John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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What We’re Watching in Africa This Week

by John Campbell
May 27, 2011

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I have been paying particular attention this past week to the following:

The G8 Meeting

The G8 meeting continued today in France, and new reports indicate at least $20 billion in new assistance for Egypt and Tunisia. Below the Sahara, however, the aid picture is somewhat different. I mentioned yesterday that the G8 meeting may potentially emphasize specific issues in sub-Saharan Africa—the guest list of recently elected African leaders points to democracy and governance—but there may be another reason for this new focus. Earlier this week, the New York Times editorialized that the G8 has failed to meet its famous aid pledge at the 2005 Gleneagles summit in Scotland, where leaders agreed to increase direct assistance to African countries by $25 billion by 2010. The joint declaration by G8 and Africa leaders is here.


The crisis in Sudan’s disputed Abyei region continues to escalate. The UN estimates that thirty to forty thousand people have been displaced due to the North’s occupation of the area this week, and one local commissioner believes the figure may be as high as eighty thousand people. New imagery from the Satellite Sentinel Project suggests that the security situation could worsen even further, as more more Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) troops and artillery appear to be within close distance to Abyei town. Nevertheless, the President of Southern Sudan, Salva Kiir, stated yesterday in Juba that the South “will not go back to war.” For an interactive timeline of the recent events in Abyei, click here.

I also received a very helpful blog comment from Hank Cohen on Sudan’s financial situation. The current estimates for Sudan’s debt are in fact extremely high: an April 2011 IMF report projects that the country’s external debt will reach $40.1 billion in 2011. However, the current estimates may be closer to $36.8 billion, up from approximately $35.7 billion in 2009. In either case, Sudan’s external debt is formidable, and it presents a major political and financial issue to deal with ahead of the South’s scheduled independence on July 9.

South Africa

The municipal elections in South Africa demonstrated the apparent rise of the Democratic Alliance (DA) as a potential viable opposition party to the Africa National Congress (ANC). Although the ANC gathered the majority of votes, the DA was able to reach out to black voters—a significant development. As the ANC’s leadership heads to the National Executive Committee (NEC) meetings in Midrand this weekend, they will reassess what happened during the local elections and try to decide the party’s next steps.

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  • Posted by Shawn Hadwiger

    The Gleneagles Summit was supposed to be a major step forward not just financially, but symbolically, for multilateral efforts to address HIPCs. If ODA/FDI levels cannot be met, this will weaken African states’ confidence in “Western” (for lack of a better term) states to help extricate them from their financial messes. Subsequently, I think China will seen even more as a credible financial alternative to “Western” states. If the Gleneagles commitments are not honored, this loss of credibility could potentially prove costly to Western political interests in Africa where they conflict with the political interests of other financial sources, e.g. China.

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