The bigger question is not why France decided to intervene but why America has held off. Is it simply imperial overstretch and war-weariness? That seems a little thin, given the hue and cry in Washington about ‘ungoverned spaces’ and ‘terrorist safe havens’. After all, the Sahara is six times as big as Afghanistan and Pakistan combined. And why sink money into the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership – more than $1 billion since 2005 – or foot the bill for Operation Enduring Freedom Trans-Sahara, if at the end of it all al-Qaida is allowed to march on Bamako? Why would Obama order more drone strikes than his predecessor against the leaders of Somalia’s al-Shabaab, a group with relatively weak links to international terrorism, but not lift a finger to stop AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Maghreb) from taking over Mali? Unless, of course, in addition to a division of labour with the French, the point is to ‘disaggregate’ the multiple terrorist threats in Africa, tackling each individually rather than addressing any common denominator, and so deny jihadism a chance to coalesce. In this regard, even if the French were drawn into the quicksand in Mali, Nigeria would most likely remain the region’s focal point for the US: with 150 million inhabitants, it is the most populous state as well as the biggest oil producer south of the Sahara, and has an active homegrown salafist-jihadist group, Boko Haram (‘Westernisation Is Sinful’). When I put these thoughts to a US military staffer involved in anti-terrorism in Africa, he replied tersely: ‘What we’re doing in Africa is a sort of Whac-A-Mole’ – a reference to an arcade game in which players force moles back into their burrows by hitting them on the head with a mallet. He went on to quote the sixth president of the United States, John Quincy Adams: ‘America goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy.’ Well, not any longer perhaps. But France has done precisely that.
How a new underground club in Nairobi offers Kenyans respite from the harshness of everyday life.
France is not a new problem for Africa. Since the 19th century, its stood in the way of the continent’s self-determination.
Recent violence across the Eritrean diaspora is being instrumentalized by populists. But the violence is a desperate cry for attention and requires the Eritrean opposition to seize the moment for regime change.
In response to the Johannesburg fire disaster, the South African government has announced a ‘politically free’ commission of inquiry. But there is no such thing.
In Kenya, elected office does not represent a duty to represent ordinary citizens, but an opportunity for personal enrichment.
In her new biography of South African writer Lauretta Ngcobo, Barbara Boswell shows how the publishing industry historically excluded Black women, and how they wrote in spite of that.
Nigerian and South Sudanese filmmakers give voice to the search for identity, stability, and belonging through the lens of youth and migration.
Held in Nairobi this month, the inaugural Africa Climate Summit is an important step for the continent’s response to climate change. Still, the disasters in Libya and Morocco underscore that rhetoric and declarations are not enough.
That South African political parties across the spectrum were quick to venerate the politician and Zulu prince Mangosutho Buthelezi, who died last week, demonstrates that the country is still attached to Bantustan ideology.
A conversation with members of Sudan’s resistance committees and Magdi elGizouli.
In Colombia, doing straightforward political music carries many risks, including confronting state repression, political armed rebellions, and organized crime.
By questioning black masculinity in post-apartheid South Africa, Thando Mgqolozana became one of the most impactful writers of his time. But then he got accused of the same thing he opposed.
Chika Unigwe’s novel, ‘The Middle Daughter,’ reimagines a Greek myth within a contemporary Nigerian context and develops it into a gripping family saga.
The city of Gqeberha in South Africa is an example of how water is increasingly becoming a commodified resource, benefiting the powerful and depriving everyone else.
Even though Israeli novelist Agur Schiff’s latest book is meant to be a satirical reflection on the legacy of slavery and stereotypes about Africa, it ends up reinforcing them.
Western leftists are arguing among themselves about whether there will be bananas under socialism. In Africa, however, bananas do not necessarily represent the vagaries of capitalism.
We announce some major changes at Africa Is a Country. A director of operations and a new editor.
On our annual publishing break, we’ll be pondering what the responsibility of the African intellectual is today.
In Kenya, political elites across the spectrum are trying to sell off the country for themselves—capitulation is inevitable.
Two miles from the White House, ‘Black Land News’ forwarded a bold vision of political, economic, and cultural autonomy inspired by African decolonization struggles.