After November: Can US-Africa Ties Be Rebuilt?

Abidjan Côte dIvoire
Aerial view of Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, April 1, 2011 (UN/Basile Zoma)

Donald Trump has never been to Africa. At least not as president. Not for six decades, since John F. Kennedy, has an American president even met with fewer African leaders than Trump. During JFK’s time, of course, most African states were still colonial territories. His attitude toward the continent appears to be mired in either indifference or outright hostility, as his “shithole countries” comment and repeated (but unsuccessful) efforts to cut foreign aid demonstrate.

The feeling is mutual. As with the rest of the world, Africa’s view of the United States has declined under Trump’s leadership. Read more “After November: Can US-Africa Ties Be Rebuilt?”

Five Reasons to Doubt Libyan Truce Will Hold

Paolo Gentiloni and Fayez al-Sarraj, the prime ministers of Italy and Libya, inspect an honor guard in Rome, July 26
Paolo Gentiloni and Fayez al-Sarraj, the prime ministers of Italy and Libya, inspect an honor guard in Rome, July 26 (Palazzo Chigi)

Libya’s two most powerful leaders have agreed to call a ceasefire and hold elections next year after a meeting with French president Emmanuel Macron in Paris.

Their deal has the potential to end six years of civil war, but there are at least five reasons to doubt it will hold:

  1. Khalifa Haftar, the generalissimo in charge of eastern Libya, and Fayez al-Sarraj, the prime minister of the internationally-recognized unity government in Tripoli, did not agree on a date for elections, so there is no deadline.
  2. The truce exempts counterterrorism, which Haftar and Sarraj could interpret differently. Haftar calls his entire campaign a counterterrorist operation.
  3. Libya’s institutions, including the central bank and National Oil Corporation, have recognized Sarraj’s as the legitimate government, but he has no security force of his own and could struggle to convince the militias that support him to stop fighting.
  4. Haftar, by contrast, has his own army, which occupies two-thirds of Libya, most of its oil ports and the city of Benghazi. But he has to convince a rival parliament in Tobruk to agree to the deal. Given how well the civil war has been going for them lately, they may balk at its terms.
  5. While Western countries and the United Nations back Sarraj, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates support Haftar in his war against Islamists. Read more “Five Reasons to Doubt Libyan Truce Will Hold”

Egypt’s War on Sunni Supremacism Goes to Libya

American defense secretary James Mattis and Egyptian president Abdul Fatah Sisi stand to attention outside the Pentagon in Washington DC, April 5
American defense secretary James Mattis and Egyptian president Abdul Fatah Sisi stand to attention outside the Pentagon in Washington DC, April 5 (DoD/Amber I. Smith)

From Reuters:

Egyptian airstrikes destroyed twelve vehicles loaded with arms, ammunition and explosive material trying to cross the border from Libya, the army spokesman said on Tuesday.

The airforce acted after hearing that “criminal elements” had gathered to try and cross the western boundary, the army statement said, without giving details on exactly where or when the strikes took place.

Despite the paucity of the initial report, it’s clear the Abdul Fatah al-Sisi is trying to look like he’s getting revenge for attacks on Egyptian Christians by Sunni supremacists, who are trying the same old terror tricks of the 1990s to destabilize the regime. Read more “Egypt’s War on Sunni Supremacism Goes to Libya”

Donald Trump is Going to Love Egypt’s Dictator

Vladimir Putin Abdul Fatah Sisi
Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Abdul Fatah Khalil al-Sisi of Egypt tour the Russian missile cruiser Moskva in Sochi, August 12, 2014 (Kremlin)

Call a spade a spade: Abdul Fatah al-Sisi is as much a president, with its democratic connotations, as Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. Egypt now rates a dismal 26 from 100 on Freedom House’s Freedom Index, just behind Qatar and barely above dysfunctional Iraq.

Some may quibble that Sisi is more a “strongman” than a dictator; in terms of political outcomes, that’s the difference between holding rigged elections and having no elections at all.

And now al-Sisi is coming to kiss the Trump ring. Read more “Donald Trump is Going to Love Egypt’s Dictator”

Don’t Look Now, But West Africa Just Took a Huge Leap Forward

“West Africa” should really only be a geographical label, not a geopolitical one. It is a place riddled with ethnicities overlapping tribes cut by religion bisected by language. There is nothing simple about West Africa except in the minds of long-dead imperial geographers.

That hasn’t stopped Nigeria from deciding to reorder the whole region to its liking. But for once in geopolitics, this reordering has not only been largely successful but is also incrementally pushing West Africa to better governance and stronger states.

And Abuja just had a stunning success in the Gambia, a tiny river-republic that just tried and failed to hold onto the bad old ways of West African politics. Read more “Don’t Look Now, But West Africa Just Took a Huge Leap Forward”

Libya’s Haftar Spurns Unity Deal, Blames Militias

Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar on Friday ruled out joining a unity government until militias that fight on its behalf disband.

“I would like to stress that Mr Sarraj relies on militia and we refuse them,” he told reporters, referring to Fayez al-Sarraj, the head of a proposed government of national accord that has been accepted by most factions.

“An army cannot unify with militias so they must be dismantled,” Haftar added. “It’s unthinkable to work with these armed factions.” Read more “Libya’s Haftar Spurns Unity Deal, Blames Militias”

Will Russia Go into Libya Next?

Vladimir Putin
Russian president Vladimir Putin chairs a government meeting at his country residence outside Moscow, October 13, 2014 (Kremlin)

Herein may sound like rampant speculation, but I’m not the only one considering it: according to The Economist, high-ranking European diplomats also wonder if Russia will make Libya the next frontier of adventure. There are good reasons to consider why Putin may be doing so. Read more “Will Russia Go into Libya Next?”

Challenges as Libya Unity Leaders Win Recognition

A unity government appears to have made progress toward consolidating power in Libya in recent days, raising hopes that the North African country may finally start to put five years of unrest behind it.

But even if most warring factions recognize its authority, the challenges the new administration faces are daunting, from an economy in disarray to militant Islamists professing fealty to the Islamic State group. Read more “Challenges as Libya Unity Leaders Win Recognition”