Mali: A Foiled Coup Attempt Against the Junta?

In a May 16 statement, Mali’s transitional military-dominated government described what it calls a coup attempt that allegedly occurred on the night of May 11-12:

The language of the statement is charged, condemning the actions of a “small group of anti-progressive Malian officers and non-commissioned officers” and accusing an unnamed “Western state” of supporting the alleged plotters. In the context of severe diplomatic tensions between the Malian junta and France, the transitional authorities appear to be leaving the impression that there was a French-backed plot against them. Claiming the mantle of progress, too, is a vague effort to attach a kind of politics to what has become an open-ended and rather policy-devoid transition.

Is the narrative plausible? Sure. The junta, which took power in August 2020 and then took on a more blatantly military and authoritarian character in a May 2021 follow-on coup, has been deliberately isolating itself from France, the European Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and most other partners. The junta’s refusal to set a clear and fast timetable for transitioning back to civilian rule elicited a tough sanctions package from ECOWAS in January. Meanwhile, the transitional authorities have been vindictive against even major critics in the capital Bamako, all while beginning to lash out at communities and alleged jihadists in the conflict-torn central regions of Mali. All of that could certainly provoke a reaction from within segments of the Malian Armed Forces; plenty of officers and ordinary soldiers would have ample cause to worry over the grim trajectory of the country, which looks set to become grimmer in the months to come. (None of this, by the way, is my way of defending the pre-August 2020 status quo, which was obviously bad enough to provoke the original coup – one can argue both that the pre-August 2020 trendline was bad and unsustainable, and that the current junta is not solving Mali’s old or new problems.)

As some coverage has pointed out, too, there was already one prior assassination attempt against military leader Colonel Assimi Goita, when a knife-wielding man tried to attack him in a Bamako mosque in July 2021.

On the other hand, some commentators are appropriately skeptical about the story of a foiled coup plot.

After all, a major component of the diplomatic war between France and Mali is the information war – and as demonstrated by the swirling narratives around the mass graves at Gossi, the accusations at play in this information war can be quite dramatic. Would the Malian junta gain politically by generating a fake story of a foiled coup? Absolutely, if they are hoping to drive up the kind of “rally round the flag” effect that is part of their current appeal – perhaps even their main domestic political narrative at this point. One could also speculate that the junta is sending a message to actual would-be coup plotters within the ranks, conveying something along the lines of “we are on alert, we recognize this is a possibility, and we will deal harshly with any attempts.” Ultimately, I think a coup is the greatest medium-term threat to the junta at this point. They have shown a great deal of stubbornness in the face of sanctions, even amid escalating defaults on debts; they do not seem to fear a mass civilian protest movement, and one does not seem to be in the cards in the near term; there is little possibility in my view of an external military intervention in the short term; the major politicians in Bamako are being coopted, intimidated, or kept complacent through the promise of eventual elections; etc. That leaves an internal coup as the biggest or most unpredictable threat – and it is not clear to me how unified the armed forces were behind the junta in the first place. And if there was no major schism in the ranks in August 2020 or May 2021 that does not mean that everyone is on “team junta,” so to speak.

To be a bit wishy-washy by way of conclusion, it’s very hard for me to adjudicate these competing possibilities about whether the latest alleged coup is real, fake, or perhaps some minor incident that the junta is deliberately exaggerating. In any case, even announcing a fake coup attempt could be read as a sign of some nervousness at the top.

Burkina Faso: Notes on HRW’s Latest Report on Jihadist Abuses

Human Rights Watch is out with a new report entitled “Burkina Faso: Armed Islamists Kill, Rape Civilians.” The subtitle is equally important – “Army, Militia Respond with Summary Executions, Enforced Disappearances.” The contents of the report will not be shocking to long-time watchers of Burkina Faso, but the report is a vital update. There were a few points that stood out to me:

  • The report’s focus on rape highlights, once again, the wide gap between jihadist ideology and jihadist practice. The jihadist promise is one of a utopian counter-order based on their version of justice, which includes the idea that a jihadist state will bring safety and fairness for ordinary Muslims. In practice, jihadist predation and crimes of opportunity occur frequently: “A nurse from a village near Dablo said she had treated over 55 women who had been raped by armed Islamists between September and December 2021. ‘The women came from 11 villages,’ she said. ‘The terrorists attacked Muslims, Christians, and animists alike. They cried – they couldn’t eat or sleep and were too ashamed to tell their families what happened.'” Much research has been conducted on rape and gender-based violence as a “weapon of war” (and see more on this below), including the use of rape as a tool for punishing and driving away perceived outsiders, but use of that weapon obviously narrows whatever political appeal Burkina Faso’s jihadists may have for civilians in the country’s conflict zones.
  • Relatedly, the HRW report points to a high degree of deliberate displacement by jihadists: “The attacks, said security analysts, appeared designed to compel widespread displacement from towns perceived to support the government, thereby consolidating armed group control from their strongholds in northern Burkina Faso to the central regions. Humanitarian workers expressed alarm at the dramatic pace of deterioration. Said one, ‘Civilian life is being suffocated as roads are mined; villages blockaded; markets closed; and water points, telecommunication, and electricity infrastructure sabotaged.'” If this is indeed the strategy – reduce the population, and then rule over what remains – it does indicate to me that there’s some exhaustion of the jihadist political project, an admission that they cannot win over the majority. On the other hand, it takes some level of political support to have the recruits necessary to execute such a strategy.
  • The closing sections of the report, focusing on abuses by the army and by civilian fighters in the Volunteers for the Defense of the Homeland (French acronym VDP), confirms earlier trends – collective punishment, ethnic profiling of the Peul, and government empowerment of the VDP but simultaneous VDP mistrust of the government (“describing one incident [of a VDP unit ethnically profiling and then killing accused jihadists], a VDP member said, ‘We used to turn suspects over to the gendarmes, but they always released them, so we decided to sort this problem out ourselves’…) Notably, although the report focuses on dynamics in the conflict zones rather than on macro-politics in Ouagadougou, the report conveys a sense of continuity of military and VDP practice before and after the January 2022 coup; in other words, the report describes abuses both in the last quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022. Current military President Paul-Henri Damiba has alluded vaguely to a new approach, but on the ground it does not appear that much has changed.

An Attack in/on Togo: Serious, But Not Necessarily A Game-Changer

Reuters:

Eight soldiers were killed and 13 wounded in an attack in northern Togo on Wednesday, the government said, marking potentially the first deadly raid on its territory by Islamist militants who have killed thousands in neighbouring countries.

Before dawn, a group of heavily armed gunmen ambushed an army post in the Kpendjal prefecture near the border with Burkina Faso, the government said in a statement.

The Togolese government’s statement is here.

As the statement mentions, the attack targeted soldiers in a Togolese border security mission called Operation Koundjouare, which was launched in 2018 (the most information I could find about it was here).

Kpendjal (map) is the northwestern-most prefecture in Togo. From Kpendjal, it is almost twice as far to Togo’s capital Lomé as it is from Kpendjal to Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou. In other words, this is a remote part of Togo. Notably, an earlier attack in Kpendjal was also reported in the Togolese press in November 2021, also targeting the security forces, although that attack was attributed to “bandits” rather than “terrorists.”

Assuming that one or both of those attacks were by jihadists, that would be worrying – and any attack is worrying, even “just” by bandits. But I think the concerns about the spread of jihadism into the coastal West African countries – Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, and Benin, and possibly Senegal – need to be right-sized. On the one hand, sporadic attacks can signal the beginning of a more substantial incursion, as areas such as central Mali, northern and eastern Burkina Faso, and western Niger have tragically discovered. There are already credible fears about a jihadist presence in northern Benin, and Cote d’Ivoire has suffered attacks since at least 2020. On the other hand, even in the worst conflict zones of the Sahel (and the Lake Chad Basin), the degradation of insecurity and the onset of multi-sided civil war took considerable time to occur. Moreover, there are serious potentials for self-fulfilling prophecies – counter-jihadist units tend to get attacked by jihadists, government efforts at rooting out cells tend to lead into counterproductive collective punishment, foreign interventions and heated rhetoric tend to turn up the temperature, etc.

Meanwhile, I think one should be hesitant about drawing any connections between national-level politics and what are, ultimately, very local dynamics that are necessary for insurgencies to gain traction. Would Togo appear to be remarkably brittle and potentially full of resentments, having been ruled by the same family since 1967? Definitely. Does that mean that jihadists are going house-to-house in Kpendjal riling up sentiment against President Faure Gnassingbé? I doubt it. I think where jihadists choose targets or see footholds (and sometimes I think they stumble into opportunities rather than seizing them), I don’t think who the head of state is figures largely in their calculations. Or, if one wants to feel very grim, one could say that the majority of the coastal states (with the exception of Ghana and Senegal, in my view) are brittle at the top. But as I mentioned above, it’s a long way from Kpendjal to Lomé.

Comparing the Prime Ministers of the Sahel

Who are the current prime ministers of the five core Sahelian countries, and what do their careers and approaches tell us about Sahelian politics? A few basic patterns emerge. In education, a combination of domestic government schoolings, STEM specializations, and some overseas training helped to fast-track their careers. In the first phases of their careers, employment within the civil service and particularly within state-owned enterprises was the means of ascent; often simultaneously, these men (they’re all men) either built parallel political careers within political parties, or at least (from within the civil service) weathered major shakeups in the political scene around them. The pivotal decade, in all cases, appears to have been the 1990s – in their 30s and 40s, they solidified positions as insiders that they have maintained ever since.

In the current political environment, the default model is that of a military head of state with a career politician or civil servant as prime minister; Niger is the only fully civilian-civilian lineup, in the sense that the head of state there is neither a current nor retired soldier. Two additional takeaways: (1) military heads of state have deep benches of technocrats and career civilian politicians to draw on when forming governments, even in some of the world’s poorest countries; (2) military heads of state in the region prefer civilian to military prime ministers, even if soldiers sometimes take up other key ministries in governments; and (3) in some cases, there are political rewards for the ability to strategically tack back and forth between the ruling party and the opposition, just as there are rewards for repeatedly seeking the presidency even if one doesn’t win it. None of those patterns are particularly unique to the Sahel, of course. One other interesting detail is that all three of the prime ministers in the core conflict zone of the Sahel – Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso – hail from the conflict zones themselves. Such origins, however, don’t necessarily give these men any particular advantage in attempting to manage or resolve those conflicts.

Here are the biographical sketches:

Mauritania – Mohamed Ould Bilal Messoud (b. 1963, Rosso): Ould Bilal Messoud is a technocrat and engineer with a background in hydraulics and business administration; parts of his education were in Algeria, Senegal, and possibly Europe. Since 1991, he has risen through the ranks of the state bureaucracy. Political turbulence in Mauritania between 2005 and 2009 clearly did not hurt his career, which continued to advance after the coup of 2005 against longtime ruler Maaouya Sid’Ahmed Ould Taya; he then moved into his first ministerial position (as Minister of Facilities, Urban Planning, and Housing) under the short-lived civilian administration of Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi; he then headed up several state-run enterprises after the coup of 2008 and the coming to power of Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz (military head of state 2008-2009, civilian head of state 2009-2019). In 2020, Ould Bilal Messoud became prime minister after allegations of corruption brought down his predecessor, Ismail Bedde Ould Cheikh Sidiyya. From what I observe, Ould Bilal Messoud does not have a particularly big profile, perhaps by choice.

Mali – Choguel Kokalla Maïga (b. 1958, Tabango): Maïga is another engineer, in this case with a specialty in telecommunications; he graduated with a doctorate from the Moscow Telecommunications Institute in 1987/1988. Politically active as a supporter of Mali’s then-military ruler Moussa Traoré, Maïga built a career from 1990-2002 at the Mali Telecommunications Firm (Société des Télécommunications du Mali), rising through the ranks there even as Traoré fell in 1991. Meanwhile, Maïga became the leader of the Patriotic Movement for Renewal (MPR), a successor party to Traoré’s party the Democratic Union of the Malian People; under the MPR banner, Maïga ran for president in the open elections of 2002, placing seventh with under 3% of the vote. He again placed seventh in the open elections of 2013 and then scored eighth in the 2018 elections, each time receiving a slightly lower percentage of the vote. Maïga was appointed transitional prime minister by Mali’s current junta in June 2021, after the junta perpetrated its second coup (the first was in August 2020, the second was in May 2021).

Burkina Faso – Albert Ouedraogo (b. 1969, Dori): Ouedraogo has a background in management sciences, having received a doctorate in that subject in 1999 from Caen-Normandy University in France. From 1996-2002, he taught at the University of Ouagadougou, and then fashioned a long and apparently extremely successful career in the private sector (including at Deloitte) and then as a government consultant on a wide array of technical projects. His previous overt political experience was limited to some student activism, but when the Burkinabè junta (came to power January 2022) was seeking a transitional prime minister, Ouedraogo may have appealed to military ruler Paul-Henri Damiba not just because of Ouedraogo’s technocratic credentials, but also because he is close to Damiba’s uncle Pierre Claver Damiba, the first president of the West African Development Bank.

Niger – Ouhoumoudou Mahamadou (b. 1954, Amaloul Nomade): Mahamadou has a background in economics and public administration, having studied in Togo, France, and the United States. A career civil servant from 1979 to 1991, he was also a founding member of the Nigerien Party of Democracy and Socialism (PNDS) in 1990; the PNDS is the party of Niger’s immediate past President Mahamadou Issoufou and the current President Mohamed Bazoum. During the 1990s and 2000s, Ouhoumoudou Mahamadou was in and out of the Nigerien government while also taking up major posts at the regional and international levels. He served twice as minister (Mines, Energy, Industry, and Crafts from 1991-1993, and Finance from 2011-2012), once as chief of staff (to Issoufou, 2015-2020), was elected twice as deputy from his home Tahoua Region (2011 and 2020), with stints at the Economic Community of West African States, the African Development Foundation, and other such organizations along the way. He was appointed in 2021 as Bazoum’s first prime minister, replacing Issoufou’s longtime prime minister, Brigi Raffini.

Chad – Albert Pahimi Padacké (b. 1966, Gouin; more biographical details here): At least in my research so far, I have not found details of Padacké’s biography between his birth and 1990, when he entered government. Since 1990, under the rule of Presidents Idriss Deby (1990-2021) and Mahamat Deby (2021-present), Padacké has been a major civilian figure associated with the regime, holding ministerial posts on and off: Finance, Commerce, Mines, Agriculture, Justice, Communication, etc., before being appointed Prime Minister in 2016. The post of prime minister was abolished in 2018, but then was resuscitated under the transitional military regime of Mahamat Deby, who appointed Padacké as his first and so far only PM. During the 2000s and up through the 2021 election (won by Idriss Deby just days before his death), Padacké was a frequent candidate for president (2006, 2011, 2021). In 2011 and 2021 he was a distant runner-up, scoring 6% to Deby’s 89% in 2011, and scoring 10% to Deby’s 79% in 2021. If one feels cynical (I do), one could say that Padacké was not a convincing opposition figure, given how many times he served in Deby’s governments – including, by some accounts, serving during the 2006 elections. Mahamat Deby would not have made him PM, it seems to me, if Padacké was not an insider through and through.

Quoted in Al Jazeera on France and Niger

Al Jazeera’s Mucahid Durmaz has a new piece out called “Analysis: Can Niger become the main Western ally in the Sahel?”

I’m quoted briefly. An excerpt:

“[Former Nigerien President Mahamadou] Issoufou knew that he only had to clear a minimum bar to appear like a democrat,” said Alex Thurston, assistant professor of Political Science at the University of Cincinnati.

[…]

“The West looked the other way as authorities leveraged the law to constrain the ambitions of Hama Amadou [Issoufou’s rival has been imprisoned and barred from running as an opposition candidate in the last election],” Thurston told Al Jazeera. “Western governments also did not scrutinize the 2016 and 2020/2021 elections, both of which had irregularities.”

Mali: Snapshots of the Economy Under Sanctions, and a Bit on UEMOA Politics

Mali has been under draconian sanctions since January of this year. The sanctions were imposed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in an attempt at pressuring Mali’s military-dominated transitional government (took power in an August 2020 coup, and reconsolidated power in a May 2021 follow-on coup) to accelerate its timeline for transitioning back to civilian rule. The sanctions include border closures and tight restrictions on financial transfers, exports, etc. Mali’s government had already defaulted on $180 million in debt servicing by March, which is beginning to have some domino effects through the suspension of some World Bank projects and other fallouts.

RFI (May 8) looks at the impact of sanctions, centering interesting comments by the Senegalese economist Pape Demba Thiam. He argues that the Malian economy will reorient rather than collapse. Thiam sees gold, the “war economy,” and the internal economy broadly as factors that are allowing (and will allow) the Malian junta to keep pressing ahead, despite early predictions that the sanctions would lead to collapse within weeks.

Speaking of the World Bank, in April 2022 they released a new “Macro Poverty Outlook” for Mali. I don’t know much about the Bank but bizarrely for a note released in April 2022, the document includes the line that “this projection assumes that the sanctions will expire by the end of March 2022.” In any case, here’s a useful excerpt (p. 2):

The extreme poverty rate is projected to stagnate at around 17.5 percent in 2022, due to the high projected population growth rate of 2.9 percent over 2021-2023. Protracted sanctions may reduce employment and incomes for the urban poor engaged in construction, transport, commerce and hospitality. Internally displaced persons and refugees will increasingly flock into Bamako when the government is ill-equipped to mitigate humanitarian crises and support the vulnerable.

The outlook is subject to multiple downside risks, the most important being regional sanctions extending beyond March, but also from intensified insecurity, further climatic shocks, food insecurity and new COVID outbreaks. It is likely that at least some of these risks will materialize and
concurrent shocks are possible. The Russia-Ukraine war presents additional risks through higher food and energy prices. The projections reflect recent sharp increases in commodity prices since January 2022, though with a high degree of uncertainty. Higher gold prices could help offset the negative impact of surging oil prices.

Jeune Afrique, meanwhile, looks at the West African Monetary and Economic Union (French acronym UEMOA) and its internal divisions regarding the sanctions regime for Mali. The UEMOA’s eight members (Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo) are all members of ECOWAS as well (also right now some members are suspended). Dynamics involving the UEMOA and Mali are now quite complex – in March (here I’m quoting Reuters), a UEMOA court “ordered suspension of the eight-nation body’s sanctions against Mali, imposed in January after the junta delayed elections…[but] it was not immediately clear whether UEMOA would follow the court decision.” Going back to the Jeune Afrique article, UEMOA leaders met yesterday (May 9) in Cote d’Ivoire’s capital Abidjan on the margins of the COP15 summit there. Jeune Afrique describes two camps. One camp favors the lifting of sanctions; so far, this camp appears to consist of Togolese President Faure Gnassingbé (recently asked by Mali’s government to act as a mediator). The other camp favors continued sanctions; key players are Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum, Cote d’Ivoire’s President Alassane Ouattara, and Senegal’s Macky Sall. Burkina Faso, itself under military rule, is not in good standing, nor is Mali, obviously; the article says that Benin’s President Patrice Talon has not yet taken a clear stance, and the article doesn’t mention Guinea-Bissau’s position.

Even though the UEMOA meeting was yesterday, I haven’t seen any news yet about any decisions taken there – so I assume no game-changing moves have been made yet.

A Threatening Letter from Malian Labor to Prime Minister Maiga

The National Union of Malian Workers (French acronym UNTM) is a formidable organization. Transitional Prime Minister Choguel Maiga (in office since June 2021) is a controversial figure at home and abroad, and has antagonized the UNTM among many others.

On May 6, the UNTM sent a threatening letter to Maiga. Taking as a point of departure Maiga’s April 21 address to the transitional legislature (CNT), the letter deals with a wide range of issues, including the right to strike, the negotiation of salaries, the functioning of various government boards, and a host of political issues. There are deep memories at stake here – the date 1991 comes up twice in the letter, referring to the popular revolution and coup that brought down longtime military ruler Moussa Traore. There is, it seems, bad blood between Maiga and the UNTM over the 1991 revolution – Maiga was a pro-Traore youth leader in the 1980s.

In any case, the UNTM says, in the letter, “Trade-unionism can enter the national political game. All the conventions and resolutions sanctions it. So watch out!” The UNTM stresses its support for head of state Assimi Goita, but warns, “The red line is the attempt at the proliferation of negationism of the democratic revolution of March 26, 1991 and its results, without which today would not be.” I take this as not just a reference to the past but also as a condemnation of the transitional government’s authoritarianism, a portion of which seems to emanate from Maiga personally.

The full letter can be found here, along with some brief but useful commentary by Malian writer Mamadou Togola here.

Mali: Some Glimpses Behind the Scenes in Bamako (?)

A few press reports over the last month or so offer a look at some alleged, very grim events.

Cyril Bensimon, “Au Mali, « la mort programmée » de Soumeylou Boubèye Maïga” (Le Monde, 11 April). The upshot: the death of former Prime Minister Soumeylou Maïga on March 21, after seven months in detention, raises a lot of questions. Maïga’s imprisonment was part of a larger crackdown by Malian transitional authorities on prominent politicians and critics, and Maïga would have been a front-runner in any eventual presidential election in Mali. Maïga’s family is essentially accusing Mali’s authorities of allowing Maïga to die by refusing him basic medical care until the end.

Benjamin Roger and Fatoumata Diallo, “Moussa Diawara, le « mauvais génie » de Bamako” (Jeune Afrique, May 2). Roger and Diallo chart the rise of Diawara from National Guardsman to Director-General of State Security. The article goes through multiple convoluted incidents, including a lavish 2019 birthday party that caused scandal; Diawara’s alleged ties to northern narcotraffickers; Diawara’s possible betrayal of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita during the August 2020 coup; his role as adviser to transitional President Bah Ndaw (in power September 2020-May 2021); and, finally, his present whereabouts in a “five-star jail” at the Gendarmerie School.

Jason Burke and Emmanuel Akinwotu, “Russian mercenaries linked to civilian massacres in Mali” (The Guardian, May 4). What is new here is not the substance of the allegations but the nature of the evidence – leaked Malian army documents.

Internal Malian army documents seen by the Guardian reveal the presence of Wagner members – referred to as “Russian instructors” – on “mixed missions” with Malian soldiers and gendarmes during operations in which many civilians have been killed.

[…]

Another internal memo described a clash on 23 April between militants and “a joint patrol of FAMA and Russian instructors” between the villages of Mondoro and Boni. “Provisional losses” amounted to “two dead – one FAMA and one Russian – and 10 wounded – six FAMA and four Russians”, said the memo, sent some hours after the incident. Details of “enemy losses” were “unavailable for the moment”.

As has becoming clearer in the past few weeks, the Russians are taking some casualties themselves.

These three pieces all reinforce the picture of a really grim scene in Bamako – intrigue, mistrust, authoritarianism, and a regime that is attempting to project power beyond the capital with the help of Wagner, but which (if these snippets of reports are any indication) doesn’t necessarily have that much visibility on what is going on in many parts of the country. If Maïga was effectively allowed to die, moreover, it makes me wonder what consequences the junta will reap for changing the “rules of the game” in Bamako – in Malian politics as in many other countries’ politics, the key players seem to expect they will always be allowed a chance to make a comeback. Take that chance away and intra-elite relations could get very tense indeed.

Chad: A Delay for the Inclusive National Dialogue, and Perhaps for the Whole Transition

In April 2021, Chad’s longtime President Idriss Deby died unexpectedly on the frontlines of a fight against the rebel Front for Change and Concord in Chad (French acronym FACT). He was almost immediately succeeded by a transitional military-led regime headed by his son Mahamat Deby. The new regime, called the Transitional Military Council (French acronym CMT), put forth plans for an eighteen-month transition, with the provision that the eighteen months can be renewed once if necessary (see the Transition Charter, Article 97). Chad’s authorities have been given substantially more leeway by regional and international actors than have other current juntas in Mali, Guinea, and Burkina Faso.

Per the “roadmap” adopted by the transitional legislature in July 2021, one key element of Chad’s transition is a planned Inclusive National Dialogue with rebels. The Dialogue was originally slated to take place in either November or December 2021, with elections to follow between June and September 2022. The authorities have presented the Dialogue as an indispensable step; my reading is that they hope to (a) project an image of national unity, (b) bolster their own perceived legitimacy, (c) co-opt as many rebels as possible, and (d) portray any holdouts as bad-faith actors. The Dialogue is being supported by Qatar, which is also acting as a mediator; some key rebels are based in Qatar, such as Timan Erdimi (read an interview with him from late 2021 here).

A “pre-dialogue” set of negotiations, meanwhile, has been taking place in Doha. Here is Al Jazeera:

About 50 rebel groups [have] presented their demands to a delegation of 24 government representatives.

Among the requests, the groups asked for guaranteed safety if they return to the country and for the release of prisoners of war. The government is keen to hand amnesty to those accused of acts of rebellion and to free all members of the rebel groups who will sign amnesty agreements, according to a document seen by Al Jazeera.

But there is disagreement concerning other demands of the rebels, such as banning members of the TMC from running in the next elections, army reforms and a constitutional revision.

The National Dialogue has now been postponed three times. Most recently, on May 1, Chad’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that at the request of Qatar, it was delaying the Dialogue until an unspecified date. As discussed in the Al Jazeera article linked above, moreover, there was pressure from rebels and from civil society groups for the authorities to delay, even as Deby suggested for a while that he would stick to the timeline. Not to be too cynical, but the image of the junta reluctantly postponing the Dialogue to accommodate other actors doesn’t quite convince me; it is clearly politically advantageous for the TMC to prolong the negotiations until it gets maximum buy-in, and the TMC may be quite wary of the reforms it may be called upon to make – and dissidents it may have to let back into Chad – after the Dialogue concludes.

Meanwhile, the CMT can use the Dialogue as a reason for tinkering with the overall timeline of the transition. On that note, this latest delay increases the chances that the whole transition will be delayed – in other words, that the authorities will invoke the clause in the charter that lets them renew the eighteen-month window. There is now talk of holding the Dialogue in June or July, and then elections towards the very end of the year. From the rebel side, some groups say they want a delay in the Dialogue but not a delay in the transition itself.

Roundup on UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ Trip to Senegal, Niger, and Nigeria

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is wrapping up an April 30-May 5 “Ramadan solidarity visit” to Senegal, Niger, and Nigeria, timed to coincide with the days around Eid al-Fitr. This was Guterres’ first visit (!) to Africa since the start of the pandemic.

Here is the official agenda:

On Saturday, the Secretary-General will begin a Ramadan solidarity visit to Senegal, Niger and Nigeria, during which he will also highlight the impact of the Ukraine war on the African continent.      

The Secretary-General will meet and share an Iftar dinner with President Macky Sall of Senegal, who assumed the Presidency of the African Union earlier this year. He will also take part in Eid celebrations with President Mohamed Bazoum of Niger and he is scheduled to meet President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria.     

In the three countries, the Secretary-General will have meetings with senior government officials as well as civil society representatives, including women, youth groups and religious leaders. He will meet families deeply affected by violence and instability in the Sahel, including people internally displaced and refugees. Mr. Guterres will also see first-hand the impact of climate change on vulnerable communities and will assess progress and challenges to the COVID-19 recovery.

Guterres lamented what he called a “triple food, energy and financial crisis” in Africa, now made worse by the fallout from the war in/on Ukraine. In Senegal, he called for “vaccine equity” as well as debt relief for debt relief for African countries, appealing in particular to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. In Niger, he lavished praise on the country’s democracy and military, conforming to a longstanding Western trope that treats Niger as the model Sahelian country. One announcement in Niger was a new role for Niger’s immediate past president, Mahamadou Issoufou, a chair of an Independent High-level Panel on Security & Development in the Sahel. In Nigeria, finally, Guterres is visiting both Borno State and the capital Abuja.

A few tweets: