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.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

China's Foreign Policy in the Arctic and Africa

 The latest issue of Arctic Review on Law and Politics published a study titled "The Arctic and Africa in China's Foreign Policy: How Different Are They and What Does This Tell Us?" by Christer Pursiainen, Chris Alden, and Rasmus Bertelsen.  

Just when you thought every conceivable China-Africa topic has been covered, we have this piece that compares China's policies towards the Arctic and Africa.  It concludes that China's regional strategies aptly reflect the overall grand strategy of a country that is slowly but surely aiming at taking on the role of leading global superpower.  

Is Ethiopia Stuck in a Guerrilla War in Tigray Region?

 The Guardian published on 4 April 2021 an article titled "Ethiopia Is Fighting 'Difficult and Tiresome' Guerrilla War in Tigray, Says PM" by Jason Burke.

After declaring a couple of months ago a decisive victory in Ethiopia's "police action" in Tigray Region, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has now acknowledged Ethiopian central government forces are engaged in a guerrilla war that is "difficult and tiresome."

Comment:  The outcome may well depend on how long Eritrean forces are willing to commit significant numbers of troops to the conflict in support of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces and whether they can maintain morale in a foreign war.

Eritrea's Goals in the Red Sea Basin

 The International Crisis Group posted on 6 April 2021 a 45-minute podcast titled "What Eritrea Wants" with Alan Boswell and Harry Verhoeven, a scholar on international politics in Africa.

Following the political transition in Ethiopia and Eritrea's alliances with Gulf states across the Red Sea, Asmara is looking to shape the region in its favor.  According to Verhoeven, Eritrean President Isaias believes the current conflict in Tigray Region is creating new political and security imbalances in the Horn of Africa that open the door to even more conflict.  Isaias is a realist who primarily acts to protect what he has built in Eritrea.

Chinese Investment Surpasses US Investment in Africa

 The London School of Economics (LSE) blog posted on 2 April 2021 an analysis titled "Why Substantial Chinese FDI Is Flowing into Africa" by Shirley Ze Yu,  senior visiting fellow at LSE.  

Drawing on information from the China Africa Research Initiative, the author notes that since 2013 China overtook the United States as Africa's largest equity investor as measured by foreign direct investment (FDI), averaging about $3 billion annually.

Comment:  True, but while US FDI to Africa since 2013 has been embarrassingly low and even negative during several years, Chinese FDI has been modest and generally flatlined.  This discussion also leaves out the more significant movement to Africa of FDI from the European Union and wealthy Arab states.  There is more to this story than the analysis suggests.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Tigray War Likely to Continue at Least Until Beginning of Rainy Season

 Ethiopia Insight published on 5 April 2021 a commentary titled "Why Peace Will Be Elusive in Ethiopia's Civil War in Tigray" by Kjetil Tronvoll, Bjorknes University College in Oslo.

The author suggests there will be no end to the conflict in Tigray Region before the start of the rainy season in June, after which military activity by all sides will be difficult.  This could result in a long drawn-out war.

Tigray Conflict Is Just a Part of Wider Challenge

 African Arguments published on 24 March 2021 a commentary titled "Ethiopia: The Wider Battle of Which the Tigray War Is Just a Part" by Etana H. Dinka, James Madison University.

The author argues that the war in Tigray is part of a broader political struggle in Ethiopia for the future direction of the country.  

Interview on Ethiopia and Horn of Africa with Oromo TV Channel

 Oromia 11 interviewed me for an hour on 4 April 2021 in a program titled "Waan Talk - Conversations on Ethiopia and Horn of Africa with Amb. David Shinn" hosted by Mathias Gudina.  

The conversation focused on developments in Ethiopia, both current and historical, but also dealt with related issues in the Horn of Africa.  Much of it concerned U.S. policy in the region.  

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Summary Executions in Tigray

 CNN released a five minute video on 2 April 2021 titled "'Two Bullets Is Enough': Analysis of Tigray Massacre Video Raises Questions for Ethiopian Army" that has been widely viewed on social media.  

The video shows the summary execution of young Tigrayans from the town of Mahibere Dego in a mountainous area of central Tigray.  This account explains how the video was made and how parts of it have been verified.  

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Ethiopia: Ethnic Issues in Oromia

 Aljazeera broadcast on 29 March 2021 a 25-minute video discussion titled "Is Ethiopia Hurtling Towards All-out Ethnic Conflict?" with Tewodrose Tirfe, Chairman of the Amhara Association of America, Zecharias Zelalem, journalist, and Awol Allo, Keele University.

The three panelists engaged in a heated discussion that focused on ethnic nationalism, the future of Ethiopia, and violence in Oromia.  There was little agreement.   

Washington Sorting Out Changing Politics in Horn of Africa

 Washington-based Al-Monitor published on 1 April 2021 an article titled "Sudan Takes Center Stage in US Regional Strategy." 

The article surveys the fast changing political landscape in northeast Africa and its impact on US foreign policy as tension mounts over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia and the ongoing conflict in Tigray Region.  Sudan appears to be a beneficiary of improving relations with the United States.  

Friday, April 2, 2021

Is Djibouti Relying Too Heavily on China?

Africa Times editorial board published on 31 March  2021 a commentary titled "Djibouti Increases Reliance on Beijing, But at What Cost?"

With elections fast approaching in Djibouti, President Ismail Omar Guelleh will likely emphasize vast loans and investment from China but the Africa Times editorial board suggests they "come at the expense of the entire country."

Ethiopia's War in Tigray: A Deadly Military Stalemate

 The International Crisis Group (ICG) published on 2 April 2021 an analysis titled "Ethiopia's Tigray War: A Deadly, Dangerous Stalemate."  

The ICG report predicts a protracted conflict in Tigray Region.  All sides are fixated on securing a military victory, which seems unlikely.  Urgent measures are needed to prevent a tragedy.   

Africa and the 2021 World Happiness Report

The World Happiness Report 2021 has just been released, which includes a ranking of happiness covering the years 2018-2020.  The focus of the report is a measurement of subjective well-being, which relies on three main indicators: life evaluations, positive emotions, and negative emotions.

The report gives the highest ranking to Finland.  The United States ranks in position number 19.  The highest scoring African country is Mauritius in position 50, followed by Libya at 80, and Republic of Congo at 83.  Seven of the ten lowest ranked countries are in Africa: Burundi (140), Tanzania (142), Malawi (144), Lesotho (145), Botswana (146), Rwanda (147), and Zimbabwe (148).