Africa Blog Roundup: South Sudan, Plateau State Violence, David Kato, Sarkozy in Ethiopia, and More

South Sudan: Maggie Fick writes about the role of foreigners in South Sudan‘s future.

North Sudan: Police and protesters clash in Khartoum.

And in confirmation of unofficial referendum results, the first official results show nearly 99% of Southerners voting in favor of secession.

Nigeria: Amb. John Campbell flags rumors that the Nigerian army favors Muslims in the ongoing violence in Plateau State.

Uganda: The US State Department reacts to the murder of Ugandan LGBT activist David Kato.

Cote d’Ivoire: Al Jazeera’s Mohamed Vall has some questions about the AU’s decision to appoint Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz as a mediator in the Cote d’Ivoire crisis.

Ethiopia: French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrives in Ethiopia today. Human Rights Watch calls on Sarkozy to speak out on human rights issues in Ethiopia.

What are you seeing today? What is the latest news out of Khartoum?

France and Africa Summit

This week African leaders are attending a summit in Nice, France. Press coverage of the event so far has mostly emphasized political and economic themes, with a little World Cup joshing mixed in. Interestingly for me, several outlets featured photos of French President Sarkozy and Nigerian President Jonathan shaking hands. I’ve heard a lot of conversations in recent months about how Nigeria lost some of its regional influence during the long illness of late President Yar’Adua. If Jonathan is the “face of Africa” for this summit, that could indicate that Nigeria is “back on top” in the eyes of the international community.

Nice, France

Nice, France

Reuters covers the main political news coming out of the summit:

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Monday Africa should be represented on the U.N. Security Council, promising to back reforms when France takes the helm of the G8 and G20 groups of big economies next year…African nations have asked for two rotating permanent seats since 2005, given the continent has about 27 percent of members at the United Nations, its size and the involvement of global powers on its territory.

And the BBC describes the economic interests at stake in the meeting:

France aims to give a new push to business ties with Africa at a two-day summit opening in the Mediterranean city of Nice…The military junta leaders of two former French colonies – Guinea and Niger – are among those attending. France is vying with China and other emerging powers for markets in Africa.

Vanguard/All Africa have a little more on Jonathan’s participation in the summit:

The Nigerian Ambassador to France, Mr Gordon Harry Bristol said there could not have been a better time for Nigeria to make maximum impact as the giant of Africa by putting up the best outing at the Summit. The Nigeria Embassy in Paris has temporarily relocated to Nice, to give the visiting President the very best of reception and preparation for the talks.

And finally, Sanou Mbaye offers a less-than-enthusiastic take on the France-Africa relationship, past and present.

I’m still learning about the dynamics of how France and Africa interact, but within my limited base of knowledge it’s interesting to me to compare France’s approach with the approaches of the US and China to Africa. Maybe this is simplistic, but it seems to me that

  • the US makes its political concerns about Africa very explicit while giving less emphasis to its economic interests in Africa;
  • China has clear economic interests in Africa but downplays its political involvement there;
  • and France acknowledges both political and economic interests on the continent.

Again, those statements might be too broad. Still, at the very least we can all likely agree that the “West” is not monolithic when it comes to Africa policies. What do you think? And how does Britain fit into the equation?

Mauritania and France Normalize Relations

Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz traveled to France this week, in a visit that “signals the normalization of relations between Mauritania and France following the presidential elections held on July 18.” The upgrade in relations with France echoes the IMF’s September decision to “restart ties with Mauritania.” The EU is also considering reopening cooperation with the government in Nouakchott.

On Tuesday, President Abdel Aziz met with President Nicolas Sarkozy, who offered him strong support.

Sarkozy emphasised Mauritania’s “major strategic importance in the fight against terrorism” after meeting with President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, whose visit to Paris marks a normalisation in relations, Sarkozy’s office said.

Sarkozy also proposed a bilateral deal to convert 17 million euros ($25.30 million) of Mauritania’s debt into investment in areas such as water, education, health and professional training.

Sarkozy’s mention of counterrorism is significant; French military assistance to Mauritania already increased earlier this month after the French chief of general staff, General Jean-Louis Georgelin, visited strategic zones in Mauritania and met with top Mauritanian military officials. As several of the linked articles above also point out, France is especially concerned with counterterrorism in Mauritania because of a suicide attack at the French embassy in Nouakchott a short time after the elections this summer. Indeed, AQIM attacks across the whole West Sahel have caused consternation in Paris and Washington.

To state the obvious, any major remaining barriers to the international legitimacy of Abdel Aziz’s government appear likely to fall shortly. Whether that strengthens his domestic position remains to be seen, though increased flows of aid can’t hurt. As for the practice, not just the funding, of counterterrorism in the Sahel, between this and recent US military donations to Mali, a ramping up of efforts against AQIM may be in the works.