Africa Week in Review – September 13, 2013

  • U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report critical of the Pentagon’s decision to locate U.S. Africa Command’s (AFRICOM) headquarters permanently in Stuttgart, Germany. The report (PDF) found that moving the headquarters to the United States would save the Department of Defense $60 million to $70 million per year. Virginia’s two Democratic senators immediately started lobbying DOD to relocate U.S. Africa Command to Hampton Roads, VA. Tampa mayor Buckhorn argued that AFRICOM should be located there, where it would be close to the Special Operations Command. His rational: “Given the spread of radical Islam into Africa, it would make sense both strategically and logistically that the command would be housed at MacDill.” For more information, read our blog post.
  • Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), Karin Landgren argued that Liberia must reform and strengthen its justice and security sectors in preparation for the United Nations drawdown. Voice of America reports that the Liberian police force lacks the ability to protect most neighborhoods in the capital. Liberians continue to accuse the police of corruption. As a result, Liberians increasingly rely on illegal vigilante groups to provide security.
  • Peace talks are finally underway between the M23 rebels and the government in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  The rebels have agreed to disband and disarm, but only under certain conditions: they demand that the rebel group FDLR be disarmed. U.S. special envoy for the Great Lakes region of Africa called on the rebel forces to deactivate. Set in Kampala, the talks are surrounded by a mood of tense optimism – many underlying issues remain unaddressed, but hope remains that a settlement may be reached.
  • The United States lifted development aid restrictions to Mali after successful elections. The government remains reticent about security aid, and “will continue to assess when and how to re-engage with the Malian military.” In a first indication that tensions still exist in Northern Mali, Malian soldiers clashed with Tuareg rebels near the Mauritanian border. This is the first fighting since the truce. Both sides accuse each other of aggression.
  • The government of Niger is reinforcing its security strategy, executing its five-year US$2.5 billion plan to secure and develop its northern region. It is introducing “legal reforms, enacting anti-terrorism legislation, setting up a special team of lawyers and security officers to work with the government on terrorism matters, upgrading military hardware, and cooperating with France and the US on security.” Sahel analyst Peter Tinti published two in depth pieces analyzing rising tensions in Niger, as both Mali’s and Nigeria’s instability risks affecting the poor country (For more on the regional implications read our post). Tinti points to disagreements amongst the French and the U.S. governments on how to address the crisis. He quotes a security analyst as saying “The U.S. [intelligence] guys always want to eliminate the problem…The French… prefer to manage the problem, without all the raids and airstrikes and things like that. So we are talking about two completely different mentalities.”
  • Deputy President of Kenya, William Ruto, pleaded not guilty to charges of crimes against humanity leveled against him by the International Criminal Court.  Ruto, along with current Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, is being charged with inciting ethnically based violence following national elections in 2007. The trials represent the first time an acting head of state and deputy have been charged by the court, seen by some as a test of the court’s credibility. The case is politically controversial and 15 African wrote to the court to ask for the case is returned Kenya.

Quick Hits across Africa:

  • In a sign that trafficking of arms remains a concern in the Sahara, The Wall Street Journal published a report on a shocking amount of weapons being unearthed by French forces in Northern Mali.
  • Nigeria became the first African country to ratify the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, and received accolades from the African Union.
  • Amnesty International accused the Somali government ‘large-scale’ human rights abuses, pointing to the forced evictions in and around Mogadishu of internally displaced refugees.
  • Police officers from the Eastern Africa Standby Force Coordination Mechanism (EASFCOM) member countries are undergoing training at the Peacekeeping Training Centre in Rwanda.
  • Special forces from across the Southern African Development Community (SADC)’s are participating in a five-week long warfare simulation exercise in Namibia.
  • Satellite Sentinel Project alleges that the Sudanese Air Force has recently bombed South Sudanese military positions, in violation of international law.  Presidents Kiir and Bashir have yet to address the week’s developments, but the uptick in violence is sure to cause tension between the two leaders and states.
  • Human Rights Watch released a new report documenting 24 incidents of unlawful killings of civilians by South Sudan’s army in the Jonglei state.

Center for International Policy intern Kyle Dallman contributed to this post. 

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