Kimg Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of North Korea, meets with then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, July 26, 2007 (AP photo by Ben Curtis).

Even before he became president of the United States, Donald Trump had reserved some of his most lavish praise for Egypt’s strongman, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi. That’s why it came as no small surprise when news emerged last week that the U.S. had decided to withhold almost $300 million in aid for Egypt. The principal reason for the move, according to Trump administration officials, was Cairo’s continuing crackdown on human rights. But another issue also surfaced as a point of friction: Egypt’s ties to North Korea. Given what we know about the current U.S. administration, it seems likely that North Korea […]

Mukhtar Robow, left, the then-deputy leader of al-Shabab, with the American-born Islamist militant Omar Hammami in southern Mogadishu, Somalia, May 11, 2011 (AP photo by Farah Abdi Warsameh).

On Aug. 13, Somalia’s government won a perceived victory in its fight against al-Shabab when Mukhtar Robow, the former deputy leader of the militant group, surrendered. Also known as “Abu Mansur,” Robow was one of the group’s founding leaders, and the only one still living who had trained with the Taliban in Afghanistan. His decision to stop fighting invited speculation that other militants might also lay down their arms. Yet as has been the case with a series of recent high-level defections, the specific circumstances of Robow’s surrender suggest it may not represent a major turning point in the battle […]

Members of the Togolese diaspora stage an anti-government protest, Brussels, Belgium, Aug. 31, 2017 (Photo by Wiktor Dabkowski via AP).

As the world celebrated the fall of Gambian dictator Yahya Jammeh earlier this year, which was seen as another sign of strengthening democratic rule in West Africa, Togolese activist Farida Nabourema couldn’t help but feel a little jealous. While other regions on the continent, especially Central Africa, grapple with incumbent power grabs including “constitutional coups,” the story in West Africa has been more positive in recent years. In addition to Jammeh, the longtime president of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaore, was forced to leave office in 2014 following a popular uprising, and more orderly transfers of power have occurred in countries […]

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari after his arrival at the airport in Abuja, Nigeria, Aug. 19, 2017 (Photo by Sunday Aghaeze for Nigeria State House via AP).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, WPR Associate Editor Robbie Corey-Boulet curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. More than 100 days after leaving Nigeria to treat an undisclosed medical condition in the U.K., Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari returned to Abuja over the weekend. Supporters hailed his arrival, and Buhari seemed eager to move past the uncertainty and tension provoked by his absence, criticizing “political mischief-makers” while appealing to a sense of national unity. As Alex Thurston wrote for WPR toward the beginning of Buhari’s trip—his second long-term stay in London this year—the immediate complications for Nigeria […]

Volunteers search for bodies from the scene of heavy flooding and mudslides in Regent, on the outskirts of Freetown, Sierra Leone, Aug. 15 , 2017, (AP photo by Manika Kamara).

The death toll from last week’s devastating mudslide in Sierra Leone is likely to pass 500, with several thousand more people made homeless by the destruction left in its wake. The scale of the disaster was unparalleled, but flooding in the capital, Freetown, happens every year during the August rainy season. In 2015, at least 10 people were killed in the city by rising water; Kroo Town, one of Freetown’s largest unplanned neighborhoods, or informal settlements, has flooded every year since 2008. The major cause of the mudslides and flooding, according to Joseph Macarthy of the Sierra Leone Urban Research […]

Sierra Leone’s president, Ernest Bai Koroma, arrives for talks with Gambia's then-president, Yahya Jammeh, to urge Jammeh to respect last year's election result, Banjul, Gambia, Dec. 13, 2016 (AP photo by Sylvain Cherkaoui).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, WPR Associate Editor Robbie Corey-Boulet curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. The Waterloo cemetery on the outskirts of Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, the final resting place for many people killed during West Africa’s 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic, was again being put to use this week as the government struggled to cope with mudslides and flooding that left hundreds dead. Video footage of Monday’s disaster showed torrents of mud and water rushing down one of the area’s many hills. The mudslide occurred as many people were sleeping, and it “is thought to […]

Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga announces plans to challenge the results of last week’s election in court, Nairobi, Kenya, Aug. 16, 2017 (AP photo by Ben Curtis).

Kenyans breathed a sigh of relief this week. Despite a bitter presidential election, including isolated violence, their worst fears were not realized. Although friction still lingers, Kenya’s election on Aug. 8 went relatively smoothly and was praised by teams of election monitors from the African Union, the United States and the European Union. Memories of the 2007 elections, when widespread electoral fraud and a disputed outcome led to chaos, are still fresh in the minds of Kenyans. More than 1,000 people died in that post-election violence; hundreds of thousands were displaced. There was no repeat this year, despite a few […]

Chadian and Nigerian troops along with a U.S. special forces soldier participate in a hostage rescue exercise, Mao, Chad, March 7, 2015 (AP photo by Jerome Delay).

Last week, the Trump administration sent a high-level delegation to sub-Saharan Africa for the first time. U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer and other senior officials traveled to Togo, in West Africa, for an annual forum on the African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA. Enacted in 2000, the initiative is described by Washington as the “centerpiece” of its trade relations with the region. AGOA is a trade preference program that enhances access to the U.S. market for eligible countries. Various assessments indicate that the pact has led to increases in African exports and U.S. foreign investment on the continent. […]

Opposition demonstrators gather on the lawns of the Union Buildings, Pretoria, South Africa, April 12, 2017 (AP photo by Denis Farrell).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, WPR Associate Editor Robbie Corey-Boulet curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. South African President Jacob Zuma survived another no-confidence vote in parliament this week. But for the first time the process was conducted via secret ballot, and the result highlighted dissension within the ranks of the African National Congress, or ANC, as the party prepares to choose a standard-bearer for elections in 2019. A total of 177 lawmakers voted in favor of the no-confidence motion, including around 30 ANC members—what Reuters described as “an unprecedented revolt.” Zuma has been dogged […]

Supporters of Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai take to the streets before a rally, Harare, Zimbabwe, Aug. 5, 2017 (AP photo by Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi).

Last Saturday, Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe’s longtime opposition leader and head of the Movement for Democratic Change party, announced a new coalition intended to finally topple President Robert Mugabe, who has ruled the country since it attained independence in 1980. The grouping, known as MDC Alliance, features Welshman Ncube and Tendai Biti, government critics who had previously broken ranks with Tsvangirai but now say they’re determined to join forces to defeat Mugabe in elections planned for next year. “We owe it to the thousands of Zimbabweans to make sure that in our lifetime we can remove the beast called ZANU-PF,” Biti […]

A woman with a child on her back casts her ballot at a voting station, Luanda, Angola, Aug. 31, 2012 (AP photo).

With Jose Eduardo dos Santos stepping down after 38 years in power, there is little expectation in Angola of fair and free elections later this month. The ruling party headed by dos Santos has taken several steps to ensure its grip on power, stacking the deck against opposition parties and creating an election environment with little oversight or transparency. In an email interview, Dr. Sylvia Croese, a research fellow at the African Centre for Cities and the Department of Sociology at the University of Cape Town, describes the landscape in the runup to the elections, the pessimistic mood of civil […]

Supporters of Congolese opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi gather to mourn after his death, Kinshasa, Congo, Feb. 2, 2017 (AP photo by John Bompengo).

Does the United Nations have to go back to square one in the Democratic Republic of Congo? Mounting violence in the DRC threatens to put one of the organization’s longest-running large-scale peacekeeping operations in an unsustainable position. At a time when U.N. officials and diplomats in New York are talking about limiting blue helmet operations in the face of U.S. budget cuts, the organization faces a security test in the DRC that could highlight why it really needs more military resources, not fewer. There have been U.N. peacekeepers in the DRC since 1999. The first international personnel were deployed to […]

Senegalese President Macky Sall speaks during a U.N. Security Council meeting, Sept. 21, 2016 (AP photo by Julie Jacobson).

On July 30, Senegal held legislative elections, the second such vote since President Macky Sall took office five years ago. He and his party won overwhelmingly, claiming 43 of the country’s 45 electoral districts in a victory that underscored Sall’s strong position as his re-election campaign approaches in 2019. But a tough electoral battle in the capital, Dakar, as well as an opposition victory in the city of Touba, suggest that his political supremacy is far from complete. And opposition accusations of intimidation and voting irregularities raise questions about the state of democracy in Senegal. Heading into the recent vote, […]

A woman dressed in the colors of the Eritrean flag stands chained at a demonstration by Eritrean refugees and dissidents, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, June 23, 2016 (AP photo by Mulugeta Ayene).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, and associate editor, Robbie Corey-Boulet, discuss Kenya’s upcoming elections and Venezuela’s ongoing political crisis. For the Report, Michael Woldemariam talks with Peter Dörrie about how the Gulf crisis—pitting Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt against Qatar—is spilling over into the Horn of Africa. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines, as well as what you’ve seen on WPR, please think about supporting our work by subscribing. Listen: Download: MP3Subscribe: iTunes | RSS Relevant Articles on WPR: Old Game, New Stakes: How the Gulf Crisis Could […]

Kenyan opposition candidate Raila Odinga leads a demonstration calling for the disbandment of the country's election commission over allegations of bias and corruption, Nairobi, Kenya, June 6, 2016 (AP photo by Ben Curtis).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, WPR Associate Editor Robbie Corey-Boulet curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. The final week of campaigning before nationwide elections in Kenya began with two incidents that amplified fears of political violence. First, last weekend, a man armed with a machete managed to break into the home of Deputy President William Ruto, wounding one police officer and then fatally shooting another with a stolen rifle. It took 18 hours for security forces to kill him. Then, authorities announced Monday that a senior official with Kenya’s election commission had been found dead. […]

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf waves following a meeting with ECOWAS delegates, Banjul, Gambia, Dec. 13, 2016 (AP photo by Sylvain Cherkaoui).

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was born into a native Liberian family, meaning her parents were not descendants of the freed American slaves who established the country in the mid-19th century. As a girl, her mother was sent to work in the home of one of these Americo-Liberian families, who are also known as Congo people. Yet in “Madame President,” a biography released earlier this year, the New York Times reporter Helene Cooper notes that throughout her life, Sirleaf has run in the circles of the Congo elite while often being mistaken for one herself. After studying in the U.S., […]

Supporters of Madagascar President Hery Rajaonarimampianina at an election rally, Antananarivo, Madagascar, Oct. 23, 2013 (AP photo by Schalk van Zuydam).

In announcing his resignation last month, Madagascar’s finance minister, Gervais Rakotoarimanana, said conditions were not in place for him to succeed in the role, though he did not elaborate. While respected by international donors, Rakotoarimanana was not as beloved by other members of the government, and the private sector also viewed him warily. In an email interview, Richard R. Marcus, professor and director of the Global Studies Institute and the International Studies Program at California State University, Long Beach, describes the politics behind Rakotoarimanana’s resignation and how it fits in with preparations for elections in 2018, which he says are […]

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