From GSPC to AQIM: The evolution of an Algerian islamist terrorist group into an Al-Qa‘ida Affiliate and its implications for the Sahara-Sahel region
6 June 2010
Al-Qa‘ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Algeria’s largest and most active Islamist terrorist organization, was formerly known as the Groupe salafiste pour la Prédication et le Combat, and usually referred to by its French acronym (GSPC, Salafist Group for Call/Preaching and Combat). It began in the late 1990s as a splinter faction of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), then fighting a bloody insurgency against the Algerian military government with the goal of establishing an Islamic state. GSPC/AQIM eclipsed its predecessor and remains active not only in Algeria but also in the neighboring Sahelian states. Best known for its raids and bombings against Algerian military bases and convoys, the group has also perpetrated kidnappings of European tourists and terrorist attacks in Mauritania and Mali. It has likewise been linked to planned strikes in Europe, as well as to smuggling and human trafficking across the vast Sahara. This article will examine the transformation of the GSPC, whose stated goal was the overthrow of Algeria’s long-ruling secular nationalist government, into AQIM, a participant in the global jihad allegedly committed to the destruction of the “Far Enemy.”
6 June 2010
The lack of resolution of the Western Sahara conflict boils down to two main points: the conflicting positions of Morocco and Western Saharan nationalists, on the one hand, and geopolitical considerations, on the other hand. These geopolitical interests have been the main impediment to the resolution of the conflict because they strengthened the obstinate position of Morocco, which argues, thanks to external support, that it will only negotiate on the basis of ‘autonomy’ within Moroccan sovereignty. This proposal currently enjoys the implicit consent of France, the United States, and Spain, regardless of UN resolutions that refute any preconditions for the current negotiations.
4 May 2010
While foreign land acquisitions in Africa are no recent phenomenon, the last several decades have witnessed an unprecedented level of large-scale land acquisitions all over the continent; millions of hectares of land in Africa are increasingly claimed by and leased out to transnational entities, government businesses, multinational corporations, and international organisations. Sometimes referred to as “neo-colonialism” due to their resemblance to colonial land exploits, these acquisitions have been largely driven by a global “scramble” for food security and access to natural resources.
20 April 2010
The “Global Food Security” bill is back. After its introduction in the Senate a year ago, Bill Gates and Bill Clinton have been quietly pressing for this piece of legislation that aims to fight global hunger with one hand while orchestrating a giant taxpayer subsidy to pesticide and ag biotech companies with the other. The bill, also known as the Lugar-Casey Act — for Senators Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Robert Casey (D-PA) — would refocus aid programs on agricultural development, with a caveat: public funding of genetically engineered (GE) seeds is what this bill means by “agricultural development.”
1 April 2010
The conference takes place at a time when there are major debates regarding U.S. policy towards Zimbabwe in light of the formation of the Inclusive Government. A key question of contention is whether the U.S. should continue with the Zimbabwe Economic and Democracy Recovery Act (of 2001) and the Executive Order of 2003, both of which impose targeted sanctions on Zimbabwe, or move to a new policy of support and engagement with the Inclusive Government. In the last few months there have been congressional initiatives to review current U.S. legislation on Zimbabwe and explore opportunities for a new U.S. policy with both the House and Senate holding hearings on Zimbabwe. As a sign of an already changing U.S. policy, there have been two high-level bi-partisan Congressional delegations to Zimbabwe in the last six months – a major policy shift given the fact that the U.S. had practically cut ties with Zimbabwe prior to the formation of the Inclusive Government.
7 January 2010
Bill Sutherland, unofficial ambassador between the peoples of Africa and the Americas for over fifty years, died peacefully on the evening of January 2, 2010. He was 91. A life-long pacifist and liberation advocate, Sutherland became involved in civil rights and anti-war activities as a youthful member of the Student Christian Movement in the 1930s.
29 December 2009
World-renowned political organizer and one of Africa’s most celebrated poets, Dennis Brutus, died early on December 26 in Cape Town, in his sleep, aged 85. Even in his last days, Brutus was fully engaged, advocating social protest against those responsible for climate change, and promoting reparations to black South Africans from corporations that benefited from apartheid. He was a leading plaintiff in the Alien Tort Claims Act case against major firms that is now making progress in the US court system.
10 December 2009
Jennifer Davis, Executive Director of Africa Action’s predecessor organizations is set to receive one of South Africa’s highest honors, the Order of the Companions of O. R. Tambo.
19 November 2009
The first part of the title of this book is a play on a statement made by Zwelinzima Vavi, Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) general secretary, in 2005. At the time Vavi had said that any attempt to stop Zuma, then the ANC’s deputy president as he was preparing a challenge to Thabo Mbeki’s leadership, would be like ‘… trying to fight against the big wave of a tsunami’. The editors of this volume suggest that the most recent general election in South Africa, April 2009, was mainly a referendum on Jacob Zuma. Though a number of other developments were also interesting — a decline in national support for the ANC with the exception of KwaZulu-Natal (it lost 5-10% of its vote share in eight of the nine provinces), the emergence of the new opposition party, the Congress of the People (COPE), among others— events around Zuma since 2005 dominated these elections.
19 November 2009
Three of the first four South African presidents — Nelson Mandela, Kgalema Motlanthe, and now Jacob Zuma — were incarcerated on Robben Island for substantial periods of time. (Govan Mbeki, the father of the fourth and longest-serving president to date, Thabo Mbeki, served 23 years in the island prison.) Moreover, Zuma told Motlanthe about Robben Island long before the Motlanthe’s own imprisonment, in a sense preparing the younger man for what might — and did — await him.