Showing posts with label Africa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Africa. Show all posts

8 July 2020

African Migrants in Yemen Scapegoated for Coronavirus Outbreak

By Vivian Yee and Tiksa Negeri

BEIRUT, Lebanon — The Yemeni militiamen rumbled up to the settlement of Al Ghar in the morning, firing their machine guns at the Ethiopian migrants caught in the middle of somebody else’s war. They shouted at the migrants: Take your coronavirus and leave the country, or face death.

Fatima Mohammed’s baby, Naa’if, was screaming. She grabbed him and ran behind her husband as bullets streaked overhead.

“The sound of the bullets was like thunder that wouldn’t stop,” said Kedir Jenni, 30, an Ethiopian waiter who also fled Al Ghar, near the Saudi border in northern Yemen, on that morning in early April. “Men and women get shot next to you, you see them die and move on.”

This scene and others were recounted in phone interviews with a half-dozen migrants now in Saudi prisons. Their accounts could not be independently verified, but human rights groups have corroborated similar episodes.

7 July 2020

Locusts are putting 5 million people at risk of starvation – and that’s without COVID-19

Emma Charlton
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The most serious desert locust outbreak in 70 years could leave nearly 5 million people in East Africa facing starvation, according to the International Rescue Committee (IRC). It comes as many of the countries in the region are already struggling to manage food insecurity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Desert Locusts are swarming across East Africa.
Image: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

3 July 2020

From Development to Democracy, Africa Is a Continent of Contradictions

It makes sense that a continent home to 54 countries and 1.2 billion people would also house a mass of contradictory developments. Africa features several of the world’s fastest-growing economies and a burgeoning middle class. But much of the continent remains mired in debt, ravaged by conflict, disease or terrorism, and plagued by elites clinging to power. Now, although the human cost of the coronavirus pandemic has so far been less catastrophic than many feared, its economic impact could undo much of the continent’s growth over the past two decades.

Even during the years when economies across Africa expanded, many people were driven to migrate—either within Africa or to Europe and even South America—because of humanitarian catastrophes or because economic opportunities were not coming fast enough for everyone. Those who remained behind at times succeeded in disrupting the status quo. Civilian-led reform movements toppled regimes in Algeria and Sudan last year. And while the phenomenon of long-ruling authoritarian leaders—known as “presidents for life”—is still common, recent examples of independent courts overturning fraudulent elections and other signs of democratic institutions taking hold in previously corrupt or authoritarian states offer hope for the future of democracy in Africa.

30 June 2020


The EU has made democracy support a stronger aspect in its relations with African countries since 2002. However, a broad range of political and economic dynamics within as well as outside of Europe challenge democracy and its supporters: the rise of non-democratic countries such as China, challenges to democracy within the EU, and global autocratization trends, which include African countries. While posing new challenges the EU needs to react to, these trends also reinforce the importance of continued support and protection of democracy abroad. In light of this changed context, the EU will need to fundamentally adjust its strategic approach and instruments towards democracy support in Africa. Against this background, this paper discusses reasons for the EU to continue and even strengthen its democracy support in Africa: societal demands in Africa and regional democracy norms; the relationship between democracy and sustainable development as well as the new geostrategic competition. The paper analyses how the EU’s support for democracy and human rights in sub-Saharan Africa has developed over the last decades in terms of its understanding of democracy support as well as its substance. The paper concludes by making ten proposals for reforming the EU’s democracy support in Africa. The reform proposals relate to a new narrative and more strategic approach to democracy support in light of the changed geopolitical setting, to addressing megatrends more explicitly through democracy support or to reforming the EU’s institutional prerequisites.

22 June 2020

Why No One Ever Really Wins a Proxy War

by Brittany Benowitz and Alicia Ceccanese

(Editor’s Note: This is the first of a three-part series addressing the challenges associated with proxy warfare, in particular as it plays out in the Middle East and North Africa, and ways to address these issues at the national and international levels. See also Part 2 on civilian casualties and Part 3 on the U.N.’s role.)

As the world struggles to marshal the resources needed to contain the coronavirus, the need to resolve long-simmering conflicts around the world has become all the more pressing, if for no other reason than the need to re-direct resources to the health crisis and to rebuilding devastated economies. It was therefore somewhat surprising that in the midst of the epidemic, the U.S. State Department notified Congress of its intent to continue to advance multi-billion dollar arms deals with India. These deals have been in the works for some time, but they include the sale of Stinger missiles and other small arms and light weapons that may be of particular interest to the Indian government now, considering the flare-up in the conflict with Pakistan in Kashmir over the past year. The irony is that such missiles might one day be used to shoot down American-made F-16s that were sold to Pakistan on the condition that they would not be used in Kashmir, but nonetheless were deployed there last year. While the direct conflict between India and Pakistan has subsided for the moment, both sides continue to support proxies aimed at containing the other side.

A study by an expert working group convened by the American Bar Association Center for Human Rights, where we work (one of us was on the working group), examined the dynamics of such proxy conflicts — and the role of arms sales. It concluded that such conflicts are particularly likely to become protracted and deadly for civilians. Yet, despite those risks, governments continue to engage in proxy warfare, because they believe the perceived positives — ability to influence events far afield, lower risk to their own personnel, lower cost, less political blowback — outweigh the negatives.

14 June 2020

Is America’s Future South Africa’s Past?

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As a South African immigrant to the United States and a longtime observer of South African politics, I am attuned to the ways in which appeals for racial justice and demands for change can unleash powerful social and political forces.

Granted: I am biased by my particular experience, and the United States is by no means an apartheid state (at least not since 1964). But it is striking to see the United States in 2020 look so much like the failing state that was late-apartheid South Africa—albeit at American scale, and at American speed.

The sudden speed of events has triggered growing warnings of the death of U.S. democracy or even another civil war. But the South African precedent suggests that the future, while certainly challenging, is not quite so dire.

First, it’s useful to identify the parallels so I can’t be accused of a false optimism.

The explosion of protest against racial injustice and police brutality across the United States that followed the killing of George Floyd, and the over-militarized police response to it, mimic the caught-on-tape, globally inspiring demonstrations in 1970s and 1980s South Africa. Like many social movements before and since, they have in common a complex fusion of a majority of nonviolent protesters with violent radicals, outside agitators, and opportunistic looters.

6 June 2020

COVID-19: The Impact on China-Africa Debt

By Mercy A. Kuo

The Diplomat author Mercy Kuo regularly engages subject-matter experts, policy practitioners, and strategic thinkers across the globe for their diverse insights into U.S. Asia policy. This conversation with Linda Calabrese – research fellow and development economist at the Overseas Development Institute in London – explores China’s loans to African countries, and the impact COVID-19 (and the resulting economic crisis) could have on debt payments.

Explain the impact of COVID-19 on African countries’ debt vis-à-vis China.

With their economies hit by the COVID-19 crisis, African countries face a double health and economic challenge: they need to allocate resources towardS protecting the health of their citizens, while trying to minimize the negative economic outcomes of the pandemic. At the same time, they are burdened by their debt. Many African countries are paying back what they borrowed and have little room to divert these resources towards more pressing health and economic needs.

4 June 2020

African Leaders, Joined by U.S. Embassies, Condemn Police Killing in Minneapolis

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African leaders reacted to the killing of a black man in Minneapolis police custody with a mixture of outrage and dismay, prompting two U.S. embassies on the continent to issue unusual statements about the incident and reflecting the global diplomatic fallout of American police violence and racial injustices. 

The head of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, condemned George Floyd’s death in a statement, saying he “firmly reaffirms and reiterates the African Union’s rejection of the continuing discriminatory practices against Black citizens of the United States of America.”

“This is one too many. We may be black, but we are people too,” another top African Union official, Kwesi Quartey, said in a social media post. “Africa demands a full investigation into this killing.”

In a highly unusual move that reflects the degree of distress in the countries they are posted in, the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Uganda also issued statements on Twitter, saying the embassies were “deeply troubled” by the death of Floyd in police custody and that “[g]overnment officials should not operate with impunity in any country.” 

22 April 2020

The biggest lockdown threat: Hunger, hunger, everywhere

By Rebecca Davis
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Residents in Mitchells Plain clash with police over food parcels. Residents are furious with the government for not fulfilling its promise of delivering food parcels. (Photo: Gallo Images / Die Burger / Jaco Marais)

Protests and looting have broken out all over South Africa in recent days in response to one issue: hunger. It is now clear that hunger will pose the greatest threat to South African well-being and security during the lockdown – and the difficulties involved with getting food to millions of South Africans in need are tremendous.

The hunger of South Africans during the extended lockdown period is spilling over on to the streets. This week alone, grocery stores have been looted and protests have broken out on the Cape Flats, Khayelitsha, Alexandra and Chatsworth – to name just a few areas.

Cape Flats ward councillor Bongani Ngcani was quoted by News24 as saying: “A man told me: ‘I would rather die of Covid-19 than of hunger’ ”.

It is clear that all three tiers of government are well aware of the threat posed by hunger. But the logistical challenges of providing food to potentially millions of South Africans under lockdown are monumental, and may not be able to be resolved through existing systems.

3 April 2020

Africa is changing so rapidly, it is becoming hard to ignore

Sometimes bridging the gap between success and failure, between finishing high school or dropping out, requires a lot of determination and the cost of a cow. Jack Oyugi grew up as the oldest of 14 children to parents tilling an acre of ground in western Kenya. Their crops usually gave them enough to eat—neighbours would feed them if food ran short—but they had little cash. When Mr Oyugi went to secondary school his father sold his only cow to pay the fees. “The neighbours laughed at him,” he says. Now he is having the last laugh. Mr Oyugi went on to university where he studied biotechnology, and then developed a process to make protein-rich animal feed from water hyacinth, an invasive plant on Lake Victoria. He provides jobs for 30 people. Orders for the feed, which is about 30% cheaper than soyabean protein, are coming from as far away as Thailand. As for his father, “I’ve built him a seven-room house and bought him some cows,” he says proudly.

Mr Oyugi is talented and hard-working. But his jump from village to university, from subsistence farming to founding a thriving business, is also one that encapsulates the change that is sweeping across the world’s youngest continent. Almost half of the 1.3bn Africans alive today were born after the terror attacks on America in 2001—the median age of 19 is less than half that of Europe (43).

Freedom House 2020: Africa In Freefall? – Analysis

By Arman Sidhu*

In its latest report regarding global civil and political liberties, the US-based NGO Freedom House concludes that a worldwide decline in democracy continues to persist in what the report describes as a “a leaderless struggle for democracy.” This year’s report marks the 14th year in a row in which Freedom House has noted an erosion of democratic norms. While strengthened autocracies are partially to blame, the two nations headlining the decline involve democracies, namely, the United States and India.

The emergence of illiberalism within democracies is a trend fueled by the election of populists, many of whom generate appeal through rebuke of global trade, migration, and multilateralism. The past five years have been particularly salient as recovery from the global recession has led to unfavorable and likely permanent structural economic changes for both developed and developing nations. From the displacement of labor, spurred by the outsourcing of entire industries, to austerity measures that have pared social programs, support for populist politicians and their respective ideologies do not appear to be an overnight phenomenon that will simply dissipate with time and the next election cycle.

Instead, in channeling the grievances of their supporters, leaders of autocracies and democracies alike have attributed blame to a myriad of opponents, including multilateral institutions (UN, EU, NATO, IMF), neighboring nation-states, in addition to religious and ethnic minorities. Such conditions have led to targeted policies and legislation, which in turn has fomented riotous violence, as is the case in both Hong Kong and India.

25 February 2020

China expands influence in Africa as US plays catch-up

James Stavridis

As China continues to implement its trillion-dollar Belt and Road infrastructure initiative, a principal focus will be engagement in Africa. China knows that Africa's youthful population is exploding, that the continent is rich in natural resources and that it is massive in geographical scale.

It represents a huge potential market for Chinese goods and a zone of significant political influence in countering the U.S. globally. But while China is alive to all these possibilities, and indeed is actively exploring them, the U.S. has only just started to play catch-up and faces losing out to its superpower rival.

Economically, Africa continues to expand in raw output, technological sophistication and growth, which may hit 4% in 2020. While some of the larger economies can drag down overall expansion, countries like Ethiopia, Rwanda and Kenya are showing strong growth.

Africa's population is already 16% of the world at 1.3 billion people, and is forecast to grow to 2.5 billion by 2050 and 4 billion by the century's end.

Specific examples point to the success of China's strategic approach. Just over a year ago, Senegal signed up to the BRI, becoming the first nation in West Africa to do so while welcoming Chinese President Xi Jinping in an elaborate ceremony.

22 February 2020

France’s Challenge in Africa

By Sylvie Kauffmann

A soldier of the French Army patrols a rural area during the Barkhane operation in northern Burkina Faso in November 2019.

PARIS — This is a war that escapes most radar screens. The French, whose troops have been fighting in the Sahel for seven years, ask few questions about their involvement. They should. In this crucible where Islamist insurgency, ancient local conflicts, fragile states, European hesitations and a shifting American strategy make an explosive mix, it is a war they may well be losing — or, in the best case, a war they may never win.

That is the somber warning that the chief of staff of the French armed forces, Gen. François Lecointre, delivered on Nov. 27, a day after his troops suffered 13 casualties in a helicopter crash in Mali during combat operations. “We will never achieve final victory,” he told the public radio station France Inter. “Avoiding the worst must provide sufficient satisfaction for a soldier. Today, thanks to our constant action, we are ensuring that the worst is avoided.”

16 February 2020

Surging Jihadist Wave In Western Africa: Conflict Spillover – Analysis

By Dr. Shanthie Mariet D Souza and Dr. Bibhu Prasad Routray

The Sahel region in Western Africa is witnessing a massive surge in terrorist attacks. Three countries- Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso- reported 4000 deaths in 2019 and the trend of staggering casualties in attacks by al Qaeda and Islamic State-linked outfits continues in 2020. The governments and militaries of the affected states are ill prepared to deal with the upscale in violence. With the United States of America considering pulling out its troops, 5000 French troops may not be able to contain the Jihadist wave in general and the resurgence of the Islamic State in particular, which may engulf the entire Sahel region causing deaths and producing thousands of IDPs. 
Spate of Attacks

On 1 February 2020, unidentified heavily armed men on motorbikes arrived in Lamdamol village in Seno province of Burkina Faso, north of the capital Ouagadougou and massacred 20 civilians.[1] The attack took place a week after a similar carnage in the province of Soum. Suspected Islamist terrorists had rounded up the villagers, executed the men and asked the women to leave the village. In early January, 36 people had been massacred at two villages in the northern Sanmatenga province. Jihadists also kidnapped and killed a Canadian mine worker and abducted two other humanitarian workers in December 2019. These incidents are the latest in a series of attacks that have taken place in this West African nation. A day before the 27 January attack, the prime minister of Burkina Faso and cabinet had resigned taking responsibility for the slide in security situation.

Facing Few Obstacles and Scant Pushback, Russia Keeps Advancing in Africa

By: Stephen Blank

According to numerous analyses published by think tanks and journals in the United States and Europe, Russia lost its African adventure before it even started. Purportedly, Russia lacks the resources with which to compete in Africa against the United States and China, acts there in a ham-handed and overly corrupt manner, deals only with backward authoritarian states, has nothing to sell but arms, and is primarily motivated by economic rather than strategic objectives (, June 2019;, April 2019;, October 16, 2019). Despite these expert assertions, however, this is assuredly not how US African Command (AFRICOM) evaluates the situation.

In his testimony to Congress, AFRICOM head General Stephen Townsend, made clear that his Command’s threat assessments see Russia (and China) continuing to seize all available opportunities to expand its influence in Africa. According to General Townsend, those activities are destabilizing and, extensive arms sales notwithstanding, do little to counter the epidemic of insurgency and terrorism endemic to places like the Sahel (, January 30, 2020).

14 February 2020

Conflict is still Africa’s biggest challenge in 2020


For the African Union, 2020 is supposed to be a landmark year. Its ‘silencing the guns’ initiative is aimed at ‘ending all wars, civil conflicts, gender-based violence, violent conflicts and preventing genocide in the continent by 2020.’ While no one can argue with that laudable goal, the continental body and its member states will have to work miracles to achieve it by the end of this year – especially when the trend seems to be heading in the other direction.

Patricia Danzi, Regional Director for Africa for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), recently told journalists in Johannesburg that her organisation – along with other major humanitarian organisations – was struggling to cope with existing situations that strain already limited attention and resources. More concerning still was that new situations keep cropping up.

‘Conflicts last and they don’t stop. And more are added,’ she said. She used Burkina Faso as an illustrative example: in 2019, 750 000 people were displaced by violence there, forcing ICRC to set up a new emergency response, while maintaining their operations in neighbouring Mali and Niger.

The pattern of new conflicts bubbling up alongside existing ones is likely to repeat itself

10 February 2020

India-Africa Defence Ministers’ Conclave: A Fresh Initiative – Analysis

By Ruchita Beri*
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The first India-Africa Defence Ministers’ Conclave on February 6 at the ongoing DefExpo2020 in Lucknow is a fresh initiative by India to enhance relations with countries in the continent. Defence ministers of about 14 African countries are expected to participate in the conclave. This initiative will provide an opportunity for India and the African countries to understand common security challenges and explore further cooperation in the defence and security sector.

African Security Challenges

In recent years, there has been an overall decline in conflicts in Africa. However, conflict continues to simmer in parts of the Horn of Africa, North Africa, West Africa, Sahel and the Great Lakes region. As in the rest of the world, terrorism and violent extremism is also a cause of instability in Africa. There are a large number of terror groups operating on the continent. Boko Haram continues to terrorise civilians in Nigeria and the neighbouring countries in West Africa. In the Sahel, a large number of violent incidents have been attributed to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) affiliated Islamic State in Greater Sahara and a coalition of extremists linked with Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM) or Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims. In North Africa too, threat from ISIS continues to linger. Similarly, maritime challenges such as piracy, armed robbery, and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, smuggling, human and drug trafficking have long troubled the Indian Ocean and Atlantic Ocean littoral countries in Africa.

7 February 2020

AFRICOM’s Assessment of U.S. Security Challenges in Africa

Yacqub Ismail

While there have been reports of a possible U.S. drawdown of forces in Africa as part of Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s review of U.S. force posture around the globe, the top U.S. general in Africa, General Stephen J. Townsend, presented his assessment to the U.S. Senate that: “A secure and stable Africa is an enduring American interest.”

In the 2018 U.S. National Defense Strategy, which serves as a guidance for the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. government prioritized addressing security challenges from China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea as well as violent extremist groups. AFRICOM’s new strategic approach to secure its interests on the continent are guided by the following: partner for success; compete to win; and, maintain pressure on non-state actors.

In AFRICOM’s area of responsibility, according to General Stephen Townsend, both China and Russia “recognized the strategic and economic importance” of the African continent and to address that, both countries are attempting to “expand their influence across the continent,” while violent extremist networks are “expanding in Africa at a rapid pace.” With China establishing its first military base overseas in Djibouti, just miles away from the largest U.S. military base on the continent, Camp Lemonnier, along with major investments in key infrastructures like seaports and airports that could be leveraged to “increase China’s geopolitical influence” throughout Africa.

4 February 2020

Africa is creating one of the world's largest single markets. What does this mean for entrepreneurs?

Gerald Chirinda

The Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is set to launch on 30th May. If every African country joins, it’s expected to be one of the world’s largest single markets, accounting for $4 trillion in spending and investment across the 54 countries.

The AfCFTA will give entrepreneurs across the continent access to a much larger market. It's therefore important that young African entrepreneurs understand how the AfCFTA could benefit them and their ventures. As awareness is raised, entrepreneurs should begin crafting new trade roadmaps for their businesses, informed by the agreement.

It's envisioned that the free trade area will lead to increased competition, innovation and prosperity for Africa’s people in the long term. But for the AfCFTA’s gains to be realized, entrepreneurs and policy-makers must be aligned. They must engage with each other to provide structure and clarity around how goods and services will move, and around the benefits that the agreement will bring to business. These discussions between entrepreneurs and the trade ministries of their country will also enable the review and updating of national trade policies, discussions which will benefit both the government and business communities.

3 February 2020

Human Rights Are Under Attack. Who Will Protect Them?

Globally, human rights remain under assault, whether by populist movements desperate to gain power or authoritarian governments eager to maintain it. Technology has opened up new frontiers for curbing people’s ability to express and share dissenting ideas. And broad assaults are underway on institutions like the International Criminal Court, which was established not only to offer recourse for the victims of rights violations, but to establish an international human rights benchmark. Instead, it is being replaced by a dangerous intolerance.

Around the world, populist authoritarians have built their movements by demonizing minorities. In Brazil, for instance, newly elected President Jair Bolsonaro reveled in his provocations calling into question women’s rights as well as those of the LGBT and indigenous communities. With their verbal assaults, these leaders and the movements that follow them are inspiring people to commit acts of physical violence. In just a matter of months last year, Jews were targeted in Pittsburgh, Muslims in New Zealand and Christians in Sri Lanka.

At the same time, the populist rise has invigorated civil society efforts to protect historically marginalized communities, including members of the LGBT community, religious minorities and indigenous groups.