Africa Blog Roundup: Eritrea Mutiny, South Sudanese Cows, Algeria and Mali, and More

International Crisis Group: “Eritrea: When Is a Mutiny Not a Mutiny?”

New York Times editorial: “Hope, and Lessons, in Somalia.”

Louisa Lombard on the history and complexity of attempted disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration programs in the Central African Republic.

Seifulaziz Milas with a pessimistic piece on Sudan.

Lesley Anne Warner: “[South Sudanese President Salva] Kiir Reshuffles the SPLA.”

Internally Displaced: “Cash Cows: The Financial Prospects of Cattle in South Sudan.”

Andrew Lebovich: “Primer on Jihadi Players in Algeria and Mali.”

Max Fisher:

Lots of countries, especially ones that are facing internal threats from militant extremism, have “hard-liners.” But only Algeria has “eradicateurs,” a faction within the Algerian government that has argued, since the civil war broke out in 1991, that the military can never negotiate with Islamist movements and must destroy them outright. The war ended, in 1999, only when an Algerian leader from the opposing faction — “conciliateurs” — outmaneuvered the hard-liners. But that central tension has remained within the government ever since, a particularly Algerian dynamic that is important for understanding the country’s militancy crisis and the government’s response.

Bruce Whitehouse: “Lessons from Diabaly [,Mali].”

Louise Redvers:

I don’t begrudge people getting rich and doing well. Why shouldn’t Africa have billionaires like the rest of the world? But sometimes this obsession to fulfil the “Africa Rising” prophecy blinds us to the real issues.
And in the case of Isabel [Dos Santos], I think celebrating her wealth as this Forbes label does is an insult to the two thirds of Angolans who live in poverty. When I look at Isabel and Dos Santos Inc and see all that money, all I can think of are the suffering Angolans who will never have the chances they have had and for whom water, electricity and sanitation are luxuries.

What are you reading this weekend?

China, Sudan, and Oil

Before I get to what I want to say, two caveats:

First, Sudan-China relations are more complicated than one often hears. China’s positions on political issues in Sudan, such as Darfur, have not been static. Moreover, links between China and Sudan are not just economic and political, but cultural. I don’t want to justify or condemn China’s actions in Sudan, rather I want to point out that the two countries interact on levels and in ways that shouldn’t be classified as just exploitation.

South Kordofan, Sudan

Second, oil politics in Sudan are not simple. Just this week, a British human rights group called for a new audit of oil revenues in Sudan, arguing that inaccurate reporting could stoke tensions between the North and the South. The discrepancy in the figures came to light, interestingly enough, because of different numbers put forth by the Sudanese government and the Chinese National Petroleum Company. Tensions surrounding the distribution of oil revenues, both between North and South and within the South, pose a threat to the stability of Sudan. Throw Chinese investment into the mix and matters become even more complex.

With those two caveats in mind (and a third: I am no expert on the international politics of Sudan’s oil), I was struck today by a story on the execution of two Sudanese prisoners accused of killing two Chinese oil workers around 2004. This is not the only incident of its kind:

Foreign interest in Sudanese oil has pushed workers into some of the country’s most remote and insecure corners.

Three Sudanese working with the Yemeni HTC oil company were killed after they were ambushed while travelling between Heglig and Mayom County in South Sudan’s Unity State in October 2008.

Earlier the same month, gunmen abducted nine Chinese oil workers from South Kordofan and later killed four after what China said was a failed rescue attempt.

To put this into historical context, Chinese companies have been involved in Sudanese oil production since 1996. The oil connection has fostered a military relationship, with China providing arms to the Sudanese government and Khartoum sometimes deploying troops to protect Chinese workers.

In geographical context, Sudan may be “China’s largest overseas oil project” (as of 2004, so that statement may be out of date), but China’s presence in Africa is larger than just Sudan. Chinese involvement in Africa has a lot to do with oil and other resources, and these ventures expose them to backlash. For that reason this story about the killing of Chinese oil workers reminds me of other incidents where Africans have targeted Chinese: in Algeria, Zambia, Ethiopia, and Angola, to take a few examples.

Sudan has carried out other executions in recent years, and at least one execution was connected with an incident where foreigners were targeted. So I don’t want to read too much into the execution this week. But it does raise questions for me about how African governments, and China, will manage African backlash against China when it occurs. If the past gives us any indication, more attacks on Chinese workers will happen, especially when contested resources are at stake. I’m not saying that China should or will leave Africa, but it seems that all the players in this equation – African governments, African communities, the Chinese government, and Chinese workers – will, in the years to come, have to deal with complex and sometimes violent politics stemming from their encounters with each other.

Saturday Links: South Sudan Violence, Tuaregs Return to Niger, EU Trains Somali Troops

Here are some news stories that caught my attention in the last few days:

Violence broke out in South Sudan again this week, claiming 11 lives in Jongelei state. Meanwhile, IRIN reports on North-South tensions in the Nuba Mountains.

Tuareg rebels return to Niger from Libya under an amnesty deal.

The Wall Street Journal has suggested that changing oil policies in Nigeria might prompt oil companies to move elsewhere in West Africa. Ghana’s leaders are thinking hard about the ramifications of an oil boom.

Ghana’s offshore Jubilee Field is set to begin producing oil and natural gas next year that could earn the country as much as 20 billion dollars over the next 20 years.

But the new government need look no farther than neighboring Nigeria to see how quickly squandered oil wealth can bring resentment, violence, and environmental destruction.

So lawmakers in Ghana want to make sure they have a plan in place for spending that oil revenue responsibly before the money starts coming in.

The EU may train 2,000 Somali troops. The proposal under consideration would send EU troops to Uganda and would take around one year. The BBC says Somalia wants to train around 6,000 new troops and police, and adds that “the move by the EU is expected to complement efforts made by France, Djibouti and Uganda who have all committed to training Somali troops.”

Two quick items for those interested in Afro-Chinese relations: check out Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s comments on China and the US, and take a look at this article on violence against Chinese workers in Angola.

Finally, here’s an article about anti-French sentiment in former French African colonies. The article opens with anecdotal evidence that I don’t find completely convincing, but then moves to a discussion of power politics that is definitely worth reading. The author includes some quotations from African intellectuals for whose work I have a great deal of respect. Here’s Dr. Mamadou Diouf, a prominent scholar from Senegal:

In Africa, “opposition to power also means opposition to France,” said Mamadou Diouf, the director of Columbia University’s Institute of African Studies. “We find ourselves in a paradox: The champion of the rights of man practices a politics absolutely contrary to its principles,” Mr. Diouf said of France’s policies in Africa.

What are you reading?

Secretary Clinton Visits Africa

Last week, in anticipation of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Africa, I offered a few thoughts as to the Obama administration’s emerging policies toward Africa. Press coverage around the start of Secretary Clinton’s visit offers an opportunity to expand on those thoughts.

Africa’s Importance

First of all, Clinton’s itinerary reinforces Washington’s show of increased consideration toward Africa. Clinton will visit what are arguably the three highest-profile countries on the continent, South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya and, as the BBC says, will also visit the “post-conflict states” of Liberia, DRC, and Angola “to show US support.” Of course, Angola, Nigeria, and other countries on the list are also major energy producers. Her trip will conclude with a stop in Cape Verde.

Analysts quoted in the Christian Science Monitor add some details to this picture, arguing that the trip will simultaneously allow the US to compete with China for influence in Africa, communicate a new approach to African leaders, and work to resolve conflicts.

US-Africa Trade

Second, as indicated above, economic concerns – and rivalries – are paramount. In Nairobi Clinton is addressing a US-African forum on trade, and her visits to Nigeria and Angola come quickly on the heels of Russian President Dmitri Medvedev’s visit there in late June.


Third – and maybe this is my own bias – I think US policymakers are worried about Somalia. The issue ranks as a priority in Clinton’s visit. In Nairobi she will meet with Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and “is expected to announce the allocation of additional aid to the Somali government, including in the form of arms to fight the extremists.” Reuters adds that “she is also likely to have harsh words for Eritrea for its alleged meddling in Somalia.”

Prelude to Increased Contact?

Regardless of what Clinton’s goals are for this trip, its significance will wax or wane depending on how the administration follows up on it. The overarching purpose of this trip may simply be to continue the outreach President Obama began in Ghana. I will be curious to see how the administration builds, in turn, on this effort by Secretary Clinton.