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Ed Webb

How Africa will become the center of the world's urban future - Washington Post - 0 views

  • by the end of this century, Africa will be the only continent experiencing population growth. Thirteen of the world’s 20 biggest urban areas will be in Africa — up from just two today — as will more than a third of the world’s population.
  • Set to become the world’s most populous city, Lagos faces all the challenges rapid growth poses, which can be boiled down to one: planning. Can solutions outpace the weight tens of millions of new inhabitants will place on a city that is low-slung and dense, situated on polluted lagoons and rivers, and short on public services?
  • Khartoum, Sudan: Unstable states like Sudan crumble first in their hinterlands, and in those moments of crisis, cities are beacons of safety, places for people to regroup, build new identities and forge political movements — even revolutions — that aim to bring peace back to places they had to abandon.
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  • Kinshasa, Congo: In a city whose geography still reflects segregationist colonial-era planning, where a handful of oligarchs lead gilded lives while the poor navigate systems broken by corruption and neglect, we get a glimpse of what it takes to break inequality’s shackles.
  • Mombasa, Kenya: The designs of foreign powers have molded African cities for centuries, especially along the continent’s coasts. From narrow-alleyed old towns to gleaming new container-shipping terminals, port cities like this one are layered with evidence of how budding empires, in the Arab world, Europe and now China, sought to remake them.
  • Abidjan, Ivory Coast: Despite fearmongering that Africa’s growing population will flood into wealthier parts of the world, cosmopolitan cities like this one draw most of Africa’s migrants and serve as models of tolerance, welcoming immigration policies and a reinvigorated Pan-African identity.
  • The traffic is a manifestation of what Lagosians fear most for their city: There is no plan. Lagos will balloon to 30 million, then 50 million, maybe even 100 million people, and meanwhile the government will keep unveiling new visions for the city that never come to fruition. Many doubt even its simplest promises, such as the impending inauguration of a single subway line that was supposed to open a decade ago.
  • Lagos emerges as the world’s most populous city at some point between now and 2100, in study after study. Changing the inputs affects only how soon and by how much.
  • A study published last year in the Lancet forecasts that Nigeria will become more populous than China by the end of the century, as birthrates rapidly shrink in some parts of the world — East Asia, eastern and southern Europe, the Caribbean — and level off in others, such as the United States, which is projected to have a similar population in 2100 as now.
  • Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania are all forecast to join Nigeria among the 10 most populous countries by 2100. North Africa and southern Africa, while continuing to grow, will do so at much lower rates than the rest of the continent.
  • “The people who govern this city are brutes, banning this and that left and right,” said Olushola, who, like countless others, pays off police officers to continue working. “We are providing a service that millions of people need 24/7. There is no alternative except to walk, and they ban us.”
  • Lawanson and other researchers cautioned against believing wholesale in projections of 80 million or even 100 million people in greater Lagos. Not because that’s infeasible, but because the city is already so strained, there’s no guarantee that people will continue to find the kind of economic opportunity that draws them here now.
  • in a city where the first and only major bridge over the lagoon was built decades ago, his assurance that not one but five more are being planned is scoffed at by many Lagosians — as are the four metro lines he says are “in the pipeline.”
  • For half a century now, displacement by catastrophe has been the main driver of growth in Khartoum. This is the biggest of a downtrodden club of African cities where people have brought their lives on donkey carts or in rickety trucks, far from hometowns abandoned because of conflict or climate change — or both.
  • “We cannot be like Dubai, which is a utopian aspiration some of our leaders have. We have to be the best Lagos we can be.”
  • “All the energy in the humanitarian world gets channeled toward emergencies, and so we don’t end up talking about what happens as a result — the big current underneath our work, which is massive urban influx,” said Bernard Lami, the IOM’s deputy head in Sudan.
  • Ivory Coast, where foreigners now account for nearly 20 percent of the country’s economy, more than anywhere else in Africa.
  • Around 40 percent of the world’s internally displaced people are in Africa
  • “There are millions of us living in these places that politicians never set foot in except to tear them down so they can make an industrial zone or new, big houses,”
  • In camps-turned-neighborhoods like Haj Yousif, long-oppressed groups from Sudan’s hinterlands discovered common histories and common cause. The city, after providing safety, became an organizing ground for groups that wanted to ensure that the safety was lasting. In Sudan, that meant first getting rid of Bashir.
  • “In the revolution, that’s partly what we were fighting against. There were big political issues, but it was also about mismanagement,” he added. “How long will it take for the needs of the people to become part of our governance? Ten, 20 years — or after we’re long gone? I guess it will always depend on us, the people, ourselves.”
  • Like many port cities, Mombasa is infused with distant cultures. From its centuries-old core, its expansion has been spurred by sultanates, seafaring mercantilists and great world powers, which all saw economic opportunity in its protected inlets.
  • The shifting dynamics have been a source of concern in Western capitals, which have seen their cachet on the continent decline. And the changes have spawned warnings from those same capitals to African governments that they are being tricked into debt traps that leave strategic resources and infrastructure vulnerable to Chinese takeover.That view has been increasingly discounted by scholars, in part because Chinese lenders have not requisitioned any major infrastructure projects even as debts continue to mount. Chinese loans to Africa also have declined after a high in 2013, the year China launched its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative to link its markets with the rest of the world.
  • loans laden with confidentiality clauses
  • Opaque loans and closer ties with Beijing have strengthened African governments that have little regard for democracy, human rights or economic equality
  • “We have deep water, we’re on the equator, we’re on the way from everywhere to everywhere else,” said Kalandar Khan, a historian of Kenya’s coast whose ancestors were brought from Baluchistan, in what is now Pakistan, to Mombasa four centuries ago by Omani sultans who employed them as mercenaries.
  • Mombasa, Kenya’s second-biggest city, is expected to grow rapidly as it accelerates its shift from being an outdated spice-route waypoint to a major global city that funnels goods to all of East Africa, a region with one of the world’s fastest-growing populations.
  • The United States in particular has sought to counter China’s ascent in Africa with questions about respect for human rights and the environment in Chinese-linked projects. The approach has not prevented any of those projects from pushing forward.
  • Responding to skepticism about Chinese intentions, many Africans simply ask: What is the problem with getting help to attain the same level of development others have? And who are Western governments to raise questions about human rights and accountability in Africa when their own record is atrocious?
  • she, like the majority of African migrants, did something many in the West might not expect, especially after a decade of fearmongering by populist politicians and a relentless focus in the media on the most desperate, perilous voyages in search of asylum.Gadji immigrated, legally, to another African country.
  • The majority of African migrants, both rich and poor, do not cross oceans, but rather land borders within Africa.Ninety-four percent of African migration across oceans takes a regular, legal form.At least 80 percent of Africans contemplating migration say they have no interest in leaving the continent.
  • Without new infrastructure to keep up with the growth, it now takes longer to cross Lagos from one edge to the other in a danfo than it does to fly to Lagos from Europe.
  • Like New York or Paris, Ivory Coast’s biggest city, Abidjan, is a cosmopolitan patchwork of neighborhoods where flavors, languages and histories overlap. As Africa’s population grows, Abidjan, Nairobi, Johannesburg and other cities across the continent that brim with opportunity will reap the dividends of that growth, especially if Western countries continue to suppress African migration flows off the continent.
  • In modern West Africa, home to 17 countries, locals often see borders as a hindrance — or even a fallacy — more useful to the Europeans who created them than the Africans who have to navigate them.
  • Despite relatively low historical levels of African migration to Europe, European Union member states have paid billions of dollars to West African governments over the past decade in return for strict enforcement of border controls aimed at preventing African migrants from reaching European shores.
  • “There are levels of irony here. Europe has integrated into a union, and yet they pay us to isolate ourselves,” said Issiaka Konate, a senior official in Ivory Coast’s ministry that promotes regional integration. “By doing so, they create an opportunity for criminal networks to operate in human trafficking, which has led to a profusion of armed groups and instability. Migration is not the political lightning rod in West Africa that it is in Europe. We welcome it.”
  • For most of its post-independence period, Ivory Coast has sought to lure migrants with relatively high wages, especially in its cocoa industry, the world’s largest. That alone has drawn millions from Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and others, and propelled Ivory Coast forward as the region’s best-performing economy.
  • Nearby countries such as Niger, which has the world’s highest birthrate and lowest standard of living, are replete with reasons to leave
  • The food stall’s owner said that in just five years, 15 young men like Amadou had come and gone, earning enough to go back home comfortably.“Garba makes us popular here. It is cheap, it is fast, it is tasty. People appreciate us,” Amadou said, explaining why he’d chosen Abidjan over Europe.“Europe is unimaginable to me. Very few people dream of Europe, frankly — and they are people you could say who dream too much.”
  • Europe has restricted the flow to exceptionally strong-willed migrants for whom the lure of Europe is hard to shake.
  • To an older generation of migrants, the fixation on Europe and the insistence that it’s the only place to make enough money to live the good life is a sinister myth driven by a few success stories.
  • “In my youth, there was no word ‘immigration’ — saying a fellow African is a foreigner is itself a foreign concept,” he said. “Well, it is an infectious concept and a political tool — the blame game, the creation of difference, those classic divide-and-rule mentalities of the West, are they not? It is a miseducation foisted upon us.”
Ed Webb

UAE and the Horn of Africa: A Tale of Two Ports - 0 views

  • On February 22, Djibouti seized control of the Doraleh Container Terminal from its joint owner and operator, the Dubai-based DP World. The seizure was not wholly unexpected and was the culmination of Djibouti's deteriorating bilateral ties with the United Arab Emirates and a lost legal battle with DP World to renegotiate the terms of the port concession that gave it a 33 percent equity stake in 2006. The London Court of International Arbitration Tribunal ruled against Djibouti's claims, lodged in 2014, that DP World paid bribes in order to secure the 30-year concession
  • Doraleh opened in 2009 and is the only container terminal in the Horn of Africa able to handle 15,000-ton container ships. It quickly became the most important entrepot for the region's largest country and economy, Ethiopia, which was rendered landlocked by Eritrea's independence in 1993. Ethiopia receives around 97 percent of its imports through Doraleh — around 70 percent of the port's activity — in what has become an unacceptable strategic reliance on a neighbor
  • the increasingly complex dynamics animating the geopolitics, and the more localized politics, being shaped by the competition among aspiring regional powers of the Middle East — particularly Gulf Arab states and Turkey — and China for influence in the Horn of Africa
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  • A year after DP World finalized an agreement with the semiautonomous region of Somaliland to develop a $442 million commercial port in Berbera, Ethiopia inked a deal with the port operator and Somaliland's government to acquire a 19 percent stake in the port. There are reportedly plans for DP World to upgrade the connectivity infrastructure linking Berbera to the Ethiopian border that would allow Addis Ababa and potentially greater East Africa to reduce their sole dependence on Djibout
  • Bashir also agreed to lease Turkey the Red Sea island of Suakin for development. Though Turkey has denied it, concerns quickly arose that Ankara planned to build a new military base on the island, which would be its second in the Horn of Africa with the first in the Somali capital of Mogadishu.
  • Along with the competition by outside players has come greater leverage for Horn of Africa countries, whose elites have long been adept at playing external patrons off one another. Ethiopia has to some degree succeeded in diluting Abu Dhabi's reliance on its enemy, Eritrea, by supporting its plans for the Berbera port. In 2015, after losing access to Djibouti for military operations, the UAE constructed a base in the coastal Eritrean city of Assab, which has been vital to its operations in southern Yemen. By supporting the UAE's military and commercial infrastructure plans in Somaliland, Ethiopia — the Horn of Africa's largest and most powerful country — also contributed to the fracturing of Somalia by encouraging the de facto consolidation of Somaliland's independence
  • In Sudan, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have led efforts to rehabilitate President Omar Bashir in the international community by lobbying for U.S. sanctions on Sudan to be lifted. Bashir agreed to cut ties with Iran and send troops to fight for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen
  • The intra-Gulf Cooperation Council crisis has added another destabilizing variable, as countries, parties, and elites in East Africa have been forced to choose sides
  • The confidence with which Horn of Africa elites are pursuing their own interests at the risk of angering new patrons underscores the high stakes for the participants in this so-called "new scramble for Africa," and also their long-term intent. Djibouti in particular emerged over the past decade as a strategic focal point next to the Bab el-Mandeb shipping lane, existential for the flow of Gulf energy to Europe and goods between Asia and Europe. It has leveraged its location for lucrative basing deals for current and emerging world powers alike. The United States, China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and former colonial ruler France all have bases in Djibouti.
  • the UAE's longer-term interests — as well as those of its competitors — are economic and strategic. The country is working to make itself an essential component of China's Belt and Road Initiative and secure Dubai's Jebel Ali as the key logistics and trade hub linking Asia to Africa via DP World infrastructure, in the face of competition by a glut of new ports built by rivals with similar ambitions in Iran, Pakistan, Oman, and elsewhere along the Horn of Africa
  • ports projects in Rwanda, Mozambique, Algeria, and Mali
  • State-backed and private investors from the UAE have invested in a wide range of non-energy sectors, from finance and banking to construction, tourism, food, entertainment, and agri-business
  • The UAE is also trying to make the nature of its engagement more attractive for African governments and private sector partners: Rather than following the path of China, which has been perceived negatively as following a pseudo-colonial model in Africa, it is looking more toward the Turkish model. Investments such as DP World's in Somalia or military bases come with packages of infrastructure investment, training, and education for workers and security forces, as well as inducements such as greater numbers of visas to the UAE
  • Food and water security continues to be an important interest for the UAE and other Gulf countries in East Africa. Emirati companies are seeking to avoid the political pitfalls that have caused past investments in land for food production to fail. Privately owned Al Dahra Holding, which owns farmland in Africa, claims to use a 50-50 sharing formula for produce with local companies and hires local workers
Ed Webb

The Coronavirus Oil Shock Is Just Getting Started - 0 views

  • People in the West tend to think about oil shocks from the perspective of the consumer. They notice when prices go up. The price spikes in 1973 and 1979 triggered by boycotts by oil producers are etched in their collective consciousness, as price controls left Americans lining up for gas and European governments imposed weekend driving bans. This was more than an economic shock. The balance of power in the world economy seemed to be shifting from the developed to the developing world.
  • If a surge in fossil fuel prices rearranges the world economy, the effect also operates in reverse. For the vast majority of countries in the world, the decline in oil prices is a boon. Among emerging markets, Indonesia, Philippines, India, Argentina, Turkey, and South Africa all benefit, as imported fuel is a big part of their import bill. Cheaper energy will cushion the pain of the COVID-19 recession. But at the same time, and by the same token, plunging oil prices deliver a concentrated and devastating shock to the producers. By comparison with the diffuse benefit enjoyed by consumers, the producers suffer immediate immiseration.
  • In inflation-adjusted terms, oil prices are similar to those last seen in the 1950s, when the Persian Gulf states were little more than clients of the oil majors, the United States and the British Empire
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  • Fiscal crises caused by falling prices limit governments’ room for domestic maneuver and force painful political choices
  • The economic profile of the Gulf states is not, however, typical of most oil-producing states. Most have a much lower ratio of oil reserves to population. Many large oil exporters have large and rapidly growing populations that are hungry for consumption, social spending, subsidies, and investment
  • In February, even before the coronavirus hit, the International Monetary Fund was warning Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that by 2034 they would be net debtors to the rest of the world. That prediction was based on a 2020 price of $55 per barrel. At a price of $30, that timeline will shorten. And even in the Gulf there are weak links. Bahrain avoids financial crisis only through the financial patronage of Saudi Arabia. Oman is in even worse shape. Its government debt is so heavily discounted that it may soon slip into the distressed debt category
  • Ecuador is the second Latin American country after Argentina to enter technical default this year.
  • Populous middle-income countries that depend critically on oil are uniquely vulnerable. Iran is a special case because of the punitive sanctions regime imposed by the United States. But its neighbor Iraq, with a population of 38 million and a government budget that is 90 percent dependent on oil, will struggle to keep civil servants paid.
  • Algeria—with a population of 44 million and an official unemployment rate of 15 percent—depends on oil and gas imports for 85 percent of its foreign exchange revenue
  • The oil and gas boom of the early 2000s provided the financial foundation for the subsequent pacification of Algerian society under National Liberation Front President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Algeria’s giant military, the basic pillar of the regime, was the chief beneficiaries of this largesse, along with its Russian arms suppliers. The country’s foreign currency reserves peaked at $200 billion in 2012. Spending this windfall on assistance programs and subsidies allowed Bouteflika’s government to survive the initial wave of protests during the Arab Spring. But with oil prices trending down, this was not a sustainable long-run course. By 2018 the government’s oil stabilization fund, which once held reserves worth more than one-third of GDP, had been depleted. Given Algeria’s yawning trade deficit, the IMF expects reserves to fall below $13 billion in 2021. A strict COVID-19 lockdown is containing popular protest for now, but given that the fragile government in Algiers is now bracing for budget cuts of 30 percent, do not expect that calm to last.
  • Before last month’s price collapse, Angola was already spending between one fifth and one third of its export revenues on debt service. That burden is now bound to increase significantly. Ten-year Angolan bonds were this week trading at 44 cents on the dollar. Having been downgraded to a lowly CCC+, it is now widely considered to be at imminent risk of default. Because servicing its debts requires a share of public spending six times larger than that which Angola spends on the health of its citizens, the case for doing so in the face of the COVID-19 crisis is unarguable.
  • Faced with the price collapse of 2020, Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed has declared that Nigeria is now in “crisis.” In March, the rating agency Standard & Poor’s lowered Nigeria’s sovereign debt rating to B-. This will raise the cost of borrowing and slow economic growth in a country in which more than 86 million people, 47 percent of the population, live in extreme poverty—the largest number in the world. Furthermore, with 65 percent of government revenues devoted to servicing existing debt, the government may have to resort to printing money to pay civil servants, further spurring an already high inflation rate caused by food supply shortages
  • The price surge of the 1970s and the nationalization of the Middle East oil industry announced the definitive end of the imperial era. The 1980s saw the creation of a market-based global energy economy. The early 2000s seemed to open the door on a new age of state capitalism, in which China was the main driver of demand and titans like Saudi Aramco and Rosneft managed supply
  • The giants such as Saudi Arabia and Russia will exploit their muscle to survive the crisis. But the same cannot so easily be said for the weaker producers. For states such as Iraq, Algeria, and Angola, the threat is nothing short of existential.
  • Beijing has so far shown little interest in exploiting the crisis for debt-book diplomacy. It has signaled its willingness to cooperate with the other members of the G-20 in supporting a debt moratorium.
  • In a century that will be marked by climate change, how useful is it to restore profits and prosperity based on fossil fuel extraction?
  • The shock of the coronavirus is offering a glimpse of the future and it is harsh. The COVID-19 crisis drives home that high-cost producers are on a dangerously unsustainable path that can’t be resolved by states propping up their uncompetitive oil sectors. Even more important is the need to diversify the economies of the truly vulnerable producers in the Middle East, North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America.
Ed Webb

Egyptian officials: Sisi's visit to Djibouti part of East Africa 'charm offensive' | Ma... - 1 views

  • The visit, which is the first by an Egyptian head of state to Djibouti, is part of what two officials in Cairo familiar with the arrangements say is a “charm offensive” in the Horn of Africa, where Egypt has been at loggerheads with Ethiopia over the filling and operation of the mega dam project on the Blue Nile and has been concerned over its relative lack of influence in the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea, an area it considers its backyard both for potential resource management along the Nile and commercial trade in the waterway leading into the Suez Canal.
  • Cairo’s image in the region took a hit when it sided with ousted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, according to two Egyptian officials, a move they say in retrospect was a mistake
  • The Djibouti visit comes after a flurry of defense cooperation agreements with Nile Basin countries since the start of the year, including Uganda, Kenya, Burundi and Sudan. These build on the framework provided by the Red Sea Council, of which Egypt formally became a member in November. The charter was signed by the foreign ministers of Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen in January 2020. Egypt and Sudan held joint military drills in Khartoum this week.
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  • since 2019, Egypt has become aware that Addis Ababa has been presenting Cairo as a “North African, Arab country” that doesn’t care about the rest of the continent
  • Egypt’s foreign policy in the Horn is also about re-establishing a security presence over the Bab al-Mandeb, the strait leading into the Red Sea and Suez Canal, where Egypt had grown concerned about the increased presence of foreign powers
  • By establishing a presence in East Africa, Egypt will have the opportunity to cooperate with international powers that are trying to expand their presence in the region, including the US, Russia, and China, says one of the Egyptian officials, adding that this cooperation could take the form of trade agreements, combatting “terrorism” or controlling irregular migration
  • Egypt has grown increasingly worried about the role of the Emirates, which has become a major power broker and the principal architect of the security framework in the fiercely competitive Red Sea, with bases in Berbera, Somaliland; Bosaso, Somalia; and several coastal ports in Yemen, where it had fought alongside the Saudi-led coalition since 2015.
  • while Turkey and Egypt have publicized their quiet rapprochement, Turkey has made its own prominent foray into East Africa: signing a military cooperation with Niger last year; being invited by Somalia, to whom Turkey has long provided aid, to explore for oil in its seas; and holding high-level talks with Ethiopian officials.
  • A consultant for the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s Africa policy previously told Mada Masr that Turkey’s “developing relations with Ethiopia is a direct answer to Egypt. There are two dimensions. We want to develop our relations with Ethiopia, and we want to develop our relations with an Ethiopia that is stronger against Egypt. A strong Ethiopia against Egypt is something that Turkey wants.”
Ed Webb

Revealed: The U.S. military's 36 code-named operations in Africa - 0 views

  • a panoply of named military operations and activities U.S. forces have been conducting from dozens of bases across the northern tier of Africa. Many of these operations are taking place in countries that the U.S. government does not recognize as combat zones, but in which U.S. troops are nonetheless fighting and, in several cases, taking casualties
  • Between 2013 and 2017, U.S. special operations forces saw combat in at least 13 African countries
  • Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Somalia, South Sudan and Tunisia
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  • code-named operations cover a variety of different military missions, ranging from psychological operations to counterterrorism
  • Eight of the named activities, including Obsidian Nomad, are so-called 127e programs, named for the budgetary authority that allows U.S. special operations forces to use certain host-nation military units as surrogates in counterterrorism missions
  • These programs are “specifically designed for us to work with our host nation partners to develop small — anywhere between 80 and 120 personnel — counterterrorism forces that we’re partnered with,” said Bolduc. “They are specially selected partner-nation forces that go through extensive training, with the same equipment we have, to specifically go after counterterrorism targets, especially high-value targets.”
  • Yahoo News does not claim that this list is comprehensive.
  • The umbrella operation for the mission that resulted in the deadly ambush in Niger, Juniper Shield is the United States’ centerpiece counterterrorism effort in northwest Africa and covers 11 nations: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia. Under Juniper Shield, U.S. teams rotate in every six months to train, advise, assist and accompany local partner forces to conduct operations against terrorist groups, including ISIS-West Africa, Boko Haram and al Qaida and its affiliates.
  • In 2010, the first head of Africa Command, Army Gen. William “Kip” Ward, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Operation Objective Voice was an “information operations effort to counter violent extremism by leveraging media capabilities in ways that encourage the public to repudiate extremist ideologies.” Coordinated with other government agencies, this propaganda effort included “youth peace games” in Mali, a film project in northern Nigeria, and, according to his successor, Army Gen. Carter Ham, a “variety of messaging platforms, such as the African Web Initiative, to challenge the views of terrorist groups.” Objective Voice continues today.
  • OBSIDIAN LOTUS: A 127e activity concentrated on Libya, in which U.S. commandos trained and equipped Libyan special operations forces battalions. One of those units ended up under the control of renegade warlord Gen. Khalifa Haftar
  • Information on which operations the following bases support was partially redacted: Douala, Garoua and Maroua (all Cameroon); N’Djamena, Chad; Bangui, Central African Republic; Diffa, Dirkou, Madama and Niamey (all Niger). The list of operations supported by Tobruk and Tripoli (both Libya) was fully redacted. Other data were likely withheld completely.
Ed Webb

When is a nation not a nation? Somaliland's dream of independence | News | The Guardian - 0 views

  • in Somaliland, there is never any question that you are in a real country. After all, the place has all the trappings of countryhood. When I arrived at the airport, a customs officer in a Somaliland uniform checked my Somaliland visa, issued by the Somaliland consulate in Washington DC. At the airport, there was a Somaliland flag. During my visit, I paid Somaliland shillings to drivers of cabs with Somaliland plates who took me to the offices of ministers of the Somaliland government
  • according to the US Department of State, the United Nations, the African Union and every other government on Earth, I was not in Somaliland, a poor but stable and mostly functional country on the Horn of Africa. I was in Somalia
  • Unlike South Sudan before its independence, Somaliland’s claim for statehood is based not on a redrawing of colonial borders, but an attempt to re-establish them. Unlike Taiwan, it is shackled not to a richer, more powerful country, but a poorer, weaker one. Unlike Palestine, its quest for independence is not a popular cause for activists around the world
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  • What separates “real” from “self-proclaimed” countries is simply the recognition of other countries. There’s no ultimate legal authority in international relations that decides what is or isn’t a real country, and differences of opinion on that question are common. What separates the Somalilands of the world from, say, Sweden is that Sweden is recognised by its peers
  • what would happen if you created a new country and no one noticed?
  • Try to book a hotel in Somaliland online from the US and you are likely to be referred to a travel advisory stating: “The US Department of State warns US citizens to avoid travel to Somalia because of continuous threats by the al-Qaida affiliated terrorist group, al-Shabaab.” But once you’re there, you quickly realise that such warnings are unnecessary. Hargeisa is one of the safest large cities in Africa, and, aside from the pollution and the traffic, there’s not too much to be concerned about when you’re walking around, although foreigners travelling outside the capital have been required to hire an armed guard since the killing of four foreign aid workers by bandits in 2004
  • Adan was Somalia’s first qualified nurse-midwife, and the first Somali woman to drive. She spent years as a UN and WHO official before returning to Somaliland to build the hospital with her own savings; for all its limitations on personnel and equipment, it is one of the premier facilities in the Horn of Africa. She’s been called the Muslim Mother Teresa for her work in promoting women’s health and campaigning against female genital mutilation. She also served for several years as Somaliland’s foreign minister, continuing to deliver babies while on the job.
  • It shouldn’t be surprising that today the territory where the colonising power had more ambitious state-building goals is the more unstable. There is evidence from studies of regions of India and other parts of Africa to support the notion that postcolonial countries where colonisers had a lighter touch turned out better in the long term.
  • On 26 June 1960, the former Protectorate of Somaliland became fully independent from British rule, its independence recognised by 35 countries around the world, including the US. The next day, its new legislature passed a law approving a union with the south. On 1 July, Somalia became independent from Italy, and the two were joined together. It is a decision Somaliland has regretted almost ever since.
  • During the 1980s, with support for Barre and his harsh military regime eroding, a primarily Isaaq northern rebel group known (somewhat misleadingly), as the Somali National Movement (SNM) emerged to challenge rule from Mogadishu. The crackdowns that followed simply added to the perception that the north was a region under occupation. This culminated in an all-out civil war between the SNM and the central government in the late 80s, during which thousands were killed and millions fled.
  • “It’s the elders who really made this peace,”
  • Whereas Somaliland had been considered a backwater by the British, and therefore left mostly to govern itself through the existing clan structure, Italy considered Somalia an integral part of its short-lived ambitions to build a north African empire that also included modern-day Libya and parts of Egypt.
  • Non-recognition by western powers is having an impact on the status of women as well, Adan argued, saying that western countries’ lack of engagement was opening the door to the influence of fundamentalists from the Gulf. She pointed to an old photo of herself as first lady in a chic cocktail dress: “You see my pictures! We never used to cover ourselves from head to toe,” she said. “We had necks, we had hair, we were people. Others are getting into Somaliland faster than the west. And if that keeps on like this, heaven help us.”
  • Its main industry is livestock export, which accounts for about 70% of jobs. Its main customers are in the Middle East, and business picks up during the annual hajj in Mecca. With few opportunities at home, it’s not surprising that an estimated 44% of unemployed youth have stated their intention to migrate.
  • A large number of people are also dependent on $500m per year in remittances from the roughly million-strong Somaliland diaspora living for the most part in Britain, the US, Scandinavia and elsewhere in Africa. This isn’t unusual for developing countries, but officials are understandably worried that this flow of cash from abroad is a finite resource
  • The twin hopes for the Somali economy are oil exploration – currently being carried out by a handful of hardier energy firms off the coast – and a plan by Dubai Ports World to develop the Red Sea port of Berbera, which could conceivably be an alternative means of bringing goods by sea into landlocked Ethiopia. But it’s hard to imagine that plan taking off without a serious improvement in roads and infrastructure, and that probably requires international investment
  • Although it’s true that Somaliland voluntarily erased the border with Somalia in 1960, Somalilanders don’t consider that decision irreversible. As Somalilanders often point out, theirs wouldn’t be the first country to back out of a postcolonial merger. Senegal and the Gambia, a narrow strip of a country located completely within Senegal’s territory, were joined together as the confederation of Senegambia from 1982 to 1989. Egypt and Syria were briefly joined together as the United Arab Republic from 1958 until 1961, when Syria seceded. If these countries couldn’t make their marriages work, why, Somalilanders ask, should Somaliland be stuck in a loveless alliance?
  • For Somaliland, the frustrating reality is that the world map is preserved in place less by international law or even custom than by what’s sometimes called “path dependence” – the thousands of small decisions that, over time, lead to the creation of institutions, and that are very hard to unmake without massive disruption. Countries tend to stay the way they are, and people, with some justification, believe it would be awfully difficult and dangerous to change them.
  • We are treated as de facto independent – it is only the de jure recognition of sovereignty [we lack]
  • International organisations such as the African Union and the Arab League are hostile to the idea of recognising further territorial divisions. Countries wary of their own separatist movements don’t want to establish any sort of precedent. The UN, which has invested enormous resources in promoting stability and unity in Somalia as a whole, views Somaliland as a hindrance to those goals rather than any sort of beacon of stability. Somaliland’s neighbour Ethiopia mostly supports it, but given Addis Ababa’s wariness about its own Somali separatists, it likely prefers the status quo – a weak and divided Somalia – rather than a strong independent Somali state on its borders. The two most recent instances of country creation in Africa – autocratic, impoverished Eritrea and anarchic, violent South Sudan – have not bolstered Somaliland’s argument that its recognition would be a boon to regional and global stability.
  • the US NGO Freedom House classified it as an “emerging democracy”, and it is the only country in its region considered at least “partly free” or higher on the group’s annual rankings
  • “Being a peaceful, democratic and developing state isn’t helping Somaliland gain international recognition,” said Hagi. “Somaliland is very quiet. It’s a peaceful place. The international community doesn’t really care about a peaceful place. When there is a problem in a country, the international community is always there – Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Libya. When there’s no problem there, there’s no point in coming to build a state.”
  • The world will continue to defend an abstract principle of territorial integrity in the face of the clear will of the people of Somaliland.
  • Looking at the decades of support given by the US to dictators such as Mobutu Sese Seko, or considering the destabilising role of western oil companies in countries such as Nigeria, there’s a case to be made that if that’s what engagement with the outside world means for fragile African states, maybe Somaliland has been better off without it.
Ed Webb

Brussels fast-tracks migration deal with Cairo amid Gaza migration fears | Article | Af... - 0 views

  • As regional tensions rise, European Commission officials are urgently trying to finalise a 'cash for migration control' deal with President Abdel Fattah el Sisi's government. Brussels is likely to offer cash job creating projects and to help the country's green transition, although details are sparse on how the funds will be allocated.
  • Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Vice-President Margaritis Schinas have been bullish about striking migration control deals modelled on their July agreement with Tunisia. Yet this looks shaky after President Kaïs Saïed returned a payment of €60 million to the Commission
  • Others, including EU High Representative on Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, point to human rights abuses in Egypt. EU officials worry about the effects of the Israel-Hamas war on the bloc's relations with North Africa where there have been mass protests in support of the Palestinian cause over the past two weeks and criticism of western policy
Ed Webb

Turkey pledges 15 million Covid vaccine doses for Africa in goodwill gesture - 0 views

  • Ankara has invested heavily in developing trade and diplomatic ties with the world's poorest continent during Erdogan's rule as prime minister and then president since 2003.Speaking to dozens of attending leaders and ministers, Erdogan said Turkey would ship 15 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to Africa, where cases are rapidly rising and vaccination rates are low.
  • Erdogan said Turkey wanted to strengthen relations with Africa in a wide range of areas including health, defence, energy, agriculture and technology.
  • Turkey and African countries agreed to strengthen cooperation in several fields, including health "through further health sector investments".
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  • Trade between Turkey and Africa has grown in the past 20 years from $5.4 billion to $25.3 billion (4.8 billion euros to 22.5 billion euros) last year.
  • Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the third Turkish-African summit -- by far the largest to date -- was being attended by 16 African heads of state and 102 ministers, including 26 top diplomats.
  • Erdogan also held one-on-one meetings with African heads of state, including Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who have both expressed an interest in Turkey's defence industry.
Ed Webb

Seven Ways to Steady a Tunisia under New Attack | Crisis Group - 0 views

  • The Ben Guerdane attack was repulsed by security forces but marks a new departure. It is unprecedented since the “Gafsa coup” of 27 January 1980, when a raiding party armed by Libya and supported by Algerian military intelligence took control of the central Tunisian city of Gafsa and called for a popular revolt
  • It was an attempt at a local insurrection, coordinated by some 50 members of IS sleeper cells in Ben Guerdane
  • The mental geography espoused by IS does not adhere to the borders established in North Africa in the twentieth century. Experts on the group say IS members dream of re-establishing the historic borders of the Aghabid dynasty (800-901), which ruled a semi-independent emirate roughly based on the ancient Roman province of Africa Proconsularis, including Tripolitania (western Libya), most of modern day Tunisia and the eastern half of Algeria. In this vision, Ben Guerdane is a strategic nexus point of a “liberated” zone that would tie south-eastern Tunisia to western Libya. The city’s business life has long been dominated by a parallel economy based on an informal foreign currency exchange market and smuggling; it could become a convergence point between jihadis and regional criminal networks.
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  • Tunisia will have to do more to preserve the culture of compromise and civil society inclusion in 2013-14
  • The Tunisia-Libya border cannot be secured without the close collaboration of the local population, especially the smuggling cartels operating in the area. Trying to combat these at the same time as jihadis would dissipate energy and likely feed local resentment of the state, since so much of the local economy depends on this smuggling. In order to secure their cooperation, Crisis Group has argued that the government should consider the creation of free trade zones at the border that would legitimise at least part of the border trade.
Ed Webb

Cairo gives priority to Africa - Politics - Egypt - Ahram Online - 0 views

  • the third Africa Investment Forum and the Intra-African Trade Fair, gatherings that seek to boost trade between Egypt and Africa
  • Egypt will also chair the African Union (AU) in 2019 and host the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) meeting in 2020.
  • Egypt previously served as president of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1964, 1989 and 1993. Cairo has long played a significant continental role, supporting the struggle for liberation by African countries throughout the 1950s.
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  • Egypt was suspended from the AU following the 30 June Revolution. Its full membership was restored following the election of Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi as president.
  • Egypt was one of the founding members of the OAU in 1963 and when the organisation became the African Union in 2002 Cairo was one of the first Arab capitals to sign the AU’s Constitutive Act.
  • Egypt also contributed to establishing COMESA and the Community of Sahel-Saharan States. With Angola, South Africa, Algeria and Nigeria it is one of the top five contributors to the AU budget, providing 12 per cent of the total, and has participated in eight of the United Nations’ nine peacekeeping missions in Africa.
Ed Webb

DoD Unprepared For The Global War On Terror's Next Front: Africa - 1 views

  • It appears that Africa will almost certainly become the next major front in the Global War on Terror. According to Congressional Research Service Africa analyst Lauren Ploch, the return of foreign fighters from Iraq and Syria to their home countries in Africa will pose a huge problem for DoD. Tunisia has the highest recorded number of foreign fighters who have traveled to Iraq and Syria ever; Libya’s weak borders and milieu of non-state armed actors make it an appealing safe haven for ISIS escapees; in the Lake Chad Basin, Boko Haram has split into two factions aligned with ISIS and al Qaeda, respectively; Somalia remains fertile ground for al Shabaab terror recruits; even Egypt may reach the limit of its security capabilities in responding to cascading regional threats.
  • U.S. involvement in the Saudi military intervention in Yemen has plunged the Pentagon into two distinct engagements: one in support of the Saudis, and one against al Qaeda and ISIS. These tensions are most pronounced not in the Lake Chad Basin, according to Ploch, but the Horn of Africa and countries bordering the Red Sea that are subject to the overlapping geopolitical rivalries the Trump administration detailed in its National Defense Strategy.
  • “Waterfront property in the African countries along the Red Sea seems to be an increasingly hot commodity: The U.S. and France have had military facilities in Djibouti for over a decade, but the country is getting increasingly crowded. China just opened a base and Saudi Arabia is in talks for one.”
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  • “Fragile states, governments not in control of their territory …  People can set up camp and do whatever they want. Nothing will change in Libya or Somalia or parts of the Sahel like Mali or Niger. There are terror groups operations there that aren’t even connected to international terror … who we used to go in and target in places like the eastern Congo. We’re not doing those things. There’s no appetite for that.”
  • “In terms of AFRICOM’s ‘bread and butter’ activities — namely security cooperation — it is still somewhat unclear how DoD and the [Trump] administration will prioritize limited resources; AFRICOM’s security cooperation spending was down in 2017 from the previous few years.”
  • These training missions “are five guys deploying to a country they’ve never heard of and trying to professionalize military justice, or even just get troops to walk in a straight line,” she told Task & Purpose. “[AFRICOM] was given an impossible task and no money to do it, and they have to deal with lots of people who like to operate without oversight and take advantage of this. It is not their fault.”
  • ‘training and equipping’ — or more often ‘equipping and training’ — isn’t enough,”
Ed Webb

Russian Mercenaries in Great-Power Competition: Strategic Supermen or Weak Link? | RAND - 2 views

  • Russia's worst-kept secret is its increasingly heavy reliance on private security contractors—really, mercenaries—to maintain a Russia-favorable global status quo and to undermine its competitors' interests. This reliance on mercenaries stems from a known capability gap
  • Russia's military has strictly limited ability to project ground power worldwide. It has almost no organic ability to project and sustain ground power more than a few hundred kilometers beyond its own borders. Russian strategic lift is anemic compared to Soviet-era lift. Available forces are often tied down in one of the many frozen conflicts that ring Russia's western and southern borders.
  • Even a strong de facto dictator like Vladimir Putin cannot deploy one-year conscripts beyond Russia's borders without incurring significant political risk
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  • Unlike the Soviet Union, Russia is not a global ground combat power.
  • Russia has employed heavily armed mercenaries from the notorious Wagner Group and a range of other (PDF) government-cozy (and perhaps government-run) companies as the tip of the Russian foreign policy spear. In effect, Russia has outsourced its foreign policy in Libya, Syria, the Central African Republic, Madagascar, Mozambique, Sudan, Ukraine, Yemen, Burundi, and other global hot spots.
  • Dmitry Utkin, former commander of the Russian military intelligence directorate's (GRU's) Spetsnaz special forces units, allegedly founded the Wagner Group in 2014. Wagner and an elite GRU Spetsnaz unit reportedly share a military base in the Russian town of Molkino.
  • RAND's work on will to fight—the disposition and decision to fight, act, or persevere in conflict and war—and on Russian state power suggests that Russia is using mercenaries due in great part to its inherent military and civil weaknesses. Russian mercenaries (in fact, all mercenaries) also have behavioral limitations and vulnerabilities to influence. Dependence on mercenaries also reflects a vulnerability in Russian national will to fight. Both of these weaknesses can be exploited.
  • The employment of private forces within the spectrum of both domestic and interstate rivalry has been more norm than anomaly throughout most of recorded history.
  • Mercenary soldiers with the Wagner Group (formerly Moran Security Group, and then Slavonic Corps Limited) and other Russian mercenary groups like Patriot, took the lead in some of the more dangerous frontline operations in Syria while uniformed Russian soldiers guarded air and naval bases along Syria's coastline
  • In February 2018, Russian-hired mercenaries led (or at least closely accompanied) a Syrian militia force armed with artillery and heavy tanks to seize an oilfield near the city of Deir az-Zour in northeastern Syria. American Special Operations Forces and Marines decimated them with hours of precision air attacks, killing perhaps (PDF) hundreds and causing the rest of the force—including the mercenaries—to flee. As Russian-hired mercenary personnel retreated from the battlefield at Deir az-Zour, other teams of Russian private military actors had to call in helicopter teams to evacuate the wounded from the battlefield in the absence of state support.
  • Russian mercenaries have also performed poorly in Africa. In Mozambique, Wagner mercenaries stumbled through the kinds of partner-building efforts at which U.S. special operations forces tend to excel. They offended the locals and reportedly double-crossed allies to make money. Islamic State insurgents have successfully attacked and killed them on poorly secured roads. Mercenary disinformation tactics in Mozambique backfired. What was billed as a Russian power play in a former Soviet client state looks like a disaster in the making.
  • Wagner sent hundreds of trainers and security personnel to the Central African Republic to help Russian commercial interests secure mining rights and to support a complex regional diplomatic push to increase Russian influence. There has been little pretense in this operation: It is primarily a money-making venture. In one case, Wagner mercenaries reportedly helped the rebels they were hired to fight in order to help a Russian mining company gain access to diamond mines. Wagner has been linked to the suspicious deaths of three journalists who were nosing around its CAR operations. This Russian mercenary-led deployment has been partially successful in countering French influence, but it is not clear that reported successes on the ground outweigh the lasting, negative consequences of Wagner's cutthroat behavior.
  • Russia sent mercenaries and probably some active military forces to support Khalifa Haftar's anti-government forces in Libya. In early 2020, 1,000 Wagner mercenaries reportedly fled the front lines between pro- and anti-government forces after suffering a resounding defeat. Combat losses for Wagner in Libya are unknown but possibly significant.
  • as individuals and as a group, Russian mercenaries have repeatedly shown that they will pursue self-interest and commercial interests over state interests, and that they will quickly abandon partner forces—and perhaps each other—when the tactical risks fail to outweigh the financial rewards.
  • There is no shortage of genuine tough guys in groups like Wagner and Patriot. Under the will to fight factor of quality, many Russian mercenaries would earn high marks for fitness and resilience. But outright toughness and even elite military training alone cannot sustain the will to fight of an individual primarily motivated by money.
  • Together, the weaknesses within Russian mercenary forces and within the Russian state in relation to press-ganged youths, conscripts, and casualties may offer ready opportunities for exploitation in great-power competition. These broader weaknesses in Russian national will to fight could be examined to identify more ways to prevent Russia from aggressively undermining Western democracy.
Ed Webb

What UAE's growing presence in Somaliland means for its Horn of Africa strategy - Al Mo... - 1 views

  • the UAE is locked in a struggle with Turkey and Qatar for geopolitical influence. The expansion of Emirati investments in Berbera strengthens the UAE’s ability to compete with Qatar’s Hobyo seaport project and the Turkish Albayrak Group’s 14-year contract to manage the Port of Mogadishu.
  • A Somali political analyst told Al-Monitor that Qatar would be happy if the federal government “scolds the UAE” and stated that “Turkey won’t lose a lot of sleep on the UAE move, as there is widespread support for Turkey in Somalia.”
  • even if the UAE uses its expanded presence in Somaliland as a launchpad for deeper relations with the Somali opposition, Turkey will be able to maintain positive relations with any authority that takes power in Mogadishu
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  • could reflect a sea change in the UAE’s power projection tactics on the Red Sea and the Horn of Africa. On the surface, it appears as if the UAE is retrenching from the region. In October 2019, the UAE officially withdrew its military presence from Aden, and on Feb. 18, the UAE dismantled its base in Assab, Eritrea, which assisted its military intervention in southern Yemen.
  • UAE is reorienting its Red Sea strategy away from direct military intervention and toward a synthesis of economic investment and remote power projection. The UAE’s transition from a security-premised to economy-focused strategy in Somaliland, which was illustrated by Abu Dhabi’s September 2019 conversion of its proposed military base in Berbera into a civilian airport, was a critical dimension of its strategic reorientation. The UAE’s expanded economic footprint in Somaliland, which will result from Naqbi’s appointment, is complemented by its prospective construction of an Ethiopia-Eritrea oil pipeline and provisions over $200 million to Sudan’s agriculture sector.
  • UAE is also quietly consolidating a sphere of influence around the Bab el-Mandeb Strait
  • If the UAE’s closer economic cooperation with Somaliland extends to the security sphere, as Gabobe postulates, Abu Dhabi will be able to expand its maritime security role in this region, even though it is not part of the formal Red Sea coalition established in January 2020.
  • The UAE’s expanded influence in Somaliland will sharpen its rivalries with Turkey and Qatar in the Horn of Africa and complement its residual network of Southern Transitional Council-aligned militias in southern Yemen.
Ed Webb

Black Lives Matter skirts North Africa despite everyday racism - France 24 - 0 views

  • the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, most observers agree, has not triggered a major debate on racism or police violence against black Africans within the Maghreb region itself.Only Tunis saw a small demonstration in early June of around 200 locals and foreigners, at the call of the association Mnemty.The protest was "a message for African Americans from Mother Africa to say 'We are with you'," said its leader, Saadia Mosbah, a dark-skinned Tunisian.
  • a long-standing culture of silence about race.
  • "We have to wage a permanent struggle against these verbal abuses," said Algerian sociologist Mohamed Saib Musette."Some Algerians forget that they themselves are Africans." Interracial marriages are rare in North Africa, he said, and "very few TV stars, civil servants or political leaders are dark-skinned".
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  • In Morocco, a coalition of associations in 2014 launched an anti-racism campaign in support of sub-Saharan migrants with the message "Massmiytich Azzi!", literally, "Don't call me a black man".After a string of attacks in Tunisia, including a violent assault against an Ivorian woman, Mnemty successfully lobbied parliament into adopting a law against hate speech in October 2018.
  • In Morocco, a coalition of associations in 2014 launched an anti-racism campaign in support of sub-Saharan migrants with the message "Massmiytich Azzi!", literally, "Don't call me a black man".After a string of attacks in Tunisia, including a violent assault against an Ivorian woman, Mnemty successfully lobbied parliament into adopting a law against hate speech in October 2018.
  • And the Algerian parliament followed suit in April 2020, reflecting, according to Musette, the fact that the reality of racism "is there and must be fought".
  • And the Algerian parliament followed suit in April 2020, reflecting, according to Musette, the fact that the reality of racism "is there and must be fought".
  • Slavery was first formally abolished in the region by Tunisia in 1846. French-colonised Algeria partially followed suit two years later, while Morocco under French mandate only did so in 1922.
  • Slavery was first formally abolished in the region by Tunisia in 1846. French-colonised Algeria partially followed suit two years later, while Morocco under French mandate only did so in 1922.
  • modern-day slave markets have been reported in war-torn Libya, where desperate migrants suffer horrific abuse at the hands of human traffickers
  • In the absence of official data, non-government groups estimate there are more than 200,000 African foreigners in Algeria, and tens of thousands in both Morocco and Tunisia.
  • Algeria and Tunisia bar foreign Africans from obtaining residency papers unless they are students.Only Morocco has exceptionally granted residency rights to some 50,000 people, mostly from West Africa, since 2014.
  • Algeria and Tunisia bar foreign Africans from obtaining residency papers unless they are students.Only Morocco has exceptionally granted residency rights to some 50,000 people, mostly from West Africa, since 2014.
Ed Webb

How the coup in Niger could expand the reach of Islamic extremism, and Wagner, in West ... - 0 views

  • Niger, which until Wednesday’s coup by mutinous soldiers had avoided the military takeovers that destabilized West African neighbors in recent years.
  • a Francophone region where anti-French sentiment had opened the way for the Russian private military group Wagner.
  • Signaling Niger’s importance in the region where Wagner also operates, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited in March to strengthen ties and announce $150 million in direct assistance, calling the country “a model of democracy.”Now a critical question is whether Niger might pivot and engage Wagner as a counterterrorism partner like its neighbors Mali and Burkina Faso, which have kicked out French forces. France shifted more than 1,000 personnel to Niger after pulling out of Mali last year.
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  • Niger has been a base of international military operations for years as Islamic extremists have greatly expanded their reach in the Sahel. Those include Boko Haram in neighboring Nigeria and Chad, but the more immediate threat comes from growing activity in Niger’s border areas with Mali and Burkina Faso from the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara and the al-Qaida affiliate Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin, known as JNIM.
  • Mali’s military junta last month ordered the 15,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping mission to leave, claiming they had failed in their mission. However, Wagner forces remain there, accused by watchdogs of human rights atrocities.
  • The United States in early 2021 said it had provided Niger with more than $500 million in military assistance and training programs since 2012, one of the largest such support programs in sub-Saharan Africa. The European Union earlier this year launched a 27 million-euro ($30 million) military training mission in Niger.
  • The U.S. has operated drones out of a base it constructed in Niger’s remote north as part of counterterrorism efforts in the vast Sahel. The fate of that base and other U.S. operational sites in the country after this week’s coup isn’t immediately known.
  • West Africa’s Sahel region has become one of the world’s deadliest regions for extremism. West Africa recorded over 1,800 extremist attacks in the first six months of this year, resulting in nearly 4,600 deaths, a top regional official told the United Nations Security Council this week.
  • Niger is one of the world’s poorest countries, struggling with climate change along with migrants from across West Africa trying to make their way across the Sahara en route toward Europe. It has received millions of euros of investment from the EU in its efforts to curb migration via smugglers.
Ed Webb

Is Tunisia Abandoning Morocco for Algeria? - 0 views

  • Power balances in North Africa are shifting. The latest indication that Algeria’s star is rising—along with European demand for its natural gas—as Moroccan influence wanes was all but confirmed by Tunisia’s decision to include the leader of the Western Sahara independence movement the Polisario Front in an investment conference, a move seemingly designed to ruffle feathers in Morocco.
  • For decades, Tunisia has looked on, maintaining its neutral stance as both sides jockeyed for dominance. However, by appearing to have unilaterally invited Brahim Ghali, the Polisario leader and president of the self-declared Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, to a conference it was holding in tandem with Japan, that neutrality has come into question. Moreover, for many observers, the invitation confirmed what many suspected: that Tunisia is growing increasingly close to Algeria, potentially at the expense of its historically close ties with Morocco, while Rabat’s relations with Japan, which Tunis enjoys a burgeoning relationship with, are cast into doubt.
  • His presence appeared to take many by surprise, not least Morocco, which swiftly issued furious missives of the “hurt” caused to the Moroccan people by Tunis’s action. Ambassadors were withdrawn by both countries while Morocco’s newspapers denounced Tunisia’s shortcomings.
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  • Saied and his foreign ministry claimed surprise at the reaction, citing a circular from the African Union, which extended the invitation to all leaders, including Ghali. A statement was issued by the foreign ministry, reaffirming the country’s total neutrality in line with international law, stating, “This position will not change until the concerned parties find a peaceful solution acceptable to all.”
  • Morocco’s King Mohammed VI used a televised address to send what he said was a clear message to the world, telling viewers, “The Sahara issue is the prism through which Morocco views its international environment.”
  • with European gas prices soaring, Algeria—Europe’s third-largest gas supplier (after Russia and Norway) and the Polisario Front’s chief backer—is also enjoying a diplomatic renaissance. European politicians and regional power brokers are all enjoying a renewed interest in Algiers, with Tunisia’s Saied among them
  • Tunis also relies on Algeria for its own gas, buying it at a discounted price, as well as receiving revenue for the transport of Algerian gas across its territory, bound for Sicily and then the rest of Europe.
  • “The war in Ukraine and its impacts on Europe in terms of gas supplies reposition Algeria as an important player in the western Mediterranean,”
  • The plight of the Sahrawis is one of the world’s longest-standing refugee crises. Since 1975, thousands of Sahrawis have been sheltering in the Algerian desert, waiting for the opportunity to return home.
  • the U.N. estimates that around 90,000 “vulnerable refugees” are sheltering in the desert, relying on international aid just for their daily food and shelter.
  • “Weather conditions are especially adverse in this part of southern Algeria, where temperatures in summer can reach up to more than of 50 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit), which causes casualties among the elderly, children, and pregnant women.”
  • with both Algeria and Morocco having relatively static leaderships, where there is little change in personnel, the dispute was allowed to rumble on
Ed Webb

A Year of Change in Ethiopia | United States Institute of Peace - 0 views

  • there are also many inconvenient facts in Ethiopia’s political transition. First, Prime Minister Abiy has been able to rapidly introduce reforms because he can still rule by fiat. In some ways, his management practices resemble those of a freewheeling CEO, rather than those of a consultative, deliberative politician. Such reforms, though far reaching, may not be irreversible nor sustainable. Second, progress has not been linear. There have been serious setbacks because of intercommunal conflicts: 620,000 Ethiopians are now displaced due to fighting in Gedeo, in the Southern region, and West Guji, in neighboring Oromia region. Nationally, more than two-million Ethiopians are internally displaced.
  • The Horn of Africa is at an inflection point that will define the region’s future for a generation. The political transition in Ethiopia is a pivotal part of this, as is the developing situation in Sudan, the increasingly assertive engagement of the Gulf states in the Horn, and other developments. One thing is certain: Ethiopia is too big for its political transition to fail, and how its transition proceeds will be one of the main factors determining the stability and security of the Horn of Africa in both the near and long term.
  • worrying reports of an increase in illicit arms flows to ethnic militias in various parts of the country
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  • Economic inequality and the frustration of youth, particularly in the Oromia and Amhara regions, was one of the main drivers of the protests that began in 2016 and ultimately precipitated Abiy’s ascension to power. Ethiopia must add two-million jobs per year to keep pace with population growth, a tremendous challenge under the best of circumstances.
  • Ethnic identities matter to many Ethiopians, even if the idea of ethnic fluidity—through intermarriage, for example—is well established for many people. At the same time, Abiy is tremendously popular as an individual, which offers him an historic opportunity to address these inter-regional grievances.
Ed Webb

The Libyan Civil War Is About to Get Worse - 0 views

  • Yet another clash between the two main Libya camps is now brewing, and events in recent weeks suggest that the fighting will be more devastating than at any time before—and still may not produce a definitive victory for either side.
  • Facing stiff resistance from disparate militias nominally aligned with the government, the LNA has failed to breach downtown Tripoli. On top of this, the marshal’s campaign, while destructive, has been hampered by gross strategic and tactical inefficiency. The resulting war of attrition and slower pace of combat revealed yet another flaw in his coalition: Few eastern Libyan fighters wish to risk their lives for Haftar 600 miles away from home.
  • the UAE carried out more than 900 air strikes in the greater Tripoli area last year using Chinese combat drones and, occasionally, French-made fighter jets. The Emirati military intervention helped contain the GNA’s forces but did not push Haftar’s objectives forward. Instead, it had an adverse effect by provoking other regional powers. Turkey responded to the UAE by deploying Bayraktar TB2 drones and several dozen Turkish officers to carry out roughly 250 strikes in an effort to help the GNA resist Haftar’s onslaught. The stalemate also inspired Russia to increase its own involvement in Libya.
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  • In September 2019, a few hundred Russian mercenaries joined the front-line effort near Tripoli in support of Haftar’s forces
  • forced a desperate GNA to sign a controversial maritime accord that granted Ankara notional gas-drilling rights in the eastern Mediterranean in return for Turkey launching a full-blown military intervention in support of the anti-Haftar camp
  • According to open-source data analyzed by aircraft-tracking specialist Gerjon, the Emiratis, since mid-January, have flown more than 100 cargo planes to Libya (or western Egypt, near the Libyan border). These planes likely carried with them thousands of tons of military hardware. Other clues suggest that the number of Emirati personnel on Libyan soil has also increased. All of this indicates that Haftar’s coalition and its allies are going to try, once again, to achieve total victory by force.
  • Few international actors are willing to contradict the UAE, and while the GNA’s isolation grows, no Western government wants to exert any meaningful pressure on Haftar
  • During January and February, at least three cargo ships from Turkey delivered about 3,500 tons’ worth of equipment and ammunition each. The Turkish presence on Libyan soil currently comprises several hundred men. They train Libyan fighters on urban warfare with an emphasis on tactics to fend off armored vehicles. Against attacks from the sky, Ankara relies on electronic-warfare technology and a combination of U.S.– and indigenously developed air defense systems. Similar protection has been set up at the air base of Misrata, a powerful anti-Haftar city to the west of Sirte, which the LNA took on Jan. 6.
  • Notwithstanding its attempt to tap underwater hydrocarbons in the Mediterranean, Ankara has no intention of renouncing its commercial interests in Libya or its wider geopolitical aspirations in the rest of Africa.
  • To counter Turkey’s new intervention, the pro-Haftar government in eastern Libya formalized its alignment with the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, allowing the LNA to purchase technical advice from Damascus using material and diplomatic rewards. A few hundred Syrian contractors hired from pro-Assad militias are now reportedly in Libya, on Haftar’s side
  • Because Turkey’s presence and its arsenal have made it difficult for the UAE to fly its combat drones anymore, the LNA and its allies have begun a relentless shelling campaign using Grad rockets and other projectiles. Such salvos on Tripoli don’t just hit legitimate military targets—they also hit civilians. Unguided rockets are inherently indiscriminate, and the pro-GNA camp can do almost nothing to prevent this kind of attack
  • a philosophy of collective punishment
  • the pro-Haftar camp has been imposing a $1.5 billion-a-month oil blockade on Libya since mid-January. Fuel shortages may soon become more widespread as a result. Suppression of the nation’s only dollar-generating activity is also a means of cutting off the internationally recognized Central Bank in Tripoli and potentially supplanting it with an LNA-friendly alternative where all oil-export proceeds would be captured going forward
  • Moscow’s intervention in Libya is far more mercurial. In the last three months of 2019, Kremlin-linked paramilitary company Wagner shifted the balance of the conflict by joining the fight alongside Haftar. Then, in early January, several days before President Vladimir Putin took part in a request for a Libyan ceasefire, the Russian contingent on the Tripoli front line suddenly became less active.
  • The dynamic between Ankara and Moscow is as much rooted in their common disdain for Europe as it is in mutual animosity. That means Russia could tolerate Turkey a while longer if it feels its interests would be better served by doing so. Such an ebb-and-flow approach amplifies Moscow’s influence and could eventually push the Europeans out of the Libyan theater altogether. Russia may just as easily change its mind and invest into helping the LNA deliver a resounding defeat to Erdogan
  • since late December, more than 4,000 Turkish-backed Syrian mercenaries have arrived in Tripoli and its surrounding area. Most of them are battle-hardened Islamist fighters who belong to three large anti-government militias. Turkey is also busy upgrading its fleet of combat drones scattered across northwest Libya
  • the UAE has sought to bring about the emergence in Tripoli of a government that is void of any influence from political Islam writ large. Because of this, Abu Dhabi will not accept a negotiated settlement with Erdogan’s Islamist government. Making matters worse, neither the United States nor any EU country is willing to use its own regional clout to stand in the Emiratis’ way. Therefore, regardless of whether that endangers a great number of civilian lives, the Libyan war is likely to continue escalating before any political resolution is seriously explored.
Ed Webb

Implications of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb's New Leadership - Newlines Institute - 1 views

  • While al Qaeda does not recognize national borders or flags, AQIM recently has increasingly involved itself in local Algerian and Malian dynamics, with leaders appearing in front of national flags and publicly endorsing local causes
  • Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), the group that united several jihadist factions under the banner of AQIM to operate in Mali and the Sahel in 2017.
  • the recruitment reach of jihadist groups in the Sahel, which now goes beyond the ethnic Arab, Tuareg, and Fulani communities that mostly make up JNIM
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  • The sole survivor of the French raid is the driver, Boubacar Diallo (aka Abu Bakr al-Fulani), whose name was on the handwritten list of the prisoners whom JNIM demanded be released in return for the liberation of hostages Soumaïla Cissé and Sophie Pétronin. The list indicates that Diallo was in Malian intelligence services’ custody. (The author has confirmed that he was released.) That Diallo was driving the AQIM leader and JNIM’s media boss in the same car, and that he was on JNIM’s prisoner swap list, emphasizes the tight organizational and subordination links between JNIM and AQIM.
  • the group’s strategy of entrenching itself in local Malian politics appears to have borne fruit, exemplified by the ascension of Ag Ghali to head JNIM in 2017. Before becoming a jihadist, Ag Ghali was a respected political figure and Tuareg independence advocate in northern Mali. He has inspired respect among locals who see him as one of them, and his presence has helped JNIM (and thus AQIM) entrench itself in local Malian dynamics and gain the upper hand in its ongoing conflict against Islamic State militants in the region
  • the Groupe Salafiste pour la Prédication et le Combat (Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat) splintering off from the GIA in 1998. Less than a decade later, this group would vow allegiance to al Qaeda and rebrand itself as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. The man who made that 2007 announcement was al-Annabi. Three years later, in 2010, al-Annabi was heading the Council of Notables, the most senior assembly that answers to and advises AQIM leadership. And three years after that, he was calling for jihad against France after French military involvement in northern Mali.
  • In early 2019, the author sent al-Annabi 12 questions, which he answered in a 52-minute-long audio compilation. It is a rare occasion for a senior al Qaeda representative to answer questions from Western media, indicating that al-Annabi is portraying himself as more of a political figure than an operational commander.
  • The first two questions were about the Algerian protest movement that began in February 2019, and al-Annabi dedicated more than half of the time answering them. He said the protests are “a natural continuation of the military struggle of AQIM,” which is in accordance with al Qaeda’s support for popular uprisings in the Arab world, such as Egypt and Tunisia. AQIM itself has halted operations in Algeria since the protests began, “to avoid undermining the uprising.”
  • Al-Annabi, whose birth name is Yazid M’barek, was born in 1969 in Annaba, a coastal town in eastern Algeria, according to his Interpol file. Though he has been designated as a terrorist by U.S. and European authorities since 2015, AQIM says he “joined jihad” in 1992 or 1993.It is improbable that he participated in the Afghan jihad or visited Afghanistan or Pakistan in those early years. Instead, he likely joined one of the many small, local groups active in his native region that orbited around the Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA), which claimed responsibility for several attacks, including hijacking an Air France commercial flight in 1994 and bombing the Saint Michel train station in Paris in 1995.
  • “JNIM is a non-dissociable part of AQIM, which in its turn is an non-dissociable part of al-Qaeda central. … Regarding the geographical reality and the military pressure on its leaders and commanders, al Qaeda had to adapt with flexible command and control, therefore giving general and strategic guidelines, and then tactically it is up to each branch to reach toward achieving those guidelines depending on their realities. … AQIM follows the same process of leadership regarding its activity in different African countries.”
  • “Our objectives are clear, fighting intruders and occupiers are legitimate in heavenly and earthly laws, so those who stay neutral will be spared.”
  • Mauritania, which kept open channels with AQIM and in return has not been attacked by AQIM since February 2011 despite being part of the G5 Sahel
  • The French campaign has weakened JNIM’s grip on Mali’s border region with Burkina Faso and Niger and prompted an Islamic State “comeback” offensive that resulted in the death of a JNIM field commander and led to a bloody confrontation between the militant groups in December. JNIM prevailed for the second time in that conflict, but a combination of pressure from Islamic State and French forces have left its manpower depleted.
  • Locals caught in the middle of the conflict between the Islamic State and JNIM are increasingly being forced to choose a side between local actors, all of which are committing human rights abuses. The Islamic State lacks significant local acceptance or political experience, while JNIM’s continued presence and the balance of fear it has imposed with government forces,  militias, and now the Islamic State in central Mali has made it a more palatable choice. The French strategy of seeking out high-value targets has contributed to disruptions in negotiations between the Islamic State and JNIM, contributing to the inflammation of the war between militant groups in the Sahel.
  • The growing influence of JNIM and AQIM in Mali has been the cause of France’s renewed efforts, but the French strategy could put its forces more at odds with locals in northern Mali who prefer JNIM to the Islamic State.
  • The French military and officials have maintained that France will not negotiate with terrorists, but they recently indicated they would not obstruct negotiations when led by local parties. 
  • in Niger, where some border-area communities are seeking the Islamic State’s help with local problems, including some within the same community, leading to bloody “conflict resolution.”
  • Today, a majority of Malians approve of talks with JNIM.
  • AQIM’s willingness to overlook personal and ethnic grievances to coalesce several distinct local groups under the JNIM banner has given it flexibility and resistance to military pressure, and the strategy has garnered praise from al Qaeda central – the same leadership that criticized Droukdel a decade earlier for being too compromising. We are witnessing a shift away from never-ending battles toward foreseeable political objectives in order to avoid repeating failed governing experiences in Somalia, Yemen, or even Syria. As the group shifted its focus from Algeria in order to survive, it also began to expand and can now be seen as a player in Western Africa. This shift happened under Droukdel with al-Annabi’s influence; it likely will continue now that al-Annabi is AQIM’s leader.
Ed Webb

Border Security Doesn't Make Europe Safer. It Breeds Instability. - 0 views

  • While it is natural be outraged by the locking up of children in Donald Trump’s United States or the criminalization of rescues in Italy during Matteo Salvini’s reign as interior minister, this deadly game is sadly not just being played by a few erratic and callous politicians. Rather, it is systematic.
  • For many years now, a key part of the game has been to get poorer neighbors to do the dirty work of deterring migration
  • outsourcing of migration and border controls represents a spectacular own goal not just in humanitarian terms, but also politically
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  • From the indefinite containment in what Amnesty International called “insecure and undignified” camps in Greece to de facto pushbacks of migrants toward the hell of Libya, from increasingly perilous routes across the Sahara to the avoidable mass drownings in the Mediterranean, Europe’s so-called fight against illegal migration has fueled abuses that undermine the EU’s global role and its avowed values
  • the EU, just like the United States, has doubled down. In its strategic agenda for the next five years, it has coalesced around a project straight out of the hard right’s playbook—of protecting borders, not people. And the way forward, in the words of the agenda, is “fighting illegal migration and human trafficking through better cooperation with countries of origin and transit.”
  • deaths owing to Fortress Europe since 1993 now adds up to well over 30,000 human beings and counting
  • The suffering is kept at a distance until spectacular violence hits the news, such as in the July killing of at least 44 people in the Libyan warlord Khalifa Haftar’s airstrike on a Tripoli detention center. The general silence means the suffering festers, infecting European countries’ relations with their neighbors. And some among the neighbors are taking note of the cynicism. As a leading West African voice on migration, former Malian Culture Minister Aminata Traoré put it succinctly: “Europe is subcontracting violence in Africa.”
  • by temporarily pushing the problem away, it is sowing the seeds for abuse, repression, and even instability on a much larger scale
  • Once migration has been elevated into an existential threat to the “European way of life,” those on the other side of the EU’s borders will know how to leverage that threat effectively, with destabilizing consequences
  • Playing his cards cleverly within the rules set by Europe’s growing obsession with migration, Erdogan then explicitly threatened this October to “open the gates” for refugees to head toward Europe if EU leaders failed to support his military incursion and resettlement plans for northern Syria
  • consider Sudan, where the country’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group formerly linked to the genocidal janjaweed in Darfur, have trumpeted their credentials in fighting migration. This is the same force that killed dozens of protesters in Khartoum earlier this year and whose leader had by this summer by most accounts become the de facto, Saudi-backed ruler of Sudan.
  • The RSF, like Erdogan, has played a clever game within the rules set in part by the EU and has presented itself as helping the EU to fulfill its priorities—while simultaneously acting as a smuggling conduit. In effect, border security has been given a premium in the political marketplace, helping the guys with the guns to capture a larger market share.
  • across the Sahel and Horn of Africa regions, where the EU is now lavishing migration-related funds and political recognition on shady regimes and their frequently repressive security personnel. One of the countries targeted is Niger, which has become a laboratory for border security, with dire consequences.
  • The draconian law on migrant smuggling that the EU pushed has hit not just cross-border human smuggling but all sorts of cross-country transport, and it has involved Niger’s authorities selectively targeting members of certain ethnic groups. This risks fueling ethnic and political grievances while depriving northern Niger of its economic lifeblood, which includes not just irregular migration but also ordinary cross-border trade with, and travel to, Libya.
  • Amid growing popular discontent, and with an emboldened security state and a reeling economy, Niger is today a tinderbox thanks in no small part to the very security measures imposed by Europe.
  • Building on former Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi’s sordid deal-making with Libya’s Muammar al-Qaddafi a decade earlier, Italy and the EU have since 2015 tried to get around legal responsibilities at sea by funding and training a so-called Libyan Coast Guard, which in large part is simply a front for dolled-up militias.
  • the assumption of the EU’s strategic agenda, for one—that “fighting illegal migration” in this way is key to defending “the fundamental rights and freedoms of its citizens”—is plain wrong. A quick glance at the longer trend shows 2015—when an estimated 1 million refugees and migrants arrived in Europe by sea—to be an exception: Most immigrants enter Europe by air, and most sub-Saharan African migrants stay within their own region.
  • human mobility is in itself not a threat to anyone’s safety. In fact, the risks associated with its most chaotic manifestations are perversely caused in large part by the very security measures rolled out to stop it. But even these manmade risks pale in comparison with the risk of strengthening authoritarian regimes and repressive forces, while undermining the EU’s clout and values, in the name of European citizens’ security.
  • the EU must rekindle positive projects of collaboration and opportunity—including, not least, by working with the African Union on its incipient plans for boosting free movement across the continent. And it must ensure that the EU and member states don’t fuel instability and abuses, as has been the case with Libya since well before NATO’s disastrous intervention there.
  • migration toward the U.S.-Mexico border can be addressed by Washington through genuine attempts at reversing long-standing U.S. complicity in the instability racking Central America—both in terms of support to violent groups and abusive leaders and in the export of gang members into El Salvador. Similar reversals are needed in the drug war that is racking Mexico, where U.S. arms and incentives have helped fuel violence that has claimed thousands of lives.
  • Today’s tug of war between rights and security, or between open and closed borders, paints those in the former camp as naive idealists and those in the latter as hard-headed realists. However, this is a false dichotomy.
  • If policymakers and voters really want to be “realistic,” then it is essential to appreciate the full future costs of the path on which they are currently set and to acknowledge the dangerously perverse incentives for escalating violence, extortion, and authoritarian rule that it entrenches. Meanwhile, the fantasy of protecting Western democracies through the outsourcing of migration controls feeds the damaging delusion that these countries can seal themselves off from problems such as conflict and global warming to which they are themselves strongly contributing.
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