Africa Blog Roundup: Algeria, Somalia, Michel Djotodia, South Sudan, and More

The Moor Next Door: “Comments on Algeria.”

Baobab has a video analysis of the London conference on Somalia.

Missed this during my hiatus in April, but it’s still relevant: Louisa Lombard‘s biography of Michel Djotodia, the rebel-turned-leader of the Central African Republic.

Amb. John Campbell: “What Next for Nigeria’s Oil Patch?”

Dibussi Tande: “President [Paul] Biya [of Cameroon] Appoints Thirty Senators.”

Roving Bandit: “So What Exactly Just Happened to the Economy of South Sudan?”

Via Amb. David Shinn, the Spring 2013 bulletin of the Sudan Studies Association (.pdf).

Oil Thieves and a Political Vacuum in the Niger Delta

A lot of oil gets stolen in the Niger Delta – as much as 150,000 barrels, every day. That represents a significant portion of Nigeria’s total daily production of around 2.7 million barrels.

Where does the stolen oil go? Some goes into hidden, illegal, “home-made” oil refineries in the Delta, which produce diesel for local consumption. Some goes overseas. One source told the BBC that “about 10% of the snatched oil was being refined locally by gangs operating in the delta’s creeks and swamps. The rest is mainly going to criminal networks in Ukraine, Serbia and Bulgaria, or to Singapore, which is the world’s top refiner.” Some oil also leaks into local waters, adding to the environmental devastation in the Delta.

Where do the profits from illegal oil sales go? The criminal networks involved in oil theft are reportedly quite sophisticated, and allegedly include government officials.

In one indication of how institutionalized such networks are becoming, some of the profits also reportedly go back into local communities:

Another critical development that is said to be frustrating efforts to rid the Niger Delta of criminal oil thieves is the tactical support of communities along the waterways where these illegal operations are being carried out. According to sources, these oil thieves now engaged in community development projects.

“It will interest you to know that these oil thieves now build roads, hospitals and engage in other activities in communities where they carry out their illegal operations.

“So, members of the communities don’t even cooperate with officials of government, as they see these criminals as their benefactors,” a source explained.

The thieves are becoming politicians, or even state-builders, if you like. If true, these reports of community development projects point to the existence of several vacuums in the Delta – a security vacuum, a political vacuum, and a development vacuum. While violence has decreased in the Delta since the government-sponsored amnesty program for militants began in 2009, the extent of the criminality – and the political dimensions it seems to be taking on – shows the extent of the challenges that remain for the state to confront in this region. A naval force is reportedly being deployed to pursue thieves, but military force alone seems insufficient for addressing the interlocking problems that allow criminality to flourish.

Africa Blog Roundup: Mauritania’s “Arab Spring,” Kenyan Foreign Policy, Boko Haram, Elections in Lesotho, and More

At The Guardian‘s Comment is Free, Sharif Nashashibi says that the international media have overlooked the protest movement in Mauritania. He argues:

There is…the possibility, or perhaps even the probability, that the protests in Mauritania will intensify, mainly because the government seems not to have learned from the mistakes of other Arab regimes that are under threat. It has used a combination of repression and pledges of reform that have left Mauritanians unconvinced and more frustrated.

Demonstrations have thus far been peaceful and centred around reforms. However, as in other Arab states, if protesters feel they are being indefinitely ignored or oppressed, not only might calls for reform become demands for regime change, but violence may become a means to advance those demands – a particularly dangerous development given Mauritania’s ethnic fault lines.

By the way, for those who read Arabic, Twitter user Mint Mauritanie is a great resource for news on Mauritanian politics and the protests.

Amb. David Shinn flags a discussion by Kenyan scholars of Kenyan foreign policy.

Two pieces on Boko Haram: G. Pascal Zachary parses a recent Financial Times piece’s language on Boko Haram’s alleged ties to Al Qaida, and wonders whether the US will start taking a more hands-on approach to the rebel sect. Andrew Walker compares two views on Boko Haram that are “almost diametrically opposite…except they both agree that journalists (people like me) have it wrong.” What do you think the international media has done well in its coverage of Boko Haram, and what has it done poorly?

And two others on Nigeria: Attempting Denouement on oil bunkering in the Niger Delta, and Laura Dimon on the social effects of desertification in the Lake Chad area.

Bruce Whitehouse on a sermon he heard on Friday in Bamako:

A few minutes into today’s wajilu I heard the imam utter the word CEDEAO (“sedeyawu“), the French acronym for the Economic Community of West African States.

Now I was interested. Why was the imam talking about ECOWAS in his sermon? This is a preacher who often urges parishioners in general terms to join together and work for unity, and to overcome petty differences. But I had never heard him venture into such explicitly political territory before. It soon became clear that he was coming out in full support of the agreement signed last weekend between ECOWAS and Mali’s military junta, the CNRDRE. Mali’s leaders and ECOWAS would never advocate anything that was against the nation’s interests, he said. He condemned the recent disturbances in Bamako and admonished us not to follow those who seek to destabilize the country.

[...]

From the international news media one often hears about firebrand imams throughout the Muslim world using their pulpits to whip their congregations into a political frenzy. In Bamako, however, I rarely hear imams address overtly political topics in Friday sermons. Which made the Badalabougou imam’s message this afternoon all the more powerful.

Royal Africa Society Director Richard Dowden posts excerpts from an interview with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

Zachary Rosen on the elections in Lesotho.

This year’s National Assembly contest has been marked by massive voter engagement with an especially strong showing for young and first time voters. Rallies, famo musicperformances and to a lesser extent, social media, have been used to generate support for parties and candidates. Key issues that affect the majority of Basotho include: employment, agricultural investment, union wage negotiations, access to education and labor mobility to and from South Africa. Because no party wants to resort to forming a coalition government with their rivals, competition for voters’ allegiance has been rather intense.

While each party is representing itself as the one that can best be trusted by Basotho factory workers, farmers, civil servants and students, it’s evident that other, more clandestine constituents are being courted as well. The incumbent Prime Minister Mosisili in particular has realized the value of partnerships with foreign investors, especially South Africans and Chinese. Kenny Kunene, South Africa’s infamous “Sushi King” (who also invests in mining) has reportedly been acontributor to Mosisili’s political campaign at a time when Lesotho’s diamond mines are exhuming some of the largest stones in the world. Lesotho’s mountainous highlands have long been of strategic interest to the South African government as well, with giant dams supplying essential water to the Johannesburg area for domestic and industrial use. Chinese investors, who operate many of Lesotho’s textile factories, have benefited from being able to keep wages low on Mosisili’s watch, to the vexation of Basotho factory workers. Chinese contractors have been busy with projects across Maseru. Notably, the recently opened Ying Tao restaurant in one of Lesotho’s nicer hotels, the Lesotho Sun, has quickly become a popular meeting place for Basotho elite and Chinese businessmen.

What are you reading today? Any new bloggers out there I should be reading?

Nigeria: Oil Bunkering, Government Revenue, and Allegations of Corruption in the Niger Delta

A report from This Day (via Reuters) leads us into the complex terrain of Nigeria’s Niger Delta. Stolen oil, the government says, is depriving the country of needed revenue, but other reports suggest government actors may be complicit in the theft.

Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has expressed concern over the spate of oil theft in the country, saying it would impact negatively on the nation’s revenue profile.

The minister, who spoke with THISDAY in Abuja, said a recent media report that vessels loaded with about 1.2 million barrels of oil were seized from illegal bunkerers was a disturbing signal, and must be tackled headlong.

[...]

“Bunkering is an activity we just have to stop. This is one thing we just have to stop. The [Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation] reported that 17 per cent of oil production was lost in April, and this is about one fifth of the revenue,” the minister lamented.

As Reuters (link above) says, “The 2009 amnesty sharply reduced militancy in the Niger Delta…but bunkering has continued.” Analysts (including me) and journalists wonder from time to time whether a resurgence of armed groups like the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) is in the cards, but the cumulative effects of bunkering appears to be doing significant damage even if violence remains relatively low.

But who does or enables the bunkering? Nigeria’s Tribune points a finger at the police:

A new dimension to the illegal activities is the involvement of security agencies, which give cover to the criminals, on the payment of certain agreed percentage running into millions of dollars and naira.

The Nigerian Tribune gathered authoritatively that these illegal bunkerers had been given assurances by senior police officers in Abuja that nothing would happen to them even if they were arrested.

It was reliably gathered that the bunkerers, who now resort to breaking pipelines, carry out their illegal activities accompanied by siren-blaring escorts thereby scaring people away and creating the impression that they were government officials on assignment.

An example was a cartel known as Tekeena Oil, that loaded two foreign ships in the Niger Delta last week at the Mobil Oil filed in Eket, Akwa Ibom State.

The illegal vessels, containing about 200,000 metric tonnes of AGO and crude oil, was loaded within 24 hours before they could sail off.

Nigerian Tribune was told exclusively that before the ships could be loaded with the crude, the sum of N50 million was paid to senior police officers to give them protection.

A columnist from the Niger Delta, discussing the region’s broader problems, points a finger at local and state government:

Leaders in the region such as ministers, governors, development agency (NDDC) executives, and local council chairmen [,it is believed,] are simply interested in looting and stealing, to make themselves and their future generations comfortable for ever.
There are cases of LGA chairmen who collect allocations and simply retire into hotel suites and squander the funds till the next allocation. They would have handed-down the share of their godfathers, touts, and hangers-on before swallowing the rest. A governor in one of the Niger Delta states has shown anger against this attitude and caused an assessment to be done by an independent body, which found only five out of 23 to have excelled. So far, two LGA bosses have been overthrown by their people. Now that the EFCC is toothless, the politicians are simply on the rampage.

If one believes such charges, they are a serious condemnation of the way power works in the region. They imply that fixing the bunkering problem – and the region’s other challenges – will require major governmental reforms. If one disbelieves the charges, the fact that they circulate so widely is still significant, as it indicates a pervasive distrust of the government and its claims.

Africa Blog Roundup: Two-Round Electoral Systems, War in Mali, Media in Somalia, and More

Dibussi Tande on the difference having a two-round election system can make, and why Cameroon (for historical reasons) does not have one:

The Republic of Senegal has a new president following run-off elections which resulted in the defeat of outgoing President Abdoulaye Wade by Macky Sall, his one-time protégé and former Prime Minister. One of the main reasons for Macky’s victory is Senegal’s two-round electoral system, which calls for a second round of voting if no candidate obtains more that 50% of votes cast. This is unlike countries such as Cameroon which have a one-round/first-past-the-post electoral system.

In the first round of voting, President Wade obtained 34.81% of votes cast while Sall obtained 26.58%. If this had been the first-past-the-post system practiced in Cameroon, Wade would still be President of Senegal…

The two-round system is a potent tool for dislodging sit-tight incumbents, especially in the face of a splintered opposition (there were 14 candidates in the first round of elections in Senegal).

Erin in Juba provides a snarky perspective on life in South Sudan during the oil shutdown.

Mali continues to grapple with war and the aftermath of the recent coup. Dr. Gregory Mann says Mali’s democracy is “Down But Not Out.” Lesley Warner looks at the trajectory of the war with a post entitled, “After the Loss of Kidal and Gao, What Next for the MNLA and CNRDR” – the MNLA being the rebels in the north (The National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad) and the CNRDR being the military junta in Bamako (the National Committee for the Restoration of Democracy and the State).

Peter Dorrie continues his series on the Sahelian food crisis with a look at Burkina Faso. He writes,

Burkina will be one of the least impacted countries of this year’s hunger crisis. This is due to its geographical advantages, but also the early and relatively comprehensive reaction by the government and NGOs. Still, many people will be off worse after the crisis than they were before. Lets hope that they won’t be forgotten as soon as the crisis is declared over.

Carmen McCain, “The Strange Poisonous Fruit of Hate: South Africa, Nigeria, and the World.”

Laine Strutton reflects on the way her interlocutors in the Niger Delta talk about the 1990s, and what implications this case has for larger questions of  security and/vs. freedom.

Amb. John Cambell argues, “Africa Unlikely to Win World Bank Presidency.”

And Amb. David Shinn flags a new report on the Somali media landscape.

Been a lot of news this week. What’s on your mind?

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.

Africa News Roundup: Fallout from Rebellion in North Mali, Campaigning in Senegal, Education in Ethiopia, Somalia’s al Shabab and Al Qaeda, and More

The Tuareg rebellion in northern Mali has sent refugees into a number of nearby countries, including Mauritania, Burkina Faso, and Niger. UNHCR is attempting to increase its aid to refugees in all of these places.

For military news about the rebellion, check out Reuters’ piece “Arms and men out of Libya fortify Mali rebellion.” Another noteworthy item is that the rebellion has caused Washington to postpone a joint military exercise in Mali.

The above-listed countries are also facing severe food shortages. AFP reports on the World Food Programme’s forecast that “a food crisis in Mauritania as a result of drought is expected to be three times worse that in 2010, when the Sahel was crippled by food shortages.”

The World Bank will provide Niger with over $60 million to fight the effects of climate change.

Campaigning is underway in Senegal in advance of presidential elections to be held later this month. President Abdoulaye Wade’s convoy was recently stoned in the city of Thies (the home base of his rival Idrissa Seck), but Wade (audio) shows no signs of quitting.

VOA writes, “Ethiopia, one of Africa’s poorest countries, is among the few on track to achieve the goal of universal primary education by 2015.  Our correspondent in Addis Ababa, reports on how, according to analysts, an otherwise repressive government is winning praise for its campaign to bring learning to the people.”

On Thursday, Somalia’s al Shabab formally joined Al Qaeda.

Meanwhile in Somaliland:

The breakaway territory of Somaliland is battling its own secessionists in a dispute that has raised tensions with neighbouring Puntland, in an area of Somalia usually more peaceful than the rest of the country.

The fighting first erupted in January after the leaders of the northern regions of Sool, Sanaag and Cayn decided to band together into a new state called Khaatumo and declared they wanted to be an independent region within Somalia.

Somaliland’s troops have since clashed with militia fighters loyal to Khaatumo, with reports of dozens of casualties. Puntland’s President Abdirahman Mohamud Farole stepped into the row on Wednesday, accusing Somaliland of creating chaos.

Finally, Nigeria’s Daily Trust looks at the possibility of renewed militancy in the Niger Delta.