Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, the Reformer Despot Who Saved a Nation

The president of Rwanda is either a nation-saving reformer or a despot in disguise—or both. But figuring that out is your problem. Because Paul Kagame doesn’t give a shit what you think of him. Twenty years ago, hundreds of thousands of his people died in one of history’s worst atrocities. “Twenty years is short or long depending on where you stand but there is no justification for false moral equivalence,” Kagame said during the April commemoration of the Rwanda Genocide. “The passage of time should not obscure the facts, lessen responsibility or turn victims into villains.” Many regard Kagame as ...

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Why Are African Countries Buying All These High-Tech Jet Fighters?

Africa’s air forces are on a buying spree. Flush with oil cash, many African states are investing heavily in modern multirole jet fighters, deadly helicopter gunship and even sophisticated air-defense systems with radars and surface-to-air missiles. The deals are worth hundreds of millions of dollars in countries still lacking many basic social services. So it’s worth asking exactly what Uganda, Angola, Sudan and the like are planning to do with their new air forces. Some of the most interesting acquisitions involve modern, or modernized, Russian hardware. The Sukhoi Su-30—NATO codename “Flanker-C”—is a particular favorite of African governments. In just the ...

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Think Africa Press: How Much Longer Can Compaoré Rule Last?

On October 15, President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso will celebrate his 25th year in power. To spend that much time in office, he had to run coups against two governments. In the first in 1983, he helped his friend and fellow revolutionary Thomas Sankara become president. In the second, four years later, Compaoré took power. Sankara was killed and Compaoré lost all appetite for socialism. He put in place a system of power so exploitative that 25 years later Burkina Faso remains one of the least developed countries in the world. During this time, Compaoré has expertly managed to ...

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War is Boring: Africa Round-Up

Mali There hasn’t been much of a change in the overall situation during the last weeks: the northern half of Mali — an area about the size of France — is occupied by a range of rebel groups. While neighboring states and the international community are deeply concerned over the Islamist policies of some of these groups, the Malian state has proven to be incapable to act, due to a coup d’etat which send the government into a deep crisis. There is a lot of confusion and uncertainty about what lies ahead. The regional organization ECOWAS and especially its member ...

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African Arguments: Blaise Compaoré And The Politics Of Personal Enrichment

I’m extremely happy to have a piece about Burkina Faso/Blaise Compaoré published on the excellent African Arguments blog of the Royal African Society today. The article developed from this earlier rant and develops some arguments further. By African standards, Burkina Faso is not a particularly spectacular country. It is small, has a tiny population and internal politics which most foreign correspondents tend to find somewhat pedestrian. No wonder that it receives only little attention, even in Africa-focused publications. In those rare cases when something is published on the internal politics of Burkina, it often only scratches the surface and conveys ...

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World Politics Review: In Ethiopia, Post-Zenawi Void Could Create Opening for Reform

My latest piece over at World Politics Review on the continuing absence of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi: For 20 years, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has been the undisputed ruler of Ethiopia. Zenawi was the leader of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which in concert with its sister rebel group from Eritrea toppled the Moscow-aligned dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1991. He led his country in the 1998-2000 war against his former Eritrean allies and oversaw multiple Ethiopian military interventions into neighboring Somalia. An active and outspoken leader, Zenawi is also credited with a pragmatic approach to economic development despite his ...

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War is Boring: Africa Round Up

War is Boring: Africa Round Up
DR Congo The eastern Congo is about to enter a new cycle of violence. The rebels of the new organisation “M23” only control a limited area so far, but reportedly get stronger by the day. M23 is the result of the mutiny of several army units around Easter. These units were part of a former rebel group, the CNDP, which was officially disbanded and integrated into the army in 2009. As a reaction on the limited success of operations against the mutineers the army is concentrating more and more forces in the area surrounding the rebel strongholds on the border with Rwanda. ...

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World Politics Review: As Crisis Gathers, Northern Mali Needs More Than Just Military Intervention

Since April, when two Tuareg rebel groups drove government forces out of northern Mali, the situation in the sparsely populated region has steadily worsened. The lightning advance of the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA), which seeks independence for the Tuareg homeland, and Ansar Dine, which has an Islamist agenda, triggered a coup of disgruntled junior officers against President Amadou Toumai Touré, with the resulting political instability in Bamako leaving the army incapacitated and the rebels the effective rulers of roughly half the country’s territory. Though the two groups worked together to launch the rebellion, Ansar Dine ...

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Waging Nonviolence: The Arab Spring you haven’t heard about — in Mauritania

Waging Nonviolence: The Arab Spring you haven’t heard about — in Mauritania
You may not have heard of it, but the West African country of Mauritania has what is probably one of the most vibrant and active protest movements in the world today. Protests drawing tens of thousands of people (out of a total population of just three million) take place almost weekly in the capital Nouakchott, with many smaller protests happening on a daily basis around the vast country. The protests are overwhelmingly nonviolent — even in the face of frequent violent suppression — and have been going on since February 2011. It would be comfortable to file these protests as another part of the Arab ...

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War is Boring: Africa Roundup (Congo, Mali, Mauritania, Guinea-Bissau)

War is Boring: Africa Roundup (Congo, Mali, Mauritania, Guinea-Bissau)
The latest installment of my regular Africa conflict roundup for warisboring.com Congo A large-scale mutiny-come-rebellion rocks the eastern part of the Democratic Replublic of Congo since Easter. Never the most peaceful of places, the situation in the Kivu provinces bordering Rwanda escalated, when army general Bosco “The Terminator” Ntaganda decided to defect from his position. Ntaganda is searched for by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity. (The ICC recently sentenced Ntaganda’s former superior Thomas Lubanga in a related case.) A military commander of a powerful rebel group, the CNDP, Ntaganda protected himself from prosecution by leading an ...

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