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Belarus president offers to host Russian nuclear weapons


MOSCOW — The longtime president of Belarus said Tuesday that his country would be ready to host Russian nuclear weapons if NATO moves U.S. atomic bombs from Germany to Eastern Europe.

In an interview, President Alexander Lukashenko also said for the first time that he recognizes the Crimean Peninsula as part of Russia and plans to visit it soon. Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, a move that the West regards as illegal.

Lukashenko made the remarks as he moves to cement ties with Russia, his main ally and sponsor, amid tensions with the West over his disputed reelection last year and his government’s brutal crackdown on dissent in Belarus.

Asked about the possible redeployment of U.S. atomic bombs to Eastern Europe if Germany’s new government were no longer willing to house the weapons, Lukashenko responded that he would invite Russian President Vladimir Putin to send nuclear weapons that were withdrawn after the 1991 Soviet collapse back to Belarus.

“I would offer Putin to return nuclear weapons to Belarus,” Lukashenko said in the interview with Dmitry Kiselyov, the head of Russian state media group Rossiya Segodnya.

The Belarusian leader wouldn’t elaborate on what kind of weapons Belarus would be willing to accommodate. He added that Belarus has carefully preserved the necessary military infrastructure dating back to the Soviet era.

Opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who left Belarus under pressure after unsuccessfully trying to unseat Lukashenko in last year’s election, denounced the president’s comments.

“Such a person shouldn’t be trusted to handle matches, let alone nuclear weapons,” she told The Associated Press.

Tsikhanouskaya said the deployment of Russian nuclear weapons to Belarus would violate international arms agreements and the will of Belarus’ people. “The majority of Belarusians have spoken for Belarus’ neutrality,” she said.

Speaking earlier this month, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the Western military alliance would need to ponder redeploying nuclear weapons east if the new German government changes the country’s policy on nuclear sharing.

“Germany can, of course, decide whether there will be nuclear weapons in your country, but the alternative is that we easily end up with nuclear weapons in other countries in Europe, also to the east of Germany,” Stoltenberg said.

Alexei Arbatov, a Moscow-based foreign policy expert, described the possible redeployment of U.S. atomic bombs to Eastern Europe as a “mad, adventurist move.” If Moscow responds by sending its nuclear weapons to Belarus, “the situation would be more dangerous than it was during the Cold War times,” the Interfax news agency quoted Arbatov as saying.

Lukashenko has edged closer to Russia since he faced Western pressure after being awarded a sixth term in an August 2020 vote that the opposition and the West say was rigged. Belarusian authorities responded to protests triggered by the election with a sweeping crackdown, prompting the European Union and the United States to slap Belarus with several rounds of sanctions.

Tensions have escalated further since the summer over the arrival of thousands of migrants and refugees on Belarus’ border with EU member Poland. The EU has accused Lukashenko of retaliating for its sanctions by using desperate asylum-seekers as pawns and tricking them into trying to enter Poland, Lithuania and Latvia to destabilize the entire EU.

Russia and Belarus have a union agreement that envisages close political, economic and military ties, but Lukashenko in the past has sought to maneuver between Moscow and the West, trying to win concessions from each party.

And even though he relied on cheap energy and loans provided by Russia, he refrained from recognizing Moscow’s annexation of Crimea until Tuesday. In Tuesday’s interview, he said he considers Crimea part of Russia both de facto and de jure. Lukashenko added that he planned to visit Crimea on Putin’s invitation.

“If the president comes there with the president of Russia, what other form of recognition could there be?” he said.

Ukrainian and Western authorities have raised concern in recent days about alleged Kremlin plans to invade Ukraine. Lukashenko warned that his country would stand squarely behind Russia if the Ukrainian government launched an offensive against Moscow-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Belarusian political analyst Valery Karbalevich said Lukashenko’s statement came as a payoff for Moscow’s backing.

“Lukashenko effectively pays Putin for the support that the Kremlin has offered to him at the time when he was on the verge of political death after the election,” Karbalevich told the AP. “Lukashenko has become a tool for the Kremlin and he expects more Russian subsidies and financial aid in return.”

He noted that in the face of Western sanctions against the Belarusian economy, Lukashenko is now “ready to deploy nuclear weapons, stage a crisis with migrants and get involved in a confrontation with Ukraine.”




My 6-point plan for Belarus, by former Lithuanian PM

By Andrius Kubilius, first published by the EUobserver, 02 December 2021

BRUSSELS - On 24 November, Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya, the leader of democratic Belarus, during her address at the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg said that the Belarusian democratic movement cannot afford to wait for Europe much longer and the EU's concern should become a concrete action.

The suggestions below were put on paper after the inspiring and intensive consultations held in Strasbourg last week with Sviatlana, her team and MEP friends of democratic Belarus in the European Parliament.

1. Using international tribunals to seek justice for the people of Belarus

The EU must take real action and lead the preparations together with the EU member states to bring Alexander Lukashenko and his collaborators to the International Court of Justice for crimes against the Belarusian people, notably for offences under the Convention against Torture or for the migrant smuggling, which is an offence under the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime.

The EU should coordinate with the member states in their efforts to implement national universal jurisdiction instruments for bringing Belarusian perpetrators to justice. A special EU task force of international lawyers can assist the EU member states in these actions.

2. Seizing the assets of Lukashenko and his family

The EU together with international partners should take the lead in seizing the assets, including the ones hidden in Arab countries, held abroad by Lukashenka and his family. Everyone assisting in moving these assets abroad shall be subject to targeted sanctions from the EU.

3. Increasing sanctions to the ones who support Lukashenko and his regime: a message to the Kremlin

The EU should introduce targeted sanctions against the Kremlin regime and its oligarchs who support criminal activities of Lukashenko. Such sanctions should be introduced for at least: (1) the Kremlin's support to Lukashenko crimes in persecuting domestic opposition and civil society and (2) the Kremlin's support to Lukashenko crimes in initiating hybrid war on the external borders of the EU.

The Kremlin's attempts to implement annexation of Belarus should be met from the EU side with a clear threat to introduce the same sanctions as in the case of illegal annexation of Crimea.

4. Seeking reconciliation for those in bureaucracy of the regime who were not involved in the crimes committed and are willing to cooperate


The EU must help democratic Belarus effectively assess and separate from the outset those Belarusian government officials who are tainted by the crimes of the Lukashenko regime and those who have escaped them. This can be done under the national truth and reconciliation initiative of democratic Belarus, which can use the reconciliation experiences of many former dictatorships, such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa.

5. Immediate launching of EU's €3.5bn 'Marshall Plan' of financial and investment support

Unfortunately, the public potential of this plan is not yet exploited to a full extent. There are no substantive and detailed discussions led by the EU institutions with the leaders of Belarusian democratic revolution regarding the implementation modalities. Such discussions could have a major impact on the geopolitical direction the Belarusians will be inclined to take after the democratic transition itself.

The EU has to step in and develop a consistent architecture of political dialogue to seek a joint vision on a multi-billion support plan and the future relationship with democratic Belarus. This mechanism can work as an interim agreement between the EU and the leaders of democratic Belarus.

Once the development finance architecture will be in place, there will be a need to convene a donor conference for democratic Belarus, which could launch an active phase of investment support to the modernisation of Belarus. The actual needs for modernisation of Belarus may stand at around €10bn to €15bn for the next five years.

6. Building EU future relations with democratic Belarus

The EU needs to provide as soon as possible a clear perspective regarding its future relations with the democratic Belarus. This should be a much closer cooperation with the EU, which could take a form of new generation Association Agreements (Europe Agreements) between the EU and democratic Belarus.

The EU needs to upgrade its policy for democratic changes in Belarus and to engage more actively with democratic forces of Belarus by giving them a seat at the Eastern Partnership summit. The EU can do even more and establish accredited democratic Belarus representation in the EU and its member sates.

The EU can further contribute to the mobilisation of democracy in Belarus by organising the annual EU summits with democratic forces of Belarus followed by the adoption the joint policy guidelines on the future of EU relations with democratic Belarus or the implementation architecture for the comprehensive EU multi-billion plan.


Andrius Kubilius is a former two-time prime minister of Lithuania, and European People's Party MEP, chairing the European parliament delegation to the 'Euronest' parliamentary assembly with the Eastern Partnership countries. He is also a standing rapporteur on Russia. Together with Polish MEP Andrzej Halicki, he co-leads an informal group of MEPs for the democratic Belarus.


The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.



Can The EU's Giant Infrastructure Plan Rival China's Belt And Road?

By Reid Standish

BRUSSELS - The European Union will invest some 300 billion euros ($340 billion) on infrastructure and other projects as part of Global Gateway, a new venture from the 27-country bloc designed to compete with China's vast and influential Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

A draft proposal from the European Commission, seen by RFE/RL, outlines Brussels' plans for the ambitious initiative, which will rely on public investment and the private sector to build infrastructure intended "to strengthen digital, transport, and energy networks" around the world and invest in "projects that can be delivered with high standards, good governance, and transparency."

The plans for Global Gateway, which will be revealed on December 1, seek to mobilize a sum up to $340 billion that will be invested by 2027 and leverage resources from the EU, European financial institutions, development banks, and member states.

The draft document goes on to add that the initiative will focus on building projects like fiber-optic cables, transport corridors, and "clean-power transmission lines" that will offer "attractive investment and business-friendly trading conditions, regulatory convergence, [standardization], supply-chain integration, and financial services."

The stepped-up plans from the EU come as many Western countries are looking to play a larger role in funding infrastructure across the developing world and roll back the BRI, which has become an important strategic tool for Beijing to extend its influence since its launch in 2013.

Under the guise of the BRI, China has channeled hundreds of billions of dollars into foreign infrastructure, boosting trade and clearing the way for it to forge political and economic links around the world, from Latin America to Africa and Central Asia.

The EU plans do not mention the BRI, Chinese leader Xi Jinping's signature foreign-policy project, by name, but Global Gateway is framed as an alternative program that the draft says will focus on providing an "ethical approach" to infrastructure financing that is "values-based" and relies on fair and open competition.

"Global Gateway will invest in international stability and cooperation and demonstrate how democratic values offer certainty and fairness, sustainability for partners, and long-term benefits for people around the world," the draft document states.

Response To The BRI

Launched amid great fanfare by Xi, the BRI has since been supported by international organizations and more than 150 countries -- including many in the West -- as it has expanded in scope from ports, pipelines, and roads to include digital technology, health care, and green energy.

But a combination of growing disillusionment among partner countries with the resulting projects, growing global demand for more investment, and increased unease about the strategic implications of the BRI have opened the door for alternatives to emerge.

"Brussels is trying to differentiate itself from what China has been providing," Jonathan Hillman, the director of the Reconnecting Asia Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), told RFE/RL. "When it comes to environmental issues, transparency, and sustainability, the EU has a strong and attractive brand that it can leverage."

The BRI has also been undercut in recent years by questions regarding the commercial value of many of its projects, growing worries over murky lending practices, and concerns over it being a vehicle for Chinese control.

Debt and transparency concerns have also shrouded Chinese-funded projects around the world, from Sri Lanka to Pakistan and Uganda to Kyrgyzstan.

Beijing-backed ventures in Hungary, such as a potential Chinese university in Budapest funded by a $1.5 billion loan and $1.9 billion borrowed for a railway connecting Budapest to Belgrade, have faced public backlash over corruption accusations and a lack of transparency over the details of the loan agreements.

Across the Balkans, Chinese projects have been linked to environmental damage and poor labor practices, as well as debt concerns, such as a controversial $1 billion Chinese-funded highway in Montenegro.

According to the draft, Global Gateway has a world-spanning focus, but a European Commission official who was not authorized to speak to the media told RFE/RL that the initiative would prioritize Africa and Asia for investment. The EU plan will also aim to focus on investing into areas around digitalization, health, climate, energy, and transport.

"The BRI raised the stakes and made Western policymakers more aware of the strategic consequences of not being involved in infrastructure," Hillman said. "Beijing has also created an opportunity for higher-quality alternatives through its own mistakes. It's hard to imagine Global Gateway existing if it wasn't for the BRI."

Coordinating Western Plans

The draft also mentions that Global Gateway will aim to align with other infrastructure plans adopted at the Group of Seven (G7) summit in the United Kingdom in June, including U.S. President Joe Biden's Build Back Better World (B3W) initiative.

The U.S. plan aimed to help narrow the global need for infrastructure by working with countries like Australia, India, and Japan, as well as the new EU initiative.

But the biggest obstacle will be how Brussels and its partners can leverage the financial muscle to rival Beijing for infrastructure investment, Andreea Brinza, vice president of the Romanian Institute for the Study of the Asia-Pacific, told RFE/RL. "The biggest obstacle may be the cost of implementing projects [with high standards]," she said. "Developing countries really need infrastructure, but if it's too expensive they can't afford it [and] there will also be profitability issues."

Taken together, the United States, Europe, Japan, and others have far outspent China in terms of funding in recent years as the pace of investment through the BRI has slowed down since reaching a peak in 2017.

How Global Gateway can be coordinated with other programs like B3W and leverage the necessary funds remains to be seen, but the project has high-level backing in Brussels and the $340 billion figure marks a substantial increase from an earlier amount attached to the initiative.

"The EU's biggest challenge will be to find the perfect combination of quality infrastructure and affordable prices," Brinza said. "If the EU [can] blend high standards with affordable costs, it will definitely succeed, especially considering that the BRI is passing through a phase of disappointment and criticism."



The arguments for and against boycotting sporting events


The Week, 01 December 2021

LONDON - With China preparing to host the 2022 Winter Olympics and Qatar set to stage the World Cup, calls are growing for boycotts of tournaments held in countries that violate human rights.

Saudi Arabia is also investing heavily in staging high-profile, international sporting events such as Formula One, as well as acquiring an 80% stake in Newcastle United F.C. Campaigners say such nations are using sports to cover up their poor human rights records – a tactic known as “sportswashing”. But while some argue that boycotting sporting tournaments is an effective way to strike back, critics claim the tactic risks scoring an own goal, according to the British publication The Week.


Boycotting sports events in places where human rights violations and corruption occur can “help deter their recurrence in the future”, argued Ilya Somin, a professor of Law at George Mason University in Virginia.

“Denying propaganda opportunities to oppressive regimes and tarnishing their image can incentivise reforms,” Somin wrote in an article for Reason magazine, published by the Reason Foundation libertarian think-tank. And “at the very least, boycotts in such cases can deny revenue and PR opportunities to the perpetrators of grave wrongs”.

The deaths and treatment of migrant workers in the construction of the stadiums for the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar has triggered anger worldwide. An analysis by The Guardian in February suggested that more than 6,500 migrants had died in the ten years since Qatar secured the hosting rights amid allegations of bribery. The total death tally equates to roughly one fatality for every minute of football to be played at the tournament.

The current England squad has been criticised for failing to speak out about human rights issues in Qatar, which ranks 126th out of 167 countries in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s latest World Democracy Index. Pro-boycotters including former Crystal Palace F.C. owner Simon Jordan have argued that national teams could make a difference by shunning the upcoming tournament.

Jordan told TalkSport last month that if the England squad “really want to do something about it then they boycott the World Cup”, adding that “anything else is tokenism and lip service”.

Opponents have insisted that international sports events should be kept free of politics. But Professor Somin argued on Reason that “the problem with this theory is that the Olympics and other similar events are virtually always used as propaganda tools by host governments, as happened with Nazi Germany in 1936, the USSR in 1980, and Vladimir Putin’s regime in 2014”.


Many critics question whether boycotts are effective. “Only the anti-apartheid movement’s campaign can be said to have made a significant and tangible contribution to political change,” wrote sports journalist David Goldblatt in an article for Prospect. And even that success required, “amongst other things: a truly global alliance of actors; a clear set of political and sporting demands; significant support from South African opponents of the apartheid regime; a combination of government support and social movement pressure from below; a situation in which exclusion from international sport carried real domestic political costs for the apartheid regime; and more than three decades of work”.

Given those requirements, he continued, “what hope is there that the boycott campaigns around Beijing 2022 and Qatar 2022 can gather support and make a difference?” And “what, exactly, are we asking for? The dissolution of the Chinese Communist Party? Citizenship for Qatar’s two million foreign workers?”

Opponents of boycotts also argue that it is unfair and unrealistic to ask athletes to sacrifice their careers. “Expecting a group of footballers to miss the biggest tournament of their lives, going above and beyond any other politician or cultural leader in the country, is unrealistic,” wrote the i news site’s chief football writer Daniel Storey.

Instead, some campaigners and organisations, including F.C. Bayern Munchen, advocate “change through dialogue”, said ISPO. The German club has maintained “excellent – and often heavily criticised – contacts with Qatar for years”, the sports magazine noted.

Gay fans of Newcastle United made a similar suggestion after a Saudi-backed group took over their club earlier this year. The United With Pride fans' group said that, rather than boycotting or other direct action, it hoped to work with the new owners to exert a “positive influence to improving the conditions for the LGBTQ+ community in Saudi Arabia”, reported Newcastle upon Tyne-based paper The Chronicle.

Despite being labelled “naive”, the group said they had collectively agreed to take a “pragmatic approach” to Newcastle's new owners rather than simply “burn bridges”.

Anti-boycott voices also argue that focusing as much attention as possible on tournaments is the most effective way to bring about change. For instance, Amnesty International opposes a boycott of Qatar 2022, saying that “we want to take advantage of the international attention at the World Cup”.

On a less idealistic note, German sports journalist and author Ronny Blaschke has argued that “anyone calling for a boycott of the World Cup in Qatar would have to boycott the entire football industry”, reported ISPO. Corruption is omnipresent in the sport, according to Blaschke, and “we should say goodbye to the utopia that the commercial logic of professional football can be overcome”.




How Gaza's water crisis is creating a humanitarian disaster

By Sally Ibrahim, The New Arab, 01 December 2021

In-depth: Israel's blockade and the destruction of key infrastructure during military operations have created a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, where 97 percent of the water is undrinkable.

Access to safe drinking water is an internationally recognised human right. But for Gazans, it is in short supply.

The Palestinian coastal enclave, home to more than two million people, suffers from an ongoing water crisis due to Israeli restrictions, the depletion of natural sources, and groundwater pollution.

Every day, Mohammed al-Assar, a resident from the al-Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, walks about 800 meters to fill three gallons of water that he takes from a mosque that provides it for free.

The 49-year-old father of seven told The New Arab that he could not use the water provided by the local municipality as it was salty and unsuitable for human use, especially drinking.

For years, he says, he used to buy desalinated water for his family, but it doubled his daily expenses. Two years ago, with the eruption of the coronavirus pandemic, he was forced to stop buying freshwater simply because he didn't have the means to purchase it.

Today, al-Assar is dependent on the $100 provided by a monthly Qatari grant for needy Palestinian families in the Gaza Strip. He is also reliant on food aid provided by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

"In the past, I was forced to buy 500 litres of drinking water a week, paying 10 US dollars, but currently, I do not think I can do this," he said with annoyance and anger.

Other families in similar conditions rely on charity organisations that set up water stations where they distribute these basic necessities, which have now become a commodity in Gaza.

Often, they are operated in front of mosques where dozens of local children gather to fill their pots and bottles with water.

Samah al-Masry, a teacher from Gaza city, also complains about the burden of accessing drinking water. The 39-year-old mother of two told TNA that she is forced to spend about 15 percent of her $350 monthly salary on water and electricity expenses.

"Usually, we rely on tap water for our daily housework, including showering, washing clothes and utensils, as well as cleaning the house. But the problem is that even basics such as tap water arrive three days a week, which means that women need to store water in large pots".

Amal al-Harazin, from the Jabalia refugee camp, suffers from the same crisis.

She says the salinity of the water has severe health repercussions, causing skin diseases and hair damage, not to mention the fact that her household utensils become corroded, the 36-year-old mother of four told TNA.

"If I buy desalinated water for housework, I will need to spend double of what my husband earns every day, and this means that we will all die of starvation," the Palestinian woman said, as she finished cooking for lunch.

The situation is similar for many families who live below the poverty line in Gaza.

The Hamas-run Water Authority accuses Israel of being responsible for exacerbating the water crisis after it imposed a strict blockade on Gaza in 2007.

According to officials in the Water Authority, about 97 percent of groundwater is polluted due to the suspension of most development projects and contamination with seawater.

Human rights organisations have warned for years about the deteriorating water situation in the Gaza Strip.

At the 48th session of the UN Human Rights Council in October, the Global Institute for Water, Environment and Health and the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said water in Gaza is "undrinkable" and "slowly poisoning" people.

The acute electricity crisis also hinders the operation of water wells and sewage treatment plants, leading to 80 percent of Gaza's untreated sewage being discharged into the sea, while 20 percent seeps underground.

In his speech to the Human Rights Council, Muhammed Shehada, chief of programs and communications at Euro-Med Monitor, said that about one-quarter of diseases spread in Gaza are caused by water pollution, and 12 percent of the deaths of young children are linked to intestinal infections related to contaminated water.

He added that the 11-day Israeli offensive on Gaza in May has severely affected basic water infrastructure and exacerbated the crisis in the besieged enclave.

Gaza municipality authorities said in a statement that 290 water supply facilities, including the sole desalination plant in northern Gaza, were damaged during the war and are in urgent need of repair. Sewage networks were also destroyed, flooding streets with dirty water.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), both salinity and nitrate levels in Gaza's groundwater have been "well above" the guidelines for safe drinking water.

About 50 percent of Gaza's children suffer from water-related infections, the WHO said.

In an effort to provide safe drinking water to Gazans, local authorities and private organisations have established desalination plants across the Strip.

Yassin desalination plant is one of the central stations in the sector that works on solar energy, producing approximately 800-900 cups of water per day.

"The water desalination process goes through several stages, including the removal of impurities, the addition of chemicals, their filtration, and the addition of sterilisers to the final product turning it into drinkable water," said Oday al-Danaf, the supervisor of the company's desalination process.

But although these plants help to ease the crisis, they are incapable of solving it all together.

According to Ahmed Helles, an environmental expert from Gaza, there are about 220 private desalination plants in the Strip, 70 percent of which are unlicensed and unattended and offer a product below the required level of quality.

"More than two million people are trapped between two options, the best of which is bitter. They are forced to use either water that is unsuitable for human use or desalinated water," he said.

He added that the main reason for the aggravation of the crisis is Israeli measures targeting the water sector, especially during times of escalation when the Israeli army bombs water wells, large reservoirs, and treatment plants.

In Gaza, three large factories manufacture desalinated water and package it in plastic containers for sale, while water from desalination plants is sold to smaller merchants.

Sally Ibrahim is a Palestinian reporter with The New Arab based in the Gaza Strip



State of Terror

By Rayyan Al-Shawaf, Carnegie Middle East, 30 November 2021

In an interview, Rémi Brulin discusses the term “terrorism,” and looks back at an Israeli bombing campaign in Lebanon.

Rémi Brulin, an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, has written extensively about the discourse of terrorism, particularly as formulated and deployed by powerful states. A particular focus of his has been the so-called Front for the Liberation of Lebanon from Foreigners (FLLF), a shadowy group that opposed the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and claimed responsibility for a series of car bombs and other attacks in Lebanon during the late 1970s and early 1980s. His interest derives from the FLLF’s suspected ties to Israel, which has long portrayed itself as being in the vanguard of the war on terrorism. Apparently defunct since the early or mid-1980s, the FLLF more recently received attention in Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations, a book by Israeli investigative journalist Ronen Bergman.


Rayyan Al-Shawaf: Ronen Bergman focuses on the Israeli politicomilitary establishment’s decisionmaking. However, as you have pointed out, Bergman writes—albeit in an endnote—that the FLLF was “a terrorist organization that Israel ran in Lebanon in the years 1980–1983, and which on its own attacked many PLO members and Palestinian civilians.” Is this acknowledgment significant?

Rémi Brulin: You are correct. Bergman does use the term “terrorist” to refer to the FLLF. The quote that you mention appears in an endnote to the book’s prologue. In another endnote, Bergman writes that, according to a senior Mossad official, “[T]he Front for the Liberation of Lebanon from Foreigners, a terrorist movement established by Meir Dagan in Lebanon, was responsible for” the bombing of the home of Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah in Beirut in March 1985. In his book Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981-1987, Bob Woodward wrote that William Casey, director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) during the years in question, had later told him that the CIA and Saudi Arabia were involved in the attack. A total of 83 people, mostly civilians, were killed. A banner stating “Made in USA” was later draped over part of the gutted building. In his book, Bergman suggests that Israel, via the FLLF, was involved.

What is rather striking, and also significant, is that Bergman devotes twelve pages of his book (pp. 234–247) to FLLF operations, yet neither in these pages nor in their endnotes does he use the term “terrorism” or “terrorist” to describe the group’s bombing campaign. Bergman reveals that very senior Israeli army officers—Meir Dagan, Rafael Eitan, and Avigdor Ben-Gal—secretly created the FLLF, a mysterious group that claimed responsibility for dozens of car bombings between 1979 and 1983, in order to “sow chaos” in Lebanon. He describes how then-defense minister Ariel Sharon used the FLLF bombs to provoke the PLO into resorting to terrorism, which would then give Israel an excuse to invade Lebanon in the name of fighting … “terrorism.” In just two weeks in the fall of 1981, Sharon’s car bombs killed at least 100 civilians in what were clearly indiscriminate attacks. Yet, despite the focus and subtitle of his book, Bergman avoids the crucial question of whether this secret FLLF campaign was an example of Israeli “targeted assassinations” or of something else entirely.

As I have documented in detail for Mondoweiss (here and here), the FLLF car-bombing campaign took place precisely at the time the Israeli government was carrying out a hasbara [“explanation,” often of a propagandistic nature] campaign to convince the United States and the rest of the Western world that Israel’s “terrorist” enemies, such as the PLO and its Arab allies, were in fact the enemy of the entire (civilized) Western world, and that the “war” Israel was waging against “the terrorists” was in fact a war “the West” as a whole would soon need to join.

The erasure of “our” terrorism is what allows for the discourse to remain unchallenged, and for the practices—immoral, counterproductive, and often deadly—that flow from this discourse to continue unabated. This is why Bergman’s reference to the FLLF as a “terrorist organization” in a couple of endnotes is so important. It is also why his studied avoidance of the term in the book’s actual text, and even in those specific endnotes that link back to the FLLF-related chapter, is so problematic and revealing.

RAS: It should come as no surprise that Israel would want to sweep the FLLF phenomenon under the rug, but what of the United States and its former ambassador to Lebanon, John Gunther Dean? Even if we set aside all the Palestinian and Lebanese civilians killed by the group, Dean has long maintained that the FLLP carried out the infamous August 1980 ambush of his embassy motorcade in Beirut, in which gunfire and light antitank weapons were used. And the FLLF claimed responsibility for the attack, correct?

RB: Right. Dean was often harshly criticized by Israel for his “pro-Palestinian” positions. Specifically, he was in favor of talking directly to the PLO. Dean has always insisted that Israel, through the use of proxies, was behind the attempt on his life in August 1980, and stated as much in his autobiography. Markings on unexploded missiles used during the attack on his motorcade revealed that the missiles had been sold by the United States to Israel. Dean pushed for an investigation. According to him, it went nowhere.

We know that in 1980, the FLLF claimed responsibility for the attack against Dean. We now also know, thanks to Bergman’s book, that the FLLF was a creation of Israel. This suggests, although it does not prove, that Dean may indeed have been correct and that the FLLF were the “proxies” he referred to in his autobiography. Bergman makes no reference at all to this attempted assassination in his book. I think that these revelations should have been major news, especially since we also know that in 1981 the Israeli military censor killed a story by two Israeli journalists (for Yedioth Ahronoth) that would have revealed that high-ranking Israeli army generals Rafael Eitan, Meir Dagan, Avigdor Ben-Gal, and others, were indeed behind the FLLF’s terrorist campaign. Interestingly, Bergman does not say a word about this act of censorship in his book.

In the United States, no media outlet has written about Bergman’s revelations. Bergman himself has appeared on countless interviews or podcasts to talk about his book, yet not a single journalist has asked him about these revelations. This is troubling on its own. Surely, historical truth matters and has value. It is troubling also because the discussion about the book is always framed as “the story of how Israel has used targeted assassinations in its fight against terrorism.” Even when Bergman or his interviewer/reviewer expresses criticism of Israeli policies or practices, the frame remains “this is all taking place in the righteous fight against terrorism.” Failing to mention the FLLF’s (in other words Israel’s) terrorist campaign is, in this context, extraordinarily troubling.

Such media silence is additionally problematic because it means that Israeli officials have not had to confirm or deny the veracity of what Bergman wrote. They have also not had to confirm, deny, or explain the decision by the Israeli military censor to kill a story that would have revealed all this (and potentially stopped the FLLF’s bombs from killing and maiming hundreds of people). Israeli officials have not been forced to launch an investigation into these alleged crimes.

RAS: Why have so many (Western) think tanks and academic-sounding journals purportedly devoted to the study of terrorism shown scant interest in the FLLF? Is the same historically true of other terrorist groups with ties to powerful Western countries?

RB: It’s possible that reviewers of Bergman’s book, which is very long, missed the significance of the relevant pages. Also, academic papers take time to write. They then need to move through the review process, meaning that they get published one or even two years later. So, there might in fact be a number of great papers about the FLLF that are about to get published. I do not know.

It is important to note, however, that there is no agreement among “terrorism experts” on how “terrorism” should be defined. Specifically, there is strong disagreement on whether it should apply solely to nonstate actors, or if it should encompass acts of “state-sponsored terrorism,” “state-supported terrorism,” and even “state terrorism.” It is striking to me how reluctant many of these terrorism experts are to discuss openly and publicly the consequences of their definitions when these definitions are applied in the real world.

In the 1980s, for example, the leading “terrorism journals” did not publish any articles about the Contras in Nicaragua, or about death squads in Guatemala, El Salvador, and elsewhere in Latin America. This was curious, to say the least, because the Contras repeatedly used methods that fit most definitions of “terrorism,” namely political violence against civilians. The death squads in El Salvador and Guatemala did the same thing on an even larger scale. These actors were trained, armed, and supported (to varying degrees) by the United States. Declassified documents show that U.S. analysts for the State Department or the Central Intelligence Agency repeatedly described them as “terrorists,” sometimes going so far as to express objections to policies that put the United States in the position of supporting or training terrorists. In the main terrorism journals, however, not only were these conflicts never mentioned, but countless articles published at the time (and since) simply take as self-evident that the United States “is opposed to all terrorism” and go on to assess the country’s “counterterrorism” policies around the world.

The field of “terrorism studies” has long been criticized precisely for focusing solely on “terrorists” that happen to be the enemies of various Western powers, while failing to focus on “terrorism” as a method used by Western states or their allies. This was pointed out in the 1980s by Noam Chomsky, Edward S. Herman, Michael Stohl, Edward Said, Christopher Hitchens, Alexander George, and others. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the subfield of Critical Terrorism Studies (CTS) came into being, as a correction to these alleged failings. CTS scholars claim that “orthodox terrorism experts” are much too close to (Western) centers of power.

RAS: This isn’t a specifically Western phenomenon, though, is it? Aren’t non-Western countries such as Russia, China, and Iran just as self-serving when it comes to determining who is a terrorist?

RB: That is absolutely correct. In the post-9/11 world, countless countries have used the rationale of “fighting terrorism” to justify deeply problematic, undemocratic, violent, and criminal policies. These issues have been deemed so significant that in 2005 the United Nations Commission on Human Rights created the position of Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism.

Russia is indeed a good example. Several United Nations reports have documented how it has used “antiterrorism” policies to target opponents of the regime (including journalists), infringe on civil liberties, engage in human rights violations, and so on. So, the point should certainly not be that what we have discussed here is a specifically Western phenomenon. It is not.

However, as someone who has focused on the genealogy of the discourses on “terrorism,” I would suggest that focusing on the American and Israeli discourses is warranted precisely because of the foundational role they have played in leading us to our current situation. That situation is one in which curbs on civil liberties, the justification of torture or “enhanced interrogation methods” because of so-called “ticking time bomb” scenarios, the spying on Muslim communities, and the use of entrapment, have gained widespread legitimacy as a means of fighting terrorism.

Indeed, everything in the post-9/11 American discourse on “terrorism” was already present in U.S. president Ronald Reagan’s discourse on the subject in the 1980s. And that discourse was, in turn, profoundly influenced by Israel’s discourse on terrorism. This matters now that we know that, while senior Israeli officials were conducting a hasbara campaign aimed at “selling” their country’s discourse to the West, and specifically to the United States, other Israeli officials were covertly conducting their very own (and extraordinarily deadly) campaign of “terrorism,” in part through the FLLF.

RAS: Does Israel’s recent designation of six Palestinian human rights and civil society organizations as terrorist entities figure into all this?

RB: Absolutely. This is how Zena Agha puts it in an excellent New York Times opinion piece: “It seems Israel’s goal is to weaponize the sprawling infrastructure of antiterrorism laws created around the world after Sept. 11, targeting Palestinian human rights defenders by labeling their legitimate work ‘terror,’ thus making their organizations, their efforts and their very persons toxic, untouchable and, most important, far harder to fund.” In many ways, this is simply the latest example in a long history of efforts by Israel to delegitimize anyone who is opposed to, or attempts to resist, its policies. To me, what this decision clearly highlights is the extent to which a number of states (not just Israel) are using the “terrorist/terrorism” label as an ideological and political weapon.

For decades now, Israeli officials have insisted that “terrorism” is a very clearly defined concept, and that it refers solely to the use of violence against civilians. This has allowed them to draw a stark line between “the terrorists,” described as savages and uncivilized precisely because they target civilians, and “us,” the (Western) states that oppose terrorism because we reject the targeting of civilians. Edward Said addressed this in 1986 in his superb essay “The Essential Terrorist.” In the real world, however, Israeli officials have never used the “terrorism” label in such a restrictive manner. Of course, they have condemned Palestinians who did indeed resort to “terrorism.” But they have also, and for decades, used that terminology to refer to Palestinians who used violence against purely military targets and to Palestinians engaged in entirely nonviolent activities.

Often, accusations aimed at civil society organizations and other nonviolent opponents of Israeli policies have been based on extraordinarily problematic assumptions about the kind of “ties” certain Palestinian individuals or organizations may have had with groups that Israel considers to be terroristic. This is perfectly illustrated in the latest case: Israel’s decision apparently rests on alleged ties between six Palestinian organizations and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which Israel, the United States, and the European Union list as a terrorist group.

A number of news organizations have been able to study and analyze the “secret file” that contains the evidence on which Israel based its decision, and have shown that the accusations against the six organizations are completely unfounded. The basic logic is guilt by association: The PFLP is a terrorist group, meaning that any ties one has with the PFLP makes one a terrorist. Israel has employed the same logic to target and kill Palestinian journalists, based on the rationale that they were members of Hamas and therefore not journalists at all, but rather “terrorists.”

In many ways, when we think of Israel’s recent decision regarding these Palestinian organizations, we should recall what happened after 9/11 to countless Muslim organizations in the United States In a number of “material support to terrorism” cases against U.S. Muslim organizations (perhaps most infamously in the Holy Land Foundation case), Israel was directly involved, and even went so far as to provide spies as witnesses for the prosecution.

RAS: Have you noticed any recent trends in terms of which individuals or entities are branded as terroristic by powerful Western countries and those moving within their orbit? Are the likes of Julian Assange and Wikileaks, Edward Snowden, and Chelsea Manning at risk of being labeled terrorists?

RB: To identify a trend, one has to look at the relevant history. States have long used the “terrorism” label to delegitimize their opponents. The Nazis did so with resistance groups across Europe and beyond. Colonial France did the same with its enemies during its wars in Algeria and Indochina. The United States followed suit and labeled the Viet Cong “terrorists.” During the 1970s and 1980s, Latin American dictators, supported by Washington, used the “terrorist” label to delegitimize all “subversive” enemies. For example, after taking power in a coup supported by the CIA, General Augusto Pinochet of Chile repeatedly insisted he was fighting against “subversives” and “terrorists.” Time and again, he accused Orlando Letelier, a former diplomat who had fled Chile and lobbied against the Pinochet government in Washington, of being a “terrorist.” Letelier’s advocacy focused on defending human rights in his home country. He had very close ties to certain Democrats in Congress.

In 1976, Pinochet’s secret services planted a bomb under Letelier’s car. Letelier and his aide, Ronny Moffitt, were killed in the explosion, which took place on Embassy Row in the heart of Washington. This was condemned as an act of “terrorism” by the Carter administration and countless others in the United States. U.S. military aid to Chile was stopped once it became clear that the Pinochet regime would not investigate the bombing and would not bring the culprits to justice.

The Letelier assassination took place under the umbrella of Operation Condor, a secret system of crossborder repression put together by several Latin American dictatorships in order to fight against and eliminate their “subversive, terrorist” enemies. In the real world, Operation Condor itelf was, as the Letelier car bombing illustrates, an international terrorist network. This is yet another example of the propagandistic nature of the “terrorism” discourse: The very states that claimed to be fighting “terrorism” were themselves engaged in an international campaign of “terrorism.”

In the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, U.S. economic and military aid to a number of right-wing regimes in Latin America—Chile, Guatemala, El Salvador—was a very contentious issue. Reagan insisted on providing aid to such countries. The argument put forth was that terrorism was the worst violation of human rights, and that U.S. aid would go toward helping these regimes fight terrorism. The terrorists, in this argument, were the left-wing groups opposed to Washington’s allies in the region.

To defend these policies, Reagan and his Republican allies in Congress had to certify that U.S. weapons were not going to human rights violators. To do so, they had to consistently reject reports from human rights organizations that documented precisely such abuses and described how these Latin American countries’ security forces had intimate ties to death squads. For example, Reagan insisted that U.S. support for the Contras in Nicaragua was part of the “war on terrorism.” In this case, the left-wing Sandinistas were the “terrorists,” and the Contras were “freedom fighters.” Many Democrats opposed this policy, insisted that the Contras themselves used methods that qualified as terrorism, and explicitly stated that U.S. support for the Contras amounted to state-supported or state-sponsored terrorism.

This is particularly interesting because Joe Biden, then a young senator, took part in some of these debates. He knows how contentious the term “terrorism” is. He knows that, throughout the 1980s, Democrats and Republicans could not agree on how to define it. They could not agree on who “the terrorists” were in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Chile, El Salvador, and of course South Africa, where Republicans insisted that the African National Congress and its imprisoned leader, Nelson Mandela, were terrorists. Democrats, in turn, argued it was Apartheid South Africa that was a terrorist state!

The only conflict where there has never been any disagreement as to the identity of the “terrorists” is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Democrats and Republicans have always agreed that Palestinians are perpetrators, and never victims, of terrorism, while Israelis are always victims, and never perpetrators, of terrorism. This is another reason why the FLLF revelations are so important.

In many ways, 9/11 simply consolidated and hegemonized discursive practices that had existed for decades. As mentioned, Letelier was labeled a terrorist by the Chilean government. His real crime? Documenting human rights violations by his government and lobbying Congress to force policy changes in Washington. Julian Assange, similarly, has uncovered grave crimes committed by the United States overseas. In 2010, he was labeled a “terrorist” by then vice president Joe Biden. A number of other U.S. officials have since labeled him such, as have media pundits and commentators intent on delegitimizing his and other whistleblowers’ work. This is crucial because many U.S. policies and activities that Assange and others have brought to light were criminal. At times, they may have amounted to war crimes, and “terrorism” can be thought of as the peacetime equivalent of war crimes. The fact that those who reveal such crimes would themselves be labeled terrorists says a lot about how propagandistic the discourse can be.

There is a parallel here with the aforementioned Palestinian human rights and civil society organizations that Israel has designated as terrorist groups. Some of these organizations are doing tremendously important work documenting what may amount to Israeli war crimes. A number of their findings have been used to build the case for an International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into the Israeli military’s various operations in Gaza. Similarly, revelations from Wikileaks have helped document possible U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. Of course, both Israel and the United States have refused to join the ICC, and have repeatedly rejected the very idea that the court should have the right or power to investigate their alleged crimes. Attacks against the Palestinian organizations or against whistleblowers such as Assange, Snowden, and Daniel Hale should be seen in the context of continued efforts by the United States and Israel to avoid any kind of accountability for the crimes of which they are accused.

Carnegie does not take institutional positions on public policy issues; the views represented herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Carnegie, its staff, or its trustees.




Syria: Shoring Up Raqqa’s Shaky Recovery

International Crisis Group, Report No 229, 18 November 2021

After suffering grievously under ISIS, and during the battles to defeat it, Raqqa is being rebuilt. The calm is tenuous, however. The U.S. and partners should work toward long-term stability in Syria’s north east, through investment and talks about sustainable governance and security arrangements.

Principal Findings


What’s new? Two years after an abrupt withdrawal of U.S. troops followed by a Turkish incursion, Raqqa is largely quiet. Yet the stability of this Kurdish-controlled predominantly Arab province in north-eastern Syria is precarious and hinges on U.S. deterrence of military moves from Turkey and/or Russia in tandem with the Damascus regime.

Why does it matter? Raqqa’s trajectory and fault lines provide insight into the challenges ahead in Syria. Regional and international forces use the area to project power and pursue their security interests. Any sudden shift in the balance of power is liable to lead to violence, severe humanitarian crisis and mass displacement.

What should be done? The Biden administration has signalled that it will maintain U.S. forces in Syria for the time being. While the deployment continues, the U.S. and other anti-ISIS coalition members should promote steps to stabilise the north east, including areas like Raqqa. They should seek diplomatic arrangements to avert further disruptive offensives.


Executive Summary


Raqqa, the former de facto capital of the Islamic State (ISIS), today is among the more stable areas in Syria. Yet this relative success rests on wobbly foundations. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) who control Raqqa city as well as the majority of the province govern efficiently, but high-handedly as some perceive it, fomenting occasional unrest. The province in which the city sits remains divided and contested among Turkey, Russia and the Syrian regime, while ISIS remnants exploit porous internal borders to move around. Tit-for-tat confrontations between Turkey and the SDF keep the northern border on edge and could escalate. Crucially, Raqqa’s stability depends on the U.S. troops stationed further east, whose presence deters what otherwise could be a violent free-for all. While this deployment continues, the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition should carry on investing in stabilising the area; encourage the SDF to adhere to ceasefires and reduce its monopoly upon local governance; and work toward negotiating sustainable arrangements sufficient to avert potentially destabilising military moves.

In the battles leading to ISIS’s defeat in Raqqa, the city and its immediate surroundings underwent destruction on an almost unimaginable scale. Today, the area has come back to life. With support from the coalition, the SDF established an array of institutions to secure, rebuild and administer the province, with a particular focus on the city of the same name. Despite the abrupt partial withdrawal of U.S. forces from Raqqa in October 2019 and the subsequent Turkish military incursion, security, economic conditions and governance practices are better in Raqqa than elsewhere in Syria, including in adjacent regions that equally suffered under ISIS rule but were reclaimed by Damascus.

Yet the potential for renewed destabilisation and conflict remains. Raqqa governorate is divided into three areas, distinctly controlled by rival powers, each with its own limitations. Most of the province, including the city, is under control of the SDF, a non-state actor with connections to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a Kurdish militant group fighting an insurgency against Turkey since 1984. The northern part along the Turkish border is in the hands of Syrian factions ushered in by Turkey’s October 2019 incursion. Small pockets on the south-western edge are controlled by the Syrian regime, which has proven unable or unwilling to provide basic services and security to the population there. Russian forces also are on the ground; they do not hold territory, but they have established bases from which they conduct joint patrols with Turkish troops and, separately, with SDF and regime units under the terms of the 2019 ceasefire.

Any number of developments could violently upset the status quo. Resilient ISIS elements could exploit the lack of coalition presence in Raqqa, local Arabs’ alienation from SDF rule or deteriorating economic conditions to make new inroads with the hope of staging a comeback. Frictions between the SDF and the regime over governance, security and resource streams in areas where they uneasily coexist or are immediate neighbours could bring the two sides to blows. Turkey, which sees the SDF’s links to the PKK as a threat to its national security, could go on the offensive again, for example in response to attacks originating from SDF-controlled areas on its forces or the factions it backs in the north.

For now, these scenarios are kept at bay by the presence of a small contingent of U.S. forces further east and the support it provides for SDF control of the area. Absent an agreement between these actors and the SDF that provides credible guarantees against violent competition over territory and resources, there is a high probability that, were the U.S. to withdraw troops precipitously, north-eastern Syria would descend into chaos liable to trigger a severe humanitarian crisis and massive displacement. The Biden administration has signalled that it does not intend to withdraw U.S. forces for the time being; the criticism it has received for the chaotic pullout from Afghanistan makes such a move even less likely.

While the U.S. deployment continues, Washington and other anti-ISIS coalition members should use the leverage their presence in the north east affords to keep investing in the area’s stabilisation, encouraging negotiations among the parties and working in parallel to reach diplomatic understandings that would avert military moves by Ankara or Damascus if and when the U.S. does leave. Such efforts are key to addressing governance gaps and grievances that ISIS could exploit. Assistance should be contingent on the SDF both adhering to ceasefires and reducing its monopoly upon governance, including by enabling more substantial participation by non-SDF-affiliated Arabs and Kurds in the autonomous administration and local government’s decision making. The U.S. should push the SDF to restrain insurgent attacks on Turkish-controlled areas in the north, while seeking to dissuade Ankara from escalating on its end. At the same time, Washington should signal to all involved parties – Damascus, Moscow, Ankara and the SDF – its interest in exploring arrangements that could stabilise the area in a sustainable way.

Raqqa/Ankara/Brussels, 18 November 2021

To download the full report, visit:




Not Disobeying God

Michael Young Interview with Leena El-Ali, Carnegie Middle East Center, 25 Nov. 2021

In an interview, Leena El-Ali explains what the Qur’an really says about the rights of women.


Leena El-Ali is the founder and managing member of Bona Smarts LLC, a Washington, D.C.-based international development consultancy. A former London-based investment banker for over a decade, she also works to bring sustainable and impact-sensitive approaches to international aid and investment. Diwan interviewed El-Ali in late November to discuss her new book, No Truth Without Beauty: God, the Qur’an, and Women’s Rights, which she has just published with Palgrave Macmillan. It is part of the Sustainable Development Series cobranded by the United Nations, Springer Nature, and Palgrave Macmillan. She has made the e-book accessible for free, while hard copies can be bought at subsidized prices. A link to the e-book will be inserted here this coming weekend once the book is out.


Michael Young: What was the main purpose in writing your book?

Leena El-Ali: After more than fifteen years working on a variety of community, national, and cross-border conflicts throughout South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East and North Africa, it became clear to me that there were many misperceptions about what the Qur’an says about many issues. Those myths and beliefs can often prevent people from embracing or participating in seemingly beneficial solutions or reforms. Regular people, both men and women, are often held back by guilt, specifically the fear of doing the wrong thing from a religious perspective. And quite often such concerns include whether and how women can be involved in their communities and societal initiatives and institutions at large.

So, the idea was to consolidate and synthesize the wonderful work of so many extraordinary scholars on the subject of women and the Qur’an, rather than leave the information diffuse and relatively difficult to build upon. In the process, just to be clear and transparent, I had some new insights which I highlight as such in the book, so as not to conflate them with previously-published views by such scholars. I also decided to cover all the issues on which women are treated differently from men and that are usually attributed to the Qur’an or Islam as such—seventeen topics in all. These include the subordination of wives to husbands, the right to divorce, political and religious leadership, inheritance rights, legal testimony, domestic violence, and much more. The book is intended to serve as a comprehensive, user-friendly reference for anyone seeking answers.

MY: In your book you make a distinction between the Islamic and the Qur’anic that is essential for your approach. Can you explain the importance of this distinction?

LEA: In essence, Qur’anic refers to what is written in the Qur’an whereas Islamic refers to how the faith has evolved over time and place. Qur’anic verses were divinely communicated to the Prophet Mohammed, according to Muslim belief, over the course of the 23 years of his mission. The verses were written down on parchments as they were being revealed, and two years after the Prophet’s death the first caliph, Abu Bakr, had them gathered into a single volume. This volume became the basis, 21 years after the Prophet’s passing, for the standardized form of the Qur’an we have today.

But what we call “Islamic” resides in the cumulative folds of Muslim history over the course of no less than fourteen centuries, with all of the ebbs and flows, customs and trends, brilliance and shortcomings of a wide variety of circumstances, cultures, and challenges. What has happened is that we have gotten lost in the unfolding of history, in a sense, so that an issue that has been labeled “Islamic” by the powers that be at any time, anywhere, is often taken as the bona fide source of its own legitimacy, as its own nonnegotiable starting point. This has proven to be far from a benign phenomenon on a vast array of topics in many communities, and indeed for many individuals, not only as relating to women’s issues. In sum, we must examine everything that is labeled “Islamic” in light of the Qur’an and see how it holds up before accepting that label.

MY: What did your research into hadiths, or reports on the sayings and actions of the Prophet Mohammed, allow you to conclude about the role of women in the Qur’an?

LEA: This was the most surprising aspect of this journey for me on several fronts. On the one hand, the hadith reports of the Prophet Mohammed’s actions as relating to women show him to have been exceptionally emancipated and egalitarian not only for his time and place, but even by today’s standards when we compare with what goes on in many Muslim societies. He gave life to the written word of the Qur’an at every turn, as indeed was his mission. If we line up all of the verses that refer to women’s issues, we would notice that there is a persistent current of what in the United States is referred to as “affirmative action” that revolves around the recognition, protection, inclusion, and promotion of women.

The hadith reports moreover tell us that some of these verses that advocate for women’s rights were revealed in response to the activism of the women themselves at the time. This included their mobilization to demand the right to inheritance, to challenge unfair divorce customs, and even to question why the Qur’an addressed people in the masculine plural (for example the plural “you” in Arabic is masculine, as in many other languages), thereby throwing doubt on whether it was including them in its message at all!

On the other hand, the hadith reports of the Prophet’s sayings as relating to women turned out to be more of a mixed bag. Not all of these appear consistent with the message of the Qur’an or with the Prophet’s own actions. While there are only about a half-dozen sayings denigrating women that are designated as “reliably transmitted,” these have come to dominate the discourse despite the volume of evidence in support of women’s spiritual and societal equality. On a side note, I should mention that the hadiths were compiled 200–300 years after the Prophet’s passing, and that these compilations also contain sayings and commentaries by others.

MY: How would you characterize the rights of women today in many Muslim communities?

LEA: Muslim societies have gone from being ahead of the pack by centuries, if not by over a millennium on some issues—think divorce rights, property ownership and inheritance rights, and even civil or interfaith marriage—to being left behind in an ironically pre-Islamic time warp on many other issues. Most egregiously, rather than take ownership of our own choices, we blame that which we claim to love the most—our God. Disappointing.

MY: Following on from the last question, there is a widespread perception in the West that Islam denigrates women, and you acknowledge that many Muslim communities treat women as “second-rate beings.” Yet you also make the point that the Qur’an takes a very different view. Can you elaborate?

LEA: It’s important to begin by asking the right question, which to my mind is: What does the Qur’an tell us is God’s purpose in creating human beings and placing them on earth? It’s to be His representatives, and we’re even given a job description: To spread kindness and eschew the morally distasteful, to worship God and give in charity, to obey God and His messenger, and to work on the content of our hearts. The Qur’an moreover tells its readers that “believing men and believing women are each other’s protectors.” It could hardly be simpler or clearer: To prevent women from full engagement in the world or deprive them of their free will is, quite simply, to dis-obey the Qur’anic God.

MY: You’ve made your book open access to all. Why do so?

LEA: I wrote this book as a bridge between scholarly works on women’s issues and the average reader of whatever background who may not have the time, inclination, or ability to read these works directly. This is reflected in the book’s language and presentation, but it must necessarily also be reflected in its availability to anyone, anywhere. I hope to bring joy to people’s hearts and would hate to think that the cost or logistics might get in the way.


Carnegie does not take institutional positions on public policy issues; the views represented herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Carnegie, its staff, or its trustees.



North Africa

Why the closure of Algeria's gas pipeline to Morocco will prove costly for all

By Yasmina Allouche, the New Arab, 01 December 2021

After 25 years, the Maghreb Europe Gas pipeline (GME) has had its operations suspended after Algeria's decision last month to end its contract following the rupture in relations with neighbour Morocco.

Inaugurated in 1996, the pipeline has transferred billions of cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas annually from Algeria to southern Spain along 1,400 kilometres across northwest Africa and 540 kilometres of Moroccan territory.

Algiers will now deliver its natural gas to Spain exclusively through an undersea pipeline to avoid going through Morocco. The GME has a capacity of transferring around 12 bcm annually but in poorly performing years like 2019, production can be limited to 7 bcm passing through the pipeline.

Europe has long considered the energy potential of the Sahara desert in North Africa, which could generate renewable and solar energy that would meet European energy demands.

However, many North Africans fear that Europe's help in fulfilling its targets for greenhouse emission cuts could plunder local resources, cause environmental damage, and solely serve the interests of corrupt elites.

As relations between Morocco and Algeria continue to deteriorate significantly, the consequences will not only affect the Maghreb region. Europe will now have to contend with decisions that do not prioritise its interests at a time when countries like Spain are struggling with skyrocketing prices of electricity, fuel, and natural gas.

In July, the Moroccan ambassador to the UN called for the self-determination of the Kabyle people in Algeria, which was seen as a direct “insult” to the sovereignty and unity of the country.

In turn, Algiers accused Morocco of supporting the "terrorist" arsonists of the forests of Kabylia and unilaterally severed diplomatic relations, closing the border, recalling its ambassador, and now suspending one of the last few forms of cooperation between the two states.

Uncertainty about the pipeline’s future is an issue that concerns both Morocco and Algeria and jeopardises any chance of industrial cooperation that would help connect the Maghreb region more closely to world trade.

Competition to be the leading regional power has defined the bitter rivalry over the last two decades (which both the EU and the US have had little interest in fixing) and is the driving force behind why broader economic cooperation, trade, and investment across North Africa and neighbouring regions have failed to progress despite great potential.

Since the 1994 closure of land and sea borders between Morocco and Algeria, commercial transactions had been considerably reduced but still functioning. Until 2016, Algiers was Rabat's primary trading partner, since replaced by Egypt and Côte d'Ivoire.

With the suspension of the pipeline, commercial transactions will continue to deteriorate and make more room for smuggling and informal border trade, which is driven by drug, fuel, and medicine trafficking.

With both countries suffering from high unemployment rates, political discontent, and tepid economic indicators, the timing of the pipeline’s suspension will only further exacerbate a delicate situation by threatening thousands of jobs during a time when poverty is on the rise and social and political stability is fragile.

The GME gas transit has proven advantageous for the two neighbours over the course of its history. Algiers benefits from a low-cost route for its exports to Spain and Portugal, and Rabat, which lacks alternative sources of natural gas supply, has received an average of 1.07 bcm annually over the last five years making up over 95% of the total supply for its power sector.

While Morocco’s National Office for Hydrocarbons and Mines and the National Office for Electricity and Drinking Water have ensured that Algeria’s move will not have a "insignificant impact" on performance in the immediate future and that all necessary measures have been taken to continue to supply the kingdom with gas, it may still face an energy crisis of its own if it fails to recover lost numbers, with few alternative options.

To add to Spain’s worries, Morocco has also renewed the license for Qatar Petroleum to explore oil in its southern waters near the Canary Islands after Italy sold 30% of its share to Qatar Petroleum. The move comes a year after Morocco passed laws delimiting its maritime borders with Spain giving Morocco exclusive authority over research, economic activity, and resources in the area, which was heavily criticised in Spain.

Morocco’s own relations with Germany and Spain have soured over the past year, something which it will look to remedy quickly if it wishes to maintain its regional dominance over Algeria.

Since the pipeline suspension, Rabat has also stepped up efforts to strengthen its economic relations with France as the latter manoeuvres the bumpy terrain it shares with Algeria, which is currently on bad terms with the Elysée.

Algeria will now be looking to reassure Spain that the GME closure will not affect its exports, which accounted for 34.8 bcm between 2016 and 2020 or 52% of its total exports to Spain. Spain also receives natural gas from a second pipeline in Algeria called the Medgaz pipeline, which was inaugurated a decade ago and is jointly controlled by the Algerian state and Spanish energy company Naturgy.

While all operations will now rest on the Medgaz route for Spain to cover nearly half of all the natural gas it consumes annually from Algeria, there are still concerns the pipeline will be unable to make up for the shortfall from the GME closure.

In order to avoid a significant production decrease, Algeria would need to increase the capacity of the Medgaz pipeline, which currently provides a quarter of all the natural gas that reaches Spain, to over 10 bcm a year for Spain to be able to cover its needs.

Another option aside from the Medgaz submarine route would be to ship more liquefied natural gas (LNG) but that may prove to be a poor economic decision for Algeria in the long term due to frequent outages at key LNG export facilities, and in the scenario that Spain ends up diversifying its gas sources and reducing its dependence on Algeria as its primary source.

Algeria may decide to restart supplies again at some point in the future, but in order for this to resume a substantial degree of political will needs to be in place as it contends with the threat of the Tel Aviv-Washington-Rabat axis on its territory.

Yasmina Allouche is a freelance journalist and researcher working on the Maghreb with a special focus on Algeria.




Libya needs more than a vote

By Tim Eaton and Tarek Megerisi, Chatham House, The World Today, 03 December 2021

The international community must ensure a clear and workable election process if Libya is to achieve stability, argue Tim Eaton and Tarek Megerisi

On December 24, 2021, Libyans are due to vote in elections that seek to provide a unified, legitimate, national government for Libya for the first time since 2014. Yet, a myopic focus on creating a new government obscures the fact that the measure of success should not be that government’s mere existence, but rather what it can achieve.

The government will be elected on a contested basis but there is little clarity over how the roles and responsibilities of key positions in the process will operate. We have seen how this plays out before.

In 2014, a second bout of civil war followed parliamentary elections as rival governments emerged. If this latest poll is to be a success, the ambiguities of the election process must be clarified. In the longer term, means to initiate national reconciliation and address sources of conflict within the economic and security sectors must be established to make any gains sustainable.

At first glance, it seems that all Libyans and the international community are united behind elections. Yet, despite the pro-election statements, a zero-sum competition for power continues. The fight is now over the electoral process for whoever controls what happens next. Those in positions of power see the elections as an opportunity for advancement or self-renewal but place a priority on protecting their current position should the process collapse.

Abdul Hamid Dabaiba, the prime minister of the Government of National Unity, has been arguing that ‘stabilization’ must precede elections. Should the election falter, then his framework for stabilizing Libya will become the default – and perhaps only – policy option in play.

Dabaiba has courted support through the rollout of populist policies, such as handing out 40,000 dinar ($9,000) grants to newly married couples and kickstarting reconstruction through his ‘Reviving Life’ project. Yet, the tendering of these contracts has raised eyebrows given the Dabaiba’s family history of enrichment while in charge of Libyan state institutions. Critics claim these projects are little more than a series of payoffs, using public funds to obtain political support.

Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, who demolished 2019’s political process by marching his troops on Tripoli, has spent most of the year trying to ensure he can run for office while guarding his independence by preventing political or military unification in Libya. There is little prospect that candidates standing in areas under Haftar’s control could meaningfully challenge him, and there is no realistic way of ensuring the polls are free and fair. Should the elections fail, or if Haftar performs poorly, he will no doubt return to barracks and dispute the victor’s authority. This is highly likely as it is difficult to see how he will obtain the necessary votes to get over the line in the more populous west of the country that he spent two years attacking.

Aguila Saleh, Speaker of the chronically divided Libyan parliament, has capitalized on international desperation for the election to ride roughshod over due process. While seen as a competitor to Haftar, Saleh has done much to facilitate Haftar’s candidacy, whose attack on Tripoli he supported. Having blocked any progress on the substantive side of elections – the constitutional basis and electoral law – until the autumn, Saleh then unilaterally drafted and passed election ‘laws’, that are more accurately described as decrees. These decrees transformed Libya into a presidential system, with an ill-drafted constitutional basis that creates an executive of largely unchecked power and would delay a vote on a new parliament until at least a month after presidential elections.

While Saleh is known to have aspirations of being elected president, it is difficult to see how he could overtake Haftar let alone win votes outside of his eastern constituency. His calculation seems to be that either political rivals across Libya will object to a vote or that the process will not deliver a result. Either of these outcomes would allow Saleh to stay on and grow his power.

To further complicate matters, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the heir apparent of his late father, threw his hat into the ring. Saif’s prospects of winning are highly limited owing to the fragmented nature of the so-called Greens. But his re-emergence poses a further challenge to Haftar as they compete for the support of the same constituencies, and it has sparked rage among pro-revolutionary groups.

Perhaps most important at this stage is the question of who will be able to run. This issue is becoming more hotly contested by the day. Saif’s candidacy has now been rejected due to a prior in absentia conviction, while the court is currently considering appeals for Dabaiba’s expulsion. Exclusions are subject to appeal, and whichever way they fall the decisions have major ripple effects. Less than a month from the polls, the electoral process is at breaking point.

Rebooting the peace process

The current political process was built on the rubble of previous United Nations’ efforts that collapsed as Haftar marched on Tripoli. By the summer of 2020, Turkey had stopped Tripoli falling to Haftar’s international coalition only for Russia to re-enforce Libya’s division by imposing a new front line in the central city of Sirte.

Russia worked with Egypt to piece together a new eastern Libyan political entity through which they could channel their interests. Egypt then appealed to the United States and France to recreate the failed peace process between western and eastern Libyan factions who represented international interests yet lacked support within Libya.

The international community was gridlocked, and so turned back to the UN to resolve the situation. With limited room to operate and with an inappropriate format for peace-making imposed on them, the UN worked to try and formalize peace and restart Libya’s political realignment afresh.

An old format of a joint military council was brought together to forge a ceasefire, while elections were resurrected to generate a legitimate leader to bring about change.

In the event, the military council was a body of delegates with no leading military members taking part. In addition, it focused on lofty goals, such as the removal of foreign forces from Libya, rather than any security sector reform, unification or accountability measures that would have made the resumption of conflict within Libya less easy.

Similarly, the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum convened by the UN to create a strategy for political change, became a hollow forum of delegates. Despite its initial conception as a means to displace what Stephanie Williams, the then acting UN Special representative, dismissed as ‘Libya’s political dinosaurs’, the opportunity for bringing together individuals who could garner popular legitimacy to reconcile, reform and finally resolve Libya’s 10-year transition was missed.

The UN calculated that including members of the opposing parliament and consultative body that had presided over Libya’s political split in 2014 was necessary for progress, but lax follow-up and oversight of the process by Jan Kubis, the incoming UN Special Envoy who has since resigned , allowed the dinosaurs to dominate. The elements of the forum that the UN had originally sought to empower were marginalized. This meant that the Military Commission and the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, the two vehicles for driving Libya’s change, were dependent on those who benefited most from Libya remaining the same.

The forceful insistence by Richard Norland, the US Special Envoy for Libya, to hold elections by any means necessary and his support from France and Egypt – both of whom have long intervened in Libya to support the return of military authoritarianism – did suggest that the elections would take place, but legal wranglings over the process now threaten to derail it.

Even if the polls do proceed, there has been little content to the international consensus on the need for elections. The need to show progress towards that goal has meant a blind eye has been turned to destabilizing interference from external
actors in any forum that mattered.

Where do we go from here?

As Libya heads towards elections, it is apparent that a focus on ensuring the elections happen without the accompanying conditions to make polls meaningful has been a mistake. The international community’s lack of willingness to steward the process has allowed a transfer of power from the architects of the strategy and neutral international sponsors to parties involved in the conflict. This has placed the arsonists in charge of putting out the fire.

Despite their clear procedural violations, Saleh’s decrees were effectively rubber stamped by the UN Special Envoy who presented them to the Security Council as electoral laws that would serve as the basis for elections. Since then, Libya’s electoral commission has come under international pressure to conduct the polls based on Saleh’s unilateral decrees.

As a result, it is legitimate to ask what the planned elections might actually change. Given the level of fragmentation within Libya, a decisive result is unlikely. There is little time for new entrants on the political scene to make an impact and such is the level of disagreement over the parameters of the process itself that it will be easy for Libyan rivals to disavow the results.

Given the international community’s commitment to delivering elections, it must now seek to do all it can to rescue the process it started. At the very least, open questions over the sequencing of the poll, the transfer of power and clarifications over roles and responsibilities of key posts must be clarified before December 24. Finally, the international community must press Libyan candidates to agree publicly to accept the result of the polls, win or lose. If these minimum requirements are not met, then the electoral process will be a road to nowhere.

Looking beyond December 24, it must be noted that an electoral process is not a substitute for negotiation over the substantive issues that have driven the conflict.

A programme for ending Libya’s troubles must rely on a broader process of milestones for progress on key issues such as the reunification of institutions, economic and governance reform, security sector reform, reconciliation and transitional justice.

Elections form an important part of such a process but are not the sole element. This also involves accepting that a new government will not address all of these divisive challenges without considered assistance from the international community. The lessons of other post-conflict states such as Lebanon and Iraq clearly indicate it will not.

These deeper questions may be side-lined as the focus on elections narrows but they will not go away. Worryingly, there is no indication that Europe, the US or the UN are ready to deal with them once elections in Libya have been held.




How Egypt's grandiose neo-Pharaonism lends legitimacy to its strongman

By Kyle J. Anderson, The New Arab, 23 November 2021

CAIRO - Over the course of the past year, the Egyptian government, led by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has been transporting the millennia-old remains of the Pharaohs from the Museum of Antiquities outside Tahrir Square to the new Grand Egyptian Museum outside of the pyramids at Giza. The fanfare started in April, with 22 mummies making their way through the forcibly-cleared streets of Cairo and a nationally-televised celebration dubbed the "Pharaohs' Golden Parade." It continued in August, with the so-called "solar barque" transported through Cairo in a remote-controlled vehicle imported from Belgium. This week, the Egyptian regime is planning a grandiose reopening of the Avenue of Sphinxes (Kebash Road) in Luxor, in a ceremony to be attended by Sisi himself.

As these events have unfolded, I followed the reactions of Egyptians watching on social media. Many were supportive, but some expressed criticism at the pomp and circumstance.

One of the most insightful comments came from the eminent Egyptian historian Khaled Fahmy, who compared Sisi's ostentatious displays with the opening ceremony of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, hosted by Adolf Hitler and immortalized in Leni Riefenstahl's film Olympia.

Many will rightly object to a comparison between Hitler's fascism and Sisi's populist brand of neo-Pharaonism. After all, Hitler's ideology posited the mythical Aryan race as a superior racial subject to genocidal effect, while Egyptians have been the object of European racism, especially during decades of French and British colonialism. Moreover, after coming to power in the 1930s, the National Socialist state in Germany established a whole body of laws that defined German citizenship in terms of blood and descent, prohibited marriage between Germans and Jews, and institutionalised eugenics including by forcibly sterilising people.

Yet I agree with Mohamed Elshahed's recent observation about Egypt that, "if a state views its population as a burden not an asset, that's a red flag to notice."

Pharaonic nationalism shares a common history, as well as what philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein would call a deep conceptual "grammar," with the kind of European race science that culminated in Hitler's National Socialism. Historian Ivan Hannaford links National Socialism with "the racialization of history," when, beginning in the nineteenth century, human societies were reimagined as being naturally divided into a set of discrete units that could trace their roots back to racially-pure communities in deep historical time. Influential thinkers like the Prussian diplomat and historian Barthold Niebuhr (1776-1831) posited that it was relations between these groups of race and blood that provided the key to understanding history.

As a recent volume edited by Marius Turda and Paul Weindling demonstrates, by the period from 1900 to 1940, this type of "racial nationalism" had spread throughout central and southern Europe.

The racialization of history may have been the result of a long tradition of race-thinking in Europe, but Elise K. Burton's recent book shows how this was also a global process. In the 1880s, missionary schools in Beirut hosted the Austrian anthropologist Felix von Luschan as he measured the skulls of people in the Ottoman Levant. Observing the endogamous community of Maronites in Mount Lebanon, he asserted that they had "preserved an old type in an almost marvellous purity."

Connecting Maronites with the ancient Phoenicians, French colonial administrators and Francophone Lebanese nationalists associated this with what they called the "Phoenician race" (race phénicienne). In the 1920s, the American University in Beirut launched a major anthropometry program that measured the cranial indices of thousands of people, which was partly an effort to discover the "present representatives" of the Phoenicians.

Phoenicianism gave Maronites in Lebanon the opportunity to project an identity that pre-dates their adoption of the Arabic language—associated as it was with the Muslim conquests. In this sense, it was similar to what Iranian historian Reza Zia-Ebrahimi has called "dislocative nationalism."

Beginning the second half of the nineteenth century, Iranian intellectuals began to imagine a primordial nation that had existed for 2,500 years and was connected to the Aryan race. Since the Aryan racial essence was pre-Islamic, perceived shortcomings in Iranian society could be blamed on Islam and Arab 'contamination'. This claim was integrated into the official ideology of the Pahlavi state from 1925 until the Islamic revolution, and remains a powerful rhetorical weapon for political figures in Iran today.

The emergence of Pharaonism in Egypt signaled a similar shift towards conceptualizing the deep past as a pure national essence that pre-dates the Arab-Islamic conquests. According to Elliot Colla, when chronicler 'Abd al-Rahman al-Jabarti watched the Napoleonic expedition in the grips of Egyptomania at the turn of the nineteenth century, he used a pejorative term for pagan worship by describing Pharaonic antiquities as "idols".

But a generation later, the first museum for the storage and exhibition of antiquities was established in Egypt under the directorship of Rifa‘a Rafi' al-Tahtawi, who had studied under one of Bonaparte's savants in France. Eliott Colla documents "a new connection between the ancient Egyptian past and the Egyptian present" across Tahtawi's numerous writings in the middle of the 19th century.

Although this initial attempt to build an Egyptian museum stalled out, by 1858, a French Egyptologist was appointed director of the new state agency known as the Antiquities Service.

As Omnia El Shakry has shown, another longtime European resident in Egypt—the Italian physician Onofrio Abbate—conducted a series of experiments around this time comparing the mummified remains of skeletons from the ancient necropolis of Kawamil with cadavers at the Qasr al-'Ayni hospital in Cairo. Through the observation of bodies in Egypt from 1845 to 1915, Abbate built up a complex and influential theory of Egyptian racial distinctiveness that drew heavily on European race science.

The heyday of Egyptian Pharaonic nationalism came in the 1920s and 30s—just as fascist movements were sweeping through Europe. It was spurred on by the discovery of the tomb of Tut Aknh Amun in 1922. When the leader of the anti-British revolution, Sa'd Zaghlul, passed away in 1926, his mausoleum was erected in grand Pharaonic style in the middle of Cairo's posh Garden City neighbourhood.

As Hussein Omar pointed out immediately in the wake of the Pharaohs' Golden Parade, it was 1931 when the dictatorial politician Ismail Sidqi set a precedent that would echo for nine decades by relocating 24 mummies from the Egyptian museum to Zaghlul's tomb.

By positing a link between the ancient Pharaohs from millennia ago and people living in Egypt today, Sisi's brand of neo-Pharaonism draws on this legacy of racial nationalism, even while jettisoning some of the pseudoscientific rhetoric that has fallen out of fashion.

We saw it among his supporters when he first took power, like the Antiquities Minister and famous Egyptologist Zahi Hawass, who likened Sisi to the Pharaoh Mentuhotep II. It cropped up at the inauguration of the New Suez Canal in 2015, when Sisi declared: "Egypt is a great country and has a civilization of 7,000 years," and special coins were minted with Pharaonic lotus designs. During the Pharaohs' Golden parade, First Lady Intisar el-Sisi expressed her pride in "belonging to an ancient civilization."

And in the heart of Tahrir Square, where a series of revolutionary demonstrations that began ten years ago ultimately swept him into power, Sisi's government has erected a 90-ton obelisk depicting the Pharaoh Ramses II.

Khaled Fahmy was right to compare Sisi's Golden Parade with Hitler's Olympic ceremonies, but he forgot one important aspect in his comparison: the important role played by popular notions of race in fascism.

The idea that "the people" constitute a homogenous mass is an appealing rhetorical device for any strongman leader who could claim to embody their essence in his singular persona. We do not talk about race today the same way we did in the 1920s and 30s, but the basic premises of that antiquated thinking are still there: that people are naturally organized into social groups that reproduce biologically through deep time.

The race concept is a powerful idea for modern nationalist mobilizations, and Sisi in Egypt is just one of the authoritarian governments manipulating archaeological remains to benefit politically from its resuscitation in the twenty-first century.

Kyle J. Anderson is an assistant professor in the Department of History & Philosophy at SUNY Old Westbury.




Abdelilah Benkirane back at the helm of Morocco’s PJD

Menas Associates,, London, 24 November, 2021

The former ruling Parti de la justice et du développement’s (PJD) is still struggling to hold itself together after its disastrous election defeat, which was quickly followed by the mass resignation of its general secretariat.

The party held an exceptional conference at Bouznika on 30 October at which it voted for a new leader. Unsurprisingly, rather than chart new territory, the party took solace in the familiar by electing Abdelilah Benkirane — its former General Secretary and the country’s former prime minister — to the post. Benkirane won by 81% of the vote and easily beat the two other candidate

He also defeated those elements in the party, including its outgoing leadership, who wanted the newly elected leadership to be temporary and to last for one year only. Benkirane demanded a normal leadership for a normal amount of time and was successful in achieving it.

Controversial figure

Benkirane has long been a controversial character on the Moroccan scene. He is most notably remembered for his willingness to take a more robust line with the Palace, and for being far less docile and compliant than his successor Saadeddine Othmani.

This characteristic should not be overplayed. While Benkirane was more willing than his predecessor to challenge the status quo, he also knew how to toe the line when necessary, following a policy of submission to monarchy which at times drew criticism from among the PJD’s more hardline elements.

However, he was definitely a fierier and more charismatic figure than Othmani, and many in the party are clearly looking to him to revive the PJD’s fortunes. He has had a growing following among some factions of the party faithful over recent years and he has made his presence felt not least through his outspoken condemnation of the previous PJD leadership. This became particularly forceful whenever he felt the party had bowed too low to meet the Palace’s demands, such as: over the normalisation of ties with Israel; the legalisation of cannabis for pharmaceutical purposes; and the return of some parts of the educational curriculum being taught in French rather than Arabic. Consequently his being re-elected was hardly a surprise.

Magnanimous tone

Those expecting Benkirane to use the conference to indulge in a public attack against Othmani for having led the party to electoral disaster were, however, disappointed. Although some jostling and criticism of the outgoing leadership was expressed during the conference, Benkirane personally adopted a magnanimous tone.

He made clear that the whole party should bear responsibility for its defeat at the polls and noted that it was not solely Othmani’s fault. He also made clear that the party should not expect miracles under his leadership, quipping, ‘I am not Messi. I am just one player, like you.’ He also talked of ‘a new phase’ for the party, stressing that it should focus on democratic reforms and human rights which are both issues that the party’s critics accused it of ignoring while in power.

More importantly for many, Benkirane has indicated that the PJD will return to its ideological roots by re-anchoring its priorities in Islam and the Islamic reference. This will have been welcomed by many party members who have long felt that the party has strayed too far from its religious core and Islamic principles in order to make itself more acceptable to the Palace and to the Moroccan elite.

Promise to be a strong opposition

Benkirane also promised that the party would work as a ‘strong, constructive and responsible opposition,’ stressing that he didn’t want the PJD to become part of the ‘chorus that switched overnight from supporting Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch to criticising him.’

Quite how it will be able to work as an opposition force is unclear given that it only has 13 of the 395 seats in parliament and has lost a major proportion of its funding. However, with the outspoken Benkirane at the helm, the PJD will continue to be vocal in its criticisms, and will make the most of its return to opposition to challenge the new government at every turn. Yet, given that the party is in such disarray, there is a risk that it will become more of a one man show under Benkirane’s lead and that it will struggle to properly resuscitate itself.




Research Papers & Reports

DUBLIN/LONDON - A global study into causes of stroke has found that one in 11 survivors experienced a period of anger or upset in the hour leading up to it.

One in 20 patients had engaged in heavy physical exertion.

The suspected triggers have been identified as part of the global Interstroke study – the largest research project of its kind, co-led by National University of Ireland Galway.

It analysed 13,462 cases of acute stroke, involving patients with a range of ethnic backgrounds in 32 countries, including the UK and Ireland.

The research has been published in the European Heart Journal.

Stroke is a leading global cause of death or disability.

There are more than 100,000 strokes in the UK each year, causing 38,000 deaths. About 1.3 million people in the UK are survivors of stroke.

Each year, approximately 7,500 Irish people have a stroke and around 2,000 of these people die.

An estimated 30,000 people in Ireland are living with disabilities as a result of a stroke.

One of the lead researchers was Andrew Smyth, professor of clinical epidemiology at NUI Galway, director of the HRB Clinical Research Facility Galway and a consultant nephrologist at Galway University Hospitals.

Our study aimed to look at acute exposures''

Prof Smyth said: “Stroke prevention is a priority for physicians, and despite advances it remains difficult to predict when a stroke will occur.

“Many studies have focused on medium- to long-term exposures, such as hypertension, obesity or smoking. Our study aimed to look at acute exposures that may act as triggers.”

The research analysed patterns in patients who suffered ischemic stroke – the most common type of stroke, which occurs when a blood clot blocks or narrows an artery leading to the brain, and also intracerebral haemorrhage – which is less common and involves bleeding within the brain tissue itself.

Prof Smyth added: “We looked at two separate triggers.

“Our research found that anger or emotional upset was linked to an approximately 30% increase in risk of stroke during one hour after an episode – with a greater increase if the patient did not have a history of depression.

“The odds were also greater for those with a lower level of education.

“We also found that heavy physical exertion was linked to an approximately 60% increase in risk of intracerebral haemorrhage during the one hour after the episode of heavy exertion.

“There was a greater increase for women, and less risk for those with a normal BMI.

“The study also concluded that there was no increase with exposure to both triggers of anger and heavy physical exertion.”

'Important for some people to avoid heavy physical exertion'

Co-author of the paper Dr Michelle Canavan, consultant stroke physician at Galway University Hospitals, said: “Our message is for people to practise mental and physical wellness at all ages.

“But it is also important for some people to avoid heavy physical exertion, particularly if they are high-risk of cardiovascular, while also adopting a healthy lifestyle of regular exercise.”

The global Interstroke study was co-led by Martin O’Donnell, professor of neurovascular medicine at NUI Galway and consultant stroke physician at Galway University Hospitals.

“Some of the best ways to prevent stroke are to maintain a healthy lifestyle, treat high blood pressure and not to smoke,” Prof O’Donnell said.

“But our research also shows other events such as an episode of anger or upset or a period of heavy physical exertion independently increase the short-term risk.

“We would emphasise that a brief episode of heavy physical exertion is different to getting regular physical activity, which reduces the long-term risk of stroke.”



Linking climate action to lasting outcomes for the world’s poorest

By Bernice Van Bronkhorst and Johannes Zutt, 17 November 2021


Rising temperatures and sea levels, droughts and floods, and more frequent and intense natural disasters are impacting billions of people around the world. In response, the World Bank Group—which provides more than half of multilateral climate finance to developing countries and more than two-thirds of adaptation finance—continues to prioritize climate across all its operations.

Our work is driven by a relentless focus on results, ensuring that our climate financing contributes to development outcomes that improve people’s well-being and also helps set countries toward a low-carbon resilient future. As countries grapple with the health and economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing on climate and development is more important than ever before, and there is a real opportunity for countries to make climate action a core part of their COVID recovery efforts.

To this end, the World Bank has redoubled its focus on Green, Resilient, and Inclusive Development (GRID), pursuing poverty eradication and shared prosperity with a sustainability and resilience lens. We have kept climate at the forefront of our work. In FY21 the Bank delivered record annual climate financing of over $21 billion, an increase of 50% in two years, with half going towards climate adaptation. We also launched our new Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP) 2021–2025 to help countries and the private sector undertake high-impact climate actions that also deliver on their development objectives. The Plan represents a shift from “greening” projects to supporting countries in greening their entire economies, and from focusing on inputs to focusing on outcomes.

Ramping up climate outcomes through IDA

Since the start of the COVID pandemic, the World Bank Group has moved into high gear, committing over $157 billion to support countries in the pandemic response and recovery. This includes over $50 billion from the International Development Association (IDA), our concessional fund for the world’s 74 poorest countries. As we engage with IDA shareholders to agree on new funding for IDA20, covering July 2022 through June 2025, there is an obvious link to be made in advancing the IDA and climate agendas. Investments in clean energy at scale, for instance, can help countries avoid locking in polluting infrastructure while also achieving their energy access goals. IDA has long focused on such high-level outcomes, aligned with client-country development priorities, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and the Bank Group’s twin goals of reducing poverty and boosting shared prosperity. With each IDA replenishment cycle, we have also strengthened our ability to track outcomes through the IDA Results Measurement System (RMS), which provides a robust accountability framework to track and report results at an aggregate level.

IDA has played a catalytic role in shaping the Bank’s climate agenda, with the RMS tracking this progress. The IDA20 RMS presents the most comprehensive set of climate indicators of any IDA cycle to date. RMS indicators are hardwired to track climate actions within IDA operations, and they complement policy commitments by measuring IDA’s contribution to climate mitigation, adaptation, and resilience.

Let’s take the case of Bangladesh, which today receives the largest amount of IDA funding in the world, and is home to 165 million people who are highly vulnerable to the impacts of a changing climate. With support from IDA, Bangladesh is saving lives and building resilience. On the adaptation side, by building and rehabilitating coastal infrastructure, including 220 km of embankments and nearly 400 multi-purpose cyclone shelters, Bangladesh has increased protection from storm surges and flooding for more than 333,000 people. On the mitigation side, IDA helped increase access to clean and renewable energy for 7.3 million people in remote rural areas, provided 1.8 million rural households with energy-efficient improved cookstoves, and built 1,130 solar irrigation pumps benefitting 35,000 farmers.

Advancing country level action

As we continue to deliver on our ambitious climate agenda and help countries recover from the COVID crisis, we are identifying and prioritizing opportunities for high-impact climate action that enables economic growth. This process requires, among other things, strong analytics and policy advice. A ground-breaking core diagnostic tool that we are introducing this year—the Country Climate and Development Reports (CCDRs)—will help inform country programs financed by the Bank Group, by governments themselves, and by other financiers to advance climate action while also making progress on a country’s broader development agenda.

These CCDRs, prepared with expertise from across the Bank Group and the IMF, will provide analysis unique to each individual country, highlighting where climate and development intersect. They will include sectoral transitions that could unlock economic opportunities and take into account other key issues like social and economic inclusion. We aim to deliver 25 CCDRs by mid-2022. The Bank Group will also actively engage with governments, the private sector, academia, and civil society during this process.

Climate change is a global challenge. While global goals are in the spotlight at forums like COP26, it is local action, customized to the specific climate goals of each country, that will drive success. The two go hand-in-hand and that is where IDA comes in. As the IDA20 replenishment concludes in December, we will continue to provide countries with the support needed to attain their climate ambition as part of a broader story of development outcomes.



PARIS - Reaching net-zero will require significant global efforts to harness technology and boost innovation. Our new joint report with the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (EC-JRC), “World Corporate Top R&D Investors: Paving the Way to Climate Neutrality”, shows that the world’s 2000 top R&D investors make a significant contribution to global climate-related innovation and associated goods and services, owning 70% of climate change mitigation or adaptation patents and more than 10% of global climate-related trademarks.

The report suggests that while large corporate R&D investors produce large amounts of climate-related innovation, other inventors – such as young firms – develop more radical innovations and are therefore more likely to generate the breakthrough discoveries needed to achieve net-zero emissions.

We presented the report on 23 November at a session of the CONCORDi 2021 conference on industrial innovation for competitive sustainability, organised by EC-JRC in association with the European Association for Research and Technology Organisations (EARTO), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the OECD.


This biennial report continues the joint JRC-OECD analysis of the Intellectual Property (IP) portfolios of the world’s top 2 000 R&D investors and explores the pivotal role played by these companies in the development and commercialisation of new technologies, as reflected in their patenting and trademark filing activity.

It provides a thematic focus on the contribution of the world’s top 2 000 R&D investors to innovation in climate change mitigation and adaptation technologies as a response to the new climate neutrality objectives.The report shows that global R&D and patenting activities remain highly concentrated within the world’s top 2 000 R&D investors.

These are responsible for 87% of global business R&D expenditure by the private sector and 63% of patent filings across all technologies. There is much less concentration at the commercialisation stage, with only 6% of all trademarks owned by the top R&D investors. Among the top R&D investors, R&D investments, patents and trademarks are highly concentrated within the hands of a few hundred companies. United States (US)-based firms lead the ranking in almost every sector. Companies located in Japan and in the European Union (EU27) have recently been losing ground to companies based in People’s Republic of China (hereafter ‘China’).

A few sectors dominate both R&D investments and patent filings, including ‘Computers & electronics’, ‘Pharmaceuticals’ and ‘Transport equipment’. Looking at the IP bundle, we observe key sectoral differences: companies in ‘Transport equipment’, ‘Electrical equipment’, ‘Machinery’ and ‘Computers & electronics’ primarily rely on patents to protect their products, while companies in ‘Food products’, ‘Telecommunications’ and ‘Pharmaceuticals’ use more trademarks than patents.Countries representing more than 80% of the world economy (including the EU27) have announced targets of climate neutrality by mid-century in their policy agendas.

Reaching this objective requires the development and large-scale diffusion of a wide set of new low-carbon technologies. The world’s top R&D investors are key contributors to global climate-related innovation. They own 70% of global climate change mitigation or adaptation patents and over 10% of global climate-related trademarks, which is larger than their contribution to overall patents and trademarks across all fields.

However, while top R&D investors produce large amounts of climate-related innovation, other inventors – such as young firms – develop more radical innovations and are therefore more likely to generate the breakthrough discoveries needed to achieve net-zero emissions.

Some disparities across sectors emerge: while the electricity production, transportation and construction sectors heavily invest in climate-related innovation, other sectors such as information and communication technology (ICT) invest little in low-carbon innovation but contribute by developing enabling technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI).

Focusing on a few technologies that are key to reaching the climate neutrality objective (renewable energy, electric cars and hydrogen), companies headquartered in Asian countries exhibit clear specialisation patterns: Japanese firms lead in hydrogen technologies, Korean firms in electric cars and batteries and Chinese firms in renewable energy technologies.

On the contrary, the EU27-headquartered companies do not exhibit such a pronounced specialisation pattern, but have a broad technological base contributing to all climate-related technologies in equal measure. Relative to firms in other regions, US-based firms are not specialised in this specific subset of key climate-related technologies.

Looking at the potential contribution of the digital revolution to climate-related innovation at the invention stage, 20% of climate-related patents have a digital component (compared to 33% for patents across all technological fields). This suggests further potential regarding the digital transformation enabling the green transition across many carbon-intensive sectors of the economy.

However, 60% of climate-related trademarks are also ICT-related, which is much larger than for the average trademark filed (around 30%). Hence, the use of digital solutions to address climate-related issues seems especially widespread at the commercialisation stage.Lastly, this edition of the report investigates – for the first time – the gender composition of the board of directors of the top 2 000 R&D investors and that of their R&D workforce.

EU27 companies have, on average, more gender-balanced boards than the US and Asia, with female representation of at least 26%. The French companies included in the study have the most gender-balanced boards by far. A substantial gender gap is also observed for inventors listed in patent applications, with significant heterogeneity across countries and sectors. Companies with the highest shares of patents invented by women are located in Spain (37%), the United States (29%) and Belgium (26%).

The ‘Pharmaceuticals’, ‘Biotechnology’ and ‘Chemistry’ sector employ the most gender-balanced teams of inventors. However, there is no evidence that ‘green’ firms (which lead in climate-related innovation) have more gender-balanced boards than ‘brown’ firms (who do not own any climate-related IP), or that climate-related technologies rely more heavily on female inventors.


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NEW YORK - Following Israeli closures, restrictions and military operations, the West Bank has suffered two decades of arrested development and poverty, according to a report published on Wednesday by the UN trade and development body, UNCTAD.

With an economic toll of an estimated at $57.7 billion, the study estimated the cost to be equivalent to three and a half times the 2019 GDP of the occupied Palestinian territory’.

Moreover, it indicated that the minimum cost of eliminating poverty in the West Bank had increased six times between 1998 and 2007 – from $73 million to $428 million.

“We're talking about the reproduction of despair in the in the West Bank and Gaza”, said Richard Kozul-Wright, UNCTAD Director of Division on Globalization and Development Strategies, calling for Palestinian territories to be reconnected into a “fully fledged State” to reverse this.

Second Palestinian Intifada aftermath

The report covers the period following the outbreak of the second Palestinian Intifada in September 2000.

According to UNCTAD Economist Rami Alazzeh, the Israeli closure policy was “multilayered”.

Roads between the West Bank, Gaza, Israel, and the border with Jordan were closed and “in 2020 there is still the separation wall which Israel started building in 2003”.

Moreover 600 obstacles in the West Bank, including checkpoints and gates remain in place.

Poverty projections

The immediate effect of tighter Israeli restrictions imposed on the West Bank witnessed a drastic fall in living standards, which most affected the population’s poorer segments.

The report projected that without the Israeli closures, restrictions and military operations, the 2004 poverty rate in the West Bank would have been 12 per cent, or one-third of the current 35 per cent.

In 2019, the West Bank GDP per capita would have been 44 per cent higher than its actual value, the report found.

“It's a substantial amount of money for a small economy like this”, said Mahmoud Elkhafif, UNCTAD’s Coordinator of the Assistance to the Palestinian People.

‘Jobless growth and arrested development’

In the West Bank between 2000 and 2002, tighter Israeli restrictions and military operations triggered a one-third contraction, according to the report.

Although there was an annual 6.2 per cent growth in its economy since 2007, the report pointed out that the expansion was volatile – ranging from 13.1 per cent in 2008 to 1.6 per cent in 2019 – which led to high unemployment, hovering around 18 per cent during that time.

Unable to secure jobs, many Palestinians sought employment in Israel and its settlements, creating a harmful dependence of the West Bank regional economy on Israel.

However, without it the West Bank would have almost reached unemployment rates as high as the besieged Gaza Strip, which averaged 39.8 per cent between 2007 and 2019.

But the report pointed out that even with employment in Israel, the West Bank regional economy has not been able to reduce or stabilize its joblessness rate since 1999.

Lifting restrictions

The report called for all mobility restrictions to be lifted in the occupied Palestinian territory and for reconnecting it with East Jerusalem and all cities and villages in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

It also called for the enabling of the Palestinian public and private sectors to establish and run agricultural, industrial, commercial and mining businesses in Area C – which comprises more than 60 per cent of the West Bank area – where Palestinians are not currently allowed to operate businesses.

The document reiterates that until the occupation ends, Palestinian economic development will continue to be arrested and its cost on the people, continue to grow.

To create “decent jobs” it is “critical to overcome the kind of poverty levels that we see in the West Bank”, stressed Mr. Kozul-Wright.





Africa: Ethiopia is tearing itself apart

By Alexander Rondos, Former EU Special Representative to the Horn of Africa, The World Today, 03 December 2021

Alexander Rondos warns that the ongoing conflict spells turmoil for the Horn of Africa

The longer the 12-month conflict in Ethiopia drags on, the greater the damage to the fragile stability of the Horn of Africa. It has already sown the seeds of regional destabilization that will accelerate if a political settlement is not sought urgently.

It is a sign of this concern that President Uhuru Kenyatta of neighbouring Kenya is actively engaged in trying to promote a resolution to the conflict and to lay the groundwork for a longer-term political settlement in Ethiopia.

From the moment the fighting began, Ethiopia’s neighbours sensed unprecedented danger. If not rapidly contained, which it was not, the conflict would trigger a chain reaction of claims for self-determination and drain the economy. The consequences would not be confined within the borders of Ethiopia. At issue now is whether a country of 110 million people can be prevented from unravelling.

The effects of failure will be felt in neighbouring states, in the fragile relations among the countries of the region and in the strategic environment surrounding the Horn of Africa.

Conflict and economic collapse beget displacement and the hardest hit by a migratory wave will be Kenya and probably Somalia. If this wave grows, migrants – and the numbers could be very high – will try to reach South Africa and Europe. All of Ethiopia’s neighbours have their own economic challenges and this additional influx will test their financial capacities.

Ethiopia’s centrifugal political forces were contained over the past 30 years by significant budget subsidies to the regions nearest to the frontier. This is no longer the case. The cost of war has diminished the subsidies to these already impoverished border populations, who will seek more opportunity across the frontier. Once the provider of stability in the region, Ethiopia has become an exporter of insecurity. Ethiopia is now over-armed and under-financed. Weapons are making their way across frontiers and one should be alarmed that the jihadist group al-Shabaab, for example, can buy guns more cheaply from the Ethiopian market than it does from Yemen.

Ethiopia’s deteriorating internal security is being exploited by al-Shabaab and other likeminded groups to infiltrate and recruit in Ethiopia. If this persists and succeeds, an entirely new front is opened making Kenya’s security even more fragile.

The threat has now been exacerbated by Abiy Ahmed, the Ethiopian prime minister, calling for a levee en masse under which every locality has been encouraged to arm itself, unleashing weaponized radical groups or plain local warlordism.

The dispute over centralization of political authority in Ethiopia, which spilled over into the war with Tigray, was accompanied by a deliberate and parallel strategy to realign influence in the Horn of Africa.

It is now emerging that the agreement between Isaias Afewerki, the president of Eritrea, and Abiy – for which the latter won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 – supplemented by the inclusion of Somalia into a trilateral agreement, was to to create a bloc of countries with highly centralized and authoritarian political systems to control the eastern coastline of Africa, from Eritrea to Somalia. In the process, efforts to consolidate cooperative security and development in the region, under the umbrella of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, were jettisoned, leaving it with new divisions and no institution to manage differences.

Multilateral options, in short, were deliberately abandoned. The Horn of Africa thus hovers over how the fate of this political axis will be managed in an institutional vacuum. Djibouti is caught between the contending politics of Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia. In Sudan the move to overthrow the experiment in political reform in favour of the military is colliding with sustained popular resistance. South Sudan is prey to its own post-independence demons. Kenya is fighting to inoculate its open economy and competitive political system from the infection of a region where the centre – usually Ethiopia – no longer holds.

If this grim outlook is not reversed, the threat of disorder emanating from Ethiopia will not only engulf the region but threaten the security of the Red Sea.

Abiy’s war on Tigray has turned into the potential dissolution of Ethiopia. Nothing is permanent, not least in a region which has recognized two secessions and lives with another in Somaliland.

The current successor of the Ethiopian empire may collapse. Eritrea’s lethally eccentric regime cannot last forever. But Ethiopia’s vast population, whether living in a united country or as separate entities, will inevitably seek access to the sea.

For many years, Ethiopian hegemony in the region allowed for the containment of crises. Ethiopian troops served in peacekeeping operations and in AMISOM, the African Union Mission in Somalia. Ethiopia and Kenya had an understanding that dated back half a century. Ethiopia’s relations with Sudan were balanced by a Faustian bargain between Omar al-Bashir’s Islamists and the regime controlled by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front in Addis Ababa. Eritrea’s bizarre isolation could gradually have ended with the rapprochement with Abiy.

All these assumptions have now been shattered. Ethiopia must struggle to avoid dissolution. Eritrea’s authoritarian vision of order in the region will be replaced by that of the political victors in Addis and their vision of Ethiopia’s relations with its neighbours and the wider world.

Thus, a new transition beckons for Ethiopia. But this time, it must encompass the whole region which will have been so damaged by the events of the past few years.

The international community will have to consider how this transition is not hijacked again and under what conditions it can be sustained financially to give populations the belief that peace does not degenerate again into war and regional insecurity.




Are Illiasou Djibo and Moussa Moumoni Emerging as Islamic State in Greater Sahara’s New Leadership Duo?

By Jacob Zenn, Militant Leadership Monitor, Volume XII, Issue 11, 03 December 2021


Islamic State in Greater Sahara (ISGS) has suffered a number of setbacks since it surged in late 2019 with a series of massive attacks in Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso. By January 2020, ISGS was on the verge of superseding its rival, al-Qaeda-loyal Group for Supporting Muslims and Islam (JNIM). However, after French president Emmanuel Macron held a meeting in Pau, France with Sahelian heads of state and designated ISGS as the Sahel’s number one security threat, ISGS began facing more intense military pressure (, January 15). Within months, ISGS had been weakened and JNIM gained the upper hand on ISGS in the Sahelian militant landscape.

ISGS has also begun losing leaders in French-led military operations. In July, France announced that ISGS’ deputy leader, Abdelhakim al-Sahrawi, had died two months earlier, reportedly due to a sickness that befell him while he was on the run. France also asserted that several other ISGS commanders had been arrested and killed (, July 2). More recently, in September, Macron announced that French counter-terrorism forces had also killed ISGS leader, Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, weeks earlier (, September 16). His death was acknowledged in an Islamic State (IS) al-Naba newsletter editorial in October (, November 1).

Where these two al-Sahrawis were the main figureheads of ISGS, there had been no clear “number three.” One possible militant to assume the leadership role after their deaths, however, is Illiasou Djibo (alias Petit Chafori), who was designated as a terrorist by the U.S. on June 28 (, June 28). As a commander in Nampala, central Mali in 2017, Djibo operated among Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi, who deputized Djibo as a commander for his fellow Fulanis (, January 6, 2017). Before then, Djibo had been captured, but released secretly in 2016 in exchange for 85-year old Australian, Jocelyn Elliot, who was kidnapped along with her husband, who was a doctor in Djibo town (, December 14, 2016).

However, on October 13, ISGS published an unofficial video that was not released through IS’ centralized media apparatus perhaps because of disruptions in communicating with IS after the deaths of the two al-Sahrawis. In this video, the commander of the ISGS brigade appeared to be Moussa Moumoni (, October 13). Moumoni, who is from Niger, participated in ISGS’s attack in Koutougou, Burkina Faso in August 2019 that killed 24 soldiers and preceded the series of other ISGS attacks that resulted in France labeling ISGS as the region’s number one security threat (, September 30, 2019). Although Moumoni was subsequently reported killed in 2020, his apparent emergence in this video shows he is still alive and in a leadership role (, March 17, 2020).

It is not uncommon for jihadist leaders, including from ISGS, to be reported as deceased, only to reemerge. This had occurred with Abdelhakim al-Sahrawi in 2020 until such reports were disproven and he was killed one year later (, August 21, 2020). With Moumoni likely alive and Djibo released from prison, this duo is likely to take up the mantle of ISGS leadership and succeed the two al-Sahrawis. Moreover, their being nationals of Mali and Niger, as opposed to Western Sahara like the two al-Sahrawis, will further embed ISGS in the Sahelian militant landscape. After more than a year of ISGS seeing its influence wane relative to JNIM, this new ISGS leadership could help the group regain its strength and reassert IS’ presence in the Sahel.

Russia’s Influence in the Central African Republic

By Pauline Bax, International Crisis Group, 03 December 2021

Russia has become the Central African Republic’s preferred ally in its battle with insurgents. But the government’s use of Russian mercenaries as it goes on the offensive is causing domestic divisions and alienating other external partners. Concerns about rights abuses and misinformation campaigns are mounting.

Russia has rapidly expanded its influence in the Central African Republic (CAR) in the last few years, using military support to become President Faustin-Archange Touadéra’s closest ally. Prone to coups, rebellions and communal strife, CAR has been engulfed in conflict for over twenty years. While the government wields authority in the capital Bangui, it is largely absent from the provinces, where an array of rebels and other armed groups exercise their own form of predatory rule. Disappointed by the inability of UN peacekeepers to extend the state’s writ, Touadéra turned to Russia in 2017, securing weapons and military instructors to bolster CAR’s shambolic army after the UN Security Council approved an exemption to the arms embargo on the country. Today, Russian advisers have the government’s ear in not just military but also political and economic matters.

Touadéra’s government also brought in the Wagner Group, a Russia-based military contractor that is active in Libya and Sudan, and which Mali’s transitional government has signalled an interest in hiring to fight jihadists. Moscow claims that it has no ties to Wagner, saying it is a private company that is free to sell its services to other sovereign governments as it sees fit. But Wagner is widely believed to be managed and financed by businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is close to the Kremlin and under U.S. sanctions for attempted meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections. In 2020, the U.S. Treasury Department also imposed sanctions on companies and people working on Prigozhin’s behalf “to advance Russia’s influence in the Central African Republic”. Prigozhin has denied any links to Wagner. For his part, Touadéra has repeatedly said he has not signed a contract with the group. Wagner has no office or spokesperson in CAR. Yet its presence – estimated at between 1,200 and 2,000 personnel – is barely a secret in Bangui, where men in camouflage gear can be seen riding around in unmarked military-style vehicles. Rather than eradicating armed groups, the contractors are perpetrating abuses that increasingly drive violence in the provinces and fuel guerrilla warfare against government troops by rebels scattered in the bush.

At first, Central Africans greeted Moscow’s support warmly, hopeful that Russia would succeed in tamping down the country’s conflict where other foreign powers had successively failed (Libya under former leader Muammar Qadhafi, South Africa and France have all been involved in CAR in the past). Their enthusiasm seems to be dimming, however, due to Touadéra’s outsized reliance on Russian advisers, his government’s growing tendency to stifle dissent and allegations of human rights abuses in the counter-insurgent campaign. Moreover, the government’s opaque dealings with Russia and the lack of transparency surrounding Wagner’s involvement have driven a wedge between it and its traditional donors, in particular France, which sees Moscow as encroaching on its interests in the region. CAR is now in the tricky position of having to balance the benefits of Russia’s military and political support with the prerogative of securing the Western financial support on which it will continue to depend. Touadéra’s determination to achieve military victory is understandable, given the repeated failure of peace deals, but his close alliance with Wagner has antagonised Western partners to the point where CAR’s financial lifeline may be at risk.

A Country Plagued by Insurgency and Hardship

Russia’s role has drawn more attention amid the political crisis that has gripped CAR since shortly before December 2020 presidential and legislative elections. In the run-up to those polls, the country’s top court rejected the candidacy of former President Francois Bozizé, who had been ousted by the Seleka rebel coalition in 2013 after a decade in power. His successor, Michel Djotodia, ruled for barely a year before other Central African leaders forced him to resign amid mounting clashes between Seleka loyalists and so-called anti-balaka groups that had formed to fight them. The appointment of a transitional leader and the deployment of a UN peacekeeping mission, MINUSCA, then paved the way for 2016 elections, which Touadéra won. In 2019, with Moscow’s encouragement, the government signed the African Union-sponsored Khartoum agreement with fourteen armed groups controlling most of the provinces, a deal that still serves as the country’s roadmap to peace today. Following Bozizé’s exclusion from the 2020 polls, however, a loose alliance of armed groups known as the Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), made up of six signatories to the Khartoum agreement, declared its intention to disrupt the elections. Bozizé later confirmed in a statement that he headed the CPC. Rwanda swiftly sent 300 “force protection troops” to help safeguard the elections. After Touadéra won a second five-year term, the insurgents advanced on Bangui in January aiming to topple the government. A combination of UN peacekeepers, Wagner personnel and Rwandan soldiers repelled the attack.

As Touadéra ordered a counteroffensive in the countryside, his government began closing political space in the capital. It barred several opposition politicians from leaving the country and arrested civilians and military officers seen as close to Bozizé. In the following weeks, troops led by Wagner contractors ended a rebel blockade on CAR’s supply channel from Cameroon and wrenched control of more than twenty towns and villages away from various rebel groups. A day before Touadéra’s swearing-in ceremony on 30 March, Russian Ambassador Vladimir Titorenko warned that Bozizé and other rebel leaders would be “absolutely eliminated in military operations” if they continued to wage war against the government. By April, government troops had reached most rebel strongholds. In a country that has been plagued by insurgency for the past twenty years, it was a momentous achievement that boosted Touadéra’s popular support. Many Central Africans hailed the Russian mercenaries as liberators.

But the intense fighting took a heavy toll. In March, the UN Working Group on mercenaries first sounded the alarm over Wagner’s activities, saying it had received reports of serious rights abuses, including summary executions, torture and forced disappearances. In June, a UN expert panel accused Russian instructors and CAR soldiers of large-scale looting, use of excessive force and indiscriminate killing. It also stated that Syrian and Libyan mercenaries were engaged in combat alongside Russian instructors. Russia angrily denied the charges. Two months later, MINUSCA and the UN human rights office voiced concern about mounting abuses by all belligerents, holding the army and Russian paramilitaries responsible for nearly half the documented incidents. There are reports in domestic and international media – corroborated by UN and humanitarian agency workers – that Wagner mercenaries and soldiers carried out summary executions of members of Bozizé’s ethnic Gbaya group. There are also reports of massacres committed by both the government and rebel sides.

Also worrying is that observers say Wagner mercenaries in the provinces tend to conflate all Muslims, particularly the ethnic Fulani, with insurgents, putting Fulani youth at risk of abuse. (The two most active rebel groups – Retour, reclamation et réhabilitation and Unité pour la paix en Centrafrique – are mainly Fulani, but others are not.) The targeting of Fulani could spur support for rebel groups and eventually trigger another dangerous cycle of violence. An independent investigative commission named by Touadéra confirmed in October that Russian instructors had committed abuses, but the full report has not been made public.

Most of the combat in recent months has occurred in the central Ouaka prefecture and in the west, where Fulani rebels control significant parts of the Nana-Mambéré and Ouham-Pendé prefectures. Despite the military’s unprecedented push into the provinces, its hold on recaptured territory is proving tenuous. Having retreated to the bush, insurgents have stepped up attacks with improvised explosive devices and staged ambushes on army outposts that are left exposed when Wagner mercenaries draw back to their bases. Security sources told Crisis Group that the army, which largely collapsed during the 2013 war that drove Bozizé from power, lacks vehicles and ammunition and is poorly trained. Defections to the rebels are common. Because the army has not really secured the towns it has retaken from rebels, state services remain absent, while the proliferation of combatants hinders delivery of humanitarian aid. On 15 October, Touadéra declared a unilateral ceasefire to allow civilians access to aid, yet military operations continue.

Central Africans have suffered severe hardship for decades and things may well get worse. CAR has a handful of tarmac roads, few basic services and the lowest life expectancy in the world. Although the army has stabilised Bangui with Wagner’s help, the resurgent violence has aggravated an already dire humanitarian situation in the provinces. The number of internally displaced people has risen to a record 722,000, while an additional 733,000 live abroad as refugees. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that over 60 per cent of the population, or 3.1 million of 5 million people, the highest proportion in five years, needs urgent relief. In parts of the north west, people face famine-like conditions. Chances that aid workers can quickly reach those most in need appear slim, given that troops often block humanitarian convoys from heading into war zones, citing security reasons.

“Caught in a Battle of Giants”

Russia’s influence in CAR has meanwhile poisoned relations between the government and its main donors, notably the European Union, the U.S. and France. Among diplomats and aid workers, frustrations run high with what they perceive as duplicitous messaging by the president and his allies, who continue to refer to Wagner mercenaries as “instructors”, despite overwhelming evidence that many contractors are shooting at rebels. Indeed, some Touadéra allies reportedly have close ties to Wagner. One is Alexander Ivanov, a Russian who heads the Officers Union for International Security, which purports to be an independent “peace advocacy” group. Russia told a UN expert panel that its defence ministry had recruited all the instructors serving in CAR through the Union. Ivanov runs a Twitter account from Bangui under the Union’s banner.

Another reason for donors’ annoyance is that they are left guessing who is in charge. “The government has an invisible partner whose face we cannot see”, says one diplomat. While most diplomats contend that relations with their Russian counterparts remain cordial, they have no interlocutors among the Russian advisers who manage two military and economic units that are separate from the embassy and run outside its premises, reportedly by retired Russian officials. CAR relies primarily on Western donors to provide more than half its $496 million state budget. Some donors, worried that funds or equipment could end up in the hands of unaccountable private military actors, have put stringent conditions on future disbursements. MINUSCA stopped supplying the army with fuel after finding evidence that mercenaries had used it for their own vehicles. It is unclear how CAR recompenses Wagner; the state budget does not reflect any payments.

Vitriolic media campaigns have created further divisions. Ahead of the 2020 elections, Russia and France hurled accusations at each other in a trolling battle related to their role in CAR, prompting Facebook to suspend hundreds of fake accounts linked to Russian and French authorities. In recent months, small street protests targeting the regional bloc Economic Community of Central African States, France and MINUSCA coincided with a swell of online content maligning CAR’s neighbours and other foreign partners, while celebrating Russia’s role in the “liberation” of the country. For example, local broadcaster Radio Lengo Songo has adopted a staunch pro-Russia stance, blaming the UN and France for the country’s crisis. To be sure, much of that content reflects Central Africans’ support for Russia’s political and military involvement. But dissident voices are increasingly suppressed, leading some to ask for UN protection. For its part, France has suspended budget support to the government, citing misinformation as a reason. “We are caught in a battle of giants”, says one senior Central African official. “We need our partners to have a common vision”.

Furthermore, concerns are growing that Touadéra seeks to rig CAR’s broken economy in favour of Russian business interests. Many observers say the offensive is concentrated in mineral-rich areas, fuelling suspicion that the government is more interested in securing the country’s diamond and gold wealth than protecting civilians. “There is a nefarious backdoor influence that tries to influence public opinion and buy access to natural resources”, says a senior diplomat. In May, the finance ministry unofficially handed responsibility for customs revenue collection to the Russian economic mission that operates outside the embassy’s purview, resulting in what an eyewitness described as inspections of vehicles, including UN trucks, by foreign paramilitaries at CAR’s main border crossing with Cameroon. The ministry cancelled the contract in October after months of intense donor pressure and an outcry from Central African importers. The latter may have been feeling the pinch of more vigorous duty collection, as CAR officials told Crisis Group that the Russian mission had boosted customs income.

Conflict over CAR’s mineral resources could also intensify amid fears that the government may compensate Wagner or associated companies by handing them control of mining zones. Wagner arrived in 2018, around the same time that the government granted gold and diamond mining licences to the Russian-owned company Lobaye Invest SARLU. The UN says the two companies are “interconnected”. Russian media have linked Lobaye directly to Prigozhin. In 2019, the government cancelled a Canadian company’s licences for the Ndassima gold mine in order to hand them to a Malagasy company that reportedly has links to Russian interests. The International Arbitration Chamber of Paris is mediating the case.

The government is drafting a new mining code, proposing the establishment of a state-owned company that would serve as the country’s principal buyer and exporter of minerals, thereby limiting the number of diamond-buying offices and pushing out the mainly Muslim middlemen, known as “collectors”, who purchase gemstones from artisanal miners on site. The mining ministry says the proposal will make the sector compliant with international standards. Donors have, however, voiced strong objections to the present draft, which they say would deter new foreign investment in the sector. Meanwhile, many Central Africans – including some officials, speaking behind closed doors – fear that such policies could eventually backfire on the government. They believe that Touadéra will lose domestic support if he is perceived as handing CAR’s main sources of income to Russian interests. They demand greater transparency in the government’s commercial contracts and foreign relations.

What Should Be Done

Touadéra faces a difficult choice with Wagner. Its fighters have shielded him from an attempted coup and reset the balance of forces on the ground in the government’s favour for the first time in decades. Touadéra appears understandably sceptical of pursuing talks with rebels who tried to oust him despite the 2019 peace agreement. His decision to use mercenaries is justifiable, from a military point of view, and so far, Wagner has served him well. In the long term, however, the government will have to muster the political will to extend its extremely limited services beyond Bangui if it is to maintain control over the areas its troops have recaptured from rebels. The military intervention force is far too small to push out all the armed groups and keep them out, and its relations with MINUSCA are far too fraught to accomplish much beyond securing mining zones. Despite Wagner’s unprecedented battlefield gains, there is no easy way out for CAR’s government. The offensive may have halted fighting in some areas, but the serious abuses committed by mercenaries and security forces risk leading to more war. Complicated as it may be, Touadéra will have to engage with rebel leaders to ease the suffering of rural dwellers and end the hostilities.

Touadéra’s first priority should be to ensure that the army and associated foreign troops adhere to the unilateral ceasefire he declared on 15 October. Civilians have borne the brunt of the offensive, as men under arms from all sides roam the provinces, severely limiting freedom of movement and hindering economic activity. The government should enforce the ceasefire, even if temporarily, to facilitate the delivery of much-needed humanitarian relief. It is particularly urgent that aid reach areas where people face famine-like conditions.

The president’s administration, meanwhile, should expedite preparations for the inclusive national dialogue it has repeatedly pledged to organise. Touadéra remains opposed to including the CPC in these discussions, despite calls from the opposition and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region that he invite the rebels. Touadéra’s antipathy for the CPC is understandable – with the coup attempt, the coalition breached the 2019 peace agreement. But the crisis is sufficiently grave that he should reconsider. On 12 November, Bangui began judicial proceedings against all the main armed group leaders who signed the agreement – even those who did not join the CPC – casting doubt upon not only the proposed dialogue’s inclusiveness but also Touadéra’s sincerity in pursuing it. A backlash is possible.

At the same time, the government should take steps to curb inflammatory content in both social media and local newspapers in order to lighten the tense political atmosphere. Online misinformation about what the UN and France are doing in CAR (they face constant allegations of undermining the government) and street protests have led to serious physical threats against Central African politicians and foreign personnel in the country, in particular MINUSCA staff, restricting their ability to perform their duties. The government should urgently call for moderation among CAR’s social media users to prevent further threats and press local media to refrain from publishing false allegations against regional and foreign partners. While there is no hard evidence that the misinformation campaigns and street protests are orchestrated, their relentless anti-UN and anti-France tone indicates some level of concertation. Given Russia’s experience with online influencing, many suspect that the spread of misinformation is somehow linked to its presence in CAR.

Finally, there is a clear need for a unified policy among all external partners in CAR. It may be hard to fashion one given the acrimony between France and Russia over CAR and Moscow’s refusal to acknowledge links to Wagner. Still, some steps could enhance relations. Russia should strengthen its official representation in the country, first and foremost by filling the ambassador’s post, which has been vacant for months. It should also provide clarity on the role of Russian advisers who operate outside the embassy’s purview. Most partner states and international institutions perceive the government’s use of unaccountable foreign mercenaries as an obstacle to ending the conflict. This perception seems accurate, given the mounting abuses of civilians in the provinces and the widespread fear of foreign mercenaries they have generated. While their departure in the near future is unlikely, given Touadéra’s determination to quash the rebellion, CAR and its partners should urgently find a way to coordinate efforts to stabilise the country. For better or worse, there is no doubt that Touadéra’s political fate increasingly depends on Russia (and Wagner), and there is little prospect of him changing the course he has chosen. Yet his Western partners should continue to press for more transparency in his policies and try to bring Russia on board while doing so.




The Kampala Attacks and Their Regional Implications

By Dino Mahtani, International Crisis Group, 19 November 2021

The Islamic State has claimed two suicide bombings in the Ugandan capital Kampala. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Dino Mahtani unpacks what happened and assesses the threat of further such attacks in East Africa.

What happened and who is allegedly involved?

On 16 November, a trio of suicide bombers targeted Kampala, Uganda’s capital city, one detonating his vest outside police headquarters and two more blowing themselves up near parliament. The attacks killed at least four other people, according to official reports, and wounded 37 more, 27 of whom were police officers. As the city reeled from the blasts, security forces hunted down a fourth bomber in north-western Kampala, shooting him before recovering his suicide vest. The police said they had recovered more explosive materials from a safe house the fourth attacker was using in a nearby suburb and were continuing to track other possible members of the “terror groups”. In a statement later that day, President Yoweri Museveni said the attackers were tied to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a rebel group that emerged in Uganda in the early 1990s and later fled into the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Its resurgence in the DRC since 2013 has been marked by the killing of thousands of civilians.

Hours after the president’s statement, the Islamic State (ISIS), which now counts the ADF’s largest faction as one of its affiliates, issued its own communiqué via its media agency Amaq, claiming the attacks as its handiwork. ISIS said the attackers were all Ugandan foot soldiers of its so-called caliphate. In recent weeks, the jihadist group and the ADF have been linked to a spate of bombings in public spaces in Uganda. On 8 October, ISIS said it was behind a reported bomb attack against a police station in Kampala. It then claimed responsibility for an explosion in a speciality pork restaurant and bar on the city outskirts on 23 October, which killed one person. Days later, a suicide bomber blew himself up on a bus on the way to the DRC border, injuring a few passengers. Ugandan officials said he was part of the ADF. Earlier in 2021, authorities say, the ADF was also involved in a failed bomb plot targeting a Ugandan general’s funeral and a failed assassination attempt directed at a government minister.

A main suspect in some of the bomb plots, according to Ugandan security officials who have spoken to Crisis Group, is a Ugandan individual, Meddie Nkalubo (known in ADF circles as “Punisher”), who is based in an ADF camp in the eastern DRC from where he coordinates cells in Kampala and elsewhere. In June, UN investigators working under a Security Council mandate covering the DRC reported that several ADF ex-combatants had identified him as the operator of a drone the ADF used in combat against the Congolese military, as well as an important bombmaker for the group. An ADF ex-combatant who worked for him and who has been interviewed by Crisis Group explained that Nkalubo is also an important disseminator of ISIS propaganda and instructional videos to cells not just in Uganda but elsewhere in the region.

In the aftermath of the attacks, Ugandan security forces have deployed large numbers of troops and police and put up several new checkpoints across Kampala. As of Friday morning, police say they have arrested at least 34 people, including six children, who are allegedly connected to the ADF, and have recovered more explosive materials as part of ongoing raids. They say they have killed at least four suspected ADF operatives who were crossing into a Ugandan frontier town facing the DRC. They have also shot dead a Ugandan Muslim cleric, Muhammed Abas Kirevu, at his home outside Kampala. The police say he was an ADF recruiter and was killed after allegedly trying to escape while police tried to escort him into a patrol car. His family have described his killing as “cold blooded murder”. Meanwhile, authorities say they are hunting down another cleric, Suleiman Nsubuga, suspected of recruiting and training fighters, and providing them materials to make bombs. Rights activists have voiced concerns that a broader crackdown could translate into heavy-handed repression which could enable militant recruitment.

How has the ADF evolved while affiliating itself to Islamic State?

Originally composed of both Christian and Muslim fighters, the ADF began as an alliance of rebels seeking to oust President Museveni’s government. Its insurgency was routed by Ugandan troops in the mid-2000s, forcing it to flee to the eastern DRC, where it classed itself as an armed Islamist group. Although its activities are centred in the DRC, the ADF recruits heavily in Uganda, where it draws upon a wellspring of discontent among Ugandan Muslims, who make up roughly 14 per cent of the population according to official estimates. Some Muslims accuse authorities of religious discrimination, as seen in particular in mass roundups of young Muslims after high-profile security incidents.

For a time, the ADF appeared to have faded away in the DRC, but it has rebounded significantly since 2013, when it embarked on what would turn into a years-long spree of killing civilians and attacking security forces. The group became increasingly active in the run-up to national elections then slated to take place in 2016. During that period, it developed alliances with other local militias and armed groups opposing the state, plus, reportedly, with officers in the DRC’s army, while also taking sides in various local intercommunal disputes, all of which together created fiendishly difficult and bloody conflict dynamics for Kinshasa and the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC to have to bring under control. By the beginning of 2017, however, the ADF had petered out in the group’s stronghold of North Kivu province, as it faced supply and finance shortfalls following a period of intensive pressure from the DRC military. The ex-combatant interviewed by Crisis Group said food supplies were scarce until at least March 2017, after which the group began to recuperate again.

The ADF’s resurgence from 2017 coincided with a closer association with ISIS. The group appeared to have established links with Waleed Zein, a Kenyan national now in custody in his home country and sanctioned by the U.S. for his alleged role as a financial conduit between ISIS and the ADF. It also welcomed into its ranks another fighter known as Jundi, whom ADF ex-combatants identify as a Tanzanian national and the man who first brought the ISIS flag to ADF camps. In April 2019, ISIS claimed its first attack in the DRC, carried out by the ADF. Musa Baluku, leader of the group’s largest faction, now appears to be a self-proclaimed ISIS devotee. In a 2020 video seen by Crisis Group and referred to in a report from George Washington University, he stated that the ADF “ceased to exist a long time ago”, adding that he and his fighters, numbering several hundred, were now part of ISIS. A rival faction, made up of no more than dozens of people loyal to Baluku’s predecessor, Jamil Mukulu, now in custody and on trial in Uganda, is considered by DRC’s security officials to be only a minor threat.

Since 2020, Baluku’s group has also started moving north from its heartland in North Kivu into Ituri province, where violence involving predominantly ethnic Lendu militias has been escalating since 2017. DRC and UN officials say the ADF’s movement in this direction was spurred partly by renewed military operations launched against the group in North Kivu in October 2019. Since entering Ituri, the ADF has attempted to expand its collaborator network in the province. It has tried to recruit from among ethnic Hutu migrants who have settled in large numbers in Ituri’s south and are at odds with other local communities. Some of the latter community leaders have at times helped the DRC’s army track down the ADF. A “state of siege” declared by the DRC’s President Félix Tshisekedi in May, placing provincial authority in North Kivu and Ituri in military hands, has so far failed to stem the ADF’s continued expansion and deadly attacks.

Baluku’s faction appears meanwhile to have benefited from an influx of foreign fighters and advances in its deployment of improvised explosive devices (IED) and use of drones. DRC security officials and the former ADF combatant interviewed by Crisis Group noted that the group has since 2018 absorbed more foreign fighters, including from Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya, and also gave combat training to Mozambican al-Shabab insurgents from Cabo Delgado as late as that year. UN investigators also stated in a June 2021 report that “the involvement of ADF combatants from outside the Democratic Republic of Congo contributed to modest advancements in improvised explosive device construction techniques”, listing Burundians, Kenyans and Tanzanians as especially important to that development. The investigators cited an uptick in the ADF’s deployment of such devices on the battlefield, although many of the bombs are still rudimentary and fail to detonate. They also documented the group’s use of at least two surveillance drones in support of combat operations.

DRC authorities are meanwhile investigating whether a Middle Eastern individual they arrested in September at a location close to ADF camps in North Kivu is affiliated with ISIS in any way. The man was reportedly travelling on a Jordanian passport. After they arrested him, officials in Kinshasa say, they found drone management and bomb-making instructional materials as well as jihadist propaganda among his possessions. They have provided no evidence supporting this claim, however.

How does this all relate to other jihadist threats in the region?

The attack in Kampala comes as officials in other East African countries have begun to raise the alarm, warning of a possible surge in plots involving not just ISIS and its affiliates, but also Somalia’s Al-Shabaab movement, which swears allegiance to al-Qaeda. Al-Shabaab has conducted major attacks in Kenya and Uganda over the last decade or so.

In early October, authorities in Rwanda, next door to Uganda, announced that they had arrested thirteen individuals involved in a failed plot to detonate explosives in public spaces in the capital Kigali. Some of the suspects were allegedly found in possession of bomb-making equipment, including wires, nails, dynamite sticks and phones. Rwandan officials had told Crisis Group prior to the Kampala attack that they had obtained evidence that some of those arrested were in communication with Nkalubo. They said it was proof that the plot was connected to the ADF. One of the arrested suspects has reportedly stated that the plotters were looking to punish Rwanda for its military intervention in Cabo Delgado, where its troops deployed in March in support of government efforts to stem the al-Shabab insurrection that ISIS has also claimed as its affiliate in 2019.

Kenyan and Tanzanian authorities meanwhile report observing the return of significant numbers of their nationals who have served in militant groups abroad. Over the last few years, both countries had clamped down on domestic jihadist networks connected to Al-Shabaab in Somalia. These networks recruited from pools of disillusioned youth in Kenya’s north and along the Indian Ocean coast. Some of those youth fled the crackdowns, especially after 2017, and moved to the ADF or Mozambique’s al-Shabab, where they have been influenced by ISIS propaganda. Following foreign military intervention in Cabo Delgado, security sources say, many of these Kenyan and Tanzanian fighters, the latter of whom have occupied senior positions in al-Shabab, are retreating home.

These fighters’ return via Tanzania has coincided with other significant developments. In August, a lone shooter embarked on a killing spree near the French embassy in the main city of Dar es Salaam. Tanzanian officials are close-mouthed about his origins. Somali intelligence sources, however, say the man was a former member of Somalia’s Al-Shabaab who travelled to Mozambique in 2020 to join militants there. Sources close to the ADF, meanwhile, say the arrested Middle Eastern man mentioned above, prior to crossing into the DRC, had also stopped for nearly two weeks in August in the Tanzanian town of Kigoma, where he may have provided training to East African nationals. Immigration data, seen by Crisis Group, proves his presence there, although Crisis Group has not been able to independently confirm he provided training.

In the last few weeks, Kenya’s security services have issued a number of warnings, including in an official memorandum that was leaked in late October, that both ISIS and Al-Shabaab are looking to unleash fresh attacks along the Kenyan coast. One official told Crisis Group that Al-Shabaab would likely want to compete with ISIS for headlines if it learned that the latter was plotting new operations.

What are the prospects for the Islamic State’s growth in the region?

In March, the U.S. designated the ADF and Mozambique’s al-Shabab as branches of ISIS. It stopped short, however, of recognising these groups as constituent parts of the Islamic State in Central Africa Province, the core group’s preferred name for what it would still like to present as a caliphate with wholly integrated outposts. While fighters from both theatres of war have undoubtedly mingled, they are still pursuing local battlefield objectives under separate chains of command. DRC and Mozambican authorities, however, are worried that ISIS may try and channel more assistance to both of them. Meanwhile, it is claiming ever more attacks committed by the ADF and Mozambique’s al-Shabab on its media channels.

Independent financial investigators and regional authorities confirm that they have identified the transfer of hundreds of thousands of dollars from at least one cell in Kenya to ADF-affiliated individuals in the DRC and Uganda, as well as to unknown persons in Tanzania and Mozambique. Kenyan officials say they are investigating whether the money is connected to ISIS. If the global jihadist group is behind the transfers, it could indicate an attempt to reinforce not just the ADF and al-Shabab, but also the associated networks proliferating IEDs throughout the region.

In the meantime, another ISIS faction seems to be playing a role in the development of both the ADF and Mozambique’s al-Shabab. Al-Shabaab North East (ASNE), a small ISIS faction based in the mountains and coastal areas of north-eastern Puntland facing the Gulf of Aden, has for years built up a reputation as an important trafficker of arms and explosive materials into Somalia via associated clans. One of its commanders, Mohamed Ahmed “Qahiye”, is known by UN investigators and Somali intelligence sources to have travelled to Mozambique in 2020 via Ethiopia to provide training to fighters there. A document seen by Crisis Group dated April 2020 and recovered by security forces from militants in Mozambique also shows their leader reporting battle progress to ASNE. The ADF ex-combatant interviewed by Crisis Group stated that Nkalubo was also in touch with the Puntland faction.

Security officials in Mogadishu and Puntland’s capital Garowe express particular concern about ASNE. It has come under sustained military pressure from both Puntland security forces and Al-Shabaab units in the area, hemming in its movement. Still, it continues to resist and, those officials fear, may use its strategic location facing Yemen to bring in more weapons and fighters, and try to expand and project more influence in Somalia and further afield.

What should regional authorities and their partners do?

The latest attacks in Kampala reinforce the need for governments across the region to tackle what appears to be a multidimensional threat straddling national boundaries. While Ugandan authorities are preoccupied with the latest security operations in the wake of the horrific attacks, they must in the longer term ensure that their responses do not translate into indiscriminate roundups. Security forces must also try and prioritise arrests over shoot-to-kill operations. A heavy-handed approach may simply play into the hands of the ADF, helping it recruit at a time when national political tensions are also simmering after contested elections earlier this year.

Authorities in the DRC and Mozambique need to reduce opportunities for ISIS to finance the groups operating there. In the DRC, Crisis Group has already advocated that the government and UN peacekeeping mission work more closely with communities in ADF-afflicted areas, resolving disputes among them and drawing upon their local knowledge to develop military operations that target the ADF core more precisely. The group’s fighters would be more likely to demobilise if they come under more effective military pressure while also losing any local support they may have garnered. In Mozambique, Crisis Group has pushed the government to complement military operations by deploying the millions of dollars of aid money it has received. The spending is urgent and should be paired with confidence-building dialogue with locals who could help persuade Mozambican militants to defect.

Regional authorities from the Horn of Africa, East Africa and southern Africa also need to come together to cooperate more intensively to interdict and dismantle transnational support networks connected to the ADF, Mozambique’s al-Shabab and international jihadists operating across boundaries. Rwandan and Ugandan security services do not cooperate at present, due to tensions between them, as previously documented by Crisis Group. A number of Kenyan and Tanzanian officials have also told Crisis Group that intelligence cooperation between their countries is not as free and open as it should be. Meanwhile, Maputo’s security and judicial authorities have yet to receive details of suspected ISIS-related financial transfers that have been flagged in another country in the region and which also partly relate to Mozambique. Insufficient cooperation among countries in the region is likely a boon for militants that increasingly operate across those countries’ borders.





Les attentats de Kampala et leurs implications régionales

Par Dino Maharani, International Crisis Group, 19 November 2021

L'Etat islamique a revendiqué deux attentats-suicides dans la capitale ougandaise, Kampala. Dans ce Q&A, l'expert de Crisis Group Dino Mahtani explique ce qui s’est passé et évalue la menace de nouvelles attaques de ce type en Afrique de l'Est.


Que s'est-il passé et qui est présumé être impliqué ?

Le 16 novembre, un trio de kamikazes a pris pour cible Kampala, capitale de l'Ouganda. L'un d'entre eux a fait exploser sa veste devant le siège de la police et deux autres se sont fait exploser près du parlement. Les attentats ont fait au moins quatre morts, selon les rapports officiels, et 37 blessés, dont 27 policiers. Alors que la ville était sous le choc des explosions, les forces de sécurité ont pourchassé un quatrième kamikaze dans le nord-ouest de Kampala, l'abattant avant de récupérer sa ceinture d’explosifs. La police a déclaré qu'elle avait récupéré d'autres explosifs dans une maison sécurisée que le quatrième attaquant utilisait dans une banlieue proche et qu'elle continuait à traquer d'autres membres potentiels des « groupes terroristes ». Dans une déclaration faite plus tard dans la journée, le président Yoweri Museveni a expliqué que les assaillants étaient liés aux Forces démocratiques alliées (ADF), un groupe rebelle apparu en Ouganda au début des années 1990 et qui a ensuite fui vers l'est de la République démocratique du Congo (RDC). Sa résurgence en RDC depuis 2013 a été marquée par le meurtre de milliers de civils.

Quelques heures après la déclaration du président, l'Etat islamique (EI), auquel s’est désormais affilié la plus grande faction des ADF, a publié son propre communiqué par l'intermédiaire de son agence de presse Amaq, revendiquant les attaques. L’EI a déclaré que les attaquants étaient tous des soldats ougandais de son soi-disant califat. Ces dernières semaines, le groupe jihadiste et les ADF ont été liés à une série d'attentats à la bombe dans des lieux publics en Ouganda. Le 8 octobre, l’EI a déclaré être à l'origine d'un attentat à la bombe contre un poste de police à Kampala. Il a ensuite revendiqué une explosion dans un bar-restaurant de spécialités porcines dans la banlieue de la ville le 23 octobre, qui a fait un mort. Quelques jours plus tard, un kamikaze s'est fait exploser dans un bus en direction de la frontière avec la RDC, blessant quelques passagers. Les responsables ougandais ont déclaré qu'il était affilié aux ADF. Plus tôt en 2021, selon les autorités, les ADF ont également été impliquées dans un attentat à la bombe raté visant les funérailles d'un général ougandais et dans une tentative d'assassinat ratée visant un ministre du gouvernement.

Selon des responsables de la sécurité ougandaise qui se sont entretenus avec Crisis Group, l'un des principaux suspects dans plusieurs projets d'attentat à la bombe est un Ougandais, Meddie Nkalubo (connu dans les milieux ADF sous le nom de « Punisher »), qui est basé dans un camp des ADF dans l'est de la RDC d'où il coordonne des réseaux à Kampala et ailleurs. En juin, des enquêteurs des Nations unies travaillant dans le cadre d'un mandat du Conseil de sécurité couvrant la RDC ont indiqué que plusieurs anciens combattants des ADF l'avaient identifié comme étant l'opérateur d'un drone utilisé par les ADF lors de combats contre l'armée congolaise, ainsi que comme un important fabricant de bombes pour le groupe. Un ancien combattant des ADF qui a travaillé pour lui et qui a répondu aux questions de Crisis Group a expliqué que Nkalubo était également un relais essentiel de diffusion de propagande et de vidéos d'instruction de l’EI dans des réseaux non seulement en Ouganda mais aussi ailleurs dans la région.

À la suite de ces attentats, les forces de sécurité ougandaises ont déployé un grand nombre de soldats et de policiers et mis en place plusieurs nouveaux points de contrôle dans Kampala. Depuis vendredi matin, la police affirme avoir arrêté au moins 34 personnes, dont six enfants, qui auraient des liens avec les ADF, et avoir récupéré d'autres explosifs dans le cadre de raids en cours. Elle dit avoir tué au moins quatre agents présumés des ADF qui rejoignaient une ville frontalière ougandaise située en face de la RDC. Elles ont également abattu un religieux musulman ougandais, Muhammed Abas Kirevu, à son domicile dans les environs de Kampala. La police affirme qu'il s'agissait d'un recruteur des ADF et qu'il a été tué après avoir tenté de s'échapper alors que des policiers s’efforçaient de l'escorter vers une voiture de patrouille. Sa famille a qualifié ce meurtre de « meurtre de sang-froid ». Parallèlement, les autorités affirment qu'elles traquent un autre religieux, Suleiman Nsubuga, soupçonné de recruter et d'entraîner des combattants et de leur fournir du matériel pour fabriquer des bombes. Les défenseurs des droits humains craignent qu'une répression plus large ne se traduise par des mesures brutales susceptibles de favoriser le recrutement de militants.

Comment les ADF ont-elles évolué tout en s'affiliant à l'Etat islamique ?

Composées à l'origine de combattants chrétiens et musulmans, les ADF ont commencé leur action en tant qu’alliance de rebelles cherchant à renverser le gouvernement du président Museveni. Leur insurrection a été mise en déroute par les troupes ougandaises au milieu des années 2000, ce qui les a contraintes à fuir vers l'est de la RDC, où elles se sont installées en tant que groupe islamiste armé. Même si leurs activités sont centrées sur la RDC, les ADF recrutent beaucoup en Ouganda, où elles trouvent des mécontents parmi les musulmans ougandais, qui représentent environ 14 pour cent de la population selon les estimations officielles. Certains musulmans accusent les autorités de discrimination religieuse, comme en témoignent notamment les rafles massives de jeunes musulmans après des incidents de sécurité notoires.

Pendant un certain temps, les ADF semblaient avoir disparu en RDC, mais elles ont repris un second souffle en 2013, lorsqu'elles se sont lancées dans ce qui allait devenir, pendant plusieurs années, une série de meurtres de populations civiles et d'attaques contre les forces de sécurité. Le groupe est devenu de plus en plus actif à l'approche des élections nationales qui devaient avoir lieu en 2016. Au cours de cette période, il a noué des alliances avec d'autres milices locales et groupes armés opposés à l'Etat, ainsi que, semblerait-il, avec des officiers de l'armée congolaise, tout en prenant parti dans divers conflits intercommunautaires locaux, ce qui a créé une dynamique de conflit extrêmement difficile et sanglante que Kinshasa et la mission de maintien de la paix des Nations unies en RDC ont dû maîtriser. Au début de l'année 2017, cependant, les ADF se sont affaiblies dans leur bastion, la province du Nord-Kivu, car elles ont été confrontées à des problèmes d'approvisionnement et de financement après une période de pression intensive de la part de l'armée congolaise. L'ancien combattant interrogé par Crisis Group a déclaré que les réserves de nourriture étaient limitées jusqu'au moins en mars 2017, après quoi le groupe a commencé à récupérer.

La résurgence des ADF à partir de 2017 a coïncidé avec une association plus étroite avec l’EI. Le groupe semble avoir établi des liens avec Waleed Zein, un ressortissant kényan aujourd'hui en détention dans son pays d'origine et sanctionné par les Etats-Unis pour son rôle présumé d'intermédiaire financier entre l’EI et les ADF. Il a également accueilli dans ses rangs un autre insurgé connu sous le nom de Jundi, que les anciens combattants des ADF identifient comme un ressortissant tanzanien et comme étant l'homme qui a brandi pour la première fois le drapeau de l’EI dans les camps des ADF. En avril 2019, l’EI a revendiqué sa première attaque en RDC, menée par les ADF. Musa Baluku, le chef de la plus grande faction du groupe, semble maintenant être un dévot autoproclamé de l’EI. Dans une vidéo de 2020 vue par Crisis Group et citée dans un rapport de l'Université George Washington, il a déclaré que les ADF « avaient cessé d'exister depuis longtemps », ajoutant que lui et ses combattants, au nombre de plusieurs centaines, faisaient désormais partie de l’EI. Une faction rivale, composée de quelques dizaines de personnes fidèles au prédécesseur de Baluku, Jamil Mukulu, actuellement en détention et en attente de jugement en Ouganda, est considérée par les responsables de la sécurité de la RDC comme une menace mineure.

Depuis 2020, le groupe de Baluku a également commencé à se déplacer vers le nord, à partir de son fief du Nord-Kivu vers la province de l'Ituri, où la violence impliquant des milices à prédominance ethnique lendu s'est intensifiée depuis 2017. Des responsables du gouvernement congolais et des Nations unies affirment que le mouvement des ADF dans cette direction a été motivé en partie par les nouvelles opérations militaires lancées contre le groupe au Nord-Kivu en octobre 2019. Depuis leur entrée en Ituri, les ADF ont tenté d'étendre leur réseau de collaborateurs dans la province. Elles ont essayé de recruter parmi les migrants hutu qui se sont installés en grand nombre dans le sud de l'Ituri et qui affichent des désaccords avec les autres communautés locales. Certains chefs de ces communautés locales ont parfois aidé l'armée congolaise à traquer les ADF. L'« état de siège » déclaré par le président congolais Félix Tshisekedi en mai, plaçant l'autorité provinciale du Nord-Kivu et de l'Ituri entre les mains de l'armée, n'a pas réussi jusqu'à présent à endiguer l'expansion constante des ADF et leurs attaques meurtrières.

La faction de Baluku semble entretemps avoir bénéficié d'un afflux de combattants étrangers et de progrès réalisés dans le déploiement d'engins explosifs improvisés (EEI) et l’utilisation de drones. Des responsables congolais de la sécurité et l'ancien combattant des ADF, qui ont répondu aux questions de Crisis Group, ont noté que le groupe avait absorbé depuis 2018 davantage de combattants étrangers, notamment en provenance du Burundi, du Kenya, d’Ouganda, du Rwanda et de Tanzanie, et avait également dispensé une formation au combat à des insurgés mozambicains d'al-Shabab au Cabo Delgado, jusqu’à cette année-là. Les enquêteurs des Nations unies ont également déclaré dans un rapport datant de juin 2021 que « la participation de combattants des ADF extérieurs à la République démocratique du Congo a contribué à de modestes progrès sur le plan des techniques de fabrication d'engins explosifs improvisés », citant les Burundais, les Kényans et les Tanzaniens comme ayant joué un rôle particulièrement important dans cette évolution. Les enquêteurs ont constaté une augmentation du déploiement de ces engins par les ADF sur le terrain, même si la plupart de ces bombes sont encore rudimentaires et ne parviennent pas à exploser. Ils ont également documenté l'utilisation par le groupe d'au moins deux drones de surveillance en soutien aux opérations de combat.

Les autorités de la RDC enquêtent actuellement pour savoir si un individu du Moyen-Orient qu'elles ont arrêté en septembre près des camps des ADF au Nord-Kivu est affilié à l’EI de quelque manière que ce soit. L'homme aurait voyagé avec un passeport jordanien. Après son arrestation, les autorités de Kinshasa affirment avoir trouvé dans ses affaires du matériel pédagogique sur l’utilisation des drones et la fabrication de bombes, ainsi que de la propagande jihadiste. Ils n'ont toutefois fourni aucune preuve à l'appui de cette affirmation.

Comment tout cela s'articule-t-il avec les autres menaces jihadistes dans la région ?

L'attentat de Kampala intervient alors que des responsables d'autres pays d'Afrique de l'Est ont commencé à tirer la sonnette d'alarme, mettant en garde contre une éventuelle recrudescence des complots impliquant non seulement l’EI et ses affiliés, mais aussi le mouvement somalien Al-Shabaab, qui prête allégeance à al-Qaeda. Al-Shabaab a mené des attaques majeures au Kenya et en Ouganda au cours de ces dix dernières années environ.

Début octobre, les autorités du Rwanda, pays voisin de l'Ouganda, ont annoncé qu'elles avaient arrêté treize personnes impliquées dans un complot raté visant à actionner des explosifs dans des lieux publics de la capitale Kigali. Certains des suspects auraient été trouvés en possession de matériel pour fabriquer des bombes, notamment des câbles, des clous, des bâtons de dynamite et des téléphones. Avant l'attentat de Kampala, des responsables rwandais avaient déclaré à Crisis Group qu'ils avaient obtenu des preuves selon lesquelles certaines des personnes arrêtées étaient en communication avec Nkalubo. D’après eux il s’agissait de la preuve que le complot était lié aux ADF. L'un des suspects arrêtés aurait déclaré que les auteurs du complot cherchaient à punir le Rwanda pour son intervention militaire au Cabo Delgado, où ses troupes sont déployées depuis mars pour soutenir les efforts du gouvernement visant à endiguer l'insurrection d’al-Shabab, que l’EI a également revendiqué comme étant son affilié en 2019.

Les autorités kényanes et tanzaniennes indiquent, quant à elles, avoir observé le retour d'un nombre important de leurs ressortissants ayant servi dans des groupes militants à l'étranger. Au cours des dernières années, les deux pays ont pris des mesures sévères contre les réseaux jihadistes nationaux liés à Al-Shabaab en Somalie. Ces réseaux recrutaient parmi les jeunes désabusés du nord du Kenya et de la côte de l'océan Indien. Certains de ces jeunes ont fui les mesures de répression, surtout après 2017, et ont rejoint les ADF ou al-Shabab au Mozambique, où ils ont été influencés par la propagande de l’EI. À la suite de l'intervention militaire étrangère au Cabo Delgado, selon des sources de sécurité, beaucoup de ces combattants kényans et tanzaniens, ces derniers ayant occupé des postes de haut niveau au sein d'al-Shabab, rentrent chez eux.

Le retour de ces combattants via la Tanzanie a coïncidé avec d'autres événements importants. En août, un tireur isolé s’est lancé dans une série de meurtres près de l'ambassade de France dans la ville principale de Dar es Salam. Les responsables tanzaniens sont très discrets sur ses origines. Des sources des services de renseignement somaliens affirment toutefois que l'homme était un ancien membre d'Al-Shabaab en Somalie qui s'est rendu au Mozambique en 2020 pour y rejoindre des insurgés. Des sources proches des ADF, quant à elles, affirment que l'homme du Moyen-Orient arrêté (cf. supra) avant d’entrer en RDC, s'était également arrêté pendant près de deux semaines en août dans la ville tanzanienne de Kigoma, où il pourrait avoir formé des ressortissants d'Afrique de l'Est. Les registres d'immigration, vus par Crisis Group, prouvent sa présence dans cette ville, même si Crisis Group n'a pas été en mesure de confirmer de manière indépendante qu'il avait dispensé une formation.

Au cours des dernières semaines, les services de sécurité kényans ont émis un certain nombre d'avertissements, notamment dans un mémorandum officiel qui a fuité à la fin du mois d'octobre, selon lesquels l’EI et Al-Shabaab cherchaient à déclencher de nouvelles attaques le long de la côte kényane. Un responsable kényan a déclaré à Crisis Group qu'Al-Shabaab chercherait probablement à rivaliser avec l’EI pour faire les gros titres s'il apprenait que ce dernier préparait de nouvelles opérations.

Quelles sont les perspectives de développement de l'Etat islamique dans la région ?

En mars, les Etats-Unis ont désigné les ADF et le groupe mozambicain al-Shabab comme des branches de l'EI. Ils n'ont toutefois pas reconnu ces groupes comme étant des éléments constitutifs de la province de l'Etat islamique en Afrique centrale, le nom préféré du noyau principal du groupe pour désigner ce qu'il aimerait continuer à présenter comme un califat avec des avant-postes entièrement intégrés. Si les combattants des deux théâtres d’opérations se sont indubitablement mêlés, ils continuent à poursuivre des objectifs de combat locaux, avec des chaînes de commandement distinctes. Les autorités de la RDC et du Mozambique craignent toutefois que l’EI ne tente de leur apporter une aide plus conséquente. Entre-temps, il revendique sur ses canaux médiatiques des attaques toujours plus nombreuses perpétrées par les ADF et al-Shabab.

Des enquêteurs financiers indépendants et les autorités régionales confirment avoir identifié le transfert de centaines de milliers de dollars depuis au moins une cellule au Kenya à des individus affiliés aux ADF en RDC et en Ouganda, ainsi qu'à des personnes non identifiées en Tanzanie et au Mozambique. Les autorités kényanes ont déclaré qu'elles enquêtaient pour savoir si l'argent était lié à l’EI. Si le groupe jihadiste mondial est à l’origine des transferts, cela pourrait indiquer une tentative de renforcer non seulement les ADF et al-Shabab, mais aussi les réseaux associés qui multiplient les EEI dans la région.

Entretemps, une autre faction de l'EI semble jouer un rôle dans le développement des ADF et d'al-Shabab au Mozambique. Al-Shabaab Nord-Est (ASNE), une petite faction de l'EI basée dans les montagnes et les zones côtières du nord-est du Puntland, face au golfe d'Aden, s'est forgée depuis des années une réputation d'important trafiquant d'armes et d’explosifs amenés en Somalie par le biais de clans associés. L'un de ses commandants, Mohamed Ahmed « Qahiye », est connu des enquêteurs des Nations unies et des services de renseignement somaliens pour s'être rendu au Mozambique en 2020 via l'Ethiopie afin d'y former des combattants. Un document vu par Crisis Group, daté d'avril 2020 et récupéré par les forces de sécurité auprès de militants au Mozambique, montre également leur chef faisant état de la progression des combats à l'ASNE. L'ex-combattant des ADF interrogé par Crisis Group a déclaré que Nkalubo était également en contact avec la faction du Puntland.

Les responsables de la sécurité à Mogadiscio et à Garowe, la capitale du Puntland, sont particulièrement préoccupés par l'ASNE. Elle a fait l'objet d'une pression militaire soutenue de la part des forces de sécurité du Puntland et des unités d'Al-Shabaab dans la région, ce qui a limité ses mouvements. Elle continue néanmoins à résister et ces responsables craignent qu’elle ne profite de sa position stratégique face au Yémen pour faire venir davantage d'armes et de combattants, et tenter de prendre de l’ampleur et d’exercer une plus grande influence en Somalie et au-delà.

Que doivent faire les autorités régionales et leurs partenaires ?

Les dernières attaques à Kampala renforcent la nécessité pour les gouvernements de la région de lutter contre ce qui semble être une menace multidimensionnelle dépassant les frontières nationales. Alors que les autorités ougandaises sont préoccupées par les dernières opérations de sécurité menées à la suite de ces attentats tragiques, elles doivent, à plus long terme, veiller à ce que leur réaction ne se traduise pas par des rafles aveugles. Les forces de sécurité doivent également essayer de donner la priorité aux arrestations plutôt qu'aux opérations de type « tirer pour tuer ». Une approche brutale pourrait revenir à faire le jeu des ADF, en les aidant à recruter à un moment où il existe des tensions politiques nationales sous-jacentes après les élections contestées de cette année.

Les autorités de la RDC et du Mozambique doivent réduire la marge de manœuvre qu’a l’EI dans le financement des groupes qui y opèrent. En RDC, Crisis Group a déjà préconisé que le gouvernement et la mission de maintien de la paix des Nations unies travaillent plus étroitement avec les communautés dans les zones touchées par les ADF, en résolvant les conflits entre elles et en s'appuyant sur leurs connaissances locales pour développer des opérations militaires qui ciblent plus précisément le noyau des ADF. Les combattants du groupe seraient plus susceptibles de se démobiliser s'ils sont soumis à une pression militaire plus efficace, tout en perdant le soutien local qu'ils ont pu recueillir. Au Mozambique, Crisis Group a poussé le gouvernement à complémenter les opérations militaires en déployant les millions de dollars d'aide qu'il a reçus. Ces dépenses sont urgentes et devraient être associées à un dialogue visant à renforcer la confiance avec la population locale, qui pourrait aider à persuader les militants mozambicains de se démobiliser.

Les autorités régionales de la Corne de l'Afrique, de l'Afrique de l'Est et de l'Afrique australe doivent également s'unir et coopérer plus activement pour bannir et démanteler les réseaux de soutien transnationaux liés aux ADF, à al-Shabab au Mozambique et aux jihadistes internationaux opérant de manière transfrontalière. Les services de sécurité rwandais et ougandais ne coopèrent pas pour l'instant, en raison de tensions entre eux, comme l'a précédemment documenté Crisis Group. Un certain nombre de responsables kényans et tanzaniens ont également déclaré à Crisis Group que la coopération en matière de renseignement entre leurs pays n'était pas aussi libre et ouverte qu'elle devrait l'être. Pendant ce temps, les autorités judiciaires et de sécurité de Maputo n'ont pas encore reçu les détails des transferts financiers présumés liés à l'EI qui ont été signalés dans un autre pays de la région et qui concernent aussi en partie le Mozambique. La coopération insuffisante entre les pays de la région est probablement une aubaine pour les militants dont les opérations sont de plus en plus transfrontalières.



La diaspora marocaine : Quelles modalités de participation politiques?

Par Anas El Hasnaoui, Arab Reform Initiative, 18 November 2021

Les Marocains vivant dans la diaspora, souvent appelés les « Marocains du monde » (MDM), dont nombreux conservent toujours de liens étroits avec leur pays d’origine, constituent une partie importante des discussions politiques locales. Cet article explore l’histoire de la participation politique de la diaspora au Maroc et les modes dans lesquels elle est facilitée ou entravée, fournissant des recommandations pour des voies vers une représentation plus inclusive.

La communauté marocaine établie à l’étranger se compte aujourd’hui aux alentours de 4,2 millions individus, soit 10% de la population marocaine.1 Dénommée « Marocains du Monde » (MDM), cette population a connu une évolution2 dans son statut. Aujourd’hui, elle se caractérise par la diversité de ses régions d’établissement et sa féminisation, grâce aux stratégies individuelles des femmes avec des niveaux de compétence et d’instruction élevés. Les MDM sont démographiquement jeunes, sont dotés des compétences hautement qualifiées dans différents domaines, et leur contribution financière à l’économie nationale est considérable : elle représente une moyenne annuelle de 10% du PIB, soit la première recette, bien devant l’aide publique au développement et les investissements directs étrangers.

Ces caractéristiques ont suscité depuis des décennies l’intérêt des autorités politiques, qui ont mis en place diverses stratégies et cadres institutionnels visant à mobiliser les ressources et les compétences des MDM, surtout financières et technologiques. Il s’agit de promouvoir et valoriser la participation des migrants dans leur pays d’origine par « la mobilisation, » ici signifiant l’acte volontariste de l’Etat envers sa diaspora. En effet, le Maroc a utilisé différentes modalités pour impliquer sa diaspora dans le développement du pays. Toutefois, alors que des pratiques de mise à contribution, malgré leur efficacité relative, dans les sphères économiques, sociales, culturelles, et sportives paraissent se démarquer, sous des impulsions de l’ici et de l’ailleurs, la participation politique demeure gelée et sujet à controverse depuis l’expérience des années 1990. En effet, le nouveau modèle de développement continue à minimiser la pleine participation des MDM sur le plan des politiques publiques. Dans l’absence d’un cadre institutionnel clair qui permet une représentation légitime et un champ d’intervention délimité, la question de la participation de la diaspora marocaine dans les politiques publiques restera suspendue.

La canalisation de la diaspora marocaine pour des buts de développement

La participation des MDM au développement du Maroc se distingue par trois grandes phases qui reflètent les différentes approches et les degrés de canalisation proposés par les autorités publiques. Jusqu’à la fin des années 1980, les MDM étaient institutionnellement considérés comme un segment de la politique de l’emploi. Ils étaient qualifiés de travailleurs marocains à l’étranger,3 et les structures qui avaient la charge d’intermédiation entre les migrants et leur pays d’origine étaient des structures associatives sous la supervision des autorités marocaines de part et d’autre. L’intérêt accordé aux MDM en tant que pourvoyeurs de fonds financiers était et demeure manifeste. Ce système s’est très tôt occupé de mettre à leur disposition un réseau d’agences hébergées dans les consulats et les ambassades marocains des pays à forte présence migratoire d’origine marocaine.

Vers la fin des années 1980 et surtout le début des années 1990, le paysage institutionnel en charge de la migration connaitra la naissance du premier département ministériel des Marocains résidant à l’étranger et de la Fondation Hassan II pour les MRE (Marocains résidents à l’étranger). En plus de sa focalisation sur les dimensions sociales et culturelles pour renforcer les liens des MDM avec leur pays d’origine, la Fondation Hassan II a apporté une contribution à la connaissance du migrant marocain en tant qu’acteur économique et a mis en place des programmes destinés spécifiquement à leur accompagnement. La question de la mobilisation des MDM par l’Etat allait ainsi connaitre un intérêt croissant auprès des différents acteurs concernés. Elle a fait l’objet de programmes et d’initiatives à partir des pays d’accueil et du Maroc, déployé pour inverser le phénomène du « Brain Drain » (la fuite des cerveaux).

Du milieu des années 2000 à nos jours, on assiste à une accélération du processus de mobilisation dans la forme et dans le fond. Il s’agissait là d’un nouveau contexte politique caractérisé par deux événements majeurs : d’abord l’arrivée, pour la première fois depuis l’indépendance du Maroc, de l’opposition politique au gouvernement (1997- 2002) ; ensuite, deux ans plus tard (1999), l’accession au trône du jeune monarque Mohammed VI. Plusieurs chantiers allaient être ouverts, y compris en direction des opposants résidant à l’étranger et des exilés politiques. Cette phase serait marquée au niveau international par l’émergence de l’approche Brain-Gain et Brain-change, c’est-à-dire, une approche positive de l’acte migratoire pour le transformer en support de développement sur les deux territoires d’accueil et de résidence.

Institutionnellement, on assiste au retour du portefeuille ministériel des Marocains de l’étranger (à partir de 2002), l’instauration de la Journée Nationale du Migrant, la création du Conseil de la Communauté Marocaine à l’Etranger (2006), et le lancement du programme FINCOME (Forum International des Compétences Marocaines à l’Etranger)(2003-2009). Dans la même lignée, en décembre 2007, le Maroc a organisé une conférence qui donnerait naissance au Réseau marocain de l’investissement (Moroccan Invest Network) et l’adoption d’une nouvelle stratégie avec trois centres d’intérêt (les transferts financiers, la mobilisation des compétences, et le co-développement y compris la contribution des organisations de la société civile) et la mise en place d’un programme d’appel aux compétences marocaines.

Dans ce bouillonnement institutionnel, le Conseil de la communauté marocaine à l’étranger, le CCM, a vu le jour. De par sa mission consultative sur les politiques publiques en relation avec les MDM, il a couvert les questions axiales permettant d’apporter un éclairage et une meilleure compréhension de la question migratoire.

On peut parler à priori de la première forme de participation élargie, sous la supervision et l’animation d’une institution nationale, reflétée par sa structuration en six groupes de travail sur les compétences scientifiques, techniques, économiques et de développement solidaire, la citoyenneté et la participation politique, l’administration, les droits des usagers et les politiques publiques, les cultes et l’éducation religieuse, et l’approche genre et les nouvelles générations. La mobilisation des MDM a également intéressé la coopération internationale. Un accent important a été mis sur la connaissance et la promotion du rôle économique et entrepreneurial des MDM et de leurs pratiques en tant qu’acteur de développement local. Ce modèle sera élargi, cependant, à partir de 2011 et malgré les réformes constitutionnelles en faveur de la participation politique des MDM, leur mise en œuvre reste toujours suspendue.

Le nouveau modèle de développement : une autre invitation à la participation des MDM ?

Avec la dernière réforme de la constitution de 2011, la participation des Marocains au développement de leur pays d’origine est consacrée comme droit constitutionnel. En effet, la commission en charge de ce processus de réforme constitutionnel comptait déjà parmi ses membres le Président du CCME. De surcroît, le Conseil a organisé une consultation qui a regroupé des Marocains du monde pour formuler les dispositions à intégrer dans la nouvelle constitution.4 Cette participation a donné lieu à la constitutionnalisation du CCME d’un côté et l’inscription de mentions claires sur les droits et les rôles des MDM.

Ainsi peut-on lire dans l’article 16 de la Constitution l’engagement du Maroc à protéger les droits et les intérêts des MDM en réaffirmant la volonté du pays de maintenir et de développer leurs liens humains avec le royaume, ainsi qu’à renforcer leur contribution au développement du Maroc. La Constitution reconnait également les droits de citoyenneté des MDM, y compris le droit d'être électeurs et éligibles (article 17), et affirme l’engagement des pouvoirs publics à assurer une participation aussi étendue que possible des MDM aux institutions consultatives et de bonne gouvernance du pays (article 18). Finalement, l’article 163 reconnait le rôle fondamental du Conseil de la communauté marocaine à l'étranger afin d'émettre des avis sur les orientations des politiques publiques liées aux MDM.

Cette reconnaissance constitutionnelle a entraîné une dynamique gouvernementale en matière de mise en place de programmes et d’actions en faveur des MDM et a élargi le champ potentiel de la participation. Toutefois, elle a mis en avant et à ce jour le paradoxe entre la reconnaissance de la participation politique d’une part et la non-concrétisation de ce principe d’autre part.

Dans ce contexte spécifique à la question migratoire,5 associé à celui de la remise en question des résultats des politiques de développement sur deux décennies, un débat national sur le nouveau modèle de développement pour le Maroc a été lancé sur instructions royales. Une commission de 35 membres, personnes ressources dans leur domaine de compétence, a été désignée pour superviser et animer ce débat et d’en rendre compte au Roi. Parmi les membres la composant, sept sont des MDM.6

La commission en charge du nouveau modèle de développement a remis le 25 mai 2021 son rapport avec comme sous-titre : « Libérer les énergies et restaurer la confiance pour accélérer la marche vers le progrès et la prospérité pour tous. » Il comporte cinq axes leviers constitutifs du modèle de développement à savoir : la diversification économique, le renforcement du capital humain, la gouvernance et l’inclusion, la territorialisation, et la contribution des Marocains du monde. Néanmoins, cette nouvelle formule pour la participation de la diaspora marocaine dans le développement du pays d’origine ne résout pas le sujet controversé de la participation politique de MDM.

Quid de la participation politique : un sujet à controverse

Après une courte expérience de représentation des MDM au sein du parlement,7 la question n’a été réitérée qu’à partir de 2005, lorsque le Roi Mohammed VI a, dans son discours, annoncé le contour d’une stratégie migratoire basée d’abord sur la définition du profil des MDM en les considérant comme « un atout majeur pour le Maroc nouveau. » Quatre champs de cette stratégie ont été annoncé, donnant aux MDM la possibilité de se faire représenter à la Chambre des Représentants, de créer des circonscriptions législatives électorales à l’étranger, d’accorder le droit de voter et de se porter candidat, et de créer un Conseil Supérieur de la Communauté marocaine à l’étranger.

Malgré ce discours, à l’approche de chaque élection législative, le même débat refait surface. Entre 2005 et septembre 2021 (date des dernières élections), la question de la participation est restée en suspens et aucune des décisions dédiées n’a été mise en œuvre. Le seul vote accordé durant cette période a concerné la réforme constitutionnelle de 2011. Le contenu de l’article 17 de la constitution n’a pas vu le jour et les recommandations du rapport sur le nouveau modèle de développement n’ont pas impacté le cours des choses. Par exemple, en 2007, le verdict du Ministère de l’intérieur était clair : « les (MDM) ne devraient pas compter aller aux urnes, en 2007, pour élire leurs représentants au Parlement, à l’issue du scrutin de 2007. » Rejetant cette position, qui selon lui allait à l’encontre des hautes directives royales, le CNMF a critiqué les deux départements concernés, le Ministère des Affaires Etrangères et celui de l’Intérieur qui « n’ont pris véritablement d’initiatives concrètes permettant réellement la participation des MRE aux prochaines élections de 2007. »8 Même sonne de cloche a été entendue dans les rangs du Parti Justice et Démocratie qui y voyait une obstruction à la volonté des MDM, de peur d’une vague électorale en faveur des islamistes. Puis en 2011, lors des élections anticipées, la proposition faite aux MDM a été de voter par procuration, c’est-à-dire un Marocain résidant au Maroc pourrait voter au non d’un seul MDM. Cette formule a été critiquée par le secrétaire général du PJD, encore dans l’opposition, la considérant comme « insulte. »9

Comment comprendre cette incapacité – ou manque de volonté – de mettre en place un système de participation politique de la diaspora marocaine ? Selon la mission qui lui a été accordée lors de son premier mandat,10 le CCME a édité son rapport sur la question de la participation politique et citoyenne en 2013. Bien qu’il n’ait pas pris la forme explicitement d’un avis « rendu publiquement, » le rapport présente tous les éléments relativisant l’importance de cette participation et qui, sous certains arguments, apparait quasi impossible. D’abord, la légitimité de la représentation des MDM pour légiférer sur des politiques publiques concernant le Maroc et ses résidents est remise en question. La stratégie migratoire est d’abord individuelle, c’est-à-dire une quête de changement suite à une décision non négociée avec le pays d’origine, mais une volonté délibérée pour évoluer ailleurs. Il ne s’agit pas d’une dette envers le pays d’origine. Ensuite, la double allégeance à deux territoires est citée. Selon le rapport, cette double allégeance crée le flou dans la nature des stratégies et des politiques à défendre et qui sont parfois contradictoires et pouvant conduire à une confrontation d’intérêts. Enfin, l’absence d’automatisme entre l’existence d’une communauté à l’étranger et l’obligation de la représentation dans son pays d’origine est soulevée.11

En fin de compte, dans le rapport du nouveau modèle de développement, il n’y a pas de nouveauté sous la question des différentes formes de participation, si ce n’est la synthèse de toutes les décisions, les recommandations, et les orientations énumérées dans les rapports stratégiques, les discours royaux ou encore les dispositions constitutionnelles. Bien qu’il soit évident qu’il existe un intérêt croissant à la mobilisation par l’Etat de la diaspora marocaine, et que cette inclusion s’est améliorée dans le temps et dans l’espace, des questions fondamentales de représentation et sa manifestation institutionnelle restent suspendues.

La légitimité de la représentation : une question sans réponse

Parmi les problèmes dans les dispositifs d’inclusion de la diaspora marocaine dans le développement du pays est l’instabilité institutionnelle et un déficit de gouvernance de la politique migratoire. Le département ministériel en charge de la migration est volatile, et a changé de configuration depuis que cette question ne figure plus dans le portefeuille du Ministère du travail. Il était rattaché aux affaires étrangères, pour se retrouver sous la tutelle de la primature avant de regagner les affaires étrangères suite au dernier remaniement gouvernemental. De même le CCME n’a pas renouvelé ses membres depuis leur première désignation en 2006, et qui sont par la force de la loi en cessation de leurs fonctions puisqu’ils sont mandatés pour une durée de quatre ans. La Fondation, de son côté, s’est centrée sur la dimension culturelle et sociale sous forme d’assistance ou d’animation artistique et littéraire. Son directoire, quant à lui, ne s’est pas réuni depuis 2000 et ses structures n’ont pas été renouvelées.

La participation demeure en fin de compte saisonnière, visible à des moments de débat stratégique sans influence remarquable dans la mise en œuvre et l’évaluation des politiques publiques au niveau national ou les concernant dans leur pays d’accueil. Enfin la question qui demeure le parent pauvre de la mobilisation est celle de la participation politique. Celle-ci a connu des bonds et des rebonds et n’a jamais été tranchée. Ces évolutions fort intéressantes sur la voie d’une participation effective restent insuffisantes et nécessitent une réelle volonté de mise en œuvre, non encore visible y compris dans les programmes des partis politiques. Ces derniers ne sont pas unanimes par rapport à l’architecture institutionnelle, où la multiplicité des intervenants ne donne pas de visibilité sur les responsabilités respectives, ni par rapport à la traduction du principe de la participation. Dans leurs derniers programmes électoraux de 2021, ils se cachent tous derrière le principe constitutionnel sans avancer de réelles propositions de concrétisation.

Aussi, l’évaluation de la participation des MDM en termes de processus, de résultats et d’impact reste un exercice à relativiser en fonction de la perspective de l’analyse effectuée. Par conséquent, la divergence d’opinions et de positions est systématique entre les acteurs associés aux mécanismes en vigueur de la participation et les acteurs qui ne le sont pas.

Au centre de cette divergence se pose d’abord la question de la légitimité de la représentation, qui se fait souvent par désignation ou par invitation via des intermédiaires administratifs ou d’autres acteurs qui sont à leur tour désignés. En d’autres termes il n’y a pas de formule démocratique pour le choix des membres dans les institutions ni des participants aux évènements de consultation. Le recours à des structures associatives ou à des réseaux pour identifier des participants MDM ne se fait pas selon une modalité claire et transparente, même si elle peut exister parfois.

A ces deux limites s’ajoute la perception des MDM eux même par rapport à leur vécu et au sens qu’ils accordent à la gestion des problématiques auxquelles ils font face entre le pays de résidence et celui d’accueil. Ce regard pose de facto la question d’identifier les politiques publiques à influencer et leurs délimitations géographiques. Cette question s’amplifie au regard du statut de la double citoyenneté conférée aux MDM qui suppose une double allégeance, non toujours confortable ni conciliable pour la validation des droits.

Si les attentes des MDM sont multiples et si le principe de leur participation n’est pas en lui-même un sujet de divergence, il n’en demeure pas moins que la forme de la participation ne requiert pas l’unanimité. Ainsi, tout en considérant la mobilisation des MDM comme levier transformateur, la commission sur le nouveau modèle de développement « réitère … l’importance de la mise en œuvre des dispositions constitutionnelles, pour une meilleure représentation de notre diaspora, plus particulièrement à travers le renforcement du CCME. »

Cette recommandation nous parait judicieuse à condition de trancher une fois pour toute sur le modèle de représentation au sein du CCME. Dans son premier mandat, il devait donner un avis sur cette question. Or le meilleur arbitrage qui puisse être effectuée entre une représentation politique directe au parlement ou dans d’autres structures électives et la désignation au sein du CCME, c’est d’utiliser ce dernier comme le parlement des MDM dont les membres sont élus. Cette proposition existe déjà sur la table, mais il est temps de la concrétiser. Ceci contribuerait au renforcement de l’approche démocratique et de la transparence et à la délimitation du champ de l’intervention des représentants des MDM en s’attaquant aux politiques publiques les concernant directement, notamment à travers les politiques extérieures et de de la coopération. Enfin, une telle démarche contribuerait à l’amélioration de la gouvernance de la question migratoire en rendant redevables les départements qui en ont la charge envers les représentants des MDM.



↑1 Selon la Cour des comptes, le nombre des inscrits dans les représentations diplomatiques et consulaires s’élève à 4,2 millions MRE. D’autres estimations vont jusqu’à 5 ou 6 millions, soit plus de 15% de la population totale du Maroc.

↑2 Pour appréhender cette évolution voir « Etude de la contribution des MRE au développement du Maroc » sur le lien :
↑3 Malika Gouirir, « État, Politique et absence : le « statut » des Marocains Résidant à l’Étranger (MRE) », Revue des mondes musulmans et de la Méditerranée, 144 | 2018, 81-98.

↑4 Voir à ce sujet l’ensemble des documents préparés à la base de cette consultation dont l’objectif était d’explorer les besoins réels et les possibilités réalistes d’organiser la participation politique et citoyenne des MDM :

↑5 Au contexte précité s’ajoute une autre dimension à la gestion de la migration par l’adoption en 2014 de la Stratégie Nationale de la Migration et de l’Asile. Cette orientation répond au triple statut du Maroc en tant que pays de migration, de transit et d’accueil. Voir :

↑6 Voir :

↑7 Entre De 1984 et 1993, les Marocains résidant à l’étranger bénéficiaient d’une représentation parlementaire. Voir également El Abid Ghislaine, « La diaspora marocaine. De l’engagement citoyen à la citoyenneté », Afrique contemporaine, 2015/4 (n° 256), p. 110-113. DOI : 10.3917/afco.256.0110. URL :

↑8 Mokhtar FERDAOUSSI. Voir :

↑9 Aux législatives de 2016, le même parti islamiste, après avoir conduit la majorité gouvernementale dans la mouvance dudit « printemps arabe », a validé l’option du vote par procuration.

↑10 A rappeler que dans son premier mandat qui devrait durer quatre ans, le CCME avait comme mission sur instructions royales de donner un avis sur les modalités de la participation politique des MDM et la formule à suivre pour devenir membre du CCME dans le futur.

↑11 Dans une lecture de ce rapport, Abdelkrim Belguendouz, spécialiste de la question, présente une série de commentaires critiques dont certaines portent sur les limites méthodologiques de l’analyse comparée effectuée, l’échantillon des pays choisis, les aspects pointés sélectivement dans l’analyse pour justifier la non-participation, la non inclusion de toutes les parties concernées, ou encore la non prise en considération de la position du groupe de travail du CCME sur la participation et la citoyenneté. Voir :



Le «conflit» algéro-marocain : Un vrai conflit ou une agression déguisée ?

Le Pr Abdelhamid El Ouali explique que la tension entre l’Algérie et le Maroc n'est pas due à un conflit entre les deux pays et/ou à une lutte pour le leadership régional. Nous sommes plutôt en présence d’une agression déguisée.

On le sait, depuis l’indépendance de l’Algérie en 1962, rares sont les années où les frontières (en particulier terrestres) entre ce pays et le Maroc sont restées ouvertes. Les échanges, notamment commerciaux, sont eux-aussi restés de l’ordre du symbolique. Le gazoduc, qui transporte le gaz algérien vers l’Espagne via le territoire marocain, et qui constitue le dernier lien, également ténu, entre les deux pays, pourrait cesser de fonctionner, victime potentielle de la rupture par l’Algérie de ses relations diplomatiques avec le Maroc. Le caractère dérisoire de ces relations est dû à l’état de tension quasi-permanent qui prévaut entre les deux pays.


L’idée de conflit : Une perception erronée des relations entre l’Algérie et le Maroc


Pour de nombreux commentateurs, la tension entre l’Algérie et le Maroc serait à son tour due à un conflit entre les deux pays et/ou à une lutte pour le leadership régional. Ce sont là deux perceptions qui ne correspondent pas à la réalité et qui cachent mal le fait que nous sommes plutôt en présence d’une agression déguisée. Dans le présent article, nous laisserons de côté l’idée d’existence d’une lutte pour le leadership régional [1]pour concentrer notre attention sur celle de la prévalence d’un conflit entre les deux pays.

Lorsque l’on parle de conflit ou de lutte pour le leadership régional entre l’Algérie et le Maroc, c’est que très souvent l’on cherche à occulter l’hostilité[2]de la première envers le second, laquelle ne s’est jamais démentie depuis 1962, si l’on excepte de petites périodes de relations de bon voisinage, souvent de pure façade. Lorsque l’on scrute les rapports entre l’Algérie et le Maroc, l’on constate que l’on est présence d’un état permanent d’hostilité de la première, laquelle, lorsqu’elle est exacerbée, fait place à des actes d’agression.


La notion de conflit en Droit International


Afin d’y voir plus clair, il convient, d’abord, de rappeler qu’un conflit est « une contestation entre deux puissances qui se disputent un droit » (Le Grand Robert). Les conflits prennent souvent la forme armée. D’où l’assimilation qui est fréquemment faite entre le conflit et la guerre[3], au point que l’on en est venu à définir le conflit comme étant « une lutte armée, un combat entre deux ou plusieurs puissances qui se disputent un droit » (Larousse). De façon plus précise, un conflit juridique existe lorsqu’un Etat estime qu’un autre Etat a porté atteinte à des droits qui lui sont reconnus par le Droit International[4]. En revanche, un conflit est politique lorsqu’un État cherche à obtenir la modification de l’état du droit existant entre lui et un autre État. L’atteinte à un droit reconnu est ainsi un élément central dans la définition de la notion de conflit juridique[5], qui nous intéresse ici.


L’inexistence entre les deux pays d’une contestation à propos d’un droit donné


Partant de ce qui précède, il est difficile d’affirmer qu’un conflit existe entre l’Algérie et le Maroc, et cela pour la simple raison qu’il n’y a pas entre les deux pays de différend ou de contestation à propos d’un droit donné, comme celle qui porterait sur le statut d’un territoire sur lequel chacune des deux parties réclamerait sa souveraineté. Certes, un conflit majeur, celui des frontières, a bien existé à un moment donné entre les deux premiers, mais il a été réglé en faveur de l’Algérie par une convention internationale signée en 1972, à moins que le Maroc remette en cause la validité juridique de celle-ci en excipant du fait que sa ratification n’a pas été autorisée par le Parlement marocain.

La diplomatie marocaine insiste parfois pour dire que la principale partie dans le conflit au Sahara est l’Algérie et non le Polisario. Mais c’est là une façon d’attirer l’attention sur le fait que la question (et non le conflit) du Sahara a été créée par l’Algérie et qu’elle en porte l’entière responsabilité.

Pour dégager sa responsabilité, l’Algérie se plaît à affirmer qu’elle n’est pas partie au « conflit » du Sahara. Néanmoins, cela ne l’empêche pas de se comporter en réelle partie audit conflit car son objectif, également non moins réel, est de remettre en cause l’intégrité territoriale du Maroc par le biais d’un proxy acteur, le Polisario, auquel elle accorde un appui militaire et diplomatique disproportionné par rapport à la cause, celle de la prétendue promotion du droit à l’autodétermination, qu’elle prétend publiquement défendre.


L’inexistence d’un fondement juridique à la politique de l’Algérie dans la question du Sahara


Une question fondamentale requiert, dès lors, d’être posée : Quelle est la base juridique, si base juridique il y a, qui autoriserait l’Algérie à agir ainsi contre le Maroc par le biais du Polisario ou, en d’autres termes, est-ce qu’elle a été autorisée à le faire par les Nations-Unies ?

Les Nations-Unies ont souvent fermé les yeux sur l’appui donné par certains Etats aux mouvements de libération ; elles l’ont fait pour apporter leur aide à la décolonisation[6], mais seulement après avoir reconnu que ces mouvements étaient les représentants légitimes de leurs peuples.

S’agissant du Polisario, qui a été créé en 1974 par la Libye pour nuire au Maroc, il est un fait auquel on ne prête pas attention, c’est qu’il est censé avoir cessé d’exister légalement dès la conclusion de l’accord de Madrid (14 novembre 1975), qui a procédé à la restitution du Sahara au Maroc, ou au plus tard à partir du moment où cet accord a été entériné par l’Assemblée générale des Nations Unies (Résolution du 10 décembre 1975).

Certes, les Nations Unies ont, par la suite, reconnu le Polisario, mais ni l’Assemblée générale ni la Cour internationale de justice n’ont jamais considéré qu’il constituait l’unique représentant légitime des populations du Sahara. Il ne pouvait pas en être autrement car, ainsi que le reconnait la Cour, les populations du Sahara consistent en une mosaïque humaine très complexe, composée d’un très grand nombre de tribus (environ 150) qui ne sont pas homogènes et entre lesquelles les conflits ont été très fréquents[7]. De même, le Polisario ne peut prétendre représenter l’ensemble de la population du Sahara, étant donné qu’il n’a établi son autorité que sur une petite minorité de la population sahraouie -tellement petite qu’il a fallu y ajouter des populations sahéliennes-, qu’il a transférée par la force hors de ses foyers pour l’installer dans des camps militaires auxquels les observateurs étrangers n’ont pas accès et que l’Algérie refuse de recenser afin de ne pas révéler à l’opinion publique mondiale cette compromettante réalité.

Ainsi, le Polisario ne dispose d’aucune légitimité et encore moins de base légale pour mener au nom du prétendu «peuple» sahraoui des activités déstabilisatrices contre le Maroc, d’autant plus que les mouvements, associations et organisations, qui représentent l’écrasante majorité de la population sahraouie, ont opté pour la réintégration à la mère patrie. Enfin, et surtout, ces activités (du Polisario) constituent une grave violation du Droit International dans la mesure où elles visent, sous couvert du droit à l’autodétermination, à mettre à exécution la politique algérienne, dont l’objectif inavoué est de porter atteinte à l’intégrité territoriale du Maroc à travers la remise en cause de la validité juridique de l’accord de Madrid qui est par rapport à elle res inter alios acta, c’est-à-dire qu’il ne la concerne pas.

En effet, c’est un secret de polichinelle que le Polisario agit pour le compte de l’Algérie et non de celui du «peuple» sahraoui, dont du reste les Nations Unies n’ont jamais clairement reconnu l’existence[8]. Le plus grave est que le Polisario est l’instrument par lequel l’Algérie poursuit une politique d’agression déguisée contre le Maroc. Il est à remarquer, à cet égard, que le Polisario n’est pas le premier «mouvement de libération nationale» à agir ainsi car «[l]’agression peut être accomplie non seulement par un autre État, … mais encore par un autre sujet de droit international (tel qu’un groupe insurrectionnel ou un mouvement de libération nationale), ou même par un groupe terroriste basé sur le territoire d’un État souverain… »[9].

Il faut se rendre à l’évidence que, dans la question du Sahara, l’on est en présence non pas d’un conflit au sens strict du terme entre l’Algérie et le Maroc, mais d’une agression déguisée sous le couvert du droit à l’autodétermination.


La notion d’agression en Droit International


Avant de montrer en quoi consiste l’agression déguisée dans la question du Sahara, il est nécessaire d’indiquer que l’on entend par agression «l’emploi de la force armée par un État contre la souveraineté, l’intégrité territoriale ou l’indépendance politique d’un autre État, ou de toute autre manière incompatible avec la Charte des Nations Unies, ainsi qu’il ressort de la présente Définition»[10].

On le sait, l’obligation des Etats de s’abstenir de recourir à la menace ou à l’emploi de la force contre l’intégrité et l’inviolabilité des territoires des autres Etats est consacrée par la Charte des Nations-Unies (art.2. § 4). La portée de cette obligation, qui revêt désormais un caractère coutumier, a été clarifiée par la Déclaration relative aux principes du Droit International touchant les relations amicales et la coopération entre les États conformément à la Charte des Nations Unies. Cette Déclaration énonce notamment que les État ont le devoir de s’abstenir d’organiser et d’encourager sur leur territoire des actes qui impliquent une menace ou l’emploi de la force contre l’intégrité territoriales d’autres États. Elle énonce aussi que tous les États doivent s’abstenir d’organiser, d’aider, de fomenter, de financer, d’encourager ou de tolérer les activités armées d’entités non-étatiques destinées à porter atteinte à la souveraineté et l’intégrité territoriale d’autres États[11].

Il est ainsi admis que l’obligation des États de s’abstenir de recourir à la menace ou à l’emploi de la force contre l’intégrité et l’inviolabilité des territoires des autres États s’applique aussi bien aux conflits armés internationaux qu’aux conflits armés non internationaux. Il est également admis que cette obligation a pour corollaire l’obligation des États de désarmer et de séparer les éléments armés étrangers qui se trouvent sur leur territoire. Pour sa part, le Haut-Commissariat des Nations Unies pour les Réfugiés HCR a reconnu que cette obligation s’applique aussi aux camps de réfugiés dont les pays hôtes sont tenus de «désarmer les éléments armés ainsi que de séparer et d’interner les combattants, que ce soit dans les conflits armés internationaux ou non internationaux»[12].


La notion d’agression déguisée en Droit International


Pour ce qui est de l’agression déguisée, il convient, au préalable, de souligner qu’elle est considérée par le Droit International comme un crime d’État justiciable de la Cour pénale internationale. Qualifiée d’«agression indirecte», elle consiste, précise l’Assemblé générale des Nations Unies, notamment dans :

«–Le fait pour un État d’admettre que son territoire, qu’il a mis à la disposition d’un autre État, soit utilisé par ce dernier pour perpétrer un acte d’agression contre un État tiers;

–L’envoi par un État ou en son nom de bandes ou de groupes armés, de forces irrégulières ou de mercenaires qui se livrent à des actes de force armée contre un autre État d’une gravité telle qu’ils équivalent aux actes énumérés ci-dessus, ou le fait de s’engager d’une manière substantielle dans une telle action»[13].

La notion d’ «agression indirecte» est clarifiée encore davantage par la Cour internationale de justice (CIJ), qui estime que «par agression armée, il faut entendre non seulement l’action des forces armées régulières à travers une frontière internationale mais encore l’envoi par un État ou en son nom de bandes ou de groupes armés, de forces irrégulières ou de mercenaires qui se livrent à des actes de forces armées contre un autre État d’une gravité telle qu’ils équivalent à une véritable agression armée accomplie par des forces régulières, ou [au] fait de s’engager d’une manière substantielle dans une telle action»[14]. Mais, elle va plus loin encore en affirmant que la notion d’agression «recouvre non seulement l’action de bandes armées dans le cas où cette action revêt une ampleur particulière, mais aussi une assistance à des rebelles prenant la forme de fourniture d’armements ou d’assistance logistique ou autre»[15].


L’agression déguisée de l’Algérie sous couvert du droit à l’autodétermination


Partant de ce qui précède, il n’est pas difficile de montrer que nous sommes en présence d’une agression déguisée de l’Algérie par Polisario interposé.

En effet, il est, d’abord, clairement établi que tant la RASD (République arabe sahraoui démocratique) que le Polisario sont placés sous le contrôle de l’armée algérienne[16]. Il est, ensuite, bien établi que pratiquement toute la population sahraouie, mâle et adulte, a été enrôlée dans les milices du Polisario. Il a été montré, à cet égard, que «L’armée de libération populaire sahraouie (ALPS) constitue le bras armé du Front Polisario et par extension celui de la RASD. L’ALPS est commandé formellement par le Secrétaire général du Front Polisario en tant que commandant suprême, mais rattaché structurellement au Ministère de la Défense. Basé sur un système de conscription obligatoire pour les tous les Sahraouis âgés de 17 ans (hommes et femmes) révolus et qui accompliront leur service militaire à 18 ans révolus, l’armée dispose actuellement de 6.000 à 7.000 militaires actifs et plus de 20.000 réservistes mobilisables en tout temps, voire plus en temps de guerre»[17]. Il est, enfin, bien établi que la RASD, qui a été créée sur le territoire de l’Algérie, constitue la base territoriale à partir de laquelle le Polisario lance ses attaques armées contre le territoire marocain[18].

Quant au recours au droit à l’autodétermination, il constitue l’habillage juridique de l’agression indirecte dont est victime le Maroc. Nous avons analysé ailleurs comment cet habillage a été effectué[19]. Il suffit de noter ici que cet habillage fait partie des cas de détournement d’institution, qui, également sanctionné par le droit pénal, veut dire l’utilisation d’une institution (au sens de règle ou ensemble de règles juridiques qui régissent une question donnée) dans l’intention de nuire à autrui en la détournant de sa fin sociale[20].


L’agression algérienne : Une série d’actes échelonnés dans le temps depuis 1963


Concrètement, l’agression algérienne, qu’elle soit directe ou indirecte, s’est incarnée non pas dans un acte unique, mais dans une série d’actes, échelonnés dans le temps [21]. Le premier de ces actes est la guerre des sables de 1963, qui est insidieusement présentée, depuis cette date, par l’Etat algérien comme une agression marocaine[22]. Cette falsification de l’Histoire servira, par la suite, à présenter l’Algérie comme une victime ainsi qu’à diaboliser le Maroc afin de justifier toutes les agressions de l’Etat algérien contre ce dernier. L’Etat algérien vient récemment encore d’invoquer la guerre des sables parmi les facteurs justifiant la rupture de ses relations diplomatiques avec le Maroc !

La dernière agression en date est l’invasion en automne 2020 du point de passage d’El Guergarate afin d’entraver le trafic entre Maroc et la Mauritanie. Mais, l’armée marocaine a, grâce à une opération éclair, rétabli le statu quo ante.

Entre les deux dates, celle de 1963 et celle de 2020, on voit se multiplier un grand nombre d’actes d’agression. Parmi les plus graves, il y a, d’abord, l’invasion du Sahara au début de 1976 par des éléments de l’armée algérienne (qui seront surpris à Amgala et neutralisés par l’armée marocaine) et du Polisario afin de transférer de force des milliers de Sahraouis vers Tindouf où ils seront confinés dans des camps militaires et auxquels on attribuera abusivement le titre de «réfugiés». Il y a, ensuite, les attaques surprises lancées contre des villes marocaines par le Polisario de la fin des années 1970 jusqu’au milieu des années 1980, et auxquelles le Maroc mettra fin par la construction des murs.

La construction des murs aura pour effet de mettre fin aux attaques surprises du Polisario[23] et de «transformer la guérilla des années 1976-1979 en une guerre d’usure ; la fixation des belligérants s’était substituée à la dispersion, obligeant les combattants du Polisario à s’adapter à une guerre de position qui neutralisait leurs points forts. Elle marquait en fait le passage d’un déploiement de guérilla saharienne à un redéploiement de contre- guérilla matérialisé sous la forme d’un barrage qui permettait au Maroc d’épuiser militairement un adversaire dont la supériorité sur le terrain résidait surtout dans la mobilité»[24]. La construction des murs poussera aussi le Polisario à conclure en 1971 un cessez-le-feu sous l’égide des Nations-Unies, mais qu’il violera fréquemment.

Récurrente, l’agression algérienne a aussi été parfois d’une très grande ampleur, en particulier entre la fin des années 1970 et le milieu des années 1980, lorsque le Polisario, observe Tony Hodges, «utilisa des systèmes d’armes d’une puissance et d’une sophistication sans précédent, notamment les fameux orgues de Staline, ces terribles lance-roquettes multiples d’une portée de 20 kilomètres»[25]. L’usage de moyens disproportionnés est aussi relevé par John Davis qui écrit que «le front Polisario disposait d’un énorme arsenal d’armements sophistiqués de fabrication soviétique, qui lui permettait d’opérer comme une armée régulière et non une guérilla armée»[26].


Conséquences de l’agression algérienne


On le voit, dans la question du Sahara, nous sommes en présence non pas d’un conflit entre l’Algérie et le Maroc, mais d’une agression, souvent de caractère indirect, de la première contre le second, et cela par le détournement du droit à l’autodétermination de la finalité qui lui a été attribuée par le Droit International. Continuer d’affirmer, dans ces conditions, que nous serions en présence d’un conflit entre l’Algérie et le Maroc, c’est confondre l’auteur du crime avec la victime.

L’agression algérienne a parfois été précédée par des actes d’une extrême gravité, dont notamment la dépossession et l’expulsion en décembre 1975 de dizaines de milliers de Marocains qui vivaient en Algérie. D’autres citoyens marocains ont également été chassés de leurs terres, comme récemment encore à El Arja (Figuig). A cela, il faut ajouter le harcèlement quasi-permanent des populations frontalières marocaines.

L’agression algérienne a parfois aussi été suivie par la détention dans des inhumaines et dégradantes de prisonniers marocains, et cela en totale violation du droit humanitaire, alors que l’attitude du Maroc a toujours été faite de compassion à l’égard des prisonniers algériens et de respect des lois et usages de la guerre.

L’agression algérienne a pu avoir parfois de graves effets, qui perdurent encore. Ainsi en est-il de l’invasion du Sahara, au début de 1976, par des éléments de l’armée algérienne et de la milice du Polisario. Cette agression s’est traduite par le transfert de dizaines de milliers de Sahraouis de leurs foyers et leur confinement jusqu’à aujourd’hui dans des camps militaires. Bien que considérés abusivement comme des réfugiés, ces personnes ne jouiront d’aucune protection internationale, ni des droits que leur confère le statut de réfugiés. Ils ne bénéficieront pas non plus des solutions durables que leur reconnait le Droit International. Cette agression a ainsi eu pour effet de condamner des dizaines de milliers de Sahraouis à vivre, voilà maintenant presque un demi-siècle dans une situation de non-droit[27].

Faut-il le rappeler, l’agression est un crime d’État qui donne lieu à la responsabilité pénale internationale, notamment devant la Cour pénale internationale. Dans la question du Sahara, ce crime est d’autant plus grave qu’il est effectué par un détournement d’institution, celle ayant trait au droit à l’autodétermination.

Enfin, il est un fait bien établi que le Maroc a toujours su neutraliser les agressions algériennes. Il a aussi toujours tendu une main amicale à l’Algérie. Il vient de le faire encore récemment. Mais l’État algérien refuse la main tendue et multiplie les provocations en vue d’une éventuelle agression. Décidément, ce n’est pas la raison d’État, mais plutôt la déraison d’État qui prévaut chez les gouvernants algériens. Ils assumeront la responsabilité de leurs actes.




[1] Il suffit d’observer ici qu’il n’existe pas de lutte pour le leadership régional pour la simple raison que la configuration géopolitique sur laquelle ce leadership pourrait s’exercer a cessé d’exister. Cette configuration aurait pu avoir une certaine consistance si l’Union du Maghreb Arabe n’avait pas sombré. Et puis comment peut-on exercer un leadership dans une région où il n’y a pratiquement plus d’interaction entre les acteurs qui la composent, étant donné que la moitié d’entre eux sont en pleine décomposition, et que si interaction il y a, elle existe en fait entre les puissances étrangères qui ont établi leur contrôle sur ces pays.

[2] Cf. A.El Ouali “L’irrationnelle hostilité de l’Algérie », Médias24, 31 août 2021

[3] Voir Monty G. Marshall “The Scientific Study of International Conflict Processes. Postcards at the Edge of the Millenia”, Center of Systematic Peace, Occasional Paper Series, April 15,1998

[4] Voir C.Schreuer “What is a Legal Dispute?”, in I. Buffard, J. Crawford, A. Pellet, S. Wittich (eds.) “International Law between Universalism and Fragmentation”, Festschrift in Honour of Gerhard Hafner, 2008

[5] Voir, pour plus de détails, J.B. Duroselle « La nature des conflits internationaux », Revue Française de Sciences Politiques, 1964

[6] Cf.A. Cassese « Le Droit International et la question de l’assistance aux mouvements de libération nationale », Séminaire des Nations Unies sur l’assistance et l’aide internationales aux peuples et aux mouvements qui luttent contre le colonialisme, le racisme, la discrimination raciale et l’apartheid, Yaoundé, mai 1986; A. H a s b i « Les mouvements de libération nationale et le droit international », Rabat, Éditions Stouky, 1981

[7] Idem, para 87

[8] A. El Ouali “Le conflit du Sahara au regard du Droit International”, tome 2, « Autodétermination : Changement de paradigme et perspective de règlement », Bruxelles, Bruylant, 2015, pp 202-203

[9] A. Cassese « Art 51 » in Jean-Pierre Cot et Alain Pellet (dir.) « La Charte des Nations. Commentaire article par article », tome 1, Paris, Economica, pp 1332-1333

[10] Résolution 3314 (XXIX) du 14 décembre 1974 (définition de l’agression)., Assemblé générale des Nations Unies

[11] Résolution 2625 (XXV) de l’Assemblée Générale des Nations Unies du 24 octobre 1970

[12] “Principes directeurs opérationnels sur le maintien du caractère civil et humanitaire de l’asile », UNHCR, septembre 2006, p 7

[13] Résolution 3314 (XXIX). Définition de l’agression, 14 décembre 1974

[14] Affaire des Activités militaires et paramilitaires au Nicaragua et contre celui-ci, CU Rec. 1986, p 103

[15] idem

[16] Cf.A.El Ouali « La face cachée du conflit du Sahara. Le reniement de la protection des réfugiés face aux desseins géostratégiques de l’Algérie », Casablanca, Editions Maghrébines, 2014

[17] Département fédéral de justice et police DFJP Office fédéral des migrations ODM Domaine de direction procédure d’asile DD PA Analyses sur la migration et les pays MILA « Sahara occidental : processus de paix, institutions sahraouies, droits de l’homme, migration », p 9

[18] Voir T. Hodges “Conflict in Northwest Africa. The Western Sahara Dispute”, Stanford, Hoover Institution Press, 1983, p 355

[19] Cf.A.El Ouali “Le conflit du Sahara au regard du Droit International”, tome 2, « Autodétermination : Changement de paradigme et perspective de règlement », op.cit.

[20] Sur la notion de détournement d’institution, Voir A. El Ouali « Revisite du principe de la souveraineté permanente sur les ressources naturelles? Du détournement d’institution dans le conflit du Sahara », Bruxelles, E. Bruylant, 2020

[21] Il est à souligner qu’aujourd’hui, le Droit International admet que des actes sporadiques, qui se répéteraient dans le temps ou dans la durée, peuvent être qualifiés d’actes d’agression. Voir Véronique Michèle Metangmo « Le crime d’agression : recherches sur l’originalité d’un crime à la croisée du droit international pénal et du droit international du maintien de la paix », Université du Droit et de la Santé, thèse, 2012, p 334

[22] Cf. A.El Ouali “L’irrationnelle hostilité de l’Algérie », Médias24, 31 août 2021

[23] Voir D.Seddon « Morocco at War » in R. Lawless and L. Monahan (eds.) “War and Refugees: the Western Sahara Conflict”, London, Pinter, 1987, pp102-103

[24] Khadija Mohcen-Finan « Sahara occidental. Les enjeux d’un conflit régional», Paris, CNRS Editions, Paris, 1997, p 65

[25] « Sahara occidental. Origines et enjeux d’une guerre du désert », Paris, L’Harmattan, 1983, p 357

[26] “Conflict in Northwest Africa. The Western Sahara Dispute”, op.cit., p 95

[27] Cf.A.El Ouali « La face cachée du conflit du Sahara. Le reniement de la protection des réfugiés face aux desseins géostratégiques de l’Algérie », op.cit.


Tchad : engager la transition

International Crisis Group, 30 September 2021

Cinq mois après la mort soudaine du Président Idriss Déby, les autorités tchadiennes préparent un dialogue national attendu de longue date. Dans cette transition qui doit aboutir au retour vers un régime civil, le pays fait face à de nombreux défis.

En avril, le président du Tchad Idriss Déby Itno a été tué lors d’affrontements avec le Front pour l’alternance et la concorde au Tchad (FACT). Les rebelles avaient traversé la frontière depuis leur bastion libyen en convois de véhicules lourdement armés pour atteindre la capitale N’Djaména. L’armée avait alors arrêté leur progression et le président Déby s’était rendu lui-même sur le champ de bataille. Sa mort soudaine a conduit la hiérarchie militaire à nommer Mahamat Déby, son fils de 37 ans, à la tête d’un Conseil militaire de transition de quinze membres. La junte a annoncé qu’elle gouvernerait le pays durant une période de dix-huit mois, renouvelable une fois, et organiserait un dialogue national inclusif avant de transmettre les commandes du pays aux civils à l’issue d’élections. Bien qu’émettant des réserves, les alliés internationaux du Tchad ont rapidement appuyé les nouvelles autorités. Début mai, l’armée a repoussé les rebelles du FACT jusqu’en Libye. La prise en main par l’armée a rassuré ceux qui craignaient que le décès du défunt chef d’Etat plonge le pays dans la violence mais a déçu les espoirs de dévolution démocratique du pouvoir. Certaines figures de l’opposition tchadienne ont ainsi exprimé leur inquiétude vis-à-vis de la transition et de la mainmise de l’armée sur l’Etat. Le gouvernement, les responsables de l’opposition et les rebelles ont tous des avis divergents concernant l’avenir du pays. Les puissances extérieures ont quant à elles peu d’influence sur la junte.

Le Conseil militaire devrait apaiser les inquiétudes relatives à l’avenir politique du Tchad en prenant des mesures concrètes qui garantiront une transition apaisée. Il devrait accepter de ne pas prolonger la transition actuelle et réaffirmer son intention de ne pas s’éterniser au pouvoir. Il devrait également entamer les préparatifs d’un dialogue national très attendu et, en accord avec les groupes rebelles, définir les conditions acceptables pour les deux parties en vue de la participation de ces groupes aux pourparlers.

Premières réactions

Les partenaires internationaux ont timidement réagi à la prise de pouvoir par la junte. Les plus impliqués, la France et l’Union africaine (UA), étaient particulièrement réticents à l’idée de contrarier N’Djaména, qu’elles considèrent comme un précieux allié dans la lutte contre les groupes jihadistes au Sahel et dans le bassin du lac Tchad. Paris a invoqué « des conditions de sécurité exceptionnelles nécessaires pour assurer la stabilité du pays » pour justifier son soutien à la junte. Alors que l’UA a suspendu temporairement l’adhésion du Mali en réponse au coup d’Etat d’août dernier, l’organisation n’a pas appliqué de sanctions contre le Tchad du fait de la contribution militaire du pays aux opérations de lutte contre le terrorisme et de sa fragilité après la mort d’Idriss Déby. L’UA a accepté de soutenir la transition sous réserve que les autorités garantissent la tenue d’un scrutin présidentiel dans les dix-huit mois et que les membres du Conseil militaire renoncent à s’y présenter. Elle a également exigé que la junte intègre ces dispositions à la charte de la transition. Conscient de l’influence diplomatique considérable de son pays liée au rôle important du Tchad dans la lutte contre le terrorisme dans la région, Mahamat Déby a, pour sa part, promis d’accéder à la requête de l’Union africaine et de maintenir ses forces armées dans les pays de la région.

Les autorités de transition ont décidé d’ouvrir l’espace politique du pays en partie en raison des pressions internationales. Elles ont ainsi mis fin à des décennies d’interdiction des manifestations, ont permis au mouvement populaire d’opposition Les Transformateurs d’être reconnu comme un parti politique et se sont engagées à préparer une loi d’amnistie ou de pardon pour les rebelles détenus ou en exil (et pour certains d’entre eux condamnés à mort par des tribunaux tchadiens). Fin avril, un gouvernement civil a été formé permettant une restitution partielle du pouvoir, dans lequel des responsables politiques de l’opposition ont été nommés.

Toutefois, la junte n’a pas modifié la charte de transition comme elle l’avait promis à l’UA, semant le doute au sein de l’opposition concernant ses intentions. Certains responsables tchadiens, y compris le Premier ministre Albert Pahimi Padacké, affirment que la modification de la charte sera débattue lors du dialogue national. Mais les opposants craignent que la transition prenne du retard et que la junte ne se retire pas et laisse Mahamat Déby s’installer durablement et prendre la place de son père. Dans un entretien du mois de juin, le fils Déby a déclaré que deux « conditions » devraient être remplies avant de procéder au vote : « l’entente entre les Tchadiens » et le soutien financier international à la transition.

Si Mahamat Déby s’est assuré le soutien de la France lors d’une visite d’Etat à Paris, les relations de la junte avec l’UA se sont rapidement dégradées. Début juin, N’Djaména a refusé la nomination du diplomate sénégalais Ibrahima Fall au poste de Haut représentant pour la transition au Tchad, prétextant avoir été tenue à l’écart de cette prise de décision, ce que l’UA conteste. Le soutien au Conseil militaire par des pays membres stratégiques de l’UA tels que l’Egypte et le Nigéria l’a poussé à remplacer M. Fall par le Congolais Basile Ikouébé. Certains observateurs considèrent le rejet d’Ibrahima Fall par le Tchad comme un affront infligé au président de la Commission de l’Union africaine, Moussa Faki Mahamat, un Tchadien que la junte soupçonne d’avoir des ambitions présidentielles. Cette méfiance à l’encontre de Moussa Faki Mahamat pourrait limiter l’influence de l’UA sur la transition tchadienne.

Les positions des principaux acteurs

La chute d’Idriss Déby a modifié le paysage politique au Tchad. Ayant perdu son hégémonie à la mort de son fondateur, l’ancien parti au pouvoir, le Mouvement patriotique du salut (MPS), a obtenu moins de la moitié des ministères au sein d’un gouvernement composé de 40 membres, mais son fort ancrage territorial constitue un atout majeur pour un futur candidat. Mahamat Zene Bada, le secrétaire général du parti, a fui en France au mois de juin lorsque la junte a tenté de l’obliger à organiser une assemblée générale extraordinaire pour nommer un nouveau dirigeant. Son adjointe, Ruth Madjidian Padja, a alors convoqué l’assemblée en question et fait procéder à la nomination d’Haroun Kabadi, ancien président de l’Assemblée nationale, au poste de secrétaire général. L’idée que la junte tentait de prendre le contrôle du parti a au départ suscité une certaine résistance de certains membres fondateurs influents du MPS.

L’opposition, quant à elle, est divisée. Certains de ses dirigeants, notamment d’anciens chefs de file de l’opposition comme Saleh Kebzabo ou Mahamat Alhabo, ont rejoint le gouvernement. D’autres remettent en question la légitimité de la junte. Certains partis politiques et groupes de la société civile, dont la coalition Wakit Tama, qui s’est depuis déclarée encline à rejoindre le dialogue, appelaient initialement à la création d’un conseil civilo-militaire en lieu et place de la junte et rejetaient les décrets créant le comité d’organisation du dialogue national. Ces groupes et partis appelaient aussi à ce que la composition du parlement de transition soit décidée lors du dialogue inclusif, ce qui aurait selon eux conféré à cette instance la crédibilité nécessaire au vote d’une nouvelle constitution. Mais, finalement, la junte a approuvé le 24 septembre la formation d’un parlement de transition doté de 93 membres sélectionnés par un comité ad hoc.

Le dialogue national

La plupart des acteurs tchadiens ont accepté de se joindre au dialogue national mais leurs attentes divergent sur la nature, le format et la portée qu’il prendra. Le dialogue devrait avoir lieu entre novembre et décembre 2021, et être suivi d’élections organisées entre juin et septembre 2022. Les figures de l’opposition, les groupes armés et les représentants de la société civile appellent au dialogue depuis des décennies et espèrent qu’il jettera les bases de réformes profondes de l’État. Les participants souhaiteraient assurément débattre d’un grand nombre de thématiques. La nouvelle coalition d’opposition voit dans ce dialogue une occasion de mettre fin à des années d’exclusion de la vie politique et tentera de rétablir l’équilibre du pouvoir au sein des institutions, de restreindre le rôle politique de l’armée et de renforcer le contrôle de l’action gouvernementale. La Conférence nationale souveraine de 1993 représente un modèle pour la coalition, qui a longtemps réclamé une « conférence nationale souveraine et inclusive ». Toutefois, en raison de délais relativement courts, le dialogue ne permettra sans doute pas de traiter d’autres sujets que la refonte de la constitution et l’organisation des futures élections.

La participation des groupes rebelles constitue sans aucun doute le principal point de friction. Les figures de l’opposition et de la société civile considèrent que la présence des différents mouvements insurgés au dialogue (appelés « groupes politico-militaires » au Tchad) renforcerait leur position dans la négociation. Mahamat Déby et d’autres responsables se sont dits ouverts à leur participation mais souhaitent un désarmement préalable. Plusieurs dirigeants rebelles, y compris celui du FACT, Mahamat Mahadi Ali, ont déclaré à Crisis Group que des intermédiaires pour le compte du gouvernement tchadien, de gouvernements étrangers et de médiateurs privés les avaient contactés. En juin, le gouvernement du Togo a accueilli des pourparlers avec certains groupes rebelles afin de connaître leurs revendications. Ces derniers ont alors énoncé les conditions de leur participation au dialogue ; ils ont demandé à intégrer le comité d’organisation du dialogue national, réclamé l’amnistie pour leurs combattants et demandé que des négociations spécifiques entre les rebelles et le gouvernement se tiennent hors du pays. Bien que Lomé ait vraisemblablement agi avec l’accord de la junte, celle-ci a ignoré le résultat des pourparlers.

L’abondance de médiateurs ne facilite pas les choses. Mahamat Déby a nommé deux figures influentes pour organiser le dialogue national : le ministre de la Réconciliation nationale Acheikh Ibn-Oumar, ancien ministre des Affaires étrangères et ancien chef d’un mouvement arabe rebelle tchadien ; et Ali Abdelrahman Haggar, un intellectuel de renom issu de la même ethnie Zaghawa que Mahamat Déby et qui officie en tant que conseiller de la junte pour la réconciliation et le dialogue. Les deux hommes doivent naviguer entre la junte et le gouvernement civil, à qui ils sont respectivement rattachés. Le 14 août, la junte a désigné un comité organisateur du dialogue composé de 70 représentants et réunissant des membres du MPS, d’anciens chefs de l’opposition et des émissaires de la société civile. Elle a également nommé un autre comité de 28 membres qui assure des négociations parallèles avec les rebelles, sans pour l’instant que l’on sache où de potentielles négociations pourraient avoir lieu avec les rebelles et si le désarmement demeure une condition préalable. Goukouni Oueddeï, ancien chef rebelle devenu président (1979-1982) et respecté par toutes les parties prenantes, préside ce dernier comité constitué de membres du MPS et de responsables de la sécurité qui, à l’instar des rebelles établis en Libye, sont principalement originaires du nord du pays.

Mais il demeure des doutes sur la faisabilité de ces futures négociations. Deux groupes armés sont particulièrement problématiques, le FACT et l’Union des forces de la résistance (UFR). Pour les fils du président Déby, Mahamat Mahadi Ali, le chef du FACT, est responsable de la mort de leur père, ce qui complique son retour éventuel au Tchad. Quant au groupe de l’UFR, également basé en Libye, il est dirigé par Timan et Tom Erdimi, les cousins du président Déby. En juillet 2021, la famille Erdimi a accusé les autorités égyptiennes d’avoir arrêté Tom fin 2020 à la demande du gouvernement tchadien. On ignore où il se trouve. Le Caire n’a pas confirmé l’arrestation mais a décrit Tom Erdimi comme « un terroriste dangereux ». Des sources sécuritaires tchadiennes affirment que l’Egypte aurait livré Tom Erdimi au Tchad, ce que dément formellement N’Djaména. Le 24 août, le Conseil militaire a organisé le retour au Tchad du représentant de l’UFR en France, Mahamat Abdelkarim Hanno, un ancien chef des renseignements. Certains rebelles dénoncent ce retour au pays et y voient de la part des autorités une stratégie consistant à « diviser pour mieux régner » et non le signe qu’elles engagent un réel dialogue avec l’opposition armée. Lors d’une visite officielle au Soudan le 31 août, Mahamat Déby a d’ailleurs qualifié les rebelles installés en Libye de « mercenaires », affirmant « qu’ils ne devraient pas avoir le droit de quitter la Libye, car ils représentent une menace pour la stabilité et la sécurité du Tchad et du Soudan ».

Les risques et les perspectives

Le Tchad a traversé une grande période d’incertitude sans sombrer dans la violence. Mais la situation pourrait devenir plus délicate. Un retard de la transition pourrait entamer la fragile confiance qui existe entre les principales parties prenantes dans le pays. Les acteurs nationaux et internationaux doivent s’efforcer de maintenir un consensus afin de mener la transition à son terme dans le délai imparti.

Plusieurs risques se profilent à l’horizon. De nombreux Tchadiens craignent que le Conseil militaire n’honore pas ses promesses de limiter la transition à dix-huit mois et d’interdire la candidature de ses membres au scrutin présidentiel. Le cas échéant, des manifestations pourraient éclater. De plus, bien qu’affaiblis, les rebelles installés en Libye sont toujours actifs et pourraient entrer de nouveau dans le pays et lancer une nouvelle offensive. Par ailleurs, il est à craindre que des tensions ethniques apparaissent lorsque les dirigeants politiques se positionneront pour le pouvoir. Des Tchadiens, notamment au sein de la diaspora, diffusent déjà des discours haineux et clivants sur les réseaux sociaux.

Enfin, le Tchad est toujours menacé à ses frontières. Le 30 mai, des troupes de la République centrafricaine voisine, apparemment accompagnées de mercenaires russes, ont attaqué un poste de l’armée tchadienne alors qu’elles poursuivaient des rebelles centrafricains qui avaient traversé la frontière. L’incident a provoqué un regain de tension entre les deux pays. Dans la région du lac Tchad, le 4 août, des insurgés de Boko Haram ont tué 26 soldats tchadiens, ce qui constitue le bilan humain le plus lourd depuis mars 2020, lorsque près d’une centaine de soldats avaient péri suite à une attaque jihadiste, donnant lieu à une contre-offensive militaire sans précédent. Mahamat Déby a riposté en ordonnant le retrait de la moitié des 1 200 hommes du contingent tchadien de la force du G5 Sahel de la zone des trois frontières (Mali-Niger-Burkina Faso) dans le cadre d’un « repli tactique ».

Les défis de la transition au Tchad sont importants. La région demeure très instable : le Soudan voisin mène une transition délicate et la patience des autorités libyennes vis-à-vis des rebelles tchadiens installés sur leur territoire atteint ses limites. Ainsi, le 14 septembre, des forces loyales à Khalifa Haftar –le maréchal dont les troupes ont combattu le gouvernement de Tripoli entre 2014 et octobre 2020, date à laquelle un cessez-le-feu a été conclu – ont attaqué leurs anciens alliés du FACT au sud-ouest de la Libye. L’accord ayant présidé à la création de l’actuel gouvernement d’unité nationale libyen, mis en œuvre en mars, exige en effet le départ de tous les combattants étrangers, qu’ils aient soutenu Haftar ou Tripoli.

Bien qu’il y ait un large consensus autour de la nécessité d’organiser un dialogue national, la junte doit créer de la confiance afin que ce dialogue puisse avoir lieu dans les meilleures conditions. Les autorités tchadiennes devraient ainsi réviser, avant la tenue du dialogue, la charte de la transition conformément aux exigences de l’UA, en veillant à limiter la transition à dix-huit mois, et tenir leur promesse en intégrant les dispositions qui interdisent la candidature des membres du Conseil militaire au scrutin présidentiel.

La junte devrait également accroître ses efforts visant à garantir la participation des groupes armés au dialogue, afin que les rébellions établies en Libye perdent leur raison d’être et qu’au moins certains de leurs membres puissent retourner au Tchad. En participant au dialogue, les groupes rebelles pourraient ainsi formuler leurs doléances de façon pacifique. La junte pourrait aussi envisager de dialoguer directement avec les groupes armés à l’étranger et sous médiation internationale, avant la tenue du dialogue national à N’Djaména. Cela permettrait d’instaurer un climat de confiance entre les parties et d’éviter les risques de confrontation future. Les partenaires internationaux, et en particulier l’UA, les Etats membres concernés et la France, devraient déployer des efforts conjoints visant à encourager les autorités tchadiennes à prendre de telles initiatives.