Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Unrest in Ethiopia: CNN Interview

 CNN Newsroom with Paula Newton did a five minute interview with me on 1 December 2020 titled "Unrest in Ethiopia."

The focus of the interview was on the regional implications of the conflict and where the situation in Tigray goes from here.  

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

China's Strategic Aims in Africa

 The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission published in December 2020 its "2020 Report to Congress."  Section 3 covers "China's Strategic Aims In Africa."

Section 3 is a comprehensive analysis of China's efforts to use Africa as a way to increase its global influence.  It explains how China benefits from Africa and contributes to the continent with a focus on security related components of the relationship.   

South Sudan Faces Climate Catastrophe

 African Arguments posted on 1 December 2020 a commentary titled "South Sudan's Leaders Can No Longer Stand By as Climate Catastrophe Hits" by Ayak Wel, health and water researcher, and Garang Achiek Ajak, social justice advocate.  

Flooding this year has displaced more than 800,000 South Sudanese.  South Sudan's government, which ranked among the five worst performing countries in the 2017 climate change vulnerability index, needs to step in to deal with increasing climate shocks.  

Monday, November 30, 2020

Russia in Zimbabwe and Mozambique

 The South African Institute of International Affairs published in November 2020 a study titled "Russia's Resurgence in Africa: Zimbabwe and Mozambique" by Dzvinka Kachur.

The report looks at two examples of resurgent Africa-Russia relations: Zimbabwe and Mozambique.  It provides a detailed mapping of Russian activities in these two countries.  The main focus is on extractive industries, arms sales, and political cooperation.  

US to Pull Forces Out of Somalia?

 The New York Times published on 27 November 2020 an article titled "Pentagon Chief Visits Somalia Ahead of Expected Troop Cuts" by Eric Schmitt.

The Acting Secretary of Defense met with American troops and the US ambassador in Somalia on 27 November prior to an expected controversial announcement that the US will withdraw nearly all of the more than 700 American military personnel in the country.  

Friday, November 27, 2020

Avoiding a Bloodbath in Ethiopia

 The International Crisis Group (ICG) posted on 27 November 2020 a plea titled "Avoiding a Bloodbath in Ethiopia's Mekelle."

As fighting between central government forces and the TPLF nears Mekelle, the capital of Tigray Region, the ICG urges Addis Ababa to pause hostilities while all sides minimize harm to civilians and the African Union steps up efforts to avert further bloodshed.  

Outside Powers Vie for Influence in Red Sea Region

 The Africa Report published on 27 November 2020 my analysis titled "The Red Sea: A Magnet for Outside Powers Vying for Its Control."

The overriding concern of non-regional actors in the Red Sea region is freedom of navigation from the Mediterranean Sea to the Indian Ocean.  This analysis looks at the quest for influence in the Red Sea waterway by non-regional actors such as the United States, China, Russia, France, and Turkey.  

Thursday, November 26, 2020

CIA Officer Killed in Somalia

 The New York Times published on 25 November 2020 an article titled "C.I.A. Officer Is Killed in Somalia" by Julian E. Barnes, Eric Schmitt, and Adam Goldman.

A member of the CIA's paramilitary division, the Special Activities Center, and former member of the Navy's elite SEAL Team 6 was recently killed in combat in Somalia.  The death occurred as the Trump administration considers pulling Americans out of Somalia.  

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Ethiopian Conflict: Role of the US and AU

 The Africa Report published on 25 November 2020 an article titled "Tigray: The AU Failed Ethiopia, While US Calls the Shots."

The article argues that the US is trying to prevent use of mediation to end the war between central government leaders and the leaders in Tigray Region because the US believes the central government will achieve a quick military victory.

Comment:  While it is questionable that this was ever US policy, it is clear that in the last 48 hours the US wants a cease fire followed by dialogue or mediation and, above all else, protection of Ethiopian civilians.  

Sudan's Role in Red Sea Basin Stability

 The Africa Report published on 25 November 2020 an analysis titled "Sudan--Red Sea Basin: Four Ways to Make or Break Stability" by Amani Al Taweel, Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Egypt.  

The author examines how Sudan's peace determines stability in the Red Sea basin.  The four key variables are the regional position of Sudan, its economic development, power sharing, and the role of Islamist elites in Sudan.  

Somalia Must Learn to Stand Alone

 Foreign Affairs published on 25 November 2020 a commentary titled "Somalia Must Learn to Stand Alone: Before It Can Stand Together with the Rest of the Horn of Africa" by Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, president of Somalia from 2012 to 2017.  

The author argues that neither Ethiopia nor Somalia is ready for deeper integration.  Ethiopia is sliding toward instability and preoccupied with both internal ethnic conflicts and border disputes with Somalia and Eritrea.  Somalia is too politically fragmented, fragile, and imperiled by extremists such as al-Shabaab to benefit much from regional integration right now.  

African Markets: Impact of China-less Recovery

 Allianz Research published on 10 November 2020 a paper titled "Emerging Markets: Heading for a China-less Recovery?" by George Dib, Francoise Huang, and Selin Ozyurt.  

The authors expect China to slow its international engagement over the next few years and its role as the global growth driver to recede.  They look at the impact on ten countries, including Angola, Kenya, Ethiopia, Ghana, South Africa, Zambia, and Egypt and conclude these countries could struggle to find alternative international sources for funding investment and trade.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Ethiopia: November 9 Massacre at Maikadra in Tigray Region

 The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission published on 24 November 2020 a report titled "Rapid Investigation into Grave Human Rights Violation in Maikadra Preliminary Findings."

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission deployed a team of human rights experts to Maikadra, in Tigray Region's Western Zone, to investigate the 9 November mass killings.  This sober report has the ring of credibility.  

US May Require Bonds from Visitors of 15 African Countries

Reuters published on 23 November 2020 an article titled "New Trump Rule May Require Some African Tourists to Pay Up to $15,000 in Bonds" by Ted Hesson. 

The outgoing Trump administration issued a new temporary rule that could require tourist and business travelers from 24 countries, including 15 in Africa, to pay a bond of as much as $15,000 to visit the United States.   

The Department of State published on 24 November 2020 the "Visa Bond Pilot Program."  Countries whose nationals have overstay rates of 10 percent or higher are included in the pilot program.  The 15 African countries are: Angola, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cape Verde, Chad, DRC, Djibouti, Eritrea, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Libya, Mauritania, Sao Tome and Principe, and Sudan.  

Comment:  This is one more landmine left by the departing Trump administration.  The problem of visa overstays by tourists and business visitors dates back many decades and does tend to be higher for nationals of certain countries.  The problem with this solution is that it seems to be predicated on two premises:  payment of a bond before travelling to the US will discourage overstaying and foreign countries need to do more to prevent the practice.

Payment of a bond will prevent most low income visitors intending to remain in the United States from travelling to our shores.  They will find it difficult to pay the bond.  It will have little or no impact on the wealthy visitors who can afford to forego up to $15,000.  The idea that foreign countries can prevent this practice by their nationals is ludicrous.  This is a personal decision made by each person who obtains an American visa.  What can a foreign government do about that?  Finally, what is magical about the 10 percent overstay number?  If a country has a 9 percent overstay rate, there apparently is no problem. 

Welcome to America! 

Ethiopia: US Policy During a Political Transition

 The Associated Press published on 24 November 2020 a story titled "With Ethiopia on Brink of Escalation, Diplomacy in Doubt" by Cara Anna.  

While the Trump Administration seems to be supporting the position of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, there are conflicting signals.  The National Security Council just called for mediation and backed the efforts of the African Union to end the conflict now.  Biden's secretary of state-designate called on the TPLF and Abiy Ahmed government to "take urgent steps to end the conflict."

Chinese Evacuated from Ethiopia's Tigray Region

 The South China Morning Post published on 24 November 2020 an article titled "Chinese Flee Northern Ethiopia as Civil Conflict Hits Region" by Laura Zhou.

China has evacuated more than 600 Chinese nationals from the conflict zone in Tigray Region.  Most of them worked at the Welkait sugar factory or were building a water project near Mekele.  It is not clear if they will remain in Ethiopia.  

Monday, November 23, 2020

Australian Broadcasting Corporation Interview on Ethiopia

 The Australian Broadcasting Corporation ran on 23 November 2020 a six minute segment on Ethiopia titled "Ethiopia on Brink of Civil War."  The interview with me focused on the current military situation between the central government forces and the Tigray People's Liberation Front in Tigray Region.

Foreign Policy Research Institute Podcast on Conflict in Ethiopia

 The Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) hosted an hour long discussion on 23 November 2020 titled "The Ethiopia-Tigray Conflict."

Charles Ray, chair of the FPRI's Africa program, hosted the panel discussion with Robert Houdek, former U.S. ambassador to Eritrea and former charge d'affaires at the U.S. embassy in Ethiopia, Emma Boyle, LaSalle University, and myself. 

The wide ranging discussion covered both the internal Ethiopian and the regional implications of the conflict.   


Voice of America Podcast on Crisis in Ethiopia

 The Voice of America broadcast on 20 November 2020 a 25-minute program titled "Ethiopia: Verge of Civil War?"

I joined Susan Stigant, United States Institute of Peace, on Carol Castiel's "Encounter" program concerning a wide-ranging discussion of the situation in Ethiopia.

Who Wins US-China Competition for Influence in Africa?

 The Washington Post Monkey Cage posted on 20 November 2020 a commentary titled "U.S.-China Competition May Be a Win-win for Africa" by Naunihal Singh, Josephine Appiah-Nyamekye Sanny, and E. Gyimah-Boadi.  

According to Afrobarometer, Africans generally have a positive view of both China and the United States and welcome the engagement of both countries.  The authors conclude the winner in the U.S.-China competition for influence in Africa could be all three.  

Averting a Humanitarian Disaster in Ethiopia

 Refugees International posted on 23 November 2020 a brief titled "Caught in the Crossfire: Averting Further Humanitarian Disaster in Ethiopia" by Hardin Lang, Sarah Miller, and David Del Conte.

The authors call for a negotiated ceasefire, establishment of a monitoring mechanism in the conflict area, access for aid delivery, the launch of a large scale aid operation, and commencement of a recovery effort to avert further humanitarian disaster.

Should the US Try to Negotiate with Al-Shabaab?

 Lawfare posted on 22 November 2020 a commentary titled "No Shortcuts to Negotiating with Al-Shabaab" by Tricia Bacon, American University. 

The author argues there is merit in exploring negotiations with the Al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab organization in Somalia even though all past efforts have failed.    

Aid for Sudan Linked to Recognition of Israel

 Borgen Magazine published on 23 November 2020 a commentary titled "Diplomacy Could Unlock Aid for Sudan" by Adrian Rufo. 

The author suggests that U.S. and Gulf State aid to Sudan is linked to Sudan's willingness to recognize Israel.  

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Ethiopia: A Moral Appeal to End Hostilities

 Ethiopia Insight posted on 22 November 2020 a commentary titled "A Moral Appeal to End Hostilities" by Genenew Assefa, former senior civil servant.

The author argues that both sides bear responsibility for the ongoing tragedy in Ethiopia.  In the absence of a cease fire followed by compromise, Ethiopia is in for a seismic humanitarian crisis.   

Reasons Why the US Should Not Pull Troops Out of Africa

 A recent issue of Prism published an article titled "No Competition without Presence: Should the US Leave Africa?" by Katherine Zimmerman, American Enterprise Institute.  

The author argues that the minuscule dollars and troops supporting U.S. efforts in Africa accomplish much more in terms of influence and effects than their redeployment to other theaters will in the competitive global field.  Reducing those assets too much will strain AFRICOM's ability to operate effectively.  To increase America's bang for the buck AFRICOM must innovate and transform its counterterrorism approach in partnership with the State Department and USAID in order to achieve enduring gains against the Salafi-jihadi movement, and cultivate strong African partnerships to counter Chinese and Russian influence on the continent.