15 January 2022

The Paul Nantulya Bookshelf: Elucidating China-Africa Relations with Unique Insights

Paul Nantulya’s incisive work curates and analyzes revealing information on an array of important and timely but hitherto under-researched topics, following PRC activities across the continent that will contribute the vast majority of new people to the world during this century!

Andrew S. Erickson, “The Paul Nantulya Bookshelf: Elucidating China-Africa Relations with Unique Insights,” China Analysis from Original Sources 以第一手资料研究中国, 15 January 2022.

As a research associate at The Africa Center for Strategic Studies, Paul Nantulya researches and prepares written analysis on contemporary Africa security issues. Located at the U.S. National Defense University, The Africa Center is an academic institution within the Department of Defense established and funded by Congress for the study of security issues relating to Africa and serving as a forum for bilateral and multilateral research, communication, training, and exchange of ideas involving military and civilian participants.

Mr. Nantulya’s areas of expertise include Chinese foreign policy, China/Africa relations, African partnerships with Southeast Asian countries, mediation and peace processes, Africa’s Great Lakes region, and East and Southern Africa.

Prior to joining the Africa Center, Mr. Nantulya served as a regional technical advisor on South Sudan for Catholic Relief Services (CRS) from 2009 to 2011, where he supported crisis mitigation for the Government of South Sudan including writing policy analyses for the Ministry of Peace and Comprehensive Peace Agreement Implementation. In this role he worked closely with South Sudan’s external partners, particularly Japan’s International Cooperation Agency, on conflict prevention.

In 2005–09, Mr. Nantulya was CRS/Sudan’s governance manager in Juba. In this capacity he coordinated technical assistance for the Office of the President on establishing functional systems of state and local government. Mr. Nantulya previously worked for the South Africa-based Africa Center for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD), coordinating ACCORD’s participation in the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, the preeminent forum for Japan/Africa relations. He also worked on civilian and military peacekeeping in the Southern African Development Community. Additionally, he was part of the ACCORD team that worked with President Nelson Mandela on the Arusha Peace Process on Burundi (1999–2001), President Thabo Mbeki and Deputy President Jacob Zuma on ceasefire talks (2001–03), President Ketumile Masire on the Inter-Congolese Dialogue (2002), and Dr. Nicholas Haysom on the Sudan peace process (2002–03).

Mr. Nantulya holds a B.A. in international relations from United States International University in Nairobi, Kenya, a Graduate Certificate in Japanese from the Japan Africa Interchange Institute in Nairobi, Kenya, and an M.S. in Defense and Strategic Studies from Missouri State University in Springfield, MO. He tweets at @PNantulya.

Areas of Expertise

Governance, mediation, peace processes, peacekeeping, East Africa


Paul Nantulya, “China’s Blended Approach to Security in Africa,” Italian Institute for International Political Studies, 29 July 2021.

2021 is a significant year for Africa-China relations. It marks 20 years since the Forum for China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) was established. China’s Communist Party, which has been in contact with African parties longer than any other political party in the industrialized world, turned 100. Meanwhile, South Africa’s African National Congress, one of the first African movements to be mentored by China, turned 109. The shared liberation movement contacts between China and Africa have been heavily invoked by both sides as the continent braces for the eighth FOCAC Summit, which will take place Senegal in September.

There will be a lot to discuss. FOCAC has evolved into more than a high-level summit. It has established numerous joint mechanisms for capacity building, technical support, and coordination, from local government and agriculture to law enforcement, security, and defense. China is not only Africa’s single largest trade partner and bilateral creditor; it also runs more exchanges for African politicians, civil servants, and professionals than any other country.

This also extends to military ties, which have grown overtime alongside China’s other engagements. China’s military strategy in Africa centers on cultivating personal and professional ties, diffusing norms and models, and forging ideological and political bonds of solidarity.

In fact, military exercises, port visits, and military training appear to play a minimal role. Moreover, the PLA does not deploy troops alongside African forces in the field. Numbers tell a part of the story. Professional and political exchanges constituted 90 percent of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) engagements in Africa between 2000 and 2016. This broke down to 13 joint military drills, 22 naval port calls, and 259 exchanges and dialogues, suggesting a much stronger emphasis on relationship-building and networking. Over 80 percent of these interactions were conducted with the militaries of the Former Liberation Movements of Southern Africa (FLMSA) with whom China has particularly strong historical bonds.

This legacy of engagement dates back to 1950, a year after the People’s Republic of China was founded, when the PLA embarked on supporting Africa’s wars of independence. By 1955, when the Bandung Conference on Afro-Asian Solidarity was held, China was hosting African fighters at Nanjing Military Academy, the Fourth Department of Beijing’s Higher Military Institute (now the PLA’s National Defense University), and other schools. By 1958, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had trained over 3,000 fighters, received over 400 African delegations seeking weaponry, and stationed hundreds of military instructors in Africa. Between 1958 and 1961, China participated in the All-Africa Peoples Congresses in Accra, Tunis, and Cairo, the precursors of the Organization of African Unity (OAU, now African Union, or AU) which was tasked with decolonization. When it established its Liberation Committee in 1963 in Tanzania to coordinate the armed struggle, China became its main provider of arms, military trainers, and advisors. This continued until the fall of apartheid in 1994. … … …


Paul Nantulya, “Chinese Security Firms Spread along the African Belt and Road,” Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 15 June 2021.

The deployment of Chinese security firms in Africa is expanding without a strong regulatory framework. This poses heightened risks to African citizens and raises fundamental questions over responsibility for security in Africa.

“A more robust regulatory process in Africa will be essential to prioritize and protect African citizen interests.”

Since 2012, over 200,000 Chinese workers relocated to Africa to work on China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR, yī dài, yī lù, 一带一路), commonly known as the Belt and Road Initiative, bringing the number of Chinese immigrants on the continent to 1 million. There are over 10,000 Chinese companies in Africa, including at least 2,000 state-owned enterprises (SOEs). Chinese SOEs have a major stake in African construction projects, generating over $40 billion in revenue annually.

The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences notes that 84 percent of China’s Belt and Road investments are in medium- to high-risk countries. Three hundred and fifty serious security incidents involving Chinese firms occurred between 2015 and 2017, from kidnappings and terror attacks to anti-Chinese violence, according to China’s Ministry of State Security. This has placed a premium on security to safeguard these investments and a growing demand from executives of Chinese SOEs for a more robust Chinese security presence on the ground. While the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been averse to maintaining a large presence in Africa due to a host of reputational and logistical factors, China is not confident that African security forces can do the job.

The Chinese government is, consequently, increasingly relying on Chinese security firms as part of its security mix. There are 5,000 security firms registered in China, employing 4.3 million ex-PLA and People’s Armed Police. Twenty of these are licensed to operate overseas and report that they employ 3,200 individual contractors, more than the size of PLA peacekeeping deployments, which number around 2,500 troops. The actual number of Chinese contractors in Africa is doubtlessly significantly higher. Beijing DeWe Security Service and Huaxin Zhong An Security Group employ 35,000 contractors in 50 African countries, South Asia, the Middle East, and China. Overseas Security Guardians and China Security Technology Group employ 62,000 in the same regions. In Kenya, DeWe employs around 2,000 security contractors to protect the $3.6-billion Mombasa-Nairobi-Naivasha Standard Gauge Railway alone.

China does not want its security providers to be compared to Russia’s shady Wagner Group or the disbanded American security firm, Blackwater. Yet that is a real danger. Moreover, Chinese security contracting comes with many of the same risks associated with some Chinese SOEs, including a lack of transparency, weak national controls, undue influence on regime elites, and social tensions.

The proliferation of foreign security firms has important policy implications for Africa as it undermines the government’s role as the primary security provider within a country and heightens the risk of human rights violations. A more robust regulatory process in Africa will be essential to prioritize and protect African citizen interests.


Paul Nantulya, “Reshaping African Agency in China-Africa Relations,” Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 2 March 2021.

The interests of African citizens can be strengthened in investment deals with China by ensuring agreements are transparent, technical experts are involved, and the public is engaged.

The asymmetries in power between China and its African partners are immense. Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy with a GDP of roughly $500 billion, is a fraction of China’s GDP of $14.3 trillion. China is Africa’s largest trading partner, with trade growing 40-fold in the past 20 years. China is also Africa’s single biggest creditor, holding 20 percent of the continent’s debt. African countries borrowed around $143 billion in combined Chinese state and commercial loans between 2006 and 2017.

African countries make up half of the 50 nations that are most indebted to China, with Djibouti, the Republic of the Congo, Niger, and Zambia topping the list in terms of share of GDP. These countries demonstrate how spiraling debt with China can have a ripple effect on shrinking African leverage. Zambia is a case in point. In 2020, it appealed to China to restructure $11 billion in loans. China, however, insisted that all its arrears be cleared as a precondition, a demand Zambian President Edgar Lungu had no leverage to resist. Other lenders whom Zambia had asked for bailouts suddenly became reluctant to offer the country concessions as they might be used to pay arrears to Chinese creditors. According to Ken Ofori, Ghana’s finance minister, China’s approach to debt negotiations disadvantages its highly indebted partners as it makes other creditors nervous that “their released resources will simply be transferred to Beijing.”

Fears that unsustainable debt could cause African countries to lose control of their national assets are also growing. In 2018, the Kenyan public was shocked when a leaked report from the auditor general revealed that the strategic port of Mombasa had been put up as a sovereign guarantee. That is, its escrow account would be surrendered to China’s Export-Import Bank if the Kenyan government defaulted on its $3.2-billion loan for the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway. In Zambia, worries that Chinese firms will seize key assets to recover debts frequently make the headlines, with the local power utility, ZESCO, and the international airport being cited in a flood of angry media reports since 2018.

Concerns over imbalance have been raised over other facets of Chinese investments as well. For example, many African commentators note that Chinese firms, which currently dominate African construction tenders, mainly hire Chinese labor and import Chinese material in multibillion-dollar projects. The common understanding is that African countries give in to such practices because the financing, impact assessments, and project execution are all done by Chinese entities. Saying no to China means that the money might go elsewhere.

The issue of corruption often features prominently in these agreements as African government leaders tend to negotiate opaque deals that benefit them personally or extend their patronage network. African leaders, therefore, are less inclined to write more stringent standards of accountability and local ownership into these agreements.

Given the paucity of empirical data, the secrecy of Sino-African negotiations, and the widely varying motivations of African leaders, it’s hard to generalize how this imbalance plays out in individual countries. For instance, a 2017 study by McKinsey found that of the 1,000 Chinese firms in 8 African countries that receive the lion’s share of Chinese labor-intensive investments, 89 percent of the laborers were African. A study conducted over 4 years by the University of London’s School of African and Oriental Studies found that in Angola and Ethiopia—high-profile countries for Chinese investment—the local participation rate of African labor is 90 percent and 74 percent respectively.

Nevertheless, as many details of these agreements remain tightly held between African leaders and their Chinese counterparts, it’s hard to say how these deals benefit African citizens. That concerns about harmful practices continue to be raised underscores very real fears about the lopsided nature of these engagements. Consequently, a growing number of Africans do not view the relationship as a “mutually beneficial partnership” (hùhuì huǒbàn guānxi, 互惠的伙伴关系) as is often promoted.

Given the challenges inherent within this imbalanced power relationship, how can African citizens effectively assert agency over their national interests? … … …


Paul Nantulya, “Chinese Security Contractors in Africa,” Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy, 8 October 2020.

As China’s engagement with African countries has grown over the past several years, Beijing is increasingly turning to security contractors to protect its Belt and Road Initiative projects, citizens, and diplomats.


As China’s engagement with African countries has grown over the past several years, Beijing is turning to security contractors to protect its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects, citizens, and diplomats. Chinese security contractors are active in a growing number of African countries; they mostly work for Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and increasingly with African security forces and security companies. They protect oil and gas installations, railways, mines, construction sites, and even Chinese embassies.

China has long claimed to “keep a low profile” and uphold its doctrine of “non-interference” in its foreign policy, and it has largely declined to deploy its armed forces abroad. But these diplomatic tenets are now being severely tested, as China’s rapidly expanding interests in Africa have created a need for security contractors to provide protection for those interests.

Over 200,000 Chinese workers have relocated to Africa in search of opportunities along the BRI as of 2018, bringing the total number of Chinese immigrants to over 1 million. Furthermore, over 10,000 Chinese companies were operating on the continent as of 2017.

China’s economic power in Africa is unmistakable; in 2017 alone, Chinese SOEs generated about $51 billion in revenue from local BRI projects, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics. As of 2020, China was responsible for more construction projects in Africa than France, Italy, and the United States combined. However, China’s expanded global engagements are fraught with risks. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences notes in its 2020 assessment that 84 percent of China’s BRI investments are in medium- to high-risk countries.

To protect its investments, Beijing has invested in and trained security contractors. As of 2013, China had around 4,000 registered security firms with an estimated 4.3 million employees, mostly demobilized military and police personnel. Phoenix International, a Chinese think tank with strong SOE ties, reports that likely no more than twenty of these firms conduct activities overseas protecting SOEs and other Chinese interests. By 2013, they employed around 3,200 personnel, according to the Germany-based Mercator Institute for China Studies, more than the number of United Nations (UN) peacekeepers China furnishes, a figure that stood at 2,534 troops and police as of June 2020.

The true number of Chinese private security contractors, however, could be much higher. Chinese SOEs spend about $10 billion annually on security, according to the Beijing-based China Overseas Security and Defense Research Center.

The International Data Corporation reports that China, as well as Latin America and Asia-Pacific countries, will account for the largest growth in overseas security spending between 2019 and 2023. From this perspective, China’s strategic shift from keeping a low profile to claiming global leadership sets the stage for the expansion of Chinese overseas security contracting. … … …


Paul Nantulya, “China Promotes Its Party-Army Model in Africa/La Chine promeut son modèle Parti-armée en Afrique,” Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 28 July 2020.

China’s party-army model, whereby the army is subordinate to a single ruling party, is antithetical to the multiparty democratic systems with an apolitical military accountable to elected leaders adopted by most African countries.

“The Chinese party-army model also tends to reinforce elite networks and hierarchies, which feature heavily in China’s political relationships and often supersede institutional and constitutional procedures.”

The principle of absolute party control of the military is one of the pillars of China’s governance model. It follows the central rule—“The party commands the gun, and the gun must never be allowed to command the party” (Qiānggǎn zi lǐmiàn chū zhèngquán, 枪杆子里面出政权)—coined by the founder of the Communist Party of China (CPC), Mao Zedong. The adage defines the relationship between the ruling party and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), as well as the party’s tight control of the Chinese government, which is often described as a “party state” (dǎng guó, 黨國).

As China deepens its ties to African militaries, including through training and education initiatives, Beijing brings its perspective on party-army relations. The venues through which it does this have been growing steadily in the past decade. For example, under its China-Africa Action Plan 2018-2021, China receives 60,000 African students annually, which surpasses both the United States and United Kingdom. China provides an additional 50,000 professional training opportunities and 50,000 government fellowships to African public servants. Around 5,000 slots go to military professionals, up from 2,000 under its 2015-2018 Plan.

The concept of party supremacy over the military is at odds with the principle of an apolitical military, which is central to the multiparty democratic systems adopted by nearly all African constitutions since the early 1990s. The Chinese party-army model has obvious appeal to some African ruling party and military leaders who welcome redefining the role of the military as ensuring the survival of the ruling party. It also tends to reinforce elite networks and hierarchies (guānxi, 关系), which feature heavily in China’s political relationships and often supersede institutional and constitutional procedures. … … …


Paul Nantulya, “Post-Nkurunziza Burundi: The Rise of the Generals/Le Burundi après Nkurunziza: les généraux en ordre de marche,” Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 22 June 2020.

In Burundi, President Pierre Nkurunziza’s sudden death has exposed power struggles within the ruling party and the ascendancy of the military.

“Nkurunziza’s legacy of patronage-based and repressive governance means whoever controls the levers of power has wide scope for self-enrichment and violence.”

Barely two weeks after an election marked by government violence, intimidation, extrajudicial killings, and a media blackout, Burundians were shocked by news that longtime president, Pierre Nkurunziza, 55, had died. Rumors swirled about possible causes, with some saying he died of COVID-19 and others citing foul play. The government said he died of cardiac arrest. A succession crisis immediately ensued, exposing rifts in the ruling party and military.

General Evariste Ndayishimiye, the ruling party candidate widely known by his guerrilla nickname Neva (“never”), claimed a landslide victory in the May 20 presidential elections in a process that was widely seen as unfair. Recognizing that the playing field was not level, the African Union didn’t send observers. On May 11, 9 days before the polls, Burundi authorities informed East African Community observers that they would face a mandatory 14-day quarantine because of COVID-19. The observers, consequently, pulled out. Over 200 of the opposition National Freedom Council’s poll observers were illegally detained. Burundi’s highly respected Catholic Bishops Conference did field 2,716 observers in all 119 municipalities, however. And they denounced the polls as neither free nor fair based on their tally. The government reacted by demanding the bishops be defrocked. On June 4, the seven-member Constitutional Court—all ruling party appointees—threw out the opposition’s petition to annul the results.

The quarantine for external poll observers is ironic given Burundi’s disregard for World Health Organization (WHO) safety guidelines. Campaign rallies drew large crowds without masks or social distancing. Three weeks before polling, Nkurunziza downplayed the risks, claiming that masks were unnecessary because “God has purified the air of Burundi.” He then expelled the WHO coronavirus task force for “unacceptable interference.” Burundi now faces a spike in underreported cases.

This series of crises came on top of an ongoing political upheaval that erupted in 2015 when Nkurunziza refused to step down at the end of his second constitutionally mandated term. This violation of Burundi’s fledgling democratic process triggered massive peaceful protests, a violent crackdown against civil society and the political opposition, targeted assassinations in the military, and a failed coup. Burundi has known turbulence since then, with an estimated 1,700 people having been killed and close to 500,000 of the country’s 11 million citizens now refugees. The United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Burundi has noted that the death toll is grossly undercounted given the scale of mass atrocities committed. This is corroborated by hundreds of eyewitness testimonies, data obtained through government sources, and mass graves discovered around the country.

Nkurunziza’s legacy of patronage-based and repressive governance means whoever controls the levers of power has wide scope for self-enrichment and violence against their rivals. This is all the more significant given Burundi’s history of ethnically based violence and the potential for greater regional instability. … … …


Ambassador Phillip Carter III, Dr. Raymond Gilpin, and Paul Nantulya, “China in Africa: Opportunities, Challenges, and Options,” in Scott D. McDonald and Michael C. Burgoyne, eds., China’s Global Influence: Perspectives and Recommendations (Honolulu, HI: Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, September 2019).


The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) diplomatic, economic, and security engagements with Africa have deepened since the turn of this century. The PRC and private Chinese firms, many of them backed by central and local governments, are visiting Africa more frequently, while foreign direct investment (FDI) and development assistance are trending upward.2 In addition, growing People’s Liberation Army (PLA) engagement with African countries and regional institutions is evidenced by increased security assistance, consistent support for peacekeeping initiatives, and a growing military footprint. Understanding the geo-strategic implications of these developments requires a careful analysis of four key questions. Does the recent acceleration constitute a trend? How much influence does the PRC derive from these engagements? How do African countries perceive recent developments? How do Beijing’s interventions compare to those of Africa’s other external partners?

This chapter starts with a strategic analysis of the evolution of China-Africa relations to unpack the drivers of this relationship. While it is true that China has had a long-standing relationship with Africa and tends to play the long game, the historical overview also highlights important transactional dimensions. Chinese officials often make short-term decisions based on their national self-interest or policy adjustments. Meanwhile, African governments are becoming more selective and circumspect as pressure grows from African civil society, academics, and private sector leaders for more equitable deals with the Chinese that enhance transparency, eliminate corruption, and avoid unsustainable debt.

While many African countries acknowledge China’s role in critical areas, like infrastructure development and peacekeeping operations, some have become wary of potential downsides of dependency, dumping, security arrangements that compromise human rights, and onerous debt. Increasingly, Chinese involvement is being evaluated within the context of the roles, activities, and relative costs of opportunities pro- vided by other development partners. Consequently, in Africa, any analysis of the implications of Chinese engagements must include a broader discussion of other external partners. … … …


Paul Nantulya, “Burundi, the Forgotten Crisis, Still Burns/Le Burundi, la crise oubliée, brûle toujours,” Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 24 September 2019.

Although Nkurunziza has suppressed external reporting on Burundi, the country’s 4-year-old political and humanitarian crisis shows no signs of abating.

Mass atrocities and crimes against humanity committed primarily by state agents and their allies continue to take place in Burundi, according to the September 2019 report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi. The Commission, moreover, found that President Pierre Nkurunziza and many in his inner circle are personally responsible for some of the most serious of these crimes. They include “summary executions, arbitrary arrests and detentions, acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, sexual violence, and forced disappearances.”

The Commission has been investigating the Burundi crisis since 2016. Its findings mirror those of the International Criminal Court, which opened a separate investigation in 2017 based on “a reasonable basis to believe that state agents and groups implementing state policies … launched a widespread and systematic attack against the Burundian civilian population.” The persistence of such atrocities echoes Burundi’s 1972 and 1993 genocides and the brutal civil war that ended in 2005. … … …


Paul Nantulya, “Escalating Tensions between Uganda and Rwanda Raise Fear of War/L’escalade des tensions entre l’Ouganda et le Rwanda suscite la crainte d’une guerre,” Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 3 July 2019. 

The long simmering rivalry between Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame has escalated border tensions into a serious risk of armed interstate conflict.

“Reflecting the limited checks and balances in authoritarian governance structures, senior officials on both sides have also escalated their rhetoric rather than serving as moderating influences.”

Formerly staunch allies, Uganda and Rwanda are at loggerheads. Since March 2019, their armies have been massing along their border. In May 2019, tensions rose after Uganda protested what it said was an incursion by Rwandan forces onto Ugandan territory, killing two civilians in the border town of Rukiga. Rwanda refuted the claim, saying that it was pursuing a group of smugglers that had illegally crossed over to its side of the border.

The trigger to the rapidly escalating tensions between the two countries was a December 2018 Report of the United Nations Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) that found that the military wing of a coalition of Rwandan opposition groups calling itself the “Platform Five,” or P5, was being armed and trained by Uganda, Burundi, and the DRC. The P5 military forces are led by General Kayumba Nyamwasa—formerly a Ugandan senior army officer and also a former Rwandan Army Chief of Staff. The P5 has been in existence since at least 2014 and seeks to overthrow the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF). Unlike other Rwandan rebel outfits such as the Interahamwe, the P5 is dominated by former high-ranking RPF government, intelligence, and military officials, the vast majority of whom once served in the Uganda military and government.

In July and December 2018 as well as April 2019, P5 elements and their allies launched attacks into Rwanda. The December attack led to the deaths of two Rwandan soldiers and an unknown number of rebels. Two civilians were killed and eight were seriously wounded in the April assault. Rwanda pursued and captured three senior Rwandan rebel commanders accused of leading the attacks. They are now facing a military tribunal.

In February 2019, Rwanda closed its border with Uganda after accusing Kampala of harboring Nyamwasa’s fighters and arbitrarily detaining and torturing Rwandan nationals—charges Uganda denies. The border was reopened briefly in early June but shut again a few weeks later. Rwanda has issued a travel advisory warning its citizens not to travel to Uganda. Alarmed by the escalation, a coalition of three civil society organizations have sued Uganda and Rwanda in the East African Court of Justice over the border closure and other acts of hostility that they say are hurting ordinary citizens.

Over the past year, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Rwandan President Paul Kagame have exchanged threats laced with loaded cultural messaging. Reflecting the limited checks and balances in authoritarian governance structures, senior officials on both sides have also escalated their rhetoric rather than serving as moderating influences. This has put the two countries on a war footing. During a briefing for military attachés accredited to Uganda in May shortly after the cross-border shooting, Uganda’s army chief, General David Muhoozi, and the Rwandan defense attaché, Lt. Col. James Burabyo, had a heated exchange, falling just short of personal insults, to the astonishment of other envoys in the room.

General Nyamwasa added fuel to the fire in May 2019 during an interview with Uganda’s state media in which he accused Rwanda of sponsoring a coup attempt in Burundi three years ago and backing former Burundi army officers that joined the Resistance for Rule of Law (Red Tabara) and other rebels fighting President Pierre Nkurunziza, such as the Republican Forces of Burundi (FOREBU). Kigali saw his appearance on a Uganda government media outlet as yet another indication of ongoing collaboration among Rwandan rebels, Uganda, and Burundi.

The prospect of war between Uganda and Rwanda is also significant since interstate conflict in Africa has become rare with nearly all active armed conflicts on the continent today an outcome of unresolved domestic grievances and rivalries.

Tensions between Uganda and Rwanda also have direct implications for stability in the Great Lakes region more generally, with Burundi becoming a key flashpoint of the rivalry between Kampala and Kigali. Rwanda, which recently succeeded Uganda as EAC chair, decries what it calls “connections between Bujumbura and Kampala” and blames both for allowing the P5 and other armed groups to use Burundi as an operational base. The UN has reported on clashes in the DRC’s South Kivu region between P5 fighters and Red Tabara, which is the largest rebel group battling the Burundi government.

Hostility between Uganda and Rwanda also distracts and diminishes regional capacity to combat other crises in the Great Lakes region, not least the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) insurgency, and efforts to respond to the expanding Ebola outbreak in the eastern DRC.

The economic costs of the crisis are also being felt. Uganda’s imports from the East African Community (EAC) increased more than 8 percent in the 2017–2018 fiscal year, largely due to trade with Rwanda and Burundi. This will decrease significantly given the restriction of movement across the Uganda/Rwanda border and the continuing crisis in Burundi. Museveni dismissed the issue, saying that his country “will find better markets.” He did so in full military regalia, signifying that this was more than a trade war. … … …


Paul Nantulya, “The Challenging Path to Reform in South Africa/La voie difficile de la réforme en Afrique du Sud,” Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 11 June 2019.

Despite voters’ repudiation of corrupt governance practices, the ANC remains divided in its commitment to reforms.

The Zuma Effect Continues to Hurt the ANC

Perceptions of disillusionment and growing polarization stand out in the wake of the general elections in South Africa. With just 66 percent of voters casting ballots in May’s elections, turnout was the lowest in South Africa’s democratic history. This downturn reflects widespread disenchantment with government among South African citizens. Rampant corruption and impunity under former President Jacob Zuma, who led South Africa from 2009-2018, have driven away voters, especially young people who feel the ruling African National Congress (ANC) has lost its way. As much as 4.9 trillion rand ($339 billion), or a third of South Africa’s GDP, was misdirected during Zuma’s scandal-filled presidency.

Although the ANC did not perform as badly at the polls as many observers anticipated, its 58 percent rate of support was its worst showing in a national election since democracy was established in 1994. This continues its slow decline in support from 70 percent in 2004, 66 percent in 2009, and 63 percent in 2014. It is now 35 seats short of the two-thirds majority it had enjoyed continuously since 1994. Some ANC voters gravitated toward the populist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), a breakaway of the ANC’s militant Youth League. Others supported the centrist Democratic Alliance (DA), which has made inroads among black voters despite its identity as a predominantly white party.

The EFF, which campaigned on a redistribution platform, including land confiscation and nationalization of mines, secured 10 percent of the vote, up from 6 percent in 2014, becoming the only mainstream party to increase its share of the electorate. The EFF is now the official opposition in three provinces. Meanwhile, the DA remains the official opposition at the national level, despite having failed to increase its share of the vote for the first time since 1994. A section of its white supporters voted for Ramaphosa in the hope of countering Zuma’s followers. Others chose the white nationalist Vryheidsfront (Freedom Front) partly due to rising fears of forceful land and property expropriation, which the EFF and Zuma’s most ardent supporters have championed.

There was a spike in racially-charged rhetoric under Zuma. Moreover, several racially-based parties formed before the elections, such as Black First Land First (BLF) and African Transformation Movement (ATM), have links to the former president. While campaigning, BLF members forcefully occupied and vandalized white-owned homes and farms in Cape Province. Reports also surfaced of small groups of white farmers arming themselves for self-defense. Notably, however, the BLF and ATM performed poorly in the polls. Moreover, the Cape Town-based Institute for Justice and Reconciliation’s latest survey of race relations found that nearly 70 percent of South Africans support greater racial integration and reconciliation. Left unchecked, however, the rise in racial rhetoric threatens to undermine the foundations of the post-apartheid settlement. … … …


Paul Nantulya, “High Stakes in South Africa’s Elections/Les enjeux cruciaux des élections en Afrique du Sud,” Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 3 May 2019.

Competing factions of the ANC and other political parties have vastly different visions for handling sensitive issues of corruption, land expropriation, and restoring trust in South Africa.

South Africa’s sixth elections since the end of apartheid have the potential to reconfigure South Africa’s political landscape. The ruling African National Congress (ANC) is embroiled in a fierce internal struggle over its future trajectory. Two factions are jostling for control: one aligned to the patronage-based ex-president, Jacob Zuma, and the other to his successor, President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is standing on a platform of reform, renewal, and accountability. Zuma’s loyalists support populist policies that resonate with the ANC’s constituency on the left, such as land expropriation without compensation and the nationalization of the South Africa Reserve Bank (or central bank). They are distrustful of Ramaphosa’s platform and have largely stayed away from major campaign events. Many Zuma-era politicians implicated in the ongoing judicial inquiry on state capture are the ANC candidates for parliamentary and provincial seats, fueling concerns that they will undercut Ramaphosa’s reform agenda if elected.

The ANC’s support has dropped to historic lows due the systematic diversions of state resources under Zuma, detailed in the State of Capture and Secure in Comfort reports. The leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), which broke away from the ANC in 2013, has made inroads in ANC strongholds and is now the third largest party in the country—despite also being the youngest. The perilous state of the ANC was laid bare in a damning internal reportpresented to the rank and file at the 54th National Conference in December 2017. Its overall strategic assessment of the party struck a somber note: “We are today faced with a painful challenge, where the entirety of the liberation movement is projected as corrupt.” … … …


Paul Nantulya, “The African Union Wavers between Reform and More of the Same/Entre réformer ou poursuivre sur la même lancée, l’Union africaine hésite,” Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 29 April 2019.

The African Union will need to overcome a lack of political will and address structural challenges if it is to be effective in responding to security crises on the continent, consistent with its founding mission.

The African Union’s ability to respond effectively to political crises has been hampered by institutional challenges, dating back to well before it was established to replace the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 2002. Intended to address some of the OAU’s inadequacies, the reforms that laid the foundation of the AU were rooted in the findings of a special OAU panel that investigated the circumstances leading to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, the reasons the international community failed to act sooner, and the institutional gaps that eventually prevented a coherent response from the OAU and the United Nations.

In response to the panel’s findings, the new AU undertook three major reforms.

First, it would prioritize “non-indifference” over the OAU’s principle of “non-intervention.” The new organization would embrace the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine, which asserts that sovereignty is not a privilege but a responsibility and that states cannot invoke it to shield themselves from scrutiny for harming their citizens. Indeed, in such situations, other states are obligated to intervene. This concept was incorporated into the AU’s Constitutive Act under Article 4(h).

Second, it established several new institutions that were meant to be more effective than their predecessors. These included the AU Commission (AUC), which runs day-to-day operations and is mostly staffed by professionals, unlike the OAU’s General Secretariat, which had been dominated by political appointees. The Pan-African Parliament and the Economic, Social, and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC) were also established. Both institutions play a role in the AU’s conflict prevention and management initiatives.

Civil society bodies from each of the AU’s five regions and Africa’s diaspora make up the ECOSOCC. The ECOSOCC engages the AU on peace and security issues through its Peace and Security and Political Affairs Committees. It also conducts visits to countries in conflict, prepares reports and analyses on conflict situations, and engages conflicting parties directly. The ECOSOCC’s decision-making body, the General Assembly, at times takes official positions that differ with those taken by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government. The Pan-African Parliament, whose membership reflects the composition of Africa’s 54 legislatures, conducts fact-finding missions, acts as a third-party mediator, and participates in the organization’s peace and security deliberations and decisions. Its specialized Committee on Cooperation, International Relations, and Conflict Resolution works autonomously of other AU organs.

Third, new protocols were set up to enforce ethical standards. Adopted in January 2007, the African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance, for instance, outlines punitive measures against incumbents that refuse to leave power after losing elections, or those that seek to revise constitutions and laws to remain in office at all costs.  The Charter entered into force as a legal instrument in 2012 after 15 countries ratified it. It has now been ratified by 32 countries and signed by 46.

Nearly two decades after the AU’s founding, however, many of these reforms have yet to be meaningfully implemented. As a result, the AU is still hobbled by the same institutional weaknesses that stymied the OAU. In a growing number of cases, members have also openly undermined and defied AU resolutions. The AU’s impotence in dealing with situations in DRC, Burundi, and South Sudan, among other crises, shows that the institutional reforms intended to correct the problems of the past have yet to take root. … … …


Paul Nantulya, “Implications for Africa from China’s One Belt One Road Strategy/
Les enjeux du projet chinois « Une ceinture, une route » pour l’Afrique,” Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 22 March 2019.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative forges intertwining economic, political, and security ties between Africa and China, advancing Beijing’s geopolitical interests.

The end state of One Belt One Road is the building of a new global system of alternative economic, political, and security “interdependencies” with China at the center. 

Launched in 2014, One Belt One Road (一带一路), presented internationally as the Belt and Road Initiative, is China’s signature vision for reshaping its global engagements. It is strategic and comprehensive in scope and an essential component of the Communist Party of China’s (CPC’s) twin objectives of achieving national rejuvenation (zhonghua minzu weida fuxing, 中华民族伟大复兴) and restoring China as a Great Power (shi jie qiang guo, 世界强国). It now spans three continents and touches 60 percent of the world’s population. The 65 or so countries that have so far signed on to the program (including approximately 20 from Africa) account for 30 percent of the world’s GDP and 75 percent of its energy reserves. Some 50 Chinese state owned companies are implementing 1,700 infrastructure projects around the world worth about $900 billion. One Belt One Road (OBOR) has been written into the state and ruling party constitutions as strategic priorities for China to attain Great Power status by the middle of the 21st century. All of China’s leaders have advanced this quest since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, but the pursuit has accelerated under President Xi Jinping.

Strategic Rationale

The end state of One Belt One Road is the building of a “Community of Common Destiny for Mankind” (人类命运共同体), defined as a new global system of alternative economic, political, and security “interdependencies” with China at the center (zhongguo, 中国). For this reason, Chinese leaders describe One Belt One Road as a national strategy (zhanlüe, 战略), with economic, political, diplomatic, and military elements (综合国力), not a mere series of initiatives.

OBOR directly supports many elements of China’s national security strategy. At a macro level, it seeks to reshape the world economic order in ways that are conducive to Beijing’s drive for Great Power status. One Belt One Road has two components. The Silk Road Economic Belt establishes six land corridors connecting China’s interior to Central Asia and Europe. It includes railroads to Europe, oil and gas pipelines from the Caspian Sea to China, and a high-speed train network connecting Southeast Asia to China’s eastern seaboard. The Maritime Silk Road establishes three “blue economic passages” knitted together through a chain of sea ports from the South China Sea to Africa that also direct trade to and from China.

One Belt One Road also increases Beijing’s control of critical global supply chains and its ability to redirect the flow of international trade. Central to these efforts are moves to open new sea lines of communication and expand China’s strategic port access around the world. In 2017, Chinese state-owned companies announced plans to buy or secure majority stakes in nine overseas ports, all located in regions where China plans to develop new sea lanes. This is in addition to the 40 ports in Africa, Asia, and Europe in which Chinese state-owned firms hold stakes worth a combined $40 billion.

China’s return on investment from increased port access and supply chains is not all about economics. In five cases—Djibouti, Walvis Bay (Namibia), Gwadar (Pakistan), Hambantota (Sri Lanka), and Piraeus (Greece)—China’s port investments have been followed by regular People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy deployments and strengthened military agreements. In this way, financial investments have been turned into geostrategic returns.

China’s 13th Five Year Plan, a document adopted in 2016 that provides long-range implementing guidance in five-year increments, calls for the “construction of maritime hubs” to safeguard China’s “maritime rights and interests” as it embarks on laying a “foundation for maritime Great Power status” by 2020. The centenary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, 2049, has been set as the year when it will become the world’s “main maritime power” (海洋强国). Accordingly, China’s drive to acquire port access and secure supply lines are likely to intensify alongside the expansion of the Maritime Silk Road. In 2010, only one-fifth of the world’s 50 largest deep water ports had any Chinese investment. By 2019, it had increased to two-thirds. The China Ocean Shipping Company, which controls most Chinese overseas port holdings, is now the world’s fourth largest shipping fleet. Beijing’s merchant marine has quadrupled since 2009 to become the world’s second largest. It now moves more global cargo that any other country.

Beijing also plans to use the artery of routes envisaged under OBOR to reduce China’s dependence on maritime chokepoints that could be contested by rivals. The PLA is locked in territorial disputes with Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Brunei, in [the] so-called “near seas” (jinhai 近海). This raises the risk that they could create a blockade during a crisis that would disrupt its shipping. To counter the threat, One Belt One Road is being positioned to reroute traffic to Chinese-built port clusters in Sudan, Djibouti, Gwadar, Hambantota, Colombo, and Myanmar to bypass narrow chokepoints in the South China Sea.

As a party political instrument, OBOR strengthens Xi’s authority at home. It is a central element of “Xi Jinping Thought,” which is inscribed in the state and party constitutions as a guiding philosophy. This further enables Xi to marshal every resource at his disposal to see his signature program through.

Funding for One Belt One Road comes from “policy lenders” (政策性银行), so called because their lending decisions are responsive to presidential and geostrategic preferences. They include the China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China (Exim Bank), which have committed over $1 trillion. The Silk Road Fund holds $40 billion in investment funds and is supervised by China’s Central Bank. The Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, whose remit now includes Africa, has a capital base of $100 billion. Additional funds come from China’s foreign exchange reserves and its sovereign wealth fund, which hold $7 trillion and $220 billion, respectively.

To be sure, OBOR faces many problems. First, debates on Chinese social media tools such as Weibo and Renren suggest that it does not enjoy broad domestic support. Second, concerns are growing about economic sustainability in the countries where massive Chinese-funded infrastructure projects are being implemented, as their governments take on more debt to pay for them. Third, hostility is rising in many countries toward policies that favor Chinese workers over locals in construction and infrastructure contracts. This has been most prominent in African countries, such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia, to name a few. Fourth, some of Beijing’s rivals in Asia and around the world are increasingly uneasy about what they see as an effort to use OBOR to expand China’s military posture and political leverage. … … …


Paul Nantulya, “The Ever-Adaptive Allied Democratic Forces Insurgency/La nature évolutive des Forces démocratiques alliées,” Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 8 February 2019.

The ADF, one of the least understood militant groups in the Great Lakes, has endured for over 20 years by instrumentalizing Islamist, ethnic, and secessionist ideologies to recruit and forge new alliances.

A surge in violent activity by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) has demonstrated growing virulence in this mysterious group operating on the borders of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The number of violent events linked to ADF tripled in 2018, to 132 from 38 in 2017. Fatalities doubled to 415 over the same period. This includes the killing of peacekeepers from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), as well as civilians along the DRC/Uganda border. In all, the deaths of 700 civilians have been attributed to the ADF since 2014.

The ADF is one of the oldest, yet least understood militant groups in Africa. An offshoot of the Ugandan Tabliq/Salafi movement from the mid-1990s, it has been based for most of its existence in the DRC, where it became deeply embedded in local sociopolitical dynamics and conflicts. While this might suggest that it lost its Ugandan character, its goals still include the overthrow of the regime of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, and the bulk of its known senior leadership is Ugandan. The ADF has taken on many faces ranging from Salafi-Jihadi to secular-nationalist, ethno-nationalist, and secessionist, with each aimed at different audiences and employed for different purposes. While little is known about its internal workings given its highly secretive nature, one major challenge in developing a coherent strategy to defeat the ADF lies in the difficulty of determining which of these identities is dominant at a given point in time. To add to this complexity, the ADF has from time to time served as a proxy in the Great Lakes region’s extended and complicated conflicts.

Recent reports suggest that the ADF is attempting to forge ties to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Its flag incorporates a new name, Madina at Tauheed Wau Mujahedeen (“City of Monotheism and Holy Warriors”). Documents and videos seized during MONUSCO operations suggest that it is currently focusing on establishing a caliphate in the region. The movement in recent years has also vigorously enforced strict Islamic law in its strongholds in the DRC and sought to radicalize and increase its recruitment of Congolese Muslims. The growing prominence of ISIS-inspired narratives in ADF propaganda videos coincide with efforts by the ADF to return to its Salafi roots so that it could exploit Jihadi-Salafi networks in East Africa. These efforts increased after its dramatic loss of territory in the wake of a series of military offensives by Ugandan, Congolese, and UN forces and the capture of its charismatic leader, Jamil Mukulu, in Tanzania in 2015. He is currently being held in Uganda on charges of mass murder, terrorism, and crimes against humanity at the Special War Crimes Division of the Ugandan High Court. … … …


Paul Nantulya, “Chinese Hard Power Supports Its Growing Strategic Interests in Africa/
Les activités stratégiques croissantes de la Chine en Afrique reposent sur le hard power chinois,” Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 17 January 2019.

China’s growing military engagement in Africa is aimed at advancing Beijing’s economic and strategic interests, in particular its Belt and Road Initiative.

The debate on China-Africa relations has largely focused on Beijing’s massive infrastructure projects around the continent. Less noticeable but no less significant are its security activities, which have grown in scale and scope alongside President Xi Jinping’s signature One Belt One Road strategy—presented internationally as the Belt and Road Initiative—to create new international infrastructure, trade, and investment links to the Chinese economy.

China’s growing military footprint in Africa is part of a policy that has at its core the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation (zhonghua minzu weida fuxing, 中华民族伟大复兴) and its restoration as a “Great Power” (shi jie qiang guo, 世界强国). In the past decade, Beijing has pursued an increasingly competitive and assertive foreign policy that made a decisive break with Beijing’s decades-long approach of “hiding our capabilities,” “biding our time,” and “keeping a low profile”—a policy known as taoguang yanghui (韬光养晦). According to Xi, “China now stands tall and firm in the East” and should “take center stage” in the world. This theme is echoed in the Diversified Employment of the Armed Forces, China’s defense guidance, which says that a world-class military deployable in a wide range of scenarios is indispensable in pursuing the “Great Rejuvenation of China.”

In 2015, China passed a law that allows overseas deployments of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and China’s other security forces, including the People’s Armed Police. Two years later, Beijing opened its first foreign naval base in Djibouti. In July 2018, the PLA constructed additional pier facilities at the base, and in November, it conducted live fire exercises there, employing armored fighting vehicles and heavy artillery—the first time China had conducted exercises on such a scale on foreign soil. That same month, PLA helicopters conducted a major training exercise to evacuate war casualties from a guided missile frigate off Djibouti’s coast, demonstrating China’s sophisticated ground and aerial capabilities in the region, in addition to its naval assets.

In 2018, the PLA conducted drills in Cameroon, Gabon, Ghana, and Nigeria, while its medical units worked with counterparts in Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, and Zambia to develop their combat casualty care capabilities as part of decades-long relationships that involve arms sales and intelligence cooperation. In May, Burkina Faso established diplomatic relations with China and rescinded its recognition of Taiwan. The PLA is now developing ties to the Burkina Faso military that will likely feature training in counterterrorism and infrastructure protection, two key elements of Chinese engagement in the Sahel. In neighboring Mali, the PLA deployed its Sixth Battle Group, consisting of regular and Special Forces, to the United Nations-led Peacekeeping Operation in Mali (MINUSMA) to protect the mission’s Chinese and foreign staff and secure critical infrastructure. This deployment provided China with a security presence in a country that remains central in its ongoing effort to extend the BRI into the Sahel and the larger West African region.

Efforts to establish a comprehensive security assistance policy gained pace at the inaugural China-Africa Defense and Security Forum held June 26–July 10, 2018, ahead of the fourth Forum for China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in September. Defense officials from around 50 African countries developed new priorities for Chinese security engagement, including combating terrorism and piracy, and protecting Chinese nationals and economic infrastructure. These constitute an important part of the 2019–2021 China-Africa Action Plan, which established the overarching framework for China’s security programs in Africa. … … … 


Paul Nantulya, “Stability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo beyond the Elections/
La stabilité en République démocratique du Congo après les élections,” Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 28 November 2018.

Joseph Kabila seeks to maintain the status quo as the Democratic Republic of the Congo enters a transition amid growing instability.

President Joseph Kabila’s failure to step down when his term expired in December 2016 plunged the DRC into its worst political crisis since the Second Congo Civil War of 1998 to 2003. Since then, at least 1,200 citizens have been killed, many in extrajudicial killings by Congolese security forces for suspicion of participating in demonstrations. This has been accompanied by a 40 percent increase in human rights violations as a result of the disproportionate use of force by security forces during anti-Kabila protests. The unrest created by the political crisis has galvanized many of the estimated 70 armed groups in the DRC, some of which openly stated that they would “liberate the Congo” from a leader with no legitimacy.

Prospects that the December 30 elections will have a stabilizing effect are dim. The ruling People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD) remains in control of the electoral commission, as well as all branches of government and the security services. The subservience of these institutions to the executive undermined the credibility of the last presidential polls in 2011. Their continued partisanship suggests that the outcome of the December vote will not produce the legitimacy that free and fair elections are intended to generate. Revealingly, Kabila’s preferred successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, is a hardcore loyalist with strong links to the presidential family perceived by many to be a front man through whom Kabila would control affairs until 2023 when he will be eligible to run again. Disagreements in the opposition, meanwhile, have prevented it from presenting a unified candidate, potentially fumbling a golden opportunity given that just 16 percent of voters said they would vote for Shadary. … … …


Paul Nantulya, “Grand Strategy and China’s Soft Power Push in Africa/
La Grande stratégie et la montée en puissance du pouvoir d’influence de la Chine en Afrique,” Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 30 August 2018.

China is doubling down on its soft power initiatives in Africa as part of China’s Grand Strategy to tap emerging markets, shape global governance norms, and expand its influence.

In July 2018, Tanzanian president John Magufuli laid a foundation stone for the Mwalimu Nyerere Memorial Academy, named for the nation’s revered founding president. The $45-million project, which is being fully funded and built by the Chinese government, will provide leadership training to emerging leaders from countries governed by the Former Liberation Movements of Southern Africa (FLMSA). The decision to build this school was made at the biennial FLMSA summit in May 2017, which brought together the African National Congress of South Africa, Chama Cha Mapinduzi of Tanzania, Popular Front for the Liberation of Mozambique, Movement for the Liberation of Angola, Southwest African Peoples Organization of Namibia, and Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front. All had received Chinese backing during their fight against apartheid and colonialism.

This initiative and others show China’s growing ability to advance its strategic interests through cooption, cooperation, and inducements. At the 19th Communist Party of China (CPC) Congress in October 2017, President Xi Jinping called it “soft power with Chinese characteristics.” The concept of soft power was adapted from American scholar Joseph Nye’s writings from the early 1990s on the importance of culture, values, and ideals to shape global norms. Over time, the subject has stimulated intense interest in China. In 2017, Wang Huning, a leading proponent of soft power, was elected to China’s topmost body, the six-member Politburo Standing Committee. “China will be a global leader in national strength and international influence,” Xi said at the October Congress. “We will improve our capacity to tell our stories, present a multidimensional view, and enhance China’s cultural soft power.” … … …


Paul Nantulya, “After Burundi’s Referendum, a Drive to Dismantle the Arusha Accords/
Réforme et renouveau ou toujours la même rengaine au Zimbabwe,” Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 20 July 2018.

Sweeping changes to Burundi’s constitution have consolidated power in the presidency, dismantled much of the Arusha Accords, and heightened the risk of greater violence and instability.

“The East African Community, which has been chairing peace talks on Burundi, along with the multilateral guarantors of the Arusha Accords, did not send observers to the referendum.”

The passage of Burundi’s controversial May 2018 referendum to alter nearly a third of the 2005 Constitution’s articles put the ruling CNDD/FDD party on the cusp of a long sought-after goal: to overturn the 2000 Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement.

Mediated by former Presidents Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Nelson Mandela of South Africa, the Arusha Accords ended the cycles of violence Burundi experienced from the 1960s through the genocides of 1972 and 1991 and the 1993–2005 civil war. The Accords built in systems that ensured the respect of political minorities, power sharing among parties, and inclusive governance. By abolishing these systems, the CNDD/FDD has tightened its control of the state apparatus and done away with mechanisms designed to hold it accountable. It will now rule virtually unchallenged.

The East African Community (EAC), which has been chairing peace talks on Burundi, along with the multilateral guarantors of the Arusha Accords—the African Union (AU), European Union (EU), and United Nations (UN)—did not send observers to the referendum. This, and the fact that the referendum was held despite the displacement of over 500,000 Burundians, who could not participate in the vote and almost all of whom felt threatened by the government, raise questions about the referendum’s legitimacy.

Additionally, the climate of intimidation and violence made it an unbalanced contest. The parties that remain in Burundi’s internal opposition largely stayed away from the referendum process and accused the government of massive voter intimidation. At the launch of the referendum campaign in December 2017, President Pierre Nkurunziza threatened to “correct” those who opposed the exercise. “Any person who stands against this… will have to contend with God.… But I know some people are deaf to these messages. Let them try.” In similar fashion, Désiré Bigirimana, administrator of the Gashoho municipality, was quoted at a rally in February as saying, “Anybody who will come and tell you anything other than a ‘yes’ to the referendum, or different from what President Pierre Nkurunziza says, should be lynched. Is that clear?”

Throughout the campaign and during voting, the CNDD/FDD’s ethnically based youth militia, the Imbonerakure, informed on real or perceived opponents, harassed the population, conducted illegal police operations, and forced recruitment into the ruling party through, in several cases, torture. This was corroborated by eyewitness interviews conducted by Human Rights Watch, which also documented scores of abuses committed between December 2017 and March 2018, including abductions, rapes, and killings by members of the police and intelligence, military, and the Imbonerakure. These atrocities extended across borders where Burundian refugees have been surveilled, threatened, abducted, and killed in some cases, by individuals suspected of being members of the Imbonerakure. The worst episode of violence occurred a week before voting, when unidentified gunmen massacred at least 24 people in a village in northwest Burundi.

Worries about the credibility of the referendum had been building for some time. In early May, the Chairman of the AU Commission, Musa Faki, wrote to EAC Chairman and mediator of the stalled inter-Burundian dialogue, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, warning that the referendum would deepen Burundi’s crisis. Similar warnings were delivered by the EU, UN, and AU.

A legal challenge to the referendum was thrown out by the Constitutional Court, which has been packed with Nkurunziza’s loyalists since its vice president was forced into exile in 2015 for refusing to endorse the president’s decision to run for a third term in office. The constitutional changes called for in the referendum took effect on June 6. Explosions and gunfire now occur with greater frequency. Local monitors have documented more disappearances and killings since the new laws were enacted, including beheadings and bodies dumped in public places, some of them with hands tied. Attacks on civilians by the Imbonerakure have continued, including one in mid-June that resulted in the deaths of eight civilians. Burundians continue to flee the worsening violence, adding to the nearly 500,000 citizens who have sought refuge in neighboring countries and 175,000 who have been internally displaced. The EAC peace talks remain suspended and the guarantors of the Arusha Accords are pondering their next steps. … … …


Paul Nantulya, “Reform and Renewal in Zimbabwe or More of the Same?/
Réforme et renouveau ou toujours la même rengaine au Zimbabwe,” Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 28 June 2018.

Multiple possible scenarios could emerge from Zimbabwe’s July 30 polls—the country’s first without Robert Mugabe’s name on the ballot. For now, the military appears intent on leveraging its interests.

The bomb blast at the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union–Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) rally in Bulawayo on June 23 threatened to mar what has been Zimbabwe’s most peaceful election campaign in decades. President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who assumed the presidency after Robert Mugabe was pushed out by the military last November, was unharmed. However, two people were killed, and at least 49, including his two deputies, were injured. Many fear that this could have been an assassination attempt on Mnangagwa given the intense infighting between the military establishment and civilian ZANU-PF cadres since Mugabe’s ouster and an ongoing purge of his allies in the party. Mnangagwa has accused such factionalism as being behind the alleged plot. Despite the attack, the government refrained from declaring a state of emergency.

The July 30 election will be the first without Mugabe’s name on the ballot since independence in 1980. It will also serve as a litmus test for Mnangagwa, a former Mugabe protégé. Since the transition, in an effort to reduce Zimbabwe’s diplomatic and economic isolation, the government has been at pains to signal a shift toward greater inclusion. Mugabe’s removal came on the back of growing economic hardships. Zimbabwe’s economic outlook has been in decline since the Government of National Unity (2009–13) was disbanded. Hard currency is in short supply stoking inflation, past government profligacy has led to mounting debt, and unemployment remains very high. Agriculture, once Zimbabwe’s mainstay and chief foreign exchange earner, continues to post negative growth. Sanctions relief and the revamping of the economy provide powerful incentives for reform and re-engagement with the international community as ZANU-PF struggles to find new sources of legitimacy.

It has moved quickly in this regard. Zimbabwe applied to rejoin the Commonwealth and invited 61 countries and international agencies to monitor the July polls. In February, Zimbabwe broke tradition by according the deceased opposition doyen, Morgan Tsvangirai, a state-funded funeral—a rare distinction usually reserved for ZANU-PF stalwarts. More recently, the government permitted a major protest by the MDC over lack of electoral reforms. It would not, however, allow a planned counter demonstration by ZANU-PF youth due to safety concerns.

While such overtures have been welcomed, ZANU-PF’s agenda remains ambiguous. Many of its old features persist, such the military’s domination of party and government functions. Given that Mugabe’s ouster was partially prompted by the military’s desire to stem its declining influence in the party, the military’s overt entanglement in politics is a cause for concern. The risks of instability persist. … … …


Paul Nantulya, “When Peace Agreements Fail: Lessons from Lesotho, Burundi, and DRC/
Quand les accords de paix échouent: les leçons du Lesotho, du Burundi et de la RDC,” Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 30 April 2018.

Conflicts in Africa often reflect a breakdown of peace agreements that have been methodically dismantled by politicians intent on evading checks on power while oversight is weak. Vigilance is vital as early progress is not a guarantee of long-term success.

Many of the conflicts in Africa today are resumptions of earlier conflicts. These conflicts, therefore, reflect a breakdown, to some degree, of previously negotiated peace agreements. A review of the experiences from three of these cases—Lesotho, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo—offers lessons that can help inform future such accords. … … …


Paul Nantulya, “South Africa’s Strategic Priorities for Reform and Renewal/Priorités stratégiques de l’Afrique du Sud pour la réforme et le renouveau,” Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 17 February 2018.

South Africans have high hopes that Cyril Ramaphosa will be able to deliver change to systemic state capture. However, sustained reforms in South Africa’s most important national institutions are required if those hopes are to be met.

Cyril Ramaphosa has come to power in South Africa as the head of a party and government deeply divided between reformists and those with a vested interest in maintaining entrenched patronage relationships. Under Jacob Zuma, corruption and abuse of office reached alarming levels, sapping public trust and costing the ruling ANC significant support. Zuma faces 783 counts of fraud in connection with a 1999 arms deal. A judicial inquiry is also underway to investigate how the Guptas—wealthy Indian immigrants with close ties to him—became a “shadow state” that influenced appointments and removals of ministers and directors of state-owned enterprises for private gain.

Ramaphosa’s program to end state capture, root out party corruption, and entrench accountability have been endorsed by the ANC and government as South Africa’s strategic guidance for the next five years. But actual implementation of a comprehensive reform program will be a delicate task, and the stakes are high. Corruption is now the dominant social issue among South Africans, who are angry at the increasing solidification of government rot. What reforms are needed to put the country’s future back on a democratic, accountable, and service-oriented trajectory? … … …


Paul Nantulya, “The Troubled Democratic Transitions of African Liberation Movements/
Les transitions démocratiques tourmentées des mouvements de libération africains,” Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 14 December 2017.

Zimbabwe’s recent political crisis has provided a lens into the challenges many African countries face in transitioning from their founding liberation movement political structures to genuine, participatory democracies.

Zimbabwe’s recent political crisis has provided a lens into the ongoing challenges many African countries face in transitioning from their founding liberation movement political structures to genuine, participatory democracies. While often a source of dynamism and reform in the early years, such movements may also foster stagnation and become an entrenched obstacle to power sharing and accountability. Legitimacy conferred by the struggle tends to foster a sense of entitlement to rule among liberation leaders and parties. As the euphoria of liberation subsides, mismanagement sets in, public confidence plummets, and opposition grows. Violence, in turn, becomes an increasingly frequent means for ensuring compliance. … … …


Paul Nantulya, “Solidarity in Peace and Security: The Nordic-African Partnership/
La solidarité en matière de paix et de sécurité: Le partenariat entre les pays nordiques et l’Afrique,” Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 29 November 2017.

Nordic countries’ decades-long peace and security engagement in Africa has centered on African interests, long-term partnerships, and building African capacity.

In June 2017, the 16th annual Africa-Nordic Dialogue convened in Abuja, Nigeria. That same month Norway hosted talks between the Government of South Sudan and its opposition, the first time the warring parties had met face-to-face since July 2016. In neighboring Finland, the Burundi government and its opponents were meeting behind the scenes in negotiations spearheaded by former Finnish President and anti-apartheid campaigner Martti Ahtisaari.

This confluence of events was not a one-off coincidence, but rather part of a long tradition of Nordic-African solidarity. The Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden) have a history of engagement in Africa dating back to the struggles against colonialism and apartheid. Initially, the Nordic countries focused on supporting African liberation movements. This later expanded to address the challenges of governance, development, and human security, with a heavy focus on peacekeeping and peacebuilding.

Today, Nordic-African relations are built on the values of democracy, solidarity, and holistic African development. Much of the emphasis of the Nordic model of engagement has centered on building African capacity through long-term technical assistance. … … …


Paul Nantulya, “A Medley of Armed Groups Play on Congo’s Crisis/Une mosaïque de groupes armés tire parti des effets de la crise au Congo,” Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 25 September 2017.

The DRC’s political crisis has galvanized and revived many of the estimated 70 armed groups currently active in the country, making the nexus between political and sectarian violence by armed militias a key feature of the DRC’s political instability.

The legitimacy of the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in its peripheral regions has always been tenuous. Throughout the country’s history, the most vehement opposition to Kinshasa has frequently emerged from its most far-flung provinces, such as Kasai, Katanga, and the Kivus. Today, this fault line is being exacerbated by President Joseph Kabila’s decision to suspend elections and remain in office after the end of his constitutionally mandated term limit in December 2016.

In addition to triggering protests across many cities, the political crisis has revived and galvanized armed groups and militias in areas that harbor long-running grievances against the central government. Some insurgents have openly called on the President to step aside, even as their activities remain local. Others have expanded their attacks outside their traditional areas of operation in an apparent effort to exploit worsening grievances. Still others have focused their attacks on government personnel and facilities, including electoral commission offices, saying that preparations for new elections are meaningless as long as Kabila is a candidate.

In the DRC, the nexus between political and sectarian violence by armed militias is a key feature of political instability. This occurs in a climate of endemic corruption, weak or nonexistent institutions, and lack of trust between citizens and government. Nefarious actors thrive in this environment. This review highlights some of the patterns of violence by the estimated 70 armed groups active in the DRC—as uncertainty and anxiety over Kabila’s intentions intensify. … … …


Paul Nantulya, “The Costs of Regional Paralysis in the Face of the Crisis in Burundi/Les coûts de l’inaction régionale face à la crise au Burundi,” Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 24 August 2017.

Despite the serious humanitarian and economic tolls generated by Burundi’s crisis, the reaction of its neighbors has been remarkably subdued.

“Burundi’s troubles are costing the EAC hundreds of millions of dollars annually.”

In June 2017, the UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi reported that atrocities were being committed on a massive scale. This includes extrajudicial executions, torture, sexual and gender-based violence, enforced disappearances, and mass graves. Many of the violations were accompanied by ethnic-based hate speech delivered by state and ruling party officials. Over 400,000 Burundians have taken refuge in neighboring countries, including 240,000 in Tanzania’s Nyarugusu camp, now the third largest in the world. The number of Burundian refugees is expected to exceed a half million by the end of this year, which would make Burundi the third largest source of refugees in sub-Saharan Africa.

The crisis is taking a toll on the economic outlook of the East African Community (EAC). Several infrastructure projects are in danger of derailing, including the extension of a regional pipeline for oil products, estimated at $53 million. Resource mobilization for the Kenya-Uganda-Rwanda portion, valued at $193 million, continues, but the Burundi section, which would extend to the capital, Bujumbura, has stalled. Similarly, plans to extend rail links from the Mombasa and Dar es Salaam ports to Bujumbura have frozen, as has the 220Kv electricity transmission line between Rwanda and Burundi, which is part of a $390-million project to connect the power grids of Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. These and other major economic and infrastructure projects have been halted due to insecurity, as well as funding shortfalls resulting from the sanctions imposed on Burundi by key external economic partners. In March 2015, a few months before the Burundi crisis erupted, donors pledged $2 billion in new funding for EAC infrastructure priority projects. The European Union portion of that funding is part of a 600 million euro ($705 million) allocation to the African Union (AU) Regional Economic Communities that would support the EAC’s Regional Development Strategy. In March 2016 the EU adopted sanctions and other restrictive measures on Burundi that effectively freezes many of these commitments. Undoubtedly, much private investment in the region has also been lost as investors steer clear of the regional instability.

The upshot is that Burundi’s troubles are costing the EAC hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

Despite these concrete costs, the reaction of Burundi’s neighbors has been remarkably subdued. Conflict resolution efforts led by the EAC have floundered. In July 2015, the regional body launched a negotiation process between Burundi’s ruling party and the opposition, with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni as mediator and former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa as facilitator. Both leaders were pivotal in the Arusha peace process of 1996 to 2005 that ended Burundi’s first civil war, but the current process has struggled to take off. Six EAC summits have failed to make any significant impact. And the only action regarding Burundi taken at the May 2017 summit was a call for the European Union (EU) to lift sanctions on Burundi before member states sign the EAC/EU Partnership Agreement. While the EAC adopted Mkapa’s progress report on negotiations, it has failed to tackle the issues he forwarded for urgent action, such as pressuring Burundi to lift arrest warrants against its opponents and create conditions for the return of political exiles and refugees, the release of political prisoners, and the inclusion of armed groups in the peace process.

Despite the May summit being postponed twice to accommodate schedules, only Museveni and Tanzanian President John Magufuli attended out of six invited leaders. Nkurunziza has not attended a summit since 2015. In December 2016, the EAC said it would reach a comprehensive agreement by June 2017. Yet that date came and went.

This paralysis is seen to have reinforced Nkurunziza’s intransigence and emboldened those in his circle pursuing military action. It has also undermined the EAC’s credibility and called into question the functionality of the African Peace and Security Architecture and its stated commitment to advance “African solutions to African problems.” … … …


Paul Nantulya, “South Africa’s Democracy Is Put to the Test/La démocratie d’Afrique du Sud est mise à l’épreuve,” Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 23 May 2017.

Few African countries have the same depth of institutional checks and balances as South Africa. Yet, these institutions have been put to the test by President Jacob Zuma’s efforts to expand executive privilege. How are South Africa’s accountability structures faring?

Throughout his time in office, President Jacob Zuma has presented unique challenges for South Africa’s democracy. He has faced a steady stream of allegations involving patronage, money laundering, racketeering, misuse of state resources, obstruction of justice, and the abuse of power. A total of 783 charges have been levied against him in the courts. Moreover, at times, he has attempted to sidestep the institutional checks on executive power that define democracies—effectively challenging the very nature of South Africa’s political system.

President Zuma’s sacking of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan along with his deputy and 10 cabinet ministers and deputy ministers in April 2017 epitomizes this tension and prompted the largest protests in South Africa’s post-apartheid history. Prior to his dismissal, Gordhan had instituted a raft of measures to protect state-owned enterprises from executive interference and curb government spending. Crucially, this included blocking lucrative projects, such as the controversial proposal to build nuclear power plants at a cost of $148 billion—equivalent to South Africa’s entire annual budget. Consequently, observers have speculated that Gordhan was ousted because the new regulations would harm the financial interests of President Zuma’s allies.

This style of highly personalized governance is well known in Africa. In it, adherence to the rule of law is ad hoc and institutional processes are overridden by a leader’s preferences. This governance model has long been seen as contributing to corruption, inequality, and instability on the continent. However, few African countries have the same depth of institutional checks and balances as South Africa.

The key question, then, is whether South Africa’s oversight institutions are strong enough to safeguard the democratic gains the country has made since apartheid ended in 1994. Or will Zuma successfully bypass those institutions and, with the ending of his term in 2019, leave a legacy of impunity that future South African political leaders will be able to further exploit? This review looks at how South Africa’s accountability structures are faring as they face this challenge. … … …


Paul Nantulya, “Wisdom from Africa on Ethical Leadership/La sagesse de l’Afrique sur le leadership éthique,” Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 9 May 2017.

Examples from Uganda, Malawi, Rwanda, and Tanzania offer lessons of how ethical leadership is central to maintaining public trust in the security sector and ultimately preserving stability and peace.

The colonial legacy of security forces protecting the regime over the people persists in some parts of Africa. Consequently, there is a growing recognition on the continent of the importance of enhancing security sector professionalism. Yet, it is the day-to-day practice of ethical leadership that is key to institutionalizing accountability, professionalism, and service to citizens. Examples below from Uganda, Malawi, Rwanda, and Tanzania offer lessons of how ethical leadership is central to maintaining public trust in the security sector and ultimately preserving stability and peace. … … …


Paul Nantulya, “Pursuing the China Dream through Africa: Five Elements of China’s Africa Strategy/La poursuite du rêve chinois à travers l’Afrique: cinq éléments de la stratégie sur l’Afrique de la Chine,” Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 6 April 2017.

China’s expanding involvement in Africa is an integral piece in President Xi Jinping’s grand strategy to restore the country to its perceived rightful place of global prominence.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the United States generated inevitable comparisons of the two countries’ approaches to engaging the world. China’s expanding involvement in Africa provides a revealing window into Beijing’s grand strategy. Africa is an integral element of Xi’s “China Dream”—a blueprint for restoring the country to its perceived rightful place of global prominence. Part of the blueprint entails positioning China as a leader in the developing world through expanded bilateral and multilateral engagements. China advances these aims in Africa in five primary ways:

  1. Economic Engagement

China’s economic involvement with the continent has steadily expanded over the past decade. Beijing operates approximately 2,500 development, civil works, and construction projects worth $94 billion in 51 African countries. While it is not clear how many of these have reached completion beyond ceremonial pledges, the visible presence of huge infrastructure projects across the continent is unmistakable. In 2009, China surpassed the United States as Africa’s largest trading partner, and by 2015, China’s trade with Africa had reached $300 billion. Crude oil, raw materials, and natural resources constitute more than 80 percent of its roughly $93 billion in annual imports from Africa. Observers have also criticized the transactional nature of some of China’s engagements, where China seems primarily interested in accessing and exploiting Africa’s vast natural resources.

  1. Military Interests

China in 2015 was the second largest supplier of weapons to sub-Saharan Africa after Russia, accounting for 22 percent of arms transfers to the region.

For years, China’s leaders dismissed external military deployments as “a characteristic of Western imperialism.” China, they said, “does not interfere everywhere like the hegemonists do.” But in 2008, the Chinese Navy made its first operational deployment outside the Asia-Pacific region to the Gulf of Aden to support the UN–sanctioned anti-piracy task force. Then Beijing deployed a warship supported by ground and air assets to evacuate 35,000 Chinese nationals from mounting violence in Libya in March 2011. In 2016, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) installed troops, assets, and support staff in Djibouti, its first permanent overseas deployment since 1949. And in April, the first aircraft carrier built in China entered service. All of these moves are in line with the “New Historic Missions” doctrine, which calls for an expeditionary capability that can, among other things, safeguard growing Chinese interests on the continent, maintain a naval presence in the western Indian Ocean, protect its merchant ships from piracy, and support China’s growing participation in UN missions in Africa.

In 2015, China passed a counterterrorism law that for the first time authorizes the PLA’s deployment on overseas counterterrorism missions. The PLA has also established itself as an active security partner through military-to-military contacts based on training and education programs, military advisors, arms sales, and construction of military facilities and ministries of defense headquarters. China in 2015 was the second largest supplier of weapons to sub-Saharan Africa after Russia, accounting for 22 percent of arms transfers to the region. … … …


Paul Nantulya, “Lessons from Gambia on Effective Regional Security Cooperation/Les leçons de la Gambie sur l’efficacité de la coopération en matière de sécurité régionale,” Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 27 March 2017.

ECOWAS leadership in the Gambia crisis offers lessons for future regional security cooperation in Africa.

“ECOWAS leaders steadfastly stated their preference for a diplomatic solution while keeping the credible threat of deployment on the table.”

On the evening of January 22, 2017, Yahya Jammeh boarded a plane and after 22 years in power, departed Banjul for the final time as Gambia’s leader. His departure was not voluntary, but rather the result of active diplomatic and ultimately military pressure from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). In the process, a major political and humanitarian crisis for the region was averted. While the episode has been largely overshadowed by other exigencies on the continent, the ECOWAS handling of the Gambia crisis holds many valuable lessons for regional security cooperation in Africa.

After initially accepting a surprise defeat in Gambia’s presidential election in December, Jammeh changed his mind and insisted on hanging on, claiming irregularities and declaring a national emergency. Jammeh subsequently annulled the election results and deployed troops to seize the headquarters of the electoral commission. Fearing widespread violence, an estimated 45,000 Gambians fled across the border to Senegal.

ECOWAS leaders firmly rebuffed Jammeh’s efforts to justify a continuation of his time in power. With Gambians flowing to neighboring Senegal in fear of imminent violence, ECOWAS leaders, key among them Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari, Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and Ghana’s Nana Akufo-Addo and his predecessor, John Dramani Mahama, launched a series of diplomatic initiatives to persuade Jammeh to step aside. They cited the African Union’s Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance, which states that any refusal by an incumbent to relinquish power to the winner of a democratic election or create any constitutional or legal amendments that violate the principles of democratic transition are considered “unconstitutional changes of government” that will trigger “appropriate sanctions from the AU.”

The ECOWAS leaders’ democratic credentials and international reputations brought considerable legitimacy to the process. Buhari, a longtime Nigerian opposition leader, came to office in 2015 in a democratic election that marked the first time an incumbent had been defeated since military rule ended in 1999. Sirleaf was Liberia’s first democratically elected leader and the second woman Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Dramani Mahama’s presence on the regional diplomatic team was powerfully symbolic as he had conceded power to his successor, Akufo Addo, less than a month before Gambians went to their polls. Indeed, nearly all of ECOWAS’s 15 members have made demonstrative progress in establishing democratic institutions (Togo being the notable exception).

On January 18, regional leaders announced their intent to deploy forces to Gambia, under the banner of the Economic Community of West African States Military Intervention in Gambia (ECOMIG), to enforce the election results. The UN Security Council promptly authorized Senegal’s request on behalf of ECOWAS to intervene. The decision invoked ECOWAS’s supplementary protocol on democracy and good governance, which allows “zero tolerance for power obtained or maintained by unconstitutional means.” It also invoked Article 25 of the ECOWAS Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping, and Security, which authorizes military intervention in the event that “democracy is abruptly brought to an end by any means or where there is massive violation of human rights in a member state.”

ECOMIG was mandated to “facilitate the exit of Yahya Jammeh, restore the popular will of the Gambian people as expressed in the December 9 elections and create conditions for normalizing the political and humanitarian situation in Gambia.” The force fell under the ECOWAS command structure, with a Senegalese commander at the helm, and consisted of 7,000 troops from Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana, Mali, and Togo along with air and naval assets.

The quick mobilization of this sizeable force in a short space of time was due to several factors. With Senegal surrounding Gambia on almost all sides, the deployment of land, air, and naval assets was logistically feasible. ECOWAS forces regularly train together and have a good understanding of one another’s strengths. Moreover, planning for a potential regional intervention had begun after previous refugee outflows had placed strains on the region. Finally, ECOWAS had established standard operating procedures after previous interventions in the region, starting with Liberia in 1989, and more recently, in 2011, when ECOWAS intervened in Côte d’Ivoire to oust the defeated president Laurent Gbagbo and allow democratically elected leader, Alassane Ouattara, to take office.

In Gambia, the possibility of violence was real. A state of emergency was declared, senior officials fled into exile, and the election winner, Adama Barrow, evacuated to Senegal. A defiant Jammeh called ECOWAS’s moves a “declaration of war” and promised military retaliation. ECOWAS leaders, however, steadfastly stated their preference for a diplomatic solution while keeping the credible threat of deployment on the table. Additionally, they declared that ECOMIG was there solely to facilitate a peaceful exit and create conditions for a political transition. This underscored their view that the crisis was not of a military nature, but political. … … …


Paul Nantulya, “What’s Next for Africa and the International Criminal Court?/Quelle est la prochaine étape pour l’Afrique et la Cour pénale internationale?” Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 28 February 2017.

Calls for African countries to withdraw from the ICC overlooked the strong role Africa had in establishing the Rome Statute and the ongoing support the Court retains on the continent.

The 16th session of the Assembly of States Parties to the International Criminal Court (ICC) got underway on December 4, 2017, at the United Nations (UN) in New York with full African turnout. This has been a particularly eventful year for African states’ relationship with the world court. In January, the African Union (AU) adopted a non-binding resolution calling for member states to abandon the ICC, raising the possibility of a mass walk-out.

African countries seemed to be signaling a collective vote of no confidence for the global community’s most prominent organization authorized with curbing the impunity of those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The AU resolution came on the heels of moves by the governments of Burundi, Gambia, and South Africa to withdraw from the ICC. … … …


Paul Nantulya, “Emerging Patterns of Intra-African Security Assistance/Tendances émergentes de l’assistance en matière de sécurité intra-africaine,” Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 7 December 2016.

While discussions of security cooperation often focus assistance from wealthy countries, intra-African assistance has become a major focus of multilateral efforts in crisis management and stabilization.

Discussions of security assistance often focus on funding and technical assistance from wealthy countries. However, this overlooks a growing pattern of intra-African assistance in areas such as governance, revenue management, military professionalism, and peacekeeping, among others. A significant amount of this has been directed toward stabilization efforts in fellow African countries. … … …


Paul Nantulya, “When Ethics Avert a Crisis: Two Cases from Africa/Quand l’éthique évite une crise: deux exemples en Afrique,” Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 26 October 2016.

More often than not, African security institutions are designed to protect the regime, not the citizens. But there is a growing list of cases where leaders acted ethically to get democratic processes on track and ultimately save lives.

Ethical leadership is a key ingredient for governance that is accountable and committed to the safety of citizens. More often than not, however, African security institutions are designed not to protect citizens but regimes in power. This makes them vulnerable to politicization. In addition, given the resources that security institutions control, often in opaque budgets, the temptation for corruption is strong. This ultimately undermines trust in government, which in turn breeds public resentment and at times violence.

While unethical conduct remains all too common, there is a growing list of cases where security leaders acted ethically to avert crises, get democratic processes on track, and ultimately save lives. Tunisia and Burkina Faso are two such cases. Decisions taken by military leaders in these countries defused crises and demonstrated the enormous responsibility that security sector actors have by virtue of the fact that they wield the state’s coercive power. … … …


Paul Nantulya, “Resource Mismanagement a Threat to Security in Africa/Mauvaise gestion des ressources, une menace pour la sécurité en Afrique,” Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 7 September 2016.

Resources are always limited, even for advanced countries, but the problem in Africa is not resources per se. The problem is their misuse.

The President had finally signed off on a high-value procurement of main battle tanks and sophisticated anti-tank weapons as part of an aggressive military modernization program. Shortly thereafter, an intense political crisis erupted, leading to a full-blown rebellion and the defection of several army divisions. Insurgents seized a sizeable amount of territory and a general state of chaos ensued. As a now-fractured army struggled to take back territory, the leadership realized that their country had not benefited from its new tanks, as they were ill-suited to fighting the more lightly armed but determined and highly mobile insurgents. The tanks were ultimately a costly waste—and one that still had to be paid for and maintained.

Although hypothetical, this story is very real in parts of Africa, where armies may not only make the wrong strategic decisions regarding military budgeting, procurement, and security resources, but they may also take advantage of them for personal gain. “Resources are always limited, even for advanced countries, but the problem in Africa is not resources per se. … The problem is their misuse,” notes Assis Malaquias, Professor and Academic Chair, Defense Economics and Resource Management at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies.

Dr. Malaquias leads the Africa Center’s Managing Security Resources in Africa (MSRA) Program, which is bringing together 60 African security sector leaders from 16 countries across West Africa to Cotonou, Benin, to discuss these issues in September. “When planning with the mindset that the army is a tool for personal wealth creation, temptations to inflate budgets and acquire capabilities that are not suited to the country’s security realities are strong and the consequences can be deadly as we have seen repeatedly,” he warns.

Jakkie Cilliers of the Institute for Security Studies contends that these problems run much deeper than the mere lack of resources. “If you have waste, misallocation, and ultimately low morale, it washes across everything else.” … … …


Paul Nantulya, “Getting to the Root of the South Sudan Crisis/Remonter à la racine de la crise du Soudan du Sud,” Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 1 August 2016.

Reestablishing stability in South Sudan will require peacemaking at the community level, demilitarization, and security sector reform.

The eruption of violence in South Sudan on the fifth anniversary of the country’s independence has reopened the wounds of the December 2013 conflict that resulted in 50,000 deaths and displaced hundreds of thousands of people. On its surface, this crisis is another episode of the ongoing political competition between President Salva Kiir and his rival, Riek Machar. However, this cycle of violence, barely three months into yet another power-sharing deal, underscores the need to urgently address the structural roots of conflict in South Sudan beyond the immediate security arrangements. … … …


Paul Nantulya, “Different Recipes, One Dish: Evading Term Limits in Africa/Différentes recettes, un seul plat: éluder la limitation de la durée des mandats en Afrique,” Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 28 July 2016.

Term-limit advocates are not framing their struggles within the context of Western norms. Rather, it is seen as an African normative framework that is being violated by the continent’s leaders.

“[Extending terms] entrenches corruption networks and inequality. … Long-serving leaders are deceiving themselves if they believe that they are doing good for their citizens’ livelihoods.”

In recent years, African politics have been marked by increasing numbers of leaders seeking to evade presidential term limits in order to extend their stays in office. These moves not only compromise national constitutions, but they also often trigger instability and conflict. While incumbents may argue that term limits are incompatible with African realities, this reasoning ignores African-led initiatives and institutions that demonstrate the opposite to be true.

The African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance, ratified in 2012, calls on member states to “entrench a political culture of change of power.” It also identifies “illegal means of accessing or maintaining power,” including “any refusal to relinquish power after free, fair, and transparent elections,” and “any constitutional amendment which infringes the principles of democratic changes of power.”

These principles build on the 2002 African Union (AU) Declaration on the Principles Governing Democratic Elections in Africa, which demands that elections be organized by “impartial, all-inclusive, competent, and accountable national electoral bodies.” It also calls on member states to prevent fraud, rigging, and other illegal practices. In turn, this explicit focus on ethical leadership invokes the 1991 AU/Organization of African Unity (OAU) Conference on Security, Development, and Cooperation in Africa that identified the lack of inclusive democracy as the primary cause of insecurity on the continent.

Further, today African scholars increasingly argue that there is a direct link between adherence to democratic constitutional frameworks and stability. According to Shola Omotola, a senior lecturer at Redeemer’s University in Nigeria, term limit extensions violate the 2000 Framework for an OAU Response to Unconstitutional Changes of Government. First, they entail the manipulation of constitutional provisions, which in turn violates specific principles of the 2012 Charter. Second, they spark political tensions that often degenerate into violence. Indeed the AU’s Peace and Security Council recognized that “reviews of constitutions to serve narrow interests … are potent triggers for popular uprisings.” The late Mwangi Kimenyi, former director of the Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution, noted that extending terms “entrenches corruption networks and inequality. … Long-serving leaders are deceiving themselves if they believe that they are doing good for their citizens’ livelihoods,” he warned. Other observers, such as Jideofor Adibe, a senior lecturer at Nasarawa State University in Nigeria, go further, arguing that such moves amount to “constitutional coups,” which are just as damaging as military coups, their democratic rhetoric notwithstanding.


Paul Nantulya, “The African Union’s Panel of the Wise and Conflict Prevention/Le Groupe des Sages de l’Union africaine et la prévention des conflits,” Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 8 June 2016.

African institutional efforts at conflict prevention and mediation have proved instrumental at realizing negotiated settlements.

Among the range of conflict mitigation activities—early warning, peacekeeping, peace enforcement, peacebuilding—preventive efforts have long been at the core of the African Union’s agenda.

The Panel of the Wise is the AU’s most high-profile structure for preventing conflict, conducting on-the-ground fact-finding, presenting policy options, and brokering agreements. It is composed of five “highly respected African personalities who employ their experience and moral persuasion to foster peace” and who represent each of Africa’s five regions. It has undertaken several missions since it was established in 2007, when it hosted talks between rebels and then-president Françoise Bozizé of the Central African Republic in 2007. Among subsequent initiatives, the Panel of the Wise brokered a truce between President Joseph Kabila and opposition leader Étienne Tshisekedi after heated elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo, facilitated talks between Sudan and South Sudan on post-referendum arrangements, and assisted stakeholders in drafting the “Somalia End of Transition Roadmap.” To achieve these ends, the Panel draws heavily on regional bodies including the Economic Community of West African States’ Council of the Wise, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development’s Mediation Contact Group, the Common Market for East and Southern Africa’s Committee of Elders, and the Southern African Development Community’s Mediation Reference Group.

The AU’s conflict prevention efforts make use of additional mechanisms including calling on the participation of people of influence, conducting summit diplomacy, informal and ad-hoc mediation, and using professional mediation secretariats. Frequently, these tools are used simultaneously and feature significant improvisation, which results in complexity in both timing and practice. It also blurs the distinction between the theory and practice of conflict prevention and conflict management as illustrated by the AU’s handling of the Kenyan post-election crisis of 2008 and the mediation of South Sudan’s civil war, which broke out in 2013. … … …


Paul Nantulya, “More Than a Technocratic Exercise: National Security Strategy Development in Africa/Plus qu’un exercice technocratique: élaboration d’une stratégie de sécurité nationale en Afrique,” Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 31 May 2016.

An inclusive national security strategy process is more likely to reflect sound technical methodology, strategic perspective, and unique national concerns.

With the end of apartheid, South Africa needed a new national security vision. South Africa’s 1996 White Paper on Defense and 1998 Defense Review were not merely technocratic exercises, therefore, but “assisted the nation in moving beyond apartheid,” according to Helmoed Heitman. They “allowed South Africa to enter the 20th century with a very different approach to national security from the past.” Both processes were driven by parliament and “uniquely supported by the significant inclusion of civil society.” Ultimately they reflect a larger strategic dialogue for the nation while remaining rooted in sound technical methodology. South Africa also serves as an important case study for national security strategy development in other African countries undergoing transition.

National security strategy development usually begins with identifying the ends, ways, and means to addressing and mitigating threats—a methodology that determines what the strategy seeks to accomplish, how to accomplish it, and what resources are needed to do so. Coherence among the three is vital because if ends exceed available means, or if ways are not properly matched with ends, then the strategy cannot work. A sound strategy will also optimize force structures by matching them with an objective threat assessment, as this eliminates waste and corruption and increases effectiveness. While this technical approach is foundational, as the South Africa experience shows, any effective national security strategy process must also be married to the nation’s larger transformational goals and rely heavily on the participation and support of stakeholders. Such themes were central at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies’ recently concluded Senior Leaders Seminar involving security sector professionals from 45 African countries. … … …


Paul Nantulya, “‘Nkurunziza Gives Us Two Choices: Death or Suicide’—Burundians Losing Faith in International Effort,” Mail and Guardian, 26 March 2016.


Paul Nantulya, “Africa Heavyweights in Burundi Crisis Powwow: Lessons from the 2000 Arusha Peace Talks Led by Mandela,” Mail and Guardian, 26 February 2016.


Paul Nantulya, “The South Sudan Crisis in Perspective: A Primer for the U.S. Intelligence Community,” Africa Research Initiative, Vol. 1, No. 1 (August 2014), 2230.


On December 14, 2013, South Sudan faced significant risks to its security and the potential of drawing its neighbors into the crises. An intense power struggle between the two leaders at the center of the crisis—PresidentSalva Kiir and former Vice President Dr. Riek Machar—spun out of control shortly after a meeting of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement and Army (SPLM/SPLA).1 Within hours the Tiger Battalion, which doublesas a presidential guard, split into two: a Nuer faction (presumably loyal to Machar) and a Dinka one (presumably loyal to the president). By the following day, the fighting spread to the State House, where Tiger Battalion elements fired rockets into the president’s residence before being neutralized. In response, opposing elements used tank and artillery fire to destroy the vice president’s residence and residences belonging to other leaders.2

By evening, fighting broke out in the Army CommandCenter and Bilpam Military Barracks.3 Embattled, Kiir announced the following day that an attempted coup by Machar had been thwarted and several high-ranking SPLM leaders were arrested. By the third week, three full strength SPLA divisions defected to the rebels, taking control of three strategic states: Jonglei, Unity, and Upper Nile (the latter two being South Sudan’s only oil-producing states, which account for 98 percent of national revenues). Machar announced on December 21, 2013 that he was leading the rebellion.4 Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who has strong links to elements in the South Sudan government and in the SPLM opposition, deployed the Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) to fight alongside the government, helping it win back the three states. Machar, on February 21, 2014, regained control of Unity state—the country’s largest oil-producing state—only to lose it again to the government on March 20, 2014. Peace talks have been taking place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, since early January. The ceasefire signed on January 23 has been violated several times by both sides. A meeting between Machar and Kiir, brokered under the threat of more U.S. sanctions, took place on May 9, following which the two leaders authorized their representatives to negotiate details of a transitional government. Significant differences, however, remain, not the least of which includes whether the two leaders, each of whom might be culpable for war crimes committed by fighters under their direct command, are eligible to participate in the transitional process. On May 6, the United States imposed targeted financial sanctions on Marial Chanuong, the commander of the Tiger Battalion, and Peter Gadet, the overall commander of forces loyal to Machar, for leading attacks against civilians.

This article was prepared for the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) to (1) analyze the crisis from a historical perspective, (2) identify key factors that led to the crisis, and (3) discuss indicators and collection priorities that warrant the IC’s attention and guide future intelligence tasking and all-source analysis. … … …


Paul Nantulya, “Beyond Westgate: Towards a Comprehensive and Conflict Responsive Counterterrorism Strategy,” Conflict Trends, Issue 4 (2013).

The audacity, scale and meticulously sophisticated planning that went into the 21 September 2013 terrorist attack on Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya, suggests that Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen, an Al-Qaeda-linked organisation better known as Al-Shabaab, might have taken its capacity to strike outside Somalia to a new level. This article examines the policy implications of the attack from a counterterrorism and conflict resolution perspective. It provides a brief historical overview of Al-Qaeda’s activities in the East Africa and Horn of Africa regions, followed by an examination of the evolution of Al-Shabaab. Internal crises affecting the organisation are also discussed. The article concludes by making a case that defeating Al-Shabaab requires the strategic and calculative application of soft and hard instruments of state power, in the context of a multifaceted and sophisticated national security strategy that confronts the immediate threat while addressing the root causes of the Somali conflict. … … …


Paul Nantulya, “Developing African Leaders: Uganda’s Unique Education System,” Conflict Trends, Issue 4 (2006), 5155.

At the Ntare School’s golden jubilee celebration held on 30 September 2006 in Mbarara, Uganda, a jovial Rwandan President Paul Kagame, said that he was hopeful that he would work with his fellow alumnus, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to help Ntare School produce three more presidents for the region.1

Ugandan academic institutions have been known to produce high-calibre leaders who have made their mark locally and internationally.

Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) President, Joseph Kabila, the late Tanzanian President, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, and his second successor, President Benjamin Mkapa (now retired), Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, and former Kenyan Vice President, Jaramogi Oginga  Odinga were trained and educated at Uganda’s prestigious Makerere University.

Four Ugandan heads of state and all the Ugandanpost-war vice presidents were trained there.  Others include former and current Ugandan Prime Ministers Benedicto Kiwanuka and Prof. Apollo Nsibambi and world renowned Kenyan intellectuals Ngugi wa Thiongo and Ali Mazrui.

Uganda’s success in developing leaders of such high standing rests on a very strong education system that is over 100 years old. This article examines this much-ignored aspect of Uganda and outlines its continuing impact on leadership. … … …


Paul Nantulya, “African Nation-Building and Reconciliation: Lessons from Rwanda,” Conflict Trends, Issue 1 (2006), 4550.

Rwanda is one of the few African countries that has integrated traditional and modern peace mechanisms practically and holistically. In the early years after genocide, the designers of Rwanda’s peace models studied in significant detail the experiences of other countries but no clear solutions emerged. The entrenched patterns of sectarianism and exclusion which culminated in the 1994 genocide had impacted on the country to such an extent that reconciliation strategies and tactics could simply not be borrowed wholesale.

Fatuma Ndangiza, Executive Secretary of the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC), captured this very well, when she said:

We had to think of fresh, original and unique models and not just copy others blindly. For us, perpetrators and survivors had to continue living side by side. If we had resigned ourselves to the conventional way of doing things and forgotten our own rich traditions and heritage of dealing with conflicts, we would have ended up with a rather formalized, legalistic and elite driven mechanism, with little or no relevance at all to the grassroots. That, is not the route we wanted to follow.1 … … …


Paul Nantulya, Charles Villa Vicencio, and Tyrone Savage, Building Nations: Transitional Justice in the African Great Lakes Region: Burundi, Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, 2005).


Paul Nantulya, “Evolution of African Parliamentary Practice from Post-Colonial to Post-Cold War Eras” in Korwa Adar and Ntabiseng Nkosi, eds., The State of Readiness of African Parliaments on the Eve of the Pan-African Parliament (Africa Institute of South Africa, 2004).


Paul Nantulya, “Sudan: Causes of Conflict, and the Peace Process,” Center for International Political Studies, No. 55 (2004).


Paul Nantulya and Britt De Klerk, “Sudan: The Challenge of Darfur,” Conflict Trends, Issue 3 (2004), 52–55. 

Darfur may serve as a test case for Africa’s political commitment to peacekeeping and peace enforcementas enshrined in the provisions of the recently established Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the AfricanUnion. In response to a massive humanitarian disaster as a result of the conflict between the Sudanese government and the rebel movements, the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), and actions by the Janjaweed militia, the continental body has pledged a peacekeeping force to be sent to Darfur for a one-year period.

The announcement indicates a clear departure from the dogmatic commitment of the former Organisation of African Unity (OAU) to the notion of non-interference. As we speak, the African Union (AU) has agreed to increase the protection force from 390 to over 3 000 troops and civilian police. There are currently over 300 Rwandan and Nigerian troops in Darfur deployed to help protect the AU ceasefire monitors currently on the ground. The additional troops aim to transform the AU ceasefire monitoring team into a fully-fledged and robust peacekeeping force.

At the same time, the regional response to the situation in Darfur has been positive. The East African Community (EAC) agreed to send a combined a peacekeeping force to foster peace once an agreement is signed. The EAC is a regional grouping bringing together Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. Rwanda and Burundi have also applied for membership. These fresh developments have serious implications for the future peace and security architecture in Africa. Individual defence forces of independent countries are now starting to speak with one voice. Defence leaders are now starting to make statements that view regional security threats as a common challenge. … … …


Paul Nantulya, “South African NGOs: New Actors and Instruments in South African Foreign Policy” in South African Yearbook of International Affairs, 2003/04 Edition (South African Institute for International Affairs).


Paul Nantulya, “Assessing the Effectiveness of African Conflict Prevention: The Case of Sudan” in Hussein Solomon, ed., Towards Sustainable Peace: Reflections on Preventive Diplomacy in Africa (Africa Institute of South Africa, 2003).


Paul Nantulya, “The Machakos Protocol and Prospects for Peace in Sudan,” Conflict Trends, Issue 4 (2003).


Paul Nantulya, ed., Constitutions, Constitutionalism and Conflict Management in Africa (African Center for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes, 2001).


Paul Nantulya, “Exclusion, Identity and Armed Conflict: A Historical Survey of the Politics of Confrontation in Uganda with Specific Reference to the Independence Era,” in Politics of Identity and Exclusion in Africa: From Violent Confrontation to Peaceful Cooperation (Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and Universiteit Van Pretoria, 2001), 81–92.

Paul Nantulya, presenting the case study on Uganda, illustrated an even more complex setting of conflicting identities and social cleavages, which he grouped into five categories, namely the North–South, Christian–Muslim, Protestant–Catholic, Ethnic and Westerner–non-Westerner conflicts. In Uganda, these conflicts have caused all civilian governments to fail, resulting in three decades of military rule that, in turn, provoked negative identity mobilisation. According to Nantulya, even if today’s government could be successfully removed, this would not resolve the conflicts in Uganda. Only the development of a model to encompass a culture of integration and accommodation of all identities would be able to overcome the divisions of society in Uganda.


At one level of analysis, Uganda’s quest to find an acceptable political and constitutional formula with which to address three decades of political mismanagement continues to be characterized by armed conflict.

At another level, the tendencies, which underlie the major armed groups in the country, touch on largely unresolved dichotomies, which have been used as powerful mobilizing tools at different stages of the country’s historical development.

At a third level of analysis, Uganda’s experimentation with different modes of political organisation does not appear to have found a satisfactory solution to the outbreak of armed rebellions in the country both at the level of theory and also in practice.

This paper discusses the politics of exclusion and identity within the overall context of armed conflicts in northern and southern Uganda. It isolates the northern-based Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and its southern counterpart, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), and attempts to examine the identities around which both groups continue to mobilise on the one hand, and the perceived identities around which their rebellions seem to be challenging on the other. It also identifies the patterns of exclusion and factionalism that have influenced the rise of these groups and tries to find some answers as to why the dichotomies and identities around which they mobilise are so enduring. … … …



China’s Belt and Road Initiative at Year Six,” United States Institute of Peace, 25 April 2019.

China will host its second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing on April 26–27, two years after hosting its inaugural forum that was attended by dozens of world leaders and put a spotlight on Beijing’s massive signature initiative and its global leadership ambitions. Now in its sixth year, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)—which Chinese President Xi Jinping has called the “project of the century”—has been welcomed by countries seeking Chinese investment and loans. But it has also raised significant concerns about the sustainability of and intentions behind the initiative. Join the U.S. Institute of Peace for a conference that will look at the impact of China’s signature connectivity initiative on peace and security.

Six years after its inception in 2013, BRI has become a major global force. But it has also sparked a reexamination of the unique model that differentiates BRI from other infrastructure connectivity initiatives, in ways both positive and negative.

China portrays BRI as an effort to expand regional connectivity by building infrastructure, creating digital linkages, and facilitating trade flows. Beijing has dedicated hundreds of billions of dollars to the scheme, which is meant to help fill a yawning infrastructure gap in Asia and beyond. Critics, especially in Washington, believe that BRI’s primary purpose is to expand Chinese influence at the expense of its partners.

BRI projects often move fast, circumventing the traditional international development model and ignoring safeguards on debt sustainability, local employment, anti-corruption, and the environment. Many BRI projects also lack transparency, and have been reevaluated when governments change hands.

This conference will feature two panels: The first will discuss cross-regional trends and concerns about BRI, alternatives to the Chinese model of investment and development, and strategies for increasing the sustainability of international development efforts. The second panel will examine the on-the-ground impact of BRI in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Africa and implications for conflict dynamics in these regions.


Peacebuilding in Sudan: An Informal Conversation with Paul Nantulya,” Villanova University, 26 September 2008.


Peacebuilding Curriculum Workshop,” Villanova University, 26 September 2008.


John Feng, “Pentagon Warns China About ‘Miscalculation’ Over Actions in Japanese Waters,” Newsweek, 24 February 2021.

… All evidence points to China’s coast guard activity continuing at pace, despite strong security assurances provided by the U.S. to Japan, said Paul Nantulya, who is with the Pentagon’s Africa Center for Strategic Studies.

“China’s record of past behavior shows that any perceived foreign engagement in support of territorial claimants like Japan, TaiwanPhilippines, and Brunei are met with a higher level of military engagements by China to include military maneuvers, forceful diplomacy, and even punitive economic measures,” he told Newsweek in a written statement.

Nantulya, who is a research analyst specializing in the Chinese military and China-Africa relations, said the coast guard activity was part of a wider military strategy within the first island chain, which includes the Japanese archipelago in the north and extends south to the Malay Peninsula.

“These include the seaward approaches to China in the East and South China Seas and the Philippine Sea that include, crucially, Taiwan and the Senkaku Islands,” he said.

He added: “The dynamic in the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands are slightly different but no less contentious. The increased maritime patrols by the [People’s Liberation Army] and China Coast Guard into and around the vicinity of these waters—numbering [nine] since January—are aimed at enforcing Chinese claims and testing Japan’s resolve and reactions.”

Nantulya said China’s new coast guard law was among the reasons Japanese leaders feared a “higher level of escalation” by Beijing which “could result in military clashes.”


Chinese Soft Power in Africa in the COVID-19 Era,” The China in Africa Podcast, 21 August 2020.

2020 has been a tough year for China’s soft power engagement in Africa. A furious backlash to anti-African discrimination in Guangzhou in April, growing public hostility to Chinese debt and, of course, questions about Chinese accountability for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have all presented formidable challenges to Beijing’s reputation management on the continent.

While there’s no doubt that China’s popularity has taken a hit among large swathes of African civil society, that is not the case among the continent’s governing elites where state-to-state remain as strong and stable as ever.

Paul Nantulya, a research associate at the Africa Strategic Studies Center in Washington, D.C., closely follows Chinese soft power trends in Africa. Paul joins Eric & Cobus to discuss the Chinese soft power strategy in Africa and how, in many ways, it’s fundamentally different than those of U.S. and European governments.


Influence and Interest: China’s Footprint in Africa,” VOA Our Voices, Voice of America, 21 February 2020.

From China backing billion dollar projects of its telecom giant Huawei in South Africa, to the Ugandan garlic farmer competing in a market dominated by Chinese goods and Kenya’s new public school curriculum teaching Mandarin; this week #VOAOurVoices discusses the presence of China on the African continent. Our panel asks if China’s dominance in Africa will be beneficial or harmful to the average person. Guest co-host Salem Solomon joins Ayen Bior and Auriane Itangishaka for a dynamic discussion with analyst and researcher Paul Nantulya and VOA Mandarin’s U.S. State Department correspondent, Liyuan Lu. VOA Producer Abby Sun joins to share insight on Kenya’s move to add Mandarin to the country’s public school curriculum.


The Transition in Sudan,” Africa News Tonight, Voice of America, 17 September 2019. [Starting at 18:18]


The Dawn of a New Era In Sudan,” Straight Talk Africa, Voice of America, 17 April 2019.

In this episode of Straight Talk Africa, hosts Shaka Ssali discussed the latest developments in Sudan. He is joined by Ambassador Nureldin Satti, a former diplomat at Sudan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Amal Eltayeb of the Sudanese Diaspora, Ibrahim Babiker, a Sudanese-American Activist with Girifna and Paul Nantulya of the Africa Center of Strategic Studies of the National Defense University. 


Africa News Tonight,” Voice of America, 17 April 2019. [Starting at 7:34]

Africa News Tonight is a lively news magazine show featuring VOA correspondent reports, interviews with African officials, opposition leaders, NGOs and human rights activists. News feature stories look at science and technology, environmental issues, humanitarian topics, the African diaspora, business, arts and culture.


Sudan Politics with Paul Nantulya,” TV2Africa, Voice of America, 16 April 2019.

The African Union on Monday threatened to suspend Sudan following last week’s coup that saw Omar al-Bashir ousted by the military after nearly three decades in power. Paul Nantulya, Analyst and Researcher at the National Defense University’s Africa Center for Strategic Studies, tells us more.


Dennis Matanda, Interview of Paul Nantulya, “China’s Belt and Road Initiative and Africa,” The Habari Network, 11 April 2019.

This week world leaders gather in Beijing to attend the 2nd Belt and Road Summit. The Habari Network’s featured guest, Paul Nantulya, discusses China’s ambitious global plan in this wide-ranging interview. He is a Research Associate at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies and a specialist in Chinese foreign policy and China-Afro-Asia engagements.

Dennis Matanda: Paul, this is a timely moment to talk about the Belt and Road Initiative, so thanks for joining us.

Paul Nantulya: My pleasure. The Belt and Road is indeed getting intense global attention. In February, Italy became the first G7 member to join it. Ahead of the upcoming Forum in April, China’s foreign ministry is hosting over 30 African and Asian journalists on a 10-month fellowship on reporting on the Belt and Road. In September, Hong Kong will host its 4th Belt and Road Summit for political and business leaders.

DM: A packed schedule indeed. So what is the Belt and Road Initiative? … … …


China in Bid to Extend Africa Trade Success into Military Sphere,” Daily Nation, 27 January 2019.


Feature: Decoding the DRC,” DefenceWeb, 3 October 3018.

The proliferation of armed groups in Africa’s second-largest country has destabilized the nation for decades, but an incident in December 2017 brought renewed attention to the dangers present in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The Allied Democratic Forces attacked United Nations personnel in the eastern DRC’s North Kivu province, killing 15 peacekeepers, at least five members of the DRC’s military, and wounding another 53 peacekeepers.

The three-hour firefight destroyed at least one armored personnel carrier, U.N. officials told The Washington Post. “This is the worst attack on U.N. peacekeepers in the organization’s recent history,” Secretary-General António Guterres said.

The Allied Democratic Forces, estimated to have 1,500 armed fighters, are responsible for other attacks on peacekeepers in the DRC: one in July 2013 and another in March 2014. The group is just one of about 70 armed militant and militia groups fomenting violence all across the DRC’s 2.3 million square miles.

The DRC should be among Africa’s most prosperous nations. Its diverse mineral reserves are almost without parallel. But the nation has suffered a complicated political history and has been at the center of two major continental wars. The scars still are visible today. A look at the nation’s history and some of its more troubled regions underscores the complexity of the security conditions within them. … … …


Salem Solomon, “Deepening Military Ties Solidify China’s Ambitions in Africa,” Voice of America, 15 July 2018.

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of articles looking at Chinese involvement in Africa. Also read about infrastructure deals and business opportunities.

In late June, top military officials from Mali, Sierra Leone, South Sudan and dozens of other African countries gathered to discuss defense strategies and security threats.

The meeting didn’t take place in a major African city, but thousands of kilometers away, in Beijing, China.

The occasion was the inaugural China-Africa Defense and Security Forum, a high-profile showcase of expanding military partnerships hosted by China’s Ministry of National Defense.

The forum, which concluded July 11, solidifies China’s standing as a key security partner for Africa and coincides with a raft of economic and political moves that have deepened its involvement across the continent. … … …


Video: Perspectives on the Developments in South Africa,” Africa 54, Voice of America, 28 February 2018.

Paul Nantulya, Researcher for the National Defense University’s Africa Center for Strategic Studies joins Vincent Makori.


Video: South Africa’s Political Drama,” Africa 54, Voice of America, 14 February 2018.

Africa 54’s anchor, Vincent Makori is joined by Paul Nantulya, a Researcher for the National Defense University’s Africa Center for Strategic Studies, for more perspective on the unfolding political drama in South Africa.


Eric Manirakiza, “ANC Chief Trying to Edge Out South Africa’s Zuma,” Voice of America, 16 January 2018.

WASHINGTON — The new head of South Africa’s ruling ANC party is attempting to shift political power away from President Jacob Zuma – but he must move carefully to avoid triggering a backlash among Zuma’s supporters and destabilizing South Africa’s government, according to analysts.

Cyril Ramaphosa was elected head of the ANC in December, replacing Zuma. The change followed years of corruption allegations against Zuma and accusations that Zuma allowed the powerful Gupta family to have undue influence in his administration, including the choosing of certain ministers.

On January 8, Ramaphosa laid out a vision for the ANC that focuses on implementing reforms, improving the party’s accountability and eliminating the “state capture” that critics said happened under Zuma’s watch.

On the same day, Zuma announced the creation of a commission of inquiry into the “state capture” allegations.

Paul Nantulya, a researcher for the National Defense University’s Africa Center for Strategic Studies in Washington, D.C., has worked closely with ANC officials and supporters and is familiar with the party’s practices. He thinks the commission was the idea of the ANC’s new leaders and Zuma “had no choice but announce it.”

“Last December, the new National Executive Committee (NEC) affirmed the longstanding policy that the ANC, not the state president, is the center of power, meaning Zuma must take instructions from Ramaphosa,” Nantulya recently told VOA Afrique. … … …


Laura Secorun Palet, “The Rise of a Peacemaking Capital in Africa,” OZY, 16 May 2016.

The Arusha airport looks like a huge souvenir shop with an airstrip attached. Thousands of tourists pass through here on their way to Tanzania’s famed national parks and Mount Kilimanjaro. But what those sunburned visitors may not know is that where their safari starts is where civil wars end.

This sleepy city in the north of Tanzania has been a diplomatic hub since the signing of the Arusha Accords in 1993 ended the war in Rwanda. But now, with civil conflict brewing or in full swing in neighboring Burundi and South Sudan, this neutral city may be the region’s best broker for peace agreements. Over 345 new cases of torture and abuse by security forces have been reported in Burundi since the start of 2016 and experts warn of the violence taking an even darker turn. “We are not there now,” says Alexandre Lévêque, Canada’s high commissioner and envoy to the East African community, “but everybody remembers Rwanda.” … … …


Obi Anyadike, “How a City in Tanzania Holds the Key to Peace in Burundi/Le clé de la paix au Burundi est en Tanzanie,” IRIN News, 13 January 2016.

At some stage, both sides in Burundi’s increasingly bloody political crisis are likely to be sitting across the table from one another in Arusha, Tanzania, looking to agree a political settlement.

Arusha, a laidback cosmopolitan city in northern Tanzania, has been the traditional venue for negotiating some of East Africa’s most intractable conflicts. It was where the Burundian government and the opposition CNARED were supposed to be heading last week for talks mediated by the African Union and the East African Community, until the government pulled out its representatives on the grounds that they couldn’t meet with “criminals” and “terrorists.”

Such contretemps are nothing new. After all the purpose of mediation is to put together people who don’t like each other, sometimes with murderous intensity. The Arusha Accords, aimed at resolving Rwanda’s civil war, took a year to hash out: the Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement for Burundi (the document CNARED accuses the current government of trashing) took two years.

In the case of South Sudan, where a peace agreement was signed in Arusha last year and then promptly torn up by both sides, who knows? … … …


Paul Jeffrey, “Building Peace in Africa’s Newest Nation,” United Methodist Women News, 31 March 2011.

Cecilia Akuyu sings softly as she and some of her neighbors pull weeds from among the pineapple and peanut plants in the women’s field in Pisak, a village in Southern Sudan. Forty United Methodist Women members from the community joined together last year to plant crops, including sorghum and beans, and to care for the field until harvest time, when they will share the proceeds of their work.

It’s a simple act, in some ways, to cultivate and then harvest. But for people whose lives have been broken by decades of violence and displacement, there is also a profound joy in working the soil in peace and unafraid.

The women of Pisak, an hour from the city of Yei, see their small farm in the same light as their nascent country’s January referendum on independence. If both go well, their future will be different than their war-torn, hungry past.

“If we free ourselves from the government of the north, there will be many changes,” Ms. Akuyu said. “We can grow our own produce to sell here or export, and as an independent country we will be able to see the benefits of our work because the fruit of our labor will stay here.”

Each of the women’s families has its own agricultural plots, but here routine farming decisions are inevitably made by men, even though the women do most of the work. In this field, however, just a short walk from the rustic chapel where they gather on Sunday mornings, the women are in charge. The proceeds from their harvest, after 10 percent goes to the church, will be divided up among the women who participate. They will spend it on school fees for their children, medicine for their families, and seeds for another round of planting this year, Ms. Akuyu said.

United Methodist Women members in Pisak were among the first in their village to register in November and the first to vote in January. “As women, we’ve suffered horribly,” Ms. Akuyu said. “With independence, we pray to God that this will change. That’s why everyone here is voting for separation.”

At the end of January, officials announced the referendum to secede had been approved by 98.83 percent of voters. The high approval rate was no surprise to observers, who noted that even Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir had seen the handwriting on the wall, announcing on the eve of the vote that he would respect the results. Such realpolitik came after solidarity groups and activists spent months pressuring President Barack Obama and other world leaders to make sure the government in Khartoum understood the dire consequences of failing to respect the right of the south to secede. … … …


Interview: Church, Government Summit Plans for Peace in Sudan,” Catholic Relief Services, 22 November 2010.


Paul Jeffrey, “Border Region of Abyei Complicates South Sudan Independence Vote,” Catholic News Service, 10 December 2008.


Erin Reback, “CRS Representative Discusses Sudan,” The Villanovan, 14 October 2008.

Paul Nantulya from Catholic Relief Services delivered a lecture on peace efforts in Sudan on Sept. 25. Sudan, established as a country in 1956, has known only 11 years of peace. The nation has been ripped apart by civil war based on racial and religious differences between the North and South. Northern Sudan is home to mostly Arab Muslims; Southern Sudan houses mostly Christians.

In 2005, the country of 34 million enacted a peace treaty, working toward comprise between the fighting factions. Before 2005, all government has been based in the North. This fact elicited a feeling of exclusion from Southern Sudanese. CRS aims to erase this perceived exclusion in an effort to politically, economically and socially unite the country. The treaty has established a temporary, autonomous government working in Southern Sudan.

The peace treaty says that in 2011, Southern Sudanese have the right to vote in favor of secession.

“Both North and South must make peace an attractive option,” Nantulya said. “If not, unity is impossible.”

Nantulya said he and CRS strive to bring the ideals of the peace agreement to life because establishing a fruitful economy and honest government is necessary for Sudan to change.

“Change needs to happen or people lose confidence and the peace agreement will collapse,” Nantulya said. … … …


Fawzia Sheikh, “Garang Loss a Blow for Uganda Peace Hopes?” Institute for War and Peace Reporting, 17 November 2005.

There’s concern that John Garang’s death will set back peace prospects in northern Uganda.

The death in August of John Garang, the new Sudanese vice-president and former leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, SPLA, was a shock to his country, but the tragedy is also being felt farther afield, notably in Uganda.

For almost 20 years, Uganda has seen the insurgent Lord’s Resistance Army, LRA, use Sudan as a base to wage war against President Yoweri Museveni’s government – and now there’s concern that Garang’s death could damage peace prospects here.

“Indeed, their latest attack on Kit Valley in southern Sudan, less than a week after Garang’s burial, was aimed at sending a message that they are still active and capable,” said Paul Nantulya, head of political engagement, Africa and transitional justice, at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation in Cape Town, South Africa. The LRA killed 17 people in the latest incident.


Reesha Chibba, “Zim’s New Homeless Live ‘Worse Than Animals’,” Mail and Guardian, 18 July 2005.

Just outside South Africa’s borders, a humanitarian crisis is brewing. Despite a news blackout imposed by Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, conditions in a large camp housing those displaced by Mugabe’s Operation Murambatsvina are drawing sharp criticism from countries around the world.

Since May this year, thousands of people have been forced to desert their homes and have been dumped at the makeshift Caledonia camp, about 30km outside Harare.

Last week, the clean-up operation was extended to wealthier suburbs in Harare.

In the past two weeks, there has been a stream of foreign visitors to Zimbabwe seeking more information about the controversial campaign.

First, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan sent Sharad Shankardass, the executive director of UN Habitat, to Zimbabwe for two weeks to learn more about the campaign. The envoy’s report is expected to be completed within a week.

Then it was the turn of the African Union, whose representative Zimbabwe turned away because the government said it was too busy to see him and that he had not given the government enough advance notice of his visit.

Among the few foreigners to visit the camp was a group of clerics from the South African Council of Churches (SACC). They returned to South Africa with tales of horror, calling the situation a humanitarian disaster waiting to happen. … … …


Abraham McLaughlin, “Africa to World: We Can Handle War Justice Ourselves,” Christian Science Monitor, 18 March 2005.

This week a group of earnest religious leaders from the rural reaches of northern Uganda – home to Africa’s longest-running war – traveled 4,500 miles to the Netherlands. They made a passionate plea to the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, which went something like this: Stay out of our war. We can handle it ourselves. You’ll only make it worse if you get involved.

Their plea is symbolic of a growing debate over the ICC’s role in Africa – one that’s fundamentally about balancing two vastly different systems of justice in order to boost peace on the continent: the Western, punitive sense of justice and the African, conciliatory one, famously symbolized by South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission pardoning many apartheid-era torturers and murders.

Also this week, Nigeria proposed that an African tribunal – not the ICC – address atrocities in Sudan’s Darfur Province, where the US says genocide has occurred. In all, the effort to “strike a balance between the prosecutorial approach and restorative justice is coming to the fore,” says Paul Nantulya of the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation in Cape Town, South Africa. … … …