Africa Week in Review – December 6, 2013

Below is a roundup of some of the top articles and news highlights from around Africa over the last week:

  • The Islamic militant group Boko Haram attacked Nigeria’s Maiduguri air force base as well as an international airport on Monday. The attackers, by some estimates around five hundred of them, came in trucks and a stolen armored personnel carrier. The military claims to have killed fifty militants; no comments on military losses.  Two helicopters and three military aircraft were damaged. In response, the Nigerian government imposed a curfew in the city of Maiduguri. The attacks reportedly raised serious concern within Nigeria’s government: President Goodluck Jonathan called an emergency meeting with top military leadership to express dismay and inquire how Boko Haram could access a military base. The Nigerian army has identified more than five hundred suspected Boko Haram militants, including “members of the security forces who had supported the insurgents.” The incident led Nigeria analysts, such as Council for Foreign Relations’ John Campbell, to question whether Nigeria’s tactics in the war against Boko Haram are succeeding–a concern echoed in Nigerian as well as international press. The U.S. government has not made any statements regarding the attacks, even though Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of African Affairs, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, will reportedly be in Nigeria and Kenya this and next week.
  • United Nations (UN) Security Council passed a resolution circulated by France, which authorizes the additional deployment of “thousands of African troops, aided by hundreds of French soldiers” in the Central African Republic (CAR). The resolution authorizes “to use force to protect civilians, imposed an arms embargo on the country and asked the United Nations to prepare for a possible peacekeeping mission.” The move comes after two hundred French troops had already arrived to the CAR this week, with five hundred more on the way, to reinforce African Union peacekeeping troops. With regards to the resolution, U.S. ambassador to the UN, Samantha Powers said:

The United States pressed for, and achieved together with the Council, a resolution that strengthens the AU mission and joins it with this new infusion of French troops. The United States has already pledged an initial $40 million in support to MISCA. We now call once more on others to join in pledging the required financial and logistic support required for MISCA to ensure it has what it needs to protect civilians.

  • Violence continues to deteriorate in the CAR. The International Crisis Group published a briefing warning that the CAR is becoming ungovernable, pointing to state collapse, a serious humanitarian crisis, growing religious tensions and a spiral of violence. In an attempt to prevent the conflict from spilling across the border, Cameroon mobilized troops to secure its border with CAR and the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

Quick hits across Africa: 

  • The U.S. Department of State (DOS) released a fact sheet on the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations’ effort to counter violence in the Niger Delta, highlighting its “conflict mitigation initiative.” DOS emphasizes its partnership with non-violent activists, its effort to expand media platforms for non-violence messages, and its support for coalition building within civil society in the Niger Delta.
  • South Sudan’s interior minister, Aleu Ayeny Aleu, praised U.S. training of Sudanese troops, saying that the United States helped South Sudan to transform its security forces, particularly police and the South Sudanese Army (SPLA.)
  • U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) detailed its programs supporting African militaries in confronting HIV/AIDS. AFRICOM has taught educational programs about prevention and treatment to half-million troops and their family members and provided direct support to about 75,000 HIV/AIDS patients as well as about 4,000 healthcare workers trained in HIV/AIDS care.
  • The Nigerian Stakeholder Democracy Network published a report on illegal oil refining in the Niger Delta, which implicated members of the Nigerian military’s Joint Task Force in oil theft.
  •  The Economist argued that corruption and the uneven economic development in the Niger Delta are fueling instability in the Delta.
  • A European Union commissioned report on human trafficking in the Sinai dessert was published this week. The report titled “The Human Trafficking Cycle: Sinai and Beyond” implicates Eritrean military officers in the trafficking migrants, including children.
  • This Monday, Democratic Republic of Congo’s President Joseph Kabila negotiated with the Ugandan government to find a mutual agreement about the peace agreements with the rebel group M23. Previously, President Kabila refused to sign the accord at the last minute, and accused the Ugandan government of influencing the negotiations and supporting the rebels. Both parties agreed to bring to “conclusion as soon as possible” any outstanding disagreements holding up the peace process.
  • Malian authorities arrested last year’s coup leader, General Amadou Sanogo, on murder charges. Due to a tip off from military officials arrested along with General Sanogo, investigators found mass graves suspected to contain the bodies of 23 soldiers, who disappeared during the months following last year’s coup.
  • The Dutch military is sending intelligence operatives and Special Forces troops plus four Apache attack helicopters to reinforce the United Nations peacekeepers in Mali. Foreign Policy called this a “notable return” of European troops to UN peacekeeping missions in Africa, also pointing out that the UN’s embrace of intelligence gathering is a remarkable development. “I would say this is precedent setting,” security expert Walter Dorn is quoted, “The United Nations has been hesitant to … engage in intelligence activities.”
  • In a historic move, the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo launched its first surveillance drone.
  • Illinois-based AAR Airlift Group Inc won the bid to service U.S. military’s Africa Command fixed-wing airlift services.
  • The German army started training Malian troops for combat in the volatile north.
  • The Kenyan government launched police vetting exercise in order to boost public confidence – a move lauded by the Kenyan NGO, the Police Reform Working Group.
  • The Ugandan military killed a senior commander of the Lord Resistance Army in the Central African Republic. The U.S. is supporting Ugandan efforts against the LRA with one hundred U.S. Special Forces trainers.
  • Reuters reports that Somalia’s port of Kismayu remains a source of revenue for the terrorist group al Shabaab, even though African Union troops cleared the city. Reuters reports that the port still serves as an important hub for illegal charcoal, as well as the drugs and small arms trade. 
  • Sudan’s military launched aerial strike in South Kordofan, killing seven children.
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