On Wednesday, the Securities and Exchange Commission narrowly approved reporting rules intended to curb corruption in resource extraction and to combat human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Section 1502 of the Dodd-Frank Act, also called the “conflict minerals provision,” requires that companies determine the origin of the metals they use and disclose whether they contain minerals from conflict zones, including the DRC and neighboring African countries.* “The SEC’s ruling is one more important piece of the puzzle to resolving the conflict in eastern Congo,” Sasha Lezhnev, senior policy analyst at the Washington-based human rights organization Enough, told […]

After last week’s spike in naval bombardments on Kismayo, the southern Somali port city critical to the funding of al-Shabab, a heavily anticipated, large-scale military mobilization appears to be edging irrevocably closer. The looming confrontation comes at a critical time for Somalia as the country wraps up an eight-year transitional governance period and prepares to seat a new president. In a statement released on Aug. 14, the U.N. claimed, “fighting for control of the town appears imminent.” The bombardments from an unidentified ship, which reportedly claimed the lives of residents, are fuelling an exodus from the city. “That sort of […]

An ongoing standoff in Kenya’s Coast province between the central government and the secessionist Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) could make the region a flashpoint for next year’s elections. Formed in 1999 to address the region’s marginalization, the MRC was designated by the government as an organized criminal group in 2010. Claiming this action unconstitutional, the MRC filed a case with the High Court in Mombasa, which last month ruled in the MRC’s favor. Nevertheless, the MRC has maintained its threats to boycott and otherwise disrupt Kenya’s March 2013 presidential and parliamentary elections if its demands are not met. The polls […]

For 20 years, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has been the undisputed ruler of Ethiopia. Zenawi was the leader of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which in concert with its sister rebel group from Eritrea toppled the Moscow-aligned dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991. He led his country in the 1998-2000 war against his former Eritrean allies and oversaw multiple Ethiopian military interventions into neighboring Somalia. An active and outspoken leader, Zenawi is also credited with a pragmatic approach to economic development despite his Marxist roots, resulting in an average of 9 percent GDP growth over the past 10 years. […]

With peril looming on both countries’ economic horizons, Sudan and South Sudan brokered a milestone oil-transit agreement over the weekend to the effusive praise of the international community. The deal represents a breakthrough after months of heightened tensions. South Sudan shut down oil production eight months ago over transit cost disagreements. Juba also accused the Khartoum government of siphoning southern oil and confiscating shipments in lieu of unpaid transit fees. In April, the two historical adversaries neared the brink of full-scale border war after South Sudan temporarily seized Sudan’s primary oil production site in Heglig. “Now was the time to […]

Later this month, Somalia’s eight-year political transition is scheduled to end with the declaration of a “post-transition” government. Casual observers will be forgiven for assuming such a step signals that, after 21 years of complete state collapse, a functional central government in Somalia is now in place. The reality is that the post-transition government will be unable to project its authority beyond much of the capital, Mogadishu. Most of the country and parts of the capital itself remain under the de facto control of autonomous strongmen, self-proclaimed regional states, clan militias and the jihadi group al-Shabab. Of these, only al-Shabab […]

Last week, Hillary Clinton began what is likely to be her last extended visit to Africa as U.S. secretary of state. On Tuesday, she met with officials in South Africa, one of nine countries she will visit over 10 days as the U.S. seeks to deepen its ties with the continent. “When I look at U.S. engagement with Africa from one secretary of state to another, I see a very coherent theme,” Mwangi Kimenyi, director of the Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution, told Trend Lines. “They read from the same playbook.” While the themes of U.S. foreign policy […]

Editor’s note: Ulrike Guérot is on a two-week break. Guest columnist Richard Gowan will be writing the Continentalist while she is gone. Is the European Union about to engage in a proxy war in the Sahara? In late-July, European foreign ministers directed EU officials to come up with “concrete proposals” for supporting an African stabilization force in Mali. There’s no doubt that Mali needs stabilizing: Islamist separatists with links to al-Qaida have seized the north of the country, and the south has been in political turmoil since a coup in March. What can the EU do to contain and resolve […]

A common theme in international relations debates today centers on the need to move beyond stovepiped bureaucracies and policy solutions to more effectively respond to the interconnected challenges of a world defined by the forces of globalization. In particular, numerous governmental and multilateral strategic policy directives over the past few years have emphasized the importance of combining efforts that build defense and security capacity with projects to further development needs. While widespread and pragmatic implementation of this powerful rhetoric remains a relative rarity, recent efforts by the Japanese government offer a good example of one way forward for this kind […]