Terrorism And the Pragmatics Of Transnational Intervention

ANALYTIC GROUNDING: The Boko Haram terrorist (BHT) group was founded in 2002 by a Sunni Islamic preacher Mohammed Yusuf in Maiduguri, Borno state in Nigeria’s north – east. Yusuf exploited the seemingly conservative nature of Northern Nigeria as reflected in the region’s opposition to or backwardness in western education. Consequently, Yusuf built a mosque and Islamiyah School in Maiduguri (madrassa). At the madrassa that thousands of people, mostly uneducated and poor Muslims and converts from across Nigeria and the neighboring countries of Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger were dogmatically radicalised into Boko Haram ideology. Similarly, the endemic poverty, illiteracy and unemployment in the north – east was also exploited by Yusuf, thereby succeeded in creating a cult like followership. Continue reading


The Imported Tradition of African Dictatorship

16 June 2014

Burundi Soldier in Bangui, Central African Republic, courtesy of US Army Africa/Flickr
Creative Commons - Attribution 2.0 Generic Creative Commons - Attribution 2.0 Generic

Has the African continent always been synonymous with despots and dictatorial rule? Not according to George Ayittey. Prior to the modern colonial era the region was awash with communities that embraced customary law and justice as their guiding principles.

By George B.N. Ayittey for World Policy Institute


The passenger terminal building at King Shaka ...

The passenger terminal building at King Shaka International Airport (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This article was originally published by World Policy Blog  on 28 May 2014.

Despotism and dictatorship did not exist in traditional African political schemes. In fact, the famous British economist, the late Lord Peter Bauer, noted this in his book, “Reality and Rhetoric: Studies in Economics of Development” where he wrote, “Despotism and kleptocracy do not inhere in the nature of African cultures or in the African character.” Stateless societies such as the Somali, Igbo, and Tiv—which are characterized by the rejection of any centralized authority or “government”—did not have leaders who could be despots or dictators. Rather, these political systems stressed customary law and emphasized justice, or the establishment of justice, as the ruling principle.

In chiefdoms such as the Fante, Mossi, Shona, and Xhosa, the chief could not dictate policy or law independently. Without the assent of the council of elders—an independent body—the chief was powerless. In kingdoms, where the king often had little or no political role, much of his authority was delegated. Even the powerful Shaka, the Zulu, delegated his authority.

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Chinatowns in Africa

Satellite image of Africa, showing the ecologi...

Satellite image of Africa, showing the ecological break that defines the sub-Saharan area (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Written by Kaiyu Shao (1)

When riots broke out in Libya in February 2011, nearly 40,000 Chinese nationals were evacuated. The world was surprised to see so many Chinese doing business within this relatively small African country. Given the close economic relationship between China and Africa since the 1990s, one can, however, understand the central role ‘Chinatowns’ play in China’s existence in Africa. This discussion paper looks at Chinatowns in Africa, focusing on Namibia and South Africa as examples. It then introduces local attitudes towards Chinatowns, followed by a discussion of the factors that dictate their location.

Chinatowns in Africa

The rise of Chinatowns in Africa and the quick development in the Sino-African relationship could be seen as two sides of the same coin. Since the 1990s, Sino-African trade has enjoyed a rapid increase, both in absolute terms and in proportion. In 1990, Africa’s imports from China were valued at US$ 533 million, making up only 1.10% of its total imports. In 2009, this value reached US$ 30.4 billion, and composed 11.54% of Africa’s imports.(2) In this process, Chinatowns played two important roles. On one hand, the large scale of imports from China into African countries bred the development of Chinatowns, and provided the basis of their growth. On the other hand, it is the existence of these Chinese import-distribution centres that made further trade possible – by establishing relatively stable trade channels, while at the same time making Chinese products, as well as the Chinese image, familiar and acceptable to local citizens. It can thus be said that the existence and location of Chinatowns play an important role in Sino-Africa trade.

Though they vary in size, there are Chinatowns in almost every African country. Some are made up of only a few Chinese restaurants, while others contain several hundred businesses with thousands of Chinese merchants. Among these Chinatowns, South Africa and Namibia deserve special attention for the following reasons: South Africa, China’s biggest trading partner in Africa, possesses most of the Chinatowns on the continent. Namibia represents a new trend in Africa’s Chinatowns — not only do they provide products to the country itself, but they also possess international influence and have become ‘transfer stations’ for Chinese products as they ‘export’ the imported goods to their neighbouring state—Angola.

South Africa

South Africa was one of the earliest destinations of Chinese merchants in Africa, with the first Chinese traders opening their businesses as early as the 1990s. An investor from Hong Kong built the first Chinatown, which opened in 2001. Currently, Johannesburg alone is home to six Chinatowns, each possessing anything from dozens to several hundred booths or shops. Continue reading


Addis Ababa by SPOT Satellite

Addis Ababa by SPOT Satellite (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

June 1, 2012 05:20 PM

Ten Somalis and one Kenyan are currently under trial in Addis Ababa for their alleged involvement in an al-Qaeda bombing plot after weapons and training manuals were seized in the Bale region of southeastern Ethiopia last December. The Kenyan, Hassan Jarsoo, has admitted his role in the alleged plot, but the others, who allegedly include several members of the army of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government, have denied their involvement. Six of the defendants are being tried in absentia (Walta Info Online [Addis Ababa], May 20; Africa Review [Nairobi], May 22; AFP, May 18).

Ethiopia is one of the earliest homes of both Christianity and Islam, with its 85 million people being roughly 60 percent Christian and 30 percent Muslim. These communities have traditionally lived in harmony, but in recent years Ethiopia’s Orthodox Christians and Sufi-based Muslims have come under destabilizing pressure from external sources, primarily from American backed Christian evangelists and Saudi/Kuwaiti backed Salafists. Both of these trends have caused dissension in the religious communities by describing traditional Ethiopian forms of worship as deviations if not outright heresy and insisting that their adherents must convert to these new, more fundamentalist forms of worship. Ill-considered intervention by the central government has only inflamed the situation, and the result has been a growing wave of religious violence in a nation that has prided itself on religious tolerance.

Islam arrived in Ethiopia even before it had firmly established itself in Arabia, as the Prophet Muhammad urged his persecuted followers to flee Mecca in 615 and take refuge in northern Ethiopia, where he promised they would find protection from its just king and his Christian followers. While many returned when Mecca became safe for Muslims, there is some evidence that others stayed in Ethiopia, founding the first Muslim community in Africa. The first muezzin (prayer-caller) in Islam was the ethnic Ethiopian Bilal ibn Rabah (a.k.a. Bilal al-Habashi), one of the Prophet’s closest companions. The Ethiopian city of Harar is regarded in some traditions as the “fourth-holiest city in Islam,” with mosques dating back to the 10th century and over 100 shrines.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told parliament in April that the government was “observing tell-tale signs of [Islamic] extremism. We should nip this scourge in the bud” (Reuters, May 10). In response to fears of an incipient Salafist movement to establish an Islamic state in Ethiopia, the government is attempting to make a little-known and non-threatening Islamic sect known as al-Ahbash the dominant form of Islam in the country, a solution that has inflamed Sufis and Salafists alike.  The Ahbash movement was founded by Abdullah al-Harari (a.k.a. Abdullah al-Habashi, 1910-2008), a Harari scholar of Islam whose views were regarded locally as divisive, resulting in his being forced to leave for Lebanon in 1950. Al-Harari founded al-Ahbash, also known as the Association of Islamic Charitable Projects, in the 1980s. Ethiopian Salafists have complained the government is importing Ahbash imams from Lebanon to teach local Muslims that Salafism is a non-Muslim movement (OnIslam.com, April 29).

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The Hague makes capital out of criminal courts

English: The building of the International Cri...

Image via Wikipedia

By Sara Webb

THE HAGUE | Tue Feb 14, 2012 6:36am EST

Feb 14 (Reuters) – In a tiny office on Zeestraat 100, Alice Helbing puts the final touches to a script for an imaginary counter-terrorism exercise in the Netherlands. A few doors down the corridor, staff from a legal aid group are digging into real war crimes in Ivory Coast.

Nearby at Humanity House, a small museum devoted to raising awareness about aid for the victims of disaster, visitors can find out what it’s like to be a refugee – to have to flee your home, leaving dinner on the table, with no money, no mobile phone, no passport, just the clothes you are wearing.

Behind its staid Dutch exterior, The Hague has become a hothouse for human rights ventures and international legal services, invigorating the local economy with new jobs and an influx of mainly foreign professionals.

But it has also become so much of an international hub that sometimes locals feel like strangers in their own town.

“The Hague has become an incubator, a sort of legal Silicon Valley,” said one diplomat who follows the courts.

Many of the rights and legal groups are housed in two utilitarian office buildings near the city centre: At Zeestraat 100, staff from non-government organisation Africa Legal Aid rub shoulders with game designer Alice Helbing and her fellow conflict resolution trainers from the Pax Ludens foundation. Around the corner, Laan van Meerdervoort 70 provides space for groups like the United Network of Young Peacebuilders.

The policy-makers, foreign or defence ministry officials, and students who attend Pax Ludens’s training sessions on negotiating tactics can role play to get a taste of what it is like to be U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, or to head the Israeli and Saudi Arabian delegations and hold secret talks over the Arab-Israeli conflict.

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Terrorism In Africa: 2011 Review and Predictions for 2012


2011 Review of Terrorism in Africa

The past twelve months have seen increased terrorist activity in Africa leaving some not so pleasant senarios for 2012.  In fact, I would say that 2011 saw terrorist groups moving almost at will on the continent despite greater security push back than every before.  Sure, Africa’s terrorist groups are an extremely mixed bag, yet they seem poised to continue to reign havoc on citizens in their path.

Nigerian security forces killed and captured hundreds of Boko Haram loyalists in 2009 and 2010, including the summary execution of two of its leaders Alhaji Yusuf Mohammed and Alhaji Buji Foi.  Some predicted the end of Boko Haram, yet in the past twelve months Boko Haram has risen to the level of the most active terrorist group on planet Earth carrying out more frequent and deadlier bombings.  In the past the Boko Haram terrorists struck mostly in their own neighborhood of northern Nigeria, especially around Maiduguri, in 2011 they struck severe blows at security installations and the United Nations headquarters in the capital, Abuja.  They ended the year with the horrific Christmas day bombings.

Al-Shabaab continued to raise havoc and fear in East Africa, particularly in Somalia.  The al-Qaeda linked group struck often in southern villages and in Mogadishu during the year.  The most notable event was the interjection of foreign countries into the battle against al-Shabaab.  Kenya has for years had to deal with al-Shabaab in the Eastleigh district of Nairobi and in the far northern reaches of the country.  In 2011 large numbers of Kenyan troops began to cross the border to seek and destroy al-Shabaab operatives after the abduction of tourists and aid workers.  The United States re-inserted itself into Somalia through its use of drones, initially for intelligence gathering and later bombing suspected al-Shabaab staging areas.  Israel even intimated that it was willing to lend a hand in the battle against al-Shabaab.

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Why Does Spain Need Morocco To Free Hostages In Western Sahara?

East of the berm is the territory controlled b...

Image via Wikipedia

Written by: Pambazuka News

October 30, 2011

By Malainin Lakhal

Surrounding the efforts to locate the two Spaniards and the Italian nationals, kidnapped last Saturday 22 October 2011 from the Sahrawi refugee camps by an unidentified group, the Spanish minister for Foreign Affairs, Trinidad Jimenez, paid a sudden visit to Morocco on Tuesday and Wednesday, to meet with her Moroccan counterpart, El Fassi El Fehri and to meet the Moroccan prime minister and the king of Morocco, Mohamed VI, according to the Moroccan newspaper Al Alam, one of the monarchy’s state media outlets. The aim of the visit was to ‘debate about the bilateral relations, especially in relation to the cooperation in the field of security, illegal migration, and the international narcotrafficking’.

The Spanish minister further declared that her country relies on the solidarity of the Moroccan government. According to Jimenez, Rabat expressed willingness to cooperate in the efforts to rescue the three kidnapped victims, adding that the Spanish government ‘is building with Morocco wide relations of coordination with regards to the war against terrorism, and this is something that can be of a great help’ in this week’s unfolding events.

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