Leaders of some African governments are asserting themselves with regard to bilateral and multilateral relationships in response to the covid-19 pandemic and racism against African Americans and Africans abroad.
"A Seat at the Table: African Leadership in a Post-Covid-19 World" - CSIS
"African leaders and civil society are chastising their important trading and security partners for real and perceived slights during the Covid-19 pandemic and in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. While far from unprecedented, African admonishments of foreign partners have rarely been as forceful, sustained, or public. These rebukes are setting the stage for a recalibration of Africa’s ties with China, the United States, and other foreign governments."
There are fewer than 2000 ventilators in the 41 African countries that reported numbers to the World Health Organization. The Washington Postreports that, "Somalia’s Health Ministry still doesn’t have a single one. The Central African Republic has three. South Sudan, four. Liberia, five. Nigeria, with a population two-thirds that of the United States, has fewer than 100." Other more basic equipment is also in very short supply in some countries.
"Africa's Most Vulnerable Countries Have Few Ventilators - or None at All" - Washington Post
Kenya's faltering economy as a result of the fallout of the covid-19 pandemic is furthering imperiling its ability to pay $9 billion it owes China for Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects. As is many countries, in Kenya the BRI's "opaque contract terms and processes, unsustainable projects, and insensitivity to local concerns have led many Kenyans to question BRI’s benefits."
"Belt and Road in Kenya: Covid-19 Sparks a Reckoning with Debt and Dissatisfaction" - Africa in Transition Blog, Council on Foreign Relations
This is an interesting reflection on recent coups in Guinea, Mali, and Chad. Coups in Africa have sadly been numerous in the post-colonial era, but have been less frequent in recent years.
"Coups Are Back in West Africa" - Council on Foreign Relations
This fascinating article explores the geostrategic dimensions of the civil war in Libya. The author argues that the UN must broker a settlement since a number of external actors, including the UAE, Turkey, Qatar, Russia, and others, are exerting considerable influence in the conflict. The article provides helpful background on the conflict beginning with the aftermath of the 2011 Arab Spring and describing the increasing complexity of the conflict leading to the present.
"Geostrategic Dimensions of Libya's Civil War" - Africa Center for Strategic Studies
Intelligence officials have averted a major attack on the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Addis Ababa. North American and Israeli intelligence agencies believe that Iran is to blame, and that it is planning to attack soft targets in Africa in retribution for losses it has suffered at the hands of western powers in recent years. The UAE was likely been targeted for recently normalizing relations with Israel. Intelligence officials have indicated that a second attack was planned for the UAE's embassy in Khartoum, Sudan.
"In a Dangerous Game of Cat and Mouse, Iran Eyes New Targets in Africa" - New York Times
It makes sense that most migrants move within their continent or even within their country. But the news in recent years about African migrants has been all about Africans migrating to Europe. As this article from The Economist points out, most Africans who migrate remain in Africa. About 70% of Africans living abroad live in other African countries.
"Many More Africans Are Migrating Within Africa than to Europe" - The Economist
A recent World Bank Study indicates that economic factors strongly influence the rate of spread of covid-19. According to this article from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, "The Covid-19 virus has spread the fastest in urban zones where people lack access to indoor floor space, sound infrastructure, and the capacity to spend time safely outdoors distanced from others." Population density alone is not the problem if there is adequate infrastructure, but many African cities do not have adequate housing or sanitation infrastructure to help slow the spread of the virus. In addition, many low-income urban dwellers work in professions that are not conducive to working from home or social distancing.
"Ripe for Reform: Policy Implications for African Cities during Covid-19" - Center for Strategic and International Studies
The Center for Strategic and International Studies has issued an update to its report on military dynamics in the Middle East North Africa region with an eye on U.S. national security. "It highlights the fact that the U.S. faces major challenges in its security relations with each state in the Middle East and North Africa as well as from nations outside the MENA region. It still is the dominant outside power in the region, but the security dynamics of the Middle East and North Africa have changed radically over the last decade and will continue to change for the foreseeable future."
"The Changing Military Dynamics of the MENA Region" - Center for Strategic and International Studies
The Biden administration is indicating that it intends to engage deeply with African nations on health, security, climate, economic, human rights, and other issues. This article in Foreign Policy discusses new U.S. efforts to pursue more strategic relationships across the continent.
"The United States Returns to Africa" - Foreign Policy
I’ve been tracking Libya’s chaotic history since the beginning of the post-Gaddafi era . . . waiting for this resource-rich country to come together with a legitimate government. Now, more than ever, I realize that was a pipe dream.
Unfortunately I see no near-term solution for Libya, nor do I see Libya as a potential candidate for US stabilization assistance, despite the challenges faced by the local population.
To provide a little clarity on the magnitude of the problem, here’s an extract from The State Department's 2019 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Libya–
Significant human rights issues included arbitrary and unlawful killings, including of politicians and members of civil society, by armed groups including some aligned with the GNA and the LNA, criminal gangs, and ISIS-Libya; forced disappearances; torture perpetrated by armed groups on all sides; arbitrary arrest and detention; harsh and life-threatening conditions in prison and detention facilities, some of which were outside government control; political prisoners held by nonstate actors; unlawful interference with privacy, often by nonstate actors; undue restrictions on free expression and the press, including violence against journalists and criminalization of political expression; widespread corruption; trafficking in persons; threats of violence against ethnic minorities and foreigners; criminalization of same-sex sexual orientation; and use of forced labor.
Alternative perspectives welcome.
Several governments around the world have been overthrown in the last year in military coups. Just today Guinea Bissau's president survived a coup attempt, and a week ago the military in Burkina Faso deposed the country's president.
UN Security Council member states often cannot agree on a response to military takeovers, so the Security Council's responses to coups have been inconsistent. International Crisis Group has published an article examining the Security Council's tentative response to recent coups, noting that "In general, the Council has seemed very keen for other actors to take the lead in responding to coups, although with varying degrees of conviction and cohesion."
The article posits that "Beyond fundamental disagreements about the Council’s remit in countries’ internal affairs, there are three recurrent considerations that appear to contribute to its stuttering response to this type of crisis: confusion, geopolitics and the Council’s lack of leverage in the countries concerned." But these three considerations are arguably at the heart of many issues the Council is called to address.
"Why the UN Security Council Stumbles in Responding to Coups" - International Crisis Group
Can you name the newest country in the world? Do you know in what year that country gained its independence? If you guessed South Sudan, you're right. South Sudan gained its independence from Sudan in July of 2011. The last nine years mark the longest time the world has gone without a new addition to the list of UN member states ( now numbering 193). As the Axios article below points out, however, three small countries have changed their names in recent years (Swaziland to Eswatini, Macedonia to North Macedonia, and Cape Verde to Cabo Verde). The article mentions a 2018 book by Josh Keating, Invisible Countries, that argues that independence movements have stalled in recent years as existing states and multilateral institutions prefer to maintain the status quo.
"Why the World Map Froze" - axios.com
Here's some background on South Sudan for the curious and for those of you hoping to win at geography trivia:
CIA World Factbook - South Sudan
Russia has made an agreement with the government in Khartoum to establish a Russian naval base in Sudan. Under the agreement, Russia will be authorized to base four ships and 300 personnel at Port Sudan on the Red Sea. In addition, Russia will have access to Sudanese airports to support the base. This will be Russia's first naval base in Africa.
"With Base in Sudan, Russia Expands Its Military Reach in Africa" - Foreign Policy
A recent Brookings Institution article highlights challenges Africa faces as it lags behind other regions in terms of socioeconomic development. The article cites a recent report by the Sustainable Development Goals Center for Africa indicating that development varies significantly by region across the continent, with North Africa ahead of other regions in making progress. Comprehensive, consistent data is not available in many cases regarding crucial indicators in poverty, health, nutrition, education, and infrastructure, and challenges persist across the continent, particularly in Central Africa. Based on available data, notable progress has been made on only three goals: SDG 5 gender equality, SDG 13 climate action, and SDG 15 life on land. According to the report, "...progress on the other fourteen goals remains off track and the goals are unlikely to be met if rapid and unified action is not taken." Failure of any region to make significant progress to achieve greater peace and prosperity through sustainable development has ramifications for the entire world.
"Africa and the Sustainable Development Goals: A Long Way to Go"
For information on the Sustainable Development Goals, see:
The World Health Organization has certified that the 47 countries in its Africa region are free of wild poliovirus. This is the culmination of decades of heroic eradication efforts and reflects the power of effective vaccination campaigns. There is no cure for the disease, and as recently as 1996, 75,000 children in Africa were paralyzed by wild polio each year. Unfortunately, relatively rare vaccine-derived polio still persists in some African countries where a weakened form of the virus is administered in the form of an oral vaccine. The virus derived from the oral vaccine can be passed to other people via contaminated water in places with very poor sanitation. Wild polio is still present in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"Africa Declared Free of Wild Polio in 'Milestone'" - BBC News
"Africa Declared Free from Wild Polio - but Vaccine-Derived Strains Remain" - Nature
"Africa Kicks out Wild Polio" - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
In a region unfortunately distinguished by a recent string of coups d'etat, Burkina Faso's military is the latest to take over a government in West Africa. It follows recent coups in both Mali and Guinea.
"Burkina Faso Coup: Return of the Military Strongmen to West Africa" - BBC
Burkina Faso, like Mali, has been victim of repeated Islamist attacks in recent years. Citizens and security forces are fed up with the prolonged violence and insecurity. "This week's Burkinabè putsch - like the 2020 coup in Mali, and even the previous 2012 military takeover in that country - is an outburst of exasperation from the lower and middle-ranking soldiers who risk their lives on the front line in what is a brutally uncompromising conflict...And over the past three years the spiral of insecurity has felt as if it is accelerating - particularly in Burkina Faso, where the pattern of indiscriminate attacks on both civilians and security forces outposts has spread rapidly southwards from more remote border areas to impact communities ever closer to Ouagadougou."
"Burkina Faso: Military Coup Prompts Fears of Further Instability" - Aljazeera
The Central African Republic held presidential elections yesterday amid violence between government and rebel forces. Three UN peacekeepers were killed and two injured in attacks preceding the election. This article from the BBC provides an overview of the situation. "The CAR is one of Africa's poorest countries, even though it is rich in resources like diamonds and uranium. The UN, which has nearly 13,000 peacekeepers on the ground, estimates that half of the population are dependent on humanitarian assistance and up to a fifth have been displaced." Election results are expected on January 4. If one candidate does not receive more than 50% of the vote, a second round will be held in February.
"Central African Republic Election Held Amid Violence" - BBC
CIA World Factbook - Central African Republic
Fighting has been ongoing in Ethiopia's Tigray region for 11 months, killing thousands of people, putting hundreds of thousands of civilians at risk of famine, and displacing two million. The international community continues to decry the lack of humanitarian access to civilians affected by the conflict as the Ethiopian government blocks humanitarian aid. Sexual violence is rampant. The Ethiopian government characterizes Tigray leaders as criminals and terrorists.
"Ethiopia's Tigray Crisis: Army Launches Offensive on All Fronts - Rebels" - BBC News
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has characterized the violence perpetrated by Ethiopian and Eritrean forces in Tigray as ethnic cleansing. This term has been defined by a United Nations Commission of Experts as, “… a purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic or religious group from certain geographic areas.” (https://www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/ethnic-cleansing.shtml)
The following article is a harrowing and comprehensive description of what is happening in Tigray, well worth a read.
"What started as a political dispute in one of Africa’s most powerful and populous countries has turned into a campaign of ethnic cleansing against minority Tigrayans, according to AP interviews with 30 refugees in Sudan and dozens more by phone, along with international experts. The Ethiopian government of Nobel Peace Prize winner Abiy Ahmed is accused of teaming up with his ethnic group — his mother was Amhara — and soldiers from neighboring Eritrea to punish around 6 million people. Witnesses say they have split much of Tigray between them, with the Amhara in the west and Eritrean forces in the east."
"Leave No Tigrayan: In Ethiopia, an Ethnicity is Erased" - APNews
"Ethiopia: Troops and Militia Rape, Abduct Women and Girls in Tigray Conflict - New Report" - Amnesty International
Concerns are mounting that many African countries may be ill prepared to handle coronavirus, should it spread to the continent. Many poorer countries' (in Africa and elsewhere) health systems are weak and already overwhelmed. Capacity to test for the virus and treat critical cases is severely limited across the continent. An added complexity is that, unlike Ebola, coronavirus patients may be infectious even before they show symptoms.
China is Africa's biggest trading partner. Chinese citizens study, work, live in Africa and many African students study in China on government scholarships, including in hard-hit Wuhan Province. The volume of trade and travel between China and African countries is very high, leading to concerns that the virus will appear in Africa sooner or later. Air traffic between Africa and China has increased by 600% since the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak of 2002, when only one case was reported in Africa.
In spite of the availability of a measles vaccine, 6,000 people have died of measles in the last year and a half in Democratic Republic of the Congo. Concerns are that coronavirus could be devastating in countries already at war or with particularly weak health systems. In regions experiencing conflict where health workers have limited access and the population is especially mobile, it would be particularly difficult to control an epidemic.
The World Health Organization has identified 13 top priority African countries that have close ties with China and is sending officials to those countries.
"Coronavirus: Are African Countries Ready?" - BBC
"With Plenty of Trade with China, African Countries Fear Coronavirus Spreading" - NPR
Today Sudan's armed forces overthrew the country's fragile government, which was formed through a power-sharing agreement in 2019. Military personnel arrested government leaders and several people were killed when soldiers fired into a crowd of protestors. The international community is unified in decrying the military takeover.
"Sudan Coup: Seven Protestors Killed and Dozens Injured" - BBC News
Nigeria is holding presidential primary elections this weekend in anticipation of presidential elections to be held in 2023. President Muhammadu Buhari is not allowed to seek office again in 2023 as he is currently serving his second four-year term. Nigeria is not only the continent's most populous country with a population of over 200 million, it is also Africa's largest economy. It has been ravaged by conflict with Islamist militant group Boko Haram and faces a number of other economic, political, security, and social challenges. The stability of Nigeria is paramount to the region and indeed to the world, so this is an election to watch.
"Nigeria: Ruling Party, Top Opposition Hold Presidential Primaries" - Al Jazeera
"The Nigerian State Is The Biggest Threat to Nigerian Democracy" - Council on Foreign Relations
Even as it draws down its military presence in West Africa, France has conducted an airstrike that killed an Islamic State militant who was involved in the killing of French aid workers in Niger in 2020. In August a French drone strike killed the leader of Islamic State in the Greater Sahara who was believed to also be involved in the killing of the French aid workers as well as the killings of U.S. soldiers in 2017.
It will be quite interesting to see to what degree France can continue to be effective in supporting West African anti-terrorism efforts even with fewer boots on the ground.
"French Strike Kills Top Islamic State Militant in West Africa Blamed for Deadly Attack on Aid Workers" - The Washington Post
"The French military said the strike was critical to prevent an expanding footprint of the militants, but it comes as France is drawing down its presence in the region — a move that has unsettled West African governments and security analysts."
Several months ago we posted a couple of articles discussing the end of France's wide-ranging anti-terrorism mission in West Africa.
Isabel Dos Santos, daughter of Angola's former President and Africa's richest woman, sits for a portrait during a Reuters interview in London, earlier this month. (REUTERS/Toby Melville)
Isabel dos Santos, Africa's richest woman and daughter of Angola's former president of 38 years Jose Eduardo dos Santos, faces increasing scrutiny over deals made during her father's presidency that enabled her to profit from Angolan state funds in diamond, oil, mobile phone, banking, and other industries. Although blessed with an abundance of diamonds and oil, Angola is rife with corruption and its population suffers from widespread illiteracy, high infant mortality, and crushing poverty. New investigations show how dos Santos amassed and protected her vast fortune.
"How U.S. Firms Helped Africa's Richest Woman Exploit Her Country's Wealth" - The New York Times
"Isabel dos Santos, Africa's Richest Woman: 5 Things to Know" - Fox News
"Isabel dos Santos: Africa's Richest Woman 'Ripped off Angola'" - BBC
This interactive feature from The Washington Post shows how by the year 2100, Africa will supplant Asia as the continent with most of the world's biggest urban areas. Even in scenarios where government policies, education, and access to contraception have significant effects on birth rates, African cities will still grow faster than cities on other continents. The article studies Lagos, Khartoum, Kinshasa, Mombasa, and Abidjan in depth. Lagos is certain to become the world's largest city sometime in the next 80 years, and experts forecast that Nigeria will become more populous than China by the year 2100. Thirteen of the world's 20 most populous cities will be in Africa by 2100.
"Africa's Rising Cities: How Africa Will Become the Center of the World's Urban Future" - The Washington Post
Former Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has died at age 79. Dos Santos ruled Angola for almost four decades and amassed a vast fortune for himself and his family through corruption whose tentacles reached virtually every facet of the Angolan economy. Meanwhile most Angolans endured a decades-long civil war, crushing poverty, and some of the worst quality-if-life indicators anywhere in the world. Dos Santos rose to power due to his role as a leader of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, or MPLA, and was in a leadership role with the MPLA when Angola won independence from Portugal in 1975.
"Jose Eduardo dos Santos, Who Plundered Angola, Dies at 79" - The Washington Post
"During his nearly four decades in power, from 1979 to 2017, Mr. dos Santos led his resource-plentiful nation through seemingly endless conflict and an uneasy peace marked by corruption that funneled vast riches to his family and a favored few while leaving most Angolans in dismal poverty."
As we discussed in an earlier post, dos Santos's daughter Isabel dos Santos, Africa's richest woman, was charged with a number of financial crimes for amassing a vast fortune through allegedly bilking the country of billions of dollars.
"The Inside Story of How the Daughter of Jose Eduardo dos Santos Looted Angola's Riches" - Forbes
Dos Santos's rule in Angola is a textbook example of the "resource curse" or the "paradox of plenty," whereby "Countries rich in oil and other natural resources tend to have authoritarian governments, be economically unstable, and experience more frequent civil strife than countries without oil." (Tufts)
"The Paradox of Oil Wealth" - Tufts University
Burkina Faso's leader Lt. Col. Paul Henri Sandaogo Damiba, who came to power in a coup in January of this year, has been overthrown via another coup by Capt. Ibrahim Traore. The volatile political situation in this small West African country is one of several significant challenges Burkina Faso is facing that have far-reaching effects on international security. Burkina Faso is a landlocked former French colony that in recent years has suffered from a deteriorating security environment due to the increasing presence of jihadist militants. Terrorist attacks have become common throughout the Sahel, raising concerns internationally about the region as a haven for international terrorist organizations. In addition, Russian mercenaries have a significant presence in West Africa, where Russia is seen as competing for influence with former regional colonial power, France. The Sahel has also experienced significant changes in climate that are causing water shortages and low agricultural yields, which in turn contribute to food insecurity and migration.
"The Old Junta Leader Makes Way for the New in Burkina Faso's Second Coup of the Year" - NPR
"Their power grab marked Burkina Faso's second military coup this year, deepening fears that the political chaos could divert attention from an Islamic insurgency whose violence has killed thousands and forced 2 million to flee their homes. It followed unrest in Ouagadougou, the capital, in which mobs on Saturday attacked the French embassy and other French-related sites, wrongly believing that they were sheltering Damiba."
"U.S. Warns Burkina Faso Coup Leaders on Russia" - Barrons
"Burkina Faso Coup: Ousted Military Ruler Damiba in Togo" - BBC
Good information on terrorism in the Sahel region from the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT).
It's a great time to learn more about Burkina Faso!
Somalia is undergoing a protracted political crisis; the prime minister and the president are at odds as the president's critics accuse him of manipulating the political process to stay in power. "Analysts have warned that a protracted political crisis distracts from the growing threat of al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabab, which controls most of southern Somalia’s rural areas and launches regular attacks on Somali cities and in neighboring Kenya. The political standoff over a disputed election process veered into violence on the streets of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, earlier this year."
"Somalia's Election Standoff Intensifies, Raising Risk of Political Violence" - The Washington Post
This excellent 6-minute BBC video explains why Somalia's elections matter in the region. Instability in Somalia has caused the displacement of millions of citizens in recent years, and Islamist insurgency group al-Shabab capitalizes on weaknesses in the country's political situation.
"Somalia Elections 2021: Why Are They Important for Africa?" - BBC
Sudan's civilian prime minister Abdalla Hamdok has resigned, leaving the military once again in control in Sudan.
Hamdok had been prime minister since the country's longtime dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir was forced out amidst widespread protests in 2019. In October of this year Hamdok was ousted and detained after the military took power in a coup. Four weeks later he was reinstated after striking a deal with military leaders. Now that he is out following widespread public protests against continued influence of military and security forces, little hope remains for legitimate democracy in Sudan in the short term. The structures necessary to hold elections and democratically select a new prime minister are not in place.
"Sudan Braces for 'the Worst' after Prime Minister Resigns" - New York Times
"With no prime minister or civilian government, the military, former rebel groups and the powerful paramilitary group known as the Rapid Support Forces are now in control of Sudan."
"Sudan Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok Resigns After Deadly Mass Protests" - BBC
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Ethiopians for 18 months. Only Ethiopians already residing in the U.S. on October 20 are eligible; those who arrive in the U.S. after that date are not eligible. This designation gives migrants already present in the U.S. temporary legal status when situations in their home country such as armed conflict or severe humanitarian crises might prevent civilians from safely returning home. Migrants with TPS status, who currently number over 300,000, are allowed to work and reside legally in the U.S. while TPS for their country is in effect. The program was created in 1990 and currently applies to eligible migrants who resided in the U.S. during certain timeframes from Venezuela, El Salvador, Haiti, Afghanistan, Honduras, Ukraine, Burma, Syria, South Sudan, and several other countries. TPS status can be extended, though once it expires migrants who once held the status revert to the status they held prior to the designation (in many cases this means reverting to undocumented status). For example, Salvadorans have been eligible for TPS since earthquakes hit El Salvador in 2001, and Haitians have been eligible since the earthquake there in 2010. Haiti received a second designation in 2021 due to natural disasters and violence. Other countries have similar temporary relief programs for migrants from countries severely affected by conflict or humanitarian disasters.
"DHS Designates Ethiopia for Temporary Protected Status for 18 Months" - DHS
“Ethiopian nationals currently residing in the U.S. who cannot safely return due to conflict-related violence and a humanitarian crisis involving severe food shortages, flooding, drought, and displacement, will be able to remain and work in the United States until conditions in their home country improve.”
This article provides very interesting historic data regarding the TPS program and its beneficiaries:
"What Is Temporary Protected Status?" - Council on Foreign Relations
"Established by the U.S. Congress in 1990, temporary protected status (TPS) is a program that allows migrants whose home countries are considered unsafe the right to live and work in the United States for a temporary, but extendable, period of time. Though they are not considered lawful permanent residents or U.S. citizens, many have lived in the United States for more than twenty years. TPS holders now total more than three hundred thousand."
The Islamic State is making alarming inroads in oil- and gas-rich northeastern Mozambique. "The rebels are usually known as Ansar al-Sunna (or al-Shabab, like the unrelated Somali group). They evolved from a radical Muslim sect and have links throughout east Africa. They have found Cabo Delgado a fertile recruiting ground. The province is politically neglected and its residents are locked out of economic opportunities by a network of powerful crooks, politicians and businessmen." The American government is calling the insurgents "ISIS - Mozambique."
"America Designates a New Branch of Islamic State in Mozambique" - The Economist
There is a current and growing threat of locust invasions in East Africa, threatening food supplies. Swarms of billions of locusts are destroying crops in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia, and concern is that the outbreak is spreading. The UN is warning that this could be catastrophic given that 12 million people in the region are already food insecure. Some of you may recall the problems caused when locust swarms crossed most of the Sahel in the mid-1980s.
"UN Warns of 'Major Shock' as Africa Locust Outbreak Spreads" - Associated Press
Violence linked to Islamist groups has increased alarmingly in the past few years in the Sahel region of Africa. More than 1000 violent episodes were reported in the past year. Who are the perpetrators of this violence? A recent report by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies breaks this down.
Although many observers attribute the bulk of attacks to a group called Jama’at Nusrat al Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM), this report describes how JNIM is actually a coalition of different groups with differing objectives and leaders. The perception that JNIM is a single entity is beneficial to it:
"By presenting a united front, the JNIM coalition obscures the many setbacks that each of these groups has experienced, providing the illusion of cohesion, command and control, and unassailability."
"Casting JNIM as a singular actor that operates throughout the region—and pointing to a constant stream of reported violent events as proof—promotes a perception of activity, support, and influence that far exceeds JNIM’s actual standing. The majority of events attributed to JNIM go unclaimed, making it harder to assign responsibility for attacks to specific groups and therefore respond appropriately."
The report also shines light onto how these militant groups are financed:
"Experts believe that JNIM-affiliated groups jointly earn between $18 and $35 million annually, mostly through extortion of the transit routes under their control, communities engaged in artisanal mining, and to a lesser extent kidnapping for ransom."
The analysis lays out recommendations for policymakers and security actors, including:
"The surge of militant Islamist group violence in the Sahel has alarmed communities and governments across the region. Groups aligned with JNIM, primarily FLM and Ansar Dine, are linked to the bulk of this violence. Security actors need to resist the image of JNIM as a single entity and undertake the difficult analytic work to deconstruct JNIM into its component parts to counter their destabilizing actions."
"The Puzzle of JNIM and Militant Islamist Groups in the Sahel" - Africa Center for Strategic Studies
Ethiopia, the second most populous country in Africa with a population of over 123 million, has been embroiled in a civil war with armed forces from the Tigray region since November of 2020. The war has had devastating effects on the civilian population, including millions of people displaced from their homes, tens of thousands killed, and widespread hunger and human rights abuses including pervasive sexual violence.
Last week representatives of Ethiopia's government and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) announced a ceasefire, raising hopes that the civil war that has been raging in northern Ethiopia for two years might be coming to an end. Instability in Ethiopia has significant implications for international security as both Ethiopia and the larger region of the Horn of Africa are of considerable strategic importance.
This is an excellent description of the history and context of the Tigray War from the Council on Foreign Relations.
"War in Ethiopia" - Council on Foreign Relations
"The conflict in Tigray has security implications for the entire Horn of Africa, a region in which the United States has stakes in countering violent extremism, supporting democratic transition, negotiating resource sharing efforts, and guaranteeing refugee flow management."
The International Crisis Group recently published an informative podcast on the prospects for peace in Ethiopia and next steps.
"Ethiopia's Tigray War: After the Cessation of Hostilities, What Next?" - International Crisis Group