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Africa: Conflict and governance 2013 -2014
Written by Diana Thebaud Nicholson // December 3, 2014 // Africa, Government & Governance // 1 Comment
Fighting over the spoils of war
Resources, resentment at heart of C.A.R. conflict
By Benedict Moran
(Al Jazeera America) The Central African Republic has been rocked by sectarian violence since the Séléka, a coalition of mostly Muslim rebels, toppled the country’s president last year. Fighting between the Séléka and a group of mostly Christian fighters known as the anti-Balaka has killed thousands of people and brought the country to the brink of ethnic cleansing. Though much of the country has seen bloodshed, Bambari is the current center of the conflict. The region is one of the most volatile in the country — and violence is spreading there like an infection.
Much of the hostilities reflect not a religious conflict but a power struggle between ambitious individuals. The Séléka, which moved its headquarters to Bambari in May this year, remains in control of the region, but is increasingly fractured by internal divisions. Anti-Balaka fighters, including many from the south, are infiltrating the area and launching attacks on Séléka fighters and Muslim villagers.
Fareed Zakaria: Why democracy took root in Tunisia and not Egypt
Tunisia’s success — so far — does suggest that there is nothing in Islam or Arab society that makes it impossible for democracy to take root. As would be true anywhere, you need some favorable conditions, good leadership and perhaps a bit of luck.
(WaPost) Why did Tunisia succeed where Egypt failed? Analysts of the two countries have offered lots of answers, but the most common is that Tunisia’s Islamists were just better than Egypt’s. In both countries, Islamist parties won the first election. But as many commentators have pointed out, Tunisia’s Ennahda party, which is a rough equivalent of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, sought to share power, while their Egyptian brethren did not. Ennahda has not tried to institute sharia, has declared its respect for Tunisia’s progressive laws on women’s rights and voluntarily ceded power this year to a technocratic, national unity government when faced with popular protests. The lesson seems to be that Tunisia was just lucky: Its Islamists were the good guys, the exception to the rule that Islamists are theocrats whose commitment to democracy extends only so far as one man, one vote, one time.
But Tarek Masoud, the author of a fascinating new book on Islamists and elections titled “Counting Islam,” suggests that Tunisia’s success and Egypt’s failure have less to do with the qualities of its Islamists than with deep differences in those countries’ political environments. In Egypt, Masoud argues, Islamists were able to defeat secular parties in the first elections after Mubarak was deposed because they could piggyback on the country’s rich network of mosques and Islamic associations to reach everyday citizens. Secular parties didn’t have anything equivalent. And so, after losing election after election, they turned to the army to overturn the results of the ballot box.
Tunisia was a different story, Masoud says. More developed, more urban, more literate and more globalized than Egypt, Tunisia had a more diverse civil society than Egypt’s — stronger labor unions, civic associations, professional groups — so there was relative parity between Islamists and their opponents. Though Islamists did well in Tunisia’s first elections, so did non-Islamists. Ennahda won only a plurality in the country’s first freely elected legislature — far less than the majority won by Islamist parties in Egypt — and had to govern in coalition with two secular parties. It shared power not because it was nicer than the Muslim Brotherhood but because it had to.
Tunisia Election 2014: Secular Party Claims Victory
UK and international donors suspend Tanzania aid after corruption claims
Payments of $490m frozen following claims that high-ranking officials siphoned off funds from the country’s central bank
Robert I. Rotberg: Good governance? Even Africa’s best are nothing to brag about
(Globe & Mail) Africa’s development chances and social possibilities remain heavily hindered by its overall mediocre governance. Despite the talk of Africa rising and growth rates that now exceed other parts of the globe, too many of the continent’s peoples are subject to the kinds of governments that favour ruling elites rather than ordinary villagers and townspeople. Growth rarely trickles down.
The latest Index of African Governance, released last week, confirms such sorry conclusions. For the eighth year in a row Mauritius, an island nation that belongs to the African Union but is well out in the Indian Ocean, has been deemed the African country with the best governance, scoring 81.7 on a scale of 100. Next best, as they have been for nearly all of the Index’s eight years, are Cape Verde (another island group, in the Atlantic Ocean) and Botswana, mainland Africa’s consistently best performer across many dimensions since 1966. No surprises there.
Following the top three are South Africa (which has moved up slightly in the rankings despite massive corruption and serious labour problems), the Seychelles (which has dropped slightly), Namibia, Ghana (the best West African performer), Tunisia (despite its Arab Spring tumult), Senegal, tiny Lesotho (which had a coup since the rankings were prepared), and Rwanda (which only this year has entered the top dozen after climbing in the ratings year by year thanks to tough leadership). Sao Tome, Zambia and Morocco rank next.
Concern as Africa’s top five states on Ibrahim index let things slide
Philanthropist Mo Ibrahim warns against complacency after the ‘dramatic deteriorations or underperformance of some countries’
(The Guardian) Progress in human development and good governance has dipped in five African countries that have previously been among the continent’s frontrunners, according to the annual Ibrahim index of African governance.
Over the past five years, Botswana, Cape Verde, Mauritius, Seychelles and South Africa recorded lower scores in at least one category of the index, which measures overall government performance, safety and rule of law, participation and human rights, sustainable economic opportunities and human development. …
Countries that had been held back by conflict in previous years, such as Ivory Coast and Guinea, ranked as the most improved countries in this year’s index. Egypt and Libya, marred by internal strife, saw the biggest slides.
Of the 52 African countries ranked in the index, 41 showed progress in human development, while 39 indicated an improvement in government performance.
See also: Mali, Africa economy, Zimbabwe I
If we are to build grassroots respect for the institutions and processes that constitute democracy, the state must treat its citizens as real citizens, rather than as subjects. We cannot expect loyalty to an unjust regime. The state and its elites must be subject to the same laws that its poorest citizens are. – Mo Ibrahim.
The French African Connection
This series explores the dark and dramatic history of France’s relationships with its former African colonies
(Al Jazeera) is France pursuing a neo-colonial policy in Africa? Is it continuing Francafrique , the term coined to describe the country’s relationship with its former African colonies, in which it supported unpopular African politicians in order to advance and protect its economic interests?
In a recent visit to Dakar, Hollande declared the end of the Francafrique era, but is it really over?
This three-part series tells the story of ‘France Afrique’: a brutal and nefarious tale of corruption, massacres, dictators supported and progressive leaders murdered, weapon-smuggling, cloak-and-dagger secret services, and spectacular military operations. (9 August 2013)
Steve McDonald: Africa’s Long Spring
(Wilson Quarterly|Winter 2013) Democracy in Africa is fragile. Single parties still tend to dominate and backsliding is common. There will be more setbacks. But democracy has a new resilience and undeniable momentum. Last April, when Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade forced his way onto the ballot in a bid for a third term that the constitution seemed to forbid, Senegalese took to the streets in protest and the international community pushed back. Wade lost a runoff election in a landslide and was forced to accept the verdict of the people. This is emblematic of the new Africa.
Throughout Africa, the young, educated, and technology-savvy Africans who now make up the majority of the continent’s one billion people are demanding freedom. Economic opportunities, the free flow of outside investment capital, the move to drop intra-Africa barriers to trade and commerce, a globe united by technology, and many other forces mean that democracy’s future in Africa is about as safe as it can be. The four decades that I have spent witnessing this transition have been filled with excitement, sometimes danger and horror, frustration and anger, but in the end, inspiration and fulfillment as Africa takes its rightful place in the global village.
David Jones vs David Kilgour: Post-Mandela South Africa
David Jones: Post-Mandela South Africa: Racial tension and violence are likely to return
He leaves behind a poignant but fragile legacy with the most relevant question being whether the South Africa that he constructed will long outlast his departure. In short, was he the implicit safety-valve restraint on a society that more resembles a boiling pot with the lid screwed down than a solid democracy?
David Kilgour: Current leadership can learn from his lessons of the past
How Mugabe is using the African Union to protect himself from Western prosecution
(Globe & Mail) Robert Mugabe is so loathed by the West that he is officially barred from entering Europe, the United States, Canada and Australia. His assets have been frozen in Western financial institutions, and he is subject to an arms embargo.
But none of that matters to Africa’s top politicians. They have just chosen the 90-year-old Zimbabwean autocrat to be chairman of the bloc of Southern African nations, known as SADC. And in January, in a supreme gesture of defiance, they are expected to anoint Mr. Mugabe as the new chairman of the African Union.
David Brooks: The Real Africa
Too many of our images of Africa are derived from nature documentaries, fund-raising appeals and mission trips. In reality, Africa faces in acute forms the same problems that afflict pretty much every region these days. Most important: Individual and social creativity is zooming ahead. Governing institutions are failing to perform the basic, elementary tasks.
( NYT Opinion) In 2005, Binyavanga Wainaina published a brilliantly sarcastic essay in Granta called “How to Write About Africa,” advising people on how to sound spiritual and compassionate while writing a book about the continent. “Always use the word ‘Africa’ or ‘Darkness’ or ‘Safari’ in your title,” Wainaina advised. “Never have a picture of a well-adjusted African on the cover of your book, or in it, unless that African has won the Nobel Prize. An AK-47, prominent ribs, naked breasts: use these. If you must include an African, make sure you get one in Masai or Zulu or Dogon dress.”
Wainaina had other tips: The people in said book should be depicted as hungry, suffering, simple or dead. The children should have distended bellies and flies on their faces. The animals, on the other hand, should be depicted as wise and filled with family values. Elephants are caring and good feminists. So are gorillas. Be sure to show how profoundly you are moved by the continent and its woes, and how much it has penetrated your soul. End with a quote from Nelson Mandela involving rainbows. Because you care.
There’s been something similarly distorted to some of the social media reactions to the Boko Haram atrocities over the past week. It’s great that the kidnappings and the massacres are finally arousing the world’s indignation. But sometimes the implication of the conversation has been this: Africa is this dark and lawless place where monstrous things are bound to happen. Those poor people need our help.
But this is more or less the opposite of the truth. Boko Haram is not the main story in Africa or even in Nigeria. It is a small rear-guard reaction to the main story. The main story in Africa is an impressive surge of growth, urbanization and modernization, which has sparked panic in a few people who don’t like these things.
Boko Haram Nigeria schoolgirl abductions: 8 more taken
President Goodluck Jonathan welcomes U.S. offer of assistance in finding and freeing missing girls
‘I will sell them,’ Boko Haram leader says of kidnapped Nigerian girls
(CNN) — Fears for the fate of more than 200 Nigerian girls turned even more nightmarish Monday when the leader of the Islamist militant group that kidnapped them announced plans to sell them.
“I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah,” a man claiming to be Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau said in a video first obtained by Agence France-Presse.
“There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women,” he continued, according to a CNN translation from the local Hausa language.
Boko Haram is a terrorist group receiving training from al Qaeda affiliates, according to U.S. officials. Its name means “Western education is sin.” In his nearly hourlong, rambling video, Shekau repeatedly called for Western education to end.
South Sudan: MSF condemns unspeakable violence in Bentiu
Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) condemns the unspeakable acts of violence in Bentiu, South Sudan, during and after a major battle on 15th April. Tens of thousands of people have had to flee to UNMISS (UN Mission in South Sudan) camps for safety, where they now face life-threatening living conditions.
Information given to the international medical humanitarian organisation describe gruesome targeted killings, including at Bentiu State Hospital, and indicate a disturbing trend of escalating violence and brutality in the country.
MSF calls on all armed actors cease targeted killings, to ensure the behaviour and accountability of fighters under their command and to assume their responsibility toward the population in areas under their control.
Africa’s Game of Thrones
The hazards of human-rights work in the continent’s last absolute monarchy
(The Atlantic) King Mswati III, the real-life ruler of Swaziland, has held total dominion over this realm since 1986. Of course, Mswati’s lifestyle also includes the trappings of modernity: Maybach limousines, a DC-9 jet aircraft, and foreign bank accounts worth billions of dollars. The habitual treatment of his critics might be medieval, but his corruption parallels that of Russian President Vladimir Putin, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, and Equatorial Guinea strongman Teodoro Obiang.
Mswati does, in fact, select his new wives from tens of thousands of half-naked women crammed into a stadium. Elsewhere, 80 percent of the Swazi population makes less than two dollars per day. HIV, the incurable illness mentioned earlier, afflicts 31 percent of the country’s adults, the highest national rate on Earth. The average Swazi can only expect to live about 50 years.
Ban: Attack on UN compound a “serious escalation” of South Sudan crisis
Dozens of refugees were killed when armed civilians attacked a United Nations peacekeepers compound in Bor, South Sudan, where nearly 5,000 refugees are living. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon deplored the attack, saying “any attack on United Nations peacekeepers is unacceptable and constitutes a war crime.” Voice of America (4/17), Thomson Reuters Foundation/Reuters (4/18), Sudan Tribune (4/17)
Roméo Dallaire: Peacekeeping Does Not Have to Wait
(OpenCanada) In this most difficult of months 20 years after the catastrophe in Rwanda, the world once again faces the prospect of failure in peacekeeping, this time in the Central African Republic (CAR) and South Sudan where mass atrocity crimes — including murder, torture, sexual violence and the use of child soldiers — continue to tear at the fabric of each society.
what we need is real, institutionalized inter-mission cooperation and rapid reaction capability so that, as a matter of course, the international community can quickly redeploy existing peacekeepers, on a temporary basis, to areas where civilians are under imminent threat. After all, why should UN missions operate in silos when each could benefit from surge capacity as well as cooperation, for instance, in the form of joint contingency planning and the sharing of best practices? For it to work, the Secretary-General or the Security Council would need logistics and command and control capability, and surges would have to be immediate and decisive so as not to threaten stability in the areas from which the forces are transferred.
Genocide in Rwanda was a fork in the road not just for Africa but the world
The horrific events of April 1994 continue to shape the thinking of today’s policymakers and peacemakers
(The Guardian) … as each prepares 20th anniversary commemorations, Rwanda and South Africa have taken divergent paths. One is among the fastest-growing economies in the world but lacking in basic political and media freedoms. The other is its inverted mirror: a robust constitutional democracy with a vibrant press, already on its fourth president, but economically stagnant and among the most unequal societies on the planet.
20 Years On – Rwanda Uses Genocide Reconciliation to Boost Economic Growth
(IPS) Because almost 90 percent of the population relying on the agriculture sector for their survival, the government has adopted a number of reforms to ensure that poor households and genocide survivors are supported. This includes the establishment of the Government Assistance Fund for Genocide Survivors which, since its creation in 1998, has had a total budget of 117 million dollars to provide education, healthcare packages and housing for vulnerable genocide survivors.Since it took power after defeating the genocidaire regime in July 1994, the former rebel group and current ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) has embraced major reforms, including sound economic ones.
In a World Bank report entitled “Rwanda: Rebuilding an Equitable Society – Poverty Reduction After the Genocide” showed that approximately 70 percent of the country’s 11.5 million people lived below the poverty line in 1993. Four years later, this was reduced to 53 percent.
Uganda politicians celebrate passing of anti-gay laws
(The Guardian) President Museveni’s supporters revel in new anti-gay laws passed despite pressure from US, EU, western donors and rights groups
Homophobia, supported by many US-funded evangelical Christians, has become more virulent in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa. In 2011, a prominent Ugandan gay rights campaigner, David Kato, was bludgeoned to death at his home after a newspaper splashed photos, names and addresses of gay people in Uganda on its front page along with a yellow banner reading “Hang Them”.
This month Museveni, a devout evangelical Christian, also signed into law dress code legislation that outlaws “provocative” clothing, bans scantily-clad performers from appearing on Ugandan television and closely monitors what individuals view on the internet.
Mapping Central African Republic’s bloodshed
Al Jazeera tracks the violence and the unfolding humanitarian tragedy of this underreported crisis.
The situation in the Central African Republic has deteriorated significantly since President Francois Bozize was overthrown in a coup in March 2013.
The Seleka rebel coalition took over the capital and vast swathes of the country’s hinterlands in a vicious campaign of violence between January and March 2013. But after Bozize was driven out of the country and Seleka loyalists looked to consolidate their power, a counterattack was being prepared.
In September 2013, a loose coalition of fighters calling themselves the “anti-Balaka” (anti-machete) militia confronted the Seleka rebels, many of whom had by that time been disarmed by French peacekeepers.
A bloodbath has ensued as the anti-Balaka and Seleka groups compete for power. Civilians have suffered the most, with both Christians and Muslims targeted in revenge attacks by the rival militias. But the impact on the Central African Republic’s minority Muslim community has been especially catastrophic.
The hellish descent of the Central African Republic
(The Telegraph) An escalating cycle of bloodshed has left tens of thousands dead and entire communities displaced in the Central African Republic. Peacekeeping forces have so far failed to stop the terror
Mo Ibrahim: Africa’s Search for Law
My career as a businessman in Africa has turned me into an activist for better, cleaner government and for the rule of law. But promoting good governance is not just a matter of encouraging good leadership at the top (although I believe that definitely helps); it also requires all of us to be able to fulfill our responsibilities as citizens, and realize our rights.
In several African countries, there are impressive legal instruments in terms of independent court systems; but the challenge consists in impartial implementation. Democratic accountability requires that citizens can use the law, as well as be subject to it. For example, these countries have laws that prohibit seizures of land without due process and compensation for the owner; that bar public servants from accepting bribes; and that require government funds to be spent on the public good, not for private gain.
In the countries that currently do well on the Ibrahim Index of African Governance – Botswana, Ghana, South Africa, and others – citizens can use the law to protect themselves and their property from illicit encroachment, and to resolve their disputes in an impartial setting. For those at the bottom – Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic – the rule of law is a fiction that must be made real.
This work is already being carried out in places: in Sierra Leone, a country recovering from a brutal civil war, community-based paralegals are helping villagers to settle disputes peacefully; in Malawi, they are helping to reduce unnecessary imprisonment. In Mozambique, local legal experts have helped villagers draw up proper titles to their communal lands, helping to secure their economic future. In Kenya, community groups have used freedom-of-information laws to ensure that money earmarked for local school construction is properly disbursed.
This is the rule of law in action at the local level, and it is building, often from scratch, a culture in which disputes are settled peacefully and benefits distributed transparently. The alternative – recourse to violence in the face of unequal access to resources – has led to a cycle of political instability in many countries, with the consequent lack of economic development that has come to characterize much of Africa’s recent history.
South Sudan troops ‘recapture key oil city of Bentiu‘
Analysis: Late last year, in the chaotic early days of his rebellion, Riek Machar was in a pretty strong position. He had taken the state capitals Bor and Bentiu, and oilfields in Unity state near Bentiu. His rebels were also fighting for control of Malakal, the gateway to the Upper Nile oilfields.
Losing towns was embarrassing for President Salva Kiir, and oil is critical to South Sudan’s economy. However, the government held on to Malakal, and has now regained Bentiu. It seems likely it will recapture the Unity state oilfields too.
All this is a boost to President Kiir, and significantly weakens Mr Machar’s hand. He will find it harder to push through his demands at the Addis Ababa talks, and it is now less likely that other soldiers will defect to the rebel cause.
Nevertheless he will keep fighting, and momentum moves swiftly in this conflict. It is a serious setback for the former vice-president, but not the end of the war.
Fighting erupts as CAR president quits
Michel Djotodia, along with his PM, steps down under pressure over failure to halt deadly inter-religious violence.
(Al Jazeera) Despite the celebrations on Friday, there are fears that the resulting power vacuum will lead to greater instability if it is not filled quickly.
Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French defence minister, said he wished for the new leadership to be announced “as soon as possible”, adding that “the aim is to move forward with elections before the end of the year”.
“We need the National Transitional Council to find a provisional alternative,” he said.
Thousands of people have been killed and one million displaced by cycles of violence since abuses by Djotodia’s mainly Muslim rebels, known as Seleka, prompted the creation of Christian self-defence armed groups after he seized power in March.
Breakdown in South Sudan
What Went Wrong — and How to Fix It
(Foreign Affairs) The South Sudanese people made extraordinary sacrifices to achieve independence two and a half years ago. That makes their leaders’ abject failure to build a viable South Sudan since then all the more galling. Now, a political crisis imperils the nation. But there is a silver lining: The turmoil could give South Sudan the opportunity to reset the national agenda. The country’s leaders cannot afford to squander this moment, and their first task is a sober appraisal of what has gone so disastrously wrong.
The current conflict has three main dimensions — a political dispute within the ruling party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM); a regional and ethnic war; and a crisis within the army itself.
Thousands flood camp in Central African Republic
(Reuters) – More than 100,000 people displaced by inter-religious violence in Central African Republic are sheltering at a makeshift camp at Bangui airport, a medical charity said on Sunday, calling for urgent aid.
Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) said it was receiving between 15 and 20 wounded a day at the site from fighting in the riverside capital, where the deployment of French and African peacekeepers in early December has failed to halt violence. … Many say the bloodshed has little to do with religion in a nation where Muslims and Christians had long lived in peace. Instead, they blame a political battle for control over resources in one of Africa’s most weakly governed states.
South Sudan forces battle “White Army”
(Reuters) – South Sudan’s army fought on Sunday with “White Army” ethnic militia, accusing rebels of mobilizing the force despite its offer of a truce to end the conflict in the new country.
Two weeks of fighting have left at least 1,000 dead and split the oil-producing country barely two years after it won independence from Sudan. It has also raised fears of an all-out civil war between the main Dinka and Nuer ethnic groups which could destabilize fragile East Africa.
The feared White Army [is] made up largely of Nuer youths who dust their bodies with ash.
A detailed analysis by Eric Reeves of an under-reported and little understood conflict
Riek Machar’s End-Game: What is it?
Riek Machar, former Vice-President of South Sudan and current leader of rebel forces in the country, knows as well as anyone that every day that passes without a halt to the fighting—every hour—makes more likely the explosive spread of violence that has already taken on a clear ethnic character. Riek knows as well that as long as this violence continues it will be impossible for most humanitarian organizations to operate outside Juba, putting many hundreds of thousands of civilians at risk—most without any political identity, but inevitably an ethnic identity. The number of those displaced was put at 121,000 several days ago by the UN, but it was only a mechanical estimate. Toby Lanzer, head of humanitarian operations in South Sudan, declared on December 22 that, “‘As we go to bed tonight, there are hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese who’ve fled into the bush or back to their villages to get out of harm’s way’” (BBC, December 22, 2013). There is dismayingly little reporting presence in most of South Sudan, especially in Jonglei, Unity State, and Upper Nile—those areas that have seen the most fighting and in which the forces of Riek Machar are strongest. …
Two of the states involved in recent fighting—Unity and Upper Nile—are the primary oil producing regions of South Sudan. Machar’s allies control Bentiu, capital of Unity State, and defecting SPLA division commander General James Koang Chuol has declared that the oil fields of Unity have been completely shut down. It is quite unclear whether the shutdown occurred with anything approaching the necessary technical care for such an operation; and given the wholesale exodus of Chinese, Malaysian, and Indian oil workers—including those with technical expertise—it is certain that in the relatively near term, in the absence of maintenance, major damage will be done to the oil infrastructure; moreover, re-starting the flow of oil may be an extended operation.
How Hollywood cloaked South Sudan in celebrity and fell for the ‘big lie’
(The Guardian) Film stars have been speaking from a flawed script about the newest nation. Daniel Howden points a finger at those who have failed to grasp the awful reality
Fleeing workers tell of brutal killings as South Sudan edges towards civil war
Foreign oil workers in Juba tell of a power struggle that is taking the new nation to the brink
(The Guardian) A long line of evacuees stretched from the departures area of Juba airport into the baking sun of South Sudan. Meanwhile, the dented doors of the arrivals building slowly disgorged dazed and exhausted oil workers in filthy overalls. They had fled to the capital from the further reaches of the world’s youngest country, on the first leg of journeys home, bringing with them news of factional fighting that has taken the country to the brink of civil war.
South Sudan rebels take town of Bor as civil war threatens
Rebels in South Sudan have taken over Bor, the capital of Jonglei province. Meanwhile, United Nations officials are concerned that the turmoil could result in civil war. BBC (12/19), Reuters (12/19), Yahoo/Agence France-Presse (12/19), The Guardian (London) (12/18)
South Sudan attackers storm UN base
(BBC) The United Nations says it fears casualties after attackers forced their way into a peacekeeping base in South Sudan’s Jonglei state.
Rebels from the country’s second-largest ethnic group, the Nuer, attacked the base, targeting civilians of the majority Dinka ethnic community.
South Sudan has been in turmoil since President Salva Kiir accused his ex-deputy Riek Machar of mounting a coup.
The unrest, which broke out on Sunday, has killed some 500 people so far.
The conflict first erupted in the capital Juba but has since spread. (12/19)
Central African Republic: Open letter to the UN humanitarian system from MSF
With this Open Letter, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) wishes to express its deep concern about the unacceptable performance of the United Nations humanitarian system in the Central African Republic over the last year.
During the growing emergency of the last three months, and most recently in Bangui just a few days ago, there has been no evidence of an adequate humanitarian reaction to the needs generated by repeated outbreaks of violence. The only actions undertaken by UN aid officials have been the collection of data related to the fighting and a few assessments confirming the need for an immediate response. Repeated evaluations in the face of glaring needs, and numerous coordination meetings, have not led to any concrete action around the main hotspots.
Unspeakable horrors in a country on the verge of genocide
Militias in the Central African Republic are slitting children’s throats, razing villages and throwing young men to the crocodiles. What needs to happen before the world intervenes?
(The Guardian) Never much more than a phantom state, the CAR has sucked in thousands of mercenaries from neighbouring countries and, France warned on Thursday, now stands “on the verge of genocide”. Yet many would struggle to find the country on a map, despite the clue in its afterthought name.
Central African Republic declares curfew
(Al Jazeera) Announcement made on state television as country descends into violence prompting warnings of genocide.
CAR situation deteriorating rapidly; France sees genocide risk
The Central African Republic is “on the verge of genocide,” says Laurent Fabius, France’s foreign minister, and hopes the United Nations will allow France and the African Union to intervene in the strife-torn country. Meanwhile, UNICEF says the number of child soldiers in CAR now stands at 6,000, more than twice the previous number. Reuters (11/21), IRINNews.org (11/22),Reuters (11/22)
Christian-Muslim bloodbath devastates Central African Republic
(UPI) The mineral-rich Central African Republic is collapsing into chaos amid a worsening religious conflict between Christians and Muslims that could trigger genocide and bring more upheaval to a region already beset by turmoil, observers warn.
“The situation … is horrendous,” Gerard Araud, France’s ambassador to the United Nations, said last week after the Security Council was briefed on the swelling bloodbath in the former French colony.
“The state has collapsed and this country is now simply plundered, looted, the women are raped, people are killed by thugs,” he said. “The country has fallen into anarchy.”
Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony ‘in talks’ with Central African Republic
First official contact since 2008 with rebel leader on the run with his Lord’s Resistance Army
(The Guardian) The negotiations between Kony and Michel Djotodia, the interim president of the Central African Republic (CAR), are the first official contact with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) led by Kony, since a round of doomed peace talks in 2008; then the Ugandan government failed to reach an agreement with Kony, who feared he would be turned over to the International Criminal Court to satisfy an arrest warrant against him. (BBC) LRA leader Joseph Kony ‘in surrender talks’ with CAR
The government of the Central African Republic (CAR) has said it is in talks with Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony with the aim of his surrender.
A CAR government spokesman told the BBC that Kony was in the country but wanted his security to be guaranteed before giving himself up.
Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes. (20 November)
M23 leader tells rebels to disarm, demobilize
M23 rebels ended their rebellion Tuesday when M23 leader Bertrand Bisimwa ordered rebels to disarm and cease fighting with Democratic Republic of Congo troops and the United Nations intervention force. M23 says it will purse “purely political means” to achieve its goals. BBC (11/5), Reuters (11/5),
“Genocide” a possibility in Central African Republic, UN adviser says
There is a possibility that the violence in the Central African Republic could turn into genocide, Adama Dieng, United Nations special adviser on the prevention of genocide, told the Security Council on Friday. “My feeling is that this will end with Christian communities, Muslim communities killing each other which means that if we don’t act now and decisively I will not exclude the possibility of a genocide occurring,” Dieng said. France 24 (11/2), Reuters (11/1)
Security Council approves UN peacekeeping force for CAR
The United Nations Security Council on Tuesday voted to send 250 United Nations peacekeepers to the Central African Republic to protect UN workers. “The No. 1 issue today is protection, and the atrocities that are being committed against the civilian population are indescribable,” says UN humanitarian envoy John Ging. Voice of America (10/29), The Huffington Post/The Associated Press (10/29), Reuters (10/29)
African Leaders’ Eyes on the Prize
On October 14, the Mo Ibrahim Prize Committee announced that for the second year in a row it had not found anyone to whom to award its Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. Why is that important?
The prize is given to a recently retired African head of state or government who was democratically elected, stepped down at the end of his or her constitutionally mandated term, and demonstrated exceptional leadership. The winner receives $5 million paid over ten years, followed by $200,000 annually for life, making it the world’s most valuable annual award.
No Mo Ibrahim Prize awarded, once again
(Al Jazeera) For the second year in a row, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation will not be presenting its $5 million prize, designated for an African leader who has ruled democratically and stepped down at the end of his or her term, due to lack of suitable candidates.
African Union urges ICC to defer Uhuru Kenyatta case It also agreed a resolution stating no sitting African head of state should appear before an international court.
Will Africa pull out of the ICC?
With Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta under pressure to appear at the International Criminal Court next month to answer charges of crimes against humanity, the African Union (AU) has called a special summit to discuss Africa’s relationship with the court. BBC Africa’s Farouk Chothia reports.
The AU is heavily divided over the ICC, with East African leaders facing strong resistance from their West African counterparts in their campaign to whip up hostility towards the court. Opposition towards the 11-year-old ICC runs deepest in East Africa – not surprising as two of the region’s presidents – Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir and Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta – have been indicted, while Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto is already on trial on charges of crimes against humanity.
Despite Nigeria’s crackdown, Boko Haram continues its killing ways
The radical Islamists of Boko Haram appear to have killed 40 students asleep at a college in Yobe on Sunday. Is Nigeria’s get-tough approach working?
(CSM) The surge in violence comes amid a four-month state of emergency covering three states in northeastern Nigeria, and after a spate of summer slaughters, including what appeared to be the gunning down of school children and of Muslims considered too religiously moderate, even as they prayed in their mosque.
Boko Haram has increasingly set its sights on civilian targets, prompting many Nigerians to question claims by the government and the military that they are winning the war against violent extremism.
Rwanda Remains in Shadows of DRC Conflict
(Voice of America) Leaders of Africa’s Great Lakes region are meeting in Kampala Thursday, seeking a solution to the crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo during a lull in fighting between the armed forces and the M23 rebels. But, accusations that Rwanda continues to support the rebels are complicating efforts for peace.
The United Nations and Congo — Raising the stakes
A more robust United Nations risks roiling neighbourly relations
(The Economist) the UN’s recent robust action against the M23 may increase the risk of fighting between the armies of the two antagonistic neighbours, Rwanda and Congo. More dangerous still, there is a chance that UN forces could find themselves up against the Rwandan army. “As long as people believe there is a military solution, we move closer to the doomsday scenario,” says a worried Western diplomat in the region, hinting at the period in the 1990s when half-a-dozen African countries got sucked into the bloody Congolese imbroglio.
Ban urges Rwanda to show restraint over tensions in DR Congo
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Rwandan President Paul Kagame to act with “restraint” regarding the Democratic Republic of Congo. UN envoys say that Rwanda troops reportedly are crossing into DR Congo to support M23 rebels battling Congolese troops and the UN intervention force. Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)/Agence France-Presse (8/30)
Central African Republic crisis to be scrutinised by UN security council
Internal displacement, vulnerability of children and women, and worsening security situation to be focus of briefing
(The Guardian) The UN security council is to meet on Wednesday to discuss the spiralling humanitarian crisis in Central African Republic (CAR). More than 200,000 people have fled their homes after rebels seized the capital, Bangui, in March.
The council will receive a briefing on the situation from Lieutenant General Babacar Gaye, the recently appointed UN special representative and head of the UN integrated peacebuilding office in the CAR. He will be joined by Valerie Amos, undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs, and Ivan Šimonović, assistant secretary-general for human rights.
The latest crisis follows a series of attacks in December by the Séléka rebel coalition. A peace agreement was reached in January, but the rebels re-entered Bangui in March, forcing President François Bozizé to flee and plunging the country into anarchy. Michel Djotodia, a Soviet-trained civil servant turned rebel leader, who took power from Bozizé, has promised to relinquish authority after elections scheduled for 2016.
The humanitarian crisis is the latest bout of instability to rock the former French colony, which – though it has large deposits of minerals, including gold and diamonds – is one of the world’s poorest countries, ranking 180th of 186 in the UN human development index.
Bissau army chief vows to never resign nor retire
(Reuters) – Guinea-Bissau’s army chief vowed on Thursday to never retire or resign, casting doubt over any future civilian government’s attempt to wrest back control of the West African nation from the army.
The country was thrown into turmoil last year when soldiers under the command of General Antonio Injai ousted interim President Raimundo Pereira and Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior days before a runoff election Gomes Junior was favored to win.
Woman President Shows Malawi the Way
(IPS) – Malawi’s President Joyce Banda knows a thing or two about women’s empowerment. After all she is the first female southern African head of state.
But she has not had it easy. Banda had a tough job fixing a sputtering economy after taking over from her predecessor Bingu wa Mutharika who died in office on Apr. 5, 2012. In 2011 the country witnessed nationwide protests against Mutharika and the failing economy. The United Kingdom, Malawi’s largest donor, had suspended 550 million dollars in aid after Mutharika expelled its ambassador for calling him an autocrat.
But she did succeed. Since taking office she has implemented of a number of austerity measures, which included selling the country’s presidential jet for 15 million dollars and taking a 30 percent cut in her salary. She also embarked on a range of reforms that not everyone has agreed with. The most controversial has been cultivating closer ties with international financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund, which is known for its heavy-handed austerity plans.
But in June, the World Bank said the country’s economy was recovering, with manufacturing expected to grow six percent and agriculture 5.7 percent.
African countries seek to improve ocean, forest security
Fifteen countries in West and Central Africa have agreed to a joint security force to protect Congo Basin forests and counter piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. “Without peace and security along our coastline and in the region’s rich forest expanses, we cannot talk of development, because these areas constitute the core of our natural resources,” says Aja Isatou Njie-Saidy, Gambia’s vice president. Thomson Reuters Foundation (7/19)
South Sudan finds independence to be a work in progress
South Sudan gained its independence two years ago today but is struggling to build infrastructure and feed its people, writes Andrew Green. Austerity measures still hamper the government, but progress has been made in reducing infant mortality and boosting nutrition. “Life in South Sudan is more stable and secure than at any stage since independence,” says Toby Lanzer, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator for the country. The Guardian (London) (7/9)
Complicated Registration ‘Designed’ to Prevent Zimbabweans From Voting
(IPS) At most voter registration centres in Zimbabwe there are long queues and the process to register a tedious one. Most civil society organisations believe that this is a deliberate attempt by President Robert Mugabe’s supporters to frustrate people and prevent them from registering.
Zimbabwe’s second round of voter registration commenced on Jun. 19 and is expected to end on Tuesday Jul. 9, with the presidential elections set for Jul. 31. A first round took place over 20 days in April and May
Why the UN initiative in DR Congo deserves support
The United Nations’ decision to send an intervention force to the Democratic Republic of Congo is unprecedented and worthy of global backing, writes The Economist. “This was not a sneaky power grab by an unaccountable bureaucracy or a warmongering few. Approval followed months of patient and sincere diplomacy,” The Economist argues. The Economist (tiered subscription model) (6/15)
“The Rwandan government backed Congolese rebels until recently but, shamed by their cruelty and by international outrage, it has abandoned them. That presents an opportunity too good to waste, so the UN Security Council is trying a new tack (see article), deploying 3,000 troops to fight at least some of the rebels. Soldiers from South Africa, Tanzania and Malawi wearing UN insignia will take on the irregulars who sow mayhem in Congo’s east.”
Ban commends Rwanda for its “brave recovery”
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Rwanda this week, lauding the country for its recovery from the 1994 genocide that killed over 1 million people. “You are writing a different future. … In less than two decades, you have reconciled and rebuilt. You stand as an example of humanity’s capacity for human compassion and forgiveness,” Ban said. The New Times (Rwanda) (5/24), Mail & Guardian Online (South Africa) (5/23), New Vision Online (Uganda) (5/24)
A leak in high places puts Ugandans on edge
(Foreign Policy) Kampala is in an uproar. The Ugandan government has just shut down four private media outlets — a move that follows a crackdown on journalists from the Daily Monitor newspaper a few days earlier. The government’s anger was prompted by a story in the paper said to reveal details of a plan by senior officials to assassinate rivals opposed to a scheme by President Yoweri Museveni to arrange for his son to succeed him in office. By exposing deep rifts within the ruling establishment, the paper has shaken Uganda’s political establishment to the core.
The Monitor quoted extensively from a letter by a senior intelligence officer, General David Sejusa, calling for an investigation into claims that the government is planning to target opponents of the so-called “Muhoozi Project,” an alleged plan to pave the way for 39-year-old Brigadier Kainerugaba Muhoozi (pictured left), commander of an elite army unit, to take over the presidency. The state-owned Uganda Communications Commission (which controls licensing) warned radio stations that they would be shut down for airing the story of Gen. Sejusa’s letter.
(Yahoo! News) Three activists were arrested in Zimbabwe for carrying out educational activities to increase awareness of the country’s upcoming election
Africa’s Cocaine Hub: Guinea-Bissau a ‘Drug Trafficker’s Dream’
(Spiegel) But any wealth the West African nation has derived from its middleman status has been offset by increased violence and instability. …
Guinea-Bissau is sandwiched between Senegal and Guinea, where the African continent extends the farthest west toward South America. The fish market in Bissau, the capital, is just as far from eastern Brazil as from southern Spain, or nearly 3,000 kilometers (1,850 miles) as the crow flies. That’s an easy distance to cover with private medium-range jets — even if they are loaded with freight.
In order to run their trans-Atlantic trafficking operations, the cocaine barons of Latin America need countries with an ideal geographic location, under the radar of international interest and characterized by the highest possible corruption index. Guinea-Bissau comes very close to fulfilling this ideal.
The country has porous borders, inconspicuous airfields and a virtually powerless civilian government. Extradition agreements are practically unknown. One of the most sought-after American fugitives from justice, convicted murderer and hijacker George Wright, worked for years as a basketball coach in Bissau.
Congo seeks to open way to oil drilling in national parks
(Planet Ark) The government of Democratic Republic of Congo has drafted a bill that could allow oil companies to drill inside its national parks, putting Kinshasa on a possible collision course with donors and conservationists.
The impoverished central African state is believed to have rich energy deposits, some of which may lie beneath Virunga National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site that is home to some of the world’s last mountain gorillas.
Two oil companies, UK-based Soco International and French energy giant Total, hold exploration licenses that overlap with parts of the park – where their activities are currently restricted by law.
“There are international agreements that we must respect concerning exploitation within (Virunga) park, but we can’t leave the population to live in poverty,” Yves Mobanda Yogo, a member of parliament on the environmental sub-committee working on the code told Reuters in an interview.
The draft bill, seen by Reuters and due to be debated by the broader parliament as early as this month, would allow the government to provide an exemption to the ban on oil activities in national parks “for reasons of national interest.”
It would also provide tax breaks for operators to try to attract investors into Congo, which has earned a reputation as one of the toughest places in the world to do business due to decades of political instability and lack of respect for contracts.
At the Bottom of Lake Nyasa is ‘Rare Earth’
“This lake should be used to improve the lot and livelihoods of local people, on both sides. The lake is a resource – instead it’s being used as part of a political game to further political careers”
(IPS) – The local Tanzanian community bordering Lake Nyasa is no nearer to understanding what the conflict between their country and Malawi is about, nor why so much is at stake, as mediation efforts between Malawi and Tanzania are expected to begin soon.
The 29,000-square-kilometre tranquil lake, known as Lake Malawi by Malawians, is a tourist spot, source of revenue and food for local populations. But since July 2012, it was discovered that the lake could potentially be a lucrative oil and gas source, and it rekindled a border dispute between the southern African neighbours over who owns the lake. … To date, most tactics have been employed to resolve the dispute between the neighbours: mediation using former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, hot talk of army invasions, threats to take the case to the International Criminal Court of Justice, appeals using Southern African Development Community bishops, and diplomatic talks between the prime minsters of Tanzania and Malawi. Two Million People Hold their Breath Over Lake Malawi Mediation
Chad says troops in Mali killed terrorist behind Algeria plant attack
(CTV) The French military, which is leading an international campaign against rebels with ties to al Qaeda in northern Mali, said it could not confirm Belmoktar’s death, or that of Abou Zeid, another top-ranking al Qaeda commander. Chad’s president said Friday that his country’s troops had killed Zeid.
… [Robert] Fowler said that while he considers the deaths of the two men to be good news, “good for Mali, and good for the prospects for peace and stability throughout the Sahel region, I must temper my enthusiasm by the fact that this is by no means the first time Belmokhtar’s death has been reported.
DR Congo: African leaders sign peace deal
Regional African leaders have signed a UN-brokered accord which aims to bring peace to the troubled eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The deal was signed in the presence of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. … The agreement, signed by leaders and representatives of 11 countries of the Great Lakes region, may lead to the establishment of a special UN intervention brigade in eastern Congo, along with political efforts to bring peace. Leaders from Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo Republic and South Sudan were present at the signing in Addis Ababa.
The Rise of a New Nigerian Militant Group | Stratfor
Ansaru, a splinter group of Boko Haram, … has a history of kidnapping foreign nationals. Ansaru has emerged over the past year and appears to have surpassed Boko Haram in its range of tactics and targets. Ansaru has relied on armed attacks for kidnappings rather than suicide bombings. [Its] targets have included foreigners and those involved with the intervention in Mali, while Boko Haram’s targets have been Nigerian. Nearly all of the Ansaru attacks since December 2012, as well as the unclaimed kidnapping in Cameroon, have targeted French nationals or those supporting French operations in Mali. This has raised the fear that widespread kidnappings will be fallout from the Mali intervention. A continuation of this violence could harm foreign interests in Nigeria and the surrounding countries and strengthen militant jihadism throughout the region. Ansaru’s development is significant, and while the group has not been responsible for a large number of attacks, its operations reach beyond Nigeria’s borders. Ansaru could also extend al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s network farther south, possibly into Cameroon, and the group’s rise could easily negate the gains made against militants in northern Mali. Regardless of eventual developments in the region, the risk of kidnappings near northern Nigeria is increasing.
Foreign PolicyMorning Brief: Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali resigned Tuesday after failing to push through his plan for a new technocrat government. Jebali dissolved the government as political tensions heightened after the February 6 assassination of opposition leader Chokri Belaid. He did not rule out returning to the government, but insisted it be inclusive and free from political infighting. On Monday, head of Ennahda Rachid Ghannouchi put forward an alternative proposal for a government mixed with politicians and technocrats and said that there was consensus that Jebali remain as prime minister.
Arab Spring at Risk: Belaïd Assassination Exposes Deep Rifts in Tunisia
(Spiegel) The murder of opposition politician Chokri Belaïd was also an assault on Tunisia’s emerging democracy. It has exposed the chasm between Islamists and secularists, and threatens to plunge the nation at the forefront of the Arab Revolution into chaos.
After Mali Comes Niger
By Sebastian Elischer
(Foreign Affairs) Although France quickly achieved its goals in Mali, the Islamist and Tuareg militants it fought are still at large, having swiftly retreated into the northeastern part of the country. The most likely outcome of the French operation, therefore, is not an end to West Africa’s problems but their spread into neighboring Niger
Islamist threat in Africa: Not another Afghanistan
The Islamist militancy in Africa’s Sahel and Sahara is being compared by some Western leaders to a global threat like that of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But militants in Africa are often focused on local grievances, Aidan Lewis argues, do not necessarily act in unison and often driven more by opportunism than ideology. BBC (2/5)
To stop violence in Africa, punish greed
The International Criminal Court needs the power to prosecute those who benefit from the so-called “resource curse” in Africa, writes Kamari Maxine Clarke, a professor of anthropology at Yale. “Violence in Africa begins with greed — the discovery and extraction of natural resources like oil, diamonds and gas — and continues to be fed by struggles for control of energy, minerals, food and other commodities,” Clarke writes. The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (1/29)
Africa’s Sahara could be new front in terror war
The recent clashes with Islamists in Mali and Algeria point to a prolonged regional conflict in Africa’s Sahara, and quite possibly a new front in the global war on terror that risks turning Africans against Arab governments in the north. Algeria defended its bloody siege against militants who had captured a natural-gas complex despite the deaths of numerous hostages, including 37 foreign workers. Spiegel Online (Germany) (1/21), Reuters (1/21), The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (1/21), The Wall Street Journal (1/21)
Algeria Siege Led By Canadian Named Chedad, Algerian Government Says
(Reuters via HuffPost) – A total of 37 foreign workers died at an Algerian desert gas plant and seven are still missing after a hostage crisis coordinated by a Canadian, Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal said on Monday.
Sellal also said that 29 Islamists had been killed in the siege, which Algerian forces ended by storming the plant, and three had been captured alive. …
The jihadists had planned the attack two months ago in neighbouring Mali, where French forces began fighting Islamists this month, Sellal added. Hostage-Takers In Algeria Included Canadians, Country’s PM Says — In the absence of reliable information, Ottawa is assuming that fake passports could be behind Algeria’s claim that Canadians are among the al-Qaida-linked militants who took hostages at remote desert energy plant, The Canadian Press has learned. However, AFP counters that Le Canada servirait de base arrière aux extrémistes islamistes
Robert Fisk: Algeria, Mali, and why this week has looked like an obscene remake of earlier Western interventions
We are outraged not by the massacre of the innocents, but because the hostages killed were largely white, blue-eyed chaps rather than darker, brown-eyed chaps
Algeria’s hostage crisis — A murky mess
(The Economist) Amid the confusion, some facts do stand out. This was, oddly enough considering that Algeria’s regime has fought a life-and-death struggle against Islamist extremists for two decades, the first-ever such attack on the energy infrastructure that keeps the country solvent. This suggests either a lapse in stringent security, or an emboldening of Islamist insurgents, whose reach has diminished markedly in the coastal regions where 90% of Algerians live. …
The bad news is that their ability to strike so boldly is likely to spook the Western oil operators who run facilities across the region. Governments are also likely to see this as a sign of the Sahel region’s jihadists, loosely linked under the umbrella of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), growing both stronger and better coordinated. The better news is that most of Algeria’s and Libya’s oil installations lie far from their mutual border, and their security will certainly now be taken more seriously. Importantly, too, In Amenas lies no less than 1,000km from the Malian border, and another thousand or so from the region where French forces are now engaged against jihadists. This renders practical coordination between isolated Islamist fighters rather difficult, to say the least. And lastly, just as the jihadists’ excessive boldness in Mali is what provoked French intervention, the hostage-taking in Algeria is likely to prompt tighter and more determined coordination between the region’s governments and outside powers.
Mokhtar Belmokhtar, maître du djihad au Sahel
Mokhtar Belmokhtar, ou « l’insaisissable » Algérien, retient depuis mercredi 16 janvier plusieurs otages sur un site gazier de l’est de l’Algérie. Ce chef djihadiste, connu pour sa grande cruauté, fait du trafic d’armes et de drogues au Sahel. L’armée algérienne, qui tente depuis mercredi 16 janvier de libérer les otages, s’attaque aujourd’hui à l’un de ses plus vieux ennemis. Portrait.
French foreign policy — France goes it alone
(The Economist) … France has certainly been in the lead in pushing for intervention in Mali. It drafted a United Nations Security Council resolution authorising a regional African force to retake rebel-held territory, which was unanimously passed last October. In a speech to a gathering of French-speaking countries in Senegal last year, Mr Hollande spoke of a “reign of terror” in Islamist-held Mali, where sharia law has been applied in the furthest north.
France is particularly worried that the Sahel is becoming an “Afrighanistan”—a breeding ground for terrorists—thanks in part to modern weaponry that has spilled over the Libyan border after the war there.[emphasis added] France itself has been named as a target by groups based in the north; this weekend, as the airstrikes began, the country raised its terrorism-security alert. France also has strong commercial links in the region, and there are currently eight French hostages in the region.
Mr Hollande had also made clear that it was no longer his intention for France to play the role of regional gendarme, stepping in to prop up African rulers, as has been the post-colonial tradition under the Fifth Republic. “Françafrique”, the opaque mesh of military, political and commercial ties, was over, he claimed. Until now, he had insisted that France would offer no more than logistical support to a regional African force, which was laboriously being put together for this autumn.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
‘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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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)
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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)
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.
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.
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.
One Comment on "Africa: Conflict and governance 2013 -2014"
Re: Islamist threat in Africa: Not another Afghanistan
Interesting and perceptive article. I don’t think most Westerners understand the extent to which this is not simply about Islamic jihad or even about a widespread Tuareg revolt against the established sovereign political entities (although there is definitely some that in the mix). A good deal of the unrest is the expression of centuries-old clan rivalries among the Tuareg and Arab tribes that inhabit the area – this time amped up by (a) the flood of arms unleashed by the Libyan “revolution” and (b) the opportunities for increased status and cash afforded by the kidnapping, drug smuggling and human traffic businesses.
Loyalties in this environment can shift like the sands of the Sahara. Look at the so-called MNLA (Mouvement National de Libération de l’Azawad), which kicked off the latest rebellion in January 2012 and was apparently responsible for cutting the throats of dozens of captured Malian soldiers in Aguelhoc near the Algerian border. They created an alliance with some of the Islamist groups at that time, had themselves decimated by the latter through inter-tribal fighting in April-May and are now offering to collaborate with the French and claiming to have captured some of the same Islamists and negotiate some sort of accommodation with the Malian government.
This will be difficult, since many of the MNLA officials and fighters had previously joined the Malian army and government in the 1990s and the 2000s as part of 2 politico-military settlement agreements brokered by Algeria et al, only to go over to the other side again when the Malian government demonstrated its weakness and lack of interest in dealing with the North.
In this context, the Islamists are behaving like opportunistic parasites, as one of the Malian editorialists describes them, taking advantage of a weakened host. What the West has to do is find a way to jump-start the normalisation process in Bamako and provide tangible and visible rewards for concrete steps in that direction. A delicate task if one wants to avoid being tarred with the label of neo-colonialist. Sam