North Korea’s African inroads come to an end

A UN panel calling Namibia out on breaking international sanctions by making military deals with Asia’s pariah state, North Korea, has wider implications. African countries can no longer blindly do what they want and laugh at international law without consequences.

The bilateral advantages were too tantalising for African countries to resist or for North Korea to withstand exploiting. Condemned in the international community as a rogue nation with a horrid human rights record, North Korea is subject to ever more strenuous sanctions aimed at hindering its nuclear and military ambitions.

A nationalist dance performance during North Korea’s annual Arirang Mass Games in Pyongyang. Photo courtesy (Stephan)/Flickr
A nationalist dance performance during North Korea’s annual Arirang Mass Games in Pyongyang. Photo courtesy (Stephan)/Flickr

The country is ruled by tyrannical Kim Jong-un, who may or may not be insane but is sufficiently ruthless to execute family members. Since 2006, the UN Security Council (UNSC) has passed five major resolutions aimed at countering North Korea’s nuclear programme. North Korea will go to any lengths to get what it wants, in this case, nuclear weapons and intercontinental missile delivery systems for those bombs that will ensure that Pyongyang gets whatever it wants in perpetuity. A foreign policy based on lies, insults, bellicosity and threats has unnerved the country’s immediate neighbours and disturbed the superpowers of the People’s Republic of China and the US.

Four African countries in particular, Ethiopia, the Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda, have leaderships that seem not to care about the prospect of a nuclear-armed North Korea, nor about the millions of North Koreans oppressed by the Kim military regime. The fulsome descriptions of a “strong friendship between development partners,” that African heads of state and diplomats use to praise their relations with Pyongyang refer to a relationship with a regime, not a silent and powerless Korean people. Read more

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.

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

Assessing peace prospects after the Central African Republic’s elections

The CAR has made a serious effort at a free and competently-run election as a first step to bringing stability to one of the region’s most volatile countries. Only the eradication of militias will ensure ultimate peace.

The salutations from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that followed successfully conducted elections in the Central African Republic (CAR) were more than a pro-forma expression of cheer underscored with a note of relief that the insurgency-torn nation had pulled off a peaceful election. Under Ki-moon’s authority, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the CAR (MINUSCA), with its 11,000-strong fighting force, is the glue that holds the country together. The decision to keep in place or withdraw the forces belongs to Ban. The holding of the presidential and ongoing legislative elections and the transitioning to a functioning government that will follow are key points in determining how long MINUSCA will stay. The UN has botched a sex scandal involving MINUSCA soldiers exploiting and abusing boy and girl child refugees by covering-up the crimes, which were eventually exposed in the media. During the fracas, Ki-moon threatened to disband MINUSCA if the contributing nations did not investigate their soldiers’ misdeeds.

A Rwandan soldier guards a refugee camp in Bangui. Photo courtesy US Air Force/Flickr.
A Rwandan soldier guards a refugee camp in Bangui. Photo courtesy US Air Force/Flickr.

MINUSCA’s main challenge is the rebel group, the Séléka. Predominately Muslim in membership but not a jihadist organisation seeking an Islamic state, Séléka ousted President Francois Bozizé in March 2013. In the ensuing months, Séléka committed atrocities against civilians and an opposing Christian militia called the anti-Balaka. With Séléka in possession of much of the country in 2014, peace was restored in an agreement that saw Bangui mayor Catherine Samba-Panza become president of an interim government. Keeping a lid on further violence as elections for a permanent government were carried out has been MINUSCA’s preoccupation. The task has made MINUSCA the UN’s most expensive mission ever. That the elections resulted in an administration headed by Faustin Archange Touadèra, who earned 62.7% of the 14 February 2016 runoff vote, was validation of the forces’ presence. On 20 February 2016, the Elections Commission declared that Touadèra had won a landslide 63% of the vote. Read more

Workers revolt at privatisation

Efforts to wean African governments off inefficient and corrupt public companies meet violent resistance from workers and resentment from corrupt politicians

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is simply echoing what every economist knows and indeed, what every economics student learns early on: government-owned companies are usually corrupt, always inefficient and are a drain on treasuries of money that can be better used to improve government’s legitimate services. Governments should not be in the business of business. Rather, government should count on revenue from tax levies and other traditional sources and a firewall must exist to separate the public and private sector. Government-owned companies are bad for national economies, stifling competition wherever they exist. Such companies are hotbeds for nepotism and patronage as government officials use their influence to seat relatives and cronies on boards of directors or have these unqualified individuals ensconced in lucratively paying, do-nothing positions. The IMF routinely suggests to African governments that they shed public companies with the avidity of snakes shedding unwanted skins, but the warning is received as a pro-forma Jeremiah, and routinely ignored.

Mark Wiggett for ACM

African governments that have inherited government-owned companies from previous authoritative regimes, such as in South Africa, and socialistic governments, such as Tanzania, are largely loathe to privatise – along with the majority of African nations whose government-owned companies originated in the colonial era. Government officials benefit financially (even if only under the table) from such firms, which encourages officials to give jobs to relatives and supporters. Even reformists’ governments find privatisation of powerful, entrenched entities a task too daunting. Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari seeks to reform the country’s scandal-plagued national petroleum company, but not as far as promoting privatisation.

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ACM Special Release February 2016: Children condemned by the UN to sexual abuse

A cover-up involving UN agencies in the Central African Republic allowed scores of child refugees to be sexually abused by UN peacekeepers

In this ACM special release, Founding Editor James Hall analyses the ongoing pedophile scandal involving UN peacekeepers from a half-dozen countries in the Central African Republic (CAR). A cover-up by UN officials suppressed the soldiers’ crimes, allowing the rape of refugee children to continue.

In a hard-hitting examination of the scandal, Hall calls for the prosecution of UN officials responsible for the cover up. While UN personnel enjoy diplomatic immunity, this can be waived if prosecution is carried out by the UN’s own International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

Climate change in Africa abets terrorism: Global warming is making some areas uninhabitable for all but fanatical militants

By James Hall

If the heating and drying effects of global warming are not reversed, areas of northern, eastern and southern Africa will be unfit for normal human life. As they are doing in Libya’s wastelands, terror groups will move in, undaunted by the physical hardships.

In the cosmology of the fanatical Islamic militant, even the grand caliphate envisioned by fundamentalist groups and under which they will subjugate all human society is not meant to be paradise on earth. True paradise comes in the afterlife, they believe, and earthly imperfection is to be endured. For that reason, al-Shabaab has no qualms operating out of parched and backward rural lands in Somalia, and the Islamic State (ISIS) is happy to have a foothold in North Africa in Libya’s desert wilderness

A farmer preps his field for seeding outside Lilongwe, Malawi. Photo courtesy Stephen Morrison/Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Australia)/Flickr
A farmer preps his field for seeding outside Lilongwe, Malawi.
Photo courtesy Stephen Morrison/Flickr

Of course, the real reason for those jihadist groups’ occupation of areas largely unoccupied because they are harsh and inhospitable, is that the governing authority of the countries that these groups invade will probably not be actively enforced in those wastelands. This can be witnessed at the start of 2016 in Libya, where rival governments which have taken the first steps toward a reunified country by signing a UN plan to end their disputes have been unable to police the vast country during the political schism. In Somalia, government is unable to secure the capital Mogadishu without the presence of African Union (AU) peacekeepers.

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The Battle for the Sahel: Confronting Islamist terror groups throughout the region

By Conway Waddington

Sahel insecurity is the product of vulnerabilities inherent to the geography of the region, while other security challenges arise from political and demographic factors. Militant Islamist groups have increasingly exploited these vulnerabilities, necessitating joint regional cooperation from regional powers if they hope to effectively combat the militant threat.

AQIM militants in northern Mali. Screenshot of AQIM video hosted by Aaron Y. Zelin/

The Sahel region, a geographic belt separating desert from savannah, stretching from the west coast of Africa to the east coast, faces numerous security and stability threats. Non-state actor groups consisting of militants, rebels and terrorists are a particular source of instability and violence. These groups include: al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and its various affiliates and offshoots who are concentrated in north-western Africa; Boko Haram in north-eastern Nigeria and the Lake Chad area; and al-Shabaab in Somalia and Kenya. To a limited but increasing extent, groups or factions within pre-existing militant movements, aligned with the Islamic State (ISIS), are also making their presence felt across the region.

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Kenya’s attack on the International Criminal Court and the future of international law in Africa

By Sandile Lukhele

In Brief: Kenya’s ruling party seeks to protect its leadership from prosecution against crimes against humanity by dropping out of the International Criminal Court (ICC). As African leaders war against the only international tribunal that can hold them accountable, the African people are left defenceless.


Kenya’s parliament, the National Assembly, in mid-November 2015 received a bill that, when passed, will repeal the International Crimes Act 2008 which incorporates into Kenyan law the Rome Statute that created the International Criminal Court (ICC). When passed, the new bill that nullifies the older law will enjoy the support of the ruling-National Alliance Party (NAP), whose leader, President Uhuru Kenyatta, was indicted by the ICC and stood trial in 2014 for crimes against humanity. The case was dropped in December 2014 when the ICC prosecution said that it could not proceed without evidence that originated in Kenya but was not forthcoming. Kenyatta’s minions ensured that the evidence never reached The Hague to be used in their boss’ trial. The new legislation removing Kenya from the Rome Statute will absolve government from even pretending to cooperate with the ICC.

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Anti-Boko Haram task force begins to unravel

Limited operational structure and shaky inter-participant relations bode ill for the MNJTF

By Conway Waddington

In Brief: The Multinational Joint Task Force (MNTJF) appears to be in trouble. The force appears woefully undersized and hamstrung by operational dictates and it now seems that the alliance of participants is beginning to fall apart. Boko Haram, meanwhile, is exerting significant pressure on the MNJTF’s participants, with relentless attacks against civilians and military across the region.


The MNJTF, comprising troops from the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) membership, increasingly appears unlikely to be able to bring much change to the Boko Haram insurgency that has swept through north-eastern Nigeria and to its neighbours to the east. The finalised force size, structure and scope of operations gives little reason to expect the force to be able to, by itself, significantly degrade or contain the Islamist militant insurgency.

In October and November 2015, Boko Haram ramped up its attacks on not only Nigeria, but also Cameroon, Chad and Niger. These attacks have led to declarations of states of emergency by Chad and Niger, and have resulted in those countries refocusing their security efforts on their own territories. Tensions within the MNJTF, which have simmered over operational and organisation restrictions imposed by Nigeria, have further increased, with Chad in particular appearing a more and more reluctant participant.

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