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Prospects for Participation of ECOWAS Forces in Mali

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The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) held a meeting of heads of Armed Forces Headquarters of the countries which discussed the terms and elaborated the specific plan of sending troops to Mali to protect the country’s territorial integrity.

On June 29, ECOWAS summit press release was published revealing the Community’s decision to “immediately” send a “technical assessment group” to Mali to make preliminary preparations for the arrival of “ECOWAS Mission to Mali” planned for the nearest future.

Creation of the unrecognized self-proclaimed state of Azawad in the region of Sahel contributed to increasing risks of spreading instability in the neighbouring countries.

Armed groups of young people are arriving in Gao from Burkina-Faso, thus increasing the number of foreign recruiters. The troop they formed now has about 300 members. Today, the group of foreign combatants from neighbouring countries also includes immigrants from Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire. In fact, it means that the conflict goes beyond the state of Azawad and the conflict between Tuareg tribes and Mali’s authorities, and therefore, may be rescaled into a regional one in case of aggravation thereof. Training camps of Islamic groups Ansar ad-Din and MUJAO demonstrate good military education and religious background which increases the risks of turning of military operations into terrorist attacks similar to those in Iraq and the countries surrounding Mali, and causes religion to influence political processes.

Such mobilization, in our opinion, has little to do with the aspiration to form a unified state by all the 7 large Tuareg confederations. Tuareg’s policy in the North of Mali is shaped mainly by two large confederated tribes of Ifoghas and Idnan with their long historical presence in the North-East of Mali. Representatives of the hierarchical governance of these tribes show the most powerful influence in MNLA. This movement’s success in Mali resulted in support thereto by representatives of other tribes and families which found it to be the first organization that was really worth support.

However, we believe that the activities of radical organizations cause motivation of participation of many supporters of Azawad’s independence in the political process to turn more religion-oriented. Thus, organization Ansar ad-Din follows the policy of keeping fixed borders in Mali and elimination of Sharia norms throughout the whole territory thereof. This ideology is obviously supported from abroad since the group’s leader Iyagh Ag Ghaly created the group after his return from the KSA where he had worked in the capacity of the Consul of Mali. Such rotation allows the extremist forces to gradually strengthen their position all over the region inhabited by Tuareg (especially Ifoghas tribes) and prepare a firm base for their activities in southern areas of Algeria.

We confirm our prognosis revealed on September 9, 2011 in the Da Vinci AG Breaking Report under the title Outlook of the Situation in Libya and the Regions after Kaddafi’s Regime Collapse regarding high risks of destabilization of the situation in Niger.

Notwithstanding the fact that the new state of Azawad is not likely to be recognized by the world community such outlook will hardly influence the stability therein. The necessary goods may be smuggled. At the same time, de facto lack of economic institutions and national statehood structure prevents possible conflicts for influence between Tuareg tribes.

The key problem in the negotiation process is lack of powerful political forces on the continent able to influence Tuareg tribes. Forced settlement of the issue will not bring the desired outcome and will facilitate increase of military and political, social and economic risks in the neighbouring countries. At the same time, delaying the settlement of the conflict imposes a significant threat for the region’s stability and suggests high probability of radical groups expanding their activities in the neighbouring countries.

  1. According to our estimations, the optimal way of settling the issue is elimination of the radical compound in Azawad. According to MNLA press-secretary Ham Ag Sid Ahmed, “Tuaregs want not to be taken as “terrorists from other regions, representatives of completely different culture while the Tuareg culture is based on tolerance, dignity and respect”. This is proven by the fact that Tuaregs have driven Islamists out of Tin- Bouktou. Then MNLA leaders attempted to settle the issue with the help of political means. However, negotiations between them and Ansar ad-Din leader Iyagh Ag Ghaly produced no result because Salafists insisted on turning Azawad into an Islamic republic and introduction of Sharia norms within the region. Therefore, we predict that the recipe of success in settling the situation is stimulation of split between Tuareg tribes and radical groups close to AQIM and Ansar ad-Din. In this case, the scenario suggesting support to Ansar ad-Din as an ally in the struggle against MNLA, in our opinion, is extremely dangerous and unpredictable. MNLA General Secretary Bilal Ag Cherif – like Iyagh Ag Ghaly – represent the same tribe of Ifoghas which points out at the probable future change in MNLA policy that will face the issue of recognizing the state of Azawad. As a result, MNLA may suffer a split, and a large fraction may separate supporting the scenario according to which the authorities will be forced to form a federation on the territory of Mali with the Islamic autonomy of Azawad. Achieving this task will result in the spread of violence to the South of the country influenced by the increase of significance of the religious factor for the confederation of Ifoghas tribes. This means that in future MNLA leaders may share their power over the tribes with the representatives and allies of Ansar ad-Din.
  2. Bamako’s inability to form legitimate government strengthens MNLA’s position creating political vacuum within the country and encouraging Tuareg tribes to support powerful groups of the radical forces. Financial and military and technical support of the Malian regular army in exchange for the democratic procedure of electing new leadership in the country is a more efficient scenario than sending ESF troops.

We believe that the most efficient scenario of the conflict settlement is:

А) legitimization of the transitional government and ensuring representation therein of members of Captain A. Sanogo’ group.

B) Declaring official Bamako’s readiness to commence negotiations on granting broad autonomy to Azawad or federalization in case of liquidation of terrorist cells therein. Such step will also allow to reduce tension in the neighbouring Niger.

C) Enhancing protection of Mali’s northern borders with Algeria and Burkina-Faso aimed at blocking smuggling channels including drug trafficking from the South America. Reinforcement of border control will allow to slacken the position of groups close to AQIM by cutting off financing and to facilitate establishing a dialogue with Tuareg representatives from Bamako. Liquidation of financial channels of Ansar ad-Din will allow to return some of the militants members thereof to the MNLA troops they left.

We believe that in the event of military operations undertaken by ESF they will face direct confrontation only with MNLA forces. This will strengthen the position of juhadists due to changing the power balance. In such case, the latter will get more room for manoeuvres and the possibility to undertake attacks in the country’s central and southern regions.

External intervention will facilitate consolidation of tribes supporting the creation of Azawad and enhancing inter-tribe confrontation within the country and the frontier areas, as well as intensify sentiments of the religious part of the population in respect to jihad. Such intervention may be resorted to in some other countries within the region as a trigger for activation of fundamentalism (e.g., in the North of Nigeria).

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SADC Summit Ends With Promises of More Meetings

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The Southern African Development Community (SADC) held an Extraordinary Double Troika meeting on 8th April in Maputo to deliberate on measures on addressing terrorism and its related impact on the current development specifically in the Mozambique and generally in southern Africa. The Cabo Delgado crisis started in 2017 with insurgents taking control of parts of northern Mozambique.

One of the two troikas consists of the current, incoming and outgoing chairs of SADC (namely Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania), while the second is formed by the current, incoming and outgoing chairs of the SADC organ for politics, defence and security cooperation (Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe).

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa and the ministers of international relations, defence and state security attended the meeting. It was also attended by Mozambique, Botswana, Malawi Zimbabwe and Tanzania.

The summit was called in the wake of the terrorist attack of 24 March against the town of Palma in the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado, but the leaders did not pledge any immediate practical support for Mozambique.

SADC Troika heads however said the acts of terrorism perpetrated against innocent civilians in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique, could not be allowed to continue without a proportionate regional response and reported that 12 decapitated bodies have been found behind a hotel in the region.

Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi has called for cooperation in cross-border surveillance as essential to stem the flow of foreign fighters fomenting terrorism in Cabo Delgado, warning of the spread of violence throughout Southern Africa.

Among the measures that the SADC countries should implement to combat terrorism is strengthening border control between Southern African countries, he said, and further added that Southern African police and judicial systems must consistently work to combat trafficking and money laundering that funds terrorism.

Nyusi stressed that the organization should implement practical acts to combat this scourge of terrorism to prevent its expansion and destabilization of the region, and warned of the risk that the actions of armed groups with a jihadist connotation could hinder regional integration.

According official reports, SADC fends off United States / European Union anti-terror intervention in Cabo Delgado. It further said no to another Mali / Somalia / Libya / Syria disaster on the African continent, adding that the global Anti-Terror lobbies are frustrated.

Deeply concerned about the continued terrorist attacks in Cabo Delgado, especially for the lives and welfare of the residents who continue to suffer from the atrocious, brutal and indiscriminate assaults, the leaders decided at their meeting to deploy a technical mission to Mozambique. It’s not clear what action the region will take but the deployed technical mission will report back to heads of state by 29 April.

The final communiqué from the summit condemned the terrorist attacks “in the strongest terms” and declared that “such heinous attacks cannot be allowed to continue without a proportionate regional response” but it did not suggest what such a regional response might consist of.

The Summit expressed “SADC’s full solidarity with the government and people of Mozambique” and reaffirmed “SADC’s continued commitment to contribute towards the efforts to bring about lasting peace and security, as well as reconciliation and development in the Republic of Mozambique.”

The summit ordered “an immediate technical deployment” to Mozambique, and the convening of an Extraordinary Meeting of the Ministerial Committee of the Organ by 28 April 2021 that will report to the Extraordinary Organ Troika summit on 29 April 2021.

The extremely brief communiqué mentioned no other specific measures.

The violence unleashed more than three years ago in Cabo Delgado province took a new escalation about a fortnight ago when armed groups attacked the town of Palma, which is about six kilometres from the multi-million dollar natural gas, according to United Nations data.

The attacks caused dozens of deaths and forced thousands of Palma residents to flee, worsening a humanitarian crisis that has affected some 700,000 people in the province since the conflicts data. Several countries have offered Maputo military support on the ground to combat these insurgents, but so far there has been no openness, although reports and testimonies are pointing to security companies and mercenaries in the area.

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African agriculture is ready for a digital revolution

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Authors: Akinwumi Adesina and Patrick Verkooijen*

After a dark 2020, a new year has brought new hope. In Africa, where up to 40 million more people were driven into extreme poverty and the continent experienced its first recession in 25 years, a brighter future beckons as the economy is forecast to return to growth this year.

Africa now has an opportunity to reset its economic compass. To build back not just better, but greener. Particularly as the next crisis—climate change—is already upon us.

Africa’s food systems must be made more resilient to future shocks such as floods, droughts, and disease. Urgent and sustainable increases in food production are needed to reduce reliance on food imports and reduce poverty, and this is where digital services come into play.

With mobile phone ownership in Sub-Saharan Africa alone expected to reach half a billion this year, digital services offered via text messaging can reach even the most remote village. And at least one-fifth of these phones also have smart features, meaning they can connect to the internet.

We can already see how digital services drive prosperity locally and nationally. In Uganda, SMS services that promote market price awareness have lifted the price farmers receive for bananas by 36 percent, beans by 16.5 percent, maize by 17 percent, and coffee by 19 percent. In Ghana, services that cut out the middleman have lifted the price for maize by 10 percent and groundnuts by 7 percent.

But digital services don’t just raise farmgate prices, they are the gateway to farm loans, crop insurance, and greater economic security, which in turn enables farmers to increase their resilience to climate change—by experimenting with new, drought-resistant crops, for example, or innovative farming methods.

Text messages with weather reports help farmers make better decisions about when and what to plant, and when to harvest.

In Niger, a phone-based education program has improved crop diversity, with more farmers likely to grow the cash crop okra, while an advisory service in Ethiopia helped increase wheat production from one ton to three tons per hectare.

The data footprints phone users create can also be analyzed to help assess risk when it comes to offering loans, making credit cheaper and more accessible.

Phones and digital services also speed up the spread of information through social networks, helping farmers learn about new drought-resistant crops or services that can increase productivity. Free-to-use mobile phone-based app WeFarm, for example, has already helped more than 2.4 million farmers find certified suppliers of quality seeds at fair prices. They can also connect farmers to internet-based services.

Examples of digital innovation abound, sometimes across borders. In Ghana, Kenya, and Nigeria, equipment-sharing platform Hello Tractor is helping farmers rent machinery by the day or even hour, while in Ethiopia, AfriScout, run by the non-government organization Project Concern International with the World Food Programme and the Ministry for Agriculture, provides satellite images of water supplies and crops every 10 days so problems can be spotted quickly to aid remedial action.

Transforming food systems digitally has demonstrably excellent results: the African Development Bank, which has allocated over half of its climate financing to adaptation since 2019, has already helped 19 million farmers in 27 countries to lift yields by an average 60 percent through applying digital technology, for example.

This is why the Global Center on Adaptation and the African Development Bank have launched the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program (AAAP) to mobilize $25 billion to scale up and accelerate innovative climate-change adaptation across Africa.

Once developed, the digital nature of these services often makes such projects easy to replicate elsewhere and scale, even across large rural areas with little existing infrastructure.

Further, adaptation projects are proven to be highly cost-effective, often delivering value many times the original investment and so helping African economies grow faster and create many more much-needed jobs.

This makes it imperative that the global resolve to rebuild economies in the wake of Covid-19 is harnessed in the most effective way. We must not simply replicate the mistakes of the past. We must build back stronger, with a more resilient and climate-smart focus.

Funding and promoting disruptive business models in which digital technologies are embedded to increase productivity without using more land or more water will create a triple win: increased production, a more resilient climate and more empowered farmers.

We have the means and the technical capability to put Africa well on the way to achieving food self-sufficiency and greater climate resilience. In doing so, we can help millions move out of food poverty. We must not squander this opportunity to create truly historic and lasting change.

AfDB

*Patrick Verkooijen is CEO of the Global Center on Adaptation.

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Towards the Second Russia-Africa Summit

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Following the instruction of Russian President on the preparation of the second Russia-Africa Summit in 2022, a working meeting between Adviser to the President of the Russian Federation and the Association of Economic Cooperation with African States (AECAS), the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum and the Roscongress Foundation was held in Moscow.

Among the participants of the meeting were Adviser to the President of the Russian Federation Anton Kobyakov, Ambassador-at-Large of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Head of the Secretariat of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum Oleg Ozerov, Chairman of the Board, Chief Executive Officer of the Roscongress Foundation, Head of the Coordination Council for Russia-Africa Partnership Forum Alexander Stuglev and Head of AECAS Alexander Saltanov.

They discussed the prospects for further development of relationships with African countries in accordance with the decisions of the first Russia-Africa Summit that was held in Sochi in October 2019, as well as the key aspects of preparation for the next top-level Russian-African meeting in 2022, including the need to establish efficient information cooperation with African countries.

Adviser to the President was presented with the interim results of the work done by the Secretariat that was created in 2020 for coordination and preparation of events within the Russia-Africa format, as well as advances made by AECAS, the establishment of which is an important achievement on the way to efficient and fruitful preparation for subsequent events of the Russian-African track.

The day before Russian President Vladimir Putin informed the participants of the International Inter-Party Conference Russia-Africa: Reviving Traditions about the preparation for the second Russia-Africa Summit in a telegram and noted that the first Summit «gave a strong momentum to the development of friendly relationships between our country and countries of the African continent.»

Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov, who took part in the Inter-Party Conference, said that the Summit is already being prepared and filled with meaningful content, and roadmaps of Russian-African economic, scientific and humanitarian cooperation are to be drafted in the near future. Minister also noted that African issues are supposed to be included in the programme of the upcoming St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. These topics will be further discussed at the next meeting of foreign ministers of Russia and the African Union trio that is scheduled for 2021.

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