Africa: Conflict and governance 2012

Written by  //  December 19, 2012  //  Africa, Government & Governance  //  No comments

Postcards From Hell, 2012

What does living in a failed state look like? A tour through the world’s 60 most fragile countries.
(Foreign Policy) There’s a reason Somalia has topped the Failed States Index for five years straight. Although the internationally recognized Transitional Federal Government gained control of the capital, Mogadishu, last August after the hard-won withdrawal of the terrorist group al-Shabab, it still lacks control of large swaths of the country, including Somaliland and Puntland in the north. The Somali police are “generally ineffective,” while violence, piracy, and kidnappings are regular threats. Last year, one of the deadliest droughts in decades resulted in a famine that killed tens of thousands of people and displaced hundreds of thousands in the country, where 16 percent of the population was internally displaced in 2011 — the highest rate worldwide. African Union and Kenyan troops are working to help bring security to Somalia, and signs of growth in Mogadishu are offering a flicker of hope, while plans to pass a new constitution and elect a new president and prime minister later this summer offer a crucial test

Africa’s Albertine Rift November 2011
(National Geographic) The region has become a staging ground for violence of mind-reeling proportions over the past few decades: the murder and abduction of tens of thousands in northern Uganda, the massacre of more than a million in the genocides of Rwanda and Burundi, followed by two wars in eastern Congo, the last of which, known as the Great African war because so many neighboring countries were involved, is estimated to have killed more than five million people, largely through disease and starvation—the deadliest war since World War II. Armed conflicts that started in one country have seeped across borders and turned into proxy wars, with the region’s governments each backing various rebel groups, a numbing jumble of acronymed militias—the LRA, FDLR, CNDP, RCD, AFDL, MLC, the list goes on—vying for power and resources in one of the richest landscapes in all of Africa.
The horrific violence that has occurred in this place—and continues in lawless eastern Congo despite a 2009 peace accord—is impossible to understand in simple terms. But there is no doubt that geography has played a role. Erase the borders of Uganda, the DRC, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania and you see what unites these disparate political entities: a landscape shaped by the violent forces of shifting plate tectonics. The East African Rift System bisects the horn of Africa—the Nubian plate to the west moving away from the Somalian plate to the east—before forking down either side of Uganda.

Technology, Minerals and War in the Democratic Republic of Congo

– According to the UN: The designation sub-Saharan Africa is commonly used to indicate all of Africa except northern Africa, with the Sudan included in sub-Saharan Africa. However, according to the same source, Northern Africa includes Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, Western Sahara]. We have opted to include both Sudans in sub-Saharan Africa.

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Obama to Kagame: Drop backing for M23 rebels
In a phone call, U.S. President Barack Obama told Rwandan President Paul Kagame that the latter’s ongoing support for armed rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is “inconsistent with Rwanda’s desire for stability and peace.” The conflict was the focus of discussions Wednesday among United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and leaders of Rwanda, Uganda and other African states, while DR Congo President Joseph Kabila was seeking a greater role for UN peacekeepers. The Guardian (London) (12/19), Yahoo/Reuters (12/19), Bloomberg (12/15)
DR Congo one of “most hopeless nations on earth”
There is “a doomed sense of déjà vu” for journalists covering the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, writes Jeffrey Gettleman. “Congo has become a never-ending nightmare, one of the bloodiest conflicts since World War II, with more than five million dead. It seems incomprehensible that the biggest country in sub-Saharan Africa and on paper one of the richest, teeming with copper, diamonds and gold, vast farmlands of spectacular fertility and enough hydropower to light up the continent, is now one of the poorest, most hopeless nations on earth,” he writes. The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (12/15)
7 December
The Trouble With Democracy, From Cairo to Johannesburg
David Rohde, Reuters columnist
(The Atlantic) The only small cause for hope is that Egypt’s struggles are not unprecedented. Other countries have undergone agonizing and turbulent transitions as well. Thomas Carothers, an expert on transitions to democracy at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said that what is occurring today in Egypt is typical when a long-disenfranchised group gains power. Distrustful and insular after years of struggles, it is often reluctant to share power and still views itself as deeply vulnerable.
Carothers said Egypt’s struggle mirrors the difficult transition still under way in Bolivia. …
There is another international comparison that should give the Brotherhood pause, according to Carothers. South Africa’s African National Congress gained a monopoly on power after the country’s first post-apartheid elections in 1994. With no viable opposition, the ANC grew increasingly corrupt as opportunistic figures flocked to the only patronage show in town.
“The party just became a self-sustaining machine,” Carothers said. “People start joining your party out of sheer opportunism.”
That may not matter to the Brotherhood. Its fear of being forced from power it has finally attained it may lead it to become the kind of governing party its members once loathed.
The stark picture painted by Shadi Hamid, the director of research at the Brookings Doha Center, in this excellent piece in Foreign Policy this week, may prove to be true. There may be no common vision in Egypt, as Humid argues; there may be no consensus on what the Egyptian nation should be.
6 December
Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” Bill Spreads Fear
(IPS) Activists are worried that revisiting the bill creates tension in an already uneasy co-existence between gays and the general public. Activists who were previously engaged in rights campaigns have gone underground, fearing for their lives, Ssentongo said. …
In recent months several European countries, including the United Kingdom, Norway, Denmark and Ireland, suspended aid to Uganda over corruption involving the diversion of millions of dollars in Irish aid.
Germany has also suspended its budgetary support to the country, saying its decision is related to the anti-homosexuality bill.
30 November
Gerald Bareebe and Brett House: How Uganda’s ‘kill the gays’ bill is a homophobic farce
Gerald Bareebe is a Ugandan journalist and a 2012-13 Sauvé Scholar. Brett House is a Senior Fellow at the Jeanne Sauvé Foundation in Montréal and a former principal advisor in the executive office of the UN secretary-general.
(National Post) This bill has never been about supporting Ugandan social mores, preserving the traditional African family, protecting youth from so-called homosexual “recruiters” or fighting neo-imperialism, as [Parliamentary Speaker Rebecca] Kadaga contends. If Kadaga really wanted to fight Western influence, maybe she’d instead consider scrapping the British colonial-era laws on which Uganda’s existing anti-gay statues are founded. …
This bill is really a virtual combo of bread and circuses to dampen domestic Ugandan opposition to President Yoweri Museveni’s increasingly autocratic rule. And it’s a smokescreen to divert international attention from Uganda’s craven role in the ongoing war in Congo.
29 November
Rwandan Ghosts — Benghazi isn’t the biggest blight on Susan Rice’s record.
(Foreign Affairs) Her role in shaping U.S. policy toward Central Africa should feature high on this list. Between 1993 and 2001, she helped form U.S. responses to the Rwandan genocide, events in post-genocide Rwanda, mass violence in Burundi, and two ruinous wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
25 November
DR Congo fighters given deadline to exit Goma
(Al Jazeera) A regional summit in Uganda has given the armed group until Monday to withdraw from Goma and other eastern areas.
21 November
Goma rebels say they will “liberate” all Congo
(Reuters) – Rebel forces in eastern Congo vowed on Wednesday to “liberate” all of the vast central African country as they began seizing towns near the Rwandan border and spoke of a 1,000-mile march to the capital Kinshasa.
The M23 rebels, widely believed to be backed by Rwanda, captured the eastern city of Goma on Tuesday, a provincial capital home to a million people; United Nations peacekeepers simply looked on, after Congolese troops had quit the town.
Viewpoint: Why DR Congo’s volcano city of Goma matters
(BBC) Goma lies at the foot of an active volcano in the Democratic Republic of Congo and on the border with Rwanda. It matters today because it testifies to the powerlessness of the Congolese government and the United Nations to stop fighting and tit-for-tat violence.
The border city also matters because it could be an indicator of the unravelling of the Rwandan president’s authority. In Rwanda, President Paul Kagame is under pressure from hardliners frustrated by the continued presence of opposition forces who have found sanctuary on the Congolese side of the border.
28 September
Al-Shabab rebels pull out of key Somali town
Rebel group pulls out of Kismayo, its last stronghold, after an assault by Kenyan and African Union forces.
17 September
Peter Greste: Many challenges facing new Somali leader
Consider the job ahead of President Mohamoud.
(Al Jazeera) Somalia is routinely described as “the World’s most failed state”, and a grim example of what anarchy really means. Twenty years of constant war has ground the infrastructure to dust and two million Somalis need food aid just to survive. And if the president – or anyone else – underestimated the security challenge at all, al-Shabab set him straight by trying to kill him less than two days into the job.
22 September
Marikana: The politics of law and order in post-apartheid South Africa
Liberal colonial occupation and the massacre have never been far apart in history, writes [Suren] Pillay.
(Al Jazeera) Law was not only an expression of the codification of order, but also the expression of the imposition of liberal conduct and of liberal paternalism. The rule of law and constitutionalism, scholar James Tully tell us, drawing on the Australian experience, is not a culturally neutral set of ideas, but is rather the hegemonic imposition of a set of norms which originate in colonial conquest and are imposed on subject populations in order to transform their behaviour to produce what we might call good modern subjects.
We should recall that the early justifications of colonial rule were based on doing good for the native by, for example outlawing “barbaric practices” in India and Africa in order to civilise them.
My point is not to celebrate these outlawed practices, but to point out that liberalism has historically relied on law to enact its paternalism on populations in order to transform their conduct into what is seen as the good subject and good citizen, who acts and thinks in a particular way. From the liberal vantage point, this is celebrated.
In our present context, this liberal paternalism now seems to be running rampant as the only way in which political authority can transform our conduct. This leads to the proliferation of rules, not the proliferation of debate and dialogue or of engagements designed to transform through alternative modes of self-regulation.
If political authority only relies on the wagging finger, it quickly comes to rely too much on the wagging stick. When those populations upon whom rules are imposed start to find its paternalism offensive, authority slides into authoritarianism.
4 September
Mine unrest spreads in S. Africa; murder charges are dropped
Strikes among tens of thousands South African laborers have spread from platinum mines to a gold mine near Johannesburg as the country’s resources minister threatened mining companies with fines if they don’t do more to improve the lives of their workers. In the wake of widespread condemnation, murder charges were being dismissed against 270 miners in the deaths of 34 co-workers shot by police. Reuters (9/4), Los Angeles Times/World Now blog (tiered subscription model) (9/3), Los Angeles Times/The Associated Press (tiered subscription model) (9/3)
30 August
South African Marikana miners charged with murder
(BBC) Workers arrested at South Africa’s Marikana mine have been charged in court with the murder of 34 of their colleagues shot by police.
The 270 workers would be tried under the “common purpose” doctrine because they were in the crowd which confronted police on 16 August, an official said.
29 August
‘Architects of Poverty’ The Self Destruction of Africa’s ANC
(Spiegel online) South Africa’s legendary African National Congress, the party of Nelson Mandela, is destroying itself. Corruption, cronyism, internal divisions and, more recently, the mine massacre in Marikana are draining support from the party’s base — and destroying the country’s economy.
22 August
Viewpoint: Ethiopian PM Meles Zenawi’s death could create regional turmoil
(BBC) The death of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has thrown the populous Horn of Africa giant into a period of deep uncertainty and created a serious leadership vacuum in the region with profound geopolitical implications.
Concern is mounting about the potential of a vicious power struggle in Addis Ababa, triggering a negative chain reaction across the region.
For many of Ethiopia’s Horn allies, the death has come at an awkward moment, not least because a delicate political transition in Somalia is incomplete and under serious strain, and a stand-off between South Sudan and Sudan risks dragging the region into a new armed conflagration.
8 August
Persecuted Libyans Struggle to Be Heard
(IPS) – Pregnant women miscarrying due to mistreatment, detainees mainly from sub-Saharan Africa denied adequate food and water. Small cells crammed with 80-100 detainees subjected to arbitrary justice by Libya’s volatile militias, politically persecuted Somalis forcibly repatriated to Mogadishu, and hundreds of boat people dying trying to flee Libya for a better life in Europe.
Such are the conditions of Libya’s approximately 80,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) post the revolution. The refugees comprise Libyans ethnically cleansed from towns and cities due to their perceived support for former dictator Muammar Gaddafi, and those who have fled the continued fighting between rival militias across the country.
UN peacekeepers clash with rebels in DR Congo

Thousands of people continued to flee the fighting in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo as United Nations peacekeepers used helicopter gunships to support Congolese troops in clashes with M23 rebels who had attacked an army base. Paul Kagame, the president of neighboring Rwanda, was warned by the U.S. that he could face prosecution for war crimes if he does not end his support for the Congolese mutiny. ABC News/The Associated Press (7/26), ForeignPolicy.com/Turtle Bay blog (7/25)
24 July
Yahia H. Zoubir: Qaddafi’s Spawn
(Foreign Affairs) The Libyan leader’s ouster dispersed masses of guns and refugees across the region. Already, Algeria has seen attacks by AQIM militants armed with Libyan weapons, Mali has been rocked by a coup led by armed nomads returning from Libya, Tunisia’s economy has been shattered by the loss of its most important trading partner. Then, there is the money: Locating Libya’s financial assets after the war has been another complicated matter. Members of Qaddafi’s inner circle who know where the money is stashed are missing or unidentifiable. Basically, billions of dollars might wind up in the hands of individuals who could use the cash to sponsor terrorism or otherwise destabilize Libya. And finally, there are the refugees: Tens of thousands of Africans, no longer welcome in Libya, returned home this year. Besides the fact that many of them are ripe for jihadi infiltration, they will further strain the region’s weak economies. Already, food security is becoming a major issue and famine looms.
16 July
Hope But No Change
(Foreign Policy) During President Barack Obama’s short term as a senator, one of two bills he authored which eventually became law was the Democratic Republic of the Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act of 2006. Senator Hillary Clinton was a co-sponsor, along with 11 others.
Why has President Obama abandoned the one country in Africa he promised to help?
The DRC-focused bill includes specific provisions on conflict minerals and sexual violence; sanctions on armed groups and their state-sponsors; and support for democracy. Section 105 of the Obama-written law authorizes the secretary of state to withhold assistance from a foreign country if she determines that the foreign government is taking actions to destabilize the DRC. Obama’s six-year-old law is still the only official policy the United States has on the books for dealing with the Congo crisis.
14 July
Sudan president Bashir meets South Sudan’s leader Kiir
(BBC) The presidents of Sudan and South Sudan have met for the first time since a border dispute brought their countries close to conflict in April.
Meanwhile, PBS Newshour has a devastating report on the refugee camp of Jamam. Relief Workers Decry Living Conditions in South Sudan Refugee Camp: Efendi Badi el-Tom, the head of the Ingessana people who live in the hill country of eastern Sudan, said he doesn’t blame UNHCR. “I blame [Sudanese President] Omar al-Bashir because if he hadn’t shot and bombed us, we would have avoided all this. We are mountain people. The Ingessana people want to go home and find peace and finish this terrible war. Our hearts are broken.”
UN moves to protect Congolese from rebels

United Nations peacekeepers and government forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo are being deployed to the city of Goma to protect civilians from advancing M23 rebel fighters. About 220,000 people have been displaced by the recent fighting, which the UN suspects is being stoked by foreign weapons shipments. BBC (7/10), Google/Agence France-Presse (7/10), Reuters (7/10), IRINNews.org (7/10)
One year after freedom, South Sudan is in crisis
A year after gaining independence, South Sudan is on the verge of running out of money after shutting down oil production — which is responsible for 98% of its revenue — in its ongoing dispute with Sudan. The country might not be able to pay teachers and health care workers by September, yet President Salva Kiir is adamant: “No nation can prosper by surrendering control of its economy to another.” Food insecurity and child malnutrition are on the rise, the United Nations says. The Guardian (London) (7/9), Chicago Tribune/Reuters (7/8), Reuters (7/8)
5 July
Ghana’s rival Dagbon royals risk pulling the country apart
In Yendi’s palaces, competitors for the throne threaten to reignite a murderous conflict between the Abudu and Andani families
(The Guardian) As Ghana’s elections approach, the clear allegiances between rival political parties, and the centuries-old family feud in Dagbon have prompted unease in a region already predisposed to swiftly escalating violence.
Libya poised for its first free elections since 1952
Libyans will vote Saturday to freely elect a 200-member national congress, paving the way for a new government and constitution less than a year after Moammar Gadhafi was killed. An estimated 2.7 million voters will choose from among 3,700 candidates, many of whom profess strong Islamist leanings. “No one has a clue who will win,” said one diplomat. The Economist (6/30), Reuters (7/5)
2 July
Africa’s Ongoing Militant Conflicts And Ethnic Feuds
(NPR) Seventeen people were killed and dozens wounded after attacks on two churches in the Kenya-Somalia border area yesterday. Local officials suspect al-Shabab, an al-Qaida-linked militant group based in Somalia. And in Mali, Islamic militants destroyed ancient tombs in Timbuktu. We’re about to mark the first anniversary of South Sudan’s independence. The connection between all those stories is NPR’s Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, who’s reported from Kenya, Mali and South Sudan in recent months.
27 June
Tunisia politicians seek to bring down Islamist-led government
(Reuters) – Tunisian parliamentarians are pushing for a no-confidence vote in the Islamist-led government, whose divisive decision to extradite Muammar Gaddafi’s prime minister has caused the country’s deepest political crisis since last year’s elections.
15 June
Dr Sitali B. Lwendo: Africa — Good Governance and Security in Africa
(All Africa) Research has shown that peaceful countries with a leadership accountable to its citizens will have the best chance at winning the fight against extreme poverty and disease. Transparent governments that respect civic participation and the rule of law are necessary to ensure that scarce resources are spent well and investments are made in the poorest people.
The reality though is that ending corruption in our societies and our continent lies in our own hands. It is our countries, our people and our continent that are victims of the underdevelopment that is caused by corruption and our people that suffer poverty and other preventable maladies as a consequence.
We cannot deny that corruption is behind a lot of the underdevelopment in our countries and continent at large. It causes, among others, poor quality goods and services, lack of efficiency, excessive costs and ineffective public programmes.
11 June
Foreign military intervention possible in Mali
(RCI) African leaders are making an appeal for military intervention in Mali. Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou says that Islamist militants are making Mali an international security threat. He says that the West African bloc called ECOWAS will ask for a mandate for military intervention from the United Nations Security Council. ECOWAS will seek logistical support from the United States and France.
12 May
Boko Haram ends talks with Nigeria government
(Al Jazeera) Radical Islamist sect says it has “closed all possible doors” to negotiations with government of “unbelievers”.
18 April
UN ponders sanctions as 2 Sudans clash on new front
The United Nations Security Council was considering imposing sanctions on Sudan and South Sudan after a closed-door meeting Tuesday at which they were told by African diplomats that the countries — once one, with a long history of civil war — continue to fight over the border between the two countries, and the Heglig oil field. Each accused the other of new attacks along their contested border. BBC (4/17), Reuters (4/18)
11 April
Africa’s Tuareg Dilemma by Robert D. Kaplan
(Stratfor) The Tuareg dilemma, in which these Berber semi-nomads have recently conquered the northern half of Mali and may even threaten neighboring countries, is not completely solvable. The modern European state system is an ungainly fit for what obtains in the Sahara Desert. However, it is not out of the question that in the near future, through the building of better roads and more robust institutions — things that come with economic growth and democracy — governments in places like Bamako and Niamey can extend development deep into the desert, even as the Tuaregs are granted a reasonable degree of autonomy. An independent Tuareg state of the Sahara might then exist more formally — and the West will still have allies to combat al Qaeda in the region.
31 March
Progress in African democracy is coming in waves
While observers and academic research point to a gradual erosion of democratic standards throughout Africa, the continent has come a long way since 1990, and nearly all of the continent’s 1 billion people expect to vote in regular national polls. Today, only one state, Eritrea, does not hold elections. The Economist (3/31)
UNESCO lawyers signal retreat on Obiang prize
In an internal letter, attorneys for UNESCO] advise the agency not to use the $3 million delivered three years ago to fund a life-sciences prize in the name of Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the dictator of Equatorial Guinea. The French chapter of an anti-corruption coalition, Transparency International, on Monday called for the prize to be included in a graft investigation of French assets of African heads of state. ForeignPolicy.com/Turtle Bay blog (3/5), Google/Agence France-Presse (3/5)
Hazards of global mining boom take hold

The global surge in large-scale mining in iron, coal and rare metals is, in turn, leading to large-scale land grabs, as well as the devastation of lands, rivers and aquifers across Africa, Asia and Latin America, according to a report by the Gaia foundation. In the northwestern Zamfara region of Nigeria, unprecedented levels of gold mining have reportedly killed more than 400 children and poisoned thousands more. The Guardian (London) (3/1), Yale Environment 360 (3/1)
Heavy Mali fighting sparks exodus of refugees
More than 44,000 people have fled northern Mali over the past 10 days to escape fighting between government troops and Tuareg rebels in what observers are calling the country’s worst humanitarian crisis in two decades. The UN refugee agency said it is increasing assistance to refugees along border villages in Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso. BBC (2/18)
Is Nigeria sliding into chaos?
From protests over fuel subsidies to attacks by Boko Haram, the most populous African nation is facing a crisis.
(Al Jazeera) Nigerian trade unions have held a second day of strikes over the withdrawal of a fuel subsidy. And tensions in the northern Nigerian city of Kano were running high on Monday as at least three people were killed.
The country produces more than two million barrels of crude oil a day but imports roughly 70 per cent of its gasoline from abroad because its oil refineries are not working. Many in the country saw the subsidy as the only benefit of living in an oil-producing country. Since subsidies were removed, some say they are struggling – the price of bread has doubled and, in some places, the price of fuel has tripled.
22 January
What’s going on in Nigeria?
Wherever you are in Nigeria, it is no longer possible to feel detached from events in the North. Evidently the people behind this violence are doing their utmost to fuel regional and religious tensions. There is no more room for complacency because Nigeria is a notoriously combustible place. Even if much of the talk of it being “on the brink” or “close to civil war” is lazy and simplistic, what we are already seeing is bad enough and there is the threat of much worse to come.

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