East Africa

  • The United States Gets Tough With South Sudan

    US President Donald J. Trump’s administration, expressing displeasure with the government in South Sudan, has started a comprehensive review of its aid programs to that country.

    In a sternly worded statement, the White House said that the leaders of South Sudan had “squandered this partnership [with the United States], pilfered the wealth of South Sudan, killed their own people, and repeatedly demonstrated their inability and unwillingness to live up to their commitments to end the country’s civil war. The result is one of Africa’s worst humanitarian disasters.”

    Announcing its aid review, the White House said: “While we are committed to saving lives, we must also ensure our assistance does not contribute to or prolong the conflict, or facilitate predatory or corrupt behavior.”

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  • Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Marks Milestone, Approaches Completion

    The April 2 anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in 2011 passed largely unremarked amid the cascade of momentous news coming recently from Ethiopia, including several years of unrest, the sudden release of thousands of detainees in mid-February, the resignation of the prime minister one day later, the declaration of a state of emergency the day after that, as well as the ensuing intense deliberations within the governing Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, culminating in the election of a new coalition chairman and his swearing-in this week as prime minister, the first such constitutional handover in the millennial history of the Ethiopian state. Yet it would not be an exaggeration to say that, as the GERD approaches completion, its strategic geopolitical and socioeconomic impact on Ethiopia and, indeed, the entire Northeast Africa region may prove greater than of any of the developments that have lately filled the news.

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  • Ethiopia’s Counterproductive State of Emergency

    Following Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn’s sudden resignation on Thursday, Ethiopian authorities announced a six-month country-wide state of emergency (SOE), effective yesterday. This order, the country’s second in two years, imposes draconian restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly, while granting extended powers to the country’s already powerful security services.

    This decision is counterproductive to the government’s stated goals of political reform and inclusive governance. It undercuts Ethiopia’s security by emboldening those who believe that violence is the only way to achieve fundamental political reform in Ethiopia, but it also negates the national and international goodwill generated by the country’s unprecedented recent release of hundreds of high-profile political prisoners.

    A rapid pivot is the best hope for the ruling coalition Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) to preserve prospects for long-term peace in Ethiopia.  

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  • Pham Joins VOA to Discuss South Sudan, Kenya, DRC, and South Africa


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  • Ethiopia: In the Eye of the Storm

    After overseeing the release on February 13 and 14 of thousands of political challengers to the regime, Ethiopian prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn has resigned amid continuing protests that potentially threaten the survival of the government. (For detailed analysis of those events, read this: https://buff.ly/2GeB15y )

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  • Ethiopia: End Game?

    Update: On February 15, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn resigned following months of sustained protests and pressure from the country’s aggrieved and marginalized ethnic groups. The country’s ruling party, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), now faces a crisis of leadership as it determines Ethiopia’s next prime minister. This author predicted the imminent ouster of Hailemariam and offered speculation as to the next person to hold that post—including the momentous challenges any new prime minister will face. Above all, Ethiopia’s new leader faces an increasingly emboldened population who demands real political reforms—which will require a painful, and potentially fraught, distribution of economic resources and power away from the TPLF ruling elite.

    The protest movement playing out in Ethiopia is one of the most consequential conflicts on the African continent – more than any other, it has the potential to upend US policy in the Horn of Africa. It could disrupt counterterrorism efforts in Somalia and reduce the number of peacekeeping troops in South Sudan. But alarmingly, it has barely registered in Washington policy discussions or in the American press.

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  • Getting South Sudan Right

    Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, delivered a stern message to South Sudanese President Salva Kiir in their meeting in Juba on October 24: the United States is “disappointed” in Kiir’s leadership and he must not take US assistance for granted. In a stark reminder of the perilous situation in the six-year-old nation, Haley was later forced to hastily evacuate South Sudan after a group of anti-Kiir protesters turned violent.

    Haley’s tough rhetoric raises the question: what, if anything, can the United States do to prevent the world’s youngest nation—one that it helped foster—from unraveling under the pressures of a protracted war, corrupt leaders, acute famine, and the displacement of its people?

    To read more, click here.

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  • Africa Rising? Kenya Extends the Continent’s Losing Streak

    For decades, Africa was portrayed by the international community as the hopeless continent. Then, as African countries staged a takeover of the world’s fastest-growing economies list in the early 2000s, the narrative shifted to “Africa rising.” It was eventually noticed that not all of Africa was rising. In fact, if anything, Africa was splitting in two, with only an elite set of countries barreling off to participate in the global economy, leaving the rest stuck in the same old quagmire of conflict and poverty. Thus, a narrative of African “winners and losers” emerged.

    The violence surrounding the presidential election rerun in Kenya on October 26 contributes to a different narrative, in which one of Africa’s longtime “winners” faces destabilizing struggles that may reverberate throughout the continent.

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  • Somalis are the Victims of US State-Building Efforts

    This weekend’s truck bombing in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, was the worst assault on civilians in that country’s long, sad history. But such attacks are a weekly event in Somalia and have been for the past decade. This attack was dramatically worse than most, but surely it won’t be the last. And it highlights a truth that Washington cannot afford to ignore any longer: its “strategy” in Somalia just is not working.

    To read more, click here.


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  • Negotiating Democracy and Security in Kenya

    On Monday, October 16, the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center, in collaboration with the International Republican Institute (IRI), hosted Ambassador Martin Kimani, director of Kenya’s National Counter Terrorism Centre and special envoy for countering violent extremism, and Dr. Korir Sing’Oei, legal adviser in the executive office of the deputy president of Kenya, for a private roundtable discussion on the security situation in Kenya amid its unprecedented and ongoing electoral crisis.


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