Niger and Libya on the Recent Bombings

(Somehow I goofed and didn’t post this on May 28th, the day I wrote it. It’s still relevant, so I thought I would post it today. – Alex)

Following the May 23 bombings in northern Niger, the country’s president, Mahamadou Issoufou, charged that the attackers had come from southern Libya. Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan denied this claim.

I do not know who is right. But Issoufou and Zeidan’s statements interest me in large part because of the views they reflect on what post-Qaddhafi Libya has become.

Issoufou:

Libya continues to be a source of destabilisation for the countries of the Sahel…I had already warned from the beginning of the Libyan crisis…that it was necessary to avoid solutions after Kadhafi’s defeat that would be even worse, and I had said that if the Libyan state turned into a Somalia or fell into the hands of fundamentalists, the solution would be worse…Today the situation is very difficult, the Libyan authorities are doing their best to control it, but the fact is, Libya continues to be a source of destabilisation for the countries of the Sahel.

It’s noteworthy that Issoufou frames the problem as a regional one and not just as an issue for Libya and Niger.

Zeidan:

It was Gaddafi who exported terrorism…The new Libya will not tolerate that.

Issoufou depicts the bombings as the work of foreigners, Zeidan depicts Libya’s problems as being the fault of Qaddhafi.

Libya and Niger have had some tension since Qaddhafi’s fall. Niger was relatively slow to recognize the new Libyan government, and the two countries have not reached an agreement on the extradition of Qaddhafi family members and lieutenants from Niger back to Libya (Zeidan raised this issue again at his press conference). Issoufou calling Libya a “source of destabilization” is strong language, and suggests that he (and possibly other Sahelian leaders) are deeply unhappy with their northern neighbor’s trajectory. Issoufou’s concerns about Libya, in other words, go well beyond the latest bombing.

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).

Col. Qaddhafi and South Sudan’s Relations with Africa

Colonel Muammar Qaddhafi (will the transcriptions of his name ever become uniform?) recently caused controversy by suggesting that South Sudan’s imminent independence could destabilize the rest of Africa.

On Sunday, Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir criticised Southern Sudan’s leader Salva Kiir for saying he would vote for independence and warned of the possibility of renewed conflict.

He was speaking at an Arab-African summit League in the Libyan town of Sirte.

Libya’s leader told the same meeting that a vote for independence “could become a contagious disease that affects the whole of Africa”, with various ethnic and linguistic groups also demanding independence.

“We must recognise that this event is dangerous,” Col Gaddafi said.

Southern Sudan Information Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin told the BBC that Africa had not broken up when Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia in 1993.

This exchange got me wondering again what South Sudan’s post-independence relations might look like. A friendly Kenya, Ethiopia, and Uganda, a hostile North Sudan? What else? I guess much depends on how the vote goes down and how relations between North and South take shape in the months immediately after the referendum.

Saturday Links: Radio in Somalia, Habré Trial, Southern Sudan, Mauritanian Education

VOA, one of my favorite sources for news on Africa, has been having a tough time in the Horn lately. First Ethiopia threatened to jam some of VOA’s broadcasts, and now al Shabab is banning VOA and the BBC in southern Somalia. Somalis will still have Radio Mogadishu though.

Speaking of Somalia, fewer refugees are heading to Yemen now in comparison with last year.

And speaking of Ethiopia:

A rebel group in Ethiopia’s southeastern Somali region has agreed to lay down arms after decades of guerrilla war, Communications Minister Bereket Simon announced Friday.

Leaders of the United Western Somali Liberation Front (UWSLF) had, after talks with the government, “accepted totally to abide by the constitution of Ethiopia and operate legally and abandon the armed struggle,” Bereket told a press conference.

[...]

Created in the 1970s, the UWSLF was active during the 1977-78 war for control of the Ogaden, in which Ethiopia defeated Somalia. But the rebel movement has seen many divisions and became increasingly inactive.

From what I understand the more powerful Ogaden National Liberation Front will continue fighting the Ethiopian government.

Senegal needs $38 million in assistance in order to try former Chadian President Hissène Habré “for crimes against humanity.” I hope they get the funding (more background here).

Three pieces on Southern Sudan: The Guardian has a photo essay on ethnic violence there, Reuters looks at oil troubles, and Reuters AlertNet rounds up expert views on the future of the region after Sunday’s elections.

Students for and against “Arabization” of education protest in Mauritania. And Arab nationalists in Mauritania “announced the setting up of an umbrella group whose ideological reference is the Libyan leader, Mouamar Kadhafi.”

In the Niger Delta, ex-militants debate a return to violence.

What news are you following today?

Sunday Africa Blog Roundup: Nigeria and Qaddhafi, Mauritania and Israel, Sudanese Elections

Loomnie points us to two articles on Nigeria and Qaddhafi. Speaking of Nigeria, Elizabeth Dickinson looks at Acting President Goodluck Jonathan’s new cabinet nominations.

The list seems designed to send two messages: To the international community, it gives all the “right” signals of stability. To the Nigerian politburo, it says get loyal or get out.

Kal examines Israel’s place in Mauritanian politics in the wake of Mauritania’s decision to sever ties.

The immediate domestic context has to do with three factors: (1) President Ould Abdel Aziz’s shaking popularity, a result of economic woes and his political style; (2) his handling of criticism on the anti-terror law, which has led him to denounce his opponents as “pro-terrorist,” causing them great offense and the supreme court’s declaration that the law is unconstitutional has also got him riled up; and (3) opposition push back, led by Messaoud Boulkheir who attacked the president on the Israel card which has frequently been raised as one of Ould Abdel Aziz’s “accomplishments”.

A few posts on the Sudanese elections:

Chris Blattman on African states.

Two political African hip hop videos, one from Senegal and one from Somalis in Kenya.

[UPDATED]: Two more: Gregg Carlstrom at The Majlis discusses al Shabab, and Tamsin Carlisle at The National talks solar power in Sudan and Saudi Arabia.

What are you checking out? Any new Africa blogs out there?

Sunday Africa Blog Roundup: Niger Junta, Algerian Cabinet, US Somalia Policy, African Poverty

Tommy Miles looks at the regional military governors appointed by the junta in Niger.

I have hammered on about the ecumenical nature and continuity represented in the Niger Junta so far, evidence that they may well live up to their word and leave politics after a quick transition. They clearly wish to project an image as a “national” institution “above” politics. What they believe in their hearts, I can’t pretend to know, but a close look at the replacement of rater venial Regional Governors with a broad group of officers shows that the junta is at least consistently “on message”.

My buddy was telling me on Friday night that charts get links. To prove his point, I am linking to Kal’s interesting charts on the makeup of the Algerian cabinet. (The ministers are old! But the same is true of the US Senate.)

Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson talks US policy toward Somalia.

Speaking of the State Department, they recently apologized to Qaddhafi.

Global Voices: “Kenya, and specifically Nairobi, has in recent months become the technology heartbeat of Africa with conferences, launches, meet ups, summits and unconferences all running in quick succession.”

Isolationism and unilateralism reaching new highs in public opinion polling in the US.

Three perspectives on poverty in Africa, inspired by a recent study: Reuters Africa Blog, Chris Blattman, and Texas in Africa.

And here’s the IMF on governance and economic policy in Africa.

What blogs are you checking out?

Saturday Links: Qaddhafi and the AU, Omar Hammami, End of MEND Ceasefire, Bombing in Somaliland

At the AU conference starting January 31st, Libyan President Muammar Qaddhafi will seek a second term as chairman.

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Other leaders will either persuade Qaddafi to step aside or there will be a battle at the conference in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, said [an AU] official, who declined to be identified because the reelection bid hasn’t been disclosed publicly.

On Tuesday, Jean Marie Dore became prime minister of Guinea.

He vowed to steer the nation toward elections and said the military needs to be restructured for stability to take hold.

[...]

Although many take heart from the quick appointment of Dore, some are worried by unconfirmed reports [former military leader Moussa Dadis] Camara is trying to meddle from the heavily guarded villa in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, where he is convalescing.

A retired diplomat close to the junta told The Associated Press that Camara has been making phone calls to supporters and power brokers in Conakry in an effort to influence who will be appointed in the transitional government.

The New York Times profiles Omar Hammami, an American citizen now fighting for al Shabab. Highly recommended.

Nigeria’s Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) ends its ceasefire with the government after more than three months of relative peace.

The food crisis in Niger is part of a larger food insecurity issue in West Africa as a whole.

VOA offers a perspective on power struggles between North and South Sudan.

SPLM, the political wing of the former southern rebels, have nominated a Muslim northerner, Yasir Arman, for Sudan president.  The chair of the party and current president of Southern Sudan, Salva Kiir, opted to run to retain his southern office instead of seeking the national seat.

On Wednesday the [ruling National Congress Party] announced it would not run a candidate against Mr. Kiir for the Southern presidency, asking SPLM to reciprocate by supporting Mr. Bashir’s candidacy in the national race.  Southern officials immediately dismissed the statement and accused their northern partners of financing the campaign of a southern opposition party.

IRIN discusses recent bombings in Somaliland.

And though it’s almost a week old, Al Jazeera’s video on the Jos crisis is worth watching.

What are you reading?