In December, when US National Security Advisor John Bolton previewed the Trump Administration’s security strategy for Africa, he focused more on the rising financial and political influence of China and Russia than on US plans to fight the “proliferation of Radical Islamic Terrorism” across Africa. This is surprising, because in Somalia, the United States has dramatically ratcheted up airstrikes against al-Shabaab and local ISIS militants. And the death of four US special operations soldiers in Niger in November 2017 brought scrutiny to the unreported activities of US special forces in Africa.
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.