Africa Blog Roundup: Malaria, Northern Kenya, Obama and Africa, and More

Owen Barder:

There was bad news in research published yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine about the effectiveness of what had seemed to be the best prospect for a malaria vaccine. The vaccine is known by the unsexy name of ‘RTS,S’.

The study of the phase III trials finds that in babies (aged 6-12 weeks) the vaccine only reduces malaria by less than a third.  This is disappointing because this is less than half the effectiveness that  had been suggested by the phase II clinical trials.

Karen Kaya and Jason Warner: “Turkey’s Love Affair with Somalia.”

Somalia Newsroom: “Uganda’s Withdrawal Threat.”

Hassan Kochore:

The face of northern Kenya…is changing, and one might expect people’s opinions and loyalty to the Kenyan state to shift accordingly. However, while the government has set out to socially and economically integrate the northern populations into Kenya, the narratives on the ground seem to be painting a contrasting picture.

Laine Strutton: “Italian Colonization in Africa.”

Roving Bandit on mental illness in South Sudan.

Lesley Anne Warner on US Africa policy and President Barack Obama’s second term. And via Amb. David Shinn, Tadias looks at US-Ethiopian relations in light of President Obama’s re-election.

Africa Is A Country: “10 Films to Watch Out For.”

Africa News Roundup: Boko Haram Suicide Bombing, the MNLA and Compaore, Sudan-South Sudan Talks, Locusts, and More

Yesterday there was a suicide bombing at the police headquarter in Maiduguri, Nigeria. Officials suspect the rebel movement Boko Haram.

According to AFP, members of the northern Malian rebel group MNLA (National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad) met with Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaore and his foreign minister today. Compaore is the mediator appointed by the Economic Community of West African States.

The latest round of talks between Sudan and South Sudan ended without progress, but the two parties are set to try again on June 21.

Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam, AFP reports, could reduce water levels in Lake Turkana, with terrible consequences for “The fishermen and herders eking out an existence on the shores of the majestic lake.”

If you have not already heard about the plague of locusts that may descend on the Sahel, read here. A key excerpt on how politics has affected the situation:

Locusts are usually managed by spraying chemicals that stop the swarms from spreading. Algeria and Libya ordinarily attack the swarms, preventing them from hitting Mali or Niger.

But in the last year, as Libya was wracked by fighting between rival militias in the aftermath of the ouster of Moammar Kadafi and Algeria suffered insecurity along its border, local teams and international experts have been blocked from stopping the swarms, the U.N.  Food and Agriculture Organization  said.

VOA on new businesses and signs of revitalization in Mogadishu, Somalia.

Turkey and Ethiopia:

Saygin Group of Turkey said its Ethiopian subsidiary may generate $100 million in revenue a year from textile manufacturing, amid plans by the Horn of Africa country to boost the industry’s exports to 10 times that amount.

What else is happening today?

The Istanbul Conference on Somalia

Yesterday and today, Turkey has been hosting an international conference on Somalia in Istanbul entitled “Preparing Somalia’s Future: Goals for 2015.” The conference is a sequel to one held in Turkey in 2010, and a sequel of sorts to the London conference on Somalia held earlier this year.

Here is a description from the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website:

On the first day of the Conference, four Partnership Forums will be held on the topics of “Water”, “Energy“, “Road” and “Resilience” with the participation of bureaucrats, experts and businessmen. Conclusions of Partnership Forums are planned to be reflected in the Declaration of the Conference.

On the second day of the Conference, the opening speeches will be delivered by the Prime Minister of Turkey, the UN Secretary General and the President of Somalia. There will be a discussion with the participation of high level officials on the possible additional steps to conclude the Transition Period that Somali is going through until August 2012. Also, views will be exchanged concerning short and medium term strategies on the Post-Transition Period.

Turkey is of the opinion that solutions to the problems of Somalia can only be found through the recipes that people of Somalia will formulate. In this context, representatives from all segments of the Somali society will have the opportunity to discuss the future of their country and determine the steps that can be taken in the coming period by meeting in Istanbul before the İstanbul Conference.

The official conference description is here.

Here are statements on the conference from the United Kingdom, France, and Italy. United States Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson is attending the conference, but I have not seen a US State Department statement on the event yet.

What do you think of the conference? What fruits will it yield?

Africa Blog Roundup: AU Elections, New Aid Models, South Sudan, Kenyan Crime and Twitter, and More

The Economist‘s Baobab calls the recent African Union elections – which failed to produce a new head of the organization – “a humiliating defeat” for South Africa.

At Reuters’ Africa Blog, Alex Whiting argues that emerging donors are “chip[ping] away at aid industry’s status quo.”

Until recently most emerging donors focused their aid on their own regions. Some, like India, China and Brazil, were also major recipients of international humanitarian aid.

But as their economies and political clout have grown, so too has their influence on the humanitarian aid system, which has traditionally been dominated by the mostly Western members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC).

The piece has an interesting snapshot of Turkey’s humanitarian activities in Somalia.

The State Department’s Dipnote highlights the work of fourteen activists in the Horn of Africa diaspora community.

Aly-Khan Satchu on “South Sudan’s Oil Cutoff.”

Kim Yi Dionne promotes the University of Oregon’s new “African political ephemera collection.” It looks really cool.

The BBC’s “From Our Own Correspondent” from February 2nd contains a segment on Nigeria’s Boko Haram.

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s Vanguard looks back at the chaotic month of January and what it has meant to the country.

Last but not least, Chris Blattman flags a new crimefighting initiative in Kenya that uses Twitter.

What’s on your screen today?

Update on Somalia and Turkey

Earlier this week, I wrote that al Shabab risked a backlash among Somalis by bombing a building in Mogadishu, Somalia where students were gathered to hear the results of a scholarship contest for study in Turkey. As commenter James Gundun pointed out, al Shabab also risked angering Turkey and its popular leader Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who visited Somalia in August.

Indeed, Turkey has moved swiftly to transport victims of the blast to Turkey, where they will receive care. Reuters (at link) attributes Turkey’s involvement in Somalia to the Turkish government’s desire for a stronger relationship with Africa, but I would argue that there is also an element of Muslim solidarity. Finally, politics aside, Turkey is doing a noble thing here by helping people who are hurt.

On the Bombing in Mogadishu, Somalia

Yesterday, two men drove a truck laden with explosives into a building in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia. Al Shabab, a Muslim rebel movement in southern Somalia, has claimed responsibility for the attack. This attack attracted major attention because al Shabab only withdrew from Mogadishu in August. The bombing symbolizes the inability of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and their allies from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to control the capital. E.J. Hogendoorn of the International Crisis Group ably explains this point, as quoted by Scott Baldauf at the Christian Science Monitor.

“The unfortunate reality is that this was to be expected,” says Mr. Hogendoorn. “This was announced by Al Shabab when it withdrew from most of Mogadishu. Essentially, they could not fight AMISOM or the TFG conventionally, so they would adopt asymmetrical warfare tactics such as suicide bombings.”

But while expected, Hogendoorn says, “this raises questions of the capability of the TFG, and it also raises questions of the capability of the AMISOM to protect the areas under their control.”

As AMISOM forces establish their presence further out into Mogadishu, and as the TFG begins to administer more parts of the country, Hogendoorn says, “inevitably this will increase the risks that its security forces take. They are more exposed to attack.”

However, what’s bad for the TFG is not necessarily good for al Shabab. The choice of target could provoke a political backlash. The blast claimed the lives of government employees, but also “killed scores of college students queuing up for results of a scholarship program that would have allowed many Somali students to study in Turkey.” Turkey is not only a Muslim country, but is also headed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Turkish leader, one of the most popular figures in the Muslim world, visited Somalia with his family in August to show solidarity during the country’s famine. I don’t know how many ordinary Somalis have heard of Erdogan, but I would imagine that there are a good number, even among the government’s opponents, who are horrified by this act of violence against Muslim students heading to a Muslim country ruled by a popular Muslim leader.

The attack, then, may be yet another instance where all sides in Somalia lose, especially the innocent civilians who are now dead.

Africa Blog Roundup: Abuja Bombings, Erdogan in Somalia, the LRA, Cote d’Ivoire, and More

Ambassador John Campbell and Tolu Ogunlesi offer thoughts on Friday’s bombing of the UN building in Abuja, Nigeria. Next republishes and updates part of an editorial posted after the June bombing of the police headquarters in Abuja.

Baobab on Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent visit to Somalia:

BAOBAB…was moved beyond cynicism by the Turkish prime minister’s visit to Mogadishu on August 19th. Mr Erdogan is not the first head of state to visit Somalia’s wrecked capital since central authority collapsed there in 1992. But the nature of his visit was different. It was not about regional security. He came with his wife and daughter, his cabinet ministers and their families. The trip was brief and choreographed to boost standing at home. But that should not diminish the courage shown. The Turkish plane scraped the runway on landing. Even though the Shabab had been forced out of the city, the visit was an extraordinary security risk.

Osiama Molefe, meanwhile, writes that the $70 million that African leaders have raised for Somalia calls their commitment to “Africans solutions for African problems” into question.

Kal offers his initial thoughts on the fall of Colonel Moammar Qadhafi.

Kim Yi Dionne posts some results from her team’s study of protests in Malawi.

Sanou Mbaye asks, “Can Senegal Succeed?” (h/t Loomnie)

Philip Lancaster on the intractable problem of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

Ashley Elliott takes a look at where things stand in Cote d’Ivoire.

What are you reading today?

Saturday Links: Turkey and Sudan, Niger and the EU, Clinton and Western Sahara

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has been invited to the Organization of the Islamic Conference meeting in Istanbul on Monday, and the EU is not happy with Turkey.

The one-day summit will add to growing concerns in some Western capitals that Turkey, an important regional ally of Washington, is shifting away from its pro-Western foreign policy and embracing countries such as Iran and Syria, while distancing itself from friend Israel.

“I think this summit will put Turkey again on the frontline, both in regards with Iran and Bashir,” said Hugh Pope, a senior analyst for the International Crisis Group.

That concern was laid bare open on Friday after President Abdullah Gul, asked about a request from Brussels that Turkey drop Bashir from the guest list, said: “What are they interfering for? This is a meeting being held in the framework of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference. It is not a bilateral meeting.”

Meanwhile, the EU has frozen development aid to Niger and given the African nation a one-month ultimatum to “start democracy talks.” Reports about a border closing between Nigeria and Niger have also surfaced, though it’s hard to tell what exactly is going on.

In other Niger news, will the Tuareg peace deal spur tourism?

In Morocco this week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told leaders that the Obama administration will continue George Bush’s policy of supporting UN mediation for the Western Sahara dispute.

Political observers here say Rabat generally believes that U.S. administrations led by the Democratic Party are more sympathetic to the separatist POLISARIO movement and are therefore more likely to push for a vote on self-determination within U.N. mediation efforts.

But Secretary Clinton made clear that President Obama is pursuing the same track as President George W. Bush in setting no preconditions about how U.N. mediation might best resolve the issue.

And, last but not least, a spate of Somalia news:

What’s in your browser today?