Monday, July 21, 2014

UN Monitoring Group Alleges Conspiracy to Divert Somali Assets

Reuters published on 15 July 2014 a story titled "Exclusive: U.N. Monitors Allege 'Conspiracy' to Divert Somali Assets" by Louis Charbonneau and Drazen Jorgic.  It is based on a 37 page confidential document prepared by the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group, an 8-person committee established by the United Nations.

The document says the UN Monitoring Group has obtained information that "reflects exploitation of public authority for private interests and indicates at the minimum a conspiracy to divert the recovery of overseas assets in an irregular manner."  The document implicates a U.S.-based law firm, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, a former foreign minister, and two other individuals.

All those accused of involvement in the plan to divert assets have denied any wrongdoing. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Ethiopia: Teddy Afro's "Tikur Sew"

The Africa Collective published on 8 June 2014 commentary titled "Teddy Afro's 'Tikur Sew'--Ethnic Politics and Historical Narrative" by Rachael Hill, a PhD candidate at Stanford University.  It is an analysis of Ethiopian singer Teddy Afro's 2012 album Tikur Sew (Black Man).  The title track is a tribute to late 19th and early 20th century Emperor Menilik II and the Ethiopian victory over the Italians at Adwa.

Civil Society and the South Sudan Crisis

The International Crisis Group (ICG) published on 14 July 2014 a commentary titled "Civil Society and the South Sudan Crisis" by Jerome Tubiana, ICG's senior analyst for Sudan.  The analysis draws heavily on the author's experience with the crisis in Darfur and concludes that civil society representatives must provide substantive input to the mediation's outputs--from the basic framework agreement to a new constitution.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

China: Handling Criticism and Its Impact on Africa

The Oxford University China Africa Network published on 27 May 2014 an opinion piece titled "China: Quashing Criticism at Home and Abroad" by Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch.  It is critical of the way that China suppresses criticism in China and alleged support by Chinese companies for controlling information in countries such as Ethiopia and Zambia. 

African Development and the China Model

The Oxford University China-Africa Network (OUCAN) has just published a summary of a June 2014 conference on "African Development, The China Model and the Poltics of Industrialization," which it held jointly with Fudan University.

The key conclusions were that China still lacks the confidence or political will to promote actively or export a "China model."  Western and Chinese approaches to the global political economy are not as great as is often alleged.  In Africa and elsewhere, China is increasingly seen not as a radically unique partner or threat, but as a normal great power.  Chinese involvement in the mediation of conflict in South Sudan is raising questions about its cardinal principle of upholding sovereignty. 

Rocky Road Ahead for China-Africa Relationship?

This is Africa published on 16 July 2014 a brief analysis titled "Rocky Road Ahead for China-Africa Relationship?" by Kai Xue, a corporate lawyer in Beijing.  The author notes that China-Africa trade grew from a less than anticipated $198.5 billion in 2012 to $210.2 billion in 2013.  While lower prices for African minerals accounted for much of this lower growth, instability in areas where China has invested also raises new questions.  Kai Xue concludes that China and Africa are entering a "less energetic phase of growth due mainly to low mineral prices."

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

South Sudan: Francis Deng Tries to Put on Best Face

Foreign Policy published on 14 July 2014 an article titled "Responsibility to Protect the Bad Guys" by Colum Lynch.  It is an analysis of efforts by Francis Deng, South Sudan's permanent representative to the United Nations, to put the best face on developments in South Sudan. 

China's Priorities in Africa

Chatham House in London just released a summary of a 13 June 2014 discussion with Zhong Jianhua, China's special representative for African Affairs, titled "China's Priorities in Africa: Enhancing Engagements."

Ambassador Zhong explains that he spends much of his time on South Sudan but also is engaged with Somalia, DRC, CAR, and Mali.  He frankly acknowledges that Chinese companies operating in Africa are sometimes uninformed about the political situation while others try to hide problems from the local Chinese embassy.  

Monday, July 14, 2014

Kenya: Aftermath of the Westgate Mall Attack

The Foreign Service Journal published by the American Foreign Service Association carried an article in its July/August 2014 edition titled "Westgate: The Other Nairobi and the Future of Kenya" by Joash Omondi, a journalism student at the United States International University in Nairobi.

The author argues that nothing seems to have changed in Kenya since the terrorist attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi last year.  One is left with the sense that there is nothing to stop the next attack. Kenya continues to endure all the old problems that plagued it before the terrorist attack.  Terrorism is not the biggest problem facing Kenya.  The bigger problem is the complacency of a system that is now failing to combat terrorism. What is needed is a mobilization of the "Kenyan Spirit."

Stopping Somali Piracy: Build Infrastructure and Encourage Regional Trade

The British Journal of Criminology recently published an analysis titled "The Protection Choice: An Application of Protection Theory to Somali Piracy" by Anja Shortland, reader in political economy at King's College London, and Frederico Varese, professor of criminology at Nuffield College at University of Oxford.  (It takes a little time for the article to transfer.)

The authors conclude that building infrastructure, fostering regional trade, and more generally providing alternative sources of income to local communities in Somalia is the best way to fight piracy.  While this is not a new argument, the authors put more flesh on the bone than most others who have suggested this approach.  The authors also acknowledge there has been a sharp drop in Somali piracy over the past two years for other reasons.

The Conversation published on 10 July 2014 a summary of their arguments titled "Want to Stop Somali Piracy? Build Better Roads."

Thursday, July 10, 2014

China Issues White Paper on Foreign Aid

China's Information Office of the State Council issued a white paper on foreign aid in July.  It states that from 2010 to 2012, China appropriated about $14 billion in foreign aid globally.  It is not clear that this amount meets the OECD definition of foreign assistance.  More than half of the aid went to 51 African countries.  China also relieved the debt of the following countries: Tanzania, Zambia, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Mali, Togo, Benin, Cote d'Ivoire, and Sudan. 

The Somali Charcoal Industry-Strange Bedfellows

The Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA) Africa Watch published on 10 July 2014 a brief account titled "The Somali Charcoal Industry-Strange Bedfellows" by George F. Ward, research staff member at IDA.

The article, which is based on a major report dealing with global environmental issues by the UN Environmental Program (UNEP) and Interpol, comments on the unusual ties in the illegal charcoal trade involving al-Shabaab, the Gulf States, the Ras Kamboni militia, and the Kenyan Defense Forces in Somalia. 

Business as Usual in South Sudan

Pambazuka News published on 10 July 2014 commentary titled "In South Sudan, It Will Be Back to Business as Usual" by Maker Mayek Riak, a lawyer of the Supreme Courts of the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory.  The author takes a pessimistic view about the future of governance in South Sudan. 

Kenya, Extremism, and Domestic Politics

The Nairobi office of the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) published an analysis on 4 July 2014 titled "Politics and Terrorism: Kenya's Ticking Time Bombs" by Peter Aling'o, senior researcher at ISS.  He argues that Kenya's response to recent terrorist attacks in Kenya's coastal region where al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility is becoming mired down in domestic political in-fighting. 

Foreign Affairs published on 9 July 2014 an analysis titled "Kenya Divided: Why the Showdown between Kenyatta and Odinga Is Empowering al-Shabaab" by Paul Hidalgo, an analyst of politics and extremism in the Horn of Africa.  The author makes an argument that is similar to the one made by Aling'o.  You must subscribe to Foreign Affairs to see the entire article or you can register for free to receive up to three articles.

The weekly radio program known as Global Journalist, an NPR affiliate out of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, did a half hour program on this topic on 10 July 2014.  The panelists were Uduak Amimo, who has a radio show in Nairobi, Harrison Misiko, former editor of Kenya's Daily Nation and currently with the Washington Post, and myself.  Click here to access the program.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Defeating Al-Shabaab and Dismembering Somalia

Aljazeera published on 1 July 2014 commentary titled "Defeating Al-Shabaab and Dismembering Somalia" by Abdi Ismail Samatar, University of Minnesota.  Highly critical of current policy by the Somali government and the international community, Samatar concludes that "al-Shabaab might no longer have the capacity to control large areas, but its defeat will likely produce a failed country with a failed state vulnerable to foreign domination." 

Monday, July 7, 2014

The War against Al-Shabaab

International Affairs published in July 2014 an article titled "After Westgate: Opportunities and Challenges in the War against Al-Shabaab" by Paul D. Williams, George Washington University.

Williams concludes that the Somali government must now deliver on its promises to provide the residents of settlements recovered from al-Shabaab with basic services, administration, and protection.  For its part, al-Shabaab is entering the beginning of its political end game.  With power now consolidated in its extremist fringe, its continued terror tactics are unlikely to win it more supporters within Somalia. 

Crisis Group Warning on South Sudan

The International Crisis Group (ICG) issued on 7 July 2014 a conflict alert titled "Halting South Sudan's Spreading Civil War."  The brief analysis cites a number of growing threats to stability in South Sudan and ends with ten recommendations for averting further violence.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Premier Li Keqiang Visit to Africa and Chinese Aid to Africa

NewsChina published on 1 July 2014 an article on Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's May visit to Ethiopia, Nigeria, Angola, and Kenya titled "Forward March" by Yu Xiaodong.  The trip was designed to inject new vitality into the China-Africa relationship.

The same edition also ran an article titled "A Smarter Helping Hand: Mixed Attitudes towards China's Aid in Africa Highlight the Necessity of a New Aid Strategy" by Li Jia.  The article urges more transparency in the aid relationship. 

Alternatives for Conflict Transformation in Somalia

The Life and Peace Institute (LPI) in Uppsala, Sweden, recently published a study titled "Alternatives for Conflict Transformation in Somalia: A Snapshot and Analysis of Key Political Actors' Views and Strategies."  LPI is an international center that supports non-violent approaches to conflict transformation.

The study concludes that dividing Somali political actors into two categories, extremists and moderates, has produced a distorted understanding of the conflict and undermined the political and military effort to resolve it and rebuild the Somali state.  The study was conceived to address the distorting effect of the counterterrorism discourse.  A key finding is that Somalia, particularly south-central Somalia, is more diverse politically than the binary terrorism-counterterrorism discussion suggests.  The conflict is also more multi-layered and multidimensional than the picture painted by the counterterrorism narrative. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Sudan: Environmental Governance for Peacebuilding in Darfur

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) published in June 2014 a report titled "Relationships and Resources: Environmental Governance for Peacebuilding and Resilient Livelihoods in Sudan." 

The report argues that achieving peace in Darfur requires an approach that includes both technical work to restore degraded natural resources and one that rebuilds new forms of environmental governance and political work capable of establishing a shared vision, resolving conflicts, and advancing new forms of governance.  The report describes practical experiences undertaken by UNEP and numerous  partners in government and civil society between 2007 and 2014 to support Darfur's own efforts to develop new inclusive and participatory approaches to environmental governance.  It focuses on the process by which governance and peacebuilding may be promoted using natural resources as the basis for rebuilding key relationships and trust. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Pastoral Life in Ethiopia's Somali Region

The Inter Press Service published on 30 June 2014 a human interest story titled "Trekking with Ethiopia's Nomads, from Watering Holes to Pasture Lands, for a Better Life" by William Lloyd-George.  The article, which includes pictures, focuses on pastoralism in Ethiopia's Somali Region. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

U.S. Policy in Somalia

Somali Current published on 28 June 2014 brief commentaries by three persons titled "'New' U.S. Foreign Policy in Somalia," which evaluate the recent policy speech on Somalia by U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Wendy Sherman.  The contributors were Mohamoud Gaildon, a medical doctor at St. Vincent Hospital in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Abukar Arman, former Somalia Special Envoy to the United States, and myself. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Somalia: Al-Shabaab -- It Will Be a Long War

The International Crisis Group (ICG) published on 26 June 2014 a solid and detailed analysis titled "Somalia: Al-Shabaab -- It Will Be a Long War."

ICG concluded that al-Shabaab represents a culmination of the long-term shift toward social conservatism in Somalia that is difficult to reverse.  As an insurgent group, al-Shabaab retains core constituencies in many parts of south-central Somalia that are not currently addressed by locally-acceptable governance alternatives.  As an organization, al-Shabaab has demonstrated an aptitude for strategic planning that should not be underestimated.  It remains rooted in its Somali context, is willing to learn and benefit from external influence--notably al-Qaeda--while retaining a strong inclination toward local autonomy. 

Sudan: Return of the Janjaweed

The Enough Project published in June 2014 a report titled "Janjaweed Reincarnate: Sudan's New Army of War Criminals" by Akshaya Kumar and Omer Ismail, both with the Center for American Progress in Washington.  This is a worrisome account about an organization that did so much damage in Darfur in the early 1990s and now reportedly has even closer ties with the government of Sudan. 

Stunning Travel Photos of Ethiopia

In a blog contribution titled "Travel to Ethiopia: First Impressions," husband and wife Daniel Noll and Audrey Scott provide some excellent photographs of various aspects of Ethiopia.

Olivier Grundewald adds some incredible pictures taken in Ethiopia's Danakil Depression.

Great Journeys published on 6 June 2014 a travel article titled "On Foot Through Ethiopia's Forgotten Land" by Mike Carter.  It includes pictures of landscapes in Tigray Region.