Africa Week in Review – October 4th

  • This Monday, White House determined it would maintain the restrictions on U.S. military assistance to Rwanda under the Child Soldier Prevention Act. Under this law, Rwanda cannot receive military support from the United States because of its support of the M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which use child soldiers. However, in the name of “national security,” President Obama, waived all restrictions for Chad and South Sudan, who receive U.S. assistance, and whose militaries also use child soldiers, while partially waiving restrictions on Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • Sudan, after a meeting with International Monetary Fund officials, cut fuel subsidies, which inspired public protest of thousands of people. The government has responded with brutal and repressive tactics: Khartoum shut the internet, closed newspapers, and met protestors with deadly force, killing at least a 100 civilians. The opposition as well as members of al-Bashir’s ruling party have criticized the government’s conduct, which President al-Bashir staunchly defends. While U.S. State Department issued a statement condemning the violence; Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly did not address  the violence in his meeting with Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti Monday October 1st. For more information, read our blog post.  
  • After three separatist Tuareg groups suspended their participation in the peace process with the Mali government, fighting resumed in Kidal this Monday, wounding three people. Al Qaeda also targeted the city with a suicide bombing, killing four. A troop of soldiers, who were part of the coup last year, kidnapped an officer, and expressed their frustration for not being promoted. The unrest prompted Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to cut short his visit to France, and return home. Upon his return Mali released 23 political prisoners in an attempt to appease the Tuareg separatists. Malian authorities arrested the group of soldiers allegedly behind the unrest. President Keita also suspended a panel tasked with security sector reform, which was criticized as being ineffectual.  The insecurity caused Council for Foreign Relations expert John Campell to call the situation a déjà vu of events that originally led to the Mali crisis.
  • On October 3rd, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs held hearing, “Al-Shabaab: How Great a Threat?”  Chaired by Ed Royce (R-CA), the committee called Dr. Seth Jones, Mr. Dan Borrelli, Mr. Mohamed Farah, and Mr. Richard Downie as witnesses to testify on the threat al-Shabaab poses to the United States.  Chairman Royce and other representatives expressed concern over the alliance between al-Qaeda and al-Shabaab, noting their “roots go very deep.”  However, witnesses agreed that al-Shabaab is more of a regional threat in East Africa with the capacity to threaten U.S. interests in the region.  They also agreed that more intelligence and information was needed on al-Shabaab and affiliated terrorist groups, with Dr. Jones and Mr. Borrelli advocating a “light footprint strategy.” Shortly before the hearing, the New York Times dedicated an entire room for debate between Africa analysts and experts on whether whether al-Shabab poses a threat to the U.S.
  • Dozens of gunmen thought to be Boko Haram attacked a college in northeastern Nigeria over the weekend, killing more than 40 students. Amnesty International called on the Nigerian government to protect educational facilities in the north east of the country. In response to the attack, Nigeria bombed camps, thought to be terrorist encampments, in the north. President Goodluck Jonathan announced his intent to start a national dialogue to heal divided Nigeria. The U.S. State Department responded to the attacks, saying

we remain deeply committed to helping the Nigerian Government in its fight against Boko Haram. We remain very concerned about ongoing attacks in Nigeria being perpetrated by Boko Haram, and we will continue discussing with Nigerian authorities appropriate steps to counter this group. We will work with the government and we are sure that Boko Haram will be defeated.

 

  • The Enough Project, a project focused on genocide prevention, published a report, which applauds U.S. operations to weaken the Lord’s Resistance Army. According to “Completing the Mission: U.S. Special Forces Are Essential for Ending the LRA,” the 100 U.S. military advisors “have become integral” to counter-LRA operations, and ought to remain until the capture of LRA leader Joseph Kony. The report comes a day after Uganda announced it resumed its military offensive against the LRA in the Central African Republic (CAR). Operations stopped after CAR’s coup six months ago.

 

 

Quick Hits from across the region

  • Last Friday, September 27, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel met with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to discuss shared security concerns, including last week’s terrorist attack on a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya.
  • WND, an independent news website, reported that USAID is hiring Humanitarian Assistance Advisors to the Military. One of the locations for the position includes the headquarters of AFRICOM. WND argues this indicates a further securitization of humanitarian aid, where “lines between U.S. military and humanitarian actions have become increasingly blurred.”
  • The New York Times reported on continued allegations of civilian abuse by the South Sudanese armed forces, and juxtaposed these with the continued aid the U.S. provides: last year’s $680 billion made South Sudan one of the top beneficiaries of U.S. assistance in Africa. The NYT quotes senior director for African affairs at the National Security Council Grant Harris as saying the U.S. emphasized “the need for South Sudan to protect human rights, protect civilians and ensure accountability for anyone complicit in human rights violations.”
  • A multi-national, three-week joint military training with Special Forces from The Netherlands, United States, United Kingdom, Spain and Italy started at the coast of Nigeria. According to U.S. Africa Command, the purpose of the combined exercise African Winds is “to build maritime safety and security by increasing maritime awareness, response capabilities and infrastructure.”
  • Troops from the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force Africa (SPMAGTF Africa) trained 148 officers from the Uganda Peace Support Operations Forces. This ten week long training came to an end on Monday.
  • The Associated Press wrote an article, which asserts that Islamic militant groups in Africa are increasingly building a network, even while their agendas remain local. The article quotes AFRICOM Commander, General Ham: “It is the growing connectivity between some of these groups that is starting to form a network across Africa which could be very, very dangerous.”  
  • Benjamin H. Friedman and Harvey M. Sapolsky published an opinion piece on Defense News, which calls on the Department of Defense (DOD) to close the U.S. Combatant Commands, including Africa Command (AFRICOM), arguing that they are redundant and act more as a lobbying force for increased DOD presence abroad than effective planning units.
  • The U.S. Marine Corps’ Special Operations Forces are sending three battalions to reinforce the U.S. military’s global combatant commands, including AFRICOM.
  • France continues its effort to engage the international community in order to stabilize the Central African Republic (CAR) by drafting a United Nations Security Council, which would demand that CAR’s government move to transition to democratic elections, and possibly convert African Union troops into a UN peacekeeping force in the country.

CIP intern Kyle Dallman contributed to this post 

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