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Ethiopia-Eritrea peace deal provides momentum to regional reform – Horn of Africa Special Analysis Report

This intelligence report was written by:

Gautham Ashok – MAX Security’s Senior Analyst for East Africa

And reviewed by:

Tzahi Shraga – MAX Security’s Chief Intelligence Officer, ret. LTC from the Israeli intelligence community

Rachel Jacob – MAX Security’s Regional Director of Intelligence, Sub-Saharan Africa Division

Executive Summary

Ethiopia’s unexpected move to implement the peace deal with Eritrea comes amid a series of reforms by new PM Abiy Ahmed that will improve the security of both countries, and the economic benefits of gaining access to Eritrean ports will likely ensure the peace’s durability.

Eritrea will take advantage of the opportunity to emerge from international isolation and re-establish political and economic relations with its neighbors, though the lack of internal reforms for its notoriously closed society is likely to drive domestic unrest and tensions along the border.

Djibouti’s regional position has weakened as its ports lose the near-monopolistic hold on Ethiopian trade and must hold on to its leases to foreign military bases to secure its economy, though these developments may undermine the government and raise the risk of civil unrest.

Somalia benefits from improved relations with Ethiopia and Eritrea in likely halting Eritrea’s support for al-Shabaab, as well as Ethiopia potentially recommitting more troops to Somalia in light of its military withdrawals from the Eritrean border.

As a whole, the Ethiopia-Eritrea peace deal will improve the stability of the Horn of Africa and increase opportunities for foreign investment and growth across the region.

Current Situation

On June 6, the Ethiopian government unexpectedly announced that it would fully implement the 2000 Algiers Agreement, ending Ethiopia’s war with Eritrea, as well as the subsequent 2002 Boundary Commission ruling that awarded contested territories, including the border town of Badme, to Eritrea.

During a joint meeting in Asmara on July 8, Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki announced that they agreed to set up embassies in their respective countries and resume flights and direct phone connections. On September 11, the Ethiopian government announced that the armed forces of both Ethiopia and Eritrea would be shifted back from their shared border. Border points were later opened for trade and movement of people for the first time in 20 years.

On July 23, Eritrean President Isaias announced that nationwide compulsory conscription would last only for 18 months, instead of lifetime service, due to “changed dynamics” in the region.

Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia signed a tripartite agreement to strengthen political, economic, social, and security ties on September 5 in a meeting in Asmara. They formed a joint committee to further coordinate on these matters.

On September 7, Eritrea and Djibouti agreed to normalize ties more than a decade after a border dispute at Cape Dumeira led to military clashes and the establishment of a peacekeeping operation.

Ethiopia

Since taking office in April, Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed has taken a series of steps that have transformed the political map and begun to restore public trust in the government. PM Abiy ordered the release of thousands of political prisoners, met with the political opposition and civil society, invited previously exiled opposition groups to return to Ethiopia, and embarked on major institutional reforms, including in economic, security, and justice sectors. The most significant of these was the implementation of peace with Eritrea. The announcement, and quick moves toward reconciliation with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, underscores the shift that Abiy brought to the Ethiopian government and ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition. Although previous Ethiopian leaders had called for peace with Eritrea, no effort was made toward that end, and animosity between the leading Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Eritrean government from Eritrea’s liberation war meant there was little chance of progress. Abiy’s ascension, and that he is an Oromo and lacked much of the political constraints that weighed down previous Ethiopian leaders, likely made it much easier to restart relations with Eritrea.

Security Implications – One of the clearer benefits of revitalizing the 2000 Algiers Agreement is its effect on the security landscape. First and foremost, it reduces the potential for conflict along the Ethiopian-Eritrean border, which had flared up periodically, with the most recent exchange of fire in July 2017. Moreover, both Ethiopia and Eritrea have sponsored rebel groups in each other’s countries, with groups such as Patriotic Ginbot 7 and various Amhara militias receiving funding and supplies from Eritrea, including physical bases of support in Eritrean territory.
FORECAST: Although it is likely that there will still be some measure of support by both countries to the others’ rebel groups, as they will continue to seek to limit their neighbors’ power as is seen across eastern Africa, this is likely to be substantially reduced. The reconciliation with Eritrea drastically reduces this threat inside Ethiopia, particularly as it has been coupled with efforts by PM Abiy to reach out to armed opposition groups and reintegrate them into civilian political life.

Political Indications – This was also an astute political maneuver by Abiy, which has largely worked. The new peace deal has widespread support in Ethiopia as well as the international community as a whole, and both of which are crucial to both consolidating his leadership and expanding Ethiopia’s influence. The contested town of Badme along the border saw isolated protests, but major protests that were expected out of Tigray Region, which takes up most of Ethiopia’s border with Eritrea, did not manifest. Apart from a series of statements demanding the government take into consideration the views of concerned stakeholders, the lack of public resistance from the TPLF further underscores their gradual sidelining in Ethiopian politics by Abiy and his Oromo party, the Oromo Peoples’ Democratic Organization (OPDO).

Economic Potential – Economically, the peace deal will give Ethiopia access to the underdeveloped Eritrean market and allow for exports to flow through the Red Sea. Ethiopia has relied on the ports of neighboring countries, especially Djibouti, to transit almost all of its bulky goods and services since the country became landlocked with the loss of Eritrea in 1993. This often incurred high prices, as Djibouti exploited its unique advantage as Ethiopia’s primary route to the sea. That these developments with Eritrea has led to the opening up of Eritrean ports and new plans to construct roads and railways between Ethiopia and the Eritrean ports of Massawa and Assab underscores the economic motivations for peace.
FORECAST: Using the Eritrean ports would allow Ethiopia more scope to ship its goods, as well as gain bargaining leverage with other ports it uses, particularly in Djibouti as well as more recently in Somaliland. This will expand Ethiopia’s options in drawing foreign investment, which would alleviate the country’s acute foreign exchange crisis. As a whole, these economic and financial interests are likely one of the key indicators that the peace deal with Eritrea will be durable.

Eritrea

Internal Developments – For decades, Eritrea has been a notoriously closed country, with authoritarian rule and little freedom of movement or information. The armed conflict and subsequent “no peace, no war” status quo with Ethiopia only exacerbated the situation in the country, as President Isaias utilized the external threats to consolidate internal control. The peace deal with Ethiopia, and subsequent steps to re-establish contact with their southern neighbor in terms of reopening border, represent positive developments for Eritrea’s intent to open up to the wider international community. However, there remains considerable doubt over whether these developments will translate into real political change within Eritrea.
FORECAST: To this point, reports in October have indicated that high numbers of Eritreans are taking advantage of the new open borders to flee to Ethiopia, with nearly 10,000 crossing in a single month. Although bilateral relations have improved, the movement of people suggests that this has not been met with corresponding domestic reforms within Eritrea. The continued restrictive environment is likely to further drive the exodus of those in search of political and economic opportunity, though this increasing refugee population may put pressure on Ethiopia and cause tensions with Eritrea over the coming months.

President Isaias’s announcement that nationwide compulsory conscription would last only for 18 months instead of lifetime service due to “changed dynamics” in the region was highly unexpected. Isaias has used Ethiopia’s policies toward Eritrea as a means of strengthening his rule, presenting Ethiopia as an existential threat and blaming it for much of his restrictive policies. However, given Ethiopia’s gestures toward peace, Eritrea’s policies against its own people can no longer be fully justified.
FORECAST: However, if and when the conscription time limit is implemented, soldiers who have been freed from conscription will likely to return to farms or seek employment in towns. However, one possible consequence is that, given mass unemployment is chronic problem in Eritrea, the discharging of hundreds of soldiers poses a threat to government stability. This threat is likely to grow, unless the government is able to mitigate it by directing the new civilians toward employment in the new sectors that will grow to accommodate the new Ethiopian investment.

Economic Potential – Given that the Eritrean economy has largely stagnated from 20 years of international isolation and UN sanctions for allegedly supporting militant organizations in Somalia, it is likely that the government finally acceded to using its geographical advantage to reinvigorate the economy. The revitalization of the Assab and Massawa ports will also be crucial to Eritrea’s ambitions of exporting potash, which is being mined in its Southern Red Sea Region and in Ethiopia’s Afar Region. Furthermore, the overall increased trade links to Ethiopia, currently Africa’s fastest growing economy, will serve as a reassurance for investors, as the economic ties will speak to the decreased risks of war. To this point, one important step in the process of bringing in Eritrea from its isolation has been the efforts by other East African countries to lobby the UN to lift economic sanctions. The joint appeal is likely to carry weight as it comes from countries such as Ethiopia and Djibouti, which were regarded as adversaries only months earlier.

Military Opportunities – In addition, it is likely that Eritrea hopes to become a key component of the region’s security architecture given that it is located on the Red Sea near the Bab al-Mandeb strait, a shipping choke-point used by oil tankers and other cargo vessels moving through the Suez Canal. The UAE has already used this geographical advantage to set up a military base in Assab, with additional bases representing another potentially lucrative source of income.
FORECAST: If the Eritrean government does genuinely allow reforms and an improvement of its human rights record, it is possible that other countries could choose to establish military bases in Eritrea, as they have done in Djibouti, which could further boost the economy and consolidate Eritrea’s military and political power in the region.

Djibouti

Economic Ramifications – One major effect of the Ethiopia-Eritrea rapprochement has been on neighboring Djibouti and its economic dependence on providing the landlocked Ethiopia with a port. Djibouti’s relative political stability and investor-friendly atmosphere have made it a regional hub for deep-sea shipping and has enjoyed a near-monopoly on moving goods to and from Ethiopia, with 95 percent of Ethiopian trade flowing through its ports. Profits from Ethiopian trade account for 1.5 billion USD annually and are a key source of government revenue, making the moves to develop Massawa and Assab ports in Eritrea is more or less catastrophic for Djibouti. This additionally comes alongside Ethiopian investment in Berbera Port in Somaliland, further diversifying its trade routes and weakening Djibouti’s position. This likely forced President Ismail Omar Guelleh’s hand in normalizing relations with Eritrea and restoring diplomatic ties. Although the Djibouti Embassy in Somalia had initially expressed surprise at Somalia’s call for UN sanctions on Eritrea to be lifted, Guelleh reversed course within six days to restore relations with Eritrea. This quick turnaround is suggestive of the Guelleh government’s understanding of the peace deal’s momentum and their unwillingness to remain isolated amid the region’s reconciliation.

FORECAST: With the thaw between Ethiopia and Eritrea increasing economic pressure, it is likely that Djibouti will increase its dependence on its other pillar, which is renting out land for foreign military bases. Djibouti has exploited its strategic coastline on the Red Sea to offer its territory for military bases, now hosting six foreign powers, including the US, France, Japan, Italy, Saudi Arabia, and China. However, this is also a delicate situation, as Djibouti allegedly upset the US when it allowed the construction of the Chinese base near the US’s facilities at Camp Lemonnier. This highlights the small country’s need to balance the extraction of as much value as possible from retning its land with keeping its client states content. Moreover, the emergence of Eritrea and its possible improving position within the international community could further undercut Djibouti’s position on the Red Sea.

Regional Relationships – An additional complication for Djibouti has been the involvement of Arab Gulf states in brokering peace in the Horn of Africa, with indications that the UAE played a major role in urging Eritrean President Isaias to accept Ethiopia’s overtures. Djibouti has seen its relationship with the UAE deteriorate since February, after the Djiboutian government canceled the contract of a Dubai-based company to operate its main container shipping terminal at Doraleh. The UAE took the matter to international arbitration, which ruled in the Dubai company’s favor, though Djibouti has refused to return the facility, stating that it does not recognize the arbitration court’s jurisdiction. This conflict raises further doubts over Djibouti’s reliability as an investment destination when the country is already at a somewhat precarious moment.

FORECAST: With that said, it is unlikely that Ethiopia will cease using Djibouti’s port facilities altogether as it would not want to be overly reliant upon Eritrea. However, this exposes Djibouti’s somewhat insecure position, as shipping and land lease profits directly supplement the President Guelleh’s tight political control over Djibouti. Moreover, it is also possible that other countries will grow to view Eritrea as a preferable location for their military bases and likewise terminate contracts with Djibouti. Speculation that the government is at risk of losing its key sources of income may undermine Guelleh’s leadership and increase the government’s vulnerability to popular grievances about corruption and repression. Civil unrest is relatively uncommon in Djibouti City at this time, with occasional protests occurring in Tadjourah. Given the already poor socioeconomic conditions in much of the country, this loss in revenue increases the overall risks of popular unrest.

Somalia

Potential Improvement in Security – The tripartite deal signed by Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia in September represents a major breakthrough in relations between the three countries. Somalia and Ethiopia have been historical enemies, while Somalia’s strained relations with Eritrea date back more than a decade. Eritrea reportedly provided funding, weapons, and training to al-Shabaab when it first formed in 2006, as Eritrea had hoped to encourage an anti-Ethiopia government in Somalia. This eventually led to the UN imposing sanctions on Eritrea, with Security Council monitoring indicating that Eritrea did not halt its support for al-Shabaab during the interim years. That Somalia asked for sanctions to be lifted in July underscores the thaw in relations that was further cemented by the signing of the agreement.
FORECAST: More crucially, it is possible that Eritrea’s improved relations with Ethiopia will disincentivize Eritrea from supplying al-Shabaab in opposition to Ethiopia, which could have a positive effect on the Somali government’s struggle to defeat the militant group for control over the southern half of the country.

The implementation of the peace deal between Ethiopia and Eritrea may also result in something of a shift on the ground in Somalia. Ethiopia has thousands of troops deployed in Somalia, both as part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) as well as part of a separate bilateral defense agreement with the Mogadishu government. In 2016, thousands of Ethiopian soldiers withdrew from central Somalia during a period of intense unrest in Ethiopia and were suspected to be re-deployed to suppress internal unrest at home.
FORECAST: It is possible that with the withdrawal of forces from the Eritrean border that Ethiopia may recommit more of its military to its front lines in Somalia. This could be particularly key given that AMISOM is slated to begin its withdrawal in February 2019, which would leave critical gaps that the Somali military is yet unable to fill. In this context, the movement of troops would allow the Ethiopian government extra security against al-Shabaab, while also influencing further pro-Ethiopia policy in Mogadishu.

Regional, International Relations – Another likely reason for Somalia’s interest in normalizing ties with both Eritrea and Ethiopia is that it can viewed as a way to manage its ongoing tensions with the Arab Gulf states, which has caused a rift within Somalia’s own federal government as well as affected the financial investment it receives. Somalia has had strained relations with the UAE since April and has grown somewhat isolated as the only country in the region that is perceived as aligning with Qatar, a rival of the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Eritrea and Ethiopia’s favor toward the UAE and Saudi Arabia has been clear with the establishment of the Gulf military bases in their countries as well as other economic deals. Ethiopia has already played a mediating role between Somalia and the UAE in recent months, which has resulted in financial benefits as the UAE agreed to give 1 billion USD to Ethiopia to ease its foreign currency shortages, after which Somalia signed an agreement for joint investment with Ethiopia to develop its ports. To this point, an improvement in ties with Ethiopia and Eritrea may ease Somalia’s reconciliation with the UAE and Saudi Arabia, which could be financially lucrative and politically beneficial as Mogadishu seeks reconciliation within its government.

Recommendations

Travel to Addis Ababa may continue while maintaining heightened vigilance in crowded areas in high threat of non-violent personal property crime.

Travel to Asmara may continue while adhering to proper administrative procedures and following general security protocols.

Travel to Djibouti City may continue while adhering to standard security precautions regarding the risk of crime and civil unrest.

We continue to advise against all travel to Somalia with the exception of the Puntland and Somaliland regions. Travel within these regions should be restricted to cities and be for essential purposes only, while avoiding travel to outlying areas.

Appendix – Background

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn abruptly resigned on February 15, announcing on state television that it would be necessary for reforms. Subsequently, on April 2, Abiy Ahmed was selected to be PM in a vote by the council of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). This became the first time in Ethiopia’s history that the ruler is an ethnic Oromo.

The EPRDF was formed in 1988 as a rebel group, and later transformed into a political coalition consisting of four ethno-regional political parties: the Oromo Peoples’ Democratic Organization (OPDO), Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM), Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement (SEPDM), and Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Of these, the TPLF was dominant, with the minority Tigrayans holding an outsize role in the government, military, and economy.

Following a 30-year war of independence, Eritrea voted for its independence in a referendum in 1993, after which Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) leader Isaias Afwerki came to power as the first, and only, president of Eritrea.

In 1998, border clashes between Ethiopian and Eritrean troops over the disputed town of Badme led to a full-scale war in which approximately 70,000 people were killed. A peace agreement was brokered in 2000 to cease hostilities as well as establish a commission to delimit the border.

Thus, in 2002, Ethiopia accepted “in principle” the ruling of the Boundary Commission ruling that the border village of Badme belonged to Eritrea, though nonetheless refused to hand over the disputed territory and withdraw its soldiers.

Subsequently, a policy of “no peace, no war” was adopted by Ethiopia, in which soldiers were permanently stationed at the shared border and in disputed areas, while diplomatic relations were severed. Although there were occasional and brief border skirmishes, this largely held true until 2018.

 

Boko Haram’s abduction, subsequent release of 104 schoolgirls in Dapchi likely to increase group’s notoriety, legitimacy among locals – Nigeria Analysis

Executive Summary

Militants attacked a government school in Dapchi village, Burasari Local Government Area (LGA) in Yobe State and abducted 110 students and two other children on February 19.

Following extensive negotiations with the Nigerian government that resulted in the safe return of 104 of the schoolgirls and the other two children after one month in captivity, Boko Haram has been able to once again garner international attention and portray themselves as a viable threat in Nigeria’s northeastern region despite extensive counterinsurgency operations.

In light of the upcoming general elections in 2019, the girls’ safe return has been projected by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration as a triumph, which seems to have paved the way for the government’s appeasement stance toward the insurgency.

However, the incident has highlighted the administration’s propaganda of exaggerated success against the militant group and is poised to create backlash in the form of domestic and international criticism for Buhari’s policies concerning the insurgency.

We continue to advise against all travel to the northeastern Nigerian states of Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe, given the ongoing Boko Haram insurgency and extreme insecurity in the region.

Current Situation

Militants attacked a government school in Dapchi village, Burasari Local Government Area (LGA) in Yobe State and abducted 110 students and two other children on February 19.

President Muhammadu Buhari issued a statement on February 24 expressing his concern about the abduction, claiming that the situation was a “national disaster”. On the same day, the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) issued a counterstatement blaming Buhari for issuing exaggerated statistics suggesting that Boko Haram had been completely decimated, a situation that they claim put unsuspecting citizens in danger.

On March 12, Borno State authorities announced the closure of all boarding schools in 25 out of the 27 state’s LGAs due to the threat of Boko Haram militants conducting additional abductions. This came in wake of President Buhari’s decision to engage in negotiations for the release of the schoolgirls.

During the early morning hours of March 21, 106 abductees, including 104 schoolgirls and the two additional children, were dropped off in the middle of Dapchi by their captors, who also warned the locals against sending the girls to Western-style schools. While five of the remaining abductees reportedly died due to exhaustion, one Christian girl remains in the militants’ custody. The Nigerian government characterized the release as “unconditional”, though some sources citing locals indicate that authorities did free several militants who joined the kidnappers, while other sources suggest that the Nigerian government had paid a ransom to secure the girls’ release.

On March 23, while receiving the released girls in Abuja, President Buhari announced that his government was ready to grant amnesty to Boko Haram members who were ready to accept unconditional surrender.

Meanwhile, on April 1, at least 29 people were killed, including six militants, in a multi-pronged Boko Haram attack on Akikaranti, Bille Shuwa, and Bale-Galtimari communes surrounding Borno State capital, Maiduguri, coinciding with the Christian Easter holiday.

Boko Haram’s abduction, subsequent release of 104 schoolgirls in Dapchi likely to increase group’s notoriety, legitimacy among locals - Nigeria Analysis | MAX Security

Assessments & Forecast

Assessments: Following extensive counterinsurgency operations targeting Boko Haram strongholds, group attempts to reassert presence, garner international, domestic attention

Despite subsequent large-scale security operations targeting well-documented militant strongholds such as the Sambisa Forest and Lake Chad shores in Nigeria’s northeastern region, the militants successfully launched the well-planned abduction of the Dapchi girls. Indeed, this incident resembles Boko Haram’s April 2014 attack on a school in Chibok, Borno State, when 276 girls were kidnapped. The Chibok attack resulted in an extensive international outcry,  triggered by a domestic campaign started by the families of the Chibok girls. The #BringBackOurGirls movement put the Boko Haram conflict in the international spotlight, particularly when the former US First Lady Michelle Obama endorsed the campaign. In this context, the Dapchi attack was likely motivated by the prospect of achieving similar notoriety. Additionally, the attack came in response to security forces’ triumphant claims of the near-destruction of the militant group’s presence in the region. Through the Dapchi attack, the militants debunked such claims and reasserted their continued operational capabilities across the country’s northeast.

The Dapchi abductions rendered a successful outcome for the militants. While the federal government characterized the negotiations and the subsequent release of the hostages as completely “unconditional”, it contradicted local reports of the authorities’ release of several militants. Such conflicting reports align with previous allegations against authorities for releasing militants and paying ransom for militants, with the latest incident being the February 10 release of three lecturers from the University of Maiduguri, along with ten police officers abducted by Boko Haram last year. Under these circumstances, the suspected hefty ransom payment will likely be utilized by the militants to enhance and develop their operational capabilities in the region, which may have been hampered, to some extent, by the counterinsurgency operations.

Indeed, the government’s repeated payment of ransoms without any resistance is poised to encourage the militant group to carry out similar large-scale kidnappings. Such a concern was further emphasized by the Borno State authorities’ decision to shut down boarding schools across 25 of the 27 LGAs. Furthermore, the release of militants as part of the ransom payment reintroduces experienced and well-trained fighters to the ranks of the militant group, increasing their operational capabilities. This is further highlighted in the latest Boko Haram multi-pronged attack on April 1 that was reportedly coordinated by Shuaibu Moni, a top Boko Haram commander who was released by the government to facilitate the return of 82 Chibok girls in May 2017. Moni had previously appeared in a Boko Haram video on March 7 taunting the Nigerian security forces and threatening to launch additional attacks.

The theatrical grandeur of the return of the abductees as the militants drove into the center of Dapchi hailed as heroes by the local population for safely bringing back their girls was likely a symbolic attempt by the group to embolden its authority in the region. This sheds light on the militant group’s propaganda aimed towards gaining the locals’ trust and consolidate their influence in their areas of operation. As the militants shook hands with the locals and warned them against the return of the girls to schools for Western education, they compelled the latter to adhere to the militant group’s Islamist ideologies. Through the dramatic aspects of the event, the militants effectively portrayed themselves as legitimate actors in the region, with more control than the federal government in Abuja. Given the communities’ grievances against Abuja, as they continue to feel disregarded and neglected by the government, such an image of Boko Haram is poised to render the locals more susceptible to getting recruited by the militant group. Amidst the ongoing insurgency, these circumstances increase the possibility of better cooperation between the local communities and the militants, with the former providing shelter and engaging in economic transactions with the militants for their own survival.

Assessments: With 2019 elections nearing, Buhari makes strategic shift toward developing appeasement stance to overcome Boko Haram insurgency

Since President Buhari came into office in 2015, negotiations with Boko Haram in their kidnap-for-ransom schemes have become a recurring phenomenon, which includes the 2016 release of 21 Chibok girls and another 82 released in May 2017. Such a stance toward the militant group likely stems from large-scale international and domestic attention that these incidents received. Buhari has attempted to make good on his electoral promise of combating Boko Haram in contrast to the perceived failure of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration to effectively defeat the militant group. However, Buhari’s administration has also projected a stronger government resistance to the insurgency, which has led to a distorted perception of success over Boko Haram militancy in Nigeria. Continued militant attacks have highlighted the government’s propaganda in displaying exaggerated data regarding the success of counterinsurgency operations and falsely claiming the defeat of the militant group. This may, to a certain extent, reduce Buhari’s international and domestic credibility.

With Nigeria’s presidential elections slated to take place in 2019, such an approach by Buhari for the safe release of abductees is poised to become his legacy. To further add to his administration’s successes against the insurgency, following the Dapchi events, Buhari appears to have embarked towards an appeasement stance with the latest amnesty deal. It is likely that through these propositions Buhari seeks to strategically portray to the international community his efforts for a peaceful resolution in parallel to the continuation of counterinsurgency operations. Under these circumstances, it is likely that Buhari will attempt to negotiate with the militant group to reduce attacks in exchange for reduced military actions in the northeastern region.

However, the administration’s conciliatory attitude towards the militants may be perceived by some as weak, with negative implications particularly by security forces, which may have a  detrimental impact on the fighting morale of the soldiers who are endangering their lives in battle. FORECAST: As such, any attempts by Buhari to negotiate with the militants to reduce attacks in light of the upcoming elections, as well as the latest amnesty deal, may add to Nigeria’s security agencies’ frustration concerning the ongoing nine-year long insurgency and weaken their determination to actively combat it. Additionally, Buhari’s administration is poised to receive substantial criticism from opposition political parties for their weakened stance towards the insurgency and their propaganda of exaggerating military successes, as evidenced by the opposition People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) statement denouncing the Dapchi deal.

FORECAST: Buhari’s latest amnesty deal offered to Boko Haram is quite similar to an opportunity offered by former President Jonathan in 2013, which Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau outright declined. As such, it seems unlikely that Boko Haram will accept the latest deal, particularly given that the government does not seem to have any substantial negotiating leverage. Furthermore, the latest April 1 multi-pronged Boko Haram attack continues to highlight that the group remains capable of executing sophisticated large scale attacks in their traditional sphere of influence. Given the group’s resilience in remaining a viable threat in Nigeria’s northeastern region despite the large-scale counter-militancy measures, a persistence of the conciliatory approach by the government is liable to be detrimental to their interests.

Recommendations

Travel to Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt may continue while maintaining heightened vigilance and following heightened security protocols regarding criminal and militant activity.

We continue to advise against all travel to the northeastern Nigerian states of Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe, given the ongoing Boko Haram insurgency and extreme insecurity in the region.

We advise to avoid all travel to areas of Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, and Chad within the Lake Chad Region given the high risk of militancy.

President Zuma resigns on February 14, new president Ramaphosa to face numerous challenges in upcoming months – South Africa Analysis

Current Situation

President Jacob Zuma held a press conference during the late hours of February 14 and announced his resignation with immediate effect. On February 15, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was sworn in as President of South Africa, replacing Zuma until the end of his mandate in 2019, after which he delivered the State of the Nation Address.

Immediately after Ramaphosa was elected by a parliamentary vote, the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) parties called for anticipatory elections to take place before the end of Ramaphosa’s term in 2019.

Zuma’s resignation came after the Executive Committee of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) convened on January 17-21, which was believed to begin discussing Zuma’s potential early departure from office. Subsequently, on February 4, the EFF requested that a vote of no-confidence be held against Zuma, which was then scheduled by parliament for February 22.

The ANC Executive Committee officially recalled Zuma on February 13 and insisted that he resigns from office. During this time, the no-confidence vote was pulled up and rescheduled for February 15.

President Zuma resigns on February 14, new president Ramaphosa to face numerous challenges in upcoming months - South Africa Analysis | MAX Security

Background

Jacob Zuma was elected President of South Africa in 2009 and has been a controversial political figure for much of his tenure, particularly due to numerous allegations of corruption. This has led to 783 charges of corruption to be filed against him, and additionally gave rise to the “State of Capture” investigation that focused on the corrupt relationship between Zuma’s government and the powerful Gupta family. Following repeated attempts to hinder the investigation, Zuma was forced by a court ruling in December 2017 to establish a commission tasked with further investigating the matter.

South Africa’s Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, known as the “Hawks”, raided the Gupta private residence in Saxonwold, a Johannesburg suburb, during the morning hours of February 14, and arrested Atul Gupta. The arrest was made in relation to accusations of the misappropriation of funds allocated to the Estina farm in Free State.

Although a no-confidence motion against Zuma failed in August 2017, he faced another test with the ANC elections for new party leadership in December 2017. Then-Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa competed against Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Zuma’s ex-wife, whose candidacy was perceived by many as a protection against any legal proceedings against him. However, Ramaphosa was elected to be ANC president by a slim margin on December 18.

Since his election as ANC president, Ramaphosa has repeatedly vowed to fight corruption. One notable and immediate example was his dismissal of state-owned electricity company ESKOM’s board of directors, as it was marred by numerous accusations of corruption. Ramaphosa had also publicly come out come out strongly in favor of the “state capture” investigation.

Assessments & Forecast

Ramaphosa to focus on unifying divided ANC party ahead of 2019 presidential elections

Zuma’s resignation as president of South Africa is the culmination of a period of political instability in the country since Ramaphosa was elected the president of the ANC in December and began his public battle against corruption, seen as directly confronting Zuma and his legacy. Given that a no-confidence vote had been scheduled to take place on February 22, and then expedited to February 15, Zuma likely resigned preemptively in order to avoid the humiliation of facing the vote, with his own party voting against him in alliance with the opposition. This serves to highlight the strength of South Africa’s democratic institutions, as Zuma had clearly struggled to remain in power even after Ramaphosa’s party victory, but nevertheless stepped down in recognition of parliament’s right to dismiss the president with a no-confidence vote.

One of the main challenge faced by President Ramaphosa is of a political nature, as the ANC remains deeply divided. The uncertainty that surrounded Zuma’s fate during the days preceding his resignation likely resulted from disagreement on the subject within the party. Zuma has continued to enjoy significant support within the ANC despite the allegations against him.
FORECAST: As such, Ramaphosa will face the task of restoring unity among the divided party. This will be particularly difficult as he will concurrently attempt to purge the party from corruption, a move that risks further entrenching of the existing rifts within the ANC. Additionally, while Ramaphosa will deploy extensive efforts to unify the party, there nonetheless remains a possibility that Zuma’s supporters will leave the ANC in order to form their own political faction supporting the former president. Zuma clearly stated during his resignation speech that he intends to remain involved in the country’s political affairs as an active member of the ANC. That being said, given that the “state capture” investigation is ongoing, with a high likelihood that it will result in a conviction and possible jail time for Zuma, his involvement in the political life of the country remains unlikely in the long term, and his supporters will likely lose interest in his leadership.

The need for unity among the ANC is particularly relevant to the upcoming general elections slated for 2019, as these will certainly constitute a test for Ramaphosa. This is especially highlighted by the fact that, during the Zuma era, the ANC significantly lost support among its base due to the criticism surrounding Zuma’s political actions and implication in corruption. This translated into poor results during the 2016 municipal elections, as the ANC lost control of a number of municipalities including Johannesburg and Pretoria.
FORECAST: In light of this upcoming electoral test, Ramaphosa will need to strengthen the ANC’s base of support in order to avoid a situation in which the party would lose its absolute majority in Parliament, a first in post-Apartheid South Africa. That being said, Zuma’s resignation will likely help to revive the historical tripartite alliance between the ANC and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the South Africa Communist Party (SACP), as the two substantially criticized the former president and raised Zuma’s departure as a precondition to continue the alliance. With this in mind, and the precondition being fulfilled, it is likely that the tripartite alliance will re-emerge, thus consolidating the party’s hegemony over the South African political landscape.

FORECAST: Furthermore, there remains a possibility of anticipatory elections, as demanded by the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) parties. While Ramaphosa may decide to proceed accordingly in order to rapidly strengthen his power with a popular vote in his favor, he will likely wait for the guarantee that the ANC undividedly support his leadership. Regardless, given that general elections are slated for 2019, the time prior to the next popular vote will remain relatively short in either scenario, and the anticipatory elections would likely have a low impact on Ramaphosa’s political actions.

FORECAST: Over the coming months, Ramaphosa will likely focus his political efforts on overcoming the internal rifts within the ANC in order to consolidate his power. He will likely need the party’s full backing to move forward with necessary economic reforms and a unified ANC will additionally be key to his success in the 2019 general elections. While the continuation of the legal proceedings against Zuma represent a focal point for tensions within the party as the ex-president still retains some support, the perception of Ramaphosa as a leader who fulfills his promises regarding addressing corruption will likely bolster his position as a whole, particularly as it will help to revive the tripartite alliance. As a result, Ramaphosa’s accession as president will be a broadly stabilizing force within South Africa’s political landscape, which will likewise enable his efforts to increase the country’s economic stability.

Ramaphosa to focus on reviving stagnant economy, with risk of spurring protests

As the new president of South Africa, Ramaphosa will face a variety of challenges, with economic concerns likely to be the main priority. The country has suffered from a protracted economic crisis, with unemployment now at 27 percent and its debt downgraded to “junk” status by the main credit rating agencies.
FORECAST: Thus Ramaphosa will likely seek to prioritize the economic renewal of the country and attempt to restore trust among international financial institutions and investors. One focus for this effort will be to tackle the deep difficulties faced by state-owned companies after years of inefficiency and corruption, and Ramaphosa already began working in this direction when he fired ESKOM’s board of directors and will likely force the company to be more transparent, something that is expected to be applied to other troubled state-owned companies. Alongside the broadly positive view of Ramaphosa by international economic actors, who perceive him to be a more pragmatic and fiscally responsible leader due to his business experience, these developments will likely bolster investor confidence and South Africa will be regarded as less financially risky.

Beyond addressing the economic fallout of corruption within the government, Ramaphosa has repeatedly pledged to make fighting corruption a priority as a leader. This objective had clearly underpinned much of the pressure that led to Zuma’s resignation, and the pursuit of the high-profile allegations also materialized in the arrest of one of the Guptas, the family implicated in the “state capture” scandal. Ramaphosa’s position is regarded in contrast from Zuma’s, as he is perceived as more morally upstanding and has made his own personal fortune in business, which is seen to make him immune from personal corruption. FORECAST: Given his public commitment, as well as its relevance to renewing the economy, Ramaphosa will likely favor a rapid pursuit of the “state capture” investigations, which will likely result in Zuma and the Guptas’ criminal conviction. In this matter, Ramaphosa is slated to appoint a new national director of public prosecutions, tasked with initiating criminal proceedings on behalf of the state, which will then impact the “state capture” prosecution. At the same time, Ramaphosa will likely continue to purge the ANC and dismiss other members if they emerge to be linked to corruption scandals in efforts to restore trust in the ANC as well as the South African government.

In order to further revive the country’s economy, Ramaphosa may be forced to retract several promises made by Zuma regarding free higher education, which is a highly popular measure that cannot be realistically implemented by the government given its troubled financial state.
FORECAST: Reversing this promise will likely be controversial and could cause large-scale protests in and around university campuses, given that the “Fees Must Fall” issue has triggered large waves of protests over the past several years. This may come alongside other austerity measures that the government could be forced to take to improve its fiscal situation. This, in turn, would spur an intensification of similar protests. Given the country’s active protest culture regarding socioeconomic conditions, austerity measures would likely catalyze the South Africa’s major unions and opposition parties to organize demonstrations, often in Pretoria, Johannesburg, and Cape Town, though as is common, these will largely be disruptive rather than unruly. As a whole, this would translate into a somewhat more volatile landscape in the short term. However, Ramaphosa will likely pass expected economic reforms and, should he translate this into tangible improvement of the economy, the pace of protests will ultimately decline.

FORECAST: Ramaphosa’s primary focus over the coming months will likely be the improvement of the economy to overcome the effects of years of corruption and neglect. Given his early steps to fire ESKOM’s board of directors, as well as the positive perception of his fiscal acumen, his accession to power will likely help to create a more favorable environment to rejuvenate the South African economy and invite further investment. However, more responsible economic policies will likely require some austerity measures that will raise the risk of civil unrest, though this will be an increase in the already active protest movements present in South Africa. Furthermore, any surge in protests will likely be relatively short in duration until Ramaphosa is able to translate new policies into an improving economy.

Recommendations

Travel to Johannesburg and Pretoria can continue while adhering to basic security precautions against common criminality.

We advise to remain cognizant for any update on protest to take place in the upcoming months and to maintain vigilance in the vicinity of their location given the risk for associated unrest.

4 High profile executives need low profile protection in 5 high risk African destinations

High profile corporate executive visit in West Africa, 2012

Itinerary based Intelligence monitoring, executive protection, logistical support. West Africa, 2012

Max Security was requested to provide comprehensive services for a visit by four senior corporate executives to five destinations in three African nations. The visit included high-risk destinations and a tight schedule, requiring a high level of logistical support in addition to protection and intelligence monitoring services. Max’s approach and execution included advance planning, local intelligence monitoring, low profile protection, flexible logistical support and frequent updates to the client’s corporate security center.

Solution provided

  • Meticulous advanced planning, including on-ground checks, preliminary intelligence gathering, and contingency planning.
  • Full logistical and transportation support including a high level of flexibility.
  • Low-profile protection services managed by senior Max staff incorporating local staff, which is highly familiar with the work environment.
  • Itinerary-based intelligence monitoring by Max’s Intel division. Utilizing local news sources, social media, and ground sources, Max Intel updated the team on ground with information relevant to the trip’s business continuity such as major travel disruptions, social protests and an abrupt domestic airline strike.

Result: An intense executive business trip was conducted smoothly, despite potential hindrances

The trip was successful and achieved its business goals. The executives were able to reach all the meetings on time and were highly pleased with the low profile security approach and high level of flexibility and efficiency. The Max Intel Alerts led to proactive decision making saving valuable time, financial expenses and contributed to the overall safety of the travelers.

South Sudan News and Intelligence Reports

In the wake of an alleged coup attempt on the government of President Kiir, ethnic and tribal tensions are rising in the country. These tensions which are manifesting in outbreaks of violence throughout the country are increasing potential for prolonged internal conflict and possibly civil war. In light of these events, Max Security’s Intelligence Division is offering a free trial for our intelligence services in Africa. The package is tailored to those with business interests in Africa, including South Sudan.

The package includes:

  • Ongoing reporting on political developments which may fuel or decrease unrest, including in-depth reports on the stabilization of South Sudan.
  • Reports assessing trends and militancy, as well as their impact on the political situation and business continuity.
  • Near real time tactical monitoring for social unrest, militancy, and natural disasters in Juba.
  • Practical assessments and recommendations regarding threats posed to Western travelers and business continuity throughout the region.
  • Consultations on evacuation and business continuity procedures with Max Security intelligence analysts and risk consultants.

To learn more about our intelligence services, click here.

To learn more about our travel security services, click here.

Read case studies demonstrating Max’s comprehensive support and flexibility for clients in both routine and emergency business continuity challenges.

Contact Max Security for on ground security support, intelligence and consulting in over 100 destinations worldwide.

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