IOA Position Papers

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.Meanwhile, the contraction of civil liberties to curtail political opposition campaigning and the arrest of political opposition figures has become so flagrant that the former colonial power of the Congo, Belgium, as well as France and the US, are considering sanctions against Kabila and his government co-conspirators against democracy.  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.

Image6

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

Rwanda’s new drone fleet raises regional security concerns

As new evidence emerges of Kigali’s sponsorship of rebels in foreign countries, Central African nations worry that Rwanda’s new drone fleet may find military applications. The drones begin flying strictly humanitarian missions in July or August, but can a government prone to nefarious military operations be trusted with drone technology?

If the country were not one with Rwanda’s history of regional skulduggery, ulterior motives for government’s embrace of a drone air force for humanitarian purposes might not be suspected. For more than a decade the UN has released evidence that Rwanda was a financial sponsor of the M23 rebel group that fought the government of neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Subsequent evidence has emerged of Rwanda seeking to destabilise the DRC by supporting other insurgency operations. The motive appears to be to keep portions of the DRC lawless so as to smuggle out that nation’s considerable mineral wealth for the enrichment of foreign entities, presumably Rwandan.

Zipline - Delivery

Zipline drones will start making humanitarian deliveries in Rwanda beginning in July 2016. Photo courtesy Zipline.

In May 2016, new UN evidence was presented implicating Rwanda in the training of Burundian rebels to overthrow the government of Burundi. The UN report confirmed the suspicions of the government of Burundi and enflamed dangerous ethnic tensions in the region. A predictable dance has emerged from Kigali as each new revelation of its misdeeds is publicised. The government of Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame routinely dismisses each report, treating evidence as hearsay and characterising proof as ‘unsupported allegations’. The denials are couched in a hauteur that employs such adjectives as “ridiculous,” “childish” and “unworthy of comment.”

As Rwanda and the UN circle one another in a thus far interminable pas de deux, with neither side knowing how to end the dance, a new tool has fallen into Kigali’s hands. The new capability of drone aircraft, like all new technology, has potential for doing great good but also great harm. However, wariness of Rwanda may prompt neighbouring nations to create drone air forces of their own, and not necessarily for humanitarian purposes, spending money that the region’s indigent nations require for social services and nation building needs.  Read more

The politics of using refugees as election fodder: The case of Kenya’s government

In Africa, the worldwide trend of demonizing refugees to gain political traction has been most apparent in Kenya. Despite elections still more than a year away, Kenya’s beleaguered government has already been issuing trumped-up claims citing the nation’s large refugee population as an unacceptable security risk.

Tent shelters at Kenya's Dadaab refugee camp. Photo courtesy UK Department for International Development

Tent shelters at Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp. Photo courtesy UK Department for International Development/Flickr

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), globally, 1 in every 113 humans is now either a refugee, internally displaced or seeking asylum, with the total number at over 65 million people. Sub-Saharan Africa alone saw five consecutive years of growth in the number of displaced persons from 2009-2014, with the current total numbering more than 4 million.  The primary reason for the rise in the number of refugees around the world is the eruption or re-igniting of conflicts. Terrorism as a source of conflict increased worldwide by 80% in 2014, with the number of terrorist-related deaths rising from 18,111 in 2013 to a record high of 32,685 in 2014, according to the latest data from the Global Terrorism Index (GTI). While it is true that migrants and refugees in Africa also choose to leave their homes to escape crushing poverty or evade repressive governments, it is those from conflict zones that are targeted by craven and opportunistic politicians looking to foster support for their own election campaigns.

Kenya’s ruling coalition, led by President Uhuru Kenyatta – who until December 2014 was under indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity in relation to post-election violence in 2007 – could face significant challenge in elections scheduled for August 2017. Read more

The economic power of Africa’s migrants

Fleeing from war zones, migrants are not simply helpless victims adrift in refugee camps. Many are skilled workers who enrich the economies of their host countries, which more often than not are other African nations.

The stereotype of African migrants swarming into Europe for the purpose of leeching off European Union (EU) states for free social services and engaging in criminal activities may be the image cherished by European bigots and xenophobes. However, there is little reality to the scenario, an April 2016 report by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) asserts. Far from seeking European shores to invade and EU countries in which to settle, the majority of African migrants on the move choose as their destinations other African countries. Only a minority of migrants leave the continent.

Somali money exchanger

A money exchanger trades US dollars for Somali shillings in Mogadishu. Photo courtesy AMISOM/Stuart Price/Flickr

The UNECA report, Challenges of International Migration in Africa, was unveiled in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, during events coinciding with African Development Week, a time set aside by the African Union (AU) and UN to assess Africa’s economic and social progress and the efficacy of programmes aimed at uplifting African peoples. Perhaps the most succinct summation of the report is that Africa’s gain is Europe’s loss, for hard workers and skilled labour are essential to any economy. African migrants, like any foreigners moving into a new country, unless they are wealthy, tend to take jobs or perform services that are undesirable to the local people, from putting in long hours at small shops in the townships of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa to working as domestic servants in Algiers, Algeria. African professionals like dentists, nurses, engineers and managers forced out of their homes by conflict or in the cases of countries like Zimbabwe, by a collapsing economy, expand the pool of skilled professionals that is the life-blood of any nation’s economic growth. Read more