Posts tagged ‘Central African Republic’

AROUND AFRICA: C.A.R. Violence Continues; U.S. Special Ops Chasing Kony

U.N. peacekeepers and Central African Republic National Police conduct a joint operation in the capital Bangui. Photo: UN/MINUSCA/Nektarios Markogiannis

U.N. peacekeepers and Central African Republic National Police conduct a joint operation in the capital Bangui.
Photo: UN/MINUSCA/Nektarios Markogiannis

The interim president of Central African Republic (C.A.R.) left the United Nations General Assembly opening in New York early this week because of the worst violence this year has broken out in the nation’s  capital, Bangui.

President Catherine Samba-Panza arrived home Wednesday (September 30), according to Reuters (via the Voice of America website), but has yet to make a public statement.

At least 39 people have died in inter-communal clashes, raising doubts about a planned election in mid October.The vote is aimed at restoring democracy to a country following a rebellion and years of turmoil. The violence broke out despite appeals by world leaders and local politicians and the presence of French and United Nations peacekeepers.

Thousands of Central Africans have died and hundreds of thousands remain displaced after two years of violence that erupted after mainly Muslim Seleka rebels seized power in the majority Christian country in 2013. Seleka abuses sparked reprisals by Christian “anti-balaka” fighters that drove most Muslims from the south in a de facto partition of the country.

Protesters alleged U.N. peacekeepers and French forces did little to intervene in violence Saturday (September 26) and called for the sidelined Central African army, the FACA, to assume responsibility for security, Al Jazeera reported. French and U.N. forces have been trying to halt the violence since first intervening in December 2013. About 900 French soldiers remain in the former French colony, down from about 2,000 last year.

On Tuesday (September 29) United Nations officials continued to voice their concern over the situation – where more than 30 people have been killed, over 100 have been wounded and thousands are seeking shelter amid the recent upsurge in violence. U.N. officials stressed the need for free movement for aid workers to reach those in need.

According to the UN peacekeeping mission in the country (MINUSCA), tensions persist in Bangui, which was the scene of attacks against civilians, violence between communities and attacks against humanitarian personnel since a young Muslim man was murdered on Saturday.

“MINUSCA is conducting patrols around critical areas, with the view of protecting civilians, including one Muslim and two Christian districts in Bangui,” U.N. spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told reporters in New York.

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Special Ops in C.A.R.

Central African Republic (Map from CIA orld Factbook)

Central African Republic
(Map from CIA World Factbook)

Amid the violence in the Central African Republic comes news that U.S. special operations forces aiding in the search for the brutal warlord Joseph Kony are camped out “in a lawless enclave” in the C.A.R. on the borders of Sudan and South Sudan,” the Washington Post reports.

Citing military officials and others familiar with the operation, the Post reports the U.S. special operators are dealing with “some unsavory partners to help find Kony’s trail”  — the Muslim Seleka rebels, whose brutal actions two years ago spawned the chaos in the C.A.R.

Tht Post said the arrangement has made some U.S. troops uncomfortable. The Seleka rebels “are playing us,” one military official who spoke on the condition of anonymity told the Post. The official described Seleka as a “mafia” that is trying to curry favor with the Americans even as the rebels extort local villagers and engage in illicit trade with Kony’s fugitive fighters.

President Obama first sent U.S. forces to central Africa in 2011 to aid several African militaries hunt Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army, which has terrorized Central Africa for more than two decades.  Obama will have decide in October whether to reauthorize the deployment and extend it for at least another year.

Several members of Congress think that is exactly what he should do, according to The Hill newspaper. “The United States and other members of the international community must retain our resolve to capture or remove the leaders of the (Lord’s Resistance Army) and any terrorist group the threaten the lives and well being of innocent people worldwide,” said Representative Christopher Smith, a New Jersey Republican and chairman of the Africa Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations in the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Rep. Karen Bass, a California Democrat and ranking member on the subcommittee, echoed Smith’s sentiments. Noting that it’s been reported the LRA has dwindled to perhaps as few as small as 200 fighters. “Their intimate knowledge of the inhospitable central African landscapes and total disregard for human life continues to make them a clear and present danger,” she said. Bass called on her colleagues in Congress as well as other U.S. government agencies “to sustain our efforts to rid central Africa of Joseph Kony.”

September 30, 2015 at 10:56 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Ebola Update, C.A.R. Stalemate

Ebola Death Toll.

Health workers treating Ebola patient require extensive personal protective equipment. (World Health Organization photo by Christine Banluta)

Protective gear for health workers treating Ebola patients in West Africa. (World Health nization photo by Christine Banluta)

The death toll from the Ebola virus outbreak in four west African countries has topped 1,000, according to the World Health Organization. In an update report Tuesday (August 11), the WHO said there have been 1,848 confirmed and suspected cases reported in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria resulting in 1,013 deaths.

Between Aug. 7 and Aug. 9, 69 new cases of Ebola virus disease (confirmed-probable-suspected) as well as 52 deaths were reported in those four countries.

A WHO panel of experts has determined that it is ethical to administer experimental drugs that have not been tested on humans but may counter the effects of Ebola to people suffering from the almost always fatal disease – which has no known cure or preventative vaccine. But the panel’s conclusion does not address who should receive the treatment, which is in limited supply, the Washington Post reported.

Marie-Paule Kieny, assistant WHO director general, said she hopes that efforts to produce more of an Ebola treatment developed by a small San Diego biopharmaceutical company, as well as other drugs under development, could result in wider availability late this year or early in 2015, according to the Post.

Two American medical missionaries, sickened by Ebola in Liberia, have been given the drug – ZMapp – and appear to be improving. But the untested drug’s manufacturer, Mapp Pharmaceutical of San Diego, California, said the remaining supply of ZMapp was exhausted after it sent several doses to Liberia. The Liberian government said it would administer the drug to two doctors felled by the disease while tretaing patients, the Post reported.

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What is Ebola?

According o the WHO, Ebola virus disease (formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever) is a severe, — often fatal illness — with a fatality rate of up to 90 percent. “It is one of the world’s most virulent diseases,” the WHO website states. The infection is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, body fluids and tissues of infected animals or people. Severely ill patients require intensive supportive care. During an outbreak, The risk of infection is higher among health workers, family members and others in close contact with sick people and deceased patients.

Here is a link to a WHO Ebola factsheet.

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Country-by-Country

Guinea and it's neighbors (CIA World Factbook)

Guinea and its neighbors
(CIA World Factbook)

Guinea

Researchers suspect the Ebola outbreak started in Guinea late last year and the first victim — or Patient Zero — was a two-year-old boy who died December 6, just a few days after falling ill in southeastern Guinea, which borders Liberia and Sierra Leone, the New York Times reports. Within a week Ebola also killed the boy’s mother, his three-year-old sister and his grandmother.  Within weeks it had spread to other relatives, funeral mourners and health workers who carried it across Guinea and elsewhere.

Liberia

The first European infected by Ebola, Spanish priest Miguel Pajares, died in a Madrid hospital, Spanish health authorities announced Tuesday (August 12). The 75-year-old missionary, who contracted the deadly disease in Liberia, had been treated with the experimental anti-Ebola drug ZMapp, according to Reuters.

Nigeria

Since a Liberian-American businessman into Lagos from Liberia about three weeks ago, the number of new Ebola cases in Nigeria has slowly grown and the number of people who may have been exposed is growing. Officials are now monitoring 177 people for symptoms of the disease, according to the Voice of America website. The businessman and one of the nurses who treated him have died.

Ivory Coast

The West African nation of Ivory Coast (Cote D’Ivoire) has banned all passenger flights from the three countries hit hardest by the Ebola outbreak. Ivory Coast is the only country, after Saudi Arabia, to impose such a ban, according to the BBC. The air travel ban covers Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone where hundreds of people have died. It excludes Nigeria, where a tenth Ebola case has been confirmed and two people have died.

Uganda

Uganda, which has a history of containing Ebola outbreaks, has sent 20 of its experts to Sierra Leone and Liberia to help curb the spread of the disease, VoA reports. Uganda has experience fighting Ebola with four major outbreaks in the past 10 years, all of which were contained.

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C.A.R.’s Muslim Prime Minister

French and African peacekeepers in C.A.R.

French and African peacekeepers in C.A.R.

The Central African Republic (C.A.R.) named its first Muslim prime minister on Sunday (August 10) to create a more inclusive government and end more than a year of sectarian violence, AFP reported.

Mahamat Kamoun, a former special advisor to interim president Catherine Samba-Panza, will lead a transitional government trying to implement a shaky ceasefire signed late last month. He is the first Muslim to serve as prime minister in the Central African Republic since the majority Christian nation gained independence from France in 1960.

But Kamoun’s appointment has been rejected by the mainly Muslim rebel group Seleka, the BBC reported. An estimated 20 percent of the C.A.R.’s inhabitants have fled their homes in the conflict which began as Seleka rebels seized power in March 2013. Seleka excesses led to the creation of largely Christian anti-Balaka militias and the situation descended into ethno-religious violence.

The rebels accuse interim President Catherine Samba-Panza of not consulting with them before choosing Kamoun. Thousands of peacekeepers from France and several African nations have been trying to keep the rival factions from even more violence.

August 12, 2014 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

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

FLASH POINTS

LRA Commander Capture.

Central African Republic (CIA World Factbook)

Central African Republic
(CIA World Factbook)

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

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

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

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

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Arms Trade Treaty

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

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

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

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Ebola Death Toll

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

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

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

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Algerian Troops Killed

Algeria (CIA World Factbook)

Algeria
(CIA World Factbook)

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

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

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

 

 

ELECTIONS

Algeria

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

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

Mauritania

Mauritania plans to hold its next presidential election in June.

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

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

Nigeria

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

AROUND AFRICA: Nigeria Terrorism, Central African Republic, Elections

 FLASH POINTS

Nigeria-Terrorism

Nigeria map (CIA World factbook)

Nigeria
(CIA World factbook)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Central African Republic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Central African Republic (CIA World Factbook)

Central African Republic
(CIA World Factbook)

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

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

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ELECTIONS

Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso

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

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

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

Algeria

ALGERIA

ALGERIA

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

April 16, 2014 at 11:59 pm 2 comments

AROUND AFRICA: Central African Republic, Cameroon-Polio, Ebola in West Africa

 U.N. Troops to C.A.R.

French and African troops patrol the Muslim Quarter of Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic. (Photo by EMA. Copyright Ministère de la Défense)

French and African troops patrol the Muslim Quarter of Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic.
(Photo by EMA. Copyright Ministère de la Défense)

The United Nations Security Council voted Thursday (April 10) to send 12,000 troops to quel violence and resore order in the strife-torn Central African Republic (C.A.R.).

Thousands have been killed and more than a million people are in need of aid following an explosion of sectarian violence after Muslim-led , Seleka rebels seized power a year ago and overthrew the government of President Francois Bozize – who had been in power for a decade. In a backlash, predominantly Christian anti-balaka militia members targeted Muslim civilians for revenge and attacked positions held by the mainly Muslim rebels.

U.N. Chief Ban Ki-Moon has warned of “ethno-religious cleansing” in C.A.R., with lynchings, decapitations and sexual violence going unpublished, the BBC reportedThe C.A.R. Is rich in gold, diamonds and other natural resources but most people remain poor after decades of unrest and government mismanagement.

Central African Republic (CIA World Factbook)

Central African Republic
(CIA World Factbook)

The U.N. Force will take over on September 15 from the 6,000-strong African-led peacekeeping mission. The Africans and about 2,000 French troops have been hard-pressed to halt the killing in the former French colony, according to the Voice of America.

The African troops will continue their military activities in the lead-up to the official transfer date in September. After being vetted, VOA reported, many of those troops will also be kep on as blue-helmeted U.N. Peacekeepers and join the new U.N. Mission, which will go by the acronym, MINUSCA.

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Cameroon-Polio

The government of the West African nation of Cameroon has announced it will mount a special polio Vaccin campaign for all children after haf a dozen cases were identified. There are fears that children fleeing dangerous situations – such as terrorist violence in Nigeria – are spreading the disease, according to the Voice of America website.

Cameroon and its neighbors (CIA World Factbook)

Cameroon and its neighbors
(CIA World Factbook)

 Nigeria is one of a few nations around the world which have not eradicated polio.

Cameroon’s Minister of Health Andre Mama Fouda said officials in his country thought they could declare the Cameroon polio free, but they detected four cases of the wild polio virus in the western part of the country. Three other cases were also identifed – indicating virus is spreading.

Some of the cases were reported in children fleeing northeast Nigeria – where Boko Haram Islamic militants have been committing random acts of violence.

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West Africa-Ebola

Meanwhile at least three West African countries are reporting cases of the deadly ebola virus.

Guinea has reported 157 ebola cases, with 101 leading to death. Almost half of the 21 cases reported in Liberia have proven fatal. In Mali, nine suspected cases have been reported. Both Liberia and Mali share a border with Guinea.

Guinea and its neighbors (CIA World Factbook)

Guinea and its neighbors
(CIA World Factbook)

A World health Organization official said the U.N. Agency expects ebola will engage its staff for months, according to the euronews website.“”This is one of the most challenging outbreaks that we have ever faced,” said Dr. Keiji Fukuda of the WHO. And that’s because “we see a wide geographic dispersion of cases. So this has come in from a number of districts as well as a large city in Guinea, Conakry,” the capital, Fukuda added.

 

 

April 10, 2014 at 11:58 pm 1 comment

AFRICA: The State of Africa Command

Eyes in the Sky Needed

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)

The head of U.S. Africa Command said Thursday (March 6) that he is woefully short of intelligence-gathering assets like unmanned aircraft to monitor the vast, troubled stretches of North West Africa.

Gen. David Rodriguez told the Senate Armed Services Committee that only 11 percent of his command’s intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) needs were being met – but that was up from just 7 percent last year.

Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the senior Republican on the panel, said he found those numbers “pretty troubling.” He noted that when violence broke out in South Sudan last December, ISR assets had to be pulled away from helping African and U.S. Special Operations troops track down the murderous renegade rebel group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Headed by indicted war criminal Joseph Kony, the LRA has for decades murdered and plundered its way across Central Africa, kidnapping children to be used as soldiers or sex slaves.

There are two unmanned surveillance drones and about 100 U.S. Air Force personnel to operate and maintain them based in Niger to help French and African peacekeepers restore order after a military coup fueled a revolt by nomadic Tuaregs that morphed into a takeover by Islamic extremists. More drones reportedly fly out of the U.S. military’s one African base, Camp Lemonnier, in Djibouti to monitor Sudan, Somalia and other flash points around the Horn of Africa.

Rodriquez told the Senate panel that the biggest intelligence gap he faced ranged from northern Mali to eastern Libya at the northern end of the continent. The Army general said he needed Joint STARS surveillance aircraft and remotely piloted air vehicles [drones] “to cover that vast range.”

The E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) (U.S. Air Force file photo)

The E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS)
(U.S. Air Force file photo)

At he start of the hearing, to explore the needs of AFRICOM and U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, said ISR assets were “a particular area of focus” for the panel this year since the Pentagon decided to reduce its capacity for round-the-clock unmanned combat air patrols because of budget constraints.

In his written testimony for the hearing, Rodriguez said his command was “making significant progress” in expanding collaboration and information-sharing with African and European partners to reduce threats and increase stability in a region threatened by violent extremist organizations..

Rwandan soldiers wait in line to board a U.S. ir Force C-17 Globemaster III to deploy as peacekeepers to aid French and African Union operations in the Central African Republic.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Crane)

Rwandan soldiers wait in line to board a U.S. ir Force C-17 Globemaster III to deploy as peacekeepers aiding French and African Union operations in the Central African Republic.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Crane)

While AFRICOM can mitigate immediate threats and crises like violent extremist organizations like al Qaeda-affiliated al Shabaab in Somalia, long term solutions will hinge on development of “effective and democratic partner nation security institutions and professional [armed] forces that respect civil authority.

He noted that Africa will be “increasingly important to the United States in the future.” It is home to six of the world’s ten fastest growing economies, a population estimated to double by 2050. “Nearly 80 percentr of United Nations peacekjeeping personnel worldwide are deployed in missions to Africa,” Rodriguez said. “Modest investments, in the right places, go a long way in Africa,” he added.

March 7, 2014 at 2:02 am 1 comment

AROUND AFRICA Update: Sectarian Violence in C.A.R., Nigeria; Piracy Report; Uganda’s Oil,

FLASHPOINTS

Updates with new information about EU contingent, planning, proposed use of surveillance drones.

Christian Vs. Muslim CAR

Central African Republic (CIA World Factbook)

Central African Republic
(CIA World Factbook)

France is sending 400 more troops to former colony Central African Republic (CAR) as a wave of sectarian violence sweeps across the Texas-sized country.

The first task of European Union troops, who are also being committed to peacekeeping in the CAR, will be to create a safe haven area in the capital city, Bangui, the commander said Monday (February 17), Reuters reported.

Major General Philippe Ponties told a Brussels news conference that the EU force also plans to use surveillance drones in the CAR — provided EU governments are prepared to supply them. In previous  United Nations peacekeeping missions to Africa, Irish and Belgian troops have used unmanned reconnaissance aircraft. The U.N. last year authorized the purchase of two unmanned air vehicles for deployment with peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The surge in French troops will boost their number to about 2,000, according to the Voice of America. There are also about 5,000 troops from various nations belonging to the African Union. The United States has provided airlift support to bring some of those forces into the country. Last week, the European Union voted to send about 500 troops to bolster peacekeeping efforts in CAR, where thousands may have been killed and hundreds of thousands have fled into neighboring Cameroon and Chad, creating an international refugee crisis, according to the United Nations.

French and African troops began a major operation last week to disarm local militias, known as the anti-balaka. The militias are accused of revenge attacks against Muslim neighborhoods in the capital Bangui and elsewhere around the country.

The chaos began last March when a largely Muslim rebel coalition known as Seleka came down from the northern part of the CAR, overthrew the government, and began brutal attacks on the neighborhoods and villages of the majority Christian population, killing and looting as they went.

That sparked a backlash by the Christians who formed vigilante groups called anti-balaka (for anti-machete). The anti-balaka degenerated into revenge killers who looted and burned Muslim areas. Now some two thousand people are dead and tens of thousands, mostly Muslims, have been driven out into the countryside or over the border.

Muslim Vs. Christian Nigeria

Nigeria's location (CIA World Factbook)

Nigeria’s location
(CIA World Factbook)

There have been renewed attacks and mass killings in two villages and a town in northeastern Nigeria, where the government has been battling an insurgency by the radical Islamist group Boko Haram.

Authorities and villagers say the group was responsible for an attack Saturday (February 15) on the village of Izghe, near the border with Cameroon, that left more than 100 slain – either shot or hacked to death, according to the BBC.

Boko Haram fighters attacked the town of Konduga earlier this month and killed 51 people, Reuters reported. President Goodluck Jonathan ordered extra troops into northeast Nigeria to try and crush the insurgents, who want to create an Islamic state in northern Nigeria, which is largely Muslim, but Boko Haram retreated into a remote area, bordering Cameroon, from where they have mounted numerous attacks, said Reuters.

And CNN reported that militants also attacked Doron Baga, a fishing village along Lake Chad. A survivor told CNN gunmen fired indiscriminately, stole foodstuff, fish and vehicles before setting fire to the village. A Nigerian official confirmed the attack but couldn’t give details, saying it occurred in an area under the jurisdiction of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MJTF). Consisting of troops from Nigeria, Niger and Chad, the MJTF was created in 1998 to battle weapons proliferation in the region but is now also battling the Boko Haram insurgency, CNN said.

Boko Haram, which means, “Western education is forbidden” in the north’s Hausa language, has killed hundreds of Christians and Muslims in the north since it launched its campaign of mass violence against the government in 2009. The U.S. State Department labeled Boko Haram a terrorist group last year. The continuing violence and the Army’s inability to eliminate Boko Haram as a threat poses a major political headache for Jonathan, who faces re-election next year, Reuters noted.

Nigeria is the most-populous nation in Africa and one of its biggest oil exporters.

TRANS-NATIONAL CRIME

Piracy Update

East Africa (Map courtesy of WikiSpaces.com)

East Africa (Map courtesy of WikiSpaces.com)

Piracy at sea has dropped to its lowest level in six years – largely because of a decrease in incidents off the Horn of Africa, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

IMB’s annual global piracy report says there were 264 pirate attacks reported around the world in 2013, a 40 percent drop since Somali piracy peaked in 2011. Only 15 incidents were reported off Somalia in 2013, down from 75 in 2012 and 237 in 2011.

Pottengal Mukundan, the director of the IMB, says “the single biggest reason” for the drop in worldwide piracy in 2013 “is the decrease in Somali piracy off the coast of East Africa.” IMB says Somali pirates were deterred by a combination of factors including patrols by international navies, building anti-pirate features into vessels, the use of private armed security teams and increased stability (a relative term here) brought by Somalia’s central government.

For more than two decades, Somalia has been considered a failed state with widespread lawless activity, warring factions and extreme poverty.

While the situation is improving on the East Coast of Africa, piracy has been on the rise of the West Coast of the continent. Nineteen percent of worldwide pirate attacks last year occurred off West Africa. In 2009 there were 48 actual or attempted attacks in the waters off West Africa. That rose to 62 in 2012 and dropped slightly to 52 last year.

Gulf of Guinea via Wikipedia

Gulf of Guinea via Wikipedia

In 2013, Nigerian pirates and armed robbers committed 31 of the region’s 51 attacks, taking 49 people hostage. Worldwide, more than 300 people were taken hostage. Nigerian pirates have ranged as far south as Gabon and as far west as Ivory Coast. They were linked to five of the region’s seven vessel hijackings. Just a few days after IMB issued its report in January, a Greek-owned, Liberian-flagged oil tanker was reported hijacked off the coast of Angola by pirates who allegedly stole a large part of the cargo. But the Angolan Navy disputes the crew’s story.

The IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre has been monitoring world piracy since 1991.e

ECONOMICS/BUSINESS

Oil Deal

Uganda has reached an agreement with three international oil companies to develop the East African country’s petroleum resources.

Uganda's location (CIA World Factbook)

Uganda’s location
(CIA World Factbook)

After years of negotiations, officials in Kampala earlier this month (February 7), signed a memorandum of understanding with Britain’s Tullow Oil, France’s Total and China’s Cnoc. Gloria Sebikari, of the ministry’s petroleum department said the memorandum goes behind simply developing oil fields, the Voice of America reported. “The plan provides for use of petroleum for power generation, supply of crude oil to the refinery to be developed in Uganda, and then export of crude oil to an export pipeline or any other viable option to be developed by the oil companies,” Sebikari said, according to VoA.

Uganda, East Africa’s third-largest economy, discovered hydrocarbon deposits in the western part of the country in 2006. But commercial production has been delayed and is not expected to start until 2016 at the earliest. Analysts blame the delay on negotiations over the planned refinery, according to Reuters.

Uganda has agreed to build a pipeline that will run to neighboring Kenya’s planned Indian Ocean port at Lamu, which is expected to become an export terminal for crude oil from Uganda, Kenya and other regional states, Reuters said.

Uganda has sub-Saharan Africa’s fourth-largest oil reserves, behind South Sudan, Angola and Nigeria with an estimated 3.5 billion barrels of crude oil, according to Oilprice.com. The oil and energy news website said East Africa has been identified as the next big oil and gas production area with more than four countries – including Kenya and Ethiopia – announcing oil and gas finds.

February 17, 2014 at 4:17 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: South Sudan, Central African Republic, Tunisia

South Sudan

Ugandan authorities are struggling with the increasing number of people fleeing the continued fighting in neighboring South Sudan, the BBC reports.

Sudan and South Sudan from CIA World Factbook

Sudan and South Sudan from CIA World Factbook

More than 20,000 South Sudanese are now crammed into a refugee camp meant to hold 400. And the numbers keep growing as more than 2,000 arrive every day. Food is inadequate, there is no shelter and hardly any water. The BBC’s the camp’s health centre is overflowing with pregnant women, children and the elderly.

There are also reports of ethnic fighting between the Dinka and the Nuer at the camp which is only a transit centre, so authorities cannot separate the warring ethnic groups yet.

Meanwhile, South Sudan’s army is advancing on the key rebel-held centres of Bentiu and Bor, as rebels strengthen defences in Bentiu. Reports say hundreds have fled violence in Bor and at least 1,000 people have been killed in fighting since December 15.

Thousands have fled Bentiu, capital of oil-rich Unity state. The city was said to be a ghost town with even the hospital reportedly deserted, the Guardian said.

And in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, peace talks between the rival South Sudanese factions appear deadlocked, the Voice of America reported Thursday (January 9). The stumbling block appears to be

P

Central African Republic

Central African Republic (CIA World Factbook)

Central African Republic
(CIA World Factbook)

The entire transitional assembly of the Central African Republic (CAR) has flown to Chad to attend a summit aimed at restoring peace in the country, the BBC reports. Regional leaders said the 135 member-assembly had been summoned because only they could decide the fate of their country.

The CAR’s interim leader, Michel Djotodia, is facing pressure to step down at a summit of regional leaders on Thursday because of his inability to halt the bloodshed that has forced about a million people to flee their homes, according to The Guardian.

Djotodia, who seized power in March at the head of the Seleka rebels, already lacked legitimacy in the eyes of other African governments. But he is considered an even greater liability as the country has descended into chaos amid reprisal attacks from mainly Christian militias against the largely Muslim rebel group. However, the VoA says Djotodia’s spokesman insists he will not resign.

The fighting in the CAR is neither a jihad nor a crusade, according to the Christian Science Monitor. The battle is over political power and the capital city of Bangui is the prize.

Tunisian Shift

Tunisia in Africa (CIA World Factbook)

Tunisia in Africa
(CIA World Factbook)

Tunisia’s Islamist prime minister resigned Thursday (January 9). The action by Ali Larayedh of the Ennahda Party, ends the two-year-old rule of his party, which has dominated the country’s political scene since the popular uprising that initiated the Arab Spring, the New York Times reported.

The resignation makes way for an interim government of independents under a plan to end months of political deadlock and mounting social unrest, the state news agency said, according to Aljazeera America.

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January 10, 2014 at 1:02 am 2 comments

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: Nelson Mandela, Central African Republic

A Great Man’s Passing

Nelson Mandela in 2008 (Photo courtesy of South Africa The Good News / www.sagoodnews.co.za via Wikipedia)

Nelson Mandela in 2008
(Photo courtesy of South Africa The Good News / http://www.sagoodnews.co.za via Wikipedia)

Nelson Mandela, a boxer turned lawyer who fought for freedom and justice in his homeland and became the first black president of South Africa, has died.

Mandela, 95, passed away Thursday (December 5) at home in Johannesburg after years of declining health.

After 27 years in prison for battling the racist apartheid government in South Africa, Mandela was released in 1990, at age 72, following worldwide pressure on the white government in Pretoria. Mandela went on to become South Africa’s first president of color in the country’s first free, multi-racial elections in 1994.

He led the racially-polarized nation to reconciliation after years of brutality and injustice during apartheid. Mandela stepped aside after serving one five-year term, saying it was time for others to lead. It was a seldom-followed example for other African leaders.

Called “the father of his nation” by his many admirers, Mandela was praised by President Barack Obama. Mandela was mourned across Africa and praised by world leaders and ordinary people.

Central African Republic

The United Nations Security Council unanimously approved on Thursday (December 5) the deployment of French and African troops in the Central African Republic, where a coup in March has dissolved into chaos and violence, CNN reports.

Central African Republic (CIA World Factbook)

Central African Republic
(CIA World Factbook)

The Security Council also voted to impose an arms embargo on the CAR, which lies east of Cameroon and north of the Democratic Republic of Congo (see map).

France’s president, Francois Hollande, says a French-led operation to protect civilians in the CAR will be launched immediately following the latest outbreak of sectarian fighting, according to the BBC. Hollande said a contingent of 650 troops will be “doubled within a few days, if not a few hours.” The French troops, under U.N. auspices, will join up with an existing African peacekeeping force.

Hollande said the the French role will be different from the one mounted in Mali, where French and African troops hunted down Islamist militants in the desert. Instead, they will act more like gendarmes, separating violent factions, the BBC reported. The CAR’s prime minister, Nicolas Tiangaye welcomed the move, the BBC said.

Meanwhile, a senior crisis response adviser for the human rights group, Amnesty International, expressed concern about the security situation in the CAR following the clashes between rival armed groups in the capital, Bangui, the Voice of America reported.

An official with the medical relief group, Doctors Without Borders, told the New York Times that at least 50 people have been killed in the fighting, with 100 others wounded. Other reports put the death toll at around 100, the Times reported.

December 5, 2013 at 11:56 pm Leave a comment

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