Sunday Africa Blog Roundup: AQIM, MEND, LRA, Sudan, China…

Haven’t done one of these in a while!

AQIM: Kal considers the geographic and economic aspects of AQIM‘s career in the Sahel, and how those affect policymakers’ decisions about confronting terrorism.

MEND: Elizabeth Dickinson posts another bomb threat from rebels in the Niger Delta.

LRA: Texas in Africa pushes back on Human Rights Watch Director Kenneth Roth’s call for a “humanitarian use of force” against the Lord’s Resistance Army in Sudan, DRC, and CAR.

I have a ton of respect for Human Rights Watch and the incredible work they do, especially in Africa’s Great Lakes region. [But] this recommendation is off base. Aside from the significant logistical and diplomatic quandaries such operations would pose (How, for example, does Roth think Khartoum would react to an American military presence on south Sudanese soil? Would the French agree to the presence of an American force in the CAR?), fighting in the dense forests in which the LRA hides without knowing the territory, the languages, or the local cultures means that troops undertaking such an operation would be at a significant tactical disadvantage.

Sudan: Dipnote (State Department) discusses Ambassador Susan Rice’s recent visit to South Sudan with the UN Security Council.

China in Africa: Loomnie calls our attention to the opening of a Chinese business school in Ghana.

I hope to update the blogroll at right soon. What links are most useful to you? What should I add or take away?

Saturday Links: State Department on Africa Rights Abuses, Niger Hunger, Sudan Elections, Chad and UN

In recent reports, the US State Department condemned human rights abuses in Nigeria, DRC, Sudan, and Eritrea.

Millions of people in Niger face hunger, as the country’s new prime minister requests international assistance. Meanwhile, the AU calls for the release of deposed President Mamadou Tandja.

In neighboring Nigeria, women in Jos and Abuja protest recent religious violence in Jos.

Via VOA, Nick Grono of the International Crisis Group argues that the ruling National Congress Party has the edge in the upcoming Sudanese elections.

“The NCP is placed to do well in April elections because it controls many of the state institutions,” said Nick Grono, deputy president of operations at the International Crisis Group, an international non-governmental organization that works to resolve deadly conflicts around the world through field-based analyses and high-level advocacy.

“It does give them an advantage”, he said, adding “President al-Bashir is determined to use the elections to establish his legitimacy. ”Grono said it is hard to assess the effect on the election of the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for al-Bashir.  Two years ago, the court indicted him for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed since 2003 in the western region of Darfur.

Referring to Bashir’s defiance of the warrant, he said, “It may have enhanced his standing among some of the northern electorate, but I suspect a large section of the population are appalled at what happened in Darfur, and believe he has been rightfully indicted by the ICC, and that diminishes his legitimacy.”

He said the observers watching the campaign should focus on the promises that were made about these elections and about opening up the democratic space which he said have not been met.

The Sudanese government is also meeting in Doha with JEM rebels from Darfur.

A two-month extension for UN peacekeepers in Chad.

What are you looking at today?

Sunday Africa Blog Roundup: Somalia, Sudan, DRC, Swiss Minarets

Some kickin links from around the internet:

Rob Crilly and Sean Brooks look at Somalia: Rob asks about political parallels between al Shabab and the Taliban, Sean contemplates the potential repercussions if Washington focused on building peace, not building a government, in Somalia.

Reuters looks at tensions in Sudan.

Two that I missed last week: Inside Islam discusses Islam and the shari’a in Northern Nigeria with a researcher, and Louisa Lombard talks about the rebellion in the Central African Republic.

Can I admit to a strange mix of feelings about hearing of all this from the safety of Bangui? My first reaction was relief that I had made it out before all this came to pass. My second approached guilt – I should be there experiencing it all, too, rather than ensconced in the comparative luxury of the capital, with its (occasional) hot water and cafes. After all, the danger was likely minimal for people who stayed in their homes, more or less out of harm’s way. As an anthropologist, I’m supposed to live close to the population and and not erect a protective bubble between myself and the hardships they face. But studying an area home to violent conflict makes that more difficult because, quite frankly, when it comes down to it, I value my life more highly than my research. Unlike in the calculations of altruists like Zell Kravinsky, who argued that the risk of complications in his donation of a healthy kidney (which his wife opposed) was far outweighed by the benefit to the recipient, there would likely be little direct benefit to people in Ndele as a result of me “being there” alongside them as the bullets flew.

Texas in Africa looks for data linking the mineral trade and sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and finds none.

But, wait, you might say. There are lots of reports claiming that the mineral trade causes sexual and other forms of violence.

This is true. I certainly do not want to argue that there’s no connection whatsoever. Much of the gender-based violence in the Congo is perpetrated by armed groups that are involved in the mineral trade. We know that just about every armed group in the eastern Congo has engaged in violence, looting, and rape at one time or another, and that many (but not all) of those armed groups also benefit from the trade in minerals. There’s a definite correlation between some of the violence and the fact that armed groups profit from the mineral trade. And we know beyond any doubt that armed groups terrorize populations who live near their respective mines.

But the question we need to be asking is whether the majority of gender-based and other forms of violence in the eastern DRC are actually caused by the mineral trade. As long-time readers of this blog know, I am not yet convinced that the mineral trade causes the bulk of violence in the eastern Congo, or that getting the mineral supply chains under control would end the war against Congolese women and girls.

Rob Crilly follows up with a discussion of DRC here.

Finally, Kal uses the Swiss minarets controversy as a jumping off point for a discussion about Ross Douthat.

What are you reading?