AROUND AFRICA: Lord’s Resistance Army, Arms Treaty, Ebola Toll, Algeria Attack, Elections

FLASH POINTS

LRA Commander Capture.

Central African Republic (CIA World Factbook)

Central African Republic
(CIA World Factbook)

Uganda’s military says troops have captured a top commander of murderous Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and freed 10 captives held by the notorious rebel group.

A military spokesman said African troops hunting the LRA in the Central African Republic captured Charles Okello, according to the Voice of America website. Most of those recued were children, the spokesman said.

The LRA started out as a guerrilla group in Uganda in the 1980s but morphed into a renegade band that has roamed Central Africa from South Sudan to the Democratic Republic of Congo, sacking villages, robbing and killing adults and seizing children to be sex slaves and child soldiers. The LRA’s leader, Joseph Kony, has been indicted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the Netherlands for war crimes and crimes against humanity. In 2011, President Barack Obama sent about 100 U.S. special operations forces to advise the military and neighboring countries how to track and capture Kony.

In March, support aircraft and about 150 Air Force personnel were sent to Djibouti to help in the Kony search and capture mission.

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Arms Trade Treaty

With violent conflicts boiling up South Sudan, the Central African Republic and across North Africa, it’s timely to take a look at the effect the international Arms Trade Treaty could have on security issues in Africa. The Center for Strategic and International  Studies in Washington will be holding a panel discussion Wednesday (April 23) on the treaty’s potential impact on conflict.

Last year, the United States signed the ATT, a multilateral agreement to regulate international trade in conventional weapons. Nearly 120 countries have signed the treaty and 31 government have ratified the pact — which has not entered into force yet.

The potential for the treaty to reduce illicit trade could help improve security in areas that need it most — particularly in regions of conflict like Africa, the CSIS said. Speakers at today’s event include: Thomas Countryman, the State Department’s assistant secretary at the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation; Raymond Gilpin, dean of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University; and Jennifer Cooke, director of the CSIS Africa Program.

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Ebola Death Toll

The current outbreak of Ebola virus in West Africa has killed more than 140 people, the World Health Organization.

In a statement Tuesday (April 22), the United Nations health agency said at least 230 suspected or confirmed case of Ebola have been reported in so far in Guinea and Liberia, the Associated Press reported. According to the WHO, there have been 129 deaths in Guinea and 13 in neighboring Liberia that were linked to the disease.

Ebola causes a high fever and external hemorrhaging. There is no cure no vaccine for the disease which has a very high mortality rate.

 *** *** ***

Algerian Troops Killed

Algeria (CIA World Factbook)

Algeria
(CIA World Factbook)

At least 14 Algerian soldiers were killed over the weekend (April 19) when their convoy was ambushed in the mountains east of the capital city, Algiers.

The soldiers were attacked Saturday night in the Tizi Ouzou region, 75 miles east of Algiers. Government officials blamed members of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), an affiliate of the radical Islamist terrorist group, al Qaeda, Reuters reported.

The soldiers were attacked as they were returning from a security deployment for last week’s presidential election[SEE Story Below],  the Algerian Defense Ministry said in a statement. Three militants from AQIM, were also killed in the gunfight.

 

 

ELECTIONS

Algeria

As expected, President Abdelaziz Boutefilka was elected to a fourth term with more than 81 percent of the vote. However, opposition leaders – who boycotted the election – accused Bouteflika and his supporters of widespread voter fraud, the New York Times reported.

The strongest challenger, former Prime Minister Ali Benflis only got 12 percent of the vote. Despite a stroke last year, that has put him in a wheelchair, Bouteflika has kept a strong grip on power, ignoring democratic changes prompted by the Arab Spring uprisings in other parts of North Africa.

Mauritania

Mauritania plans to hold its next presidential election in June.

President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz has not yet announced his candidacy, but his party has asked him to run again, the Associated Press reported. Aziz came to power in a 2008 coup, ousting the West African country’s first democratically elected leader. But he has become a key ally of the West in the fight against terrorism in the Sahara.

The president’s office said elections will be held June 21, with a second round of voting July 5 — if needed.

Nigeria

Nigeria’s elections aren’t until next February, but the Islamist radicals’ campaign of violence has rocked President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration and has politicians bickering as never before, according to the Associated Press.

Attacks on a girl’s school in the north and a bombing at a bus station in the capital have shaken the military’s claims that the insurgents’ war-fighting ability was on the wane.

The country’s two main political parties have each accused the other of supporting the Islamic insurgency for ulterior motives. Some politicians from the predominantly Muslim north say that keeping the insurgency going is a way to weaken the north before the elections. While other politicians accuse some members of the military of keeping the strife going — by colluding with the extremist group Boko Haram — so they can profit financially from the five-year conflict.

Before he dismissed the entire military command in January, Jonathan said he believed there were Boko Haram sympathizers and supporters among his cabinet members and high-ranking military.

Meanwhile, Jonathan will chair a meeting of the National Security Council Thursday (April 24) in Abuja, that will include Nigeria’s 36 state governors and military service chiefs, according to the news site ThisDay Live.

 

 

April 22, 2014 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (April 20-26, 1814)

 

SETBACKS AT SEA.

USS Frolic Captured

The USS Wasp, a sister ship of the USS Frolic, an American sloop-of-war in 1814.

The USS Wasp, a sister ship of the USS Frolic, an American sloop-of-war in 1814.

The  USS Frolic, is one of three new American sloops-of-war, when she first put to sea on February 18, 1814. The other two are the USS Peacock and the US Wasp. During a cruise of the West Indies, between March 29 and April 3, Frolic sinks two British merchant ships and a South American privateer preying on ships of all nations in the Caribbean.

On April 20, 1814 Frolic encounters the British 36-gun frigate HMS Orpheus and the 12-gun schooner HMS Shelburne in the Florida Strait. Frolic tries to outrun the two warships – cutting away an anchor and dumping some of her cannons over the side — but after a six-hour chase, the Orpheus and Shelburne catch up off the coast of Cuba and take Frolic for a prize. The British rename the Frolic the Florida and press her into His Majesty’s Service.

Note: The USS Frolic was named for the HMS Frolic, which lost a seabattle with another Aerican ship named the USS Wasp in 1812. Shortly after that action, more British ships appeared on the scene and captured the Wasp and re-took the badly damaged Frolic as well.

 

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Blockade Extended

Starting on April 25, 1814 the Royal Navy begins extending its blockade of U.S. ports up into the waters  off New England. The British began the blockade in November 1812 when they post ships to discourage merchantmen and warships from leaving port. The blockade is  extended from Long Island to the mouth of the Mississippi River by the middle of 1813.

The British blockade bottles up ships in port, causes economic hardship, drives up prices and — perhaps most importantly — deprives the federal government of much-needed revenue at a time when Congress ddoesn’t want to raise taxes to pay for a larger Army and more ships for the Navy. Federalists oppose the war as bad for business and don’t want to fund it, while the Jeffersonian “War Hawks” from the South and West, think the war will be short won’t need much money. They oppose restoring taxes eliminated during Thomas Jefferson’s administration, according to George Daughan in “1812, The Navy’s War.”

HMS Shannon takes the  American frigate, USS Chesapeake.

HMS Shannon takes the American frigate, USS Chesapeake.

While several U.S. warships like the USS Constitution and USS Essex are able to elude the blockade and wreak havoc on the open seas, the collapse of Napoleon’s empire frees up more British ships for blockade duty — making it increasingly hard for merchantmen and even Navy ships to make their way out to sea. In 1813, the frigate USS Chesapeake was captured by the HMS Shannon when it tries to sail out of Boston Harbor. Other U.S. frigates are trapped in rivers of Connecticut and Virginia.

The British initially spare the maritime economy of New England from blockade for two primary reasons: First they needed the food and other supplies the Yankees were shipping them from Boston, Portsmouth and other New England ports. Secondly, they know the Federalists opposed the war to begin with and anything that can drive a political wedge between New England and the rest of the country will help Britain’s war effort.

But with more ships available, extending the blockade and squeezing New England merchants, ship owners and seamen seems a quicker  strategy. Late in the war, New Englanders will meet in Hartford, Connecticut to consider a solution — possibly even secession from the union.

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 21, 2014 at 6:13 pm Leave a comment

AFRICA: Updates on Abuja Bombing, School Girls Kidnapping

Boko Haram Mayhem

The radical and violent Islamist group Boko Haram is claiming responsibility for a bus station bombing in Nigeria’s capital that killed 75 people last week, according to press reports.

“We are the ones who carried out the attack in Abuja,” Boko Haram’s leader — Abubakar Shekau — said in a video message obtained by the French news service, AFP on Saturday (April 19).  The 28-minute video threatened future attacks with the ominous statement: “We are in your city but you don’t know where we are.” AFP reported.

Monday’s bombing in Abuja, which also injured 141 people, was the first attack in two years on Nigeria’s capital. The death toll is expected to rise, the Associated Press reported, as pathologists determine how many people were blown apart by the huge blast.

The Boko Haram video made no mention of the mass abduction of scores of high school girls from a school compound in turbulent northeast Nigeria. The Nigerian government and local officials in Borno state — where the school is located — have blamed Boko Haram.

Officials originally said all but 85 of the girls have escaped their abductors, but family members dispute those claims, saying 234 girls are missing, according to the AP.

The militant group, whose name is translated as either “Western education is sinful” or “Western education is forbidden,” in the Hausa language of northern Nigeria, has mounted numerous attacks on schools and students as well as churches and government facilities in a five-year campaign to have the largely northern part of Nigeria declared subject to Islamic, “sharia” law. Thousands have been killed in the conflict.

The bombing in the heart of Nigeria, hundreds of miles from Boko Haram’s strongholds has underscored the threat the terrorist group poses to Africa’s most populous nation and biggest economy and oil producer.

April 21, 2014 at 10:59 am 1 comment

FRIDAY FOTO Extra (April 18, 2014)

Hitting the Beach

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Matthew Manning)

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Matthew Manning)

Like a scene out of Saving Private Ryan or The Pacific, U.S. and South Korean Marines make for shore during Exercise Ssang Yong 2014 at Dokseok-ri Beach in Pohang, Republic of Korea  (ROK).

The cloudy brown bursts above the water are simulated artillery fire from the beach defenders while the white smoke is being generated as a screen by the marines’ amphibious assault vehicles (AAVs).  Ssang Yong, which stands for ‘Twin Dragons,” measures the amphibious capabilities of the South Korea-U.S. Navy-U.S. Marine Corps team.

For the exercise, both the ROK and U.S. AAVs were commanded by the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade (MEB) III Marine Expeditionary Force.

Click on the photo above to see an enlarged and more detailed version of this image. To see more photos of this beach assault exercise, click here and here.

 

 

April 18, 2014 at 9:06 pm 1 comment

FRIDAY FOTO (April 18, 2014)

For Purple Mountain Majesties.

(Photo by U.S. Army Capt. John Landry 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division Public Affairs)

(Photo by U.S. Army Capt. John Landry 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division Public Affairs)

A soldier with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division provides security during a live fire exercise at Forward Operating Base Thunder near the Hindu Kush mountain range in Afghanistan’s Paktia province.

To see a photo essay of the live fire exercise, click here.

Don’t forget to click on the photo to see a bigger, sharper image.

 

April 18, 2014 at 1:38 am 2 comments

UNMANNED AIRCRAFT: Google acquires stratospheric drone-maker

Googling Drones.

Titan Aerospace's SOLARA high altitude solar-powered drone at last year's Unmanned Systems expo in Washington (4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

Titan Aerospace’s SOLARA high altitude solar-powered drone at last year’s AUVSI Unmanned Systems expo in Washington.
(4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

Last August when we encountered the folks at Titan Aerospace during the big annual droids, drones and robots exposition in Washington, we never dreamed the New Mexico-based start-up would be the subject to a bidding war between Internet giants.

But that’s what happened earlier this week (April 14), when Titan Aerospace announced it had been acquired by Google. There had been media speculation the company was being courted by Facebook. Titan Aerospace says its solar-power unmanned aircraft can fly for years and do the things a rocket-launched satellite can do — for a fraction of the cost. Among those tasks: serving as a high-flying (50,000 feet or more) communications relay and surveillance aircraft.

Your 4GWAR editor interviewed several Titan Aerospace executives and engineers for an Unmanned Systems magazine piece on unmanned craft driven by alternative power systems. Everyone connected with the small company based in the high desert of New Mexico  seemed young and energetic — and thoroughly convinced of the merit of the SOLARA, the massive unmanned aircrfat they call an “atmospheric satellite.”

Launched by catapult, the SOLARA is expected to soar for as much as five years without landing — powered by thousands of solar cells embedded in composite material of the aircrfat’s wings and fuselage. Google says it wants to use the SOLARA and other technology to bring the Internet to under-served parts of the world.

 

 

 

April 17, 2014 at 11:57 pm 2 comments

AROUND AFRICA: Nigeria Terrorism, Central African Republic, Elections

 FLASH POINTS

Nigeria-Terrorism

Nigeria map (CIA World factbook)

Nigeria
(CIA World factbook)

Scores of teen-age girls have been kidnapped from their secondary school in Northeast Nigeria late Monday (April 14) by armed men believed to be members of the radical Islamist militant group, Boko Haram.

The raid comes just a day after a deadly bus station bombing in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, prompting critics to question the government’s claims of progress in its campaign to suppress the militant group. Hundreds have died this year in attacks attributed to Boko Haram, which means ‘Western education is forbidden (sinful),” in the Hausa language of northern Nigeria.

There are conflicting reports about the number of girls taken and how many escaped their captors. The BBC quoted the Nigerian military as saying all but eight of 129 kidnapped girls have escaped. “But the BBC’s Will Ross in Abuja says there is no independent confirmation of this,” BBC added. Reuters reported between 50 and 100 girls were taken and at least 14 had managed to escape, according to officials.

The Associated Press reported that “about 100 girls” between the ages of 16 and 18 were kidnapped and some of the girls escaped by jumping off a slow-moving truck in the kidnappers’ retreating convoy. Citing a security source, AFP said it was told more than 100 girls remained in captivity.

The gunmen killed a soldier and police officer guarding the girls’ school at Chibok in Nigeria’s Borno state – one of three under an 11-month state of emergency. All schools in Borno state were closed three weeks ago because Boko Haram has been targeting schools and killing or driving off students. The girls’ school was reopened, however, so they could take their final exams, a local government official told reporters.

The girls were believed to have been taken to the rugged Sambisa Forrest near Nigeria’s border with Cameroon, where Boko Haram is reported to have bases. The Islamic extremists have kidnapped girls in the past to serve as cooks and sex slaves.

On Sunday, 75 people were killed and more than 140 wounded in the bombing of a bus station in Abuja just a few miles from the capital’s government buildings. That attack raised concerns that militants’ attacks were no longer confined to the strife-torn northeast, where traditional rivalries between mostly Christian farmers and mainly Muslim herders over land and water rights have morphed into increasingly violent attacks.

No group has claimed responsibility for either the bus station bombing or the mass abduction but President Goodluck Jonathan and other leaders blame Boko Haram, which launched a violent insurgency in 2009 to make the country’s predominantly Muslim north into an Islamic state governed by conservative sharia law. Since 2010, the violence has claimed an estimated 3,600 people in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and biggest oil producer.

*** *** ***

Central African Republic

Troops from France and Cameroon on patrol in the Central African Republic, (Photo by EMA; Copyright: Ministère de la Défense)

Troops from France and Cameroon on patrol in the Central African Republic.
(Photo by EMA; Copyright: Ministère de la Défense)

Fifteen United Nations and private humanitarian agencies are appealing for $274 million to fund emergency aid for people fleeing violence in the Central African Republic, the Voice of America reports. Nearly 200,000 people have fled the C.A.R. since December, but the U.N. expects that number to grow to more than 360,000 by the end of the year.

The crisis stems from months of sectarian violence in one of Africa’s poorest nations. The mayhem began when Muslim-led Seleka rebels seized power a year ago and overthrew the government of longtime President Francois Bozize. In a backlash, predominantly Christian anti-balaka militia members targeted Muslim civilians for revenge and attacked positions held by the rebels.

The U.N. Security Council voted last week (April 10) to send 12,000 troops to quel violence and restore order in the C.A.R. U.N. peacekeepers will relieve about 6,500 African Union soldiers and 2,000 French troops who have struggled to keep the peace in the former French colony.

In Geneva, U.N. officials said the $274 million would be used to meet the needs of refugees from the C.A.R., who have escaped to neighboring Cameroon, Chad, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  Officials in the DRC, where thousands of refugees have fled,  are worried the conflict could threaten the security of the entire region.

Lambert Mende, the DRC’s information minister, says his government is concerned because it shares a 1,600-kilometerf border with the C.A.R. “So whatever can happen there, can impact our security,” he told the Voice of America. He added that the DRC was “very eager” to   contribute to the stabilization effort. The DRC has sent a battalion of soldiers and a unit of plainclothes policemen to the C.A.R, according to Mende.

Central African Republic (CIA World Factbook)

Central African Republic
(CIA World Factbook)

 Chad has withdrawn all of its 850 soldiers in the AU peacekeeping contingent following accusations that Chadian troops aided Muslim rebels in the C.A.R. – which Chad’s government denied, the BBC and AFP reported.

Chad’s President Idriss Deby Itno ordered the pullout after a U.N. investigation found that Chadian troops “opened fire on the population without any provocation” in the capital, Bangui, on March 29. Thirty people were killed and another 300 were injured, according to the U.N. Chad’s foreign ministry dismissed the findings as “malicious,” adding that Chad was being unfairly blamed for the C.A.R.’s woes.

*** *** ***

ELECTIONS

Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso

President Blaise Compaore has been run Burkina Faso since 1987, but a provision of the West African nation’s constitution bars him from running again when his term expires in 2015.

But 50,000 people turned out for a rally calling for the constitution to be amended so Compaore can seek another term, according to an Associated Press report via Al Jazeera.

The rally Saturday (April 12) follows a series of defections of high-level officials in Compaore’s ruling party over concerns that the president would indeed try to change the constitution so he could seek anothjer term.

Algeria

ALGERIA

ALGERIA

Algerians go to the polls Thursday for a presidential election that incumbent President Abdel-Aziz Bouteflika is widely expected to win, the Voice of America reports. Bouteflika, 77, is seeking his fourth term in office, although he has made few public appearances since suffering a stroke last year.

He faces five opposition challengers, but Bouteflika continues to have the backing of the ruling National Liberation Front party. In February, three Algerian opposition parties called for a boycott of the elections after the government announced Bouteflika would seek another five-year term.

Unemployment is now high in Algeria, especially among youth. And despite the North African country’s vast oil and gas resources, much of the population remains poor.

 

 

 

 

 

April 16, 2014 at 11:59 pm 2 comments

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