Posts tagged ‘Africa’

FRIDAY FOTO (December 26, 2014)

Holiday S.O.P.

U.S. Army photo

U.S. Army photo

A soldier with a bike (and Christmas lights) tied to his back participates in a Toy Ruck March at Fort Polk, Louisiana, on December 18, 2014. During this holiday march, soldiers are encouraged to decorate their rucksacks and headgear for the holidays … and more than 600 toys were collected for distribution throughout the Fort Polk community.  This  soldier is assigned to the 94th Brigade Support Battalion.

If you are the photographer who took this photo (or know who did) please contact us in the comment section below or email us at: 4gwarblog@gmail.com so we can give credit where credit is due.

And, as you can see from the next photo, Toy Ruck Marches are conducted at several military installations across the nation.

Massachusetts National Guard photo by Sergeant Alfred Tripolone III

Massachusetts National Guard photo by Sergeant Alfred Tripolone III

A plush toy snowman peeks from a rucksack of as Massachusetts Army National Guard soldiers participate an another toy ruck march sponsored by the 164th Transportation Battalion. The troops trekked  from the National Guard armory in Dorchester to Boston Children’s Hospital on December 18, 2014. The soldiers donated over 300 toys to the children’s hospital.

To see some more photos of the good deeds soldiers, Marines and airmen are doing in Alaska, California, Illinois, Japan and Liberia, this holiday season — click here.

 

December 26, 2014 at 12:37 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: China Troops to S. Sudan, Bombings in Nigeria, Ebola Deaths Climb

Peacekeepers.

South Sudan and its neighbors. (CIA World Factbook)

South Sudan and its neighbors.
(CIA World Factbook)

China is sending a 700-man infantry battalion to South Sudan, its first combat-trained unit to serve in a United Nations peacekeeping mission.

Previous Chinese peacekeepers were mainly engineer, transportation, medical service and security units, according to Xinhua news service.

The unit includes 121 offices and 579 soldiers – 43 members of the battalion have participated in peacekeeping missions before, according to Xinhua. The first 180 soldiers will fly to South Sudan in January. The rest of the unit will travel by air and sea in March.

The battalion will be equipped with drones, armored infantry carriers, anti-tank missiles, mortars, light weapons and other equipment “completely for self-defense purposes,” Commander Wang Zhen said.

China currently has more than 2,000 peacekeepers serving in conflict zones around the world. The U.N. has more than 11,000 peacekeepers in oil-rich South Sudan, which won its independence from Sudan in 2011. Fighting broke out a year ago when President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy, Riek Machar, of plotting a coup.

Fighting in the capital, Juba – one of the fastest growing cities in the world – set off a series of retaliatory massacres that have claimed thousands of lives and driven the country to the brink of famine, according to The Guardian news site.

A 2011 report by the non-governmental organization (NGO) Saferworld, found that, despite stated neutrality, China is gradually using diplomatic means to push for the resolution of certain conflicts, according to The Guardian. The report also said China is becoming both a major supplier of conventional arms in Africa and has increased its contributions to U.N. peacekeeping missions since 2000 – most of them based in Africa.

*** *** ***

Bus Stop, Market Bombings.

At least 26 people have been killed in bombings in two major cities in northern Nigeria, the BBC reported. Twenty were killed at a bus stop in Gombe, while six more died in an explosion at a market in Bauchi.

Nigeria (CIA World Factbook map)

Nigeria
(CIA World Factbook map)

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the militant Islamist group Boko Haram is waging an insurgency in the area, the BBC noted.

Meanwhile, a video purportedly released by Boko Haram shows dozens of people being executed at a school dormitory. There is no independent confirmation that Boko Haram produced the video. It is unclear where or when it was shot.

But the video bears Boko Haram’s insignia and shows gun-wielding men chanting “Allah is great” and speaking in the Kanuri language associated with the group’s fighters, says BBC Nigeria analyst Jimeh Saleh.

Meanwhile, Cameroon’s military said it had dismantled a training camp run by Boko Haram near its border with north-eastern Nigeria. Soldiers captured 45 trainers and 84 children between the ages of seven and 15 who were undergoing training, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence, Lieutenant Colonel Didier Badjecks, told the Reuters news agency.

Despite a strong military presence, Nigeria’s Boko Haram continues to strike targets in northern Cameroon, according to an Al Jazeera report.

Boko Haram launched an insurgency in Nigeria in 2009, seeking to create an Islamic state in the region.

*** *** ***

Ebola Roundup

The World Health Organization says the Ebola death toll in in West Africa has risen to more than 7,500, the Voice of America reported.

And the number of cases is nearing 20,000 according to the WHO’s latest data posted on Monday.

The new numbers show Liberia and Guinea with a decrease in the rate of Ebola transmissions, while Sierra Leone’s cases continue to rise. Those three West African countries account for almost all the Ebola deaths.

The death toll in other countries remains the same with six deaths in Mali, eight in Nigeria, and one in the United States. Spain and Senegal have had one case each, but no deaths.

 

 

December 23, 2014 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Mali Hostage Freed, Ebola Roundup, Kenyatta Charges Dropped

French Hostage Released.

French troops supported Malian forces battling insurgents in 2013. (Copyright Ministry of Defense)

French troops supported Malian forces battling insurgents in 2013.
(Copyright Ministry of Defense)

A Frenchman kidnapped by Islamist terrorists in North Africa more than three years ago has been freed, the French government announced today (December 9).

Details of the release of Serge Lazarevic were not disclosed but French officials have insisted that no ransom is paid or prisoners released in exchange for any French hostages. At one time 14 French citizens were being held by terrorists in Africa. A Malian security source told AFP that Lazarevic was released at Kidal in northern Mali.

French President Francois Hollande said there are “no more French hostages in any country in the world.” Another, Phillipe Verdon, who was abducted with Lazarevic in 2011 by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, was killed last year in retaliation for France’s military intervention in Mali to halt a revolt by Islamic extremists and nomadic Tuaregs.

While authorities denied or wouldn’t comment on reports that ransom was paid, a retired French anti-terrorism judge, Alain Marsaud, was more frank. He told France’s RTL radio: “There is no reease if there is no payment. Someone paid, if not the government, a business or insurance company.

Mali and its neighbors (CIA World Factbook)

Mali and its neighbors
(CIA World Factbook)

A Malian newspaper and two sources, requesting anonymity, told Reuters that several Islamist-linked militants held in Mali were freed.

A Dutch tourist, Sjaak Rijke, kidnapped in Timbuktu in November 2011, has not been seen or heard from since he appeared alongside Lazarevic in a November AQIM video, the BBC reported.

*** *** ***

Ebola Roundup

The World Health Organization reports new cases of Ebola are still rising in West Africa, with Sierra Leone overtaking Liberia with the highest number of cases.

Data published Monday (December 8) by the WHO shows Sierra Leone has recorded 7,798 cases of the deadly virus, making it the country with the fastest growing infection rate, according to the Voice of America website. Meanwhile, infection rates are dropping in Liberia, which now has just over 7,700 cases – but Liberia still has more Ebola deaths than any other country: a little more than 3,100.

Overall, Ebola has infected 18,000 people in Africa and killed 6,346. The vast majority of those cases have been in Liberia, Sierra Leone and neighboring Guinea.

*** *** ***

International Court Drops Kenyatta Charges.

Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta. (Official photo via Wikipedia)

Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta.
(Official photo via Wikipedia)

The International Criminal Court has dropped its case against Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta for alleged crimes against humanity.

The prosecution withdrew the charges Wednesday (December 5) against Kenyatta, citing a lack of evidence. But there were also allegations that because the Kenyan government did not cooperate with the international court’s investigation, the case was unable to proceed, according to the Voice of America website.

The ICC’s lead prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said there was not enough evidence to prove the charges against Kenyatta beyond a reasonable doubt. Bensouda said Kenya’s government failed to provide key documents to the prosecution, which undermined her investigations and “had a severe, adverse impact” on the case. She also said she reserved the right to file charges again if more evidence becomes available.

Kenyatta was charged for his alleged role — before he was president — in the ethnic violence that followed the 2007 Kenyan elections. More than 1,000 were killed and a half million more were displaced by the violence, which prosecutors claimed Kenyatta and his deputy president, William Ruto, incited.

After the ICC dropped the case, Kenyatta – son of Kenya’s founding father Jomo Kenyatta — called it a “travesty” adding that he felt vindicated, the BBC reported. In the Hague, prosecutors accused the Kenyan government of refusing to hand over evidence vital to the case and said officials in Nairobi had intimidated potential witnesses.

 

December 9, 2014 at 11:33 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Nigeria bombing, Jet Deal Imperiled?

Nigeria: More Violence.

Nigeria (CIA World factbook)

Nigeria
(CIA World factbook)

Dozens of people have been killed in an attack by suspected Boko Haram militants in northeastern Nigeria. Gunmen rampaged through the village of Azaya Kura in the Mafa area in Borno state, killing at least 45 people, according to the BBC.

The village is about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Maiduguri, capital of Borno state. Boko Haram has taken control of a series of towns and villages in northeastern Nigeria in recent weeks.

Authorities have struggled to defeat the militant Islamist group, which has been waging an insurgency in Nigeria since 2009. In May 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan imposed a state of emergency in the northern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, vowing to crush the Islamist insurgency.

New York-based Human Rights Watch says Boko Haram has killed more than 2,000 civilians just this year.

*** *** ***

Nigeria Jets

The Nigerian Air Force wants to acquire more fighter jets to battle the Boko Haram Islamist militant group.

But Nigerian officials are concerned that their attempt to buy new combat aircraft from Textron and AirLand Enterprises may be blocked because of the West African nation’s human rights record, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Textron AirLand’s Scorpion ISR-Strike aircraft (Photo courtesy Textron)

Textron AirLand’s Scorpion ISR-Strike aircraft
(Photo courtesy Textron)

A senior Nigerian air force officer expressed concern a deal could be blocked on human rights grounds after an earlier effort to acquire combat helicopters was blocked over the issue. The Nigeria air force currently relies on a fleet of older jets, including Chinese-made F-7 planes and European Alpha Jets.

Textron, the largest maker of business aircraft, and AirLand have been marketing the Scorpion military jet as a low-cost option for many nations that can’t afford more traditional and expensive designs.

 

 

 

 

November 20, 2014 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (November 14, 2014) RESENDING

Light up the Night.

Marine Corps Photo by Corporal Jonathan R. Waldman

Marine Corps Photo by Corporal Jonathan R. Waldman

U.S. Marines fire at fixed targets from Light Armored Vehicles (LAV-25s) during training in D’Arta Plage, Djibouti in East Africa.  Note that despite the bright light thrown off by tracer bullets, you can still see the stars in the sky if you click on the photo to enlarge it.

The LAV-25s are assigned to Charlie Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance detachment, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).

They were participating in a combined arms engagement range during sustainment training. The 11th MEU is deployed as a reserve and crisis response force throughout U.S. Central Command and the 5th Fleet area of responsibility.

WHOOPS!

We created today’s Friday Foto in the wee hours after midnight, but apparently we neglected to click the all important PUBLISH button after editing this post.

We apologize for the error — and the delay in discovering it until a few minutes ago.

The Editor.

 

 

November 14, 2014 at 1:26 pm Leave a comment

AFRICA: President Out in West Africa’s Burkina Faso [UPDATE and CORRECTION]]

Power Shift.

CORRECTION: Corrects last paragraph to indicate critics accused Compaore of meddling in Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone — not Liberia.

Burkina Faso location  in Africa (CIA World Factbook)

Burkina Faso location in Africa
(CIA World Factbook)

After 27 years in power, Blaise Compaore is out as president of Burkina Faso. But its not clear who is in charge now of the poor, land-locked West African state.

Compaore left office — or was ousted. depending on whom you listen to — over the weekend when mass protests, vandalism and looting broke out in the capital, Ouagadougou, and by thousands who opposed his plans to rewrite the country’s constitution so he could run for another term as president.

The BBC is reporting that “ensions are mounting” after the Army chief Honore Traore has seized power. Traore said he had taken over, but it is not clear if he had the backing of all the military.

The Army says it will install a unity government to oversee a political transition, the Voice of America reported.

A brief military statement late Sunday (November 2) said all of the components of the transitional body “will be adopted by a broad consensus.”  It did not provide details.

Sunday’s announcement in Ouagadougou follows hours of widespread confusion about who will run the impoverished West African nation of 17 million.

A short while after Compaore’s forced resignation, two military officers each claimed to be in charge.  The military on Saturday named one of them, Lieutenant-Colonel Yacouba Isaac Zida, commander of the presidential guard,  to head the transition, VOA said.

Compaore, who came to power in a military coup in 1987, has been a U.S. ally in the war against terrorism. He allowed the U.S. to base a spy plane base in his country to montior al Qaeda-linked groups in North Africa, according to the Washington Post.  While he helped mediate political crises in Mali and in Ivory Coast, his critics say his meddling at first led to bloodshed in Ivory Coast and prolonged it in Sierra Leone.

Burkina Faso  (CIA World Factbook)

Burkina Faso
(CIA World Factbook)

 

November 2, 2014 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Burkina Faso Unrest; Ebola Update; Zambia President Dies; Another Boko Haram Attack, Nigeria President Seeking Re-Election; [UPDATE]

UPDATES with  Rioting, state of emergency in Burkino Faso, Nigerian President to Seek Re-election.

Burkina Faso Capital in Flames.

Burkina Fasolocation  in Africa (CIA World Factbook)

Burkina Fasolocation in Africa
(CIA World Factbook)

The president of the West African nation of Burkina Faso has declared a state of emergency, after tens of thousands of people took the streets, setting the  parliament building ablaze. Violence in the capital, Ouagadugou, has left at least one person dead, according to Al Jazeera.

Army General Honore Traore, the joint chief of staff, said that the government and parliament were dissolved on Thursday (October 30). Some of the protesters, who are opposed to constitutional amendments that would allow President Blaise Compaore to stay in power for another term, ransacked state television and tried to storm other state buildings, Al Jazeera noted. 

“A state of emergency is declared across the national territory. The chief of the armed forces is in charge of implementing this decision which enters into effect today,” said a statement from the president read by a presenter on Radio Omega FM.  The president also said he would open talks with the opposition.

“I dissolve the government from today so as to create conditions for change,” the statement said. “I’m calling on the leaders of the political opposition to put an end to the protests. I’m pledging from today to open talks with all the actors to end the crisis.” 

The BBC is reporting that President Compaore  is defying opposition calls that he step down. The president says he will stay in power for a year under a transitional government, following a day of violent protests demanding his resignation. Demonstrators angered by his bid to extend his 27-year rule torched Parliament and other government buildings.

General Traore did not spell out who would lead the interim administration. He also declared the imposition of an overnight curfew. In a message broadcast by a local TV station after the general’s statement, Compaore said he welcomed the military’s “patriotic action”. He said he would hand over power to a democratically elected government after the transitional administration had completed its term. He also said he was withdrawing a controversial legislation that would enable him to seek another term in office. He has held the presidency for 27 years.

*** *** ***

Ebola Update

Electron micrograph of an Ebola virus virion. (Centers for Disease Control)

Electron micrograph of an Ebola virus virion.
(Centers for Disease Control)

The World Health Organization (WHO) says here has been a decline in the spread of Ebola in Liberia, the country hardest hit by the deadly virus.

The WHO’s Bruce Aylward said it the U.N. agency is finally confident health officials are gaining the upper hand against the outbreak, the BBC reported.

However, Aylward warned against any suggestion that the crisis was over.  Liberia’s Red Cross said its teams collected 117 bodies last week, down from a high of 315 in September, according to the WHO. Treatment centers also have empty beds available for patients.  “It appears that the trend is real in Liberia and there may indeed be a slowing,” said Aylward.

According to the latest WHO situation report, the death toll from the West African outbreak stands at 4,922. The WHO says a total of 13,703 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola virdus disease (EVD) have been reported in six countries: Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Spain, and the United States as of October 28. Meanwhile, the outbreak of EVD in Senegal was declared over on October 17 and in Nigeria two days later (October 19, 2014).

EVD transmission remains persistent and widespread in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, the WHO report said, adding: “All administrative districts in Liberia and Sierra Leone have now reported at least one confirmed or probable case of EVD since the outbreak began.” Cases of EVD transmission remain lowest in Guinea, but case numbers are still very high in absolute terms. Transmission remains intense in the capital cities of the three most affected countries. Cases and deaths continue to be under-reported in the outbreak.”

More on Ebola Later

*** *** ***

Boko Haram Attack

Updates with President Goodluck Jonathan saying he will seek re-election.

Nigeria (CIA World Factbook map)

Nigeria
(CIA World Factbook map)

The Voice of America website is reporting that Boko Haram militants have taken over a city in northeast Nigeria — another violation of a cease-fire declared by the government earlier this month.

Local residents tell VOA’s Hausa language service that militants stormed the city of Mubi on Thursday (October 30), pillaging the local emir’s palace and freeing jailed militants from a prison.

A Mubi resident reported seeing black turban-wearing Boko Haram fighters patrolling the city on motorbikes. The witness also said Nigerian soldiers have either fled or abandoned their positions in the city. The Nigerian air force is reported to have launched air strikes in Mubi to counter the Boko Haram advance, VOA reported.

Despite widespread discontent with how his government is handling the Boko Haram crisis, President Goodluck Jonathan announced he would seek re-election in February’s elections, the BBC reports.

The announcement comes as Jonathan faces mounting criticism over his handling of the Boko Haram insurgency and the group’s abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls, the BBC noted. The government announced a ceasefire agreement with Boko Haram earlier this month that was supposed to lead to the release of the schoolgirls.

The Nigerian government says it has been talking to Boko Haram in neighboring Chad with both parties agreeing on a ceasefire. But with attacks in northeast Nigeria continuing and no word on when — or if — the girls will be released, critics have raised questions about the validity of the truce.

*** *** ***

Sata Dead, Scott Acting President.

Zambian President Michael Sata in 2013. (Photo by Cluster Munition Coalition via Wikipedia)

Zambian President Michael Sata in 2013.
(Photo by Cluster Munition Coalition via Wikipedia)

The president of Zambia, Michael Sata, has died and his successor — at least temporarily — is the Zambian-born son of a Scottish doctor and sub-Saharan Africa’s first white head of state in 20 years.

Sata, 77, who was elected president of the South Central African nation in 2011, died Tuesday (October 28) in a London hospital where he was being treated for an undisclosed illness, according to the BBC.

Zambia’s vice president, Guy Scott, 70, will serve as acting president until elections are held in January. He is a former agriculture minister who also worked in Zambia’s finance ministry.

“Elections for the office of president will take place in 90 days. In the interim, I am the acting president,” Scott said in a broadcast address that also announced the start of  a period of mourning for the late president, the Associated Press reported.

MAP-Zambia in Africa (CIA World Factbook)

MAP-Zambia in Africa
(CIA World Factbook)

Scott, whose parents were both Scottish, has said he has no presidential ambitions. Zambia’s constitution also bars him from running for president because his parents were not Zambians by birth or descent, the AP said.

Sata — nicknamed “King Cobra” for his blunt talk and sharp tongue — was Zambia’s fifth president and the second to die in office.  He promised to tackle corruption and create jobs and prosperity for the former British colony (Northern Rhodesia) of 15 million people.  But his declining health was mirrored by Zambia’s declining economy, and he left behind an impoverished country with one of the lowest life expectancies in the world, according to the BBC’s obituary.

October 30, 2014 at 1:11 am Leave a comment

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