LSE IDEAS Africa International Affairs Programme Seminar

African Revolutions and Political Transitions: The View from Paris

Mr Stephane Gompertz, Dr Sue Onslow (chair)
17 May 2011, 6:30pm, KSW.G1 (20 Kingsway Building)


The recent momentous events in Cote d'Ivoire and President Sarkozy's assertive stance on Libya's political turmoil, and active role in instituting the No-Fly Zone, have brought French policy and geo-political interests in Africa back into the limelight. Debates in France and the international press have questioned whether France is 'returning to its colonial reflexes', and pointing to France's troop presence in Africa and close business, political, linguistic and personal ties. Similarly, there have been calls in France that resources would be better directed towards emerging economies in Asia than in Africa. In a wide ranging talk, Mr Stephane Gompertz discussed France's overall perspective, and consequent policy, towards African political transitions and upheaval, emphasizing geopolitical principles (with the guiding strategies of aid and pressure), real politik and pragmatism.  He underlined French perceptions of the unlikelihood of similar youth organisation through social networks and IT access, socio-economic discontent and unemployment  precipitating revolutions in sub-Saharan Africa as in the North African 'awakenings'. Mr Gompertz addressed questions on French policy and contribution to the resolution of the political stalemate in Cote d'Ivoire, Zimbabwe and political transitions (and the contrast with Kenyan developments), comparative developments in Gabon, Niger, Ethiopia, Madagascar and Djibouti, the place of humanitarian assistance and 'duty to protect' in France's role in instituting airstrikes and the no-fly zone in Libya. The seminar emphasised the Sarkozy government's appreciation of the contributions of the African Union and SADC to regional conflict resolution, whilst recognising institutional military capability limitations.


Mr Stephane Gompertz is a long-serving French diplomat with extensive experience in Northern Africa, and the Near East, Stephane served as Deputy Head of Mission at the French Embassy in London, and as Ambassador to Ethiopia. He is currently Head of Africa and the Indian Ocean desk, in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris.


LSE IDEAS Africa International Affairs Programme Seminar  

What next for Algeria?

Professor Lahouari Addi, Ms. Amel Boubekeur, Dr. Sue Onslow (chair)
22 March 2011, 6:30pm, COL.B212

This discussion was particularly topical in view of the recent events in Tunisia and Egypt, and the contrasting developments and violence in Libya, and the decision by UNO members to institute a no-fly zone. Pressure for political change in Algeria shares many of the same sources and similarities of grievances elsewhere in Northern Africa and the Middle East region, yet there is very rarely informed discussion or reports in the British media. Professor Lahouari Addi's frank discussion of the contributory role of the particular colonial legacies, post-independence developments and in particular the events and violence of the 1990s which helped to set the position of the army in the Algerian political scene firmly in its broader context. Professor Addi pointed to the tensions within the army hierarchy between the junior officers and senior staff, and differing generational approaches to the army's role in 'managing' change. Specifically, the divergence between repression, and a desire for the institution to present itself as the guardians of democracy along the lines of the Turkish Army. This contrasts markedly with the repressive and insidious role of the Algerian internal security services, which has stifled legitimate discussion and debate, leading to a political vacuum which encourages the use of violence as the only means of exerting pressure for change. In Professor Addi's view, security sector reform is therefore key to any future political transformation of the Algerian state and society.
In contrast to this 'view from the top', Ms Amel Boubekeur presented a detailed picture of the variety and overlapping sources of social discontent and mobilisation. This was a welcome alternative analysis of the complexity of Algerian civil society, and its implications for social mobilisation into a coherent opposition movement to the current regime of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. In the Question and Answer session, Ms Boubekeur also explained the development and modification of Islamism in political thought and organisation. In her concluding remarks, Dr Onslow pointed out the dynamic and interactive process between elite politics and organisation, and grass roots mobilisation in Algeria.


Professor Lahouari Addi of Science Po, Lyon, is an expert in matters dealing with the role of the military in Algerian politics and debates on transition to democratic rule. His writings have generated considerable discussion and controversy in Algeria. He is also a former visiting professor to Princeton University, USA.

Amel Boubekeur is a research fellow at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales and Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris. She has been an an associate scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut and the head of the Islam and Europe Programme at the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels. Her research focuses on Maghreb politics and Islam in Europe.


LSE IDEAS Africa International Affairs Programme

AFRICA TALKS: The Niger Delta: Confronting the Crisis
11 March 2010, 6.00pm-7.45pm
Chair: Dr. Sue Onslow
New Academic Building NAB204

With the amnesty signed in July 2009 beginning to unravel amid news reports of renewed violence, and continuing uncertainty over succession in the Nigerian presidency, a panel of experts and external observers examined the complex situation in the Niger Delta. Discussion ranged from the politics of the conflict at grass roots level, as well as the responsibility of the Niger Delta state governors, and central executive. Von Kemedi (Director General of the Due Process and e-Governance Bureau of Bayelsa State; and chairman of the Bayelsa State Expenditure and Transparency Initiative (BEITI) and Dauda Garuba (Nigeria Programme Coordinator for Revenue Watch, and coordinator with local officials for BEITI) drew attention to the apparent lack of a clear strategy and plan of action for job creation at national state level since the signing of the amnesty. Dr Charles Alao of the Dept of War Studies, King’s College, concurred on the need for a strategic framework, and astute leadership from Acting President Goodluck Jonathan. The subsequent discussion with Ed Kashi (internationally acclaimed photographer, film maker and author) and Michael Peel (Legal Adviser for the Financial Times, and former West African correspondent) highlighted the extent to which the conflict in the Delta is tied up with other challenges facing the Nigerian state (electoral reform; the access of business elites and power blocs; allocation of production from the oil industry; the role of corruption, and responsibility of international community to address this). Oronto Douglas (Senior Special Adviser to the Acting President for Strategy) and Nze Akachukwu (Special Adviser for the Acting President, and Minister, the Niger Delta) presented a more positive picture of a clearly defined strategy and political accountability, and Acting President Jonathan’s contribution to this process. While there was scepticism from the panellists of the extent of actual progress, clearly the complexity of the crisis in the Niger Delta requires concerted action at a multiplicity of levels, most of all within Nigerian society itself.

Abiodun Alao is a Senior Research Fellow at the Conflict Security and Development Group King’s College London. His current research interest is on the Politics of Natural Resource Conflict in Africa and his latest book on the subject is The Tragedy of Endowment: Natural Resources and Conflict in Africa.

Dauda Garuba
is Nigeria Program Coordinator for the Revenue Watch Institute, working to support civil society in the Niger Delta, as well as working with local officials to provide technical assistance and coordination for the Bayelsa Expenditure and Income Transparency Initiative (BEITI).  He is co-author of Democracy, Oil and Politics in the Niger Delta: Linking Citizens' Perception with Policy Reform (2007).

Ed Kashi
is an independent documentary photographer, film maker and educator based in the New York area. Kashi has published six books, including Curse of the Black Gold: 50 Years of Oil in the Niger Delta. He has received numerous awards and his work is published and exhibited extensively worldwide.

Michael Peel is the Legal correspondent for the Financial Times, and was their West Africa correspondent from 2002-2005. He is the author of a recent book on the Niger Delta, A Swamp Full of Dollars: Pipelines and Paramilitaries at Nigeria's Oil Frontier.

Dimieari Von Kemedi is Director-General of the Due Process and e-Governance Bureau of Bayelsa State, Nigeria and also serves as chairman of the Baylesa State Expenditure and Transparency Initiative. He has worked on numerous projects related to community development and conflict transformation in the Niger Delta, and has worked extensively with youth groups and civic organizations across the region.



LSE IDEAS Africa International Affairs Programme Seminar 

VanWykFrom Nuclear Pariah to Non-Proliferation Hero: Legacies of South Africa's Nuclear Policy
2 March 2010, 6.00pm, B212 LSE IDEAS Conference Room
Speaker: Dr. Anna-Mart van Wyk
|Chair: Dr. Sue Onslow

In her overview of South Africa's nuclear programme, from development of nuclear weapons capability in the 1970s to the decision to decommission taken in mid-1989, Anna Mart Van emphasised South Africa’s nuclear policy represents a unique case in the history of international arms control measures, non-proliferation and non-alignment. In late 1989, South Africa became the first country to voluntarily destroyed its atomic weapons capability, before acceding to the NPT. The dismantlement of the arsenal represented the beginning of a new era in South Africa’s nuclear history – one where an original decision founded on Real Politic was transformed into a claim to moral authority and leadership in international relations, and of nuclear accountability in the contemporary world. After 1994 specifically, under the new ANC government, South Africa has became a leader in promoting nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament among non-aligned nations. 

Anna-Mart van Wyk is a Lecturer and current Head of International Studies at Monash South Africa, a campus of Monash University Australia. Her current research in multiple international archives investigates South Africa’s military and nuclear policies during and after the Cold War. She is the author of a chapter on U.S.-South African nuclear relations in Cold War in Southern Africa: White Power, Black Liberation (ed. Sue Onslow, London: Routledge, 2009) and papers in Cold War History, South African Historical Journal and Historia. She has held a prestigious post-doctoral research fellowship from the South African National Research Foundation and the University of Johannesburg before joining Monash South Africa in 2008, where she teaches courses in arms control and diplomacy and international relations.

LSE IDEAS Africa International Affairs Programme Seminar

congoThe Democratic Republic of the Congo, Arms and Conflict
3 December 2009, 12:30-2pm, Connaught House, H216|
Speaker: Dino Mahtani 
Commentator: Dr. Sue Onslow

Dino Mahtani, a former MSc student in Comparative Politics at the LSE, and journalist for Reuters and the FT, came to speak at LSE IDEAS on the dynamics of conflict in eastern Congo. Mahtani was appointed by the Secretary General of the UN to investigate material and financial support given to rebel and militia armies operating in eastern Congo and with a mandate to report back to the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee. He presented a detailed background on the international and regional networks which are fuelling conflict centred on North and South Kivu. Mahtani corrected widespread misreporting of the forthcoming UN Report (due to be published formally on 7 December). He underlined that contrary to the statements of UN special representative Osabanjo  that transformation had been achieved, the 5 member team found substantial evidence of enduring material and financial support given to rebel and militia armies. In addition to the connections between this conflict and the international trade in extractive industries, Mahtani summarized the recommendations of the special committee which have been presented to the UNSC.

Dino Mahtani has worked on and off in the DRC since 2003, first as Reuters correspondent in Kinshasa in 2003-2004, then as West Africa correspondent for the Financial Times between 2005-2007. Since May 2008 he has worked as a member of the UN "Group of Experts" for the DRC, an independent team of five people appointed by the Secretary General of the UN to investigate material and financial support given to rebel and militia armies operating in eastern Congo and with a mandate to report back to the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee. He took over as Coordinator of the Group of Experts in February 2009 and will be presenting his last report to the Committee in late November 2009. He is an alumni of LSE, MSc Comparative Politics, Class of 2001-2002.

The 'Final report of the Group of Experts on the DRC submitted in accordance with paragraph 8 of Security Council resolution 1857 (2008) (S/2009/603)' can be found under here|.

Africa International Affairs Programme Seminar

volmanlisten|Obama, AFRICOM, and the Militarization of Africa
9 November 2009, 7:00pm, B212
Speaker: Dr Daniel Volman
Chair: Dr Chris Alden

Dr. Daniel Volman's talk on Obama, AFRICOM and the militarization of Africa not only provided an update on on the policies of the of the Obama administration in Africa, but also placed the African continent in the wider field of changes in global politics.

Since the bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania Africa has reappeared on the map of the US government. However, today terrorism is only one of the topics for the US engagement in Africa, and issues such as access to natural resources and capacity building, often in form of military equipment and training has been added to the agenda. The diversification of fossil energy sources for the US increasingly relies on supplies from the African continent, but recent war games and strategic assessments have caused the US government to realize the weakness in protecting these sources. The resulting change in political and military doctrine relies on keeping a centralized command structure (AFRICOM) base in Stuttgart, Germany with highly mobile military services that can be deployed within a short period of time within Africa. The advantage of the absence of permanent bases on the continent not only avoids potential political conflicts within the African country, but also avoids the confrontation with other increasingly active state actors such as India and Africa while keeping the financial and political cost of AFRICOM relatively low in the US. The result of this is that despite the anticipated changes in the approach to Africa of the Obama administration most policies and behaviours of the previous administrations remain in place. 

Dr Volman is the Director of the African Security Research Project in Washington, DC, and a member of the Board of Directors of the U.S. Association of Concerned Africa Scholars.  He is a specialist on U.S. security policy toward Africa and U.S. military activities on the continent.

Africa International Affairs Programme Seminar

ashurstEventThe Reality of Africa : 21st Century challenges and opportunitieslisten|
29 October 2009, 6:30pm, B212
Speaker: Mark Ashurst, Director, Africa Research Institute
Chair: Sue Onslow

Mark Ashurst's stimulating talk on The Realities of Africa was a refreshing take on African perceptions of the external world. The wide ranging discussion addressed issues such as African identity and legitimacy (rooted in 'authenticity'); the erosion of 20th century Western models of statecraft in the African context; the emergence of securocrats/intelligence communities as vital underpinnings of state power, combined in some cases with democratization; the transmutation of liberal and neo-liberal models in African political economies, and the problems of promoting governance as an external developmental agenda, and a candid review of the costs/benefits of structural adjustment. In a welcome departure from the popular discourse of the African Crisis, Ashurst emphasized the normalisation of African states' interaction with the international community.

Mark Ashurst is Director of the Africa Research Institute in London, a non-partisan think tank with a brief to look for ideas with a record of success in Africa, and to identify areas where new ideas are needed. Mark spent six years as the BBC’s Africa Business Editor, and has worked in Africa as a foreign correspondent for the Financial Times, The Economist and Newsweek.
His radio documentaries for the BBC include The Congo, a series chronicling the descent of the river; Helping Ourselves, an enquiry into fair trade; and Crossing Continents, a survey of Zimbabwean migrants in southern Africa.
In 1995, Mark drafted Nelson Mandela’s opening address to the Union of African Radio and Television Broadcasters’ first congress in Johannesburg (URTNA). He previously worked in the Strategic Planning Unit of the South African Broadcasting Corporation during its transition from apartheid propaganda machine to a public broadcaster.

IDEAS Seminar

South Africa and Zimbabwe
22 October 2008, 6:30 pm, B212
Speaker: Professor Jack Spence
Chair: Dr. Sue Onslow

Events in Southern Africa have moved at a bewildering pace this year. Despite the nominal agreement between Robert Mugabe and ZANU (PF) and the MDC, finally agreed in September, the long-running crisis in Zimbabwe continues to poison regional political, economic and social relationships.

Nowhere is this more acute than in South Africa, as the recent violence against migrants has amply demonstrated. Professor Spence will discuss the particular challenges posed by Zimbabwe's recent turmoil to the South African leadership, as South Africa itself is experiencing political upheaval, and facing presidential elections in 2009.


onslowSeminar_160x119UN Peacekeeping/Peacemaking: The Lessons of Rwanda
11 March 2008, 6:30 pm, Graham Wallace Room
Speakers: Linda Melvern and Andrew Mitchell
Chair: Dr. Sue Onslow

This panel brought together two speakers with detailed knowledge of recent violence and conflict in Africa, and the challenges these posed to the international community and the United Nations. Details.|

IDEAS-CWSC Graduate Seminar

knoxChitiyo_160x159Zimbabwe: The Road From Independence to 2007
Thursday 18 October 2007, 6.30 pm, D702
Speaker: Dr. Knox Chitiyo
Chair: Dr Sue Onslow

Knox Chitiyo is a Zimbabwean researcher and was the first Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) Nelson Mandela Visiting Africa Fellow and now heads the RUSI Africa Programme, an initiative generously supported by the Brenthurst Foundation and the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

He was a Senior Lecturer in War Studies in the History Department at the University of Zimbabwe from 1994-2003. He was also the Deputy Director (and co-founder) of the Centre for Defence Studies during the same period, and edited the Journal of African Security and Conflict.

He is particularly interested in the armed/security forces of southern Africa [particularly Zimbabwe] and how they intersect with issues of development, and political transitions.

Seminar: Southern Africa in the Cold War Era

rhodesiaMapLarger_160x145Southern Africa in the Cold War Era
4 July 2006, LSE

As part of its Southern Africa Programme|, the Cold War Studies Centre held a seminar of leading international scholars on Southern Africa on 4th July 2006 at the LSE. 

Participants included Professor Christopher Saunders (University of Cape Town), Sir Marrack Goulding (St Antony's, Oxford), Professor Irina Filatova (formerly University of KwaZulu Natal), Professor Vladimir Shubin (Institute of African Studies, Moscow), Professor Ackson Kanduza (University of Swaziland), Professor Jack Spence (Department of War Studies, Kings College), and Merle Lipton (Sussex University). Professor Arne Westad was the chair.