Africa in the News: US Military Training in Nigeria Halts, African Governance Highlighted at Francophone Summit, ICC Drops Kenyatta Case, and Nelson Mandela Remembered

Security Exercises between U.S. and Nigerian Personnel Canceled

The United States Embassy in Abuja reported on Monday that the Nigerian army has cancelled a U.S.-led military training program in the country. Although a Nigerian military spokesperson called the army’s cancellation of the program a “purely strategic action,” he gave no further explanation. Phases one and two of the program had already been completed in April and August this year and had focused on providing civilians with basic soldiering skills. The third phase would have given Nigerian soldiers training in more advanced infantry capacity.

Nigeria’s move to cancel these trainings comes as a surprise given the recent surge in violence by Boko Haram. More than 150 people are estimated to have been killed by Boko Haram militants in the capital city of Yobe state, Damaturu, just this week. Some observers have considered the cancellation a response to the U.S.’s recent decision not to equip the Nigerian army with Cobra attack helicopters due to ongoing concerns of human rights violations by the army.

Francophone Leaders Raise Issue of Governance at Summit

On November 29-30, 2014, the International Organization of La Francophonie—a political and cultural organization comprised of 77 member governments with links to the French language—hosted its biennial summit in Dakar, Senegal. The summit was attended by more than 35 heads of state and government, who ended the summit by signing a nine-resolution declaration that covers diverse issues affecting Francophone nations on five continents, including terrorism, the Ebola virus outbreak, the health of women, infants and children, and sustainable tourism.  French President François Hollande spoke at the summit on Saturday, praising the people of Burkina Faso for their recent, largely peaceful uprising that ousted long-time President Blaise Compaoré from power last month. He stated that the events in Burkina Faso may “serve as a lesson to many heads of state, and not only in Africa, not to change the constitutional order for personal gain.” According to the Wall Street Journal, these comments may have been directed at two other participants of the summit, President Paul Biya of Cameroon and President Faure Gnassingbe of Togo, who have both removed constitutional term limits to extend their time in power. Following the summit, a first-ever two-day economic forum was also held in Dakar, prompting questions of whether the political organization is aiming to become an economic union as well.

ICC Withdraws Charges against President Kenyatta

Following the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) issuance of a one-week deadline for the prosecution to decide whether the case against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta could proceed to trial, prosecutor Fatou Bensouda issued a statement on Friday dropping all charges against Kenyatta. President Kenyatta was accused of crimes against humanity for his alleged involvement in fueling post-election violence in 2007, which killed nearly 1,100 people. Bensouda stated that the prosecution was withdrawing the charges because “the evidence has not improved to such an extent that Mr. Kenyatta’s alleged criminal responsibility can be proven beyond reasonable doubt.” For several months, Bensouda has requested delays to the trial’s start date in order to continue building her case, citing the failure of the Kenyan government to provide key financial and telephone records, as well as the withdrawal of witness testimony as serious setbacks to her case. If sufficient evidence arises in the future, however, Bensouda maintained that she would continue to pursue the case and file new charges against the president.

Africa Growth Initiative Senior Fellow Mwangi Kimenyi has commented on the ICC case and the complex relationship between Africa and the ICC in the past.  You can read his commentary here:   Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta Deserves Support of the International Community and The International Criminal Court in Africa: a Failed Experiment?

World Marks First Anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s Passing

Friday, December 5, 2014, marks the first anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s death, prompting South Africans and the international community to reflect on his enduring legacy. The South African government and civil society organizations sponsored several national events, including prayers, speeches, a wreath-laying ceremony and a cricket match in his memory. President Barack Obama also released a statement, remembering Nelson Mandela as “a leader whose struggle and sacrifices inspired us to stand up for our fundamental principles, whose example reminded us of the enduring need for compassion, understanding, and reconciliation, and whose vision saw the promise of a better world.”

For reflections on Nelson Mandela’s life and leadership by AGI scholars, see here: Hamba Kahle Madiba: Remembering Nelson Mandela by Haroon Bhorat and Nelson Mandela: The Madiba Lives by Mwangi Kimenyi.