February 23, 2013

Canada’s Mali Conundrum

February 15, 2013 by

A French military convoy crossing Timbuktu during their military campaign against Islamic insurgents. Eric Feferberg/AFP/Getty Images via National Public Radio

Roughly a month after France began its aerial bombardment of Islamic extremists in Mali, Canada’s offering to the western response has remained largely unchanged: one C-17 heavy-lift cargo plane, and $13-million in humanitarian aid announced at an International donors’ conference in Addis Ababa.

The government’s reluctance to pledge more resources has come amidst consternation from foreign policy watchers at home. Historically Canada has had a significant presence in Mali as a major donor. It remains one of the Canadian International Development Agency’s (CIDA) focus countries, and is home to significant Canadian mining interests. According to Natural Resources Canada, in 2010 there were 15 Canadian mining and exploration companies in Mali with an estimated $230 million in assets.


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Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia’s Future

December 17, 2012 by

Somali woman sells bread at the Jawahar market in Middle Shabelle. Stuart Price/UN

In implementing their recently concluded regional security cooperation agreement and reaffirming their indefinite military occupation of Somalia, both Ethiopia and Kenya have left open the possibility of annexing Somalia under the cover of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD). Since only Ethiopia exercises uncontested power within the IGAD, on December 6, 2012, IGAD Joint Committee of Ethiopia and Kenya under the auspices of former Kenyan Minister, Mr. Kipruto Arap Kirwa, IGAD Facilitator for Somalia Peace and Reconciliation (IFSPR), issued a statement and Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Grand Stabilization plan (GSP) for South and Central Somalia.


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Foreign Policy for Somalia Needs a Boost

November 8, 2012 by

Mogadishu is experiencing unprecedented economic activity. Tobin Jones/AU/UN

On November 4, 2012 Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman visited Somalia and met with President Hassan Sheikh Mahamud, government leaders, military leaders, UN representatives, community and business leaders. A State Department release noted, “Under Secretary Sherman is the highest ranking U.S. official to visit Somalia in more than twenty years, and her visit underscored the U.S. Government’s commitment to Somalia’s stabilization efforts.”

In 1991 the U.S. Embassy in Mogadishu was closed, leaving a diplomatic void. In the chaos that followed secular and Islamic warlords fought for control of the country. Had we stayed, we could have helped guide them through the democratic governing and election process. Instead we returned two years later on a humanitarian aid mission, and became embroiled in trying to capture a local Islamist warlord. In the process our military killed a number of innocent clan leaders. In a subsequent battle we lost eighteen of our soldiers. Ever since we have tried to undermine the Islamists, and establish a democratic style of government.


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China’s Dangerous Game: Resource Investment and the Future of Africa

October 9, 2012 by

Chinese and Chadian workers at an oil site in southern Chad, part of China’s growing economic presence in Africa. Ruth Fremson/The New York Times via The New York Times

It was an important day for Angola, June 20th, 2006. Amid the diplomatic pomp and handshakes of an official visit Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao opened the Luanda General Hospital and had his picture taken peering into a microscope surrounded by officials in suits and medics in white smocks.  The capital’s General Hospital, a sprawling eighty-thousand square meter complex, was constructed with Chinese funds and meant to symbolize the growing partnership between Beijing and Angola, a symbol replicated across the African continent in countless roads, bridges, and other infrastructure projects funded by Chinese investments.

Premier Wen stayed only 24 hours but the hospital remained; a physical reminder of Sino-African trust and cooperation. Four years later the hospital was in imminent danger of collapse. Deep cracks ran through its walls, bricks crumbled under the structure’s weight. Personnel and 150 patients were evacuated with some forced to live in tents on the hospital grounds. Beijing dispatched an investigatory team and their findings concluded that faulty Angolan surveys resulted in flawed Chinese designs, a diagnosis that has come to symbolize the greater Sino-African relationship: great ambitions built on uncertain ground.


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Turkey and the Horn of Africa: Emerging Interests and Relations

July 8, 2012 by

Map of the Horn of Africa. Image via Al Jazeera

Chatham House in London held an afternoon session on 28 June 2012 dealing with Turkey’s engagement in the Horn of Africa. I was asked to make remarks at this workshop. My opening comments provided a brief synopsis of Turkey’s relations with Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, Djibouti and Somalia. Somalia, where Turkey has made an extraordinary investment, dominated the discussion at the workshop.  

The following are my opening remarks:  

Turkey has embassies in Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia but none in Eritrea and Djibouti. Turkey’s trade with the Horn of Africa is not significant. In 2010, it had modest imports from the region, the largest amount being $41 million in value from Ethiopia. Its only exports to the region that year of any significance were $228 million to Sudan and $175 million to Ethiopia.


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Peace Corps Diary: Ethiopia 1962-1964 Part 12

May 22, 2012 by

Peace Corps volunteers in Ethiopia we were not allowed to own private vehicles. That at least was the rule, however, not so in practice. Only days after landing in Gondar one of our twelve fellow volunteers purchased a very used VW bug for $300 Eth.  On September 24th my diary noted that the driver had tried to avoid hitting a cow and as a result the car had ended up in a ditch. When the volunteer went back the next day to retrieve the car it had disappeared. That was the end of that vehicle story.

The only other private Peace Corps owned motor vehicle in Gondar was a well used European motorcycle bought by Jack. It was forever in need of spare parts and repair but while running it gave Jack a certain jaunty air.


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Peace Corps Diary: Ethiopia 1962-1964 Part 9

March 25, 2012 by

Days after our arrival in Gondar we were approached by numerous students asking for employment in our house in exchange for a place to stay and a small stipend.

While, as I’ve indicated in a previous chapter, we were reluctant to admit we needed help we were impressed by the story of one tenth grade student, Yimer Mekonnen.


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U.S. Policy towards the Horn of Africa

October 13, 2011 by

U.S. Marine Corps CH-53 helicopters during inflight refueling over Djibouti on Jan.19, 2008

The problems of the Horn of Africa are frequently interlinked and often cross international borders. The root causes of the conflicts include economic inequality, political marginalization, poor governance, ethnic tension, competition for scarce resources such as water and good land, periodic drought and poverty.

Contributory factors are porous borders, widespread availability of arms, corruption, a poor record by governments on human rights issues and interference in the region by organizations and countries outside the Horn. When you add the fact that the Horn is located on a religious fault line, you have a recipe for frequent conflict. It has arguably been the most conflicted corner of the world since the end of World War II. The Horn has constantly posed a serious challenge for U.S. policy.


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