Posts tagged ‘Democratic Republic of Congo’

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


Ethiopia-Tigray War

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fighting al Shabab from Afar.

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

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

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

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



Bloody Attack in Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AROUND AFRICA: U.N. Health Agency Declares International Ebola Emergency

Global Health Emergency in DR Congo.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the Ebola crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo a “public health emergency of international concern.”

MAP-DR Congo

Democratic Republic of Congo (CIA World Factbook)

The public health emergency provision, announced in Geneva July 17, is the highest level of alarm the WHO can sound and has only been used four times previously. But the organization stopped short of saying borders should be closed, saying the risk of the disease spreading outside the region was not high, the BBC reported.

The outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has killed more than 1,600 people, according to the latest WHO report, which noted a confirmed case of Ebola virus disease was reported in Goma, a city of two million inhabitants close to the Rwandan border.



Ebola is a virus that initially causes sudden fever, intense weakness, muscle pain and a sore throat. It progresses to vomiting, diarrhea and both internal and external bleeding. Infection is caused by direct contact through broken skin — or the mouth and nose — with the blood, vomit, feces or bodily fluids of someone with Ebola.

Critics have said the emergency declaration was long overdue. A WHO expert committee declined three times previously o advise the United Nations agency to make the declaration for this outbreak, even though other experts say it has long met the required conditions, the Associated Press reported.

While the risk of regional spread remains high, the risk outside the region remains low, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said after the announcement in Geneva.

The international emergency “should not be used to stigmatize or penalize the very people who are most in need of our help,” he said. Tedros insisted that the declaration was not made to raise more money — even though WHO estimated “hundreds of millions” of dollars would be needed to stop the epidemic, according to AP.

The U.S. Agency for International Development applauded the WHO decision and said agency officials would “continue to scale up life-saving support” to end the outbreak.

WHO Ebola vaccination team in Butembo.

Over 160,000 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been vaccinated against Ebola at facilities like this one in Butembo. (WHO photo)

It was the fifth such declaration in history. Previous emergencies were declared for the devastating 2014-16 Ebola outbreak in West Africa that killed more than 11,000 people, the emergence of Zika in the Americas, the swine flu pandemic and polio.

The current outbreak has raged for a year. The virus flared up in spots where it had once been contained and the epidemic hot zone has geographically expanded in northeastern Congo near Rwanda and into Uganda, the New York Times noted.

Violence against health workers has been a constant worry, and intensified after two Congolese workers were killed in their homes last week in Beni, a city in northeast DRC close to the world famous Virunga National Park near the border with Uganda.

July 18, 2019 at 11:18 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Nigeria Violence, Ebola, U.N. Drones

HOT SPOTS: Nigeria.

Nigeria map (CIA World factbook)

Nigeria map
(CIA World factbook)

Another bombing and more deaths in Nigeria where the government is battling radical Islamist militants. This time, the blast was at a market in the northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram, the anti-Western extremisty group blamed for dozens of bombings, killings and kidnappings across Nigeria in recent weeks.

At least 56 people were killed by the car bombing, according to the Associated Press, which noted that Maiduguri, [see map] a city of more than 1 million people, has suffered several attacks. In March, twin car bombs killed more than 50 people at a late-night market where many were watching a football match on a big television screen.

But the violence has been widespread. On Sunday, suspected extremists sprayed gunfire on worshippers at four churches in a northeastern village and torched the buildings, killing at least 30 people, according to the AP. Last week, at least 42 people were killed in three blasts around the country, including 24 slain at the biggest shopping mall in Nigeria’s central capital Abuja.

President Goodluck Jonathan will be visiting Washington this summer to attend the United States-African Leaders Summit (August 5-6). On July 31 he will be speaking about his country’s turmoil at the National Press Club in Washington. Jonathan’s government has taken sharp criticism at home and abroad for its inability to stop the bombing attacks or rescue more than 200 high school girls kidnapped from a school in northeast Nigeria in April.

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Ebola Meeting

A different kind of “summit” meeting is being held in Accra, Ghana where health ministers from 11 African countries are trying to “get a grip” on the worsening Ebola outbreak, the BBC reports.

So far, 763 people have been infected with the virus – and 468 of these have died. Most of the cases have been in Guinea where the outbreak started. But it has since spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The outbreak is the worst since the disease was identified in the 1970s, Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told the Voice of America. Ebola causes fever, vomiting, bleeding and diarrhea. It is spread through contact with the blood or other fluids of infected people.

Meanwhile, Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says anyone caught hiding suspected Ebola patients from authorities will be prosecuted. Sirleaf issued the warning on state radio Monday (July 1), expressing concern that some patients had been kept in homes and churches instead of receiving medical attention, al Jazeera America reported.

Sierra Leone issued a similar warning last week, saying some patients had discharged themselves from the hospital and gone into hiding. Health workers elsewhere in the region have encountered hostility and some have even been attacked.

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Drones Over the Congo

U.N. peacekeepers have deployed Falco Selex ES2 drones along the eastern border of the Democratic Republic of Congo (Photo courtesy of Selex ES)

U.N. peacekeepers have deployed Falco Selex ES2 drones along the eastern border of the Democratic Republic of Congo
(Photo courtesy of Selex ES)

United Nations peacekeepers have begun flying unarmed, unmanned surveillance aircraft over the war-wracked eastern edge of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Italian-made unmanned aircraft are the first acquired by the U.N. for peacekeeping missions but their presence is already posing  questions about how the intelligence they collect will be used and who will get to see it,  according to the New York Times. Another question is just how useful they will be in a country of distances far great than their 125 mile/200 kilometer flying range from their base in Goma [see map].

More and more, drones are flying over some of the toughest peacekeeping missions in the world, improving the United Nations’ intelligence-gathering capability, but also raising new issues about what to do with so much important data, the Times reported.

CIA World Factbook

CIA World Factbook


July 3, 2014 at 12:37 am Leave a comment

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


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)

(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.





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 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’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

STABILITY OPERATIONS: Attacks on Afghan Aid Workers, UN Drones in Congo

Threat Rises in Afghanistan

Institute for the Study of War map

Institute for the Study of War map

A United Nations official says aid workers in Afghanistan are under an increasing threat in the war wracked country as most U.S. troops are preparing to leave by the end of next year.

Nine Afghan aid workers were killed in separate attacks on two days last month. Suspected Taliban gunmen killed six aid workers in northern Faryab province (see map) November 27. An explosive device killed three other aid workers in southern Uruzgan province the previous day, the Voice of America website reported.

An October report from the Aid Workers Security Database identified Afghanistan as the most dangerous country for aid workers, VoA added.

Mark Bowden, the U.N.’s Humanitarian Coordinator in Afghanistan, said in a statement Saturday (November 30) that he’s “extremely concerned” about the rise in attacks on civilian aid workers during a time of transition when Afghanistan soldiers and police will be taking over security responsibilities from U.S. and NATO coalition forces.

“These tragic incidents illustrate the growing risks surrounding the delivery of aid and the increasing disrespect for humanitarian personnel in Afghanistan,” Bowen said.

“These tragic incidents illustrate the growing risks surrounding the delivery of aid and the increasing disrespect for humanitarian personnel in Afghanistan,” Bowen said.

According to Bowen, there were 237 attacks on Afghanistan’s aid workers through November – with 36 people killed, 46 wounded and 96 detained or abducted. Last year, there were 175 attacks, with 11 people killed, 26 wounded and 44 detained or abducted, the New York Times reported.

UN Drones Patrol Congo Skies

U.N. peacekeepers have deployed two Falco Selex ES2 drones in the Democratic Republic of Congo  (Photo courtesy of Selex ES)

U.N. peacekeepers have deployed two Falco Selex ES2 drones along the eastern border of the Democratic Republic of Congo
(Photo courtesy of Selex ES)

U.N. Peacekeepers have deployed two unarmed, unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) in the Democratic Republic of Congo to monitor rebel activity near the borders with Rwanda and Uganda, the BBC reports.

It is the first time U.N. peacekeepers have deployed a drone bought and paid for by the United Nations – rather than bringing them from their home countries, which Belgian and Irish troops have done in previous African peacekeeping missions.

The drones, two Falcos manufactured by Selex ES, a unit of Italian aerospace contractor Finmeccanica, were launched in the skies over Goma, a citry in the eastern DRC briefly occupied byM23 rebels. The rebels are mostly ethnic Tutsi fighters who were integrated in the DRC Army in 2009, but mutinied in 2012 over their alleged mistreatment by the DRC Army.

More than 800,000 people fled their homes due to the violent revolt, which M23 leaders ended last month after U.N. Peacekeepers took the gloves off and pursued an offensive against the rebel group.

The drones will be used to see if any neighboring countries are supplying the rebel militia. Both Rwanda and Uganda have denied aiding the M23 rebels. UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told the BBC that if successful in the DRC, the Falco UAVs could be used in other U.N. Peacekeeping missions.

December 3, 2013 at 11:59 pm 1 comment

AROUND AFRICA: UPDATE — U.N. Drone Deployment Delayed; C.A.R. Militia Disbanded; China’s African Media Buys; Cassava Crop Threatened

U.N. Delays Congo Drone Deployment

U.N. peacekeepers’ plans to deploy an unarmed surveillance drone in the skies over the Democratic Republic of Congo have been delayed until December, Reuters reports.

A Selex ES Falco at Paris air show. (Photo courtesy of Selex ES)

A Selex ES Falco at Paris air show. (Photo courtesy of Selex ES)

The United Nations planned to deploy a Falco unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) made by Italian defense electronics firm Selex ES (a unit of Finmeccanica) last month in eastern Congo, but unanticipated procurement procedures have caused a delay “until the first days of December,” U.N. Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told a news conference Thursday (Sept. 12).

Congo troops and U.N. peacekeepers have been battling an insurgency by a rebel group known as M23, in the rugged eastern part of the country for more than a year. The rebels defected from the DRC Army in 2012 over alleged mistreatment. Thick forests and few roads have made ground patrolling difficult in the area, which borders Uganda and Rwanda.

The Falco is a medium altitude, medium endurance surveillance platform capable of carrying a range of payloads including several types of high resolution sensors. It will be the first time the U.N. has used a drone for aerial surveillance. If successful, officials and diplomats hope UAVs could be used in peackeeping missions in Ivory Coast and South Sudan. The United States is mounting unarmed drone surveillance of Mali and other strife-torn areas of the Sahel from a base in Niger.

Central African Republic

Central African Republic (CIA World Factbook map)

Central African Republic
(CIA World Factbook map)

The president of the Central African Republic says he is disbanding the Seleka rebel group that helped to bring him to power earlier this year, according to the Voice of America. President Michel Djotodia made the announcement Friday (Sept. 13) in the C.A.R. capital, Bangui, saying the rebel coalition “no longer exists.” But he provided no details about steps he would take to dissolve the group.

Recently, fighters from the rebel movement have been blamed for clashes with rival militias as well as a surge in robberies, auto thefts, rapes and murders. The violence has forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes.

China News in Africa

If there is an “information war” between China and the United States on an African battleground, as former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested at a congressional committee hearing in 2011, it appears that China is beginning to win the war.

That’s the take away from Canada’s Globe and Mail in a story about Chinese media acquisitions in Africa.

“In South Africa, Chinese investors have teamed up with allies of the ruling African National Congress to purchase Independent News and Media, one of the most powerful media groups in the country, which owns daily newspapers in all of the major cities,” the Toronto-based newspaper reports.

China has been making big investments in African media from newspapers and magazines to satellite television and radio stations, and some observers believe that will allow the People’s Republic to promote its own agenda in the press and counter hostile coverage.

According to another South African newspaper, the Mail & Guardian, two Chinese companies — China International Television Corporation and China-Africa Development Fund — have acquired a 20 percent stake in Independent News and Media. The Mail & Guardian previously reported that the South African state-owned Public Investment Corporation (PIC) was buying 25 percent of the company, using Government Employee Pension Fund money.

Cassava Crisis

Children eating fried cassava in Tanzania (Photo by Martin Best, copyright FAO East and Central Africa)

Children eating fried cassava in Tanzania (Photo by Martin Best, copyright FAO East and Central Africa)

Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD) and especially Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) pose an enormous threat to the food security of 135 million people in Central and East Africa, aAt least half of all plants in Africa are affected by one of these diseases.

Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD) and especially Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) pose an enormous threat to the food security of 135 million people in Central and East Africa. At least half of all plants in Africa are affected by one of these diseases. – See more at:
Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD) and especially Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) pose an enormous threat to the food security of 135 million people in Central and East Africa. At least half of all plants in Africa are affected by one of these diseases. – See more at:

September 12, 2013 at 11:57 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Aid for Great Lakes Region, Investment in Sudan

Great Lakes Funding

The World Bank announced today (May 22) that it will pledge $1 billion in development funding for the Great Lakes Region of Africa.

Africa Great Lakes Region

Africa Great Lakes Region

Jim Yong Kim, the bank’s president, said the proposed funding would help finance health and education services, hydro-electric projects and cross-border trade in the strife-torn region in Central Africa. The Great Lakes region has been destabilized by years of conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which has spread to neighboring nations like Rwanda and Uganda. More than two million people have been displaced – just inside the DRC – since 2012, and another 70,000 people have fled the DRC for neighboring Rwanda and Uganda. Thousands more have crossed into the DRC from Angola, the Central African Republic and Burundi, according the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

“We believe this can be a major contributor to a last peace in the Great Lakes region,” Kim said, according to the Aljazeera news service. The pledged money would spend $100 million to support agriculture and rural livelihoods for displaced people and refugees; another $340 million would go for an 80 megawatt joint hydro-electric project for Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania; $165 million for roads in the DRC and $180 million for infrastructure improvements and border management along the Rwanda-DRC border. Additional funding would go to public health laboratories, fisheries and trade facilitation programs, according to the World Bank.

Kim announced the plan on the first day of a three-day trip to the region with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to support a landmark peace agreement for the DRC and the surrounding region.

But the optimism was marred by fighting between the DRC’s army and fighters from the M23 rebel group near the eastern city of Goma on the Rwandan border. At least 19 people have been killed in the last week. More civilians were killed in rocket and artillery fire Wednesday during the third day of  fighting between Congo’s army and the rebels, according to the Voice of America.

Lebanese Firm to Farm Sudan

A Lebanese investment firm plans to spend as much as $800 million on farmland in Sudan to produce animal feed for sale in Saudi Arabia, Reuters reports.

CIA World Factbook

CIA World Factbook

Beirut-based GLB Invests isn’t the first Arab firm to launch farmland and livestock projects in Sudan, where the farmland is water by the Nile River. The idea is to provide Gulf oil-producing countries with a way to meet foods needs in the arid lands.

Firas Badra, president of GLB Invest, told Reuters that the firm had leased 78,000 hectares (192,000 acres) of land 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Khartoum to produce and export 40,000 tons of animal feed annually.

 He said the company was starting out with a goal of producing 40,000 tons temporarily but the land will produce a maximum of 750,000 tons by 2019.

May 22, 2013 at 11:29 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Pirates and Militants in Nigeria, Congo’s Rebels

Pirates Seize 7 Off Nigeria

West African piracy incidents
(International Maritime Bureau)

Seven European sailors have been kidnapped by pirates who attacked a French company’s ship off the coast of Nigeria, the company said today (Oct. 17).

Paris-based Bourbon SA – an oil and gas services company – said in a brief press release on its website that the seven seamen  – six Russian nationals and an Estonian – were taken after their ship, Bourbon Liberty 249 (click here for photo), was boarded on Oct. 15 in Nigerian waters. Nine other crew members remain aboard the oil rig support vessel, which is bound for the port of Onne in Nigeria, the company said.

According to the Associated Press, the assault took place off Nigeria’s oil rich delta region. A military spokesman told the news service that forward deployed units have been ordered to comb the area for the pirates and their hostages.

Nigeria is the largest oil producer in Africa but the poverty-stricken delta region has been rife with violence and unrest. While oil has made billions for Nigeria, inhabitants of the delta have complained they have seen little benefit in money or services such as education and health care. For years, pipelines and oil rigs have been attacked by militants and foreign oil workers have been kidnapped, although most are released unharmed after a ransom is collected. The AP said gunmen attacked another oil supply company’s vessel in August, taking four workers who were later released unharmed.

The International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre lists several locations along West Africa’s coast as piracy-prone areas including: Nigeria, Benin, Togo and Ivory Coast.

— —

Sectarian Violence in Nigeria

(CIA World Factbook map)

At least 24 people have been killed by explosions and gunfire in what appears to be another outbreak in sectarian violence in northern Nigeria, according to the Voice of America.

Nigeria’s Joint Task Force says it has killed 24 suspected Boko Haram terrorists in the city of Maiduguri on Monday (Oct. 15). Boko Haram, the name means “Western education is sinful,” has been battling local governments and the Nigerian federal government since 2009. The group wants Nigeria – where Muslims predominate in the north while Christians are the majority in the south – to adopt strict Islamic law.

Nigerian officials blame Boko Haram for more than 1,500 deaths since 2009, but some human rights groups say both the authorities as wsell as the militants may be responsible for crimes against humanity.

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Congo Wars

A confidential United Nations reports says Rwanda and Uganda are arming rebels against the government of  neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The report, according to Reuters which got a look at the secret document, goes so far as to say that Rwanda’s Defense Minister, Gen. James Kabarebe, is directing the M23 rebels in the eastern DRC. The rebels have been battling Congolese troops for six months and the 44-page report, written by experts serving the UN Security Council, says both Rwanda and Uganda have been violating an arms embargo and supplying the rebels with weapons and other support.

The DRC and its neighbors Rwanda (RW) and Uganda (UG).
(CIA World Factbook)

Both Rwanda and Uganda deny the allegation and Ugandan officials angrily claim the U.N. is trying to undermine their efforts to bring peace to the DRC, which has been wracked by civil war, insurgencies and roaming bands of marauders like Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army.

More than 200,000 villagers have fled their homes in the DRC’s Kivu Province since the M23 uprising began in April. The M23 group — an outgrowth of a Congolese Tutsi rebel army created to fight Rwanda Hutu rebels who fled to the Congo – claims the DRC broke a 2009 peace deal that would integrate them into the regular DRC Army, the Associated Press reports.

October 17, 2012 at 5:29 pm Leave a comment

FLASHPOINT AFRICA: Election Fallout in Congo, Ivory Coast

CONGO: Here We Go Again

Dem. Rep. of Congo

The recent presidential election in the Democratic Republic of Congo may be pushing that vast Central African nation into a new phase of violence. The top two candidates in a field of 11 contenders are each claiming they won.

The incumbent president, Joseph Kabila, claimed electoral victory in the Nov. 28 vote and on Friday (Dec. 17), the Central African nation’s Supreme Court upheld that claim despite reports of numerous irregularities at the polls and in the vote-tallying across the vast country.

But second-place finisher, Etienne Tshisekedi, rejected the high court’s findings, proclaiming himself the winner. The 79-year-old Tshisekedi is calling on the DRC’s security forces and civil servants to ignore Kabila’s orders.

The elections were the first organized by the DRC government since the end of a bloody civil war in 2003 — and only the third vote that could be described as “democratic” since the country gained independence from Belgium in 1960.

Both Belgium and France have criticized the vote as highly flawed as has the U.S.-based Carter Center which sent observers. But regional leaders in Africa accepted the outcome and urged opposition parties in the DRC to do the same. The DRC is the second-largest country in Africa (after Algeria), the fourth most populous (after Nigeria, Ethiopia and Egypt)  and holds vast mineral wealth in gold, diamonds, cobalt, copper and oil.

Kabila is set to be inaugurated tomorrow (Tuesday). Tshisekedi plans to take the oath of office Friday (Dec. 23.) Observers fear the political standoff could lead to violence – even civil war – as it did in Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire) earlier this year. (see next below)

IVORY COAST: Ex-President in the Dock

Ivory Coast in Africa

While things appear to be returning to normal in the West African nation of Ivory Coast following months of political stalemate and bloodshed following a contested presidential election, there are still reports of political violence.

At least six people were killed in the western part of the country over the weekend in clashes between armed youth and security forces.

Such clashes with former rebels-turned-government forces have been on the increase since the end of the civil war that left more than 3,000 people dead following last year’s election crisis.

Then incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down following a failed re-election bid in November 2010 poll. Forces loyal to the election winner, Alassane Ouattara, rebelled. With the help of French and U.N. troops, they captured Gbagbo in his forified compound. Ivory Coast, also known as Cote d’Ivoire, is a former French colony and French troops are stationed there.

Earlier this month, was spirited out of the country and now awaits trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague on charges of crimes against humanity. Meanwhile, Ouattara’s political party won parliamentary elections which Gbagbo’s party boycotted. Ouattara has vowed to unite the country, once the strongest economy in in West Africa and one of the world’s leading cocoa producers. But he has been criticized for not prosecuting violence committed by his supporters during the rebellion.

December 19, 2011 at 9:51 pm Leave a comment

AFRICA: Egyptians, Congolese Go to the Polls

A Tale of Two Countries

Large turnouts are being reported in Egypt and the Democratic Republic of Congo as voters in both African nations went to the polls in rare and crucial elections Monday (Nov. 28).

After a week of violent demonstrations against the interim military rulers, observers – and Egyptians – were surprised by the large turnout and only sporadic violence in Egypt’s parliamentary vote. It was the first election in Egypt since the ouster of long-time President Hosni Mubarak in February. And many would say it was Egypt’s first free and fair election – ever.

Turnout was also large in the DRC, but missing ballots, long lines and mob violence against poll workers and voters in several locations marred the process. Incumbent President Joseph Kabila is expected to win re-election in what many observers predict will be a fraud-plagued vote. It is only the second democratic election in the Central African nation’s history.

Egypt in Africa (CIA World Factbook)

Egypt under Mubarak, a former Air Force general, is a long-time partner with the United States in Middle East strategy and has been a recipient of more than $1 billion-a-year in foreign aid and military assistance since signing a peace treaty with Israel. Mubarak’s 30-year rule ended when he was forced out by the military following weeks of demonstrations against corruption and civil rights abuses during Egypt’s phase of the Arab Spring revolt in the region.

Now many Egyptians are unhappy that the military is reluctant to turns over the reins of power to a civilian government. The opposition has been split and many liberals are boycotting the election. That is expected to be a windfall for the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group that was suppressed under Mubarak. The Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party has been actively politicking and mounting a well-organized get-out-the-vote push. Leaders of the Brotherhood say they would keep the treaty with Israel if they come to power, but their ascendency worries analysts in the U.S. and Israel – as well as Egypt’s 8 million Coptic Christians.

With a population of more than 80 million, Egypt is the most populous Arab country.

The first round of voting for Egypt’s lower house continued today with additional rounds and runoffs continuing into January. Voting for the Parliament’s upper house doesn’t start until January with results expected in March.

Farther south, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, (formerly known as Zaire and the Belgian Congo), there also were long lines at polling places Monday but voting for president and lawmakers was extended to today (Nov. 29) because of violence, late deliveries of ballots and other irregularities around the country.

DRC in Africa (CIA World Factbook)

Meanwhile, several opposition party members are already calling for the elections to be nullified because of what they call widespread vote rigging and polling place violence.

It’s only the second relatively-free election in the country’s history. The DRC, which has been plagued by war, government corruption and violent crime and terrorism for the past two decades is one of the world’s richest countries in terms of natural resources. But in human development (with benchmarks like health, education and living standards) it finished dead last among the world’s nations in a recent United Nations report.

Complicating the DRC election is the sheer size of the country (30 million potential voters) and the ballot (11 presidential candidates and 19,000 candidates for 500 seats in parliament). Ballots to some remote areas were delivered by U.N. peacekeepers in helicopters. The ballots in some districts are the size of newspapers.

While Kabilla is expected to win re-election, observers fear that if the election is close it could lead to more violence.

November 29, 2011 at 5:13 pm Leave a comment

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