Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Who Can Mediate Ethiopian Crisis?

 Daily Sabah, a Turkish pro-government daily, published on 30 November 2021 a commentary titled "The Conflict in Ethiopia and Prospects for Mediation" by Ismail Numan Telci, Sakarya University in Serdivan, Turkey.  

The author proposes a number of mediators for the Ethiopia crisis, including Qatar, which he argues can play an important role in mediating Ethiopia's rival parties.

Should the US Act More Like China in Africa?

 Foreign Policy published on 29 November 2021 a commentary titled "Washington Needs a Better Message in Africa than 'Don't Trust China'" by Henry Tugendhat, US Institute of Peace, and Kamissa Camara, Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.

The authors argue that while the Forum on China Africa Cooperation continues to be a successful tool for China's Africa policy, it is a painful reminder of America's diplomatic shortfalls in Africa.  There is simply no comparison in the depth and breadth of relationship building that China has developed with African leaders and future leaders for at least the past decade.  

Comment:  While the title of this commentary is accurate in that the US should not base its Africa policy on concerns about China, that is not currently the only basis for Washington's policy in Africa.  The subsequent argumentation then overstates the success of China in Africa, especially once you look beyond relations with African officialdom and include civil society, and understates the success of the United States in relationship building over the decades.  While there is plenty of room for legitimate criticism of US policy in Africa, there are also plenty of unmentioned missteps by China.   

Sudan's Post-Coup Agreement

 The Africa Center for Strategic Studies published on 24 November 2021 an analysis titled "What the Post-Coup Agreement Means for Sudan's Democratic Transition" by Joseph Siegle.

The Burhan-Hamdok post-military coup agreement has largely not been viewed as credible by Sudan's key domestic stakeholders.  Instead, it is seen as a means of affirming and legitimizing the role of the military in government and Burhan's position as head of state.  

Africa and Chinese Debt

 The Review of African Political Economy published on 24 November 2021 a commentary titled "China's Spatial Fix and Africa's Debt Reckoning" by Tim Zajontz, University of Freiburg.

The author argues that Chinese capital is central to Africa and China, just like other creditors, uses debt for the conquest of Africa and its resources.  

Africans Have Lost Some of Their Illusions about China (in French)

 Jeune Afrique published on 27 November 2021 an interview with Thierry Pairault, French economist and Sinologist, titled "Sur la Chine, les Africains ont perdu une part de leurs illusions" by Olivier Marbot.

Pairault says the last two years have not been easy ones for China in Africa.  It remains to be seen if China understands the changing views of Africans on certain aspects of their relationship.  

Sudan Street Protests Continue

 Reuters published on 30 November 2021 an article titled "Tens of Thousands March against Military Rule in Sudan, Met with Tear Gas."

Large street protests continue in Khartoum and other cities in spite of the reinstatement by the military of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.  

Monday, November 29, 2021

Way Forward for Peace in Ethiopia

 Chatham House in London published on 29 November 2021 a commentary titled "Can Ethiopia Avert Deep Turmoil and Prioritize Peace?" by Ahmed Soliman.  

The author calls for the engagement of regional leaders such as Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to help establish a cease fire in Ethiopia that would be monitored by a UN-mandated commission.  Eventually there must be an Ethiopian national political dialogue to accommodate different ideas.  

Communist Party of China Strengthens Ties with African Media

 Kenya's Capital News published on 26 November 2021 an article titled "China Media Group Sets Up Collaboration Platform with Africa."

The China Media Group, whose parent organization is the Propaganda Department of the Communist Party of China (CPC), issued a joint declaration with 36 African partners to establish a new collaboration platform with Africa.  The platform envisages exchange of content, exchange of staff, and co-production.  The head of the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee gave an opening address at the event in Nairobi, Kenya.  

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Oromo Group Calls for Confederation in Ethiopia

 Foreign Policy published on 27 November 2021 a commentary titled "Ethiopia's Breakup Doesn't Have to Be Violent" by Teferi Mergo, University of Waterloo in Canada, and Kebene Kejela, University of St. Gallen in Switzerland.  Both are affiliated with the Baro Tumsa Institute, an organization registered in the state of Maryland with ties to the Oromo Liberation Front.  

The authors of this controversial piece call for the different parts of Ethiopia to decide their future by holding referenda according to article 39 of the constitution, resulting in a "confederation" of Ethiopian states.  

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Ethiopia: Humanitarian Situation Deteriorates in Tigray, Amhara, and Afar Regions

 UN News published on 24 November 2021 a report titled "Ethiopia: Humanitarian Aid Needed as Situation Deteriorates in Tigray."

Tigray, Amhara, and Afar Regions are in dire need of humanitarian assistance.  On 23 November, 40 trucks with humanitarian supplies arrived in Tigray Region, the first convoy to arrive since 18 October.  Tigray Region requires about 500 trucks per week to meet its needs.  Humanitarian supplies also arrived in Kombolcha and Dessie towns in Amhara Region.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Comments to Aljazeera on Sudan

 Aljazeera asked me to comment on 25 November 2021 on the situation in Sudan in the aftermath of the reinstatement of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.  

Ethiopian Hate Speech on Social Media

 The BBC posted on 23 November 2021 an account titled "Ethiopia's Tigray Conflict: What Are Facebook and Twitter Doing about Hate Speech?" by Peter Mwai.

Both pro and anti-government users of Facebook and Twitter have posted hateful and inflammatory content in Amharic, Afan Oromo, Somali, and Tigrinya.  Social media platforms are caught in the middle as they try to manage these postings.  

China's Official Update on China-Africa Relations

 China's State Council Information Office released on 26 November 2021 a white paper titled "China and Africa in the New Era: A Partnership of Equals."

The release of the white paper was timed just before the meeting in Senegal of the Forum on China Africa Cooperation at the end of November.  While China remains an important partner in Africa, it is striking that its trade, aid, and investment have been flat or even declined over the last six or seven years.  

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Are Sudan's Generals Serious about Civilian Rule?

 The PBS News Hour posted on 22 November 2021 an article titled "What Reinstating Sudan's Prime Minister Means for the Country."

This is a good discussion of the options following the decision by Sudan's military to reinstate the country's civilian prime minister.  It raises the question, however, whether a civilian government, free elections, and democracy are realistic prospects for Sudan.  

The Crisis in Sudan

 The Council on Foreign Relations posted on 22 November 2021 a commentary titled "The Crisis in Sudan: What to Know" by Michelle Gavin.

This is an update on the situation in Sudan following agreement by the generals to reinstate civilian Prime Minister Hamdok to his position.  

Africa's Rising Cities

 The Washington Post published on 19 November 2021 a major piece titled "Africa's Rising Cities: How Africa Will Become the Center of the World's Urban Future" by Max Bearak, Dylan Moriarty, and Julia Ledur. 

By the end of this century, Africa will be the only continent experiencing population growth and 13 of the world's 20 biggest urban areas will be in Africa.  Using numerous graphics and pictures, this piece takes a detailed look at the future of Lagos, Nigeria; Khartoum, Sudan; Kinshasa, DRC; Mombasa, Kenya; and Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire.    

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Ethiopian Prime Minister Goes to Battlefront Wherever It Is

 The Associated Press published an article on 24 November 2021 titled "Ethiopia Says PM, a Nobel Peace Laureate, Is at Battlefront."  

As rebel forces slowly approach from the north Ethiopia's capital of Addis Ababa, the government of Ethiopia announced that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed arrived at the battlefront on 23 November to lead Ethiopian National Defense Force troops.

Comment:  The government has not yet shown any pictures of Abiy at the battlefront and it is not entirely clear where exactly the battlefront is located.  For that matter, it is not certain that the rebel forces even intend to try to take Addis Ababa.  It is a multiethnic city.  How would they control or govern it even if they had a military victory?  

How US Can Help End Conflict in Ethiopia

 Foreign Affairs posted on 24 November 2021 a commentary titled "How to Pull Ethiopia Back from the Brink" by Terrence Lyons, George Mason University.

The author said Washington should focus on encouraging a cease fire, even one that is implemented in stages, and seek to shape the subsequent peace talks.

China's Investment Flows to Africa Increase, But Total Stock Declines

 The Diplomat published on 22 November 2021 an analysis titled "The Quiet China-Africa Revolution: Chinese Investment" by Yike Fu, Development Reimagined.

Chinese FDI flows to Africa reached $5.4 billion in 2018 and then declined in 2019 to $2.7 billion.  In 2020, they increased to $4.2 billion.  More significantly, total Chinese investment stock in Africa peaked at $46.1 billion in 2018 and fell to $43.4 billion in 2020.  

The construction sector, for example toll roads and the building of Chinese-operated special economic zones, accounted for 35 percent of total FDI in 2020.  The next highest sector was mining at 21 percent.   

China's Financing Falls for Belt and Road Countries

 Reuters published on 22 November 2021 an article titled "African Nations Mend and Make Do As China Tightens Belt and Road" by Duncan Miriri.

Belt and Road Initiative loans dropped 54 percent from 2019 to 2020.  In Africa, China's financing fell from $11 billion in 2017 to $3.3 billion in 2020.  Concerns about debt and sustainability account for much of the drop. 

US Fears Military Developments Outrunning Diplomacy in Ethiopia

 The Voice of America posted on 23 November 2021 a story titled "US Envoy Concerned Military Developments in Ethiopia May Outpace Diplomacy."

The US opposes a Tigrayan Defense Force takeover of Addis Abba or cutting the main road between Addis Ababa and Djibouti.  It fears, however, that military developments are overtaking efforts to deescalate the conflict.  

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Ethiopia: Will History Repeat Itself?

 The Conversation published on 21 November 2021 a commentary titled "Ethiopia's Civil War: Five Reasons Why History Won't Repeat Itself" by Tobias Hagmann, Roskilde University.  

The author says there are 5 reasons why the Abiy Ahmed government will not come to the same end as the Derg regime did in 1991:

--Abiy Ahmed's leadership is not deeply unpopular.

--The federal army is weaker and regional security forces are stronger.

--Political alliances are fragile.

--Eritrean forces backed the TPLF in 1991; now they back the central government.

--Tigrayan leaders are divided on the long-term future of their region.  

China's Investment in Africa Is Tiny Percent of Its Global Investment

 China's global outward foreign direct investment stock at the end of 2020 reached $2.58 trillion, according to a report released by China's Ministry of Commerce.  This ranks China just behind the United States and the Netherlands as reported by the Global Times.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, commented on 22 November 2021 that China's outward foreign direct investment stock in Africa now totals $43.4 billion, the fourth highest amount in Africa.  

Comment:  While Chinese outward FDI has increased significantly in the 21st century, what is even more striking is how little of it has gone to Africa.   

Ethiopian Prime Minister to Join Battlefront

 Aljazeera published on 23 November 2021 an article titled "Ethiopia's PM Abiy Ahmed Vows to Lead Army 'from the battlefront'." 

Beginning November 24, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said he will mobilize to the battlefront to lead the Ethiopian National Defense Forces against the Tigrayan Defense Forces.  

US Military Assistance Nearby if Situation Worsens in Ethiopia

 CNN posted on 22 November a story titled "US Has Positioned Special Ops Near Ethiopia for Potential US Embassy Assistance" by Jennifer Hansler, Katie Bo Lillis, Jim Sciutto, Barbara Starr, and Natasha Bertrand.

Some Army Rangers have been assigned to the American military base in Djibouti in the event the situation worsens in Ethiopia and it is necessary to assist in the evacuation of Americans.  Three American naval vessels in the Middle East have also been put on standby to provide support for a potential evacuation.