January 8, 2009

HARRISONBURG—Today in his weekly “Strategic Interests” column for the World Defense Review, Dr. J. Peter Pham, Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University, surveys some of the most significant conflicts or flashpoints which will require the attention of the incoming Barack Obama administration and its African and other international partners in the course of 2009.

According to Dr. Pham, the most immediate threat to security on the African continent is the chaotic state of affairs prevailing in the territory of the onetime Somali Democratic Republic, including the imminent collapse of the internationally-recognized Transitional Federal Government, the advance of Islamist forces spearheaded by al-Shabaab, the continuing piracy out of Puntland, and lack of engagement of Somaliland. Later this year, however, attention will focus on Sudan where the International Criminal Court’s likely indictment of President Umar Hassan al-Bashir on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes for his role in the conflict in Darfur and the failure to hold elections by July as promised in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement will unleash a chain of events which will probably result in the end of not just the Islamist-dominated, military dictatorship in Khartoum, but of Sudan itself as a unitary state. The complex conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the activities of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and the political and humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe will likely also continue to be sources of insecurity, as will the simmering low-intensity war in the Niger Delta and the military takeovers in states like Mauritania and Guinea.

Dr. Pham concludes:

The new year is already shaping up to be a challenging one for Africa. While President-elect Obama’s election undoubtedly brought hope to millions of African continent, what the continent really needs from the incoming administration and what America’s own interests demand is renewed commitment to and actual implementation of the principles laid out in the most recent edition of the National Security Strategy of the United States: “Africa holds growing geo-strategic importance…The United States recognizes that our security depends upon partnering with Africans to strengthen fragile and failing states and bring ungoverned areas under the control of effective democracies. We are committed to working with African nations to strengthen their domestic capabilities and the regional capacity of the [African Union] to support post-conflict transformations, consolidate democratic transitions, and improve peacekeeping and disaster responses.”

To read the full text of the article, “African Hot Spots in 2009,” click here.