Guinea’s Junta President Col. Mamady Doumbouya, center, after a meeting with an ECOWAS delegation in Conakry, Guinea, Sept. 10, 2021 (AP photo by Sunday Alamba).

For the past decade and more, the U.S. and other international actors have prioritized a narrowly defined form of stability over democratic accountability in their diplomatic, development and security engagement in West Africa. The only problem is that this approach is not working. West African countries enjoy neither the stability their international partners seek, nor the democracy their citizens desire.  Why, then, is the United States and the rest of the “international community” unwilling or unable to make a course correction in their West Africa engagement? To begin to answer that question, a bit of historical background is necessary. Beginning […]

Tunisian demonstrators gather outside the Municipal Theater of Tunis during a protest against Tunisian President Kais Saied, Sept. 18, 2021 (AP photo by Riadh Dridi).

It’s a bitter irony that the last embers of the Arab Spring may be snuffed out in the same place, Tunisia, where a spark first ignited massive pro-democracy fires across a region filled with dictatorships. Tunisians, at least some of them, seem to be stirring from their jaded acceptance of a presidential coup. Still, the one country that emerged from the Arab uprisings with a semblance of democracy looks like it’s returning to what was the norm before the revolutions it unleashed in 2010. Last Sunday, thousands of people turned out to protest in the Tunisian capital, where President Kais Saied, […]

U.S. President Joe Biden with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, during the G-7 summit in Cornwall, United Kingdom, June 12, 2021 (pool photo by Leon Neal via AP).

Joe Biden began his presidency with a great deal of goodwill from the international community. His foreign policy platform promised to undo the tense relationships former President Donald Trump’s administration often had with its allies and partners, including those in Africa. However, Biden’s approach toward the continent thus far shows that a willingness to reset relations does not presage a fundamental shift in U.S. Africa policy. Given the rising challenges of Chinese and Russian influence across the continent and the metastasizing threat of terrorism, simply restoring the cordial yet detached Africa policy of pre-Trump administrations may not be enough. The […]

The World Bank building, Washington, April 5, 2021 (AP photo by Andrew Harnik).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Africa Watch, which includes a look at the week’s top stories and best reads from and about the African continent. Subscribe to receive it by email every Friday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. Last week, the World Bank Group announced its decision to end publication of the Doing Business report, its flagship annual publication that rates the business environment of countries around the world, after a probe concluded that senior World Bank management pressured staff to alter data affecting the […]

Col. Assimi Goita, left, head of Mali’s military junta, and retired Col. Maj. Bah N’Daw, right, as N’Daw is sworn into the office of transitional president, Bamako, Mali, Sept. 25, 2020 (AP file photo).

With rising communal and interethnic violence gripping swaths of the country, two coups in less than a year and a deadlocked transition to civilian rule, Mali is arguably facing its most uncertain moment since the 1991 March Revolution, which paved the way for the country’s return to civilian government nearly 30 years ago. Throw in a peace accord with northern insurgent groups on life support, a drawdown of Operation Barkhane—France’s massive counterinsurgency mission across the Sahel—and a rumored deal to deploy Russian private military contractors from the Wagner Group to the country, and it’s fair to say Mali’s immediate and […]

Turkish security forces apprehend a group of migrants in an operation aimed at stemming the recent influx of migration, in Van, Turkey, Aug. 21, 2021 (AP photo by Emrah Gurel).

In July, British Home Secretary Priti Patel announced that the U.K. had agreed to pay France roughly $72 million to fund border personnel and equipment that would be used to stop asylum-seekers from crossing the English Channel. The deal came amid a dramatic rise in the number of channel crossings. In the first half of 2021, more than 8,000 asylum-seekers completed the voyage to land on England’s southern shore. The deal with France was controversial, including within Patel’s own Conservative Party. Noting that this was the second such payment to France in the past year, Tim Loughton, a leading Conservative […]

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, greets Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani upon his arrival at the Red Sea city of Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, May 10, 2021 (AP photo by Bandar Aljaloud).

Editor’s note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Middle East Memo, which takes a look at what’s happening, what’s being said and what’s on the horizon in the Middle East. Subscribe to receive it by email every Monday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it. Talking is good, but how much should expectations and hopes be raised now that Middle East rivals are talking without necessarily putting a pause on their disputes?  Friday saw the unveiling of a new “public display of diplomacy” in the broader region when an aide to […]

A logo for British American Tobacco on a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, July 24, 2017 (AP photo by Richard Drew).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Africa Watch, which includes a look at the week’s top stories and best reads from and about the African continent. Subscribe to receive it by email every Friday. If you’re already a subscriber, adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox.  British American Tobacco, one of the United Kingdom’s largest companies, has been accused of paying bribes to the notoriously corrupt former president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe. The allegations come amid a number of other reports of Western multinational corporations allegedly engaging in questionable conduct on the African […]

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Almost everything about the conventional narrative of the history of Europe’s Age of Exploration and Empire is wrong, particularly where it concerns the role of Africa and Africans. Africa was a central focus of the early period of European exploration in the late 15th century and continued to be central to the plantation economies established in the European colonies of the Americas. And without the labor of enslaved Africans, none of those economies would have been as profitable, or as transformational, as they were. Howard French joined WPR’s Judah Grunstein this week on Trend Lines to discuss his fifth and […]

Detail from the Catalan Atlas, a medieval map produced in the 1370s, depicting Mansa Musa of the Mali Empire (Bibliotheque Nationale de France, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons).

The history of Europe’s Age of Exploration and Empire usually follows a familiar narrative. Starting in the late 15th century, European explorers set out to find maritime trade routes to the lucrative spice and textile markets of Asia. Happening by chance upon the “New World” of the Americas, they quickly established colonies whose wealth, mainly in the form of gold and silver, combined with advances in military technology, propelled what would become known as the West to centuries of global dominance that has only begun to wane today. In this narrative, Africa and Africans are all but invisible, except as […]

Civilians and soldiers line up to vote at a school in Conakry, Guinea, Oct. 18, 2020 (AP photo by Sadak Souici).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only weekly newsletter, Africa Watch, which includes a look at the week’s top stories and best reads from and about the African continent. Subscribe to receive it by email every Friday. If you’re already a subscriber,  adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. Early last Sunday morning, reports emerged of a shootout close to the presidential residence in Conakry, Guinea’s capital, between pro-government forces and an elite army unit intent on deposing President Alpha Conde. The Defense Ministry initially claimed the attack had been suppressed, but shortly thereafter, […]

Election officials wait for voters inside a polling station, in Rabat, Morocco, Sept. 8, 2021 (AP photo by Mosa’ab Elshamy).

Wednesday’s legislative elections in Morocco delivered a crushing defeat to the ruling Justice and Development Party, or PJD, a moderate Islamist party that had been the largest in Parliament since 2011. Thanks in part to mandatory quotas for female representation, the new crop of lawmakers is on track to be more diverse, with a greater number of women, as well as young people. But it will also be more deeply fragmented, and with royalist parties emerging as the victors of the vote, the incoming Parliament is unlikely to pose any meaningful challenge to King Mohammed VI, who controls nearly all […]

A test of the Tribute in Light rises above lower Manhattan, Sept. 7, 2011, in New York (AP photo by Seth Wenig).

Editor’s Note: This is the web version of our subscriber-only Weekly Wrap-Up newsletter, which gives a rundown of the week’s top stories on WPR. Subscribe to receive it by email every Saturday. If you’re already a subscriber,  adjust your newsletter settings to receive it directly to your email inbox. When U.S. President Joe Biden initially chose the 20th anniversay of 9/11 as the deadline for ending the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, he probably expected the date’s symbolism to resonate more triumphantly. But in the aftermath of the Taliban takeover of Kabul and the chaotic evacuation that followed, the remembrances of the […]

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken participates in a virtual bilateral meeting with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari at the State Department, Washington, April 27, 2021 (AP photo by Leah Millis).

U.S. President Joe Biden campaigned for the 2020 Democratic nomination promising not only to restore the defense of human rights and democracy to a central position in U.S. foreign policy, but also to “build back better” in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. But for Africa’s 54 countries and 1.4 billion people, despite a welcome change in tone from the administration of former President Donald Trump, there is little to show for the first nine months of Biden’s presidency when it comes to engagement on values—or anything else of substance.  In his first foreign policy speech as president, Biden triumphantly […]

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni speaks during a visit to Juba, South Sudan, Oct. 15, 2018 (AP photo by Bullen Chol).

KAMPALA, Uganda—Fifty-one Afghan evacuees arrived at Uganda’s international airport in Entebbe on a chartered flight on Aug. 25. They were shunted across the hot tarmac into buses and brought to lakeside hotels previously emptied due to the coronavirus pandemic.  Their arrival was the result of a deal Uganda made with the United States, in which Kampala promised to provide temporary shelter to some 2,000 “at risk” Afghan evacuees. The agreement was celebrated by Ugandan and American politicians, but the details of exactly how it came about, and the fate of the asylees themselves, remain shrouded in secrecy. The deal also […]

Guinean President Alpha Conde at the State Department in Washington, Sept. 13, 2019 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

As a college student in the United States in the late 1970s whose family had recently moved to West Africa, my studies focused on African politics, and I was particularly and irresistibly drawn in by the stories of the continent’s first generation of post-independence leaders. Their narratives were almost mythic in their richness and power. There was the doomed Patrice Lumumba, a former postal clerk who had become the first prime minister of Congo, publicly lecturing the king of Belgium on the eve of Kinshasa’s independence from that country about the Congolese people’s will to dignity. There was Ghana’s Kwame […]

President Andry Rajoelina of Madagascar before a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris, Aug. 27, 2021 (AP photo by Lewis Joly).

Late last month, Malagasy authorities announced that they had foiled an assassination attempt on several high-profile political figures, including President Andry Rajoelina. According to a statement by the general prosecutor of the Antananarivo Court of Appeals, “several foreign and Madagascar nationals were arrested on July 20th as part of an investigation into an attack on state security.” Since then, over 20 well-connected individuals and high-ranking army and police officials have been arrested, including two French nationals, a retired general, a former prime minister, a former candidate for the Madagascan presidential election in 2006, and a senior official of the Gendarmerie, […]

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