It’s a Good Time to Be a Dictator Again

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There was a brief period of time when it looked like openly fraternizing with authoritarian rulers might go out of style, especially in Africa.

The Cold War’s end suddenly obviated the West’s need to prop up local allies — and Russia simply didn’t have the means anymore to do the same thing. The brutal civil wars of the 1990s and 2000s brought the deadly consequences of dictatorship to the fore, and a new crop of African rulers promised to usher in multi-party democracy.

In stark contrast to the situation in the Middle East, most African countries weren’t strategically significant. To top it all off, the Arab Spring discredited Western foreign policy in North Africa — specifically, the hemisphere’s dealings with the likes of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.

Western governments promised to have seen the error of their ways and solemnly swore to really push for democracy in Africa, and without foul compromises this time around.

Well, those feelings were short-lived. With right-wing populists breathing down the necks of European governments due to the migrant crisis and defense companies in dire need of sales after the financial crisis massacred Western defense budgets, any autocrat who has something to offer is back in the game.

Read the rest on War is Boring!

Brookings on the limits of the new “Nile Agreement”

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Nice recap of the issues at hand.

The Khartoum declaration, which was signed by the heads of state of the three countries—Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (Egypt), Omar al-Bashir (Sudan), and Halemariam Desalegn (Ethiopia), has been referred to  as a “Nile Agreement,” and one that helps resolve conflicts over the sharing of the waters of the Nile River. However, this view is misleading because the agreement, as far we know, only deals with the Blue Nile’s Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam project (GERDP) and does not tackle the broader, still contentious issues of sharing of the Nile River waters among all riparian states. Thus, the new agreement does leave the conflict over the equitable, fair, and reasonable allocation and utilization of the waters of the Nile River unresolved.


Over the years, especially as the populations of the other countries of the Nile River Basin have increased, and these countries have developed the capacity to more effectively harvest the waters of the Nile River for national development, disagreements have arisen over the fact that Egypt has insisted that the water rights it acquired through the 1929 and 1959 agreements (collectively referred to as the Nile Waters Agreements) be honored and that no construction project be undertaken on the Nile River or any of its tributaries without prior approval from Cairo. In fact, various Egyptian leaders have threatened to go to war to protect these so-called “acquired rights.” Upstream riparian states such as Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Ethiopia, have argued that they are not bound by these agreements because they were never parties to them.

The spectre of a "water war" is regularly bandied around the international media, but the possibility of it happening are actually really slim, both for military and political reasons. That is not to say that the issue of the Nile is not taken dead seriously by countries like Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. With all of the riparian states still in their economic infancy, this will remain a hot button issue for some time to come.

Source: The limits of the new “Nile Agreement” | Brookings Institution

Rich Links: Nile politics and geothermal power

Some reading material for the weekend:

Egypt is the looser of a new era of Nile politics

Amid internal commotion and regional power shifts, Egypt's historical dominance over the politics of the Nile catchment area has diminished. New King of the hill is Ethiopia, which has secured an alliance of upstream countries against the 'colonial era' treaties that govern the Nile's waters. Monde Diplomatique

Exploitation of Western Sahara's resources

The value of its resources are one of the main reasons for Morocco’s continued occupation of Western Sahara. The main piece of the puzzle is phosphate, with Western Sahara being the world's largest producer of this essential mineral. Think Africa Press

Ethiopia's geothermal plans

The East African country plans to become the major power exporter in the region, with work starting on a 1 GW geothermal plant, to the first stage of 20 MW going online in 2015. This in addition to the 6 GW Renaissance hydroelectric dam on the Nile river, which will also be finished around that date. Jeune Afrique (French)

Congo basin states sign agreement to protect timber

Six Central and West African states have signed the Brazzaville Declaration, a legally not binding agreement to take concerted action against illegal logging and smuggling of timber. Logging is one of the main economic activities in the Congo basin (the second largest rainforest system in the world) and illegal activities deprive the states of substantial income. Voice of America

Other stuff

  • The U.S. has expressed interest in taking part in the Congolese Inga 3 hydroelectric project on the Congo river: Jeune Afrique (French)
  • Nigeria has launched the Nigerian Geological Service Agency to further the diversification of its resource industry: African Mining Brief
  • Kenya will start giving out new mining licences in November: African Mining Brief
  • Decreased rainfall has led to a higher risk of conflicts over access to water in Tanzania: (German)
  • Angola and the Congo (DR) are looking to extend the railway network between the two countries for the benefit of mineral exports: Jeune Afrique (French)

Rich links: Nile water diplomacy and copper corruption in the DRC

Again, lots of interesting stuff to read from around the internet:

Angola ends talks about a strategic partnership with Portugal

Disgruntled because of Portuguese investigations of high ranking government officials, Angolan president dos Santos has made clear that his country is no longer persuing a strategic partnership with its former colonizer. This is a heavy blow for Portugal which is still caught in the repercussions of the financial crisis and was hoping to profit from its ties with the African country. Especially the oil sector is of interest to Portuguese companies. allAfrica/Deutsche Welle

Sale of Congolese copper producer raises corruption concernas

Congolese government-owned mining company Gécamines is preparing to sell its stake in one of the countries largest copper producer, Kamoto Copper Company. It is unclear if Gécamines has notified the Congolese government of the deal, as is required by law. No details have been published, either by Gécamines, the government or Fleurette Group, the potential buyer. Fleurette is an offshore company tied to Dan Gertler, an Israeli businessman with a colourful reputation and long history in Congolese mining. Africa Progress Panel | Global Witness

Egypt renews its diplomatic offensive for control of Nile waters

Three Egyptian ministers will embark on a diplomatic tour de force through Nile basin countries to try and secure Egypt's share of the Nile's waters. Still based on colonial-era contracts, upstream countries like Ethiopia and Uganda are eager to change the current terms. Martin Plaut

International personnel returns to In Amenas

BP has confirmed that its international employees are set to return to In Amenas. The gas facility gained international notoriety when terrorists affiliated with Al Qaeda invaded the plant in January 2013. 37 hostages and 29 of the attackers were killed during a three day long siege and the subsequent assault by the army. Jeune Afrique

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