Africa Blog Roundup: South Sudan’s Future, AQIM and bin Laden, Liberia’s Elections, and More

Chris Blattman weighs in on an interesting discussion about what South Sudan’s government should do now.

Battlman also recommends Ken Opalo’s blog. Check it out.

I missed this piece from Kal last week, but it’s still relevant. He writes about how bin Laden’s death might affect al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Here are three worthwhile posts on areas of Africa I don’t normally cover:

Joshua Keating writes on remittances, and includes a nice map.

What are you reading this weekend?

Africa Blog Roundup: Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Osama bin Laden, the African Middle Class, and More

A few bloggers update us on the issues and the current state of affairs in Cote d’Ivoire:

Dibussi Tande reminds us of another protest wave that hit countries like Cameroon – in the early 1990s:

The wind of protest, confrontation and repression that blew over the University of Yaounde, beginning in March 1991, was a sign of things to come; in fact, it soon transformed itself into a violent and ferocious whirlwind that engulfed the entire country, as town after town was rocked by anti-government protest, shaking the Biya regime to its very foundations, and bringing the country to the closest it has ever been to a full-scale civil war since the 1960s. These were the so-called “années de braise” or the “smoldering years” – smoldering with widespread discontent, political activism and repression….

John Campbell flags a piece analyzing African reactions to Osama bin Laden’s death. More on this topic here, here, and here.

Chris Blattman writes about motorbike taxis.

Elizabeth Dickinson highlights an African Development Bank report on Africa’s middle class:

A new report released by the African Development bank today estimates that more than a third of the continent’s population — 313 million people — are now middle class. Wake up investors: “Africa’s emerging middle class comprises roughly the size of the middle class in India or China.”

That matters — a lot. As the report bluntly puts it, “The middle class is widely acknowledged to be Africa’s future, the group that is crucial to the continent’s economic and political development.” For businesses looking to invest in the continent, the possibilities are now much great — Africa is a consumer base, not just a rich mine for natural resources. Services are in high demand and the new middle class is quickly adopting many of the luxuries of modern life. The Bank’s research goes on to examine how a middle class status correlates with lots of good things — higher levels of education, better access to the internet, better infrastructure, and even smaller average family size. This becomes a self-driving process; the report attributes the arrival of many newcomers to the middle class to the creation of new, private companies meant to serve, you got it, the middle class.

Finally, the State Department’s Andrew Cedar writes about America’s “engagement with young Africans” across the continent.

More European Officials Visit the Sahel Amid Concerns About AQIM

Recently several European officials have visited the Sahel to discuss concerns about Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) with Sahelian governments. These visits demonstrate European governments’ continued engagement with the issue of AQIM, particularly its kidnapping activities. Concerns about AQIM are intensifying in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death and the ongoing civil war in Libya.

Last week, Spanish secretary of state for security Antonio Camacho met with his counterparts in Mauritania, Mali, and Niger. In Mauritania, where Camacho also discussed illegal immigration, he made plans to enhance Spanish-Mauritanian security cooperation:

Camacho discussed ways to establish new forms of support, either bilaterally or multilaterally, so as to address the threats, stressing the strategic importance that Spain sees in co-operation with Mauritania.

Both sides agreed to create a “joint team for co-operation among police agencies in the fight against drug trafficking”. They also explored the possibility of tightening border control, promoting co-operation and development between the two countries, according to the statement.

Spain’s stake in the problem of AQIM increased after militants kidnapped three Spanish aid workers in 2009. The hostages were released last year “after the Spanish state reportedly paid 7 to 8 million euros ($10 to $12 million).”

This week, two French members of parliament are making a similar circuit of the Sahel:

Henri Pagnol, of the ruling UMP party, and Francois Loncle, of the opposition Socialist Party, said they were on their way back from the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott and would head for the Malian capital Bamako later in the day.

Loncle said the team, which also plans to visit Niger, Burkina Faso and Algeria in June, will assess the impact of the activities of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) on regional countries and “the role of France” in the fight against the extremist organisation.

In Nouakchott, the French MPs met with President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz and several of his ministers as well as with opposition chief Ahmed Ould Daddah and French military officials.

France has a substantial stake in the problem too. A number of AQIM’s kidnapping victims have been French citizens, including two young men who died near the Niger-Mali border in January and four Frenchmen still held by AQIM. Some experts believe that Osama bin Laden’s death has increased the likelihood that the latter captives will come to harm if AQIM decides to commit an act of symbolic retaliation. Whatever the case, negotiations over the hostages have so far come to naught, and clearly French politicians are worried about the hostages’ fate and the trajectory of AQIM in general.

These European visits come as Sahelian governments, who are themselves increasingly worried about AQIM, are pursuing greater cooperation amongst themselves and with Algeria. Financial support and political engagement on the part of Spain and France could enhance some of the Sahelian governments’ counterterrorism efforts, and could also draw European governments even more deeply into Sahelian affairs and politics.

Saturday Links: West African Elections, Bin Laden and France, Somalia PM Crisis, Etc.

West Africa: International Crisis Group looks at upcoming elections in Guinea and Ivory Coast, arguing that “the stakes are simply too high” in many contests in West Africa. Because “there are good grounds for contestants to believe that if they lose they, and perhaps their whole community, may be excluded from power for a generation,” elections all too often result in civil conflict.

VOA has more on the elections in Ivory Coast.

Niger: A vote on a proposed constitution this Monday faces boycotts and skepticism (via Tommy Miles).
Central African Republic: Another set of electoral difficulties here. Reuters reports that “rebel groups in Central African Republic are blocking early preparations for a presidential election due in January, casting doubt on whether the latest target date for the poll can hold.”

France: Andrew Lebovich looks at Osama bin Laden’s new tape threatening France, which included statements on recent kidnappings in Niger.

Somalia: UN Special Envoy Augustine Mahiga met with Somali leaders in the Transitional Federal Government to help resolve a struggle over the appointment of a new prime minister.

US policy in Africa/Middle East: The Obama administration has waived requirements in the 2008 Child Soldiers Prevention Act and allowed the military to continue aid to Chad, Sudan, DRC, and Yemen.

South Africa: The Christian Science Monitor reports on the African Leadership Academy’s efforts to send young Africans to American and European universities.

What are you reading this weekend?