• Western Sahara

    The head of the United Nations will name former German president Horst Koehler as his new envoy for Western Sahara, in charge of restarting talks between Morocco and the Polisario independence movement over the disputed territory. The United Nations Security Council in April backed attempts to re-enter negotiations over Western Sahara, which has been contested since 1975 and where Morocco and Polisario fought a war until a 1991 ceasefire. “Following the usual consultations, I intend to appoint Horst Koehler of Germany as my personal envoy for Western Sahara,” U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in a letter to the Security Council released by the U.N. on Friday.

  • West Africa terrorism

    France on Tuesday proposed that the United Nations Security Council back a West African force to combat terrorism, drug and human trafficking by “eradicating the actions” of Islamist militants and organized crime groups in the Sahel region. The vast, arid zone has in recent years become a breeding ground for jihadist groups – some linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State – that European nations, particularly France, fear could threaten Europe if left unchecked. “We cannot afford to let the Sahel region become a new safe haven for terrorists across the world,” French U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre told reporters. France circulated a draft Security Council resolution on Tuesday to the 15-member body to authorize the West African force to use “all necessary means” to restore peace and security in accordance with international law and work in coordination with a U.N. peacekeeping mission and French forces in Mali.

  • Niger

    A court in Niger handed sentence on Tuesday for agitating for the overthrow of government, a move his lawyer said was aimed at silencing its critics. El Hadj Amadou Djibo, the head of a coalition of opposition parties, was arrested last month after calling on his allies to remain united against President Mahamadou Issoufou and force him from power by all legal means available. “This is a way of silencing the opposition,” Djibo’s lawyer, Douleur Oumarou, told reporters after the verdict. “We are going to appeal.” Djibo was expected to be released from prison later on Tuesday. In March, a court freed 15 civilians accused of complicity in an alleged December 2015 putsch against Issoufou. Nine military officers, including the alleged ringleader General Salou Souleymane, are still behind bars awaiting trial.

  • Oil theft

    Although crude oil theft has long been the subject of intense media attention in Nigeria, the downstream theft of hydrocarbons has remained under the radar. Despite this, downstream hydrocarbon theft is big business in Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer. In 2015, the petroleum sector accounted for approximately 51 percent of the federal government’s income and more than 90 percent of export earnings. According U.S. Department of Commerce data published in February 2017, it also accounted for between 10-12 percent of Nigeria’s GDP. As global oil prices rose above $100 a barrel in the early 2000s, the theft of oil became a very lucrative business. Furthermore, due to a conspicuous lack of youth employment in the region, many of the Niger Delta indigenes (particularly young men) have turned to the illicit hydrocarbon trade (i.e. small-scale tapping of crude oil, petroleum theft / smuggling and artisanal refining) as a source of income.

  • Corruption

    Nigeria’s Acting President Yemi Osinbajo said Monday that the administration had a duty to trace all funds looted from the country as well as “call out” countries and foreign financial institutions found not to be cooperating with its effort to repatriate such funds. Speaking at a conference in capital Abuja on the return of recovered assets and combating illicit financial flow through intergovernmental cooperation, Osinbajo said stolen assets and funds remained a phenomenon because many countries and financial institutions helped the perpetrators. “There is no way this [illicit] transfer of assets can happen without a handshake between the countries that they are transferred and the international banking institutions in the countries in which they are transferred, there is no way it will happen without some form of connivance,” he said.

  • Israel & Africa

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in Liberia to attend a summit of the Economic Community of West African States. Netanyahu says he wants to expand trade and win allies. He has signed a memorandum of understanding with ECOWAS members for green energy projects worth $1bn. But Netanyahu wants something in return. “I ask for your support in rejecting anti-Israel bias at the United Nations and in bodies such as the general assembly, UNESCO and the Human Rights Council,” he told the summit. Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris reports from Monrovia, Liberia’s capital.

  • The Gambia

    West African troops have extended their military mission in Gambia by one year after entering the country in January to force out longtime ruler Yahya Jammeh, regional bloc ECOWAS said on Monday. About 500 ECOWAS troops remain in Gambia of the original 7,000 that crossed over from neighboring Senegal to compel Jammeh to go into exile and leave the presidency to Adama Barrow, who defeated him in a December election. Soldiers from the mission, known as ECOMIG, came under attack last Friday by locals in Jammeh’s native village of Kanilai, Interior Minister Mai Ahmed Fatty said in a televised statement, underscoring unresolved tensions from Jammeh’s 22-year rule.

  • Burkina Faso

    Officials say that French soldiers deployed to Mali to fight against Islamic extremists have killed at least 20 jihadis at the country’s border with Burkina Faso. French Operation Barkhane said Friday that activities carried out by soldiers from Sunday to Thursday in the Serma forest left 20 jihadis “out of combat.” It said the operation began with airstrikes followed by soldiers on land, but it didn’t specify how the jihadis were killed. A resident says various Islamic extremists are active in the forest, including Macina Liberation Front members, jihadis from Burkina Faso and Islamic State group members. The resident spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons.

  • IS returnees

    For the last two years, Moroccan authorities have been cracking down on Islamic State (IS) fighters’ returning from the battlefields in Syria and Iraq. While they have been accused of turning a blind eye to the departure of hundreds of volunteers to jihad in the early days of the conflict in 2012, authorities are now arresting returnees, fearing they would get involved in terrorist activities at home. This zero tolerance policy on returnees has prevented many from coming back to Morocco, with some remaining in Turkey, according to sources close to Salafists Al-Monitor spoke with. Khalil Idrissi, a lawyer who has defended several returnees, draws attention to their motivations to return home. Many had been lured with promises of money, he told Al-Monitor, while others dreamed of living under their own interpretation of Islam and came back to their country disappointed with their experience with IS.

  • African security

    The countries of West Africa’s Sahel region have requested $56 million from the EU to help set up a multi-national force to take on Islamist militant groups across the vast, arid region. The sparsely populated region has attracted a growing number of jihadist groups, some affiliated with al Qaeda and Islamic State. The G5 Sahel countries — Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Mauritania — have proposed the creation of a capable and mobile regional task force, the mission of which would be to tackle the cross-border Islamist threat.

  • Terrorism

    West African nations, facing a growing threat from Islamist militants, are set to deploy a military force to augment the 15,000-strong UN peace-keeping force which, so far, has failed to deal effectively with the insurgency. The militants gave been attacking not only UN peacekeepers in Mali, but have expanded their area of operations beyond Mali’s borders. The growing wave of attacks has led the G5 Sahel group – a recently formed alliance of Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Mauritania — to agree to assemble a 4,000-strong force by the end of the year.

  • Mali

    The current mandate of Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) ends in June. The International Crisis Group has called on the Security Council to renew the mandate – but with stronger political and civil affairs components and a greater role for the peacekeepers in local reconciliation. The ICG questions the wisdom on focusing only on increasing the military capabilities of MINUSMA.

  • Terrorism in Africa

    Leaving aside the mismatched ethno-linguistic groupings included in the vast territory stretching from Eritrea and Somalia in the east to Mauritania in the west, ISIS’s interest in establishing a presence in that part of Africa has long been a part of its vision for a global caliphate. Battlefield setbacks in ISIS’s strongholds in Iraq and Syria since 2015, however, raise questions of what impact this will have for ISIS’s African aspirations.

  • 2017 armed conflict

    Deaths from conflict worldwide fell to 157,000 last year compared to 167,000 in 2015. Yet, the IISS 2017 Armed Conflict Survey notes that in parallel, there has been a rise in the number of intractable conflicts that have the potential to flare at short notice. Four of the ten most lethal conflicts in 2017 were in Africa: Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Nigeria (the non-African states on the list are Syria, Mexico, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Turkey).

  • 2017 Armed conflict: Africa

    The IISS 2017 Armed Conflict Survey describes the security picture for Africa as “mixed.” Fatalities in the sub-Saharan region are quite high, but they have actually gone down, falling from 24,000 in 2015 to 14,000 in 2016. There have been some successes in the fight against Boko Haram, but there is very, very little cause for optimism for the sub-Saharan Africa region. The conflicts in South Sudan, Somalia, and the Central Africa Republic (CAR) have got worse, displacement rates are at an all-time high. “One of the aspects that continue to fuel the conflicts is ongoing state weakness and lack of legitimacy of state institutions and governance problems in most African countries,” says the Survey’s editor.

  • Morocco

    Moroccan supporters of Emanuel Macron’s En Marche! party said they would not support the party’s candidate in the legislative election for the French parliament. Eleven of the 577 voting districts are in former French colonies, and Macron has chosen Leila Aichi, a 46-years old French-Algerian lawyer, to be his party candidate in the 9th district, which covers Morocco. She is a vocal supporter of the separatist Polisario movement, which has been fighting for independence of Western Sahara. Morocco regards Western Sahara as part of Morocco.

  • Morocco

    Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said that Morocco’s return to the African Union unifies Africa. Mogherini, added that regional cooperation and integration are important for the prosperity, stability, and peace of the continent. She noted that “Morocco and the African Union are basic partners of the European Union.” MWN reports that in January 2017, Morocco, supported by 39 AU member states out of a total of 54, was re-admitted to the organization as a full-fledged member, ending a 33-year-long absence.

  • Muslim Africa

    Africa is home to nearly 30 percent of the world’s Muslims, but the role of Islam in allowing Africans to transcend parochial identities and differences has not been appreciated. “Africa has been represented in academia as well as in popular representations as a continent of warring tribes. Look at the coverage of Africa in most TV channels. It is most of the time about tribal conflicts. What I argue in my book is that large sections of West African peoples have, in the past and the present, proven their ability to transcend parochial identities and differences in a common cause and have indeed claimed their independence of thought and common destiny. More than anything else, this is embodied in a long literary tradition in the Arabic and in African languages written with the Arabic script,” says Harvard professor Ousmane Kane, author of Beyond Timbuktu: An Intellectual History of Muslim West Africa.

  • Technology sector

    Africa is coming online rapidly. Internet penetration in the continent is growing faster than in any other region in the world, giving millions more people access to better communication, information and business opportunities. Although only around 20 percent of people in Africa have internet access (compared to a global average of 40 percent), this has increased from less than 5 percent ten years ago.

  • Epidemics

    The 2013-2016 West African Ebola epidemic dwarfed all previous central African outbreaks of the virus, sickening more than 28,000 people and killing more than 11,000 of them. New study of the epidemic reveals insights into factors that sped or slowed the rampage – for example, that the epidemic unfolded in small, overlapping outbreaks with surprisingly few infected travelers sparking new outbreaks elsewhere, each case representing a missed opportunity to break the transmission chain and end the epidemic sooner. Scientists call for using real-time sequencing and data-sharing to contain future viral disease outbreaks.