Experts’ Publications by topic

Africa Security Challenges

  • U.S. Security Engagement in Africa

    By William M. Bellamy, Africa Center for Strategic Studies

    usarmyafricaA significant development in Africa over the past decade has been the generalized lessening of violent conflict. Revitalized, expanded international peacekeeping, bolstered by a newly launched African Union (AU) determination to tackle security challenges, has reinforced this trend. But, much more cohesive interagency coordination under strong White House direction is required if the United States is to contribute to Africa’s sustained stability given the region’s persistent conditions of poverty, inequality, and weak governance.

    Download the Security Brief [pdf]: ENGLISH | FRANÇAIS | PORTUGUÊS

    For additional reading see Africa Security Challenges
  • The Close of the Mugabe Era

    The Close of the Mugabe Era. By William M. Bellamy and J. Stephen Morrison. Center for Strategic International Studies, 2008. [PDF]

Conflict Prevention or Mitigation

Countering Extremism

  • ACSS to Host Roundtable on Drivers of Islamist Extremism in Northern Nigeria

    Boko HaramThe Africa Center is hosting a roundtable discussion on the subject of “Understanding and Mitigating the Drivers of Islamist Extremism in Northern Nigeria” on Friday, December 13, 2013, from 9 to 11 a.m. at National Defense University facilities in Washington, D.C.

    The Africa Center for Strategic Studies invites you to a Roundtable on:

    Understanding and Mitigating the Drivers of Islamist Extremism in Northern Nigeria

    Friday, December 13, 2013 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. (Coffee available at 8:30 a.m.)

    National Defense University Eisenhower Hall, Building 59 Room 101

    Please RSVP with your name and affiliation to: Antoine de Saint Phalle

    The U.S. designation of Boko Haram (and its offshoot, Ansaru) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization has dominated the policy discourse surrounding security in northern Nigeria. Yet, the resonance of militant Islamist messages in the north predates Boko Haram—and is likely to persist even were it successfully dismantled. Effectively and sustainably addressing extremism in northern Nigeria, therefore, requires better understanding its underlying drivers. To help clarify these drivers and identify strategies to sustainably diminish the appeal of militant messages, the Africa Center for Strategic Studies is convening a panel of experts with long experience in northern Nigeria to share their insights.

    Michael Olufemi Sodipo Founder and Coordinator of the Peace Initiative Network Kano, Nigeria

    John Paden Robinson Professor of International Studies George Mason University

    Ousman Kobo Associate Professor, Department of History Ohio State University

    Alex Thurston International Affairs Fellow Council on Foreign Relations

    Joseph Siegle (moderating) Director of Research Africa Center for Strategic Studies

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    Directions to Ft. McNair Map of Ft. McNair

    Please bring a picture ID to enter Ft. McNair. Space is limited.

    Please RSVP with your name and affiliation to: Antoine de Saint Phalle

  • ACSS' Dr. Nickels Discusses Leadership, Ethical Implications of Military Force

    Dr. Benjamin NickelsALEXANDRIA, Virginia — A clear national security strategy—one that addresses leadership and ethical questions for security forces—and strategic media engagement are critical to win the support of populations while fighting violent extremists, Dr. Benjamin Nickels, Academic Chair of Transnational Threats at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) told participants at the Next Generation of African Security Sector Leaders program on October 25, 2013. Dr. Nickels spoke to an audience of nearly 60 participants from 40 African countries. He provided them with an assessment of the fight against violent extremism in Africa, as well as the leadership and ethical questions it raises. Dr. Nickels provided an overview of violent extremist groups operating in Africa and the drivers behind extremism, including weak states, corruption, and the youth bulge. He also stressed that in some cases, African leaders have lost their moral compass and let their countries sink into corruption and abuse by government officials, paving ground for violent extremist groups to build on grievances and to carry forth people’s frustration.

    » Photo Gallery: Next Generation of African Security Sector Leaders

    “Violent extremism offers an alternative to those who feel sidelined by the society they live in” said Dr. Nickels. “It appeals to their [religious and traditional] beliefs, and to their feeling of being unfairly treated by the ruling power.” Confronting increasingly interconnected violent extremist groups is a difficult task for security sector professionals, Dr. Nickels said. It can call for the use of force to protect citizens’ safety, a duty that often raises ethical questions. Drawing on conversations with security forces on the ground, Dr. Nickels described three questions that are often asked when using force against violent extremists:
    • Can I use force?
    • May I use force?
    • Should I use force?
    Dr. Nickels added that the third question can be the most challenging, because it concerns the consequences of kinetic actions taken by any security forces. “The ability and right to use force are not sufficient by themselves,” Dr. Nickels insisted. “It is most important to assess the consequences of force on the overall strategy. Inappropriate use of force can yield negative consequences in winning the support of communities, not to mention that it can be a road block to the gathering of valuable intelligence.” It is therefore critical, he added, to carefully assess when and how to use force. It is equally critical to avoid any abuse by political or armed forces, especially after an attack. Finally, Dr. Nickels said that to avoid dilemmas, African countries should lay out a national security strategy that defines the vision and mission of the security forces. He also emphasized the need for training and transparency in the security sector—to upgrade the professionalism of security forces—as well as improved communication strategies. He said that security forces in Africa need to update their media outreach, for the sake of better understanding by the populations of the role of security professionals. “Security forces should definitely increase their strategic engagement with the media,” he said. Even though journalists are sometimes improperly trained and therefore don’t always adhere to professional standards and a sense of fairness, he said that security forces need to work with media to create a better understanding of their actions among their peoples. “Security forces must be able to tell their own story, so that the use of force is better explained to populations.” The Africa Center is the pre-eminent Department of Defense institution for strategic security studies, research, and outreach in Africa. ACSS offers a range of academic symposiums, workshops, and programs throughout Africa, the United States, and Europe. Since 1999, more than 6,000 African and international leaders have participated in ACSS programs.
  • ACSS Research Director Discusses Future of Boko Haram on Arise TV

    Arise News - Boko Haram Authorities in Nigeria claimed to have killed the leadership of Boko Haram. Does that mean that the campaign of terror in the country's north is over? Dr. Joseph Siegle, Research Director at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) discussed the topic and what it means for the future of the Islamic group in an interview with Arise TV. The 7-minute interview aired August 25, 2013, as part of a weekly news roundup of the Nigeria-owned international station that has offices in New York.

    Watch Dr. Siegle’s interview

    For more information about Boko Haram, read ACSS' recent Africa Security Brief on Mitigating Radicalism in Northern Nigeria.
  • Attack on Terror Target Sheds Light on Somalia’s Instability

    Attack on Terror Target Sheds Light on Somalia’s Instability. Interview featuring Andre Le Sage. PBS NewsHour, orginally aired May 1, 2008. [Video] [Transcript]
  • U.S. Launches Air Strikes in Southern Somalia

    U.S. Launches Air Strikes in Southern Somalia. Interview featuring Andre Le Sage. PBS NewsHour, originally aired January 9, 2007. [HTML]


Identity Conflict

Irregular Warfare

Natural Resources and Conflict

  • Security Sector Should Focus on Ensuring Africa’s Resources Benefit Economic Growth, ACSS Dean Gilpin Says

    By Serge Yondou, Africa Center for Strategic Studies Dr. Raymond GilpinALEXANDRIA, Virginia — Due to conflicts, African countries have lost billions of dollars—both in potential foreign direct investments and opportunity costs—which has kept populations in dire poverty, paving the ground for perpetual unrest, according to the Africa Center’s Dean, Dr. Raymond Gilpin, who urged rising security sector leaders to set the conditions for economic development. Peace and security are critical to spur economic growth in African countries, and security-sector leaders should take the lead to help provide a safe environment for business in their countries, said Dr. Gilpin, Dean of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS). He spoke at the three-week Next Generation of African Security Sector Leaders (Next Gen) program outside of Washington, D.C., which included 60 participants from 40 African nations. “When there is instability, foreign investment dries and cost of doing business in the country goes up,” Dr. Gilpin said in his October 28, 2013, presentation. “For a country to really take full advantage of its natural resources, it needs a security environment that is conducive to both business and citizens’ safety, something that can only be provided by a credible security sector.” Focusing on the nexus between natural resources, conflict and security, Dr. Gilpin said that, while the numbers of conflicts in Africa are on a downslope, their tendency to jeopardize the security of a region—because of spillovers—remains high and hinders citizens’ safety, business and development. Moreover, numerous studies have shown that some conflicts are closely linked to the access and exploitation of natural resources. Dr. Gilpin illustrated his talk with tables that showed a linkage between the types of natural resources, their locations, and the types of instability they can trigger. He also stressed that before going after the so-called “bad guys,” it is critical to understand the real drivers of a conflict. Dr. Gilpin particularly criticized the way some African governments literally sell off their natural resources, focusing on personal gain rather than the country’s long-term development goals and financial stability. Natural resources represent a multibillion industry, he said, but it is also the world of “high-value low-frequency contracts.” The immense value of these resources contracts “brings a new dynamic to everything we have discussed,” to include ethical leadership, Dr. Gilpin said, “and some people would do the unthinkable to ensure that they control the signature and the outcomes of the future contract.” Dr. Gilpin, who worked in international economics prior to embracing an academic career, said this is truer for countries that have just emerged from a conflict and formed an all-inclusive government. He said these types of emerging governments most often are comprised of people who helped each other during the conflict and are eager to reap the financial benefits of peace. Cabinet appointments are reward-based, rather than skilled-based, for example. He also stressed the fact that, because of the lack of specific skills, especially in mining and in contract negotiations, some countries have been imprisoned by unfavorable contracts in which multinational corporations arrange a lion’s share for themselves while leaving the host nation a much smaller share. For African countries, the most important economic challenge in the oil and mining industries “is not corruption; it is contracting,” Dr. Gilpin said. “The contracting process is so convoluted, so complex that African countries need highly skilled negotiators to get the most out of the negotiations. This also entails that the negotiators have high ethical standards, and consider the country’s natural resources as ‘national’ resources.” Africa is not resource-cursed, as many have asserted, Dr. Gilpin said. But, he added, “being able to move from where Africa is now to where Africa must be necessitates looking at natural resources through the lenses of good governance and national security. Strategic governmental decisions and national security issues intersect here.” The Africa Center is the pre-eminent Department of Defense institution for strategic security studies, research, and outreach in Africa. ACSS offers a range of academic symposiums, workshops, and programs throughout Africa, the United States, and Europe. Since 1999, more than 6,000 African and international leaders have participated in ACSS programs.
  • Oil and Gas Laws in Uganda: A Legislator’s Guide

    By Jessica Banfield, International Alert | May 2011

    With the discovery of massive oil deposits, Uganda must avoid the fate of many African countries with oil wealth: failure to convert natural resources into prosperity, poverty alleviation and widespread development. Uganda’s reserves necessitate a pre-existing legislative framework and establishing internal capacity to handle the wealth and complications of extraction. Transparent disclosure of revenues, a law-enforcement agency independent of government influence, environmental protections – with corresponding institutional capacity – and a progressive revenue collection system should be incorporated to ensure that oil benefits all Ugandans.

    Download the Article [PDF]

  • Governance Strategies to Remedy the Natural Resource Curse

    digging-africaBy Joseph Siegle. International Social Science Journal. UNESCO, 2009.

    The seemingly paradoxical outcome of resource-rich countries being development-poor is, in fact, quite predictable given that autocratic governments  often rule  resource-rich states. Addressing the resource curse requires changing the incentives facing political leaders so that they are rewarded for transparency and confront robust international legal penalties when they do not. View the Article: [HTML]

  • The Governance Root of the Natural Resource Curse

    The Governance Root of the Natural Resource Curse. By Joseph Siegle. Developing Alternatives, Vol. 11 (1): pp. 35-43, Spring 2007. [PDF]
  • Thirsty Powers: the United States, China, and Africa’s Resources

    Thirsty Powers: the United States, China, and Africa’s Resources. By Assis Malaquias. Manuela Franco, 2005. [PDF]


  • Peace Operations in Africa: Lessons Learned Since 2000

    By Paul D. Williams, Africa Center for Strategic Studies | July 2013 Heal-Africa-DRC-UN Photo-Eskinder Debebe More than 50 peace operations have deployed in Africa since 2000, including multiple African-led or hybrid African Union/United Nations initiatives. The frequency of these deployments underscores the ongoing importance of these operations in the playbook of regional and multilateral bodies to prevent conflict, protect civilians, and enforce ceasefires and peace agreements. Recent operations have featured increasingly ambitious goals and complex institutional partnerships. The achievements and shortcomings of these operations offer vital lessons for optimizing this increasingly central but still evolving tool for addressing conflict and instability.

    Download the Security Brief [PDF]: ENGLISH | FRANÇAIS| PORTUGUÊS

  • Transitioning to Peace: A Population-Based Survey on Attitudes About Social Reconstruction and Justice in Northern Uganda

    By Phuong Pham and Patrick Vinck, Human Rights Center, University of California – Berkeley School of Law | December 2010 n_uganda

    Since the withdrawal of the Lord’s Resistance Army from Northern Uganda in 2005 security threats have waned but disputes over land and resource shortages among millions of returnees are destabilizing fragile reconstruction gains. Shifting resources to establish a stronger judiciary system and effective policing to address expanding land disputes can foster security and strengthen community bonds. International Criminal Court initiatives in the region and public remembrances of past violence are also critical reconciliation and transitional justice efforts.

    Download the Article [PDF]

  • Lessons Learned from Peace Operations in Africa

    Ugandan African Union By Paul Williams. Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 2010.

    Peace operations have been a principal tool used to curb conflict in Africa over the past decade, with over 40 operations deployed since 2000. This Security Brief takes stock of lessons learned from these experiences and the implications they hold for improving the effectiveness of future peace operations in Africa.

    Download the Security Brief [PDF]: ENGLISH | FRANÇAIS | PORTUGUÊS

  • The African Standby Force: An Update on Progress

    Ugandan-soldiers-African-Union-Mission-in-Somalia-AMISOMBy Jakkie Cilliers. Institute for Security Studies, 2009.A detailed update on the growth of the continental (AU) and regional (RECs) institutions designed to execute strategy and operations for the five African peace brigades. Includes information on the logistical plans, command and control, equipment, and mandates of the ASF. Download the Article: [PDF]
  • Strengthening AFRICOM's Case

    Strengthening AFRICOM's Case. By J. Stephen Morrison, William M. Bellamy, Kathleen Hicks. Center for Strategic International Studies, 2008. [PDF]
  • In Sudan’s Darfur: Action, Not Just Aid

    In Sudan’s Darfur: Action, Not Just Aid. By Joseph Siegle. Christian Science Monitor, June 30, 2004. [HTML]
  • The Political Origin of Refugee Crises

    The Political Origin of Refugee Crises.  By Joseph Siegle. keynote address presented to 10th Annual Conference of the African Refugee Network, May 26, 2004. [PDF]
  • The UN in Mozambique and Angola: Lessons Learned

    The UN in Mozambique and Angola: Lessons Learned. By Assis Malaquias. Beyond the Emergency: Development within UN Peace Missions. Routledge, 1997. [GOOGLE]


  • Dynamics of Piracy off the Horn of Africa

    piratesPiracy off the Horn of Africa, particularly north and central Somalia, has emerged as a major security issue over the past five years, and poses a major challenge to African and global security strategists in determining and implementing an appropriate response. In 2008, over 110 ships were attacked and over 40 successfully hijacked in the area. As of January 2009, some 15 ships and over 200 crew members remained hostage to Somali pirates. While attacks concentrated in the Indian Ocean area to the east of Somalia since 2004, the pirates shifted their attention northward to ships crossing the Gulf of Aden since late 2007. High-profile hijackings A number of high profile hijackings have placed piracy at the center of international attention. These include the 2005 attack on a cruise ship, the Seabourn Spirit, which was not successful but saw pirates open fire on Western tourists with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades. The event was a wake-up call to the international community, highlighting that pirates would brazenly attack any type of vessel, not only fishing trawlers or cargo ships. In April 2008, the French luxury yacht named Le Ponant was seized and held for one week. Immediately after a ransom payment and the release of the ship, French commandos launched a helicopter raid that killed and captured some of the pirates, and reclaimed some of the ransom money. In September 2008, the M/V Faina was hijacked and held ransom until February 2009. The seizure of the Faina was notable due to the sensitivity of its cargo - some 33 main battle tanks and other weapons systems and ammunition - which could have potentially fallen into the hands of warring Somali militia-factions. In November 2008, Somali piracy again hit the headlines when the Sirius Star, carrying some 2 million barrels of oil from Saudi Arabia worth $100 million on the market, was hijacked nearly 450 nautical miles from the East African coast. Who are the pirates? Somali pirates are simply members of clan-based militia that have established a maritime capacity. Rather than conducting kidnapping and extortion efforts on land as Somali militia-factions have done with relative impunity since the collapse of the country's central government in 1991, the pirates have taken these tactics out to sea. While some pirates have claimed grand names for themselves - such as the Central Somalia Coast Guard, the National Volunteer Coast Guard, or the Somali Marines - piracy off Somalia has crystallized around two major networks: one based around the coastal villages of Eyl and Garaad in the semi-autonomous, area of Puntland in northeast Somalia, and one based from coastal villages of Hobyo and Harardhere in the central area of Somalia. The pirates are usually armed with AK-47s, RPG-7s and an assortment of other pistols, rifles and grenades - items which are ubiquitous and easily accessible in the Somali context. The militia are organized and supplied with boats, weapons and supplies by a handful of "pirate bosses" and their financiers based further inland. These sponsors do not engage in piracy directly but, rather, invest in the piracy enterprise in the expectation of sharing in any ransom that is generated. While thousands of able-bodied men are available to serve as pirates, efforts to combat piracy off Somalia may seek to target the smaller number of pirate bosses who are critical to the perpetuation of the two major piracy syndicates. How attacks happen Somali piracy is brazen, but remains a low-tech affair. Pirates utilize small speedboats which can travel up to 30 knots. Three to five of these speedboats are used at the same time to swarm targeted vessels until the pirates can board a ship with grappling hooks and ladders. Ships that get hijacked are usually slow vessels (traveling 15 knots or less), with low sides (or at least sitting low in the water), with limited crews or crews that do not maintain an effective look-out for pirates in order to undertake prompt evasive measures, and lacking non-lethal protective measures such as water cannons or acoustical devices to ward off attacks. It is often claimed that a pirate attack takes approximately 15 minutes to complete. Once pirates board a ship, they confine the crew and demand at gunpoint that the ship steer a course towards a favored pirate mooring, usually off villages such as Garad, Eyl, Hobyo or Harardhere, in northeast or central Somalia. As piracy in the Indian Ocean became increasingly common, ships have tended to steer well clear of the Somali coast. This has required the pirates to operate further out to sea. To do so, pirates have developed a "mothership" strategy of seizing medium-size fishing trawlers, holding their crew captive, and using the trawler to lay in wait for larger, more lucrative target vessels to pass. If no suitable targets are found in the short-term, there are some reports that pirates may return to shore in northern Somalia or possibly eastern Yemen in order to refuel and resupply, before setting out to sea once more. Ransom payments Hijacked vessels are only released after ransoms are paid. According to press reports, pirates secured ransom payments totaling near $50 million in 2008. Ransoms are delivered directly to the hijacked ships, where the pirates divide their ransom into individual shares immediately before disembarking and freeing the vessel and its captives. The ransoms have mostly been delivered by boats hired by private security companies that report to shipping agents and their insurance companies. Over the past four months, dropping ransoms to hijacked vessels from specially equipped light aircraft has also become a common practice. From 2004-2006, average ransom payments were closer to $500,000. However, during 2008, that number rose significantly, and payments for the release of the Sirius Star and M/V Faina have been reported at $3 million and $3.2 million, respectively. Broader Implications Piracy has a number of direct costs, including the costly disruption of trade passing the Gulf of Aden towards the Red Sea or down the Indian Ocean coastline, the high price of ransom payments, and the trauma inflicted on hostage crews and their families. However, piracy also has broader security and humanitarian implications. These include the disruption of much need foreign aid, particularly UN food relief, to some three million impoverished and displaced persons in war-ravaged Somalia. There is also the danger that funds generated through ransom payments will fuel the Somali war economy, creating new warlords and preventing the consolidation of the country's ongoing peace process. Environmental dangers include the potential for oil and chemical spills that would devastate the coastal ecosystem. The potential that terrorist groups operating from Somalia, including Al Qaeda and Al Shebab, could learn from the pirates and develop their own maritime capacity should also be noted. Finally, the rise of piracy off the Somali coast should not be allowed to obscure a host of related maritime security problems off the Horn of Africa. These include arms trafficking that fuels African civil wars and crime, human smuggling from Somalia to Yemen, the potential for terrorist transit, drug smuggling, illegal fishing and toxic waste dumping. Without a comprehensive approach to maritime safety and security in the Indian Ocean and stability on land in Somalia, it is only a matter of time before new threats emerge in the region to grab media headlines alongside piracy. Further Reading: Middleton, Roger, "Piracy in Somalia: Threatening global trade, feeding local wars," Briefing Paper, Africa Programme, Chatham House (October 2008). United Nations Security Council, "Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia submitted in accordance with resolution 1811 (2008)", New York (10 December 2008).
  • Diane Rehm Show: Piracy

    Diane Rehm Show: Piracy. Featuring Andre Le Sage. WAMU 88.5 FM, originally aired April 9, 2009. [AUDIO]

Post-Conflict Reconstruction

Regional and International Security Cooperation

Security and Development

  • L’Afrique au Futur Conditionnel

    L’Afrique au Futur Conditionnel by Mathurin C. Houngnikpo. L'Harmattan, October 2011. [LINK]
  • Angola’s Foreign Policy: Pragmatic Recalibrations

    By Dr. Assis Malaquias, Africa Center for Strategic Studies | May 2011 assis-acss-2

    The interconnectedness between domestic security and international relations has defined Angola’s post-colonial history. To survive various domestic security challenges, the country deployed considerable resources in two areas. Internally, Angola invested disproportionately in a strong security sector to deal with the immediate threats posed by opposing parties. Internationally, it focused diplomatic efforts on nurturing relations with key strategic allies, notably the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and Cuba, to help shape external environments to its advantage. This strategy has succeeded in ensuring regime survival.

    With the end of the civil war and as the regime sought to consolidate its gains, an important foreign policy recalibration took place that resulted in the development of a strategic partnership with China. Recently, internal expectations and demands for fast economic growth within a democratic political system have meant that relations with mature democracies like the US are likely to take precedence.

    This paper assesses the trajectory of Angola’s foreign policy as a reflection of its desire to manage three key historical challenges. These are survival, between independence in 1975 and the end of the civil war in 2002; reconstruction and growth, from the end of the civil war to the present; and the approaching task of democratic development. The paper suggests that for each stage, Angola has embraced a major international partner – the former USSR for survival; China for reconstruction and growth; and the US for democratic development.

    Read the Paper [PDF]

  • Democracy and Development: Overcoming Autocratic Legacies

    Liberia's President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (Courtesy  The World Bank  2007)Poor countries are more vulnerable to crisis, be it economic, humanitarian, or open conflict. Cross-national analysis, however, shows that the development performance of low-income democracies significantly outpaces that of autocracies – and do so with less volatility. Sustaining democratization, therefore, is a priority for attaining both development and security objectives.

    Download the Article: [PDF] For additional reading go to: Security and Development
  • Economic Integration and Development in Africa

    Economic integration and development in Africa. By Mathurin Houngnikpo and Henry Kyambalesa. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2006. [GOOGLE]
  • Africa’s Elusive Quest for Development

    Africa’s Elusive Quest for Development. By Mathurin Houngnikpo. Palgrave Macmillan, February 2006.
  • Understanding Food Security: A Conceptual Framework for Programming

    Understanding Food Security: A Conceptual Framework for Programming.  By Joseph Siegle. Concept paper prepared for World Vision's global partnership, 1998.

Stabilization of Fragile States