Alex Vines

Nota: Este archivo abarca los artículos publicados por el autor desde el 1 de Marzo de 2008. Para fechas anteriores realice una búsqueda entrecomillando su nombre.

Press conference in Kati after the military arrested Malian president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and he officially resigned. Photo by ANNIE RISEMBERG / AFP via Getty Images.

The coup in Mali is not a putsch by disgruntled soldiers in a distant land. It is an extended European neighbourhood and matters to Britain. The UK already has three Chinook helicopters deployed in country and 250 British troops are scheduled to take up UN peacekeeping duties in December in what could be the ministry of defence’s most dangerous deployment since Afghanistan.

This coup was not unexpected as it followed months of mass protests against alleged corruption, a worsening economy, disputed legislative election results and deteriorating security in this West African country. Mali’s military is struggling to stop the insurgents, some of them now also affiliated with the ISIL (ISIS) armed group, despite UN, EU, French and regional military support.…  Seguir leyendo »

Pictured is a Nigerian refugee living in the Awaradi settlement that houses some 9,000 displaced people fleeing violence from Boko Haram. Image: Getty Images.

The UK has been redeploying diplomatic, defence and development capabilities towards the Sahel since 2018 – a strategic pivot intended to deliver development impact, address long term security threats to UK interests and support alliances with international partners.

The Sahel is one of Africa’s poorest and most fragile regions and has witnessed an escalation in jihadist activity, illegal migration and trafficking since a security crisis erupted in Mali in 2012.

The crisis spread to Niger and Burkina Faso and may now spill over into Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Senegal. With Nigeria also facing insurgency in the Lake Chad basin, all major regional security and economic anchors in the region are under threat including key UK partners.…  Seguir leyendo »

Macomia, Cabo Delgado, Northern Mozambique. Photo by EMIDIO JOSINE/AFP via Getty Images.

On March 23 to 24, the centre of Mocimboa da Praia in Cabo Delgado province was occupied by up to 40 “jihadists”, who targeted government facilities, including a barracks, and brandished banners of affiliation to the so-called Islamic State.

On March 25, suspected jihadists raided the town of Quissanga and destroyed the district police headquarters. They too carried an Islamic State flag. Twenty to 30 members of Mozambique’s security forces were killed in both attacks.

Mocimboa da Praia is just south of the Afungi Peninsula, the location of gas projects worth $60- billion. Mocimboa was briefly occupied in late 2017, during attacks claimed by a group known as Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama (or al-Sunnah) that marked the start of a brutal low-intensity conflict, with widespread human rights abuses and attacks on civilians.…  Seguir leyendo »

A man holds a portrait of Robert Mugabe during his official funeral ceremony. Photo: Getty Images.

Africa’s dinosaur leaders are members of an increasingly small and unstable club. Popular protests last year forced Algeria’s president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, out of office after almost 20 years in power, as well as Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, who ruled for 30 years. In 2017, Robert Mugabe was deposed in a military coup (although this was denied) after 40 years.
And in 2011, mass protests led to the downfall of Tunisia’s president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, after he had been in power for 23 years.

Somewhat smoother are the political transitions in Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). José Eduardo dos Santos, after almost 38 years in power, stepped down from office in 2017 as his term ended.…  Seguir leyendo »

Sales of papal-pictured capulanas have been brisk. Photo: Chatham House.

Pope Francis’ visit to Mozambique on 4–6 September comes at a critical political moment. The theme for the papal Africa trip (which also includes Madagascar and Mauritius) is ‘pilgrim of hope, peace and reconciliation’. This is especially relevant for Mozambique, as this is the first week of the official campaign for Mozambique’s sixth national elections on 15 October.

It is also the one-month anniversary of the Maputo Accords for Peace and Reconciliation between the government and the armed opposition, RENAMO (and the fifth anniversary of the previous such agreement in 2014).

What is unusual is that the pope accepted to visit Mozambique just after a peace accord and in the run-up to national elections.…  Seguir leyendo »

Xi Jinping at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Beijing in September 2018. Photo: Getty Images.

There is no doubt that 2019 will see a quickening of renewed international competition in Africa. China is now Africa’s leading trading partner and India, Russia and others are increasing their involvement, whereas the European Union is treading water and the United States is falling behind.

A key development in 2018 was Russia’s re-entry into Africa. In 2019 the first Russia-Africa summit will add to an already lengthy list of summits. Russia has, for several years, been quietly investing in Soviet-era partnerships and forging new alliances by offering security, arms training and electioneering services in exchange for mining rights and other opportunities.…  Seguir leyendo »

Theresa May visits a school in Cape Town on 28 August as she begins her visit to South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya. Photo: Getty Images.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s trip to South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya this week is an important signal of renewed British political and economic interest in Africa.

It was long overdue: a British prime minister has not visited Africa since 2013, and there has been a comparative decline in the UK’s visibility in many parts of the continent over the last decade, just as many other states, including France, Turkey, China and Japan, have been upgrading their Africa engagement. A planned trip by David Cameron was cancelled in 2016 with just five days’ notice because of the Brexit referendum and its results.…  Seguir leyendo »

Zimbabwe’s 2018 elections will be closely watched after the removal of Robert Mugabe last year. Photo: Getty Images.

Last year was a year of leadership changes and unprecedented events in a number of sub-Saharan African countries — several that were not predicted for that year.

Regional leaders from the Economic Community of West African States ensured that President Yahya Jammeh obeyed the will of the Gambian people to end his 22-year reign. President Robert Mugabe was forced from office, the only leader independent Zimbabwe has known in its 37 years.

In Angola, José Eduardo dos Santos, also president for 37 years, ended his own tenure, enabling a smooth transition. Somalia’s Mohamed Abdullahi ‘Farmaajo’ Mohamed defeated his more established rivals to win the February presidential election, and the Kenyan supreme court made history by declaring the result of the August election void.…  Seguir leyendo »

The end of the Mugabe presidency in Zimbabwe – with the swearing in of Emmerson Mnangagwa in Harare on Friday – is being watched closely across Africa, and especially by its long-standing leaders.

Currently, 30 per cent of African countries are ruled by long-standing rulers, defined as heads of state that have ruled for more than 10 years. Africa is not unique in this respect (Central Asia also has its share of ageing leaders), but Africa has a long tradition, and about a fifth of all African heads of state since independence can be classified as long-standing.

A recent study, African Futures: Horizon 2025, by the European Union Institute of Security Studies (and which this writer contributed to), shows that long-standing rulers in Africa are reducing in number.…  Seguir leyendo »

The news that General Constantino Chiwenga had visited China only a few days before the military takeover in Zimbabwe was a coincidence that did not go unnoticed. There was also speculation after China said it was closely watching developments, but stopped short of condemning President Robert Mugabe’s apparent removal from power.

China is Zimbabwe’s fourth-largest trading partner and its largest source of investment – with stakes worth many billions of pounds in everything from agriculture to construction. Zimbabwe is the dependent partner – with China providing the largest market for its exports and much needed support to its fragile economy.

China’s relations with Zimbabwe are deep, starting during the Rhodesian Bush War.…  Seguir leyendo »

Frelimo, Mozambique’s party of government, completed its 11th Congress in Matola on 1 October, unanimously endorsing the current president, Filipe Nyusi, as president of the party and its de-facto presidential candidate in the 2019 elections. Nyusi has consolidated his power within the party through new appointments of allies to its political commission, and has weakened the influence of his predecessor, Armando Guebuza.

But outside of the party, Nyusi faces a growing political and economic challenges – and, as revealed over the past few days, the widening threat of armed violence.

The spectre of violence

On 5 October, a group of about 30 men attacked three police stations in Mocimboa da Praia in Cabo Delgado province.…  Seguir leyendo »

Africa is overwhelmingly young – and getting younger. The coming ‘youth bulge’ is set to more than double the continent’s population from 1.2 billion today to around 2.5 billion by 2050. These new generations could be a huge asset in driving development. But they also represent a latent threat to the continent’s stability – particularly if they don’t have access to jobs. Here, Africa’s prospects are more concerning. Its GDP growth per capita is under half that of South Asian economies, with over double the proportion of unemployed.

But growth on its own is not enough. Business, especially good business, will not flourish under poor governance.…  Seguir leyendo »

An era is ending in Angola, as one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, President José Eduardo dos Santos, steps down after 37 years in power. What happens next is significant not only to Angola, but to Africa and the world, particularly those dependent on Angola’s vast oil reserves.

Angola’s international strategic importance is built upon oil. Many international oil companies operate in Angola, including U.S. supermajors Exxon and Chevron. Due to US shale oil and gas production, there has been a sharp decline in American demand for Angola’s oil and Luanda, Angola’s capital, is increasingly reliant on Beijing and other Asian partners as markets.…  Seguir leyendo »

After its August parliamentary elections, a new president will lead Angola for the first time since 1979. This is a watershed moment – change is very likely, including more focus on diversification of the economy and less presidential dominance in decision-making. There will also have to be some rethinking of foreign policy – most notably on Angola’s relationship with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

What happens in the DRC is a major, longstanding strategic concern for Angola – and Luanda invests more deeply in strategic thinking on Congo than most of its neighbours. On the DRC, Angola is an essential stakeholder and special envoys on Congo and the Great Lakes region, opposition politicians and Congolese officials regularly visit Luanda.…  Seguir leyendo »

Cuban President Fidel Castro says goodbye to Angolan President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos in Havana on 19 December 1988. Photo by Getty Images.

‘Fidel is a friend, a comrade. He is an unforgettable figure to us. His memory will be always remembered in Angola,’ said the country’s vice president Manuel Vicente after signing the condolence book dedicated to Fidel Castro at the residency of the Cuban ambassador to Angola.

There is no doubt that one of the greatest foreign influences on modern Angola was Cuba’s socialist policy of internationalist solidarity’. This took the form of sending troops and aid workers to Angola in support of the country’s Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) government from 1975, as it waged a conflict against apartheid-era South Africa and CIA-backed nationalist forces (also supported by then-Zaire, now Democratic Republic of Congo).…  Seguir leyendo »

President Obama has been engaged in African issues, visiting Africa twice during his second term of office. Photo by Getty Images.

The US-Africa Business Forum (USABF), which meets for the second time in New York on 21 September, provides a platform to deepen business and financial ties between the US and Africa, and is the culmination of efforts to diversify Washington’s focus away from humanitarian concerns and counterterrorism. Emphasizing the business opportunities that Africa offers could be Barack Obama’s key Africa legacy, equivalent to the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) for Bill Clinton and the President’s Emergency Program on AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) or the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) for George W Bush.

The USABF is co-hosted by US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Michael Bloomberg.…  Seguir leyendo »

A wind-up torch handed out by the ruling ZANU-PF party during their election campaign in 2013 lies on the floor of a home without any power in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Photo by Getty Images.

It really is a tough time being a liberation party of government in southern Africa at present.

The African National Congress (ANC) has just lost control of major cities in South Africa in the country’s municipal elections, registering its worst electoral performance since the end of apartheid in 1994. A vicious power struggle over succession to 92-year-old President Robert Mugabe is heating up in Zimbabwe. Renewed armed violence in Mozambique between old civil war foes has seen thousands flee to neighboring Malawi. And in Angola, José Eduardo dos Santos, the world’s second-longest-serving president, has signalled that he will step down in 2018.…  Seguir leyendo »

Fishing boats from EMATUM and speedboats belonging to Mozambican state company Pro-Indicus at the Maputo Harbour on 22 April 2016. Photo by Getty Images.

Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi’s official trip to China comes as his government faces its greatest test since the end of the civil war in 1992. Undisclosed loans and debt, worsening armed conflict with the former rebel group RENAMO and bad drought in the south and centre of the country highlight the fragility of the Mozambican state.

Over the last month, six previously unacknowledged loans worth $1.482 billion have been revealed by the government. Added to a dubious $850 million loan to the EMATUM company for a tuna fishing fleet (that included $500 million worth of maritime security vessels), Mozambique has at least $2.32 billion of new commercial debt to pay back.…  Seguir leyendo »

The trial of Côte d’Ivoire’s former president Laurent Gbagbo and the ex-militia leader Charles Blé Goudé, which opened at the International Criminal Court (ICC) last month, made me reflect on the broader lessons for the west African country – and elsewhere. Does the ICC end conflict or help to exacerbate it?

A decade ago, I was a UN sanctions inspector in Côte d’Ivoire, a role I had previously performed in Liberia. I was an eyewitness to the devastation that Charles Taylor, the former Liberian president who is serving a 50-year jail sentence for war crimes, caused to Liberia and its neighbours.…  Seguir leyendo »

When South Sudan celebrated its independence from the Republic of the Sudan in 2011 many analysts feared for the future. The conflict now raging in the world’s youngest state has serious regional and international implications. For the US, South Sudan’s independence was seen as one of the few visible successes of President Obama’s first administration’s Africa policy: no longer. But this crisis is not due to the lack of international support.

Just as we saw in Eritrea, which obtained its independence from Ethiopia in 1991 but has been deeply troubled ever since, this current conflict is about poor political leadership within a country that is still in need of a massive state-building exercise.…  Seguir leyendo »