Africa Blog Roundup: Polling from Mali, Boko Haram, Lesotho’s Elections, and More

Bruce Whitehouse on some recent polling from Mali.

The United States Institute of Peace has released a report, “What Is Boko Haram?” by the journalist Andrew Walker.

The Moor Next Door on the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA).

Charlie Warren:

History has not borne out [predictions of] “coming anarchy” of terrorism, and West Africa is not rife with international extremism. Alas, the region is not beyond terrorism’s grasp either. This means several longstanding arguments about extremism in West Africa need to be carefully revisited.

Emily Wood, “The African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean World.”

Focus on the Horn looks at the Islamic Movement in Sudan.

Earlier this month the Shura (Consultative) Council of the Islamic Movement, an extended central committee of four hundred members, held an extraordinary meeting to discuss a draft new constitution of the Movement to replace a set of ad hoc rules to which only its members had access. The new constitution identified the Movement, the parent organisation of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), as a cultural, social and religious organisation and effectively surrendered its political mandate to the ruling NCP. News of the 11 May Shura only reached the media in the form of a concise communiqué. In fact, the Islamic Movement itself can be considered a semi-clandestine organisation; it has neither headquarters nor a legal personality. A private citizen in Sudan can only access the Movement as a member, and it rarely demonstrates its existence when not in crisis.

Baobab on Lesotho’s elections:

IN A blow for African democracy, Pakalitha Mosisili, leader of Lesotho’s ruling Congress Party (CP), agreed on May 30th to step down as prime minister after 14 years in power despite his party’s having won the most seats in parliamentary elections five days earlier. A group of opposition parties, led by Thomas Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC), is expected to form the mountainous kingdom’s first coalition government.

The 67-year-old Mr Mosisili’s resignation came as a surprise. Many newspapers had already declared him the winner after his party picked up 41 of the 80 constituency seats, an absolute majority. But after a further 40 seats were awarded based on proportional representation, the CP ended up with a total of only 48 seats out of a possible total of 120. That left it still the biggest party, but without the absolute majority required to form a government.

It is not clear to me that this result is indeed a “blow to African democracy.” What do you think?


Somali Pirates: Expanding Reach, Escalating Violence

Two quick points about the Somali pirates, which I believe are at least indirectly related.

the Indian Ocean

First, their reach is expanding:

Suspected Somali pirates have seized two ships hundreds of miles off the coast of Africa, in waters outside the zone patrolled by Navfor, the European Union naval force fighting piracy in the Gulf of Aden.

A Turkish ship with a crew of 19 Turks and two Ukrainians was hijacked in the Indian Ocean on Tuesday morning, while a British Virgin islands vessel with a mainly Sri Lankan crew was seized off Oman.

A statement released by Navfor said the 35,000-tonne Turkish-crewed Frigia had been closer to India than Somalia – about 400 nautical miles outside the normal Navfor operation area.

Second, as the threat of piracy grows, commercial shipping companies’ use of private security does too:

Private security guards aboard a merchant ship plying the pirate-infested waters off Somalia shot dead one of several attackers trying to seize the vessel, the European Naval Force in the area said on Wednesday. The killing was thought to have been the first involving private contractors, the Naval Force said.

The death could escalate the struggle between pirates and merchant shipping in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean, where cargo ships increasingly carry private security operatives to repel assailants. Some maritime organizations believe the presence of armed contractors might persuade pirates to adopt more aggressive tactics. The death of the pirate also raised legal questions about the accountability of private security teams, a United Nations official said.

It’s gettin woolly out there in the Indian Ocean.