Françafrique: The Ties That Bind

France maintains close links with its former African colonies, photo: Dezz/flickr

France maintains close links with its former African colonies, photo: Dezz/flickr

The Franco-African relationship is alive – but is it well? This week the ISN takes a closer look at France’s postcolonial ties with its former African colonies 50 years after independence.

This ISN Special Report contains the following content:

  • An Analysis by Jennifer Brea about the unique colonial and postcolonial history between France and its former African colonies that shapes relations to this day.
  • A Podcast interview with Dr Elisio Macamo examines what he perceives as a French withdrawal from francafrique.
  • Security Watch articles about the burgeoning drug trade in West Africa and the threat that corruption and graft hold over many francophone African countries.
  • Publications housed in our Digital Library, including US Congressional Research Reports on the influence of the ICC in the former French colonies and Guinea’s new transitional government.
  • Primary Resources, like French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s infamous 2007 address at the University of Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, Senegal.
  • Links to relevant websites, such as FRANCE 24′s look at each of the 17 sub-Saharan African nations that gained independence in 1960.
  • Our IR Directory, featuring the locally based International Relations Institute of Cameroon.
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60 Years and Counting

Bombs over North Korea in 1950, courtesy of the US Department of Defense/Public Domain

Last week marked the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War; a war that gave rise to one of the most intractable conflicts in modern history. Technically still at war, North and South Korea were torn apart in the shadows of the early phase of the Cold War and in some ways represent one of the last remnants of it.

Yet the war itself, as well its veterans, are often overlooked; a mere footnote in the long, epic and tragic saga of the 20th century.

But to understand the current conflict, to see how deep the antipathy and fear go, it is important to look back at the war and to remember that the seeds of Kim Jong-Il’s madness, the source of China’s intransigence and the root of South Korea’s fear were sown in the conflict that a war-weary and exhausted world fought in 1950-53.

Here are some interesting resources on the topic:

  • The Boston Globe’s Alan Taylor takes us through some harrowing and haunting images of the war in a new picture series.
  • BBC provides an excellent overview of the war and its most important phases.
  • An Institut für Strategie- Politik- Sicherheits- und Wirtschaftsberatung (ISPSW) brief seeks to put together the North Korean puzzle.
  • The 1953 Armistice Agreement in our Primary Resources section shows how the war turned into the stalemate we know today.
  • A chapter from the Canadian Military Journal on the contribution and strategic effects of Canadian and Australian involvement in the war.
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The ISN Quiz: The Pitfalls of Development

We’re asking whether development aid is missing its mark in this week’s Special Report. How much do you know?

In 2007 the volume of officially recorded remittances to developing countries was how large in relation to development aid?





What percentage of the world’s population lives in “developing” countries?





Despite massive development aid, approximately how many people around the world continue to suffer from malnourishment?





Despite massive development aid, approximately how many people around the world still do not have access to safe drinking water?





Industrialized countries spent approximately what percentage of their GDP on aid to developing countries in 2000?





What is the term for the approach to development that attempts to minimize the negative impacts of development?







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Soldier, Human or Both?

Just let it out

Just let it out! Photo: SuperFantastic/flickr

As the controversy surrounding Rolling Stone‘s profile of General Stanley McChrystal (and the comments of his staff) winds down, NYT columnist David Brooks offers up an interesting thought about soldiers, or really, anyone who is a subordinate: They complain.

And they’re human.

Venting is part of being human. And even though members of the military are held to a higher behavioral standard than a common employee, is it really that extraordinary that McChrystal and his aides had some not-too-flattering words for the US president and his administration?

From Brooks’ article:

Military people are especially prone to these sorts of outbursts. In public, they pay lavish deference to civilian masters who issue orders from the comfort of home. Among themselves, they blow off steam, sometimes in the crudest possible terms.

Now, as to the intelligence of the military folks who decided to blow off steam in front of a reporter (it seems that McChrystal was done in more by hearsay than anything else), that’s a whole other post.

But, do we hold members of the military up to too high a standard by expecting them to remain ‘strong and silent’? Shouldn’t they be allowed to kvetch, vent, gripe and do whatever they need to do (within reason) to let off steam?

Since, at least in the US, they volunteered to put their lives on the line for their country, shouldn’t they have the right to complain…even if it is about the commander-in-chief and his administration?

Another question: Does complaining about someone or something automatically equal a lack of respect for that someone or something?

Again, I think it was absolutely asinine, especially in the day-and-age of gotcha journalism for McChystal’s aides to repeat his words in front of a reporter, but if you’re in the type of high-pressure situations that military members find themselves in, perhaps kvetching is understandable.

Because even though they’re in the armed forces, they’re humans too.

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Somalia: Let’s Shift the Focus

Somaliland cruises along

Somaliland cruises along, photo Carl Montgomery/flickr


On Wednesday, Foreign Policy published a call for help written by the current Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke. To make it short, his point is: Help: don’t let the Transitional Government go down; send us money so we can handle the situation.

The argument behind his call for action is Somalia could become the new safe haven for Al-Qaida and other international terrorists and that it’s not the time for the international community to change its policy toward Somalia.

But are there not other options for the international community? Besides ‘forgetting’ Somalia and pulling out like Omar Ali Sharmarke fears will happen, what else would be possible?

I think that the world has forgotten that two parts of Somalia are actually doing relatively well in comparison with Mogadishu and the center of the country: Somaliland and Puntland. These two de facto autonomous regions are currently not recognized by any government.

Would strengthening these two poles of peace and relative stability by establishing diplomatic contact and providing aid and investment help stabilize Somalia? For example, the US has taken the first step by inviting a Somaliland cabinet delegation to Washington earlier this year for talks, which were seen by some as de facto recognition.

On the other hand, international interference in Somaliland presidential elections almost derailed them with allegations of voter list tampering (see same article linked above).

Maybe a middle road of gently assisting the two regions, offering advice when asked, while recognizing their right to form their democracies on their own, is the proper one. Perhaps then Somalia will benefit from their experience. If not, the international community will be out of cards, and Somalia will be out of time.

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