"A restless world full of chances." (John Armstrong)
No continent on Earth is more wracked with conflicts and struggles than Africa, although this large continent can be characterized in many ways. One thing to remember when talking about Africa that is sometimes helpful is to remember that there is a difference between a nation and a state. A nation is a group of people who believe they belong together based on some shared racial, ethnic, linguistic, or experimental basis. A state is usually characterized as having borders, a recognizable population, a stable government, and sovereignty. Countries in Africa have a hard time being either one, and many countries could be called multi-nation states. Africa as a whole consists of 54 countries, 30 of which are independent nations, and only 25 of which are safe to travel to (at least according to most major travel agencies). The major nations include Angola, Burundi, Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, and Zambia. The remaining places might best be described as emerging nations because they are regularly trying to establish stable governments, and include: Ivory Coast, Mali, Malawi, Somalia, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and Western Sahara. Web visits to places like GlobalConflict's Introduction to the Conflicts of Africa provide rich background on the root causes of political instability such as the legacy of colonialism, IMF/World Bank restrictions, proxy warfare, and corporate exploitation. Also of note are the Nelson Institute and FDD's Crisis in Africa projects focusing upon areas like the Horn of Africa (Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya and Djibouti) which could very easily become the site of extraordinary terrorism.
The struggles in Africa are real, but in many ways are symbolic. The problem magnitude seems to provoke either indifference or alarmism, depending upon one's point of view. Some examples of purely symbolic action include "doing something for humanity," giving speeches about Africa, putting on Live Aid concerts, and giving serious consideration to reparations for slavery and colonial exploitation. Some real issues involve heightened awareness of legacy issues (pre-independence colonial exploitation), and differing views on injustices. Slavery reparations, for example, have questionable legal standing (more so in international law than domestic law, but even then, usually subject to statutes of limitations internationally and meaningless "apologies" domestically). Robinson (2001), among others, view slave labor seriously, quantifiable, and payable. The more real and strategic struggle Africa has been having involves stabilization. And not just economic stabilization, which could easily be accomplished if Africa adopted Schoenbaum's (2006) excellent idea of creating a Pan-African Union or Free Trade Zone similar to those in the European Union or the Americas (like NAFTA), but political stabilization. Given Africa's tendency to have many simultaneous conflicts going on at the same time (more than the Middle East's fifteen-year conflict cycle), well-timed intervention might help (when ongoing conflicts are relatively small in number). Past experience (e.g., the 1994 Rwanda Genocide) has shown waiting too long for intervention is disastrous. Likewise with the Darfur Conflict which called for intervention in 2003. More humanitarian joint task forces are urgently needed, but action not words are needed for there is much work to do in Africa's future.
Humanitarian aid is a constant need (to the nth degree) in Africa, and the numbers involved are astronomical. For example, every year, hundreds of millions of cases of malaria are caused by mosquito bites and tens of millions of deaths occur. Also, Vitamin A deficiency afflicts hundreds of millions, and about 500,000 children lose their eyesight each year because of it. The irony is that many of these deaths are preventable, if only things like DDT pesticide and vitamin-enriched "golden rice"were used. Unfortunately, many of the peace activists who do get involved in Africa have a rather particular anti-technology agenda in place, urging bans on DDT and other biotechnology, which is precisely what Africa needs the most. A lot of world leaders also still look upon Africa as it was looked at back in the colonialist and Cold War days, as a resource-poor region, plagued by ethnic-racial problems, and useful only to the extent that its natural resources can be exploited. Intervention is also inhibited by the West's racial blindsightedness and a number of ideological disagreements with African intellectuals, particularly as any good solution might involve a rethinking of capitalism or the international community's approach to debt relief. There are those who say if the G8 world leaders would simply double aid, cancel debt, and deliver trade justice, Africa would be better off.
|Africa is the oldest inhabited land on Earth, and the human race is believed to have originated there. Africa has been the most colonized continent on the planet. For much of its history, it had no nation-states, only tribal regions and kingdoms. The European colonists partitioned Africa into nation-states. From the 14th to 19th century, many areas (primarily West Africa) were the source of the global slave trade. Britain, France, and Portugal (and to a lesser extent Italy and Germany) were the major colonial powers in Africa. Belgium claimed the Congo as the King's personal colony. The European powers had an agreement that no territory could be claimed prior to being effectively occupied, and this paved the way for numerous acts of brutality and genocide by the colonists. The British colonized downward from Egypt, making it as far as South Africa where they fought two terrible Boer wars with the Dutch Afrikaners. The French colonized in from the West (Senegal) to control the Sahara trade routes, but only made it as far as Sudan when they backed down from the British. By the time European colonization was complete, only two nations survived and maintained their independence: Ethiopia (which fought off the Italians and laid claim to its coastline with Eritrea) and Liberia (founded by freed American slaves and supported by wealthy Virginians back in the U.S.)|
POST-COLONIALISM AND GEOPOLITICS
One should have a framework for studying Africa, and two of the best available are post-colonialism and geopolitics. Post-colonialism refers to a set of theories about why so much instability exists in former colonies. Edward Said's (1978) book Orientalism is said to be the field's founding work, although much has been written since (e.g., Beissinger & Young 2002; Slater 2004). It is the field which argues that terms such as First World/Third World, West/non-West, North/South are obsolete, and far more important is critical scholarship which looks at how all conflicts and struggles are interrelated (often in a Marxist fashion). It goes further in advocating "identity politics" or more broadly, the right to self-determination among all people, be they people of color or whatever, as long as they no longer think of themselves as inferior in any way. Theoretically, post-colonialism offers ideas about alternative forms of hermeneutics (interpretations of history) and alternative forms of globalization which counter traditional ideas about modernization (like neo-liberalism) in the field of international relations. Geopolitics is the study of the political and strategic significance of geography. It is sometimes associated with the clash of civilizations thesis as developed by Samuel Huntington (1996), and notions about equilibrium most commonly found in balance of power approaches in national security theory. The geography in it tends to be derived from Diamond's (1997) approach which might be called biogeographical since he argues that certain ethnic groups, favored by geography and resources at their disposal, tend to develop superior thoughts about freedom, capitalism, individualism, and rationalism which make them natural dominators on the world stage. Neoconservatives like Victor Davis Hanson also tend to be associated with such ideas, but these are big ideas, not simple contextual understandings.
There are parts of Africa with much mineral and agricultural wealth, but other parts of Africa are wealth-deprived. Many parts are caught up in violent identity politics. Many post-colonialism writers overemphasize the political problems at the expense of other problems. For example, many people are in denial about the AIDS epidemic there, and that cannot be any legacy of colonialism. Likewise, geopolitical writers tend to overemphasize borders and regions, which is much like the legacy of colonialism in that it resembles the old European method of rule by overwhelming firepower. As Strauss (2006) points out, this was a lesson well learned since the modern history of Africa is the history of men blinded by power, succumbing to greed, killing indiscriminately, and caring little for the consequences.
Ultimately, many issues of geopolitical importance depend upon how you classify the regions and subregions of Africa. In traditional geography, it's common to refer to the northern part as "Saharan" or "Arab" Africa, and the nations below the Sahara as "sub-Saharan" or central. However, some "central" countries think of themselves as southern, such as the Congo, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Still others who are "north" think of themselves as west, such as Algeria and Libya. Otherwise, east and west are clear-cut, but it's not easy to apply traditional directional terms. Classification systems are confounded by language, climate, and economic factors. It may not even be possible to intelligently classify the geography of Africa, given its diversity.
The interior of Africa was neither explored nor mapped by Europeans until 1852 when the Scottish missionary, Dr. David Livingstone, went as far in as Victoria Falls on the Zambia and Zimbabwe border. The roar of Victoria Falls can be heard 25 miles away, and it is the widest waterfall on the planet. Dr. Livingstone had to be found by Henry Stanley in 1871, and the two of them established once and for all that there was no connection between Lake Tanganyika and the Nile River. This lake is not only large, but extremely deep with an abundance of fish. Africa's largest lake (and the one connecting with the Nile) is Lake Victoria, which has a relatively sick ecosystem, despite the lake providing some sustenance and industry for some people. Some two million people die each year, particularly in the sub-Saharan region, from malaria, a disease spread by mosquito bites. Some areas are rich with (mostly un-mined) mineral deposits. Capitalist agriculture never caught on in Africa, with most farming done by individual families for subsistence only, leading to numerous food shortages and famines.
The magnitude of social problems in Africa is phenomenal and amazing. Unemployment generally runs at +30%, with illiteracy rates much higher. Military spending is rampant. Firearms are abundant, fueling everything from crime to insurgency to terrorism. Several nations have significant numbers of refugees from neighboring nations. Xenophobia and anti-refugee sentiment is growing. It's not very safe for journalists, foreigners, or international peacekeepers, and it's hard to tell combatants from noncombatants with all the insurgencies, rebellions, militias, proxy and civil wars. Africa is in the midst of denial about the worst epidemic since the medieval Black Death which killed 20 million in Europe, and that is the AIDS epidemic. Africa accounts for 75% of the world's population infected with AIDS. Some 25 million Africans are infected and will die within ten years, and another set of 4 million new infections are occurring every year. However, in some parts of Africa, denial over AIDS is decreasing, and some countries, like Uganda and Senegal, have vigorously attacked the problem.
African TERRORISM usually revolves around state, ethnic, religious, and tribal animosities. Dictatorships are common, and frequently produce state-sponsored terrorism. Ethnic cleansing and genocide are common at the hands of militia groups. Religious battles go on between the major denominations and hundreds of tribal religions. To make matters worse, Africa is still one of the last places on Earth where left-wing radical Communism is still popular in some places, but in all fairness it's safe to say that nowhere in Africa was free-market capitalism ever tried. Most of the African countries, upon achieving independence, went socialist. Much of the ethnic conflict is blamed on borders that were drawn up by Europeans with little regard for traditional alliances, but the Europeans cannot be blamed for leaving behind a legacy of class conflict in a place where no classes ever existed. Almost all political ideologies in Africa involve a strong hatred of the legacy of colonialism, and it is next to impossible to understand the sources of terrorism in Africa without an understanding of the directions that anti-colonialism took on that continent.
The anti-colonialism, independence, or nationalist movements existed in Africa from 1945-1975. Those were the years of the great Wars of Independence from Western powers. Some were long guerrilla wars, and others were insurgencies which used terrorist tactics. There were many heroes, but one of the chief architects of African terrorism was Frantz Fanon, author of The Wretched of the Earth ("As long as we have the wretched of the earth among us, we shall have terrorism"). It should be noted that some people in the field of peace studies regard Fanon as an architect of peace, but opinions vary, and if you ever wanted to read a good manual on how to become a good insurgent-terrorist, you couldn't do better than read Fanon. Born in Martinique, and trained in France to be a psychiatrist, Fanon joined the Algerian War for Independence in 1954. To be sure, Fanon's model of urban terrorism was not only practiced in Africa, but Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America as well. Most of his main ideas are summarized below:
FRANTZ FANON: A psychiatrist who believed that colonialism, and indeed, almost all things Western were the source of mental illness in the world. His ideas were the underpinning of the Algerian revolution. He wrote that Western influence has a dehumanizing effect by destroying local cultures, and that since the colonists established a condition where there is no other language than violence, achieving freedom (and mental health) requires carrying out more acts of violence, and it doesn't matter if the violence is successful, only that the cause is celebrated and publicized ("propaganda of the deed"). The Third World suffers from a massive identity complex, a double consciousness, if you will, and peaceful efforts at political change as well as personal change are useless. Terrorism does involve death, but it also has positive goals and liberating effects, and is better than guerrilla warfare because it just might result in radical change. Any foreigner in the Third World is an appropriate target for terrorism since political rights and privileges have already been cancelled by the rulers. In short, Fanon is considered a major apologist for terrorism today, although some would say only for anti-colonial terrorism.
Fanon's ideology of "terror for terror's sake" has four main tenets, as follows:
the social and economic systems of underdeveloped countries that had been exploited by western imperialists need to be totally changed for men to be free
the quest for freedom didn't end by creating free states through revolution; the goal was to create social and political institutions that would allow men to express their freedom
violence for violence sake is useful and productive; violence as a means is justifiable in and of itself as an expression of freedom
violence is both therapeutic and helpful; it can be a "freeing" and cleansing force which builds self-esteem
CENTRAL SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA
The most complicated spot on Earth is probably Central Africa (see IISS Armed Conflict Database on Congo), which was the site of the infamous Hutu-Tutsi conflict, a clash between socio-ethnic classes left over from colonial days, and recorded in history as the Rwandan genocide of 1994 where Hutu rebels killed more than 500,000 Tutsis. Whereas virtually all this massacre occurred in Rwanda and Burundi, it spilled over into other countries. The DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO (former Zaire) is where it spilled over most. Franz Fanon once said "Africa is like a revolver, and the trigger is the Congo." There are actually two Congos -- the DRC (former Zaire, or The Congo) and the REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO (or Congo-Brazzaville, or just Congo, which abandoned Marxism in 1990). The larger DRC gained independence from Belgium in 1960 and consists of about 200 different ethnic tribes. The smaller Congo (or ROC) gained independence from France in 1960, and only has four main ethnic tribes. Although The Congo has always had problems, the DRC there suffered greatly from the Second Congo War (1998-2003) which is sometimes called the African World War since four million people died in five years and at least five countries were involved. In this war, rebel groups of irregular fighters calling themselves the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) constituted the primary Tutsi force aligned with Rwanda and Burundi to flush out fugitive Hutu militants. The RCD was supported by a Uganda-backed group called the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC). On the opposing side were the DRC, led by Che Guevera's old buddy, Laurent Kabila, and then later Laurent's son, Joseph Kabila, the current president. There were a number of factions and nations involved, with Kabila managing to garner the support of Namibia, Zimbabwe, Angola, Chad, Libya, and Sudan. To summarize this multisided war: DRC <=> RCD + MLC.
The horrors of the Rwandan genocide loom large in everyone's memory, primarily because it involved broad daylight, hand-to-hand, door-to-door, neighbor-to-neighbor, machete murders with bodies left out for all to see. No other genocide before had been like that. However, complex and/or complicated conflicts are common in this part of the world, as are warlordism, cannabis production, and crime. Rape is commonplace. Once a woman is raped, she is routinely shunned by family and friends. There are few community services. An estimated 1,000 people die every day from hunger and disease in The Congo. Some reports indicate that international terrorist cells are making inroads in the region, primarily for the same purpose as everyone else -- in hopes of profiting from the rich bounty of untapped natural resources in the region (e.g., diamonds, coltan, cassiterite, tin, copper, timber) -- but it may very well be that Central Africa is even too unstable for terrorists.
Ideological terrorism (in the sense of revolutionary, left-wing terrorism) in Africa can be traced here, where demands for more democracy and the idea of people-power revolutions included insurrections by a number of courageous academics, high school teachers, priests, students, lawyers, judges, and citizens in what was called the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), technically a political party. The Zimbabwe example set the stage for more-or-less similar revolutionary movements which occurred in other parts of Africa, like Somalia, Sudan, Sierra Leone, and the Ivory Coast (or Cote d'Ivoire; pronounced COAT-dee-vwar). Most "people-power" revolutions occur after an existing government tries to rig its own re-election, and that is something that sometimes happens in Zimbabwe. There have been clashes between urban rebels and white settler-farmers in this country, with current President Robert Mugabe, a supporter of pan-Africanism and friend of Venezuela President Hugo Chávez, often violently seizing the land from various white property owners and redistributing it to blacks. White Zimbabweans only constitute less than 1% of the population, and privately refer to themselves as "Rhodesians." Most Zimbabweans speak English. Despite a lot of anti-U.S. rhetoric in this country, Zimbabwe had citizens killed in the 9/11 attacks, and has been cooperative in the fight against international terrorism.
Immediately south of The Congo, this country is Africa's most aid-dependent nation, and there is much international effort, mostly from the World Bank, to get the government there to institute reforms before rebellion or revolution takes place. In Zambia, as in most troubled African nations, the goal is to get government to provide basic services that governments are supposed to provide, such as employment, food, health care, and education. 70% of the population live in poverty, a figure high enough to trigger full debt relief under the IMF's Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) program. HIV infection is a serious problem, with about 100,000 dying every year from AIDS. Life expectancy is just under forty. Traditionally a Christian country, the religion of Islam is gaining hold. Zambians hold no particular grudge against the U.S., and the government does as good as it can keeping crime down. It may be that Islam is taking hold because of Hawala, the Arab world's underground financial system, the reason being that Zambia's traditional financial infrastructure is poorly developed.
TWO GIANTS: SOUTH AND WEST AFRICA
The two giants in this region, Nigeria and South Africa, are considered democracies, despite political instability and more than their share of natural disasters which shake up their fragile adherence to constitutions. Botswana, Ghana, Mali, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, and Tanzania also are making progress. Mozambique, in particular, is enjoying an economic boom, and is the fastest growing economy in Africa. Other parts of the region are experiencing more turbulent times. It should be noted that some people would say that constitutionalism is a very fluid concept, and that opinions vary over how long a nation has to have continuous adherence to a constitution to be called a democracy. South Africans are particularly sensitive about this last point.
This is Africa's most populous nation, the one with the closest ties to the U.S., containing over 250 different ethnic groups. The religious breakdown is 50% Muslim, 40% Christian, and 10% indigenous belief. The country is weaning itself away from military rule since 1999. Nigeria has significant oil and natural gas reserves (95% of all exports), and is the eighth largest oil-exporting country in the world. However, seething problems in the form of rebel unrest and ethnic secessionism pervade the county. Much of the unrest is over the practice of "flaring" natural gas by burning it off at the pipeline. Environmentalists claim this causes acid rain and pollution, and there are plenty of oil spills, too. School closures are common due to bomb scares by juvenile pranksters. There's an impending crisis in some provinces which have declared Islamic Sharia law. The controversial Islamist group, Boko Haram, is behind most of the Islamist violence, which in 2011, started using the tactic of suicide bombing. Nigeria is thought of by terrorism experts as a bellwether for the continent as a whole. Corruption, smuggling, and crime coexist with two types of civil unrest -- oil protests and ethnic protests. Of these two, the oil issue is more important. Nigerian oil is particularly important because it is the world's last reserve of "light sweet crude" which needs little refining. The world currently goes through 84 million barrels a day, and half of the proven oil reserves in the world have been used up. Some experts predict the world will run out of oil by 2040.
The Niger Delta region is a flashpoint. Rebels in the region have consistently been able to keep at least 30% of oil facilities offline. The main oil protest group is called Movement for the Emancipation of the Nigerian Delta (MEND), a highly sophisticated group of guerrilla militants who primarily attack Shell oil platforms protected by mercenaries (Shell being Nigeria's biggest oil developer). Under Nigerian law, private security personnel are not allowed to carry weapons, so the guerrillas have an advantage (as well as popular support), and their violence is costing the economy an estimated $300 million a day (equivalent to 800,000 barrels, or a price increase of about 15 cents per gallon at the pump). Nobody knows who is funding the well-equipped militants. John Robb at GlobalGuerrillas speculates that it might be competitor oil companies, but Sebastian Junger at VanityFair thinks they are just guys in speedboats who are good at using machine guns.
|Since January 2006, surprise speedboat attacks have come out of the Ijaw (Niger-delta) region, destroying or damaging the oil terminals. Attackers are protesting the environmental devastation, oil company profits, and the fact that the region has no schools, medical clinics, social services, clean drinking water, and jobs. MEND's demands include the release of prisoners, billions for damages to the environment, and a 50% claim on all future oil revenue. The group uses email to communicate, and have declared they will totally shut down Nigeria's ability to export oil. Nigerian oil is vital to the U.S., and the U.S. has declared the area a "strategic national interest." Other countries operating in the region appear to have paid off the militants whereas Halliburton as well as House Rep William Jefferson (Louisiana) are under investigation for attempted payoffs or bribes involving the region.|
It can be said this country is still experimenting with a constitutional democracy that was supposed to replace apartheid in 1996. However, not all problems can be blamed on the legacy of apartheid. With regard to terrorism, there are numerous soft targets of opportunity in South Africa, many of which directly symbolize western cultural and economic influence, but authorities there do a good job of rounding up anyone casing such targets. However, South Africa has a huge crime problem on its hands, and their criminal justice system doesn't seem able to cope. The prisons are overfilled and police brutality and corruption are not uncommon, mainly due to shortages of police, low pay, and low morale. Whichever party comes to lead the government doesn't seem able to maintain any coalition power over the issues of justice reform and antiterrorism. New types of crimes seem to emerge, such as "taxi violence" and mob rapes. Taxi violence refers to wars between taxi drivers, taxi associations who "own" certain routes, and use of taxi drivers in "violence-for-hire" schemes.
South Africa's Crime Problem
|Crime is such a major problem in South Africa that there is a Wikipedia Entry about it which points out a U.N. ranking of the country as first in the world for the per capita rape rate; i.e., "rape capital of the world." The U.S. State Department Advisory is less exaggerated. Authorities have tried about everything to curtail the crime problem; e.g., gated communities with electrified fences, CCTV cameras and high-tech sensors, gun buy-back programs, armed foot patrols, etc. A serious crime is committed in South Africa about every 17 seconds, with unnecessary loss of life every day. Carjackers don't give victims time to turn over the car; they just shoot. A lot of crime occurs at ATM machines. There is no welfare system to speak of, and much of the population lives in absolute poverty with no educational or economic aspirations.||
Election violence is also common, as are common crimes. Taxi violence was largely confined to the Cape Town region and is mostly over. Only about 2% of South Africa's population is Islamic, and they are concentrated in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban, embracing religious beliefs that are neither intolerant nor fanatical. One extremist group exists called the People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (PAGAD), who blew up a Cape Town Planet Hollywood in 1998, although they have denied the bombing and think of themselves as vigilantes. The Center for Defense Information has a Spotlight on PAGAD for more information about this group. Al-Qaeda is also known to have operated in South Africa in attempts to finance themselves from the illicit sale of "blood diamonds" and to obtain enriched uranium. In this regard, Hamid Mir's website outlines al-Qaeda's nuclear ambitions further, Hamid Mir claiming that al-Qaeda already possesses three (3) Russian suitcase nukes and six (6) dirty bombs.
Most of the "gold coast" West Africa nations have yet to present any significant relevance to the war on terrorism, but Sierra Leone does have a history of harboring Islamic militants. The country’s multi-racial demographics, corruption, and unregulated territories create a conducive safe haven environment. The diamond industry there has long been a source of revenue for groups like Hezbollah and more recently al-Qaeda. Pan-Africanism is a popular ideology there. Civil war and insurgencies have plagued the region. Nigerian-led ECOMOG peacekeepers were replaced by U.N. troops in 2000, and these peacekeepers, mostly British, have been struggling to reestablish order. American military advisers working next door in Liberia have tried to help, but the border conflicts are many. Guinea and Liberia, for example, have been sucked into a tangled web of cross-border attacks. Destructive conflicts seem to persist, and it's difficult to tell who the pro-government forces are and who the anti-government forces are. It is this region where some five hundred U.N. peacekeepers were sent in and captured. The most well-known rebel militia group is the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). Many foreigners and international news media are prevented from entering this region of Africa, and if they do, sometimes they are picked up by police and charged with espionage. See Sierra Leone: An Obscure Battleground for Terrorism for more information.
This country was founded by Americans of African descent, and always had hopes of becoming a shining example of democracy, but unfortunately, has seen decades of civil war and half the population displaced. President Charles Taylor, who came to power after the First Liberian Civil War, turned rebel groups loose on the region, a couple of his groups being the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). Both groups were notorious for human rights violations. Neighboring countries sent in their own rebel groups to attempt the overthrow of Taylor. The fighting often consisted of roving bands of armed, drugged-up men shooting and robbing indiscriminately. Both sides employed thousands of child soldiers. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed, and a once-prosperous region soon became dependent on other nations for food, fuel, and supplies. A humanitarian joint task force operation had to be launched in 2003, and Taylor abdicated as U.S. troops came ashore.
Charles Taylor makes for an interesting case study. He was an extreme example of African dictatorship and corruption (Amin, Bokassa, and Nguema are comparable). He allowed a variety of international criminal syndicates and terrorist organizations, ranging from Israeli, Lebanese, Russian and Ukrainian groups to operate. He was known to have Libyan and Hezbollah connections, and speculation abounds on whether he made any al-Qaeda connections. Any such group operating in country, as well as diamond and timber businessmen, were obligated to pay Taylor cash advances on their future earnings. Taylor was exiled in Nigeria, but continued to manipulate Liberian politics with his fortune. Taylor also became the only person in history (besides Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia) to be charged with war crimes while in office as the leader of a nation. The U.S. once put a reward of two million dollars on his head, to be paid to anyone who delivers him for trial in Sierra Leone, and he has now been captured. Liberia now has free elections, and has elected a respected woman diplomat. The civil war is over, but serious problems of recovery and development remain.
This country broke away from Portugal in 1975 and has been in turmoil ever since. The people there practice some strange mixtures of Christian and indigenous religious beliefs. Angola represents perhaps the world's most well-known civil war, a 19-year proxy war with right-wing guerrillas supported by the U.S. and the leftist government supported by the Soviet Union and Cuba. The rebel force was known as the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA). A number of Angolan refugees escaped into Zambia. The rebel force, UNITA, engaged in indiscriminate killings and guerrilla attacks, but this seems to have decreased some since 2002 when the UNITA leader died. Oil and gas reserves (80% offshore) are about the only economic resources the country has (97% of all exports), and many American oil firms operate there. However, about half the population is unemployed, illiterate, and homeless. The U.S. State department does not recommend travel there, especially for American businessmen.
NORTH AND EAST AFRICA
In KENYA, the government has a constitution in place, and the most recent election was relatively peacefull. Key economic indicators, like access to electricity and water, continue to deteriorate. Lack of electricity and water rationing are common throughout many parts of Africa. Kenya's government, long known for graft and corruption, has had laws in place such as the immediate arrest of anyone insulting the president. Nowadays, the newspapers are allowed to criticize the president. Richard Leakey, a third-generation white Kenyan and son of paleontologists Louis and Mary Leakey, headed an opposition party. Kenya regularly experiences ethnic clashes between the Kikuyu and Kalenjin groups in the Rift Valley, and, of course, Kenya was where the 1998 U.S. Embassy Bombings took place, killing 243 and injuring more than 1,000. The embassy in neighboring Tanzania was bombed the same day. A 2006 Jamestown Foundation report entitled The Threat of Terrorism to Kenya says that al-Qaeda maintains financial interests there, and that in the wake of stringent Kenyan anti-terrorism laws, local Muslim are becoming restless.
SUDAN has an unique culture and represents one of the more multilingual and multiethnic countries in the world. Yet, it is poverty-stricken, has long had a massive slave trade as part of tribal tradition, and has known mostly military dictatorships promoting an extreme Islamic agenda since independence from Great Britain in 1956. Before that, Egypt controlled Sudan, calling the land Nubia, and to this day, there are some in Sudan who refer to themselves as Nubians. Egyptian Muslims would come to control the northern part of the country, and British Christians the south. The Second Sudanese Civil War (1983-2004) involved a long and bloody conflict between the non-Arab south and the northern, Arab-dominated government. There was (and is) oil money involved, charges of genocide, a refugee crisis, and assorted other socio-political problems caused by the war. More importantly, the Second Civil War is one of the causes of the DARFUR conflict (see insert below). Darfur has been called the first great genocidal incident of the 21st century, and involves charges of ethnic cleansing. The tribal region of Darfur is where the ruling regime in Khartoum (the National Islamic Front) has refused to control an Arab militia group (the Janjaweed, a loosely organized Arab force on horse and camel, numbering about 20,000) from raiding tribal villages. The National Islamic Front (NIF) also harbored Osama bin Laden from 1991 to 1996 while he built up al-Qaeda under the guise of a business front. At one point during those years, Sudan almost handed him over to the U.S., and in 1998 with Operation Infinite Reach, US cruise missiles struck a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory which was believed to have ties to chemical weapons development by al-Qaeda.
|Sudan's DARFUR region (in western Sudan, see map showing Area of Interest) has been the site of some ethnic cleansing and genocide since 2003 where around 400,000 people have died - half at the hands of violence by the Sudanese government or their proxy militia - and half from starvation, disease, or exposure during flight. Members of the Sudanese government and/or the government-supported Arab Janjaweed militia may very well face war crimes, but the Sudanese government has said they will not turn anybody over, an ironic position since Sudan has cooperated with U.S. intelligence in the war on terrorism. The Sudanese government is opposed to U.N. intervention on grounds it would lead to a re-colonization of Africa. Prof. Eric Reeves' website has put together some good backgrounder information on Darfur as well as the map borrowed here.|
Along with northern Sudan, the northernmost nations of Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, and Yemen have long been safe harbor regions for terrorists and terrorist organizations. Various Palestinian movements, for example, can be found there. Anti-Israeli sentiment runs high, as does anti-Americanism. Military justice tends to prevail in this region. Protesters, journalists, and intellectuals are often suppressed in the name of Muslim fundamentalism. Women in northern Africa suffer severe forms of discrimination, and women's rights is one of the most contested areas of reform along with worker's rights. Sudan also represents an area of interest for NGOs, particularly church-led organizations. Other interesting patterns of church-led international involvement can be found in Chad, Senegal, Eritrea, and Somalia.
ALGERIA (also discussed in the Middle East lecture) had a long 1954-1962 Algerian War of Independence under the guise of socialism which served as inspiration for anti-colonialist terrorism throughout the world, particularly among the Palestinians. Unique types of anti-Western sentiment often come out of Algeria. For example, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), like al-Qaeda, regards the U.S. as the last "great tyrant" to be overthrown. Another terrorist group operating out of Algeria is the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), which has been linked to plots against the U.S., Canada, and throughout Europe. Algeria represents one of the world's biggest seedbeds for terrorism, and a prime spot for al-Qaeda operate. The Jamestown Foundation has also long been warning about "out-of-Algeria" operations by GSPC (see Italy as GSPC's Forward Base). Italian police have been investigating contacts between GSPC cells in Italy and Algerian jihadists in Belgium, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
LIBYA is the fourth largest country in Africa. It was formed in 1951 when the U.N. trusteeship system merged one French and two British-administered territories that these allies had taken from the Italian fascists. Shortly after its formation, Esso (now called Exxon) discovered oil, and shortly thereafter a colonel named Moammar Gadhafi came to power and dismantled the parliament that the U.N. had set up. Over his 42-year rule (he was deposed by a civil uprising in 2011 and replaced by a National Transitional Council), he brutally oppressed some of the 20 or so indigenous tribes while bribing others with oil money. He ran the country as a fairly orthodox Sunni Muslim nation that generally adhered to the Maliki school. He was almost overthrown in 1971 by his own Revolutionary Council, and there have been numerous attempts to assassinate him. Libya has always had a strong Muslim Brotherhood presence, and one of its strongest terrorist groups is the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) which operates as far away as Great Britain and the United States. Libyan agents have carried out a disco bombing in Berlin that killed U.S. servicemen and a PANAm Flight 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland. Gadhafi was very eccentric and was always protected by elite female security bodyguards he called his "Amazonians." Poverty and ill health have plagued the country since it is dependent on foreign investment, and 75% of its food has to be imported since less than 1% of the land is arable. Libya has been a major supporter of international terrorism. Libya backed assassination plots against the presidents of Chad, Egypt, Sudan, Tunisia, and Zaire. Qadhafi also was involved in training, equipping, funding, harboring, and otherwise supporting Palestinian terrorist groups, the Irish Republican Army, a Basque separatist group, and Sierra Leone’s Revolutionary United Front. Libya has always disputed these allegations. However, it is undeniable that Libya sent thousands of jihadist volunteers to fight with bin Laden in Afghanistan, and ironically, some of these returning "Afghan Arabs" have turned on Gadhafi. After 9/11, Libya denounced the September 11, 2001 attacks against the U.S., and began to share intelligence information, and Gadhafi even paid out some monetary reparation for the Pan Am 103 bombing. What form the new government will take in the post-2011 era is unclear.
THE LOCKERBIE AIR DISASTER
|On December 21, 1988, the first major terrorist attack on a symbol of the United States occurred with the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 enroute from London to NYC with 189 American citizens on board. The total death toll was 270 people from 21 countries, including 11 people in the town of Lockerbie, Scotland. While directly over Lockerbie, a suitcase containing plastic explosive detonated in the forward cargo hold (a Semtex bomb with a Swiss timer disguised as a boombox, of the type used by certain Palestinian terror groups but timer of the like used by Libyan military). After a lengthy three-year investigation, two Libyan intelligence agents were implicated, and after many years of denial, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi eventually arranged their handover in 1999 to Scottish authorities for trial. The trial took place eleven years after the bombing, and in a neutral place in the Netherlands. One defendant was acquitted; and the other received a sentence of life in prison, but later won compassionate release. In 2002, Libya offered $2.7 billion to settle claims by the families of the 270 killed in the Lockerbie bombing, representing $10 million per family, contingent upon lifting various trade sanctions. Legal firms involved received $1.4 million per family member represented. A civil action of $4.5 billion against Libya was also put forth by Pan Am, which went bankrupt partly as a result of the attack.|
SOMALIA, located on the Horn of Africa, has been a country without a government since a multi-factional civil war erupted in 1991. Prior to that, it was an U.S. client state during the Cold War, offsetting the Soviet ally Ethiopia next door (although the proxies and clients changed a couple of times). In the statelessness that followed 1991, a controversial figure named General Mohamed Farrah Aidid rose to power. He was a former government intelligence chief who thought of himself as President, and he was one of the main targets of Operation Restore Hope, a failed 1993 mission immortalized by the movie, Black Hawk Down. Other warlords also thought of themselves as President, and in all, about four warlords or clan leaders thought they ran the country. It was a textbook case of anarchy. Following the 1993 fiasco (18 American soldiers died and 73 were wounded), the U.S. tried working with the Rahanwein Resistance Army, a clan-based faction opposed to Somalia’s fledgling Transitional Federal Parliament. The head of this transitional government from 2004 to 2008 was Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, who was succeeded by Adan Mohamed Nuur Madobe. These presidents and the transitional government they run only control a small geographic area of Mogadishu, the rest of the city being constantly rocked by in-fighting between militias. An interesting group calling itself the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) claims to run the city, but they are mostly Islamic extremists who advocate the export of Sharia law. Some of these extremists have migrated to such places as Minneapolis in the U.S. and Oslo, Norway. At least two major wars with Ethiopia have occurred, the second one being the War in Somalia 2006-present. Starting around 2008, the world started paying attention to the Somali pirate problem, and most of this activity comes out of a northern region of the country, a semi-autonomous region called Puntland. It is a much less conflict-ridden place than Mogadishu, and the government there seems willing to do something about the piracy problem. Even more dangerous than the pirates is a large, al-Qaeda-affiliated group, al Shabaab, which also emerged around 2008, and carried out its first international attack (in Uganda) on July 11, 2010. Al Shabaab controls vast swaths of territory in Somalia -- more than any Islamist group in the world. They are ideologically opposed to sports, public education, women's rights, fun in general, and anything to do with the U.S. ("The Mother of all Evil). They are very adept at carrying out their attacks, have a sophisticated propaganda arm, and possess a number of agents with foreign passports who can pass for residents of other countries.
ETHIOPIA is a country that prides itself on its independence, and has long been engaged in border wars over the 1908 frontiers drawn by then colonial power, Italy. From 1977 to 1991, the country was ruled by a corrupt, communist dictator named Mengistu Haile Mariam, who is now in exile in Zimbabwe facing conviction for war crimes if he should ever return. He was tried in absentia for the Ethiopian Red Terror purges during the 70s (the 7th worst genocide in world history, but seen by Mengistu as a crackdown on domestic terrorism, and sometimes called a "democide" by scholars on the subject) and the great Ethiopian famine of 1984-85 (drought and famine being recurrent problems in Ethiopia). His main enemies were Eritrean secessionists (EPLF and ELF), who were already participants in the 17-year long Ethiopian Civil War, Eritrea being a former part of Ethiopia which eventually won its independence with U.S. support in 1993. Eritrea is also an ethnically heterogeneous society where Christians and Muslims live peacefully together. Both Eritrea and Ethiopia are now run fairly democratically. Ethiopia has been a Christian kingdom since the 5th century, enjoys warm relations with the U.S., and considers Islamic fundamentalism a threat. Ethiopia's beef against Somalia has long included squabbles over the Ogaden and Haud regions, both poorly defined boundary areas along the Somali-Ethiopian border. The 1977-78 Ogaden War (which ended in defeat for Somalia) is often studied by military historians as an interesting case of Cold War proxy warfare. On December 25, 2006, Ethiopia declared war against the Islamic Courts ruling Somalia (see War in Somalia 2006).
MALI (formerly called French Sudan) is a fairly large landlocked country bordered by by Algeria on the north, Niger on the east, Burkina Faso and Côte d'Ivoire on the south, Guinea on the south-west, and Senegal and Mauritania on the west. At one time, it had a flourishing empire, and despite being poverty-stricken in recent times, it has also been considered a model of good democratic government, at least up until 2012 when a military coup coincided with an insurgency movement as well as a separatist rebellion. Some of the military rebels joined the separatists and have declared a new state (called Azawad), but their efforts have gone unrecognized and are sidelined by the more active al-Qaeda insurgent group called the Islamist Ansar Dine (AD) which is linked with the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) which seeks to overthrow Algeria. There’s a planned United Nations intervention in the works to rid Mali of what is now the “largest territory controlled by Islamic extremists in the world,” but in the meantime, Sharia law is replacing democratic practices, and there is a refugee/humanitarian crisis that only seems to worsen.
ABC International News
Africa Center for Strategic Studies
Africa Intelligence Online
African-American Immigration Discrimination
AIDS Epidemic in Africa
CIA World Factbook
CNN Special on Algeria's Insurgency Problem
Coalition for International Justice
Doctors Without Borders
Genocide Intervention Network
Global Conflicts Overview
Global Issues: Conflicts in Africa
IMDB Hotel Rwanda (2004 movie) Discussion Boards
Library of Congress Country Studies
Nationmaster Crime and Illicit Drug Database
State Dept. Counterterrorism Office Area Overviews
State Department Travel Advisories
State Dept. Counterterrorism Office Report
The Slave Trade as the Root of Contemporary African Crisis
UPENN African Studies Center
Wikipedia: Darfur Conflict
Wikipedia: Southern Sudan
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Last updated: Jan 13, 2013
Not an official webpage of APSU, copyright restrictions apply, see Megalinks in Criminal Justice
O'Connor, T. (2013). "Africa Area Studies," MegaLinks in Criminal Justice. Retrieved from http://www.drtomoconnor.com/areas/africa.htm.