Africa News Roundup: Elections in Libya, ECOWAS Meets on Mali, Missed Deadlines in Somalia, and More

Libya votes in parliamentary elections today. Some relevant news and commentary from Thursday and Friday:

Today, leaders from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) meet in Ouagadougou to discuss Mali, focusing on “broadening the interim government in southern Mali to give it greater legitimacy” and “retaking the north from Islamist militants.”

Another serious protest took place yesterday in Sudan, with more repression by security forces. The situation in Sudan is dynamic, but readers may be interested in two things I wrote about the protests earlier in the week, one at World Politics Review and one at The American Interest.

Alertnet rounds up uniformly grim assessments of conditions in South Sudan from the International Rescue Committee, Oxfam, the Red Cross, Human Rights Watch, and UNICEF.

The International Contact Group on Somalia has “expressed concern over the missing of deadlines which form part of the process of ending the country’s current transitional governing arrangements on 20 August this year.”

The Federal High Court in Abuja, Nigeria has charged two men of having links to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The men are from Lagos, and BBC Hausa adds that so far no link has been established between them and Boko Haram. To my relatively ignorant eye, the men appear to have Yoruba names.

VOA reports that residents of Kano feel caught between Boko Haram and the security forces.

On Tuesday and Thursday, police in Senegal questioned Karim Wade, son of former President Abdoulaye Wade.

What else is happening?

13 thoughts on “Africa News Roundup: Elections in Libya, ECOWAS Meets on Mali, Missed Deadlines in Somalia, and More

  1. They actually have Yoruba names. They are most probably Yoruba (if these are their real names). Some points:

    1. They could be swindlers, trying to play the “Jihad” card to obtain money from gullible financiers.
    2. Or they could be genuine terrorists, who want to wreck havoc in South-Western Nigeria.\
    3. South-Western Nigeria has a sizable Islamic population, and if part of that population gets radicalised, then the potential to damage Nigeria’s economy would be extremely high.
    We should think about the potential for radicalisation, since Muslim Yoruba tend to be poorer and less educated than their Christian brothers/sisters.
    4. They could be innocent of all charges.

    On a recent trip to Ibadan, I was struck by the number of street children/beggars who tend to be Muslim. I told my colleagues that these could likely be the next generation of “Boko Haram”. They told me that “no such thing could happen”.

    I remember a colleague who told me as recently as 2010 that “Nigerians could never be suicide bombers”.

    Let’s nip this one in the bud.

    • Usually relatively poor, uneducated people don’t become terrorists. However it’s entirely possible that the situation in Nigeria could change and lead to widespread guerrilla warfare which would change the demographics of the recruits.

  2. I think this is unrelated.

    The past two decades have been extremely traumatic for the Nigerian people. As someone who lived through those years, I can tell you that the psychological impact hasn’t yet been fully studied, much less appreciated.

    Nigeria’s troubles go further back in time though. Nigeria fought a bloody civil war in which 1-2 million people died. There was very little attempt at healing or reconciliation after the war. Igbo properties were seized and the owners were assumed to have “abandoned” their properties. The result was a perception among the Igbo that the rest of the nation didn’t care very much about them.

    In 1993, it was the turn of the Yoruba to experience their own crisis. MKO Abiola won an election, but his election victory was annulled by the predominantly Northern and Muslim regime of Ibrahim Babangida. The fight for June 12 became a predominantly Yoruba affair, with the rest of the nation (especially the North), not having much sympathy for the plight of Abiola.

    In 1995, Saro-Wiwa was murdered by the Abacha regime and the Niger Delta entered the most bloody phase of its crisis. Once again, there was very little sympathy from the rest of Nigeria (especially the North who supported Abacha) for the Niger Deltans.

    Today, the North is in crisis, and instead of a shared ownership of the crisis, many Non-Northern Nigerians, weighed down by their own interpretations and perceptions of Nigeria’s extremely bloody evolution have very little sympathy for the plight of the North. One hears statements like “they can kill each other if they like as long as they don’t bring it down here” on the streets of Lagos.

    Some Igbo also say that the “current troubles of Northern Nigeria are karmic justice for the brutality meted out to Biafra”.

    There is very little sense of brotherhood (don’t mind what the Lagos twitterati tell you). Very little sense of a shared destiny, mutual suspicion, hatred.

    I doubt we are building a nation.

  3. If only this was as easy as it sounds: “retaking the north from Islamist militants.” Even at the AU, ECOWAS and UN’s fastest pace, Mali is headed for a multi-year asymmetric conflict that requires a large amount of patience and understanding to resolve. ECOWAS officials have admitted that hard, urban warfare awaits them in the north, but I still get the impression that they underestimate the campaign ahead of them. And that’s leaving aside the country’s internal political situation.

    • Urban warfare isn’t the worst of it. Urban combat tends to be bloody, but generally is favorable to organized armies over guerrillas and terrorists. It’s easier for the military to control the movement of people in the cities and there’s really less ground for the opposition to run to. I’d be more worried about the following: where the money is supposed to come from for this, a longer conflict in the rural areas, the nationalist factor of opposing foreign soldiers, the political chaos of current Mali and the limited patience of the people from the contributing states.

      • All true. I was only quoting the thoughts of an ECOWAS political official; the towns should be easier to clear than the north’s vast expanse, a process that will prolong the overall conflict. However urban warfare becomes more effective when the conventional force lacks a dominant position and allows facilitation between urban/rural areas. That demand bleeds into your list – ECOWAS/AU/UN must raise a heavy force that needs to tred lightly in a complex environment. Mali is a huge test for the new African-led campaigns that Western capitals are promoting.

  4. Southern Nigerians reject posting to crisis prone Northern State for National Youth Service: http://ngrguardiannews.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=91575:shettima-others-beg-fg-to-rethink-decision-on-nysc-postings&catid=1:national&Itemid=559#.T_jBF-irbjo.twitter

    Interesting point about Governor Shettima’s comments was the fact that ” Corps members that had been serving in the state provided over 65 per cent of the required healthcare delivery and education services at the grassroots level where 75 per cent of the citizens live”.

  5. In Sudan I’d be watching for police or soldiers using too much violence and sparking a strong reaction. Economics can set up a revolutionary event but politics seem to be what sets it off.

    • Sudan has been doing this sort of thing for a very long time.

      Unlike other Arab nations, Sudan has a long history of overthrowing dictators via street protests.

      But does anything really change in the end?

      • Most of the Arab world has some experience with revolution. As for changing things, that depends entirely on the ability of civilians to unite, international circumstances in their favor (fortunately China wants nothing to do with overt coups) and some threat that they can use to demand unity. The problem with separatists is that they really don’t create that unity. The civilian leaders don’t feel threatened, the leaders of the group breaking away don’t feel threatened and the soldiers feel that their sacrifice is being ignored.

  6. U.S Congress invites CAN (Christian Association of Nigeria) president for hearing on the 10th of July. Johnnie Carson is also invited.

    It seems as if Nigerian politics has become enmeshed with American politics, with the Republicans seeming to side with the powerful CAN and the Democrats being painted as “supporting the Muslims”. No equivalent Muslim leader was invited.

    This will put further pressure on the Obama administration to designate Boko Haram as an FTO. It is becoming clearer that Nigerians in the diaspora (overwhelmingly Christian) seem to be flexing their muscles. We’ll see how this pans out.

    NB: Having listened to Ayo Oritsejafor, I know he is quite a compelling speaker (most Pentecostal preachers are).

    http://channelkoos.com/index.php/news/1942-boko-haram-us-congress-invites-obama-oritsejafor-

  7. Pingback: Africa News Roundup: Elections in Libya, ECOWAS Meets on Mali, Missed Deadlines in Somalia, and More - LUFCUK LUFCUK

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