Posts tagged ‘African Union’

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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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          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.

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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

AROUND AFRICA: Obama’s African Trip; Terrorized Nairobi Mall Reopens; Burundi Vote

Obama African Visit No. 4.

Kenya in Africa. Map from CIA World Factbook

Kenya in Africa. Map from CIA World Factbook

President Barack Obama heads to East Africa this week for his fourth visit to the continent where his father was born.

Travel to Kenya, his father’s homeland, is on the president’s schedule. He will be attending the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Kenya. It marks the first time the gathering of entrepreneurs and leaders from business, international organizations and governments will take place in sub-Saharan Africa.

In addition to co-hosting the GES along with Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, the two will hold bilateral meetings. Relations between the two countries have been strained due to International . Criminal Court charges against Kenyatta and his deputy, William Ruto, for their alleged roles in orchestrating the violence that followed the 2007 election, the Voice of America website reported. Charges against Kenyatta have been dropped, while Ruto and another defendant continue to face trial.

Obama is expected to attend the summit during the weekend and to deliver a public address before traveling to Ethiopia. The Ethiopian visit to the headquarters of the African Union, has drawn criticism from human rights groups because  the authoritarian regime in Addis Ababa has cracked down on political dissent, the Washington Post reports.

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Westgate Mall Reopens.

Nairobi Westgate Mall (2007 photo by Rotsee via Wikipedia)

Nairobi Westgate Mall
(2007 photo by Rotsee via Wikipedia)

Security will be high on the agenda of Obama-Kenyatta talks, according to the BBC.. The East African nation is one of the top recipients of U.S. military aid and in the region and recent years have seen a spate of attacks from Somalia’s al-Shabab extremists.

One of the deadliest of those attacks took place two years ago in Nairobi when gunmen terrorized the upscale Westgate Shopping Mall — killing 67 and injuring scores more.

The mall reopened Saturday, for the first time since the attack. The mall has installed x-ray machines, explosive detectors and bullet-proof guard towers, Al Jazeera reported.

Gunmen from the Somalia-based armed group al-Shabab stormed the popular mall on September 21, 2013, in a brazen attack that the group said was in retaliation for Kenya’s military operations in Somalia. The siege lasted three days before Kenyan authorities retook the shopping center.

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Burundi “Votes”

Burundi's location in Africa. (Map: CIA World Factbook

Burundi’s location in Africa.
(Map: CIA World Factbook

Polls have closed in Burundi’s presidential election, and votes are being counter.

But incumbent Pierre Nkurunziza is certain to win after running unopposed, the VoA reported. Voter turnout was low in neighborhoods rocked by weeks of violent protests. Many in the tiny Central African nation said Burundi’s constitution bars Nkurunziza from seeking a third term.

At least 70 people have been killed in protests since he announced in April that he was running for re-election, the BBC reported.  About 1,000 people are fleeing into Tanzania each day to escape the violence, according to medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).

The U.S. State Department has joined critics saying the disputed presidential election lacks credibility and will discredit the government. But the Nkurunziza government accuses the opposition of provoking violent protests.

The African Union (AU) did not send observers – the first time it has taken such a stance against a member state, BBC reported. The AU said the security climate did not allow for free and fair elections. The European Union took a similar view, and has cut some aid to Burundi to show its displeasure with Nkurunziza.

July 21, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: African Union, Somalia, South Sudan


Ethiopia in Africa (Map from CIA World Factbook)

Ethiopia in Africa
(Map from CIA World Factbook)

With violence spinning out of control in several African countries, heads of state and government will meet in Ethiopia Thursday (January 30) for a summit organized by the African Union (AU).

The leaders will be discussing a development agenda, called Agenda 2063, at the meeting in Addis Ababa, the Ehiopian capital, but peace and security will also be high on the list of topics, the AU’s deputy chairman told Voice of America.

Somalia, South Sudan and Central African Republic are all dealing with insurgencies, near civil war or religious and ethnic strife. Founded in 1999, the AU is an international economic and development body seeking to integrate the continent into the world economy.

Erastus Mwencha noted the cooperation between the AU and its international partners, like France and the United States, but “at the end of the day peace cannot be brought from any external resources. It must be internally generated, the AU deputy chair said. He noted that the 28-member AU is moving forward on creating a standby force that could quickly engage in conflict resolution.

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Map courtesy of University of Pennsylvania African Studies Center

Map courtesy of University of Pennsylvania African Studies Center

Sources in Somalia say a U.S. drone strike Sunday (January 26) nearly hit the leader of al Shbaab, the Voice of America reported.

A militant sopurce and sources close to the African Union mission in Somalia told VOA’s Somali service that Abdi Godane, head of the militant Islamist group, was in the vicinity of the drone strike — north of Barawe, in the Lower Shabelle region.

Meanwhile, a senior aide to Godane was killed by a missile on Sunday (January 27). Ahmed Abdulkadir Abdullahi, known as “Iskudhuuq,” was killed when a car he was riding in was struck by a missile in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region, the VOA reported.

Rebel sources told VOA’s Somali service that the Abdullahi was a senior aide to Godane and was recently appointed the head of the group’s health unit.

A Somali intelligence official confirmed the attack, describing the dead man as a “dangerous” member of the group, the Associated Press reported. His driver was also killed in the attack, the official said on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to reveal the information. On Monday (January 27) a Pentagon spokesman confirmed the drone attack but gave few details.

The U.S. military launched several drone strikes targeting the al Qaeda-linked group’s leaders in Somalia. In October a missile strike killed al Shabaab’s top explosives expert.

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U.S. Marines and sailors help U.S. citizens into a Marine Corps KC-130J Hercules airplane in Juba, South Sudan, during an evacuation of personnel from the U.S. Embassy, Jan. 3.  (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Robert L. Fisher III)

U.S. Marines and sailors help U.S. citizens into a Marine Corps KC-130J Hercules airplane in Juba, South Sudan, during an evacuation of personnel from the U.S. Embassy, Jan. 3.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Robert L. Fisher III)

South Sudan, the world’s newest country, is facing a humanitarian crisis with more than 825,000 people displaced by violence.

United Nations Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos said Wednesday (January 21) that more than 702,000 people are internal refugees and another 123,000 have fled to other countries, the VOA reported.

Aid workers have been unable to reach more than 300,000 displaced people because of security threats. Doctors Without Borders suspended activities in Malakal last week after its compound was looted by armed men and its staff threatened.

Just last week, after five weeks of fighting that left as many as 10,000 dead, South Sudan’s government and rebels signed a ceasefire agreement after talks in Ethiopia. Under the deal, signed in Addis Ababa, the fighting is due to come to an end within 24 hours, the BBC reported.

Neighboring countries and global powers, including the United States and China, pressured the two sides to reach an agreement because of fears the fighting could escalate into a protracted civil war or an even wider conflict, the New York Times reported. Ugandan troops have been fighting alongside government forces, helping to push back the rebels.

The ceasefire is merely a first step. The Associated Press reported that additional talks are scheduled to resume in early February. The government is concerned the rebel leaders will not be able to control disparate groups of fighters. The head of South Sudan’s negotiating team, was worried that since many on the rebel side are civilians who took up arms, and may not follow the cease-fire agreement.

The rebels are demanding that 11 former government leaders imprisoned by President Salva Kir must be released. Kir has said the 11 must first be subjected to South Sudan’s judicial process.

Seven of the 11 were released Wednesday (January 29) and turned over to officials in Kenya, according to Al Jazeera.

January 29, 2014 at 11:57 pm 1 comment

AFRICA: U.S. Supplying Airlift in Central African Republic Intervention

U.S. Providing Airlift

A convoy arrives in Bossangoa. Photo by EMA. Copyright: Ministry of Defence (France)

A convoy arrives in Bossangoa.
Photo by EMA. Copyright: Ministry of Defence (France)

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has directed U.S. Africa Command to begin transporting African Union forces to the Central African Republic (CAR) to assist international relief and peacekeeping operations in the strife-torn nation.

Hagel took that step Monday (December 9) at the request of French Defense Minister Yves Le Drian, whosought “limited assistance from the U.S. Military” to support the United Nations-authorized effort to end the sectarian violence that has left hundreds of Christians and Muslims dead, according to a Pentagon statement.

U.S. aircraft will transport troops from the East African nation of Burundi to joint the French intervention, according to the Defense Department.

France has deployed 1,600 soldiers to the CAR, a former French colony, as part of a U.N.-mandated effort to restore stability in the CAR, where more than 400 people have been reported slain in fighting between Muslims and Christians, the Associated Press reported.

Central African Republic (CIA World Factbook)

Central African Republic
(CIA World Factbook)

The Pentagon said the United States was joining the international effort to stop the violence because “immediate action is required to avert a humanitarian and human rights catastrophe in the Central African Republic, and because of our interest in peace and security in the region.”

In a recorded message President Barack Obama has urged the “proud citizens of the Central African Republic” to remain calm amid mounting sectarian violence, the Voice of America reported. The impoverished country began to slide into instability, according to VOA when members of the rebel Seleka movement seized power in March and deposed the CAR President Francois Bozize

December 9, 2013 at 11:52 pm 1 comment

AROUND AFRICA: China-Nigeria Deal, Obama-Africa, Food Security,

Billion Dollar Deal

Nigeria (CIA World Factbook)

(CIA World Factbook)

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

Crowds watch President Obama's motorcade in Tanzania. (White House photo)

Crowds watch President Obama’s motorcade in Tanzania. (White House photo)

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

Uganda via CIA World Factbook

Uganda via CIA World Factbook

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.”


July 12, 2013 at 4:31 am Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Mali Turmoil, Ghana Election

Mali Uproar

Mali’s prime minister was forced to resign this week (Dec. 10) by the same troops that launched a coup d’etat earlier this year that threw the West African nation into turmoil.

Mali (CIA World Factbook)


According to the Washington Post,  Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra was arrested by the army late Monday as he was preparing to leave for Paris for medical treatment. A few hours later he announced his resignation on national television, along with the dissolution of his government.

A large segment of the international community — including the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the U.S. State Department and the United Nations — condemned the power play, the Voice of America reported. But today (Dec. 13) VoA reported the African Union said it would support the new interim prime minister, Diango Cissoko.

Meanwhile, the latest political upheaval raised worries outside Mali that the nation’s armed forces weren’t ready to participate in a a planned military action against radical Islamists in the northern half of the huge African nation (click here to see map). ECOWAS leaders have voted to send a 3,000-man strong force to recapture northern Mali — an area nearly the size of Texas — from the radicals who have introduced harsh Islamic law (sharia) including public executions and limb amputations for criminals. A Tuareg separatist revolt caught fire after the revolt by government troops in Bamako, the nation’s capital. The Tuareg’s swept down from the Sahara and seized more than half of the country. They were later pushed aside by two extreme Islamist groups with ties to al Qaeda-linked groups.

Meanwhile, the violence in Mali is putting an endangered population of elephants in the Sahara Desert at risk, according to researchers at the University of British Columbia and Oxford University.

Ghana Election

Incumbent John Mahama has won the recent presidential election in Ghana — by the narrowest of majorities — the West African nation’s electoral commission ruled Monday (Dec. 10.)  Officials said Mahama took 50.7 percent of the vote, compared to the 47.7 percent polled by opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo, the son of a former president.

Ghana(CIA World Factbook)

(CIA World Factbook)

However, Akufo-Addo’s opposition New Patriotic Party says it will contest the election result in court, accusing the governing NDC party of conspiring with commission staff to fix the results, the BBC reported.

Ghana, one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, is regarded as one of the most stable democracies in Africa. Since 1992 Ghana has held relatively peaceful elections and power transfers. Akufo-Addo lost the 2008 presidential poll by one percentage point to John Atta Mills — but accepted the result. Mahama was vice president until Mills died suddenly last summer.

In addition to a legal challenge, Akufo-Addo urged his followers to take to the streets in protest. But Police and armored vehicles are securing intersections and key government sites in the wake of the election. The Christian Council of Ghana hs urged NPP supporters to remain calm, VoA reported.

Meanwhile, the oil giant Hess Corporation announced Wednesday (Dec. 12) that it had made a fifth discovery of oil off the coast of Ghana. The discovery reinforces Ghana’s emergence as an attractive potential oil producer, according to Dow Jones, which noted several major oil companies have been drilling for oil and natural gas off Ghana’s shores.

Ghana is the second largest gold producer in Africa after South Africa and the world’s second-largest cocoa exporter after neighboring Ivory Coast, CNN noted.

December 13, 2012 at 11:46 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: The Hunt for Kony, First Woman AU Chief, Big China Loans (UPDATE)

Hunting for Joseph Kony

Updates with Mali interim president returning and additional background on China in Africa

The head of the African Union force that is supposed to hunt a vicious rebel group that has terrorized Central Africa for decades says he doesn’t have enough troops, equipment or funding.

Ugandan Army Col. Dick Olum told the Associated Press recently that he doesn’t have the force yet to start the mission: hunting down the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and its notorious leader, Joseph Kony. For decades Kony and thr LRA have terrorized the remote jungle areas of Uganda, Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo – killing, raping and looting.

The LRA has also kidnapped hundreds of children, turning the boys into soldiers and the girls in sex slaves. Last year President Obama sent 100 special operations troops into Uganda to help track Kony, who was indicted by the International Criminal Court in 2005 for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The African Union was supposed to gather troops to track and capture Kony and his estimated 200 followers, but Olum says the money, troops and logistics just aren’t there to proceed. Currently about 2,000 Ugandan soldiers and 500 troops from South Sudan have joined the manhunt.

African Union Taps It’s First Female Head

New AU Commission chair. (AU photgraph)

For the first time, the 54-member African Union has elected a woman to serve as chairman of the AU Commission. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, South Africa’s minister for home affairs, was selected in a closely contested process July 15, garnering 37 votes.

Ms. Dlamini-Zuma, was the first black health minister in South Africa under Nelson Mandela. She is a former wife of the current South African President Jacob Zuma.

The commission acts as the administrative/executive branch of the AU.

China to Loan Billions

China is offering $20 billion in loans to African countries to build infrastructure, and develop agriculture, manufacturing and small-to-mid size enterprises, according to The Guardian, a British newspaper, and other publications.

Chinese President Hu Jintao made the announcement in Beijing July 19 during a gathering of African leaders for the Forum of China-Africa Cooperation. The new loan guarantees are twice what Beijing pledged in 2009.

Analysts have noted that China in recent years has moved aggressively into Africa, which has been a key source of raw materials — such as oil, metals and other minerals — for Chinese factories.  Critics –including South African President Jacob Zuma — have said China needs to better balance its trade with African nations, which totaled $166.3 billion last year. But Zuma and others note China also exports manufactured goods to Africa but is importing little beyond commodities from African nations. Chinese companies have also been involved in infrastructure projects such as highway, housing and airport improvements in Algeria. And China paid about $200 million for the new African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa.

Mali Madness Continues

Mali’s interim president returned to the West African nation today (July 27) after a two-month hospital stay in Paris following an attack in his office by an angry mob. Seventy-year-old Dioncounda Traore plans to address the nation on Sunday (July 29), AFP reported.

Mali has been plunged into chaos since a March 21 military coup ousted the democratically elected president. At the same time, Tuareg fighters who had been waging an independence revolt in the northern deserts have swept over the northern half of the country, seizing control of the legendary caravan city and Islamic learning center, Timbuktu.

The 15-nation economic bloc known as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS is waiting for United Nations approval to send a peace-keeping force of 3,000 troops into troubled Mali.


July 25, 2012 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

AFRICA: Libya Puts Spotlight on AFRICOM

Puting the Combat in Combatant Command

A U.S. Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier jump jet returns to USS Kearsarge for fuel and ammunition resupply while conducting air strikes in support of Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn, the U.S. Africa Command task force established to support the international response to the unrest in Libya (Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Michael S. Lockett)

The allied intervention in the Libyan revolt/civil war has turned the spotlight on one the United States’ newest and least understood military organizations: U.S. Africa Command, known as AFRICOM.

AFRICOM has spent years of trying to allay the fears of African political leaders, pundits and peace advocates who suspect the command is either a secret strike force for American imperialism to grab the continent’s natural resources, or the 21st Century version of Gunboat Diplomacy. But we wonder if AFRICOM’s stated message of supporting peace and stability has been undermined at all by the command’s involvement in Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn.

The United Nations-Security Council-authorized and Arab League-backed operation – ostensibly to implement a No Fly Zone over Libya and protect civilians from attacks by strongman Muammar Qaddafi’s military – has included multiple missile and aircraft strikes against Qaddafi’s air defense system and armored columns menacing rebel strongholds.

While that has sparked an outcry from peace activists, lawmakers and human rights advocates in the U.S. and Europe, we’re waiting to see how this plays with folks in Africa. Three African nations currently on the Security Council – South Africa, Nigeria and Gabon – all voted in favor of U.N. Resolution 1973, which in effect calls for the No Fly Zone. While no Security Council members voted against the resolution, Brazil, Russia, India, China and Germany abstained from voting.

Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, has condemned the U.N. military action as well as the anti-Qaddafi rebels. But opposition parties in his country call his position hypocritical in light of his own lengthy autocratic rule and long-time friendly relationship with Qaddafi, according to local papers via the website. Museveni has penned a lengthy piece on his relationship with Qaddafi in Foreign Policy.

The African Union – which opposes the military intervention – called a meeting today (March 25) in Addis Ababa, Ehiopia to try and broker a truce  invited representatives from the Qaddafi government and the rebel faction, as well as the U.N. Security Council, the European Union and neighboring Arab countries. But the rebels say they won’t negotiate with Qaddafi’s regime

At least one prominent African political leader, Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda – a country that is no stranger to bloodshed – has spoken out in favor of the U.N. military action. In an opinion piece, Kagame says when his country was wracked by ethnic strife in 1994 during which nearly one million people died, the international community was slow to respond – “failing to intervene to prevent a state killing its own people.”

“Given the overriding mandate of Operation Odyssey Dawn to protect Libyan civilians from state-sponsored attacks, Rwanda can only stand in support of it,” Kagame wrote.

Although the African Union was also slow to respond to the Libyan crisis, the Rwandan leader faulted the international community for not including the African group in the decision-making process even though the Arab League was consulted.

“African Union support for Operation Odyssey Dawn would have acted as a further deterrent to other African leaders who might be tempted to target their own people with violence,” Kagame concluded.

Meanwhile, NATO – which is taking over command of the Libyan intervention – said Canadian Lt. Gen. Charlie Bouchard will be running Odyssey Dawn. That should be a relief for AFRICOM and its new commander, Army Gen. Carter Ham, who in the early days of the air war over Libya was the public face of U.S. forces in the operation. AFRICOM’s area of responsibility includes every African country except Egypt, which is overseen by Central Command.

The newest of the six regional combatant commands, AFRICOM was created by the second President George Bush in 2007 to coordinate humanitarian relief operations and train local militaries – all as a stabilizing force on the continent. The military training is aimed at professionalizing local armed forces so they protect rather than oppress their citizens, and equipping them to handle transnational threats like al Qaeda or other terrorist groups.

But no African government, save Liberia, would allow AFRICOM’s headquarters within its borders. AFRICOM continues to be based at Kelley Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany and has no permanent armed force in Africa or anywhere else for that matter. Half of its 1,200 personnel are civilians.

March 25, 2011 at 6:10 pm Leave a comment


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