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Getting Counter-Terrorism Right Means Democratizing the State – Professor Hussein Solomon

Getting Counter-Terrorism Right Means Democratizing the State

by Hussein Solomon

Volume 9 (2021), Number 5 (May 2021)

In 1905, John Ainsworth, a British colonial official based in Kenya wrote how the British administration governed their dominions by finding a strong personality who was loyal to the Crown and they would do everything to increase this person’s power relative to other “natives” and then make this person totally dependent on the colonial power. This was euphemistically termed “indirect rule”. The same was true of other colonial powers as they carved parts of Africa into their colonial possessions. The twin legacy of colonialism then was both authoritarianism and one in which incumbent post-colonial elites relied on their maintaining the reins of power through foreign powers.

I reflected on this twin legacy as I watched the tragic developments in Chad unfold. On the 19th April 2021, Chad’s president – Idriss Deby Itno – was killed whilst fighting rebels. His death was immediately lamented from within the region as well as from some Western capitals as a major set-back for counter-terrorism efforts in the Sahel. Chad, after all, is an integral part of the 5,000 strong Sahel G-5 force closely allied with French Operation Barkhane troops aiming to robustly engage and defeat Islamists in the region. The reaction to the Chadian President’s death explains why counter-terrorism is failing across the Sahel despite the training and equipping of armed forces, the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars and the stationing of Western troops across the vast expanses of this desert region.

Despite being lauded for his counter-terrorism stance against radical Islamism, the late Chadian president, by his actions, served to fuel the fire of extremism in his country. Here it is instructive to note that Deby had just begun his sixth term as president of the country. He came to power via a coup against the brutal dictatorship of Hissene Habre whom he served under as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. Following his capture of power in December 1990, Deby promised democratic reforms and for a short period he was treated as a savior. Despite Deby and his Patriotic Salvation Front winning all six presidential election and four parliamentary elections, all of these were marred by fraud. This fraud went beyond the political sphere. Despite Chad having the tenth largest oil reserves in Africa, it is one of the world’s poorest, ranking a measly 187 out of 189 countries on the Human Development Index. Much of the oil revenues were redirected towards his own pockets, that of his family and the wider Zaghawa clan which constitutes only 4 percent of the population. Other funds were redirected towards the purchase of weaponry whilst his own citizens languished in abject poverty. In all this Deby was supported by the former colonial power of France as well as other Western allies.

His exclusionary, corrupt and authoritarian rule encouraged rebellion as ordinary Chadians lost faith in the ballot box. Deby crushed rebellions to his rule in 2006, 2008 and 2019. In this chaos, various Islamist groups spread their pernicious influence amongst Chad’s Muslims that constitutes 55.3 percent of the total population. What is clear is that a close relationship exists between terrorism and conflict. In 2019, for instance, 96 percent of all deaths resulting from terrorism occurred in countries already experiencing conflict.

An effective counter-terrorism strategy, then, is more than merely focusing against the threat posed by a particular terrorist group itself, but also needs to reduce conflict dynamics in the country as a whole since effective counter-terrorism entails not only counter-insurgency but also conflict resolution, economic development, political accommodation and social inclusion. Conflict de-escalation does not only mean short-term measures like the demobilization, disarmament and reintegration of former combatants but also entails structural measures that are medium to long-term in nature. Across the vast arid expanses of the Sahel, there are worrying trends that political violence is becoming acceptable in the public discourse as groups feel that there exists no institutional means for redress. This is especially the case where group grievance exists – whether the Kanuri in Nigeria, the Tuareg in Mali or the Fulani spread across the region.  The sad truism is that terrorism is often a reaction to the historical violence of statehood and should be understood as such. Consequently, statehood needs to be less elitist and more popular. Statehood needs to be responsive, tolerant and inclusive – politically, economically and inclusive. The Global Terrorism Index is emphatic that “…governance is the most important factor that determines the size, longevity and success of a terrorist group”.

Good governance is a potent anti-dote for the likes of militant Islamist groups exploiting local grievances, whether social alienation, economic marginalization or political disenfranchisement, as they seek to gain a pernicious foothold amongst the local population growing tired of an uncaring government as we have witnessed across the Sahel. Far from supporting the despots in power, foreign countries who seek to defeat terrorism in this troubled region, should utilize their leverage over incumbent elites to open up the democratic space and thereby challenge the malevolent legacy of colonialism.

Tensions in the Nile: Ethiopia Sinking into an Abyss of War, Drought and Famine – Dr. Mahlakeng

Tensions in the Nile: Ethiopia Sinking into an Abyss of War, Drought and Famine

by Dr Mahlakeng Khosi Mahlakeng

Volume 9 (2021), Number 11 (October 2021)

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) is increasingly becoming a visible reality with each day that passes, with or without a Nile water sharing agreement. Consequently, Egypt appears to be strengthening international and regional strategic allies, and further strengthening its military capabilities, all aimed at addressing the GERD which they perceive as a great threat to Egypt’s socio-political and economic stability.

Although a sufficient argument held by Egypt and Sudan with regards to the GERD is the threat that the dam might pose to their national securities respectively, however, the main threat and/or problem is rather in the lack of an agreement. The GERD project, like any other large dam projects in the basin are constructed in response to the growing water demand from agriculture, industry and domestic water use, is obviously not intended to deprive neighbouring countries of their water supply.

Although Ethiopia has made headway in many development goals over the past two decades, however, insecurity, including conflict and chronic weather crises, continues to get in the way of progress. Ethiopia stands at the crossroads of either facing the possibilities of war on the one hand, and drought and famine on the other. One of these events are certain in Ethiopia’s choices of either filling and/or not filling the GERD. With continued delays in implementing a participatory and inclusive deal or policy around equitable access to the Nile waters, Ethiopia uncomfortably finds itself sitting on a ticking time bomb, with adverse repercussions on all sides. As a result, it [Ethiopia] finds itself with no choice but to choose either option, that is: 1) Filling the dam with or without a deal. This option carries with it the possibility of an Egypt-Ethiopian water war. (i.e. a likely desperate act in Egyptian-Sudanese strategic vision to maintain the status quo of exclusive use of the Nile). Substantive evidence to this is the virtual signs of Egypt and Sudan’s readiness to ‘militarily’ repel what they perceive as danger (i.e. the developments and nascent completion of the GERD dam being a fait accompli; and,2) Not filling the dam. This option means waiting for a deal, whose possibility to be struck in the near future seems day-by-day to be falling apart at the seams. As a result, Ethiopia risks the inability to address persistent droughts, and ensuing famine.

Firstly, Ethiopia’s stability, more exposed since November 2020 with the start of the Tigray conflict, is extremely vulnerable to drought and other natural disasters. Ethiopia face challenges of droughts, famine (i.e. the most severe classification of food insecurity, with people dying of hunger-related causes) and other severe implications that come with restrictions to access the Nile.  Ethiopia, despite it being the source of the Blue Nile, has faced worsening drought conditions and famine between 1965 and 2006, making it highly dependent on international food aid.

It is common knowledge that the Horn of Africa region has been subject to immense drought with unbearable prolonged shortages in water supply thus increasing hunger crisis, and placing the people of that region at risk of starvation. Ethiopia’s unpredictable weather patterns due to the effects of climate change have subjected it to severe floods and droughts. Recurrent drought conditions in Ethiopia and its restricted access to the Nile makes development in Ethiopia difficult. Given Ethiopia’s heavy reliance on agriculture, the reoccurring droughts which have often been exacerbated by floods have left many families and the country vulnerable to extreme poverty, displacements and intra-state conflicts. Therefore, Ethiopia’s development of the Nile is a matter of life and death.

The threat of war that Ethiopia is facing is both domestic and foreign. Internally, the subsequent hunger crisis from drought is an exacerbating factor for intercommunal violence in an already-fragile situation, thus subsequently fuelling large scale displacements. Externally, Ethiopia faces the risk of going to war with Egypt. The cause being the GERD, which Egypt has issued numerous threats of military strikes over the dam thus raising the possibility of an interstate water war. The construction of the GERD on the Blue Nile tributary has been poisoning the atmosphere between Cairo, Addis Ababa and Khartoum for more than 10 years. Estimations point to a great loss in Egypt’s agricultural activity and electricity generation as a result of the anticipated drop in the flow of the waters of the Blue Nile caused by the GERD thus threatening Egypt’s food security. Moreover, as Ethiopia approaches completion of the filling of the GERD, it seems Egypt is no longer mincing its words (i.e. the rhetoric of intimidation or direct use of force to defend its rights over the Nile) when it comes to actions it is willing to take to mitigate any loss of water supply from the Nile. While this conflict was predicted as early as the 1980s, the situation has escalated to the point where a military conflict can no longer be easily dismissed and/or ignored. Therefore, the willingness to cooperate and the use the waters of the Nile in a multilateral sense are necessary to ensure stability, peace and food security in the region.

Tensions in the Nile: Egypt’s Scramble for Allies – Dr. Mahlakeng

Tensions in the Nile: Egypt’s Scramble for Allies

by Dr. Mahlakeng Khosi Mahlakeng

Volume 9 (2021), Number 10 (September 2021)

Egypt has relied on diplomacy to monopolise the Nile river basin in an effort to maintain its lions’ share of the water. Since the 1800s, Egypt has worked tirelessly to establish strategic regional and international political economic relations which revolve around its interest in the Nile waters. For about 100 years, Egypt’s monopoly over the Nile has enjoyed a great deal of support from its allies either being countries (United States, United Kingdom, and the Gulf Cooperation Council) and/or financial institutions (i.e. World Bank, European Investment Bank and the African Development Bank). Subsequently, it has been successful in influencing these countries and institutions to desist from politically and financially supporting upstream countries in general, but Ethiopia in particular from accessing the Nile for national development.

Its ambitions to monopolise the region dates as far back as 1874/5 with the establishment of the “Egyptian Geographic Society” which reflects Egypt’s long-standing interest in the Nile waters and the regional politics of sub-Saharan Africa. For instance, the significance of establishing this society is witnessed in the then Egypt’s imperial ambition to bring both Sudan and Ethiopia under its control. Today, Egypt has made a shift beyond only seeking political and financial strategic support but has begun establishing and strengthening its diplomatic ties in Africa and abroad solely on a military capacity basis. And this is made with an intention of putting an end to the anticipated completion of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) construction and its subsequent filling. The dam elevated to the status of a major domestic political issue in Egypt.

As Egypt did in the past, it still holds the idea that a militaristic approach to the Nile politics is a viable solution. As a result, the likelihood of a water war in the region is growing real with each move Egypt makes. For instance, Egypt conducted joint military exercises (i.e. which included warplanes and Special Forces) with Sudan (i.e. considering that the GERD is build right on the headwaters of the Blue Nile on the Ethiopian-Sudanese border) thus manifesting the rhetoric of intimidation or direct use of force to defend its rights over the Nile into reality.

Egypt appears to be strengthening international and regional strategic alliances, and further strengthening its military capabilities, all aimed at addressing the GERD which it perceives as a great threat to its socio-political and economic stability. In the recent months, Egypt has signed a series of military agreements with Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan and Uganda. A central underlying feature behind Egypt’s foreign policy direction is Ethiopia’s GERD. The intention of signing these agreements, especially seeing that all these countries are Nile riparian countries with the exception of Djibouti, is to strategically isolate Ethiopia on regional politics and frustrate its regional militarily and economical support. Egypt believes that maintaining this string of allies will somehow pay off in the event that it fails to stop the completion of the GERD. Therefore, Egypt’s’ threats of military action alongside such diplomatic posturing is a call for concern.

In theory, Egypt hopes to create a perception that it is working with its Nile counterparts in developing their national hydropower projects. However, in practice, and as far as historical and contemporary Nile water accounts are concerned, this has never been the case. Its coincidental on-going engagement with upstream riparian countries has more to do with its military muscle than regional trade links.

It is inconceivable to think that upstream riparian countries (i.e. Burundi, Uganda and Kenya) would play a part in a regional conflict over the Nile waters especially one aimed at their Nile upstream counterpart – Ethiopia, since they had on numerous occasions opposed Egypt’s attempts to influence hydropower projects in the Nile. However, knowing Egypt’s’ ambitions and positions with regard to the Nile hydro-politics, agreeing to sign these “military intelligence sharing” agreements with Egypt is sufficient to accuse them of participating in a nascent regional conflict. Within the Nile hydro-political landscape, Egypt has always appeared antagonistic to ideas of Nile basin countries’ regional cooperation.

The Afghanistan Conundrum and Its Potential Impact on Africa – Eeben Barlow

The Afghanistan Conundrum and Its Potential Impact on Africa

By Eeben Barlow

Volume 9 (2021), Number 9 (August 2021)

Numerous political and defence commentators have expressed their horror and dismay at how the so-called nation building efforts in Afghanistan have played out. Having never been involved there, I cannot comment on the situation in that country, either prior to its collapse or now. That said, it is certain Africa will suffer a spill-over effect from the rapid fall of Afghanistan. 

Despite the collapse of the Afghan armed forces and their government, there are many lessons that can be learned from the chaos. However, many of the lessons from the time of Alexander the Great were never considered and the impact of failing to learn from history has been devastating on that country.

It is obvious that the hasty US/NATO withdrawal was a geopolitical decision that ignored the intelligence predications and warnings. However, when a political agenda and narrative discard intelligence, the consequences are bound to be disastrous. But the impact this has created will no doubt encourage, incentivise, and give momentum to similar groups acting in Africa.

(On a much smaller scale, we witnessed the result of discarded intelligence in South Africa in July 2021, along with a disconnected agenda and narrative).

A concern I have often expressed, at great cost to myself, is that foreign armies tasked to train especially African armies cannot -and should not – view them through a Western lens. Trying to mould an African army in their likeness will result in problems and bring about numerous unintended consequences. Afghanistan perfectly illustrates this folly, but so too do many African armies that have had the benefit of Western training. The results have been less than impressive.

Given the large amount of equipment and money left behind in Afghanistan, one can safely assume that some of this will eventually find its way to Africa, and especially to those Islamist groups that have aligned themselves with IS. This does not imply that the Taliban’s captured air assets will be flying around Africa but rather that weapons and money will find their way to Africa, giving impetus to IS-aligned terror groups.  

Several African governments have already expressed their concern to me insofar as the training they have received from the US and other Western nations. Their primary concern is the rapid collapse of an army that was a beneficiary of years of training and billions of dollars in equipment and other support, and how it was quickly overpowered by a lesser force.

Some are already asking why their Western-trained armies are suffering at the hands of lesser trained anti-government forces. They are already starting to view their foreign trained armies as having been ‘trained to fail’ – a concern I have expressed on several occasions. 

Their worry is also an indication of their waning trust in their foreign trainers, and the resultant trust-vacuum this is already creating. Of course, believing that they have been trained to fail will create morale problems within the armed forces. This reality will be easily exploited by anti-government forces, whether they are Islamist or not.

The concerns go even deeper when it comes to the faulty strategic and operational inputs they have been given by their foreign partners, along with doctrines that are disconnected from reality. Unfortunately, I have witnessed this in numerous African conflict areas. More unfortunately for me, speaking out has put a target on my back as concern and truth are often viewed as treacherous.

Regardless, the rapid collapse of an army that has benefited from years of foreign training and billions of dollars of equipment, will embolden, and invigorate anti-government forces in Africa. With this will be a decline in morale by foreign trained armed forces, as well as the knowledge that their foreign partners will abandon them once their interests are served. This will become a huge advantage to anti-government forces and terror movements alike.

An unintended consequence of the collapse and abandonment of Afghanistan is that it will impact on Africa.

Time will tell how severe the Afghanistan conundrum will impact on Africa but impact it will. 

The author serves as a political and defence advisor to several African governments, frequently lectures at defence colleges and universities and partakes in defence and security-related conferences and seminars in Africa and beyond. He is the author of three best-selling books and has made numerous chapter contributions to academic works. 

Tunisia Is On the Verge of Collapse a Decade after the Arab Spring – Sanet Madonsela

Tunisia Is On the Verge of Collapse a Decade after the Arab Spring

by Sanet Madonsela

Volume 9 (2021), Number 8 (July 2021)

In December 2010 a Tunisian street vendor, Mohammed Bouazizi, engaged in an act of self-immolation – protesting the arbitrary seizure of his vegetable stand by police officers. His sacrificial act served as a catalyst for the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia which resulted in the toppling of the longstanding authoritarian president Zine Abidine Ben Ali who ruled for over 20 years. This success inspired activists in other countries to go to the streets and ultimately resulted in the Arab Spring which brought regime changes to countries like Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. While the uprising in Tunisia resulted in some improvements in the country, it failed to bring socio-economic prosperity. Prior to the outbreak of the novel Covid-19 pandemic the country’s economy was already under severe strain. The outbreak of the pandemic severely damaged the country’s economy resulting in a GDP contraction of 8.8% in 2020, as well as a decline in the production of all sectors (except agriculture and fishing), investment and exports. The country’s public debt was expected to reach 90% of its GDP in 2020. The cost of absorbing the debt takes approximately 28% of its budget. This in turn decreases prospects for development spending and can in turn affect the country’s long-term competitiveness.

Earlier this year, the Tunisian government announced that it would be cutting food and fuel subsidies as it sought its’ fourth loan from the International Monetary Fund. Angry at the economic malaise and poor handling of the pandemic citizens took to the streets demanding the dissolution of parliament. Out of “fear” of public violence, the Tunisian president Kais Saied suspended the country’s parliament and fired the Prime Minister following violent demonstrations. This comes as no surprise as the President and Prime Minister have been enmeshed in political disputes for over a year. While it may seem that Saied seeks to bring calm to the country it is worth noting that the 2014 Constitution divides power between the president, prime minister and parliament. With them removed Saied has complete control over the country. Playing into this narrative and consolidating his power base, Saied announced that he would assume executive authority with the assistance of a new prime minister. In addition to this announcement, he has removed the immunity of all parliamentary members, enforced a nationwide curfew from 7pm to 6am for a month, banning all public gatherings of more than 3 people, while insisting that the country’s constitution and constitutional integrity is intact. While some applaud his decisions, others have accused the president of staging a coup d’état. The country’s allies are concerned that it may be descending into autocracy again. All this sparks concern for this young North African democracy.

Amidst it all, the country’s health system is on the brink of collapse as it is overwhelmed by the surge in Covid-19 cases. According to the country’s health ministry, only 7% of its population is vaccinated, while 90% of its’ intensive care unit beds are occupied. Europeans, Gulf nations and Tunisians abroad and in the country have been organizing equipment and vaccine donations to assist the ailing health system. The country has received 3 million doses of the vaccine, 250,000 donated by Algeria and 500,000 donated by China and the United Arab Emirates. It is worth noting that doctors are overwhelmed and locals desperate. Tunisian internet users have shared videos of their families unable to find hospital beds, medical staff worried about possible oxygen shortages and morgues filled with dead bodies.

When reflecting on the state of events in the country, it can be said that the country is back to where it was in 2011. It is in dire need of a commitment towards democratic rule, the rule of law, a strong multi-party system, economic growth and a government that can deliver on the promises made a decade ago. Failure to act decisively may prove to be costly!

Difficult but not Impossible – SADC Military Deployment in Mozambique – Prof. A.J. Esterhuyse

Difficult but not Impossible – SADC Military Deployment in Mozambique

by Prof. A.J. Esterhuyse

Head of the Department of Strategic Studies, Stellenbosch University

Volume 9 (2021), Number 7 (June 2021)

The complexity of the security situation in the northern Cabo Delgado province of Mozambique is drawing considerable attention from security professionals, academia, and decision-makers at present.  There seems to be agreement on, firstly, the difficulty confronting the Mozambique government and the SADC region in dealing with the problem; and, secondly, the underlying drivers of the insurgency.  These drivers link the lack of good governance and the disruptive potential for economic growth due to the offshore discovery of large quantities of natural gas, with an existential growth of organised crime, the smuggling of hard drugs, and the exploitation of natural resources, fauna, and flora. To top it off, a faction of ISIS-related fundamentalists exploits these drivers through a terror campaign against the population to secure a market share of the potential profits.

The decision by SADC to intervene militarily was some time in the making.  Though SADC expressed a clear commitment on 29 April 2021 “… to help a fellow Member State whose sovereignty and territorial integrity is under serious threat”, the approval of the deployment of a “… SADC Standby Force in support of Mozambique to combat … terrorism and acts of violent extremism in Cabo Delgado” was eventually made on 23 June. The lack of urgency was informed by the sensitivity of Mozambique on issues of sovereignty and territorial integrity, the absolute lack of intelligence about the security situation in Cabo Delgado, and questions about the capacity of SADC to intervene.  No detail about the deployment is available yet. In April, a force of 3000 men was mentioned.

The deployment of 3000 men from within SADC will not be an easy task.  There is absolutely nothing on standby with reference to the SADC standby forces. The closest SADC has been to the creation of such forces was through a few military exercises that several SADC militaries participated in over time. Many of the armed forces in the region, with the South African military as the prime example, have gained considerable experience in peacekeeping in the last 20 years. There is a school of thought that ties peacekeeping to the idea of counter-insurgency. However, counter-insurgency is not peacekeeping and to seriously address the situation in Carbo Delgado will require a comprehensive and intensive counter-insurgency operation.

Many of the armed forces in the region have their roots in the revolutionary militaries that fought the wars of decolonisation in sub-Sahara Africa from the 1960s onwards.  In most cases, the post-independent African armed forces deliberately steered away from anything associated with counter-insurgency; and to the point that there was no effort to maintain any institutional memory and doctrine of counter-insurgency. As such, the integration, training, and preparation of a SADC intervention force for Mozambique will require a comprehensive development effort. Recent lessons from multinational forces in the conduct of counter-insurgency in places like Iraq and Afghanistan suggest that problems are to be expected in terms of the alignment of doctrine, technology, communication, intelligence, and command and control for purposes of inter-operability. Doing this with armed forces in Africa that were at the receiving end of budgetary and other forms of neglect the last twenty years is extremely difficult.  The need for international support, both financially and militarily, is a necessitated reality that must be very carefully managed.

Counter-insurgency operations are difficult to do; and at many levels.  The comprehensive approach at a strategic level necessitates a balance between the need for development and the creation of a better life for the population with the military need to decisively deal with the threat of terror from the insurgents.  Mozambique will be no different in this regard given the terror campaign by the insurgents against the population in the last three years.  For counter-insurgent forces the operational challenge is always threefold: to find the insurgents operating amongst the population, to isolate the insurgents from the population, and to purge the insurgents.  The elimination is the easy part.

Finding and isolating the insurgents are dependent on the establishment of good relations with the local population and the creation of a comprehensive intelligence network. And this will be the most important challenge for the SADC forces in Mozambique given the terror campaign by the insurgents and often also the Mozambique government forces.  Most of the population in the Cabo Delgado province has been uprooted and they are in fear of people in uniform.  For intervening forces, building relations with the local population will not only be the most important assignment; it will also be their most difficult task. The success of their intelligence network is dependent on good relations with the local population.

In the end, geography, logistics, and time will have the last say. Cabo Delgado is a large area in a remote corner of Mozambique with very little infrastructure. Sustaining logistical support, operational momentum, and intelligence dominance is a challenge that may perhaps be too much for SADC to deal with in the long run.

Tensions over the Nile: AU’s deficient political will detrimental to Nile negotiations and regional stability – Dr. Khosi Mahlakeng

Tensions over the Nile:  AU’s deficient political will detrimental to Nile negotiations and regional stability

Dr. Khosi Mahlakeng 

Volume 9 (2021), Number 6 (May 2021)

On 8th May, the African Union (AU) led by the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) President Felix Tshisekedi as the current head of the AU revived efforts to negotiate a sustainable equitable water-sharing deal between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia with special attention to the operation and filling of the much disputed Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). This follows the April AU-brokered negotiations held in Kinshasa which failed to make progress due to the deadlock over the GERD which is expected to be filled in July. The GERD, which is constructed right on the headwaters of the Blue Nile on the Ethiopian-Sudanese border, is intensifying insecurities of Egypt which receives 59% of its waters from the Blue Nile. As far as Egypt has been concerned, negotiations and/or talks over the ‘Nile issue’ of the GERD specifically, and upstream countries’ share in the Nile waters in general mean 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”. Therefore, as far as Egypt and Sudan are concerned, the acceptable outcome of these talks means putting an end to the operation and filling of the Dam, and maintaining the status quo of exclusive water use by Egypt and Sudan which accounts for approximately 55.5 and 18.5 billion cubic metres per year (BCM/yr) respectively.

Despite the assertion by Sudanese officials that Tshisekedi has offered an initiative to break the deadlock over the dam’s dispute,  however, the AU’s institutional capacity is marked by a great deal of skepticism since it has not played a significant role in the past in resolving water disputes between the Nile riparian countries. One particular issue, among others, might relate to the AU’s conflict of interest and the related Egypt-Ethiopia power relations within the AU, thus compromising its ability to act impartially on the Nile dispute. For instance, the AU is reluctant to provide an effective response and/or definite solution as the AU Commission (AUC) (i.e. the AU’s secretariat) is based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, but is financed by Egypt as one of the main financial backbones of the AU as far as the African member states’ framework of funding is concerned. With the AU having two main sources of funding, the one being African member states’ yearly contributions and the other source of funding coming from donors. With regards to African member states’ funding, Arab states and Egypt in particular, contribute approximately 15% of the AU’s general budget. And key members of the Arab League continue to support the position taken by Egypt. Therefore, any action against either Ethiopia or Egypt by the AU could prove very costly. And this has subsequently put the confidence in any AU-led negotiation processes in doubt.

However, the greatest challenge currently facing the AU‘s influence over the Nile dispute is its political will to act, that is, to decisively provide a legally-binding framework that ensures water-security for all Nile riparian countries. This means addressing uneven water allocation and putting an end to Egypt and Sudan’s veto power on projects in Nile basin. And this can be made possible through adopting a resolution by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government to recognize and declare the 1929 and 1959 treaties governing the Nile null and void in the contemporary African dispensation post-colonization. This will duly honour post-independence order and governance of its member states in general, and the Nile upstream riparian countries specifically. Moreover, as a supreme continental organ, among other things, the AU must support upstream riparian countries’ rejection to be bound by colonial treaties that are outdated, imprudent or unjust. 

A further display of an undermine in AU’s authority and legitimacy, which owes much to the AU’s visibly weak institutional capacity and political will, is the statement issued by Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to President Tshisekedi during the latter’s visit to Cairo that “Egypt would not accept any harm to its water security”. Despite the fact that a share of the Nile by upstream countries will amount to a reduction/drop in the quantity of water to Egypt, however, this reduction won’t result in a threat to “water security” in Egypt in the a literal sense of “a threat to reliable availability of an acceptable quantity and quality of water for health, livelihoods, productions etc”. In issuing this statement, even before Tshisekedi lays a plan to address possible deadlocks and uncertainties, Egypt makes it evident that it is still not willing to change its position which rejects the idea of “equitable Nile water use” by Ethiopia or other upstream countries.

It is hypocritical for Egypt, over a shared water resource, to defend its concerns by arguing based on a notion of “harm to water security” when it [Egypt] continues to perpetuate exclusive use and/or unilateral development of the Nile that have subsequently resulted in prolonged harm to the water security of upstream countries with devastating effects. Moreover, the same hypocrisy by Egypt is further witnessed in a request it made on 13th April to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to intervene on what it perceives as “Ethiopia’s unilateral acts” in relation to Ethiopia’s filling of the GERD. This is despite Egypt’s unilaterally and exclusively accessing and developing the Nile for over a century (i.e. when considering the 1891 Protocol which was the first agreement deemed responsible for structurally denying upstream riparian countries access to and/or use of the Nile, and the subsequent construction of the Aswan Low Dam in 1898).

In contrast to previous AU-brokered talks, these proposed round of negotiations are for the first time reassuring on the one hand, and discouraging as usual on the other hand. Firstly, the idea of having these negotiations being led by the DRC as Chair of the AU and an affected party to the Nile hydropolitics vis-à-vis expected outcomes raise optimistic expectations. This might be an opportune moment for the Nile hydropolitics in finding a basin-wide beneficial solution seeing that the DRC is also being the head of the AU as well as is part of the Nile ‘riparian countries’. Moreover, this is in light of the fact that the DRC is among other Nile riparian countries that have been subject to colonial agreements that structurally denied upstream countries access to, and use of the Nile waters. For instance, among other agreements that have been instrumental in governing the Nile, the DRC’s access to and use of the Nile was restricted through the “1906 Treaty between the UK and the Independent State of Congo” thus subsequently safeguarding Egypt’s interest in the Nile. Although about 1% of the DRC’s land area is in the Nile Basin, it still plays an important role in the country’s ecology and economy in the Eastern regions.

Moreover, given the Nile water issue having been subject to Washington-brokered negotiations and/or European-brokered negotiations that have largely displayed rushed and/or one-sided negotiation processes in favor of Egypt and Sudan in the past, AU-led negotiations chaired by an affected party and a stakeholder in the Nile hydropolitical landscape  may address the risk that often comes and/or would come from the invitation of the U.S and the EU by Cairo and Khartoum to help reach a legally binding solution. Similarly, this presents a prime occasion for the AU to assert its influence over what has persistently been foreign-led, dominated and dictated Nile round of negotiations. Therefore, finding an equitable water-sharing solution might be in earnest than ever before.

Secondly, one remains cynical in the successful outcome(s) of these talks and thus places them in doubt for two notable reasons. 1) As much a doubt is placed over the AU, the same goes for the DRC. The AU’s decisions on the GERD are likely not to be impartial due to the DRC’s possible biasness, ultimately causing the GERD talks to falter. Egypt and the DRC share similar regional and international views on a political and economic level. Politically, the DRC has expressed its support for Egypt in the GERD talks through a 19th September 2020 letter from Tshisekedi written to al-Sisi. Economically, the DRC shares financial interest with Egypt. For instance, Egyptian imports from the DRC, which include copper among others, increased from $2.7 million in 2017 to $110.62 million in 2018 which provided an increase of $107.9 million. In addition, Egypt has a keen interest in the DRC’s Inga Dam project on the Congo River in an effort to operate and benefit in a joint electricity grid and renewable energy sector.

2) The AU persists in ignoring the main Nile issue, that is, ongoing inequitable utilization and distribution of the Nile which remains the only cause of tensions and disputes in the basin. Moreover, given that the Nile is a transboundary basin shared among 11 countries, the AU overlooks an essential wide-basin approach in solving a wide-basin issue. Talks and/or negotiations that have to do with the Nile must be established on the basis that all stakeholders, riparian countries and communities dependent on the Nile are included, thus recognizing the importance of waters of the Nile to all riparian countries. Therefore, the AU’s role in the Nile mediation processes portrays a sense of deficient political will contradictory to its determination of producing a desired outcome that involves establishing a “beneficial” solution. In order to address a complex array of detrimental factors to the Nile region’s stability, to balance interests related to each riparian countries’ national sovereignty while strengthening regional cooperation in the Nile, a round of talks with all 11 affected parties is imperative.

Political will exhibited and initiated by third-party mediators, policy-makers and/or peace practitioners is an essential element in fostering peace dialogues among societies, states and conflict parties that are engaged in processes that seek to move from conflict to peace talks. What has been evident however in the past with many international organizations dealing with transboundary issues is, the difficulty to arrive at a sustained solution.

And this is largely due to the organizations’ structural limits which include the degree and will to decisively act structurally by placing sanctions on counter non-compliance. Many regimes experience a lack of political will to effectively and efficiently carry out strategies aimed at addressing shared problems. At this stage, the effectiveness of the AU, especially if it intends to avoid future deadlocks and uncertainties, depends primarily on its political will to put into effect a sustainable agreement agreed to by a majority, if not all, riparian countries and that is accompanied by sanctions for non-compliance. And the scope of these sanctions, as a deterrent tool for instability in the Nile basin, must go beyond non-compliance and inclusively apply to riparian countries that may and/or do pose threats to developments related to the Nile and appear nascent to causing ‘conflict’ (i.e. conflict being verbal, political or violent). If the AU’s presence in the Nile dispute is entrenched in and backed up by political will, then the threat and impact of water wars can be avoided.

The political will in question is imperative and inextricable linked to institutional capacity, which is essential in countering the threat of negotiations collapsing. Political will, to a large degree, is influenced by and relies heavily on the issue of financing. The AU faces challenges in addressing issues detrimental to the Nile cooperation, peace and security agenda also due to its financial dependence on foreign donors. These are the same donors that obscure the cooperation framework in the Nile basin and therefore dictate the agenda of water cooperation. These include, among other main donors, the European Investment Bank (EIB) and/or the World Bank’s (WB) who have in the past intervened to stop Ethiopia from building the GERD, or the refusal of funding for building this project and other projects in upstream countries. The involvement of third parties in the form of foreign aid donors in the Nile conflicts-peace dialogues further complicates the issues of political, social and economic interests, and hinders regional cooperation.

The reliance of the AU on foreign aid gives foreign or external actors a sense of unwarranted leverage in mediation processes in which they tend to dictate and influence the decision-making agenda of the AU. For instance, the construction of the new AU headquarters was funded by China, and African countries pay for only about 40% of the AU’s budget. China, the EU and the US pay for the rest. It is not surprising why these countries easily become vocally and physically involved, and dominantly overshadow the AU in Nile related issues. This therefore easily deflects the AU from the interests of the riparian parties concerned and, consequently, constraining its decision-making freedom. Ultimately, AU member states need to be politically and financially supportive, responsible and accountable to their peace and security mechanisms. Otherwise, the AU will fail to achieve the difficult goals of conflict resolution and regional cooperation in the Nile basin particularly, and on the continent in general.

From a moral, political and legal perspective, the AU’s will to decisively act on shared water resources is obligatory, and yet equally challenged. Morally, the responsibility for the use, preservation and protection of water is an essential moral principle in water-users’ relation to water resources. Moreover, the moral principle in the use and/or access to water is its [water’s] fundamental need to humanity. As acknowledged by the AU in its adopted Water Vision 2025, it states that “water can be a matter of life and death, that when too much or too little, it can bring destruction, misery and death”.

Politically, as a continental organization, the AU has failed to defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Nile upstream countries (i.e. also being its member states)  in recognition of their right to access and use the Nile. Furthermore, it has failed to protect the independence of the Nile upstream countries by allowing them to be subject to colonial-era agreements that govern the Nile waters in lieu of a contemporary revised agreement.  This failure by the AU to act poses great threat to its objectives of accelerating political and socioeconomic integration of the continent, promoting and defending the issues of interests of its people and member states, and encouraging continent-wide and/or region-wide cooperation.

And legally, since the adoption of the revised African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, the effectiveness of the AU to take accountability and deal with nascent Nile disputes in the region in accordance with the provisions set out in the Convention remain highly questionable.

For example, article V on Water, in sections 2 and 3 of the convention proposes considerable provisions for preserving water and minimizing the possibility of water-related disputes in transboundary basins. First, Section 2 states that “the parties shall establish and implement policies for the planning, conservation, management, utilization and development of underground and surface water, as well as the harvesting and use of rain water, and shall endeavor to guarantee for their populations a sufficient and continuous supply of suitable water”.  Second,  section 3 states that “where surface or underground water resources are shared by two or more of the contracting states, the latter shall act in consultation, and if the need arises, set up inter-state commissions to study and resolve problems arising from the joint use of these resources, and for the joint development and conservation thereof”.

The AU’s lack of legal accountability and political will to deal with transboundary disputes will lead to contentious water-related cases concerning equitable use between states being facilitated by and/or submitted to external actors such as the US, EU, World Bank or ICJ for mediation. The inability of the AU to take responsibility for continental transboundary disputes emerging within its jurisdictions mean that cases will be confronted by foreign judgments and decisions rather than continental-based resolutions, thus compromising the interests of African countries.

The context and environment within which the AU makes decisions is highly compromised. Finding a sustainable solution in the Nile, despite any moral imperative to avoid conflict and/or the numerous initiatives taken, will remain elusive and effective reforms will prove insufficient as long as the AU and concerned regional bodies continue to fail to generate the necessary will to act. Within and around the already volatile and contentious political landscape of the Nile, the AU must exhibit a sense of political will in developing a comprehensive institutional framework for a determinative integrated management and development of the Nile. It is worth concluding that the seemingly deficient political will and weak institutional capacity of the AU inevitably entice external actors’ involvement into the Nile conflict-peace dialogues, and make them appear undeniably adequate and acceptable arbiters in matters that are visibly outside their jurisdiction.

MOZAMBIQUE REVEALS THE TOTAL FAILURE OF THE AU’S EARLY WARNING MECHANISMS – Gerrie Coetzee-Swart

MOZAMBIQUE REVEALS THE TOTAL FAILURE OF THE AU’S EARLY WARNING MECHANISMS

by Gerrie Coetzee-Swart

CEO & Director of Acuity Africa Consultancy, A Political Risk Advisory Service based in Johannesburg, South Africa

Volume 9 (2021), Number 4 (March 2021)

The horrific terrorist attacks on Mozambique have revealed the total and utter failure of the AU’s much vaunted conflict prevention and early warning mechanisms.

The promise of effective conflict prevention and early warning proposed by the AU was great at conception and inception. Its delivery upon these lofty ideals has been utterly disappointing, especially in addressing the severe risk posed by terrorism and extremism in Africa.

The mandate of the Conflict Prevention and Early Warning Division is to provide timely advice on potential conflicts and threats to peace and security in Africa to the AU decision-makers.

The Continental Early Warning System(CEWS) is responsible for data collection and analysis and is mandated to collaborate with “the United Nations (UN), its agencies, other relevant international organizations, research centres, academic institutions and Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs)” with its information to be used by the Chairperson of the Commission” to advise the Peace and Security Council (PSC), on potential conflicts and threats to peace and security in Africa and recommend the best courses of action.”

Article 12 of the PSC Protocol relating to the Establishment of the Peace and Security Council (PSC) provides for the establishment of a Continental Early Warning System (CEWS), in order to facilitate the anticipation and prevention of conflicts in Africa. This body has been operational for a considerable period of time since 2006.

The massive terrorist crisis that has now befallen Mozambique- and one that is likely to expand beyond the control of all actors involved – has revealed total and utter inaction and severe policy paralysis in the peace and security realm of the AU.

A fundamental question that must be posed from the very outset is: what implications do this hold for the AU who had positioned itself as the ultimate guarantor of peace and security on the continent?

The AU’s Continental Early Warning Situation Room is tasked with information monitoring and data collection on simmering, potential, actual and post-conflict initiatives and activities in Africa, in an effort to facilitate timely and informed decision-making.

Given that the crisis in Mozambique has been a long time in the making, it also appears as if the CEWS had failed dismally in its task. The terrorist threat in the country has been simmering for a considerable period of time now- and provided the AU with more than ample time to devise and construct a decisive response.

In an interview with Daily Trust on 27 February 2021, His Excellency Ambassador Bankole Adeoye, newly-elected Commissioner of the Political Affairs and Peace and Security Department of the AU Commission, reflected upon the mammoth task that lies ahead in promoting peace, security and democracy on the continent:

Indeed, I am not oblivious of the enormous task ahead, especially with the merging of the two departments, Political Affairs and Peace and Security, as an integral part of the restructuring of the AU Commission. However, what I see is more of opportunities than challenges – the opportunity for an integrated approach and synergy to build a peaceful, secure and more democratic Africa, with good governance as the crosscutting theme.[1]

Indeed the Ambassador also spoke of the need to invest more heavily in the tools of preventive diplomacy, overhauling the operations of conflict prevention mechanisms and strengthening partnerships with international organizations in the areas of early warning and early action, mediation and dialogue, developing capacity for better conflict management post-conflict reconstruction and development.

The Ambassador’s words seemingly come way too late in the ongoing catastrophic crisis that has now devastated Mozambique beyond all reason.

As stated earlier the signs of an impending terrorist apocalypse befalling Mozambique were already warned of as early as 2004! In his book ‘Jihad: A South African Perspective’ (2013) Hussein Solomon observed that:

By 2004, reports of terrorist training camps in Mozambique started to circulate in the intelligence community. Six years later, in 2010, at least three training camps were identified in Nampula and Tete provinces of Mozambique. One of these camps is run by Somalis, another by Pakistanis and a third by Indians and Bangladeshis. In the process, the nexus between the global, regional and national dimensions of Islamist terrorism are demonstrated quite well.

Additionally:

Cellphone intercepts revealed, furthermore, that Al-Shabab had also established cells in Mozambique, and that come 2010, when South Africa hosts the 2010 FIFA World Cup Soccer tournament, these cells would move en masse to South Africa to strike at various US-linked interests.

The above-mentioned reports and analysis revealed the presence of active terrorist cells already in 2004! It is now 2021, and consequently the AU seemingly had nearly 16 years advance intelligence warning of the simmering terrorist threat that was emerging in Mozambique. Its inaction is a grave and serious indictment upon the efficacy of its present continental early warning system, capacity and capabilities.

The terrorist insurgency in Mozambique has in fact continued with complete and utter impunity in the face of the purported behemoth that is the AU’s much-vaunted and heavily-funded peace and security architecture.

Over the past three years, a local Islamist insurgency in the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado has grown in strength and viciousness, developing ties with international terrorist groups and threatening one of the world’s largest natural gas projects. The insurgency is turning Cabo Delgado into a killing field. It started in October 2017, when a group of 30 heavily armed men attacked and seized government buildings and police stations in the town of Mocímboa da Praia in Cabo Delgado. The group evolved into a well-armed, militarised unit calling itself Ahlu Sunna WalJamaa, known locally as al-Shabaab (no relation to the Somali variant), waging a violent insurgency against the Mozambican army and civilians. To date, the insurgency has claimed over 3,000, mostly civilian, lives and displaced over 500,000 people and counting. On 11 March 2021 the US government officially designated the group, which it calls ISIS-Mozambique, as belonging to a Foreign Terrorist Organisation.

As further argued by Steadman, McGann and Thomas-Jensen (2020):

As ISIS touts al-Shabaab’s exploits and backs the insurgents with increasing levels of operational and tactical support (including formal incorporation into the Islamic State in Central Africa Province in April 2019), counterterrorism analysts and Africa watchers should be deeply concerned about the increasing efficacy and sustainability of ISIS’s franchising efforts across the continent. Without a thoughtfully calibrated international intervention, terrorism may be entrenched in a new theater with equally long-term impacts on human security and regional stability.

The Mozambican government’s response of deploying army units to take on the insurgents, has backfired, at the cost of lives, time, and state legitimacy. Security forces deployed to Cabo Delgado have arbitrarily detained and summarily executed suspected terrorists abuses against civilians, threatening to exacerbate and expand the threat of violent extremism along the East African coast.

The result of the government’s mismanagement has been that in just three years, al-Shabaab has graduated from attacking small villages to mounting complex, multi-pronged attacks on Mozambican security forces and strategic towns like the port city of Mocimboa da Praia, which the group has controlled since August 2020.Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi’s lethargic response is likely to exacerbate the precarious insecurity in the country.

Without engaged regional or international leadership, Mozambique is sleepwalking into a counterterrorism quagmire. The African Union, Southern African Development Community, the U.N., and the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS all have a role to play, but coordination must be ramped up quickly to develop and support an integrated, African-led strategy. Recent events suggest that the AU is already too late and the humanitarian crisis is staggering.

Mozambique shares porous borders with South Africa, eSwatini, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia. There are signs that the insurgency is being regionalised, with reports confirming militant raids on both sides of the border with Tanzania. Tanzanian, Zimbabwean and Mozambican troops are already cooperating in joint operations. The threats of attacks in other SADC countries should not be ruled out in the near future.

The coordinated attack in late-March 2021 by Islamic State (ISIS) extremists on the northern Mozambique town of Palma left dozens dead, scores missing and sent thousands fleeing by boat, foot and road to escape a major escalation in the country’s three-year insurgency. It was a major assault on a town where foreign gas workers reside as part of the huge liquified gas project being developed by France’s Total and other oil companies on the Afungi peninsula just 10 kilometres away.

Amnesty International reported that extremists have “deliberately killed civilians, burned villages and towns, and committed heinous acts of violence with machetes, including numerous beheadings and desecration of corpses.” It also accuses Mozambican security forces and private military operators of abuses against civilians. The United Nations (UN) has urged Mozambique to investigate.

The AU’s Peace and Security Council (PSC) has been asked to meet urgently to discuss ways “to assist the government of Mozambique and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to put a stop to the continued violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.”

The AU’s statement on the events in Palma are welcomed, but should be backed up by proactive continental intervention to end the extremist threat rapidly mutating in southern Africa.

The Chairperson of the African Union Commission MoussaFakiMahamat condemned in the strongest terms the terrorist attacks in Cabo Delgado region and particularly the recent violence in and around the environs of Palma Town. The Chairperson further expressed his utmost concern at the presence of international terrorist groups operating in southern Africa,  and calls for urgent and  coordinated regional and international action to address this new threat to our common security.  The African Union Commission through its relevant organs, stands ready to support the Region and its mechanisms to jointly address this urgent threat to regional and continental peace and security.

The recent brazen and horror-laden attacks on Palma in March 2021 raises serious questions about the continental body’s political will to stem the terrorist scourge that in fact continues across the entire continent at present, decimating the highly coveted AU ambition of ‘silencing the guns’ and securing a conflict-free Africa by 2020- which failed dismally and was rescheduled for achievement towards 2030. SADC also appears largely ineffective in the current fight against terrorism overall in the region.

Besides holding summit meetings of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security in May, November and December 2020, SADC has refrained from taking any action. Another summit scheduled for early 2021 in South Africa was postponed indefinitely. Meanwhile, Mozambique had accepted offers from the United States (US) and Portugal to help train troops to fight the insurgents.

On 8 April SADC finally issued a highly-anticipated communiqué during its Extraordinary Double Troika Summit of Heads of State and Government, held in Maputo, Mozambique and noted:

with concern, the acts of terrorism perpetrated against innocent civilians, women and children in some districts of Cabo Delgado Province of the Republic of Mozambique; condemned the terrorist attacks in strongest terms, and affirmed that such heinous attacks cannot be allowed to continue without a proportionate regional response.’

It remains to be seen what concrete steps SADC will take in meting out its ‘proportionate regional response, but the backlash from the terrorists in Mozambique are likely to be equally potent.

The Battle for Palma has revealed the severe deficiencies in the AU’s peace and security mechanisms- a serious indictment on an institution that has touted its Article 4(h) intervention powers i.e. the right of the Union to intervene in a Member State pursuant to a decision of the Assembly in respect of grave circumstances, namely: war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. Overall the AU’s purported stance of non-indifference has dismally failed and renders the continental body completely impotent against the current terrorist scourge in Mozambique and indeed all of Africa! African Solutions to African Problems have not yielded the desired results on this front either. The continuation of terrorism is seriously threatening the African continent’s future stability, security and prosperity. The terrorist apocalypse that has engulfed Mozambique was allowed to spiral out of control on the AU’s watch.

New Frontiers of Terrorism in Africa

On March 17, 2020, an international conference was convened online to address “New Frontiers of Terrorism in Africa”. Two ambassadors and 13 expert took part in this conference, amongst them, Professor Hussein Solomon, Dr. Glen Segell, Dr. Haim Koren and Dr. Moshe Terdiman from RIMA. The event was also the first to mark the formal academic collaboration between the Department of Political Studies and Governance, University of the Free State, South Africa and the Institute for African Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow.

Here is a link to the Proceeding of Colloquium:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1vyQtFtI5VOV3R1-E7AfvZuiDVeIX8zMt/view

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1vyQtFtI5VOV3R1-E7AfvZuiDVeIX8zMt/view

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1vyQtFtI5VOV3R1-E7AfvZuiDVeIX8zMt/view

And, here is a link to the recording of the event:

You are all invited to listen or read.

Ballots, Bullets and Bombs: Somalia’s Elections in the midst of a Pandemic – Sanet Madonsela

Ballots, Bullets and Bombs: Somalia’s Elections in the midst of a Pandemic

by Sanet Madonsela

Volume 9 (2021), Number 3 (March 2021)

On February 8th, 2021, the calm dark skies of Somalia were hailed by bullets as fellow clansmen celebrated the end of President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed’s (Farmajo) term in office. It has come full circle as his term began exactly the same way four long years ago. This says a lot, as clan loyalty runs deep in this blighted country. The end of Farmajo’s term was also celebrated in several cities across the Horn of Africa, particularly in Kenya’s Dedaab, which is home to the world’s largest refugee camps for Somalis.

The 2021 elections were said to be a defining moment for the country’s stability as the outcome would have a ripple effect on the social, economic and political relations in the Horn of Africa. They would also influence when the African Union’s AMISOM peacekeeping forces leave in 2021. That would mean that the Somali Armed Forces would be in charge of security in the country. The President, along with the country’s federal leaders have failed to break a deadlock over how to proceed with elections. This delay could have far reaching consequences for the Horn of Africa, which is already confronted by Islamist insurgency, a locust invasion and severe food shortages. The power vacuum and divisions between political leaders has already strengthened the Al-Qaeda linked Al-Shabaab group. On February 7, 2021, the group killed twelve security agents with a roadside bomb near the town of Dhusamareb, while Farmajo and opposition leaders were meeting to resolve the elections. During the latter half of the month, they attacked a prison in the city of Basaso in Somalia’s Bari province. They have claimed to have freed over 400 prisoners. The group claimed responsibility for the death of the Somali journalist, Jamal Farah Adan, who was opposed to it. To aggravate matters, the group executed five civilians in the town of Jilib, in Somalia’s Middle Juba region. It is worth noting that the Middle Juba is the only region fully under the control of Al-Shabaab. Analysts believe that the group will continue to exploit this deadlock between the President and opposition leaders.

The brewing political crisis in the country can be intensified if a consensual path forward to elections is not found. Clashes between security forces and opposition supporters have already resulted in the deaths of eight people. The opposition alliances have already called for further anti-government protests. While the Somali government initially banned the protests stating that it may result in a surge in Covid-19 infections, it has backtracked stating that they could take place if protestors adhere to the country’s public health and social measures. The Covid-19 outbreak has become a political football. While the country is struggling to manage the resurgence of the second Covid-19 wave on one side; there may be a need to peacefully protest against the current government on the other side. The country is currently mourning the loss of its’ former president, Ali Mahdi Mohamed, who died of Covid-19 in March of this year. Days before his death, Mohamed urged the country’s leaders to hold peaceful elections. Stuck at a cross road! Where to from here?

Some believe that the September 17, 2020 model offers the best available option to resolve the Constitutional crisis in the country as all parties have agreed to it. The agreement promised a one-person, one-vote ballot. This solution can ensure a quick electoral process for the selection of members of parliament, senators and the President. It, however, needs to be ensured that the elections are impartial, that it has no parallel processes, and that the leaders are not allowed to take unilateral actions. To be frank, there are dangers associated with this – whether clan elders will relinquish their de facto veto over the political process.

In the midst of this political impasse, over 2.5 million Somalians are in dire need of humanitarian assistance due to water shortages, locust swarms, floods, terrorism, and the Covid-19 pandemic. These dire circumstances demand that political players come together and achieve a national consensus speedily with a view to alleviating the lot of their long-suffering people.