Russian Mercenaries in the Central African Republic Uphold a Problematic Status Quo

A few days ago, Russian mercenaries affiliated with the Wagner Group indiscriminately opened fire on a village in the Central African Republic (CAR), killing seventeen people. How has the international community responded to such incidents? Some multilateral groups, like the United Nations Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries, have focused on the specific dangers of Russian security contractors. But while it is important to criticize the egregious human rights abuses attributed to the Wagner Group in the CAR, better analysis would characterize its footprint in the CAR as a maintenance and exacerbation of the status quo in a conflict defined by profit motives and zero-sum political competition.

The Multifaceted Roots of Post-Apartheid South Africa’s Persistent Economic Inequality

Overall, this paper aims to explore and identify the roots and dynamics that cause economic inequality to persist in post-apartheid South Africa. While conducting research for this investigation, familiar themes arose. After sifting through numerous sources, I realized that all of the core arguments and elements of my three critical analysis papers this semester—which focused on the African continent more broadly—were evident and possessed explanatory power vis-à-vis the persistence of economic inequality in post-apartheid South Africa. Therefore, I will structure this paper around the three critical analysis papers’ core arguments (in reverse order) and demonstrate how the involved dynamics accurately explain the source and continuation of economic inequality in post-apartheid South Africa. A brief overview of the three papers’ arguments and how they will proxy in the case study of post-apartheid South Africa will subsequently be provided, followed by the main argumentative sections that expatiate the details.

Central African Republic Civil War (CPC Phase): Conflict Stakeholder, Mobilization & Network Analysis

In December 2020, eight years into the Central African Republic’s (CAR) civil war and roughly a week before the latest presidential election, six of the country’s rebel groups—who at the time controlled two-thirds of national territory—formed Coalition des patriotes pour le changement (CPC). Though opportunistic alliances among previously-warring factions were not a new phenomenon, the rapid territorial gains which reached the outskirts of the capital, Bangui, gave credence to its legitimacy, despite the lack of centralization among its constituent members. This report will primarily focus on the time period December 2020 to May 2021, at which point the CPC had lost much of its territorial gains. Drawing from the USAID Conflict Assessment Framework (Version 2.0), this report employs both a stakeholder and mobilization political economy analysis (PEA) and a political network analysis (PNA). The PEA investigates eleven key individuals involved in the conflict: President Faustin-Archange Touadéra, Héritier Doneng, Yevgeny Prigozhin, President Vladimir Putin, François Bozizé, Nourredine Adam, Ali Darassa, Mahamat al-Khatim, Sidiki Abass, Maxime Mokom, and Dieudonné Ndomate. Through the PEA, this report seeks to demonstrate that profit motives for elite actors in CAR constitute the preeminent driver of conflict, through which they use disbursed financial incentives, offerings of political power, and/or ethnic/religious grievances to mobilize fighters necessary to achieve their economic goals. Building on these concepts, the PNA serves to demonstrate—in contrast to some popular notions regarding deep-rooted ethnic/religious tensions structuring the conflict—that the personal alliances formed during the CPC phase of the war were driven by profit motives, overcoming both ethnic/religious tensions and even bringing together former enemies.

The Role of Biased Historiography in Justifying the Continuation of the Great Divergence

Studying African history in the period of 1800 to the present is a story of economic and political exploitation that engendered the Great Divergence of today, a bifurcation of the world that gave rise to characterizations of First World/Third World, Global North/Global South, and developed/developing. In order to understand the roots of this bifurcation, it is imperative to begin the historical examination in the 15th and 16th centuries. During this time period, the comparative development levels between Europe and Africa were far more equal than they stand today, but a few critical advantages possessed by the Europeans at the outset of their trade with Africa allowed for the gradual development of dependent economic relations that laid the groundwork for colonialism, the ultimate determinant in bringing about the Great Divergence. Though (neo)colonial representations of African history may insinuate that Europeans are inherently or had always been superior to Africans, this paper seeks to highlight how a few advantages possessed by Europeans in the 15th and 16th centuries brought about not only the Great Divergence of development, but also a divergence in historiography that justified the continuation of such global inequality.

The Gendered Nature of the Economy on the Zambian Copperbelt and its Uneven Impact on the Development of Cultural Modernity

Ever since mining companies’ placement of restrictions on women’s independent sources of income engendered a male-dominant and -dependent economic structure on the Copperbelt, familial relations have become the source of micropolitical and microeconomic contestations between male mineworkers and the other inhabitants of the Copperbelt (e.g., wives, extended family) who make claims on their earning power (Ferguson, 1999). The social and cultural dynamics resulting from such a gender-economic structure had uneven effects on the development of modernity. While the recognition of class consciousness, use of industrial action, and the establishment of formalized class-based associations/unions constitute an achievement of modern cultural forms, the continued lack of a nuclear family norm represents the maintenance of some traditional forms of societal life, and thus a contradiction of modernity.

Economic Statecraft, Media Influence Strategies, and the Impact on Public Perceptions of Chinese Influence in African Countries

This paper empirically demonstrates that in African countries with higher proportions of citizens who believe electricity and water supply to be national priorities as well as higher proportions of citizens who consume news from television, positive perceptions of Chinese influence are higher. By identifying these relationships, this paper contributes to the discourse on Chinese economic statecraft and soft power in Africa, theorizing that economic statecraft is only effective when conducted in tandem with media strategies that attribute development projects to Chinese investment. Click post to view full paper.

The Humanitarian Hypocrisy of US Counterterrorism Policies in Uganda

The main analysis section of this paper provides examples of two humanitarian crises, the War in Northern Uganda and the abuse of the political opposition, and illustrates how the US is responsible for such humanitarian violations via two mechanisms: contributing directly to the abuses by supporting the Ugandan military which carries/allows them to be carried out, and accepting such abuses either as a result of the Ugandan government's use of anti-terrorism rhetoric to justify them or simply in order to maintain the counterterrorism partnership, thereby allowing such abuses to continue. Within this main analysis section, quotes from US officials and agencies are provided to highlight the hypocrisy of US humanitarian goals given its counterterrorism policies, with the exemplified crises and mechanisms evoking America’s culpability. Following the main analysis section, the latest US actions to address human rights issues are considered, raising the possibility that the two-decades long hypocritical policies might come to an end under the newly inaugurated Biden administration. However, the final section concludes that while progress is possible, the past twenty years of the US-Uganda counterterrorism partnership have not only undermined human rights and the humanitarian agenda purportedly championed by the US government, but that the counterterrorism partnership has ended up supporting state-sponsored domestic terrorism as well. 

Multilateral Trade Agreements Should Constitute the Cornerstone of Biden’s US-Africa Policy

On November 24, 2020, in her nomination acceptance speech to become the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield declared, “America is back. Multilateralism is back.” President Joe Biden echoed these remarks at the 2021 Munich Security Conference, proclaiming “America is back. The transatlantic alliance is back.” While this recommitment to multilateralism is welcome, it is imperative that the Biden Administration’s conception of ‘transatlantic multilateralism’ not be limited to that of relations with Western Europe.