Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s (AQIM) propensity for kidnapping was back on display earlier this week, as al Qaeda’s North African branch released a video of Swiss Christian missionary Beatrice Stockly, who has been held captive by the terrorist group for more than a year. The recording of Stockly ...

Four years ago, French forces intervened in Mali, successfully averting an al Qaeda-backed thrust toward the capital of Bamako. The French operation went a long way toward reducing the threat that multiple jihadist groups posed to this West Africa nation. The situation in Mali today remains tenuous, however, and the ...

Yahya Jammeh – who ruled The Gambia for more than 22 years – is stepping down and leaving the country the internationally recognized new President Adama Barrow said Friday. Barrow tweeted, “I would like to inform you that Yahya Jammeh agreed to relinquish power and leave the country.” This comes ...

The Gambia’s Supreme Court was supposed to hold a hearing on a petition to annul the December presidential election, brought by the country’s current President Yahya Jammeh, who lost the election. Chief Justice Emmanuel Fagbenle says that hearing is now postponed until May. Meanwhile, President Jammeh’s term technically ends the ...

After more than two decades in power, Gambian President Yahya Jammeh lost the December election to his opponent, Adama Barrow. However, Jammeh now says he does not accept the election results. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) approved a “standby force” to be deployed to The Gambia, with ...

Boko Haram militants have released 21 missing schoolgirls, who were kidnapped from Chibok more than two years ago, to Nigerian authorities as part of a deal brokered by the Swiss government and the International Committee of the Red Cross. According to the BBC, the girls were swapped for the release ...

The UN’s top diplomat in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) warned of an “extremely fragile” political situation in the country. Maman Sidikou, head of the UN’s mission in the DRC, spoke before the UN Security Council on Tuesday, warning, “The tipping point towards grave violence could arrive very ...

Late on Sunday, Bruno Tshibala, the Deputy Secretary and spokesman of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)’s largest opposition party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS), was arrested for his alleged role in violent anti-government protests that rocked the capital city of Kinshasa in mid-September. The protests, ...

African leaders have tried many different ways to evade term limits in recent years. Usually these take a form of reinterpreting when an incumbent’s first term started. Or they orchestrate a referendum or constitutional amendment bypassing the term limit restriction. The tack taken by the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s ...

With the recent announcement that presidential elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo will be postponed until at least 2018, tensions have been rising over the continued reign of DRC President Joseph Kabila. The Cipher Brief spoke with John Siko, Head of Business Intelligence for Africa at the Risk ...

Nigeria remains one of Africa’s largest oil producers, but for the past six months, it has been surpassed by the continent’s other major producer, Angola. Insecurity in the Niger Delta is largely to blame. The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder spoke with Director of the CSIS Africa Program Jennifer Cooke about ...

Angolans head to the polls in less than a year’s time with the result a foregone conclusion. Angola’s People Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) – the party that has ruled the country since the country’s independence in 1975 – and its leader, President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, will ...

Africa’s long-time, largest oil producer is wavering. For six months in a row (March-August), Nigeria landed in the number two spot of the continent’s largest producers of crude, falling behind Angola, according to OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) data. Oil production levels provide insight into the stability – ...

With al Shabaab orchestrating deadly attacks on a near-weekly basis, the terrorist group continues to pose a significant threat to regional stability in the Horn of Africa. Despite concentrated international efforts to root out al Shabaab from its areas of operation in southern Somalia, the al Qaeda affiliate remains a ...

The Cipher brief spoke with Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, CEO of Valens Global and a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, about the growing al Shabaab threat in the Horn of Africa. According to Gartenstein-Ross, al Shabaab’s “capabilities are probably at their strongest” since 2012 as demonstrated by the ...

Having carried out several attacks in the last couple of months, al Shabaab remains a “very high” threat to security in Somalia and surrounding countries, says Phil Carter, former U.S. Ambassador to Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea. According to Carter, the broader effort to combat al Shabaab really “comes down to ...

The political party almost synonymous with anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela, the African National Congress (ANC), is losing its grip on power. At the same time, South African President and ANC party head Jacob Zuma is attempting to tighten his hold on the reins.  Zuma announced he will begin to directly ...

The political party associated with anti-apartheid leader and former South African President Nelson Mandela – the African National Congress (ANC) –  may, for the first time since apartheid ended, be in a position to lose the next presidential elections in 2019. The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder spoke with the University ...

South Africa’s ruling party since the end of apartheid in 1994, the African National Congress (ANC), has been dropping in popular support, exemplified by recent losses in local elections. With presidential elections coming up in 2019, The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder asked Prince Mashele, a South African national and Executive ...

Fighting jihadi groups has been compared more than once to whack-a-mole. You thump a group here and it pops up there. You thump it again and it pops up somewhere else. A front is lost but another opens up. The challenging part is anticipating where the jihadis will go next. ...

With the Islamic State (ISIS) facing imminent defeat in its Libyan stronghold of Sirte, questions have arisen over where the group might seek refuge next. As the fight to push ISIS out of Libya intensifies, one country where ISIS has failed to gain a foothold is neighboring Algeria due to ...

On September 21, 2014, a group of Algerian jihadists, named Jund El Khilafa (The soldiers of the Caliphate) kidnapped Hervé Gourdel, a 55-year-old French nature guide, in Djurdjura National Park in northern Algeria. Jund El Khilafa’s leader, Khaled Abu-Suleiman, had pledged allegiance to ISIS earlier that month, and three days ...

The run-up to Somali elections, slated to begin in less than a month, has Somalia watchers concerned that the terrorist group al-Shabaab will seize the opportunity to wreak havoc on the process. Sources in Somalia report al-Shabaab troop buildup outside of the capital Mogadishu, raising concerns that the terrorist group ...

Despite sustained efforts by the Nigerian military to root out Boko Haram from its stronghold in northeastern Nigeria, the terrorist organization continues to plague the country and the Lake Chad basin area in West Africa.  “Boko Haram has killed more than 20,000 people, displaced more than two million, and flung ...

A key moment on the Boko Haram timeline occurred in March 2015, when the group pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS). According to Dr. Raymond Gilpin, Dean of Academic Affairs for the Africa Center for Strategic Studies at National Defense University, both groups felt that they “could gain from ...

There is a leadership struggle underway within Boko Haram, the violent, extremist movement that has claimed more than 20,000 lives since 2011 and destabilized the secular Nigerian state and its neighbors. The personal struggle between Abubakar Shekau and Abu Musab al-Barnawi reflects in part the rivalry between Boko Haram and ...

Militants in the south of Nigeria – in the area known as the Niger Delta – are blowing up oil pipelines and destroying other essential oil infrastructure. The Cipher Brief talked with Ambassador John Campbell, who served as U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria from 2004 – 2007, about the recent uptick ...

Various assumptions have emerged in attempts to explain the resurgence of armed militancy in the Niger Delta since February. Some explanations seek to connect the renewed militancy to the failure of former President Goodluck Jonathan, a native of the Niger Delta, to secure a second four-year term (2015-2019) as President ...

Nigeria faces three distinct security crises, with one common thread: failure of governance. Terrorist group Boko Haram continues to wreak havoc in the north, a conflict over land between farmers and nomadic herdsmen rages in the middle of the country, and a renewed insurgency in the south – in the ...

At least 97 people were killed and hundreds more injured across the Oromia and Amhara regions of Ethiopia over the weekend, when Ethiopian security forces fired at peaceful protestors, reports Amnesty International. Both protest movements stem from land issues and economic, political, and ethnic tensions. Members of the Oromo – ...

As a landlocked country with three of its immediate neighbors ranked in the top four of the most Fragile States Index, it is in Ethiopia’s interest to be a force for stability in the Horn of Africa. To that end, Ethiopia partners with the United States against terrorist organization al-Shabaab ...

Ethiopia faced one of the worst droughts in decades this year due to unusually strong El Niño effects, linked to climate change. The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder spoke with Ashebir Wondimu, a senior forest expert working in Ethiopia’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, about the national security implications ...

At the heart of South Sudan’s descent into chaos is a failed effort at security sector reform. When Sudan’s long civil war ended in 2005, the U.S. – along with other donors – poured money and expertise in trying to transform the guerrilla Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) into a ...

The devastating clashes that took place in South Sudan’s capital Juba between July 7 and 11 left hundreds dead and forced thousands to flee their homes. It has also left a city on edge, as security continues to be fragile and livelihoods shattered. It has worsened the economic situation of ...

Around 60,000 people have fled South Sudan in just a few weeks – since renewed violence broke out in the capital Juba on July 7 and 8 – the United Nations refugee agency reported on Tuesday. The agency said this brings the number of South Sudanese refugees in neighboring countries ...

Terrorist groups like al-Shabaab, ethnic violence, petty criminals, and corruption threaten Kenya’s security. The East African country has relied heavily on an unregulated and partially corrupt private sector to maintain stability. The industry employs more than 400,000 men and women who act as guards for homes, compounds, malls, airports, and ...

Kenya’s new Private Security Regulation Act will regulate the private security industry and allow more cooperation between the private sector and the government on national security. The Cipher Brief spoke with the Amar Taylor, Director of AUA Industria Limited, a private security company in Kenya, about implications of the new ...

On May 18, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta approved the Private Security Regulation Bill, an act which is heralding in a new dawn for the private security industry in the country. The Bill, now an Act of Parliament, will see the formation of the Private Security Regulatory Authority, under the Ministry ...

The current turmoil within Burundi, a tiny landlocked country in the middle of Africa with a population of nearly 11 million, poses a threat to regional peace and security and could hinder East African Community (EAC) political and economic integration. The fighting stems from Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision last ...

When President of the Burundian Senate Révérien Ndikuriyo reportedly said this fall, “on this issue, you have to pulverize, you have to exterminate – these people are only good for dying. I give you this order, go!” parallels were immediately drawn to 1994 Rwanda, where targeted Tutsis were referred to ...

Some far-away observers have ominously warned that my country, Burundi, is on the brink of a genocidal ethnic conflict like the one that plagued our neighbor, Rwanda, two decades ago. While it is true that civil unrest and accompanying violence have become prevalent in the past year, Burundi's problems are ...

Terrorism has emerged as a global threat to security. We might not be able to fully grasp the complexity of the matter until we look at it on a global scale. Belgium is the latest country in Europe to be hit by cowardly acts of terror. The private security industry ...

April 2 marked one year since the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab attacked the Garissa University in Kenya and killed 148 people, galvanizing Kenya to intensify its counterterrorism efforts. Yet al-Shabaab’s operational capacities and intimidation power have grown in the past year. Many of Kenya’s counterterrorism policies have been counterproductive, and ...

One year after the April 2015 attack that left 148 people dead at a university in Garissa, Kenya, a combination of forces is strengthening the militant Islamist organization that carried out the attack, al-Shabaab. The al-Qaeda-affiliated group came to prominence in neighboring Somalia in 2006 after the collapse of the ...

Nearly one year since Boko Haram pledged its allegiance to ISIS, its threat to Nigeria has changed, though still remains.  “Clearly, the snake has been injured and weakened, but not killed or defanged,”  Ona Ekhomu, President of the Association of Industrial Security and Safety Operators of Nigeria (AISSON), told The ...

The Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) was established on May 22,1964 through the Fort Lamy (now N’Djamena) Convention to ensure equitable and sustainable management of Lake Chad, while preserving the ecosystem and promoting sub-regional integration, peace, and security in the basin.  In the last decade, the LCBC’s member states—Cameroon, Chad, ...

On March 7, 2015, Boko Haram pledged allegiance to ISIS.  Nearly a year later, has either of these terrorist groups gained from this partnership? For ISIS, the answer is undoubtedly yes.  Expanding its reach helps ISIS demonstrate in real terms that it is achieving its goal of creating a caliphate ...

The lack of good governance and the spread of terrorism seem to go hand in hand.   That is quite apparent in East Africa.  Just last month, al Qaeda’s affiliate, al Shabaab, attacked an African Union base in Southwest Somalia, the third forward operating base that al Shabaab has overrun in ...

Long before 9/11, Washington regarded East Africa as a fertile playing ground for terrorists. Osama bin Laden spent half a decade in the Sudan during the 1990s, and the 1998 embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya highlighted the vulnerability of American targets in the region. But anarchic Somalia, whose government ...

Al Qaeda and the Islamic State thrive in lawless and ungoverned spaces where there is no rule of law to keep them in check.  Al Qaeda’s home base in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) is the epitome of such a place, but the tide there has been turning against ...