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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Ghana: Recent Developments and U.S. Relations



Nicolas Cook
Specialist in African Affairs

Ghana: Bilateral Cooperation and Leadership Engagement 

Ghana is considered a model for many of the outcomes that many Members of Congress have long sought to achieve in sub-Saharan Africa in the areas of authorizations; appropriations and program guidance; and oversight. Ghana has received a large U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact and may soon receive a second. It is also a recipient of substantial U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and State Department bilateral aid, much of which is channeled through three presidential development initiatives:


  • the Global Climate Change (GCC) initiative; 
  • Feed the Future (FtF), a global food security and poverty reduction initiative; and 
  • the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) and the Global Health Initiative (GHI). 

Ghana also hosts USAID and U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) regional offices and the USAID-administered West Africa Trade Hub. The Hub focuses on expanding intra-regional and bilateral trade with countries in the region, a key area of current congressional interest and a pillar of the Obama Administration’s U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa, released in June 2012.

Ghana is also one of four initial Partnerships for Growth (PfG) countries. PfG, implementation of which began in 2011 in El Salvador, is intended to advance public and private bilateral cooperation with selected countries whose top leaders demonstrate commitment to good governance and sustainable development. Ghana hosts regular visits by Members of Congress, and in 2009 President Barack Obama signaled that ties remain close by traveling to Ghana, the only sub-Saharan African country that he has visited as president. 

Good Governance and Stability 


President Obama’s visit was premised on Ghana’s record of having built a relatively robust democracy and a growing economy, albeit in the face of widespread poverty and diverse development challenges, making it a stable country in an often unstable region. During his visit he lauded its democratic and economic development record and made a major policy address relating these issues to good governance in Africa and the wider developing world. Ghana’s stability is maintained, in part, by its citizens’ commitment to constitutional governance. Since undergoing a transition from single party rule in the early 1990s, it has held a series of peaceful but close elections, two involving inter-party transfers of state power. The most recent elections, held in early December 2012, were closely contested. In all cases, opposition challengers have either accepted poll results outright or contested them through the courts, rather than through the use of violence or street protests. Constitutional governance was also upheld in July 2012, when state power was rapidly and transparently transferred to the current president, John Dramani Mahama, after the death of President John Atta Mills.

Ghana has also contributed to efforts to maintain stability and end conflict in the surrounding West Africa region, and regularly contributes to international peacekeeping operations elsewhere. It receives U.S. capacity-building assistance in this area, as well as aid to help counter threats posed by international narcotics trafficking.


Development and Economy: Progress and Challenges 


Ghana’s economy has grown substantially in recent years, based both on increases in farm and mining exports and, more recently, oil production, which is likely to increase its strategic importance to the United States. Growing oil earnings may help fund development, but may also pose resource governance and fiscal management challenges. Economic growth has led to socioeconomic and infrastructure construction gains, but Ghana continues to face profound development challenges and threats to the rule of law linked to corruption and trafficking in illegal drugs and persons.


Date of Report: January 4, 2013
Number of Pages: 27
Order Number: R42874
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Monday, February 25, 2013

Kenya: Current Issues and U.S. Policy



Lauren Ploch Blanchard
Specialist in African Affairs

The U.S. government has long viewed Kenya as a strategic partner and an anchor state in East Africa. After Al Qaeda’s 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and neighboring Tanzania, this partnership took on a new dimension as Kenya emerged on the frontline in the struggle against international terrorism. Kenya expanded its efforts to counter violent extremism in the region in late 2011, when it launched military operations in Somalia against a regional Al Qaeda “affiliate,” Al Shabaab. The United States has also valued Kenya’s role as a peacemaker among its neighbors and as a host to refugees from across the troubled region.


With U.S. aid levels approaching $1 billion annually, Kenya ranks among the top recipients of U.S. foreign assistance globally. However, governance and human rights challenges periodically complicate Congress’s annual deliberations on aid to Kenya and factor into its oversight of U.S. policy toward the country. Corruption and abuses of power have fueled grievances among Kenya’s diverse population. Periodic ethnic disputes—notably the widespread civil unrest that followed contested elections in December 2007—have marred the country’s generally peaceful reputation. Impunity for state corruption and political violence remains a major challenge that threatens to undermine the country’s long-term stability. Balancing these concerns against U.S. security priorities in the region may pose challenges for Congress in the near term.

As Kenya approaches its next elections in March 2013, there is significant uncertainty regarding the potential for further unrest. Some analysts view the pending prosecution of four Kenyans at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for their alleged involvement in the 2007-2008 postelection violence as an important first step toward establishing accountability, and as a deterrent to those who would foment ethnic animosities for political gain. However, among those indicted by the ICC are leading politicians who have sought to leverage perceptions in their communities that the cases are biased or driven by the West. Two of the defendants intend to run together on a presidential ticket in the 2013 polls. Outbreaks of localized, deadly conflict in parts of the country in the past year are also of concern and may be linked to local political maneuvering in advance of the elections. Finally, spoilers, either foreign or domestic, could use small-scale terrorist attacks, which have increased in Kenya since the onset of its operations in Somalia, to disrupt the elections. The State Department maintains a travel warning for U.S. citizens given “heightened threats from terrorism” to U.S., Western, and Kenyan interests in the country.


Renewed unrest would have implications not only for Kenya but for the broader region. The country is a top tourist destination in Africa, although terrorist threats, a high urban crime rate, and several high-profile kidnappings have damaged its tourism industry, which took years to recover from the 2007-2008 violence. Kenya is a regional hub for transportation and finance, and its economy is among Africa’s largest. Many international organizations base their continental headquarters in Nairobi, which is home to one of four major United Nations offices worldwide and serves as a base for regional humanitarian relief efforts. Kenya also hosts the largest U.S. diplomatic mission in Africa, from which U.S. agencies manage both bilateral and regional programs. The United States manages relations with the Somali government—formally recognized by the United States in January for the first time in more than 20 years—from the embassy in Nairobi, given that the U.S. embassy in Mogadishu has been closed since 1991.


Date of Report: February 21, 2013
Number of Pages: 18
Order Number: R42967
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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Crisis in Mali



Alexis Arieff
Analyst in African Affairs

For the past year, Mali has been mired in overlapping security, political, and humanitarian crises. Islamist extremist groups expanded their presence in the country’s vast, Saharan north following a March 2012 coup d’├ętat that overthrew Mali’s democratically elected government and led the military chain of command to collapse. The insurgents include Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, along with at least two loosely allied groups. In the capital, Bamako, located in the south, the interim government formed in the wake of the coup has suffered from internal divisions and military interference, and must contend with an economic recession and revenue shortages. Insecurity in northern Mali has displaced over 350,000 people and exacerbated regional food insecurity and poor humanitarian conditions.

On January 11, 2013, France launched military operations against insurgent targets in northern Mali, following a request from the Malian government for help in repelling insurgent advances toward the south. French operations mark a sudden and major shift in international responses to the situation in Mali. Previously, international efforts had focused on a French-backed proposal for a West African-led military intervention, negotiations with some armed groups in the north, and prospects for elections aimed at a more legitimate, effective government in Bamako. The planned regional intervention, termed the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA), was authorized by the U.N. Security Council in December 2012. However, AFISMA was widely seen as requiring many months to prepare. During the planning for AFISMA, serious questions have also been raised concerning Malian and regional troops’ military capacity and will, as well as the potential cost and humanitarian consequences of regional deployments.

The United States may provide logistical support to ongoing French operations, as France has requested. The Obama Administration may also provide support to regional troop contributors as France and regional leaders attempt to accelerate African deployments under AFISMA. Prior to the French intervention, U.S. policymakers had reportedly debated the potential for unilateral action against terrorist actors in Mali. The Obama Administration has also called for Mali to organize national elections, and has supported regional efforts to mediate a way out of Mali’s political standoff and contain violent extremism from spreading more widely in the region.

Congress plays a role in shaping U.S. policy toward Mali through its authorization and appropriation of foreign aid and defense programs, and through its oversight activities. Direct U.S. assistance to the Malian security forces—in addition to several other types of foreign aid— has been suspended in line with congressionally mandated restrictions triggered by the coup, which was led by a prior participant in a U.S. training program. The aid restrictions do not affect humanitarian assistance, of which the United States is the leading bilateral donor in the region.

The situation in Mali challenges U.S. goals of promoting stability, democracy, civilian control of the military, and effectively countering terrorist threats in Africa. It also raises questions regarding the strategic design and effectiveness of previous U.S. efforts to do so. Looking forward, Congress may consider issues related to how, and to what extent, to support French and regional military deployments to Mali; whether unilateral U.S. action is required or wise; how to assess previous U.S. security engagement in Mali and the region; and future U.S. aid, including humanitarian assistance. Congress may also consider the possible implications of the situation in Mali for broader U.S. counterterrorism and good governance efforts in Africa and beyond.


Date of Report: January 14, 2013
Number of Pages: 21
Order Number: R42664
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Friday, February 1, 2013

Algeria: Current Issues



Alexis Arieff
Analyst in African Affairs

The hostage crisis that began when terrorists seized a gas compound with foreign (including U.S.) workers in southeastern Algeria on January 15, 2013, highlights the challenges the United States faces in advancing and protecting its interests in an increasingly volatile region. It may also point to the potential limits of the U.S.-Algerian security relationship. The terrorist group that seized the hostages is ostensibly a breakaway faction of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a regional network and U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization with roots in Algeria’s 1990s civil conflict. AQIM’s leadership appears to be primarily based in Algeria and across the southern border in Mali, although the group’s internal cohesion and ultimate aims have often been debated. AQIM attacks have ranged from bombings in Algeria to kidnappings (usually small-scale and for ransom) across the region. It is also involved in an insurgency in northern Mali that is the focus of French military operations launched on January 11, 2013.

As a regional economic and military power with past experience in combating armed extremists, Algeria has attempted to lead a regional approach to counterterrorism in North-West Africa. These efforts have had mixed results, as have long-term U.S. capacity-building programs focused on Algeria’s poorer West African neighbors. At the same time, any U.S. unilateral action in response to regional security threats could present significant risks and opportunity costs.

U.S.-Algerian ties have grown over the past decade as the United States has increasingly come to view Algeria as a key partner in countering Al Qaeda-linked groups in North and West Africa. Algeria is also a significant source of petroleum for the United States and of natural gas for Europe, and therefore a destination for U.S. investment. Congress appropriates and oversees small amounts of bilateral development assistance and receives notification of arms sales, and Algerian security forces benefit from U.S. cooperation programs.

Algeria’s political system is dominated by a strong presidency and security apparatus. The country’s macroeconomic situation is stable due to high global oil and gas prices, which have allowed Algeria to amass large foreign reserves. Yet Algeria’s wealth has not necessarily trickled down, and the pressures of unemployment, high food prices, and housing shortages weigh on many families. Public unrest over political and economic grievances has at times been evident, though other factors appear to have dampened enthusiasm for dramatic political change. It is unclear whether reforms initiated in 2011 amid the “Arab Spring” have the potential to alter the deeper power dynamics within the opaque politico-military elite networks that Algerians refer to as Le Pouvoir (the powers-that-be).

Algeria’s foreign policy has often conflicted with that of the United States. Strains in ties with neighboring Morocco continue, due to the unresolved status of the Western Sahara and a rivalry for regional influence, although signs of a thaw emerged in 2011. Relations with former colonial power France remain complex and volatile. The legacy of Algeria’s anti-colonial struggle contributes to Algerian leaders’ desire to prevent direct foreign intervention, their residual skepticism of French and NATO intentions, and Algeria’s positions on regional affairs, including a non-interventionist stance toward the uprising in Syria and an ambivalent approach to external military intervention in Mali. See also CRS Report R42664, Crisis in Mali; and CRS Report RS20962, Western Sahara.



Date of Report: January 18, 2013
Number of Pages: 20
Order Number: RS21532
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