Africa Blog Roundup: Malawi’s Near-Coup, Attacks at BUK, Somali Piracy and the EU, Mauritania, and More

The Economist‘s Baobab on Malawi:

FOREIGN leaders and commentators have been busy congratulating Joyce Banda, Malawi’s first female president, on the smooth transition of power in one of the world’s poorest countries following the sudden death of its late president, Bingu wa Mutharika, on April 5th. But for more than 48 hours after he died, Malawi teetered on the brink of a coup as members of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) plotted to prevent Mrs Banda, the vice-president, from taking over and to thrust the late president’s elder brother, Peter, into power in her stead.

Carmen McCain reacts to Boko Haram’s attack last week at Bayero University Kano in Nigeria.

Jim Sanders writes about foreign investment in Southern Nigeria, which has apparently increased despite the violence connected with Boko Haram.

Dibussi Tande discusses the recent acquittal of Atangana Mebara, former Secretary-General at the Presidency of Cameroon, of charges of embezzlement.

Amb. David Shinn flags a critique of the European Union’s approach to piracy off the coast of Somalia.

The Moor Next Door rounds up recent articles and reports on Islamic affairs and movements in Mauritania.

Dr. G. Pascal Zachary on the New York Times‘ “disquieting pattern of presenting dead Africans on the front page of its great newspaper, while refusing to present dead Americans in the same fashion.”

And last but not least, Lesley Anne Warner asks, “Do we understand perceptions of U.S. military involvement in Africa?” The words of Blake Hounshell ring true: “Secret tip: The answer to headlines posed as questions is almost always no.” But do read the piece.

What has caught your eye today?

8 thoughts on “Africa Blog Roundup: Malawi’s Near-Coup, Attacks at BUK, Somali Piracy and the EU, Mauritania, and More

  1. An amendment to the Nigerian Anti-terrorism Act, 2011, is underway to compel the trial of terror suspects, their sponsors and others suspected of aiding and abetting terror suspects under MILITARY LAW.

    A few comments.

    The US had an opportunity to lead the World on an appropriate response to terrorism after 9/11, but blew it. The Obama administration will not/cannot do anything about the application of Military justice to “enemy combatants”. Now the US State Department and the Ambassador at Abuja have lost the moral right to challenge the Nigerian government on what is likely to lead to gross violations of human rights.

    It isn’t only limited to that. US protestations at Nigeria’s heavy handed response to Boko Haram usually fall on deaf ears – “after all, isn’t that exactly what you guys did in Fallujah and what you are now doing in Yemen/Somalia – execution without trial?”.

    The most chilling phrase in the news article in the expression “UNLAWFUL COMBATANT”, which of course is derived from “ENEMY COMBATANT”. Sounds familiar?

    The Nigerian government will simply download Bush’s legal arguments from the Internet to make its case – and possibly hire John Yoo as a legal consultant.

    Expect more of the same in the future. Americans, bury your heads in shame. You didn’t stand up to the assault on human rights, now you lack the moral standing to challenge the Nigerian government.

  2. A few comments on Lesley Warners article:

    1. Unlike Europe and East Asia, nobody in Sub-Saharan Africa (except a couple of dictators) owes the US Military a debt. If the US had stayed on longer in Somalia or intervened in Rwanda or sent troops to Liberia, we wouldn’t be having this debate. There isn’t a single example of the US Military as an unquestioned force for good in Sub-Saharan Africa.

    2. Angola gained independence from Portugal in 1975, that isn’t too long ago. Nobody wants white men with guns milling around Africa. (If you doubt me, go and ask former French colonies).

    3. The experience of the CIA in the Congo and Angola are still fresh in everyone’s memory. The CIA wasn’t up to a lot of good.

    4. The US isn’t serious about Africa, and Africans know that. When the US intervenes it either does too little or it does a lot of harm (Somalia).

    • If we had intervened in Rwanda there’s a good chance we’d be seeing the same basic situation as in Afghanistan. Perhaps we should have and perhaps we could have stopped the genocide*, but I doubt it would have been a clear case of overthrowing a leader and being welcomed as heroes. Foreigners don’t seem to get that kind of greeting and cases like the U.K. in Sierra Leone are very unusual. If the U.S. was going to go into Rwanda it would have had to have been a full occupation.
      As for Somalia, that’s one case where I don’t think the U.S. should accept blame. It’s true that with the rush to pull out in the 1990s we didn’t stop the civil war, but we also didn’t start dumping money and weapons on factions until a decade later (which made little real difference).

      *I will admit that the U.S threw up problems in the U.N when they tried to discuss it. That one was our fault.

  3. Jim Sanders is making a common mistake of equating Lagos to Southern Nigeria.

    This is why I have problems with analyses that distinguish the “North” from the “South”. Let’s get beyond that, Nigeria is too important and too complex to be described in such simplistic terms.

    A few kilometers from Lagos in Abeokuta. Having actually visited that town, I can tell you that there is little or no economic growth happening there. If you extend “Southern Nigeria” eastwards to Benin, Abakaliki or Ogoja it is the same story.

    The truth is that most of the economic growth in Nigeria is limited to Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt and a few other coastal/regional trading hubs. There is no such thing as “all inclusive” growth in Southern Nigeria – the poverty statistics bear that out.

    It is true that Southerners are better educated than Northerners, but this is largely because they are less suspicious of Western education. They are not terribly better off economically than their “Northern” brethren.

    Nigeria does not really have a “North” or a “South”. Nigeria has a Niger Delta region, an Igbo-speaking South-East, a Yoruba-speaking South-West, a multi-ethnic and multi-religious Middle-Belt (North Central) and a Hausa-Fulani/Kanuri North.

    This classification should guide any analysis of Nigeria. There is no point grouping the “South” as a homogeneous entity when the South-East and the South-West are historical rivals (a bit like England and France). Or talking about the “North” and the “South” without properly accounting for the Middle-Belt (North-Central).

    • Does the economic growth follow lines of where the oil companies set up, or is it simply that coastal cities are usually good places for trading?

      • Both.

        Whatever growth that occurs in Port Harcourt and Warri is due to the presence of Oil companies. Lagos is an important trading hub (on the coast) and a magnet for the most ambitious Nigerians (population is 20 million and rising, rapidly). Abuja has an artificial economy based on government patronage and contracts. Aba and Onitsha are important trading hubs. Aba feeds on it’s proximity to Port Harcourt (about thirty minutes drive), while Onitsha is a trading gateway to South Eastern Nigeria. Nnewi is a manufacturing town in South-Eastern Nigeria.

        This is where the growth is in Nigeria, outside these cities, there is very little going on.

        There is very little investment in critical infrastructure to stimulate growth. Total electricity supply is a meagre 4,000 MW. There is no functional rail system and no plans to create one. Northern Nigeria is experiencing an economic implosion though.

  4. I wasn’t sure if Malawi deserved a mention since it’s a sub saharan state. Still interesting, especially with the suggestion of South African involvement.

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