East Africa

  • 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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  • South Sudan Arms Embargo ‘Weakens’ Salva Kiir

    The US arms embargo on South Sudan not only sends a strong signal to South Sudanese President Salva Kiir, but ultimately “weakens his ability to hold on to power by force,” according to the Atlantic Council’s J. Peter Pham.

    On February 2, the US Department of State announced the imposition of a new embargo on the sale of defense articles and services to South Sudan. While the United States government has little in the way of arms trade with Juba, the embargo “cuts off several US individuals and businesses that have been involved in supplying security and defense services of various types to the Salva Kiir regime,” said Pham, vice president for regional initiatives and director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center.

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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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  • 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?

    Brian Adeba, deputy director of policy at the Enough Project, said the United States’ South Sudan policy is missing one key element: leverage.

    “The challenge for the United States is how to create the necessary leverage to stop the conflict and get the country back on a peaceful track,” said Adeba.

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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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