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Podcast / Africa

The Horn

The Horn of Africa is in turmoil, from revolution in Sudan to the increasing regional reach of Somalia’s Al-Shabaab to the burgeoning political transformation in Ethiopia. In our new podcast series, Alan Boswell, Senior Analyst for South Sudan, and his guests delve behind the headlines and discuss ways to help bring peace and stability to the region. 

Episode 4: Trumpian Minimalism vs East African Realities

In theory, President Trump hoped that minimal engagement would bring big wins in the Horn of Africa: more U.S. trade & investment and seeing off his great power competitors. In practice, multiple surprises have forced U.S. policy into a mode of serial reaction. How are these priorities and realities different from those of his predecessors? And how has he dealt with themes that rarely feature in his usual doctrines, issues like governance, peace and security?

Alan Boswell drills down on U.S. Africa policy with Judd Devermont, Director of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and formerly a senior official at the National Intelligence Council under the Obama Administration.They highlight the importance of multilateralism, democracy and governance in a tumultuous region, the incoherence of U.S. policy toward the rising competition between Gulf Arab states in this part of Africa, and the issues of using great power rivalry as a framework to dictate policy.

Click here to listen on iTunes or Spotify.


After Sudan’s Revolution with Reem Abbas

Sudan’s strongman Omar al-Bashir was swept from power in April after a 30-year dictatorship. A power sharing agreement was signed in August between the military and opposition alliance, which offers the best hope for the country as it transitions away from autocracy. However, the civilian-led government faces monumental challenges, among them a a deeply dysfunctional economy, political polarisation and a powerful security establishment bent on clinging onto power.

Reem Abbas, journalist, activist and researcher, joins Alan Boswell this week to discuss these dynamics and suggest ways forward that can improve the lives of the many millions of disempowered Sudanese who, for decades, have been reduced to dire living conditions, conflict and marginalisation. 

Click here to listen on iTunes or Spotify.

Reem was a contributor to our recent report, Safeguarding Sudan’s Revolution.


Episode 2: On East Africa’s Digital Frontier 

Byte by byte, digital technologies are having a dramatic impact on politics. But while their influence in Western political spaces has been heavily scrutinised, their role in East Africa is only beginning to become widely discussed. 

As Africa attracts greater foreign investment, countries in the Horn find themselves at the intersection of politics and technology. In Sudan, social media offered civilians a space to organise against and eventually oust the repressive regime of Omar al-Bashir. But in Kenya, politicians put big data to work. Long before the U.S. 2016 presidential election, the private data company Cambridge Analytica manipulated the Kenyan electoral discourse, operating with little accountability and stripping away the agency of ordinary people. 

Nanjala Nyabola, who recently authored Digital Democracy, Analogue Politics: How the Internet Era is Transforming Kenya, joins Alan Boswell on The Horn this week. They discuss everything from digital colonialism and the exploitation of technology by state powers to the democratising potential of social media. 

Click here to listen on iTunes or Spotify.

Episode 1: Red Sea Rising 

The Horn of Africa, long an arena of great power competition, today sees a new rivalry playing out on its shores. Gulf countries and Turkey are vying for allies, influence and physical presence in the Red Sea corridor. They are injecting resources, but also exporting rivalries in ways that could destabilise fragile politics in the region.

Alan Boswell is joined by Elizabeth Dickinson, our Senior Analyst for the Arabian Peninsula and formerly a reporter for publications like Foreign Policy and The Economist. On this week’s episode, they discuss the risks of Red Sea rivalries and also the opportunities. 

Click here to listen on iTunes or Spotify.

For more information, see our report: Intra-Gulf Competition in Africa’s Horn: Lessening the Impact.

The Horn podcast series is produced by Maeve Frances.


Pilot Episode: How Women’s Support Energises Somalia’s Al-Shabaab

Al-Shabaab has a surprisingly large social base among Somali women, despite the insurgent group’s patriarchal ethos, strict gender ideology and brutal methods. Horn of Africa expert Alan Boswell talks with our Senior Analyst on Gender Azadeh Moaveni about Crisis Group’s field research on women’s roles within the movement, from intelligence gathering, to fundraising, to arms carrying and to recruitment. She also draws on Crisis Group recent work in northeastern Nigeria and Syria.