Africa Notes: Spotlight on Angola

Inside Angola

This year may prove to be a critical year in Angola’s political development. The upcoming parliamentary elections are an important chance to move toward democratization. There will not be a presidential election as the presidency now goes to the leading candidate of the party who wins the general election, a completely unique selection mechanism (VoA). While there is an active opposition (UNITA still lives on), it is relatively weak. Dos Santos will likely remain President.

There are some positive developments in Angolan politics. While it is unlikely that it accurately conveyed the full human rights situation, Angola did– for the first time–present a report on its current human rights situation to the African Commission on People and Human Rights (Angpop). Their report is available here: Republic of Angola: Implementation of the African Charter of Human and People’s Rights. It should be noted that a number of African countries have never participated in the process and most have only issued 1-3 reports (ACHPR).

Angola and Central/Southern Africa
It is never entirely clear whether Angola fits best within our conventional understanding of “southern” or “central” Africa. Certainly, when viewed as part of the later, it is the dominant sub-regional power. Angola, however, may find its influence somewhat diminished by the recent coup in Guinea-Bissau. Angola has had a significant economic and military partnership with the ousted leadership and, as a brief statement by Executive Analysis suggests, the new regime is likely going to want to reduce at least some of Angola’s influence. That said, the coup planners have faced a number of important obstacles. It is still possible things will go Angola’s way.

Angola and Europe
Angolan-European relations continue to remain strong. Angola and the European Union are reportedly close to a new economic partnership deal (Reuters). This is being compared with the “strategic partnerships” Angola is or has negotiated with the US, China and others. Cooperation extends to political areas as well. Angola also reportedly invited the EU to send observers to monitor the election later this year (iol news).

Finally, Angola made a little bit of a splash in the news last fall when it became apparent that the former colony was now providing the investment its former colonial masters in Portugal sorely need. There apparently has been a little bit of a backlash, however, prompting Angola’s ambassador to defend those investments (Angop).

Angola and the US
Recent reporting by the Financial Times highlights a scandal in Angola-American relations. Three Angolan officials secretly had interests in a Houston-based Cobalt International Energy oil venture. The allegation is that these officials were bought off by Cobalt, making Cobalt potentially liable under US anti-corruption laws. One of these Angolan officials is Manuel Vicente, the recent head of state-owned Sonangol and widely regarded as a potential eventual successor to President Dos Santos (African Diplomacy).
        The Cobalt story probably first broke at Maka Angola, a site dedicated to anti-corruption in Angola.

Course Notes – GEP: Big Dams!

China’s Three Gorges Dam may be a huge mistake, reports Business Insider. Criticisms of the project are by no means new, but the most recent statements that 100,000 people may still need to be moved in response to landslide risks around the dam have brought its downsides back into focus.

Meanwhile, China continues to be involved in major dam projects around the world. One such project is the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, a project which is creating major conflict between Ethiopia and Egypt. The Economist recently called it the “jewel” of Ethiopia’s hydropower strategy, expected to generate 5250MW of energy when finished increasing electricity production in Ethiopia fivefold. This is more than twice Ghana’s current electricity production from hydropower. Here is Egypt’s Minister of Water, Mohamed Nasr El Din Allam, interviewed just recently:

In short, it would lead to political, economic and social instability. Millions of people would go hungry. There would be water shortages everywhere. It’s huge (The National).

While Ethiopia is funding much of the project by issuing its own bonds, approximately $1.8 billion in turbines and electrical equipment are reportedly being financed by Chinese banks (The Economist).

Africa Notes: News Around the Continent

All Africa
Several African women make Foreign Policy’s list of “The Most Powerful Women You’ve Never Heard Of”: Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Fatou Bensouda, Fayza Abul Naga, and Lindiwe Mazibuko.

The World Bank forecasts faster growth for sub-Saharan Africa based on high commodity prices and investments in mining. Growth should be about 5.2 percent this year for the region as a whole (Reuters).

Ghana, which has increased its borrowing of late–including recently asking for a 6 billion-dollar loan from China (Reuters)– apparently has some reason to think it can handle the debt. Vice President Mahama disclosed at the Third Ghana Policy Fair that Ghana should earn 1 billion dollars per year from gas (Samuel Obour).

Guinea-Bissau’s Coup
Coup planners are finding themselves in trouble with, well, with just about everyone. David Stephen has a nice discussion of the international community’s reactions to the coup (African Arguments).

On Thursday, we will hear the verdict for ex-Liberian President Charles Taylor, currently on trial at The Hague (Reuters).

Oil rights may be a new source for conflict between Kenya and Somalia (Reuters). Some cynics might even wonder whether this has been an impetus for Kenya’s recent military interventions in Somalia (which I have no evidence of!).

The crisis in Mali continues. Many of the top politicians have been arrested (Sahel Blog). “Loyalist” soldiers are apparently on their way north to try to reclaim territory from the Tuaregs (Reuters).

CNN has a special report on slavery in Mauritania (Global Voices).

Sudanese War
The conflict in Sudan shows no signs of letting up. Bashir reportedly has vowed not to negotiate:

We will not negotiate with the South’s government, because they don’t understand anything but the language of the gun and ammunition (Reuters)

Lesley Warner has a nice discussion of the reasons why Uganda might intervene in any Sudanese conflict (Lesley on Africa). I think the security concerns are probably the most important immediate impetus with economic concerns not far behind.

Uganda: Kony 2012
Ugandan troops are also still on the hunt for Joseph Kony, who is likely somewhere in the border regions of Central African Republic, South Sudan, or the DRC (Reuters).
Meanwhile, there are some new resources on Kony. Both include contributions from respected academics.

  • There is a new ebook, Beyond Kony 2012, which may prove to be an interesting read (I have not read it yet!).
  • And there is a new website,, which really looks quite comprehensive.

Africa Notes: Famous Africans, Kony 2012, and a Cocoa Map

Famous Africans
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan is on Time Magazine’s list of 100 Most Influential People in the World. Other Africans who made the list include: South African Paralympic medalist Oscar Pistorius, Egyptian Samira Ibrahim, Tunisian scholar-politician Rached Ghannouchi, and Gambian Fatou Bensouda, the new head of the International Criminal Court.

Kony 2012
Opinio Juris
has an interesting set online forum on “Kony 2012: The Social, the Media, and the Activism: Kony Meets World.”

The Cocoa Map
The Guardian’s “World of Chocolate” via Business Insider. Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire are the clear global leaders in production, but I must say I hadn’t realized how important Indonesia is to this market.

Africa Notes: Update on the Sudanese War

Updates (4/20): Uganda now says that it is prepared to help defend South Sudan in the case of invasion, which military analysts suggest makes that fight more than even (Washington Post). South Sudan is withdrawing from Heglig, the area I mention below (Times of India).

The conflict between Sudan and South Sudan is unfortunately developing rather quickly in a rather nasty direction. In my last post I suggested that South Sudan might have a claim to some of the moral high ground in the conflict, but recent events clearly muddy that picture. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called South Sudan’s seizure of an oilfield “illegal”:

I call on South Sudan to immediately withdraw forces from Heglig. This is an infringement on the sovereignty of Sudan and a clearly illegal act (Reuters)

Meanwhile, Bashir is firing up his rhetorical machine. He reportedly told a rally:

These people [South Sudan] don’t understand, and we will give them the final lesson by force. We will not give them an inch of our country, and whoever extends his hand on Sudan, we will cut it. (Reuters)

Over at The Economist, they captured an even more worrisome quote:

We say that it [South Sudan’s leadership] has turned into a disease, a disease for us and for the South Sudanese citizens. The main goal should be liberation from these insects and to get rid of them once and for all, God willing

As The Economist notes, one hopes that this is mostly just talk but the fighting that has already gone on suggests it could be more than that.

Africa Notes: The Sudanese War

The news is bad. Sudan and South Sudan are, reportedly, now “locked in a logic of war” (BBC). The key disputes center on the still-disputed border regions where oil fields are present. (Map available here.)

Khartoum, unfortunately, seem to be moving along the path towards further conflict. Reports CapitalFm:

Omar al Bashir’s government says that will conscript all its citizens to fight in an all-out-war with South Sudan following an escalating oil conflict.
Sudan’s Ambassador to Kenya Kamal Ismail Saeed said on Tuesday Khartoum would sustain the war ‘at all costs’ until Juba withdraws its troops from a disputed oil field in Heglig.

AlJazeera has posted this report on how the Sudanese Parliament is now calling South Sudan the “enemy”.

South Sudan, for its part, claims that Sudan is violating the laws of war, using “indiscriminate bombing” in its attack on Heglig.

Overall, I get the sense that Sudan may be beginning to win the land war, but South Sudan may be earning broader support from its African neighbors and the international community.

Regional Dimension
There is, of course, an important regional dimension to this conflict. Two regional powers, Egypt and Kenya, have made bids to help resolve the feud diplomatically.

Thurston reports on Egypt’s roles here. As he notes, “It is not like Egypt has resolved all of its own internal uncertainties, so the fact that Egypt is making the Sudans such a high priority right now says that Egypt is quite concerned.” My view is that Egypt’s current situation also means that it is unlikely going to have the kind of impact that is needed to resolve the situation.

With the case of Kenya, objectivity may be the big obstacle to their playing a role as peace broker. Kenya has been a big winner with South Sudan’s independence. It is likely, for instance, that oil will soon flow from South Sudan to its port of Lamu (Reuters). But the recent conflict threatens both those economic interests and potentially Kenya’s broader influence in the region. As Thurston mentions at Sahel Blog, concerns about future refugees and associated humanitarian challenges are also relevant here.

Ethiopia… well, there really isn’t much news about Ethiopia’s government playing a role in any of this, though they are the host for the African Union’s efforts. Indeed, Ethiopia and Sudan seem to have their own border dispute issues (Sudan Tribune).

Efforts by the African Union, including talks held since in July in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, have also failed thus far. As one security analyst notes: “Thabo Mbeki [former South African president who is leading the mediation] and his panel are losing their edge” (The Star).

The International Community
I am still not very clear on what roles China is currently playing in all of this. Ever since secession was clearly going to happen, China has actively courted South Sudan’s leaders. South Sudan’s President Kiir is due to make a state visit there within the next few weeks (Reuters).

As for the United Nations, no clear policy for dealing with the situation has emerged yet. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is making the basic pleas for peace. And the Security Council is hearing reports on the issue. One option on the table is sanctions (Reuters).

But we are all waiting.

Africa Notes: Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: not an American, but an African, and a woman

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala: A Missed Opportunity?
I meant to comment on this last week, before it became a moot point. But yesterday, the World Bank selected Obama’s nominee, Jim Yong Kim, as its new President (Business Insider). This should come as no surprise, as the US has always had its choice selected. And I am personally hopeful that he will do a good job.

Not an American
Nevertheless, it is still worthwhile to consider the significance of Ngozi’s candidacy. As Drezner noted, the rhetoric surrounding this reached a surprising level and for the first time the World Bank’s board did consider her in additional to the US candidate. Consider noted realist Stephen Walt’s mention of this as a “missed opportunity” for the US. He has interesting take on what the “smart” realist position should have been here:

Of course, realists expect powerful states to use international institutions to advance their own interests, which is why they want to make sure that the people in charge are reliable. If I were president, I would want the World Bank to be led by a highly competent individual who wasn’t about to harm U.S. interests. But a smart realist would also recognize that imposing the U.S. choice on others every single time is bound to trigger resentment, and encourage rising powers like China, Brazil, India, and others to redouble efforts to break Washington’s stranglehold. And every time the United States has to twist arms or use its privileged position to get its way, other states quietly seethe and anti-American forces are handed another nice talking point to use to undermine the U.S. image around the world.

But an African
Over at Global Voices, they bring the attention back to Ngozi herself, wondering whether the campaign was only symbolic.
Ngozi herself was very graceful in her concession to Dr. Kim. But she also noted that she saw this as a significant effort to reform an old institution. From her Facebook page:

by our participation we have won important victories. We have shown what is possible. Our credible and merit-based challenge to a long-standing and unfair tradition will ensure that the process of choosing a World Bank president will never be the same again. The struggle for greater equity and fairness has reached a critical point and the hands of the clock cannot be turned back.

And a Woman
So the dominant meme above is about the World Bank, the institutional reform that might be needed there, and concerns about North-South relations. We also hear online about how this was “a victory for Africa”. But it should not be missed that here we have a strong African WOMAN who played a key role in the political drama. Forbes recently listed her as the 87th most powerful women in the world. Had she secured the World Bank bid, I am certain she would have risen quite quickly in their rankings. She has a history of activism on the part of African women, s described over at the International Women’s Health Coalition. There she describes her “community” approach to supporting women’s rights:

In the early 1980s I got involved with Women in Nigeria (WIN), which was a women’s rights activist group and feminist organization with men members as well. I was one of the founding members of WIN, I started the Kano state branch, and in the mid 1980s I was the national coordinating secretary. But even at that time I felt that focusing on women alone would never bring about the kind of radical transformation of the conditions of womanhood that we envisioned for Nigeria—whether we were talking about patriarchy, or our relationships with men, or our ability to exercise our reproductive rights, or even our ability to attain reproductive health. Focusing on women or on one single issue was not going to do it—we needed to work with men and young people and women together. So, I felt that only by taking a community perspective could we create the sociocultural environment necessary for her to assert or express her full personhood as a woman.

Since those earlier days, she has risen to be a major force in Nigerian politics (the Finance Minister), and had a successful career with the World Bank, including being Managing Director prior to her current job in Nigeria. In Nigeria, her biggest battles have been against corruption. A brief recent biography at The Economist helps highlight how brave she truly is:

Death threats are no rarity, and the barrage of abuse from the national press and in online forums is continuous. Often referred to as Okonjo-“Wahala”, meaning “trouble” in pidgin, she does not tiptoe around. “If vested interests, benefiting from corruption, are attacking left, right and centre, then you are doing something right. The degree of attack is a barometer,” she says.

One of my favorite TED videos, which I often show to students, is her presentation on why Africans should accept aid. The pertinent bit begins at about 6:40, when she states:

African states have been giving the other countries aid… The UK and the US could not have been built today without Africa’s aid. It is all the resources that were taken from Africa — including human — that built these countries today.

This is a strong woman who would have been able to play an important role as head of the World Bank. But at 57 years of age, maybe this wasn’t her last chance?

See also The Guardian’s profile on Ngozi.

Africa Notes: Mali Update

Update: Just saw this link to a nice timeline of the conflict in northern Mali since 1891 on IRIN. (h/t Sahel Blog).

Things still look rather grim in Mali, though the situation is in constant flux. It might be useful to look at the situation from different vantage points:

The people of Mali
It is probably no surprise that in coups and wars much is done in the names of various peoples, but at least in the short-term, the peoples of Mali seem poised to suffer. While County and Peterson find that some in Mali may welcome the coup as an opportunity to introduce democratic reform, as Bonicelli suggests at Foreign Policy, the lessons for the impatient citizens in Mali might be the wrong one. Coups should not be normalized as a way to bring about democratic change.

Also unfortunate for the Mali people, and perhaps most immediately threatening, is a looming famine crisis.

And violence + famine = refugees here. The largest group outside of Mali is apparently in Mauritania (48,033) but at least 100,000 are internally displaced and others have fled to Burkina Faso, Niger, and elsewhere in West Africa. (IRIN)

The Azawad State
The rebels want their own state and even have a name for it (see Thurston’s comments at Sahel Blog). But what does it take to create a new state? What is required for secession to count? Lesley Warner’s take is that the Azawad rebels have “not been able to check the necessary boxes for international support” (h/t Sahel Blog). Indeed, ultimately statehood does rely on international recognition. So far, they seem quite far from getting it.

Over at Wronging Rights, they add a little more depth, citing the only document we have on what a state is, the 1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States.

The Government of Mali
The coup leaders did step down. But the new interim President, Dioncounda Traore, does not seem to want to keep things calm. As has been wildly reported, he is threatening “total war” on the rebels in the north.

West Africa
West Africa has a strong tradition of tending to its own political crises, via African mediators and its own unique regional organization, ECOWAS. All of this is happening here. President Compaoré (Burkina Faso), opened talks on Saturday between Mali’s politicians and military. Notably absent: the Tuaregs.

Meanwhile, ECOWAS’ Mediation and Security Council recommended a regional force be deployed should mediation by President Compaoré fail. However, that force is not intended to deal with the coup so much as it is to deal with the rebels in the northern part of Mali. This is an important sign that the Azawad state lacks the regional allies it would need.

The International Community
The French are clear about their interests. Sarkozy:

…we must do everything to prevent the establishment of a terrorist or Islamic state in the heart of the Sahel. (Reuters)

Gregory Mann notes that in Paris, however, there are lots of views on the streets about the events in Mali (“Bamako-sur-Seine”).

Also, UNESCO is worried about the cultural treasures of Timbuktu.

And So…
And so things continue to move. I shouldn’t try to predict but… my best bet is that we will see a gradual return to constitutional rule in the southern part of the country followed by a slow and torturous attempt to regain control of the north. ECOWAS will play a key role in this and a year from now we will barely hear anything more about it. But I really hope I am wrong about the torturous bit. I would much prefer that this become an opportunity for national dialog about how to better serve the needs of the Tuareg populations in the north.