• West Africa
    Preventing Conflict in Coastal West Africa
    The Global Fragility Act allows the United States to encourage greater stability in Benin, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, and Togo over the next ten years, argues Eric Silla, though it will be contentious and require high-level diplomacy.
  • Guinea
    Coups are Back in West Africa
    The recent coup in Guinea is part of a resurgence of "coup culture" in West Africa.
  • Guinea
    Divergent Paths in West African Democracy: Guinea and Côte d'Ivoire
    Last weekend, as Americans pondered how our election cycle will proceed in the midst of the constraints and disruption necessitated by the coronavirus, the people of Guinea found themselves deciding whether or not to venture out and vote in a highly controversial referendum and legislative elections. Not even a pandemic could deter 82-year-old President Alpha Condé from his attempt to change Guinea’s constitution so that he would be eligible to stand for re-election later this year.   Beyond the public health risk, the conditions for the polling were not auspicious. The opposition and some civil society groups had called for a boycott. ECOWAS and the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) had raised concerns about the voter’s role. But Condé insisted on forging ahead, and the March 22 referendum was marred by violence that resulted in several deaths. Neither ECOWAS nor OIF nor AU observers participated, and voter turnout was reportedly low. The exercise served more to highlight the alarming governance trends in Guinea than to shore up the dubious legitimacy of a third term bid.  If the concerns expressed by his constituents and his neighbors fail to move Condé, perhaps the global appreciation being expressed for his neighbor in Côte d’Ivoire, President Alassane Ouattara, might influence his thinking. Ouattara’s March 5th announcement that he would not seek a third term in office was met with widespread relief, and was widely seen to be easing tensions and reducing the risk of violence accompanying elections slated for later this year. By stressing the importance of making space for a younger generation of leadership, Ouattara strengthened the case for moving past longstanding, toxic rivalries and burnished his own legacy at the same time.  It’s foolish to imagine that politics anywhere are paused, even as the streets of so many communities have gone eerily silent. The recent developments in Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire point to divergent paths in West African democracy, and to the high stakes around the exit strategies of the countries’ leaders.  
  • Elections and Voting
    Ten Elections to Watch in 2020
    Numerous countries will hold elections in 2020. Here are ten to watch. 
  • Guinea
    Guinea Confronts Third Termism
    Adam Valavanis is a former intern with the Africa Program at the Council on Foreign Relations. He received a master’s degree in conflict studies from the London School of Economics and Political Science. The small West African country of Guinea has become the latest in sub-Saharan Africa threatened by third termism. President Alpha Conde’s second term ends in 2020, and the current constitution prevents him from seeking a third. So, last month, the eighty-one-year-old set to work drafting a new constitution, one that could allow him to remain in office indefinitely.  Tensions have been running high in the country since Conde refused to rule out running for a third term earlier this year. However, in recent weeks, as Conde has made a more aggressive play to rewrite the constitution, protests in the capital Conakry and in the country's north have reached a breaking point. Thousands of civilians have taken to the street calling for Conde to respect the constitution and leave office come December 2020.  In preparation for this unrest, his government in July passed a law that effectively provides immunity for gendarmes in cases of potential unlawful killing. Human rights activists argue this law has laid the groundwork for Conde’s aggressive response to the protests. Scores of civilians have been killed by security forces since mid-October. Condé responded to these killings by sacking the head of the security services earlier last week. But Guinea's human rights record remains rife with excessive use of force and unlawful killings by state security forces and intimidation of journalists. Amnesty International released a report this month documenting the deteriorating human rights situation in the country since January 2015, the start of Condé's second term. Though thousands of Guineans rallied in support of Conde in Conakry at the end of October, it is unclear how much popular support he enjoys. Responding to a 2017 Afrobarometer survey, more than 80 percent of Guineans, including 70 percent of respondents who support Conde's Rassemblement du Peuple Guineen party, favored a two-term limit for the presidency. Such numbers provide hope that even if Conde does present a new constitution to the public, they will reject it in referendum. But there is a fear that any vote could suffer from irregularities, similar to the 2015 presidential vote. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has weighed in on the unraveling political situation, though it only provided a tepid response to the killings that took place during protests on October 14 and 15, calling for all parties to engage in constructive dialogue. In recent years, ECOWAS has proven itself capable of responding to political crises and threats to democratic rule in the region. This year, ECOWAS played an instrumental role in ensuring presidential and legislative elections in Guinea-Bissau. In 2017, it pressured Yahya Jammeh into stepping down from the presidency after losing the election in the Gambia. Should the situation continue to deteriorate in the country, ECOWAS must respond forcefully to protect democracy in Guinea. 
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
    After Shift from East to West, Maritime Piracy Remains Threat to U.S. Seafarers and Interests
    This is a guest post by Michael Clyne. Michael is an assistant director at Drum Cussac, a global risk management consultancy. When President Obama took office nearly eight years ago, his first national security test came within one-hundred days, not from al-Qaeda or the self-proclaimed Islamic State, but pirates. It was the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips, the merchant mariner kidnapped aboard U.S. container-ship Maersk Alabama off the Somali coast, which triggered the president’s first known standing order for lethal force. At the time, the Gulf of Aden, which separates the Middle East from East Africa, was the world’s piracy hotspot, spawned from the lawless destitution of lower Somalia. Flash forward a decade, and East Africa’s pirate problem has been largely tamed through a combination of multinational security and development measures. However, rather than receding, the threat has shifted westward to the Gulf of Guinea, where unsecured territorial waters fuse domestic militancy and international piracy. Today, West Africa’s maritime space is precarious, and worsening conditions there could precipitate a similar crisis as a new president takes office. The un-policed Gulf of Guinea waters off West Africa, namely Nigeria, have long overtaken the Gulf of Aden in recorded piracy attacks, endangering American lives and commerce, yet lack the headline-grabbing infamy of Somalia. That could change as Nigerian security offensives increasingly drive criminal networks offshore, causing more brazen attacks that target crew members rather than their cargo or devalued oil. Pirate kidnappings during the first nine months of 2016 more than doubled annual rates for 2015 and 2014, according to IHS Maritime & Trade, driven largely by Gulf of Guinea piracy. 2016 Gulf of Guinea attacks reported by International Maritime Bureau. Unlike the Gulf of Aden where crew members became captives aboard their own vessels, most Gulf of Guinea hostages are transferred onshore, to the Niger Delta, a lawless maze of mangrove swamps where governments have little reach. Within the past three weeks, Nigerian pirates have attacked two product tankers, a supply vessel, hijacked a gunboat, and kidnapped three international crew members; last month, they also attacked a Maersk container-ship, the same line and type as the Phillips hijacking. This trend not only puts crew members in significant danger, but also subjects the shipping industry to high costs, including the dilemma of ransom negotiation. Yet, West Africa’s web of territorial waters and regulations continue to hamper efforts to curtail piracy, precluding continuous military escorts or reliable trading routes as with the Gulf of Aden. In the constricted space that remains, multinational coordination represents the best opportunity to improve maritime security in and around Nigeria. Since his first meeting with President Obama in 2015, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has requested U.S. cooperation in combatting piracy off West Africa, where this month he called for a regional response. It’s in U.S. interest to agree with Mr. Buhari and engage Gulf of Guinea nations in a multinational preventative strategy, rather than a series of bilateral ones or solely interdiction exercises. And since the causes of offshore insecurity are rooted onshore, preventative approaches should address corruption and the other structural West Africa problems which enable piracy. Until then, the specter of piracy might pivot or transform, but not disappear, and return to haunt another administration.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
    The Sub-Saharan Security Tracker
    The Council on Foreign Relations’ Africa Program has just “soft-launched” a new online tool we call the Sub-Saharan Security Tracker (SST). We anticipate a roundtable at the Council’s New York and Washington offices to introduce formally the SST. In the meantime, it is available for use. Like the Nigeria Security Tracker, the SST tracks incidents of political violence. The purpose of the SST is to show the trends in political violence across all of sub-Saharan Africa. The SST uses data provided by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data (ACLED) Project to map over three million data points. It allows the user to determine the geographic distribution of violence as well as trends over time, and the actors involved in political violence. The SST is updated monthly. The SST’s map and graphs represent information based on the number of deaths. However, the map also allows the user to see the number of reported incidents of violence in each country. The countries where the numbers of deaths attributed to political violence are the greatest are Nigeria, Sudan, Somalia, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Central African Republic. Nigeria has seen by far the most deaths attributed to political violence (over 34,000). However, Somalia has had more than double Nigeria’s number of incidents of political violence (approximately 12,800 to 6,100). Sub-Saharan Africa is made up of forty-eight countries and is home to approximately one billion people. It does not include Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia. The data used in the SST begins June 1, 2011. To find out more about the Sub-Saharan Security Tracker you can visit: www.cfr.org/african_security_tracker.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
    Jihadis Still Active in Mali
    Activities of the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Libya, al-Shabab in Somalia and Kenya, and Boko Haram in Nigeria have pushed awareness of jihadi activities in Mali into the background. But, the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission in northern Mali—called MINUSMA—announced on February 16 that Islamic extremists killed at least seven peacekeepers last week at a UN base near Kidal. As described by a UN spokesman, the jihadi operation looks operationally sophisticated. The jihadis fired shells outside the camp, diverting attention as their explosive-laden truck entered the camp and then detonated. Ansar Dine said that the attack was intended to send a message to “the crusader invaders” who assist the Malian government. A few days before, the German president in a visit to Bamako pledged 650 German troops to MINUSMA. Ansar Dine also said that the attack was led by a Mauritanian member of the group. Ansar Dine is one of the jihadi militant groups that seized most of northern Mali in 2012. Notably, it occupied Timbuktu, where it instituted a regime of rigid sharia (Islamic law) and destroyed UNESCO world heritage sites that it claimed were idolatrous. A combined French and Malian force dislodged the jihadis in 2013 from the territories they had occupied, but failed to destroy them. There have been small scale jihadi attacks on Malian and UN troops ever since. However, the scale and sophistication of this latest attack may indicate that Ansar Dine is accelerating its tempo. Ansar Dine is associated with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, not its rival terrorist movement, the Islamic State.
  • Development
    Beyond the Millennium Development Goals: Strengthening Health Systems for Sustainability
    Emerging Voices features contributions from scholars and practitioners highlighting new research, thinking, and approaches to development challenges. This article is from Amit Chandra, an emergency physician and global health consultant based in Washington, DC. This year marks the end of the fifteen-year Millennium Development Goal (MDG) framework. The health MDGs focused on single, discrete issues including hunger, maternal and child health, and major infectious diseases, and they successfully targeted the spread of HIV and tuberculosis. Slated to replace the MDGs, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) similarly focus on single issues—hunger, sanitation, and an expanded list of key diseases. Continuing this approach fails to address today’s global health challenges, in particular rising mortality associated with non-communicable diseases (NCDs), road traffic accidents, and Ebola-like infectious disease epidemics. To combat these threats, we need to strengthen countries’ entire health systems, specifically incorporate data to identify problems, expand technical capacity, and boost financial and human resources for health. In many developing countries, health systems now face the dual burden of NCDs and persistently high rates of infectious diseases like HIV, TB, malaria, and tropical diseases. Studies estimate that over 900 million people in developing countries have high blood pressure, though only one third of them (300 million) are aware of their disease, and only one third of those aware (100 million) are currently on treatment. Unlike with most infectious diseases, people can live for years with high blood pressure, diabetes, or early stages of cancer without symptoms. Many in the developing world lack access to primary care, and so their first contact with a doctor may only occur when their conditions escalate. In this way, weak health systems turn  preventable and treatable chronic diseases into silent killers. Tackling NCDs requires universal primary health systems that provide prevention, screening, and treatment services to entire populations, not just to the few identified with a particular disease. Health systems also matter for lowering traffic fatalities. Road traffic accidents cause over 1.24 million deaths per year worldwide. In the developing world, an injured person lying on the roadside often depends on bystanders for transport to the nearest hospital, which is unlikely to provide surgical care. A robust health system would enable coordination between health, law enforcement, and public policy leaders to reduce traffic fatalities. Take Rwanda for example. In 2001, the country had one of the highest traffic fatality rates in the world. To address this problem, the government passed mandatory seat belt and helmet laws, increased enforcement of speed limits, and implemented a public awareness campaign. Drivers of motorcycle taxis, a popular method of transport, are even required to carry an extra helmet for their passengers, which they sling over their elbows while looking for customers. As a result, road traffic deaths fell by over 30 percent. On a recent trip to Kigali, I was impressed to see near universal helmet use among motorcycle drivers and passengers. The absence of adequate health systems can permit novel, unexpected infectious disease outbreaks to escalate and spread. The recent Ebola epidemic in West Africa—often cited as an example of the failure of the World Health Organization (WHO)—is first and foremost a failure of the national health systems of the three countries most affected by the disease. Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone’s inability to effectively respond to the initial outbreak led directly to the spread of the disease. Too few hospitals and clinics, a dearth of doctors and nurses, and limited public outreach capacities contributed to a climate of misinformation and a breakdown of public services. Preventing future outbreaks will require more than a WHO emergency fund; it will require national health systems capable of detecting, treating, and isolating a surge of sick and exposed patients. Now, as we determine the scope of the SDGs, we have an opportunity to strengthen health systems. National governments should be encouraged to provide basic health services to their populations. The global health community can support this effort by financing health management training and an expanded health provider workforce. To quote the UN Secretary General’s report on the SDGs, meeting these goals by 2030 will require that we “…act, boldly, vigorously and expeditiously, to turn reality into a life of dignity for all, leaving no one behind.”    
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
    Maybe Better News on Ebola?
    The New York Times and other media are reporting a drop in Ebola infection rates and empty beds in the emergency field hospitals set up by the U.S. military in Monrovia. While there is Ebola all along the border between Liberia and Ivory Coast, Abidjan has not reported any cases. The World Health Organization has stated that Nigeria and Senegal are Ebola free. Perhaps even more important, no new Nigerian cases have been announced since the WHO’s declaration. Especially in Liberia, a public communications campaign on Ebola has taken off. But, it is too soon to break out the champagne. Dr. Bruce Aylward, MD, the WHO official in charge of the Ebola campaign, cautions that infection rates can oscillate, and that mishandled burials could “start a whole new transmission chain and the disease starts trending upward again,” according to the New York Times. He also noted that there is a case of Ebola in Mali, which up to now has been infection-free. According to Dr. Aylward, 13,703 people have been infected by Ebola, all but 27 in Liberia (where about half of the victims were found), Sierra Leone, and Guinea. The mortality rate is about 70 percent. Dr. Aylward’s caution is well placed. There is anecdotal evidence of families hiding Ebola victims from the authorities, of whom they are often deeply suspicious. The emergency field hospitals are mostly in Monrovia; Ebola established itself in rural areas first, many of which are nearly impenetrable because of the lack of roads and other infrastructure. There have been nine people in the United States diagnosed with Ebola, one has died and the others have recovered or have a good prognosis. The American experience may indicate that the horrific West African experience of Ebola is a reflection of a mostly non-existent public health system. Yet, an American hysteria about Ebola, in at least some places, seems unabated, with popular calls for draconian quarantine requirements and the severing of transportation links between the United States and West Africa.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
    Ebola and Counterinsurgency—A Struggle for Legitimacy
    This is a guest post by Colonel Clint Hinote. He is the 2014-2015 U.S. Air Force Military Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. The opinions expressed here are his own. As the United States sends military forces forward to support the effort to stop Ebola in West Africa, it is striking to see how similar this struggle is to counterinsurgency operations. While American soldiers will not be conducting any combat or law enforcement operations, counterinsurgency concepts are applicable to the deteriorating situation, and these have major implications for the broad coalition joining the fight against Ebola. (A good reference on counterinsurgency operations is Army Field Manual 3-24. This article is based on concepts presented in the field manual). The struggle is for the population It is not about battles or weapons…it is about the people. An insurgency finds shelter and support in the population. The Ebola virus spreads within the population. The true “center of gravity”—the most important thing on which to focus—is the population. Legitimacy is the main objective At its essence, counterinsurgency is a struggle for legitimacy within the population. The existing authority competes with the insurgency for the population’s support. Some call this a struggle for the “hearts and minds” of the people, but this is not entirely correct. People do not have to like or respect an insurgency in order to support and protect it. Fear of reprisal can be a critical factor in the population’s choice to accept an insurgent movement. In West Africa, fear has gripped the population. In an area decimated by civil war, governments have been unable to build the capacity to provide suitable health care during this epidemic. Public officials have lost trust, as the inadequate response has delegitimized the government in the eyes of many. Additionally, many Africans do not understand what Ebola is. They see people in rubber suits coming to their homes and taking their loved ones away. Rumors and conspiracy theories run rampant. The people are scared, and they react by keeping their sick relatives hidden in their homes. This is exactly the wrong thing to do, because it gives safe haven to the virus. Isolation is the mechanism for victory The way to win against an insurgency is to convince the people to separate themselves from the insurgents. The people must choose to remove the insurgents from their midst or tell the local authorities who the insurgents are. An isolated insurgency inevitably dies. The same is true for Ebola. There is no cure for the virus. The only way to stop it is to halt its spread from person to person. This means that the population must be willing to identify who is sick and allow them to leave to prevent further infections. Unity of command is (probably) impossible, but unity of effort is essential It almost always takes a coalition of people and institutions to fight an insurgency, and implementing a strict chain of command is usually impossible. Nevertheless, unity of effort—getting everyone working toward the same goal—is critical to success. This is also true in the fight against Ebola, as local governments, the United Nations, the U.S. military, the World Health Organization, non-governmental organizations such as Médecins Sans Frontières, and volunteer medical workers from around the globe will join together to act. They will not answer to the same chain of command, but they must act in concert with one another. A long-term commitment is required to consolidate victory Counterinsurgencies are long-term struggles. Systemic problems usually drive the creation of the insurgency in the first place, and until these underlying issues are addressed, the insurgency will simmer, sometimes mutating and reappearing later. The best counterinsurgency efforts address the root causes of the insurgency over time. This fight against Ebola must also be a long-term effort, especially among the health care institutions within the affected countries. These have been decimated, and they must be rebuilt with the expertise and capacity to provide an acceptable level of care for the population. If this does not happen, the disease will return. There is a real fear among health experts that the disease will become endemic, existing in perpetuity among humans, mutating and spreading within the vulnerable population. If this tragic development is to be prevented, a long-term commitment to building health care infrastructure and institutions will be needed. What this means… Over the coming weeks and months, much of the attention will be on building the capacity to fight the virus—including building treatment centers, training health care workers, creating logistical networks, and delivering critical supplies. While this capacity is necessary to fight Ebola effectively, it is not sufficient. The main effort has to be gaining legitimacy within the population. In the short term, this means finding the most respected voices in the communities and using them to deliver the critical message about Ebola: those who are infected must be separated so they will not get others sick. This message must be communicated using any means, including nontraditional ones (in Liberia, rap musicians are using their art to warn people about Ebola). A successful outcome depends on the population’s reception of this message.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
    Ebola: The Dog That Has Not Barked
    Especially in Sierra Leone and Liberia, the Ebola news gets worse and worse, with victims and deaths seeming to grow exponentially. Yet the disease does not appear to have spread east along the Gulf of Guinea from Liberia. Given the general porosity of African national boundaries, why and how has the march of the disease seemingly stopped at the Liberia/Ivory Coast border? (In Nigeria, the index case arrived in Lagos directly by air from Monrovia; all of the Ebola cases in the country appear to have been related to him, and his contacts have been traced and quarantined.) Nigeria is far away from Liberia. It is about 1,250 miles by road from Monrovia to Lagos, a long way for travelers by truck, bus or on foot. By contrast, Ivory Coast shares a long border with Liberia. Further, like Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, Ivory Coast is recovering from a civil war. However, Ivory Coast is more developed than the three epicenters of Ebola, even if its much vaunted infrastructure was badly damaged in the civil war that ended only in 2011, and unrest continues. Yet, Ivory Coast does not have the disease, and the country may be serving as a barrier to Ebola moving toward the east. It is true that Ivory Coast has taken seemingly draconian measures. It has closed its borders and restricted air traffic through Abidjan from Ebola-infected cities. These flight bans will soon be lifted “in solidarity with infected countries.” There is anecdotal evidence that medical personnel are knowledgeable about what to do should the disease appear, including quarantining victims and tracing their contacts and the government has already inacted several public health initiatives including a law making the consumption of rodents illegal. Maybe the explanation for Ivory Coast being spared the disease is the prophylactic measures it has taken. Yet West African national borders are notoriously porous. It is hard to imagine that foot traffic between Liberia and Ivory Coast is at a standstill. There is also the possibility that the disease has arrived in Ivory Coast, but its presence is not yet known to the authorities. Still, if the disease stays out of Ivory Coast, then the measures taken by the Abidjan government should provide a useful model for stopping the spread of the disease in the future.