As China’s economic interests in Africa have expanded, its security interests have kept pace, to protect Chinese nationals and assets across the continent.  To that end, China has invested heavily in multinational organizations such as the African Union and the United Nations and has shown commitment to regional stability. The ...

Africa faces a number of security challenges, from terrorist groups such as Boko Haram and al Shabaab, to civil wars and violent conflicts in South Sudan and Libya, to severe droughts causing hunger crises in Somalia and Yemen. This instability contributes to migration from Africa to Europe. In addition, a ...

Recent heavy migration from Africa to Europe has renewed the European Union’s focus on maintaining stability and contributing to the economic development of its southern neighbor in an effort to stem the migrant flows. Asmita Parshotam, a researcher under the Economic Diplomacy Programme at the South African Institute of International ...

The security of the Sahel is crucial for the European Union. The Sahel region of Africa is plagued by poor governance, extreme poverty, frequent famine and drought, and a burgeoning youthful demography. All these factors, among others, have contributed to a spiraling irregular migration, Islamist extremism, and transnational organized crime. ...

On March 13, desperate Somali fishermen hijacked the tanker Aris-13 off the coast of Puntland, in the northeast part of the country. This was the first such incident in almost five years – raising concerns over a return to piracy in the Horn of Africa. Since then, two similar incidents ...

The southeast African country Mozambique presents an investment opportunity for American energy companies. But with this opportunity comes security challenges, including domestic political disputes that often turn violent, an increase in organized crime and kidnappings across the country, and potential signs of imported extremism. In recent years, large natural gas ...

Focusing on threats and short-term planning often leads to missed opportunities by governments. Insight is expected to be provided for immediate decision needs, while foresight becomes sidelined by more pressing current affairs. American positioning sometimes drifts away from building the conditions to project stable and enduring power, in favor of ...

Mozambique is a big investment opportunity for energy companies, but concerns over organized crime, corruption, and targeted kidnapping remain, along with a somewhat shaky political situation. The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder spoke with Alex Vines, Head of the Africa Programme at Chatham House, about prospects for Mozambique. The Cipher Brief: ...

The U.S. and Eritrea do not have strong bilateral relations. Ever since UN sanctions were imposed in 2009 and again in 2013, doing business in Eritrea, let alone having strong diplomatic ties, has become more difficult. Yet this country in the heart of the Horn of Africa could be key ...

Instability and terrorism in the Horn of Africa, along with a massive conflict on the other side of the Red Sea in Yemen, threaten U.S. interests in the region. Deputy Director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center, Bronwyn Bruton, writes in a recent report, “the United States could find itself ...

International sanctions and poor relations with neighbors have left Eritrea largely isolated in East Africa. Relations between the U.S. and Eritrea are tense, partially due to alleged human rights abuses by the Eritrean government. Indeed, a number of Eritreans flee the country – many cite the country’s mandatory and essentially ...

The Cipher Brief sat down with Dalia Ghanem-Yazbeck, non-resident scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center, to discuss the growing threat of al Qaeda and other jihadist groups in northwest Africa (Sahel region). According to Ghanem-Yazbeck, as evidenced by a spate of recent attacks, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb ...

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s (AQIM) emergence ten years ago this month was a Hail Mary. In 2004, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika had orchestrated the second of two national amnesties in an attempt to finally bring an end to Algeria’s decade-old Islamist insurgency. The leader of one remaining terrorist ...

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 ...