This past summer, one could not help but wonder as the leaders of Europe and Africa, in separate meetings, seemed to talk past one another as they sought to deal with what has become one of the most significant—if not the single most important—challenge in the relations between those countries north of the Mediterranean Sea and those located along the southern shore of the old Mare Nostrum and their neighbors farther down on the continent.
As underscored by the upcoming pageant, there is no denying that a great deal has changed in Sino-African relations since the first FOCAC summit in 2000. During the intervening years, China has gone from being a rather new and relatively marginal actor in Africa with a volume of trade worth only a little more than $10 billion in 2000 to the continent’s biggest economic partner with the total value of exports to the continent and imports from it amounting to more than $170 billion in 2017, a figure that represents an increase of 14 percent from the year before during a period when the commodity price index rose only a modest 7 percent (after having slumped in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis).
While CAR’s military, the Forces Armées Centrafricains, or FACA, is retrained by a European Union (EU) force known as EUTM RCA, MINUSCA acts as CAR’s primary guarantor of security in a country overrun by competing rebel groups. Unfortunately, these cuts could not come at a worse time. Faced with increasing religious violence, the mission has come under critical strain in recent months according to UN Special Representative Parfait Onanga-Anyanga.
One of the reasons for the increase from eleven to twenty-six provinces was to break up Katanga and deprive its governor, key Kabila opponent Moïse Katumbi, of his provincial base. Beyond such political expediency, however, this policy’s main effect has been to create ethnically homogeneous provinces. As Alma Bezares Calderon, Lisa Jené, and I write in a recent report for the Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium, up to eleven of Congo’s provinces are made up primarily of a single ethnic group. This is an increase from three provinces with a single ethnic group prior to this policy.
In October 2017, a little-known Islamist insurgency by the name of “Ahlu Sunna wa-Jama” or “Swahili Sunnah,” attacked the town of Mocimboa da Praia in Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province. The attack began a campaign of terror that has paralyzed Mozambique’s northern coast and threatened $30 billion in offshore natural gas projects, a key lifeline for Mozambique’s future development. As casualties rise and civilian displacement continues, the government’s heavy security response has not effectively countered the Islamist group, which has already been compared to the early stages of the Boko Haram insurgency in northeastern Nigeria. However, it should be cautioned that information on the group is difficult to find and separating fact from speculation is harder still. The below timeline, compiled from open sources, seeks to catalogue and differentiate confirmed and unconfirmed reports on the Islamist group’s emergence, ideology, and development in northern Mozambique.