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Abstract: This Policy Brief examines the real and imagined influence of al-Qa‘ida in North Africa and the Sahel. Despite a perception of the transnationalization of terrorist movements in North Africa under al-Qa‘ida’s banner, robust evidence of an effective al-Qa‘ida’s expansion in the Maghreb and the Sahara/Sahel region remains elusive at best. Rather, doubts about al-Qa‘ida’s actual threat and the efficacy of international response in the context of pervasive state failure in the Sahel raise questions regarding the policy objectives of US-led counter-terrorism in the region.
Abstract: This paper identifies the factors linked to cross-country differentials in growth performance in the aftermath of social conflict for 30 sub-Saharan African countries using panel data techniques. Our results show that changes in the terms of trade are the most important correlate of economic performance in post-conflict environments. This variable is typically associated with an increase in the marginal probability of positive economic performance by about 30 percent. Institutional quality emerges as the second most important factor. Foreign aid is shown to have very limited ability to explain differentials in growth performance, and other policy variables such as trade openness are not found to have a statistically significant effect. The results suggest that exogenous factors ("luck") are an important factor in post-conflict recovery. They also highlight the importance in post-conflict settings of policies to mitigate the macroeconomic impact of terms of trade volatility (including countercyclical macroeconomic policies and innovative financing instruments) and of policies to promote export diversification.
Abstract: I consider it a singular honour to have been invited today by Chatham House
to address this august forum. The Economic Community of West African
States (ECOWAS), which I represent, is a regional organisation which has,
over the years, gained your attention only for the unfortunate reasons of state
implosion and instability caused by bad governance and marginalisation. I
therefore welcome the opportunity to throw further light on its objectives,
challenges, and achievements, which factors have effectively brought
together fifteen West African states in the enterprise of improving upon the
living standards of 230 million people as well as integrating them.
The term ‘Chatham House Rule’ is today an internationally-accepted cliché
that this Institute has contributed to international diplomacy discourse, a
reference norm in rigorous and policy-oriented exchanges on global peace
and security. I therefore view your invitation to lead today’s discourse about
‘Democracy in the context of Regional Integration in West Africa’ as an
unique honour for me personally, and a recognition of ECOWAS as a leading
brand in regional integration.
Ladies and gentlemen, the evolution of ECOWAS can only be properly
understood against the backdrop of the fascinating history and circumstances
of West Africa since establishing contact with the world beyond its borders.
The fact that slavery, colonialism, as well as racial and economic
marginalisation, had left an intrinsic yearning for freedom, unity and solidarity
among peoples of African descent everywhere defines its wish to integrate its
states and peoples.
Abstract: This special research report provides an analysis of a set of new issues that have been emerging in the West African subregion and possible implications for the Security Council in the coming year(s). It identifies some key emerging threats to peace and security in the 16-state subregion and their linkages to existing security challenges. The report points to a key feature: the fact that some of the new threats are essentially criminal rather than political in nature. However, it explains also the growing political and security implications. The report also highlights action already taken by the Council to recognise these threats and considers options available to the Council to tackle these issues going forward.
The raw material for the study was derived from literature research; field research in a number of countries in the West African subregion (including Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Senegal, Ghana and Nigeria); and interviews in the region with diplomats, government officials and officials of relevant international intergovernmental bodies (e.g. UN Office in West Africa or UNOWA, UN Office for Drugs and Crime or UNODC, the Economic Community of West African States or ECOWAS and the AU), NGOs and academics.
Abstract: National security is normally seen in terms of military strength and internal security operations against extremists and insurgents. The upheavals that began in Tunis, and now play out from Pakistan to Morocco,. have highlighted the fact that national security is measured in terms of the politics, economics, and social tensions that shape national stability as well. It is all too clear that the wrong kind of internal security efforts, and national security spending that limits the ability to meet popular needs and expectations can do as much to undermine national security over time as outside and extremist threats.
It is equally clear that calls for democracy are at best only the prelude to dealing with critical underlying problems, pressures, and expectations. It is far from certain that even successful regime change can evolve into functional democracies and governance. Countries with no political parties and experienced leaders, with no history of checks and balances in government, with weak structure of governance led by new political figures with no administrative experience, will often descend into chaos, extremism, or a new round of authoritarianism. Even the best governments, however, are unlikely to change an economy and national infrastructure in less than half a decade, and existing demographic pressures will inevitably go on for at least the next decade.
Abstract: The Portfolio of Mine Action Projects is a resource tool and reference document for donors, policy-makers, advocates, and national and international mine action implementers. The country and territory-specific proposals in the portfolio reflect strategic responses developed in the field to address all aspects of the problem of landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW). This country and territory-based approach aims to present as comprehensive a picture as possible of the full range of mine action needs in particular countries and thematic issues related to mine action. The portfolio ideally reflects projects developed by mine- and ERW-affected countries and territories based on their priorities and strategies; the approaches are endorsed by national authorities. The portfolio does not automatically entail full-scale direct mine action assistance by the United Nations, but is in essence a tool for collaborative resource mobilization, coordination and planning of mine action activities involving partners and stakeholders. A country portfolio coordinator (CPC) leads each country portfolio team and coordinates the submission of proposals to the portfolio’s headquarters team. While the majority of the CPCs are UN officials, this role is increasingly being assumed by national authorities. The country portfolio teams include representatives from national and local authorities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the United Nations and the private sector. Locally based donor representatives are invited to attend preparation meetings. Each portfolio chapter contains a synopsis of the scope of the landmine and ERW problem, a description of how mine action is coordinated, and a snapshot of local mine action strategies. Many of the strategies complement or are integrated into broader development and humanitarian frameworks such as national development plans, the UN development assistance frameworks and national poverty reduction plans. This 14th edition of the annual Portfolio of Mine Action Projects features overviews and project outlines for 29 countries, territories or missions affected by landmines and explosive remnants of war. There are 238 projects in the 2011 portfolio. Africa accounts for the largest number: 92.
Abstract: The purpose of this updated report is to supplement two earlier special studies published in 2009 and January 2010: “Why the Maghreb Matters: Threats, Opportunities, and Options for Effective Engagement in North Africa” (March 2009) was co-sponsored by the Conflict Management Program of the John Hopkins University jointly with the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. The second report, “Maghreb & Sahel Terrorism: Addressing the Rising Threat from al-Qaeda and other Terrorists in North and West/Central Africa”(January 2010), was published by the International Center for Terrorism Studies at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies
In sum, a coherent and firm US policy vis-à-vis the threats of terrorism in Maghreb and Sahel would increase domestic public understanding and support in the US for sustained engagement with the nations of North and West/Central Africa. The updated documents incorporated in this report, particularly the statistical tables and terrorism chronology covering the period September 11, 2001 – December 31, 2010 make it clear that constructive and sustained engagement is vital, employing both “hard” (security, military, intelligence cooperation) and “soft” elements (economic and social development creating employment opportunities, education that equips students/trainees for jobs, and reduction of religious radicalism). Otherwise, the US, the EU, and our friends in the region will remain hostages to, and targets of, these ideological, theological, and political terrorists for the remainder of the 21st century.
Abstract: This paper aims to appraise and map the security challenges that have faced West African countries since independence with a special focus on the period after 1990. It also assesses the efforts made by various national, regional, continental and extra-African actors and makes suggestions on how the shortcomings in these efforts could be improved. An effort is made to show the evolution of at least some of the challenges over the years, in the hope that this could contribute to a better formulation of policy responses.
The study is based on extensive review of existing literature, complemented by field research in the region undertaken in July and August 2010, in addition to general familiarity with the region from many previous research visits on related subjects.
Without neglecting other issues that could be considered as security threats, and without attempting any hierarchical ordering of these threats, the paper focuses on the following six major issues: i) armed conflict, ii) military coups and unconstitutional changes of government; iii) mismanagement of electoral processes; iv) transnational criminality, particularly drug trafficking, terrorism and maritime piracy in the Gulf of Guinea; v) poverty and illiteracy; vi) climate change and environmental degradation.
Abstract: Since its founding in January 2007, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)
has continued the jihadi fi ght begun by its predecessor, the Salafi st Group for
Preaching and Combat (GSPC), against the Algerian government. Algeria’s
ability to contain the jihadis has forced AQIM to develop networks in the
Sahara and to cooperate with smuggling rings there. Its mobile commandos,
already active in Mauritania, now represent a serious security threat in northern
parts of Mali and Niger, where they have abducted Westerners and frequently
clashed with government forces.
Osama bin Laden appears to have no grand plans for Africa. But the
Algerian-run AQIM could help al-Qaeda central incorporate a new generation
of recruits from the Sahel. This jihadi progression south of the Sahara is
limited, but troublesome, especially given a recent offer by AQIM’s leader to
train Muslim militias in Nigeria.
However, the ethno-racial divide within al-Qaeda has kept African recruits
out of leadership roles. AQIM cannot prove its commitment to “Africanized”
jihad without Africanizing at least some of its leadership. Also, AQIM has
partnered throughout the Sahel with criminals, not local salafi movements,
limiting its appeal and preventing it from becoming a revolutionary challenger.
This does not mean deterring AQIM will be easy: Mauritania, Mali, and Niger
are among the world’s poorest states and will require international support to
defuse AQIM’s momentum. Algeria is right to push for regional cooperation
to address the threat, and discreet aid from the West is crucial to help the Sahel
countries regain control of their territory from al-Qaeda forces and prevent the
terror group from taking hold in Africa.
Abstract: Mauritania shares more than 5,000 km of land borders with Algeria, Mali,
Senegal, and Western Sahara. The greater part of the country lies
within the Sahara desert and is relatively uncontrolled, which means that
Mauritania has long been an ideal trade route for many goods, both legal and
illicit. Consequently, it has become an important hub for cigarette smuggling,
particularly en route to Algeria. It is also crossed by drug
traffickers, whose business has increased considerably in the region since
2006. Small arms5 are included among the goods traded illicitly
across the Sahel and Mauritania. This trafficking is sometimes closely linked to the activities of various
non-state armed groups, which have been operating for varying lengths of
time in the region. One of these groups, the Salafist Group for Preaching and
Combat (GSPC), became al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in 2007 and
has been carrying out attacks in Mauritania for several years. This study provides the Mauritanian government with the information and references it will need to implement the United Nations' Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects (PoA). The study also offers an overview of the demand
for small arms and the stockpiles of small arms in Mauritania. Second, the study examines the extent of the illicit trade in small arms in
Mauritania, particularly in certain border regions. Finally, this report assesses the situation in Mauritania with respect to
small arms and light weapons in a regional context.
Abstract: ‘We needed a war because we needed our identity cards. Without an identity card you are nothing in this country.’ As the author points out, a fighter for the rebel ‘new forces’ in Côte d’Ivoire condenses the argument of the book into two short sentences: that the denial of a right to citizenship has been at the heart of many of the conflicts of post-colonial Africa, and that it is time to change the rules. Without citizenship, the author points out, people: cannot get their children registered at birth or entered in school or university
cannot obtain travel documents, or employment without a work permit; if they leave the country they may not be able to return; most of all, they cannot vote, stand for office or work for state institutions. Furthermore , as the book highlights questions of citizenship have been used to prevent specific individuals from challenging for political position.
This book gives more details on issues such as: Citizenship law in Africa: a history of discrimination and exclusion; denationalized groups: disputes over the law have been at the heart of the wider debate; silencing individuals: citizenship law has also proved a useful tool to incumbent governments wishing to silence critics; and the scale of the problem: the true number of people affected by the crisis of citizenship in Africa is difficult to estimate.
Abstract: The Humanitarian Action Report is UNICEF's only publication dealing specifically with the needs of children and women in emergencies. It spotlights crises that require exceptional support, and additional funding, to save lives and protect children from harm in an increasingly challenging humanitarian environment.
This year's report – subtitled 'Partnering for children in emergencies' – says the world is seeing crises exacerbated by larger trends, such as climate change and the international financial downturn, that are beyond the capacity of any one agency to address.
The report appeals for nearly $1.2 billion in international donor funding for emergency-response efforts in 28 countries covering six regions – from Eastern Europe to Africa to Asia to Latin America. The funding will be used to support a greater emphasis on emergency preparedness, early warning, disaster risk reduction and rapid recovery.
Abstract: Western Sahara, a coastal desert of less than 500,000 inhabitants and rich in phosphates, fisheries and, potentially, oil, was annexed by Morocco and Mauritania after Spain withdrew its colonial administration in 1975. The Polisario Front, an indigenous Sahrawi force with the financial and military backing of Algeria, fought an armed resistance against the occupation, forcing Mauritanian withdrawal in 1979 and a UN-brokered ceasefire with Morocco in 1991. Since then, the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) has maintained an uneasy truce in the territory, but has not fulfilled its mandate to organize a referendum on self-determination. Last month's talks were the brainchild of the new UN special envoy to Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, and were an attempt to allow the parties to air their positions in a less public setting that would prevent the posturing and grandstanding that have marred previous negotiations. Moroccan Communications Minister Khalid Naciri stressed Rabat's position to broadcaster Al-Jazeera in August as one that seeks a "political solution based on realism and accord" - an oft-cited rhetorical link to 'political realism.' Morocco views the dispute as one of secession from the kingdom and presented a proposal in 2007 that would see the territory receive autonomy within its international border, but refuses to consider territorial independence. Morocco has stationed an estimated 150,000 troops in Western Sahara and controls 80 percent of the territory.
Abstract: The recent formation of al Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM) could be interpreted
as the opening of a new battlefield in the cause of international jihad.
Such a front, however, is not unprecedented. Algerian veterans of the 1980s
Afghan campaign against the Soviets returned home and played a key role in
the Islamist insurgency. Composed mainly of Algerian “Afghans,” the Armed
Islamic Group (GIA) committed unspeakable atrocities in the 1990s. Moroccan
and Algerian émigré communities in Europe, moreover, have played
important roles in financing for al Qaeda and a variety of North African
Salafist groups. Given its consolidation of North African Salafist terrorist
groups under one umbrella, al Qaeda in the Maghreb does present substantial
security challenges for North African and European governments.
Terrorism in the Mediterranean region has grown recently because of
numerous factors. By far the most important have been the growing fundamentalism
of some Maghrebi communities in Europe, the failures of the
jihadist movement (most notably in Algeria), and the financial largesse provided
to jihadist terror organizations by Islamist civil society and criminal networks. The Iraq war has added a powerful new impetus to the expansion
of the jihadist movement.
In this essay I argue that the al Qaeda – North African Salafist alliance is
a response to post-9/11 organizational and ideological problems. Al Qaeda’s
loss of its Afghan sanctuary and the breaking up of its command-andcontrol
operations have made it dependent on affiliates to recruit terrorists.
The inability of the North African Salafists to overthrow any government in
the Maghreb, moreover, requires the commissioning of a cause that could
give them new life. The crossfertilization of al Qaeda and North African
Salafists is a mutually beneficial arrangement designed to compensate for
My argument proceeds on four levels. First, I analyze various jihadist
movements, their common problems, and the reasons why they crossfertilize
their operations. Second, I examine the role of extremist Maghrebi communities
in Europe in facilitating this intermarriage between international
and nationalist jihadism. Third, I note the role of wars (Afghanistan, Bosnia,
Chechnya, Iraq, and Kashmir) in raising Muslim consciousness and Islamic
extremism. Finally, I provide an overview of the security threats created by
the Salafists’ incorporation into al Qaeda for the Mediterranean region.
Abstract: The Mauritanian government is guilty of routine and systematic torture, according to this new Amnesty International report.
The report says that the country's security forces have adopted torture as the preferred method of investigation and repression.
The report details the methods of torture and lists the exact locations of some torture centres.
It also exposes the involvement of Moroccan agents.
Numerous statements from victims of torture give precise information about the people who tortured them. None of the acts have been investigated or their perpetrators brought to justice.
The report is the result of two Amnesty International research missions in February/March 2008 and July 2008. Members of the missions interviewed many prisoners and detainees in the prisons of Dar Naïm in Nouakchott (the capital) and Nouadhibou (in the north-west of the country) and former detainees.
"Torture is used against all categories of prisoners in Mauritania – whether they are suspected Islamists, soldiers accused of involvement in a coup, or those detained for simple ordinary crimes," said Gaëtan Mootoo, Amnesty International's Mauritania researcher who conducted the investigations and who just came back from the country.
Acts of torture are repeated successively until detainees "confess". They are normally conducted at night and accompanied by a "ritual". Methods of torture include cigarette burns, electric shocks, sexual violence, the pulling out of hair and "Jaguar" – where the detainee's hands and feet are tied together and the person is suspended from an iron bar while being hit and tortured.
The perpetrators of these acts of torture and ill-treatment include police officers, military personnel and prison officers. Moroccan security officers have sometimes participated in interrogations and torture, especially in investigations into acts of terrorism.
Abstract: « J’ai été arrêté chez moi vers 5 heures du matin, le 1er mai 2008, par un groupe d’environ dix policiers et
militaires en tenue officielle. Deux d’entre eux portaient des tenues de sport. Ils ont cassé les vitres et
pointaient leurs armes en direction de ma chambre à coucher. Ils m’ont mis un bandeau sur les yeux, m’ont
menotté les mains dans le dos et m’ont emmené dans un lieu que je ne connaissais pas. Ils m’ont enfermé
dans les toilettes et m’ont laissé là pendant deux jours, menotté et avec un bandeau sur les yeux...Ils m’ont attaché les mains et les pieds derrière le dos, ils m’ont suspendu en l’air durant dix à quinze
minutes. Régulièrement, quand ils sentaient que j’allais m’évanouir, ils me redescendaient, puis me
suspendaient à nouveau. Ils m’ont demandé si j’appartenais au groupe de salafistes. Les séances de torture,
entrecoupées d’interrogatoires, ont duré une semaine...» Ce récit, recueilli par une délégation d’Amnesty International lors d’une mission menée en
Mauritanie en juillet 2008, constitue l’un des nombreux exemples du recours systématique à
la torture par les forces de sécurité à l’encontre aussi bien de détenus de droit commun que
de militaires accusés, au cours des dernières années, de tentative de coup d’État. Parmi ces
victimes figurent également des personnes soupçonnées de liens avec des groupes islamistes
accusés d’actes de terrorisme, notamment le Groupe salafiste pour la prédication et le
combat (GSPC), un groupe armé principalement actif en Algérie, devenu en 2007
l’Organisation Al-Qaïda pour le Maghreb islamique (AQMI).
La torture est utilisée pour extorquer des aveux durant la garde à vue mais également pour
humilier et punir des détenus incarcérés dans des prisons. Toute personne, qu’il s’agisse
d’un prisonnier de droit commun ou d’une personne détenue pour des infractions à caractère
politique, encourt presque automatiquement le risque de subir de très graves tortures
pouvant mettre en danger sa santé, voire sa vie alors qu’elle se trouve placée sous la
protection de la justice. En Mauritanie, la torture a été érigée en véritable système d’enquête
et de répression de l’appareil sécuritaire ; elle est profondément ancrée dans la culture des
forces de sécurité qui agissent dans une totale impunité. Elle constitue un fléau cautionné
par certaines des plus hautes autorités de l’État.
Le présent rapport est le résultat de deux enquêtes menées par des délégations d’Amnesty
International en Mauritanie en février/mars 2008 puis en juillet 2008. Les délégués ont
interviewé de nombreux prisonniers et détenus qui se trouvent dans les prisons de Dar Naïm à Nouakchott (la capitale) et de Nouadhibou (au nord-ouest du pays) ainsi que des exdétenus.
Les délégués ont recueilli des dizaines de témoignages de torture et de mauvais
traitements commis par des agents des forces de sécurité qui usent délibérément de
violences physiques dans les heures ou les jours suivant l’arrestation. Cette pratique
systématique de la torture est rendue possible par la procédure relative à la détention qui
prévoit, en matière d’atteinte à la sécurité de l’État, le maintien des suspects en garde à vue
(période de détention qui suit immédiatement l’arrestation et au cours de laquelle la plupart
des détenus sont maintenus au secret) pendant un maximum de quinze jours, délai
considérable qui est lui-même régulièrement dépassé.
Abstract: Ever since the first glimmerings of independence, many African countries have been shaken by one
military coup after another. Most of these military regimes have been characterised by bankrupt
management, corruption, misappropriation of public funds and large-scale human rights abuses. Since
the 1952 – 1998 Egyptian revolution, Africa has experienced no fewer than 85 coups, with 78 taking
place from 1961 to 1997. In most cases, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), from whose ashes
arose the African Union (AU), saw these regime changes as purely national matters to be handled
internally by each State, and in which the pan-African organisation would under no circumstances
A consequence of the OAU’s policy of non-intervention was that the way in which political power
was transferred, and even exercised, in its member countries was deemed immaterial. This state of
affairs lasted until the Conference of French and African Heads of State held in La Baule, France, in
1990, an event that was seen by many as catalysing the democratic process in Africa. From then on,
timid but sustained efforts began to emerge within the OAU to address the persistent phenomenon of
power takeovers by force. It was not until the creation of the AU that coups and all other forms of
unconstitutional change were outlawed. Just as the organisation of free, regular and democratic elections in a growing number of African
countries was lending credence to the idea that a culture of democracy was taking root, a military
coup overthrew Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, Mauritania’s first democratically elected President, just
16 months after he came to power. The military promised to organised new elections within the
shortest possible time. Yet again, ‘the laws of force had overcome the force of law’. This in itself
warrants an analysis of the implications of this particular military coup for democratic governance,
but this demands a prior analysis of the relevance of elections in a democracy.
Abstract: Depuis les premières lueurs des indépendances, de nombreux pays africains ont été secoués par des
valses de coups d’Etat militaires. La gabegie, la corruption, les détournements des biens publics et les
violations massives de droits de l’homme, ont la plus part de temps caractérisé ces régimes militaires.
De la révolution égyptienne de 1952 à 1998, l’Afrique a connu 85 coups d’Etat dont 78 ont eu lieu
entre 1961 et 1997. Dans la plupart des cas, l’Organisation de l’unité africaine (OUA), l’entité sur les
cendres desquelles a été créée l’Union africaine (UA), avaient considéré les changements de régimes
comme relevant de la compétence nationale des Etats dans laquelle elle ne devait intervenir sous
Comme conséquence de cette politique de non interventionnisme de l’OUA, l’organisation
continentale n’accordait aucune importance à la manière dont le pouvoir politique était transmis et
même s’exerçait dans les Etats parties. Les choses se sont passées ainsi jusqu'à la conférence des
chefs d’Etat de France et d’Afrique tenue à la Baule, en France, en 1990, considérée par beaucoup
comme l’événement catalyseur du processus de démocratisation en Afrique. Dès lors, des efforts
timides mais soutenus ont été faits au sein de l’OUA pour faire face au phénomène persistant de la
prise de pouvoir par la force. Il a surtout fallu attendre la création l’UA pour que les coups d’Etat et
toutes les autres formes de changements anticonstitutionnels soient déclarées « hors la loi ». La tenue d’élections libres, régulières et démocratiques dans un nombre de plus en plus croissant de
pays africains a fait croire en l’enracinement de la culture démocratique. Mais voilà que des
militaires viennent de renverser Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, le premier président démocratiquement
élu de la Mauritanie, 16 mois seulement après son accession à la magistrature suprême. Ils
promettent d’organiser au plus vite de nouvelles élections. Une fois de plus, « le droit de la force
s’est substitué à la force du droit ». Il est dès lors légitime de s’interroger sur les implications de ce
putsch militaire, sur la gouvernance démocratique, mais avant cela, il convient d’analyser la
pertinence des élections dans une démocratie.
Abstract: North Africa is often loosely defined, but
for the purposes of this paper, it
encompasses the states of the Arab
Maghreb Union (Algeria, Libya,
Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia)
together with Egypt. With the exception
of Mauritania, this group of states lies on
the northern littoral of the African
continent, between the Mediterranean Sea
to the north and the Sahara to the south.
This contiguity, however, has not
automatically made for a cohesive region;
differences between political and
economic trajectories have overridden the
social solidarities that still unite the
peoples of North Africa.
The core regional states of Morocco,
Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya share an
Arabo-Berber heritage and the legacy of
the predominately French linguistic and
administrative practices of the protectorate and
colonial eras. By contrast, the ethnic make-up of
Egypt (Arabic, Hamitic, and Nubian) places the
largest state of the region, of some 76 million
people, apart from the “Maghrebi” heartland. Egypt
has also variously been a leader of Arab nationalism
and a key player in attempts to resolve the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict, and thus looks toward the
Middle East more than it does west or south to its
neighbors in Africa.
What all these states, and the region as a whole,
face over the next five to ten years is a series of old
and neglected issues of a structural nature,
combined with newer, less manageable challenges
arising largely outside their control. Climate
change, soaring energy and food prices, and an
unprecedented range of influences and pressures
arising from globalization have all highlighted the
weaknesses of the region’s current models of
development. None of them are equipped to absorb
unforeseen change quickly.
Abstract: Two years ago a ruthless Algerian terrorist outfit, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, better known by its French abbreviation, GSPC, announced it was joining al-Qaeda. Since then, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), as the group is now known in counter-terrorism circles, has stepped up a bombing campaign in Algeria and claimed responsibility for operations in several other North African countries. Last month the Moroccan government said it had broken up a terrorist cell with links to the group, while Algeria has toughened its security measures since more than 70 people were killed in attacks by AQIM in the last two weeks of August. The emergence of a powerful regional group of Islamist insurgents, recruiting members from among the millions of religious and poor North Africans, is rattling all the governments in the region and raises the unnerving prospect of a new wave of North African bombers heading for the cities of western Europe. But does AQIM really exist as a co-ordinated regional organisation?
So far there is little evidence that it does. Until now, nearly all of AQIM’s claimed attacks have been in a rectangle of land to the east of Algeria’s capital, Algiers. (The GSPC, from which AQIM has emerged, is a ruthless remnant from the civil war which began after the Algerian army stepped in to prevent Islamists from taking over after they had won the first round of an election in December 1991, thereby prompting a decade of strife that left as many as 200,000 people dead.) In this mountainous zone, clashes between AQIM fighters and Algerian security forces are occurring almost every day. Whenever the authorities claim a big victory, AQIM invariably sets off a suicide-bomb or a remote-controlled explosion, usually aimed at Algerian forces, sometimes at foreigners. AQIM said it was behind the double bombing last December of the UN offices in Algiers and a court house, killing more than 40 people. But AQIM’s presence elsewhere in the region is fuzzier. In Algeria, says George Joffé, a north Africa specialist at Cambridge University, there is “constant low-level violence, a bit like in Colombia”. But he doubts that AQIM is a “coherent regional organisation, more a series of groups with national agendas and a common ideology”. He discounts the idea that they are controlled by al-Qaeda’s leaders on the Afghan-Pakistan border.
Abstract: [article is on pages 17-19] on august 6, 2008, a military coup in Mauritania ousted the 15-month old administration of President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi. Soldiers seized Abdallahi (known popularly as Sidi) and Prime Minister Yahya Ould Ahmed Waghf, took control of the state television and radio stations, and announced that Mauritania would be ruled by an 11-man military junta. Since winning its independence from France in 1960, there have been more than 12 coup attempts in Mauritania, a country of three million that straddles Arab and black West Africa and the Sahara and Sahel regions. Sidi’s decision to fire the army chief of staff, the general who headed the presidential guard, and two other top military officials immediately precipitated the coup. Yet the coup is also the culmination of a three-month political crisis marked by bitter disagreements between Sidi and the opposition groups in parliament.
This article argues that in addition to the series of specific concerns with Sidi’s administration, the main source of instability in Mauritania is structural. Building an inclusive democracy while countering terrorism—against the backdrop of a strong military presence—eventually brought down Sidi’s government. This challenge could confront any civilian president in a democratizing weak state with a strong military. Sidi and his prime ministers were so determined to foster a pluralistic democratic environment that they even brought a newly-formed moderate Islamist party into the government. Simultaneously, the Sidi government’s inept approach to counter-terrorism unnerved the cadre of military officers upon whom Sidi depended for credibility. In attempting to appeal to everyone, Sidi satisfied no one.
Abstract: La transition démocratique aura été de courte durée en Mauritanie. Elu en mars 2007, le président Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi a été renversé le 6 août 2008 par des éléments de sa garde. Depuis le premier coup d’Etat qui a chassé Moktar Ould Daddah du pouvoir, en 1978, Nouakchott vit son cinquième régime militaire. Dans cette période de trente ans marquée par l’omniprésence de l’armée, les seize mois que vient de vivre un régime issu d’une expression populaire sonnent comme une parenthèse anachronique. La Mauritanie retrouve un ordre militaire qui l’a longtemps caractérisé, le règne éphémère des civils n’ayant pu se faire dans la stabilité qui lui aurait permis de s’inscrire dans la durée.
Abstract: In fiscal year 2005, the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP) was established to eliminate terrorist safe havens in northwest Africa by strengthening countries’ counterterrorism capabilities and inhibiting the spread of extremist ideology. Funds obligated for TSCTP in fiscal years 2005 through 2007 and committed for fiscal year 2008 by the Department of State (State), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Department of Defense (DOD) have amounted to about $353 million for activities in nine partner countries. In this report, GAO examines (1) the distribution of funds for TSCTP and the types of activities supported and (2) the program’s implementation, including the extent to which it is guided by a comprehensive, integrated strategy. GAO has reported previously on the need for a strategy that includes priorities and milestones that can help agencies collaborate in combating terrorism. GAO analyzed TSCTP-related documents and conducted work in Mali, Morocco, and Mauritania. GAO recommends that the Secretary of State work with the heads of other partner agencies to develop a comprehensive strategy for TSCTP. GAO also recommends that the Secretaries of State and Defense issue joint guidance regarding DOD personnel operating in TSCTP partner countries. State and USAID concurred, and DOD partially concurred, with GAO’s findings and recommendations.
Abstract: Mauritania, with an estimated population of three million, is a highly centralized Islamic republic governed by President Sidi Mohamed Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, whose April 19 inauguration highlighted the country's first successful transition to democracy in its 50 years of independence. President Abdallahi replaced Colonel Ely Ould Mohammed Vall, who had taken power in the August 2005 coup that ended the 23-year presidency of Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya. The presidential elections were judged free and fair by international and national observers. The civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces. The government's human rights record improved during the year; however, there were reports of mistreatment of detainees by security forces, harsh prison conditions, impunity, prolonged pretrial detention, executive branch influence on the judiciary, and restrictions on freedoms of press, assembly, and association. There was a widespread public perception of governmental corruption and a lack of access to government information. Discrimination against women, female genital mutilation (FGM), child labor, trafficking in persons, and the political marginalization of largely southern-based ethnic groups continued to be problems. The new government acted quickly to address the country's most serious human rights problems, most significantly by passing legislation criminalizing the lingering practice of slavery and initiating preparations for the repatriation of thousands of Afro‑Mauritanians living as refugees in Senegal and Mali following their expulsion during ethnic tensions and violence in 1989-91.
Abstract: En quelques semaines, la Mauritanie a été confrontée à plusieurs attaques terroristes revendiquées par Al-Qaïda au Maghreb. L’islamisme radical n’est pas nouveau dans ce pays mais le terrorisme et la violence des actes perpétrés sont quant à eux inédits. Si les courants radicaux gagnent en audience, ils ne doivent pour autant être confondus avec le terrorisme qui n’a pas d’ancrage en Mauritanie. La menace vient pour l’instant de l’extérieur.