Africa News Roundup: Senegal Riots, Sahel Hunger, Ethiopia and Somalia, Sudan Oil, and More

Senegal’s constitutional court decided today (unsurprisingly but not uncontroversially) that incumbent President Abdoulaye Wade can seek a third term in the country’s February 26 elections. The announcement provoked riots in Dakar. The court also “ruled that [Senegalese singer] Youssou N’Dour’s candidacy was invalid because he had not gathered the required number of signatures.”

Humanitarian agencies are warning of a mass food crisis in the Sahel. Several factors are causing the crisis, the LA Times writes:

A recent survey by UNICEF forecast 1 million cases of severe malnutrition, with between 25% and 60% of those people likely to die without emergency assistance. The agency has plans to feed 1 million people in the Sahel — most of them in the hardest-hit country, Niger — but so far has raised funds to feed only half of them.

The failure of rains triggered a rise in food prices, so families in crisis cannot afford to buy. Meanwhile the fragile agricultural system, stressed by overgrazing, struggles to feed the rapidly growing populations in a region that has some of the highest birthrates on Earth.

Thousands of migrant workers who fled Libya and returned home because of persecution after last year’s revolution in the North African nation have added to the pressure as families struggle to survive without the money that workers had sent home. Locust plagues in some areas complicated the crisis further.

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi held a press conference yesterday where he addressed the issue of his country’s military presence in neighboring Somalia:

Meles Zenawi said Friday he would pull troops out of Somalia “as soon as feasible,” admitting for the first time that forces had crossed into the war-torn neighbouring country.

“The decision has all along been to help the TFG and we will withdraw our troops as soon as feasible,” Meles told reporters in the Ethiopian capital, referring to Somalia’s transitional government.

“We are not going to create a vacuum, we expect the AMISOM troops to be able to fill in the gaps before we withdraw,” he added.

Columns of Ethiopian soldiers rolled into Somalia in November to fight al-Qaeda linked Islamist rebels, but Addis Ababa had previously denied their presence.

Sudan and South Sudan continue to disagree over oil transit fees. South Sudan has shut down oil production in protest at alleged Sudanese theft.

The AFP covers a new United Nations report that assesses the post-Qadhafi Sahelian security environment. The report casts Nigeria’s Boko Haram as a growing regional threat. Read a summary of a Security Council briefing on the report here.

 

Qadhafi’s Death, Chad, and Niger

The death of former Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Qadhafi in Sirte this Thursday will not put an end to Libya’s problems, and it will have complex effects throughout the Sahel region.

For example, a new report from International Crisis Group focuses on Chad, which faces a potentially strained relationship with Libya’s Transitional National Council (TNC) and the loss of remittances from Chadian workers in Libya. Hundreds of Chadians have been returning to the country in recent months, a stream that has continued to the present. The government will struggle to reintegrate these refugees.

Niger, meanwhile, continues to be a refuge for Qadhafi loyalists.

Niger said Friday the end of the Libyan conflict would allow it to lift restrictions on senior Kadhafi loyalists who sought refuge there, except for deceased leader Moamer Kadhafi’s son Saadi.

[…]

In September 32 people close to the defeated Libyan regime fled to Niger where they were received “for humanitarian reasons.”

Among them were three of Kadhafi’s generals, and all have been kept under the watchful eye of Niger authorities since then, Niamey has said, without saying they were in detention.

There are also reports that say Saif al Islam Qadhafi, who is perhaps the Colonel’s most prominent son and a focal point of future resistance to the TNC, is heading toward Niger.

I think it would be alarmist to conclude that Qadhafi loyalists will immediately begin trying to use Niger as a base for an uprising against the TNC. But the presence of prominent Qadhafi supporters just across the border will remind the TNC that their revolution has left bitter memories in the region. With relations between the TNC and both Niger and Chad on an uncertain footing, the politics of the region could be testy for some time to come.

The incipient Tuareg uprising in Mali is also part of the fallout from Qadhafi’s fall, but it merits a separate post. I’ll try to write something up next week.

What Fallout for Mali, Niger, and Chad from Libya’s Civil War?

In March, as reports swirled that Sahelian mercenaries were fighting in Libya for Colonel Moammar Qadhafi, Joshua Keating asked, “What happens when the mercenaries return home?” As Keating noted yesterday, we now have a partial answer. AFP reports:

“Hundreds of Malian and Nigeri[e]n Tuaregs are coming home from the Libyan front. Among them are former Malian and Nigerien rebels, but also Tuaregs of Malian origin who were in the Libyan army,” said a security source at Gao in the north of Mali.

The Tuaregs from the army obtained Libyan nationality in the 1990s and mostly fought alongside Kadhafi’s other troops. Some of them were integrated into an elite military unit, the same source said.

“Mali has the same problem” as Niger, which borders Libya, the source added.

Officials from Niger on Sunday told AFP that Nigerien mercenaries, mainly Tuaregs, had begun returning to the northern town of Agadez on the edge of the Sahara desert, after Kadhafi’s forces were routed by Libyan rebels.

“We need to fear a destabilisation of the whole Sahel with this new development. States like Mali and Niger are not prepared for this situation,” said Mamadou Diallo, a teacher at Bamako University in Mali.

“What’s going to become of these fighters? They have vehicles, weapons and expertise,” he added. “This is dangerous.”

Even this brief excerpt underscores some of the difficulties in understanding who fought for Qadhafi. As I said in February, there are multiple categories of foreign fighters in Libya, including the Tuaregs mentioned in the article, who had been there for years, as well as fighters who only went to Libya this year. There are also black-skinned Africans who are targeted in Libya on suspicion of being mercenaries.

Regarding Sahelians who actually fought in Libya, though, whether they were there for a decade or a month, their return to Mali, Niger, Chad, or elsewhere could, as Mamadou Diallo told AFP, prove destabilizing. This movement of fighters also points to a new political reality in the Sahel: the absence of Qadhafi’s presence as a political mediator (and sometime instigator) in various internal conflicts throughout the region. Sahelian governments have been working to prepare for a post-Qadhafi future, but they are deeply concerned not only about security issues, but also about the potential economic and humanitarian impact that returnees will have on poor and remote areas.

I am no expert on the Tuaregs, but it would seem to me that new rebellions are not inevitable. Still, a period of uncertainty seems likely, as individuals, communities, and nations adjust to the changes that the fall of Qadhafi is bringing.

For two relatively recent pieces on the Tuareg, see here and here.

Africa Blog Roundup: Abuja Bombings, Erdogan in Somalia, the LRA, Cote d’Ivoire, and More

Ambassador John Campbell and Tolu Ogunlesi offer thoughts on Friday’s bombing of the UN building in Abuja, Nigeria. Next republishes and updates part of an editorial posted after the June bombing of the police headquarters in Abuja.

Baobab on Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent visit to Somalia:

BAOBAB…was moved beyond cynicism by the Turkish prime minister’s visit to Mogadishu on August 19th. Mr Erdogan is not the first head of state to visit Somalia’s wrecked capital since central authority collapsed there in 1992. But the nature of his visit was different. It was not about regional security. He came with his wife and daughter, his cabinet ministers and their families. The trip was brief and choreographed to boost standing at home. But that should not diminish the courage shown. The Turkish plane scraped the runway on landing. Even though the Shabab had been forced out of the city, the visit was an extraordinary security risk.

Osiama Molefe, meanwhile, writes that the $70 million that African leaders have raised for Somalia calls their commitment to “Africans solutions for African problems” into question.

Kal offers his initial thoughts on the fall of Colonel Moammar Qadhafi.

Kim Yi Dionne posts some results from her team’s study of protests in Malawi.

Sanou Mbaye asks, “Can Senegal Succeed?” (h/t Loomnie)

Philip Lancaster on the intractable problem of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

Ashley Elliott takes a look at where things stand in Cote d’Ivoire.

What are you reading today?

Burkina Faso, Chad, and Sudan Recognize Libya’s Transitional National Council

Yesterday, news that Burkina Faso had offered sanctuary to Libya’s Colonel Moammar Qadhafi got some attention. Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaore has a long and close relationship with the Colonel, so the exile offer wasn’t a big surprise. Also unsurprising, but perhaps more significant, was the news that Burkina Faso and Chad have recognized the rebel Transitional National Council (TNC) in Libya.

As recipients of Gaddafi’s largesse during his decades in power, the governments in Ouagadougou and N’Djamena had previously been hesitant about taking sides the conflict.

Libya’s rebels have often accused neighbouring Chad of backing Gaddafi by sending mercenaries to put down the uprising, a charge denied by N’Djamena.

But a council delegation was in Chad on Wednesday when Moussa Dago, secretary general for Chad’s foreign affairs ministry, recognised its authority and called on it to protect Chadian interests in the country.

Chad had been moving in that direction for months.

Burkina Faso and Chad join Sudan, which according to a few sources (English and Arabic) has also recognized the TNC. These shifts mean that most of the Sahel has decided to back the TNC either officially or unofficially. From what I can tell, Mali and Niger are still hesitating, a hesitation that becomes more conspicuous as the pool of TNC supporters grows. Barring a wild military reversal, I imagine that Mali and Niger will eventually recognize the TNC, but it is interesting to think about whether the order of who recognizes the TNC says anything about who is most nervous about a post-Qadhafi future. Perhaps Mali and Niger are now watching Burkina Faso and evaluating the success of Compaore’s attempt to preserve an old friendship, while still acknowledging a new reality.

Nigeria and Post-Qadhafi Africa

On Monday I asked what the fall of Colonel Moammar Qadhafi might mean for the Sahel, a question that bears on what his fall means for Africa as a whole. This question took on new intensity yesterday as Nigeria recognized the rebel Transitional National Council (TNC) as the rulers of Libya. Nigeria, a major oil producer and the most populous country in Africa, could find its role changed, and expanded, in the post-Qadhafi Africa.

All is not yet said and done in Libya: with rumors and falsehoods circulating, and Qadhafi himself still free, it’s hard to tell what is currently going on in the country, to say nothing of what the ramifications of events may be. With that said, though, actors like Nigeria are not waiting for the dust to settle before they move.

Nigeria was not the first African country to recognize the TNC (that honor, I believe, belongs to Gambia). Other nations in West Africa have since recognized the TNC (like Senegal) or called for Qadhafi to quit (like Mauritania). But Nigeria’s decision could have a strong and controversial impact on the continent. The move has already attracted criticism from the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa, which says that Nigeria is “jumping the gun” by recognizing the rebels before the African Union (AU) makes its decision.

The ANC’s comments highlight the political complexity of the Libya issue in Africa: Nigeria and South Africa, which are both members of the United Nations Security Council, both voted in favor of imposing a No Fly Zone on Libya, but South Africa has subsequently objected to NATO’s military intervention in Libya. Perhaps the ANC’s criticism of Nigeria reflects how difficult South Africa’s balancing act has become, as South Africa strives to stay involved in negotiating political outcomes in Libya while at the same time seeking to stand as a champion of African opposition to outside interference. If Nigeria and South Africa are indeed the two “African superpowers,” South Africa may feel threatened by Nigeria taking the initiative in this fashion. South Africa may fear that other countries will soon follow Nigeria’s lead, which would make the AU a follower, and not a forger, of the African stance on Libya.

Why did Nigeria break with Libya? The reasons are not entirely clear, though the simplest explanation may be that Nigerian leaders believe Qadhafi has no chance, and that future harmony between the two countries will be enhanced if Nigeria recognizes the TNC now. In any case, Nigerian leaders may not be sad to see Qadhafi go. Nigeria has not felt the same level of Libyan “meddling” that countries like Chad have, but Qadhafi and his Nigerian counterparts have butted heads on a number of issues. Nigerian leaders strongly objected last year when Qadhafi advocated the breakup of Nigeria as a solution to interreligious conflict, and the row intensified to the point that Nigeria withdrew its ambassador from Tripoli for a time.

That is not to say that Nigeria has relished the current conflict. In March, Nigerian Foreign Minister Odein Ajumogobia in fact decried the No Fly Zone, arguing that intervening in Libya while allowing crisis to continue in Cote d’Ivoire represented a horrible double standard. In June, Libya appealed to Nigeria to help stop the NATO bombings, and President Goodluck Jonathan promised to raise the issue at the summer’s AU summit. As with other African countries, the politics of the Libyan intervention have not been easy for Nigeria.

The fall of Qadhafi, however, may be to Nigeria’s advantage. Javier Blas argued as much in March, when he said that disruptions in Libyan oil production could increase Europeans’ reliance on and willingness to pay top dollar for Nigerian oil. Sabotage continues to damage Nigerian production, but with Libyan output likely to be short of full capacity for quite some time, Nigeria may yet reap the benefits. Politically, Nigeria may also find that in Qadhafi’s absence it becomes an even stronger player in African affairs – if, that is, Nigerian leaders want that. Through the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS, of which Jonathan is currently chairman) and through its own political clout, Nigeria could take advantage of Qadhafi’s fall and the resulting power vacuum to push its goals of increased political stability in West Africa and beyond. Nigeria has internal problems, of course, including the rebellion by Boko Haram and lingering grievances in the Niger Delta. But Nigeria’s financial and political influence could loom larger in the post-Qadhafi Africa, where Libyan petrodollars and the Colonel’s machinations are no longer the force they once were.

Qadhafi’s Fall and the Sahel

Yesterday, Libyan rebels entered the capital Tripoli (follow live updates here). With the fall of Col. Moammar Qadhafi seeming nearly complete, many are wondering what comes next for Libya and for the Arab world. Something I’m going to be thinking about (and writing more about) in the coming weeks is the impact of Qadhafi’s fall on the Sahel. Some Sahelian leaders, such as Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade and Mauritania’s President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, have been siding with the rebels and anticipating Qadhafi’s ouster for some time. Others, such as Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure, have endeavored to remain neutral. All of them, now, face a new political reality in the region. What will the absence of a once-powerful figure, who sometimes brokered peace and sometimes stoked conflict, mean for the countries that lie to Libya’s south?

In thinking about these questions, I’ve found two pieces particularly helpful. One is the Globe and Mail‘s map of Qadhafi’s influence in Africa, which highlights the breadth of his influence but also shows that some of his most significant interventions were in the Sahel, in places like Mali, Chad, and Sudan. The other is Howard French’s reflections on Qadhafi’s political legacy and the impact of his maneuvers to support revolutions and rebels in the Sahel and further south in Africa.

As I said, I plan to write in greater depth about Qadhafi and the Sahel in the weeks to come. In the meantime, I’d like to hear your thoughts. How will events in Libya affect Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Darfur, and other places in the Sahel? Let us know in the comments.