Podcast / Africa

The Horn (Season 4)

The Horn of Africa is in turmoil. From revolution in Sudan to civil war in Ethiopia, from Somalia’s political stalemate and the regional spread of jihadism to troubled East African democracies, the region’s pace and scale of change is difficult to keep up with. The Horn, a podcast series from the International Crisis Group, helps make sense of it all. Host Alan Boswell and guests dive deep behind the headlines as they analyse events, debate diplomacy, and discuss avenues towards peace. Produced by Maeve Frances. Episodes from past series of The Horn can be found here: Season 1Season 2 and Season 3.

Episode 10: Can the African Union Rise to Meet Its Moment?

On 18-19 February, the African Union (AU) held its annual heads of state summit in the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This event marked the culmination of a year of active diplomatic engagements across the African continent against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine and its global fallout. The two-day summit was highly anticipated. The continent is facing an array of outside actors jostling for influence as global divisions mount, a multitude of conflicts and crises internally, and an insecure financial future, with much of its funding coming from external backers such as the European Union and their shifting priorities. In order to better tackle the challenges facing the continent in the years ahead, many observers are now calling for fast-tracking the institutional reforms of the AU.

This week on The Horn, Alan Boswell speaks with Liesl Louw-Vaudran, Crisis Group’s senior adviser to the AU, about the highlights of the 2023 AU Summit, the union’s overall progress and the challenges facing it. They discuss the AU's bid for permanent African seats on the UN Security Council and its possible accession to the G20. They also dive into the AU's position against coups, the crisis in the Great Lakes region and its mediating role in the conflict in Ethiopia. They touch on the organisation’s original ambition, its focus on peace and security, as well as the structural impediments it faces, such as member state sovereignty, decision-making difficulties and external funding. Finally, they discuss ways in which the AU can adapt to better fulfil its mandate.

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For more in-depth analysis of some of the topics discussed in this episode, make sure to check out our Africa Program page, and our briefing Eight Priorities for the African Union in 2023.

Episode 9: Tweets and Succession Politics in Uganda 

This week on The Horn, Alan Boswell speaks with Abdi Latif Dahir, East Africa correspondent for The New York Times, about the political landscape of several East African countries. They talk about President Museveni's long-lasting hold on power in Uganda and what to make of his son and potential successor, General Muhoozi Kainerugaba, whose provocative statements on social media have sparked widespread attention and scrutiny. They take stock of Kenya's state of affairs, the Ruto presidency, and how borrowing from China has been burdening the country and its citizens. They also discuss Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan's early tenure as well as the future of Somalia. Finally, they touch on the regional response to the war in Ukraine and why some countries in Eastern Africa have been reluctant to take sides in the conflict. 

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For more on the topics discussed in this episode, make sure to check out Abdi’s work in The New York Times, including his recent article: “A Wild Card’: Son of Uganda’s President Jostles to Succeed His Father”, as well as our program page for the Horn of Africa.

Episode 8: A Return to Civilian Rule in Sudan? 

The Sudanese military and a coalition of major civilian actors signed a framework agreement on 5 December 2022, paving a path to a new civilian government more than a year after the military seized full power in an October 2021 coup. While the new deal has raised hopes that Sudan's long political impasse could be nearing an end, it has also received its fair share of criticism. Many viewed the negotiations as too exclusive, and the deal thus far excludes former rebels and others. Without broader support, many have argued that a new government could ultimately lack legitimacy.

This week on The Horn, Alan Boswell speaks with Guma Kunda Komey, a former peace adviser to Sudan's last prime minister, about the politics of the negotiations over forming a new civilian government in Sudan. They talk about the effects of the military coup in late 2021 that saw the military take full control of the country and subsequent efforts to get the country’s political transition back on track. They discuss the December 2022 framework agreement, how it was reached, as well as the criticisms that have arisen around the deal, the challenges facing its implementation and its perceived lack of inclusiveness. They also discuss the 2020 Juba Peace Agreement, whether it was a good deal, and what it would take to strike a peace deal with Sudan's remaining rebel movements.

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For more in-depth analysis of some of the topics discussed in this episode, make sure to check out our latest statement “A Critical Window to Bolster Sudan’s Next Government” and our Sudan country page.

Episode 7: Somalia's Offensive Against Al-Shabaab

Over the past few months, Somali government forces have consolidated gains against Al-Shabaab in a large-scale offensive in central regions. The offensive was initiated by clans rising up against the group, which the government in turn sought to nurture and expand. While the government troops have made advances against the militant group, consolidating those gains and delivering on authorities’ promises to local communities will remain a significant challenge. Prospects for engagement with the insurgents has also taken a back seat amid the current fighting, even as Al-Shabaab has in the past shown to be a flexible and resilient actor. In the background, a festering humanitarian situation remains dire as a fifth failed rainy season has brought Somalia closer to famine. 

This week on The Horn, Alan Boswell speaks with Omar Mahmood, Crisis Group's senior analyst for Eastern Africa, about the latest developments regarding the offensive against Al-Shabaab, following recent fieldwork. After reviewing the circumstances leading up to the offensive, they discuss the government's strategy to involve local militias in the fight and the challenges this could present. They also assess how Al-Shabaab has responded and whether the federal government is any closer to exploring potential political dialogue with the jihadist group. Finally, they take a look at the status of federal-regional government reconciliation efforts amid upcoming political issues.

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For more in-depth analysis of some of the topics discussed in this episode, make sure to check out our Somalia country page and our report from last year, Considering Political Engagement with Al-Shabaab in Somalia.

Episode 6: A Conversation with Top U.S. Diplomat to Africa Molly Phee 

In August, the White House unveiled a new strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa focused on promoting open societies, democracy and security, while increasing U.S. efforts to help Africa combat Covid-19 and adapt to climate change. Meanwhile, the U.S. remains active in the crises in the Horn of Africa, including the peace process in Ethiopia, resolving the political impasse in Sudan and countering Al-Shabaab in Somalia. Yet, America's role has also shifted amid a changing world, especially as Washington increasingly engages with other regional powers, including in the Middle East, about Horn of Africa affairs.

This week on The Horn, Alan speaks with Molly Phee, U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, about how the Biden administration envisions partnership with African countries and Africa's role on the global stage. They talk about the administration's approach to great-power competition in relation to Africa, as well as the increasing role of regional powers, including from the Gulf. They then discuss the Ethiopia peace process, the role of Eritrea, and U.S. efforts to broker a new political deal in Sudan. They also examine whether the U.S. supports eventual political talks with Al-Shabaab in Somalia, what to do about South Sudan, U.S.-Kenya relations, and the continued and controversial use of U.S. sanctions as a diplomatic lever. Phee then previews the upcoming U.S.-Africa summit next week in Washington. 

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For more in-depth analysis of some of the topics discussed in this episode, make sure to check out our Africa program page.

Episode 5: The Boiling Regional Crisis in Eastern Congo

Last week, Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi held a meeting with Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta and other African leaders in Angola to agree on a ceasefire in eastern DR Congo. The situation there has been deteriorating rapidly in recent weeks, with militants from the M23 group making significant headway against Congolese forces, threatening to overrun the regional capital of Goma and prompting the East African Community (EAC) to deploy a force to the region. Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and members of the M23 were notably absent from the recent meeting in Luanda, raising concerns that any agreement without their involvement might not be sustainable in the long run.

This week on The Horn, Alan Boswell speaks with Crisis Group consultant Richard Moncrieff about the flare-up in violence in eastern Congo and how the conflict could develop. They talk about the M23’s recent advances in eastern Congo, Rwanda’s role in the conflict and the ongoing rivalry between Kinshasa and Kigali. They also discuss Kenya’s increased diplomatic and military involvement in the DR Congo. Finally, they address the declining popularity of the UN peacekeeping mission in the DR Congo and how African leadership has stepped up to address regional security challenges.

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For more in-depth analysis on the situation in the DR Congo, make sure to check out our DR Congo country page. 

Episode 4: Eritrea's Long Bitter Feud with Ethiopia's Tigray

The contemporary rivalry between Eritrea and Tigray goes back several decades. After an almost-17-year-long civil war starting in the mid-1970s, the Eritrean EPLF and Tigrayan TPLF jointly defeated Ethiopia’s Derg regime in 1991, resulting in Eritrea’s independence and the TPLF taking power in Ethiopia. Despite their joint achievement, their already-complicated relations soon started to sour. A growing power struggle, as well as unresolved territorial disputes between the two sides, led to a deadly border war lasting from 1998 to 2000. Meanwhile, an increasingly repressive Eritrean regime found itself regionally and globally isolated. A new administration in Ethiopia under Abiy Ahmed signed a peace agreement with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki in 2018, formally ending the border war. However, this rapprochement between Addis Ababa and Asmara also appeared to pave the way for Ethiopia’s civil war, with Eritrea allying with Ethiopia’s federal government in the war against Tigrayan forces in northern Ethiopia that started in 2020.

In this episode of The Horn, Alan is joined by Michael Woldemariam, associate professor at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy, to take a deep dive into the long and tumultuous relationship between Eritrea and Tigray to understand Eritrea’s motives and objectives in the Ethiopian conflict. They talk about the origins of the relations between the EPLF and the TPLF and their shared struggle against Ethiopia’s Derg regime from the 1970s to 1991. They unpack how relations between the two sides soured in a struggle for power and authority, culminating in the deadly border clashes starting in 1998. They also discuss how Eritrean President Afwerki’s motivations in the conflict in northern Ethiopia have shifted over time. Finally, they talk about how to navigate Eritrea’s role while trying to end the conflict in Tigray.  

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Please note that this episode was recorded before the 2 November truce agreement between Ethiopia’s federal government and Tigray’s leaders.

For more in-depth analysis on Ethiopia and Eritrea, make sure to check out our Horn of Africa regional page.

Episode 3: Getting Climate Security in Africa on the Agenda for COP27

COP27 will be hosted on the African continent this year and presents a unique opportunity to bring more attention to the already devastating impact of climate change on African countries. While the Global North is producing the majority of emissions driving climate change, its fallout is disproportionately felt in the Global South. Meanwhile, the potential links between climate change as a potential driver for conflict remain largely neglected. To prevent and mitigate climate-induced crises and security risks on the continent, closer cooperation between African leaders and the international community is becoming increasingly urgent.

This week on The Horn, Alan hosts a roundtable with Nazanine Moshiri, Crisis Group’s senior analyst for climate and security in Africa, Robert Muthami, climate change policy expert at the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in Kenya, and Hafsa Maalim, an associate senior researcher with SIPRI, on how African leadership can shape the agenda of this year’s COP27. They discuss the ways in which African leaders and civil society actors take action to mitigate the impact of climate change on the continent and how the international community, particularly the Global North, can help them tackle these challenges. They also address the importance of placing climate-induced security risks higher on the agenda in the COP27 negotiations and highlight the ways in which climate change can potentially drive and shape conflict in African countries.

This episode of The Horn is produced in partnership with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify

You can find out latest publications on climate change and conflict on our COP27 page. For more about this topic, make sure to also check out Crisis Group’s Future of Conflict Program page.

Episode 2: A Big Picture View on the Conflicts and Crises in the Horn of Africa

The Horn of Africa is in a tumultuous period. Armed conflict has returned to Ethiopia’s Tigray region after a humanitarian truce between the federal government and Tigrayan leaders collapsed in August. A political impasse between the military leadership and the civilian pro-democracy movement in Sudan has paralysed the country’s political transition. Meanwhile, the younger generation in the region has become increasingly frustrated with their political leadership and lack of democratic participation. Facing a myriad crises, regional and external actors, including the African Union, European Union and United States, have struggled to facilitate sustainable political progress and stability in the region.

In this episode of The Horn, Alan hosts a roundtable discussion with expert guests Aleu Garang, head of the mediation support unit at the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, Kholood Khair, an independent analyst, and Simon Mulongo, former MP in Uganda and former deputy head of the AU mission to Somalia, about conflicts, crises and the evolving political landscape in the Horn of Africa. They speak about the recent return to armed conflict in northern Ethiopia and how that might affect regional politics. They also assess the prospect of regional and outside actors promoting stability for countries in the Horn. They address the youth’s striving to be integrated into regional politics and how that might affect political change over time. Finally, they talk about finding pathways out of the conflicts and crises in the region.

This episode of The Horn is produced in partnership with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify

For more in-depth analysis on the Horn of Africa check out our Horn of Africa regional page.

Episode 1: Africa in a World between Orders

The African continent is facing a multitude of challenges ranging from food and commodity insecurity worsened by the war in Ukraine, to the climate crisis, strong economic headwinds and ongoing deadly conflict in various areas. Meanwhile, the war in Ukraine has accelerated global political trends unravelling the prevailing order, putting African countries increasingly in the crossfire of geopolitical tussles. Multilateral institutions like the United Nations are struggling to keep up with the flux between crises. 

This week on The Horn, in the new season’s first episode, Alan talks with Comfort Ero, Crisis Group’s president and CEO, to discuss what Africa’s role in a reformed international system might look like. They discuss some of the imbalances of the current order and what the prospects are for a stronger African voice on the world stage. They talk about challenges facing the African Union, what UN Security Council reforms could look like and Africa’s upcoming hosting of the COP27 conference in November. They assess how diplomats can best push for peace amid this unstable status quo, as well as ways for African leaders to address some of Africa’s – and the world’s – most pressing issues.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

You can also listen back to The Horn’s opening episode of Season 2 – two years ago – when Comfort Ero also joined Alan to talk about Peace and Conflict in Africa, Then and Now.

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