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
- The U.S. foreign policy spotlight is on President Obama’s African voyage to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania, the first to the continent during the President’s second term in office. The White House highlighted U.S. trade and investment efforts ahead of the trip and is bringing along key members of Obama’s economic team. Analysts have had a diverse range of reactions to the trip, but most agree that the Obama administration is playing catch-up after largely overlooking Africa thus far during his tenure. Read analysis from The Guardian, ThinkAfricaPress, and Brookings’ Richard Joseph.
- Local reactions to the President’s visit so far have been mixed. In Senegal, enthusiasm was high, but many expressed resentment at the extensive security measures implemented by the Secret Service to protect the Obamas. Elsewhere, Kenya, Nigeria and other African countries left off the itinerary felt they had been snubbed. For many the trip was too little, too late given the lofty expectations that came with his election as the first U.S. president of African descent.
- Additionally, an increasingly militaristic U.S. foreign policy is eliciting protests in South Africa. In response to the University of Johannesburg’s announcement that it will award an honorary law doctorate to President Obama, civil rights and political groups have announced protests. The President’s human rights record, an increasingly militarized Africa policy, extrajudicial killings and drone strikes have been mentioned frequently as top concerns to the protestors.
- President Obama’s African tour has also brought attention to the increased presence of U.S. troops on the continent. Articles from the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, National Journal and elsewhere appeared this week highlighting growing military cooperation between African countries and AFRICOM, the U.S. military command for the continent. A perceived growing terrorist threat inspired a push to train African militaries, station drones at bases across the continent, and deploy U.S. personnel in support of African troops in Mali, Uganda, and elsewhere.
- Former President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela is “critically ill, but stable” according to family members as he continues treatment for a persistent lung infection. Although Mandela “retired” from public life in 2004, he remains a national hero to South Africans. South African President Jacob Zuma cancelled a scheduled trip to Mozambique in response to Mandela’s deteriorating health. Read more reporting from the South African Press Association, New York Times, CNN, and BBC.
- The U.S. and E.U. convened civilian officials from 29 countries at this week’s Global Counterterrorism Forum to enhance regional cooperation in combatting extremism on the continent.
- Findings from an E.U. report show the threat of terrorism in the Sahel remains high despite the relative decline of local groups like the Movement for Jihad and Oneness in West Africa (MUJAO) and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). According to an E.U. spokesman the French intervention in the region has helped, but local jihadists still pose a significant threat.
- Reports indicate that looting and intimidation by Boko Haram, the extremist group operating in northeastern Nigeria, is forcing many residents to flee their homes. While the Nigerian government’s violent crackdown on Boko Haram has already resulted in heavy civilian casualties and a dire refugee situation, the group is reportedly now specifically targeting government officials and local schools in attacks.
- AFISMA, the African Union peacekeeping mission in Mali, is completing its transition to become MINUSMA, a full U.N. peacekeeping and stabilization force. The 12,000-strong force will be based largely in the north of the country and will support the implementation of the ceasefire agreement recently signed by the government and the Islamist separatist group Movement for the National Liberation of Azawad (MNLA). French forces have commenced their withdrawal from the northern city of Gao in anticipation of the transition.
- West African leaders are gathering for a summit in Yaounde, the Cameroonian capital, to address the growing problem of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. Weak naval and coast guard forces are contributing to the rise in pirate attacks and an increasing drug trade, prompting discussion of an international naval force to patrol the area.
- The U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) is working with Malawi and Swaziland to improve their military healthcare systems. According to AFRICOM, healthcare specialists “traveled to the continent to conduct doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership, personnel and facility (DOTMLPF) assessment visits in Swaziland and Malawi.”
- U.K. bank Barclays announced it would cease to accept money transfers to Somalia, claiming there were inadequate measures in place to make sure that money wired to Somalia would not end up in the hands of terrorists. Banks are prohibited from transferring money to terror syndicates, making remittances to Somalia – a central part of the country’s economy – increasingly difficult for diaspora members.
Central African Republic
- Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released reports indicating that militants from Seleka, the rebel force that took power in a March coup, have been looting villages and killing villages in rural areas of the country. With over 40 civilians reported dead, HRW is calling on the UN to bolster aid efforts to affected areas as well as to strengthen peacekeeping forces already in the region, among other measures.
- Doctors without Borders is reporting a serious decline in conditions in camps that are hosting refugees from the conflict in neighboring Darfur, Sudan. Some 55,000 people fleeing Darfur have settled in Chad, many in the town of Tissi. Many have been injured in the violence, and health conditions like diarrhea, cholera and malnutrition are providing cause for concern.
This news round-up has been authored by Security Assistance Monitor’s trainee, Alex Dobyan.