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Is Patriarchy on its way out of North Africa? – Professor Hussein Solomon

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Is Patriarchy on its way out of North Africa?

by Hussein Solomon

Volume 8 (2020), Number 3 (February 2020)

It is easy sometimes to lose hope when discussing gender in the context of North Africa. The most recent Arab Barometer, for instance, found that almost a third (32 percent) of Egyptians approve of the barbaric practice of female genital mutilation. Other surveys are equally pessimistic pointing to the fact that four-fifths of Algerians and Egyptians believe than men are better political leaders than women. Women’s participation in the labour force, meanwhile, is approximately a third of that of men and women’s. All this points to the entrenchment of patriarchal norms throughout North African societies.

But there is reason to hope that a new post-patriarchal order is taking shape in North Africa – not least because of women’s activism. There is reason to believe that women’s experiences in mobilizing against authoritarian regimes in the region have resulted in a new consciousness on their part where they see the connection between their own oppression and the need for emancipation of the broader society. When women took to the streets against Al-Bashir in Sudan it was their awareness of how fuel shortages and inflation brought on by corrupt and inefficient governance were increasing household food insecurity. Following the July 2019 agreement between the military junta and the alliance of opposition parties, there was an effort to force women back into the home to play their “traditional” roles. However, women have remained politically engaged and mobilized – decrying everything from the persistence of sexual harassment to demanding for the prosecutions of those involved in wrong-doing from the Bashir era.

Meanwhile, in Algiers, women have been at the forefront of the protest movement against the establishment or what Algerians term a “Le Pouvoir” – the cabal of generals, businessmen and politicians of the ruling party which govern this North African country. For 19-year old Miriam Saoud, it was to see the back of this political elite which has impoverished ordinary Algerians through their corrupt practices. For 22-year old political science student Amina Djouadi, it was about real political representation for male and female citizens. Whilst the presence of this younger generation of women makes sense given the fact that half of Algeria’s population is below thirty years of age, and these bear the brunt of unemployment, older women have also been on the Algerian streets. Elderly women like NissaImad was also on the streets protesting. All five of her children are unemployed. Explaining her presence against the barricades she defiantly states, “I am here for the young, for our kids. There’s nothing for the young generations. No jobs and no houses. They can’t get married. We want this whole system to go”. It is clear from the narratives of these women that they see the connection between their daily lived experiences of disempowerment and marginalization and the broader structural causes and are therefore actively seeking the ending of this patriarchal and oppressive political and economic order.

North Africa is engulfed in tectonic economic, political and socio-cultural changes wrought by processes of globalization, technological innovation and urbanization. These have fundamentally transformed the region towards greater levels of education and labour market participation of women. In the process, it is contributing to less Muslim support for patriarchal values.  As people acquire more education, they grow more tolerant and egalitarian in their values. This serves to undermine patriarchal values. Younger people in the MENA region are more educated than their parents’ generation and demonstrate less patriarchal values according to various surveys undertaken.  Research undertaken by Alexander and Welzel demonstrates that the more political open societies become, the less patriarchal they are. Similarly economic changes in these societies has seen more women entering the work force. Not only are these women financially independent but they choose to either marry later in life or choose non-traditional forms of cohabitation. These developments also serve to undermine fundamentalist patriarchal norms.

Changing attitudes are increasingly reflected in government policies. Morocco’s Mudawannah (family code) makes men and women equally responsible for the well-being of their family. In Tunisia, meanwhile, President Beji Said Essebi established a Commission for Individual Freedoms and Equality in 2018. Following recommendations from this commission, a raft of gender friendly legislation was enacted. These included equal inheritance between the sexes, overturning the ban which prevented women from marrying outside of their faith and criminalizing violence against women.

On the political front, too, there has been progress.The inclusion of women in political processes and their representation in the region’s parliaments is imperative not only for the cause of women’s emancipation but in an effort to deepen the democratic experience in countries. Despite women constituting only 17 percent of Moroccan parliamentarians, they asked 58 percent of the questions. In the process, refuting notions of women being docile, largely passive and giving way to their male peers. It is important to note that female members of parliament in Morocco did not only confine themselves to focusing on issues of women’s and children’s right but also on issues of economics and education[1]. This suggests that these women see the connection between their lived experiences and broader structural conditions which lead to their marginalization. Given women’s increased visibility in the political sphere from the Arab Spring to the current wave of protests wracking the region, the possibility that female political representation will increase in the region is highly likely.

Despite challenges in the short to medium term, patriarchy is on its way out for North Africa.

 

[1]Ibid.

 

New players on the block: Turkey in the dash for Africa – Professor Francois Vreÿ

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New players on the block: Turkey in the dash for Africa

By Francois Vreÿ

Volume 8 (2020), Number 2 (January 2020)

Background

France, the United States (USA), United Kingdom (UK) and Russia are not newcomers to the African strategic landscape where own interest and that of African regions and countries are in constant rise and decline. Although Russia waned in the recent past and the USA regularly indicates a desire to shrink its African footprint, world realities are somewhat different and contraction of one power often leads to expansion of another. While this appears relevant to the US, UK, French, Russian and Chinese presence in Africa, current dynamics on the continent reflect roles of often neglected players as well. One such player that is growing its African influence is Turkey.

Discussion

After a long absence, Russia re-entered the African continent in a more aggressive posture with its presence characterised by hard security initiatives built around weapons packages, security consultancy and backing rulers in Sudan, South Sudan, Libya and the Central African Republic with coercive instruments such as military advisors and arms. Russia also follows in the wake of other actors and now often employs Wagner linked private security personnel to lower its military visibility. Russia’s military presence reaches down into Southern Africa and even South Africa as demonstrated by their Wagner–based intrusion into northern Mozambique and a brief naval and airpower display in South Africa during November 2019. China’s approach is more nuanced with its security profile masked by extensive soft security initiatives largely woven around aid packages, infrastructure development and peace support contingents on land and anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden. Much of the foreign presence clusters around the Horn of Africa and in Djibouti in particular. This trend did not go unnoticed by Arab countries willing to flex their foreign interest and military muscles.

While the above is perhaps not unfamiliar and regularly portrayed in the media as a power competition between established, rising and returning big powers to Africa, the role of Turkey is underplayed. Turkey’s entry into the African scene showed in the Horn of Africa region alongside, but not as a member of the Saudi-led Coalition fighting in Yemen. Initially the Turkish presence revealed a close affiliation with Qatar who disengaged from the Saudi coalition under the cloud of supporting terrorism. Turkey initially premised its role in Africa upon economic aid, rather than military backing. The latter soon became apparent with the opening of a military base in Mogadishu in the wake of the withdrawal of the United Arab Emirates. The Somali drive features alongside Turkey’s perceptions of a new economic zone of interest accentuated by the intense clustering of foreign powers in the Red Sea region.

A more recent and perhaps disturbing Turkish venture into Africa is in North Africa. The Turkish-Libyan cooperation rests upon two drivers. First, military support from Turkey to the Tripoli government faction and second, maritime cooperation pinned upon reciprocal support of Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Unity (GNU) in Tripoli for brusque Turkish maritime claims in the Eastern Mediterranean holding real potential to upset or further strain relations with Greece, Cyprus, Israel, Egypt and Italy. As of 2020 Turkey is preparing to deploy combat support forces to Libya which sets a different tone to its initial economic and aid driven grounding for entering the African scene. A combat deployment is bound to up the ante in Libya, increase existing tensions off the African coast on the Mediterranean where Israel, Greece, Cyprus and Egypt are not bound to idly watch as Turkey reinforces its claims on large ocean tracts and energy resources located in the eastern Mediterranean and in Libya.

Although much of the reporting on Turkish and Libya refers to NATO, the European Union (EU) and Greek dissatisfaction, African interests are at stake as well. First, another aggressive military entry into the Libyan cauldron is uncalled for. Second, more foreign military aid and soldiers risks prolonging a conflict. The Haftar-led forces of the Libyan national Army (supported by Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and UAE) are opposing the UN-supported Tripoli GNU, but with little progress to resolve the ongoing political deadlock. Third, Africa can ill-afford a third destabilised maritime zone off its coast if the Turkish maritime claims are settled in a confrontation or blockades at sea over resources, sea lanes of communication and maritime infrastructure.  Fourth, Turkey seems to view Libya as a theatre to test or market its defence industry products, and showcase its military in Africa as a Turkish foreign policy instrument. Fifth, the Libyan deployment holds the potential of setting up Turkish military forces in Africa against Russian regular and irregular contingents, or even fellow Muslim countries including some from Africa. Sixth, if the pending armed posturing turns on energy access, the array of actors could well define their interests as vital and defend them with military force in Libya and the adjacent oceans territory. Perceptions of a military victory in Libya for the GNU could also place Turkey in a strong position for energy deals and contracts regarding reconstruction – a disturbing outlook of military destruction as a catalyst for future contracts on the territory of a weakly governed African country.

Conclusions

Media outlets, analysts and commentators label Africa as a lucrative continent harbouring markets, labour, resources and geostrategic landscapes of interest to international players. Such depictions also tend to prioritise certain international actors as main players – whether as constructive or destructive agents manoeuvring on selected African landscapes. In this vein, players like Turkey frequently operate below the media radar. Turkey nonetheless harbours strong national ambitions, interests and a willingness to grow and use its military muscle at sea and on land alongside economic instruments, national goals and eventual gains in weakly governed African states – a drive not unlike that of known big power actors competing in the 21st century dash for Africa.

 

 

 

Further Reading:

Thiessen, C. & A. Özerdem. Turkey in Somalia: challenging North/Western interventionism. Third World Quarterly 40/11. 2019. pp. 1976-1995.

Venkatachalam, M. Turkey in Africa: Voyeurism, Neo-Ottomanism and Islamic Humanitarianism. ASC Working Paper 145/2019, Africa Studies Centre, Leiden, The Netherlands.

Professor Francois Vreÿ is the Programme Coordinator of SIGLA @ Stellenbosch.

E-mail: fvrey@sun.ac.za

Dispelling the myth of Islamic Militancy in Africa and combating it – Dr. Glen Segell

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Dispelling the myth of Islamic Militancy in Africa and combating it

Dr Glen Segell

University of Haifa

Volume 8 (2020), Number 1 (January 2020)

Introduction

A massive car bomb exploded in a busy area of Mogadishu on Saturday 28 December 2019, leaving at least 79 people dead and many more wounded, many of them university students. Ostensibly it was carried by Al Shabab as the 20th vehicle-borne explosives attack of 2019 and the year is ending with more deaths from such attacks than 2018. There has been an Africa Union (AU) peacekeeping force, in Somalia since 2007.

The prospect of the continental spread of Islamic militancy and the escalation of tensions throughout Africa is evident in the deployment of military forces be they national by the United States and European countries or through NATO and the EU or by the AU. Yet, a closer examination shows that Islamic militancy is not going to be eradicated by military force. This should be obvious to military planners if they were to examine the Vietnam War, for example.

Nevertheless, the United States and prominent military powers within the European Union such as France and the United Kingdom are actively engaged militarily with what they see as the rise of Islamic militancy in parts of the Sahel and Horn of Africa.[1] They see that these pose growing threats to regional and maybe international stability. They quote the seizure of substantial parts of Mali by Islamic militants,[2] the violence of Boko Haram in Nigeria,[3] and years of religious-inspired violence in Somalia for example by Al Shabaab.[4]

This paper examines this and concludes that it is a myth that Islamic militancy in Africa poses any threat other than to its own specific locality. Reminiscent of military strategy and tactics in Vietnam military force will not be able to combat specific locality Islamic militancy. The paper concludes that armed force isn’t a long-term option even if it does have success against specific targets in singular battles.

Combating Islamic militancy in Africa requires addressing its recruitment and in inviting the militant movements to participate in conflict resolution. This is examined under the headings: 1) Armed force isn’t an option and 2) Reducing Islamic militancy in Africa

Armed force isn’t an option

The military deployment of foreign powers into Africa seems reminiscent of Vietnam. The enemy is not an army, and so an armed force cannot ensure a victory. The characteristics of most Islamic militants in Africa are the lack of military power in terms of equipment. They don’t have aircraft, tanks, artillery or ships. They don’t have the logistics to project any organized force over distances. They may not even seek to govern at the state level.

Any viability of a coherent al Qaeda-like front remains questionable. Rather, Islamic militants in Africa tend to be homegrown phenomena, focused on local concerns. Islamic militant organizations in Africa generally only command the support of small minorities. And this is within Muslim communities.

Combating such Islamic militancy is therefore to look at how it is recruited. It appears that the appeal of the Islamic militants in parts of the Sahel and Horn of Africa stems from their ability to tap into and persuade marginalized communities, particularly youth. Military interventions, such as those of Western forces, can reinforce the militants’ narrative. This may strengthen their recruitment and credibility.

Reducing Islamic militancy in Africa

The manner to reduce and even eradicate Islamic militancy in Africa is to address their recruitment. And it is to address the grievances of marginalized communities, particularly youth. It is to find where Islamic militancy in Africa intersects with that of broader Islamic movements in local situations. Further evident in Africa, Islam is characterized by doctrinal heterogeneity and fragmentation, which permits another way to engage the attempts of Islamic militants to gain support and in recruiting.

A starting point would be to find those communities that have adopted Salafi militancy.[5] Both Al Shabaab in Somalia and Boko Haram in Nigeria have their roots in Salafi movements. They continue to gather support both violent and nonviolent, as a response to prevailing poverty, unemployment, and socioeconomic deprivation. Turning the tide would be by local engagement. This is because Salafism is at the outset a religious movement. It doesn’t usually promote violence. It is normally devoted to the struggle for religious purity, personal piety, and Islamic morality.

Turning the tide of Islamic militancy in Africa would be to draw on detailed local knowledge and experience with a specific given context. It would require analysis that captures more than the immediate security dimensions but integrates historical, political, economic, and socio-cultural perspectives. The goal would be to gain nuanced and differentiated knowledge of how the militants intersect with issues pertinent to each given locality. It would be to proactively engage local community leaders and religious authorities.

There is an urgency, and this is recognized by state leadership. Attempting to create an awareness of the futility of militancy, and referring to the massive car bomb that exploded in a busy area of Mogadishu on Saturday 28 December 2019, Somalia’s President Mohamed Farmaajo said those who plot and carry out these attacks have “never brought a single development to our country, no roads, no hospitals, no educational institutions.”[6]

Conclusions

In sum is not to say that pure military force against Islamic militancy in Africa wouldn’t be effective in the short run. When they are armed and engaged in acts of violence and terror, then they are combatants that can be fought and neutralized.

However, history has shown worldwide that military action, needs to be accompanied by long-term political, economic and social engagement if it is to secure lasting peace and stability. Any conflict resolution process needs confidence-building measures and processes bringing together individuals, governments and religious groups among different ethnicity. The first stage is tackling militant’s’ recruitment.

Dispelling the myth of Islamic militancy in Africa and combating it requires inviting the militant movements to participate and to rehabilitate them. This is possible for they are often internally diverse with elements already following a trajectory of moderation. With such participation there could be genuine state-building efforts to hold local regimes accountable to the people, and to ameliorate economic, ethnic, social, and religious grievances.

No doubt, there will be required a demonstration of massive force to deter any militant action and make any recruit or potential recruit believe that their best option for the future is not militancy. Such a demonstration requires signaling and communication to indicate why the foreign force is there. Protracted deployment of foreign forces in Africa without any such messaging will only result in forces being deployed for forces sake and with no effective and sustainable conflict amelioration.

Notes:

[1] Rok Ajulu. 2018. Globalization and Emerging Trends in African States’ Foreign Policy-Making. London: Routledge.

[2] Michael Shurkin, Stephanie Pezard, and S. Rebecca Zimmerman 2017. Mali’s Next Battle: Improving Counterterrorism Capabilities. Santa Monica: Rand Corporation.

[3] Alexander Thurston. 2019. Boko Haram: The History of an African Jihadist Movement. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

[4] Dan Joseph, and Harun Maruf. 2018. Inside Al-Shabaab: The Secret History of Al-Qaeda’s Most Powerful Ally. Indiana: Indiana University Press.

[5] Frederic Wehrey, and Anouar Boukhars. 2019. Salafism in the Maghreb: Politics, Piety, and Militancy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[6] Mogadishu attack: car bomb in Somali capital kills at least 79. 2019. N-World News. December 28. Available at: https://www.thenational.ae/world/africa/mogadishu-attack-car-bomb-in-somali-capital-kills-at-least-79-1.957004

 

Exporting Global Jihad Volume One: Critical Perspectives from Africa and Europe

Exporting Global Jihad

Volume One: Critical Perspectives from Africa and Europe

Volume editor: Tom Smith, Hussein Solomon

Published: 09-07-2020

About Exporting Global Jihad

This timely 2 volume edited collection looks at the extent and nature of global jihad, focusing on the often-exoticised hinterlands of jihad beyond the traditionally viewed Middle Eastern ‘centre’. As ISIS loses its footing in Syria and Iraq and al-Qaeda regroups this comprehensive account will be a key work in the on-going battle to better understand the dynamics of the jihads global reality. Critically examining the global reach of the jihad in these peripheries has the potential to tell us much about patterns of both local mobilisation, and local rejection of a grander centrally themed and administered jihad. Has the periphery been receptive to an exported jihad from the centre or does the local rooted cosmopolitanism of the jihad in the periphery suggest a more complex glocal relationship? These questions and challenges are more pertinent than ever as the likes of ISIS and many commentators, attempt to globally rebrand the jihad and as the centre reasserts its claims to the exotic periphery.Edited by Tom Smith (Portsmouth), Kirsten E. Schulze (LSE) and Hussein Solomon (UFS) the two volumes critically examine the various claims of connections between jihadist terrorism in the ‘periphery’, remote Islamist insurgencies of the ‘periphery’ and the global jihad. Each volume draws on experts in each of the geographies in question. The global nature of the jihad is too often taken for granted; yet the extent of the glocal connections deserve focused investigation. Without such inquiry we risk a reductive understanding of the global jihad, further fostering Orientalist and Eurocentric attitudes towards local conflicts and remote violence in the periphery. This book will therefore draw attention to those who overlook and undermine the distinct and rich particularities of the often-contradictory and cosmopolitan global jihad.

In many of the peripheries, particularly those with intensive large-scale insurgencies, there is extensive international military alliance. The Bush doctrine to ‘fight them over there, so we don’t have to fight them over here’ certainly looks to be alive and well in places like Somalia, the Philippines and Niger amongst many others. Crucially we must ask – is such reasoning sound – is the threat global and if so in what way? Furthermore – is action in the peripheries under the guise of combating the global jihad overlooking the local issues and threatening to make a wider threat where it was otherwise contained? Diagnosing nations or regions as ‘breeding grounds’ or ‘sanctuaries’ of global jihad carries the spectre of having to chose sides in a battle of civilisations, which looms over a number of developing nations reliant on good western relations.

Table of contents

ABOUT THE EDITORS
CONTRIBUTOR BIOS
INTRODUCTION: EXAMINING THE GLOBAL LINKAGES OF AFRICAN AND EUROPEAN JIHADISTS
‘GLOCALISED’ JIHAD, POLITICAL CONFLICT, AND CONSPIRACY THEORISATION ACROSS A FRAGMENTED SOMALIA
GLOBAL OR LOCAL? EXPLORING THE EMERGENCE AND OPERATION OF A VIOLENT ISLAMIST NETWORK IN KENYA
REFLECTIONS ON ISLAMIST MILITANCY IN THE SAHEL
JIHAD IN MALI: REGIONAL CONDITIONS, REGIONAL GOALS, GLOBAL IMPORTANCE
NIGERIA: THE RISE AND ‘FALL’ OF BOKO HARAM
LIBYAN JIHADISM: FROM GADHAFI AND TRIBALISM TO THE ARAB SPRING AND TRIBALISM
JIHAD AND THE UNITED KINGDOM
CONFRONTING ORIENTALISM, COLONIALISM AND DETERMINISM: DE-CONSTRUCTING CONTEMPORARY FRENCH JIHADISM
EXPORTING JIHAD FROM THE STREET-LEVEL GROUPS IN THE LOW COUNTRIES
SCANDINAVIAN JIHAD
THE EVOLUTION OF THE JIHAD IN GERMANY
AL-ANDALUS: THE CALIPHATE OF CORDOBA REIMAGINED
For more details, here is the link:
https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/exporting-global-jihad-9781838607555/

Gold is the New Oxygen for the Sahel’s Jihadists – Professor Hussein Solomon

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Gold is the New Oxygen for the Sahel’s Jihadists

By Hussein Solomon

Volume 7 (2019), Number 16 (November 2019)

A new Reuters investigation on how jihadists in the Sahel fund their activities makes for chilling reading – terrorists have turned to gold to fund their terrorist expansion. Al Qaeda and Islamic State as well as local franchises of these organizations have continued to expand their footprint across Africa. One indication of this emerged earlier this month when the US State Department issued a report noting that the number of terror attacks in the Sahel has doubled from last year. However, no terrorist organization can function without funds. Without funds, there can be no money for stipends for recruits. Without funds, there can be no terrorist propaganda and media arms. Without funds, there can be no weapons. Terrorist organizations in Africa’s Sahel is increasingly moving into illicit gold mining and trading to boost their war chests.

According to the Reuters investigation, the informal gold trade in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger is an estimated US$ 2 billion. The proceeds of this revenue is largely outside of the control of the state. Increasingly, Islamists militants in the form of the Al Qaeda affiliated Jama’atNusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (Group for Support of Islam and Muslims), Islamic State in Greater Sahara and local jihadist group Ansarul Islam (Defenders of Islam) are turning their attention to illicit gold mining and intimidation of legitimate gold mining operators to part with the yellow metal. An example of such intimidation occurred earlier this month on a road in eastern Burkina Faso when 39 gold miners were ambushed. In another incident, in Pama, in eastern Burkina Faso, militants armed with assault rifles arrived and took control over the town as government troops fled. The jihadists immediately got local residents to begin gold mining operations. These incidents are indicative of the tenuous control that states have over their respective territories irrespective of initiatives like the Sahel G5 force, the 4000 strong French presence in the form of Operation Barkhane as well as the various initiatives of the United Nations, China, the European Union and the United States to strengthen central government authority across the Sahel.

The jihadists quest for gold has been greatly facilitated by a number of factors. First, as explained, above, few governments are in complete control over their territories. Consequently, too, few governments are in control over their borders. Thus gold, flows from these countries to Togo which has little gold production of its own and from there finds its way to the United Arab Emirates which is a global gold refining and trading centre and from there is sold in Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Switzerland. The writ of government in the region has to be restored over all territory. This has to be the central thrust of international partners’ counter-terrorism activities.

Second, the various militant groups has been greatly aided by the proliferation of organized crime syndicates in the region which have penetrated the security apparatus. Any counter-terrorism initiative must serve to neutralize such criminal influences within organs of state. This is absolutely essential in an effort to restore authority over the country. For that authority to be accepted by often alienated citizens, it has to be perceived to be legitimate. The state needs to be seen to be acting in the interests of all citizens and criminal activity on the part of state functionaries, therefore, needs to attract greater punitive measures. Consider the case of Mali which is at the epicenter of terrorist activities. Collaboration between organs of state and narco-trafficking has been occurring for much too long. At the same time, there has been close ties between jihadists and these same drug-traffickers. Is it an co-incidence that Bamako has little legitimacy amongst ordinary citizens and has fared so badly in its counter-terrorism drive despite all the international assistance it has received?

Third, there is a history of artisanal mining in the region given the poor economic opportunities existing across the Sahel. This is a fact which militants use to maximum effect as they provide stipends to their fighters and buying gold from these artisanal miners. As such, another important leg in the fight against extremism must be to focus on providing better socio-economic opportunities for the Sahel’s youth. In this way, terror groups in the restive Sahel can be starved from their oxygen.

Tensions on the Nile – Dr. Mahlakeng Khosi Mahlakeng

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Tensions on the Nile

by Dr. Mahlakeng Khosi Mahlakeng

National University of Lesotho

Volume 7 (2019), Number 15 (October 2019)

The environmental and political landscape of the already fragile Nile region has become threatened. The Nile River Basin faces considerable challenges, all of which have resulted into ‘water scarcity’ (i.e. the decrease in the quality and quantity of water). The already precarious water situation is also threatened by rapid population growth, environmental degradation and depletion, excessive strain on dwindling renewable resources, unequal distribution and insecurity. The causes of water scarcity in the NRB are evidently numerous thus exacerbating the issue of ‘hydropolitics’ (i.e. the politics over water) in the basin. Moreover, these causes are detrimental when they interact with one another and/or occur simultaneously. These challenges combined have affected the management, sustainability and use of the basin.

One of the most contentious issues related to the Nile River is the use of available water resources. The use of the Nile has always been and remains a controversial issue. Water is already scarce in some parts of the basin. Water scarcity is not only a result of the amount or scale of rainfall, but also of the agreements (i.e. the 1929 and 1959 agreements) that govern the Nile. These agreements have rendered the use of water between the upstream (i.e. Burundi, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and the DRC) and downstream riparian countries (i.e. Egypt, South Sudan and Sudan) unequal.

The current distribution of water in the area has serious global political consequences and is fundamental to the developmental processes of the respective countries. This uneven distribution also bears many local political, economic and social implications. The impact of resource distribution, specifically water, carries many political implications in local, state, regional and international spheres. In shared basins, the lower or upper-lying riparian country can control the quantity and quality of water flow by means of its military might and hydrological situation. Political actors may often also use resources as objects of military and political action in an effort to extend their influence in such regions. Thus, increasing the potential for ‘conflict’ (i.e. conflict defined as verbal, political and/or violent).

An example of this is the defining influence of Egyptian foreign policy on states in the basin. Egypt, being the stronger party, provokes, initiates or prevails with military action against its weaker adversaries, thereby increasing the potential for conflict. The issue of controlling the Nile at the expense of other riparian countries has been central to political decision-making.

In almost a century long continued interest by Egypt and Sudan to exclusively control the Nile waters, the other nine riparian countries remain structurally denied from accessing, utilising and benefiting from the Nile. Despite its seemingly current participation and interest in cooperative renegotiation and development with upstream countries, however, it is still evident that Egypt continues to hold the idea that the 1929 and 1959 agreements should remain as valid yardsticks and as controlling international legal instruments for managing the governance of the Nile. These series of agreements shared the principle of protecting Egyptian interests in the Nile region. They stipulated that countries would not construct or cause to be constructed irrigation or any work that might negatively affect the flow of the Nile to Egypt.

Egypt’s’ repeated call for external intervention, particularly the United States of America (USA), shows defiant signs and a challenge to an equitable cooperative solution. For instance, Egypt’s close relationship with a succession of major powers has always helped it to exert its influence over the Nile. The United Kingdom (UK) until the 1950s, the Soviet Union until the mid-1970s and, currently the United States (US), have all provided political and financial support to cement Egypt’s position in the basin, through legal treaties if possible. They have also simultaneously influenced the construction of infrastructure for power generation, storage and irrigation.

The involvement of external actors, possibly with varying external demands and biases, further exacerbates and complicates an already delicate environment. The role of external actors is significant to the sustainability, management and use of trans-boundary basins in that they can highly influence the nature and politics of trans-boundary basins.

Given a number of immense challenges confronting the Nile water security vis-à-vis the water needs of all riparian countries, it is no surprise that under the uneven water distribution in favour of Egypt and Sudan, Ethiopia’s construction and completion appears to the former to be moving too fast.In a similar understanding by Egypt that climate change and the subsequent water scarcity pose a great danger to the Nile in general, and its shares specifically, it must note the enormous water security challenge facing the upstream riparian countries particularly given their current exclusion for the access and utilisation of the Nile.

However, Ethiopia’s GERD also presents a unilateral unsustainable lose-lose scenario. However, considering the issues of climate change, water scarcity, population growth and its exclusion from accessing and utilising the Nile for almost a century at the behest and benefit of Egypt, and the continued delay in initialising the NBI CFA, leaves Ethiopia with no other option. More importantly, filling the GERD could take close to a decade or beyond. And during this fill, Egypt could experience a cut of 25% of the Nile’s fresh water flow. Moreover, this is at the background of an already serious country-wide freshwater shortage in Egypt.

Far-reaching consequences of unilateral hydropower developments in shared watercourses are not only water availability but social and environment implications. In many cases, the social and environmental effects, as a result of unilateral decision-making, are far greater than the hydropower potential expected. These implications include, among others, the destruction of arable land and the displacement of communities (i.e. environmental refugees). As a result, this warrants stronger regional basin-wide cooperation and effective water governance. Moreover, it points to the need and urgency of an equitable Nile water sharing solution in a form of a cooperative framework that will cater for short, medium and long term needs of all riparian countries.

The water needs for both upstream and downstream countries cannot be solved by massive water transfers, but rather through a coordinated water-demand management and a supply-oriented approach. This is only possible through multilateral ventures coupled with an agreement that serves and protects the interests of all Nile water users.

A sustainable understanding and consensus of all riparian countries in general, and the established expert panel (i.e. The National Independent Scientific Research Group) would be to equitably access and utilise the Nile through the guidance of a cooperative legal framework, now more than ever. Furthermore, the need and urgency of a cooperative legal framework should form the basis of the findings and conclusion of this panel. This legal framework is the Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) proposed by the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI).

Agreeing to and/or signing the CFA would translate into win-win gains for riparian countries. The CFA aims to replace the colonial-era treaties that gave Egypt and Sudan a majority share of the Nile’s water.

The CFA outlines principles, rights and responsibilities for cooperative management and development of the Nile Basin water resources.  Rather than quantifying water use allocations, the Treaty intends to establish a framework to “promote integrated management, sustainable development, and harmonious utilization of the water resources of the Basin, as well as their conservation and protection for the benefit of present and future generations“.

The main reason the NBI proposed for a CFA is because the former is just a transitional mechanism that is expected to phase out when a permanent NRBC is established following the conclusion of the CFA. The CFA should be included in national legislation, thus disbanding the NBI and simultaneously establishing a permanent NRBC. For the initiative to convert into a commission, six of the 11 countries’ parliaments must ratify the CFA as law.7 countries agreed to open CFA for signature, a position rejected by Egypt and Sudan. The Commission would serve to promote and facilitate the implementation of the CFA and to facilitate cooperation among the Nile Basin States in the conservation, management and development of the Nile River Basin and its waters.

Transforming the initiative into a commission entails a different level of competencies. Among others, the establishment of an interstate commission (the NRBC) constitutes a departure from the past trend of unilateral water use and management, particularly in emphasising the issues of fair water allocation, joint management and developing resources. This also signals a fundamental shift in the hydropolitical landscape of the Nile. The NRBC would facilitate and oversee the smooth equitable and reasonable use, management and protection of the Nile’s water.

Without proper basin-wide cooperation, the water system of the Nile will experience severe pressure from uncoordinated projects. The lack of cooperation will lead to an increasingly ineffective use of water. The development of unilateral hydropower projects is a result of the inability to establish a commission that will create a more conducive win-win environment for all Nile riparian countries. The article further argued that unilateralism prompts competition, which leads to lose-lose gains and the failure of the NBI. This subsequently influences the development of more unilateral decision-making by riparian states regarding major water resource investment projects (i.e., hydropower projects) and therefore increases the level of disputes in the region.

Peace and Security in the Sahel as Elusive as Ever – Professor Hussein Solomon

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Peace and Security in the Sahel as Elusive as Ever

by Hussein Solomon

Volume 7 (2019), Number 14 (October 2019)

The security situation in the Sahel region has deteriorated this past two years with the number of terror attacks on the rise whilst terror groups continue to proliferate and continue their expansion both southwards and westwards. The curious issue about the expansion of terror groups is that it is occurring at the same time as the counter-terror alliance arrayed it is also increasing its footprint across the Sahel. At its September Summit last year, the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) has pledged to spend US $1 billion between 2020 and 2024 to support national and joint military operations. The Sahel G-5 force has renewed its military operations after a hiatus following an attack on its headquarters in Mopti on 29th June 2018. France still maintains its 4,500 strong Operation Barkhane anti-terrorism force in the region and has joined forces with Germany in creating a Partnership for Stability and Security in the Sahel. The US military presence across the region is also palpable. Meanwhile the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUMSA), with its more than 15,000 security personnel, had its mandate renewed for another year.

Despite these forces against them, why then do terrorist groups proliferate? First, terror groups operate across a vast and inhospitable region. Second, many of the region’s armed forces are over-stretched and under-resourced. Chad’s soldiers are fatigued with multiple deployments and are overstretched financially. Niger’s army operates on a chronic deficit whilst maintaining a permanent presence on three borders with Mali, Libya and Nigeria. This poor state of affairs is worsened by the tense relations existing between the military and political establishments. Burkina Faso’s army and intelligence services seem to be involved in a never-ending restructuring process since the fall of President Campaore whilst Mali’s armed forces are as disorganized as it was when Captain Sanogo staged his coup in March 2012. It stands to reason that regional forces – whether the Sahel G-5 initiative or an ECOWAS force – made up of national contingents will be infused with these problems also. Third, such regional forces lack strategic coherence. Whilst ECOWAS has pledged funds for ongoing counter-terror initiatives, there is little clarity on how they will operate with other security initiatives in the region. This lack of strategic coherence is also seen on the part of international players. Consider the case of MINUMSA. Whilst having an expanded mandate, there has been no equivalent increase in funding for the force. Moreover, MINUMSA’s objective of restoring the presence of the state and the authority of Bamako over vast swathes of ungoverned spaces has not endeared it to the local population who regard such state authority with suspicion if not outright hostility. Corruption in the Malian state is endemic and fuels jihadi narratives of the state being viewed as illegitimate. Benjaminsen and Ba in their pioneering study, for instance, has demonstrated how rent-seeking behavior on the part of local officials and judges are not properly adjudicating land-use conflicts because they have received payments from both parties to support their claims.

This suggests a more holistic approach to counter-terrorism stressing development initiatives and the international community making use of their leverage over states to behave better towards their citizens. Recognizing this, Paris is beginning to stress the developmental dimension in its counter-terrorism operations by focusing on healing ethnic cleavages inside communities. Whilst this is a welcome departure from military-centred approaches it will not work if the nature of the African state itself is not problematized: where states live against their citizens, where the state fuels communal violence and where the armed forces engage in random acts of violence against hapless civilians.