Africa Blog Roundup: Seychelles and Somalia, Boko Haram, Sudan Oil Deal, and More

Amb. David Shinn flags comments by Seychelles government ministers on how their nation is dealing with Somali pirates.

In other Somalia analysis, see Clint Watts‘ “Inside al Shabaab’s Recruitment Process in Somalia.”

And one more: Nic Cheeseman, “Why the New Plan for Somalia Will Fail.”

Two pieces on Boko Haram: Christopher Anzalone, “Nigeria and Boko Haram in jihadi media discourse” and Elizabeth Dickinson, “What Boko Haram Wants.” I’m especially interested to hear readers’ reactions to these pieces.

A debate about chiefs.

Inside Islam continues its series on important Islamic sites with a profile of Al Azhar University.

Roving Bandit takes to the airwaves to express his optimism about an eventual oil deal between the Sudans.

What else is going on today?


8 thoughts on “Africa Blog Roundup: Seychelles and Somalia, Boko Haram, Sudan Oil Deal, and More

  1. Areas like local leadership such as chiefs is going to be a tricky one. The governance is informal, there are less resources devoted to observing it and it can be easy to miss something that is self-evident to a local.

    On Nigeria, that Al-Shabaab wants chaos and terror seemed obvious. Guerrillas and terrorists make it their strategy to destroy the sense of normal and spread fear. With enough fear a group of a few hundred can dominate tens of thousands. What they ultimately plan to do is something that even they might not have established.

    On Somalia I can’t comment on secret dealings and who is propping up which warlord. However the best option, a much stronger central government, certainly doesn’t likely to appear from this.

  2. On what Boko Haram wants and what Boko Haram is, it is important to grasp this important fact: when Nigerian Christians started talking the language of the “prosperity Gospel” outside observers rightly pointed out that American preachers had been at work. Similarly, when Nigerian Muslims start blowing themselves up and speaking the language of jihad, then somebody, somewhere has been at work. Whether we call these people Al Qaeda, Al Shabab or AQIM is immaterial, there is a new terrifying theology of violence in Nigerian Islam and that should make us worried.

    There are outside malign influences and we need to craft an alternative narrative to counter their influence.

    We also need to take a closer look at Northern Nigeria and the complex web of poverty, religious polarisation, politics, politically motivated violence and ethnic rivalries the make that region of Nigeria uniquely fertile soil for the worst Islamist extremists. Western analysts tend to focus on the least controversial bits (poverty and politics), but the more controversial bits (religious polarization – insecurity in the face of rapidly expanding Evangelical Christianity) are every bit as important.

    Boko Haram did not emerge from a vacuum, it emerged from a region with a history of mixing religion and politics. Ahmadu Bello was smart enough to manage religious diversity in Nigeria’s Northern Region, his successors (the likes of Jubril Aminu, Gumi and Yerima) were not as open to other faiths.

    Cast your minds back to 1999 and the introduction of Sharia criminal code in Zamfara state. Why was it popular among the largely poor and uneducated population? Firstly, because it promised quick and speedy justice “according to God’s law” and secondly because it would “help keep Christians in their place (curb the influence of Evangelical Christianity)”. So far, Sharia has failed on these two counts – the “big men” have evaded justice and Evangelical Christianity has neither been curtailed or eradicated. So up comes Boko Haram, promising to complete Yerima’s unfinished business and we still doubt their motivations?

    I quote Elizabeth Dickenson: “CNN has begun describing Boko Haram as “fighting to install Sharia law in Northern Nigeria. That’s patently not correct, given that Sharia law was already imposed in Northern Nigeria a decade ago.” Sadly, Ms. Dickenson doesn’t know what she is talking about, no pious Muslim in Northern Nigeria actually believes that true Sharia is being implemented anywhere there. So Boko Haram taps into the yearning for a pure, unadulterated form of Sharia law.

    There are other factors like police brutality, pervasive poverty etc., but if we discount the religious motivations and the attraction of such a sect (untainted by greed, outwardly pious, speaking the language of Islam), in a region of pious Muslims, we are missing the big picture.

    Finally, I notice you almost never quote Nigerian writers on matters concerning Nigeria. Instead you prefer to quote Westerners with only a passing knowledge of what is going on here.

    • Sharia (and by that I mean pure Sharia)* isn’t the only matter. What exactly do they intend to establish? Do they want to dominate the Nigerian state and establish Islam throughout the entire nation**? Are they ultimately separatists that want to break up Nigeria? Do they want to establish a caliphate or some other form of government.

      * Revolutionaries always seem to think that if only they were in power they could fix all ills with a simple application of this or that ideology. If I ever have a chance I should lend them a few books on the French, Russian and Chinese revolutions.
      ** Obviously that sounds ridiculous but terrorists and rebels have had far more absurd dreams.

      • No one ever accused them of being realistic, but their immediate goal of pitting Muslims against Christians in Northern Nigeria doesn’t look that unrealistic in the light of recent events.

        They might not come to power, but they could be a very important component of the future power structure in Northern Nigeria. And that is enough.

  3. There is no such thing as an “African Chief”. The British ran into that problem when they tried to rule Nigeria via chiefs (indirect rule).

    Certain cultures were amenable to indirect rule (i.e. the “chiefs” performed the functions the British had in mind to the letter). They even attempted to export some of those chiefs to other areas to administer different peoples – this of course led to riots.

    Other cultures were more democratic. For example, in my part of Nigeria, there was no tradition of a powerful chief or a chief at all. Villages were administered democratically via age grades, titled men and elders. The British attempted to circumvent this unwieldy and complex system by appointing “warrant chiefs” (my great-grandfather was a warrant chief), but that again wasn’t even that successful.

    If you want to grapple with the complexity and diversity of cultures in Africa, read Lugard’s memoirs.

    • The locals as in the same people who don’t have necessarily any reason to work against the pirates and who certainly aren’t capable of establishing a strong central government needed to end piracy? As for the root causes, the root causes are simple. Absent a government, coast guard and navy they couldn’t stop fishers from other nations entering their waters and since then it’s become obvious that piracy makes a good deal of money (enough that they don’t bother with going after fishers any more).

      As for Puntland, they might be able to establish the state needed to fight piracy but I’m skeptical of how willing politicians will be to go after it.

  4. Pingback: Prosecuting pirates « This Day – One Day

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