Africa: conflict and governance

Written by  //  September 14, 2011  //  Africa, David Kilgour  //  1 Comment

Africa, China, the United States, and Oil ; Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Africa Policy Forum
A thoughtful article that goes a long way towards explaining conflict in and between nations – in Africa and many other parts of the world.
The Revenge of Geography : People and ideas influence events, but geography largely determines them, now more than ever. To understand the coming struggles, it’s time to dust off the Victorian thinkers who knew the physical world best. A journalist who has covered the ends of the Earth offers a guide to the relief map—and a primer on the next phase of conflict. (Foreign Policy May/June 2009)
Unfortunately, this “curse of oil” now threatens to affect countries rich in other resources as well: uranium in Niger and Namibia, for example. It’s going to be quite a challenge for African oil-producers and other energy suppliers to hold governments accountable. Some are saying now that the constitutional crisis in Niger and President Tandja’s desire to extend his mandate are directly related to elites wanting control over uranium supplies. I hope systems for sharing wealth equitably are created, otherwise we may see more resource conflict, more corruption, and more political tension in many African countries. Posted by Alex Thurston (Reuters 9 July 2009)

Behind Sudan’s Secession
(Foreign Affairs) After last week’s secession referendum in Sudan, it appears likely that southern Sudan will break away from the North. Ann Mosely Lesch’s 1987 article “A View From Khartoum” explains why this outcome might have been preordained.

Foreign Policy Failed State Index 2011 See Interactive Map and rankings
After South Sudan: The Case to Keep Dividing Africa
Sudan has been successfully split into two independent countries. Here’s why more African nations should divide, secede, splinter, or otherwise scramble the old colonial borders.
(The Atlantic) The birth of South Sudan is a momentous invitation not to despair over the travails that the people of this new landlocked and impoverished nation surely will experience, but to celebrate another step toward closing what Pierre Englebert, a professor of African politics at Claremont College, has called “Africa’s secessionist deficit.” And the deficit in question refers to living standards and development generally. Englebert found, in one of the most exciting recent academic projects in academic African studies, that the unwillingness to cut African nations down in size (in other words, to let new nations form) has “contributed to its underdevelopment.”
The idea that Africa suffers from too few secessionist campaigns, too few attempts to carve a few large nations into many smaller ones, flies in the face of conventional wisdom. One of the truisms of African politics is that traditional borders, even when bequeathed by colonizers without the least sympathy for African political justice, ought to be respected. The cult of colonial borders has been a cornerstone not only of diplomacy between African nations but of the assistance programs of foreign governments and multinational non-governmental organizations. This is especially true for the U.S. and Europe, which spend billions on reconstructing failed states such as the Congo. But letting these countries reform into smaller nations might actually reduce conflict, increase economic growth, and cost less in foreign aid. That, by the way, is Englebert’s argument in a nutshell in his paper, “Let’s Stick Together: Understanding Africa’s Secessionist Deficit,” published in African Affairs in July 2005.


Dark Clouds in the Rainbow Nation
Punishing a South African youth leader for hate speech doesn’t do anything to suppress the anger of a generation.
(Foreign Policy) … Malema is channeling — albeit in an extreme, almost campy fashion — views and moods shared by many in his emerging generation. Elders who work with young South Africans notice a strain of frustration they didn’t expected to see in the lucky kids who are getting the chance to grow up without the shackles of apartheid. These so-called “born frees” don’t all seem to feel their situation is a blessing, though.
… This anger isn’t so hard to understand. Millions of black South Africans in the cities still live in the same kind of crowded shack ghettos that blacks were forced to live in under apartheid; in the countryside, many still lack access to reliable electricity and water. Income inequality has actually grown in the 17 years since apartheid ended, and that inequality still maps onto race, with the average white South African still earning more than four times the average black one. In the United States, Americans despair at 9 percent unemployment; among youth in South Africa, unemployment tops 50 percent. Every year, tens of thousands of teenagers pass their high-school graduation exams with no prospect of getting a job and entering a life commensurate with their education — or, maybe even more importantly, reflecting their supposedly improved social status. To many young South Africans, it’s an infuriating mystery why having a decent life should still be so hard for so many people so many years after the end of white rule.
30 August
Mahmood Mamdani: What does Gaddafi’s fall mean for Africa?
As global powers become more interested in Africa, interventions in the continent will likely become more common.
(Al Jazeera) The conditions making for external intervention in Africa are growing, not diminishing. The continent is today the site of a growing contention between dominant global powers and new challengers. The Chinese role on the continent has grown dramatically. Whether in Sudan and Zimbawe, or in Ethiopia, Kenya and Nigeria, that role is primarily economic, focused on two main activities: building infrastructure and extracting raw materials. For its part, the Indian state is content to support Indian mega-corporations; it has yet to develop a coherent state strategy. But the Indian focus too is mainly economic.
The contrast with Western powers, particularly the US and France, could not be sharper. The cutting edge of Western intervention is military. France’s search for opportunities for military intervention, at first in Tunisia, then Cote d’Ivoire, and then Libya, has been above board and the subject of much discussion. Of greater significance is the growth of Africom, the institutional arm of US military intervention on the African continent.
This is the backdrop against which African strongmen and their respective oppositions today make their choices. Unlike in the Cold War, Africa’s strongmen are weary of choosing sides in the new contention for Africa. Exemplified by President Museveni of Uganda, they seek to gain from multiple partnerships, welcoming the Chinese and the Indians on the economic plane, while at the same time seeking a strategic military presence with the US as it wages its War on Terror on the African continent.
African leaders seek ways to ease continent’s crises
African leaders, in Ethiopia for an African Union summit, offered different approaches to ending “the cycle of drought and famine” afflicting the continent, but most seem to be in agreement on one thing: Their governments must do more. “Africa’s development must be made in Africa, by Africans, for Africans,” said Kanayo Nwanze, president of the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development. The Guardian (London) (8/24)
15 July
UN says ‘condemnation is insufficient’ for atrocities in Sudan’s South Kordofan
(CSM) In the most comprehensive cataloguing of gross human rights violations committed in the conflict so far, a June UNMIS (United Nations Mission in Sudan) human rights report seen by Enough provides gruesome details of brazen executions of civilians, intimidation and assault of UN personnel, and forced returns and displacement of populations, all acts that may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity.
10 July
(IPS) After decades of civil war, South Sudan ‘s independence Saturday marks it’s entrance as the newest country on the world’s stage. In an exclusive Q&A, Fikru Abebe, director of the Sudan Southern programme at Plan International, tells Miriam Gathigah that the country is in “a carnival mood with a lot of excitement and hope.”
But beyond the euphoria lies a tangle of outstanding issues, including the unresolved status of the central Abyei region. Also of concern is the recent violence in Southern Kordofan, where Reem Abbas reports that while humanitarian organisations scramble to bury scattered corpses, Sudan’s humanitarian commission has prohibited most aid organisations from working in the area.
Meanwhile, only 25 percent of South Sudanese women, children and men have access to medical facilities, Protus Onyango writes. With one of the highest maternal and child mortality rates in the world, South Sudanese women are hoping that along with independence comes improved health care.
The sharing of oil between North and South Sudan also needs to be urgently addressed. 85 percent of Sudan’s oil is produced in the South, while the oil pipelines destined for port travel through the North. If an equitable agreement is not reached, government officials and rights organisations fear that conflict between the two regions will escalate.
As a result, Sudan is closer to civil war than it has been since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed six years ago, a report released by a coalition of Sudanese, African, Arab and Western non-governmental organsations warns. “Sudan is not on the brink of war, Sudan is at war,” the co-founder of the Sudan Democracy First Group tells IPS.
Senegal urged to halt ex-Chad leader Habre extradition
(BBC) The UN human rights chief has urged Senegal to reconsider sending former Chadian President Hissene Habre back to Chad, where he has been sentenced to death in absentia.
9 July
South Sudan: World leaders welcome new nation
(BBC) Leaders across the globe have been sending their congratulations to South Sudan on the day it became the world’s newest nation.
Statements recognising South Sudan’s nationhood flowed from the US, UK, Russia and others as tens of thousands watched an independence and flag-raising ceremony in the capital, Juba.
Salva Kiir took the oath as president.
8 July
Violent birth stokes fear for Sudan’s future
(FT) As a fragile South Sudan with few working institutions prepares to become a new state on Saturday, the threat of violence is ever present
7 July
“A Massive Humanitarian Emergency” in South Sudan
What is the current situation in the country?
(Médecins sans frontières) South Sudan is experiencing a massive humanitarian emergency: the people have acute needs now and will continue to do so in the coming years. The situation is already critical in terms of the availability of healthcare. Added to this, the civilian population has borne the brunt of emergency after emergency: regular, violent clashes resulting in death, injury, and mass displacement; the arrival of 300,000 people returning from the north; and chronic malnutrition and frequent outbreaks of diseases such as kala azar, measles, and meningitis. The humanitarian response to these repeated crises has often been complicated and delayed. Prevailing logistical challenges make it difficult to reach people and provide lifesaving assistance.
Since February 2011 there has been a marked increase in violent clashes in South Sudan and the contested border areas between the North and the South. This has resulted in an increase in the number of violence-related trauma patients, some of whom are being treated in MSF’s medical facilities. But too many people in need of care—often the most vulnerable, including women and children not suffering directly from violence-related trauma—never make it to a medical facility.
The heightened hostilities between both sides and violent attacks by the North in contested border areas like Abyei and South Kordofan, in addition to similar patterns of violence on the border between South Darfur and Western Bahr El Ghazal, are making media headlines In the lead-up to the South’s independence from the North. However, other violence has also claimed lives and displaced people this year, but has rarely made it into the news. This includes intertribal or intercommunal-related violence, cattle raiding, and the rise of new Southern militias.
6 July
South Sudan: How do you set up a nation?

(BBC) On 9 July, the Republic of South Sudan will become the world’s newest nation state, formally seceding from Sudan. But what does this involve?
Passports, currency, stamps, anthem, internet domain name – and a decent football team. These are just some of the requirements.
Then there are state institutions to be established, a constitution to draw up and an overseas charm offensive to conduct.
… Joining the UN is a country’s most important act of international diplomacy, but finding a seat can be a game of “musical chairs,” says the BBC’s UN correspondent Barbara Plett.
The hall of the General Assembly is full, so in the case of South Sudan, UN engineers are debating whether to install another desk. Questions being asked are, how much this will cost, whether the new wiring will disrupt the electronic voting system, and is it worth the effort given that the GA undergoes renovations next year.

 The great divide across Sudan is visible even from space, as this Nasa satellite image shows. The northern states are a blanket of desert, broken only by the fertile Nile corridor. South Sudan is covered by green swathes of grassland, swamps and tropical forest.

Is Sudan heading for an acrimonious divorce?
(BBC) As independence draws near key, fears are rising of a slide back into the violent days of Sudan’s decades long civil war between north and south, the last round of which ran from 1983-2005 and left some 1.5 million people dead.
The mood has soured since the euphoria of a January referendum, in which almost 99% choose to form their own nation.
Violence has broken out in border areas with the north in the past month.
Land and cattle
First, there was the border district of Abyei, a contested fertile region of grasslands and farms about the size of Lebanon, which both north and south claim as theirs.
Democracy Unleashed
With a flurry of elections hitting Africa this year, here are four countries where things could get lively — maybe too lively.
(Foreign Policy Magazine July/August 2011) It’s the year of the African election, with 27 countries scheduled to hold presidential, legislative, or local polls throughout 2011. And as much as elections can contribute to democratic progress, in the immediate term they can often be a flashpoint for conflict. Recent examples abound: The Ivory Coast was thrown into a four-month crisis when its outgoing president, Laurent Gbagbo, refused to accept the victory of his opponent, President Alassane Ouattara. Uganda’s incumbent President Yoweri Museveni won reelection in February, but the opposition has cried foul and his inauguration was marred by violent protests. In regional giant Nigeria, post-election violence killed as many as 800 people.
20 June
Three African states — Somalia, Chad, and Sudan — once again top this year’s Failed States Index, the annual ranking prepared by the Fund for Peace and published by FOREIGN POLICY of the world’s most vulnerable countries. For four years in a row, Somalia has held the No. 1 spot, indicating the depth of the crisis in the international community’s longest-running failure.
Failed States Index 2011 Interactive map and rankings


30 December

Sudan Vote Could Cleave Africa’s Largest Country in 2
(PBS NewsHour) In the first of two reports, special correspondent Jeffrey Kaye examines the mood in Sudan leading up to a referendum that could split the war-torn country in two. He reports from the southern city of Juba, which is poised to become the capital if, as many expect, residents of the oil-rich South vote to split from the North.

Satellites to be used to monitor Sudan for atrocities
A special project that will use satellites to monitor Sudan for potential war crimes was slated to begin today, only days before the Jan. 9 referendum that could break up Sudan into northern and southern countries. Actor George Clooney helped launch and fund the project. Reuters (12/29) Clooney joins Sudan poll spy mission (FT) Human rights activists have set up a satellite monitoring project that will watch from the skies for outbreaks of conflict in the south Sudan
Sudanese president sets Thursday deadline for Darfur talks
Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al Bashir declared Darfur peace talks being held in Qatar would end on Dec. 30, dealing an apparent final blow to negotiations which have made little progress in ending the region’s conflict.
A rebel coalition negotiating in Doha, the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM), said Bashir’s comments were unhelpful and it did not expect any agreement to be signed on Thursday.
Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and genocide in Darfur, warned on Wednesday that anyone bearing arms in the western region after the Doha talks ended would be dealt with decisively.
UN convoy attacked in Cote d’Ivoire

A mob in an Abidjan neighborhood supportive of incumbent Cote d’Ivoire President Laurent Gbagbo attacked a United Nations convoy Tuesday, wounding one UN peacekeeper and setting fire to a vehicle. Gbagbo has been critical of the UN and foreign governments for their persistence in urging Gbagbo to concede defeat in Cote d’Ivoire’s recent elections. AlertNet/Reuters (12/28) , ABC (Australia) (12/29)
Deadly sectarian blasts in Nigeria are condemned by UN’s Ban
The Nigerian city of Jos was rocked Dec. 24 by bombings, which killed at least 32 people and injured more than 50. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the bombings, the latest salvo in an ongoing sectarian conflict between Christians and Muslims — violence that has claimed 500 lives in Jos over the past year. Bloomberg (12/27)
In Ivory Coast, a critical moment for national identity looms
This week could prove to be decisive in the standoff between the rival presidencies, with a planned general strike, a potentially violent rally, pressure from African leaders and the threat of a foreign military intervention in the offing. (Update) Fear of fighting grows in Ivory Coast as Gbagbo defies warnings

UN bolsters Congo peacekeepers to stop LRA atrocities
The United Nations is sending nearly 1,000 additional peacekeeping troops to the Democratic Republic of Congo in an effort to stop the killings and kidnappings being carried out by the Ugandan group, the Lord’s Resistance Army. Already, some 19,000 UN peacekeepers are deployed in the Congo mission. Bloomberg (12/16)

9 December
African Union suspends Ivory Coast amid political chaos
The move came after West African leaders Tuesday called on President Laurent Gbago to acknowledge the results of the runoff and hand over power to his challenger, Alassane Ouattara. Both Gbagbo and Ouattara claimed victory after the November 28 voting.
On Tuesday, the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said it was suspending the Ivory Coast from all of its decision-making bodies until further notice. The suspension came following a meeting including the presidents of seven member states.
UN: Ouattara is the winner of Côte d’Ivoire poll
The UN Security Council has ramped up the pressure on incumbent Côte d’Ivoire President Laurent Gbagbo by issuing a statement saying that Alassane Ouattara, the opposition candidate, clearly had won the country’s Nov. 28 presidential election. Gbagbo, who retains control of the army and state television, is resisting calls to step down. BBC (12/9) , The Independent (London) (12/9)
23 November

International justice and Congo ‘warlord’ on trial
Test of court’s credibility as millionaire businessman and former vice-president faces charges of mass murder, rape and pillage
(The Independent) The International Criminal Court began a key test of its credibility yesterday on the first day of a trial against the most prominent government figure ever to be put in the dock at the Hague.
23 September
Tony Blair and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf: Only Good Governance Can Guarantee Africa Achieving the Millennium Development Goals
The MDG Summit will remind everyone of the challenge of lifting Africa out of poverty, and that achieving all our targets in the next five years will be tough. But steady advances are being made. Poverty, though still too high, is falling. Seventy-six percent of children are attending primary school, up from 58 percent a decade ago, and access to safe drinking water is increasing. With democracy flourishing across the continent, economies improving and the political will to make citizens’ lives better, there is more hope than ever. It is on this basis that the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative (AGI) works with the leaders of Liberia, Rwanda and Sierra Leone. AGI’s team is working at the heart of the government of Liberia to help build the systems necessary for the country to achieve its vision.
10 September
Nigeria on the Brink
(Foreign Affairs) The 2011 elections in Nigeria, scheduled for January 22, pose a threat to the stability of the United States’ most important partner in West Africa. The end of a power-sharing arrangement between the Muslim North and the Christian South, as now seems likely, could lead to postelection sectarian violence, paralysis of the executive branch, and even a coup. The Obama administration has little leverage over the conduct and outcome of the elections — and if the vote does lead to chaos, Washington may no longer be able to count on Nigerian partnership in addressing African regional and security issues such as the conflicts in Darfur, Southern Sudan, and Somalia.
9 September
(The Economist) More than 700 prisoners were freed after members of Boko Haram, an Islamist sect which wants sharia law throughout Nigeria, carried out a sunset raid on a jail in Bauchi, a city in the north-east of the country. The group has been blamed for a spate of killings in the past month. (Aljazeera) Prison break by armed rebel group Boko Haram raises new fears of violence as security is tightened in country’s north.
Ban heads to Rwanda in bid to calm tensions

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has traveled to Rwanda to meet with President Paul Kagame and other officials amid tensions over a UN report that accuses Rwandan forces of mass-scale human-rights abuses against ethnic Hutus in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo. Rwandan authorities have threatened to pull out of UN peacekeeping missions over the report’s contents. The UN delayed official publication of the report after Rwanda raised objections. CNN (9/8) , Google/The Canadian Press (9/8)
7 September
Exiled Rwandan leaders call for Kagame ouster
(AFP) Rwandans and the international community need to work together to end President Paul Kagame’s rule and pave the way for a democratic transition, exiled leaders said in a report obtained by AFP Tuesday.
The 60-page document, co-authored by four former senior officials turned opponents in exile, paints a damning picture of the state of political and individual freedoms in the small genocide-scarred central Africa nation. (CNN) Rwandan president sworn in for second term — Kagame won the August 9 ballot with 93 percent of the vote, according to the Rwandan National Electoral Commission.
Ballots and bullets in Nigeria’s oil state
(FT) As the country prepares to vote, a life-and-death struggle to control the patronage networks from which many Nigerian politicians draw their power gathers pace
John Githongo: Fear and Loathing in Nairobi
(Foreign Affairs) Kenya was once Africa’s poster child for stability and growth. Then, in late 2007, it descended into ethnic violence. The current coalition government has not solved the underlying problems of corruption and inequality, and ethnic resentments are likely to remain until Kenyans elect a clean and inclusive government.
9 July
South Africa’s migrants fear fresh violence
With only two days to go until the World Cup final and the end of the month-long tournament, South Africa’s millions of migrants are living in fear of a return of the wave of xenophobic violence that swept the country two years ago, killing 62 people and displacing tens of thousands more.
So far a number of isolated incidents have not escalated. But refugee and migrant agencies across the country have been warning for months that a co-ordinated whispering campaign threatening attacks on foreign nationals after the World Cup has created a “climate of threat”.
30 June
Congo – Africa’s disaster
… this is a state that epitomises so many of Africa’s historic and contemporary problems. The Congo is shackled with a terrible (and notoriously brutal) colonial legacy. This is a nation the size of Western Europe with only a handful of usable roads. With its stark east-west divide and countless ethnic and tribal divisions it is doubtful whether it is actually a viable state at all. Congo is also a country, like Nigeria, that is cursed by its natural resources. Its vast gold, copper, coltan, cobalt and tin reserves make it a mineral superpower. But these resources are mined and sold by armed groups, often sponsored by Congo’s stronger neighbours. Rwanda’s role in destabilising Congo for profit has been particularly grotesque. Belgium revisits the scene of its colonial shame
14 June
Mo Ibrahim prize goes to none
(Al Jazeera) Judges for a $5m annual prize for good governance in Africa have decided not to give the award for the second consecutive year.
on Sunday, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, which is based in London, said that its seven-member prize committee, led by Kofi Annan, the ex-UN secretary-general, had not chosen anyone to win the award.
The foundation said that since last year’s failure to select a winner, there had been “no new candidates or new developments”.
13 June
South Africa: Africans Forced to Flee
(All Africa) The nation of South Africa has never been made to look so attractive, and yet many Africans resident in the Republic have been chased into neighbouring countries by the police. This is the unfortunate experience of illegal immigrants who are living in South Africa in the hope that they might become citizens there.
10 May
Death of Nigerian leader exposes ‘sham’ democracy
The death last week of the Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua has exposed popular anger over the nature of the country’s power politics – and, according to one political scientist, revealed the country’s democratic credentials to be a “sham”.
Since the return of civilian rule in 1999, the ruling and dominant People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has sought to rotate, or “zone” the office of president between the overwhelmingly Muslim north and the mainly Christian south.
The handover to President Jonathan was entirely peaceful, legal and constitutional.
But it has broken the deal planned by the godfathers of the powerful PDP. So some northern leaders are complaining that President Jonathan should not seek to stand as the PDP candidate in elections next year.
6 May
(BBC) Obituary: President Yar’Adua
23 April
Jean pushes rights in Rwanda — Press freedom sensitive subject
(Winnipeg Free Press) Press freedom is a particularly touchy subject with a tragic history in Rwanda, and Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean delved into it Thursday during a passionate debate in a packed auditorium.
It’s a country where hate media incited genocidal mobs to slaughter their neighbours 16 years ago. Today, the government cracks down on news organizations in the name of national security.
International monitors accuse Rwanda’s government of increasingly authoritarian behaviour with elections approaching, with a pair of anti-government newspapers having their licences suspended and an opposition leader being jailed in recent days.
28 April
Africa Needs a New Map
(Foreign Policy) It’s time to start seeing the redrawing of the continent’s colonial borders as an opportunity, not a threat.
Silence about borders has become Africa’s pathology, born in the era of strongman leaders that followed decolonialization. Loath to lose any of their newly independent land, the continent’s leaders upheld a gentleman’s agreement to favor “stability” over change. Today, the unfortunate result is visible in nearly every corner of Africa: from a divided Nigeria, to an ungovernable Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), to the very real but unrecognized state in Somaliland. Borders created through some combination of ignorance and malice are today one of the continent’s major barriers to building strong, competent states. No initiative would do more for happiness, stability, and economic growth in Africa today than an energetic and enlightened redrawing of these harmful lines.
24 February
Jeffrey Gettleman: Africa’s Forever Wars – Why the continent’s conflicts never end.
(Foreign Policy March/April 2010) There is a very simple reason why some of Africa’s bloodiest, most brutal wars never seem to end: They are not really wars. Not in the traditional sense, at least. The combatants don’t have much of an ideology; they don’t have clear goals. They couldn’t care less about taking over capitals or major cities — in fact, they prefer the deep bush, where it is far easier to commit crimes. Today’s rebels seem especially uninterested in winning converts, content instead to steal other people’s children, stick Kalashnikovs or axes in their hands, and make them do the killing. Look closely at some of the continent’s most intractable conflicts, from the rebel-laden creeks of the Niger Delta to the inferno in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and this is what you will find.
24 January
Anglican bishop kidnapped in Nigeria amidst worsening religious violence More
Yar’Adua speaks in bid to calm Nigeria tension
Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua spoke publicly for the first time since traveling to Saudi Arabia for medical care in November and insisted he is recovering nicely. Yar-Adua’s heart condition and long silence led to speculation he was critically ill, prompting growing calls for him to relinquish his hold on power. The Globe and Mail (Toronto)/Reuters (1/12) , BBC (1/12)
11 January
Is Nigerian president Yar’Adua dead? His absence may spark political crisis
(CSM) Rumors that Nigerian President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, hospitalized for six weeks in Saudi Arabia, has gone into a coma have put the West African nation on edge.
22 December 2009
As war consumes Somalia and Sudan, once-stable Kenya looks volatile
A power-sharing agreement and a reform mandate has not fully rescued Kenya from the specter of violence that divided the nation after the contentious 2007 elections. Analysts fear the violence that has consumed Somalia and threatens to reignite in Sudan could spread to Kenya. The Washington Post (12/22) 
22 November
Human rights concerns raised as Rwanda set to join Commonwealth
Rwanda has trumpeted its Commonwealth credentials with the switch from French to English instruction in schools last year, and won acclaim for low levels of corruption and high health and education spending. Its membership bid is strongly backed by Tony Blair who works as an unpaid advisor on governance. Suspicions persist that, beyond talk of deepening trade and improving cultural ties, Commonwealth diplomats are tempted by the prospect of cementing such a public defection from the Francophone world.
22 October
A chance to end the Delta rebellion
As a result of a Nigerian government amnesty which ended earlier this month, some 15,000 rebels in the oil-rich Delta region have surrendered in the hope that the country’s president, Umara Yar’Adua, will fulfil a pledge to help develop the poor villages in the area. 
20 October
White House Unveils Sudan Strategy
(NYT) The strategy, worked out after months of intensive debate, is meant to build pressure on Sudan to end the abuses that have left millions of people dead or displaced in its vast Darfur region. It places a greater emphasis on incentives than the Bush administration policy, but officials were quick to stress that there were also additional punishments on the table.
No winner for $5 million African leadership prize
(AP) The prize-giving committee could not select a winner after considering “some credible candidates,” said former Botswana President Ketumile Masire, a board member of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. He said the foundation “noted the progress made with governance in some African countries, while noticing with concern recent setbacks in other countries.” Committee members said they could not discuss their deliberations. (The Independent) Now attention has been focused on a discouraging year for democracy in Africa, marked by coups, inheritance battles and dysfunctional power-sharing administrations born of rigged elections.
Nigeria ‘to give 10% of oil cash’
(BBC) Nigerian officials are reportedly planning to give 10% of the country’s oil revenues to people in the Niger Delta, an area plagued by insurgencies. Presidential adviser Emmanuel Egbogah told the UK’s Financial Times that the money would go directly to communities, bypassing powerful state governors. Analysts say the government fears local officials would embezzle the money.
Blood diamonds headed back to market?
The Kimberly Process certification scheme set up to halt the trade in conflict, or blood, diamonds by the international diamond industry is faltering over a lack of accountability and follow-through, according to a report from Partnership Africa Canada. The failures, campaigners warn, have contributed to a flourishing illegal market that threatens to put conflict diamonds back on the world market. (10/18)
11 July
Obama speaks of hopes for Africa
(BBC) Africa can forge its own future and solve its problems, Barack Obama says on a first trip to sub-Saharan Africa as US president.
Ghana Visit Highlights Scarce Stability in Africa
(NYT) “The African continent is a place of extraordinary promise as well as challenges. We’re not going to be able to fulfill those promises unless we see better governance.”
With that as his objective, a harsh reality emerged: Mr. Obama did not have too many options. From one end of the continent to the other, the sort of peaceful, transparent election that Ghana held last December is still an exception rather than the norm, analysts said. The same is true for the country’s comparatively well-managed economy.
Countries like Botswana, Namibia and South Africa have consistently received better-than-average global scores for their governance in recent years, according to rankings based on World Bank research. [But] The list of exploding countries, unstable countries, corrupt countries, is long. Military coups still break out with regularity, as in Guinea and Mauritania within the last year. Journalists in a number of countries continue to be killed, jailed, tortured, forced into exile or otherwise muzzled. A day after Mr. Obama’s visit to Ghana, the Congo Republic will hold elections that have already been attacked as flawed, after the country’s constitutional court recently rejected the candidacies of opponents to incumbent Denis Sassou-Nguesso, leaving the president as a heavy favorite.
9 July
Bono: Rebranding Africa
No one’s leaked me a copy of the president’s speech in Ghana, but it’s pretty clear he’s going to focus not on the problems that afflict the continent but on the opportunities of an Africa on the rise. If that’s what he does, the biggest cheers will come from members of the growing African middle class, who are fed up with being patronized and hearing the song of their majestic continent in a minor key.
Obama visit sparks jealousy among Ghana’s neighbors
U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Ghana, his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa and his only stop in the region, has prompted speculation Obama chose Ghana for its recent success — and chose against other nations hamstrung by corruption. Ghana has cut its poverty rate in half, enjoyed economic growth and seen peaceful democratic transfer of government. Further, Ghana stands out among neighbors wracked by violence. Nigeria’s oil pipelines have been sacked by militants, while Kenya was plagued by violence after contentious elections. Los Angeles Times (7/10)
Squandered oil wealth, an African tragedy
Equatorial Guinea is a tiny country of about half a million people on the west coast of Africa, but is the fourth-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa. Oil money gives the country the means to be a model for development and human rights. The economy is nearly 130 times as big as it was when oil was discovered in 1995. But as a report released by Human Rights Watch today details, the government has squandered or stolen much of the money at the expense of its people.
6 July
Obama’s mission of tough love in Africa
‘I’m not a believer in excuses,’ U.S. President says as he prepares for his first visit to the continent
… he is also bringing an unexpected message of tough love to this continent: no more excuses, no matter what happened in the dark dungeons of the colonial fortresses … where millions of slaves were shackled and shipped overseas.
“I think part of what’s hampered advancement in Africa is that for many years we’ve made excuses about corruption or poor governance – that this was somehow the consequence of neo-colonialism, or the West has been oppressive, or racism,” Mr. Obama told an African website, AllAfrica (U.S. Wants to Spotlight ‘Successful Models’ And Be An ‘Effective Partner’ – Obama), in his only interview dedicated to Africa before his visit. “I’d say I’m probably as knowledgeable about African history as anybody who’s occupied my office, and I can give you chapter and verse on why the colonial maps that were drawn helped to spur on conflict. … And yet the fact is we’re in 2009.” The West cannot be blamed for the disastrous policies that have brought catastrophe to Zimbabwe and other African countries over the past 15 or 20 years, he said. “I think it’s very important for African leadership to take responsibility and be held accountable.” He called for a “practical, hard-headed approach” to improving the lives of Africans – beginning with a war on corruption. “If government officials are asking for 10, 15, 25 per cent off the top, businesses don’t want to invest there.”
12 June
How does President Obama help Morgan Tsvangirai and Zimbabwe without bolstering Robert Mugabe?
Mr. Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe’s prime minister, received more votes than President Mugabe in an election last year but was pressed by regional leaders into an unsatisfactory power-sharing deal four months ago. It left Mr. Mugabe in control of the police, the spy service, the media and the criminal justice system, and he has used his power to countermand Mr. Tsvangirai’s recent efforts to re-establish the rule of law and freedom of the press.
The world’s new threat: conflict fatigue
(Foreign Policy) As violence escalates again in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the world must recognize the need for sustained attention and intervention.
10 June
Royal Dutch Shell agreed yesterday to pay $15.5-million (U.S.) to settle a lawsuit alleging it was complicit in the hanging of six Nigerian protesters, including famed writer and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, by the country’s military government in 1995.
The company walked a fine line by agreeing to settle while continuing to deny any involvement in the deaths of the demonstrators, who were protesting against the development of oil fields. Globe & Mail ; Shell, Ogoni people settle out of court
30 January 2009
Corruption exists in every nation, including Canada, to lesser or greater degrees. In Africa, the issue of non-accountability has been manifested in decades of widespread corruption.
I refer here again to [Robert] Calderisi’s 2006 book (The Trouble with Africa). The Nigerian winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Wole Soyinka, is quoted there on this topic in wide-hot prose: “African dreams of peace and prosperity have been shattered by the greedy, corrupt and unscrupulous role of African strongmen…a power-crazed and rapacious leadership who can only obtain their egotistical goals by oppressing the rest of us.
May-June 2008
Séverine Auteserre: The Trouble with Congo – How Local Disputes Fuel Regional Conflict
Although the war in Congo officially ended in 2003, two million people have died since. One of the reasons is that the international community’s peacekeeping efforts there have not focused on the local grievances in eastern Congo, especially those over land, that are fueling much of the broader tensions. Until they do, the nation’s security and that of the wider Great Lakes region will remain uncertain.
(Foreign Affairs) Donors would do better to expand the funding available for local conflict resolution by increasing their aid budgets or shifting their assistance priorities away from elections. They should focus on helping the Congolese government and representatives from all the eastern communities work on land reform and the review of mining contracts by providing independent experts on land and judicial matters. Donors should also fund the training of local Congolese NGOS and justice officials so that they can be deployed as observers to the land-redistribution commissions or sent to villages to educate the rural population. And they should provide the NGOS with the funds to compensate the parties who will lose land. To ensure that any additional money goes to efficient programs, donors should ask the experts on local conflict resolution and the specialists on Congo and Rwanda in their consulates to identify reliable local peace builders in the eastern provinces. They should offer financial support to the Congolese NGOS that organize peace talks and reconciliation programs, such as Plate-forme des Associations de D?veloppement de Bunyakiri, which brings together military, political, business, and ethnic elites of the territory of Bunyakiri, in Sud-Kivu, and Arche d’Alliance, which helps victims of human rights violations in Sud-Kivu and promotes the reform of existing human rights legislation.

One Comment on "Africa: conflict and governance"

  1. BEFORE project July 9, 2009 at 12:03 pm ·

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