Africa: Conflict and governance 2018- June 2021

Written by  //  June 29, 2021  //  Africa, Terrorism  //  Comments Off on Africa: Conflict and governance 2018- June 2021

29 June
Former S.African leader Zuma sentenced to 15 months in jail
(Reuters) – South Africa’s highest court sentenced former President Jacob Zuma to 15 months in jail on Tuesday for failing to appear at a corruption inquiry, and gave him five days to appear before police.
Zuma failed to appear at the inquiry led by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo in February, and the inquiry’s lawyers approached the constitutional court to seek an order for his imprisonment. read more

20 April
The Two Rwandas
Development and Dissent Under Kagame
Review  by Phil Clark, Professor of International Politics at SOAS University of London
(Foreign Affairs) In Do Not Disturb, the British journalist Michela Wrong … situates Karegeya’s death in the longer history of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, the Tutsi-dominated rebel movement that invaded Rwanda in 1990 and defeated the genocidal regime of Juvénal Habyarimana in 1994. In power, the rebels turned politicians built Rwanda into one of Africa’s most dynamic states, achieving impressive rates of economic growth and poverty reduction. Yet alongside those successes, the RPF has also forced numerous senior members into exile and been accused of killing dissidents at home and abroad, raising questions about the state of human rights in and the long-term stability of Rwanda.
Andrew Mwenda dissents in Michela Wrong’s Rwanda Hatchet Job

Top-secret testimonies implicate Rwanda’s president in war crimes
Judi Rever & Benedict Moran
(Mail & Guardian) For years, UN investigators secretly compiled evidence that implicated Rwandan President Paul Kagame and other high-level officials in mass killings before, during and after the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Despite the testimonies, a UN war crimes tribunal — on the recommendation of the United States — never prosecuted Kagame and his commanders. Now, for the first time, a significant portion of the UN evidence is revealed, in redacted form. (29 Nov 2020)
Kagame Finally Admits He Had Sendashonga Assassinated
Kagame is in total agreement with Prunier that he (Kagame) assassinated Shendashonga because he (Sendashonga) had crossed the line drawn by the Rwanda government. We, of course, know that the killer of Sendashonga was a Rwandan embassy official who was caught red-handed. Kenya then broke off its diplomatic relations with Rwanda. (March 2019)

7 April
AfCFTA: 100 days since start of free trading, prospects seem bright
By:Kingsley Ighobor
Trading under the African Continental Free Trade Area kicked off on 1 January. The coming months will likely witness a convergence of fruitful outcomes of multiple moving parts.

3 April
Attacks in northern Mozambique disrupt economic activity
(Brookings) On Sunday [March 28], the army of Mozambique fought off insurgent rebels for a fifth straight day near the strategic gas-rich town of Palma in northern Mozambique. The conflict extends a three-year insurgency fought in Mozambique’s northernmost Cabo Delgado province, which has, according to the Humans Right Watch, displaced 670,000 and killed more than 2,600. According to the Associated Press, the majority of rebels are disaffected young Muslim men, and Foreign Policy attributes the rise of these insurgents  to “the marginalization of majority Muslim population.” The insurgent attacks have become more deadly and frequent since 2020
Notably, the attacks also threaten the $20 billion liquified natural gas project near the town run by French oil giant Total. Work on the gas project, one of Africa’s largest private investments according to Bloomberg, had to be suspended in January due to similar insurgent attacks, and work had just resumed last week before new attacks forced Total to evacuate its workforce.

22 February
South African corruption inquiry wants Zuma jailed for 2 years after no-show
(Reuters) – A South African inquiry into corruption during Jacob Zuma’s time in power [2009-2018] is seeking the former president’s imprisonment for two years, after he defied a summons and court order to appear and give evidence.


28 November
Ethiopia PM says Tigray operation over after army seizes Mekelle
Abiy Ahmed announces end of military operations in Tigray region after army says it is in ‘full control’ of Mekelle; TPLF vows to keep fighting.
(Al Jazeera) Since November 3, the Ethiopian government has been trying to quell a rebellion by a powerful ethnic faction in a war that has shaken the Horn of Africa. Thousands of people are believed to have died and nearly one million forced from their homes, including some 43,000 refugees who fled to neighbouring Sudan.

27 November
Hotel Rwanda hero says he was kidnapped before arrest
(Al Jazeera) Paul Rusesabagina, who was depicted as a hero in the film Hotel Rwanda but is now on trial on “terrorism” and other charges in the central African country, said he had been kidnapped from abroad before being arrested and charged.
Rusesabagina, a political dissident who has lived in exile in Belgium and the United States, was arrested in August after returning to the country.
Rusesabagina is credited for saving 1,200 lives by letting people shelter in the hotel he was managing during the mass killings. He has received several international honours, including the US Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. Rusesabagina later acquired Belgian citizenship and became a US resident.
He became a vocal critic of President Paul Kagame and once called for armed resistance to the government in a YouTube video.

14 November
Western Sahara Independence Group Ends Truce With Morocco
One of Africa’s longest-simmering conflicts erupts back into the open
(NYT) The leader of a pro-independence group in Western Sahara declared war Saturday on Morocco, shattering a three-decade-long cease-fire and threatening a full-blown military conflict in the disputed desert territory in northwest Africa.
The announcement came a day after Morocco launched a military operation in a United Nations-patrolled buffer zone after having accused the pro-independence group, the Polisario Front, of blocking access to neighboring Mauritania.
The eruption of hostilities in Western Sahara adds to the instability roiling some of Africa’s biggest countries, with a protracted war in Libya, long-simmering insurgency in Mali and an armed conflict in Ethiopia that threatens to become a civil war.

18 July
As Seasonal Rains Fall, Dispute Over Nile Dam Rushes Toward a Reckoning
After a decade of construction, the hydroelectric dam in Ethiopia, Africa’s largest, is nearly complete. But there’s still no agreement with Egypt, which calls the structure a national security threat.
(NYT) Satellite images released this week showed water pouring into the reservoir behind the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam — which will be nearly twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty. Ethiopia hopes the project will double its electricity production, bolster its economy, and help unify its people at a time of often-violent divisions.
Seleshi Bekele, the Ethiopian water minister, rushed to assuage Egyptian anxieties by insisting that the engorging reservoir was the product of natural, entirely predictable seasonal flooding.
Despite those assurances, downstream in Egypt, which relies on the Nile for 90 percent of its water, the images prompted consternation.
For nearly a decade, Egypt has been negotiating with Ethiopia over how the dam should be filled and operated. The latest, last-ditch effort ended inconclusively on Monday, and the satellite photos, combined with news reports from Ethiopia, fueled speculation that the dam’s reservoir had, in fact, begun to fill up.

17-18 April
10 African Countries Have No Ventilators. That’s Only Part of the Problem.
(NYT) Basic supplies like oxygen and soap are needed first to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Though limited testing means it is impossible to know the true scale of infections on the continent, several African countries report growing outbreaks. A snapshot of the situation on Friday showed that Guinea’s cases were doubling every six days; Ghana’s, every nine. South Africa had more than 2,600 cases; Cameroon, nearly 1,000.

Policymakers rush to stave off economic collapse on the African continent
(PRI) Few industries on the continent have been spared by the epidemic. The region is projected to experience its first recession in 25 years, according to the World Bank. Among the biggest challenges for Africa is the large scale of people employed in the informal sector.
Few industries on the continent have been spared by the epidemic. The region is projected to experience its first recession in 25 years, according to a new report by the World Bank on the economic impact of COVID-19 on African economies.
“The countries that are more dependent on tourism are taking a big hit,” said César Calderón, a lead economist at the World Bank who co-authored the report. “You can think about Botswana or Kenya, Mauritius, South Africa.”
While Africa has some of the fastest-growing economies on the planet, they face unique challenges due to the pandemic.
… This month, the African Union appointed special envoys to help mobilize economic support from the international community.
Calls for large-scale debt service or debt relief have grown from outside of the continent as well. During a national address Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron said the world should “help them economically by massively canceling their debts.”
Earlier this week, the International Monetary Fund announced it would pay the debt for 25 countries for next six months, helping them free up money for their emergency responses.
Days later, G20 countries agreed to freeze bilateral debt service payments for some of the world’s poorest countries.

29 February
Simon Tisdall: The west ignores the growth of Islamic insurgents in Africa at its peril
Thousands are being killed across the Sahel region in what is becoming the new battlefront with militants
(The Guardian) Imagine the reaction in Britain if armed Islamist jihadists were to burst in on a Sunday church service in a Surrey village, spraying automatic weapon fire at the congregation and killing the vicar and at least 23 worshippers. Horror and fury would be unconfined. The attack would be an immediate worldwide media sensation.
This is exactly what happened to Protestant churchgoers in Pansi, a village in northern Burkina Faso, on 16 February – though you would hardly know it, judging by the ensuing international silence. The increasing frequency of such atrocities in Africa’s Sahel region is one possible explanation for this apparent indifference, although there are others.
Burkina Faso is the new hotspot in an expanding confrontation between Islamists and the ostensibly western-backed governments of the Sahel, a vast, semi-arid area south of the Sahara stretching from Senegal and Mauritania on the Atlantic seaboard through Mali, Niger and Chad to Sudan and Eritrea on the Red Sea.
It may not have made headlines in Europe and the US, but about 1,800 people died in insurgent violence in Burkina Faso last year. About 500,000 are internally displaced. The UN warns it could become “another Syria”. Add in Mali and Niger, and the 2019 death toll rises to an estimated 4,000, a fivefold increase since 2016. Millions more are in need of food assistance.
What began in 2012 as a localised, part-separatist revolt in northern Mali has spread inexorably. The Sahel is now seen as the new battlefront between Islamist extremists and the west. West African coastal states fear contagion. And Isis and al-Qaida affiliates, exploiting ungoverned spaces, endemic poverty, religious and tribal tensions, and disruption caused by climate change, have a growing presence.

9 February
For Thousands of Years, Egypt Controlled the Nile. A New Dam Threatens That.
Ethiopia is staking its hopes on its $4.5 billion hydroelectric dam. Egypt fears it will cut into its water supplies. President Trump is mediating.
(NYT) Already, the Nile is under assault from pollution, climate change and Egypt’s growing population, which officially hits 100 million people this month.
A colossal hydroelectric dam being built on the Nile 2,000 miles upriver, in the lowlands of Ethiopia, threatens to further constrict Egypt’s water supply — and is scheduled to start filling this summer.
The dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia over the $4.5 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam — Africa’s largest, with a reservoir about the size of London — has become a national preoccupation in both countries, stoking patriotism, deep-seated fears and even murmurs of war.
To Ethiopians, the dam is a cherished symbol of their ambitions — a megaproject with the potential to light up millions of homes, earn billions from electricity sales to neighboring countries and confirm Ethiopia’s place as a rising African power.
… Ninety-five percent of Egyptians live along the Nile or in its teeming delta, and the river provides nearly all of their water. They worry that, if the dam in Ethiopia is filled too quickly, it could drastically curtail their water supply.


Editor’s Note: Below is a viewpoint from Chapter 1 of the Foresight Africa 2019 report, which explores six overarching themes on the triumphs of the past years as well as strategies to tackle the remaining obstacles for Africa. Read the full chapter on bolstering good governance.
Strategies for winning the fight against corruption
By Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
(Brookings) To fight corruption, we must first understand it. Underlying the various forms of corruption—grand, political, and administrative, which include public resource transfers to private entities, allocation of public resources to political allies, and misuse of public funds—are three important factors. The first is a lack of transparency of critical financial and other information central to economic development, in particular revenues and budgets. Second is the weakness or total absence of institutions, systems, and processes that block leakages. Third is the pervasiveness of impunity—limited political will to hold accountable and punish those found guilty of such corruption.
Between the three, the tougher problem is how to build strong and enduring institutions (15 January 2019)

21 October
Assessing past and future strategies for reducing poverty in Africa
(Brookings) When the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were announced in 2015, it was clear that success on SDG1—eradication of extreme poverty—depended on Africa’s performance. Recent forecasts from the United Nations and the World Bank suggest that Africa is not going to make it.
We should all be concerned, but what can be done? The recent World Bank study, Accelerating Poverty Reduction in Africa, offers governments and stakeholders both new suggestions as well as new takes on old recommendations, providing a clear if bumpy road map for future strategies and intervention designs. Despite its length, the report is well worth our time. I have no doubt that it will serve as a key reference volume in the coming years.
… Readable, technocratic, and fact-filled, this report shows the strength of the World Bank as an intellectual leader in economic development thinking. The length, at almost 300 pages, and the five years spent in preparation also show the Bank’s weakness—over-thinking, over-programming, over-reviewing, and over-doing. If African thought leaders and policymakers can find a way to absorb all the facts and analysis in digestible bites, the report should have an impact on development thinking in Africa.

7 July
Economic ‘game changer’? African leaders launch free-trade zone
(Al Jazeera) Hopes are high AfCFTA will help unlock Africa’s long-stymied economic potential by boosting intra-regional trade.
African leaders launched a continental free-trade zone that, if successful, would unite 1.3 billion people, create a $3.4 trillion economic bloc, and usher in a new era of development. After four years of talks, an agreement to form a 55-nation trade bloc was reached in March, paving the way for Sunday’s African Union summit in Niger where Ghana was announced as the host of the trade zone’s future headquarters and discussions were held on how exactly the bloc will operate. It is hoped the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) – the largest since the creation of the World Trade Organization in 1994 – will help unlock Africa’s long-stymied economic potential by boosting intra-regional trade, strengthening supply chains, and spreading expertise. “The eyes of the world are turned towards Africa,” Egyptian President and African Union Chairman Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said at the summit’s opening ceremony. “The success of the AfCFTA will be the real test to achieve the economic growth that will turn our people’s dream of welfare and quality of life into a reality,” he said. Africa has much catching up to do: Its intra-regional trade accounted for just 17 percent of exports in 2017 versus 59 percent in Asia and 69 percent in Europe. Africa has missed out on the economic booms that other trade blocs have experienced in recent decades. Economists say significant challenges remain, including poor road and rail links, large areas of unrest, excessive border bureaucracy, and petty corruption that have held back growth and integration

5 July
In Sudan, a Power-Sharing Deal Propelled by a Secret Meeting and Public Rage
(NYT) A month ago Sudan’s pro-democracy movement was battered and in disarray. Protesters were in hiding after paramilitary troops rampaged through the main protest area, looting, raping and shooting dead scores of people. The internet had been shut down. Bodies were being dredged from the Nile. Then this week the protest leaders and their military foes did something unusual: They sat down in the same room, face-to-face, and within two days hammered out a power-sharing deal to run Sudan until elections can be held in just over three years

Foreign Affairs July/August
Africa’s Democratic Moment?
The Five Leaders Who Could Transform the Region
Even as some countries in the region have grown into success stories, most have failed to embrace true democracy, despite a deep hunger for it among their populations. Today, a mere 11 percent of Africans live in countries that Freedom House considers free.
But change is afoot. Whereas from 2010 to 2014, the region experienced nine transfers of power from one leader to another, since 2015, the region has experienced 26 of them. Some of these transitions amounted to one leader relinquishing his or her seat to a handpicked successor, but more than half featured an opposition candidate defeating a member of the incumbent party. Of the 49 leaders in power in sub-Saharan Africa at the beginning of 2015, only 22 of them remained in power as of May 2019. Just one of the newcomers, Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe, entered office through a coup (although once someone is chosen to succeed Omar al-Bashir in Sudan, the count will grow to two). Gone are the decades when power regularly changed hands through coups—87 times between 1950 and 2010, according to one count.
Africa’s new set of leaders includes former military dictators turned democrats, party loyalists who steadily moved up the ranks, and a few political outsiders. Five of them will prove especially pivotal: Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia, João Lourenço of Angola, Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, Félix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria.

24 June
Suspected mastermind of Ethiopia coup attempt shot dead, says official
Gen Asamnew Tsige accused of planning attacks that killed army chief of staff and Amhara state president
Gwynne Dyer- Ethiopia: Abiy the Lucky
He has done pretty well everything he could think of, and he did it in little over a year. And yet he is still in a very precarious position
Abiy Ahmed is Ethiopia’s best chance of breaking the cycle of tyrannies that has blighted its modern history. It is Africa’s second-biggest country (102 million people) and one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, but its politics has been cursed.
In the past century it has gone from a medieval monarchy to rule by foreign fascists (it was conquered by Mussolini’s Italy in the 1930s), and then back to an only slightly less medieval tyranny for another thirty years – until a Marxist-led military coup in 1974.
… Abiy is certainly a ‘child of the Party’, which he joined at 15, but he is a reformer who can be all things to all people. … And he is a very modern man.
He immediately ended the state of emergency and changed almost all the senior military commanders. He appointed a cabinet that was half-female, plus women as president and as head of the Supreme Court.
He released thousands of political prisoners. He freed the media, made the leader of an opposition party head of the Electoral Board, and put her in charge of organising free elections in 2020.
He made peace and re-opened the border with Eritrea after 20 years of hot and cold war. He has done pretty well everything he could think of, and he did it in little over a year. And yet he is still in a very precarious position.

9 June
Gwynne Dyer: Abiy Ahmed — Ethiopia’s new saviour?
Nobody outside the ruling party really knows much about Abiy Ahmed beyond his official party biography, but Ethiopia’s new prime minister looks a lot like Magic Man at the moment. Three years of mounting protests have suddenly stopped, the state of emergency has been lifted, and with a single dramatic announcement he has ended 20 years of hot and cold war with neighbouring Eritrea.

9 May
ANC takes commanding lead in South Africa’s election but support ebbs
(Reuters) – Based on the latest results from the Electoral Commission, analysts predicted the ANC was set for a vote share of between 55 percent and 59 percent. A poor showing for the ANC would embolden opponents of President Cyril Ramaphosa and risk a potential challenge to his leadership, analysts have said.
With promises to fight graft, improve public services and put people into jobs, Ramaphosa won an internal party leadership election in December 2017, narrowly defeating a faction allied with former head of state Jacob Zuma. Ramaphosa replaced the scandal-plagued Zuma as president of Africa’s most advanced economy three months later.
But his efforts have been constrained by divisions within his own party, where some Zuma supporters still retain influence and oppose his agenda.
The ANC is re-elected but without much enthusiasm
Young voters seem to have stayed away
(The Economist) On May 8th enough voters … turned out to re-elect the party that has governed South Africa since 1994, when Nelson Mandela was elected as the country’s first black president. The ANC’s success probably relied on older black voters with memories of the struggle, rather than on younger South Africans who are fed up with corruption, inequality and a lack of jobs.

22 April
Bouteflika, Bashir—and Biya? A raft of crises now face Cameroon
As Cameroon looks to become the third African nation in recent weeks to remove a long-serving president, Jeffrey Feltman details the country’s three-pronged security crisis and calls for conflict prevention efforts before the situation worsens.
While only intermittently covered by American media, and with the United Nations and African Union mostly mute, Cameroon is currently engulfed in three separate crises.
First, since 2014, Boko Haram has terrorized Cameroon’s far north region, adjacent to Nigeria’s Borno State (where Boko Haram was founded in the city of Maiduguri) with murders, kidnappings, and destruction of infrastructure. Despite military support, training, and equipment from the United States and others.
Second, peaceful protests against linguistic and political marginalization in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions erupted in 2016. Anglophones account for approximately 20 percent of Cameroon’s population, with the rest considered Francophone (in addition to about 200 local languages). These protests quickly escalated in 2017 into a violent secessionist insurgency and counter-insurgency. Now, with the Algerian and Sudanese protests leading to the respective militaries’ removal of two long-serving presidents, previously disparate and quiescent opposition against President Paul Biya has mobilized to create Cameroon’s third, and—while not yet violent—potentially most serious crisis. For years, fatigue and disenchantment with Biya’s rule has simmered below the surface in Cameroon and boiled openly in the Cameroonian diaspora. … What is clear is that this is the time for conflict prevention efforts by African or other leaders, in hopes of moderating any response to protests in order to stave off the potential for a third Cameroon crisis turning violent. The problem is identifying a person, institution, or country with influence on Biya

16 April
Sudan’s military rulers sack more top officials after pressure from protesters
Prosecutor general fired in latest concession by transitional council
The move is the latest concession by the army-led transitional council, which took power last week following the fall of Omar al-Bashir after 30 years in power, and has since faced fierce pressure to rapidly give way to a civilian government.
Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the leader of the council, fired the country’s prosecutor general on Tuesday, less than 24 hours after protest groups demanded his removal.
The protesters have already forced the first choice of the military as leader of the council to step down, and caused the resignation of the head of the National Intelligence and Security Service (Niss).
The deputy public prosecutor, the head of public prosecutions and the head of the national broadcasting corporation were also reported to have been removed from their posts on Tuesday.

11-12 April
Sudan’s new military rulers have no plans to extradite al-Bashir, in yet another rebuke of the International Criminal Court
Sudan’s new military rulers are vowing that the deposed president Omar al-Bashir will remain in Sudan and will not be extradited to The Hague on a long-standing arrest warrant for crimes against humanity, despite growing demands from United Nations leaders and human-rights groups.
Mr. al-Bashir, who ruled Sudan for 30 years before his arrest on Thursday during a military takeover, has become a crucial test case for the International Criminal Court. He is the first sitting head of state to be indicted by the court, but has evaded arrest for a decade.
The ICC indicted him in 2009 and 2010 on charges of war crimes and genocide in connection with the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region, in which more than 300,000 people have been killed, yet he defied the arrest warrant and travelled freely to many countries around the world – until his arrest this week.
The Fall of Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the ‘Spider’ at the Heart of Sudan’s Web
(NYT) He outwitted rivals who underestimated him, steered a decade-long oil boom that swelled Sudan’s middle classes, and forged a network of security forces and armed militias to fight his wars that some likened to a spider’s web with Mr. al-Bashir at its center.
That carefully constructed edifice of power crumbled this week as thousands of protesters massed outside his Khartoum residence, chanting slogans and braving gunfire as rival gangs of soldiers exchanged fire. The oil money was running low, the economy was in tatters and young Sudanese, in particular, had had enough. The spider had to go.
On Thursday morning, the military ousted him, ending his 30-year rule.

12 March
Yesterday Algeria’s incapacitated president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, announced that he would not run for a fifth term, conceding to the demands made by thousands of protesters over the past three weeks. With Mr Bouteflika out of the race, the vote has been postponed. The delay buys time for the clique of generals and businessmen who run the country to anoint a successor

1 March
The 2019 Nigerian elections and Buhari’s second chance to provide peace, prosperity, and security
(Brookings) …the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission officially declared incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari as the winner with 56 percent of the votes to opposition leader Atiku Abubakar’s 41 percent.  Abubakar rejected the election results, arguing that the election was a “sham” and that the incumbent’s win was a “statistical impossibility” in some states. He also lamented what he referred to as the “militarization of the election process” and went on to say that he would take his case to the courts. Nigeria is already a country struggling to deal with election-related violence. How Abubakar and his supporters deal with the loss could have a significant impact on peace and security in the country as it moves on to deal with pressing public issues, particularly, how to end extreme poverty.

18 February
Army to be ‘ruthless’ against tampering in Nigeria’s postponed vote: Buhari
(Reuters) – The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced a week’s delay to voting in the early hours of Saturday, just as some of Nigeria’s 84 million registered voters were already making their way to polling stations.
Buhari said anyone trying to steal or destroy ballot boxes and voting material in the election now scheduled to take place this coming Saturday would be dealt with firmly.

6 February
Nigeria’s 2019 presidential elections: A chance to think globally and act locally
(Brookings) With over a dozen national elections in Africa in 2019, the Nigerian presidential election on February 16 is one of the most consequential. The expectation, since the country’s independence in 1960, has been that the giant of Africa would emerge as a dominant world player and join its global peers. Many had hoped that by the 21st century, reform-minded leaders would have built and sustained the institutions of governance, diversified the economy, created jobs for the burgeoning and youthful population, and reduced abject poverty. That expectation was spectacularly dashed. But elections offer hope and a moment for reflection, and Nigerians should think about the past as a way of charting their future when they head to the polls.
Compare Nigeria, for instance, with the Southeast Asian nation of Indonesia. The two countries have many things in common. Both are large powerhouses in their respective regions, with huge populations (Indonesia with 264 million in 2017 and Nigeria with 191 million), and in both, a large proportion of the population is Muslim. Both are richly endowed, major oil exporters, ranked as lower middle-income countries, and staunch allies of the United States. And, both have had checkered political histories as eminently documented by Peter M. Lewis in his 2007 book, “Growing Apart: Oil, Politics, and Economic Change in Indonesia and Nigeria.”

20 January
Zimbabwe warns brutal crackdown is ‘foretaste of things to come’
A brutal crackdown in Zimbabwe that has followed protests against fuel price rises is “just a foretaste of things to come”, the president’s spokesman has said.
The harsh words will increase concerns about the deteriorating human rights situation in the poor southern African country, coming after a week in which police and soldiers have beaten civilians, shot 12 people dead and detained at least 600 people, many without charge.
Inflation is running at 40% – its highest rate since hyperinflation forced Zimbabwe to abandon its currency 10 years ago in favour of dollars, electronic cash and “bond notes” issued by the central bank.
The violence is the worst seen in Zimbabwe for a decade, prompting many to make comparisons with the worst days of the 37-year rule of the autocratic former president Robert Mugabe.
The government has called the unrest “terrorism” and blamed the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
[President Emmerson ] Mnangagwa, a ruling Zanu-PF party stalwart, took power when Mugabe was ousted in a military takeover in November 2017 and then won contested elections last year.
On Sunday the president, who has been touring central Asia, Russia and Europe in a bid to drum up investment for the country’s crippled economy, said he would return to Zimbabwe instead of attending this week’s World Economic Forum in Davos.
African leaders opt for stability, accepting Congo’s disputed election
Just days after expressing “serious doubts” about Congo’s election results, African leaders are now rushing to congratulate the declared winner, signalling that their new priority is the stability of one of Africa’s biggest and most war-ravaged countries.
Congo’s constitutional court, considered loyal to President Joseph Kabila, announced after midnight early Sunday that the election winner was Felix Tshisekedi, despite widespread evidence that he received fewer votes than another opposition candidate, Martin Fayulu. …after the announcement early on Sunday morning, when the Kabila government ignored the AU’s doubts and went ahead with the court verdict to upheld the election results, the AU abruptly cancelled its urgent mission to Congo. And a host of African leaders swiftly issued their own statements of congratulations to Mr. Tshisekedi, making it clear that they now accept the official outcome. The presidents of South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya were among those who congratulated the official winner. “Now that the highest court in the land has ruled, all the people of Congo and all stakeholders are urged to accept the outcome,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a statement on Sunday.
The Congo political crisis has become a major test for African leaders, who have repeatedly supported the idea of “African solutions for African problems.” Their questioning of Congo’s election results was a rare instance of resistance to an official election outcome on the continent. But on Sunday their resistance seemed to collapse.
Al-Qaeda-linked jihadists attack UN base in north Mali, killing 8
Aguelhoc camp houses peacekeepers from Chad
Mali is under threat from a number of extremist groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State organization, and attacks have moved from the north to central Mali.
Thousands of Nigerian refugees fleeing Boko Haram forced back by Cameroon
UN voices alarm and urges Cameroon to keep its doors open after it denies entry to thousands fleeing unrest

16 January
Kenya attack: 21 confirmed dead in DusitD2 hotel siege
(BBC) At least 21 people were killed when Somali militants stormed a luxury hotel compound in Nairobi, Kenya’s government has confirmed.
Hundreds were forced to flee the bloodshed at the DusitD2 hotel and business complex on Tuesday.
Some 28 injured people have been admitted to hospital, and Kenya’s Red Cross said 19 are still missing.
Somalia-based Islamist group al-Shabab said it was behind the attack, which triggered a 19-hour security operation.
President Uhuru Kenyatta said the siege ended with five jihadist attackers “eliminated”.
Kenya has been a target for al-Shabab since October 2011, when it sent its army into Somalia to fight the jihadist group.
Second Canadian national feared kidnapped in Burkina Faso
The man was kidnapped on Tuesday night from a mine near the border with Niger, Security Minister Clement Sawadogo told reporters.
This is the second case of a Canadian going missing in the West African country in recent weeks.
Reuters reported that the man was kidnapped by gunmen from a gold mining site owned by Vancouver-based Progress Minerals near the border with Niger.
A pair of aid workers also went missing in Burkina Faso last month.
Canadian officials have told media they are treating the disappearance of Canadian Edith Blais, 34, and Italian Luca Tacchetto, 30, as a kidnapping.

International Criminal Court judges have acquitted former Ivorian leader Laurent Gbagbo of all war crimes charges and ordered his immediate release. Outside the courthouse, dozens of supporters broke into cheers when the verdict was announced. But the decision was a major setback for the prosecution, stung by defeats in cases against Jean-Pierre Bemba, the Congolese ex-vice president released last year and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who had charges against him dropped in 2015. Prosecutors have only won three war crimes convictions over the past 15 years.

11 January
Khartoum, the bell tolls
The Economist: Tens of thousands of Sudanese have taken to the streets in recent weeks. What began as a riot over the price of bread in one city in December has billowed across the country. By some estimates, at least 40 people have been killed by security forces during nearly 400 protests. The government says it has detained at least 800 people (the real figure is surely far higher). Yet this has done little to muffle what has become a nationwide uprising against the rule of Omar al-Bashir and his 30-year-old kleptocracy

Surprise twist in Congo’s chaotic election
(Axios) The ruling party was routed, strongman Joseph Kabila is stepping aside after 18 years, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo has a chance to complete its first-ever peaceful transfer of power.
Between the lines: Things are nowhere near that simple. There are widespread suspicions that Kabila cut a deal with Felix Tshisekedi, who was declared the winner last night by Congo’s electoral commission. The Catholic Church, which deployed 40,000 election observers and is one of the few trusted institutions in Congo, reportedly found that another opposition candidate, Martin Fayulu, was the “clear winner.”
The latest: The French foreign minister is among those questioning the official results, which he said were “the opposite to what we expected.”

Catch up quick:

  • Elections should have been held two years ago but Kabila, up against term limits, clung to power in the massive, mineral-rich country of 80 million.
  • Elections were delayed again, this time by a week, when an apparent arson attack destroyed most of the voting machines set to be used in the capital, Kinshasa.
  • When the vote did take place on Dec. 30, two opposition strongholds weren’t allowed to take part, officially because of concerns over insecurity and Ebola. After the vote, internet and texting services were cut because “fictitious results” were spreading.


17 August
Africa in focus
Smart power: Investing in youth leadership and development
By Witney Schneidman
(Brookings) Of the many statistics that define Africa’s complexity, this may be the most important one: With 200 million people between ages 15 and 24, Africa has the youngest population in the world. This demographic is expected to double by 2045. The question is whether Africa’s youth population is a “ticking time bomb,” a concern expressed by Zambia’s finance minister, Alexander Chikwanda, or, if the continent’s demography will contribute to sustained economic growth and diversification. Despite fast economic growth from 2000 to 2015, the absolute number of poor has increased in Africa and about 70 percent of young people live below the poverty line.
Engaging Africa’s youth is therefore critical, and has to become a top policy priority for African governments and other stakeholders. It is encouraging that some progress has been made. For example, the African Union’s theme for 2017 was “harnessing demographic dividends through investment in youth.” Aligned with this is recent Africa Growth Initiative research that contends governments need better policies and well-trained civil servants in order to enhance job creation, implement pro-poor policy interventions, and ensure effective public service delivery.

11 August
South Africa risks ‘Zimbabwe-style land chaos’
Shockwaves are still being felt in South Africa after President Cyril Ramaphosa’s controversial announcement that the country’s constitution is to be changed to explicitly allow for the expropriation of land without compensation.
(BBC) Markets reacted negatively and the currency, the rand, has continued to plummet over the last week.
This is because the plan has invited comparisons with the chaotic land reform programme across the Limpopo River in neighbouring Zimbabwe, which saw scenes of violent evictions of mainly white farmers. But the move will be welcomed by those tired of waiting for reforms promised when white-minority rule ended in South Africa in 1994. Nearly a quarter of a century on, the racial differences are still stark, nowhere more so than in the area of land ownership.
White people, who make up just 9% of the population, own 72% of the private land that is held by individuals, government figures show.
The redistribution of land was a fundamental principle of the governing African National Congress (ANC) during its struggle against apartheid, which enshrined racial discrimination in law.

4 August
Africa in the news: Zimbabwe election results, South Africa updates, and Mali elections
(Brookings) Last Sunday, Mali conducted the first round of presidential elections. Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta is seeking a second term. His main opponent is former finance minister Soumaila Cissé in a field with 23 candidates. Results released on Thursday showed that President Keïta won 41.4 percent of the vote while his closest rival Soumaila Cissé, won 17.8 percent of the vote. President Keïta and Soumaila Cissé will face off in a second round runoff election as neither candidate crossed the 50 percent threshold required for outright victory. A third candidate also claimed to have gathered enough votes to participate in the run-off elections. A spokesperson from the Democratic Alliance for State claims that the party candidate, Aliou Diallo, have come in second in Sunday’s vote.

6 May
After years of unrest, Ethiopians are riding an unlikely wave of hope. Will it last?
It is difficult to overstate the importance of Ethiopia to the stability of East Africa. It has the largest army in the region and the continent’s fastest-growing economy, and it is surrounded by disintegrating states such as Somalia and South Sudan.
(WaPost) …Abiy Ahmed, who at 42 is one of the youngest leaders on the continent. In his first month as Ethi­o­pia’s premier, he has ushered in an unlikely wave of hope and even optimism in this close U.S. ally that serves as something of a linchpin to the stability of East Africa. … The accession of Abiy, who hails from the Oromo community, brought a sharp drop in tension. Since he took office, Internet service has been restored to the countryside, charges against dozens of activists have been dropped, and he has embarked on meetings around the country, listening to grievances and promising reform, including term limits for his position.

29 April
Islamic State ally stakes out territory around Lake Chad
(Reuters) – From the shores of Lake Chad, Islamic State’s West African ally is on a mission: winning over the local people.
Digging wells, giving out seeds and fertilizer and providing safe pasture for herders are among the inducements offered by Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA), which split from Nigeria’s Boko Haram in 2016.
“If you are a herder, driver or trader, they won’t touch you – just follow their rules and regulations governing the territory,” said a herder, who moves cattle in and out of ISWA territory and whose identity Reuters is withholding for his safety. “They don’t touch civilians, just security personnel.”
The campaign, which has created an economy for ISWA to tax, is part of the armed insurgent group’s push to control territory in northeastern Nigeria and in Niger.
ISWA stretches farther and is more entrenched than officials have acknowledged, according to witnesses, people familiar with the insurgency, researchers and Western diplomats who have for the first time provided details of the group’s growing efforts to establish a form of administration in the Lake Chad area.

10 April
“A Nightmare In Heaven” — Why Nobody Is Talking About The Holocaust in Congo
As of 2017 more Black men, women and children have lost their lives in the Congo than those who died in the concentration camps of World War II. Yet barely a mention is made of the holocaust that rages in the heart of Africa . Why?
Because the economy of the entire world rests on the back of the Congo.

President Joseph Kabila of Congo — who was due out of office last year — shows no sign of stepping down. But his persistent presence is about more than the denial of democracy. Kabila represents a long line of dictators who have cost the Congo more than 15 Million Black men, women, and children since 1961. But the blame does not start with Joseph Kabila. He is but one of many who benefit from the largest humanitarian crisis modern history that no one wants to talk about.
It wasn’t until whites arrived on the coasts that civilization began to decline.
One by one, Africa’s great cultures fell to the hands of white slave traders, missionaries, and colonists. In 1884 the nations of Europe came together in Germany to divide Africa among themselves.
Political borders were drawn with complete disregard for the governments that Africans had established prior to the arrival of the whites. During this conference, the Congo was awarded to King Leopold of Belgium, who proceeded to bleed the country dry.

It might be too early to declare an African Spring – but leaders are being toppled in their droves
In recent months, a trend has emerged with leaders across the continent falling victim to their greed or being brought down by their own parties
(The Ethiopia swore in a new prime minister this week after an overhaul within the ruling party. To onlookers, the transition of power to Abiy Ahmed might seem insignificant. But seen in the context of a continent in flux, it reflects what some are calling the African Spring.
Young and energetic, Mr Abiy’s appointment ends a political crisis that has gripped Africa’s oldest independent nation since the surprise resignation of his predecessor Hailemariam Desalegn in February.
Some, like Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, have attracted global attention. Others, like former Mauritian President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim – who resigned last month after allegedly spending $27,000 on an NGO credit card – have not. As change sweeps the continent, its young population – likely to surpass 2.5 billion by 2050, according to the UN – are rightly demanding education, employment and increased opportunities from their old-fashioned leaders.
But does this herald a new dawn for African democracy – or will they be left disappointed?
The three biggest downfalls herald from Angola, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Messrs Mugabe, Dos Santos and Zuma were synonymous with liberation struggle. With it comes a sense of entitlement and self-preservation that will live on in their parties after they are gone.
With his purge of Zuma’s allies, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa offers the greatest hopes of meaningful change.
But Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mr Mugabe’s former vice president who stepped into his shoes and Joao Lourenco, a veteran of the ruling MPLA, may simply offer Zimbabwean and Angolan voters more of what preceded them. For their parties, it is an opportunity to proclaim progress and deliver continuity.
Other recent transitions have been more encouraging. In January 2017, power changed hands after 23 years in Gambia. The election and its aftermath were entirely peaceful. There have been smooth transfers of power between political parties in Ghana and Liberia in recent months. This week, troubled Sierra Leone looks set to be another. Their new leaders, including former footballer George Weah, who took control of Liberia in February, face an avalanche of expectations from their jaded electorates.
In spite – or perhaps because of – its vast mineral wealth, the DRC is today among the world’s poorest countries, cleaved by conflict and grasping foreign powers, both regional and international. Mr Kabila was expected to step down at the end of his term in 2016 but remains in office today, most of his opposition either dead or exiled. But with the influential Catholic church calling for change, protests are growing in frequency and numbers.
Across the border in Uganda, Yoweri Museveni recently bulldozed presidential term and age limits after 32 years in power, causing significant disquiet. To the west, Paul Biya has ruled Cameroon with an iron fist since 1982. When a south-western separatist movement swelled last year, the army reportedly killed 100 protesters. Mr Biya is facing growing popular dissent.
The fate of these three presidents could have considerable implications for Africa’s pro-democracy movement, simmering away since the 1990s. (3 April)

2 April
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, a leader of the bloody struggle against South Africa’s white rulers under apartheid, has died at 81.
(NYT) “Charming, intelligent, complex, fiery and eloquent,” our obituary says, Ms. Mandela saw her heroic status “eroded by scandal over corruption, kidnapping, murder and the adulterous implosion of her fabled marriage to Nelson Mandela.”She came to resent her husband’s global celebrity. “I am not Mandela’s product,” she once said. “I am the product of the masses of my country and the product of my enemy.”
To the end, Ms. Madikizela-Mandela remained a polarizing figure in South Africa, admired by loyalists who were prepared to focus on her contribution to ending apartheid, vilified by critics who foremost saw her flaws. Few could ignore her unsettling contradictions, however. “While there is something of a historical revisionism happening in some quarters of our nation these days that brands Nelson Mandela’s second wife a revolutionary and heroic figure,” the columnist Verashni Pillay wrote in the South African newspaper The Mail and Guardian, “it doesn’t take that much digging to remember the truly awful things she has been responsible for.”

31 March
Congo bishops go to UN to get Kabila to agree to step down
In the absence of any credible opposition and a free press, the Catholic Church is emerging as the only credible voice that can speak up for the people of the Congo in the face of Kabila’s regime
Militia attacks displaced children with machetes in war-ravaged DR Congo
(Sky News) The government line is that it is an old ethnic conflict between the Hema and Lendu tribes, but most suspect it is stoked by an unpopular and autocratic government led by President Joseph Kabila, who has exceeded his mandate and is now under growing international pressure to step down and hold elections.
The DRC authorities are getting increasingly impatient with the negative murmurings from outside the country about the worsening situation and the growing humanitarian crisis.

27 March
Bill Gates’ speech that rattled Nigerian govt (FULL TEXT)
Right now, Nigeria’s fiscal situation is at what you might call a low equilibrium. In return for low levels of service, people pay low levels of tax. We hope to help you reach a higher equilibrium rooted in effective and transparent investments in people. This equilibrium would trigger a virtuous cycle.
More government revenue would lead to more money to spend on health and education. Better health and education, and investment in sectors like agriculture, would lead to more productive farms and factories. More productive farms would lead to more prosperous farmers who could expand their farms or invest in other businesses, especially if they had access to credit and other financial tools. These thriving farms, factories, and new businesses would lead to more government revenue. And the cycle would start again.
Triggering that cycle will require bolder action—action you have the power to take as leaders, governors, and ministers focused on Nigeria’s future.

22 March
(The Economist) Simon Baptist: Four months ago this week Robert Mugabe lost his position as president of Zimbabwe. At the time, expectations were running high: Zimbabweans as well as foreigners speculated about what this change could entail, especially given that under Mr Mugabe’s rule, Zimbabwe went from being one of Africa’s richest countries to one with a devastated economy. It is not an exciting message, but so far the new direction of the country is unclear.
Some of the new government’s statements of intent—such as restoring faith in the local currency and supporting foreign direct investment—are encouraging, but are likely to fall victim both to short-term economic pressures and to elections (which are due by August 2018, but may be delayed). However, there is immediate potential for recovery in sectors such as agriculture and mining, should the policy environment improve. After such a long period under Mr Mugabe’s rule, a gradual transition is one of the more desirable outcomes. But it will be challenging to balance the risks of rapid change with Zimbabweans’ demands for a better life.

21 March
Boko Haram Returns Dozens of Schoolgirls Kidnapped in Nigeria
(NYT) Dozens of schoolgirls from the northern Nigerian community of Dapchi were returned early Wednesday morning, dropped off by the same group of Boko Haram militants who kidnapped them more than a month ago as they offered a stern warning to never go back to school again.
The surprising turn of events was greeted with joy from parents whose daughters were safely returned, but the relief was tempered by suspicions that several girls had died while in the hands of the militants. At least one is apparently still being held.

20 March
Cambridge Analytica Had a Role in Kenya Election, Too
(NYT) Senior officials of Cambridge Analytica, whose parent company is the SCL Group, said in an undercover video by Channel 4 News of Britain that the company played a critical role in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s two campaigns, in 2013 and 2017.

The revelations come only weeks after Mr. Kenyatta and his chief rival, Raila Odinga, reconciled after months of contention.
In the video, Mark Turnbull, a Cambridge Analytica executive, said the company twice rebranded Mr. Kenyatta’s political party, wrote his campaign speeches and his political platform, and twice conducted surveys of 50,000 people to ascertain Kenyan voters’ hope and fears.

18 February
Nigeria releases 475 Boko Haram suspects for rehabilitation
Authorities said some suspected of links with militants had been held without trial since 2010
(The Guardian) The first person convicted for the kidnapping in 2014 of Chibok schoolgirls, sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment last week, was also handed an additional 15-year sentence, to run back-to-back, the ministry said in a statement.
More than 20,000 people have been killed and 2 million forced to flee their homes in north-eastern Nigeria since Boko Haram began an insurgency in 2009 aimed at creating an Islamic state.
A Placeholder Prime Minister Departs. What Comes Next?
(NYT) A day after Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia abruptly resigned, the country declared a state of emergency on Friday. The second such decree in less than two years, martial law was reimposed amid reports of a bitter succession struggle, a worrying development for a country buckling under years of political unrest.

17 February
Zuma’s fall a chance to take moral leadership in Africa
(BBC) South Africa has always been a nation to surprise. And to infuriate. And to inspire.
It is like no other country I have ever reported from.
From my first experiences in the apartheid 1980s to the rise of President Cyril Ramaphosa, it has frequently havered between the possibility of disaster and triumph, sometimes accommodating both possibilities within the space of a single day.
The fall of Jacob Zuma came about, in part, because of several uniquely South African dynamics.

16 February
President Cyril Ramaphosa pledges ‘new dawn’ for South Africa
Mr Ramaphosa, who was sworn in on Thursday, promised to “turn the tide of corruption”.
He also spoke of accelerating land redistribution and outlined plans to boost the economy and create jobs.
His predecessor, Jacob Zuma, stepped down on Wednesday after pressure from the governing ANC party. He faces numerous corruption allegations.

25 January
A Crisis in Cameroon is Forcing English Speakers to Flee in Alarming Numbers
This potentially brewing conflict is an off-the-radar crisis that does not attract a great deal of attention, but has both significant regional and global implications.
(UN Dispatch) Over 10,000 people have fled from English speaking regions of Cameroon to neighboring Nigeria in recent weeks. They are escaping an ongoing crackdown by Cameroonian security forces against a movement that is demanding greater autonomy for English speaking regions from the French dominated central government.
In Cameroon, the struggle for more equal political rights and power by English speaking regions is a longstanding issue. It’s commonly known as “the Anglophone problem.” Over the past couple of years an Anglophone protest movement has gained increased strength and visibility. And over the past several months the government response to this movement has become increasingly violent and draconian. Meanwhile, some fringe splinter groups have decided to take up arms against the government.

18 January
Islamists banned their music. Now Timbuktu is singing again
(The Guardian) Secessionists and Islamists linked to al-Qaida seized control of the city in 2012. The latter, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) enforced Islamic law, forcing women to cover up, flogging people for wearing perfume, and tearing down saints’ graves and a mosque door that legend had it would remain closed until the end of the world.
Musicians received death threats; their instruments were burned. One Islamist arrived at a radio station that had collected decades’ worth of local music one day and carted all the tapes away in rice sacks.
But some look back on it as a time of great musical creativity. “We composed a lot of music during the crisis, but inside houses, in secret,” said Abdulrahman Cissé, a mechanic and musician known locally as Adé, who did backing vocals for Arby, sitting crosslegged on a duvet laid out in a nook of his small courtyard. “We were singing about what we were going through, to transmit the message about what happened.” …
The jihadists fled when French soldiers advanced, in January 2013, and since then life in Timbuktu has edged towards normality. Groups of women in lipstick and red-gold dresses pray openly at the tombs of the city’s 333 saints. Giggling teenagers tease each other in an ornate doorway, leading to the house where the German explorer Heinrich Barth once stayed. Young women in leggings, three to a motorbike, whizz round the earthen Djinguereber mosque, their hair flying.
But in the region outside the city, attacks continue against the UN, military, and civilians. Four days before the concert, five workers installing fibre-optic cables were killed to the south of Timbuktu.
A succession of forces has tried to wrest back control of Mali’s vast northern plains; the latest of these, the G5 Sahel, is composed of soldiers from the five countries affected by the crisis – Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Chad – and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have just announced that they will contribute $150m, in addition to the $60m from the US and $59m from the EU.

“A Nightmare In Heaven” — Why Nobody Is Talking About The Holocaust in Congo
President Joseph Kabila of Congo — who was due out of office last year — shows no sign of stepping down. But his persistent presence is about more than the denial of democracy. Kabila represents a long line of dictators who have cost the Congo more than 15 Million Black men, women, and children since 1961. But the blame does not start with Joseph Kabila. He is but one of many who benefit from the largest humanitarian crisis modern history that no one wants to talk about.
Before the 19th Century, the area that we call the Congo was populated by some of the greatest civilizations in history. We know from The Destruction of Black Civilization that the Kingdoms that preceded present day Congo were shining examples of achievement. From Kuba under Shyaam the Great to the Matamba Kingdom under Ngola Kambolo, the Congo was a cradle of culture and democracy (10 April 2017)

Comments are closed.