So Far, Calm Follows Coup in Niger

There has been relative calm since last week’s coup in Niger, says Deputy Assistant Secretary of African Affairs William Fitzgerald. He says that though the United States does not support the violent overthrow, if the new government can stay true to its moniker, “Supreme Council for the Restoration of Democracy,” not all hope is lost. Overthrown President Mamadou Tandja had already begun to twist the meaning of the word democracy in previous years as he manipulated Niger’s constitution to extend his rule. The new government, which has already dropped their previously imposed curfew, says they would like to see a […]

Rights Activists Targeted in DRC

At a time when international rights groups, governments and corporations are ramping up pressure over the trade in “conflict minerals,” Amnesty International called upon authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to do a better job protecting human rights activists working in the country from abuses. Highlighting the importance of human rights activists in playing “a crucial role in a country racked by instability and conflict,” AI released a briefing (.pdf) last week chronicling the cases of eight prominent DRC rights defenders. AI charges that much of the danger they and others face comes directly from government agencies. “The […]

Following a trend that has become depressingly familiar in West Africa over the past 18 months, army officers seized power in Niger on Feb. 18, removing President Mamadou Tandja from office. The coup ends a political crisis that began last year, when Tandja used a popular referendum to try to indefinitely prolong his term beyond its December 2009 limit. Despite the immediate condemnation of the coup by various international bodies, including the African Union and the United States, there was a sense that Tandja got what he deserved. His machinations last year to ram through legislation that not only prolonged […]

ElBaradei For President?

The former Director General of the IAEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, has not formally announced that he will run for office, but public support and recent interviews indicate that the possibility is not far-fetched. ElBaradei says that he feels it is his duty to represent the people of Egypt, but has demanded certain preconditions be met before he runs for office. The Egyptian constitution, which has been heavily amended over the years by current president Hosni Mubarak, is the central obstacle to ElBaradei’s candidacy.

KAMPALA, Uganda — Ranging over hills that slope gracefully down into Lake Victoria, Kampala is arguably one of the more beautiful capitals in Africa. But the city’s beauty not only belies the numbing poverty in which most of Uganda’s residents find themselves, it also masks the country’s ugly politics. Case in point: The outcome of Uganda’s 2011 presidential election is a foregone conclusion, and no one — whether Uganda’s electoral commission, its legions of international donors, or the investors in its newly discovered oil fields — is likely to do anything about it. President Yoweri Museveni rose to power in […]

Transfers of Power, Redux: Niger vs. Honduras

I drew a comparison earlier this week between the transfer of power in Nigeria with what occurred in Honduras last year, noting the radically different international reactions in the two cases. We might have an even better comparison today, in the form of Niger’s military coup to remove President Mamadou Tandja from power. The coup comes after Tandja had dissolved parliament and amended the constitution last year to remove term limits that would have disqualified him from seeking re-election. My hunch is that beyond the perfunctory condemnations (the AU and ECOWAS have already offered theirs), we won’t hear much outrage […]

African Telecom: Strategic Communications

Normally I’d have bookmarked this kind of item for an “Off the Radar” post. But for a variety of what seem like obvious, if intuitive and somewhat intangible reasons, I’m elevating major telecom transactions to “On the Radar” status, alongside weapons sales, nuclear agreements, gas and oil deals and the like. In this case, that’s partly because it’s an Indian telecom company, Bharti Airtel, buying Kuwait-based Zain’s African operations, to the tune of a $10.7 billion purchase price. (The deal has yet to be finalized, pending due diligence.) This is significant for a few reasons. First, as Thomas P.M. Barnett […]

Clinton: Open Dialogue Creates the Conditions for Change

Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton speaks at the U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha, Qatar. With respect to finding a peaceful, two-state, solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, Clinton says: “We support a two-state solution, with Israelis and Palestinians co-existing peacefully and with mutual security. We believe that through good-faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet […]

Transfers of Power: Nigeria vs. Honduras

I couldn’t help but notice the stark difference between reactions to last week’s transfer of power in Nigeria (not a peep) and reactions to last year’s political crisis in Honduras (hemisphere-wide condemnation). Say what you will about the optics of how Honduras’ former President Manuel Zelaya was removed from office, but in constitutional terms, it was by the book. Compare that to Nigeria, where the parliament’s vote to transfer presidential powers to Vice President Goodluck Johnathan was clearly extra-constitutional. For now, opposition to the move, both within the executive branch and among the opposition, has been contained. But given the […]

Forces belonging to the U.S.- and U.N.-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Somalia have mobilized for a major offensive against Islamic militants who control much of southern and central Somalia. On Friday, a local journalist who spoke with World Politics Review reported seeing government forces, as well as peacekeepers from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), preparing for battle. “In the last 24 hours, we have seen many convoys, including tanks from the AMISOM bases,” reported the journalist, who requested anonymity to protect him from Islamist reprisal. “I can see the logistics [convoys] of AMISOM troops going through the […]

Last week in Cape Town, South Africa, I was a keynote speaker at the massive Mining Indaba conference, the premier annual gathering of global extractive companies involved in Africa’s dominant economic sector. And the difference between the many military and aid conferences I’ve attended on Africa and this international commodities convention in Africa was telling. If you think most Americans now obsess over a “rising” China, you should know that we take a backseat to the Africans on this score. But whereas we often see China’s rise as a potential threat, Africans see it as an opportunity, and China’s “positive […]

When Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua left the country in November 2009 to seek treatment for a heart ailment, few anticipated that both he and Africa’s most populous country would end up on life support. The leadership crisis resulting from Yar’Adua’s failure to constitutionally hand over power to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan — either at the time of his departure or since — has had more than just political implications for Nigeria. It has rocked the oil sector and threatened to undo substantial security gains made in the oil-producing Niger Delta, following a mostly successful amnesty and demobilization program for the […]