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Monday, February 28, 2011

Tanzania: Background and Current Conditions


Ted Dagne
Specialist in African Affairs

Tanzania, an important U.S. ally in Africa, is a stable and important regional actor. There has been a gradual increase in political pluralism, but Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM ), the ruling party, remains dominant in government and parliament. Tanzania’s current president, Jakaya Kikwete, who previously served for 10 years as Tanzania’s foreign minister, won 80.3% of the votes cast in the December 2005 presidential election. In October 2010, President Kikwete was reelected for a second term with 61% of the votes cast. The ruling CCM won 70% of the seats in parliament. Tanzania continues its pattern of steady real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth and has a low and stable inflation rate. The Economist Intelligence Unit predicts real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of 7.1% in 2011 and 7.5% in 2012.


Date of Report: February 17, 2011
Number of Pages: 9
Order Number: RS22781
Price: $19.95

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Western Sahara


Alexis Arieff
Analyst in African Affairs

Since the 1970s, Morocco and the independence-seeking Popular Front for the Liberation of Saqiat al Hamra and Rio de Oro (Polisario) have vied for control of the Western Sahara, a former Spanish territory. In 1991, the United Nations arranged a cease-fire and proposed a settlement plan that called for a referendum to allow the people of the Western Sahara to choose between independence and integration into Morocco. A long deadlock on determining the electorate for a referendum ensued. The U.N. then unsuccessfully suggested alternatives to the unfulfilled settlement plan and later called on the parties to negotiate. In April 2007, Morocco offered an autonomy plan for the region. The two sides have since met on several occasions under U.N. auspices, but have made no progress due to their unwillingness to compromise. Informal talks were reconvened between November 2010 and January 2011 by U.N. Special Envoy Christopher Ross. In November 2010, Moroccan security forces dismantled a Sahrawi protest camp near the Moroccan-administered regional capital, Laayoune, sparking violent confrontations and criticism from rights advocates.

The Western Sahara issue has affected Algerian-Moroccan bilateral relations, Moroccan relations with the African Union, and regional cooperation on economic and security issues. The United States supports the U.N. effort and has urged the parties to focus on autonomy—a solution that would not destabilize its ally, Morocco. Some Members of Congress support a referendum and are frustrated by delays; others support Morocco’s autonomy initiative. The United States contributes funds, but no manpower, for the United Nations Mission for the Organization of a Referendum in the Western Sahara (MINURSO). In an explanatory statement accompanying the FY2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act (P.L. 111-8, March 11, 2009), appropriators expressed concern about human rights in the Western Sahara. Similar provisions have not appeared in subsequent appropriations legislation. See also CRS Report RS21579, Morocco: Current Issues, by Carol Migdalovitz, and CRS Report RS21532, Algeria: Current Issues, by Alexis Arieff.



Date of Report: February 15, 2011
Number of Pages: 11
Order Number: RS20962
Price: $29.95

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Algeria: Current Issues


Alexis Arieff
Analyst in African Affairs

The United States has increasingly viewed the government of Algeria, as an important partner in the fight against Al Qaeda linked groups in North Africa. The Algerian economy is largely based on hydrocarbons, and the country is a significant source of natural gas for the United States and Europe. Algeria receives little development assistance from the United States, but its security forces benefit from U.S. security assistance and participation in bilateral and regional military cooperation programs.

Algeria’s relative stability, always tenuous, has most recently been challenged by a series of riots and popular demonstrations that have occurred since early January 2011. The unrest initially appeared to be motivated by discontent over food prices, but has turned more overtly political since mid-January. The example of neighboring Tunisia’s “Jasmine Revolution” and the ripple effects of ongoing unrest in Egypt may contribute to opposition activism, with further protests anticipated in mid-February. The government has reacted both by attempting to assuage the public through political and economic concessions and by using the security forces to prevent and break up demonstrations. Across the region, other authoritarian governments have adopted a similar approach with varying results.

Algeria’s political system is dominated by a strong presidency. The military is the heir to Algeria’s long struggle for independence from France, and has remained the most significant political force since independence in 1962. Following Algeria’s bloody civil war in the 1990s, the military backed Abdelaziz Bouteflika for the presidency in 1999. He was reelected for a third term in April 2009 and has no clear successor. The voice of the military has been muted publicly since Bouteflika was first selected, but may be heard during a future presidential succession. Low voter turnout in the May 2007 parliamentary election may have reflected general lack of public faith in the political system in general and the weak legislature in particular. Authorities specifically boasted of a higher turnout in the 2009 presidential election.

Domestic terrorism perpetrated by violent Islamists remains Algeria’s principal security challenge. Algerian terrorists also operate across the southern border in the Sahel and are linked to terrorism abroad. The U.S. State Department lists two Algerian groups as Foreign Terrorist Organizations. The more notorious and active is Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda in 2006 and may increasingly be described as a criminalterrorist mutation. Algeria, as the dominant economic and military power in the region, has attempted to take the lead in developing a regional approach to counterterrorism in the Sahel. The legacy of Algeria’s anti-colonial independence struggle contributes to Algerian leaders’ desire to prevent direct foreign counterterrorism intervention and their residual skepticism of French intentions. See also CRS Report R41070, Al Qaeda and Affiliates: Historical Perspective, Global Presence, and Implications for U.S. Policy, coordinated by John Rollins.

President Bouteflika’s tenure has produced an energized foreign policy. Strains in ties with neighboring Morocco continue, due mainly to the unresolved status of the Western Sahara, but also to a rivalry for regional power. Relations with former colonial power France remain complex and volatile. See also CRS Report RS20962, Western Sahara: Status of Settlement Efforts, by Carol Migdalovitz.



Date of Report: February 10, 2011
Number of Pages: 20
Order Number: RS21532
Price: $29.95

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Political Transition in Tunisia


Alexis Arieff
Analyst in African Affairs

Tunisia has undergone a major political upheaval in recent weeks, dubbed the “Jasmine Revolution.” On January 14, 2011, Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled the country after several weeks of increasingly audacious anti-government protests. The speaker of parliament, Fouad Mebazaa, has since assumed the role of interim president, and an interim government has been formed ahead of elections expected in six months. However, the stability of the government and the broader impact of recent developments is difficult to predict. The Tunisia uprising appears to have added momentum to latent anti-government and pro-reform sentiment in Egypt, Yemen, Algeria, Jordan, and other countries, and has sparked international concern over stability in a region long associated with seemingly secure, autocratic, pro-U.S. regimes.

Prior to the December-January protests, Tunisia had been seen as a stable, albeit autocratic country since its independence from France in 1956. Ben Ali, in power since 1987, was elected for a fifth term in October 2009 in an election widely seen as flawed and boycotted by leading opposition parties. His Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) party exerted near-total control over parliament, state and local governments, and most political activity. The government cultivated strong ties with France and the European Union, its largest trading partner, as well as with the United States. Despite many political and economic characteristics shared across the region, Tunisia exhibits a number of unique attributes: it has a relatively small territory, a large and highly educated middle class, and a long history of encouraging women’s socio-economic freedoms. Tunisia’s Islamist movement has not played a leading role in the expression of domestic dissent in recent years, although it did in the 1980s before it was banned by Ben Ali.

The unexpected and rapid transition in Tunisia raises a wide range of questions for the future of the country and the region. These pertain to the struggle between reformists and entrenched forces carried over from the former regime; the potential shape of the new political order; the potential future role of Islamist and/or radical movements in the government and society; the role of the military as an emerging political power-broker; and the difficult diplomatic balance—for the United States and other actors—of encouraging greater democratic openness while not undermining other foreign policy priorities. Congress may play a role in developments through its foreign assistance policies and oversight of U.S.-Tunisia relations, and of broader U.S. policy toward the Middle East.

U.S. officials, who grew increasingly critical of the government in the days prior to Ben Ali’s departure, have since stated their support for political transition and called for free and fair elections. U.S.-Tunisian relations largely emphasize military and counterterrorism cooperation, although Tunisia has pushed for a greater focus on trade. The United States is Tunisia’s primary supplier of military equipment, which is provided through both direct sales and grants, and a large number of Tunisian military officers have received U.S. training. Congress has been supportive of security assistance programs in Tunisia, directing the State Department in FY2009 and FY2010 to allocate levels of Foreign Military Financing (FMF) that surpassed budget requests by the executive branch.

For analysis of the potential impact of Tunisia’s uprising on Egypt, see CRS Report RL33003, Egypt: Background and U.S. Relations, by Jeremy M. Sharp.



Date of Report: February 2, 2011
Number of Pages: 26
Order Number: RS21666
Price: $29.95

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Cote d'Ivoire’s Post-Election Crisis

Nicolas Cook
Specialist in African Affairs

Côte d'Ivoire has entered a renewed period of extreme political instability, accompanied by significant political violence, following a contested presidential election designed to cap an often forestalled peace process. The election was held under the terms of the 2007 Ouagadougou Political Agreement, the most recent in a series of partially implemented peace accords aimed at reunifying Côte d'Ivoire, which has remained largely divided between a government-controlled southern region and a rebel-controlled zone in the north since the outbreak of a civil war in 2002.

This instability directly threatens long-standing U.S. and international efforts to support a transition to peace, political stability, and democratic governance in Côte d'Ivoire, among other U.S. objectives. Indirectly at stake are broader, long-term U.S. efforts to ensure regional stability, peace, democratic and accountable state capacity-building and economic growth in West Africa, along with billions of dollars of U.S. foreign aid to achieve these ends. The United States has supported the Ivoirian peace process since the 2002 war, both diplomatically and financially, with funding appropriated by Congress. The United States supports the ongoing U.N. Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI); funded a UNOCI predecessor, the U.N. Mission in Côte d'Ivoire; and assisted in the deployment in 2003 of a now defunct Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) military intervention force. Congress may be asked to consider further Côte d'Ivoire-related assistance if UNOCI is expanded or if ECOWAS mounts a new military intervention force; or to fund emergency humanitarian interventions if the political-military situation significantly deteriorates, as is likely under a range of potential scenarios.

On November 28, 2010, a presidential election runoff vote was held between the incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, and former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara, the two candidates who had won the most votes in a first-round October 31, 2010 poll. Both candidates claim to have won the runoff vote and separately inaugurated themselves as president and formed rival governments. Ouattara bases his victory claim on the U.N.-certified runoff results announced by Côte d'Ivoire's Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). These show that he won the election with a 54.1% share of votes, against 45.9% for Gbagbo. The international community, including the United States, has endorsed the IEC-announced poll results as accurate and authoritative and demanded that Gbagbo accept them and cede the presidency to Ouattara. Gbagbo, however, appealed the IEC decision to the Ivoirian Constitutional Council, which reviewed and annulled it, proclaiming Gbagbo president, with 51.5% of votes against 48.6% for Ouattara. Gbagbo therefore claims to have been duly elected and refuses to hand power over to Ouattara.

The electoral standoff has caused a sharp rise in political tension and violence, resulting in many deaths and human rights abuses, and provoked attacks on U.N. peacekeepers. The international community has broadly rejected Gbagbo's electoral victory claim and endorsed Ouattara as the legally elected president, and is using diplomatic and financial efforts, personal sanctions, and a military intervention threat to pressure Gbagbo to step aside. Top U.S officials have attempted to directly pressure Gbagbo to step down, and an existing U.S. ban on bilateral aid has been augmented with visa restrictions and financial sanctions targeting the Gbagbo Administration. As of early 2011, Ouattara and Gbagbo were each rigidly adhering to their positions, and regional mediation had produced no tangible results. Continued political volatility is likely if either Ouattara or Gbagbo prevails, and the country is likely to remain bisected in the latter case. A war, whether civil or due to external intervention, is also possible. A unity government might temporarily reduce political tension, but would likely not resolve the root causes of the crisis. If the crisis is resolved, Côte d'Ivoire is well-placed to recover politically and economically.



Date of Report: January 28, 2011
Number of Pages: 54
Order Number: RS21989
Price: $29.95

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