Africa News Week in Review

The following is a round-up of some of the top articles and news highlights from the African continent during the past week.

United States Policy

 

  • Extensive preparations are underway in advance of President Obama’s tour of Africa later this month. The President intends to visit Senegal, Tanzania and South Africa. The U.S. will be providing the vast majority of security resources President Obama may require, including a 24-hour fighter jet surveillance, docking a Navy medical ship offshore for emergency medical usage, and flying hundreds of security staffers to the continent to ensure security on the ground. The Washington Post estimates Obama’s trip could cost the federal government a cost of $60 million to $100 million for this trip.  (Washington Post, June 13)

 

  • AFRICOM commander Gen. James Rodriguez says the U.S. is keeping a close eye on developments in Nigeria’s fight against Boko Haram. The group is “of special concern…because it continues to expand its connections to terrorist groups in the region.” However, he insists Boko Haram is a Nigerian domestic issue. While the United States is working with the Nigerian armed forces to strengthen their capacity in counterterrorism, Rodriguez emphasized the U.S. has a “small footprint” in the country. (Voice of America, June 13)

 

  • The Army and Marines have created a “quick-strike force” dedicated to North Africa. The force was set up in response to the September 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya that killed Ambassador Christopher Stephens. Based at Moron Air Force Base in Spain, the force will deploy six V-22 Ospreys that will be standing by should a similar crisis or evacuation be necessary. An East African Response Force is already stationed in Djibouti at Camp Lemonnier. (USA Today, June 13)

 

  • The Navy is deploying the Norfolk-based destroyer USS Bainbridge off the coasts of Africa and Europe to assist in deterring piracy and keeping shipping lanes open for traffic. (Associated Press, June 14)

 

  • The Air War College (AWC) on Maxwell Air Force base in Alabama hosted the African Airmen Alumni Symposium from June 11-13, providing AWC alumni a forum to discuss airpower strategy on the continent and forge regional cooperation. (Air Force, June 13)

Egypt- Ethiopia

  • Tensions between Ethiopia and Egypt are rising over Ethiopia’s plan to build the $4.7-billion Great Renaissance Dam, which Egypt fears will threaten its water security. On Thursday, Ethiopia’s parliament ratified a treaty that denies Egypt the historic right to 55.5 billion cubic meters a year of the Nile’s flow of around 84 billion cubic meters,  established in a 1929 pact between Egypt and Great Britain. (Voice of America, June 13) Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi gave a speech claiming, “all options are open” if Ethiopia continues its construction of a hydroelectric plant on the Blue Nile. (Reuters, June 10)

Mali

  • An al-Qaeda training manual suggests that al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has come into possession of SA-7 surface-to-air missiles. The missiles could be used to target commercial airliners, which unlike military aircraft would have no defense against such an attack. However, it is unknown whether AQIM has trained its fighters to successfully deploy such a missile. (Associated Press, June 11)

  • An Amnesty International Report documented torture, disappearances and killings of civilians by Malian forces. The report comes while the French military, as well as West African (AFISMA) troops, continue to hand over prisoners to the Malian authorities. Amnesty also accused armed opposition groups, amongst them the MNLA and Islamist groups, of abductions, arbitrary killings and sexual violence. (Amnesty International, June 7)

  • The UN criticized all sides of the confluct of the use child soldiers. It found that pro-government militias and Islamist groups like al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Movement for Unity and Justice in West Africa (MUJAO) have abducted hundreds of children. (News24, June 12)

Niger

  • Niger’s capital, Niamey, suffered its first attempted terrorist attack as armed men attempted to overrun a paramilitary barracks. Police were able to withstand the attack, with no casualties on either side; MUJAO claimed responsibility for the attack. (AFP, June 12) The attack serves of an example of how the threat of extremist action in the neighboring country is increasing as groups like AQIM and MUJAO seek to threaten Nigerien targets. Niger’s armed forces participated in the conflict in Mali with French and American support, but the country’s ability to counter a growing terrorist threat is unclear. (African Arguments, June 13)

 

Guinea-Bissau

  • The African Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) found that drug-related corruption is a major contributing factor to Guinea-Bissau’s growing instability. The country has become a major node for cocaine trafficking from South America to Europe and elsewhere. Members of the security forces have become involved in the trade, exemplified by the arrest of two senior military officials by U.S. officials in April. (IRIN, June 10)

 

Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

 

  • Leaders from the M23 rebel group operating in the Eastern areas of the DRC have agreed to resume peace talks with the Congolese government in Kampala on Tuesday. Many observers suspect that the looming deployment of the UN’s Intervention Brigade has forced the M23 to focus on a negotiated settlement. As of Friday, the Congolese government had yet to send a delegation. M23 leaders indicated they were prepared to wait indefinitely until talks continued and accused the Congolese government of stonewalling them. (Associated Press, June 14)

Central African Republic

  • The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), the militant group led by Joseph Kony, has turned to the illicit ivory trade to fund its operations. LRA poachers are contributing to the 90 percent decline in elephant populations in the DR Congo and Central African Republic (CAR). Most of the ivory is trafficked to China, causing the Chinese government to come under increasing international pressure to crack down on illegal ivory traders. (The Independent, June 7) The LRA has also been increasing its attacks on civilians as it migrates into the remote eastern CAR. (New Vision, June 12)

Somalia

  • Kismayu, a port city in southern Somalia, saw fighting over the weekend between rival militia that left 18 dead. Somali president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and the African Union’s Special Representative for Somalia Ambassador Mahamat Saleh Annadif called for an end to the violence. (Government of Ethiopia Press Release, June 9) The African Unions’ AMISOM troops are tasked with the city’s security. Terrorist group al-Shabaab stated that Kenya’s invasion in 2011 is responsible for the tribal fighting. Kenya contributes troops to AMISOM. (Press TV, June 9).

  • A CNN report highlighted the story of Omar Hammami, an Alabaman-born jihadist operating as a terrorist for al-Shabab in Somalia. He is currently rumored to be in hiding after having been shot by a rival al-Shabab faction. A member of the FBI’s Most Wanted List, Hammami had previously gained notoriety for his colorful Twitter interactions with American counterterrorism experts. (CNN, June 7)

 

Sudan

  • An Amnesty International report found the Sudanese government may have committed crimes against humanity in its fight against rebels in southeastern Blue Nile state. The government’s “scorched-earth” policy has deliberately targeted civilians, disproportionately affecting children and the elderly. Thousands of refugees are struggling to survive as the government has forbidden humanitarian aid; some have crossed the border into South Sudan in search of refugee camps there. (Sudan Tribune, June 13)

  • Activist John Prendergast is advocating for an “internationally-backed new peace process” in response to the reemergence of Janjaweed militias in Darfur. The government-backed militias have been clearing out locals in order to facilitate expansion of mining and farming exports, using heavy-handed tactics and creating thousands of refugees. The Janjaweed maintain a complicated relationship with the Sudanese government, which permits the Janjaweed free reign in Darfur in exchange for maintaining government interests, although the Janjaweed demand huge sums for their loyalty to Khartoum. (The Daily Beast, June 13)

 

Sudan- South Sudan

 

  • Tensions flared between Sudan and South Sudan when the Sudanese government announced it would block exports of South Sudanese oil from its pipelines, claiming that South Sudan was supporting the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) rebel group. Sudanese Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman said it would take 60 days for the government to shut down the pipeline entirely, although it would permit South Sudanese oil to flow if its government stopped supporting the SRF within that timeframe. Mr. Osman also reportedly announced the Sudanese government would “cancel all agreements” it had entered into with the South Sudanese government. (AllAfrica, June 10)

  • A Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) spokesman and the information minister for the South Sudanese state of Upper Nile disputed any support for the SRF. They claimed Sudanese forces had crossed 10 km into South Sudan, taking the area of Kuek. A Sudanese army spokesman denied these claims. (Sudan Tribune, June 9) The African Union is attempting to mediate the crisis, soliciting proposals to overcome the diplomatic impasse. Sudan said it would study the proposals before making any decision. (Global Times, June 14)

South Africa

 

  • Ninety-three charges of “misconduct”, including sexual abuses, have been brought against members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) in connection with offenses allegedly committed during deployment as part of MONUSCO, the UN peacekeeping force in the eastern Congo. Defense Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said all members that were found guilty would be prosecuted to the fullest extent possible, including four who have already been discharged. The charges would be a blow to MONUSCO, which has attempted to stop the use of sexual violence in the ongoing conflict in the DRC. (AllAfrica, June 14)

 

  • Former president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela has been hospitalized after falling ill with for a recurring lung infection over the weekend. According to President Jacob Zuma, his “health continues to improve but his condition remains serious.” The 94-year old Mandela has had a history of lung problems, including a bout with tuberculosis. (BBC, June 13)

Zimbabwe

  • President Robert Mugabe set July 31 as the date for the country’s upcoming presidential election, bypassing the Zimbabwean parliament but in line with a previous court order. Opposition leader and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai have denounced the move, claiming that without media and security sector reforms it would be impossible to hold a credible election. The power-sharing arrangement between Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party and Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) expires at the end of the month. (al-Jazeera, June 13)

This news round-up has been authored by Security Assistance Monitor’s trainee, Alex Dobyan.

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