The Democratic Republic of Congo is the latest African country whose fate is tied to a leader’s ambitions

Central Africa’s democracies are endangered by leaders whose desire to retain power is subverting democratic governance. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is now on the brink of dictatorship as its leader seeks to perpetuate a family dynasty.

Judging by the unfolding game plan of President Joseph Kabila, the DRC is to be led by a family dynasty. National elections scheduled for 2016 to allow the DRC’s people to vote for Kabila’s replacement will most certainly not take place. DRC observers and international diplomats had concluded this by mid-year, and in July the UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) conceded this as well. Kabila wants MONUSCO out of the country to allow him a free hand at seizing power through unconstitutional means. The UN suspects a plot, and is staying put.

The DRC’s President Joseph Kabila during an address to the UN General Assembly in New York. Photo courtesy MONUSCO/Flickr

The DRC’s President Joseph Kabila during an address to the UN General Assembly in New York. Photo courtesy MONUSCO/Flickr

Kabila’s original plan was to deny seeking to manipulate the national constitution to allow him to stay in power beyond his constitutionally-allowable two terms, while working behind the scenes to enact such changes. Under intense international scrutiny, Kabila has been unable to pull this off, and has enacted Plan B: stall any government succession by not setting a date for new elections. The flaw in the DRC system is that the president is the one who sets election dates, rather than having a timetable firmly written into the constitution. Kabila has been able to work this shortcoming to his advantage. Read more

Environmental destruction and poor resource governance are provoking a second conflict in Nigeria – an interview with Udeme Akpan

Nigeria has been battling Islamic militants in its North-East since 2009, yet the government now also faces the prospect of a second internal conflict – for very different reasons. Militant groups in the Niger Delta have sabotaged pipelines and launched attacks on vital oil infrastructure in protest after a reigniting of long-standing grievances held by local communities. In an interview extracted from the July 2016 edition of IOA’s Africa Conflict Monitor (ACM), Udeme Akpan, a Nigeria-based IOA consultant and journalist and author with over 20 years of experience examining the dynamics of Nigeria’s energy sector, says that environmental devastation in the Niger Delta is “real and forms the basis of the conflict.”

Oil-sodden marshland in the Niger Delta. Photo courtesy Sosialistisk Ungdom (SU)/Flickr

Oil-sodden marshland in the Niger Delta. Photo courtesy Sosialistisk Ungdom (SU)/Flickr

Since early 2016, violence has flared up in the Niger Delta, the heartland of Nigeria’s oil production. The attacks have been conducted by a range of militia groups, foremost among them the Nigerian Delta Avengers. The group has declared that its goal is to bring Nigeria’s oil industry to a complete halt. Can you tell us more about these militant groups, and the reasons behind their attacks?

The Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) is made up of militants who were formerly a part of insurgent movements in the early 2000s. These militants had in the past demonstrated their commitment to aggressively protecting the interests of the region, lashing out against foreign-owned oil facilities and government paramilitary groups. But the thinking in some quarters is that members of the NDA also have a personal interest in renewing conflict, as they, in one way or another, benefited from concessions made by the previous administration led by then President Goodluck Jonathan. Read more

US media distorts Africa in chase for TV ratings

Ignorance and bigotry towards Africa are on display during the US presidential election cycle from both candidates and the broadcast media that reports their antics. Africans who watch the coverage on international news stations like CNN confront a TV image at odds with history and current reality.

Africans have reason to be concerned about the 2016 US presidential election, which features as one of its two principal candidates, a demagogue who would ban immigration and even visitation to the US by citizens of virtually every African country. If the ban on Muslim immigration to the US, that is the main platform of the Republican Party’s nominee, Donald Trump, is implemented, then no African nation will be spared having its citizens prohibited from entering the US. Thousands of Africans who regularly travel to the US on business, to train as soldiers with the US military, to study, to work, to act in movies and win Oscars, and even African leaders, would be blocked.

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Mark Wiggett for IOA

This is obviously big news in Africa. However, the impact Trump’s immigration policies would have on Africa is a story that is nowhere told in the US media, be it the broadcast media or web-based news media. Africa can be forgiven if it feels that it is, once again, an overlooked continent. Africans also have reason to be angry at the lack of knowledge that news commentators and, similarly, politicians share on African current events, and not only African, but US history. Given the cultural, military and trade ties between the US and Africa, much is at stake for Africans when Americans go to the polls in November. And much is to be feared by Africans.

Africa depicted through the prism of American domestic politics

US network news programmes are aired in Africa via satellite TV and viewed by millions across the continent. CNN is a global broadcast news provider, on par with the UK’s BBC, and is probably viewed by more Africans than any other news channel, again via satellite TV reception. CNN’s news editorial policy is to refer to Libya as a ‘failed state’. Read more

Tool of warfare and African social crisis: the epidemic of gender-based violence — an interview with Catherine Akurut

So widespread is gender-based violence in African societies and so deleterious the effects on the many victims that the crime can be considered a public health issue. Catherine Akurut, an IOA consultant and conflict resolution practitioner based in Uganda, calls gender-based violence in Africa an “epidemic.”

A young girl at a camp for displaced persons in Rwanda’s Western Province.

A young girl at a camp for displaced persons in Rwanda’s Western Province. Photo courtesy Julien Harneis/Flickr

Gender-based violence is not restricted to conflict zones; and indeed some militaries use gender-based violence as a weapon of sorts, sanctioning and perhaps ordering soldiers to commit rape and other abuses to pacify or punish civilian populations. Could you elaborate further on the nature of gender-based violence in Africa’s conflict zones?

Gender-based violence in conflict areas takes on many forms including rape, trafficking, sexual exploitation and forced impregnation and is solely intended to torture and to cause physical, emotional and psychological harm. It is true that gender-based violence is not restricted to conflict zones. But, more often than not, conflicts provide the perfect conditions for such atrocities to occur. The nature of gender-based violence in Africa’s conflict zones is one that is characterised by women and girls comprising the majority of the victims. However, in recent years, it has come to light that boys and men too, can be the victims of gender-based violence. This has been exposed in the Central African Republic (CAR) where UN peacekeepers have been the victimisers. A means by which to address these atrocities continues to elude all stakeholders.

What are international organisations able to do to discourage gender-based violence in conflict zones and to prosecute perpetrators?

Prosecuting perpetrators of gender-based violence has proven to be problematic. Due to limited resources, cases related to gender-based violence take a long time to make their way to and through national and international court systems. International organisations cannot work alone to discourage gender-based violence. Read more

IOA Redefining African Development Report

Meeting targets or creating change?

African nations are currently in the process of adopting two new ambitious and often overlapping development agendas: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – the successor to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – is an effort to confront global development challenges, while Agenda 2063 is a 50-year action plan launched by the African Union (AU) directed at addressing continent-specific issues.

With the international development agenda now set for the foreseeable future, ‘Redefining African Development’ explores the mixed success of the MDGs in Africa and investigates how the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) compare to their precursor, and how they overlap with the AU’s Agenda 2063. Specifically, the question of whether apolitical development agendas can fuel transformative change without equal focus on strengthening key institutions and expanding civil liberties and political freedoms.