AFRICAN NEWS SOURCES
Sudan rebels, army brace for fighting season after peace talks flop
7 December 2015
Government forces and rebels in Sudan’s war-torn border regions say they are preparing for another bout of fighting after the latest talks in Addis Ababa failed to reach a deal.
The African Union-mediated talks ended last month without a temporary ceasefire being agreed in Darfur, mired in conflict since 2003, and South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, where rebels have been battling since 2011.
Now the rainy season that leaves roads in the regions impassable has ended, both sides are braced for more fighting.
“We are preparing to defend ourselves,” said Arnu Lodi of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, which is based in South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
“Our troops are in high morale, well trained and prepared,” Lodi said.
Sudan’s military also says it is on high alert in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
“We know that they are preparing and we are preparing too,” said spokesman Colonel Ahmed Khalifa al-Shami.
The military had been tracking the rebels’ movements during the talks, Shami said, declining to give further details.
The latest negotiations came during a period of calm in Sudan’s conflict-hit peripheries.
President Omar al-Bashir announced a two-month ceasefire in September to persuade rebels to join a national dialogue in Khartoum.
The period coincided with the wet season, when torrential rains usually halt fighting, but the SPLM-N accused Khartoum of carrying out air raids.
“Despite the military’s commitment to the ceasefire announced by the president, it hasn’t abandoned its duty to train, mobilise and protect the country,” Shami said.
Bashir has been battling ethnic insurgents in Darfur for 12 years, after they rebelled against Khartoum, complaining of marginalisation.
The SPLM-N rose up in 2011 for similar reasons.
Khartoum unleashed troops, bomber jets, helicopter gunships and militia to try to crush the insurgencies, with the International Criminal Court indicting Bashir for alleged war crimes in the Darfur conflict.
The talks in Addis Ababa were the 10th round between the SPLM-N and Khartoum, and Darfuri rebels held simultaneous talks with a second government delegation.
The negotiations ended with the SPLM-N and government accusing each other of plotting to reinforce their positions in South Kordofan and Blue Nile under cover of a humanitarian ceasefire.
For the past two years, the government has mounted offensives in the dry season, which starts in November.
The talks’ failure means another is likely but a decisive victory still seems far off.
“It’s going to inflict a lot of human suffering but it will not end the insurgency,” said Magdi al-Gizouli, an independent political analyst.
In April, government-allied militia ambushed the Justice and Equality Movement’s forces in Darfur, capturing and destroying dozens of their vehicles in a major defeat.
Sudan’s military says Darfuri rebels now occupy just pockets of land, notably the hilly Jebel Marra area in the centre of the region.
“The Sudanese Armed Forces will try to contain the SPLM-N as far as possible just like the situation in Darfur, where you have pockets in Jebel Marra that don’t threaten anything,” Gizouli said.
In previous offensives, the military has pounded rebels in South Kordofan and Blue Nile with artillery, jet bombers as well as ground attacks with militia and troops.
But the hilly Nuba Mountains area of South Kordofan is still a major obstacle for the Khartoum regime.
“The terrain is difficult. It doesn’t lend itself to fighting, it’s very mountainous,” said a source in Khartoum familiar with the conflict.
“I think the SPLA-N has taken advantage of the rainy season to reinforce its positions,” the source said on condition of anonymity.
For civilians in rebel-controlled areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile that the government denies aid organisations access to, renewed fighting will inflict further misery.
Nearly 150,000 children in South Kordofan and Blue Nile have not been received vaccinations because of a lack of access, with 500,000 people displaced in the two states, the United Nations says.
Fighting in Darfur has left another 2.5 million displaced in the western region, with at least 300,000 dead, according to the UN.
“The civilian population is captive to the fighting armies,” Gizouli said.
(Source: Times LIVE – http://www.timeslive.co.za/africa/2015/12/07/Sudan-rebels-army-brace-for-fighting-season-after-peace-talks-flop)
Surprise win for Africa as it gains greater market access globally
19 December 2015
• Four issues of interest to Africa — more favourable rules of origin, duty-free quota-free (DFQF) market access, the operationalisation of the services waiver, and elimination of export subsidies — were resolved after they were reintroduced for discussion.
• Prior to the meeting, Africa had lost hope of achieving anything from the conference, which was being held on the continent for the first time, after key trade issues were excluded from the draft Nairobi declaration.
Africa scored a surprise win at the World Trade Organisation meeting in Nairobi with resolutions that will give the continent enlarged access to markets in both the developing and developed countries.
Four issues of interest to Africa — more favourable rules of origin, duty-free quota-free (DFQF) market access, the operationalisation of the services waiver, and elimination of export subsidies — were resolved after they were reintroduced for discussion.
Prior to the meeting, Africa had lost hope of achieving anything from the conference, which was being held on the continent for the first time, after key trade issues were excluded from the draft Nairobi declaration. This was despite repeated calls by WTO director-general Roberto Azevêdo that the Nairobi ministerial meeting should deliver on development issues, particularly for least developed countries (LDCs).
Rules of origin
One of the wins for LDCs is that under the more favourable rules of origin, the threshold of value addition in the manufacturing country has come down from 35 per cent to 25 per cent.
“This means that the total export value of an LDC product can have up to 75 per cent imported component and still enjoy duty free and quota free market access to developed country markets,” said Peter Kiguta, East African Community director-general of Customs and Trade.
“This will increase LDCs’ exports to both the developing and developed nations and it will remove the overly restrictive and inflexible export measures that are in place, which have been making it difficult for LDCs to take full advantage of the preferences they are granted,” he added.
Rules of origin specify how much processing must take place locally before goods can be considered to be the product of the exporting country.
Currently, these rules have no harmonised standard, which critics say creates additional problems for the WTO’s poorest members, forcing them to adapt to a range of rules depending on the intended export market.
East African countries, for example, enjoy a revised preferential treatment on export products with a 30 per cent value addition instead of the set 35 per cent.
“With a uniform rule of value addition of up to 25 per cent, countries will be bound to automatically abolish certain requirements such as certificates of non-manipulation or any other form of certification for products shipped by LDCs across other countries,” said Mr Kiguta.
On export subsidies, member countries agreed to eliminate their subsidies by a half by the end of 2017, and the remaining annually so that all forms of subsidies are eliminated by 2020 by developed members (US, Europe) and by 2023 by the developing nations, including China, South Korea and Brazil.
“The proposal embodies the special and differential treatment policy under which developing countries are given more time to implement the agreed policies while the LDCs are allowed longer periods and even sometimes exempted from implementing some agreed policies,” said Mr Kiguta.
In addition to complying with all other export subsidy obligations under the agreement on agriculture, members agreed to undertake export financing support that includes export credit, export credit guarantees, and insurance programmes, which will be provided with a maximum repayment of 18 months.
The export subsidies, including finance — credit, guarantees and insurance — food aid and state trading agencies were seen as one of the difficult-to-negotiate areas at the December 15-18 meeting and members at the informal session in Geneva last week confirmed the sharp differences.
A World Bank report indicates that the elimination of such farm subsidies along with reductions in high agricultural tariffs and the granting of duty- and quota-free access to OECD markets for exports from the LDCs could bring developing countries additional earnings of $15 trillion over 10 years.
Under the WTO, African countries have been forced to open their markets to cheap imports that undermine domestic agriculture and industry while rich countries have failed to lower their own trade barriers, which cost developing countries about $100 billion in lost opportunities.
Payments to developed country farmers now reach some $1 billion a day, equivalent to the total daily income of the world’s poorest one billion people.
“While greater gains are expected to accrue from a reform of domestic subsidies and improvements in market access, export subsidies have long been condemned as greatly distorting world markets and detrimental to competitive exporters and import competing producers,” said Sanoussi Bilal, senior executive head of programme of the Economic Transformation programme at the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM), adding, “As export subsidies complement policies such as high internal prices, their elimination will prevent the re-emergence of some distorting forms of producer support. WTO members would benefit from being flexible about the details of the transition period to ensure achievement of this long-term goal.”
He said that food aid can act as an implicit export subsidy in some situations. However, disciplines on the subsidy component of food aid must preserve its humanitarian and developmental roles.
At the Nairobi meeting, Africa remained adamant on the issue of opening up markets to duty-free quota-free (DFQF) market access, especially the US market.
“No decision on the operationalisation of DFQF was taken after it received opposition from Africa and no date has been set for its discussion,” said the WTO official.
READ: Africa to lobby for more access to duty free market at WTO meeting
Studies show that further trade gains for LDCs would be rather limited under a DFQF scheme since the excluded tariff lines could potentially cover between 90 per cent and 98 per cent of all LDC exports.
“The excluded tariff lines tend to exclude the bulk of textile and clothing exports from LDCs like Bangladesh and Cambodia to the US, which is the biggest textile market for Africa,” said Mr Kiguta adding that it is a good move for protecting African textile industries but requires a lot of transparency.
“This sounds nice but can be abused by issues of corruption — like what is happening in the Kenyan sugar protection under Comesa. Inefficient producers are the ones benefiting at the expense of local consumers.”
Most developed countries have traditionally implemented DFQF schemes at various levels. The US is implementing two regional duty-free schemes since 2000, including the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), which provides 40 designated African countries, of which 26 are LDCs, duty-free treatment on about 1,835 products mostly textile.
The Least Developed Country (LDC) services waiver also emerged among deliverables to Africa at the conference.
According to the agreement, members are now authorised to grant preferences to services and service providers of LDCs — not only WTO members, but all LDCs of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), which deals with market access. Non-market access measures are not automatically covered, but can be authorised by the WTO Council for Trade in Services.
Members may now grant LDC services/suppliers exclusive market access in otherwise closed sectors and modes of supply, or provide them with incrementally relaxed market access vis-à-vis other members.
“The waiver effectively operates as a new ‘Enabling Clause’ for trade in services, with benefits limited to LDCs. The waiver allows for classical market access preferences, and opens up the possibility of allowing others — subject to an application and approval procedure,” said Dr Bilal.
“However, the lack of technical clarity on what preferences would be desirable and could be done and the lack of political will to implement them could discourage the use of this waiver,” he added.
(Source: The East African – http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/news/WTO-hands-Africa-surprise-win-at-Nairobi-talks-/-/2558/3002740/-/item/0/-/9dk9rn/-/index.html)
Somali national army to take over fight against Al Shabaab
1 January 2016
The international community has put together a 20,000-strong Somali national army, which is expected to take over the fight against Al Shabaab when the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) leave.
Outgoing special representative of the United Nations Secretary General for Somalia Nicholas Kay, said the force, which includes a police wing, will take over from Amison, and not only help fight the Al Shabaab militants but also ensure they do not recover territory they had lost at the KDF under Amison.
“Amison is not going to be in Somalia forever, so this army and police force to maintain general order is expected to take over once the troops leave Somalia,” he said.
Mr Kay however, did not give an indication when the KDF, which operates together with troops from other Africa nations, under the multi-national force would leave the country. He said the UN Security Council, would have to determine that.
The envoy was speaking as the wound up his two and a half -year tenure overseeing an international efforts led by the United Nations, to stabilise Somalia, with the US and the United Kingdom, among the lead contributors to the security and political efforts to ensure the war torn country regains stability.
He however, expressed optimism and hope that Somalia was on the path towards stability, saying next year will be particularly momentous in ensuring that ground covered in building institutions, in the security and political arena, are not lost and that such gains are consolidated to give the fragile state a more firm standing.
The British diplomat said however, economic recovery remained the most wanting, saying 70 per cent of the Somalis under the age of 35 years are out of employment.
“On the economic recovery side there has been less progress and as we go into 2016, the focus should be jobs, jobs, jobs,” he said.
He said for there to be economic growth, there was need to ensure peace was sustained, saying the security situation remained vulnerable, as a few regions were still under the control of terrorist group Al Shabaab, even as efforts by Amison to take back the regions from the terror group were scaled up.
Much of the economic activity, according to the outgoing envoy, were private sector based, responsible for growth in the livestock export sector, which contributed export of about 5 million livestock last year, but lack of roads, electricity connection, among other infrastructure and lack of value addition, meant that a lot more was yet to be done to improve the economic fortunes of the locals.
The high number of the unemployed youth, he said, were a ticking bomb, as they provided a fertile ground for recruitment by the Al Shabaab, hence the urgency to build infrastructure and create jobs.
For this to be achieved, Mr Kay said development efforts by international partners including the US, UK, the European Union and the African Union (AU) required to be strengthened in 2016, saying all parties could not afford to relent when the progress made so far required to be consolidated.
Tour of duty
“Somalia has moved from a failed state to fragile one, and I am happy to note during the end of my tour of duty, that most of the rebuilding is being done by the Somalis themselves,” he said.
On the political front, five federal governments, with their national assemblies but reporting to the central government of Somalia were in place, with further progress expected with the regional elections expected in 2016.
Mr Kay was speaking during an interview with the Nation, in Nairobi, as he prepared to return to the UN headquarters for further deployment, even as the Somalia government early awaits his successor to help steer the ship of stability and lift the fragile Somalia out of the doldrums.
(Source: Daily Nation – http://www.nation.co.ke/news/africa/SoMALI-ARMY-20-000/-/1066/3017232/-/xfofsr/-/index.html)
Gambia to host Banjul+10 Summit
8 January 2016
The year 2016 marks ten years since the adoption of the Africa Youth Charter (AYC). Launched in Banjul, in July 2006, by the Seventh Ordinary Session of the African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government, the Charter eventually entered into force on August 8, 2009. It was adopted in Banjul, taking into account the progress made as a country in youth empowerment and development.
According to a press release from the National Organising Committee, The Gambia has been given approval by the African Union to have the honour to host the continent-wide commemoration, also known as Banjul+10.
“Two hundred delegates from across Africa, including youth leaders, ministers for youth affairs, state representatives, African Union Commission, are expected to grace the commemoration slated for May 25, 2016. This will also coincide with Africa Liberation Day. The Charter is the first legal framework of the AU in favour of the empowerment and development of the youth on the continent. 35 Member States of the AU have so far ratified the instrument, committing their nations to the fulfillment of the rights and obligations of young people, as enshrined and guaranteed in the Charter.
Moreover, 2016 will also mark seven years into the Decade of Youth Development in Africa (2009-2018), a declaration endorsed in 2009 by the Assembly of Heads of State and Governments of the AU. Ten years on next year, it is essential to take stock of the progress made, share good practices, renew commitments and map out a concrete way forward for realising the ideals of the AYC for youth, while also contributing to the attainment of the goals of AU’s Agenda 2063 and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations,” the release added.
Preparations are in high gear in making the event a successful hosting and already, the National Youth Council (NYC) and its line Ministry have set up a National Organising Committee with representatives from the Government, NGOs, and development partners.
The release indicated that Banjul+10 seeks to provide a common platform for member states to conduct a peer review of the AYC, noting that the commemoration will feature a youth summit and a high-level political forum as well as presentation of progress review reports.
There will also be Africa Youth Awards, which aims to celebrate and award the achievements of outstanding African youth across all fields of human endeavor.
“The National Organising Committee, the National Youth Council and the Ministry of Youth and Sports wish to thank the government of the Gambia, under the leadership of His Excellency Sheikh Professor Dr Alhaji Yahya Jammeh Babili Mansa for accepting to host Banjul+10. We count on the support of the government, development partners, and the general public for successful hosting,” the release concludes.
(Source: Daily Observer – http://observer.gm/gambia-to-host-banjul10-summit/)
Africa: Nairobi trade talks made history – Kenya Foreign Minister [GUEST COLUMN]
8 January 2016
At the start of 2015, the prospects for a successful outcome for the Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Nairobi were dim. The pundits were forecasting failure. But WTO member countries proved them wrong and we succeeded.
We reversed the fortunes of the WTO and placed the organization it on a clear trajectory for success. There is more work to be done but in Nairobi we saw a sea change.
The Nairobi conference was neither ceremonial, nor was it convened to endorse a predetermined outcome. It was a negotiating conference, to which deadlocked and unresolved issues were forwarded.
As we started the negotiations, the prospects were daunting. Some observers publicly declared that the omens for resolving the main issues around the Doha Declaration on trade were not good. Some even urged WTO members to “confront the prospect of definitive failure”. But members were undeterred.
We saw a sea change in Nairobi – reinvigoration of the WTO.
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta provided leadership in his message to the membership by calling for a strengthened, relevant WTO, with a successful outcome solving global problems and contributing to recovery and growth in the global economy.
As the first African to chair a WTO Ministerial Conference, I felt like the metaphorical Atlas, carrying the weight of not only the world, but the responsibility of how the talks would impact Africa, other parts of the developing world and the global economy.
During the countdown to the meeting, I experienced foreboding and sleepless nights as well as hope and determination to ensure a roaring African success. Advised on the probability there would be no successful outcome, several ministers from other nations, friends of Kenya, suggested we might have to issue a “chairperson’s statement”, which in WTO parlance is a positive way of accepting failure. Their objective was to ensure that Kenya would not carry alone the cross of another failed WTO ministerial conference.
But Kenya was clear from the beginning that Nairobi would be successful and that I would not issue such a statement. I was dead set against writing an epitaph. It had to be all or nothing. It had also become increasingly clear that Nairobi provided the unique opportunity needed for the renewal and reinvigoration of the WTO, an organization that we all passionately believe in.
Failure was not an option – neither for Kenya nor for the entire African Union, and President Kenyatta was clear on this. The stalemates and inertia of the past had to be broken, the jinx of no or minimum outcomes had to be banished, and it had be executed in Africa, the so-called weakest link in the rules-based based multilateral trading system.
Chief negotiators came to Nairobi without revealing their bottom lines, largely restrained by domestic factors and pressures. The stakes could not have been higher as we faced issues ranging from clinching an elusive Information Technology Agreement to getting anything agreed on agriculture, as well as the associated questions around buying food stocks to ensure food security and a deal for the “C4” countries – the cotton-growing nations of Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali, to the equally challenging task of a package for the world’s least-developed countries (LDCs), or an acceptable future work programme for the WTO.
And then there was the larger historic question of whether to reaffirm or not to reaffirm the Doha Round. It all seemed impossible.
But we rose to the occasion, designed a strategy and stuck to it with the assistance of a core group of ministers, friends of the chairperson and WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo. We spared no effort, nor wasted time. We had minimal if any sleep and minimal nourishment. For four days and three nights we negotiated and kept the entire membership informed and involved. There were no gaps. We could not afford them.
The systemic support from the full spectrum of members in different formats and configurations was indispensable, in the absence of which failure would have been certain. Their contributions were the litmus test of the premium they attach to the centrality of the WTO in global rule-making. Doubts and questions about the superiority of the WTO in setting the bar for trade rules were dissipated.
So what was achieved in Nairobi?
The meeting produced six ministerial decisions on agriculture, cotton and issues related to least-developed countries.
First, a major breakthrough was reached in agriculture, with the immediate outlawing of export subsidies in developed economies and in developing countries by 2018 and in LDCs by 2023. Export credit and food aid were also disciplined. This is a positive result for countries that rely heavily on agriculture for income and jobs. It has the potential of lifting countless smallholder farmers out of poverty. That is why the deal on agriculture was so widely popular and supported.
Second, another breakthrough, associated with agriculture but standing alone in its significance for Africa, was achieved on cotton, for long a question that had divided the membership. The Nairobi package acknowledges reforms by members in their domestic policy and regulations on cotton and underscores the scope for further reforms. The actual breakthrough was the decision by ministers that export subsidies should be prohibited immediately by developed members and at a later date by developing countries.
Third, also associated with agriculture, the Nairobi package reaffirmed the Bali decision on public stockholding for food security purposes, which gives protection from challenges under trading rules to governments which buy stocks of food from their farmers to maintain food security in their countries.
Fourth, in another significant outcome, members representing major exporters of IT products agreed, in the Information Technology Agreement, on a timetable for eliminating tariffs on various products, with all WTO members set to enjoy duty-free access to the markets of members eliminating the tariffs. Consequently, two-thirds of tariff lines will be fully eliminated by July 1 this year, with total elimination expected over three years. The agreement is a huge plus for many countries in Africa active in the sector.
The fifth outcome of significance is for LDCs. The Nairobi package contains decisions of specific benefit to LDCs such as enhanced preferential rules of origin and preferential treatment for LDC service providers. The conference decided on the facilitation of opportunities for LDC to export goods to developed and developing countries pursuant to unilateral preferences.
No less important, Nairobi approved the terms and conditions of membership of Afghanistan and Liberia, two least-developed countries.
We loosened the knot on the systemic question of the relevance of the WTO regarding the consideration of new issues. It is hugely significant that we accepted that some WTO members may wish to raise other negotiating issues in the WTO. However, coupled to this recognition was the decision that a consensus would be required before the launch of these negotiations. This formulation protects all interests and is an important step forward for the institution.
Finally, substantively, ministers confronted head-on the major negotiating question of whether the Doha Round of talks to achieve a comprehensive international trade deal should continue. The question was whether to reaffirm that mandate or not. There was an honest division among the members. As in all negotiating situations, where positions are unbridgeable the polar positions were acknowledged in the Nairobi Declaration.
As the chairperson of the 10th ministerial conference, I believe this outcome was not fatal for the WTO, as embodied in the expression “reasonable individuals can disagree”. The successful results from Nairobi were not an end point – rather, the direction of the WTO has been reset and is now pointed in the right direction. We must now set ourselves to the huge task ahead of us.
Coming on the heels of successful climate talks at COP 21 in Paris, the WTO meeting in Nairobi has demonstrated the value and centrality of a multilateral approach to facing the world’s challenges. We made history.
Ambassador Mohamed is Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs and International Trade and was the Chairperson of the 10th WTO Ministerial Conference.
(Source: AllAfrica.com – http://allafrica.com/stories/201601080001.html)
Black and Christian in Libya
15 January 2016
SABHA – “I had to wear a hijab and change my name to Amina so that my life would be easier,” says Julia, a 43-year-old Christian woman from Nigeria who moved to Sabha 15 years ago.
Changing one’s name is common among Christians here. Emmanuel becomes Mohammad and Philip becomes Ahmad, to avoid harassment and to get a job more easily. As for women, not only do they change their names, but they also wear a hijab to fit-in with the largely Muslim society.
Julia, like most Christian foreigners, attends an unknown church in Sabha on Fridays instead of Sundays so as to not draw attention. She says that the church is located between work stations and informal settlements not often frequented by passersby. She lives in fear of Daesh, likening them to Boko Haram in Nigeria.
“It’s best to melt within the Muslim community to stay safe,” she says.
But Michael, a mechanic, goes by his real name in Sabha and says he is not afraid of anyone, not even Daesh.
Fear of deportation outweighs need for justice
According to a security guard in Sabha, people still remember the murder of a Christian couple “Manuel” and “Nochi” who were slaughtered in the Manshiya area last July. Despite the widely held belief that the murder was because of the couple’s religion, the church did not pursue the case, fearing possible implications on the on the already difficult existance of Christians in Sabha.
A police officer in Gardah’s center, Ibrahim Yehya, claims that they don’t receive any complaints or reports about racism from Christian sub-Saharn Africans because they fear repercussions on their illegal status. Yehya adds that there are no clear rules that criminalise religious oppression or racial discrimination.
Black African corpses
An anonymous source in Sabha medical center said that everyday a representative from the consulate of one of the sub-Saharan African countries reports a missing migrant or to receive a statement that a migrant from his country has died.
The source says that the center faces the big problem of accumulating corpses, some are Christian and others are Muslim. Muslims are buried either in Jadid or Gardah cemeteries, and Christians are buried in the Christian cemetery on the road to Tripoli. The center does not know how to deal with people of unknown religion; these stay in the morgue even longer.
Exploitation of Sub-Saharan Africans
Most Christian sub-Saharan African migrants are fluent in English and or French and work in language centers spread across the city. But they are exploited and given low wages in exchange for long working hours. They are also forced to pay royalties to what they call the “workers’ mafia.”
John, a 34-year-old who has been teaching English at a language center for seven months says he is being “robbed” in different ways. When he arrived from Nigeria to Sabha, John said he was held at a house in Sakra Street for six months by armed men because he was unable to pay 1000 dinars (US $722) as a tax for working in the area to those men who traffic in African workers. “They forcibly take a part of what we earn,” says John. “I pay them 200 dinars (145 dollars) every month, otherwise they will detain me again.”
Julia explains that all foreigners, whether Christian or not, are systematically robbed of their phones and money. “Once, they stole some clothes I intended to sell to support my living,” she says. “They find foreigners easy targets to steal from without being held accountable.”
Laws and beliefs
Libyan laws prohibit alcohol and public celebration of Christmas and New Year’s Eve, but Christian foreigners have adapted to these laws that are supported by strict social customs and traditions in the country.
According to a Christian in Sabha who spoke under conditions of anonymity, Christians do as some Libyans do; drink alcohol and celebrate the New Year in secret.
“Christian Africans should return to their country if they don’t like living according to the rules of the Islamic country that they illegally migrated to,” says Abdel Hafiz Ali, a 38-year-old Libyan.
Many Libyans in Sabha believe that people coming from Niger, Mali and Chad are all Muslims and they prefer them over Nigerians and Cameroonians as domestic workers because they follow the Islamic laws. However, Libyans are often disappointed because a large number of immigrants are Christians pretending to be Muslims to get work as cleaning help in Libyan homes.
(Source: Correspondents.org – http://www.correspondents.org/node/7271)
Africa had a very violent 2015, even as Kenya saw lowest number of terror attacks in three years
9 February 2016
ATTACKS by Islamist militants in Kenya dropped to the lowest level in three years in 2015, a result of better intelligence gathering by the authorities and infighting among fighters in neighbouring Somalia over their allegiance to Islamic State and al-Qaeda.
The improved security situation may help East Africa’s leading economy revive its tourism industry —a key source of foreign exchange that had slumped since raids by Islamist militants intensified in 2012.
It could also boost the government’s efforts to attract investment into projects such as the $26 billion Lamu Port Southern Sudan Ethiopia Transport corridor that would build infrastructure including a railway and an oil pipeline across Kenya’s northern region, close to Somali border..
The number of militant attacks in Kenya dropped to 46 last year, about half the figure of 2014 and the lowest since 2011, according to data compiled by Verisk Maplecroft, a Bath, England-based risk consultancy; although one incident – the Garissa University attack in April 2015 – had the highest death toll of a single terrorist incident in nearly two decades, at 148 killed.
The overall downward trend is confirmed by statistics collated by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, which is run by the University of Sussex in the U.K. and draws on reports from the media, humanitarian agencies and other groups. Its data shows the number of “conflict events” in Kenya dropped to 306 last year—the lowest level since 2012.
A dispute between members of al-Shabaab in the second half of 2015 over their allegiances to al-Qaeda or Islamic State, also known as Daesh, probably contributed to the decline in the number of attacks last year, Emma Gordon, senior Africa analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, said by phone from Uganda.
“Infighting in al-Shabaab between Daesh and al-Qaeda loyalists preoccupied the group in the latter half of 2015 and reduced their focus on external attacks,” Gordon said. “Also, a number of pro-Daesh al-Shabaab members have been purged, many of whom are understood to be of Kenyan origin.”
In 2015, ACLED recorded 14,640 conflict events on the African continent, which would include political violence, civil wars, battles against armed groups, riots and protests.
The number of armed conflict incidences decreased by 14.0% compared to the previous year, marking the first negative trend since 2009. In a number of countries, including Central African Republic, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia, conflict levels declined by more than 20% over one year.
Still, armed Islamist groups were also among the most lethal perpetrators of civilian violence, according to ACLED. Boko Haram, Al Shaabab, the Egypt-based State of Sinai and the offshoots of the Islamic State in Libya and Tunisia were responsible for more than half of all violence against civilians in Africa, pointing to the increased operational capacity of these groups.
Battles between armed groups made up 27.6% of all conflict events and more than half of total related fatalities: despite a relative annual decrease, battles still featured prominently in Africa’s conflict landscape, shows ACLED data.
In northern Africa, armed Islamist groups linked to the Islamic State and Al Qaeda established a regular presence in the Libyan cities of Derna and Sirte and to launch large-scale attacks against Tunisian and Egyptian military forces, thus consolidating their outreach across the region.
Mali saw a resurgence of conflict in 2015, as Tuareg insurgents and Islamist groups intensified their attacks against state forces and UN troops in the north of the country.
In central Africa, Boko Haram extended its regional presence to Chad and Niger, while DRC, Sudan and South Sudan remain major conflict hotspots. Somalia witnessed the highest number of battles in Africa, with 1,296 events recorded in 2015.
Political militias carried out 46.3% of total attacks on civilians across the continent, although their incidence declined by around 8% as a result of the re-categorization of Boko Haram into a rebel group, following a change in its aims and goals, indicates ACLED.
These findings illustrate the complex and changing patterns of conflict across the continent: while overall political violence seemed to decrease in 2015, civil wars, armed insurgencies and violence against civilians remain a major source of conflict and instability.
In Kenya’s case, the reduction in the number of attacks is linked to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s enacting of a law in December 2014 to strengthen coordination among the country’s security agencies.
The legislation “empowered the police, intelligence and the military, and brought together many players in terms of addressing security,” said Sebastian Gatimu, a researcher on crime and governance at the Institute for Security Studies in Nairobi, the capital.
The Verisk Maplecroft data shows that last year, 46 militant attacks took place, while in 2014, at least 94 incidents took place. The previous year, in 2013, 58 attacks took place, including the attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi in which at least 67 people died.
The corruption link
The U.S. last year committed at least $40 million to help counter violent extremism in East Africa and has signed an agreement with Kenya to help improve management of the security agencies. U.S. drone strikes on members of al-Shabaab have also bolstered Kenyan, Ethiopian and other African troops fighting the insurgents in southern and central Somalia.
“The cooperation with the U.S. has been concentrated on Somalia, but it’s had a knock-on effect,” Gordon said. “A lot of the intelligence they’ve gathered has been useful in Kenya.”
The declining trend needs to be sustained in order to have any substantial impact on investor sentiment toward Kenya, said Gatimu.
“The fear is that the government has not been able to fight corruption in the security sector, which is a huge hindrance in terms of securing citizens,” he said.
— With assistance from Nasreen Seria.
(Source: Mail & Guardian Africa – http://mgafrica.com/article/2016-02-09-in-2015-kenya-had-lowest-number-of-terror-attacks-in-three-years-but-africas-story-is-complicated)
Somalia: Communique – High‐level Partnership Forum in Istanbul
27 February 2016
Representatives from 46 countries and 11 international organisations gathered in Istanbul on 23 and 24 February 2016 to participate in the third Ministerial High‐Level Partnership Forum (HLPF), hosted by H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President of the Republic of Turkey and co‐chaired by H.E. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, President of the Federal Republic of Somalia and H.E. Mr. Jan Eliasson, Deputy‐Secretary General of the United Nations. This forum follows previous meetings held in Copenhagen in 2014 and Mogadishu in 2015.
Two official side events, one on Women, Peace, and Security and the other on Youth were also held during the HLPF.
We welcome the second annual progress report of the New Deal Somali Compact and commend the detailed Compact Review process, which has resulted in greater joint analysis of achievements and challenges faced in implementation, as well as identification of milestones for 2016. This report accurately acknowledges that despite many challenges, remarkable progress has been achieved in many areas of Somalia’s peace and state‐building agenda and reaffirms our continued engagement and provision of assistance.
With the end of the constitutionally‐mandated terms of the Federal Government and Parliament, 2016 is a decisive year for Somalia. We recognise that one‐person one‐vote elections will not be possible this year, but welcome the inclusive and participatory process that led to agreement on key principles and actions of the 2016 electoral process in the ‘Mogadishu Declaration’ of 16 December 2015. In line with the Guiding Principles and the Mogadishu Declaration, we commit to undertake all efforts to deliver an electoral process in August 2016. We underline our strong expectation that there must not be any impediments to the timely implementation of the electoral process, including freedom of expression, nor any extension of the constitutionally‐mandated term limits of the legislature and executive. We urge the completion of the 2016 Electoral Process Implementation Plan and the development of the 2020 Roadmap in an inclusive and participatory manner.
We note the absence of Puntland from this Forum, and urge the Federal Government and regional authorities to make every effort to ensure that the government and people of Puntland are fully on board in order to allow for the 2016 electoral process to be as inclusive as possible.
We affirm that pursuing universal suffrage in 2020 is required. We recognise the need to overcome the existing power‐sharing formula, in accordance with the strong desire of the Somali people. We stress the importance of a clear political vision and path and agree to consolidate twin‐track planning in support of one‐person one‐vote elections supported by a capable National Independent Electoral Commission by 2020. The international community stands ready to support these processes.
We underline the need to complete the state formation process in Hiraan and Middle Shabelle and reach agreement on clarification of the status of Mogadishu.
Noting that Somalia’s Federal Constitution will be the foundation for stability and peaceful politics in Somalia, we urge the swift completion of the review of the priority chapters of the Provisional Federal Constitution. We welcome the agreement among federal leaders and mandated federal institutions on priority political issues that require immediate response in 2016. We urge the Federal Government to engage the emerging and federal member states in the constitutional review and implementation process and conduct nationwide consultations with Somali people across all federal and emerging member states, including through civic education and outreach to ensure broad‐based consensus and Somali ownership.
We acknowledge that progress has been made to achieve greater peace and security across Somalia, but remain concerned that the security environment at present is an inhibiting factor for development of both governing institutions and the Somali population and remains a root cause for the significant humanitarian assistance requirements in Somalia.
We commend the valiant efforts by AMISOM and the SNA in the fight against al‐Shabaab. We express special appreciation to all AMISOM Troop and Police Contributing Countries, as well as partners for their contribution and continued commitment to the Mission. We urge the need for reinvigorated AMISOM and SNA operations, and that efforts be made for the SNA to assume operational strength in forward bases supported by AMISOM. Operations must be conducted in compliance with international humanitarian law and human rights and take into account the need to create the necessary conditions for stabilization of recovered areas, recognizing the role to be played by different actors, including those within the police, justice, and corrections sector. We look forward to the outcome of the forthcoming Troop Contributing Countries (TCC) Summit in Djibouti in February 2016. We call upon all partners to continue to bridge the gap between operational needs and available resources in order to guarantee predictable, flexible, and sustainable resources.
We recognise the efforts made to provide support to strengthen the capacity and accountability of Somali security institutions across the country and welcome the commitment by the Federal Government and international partners to develop, before May 2016, financially sustainable plans for the army (Gulwaade) and police (Heegan) under a national security architecture and informed by the Public Expenditure Review conducted by the World Bank and the UN. We welcome the decision that the National Security Council will include regional representation at the highest level. We commend efforts to complete a National Threat Assessment and to ensure the National Security Policy is fully agreed and endorsed before May 2016.
We also recognise the opportunity and need to provide support to the police forces of emerging and federal members States to ensure safety and security.
We note that international support to the Somali security sector remains essential and must be provided with increased transparency and full integration and alignment with the financially sustainable plans developed by the Federal Government. We welcome the commitment to focus on national force integration and the President’s commitments on security sector reform including expenditures together with enhanced monitoring systems and urge that the mechanism supports regular and timely payments. We welcome the commitment from international partners to provide stipends in a timely and consistent manner.
We recognise rule of law is an integral part of security, stability and extension of state authority and jointly commit to improve provision of basic services across the justice chain of police, justice, and corrections. We also urge that key justice institutions such as the Constitutional Court, Independent Human Rights Commission and the Judicial Service Commission be established in 2016.
We recognize the importance of a comprehensive approach to preventing violent extremism in Somalia, beyond military operations and including addressing the root causes of radicalization and pledge to work together to address these factors. We reaffirm that counter‐terrorism efforts should be conducted in full respect of human rights and welcome the adoption the Counter‐Terrorism Bill.
We emphasize that a comprehensive approach for the extension of state authority is required so that local administrations have the capacity to deliver basic services to their constituencies.
We are concerned that 4.7 million people in Somalia are food insecure and in need of urgent and sustained humanitarian support. 3.2 million people are in need of emergency health services, nearly 1 million face daily food security crisis, more than 300,000 children under the age of 5 are acutely malnourished – 58,300 of them severely. The needs of 1.1 million internally displaced people are particularly great. We are particularly concerned with the recent onset of drought in large areas across Somalia, and reaffirm the need for attention to disaster management and early warning and response systems. We recognise durable solutions are required to address persistent natural and man‐made shocks and vulnerabilities. We reconfirm our commitment to the 2016 Humanitarian Response plan. We welcome efforts to provide a solutions perspective for IDPs, and urge international and national partners to provide necessary support to strategically bridge humanitarian and development objectives.
We underline the vital role of education, health, social protection, and other core social services in supporting the Somali people. Whilst recognizing the substantial progress made in 2015 to extend social services to disadvantaged populations, the international community and government commit to prioritize greater financial and human resource investments in social services. In this regard, we welcome the joint commitment to improve public delivery of education and health services through key legislation & policies (e.g. national curricula, health strategy, social protection policy), capacity building, and effective public management and payment systems for teachers and health workers.
We underline the need to develop key economic sectors that will provide all Somalis with greater opportunities for sustainable livelihoods, and stress the need for responsible and transparent management of all productive and natural resources as the primary drivers of inclusive economic growth.
We acknowledge the Federal Government’s commitment to enact reforms and draft legislation to strengthen key sectors (energy, infrastructure, ports, ICT, agriculture, livestock, and fisheries), including through private public partnership, and welcome the international community’s efforts to expand support for high priority economic sectors and youth employment, including through vocational training. We encourage support for regional economic initiatives, especially for infrastructure development, as they will be essential for regional economic growth and cooperation.
We recognize the need for a comprehensive approach to equipping Somali youth with tools that will enable them to play a positive role in bringing peace, social and economic prosperity to Somalia. In that regard, in line with the Security Council Resolution 2250 on Youth, Peace and Security, we welcome development of the National Youth Policy and the UN Youth Strategy for Somalia, as well as the creation of the Somali Youth Fund through the National Window.
We underscore the vital contribution of women to the economic, political and social life of Somalia. We welcome the Federal Government’s decision to ensure 30% of seats for women in the 2016 elections and South West States’ allocation of 21% of seats for women in the Regional Assembly. We urge the Somali leadership to translate these commitments into reality in August 2016. We appreciate that formulation of the National Gender Policy has commenced, welcome the drafting of the Sexual Offences Bill and urge the swift completion and approval of them. We urge the Government to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in order to ensure measures are put in place to systematically eliminate discriminatory laws and practices and promote equality of women.
We appreciate the active and successful participation of Somalia in the recently concluded Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process before the UN Human Rights Council. We congratulate Somalia on its ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child on 1 October 2015, and urge the signing of its Optional Protocols.
We strongly recommend that momentum be sustained and commitments implemented, particularly with regards to implementation of the Action Plan on the Human Rights Roadmap, the establishment of the Independent Human Rights Commission in line with the Paris Principles, and enhanced compliance by the security forces with international human rights and humanitarian law. We urge the international community to focus their support on the human rights priorities identified, particularly in the Human Rights Roadmap and to support capacity building of the Ministry of Women and Human Rights to implement these priorities.
2016 marks the final year of the Somali Compact. The Compact has played a crucial role in improving the partnership and mutual accountability between the government and international community and furthering political, security and development progress in Somalia. We look forward to developing the next phase of international engagement in Somalia based on a shared set of principles and a renewal of the joint partnership.
We commit to taking concrete steps to improve and accelerate aid delivery consistent with agreed partnership principles and to align programs and resources with Somalia’s national priorities, as a means of improving aid effectiveness.
We welcome the progress made on the preparation of a three‐year National Development Plan (2017‐19), and national consultations held to ensure that the NDP truly reflects the priorities and needs of the Somali people. We commit to support the formulation of an NDP which provides commitments from the government to the Somali people to create an enabling environment for political and security progress, poverty reduction and inclusive development, and provides the framework for international engagement in Somalia. The NDP will be aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals, and will be IPRSP (Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper) compliant.
We congratulate the Federal Government on its progress to improve the management of Somalia’s public finances and urge further efforts to mobilise and diversify its domestic revenue. We welcome the political agreement between federal and state Ministries of Finance to work towards harmonized taxes, tariffs and audit functions across the country; use of compatible and interfaced Financial Management Information Systems (FMIS); and adopt a single monetary policy and currency note. We urge the government to commit to the full implementation of these mechanisms to help build Somalia’s fiscal management systems. We also welcome the government’s commitment to develop a nationally‐agreed regulatory framework for revenue sharing and sustainable natural resource management.
We recognize the significance of Somalia’s first Article IV consultation by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 25 years. We commend the Federal Government’s continued commitment to financial and economic governance reform to establish the foundations for full re‐engagement of International Financial Institutions (IFIs) in Somalia within the framework of HIPC to allow Somalia to access concessional financing to achieve its development objectives. We encourage institution of an IMF‐Staff‐Monitored Programme.
We emphasize that the Financial Governance Committee (FGC) plays an important role in assisting the government and the international community strengthen governance of Somalia’s public financial institutions. We strongly encourage the continuation of the FGC’s work in order to sustain and build upon the gains that have been made.
We recommit to the Use of Country Systems (UCS) roadmap, outlining mutual commitments by development partners and government to use and strengthen country systems commensurate with progress on fiscal reform. We commit to more solid, harmonized and transparent public financial management systems to manage fiduciary risks, and that use of country systems can lead to greater aid effectiveness.
In conclusion, we thank all participants for their constructive engagement, and commit to working together on implementation of our agreed actions in 2016, to make this year a milestone and historic year for Somalia.
We would like to extend our gratitude to the people and government of Turkey for their warm welcome and hospitality during the Forum and commend Turkey’s broad engagement in the development and reconstruction of Somalia.
(Source: AllAfrica.com – http://allafrica.com/stories/201602270253.html)
INTERNATIONAL NEWS SOURCES
Suspected U.S. air strike targets Islamist militants in Somalia
3 December 2015
Mohamed Sheikh Nor
The Somali army said the U.S. carried out an air strike on a southern Somalia town where a resident said Islamist-militant fighters from the al-Shabaab group are active.
The town of Kuunyo-Barrow, about 330 kilometers (205 miles) southwest of the capital, Mogadishu, was rocked by two explosions in the early hours of Wednesday morning, Sharifo Enow, a resident, said in a phone interview. One blast occured at a gas station used by militants, and another on the outskirts of town, he said.
“We believe that a U.S. air strike hit al-Shabaab targets in Kuunyo-Barrow,” Lieutenant-Colonel Mohamed Nur Hiirey said in a phone interview from the nearby town of Barawe. “We do not know exactly who was targeted in the attack. Further details are sketchy because the area is controlled by the militants.”
The U.S. has carried out several drone strikes in Somalia since last year to help the government combat the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab group. A raid in September 2014 killed the group’s former leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane. The U.S. declared al-Shabaab a terrorist organization in 2008.
(Source: Bloomberg News – http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-12-03/suspected-u-s-air-strike-targets-islamist-militants-in-somalia)
Al-Baghdadi zeroes in on Libya: The next evolution of Islamic State
12 December 2015
Joseph V. Micallef
On November 12, during a televised interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, President Barack Obama famously announced that, “ISIL had been contained.” Less than 24 hours later Islamic State (IS) militants from three separate cells in Paris staged a series of attacks that left 130 killed and wounded 368.
A little more than two weeks later, on December 2, Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik, attacked a San Bernardino Department of Public Health holiday party killing 14 people and injuring another 22. Farook was an American born, U.S. citizen of Pakistani descent. His wife was a Pakistani born legal resident of the U.S.
Shortly before the attack, Malik had pledged her support to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of the Islamic State. Subsequent to the attack the FBI confirmed that the two jihadists had used a variety of jihadist websites, including ones operated by al Qaeda, Islamic State and the Somali group al-Shabaab, to design the pipe bombs they had left at the scene of their attack and to plan their operation.
These two attacks were among twenty two example of jihadist inspired violence, most of it led by Islamic State or IS affiliated groups, which occurred between October 30th and December 5th. These also included, the downing of a Russian plane over the Sinai, a bus bombing in Tunisia and the attack on a hotel in Bamako, Mali.
In the weeks that followed the Paris and San Bernardino attacks, the White House tried to “walk back” the President’s comments claiming that President Obama’s reference to “containment” related to the failure of the Islamic State to expand the territory it controls over the last year. In the meantime both Ash Carter, the Secretary of Defense, and General Joseph Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in joint Congressional testimony on December 1, declared flatly that in fact “We have not contained ISIL”.
On December 11, in what has to be seen as the final death knell to the Obama White House’s tortured explanations about the meaning of “containment,” Islamic State militants announced that they had captured the ancient Roman city of Sabratha in Libya, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the best preserved Roman archeological sites in the Mediterranean. By nightfall, they had advanced to within 30 miles of the Libyan capital of Tripoli. So much for “containment,” however you wish to define it.
Even more alarming, however, were widespread reports, including one from FARS, the Iranian News Agency, that the leader of Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had fled Raqqa and was now in IS’s Libyan stronghold of Sirte. The Islamist coalition Libya Dawn, which supports the Muslim Brotherhood led government in Tripoli, one of two rival organizations claiming to be Libya’s legitimate government, also claimed in its website that al-Baghdadi had been seen in Sirte.
Since the overthrow of Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, Libya has steadily descended into a state of chaos. At the moment there are two rival governments each claiming to be Libya’s legitimate government. Headquartered in Tripoli is the General National Congress led by the Muslim Brotherhood and supported by the broad Islamist coalition of Libya Dawn. That government is recognized by Qatar, Sudan and Turkey.
In Tobruk (Tubruq), on the other hand, is the rival government based on the Council of Deputies that was elected in 2014. It is led by Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni, whose administration is located in the nearby town of El Baida. The Tobruk government has the support of the remnants of the Libyan Army under the command of General Khalifa Haftar. That government is recognized by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates and has received air support from the Egyptian Air Force.
Although the “Tripoli government” controls more territory than its rival in “Tobruk,” neither side can exert much control outside of its immediate surroundings. Most of Libya is controlled by various local militias. Among the most significant jihadist groups is the Islamist Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries led by Ansar al-Sharia (Libya), which is loosely tied to the General National Congress in Tripoli, and the Islamic State’s “Libyan Provinces” militia.
Ansar al-Sharia is a loose confederation of various Salafist Islamist groups. It has suffered considerable defections of its militants to Islamic State. It has retained its independence so far but it has also collaborated with Islamic State in the past. If it seems that Islamic State is gaining in Libya then it is likely that Ansar al-Sharia will throw in its lot with IS.
In addition, there is a Tuareg insurgency in Ghat that controls the desert areas in the southwest. The cities of Derna, Benghazi and Misuratha are all controlled by local militias. The Derna militia has longstanding ties to al Qaeda.
Both of the rival governments are suing in international courts to get control of Libya’s 150 billion dollars in external financial assets. Most of the country’s wealth and its key financial institutions are in the hands of the Tripoli government. Control of Libya’s key oil industry is divided among the various militant groups. Oil exports have declined from an average of 1.6 million barrels of petroleum a day (BOPD) in 2011 to between 300 thousand to 400 thousand BOPD. It is believed that Islamic State militants directly control production of between 30 thousand and 40 thousand BOPD.
In recent months the United Nations has been attempting to negotiate a reconciliation between the two rival governments. Those talks ended without an agreement in October but have since restarted in the past few days in Tunisia. In the meantime a second effort, spearheaded by Italy and supported by the United States and the European Union, is also attempting to forge a compromise that will see the establishment of a national government. The hope among Western officials is that a national unity government would then turn to Europe and the United States and ask for support in defeating Islamic State in Libya.
Western intelligence agencies estimate that Islamic State in Libya has approximately 2,000 to 3,000 militants, with roughly half that number based in the city of Sirte. Other estimates have placed their strength as high as 5,000 fighters. As was the pattern in Syria, however, jihadists will opportunistically gravitate to whomever seems to be gaining the upper hand and can pay for their services. Currently, IS pays its militants 200 dinars, about 150 dollars, a month. Married jihadists get twice that. In addition, IS militants” get unspecified “spoils”. IS has consistently paid the highest “salaries” to jihadists.
It’s believed that about 70% of the Islamic State militants in Libya are foreigners, with the bulk coming from Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Sudan and Tunisia. In recent months there have been consistent reports that Islamic State has been transferring “administrators” and “military commanders” to Libya to take direct control of its militants there. Moreover, Islamic State websites in Libya have been prominently featuring the slogan that “Sirte will be no less than Raqqa,” suggesting that if Raqqa falls, Sirte may become the new capital of Islamic State.
What is particularly troubling about the growing strength of Islamic State in Libya is that it underscores the organizations growing clout and sophistication. Initially, the IS affiliates outside of its core territory in Syria and Iraq were little more than loosely organized franchises. They adopted Islamic State’s symbolism and media techniques and swore allegiance to al-Baghdadi and Islamic State, but they largely ran their own affairs and had little direct support or direction from Raqqa.
Increasingly over the last year, Islamic State has moved to exercise greater control over its affiliates as part of its attempt to project its power beyond its Syrian-Iraqi heartland. Its strength in North Africa is particularly worrisome, given the presence of IS affiliated groups throughout the region as well as the official links between IS and the Nigerian group Boko Haram, and with factions within the Somali al-Shabaab organization.
Islamic State’s ongoing attempts to use its local affiliates to destabilize Tunisia (Okba Ibn Nafe Brigade), Algeria (Jund al-Khilafah), Morocco (Soldats du Califat au Maghreb Al-Aqsa) and Egypt (Jund al-Khilafah) could create a zone of jihadist instability along the southern shore of the Mediterranean and further aggravate Europe’s refugee migrant crisis. Egypt in particular could find itself battling Islamic State jihadists in both the Sinai and along its western border with Libya. At the very least, the growth of jihadist violence in North Africa will cripple the tourist industries in Egypt and Tunisia, further aggravating their economic instability.
According to Western intelligence agencies, there are between 10,000 and 15,000 jihadists from North African countries that have participated in the Syrian and Iraqi civil wars either as members of Islamic State or the al Qaeda linked Jabhat al-Nusra. Libya supplied the biggest contingent, 3,500, followed by Tunisia, 3,000, Morocco, 1,500, and Algeria, 500 to 800. In addition, it’s believed that an additional 1,500 to 2,000 European fighters of North African origins, mostly from France and Belgium, have also joined Islamic State or al-Nusra.
Libyans and Tunisians represents the largest contingent of foreign fighters that have fought in Syria and Iraq. Collectively, over half of the foreign fighters in the Islamic State are from North Africa. The large number of North African jihadists does not auger well for the future stability of the region.
The upper third of Africa, from the Mediterranean coast to the southern border of the Sahel, is becoming a hot bed of jihadist activity. The political instability of the region and an Islamic State victory in Libya could draw a significant number of North African jihadist organizations into an orbit around IS and vastly expand its influence and area of operations into a much larger version of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
Moreover, IS’s growing strength in Libya underscores how the organization is metastasizing beyond its core territory and becoming a truly global organization. As French Foreign Minister Manuel Valls told Europe 1 radio on December 11, “we have a common enemy DAESH, which we must defeat and destroy in Iraq and Syria and probably tomorrow in Libya.”
France has already redeployed some 3,500 troops previously used in its Mali intervention to use as a counterinsurgency force at a base 45 miles from Libya’s southern border. French President Françoise Hollande was rumored to have discussed possible Russian intervention in Libya with President Vladimir Putin when the two met in Moscow on November 26.
Finally, not only is the rise of Islamic State upending U.S. foreign policy in much of the Middle East and now North Africa, but by underscoring the absence of a coherent White House policy to deal with it and the Obama administration’s continued determination to downplay the significance of Islamic State, the rise of IS is aggravating the growing perception of the lack of American leadership in the world and even more significantly aiding in the international political rehabilitation of Russia and its President Vladimir Putin following their seizure of the Crimea.
Islamic State is not being contained. It has now expanded to 35 international affiliates. It is zeroing in on North Africa in general, and on Libya in particular, in an attempt to create, on a far vaster scale, an even bigger Islamic State on the very edge of Europe’s doorstep.
(Source: The Huffington Post – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joseph-v-micallef/al-baghdadi-zeroes-in-on_b_8792394.html)
Emergency exercise prepares African countries for radiological emergencies
14 December 2015
Laura Gil Martínez, IAEA Office of Public Information and Communication
J. Miguel Roncero, IAEA Department of Technical Cooperation
On a busy Thursday morning in Gaborone, Botswana, a small van transporting a mock radioactive source was involved in a fake accident with two other vehicles. The staged accident was part of a large-scale radiological emergency simulation involving dozens of professionals as well as actors who played the role of accident victims. Experts from 21 other African countries gathered on the sidelines to learn from the exercise.
Local authorities were immediately alerted, and traffic police responded. The first arriving officer, carrying a personal detector, noticed that a radioactive source was involved. While firefighters and paramedics arrived to provide support, the officer quickly alerted the radiation protection authorities, who activated the national plan to respond to a radiological emergency. Following the instructions given by the incident commander, who coordinated efforts and prioritized actions on the scene, the first responders acted as part of a coordinated response to the emergency situation.
“A country needs a coherent emergency preparedness plan to ensure the safety of the environment and its people, including the professionals working with radioactive sources,” said Kenneth Gabanamotse, who was in charge of the exercise at the Botswana Radiation Protection Inspectorate (BRPI).
Organized by BRPI, with the support of the IAEA, the emergency exercise prepared Botswana to effectively respond to radiological emergencies and plan for recovery. The IAEA had prepared the local teams on responding to radiological emergencies, without giving away any details of the exercise.
Although very rare, emergency situations can occur when radioactive sources are used, usually due to human error or theft. There is a need to strengthen response to these emergencies worldwide.
From Botswana to Africa
With the support of the IAEA technical cooperation programme, 23 experts from 21 other African countries attended the exercise, experiencing first-hand how radiological emergency exercises like these are organized and executed. While only one of the participating countries operates a power plant, many operate research reactors and all use radioactive sources in health care, agriculture or industry. It was the first exercise of this magnitude that Botswana had ever organized, and the first time most of the participants attended such an event.
“Emergency preparedness and response is very important for Sudan because our use of radioactive sources is increasing in many fields, and in particular because Sudan is embarking on a nuclear power programme,” said Nahla Sulieman M. Fadlalla, Regulatory Officer at the Sudanese Nuclear and Radiological Regulatory Authority.
“The exercise allowed us to compare the response of the Botswanan organizations to our own national procedures. It was also an opportunity for local responders to test their own arrangements and prepare for real emergencies,” Fadlalla said. “You might have a perfect plan, but only on paper. After this drill, if an accident happens, the locals are expected to respond naturally. It won’t be the very first time they face such a situation.”
The group of African experts that had observed it all realized that they face similar challenges at home. “The main challenge we share is to bring all relevant organizations together,” Fadlalla said, adding that the lessons learned will help officials to update and strengthen emergency preparedness and response plans in her country.
“When I get back to Cameroon, I will organize a training session to transmit what I’ve learned to other personnel involved in this field,” said Mârié Lydie Rose, Head of Safety and Radiological Emergencies at Cameroon’s National Radiation Protection Agency, adding that a similar exercise is planned in Cameroon for early 2017.
The exercise is adapted to the environment of the country, and takes into consideration the amount and type of resources available in African countries, said Pilar Murillo Fuentes, Programme Management Officer at the IAEA. “The idea was to use Botswana as an example to benefit the rest of the countries in the region.”
The IAEA develops standards and guidelines and works to define and promote common approaches to harmonize emergency response between countries. It carries out its work under the Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident, also known as the Early Notification Convention, and the Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency, or the Assistance Convention.
(Source: International Atomic Energy Agency – https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/emergency-exercise-prepares-african-countries-radiological-emergencies)
Africa looks for help to implement climate agreement
15 December 2015
Africa cannot be left to foot the bill for climate change, so say leaders and specialists from the continent who attended the recent climate conference in Paris.
Nearly 200 nations adopted a historic deal December 12 that aims to slow the pace of global warming and provide billions of dollars for climate change remediation to poorer countries.
While it’s hard to predict the impact the deal will have on Africa, it’s significant that there is recognition of the continent’s vulnerability, says Edith Ofwana-Adera, a senior program specialist on climate change for the International Development Research Center (IDRC), who attended the summit.
“Agriculture is the backbone of many African economies,” she said. “So what’s foremost in the minds of African stakeholders is being able to adapt to the impact of climate on agriculture and particularly focusing on being resilient in cities because cities and economies are urbanizing fairly quickly.
“We also need to tackle climate-induced migration; we’ve seen it happening in a number of countries. Most importantly, also, is improving access to adaptation to financing.”
‘Africa pays dearly’
Africa has been impacted by global warming and must not be shortchanged by climate change finance, Akinwumi Adesina, African Development Bank President, said at the conference.
“Africa, the least emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, now suffers the most from climate change,” Adesina told summit attendees. “Others pollute; Africa pays and pays dearly. Lake Chad is almost gone, and the sand dunes are encroaching the Sahel.”
French President Francois Hollande suggested that developed countries, having emitted greenhouse gases for decades, have a responsibility to help African countries struggling with droughts, flooding and migration.
He said the world — particularly the developed world — owes an ecological debt to Africa. He committed France to spending $6.5 billion dollars for renewable energies, a 50 percent increase before 2020.
Ofwana-Adera said that Africans and other international organizations have been working on research and technology to counter some of the effects of climate change.
“We’ve had very innovative solutions, such as water harvesting,” she said. “We have technologies that help sense soil moisture so that one is able to manage energy and water more efficiently” in Benin, Burkina Faso and Kenya.
In Uganda, with the collaboration of its environmental ministry, IDRC has been providing adaptation information using mobile phones and radio to communities along the Uganda cattle corridor. Farmers there receive little or no relevant information to help them cope with drought and other climatic stresses.
“This is an area that faces up to six months of drought, and we are able to work with the communities in an interactive way to provide information in local language for them to be able to adjust their agricultural practices to meet their needs and to curb climate change,” Ofwana-Adera said. “In this instance, we are able to see evidence in reduction in crop loss and damage by up to 65 percent.”
Assistance has included seasonal weather forecasts and agricultural information localized to the sub-county level; weekly livestock and crop market information to help farmers decide what, when, where and how much to sell; guidance on low-cost rainwater harvesting techniques; and information on drought and flood-coping mechanisms.
The greatest challenge, according to Ofwana-Adera, is the accessibility of the funds to make a difference at the grassroots level. Particularly, she says, to ensure that communities are working in partnership with the various stakeholders because communities do have strategies that have allowed them to remain resilient.
Finally, she says, there must be transparency to ensure that climate finance is being used effectively.
(Source: Voice of America – http://www.voanews.com/content/africa-looks-for-help-implement-climate-agreement/3104463.html)
Jihadists deepen collaboration in North Africa
1 January 2016
SAHARA DESERT, Niger — A group of light armored vehicles skated over the moonscape of the Sahara, part of one of the largest detachments the French military has deployed here since colonial times. Its mission is growing ever more urgent: to cut smuggling routes used by jihadists who have turned this inhospitable terrain into a sprawling security challenge for African and international forces alike.
Many of the extremist groups are affiliates of Al Qaeda, which has had roots in North Africa since the 1990s. With the recent introduction of Islamic State franchises, the jihadist push has been marked by increasing, sometimes heated, competition.
But, analysts and military officials say, there is also deepening collaboration among groups using modern communications and a sophisticated system of roving trainers to share military tactics, media strategies and ways of transferring money.
Their threat has grown as Libya — with its ungoverned spaces, oil, ports, and proximity to Europe and the Middle East — becomes a budding hub of operations for both Al Qaeda and the Islamic State to reach deeper into Africa.
And as Africa’s jihadists come under the wing of distant and more powerful patrons, officials fear that they are extending their reach and stitching together their ambitions, turning once-local actors into pan-national threats.
The Nov. 20 assault on the Radisson Blu hotel, which killed at least 19 people in Bamako, Mali’s capital, was just one of the more spectacular recent examples of the ability of these groups to sow deadly mayhem. Across the region, hundreds of people have been killed in terrorist attacks in the past year.
Gen. David M. Rodriguez, who heads the United States Africa Command, warned in a congressional statement in March of an “increasingly cohesive network of Al Qaeda affiliates and adherents” that “continues to exploit Africa’s undergoverned regions and porous borders to train and conduct attacks.”
“Terrorists with allegiances to multiple groups are expanding their collaboration in recruitment, financing, training and operations, both within Africa and transregionally,” General Rodriguez warned months before the Mali attack.
The transfer of expertise can be witnessed in the spread of suicide bombings in Libya, Tunisia and Chad and in the growing use of improvised explosive devices in Mali, analysts and officials pointed out.
Such exchanges have been enhanced as groups shift shape, sometimes merge, and come under the wing of more powerful and distant patrons.
In one instance, two of the longest-standing North African groups, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Al Mourabitoun, after a long publicized split, announced that they had reunited and that the Bamako hotel attack was their first joint venture.
The leaders of the two groups — Abdelmalek Droukdel and Mokhtar Belmokhtar, both Algerians — have loyalties that reach far beyond Africa, however.
As does Seifallah Ben Hassine, leader of Ansar al-Shariah in Tunisia, the organization believed to be behind three deadly attacks in Tunisia last year, including a massacre of 38 people at a beach resort in June and an attack on the Bardo Museum in Tunis in March that left 22 dead.
All three men are veterans of fighting in Afghanistan in the 1980s, swore allegiance to Osama bin Laden and now profess loyalty to Al Qaeda’s current leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, based in Pakistan.
Mr. Droukdel, routed by French forces in Mali in 2013, is reportedly holed up in the mountains in southern Algeria. Mr. Belmokhtar and Mr. Ben Hassine have made rear bases in Libya, where they have been targeted by American airstrikes.
Today, despite French and American efforts to disrupt their networks, they still stretch across the continent.
To keep the pressure on the jihadists and help resist the threat, France has installed 3,500 troops across 10 bases and outposts in five vulnerable countries — Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad. The recent French patrol, tiny dots in the Sahara’s expanse of dunes and blackened rock, included 30-ton supply trucks carrying food and fuel, armored vehicles mounted with 80-millimeter cannons and a medical truck.
Similarly, American Special Operations Forces are working in Niger, and last year President Obama ordered 300 United States troops to Cameroon to help defend against the Nigerian Islamist movement Boko Haram, which has spread across borders.
French troops have led repeated operations to break communication and supply lines from Libya that have fortified such groups. The November operation was part of coordinated maneuvers in eastern Mali and northern Niger to try to disrupt jihadist links between the two nations.
The smuggling route patrolled by the French is one of the main arteries for jihadists, arms and drugs. French troops call it the “autoroute” to southern Libya, which they describe as a “big supermarket” for weapons.
The route crosses one of the most remote places on earth. Devoid of human habitation or water for hundreds of miles, it is a treacherous terrain of unbearable heat in the summer and nearly impossible navigation. Yet small convoys of smugglers attempt the crossing several times a week.
For the French, it is like looking for a tiny craft in an ocean, said Lt. Col. Étienne du Peyroux, the commanding officer leading the Niger operation.
“It is like a naval battle,” he said, sketching out the hunt on maps on the hood of his desert jeep. “The zone of operations is 40,000 square kilometers, an area the size of Holland, for 300 men.”
“We try to find them, to block, to constrain, to work out how they will be channeled by a particular piece of terrain,” he said.
The French rarely catch anyone — the last capture was of a drug haul in June. But, they say, their operations are at least disrupting the jihadists’ movements, evidenced by a drop in traffic and tracks in the sand showing smugglers’ vehicles having turned back.
“We want them to abandon the fight, until they cannot do it anymore or until the effort is too great,” the colonel said.
That, however, seems unlikely. “Weak government and chaos are always conducive to terrorism,” said Hans-Jakob Schindler, coordinator of a United Nations Security Council committee that monitors the Qaeda sanctions list. “These groups do take advantage of that.”
The development of jihadist training camps in Libya over the past four years represents a regional and international threat, with particular significance for Africa, he warned in a recent report.
Especially worrying, he said, is “the growing numbers of foreign terrorist fighters and the presence of a globalized group of terrorists from different Al Qaeda backgrounds.”
North Africa and the Sahel, a vast area the breadth of the United States — with its difficult geography, impoverished populations and weak states — is acutely vulnerable, military and civilian analysts said.
Poverty, corruption, poor government and unfair elections are all making populations susceptible to Islamist propaganda, said Adam Thiam, a columnist for the Malian daily newspaper Le Républicain.
“Elections are corrupt; services are corrupt,” he said, and young people have lost confidence in government, “so they will go and listen to the religious leaders rather than the political leaders.”
Others blame foreign interventions in Libya and Mali, and repressive counterrevolutions like Egypt’s, for fueling support for the jihadists.
Certainly, despite the interventions and improved security efforts, new groups and recruits continue to appear. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreband its affiliates remain active in Mali, and they have sponsored a new group, the Massina Liberation Front, which has emerged in the past few months.
“They do not need much; they just need to be determined,” said Col. Louis Pena, a commander of French troops in N’Djamena, Chad.
The deepening reach of Al Qaeda and the arrival of the Islamic State are raising fresh alarm.
While the two groups are rivals, that competition can pose a significant challenge from a broader security standpoint — as extremists seek to prove their potency and relevance, inspire and attract recruits, and play on a bigger stage.
The effect can be witnessed prominently in Boko Haram’s six-year insurgency in Nigeria, which has killed 17,000 people and displaced more than a million.
Boko Haram has been around for two decades. But money and training from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb gave its leader, Abubakar Shekau, a substantial boost when he assumed control in 2010.
Last year, Boko Haram switched allegiance to the Islamic State, which claimed that its West Africa division had killed more than 1,000 people since November, according to the Site Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist websites.
Despite setbacks in Nigeria, Boko Haram has become a regional scourge by exploiting contacts in the wider jihadist network, and it has now spilled into Chad, Cameroon and Niger.
At Madama, an oasis about 50 miles south of Libya, a mud-brick fort built by the French in 1931 guards Niger’s northern desert approaches.
In the past two years, the French have built a sprawling base dwarfing the old fort still manned by Nigerien troops, and posted 300 French troops to create a buffer against jihadist advances from Libya.
Nigerien soldiers accompany the French on their missions, hurtling in battered pickups across the desert terrain, much like their jihadist opponents do. Many of the local soldiers have been through six-month training programs run by American forces. Farther east, Chadian troops guard their part of the border.
In this lonely spot, French soldiers watch from their guard post out across the empty sand toward Libya. French commanders agree that the root of the problem is there, and that until it is addressed the entire region is threatened.
“They are still fragile countries,” Colonel Pena said. “They are countries that need stability to grow and develop. That is the real danger.”
(Source: The New York Times – http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/02/world/africa/jihadists-deepen-collaboration-in-north-africa.html?_r=0)
Looking out for Africa in 2016 [BLOG]
4 January 2016
J. Peter Pham
While each of Africa’s 54 independent states presents a different political and economic risk profile rooted in each country’s unique history and driven by diverse internal and regional dynamics, there are nonetheless several common trends which will broadly impact many of them in 2016.
Increasing terrorist violence. While the attacks in Paris at the beginning and end of 2015, which were linked to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), respectively received a great deal more attention in global media, it is in Africa where terrorism has been surging. In fact, the publication in mid-November of the annual “Global Terrorism Index” by the Institute for Economics and Peace provided statistical evidence that, in fact, it is the Nigerian group Boko Haram, which in March pledged its allegiance to ISIS and been branding itself as “Islamic State West Africa Province” (ISWAP) — an evolution I predicted this time last year — is “the most deadly terrorist group in the world.” The report counted 6,644 deaths caused by Boko Haram in 2014, an increase of more than three times the tally of just a year earlier. The toll meant that the Nigerian terrorists outdid their self-proclaimed caliph, the ISIS’s Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, whose forces in Iraq and Syria killed 6,073 people in the same period. With continuing assaults like the rocket-propelled grenades and suicide bombers it unleased on Maiduguri and Madagali in northeastern Nigeria last week, killing more than 80 people in just one day, Boko Haram is likely to have retained its title as the globe’s deadliest terrorist group going into the new year.
In fact, of the five most deadly terrorist groups on the “Global Terrorism Index,” three are in Africa: Boko Haram, Fulani militants in Nigeria’s Middle Belt and al-Shabaab in Somalia. Together, just these three groups accounted for nearly half of the terrorism-related casualties in the world in 2014. It is not just the threat that terrorism poses to the individuals and countries immediately impacted that is preoccupying, but the broader harm that this surge in violence poses to Africa as a whole — in terms of its prospects for economic growth and development — by having a dampening effect on the confidence of investors for the entire continent at precisely the moment when many are just beginning to discover its extraordinary potential.
For the sake of international security in general as well as their own interests in preventing massive population displacements as a result of the violence, the United States and its European allies need to step up their assistance to African states on the front line of the battle against Islamist terrorists and other violent extremists.
Continued, but uneven, economic growth. According to the most recent edition of the World Bank’s “Global Economic Prospects” report, of the 13 countries with the highest projected compounded annual growth rate from 2014 through 2017, six are in Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to be the fastest growing economic region in the world for 2015, with its gross domestic product (GDP) growing at 4.5 percent, slightly higher than China’s anticipated GDP increase of 4.3 percent. With prices for commodities being depressed globally — the price for oil ended the year at its lowest point in more than a decade — and demand for natural resources by China slumping as a result of that country’s economic slowdown, the growth spurts in places like Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Tanzania are less a matter of a resource windfall than other factors, including the wise choices made by their leaders and peoples regarding economic reform, governance and the use of new technologies that have encouraged significant investment in and diversification of their economies, enabling them to ride out the slackening demand for primary commodities. Likewise, some regional blocs like the East African Community have made great strides toward integration and in lowering barriers to trade between members, boosting their collective economic potential.
On the other hand, the sustained slump in prices commanded by natural resources will cause significant political and economic headaches for both existing producers like Angola and Nigeria — the latter relies on oil for roughly 80 percent of the federal government’s revenue — as well as countries like Mozambique and Uganda, where recent major finds may go underdeveloped or even undeveloped as current price levels discourage the level of investment required. Given the expectations raised by the discoveries, the disappointment may lead to unrest and even instability in some places. (It goes without saying that the socioeconomic prospects are even bleaker for countries like South Sudan, Somalia and the Central African Republic, which remain deeply mired in conflicts that are not even close to being resolved.)
Electoral uncertainty. Presidential and/or parliamentary elections are supposed to take place in at least 16 African countries this year: Benin, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Republic of the Congo (Brazzaville), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Mauritania, Niger, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Somalia, Uganda, and Zambia. While Africa’s incumbents have long enjoyed huge advantages over their opponents across most of the continent, there were some surprises in 2015, notably in Nigeria, where challenger Muhammadu Buhari beat incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan — the first time a challenger has ever beaten an incumbent in the country’s history — and the latter conceded and peacefully handed over the reins of Africa’s most populous country and its biggest economy.
Such grace and respect for constitutional order is unlikely to be the case with 2016’s most significant African poll, the presidential election in the DRC, whose current ruler, Joseph Kabila, has been in power since he extralegally inherited power from his assassinated warlord father. Not only barred by the constitution from running for another term, but explicitly precluded by the charter from amending the provision on presidential term limits, Kabila fils has pulled out all stops to avoid having to stand down at the end of this year, including widespread repression as well as a cynical call for “national dialogue” about the vote. A report in December by the United Nations mission in the Congo documents the detention of at least 649 political opponents and civil society activists in the first nine months of 2015 alone and notes rather diplomatically that “the shrinking of democratic space is likely to impact the electoral process.” Absent timely elections which will enable the Congolese people to transition past the Kabila era, it is hard to see how the country can avoid a slide back into conflict that will impact the entire continent.
In this regard, dwindling resources for democracy efforts in general across the whole of the United States government could not have come at a worse time, especially when one considers that that U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funding for democracy assistance in Africa has declined 43 percent under the Obama administration, according an estimate by the Carnegie Endowment’s Thomas Carothers.
Geopolitical competition. Notwithstanding some of the challenges, the extraordinary lure of Africa’s human and material resources as well as its ongoing security challenges will continue to attract global interest and, inevitably, competition. The last few months have seen both an India-Africa Summit in New Delhi and a China-Africa Summit in Johannesburg. China has also announced plans to build of its first-ever overseas military base in the East African country of Djibouti, which already hosts American, French and Japanese outposts. The heightened outside interest and, indeed, competition, need not necessarily constitute a negative, if African governments can avail themselves of their newfound leverage to strike more advantageous deals for their peoples and economies. For their part, Africa’s partners, including the United States, will need to step up their own diplomatic and commercial engagement in 2016 if they want to be taken seriously by their African counterparts, many of whom now enjoy multiple options.
For African countries and those other governments and businesses that have chosen to invest in the continent’s incredibly promising future, the year ahead will bring these and host of other challenges and opportunities. The key to success will be having a strategic approach that manages the former while seizing the latter.
Pham is director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center.
(Source: The Hill – http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/international/264482-looking-out-for-africa-in-2016)
Security and prosperity in Africa go hand in hand [OP-ED]
3 February 2016
Earlier this month, at its headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) unveiled its latest five-year plan for the region. Among other objectives, the new strategy seeks to “contain” both the ISIS-aligned Boko Haram group in West Africa and ISIS’s satellite province in the failed state of Libya. By contrast, in war-torn Somalia, home to the Al Qaeda–affiliated Al-Shabab militia, the plan is to outright “neutralize” the threat, and ultimately hand over responsibility for securing the country to the Somali government under the aegis of the African Union Mission in Somalia. In the Gulf of Guinea and Central Africa, meanwhile, the proposal calls for disrupting smugglers’ routes and the criminal cartels that use them to traffic in humans, weapons and drugs. In all these troubled lands, AFRICOM hopes to develop a cadre of regional soldiers to serve as the main peacekeeping forces and disaster-assistance providers for a generation to come.
This vital agenda is ambitious for a small division with only one permanent base on the African continent (in Djibouti). With limited resources, AFRICOM appears to be pursuing a triage approach: Deal a deathblow to the militia in Somalia that has been most effectively degraded in recent years while striving to weaken and limit the spread of ISIS and its potent West African ally, Boko Haram, each of which appears to have the wind at its back. The concurrent goals of interdicting criminal networks and preparing African troops to hold their own territories go to the heart of the challenges the continent faces. After all, terrorism thrives in environments where the government is too corrupt to provide for its people and too dysfunctional to fight its enemies. Organized crime, snaking across Africa, is both a symptom of this dynamic and a lifeline for those criminals who kill not for greed but for ideas. In the twenty-first century, there is so much overlap between those who traffic in weapons and those who use them that it is impossible to make a clear distinction between the two.
Without minimizing the difficulty of countering the likes of ISIS, the second set of goals—building governance and demolishing cartels—is a challenge that goes beyond what the military might can do. Consider, for example, that the smugglers’ routes of Central Africa and the Gulf of Guinea—themselves only a small portion of a criminal architecture spanning the continent—are not only a lifeline for terrorists but also a livelihood for legions of poor people, in economically barren areas with bleak prospects for work. Without a parallel program to develop the economies that immediately surround the criminal activity, Western militaries may be viewed by much of the local population as a disruptive force indifferent to their well-being. Consider as well that most of the training provided these African countries is purely technical in nature—how to fight, how to shoot—and therefore entirely transferable. In other words, absent an educational process that teaches the African brigades why they are fighting to protect the borders of a state—why the cause of nation building is a virtue and the cause of a false caliph is a vice—their loyalty is vulnerable. It’s vulnerable to the ideological overtures of ISIS, as well as the promise of a better living from a criminal enterprise.
Americans have seen the result of the latter trend repeatedly: In Afghanistan, an unacceptable number of American-trained troops joined the Taliban and the heroine cartels. In Iraq, years of soldier training did not yield a fighting force capable of defending or taking back the country from the Islamic State. And in Syria, there has been enormous crossover between the Free Syrian Army—supported, to some degree, by Western nations—and the jihadist groups the United States now fights. This past week saw reports that the United States is mulling a new military deployment in Libya with the goal of stopping ISIS from taking over the country. If the plan is pursued, it would signal a commitment of resources beyond the purview of AFRICOM. But meanwhile in Libya, the bright hopes of 2012 for a sustained American commitment to political and economic development have long since gone. That shortcoming on the part of the United States is inseparable from the conditions that brought about civil war and jihadist enclaves in the country in the first place, now perhaps requiring an even greater expenditure of hardware and brawn to mop up the mess. What applies to Libya applies to its many neighbors south of the Sahara as well.
A facet of these problems, in turn, was dramatically illustrated this week by a new report from Transparency International, the Government Defense Anti-Corruption Index for Africa, which documents the massive graft in defense expenditures across the continent. In nearly every country in Africa, at nearly every level, funds and equipment are systematically plundered, such that forty-seven out of the fifty-four African countries surveyed received a failing or near-failing grade.
AFRICOM’s leadership is not unaware of these problems. In 2012, Major General Charles Hooper, then the Director of Strategy, Plans and Programs for the group, acknowledged the interplay of crime and corruption, economic malaise and terrorism in a significant article in the Joint Forces Quarterly. It was clear from his formulation, and numerous other statements from AFRICOM officials, that there was a desire to invest what was needed for the economic development of the organization’s partnering nations. But defense cutbacks and the general relegation of Africa to the backwaters of Washington policy have prevented the United States from acting on these instincts. Meanwhile, the problem of providing integrity training to African troops alongside their weapons instruction remains largely absent from American deliberations.
The United States can and should do more on both tracks. With respect to economic development, it can build on the principles of partnership to which the White House committed during the 2014 African Leaders Summit in Washington, and the goodwill generated by the president’s landmark visit to Kenya a year later. With respect to integrity training, the United States also has proven capacities that can be applied to Africa. In Colombia and Mexico over the past two decades, for example, a small American NGO with U.S. government support was able to introduce curricula and training modules to bolster security sector trainees’ commitment to their nation-states and the populations they serve. They learned that by serving the people with integrity and living by the laws of the state they were sworn to uphold, they ultimately protected themselves and enriched their environments by supporting the conditions necessary for an economy to flourish. Migrating this expertise to Africa should be a global security priority.
It should also be recognized that some countries in Africa have indeed managed to build viable polities, secure them and sustain them—and can do much to assist the goals of stabilization to which AFRICOM aspires. One such country is Morocco, a staunch American ally. Its king, Mohammed VI, has combined staunch security cooperation with African nations with billions in investment in their economic and political development. Just this week, the monarchy announced the commitment of $620 million to a fertilizer plant, a sixty-two-megawatt solar station and a seawater desalinization facility for the continent. It provides an example of the kind of south-south cooperation that stands to be augmented by American partnership. As Americans hopefully work harder to support the sustainability in Africa that goes hand in hand with security efforts, they will find many friends, all too willing to assist.
Ahmed Charai is publisher of the weekly Moroccan newspaper L’Observateur and president of MED Radio, a national broadcast network in Morocco, MEDTV network and chairman of the board of Al-Ahdath al-Maghrebiya Arabic daily newspaper. As an expert on Morocco and North Africa, he sits on the Board of Trustees of the Foreign Policy Research Institute and the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. He is a member of the National Interest’s Advisory Council.
(Source: The National Interest – http://nationalinterest.org/feature/security-prosperity-africa-go-hand-hand-15098)
Former child brides win case in court: Zimbabwe bans child marriage
5 February 2016
Former child brides have struck a blow for future generations of women and children — taking their case to Zimbabwe’s highest court and winning a ban on marriage for anyone under the age of 18.
The women, Loveness Mudzuru and Ruvimbo Tsopodzi, claimed they faced a life of poverty without access to education after being forced into child marriages.
A lawyer for the two said the court decision “deals a decisive blow to the exploitation of children” and called on Zimbabwe’s legislature to set penalties for for the practice.
Nearly one-third of girls in Zimbabwe marry before their 18th birthday — some even before they turn 15 — when parents arrange their marriages.
The Constitutional Court’s ruling on January 20 banned marriage and other customary forms of unions for anyone under the age of 18. It also struck down a law that let girls marry at 16, but required boys to be at least 18.
Mudzuru, one of the women who brought the lawsuit, married when she was just 16 and had two children before turning 18.
“I really am happy that we have played an instrumental part in making Zimbabwe a safe place for girls,” Mudzuru told Reuters.
(Source: Good News Network – http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/former-child-brides-win-case-in-court-zimbabwe-bans-child-marriage/)
Stronger regioal coordination can counter Africa extremism
8 February 2016
THIES, Senegal (AP) – Violent extremist groups and their affiliates are collaborating more in northern Africa, and regional forces must be built up and supported with deeper intelligence sharing to counter the increasing threat of attacks, the head of the U.S. military’s Special Operations Command Africa said Monday.
Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc spoke on the sidelines of Flintlock, the U.S. military’s annual counter-extremism training exercise based this year in Senegal. Monday marked the opening of training of African forces as ambassadors, generals and troops gathered on an airfield in Thies, Senegal, holding flags that represented the some 1,700 participants from about 30 countries across Africa, and other Western countries.
The training comes as the region battles a growing threat from al-Qaida-linked extremists and Nigeria’s Islamic extremist group Boko Haram which has pledged support to the Islamic State group .
Violent extremist organizations have become more collaborative, sharing tactics and procedures, said Bolduc.
“They have traded ideas and concepts on how to message and present themselves in public, solidifying their ideology and what they stand for. And we have watched that collaboration manifest itself in becoming more effective in north Africa,” he said.
Nations have also started to come together to look at how regional cooperation can support countering the threat of the extremists, he said, pointing to the multi-national force battling Boko Haram with troops from Chad, Niger, Nigeria and Cameroon.
He warned, however, that the military is not the only solution.
Intelligence sharing is vital, but so is working with civil administrations to connect from the ground up to deal with the threat, he said.
Gen. Amadou Kane, the chief of staff of Senegal’s armed forces, said the threat of extremism affects all nations.
“We can’t know where the threat will next come, so we must then reorganize ourselves,” and make efforts to do that with neighboring countries, he said.
(Source: The Washington Times – http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/feb/8/stronger-regional-coordination-can-counter-africa-/)
Uganda discovered the Zika virus. And the solution for it.
10 February 2016
KAMPALA, Uganda — The Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) is nestled in a series of rolling hills outside of Entebbe, the town on the banks of Lake Victoria that served as the seat of government during Uganda’s time as a British protectorate. At the institute’s main entrance hang maps from old studies and magnified images of some of the viruses that have been isolated or discovered here, including West Nile virus.
But it’s the Zika virus — which has infected tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people in the Americas in recent months and may be linked to a spate of children born with underdeveloped brains in Brazil — that’s now bringing Ugandan epidemiologists unexpected attention. UVRI scientists first discovered Zika in the blood of a rhesus monkey back in 1947. And while Uganda has never had an outbreak of the virus, the country’s unique approach to monitoring the spread of similar diseases could hold the key to stopping future epidemics in their tracks.
Consider how Uganda dealt with the Ebola virus. Long before Ebola made its recent rampage across West Africa infecting more than 28,000 people, Uganda, in eastern Africa, had its own Ebola outbreak — two in fact, in 2012. Led by scientists at UVRI, however, the outbreaks were quickly identified and contained. Only 21 people died as a result — in contrast to more than 11,300 in West Africa in the past two years.
“They were prepared for the outbreak,” said Michel Van Herp, an epidemiologist with the emergency medical group Doctors Without Borders. “They had had that kind of training before. They were not naive to those pathogens.”
Uganda’s success in containing outbreaks is no accident. It is the product of a long history of cutting-edge infectious disease research, dating back to the founding of UVRI, then under a different name, by the U.S.-based Rockefeller Foundation in 1936 to stem the spread of yellow fever in East Africa. The institute passed into the hands of the East African Community in 1950 and then over to the Ugandan Ministry of Health in 1977, but it has continued to do groundbreaking work. Scientists here have discovered dozens of diseases and pioneered a viral surveillance system that has played a critical role in curbing potential epidemics.
The Ugandan system contrasts sharply with the short-term thinking of the World Health Organization. On Feb. 1, the WHO declared Zika a “public health emergency of international concern,” triggering a flood of money and attention directed at those South American countries hardest hit by the crisis. But UVRI has shown that crisis management of this sort is a poor replacement for vigilantly monitoring for potential public health crises in the first place and aggressively containing them once they arise.
“Ebola came; they react. When Zika came, there was a reaction,” said Ernest Tambo, a lecturer at the Université des Montagnes in Cameroon and epidemiological specialist who has worked throughout Africa. “When should the global community become proactive?”
Another way of posing that question is: When will the world catch up with Uganda?
The landlocked East African nation has always had an unenviable combination of scarce health care resources and a multiplicity of deadly diseases. “Uganda is a biodiversity hotspot,” said Julius Lutwama, UVRI’s senior principal research officer. “We have wide flora, wide fauna, and, of course, the good temperature, the good climate. And what is good for humans, what is good for animals, of course, is also good for viruses.”
Uganda’s record of controlling diseases is far from perfect (a malaria outbreak continues to plague the country’s north). But the presence in the country of so many of the world’s most virulent pathogens has compelled it to become a world leader in virus surveillance. “They’re always monitoring the conditions, so that there’s no outbreak that they’re not aware of,” said Martha Kaddumukasa, an entomologist at Uganda’s Makerere University who did part of her doctoral research at UVRI.
The institute has paid special attention to arboviruses — the family of viruses to which Zika belongs, along with dengue and yellow fever — as well as viral hemorrhagic fevers, including Ebola and Marburg. For decades, UVRI has been collecting and monitoring patient blood samples and parasites from around the country, looking for unusual viral activity. They also map disease patterns — both among people and animals — to alert health workers where to look for unusual illnesses and what to do if one appears. Local medical workers were credited with being the first to call attention to recent hemorrhagic fever cases.
Kaddumukasa, who has conducted research in other regional laboratories, called UVRI’s virus surveillance capacity “one of a kind” for East Africa. In part, this reflects a commitment from the Ugandan government, but also the institute’s unique collaborations with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and other international institutions.
Uganda’s dealings with Zika showcase both the depth and longevity of the country’s surveillance system. The story of the virus’s discovery is relatively banal: As part of the institute’s yellow fever research, scientists were monitoring a monkey deep in the Zika forest, on the outskirts of Entebbe. One day in 1947, it developed a fever and a blood sample was taken. The scientists isolated a previously unknown virus and, ultimately, gave it the name of the forest where it was discovered.
In the papers heralding their finding, the scientists took care to acknowledge how little they had actually learned about the virus — where it originated, how it was transmitted, or what its impact on humans would be. That didn’t stop one of its discoverers from cautioning: “The absence of the recognition of a disease in humans caused by Zika virus does not necessarily mean that the disease is either rare or unimportant.”
It took another five years for the virus to be isolated in humans, in Nigeria. Over the course of the next 50 years, Uganda would only have two confirmed cases. There would be less than 20 globally. As a result, international researchers gradually lost interest in the virus. But in Uganda, scientists and public health officials never entirely let up on their surveillance efforts. The country continued to look out for Zika with its routine monitoring system — a system thorough enough that, though it has never been a priority, a rash of Zika cases would probably be noticed quickly enough to weigh public health concerns and deploy treatment or containment options before it was too late, according to Kaddumukasa.
In 2012, UVRI’s overall surveillance and detection capacity got an upgrade when the CDC opened a laboratory to rapidly diagnose viral hemorrhagic fevers, like Ebola. The timing was prescient. Uganda sustained three hemorrhagic fever outbreaks that year — first Ebola, then Marburg, then Ebola again. In each case, doctors with the CDC and UVRI identified the virus within a matter of days and led efforts to contain its spread.
The Ugandan experience stands in stark contrast to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, where it took the Guinean health system more than three months to recognize the disease, by which point it had already spread dangerously across the region. The lesson was clear: There was a need for more robust, comprehensive surveillance systems at both local and national levels to detect possible outbreaks and prompt quicker responses.
“Essentially, every country has to have sufficient infrastructure to be able to monitor the health situation and detect any abnormalities,” said Michael Edelstein, an epidemiologist with Chatham House’s Centre on Global Health Security in London. “They have to train the workforce at different levels, have a basic laboratory system.”
Not every country needs something on the scale of UVRI, according to Edelstein, but they do need “the core capacity to detect pathogens in a timely manner.”
A minimum national surveillance system is spelled out in the WHO’sInternational Health Regulations (IHR), which came into force in 2007 and are binding on 196 countries — though there is no real enforcement mechanism. As of 2014, they were fully implemented in only 64 countries. With the latest implementation extension set to come to an end in June of this year, it will soon be clear whether the recent outbreaks have convinced the lagging nations to fully implement the IHR where the WHO’s cajoling did not.
But improved surveillance is not a panacea, especially if it doesn’t then trigger an appropriate response. For instance, by March 2014, Van Herp says that everyone knew what was happening with Ebola in West Africa, “but the will to intervene was very weak.” He sees parallels with Angola, where a yellow fever outbreak has infected nearly 40 people and left 10 dead in recent weeks, but drawn little international attention.
That’s why it’s important that UVRI does more than merely conduct disease surveillance. As an active participant in the East African Integrated Disease Surveillance Network (EAIDSNet), it is also helping devise cross-border strategies for disease surveillance and control so that it’s possible to organize an effective regional response and, if necessary, to attract international attention in a timely fashion, rather than when it’s too late to make a difference
It’s here that parts of sub-Saharan Africa — including Uganda — are out in front of the rest of the developing world: With budgets tight in most individual countries, the region is making the most of pooled resources. In addition to EAIDSNet, there is another network operating in southern Africa called the Southern African Centre for Infectious Disease Surveillance. And, in the wake of Ebola, the France-based NGO Connecting Organizations for Regional Disease Surveillance has been working with West African institutions to set up another. There is currently no comparable network anywhere in South America.
If one existed, would it have halted Zika’s spread? Almost certainly not. But more regional — and international — discussion might have helped doctors in South America hit upon the virus much sooner as the reason a growing number of patients are suffering from the same symptoms, and it might have accelerated their response.
Although UVRI has been able to offer little help in stemming the Zika outbreak, there is a recognition on the Entebbe campus that the institute has an increasingly important role to play, not just in combating future outbreaks, but serving as an example for other disease hotspots to replicate. In addition to modeling country surveillance strategies and promoting regional collaboration, that means continuing to lead the hunt for new viruses and working to better understand the ones that have already been found. According to Lutwama, UVRI scientists have already discovered four new viruses in the last five years.
That same impulse sent Kaddumukasa back to the Zika forest. Even before the current outbreak, the Ugandan entomologist suspected the forest’s inhabitants might still hold the answers to some of the world’s greatest medical mysteries. So, since 1997, she has been collecting and cataloguing mosquitoes — 163,790, so far — and then passing them along to a technician at UVRI to test for any viruses they may contain.
“Just like Zika virus was isolated from monkeys in Zika forest, there’s need to monitor the mosquitoes of Zika forest,” she said. “To stop the spread of infections in Uganda, to the world at large, you need to monitor. Continually monitor.”
Andrew Green is a freelance journlist based in Uganda.
(Source: Foreign Policy – http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/02/10/uganda-discovered-the-zika-virus-and-the-solution-for-it/)
Africa’s big cities offer investors hope in hard times
16 February 2016
Africa’s biggest economies have been hammered by the collapse in commodity prices over the past 18 months but there are still investment bright spots to be found.
In cities such as Lagos, Nairobi, Accra, Kinshasa and Johannesburg, growth remains robust and investors are prospering in the retail, financial services, technology and construction sectors.
This means investors can now re-adjust their strategy for Africa. Instead of taking a view on the continent as a whole, or choosing one country over another, they can seize opportunities city by city.
Sub-Saharan Africa is urbanizing faster than anywhere else in the world and city dwellers have more money to spend.
“In the current economic environment, investors want areas where success is proven, growth is strong and will remain strong. Big African cities give you that,” said Jacob Kholi, a partner at Abraaj, a private equity firm with $9 billion under management. “It has become even more important to focus on these key cities than before,” Kholi added.
Nairobi is the most attractive destination for foreign investment, according to a 2015 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, followed by Accra, with Lagos and Johannesburg equal third.
Consumption per capita in Accra is 1.6 times greater than the average in Ghana, 2.3 times bigger in Lagos than the average in Nigeria, and 2.7 times larger in Nairobi than nationally in Kenya, Abraaj estimates.
Lagos, one of the world’s fastest growing cities and with a population of 20 million, expects economic growth of 7 percent this year, twice the pace of the country as a whole.
Even South Africa, which is grappling with youth unemployment of over 40 percent and could slip into recession this year, has areas where industry is booming.
“Looking around here, you wouldn’t know things were so bad,” construction worker Sifiso Zwane told Reuters in Johannesburg’s wealthy Sandton business district.
“Rich people will always find a way to make more money,” said Zwane, with cranes filling the skyline behind him and billboards advertising new retailers like Krispy Kreme doughnuts (KKD.N) and Hennes & Mauritz (HMb.ST).
There are similar stories elsewhere.
This year, Kenya is set to unveil the Two River malls in Nairobi, the continent’s largest shopping center outside South Africa, with brands like Porsche, Hugo Boss and France’s Carrefour already booking space.
“The economy still has opportunities,” said Gabriel Modest, a jeweler who says demand for the gold necklaces and bracelets he sells remains strong.
“Sometimes you have to treat yourself,” he added, ordering a bowl of muesli and yoghurt at an upmarket Nairobi coffee shop.
In Lagos, plans are in place to develop the vast multi-billion-dollar Eko Atlantic city, a Dubai-style gated community that will boast chrome skyscrapers, business parks, palm trees and a marina.
By 2025, Mckinsey estimates that more than 80 cities in sub-Saharan Africa will have populations of more than one million, accounting for 58 percent of the region’s growth.
This rapid urbanization means Africa’s big cities will need more roads, hospital and power stations, while growing numbers of new inhabitants will be buying consumer goods like instant noodles, washing powder and mobile phone cards.
Though some big companies like Massmart (MSMJ.J), Barclays (BARC.L) and Nestle (NESN.VX) have slowed expansion plans in Africa in the last two years they are still making healthy profits in the big urban centers, according to banking sources.
“Our investment is focused on cities where we see the best opportunities even if the investment environment in the rest of the country isn’t as robust,” said Louis Deppe, partner at Actis, an emerging market-focused investment company.
“The ‘mega-city’ trend is still very much on the cards.”
The share of Africans living in urban areas is expected to grow from 36 percent in 2010 to 50 percent by 2030, with cities expected to be home to 85 percent of the national population in some countries, according to the World Bank.
The rapid urbanization of mostly the young and unemployed is placing a huge strain on infrastructure and will put pressure on politicians to direct more resources towards cities. Inequality in African cities is already among the highest in the world. African governments with stretched public finances will need to improve housing and social safety nets in cities and diversify their economies to support rural areas in order to avoid an increase in inequality that could stir up discontent.
“In a more risk-averse world, ‘urban bias’ – where there are proven returns – is likely to be reinforced. Investors will look at urban areas,” said Razia Khan, head of Africa research at Standard Chartered.
“This trend runs the risk of the rural electorate being marginalized – in especially unequal regions, it may raise political risks, and the potential for unrest.”
Back in Lagos, business is still expanding for cab-owner Cyril Ugochukwu, whose earnings are running well above the target he set for his business, which has contracts with online firm Easy Taxi.
“Individuals must make trips whether times are good or bad,” he told Reuters.
(Additional reporting by Duncan Miriri in Nairobi and Chijioke Ohuocha in Lagos; Editing by Giles Elgood)
(Source: Reuters – http://www.reuters.com/article/us-africa-cities-idUSKCN0VN0FY)
Familiar problems confront Central African Republic’s new president
25 February 2016
Faustin Touadera, the newly elected president of the Central African Republic, has a big job on his hands. Elected comfortably last weekend with almost 63 percent of the vote against his rival Anicet-Georges Dologuele’s 37 percent, the former math teacher, who served as prime minister in the years preceding CAR’s 2013 descent into violence, has been given a strong mandate to tackle the country’s immense problems. But even that may not be enough, given the scale of CAR’s recent history of conflict and ongoing mistrust between religious communities.
Touadera’s victory in the second round of presidential election is expected to mark the end of a 3-year political transition established in the months following the fall of former President Francois Bozize, who was chased from power by the mainly Muslim rebel alliance known as Seleka. As the Seleka rebels swept southward across the country in late 2012 and early 2013, their advance ignited a series of bitter inter-religious killings, with mainly Christian “anti-balaka” self-defense groups emerging to seek revenge on Muslim communities. It’s been estimated that at least 5,000 people were killed as neighbors and villages turned on each other; at one point the United Nations estimated that a quarter of the country’s 4 million people had been displaced. Today, at least 360,000 people are still living in displaced people’s camps.
The political scene hasn’t been much better. There were allegations of fraud in the first round of the elections in December, notably from veteran opposition leader Martin Ziguele. In January, CAR’s Constitutional Court decided to annul the results of the simultaneously held legislative elections, citing numerous examples of mistakes and delays in issuing ballot papers. The court still has to review Saturday’s presidential results, but they are widely expected to be confirmed, and Dologuele said he will not contest them. The results of the first round of the rerun parliamentary elections, which were also held last weekend, have yet to be announced. The second round should now be held before the end of April.
In this context, it’s highly significant that both rounds of CAR’s presidential election took place peacefully, especially after a number of rebel chiefs—including Nourredine Adam, the former deputy leader of Seleka, whose militiamen attempted to march on Bangui last October—had vowed to disrupt the voting. Adam reportedly may have softened his position following a recent visit to Chad, whose president, Idriss Deby Itno, has long sought to influence the fortunes of its southern neighbor.
“We should welcome the fact that the poll passed off peacefully and people were able to vote safely,” says Richard Moncrieff, Central Africa program director at the International Crisis Group. “It shows the extent to which people have a strong desire to get out of the crisis.”
Despite this good news, improving security and disarming the rebel groups remain the primary challenges for Touadera in office. His record on this is patchy. A demobilization, disarmament and reconciliation process for northeastern rebel groups that was announced in 2008, when he was prime minister, was never implemented. Although he has called for reconciliation, there is currently no roadmap for such a process. And elections alone are not enough to prevent a return to violence.
The two-stages of voting “will produce a government that has been elected through a technical procedure of elections,” says Louisa Lombard, an assistant professor of anthropology at Yale University who studies Central Africa. “But has it changed the fact that there’s a low start-up cost to rebellion in Central Africa? Has it changed the fact that there are so many guns circulating?”
The central authorities in Bangui do not exercise control over vast areas of the north and west of CAR, where a number of other rebel groups vie for control of weapons and the lucrative diamond mines around Bria. There have been long delays in launching the nationwide process of demobilizing and disarming militias, which was pledged at a reconciliation forum last year.
Tensions remain high. Last September, at least 61 people were killed in intercommunal clashes in Bangui after a Muslim taxi driver was killed. Although the United Nations peacekeeping mission, known by its French acronym, MINUSCA, has around 11,000 boots on the ground, it has been unable to make much progress in providing security. France, which has a contingent of about 900 peacekeepers in CAR, seems keen to withdraw them at the earliest opportunity.
There are also thorny questions of identity to resolve. The inter-religious violence generated much hostility and polarization, and perceptions have grown that Muslims, who generally live in the north of the country and often have historical and family links to Chad and Sudan, are not true Central Africans. Chad’s perceived meddling in the politics of CAR has done little to assuage these views. A recent International Crisis Group report included interviews with citizens of CAR who spoke about how the Seleka rebels’ rise to power had stirred up memories of 19th-century raids into present-day CAR by Muslim slavers. Others expressed jealousy toward Muslims for their tendency to dominate cross-border commerce. Until now, the government has done little to address these attitudes.
In addition, the vote has served to remind Central Africans that their politics is still dominated by a small number of individuals with a strong grip on power. Although Bozize’s own attempts to return to power were thwarted, there is widespread suspicion that he was pulling the strings behind both candidates for the second round. Touadera was Bozize’s prime minister from 2008 to 2013, and Dologuele received the blessing of Bozize’s party, the National Convergence, or “Kwa Na Kwa,” known simply as the KNK. Furthermore, the candidates who finished in third and fifth place in the first round, respectively, are also scions of CAR’s political class. Desire Kolingba, who scored about 12 percent of the vote, is the son of a former president; Jean-Serge Bokassa—son of the egregiously extravagant and self-proclaimed emperor Jean-Bedel Bokassa, who ruled CAR from 1966 until his overthrow in 1979—surprised many by gaining 6.5 percent.
“It’s positive that we’re moving back toward constitutional government,” Moncrieff says, “but if this process is not done correctly we may just see the same story emerging from CAR. A lot of the problems we see this time round are very familiar.” With a new government waiting to be formed until after the second round of parliamentary elections, change may be slow to arrive.
(Source: World Politics Review – http://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/18051/familiar-problems-confront-central-african-republic-s-new-president)
Nigeria’s booming film industry redefines African life
18 February 2016
ASABA, Nigeria — Sitting on a blue plastic stool in the sweltering heat, Ugezu J. Ugezu, one of Nigeria’s top filmmakers, was furiously rewriting his script as the cameras prepared to roll. “Cut!” he shouted after wrapping up a key scene, a confrontation between the two leading characters. Then, under his breath, he added, “Good as it gets.”
This was the seventh — and last — day of shooting in a village near here for “Beyond the Dance,” Mr. Ugezu’s story of an African prince’s choice of a bride, and the production had been conducted at a breakneck pace.
“In Nollywood, you don’t waste time,” he said. “It’s not the technical depth that has made our films so popular. It’s because of the story. We tell African stories.”
The stories told by Nigeria’s booming film industry, known as Nollywood, have emerged as a cultural phenomenon across Africa, the vanguard of the country’s growing influence across the continent in music, comedy, fashion and even religion.
A film set in Illah, a village in southeastern Nigeria, where electricity generators are a necessity for movie production crews. Credit Glenna Gordon for The New York Times
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, overtook its rival, South Africa, as the continent’s largest economy two years ago, thanks in part to the film industry’s explosive growth. Nollywood — a term I helped coin with a 2002 article when Nigeria’s movies were just starting to gain popularity outside the country — is an expression of boundless Nigerian entrepreneurialism and the nation’s self-perception as the natural leader of Africa, the one destined to speak on the continent’s behalf.
“The Nigerian movies are very, very popular in Tanzania, and, culturally, they’ve affected a lot of people,” said Songa wa Songa, a Tanzanian journalist. “A lot of people now speak with a Nigerian accent here very well thanks to Nollywood. Nigerians have succeeded through Nollywood to export who they are, their culture, their lifestyle, everything.”
Nollywood generates about 2,500 movies a year, making it the second-biggest producer after Bollywood in India, and its films have displaced American, Indian and Chinese ones on the televisions that are ubiquitous in bars, hair salons, airport lounges and homes across Africa.
The industry employs a million people — second only to farming — in Nigeria, pumping $600 million annually into the national economy, according to a 2014 report by the United States International Trade Commission. In 2002, it made 400 movies and $45 million.
Onyi Okerafor, left, an up-and-coming actress, watched scenes filmed for “Shina Rambo 2,” a sequel to a very profitable action movie. Though only 23, she has already appeared in nearly two dozen films. Credit Glenna Gordon for The New York Times
Nollywood resonates across Africa with its stories of a precolonial past and of a present caught between village life and urban modernity. The movies explore the tensions between the individual and extended families, between the draw of urban life and the pull of the village, between Christianity and traditional beliefs. For countless people, in a place long shaped by outsiders, Nollywood is redefining the African experience.
“I doubt that a white person, a European or American, can appreciate Nollywood movies the way an African can,” said Katsuva Ngoloma, a linguist at the University of Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo who has written about Nollywood’s significance. “But Africans — the rich, the poor, everyone — will see themselves in those movies in one way or another.”
In Yeoville, a neighborhood in Johannesburg that is a melting pot for migrants, a seamstress from Ghana took orders one recent morning for the latest fashions seen in Nollywood movies. Hairstylists from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, working in salons or on the street, offered hair weaves following the styles favored by Nollywood actresses.
“Nigerian movies express how we live as Africans, what we experience in our everyday lives, things like witchcraft, things like fighting between mother-in-laws and daughter-in-laws,” said Patience Moyo, 34, a Zimbabwean hair-braider. “When you watch the movies, you feel it is really happening. One way or another, it will touch your life somewhere.”
Filming of the popular Nollywood series “Shina Rambo,” based on events surrounding a notorious real-life criminal. Credit Glenna Gordon for The New York Times
When I first reported on Nigeria’s film industry more than a decade ago, the movies were slapped together in such a makeshift fashion that, during one interview, a production manager offered me the part of an evil white man. (Never mind my Japanese roots, he assured me, I was close enough.) After I casually threw out the term “Nollywood” in a conversation with a colleague, a copy editor created this headline for my article: “Step Aside, L.A. and Bombay, for Nollywood.”
The name stuck — and spread. But success hasn’t robbed Nollywood of its freewheeling ways: During my recent visit to a Nigerian village where a half-dozen movies were being shot, a producer came over and, on the spot, offered me the role of an evil white man who brings a vampire to Nigeria.
Back in 2002, the movies were simply known as Nigeria’s home videos. They were popularized at first through video cassettes traded across Africa, but now Nollywood is available on satellite and cable television channels, as well as on streaming services like iRokoTV. In 2012, in response to swelling popularity in Francophone Africa, a satellite channel called Nollywood TV began offering round-the-clock movies dubbed into French. Most Nollywood movies are in English, though some are in one of Nigeria’s main ethnic languages.
Until Nollywood’s ascendance, movies made in Francophone Africa — with grants from the French government — dominated filmmaking on the continent. But these movies catered to the sensibilities of Western critics and viewers, and won few fans in Africa, leaving no cultural footprint.
The whole village came out to watch filming in Igbuzor, in southeast Nigeria. Credit Glenna Gordon for The New York Times
In Nollywood, though, movies are still financed by private investors expecting a profit.
“You want to do a movie? You have the script? You look immediately for the money and you shoot,” said Mahmood Ali-Balogun, a leading Nigerian filmmaker. “When you get a grant from France or the E.U., they can dictate to you where to put your camera, the fine-tuning of your script. It’s not a good model for us in Africa.”
Mr. Ali-Balogun was speaking from his office in Surulere, Lagos, the birthplace of Nollywood. Film production has since moved to other cities, especially Asaba, an otherwise sleepy state capital in southeastern Nigeria. On any given day, a dozen crews can be found here — “epic” films with ancient story lines like “Beyond the Dance” are in the works in nearby villages, while “glamour” movies about modern life make the city itself their sets.
One recent entry in the glamour category was “Okada 50,” the story of a woman and son who, after leaving their village, open a coffin business in the city and terrorize their neighbors.
People gathered to watch a film in production in Igbuzor in October. For countless people, on a continent whose past and present have long been shaped by outsiders, Nollywood is redefining the African experience. Credit Glenna Gordon for The New York Times
Most films have budgets of about $25,000 and are shot in a week.
Once completed in Asaba, the movies find their way to every corner of Africa, released in the original English, dubbed into French or African languages, and sometimes readapted, repackaged and often pirated for local audiences. Many movies are also propelled by a symbiotic relationship with Nigeria’s Pentecostal Christianity, which pastors have exported throughout Africa.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, pastors who visited Nigeria years ago returned with videocassettes and showed the films in church to teach Christian lessons and attract new members, said Katrien Pype, a Belgian anthropologist at the University of Leuven who has written about the phenomenon.
Today in Kinshasa, the Congolese capital, Nollywood permeates mainstream culture. Local women copy the fashion, makeup and hairstyles of the actresses; local musicians grumble at the popularity of Nigerian imports, like Don Jazzy and the P-Square twins.
Trésor Baka, a Congolese dubber who translates Nollywood movies into the local language, Lingala, said the films are popular because “Nigeria has succeeded in reconciling modernity and their ancient ways, their culture and traditions.”
Nollywood has also created a model for movie production in other African nations, said Matthias Krings, a German expert on African popular culture at Johannes Gutenberg University.
In Kitwe, Zambia, local filmmakers were recently making their latest movie in true Nollywood style: a family melodrama shot over 10 days, in a private home, on a $7,000 budget. Burned onto DVD, the movie will be sold in Zambia and neighboring countries.
Acknowledging the influence of Nigerian cinema, the movie’s producer, Morgan Mbulo, 36, said, “We can tell our own stories now.”
(Source: The New York Times – http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/19/world/africa/with-a-boom-before-the-cameras-nigeria-redefines-african-life.html?_r=0)
TURKISH NEWS SOURCES
Textile exporters seek to offset Russian losses in Africa
15 December 2015
Seeking relief from losses in market share in Russia due to the escalating jet crisis, Turkish textile exporters have geared up efforts to diversify their clients with a sector union hosting business delegates from an African economic community that represents a population of 35 million.
The İstanbul Ready-to-Wear and Apparel Exporters Association (İHKİB) held a press conference on Tuesday to kick off a business fair in which representatives from 50 Cameroon-based textile companies are expected to engage in negotiations with their Turkish counterparts during a three-day summit in İstanbul.
Cameroon, with a national output of $30 billion, is perceived as the locomotive of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC), a union of six countries — Cameroon, Chad, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon — with a population of 35 million and gross domestic product (GDP) of $100 billion in total.
“In fact we identified this continent as a target market two years ago but are now poised to exert efforts in improving ties with African businesses in order to recover from the Russian turmoil,” İHKİB Chairman Hikmet Tanrıverdi said.
Since Turkey shot down a Russian jet along its Syrian border on Nov. 24, Moscow has banned trucks carrying Turkish-made products from entering the country in retaliation.
Turkey’s ready-to-wear textile exports accounted for $18.5 billion in 2014, an 8 percent increase over 2013. Yet market experts expect a lower figure this year given that export volume sustained a 10 percent slide year-on-year in the first 10 months of 2015, during which Turkey’s total exports also recorded a fall of 8 percent. The standoff with Russia, a lucrative market with which Turkey conducts $5 billion in exports annually, came amid such a downturn in foreign sales.
“We see Cameroon as a stepping stone to expand more into Africa,” Tanrıverdi said.
With regards to the Russian woes, Tanrıverdi said small business owners in the country might resort to laying off some workers if there is no resolution to the crisis in the near future.
With labor costs potentially increasing after a government plan to hike minimum wages and falling sales after the Russian crisis, Turkey may see startling unemployment rates in the months after January, Tanrıverdi stated.
(Source: Today’s Zaman — http://www.todayszaman.com/business_textile-exporters-seek-to-offset-russian-losses-in-africa_407052.html)
China’s search for a second military base in Africa
19 December 2015
After finalizing plans to set up a military base in the small but strategic East African country of Djibouti, China has turned its attention to Nambia in the southern part of Africa.
Speaking on a television program, Namibian President Hage Geingob said that he had discussed the military base with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the 6th Forum on China-Africa Cooperation organized in South Africa at the beginning of December.
“Our discussions with China will not be secret,” Geingob said.
Sources from the People’s Republic of China have not commented on the discussion.
Earlier, President Geingob stated that the U.S. had proposed to establish a base in Namibia, but the U.S. has denied his claim.
The People’s Republic of China plans to station 10,000 marines at its first overseas military base in Djibouti if plans move forward.
China has stated that its base in Djibouti will be used to combat piracy.
According to Western sources, China’s planned base in Djibouti is intended to drive forward China’s economic interests in East Africa.
This article was translated from Turkish.
(Source: Sabah – http://www.sabah.com.tr/dunya/2015/12/19/cinin-afrikada-ikinci-askeri-us-arayisi)
Burundi rejects African Union peacekeepers as ‘invasion force’
20 December 2015
Burundi’s government said on Dec. 20 it would not agree to the deployment of African Union (AU) peacekeepers, warning that they would be seen as “an invasion force.”
The announcement came a day after the 54-member bloc said it would send a 5,000-strong forced to halt spiraling violence in the tiny central African country as fears grow it is rapidly sliding towards civil war.
It gave the government in Bujumbura a four-day deadline to agree to the offer, but warned it would send troops anyway.
“Burundi is clear on the matter: It is not ready to accept an AU force on its territory,” deputy presidential spokesman Jean-Claude Karerwa told AFP.
“If AU troops came without the government’s approval, it would be an invasion and occupation force, and the Burundi government would reserve the right to act accordingly.”
Burundi has so far dismissed proposals for any peacekeeping force on its territory and Karerwa said any such move by the AU would have to be approved by the United Nations Security Council.
“The Burundi government believes the AU resolution cannot be automatically applied and must first be endorsed by the UN Security Council,” he said.
The standoff comes as international alarm grows over soaring unrest in Burundi where at least 87 people were killed on Dec. 11 in a crackdown by security forces after an attack on three military bases.
Many of the dead were youths who were shot dead by the security forces.
In a strongly-worded statement issued on Dec. 19, the AU said the bloc would “take additional measures” to ensure the new force’s deployment.
It underlined its determination “to take all appropriate measures against any party or actor… who would impede the implementation of the present decision.”
The announcement came two days after the bloc’s Peace and Security Council met over the Burundi crisis and agreed it would not allow “another genocide” on African soil.
AU rights investigators last week returned from a fact-finding mission to Burundi expressing “great concern” after witnessing some of the heaviest fighting in the troubled country for months.
The AU team said it had reports of “arbitrary killings and targeted assassinations” as well as arrests, detentions and torture. Their concerns have been widely echoed.
(Source: Hurriyet Daily News – http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/burundi-rejects-african-union-peacekeepers-as-invasion-force.aspx?pageID=238&nID=92764&NewsCatID=357)
Turkey and African countries need each other, experts say
Yusuf Selman İnanç
20 December 2015
A think tank summit on Turkish-African relations in Istanbul stressed the strengthened cooperation between African countries and Turkey and Ankara’s changed policy toward Africa. Experts said Turkey and countries in Africa need each other in many areas ranging from construction to health
Sunday in Istanbul, the Association of Researchers on the Middle East and Africa (ORDAF) with the cooperation of the Presidency of Turks Abroad and Related Communities (YTB) held a Turkish-African think tank summit. Several researchers from different think tanks who study Africa, journalists, academics and politicians attended the summit. The summit is considered significant in terms of highlighting the increase in Turkish activity in Africa and Turkey’s changing policy toward countries on the continent. Experts underlined that African countries and Turkey need each other, as Turkey can offer a lot in many areas from construction to health, while African countries, which suffered from colonialism for centuries, can trust Turkey’s sincere approach, which does not contain colonial aims.
The two-day summit started with opening remarks by Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan. Akdoğan stressed the links between the Ottoman Empire and African nations and said, “As descendants of the empire and citizens of Turkey, we consider the peoples of Africa as our brothers and sisters.” Criticizing the former colonial powers, he added: “The peoples of Africa have been exploited by colonial powers for centuries. Africans have been dispossessed of their goods — natural resources like oil, gold and diamonds. Moreover, they were taken to foreign countries to be enslaved.” He said that Turkey’s policy is much different from those colonial powers: “Our civilization, culture and religion ban us from imperialism and racism. We see different colors and ethnicities as wealth. For us, there is no difference between white and black. No person is superior to any other. We have never bent our heads in front of anyone. We have been a safe haven for oppressed people regardless of their religion or ethnicity. Turkey has become a hope for oppressed people around the world due to its ethical stance.” After touching on Turkey’s changing policy toward Africa, he reminded participants that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared 2005 as the year of Africa when he was still prime minister.
Since the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) came to power in Turkey in 2002, relations between Turkey and several African countries have strengthened through increasing humanitarian aid, cooperation in several areas and trade. The number of Turkish embassies on the continent increased to 43 as of 2015, up from 12 in 2003. The number of African countries’ embassies also increased in the same period to 53, up from 10 in 2008. Turkish Airlines (THY) has also started flying to more destinations in Africa. In 2002, THY only flew to 10 destinations in Africa, but now it flies to 47. As such, the number of passengers has also increased. While it was less than 150,000 in 2002, it is now more than 2 million per year. The abolishment of visas with eight African countries and the opportunity to receive visas upon arrival in six countries has also played a big role in the increase in passenger numbers.
The changing policy has also offered new opportunities for both Turkish and African businessmen. The trade budget with the continent passed $25 billion, up eightfold from 13 years ago. Ankara has signed economic cooperation agreements with 38 countries and has established free economic zones with four.
Turkey also continues increasing humanitarian aid and the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA) has opened 16 offices and launched more than 200 projects. The Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) has provided $100 billion of humanitarian aid to Somalia and $1.5 million for combating Ebola.
Experts at the summit underlined the importance of African countries for Turkey and said that Africa offers a big opportunity for Turkish entrepreneurs to increase trade. Turkey, which aims to increase investments abroad, can feed the needs of Africa, while the continent can benefit from Turkey’s sincerity and approach, which is far from colonial behaviors, the experts said. ORDAF, in a statement issued for this summit, explained the process of improvement in Turkish-African relations and said: “With the acceptance of the Africa Action Plan in 1998, the Republic of Turkey transformed its interest in Africa to a strategic state policy and started to apply trade incentives in this direction to increase its trade volume. The engagement with Africa that started in 1998 to establish a state strategy became more evident in 2005 with the declaration of the Year for Africa in Turkey.
Since 2005, opportunities for creating equal level cooperation between Turkey and African countries have been enabled. The first aim in this direction was to increase the number of Turkish diplomatic missions in Africa. The Republic of Turkey, with the Turkey-Africa Cooperation Summits, the first of which was in August 2008 and the second in November 2014, manifested its desire to increase the level of cooperation with all African countries. In 2010 Ankara accepted its Africa Strategic Document. With this document Ankara put forward its approach of “solidarity for a common future.” It explained what should be done in the near future and read: “The steps that have been taken by Turkey as a state strategy have to expand into the civil level of cooperation for them to become more established and to be carried into the future. In fact, it is more important to prioritize civil cooperation for the future of Turkish-African relations.”
(Source: Daily Sabah – http://www.dailysabah.com/africa/2015/12/21/turkey-and-african-countries-need-each-other-experts-say)
Gun attack on a Turkish aid organization in Somalia
1 January 2016
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced that an attack has been carried out against workers for a Turkish civil society organization in Somalia’s capital of Mogadishu.
The Ministery stated that one Turkish worker was wounded, while a Somali national was killed. The following is the statement from the Information Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
“Workers of a Turkish civil society organization carrying out humanitarian aid activities in Mogadishu has been attacked. We have sadly learned that one of our citizens was injured in the attack, while a Somali national was killed. We condemn this attack and await news that the perpetrator of the attack has been apprehended and brought to justice.”
This article was translated from Turkish.
(Source: Can Erzincan TV – http://canerzincantv.com/somalide-turk-yardim-kurulusuna-silahli-saldiri/)
Turkey set to build a military training center in Somalia
5 January 2016
Turkey has started to build a military training base in Somalia as part of its pledge to build up the national army for the Somali government, a senior Turkish diplomat has said.
Emel Tekin, the head of the Foreign Ministry department responsible for Somalia, stated that Turkey is establishing a military base in Mogadishu, a first for Turkey, to train Somali soldiers. She said the initiative is part of a framework agreement between the two countries on military cooperation.
“This military training facility will also be an important base for [providing] military training for the entire [continent of] Africa,” she added.
The Turkish diplomat’s remarks were delivered during deliberations of Parliament’s Defense Commission, where the agreement on defense industry cooperation between Turkey and Somalia was approved on Dec. 9, 2015. The agreement was signed on Jan. 25, 2015, in Mogadishu.
Col. Murat Yaman said at the commission meeting that the agreement is a framework deal to boost defense cooperation between the two countries. He noted that it built on two earlier agreements signed with Somalia in 2010 on military financial cooperation and military training. Turkey has been providing defense assistance to Somalia since then to shore up Somalia’s security forces.
The Turkish military is also building a military school in Somalia to educate and train both officer corps and noncommissioned officers.
Tekin said that, when she visited Somalia, she noticed Somali soldiers were wearing different uniforms and shoes provided by various donor countries from the Gulf and the European Union.
“They [Somalis] are trying to overcome this,” she said, by establishing a military structure that is complete and under a single chain of command. Turkey is trying to support this as well,” she explained.
Strengthening the national army is important for the security of Somalia as well as the viability of the UN-backed transitional government against the background of terrorism committed by the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Shabaab militants.
Turkey has provided $400 million in aid to Somalia in recent years, according to the Turkish Foreign Ministry. Turkey will be hosting the High-Level Partnership Forum in Turkey in İstanbul on Feb. 23-24, which is a follow-up to the High-Level Meeting on Somalia held in New York on Sept. 28, 2015.
(Source: Today’s Zaman – http://www.todayszaman.com/diplomacy_turkey-set-to-build-a-military-training-center-in-somalia_408820.html)
34 thousand people have left their homes in Darfur
28 January 2016
Fighting between government forces and opposition forces has resulted in 34 million people leaving their homes in Sudan’s West Darfur state.
Despite the ceasefire announced at the end of last year, the Abdul Wahid faction of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA-AW) resumed fighting 10 days ago in the Jebel Marra region, considered its stronghold.
“Initial reports indicate that about 19,000 civilians have fled into North Darfur state, and up to 15,000 into Central Darfur state,” stated Marta Ruedas, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan. She added that the majority of the fleeing civilians are women and children. Ruedas stated that the UN is trying to bring aid to the region but doesn’t have full access. She added that some aid has been delivered but clearly more is needed.
According to an earlier report from the joint UN-African Union mission in Darfur, more than 10 thousand have been displaced due to the fighting. According to New York-based Human Rights Watch, government soldiers and militias used rape as a weapon of war during fighting in 2015. HRW’s Africa Director Daniel Bekele has said that the reports show that security forces have adopted the use of rape as a weapon of war in Sudan.
The African Union peacekeeping force UNAMID has called for more to be done to document claims of abuse in Darfur.
According to the UN, from 2003 to the present 300 thousand people have been killed and 2.5 million people displaced in Sudan.
Referendum in April
The Sudanese government will organize a referendum in April to decide whether Darfur will remain as five states or whether it will be established as an autonomous government.
Sudan’s armed opposition group, the Sudan Limeration Army, argues that the claims that the country’s upcoming elections will not be real elections consist of propoganda.
Allegations against the Arab leadership in Khartoum of discrimination with regard to the fight against weapons pointed at the government are beginning to surface.
In 2009, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese leader Omar Al-Bashir due to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Since 2003, the Sudanese Revolutionary front – made up of the “Justice and Equality Movement, “the Sudan Liberation Movement,” and the “Sudan People’s Liberation Army” – has been fighting with the government. Since 2001, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) has been fighting for the indepdence of the South Kordofan and Blue Nile states.
This article was translated from Turkish.
(Source: Dünya Bülteni (World Bulletin) – http://www.dunyabulteni.net/afrika/353278/darfurda-34-bin-kisi-evini-terketti)
‘Somali bomber would have been on Turkish Airlines flight’
8 February 2016
It has been discovered that he man who is suspected of having bombed a Daallo Airlines flight from Somalia to Djibouti on February 2nd was originally scheduled to fly on a Turkish Airlines flight that was cancelled due to bad weather.
The suspected bomber was sucked out of the hole created when he bombed the plane shortly after take-off. Of the 10 Turkish citizens on the flight, two suffered non-critical injuries.
Muhammed Ibrahim Olad, the General Director of Dubai-based Daallo Airlines, told the BBC that most of the plane’s 74 passengers were transferred from the Turkish Airlines flight and Daallo Airlines was notified of the change a few hours before take-off.
Olad said that the Turkish Airlines flight to Djibouti was cancelled due to bad weather conditions.
‘More than 20 detained’
Turkish Airlines has not yet commented on the incident.
On the other hand, video recordings shared by Somali officials show a passenger being handed a laptop. The officials say that the bomb had been placed in the laptop.
The bombing occurred about 15 minutes into the flight, and the plane made an emergency landing at Mogadishu airport.
The plane’s Serbian pilot, Vlatko Vodopivec, said he was told that the explosion was caused by a bomb.
A government spokesman told BBC’s Somalia bureau that more than 20 people had been detained in relation to the attack.
Daallo Airlines organizes regular flights from its base in Dubai to Somalia and Djibouti.
This article was translated from Turkish.
(Source: BBC Türkçe – http://www.bbc.com/turkce/haberler/2016/02/160208_somali_ucak_bombaci)
Turkey’s Erdoğan embarks on major trip to Africa
28 February 2016
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will visit four West African countries next week, in a new sign of Ankara’s desire to be a major influence in the region.
Erdoğan was scheduled to begin his visit in Ivory Coast on Feb. 28, before continuing to Ghana and then to economic powerhouse Nigeria. He will wrap up the trip in Guinea on March 3, his office said in a statement released over the weekend.
The visit is aimed at deepening Turkey’s “strategic partnership with Africa and developing relations with members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS),” the statement said. It will be the first time a Turkish president has visited Ivory Coast and Guinea, it added.
Erdoğan, who in January last year visited Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia, is spearheading a drive to expand Turkey’s presence in Africa.
Turkey has more than tripled the number of embassies it has in Africa since 2009, while national flag carrier Turkish Airlines has dozens of destinations on the continent.
Bilateral trade between Turkey and all of Africa was worth $23.4 billion in 2014, while bilateral trade with sub-Saharan countries has increased tenfold since 2000, according to the Foreign Ministry.
Turkey is also moving to increase its presence outside its traditional sphere of influence in the lands of the Ottoman Empire, as Erdoğan visited Chile, Ecuador and Peru this year.
During his latest tour of Africa, Erdoğan has been accompanied by Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Economy Minister Mustafa Elitaş, Energy and Natural Sources Minister Berat Albayrak, Defense Ministerı İsmet Yılmaz and Environment and Urban Planning Minister Güldemet Sarı.
While announcing the tour at a press conference on Feb. 26, Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın said Erdoğan was also planning to visit Somalia “within this year” as part of an East Africa tour.
“During this visit, we will have a chance to see the ongoing projects in education, healthcare, infrastructure, the airport and port projects on site. Moreover, as you know, we have built our biggest embassy in the world in Somalia. The construction is almost completed. During his visit, Mr. President will inaugurate this embassy,” Kalın said.
In January 2015, Erdoğan visited the Somali capital, under tight security to launch Turkish-sponsored development projects including an airport terminal. The visit took place only a few days after five people were killed in a suicide attack on a hotel housing the Turkish delegation in Mogadishu on Jan. 22.
Hundreds of soldiers and police officers had shut down much of the capital’s streets, where on Jan. 22 five people were killed in a suicide attack on a hotel housing the Turkish delegation in Mogadishu.
Somalia’s al-Qaeda-affiliated Shebab rebels – who are fighting to overthrow the country’s internationally-backed government – said they carried out the bombing.
(Source: Hurriyet Daily News – http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/turkeys-erdogan-embarks-on-major-trip-to-africa-.aspx?pageID=238&nID=95783&NewsCatID=338)
REPORTS AND PAPERS
Final declaration of the Turkish-African Think Tank Summit
Publisher: Association of Researchers on the Middle East and Africa (ORDAF)
The declaration outlines the results of the first Turkish-African Think Tank Summit, which took place on December 19th and 20th, 2015 in Istanbul. The summit was organized by ORDAF with the support of the Presidency of Turks Abroad and Related Communities. The summit was attended by 50 civil society organizations from more than 30 African nations, and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan joined the proceedings. The conclusions of the declaration cover a variety of topics, from acknowledgement of historic ties, recognition of successes in the Turkey-Africa relationship, and calls for greater cooperation in areas such as education, information exchange, humanitarian assistance, and development cooperation.
Africa’s growth dividend? Lived poverty drops across much of the continent
Authors: Robert Mattes, Boniface Dulani, and E. Gyimah-Boadi
The report measures the reduction in lived poverty across the African continent. From the “Introduction”:
Though Africa has recorded high levels of economic growth over the past decade,
previous Afrobarometer surveys of citizens found little evidence that this growth had
reduced levels of poverty in any consistent way (Dulani, Mattes, & Logan, 2013). However,
new data from Afrobarometer Round 6, collected across 35 African countries, suggest a
very different picture. While “lived poverty” remains pervasive across much of the
continent, especially in Central and West Africa, we now see evidence that the decade
of economic growth seems to have finally delivered broad-based reductions in poverty. (p. 1)
Green Revolution in Sub-Saharan Africa: Implications of Imposed Innovation for the Wellbeing of Rural Smallholders
Authors: Neil Dawson, Adrian Martin, and Thomas Sikor
In: World Development, Volume 78: pp 204-218
Green Revolution policies are again being pursued to drive agricultural growth and reduce poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa. However conditions have changed since the well-documented successes of the 1960s and 1970s benefitted smallholders in southern Asia and beyond. We argue that under contemporary constraints the mechanisms for achieving improvements in the lives of smallholder farmers through such policies are unclear and that both policy rationale and means of governing agricultural innovation are crucial for pro-poor impacts. To critically analyze Rwanda’s Green Revolution policies and impacts from a local perspective, a mixed methods, multidimensional wellbeing approach is applied in rural areas in mountainous western Rwanda. Here Malthusian policy framing has been used to justify imposed rather than “induced innovation”. The policies involve a substantial transformation for rural farmers from a traditional polyculture system supporting subsistence and local trade to the adoption of modern seed varieties, inputs, and credit in order to specialize in marketable crops and achieve increased production and income. Although policies have been deemed successful in raising yields and conventionally measured poverty rates have fallen over the same period, such trends were found to be quite incongruous with local experiences. Disaggregated results reveal that only a relatively wealthy minority were able to adhere to the enforced modernization and policies appear to be exacerbating landlessness and inequality for poorer rural inhabitants. Negative impacts were evident for the majority of households as subsistence practices were disrupted, poverty exacerbated, local systems of knowledge, trade, and labor were impaired, and land tenure security and autonomy were curtailed. In order to mitigate the effects we recommend that inventive pro-poor forms of tenure and cooperation (none of which preclude improvements to input availability, market linkages, and infrastructure) may provide positive outcomes for rural people, and importantly in Rwanda, for those who have become landless in recent years. We conclude that policies promoting a Green Revolution in Sub-Saharan Africa should not all be considered to be pro-poor or even to be of a similar type, but rather should be the subject of rigorous impact assessment. Such assessment should be based not only on consistent, objective indicators but pay attention to localized impacts on land tenure, agricultural practices, and the wellbeing of socially differentiated people
Government Defence Anti-Corruption Index 2015 – Region Results: Africa
Authors: Tehmina Abbas, Eva Anderson, Katherine Dixon, Hilary Hurd, and Gavin Raymond
Publisher: Transparency International (http://government.defenceindex.org/downloads/docs/GI-Africa-results-web.pdf)
The report measures the risk across African countries for corruption in defence and security institutions. Conclusions regarding corruption in defence and security establishments include the following:
• Defence spending is rising, but institutional capacity is lagging. In many cases oversight functions exist in the form of anti-corruption bodies, audit functions, and/or parliamentary committees, but defence institutions are largely exempt from scrutiny.
• Increases in defence spending are not necessarily enhancing state security. Too often procurement decisions are taken with little reference to strategic requirements, military effectiveness is eroded by poor controls on personal, while forces are repurposed for commercial ends.
• Corruption is undermining public trust in the government and the armed forces, as well as posing a major threat to the success of operations.
• And finally, international arms exports are profiting from conflict and insecurity (p. 1)