Posts tagged ‘Ivory Coast’

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

EXERCISES/TRAINING WITH PARTNERS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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U.S. Africa Command.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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PEACEKEEPING/CONFLICTS

French Troops Leaving Mali.

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

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

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

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

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

West Africa (CIA World Factbook)

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

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

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Trouble between Mali and Ivory Coast.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Egypt Halts Its Mali Troop Rotation.

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

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

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

AFRICA: Ivory Coast Attack Fallout

Beach Bloodshed.

MAP-Ivory Coast BigOfficials in the West African nation of Ivory Coast say the death toll from Sunday’s terror attack at a beach resort has risen to 19. Twenty-four people injured in the attack remain hospitalized.

The victims reportedly came from six different countries. Eleven Ivorians were killed, and four French citizens were among the dead, as well as one German, one Nigerian, one Macedonian and one Lebanese, according to the Voice of America website.

Armed with grenades and assault rifles, the attackers stormed three hotels on Sunday and sprayed the beach with bullets in the resort of Grand Bassam, located 40 kilometers from the commercial capital Abidjan.

Al-Qaeda’s North Africa branch in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), claimed responsibility for the attck, saying it was revenge for a French offensive against fighters in the Sahel region and called for France to withdraw them.

President Alassane Ouattara has pledged that Ivory Coast would not be “intimidated by terrorists,” Al Jazeera reported. In a statement broadcast on radio and television, Ouattara said “Ivory Coast is standing up, standing up to fight the cowards and protect its people.”

French helicopters in Africa

French helicopters in Africa (Ministry of Defense photo)

Meanwhile, France has announced plans to send paramilitary forces to the capital of Burkina Faso to counter the threat posed by Islamist militants in West Africa. A team from the National Gendarmerie Intervention Group (GIGN) will be deployed in Ouagadougou to respond in the event of a “terrorist crisis,” said French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve according to the BBC. The announcement comes 48 hours after the attack that left four French nationals among the dead.

For the first time, Ghana’s government has put the nation on high alert in the wake of Sunday’s deadly terror attack in neighboring Ivory Coast, the VoA website reported.

Since November, al-Qaeda militants have attacked hotels in two other regional capitals, Bamako (Mali) and Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso).

March 17, 2016 at 10:54 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Elections in Tanzania, Zanzibar, Ivory Coast;

Tanzania Vote Disputed.

Tanzania (CIA World Factbook)

Tanzania
(CIA World Factbook)

Voters went to the polls in Tanzania Sunday (October 25) to pick a president and members of Parliament for the east African nation.

But the main opposition candidate, Edward Lowassa, has rejected the election results — citing alleged fraud, according to the Voice of America website.

For the first time since the country’s independence in 1961, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) — the longest serving political party in Africa — faced a formidable threat from a coalition of four main opposition parties dubbed Ukawa (Umoja wa Katiba ya Wananchi, which means Coalition for the People’s Constitution).

Lowassa told reporters Wednesday (October 28) in the capital, Dar es Salaam, that results from the opposition coalition’s tallying unit showed the opposition was leading the vote count before police raided the unit Monday (October 26), the VoA reported.

The opposition Chadema party, part of the coalition, said police detained 40 of its volunteers who were tallying results. The police commissioner said the arrests were based on “violations of electoral procedures.”

Ethnic tensions over elections are virtually unheard of in the country of more than 100 ethnic groups, according to the BBC.

The incumbent, Jakaya Kikwete, has served the maximum two terms and is not seeking re-election. Over the past decade, a series of high-level corruption scandals have tainted the government and seen a reduction in financial assistance to the country, one of Africa’s largest aid recipients, the BBC said.

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Zanzibar Vote Voided.

Meanwhile, officials in Tanzania’s semi-autonomous Zanzibar archipelago have annulled the vote, sparking tension on the islands and raising questions about the national presidential result, according to Al Jazeera.

Zanzibar’s electoral commission said Wednesday (October 28) that elections on the Indian Ocean islands – where the 500,000 registered electorate had also voted on Sunday for Tanzania’s national president – must be carried out again, citing “violations of electoral law”.

“The process was not fair and had breaches of the law … I declare all the results to be null and void,” Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) chairman Jecha Salim Jecha said, reporting alleged violations including double-voting and cheating.

The annulment is likely to delay the announcement of full national results. Counting continued for a third day on Wednesday (October 28), with the ruling party presidential candidate in the lead.

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Ivory Coast Landslide.

Ivory Coast map. CIA World Factbook

Ivory Coast map.
CIA World Factbook

And in west Africa, the president of Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire), Alassane Ouattara has won a second term in office. He received 83 percent of votes Sunday (October 28),according to official results announced overnight.

Ouattara won a landslide victory. Second place candidate,  ex-Prime Minister Pascal Affi N’Guessan, got just 9 percent of the vote, according to VoA.

More than 3,000 people were killed in post-election violence in 2010 and 2011 when incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept defeat.
Internationally accepted results showed Ouattara had won the November 2010 election.

Gbagbo was removed from office after French troops and United Nations peacekeepers intervened in the crisis. He is now awaiting trial at the Hague for crimes against humanity. Ivory Coast is a former French colony and still has French troops stationed there.

October 28, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Attacks in Nigeria, Mali and Tunisia

Suspected Boko Haram Attack.

Nigeria in Africa (CIA World Factbook)

Nigeria in Africa
(CIA World Factbook)

More than 100 people are reported to have been killed this week  by suspected Boko Haram Islamist extremists in northeastern Nigeria, according to area residents.

Dozens of militants stormed three remote villages in Borno state “slaughtering residents and setting houses ablaze in the bloodiest day of attacks by the extremist group since President Muhammadu Buhari came to power in May,” AFP, the French news agency reported. The terrorists attacked worshipers just after prayers at several local mosques. Buhari, a Muslim and former army commander, has vowed to crush Boko Haram, which launched a terrorist campaign to establish a strict Islamic state in 2009.

Gunmen killed at least 97 people in the village of Kukawa on Wednesday (July 1). In two other villages about 50 kilometers (31 miles) away near Monguno, gunmen killed 48 people and injured 11 others, AFP reported. All three communities are located near Lake Chad (see map), close to where Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon intersect, and has been a focal point of the unrest. Boko Haram has stepped up its campaign of violence, since Buhari was elected, killing some 400 people.

Nigeria (CIA World Factbook map)

Nigeria
(CIA World Factbook map)

According to Amnesty International, at least 17,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed since 2009, BBC reported. Boko Haram has affiliated itself with the self-styled Islamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL) which has spread a reign of terror over parts of Syria and Iraq.

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U.N. Peacekeepers Killed.

Mali (CIA World Factbook)

Mali
(CIA World Factbook)

Six United Nations peacekeepers were killed and five were wounded when their convoy was attacked in northern Mali Thursday (July 2), according to the Voice of America website.

A statement from the U.N. peackeeping force in Mali — MINUSMA — said the convoy was attacked about 45 kilometers (27 miles) southwest of the city of Timbuktu. The U.N. said all of the killed and wounded were from Burkina Faso. The statement also said the latest attack brings to 42 the number of peacekeepers killed and 166 wounded in hostile action in Mali since 2013.  No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Violence has continued in northern Mali despite a French-led military campaign in January 2013 to drive al Qaeda-linked Islamist rebels that seized control of nearly half the sprawling North Africa country after a Tuareg uprising led to a military coup that plunged the country into chaos.

French troops meet with soldiers from Burkina Faso outside Timbuktu. (Copyright French Ministry of Defense)

French troops meet with soldiers from Burkina Faso in 2013 outside Timbuktu.
(Copyright French Ministry of Defense)

Meanwhile, Reuters reports, officials in neighboring Mali are reinforcing security along its northern border after recent attacks just across the border in Mali that are being blamed on Islamic insurgents.

Ivory Coast  (CIA World Factbook)

Ivory Coast
(CIA World Factbook)

Armed men attacked and briefly took control of Fakola, a town in Mali’s southern region of Sikasso, close to the border with Ivory Coast, on Sunday (June 28). The raid followed a similar attack weeks earlier during which dozens of suspected Islamist militants hit a police station in the nearby town of Misseni, Reuters said.

Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa grower and French-speaking West Africa’s largest economy, is emerging from a decade-long political crisis and now is in the midst of an economic revival.

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Tunisia Beach Attack.

Tunisia in Africa (CIA World Factbook)

the Tunisia in Africa
(CIA World Factbook)

Eight suspects, including a woman, are being held in custody on suspicion of being directly linked to the June 26 deadly attack on vacationers in the Tunisian resort of Sousse, the BBC reports.

Thirty -eight people were killed when a gunman opened fire on tourists staying in the popular resort of Port El Kantaoui, just north of Sousse. The self-described Islamic State, a violent extremist organization that has captured parts of Syria and Iraq, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Thirty of the victims were British and were staying at the Hotel Rui Imperial Marhaba and neighboring Hotel Rui Bellevue Park. Dozens more are still being treated in hospitals. The other victims were from Belgium, Germany, Russia, Ireland and Portugal, according to CNN.

Tunisian authorities have identified 28-year-old student Seifeddine Rezgui as the gunman. In March, two gunmen killed 22 people in an attack at the famous Bardo museum in Tunisia’s capital, Tunis. Islamic State has built a significant presence in Libya, Tunisia’s neighbor, and it thought to control the major towns of Derna and Sirte, the BBC said.

July 2, 2015 at 11:58 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: Hezbollah in Nigeria; Piracy in West Africa

Arms Cache Found

Nigeria (CIA World Factbook)

Nigeria
(CIA World Factbook)

Nigerian authorities say they have uncovered a large cache of automatic weapons and explosives belonging to the Lebanese terrorist group, Hezbollah, the BBC reports. Authorities say they found the weapons, including rocket propelled grenades, hand grenades, AK-47 assault rifles and anti-tank mines in a warehouse in the northern city of Kano.

Three Lebanese were arrested, an Army spokesman said, insisting that officials had uncovered a Hezbollah cell. Northern Nigeria, where Kano sits, has been wracked by violence over the last three years since Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group launched an insurgency to overthrow Nigeria’s government and establish fundamentalist Sharia law in Nigeria. An estimated 3,000 people have died in Boko Haram-sparked violence, the government said.

President Gooluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in three regions – Borno, Yobe and Adamawa – and he has admitted that the government has lost control in parts of those states, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

Pirates Attack oil tanker

Armed pirates attacked an oil products tanker off the coast of Nigeria in West Africa and abducted an unknown number of crew, Reuters reports. Shipping costs have increased as acts of piracy increase in the Gulf of Guinea region, which includes Africa’s leading oil producer Nigeria. According to Reuters, gunmen boarded the Nigerian-flagged MT Matrix in the early hours Saturday (May 25) about 40 nautical miles off the coast of Nigeria in a stretch of water often targeted by pirates.

There were 12 Pakistani and five Nigerian crew members aboard the vessel when it was attacked, sources told Reuters. International navies have not launched counter-piracy missions in the Gulf of Guinea – as they have in East Africa – leaving the many vessels in Nigeria waters vulnerable to attack.

Piracy is on the rise in West Africa, according to a Reuters analysis, but the police and coast guard in most of the countries in the region, like Ivory Coast,  are too weak and poorly armed to challenge the pirate gangs. In 2010, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), which has monitored global piracy since 1991, recorded 33 attacks in the Gulf of Guinea. But that figure jumped to 58 last year.

May 30, 2013 at 11:55 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: Ivory Coast Heats Up, Nigeria, Burkina Faso Calm Down

Ivory Coast: Here We Go Again

Gunfire has broken out again in the largest city of violence-wracked Ivory Coast. After weeks of fighting in and around Abidjan earlier this month by forces loyal to former President Laurent Gbagbo and others supporting Alassane Ouattara – who defeated him at the polls last November – calm appeared to return to the city last week following Gbagbo’s capture.

Residents who has gone days without food, water and medicines during the street fighting and bombing of the presidential compound were hoping for a gradual return to normalcy. While Ouattara’s army was trying to eliminate remaining Gbagbo loyalists in Abidjan’s Yopougan district Wednesday (April 20) word came that pro-Ouattara forces were fighting among themselves in another part of the city, the Voice of America reports.

The intramural fighting is between Ouattara’s forces and a militia group known as the Invisible Commandos. The commandos, led by Ibrahim Coulibaly, joined forces with Ouattara’s main fighting group, the so-called New Forces, to take control of parts of Abidjan before the assault against Gbagbo began.

Coulibaly says he wants recognition for the role he played in Gbagbo’s overthrow, the BBC reports, but the Invisible Commandos are accused of being behind much of the widespread looting that took place in Abidjan over the past week. They are also accused of extorting money from motorists for access to a major road.

An unrelated outburst of shooting in the port of San Pedro, one of the main cocoa-exporting transit points, was also reported Wednesday – apparently in another dispute between pro-Ouattara forces, the BBC said.

Ivory Coast’s official name is Cote D’Ivoire (see map).

Burkina Faso: Calm After Army Mutiny

Ivory Coast’s neighbor, Burkina Faso, has a newly appointed prime minister who says his cabinet picks will be based on their “competence” in dealing with a political crisis that rocked the West African nation for weeks, Bloomberg Businessweek reports.

Luc-Adolphe Tiao was named prime minister Monday (April 18) after President Blaise Compaore dissolved theprevious government to quell a soldiers’ mutiny. Burkina Faso is sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest cotton producer.

The mutiny began on Thursday (April 14) in Ouagadougou, the capital, when members of the presidential guard fired guns in the air, demanding unpaid housing allowances. Soldiers in cities north, south, east and west of the capital joined them within days. Calm returned after the soldiers were paid, according to the Associated Press.

Nigeria: Post Election Unrest

President Goodluck Jonathan was re-elected this week in a vote remarkably free of fraud in notoriously corrupt Nigeria. Nevertheless, the election of Jonathan, a politician from the largely Christian and oil-rich South, is being challenged by his opponent, Muhammadu Buhari.

Buhari’s supporters in Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim North reacted with outrage to the election results and there was rioting in several towns. Scores were said to be killed in Muslim attacks and Christian reprisals. Both churches and mosques were burned. Officials declined to release casualty figures for fear of inciting more violence.

Despite the rioting, Jonathan, in a televised speech, called for next Tuesday’s elections for state governors to go forward, Reuters reported. If those elections are relatively free of fraud, it could go a long way toward burnishing Nigeria’s reputation in the region.

However, just hours later, the head of Nigeria’s independent election commission decided to delay the vote in two northern states, Kaduna and Bauchi, for security concerns, theAssociated Press reported.

The most populous African country with 154 million, Nigeria is also a leading oil producer. Some analysts expect Nigeria could surpass South Africa as the most economically and politically powerful country in Africa by 2030, the Voice of America said.

South Africa: Another BRIC in the Wall

Speaking of South Africa, the country with the continent’s leading economy attended its first meeting as a member of a coalition of emerging economic powers in China last week.

South Africa joined Brazil, Russia, India and China as one of the BRIC countries – which will now be known as BRICS with South Africa’s addition. The acronym was coined by a Goldman Sachs executive, Jim O’Neill, in a 2001 white paper. The addition of South Africa to the bloc has puzzled some analysts. Others believed it was engineered by China, which is seeking friends and natural resources in Africa.

Compared to the other members of the BRICS bloc, South Africa has a much smaller economy, area size and population. South Africa ranks 25th in the world in area compared to No. 1 Russia, No. 3 China,  No. 5 Brazil and No. 7, India. South Africa has a population of less than 50 million compared to the next smallest BRICS country, Russia, with nearly 142 million inhabitants. Both China and India have over a billion residents. South Africa’s gross domestic product ranks 28th in the world, compared to China, with the second-largest; No. 8 Brazil; No. 10 India and No. 11 Russia.

South Africa also spends only a fraction on its military, compared to the other four. South Africa ranks 43rd in the world in defense expenditures. China is rated No. 2,  Russia is fifth; India is ranked 10th and Brazil No. 11, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

April 21, 2011 at 3:53 pm Leave a comment

IVORY COAST: Now What? (UPDATE 4/18/2011)

Restoring Order, While Washing Away the Blood

Photo: EMA (European Medicines Agency)/French Army

The fighting is over (for the most part) in Abidjan, former President Laurent Gbagbo, who lost the last presidential election but wouldn’t give up power, is now in custody. The commercial capital and largest city of Ivory Coast is starting to return to normal. What happens now?

Alassane Ouattara, the economist and former prime minister who defeated Gbagbo in the Nov. 28 election says his deposed opponent will not be harmed while authorities investigate what crimes to charge him with. Ouattara was also urging forces loyal to Gbagbo to lay down their arms and seek reconciliation with the new government. And Ouattara asked the gangs of young men who supported him in the five-month struggle to lay down their arms, too, the Voice of America reports.

Ouattara also wants to start up cocoa exports while reopening banks and other businesses that closed down during the four months of violence and instability stemming from the stalemate with Gbagbo.

The head of Gbagbo’s political party, the Ivorian Popular Front, is calling for an end to the fighting so that Ivory Coast can “return to normal.”

There have been shooting and looting incidents in Abidjan since the Gbagbo regime fell Wednesday (April 13) and it is difficult to say which side is responsible for the disorder.

Both sides “have blood on their hands” the Ivory Coast’s new justice minister tells Britain’s Daily Telegraph, but Jeannot Ahoussou denies that militiamen loyal to Gbagbo killed as many as 1,000 people when they swept through the western town of Duekoue. He acknowledged Ouattara forces killed about 70 people in fighting around Duekoue — but in combat, not reprisals. The United Nations says 330 people were killed – 100 of them by Gbagbo’s militia.

Gbagbo was taken into custody Monday (April 11) inside the Abidjan compound that includes the presidential palace and residence. The compound was surrounded by French and U.N. tanks and heavy weapons. Helicopters from both military entities pounded the presidential compound and surrounding army camps, knocking out missile launchers and other heavy weapons. There’s been speculation by Ouattara’s people — as well as French and U.N. officials — that the hundreds of rockets as well as crates of grenades and smalls arms ammo stockpiled in Gbagbo’s residence prove the attack was necessary to prevent further bloodshed among civilians

The French say they did not apprehend Gbagbo – just made it easier for the new Republican Forces to get inside the compound. Both the French and U.N. have been criticized – especially by African pundits – for getting involved in what is an internal political issue. But the U.N. Is defending its action, according to Reuters.

The BBC has a time line of strife in Ivory Coast going back to colonization by Europeans in the mid-1800s. The BBC also has a wide-ranging summary of African editorial comment about the final outcome of the Ivory Coast crisis.

April 15, 2011 at 11:53 pm Leave a comment

AFRICA: Ivory Coast End Game

The Beginning of the End?

The months-long stand-off between two men who claim to be the duly elected president of the West African nation of Ivory Coast appears to be drawing to a fast-moving and violent conclusion.

CIA World Factbook

Heavy fighting has broken out in the largest city, Abijan, between forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo, the sitting president and Alasane Ouattara, a former prime minister whose election is recognized by the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, the African Union and neighboring African countries, the BBC reports.

The two men have traded charges that the other was using mercenaries and their supporters have clashed repeatedly since the Ivory Coast’s electoral commission declared Ouattara the winner. The U.N. says violence has claimed more than 400 lives, causing nearly 1 million people to flee the country, many to neighboring Liberia, the New York Times reports.

The BBC says Ouattara’s forces have made lightning advances since Monday, moving from their base in the predominantly-Muslim northern half of the country. On Wednesday (March 30) they captured Ivory Coast’s capital, Yamoussoukro, and the key port of San Pedro, from which the country’s important cocoa crop is shipped.

CIA World Factbook

Ouattara has closed the country’s land and sea borders and ordered a nighttime curfew in Abijan until Sunday. The UN said thousands of soldiers and police, including several high-level officers, have reportedly deserted Gbagbo’s cause, the BBC reported. The head of the army has sought refuge with his family at the residence of the South African ambassador, the Voice of America said.

The BBC has a photo slideshow of recent conditions in Ivory Coast.

(Click on the image to enlarge the map)

March 31, 2011 at 11:51 pm Leave a comment

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