Africa News Roundup: Clinton in Africa, Strikes in Chad, Oil in Niger, and More

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s tour of Africa continues. Yesterday she traveled to South Sudan and also met with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. In Uganda, she seemed to indicate that Washington is looking toward a post-Museveni future. Today she is due in Kenya where she will also meet with Somali leaders and exhort them to complete that country’s political transition in a timely manner.

Sudan and South Sudan have reached an agreement on oil sharing.

An apparent suicide bombing wounds nine “near an air base” in Nairobi, Kenya.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation has announced that the country’s oil production has reached a record high of 2.7 million barrels per day.

In Yobe State, Nigeria, it appears that a suicide bomber tried to kill the Emir of Fika, but failed.

Strikes in Chad have gone on for over two weeks (French).

Niger announces new discoveries of oil.

Violence in western Cote d’Ivoire:

“The events in Duékoué, including the collective blame and mob justice, underscore the need for a concrete reconciliation process, as well as the restoration of the rule of law and state authority across the country,” Bert Koenders, the UN Special Representative to Côte d’Ivoire, told reporters on 27 July.

The attack, blamed on ethnic Malinkés and traditional hunters known as Dozos, was the second in about six weeks in the restive western region. On 8 June, armed militia killed seven UN peacekeepers and more than a dozen civilians in the Para area near the Liberian border.

Christian Science Monitor: “In Mauritanian Refugee Camp, Mali’s Tuaregs Regroup.”

What else is happening today?


Two Points on Secretary Clinton’s Tour of Africa [Updated]

Yesterday United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton kicked off her 2012 tour of Africa. Today she is in Senegal, where she is expected to give a speech about China that does not name China. Other scheduled stops on the tour include South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, and Ghana.

Press coverage of the tour has emphasized three issues: terrorism, Chinese economic influence in Africa, and democracy. Let’s leave the first of those aside for this post. I have just two brief points to make:

  1. American rhetoric will not deter African countries from accepting Chinese investment. However forceful the Secretary’s speeches, however persuasive her arguments, African countries will continue to partner with China. Money will speak louder than words.
  2. Democratic achievements sometimes seem firmer in the present than they do in hindsight. I too applaud Senegal’s democratic transfer of power from one leader to another. I applaud Malawi’s peaceful succession process, and Ghana’s. But each country’s trajectory is different, and today’s democrat may become tomorrow’s autocrat. Defeated Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade earned plaudits as a democrat when he came to office in 2000, only to become another leader seeking an exemption to term limits by 2012.  I am not saying that Senegal, Malawi, and Ghana are headed for autocracy, but I am saying that “democratization” often proves fragile.

What do you expect from Secretary Clinton’s visit? What significance do you see in her choice of destinations?

[UPDATE]: Find the transcript of Sec. Clinton’s remarks in Dakar here. An excerpt:

Africa needs partnership, not patronage. And we have tried to build on that challenge. And throughout my trip across Africa this week, I will be talking about what it means, about a model of sustainable partnership that adds value rather than extracts it. That’s America’s commitment to Africa.


So the links between democracy and development is a defining element of the American model of partnership. And I acknowledge that in the past our policies did not always line up with our principles. But today, we are building relationships here in West Africa and across the continent that are not transactional or transitory. They are built to last. And they’re built on a foundation of shared democratic values and respect for the universal human rights of every man and woman. We want to add value to our partners, and we want to add value to people’s lives. So the United States will stand up for democracy and universal human rights, even when it might be easier or more profitable to look the other way, to keep the resources flowing. Not every partner makes that choice, but we do and we will.

Ethiopia: Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s Illness and Potential Political Changes in the Greater Horn

When Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi missed an African Union summit this past weekend, rumors spread that he was ill. News agencies reported yesterday that Meles was in “critical condition” in Brussels. By late in the day the Ethiopian government had announced that Meles was “in good condition.” Under Article 75 of the 1994 Ethiopian constitution (.pdf), Deputy Prime Minister (and Minister of Foreign Affairs) Haile-Mariam Desalegne will act on the Prime Minister’s behalf in his absence.

Meles, a former rebel leader who took power in 1991, has previously stated his desire to step down when his current term ends in 2015. If Meles leaves office, the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front will almost certainly retain power, but Meles’ absence would represent a significant political change for Ethiopia.

Indeed, Meles’ illness potentially foreshadows a coming period of political change (specifically the installation of new heads of state) for several countries in the greater Horn of Africa. Change could occur in several ways.

First, there is retirement. Meles is not the only leader in the region who has said he will step down in 2015 – Sudanese President Omar al Bashir made the same promise during a small wave of protests in early 2011, and Djibouti’s President Ismael Guellah has stated that he will step down in 2016. Some observers have doubted the sincerity of these pledges, but Meles in particular sometimes seems fatigued and ready to give up the job, an appearance that this illness underscores.

Elections will bring changes in leadership elsewhere in the region. Many observers expect Somalia’s ongoing political transition, which includes presidential elections next month, to produce a government fairly similar in personnel to the current Transitional Federal Government. But in Kenya, presidential elections set to take place in 2013 must produce a new head of state. President Mwai Kibaki, who has reached the limit of two five-year terms, cannot run again, leaving the field open to a number of major politicians, including current Prime Minister Raila Odinga and current Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta.

Other transitions, as Meles’ case reminds us, could come about because of sudden illness or death, a grim possibility but one that must be mentioned. These leaders are not old: indeed, all of them (not counting Kibaki) are short of seventy – Meles was born in 1955, Bashir in 1944, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir in 1951, Somalia’s President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed in 1964, Eritrea’s President Isaias Afewerki in 1946, Djibouti’s President Ismail Guellah in 1947, and Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni around 1944. Yet four of them have been in power for over nineteen years (Museveni came to power in 1986, Bashir in 1989, Meles in 1991, and Isaias in 1993). The high stress of being head of state seems to accelerate aging in some leaders. There remain only six African leaders who have been in office longer than Museveni.

Finally, no leader in the region has faced a monumental threat from mass protests, but significant anti-regime protests have occurred in the last two years in Sudan, Uganda, and Djibouti. If nothing else, such protests add to the pressures these heads of state face in other areas.

It is possible, of course, that in three or four years only Kenya, out of all the countries in the greater Horn, will have new leadership. But a combination of factors could produce transitions in Ethiopia, Sudan, Djibouti, and elsewhere, potentially shaking up, within a relatively short period of time, what has long been a fairly stable roster of leaders.

Africa News Roundup: LRA, Boko Haram, Guinea-Bissau, Malian Refugees, and More

Several items on the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA):

The Federal Government of Nigeria has reportedly opened a special prison for detainees from the Boko Haram movement.

The aftermath of the coup in Guinea-Bissau continues, with the Economic Community of West African States and the junta at loggerheads.

Some 60,000 Malian refugees have fled to Mauritania since the war began in Mali in January. The overall number of displaced persons from the conflict in Mali is around 260,000.

The New York Times on the Ethiopian holy cities of Aksum and Lalibela.

Jeune Afrique (French) on the “war” to succeed defeated President Abdoulaye Wade within Wade’s Parti démocratique sénégalais (Senegalese Democratic Party, PDS). Seneweb (French) reports on the recent visit of one PDS leader, Senate President Pape Diop, to Touba, center of the country’s Mouridiyya Sufi brotherhood.

Reuters: “Kenya, Somalia border row threatens oil exploration.”

What else is going on?

Africa News Roundup: Mauritania in Mali, Suicide Attack in Mogadishu, Museveni Impeachment Attempt, South Sudan Violence, and More

Mauritania’s army continues to hunt members of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) inside Mali, but Mauritania’s government denies supporting the Tuareg rebellion in the region.

On Wednesday, a suicide attack occurred at the presidential palace in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital. The rebel movement al Shabab has claimed responsibility. Such events, in my view, boost the predictions of analysts who said that al Shabab’s withdrawal from Mogadishu would change the nature of the conflict there, rather than ending it.

The US military says that 2011 saw a major increase in bomb attacks in Nigeria, Kenya, and Somalia.

Ethiopian troops are still preparing to hand over areas in Somalia to African Union troops.

The administration of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni says an impeachment bid against the president has little chance of success.

The BBC re-examines Uganda’s role in Somalia.

The LA Times looks at ethnic violence in South SudanAlan Boswell, meanwhile, writes that the government’s army – the Sudan People’s Liberation Army or SPLA – is “part of the problem.”

Here in Jonglei state, where tit-for-tat raids have billowed into a full-scale internal war between the Murle and Lou Nuer tribes, South Sudan’s army has become part of the problem, despite the $270 million in American aid it’s received since a 2005 U.S.-brokered peace deal led last year to the creation of the country.

A broad group of U.S. activists who forged close ties with the South Sudanese rebel movement spurred that deal to end Sudan’s decades-long civil war. They included churches from then-President George W. Bush’s hometown of Midland, Texas, the Congressional Black Caucus and celebrities such as actor George Clooney.

The violence, and the role of the South Sudanese military in it, points out the difficulty of a legacy in which the U.S. and influential activists remain supporters of a government that often lies at the heart of the problem. Even with its poor human rights record, South Sudan continues to be the darling of its committed backers.


Africa Blog Roundup: University of Timbuktu, Boko Haram and Cameroon, Bribes in Kenya, AFRICOM, and More

I suspect anyone who read news about Africa this week saw the controversy over the “Stop Kony” project launched by the group Invisible Children. I do not have much to say about it. I side with the critics of the project, but I also think the issue has been a distraction – as bloggers like Jina Moore and Andrew Harding have pointed out – from other, more important issues. Those wanting defenses or critiques of Invisible Children can find them easily; any round-up on my part would be redundant.

I found the most value in efforts to place the discussion in a wider context, such as Aaron Bady’s roundup “On the genre of ‘Raising Awareness about Someone Else’s Suffering’” and novelist Teju Cole’s micro-essay “Seven thoughts on the banality of sentimentality.” Finally, there is a lot to ponder in Max Fisher’s response to Cole – not because I agree with Fisher (I agree with Cole), but because of how keen Fisher (editor of the international channel at The Atlantic) is to police the boundaries of the debate. Fisher criticizes Invisible Children, but he dismisses Cole’s concerns about broader issues concerning white American activists and Africa as “resentment.” Fisher others Cole – prompting Cole to respond, “I’m as American as you” – and passes silently over Cole’s invocation of the contrast between white activists’ responses to the Iraq War and their responses to African wars. My question for readers is: What does Cole and Fisher’s interaction say about the tensions and limitations in efforts to examine America’s relationship with Africa?

On a lighter note, the White Nigerian.

Inside Islam continues a really cool series on important Islamic sites with a post on the University of Timbuktu.

Dibussi Tande has written a series, “Boko Haram and the Fear of Islamic Extremism in Cameroon.” Part One looks at possible connections between Boko Haram and Cameroon. Part Two looks at the history of Cameroon’s Islamic community, with an eye toward identifying trends that might create opportunities for Boko Haram there. Part Three assesses Cameroonian security forces’ responses to Boko Haram, looks forward to ask what chances Boko Haram has of establishing a serious presence in Cameroon, and suggests what Cameroon can do to prevent that.

Jimmy Kainja asks why Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika felt the need to say he will step down in 2014, given that he is constitutionally required to step down at that time.

Asch Harwood flags a new online tool, I Paid A Bribe, that activists are using in Kenya and India.

The Economist‘s Baobab makes the important point that killings and repression of African journalists deserve just as much attention as the deaths of Western journalists.

The lack of interest in their fate among their counterparts in Western countries is doubly demoralising given that Western hacks have rightly highlighted the sacrifice of their own colleagues who died recently in Syria and Libya. Just as dispiriting is the silence of donor countries. Britain, America and others appear intent on disbursing aid even at the expense of press freedom in Africa. More solidarity is needed.

Zach Warner critiques AFRICOM’s reading list.

Africa News Roundup: Sudan-South Sudan Tensions, Malian Refugees, Senegalese Opposition Coalition, and More

The Sahara Studies Association is calling for papers on the theme of “Conflict, (Counter-Terrorism and Intervention in the Sahara-Sahel.”

Tensions between Sudan and South Sudan continue:

South Sudanese officials said Thursday that Sudanese troops were massing near the disputed border and that Sudan’s armed forces had bombed two oil wells in South Sudan….

Al-Obeid Merwah, a spokesman for the Sudanese Foreign Ministry, did not return calls seeking comment.

Martin Vogl details some of the latest battles between Tuareg rebels and government forces in northern Mali. IRIN has two reports on Malian refugees displaced by the fighting.

Violence in Northeastern Nigeria, and the resulting military crackdown, are also causing mass displacements of people into neighboring Niger and Chad. Niger’s permanent secretary in charge of Nigeriens abroad has “appealed to Nigerian security forces to show restraint.”

The BBC discusses the launch of a “$23bn (£14.5bn) port project and oil refinery in south-eastern Kenya’s coastal Lamu region near war-torn Somalia’s border.” The piece continues:

An oil pipeline, railway and motorway will also be built linking Lamu to South Sudan and Ethiopia.

Newly independent South Sudan plans to use Lamu as its main oil export outlet.

Moustapha Niasse, who placed third in the first round of Sunday’s presidential election in Senegal, has pledged to support second-place finisher Macky Sall in the second round (French). Reuters details further opposition support that Sall is receiving.

VOA on American allies in sub-Saharan Africa:

While the United States government is getting increasing help from two African allies in terms of security objectives, U.S-based analysts fear the governments in Uganda and Ethiopia are getting a pass in terms of internal governance…

Ted Vestal, an Ethiopia expert from Oklahoma State University, worries about what is taking place inside Ethiopia, and the lack of reaction from U.S. officials.

“I am thinking of deficits of democracy and a bad human rights record, which the State Department points out every year in their human rights reports,” said Vestal. “But the security angle seems to be more significant to U.S. foreign policy, especially with the war on terror and the connection to Somalia next door to Ethiopia.  We apparently are flying drone airplanes out of Arba Minch down in southern Ethiopia over Somalia. So we have a definite military tie.”

What are you reading today?