Main News

Europe

PARIS - France moves closer to barring Muslim women from playing sports in a major setback for human rights in the country, writes TRTWorld.

The French Senate has voted to ban conspicuous religious symbols in sports, a move primarily aimed at the country's Muslim women - some of whom may play sports with a headscarf. According to right-wing politicians who voted for the decision, the move targeting the country's Muslim women was taken in the interest of so-called religious neutrality.

"This measure aims to suppress all forms of Muslim subjectivity regarding faith and worship, culture and political expression," says Maria De Cartena, a human rights defender in France. In a rare move, the controversial decision was opposed by Emmanuel Macron's government, which has presided over some of the restrictive clampdowns on Muslims in recent years.

Approved by 160 votes to 143 in the upper house of parliament on Tuesday, the decision is a demonstration that Islamophobia is institutionalised," added De Cartena, speaking to TRT World.

The French government voted against the amendment. France already triggered outrage since an amendment last year to the controversial "separatism bill" that banned girls under the age of 18 from wearing hijab in public spaces.

The bill titled "Strengthening the respect of the principles of the Republic” drew criticism on social media and saw the beginning of the “hands off my hijab” campaign.

The French football federation already bans women from wearing the hijab in official matches, and headscarves are prohibited in schools and government buildings.

 

LONDON - A Tory MP has accused a Government whip of telling her that she was sacked from her ministerial post because her Muslim faith was “making colleagues uncomfortable”.

Nusrat Ghani lost her job as a transport minister in a mini-reshuffle in February 2020 following the resignation of Sajid Javid as chancellor.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, she that in a briefing afterwards with the whips, she was told that here “Muslimness” had been raised as an issue at a meeting in Downing Street.

“It was like being punched in the stomach. I felt humiliated and powerless,” the MP for Wealden told the paper.

“I was told that at the reshuffle meeting in Downing Street that ‘Muslimness’ was raised as an ‘issue’, that my ‘Muslim women minister’ status was making colleagues uncomfortable and that there were concerns ‘that I wasn’t loyal to the party as I didn’t do enough to defend the party against Islamophobia allegations’.

“When I challenged whether this was in any way acceptable and made clear there was little I could do about my identity, I had to listen to a monologue on how hard it was to define when people are being racist and that the party doesn’t have a problem and I needed to do more to defend it.

“It was very clear to me that the whips and No 10 were holding me to a higher threshold of loyalty than others because of my background and faith.”

He comments come as the conduct of the whips’ office is under intense scrutiny amid accusations they used intimidation and blackmail to pressurise MPs seeking to oust Boris Johnson as Prime Minister.

The senior Tory who first raised the issue, William Wragg – the chairman of the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, praised Ms Ghani’s courage in speaking out.

“Nus is very brave to speak out. I was truly appalled to learn of her experience. She shows such strength and integrity supporting others,” he tweeted.

“I am proud to have her as my friend and colleague. We must change things for the better.”

Mr Wragg is due to discuss his claims with a Scotland Yard detective next week, adding to the pressure on Mr Johnson who is facing calls to resign over lockdown drinks parties in Downing Street.

The Sunday Times said that a Government source close to the whips’ office had strenuously denied Ms Ghani’s allegations.

Labour party Shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry has expressed support for Nusrat Ghani, after the Tory MP was told her demotion from transport minister was because of her Muslim faith, saying "I know her, I trust her… I believe her".

Labour has called for a full inquiry into islamophobia within the Conservative party, calling the Ghani case "another example of their bullying culture".

 

An EU-Africa 'equal partnership' must tackle past and present

By Shada Islam, The Euobseprver, 19 January 2022


BRUSSELS - Expectations are high for the EU-Africa summit on 17-18 February.

French president Emmanuel Macron is leading efforts to revitalise the EU's "tired" relationship with African states and - so far - hard-to-get African leaders seem ready to play ball.

A sombre past and persistent present-day irritants weigh heavy on relations between the two continents, however.

With France in the EU presidency over the next six months, Macron will seek to thrash out an economic and financial "New Deal with Africa".

Vying for the spotlight in Brussels is EU Council president Charles Michel who has waxed lyrical about establishing a New Africa-Europe Alliance which is "freed from the demons of the past".

Meanwhile, the European Commission has its own army of senior officials tasked with promoting a "comprehensive strategy" for Africa.
'Africa' in demand

Competition is fierce and getting African leaders' attention is no easy task.

US president Joe Biden has scheduled his own Africa summit. There was a Turkey-Africa partnership summit last December, Japan is holding its African development conference in Tunisia this year and not to be outdone, Russia has announced its own top-level meeting with African governments in November.

Most importantly, the Forum on China–Africa Co-operation (FOCAC) was organised last October, with Beijing promising one billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines to Africa, and pledging to boost Chinese imports of African products.

Much like the EU, China is also focusing on facilitating African nations' green development and digital innovation.

Plans for creating an ambitious EU partnership of equals with Africa are certainly more exciting than the modest talk of building a "mutually beneficial relationship" which dominated the EU-Africa summit in Abidjan in 2017.

The challenge now is to bury old habits and abandon out-of-date mindsets.

In private conversations, African policymakers say they want more respect from the EU and an end to the bloc's Eurocentric approaches and post-colonial reflexes.

Their European counterparts are equally scathing about many African leaders' disregard for democracy and human rights.

There is concern that the African Union, 20 years old this year, does not have the clout needed to speak for its 54 members. Both sides complain endlessly of a lack of mutual trust. Grievances over the past are complicated by anger at the present.

Casting a shadow over the relationship are the toxic legacies of colonialism and slavery as well as modern-day racism and discrimination against African-Europeans and rising hostility towards African refugees.

Covid-19 has added to existing tensions. Ghana's president Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo spoke for many when he denounced the "unsavoury politics of vaccine nationalism" while South African president Cyril Ramaphosa has condemned "vaccine apartheid".

Their anger is understandable. Less than 10 percent of Africans are fully-vaccinated and despite initial pledges of solidarity, the international Covax initiative to supply vaccines to developing nations has been plagued with problems.


Crumbs from the table


President Ramaphosa has said Africa so far has received little more than "crumbs" from developed nations.

The EU has plans to build vaccine production capacity in Senegal and Rwanda but European countries remain opposed to South African and Indian demands for a waiver on some intellectual property (IP) rights for vaccines and medicines at the World Trade Organization.

Most damagingly, African government are furious at what they view as racist and hypocritical EU reactions to the discovery of the Omicron variant in South Africa last year.

Given Africa's fragilie economies, the continent's focus now is on securing access to $100bn [€88bn] in Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) from the emergency $650bn fund launched by the International Monetary Fund in August 2021.

'Fortress Europe' policies remain a thorn in the relationship.

Instead of investing money in preventing African migrants from coming to Europe, the EU should be spending more to create jobs across the continent, according to president Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana.

For many African governments, Europe's Green Deal is a double-edged sword.

Anxiety about the impact of the EU's proposed carbon border tax and the expected decline in European demand for fossil fuels is mixed with more upbeat assessments of an expected rise in EU demand for African cobalt, nickel and other critical minerals.

EU plans to label specific natural gas (and nuclear projects) as 'green' and sustainable could mean more financing for African gas projects, hope some experts.

Africa's economic potential, youthful and optimistic population and the trade-enhancing opportunities created by the frontier-free African Continental Free Area (AfCFTA) will keep the continent high on the global agenda for years to come.

Re-setting Europe-Africa relations requires that both sides jettison out-of-date perceptions of each other and that the EU corrects a damaging existing "cognitive gap" about Africa's rich and complex history.

Meetings among leaders and elites must be backed up with authentic, more frequent and more sustained engagement among younger generations as well as between women's organisations, entrepreneurs, universities and think tanks.

Above all, both sides must confront the past, possibly through a joint statement which recognises the toxic history of Europe-Africa relations as well as current prejudices but also looks ahead to better times.

The upcoming summit is important but it is what happens after the meeting that will decide the future of EU-Africa relations.


Author

Shada Islam is an independent EU analyst and commentator who runs her own strategy and advisory company New Horizons Project. She is also the new editor of the EUobserver magazine.


Disclaimer


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

 

 

PARIS - The OECD Development Co-operation Report 2021: Shaping a Just Digital Transformation makes the case for choosing to hardwire inclusion into digital technology processes and emerging norms and standards.

It draws lessons from the OECD’s Going Digital project, which fosters integrated and principles-based policy making to ensure inclusive digital transformations, strengthen institutional and regulatory frameworks of digital governance, and promote growth and well-being.


Abstract


Digital transformation holds great promise for development, spurring innovation that can improve the lives of people worldwide. The COVID-19 pandemic showcased the potential of digital technologies to help manage crises and support resilience. It also raised concerns with data governance and privacy and underscored the need for integrated and agile policy. Comprehensive policy approaches are needed to address interrelated challenges such as digital security and taxation. Policy making also must be agile to accompany rapid technological change and manage the risks. This chapter highlights lessons from the OECD’s Going Digital project, which fosters integrated and principles-based policy making that ensures inclusive digital transformations, strengthens institutional and regulatory frameworks of digital governance, and promotes growth and well-being.


Key messages


- Availability and use of digital technologies varies significantly: In 2020, fixed broadband penetration in OECD countries was 33 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants, versus 11.9 in non-OECD countries.

- Policies that spur investment and increase competition in broadband networks are essential to boosting connectivity, closing digital divides, and unlocking the benefits of digital transformation.

- Digital transformation cuts across traditional sectoral boundaries necessitating a whole-of-government approach to realise its potential and to manage trade-offs across policy areas.

- Agile, principles-based policies are needed to adapt to rapid technological change. The success of these policies relies on regular monitoring, including through the cross-country comparison enabled by the OECD Going Digital Toolkit and the OECD AI Policy Observatory.

More and more economic and social activities around the world are digital and data driven, fundamentally altering how people live, work, interact, transact and engage with their government. These changes, often collectively referred to as digital transformation, hold great promise to spur innovation, boost efficiencies, and improve economic growth and well-being. Digital transformation, however, also restructures firms and markets, raising policy concerns related to privacy, security and inclusion.

As data, information and ideas flow easily across borders, increasing digitalisation raises global concerns as well. The pace of change is only accelerating. The COVID-19 pandemic has further moved activities on line and placed new demands on networks, highlighting both opportunities and challenges accompanying digital transformation.

While countries are at different stages of digital transformation, common challenges and themes have emerged as important areas for policy action. As a first step, for instance, policy makers should ensure reliable connectivity, as this enables interactions between people, organisations and machines – a basic precondition for digital transformation. OECD countries’ experiences also suggest that in addition to high-quality communication infrastructures and services, principles-based and integrated policies are important to shape an inclusive digital transformation.

Finally, digital transformation has global implications that call for international collaboration. As commerce becomes increasingly digital and global, for example, new approaches are needed – both to govern international data flows, which underlie the increasingly global digital trade, while upholding privacy (Casalini and López González, 2019[1]), and to manage digital security risk, which can easily spread across borders through global firms and value chains (OECD, 2015[2]; 2019[3]).

Digital transformation is particularly salient for the OECD, a forum for international policy-making discussions on such issues as global taxation, international trade, digital security and development co-operation. In light of the rapid changes underway, these policy challenges have taken on new urgency. Notably through the Going Digital project (Box 9.1), the OECD is providing tools and evidence to help policy makers design holistic approaches and sound digital economy and data governance policies that will promote growth and enhance well-being in the digital era.

For the full report, visit: https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/sites/ce08832f-en/1/3/3/2/index.html?itemId=%2Fcontent%2Fpublication%2Fce08832f-en&_csp_=17c2a7153f8f3e72e475ec60ee15c40c&itemIGO=oecd&itemContentType=book&utm_source=Adestra&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Browse%20the%20report&utm_campaign=STI%20News%2019%20January&utm_term=sti

 

 

 

Mediterranean

JERUSALEM - The UN agency that supports Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, on Thursday urged Israeli to immediately halt all evictions and demolitions in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, after an entire family was forced out of their long-term home the previous day.

Israeli police evicted the Salhiyya family from their two adjacent houses, according to news reports, in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem early on Wednesday, and later tore down the structures - a move which UNRWA’s West Bank field office has condemned.

Staff who visited the scene on Thursday morning observed the total destruction of the property, with school bags, clothes and family photos still partially visible beneath the rubble.


Against international law


“Under international humanitarian law, the forcible transfer of protected persons, as well as the destruction of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons by Israel, as the occupying power, is strictly forbidden, except where such measures would be rendered absolutely necessary by imperative military reasons, or for the security of the population under occupation,” the agency said.

The 15-member Salhiyya family, who include an older woman and young child, had been living in Sheikh Jarrah for nearly 40 years, according to UNRWA.

The neigbourhood and tensions surrounding evictions, and attempted evictions, was at the heart of brutal fighting that erupted last year in Gaza, between Israel and the militant group, Hamas.


Arrests and injuries


Israeli forces raided the two Salhiyya houses on the property, at 3am on Wednesday, while the family was sleeping.

In a matter of hours the homes, as well as their possessions, were destroyed, UNRWA said, adding that Israeli forces injured several family members during the eviction operations.

The head of the family, Mahmoud Salhiyya, along with other relatives, was also arrested. Mr. Salhiyya had threatened to set himself on fire two days ago after Israeli forces demolished his business, located next door.


Other families at risk


UNRWA stated that sadly, cases like the Salhiyya's are not unique as scores of Palestine refugee families in different areas of Sheikh Jarrah alone - over 200 persons, many of them children - currently face imminent threat of eviction.

Across East Jerusalem, an estimated 218 Palestinian households are at risk of displacement by the Israeli authorities, the agency said, citing 2020 data from the UN humanitarian affairs office, OCHA.

These households comprise some 970 people, including 424 children.

UNRWA called on the Israeli authorities to abide by international law and, as the occupying power, to ensure the protection of Palestine refugees and civilians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

“All individuals have a right to safe and secure housing and to live in peace and dignity,” said the agency.


Agencies call for release of seriously ill child


In another development in the region, UNRWA and two other UN agencies are calling for the immediate release of a seriously ill Palestinian child detained in Israel.

Amal Nakhleh, now 18, has been held without charge for more than a year, a measure known as administrative detention. He has a rare neuromuscular disorder, according to media reports.

Israel has extended his detention until 18 May, according to a statement issued on Thursday by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), UNRWA, and the UN human rights office, OHCHR.

“Neither Amal nor his lawyers or family have been informed of the reasons for his arrest and detention. Amal suffers from a severe autoimmune disease that requires continuous medical treatment and monitoring,” they said.


Not an isolated case


The UN agencies called for his “immediate and unconditional release”, in line with international human rights law.

This is not an isolated case, they added, as currently at least three Palestinians are in administrative detention who were under age 18 when they were first detained.

“We echo the calls of the UN Secretary-General who in his Report on Children and Armed Conflict has, every year since 2015, urges Israel to end the administrative detention of children. This practice deprives children of their liberty and must immediately end.”

Moscow’s Mercenary Ways

By Michael Young, Carnegie Middle East Center, 19 January 2022


In an interview, Ruslan Trad describes how private military companies advance the Kremlin’s agenda in the Arab world.


Ruslan Trad is a freelance columnist, journalist, and author with a focus on Syria, hybrid warfare, and mercenaries. He is a member of the Association of European Journalists-Bulgaria and cofounder of the Bulgarian journal De Re Militari. Trad has been a correspondent in Lebanon, Turkey, Iraqi Kurdistan, and Thailand for TEMA Weekly and Bulgarian National Radio, and he has also reported from Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. In 2014, he received the Activist of the Year award from the Helsinki Committee for his journalistic and activist work on refugee issues and coverage of the war in Syria. In 2017, he published his first book, The Murder of a Revolution, in Bulgaria. In 2020, he published his second book, Russian Invisible Armies, coauthored with Kiril Avramov, on Russian private military companies, such as the Wagner Group. Diwan interviewed Trad in mid-January to discuss the Wagner Group’​s actions in the Middle East and North Africa.

Michael Young: What has led the Russian regime to rely increasingly on mercenaries, among them those belonging to the Wagner Group, particularly in Arab countries such as Syria, Libya, Sudan, and Egypt?

Ruslan Trad: It should be immediately clarified that the use of mercenaries in the context of Vladimir Putin’s Russia is not a singular tool, but part of a package linked to Russian foreign policy. Let’s call it a “service package” similar to the one you buy from a mobile operator. It may sound like a simplification, but it’s the closest thing to which we can compare it.

There are some examples. Russia is back in Africa, and for several reasons: First, it needs access to natural resources, especially to replenish its budget, which has been hit by sanctions. Second, the Kremlin wants to return to the international stage. The situation in Ukraine was a strong earthquake and showed Russia’s teeth, but its intervention in Syria in 2015 was a breakthrough that showed that Moscow had no intention of standing aside while Western countries pursued their interests. In Africa, Russia is taking its biggest step, concluding treaties with African countries, including training local armies, extracting resources, and selling weapons. Third, Russia is testing and improving its mercenary model. Wagner is the result of numerous operations and experiments in Ukraine and Syria, using Soviet knowledge from the Afghan war in the 1980s, the wars in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s, and the Chechen wars, also in the 1990s. In Africa, mercenaries are not just front-line fighters, but businessmen, security guards, and military instructors, as we can see in the Central African Republic.

Let’s go back to natural resources. The extraction is carried out by private companies owned by people close to Putin. Thus, the needs of the state are met, but also services are paid for by the oligarchs who support the Russian government. Let’s not forget that Wagner is actively involved in military conflicts, costing large sums of money paid by these oligarchs, not by the Russian treasury. The connection between Putin and these people, such as Yevgeny Prigozhin, a main financier of the Wagner Group, makes it impossible to separate private interests from state interests. Thus, mercenaries are part of the package of services that Russia offers and provides to its customers—most of them authoritarian leaders experiencing economic and political difficulties. The Kremlin is using old Soviet-era ties, but dressed in new clothes, to meet Russia’s foreign policy requirements.

MY: Briefly, what have Wagner’s roles been in Arab countries, and how successful have they been?

RT: The most famous cases involving Wagner involve Syria, Sudan, and Libya, and these operations are considered successful. It is important to mention that regimes in these countries do not have to be pro-Russian. In Sudan, Wagner provided protection for longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir, before he was ousted from power in 2019. Russia also maintains links with the country’s military and the Rapid Support Forces, which provide an umbrella for Wagner’s activities. These mostly involve guarding the assets of mining companies. Russia sees Sudan as a door to Africa, so it will not soon leave.

In Libya, despite the United Nations embargo, Wagner has deployed thousands of men in support of Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s forces, which besieged Tripoli for a year. The United States’ Africa Command has satellite images showing the Russian Air Force directly supporting Wagner’s operations.

The most important characteristic of the Russians’ success is that they do not ask questions. Authoritarian governments in the Arab world do not want their actions to be criticized, nor do they want to be compelled to obey international law. This fits in perfectly with Wagner’s development model and Russian goals. In Syria, for example, the Russians have created military formations that have officially become part of President Bashar al-Assad’s army, while in reality they are linked to the Russian armed forces. In this way, the Russians help their clients, support them on the international stage, and participate directly in conflicts.

In Libya the Russian mission was considered a success, despite the fact that Haftar failed to take Tripoli, because Moscow strengthened its local client, gained access to oil reserves, and received secure bases in exchange for Wagner’s assistance.

MY: While the Wagner Group and other private military companies, or PMCs, are one side of the coin, we’ve also seen the United States deploy PMCs, such as Blackwater, which have provided security services for the U.S. government. Is there any difference in the way the Russians and Americans use PMCs, given that in both countries they cooperate closely with the state?

RT: First, it should be emphasized that Wagner is a different model than that of American mercenaries or South Africans. Most people today associate the word “mercenaries” with Blackwater, now known as Academi. But doing so is inaccurate, and even misleading. Today, mercenary companies have many more functions and are much shadier than in the past.

Wagner is a completely different company than Academi. First, it is a private mercenary company only on paper and in terms of registration. I remind you that Wagner is not registered in the Russian Federation, because such companies are still illegal. Second, Wagner is a result of years of trial and error by the Russian government. Wagner is just one of many Russian mercenary companies deployed where the Kremlin has economic and political interests—Ukraine, Syria, countries in Africa, and Venezuela. Wagner is, therefore, not a private company like Blackwater, but is strongly associated with Russia’s special forces and the economic and political elite close to the Kremlin. This is a company that can be used at any time without creating a commitment, as Wagner does not officially exist for Moscow. We can trace the roots of what is today Wagner to the Soviet era and the war in Afghanistan, where Moscow deployed similar special units. The Wagner model is a “recycled” Soviet idea, but with new ambitions and different tools. Organizationally and in terms of action, Wagner has commonalities with South African mercenary groups, as South African commanders who operated during the Apartheid era today are advising Russian mercenary groups.

The context is also important. Moscow is looking for new allies. It is in the process of reestablishing old Soviet-era ties and establishing new ones. The PMC sector allows for useful activities in this regard, as it fits in perfectly with Moscow’s intention of offering “service packages,” as I mentioned earlier. This was first introduced in Syria and the packages have included arms sales, military advisers, the training of regular armed forces and paramilitary groups to wage anti-guerrilla warfare and quell riots, combined with providing bodyguards for the political elite, as well as providing political advisers to strengthen regimes facing challenges. This is the specificity of Russian mercenaries, whether they are the Wagner Group or other companies. They operate close to Russian state interests. They are present where Russia has treaties and seeks to gain influence or access to resources. When it comes to Western companies, such conditions are not mandatory.

Using mercenaries provides several major advantages. First, it allows deniability. Governments, such as Russia’s, can sponsor military operations without visible involvement. Second, on most occasions mercenaries are efficient, experienced, and mobile. Third, they are cheaper to maintain than regular army units. Soldiers receive lifelong pensions, while mercenaries only have contracts. They also cost less than the expensive heavy weapons that governments purchase. Sometimes, Western governments use mercenary companies to provide military backup for leaders in Asia or Africa with whom they have profitable relations.

In the Russian model, the boundaries between private and public interests, between Putin’s businesspeople and Russian foreign policy officials, are blurred and, in some cases, do not exist. In military terms, mercenaries in Russia are often led by special forces officers, recruit military veterans, and most importantly, do not work for those whose interests go against those of Russia. In contrast, American and Western mercenaries have been known to work with China.

MY: What is the relationship between the Wagner Group and the regular Russian military in Arab states where both are deployed? Is it a harmonious relationship, or one characterized by friction?

RT: Russia has taken advantage of the chaos on the ground to test combining official military involvement with opaque private military companies. Syria has proven to be a good laboratory for testing the operational potential and deniability of a mix of such official and unofficial efforts. The Syrian example is very important in the history and development of Wagner and should be remembered.

Prior to their departure to Syria, the new Wagner recruits were trained at a base in Molokino, near the southern Russian city of Krasnodar, that housed the 10th Special Mission Brigade of the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), Russia’s military intelligence agency. Publicly, their designation was solely security provision. However, as became evident in 2018, the company was very actively involved in training, intelligence collection, and directing operations on behalf of Assad’s army. On paper, no official links exist between the Russian forces in Syria and Wagner. In essence, Wagner personnel are actively augmenting the Russian troops on the ground in the execution of their special tasks. If Wagner is not an integral part of the Russian armed forces, then certainly the two entities act in concert, where Wagner is carefully overseen on the ground by elements of the GRU and of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation. This applies not only in Syria, but also in Sudan and Libya. The model is clear and is just being replicated in different countries. But it began during the war in Syria.

Russia’s efforts in Syria have spawned units that are tailored to fighting in the Middle East, such as the so-called ISIS Hunters, in reference to the so-called Islamic State. Such units serve as valuable assets on the propaganda and psychological warfare front at home, and for designated foreign audiences. The ISIS Hunters were originally thought to be just a façade, whose existence was denied. However, like another such group, Turan, it is a product of Russian forces and has many Russian members in its ranks, although officials have stated that the ISIS Hunters unit is mostly made up of Syrians.

Syria has proven to be the perfect application of a hybrid military-PMC deployment model, and it is now being exported to other countries. Russia’s deployments of its own forces abroad operating alongside PMCs are on the rise and Libya is one of the most visible examples of this. In Libya, Russians are working according to the Syrian model in fulfilling common business and military objectives that help both the Kremlin and the host country. Just as Syria served as a springboard for Sudan and Libya, so today Libya is a springboard and starting base for the deployment of forces in the Central African Republic, Mali, and other African countries.

MY: Do you have any information on the incident near Deir Ezzor, Syria, in February 2018, in which U.S. forces attacked pro-government Syrian forces, among which Russian mercenaries were deployed, killing dozens of members of the force? What did the incident tell us about the Wagner Group and its limitations in Syria?

RT: What can be said, apart from the publicly known information, is that many of the bodies have not been returned to Russia. There are reports that many Wagner members involved in the failed attack have not even been identified. The exact number of dead is not yet clear, but it is not small. We can say that the episode was one of the worst failures of the Russian command in Syria.

MY: Is there any type of ideological framework in which PMCs like the Wagner Group have acted in the Middle East and North Africa, or is this solely about interests?

RT: If we talk about members of the company, ideologically they are a mixture. There are people with fascist views, as well as those who worship ancient traditions that border on paganism. This should come as no surprise, as PMCs are a breeding ground for extreme, machismo, paramilitary subcultures in which brotherhood and support during operations are vital. In this respect, Wagner’s mercenaries are similar to many of those recruited by Western units, including the French Foreign Legion.

And yes, payment is always a good reason for enrolling. Information coming from relatives suggests that many young men get involved either because they have lost their job or need to pay off debts, and because it is profitable to work for a PMC.


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.

 

 

Assad’s normalization and the politics of erasure in Syria

By Steven Heydemann, Brookings, January 13, 2022


Editor's Note:

As Syria's conflict nears its 11th year, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has recently achieved significant diplomatic victories, with several Arab governments normalizing their relations with the Syrian regime, Steven Heydemann writes. This trend, should it continue, will produce the erasure of the Assad regime's accountability for the destruction of Syria. This piece originally appeared in Democracy in the Arab World Now (DAWN)’s Democracy in Exile, where an Arabic version is also available.

 

This March, Syria’s conflict will enter its 11th year, with no end in sight. As this bleak anniversary approaches, Syria’s economy has collapsed; narcotics trafficking has become a leading source of regime revenue. More than 12 million Syrians are food insecure. Domestic security is precarious. Low-level insurgencies have flared up in areas previously retaken by regime forces. The Islamic State group’s cells are active across swaths of eastern Syria. Despite a nominal cease-fire in the northeast, regime and Russian attacks targeting civilians are a near-daily occurrence.

Yet even in the face of this grim assessment, President Bashar al-Assad has notched significant diplomatic wins over the past year. Beginning with overtures from Jordan’s King Abdullah II last July, the normalization of Assad and his regime has quickly gathered steam throughout the region. The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have reopened their embassies in Damascus.

Senior officials in several Arab states are pressing to reinstate Syria’s membership in the Arab League, including Algeria, which will host an upcoming League summit in March. Syria has already been designated to host a 2024 Arab energy conference. The United States has extended sanctions relief to permit an Egyptian pipeline to deliver natural gas to Lebanon via Syria, though the project has hit snags.

This trend is only likely to accelerate in the coming year. Although the Biden administration insists it opposes normalizing ties with Assad and will keep economic sanctions in place, it has not pushed back forcefully on U.S. regional allies that have reached out to Damascus, even as they undermine the stated objectives of American policy.

Described as a shift from punitive isolation to “step-for-step” diplomacy, Arab regimes have advanced any number of justifications for Assad’s normalization. It is presented as giving Syria an Arab counterweight to Iran; a way to relieve the economic hardship of Syrian civilians; a step toward the return of Syrian refugees; and insurance against a further outpouring of refugees that might threaten the stability of neighbouring states.

The most frequent refrain, however, is that engagement will create incentives for the Assad regime to accept the reforms necessary to pry open the taps of reconstruction funding from the European Union and move Syria toward the political transition called for in United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254.

If sanctions have failed to change the Assad regime’s behavior, this reasoning goes, perhaps it is time to show the regime what it might gain from cooperation. This possibility is what led the U.N.’s special envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, to endorse normalization under the banner of engagement. “With each passing month,” he
commented in December, “I have sensed a wider realization than before that political and economic steps are needed — and that these can really only happen together — step-by-step, step-for-step.”

As a rationale for concessions to Damascus, however, this approach, which rehabilitates Assad diplomatically, is little short of delusional. The idea that the Assad regime will respond to normalization with concessions of its own flies in the face of everything we know about how the Assads have ruled Syria for more than 50 years. Not only has this “step-for-step” engagement already failed to produce even the slightest hint of a shift in regime behavior, it is having the opposite effect.

Seen as evidence that recalcitrance works, “step-for-step” is legitimating and empowering the Assad regime, reinforcing its determination to reject compromises, and pushing a political settlement of Syria’s conflict even further out of reach. Nor are Syrians likely to see the purported economic gains of normalization. Predation and corruption have defined the regime’s management of humanitarian assistance throughout the civil war.

Economic openings have invariably been captured by the Assads and their cronies, who monopolize their benefits with utter disregard for the well-being of ordinary citizens. There is no reason to imagine that normalization will produce any other result.

No less troubling, the advocates of normalization are indifferent to its failure. They have shown no interest in making further “steps” contingent on a positive response to earlier overtures. In effect, “step-for-step” has become a framework for unilateral diplomatic disarmament.

Normalization will also have deeply corrosive effects on sanctions, despite U.S. claims to the contrary. The Biden administration has shown less willingness than its predecessor to make use of existing sanctions under the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act. For other states, including regional actors, “step-for-step” is a convenient excuse to disregard sanctions and deepen economic ties to the regime.

Jordan and the United Arab Emirates are already in discussions with Damascus about how to revitalize trade and investment. Russia’s special envoy for Syria has predicted further easing of sanctions in the coming year.

Critics of sanctions might welcome this possibility, arguing that they have failed to achieve their purpose and cause harm to Syrian civilians, while imposing little hardship on regime elites. In making such claims, however, critics often disregard the many other factors that collectively contribute far more than sanctions to the suffering of the Syrian people.

These include the regime’s massive destruction of Syria’s infrastructure over the past decade; mass population displacement; the collapse of the Lebanese economy; the impact of the regime’s corruption and predation on Syria’s economic recovery; and the refusal of its major international patrons, including China and Russia, to provide meaningful support for either humanitarian aid or economic reconstruction.

Consider Syria’s bread crisis, which sanctions have nothing to do with. It is the largely result of Russia’s refusal to sell wheat to Syria as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, of arson fires that destroyed large areas of cropland in the summer of 2020 — many of which seem to have been caused by regime forces — and of subsequent drought across Syria’s eastern provinces.

Moreover, critiques of sanctions ignore the damage that their easing, even implicitly, will do — not only to the victims of regime violence and a source of leverage that critics often underestimate, but to international law and the global norms that represent the most viable mechanisms for holding the Assad regime accountable for its crimes and abuses. This is a regime that has overseen mass murder, the systematic use of chemical weapons against civilians, torture, arbitrary and illegal detentions, and the forced displacement of millions of Syrian civilians.

Simply put, the efficacy of sanctions cannot be measured solely by whether they coerce the regime into changing its behavior. Equally if not more important is their value in signaling the repudiation of, and the denial of legitimacy to, a regime that is responsible for crimes against humanity and egregious violations of international law. In recent years, this aspect of sanctions has become increasingly important as legal proceedings against Assad regime officials implicated in torture have moved forward in a number of countries, including Germany, France, Spain, and the Netherlands.

If “step-for-step” diplomacy becomes accepted as a framework for normalizing the Assad regime, the eventual outcome will be the erasure of its responsibility for the destruction of Syria and all that has accompanied it. Russia, alongside the regime, is hard at work to ensure precisely this outcome. The U.S. and its European allies should not be complicit, directly or indirectly, in such efforts.

The U.S. should do more than affirm its commitment to keeping sanctions on Assad’s brutal regime. It needs to put them to use, stating publicly that it will take steps to enforce sanctions against any party that violates them and following through promptly when violations occur.

It must also make clear that there is only one pathway for sanctions relief: demonstrable, irreversible progress toward the meaningful political transition in Syria that is called for in U.N. Security Council Resolution 2254. To do otherwise sends a terrible signal about American indifference to the crimes of the Assad regime, and further weakens the possibilities for preventing other dictators from following in his footsteps.

 

 

 

 

Middle East: Man in the Middle

By Michael Young, Carnegie Middle East Center, 11 January 2022


In an interview, Timothy J. Paris discusses his biography of Gilbert Clayton, a key British official in the Middle East.


Timothy J. Paris is a historian, lawyer, and author of two books on the Middle East, most recently In Defense of Britain’s Middle Eastern Empire: A Life of Sir Gilbert Clayton, published in 2015. Paris received his Ph.D. in history from Cambridge University, and his first book was titled Britain, the Hashemites and Arab Rule, 1920-1925: The Sherifian Solution, published in 2003. His fascinating and rich biography of Clayton sheds light on a key figure in the formulation of British policy in the Middle East both during and after World War I, even as it describes someone largely unknown to a general public. It is to discuss the biography that Diwan interviewed Paris in early January.


Michael Young: It took you six years to research and write your biography of Gilbert Clayton. Why choose him as a topic?


Timothy J. Paris: So much has been written about the Great War and its aftermath in the Middle East that I was surprised no one had published a biography of Clayton, who was involved, in varying degrees, in nearly all the big issues of the period. A Clayton biography thus presented an opportunity to fill a gap in the historiography. On a personal level, I thought it would be fun to write a biography and, since Clayton worked in such a variety of regions and contexts, to learn more about some areas with which I had less familiarity, such as Egypt and the Sudan. Also, I wanted to write a book that would be accessible to an audience wider than the academic community. So, this work contains a substantial amount of background material that would be neither necessary nor appropriate for the specialist.


MY: You touch on a central debate in modern Middle Eastern historiography, namely who fooled whom during World War I? Did Britain fool the Arabs by promising them an independent state in exchange for turning against the Ottomans, while agreeing with France to divide the Middle East between themselves? Or did the Arabs fool the British into thinking that they might favor the Ottomans and Germany in order to secure what they wanted, when this was always unlikely?


TJP: Certainly, there was a fair amount of duplicity all around. The British, French, Arabs, and Zionists were all guilty of misrepresentations made to suit their own ends. The Arabs, through Mohammed Sharif al-Farouqi, an Arab officer in the Ottoman army who had defected and persuaded British officials that the Arabs might side with Germany if Britain did not support an Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire, unquestionably misled the British. This led the officials—including Clayton—to wrongly conclude that an Arab-German alliance was imminent in 1915. But, for Clayton, the Farouqi interviews affected timing only; he was already convinced that an Anglo-Arab alliance was critically important to the British position in the Middle East.

The pledge made in 1915 by the British high commissioner in Egypt, Sir Henry McMahon, to the sherif of Mecca, Hussein bin Ali, that Britain would support an independent Arab state or states in Arab territories, which was prompted by those interviews, while intentionally ambiguous and open-ended, may not have been calculated to deceive. However, it became deceptive in light of the Sykes-Picot Agreement, the Balfour Declaration, and the various British pronouncements of 1918, none of which can be squared with the 1915 pledge.


MY: You suggest that the Arab Revolt, long regarded popularly as a thing of legend due to the participation of T. E. Lawrence, was actually something with which the British authorities in Cairo, civilian and military, initially did not want to be identified. Why?


TJP: Most of the opposition to British sponsorship of the Arab Revolt came from the Government of India and the India Office. In the region itself, there was some doubt early on whether the expenditure of British money, equipment, and maybe men would be worth the candle and no one, least of all Clayton, believed that a revolt would be militarily significant. There was also concern that early Hashemite plans, in 1915, to promote a revolt in Syria would antagonize France, which sought influence in postwar Syria. Finally, there was uneasiness that British involvement in an Arab revolt would be construed in the Islamic world as interference in the Muslim Holy Places.

However, by late 1915, all the leading British authorities in the region—McMahon, General Sir John Maxwell, commander of the British army in Egypt, Sir Ronald Storrs, the oriental secretary at the British Agency in Cairo, Sir Reginald Wingate, at the time governor-general of the Sudan, and Clayton—were fully persuaded of the merits of British support for a revolt. Opposition continued from India and, in Egypt, from General Sir Archibald Murray, who replaced Maxwell as commander in chief, Middle East, in March 1916, and thought that the revolt was a wasteful frolic and detour.


MY: You appear to be trying to thread the needle over Clayton’s views of the Balfour Declaration. On the one hand, you argue that he was committed to implementing the declaration, as this was official British policy. However, you also write that he seemed to admit that it was unworkable. Where precisely did he stand?


TJP: I may be guilty of needle-threading in describing Clayton’s views of the Balfour Declaration and Zionism (and perhaps some needle-threading was required at that time). But it is more a recognition of the fact that Clayton’s views changed over the years. Initially, he, like many others, was baffled by the phrase “national home for the Jewish people.” And he wasn’t helped by the laughable Foreign Office instruction that he develop the policy “on right lines.” Whatever the declaration meant, though, Clayton was convinced that Britain must proceed slowly with the national home policy.

And he became even more convinced that gradualism was required when he learned from the Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann in March 1918 that a Jewish state in Palestine was the Zionist objective. Yet, Clayton supported the declaration: first, because as a British officer and civil servant that was his job; and second, because he really did believe that, if slowly and carefully applied, the Zionist program had a chance of success.

I have given many examples in the book of Clayton’s adherence to the British policy of support when he acted as administrator of the Occupied Enemy Territory Administration and chief political officer in Palestine (1918), and later as chief secretary (1923–1925) in the Mandate government. But, by late 1923, Clayton was convinced that the British government was not fairly applying the policies laid down in the June 1922 White Paper, which affirmed that the Balfour Declaration did not mean that Palestine as a whole would become a Jewish state. In the face of many frustrations, he came to appreciate the depth of Arab opposition to Zionist policy. Despite his best efforts, he realized he could do nothing to reconcile Arab and Jew.


MY: As a political officer in Egypt, Clayton was instrumental in pushing for a gradual handing over of governance duties to the Egyptians themselves, a pattern he would repeat in Iraq when he was high commissioner there in 1929. What was his rationale, and how did the British authorities respond to his recommendations?


TJP: Clayton’s thinking was simple enough. He believed that both Egypt and Iraq were capable of running their own governments and that it was neither necessary nor desirable to impose British methods in either country. And he didn’t much care if those governments were run efficiently, by British standards. A passage in a July 1929 letter to colonial secretary Lord Passfield summarized his attitude: “Iraq has reached a stage at which further progress in self-government and self-reliance can only be achieved as a result of a system of trial and error. She will only realize and learn to surmount her difficulties by being able to face them herself.”

What Clayton considered important for Britain was reflected in the so-called “reserved issues clause” of the Allenby Declaration of February 1922 and in the Anglo-Iraqi Treaty of June 1930. There was, of course, pushback from London, particularly with regard to Egypt in 1922, as prime minister David Lloyd George, secretary of state for the colonies Winston Churchill, and, to a lesser extent, foreign secretary George Nathaniel Curzon, all opposed dissolution of the protectorate in Egypt, a designation Clayton thought offensive to Egypt and meaningless to Britain. It took the powerful personality of General Edmund Allenby, then the high commissioner in Egypt, to push through the 1922 Declaration. As for Iraq, there was opposition so long as the Conservative government and colonial secretary Leo Amery held sway. But when Labor prevailed in the May 1929 general election, “conciliation” became the byword in imperial policy and Clayton’s policy won out.


MY: How would you describe Clayton personally? He comes across in your book as something of a cipher—an agile and competent bureaucrat who sometimes seemed to dance between the raindrops, but otherwise left few visible fingerprints. In your research how did he come across to you, professionally and personally?


TJP: Clayton was a very good diplomat and negotiator and his imprint on Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan, and Arabia was clear, if not indelible. In a historical context, he might best be characterized as one of those transitional figures in moving Britain from a formal to an informal empire, though his ideas on devolution were neither novel nor unique. As an intelligence director in Egypt his political work was good and his tactical intelligence efforts adequate, but not outstanding, during a period when the intelligence trade (apart from human intelligence) was in a nascent stage.

Personally, Clayton was indeed something of a cipher. His views on a wide variety of issues come through in his correspondence and in official papers, but there is little in the way of self-revelation. He kept his own counsel and self-aggrandizement formed no part of his personality. Insightful, but not entirely accurate, assessments of him were made by two colleagues who knew him well—T. E. Lawrence and Ronald Storrs—and both their opinions are worth reviewing.


MY: You close your book by affirming that Clayton was regarded as a friend of the Arabs. You also underline that his primary focus was to defend the interests of the British Empire. Are these two compatible?


TJP: First, I must say I considered that my job as a biographer was to amass all the evidence I could find concerning Clayton, and then to accurately and fairly assess the man in the context of his time. It was no part of my job to consider him in the context of 21st century standards and mores, when the mere mention of the word “imperialism” drives some people to apoplexy. That being said, there were certainly some Arabs at the time who regarded anything less than istiqlal tamm—complete independence—as anathema and were intent on removing any vestige of Western influence in the Middle East, except for diplomatic representation. For these people, Clayton was no friend.

However, I concluded that the bulk of informed Arab opinion at the time did regard Clayton as a friend, and that this belief was accurate. His views on dissolution of the protectorate and internal autonomy in Egypt and on admission of Iraq into the League of Nations (symbolic of its independence) were no secret and were applauded by most Arabs. And Emir Abdullah in Transjordan and Abd al-Aziz Al Saud in Arabia had good reason to express their dismay over Clayton’s death in 1929. It is quite true that Clayton sought to protect what he regarded as vital British interests in these countries, but many Arabs at the time understood that the transition to complete independence could not be achieved overnight and that Clayton, in contrast to many of his compatriots, was advocating a reduction in British influence and was thus making progress in the direction they desired.

 

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

Tunisia’s lengthy road map back to democracy


By Anthony Dworkin, European Council on Foreign Relations, 11 January 2022

Tunisia’s international partners have responded too leniently to its president’s announced programme of constitutional reform. They risk allowing him to remain over-powerful for years to come.

 

Since July last year, when Tunisian president Kais Saied suspended parliament and dissolved the government, many people in Tunisia and abroad have called on him to produce a road map to return the country to democratic accountability. In December, Saied appeared to bow to those demands as he announced a schedule leading to parliamentary elections at the end of this year.

The plan has already been welcomed by the United States and, more cautiously, by Italy; but it should not be mistaken for a return to democratic standards. Instead, it leaves Saied with absolute power for a full year, as well as total control of the process through which the ground rules of Tunisian politics will be rewritten.

Saied justified his power grab last summer as a measure to rescue Tunisia from a deep economic and public health crisis caused by the ineffectiveness of the country’s post-revolutionary political system. Since the overthrow of the former authoritarian leader Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011, Tunisia has stood as a beacon of democracy in the Middle East and North Africa. But it has also seen persistent economic stagnation and high unemployment, as successive governments struggled to tackle Tunisia’s problems.

More recently, the country experienced a much higher death toll from covid-19 than its neighbours, with the government seemingly unable to mount an effective response to the pandemic. For these reasons, there was widespread public support for Saied’s move against the parliament, even if it was difficult to square with Tunisia’s 2014 constitution.

Despite being presented as an emergency measure, Saied’s seizure of power soon came to look like a new order that might be extended for an indefinite period. In September, Saied gave himself the power to rule by decree and formally set aside those parts of the constitution that conflicted with the measures he had taken. Since Tunisia’s political class had irresponsibly failed to set up a constitutional court (as the constitution required), this meant that all power was effectively concentrated in Saied’s hands.

While the European Union and the US called for a clear timetable for restoring parliamentary rule, and Saied himself repeatedly promised further details of his plans, he has also been scornful of requests for a road map, saying those who wanted one should “look in their geography books”.

Against this background, Saied’s announcement on Monday 13 December of a timetable for Tunisia’s political future might appear to be a step forward. He said that there would be an online public consultation on a revision of Tunisia’s constitution starting in January; that a committee would be appointed to draw up the suggested amendments before a referendum in July; and that legislative elections under a revised electoral law would be held in December.

The timetable is loaded with political symbolism, as the date for the July referendum marks the anniversary of his suspension of parliament, while the elections are to be held on the same date as the self-immolation of Mohammed Bouazizi in 2010, which sparked the Tunisian revolution. The implicit linking of these two actions gives a measure of Saied’s sense of his own importance.

If the announced end to Saied’s irregular and unchecked stewardship of the country is welcome, it is nevertheless very delayed; Saied’s map charts a very long road. On top of this, his timetable means that the process of revising the constitution and drawing up the electoral law for legislative elections will unfold while he retains a monopoly of power in Tunisia.

The only gesture towards involving other actors in the process is the online public consultation, which has now opened. There is no suggestion that other political groups will have any role in devising the country’s new political settlement. Saied has already made clear that he regards Tunisia’s political parties as illegitimate and corrupt, and his rule over the last six months has displayed an absolute disdain for any notion of inclusive or pluralistic governance.

Moreover, Saied has followed the launch of his road map with an intensified campaign against his political opponents, spearheaded by the minister of the interior, Taoufik Charfeddine. In late December, Interior Ministry agents seized a leading member of the Ennahda party and a former government security adviser; the two are being held under house arrest for alleged involvement in terrorism, but without any judicial proceedings.

Former president Moncef Marzouki was recently sentenced to four years’ imprisonment in absentia (he is now living in Paris) on charges of undermining the country’s security from abroad after he attacked Saied’s seizure of power.

It is unclear what constitutional changes Saied’s committee will propose, but he has long argued against the very idea of a directly elected national parliament, preferring some model of direct democracy whereby elected local assemblies nominate representatives to a weak national body. Comparative constitutionalists suggest that his favoured model might bear some similarity to the system that existed in Libya under the leadership of Muammar Qaddafi, which is hardly an auspicious precedent. In any case, there is little doubt that the president will emerge with greatly enhanced powers.

The international reaction to Saied’s road map has been muted but largely positive. The US State Department said that it welcomed the announcement of a timeline for political reforms and legislative elections and that it looked forward “to a reform process that is transparent and inclusive of diverse political and civil society voices.” This may be an attempt to exert influence by expressing positive expectations but it nevertheless comes across as naive.

A stronger statement would have said that the credibility of the process depends on the involvement of a broad range of political and civil society groups. It would not have appeared to endorse the delay of a year in restoring political representation.

A public statement by G7 ambassadors to Tunisia that was released only a few days before Saied’s announcement called for a “swift return to functioning democratic institutions”, and it is hard to see that Saied’s plan meets this standard. Italian foreign minister Luigi di Maio requested a return to “full democratic normality with the complete respect of fundamental rights and the promotion of stability” but was more focused on migration during a recent visit to Tunisia.

Within Tunisia, in any case, the president’s apparent fixation on reforming the constitution risks seeming eccentric when set against the population’s overwhelming concern with the economy and the standard of living. The parlous state of Tunisia’s public finances has led it to approach the International Monetary Fund about a further assistance package, and public spending will need to be cut.

Saied has not given any indication of a programme to improve the economic outlook and many Tunisians expect a resurgence of public demonstrations in the coming months. Along with expressing concern about the absence of political representation and the unchecked power of the president, Tunisia’s partners should also make clear that the repression of public protest or freedom of speech would not be compatible with the democratic values that Tunisia’s leader claims to espouse.


The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR and CEMAS publications only represent the views of its individual authors.

 

 

 

Algeria’s regime is facing an unprecedented crisis

Menas Associates, London, 12 January 2022


These developments described in Algeria Politics & Security – 11.01.22 were less than 24-hour old and were still developing as went to press.

It is not yet a coup d’état but the start of what could become a serious division within the army — largely between the country’s East and West — which will destabilise the regime for a long time to come.

The perpetrator of this move against the Army Chief of Staff, General Saïd Chengriha, is the late General Ahmed Gaïd Salah’s private secretary, Chief Warrant Officer Guermit Bounouira. He fled Algeria in February 2020 with many of Gaïd Salah’s secret files, which held incriminating evidence against Chengriha and many other senior army personnel. Bounouira was extradited back from Turkey in July 2020 and has since been in Blida’s’ military prison where he faces a likely death sentence.

From his high security prison cell, however, Bounouira has been able to make and then release onto the Internet and the social networks a series of 20 damning video recordings against Chengriha. These are now in the hands of the regime’s main opponent, the Rachad movement, and its prime analyst, Mohamed Larbi Zitout.

Bounouira accuses Chengriha of having accumulated a colossal fortune through drug trafficking and arms smuggling and of having ensured the protection of the smuggling routes on the Algerian-Moroccan border. He also revealed details on Chengriha’s alleged arms trafficking with Libya and fuel trafficking in the Tamanrasset region. He claims that these criminal activities by Chengriha, who was then head of the Army Land Forces, were about to lead to a military indictment which would almost certainly have ended his career. Instead, however, Gaïd Salah suddenly died in December 2019 which has led to renewed speculation as to whether he was poisoned.

Much more information is yet to be published on social media. We believe it will include: a full list of all the generals involved in this criminality and details of the army’s control of this business including the use of Algeria’s ports to smuggle cocaine from South America to Europe.

The two big questions are: who enabled Bounouira to make these extraordinary revelations and, what will be their implication for Chengriha, the Presidency and the regime as a whole?

Bounouira was being held in the country’s most secure prison block. Commonly known as The Pavilion of Traitors or Pavilion No.5 this high-security block is, amongst others, known to contain:

- General Bouazza Ouassini – former head of the Direction générale de la sécurité intérieure, DGSI) internal security;

- Major-General Mohamed Bouzit (a.k.a. Youcef) – the former head of the foreign intelligence service;

- Major General Abdelhamid Ghriss – the former secretary-general of the Ministry of National Defence; and

- General Othmane Belmiloud (a.k.a. Kamel Kanich), the former head of the Direction Centrale de la Sécurité de l’Armée (DCSA);

The obvious question is who is trying to oust Chengriha, along with many of his senior staff, and for what purpose? The immediate and most obvious answer might be ‘the deep state’ which is a euphemism for the clan headed by: former defence minister Khaled Nezzar; former DRS head Mohamed ‘Toufik’ Mediène, and former DCSA head M’henna Djebbar. At this stage, however, that might seem a little too obvious and simplistic.

As we go to press, we heard from a 100% reliable source — who has been closely involved with these documents and disclosures since Bounouira was in Turkey between February-July 2020 — that the people behind this move are not the Nezzar-Mediène clan. Instead it is the supporters of the late General Gaïd Salah and, in particular, Bounouira himself and Bouazza Ouassini who is also in prison with him. We will explain more on their motives in next week’s issue.

They want revenge against Chengriha, partly to rectify their own imprisonment, but also because they are accusing him of ‘kidnapping’ for the East. In the list of names which Bounouira is publishing — which we have now seen and will explain more about in next week’s issue as well as about the East-West division — the majority are about 60 generals from eastern Algeria and mostly of Chaouia identity.

Currently, the immediate implications are that Chengriha has lost all authority and will almost certainly be replaced. The great danger is that this division within the army could turn into something akin to civil war although this is unlikely because other forces are likely to step in.

In short — although we understand that the Nezzar-Mediène clan had nothing to do with Bounouira’s motives — they will be the ultimate beneficiaries. This is because they have the knowledge and intelligence access to all that has been going on. Many of their supporters — who were mostly colonels in the 1990s but more latterly generals — fled to Spain after Gaïd Salah’s putsch against Mediène in 2015. They are likely to return and take back many of the top positions in the military and security services.

The possible timing in this scenario is, however, very uncertain. We understand that as we go to press, Blida — and especially the military court, prison and surrounding complex — is under siege by forces from the gendarmerie. Key sources close to the situation are describing the situation as an ‘earthquake’, which will destabilise the regime for a long time to come, with the distinct possibility of the army becoming divided, more or less along its East-West axis.

 

 

 

Libya: Flames on the Horizon?


By Frederic Wehrey and Emadeddin Badi, Carnegie Middle East Center, 07 January 2022


Libya may be heading toward new rounds of conflict in the aftermath of its recently aborted elections.

 

Nearly ten years ago, in the summer of 2012, the citizens of Libya went to the polls for the first time in four decades to vote for a national legislature. It was a watershed moment in the country’s path after the overthrow and death of Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi at the hands of NATO-backed rebels in late 2011. It was the first time that most Libyans had ever had a say in their government.

Both of us—a Libyan citizen and a foreign observer—were there at the time and remember well the euphoric mood. City streets were festooned with campaign banners, candidates held rallies in sprawling tents, and lively political debates lasted all through the night in cafes. Many Libyans hoped the elected body would be a starting point to heal the deep wounds left by Qaddafi’s autocratic rule and resolve problems such as the unequal distribution of oil revenues and the unchecked power of the country’s militias.

That optimism was misplaced. The legislature quickly fell victim to bitter personal and ideological rivalries and exclusionary politics. Corruption soared. The militias became stronger, bolstered by their ties to elected politicians. By 2014, Libya was in a state of nationwide civil war whose flames were fanned by regional powers.

In hindsight, many wondered if the push to elections so soon after the revolution had been premature and rushed, especially given the absence of preconditions such as security and a robust civil society.

This past year, as part of a United Nations-brokered road map to end the latest round of civil war, Libyans and their international supporters pushed for presidential elections on December 24 as a salve for the country’s ills. Again, the entire process sharpened Libya’s divisions, rather than bridged them. This time, though, the legal basis of the elections was deeply contested. So too was their scope and sequencing—whether they were to be presidential or parliamentary or both, and in what order. So, it was unsurprising that on December 21, Libya’s election commission dissolved polling committees across the country, indefinitely postponing the vote.

Libya is now entering a dangerous new phase, one in which the potential for factional armed conflict is high as the prospects for a real democratic transition fade.

Visiting Tripoli, the capital, this past month, one of us noticed that the darkening horizon was plainly evident in the population’s mood. Over 2.5 million Libyans had registered to vote, but the lively discussions in 2012 over candidates’ reform platforms were replaced by cynical conversations about the flawed runup to elections.

Few Libyans ever believed that elections would curb the influence of militias. And now, with their postponement, militias are already flexing their muscles. In recent days, convoys of armed groups in trucks have screeched through Tripoli’s roundabouts with heavy artillery to intimidate their military opponents, with some besieging the headquarters of the weak caretaker government in the process. This mobilization is partly to jockey for leverage over the Tripoli-based government and the country’s sovereign institutions, now that the planned suffrage appears indefinitely deferred.

With elections postponed, leading political figures who command armed groups are already trying to outmaneuver each other by forming personal alliances to divide up power. This could take shape through bargaining, but also, worrisomely, brazen displays of force.

Among the most polarizing and consequential of these figures is the man responsible for launching an invasion of Tripoli in 2019, to unseat the internationally recognized government and seize power. He is also one of the most prominent presidential candidates. Khalifa Haftar, the septuagenarian warlord based in eastern Libya, has long derided democracy in Libya, positioning himself as a military savior.

Qaddafi’s son, Seif al-Islam, once heralded as a reformer but now facing an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court, is another figure to watch. He enjoys support among the divided sympathizers of the former regime known as the “Greens.” Like Haftar, he is exploiting citizens’ nostalgia for authoritarian stability, and chose to make his comeback on Libya’s political scene by making a surprise bid for the presidency.

The current prime minister of the caretaker government in Tripoli, Abdul-Hamid Dbaiba, has grown increasingly influential during his tenure. He is now likely to try and remain in power, sparking dissent and possibly violence among his opponents as he maneuvers to militarily entrench himself in the capital. Dbaiba ran for president after promising not to do so, and has garnered popular support through a classic populist tactic of dispensing cash.

The former interior minister Fathi Bashaga is another force to be reckoned with. Hailing from the powerful western coastal city of Misrata, he has been lauded as the more pragmatic of the presidential candidates by Western interlocutors. In recent weeks, he has struck up an entente with his former archival Haftar. Yet, this alliance is already being challenged by several armed groups and constituencies in western Libya—a divide that will likely erupt into violence.

Moving forward, prospects for enduring stability and unity are further complicated by the presence of thousands of foreign fighters and mercenaries sponsored by Turkey and Russia, who militarily intervened in the 2019–2020 war. By doing so, Ankara and Moscow established themselves as power brokers on the ground, along with the United Arab Emirates, and to a lesser extent Egypt. This foreign influence, and a burgeoning detente among former rivals in the Middle East, could act as a check on the eruption of nationwide conflict in 2022. Yet, without a clear road map that redefines how Libya will regain popular legitimacy, this momentary regional rapprochement will not guarantee long-term stability.

Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the election postponement, armed groups and their political patrons appear to be crafting road maps of their own. They are capitalizing on the current limbo by engaging in multiple tracks of dialogue, both in Libya and in foreign capitals. While talking is certainly better than fighting, these personalized encounters should in no way be construed as setting the foundations for a durable institutionally-based settlement. At their core, they are simply attempts to divide the spoils of appointments in the security sector and other state organs.

The vote’s deferral has also prompted factions across the country to support a return to a constitutional drafting process to reset the legal framework for elections and ensure their legitimacy. This too would appear to be a positive development, at first glance. But the constitutional track has been wholly coopted by elites in two widely despised bodies, the High State Council in the west and the House of Representatives in the east. These elites have used an array of clever procedural and legal tactics to delay the constitution and obstruct progress toward elections—because such steps threaten their privileged positions. As these games continue, Libyan citizens will be left to suffer. And it is probably only a matter of time before an armed faction tires of them as well, and calculates that its interests are better served through displays of force or violence.

To manage these risks, Western powers, especially the United States, need to quickly adapt to realities on the ground. Most crucially, Washington also needs to heed the lessons it learned from Libya after Qaddafi’s fall. These include eschewing sweeping assumptions about what national elections alone can achieve, but also accepting the importance of prioritizing robust engagement in supporting Libyan citizens, not just elites, in crafting a path forward.

While the Biden administration supported preparations for polling last year, it now needs to engage much more firmly on setting the foundations for a truly unified, democratic civil state. This includes bolstering civil society, ensuring the rule of law and accountability, and developing a more viable strategy for reining in the militias. Most importantly, it needs to help Libyans develop a firm, universally-agreed-upon legal basis for future elections—either through a constitution or some similar compact—that enshrines the principles of inclusion and genuine representation, rather than continues the timeworn game of elite bargaining and a sharing of the spoils.

While this process needs to be Libyan-owned, this should not be an excuse for handing the steering wheel of Libya’s transition back to the same venal political factions that exacerbated and protracted the country’s crises.


Coauthor Emadeddin Badi is a senior analyst at the Global Initiative and a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.


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.

 

 

 

TUNIS - With opposition voices silenced and an economy on the brink, experts say Tunisia is "wallowing in uncertainty" as President Kais Saied readies to ask the public for their thoughts on a new constitution.

The former law professor, who on 25 July sacked the government, suspended parliament and seized wide-ranging powers, has long called for an overhaul of the country's dysfunctional post-revolution political system. His moves have been decried as a "coup" by his opponents.

On 13 December, Saied laid out a roadmap for drafting a new constitution, which is set to grant more powers to the executive branch at the expense of the legislature in the small North African nation.

The public has been asked to send in suggestions via electronic platforms from 1 January to 20 March ahead of a referendum on the resulting constitution on 25 July 2022.

Critics have said the move underlines the "populist" approach of the president, who won elections in 2019 with a landslide 73 percent of votes.

But Saied's one-man crusade to rebuild Tunisia's broken political structures has sparked accusations that he is establishing a new autocracy in the birthplace of the Arab Spring uprisings.

Rights groups have pointed to military trials of opposition figures on charges such as "insulting the president".

The accusations come not just from his nemesis, the moderate Islamist Ennahdha party that dominated the suspended assembly, but also from the powerful UGTT trade union.

"The country is wallowing in political uncertainty, even after Saied announced his roadmap, which doesn't seem to have reassured partners either domestically or internationally," said analyst Hamza Meddeb.

"There are many questions marks over the reliability of this process," Meddeb said.

"We have never tried this kind of referendum in Tunisia and we don't know how the president is aiming to organise these consultations."


'Repression in disguise'


Meddeb said the consultations will begin "amid socio-economic unrest, with questions regarding freedoms" and what he described as "repression in disguise".

Saied's July power-grab came with Tunisia engulfed in a political and economic crisis exacerbated by mounting coronavirus cases.

His move was initially backed by some Tunisians who were tired of a political elite viewed as corrupt and incapable of resolving the country's problems.

On Tuesday, the debt-ridden country unveiled a 2022 budget that will see it borrow almost $7 billion, as it seeks to stimulate an economy stricken by 18 percent unemployment.

Authorities are also hoping to reach a bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund.

But as the administration grapples with deep economic woes, it has also clamped down on rights.

On 24 December, activist and former MP Bochra Belhaj Hmida was sentenced to six months in prison - a verdict that sparked questions as it came days after she criticised the president.

"Since July 25, there is a single institution and a single person deciding the future of this country," she told AFP. "There is nothing to suggest that there will be hope."


'Slippery slope'


Hmida is not the only Saied critic to have been prosecuted after publicly criticising the president.

Perhaps the most prominent is exiled former president Moncef Marzouki, who was sentenced in absentia to four years in prison on 22 December for "undermining the security of the state from abroad" after launching blistering public criticism against Saied.

"All these hasty trials against critical voices clearly show that the judiciary is unfortunately in the hands of the executive," Meddeb said.

Rights groups have repeatedly warned of the threat to freedom of speech in Tunisia since 25 July.

Human Rights Watch said in December that Tunisian authorities are using "repressive" dictatorship-era laws to snuff out criticism of Saied.

The journalists' union also has warned of an "imminent danger to freedom of the press, media and expression" since Saied's power-grab.

On 23 December, a group of prominent anti-Saied figures under the banner "Citizens against the Coup" launched a hunger strike against what they call "a complete abolition of freedoms".

The group called for a boycott of the public consultation pushed by Saied, accusing him of seeking to "conceal his coup".

"Tunisia is on a slippery slope and we can expect high tensions," Meddeb said.

 

 

 

 

Research Papers & Reports

The Iran Nuclear Deal at Six: Now or Never

International Crisis Group, 17 January 2022

Tehran/Washington/Brussels - After all is said and done, the Iran nuclear deal struck in 2015 remains the best way to achieve the West’s non-proliferation goals and the sanctions relief that Tehran seeks. The parties must not squander what is likely their last chance to save the accord.

 

What’s new? The U.S. and Iran have engaged in months of indirect negotiations aimed at restoring the 2015 nuclear deal. These talks have failed to deliver a framework for mutual compliance. Iran’s nuclear program continues to expand in size and sophistication while Trump-era U.S. sanctions remain substantially in place.

Why does it matter? Unless negotiations make substantive progress or Iran’s nuclear progress slows down, the existing deal’s point of no return may arrive soon. Deadlock in coming weeks may prompt a shift toward coercive diplomacy or even military action by the U.S. and its allies, and nuclear and regional escalation by Iran.

What should be done? The U.S. and Iran should seize a possibly last opportunity to salvage the deal. Differences on reversing Iran’s nuclear advances and U.S. sanctions relief need not be unsurmountable if Washington can ensure certain economic dividends for Tehran, and Tehran takes necessary steps to verifiably roll back its nuclear program.

 

Executive Summary


Seven years after Iran and world powers reached the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, the Iran nuclear deal) in Vienna, they are struggling to salvage what little remains of it. Both sides wonder whether they can achieve their goals. For Washington, the key question is whether it can secure the original deal’s non-proliferation benefits given dramatic Iranian nuclear expansion, especially over the past year. For Tehran, the issue is whether the U.S. can and will offer sanctions relief that affords sufficient, sustainable economic benefits, which has not yet occurred during the deal’s lifespan.

Yet both agree, for now, on the need to proceed by diplomatic means for the simple reason that the alternatives would be far worse. Time is short, but it is not yet too late for the two sides and other JCPOA signatories to forge a renewed understanding based on mutual compliance. That will require the U.S. and Europe to offer credible proposals on how to translate the lifting of nuclear-related U.S. sanctions into real economic relief for Iran, and Iran to make a robust commitment to verifiable rollback of its nuclear program.

On taking office a year ago, the Biden administration inherited the dubious legacy of its predecessor’s policies. The Iranian nuclear program was growing in size and sophistication but subject to shrinking international oversight despite sweeping unilateral U.S. sanctions on Iran. President Joe Biden was also bequeathed frayed transatlantic relations, including on the Iran question, and elevated tensions in the Middle East.

The new administration took some time for deliberations on how to forge a new U.S. approach before settling on what ought to have been clear all along: that rejoining the JCPOA would be the best way to restore its clear non-proliferation benefits and keep open the possibility of engaging Iran on other issues.

While Washington offered neither the mea culpa nor the policy reversals Tehran hoped for – and missed the opportunity to offer good-will gestures toward the Iranian people amid the COVID-19 pandemic – the first few months of talks were productive. Six rounds of negotiations between April and June yielded the broad contours of a satisfactory compromise around nuclear rollback, sanctions relief and sequencing before the administration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, invested in saving the deal as its central legacy, left office.

But the Iranian presidential election in June put the talks on hold for five months, and since their resumption in late November, more time has been spent relitigating earlier progress than bridging remaining gaps. For the new conservative-dominated government in Tehran, the JCPOA itself is an inheritance of questionable value. Believing that the Iranian economy has absorbed and survived the worst of not just U.S. sanctions but a global pandemic, the leadership downplays the financial dividends a revived deal would bring or dismisses them outright, banking on improving relations with neighbouring states and non-Western powers to offset the economic harm and blunt the diplomatic opprobrium still tougher sanctions would bring.

Moreover, viewing the possibility of further nuclear advancements as a potent means of coercing greater concessions from the U.S., it finds brinksmanship appealing.

Yet these considerations appear based on shaky foundations: beneath positive growth figures is an economy badly in need of repair. Improvements in foreign ties – not least with Gulf Arab states – could suffer in an increasingly adversarial environment with the West, while pushing the nuclear envelope too far is likely to strain relations with China and Russia. Above all, further approaching nuclear weapons latency – developing all the elements of a bomb short of producing one – or provoking the U.S. militarily, whether directly or indirectly, is unlikely to secure benefits from Washington or go unchallenged.

Among world powers, particularly the U.S. and European states, a decision point looms. Tehran’s growing stockpiles of uranium enriched to near-weapons grade and increasingly advanced centrifuges mean that the JCPOA is – at present rates – within weeks of reaching the point of no return. That would mean the U.S. would judge the original deal’s non-proliferation benefits to be no longer attainable and a renewed agreement therefore not worth pursuing.

The ticking clock has sharpened Washington’s and its allies’ thinking on alternatives to the JCPOA – so-called Plan B options, ranging from an interim agreement to freeze Iran’s nuclear advancements in return for partial easing of sanctions to snapping back UN and European Union sanctions to covert or overt military interventions to set back Iran’s nuclear program. But each of these courses of action carries substantial downsides and unreliable returns. Absent rapid progress in the next few weeks, a return to the perilous sanctions versus centri-fuges race of a decade ago seems to be in the offing.

Regional states are bracing themselves for what comes next. For Iran’s Gulf Arab neighbours, who were caught in the crossfire between Iran and the U.S. under the Trump administration and view U.S. commitments to their security with wariness, both a revived agreement and no-deal scenarios raise concerns. The Gulf states have begun engaging in dialogue with Tehran to hedge their bets against the reverberations of a new escalatory spiral.

In Israel, by contrast, the leadership seems more worried about Iran’s financial enrichment through the JCPOA’s revival than the increased uranium enrichment that has already happened and would likely accelerate were the deal to collapse. Although some national security veterans increasingly acknowledge the JCPOA’s non-proliferation benefits, Israeli leaders deem it a poor trade-off to un-shackle their archenemy’s finances, which could be used to bolster Iranian allies across the Levant, and to bring Tehran in from the diplomatic cold.

The past three years have shown the lose-lose dynamic that would result from a failed negotiation. The U.S. and its allies – as well as major powers like China and Russia that also have no interest in a nuclear-armed Iran – would face the unchecked expansion of Iran’s nuclear program. Iran would see a dramatic worsening of its economy. The region would see a renewed rise in tensions that could push it into a disastrous escalation.

Fortunately, avoiding such an outcome is possible. It would require the U.S. and Iran to come to terms with the reality that neither will get everything it wants, but with the understanding that each can get something approaching what it needs. Steps along the following lines would be required:

The Biden administration should show greater flexibility on the extent of sanctions relief it is willing to offer, working with European parties to help ensure that Iran will reap economic dividends, and provide assurances that as long as it is in office and Tehran is complying with its obligations, Washington will not impede Iranian trade consistent with the agreement.

Both sides should agree on a sequence of steps on the sanctions relief and nuclear fronts that would help address both Iranian scepticism about whether it will receive effective economic relief and U.S. and European non-proliferation concerns. The U.S. should relax sanctions on Iranian oil exports and allow the repatriation of related revenue as well as Iran’s frozen assets abroad.

Iran should in tandem begin freezing the most concerning elements of its nuclear activity, namely high-level uranium enrichment, installation of advanced centrifuges and production of uranium metal.

It should also allow enhanced access to UN inspectors while verifying that U.S. sanctions relief is effective. Subsequent steps to roll back additional U.S. sanctions and Iranian nuclear advances that are inconsistent with the JCPOA should be designed in the same staggered manner to bring both sides back into full JCPOA compliance.

In addition to reversing its breaches of the nuclear deal since 2019, in a manner substantially and verifiably consistent with the JCPOA’s restrictions, which would involve substantial dismantling of its advanced centrifuges, Tehran should restore full cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency and clarify outstanding issues with regard to traces of nuclear material the agency found at four undeclared sites in Iran.

Both sides should engage on issues beyond the specific JCPOA framework in parallel with the Vienna talks, including mechanisms such as bilateral and regional dialogues aimed at de-escalating tensions between Iran and its Arab neighbours, as well as the fate of dual-national detainees held by Iran and facilitation of humanitarian trade to Iran.

What has brought the U.S., Iran and P4+1 (the UK, France, Russia, China and Germany) back to the table is a recognition that the JCPOA offers the best available framework to address a global strategic concern – and the only available framework for Iran to normalise its economic relations with the outside world. Appreciating the benefits of the deal’s revival, and the downsides that would come with its demise, should be enough for the original signatories to step back from the edge and prevent the JCPOA from unravelling.


For the full report, visit: https://www.crisisgroup.org/middle-east-north-africa/gulf-and-arabian-peninsula/iran/230-iran-nuclear-deal-six-now-never

 

 

How the Transatlantic Relationship Has Evolved, One Year Into the Biden Administration


By CORNELIUS ADEBAHR, DAN BAER, ROSA BALFOUR, LIZZA BOMASSI, ANU BRADFORD, ERIK BRATTBERG, ALLISON CARRAGHER, RALUCA CSERNATONI, THOMAS DE WAAL, PAUL HAENLE, OLIVIA LAZARD, MARC PIERINI, PIERRE VIMONT, RICHARD YOUNGS, Carnegie Europe, 20 January 2022.

Carnegie scholars assess U.S.-European cooperation on China, technology, climate, and more.


DAN BAER AND ROSA BALFOUR: Introduction


The hope that U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration would usher in a transformation of the tone and strength of relations between the United States and Europe was bound to be, at least partially, an unrequited one. After all, relaunching transatlantic cooperation and repairing damage from preceding years would be more difficult than flipping a switch. Moreover, in the last year, both the United States and Europe have had episodes of diplomatic engagement—or lack thereof—that have left transatlantic partners feeling quizzical or worse.

The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the signing of the AUKUS deal—the defense agreement between Australia, the UK, and the United States—were interpreted in many European capitals as signals, not that America was back but of a changing strategy: a sharper focus on China’s rise and its global impact, coupled with overseas military commitments reoriented toward Asian security.

Seen from Washington, Europe’s rush to finalize an investment agreement with China in the weeks between Biden’s election and his inauguration left some senior officials wondering if the reunion that many veterans of earlier administrations had anticipated with European counterparts would be less congenial than they had hoped.

And yet, while we do not dismiss the difficulties that remain, the narrative of unmet expectations has obscured the fact that there has been real progress on policy and politics in the transatlantic relationship in the past year. Transatlanticists should welcome sobriety—it’s a tough world out there—but should also be wary of maudlin handwringing and nostalgia for supposedly easier times. Spending too much energy looking backward might keep the transatlantic partnership from seizing the opportunity to reinvent and reinvigorate going forward.

To that end, we asked scholars to assess transatlantic cooperation on some of the most pressing current affairs, with an eye to how the quality and urgency of this cooperation has changed during Biden’s first year. At the Summit for Democracy, a Biden election promise viewed with caution in Brussels, the EU’s substantive contribution was acknowledged by giving it equal visibility, though this did not dispel some suspicions that Washington’s democracy agenda is influenced by its geopolitical one.

With respect to the current crisis with Russia, U.S. officials have been shuttling to Brussels to share intelligence on Russia’s military buildup on Ukraine’s border and have vowed to involve European partners, even if the format of the discussions seems less important in Washington than in Brussels.

In the Balkans, the EU and United States have been working together to contain fallouts. In security and defense, a renewed pragmatic cooperation suggests a greater U.S. acceptance of more European autonomy in security matters. These instances are giving the relationship a new multidimensional depth and purpose.

The EU-U.S. Trade and Technology Council (TTC), an early European proposal endorsed by the United States, perhaps has the best potential to exemplify the multidimensionality of the relationship. Talks in the TTC range from long-standing irritants such as tariffs to how to govern big tech. While the EU and United States have divergent principles—for instance, between top-down regulation and market-driven rules—working through practicalities can help find shared understandings.

On some issues, such as corporate taxation, standoffs between the United States and EU have been solved. Finding common ground on trade provides not just a pragmatic entry point into the thorny question of how to deal with China, where tactics are not transatlantically aligned, but also to shape the future international environment based on rights and rules.

On a less encouraging note, the impact of transatlantic cooperation on the wider Middle East is still to be seen. While Washington is committed to talking with Tehran through European diplomacy, the lost ground is hard to recuperate. European officials are still uncertain about U.S. engagement in the rest of the region but are reluctant to shape a policy of their own as they lose influence and any shadow of unity.

This will haunt European security as other actors gain ground in neighboring countries, from the East Mediterranean to North Africa and the Sahel. The climate dossier, one of the most urgent global issues, is where the gap between rosy expectations and commitments by the United States is widest—despite concrete progress by the Biden administration—and where EU leadership is not able to influence the domestic constraints to a greater U.S. role.

As we reflect on the last year—and look to the future—two observations stand out. The first is that the theatrics of transatlantic rapprochement following Donald Trump’s presidency—flashy, convivial June summits between the United States and the EU, the United States and the UK, the G-7, and at NATO—got the most attention as representations of positive and shared intentions.

But in many ways, the thornier and more complicated work on technical issues and regulatory alignment, or the collaboration between European and U.S. diplomats in smaller capitals that are less often in headlines, are the bigger test in the coming years. The transatlantic relationship has expanded beyond the bounds of conventional trade and security policy, and the opportunities to innovate and improve transnational governance on a range of issues are dizzying.

The second observation is that, on both sides of the Atlantic, there is a growing but incomplete recognition that a deeper relationship on this wide range of issues is not a matter of convenience but rather of necessity. The brief, historical moment of U.S. unipolarity has ended, and the alternative to more robust Euro-American cooperation is a world in which global challenges are unaddressed and democracies are unsafe.

In addition to asking a collection of experts to weigh in on particular issues or regions, we conducted a pulse-check survey with a wider group of experts to get their sense of how transatlantic relations are faring across domains. In all areas, the experts see a gap between the quality of the current work being done by transatlantic partners and the urgency of achieving strong cooperation in that issue set. The graphics below each entry present a snapshot of experts’ views.


Thomas de Waal: On Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus


Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus—the six countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine that fall under the EU’s Eastern Partnership—constitute a region that seems to be in an unending, slow-motion crisis. Seen from the United States, these countries risk being perceived as a problem region, which only merits serious attention when an urgent security imperative, such as the current standoff with Russia over Ukraine, demands it. European leaders have no such option, nor a good track record on crafting a rapid response to a fast-developing security threat.

For three decades, these countries have suffered from the lasting effects of the unresolved, protracted conflicts that accompanied the collapse of the Soviet Union, as well as poor governance and weak democratic institutions. All have taken a heavy demographic hit that is hard to measure; Ukraine held its last census in 2001 and may have lost many millions to emigration since then. In the last two years, these problems have been compounded by the public health and economic crises caused by COVID-19. Armenia and Azerbaijan went back to war. Belarus experienced an unsuccessful democratic uprising and authoritarian crackdown. Georgia is in a protracted political crisis. Ukraine is at the epicenter of a new confrontation with Russia.

It will take a generation or two to resolve all these problems. At best, the EU and the United States can stabilize the situation in the medium term and offer a helping hand to governments and civil society organizations. The two outside actors have traditionally cooperated fairly well, even despite the interruption caused by Trump’s administration. But there are fears in the region that their commitment may falter: that the United States is reducing its interest overall or that the EU lacks the unity and resolve to prevent democratic backsliding or threats from Russia.

In Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, where the issues are mainly local or regional, the EU and the United States mainly reinforce each other’s messages well and play to each other’s strengths.

But Ukraine requires harder work. Moscow is currently testing the level of Western commitment to the country with new confrontational tactics and demands. The Russians evidently would prefer to deal directly with the United States and treat not just Ukraine but also the European powers as American stooges. When Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov leaked twenty-eight pages of diplomatic correspondence from his French and German counterparts, he may have been trying to discredit the Normandy format of negotiations with Berlin and Paris over eastern Ukraine and deal directly with Washington.

To some in Moscow, it looks as though the U.S. administration accepted this bargain when Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin talked directly with each other on December 7 and December 30. The next challenge is to demonstrate that this was not an enduring negotiating framework. The messages need to be heard more clearly that all actors will have an equal seat at the table in talks on European security and the future of countries such as Ukraine that are the neighbors not just of Russia, but of the European Union and many other states as well.


Allison Carragher: On the Western Balkans


The Western Balkans is unique among opportunities for transatlantic cooperation because the EU has the lead and accession remains the key policy. While the United States and EU sustained strong working-level cooperation on the Balkans throughout the Trump administration, there was a disconnect with the White House. Under Biden, the transatlantic allies are again synchronized to the very top. That leadership team is also expanding. In the United States, Biden is bringing respected Balkan hands back into government with nominations such as James O’Brien and Christopher Hill.

The UK, which witnessed a noteworthy parliamentary debate on Bosnia, also recently named its first special envoy for the Western Balkans. Three of the EU’s nine special representative positions are dedicated to the Western Balkans. Such personnel decisions reflect a commitment to the region and an opportunity for broader cooperation.

In the past year, concerning developments in the Western Balkans have prompted a transatlantic response. At the UN Security Council, efforts by Russia and China to terminate the EU’s peacekeeping mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) were narrowly circumvented by the United States, the UK, and France—but not without gutting the international Office of the High Representative.

In September, a flare-up over license plates saw the deployment of special police, armored vehicles, and blockades on both sides of the Serbia-Kosovo border. A month later, Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik announced a plan to withdraw the Republika Srpska from shared state institutions in BiH and form its own army, tax authority, and judiciary—a move many consider tantamount to secession. In each of these cases, the Western reaction was coordinated. NATO increased patrols throughout Kosovo under its peacekeeping mission.

The United States and the EU issued a joint statement on the Western Balkans reiterating support for the territorial integrity of BiH, the EU-facilitated dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo, and the launch of EU accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia. The statement on the Republika Srpska’s separatist legislation was issued by Quint (British, French, German, Italian, and U.S.) embassies together with the EU. While coordination has improved this year, the next challenge will be translating this policy harmonization into action.

Today, the issues in the Western Balkans carry a sense of urgency not felt since the 1990s. Any escalation on the Serbia-Kosovo border or within BiH that could spark armed conflict is of primary importance. Other disputes follow political timelines with their own senses of urgency. For example, if a compromise cannot be reached with the new Bulgarian government to launch accession negotiations before North Macedonia’s parliamentary elections, there is a plausible risk of the latter’s hard-won progress toward EU membership being lost.

The EU’s credibility would also crumble. Urgent global challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, cannot be overcome in this region without transatlantic assistance. The same goes for the slow-burning crises of democracy and governance, which are also acute. Lastly, the United States and the EU must remain vigilant to the rise of Russia and China in Europe’s inner courtyard.


Marc Pierini and Pierre Vimont: Turkey, the Middle East, and North Africa


As Biden came into office, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region was at risk of European disillusionment, with European partners expecting a fundamental change from the policy and approach during the Donald Trump years.

As foreseen, that break did not happen, and disenchantment has become the overwhelming mood in the region. Despite talk of strategic convergence, the hopes of mutual U.S. and EU engagement in the many crises riddling the Middle East have remained unfulfilled. (The exception is the Iranian nuclear negotiations, where the Biden team has lived up to expectations by joining up efforts with its three European partners.) The conflicts in Syria, Libya, and Yemen remain today where they were one year ago. Not to mention the Middle East peace process on which none of the usual honest brokers has indicated any readiness to take the lead.

So far, the only significant change comes from the regional partners that have initiated some cautious outreach to Syrian and Iranian leaders. But these local diplomatic efforts have not served U.S. and EU interests. On the contrary, they have reinforced the impression of a serious problem of credibility for Western allies in the aftermath of the Afghanistan withdrawal.

The United States further streamlining its military presence in the Middle East will likely boost the perception of the West being sidelined. Thus, the Middle East diplomatic scene is progressively finding a momentum of its own under the influence and action of the regional actors. And with the United States prioritizing its competition with China, and Europe caught in the dilemma of giving more attention to the Russian military buildup in the east or to the jihadi threat in Africa, the call for more collaboration in the Middle East between the two partners sounds out of tune.

Amid this configuration, both Europe and the United States are probably doomed to defend a status quo policy for the time being. Yet even this prudent line requires a capacity for diplomatic agility and proactiveness that Europeans collectively have not shown so far. In Syria and Yemen, Europe remains largely powerless. When facing the domestic political stalemates in Tunisia or Lebanon, it is mostly silent. Some member states such as France, Germany, and Italy have launched individual initiatives, but with little impact so far. In the meantime, this lack of strategic effectiveness is playing into the hands of Russia and China, which are reinforcing their presence and influence in the region.

Could then Turkey, as one of the main priorities for a common U.S.-EU agenda, represent a more suitable diplomatic ground for complementary action?

During the first year of the Biden administration, there were convergent evolutions between the U.S. and some EU governments regarding the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean and the response to give to Turkey’s assertive actions in 2020 and its procurement of Russian missile defense systems. As a result, France and the United States have upgraded their strategic cooperation agreements with Greece, including military sales, while both the United States and the EU sided with Greece on the issue of its maritime boundaries with Turkey and called for restraint.

A key issue remains to be clarified: the role of Turkey in NATO. While Ankara is keen to stress its full participation in the alliance’s activities, it has been used by Moscow as a wedge against NATO. Turkey has de facto allowed Russia to get rid of both advanced NATO missile systems and fifth-generation aircraft on its southern flank, which represents one-third of its border with NATO countries. This is no small achievement.

As the EU develops its Strategic Compass and as NATO prepares for its summit in Madrid, intense consultation between the United States, key EU members states, and EU institutions is necessary in order to safeguard Europe’s defense architecture. More broadly, the compatibility of Turkey’s bilateral actions and its participation in NATO is at stake. While the current situation between Turkey and its partners and allies is fraught—to say nothing of Turkey’s huge domestic economic challenges and rising political uncertainty—perhaps close U.S. and European collaboration can find a path to the stronger, more stable relationship that would benefit all three.


Cornelius Adbehr: On Iran


After four years of increasing transatlantic confrontation over Iran policy following America’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal, expectations of a joint approach with the incoming Biden administration were high. The past twelve months have seen solid cooperation, if also underwhelming progress on the dossier. Initially, the concern was that European allies might not be prepared to accommodate a decisive U.S. return to the negotiating table, as announced by Biden on the campaign trail, even though they had been the ones keeping the agreement alive. This turned into frustration over the sluggish pace of the administration to make tangible offers for a reopening of the talks.

The Islamic Republic has had its own role in stalling progress, from refusing to conclude the negotiations before a presidential election in June to slow-walking their resumption for five months after. Given the country’s advances in nuclear technology as well as in the stockpiling of highly enriched uranium, the urgency to restore the limits set by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspection regime, is obvious.

However, with both Iran and the United States constrained by domestic politics that do not reward compromise with an adversary, any agreement to relax U.S. sanctions in return for the reintroduction of stringent nuclear controls will have to be carefully calibrated.

The continued focus on the nuclear file, though, belies a reality that is moving on. Israel has been establishing relations with Arab Gulf countries, and its new government is much less opposed to a nuclear accord than the previous one. Countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, in turn, have begun to speak with Tehran directly about their security concerns, sensing that Washington is, slowly but surely, on its way out of the region.

Meanwhile, Russia has gained an active security presence in the region via the Syrian theater while maintaining strong ties with Israel. Lastly, China remains a sought-after commercial partner that is gaining political clout as a result of America’s turn toward Asia.

It is these shifting geopolitical sands that should make the focus on regional cooperation an imperative for the coming year. Ideally, such a move would follow a revival or renewal of the JCPOA, the “longer and stronger” deal that Washington aspires to. However, the chances of failure increased during 2021, so a push for some kind of security arrangement is critical, especially in case talks should falter. The alternative is another violent conflagration that benefits only a handful of cynics, and not the people in the region itself.


Erik Brattberg: On Security and Defense Policy


While Biden’s team has removed any doubt about U.S. commitment to NATO after Trump’s threats—and has gone out of its way to support the EU—the past year has also seen some serious transatlantic diplomatic rifts, notably over the haphazard U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in August and the sudden announcement of the AUKUS security agreement in September.

These two events reinforced European concerns about shifting U.S. strategic priorities to the Indo-Pacific and triggered complaints about the inadequacy of U.S. consultation with transatlantic partners. Biden administration officials have responded by stepping up diplomatic engagement with European capitals. But the recent geopolitical turbulence between Russia and Ukraine also painfully illustrates Europe’s lack of power and influence on the world stage, prompting more voices in Europe to call for investing in European sovereignty. (The Ukraine crisis is also a clear reminder that Europe remains completely dependent on Washington for its own security for the foreseeable future.)

These broader geopolitical developments aside, the EU and the United States have made some tangible progress on improving bilateral security and defense cooperation during Biden’s first year in office, setting the stage for further progress over the next years. Notably, at the EU-U.S. summit in June, the two sides agreed on “the contribution EU security and defense initiatives can make to both European and Transatlantic security” and expressed support for further strengthening the “mutually reinforcing key strategic partnership” between the EU and NATO.

The summit also agreed to establish a dedicated EU-U.S. security and defense dialogue, which is slated to hold its inaugural meeting in early 2022. One of the topics the dialogue will address is U.S. participation in EU defense initiatives. Following an EU agreement to allow third parties to participate in EU defense initiatives under the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) framework, the United States joined a project on military mobility and has expressed interest in exploring others.

Another positive development is long-overdue progress on finalizing an administrative arrangement between the United States and the European Defence Agency, which could allow for greater U.S. participation in future EU defense industrial projects. Other areas where the EU and the United States are expected to enhance dialogue include cyber, climate security, and disruptive technologies.

This progress reflects the Biden administration’s determined efforts to move beyond Trump’s unhelpful criticisms of coordinated EU defense schemes. In his joint statement with French President Emmanuel Macron in October to patch over the AUKUS debacle, Biden acknowledged “the importance of a stronger and more capable European defense that . . . is complementary to NATO.” Yet even with this shift in rhetoric, Biden administration officials still prefer to see their European counterparts talk less about strategic autonomy and focus more on making practical and specific progress on strengthening European defense capabilities.

Going forward there is likely to be more progress between Brussels and Washington on security and defense cooperation. The Biden administration sees the EU as a partner of first resort and wants to raise the level of ambition in the relationship. This more pragmatic and encouraging U.S. position toward EU defense cooperation is long overdue. It has the potential to foster a healthier transatlantic balance where European countries gradually assume more responsibilities for their own security in exchange for continued U.S. commitment.

But what ultimately matters even more is whether the EU can finally demonstrate that it indeed is a serious security and defense player. The forthcoming release of the new EU Strategic Compass later this spring—alongside NATO’s new Strategic Concept—is a crucial test as to whether European leaders are ready to seize the momentum. With security threats proliferating in Europe’s neighborhood, they may soon not have a choice.


Lizza Bomassi and Paul Haenle: On China


When Biden took office, it was expected that the United States would look to repair transatlantic ties before trying to set out a common agenda vis-a-vis China. To this end, Washington acted swiftly to rejoin multilateral institutions, resolve transatlantic trade disputes, and refocus efforts on shared global challenges. These efforts went a long way toward strengthening transatlantic cooperation on policy toward China and clearly paid off in areas such as climate and human rights. However, there remain other areas where full alignment has been more challenging—in technology, trade, and security.

Part of the reason for this divergence in the U.S.-EU relationship, as we wrote previously, is that while the EU and the United States share similar assessments of China, their policy responses are invariably conditioned by local and regional circumstances. As a regional organization with many small- and medium-sized members, the EU avoids making binary choices between Washington and Beijing. This is undoubtedly somewhat frustrating for the United States, which sees China as one of its top foreign policy priorities.

Yet while the relationship has been dogged by hiccups, such as the unexpected (at least from the EU side) U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the announcement of AUKUS in September, transatlantic ties are stronger overall than they were one year ago. This sets the stage for more robust cooperation on China going forward.

Meanwhile, 2021 was an eventful year in Chinese politics and foreign policy. Many of these developments make a strong case for Washington and Brussels to agree—at least in principle—to the top lines, or guiding principles, where there should be no ambiguity in policy. In the beginning of the year, China passed its Fourteenth Five-Year Plan, including ambitious targets to achieve “self-reliance” in key science and technology fields.

The new U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council could provide a platform for transatlantic partners to protect their science and technology ecosystems and invest in new and innovative technologies. On the economic front, the U.S.-China Phase 1 trade deal, which expired at the end of 2021, could present an opportunity for the United States and the EU to better align their trade policies toward China, especially given the impasse on the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment. In the security field, China continues to assert its expansive maritime claims in the South China Sea and take aggressive actions toward Taiwan.

The United States and the EU can do more to reinforce their position that disputes be resolved peacefully in accordance with international law. Germany, under the new chancellorship of Olaf Scholz, is already giving indications that it will take a harder line on China than under former chancellor Angela Merkel. Finally, at home, China has been undergoing a rapid political tightening in the run-up to the Twentieth Party Congress later this year.

It is fair to say that the United States and the EU have not always treated China with the urgency that it deserves. This is partly because of how China is categorized (either as a rival, competitor, or ally) depending on the issue of the day. This strategy has served the EU well thus far, allowing for the type of nuanced approach to geopolitics that the EU excels at. Yet, as Merkel recently lamented, Germany may have been “too naive in [its] approach to some cooperation partnerships.” Building on their closer alignment in 2021, the United States and the EU should continue to advocate that China adhere to international norms on governance and human rights. China is a formidable power that will continue to present long-term challenges to the international system, even as the three sides work together to solve global challenges like climate change and nuclear proliferation.


Anu Bradford and Raluca Csernatoni: On Technology


After the friction-filled era under Trump, Europe has welcomed the new U.S. administration with optimism. Consistent with Biden’s lifelong commitment to transatlanticism, this past year has witnessed a shift in U.S. diplomatic rhetoric, from outright hostility toward a more normalized tone supporting enhanced EU-U.S. collaboration. This is also the case for the technological domain, with Washington demonstrating its eagerness to build coalitions with European allies and other techno-democracies to counter the rise of authoritarian China.

Most concretely, the Biden administration has been supportive of the EU-U.S. Trade and Technology Council (TTC), which had its inaugural meeting in September 2021 and serves as a forum for the EU and United States to coordinate their trade and technology policy approaches based on shared democratic values. The TTC offers a significant opportunity to make progress in aligning transatlantic interests in artificial intelligence regulation, technological standards setting, security of supply chains, screening foreign direct investments and exports, and increasing cybersecurity resilience.

The TTC was launched in the shadow of the transatlantic drama over AUKUS, so it is too early to tell whether it can successfully address present and future tech challenges and renew the transatlantic bond. The AUKUS incident shows that for all the talk of revived transatlanticism, the United States will act, as it always has, in its own strategic interests. AUKUS further confirms that China takes center stage in U.S. geopolitical calculations, with the EU risking to become an afterthought.

There are also long-standing tensions between Brussels and Washington regarding technology regulation. The United States has in the past accused the EU of targeting U.S. tech companies with its stringent antitrust and data protection rules. And it is now watching closely how the EU’s proposed Digital Markets Act and Digital Services Act will affect U.S. interests. Transatlantic data flows also remain precarious after the European Court of Justice has twice invalidated the agreement that governed EU-U.S. data transfers.

However, the U.S. policy conversation is now shifting closer to the EU, with an increasing recognition in the country that big tech has become too powerful. The Biden administration is looking to revive antitrust enforcement against certain companies, while Congress is debating more interventionist technology regulations targeting market competition, privacy, and content moderation. These policy developments suggest that the transatlantic gap may be gradually closing, even though it remains unclear whether this new rhetoric will translate into actual policy change in the United States.

Building on these developments, the EU should actively engage on its own terms with the United States and other democratic countries around shared values and norms regarding responsible technological innovation, the preservation of an open and safe cyberspace, and the development of human-centric disruptive technologies. Beyond leveraging regulation, the EU should also aim to operationalize its digital and technological sovereignty in critical areas and build its open strategic autonomy in the face of the growing tech rivalry between the United States and China.

This also means the creation of a more cohesive EU external tech policy agenda to deal collectively with contested policy choices, such as whether to welcome the Chinese tech company Huawei to build 5G networks across Europe.

Yet the EU’s pursuit to boost its homegrown technological and digital capacity and to reduce dependencies on others, including the United States, might raise concerns about growing protectionism and further deepen the transatlantic rift. The EU may similarly be concerned that the United States has engaged in protectionist actions in support of its own high-tech industries, while publicly advocating the techno-globalism promoted by big tech.

To avoid shifts to techno-nationalism, both the EU and United States should reject this emerging global norm and recommit to open markets. To mitigate and counter the negative effects of techno-nationalist policies, the EU should promote both new policy instruments for critical infrastructure protections in the case of key strategic technologies and at the same time boost the competitiveness of the European innovation ecosystem.

Neither the EU nor the United States can safeguard their democratic, economic, technological, and strategic interests alone. Instead, they need to seize the opportunity the TTC presents to deepen EU-U.S. ties and shape the global trade and technology policy toward their shared values. There is no better path for preserving the liberal democratic foundations of the global internet.


Olivia Lazard: On Climate


In April 2021, Biden announced that the United States would become climate-neutral by 2050 at the latest, and that it would reduce greenhouse gas emission by at least 52 percent, compared to 2005 levels, by 2030. This pledge alone makes Biden the most climate-progressive president in U.S. history, even though the pledge is more modest than EU or UK plans.

But bringing the United States into the climate fight is proving harder than planned. At home, the American landscape is marked by bitter infighting. The Senate passed the infrastructure bill, which allocates billions of dollars to prepare for climate change, but the Build Back Better bill, which would devote billions to clean energy, remains stalled. Partisan politics weaken U.S. credibility and effectiveness abroad and diminish its ability to partner with transatlantic allies who are ploughing ahead on climate planning.

The Biden administration was expected to have trouble quickly steering the climate ship in the opposite direction of the Trump years. But a larger development makes U.S.-EU cooperation on climate even more difficult: The United States sees the world through the lens of current geopolitical realities, thereby overlooking the urgency of climate action, rather than seizing it as an opportunity to help reshape geopolitics in the face of accelerating and devastating climate disruptions. As a result, Washington fails to use leverage with its partners to deploy exponential action and actually widens trust and action gaps on both security and climate issues.

One example was the AUKUS deal. The United States partnered with Australia without using the deal as a way to obtain much firmer climate action ahead of COP26. Australia remains one of the strongest climate delayers among liberal democracies, pumping up coal use at home and through exports, mostly to Asia. In addition to antagonizing European partners, the deal missed an opportunity to use supply chain dependencies to usher transition tipping points, and tie global security to the fight against climate change.

At the same time, Washington lacks a vision of strategic leadership in multilateral forums, despite claimed support for them. For example, this manifested in the U.S.-China climate agreement. The language on “inefficient” fossil subsidies was extracted from the U.S.-China agreement, which was itself considered a win in the countries’ current standoff, even though the agreement contains little breakthrough other than mentioning cooperation on methane. But the language used led to the watering down of the final Glasgow Pact—a bitter pill for the majority of the international community. China and the United States keep binding the world into the timid commitments they are willing to make.

The weakening of language was a political letdown for the EU and the UK, which had geared climate diplomacy toward high mitigation ambitions. This was crucial to bridge trust gaps with climate-vulnerable countries, such as small state islands. A key factor for the latter was negotiations on “loss and damage”—compensation for the destruction already caused by climate change.

These talks proved to be yet another disappointment, primarily from the United States, whose negotiators stalled talks in the final week. The small state islands then agreed to park loss and damage negotiations, as long as strong language on mitigation could be adopted within the final COP26 pact. They got neither, solidifying mistrust at the start of the climate decade.

In addition, while the United States did upgrade its pledges on climate finance, it failed to step up on action aligning with its historical and current responsibilities, further illustrating that its climate diplomacy is big on communication but lacks substance on content. And two weeks after COP26, the United States auctioned off 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico to fossil industries, adding another straw to the camel’s back.

Biden may not be chanting “America first,” but its echo still resonates too loudly in the face of devastating climate disruptions and the urgent need for collective action. Cooperation with Washington is certainly vital yet remains weak at best—and damaging at worst for transatlantic partners.

Two areas of climate cooperation have proved effective in the past year. The first one is the global methane pledge, which the EU and the United States both initiated. This was low-hanging fruit, but successfully seized. In the second, Washington, with support from transatlantic partners, put together the First Movers Coalition to address the supply-and-demand dilemma for low-carbon technologies currently in development.

The focus on technologies is the way forward within the transatlantic relationship for now, until the United States moves into a better political-economic position to address fundamental changes at home and abroad. The danger to avoid will remain to give technologies their fair share within climate solutions, without falling into techno-solutionism.


Richard Youngs: On International Democracy


After the strains evident during Trump’s presidency, U.S. and European governments are back to talking constructively about coordinating their efforts to support and defend democracy. For now, these moves remain tentative, and it may take some time fully to restore mutual trust.

When the United States has coordinated on sanctions in the past year, it has been with Australia, Canada, and the UK more than with the EU—even if the latter has moved in a broadly similar direction in applying restrictive measures related to human rights. Biden’s mismanaged retreat from Afghanistan, decided without significant consultation with European allies, is likely to have a negative spillover to the prospects for transatlantic democracy–related missions in the future.

Most focus has been on the U.S.-led Summit for Democracy, rather than the traditional avenues of purely transatlantic cooperation. The Biden administration’s first such summit attracted the participation of more than one hundred governments, and a second gathering is planned for the end of 2022 after a “year of action” designed to give substance to this emergent process. The EU has had to position itself in relation to this broad, international, U.S.-led initiative.

In general terms, the summit process matches the calls the EU has been making for many years for wider multilateral coalitions on democracy and human rights issues—although these policies have not done a great deal in practice to inject content behind such calls. European governments favored a so-called big tent approach of including a large number of countries in the summit process, rather than only those with high scores in democracy rankings. In this, the United States and the EU seem to concur that the priority in today’s geopolitically challenging context is to broaden democratic coordination beyond the transatlantic community and make this as inclusive of as many states as possible.

Notwithstanding some shared momentum behind the summit process, the EU institutions and European governments are still not fully in line with U.S. policies on democracy and human rights. They disliked what they saw as a rather ad hoc and expedient way in which the United States decided unilaterally who to invite and not invite to the summit. The U.S. decision not to invite Hungary cost the EU its formal place at the summit, as the Hungarian government vetoed EU attendance when it was excluded. Most crucially, many in the EU and other democracies around the world suspect the Biden administration is conflating democracy support with its own geopolitical positioning, toward China in particular.

Even if the United States and the EU are broadly back on the same page with regard to democracy and human rights, they both face daunting challenges to sustain or re-establish any kind of credence in this agenda. Both U.S. and European agencies spend sizeable amounts on democracy projects but often struggle to ensure that these have much impact.

And with both U.S. and European democracy in a fragile state, many doubt that either the United States or the EU now have much moral legitimacy in pressing other governments for democratic reform.


Carnegie Europe is grateful to the US Mission to the EU for their support of this publication.

 

 

 

STOCKHOLM - SIPRI has released a new Insights paper that provides a comparison of post-civil conflict conditions and military spending outcomes to identify possible pathways to post-civil conflict military burden reductions.


SUMMARY


High military spending is a common and consequential legacy of civil conflict. Reducing military spending can yield valuable economic gains and further contribute to the recovery of post-civil conflict societies. However, little is known about the conditions that enable military spending reductions in a conflict’s aftermath.

This SIPRI Insights on Peace and Security tackles this issue and provides a comparison of post-civil conflict conditions and military burden—military spending as a share of gross domestic product—outcomes. It builds on a comparative analysis of 19 post-civil conflict episodes between 1970 and 2020, as well as three detailed case studies, to identify common pathways to post-civil conflict military burden reductions. This research finds that reductions in military burden usually follow peace agreements that encompass trustworthy and legitimate verification mechanisms, the strengthening of institutional means to resolve grievances, and improvements in relations with neighbouring countries.

 

About the authors

Dr Diego Lopes da Silva (Brazil) is a Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Military Expenditure and Arms Production Programme.

Dr Nan Tian (South Africa) is a Senior Researcher with the SIPRI Military Expenditure and Arms Production Programme.

Alexandra Marksteiner (Austria/Germany) is a Researcher with the SIPRI Military Expenditure and Arms Production Programme.


Download the SIPRI Insights paper, visit: https://www.sipri.org/sites/default/files/2022-01/sipriinsight2201_pathways_for_reducing_military_spending_in_post-civil_conflict_settings.pdf

 

 

WASHINGTON - Following a strong rebound in 2021, the global economy is entering a pronounced slowdown amid fresh threats from COVID-19 variants and a rise in inflation, debt, and income inequality that could endanger the recovery in emerging and developing economies, according to the World Bank’s latest Global Economic Prospects report.


Slowing Growth, Rising Risks


The global recovery is set to decelerate amid continued COVID-19 flare-ups, diminished policy support, and lingering supply bottlenecks. The outlook is clouded by various downside risks, including new virus variants, unanchored inflation expectations, and financial stress.

If some countries eventually require debt restructuring, the recovery will be more difficult to achieve than in the past. Climate change may increase commodity price volatility. Social tensions may heighten as a result of the increase in inequality caused by the pandemic.

These challenges underscore the need to foster widespread vaccination, enhance debt sustainability, tackle climate change and inequality, and diversify economic activity.


Executive Summary


The global recovery is set to decelerate markedly amid continued COVID-19 flare-ups, diminished policy support, and lingering supply bottlenecks. In contrast to that in advanced economies, output in emerging market and developing economies (EMDEs) will remain substantially below the pre-pandemic trend over the forecast horizon. The global outlook is clouded by various downside risks, including renewed COVID-19 outbreaks due to Omicron or new virus variants, the possibility of de-anchored inflation expectations, and financial stress in a context of record-high debt levels. If some countries eventually require debt restructuring, this will be more difficult to achieve than in the past. Climate change may increase commodity price volatility, creating challenges for the almost two-thirds of EMDEs that rely heavily on commodity exports and highlighting the need for asset diversification. Social tensions may heighten as a result of the increase in between-country and within-country inequality caused by the pandemic. Given limited policy space in EMDEs to support activity if needed, these downside risks increase the possibility of a hard landing. These challenges underscore the importance of strengthened global cooperation to foster rapid and equitable vaccine distribution, proactive measures to enhance debt sustainability in the poorest countries, redoubled efforts to tackle climate change and within-country inequality, and an emphasis on growth-enhancing policy interventions to promote green, resilient, and inclusive development and on reforms that broaden economic activity to decouple from global commodity markets.


Global Outlook


After rebounding to an estimated 5.5 percent in 2021, global growth is expected to decelerate markedly to 4.1 percent in 2022, reflecting continued COVID-19 flare-ups, diminished fiscal support, and lingering supply bottlenecks. The near-term outlook for global growth is somewhat weaker, and for global inflation notably higher, than previously envisioned, owing to pandemic resurgence, higher food and energy prices, and more pernicious supply disruptions. Global growth is projected to soften further to 3.2 percent in 2023, as pent-up demand wanes and supportive macroeconomic policies continue to be un-wound. Although output and investment in advanced economies are projected to return to pre-pandemic trends next year, in emerging market and developing economies (EMDEs)—particularly in small states and fragile and conflict-afflicted countries—they will remain markedly below, owing to lower vaccination rates, tighter fiscal and monetary policies, and more persistent scarring from the pandemic. Various downside risks cloud the outlook, including simultaneous Omicron-driven economic disruptions, further supply bottlenecks, a de-anchoring of inflation expectations, financial stress, climate-related disasters, and a weakening of long-term growth drivers. As EMDEs have limited policy space to provide additional support if needed, these downside risks heighten the possibility of a hard landing. This underscores the importance of strengthening global cooperation to foster rapid and equitable vaccine distribution, calibrate health and economic policies, enhance debt sustainability in the poorest countries, and tackle the mounting costs of climate change. EMDE policy makers also face the challenges of heightened inflationary pressures, spillovers from prospective advanced-economy monetary tighten-ing, and constrained fiscal space. Despite budgetary consolidation, debt levels—which are already at record highs in many EMDEs—are likely to rise further owing to sustained revenue weakness. Over the longer term, EMDEs will need to buttress growth by pursuing decisive policy actions, including reforms that mitigate vulnerabilities to commodity shocks, reduce income and gender inequality, and enhance preparedness for health- and climate-related crises.


Regional Prospects


Growth in most EMDE regions in 2022-23 is projected to revert to the average rates during the decade prior to the pandemic, with the exception of East Asia and Pacific. This pace of growth will not be enough to re coup output setbacks during the pandemic, however. By 2023, annual output is expected to remain below the pre-pandemic trend in all EMDE regions, in contrast to advanced economies, where the gap is projected to close. The pace of recovery will be uneven across and within regions, with downside risks dominating the outlook. On a per capita basis, the recovery may leave behind those in economies that experienced the deepest contractions in 2020, such as tourism-reliant island economies. Half or more of economies in East Asia and Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Middle East and North Africa, and two-fifths of economies in Sub-Saharan Africa, will still be below their 2019 per capita GDP levels by 2023. This edition of Global Economic Prospects also includes analytical pieces on the features and implications of global commodity price cycles, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on global income inequality, and the experience with past coordinated debt restructuring.


Commodity Price Cycles: Drivers and Policies


Commodity prices soared in 2021 following the broad-based decline in early 2020, with prices of several commodities reaching all-time highs. In part, this reflected the strong rebound of demand from the 2020 global recession. Energy and metal prices generally move in line with global econom-ic activity, and this tendency has strengthened in recent decades. Looking ahead, global macro-economic developments and commodity supply factors will likely continue to cause recurring commodity price swings. For many commodities, these may be amplified by the transition away from fossil fuels. To dampen the associated macroeconomic fluctuations, the almost two-thirds of EMDEs that are commodity exporters need to strengthen their policy frameworks and reduce their reliance on commodity-related revenues by diversifying exports and, more importantly, national asset portfolios. Impact of COVID-19 on Global Income Inequality. The COVID-19 pandemic has raised global income inequality, partly reversing the decline that was achieved over the previous two decades. Weak recoveries in EMDEs are expected to return between-country inequality to the levels of the early 2010s. Preliminary evidence suggests that the pandemic has also caused within-country income inequality to rise somewhat in EMDEs because of particularly severe job and income losses among lower-income population groups. Over the medium and long term, rising inflation, especially food price inflation, as well as pandemic-related disruptions to education may further raise within-country inequality. Within-country inequality remains particularly high in EMDE regions that account for about two-thirds of the global extreme poor. To steer the global recovery onto a more equitable development path, a comprehensive package of policies is needed. A rapid global rollout of vaccination and redoubled productivity-enhancing reforms can help lower between-country inequality. Support targeted at vulnerable populations and measures to broaden access to education, health care, digital services and infrastructure, as well as an emphasis on supportive fiscal measures, can help lower within-country inequality. Assistance from the global community is essential to expedite a return to a green, resilient, and inclusive recovery.


Resolving High Debt after the Pandemic: Lessons from Past Episodes of Debt Relief


In the pandemic-induced global recession of 2020, global debt levels surged. The rise in debt has led to several countries initiating debt restructurings, while many others are in or at high risk of debt distress and may also eventually need debt relief. Historically, several umbrella frameworks coordinated debt relief to multiple debtor countries from multiple creditors on common principles. They offered substantial—but pro-tracted—debt stock reductions that were typically preceded by a series of less ambitious debt relief efforts. The G20 Common Framework provides a structure to initiate debt restructuring for low-income IDA eligible countries, but largely avoids the issue of outright debt reductions. Future umbrella frameworks for debt restructuring will face greater challenges than those in the past due to a more fragmented creditor base.


For the full report, visit: https://www.worldbank.org/en/publication/global-economic-prospects?cid=ECR_E_NewsletterWeekly_EN_EXT&deliveryName=DM128772

 

 

Africa

UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Thursday that Mali’s military government needs to hold delayed elections in “a relatively short amount of time” -- not in 2026 as President Assimi Goita recently announced.

The U.N. chief said in an interview with The Associated Press that he has spoken to president Goita, three presidents from the 15-nation West African regional group ECOWAS, the prime minister of Algeria, and the leader of the African Union about “how to make sure that in Mali, there is an acceptable calendar for the transition for a civilian government.”

The junta, which initially agreed to hold elections in late February, said earlier this month it was delaying the election until 2026 because of deepening insecurity across the country, which would give Goita four more years in power. ECOWAS imposed tougher economic sanctions on Mali in response, saying the transitional government had failed to make progress toward holding a presidential election as promised.

Mali has struggled to contain an Islamic extremist insurgency since 2012. Extremist rebels were forced from power in Mali’s northern cities with the help of a French-led military operation, but they regrouped in the desert and began launching attacks on the Malian army and its allies. Insecurity has worsened with attacks on civilians and U.N. peacekeepers.

In August 2020, Malian President Boubacar Ibrahim Keita, who died Sunday, was overthrown in a coup that included Goita, then an army colonel. Last June, Goita was sworn in as president of a transitional government after carrying out his second coup in nine months.

Guterres said that in his native Portugal, after more than 40 years of dictatorship, there was a transition of less than two years before elections were held, and “I think the same applies to Mali.”

He stressed that the transition in Mali started “long ago.”

“We don’t need a transition of five years,” Guterres said. “We need a reasonably reduced period allowing for the measures that are necessary to be taken to be taken.”

He said he hopes Mali’s military leaders will understand that they need to accept “a reasonable period” before elections are held, which a dialogue with ECOWAS should establish. He stressed that elections will also allow ECOWAS to remove sanctions on Mali.

“All my efforts have been in creating conditions for bridging this divide and for allowing ECOWAS and the government of Mali to come to a solution with an acceptable delay for the elections,” Gutteres said.

“In my opinion, we need to come to a relatively short amount of time, but enough to make sure that the elections can be properly organized and enough to make sure that all the measures that are essential to be taken before the elections are taken, knowing that the deep reforms that Mali needs will take much more time,” the secretary-general said.

Guterres said the deep reforms Mali needs will take decades and “the legitimacy of an elected government will be a very important instrument for that.”

On a positive note, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said that following “fruitful discussions” between the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA, and the country’s authorities it will restart air operations on Friday.

The U.N. grounded all non-emergency flights last Friday after the government instituted new procedures for the U.N. to get clearance for its flights, which Dujarric said made it “extremely difficult for the U.N. to fulfill its mandate.”

The 16,600-strong MINUSMA mission is the most dangerous of the U.N,’s 12 far-flung missions. Nineteen peacekeepers lost their lives in 2021.

Dujarric said Thursday that MINUSMA welcomed “the spirit of cooperation and partnership” that characterized the discussions and conclusion to restart the mission’s air operations.

BAMAKO - The military junta in Mali has refused to let a German military transport plane fly over its territory. Germany, which has soldiers based in Mali, is now seeking an explanation.

The German Defense Ministry said on Thursday that an A400M Airbus carrying about 80 Bundeswehr soldiers "was denied overflight rights over Mali."
The refusal appears to be the latest sign of tensions between Mali's military junta and international peacekeepers.


What exactly happened?


The plane had been on its way from the Wunstorf airbase in northern Germany to Niamey, the capital of Niger, where the Bundeswehr has a logistics hub. It was diverted to Gran Canaria, part of Spain's Canary Islands.
A Bundeswehr Operations Command spokesman said the aircraft had initially received permission to overfly Mali.

He said the reasons for the ban were still to be clarified.
Berlin has voiced concern over recent developments in Mali, including the arrival of private military contractors of the Russian Wagner Group.

As part of the MINUSMA mission, Germany has deployed some 1,200 troops to Mali, which are supplied via the Niamey base. Germany must reach a decision by the end of May about whether to extend the mission.

The German Foreign Ministry said several MINUSMA flights had been barred since last Thursday. The UN on Tuesday also said Mali had started to block many flights of its peacekeeping forces there.
The UN mission said later on Thursday that flights over Mali had once again been allowed after talks with the ruling junta.


Flight denial is 'unfriendly act'


The chair of the defense committee of Germany's lower house, the Bundestag, said the refusal of permission was incomprehensible and that the military government needed to explain.

Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann told the AFP news agency it had been "an unacceptable procedure, indeed an unfriendly act, which must be clarified immediately."
"Mali is refusing to allow the Bundeswehr to fly over its territory and at the same moment our soldiers are deployed in precisely this Mali to secure peace on the ground," Strack-Zimmermann said. "I'm looking forward to the explanation."


EU preparing sanctions


The military junta, which took power in a coup in 2020, closed the borders to neighboring West African countries. The ECOWAS group of states had already shuttered its borders to Mali as part of diplomatic and economic sanctions after the junta refused to hold elections promised for next month.
The European Union has announced it will impose sanctions in line with those taken by ECOWAS.

 

 

How Facebook took over the internet in Africa – and changed everything

By Nesrine Malik, The Guardian, 20 January 2022

Western users are logging off, but across the continent the social media company is indispensable for everything from running a business to sourcing vaccines. How did it become inescapable?


Badri Ibrahim is a Sudanese comic artist and the founder of the Abbas Comics empire. His strips are quirky and irreverent, poking fun at the Sudanese military and encouraging civic activism. One recurrent character is a hapless but wise cat called Ghadanfar, a sort of Garfield meets Snoopy protagonist, who finds himself on the wrong end of misunderstandings with neighbourhood felines and humans. It is all rendered in colloquial dialect and is dry, funny and often poignant. So popular has the comic become that Ibrahim is regularly commissioned to do private work, rendering Ghadanfar in different guises – as a bashful groom on a wedding invitation card, for example.

The majority of this work comes through Facebook, where his comics have about 19,000 followers. “I ran the page for about a year,” Ibrahim says. By then, it had become its own community, and now he does not need to spend much time maintaining it. During the launch period, Ibrahim spent a lot of time “posting regularly and engaging with comments” and also “sending the page to everyone I know”. Freelance work came through those comments. “People and businesses would send me a message through the page, looking for an artist. Sometimes they ask for one of my comic characters to use for a product.” He can’t imagine how he would have launched his artistic career without Facebook.

The social network has two benefits for businesses – not only in Africa, but for all emerging markets. The first is ease of access. “Everybody has Facebook,” Ibrahim tells me from his studio in Khartoum, where he is still working late at night. “Everybody knows how to use it. Most of my audience is in Sudan and they can share my content easily.” The second benefit is its analytics function. Ibrahim can see who shares his content and how it spreads, and make decisions about how to increase his business. But, for many people, Facebook is not only indispensable but unavoidable.

Across Africa, Facebook is the internet. Businesses and consumers depend heavily on it because access to the app and site are free on many African telecoms networks, meaning you don’t need any phone credit to use it. In 2015, Facebook launched Free Basics, an internet service that gives users credit-free access to the platform. Designed to work on low-cost mobile phones, which make up the vast majority of devices on the continent, it offers a limited format, with no audio, photo and video content. Over the past five years, Free Basics has been rolled out in 32 African countries. Facebook’s ambition does not end there. Where there are no telecoms providers to partner with, or where infrastructure is poor, the company has been developing satellites that can beam internet access to remote areas. This plan, however, was set back in 2016, when a rocket powered by Elon Musk’s SpaceX exploded, destroying an AMOS-6 satellite on board that Facebook had intended to launch and, through it, lease internet connectivity in partnership with the Eutelsat, a French satellite company.

Internet access in Africa is overwhelmingly via mobile phones; only about 8% of African households have a computer, whereas phone ownership hovers at around 50%. Half of mobiles are online, but not via billed plans. The majority of data users are pay as you go, and sometimes own multiple sims to switch between cost-effective plans. When the data they have purchased runs out, Facebook is still there.

Western users are deleting their accounts for a variety of reasons, among them the platform’s record on privacy, its contribution to political volatility by designing algorithms that prioritise disagreement and friction, and its staleness as a user experience. Younger users prefer shorter, more transient content, as on TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat. According to whistleblower Frances Haugen’s testimony to the US Senate, the company is aware of its stagnating growth in certain places and demographics. “Facebook understands that if they want the company to grow, they have to find new users,” she told senators. An internal Facebook document refers to a decline in younger users in “more developed economies”. In much the same way that tobacco companies migrated their efforts to emerging markets once the potential elsewhere was diminished by landmark lawsuits, regulation and awareness raising, so is Facebook focusing on new pastures.

In 2020, as the pandemic began, I found my movements on the African continent limited for months at a time – for instance, in Egypt during an airport shutdown and a strict sunset curfew. My Facebook account – a relic of younger days and old online habits – became essential if I wanted to contact businesses, find phone numbers, order food and even hunt down tips for securing vaccines. The links I followed inevitably ended up in variations of a “Join Facebook to comment/message/contact” page. In the end I reluctantly reactivated my account.

The timeline I returned to was a virtual Marie Celeste, a tumbleweed of posts from friends and relatives who had also long left the site, but never bothered to delete their accounts, which had become prey to viruses and phishing. Yet, Facebook was soon my most used social media app.

Mona Amin had the same experience. When she moved from the US to Kenya in 2017, Facebook was inescapable. Settling down in a new country that didn’t have the infrastructure she was accustomed to meant that everything from finding places to rent to sourcing furniture happened via Facebook. For someone whose last interactions on Facebook had been to like people’s photos from a night out, the new interface was overwhelming and unwieldy. “I didn’t even know how to use it any more,” she says. “But it is useful, and there are a lot of people still on there. Or they’ve rejoined.”

To users in volatile economies with disrupted supply chains, Facebook isn’t just useful, it is vital. Balqees Awad lives in a remote part of the Sudanese capital Khartoum, a city that has witnessed political instability and food and fuel shortages over the past three years. One closed Facebook group in particular has been a lifeline – helping her to secure bread and petrol. “When a bakery receives a bread delivery, or a petrol station replenishes its fuel, someone always posts in the group. They even tell us when there is heightened police presence in certain areas. Security patrols sometimes pick up people for no reason and extort or detain them.” Members are vetted before they are allowed entry into the group to ensure they are trustworthy sources of information, and not gathering intelligence to report to jittery security and police forces.

Awad buys her data, as she buys almost everything else, including her food, electricity and gas, in small, pre-paid quantities. She doesn’t pay a single bill at the end of the month apart from rent. “The ‘small small economy’,” is what we call it,” says Nanjala Nyabola, a Kenyan writer and advocate. This describes the “kadogo economy” in Kenya, where commodities are sold in the smallest possible unit – one banana, one piece of bread, one ounce of flour, one megabyte at a time. Small is the way it has to be for much of sub-Saharan Africa – not just for ease of budgeting, but because a large section of the population is unbanked, so the direct debits required for contracted phone services are not an option.

But, even when markets are more sophisticated, Facebook still maintains a strong grasp on business owners and users. Amina Rashad runs Glow, a Cairo-based business that provides healthy meals, nutrition programmes and juices. She started the company from her home in 2017 and simultaneously set up a Facebook and Instagram page. “It’s what made my business,” she says. “It was my virtual store for such a long time.” She took orders via Facebook messenger and a WhatsApp widget embedded in the Facebook and Instagram page. Once the business took off, she was able to diversify the way she received orders, building a website and an app, both of which take orders and payments. An affluent clientele base means that her customers are more likely to use a bank. Egypt’s e-commerce infrastructure has developed rapidly over the past decade, particularly in the food and grocery delivery sector, which helps the capital’s growing middle class save time and hassle in a sprawling, densely populated and traffic-congested city.

But there are still limitations that send Rashad back to social media, where orders are taken manually and paid for on delivery. The company’s website and app payments system is hosted on a shared platform, rather than a proprietary one, a common arrangement that is cost-effective for a growing business. But, despite the volume of orders that now comes from the website, and the relatively low cost of automating payments, shared platforms come with less control when things go wrong – such as provider servers going down, or when there is a need for urgent site maintenance. “There is a highly personalised element to the product,” says Rashad, so she is happy to remain in an orders ecosystem that is less anonymous, “so we can go back and check details, answer questions, check allergies.”

Facebook presents its free internet initiatives in Africa as philanthropy, but they are also likely to be a way for the company to reposition itself, as users log off in the west and log on elsewhere. There is growing awareness in the global south that Facebook’s overtures may have sinister implications. Free Basics was effectively banned in India in 2016, after an outcry that the initiative violates the rules of net neutrality, the principle that all content and applications should be enabled by internet service providers. According to research by Global Voices, Facebook’s actions constitute “digital colonialism”, where it “is building this little web that turns the user into a mostly passive consumer of mostly western corporate content”.

These consumers aren’t always passive. The concentration of users on Facebook in some African countries has had some positive outcomes in terms of facilitating free speech and civic activism in nations where oppressive regimes have a tight grip on the public space. ‘There’s no doubt in my mind,” says Nyabola, “that social networks have been useful for political discourse and for organising in countries where there is no free speech.” After a military coup in Sudan last October, the army cut off internet services, but some users still managed to find ways to livestream protests on Facebook. While reporting on the coup and its aftermath, I found myself, again, familiarising myself with Facebook’s functionalities.

The platform’s neglect of moderation means that armed militias and authoritarian regimes also abuse the platform for their own propaganda ends, not to mention the trolling and personal attacks that take place, just like anywhere else. CNN reported, in October last year, that Facebook knew it was being used to incite violence in Ethiopia and did not act. There has also been a “failure to invest in language, in understanding local context”, Nyabola says. “Facebook’s Africa office opened in 2015. The first Amharic-speaking content moderators were hired in 2019. It’s not a small thing that less than 100 people are working on content moderation in Ethiopia.” And Amharic is only one of more than 80 languages spoken in Ethiopia.

While Facebook in Africa remains broadly unpoliced, the platform’s benefit to the voiceless will be drowned out by those who are louder and more powerful. In the meantime, for small businesses and users alike, Facebook is unavoidable. The company may be in a fight for its life in the west, as calls for regulation grow louder and cloud its prospects. But in Africa and other regions in the global south, Facebook’s economic, political and social influence almost guarantees it a second life.

 

 

 

France24 with AFP, 20 January 2022

As relations between France and Mali sour rapidly, Paris is wondering whether it is time to stop providing military backup to a country run by a junta that has defied the international community.

France, which first deployed troops in the West African country nine years ago to fight a jihadist insurgency, has spent around €880 million a year on a mission that has cost 52 French soldiers their lives.

More than 4,000 French forces are stationed in the Sahel region of West Africa, most of them in Mali, one of the world's poorest nations.

Paris has already started reducing its presence, hoping to halve the contingent by the summer of 2023, and has asked its European Union allies to provide more support.

It also said it would keep bases in Gao, Menaka and Gossi.

But that was before ties really deteriorated in the aftermath of a coup mounted by strongman Colonel Assimi Goïta in August 2020 and a subsequent tightening of the military's grip on the country.

Mali's relations with its neighbours have also nosedived. The 15-country Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) imposed tough sanctions on the country last week, a move backed by France, the US and the EU.


'Incompatible', 'Unacceptable'


France's chief complaint is the regime's refusal to organise early elections to bring in a civilian government.

Another is Mali's alleged hiring of the Wagner Group of mercenaries believed to be close to Russia's leadership, a deployment French government ministers have called "unacceptable" and "incompatible" with any continued French military presence.

But neither the pressure from the West, nor the sanctions imposed by ECOWAS, have had any visible effect on Mali's new rulers.

The French government has said it will not take any quick decisions on pulling out as long as Wagner are not operating in the same areas as the French army.

Analysts say that may be a play for time by President Emmanuel Macron, who is anxious to avoid a collapse in relations while he fights for re-election at home and while France holds the rotating six-month presidency of the European Union.

But the pressure is growing.


'Not under any conditions'


"We're in Mali and we're staying, but not under just any conditions," French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters at an EU foreign ministers meeting last week.

Some of France's European partners have been more explicit, with German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht saying Berlin could transfer its military mission in Mali to another country. "The safety of our soldiers is my first priority," she stressed.

Germany has around 1,500 soldiers in Mali as part of the United Nations' MINUSMA peacekeeping mission and the EU's mission to train Malian soldiers.

Sweden, which has 300 troops in Mali, said it was also concerned by the situation.

So far, the Malian junta has not asked French and European troops to leave, but its messages are increasingly hostile, adding to growing anti-French sentiment in the country, which was formerly under French colonial rule.

Interim Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga at the weekend hinted at a possible re-examination of the defence agreements with France.

A French diplomatic source confirmed to AFP that there had indeed been a Malian proposal, "which we are examining".


'Can't help people against their will'


Bamako has already threatened to block military flights in and out of its airspace after accusing France of a "clear breach" of its airspace following the overflight of a French military jet.

If confirmed, such a ban would handicap France's operational capabilities, pushing it further towards the exit.

"You can't help people against their will," said a source close to the French presidency.

Others warn, however, that Russia could be waiting in the wings to take the place of France and the elite European Takuba force if they pull out.

Such an outcome would be a major setback for Macron, who is hoping to make his mark during France's EU presidency and win a second five-year term in April.

But observers say years of French military presence have not substantially improved security in Mali, which continues to be plagued by al Qaeda-affiliated insurgents.

With the central government failing to take full control of territories reconquered from the rebels, the violence is spreading.

Jihadist groups now also operate in neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger, as well as northern parts of Ivory Coast, Benin and Ghana.

 

 

 

Francais

Un déluge de répression numérique menace la sécurité africaine

Par Nathaniel Allen et Catherine Lena Kelly, Centre d”etudes Strategiques de l’Afrique, 13 janvier 2022


Les gouvernements africains restreignent les communications numériques et les droits des citoyens sous prétexte de sécurité. Ce faisant, ils contribuent malencontreusement à des pertes économiques et à une plus grande instabilité.

 

La répression numérique est en plein essor dans de nombreuses régions d’Afrique. Plus d’une douzaine de pays africains ont récemment subi des coupures d’Internet motivées par des raisons politiques. Des pays d’un nombre équivalent ont été désignés comme opérateurs de logiciels espions de niveau militaire (tels que Pegasus, RCS et FinFisher), utilisés pour traquer les opposants et militants politiques nationaux avec la même vigueur que les criminels et les terroristes. Des gouvernements utilisent des outils automatisés soumettant les plateformes des médias sociaux à une étroite surveillance. De plus en plus, les dirigeants profitent d’imprécisions des lois récemment adoptées sur la cybercriminalité pour étendre les pouvoirs exécutifs afin de procéder à des arrestations de militants et d’affaiblir la liberté de la presse.

Les dirigeants africains présentent fréquemment les tactiques de répression numérique comme nécessaires pour lutter contre les menaces du terrorisme, du crime organisé et de la violence sécessionniste. En fait, leur principale conséquence est de saper les libertés fondamentales qui permettent aux gouvernements d’être transparents, légitimes et responsables envers les citoyens.

La loi tanzanienne de 2015 sur la cybercriminalité en est un exemple. La loi a été prétendument adoptée pour lutter contre la criminalité numérique croissante. Dans la pratique, elle interdit les discours « insultants », autorise les services de répression à réagir aux infractions sans contrôle judiciaire, et permet aux autorités de réprimer les lanceurs d’alerte qui utilisent les données gouvernementales pour signaler des actes répréhensibles.

La loi sur la cybercriminalité a été suivie par la réglementation de 2018 sur les communications électroniques et postales, qui oblige les blogueurs à s’inscrire auprès du gouvernement et les cybercafés à conserver les vidéos de surveillance des personnes utilisant leurs services.

Ces règlements ont eu un effet négatif sur la sécurité des citoyens en Tanzanie. Des définitions trop étendues des infractions, ainsi que des sanctions disproportionnées, ont étouffé le débat politique en permettant la détention, l’arrestation et l’intimidation injustifiées de personnalités de l’opposition, de journalistes indépendants et de militants. Outre les coupures des médias sociaux et la suspension des services de messagerie SMS, les lois tanzaniennes sur la cybersécurité ont été les principaux outils de répression numérique du gouvernement à l’approche des élections frauduleuses d’octobre 2020.

Paradoxalement, bien que souvent présentée comme nécessaire pour renforcer la sécurité, l’adoption de la répression numérique n’a pas réussi à améliorer la sécurité en Afrique. Au lieu de cela, les tactiques, technologies et politiques de répression numérique s’avèrent préjudiciables à la sécurité nationale et aux citoyens.


La montée de la répression numérique


Alors que de plus en plus d’Africains s’informent sur Internet, certains gouvernements ont adopté des formes de répression numériqus visant à exercer davantage de contrôle sur l’environnement de l’information. La répression numérique englobe une variété de tactiques et d’outils qui sont de plus en plus présents, impliquant toujours l’utilisation ou la manipulation de la technologie numérique pour censurer ou restreindre les communications, envahir la vie privée, limiter la liberté d’expression, étouffer l’opposition politique et saper les freins et contrepoids démocratiques.

Le type de répression numérique le plus visible en Afrique est la limitation de l’utilisation et de l’accès à Internet et aux télécommunications. Au cours de la dernière décennie, le continent africain a subi des coupures et des restrictions d’Internet à répétition. En 2021, au moins 10 pays africains ont connu une coupure majeure d’Internet, plus que dans toutes les autres régions du monde. Internet a été coupé à l’approche ou au lendemain d’élections contestées en Ouganda, en République du Congo et en Guinée.

Des tactiques similaires ont été appliquées aux citoyens qui manifestaient en faveur de la démocratie et de la gouvernance civile au Togo, en Eswatini et au Soudan. Parfois, des coupures ont même eu lieu dans des pays plus libres. Les dirigeants ont coupé Internet lors d’élections à enjeux élevés au Niger et lors de manifestations populaires au Sénégal et au Burkina Faso. Ces interventions mettent à rude épreuve l’équilibre entre les libertés et la sécurité, qui est un principe fondamental d’une gouvernance ouverte et démocratique.

Parmi les autres tactiques de répression numérique, on trouve l’utilisation de logiciels malveillants ou de médias sociaux afin de surveiller les opposants politiques, les journalistes et les militants. Les informations recueillies lors de la surveillance sont ensuite utilisées à des fins de chantage, de harcèlement ou d’arrestations et de détentions ciblées. Par exemple, les autorités ougandaises ont travaillé en étroite collaboration avec des responsables de la société de télécommunications chinoise Huawei pour pirater les comptes WhatsApp et Skype du chef de l’opposition et candidat à la présidentielle Bobi Wine, lors d’un rassemblement auquel il a participé en 2018.

Cela a conduit à sa détention pendant laquelle il a été torturé, et a coûté la vie à son chauffeur. Plus généralement, les logiciels malveillants à la fois bon marché et sophistiqués, facilement disponibles auprès de nombreuses entreprises du secteur privé et vendus pour permettre aux autorités de surveiller les terroristes, ont créé un marché de la surveillance en plein essor à travers l’Afrique.

Enfin, les dirigeants autoritaires d’Afrique appliquent de nouvelles lois sur la cybersécurité, la liberté d’expression en ligne et le partage de données, de manière à étendre les pouvoirs exécutifs qui leur permettent de réprimer la liberté d’expression et les tentatives de lancement d’alerte. Le Code numérique du Bénin de 2018, qui criminalise les délits de presse en ligne, y compris la publication de fausses informations, a été utilisé pour arrêter les journalistes qui couvraient les déclarations publiques faites par des fonctionnaires et qui étaient embarrassantes pour le gouvernement.

La loi zambienne sur la cybercriminalité a été adoptée sous l’ancien président Edgar Lungu, à une époque de fermeture de l’espace civique. Les imprécisions de la loi permettaient de l’appliquer d’une façon politiquement sélective, ce qui a conduit l’actuel président Hakainde Hichilema à faire campagne pour l’abroger. Dans d’autres cas, les gouvernements utilisent les lois existantes sur la parole et la liberté d’expression pour réprimer les opinions des opposants et des militants dans la sphère numérique. Les autorités ivoiriennes ont utilisé les lois anti-diffamation du pays pour condamner au pénal les journalistes qui publient en ligne des articles dénonçant des conditions de détention inadéquates et d’éventuels cas de corruption.

Les dirigeants politiques justifient couramment l’utilisation de tactiques de répression numérique au nom de la cybersécurité. Dans pratiquement tous les exemples cités ci-dessus, une loi autorisant la répression numérique a été adoptée dans le cadre d’actions de plus grande ampleur visant à donner aux gouvernements les outils juridiques nécessaires pour lutter contre la cybercriminalité – comme la fraude, le vol, le piratage, l’espionnage, la désinformation et les discours haineux. Souvent, cependant, des tactiques de répression numérique sont utilisées de manière opportuniste par des élites politiques intéressées, conformément aux tendances autoritaires de leurs dirigeants et partis au pouvoir.

Ces tendances creusent un fossé fondamental entre les dirigeants, qui ont souvent adopté la répression numérique, et les citoyens, qui ont généralement une forte attente envers la démocratie et soutiennent une bonne gouvernance, l’État de droit et la liberté des médias numériques – même s’ils souhaitent également un certain degré de réglementation de la part du gouvernement concernant les fausses nouvelles et les discours de haine.


Cyberdimensions de la sécurité africaine


Bien que justifiée par certains dirigeants africains pour des raisons de sécurité, la répression numérique s’est avérée inefficace, voire carrément nuisible, pour relever les défis de sécurité du continent.

En premier lieu, la répression numérique s’est avérée être un moyen coûteux de réponse aux menaces de cybersécurité pour les dirigeants. Les coupures d’Internet ont causé des milliards de dollars de pertes économiques ces dernières années. La coupure d’Internet au Soudan en 2019 aurait coûté 1,9 milliard de dollars à son économie, soit environ 1,2 million de dollars pour chacune des 1 560 heures qu’elle a duré.

On estime que les coupures d’Internet en Algérie et au Tchad cette même année ont coûté à chacun de ces pays plus de 100 millions de dollars. Même dans des systèmes politiques plus ouverts comme le Nigeria, l’arrêt de Twitter en 2021 a coûté environ 367 millions de dollars en seulement 2 mois. Une tension économique accrue dans des environnements déjà difficiles est un facteur d’instabilité supplémentaire.

La répression numérique n’a pas non plus d’avantages durables pour la sécurité nationale. Il existe peu de preuves, voire aucune, que les mesures punitives qui criminalisent diverses formes d’expression sont efficaces pour contenir les menaces violentes. À Nairobi, la technologie de surveillance numérique installée dans le cadre d’un projet « ville sûre » parrainé par Huawei semble avoir eu peu d’effet mesurable sur la criminalité.

La répression numérique peut non seulement saper la démocratie, mais aussi alimenter l’instabilité politique. Les trois quarts des 16 pays africains confrontés à des conflits armés sont autoritaires ou semi-autoritaires, ce qui souligne le caractère central de l’exclusion politique au sein des conflits internes de l’Afrique. La répression numérique amplifie plutôt qu’atténue ces tensions.

L’usage intensif de techniques de répression numérique par les gouvernements du Zimbabwe (Robert Mugabe), du Soudan (Omar el-Bechir) et de l’Algérie (Abdelaziz Bouteflika) n’a pas empêché leur destitution face aux manifestations généralisées et aux troubles populaires. L’Éthiopie possède l’un des systèmes de surveillance numérique les plus draconiens et les plus sophistiqués d’Afrique. Pourtant, ce système n’a pas réussi à empêcher le régime du Front démocratique révolutionnaire du peuple éthiopien (FDRPE) de perdre le pouvoir en 2018.

Contrairement à des mesures plus punitives, il existe des preuves que la déstructuration par les entreprises de médias sociaux et la vérification des faits par des organes de presse indépendants peut réduire le soutien et le recrutement dans les groupes extrémistes. Le secteur privé joue un rôle plus important dans la lutte contre l’extrémisme violent en ligne que ne l’imaginent souvent les acteurs de la sécurité nationale.

Une approche potentiellement prometteuse consiste à réguler ou à peaufiner les algorithmes afin de garantir que le contenu violent ou extrémiste ne devienne pas viral. Une telle approche nécessiterait moins d’implication directe du gouvernement et éviterait la criminalisation punitive de certains types de contenus. Cela garantirait la « liberté d’expression », qui est une composante essentielle de la démocratie constitutionnelle, en limitant la « liberté de portée », qui ne l’est pas.

Bien qu’elles contribuent à limiter la portée des contenus extrémistes, ces mesures ne sauraient se substituer à des garde-fous adéquats susceptibles d’empêcher les autorités d’utiliser les lois sur l’information et les contenus comme instruments de répression. Et ce sont ces freins et contrepoids qui distinguent la manière dont les démocraties abordent la bonne cybergouvernance tout en renforçant la sécurité.


Approches africaines de la cybergouvernance centrée sur les citoyens


L’évolution rapide des technologies pose des défis juridiques et politiques, même aux pays qui ont une gouvernance démocratique de longue date en Afrique et dans le monde. La solution, cependant, réside dans l’adaptation plutôt que dans un tout nouveau modèle. Malgré des tendances globales moroses, des initiatives prometteuses émergent à travers le continent et démontrent le fait que la sécurité numérique ne doit pas se faire au détriment de la sécurité des citoyens.

Au niveau continental, de multiples initiatives voient le jour dans l’objectif de donner aux gouvernements des outils pour lutter contre la cybercriminalité et protéger la liberté numérique. La Commission africaine des droits de l’homme et des peuples s’est concentrée sur les droits numériques lors de sa 68e session en 2021, en s’appuyant sur Déclaration de principes sur la liberté d’expression et l’accès à l’information en Afrique qui a été adoptée en 2019.

L’Union internationale des télécommunications des Nations Unies, en partenariat avec l’équipe d’intervention en cas d’urgence informatique de Maurice, a récemment créé un Centre d’excellence en cybersécurité en Afrique. Compte tenu du statut de Maurice en tant que leader aussi bien de la gouvernance démocratique que de la politique des technologies de l’information, le Centre d’excellence pourrait être un lieu d’échange prometteur sur la façon d’appliquer les lois sur la cybercriminalité de manière à permettre une surveillance indépendante, la transparence et la responsabilité.

Au niveau national, certains gouvernements africains font des efforts louables visant à adopter des politiques de cybersécurité centrées sur les citoyens. Par exemple, après des années de va-et-vient entre les acteurs de la société civile et les autorités, la récente législation sud-africaine sur la cybercriminalité et la protection des données personnelles tente résolument de définir clairement la cybercriminalité et d’établir des normes respectueuses des droits pour la combattre.

Au Sénégal, le Centre national d’études stratégiques du gouvernement, le Centre des Hautes Études en Défense et de Sécurité (CHEDS), a organisé une série de dialogues avec des professionnels des médias et la société civile, afin de jeter des ponts entre ces acteurs et le secteur de la sécurité. Un de ces échanges a porté sur les dimensions de cybersécurité de la couverture médiatique et de la diffusion de l’information, y compris à travers les médias sociaux et la blogosphère.

Au niveau local, la société civile, les médias et les acteurs du secteur privé à travers le continent poussent les gouvernements africains à s’assurer que les efforts visant à sécuriser le cyberespace ne portent pas atteinte aux droits des citoyens. L’un de ces modèles est le Kenya ICT Action Network (Réseau d’action pour les TIC au Kenya), un réseau d’experts et de militants de la société civile qui organise des dialogues avec des représentants du gouvernement et du secteur de la sécurité, mène des recherches et milite autour des questions politiques relatives aux technologies de l’information et de la communication (TIC). Ces efforts ont contribué à instaurer la confiance entre le gouvernement et ses citoyens, et ont influencé les principales lois et politiques du Kenya en matière de cybersécurité.

De même, AfricTivistes est un réseau de blogueurs, d’influenceurs numériques, de journalistes, de programmeurs, d’experts en données ouvertes et de militants qui cherchent à promouvoir les droits démocratiques à l’ère numérique. Récemment, AfricTivistes s’est associé au cabinet de conseil sud-africain ENDCODE afin d’analyser le contenu des lois nationales sur la cybercriminalité et la protection des données. Ces analyses ont permis d’identifier les domaines du droit qui demandent une plus grande spécificité, et ont conduit à des propositions concrètes visant à réformer et appliquer les lois sur la cybersécurité afin qu’elles préservent les libertés fondamentales.

Des vérificateurs de données et des chercheurs indépendants apparaissent dans tout le continent pour surveiller, vérifier et limiter la viralité de la désinformation. En s’associant à ces organisations, les gouvernements et les entreprises de médias sociaux peuvent gagner en crédibilité et garantir un discours politique civil sans bafouer les libertés politiques.


Points clés à retenir


S’ils souhaitent gouverner de manière durable et efficace, les gouvernements africains doivent placer la sécurité des citoyens au cœur des efforts visant à faire face aux défis de la cybersécurité. Il existe des arguments clairs et convaincants pour que les dirigeants s’abstiennent de toute répression numérique au service de réformes de cybersécurité plus durables, visant à promouvoir une économie numérique dynamique et à renforcer le soutien des peuples.

Cela comprend le renforcement de la responsabilité des mécanismes de contrôle exécutif, l’élaboration de lois sur la cybersécurité plus précises et ciblées, et la réduction de l’utilisation de méthodes brutales telles que les coupures et les restrictions qui bloquent Internet ou dissuadent la parole et les communications en ligne pour de nombreuses personnes.

Dans certains cas, les dirigeants peuvent être tentés d’imposer des restrictions pour servir des intérêts politiques à court terme. Cependant, cela se fait au détriment de la stabilité politique à long terme et de la confiance des investisseurs. Dans ces cas, les gouvernements devront être poussés vers des réformes par la société civile, ainsi que par les acteurs régionaux et internationaux. C’est particulièrement le cas lorsqu’il s’agit d’accroître le contrôle indépendant de l’exécutif par d’autres branches du gouvernement, par les médias et par la société civile.

La démocratie et la cybersécurité sont non seulement compatibles mais peuvent être synergiques. Les dirigeants africains doivent veiller à ce que les stratégies et les lois en matière de cybersécurité soient élaborées de manière inclusive, mises en œuvre de manière proportionnelle et appliquées de manière apolitique. En adoptant des politiques de cybersécurité centrées sur les citoyens, les gouvernements africains ont la possibilité de sauvegarder la démocratie, de promouvoir la paix et de rétablir la confiance en un contrat social qui est souvent de plus en plus ébranlé.


Ressources complémentaires


- Nathaniel Allen et Matthew La Lime, « How Digital Espionage Tools Exacerbate Authoritarianism Across Africa » (Comment les outils d’espionnage numérique exacerbent l’autoritarisme en Afrique), Brookings Techstream, 19 novembre 2021.

- Catherine Lena Kelly, « La justice et l’État de droit, pierres angulaires de la sécurité en Afrique », Éclairages, Centre d’études stratégiques de l’Afrique, 8 juin 2021.

- Bulelani Jili, « La diffusion de la technologie de surveillance en Afrique suscite des préoccupations en matière de sécurité », Éclairages, Centre d’études stratégiques de l’Afrique, 23 décembre 2020.

- Jeffrey Conroy-Krutz et Joseph Koné, « Promise and peril: In changing media landscape, Africans are concerned about social media but opposed to restricting access » (Promesse et péril : dans un paysage médiatique en mutation, les Africains sont préoccupés par les médias sociaux mais s’opposent à la restriction de l’accès), Dispatches n° 410, Afrobaromètre, 2020.
- Karen Allen, « Is Africa cybercrime savvy? » (L’Afrique est-elle avertie en matière de cybercriminalité ?), Institute for Security Studies, 26 juin 2019.

 

 

 

 

Les dirigeants de la Cédéao placent le Mali sous embargo pour sanctionner le maintien de la junte au pouvoir

Le Monde avec AFP,10 Javier 2022

Les chefs d’Etat et de gouvernements de l’Afrique de l’Ouest ont décidé de fermer les frontières avec le Mali. Seuls les produits de première nécessité pourront continuer à circuler.


Les dirigeants ouest-africains réunis à Accra ont décidé, dimanche 9 janvier, de fermer les frontières avec le Mali et de mettre le pays sous embargo, sanctionnant lourdement l’intention de la junte de prendre le pays « en otage » en se maintenant au pouvoir sans élection pendant des années.

Les chefs d’Etat et de gouvernement de la Communauté économique des Etats de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (Cédéao), siégeant à huis clos dans la capitale ghanéenne, ont réagi vigoureusement au projet de la junte, arrivée au pouvoir en août 2020, de continuer à diriger le pays jusqu’à cinq années supplémentaires, et au manquement de la part des colonels à l’engagement d’organiser, le 27 février, l’élection présidentielle et les législatives qui auraient ramené des civils à la tête du pays.

La Cédéao a décidé de fermer les frontières avec le Mali au sein de l’espace sous-régional et de suspendre les échanges commerciaux autres que les produits de première nécessité, annonce un communiqué lu à l’issue du sommet. Elle a aussi décidé de couper ses aides financières et de geler les avoirs du Mali à la Banque centrale des Etats de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (BCEAO). Les pays membres vont rappeler leurs ambassadeurs au Mali, théâtre de deux coups d’Etat militaires depuis 2020 et en proie à une profonde crise sécuritaire.


Un pays pauvre en proie aux violences


Ces sanctions prennent effet immédiatement, ont-ils précisé. Elles ne seront levées progressivement que lorsque les autorités maliennes présenteront un calendrier « acceptable » et que des progrès satisfaisants seront observés dans sa mise en œuvre. La proposition de la junte malienne d’organiser la présidentielle en décembre 2026 est « totalement inacceptable », estime la Cédéao. Elle « signifie simplement qu’un gouvernement militaire de transition illégitime prendra le peuple malien en otage au cours des cinq prochaines années ».

Ces sanctions sont plus rigoureuses encore que celles adoptées après le premier putsch d’août 2020. En pleine pandémie, elles avaient été durement ressenties dans un pays enclavé parmi les plus pauvres du monde. Elles passent pour avoir forcé à l’époque la junte à accepter de s’engager à rendre le pouvoir aux civils sous dix-huit mois après des élections.

La junte dit aujourd’hui ne pas être capable d’organiser des élections présidentielle et législatives comme prévu à la fin de février, invoquant l’insécurité persistante dans le pays, en proie aux violences de toutes sortes : djihadistes, communautaires, crapuleuses… Elle souligne la nécessité de réformes préalables pour que les élections ne souffrent pas de contestations, à l’instar des précédentes.


« C’est de la rigolade »


Depuis le premier putsch d’août 2020, conforté par celui de mai 2021 intronisant le colonel Assimi Goïta comme président de « transition », la Cédéao pousse au retour des civils dans les meilleurs délais. Pressentant le courroux ouest-africain, la junte avait dépêché samedi à Accra deux ministres de son gouvernement chargés de soumettre un calendrier révisé. La nouvelle offre a été présentée dans le souci de « maintenir le dialogue et une bonne coopération avec la Cédéao », a dit samedi à la télévision nationale l’un des deux émissaires, le ministre des affaires étrangères, Abdoulaye Diop, sans en préciser le contenu.
Lire aussi Au Mali, la junte propose un nouveau calendrier pour rendre le pouvoir aux civils

« La contre-proposition malienne est une transition de quatre ans. C’est de la rigolade ! », a réagi un haut responsable ghanéen ayant requis l’anonymat, dont le pays assure actuellement la présidence de la Cédéao. Pour l’organisation dont la crédibilité est en jeu, il s’agit de défendre ses principes fondamentaux de gouvernance, de stopper la contagion du fait accompli et de contenir l’instabilité régionale.

La Cédéao avait déjà suspendu le Mali de ses organes de décision et imposé un gel de leurs avoirs financiers et une interdiction de voyager à 150 personnalités, coupables, selon elle, de faire obstruction aux élections. Ces sanctions restent en vigueur. Lors d’un sommet le 12 décembre, l’instance avait brandi la menace de sanctions « économiques et financières » supplémentaires. Mais la situation appelait de sa part des décisions délicates, l’exposant au risque de braquer les Maliens contre elle, disent les analystes.
Lire aussi Au Mali, la junte tentée par un duo avec les mercenaires du Groupe Wagner

 

 

Tendances migratoires à surveiller en Afrique en 2022

Par le Centre d’études stratégiques de l’Afrique, 22 décembre 2021

Les facteurs incitatifs et dissuasifs de la migration en Afrique continuent à s’intensifier, présageant pour 2022 une augmentation des flux migratoires à la à l’intérieur du continent et à son départ.


Les tendances migratoires en Afrique continuent d’augmenter


- Le nombre de migrants en situation régulière, à la fois à l’intérieur et au départ de l’Afrique, a presque doublé depuis 2010, reflétant une tendance à la hausse depuis 20 ans.


- Dans chaque pays, des facteurs incitatifs et dissuasifs alimentent la migration africaine. Les conflits, la gouvernance répressive et le manque de débouchés économiques en sont les principaux facteurs incitatifs. Sur les 15 pays africains dont sont originaires le plus de migrants, neuf sont en conflit.

- La majorité des migrants africains vers l’Europe viennent d’Afrique du Nord. Les trois pays les plus importants—le Maroc, l’Algérie et la Tunisie—représentent 5 des 11 millions de migrants africains en Europe. Ceci met en relief l’importance de la proximité, de diasporas établies, et d’opportunités économiques comme facteurs incitatifs clés dans les prises de décisions sur la migration.

- Les sondages de migrants africains en Europe ou cherchant à y parvenir révèlent que la majorité d’entre eux étaient soit étudiants ou travaillaient au moment de leur départ. Cependant, ils n’avaient aucun espoir quant à leurs débouchés économiques. Les Tunisiens, par exemple, qui disaient fuir les pressions économiques, constituaient presque un quart des migrants en situation irrégulière détenus en Italie en 2021 après avoir traversé la Méditerranée.

- Les migrants ont tendance à avoir accès à des ressources, que ce soit un emploi ou un réseau de soutien familial, surtout quand des membres de leurs familles se trouvent déjà à l’étranger.


La plupart de la migration en Afrique demeure intrarégionale


- La majorité des migrants africains restent sur le continent, reflétant un schéma de longue date. Environ 21 millions d’africains vivent dans un autre pays d’Afrique, un chiffre qui devrait probablement être revu à la hausse puisque de nombreux pays ne le décomptent pas systématiquement. Les métropoles du Nigeria, de l’Afrique du Sud et de l’Égypte sont les destinations principales de ces flux migratoires intra-africains, le reflet du dynamisme économique relatifs de ces agglomérations.

- Parmi les migrants africains ayant quitté le continent, 11 millions vivent en Europe, presque 5 millions au Moyen-Orient et plus de 3 millions en Amérique du Nord.


Les catastrophes climatiques continueront à augmenter la vulnérabilité, entrainant potentiellement plus de migration


- L’Afrique fait face à un taux plus rapide de catastrophes naturelles que le reste de la planète. Les sècheresses, les ouragans et les pandémies sont d’autant plus de facteurs naturels de l’instabilité.

- La Banque mondiale prévoit qu’il y aura 86 millions de migrants liés au changement climatique en Afrique d’ici 2050. Une partie des 18 millions de travailleurs migrants saisonniers en Afrique pourraient voir leurs emplois dans les secteurs agricole, minier et de la pêche disparaitre, augmentant la possibilité que leur migration devienne permanente dans la quête d’un nouvel emploi. L’environnement et son effet sur les conditions économiques est un facteur important pour 30% des personnes en Éthiopie et en Afrique de l’Ouest et centrale.


La vulnérabilité peut induire au trafic


- Des dizaines de milliers de migrants se sont retrouvés bloqués partout en Afrique suite aux fermetures des frontières dues à la pandémie de COVID-19. Nombre d’entre eux ont perdu leur travail et certains leurs maisons. Même après la réouverture des frontières, les restrictions sanitaires et de voyage ont affecté la mobilité des migrants, qu’ils soient en situation régulière ou pas. En Afrique du Nord, alors même que la traversée entre la Libye et l’Europe est devenue plus difficile, la migration en situation irrégulière vers l’Europe s’est déplacée plus à l’Ouest vers le Maroc et les Iles Canaries. Ceux qui tentent de quitter la Libye continent de faire face à des abus de leurs droits humains et à des détentions involontaires.

- Des dizaines de migrants Éthiopiens dans les pays du Golfe ont été détenus dans des centres surpeuplés et insalubres avant d’être expulsés. Parmi ceux qui sont restés, nombre d’entre eux se sont vus voler leurs salaires ou ont été forcés d’accepter des contrats plus abusifs, avec moins de protections, du fait de leur incapacité a partir.

- Environ 32 000 migrants africains restent bloqués au Yémen après avoir tenté d’atteindre les pays du Golfe. Certains sont devenus des victimes de trafic humain ou d’enlèvement contre rançon et se sont retrouvés obligés à travailler dans des fermes afin de payer leurs dettes. Dans un acte qui reflète leur désespoir, 18 200 migrants ont, selon l’OIM, embauché des passeurs pour les ramener du Yémen à la Corne de l’Afrique.

- Si les migrants ne représentent pas eux-mêmes une menace sécuritaire, les détenir et leur refuser toute aide ou la capacité soit de rentrer chez eux, soit de continuer leur voyage, offre à des acteurs sans scrupules des opportunités de les exploiter. Les groupes extrémistes violents et les réseaux criminels continuent aussi de bénéficier financièrement en contrôlant les routes de trafics et de traite des migrants.


Ressources complémentaires


- Chris Horwood et Bram Frouws (eds.), « Mixed Migration Review 2021 », Mixed Migration Centre, 2021.

- International Organization of Migration, « World Migration Report 2022 », 2021.

— Albert G. Zeufack, Cesar Calderon, Megumi Kubota, Vijdan Korman, Catalina Cantu Canales, Alain N. Kabundi, « Africa’s Pulse, No. 24 », World Bank, octobre 2021.

- Wendy Williams, « Frontières en évolution: la crise de déplacements de population en Afrique et ses conséquences sur la sécurité », Rapport d’analyse n.8, Centre d’études stratégiques de l’Afrique, janvier 2020.


To download charts a graphs, visit: https://africacenter.org/fr/spotlight/tendances-migratoires-a-surveiller-en-afrique-en-2022/

 

 

 

Des gangs criminels déstabilisent le nord-ouest du Nigeria

Par le Centre d’études stratégiques de l’Afrique, 3 janvier 2022


Le nombre croissant des attaques de gangs criminels visant les communautés du nord-ouest du Nigeria, dont des enlèvements massifs d’écoliers, est porté par une présence limitée du secteur de la sécurité dans la région.


Connus dans les médias nationaux sous le nom de « bandits », de petits gangs de criminels menacent de plus en plus la région du nord-ouest du Nigeria, multipliant vols de bétail, pillages et rançonnements aux fermes et villages ruraux. Ces gangs n’hésitent pas à recourir à la violence, y compris au meurtre, pour intimider les villageois afin qu’ils se soumettent. Depuis 2020, ces gangs criminels auraient été impliqués dans plus de 350 événements violents liés à plus de 1500 décès. Cela représente une augmentation d’environ 45 % des attaques et une augmentation de 65 % des décès par rapport à la période 2018-2019. De nombreuses attaques et enlèvements de moindre envergure ne sont pas signalés.

Enhardis et de plus en plus organisés comme des entreprises criminelles sophistiquées, ces gangs ont fait la une des journaux du monde entier avec une série de raids d’enlèvements de masse dans des internats des États de Kaduna, Katsina, Niger et Zamfara. Les victimes sont généralement détenues contre de grosses rançons, ruinant souvent la famille touchée. De plus en plus vulnérables à ces raids, des centaines d’écoles ont fermé et plus d’un million d’enfants de la région ne se rendent plus en classe.

Ces incidents et autres attaques ont incité les autorités nigérianes à imposer une coupure des télécommunications mobiles dans la région et à restreindre les déplacements et les grands rassemblements. Plus récemment, un tribunal fédéral a jugé, à la demande du Directeur des poursuites pénales, que les gangs criminels du nord-ouest étaient des « terroristes », ouvrant la voie à un assouplissement des règles d’engagement militaire. Une réponse de sécurité sans distinction, cependant, pourrait bien aggraver l’instabilité.

Le Centre d’études stratégiques de l’Afrique a parlé à deux experts nigérians au sujet de la détérioration des conditions de sécurité dans le nord-ouest. Kunle Adebajo est un journaliste qui a fait de nombreux reportages sur la crise du banditisme, et le Dr Murtala Rufa’i est maître de conférences au Département d’histoire de l’Université Usmanu Danfodiyo de Sokoto.


Pourquoi l’insécurité et la crise humanitaire qui affectent les États du nord-ouest se sont-elles récemment aggravées ?


KUNLE ADEBAJO : En effet, la situation dans le nord-ouest s’aggrave. Il y a eu une augmentation du nombre d’incidents violents, de décès et de victimes d’enlèvements, comme le documente le Suivi de la sécurité du Nigeria (NST) du [Council on Foreign Relations]. En 2021, il y a eu un doublement des enlèvements dans le nord-ouest par rapport à 2020. Cela perpétue la tendance à l’aggravation des dernières années, entraînant des décès qui approchent les 1000 par an. Il s’agit probablement d’une sous-évaluation importante. Il y a maintenant plus de 450 000 personnes déplacées internes (PDI) selon l’Organisation internationale pour les migrations : d’autres sources suggèrent des nombres encore plus élevés.

Auparavant, les attaques étaient principalement concentrées dans les zones rurales, mais maintenant les bandits s’aventurent plus loin de leurs repaires, dans les communautés les plus reculées. En effet, nombre de ces zones ont fait l’objet de raids répétés et sont de plus en plus appauvries. Les groupes de bandits se tournent donc vers les communautés urbaines pour obtenir plus d’argent, voler plus de bétail et obtenir des rançons plus importantes. On voit aujourd’hui des gangs de bandits qui attaquent plus fréquemment les sièges des gouvernements locaux et les collectivités plus importantes, plus proches des autoroutes fédérales, en particulier du fait qu’ils ont acquis les effectifs et les armes qui leur permettent d’affronter des cibles plus importantes. Cette année, des bandits ont attaqué des bases militaires et des postes de police à Zamfara et Sokoto, ce qui leur a donné accès à une plus grande puissance de frappe.

Un autre facteur majeur est l’absence d’une police et d’une architecture militaire adéquates au sein des zones touchées. Les collectivités disposant d’une équipe mobile de patrouille de police (MOPOL) sont devenues similaires aux villes de garnison du nord-est et sont nettement plus sûres que les autres. Ainsi, des personnes qui ne bénéficient pas d’une telle présence policière migrent vers ces lieux, soit de façon permanente, soit juste la nuit lorsque les attaques sont les plus fréquentes. La présence de groupes d’autodéfense ou de groupes armés communautaires s’est également avérée dissuasive pour les bandits. Il s’agit cependant d’une arme à double tranchant, car les groupes d’autodéfense renégats peuvent lancer des attaques de représailles contre les communautés d’éleveurs voisines, contribuant à une nouvelle escalade. Il y a de nombreux excès et exécutions extrajudiciaires dans ce processus.

MURTALA RUFA’I : Pendant des années, la sécurité du nord-ouest s’est détériorée parce que le gouvernement fédéral et ceux des États n’ont pas bien évalué la gravité du problème du banditisme et ont historiquement cherché à le minimiser (refusant parfois l’accès aux groupes d’aide et interdisant l’établissement de camps de PDI). Le gouvernement n’a pas investi dans la compréhension de la dynamique régionale, ni sur la manière dont les groupes de bandits opèrent en son sein et, par conséquent, n’a jamais élaboré de politiques cohérentes ou coordonnées pour faire face à la multiplication des enlèvements et raids menés par ces gangs criminels.

Au cours de la dernière année, les mesures contre la COVID, notamment la fermeture de la frontière internationale avec le Niger, les restrictions du marché et les fermetures partielles, ont créé de nombreuses difficultés pour les habitants de la région du nord-ouest. La pauvreté et le chômage ont augmenté, ce que nous avons documenté dans des enquêtes auprès des communautés rurales. Au début, le commerce transfrontalier s’est arrêté, puis l’activité commerciale informelle a repris. Cependant, la corruption et les pots-de-vin ont augmenté depuis que ces activités ont été officiellement interdites. Des gangs de bandits ont profité de la situation en fournissant des vivres à certaines communautés durement touchées, puis en recrutant de jeunes hommes et des informateurs parmi eux. Il s’agit d’un modèle qu’ils ont suivi dans le passé, profitant des personnes appauvries lorsque le gouvernement était corrompu ou absent.

Il existe plusieurs villages servant de communautés d’accueil pour certains gangs. Les gangs se cachent dans les forêts voisines et permettent aux villages de poursuivre une vie normale tant que ces derniers payent des taxes et fournissent des recrues. En retour, les bandits protègent ces villages des autres gangs et leur fournissent occasionnellement de la nourriture et d’autres choses en cas de besoin.


Quels sont les groupes armés à l’origine de la crise ? Combien y a-t-il de groupes et de quelle taille sont-ils généralement ? Ces groupes sont-ils de grandes entreprises criminelles, chacune dirigée par un leader identifiable, ou existe-t-il de nombreuses petites bandes itinérantes sans allégeance ni leadership central ?


KUNLE ADEBAJO : Il est difficile d’obtenir les chiffres exacts. Un comité d’enquête mis en place par le gouvernement de Zamfara a estimé qu’il y avait au moins 105 camps de bandits dans et aux alentours de l’État, à partir duquel les bandits lancent des attaques. La plupart des groupes sont originaires de Zamfara et opèrent dans diverses zones boisées qui relient et fournissent des corridors entre plusieurs États, leur permettant de se déplacer librement. Le Zamfara borde plusieurs États du nord-ouest : le Sokoto, le Kebbi, le Niger, le Kaduna et le Katsina. Un chercheur a pu documenter 62 groupes de bandits, principalement au Zamfara, avec un effectif allant de 28 à 2500 hommes. Parmi les principaux chefs de groupes de bandits, on trouve Bello Turji Gudde, Halilu Sububu, Shehu Rekep et Abubakar Abdullahi (alias Dogo Gide, qui aurait été tué). Les groupes sont indépendants les uns des autres mais ont des niveaux d’influence variables sur les autres gangs en fonction de leur taille et de leur force. C’est pourquoi il est difficile qu’un dialogue avec un chef de gang puisse avoir un grand effet sur la situation générale en matière de sécurité.

MURTALA RUFA’I : Historiquement, il y a eu des centaines de petits gangs divisés basés entre les États de Zamfara et de Kaduna. Différents chefs contrôlaient différentes zones pour atténuer les querelles entre gangs, mais les groupes dépendant de ces seigneurs de guerre disposaient d’une autonomie relative. Ainsi, les États du Niger et de Kaduna sont sous la coupe d’Abubakar Abdallahi. Le Katsina était sous l’emprise de feux Auwalun Daudawa et Dangote Bazamfare. L’État de Sokoto oriental est sous la juridiction de Turji. Et il y a beaucoup de dirigeants rivaux dans l’État de Zamfara.

Au cours de l’année écoulée, bon nombre de ces gangs autrefois rivaux ont commencé à unir leurs forces contre l’ennemi commun que sont les groupes de protection communautaire et du gouvernement, alors que des mesures visant à contenir le banditisme (coupures des communication, restrictions d’essence et interdictions des motos) sont entrées en vigueur. Cette unité a permis aux gangs de partager des informations concernant les mouvements des forces de sécurité et de combiner leurs effectifs pour attaquer de plus grands villages et des villes mieux gardées. Il s’agit d’une évolution inquiétante, mais il n’est pas certain qu’elle se poursuive puisque les gangs ont toujours été farouchement indépendants et se sont souvent livrés à des escarmouches sur leurs territoires.


Que veulent ces groupes ?


KUNLE ADEBAJO : Surtout de l’argent et de l’importance. Les groupes tirent leurs revenus de divers moyens : le vol des populations locales (argent, objets de valeur, bétail), la taxation des communautés (pour utiliser leurs fermes ou pour se protéger des attaques par exemple) ou le paiement de rançons par des particuliers et des gouvernements. Ils réquisitionnent aussi parfois des terres agricoles fertiles, que les membres du gang cultivent ensuite eux-mêmes.

Les bandits se sont plaints dans certaines interviews d’être marginalisés par le gouvernement et de ne pas avoir accès aux commodités de base telles que l’éducation et les soins de santé. Ils ont protesté contre la discrimination en tant que peuple Peul. Mais les opérations criminelles et terroristes des bandits sont principalement de nature marchande plutôt que politique ou ethnique. Certains jeunes hommes ont décrit comment ils ont rejoint des gangs de bandits après avoir eux-mêmes été victimes de raids de bandits et avoir tout perdu, ne leur laissant que peu d’autres options. Nous n’avons pas encore vu de grande organisation collective, comme c’est le cas avec Boko Haram dans le nord-est. L’opportunisme est leur modus operandi actuel.

MURTALA RUFA’I : La violence dans le nord-ouest est initialement née de conflits fonciers provoqués par la dégradation de l’environnement, la croissance démographique, et surtout la corruption du gouvernement concernant les droits fonciers – qui ont profité aux élites politiquement connectées au détriment des éleveurs qui ont trouvé l’accès à leurs pâturages historiques et les voies de circulation de leur bétail bloqués. Mais lorsque des éleveurs mécontents recrutés par des gangs ont commencé à attaquer les communautés agricoles et ont réalisé qu’ils avaient le pouvoir, l’élan et la capacité à piller ces communautés à volonté, le conflit a pris une nouvelle dimension motivée par des raisons économiques. Certains sont devenus pilleurs à plein temps. Désormais, la violence est fondamentalement et purement une activité criminelle motivée par le gain économique.


Cependant, les nouvelles mesures gouvernementales ravivent les griefs ethniques parmi les Peuls de la région, qui se sentent injustement pointés du doigt et ciblés par les politiques d’endiguement du gouvernement. Ce sentiment aide les gangs à recruter de jeunes hommes dont les moyens de subsistance ont été affectés par ces politiques. Cela aide également les gangs à faire équipe de manière opportuniste et à former des alliances sous la bannière de la défense du peuple Peul. Et tout cela bien que les gangs attaquent encore des éleveurs peuls, et que de nombreux membres des gangs ne parlent même pas le peul.


De quelle façon fonctionne la réponse sécuritaire actuelle, et de quelle façon est-elle défaillante ? Qu’est-ce qui a fonctionné dans le passé ?


KUNLE ADEBAJO : La réponse actuelle en matière de sécurité n’est sans aucun doute pas à la hauteur de l’ampleur de la menace. Il n’y a pas assez de policiers sur le terrain, et ceux qui sont disponibles ne sont pas assez équipés pour la tâche. Les forces armées du pays sont également trop sollicitées. Il y a environ 334 000 policiers dans le pays, mais on estime que près de la moitié d’entre eux sont déployés comme escortes armées pour les politiciens ou personnes qui peuvent se permettre ce type de service. Cela laisse seulement une petite partie des forces armées pour protéger le reste de la population. Le gouverneur de Katsina s’est récemment plaint que son État comptait moins de 3000 policiers.

Les efforts antérieurs de négociation des traités de paix et des programmes d’amnistie à l’égard des bandits dans des endroits comme Zamfara ont jusqu’à présent échoué. Bien que des progrès aient été signalés au départ, ils se sont rapidement effondrés, les gouverneurs exprimant leur frustration face à la résurgence des attaques et à l’aggravation de la situation en matière de sécurité. Ces accords n’ont pas abouti, souvent en raison de l’encadrement fragile des gangs de bandits et du fait qu’il y ait tant de groupes indépendants les uns des autres.

La réponse en matière de sécurité doit également être accompagnée de beaucoup plus de surveillance et d’action de la police communautaire. Cela nécessiterait de renforcer la confiance du public envers les services de sécurité, d’améliorer et d’étendre la collecte de données et les exercices de profilage, et de disposer de suffisamment de personnel compétent au sein des forces de l’ordre et des institutions militaires afin d’assurer le suivi des renseignements recueillis.

Il existe des exemples de commandants militaires exceptionnels qui ont été très impliqués envers les groupes armés communautaires et ont accompagné leurs hommes lors de raids contre les camps de bandits dans les forêts. Lorsque les communautés locales ont vu ce genre de dévouement, elles ont été volontaires pour travailler avec eux et fournir des renseignements. Mais par la suite, ces personnes ont été réaffectées, et leurs remplaçants la plupart du temps ne sont pas à la hauteur.

MURTALA RUFA’I : Les récentes mesures de contrôle du gouvernement ont momentanément mis les bandits au pas, mais ils se sont adaptés et ont en fait à ce jour profité de la situation. Ils communiquent entre eux via des téléphones satellites alors que, du fait du blocage des réseaux cellulaires, les communautés locales ont perdu leur capacité à communiquer avec les forces de sécurité et à les tenir au courant des attaques imminentes de bandits. Les restrictions en matière de circulation entraînent également une augmentation des prix et, par conséquent, nuisent aux communautés rurales. Les bandits exigent des taxes plus élevées pour couvrir leurs propres dépenses en carburant qui augmentent. Cela appauvrit davantage les communautés, parmi lesquelles les bandits peuvent trouver de nouvelles recrues.

Le gouvernement fédéral a envoyé encore plus de troupes dans la région, mais cela est encore insuffisant, un grand nombre étant également déployées dans le nord-est contre Boko Haram. L’armée reste principalement dans les villes fortifiées et les avant-postes, et se rend rarement dans les communautés locales où ces groupes de bandits et leurs chefs sont ouvertement connus, même des enfants. Les frappes aériennes de l’armée semblent souvent cibler uniquement les troupeaux de bétail, les effrayant et les dispersant, ce qui ne fait qu’appauvrir davantage les communautés d’éleveurs. Les frappes aériennes sont souvent futiles et dangereuses car les bandits utilisent les villages ruraux comme boucliers humains, ce qui signifie qu’il est difficile de les isoler comme cibles.

Les groupes armés communautaires sont de plus en plus visiblement présents dans le nord-ouest. En réponse aux premiers épisodes de violence, ces groupes ont souvent pris les Peuls pour cible sans discernement, les harcelant et aggravant la situation. La brutalité des miliciens Yan Sakai (« gardes volontaires » en haoussa) contre les gardiens de troupeaux a été à l’origine de la montée en puissance des gangs de bandits permanents dans la région à partir de 2011. De nombreux membres de groupes d’autodéfense parlent ouvertement du sentiment anti-Peul et de l’impression qu’il existe une menace peule qui doit être traitée durement. Par conséquent, la violence et la réponse aux gangs criminels ont le potentiel de dégénérer en un conflit intercommunautaire plus large.

L’utilisation de milices volontaires pour protéger les communautés est compréhensible en raison de la faible présence de sécurité, mais les groupes d’autodéfense comme Yan Sakai sont techniquement illégaux, non formés et n’ont pas de comptes à rendre. Les politiques gouvernementales des États de la région du nord-ouest ont été incohérentes, oscillant entre parrainage indirect, interdiction et condamnation. On sait que des personnalités politiques puissantes les utilisent pour régler leurs comptes. Une politique cohérente et coordonnée est nécessaire pour freiner les abus de ces groupes, qui opèrent sous forme de milices ethniques haoussas et qui ethnicisent le conflit. Un modèle possible est une Force d’intervention commune civile dans le nord-est, qui constituerait une présence de sécurité permanente en formant, en payant et responsabilisant les groupes d’autodéfense envers un plan d’action officiel.

Les programmes d’amnistie ont un potentiel car certains des chefs des bandits déclarent vouloir la paix. Des programmes d’amnistie coordonnés et bien mis en œuvre sont une option pragmatique, faute de quoi il sera très difficile de vaincre ces groupes maintenant que de nombreux gangs se sont enracinés au sein des communautés et exercent l’autorité là où l’État n’est pas présent. Les tentatives passées d’amnistie ont échoué parce qu’elles ne concernaient qu’un seul État et n’avaient pas été coordonnées et menées à terme. Il s’agissait d’ententes à l’amiable qui n’ont pas tenu sous la pression. Une campagne militaire sur le terrain cherchant réellement à capturer et à tenir pour responsables les chefs des bandits, associée à un programme d’amnistie bien conçu, pourrait potentiellement donner des résultats.


Activité des gangs criminels au Zamfara


Historiquement, le problème des bandits du nord-ouest du Nigeria est né au Zamfara, en grande partie à cause des processus corrompus d’attribution de titres de propriété au début des années 2000, qui ont profité aux élites haoussas au détriment des éleveurs. Les zones boisées de l’État de Zamfara sont l’une des raisons pour lesquelles des gangs criminels à plein temps se sont finalement implantés là-bas. Les gangs exploitent également des mines d’or artisanales au Zamfara et profitent sa frontière internationale avec le Niger pour pratiquer la contrebande d’armes et de stupéfiants.


Ressources complémentaires


- James Barnett et Murtala Rufa’i, « The Other Insurgency: Northwest Nigeria’s Worsening Bandit Crisis » (L’autre insurrection : l’aggravation de la crise des bandits dans le nord-ouest du Nigeria), War on the Rocks, 16 novembre 2021.

- Idayat Hassan, « Nigeria’s Rampant Banditry, and Some Ideas on How to Rein It In » (Le banditisme endémique du Nigeria et quelques idées sur la façon de le maîtriser), The New Humanitarian, 8 novembre 2021.

- Kunle Adebajo, « Vigilantes Defying the Odds To Protect Lives In Northwest Nigeria » (Des groupes d’autodéfense défient le destin pour protéger des vies dans le nord-ouest du Nigeria), HumAngle, 3 novembre 2021.

- Kunle Adebajo, « Displaced By ‘Bandits’ (Parts 1-5) » (Déplacés par des « bandits » (Parties 1 à 5)), HumAngle, 17 juillet – 12 octobre 2021.

- Leif Brottem, « La complexité croissante des conflits entre agriculteurs et éleveurs en Afrique de l’Ouest et centrale », Bulletin de la sécurité africaine n° 39, Centre d’études stratégiques de l’Afrique, 3 août 2021.

- Mark Duerksen, « Les diverses menaces envers la sécurité du Nigeria », Éclairages, Centre d’études stratégiques de l’Afrique, 14 avril 2021.

- Centre d’études stratégiques de l’Afrique, « The Nigerian State and Insecurity » (L’État nigérian et l’insécurité), Video Rountable, 17 février 2021.

- Olajumoke (Jumo) Ayandele, « Affronter la crise du Kaduna au Nigeria », Éclairages, Centre d’études stratégiques de l’Afrique, 18 février 2021.

 

 

 

Banners