Saturday, January 30, 2010

Ethiopia & Eritrea - Land disputes at the root of African wars

Land disputes at the root of African wars

A selection of the African continent's fights over land that have turned into violent, conflict, or threaten to.

From The Christian Science Monitor
By Jina Moore Correspondent, 30 January 2010
Land battles that sparked African conflicts

Western Sudan (Darfur) In the 1970s, the government eliminated the country's native administration – a quasi-government and colonial holdover of traditional elders – and rejected traditional land rights, depriving Darfur's pastoralists of access to grazing lands. When famine exacerbated disputes about land in the 1980s, violence broke out. Land grievances were never resolved, and in 2003, a rebel movement made up in part of disenfranchised former landholders revolted against the Sudanese government, which retaliated by arming bands of camel herders known as janjaweed to repress the rebellion – and promising them hefty tracts of the land, emptied in the course of the violence the militia unleashed.

The Democratic Republic of Congo Often called Africa's most deadly conflict, violence in parts of the northeast started over grazing cows in1999, when Hema herders evicted Lendu farmers after purchasing their land. Eviction grievances led both tribes to pick up weapons. As violence spread, the value of other mineral-rich lands contributed to the chaos in which 5 million people have died.

Ethiopia and Eritrea A 1998 dispute over the dusty border town of Badme turned into all-out war, with 80,000 deaths in two years. The town became the flash point of an older argument over the border between the two countries. Both sides saw Badme as a symbol of their real economic concern: power over the port of Assab, the Red Sea trade gateway. Despite international court rulings, the countries consider the border dispute unresolved – and their presidents often rally support by threatening to resume the fight.

Kenya Many indigenous tribes lost rights to traditional lands when the British privatized land holdings. When Joseph Kenyatta, the first postcolonial president, sought land redistribution, he gave the most fertile to his Kikuyu tribe. In a later backlash, many Kikuyu were pushed off their pastures. This created ethnic land grievances that have inspired violence during Kenya's elections since the 1990s, most recently after President Mwai Kabaki, a Kikuyu, was accused of stuffing ballot boxes in 2007.

Rwanda The 1994 genocide may have been catalyzed as much by land scarcity as by ethnic tension. Africa's most densely populated country found itself nearly without enough land to make farmers trust that they and their children could support themselves. Though the slaughter of minority Tutsis was also ethnically motivated, land fears played no small part in the violence.

Zimbabwe Land grievances helped fuel the 12-year war that led to independence in 1979. But recent violence stems from land reform efforts. In the name of economic fairness, President Robert Mugabe seized white farms and turned them over to blacks, primarily government officials who knew little about farming. As a result, agricultural production plummeted, food became scarce, and inflation spiked. Mugabe held power in a 2008 election only with violent intimidation of Zimbabweans.

Combustible land disputes that could erupt in conflict

Burundi The past decade brought the return of more than a half-million refugees who'd fled violence that began with independence in 1963. Many found their homes occupied – and because laws give ownership to anyone who has peacefully occupied land for at least 30 years, many refugees lost their homes and livelihoods. Experts fear the grievance could spark renewed conflict.

South Africa At the 1994 transition to democracy, the government planned to redistribute 30 percent of white-owned farms to blacks within 20 years. Transfers are behind schedule, and more than half have failed. After an outbreak of racial violence last year, observers fear the status quo – with expectations so high, progress so slow, and livelihoods at stake – is combustible.

Southern Sudan The 2005 peace agreement that ended a 20-year fight for the south didn't resolve tensions between the nation's two land systems. Private property reform implemented in the north was rejected in the south, which continues to use traditional rules. Danger of a potential clash between parallel systems is amplified by what's at stake: The south is oil-rich.

Uganda After 20 years of violence in the north, peace is bringing people home – and disputes are erupting over who owns property. Eighty percent of Ugandans have property claims based on the traditional land system, but a generation of conflict has weakened the traditional authority, of elders to resolve disputes or enforce land rules. As the government steps in to fill the power vacuum, experts fear a backlash.

Zambia White farmers forced off land in neighboring countries, found fertile soils here, and were initially welcomed by the government (five years ago). The tone changed as some immigrant farmers agitated locals by putting down roots on traditional lands. New arrivals, especially those fleeing Zimbabwe, are closely scrutinized. Observers fear deepening tensions.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Al Qaeda is benefiting from civil unrest and economic woes in Yemen, says Fawaz Gerges

Editor's note: The following article by Fawaz A. Gerges (pictured here below), reprinted at the website of The London School of Economics (page last updated on 08 January 2010), first appeared as a Special on January 07, 2010 -- Updated 1548 GMT (2348 HKT).

Fawaz Gerges, who has done extensive field research in Yemen, is a professor of Middle Eastern politics and international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science, London University. Among his books is "The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global." Click here for his website

Click here for Google map of Yemen.

Al Qaeda has bounced back in Yemen

  • Al Qaeda is benefiting from civil unrest and economic woes in Yemen, says Fawaz Gerges
  • He says sending more aid, focusing on counterterrorism won't be a successful policy
  • He says Arab nations should take the lead, with U.S., Britain helping in the background
  • Gerges: It's crucial to tackle Yemen's social and political crisis
Fawaz A. Gerges
January 07, 2010 (CNN) - In his weekly address, President Obama said that the Christmas Day airline bomber acted under orders from an al Qaeda branch in Yemen, which 'trained him, equipped him with those explosives and directed him to attack that plane headed for America.'

Vowing to hold accountable all those involved in the attempted act of terrorism on Christmas, Obama sent a letter to his Yemeni counterpart, Ali Abdullah Saleh, delivered by Gen. David Petraeus, head of the U.S. Central Command, in which he pledged to double the $70 million in counterterrorism aid to the poverty-stricken country in 2009, a figure that does not include covert programs run by U.S. special forces and the CIA.

With the increase in security assistance, Yemen now tops Pakistan, which receives about $112 million, a clear indication of the growing threat of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (known as AQAP Yemen-based) in U.S. eyes.

American strategy is driven by assumptions that do not fully recognize the complexity and gravity of the situation in Yemen. The first premise is that with increased U.S. security assistance, the Yemen government will take the fight to al Qaeda and uproot it. Secondly, U.S. officials assume that confronting al Qaeda requires mainly counterterrorism measures.

What is alarming about the resurgence of this al Qaeda branch is its linkage to Yemen's deepening social and political crises and failing state institutions. In the last three years, against all odds, the al Qaeda branch has revived the central organization's declining fortune in the Arabian Peninsula and emerged as a potentially potent force.

AQAP numbers between 100 and 300 core operatives -- as many as those in Pakistan, though they are younger and lack the operational skills and sophistication of their Pakistani cohorts. Most are rookies with little combat experience, unlike the previous Afghanistan generation.

The structure and composition of the Yemen branch appears to have changed because of the merger with militant elements from Saudi Arabia last January, forming AQAP and revitalizing the jihadist network there. Some fighters had returned from war zones in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and have supplied military training and ideological motivation and leadership.

In 2007 I interviewed several hardened Yemeni and Saudi returnees from Iraq who made it clear that they would target America and Britain if U.S. and U.K. troops do not withdraw from Muslim lands. These hard-liners were neither bluffing nor making empty threats.

There are also some signs of cross-fertilization between AQAP and Somalia's al-Shabab, an al Qaeda like-minded group fighting for control of the war-torn country facilitated by the flow of thousands of Somali refugees to Yemen.

That is not the whole story, however. The recent revival of al Qaeda in Yemen is a product of a structural socioeconomic crisis and political divisions and fault lines that have pushed the country to the brink of all-out war. Al Qaeda is a parasite feeding on lawlessness, social and political instability, and abject poverty and despair.

Today Yemen is a fragile state with failing institutions and a collapsed economy. Forty percent of the country's 23 million people are unemployed. More than a third of the population is undernourished and almost 50 percent live in absolute poverty.

Yemen, the poorest Arab country, has one of the highest fertility rates. A huge youth explosion (60 percent of the population is under the age of 20) faces a grim future -- and radicalization.

With every visit to this stunningly beautiful country, I observe a deteriorating security situation and declining social conditions. It is now common to see many women of all ages clad in black from head to toe begging on the streets of major cities, an alarming sign of social breakdown in an ultraconservative Muslim society where women do not appear in public.

The sound of Soviet-made fighter jets often shatters the peace of the early hours of the morning. The jets are on their way to bomb Houthi (Shia) rebels in the Sada'adah province and the Harf Sufian district of Amran province, a mini-civil war in the north that has raged on and off for four years and has claimed more than a thousand lives, most of whom are civilians.

A secessionist movement in the south has gained momentum, with a sizable segment of southern public opinion demanding a divorce from the forced union imposed by the north in the early 1990s. What the al Qaeda branch has tried to do is to submerge and embed itself in these raging local conflicts and to position itself as the spearhead of opposition and resistance to the Saleh regime.

For example, al Qaeda has allied itself with tribes in the separatist south in the fight against the central government, a radical move because many separatists are socialist and not religiously inclined.

Ironically, in 1994 President Saleh relied greatly on jihadists and Islamists to subdue the socialist south and unify Yemen. From his base in Sudan, Osama bin Laden, whose father was born in Yemen, exhorted his men to fight the "Godless Marxists" in the south, who they massacred.

The al Qaeda-Yemen connection goes back to the foundation of the jihadist organization. Yemen has always had powerful Islamist and jihadist movements. In the 1980s, thousands of Yemenis joined the Afghan jihad against occupying Soviet forces and most returned home emboldened and militarized. Unlike their Middle Eastern counterparts, Yemeni returnees were welcomed by the Saleh regime.

In the early 1990s when bin Laden set up al Qaeda in Sudan and then in Afghanistan, he heavily and personally recruited Yemenis whom he trusted. Bin Laden, a Saudi, has often said he has a soft spot in his heart for Yemen because of its people's religiosity and tribal code of honor and hospitality and harsh, mountainous landscape. The Saudi-Yemeni contingent was the largest within the bin Laden organization, as well as in the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.

Many of his bodyguards, personal secretaries, drivers and cooks were Yemenis. AQAP chief Nasir al-Wuhayshi (reportedly killed by a U.S.-directed airstrike on December 24), once served as bin Laden's personal secretary. Bin Laden entrusted the protection and transportation of his wives and children to his Yemeni men, a fact that speaks volumes about his mindset.

U.S. officials appear to overestimate the capacity of the Yemen government to meet the multiple challenges and threats to its authority and integrity. Its security forces are spread thin. Four years after the outbreak of the Houthi rebellion, the state has failed to resolve it.

More importantly, the government can no longer deliver the social goods and patronage, historically solid underpinnings of the Saleh rule. The country has been badly affected by falling oil revenues (Yemen is the smallest oil producer in the Middle East), pervasive corruption, and the international financial downturn. After more than three decades in power, President Saleh's ability to co-opt adversaries and maintain friends has shrunk considerably, plunging Yemen into an uncertain future.

On its own, counterterrorism will most likely fail in expelling al Qaeda from Yemen's tribal areas and might trigger a backlash against the Saleh regime and its Western patrons.

Of all Middle Easterners, Yemenis voice strong anti-American foreign policy sentiments and take pride in sacrificing blood and treasure in defense of Arab and Muslim causes. Any U.S. policy course that neglects the local context will help al Qaeda sell its narrative to a receptive audience.

What Yemen desperately needs is a political and economic vision that tackles deteriorating security and social conditions and empowers state and society, not just the Saleh regime. This vision cannot be made in the USA.

Yemen's neighbors, particularly Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, along with the League of Arab States, should take the lead in finding solutions to Yemen's political and tribal divisions and providing the means to prevent Yemen from becoming a failed state. More than any other country, Saudi Arabia has more to lose by the breakdown of its next-door neighbor.

The United States and Great Britain should provide leadership and assistance in shepherding the reconstruction process through and ensuring that inclusive governance, transparency, and accountability are adhered to.

A good start is British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's call for a high-level international meeting this month to discuss ways of combating al Qaeda influence in Yemen. But the most effective means to combat al Qaeda is to to tackle Yemen's structural social and political crisis and to fully involve Yemen's Arab neighbors in the talks.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Fawaz A. Gerges.

Fawaz Gerges is a professor of Middle Eastern politics and international relations who has done extensive research in Yemen.

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World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick to visit Ethiopia during Africa tour

World Bank President to Visit Ethiopia During Africa Tour
From Abesha Bunna Bet online, Thursday, January 21, 2010:
(Ethiopia News) - World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick on Saturday January 30, arrives in Ethiopia at the start of a four-day visit, the last leg of his eight-day, three-nation Africa visit to help focus the attention of African governments, development partners and private investors on seizing the opportunity for renewed momentum in economic growth and overcoming poverty.

Although hit by the global food, fuel and financial crises, African governments have persisted in strengthening their economic policies as they pursue development, or rebuild after conflict.

Ahead of the trip, Zoellick noted that many sub-Saharan African countries had enjoyed a decade or more of solid growth before the crisis and it was important to preserve and expand on these gains by drawing investment to high growth areas.

“I am visiting Africa to learn about how its people have coped with the global economic crisis and to see how the World Bank Group can work with them to improve prospects for economic growth and expanded opportunity. Much of Africa has a solid record of economic growth, including in some of Africa’s fragile states, and it has the potential to be another pole of growth for the world economy,” Zoellick said.

Zoellick said that a combination of policy and institutional reforms and external resources are urgently needed to help build capacity, generate economic opportunities in fragile states, and lay the foundation for stability and overcoming poverty. He also called for policies and investments that would expand Africa’s share of global and intra-African trade by fostering regional integration and building crucial infrastructure in energy, transport and irrigation needed to promote agriculture, manufacturing and industrialization on the continent and for helping countries adapt to climate change.

At a working breakfast forum on the sidelines of the AU summit, which Zoellick is hosting jointly with African Development Bank President Donald Kaberuka, several African leaders will discuss the transformative impact that information and communications technologies (ICTs) can have on the continent.

“The skeptics wondered whether Africa was ready for a revolution in telecommunications. But African entrepreneurs, with the help of supportive government policies, changed the facts on the ground,” said Zoellick.

Acknowledging that private sector participation will continue to be key to take Africa to the next level of high-speed connectivity and to create jobs, the forum is expected to urge African leaders to further lift barriers to private sector investment in the sector. It is also expected to encourage African leaders and the private sector to take advantage of ICTs to advance agriculture, education and health sectors, and to similarly realize the considerable promise of other sectors.

During his trip, Zoellick will visit energy, agriculture and fishery projects that have benefited from World Bank support. He will hold working sessions with representatives of other donor agencies; discuss ways of boosting World Bank support to governmental and civil society organizations promoting peace, transparency, accountability, and good governance.

In Ethiopia, Zoellick will meet with African Heads of State attending the African Union summit, including the Prime Minister of Ethiopia Meles Zenawi. He will hold discussions with African leaders on climate change; visit a shoe-making factory owned by an Ethiopian female entrepreneur, and staffed by under-privileged Ethiopians who craft shoes retailed globally. He will also visit the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange which has helped the country transit rapidly from rudimentary methods of marketing agricultural products to the kind of sophisticated platforms offered by globally-accessible modern electronic facilities.

The World Bank has been helping to fight poverty and improve the living standards for the people of Ethiopia since 1945. This country is one of the largest beneficiaries of the World Bank’s concessional lending program, the International Development Association (IDA). 
The World Bank’s strategy for the period FY 2008-FY 2011 aims to help sustain the ‘dual take-off’ of growth and basic services by supporting the implementation of key elements of the governments’ poverty reduction strategy framework. 
The Bank’s lending and non-lending activities aim to support Ethiopia in sustaining high levels of investments in key areas (both physical and human capital as well as institutional capacity building), while addressing priority policy issues to maximize the impact of such spending. 
Currently, the Banks’ portfolio consists of 32 active projects worth around US$ 3.6 billion of which around US$ 2.1 billion is provided as credit and the remaining US$ 1.5 billion is provided as grant. 
These projects support among others, initiatives across a number of areas including Governance and Public Sector Development, Private Sector Development, Agriculture and Rural Development, Protection of Basic Services (PBS), Health and HIV/AIDS, Transport, Education, and Water Sector Development Programs. 
After eight years of absence, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) has re-established its role in helping growth become more private sector-led. It now has staff in Addis Ababa and is more actively engaged in key sectors. Multilateral International Guarantee Agency (MIGA) is exploring new opportunities to support investment in Ethiopia.

President Zoellick will be accompanied by the Bank’s Vice President for the Africa Region, Obiageli Ezekwesili, the Director for Strategy and Operations for the Region, Colin Bruce, the IFC Vice President for Africa, Thierry Tanoh, and the Country Director for Ethiopia and Sudan, Kenichi Ohashi.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Pass this on: Missing Persons Registry - Haitian Earthquake January 2010

Copy of message today on Twitter from Ushahidi's Erik Hersman:
Pass this on. Missing persons registry for #haiti is
about 4 hours ago from twhirl
Further reading

Patrick Meier's report at Ushahidi's blog, 13 January 2010: Our Efforts in Response to Haiti’s Earthquake - We’ve launched

Ethan Zuckerman's blog post at My Heart's in Accra, 13 January 2010: Following the Haitian earthquake online

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

London based Tullow Oil to prospect oil in Ethiopia

From Sudan Tribune, Thursday 7 January 2010:
British oil firm to prospect oil in Ethiopia
January 6, 2010 (LONDON) — The London based Tullow Oil, is expected to prospect oil in Ethiopia after a deal signed with the US SouthWest Energy which holds acreage in the Horn of Africa country.

According to the HIS International Oil Letter, a weekly news letter on oil industry, Tullow will explore oil in Ogaden basin in blocks 9a, 9, and 13. SouthWest Energy’s blocks cover a total area of approximately 29,000 sq. km in the north-east part of the Ogaden Basin.

The Ethiopian government believes that the Ogaden basin, which covers 350,000 sq km (135,100 sq miles), contains gas reserves of some 4 trillion cubic feet. Officials point to neighboring countries such as Sudan and Yemen as evidence there could be major oil deposits under Ethiopia’s deserts.

The Ethiopian government downplays threats by an active rebel group in the region and stresses there would be five basins out of the troubled region.

The rebel Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) attacked an oil field in April 2007 where the separatist group killed 74 people, including nine Chinese employees of Zhongyuan Petroleum Exploration Bureau, part of Sinopec, China’s biggest refiner and petrochemicals producer.

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