Monday, September 26, 2016

Ethiopia's Danakil Depression

The New York Times Magazine published on 25 September 2016 some spectacular photographs of Ethiopia's Danakil Depression by photographer Andrea Frazzetta.

Somali Piracy Nearly Ended but Might It Return?

Foreign Policy published on 23 September 2016 an analysis titled "Why Is It So Hard to Stop West Africa's Vicious Pirates?" by Dan De Luce.

No cargo ship has been successfully hijacked off the coast of Somalia since the spring of 2012. So far this year, only three pirate incidents have been reported. The author warns, however, that complacency could lead to a return of the piracy scourge.

The article identifies a number of reasons for the sharp reduction in piracy. One significantly overstated explanation are the setbacks experienced in Somalia by al-Shabaab, which was not that closely tied to piracy and rarely controlled territory from which the pirates operated. The single most important determent was the placement of armed security teams on many of the ships passing through the waters off Somalia. Pirates soon learned that trying to board a ship was too dangerous.

China and US Ban Ivory Tade: Cultural Problem Remains in Asia and Africa

The South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) published in September 2016 a paper titled "Values, Culture and the Ivory Trade Ban" by Yu-Shan Wu, researcher at SAIIA, Stephanie Rupp, City University of New York, and Chris Alden, London School of Economics and Political Science.

China and the US have now both agreed to ban the trade in ivory. Local values and culture in Asia, especially in China, and certain African countries continue to challenge the ability of governments to stop the slaughter of elephants.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Russia Struggles to Regain Influence in Africa

Russia Beyond the Headlines published on 23 September 2016 a commentary titled "Russia Struggles to Regain Influence in Africa" by Kester Klomegah, an independent writer on Russia-Africa relations.

Klomegah comments that Moscow's long-term goals in Africa include developing investment cooperation, widening the presence of Russian companies in African markets through increased deliveries of industrial and food products, and enhancing Russian participation in driving the economic development of Africa. So far, however, he concludes this effort has been nothing to boast about.

South Sudan: Rethinking Support for Independence

The Washington Post published on 23 September 2016 an oped titled "George Clooney and the Rot in South Sudan" by Zach Vertin, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and former adviser to the U.S. special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan.

Vertin points out that some of the strongest supporters of South Sudan's independence such as George Clooney are now among its strongest critics. He asks whether they bear some responsibility for the deplorable situation in South Sudan. More importantly, he comments that as the United States calibrates foreign policy interventions in divided societies such as Syria, Yemen, and Afghanistan whether there are lessons to be drawn from America's unique role in South Sudan.

Warming in US-Sudan Relations?

Gulf News published on 21 September 2016 an article titled "US Eyes Rapprochement with Sudan in Nod to Allies."

Quoting the State Department press spokesman's friendly comments about US-Sudan cooperation on countering terrorism, the article suggests the US "is now eyeing a rapprochement with Sudan." I would caution that the US has been down this road on several previous occasions with no appreciable improvement in bilateral relations.

Is US Military Cooperation with Africa Working?

World Politics Review published on 23 September 2016 a commentary titled "U.S. Military Assistance to Africa is Growing. But Is It Succeeding?" by Nathaniel D.F. Allen, doctoral candidate at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies.

The author concludes that it is far from clear that AFRICOM is succeeding in meeting its longer-term objectives of deterring transnational threats and promoting regional security and stability.

Rise of China's Renminbi in Africa

The Centre for Chinese Studies (CCS) at Stellenbosch University published on 19 September 2016 a commentary titled "The Internationalisation of Renminbi in an African Context" by Yi Ren Thng, visiting scholar at CCS.

The RMB has become increasingly important in African trade settlements with China, but the author suggests there are challenges for the RMB to move beyond trade settlement.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

US Trade and Investment with Africa

The White House published on 21 September 2016 a fact sheet titled "U.S.-Africa Cooperation on Trade and Investment Under the Obama Administration."

This document offers a good summary of U.S. programs and efforts to increase trade and investment with Africa. U.S. investment in Africa has increased impressively from a total of $37 billion in 2008 to $64 billion in 2015. Trade, on the other hand, has dropped sharply from $142 billion in 2008 to $52 billion in 2015. Most of the decline is accounted for as a result of reduced oil imports from Africa following fracking in the United States.

Somaliland: The Argument for and against Independence

Pambazuka News published on 22 September 2016 a commentary titled "Somaliland's Sovereignty: Why Woodward Is Wrong" by Ahmed M.I. Egal, a Somalilander who grew up in Europe.

Egal takes issue with an article by Professor Peter Woodward, University of Reading, that appeared in an Australian journal. Woodward's article, which is available as a link, questioned the wisdom of independence for Somaliland. Egal rejects Woodward's analysis.

Ethiopia: European Investment Project for Ethiopians and Refugees

The European Investment Bank (EIB) published on 21 September 2016 an article titled "EIB President Pledges Support for 'Jobs Compact' in Ethiopia Tackling Migration and Refugee Challenge."

The article describes an innovative project whereby the EIB, World Bank, British government, and other European Union states would invest $500 million to build two industrial parks that would provide employment for 100,000 persons. The government of Ethiopia has reportedly committed to offer 30,000 of the jobs to the 730,000 refugees in Ethiopia from South Sudan, Somalia, and Eritrea. Some 60,000 jobs would go to Ethiopians. It is not clear what happens to the remaining 10,000 jobs. Europe's interest in this project is to reduce the flow of refugees to Europe.

While the project has much to recommend it, it remains to be seen if it would have much impact on the flow of African refugees to Europe. There is also the delicate question as to how you select from 730,000 refugees the 30,000 who would take up permanent residence in Ethiopia.

Is ISIS Making Inroads in East Africa?

The Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) published on 22 September 2016 a commentary titled "Is ISIS Making Inroads in East Africa?" by Sarah Graveline, IDA research associate.

The author concludes that the Islamic State does not seem to have the capacity to compete directly with al-Shabaab, but has found support among some radicalized youth in the region.

North Korean Nuclear Test: What is the African Position?

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in Pretoria published on 16 September 2016 an analysis titled "Africa's Role in Strengthening Sanctions against North Korea" by Nicolas Kasprzyk, ISS consultant.

On 9 September 2016, North Korea tested another nuclear weapon. When North Korea previously tested nuclear weapons, there was a deafening silence from Africa except for South Africa and Egypt. Since then, North Korea's influence in Africa has been waning. Trade has dropped sharply since it peaked in 2010. Botswana cut diplomatic ties with North Korea in 2014. Uganda disengaged early this year from its military and security cooperation with North Korea.

Angola, Egypt, and Senegal currently sit on the UN Security Council and will have to announce their position on additional sanctions against North Korea. The author adds that all African states, in addition to the three on the Security Council, have a responsibility to ensure that sanctions on North Korea are enforced.

Chinese Company Building Gas Pipeline from Ethiopia to Djibouti

Oxford Business Group published in English and French on 12 September 2016 a report titled "Djibouti Banks on Chinese Energy Demand."

A Chinese and a Hong Kong company are constructing the $4 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) pipeline from Ethiopia's contested Ogaden region to the port of Djibouti. The 700-kilometer pipeline will have a capacity of 12 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year. The primary buyer of the LNG is expected to be China.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Kenya and Somalia Dispute Maritime Boundary

Germany's Deutsche Welle published on 19 September 2016 a story titled "Kenya or Somalia: Who Owns the Sea and What Lies Beneath?"

It concerns the maritime boundary between Kenya and Somalia that extends into the Indian Ocean. The claims of the two countries are significantly different. The International Court of Justice in The Hague wants to hear both sides and will then decide whether it will initiate proceedings.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Africa and South China Sea Dispute

Last July the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines that China's claims in the South China Sea have no legal or historical basis. China has been waging a global campaign to obtain international support for its position in the South China Sea. Much of the information on the position of various countries is confusing. The Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies established the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative to track responses on the South China Sea dispute.

African countries are a long way from the South China Sea and seemingly have little to gain by being drawn into this dispute. Indeed, most African countries have remained aloof. On the other hand, China has growing influence in Africa and certainly pressured African governments to support its position. Prior to the South China Sea arbitration ruling, 16 African governments (out of 54) supported China's position that the Arbitral Tribunal is illegitimate. The 16 countries were: Algeria, Comoro Islands, Djibouti, Egypt, Gambia, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Somalia, Sudan, Togo, and Tunisia. Except for Gambia, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Niger, and Togo, the other countries supported China as members of the League of Arab States and the joint Doha Declaration.

Since the announcement of the arbitration ruling, the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative reports that so far only Sudan in Africa has joined with China in publicly opposing the ruling. Algeria issued a neutral statement without addressing the ruling. Other African governments have publicly remained silent.

The following African countries have not publicly confirmed China's claim of support: Angola, Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, DRC, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Can Japan Challenge China in Africa?

The Diplomat published on 16 September 2016 a commentary titled "Can Japan Challenge China in Africa?" by Jonathan Connars, an American investment risk analyst.

He concludes that if Japan wishes to challenge China's dominance in Africa, it has an uphill battle ahead of it. The article states that "no less than 39 African countries publicly opposed a recent ruling from The Hague declaring China's maritime claims in the South China Sea illegal" in an effort to underscore the weakness of Japan's support in Africa. The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, which tracks positions on the South China Sea dispute, reports that so far only Sudan in Africa has publicly aligned itself with China in opposing the ruling from The Hague. Algeria made a neutral statement without addressing the ruling.

China's Military Facility in Djibouti Ready in 2017

Fair Observer published on 14 September 2016 an article titled "China Sets Up Shop in Africa" by Jeffrey Payne.

The article provides a status report on the military facility, planned for completion early in 2017, that China is constructing in Djibouti. The facility will give China the ability to project power in both the western Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean.

Africa Accounts for Six of Ten Leading Refugee Producing Countries

The International Crisis Group published on 15 September 2016 an analysis of the world's ten largest refugee producing countries titled "What's Driving the Global refugee Crisis?" The global number of refugees and internally displaced now stands at more than 65 million, the largest figure ever recorded.

In 2015, Syria was by far the largest source of refugees followed by Afghanistan. But six of the ten countries on the list are in Africa. In descending order of significance, they are Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, and Eritrea.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Somalia: Good News on Piracy

The New York Times published on 17 September 2016 an article titled "Southeast Asia Replaces Africa as the World's Hotbed of Piracy" by Joe Cochrane.

The article reports that in 2015 there were 178 pirate attacks in Southeast Asia and NONE in the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea Region near Somalia. When it comes to good news, it is not often that we can celebrate Somalia. This is a case where major progress has been made.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Poverty and Terrorism in Africa

The summer/fall 2016 issue of the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs published my article titled "Poverty and Terrorism in Africa: The Debate Continues." It is only available by subscription or through a library.

My bottom line conclusion is that poverty is not and never has been the cause of terrorism in sub-Saharan Africa. On the other hand, it is one of a dozen or more factors that have contributed to an environment that has enabled terrorist organizations such as al-Shabaab and Boko Haram to draw support.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Ethiopia: Former President of Oromia Speaks Out

African Arguments published on 16 September 2016 a commentary titled "Behind the Ethiopia Protests: A View from Inside the Government" by Juneydi Saaddo, former president of Oromia Regional State and Ethiopia's Minister for Transport and Communication, Minister for Science and Technology, and Civil Service Minister until 2012.

Juneydi Saaddo concluded that the protests in the two largest regions of Oromia and Amhara were inevitable as these communities have been deliberately and systematically marginalized.

Japan and China Compete in Africa

South Korea's TBS eFM This Morning radio program titled "Issue Today: Japan's African Investment" interviewed me for 10 minutes on 13 September 2015 concerning Japan's recently held TICAD in Nairobi, Kenya and the competition in Africa between Japan and China. The interview focused on Japan's trade, aid, and investment in Africa.

You have to scroll to the entry in the right-hand column dated 0913 and cited as Issue Today: Japan's African Investment.

China's Response to Terrorism

The U.S. Center for Naval Analysis published in June 2016 a 186 page report titled "China's Response to Terrorism" by Murray Scot Tanner and James Bellacqua.

While there are only about a dozen references to Africa, this is an excellent compilation of the terrorist threat faced by China and its response both domestically and internationally. It contains the following chapters:

--An Overview of China and Terrorism

--Beijing's Perceptions of an Evolving Terrorist Threat

--China's Policies toward Counterterrorism

--China's Counterterrorism Bureaucracy

--International Cooperation

--U.S.-China Counterterrorism Cooperation

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Corruption in South Sudan

The Sentry, an initiative of the Enough Project, published in September 2016 a lengthy report titled "War Crimes Shouldn't Pay: Stopping the Looting and Destruction in South Sudan."

The report concluded that the top officials responsible for mass atrocities in South Sudan have managed to accumulate fortunes while the rest of the country suffers the consequences, in some places experiencing near-famine conditions.