Africa Week in Review – October 25, 2013

  • The Commander of AFRICOM General David M. Rodriguez and the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield held a press briefing for African journalists this week to discuss U.S. foreign policy and security cooperation in the Sub-Saharan Africa (Transcript) General Rodriguez lauded AFRICOM’s regional partners’ progress against the Lord Resistance Army in Central Africa, against piracy in East Africa, and in humanitarian response across Africa. Regarding the recent al Shabab Westgate mall attack in Somalia, both Assistant Secretary Thomas-Greenfield and General Rodriguez made the argument that the attack “validates” U.S. strategy:

 We think that many of the successes that AMISOM has had over the last several years have actually led to this response by al-Shabaab…this really validates our strategy, and we’re going to continue to work with our partners to strengthen their capabilities to stop al-Shabaab from having the incredibly negative impact on both the people of Somalia as well as the region.

  •   After receiving a question about Special Operations raid in Somalia October 5th, General Rodriguez said that the U.S. would continue special operations raids in Africa: “it’s all about staying after the international terrorists that threaten both the people of the African region as well as others.”
  • In relations to U.S. counterterrorism efforts General Rodriguez also stated that a military approach alone does not suffice:

The solution to terrorism in the region is a long-term, broad, whole-of-government approach by all our partners as well as all the international community, because it’s not solved just by military operations. As the Assistant Secretary talked about, it’s about the economic development, it’s about the improvement in governance, it’s about the rule of law and law enforcement.

  • In the same press conference, General Rodriguez also disavowed rumors that AFRICOM may be disbanded due to budget pressures, reaffirming that AFRICOM is at the center of an effort to be more regionally aligned, and gain expertise. Simultaneously, AFRICOM awarded five major contracts for the logistics of supply and delivery of military equipment to the continent. These include vehicles, tunnel detection systems and base infrastructure. These contracts come shortly after U.S. Transportation Command announced that it would extend its security cooperation program to Africa, a program that was designed to increase security cooperation with regards to the war in Afghanistan. With the Afghanistan war winding down, Transcom wants to expand the program “as a model for outreach with partners around the world.”
  • The National Geographic ran an in depth exposé on the Nigerian conflict, which challenges common narratives presented by both the media, and the Nigerian government. In the article, reporter James Verini uncovers that much of the violence attributed to Boko Haram actually may be complex intercommunity violence. The Nigerian government rarely investigates violent incidences and instead just attributes them to Boko Haram. Verini also cites evidence of human rights abuses, including torture, by the Nigerian military. In an interview with a Nigerian general, Verini  confronted him with evidence, which the Nigerian military disputes.  To learn more on the conflict, and reported human rights abuses, please read our blog.

Quick hits across the region:

  • French, Malian and United Nations troops have resumed a “large-scale” military operation in Mali in order to counter a resurgent of Islamist militants. The move comes after West African governments that make up part of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) cited Mali as a top security concern. Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, ECOWAS President, appealed for sending more peacekeeping troops to Mali, pointing to recent increase in attacks. This week, Islamist militants killed two Chadian peacekeepers. AFP reports that the Netherlands is considering reinforcing UN peacekeepers in the country with 400 soldiers including elite commandos and Apache attack helicopters. Simultaneously, IRIN reported that Mali’s recent conflict has aggravated ethnic tensions, negatively impacting peace prospects.
  • Amnesty International reported that units of Mali’s military are “carrying out a purge and extrajudicial killings of soldiers who took part in a mutiny last month.” Amnesty calls on the Malian government to investigate, prosecute and hold the unit accountable.
  • The New Yorker ran an exposé on how a woman from the United States started her own NGO to train and equip the Ugandan military in their fight against the Lord Resistance Army.  Bridgeway Foundation hired a former member of the South African Apartheid regimes “most notorious squads” to train the Ugandan military and provided the Ugandans with helicopters.
  • Uganda is investigating allegations that Ugandan peacekeepers serving as part of the African Union mission in Somalia (AMISOM) sold their weapons.
  • This week, the Africa Center for Strategic Studies started a three-week program for mid-level African security sector professional designed “to teach and enhance professionalism, ethics and leadership in the security sector” The course will go through November 8th, and has a particular emphasis on ethical leadership (See videos of opening remarks).
  • Rebels in South Sudan raided villages in the Jonglei, contributing to the continued insecurity in the region. U.S. Ambassador to South Sudan Susan Page condemned the attacks: “These attacks are a stain on the progress that South Sudan has made as a new nation. We condemn any form of ethnic violence and encourage South Sudanese of all ethnicities to stand together peacefully in the face of this horrific attack.” The U.S. has issued a travel warning for U.S. citizens in both Sudan and South Sudan.
  • Two U.S. citizens were kidnapped during a successful pirate attack off the coast of Nigeria (U.S. statement can be found here). This is the first abduction of Americans in the region in two years. While piracy in East Africa is dropping significantly, it appears to be rising off the coast of West Africa.
  • Former Mozambican rebels of the Renamo faction announced that they no longer respect the 1992 peace agreement, firing at a police station.  The U.S. called on both sides to “to take steps to move back from the brink and de-escalate what’s been happening.”
  • In a new report, the United Nations said it remains extremely concerned about persistent reports of child recruitment by rebel factions in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • The United Nations will start an integrated strategy to tackle the recurring crises in Africa’s Sahel region.  Robert Piper, U.N. assistant secretary-general and regional humanitarian coordinator for the Sahel, made the case that the humanitarian emergency, recurrent food crisis and environmental disasters require a regional response.
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