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: 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.

Mubarak is gone, and the African Union is MIA

This coming Monday there will be a Foundation Laying Ceremony for the African Union’s new “Peace and Security” Building at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This buidling houses the AU’s efforts to support peace, security, and stability across the Continent. One can only hope that this structural foundation will be more than just material.  The Continent needs ideas, leadership, and resolve. So far, such things have only appeared sporadically in the rhetoric of the institution’s leaders. Nowhere have innovative ideas and leadership been more missing than during the recent string of political crises across Africa.

The events culminating in the departure of Tunisia’s and Egypt’s Presidents have received the most attention from the international media. What is striking is that at the same time these events began to unfold, 25 African leaders were meeting in Ethiopia for their regular AU Summit.  Almost nothing was said about Tunisia and Egypt. When leaders finally said something, it came at the end of the summit and was not part of the formal agenda. Perhaps ironic was what they did instead. The dictator of Equatorial Guinea, President Teodoro Obiang, was chosen as the AU’s leader for the year. Fortunately, this position is largely ceremonial and provides Obiang with little power. Unfortunately, it is symbolic.  Despite all of the efforts that some have made to make the AU a progressive institution, supportive of good governance and capable of efficiently reacting to the needs of its members, the AU is still in many respects a club for African leaders.  The choice of Obiang is not the only controversial choice AU leaders have made in recent months. Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe was called on by the African Union to help find a “democratic solution” in Cote d’Ivoire.

To be fair, the African Union has not remained completely silent on Egypt. As noted above, some comments were made outside the formal agenda regarding events in Egypt and a minor declaration regarding Tunisia became part of the final report. Also the African Union’s record on dealing with “unconstitutional regime changes” includes some positive actions in Togo and Comoros, as Adekeye Adebajo at the University of Cape Town has noted.

Additionally, one could argue that the political events in Tunisia and Egypt are primarily a phenomenon that belongs to the Middle East, that their relevance to African is peripheral. However, this would be wrong for several reasons. First, it would miss historical role that countries such as Libya and Egypt have played in supporting the AU and framing its agenda. Second, it would miss the ways in which the demonstration effects of Tunisia have reverberated in other parts of the continent. Most of the effects have indeed been felt in North Africa.  Northern Sudan has seen protests, and just on the heels of the historic election for secession by South Sudan. Algeria, reportedly, is also feeling the impacts. However, other parts of Africa may be getting picked up in the “contagion”.  Gabon has experienced unrest as well with an opposition leader attempting to claim the presidency, inspired by events in Tunisia and Cote d’Ivoire. Some are trying to find ties between Tunisia’s events and recent events in Zimbabwe.

Many countries in Africa seem to be going through an important period of political transition. It would be great if their Continental body could begin to play an active role in managing these transitions, both for these countries and for the African Union.