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    Proxy War Looms In Libya As Turkey Mulls A Military Intervention

    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives to deliver a speech at an event in Ankara, Dec. 30, 2019 (Presidential Press Service photo via AP Images).
    With Turkey’s parliament approving a bill this week to greenlight a military deployment in Libya, the chaos that followed the 2011 ouster of long-time Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi threatens to deepen further. Turkish legislators voted overwhelmingly to make good on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s promise to intervene in Libya on behalf of the internationally recognized government in Tripoli, known as the Government of National Accord, or GNA.

    Although Erdogan must still determine the exact size and scope of the Turkish military mission, his immediate goal will be to buttress the GNA as it battles the encroaching forces of Gen. Khalifa Haftar’s breakaway Libyan National Army, which dominates the eastern half of the country.
    Last April, Haftar declared a military offensive to try and take Tripoli, but his forces were quickly bogged down in a stalemate against militias recruited by the GNA. During the ensuing quagmire, outside powers already involved in Libya, like the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, increased their support for Haftar, while new powers like Russia joined in to back his forces.

    In September, Russian mercenaries arrived in Libya and helped jumpstart Haftar’s stalled military campaign, allowing him to seize key towns south of Tripoli. That growing outside support for Haftar prompted Turkey’s moves to intervene on behalf of the Tripoli government. Shortly after Haftar began his offensive last year, Tarek Megerisi wrote a briefing for WPR warning of the risk of Libya “becoming a Syria-style proxy war at the center of the Mediterranean.” Turkey’s parliament took another step toward turning that prediction into reality.

    More foreign soldiers will only add to the misery on the ground in Libya. As Megerisi put it, “The only certain outcome involves the Libyan people, whose suffering will worsen and whose aspirations for a new state will be more elusive than ever.” Here’s a rundown of news from elsewhere on the continent:

    East Africa

    Somalia: Al-Shabab, the Somalia-based al-Qaida affiliate, has claimed responsibility for a truck bombing in the capital, Mogadishu, that killed at least 90 people last week. An al-Shabab spokesperson said the attackers were targeting a Turkish convoy. In retaliation, the U.S. military conducted airstrikes against the militant group; American officials claim to have killed at least four of its members. The bombing also prompted government-led demonstrations against al-Shabab this week. Al-Shabab has been operating in East Africa since 2006 and, as Ilya Gridneff explained in a WPR briefing last year, has proven to be one of the world’s deadliest jihadist groups.

    West Africa

    Cote d’Ivoire: Less than a year after being acquitted on four counts of crimes against humanity, including murder and rape, Charles Ble Goude was sentenced in absentia to 20 years in prison by a court in Cote d’Ivoire this week. Ble Goude, a former aide to ex-President Laurent Gbagbo, was implicated in the violence that swept Cote d’Ivoire after Gbagbo refused to accept a 2010 election defeat. After nearly eight years of proceedings at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, both Ble Goude and Gbagbo were acquitted of all charges a year ago, although the ICC’s chief prosecutor has appealed the decision.

    In the meantime, the Court of Appeals in Cote d’Ivoire convicted Ble Goude on charges related to the post-election violence and issued a warrant for his arrest. His ICC co-defendant, Gbagbo, may actually be looking for an opportunity to return to Cote d’Ivoire, amid rumors that he could be preparing another run for president later this year following his acquittal, as Elise Roberts reported for WPR in September.

    Guinea-Bissau: In a runoff between two former prime ministers, Umaro Cissoko Embalo was elected president of Guinea-Bissau this week. The election commission announced he won about 54 percent of the vote, defeating Domingos Simoes Pereira, who has vowed to contest the results, claiming electoral fraud. Yet no evidence to substantiate those claims has emerged. Embalo, who ran on the promise of modernizing Guinea-Bissau, now faces a range of challenges, as Alex Vines, the head of the Africa Program at Chatham House, explained in a December interview with WPR. Embalo’s most urgent tasks include addressing the country’s widespread poverty, reducing drug trafficking and strengthening democratic institutions.
    Southern Africa
    Zambia: The United States has recalled its ambassador to Zambia in the wake of a diplomatic row over LGBT rights and corruption. After a Zambian court imprisoned a gay couple in November, U.S. Ambassador Daniel Foote called the act “horrifying.” He also repeated accusations that the Zambian government had misappropriated millions of dollars. That prompted Zambian President Edgar Lungu to declare that Foote was no longer welcome in the country. The State Department issued a statement saying it was dismayed by Lungu’s remarks, which it said were “the equivalent of a declaration that the ambassador is persona non grata.”

    Central Africa

    Burundi: President Pierre Nkurunziza reaffirmed that he will not compete in Burundi’s presidential race this year, following the political upheaval over his decision to run for a contested third term in 2015. A wave of political repression that began that year still persists in the country, where Nkurunziza’s administration has sidelined political opponents and limited civic space, as Sam Mednick reported from Burundi for WPR in September. Nkurunziza’s previous claims that he would not stand for another term had been met with skepticism. By recommitting to that position just months before the race, while failing to identify a possible successor, he has now created a political vacuum.

    Angola: Angolan President Joao Lourenco’s crackdown on the country’s former first family continues as his administration this week froze the assets of Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of Lourenco’s predecessor, Jose Eduardo dos Santos. This comes just weeks after Jose Filomeno de Sousa dos Santos, the former president’s son, went on trial on charges of corruption. Jose Eduardo dos Santos’ 38-year rule was riddled with accusations of malfeasance and nepotism, including his daughter’s appointment as head of the state oil and gas company, Sonangol. She is currently under investigation for her activities under her father’s regime, though she has denied any wrongdoing.

    North Africa

    Algeria: The country’s new president, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, appointed a little-known academic as prime minister last weekend and tasked him with forming a government. Abdelaziz Djerad’s appointment is an unexpected move from Tebboune, who has struggled to gain popular legitimacy since he was elected in a widely boycotted vote in December. He also lost a major backer within the Algerian regime late last month, when powerful military chief Ahmed Gaid Salah died of a heart attack, days after Tebboune’s inauguration.

    Djerad’s appointment might signal that Tebboune is now turning for support to the demonstrators whose protests led to the ouster of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika last April and who have rallied against Tebboune’s election. Djerad was a vocal critic of the political elite long seen to be masterminding the regime in Algiers; he also criticized the decision to move forward with the December election before introducing political reforms demanded by protesters. Legitimacy is not the only problem Tebboune faces. As Francisco Serrano wrote for WPR in December, “tensions could rise given Algeria’s ongoing economic woes,” as the state coffers have shrunk since the collapse in global oil prices in 2014.

    From Around the World

    The “Collateral Damage” of the U.S.’s Unofficial War in Somalia: The United States has carried out nearly 150 air strikes in Somalia in the past three years, targeting members of al-Shabab. But the attacks, described by the U.S. military as “surgical” strikes, have unexpected consequences, destroying property and upending people’s livelihoods, according to Amanda Sperber’s reporting for In These Times. “Strikes have also created a climate of uncertainty and paranoia within the communities they hit,” Sperber writes, “as civilians start suspecting each other of being targeted members of al-Shabab.”

    Field of Broken Dreams: In this photo essay for The Guardian, Italo Rondinella and Cristoforo Spinella explore the fallout from a scam that centers on promising young African men an opportunity to try out for professional football teams in Turkey in exchange for cash payments. Instead, the prospective footballers are given sham tryouts or nothing at all. Rondinella and Spinella document the men’s lives after they are abandoned in Turkey and how they have still attempted to pursue their football dreams.

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