The European Business Council for Africa

ON OUR RADAR
Three conflict trends as seen by Crisis Group analysts  
 

➤ Libya: The Libya National Army (LNA) offensive on Tripoli suffered a major set back late this week, when government-backed armed groups managed to push LNA forces out of their strongholds in the southern and eastern outskirts of the capital. Crisis Group expert Claudia Gazzini says that the situation on the ground is still in flux but at this point the LNA’s initial hopes of swiftly controlling Tripoli have been dampened.  

➤ Nicaragua: On Tuesday, the government released 36 political prisoners alongside 600 common criminals ahead of the one-year anniversary of a mass civic uprising that was met with lethal state force. Crisis Group expert Tiziano Breda says the release is aimed at persuading foreign powers of the government’s commitment to pacify the country. However, social polarisation, a shrinking economy and the lack of a negotiated political settlement are likely to continue fuelling protests.

 Sudan: Thousands of demonstrators continue to maintain pressure on the ruling Military Transition Council after forcing the resignations of the council’s leader and Sudan’s intelligence chief. Crisis Group expert Alan Boswell says the sustained momentum has emboldened the protest movement, yet the country's ruling security group continues to resist demands to immediately cede power to a civilian-led government.

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ON OUR RADAR
Four conflict trends as seen by Crisis Group analysts  
 

➤ Afghanistan: Three U.S. servicemen were killed on Monday by a Taliban suicide bomb near Bagram Airbase north of Kabul. Crisis Group expert Borhan Osman says attacks usually increase in the spring and summer months and this year, facing incentives to improve their military position as peace talks get underway, both the government and the Taliban have already declared a formal start to offensive operations.

➤ Algeria: Abdelkader Bensalah, the speaker of Algeria’s upper house, was appointed interim president for a 90-day period on Tuesday, the same day that police for the first time resorted to tear gas to disperse protesters in Algiers. Crisis Group expert Michaël Ayari says Bensalah’s announcement on Wednesday that elections will be held on 4 July is unlikely to satisfy the demands of demonstrators, who are still mobilised and asking for immediate concrete measures to dismantle the "regime/system". 

 Libya: The UN on Tuesday postponed the national conference scheduled for 14-15 April, citing escalating violence and the rising casualties in Tripoli as the Libyan National Army (LNA) continues its offensive. Crisis Group expert Claudia Gazzini says international actors' calls for restraint will not be effective unless backed up by the credible threat of sanctions and a set of incentives that address the warring sides’ core political and financial concerns.

➤ Sudan: President Omar al-Bashir was removed from power on Thursday by the Sudanese army, which subsequently dissolved the government, suspended the constitution and declared a curfew designed to force out thousands of protesters camping outside the defence ministry. Crisis Group expert Murithi Mutiga says the coup will do little to appease protesters and unless generals hand power to a civilian-led transitional authority, demonstrations will continue.

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ON OUR RADAR
Four conflict trends as seen by Crisis Group analysts  
 

➤ Algeria: Following six weeks of popular unrest and growing pressure in recent days from Army Chief of Staff Ahmed Gaid Salah, President Bouteflika resigned on Tuesday. Crisis Group expert Michaël Ayari says if protesters maintain the same levels of determination at demonstrations on Friday and thereafter, the army itself will come under increasing pressure to give clear signs that the political system that Algerians oppose is being dismantled.

➤ China-Taiwan: On Sunday two Chinese fighter jets crossed a tacit maritime border separating Chinese and Taiwanese waters. Crisis Group expert Laurel Miller says the latest incident has heightened tensions in Beijing and Taipei's already fraught relationship and appears to have increased Taiwan's resolve to respond to any future incursions.

➤ Libya: Defying international admonitions against advancing into western Libya, on Wednesday the Libyan National Army (LNA) seized the town of Gharian, 100 km south of Tripoli. Crisis Group expert Claudia Gazzini warns that the advance risks triggering an escalation as apprehension grows among forces allied to the Tripoli-based government and could jeopardise the UN-hosted National Conference scheduled for 14-16 April.

➤ Venezuela: The pro-government Constituent Assembly stripped opposition leader Juan Guaidó of his parliamentary immunity on Tuesday, accusing him of defying a travel ban and usurping presidential functions. Crisis Group expert Phil Gunson says the move is a further tightening of the noose, following the arrest of Guaido's chief of staff, but that the government may yet hold off from detaining him, preferring to wait for his popularity to decline.

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ON OUR RADAR
Three conflict trends as seen by Crisis Group analysts  
 

➤ Mali: In an attack on the village of Ogossagou, an ethnic armed group killed at least 157 people on Saturday, the latest episode of ethnic-based violence motivated by tensions over land and anxiety over jihadist groups. Crisis Group expert Jean-Hervé Jezequel says violence affects all communities but the pace, scale and locations of massacres specifically targeting the Peul community are increasing.

Israel/Palestine: Following a violent flare-up triggered by rocket fire from Gaza into Israel, a tentative calm appeared to take hold on Wednesday following mediation efforts by Egyptian and UN delegations. Crisis Group expert Tareq Baconi says that while neither side desires all-out war, the fragile ceasefire is set to come under additional strain as Palestinians prepare to mark the one year anniversary of the “Great March of Return” on 30 March and the “Nakba” on 15 May.

➤ Yemen: Saudi Arabia’s military intervention in Yemen entered its fifth year on Tuesday. Crisis Group expert Peter Salisbury says that optimism in the UN-brokered Stockholm Agreement has faded since December and if parties fail to implement it soon, particularly in Hodeida, we may see a dramatic escalation in violence and the prospects for peace significantly delayed. 

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ON OUR RADAR
Four conflict trends as seen by Crisis Group analysts  
 

➤ Algeria: Deputy Prime Minister Ramtane Lamamra embarked on a foreign tour this week, announcing in Moscow that the date of new presidential elections will be determined during an inclusive national conference. Crisis Group expert Michaël Ayari says much now depends on protesters’ determination to demand Bouteflika's departure, whether opposition groups propose viable alternatives to the plan and whether the army chief of staff Gaid Salah will directly intervene in politics.

➤ Kazakhstan: Long-time President Nursultan Nazarbayev announced his resignation on Tuesday after nearly 30 years in office, handing power to regime veteran Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. Crisis Group expert Olga Oliker says it is almost certain that Nazarbayev and his inner circle have had this planned for some time and are implementing their own version of a managed transition.

➤ Israel/Palestine: President Trump on Thursday called for U.S. recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, a region captured from Syria in 1967 and formally annexed in 1981. Crisis Group expert Ofer Zalzberg says formal U.S. recognition is an ominous step that could lay the ground for recognition of future Israeli annexation of the West Bank or parts of it. 

Ukraine-Russia: Moscow on Monday marked the five-year anniversary of its annexation of Crimea and announced plans to deploy strategic bombers to the Black Sea peninsula. Crisis Group expert Anna Arutunyan says Moscow is committed to treating the annexation of Crimea as a fait accompli and described its deployment of strategic bombers as a response to the U.S. Aegis Ashore missile defence system in Romania. 

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ON OUR RADAR
Four conflict trends as seen by Crisis Group analysts  
 

➤ Venezuela: The U.S. said on Tuesday it will withdraw its few remaining diplomats, and announced forthcoming new sanctions, as blackouts continue to affect millions. Crisis Group expert Phil Gunson does not believe the embassy closure augurs imminent military intervention, though it ratchets up tensions. He says the power cuts show ordinary Venezuelans what is in store as the crisis drags on.

➤ Algeria: Facing a groundswell of popular opposition, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on Tuesday renounced his intent to serve another term and postponed elections scheduled for 18 April. Crisis Group expert Michael Ayari says this represents mixed news for protesters: they forced Bouteflika to abandon a bid for a fifth term but by default may now have him for an indefinite fourth one.

➤ Libya: A recent offensive has consolidated the Libyan National Army’s (LNA) control over much of the south west, including its oilfields. Crisis Group expert Claudia Gazzini says the LNA, led by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, has not given up on advancing militarily into western Libya. Efforts are ongoing, however, to negotiate a political compromise with Tripoli authorities.

Afghanistan: The U.S. and Taliban ended sixteen days of talks on Tuesday, with both sides reporting progress and promising to meet again soon. Crisis Group expert Laurel Miller says the talks helped each side understand the other’s positions. At the same time, divergence between the U.S. and Afghan government – signified by the Afghan national security adviser’s harsh remarks in Washington on Thursday – could hamper the peace process.

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West Africa Brief

6 - 28 February 2019| PDF

 

▶ Fespaco turns 50
▶ Beating famine in the Sahel
▶ Senegal: Macky Sall wins re-election
▶ Nigeria: President Buhari wins second term
▶ Must read: Suffering in silence
▶ Must read: Contemporary civil-military relations in the Sahel
▶ Opinion: In the Sahel, the vacuum left by the state is fanning the flames of terrorism
▶ Who’s who: Aishatu Binani, senator of Adamawa Central
▶ Maps & Facts: Voter turnout in West Africa

ECDPM's weekly update on EU - Africa relations and international cooperation

The need for more effective integration of development and humanitarian areas of work is all the more important when governments are devising policies to tackle forced displacement. This was one of the key findings of the team of experts – two of them from ECDPM – selected by the Finnish foreign ministry to evaluate the coherence between the country’s development policy and the objective of dealing with forced displacement.

Meanwhile, the head of ECDPM’s team working on agricultural transformation, Francesco Rampa, tells us in a video interview about his role as a member of the Task Force Rural Africa. This was a major opportunity to feed into and shape the policy of the European Commission on strengthening the partnership between Europe and the food and farming sector in Africa.

One of the findings highlighted by the task force is the need for a proper territorial development strategy. Clearly, a truly regional approach in handling essential resources is necessary. Ahead of Water Day, on 22 March, we have looked at Mali’s ambivalent attitudes towards the regional river basin organisations, as it tries to reconcile its national and regional interests in the management of the resource that is becoming scarcer every day: water.

ON OUR RADAR
Four conflict trends as seen by Crisis Group analysts  
 

➤ Algeria: Tens of thousands of people have staged daily protests across Algeria to oppose President Bouteflika’s decision to run for a fifth term. Crisis Group expert Michaël Ayari says the scale of the demonstrations, which have so far been largely peaceful, have not been witnessed in Algeria for decades and could mark a political turning point.

➤ Israel/Palestine: Tensions over Jerusalem’s Holy Esplanade continue after the Islamic Waqf rejected Israel’s ultimatum to close the Bab al-Rahma building, reopened for the first time since Israel sealed it in 2003. Crisis Group expert Ofer Zalzberg says the highly symbolic dispute puts significant strain on Israel’s relations with Jordan, the site’s Muslim custodian, perilously harming the popularity of their peace agreement.

➤ Venezuela: Opposition leader Juan Guaidó returned to Venezuela on Monday after a tour of South American capitals where he was received as interim president of the country. Crisis Group expert Phil Gunson says the government of Nicolás Maduro, which had threatened him with prosecution upon his arrival but has so far taken no action, must now decide how to respond to Guaidó’s threat to call a series of public sector strikes.

➤ Zimbabwe: On Monday, the U.S. opted to extend sanctions on Zimbabwe by one year. Crisis Group expert Piers Pigou says in the context of current U.S. political dynamics and the recent violent repression evident in the Zimbabwean state, it would have been difficult for Harare to prevent these measures from being rolled over as they have been for the last fifteen years.

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