Africa Introduction

Ryan Cummings, Chief Analyst, Africa

Ryan Cummings, Chief Analyst, Africa

As was the case in 2012, a number of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa were subject to, at times, moderate to severe insecurity in 2013. Of particular note, Islamist extremism, fuelled by political instability, a proliferation of arms and limited policing structures, was a key security concern in a number of northern and western Sub-Saharan African states.

The situation remained particularly precarious in north eastern Nigeria where, as outlined in red24’s 2013 forecast, the Boko Haram extremist sect continued to escalate its insurgent operations against the Nigerian government.

Outside of that country, transnationalist Islamist groups such as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) expanded its operational presence within the Sahel region of West Africa and gained in strength despite being ousted from major northern urban centres in northern Mali in 2012 and 2013.

Although terrorism remained the key feature of North and West Africa’s security environment, Central Africa continued to serve as a hotbed for conflict between government forces and non-state groups. The most significant development within the region was the Seleka rebel offensive in early 2013, which ultimately toppled the regime of the Central African Republic (CAR)’s long-serving leader, Francois Bozize. While political control of the country has since been transferred to an interim civilian administration, Bozize’s ousting catalysed an outbreak of ethno-religious violence which has precipitated a dire humanitarian crisis across much of the CAR. Moreover, the resultant instability has also threatened neighbouring countries, particularly the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The DRC has not only seen an influx of refugees, but has also faced increased activity by CAR-based Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) insurgents in its Orientale province. Elsewhere in the DRC, a UN intervention force defeated the Tutsi-dominated M23 rebel group in November 2013. The success is notable but will not serve to improve the security situation in the eastern DRC, which continues to be undermined by the presence of numerous armed groups, particularly in the North and South Kivu provinces.

In Kenya’s northern Turkana County, which has already experienced agitation by local communities that claim they are being marginalised by oil firms and the government, oil extraction and production are set to commence in 2014; hence, there are concerns that protracted and possibly violent agitation by Turkana residents may increase if their grievances are not quickly addressed.

In addition to security concerns centring on the region’s hydrocarbon industry, Kenya will also face an ongoing terrorism threat in 2014. The primary risk in this regard stems from Somalia-based al-Shabaab. This group may seek to target Kenya, in addition to neighbouring countries such as Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania, in reprisals for their respective involvement in military operations against the group in Somalia. However, it should also be noted that the aforementioned countries face secondary terrorist threats posed by separatist and/or other radicalised groupings.

Developments in southern Africa in 2014 will be focused on general elections being held in both South Africa and Mozambique. Although security concerns regarding the former are likely to be minimal, Mozambique is positioned to go to the polls amid heightened tensions between the ruling Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) government and its wartime-turned-political adversary, the Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO).