Thursday, April 15, 2021

New Africa-China Center in Ghana

 Based in Accra, Ghana, the Afro-Sino Centre of International Relations launched this month.  Its purpose is to assess China-Africa relations from an African perspective, moving away from the current trend of being scrutinized predominantly by Western scholars.  

Ethiopia: The Rape of Tigray

 Reuters published on 15 April 2021 a story titled "Special Report: Health Official Alleges 'Sexual Slavery' in Tigray; Women Blame Soldiers" by Katharine Houreld.

This is an unspeakable account of systematic rape in Tigray region by Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers.

Comment:  Blame for the outbreak of conflict in Tigray can be determined later and the guilty parties brought to account.  But there is no excuse for the continuation of the war crimes described in this article, which have also been documented elsewhere.  Enough is enough.  Why does Ethiopia's leadership allow Eritrean troops to remain in the country?  Why does the leadership of the Ethiopian National Defense Force not put an end to the raping of women in Tigray?    

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Eritrean Troops Reportedly Fire on Civilians in Adwa, Tigray Region

 Amnesty International posted on 14 April 2021 a press release titled "Ethiopia: Three Killed, 19 Injured in Tigray as Eritrean Troops Open Fire on Civilians."

Amnesty said it can confirm that Eritrean Defense Forces killed three people and injured at least nineteen in an unprovoked attack on civilians in the center of Adwa town on 12 April.  Amnesty called for an international investigation of this and other allegations of human rights violations, including war crimes, in Tigray.  

Somali President Roils Internal Politics As He Extends Time in Office

The Associated Press published on 14 April 2021 an article titled "Somalia's President OKs Mandate Extension, Alarming US, EU" by Hassan Barise.   

Somalia's lower house of parliament voted this week to extend in office for 2 more years the term of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo.  Elections scheduled for February 2021 had been postponed.  Somalia's political opposition protested the extension, the US expressed deep disappointment, and the EU said the decision could cause a "grave threat" to peace and stability in Somalia.  

Future of Africa-China Relations

 The Economist Intelligence Unit just released a report titled "Africa-China Relations Taming the Dragon: New Frontiers of Co-operation?"

China has worked hard to establish a solid footprint across Africa through years of high-level political engagement and the provision of access to much-needed project finance and expertise.  COVID-19 proved a difficult time for relations between Africa and China, with Chinese trade and investment stumbling over hurdles created by virus containment measures imposed worldwide.  Nevertheless, relations started 2021 on a reasonably strong footing, with China well on the road to recovery and actively seeking to protect its investments and shore up access to African markets, production bases and raw materials.

The foundation of China's new approach to Sino-African relations entails increased agricultural-sector co-operation in food production, storage and transportation; environmental initiatives to tackle climate change in the pursuit of sustainable development; digitalization of the continent and realization of opportunities created by the ICT revolution; health-sector co-operation to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic and disease prevention more generally; promotion of industrial clusters and knowledge transfer to boost African manufacturing; support for African regional connectivity in product markets and value chains facilitated through intra-African and international free-trade arrangements; and greater military and security co-operation in peacekeeping and counterterrorism capacity.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Egypt Ramps Up Pressure on Ethiopia over Nile Dam

 Washington-based Al-Monitor published on 13 April 2021 an article titled "Egypt Ramps Up Pressure on Ethiopia over Nile Dam" by Jared Szuba.  

Egypt recently held a military exercise with Sudan, which has generally aligned itself with Egypt on policy towards the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), and signed security cooperation agreements with upstream Nile Basin countries Uganda and Burundi.  This would appear to be an attempt by Egypt to pressure Ethiopia to accept its position on the filling of the reservoir behind the GERD.  It does not, however, indicate a willingness by these countries to accept Egyptian military action against Ethiopia.  

AP Account of Ethnic Cleansing in Tigray Region

 The Associated Press published on 7 April 2021 an account titled "'Leave No Tigrayan': In Ethiopia, An Ethnicity Is Erased" by Cara Anna and Nariman El-Mofty.

Based primarily on interviews with Tigrayans who fled to neighboring Sudan, this is a difficult to read account of attacks on Tigrayans in western Tigray Region.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Irish Times Account of Situation in Ethiopia

 The Irish Times published on 12 April 2021 an article titled "War in Tigray Threatens to End Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed's Dream of Unity" by Andres Schipani and David Pilling.

This is recent journalistic account of developments in Ethiopia, especially Tigray Region, that includes a visit to Tigray.  

China, Congo, Cobalt, and Cars posted on 8 April 2021 an article titled "World's No. 2 Electric Carmaker Goes Nickel, Cobalt Free."

China's BYD is the world's second largest manufacturer of electric vehicles behind Tesla.  China is trying to control the electric vehicle market.  The batteries for electric vehicles rely heavily on cobalt, which China is also trying to control.  Most of the world's cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

BYD has announced that it is scrapping nickel, cobalt, manganese technology for its batteries and switching to lithium-iron-phosphate batteries.  If other electric car producers follow BYD's decision, this raises interesting questions for the future of cobalt and the importance that China will continue to attach to the DRC.  

Djibouti's President Re-elected with 98.58 Percent of Vote

 Agence France-Presse published on 10 April 2021 an article titled "Veteran Ruler Guelleh Re-elected Djibouti Leader for Fifth Term."

Djibouti re-elected Ismail Omar Guelleh for a fifth term with 98.58 percent of the vote against a little known businessman.  The voting went smoothly.  Djibouti's main opposition parties boycotted the election.

Mechanism for Investigation of Atrocities in Ethiopia's Tigray Region

 Ethiopia Insight posted on 12 April 2021 a commentary titled "Justice Will Not Be Served By a Joint Ethiopia-UN Inquiry into Tigray Atrocities" by Getachew Gebrekiros Temare, human rights activist.

The author argues that the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission should be excluded from any investigation in Tigray Region because it lacks political independence, capacity, and experience.  He adds the office of the UN High Commission for Human Rights should launch an independent investigation.

Comment:  It goes without saying that whatever the composition of the investigation it include the killing of Amhara at Mai Kadra as well as the atrocities committed against Tigrayans.  

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Ethiopia Invites Sudan and Egypt to Appoint Blue Nile Dam Monitors; They Refuse

 Ethiopia's minister of water, irrigation and energy in a 9 April 2021 tweet from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs invited Sudan and Egypt "to nominate focal persons/dam operators to exchange data among the three countries with regards to the second-year filling [of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam] which will take place in July and August 2021."

Reuters published on 11 April 2021 an article titled "Egypt, Sudan Reject Ethiopian Proposal for Data Sharing on Renaissance Dam."  Egypt and Sudan rejected the Ethiopian proposal, arguing they want a legally binding agreement before there is any additional filling of the reservoir behind the dam.

Comment:  The Ethiopian proposal would seem to be a reasonable confidence building measure as negotiations continue.  What are Sudan and Egypt afraid of?  

Saturday, April 10, 2021

US Provides $152 Million of Humanitarian Aid to Ethiopia's Tigray

 USAID announced on 8 April 2021 that it is providing another $152 million in humanitarian assistance for Tigrayans in Ethiopia, bringing the total contribution from the American people to $305 million.  The United States is the largest donor of humanitarian aid in Ethiopia.   

Friday, April 9, 2021

Kidnappings Plague Chinese in Nigeria

 The Diplomat published on 9 April 2021 an article titled "Kidnappings Plague Chinese Worksites in Nigeria" by Shannon Tiezzi.  

Chinese nationals working in Nigeria have been subject increasingly to kidnapping for ransom.  They are seen as "sweet pastry" by the local kidnapping gangs.

US Strategic Competition with China: Implications for Africa

 Senators Robert Menendez (Democrat of New Jersey) and James Risch (Republican of Idaho) have introduced the "Strategic Competition Act of 2021," which is designed to counter China globally.  

The proposed legislation contains sections (271-276) on Sub-Sahara Africa that call for a series of actions by elements of the US government.  They include:

--A report that assesses the nature and impact of Chinese political, economic, and security sector activity in Africa, and its impact on US strategic interests;

--A report setting forth a multi-year strategy for increasing US economic competitiveness and promoting improvements in the investment climate in Africa, including through support for democratic institutions, the rule of law, improved transparency, anti-corruption, and governance;

--A review of the number of Foreign Commercial Officers and Department of State Economic Officers at US embassies in Sub-Sahara Africa;

--Establishment of an interagency working group to counter Chinese cyber aggression with respect to Africa;

--The commitment of resources to enhance the entrepreneurship and leadership skills of African youth with the objective of enhancing their ability to serve as leaders in the public and private sectors.  This will include the establishment of the Young African Leaders Initiative.  (This is a return to a key component of President Obama's Africa policy); and  

--A report by the US Agency for Global Media on the resources and timeline needed to establish an organization whose mission is to promote democratic values and institutions in Africa.

The Bill contains less detailed sections (281-282) for the Middle East and North Africa.

Comment:  While it is too soon to predict where this Bill is headed, it has bipartisan sponsorship.  It also deals with one of the major omissions of the Trump administration's efforts to counter China in Africa: no new proactive American programs except for the US International Development Finance Corporation.  The reports requested in this Bill are aimed at creating new programs and adding resources.  

Ethiopia's Conflict in Tigray: Challenges of Controlling Information

 Foreign Affairs posted on 8 April 2021 a commentary titled "Ethiopia's Perilous Propaganda War: Efforts to Control Information Are Only Hardening the Country's Divisions" by Nic Cheeseman and Yohannes Woldemariam.  

The news blackout in Tigray Region at the beginning of the conflict only added to the misinformation coming from all sides.  In addition, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has put himself in a vulnerable position by relying so heavily on Eritrean troops in Tigray while also charging them with atrocities.  

Cold War Brewing on the Blue Nile?

 Bloomberg published on 8 April 2021 an article titled "A Cold War Is Brewing on the Blue Nile" by Amr Adly.  

The author argues that in the absence of an agreement on water release from the reservoir behind the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, the Blue Nile could become the theater of a riparian Cold War, with the possibility of confrontation involving Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan.  

Collapse of Health Care System in Tigray Region

 The Lancet published on 10 April 2021 an article titled "Tigray Atrocities Compounded by Lack of Health Care" by Sharmila Devi.  

The author says there has been almost a total collapse of the health care system in Ethiopia's Tigray Region as a result of the conflict there.  

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Status of Talks on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

 The Associated Press published on 6 April 2021 an article titled "Egypt, Sudan Say No Progress in Talks over Ethiopia's Dam" by Samy Magdy.

Foreign and irrigation ministers of Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan recently met in Kinshasa for four days in an effort to reach an agreement on filling of the reservoir behind the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile and release of water from the reservoir once it is filled.  No agreement was reached and Ethiopia objected to the addition of the US, EU, and UN to the African Union mediation effort.  Egypt and Sudan want a legally binding agreement on the process for filling the reservoir and subsequent release of water; Ethiopia wants an agreement on general guidelines.  

US National Security Council Contacts Ethiopia on Several Issues

 The White House released a brief statement on 8 April 2021, commenting that National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan spoke by phone on 7 April with Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen.  Sullivan expressed "the Biden Administration's grave concern about the continued humanitarian and human rights crisis in the Tigray region."  They discussed steps to address the crisis, including expanded humanitarian access, cessation of hostilities, departure of foreign troops, and independent investigations of atrocities.  Sullivan said the United States is ready to help Ethiopia address its border dispute with Sudan and the issue of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.   

The Hill published on 8 April 2021 an article titled "US Expresses 'Grave Concern' over Harrowing Reports of Atrocities in Ethiopia" by Laura Kelly.   This article expands on the White House statement.  

Are Environmental Concerns Holding Back China's Dam Building in Africa?

 China Dialogue published on 7 April 2021 an analysis titled "Is China Edging Away from a Massive Dam on the River Niger?" by Fred Pearce.

The government of Guinea announced more than three years ago that the Fomi dam project was ready to begin construction, built by China and funded by China's Export-Import Bank.  Since then, ground operations have ceased and there has been political silence.  A number of environmental concerns have surfaced that appear to be giving China pause.  

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Ethiopian Government Position on Recent Developments

 In recent months, this blog has reposted a number of articles/commentaries critical of the government's handling of certain recent developments in Ethiopia.  It is also important to hear the government's side of these issues.  

"The Brief" of 6 April 2021 issued by the Ethiopian embassy in London offers a good summary of the Ethiopian government's position on ethnic attacks in Oromia, the situation in Tigray, upcoming Ethiopian elections, negotiations with Sudan and Egypt on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, and the Ethio-Sudan border dispute.  

Ethiopia's Oromo Youth: Divided and Disaffected?

 Ethiopia Insight posted on 7 April 2021 a commentary titled "Ethiopia's Oromo Youth Are Disaffected--But also Divided, Coopted, and Demoralized" by an anonymous person who lives in Ginchi.  

The author argues that ideological splits among Oromo youth help explain why renewed Oromo discontent is not leading to a resurgent uprising.  

Ethiopia's Ethnic Clashes Spread to Somali and Afar Regions

Aljazeera published on 7 April 2021 an article titled "Over 100 Killed in Clashes in Ethiopia's Afar, Somali Regions." 

Ethnic clashes between Somali and Afar pastoralists over disputed borders have broken out, adding to Ethiopia's woes.  The Abiy Ahmed government can't seem to catch a break these days.   

Nile Water Talks in Kinshasa End Without Agreement

 Reuters published on 6 April 2021 an article titled "Three-way Talks over Ethiopian Dam Fail in Kinshasa--Statements."

The three day meeting in Kinshasa of the foreign ministers of Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan ended without any agreement on moving forward with the filling of the reservoir behind the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile.  It is not clear what happens next.