Blackwater founder Erik Prince arrives for a closed meeting with members of the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 30, 2017 (AP photo by Jacquelyn Martin).

It may take years to unravel the tangled web surrounding “Project Opus,” the bungled 2019 mercenary operation to prop up Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar, which allegedly included efforts to deploy a special hit squad to Libya. Few observers tracking the burgeoning global market for privatized armies, however, were likely surprised by reports last week that U.N. investigators suspect the involvement of former Blackwater CEO Erik Prince. The recently leaked U.N. report makes only glancing mention of Prince’s alleged ties to the operation, but it marks the second time since the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings that Prince’s company, Hong Kong-based Frontier […]

A woman casts her ballot during elections in Niamey, Niger, Feb. 21, 2016 (AP photo by Gael Cogne).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, Andrew Green curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. Subscribers can adjust their newsletter settings to receive Africa Watch by email every week. Mohamed Bazoum, the candidate of Niger’s ruling party, has won last Sunday’s runoff presidential election, setting the stage for one elected leader to succeed another for the first time in the country’s history. Provisional results released Tuesday showed Bazoum with 55.75 percent of the vote to 44.25 percent for his opponent, Mahamane Ousmane. The poll was marred by violence, though, including two attacks on Election Day that killed […]

Workers produce clothing items on the assembly line at an apparel factory in Accra, Ghana, Nov. 13, 2007 (AP photo by Olivier Asselin).

The modern development aid industry is fundamentally flawed, writer and researcher Efosa Ojomo argues, because it is based on “the idea of seeing a need, seeing that a community lacks a resource, and then leaning in with the best of intentions to provide that resource without the fundamental mechanism that will sustain it.” That mechanism is what Ojomo and his co-authors call a “market-creating innovation”—an advance that spurs the creation of new businesses, customers and tax revenues that allow for improved public services. Ojomo is the head of the Global Prosperity research group at the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive […]

A woman walks by a market in Lagos, Nigeria, Dec. 31, 2020 (AP photo by Sunday Alamba).

Most African countries have fared relatively well in their responses to the coronavirus pandemic, reporting rates of infection and mortality that are far below those seen across much of Europe and the Americas. Yet Africa is expected to take a huge economic hit from the pandemic and its associated containment measures, with the African Development Bank forecasting that an additional 50 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty across the continent. Vaccination drives and economic relief packages will certainly be important to contain the damage. But according to author and researcher Efosa Ojomo, emerging-market nations should be aiming to […]

Opposition soldiers during a visit by a cease-fire monitoring team, at an opposition military camp near the town of Nimule in Eastern Equatoria state, South Sudan, Aug. 28, 2019 (AP photo by Sam Mednick).

Few nations have seen their dreams and hopes dashed as quickly and ruthlessly as South Sudan. A mere two years after thousands thronged the streets of the capital, Juba, to celebrate independence from Sudan’s autocratic rule, the country descended into a brutal civil war. The fallout between President Salva Kiir and Vice President-turned-rebel Riek Machar, and the subsequent fighting, exerted a terrible toll. Between 2013 and 2018, up to 400,000 people were killed and 4 million—a third of the country’s population—displaced, amid numerous reports of ethnic-based atrocities like rape and massacres. Listen to this article: [soundcloud]991358545[/soundcloud] The world’s youngest country […]

Primary school students in a classroom in Eastern Province, Rwanda, 2012 (photo by Tim Williams).

Children in Rwanda finally started heading back to school last fall, after months of learning from home. It was a bit of bright news for the country, given that schools had been closed since March due to the coronavirus pandemic. But now, many students are facing a brand-new challenge: Having to learn in an unfamiliar language. Rwanda’s government has begun implementing a controversial language change that requires all primary schools to instruct their students in English, rather than in Kinyarwanda, the national language spoken by nearly everyone in the country. However, only 38 percent of the primary school teachers who […]

Tanzanian President John Magufuli, second left, and his wife, Janeth Magufuli, left, in Dodoma, Tanzania, Oct. 28, 2020 (AP photo).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, Andrew Green curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. Subscribers can adjust their newsletter settings to receive Africa Watch by email every week. Tanzanian President John Magufuli has consistently downplayed the dangers of the coronavirus pandemic despite warnings from experts that his country is experiencing a surge in infections, threatening to overwhelm its health facilities. Magufuli’s skepticism has drawn rebukes from global health officials who worry that his refusal to take preventive measures may also undermine efforts to slow the spread of the virus across East Africa. The death of a […]

A woman casts her ballot during elections, in Niamey, Niger, Feb. 21, 2016 (AP photo by Gael Cogne).

Voters in Niger will return to the polls this Sunday for a runoff election that will determine outgoing President Mahamadou Issoufou’s successor. The subsequent transition will mark the first time in the country’s history that one elected president replaces another. Beyond being a milestone for its democracy, this vote also holds real significance for Niger’s troubled neighborhood, an arid region just below the Sahara Desert known as the Sahel, where political and security conditions have deteriorated in recent years. To Niger’s west, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali was ousted in a coup last August, the second in less than […]

Then-Vice President Joe Biden at the U.S. Africa Summit in Washington, Aug. 4, 2014 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

America’s democracy, once seen as a shining light and inspiration to democrats across the world, was pushed to the brink by Donald Trump’s presidency. In the aftermath of last month’s storming of the Capitol by right-wing extremists, some commentators declared that the United States’ own troubles mean it must now back away from promoting liberal values in the rest of the world. But in fact, the opposite is true: Having repelled a major challenge to its own democracy, America is now better positioned to promote democratic norms and values abroad. Listen to this article: [soundcloud]988339474[/soundcloud] Recent events in the U.S. […]

A woman is briefed before taking a COVID-19 test in Groblersdal, South Africa, Feb. 11, 2021 (AP photo by Jerome Delay).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, Andrew Green curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. Subscribers can adjust their newsletter settings to receive Africa Watch by email every week. COVID-19 vaccination campaigns across Africa suffered a potentially serious blow after new research showed that a vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca offered only minimal protection against mild and moderate infections caused by the more contagious coronavirus variant that was first detected in South Africa. The new strain has fueled a second wave of infections in the country and has been detected in at least 30 other […]

President Donald Trump at a campaign rally in support of Republican Senate candidates in Dalton, Georgia, Jan. 4, 2021 (AP photo by Brynn Anderson).

Over the past decade, illiberal populist leaders from across the political spectrum have won elections and taken power in many of the world’s biggest democracies, from the United States to India, the Philippines, Turkey and Brazil. Once in office, they have often undermined democratic norms and institutions, including the media, the judiciary, the civil service, and, in many cases, free and fair elections themselves. The rise of illiberal populism is a major reason why the annual “Freedom in the World” reports, published by the global watchdog organization Freedom House, have charted 14 straight years of global democratic regression. (I serve […]

People sit under campaign election posters of President Paul Biya, in Yaounde, Cameroon, Oct. 5. 2018 (AP photo by Sunday Alamba).

When at least 53 people died in Cameroon in late January after a bus collided with a fuel-laden truck—one of the worst road accidents in the country’s history—few observers would have expected that reactions to the tragedy would include ethnic slurs, mainly on Facebook. They were directed toward members of the Bamileke community, from which most of the victims appeared to originate. Cameroon has long prided itself on the relative harmony between the country’s approximately 250 ethnic groups, none of which dominates nationally—a diversity that many Cameroonians consider to be a safeguard against communal violence. But Cameroon now has to […]

African leaders at the opening session of the 33rd African Union Summit at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Feb. 9, 2020 (AP photo).

Editor’s Note: Every Friday, Andrew Green curates the top news and analysis from and about the African continent. Subscribers can adjust their newsletter settings to receive Africa Watch by email every week. The coronavirus pandemic is certain to dominate the annual African Union summit this weekend, but it’s far from the only issue on the agenda at the two days of virtual meetings. Key elections are scheduled for leadership positions in the AU Commission, and analysts are watching to see whether the bloc can revitalize last year’s pledge to end Africa’s conflicts. The summit marks the end of South African […]

A demonstrator holds a sign reading, “poverty rises, starvations rises” during a protest in Tunis, Tunisia, Jan.23, 2021 (AP photo by Hedi Ayari).

As Tunisia marked the 10th anniversary of the removal of dictator Zine el Abidine Ben Ali on Jan. 14, people poured into the streets, defying a nationwide COVID-19 lockdown. While every January brings some form of popular protest around the revolution’s anniversary, things are different this year. Last month’s milestone serves as a grim reminder of what democracy has not brought: jobs, social justice and an end to endemic corruption. And this year, the country is in the midst of twin crises: an economy ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic and a deep political divide due to increasing polarization. Tunisians, often […]

Migrants from Morocco arrive on a beach at the southeastern coast of the island of Gran Canaria, Spain, Jan. 7, 2021 (AP photo by Javier Bauluz).

GRANADA, Spain—In the Canary Islands, off the coast of Morocco, the coronavirus pandemic isn’t the only crisis that 2020 will be known for. Over the course of the year, more than 23,000 migrants arrived in the Spanish archipelago by boat from Africa—8,000 of them in November alone—while some 500 died attempting the journey. The images of thousands of migrants stranded on beaches with no place to go evoked inevitable comparisons to another crisis, in 2006, when a total of 34,000 people landed on the archipelago in small wooden boats known as cayucos. African migrants are being pushed toward this dangerous […]

Refugees who fled the conflict in the Tigray region arrive on the banks of the Tekeze River on the Sudan-Ethiopia border, in Hamdayet, eastern Sudan, Nov. 21, 2020 (AP photo by Nariman El-Mofty).

President Joe Biden’s foreign policy team arrived in Washington amid a mounting humanitarian emergency in the Horn of Africa, as the Ethiopian government continues its monthslong military campaign against the northern Tigray region. The crisis is an early test of the Biden administration’s ability to balance its global advocacy for democracy, human rights and the rule of law against its strategic interests in a vital yet unstable region. A once-promising liberal reformer and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched a military offensive on his political opponents in Tigray last November in response to reported attacks on […]