Posts tagged ‘Africa’
AFRICAN ELECTIONS 2013 -UPDATE- (Updates with Keita winning in Mali after opponent concedes.)
Voters in the war-ravaged West African nation of Mali went to the polls again Sunday (August 11, 2013) to pick a president in a run-off election between the top two vote getters in last month’s polling.
On Monday night (August 12) underdog candidate Soumaila Cisse conceded, handing the election to Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, a former prime minister of Mali.
Cisse went to Keita’s house 24 hours after the polls closed, to concede defeat and wish him well. He made it official at a televised press conference today (August 13) where he said he was acting to avoid weakening the country or damaging national unity..
Unofficial results showed Keita with a strong lead. Cisse’s move was greeted with relief by many Malians traumatized by 18 months of violence and uncertainty brought on by a revolt in the north, a military coup in the capital and a counter insurgency intervention by French troops, according to the Voice of America.
Cisse urged Malians to accept the result even though he told reporters at the news conference that he believed there were serious irregularities and incidents of ballot-box stuffing, the Los Angeles Times reported. Cisse said he had not made plans to challenge the result.
The wide open field – 27 candidates – was winnowed down in the July 28 vote to just two contenders: Cisse, a former cabinet minister from Timbuktu and Keita, a one-time prime minister and former National Assembly president from the southern part of Mali.
Keita – widely known by his initials IBK – appears to be the frontrunner, according to the Voice of America. He led the first round with 39 percent of ballots and almost all of the other 26 first-round candidates backing him in the run-off, according to the Voice of America website.
Nearly 50 percent of Mali’s 6.8 million registered voters cast a ballot in first round election last month July. A lot is at stake in the election. The winner will oversee more than $4 billion in foreign aid promised by France and the United States to rebuild Mali, the BBC reported. Final tallies of the vote are not expected until Friday.
Mali, regarded as one of West Africa’s few successful democracies, plunged into chaos last year when Tuareg mercenaries – returning from fighting for Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafy – launched the latest in a series of independence revolts in the country’s desert north. That led to a military coup in March 2012 that ousted the democratically-elected president, Amadou Toumani Toure.
The revolt in Bamako, the nation’s capital, emboldened the Tuaregs who swept over the Texas-sized northern half of the country – backed by Islamic extremists, many from outside of Mali. At the request of the government in Bamako, French air and ground forces intervened, driving the rebels back into the mountains before they could seize the capital. France, the former colonial ruler, said the intervention was necessary to keep the country from turning into a safe haven for terrorists to attack targets in Europe.
Meanwhile, a 12,600-strong United Nations Stabilization Mission in Mali (Minusma) is deploying to take over security, as France begins to withdraw its 3,000 troops.
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The ruling party in the small West African nation of Togo, has increased its majority in the national legislature following last month’s elections. And that has increased the control President Faure Gnassingbe holds over the country of six million.
Opposition activists say that the ruling Unir party’s 62-seat majority victory was the product of a rigged election. They worry that the party will use its majority to pass reforms allowing Gnassingbé – whose family has ruled tiny Togo since 1967 – to remain in office indefinitely, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
Voters went to the polls July 28. About 1,200 candidates competed for 91 seats in the National Assembly.
The electoral commission said the Unir party won 62 of 91 seats, up from 50 of the legislature’s then-81 seats in 2007. There have been no elections to the National Assembly in the intervening six years.
One family has controlled the government since 1967 when Etienne Gnassingbe Eyadema came to power through a coup and ruled for 38 years until his death in 2005. The military — dominated by the family’s Kabye ethnic group — picked his son, Faure Gnassingbe, to take over.
The opposition party leader, Gilchrist Olympio, is the son of Togo’s first post-independence president who was gunned down in 1963 by assassins outside the U.S. Embassy in the capital Lome.
Despite one family/one party rule all those years, politics in Togo is complicated according to an article in The Economist.
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When the votes were counted in Zimbabwe following last month’s presidential and legislative elections, one of the few people unsurprised by the outcome was President Robert Mugabe.
The 89-year-old Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980, won a crushing 61 percent of the vote and his ZANU-PF Party took two-thirds of the seats in the Southeast African nation’s parliament.
But the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Party has claimed massive fraud and has gone to court to overturn the election.
The size of Mugabe’s latest electoral victory raised eyebrows in Zimbabwe. In the first round of voting in the previous presidential election in 2008, he won fewer votes than Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the MDC. But Mr. Tsvangirai refused to participate in a runoff because of violent state-sponsored attacks on his supporters, according to the New York Times. More than 200 people died in post election violence, with thousands more beaten and intimidated.
It is unclear when Mugabe will be sworn in for a new term. Under Zimbabwe’s constitution, once there is litigation,administering the oath of office is withheld until the case is finalized. The constitutional court has 14 days to dispose of the case, according to the Voice of America website. If the election is nullified, fresh polls will be called in 60 days. If the case is dismissed, Mugabe will be sworn in within 48 hours after the ruling.
Zimbabwe’s election is expected to dominate the meeting of Southern African leaders in Malawi next week, according to VoA. In 2008, African leaders refused to recognize the 2008 Mugabe victory and forced him and Tsvangirai to form a fragile power-sharing government with the MDC as the junior partner.
Nairobi Airport Fire
Some international flights have resumed at Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta Airport, which was severely damaged by a fire that raged out of control for several hours, the BBC reported Thursday (August 8).
The busiest airport in East Africa and the 6th busiest on the continent was hard hit by the early morning blaze Wednesday (August 7) which destroyed the terminal for international flights. There were no reported deaths or injuries.
Some responding fire trucks were reportedly caught in morning traffic jams and other trucks ran out of water, the BBC said.
However, there were embarrassing reports that foreign exchange bureaus at the airport were broken into and robbed — possibly by some emergency responders, who were criticized for a slow response to the inferno, the Los Angeles Times reported. ATMs and safes were also reported targets of looting.
By late in the day domestic and cargo flights were operating again and international flights were moved to a different part of the airport. The damage is expected to have a serious effect on Kenya’s economy which relies heavilly on tourism and the export of cut flowers – two industries heavilly reliant on air transportation, according to the New York Times.
The Nairobi airport is a regional hub serving more than 16,000 passengers daily and its closure caused widespread disruption.
The massive fire occurred on the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on U.S. Embassies in Kenya and neighboring Tanzania, which killed more than 200 people. Officials in Nairobi said there was no evidence of terrorist sabotage.
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Back in March, a rebel group known as the Seleka drove into Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic (C.A.R.), launching a wave of murder, theft, abduction and rape.
Now, even the prime minister, handpicked by the rebels, calls the landlocked country’s condition “catastrophic,” according to the New York Times.
The current unrest has set off alarms, the Times reports “with humanitarian groups warning of a looming disaster of widespread malnutrition and disease because the economy has shut down, aid has stopped, international aid workers have fled the countryside and violence outside the capital has prevented farmers from tending their crops.”
The C.A.R. has been ravaged by years of instability and fighting which picked up again in December when the rebels first launched a series of attacks. A peace agreement was reached in January but the rebels invaded the capital again in March.
Following a visit to the C.A.R., Ivan Simonovic, the United Nations Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights, said “security is virtually non-existent and people live in constant fear,” according to the UN News Service (via AllAfrica).
Two young British women who were doing volunteer work at a school on the island of Zanzibar were attacked with acid by men on a motorbike, Reuters reported.
The women, both 18, sustained burns to the face, chest and back and were taken off the island and transported to a hospital in Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania. The island, part of an Indian Ocean archipelago that is a semi-autonomous part of Tanzania, has suffered a wave of deadly protests last year as supporters of an Islamist group repeatedly clashed with the police.
But police described the attack as “an isolated incident”, and refused to link it to rising religious tension between majority Muslims and Zanzibar’s Christian population.
Turkish facility attacked
The Islamist militant group, al Shabaab, has claimed responsibility for a bombing at the Turkish Embassy compound in Somalia that killed at least five people including three suicide bombers, the Associated Press reports.
The Saturday (July 27) attack struck a building housing Turkish embassy staff in Mogadishu, the Somali capital. A Turkish security official and a Somali student were killed as well as the three militants, AP said. CNN International reports that a second Turkish security guard was dead.
Al Shabaab, which espouses an ultra strict form of Islam, has been linked to al Qaeda and other attacks in war-ravaged Somalia. Al Shebaab was driven out of Mogadishu two years ago by troops from Somalia and other African countries. But the militants have kept up guerrilla-style attacks and continue to control large rural areas of the East African country, according to Reuters.
Turkey, a NATO ally of the United States, has been playing a big role in Somalia’s reconstruction, including street renovations and building new schools and hospitals, according to the AP and CNN.
AFRICAN ELECTIONS 2013
In the small West African nation of Togo, voters went to the polls Sunday (July 28) to elect their legislature. About 1,200 candidates competed for 91 seats in National Assembly.
The president of Togo’s electoral commission said late Sunday that provisional results show the ruling party increased its share of the legislature in the election — dealing a blow to opposition leaders who had hoped recent signs of discontent would translate into electoral gains, according to the Associated Press.
The electoral commission said the Union for the Republic party won 62 of 91 seats, up from 50 of the legislature’s then-81 seats in 2007.
There have been no elections to the National Assembly in the intervening six years, according to the Christian Science Monitor. And Sunday’s vote was seen as an important next step in the nation’s transition to full democracy.
One family has controlled the government since 1967 when Etienne Gnassingbe Eyadema came to power through a coup and ruled for 38 years until his death in 2005. The military picked his son, Faure Gnassingbe, to rule the country of 7 million.
The opposition party leader, Gilchrist Olympio, is the son of Togo’s first post-independence president who was gunned down in 1963 by assassins outside the U.S. Embassy in the capital Lome.
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War-ravaged Mali in West Africa began electing a president Sunday (July 28). According to the Voice of America, there are 27 candidates ranging from several former prime ministers to a geologist with little political experience and a woman from the northern part of the country who stood up to Tuareg rebels and militant Islamists.
Mali, once one of West Africa’s few successful democracies, plunged into chaos when Tuareg mercenaries – returning from fighting for Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafy – launched the latest in a series of revolts in the country’s desert north. That led to a military coup ousting the democratically-elected president.
The army revolt in Bamako, the nation’s capital emboldened the Tuaregs who swept over the Texas-sized northern half of the country – backed by Islamic extremists from in and out of Mali. At the request of the government in Bamako, French air and ground forces intervened, driving the rebels back into the mountains before they could seize the capital.
France, the former colonial ruler, said the intervention was necessary to keep the country from turning into a safe haven for terrorists to attack targets in Europe.
Mali has nearly 7 million registered voters but voter turnout has never exceeded 40 percent, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
In The Know
ASPEN, Colorado – Here at 4GWAR, we’ve written about the topic of Human Geography numerous times before. Nevertheless, we were surprised at how often that concept – if not the actual phrase – came up in discussions at the Aspen Security Forum in the Rocky Mountains last week.
Human Geography is a multi-discipline study of not only the physical nature of the earth but the people who live on it and how they relate among themselves and with others along political, economic, cultural, linguistic and geographic lines.
The need for cultural awareness and background knowledge of people and places where the United States may conduct future military and humanitarian operations came up several times during the four-day annual gathering of defense and homeland security experts from government, academia and the corporate world.
With U.S. combat activities in Iraq over, and ending soon in Afghanistan, speakers and panels discussed the new challenges facing the United States.
“You really gotta know the place,” said Ambassador Rick Barton, assistant secretary of State for Conflict and Stabilization Operations, describing the complexity of sorting out potential partners among the scores of opposition groups in the Syrian civil war. Time, effort and money need to be spent on acquiring the right intelligence, he added. “If you’re really going to be effective in a place, you’ve really got to have a sense of the context and the balance” he said during a panel discussion on the U.S. role in preventing conflicts.
Speaking on the same panel, Adm. Bill McRaven, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) – which oversees the Green Berets, Navy Seals and other special operations forces – said cultural awareness (one of the key aspects of human geography studies) was a key to training partner nations to defend themselves against terrorists. “When we put people into a country they need to speak the language, they need to be culturally aware of what’s going,” McRaven said. But after 10 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan many of those skill sets have eroded for other parts of the world. “So we are reinvigorating the language programs and reinvigorating the cultural awareness programs,” he said. SOCOM units, like SEAL teams, will be realigned within the various regional combatant commands such as Africa Command and Pacific Command “so that the right people will speak the right languages and understand the right cultures,” McRaven added.
“The problem, of course is the way Americans always come into a country with which there is enormous cultural difference. They don’t always appreciate cultural difference,” Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the United States, told another panel discussion on Iraq and Afghanistan. He spoke of 20-something troops and contractors “not knowing how to be deferential to the elders, not knowing how to deal with the mullahs, not understanding the sectarian and religious concentrations.”
And the former head of U.S. Africa Command, Gen. Carter Ham (ret.) noted “it’s a particular challenge in Africa, because of the diversity of cultures and languages” as well as religious, ethnic and tribal distinctions. “We have a long way to go,” he said. But he also noted that the assistance of experienced foreign service and U.S.AID officers has helped in the past and McRaven’s promised deployment of special operations forces with cultural skills tailored to the regional combatant commands’ area of responsibility will help in the future.
In a story out this week in Special Operations Technology magazine, your 4GWAR editor examines how special operators are combining new technology and old skills in human geography for missions like foreign internal defense and civil affairs operations. The explosion of social networking and geospatial imagery on the Internet has added many new tools for human geographers and intelligence gatherers. To read more, visit Special Operations Technology magazine, by clicking here.
Billion Dollar Deal
China has agreed to provide $1.1 billion in low interest loans to oil-rich Nigeria to pay for much-needed infrastructure in Africa’s most populous country.
The money will help build roads, airport terminals in four cities and a light rail line for Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. China is investing heavily in Africa as a source of oil and other natural resources, according to the BBC. Chinese companies, under contracts worth $1.7 billion, are already building roads across Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer.
The agreement was signed Wednesday (July 10) by Nigerian Prersident Goodluck Jonathan and Chinese leader Xi Jinping during Jonathan’s four-day visit to Beijing.
The Associated Press reported that China’s demand for crude oil produced in Nigeria is expected to rise tenfold to 200,000 barrels a day by 2015, according to information provided by a team accompanying Jonathan.
Zang Chun, an expert on Africa at the Shanghai Institute of Foreign Studies, told the AP that Nigeria is important to China because it has the largest economy in West Africa and because it has oil.
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Obama in Africa
During his three-nation tour of Africa earlier this month, President Barack Obama pledged U.S. investment in a plan to double electrical capacity in sub-Saharan Africa.
Obama, who visited Senegal in West Africa, South Africa and finally the East African nation of Tanzania during his eight-day trip, spoke about food security and announced a $7 billion investment to double electrical capacity in sub-Saharan Africa.
On his last day in Tanzania, Obama visited the Ubungo Symbion Power Plant near Dar es Salaam, to focus on the lack of electrical power for most residents of sub-Saharan Africa. investing $7 billion in financial support for an initiative called “Power Africa.” Tanzania is one of the initial six participating countries where the government hopes to add 10,000 megawatts of generation capacity and reach 20 million households that lack electricity.
“Public and private resources will be matched with projects led by African countries that are taking the lead on reform,” Obama said. “In this case, African governments commit to energy reforms. And the U.S. is committing some $7 billion in support, and private sector companies have already committed more than $9 billion. And this is just the beginning,” he added “because we look forward to even more companies joining this effort.”
Speaking to U.S. and African business leaders in Dar Es Salaam, Obama announced that new U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker would lead a “major trade initiative” to Africa in her first year at the Commerce Department, the New York Times reported.
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Food Security Threat
A deteriorating food security situation in northeastern Uganda could affect an estimated 1.2 million people, according to reports from the government and aid agencies.
A June 2013 analysis, led by the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, revealed that up to 975,000 people in the semi-arid Karamoja region face “stressed” levels of food insecurity, while 234,000 more cannot meet their minimum food needs, according to IRIN.
Food security – or the lack of it – is considered a potential security issue by U.S. Intelligence officials. In their 2013 Worldwide Threat Assessment, the U.S. Intelligence Community says “terrorists, militants and international crime organizations can use declining food security to promote their own legitimacy and undermine government authority. Growing food insecurity in weakly governed countries could lead to political violence and provide opportunities for existing insurgent groups to capitalize on poor conditions, exploit international food aid and discredit governments for their inability to address basic needs.”
Meanwhile, African leaders meeting in Ethiopia earlier this month pledged to make agriculture a higher priority in their national policies and increase spending witrh a goal of ending hunger across the continent by 2025, The Guardian reported.
At the conclusion of meeting at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, ministers committed to working with the private sector, farmers’ groups, civil society and academia to increaase productivity – while addressing the underlying causes of malnutrition.
Despite strong economic growth across many parts of Africa over the past 10 years, nearly a quarter of the population – about 240 million people – are undernourished, of whom more than 40 percent are children under five, according to the Guardian.
Of the 20 countries in the world suffering from prolonged food shortages, 17 are in Africa, according to José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
In an interview with the news agency Inter Press Service, da Silva said Africa is entering a new era “with greater investment in agriculture, and that stronger coordination between governments, civil society organizations and the private sector would make the goal of zero hunger in Africa realistic by 2025.”
President Barack Obama leaves Washington Wednesday (June 26) for an eight-day trip where he will visit South Africa — Africa’s largest economy — Senegal in West Africa and Tanzania in East Africa. Obama will not be visiting Tanzania’s neighbor, Kenya, his late-father’s birthplace. Details here.
Officials from the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Cyber Command, the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps are slated speakers. Details here.
And on Thursday (June 27) Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks at the Brookings Institution on the military’s role in cyberspace and the threat posed by cyber attacks. Details here.
Maritime Domain Awareness
C-SIGMA, a maritime domain awareness group, co-founded by the former science and technology adviser to the U.S. Coast Guard holds a two-day conference on monitoring ocean-going vessels from space via a global network of satellites starting Wednesday (June 26) in Cork, Ireland. Details here.
On the Brink
A U.S. Marine prepares to exit the back of an MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft high above Djibouti near the Horn of Africa.
The Marines — from the Maritime Raid Force with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) – were conducting parachute operations with French special operations forces in May.
The Osprey can take off and land like a helicopter and fly like an airplane. The one is this photo is assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 266. The 26th MEU is a Marine Air-Ground Task Force deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility with the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group.
To see more spectacular photos of this jump, as well as what the Osprey looks like in flight — and the very interesting headgear of the French parachutists, click here.
Arms Cache Found
Nigerian authorities say they have uncovered a large cache of automatic weapons and explosives belonging to the Lebanese terrorist group, Hezbollah, the BBC reports. Authorities say they found the weapons, including rocket propelled grenades, hand grenades, AK-47 assault rifles and anti-tank mines in a warehouse in the northern city of Kano.
Three Lebanese were arrested, an Army spokesman said, insisting that officials had uncovered a Hezbollah cell. Northern Nigeria, where Kano sits, has been wracked by violence over the last three years since Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group launched an insurgency to overthrow Nigeria’s government and establish fundamentalist Sharia law in Nigeria. An estimated 3,000 people have died in Boko Haram-sparked violence, the government said.
President Gooluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in three regions – Borno, Yobe and Adamawa – and he has admitted that the government has lost control in parts of those states, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
Pirates Attack oil tanker
Armed pirates attacked an oil products tanker off the coast of Nigeria in West Africa and abducted an unknown number of crew, Reuters reports. Shipping costs have increased as acts of piracy increase in the Gulf of Guinea region, which includes Africa’s leading oil producer Nigeria. According to Reuters, gunmen boarded the Nigerian-flagged MT Matrix in the early hours Saturday (May 25) about 40 nautical miles off the coast of Nigeria in a stretch of water often targeted by pirates.
There were 12 Pakistani and five Nigerian crew members aboard the vessel when it was attacked, sources told Reuters. International navies have not launched counter-piracy missions in the Gulf of Guinea – as they have in East Africa – leaving the many vessels in Nigeria waters vulnerable to attack.
Piracy is on the rise in West Africa, according to a Reuters analysis, but the police and coast guard in most of the countries in the region, like Ivory Coast, are too weak and poorly armed to challenge the pirate gangs. In 2010, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), which has monitored global piracy since 1991, recorded 33 attacks in the Gulf of Guinea. But that figure jumped to 58 last year.
Security Council Votes
The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously today (April 25) to approve a peacekeeping mission to the war-wracked North African nation of Mali.
A force of 11,200 soldiers and 1,440 police officers could be deployed as soon as July, the New York Times reported. About 6,000 troops already deployed by member countries from the Economic Community of West African States — as well as about 1,000 French troops — are expected to form the base of the peacekeeping mission. France intervened in its former African colony in January when militant Islamic extremists and Tuareg separatists threatened Bamako, Mali’s capital.
For nifty interactive timeline by the Times chronicling the 16-month-old crisis in Mali, once one of the few working democracies in West Africa, click here.
Meanwhile, Mali’s interim president has launched the country’s reconciliation commission to deal with security and governance issues in the country’s north. But a Tuareg separatist group, the MNLA, refuses to disarm before beginning negotiations with the Malian government, the Voice of America reports.
Nigeria: Business and Bullets
Nigeria’s National Economic Council has approved a $9 billion foreign loan to fund new infrastructure, invest in agriculture and create jobs, Bloomberg reports. The lenders include the Export-Import Bank of China, rthe Islamic Development Bank and the African Development Bank. Capital interest rates on the loan will be as low as 2 percent and Nigeria will have more than 40 years to repay.
Meanwhile violence has erupted again in the country’s north, according to the Voice of America. Nearly 200 people were killed last weekend in an attack by the militant Islamist group in the fishing town of Baga. But some analysts say many of the slain may actually have been killed by security forces.
In a report that echoes earlier ones by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, the U.S. government says indiscriminate killings and detentions by security forces are “a seroious human-rights problem” in Nigeria, VoA reported.
Organized Crime Spreads
ALEXANDRIA, Virginia — The head of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) accepts the fact that he’ll be dealing with continued budget cuts into the forseeable future, but U.S. Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly says if he only had “13 or 14″ Coast Guard or Navy vessels to station off the Pacific and Caribbean coasts of Central America, he could dramatically reduce the cocaine traffic coming into the United States.
Kelly, who took over as head of SOUTHCOM last Fall, says the key to hurting the multi-billion dollar drug trade in the Western Hemisphere is interdiction at sea — before the drugs make it ashore. At a conference on countering transnational organized crime, Kelly discussed the network running up from South America through Mexico that brings cocaine, heroin, illegal immigrants and enslaved sex workers into the United States.
He also talked about a surprising Central American ally in the war on drugs. To read more of this story go to Seapower magazine’s website.