AfricaSource Strategic Insight on the New Africa

On Thursday, Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Akinwumi Adesina, was elected the new President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) during the fiftieth annual meeting of the multilateral financial institution in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. The choice of the dapper, bow tie-sporting 55-year-old economist is not only a personal victory of the man, but also a boost for his country and, most importantly, a potentially momentous pivot for Africa.

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Embattled Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza was in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania today for talks with the East African Community (EAC) about the political crisis in his country.

After more than three weeks of often-violent demonstrations in the capital against what protesters call an unconstitutional third term attempt by the sitting president, elements of the military took action today and launched a coup d’état.

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Two months ago, I warned that unless the international community steps up quickly to pressure the incumbent regime in Guinea to achieve a consensus with the political opposition and civil society regarding the sequencing and scheduling of the elections constitutionally required less than six months from now, the West African country’s belated and fragile democracy might well prove stillborn. Last month, I noted that there were alarming signs that tribal tensions were being stoked and that, in a region where ethnic groups transcend borders which themselves are all-too-porous, such a conflict will be impossible to contain. Now these worst fears are being confirmed by the actions of Guinea’s President Alpha Condé.

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Two weeks ago, I wrote about the danger of Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza’s intentions to run for a controversial third term, and how his efforts could undermine the country’s fragile peace.

Much has happened in two weeks: the ruling party did, indeed, nominate Nkurunziza as its candidate for June’s presidential elections. When he accepted the nomination, widespread protests in the capital Bujumbura—which began the previous week—surged. 

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Amid the attention recently focused on the Nigerian presidential election and the resulting democratic transition in Africa’s most populous country as well as on the brutal al-Shabaab terrorist attack on Kenya’s Garissa University College, an equally momentous event that took place at roughly the same time passed relatively unremarked. On March 23, the leaders of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan met in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum and reached an historic agreement on principles that opens the way for broad regional cooperation on the use of the waters of the Nile River.

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The ruling party of the tiny, Great Lakes nation of Burundi will make arguably the most momentous decision in the young country’s history when it chooses a candidate for June’s presidential elections this Saturday. Despite an apparent constitutional limit of two five-year terms, current President Pierre Nkurunziza, in power since 2005, is angling for a third.

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Italy’s coastguard and navy rescued more than 10,000 primarily African migrants from capsized, sinking, or distressed vessels in the Mediterranean Sea in the last week, and more than four hundred people are presumed dead after their overloaded boats capsized. These shocking numbers have become daily occurrences, and highlight the crisis facing Europe as migrants from across Africa flee turmoil in their home countries.

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Joseph Kabila continues to underscore the irony of the official name of the country he has misgoverned for more than a decade, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). As I noted previously, Kabila—in power since 2001 when, at the ripe old age of 29, he succeeded his warlord father after the latter was shot dead by his own bodyguard—continues to narrow the political space as he searches for a way around a strict two-term limit in the constitution that admits no amendment.

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On Wednesday, the US embassy in Kampala, Uganda warned US citizens of a possible attack on Westerners in the city by the Somali terrorist organization al-Shabaab. On March 19, the US embassy in Djibouti closed for several days to “review its security posture;” the embassy did not provide further details, but the closure was likely also due to concerns about al-Shabaab. And the embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, last year cut its staffing levels, also citing the threat from the Somali terror group.

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One year after the disputed referendum to join Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula to Russia, the Kremlin is increasingly finding in Africa a welcome break from what has otherwise been its continued international diplomatic and economic isolation as a result of its aggression against its Eastern European neighbor.

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