. I’ll try to pop back in tomorrow with a blog roundup.

Nigeria and Islamic Extremism

I am in DC this week visiting friends, doing research, and attending a few events. Yesterday I went to the US Institute of Peace for a presentation by Dr. John Paden entitled, “Is Nigeria a Hotbed of Islamic Extremism?”

The answer turned out to be no. Dr. Paden stressed that “ninety-nine percent” of Nigerian Muslims are “moderates,” especially the traditional Northern Nigerian rulers who still constitute the religious establishment in the region. The moderates, he argued, have the power and the numbers to sideline extremists. Throughout his talk, Dr. Paden stressed the importance of understanding historical context when analyzing recent events in Nigeria. The Boko Haram movement, the Muslim-Christian violence in Jos, and the Christmas Day bomber are not expressions of a single Islamic radicalism, he said, but rather unique situations reflecting historical and local forces.

At the end of the Q&A session, a Nigerian man implored USIP to do more to raise awareness about the complexities of the situation in Nigeria. Such calls are worth heeding. One can and should always do more. But the very fact that USIP held the panel – and drew a substantial turnout – says to me that some people in Washington are already thinking beyond the narrow categories presented in popular news treatments. Dr. Paden said, moreover, that he had been impressed by the nuanced discussion of Nigeria in a recent Senate hearing (this one?). So perhaps the conversation about Nigeria inside the US is moving in the right direction.

Problems inside Nigeria, however, are continuing. Is it ironic that on the same day USIP held an event on Islamic extremism in Nigeria, oil rebels from the Movement from the Emancipation for the Niger Delta (MEND) set off a bomb in the southern part of the country? These attacks remind us that violence in Nigeria, as elsewhere, occurs for a variety of reasons: politics, economics, resources, etc. Islamic ideology can drive violence – it certainly played a part in the Boko Haram attacks – but even in areas like Jos where Muslims engaged in violence, Islam may not be the largest factor.

The greatest challenge for Nigeria, Dr. Paden stressed, is preserving national unity. Viewed in that context, the country’s problems seem more political than religious, though obviously the two aspects are intertwined.

More context on the MEND bombings here and here.

Saturday Links: Carter on Sudan Elections, Burkina Faso Votes in November, Somalia Conflict

Former President Jimmy Carter believes Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir will face tough competition in April’s elections, possibly leading to a run-off vote in a second round.

Mr. Carter warned the election may lead to increased violence in Sudan, but said he hoped it would be kept at a local level.

“This will be an intensely competitive election with a lot at stake, and I don’t think there is any doubt that there will be some altercations in the remote areas and I hope they don’t expand,” said the former president.

Edward Thomas, an expert on Sudan from the London-based research group Chatham House, says there will be a large number of candidates in the election and this could serve as a boost to al-Bashir.

But he says the election may be tight.

“I think one of the reasons why it’s an important election is that it is quite close to call. All of the big names participating in the election are quite worried about winning and in a way that’s a good sign — it’s not quite the same as being free and fair but it means that there is a contest to be had,” he said.

Mauritania jails a police commissioner and several others on charges related to cocaine trafficking.

Burkina Faso will hold presidential elections this November.

President Blaise Compaore…came to power in a 1987 coup in which his predecessor Thomas Sankara was killed.

Compaore, 59, was then elected to the office in 1991, winning further mandates in 1998 and 2005.

Under the terms of the constitution, which was revised in 2002, the president should be elected once every five years and can serve two terms.

Some Compaore supporters have recently called for this limit to be scrapped.

“Limiting the presidential mandate is anti-democratic,” the head of Compaore’s Congress for Democracy and Progress (CDP) party said on Saturday.

Compaore has not yet indicated whether he will seek re-election.

In Nigeria, IRIN looks at the aftermath of the Jos crisis, and Reuters reports that MEND “will wait to be invited by Acting President Goodluck Jonathan to resume peace talks and [that] its ceasefire in the oil-producing Niger Delta remains suspended.” The US embassy in Nigeria has praised the transfer of power from Yar’Adua to Jonathan.

Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government said yesterday that “they had completely prepared their forces to attack some regions in southern Somalia.”

Feel free to treat this as an open thread for Africa news links, especially if major fighting kicks off in Mogadishu today.