The onslaught of COVID-19 combined with a host of upcoming elections are putting Africa’s peacebuilding institutions and democratic resilience to the test. Managing the overlapping challenges in many countries, several of them undergoing critical transitions, will require a balance between forming consensus internally and collaborating with external partners. Joining Alan this week to discuss peace and security on the continent is Hanna Tetteh, UN Under Secretary General and Special Representative to the Secretary General to the African Union. Drawing on her own experience and the cases of Sudan and South Sudan in particular, she shares her thoughts on the importance of finding solutions on common issues within multilateral frameworks, strengthening the partnership between the AU and UN and building truly inclusive peace processes.
President Isaias Afwerki has become virtually synonymous with the state of Eritrea, having single-handedly molded the country in his image since its inception in 1991. Alan is joined this week by Martin Plaut – author, journalist and now Senior Fellow at the University of London – who has covered Eritrea’s trajectory for almost 40 years. Together they explore how Isaias has maintained his unyielding grip on power while pursuing his geopolitical ambitions in the region and further afield. Martin describes a country pervaded with regime paranoia, extreme domestic repression, and isolationism that has somehow also managed to leverage itself into strategic partnerships with actors ranging from the UAE and Saudi Arabia to insurgent groups. This in-depth conversation offers insights into the inner workings of the Horn of Africa’s most off-the-radar country, the shape-shifting quality of Isaias’ shrewd foreign policy as well as the uncertain future of a post-Isaias Eritrea.
In the third episode of Crisis Group's new podcast Hold Your Fire!, our Ethiopia Senior Analyst Will Davison joins host Rob Malley, our President, and co-host Naz Modirzadeh, a Crisis Group Trustee and Harvard professor of international law and conflict. Together they discuss the enormous challenges facing Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed amid rising ethnic tensions.
Sudan’s 31 August peace deal between the government and an alliance of rebel groups from Darfur, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile was welcomed with enthusiasm by the international community. But in the Jebel Marra mountains of Darfur, controlled by a faction of the Sudanese Liberation Movement (SLM), a rebel group that refused to sign the agreement, it was met with raised eyebrows. In early 2020, Vice News correspondent Julia Steers became the first foreign journalist to set foot in the Jebel Marra in five years. She witnessed first-hand why mistrust toward the government flies high in this remote area traumatised by seventeen years of war, even after former President Omar al-Bashir’s ousting in 2019. Steers explains how the rebels want justice for the crimes committed in Darfur and a significant improvement of the situation on the ground, where gunshots ring out daily and humanitarian services are absent. High on their list of concerns is also the fact that the process that led to the August agreement involves a general they consider as one of the masterminds of the genocide committed against them. Elsewhere in Darfur, Steers notes, challenges standing in the way of peace also abound. One obstacle is a surge in what the United Nations calls “tribal clashes”, where civilians displaced by the conflict are attacked in and outside the camps they live in. Explore our Sudan page to learn more about Crisis Group’s analysis on the country: https://www.crisisgroup.org/africa/horn-africa/sudan (https://www.crisisgroup.org/africa/horn-africa/sudan) To watch Vice News’ feature “Inside the Forgotten War in Darfur, Where the Killing Never Stopped”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_NlgaXrMTc4
To mark the first episode of season two of The Horn, Alan talks with Crisis Group’s Africa Program Director Comfort Ero about how the politics of conflict and peacemaking have changed — and not changed — across the African continent during the decade that she has led the organisation’s work on Africa. She highlights that although headlines may be dominated by topics such as “jihadist threat” and “violent extremism”, the key causes of conflict remain the same, namely corruption, instrumentalisation of ethnicity, and marginalisation of certain communities. They discuss power struggles in the Horn of Africa as America’s primacy wanes, the African Union’s more assertive role in peace and security, and how African leaders should manage their relationships with China to strengthen conflict resolution on the continent, not repressive authoritarian regimes. They also explore the benefits and risks of talking about African solutions to African problems, and the need to take into account the crucial national interests that can drive a state to try to shape the future of a neighboring country.
In our second re-run of the Summer, Alan is joined by Rashid Abdi to discuss the legal battle Kenya and Somalia are fighting over their shared maritime border. Somalia’s President Mohammed Abdullahi "Farmajo" has taken a more assertive stance to demonstrate the country’s strength and appeal to his support base. Kenya views itself as a powerful country in a turbulent region and doesn’t wish to be seen caving into pressure. Rashid and Alan seek insights about why the dispute flared up, Ethiopia’s changing role under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, and how mediation efforts have achieved some positive, modest success in de-escalating tensions.
During our season break, we will be re-running two early podcasts from our first season that new subscribers might have missed. We will be back in September with some brand new episodes. Digital technologies are having a dramatic impact on politics. But while their influence in Western political spaces has been heavily scrutinized, little attention has been paid in Africa. Best-selling Kenyan author Nanjala Nyabola joins Alan Boswell on The Horn this week. They discuss everything from digital colonialism and the exploitation of technology by state powers to the power of social media, for better or for worse.
Somalia's political crisis has reached a worrying stage. Since his election in 2017, President Farmajo has pushed to strengthen the federal government's control, fuelling infighting between the government and member states. The decision to postpone upcoming elections has inflamed these already deteriorating relations. Meanwhile, Al-Shabaab continues to inflict violence and will likely benefit from this political disarray, and external actors compete for influence, using the country as a playground for their own interests. Crisis Group's Senior Analyst for Somalia Omar Mahmood joins Alan for the final episode of this season to discuss these worrying trends and the need for a consensus agreement over the electoral process. They also examine the skirmishes in Jubaland's Gedo region and their impact on wider regional dynamics. Thank you for joining us for this first season of the Horn. We would love to hear from you so if you have a few minutes to spare, please fill out this short survey: https://bit.ly/HornSurvey We will be back in September. Until then, stay safe!
As rains swell the Blue Nile, Ethiopia has made clear its intent to soon start filling the massive dam it is building. However, it has yet to reach an agreement with its two downstream neighbours, Sudan, and Egypt. Trilateral talks resumed in early June, and while most elements have been agreed upon, two key issues remain unresolved: drought mitigation and dispute resolution. The gap to reach an agreement is closing fast. William Davison, Crisis Group's Senior Analyst for Ethiopia, returns to The Horn once more to unpack the complex dynamics at play. He and Alan discuss negotiations, technical issues, and the parties' various concerns. He stresses that all three need to compromise if they hope to reach a deal, lest tensions rise further. For more information, read our statement: Nile Dam Talks: A Short Window to Embrace Compromise (https://www.crisisgroup.org/africa/horn-africa/ethiopia/nile-dam-talks-short-window-embrace-compromise)
The "age-old story of the rise and fall of great powers", already in motion, has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. So says Abdul Mohammed, chief of staff and senior political advisor for the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel. Amid waning U.S. influence, the steady rise of China, and a new era of competition between the two, he asks, where does Africa fit in? The continent has undergone a dynamic transformation over the past twenty years. In the absence of robust, long-term U.S. engagement, China has emerged as the continent's most important economic partner. Meanwhile, the U.S. is now primarily focused on sidelining China in Africa rather than providing the transformative engagement needed. With the continent now caught between these two opposing geopolitical forces, just like the rest of the world, Abdul argues that Africans cannot afford to be passive. They will need to "play a weak hand well" by positioning themselves as relevant actors, both in managing the current pandemic and in contributing to the shaping of a future global order.