Tag Archives: Africa

Edgar Lungu Elected President of Zambia

On January 25th, Edgar Lungu of the Patriotic Front party was elected president of Zambia, succeeding the temporary president Guy Scott. Scott was ineligible to be president as Zambia’s constitution requires that the president have both parents of Zambian ancestry; Scott is of Scottish and English ancestry. Lungu, a former defense and justice minister, assumes the role of president at a delicate time for Zambia. Zambia, one of the world’s largest producers of copper, is struggling with an economic recession caused by the decline in demand for copper as well as a series of disputes over taxation with mining companies.

Earlier on the Free Fire blog we reported on former Zambian president Michael Sata’s death, and what it could mean for Zambian mineral policy. It remains to be seen whether Edgar Lungu will continue the policies of the deceased former President Michael Sata. After a shooting of striking miners by Chinese supervisors, Michael Sata forced all foreign mining companies operating in Zambia to operate by a strict set of labor laws. However, with the recent depreciation of copper prices, Zambia has found itself in tough economic straits; earlier this month Zambia raised mining royalties up to 20%, forcing several mines to operate at a loss. As Lungu takes  over the presidency he will be faced with a number of hard decisions regarding the mining industry. How he responds to those challenges may set the stage for his entire presidency.

Al-Shabaab Targets Turkish Officials in Somalia

Al-Shabaab, the Somali-based Islamic extremist group, targeted a Turkish delegation meeting at a hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia on Thursday. At about 2:45 p.m. local time, a car full of explosives intentionally crashed into a convoy transporting Turkish ministry officials. The method of attack suggests that Al-Shabaab somehow had intelligence of when and where the officials would be arriving.

While the suicide car bomber failed in his objective, he killed at least five Somali policemen and one civilian. Al-Shabaab took credit for the attack, which came the day before Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan planned to arrive in Somalia. He has, however, slightly delayed his visit to attend the funeral of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah.

Ali Mohamud Rage, a spokesman for the group, stated the bomb was meant for Turkish officials. Turkey has been heavily involved in Somalia the past few years investing in infrastructure and other kinds of reconstruction while leaving a strong foothold. Al-Shabaab claims that Turkey is secularizing Somalia and is a foreign presence interfering in local affairs.

Beyond the violent act itself, this incident illustrates that the relationship between Ankara and Mogadishu is a significant aspect of Somali politics. Turkey has taken a strong interest in the east African state in recent years, and both sides have formed a close link. On August 19, 2011, then Prime Minister Erdogan visited Mogadishu. This trip marked the first time a non-African leader entered Somalia’s capital since 1991, when the country’s last effective government fell. Erdogan’s arrival came while Somalia and the entire Horn of Africa were undergoing a terrible drought. The relationship started before 2011, but since then, it has blossomed.

Ankara has opened an embassy in Mogadishu and built an airport. In March 2012, Turkish Airlines (THY) started sending flights there. Further, Turkey has given hundreds of millions of dollars to Somalia for various development projects and humanitarian aid. According to International Monetary Fund estimates from October 2011, Turkey gave more aid to Somalia than any other country when comparing the amount given to the countries’ gross national incomes. This assistance has continued through today as indicated by Erdogan’s imminent visit.

Turkey says that their Somali presence is humanitarian rather than strategic, but there are many reasons why the Turks have taken such an interest in Somalia and invested vast sums of money into a country that is often in chaos. While both states share the heritage of the Ottoman Empire, one of Ankara’s biggest motivations is to tap into African markets to broaden its economic reach; this goes hand-in-hand with an attempt to expand global influence. The Horn of Africa can be a great place for natural resources and a new market to further distance itself from European trade. Beyond pure economics, Ankara sees Somalia as an opportunity to gain a benevolent reputation in sub-Saharan Africa and exert more power.

Another possible factor in Ankara’s thinking may be that Somalia has a population of mainly Sunni Muslims. Turkey is also a primarily Sunni nation and becoming increasingly Islamic. This religious link could play a role in Turkey’s efforts. Relating to this point is Turkey’s goal to combat Iran’s influence in Africa. Iran is a Shia nation trying to achieve regional hegemony, so Sunni Muslims, including Turkey, have religious reasons for wanting to stop Iran. At least as important are geopolitical factors. Since both Iran and Turkey are seeking regional dominance, their interests often collide. Iran has ties to various African states including Somalia. Tehran is looking for new political and economic partners, and Somalia’s geographic location by the Gulf of Aden, an important shipping lane for Iran, is one of many reasons why it has sought relations with Somalia. Naturally, Turkey wants to combat any Iranian expansion.

The Turkish-Somali relationship is a multi-faceted situation with larger implications. It relates to the broader geopolitical power struggle going on amongst Middle Eastern states and shows Africa’s importance to outside actors. The Mogadishu terror attack indicates that Al-Shabaab will continue to use violence to make its presence known in Somalia, which will have consequences for east Africa and Turkish-Somali relations.

Iran in Africa: A Tutorial Overview

Iran’s activity in Africa is a model of their strategic conduct that allows them an asymmetric advantage over the United States in terms of diplomacy and statecraft. This pattern of behavior is adaptable and observable in Latin America as well as in Africa. Where there are weak governing institutions and fertile soil for anti-American sentiment of any form, the Iranian regime will seek global allies, revenue streams, resources, and capabilities that serve them well on the world stage.

This is an introductory overview meant to give a broad picture of behavior and intention. The open source record of Iranian, Hezbollah, and Quds Force activity in Africa is extensive.

Click here to download pdf of complete overview.

 

Extended Prezi

Boko Haram in North-west Nigeria

The recent spate of attacks by Boko Haram in Nigeria barely a month after the signing of a cease-fire with the Nigerian government cast doubt on the Nigerian government’s ability to put an end to the Islamist terrorist group’s reign of terror. The attack on the Grand Mosque of Kano, the seizure of the town of Damasak, and yesterday’s attacks in state capitals of northeastern Nigeria prove that Boko Haram remains an existential threat to Nigeria and many other west African nations. Such has been the threat presented by Boko Haram that the nations of the Sahel region have made an agreement with France to provide security and aid in fighting jihadist organizations in the region.

While Nigeria has become an energy exporting powerhouse in recent years, much of the wealth has gone to the Christian southern part of the country, whilst the Muslim north remains impoverished due to poor education. Boko Haram’s founder, Mohammed Yusuf, blamed Western influences for continued poverty in northern Nigeria, and founded Boko Haram (quite literally; “Western influence is sacrilegious”) in order to create a Salafist Islamic state in West Africa.

With Mohammed Yusuf’s death in 2009, he was succeeded by Abubakar Shekau, his second in command. Unfortunately, Shekau has proven to be a capable leader, increasing Boko Haram’s bombing campaign enough to strike the UN building in Abuja. Prior to 2009, Boko Haram was an ineffectual organization that was non-militant, but Shekau was able to transform the organization into an effective armed insurgency group. Since 2011, Boko Haram has waged an increasingly more effective insurgency campaign against the Nigerian government, even going so far in the past few months to launch a strategy of land occupation in northeast Nigeria, causing mass displacement of hundreds of thousands of Nigerians attempting to escape Boko Haram. Thus far, the Nigerian military has been unable to oust them from the occupied territory, going so far as to officially deny claims from local authorities and Boko Haram themselves that the Nigerian federal and state governments have lost control of the area. Boko Haram has also been able to launch limited operations in the neighboring countries of Cameroon, Chad, and Niger.

Boko Haram’s main sources of funding are from bank robberies, extortion, and ransom from hostages, though Boko Haram has received significant aid from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, in addition to funding from several Nigerian politicians. In addition to the significant funding, al-Shabaab and AQIM are suspected to be training Boko Haram operatives. Whatever equipment Boko Haram cannot purchase, they steal or loot from government forces. The governor of Borno (one of the states with significant Boko Haram activity), Kashim Shettima, has stated that “Boko Haram are better armed and are better motivated than our own troops. Given the present state of affairs, it is absolutely impossible for us to defeat Boko Haram.”

Though current Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has reportedly negotiated for a cease-fire with Boko Haram back in October, hostilities continue apace and the Nigerian House of Representatives has approved President Jonathan’s request for a $1 billion loan in order to combat Boko Haram further. Thus far, France has deployed some assets to western Africa in order to help its former colonies in the area combat Boko Haram activity.

The Global Jihad

“Islamic extremism is a Middle East problem but it is quickly becoming the world’s problem too.  It is a transnational challenge, the most destabilizing and dangerous global force since fascism. For certain, the United States and the West have a big interest in this battle.  Now is the time to act.

Any action must begin with a clear plan for direct intervention against ISIS but must address the other dangerous extremist groups in the region.  It is also critical to tackle the support networks, the entire militant ideological and financial complex that is the lifeblood of extremism.”

Who uttered these words? President Obama, PM Cameron or President Hollande? Actually, none of them; it was the UAE Ambassador to the U.S., Yousef Al Otaiba, speaking in September 2014.

From 2001 and a time when Al-Qaeda (AQ) was perceived as our main enemy, the jihadist movement has grown in strength and in numbers. The violent jihad groups we now face include the Islamic State, Boko Haram, al Shabaab, Ansar al Sharia, al Murabitun, Ansar al Dine and AQ itself, which has expanded significantly with franchises in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), East Asia, and now the new Indian franchise as well.

Nor is the threat limited to Sunni groups but includes Shia terror outfits such as Hezbollah that, under Iranian sponsorship, are still very much active on an international scale and will stop at nothing to strike terror against the West. Geographically, the threat has grown from an Afghanistan-centered one to one that spans the globe, with a jihadist presence on nearly every continent.

The Global Jihad should be viewed from two different, but related perspectives: first, the most obvious is the doctrinally-mandated conquest of physical territory in all theaters of war; second, and just as important, is the conquest of our societies from within by way of the civilizational jihad challenges that we face. Therefore, it’s not enough to merely look at terrorist groups, because the role of intellectuals, propaganda operatives, and recruiters is actually at the root of the problem. Jihad groups should be viewed and approached through that prism.

Fighting against the global jihad cannot be effective if focused only on the “armies” but must also confront the “brains” behind them: let’s not forget that inciting terrorism has a multiplying effect.

The Islamic State

Surging to power across national borders in 2014, the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has become a household name and supplanted al-Qaeda (AQ) as the vanguard of the global jihadist movement. ISIS announced in June 2014 the establishment of a new Caliphate in Syria and Iraq and changed its name to the “Islamic State (IS)” to signify its global ambitions, claim the allegiance of Muslims everywhere, and emphasize its non-recognition of Western-drawn political boundaries. It also seeks allegiance from jihadist group worldwide and rapidly is winning support from Muslim followers and recruits from over 80 countries around the world.

IS victories in Syria and its spectacular advances in Iraq from Mosul to the fringes of Baghdad, and even advancing to the Saudi and Jordanian borders, have made IS the new “kid on the block”. In mid-September 2014, its Chechen members threatened to march on Amman, Jordan’s capital, while Saudi’s military forces are on high alert for advances toward Mecca and Medina.

By calling itself the Islamic State with no mention of countries, IS leader al-Baghdadi is seeking to bring to his fold all groups that view al-Zawahiri’s brand as passé and see al-Baghdadi as the true inheritor of Osama Bin Laden’s global vision. This is why in the past months, thousands of jihadists around the world announced they were switching allegiances to the Islamic State. The Islamic State’s fighters are young, fluent on social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram, and, unlike al-Qaeda, they are actually setting up the Caliphate and governing captured territory.

Africa

2014 saw a dramatic increase in jihadist activity across Africa, from Algeria to Tunisia, Mali, Libya, Niger, Nigeria, Kenya, and Somalia, just to name a few. The emergence of additional al-Qaeda affiliates points to continuing security concerns throughout the continent.

There are a number of offshoots of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) that could pull off spectacular and deadly attacks, ranging from Ansar al Dine to Ansar al Sharia to Al Murabitun (a merger from Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) and al-Mulathameen (Masked Men Brigade) of Mokhtar bel Mokhtar. The latter might be the most dangerous because of Belmokhtar’s experience and sophistication. These groups co-operate and share common objectives including ridding Africa of Western influence, the overthrowing of apostate ‘unbeliever’ governments and the installing of Islamic regimes based on Sharia Law.

Further south, both Boko Haram in the west and al-Shabaab in the east are also potentially thinking of internationalizing their cause, especially in light of the “success” of the Westgate attack as well as AQIM’s fundraising successes through ransom money from kidnappings. Targeting Western interests or citizens might be something of a priority for these two groups.

Libya

The situation in Libya is so dire that neighboring countries are preparing for a tsunami of terror coming from post-Qaddafi Libya.

The recent events in Libya are tilting the balance in the jihadists’ favor. Tripoli’s airport fell into the hands of jihadist militias in early September 2014. Two air raids against Tripoli in mid-August 2014 allegedly were carried out by the UAE and Egypt. This only proves that regional powers are not going to remain complacent as jihadist threats gather nearby. The larger issue that looms presently is how Libya’s disintegration, instigated by the U.S. and NATO-backed overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, is turning the country into one of the most dangerous places in the world, not only for North Africa but also for Europe. Libya currently has the largest mass of loose weapons in the world, comprising more than the entire arsenal of the British Army. The likelihood that such weapons will end up in the hands of terror groups such as AQIM, Mokhtar bel Mokhtar’s al Murabitun (that controls large swaths of territory in the south of the country), Ansar al Sharia in the East or Libyan Dawn (that took control of the US Embassy grounds in Tripoli) is a security nightmare that’s already coming to pass. The worsening situation within Libya may eventually even warrant a new international military intervention, something that has been called for by some inside Libya and its neighbors in order at least to prevent further terror attacks emanating from within this failed state.

Mali

As noted above, things do not happen in a vacuum and more often than not expanding Islamic fervor leads to Jihadism. By early 2013, the continuing expansion of jihadist and Salafist groups in the northern part of the country had transformed Mali into “Malistan” and pushed France to intervene militarily to root out AQIM. This was a surprise for many because Mali previously had been seen as a model of democracy and moderation on the continent.

But what analysts have overlooked is that Mali has undergone a major shift towards Islamic radicalization. In fact, starting as far back as the 1950’s, Saudi Arabia began investing in the country, building madrasas and cultural centers as well as clinics and pharmacies.

To this day, Saudi funding helps build prayer halls, orphanages, bridges and roads in northern Mali. For instance, these clinics are popular because of their low-cost fees. In a poor country where this kind of infrastructure was lacking, the Wahhabi investment exerts an important effect.

In Bamako alone, there are over 3,000 madrassas and between 25-40 percent of Malian children attend them, where the teaching is done in Arabic rather than in the usual French. What is concerning about this phenomenon is that madrassas are out of reach of the government’s control and free to teach whatever they deem advisable. In this way, little by little, they are turning out generations of Wahhabis.

At the same time, Wahhabis went on a mosque-building spree to the point that Mali, a country of 13 million people, 90 percent of whom are Muslims, now counts 17,500 registered mosques.

Hundreds of Malians have been invited to pursue their religious education in the Gulf: some of them return home radicalized and ready to convert their fellow Muslims to their own Wahhabi views. Since 2001, worrying signs are emerging as increasingly jihadist Islam is making inroads like never before in a formerly moderate country such as Mali.

Photos of Osama Bin Laden are flourishing in stalls at the Bamako market and the number of radio stations preaching radical Islam is exploding. At this point, secularists are complaining that this phenomenon is pushing religious conservatism within Malian society.

The Islamist example: The Muslim Brotherhood

The Muslim Brotherhood, still the most influential Islamist movement in the world, yet wrongly considered by many as a moderate group, succeeded in taking over two countries after the Arab Spring.

In Egypt, since Morsi’s ouster on July 3, 2013, terrorism in the Sinai has skyrocketed. Perhaps alluding to its involvement, Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Beltagy stated in July 2013 that terrorist attacks in Sinai will stop as soon as Morsi is reinstated as president. A 26 April 2014 statement of apparent support for the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood came from al Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al Zawahiri, when he expressed support for the incarcerated members of the Egyptian Brotherhood and called for the kidnapping of non-Muslims all over the world. Furthermore, Egyptian intelligence alleges that the MB may be supplying intelligence, information, and money to the new IS franchisee Ansar Beit al-Maqdis and AQ’s affiliate, Ajnad Misr. If true, this could spell trouble for foreign nationals residing in Egypt.

In Tunisia, Ennahda—the Muslim Brotherhood party that was in power from October 2011 to January 2014— has a lot to answer for. On national security, a Tunisie Sondage poll conducted in August 2013 found that 65 percent of Tunisians considered the terrorist threat high, and 74 percent blamed it on Ennahda’s lenience towards jihadists. Until a recent falling out, Ennahda maintained close relations with Salafi-jihadi groups, notably Ansar al Sharia. In addition, the Ennahda government has ceded control of dozens of mosques to jihadists, who have used them to recruit extensively.

Alaya Allani, a leading historian of Islamism and professor at Manouba University near Tunis, estimates that the number of jihadists in the country has rocketed from 800 last year ago to some 3,000-4,000 today. The Salafist wing of Ennahda has steadily reached out to jihadists for both ideological and opportunistic reasons. As long ago as October 2012, AQIM, the leading terrorist organization in the region, embraced Ennahda’s goal of implementing sharia in Tunisia. In 26 October 2014 parliamentary elections, however, Ennahda candidates won only 69 out of 217 seats and accepted its defeat by the relatively secular Nida Tounes party, which garnered 85 seats.

But the MB presence is far from being limited to the Muslim world and we need to recognize that the West is the real prize for the global jihad movement.

Legally-guaranteed freedoms enjoyed by individuals and organizations in the West give the Brotherhood’s thousands of affiliates significant advantages in societies that prohibit governments from restricting proselytizing and speech activities that too often skirt perilously close to sedition.

Because the Brotherhood has not conducted violent attacks in Europe, the U.S., or the West and its primary threat to the West is subversion rather than kinetic terrorism, the overall security threat posed by Brotherhood operatives is sometimes difficult to convey. Laws crafted to identify kinetic terrorist threats fall short when it comes to civilizational threats to Western society that are insidious rather than kinetic, but far more dangerous to our freedoms in the long term.

This global jihad trend poses threats to the West and its allies throughout the world that are at once ancient and new. The sheer number of Western citizens joining the jihad in Syria and Iraq is enough to keep our security services awake at night. European-passport-holding jihadis could receive the logistical support of the Islamic State or any of its new affiliates and perpetrate a terror attack in the streets in London or Paris or New York or Abuja or Jakarta – or traveling freely with their Western documents, launch more individual jihad attacks of the sort already committed by Maj. Nidal Hassan, the Boston Marathon bombers, or the two recent terrorist attacks in Canada. The training grounds of Syria and Iraq and the hundreds of millions of dollars in the coffers of the Islamic State will no doubt provide jihadists the tools they need to launch a new wave of attacks and accelerate Bin Laden’s global jihad.

Olivier Guitta is a security and geopolitical risk consultant to corporations and governments. He tweets@OlivierGuitta.

Will Sunni-Shia tensions spread to Nigeria?

Today, in the northeast Nigerian city of Potiskum, a Boko Haram suicide bomber attacked a Shiite Muslim procession with reports putting the death toll between 15 and 20 according to reports:

The bombing took place at Faydia Islamic school, ran by the Shiite. It is located near the old market in Potiskum. The bomber struck when members of the Shiite were gathering to go on a procession to mark the Ashura day. Ashura day is the tenth day of the month of Muharram, the new month of the Islamic calendar. Shiite Muslims commemorate the day to mourn the death of Hasain Bn Ali, the grand son of Prophet Mohammed who was reportedly killed on that day. As the faithful were about embarking on the procession, the bomber got into their midst and detonated his bomb, witnesses say.

Although Nigeria’s Muslim population is largely Sunni, there exists a significant Shiite minority in the West African country – estimated between 4 and 10 million followers. The Shiite movement is especially strong in Northeast Nigeria, the same area Boko Haram has established itself and continues a violent insurgency against the Nigerian government. The manifestation of the Shiite movement in Nigeria is relatively recent, growing significant in the 1980’s, under the influence of Ibraheem Zakzaky, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood of Nigeria (Yan Brotherhood.) Zakzaky’s inspiration for a change in attitude toward a Shia ideology originated from the success of the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Zakzaky and his group, the Islamic Movement, were soon on the payroll of Iran’s clerical regime – Iran has long sought to establish Shia footholds throughout Africa, especially in countries as resource rich and strategically significant as Nigeria.

This increasingly Shia orientation, and the involvement of Iran, led to a split within the Yan Brotherhood, with Boko Haram founder Muhammad Yusuf, breaking off to join a series of Salafist organizations, before eventually founding Boko Haram. Zakzaky’s multiple visits and courtship to the Iranian Islamic republic have secured his movement’s financial support, it has also goaded tensions with Sunni factions. While sectarian conflict between the Sunni and Shia supporters in Nigeria has been relatively rare. In the past some 120 members of IMN have been imprisoned for violence acts, most of it aimed at the Nigerian government. Researchers have alleged that Zakzaky’s followers have infiltrated the army, police and security service, and he is reported to have thousands of followers, many with some form of paramilitary training.  This latest bombing raises the specter that Nigeria could join the larger ongoing Sunni-Shia conflict currently underway in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen, especially if Zakzaky’s people do decide to retaliate. But if so, Zakzaky’s followers are likely to prove formidable.

It isn’t a Coup in Burkina Faso

After days of unrest, Burkina Faso’s president Blaise Compaoré has agreed to step down. This comes after not only of days of violent protests caused by his desire to seek another term as president, but also his proposition to oversee a political transition with elections to be held in 90 days. His opponents, leading to his resignation as President, rejected this deal. The military is now in control of the Western African country, and will restore the constitution in 12 months, but will appoint a new head of state in the coming weeks. This cannot be mistaken as a military coup d’etat. If this were, Comparoe would more than likely be dead, and the military would not be seeking to appoint a new head of state along with the intention to keep the old constitution. The opportunity for a peaceful transition for Burkina Faso is not lost! It only has been delayed for the time being until order is restored.

Despite Burkina Faso’s relatively low profile in the international spectrum, the small African nation is a vital player in events that were ongoing in the region. President Compaoré acted as a mediator in the conflicts in Ivory Coast and Mali. He also has allowed the United States to operate a military base outside of the capital of Ouagadougou that is used to house and operate spy planes over the regions of the Maghreb and the Sahara. Burkina Faso is also a large producer of gold, but its economic strength relies on cotton production.

The Significance of King Cobra’s Death

After months of medical treatment and rumors he was ill, President of Zambia Michael Sata died last night at King Edward VII Hospital in London. Elected to the presidency in 2011 after many attempts to unseat his predecessor, and political nemesis, Rupiah Banda, President Sata was soon nicknamed “King Cobra” for his comebacks, his personality, but also for his sharp remarks and criticisms.

President Sata was most critical of Chinese companies and foreign investors in Zambia, often claiming them to be exploitative. The shooting of 13 workers protesting wages by two Chinese supervisors fueled his promise to protect the Zambian workers from all foreign investors, and did so effectively by forcing all companies that invested in his country to abide by strict labor laws. Zambia has a record of being one of sub-Saharan Africa’s most stable countries when it comes to political transitions. Therefore the primary focus of a Zambia post-Sata is what will happen to foreign investment. There is no frontrunner at this time in Zambia, but there is the possibility foreign investors could come flocking back to the African country.

Zambia is one of Africa’s largest Copper producers, as well as Cobalt. Copper is used for the following: electrical wiring, telecommunication systems. piping systems, and more. President Sata’s death now opens the possibility that foreign investors, especially Chinese, will rush back to Zambia. This all depends on who will be President after the elections to be held in 90 days. Should that happen, the United States needs to be prepared to act before another opportunity to gain influence on the African continent slips once again to the Chinese.

The Lessons of Libya

To have somewhat of an accurate prediction of what may occur in the aftermath of the Syrian crisis, one must look at our past actions of a similar nature in the Libyan civil war and what occurred after our mission to depose Moammar Qadaffi was constituted a “success”. The U.S. role in supporting the Libyan opposition to topple the Qadaffi regime and the resulting turmoil of post-Qadaffi Libya should serve as a warning to what is likely to happen in Syria if the United States does not re-assess its current strategy.

The situation that developed in Libya shortly after the fall of Moammar Qaddaffi is a prime example of the blowback that can occur when Islamists are able to consolidate power after the fall of a long-standing centralized government. Thought Libya is not mentioned as often in the western media, the situation there is becoming increasingly volatile. In August 2014, the government lost the capital of Tripoli to a militant group from western Libya and has been operating out of Tobruk, a town east of Benghazi.

Ever since the official Libyan government lost the capital, the country has been ripe with sectarian violence and unrest. In early October 2014, the UN refugee agency reported that the increasing violence in Libya has displaced about 287,000 Libyans from their homes. The Libyan branch of Al Qaeda-affiliate Ansar al-Sharia, the same group that committed the attack against the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, is now moving towards the city on a mission to take control and establish Sharia law.

These are the direct results of the destabilization of Libya facilitated by the U.S. government and is only getting worse. The same problem that currently exists with the composition of the rebel forces in Syria existed in Libya in 2011 and we can now see how the situation developed. Yes, the anti-U.S. leader Qadaffi is gone but at what cost? Is the situation in Libya really more ideal and friendly to U.S. interest? No, instead of instituting an effective regime change we created a failed state ruled by various militant factions. If the United States does not recognize the parallels between the situations in Libya and Syria, then the current crisis in Libya will occur ten-fold in Syria.

Natural Gas, Mozambique, and its Suitors

Today, the Frelimo party of Mozambique faces its first true test to hold power since 1975. Mozambique’s other major political party, Remano, has mounted a vigorous campaign to take power in the southeast African country, which has made the race too close to call. Reports out of the African country claims voting has started off peacefully, a good sign that a power transition may be peaceful, should it happen. What has garnered the attention of the African country is not the election, but what will happen to one of the world’s largest gas and coal reserves that were recently discovered in the country.

China has already taken advantage of this discovery, purchasing a 20% stake in the giant offshore natural gas field. The China National Petroleum Company paid $4.21 billion to Italian oil producer Eni SpA for this stake and also 28.6% stake of Eni East Africa. The purchase field in question, named “Area 4” is rumored to possess 75 trillion cubic feet of gas, while “Area 1” is said to hold 90 trillion cubic feet of gas. This makes it the largest deep-water gas discovery. It is no surprise that Mozambique has all of a sudden become a focus on the African continent. Russia has even sought to deepen its relationship and cooperation with Mozambique, a statement made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov after meeting with his counterpart Oldemiro Baloi in April of 2014. Such a decision should be of no surprise given this discovery.

As China continues to increase its influence and presence on the African continent, once again the United States remains mute on its initiatives for greater influence and investment. On August 4, 2014, Mozambique President Armando Guebuza, speaking in Washington D.C., asked for more American businesses to invest in the country, stating there is great potential to invest. So it must be asked: What is the United States’ plan to compete for influence in Mozambique?