December 2012

  • After 11 Years Building Africa Center’s Long-Term Relationships, Chief of Staff Danielle Buchanan Saying Farewell

    Danielle BuchananDanielle Buchanan came to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) in August 2001 after working as a government civilian employee at the United States European Command (EUCOM) in Stuttgart, Germany for more than 20 years. She will be retiring as ACSS’s Chief of Staff at the end of December 2012. In this interview with staff writer Serge Yondou, Ms. Buchanan shares some thoughts about the Center and how it has evolved. Q: What brought you to the Africa Center?

    Ms. BUCHANAN: I had been at the European Command for 24 years and felt it was time for me to return to the United States. At the suggestion of General Carlton W. Fulford, Jr. - Retired [then Deputy Commander of EUCOM], I applied for the position of ACSS Deputy Chief of Staff and was accepted.

    Q: What do you consider to be the most important aspects about the Africa Center?

    Ms. BUCHANAN: Obviously its multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-talented, and extremely dedicated staff. As a member of that staff, I also like and admire our willingness to listen to our African audience and offer programs they need. Thanks to our professional team and through a rigorous non-attribution policy, we have been able to earn the trust of our participants and their leaders over the years, which allowed us to build long-term relationships with our community members.

    Q: How has the Africa Center evolved since you started working here?

    Ms. BUCHANAN: When I started working at the Africa Center in 2001, ACSS was 2 years old and we offered seven programs annually. In FY13, we are currently planning up to 40 programs. Also, there are many requests from agencies and various organizations asking to partner with ACSS in developing programs.

    Q: What will be the legacy of the first decade of the Africa Center?

    Ms. BUCHANAN: Without any doubt, the great reputation of the Center not only in Africa but also in Europe as well. That reputation was earned through excellent academic programs and other events that give opportunity for African voices to be heard.

    Q: What is the next step for you?

    Ms. BUCHANAN: My husband, Jerry, and I are retiring at the same time. We’ve already put our belongings in storage and sold our Maryland house so we can be free to travel together. We start our travels soon, first to visit friends and family from Tennessee, Florida, Mississippi, Kansas, Arizona, to California. We’ll then spend a few months traveling in Europe, Asia, and Africa. We plan to reinvest in a home after we find the ideal location for a peaceful retirement.

  • ACSS Mourns Loss of Distinguished African Alumni Fellow Gen. Owoye Andrew Azazi of Nigeria

    General_Owoye_Azazi_2008Leadership, faculty, and staff of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) expressed  deep sadness at the passing of General (Retired) Owoye Andrew Azazi, along with five others, in a helicopter crash in Nigeria on December 14, 2012. Azazi, a former National Security Advisor, had recently accepted an invitation to be the Africa Center’s first-ever Distinguished African Alumni Fellow. “General Azazi was known to be an honest and outspoken advocate of security sector reform,” said Mr. Michael Garrison, Acting Director at ACSS. “He was also part of the ACSS family.” Since enrolling in the Nigerian Defence Academy in 1972, General Azazi dedicated his life to military and public service, serving as Nigeria’s Chief of Defense Staff from June 2006 until August 2008 and as National Security Advisor to President Goodluck Jonathan from October 2010 to June 2012. “The President extends deep and heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the deceased, and the governments and people of Kaduna and Bayelsa States,” a spokesman for Nigerian President Jonathan said in a statement December 15.  “He describes the sudden loss of these distinguished Nigerians as extremely painful to the entire nation.” Also perishing in the crash were Kaduna State Governor Patrick Yakowa, two aides for General Azazi and Governor Yakowa, and the two pilots. Along with his leadership role in Nigeria, General Azazi also made valuable contributions to ACSS, beginning with his participation in the Africa Center’s 2004 Senior Leaders Seminar. In subsequent years, he served as keynote speaker, guest lecturer, and advisor on numerous occasions. He played a key role in the development of several Africa Center programs, to include serving on committees to review ACSS curricula on a variety of African security issues. In October 2012, he agreed to begin serving a yearlong commitment as the Africa Center’s first Distinguished African Alumni Fellow, requesting that any compensation or travel reimbursement connected to the position be instead applied toward regional security research and academic programs. General Azazi had been next scheduled to speak at the ACSS Next Generation of African Security Leaders program, scheduled for March 2013 in Washington, D.C. ACSS faculty and staff recalled General Azazi’s keen understanding of the evolving nature of security threats facing the continent. “He understood…the vital importance of integrating security efforts across various ministries of government,” said Dr. Joseph Siegle, Director of Research at ACSS. “He understood that communities needed to be engaged on a personal level, with a recognition of the grievances they faced.” General Azazi was also an ardent supporter of efforts to empower women. Speaking at a September 2012 ACSS Workshop on Gender Mainstreaming in Africa’s Armed Forces, he argued that “the structure of politics in African countries must also allow women to participate so that they can look at gender issues objectively.” “General Azazi was a thoughtful, versatile, strategic thinker,” said Dr. Siegle. “He understood that the nature of Africa's security threats was changing, with an ever greater share of risk emerging from within fissures in society. In addition to his sharp intellect he brought an engaging, humble personality that was disarming to all he met. This made him an effective and trusted communicator, teacher, and leader.” “With the passing of General Azazi,” he added “Nigeria and Africa lose a wise leader—someone who had much left to give and to share with younger generations both in Africa and beyond.” “Our hearts go out to all who knew him,” said Brad Minnick, ACSS Director of Communications and Community Affairs, “especially his fellow ACSS alumni in Nigeria.”
  • (Français) Tchad: L’Amicale, le CESA, et l’Ambassade américaine organisent un symposium sur la lutte contre le terrorisme et l’extrémisme

  • Ask the Expert: Africa Center’s Dr. Benjamin Nickels on Somalia and the Way Forward

    Inauguration of Somalia’s First Parliament in Two Decades - UN Photo/Stuart PriceMajor shifts, both internal and external, have greatly enhanced the likelihood for Somalia to consolidate peace and start rebuilding the country, according to Dr. Benjamin P. Nickels, Associate Professor of Counterterrorism and Transnational Threats at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS). A new president was elected in September 2012, and a new government was installed two months later. The militant Islamist group al-Shabaab has been militarily weakened and there is a growing will amongst international stakeholders to put an end to piracy on the Somali coast. In an interview with Serge Yondou, staff writer at ACSS, Dr. Nickels, provides some insights about the status of al-Shabaab, efforts to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia, the role of the Somali Diaspora in the country’s transition, and the prospects for peace and stability in the region.

    Q: Is al-Shabaab definitely out of Somalia?

    DR. NICKELS: The ultimate disposition that the terrorist group al-Shabaab will assume remains to be seen, but its prospects certainly don’t look good at the moment. From the significant force of a few years ago that was able to effectively control considerable swaths of territory in the center and south of the country, proclaim connections to al-Qaeda, and carry out regional attacks, the group has been greatly disrupted and degraded over the past year or 18 months, in terms of reach, capacity, and structure. Military successes are part of how this happened: The remarkable, long-standing commitment of AMISOM forces, reinforced recently by notableAMISOM Trains Members of Somalia Police Force - UN Photo/Tobin Jones troop actions from neighboring countries, has pushed al-Shabaab into smaller and smaller spaces and put the group under more and more pressure. Perhaps even more importantly, political successes also seem to finally be emerging as part of the story of al-Shabaab’s decline. The recent elections and end (officially at least) of the transition have given Somalia another shot at some sort of national government, and surprisingly this new government seems to have at least some measure of popular support at present, which opens real possibilities. However, military and political advances aside, al-Shabaab should not be entirely counted out within Somalia (including Somaliland and Puntland), and certainly not in neighboring countries (like Kenya). A few wrong moves could always bring al-Shabaab back to south–central Somalia as well. And of course, even if al-Shabaab is eliminated, the conditions conducive to its creation may persist, and so we may end up talking about some new group in 2013 that looks quite a bit like al-Shabaab, with just a few changes in names and key figures.

    Q: Some argue that even with a new president elected and al-Shabaab’s influence waning, Somalia may now face an ever greater danger: regional clan-based groups taking up arms once more against each other. How do you assess that risk?

    DR. NICKELS: I believe that the rise of the new government and the decline of al-Shabaab are positive developments that decrease rather than increase security risks in the short to medium term. I don’t know what the factual basis is for the claim that clan-based groups are now poised to rise up, but that vision — a sort of ‘revenge of the clans’ resulting from al-Shabaab’s absence and a central government’s presence — strikes me as a kind of default position, a view based on the notion that clans are basic social elements in eternal opposition that have simply been suppressed, or have been somehow ‘slumbering,’ as it were, during the past five years. To really know if some array of regional clan-based groups are likely to drive instability anytime soon, we would need some very specific information on which groups are forming, how clan dynamics fit within their mobilization, where they are operating, under which leaders, what their capabilities are, and so on.

    Q: Clans were virtually abolished by President Siad Barre when he came to power, but they never disappeared. Some say they are the bedrock upon which Somali is built. How important are those clans for politics and for politicians?

    DR. NICKELS: I think that the consensus among Somalia analysts is that clans are central to the political and security landscape of Somalia and most would agree that they have served as a major source of legitimacy and mobilization for politicians. That said, we have to be careful when it comes to clans. Clans can come to play a catch-all role for Somali watchers. They can rush in and fill a void, as it were: Clan conflict can become an explanation when things become unclear, radically open, or downright inexplicable, and esoteric acquaintance with clan delineations for its own sake can become an intellectual pursuit and basis for a claim to expertise quite beyond its explanatory power. What would truly add analytic value regarding clans, to my mind, would be detailed on-the-ground empirical research looking at how clans fit within competing identities and loyalties, and especially how clans develop over time and have been changing during the past decade or so, in relation to the experience of limited/no central state, influence of the Diasporas, and so on. Most references to clans imply a remarkably static array of social divisions. Overall, my impression is that our understanding will advance as clans are streamlined into analyses, not as dangerous fundamental fault lines plaguing Somali society, but rather as one more aspect of the Somali social environment that — like everything else — influences in some manner the security environment.

    Q: The other fixture when pundits talk about Somalia is the pirates: Some say they are “common criminals” while some other argue that they are a coast guard or fishermen driven to piracy because on industrial overfishing of their coastal shores. Is that latter view somewhat romanticized?

    DR. NICKELS: Yes, the latter view is romanticized. Pirates represent a range of actors: Some may be fisherman driven to piracy due to illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, either for purely economic reasons or almost as some sort of proto-political reaction, but others are pretty much armed groups that have simply taken their criminal activity to the seas, and still others are part of large piracy operations with substantial equipment, resources, and organization. In a broader sense, it should be noted that romanticized views of Somali pirates share some of the same shortcomings as the anachronistic ones — images of a stateless Somalia relapsing into a pre-national landscape of warlords, fanatic followers of ‘a medieval ideology’ (i.e., Islamists), and pirates — and even the banal ones (i.e., pirates as ‘common criminals’). All these views miss the ultramodern aspect of today’s pirates, as well as their similarity to a variety of contemporary violent non-state actors (VNSA), all of whom have been empowered by globalization and are managing to outstrip prevailing regulations, which primarily reside in our sovereign nation-states, for the purposes of power or profit.

    Q: Piracy is also seen as the result of lack of economic opportunities due to chronic political instability. Yet Piracy is also a product of Somali entrepreneurial élan, and it has been until recently a quite profitable business. Do you have any thoughts on that?

    DR. NICKELS: Pirates are one sort of the new VNSAs associated with transnational threats generally, be it terrorism, drug smuggling, human trafficking, you name it. These groups all share lack of economic opportunity and political instability as causes — ‘push’ factors leading individuals to sign up. At the same time, VNSAs, especially the ones driven by profit (like drug smugglers, human traffickers, and so on), exhibit traits that are highly prized in the contemporary business world, such as entrepreneurship, focus on the bottom line, adjustment to cost–benefit analysis, flexibility to increase efficiency in practices, and so on. So, my opinion is that piracy is a product of all these factors, from lack of economic opportunities to entrepreneurial élan. There are some larger questions here, though. Some research suggests that piracy money spent within Somalia is actually essential to the economic well-being of the country — that piracy indirectly constitutes an essential part of the Somali economy — and that counter-piracy measures therefore risk creating second- and third-order security effects through their economic costs. The debate here becomes whether, and to what extent, it’s just better to pay tribute to the pirates, as it were, to give them their due as a sort of perverse development aid. Another, related question, is which types of VNSA activities are irredeemable, and which — like illicit commodity smuggling — might be replaced by, or even themselves form the basis for, legal activities in the future, such as (taxed and regulated) trade. All of this gets into larger debates over how state structures and business activities coexist and harmonize in the contemporary world.

    Q: The Somali Diaspora has been very active in keeping Somalia on the geopolitical map over the years, especially in the United States. What is its actual influence in political affairs? Is the Somali Diaspora the real kingmaker in Somalia today?

    DR. NICKELS: The Somali Diaspora is complex and it has complex effects. There are Somalis in the Diaspora within the region who have been present for decades or longer, settled in identifiable neighborhoods like Kisenyi in Kampala and Eastleigh in Kenya. There are Somalis who have traveled to the Gulf and Arab–Muslim world more broadly. And there are Somalis who have settled in the West, in a variety of locations. In all cases, these Somalis in the Diaspora have generally kept some form of Somali identity alive, focused on economic advancement, and occasionally witnessed their members participate in political organizations and movements on the ground in Somalia, including in al-Shabaab. Overall, the Somali Diaspora’s impact in Somalia is probably primarily economic, as it has played a significant role through remittances, investments, and so on. But Somalis from the Diaspora have also had a role in national politics — Somalis living in the West were an important element in the TFG, for example, and indeed their recent return to the country sometimes fed criticism of them and their government. All of this said, the power and significance of the Diaspora should not be overstated. If the past 20 years have shown anything, it’s that no one outside of Somalia is the real king maker inside Somalia, and that local actors on the ground can disrupt and spoil plans set in motion from outside.

    Q: Are you positive about Somalia’s future?

    DR. NICKELS: Yes, I am positive, but realistic as well. Several factors, including military and political developments, have indeed aligned to produce in Somalia better security in the short term and possibly better governance in the medium to long term. Moreover, there are coming into place some key circumstances and structures that might allow Somalia to progress gradually toward something like a viable nation-state again. But if it manages to make this progress, the new government will soon find itself having to take on other, larger challenges. One will be how to deal with integrating Puntland and especially the self-proclaimed independent Somaliland; another will be how to negotiate contentious issues with neighboring states, everything from border issues to control of new-found energy reserves; a third will be to establish sovereignty and find the right way to work with international actors, including the United States, who have been operating largely at will on Somali national territory for years. There are many reasons to remain skeptical, and certainly compelling scenarios of regression aren’t hard to imagine. But for the moment, a window of opportunity has opened that was not present six or even three months ago. We’ll see if it’s still there in three or six months from now.

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  • Africa’s Global Thinkers: Five Africans Among Foreign Policy Magazine's Top 100

    Africa's Global ThinkersBy J.R. Warner, Africa Center for Strategic Studies Five Africans are among the world’s 100 Global Thinkers of 2012, according to the December issue of Foreign Policy (FP). The list, compiled annually by the magazine, includes activists, intellectuals and visionary leaders from across the globe. Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki ranks second on the list of Global Thinkers “for keeping the ideas of the Arab Spring alive.” President Marzouki, according to FP, presides over the Arab Spring’s “most promising success story.” A former professor of public health and long-time human rights advocate, Marzouki was imprisoned several times and ultimately forced into exile by the regime of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. Returning to Tunisia after Ben Ali’s fall from power in 2011, he was elected president by the country’s Constituent Assembly. Since assuming office in December 2011, President Marzouki has looked to consolidate Tunisia’s fledgling democracy at home while calling on the United Nations to launch a campaign to rid the world of the “disease” of dictatorship. FP praises President Marzouki for his ability to strike a political balance with the country’s Islamist parties. He has worked to ensure they are included in the political process but has not hesitated to push back when they overreach. “If anyone can guide Tunisia through its transition to democracy,” according to the magazine, “it's Marzouki.” The Arab Spring may have ushered in hopes for enhanced freedoms in the Middle East, but many remain concerned that the wave of Islamists that came to power as a result of the vacuum left by the region’s ousted strongmen will result in greater oppression and exclusion of women. “The battle to expand women's rights is being fought not only in Tunisia but across the Arab world,” notes FP. “[T]here is not a single country where women's political voice is equal to that of men.” While Marzouki received praise for tactfully handling the government’s delicate relationship with the country’s Islamists, another Tunisian activist, Ms. Ahlem Belhadj, earned a spot on FP’s list for confronting these forces head-on. FP lists Ms. Belhadj, President of the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women, as the No. 18 Global Thinker “for demanding that women have a say in the new Arab world.” When Islamists introduced a clause into the country’s draft constitution that would officially designate women as “complimentary to men,” Ms. Belhadj helped to organize and mobilize thousands of demonstrators to protest the proposed language, ultimately resulting in its rewording. She helped provide legal representation for a women accused of “indecency” after being raped by two police officers. Ms. Belhadj believes that efforts to combat the exploitation of women can be a catalyst for overall social change. “It is by making the link between the different levels of control -- the fight against inequalities between the sexes, economic and social inequalities, regional inequalities, and so on -- that things will have any chance of success in Tunisia,” Ms. Belhadj told journalists in January 2012. “And we remain optimistic on all these challenges because the mobilization is there, and people are very attentive to what is currently done.” Elsewhere in Africa, two Global Thinkers are showing that women are a political force to be reckoned with. FP lists President Joyce Banda of Malawi as the No. 22 Global Thinker “For stepping in -- and up -- to fix a broken country.” When President Banda was promoted from Vice President upon the sudden death of the country’s late President Bingu wa Mutharika, she inherited a government that had been becoming “increasingly autocratic” and a country where the vast majority of the population lives in abject poverty. “But in just seven months Banda has largely thrown out her predecessor's playbook, showing the world how to take charge and work to turn around a troubled country,” according to FP. President Banda dismissed senior officials accused of rights violations, vowed to repeal oppressive laws, and took concrete steps toward rebuilding the country’s shattered economy. She also took steps to bolster the legitimacy of her office, cutting her own salary by nearly one-third and selling off a private jet and dozens of luxury cars belonging to late President Mutharika. In early 2012, Ms. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who ranks 51st on FP’s list of Global Thinkers, was considered among the top three candidates to take over as president of the World Bank, receiving strong endorsements from the African Union, the Financial Times, and the Economist. Supporters lauded her extensive experience in the world of policymaking and a record of driving reform in Nigeria that gave her credibility with the international community—not to mention her charismatic personality. But even after she was not selected, Ms. Okonjo Iweala continues to dedicate herself to reforming Nigeria’s institutions and developing its economy. She advocates ridding Nigeria of a controversial fuel subsidy — one that FP calls “popular but economically disastrous” — and has taken steps to cut excessive government spending in Nigeria and reducing the countries debt.  Her reform efforts often face staunch opposition from Nigerian elites who benefit from the status quo. “If she can succeed in helping one of Africa's most pivotal countries overcome the infamous oil curse, it might have a much more lasting impact than anything she could have accomplished back in Washington,” FP says in its profile of Ms. Okonjo-Iweala. Accordingly, Ms. Okonjo-Iweala makes the 2012 list of Global Thinkers not for her candidacy for World Bank president but “for showing Africa how to break the resource curse.” Professor Chinua Achebe, the literary titan and revered Nigerian intellectual who ranks No. 68 on the list of Global Thinkers, reveals  that Ms. Okonjo-Iweala has her work cut out for her. Professor Achebe, who earned a spot on FP’s list “for forcing Africa to confront its demons,” released a memoir this year that provides a vivid account of life in Nigeria during the 1967-1970 Biafran War as well as the conflict’s long-lasting impact on the country. “Nigeria was once a land of great hope and progress, a nation with immense resources at its disposal,” Professor Achebe wrote in the memoir, entitled There Was a Country. “But the Biafran war changed the course of Nigeria.” However, for Professor Achebe, the war’s impact was not confined to Nigeria; it was also “a cataclysmic experience that changed the history of Africa.” The Biafran War, according to Professor Achebe, was a harbinger of subsequent African conflict, revealing the instability that would result from Africa’s arbitrarily drawn borders, the corrosive impact of natural resource wealth, and the inability of the international community to decisively respond to African conflicts. The Africa Center for Strategic Studies is one of five Department of Defense regional centers for research and academic outreach and supports U.S. policy by bringing civilian and military leaders together for informed debate on current security challenges facing Africa and the international community. Since 1999, more than 6,000 African and international leaders have participated in ACSS programs.
  • Overcoming Dilemmas of Democratization

    Egypt Anti-Government Demonstrators Egypt's rocky post-Mubarak transition reflects the rearguard resistance, non-democratic attempts to hijack a democratic movement, and experience of democratically-elected leaders who, once in office, govern undemocratically that confront many democratic transitions. To foster the resilience needed to overcome these challenges, this piece highlights the importance of protecting journalists and civil society organizations, sustained international engagement, and legal sanctions for political actors who systematically undermine nascent democratic institutions. Read the Abstract: [HTML] Download the Article: [PDF] This article is part of a Special Issue published by the Nordic Journal of International Law commemorating the 100th Anniversary of Raoul Wallenberg. For a full list of other contributions in this Special Issue, please see: