Africa File: Political crises rock Chad and Somalia; Islamic State insurgency robs Mozambique of billions

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Political crises in Chad and Somalia risk expanding into larger conflicts while lifting pressure from Salafi-jihadi groups in several African regions. Longtime Chadian President Idris Deby was killed amid fighting with rebel groups. The Chadian military has moved to take control of the country, including cracking down on protests against military rule. Chad is a base for Western counterterrorism forces and a regional troop contributor whose domestic instability will disrupt operations against Salafi-jihad groups in Mali and the Lake Chad Basin.

Unrest has also seized Somalia’s capital following the president’s attempt to extend his term by two years. The country’s security forces are fragmenting, and rival factions have staked out positions in the capital. Former allies pressured the president to abandon the term extension on April 27, possibly averting an immediate conflict, but Somalia’s political crisis will not be easily resolved. Meanwhile, al Shabaab—al Qaeda’s East Africa affiliate—has already exploited the crisis to bolster its positions in the Somali countryside.

Salafi-jihadi insurgencies are already exacting a steep cost in Africa in both lives and dollars. The French company Total suspended a multibillion-dollar investment in Mozambique this week due to an Islamic State–linked insurgency in the country’s north. The loss of the project—the largest source of private investment in Africa—is a devastating blow to Mozambique’s pursuit of economic growth. As CTP Research Manager Emily Estelle recently argued in Foreign Policy, “Africa’s rise to prosperity could be the defining story of the coming decades. But that won’t happen if hundreds of thousands lives under Salafi-jihadi dominance, with huge swathes of terrain becoming permanent terrorist havens, and millions displaced by violence.”

In this Africa File:

  • Lake Chad. Domestic instability is disrupting Chadian involvement in regional counterterrorism efforts. The Islamic State’s West Africa Province is escalating sophisticated attacks on security forces in Nigeria.
  • Sahel. An Al Qaeda–linked group is intensifying its efforts to control populations in central Mali by clashing with rival armed groups.
  • Somalia. Somalia’s president backed away from an attempted power grab as rival factions grapple for control of Mogadishu, leaving al Shabaab to fill security vacuums outside the capital.
  • Mozambique. A multibillion-dollar natural gas project was suspended in northern Mozambique following escalating attacks by an Islamic State–linked group.
  • Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s June elections are a flashpoint for insecurity that threatens the country’s cohesion.
  • Tunisia. The murderer of a French policewoman may have been in contact with a Tunisia-based Salafi-jihadi group.

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