The European Business Council for Africa

The Week of 11 – 18 January 2019

Four conflict trends as seen by Crisis Group analysts

Kenya: On Tuesday, Al-Shabaab militants killed at least 21 civilians in an attack on a Nairobi hotel and office complex. Crisis Group expert Abdullahi Abdille says Al-Shabaab chose a target in Kenya’s capital surrounded by Western embassies because previous attacks concentrated in Kenya’s northern counties have not yielded the attention it normally craves.

➤ Libya: A four-month-old UN ceasefire in Tripoli broke down on Wednesday after clashes erupted between rival armed groups. Crisis Group expert Claudia Gazzini says continued instability in the capital is likely to hinder any progress toward a political settlement and will most likely delay UN efforts to host a national conference with rival Libyan groups.

➤ Zimbabwe: Violent protests across Zimbabwe were met with a repressive clampdown this week, with many shot, assaulted or detained. Crisis Group expert Piers Pigou says the government blames the opposition, NGOs and foreign backers for orchestrating the unrest, but a massive fuel price hike and accelerated deterioration of economic and social conditions has catalysed anti-government sentiment.

➤ Yemen: On Wednesday, the UN security council passed a resolution that increases the number of monitors in Hodeida overseeing implementation of the ceasefire deal agreed in Stockholm. Crisis Group expert Peter Salisbury says this was necessary because the Stockholm agreement, under pressure from all sides, needed a boost in the form of a display of international consensus.

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West Africa Brief

1-15 January 2019| PDF


  • Burkina Faso, Mali: a bloody start to the New Year
  • UEMOA celebrates its 25th anniversary
  • Niger, EU start work on Zinder-Tanout road
  • Guinea: Controversy about the new polygamy law
  • Ready to help? Improving resilience of integration systems for refugees...
  • Focus on agriculture and agricultural policies in Mali
  • A quiet revolution: more women seek divorces in conservative West Africa
  • What future for the Sahel?
  • René N’Guettia Kouassi, Director of Economic Affairs, African Union Commission
  • Polygamy remains common and mostly legal in West Africa

2018 was a year of continued diverging economic, political and security trends in sub-Saharan Africa.

In Ethiopia, the appointment of reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, has led to a number of sweeping changes, including a move towards multiparty democracy, improvements in strained relations with neighbours, and the opening up of the economy to increased private investment. But as indicated by the 2018 Mo Ibrahim Index, political freedoms and civic space are reducing in sub-Saharan Africa: in Uganda the arrest and torture of Bobi Wine, the well-known critic of long-time president Yoweri Museveni, and several other MPs; and in Tanzania, targeted assassinations of opposition party members, restrictions on protest and the closure of media outlets, are among a number of prominent examples.

Elections across the continent led to peaceful and democratic transfers of power in some countries and triggered violence or political crisis in others. In January, George Weah was sworn in as President of Liberia, following the December 2017 elections that resulted in a remarkable peaceful transfer of power from one party to the other. Former opposition leader Maada-Bio of Sierra Leone was elected President after narrowly defeating Samura Kamara, from the then-governing All People’s Congress party, in a presidential runoff. In Cameroon, Paul Biya secured a seventh term, extending his 36 years in power amid unrest and separatist militants attacks in the Northwest and Southwest English-speaking regions. Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta took office for a second five-year term despite low voter turnout due to security concerns, while in Zimbabwe, President Emmerson Mnangagwa was declared winner after securing 50.8 per cent of votes against opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, in a national election marred by post-election protests and violence. Meanwhile in South Africa, Jacob Zuma resigned and was replaced by Cyril Ramaphosa as president.

A full review of Africa Programme work in 2018 can be found here

ECDPM's weekly update on EU - Africa relations and international cooperation 

Last weekend, nearly 200 countries adopted a set of guidelines to implement the Paris Agreement on climate action. Views vary on whether these guidelines could have been more ambitious, with some just being happy that anything was agreed at all, and others seeing it as a much-longed-for victory for multilateralism.

A big and recurrent stumbling block in these kinds of negotiations is balancing conflicting needs: small versus big, national versus regional, rich versus poor, different laws addressing different needs. This is also the main thread of our last Weekly Compass of the year.

In their new paper on regional organisations in Africa, Bruce Byiers, Karim Karaki and Sean Woolfrey look at the competing dynamics behind regional and national industrialisation strategies in Africa. Romy Chevallier, a senior researcher at the South African Institute for International Affairs, went to the COP24 meeting in Poland and reports back for us on the need to make sure that economic activities in Africa preserve diverse and healthy ecosystems. And yet another set of conflicting objectives was the focus of a conference attended by our Jeske van Seters: should agreements between companies to increase their social and environmental sustainability be allowed even if they might distort competition?  

And finally, Pauline Veron and Andrew Sherriff write about a meeting they organised in Brussels on the UN and the EU working together on peacebuilding.

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The Week of 7 – 14 December 2018

Three conflict trends as seen by Crisis Group analysts  

➤ Yemen: Yemen’s Huthi rebels and internationally-recognised government agreed to a ceasefire across the governorate of Hodeida on Thursday. The UN hopes it will lead to the demilitarisation of the Red Sea trade corridor. Crisis Group expert Peter Salisbury says that while the deal is a step in the right direction, it will take months to translate the agreement into meaningful results.

➤ Turkey-Syria: President Erdoğan said Wednesday that Turkey would soon launch a military operation east of Syria's Euphrates river, in territory currently held by U.S.-led international forces and U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces that Turkey considers terrorists. Crisis Group expert Sam Heller says his remarks will further stress U.S.-Turkish ties and send U.S. officials scrambling to head off a Turkish attack.

➤ Venezuela: Russia deployed two strategic bombers to Venezuela on Monday. Crisis Group expert Phil Gunson says Moscow has previously staged similar shows of support for Caracas, usually at times of strategic tension with Washington, while President Maduro, who faces increasing international pressure to restore democracy, wants to show he has powerful friends.

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The Week of 30 November – 7 December 2018

Three conflict trends as seen by Crisis Group analysts  

➤ Iran: A suicide attack in the southern port city of Chabahar killed two police officers and wounded 40 others on Thursday. Crisis Group expert Ali Vaez says that the incident – purportedly carried out by the Baloch jihadist group Ansar al-Furqan – is the latest in a string of attacks targeting civilians and security forces, which Iran believes are fomented by its regional rivals to destabilise the country.

➤ Nigeria: Insurgents from Boko Haram's Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) faction continue to step up attacks on military bases in Nigeria’s Northeast. Crisis Group expert Nnamdi Obasi noted that the attacks have created a public outcry ahead of elections in February. Authorities again reorganised military command of counter-insurgency operations and are exploring other solutions to ISWAP's offensive, including massive air attacks and reboosted regional cooperation. 

➤ U.S.-China: Washington and Beijing agreed a temporary truce in their trade dispute. Resolving the details will be difficult in the allotted 90-day negotiating window, says Crisis Group expert Michael Kovrig, and the arrest in Vancouver of an executive of Chinese telecom giant Huawei – linked to alleged violations of U.S. sanctions on Iran – will further spike tensions.

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ECDPM's weekly update on EU - Africa relations and international cooperation 

Getting political leaders to agree on workable solutions to major challenges seems to get harder every week. Short-term calculations and political manoeuvring often eclipse the need to protect future generations. This week, we have two clear cases in point: the climate change talks taking place in Poland (COP24), and the discussions on the UN migration compact in Morocco. The outlook does not look promising and, in each case, one can lament the lack of leadership. But perhaps we should look into the deeper factors at play and analyse in detail what is being proposed, who is resisting change, why, and what alternatives exist. This is in large measure the role of think tanks like ECDPM.

One key example of this difficulty of collectively addressing long-term change is the next EU budget. How should it be structured? How can it be better geared towards future needs? And what will this mean for the EU’s work on development and its partnership with Africa? We started last week with a paper on programming, looking at the proposed new ‘single instrument’, and we continue this week with two more papers. Firstly, Alexei Jones, Emmanuel De Groof and Joanna Kahiluoto looked at the positions of the different European institutions in the fight to shape and manage the new financial instrument – the NDICI. Secondly, with our colleagues from the European Think Tanks Group (ETTG), we take a more national perspective. The ETTG members hail from capitals across the Union and thus offer a clear sense of what each of these countries wants to get out of this new instrument and why.

Balancing national and regional perspectives is of course not just an issue for Europe. Africa continues to have a rich debate on precisely this dynamic – and for the past two years, our work on regional organisations in Africa has zoomed in on that. It is increasingly clear that water could be the next battleground. Therefore, attempts to coordinate and find common ground on how to best share this common resource are critical. The paper by Alfonso Medinilla has captured the challenges and options in the first of a new series of papers on the political economy dynamics of regional organisations in Africa.

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The Week of 23 – 30 November 2018

Five conflict trends as seen by Crisis Group analysts  

➤ Ukraine-Russia: Russia engaged in its first acknowledged use of force against Ukraine since the 2014 Crimea annexation. Crisis Group experts Katharine Quinn-Judge and Anna Arutunyan say the incident was Moscow’s show of strength in what it claims are sovereign waters and Kyiv's response to this aggression was partly informed by Ukrainian President Poroshenko's desire to bolster support ahead of March elections. 

➤ Afghanistan: One day after a Taliban attack killed three U.S. personnel – the deadliest day for U.S. forces in Afghanistan this year – President Ghani announced a new plan for peace that would require at least five years. Crisis Group expert Borhan Osman says the rising death toll and mounting costs of the war are pushing Western allies to seek a faster route to peace.

➤ U.S.-Mexico: Pressure mounted at the Mexico-U.S. border on 25 November after U.S. guards fired tear gas at around 500 Central American migrants. Crisis Group expert Sofía Martínez says that even if the main push factor to migrate from their home countries is the economy, many asylum-seekers are also escaping political instability and gang violence

➤ Cameroon: A suicide bomber wounded at least 29 people on Wednesday in Amchide in Cameroon’s restive Far North. Crisis Group expert Hans De Marie Heungoup says that while some degree of normality has returned to Amchide since Boko Haram’s large-scale attacks in 2014-2015, the bombing is a reminder that the jihadist group remains a potent threat.

➤ U.S.-China: The U.S. Navy on Wednesday sailed warships through the Taiwan Strait for the third time this year. Crisis Group expert Michael Kovrig says tensions over Taiwan will continue as the Trump administration steps up shows of support for Taipei in the face of Chinese pressure.


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ECDPM's weekly update on EU - Africa relations and international cooperation 

A rather sombre European Council on Sunday approved the UK Withdrawal Agreement in Brussels, which was fittingly covered by fog. The British Prime Minister now has two weeks to convince the Parliament back home that this is the best, if not the only possible, deal.

In the meantime, here in Brussels, the 27 member states are giving signs that they are keen to move on. What is sure is that they will have to pick up the pace of the negotiations on the next EU budget. Just as well, since we have been continuing our in-depth analysis of the proposal on the table. €  89.2 billion is the sum allocated to the new foreign policy and development instrument – the NDICI, for the acronym buffs. It’s early stages still, but we wanted to be the first to look at how this money could be spent – the programming, for the EU jargon buffs.

Some form of ‘programming’ is hopefully also going to take place in Poland from next week, when ministers, officials and a big chunk of the climate community will meet to discuss the implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate. There seems to be a renewed sense of urgency and a need to show progress. But, as Mariella Di Ciommo and Sanne Thijssen write in their blogthe European Union should show its international partners how far it is willing to go to address climate change.

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