Posts filed under ‘Africa’

AROUND AFRICA: Lawlessness in Nigeria; Terrorism in Burkina Faso; Counter Terrorism in Somalia

UPDATE: Includes HEALTH/EPIDEMICS –U.S. requiring Ebola Screening for travelers coming from Uganda; ECONOMY/MARKETS — Big African oil conference attendees react to OPEC cuts.

CONFLICT/TERRORISM

WEST AFRICA

NIGERIA: Women, children drown fleeing gunmen.

At least 18 women and children have drowned in Nigeria’s north-western Zamfara state as a gang of kidnappers opened fire on them, according to the BBC.

The 18 were among dozens of people trying to escape a night-time attack October 5, on the village of Birnin Wajje in the Bukkuyum area. The attackers shot dead at least six people and kidnapped seven other villagers before opening fire on the those fleeing in two boats, a resident told the BBC.

The shooting caused a panic capsizing the boats, the resident explained. A police spokesman confirmed to the BBC that there had been attack on the village and drownings, but could not give casualty figures. The resident said that 18 bodies had been recovered, but several others were still missing. The attackers have also abducted at least 16 people in the nearby village of Dargaje.

According to the Associated Press, the attack was the latest in a cycle of violence of armed groups targeting remote communities in Nigeria’s northwest and central regions. Authorities often blame the attacks on a group of mostly young herdsmen from the Fulani tribe who have been caught up in Nigeria’s conflict between farming communities and herdsmen over limited access to water and land.

Nigeria’s security forces are outnumbered and outgunned in many of the affected communities, while continuing to fight a decade-long insurgency launched by Islamist extremists in the northeastern part of the country.

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NIGERIA: Remaining hostages in March train attack freed.

Nigeria’s military says it has secured the release of the remaining 23 hostages taken during a train attack by gunmen in March, Reuters reported October 5. The attack in northern Kaduna state saw dozens of people kidnapped and six others killed.

Gunmen blew up the tracks and attacked the train traveling between the capital, Abuja, and Kaduna. The government blamed the attack on the Islamist insurgency Boko Haram. The attack on the Abuja-Kaduna train led to the suspension of a service that was popular with passengers who feared attacks and kidnappings by gunmen on Nigerian highways.

Usman Yusuf, secretary to the chief of defense staff, said in a statement that the military had “secured the release and taken custody of all the 23 passengers held hostage by Boko Haram terrorists.” He did not provide details.

Nigeria’s state railway company initially said it could not account for 168 people who had booked to travel on the train. Most were later traced to their homes, but 65 were confirmed missing. The kidnappers had been releasing hostages in batches.

Security is a major concern for Nigerians as the country prepares for February elections to replace President Muhammadu Buhari, a former army general who is stepping down after two terms leading Africa’s most populous country, noted the French press agency AFP.

No group took credit for the March 28 train attack, though officials have blamed jihadis cooperating with heavily armed criminal gangs who terrorize parts of northwest and central Nigeria with looting raids and mass abductions.

Analysts said the sophisticated attack involving explosives indicate Islamist militants could have participated. Nigerian government officials often use the term Boko Haram loosely to refer generally to armed groups.

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BURKINA FASO: Al Qaeda branch claims attack on Army convoy.

The Sahel-based branch of al-Qaeda  — Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM) — has claimed responsibility for an attack last month on a convoy in Burkina Faso that killed more than a dozen soldiers, the SITE Intelligence Group said October 4.

Islamist militants attacked a convoy taking supplies to a town in northern Burkina Faso on September 26, days before the West African country was hit by its second military takeover this year, Reuters reported.

JNIM claimed credit for the ambush and said it “caused significant economic losses to the enemy and ‘led to a shakeup’ in the army ranks, culminating in the military coup,” the SITE statement said.

Eleven soldiers were found dead and about 50 civilians were reported missing after the attack, the previous government said. But an internal security document seen by Reuters on October 4 gave a death toll of 27 soldiers.

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EAST AFRICA

SOMALIA: AFRICOM says airstrike targeted al-Shabaab leader.

U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) says it conducted an airstrike against the al-Shabaab militant network in Somalia on October 1 in coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia. The strike occurred near Jilib, about 370 kilometers (230 miles) southwest of the capital, Mogadishu.

In an initial assessment, AFRICOM  said the strike killed an al-Shabaab leader and that no civilians were injured or killed.

Al-Shabaab is the largest and most kinetically active al-Qaeda network in the world and has proved both its will and capability to attack U.S. forces and threaten U.S. security interests. U.S. Africa Command, alongside its partners, continues to take action to prevent this malicious terrorist group from planning and conducting attacks on civilians,” AFRICOM said in a statement. “Specific details about the units involved and assets used will not be released in order to ensure operations security,” the statement added.

Somalia has been in civil war since 1991, when clan-based warlords overthrew a dictator, then turned on each other.

Until then-President Donald Trump decided to pull U.S. troops out of Somalia, about 700 U.S. service members rotated in and out of Somalia, training the east African nation’s military and helping with their operations against al-Shabab, the largest and most well-funded wing of al Qaeda. But President Joe Biden decided to return up to 500 troops to the Horn of Africa, expediting airstrikes for counter terrorism operations.

“Somalia remains key to the security environment in East Africa,” AFRICOM said, adding the “Command’s forces will continue training, advising, and equipping partner forces to give them the tools that they need to degrade al-Shabaab.”

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HEALTH/EPIDEMICS

UGANDA: Ebola screening for Uganda travelers at 5 U.S. airports.

Federal officials will begin redirecting U.S.-bound travelers who had been to Uganda within the previous 21 days to five major American airports to be screened for Ebola, according to Reuters.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday issued an alert to health care workers to raise awareness about the outbreak but said there were currently no suspected or confirmed U.S. Ebola cases from the Sudan strain, which is behind the latest Uganda infections.

On September 20, 2022 Uganda health authorities declared an outbreak of Ebola disease, the deadly hemorrhagic fever, caused by Sudan virus, following laboratory confirmation of a patient from a village in Madudu sub-county, Mubende district, central Uganda, the World Health Organization announced on September 26. This is the first Ebola disease outbreak caused by Sudan virus in Uganda since 2012.

According to Uganda’s Health Ministry at least nine people have died of the disease in Uganda by October 3. Authorities in the east African nation announced the outbreak of the deadly hemorrhagic fever on September 20. There are 43 total cases.

Health workers treating Ebola patients in Africa in 2015. (World Health Organization photo by Christine Banluta)

The screenings in the United States will begin rolling out immediately, the Associated Press reported. Travelers who have been in Uganda at any point during the past 21 days, which is the incubation period for the virus, will be redirected to one of five U.S. airports for Ebola screening: Kennedy International Airport in New York, Washington Dulles International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

The screening applies to any passenger who was in Uganda, including U.S. citizens. It involves a temperature and symptom check conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC will also collect contact information that will be shared with local health departments at the travelers’ destination.

The administration says about 145 people per day enter the U.S. from Uganda, with most already arriving at the five large airline hubs. Anyone scheduled to fly into a different airport will be rebooked by their airline, the government said.

Also on October 6, the CDC sent a health alert to doctors, urging them to get a travel history from patients who have Ebola-like symptoms.

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ECONOMY/MARKETS

   SOUTH AFRICA: Attendees at big African oil conference react to OPEC production cuts.

Delegates at Africa’s biggest oil conference have expressed concern about rising prices after the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), plus nonmembers who also export oil, decided this week to cut production targets.

The OPEC nations, led by Russia and Saudi Arabia announced October 5 they will slash oil production by 2 million barrels per day.

The move prompted a blistering reaction from White House officials and reverberated almost immediately through domestic and global financial markets, threatening higher energy costs for the United States and European countries already grappling with inflation and economic instability, the Washington Post reported.

Russia will benefit from the cut, because lower production will increase the price of oil — helping Moscow finance its war effort in Ukraine. And it could further test Europe’s resolve to support Ukraine ahead of what economists project will be a sharp slowdown in economic growth throughout the continent. American consumers could also be strained by higher gas prices, potentially imperiling the Biden administration’s determination to lower gas costs ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.

In Cape Town, South Africa at the Africa Oil Week conference, delegates expressed concern about rising prices, the VOA website reported.

Omar Farouk Ibrahim, secretary-general of the African Petroleum Producers Organization, said the move was aimed at ensuring stability in the global market and ensuring that prices don’t fall too low. “I believe it’s the right thing they did in order to save the industry,” he said, “and I totally think that every country has the responsibility to protect the interests of its citizens. And if by reducing production they see that as in their best interest, so be it.”

Rashid Ali Abdallah, executive director of the African Energy Commission, said it was too early to tell what the impact of the planned cuts would be. “I hope that the price is not shooting up, because in Africa we depend on oil products in power generation,” he said.

Gates Port Harcourt Refining Ltd in Alesa-Eleme, Nigeria. (photo by sixoone via wikipedia)

Natacha Massano, vice president of Angola’s National Agency for Petroleum, Gas and Biofuels, said she wasn’t sure how the announcement would affect her country. Angola is one of the two biggest oil producers in Africa; Nigeria is the other, and both are OPEC members.

“Some countries will be affected more than the others,” Massano said. “Some are benefiting — of course, the producers may benefit from the high prices, but at the same time they are paying also for all other commodities.”

October 6, 2022 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: New AFRICOM Commander Visits Africa; U.N. Report Says 50 Killed in Mali Military Ops

U.S. AFRICA COMMAND

New AFRICOM Commander Visits Africa

The new head of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) visited Djibouti, Somalia and Kenya recently on his first trip to Africa since taking command on August 9.

During the four-day visit (August 28-31), U.S. Marine Corps General Michael Langley visited with host nation leaders, senior State Department and defense officials, and deployed troops to better understand the political and military situation in East Africa, to discuss shared concerns and priorities, and observe ongoing operations firsthand.

U.S. Marine Corps General Michael Langley, the new commander of U.S. Africa Command, meets with Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (right) Aug. 29, 2022 during Langley’s first visit to Africa since becoming AFRICOM’s leader. On the left is U.S. Ambassador to Somalia Larry Andre. (Courtesy photo)

While in Somalia, Langley met leaders and troops at operational sites across the country to witness ongoing training efforts and assess security and force protection measures.  He also met with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Minister of Defense Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur, to discuss shared priorities and operations, such as the shared fight against Al-Shabaab.

“The United States supports the Somali government and its people. We are committed to working together to advance our mutual prosperity for our countries. I appreciate Somalia’s efforts in the fight against Al-Shabaab and look forward to continued partnership between our two militaries.”

Djibouti in Africa. click to enlarge (CIA World Factbook)

In Djibouti, Langley discussed the variety of missions that stage out of Camp Lemonnier, the only permanent U.S. military base in Africa.  He also met with President Ismaïl Omar Guelleh and Minster of Foreign Affairs Mahamoud Ali Youssouf.

“The United States is grateful for the leadership Djibouti has shown through its contributions to the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia and the gracious hospitality the Djiboutians show to our troops. I look forward to continuing to foster our enduring, strong and cooperative relationship,” Langley said.

Finally, at Manda Bay, Kenya, Langley met with the new U.S. Ambassador, Margaret “Meg” Whitman, as well as senior defense leaders stationed at the U.S. Embassy, and leaders from the base to assess security and force protection measures.

 

Before Langley took command, on January 5, 2020, between 30 and 40 Al-Shabaab fighters launched an attack on Cooperative Security Location Manda Bay. The attack resulted in the deaths of Army Spc. Henry Mayfield Jr., as well as civilian contractors Dustin Harrison and Bruce Triplett. The attack also destroyed six U.S. aircraft, one aircraft owned by the Kenyans and several vehicles.

Kenya (CIA World Factbook) click to enlarge

A review of the attack by AFRICOM and a follow-up review by the Pentagon found no single point of failure for the loss of life or property damage. But both teams looking into the incident agreed on factors that contributed to the outcome of the attack and on recommendations for improved security operations.

“Cooperative Security Location-Manda Bay is an important operational base for U.S. Africa Command forces in the region,” Langley said.

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U.N. Report: At Least 50 Killed by Malian Army.

At least 50 civilians were killed during a military operation conducted by Mali’s army and “foreign troops” on April 19, the United Nations said in a new report, Reuters reported August 31.

The U.N. has repeatedly accused Malian soldiers of summarily executing civilians and suspected militants over the course of their decade-long fight against groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State.

Mali (CIA World Factbook)

Mali in Africa (CIA World Factbook)

Mali’s military government — which took power in a 2020 coup — has been battling Islamist insurgents with the help of private military contractors belonging to Russia’s Wagner group, mercenary military contractors that have been deployed across the Middle East and Africa, including to Syria, Yemen, Libya, Sudan, Mozambique, Madagascar, Central African Republic, and Mali. According to the Brookings Institution, they focus principally on protecting the ruling or emerging governing elites and critical infrastructures.

The massacre victims included a woman and a child, the U.N.’s peacekeeping mission MINUSMA said in a quarterly report on human rights violations in the insurgent-hit West African country.

It did not specify the nationality of the foreign military personnel accompanying local troops.

 

September 1, 2022 at 11:50 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (August 26, 2022)

KEEPING WATCH.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Randi Brown)

U.S. Navy Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class Jordan Massey, mans an M240 machine gun aboard a patrol boat while providing security for ships inside the Port of Djibouti in East Africa on August 9, 2022.

Massey is assigned to U.S. Maritime Expeditionary Security Forces (MSRON-1). Based at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti MSRON-1 provides port and harbor security, high-value asset protection and maritime security operations in coastal waterways of the Gulf of Tadjoura.

Camp Lemonnier is the primary base of operations for U.S. Africa Command in the Horn of Africa. It is also the only permanent U.S. military base in Africa.

August 26, 2022 at 5:34 pm Leave a comment

ROBOTS, DROIDS & DRONES: More Drones and Equipment for Ukraine; Air Force Drone Crash in Libya

DEFENSE.

Drones in Latest U.S. Ukraine Aid Package.

On the 31st anniversary of Ukraine’s independence, the United States announced its latest military aide package — almost $3 billion to train and equip the Ukrainian armed forces, including a more small, land-based unmanned aircraft and support equipment for a land and maritime drone.

The $2.98 billion aid package President Joe Biden announced Thursday (August 24, 2022) to provide weapons and equipment through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, (ASAI) “will allow Ukraine to acquire air defense systems, artillery systems and munitions, counter-unmanned aerial systems, and radars to ensure it can continue to defend itself over the long term,” he said.

Unlike a Presidential Drawdown, which the Pentagon has used to deliver equipment urgently needed by Ukraine from Defense Department stockpiles, USAI permits the U.S. government to procures needed capabilities from industry.

A U.S. Marine an RQ-20B Puma unmanned aerial vehicle during Exercise Snow Panzer in Setermoen, Norway, February 11, 2019. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Corporal Nghia Tran)

AeroVironment’s Puma, a small, hand-launched unmanned aerial system (UAS), and support equipment for the larger Boeing-Insitu Scan Eagle UAS are included in the package, according to the Defense Department. An earlier assistance package promised 15 catapult-launched Scan Eagles, which originally were developed for the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq and can be launched from land or ship.  Both unmanned systems are unarmed and designed for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. The Defense Department gave no details on the number of Pumas or type of supplies for Scan Eagle being sent to Ukraine.

Since Russia is also using unmanned aircraft, the aid package will provide VAMPIRE Counter-Unmanned Aerial Systems to the Ukrainians.

In addition to marking the date Ukraine declared its independence for the old Soviet Union, August 24 is exactly six months from the start of Russia’s invasion of its neighbor.

The United States has committed more than $13.5 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since January 2021. In total, the United States has committed more than $15.5 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since 2014, according to the Pentagon.

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AFRICOM Investigating Air Force Drone crash in Libya.

U.S. Africa Command is investigating the cause of an Air Force surveillance drone to crash near Benghazi, Libya, the military said Wednesday (August 23, 2022).

The drone was surveilling the area Monday ahead of planned diplomatic meetings, AFRICOM said. It did not specify what type of drone was involved or whether the crash was the result of enemy fire, Stars and Stripes reported here.

August 24, 2022 at 11:43 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO: U.S. Coast Guard Turns 232; First Black Marine Corps 4-Star General Confirmed

Semper Paratus

Happy Birthday to the men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard.

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Eagle is berthed alongside USS Constitution (Old Iron Sides), the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat, in Boston Harbor on July 29, 2022.  The Eagle is a three-masted sailing barque and the only active (operational) commissioned sailing vessel in the U.S. maritime services. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Samoluk)

The history of the Coast Guard goes back to the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service, which was founded on August 4, 1790, as part of the Department of the Treasury, under then-Secretary Alexander Hamilton. The Revenue Cutter Service and the Life-Saving Service, created in 1848 to save the lives of shipwrecked mariners and passengers, were merged to form the Coast Guard on January 28, 1915. In 1939 the Lighthouse Service, created in 1910, was also merged into the Coast Guard.

Since then, the Coast Guard has been handed many assignments including: Intercepting intruder aircraft over the National Capital Region, preserving marine wildlife, maritime search and rescue, enforcing maritime law in U.S. waters and intercepting smugglers of drugs and people.

Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Caitlyn Mason, assigned to the medium endurance cutter USCGC Mohawk, rescues a sea turtle caught in a fishing net in the Atlantic Ocean, on July 14, 2022.  (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jessica Fontenette)

In all the Coast Guard has eleven separate missions a lot of them are included in this brief video, which includes the Coast Guard’s marching tune, Semper Paratus, Always Prepared.

U.S. Coast Guardsmen seize a self-propelled, semi submersible craft (left) carrying narcotics off Central America’s Pacific Coast in 2009. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

At the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, the cadets, staff and family members marked the day with speeches, a proclamation from the governor of Connecticut, music and a birthday cake set up in front of Alexander Hamilton’s statue.

Rear Admiral William G. Kelly cuts the cake celebrating the Coast Guard’s 232nd birthday. (U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Auxiliarist David Lau.)

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First Black Marine Corps 4-Star General.

The U.S. Senate has confirmed Marine Corps Lieutenant General Michael E. Langley be appointed to the rank of general and will be promoted in a ceremony in Washington, D.C.  on Saturday (August 6).

Langley will be the first Black Marine appointed to the rank of four-star general. While the Marine Corps and several news outlets have said he will be the first black full general in the 246-year history of the Marines, it’s worth noting the rank did not exist in the Marine Corps, which is a part of the Navy Department, until Alexander Vandergrift was appointed a four star general in 1945. There have been more than 70 four-star generals in the Marine Corps since then, but all have been white men.

Langley was promoted to serve as the head of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) in Stuttgart, Germany, and will command all U.S. military forces in Africa.  The continent is experiencing a rash of economic and security interests by Russia and China. Russia controls the private military company, Wagner Group, whose mercenaries operate in Libya and the Central African Republic.

Lt. General Michael E. Langley. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Langley was nominated for the post by President Joe Biden in June. The Senate unanimously confirmed the appointment on Monday (August 1). “It is a great honor to be the president’s nominee to lead U.S. AFRICOM,” Langley said at his July 21 nomination hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I am grateful for the trust and confidence extended by him, the secretary of defense, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and the commandant of the Marine Corps,” SEAPOWER reported.

Langley currently serves as the commander, Marine Forces Command; Marine Forces Northern Command; and commander for Fleet Marine Force Atlantic, according to the Marine Corps.  His previous general officer posts included commander for Marine Forces Europe and Africa; deputy commanding general for the Second Marine Expeditionary Force (II MEF) and commanding general for the 2d Marine Expeditionary Brigade.

A native of Shreveport, Louisiana and graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington. He was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in 1985 as an artillery officer. Langley has commanded Marines at every level from platoon to regiment, serving in Okinawa, Japan and Afghanistan, the Marine Corps said.

Langley will replace the outgoing commander AFRICOM, Army Gen. Stephen J. Townsend. In late July, Townsend said the threat of violent extremism and strategic competition from China and Russia remain the greatest challenges to the combatant command, according to a Defense Department news release, Marine Corps Times reported.

“Some of the most lethal terrorists on the planet are now in Africa,” said Townsend, according to the release.

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SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress, or parade, uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York in the photo.

 

 

August 4, 2022 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: African Lion 22 Exercise in Ghana, Morocco, Senegal, Tunisia; New AFRICOM Commander Tapped; Troubles in Mali

EXERCISES/TRAINING WITH PARTNERS.

AFRICAN LION 22: Morocco, Ghana, Senegal and Tunisia.

U.S. Africa Command’s premier annual exercise, African Lion 22, ended nearly a month of training operations across four nations in north and west Africa on June 30.

Sergeant Anthony Ruiz, an infantry squad leader assigned to Echo Company, Battalion Landing Team 2/6, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, and Tunisian troops participate in an integrated training event during African Lion 2022, near Camp Ben Ghilouf, Tunisia on June 21, 2022. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sergeant Marcela Diazdeleon)

African Lion 22 is a multinational, combined arms joint exercise focused on increasing training and interoperability between U.S. forces and  partners and allies on the African continent to increase security and stability within the region.

Led by the U.S. Army Southern European Task Force for Africa, the exercise saw operations ranging from maritime training exercises in the Mediterranean waters off Tunisia and Morocco’s Atlantic Coast to field training and combined arms exercises in Ghana and Senegal.

Military units from Brazil, France, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the African nation of Chad, joined U.S. and host nations’ troops in the exercises. A total of 7,500 troops, nearly 4,000 of them from the United States, participated in African Lion, which began on June 6.

African Lion also included a Special Operations cyber exercise, a medical readiness exercise, a humanitarian civil assistance program,  a joint forcible entry with paratroopers, an air exercise with U.S. heavy heavy lift transport, aerial refueling and bomber aircraft.

Approximately 80 Idaho Army National Guard Soldiers with the 1st Battalion of the 148th Field Artillery Regiment, along other Guard units from from California, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin are training with the Royal Moroccan Army in the northern Sahara Desert as part of African Lion ’22.

(U.S. National Guard photo by Master Sergeant Becky Vanshur)

Historically, African Lion has taken place only in Morocco and Tunisia, but this year Ghana and Senegal were added.  While Ghana has participated in the past as observers, “This is the first time that we’re actually doing the exercise in Ghana,” Major General Andrew M. Rohling, Commander of U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, told a June 28 U.S. State Department digital press briefing with African journalists. Speaking from Morocco, Rohling noted that Ghana “has chosen to partner with its African neighbors and the United States to help provide peace and security across the continent.  Ghana has a growing leadership role in regional security.”

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U.S. Africa Command.

President Biden has nominated Marine Corps Lieutenant General Michael Langley to be the next commander of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM).

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced the president’s decision June 9. Langley currently heads Marine Forces Command and Marine Forces Northern Command. He is also the commanding general of Fleet Marine Force Atlantic in Norfolk, Virginia.

AFRICOM, based in Stutgart, Germany, oversees U.S. troops dispersed throughout Africa, including conflict zones such as Somalia, where Biden has decided to return up to 500 troops — withdrawn by the Trump administration — to expedite airstrikes for counter terrorism operations, according to Military Times.

If the Senate confirms Langley, he would succeed Army General Stephen Townsend, who has led AFRICOM since July 2019. As head of one of the geographical combatant commands, Langley would also be promoted to the rank of full general, making him the first four-star Marine Corps general.

Langley would be in charge of of all U.S. military operations in Africa. The continent is experiencing a rash of economic and security interests by Russia and China. Russia controls the private military company, Wagner Group, whose mercenaries operate in Libya and the Central African Republic, according to The Hill newspaper site.

Speaking from Morocco to a digital State Department press briefing June 28 about African Lion 22, Major General Andrew M. Rohling, Commander of U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, brought up Wagner Group when asked about the rising number of foreign military operations and bases in Africa. The United States and China each have a base in the East African nation of Djibouti and French and U.S. troops have been assisting several West African nations resist terrorist groups like al Queda and the Islamic State (ISIS).

“I think it’s clear that we’ve seen the impact and the destabilizing effect that Wagner brings to Africa and elsewhere. And I think countries that have experienced Wagner Group deployments within their borders found themselves to be a little bit poorer, a little bit weaker, and a little bit less secure,” Rohling said. “So an exercise such as African Lion aims to build capacity as well as the trusted, long-term relationships to address future challenges.  And I think that’s the difference between United States and others that are operating here on the continent.”

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PEACEKEEPING/CONFLICTS

French Troops Leaving Mali.

Concerns have grown that the exit of 2,400 French troops from Mali – the epicenter of violence in the Sahel region and strongholds of both al Qaeda and Islamic State affiliates – is worsening violence, destabilizing neighbors and spurring migration.

Coups in Mali, Chad and Burkina Faso have weakened France’s alliances in its former colonies, emboldened jihadists who control large swathes of desert and scrub, and opened the door to greater Russian influence.

All the logisticians of France’s Barkhane force are involved in the transfer of military equipment out of Mali after nearly eight years fighting armed terrorist groups in the Sahel and supporting the armed forces of partner countries against the threat. (French Ministry of the Armed Forces photo)

With the withdrawal from Mali expected to be completed by the end of the summer French officials were negotiating in neighboring Niger  to redefine France’s strategy to fight Islamist militants in the Sahel as concerns mount over the growing threat to coastal West African states, Reuters reports.

France’s plan calls for Niger will become the hub for French troops, with some 1,000 soldiers based in the capital Niamey along with fighter jets, drones and helicopters. Some 300-400 French troops would be dispatched for special operations with Nigerien troops in the border regions with Burkina Faso and Mali, French officials told reporters.

West Africa (CIA World Factbook)

Another 700-to-1,000 would be based in Chad with an undisclosed number of special forces operating elsewhere in the region. French troops will no longer carry out missions or pursue militants into Mali once the exit is complete, the officials said.

A key area of concern is how and whether French and European troops will used to support countries in the coastal Gulf of Guinea nations such Benin, Togo and Ivory Coast, where there has been a rise in attacks. Al Qaeda’s regional arm has said it would turn its attention to the region.

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Trouble between Mali and Ivory Coast.

Meanwhile, the military-led government in Mali says it is suspending all new rotations of United Nations peacekeeping troops due to national security reasons, the BBC reports. The action comes days after soldiers from the Ivory Coast were arrested on arrival in Mali on suspicion of being mercenaries.

Officials in Ivory Coast said they were there to support the U.N. mission, known as MINUSMA, under an agreed contract between the two countries. The junta in Mali, which is trying to put down an Islamist insurgency, says its foreign ministry was not informed of the deployment via the official channels.

Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, said the troops were not officially part of MINUSMA but came as “support of their contingents,” what he described as “a common practice in peacekeeping missions,” the VoA website reported. The Malian government labeled them “mercenaries.” Ivory Coast has called for their release.

Peacekeepers serving with the UN’s Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). (Photo: MINUSMA/Harandane Dicko)

The arrests were not mentioned in the statement announcing the peacekeeper suspension.

Since April, the U.N. has been seeking access to the town of Moura, where locals told human rights investigators and journalists that the army and Russian mercenaries carried out a massacre over five days.

The mandate for the mission in Mali was renewed during a Security Council meeting on June 29. During renewal talks, Mali’s U.N. representative said the government would not allow the United Nations to carry out investigations of alleged human rights abuses as part of its mandate.

The U.N. mission in Mali has almost 12,000 troops and 1,700 police officers. It is a visible presence in many of Mali’s northern cities, which were taken over by Islamist militants in 2012 and have seen increasing insecurity in recent months following the French army’s withdrawal from the country, according to VoA.

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Egypt Halts Its Mali Troop Rotation.

Egypt has told the United Nations it will temporarily suspend the activities of its contingent in a Mali peacekeeping mission, citing increased attacks on its peacekeepers who escort convoys supplying U.N. bases, Reuters reported July 15.

The attacks have caused the death of seven Egyptian soldiers since the beginning of the year. Egypt has 1,072 troops and 144 police in the U.N. mission in Mali known as MINUSMA.

July 17, 2022 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Ukraine’s Impact on Africa; Attacks in Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Somalia

The Ukraine Effect.

The catastrophic damage and disruption caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to spread its effects across the globe.

Now United Nations officials warn the conflict in Ukraine and Western sanctions on Moscow are disrupting supplies of wheat, fertilizer and other goods — compounding the difficulties Africa faces from climate change and the coronavirus pandemic — Al Jazeera reported May 6.

“This is an unprecedented crisis for the continent,” Raymond Gilpin, chief economist for the U.N. Development Program-Africa, told a press conference in Geneva of Friday (May 6).

Hunger in West Africa reaches record high in a decade as the region faces an unprecedented crisis exacerbated by Russia-Ukraine conflict. (World Food Program/Katharina Dirr)

Many African countries depend heavily on food imports and fertilizer from Russia and Ukraine, two major exporters of wheat, corn, rapeseed and sunflower oil. In some African countries, up to 80 percent of wheat comes from Russia and Ukraine. Rising oil prices caused by sanctions against Russian oil have increased fuel and diesel costs.

Nearly 193 million people in 53 countries suffered acute food insecurity in 2021 due to what the U.N. said in a report published May 4 was a “toxic triple combination” of conflict, weather extremes and the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Countries experiencing protracted conflicts, including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen, had the most food-insecure populations, according to the report.

Gilpin said rising inflation is putting several large investments on hold across the continent. He cited as examples the development of a huge steel mill complex in Nigeria and fertilizer plants in Angola, according to the VOA website.

He warned tensions are rising in hot spots such as the Sahel, parts of Central Africa, and the Horn of Africa as the Russia-Ukraine war begins to fester.

“Particularly in urban areas, low-income communities, which could spillover just to violent protests and … probably also violent riots,” Gilpin said. “Also, and countries that have elections scheduled for this year and next year are particularly vulnerable because this could become a trigger.”

*** *** ***

VIOLENCE/TERRORISM-WEST AFRICA

     Nigeria

Islamic extremist rebels have killed at least seven people in an attack in northeast Borno state in Nigeria, the Associated Press reported via VOA May 4.

The rebels attacked Kautukari village in the Chibok area of Borno a day earlier, residents told the AP. The attack happened at the same time that U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was in the state to meet with survivors of jihadi violence.

The Chibok area is 115 kilometers (71 miles) away from Maiduguri, the state capital, where Guterres met with former militants being reintegrated into society and thousands of people displaced by the insurgency.

Chibok first came to the limelight when Boko Haram abducted more than 200 schoolgirls from the community’s school in April 2014, leading to the viral #BringBackOurGirls campaign, according to the Aljazeera news site.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with 206 million people, continues to grapple with a 10-year-old insurgency in the northeast by Islamic extremist rebels of Boko Haram and its offshoot, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). The extremists are fighting to establish Shariah law and to stop Western education.

More than 35,000 people have died and millions have been displaced by the extremist violence, according to the U.N. Development Program.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said earlier this week that the war against the groups is “approaching its conclusion”, citing continued military attacks and the mass defection of thousands of the fighters, some of whom analysts say are laying down their arms because of infighting within the group.

The violence however continues in border communities and areas closer to the Lake Chad region, the stronghold of the Islamic State-linked group, ISWAP.

*** *** ***

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for the safe and “dignified” return of people displaced by conflict in northeast Nigeria.

More than 40,000 people have been killed and some 2.2 million people displaced by more than a decade of fighting in the region between the military and Boko Haram and its offshoot Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).

During a May 3 visit to a camp for displaced people in Borno state capital Maidugur — the birthplace of Boko Haram — Guterres praised the local governor’s development efforts.

Nigerian authorities plan to close all camps for displaced people in Borno by 2026 – but aid agencies are concerned about security and conditions on the ground in some of the communities to which the displaced will return. While humanitarian support for the camps, is important” Guterres said, “let’s try to find a solution for people, and that solution is to create the conditions, security conditions, development conditions for them to be able to go back home in safety and dignity.”

*** *** ***

Relatives of Nigerians who were abducted by gunmen in a train attack are accusing authorities of not doing enough to rescue them. Nigerian Railway Corporation says more than 160 people have been missing since the March attack, according to a VOA video report.

*** *** ***

          Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso’s army says it has lost at least seven soldiers and killed 20 “terrorists” following militant attacks on two military bases in the north of the country.

Four volunteers aiding the army in the fight against militants also were killed in the May 5 attacks in Loroum and Sanmatenga provinces, according to a military statement, the BBC reported.

The army said it seized or destroyed weapons, vehicles and communication equipment used by the attackers.

The violence came a day after a soldier was killed and another wounded in a roadside blast in northern Burkina Faso.

Armed groups affiliated with al Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) have regularly carried out attacks in northern and eastern Burkina Faso since 2015, killing more than 2,000 people and displacing almost two million, according to Aljazeera.

Unrest linked to armed groups also plagues Burkina Faso’s West African neighbors Mali and Niger.

The three land-locked countries rank among the poorest in the world and their armed forces are ill-equipped against a foe skilled at hit-and-run raids, ambushes and planting roadside bombs.

*** *** ***

VIOLENCE/TERRORISM-EAST AFRICA

       Somalia

At least 30 Burundian soldiers were killed and 20 others injured in Tuesday’s attack by al-Shabab militants on an African Union base in southern Somalia, according to a Burundian official.

The official, who requested anonymity because he is not allowed to speak to media, told VOA Somali that 10 soldiers died on the spot, and the rest of the soldiers succumbed to their wounds. He confirmed that other soldiers are still missing, VOA reported.

Al-Shabab said it killed 173 soldiers in the attack on the AU base in the village of El-Baraf, about 150 kilometers north of Mogadishu. The casualty figure has not been independently verified. A separate source told VOA Somali that 161 soldiers were at the camp at the time of attack. The Burundian official confirmed that number.

The Burundian official told VOA Somali that the soldiers had intelligence al-Shabab was gathering in a nearby village about 48 hours prior to the attack. He said the soldiers prepared to defend themselves and dug trenches.

May 7, 2022 at 11:56 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (April 29, 2022)

Desert Water Hazard.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Blake Wiles)

OK, hold on tight. This one will make your head spin.

This week’s photo shows U.S. troops with the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) performing a swimming obstacle course during a French Desert Commando Course (FDCC) pre-assessment  — that’s right a Desert Commando Course — in the East African nation of Djibouti on April 19, 2022.

During the FDCC, participants are evaluated on mountain confidence, knot tying, night obstacle courses, aquatic obstacle courses, and battle maneuver tactics as well as physical challenges like timed pushups.  Since 2015, the French Forces stationed in Djibouti, a former French colony, have invited U.S. service members at Camp Lemonnier (the only U.S. base on the African continent) to participate in the course at the 5th Overseas Interarms Regiment base in Dijbouti.

The 5th OIR is a troupes de marine regiment, and has been the Djibouti garrison since November 1969. Despite its name, the Marine troops are part of the French Army, not the Navy.

April 28, 2022 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Ethiopia-Tigray Conflict; Into Somalia; Savage Attack in DRC

EAST AFRICA

Ethiopia-Tigray War

A convoy of food and other supplies arrived safely in the capital of Ethiopia’s war-torn region of Tigray on Friday (April 1). It was the first aid to arrive in Mekelle since December, the United Nations said.

The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) said that more trucks and fuel would follow on Saturday morning (April 2) – a week after a humanitarian truce was agreed between the government and Tigrayan forces.

War broke out in the Tigray region in November 2020, pitting Ethiopia’s government and its allies against rebellious Tigrayan forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. The TPLF is the political party that controls the Tigray region.

Last week, the federal government declared an immediate, unilateral truce to allow aid into Tigray. Tigrayan forces said they would respect the ceasefire as long as sufficient aid was delivered “within reasonable time”, Reuters reported.

It is unclear how much more aid might follow or how quickly. More than 90% of the 5.5 million people in the northern province of Tigray need food aid, according to the United Nations.

Around 100 trucks of aid per day need to enter to meet the population’s needs. No trucks have been able to enter since Dec. 15, due to a combination of bureaucratic problems and fighting.

WFP Ethiopia said another convoy with more than a thousand metric tons of food would be soon sent to the neighboring region of northern Afar “to communities in dire need”.

This week roads to Tigray from the Afar region had remained closed despite the ceasefire – with the warring parties trading accusations over who was to blame, according to the BBC.

Earlier a senior official of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front welcomed the truce as “a step in the right direction” but said there should be “a system in place to ensure unfettered humanitarian access for the needy.” The government has said it is committed to helping the safe passage of aid.

Malnutrition and food insecurity are rampant in northern Ethiopia, where an estimated 9 million people across the Tigray, Amhara and Afar regions need critical food assistance due to conflict, WFP says.

*** *** ***

Fighting al Shabab from Afar.

More than 13 months after President Donald Trump decided to pull U.S. troops out of Somalia, the head of U.S. Africa Command says the strategy is not working.

Previously, about 700 U.S. troops rotated in and out of Somalia, to train the east African nation’s and help with their operations against al-Shabab, the largest and most well-funded wing of al Qaeda. But now, says Army General Stephen Townsend, AFRICOM troops based in Kenya and Djibouti are only making visits to Somalia, Military Times reported.

Townsend said he believes periodic engagement, “commuting to work,” as some have called it, has caused new challenges and risks for the troops. The AFRICOM chief told a March 15 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that by his assessment the change “is not effective, it’s not efficient, and it puts our troops at greater risk.”

The issue is that though the Trump administration pulled troops out of the country, there was no change to the mission in Somalia, where the U.S. supports that government’s efforts to fight al-Shabab. Though U.S.-led strikes have continued, it’s a harder mission to do when it’s mostly remote, according to Military Times.

***

WEST AFRICA

Bloody Attack in Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Fourteen people, including seven children, were killed with machetes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to the Red Cross, Al Jazeera reports.

The attack took place in a displaced people’s camp in the country’s northwestern Ituri province on March 19, the humanitarian aid group reported.

Jean D’Zba Banju, a community leader in Ituri’s Djugu area, said the attacks belonged to the CODECO armed group, which has been blamed for a string of ethnic massacres in the area.

“CODECO militiamen entered Drakpa and started to cut people with machetes. They did not fire shots in order to operate calmly,” Banju told the news agency AFP March 20. “The victims are displaced people who had fled Ngotshi village to set up in Drakpa,” he said, adding that five others were wounded.

Gold-rich Ituri province has been plunged into a cycle of violence since late 2017 with the rise of CODECO, which has since split into rival factions. The group is a political-religious sect that claims to represent the interests of the Lendu ethnic group.

Ituri and neighboring North Kivu have been under a state of siege since May 6, in an effort to combat armed groups including CODECO and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). The ISIL (ISIS) armed group describes the ADF as its local affiliate.

Despite the crackdown, and support from the Ugandan military since late November, attacks have continued and more than 1,000 civilians have been killed from May 2021 to January this year, figures according to the Danish Refugee Council.

April 1, 2022 at 11:55 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (December 17, 2021)

FREE FALL:

(U.S. Air Force photo by Technical Sergeant Michael Cossaboom)

A U.S. Pararescumen, assigned to the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, jump from a KC-130 Hercules cargo aircraft during airborne operations over East Africa, on November 12, 2021.

Pararescuemen have to maintain their jump proficiency to enable them to complete their mission, which include, the rapid recovery of U.S. and allied personnel from battle zone and behind enemy lines. They also provide secure, reliable, flexible combat search and rescue capabilities. They can also rapidly deploy to austere locations to support U.S. and partner forces within the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa area of responsibility.

Since 9/11, these elite warriors have executed over 12,000 life-saving, combat rescue missions, according to the Air Force. They’ve also eliminated and captured numerous enemy combatants during the execution of these missions. Additionally, because of their unique capabilities, they have been called upon to rescue over 5,000 civilians worldwide during catastrophic natural disasters and other responses.

When one looks at this photo for the first time, it wouldn’t be unheard of to think: Where’s the plane they jumped from, or are they all X-Men? The low-key caption (below), the Pentagon placed on this photo anticipate that question, — sort of — but in answering, it raises additional questions.

Airmen jump from a KC-130 Hercules, not pictured, during airborne operations over East Africa, Nov. 25, 2021.

December 17, 2021 at 9:23 pm Leave a comment

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