Africa News Roundup: Shari’a in Mali, Pastoralists in Ethiopia, IDPs in Kenya, and More

Protests continue in Sudan.

VOA argues, “In Northern Mali, Many Resent Islamist Restrictions.” AFP, meanwhile, reports, “Mali’s embattled interim prime minister said Friday negotiations with the armed groups controlling the northern half of his country were his first choice to solve the crisis.” IRIN ponders the prospects for an armed intervention, while the BBC steps back to survey Mali’s problems.

Human Rights Watch:

The Ethiopian government is forcibly displacing indigenous pastoral communities in Ethiopia’s Lower Omo valley without adequate consultation or compensation to make way for state-run sugar plantations, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. The report contains previously unpublished government maps that show the extensive developments planned for the Omo valley, including irrigation canals, sugar processing factories, and 100,000 hectares of other commercial agriculture.

The 73-page report, “‘What Will Happen if Hunger Comes?’: Abuses against the Indigenous Peoples of Ethiopia’s Lower Omo Valley,”documents how government security forces are forcing communities to relocate from their traditional lands through violence and intimidation, threatening their entire way of life with no compensation or choice of alternative livelihoods. Government officials have carried out arbitrary arrests and detentions, beatings, and other violence against residents of the Lower Omo valley who questioned or resisted the development plans.


Election-related violence and the displacement of people are regular occurrences in Kenya, and thousands of families are affected by it every five years. But a bill tabled in parliament on 13 June seeks to compel the government to protect internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Yesterday, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan replaced National Security Adviser Owoye Azazi and Minister of Defense Bello Mohammed.

In Senegal, where the administration of President Macky Sall is investigating alleged corruption under the previous administration, ex-interior minister Ousmane Ngom was briefly detained this week.

I have to admit, the Failed States Index makes only partial sense to me. Chad ranks higher than Afghanistan? Cote d’Ivoire and Kenya rank higher than Libya? What do you make of it?

Last but not least, Randall Wood and Carmine DeLuca’s The Dictator’s Handbook is quite thorough. Worth a visit.


7 thoughts on “Africa News Roundup: Shari’a in Mali, Pastoralists in Ethiopia, IDPs in Kenya, and More

  1. The index gets worse. Mali isn’t even in the top 50 worst states. North Korea is number 22 while Lebanon is number 45, which means that the makers of the index have very strange ideas about state failure. In my opinion the argument should either be ‘North Korea has a state and a basic monopoly on violence so it should be much higher on the list’ or ‘North Korea isn’t providing essential services so it should be much lower on the list’. Besides that I don’t think Iraq really deserves to be in the top 10 when Venezuela (which is a much more dangerous country) is number 82. Some of the criteria used are incredibly hard to quantify. How do you give a number to ‘rise of factionalized elites’ or ‘legitimacy of state’? The entire thing feels like a mess.

    I’m surprised by Wood and DeLuca’s ‘The Dictator’s Handbook’. Rather, I’m surprised that it was published with that name when it’s so close to Alastair Smith’s poorly researched ‘The Dictator’s Handbook’ which came out last year.

    • If it was a credible list scholars could start identifying characteristics that the nations do or do not share to help discussions about economics, unions, elite cohesion, the role of the military and other factors that can predict future failures, explain why they aren’t happening in other nations and advise policy makers about what is and is not important. Unfortunately instead of all that we have this mess of a list and so we should start over again.

      Personally I wonder if a numeric ranking is really the best way to go. After all there’s no denying that the situation in Zimbabwe is bad, but how do you measure it along with the situation in Congo? Can you definitely say ‘this one deserves to be at number 2 while the other definitely deserves to be at number 5’?
      Maybe instead we should put nations into tiers of power or a spectrum of power. For example the Soviet Union (if it still existed) would be at the far end of strong states while Afghanistan would be at the far end of weak/barely existent states.

      • The World largely lacks the ability to “unfail” failed states. Somalia is a classic example – it will totter until Somalis decide to create a common future.

        The same applies to Afghanistan.

      • If it were easy, we’d do it all the time. There are still things you can do to limit the damage, figure out which states are at high risk of collapse in the near future, have plans in place in case something vital will be at risk and possibly even just advise policy makers that the situation isn’t salvageable and that they should not commit money and soldiers to it. This list, if I considered it credible, would be a tool to help do that.

        As for Somalia, I’m still skeptical. If the U.I.C. and then al-Shabaab openly fighting in Mogadishu (by definition the place where you would expect Somali elites* to feel frightened by violence) didn’t spur any kind of unity until recently I’m not so sure how stable any possible post-civil war government is going to be. Same thing goes for Afghanistan and the lack of unity despite fighting in Kabul.

        *People might be getting annoyed with my focus on elites in comments, but I find it helps explain a great deal about the world and why nations will have efficient states in one era but only a few decades later have a doddering half-crazed version of government.

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