Leader Development & Education for Sustained Peace Program: Cross-Cultural, Geopolitical & Regional Education

LDESP AFRICOM News Update – June 2012

Note: This update is a summary of various news articles from open sources relating to African countries threatened by political instability or civil unrest, impending humanitarian crisis, emerging security threats and terrorist activities, energy security activities and economic and/or security cooperation efforts. Please click on the links below to access the complete article from the internet. External links may expire at any time depending on the archiving policy of the particular news agency. News summaries given below highlight only the portion of each article that is relevant and may not necessarily be the focus of the entire article or the headline. Please note that the update includes articles, which use the British English spelling. Articles are taken from diverse regional, American and European media sources, reflecting a range of political views/biases, and are intended to provide readers with a better understanding of various interests and perspectives regarding the situation in the region. Opinions expressed in the articles/commentaries do not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense, the US Navy, or the LDESP Staff.

African Terrorist Groups Starting to Cooperate, U.S. Says

Three African terrorist groups are seeking to “coordinate and synchronize” their operations, the head of the U.S. military’s Africa Command said. Army General Carter Ham said al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, al-Shabaab in Somalia, and Boko Haram in Nigeria are increasingly trying to work together on the African continent. “Each of these organizations is, by itself, a dangerous and worrisome threat,” Ham told a leadership seminar of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, a Defense Department center, on 24 June. “But what really concerns me is that the three organizations are seeking to coordinate and synchronize their efforts.” The militant Sunni Muslim groups are starting to share funds, training and explosive material to assist each other’s efforts to establish Islamic regimes, he said. While the coordination among terrorist groups in Africa is a concern, there’s little evidence so far that such groups are targeting the U.S. homeland, said Rick “Ozzie” Nelson, a counter-terrorism specialist and former Navy helicopter pilot who is now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “Right now, these groups are not threatening the U.S. homeland in any way comparable to what al-Qaeda was doing three or four or five years ago,” before drone strikes weakened the militant group’s core, Nelson said. Al-Shabaab is focused on creating an Islamic state in Somalia. Boko Haram wants an Islamic state in Nigeria, and al- Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb seeks Islamic governments throughout the region, he said. (…) Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is now “operating essentially unconstrained” in a large portion of Mali, Ham said. With an effective safe haven in Mali, the al-Qaeda affiliate “is an organization of growing concern,” he said. Recent White House meetings on counter-terrorism have been devoted largely to northern Africa, according to one administration official who participates in them. The meetings have included discussions on protecting Nigerian oil production and exports, developing local counter-terrorism programs, and finding personnel with the necessary language skills, with Nigeria’s Ibo at the top of the list, said the official, who requested not to be identified because classified matters are discussed at the meetings. “From a pure counter-terrorism perspective, Africa is a growing concern for sure,” said Nelson of CSIS. “Terrorists need ungoverned spaces. They need resources.” (Bloomberg)

Top 10 Most Dangerous African Countries On List

Global Peace Index has recently released a report on global ranking of countries according to their dangerousness, a dozen African countries are among the most affected by war, terrorism and political instability; but Rwanda is not on the list and is positioned among safe ones. Since 2007, the Global Peace Index, conducted by the Research Institute of Economics & Peace, class 153 countries of the safest most dangerous. Countries affected by civil wars for years, or face regular violence, are part of the top 10 African countries most dangerous. The ranking evaluates, among other things, the risk of renewed fighting, the resurgence of political instability and terrorist threats. Among the top ten ranked to be dangerous Ethiopia is ranked the Ten (10) on the list. More than ten years after the war that opposed to Eritrea, Ethiopia still maintains a tense relationship with the country and conflict: the Ethiopian government has not fully withdrawn its troops from Badme area, the north, and attributed to Eritrea, although the International Court of Justice has precisely defined the borders of both countries. Ethiopia is also home to separatist movements: the Oromo Liberation Front, which affects the most populated region of Ethiopia to the southwest and the birthplace of important natural resources, the National Liberation Front in the Ogaden, based east on the border with Somalia, has an armed wing, Said the global peace ranking.

Here are the rankings:

10. Ethiopia
9. Burundi: political instability
8. Zimbabwe: Renewed violence
7. Chad: peaceful relations with neighboring countries
6. Nigeria: religious war and economic war
5. Libya: civil war
4. Central African Republic: an eventful year
3. Democratic Republic of Congo: Terrorist threats increasingly present
2. Sudan: a multitude of conflicts
1. Somalia: a generalized civil war fro over twenty years
For more details on the list and the more of the report click on the title link above the article. (Source: allAfrica)


Signs of Military Professionalism, Cooperation on Rise in Africa

Dotting the African continent are promising examples of the capable, professional military forces U.S. Africa Command is working to promote. As Tunisia spawned what became known as the Arab Spring in December 2010, its military opposed then-President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s order to use force against the pro-democracy protesters who ultimately brought down his regime. The Ugandan army has become a professional force and plays a key role in advancing regional peace and security, conducting humanitarian operations at home while contributing thousands of troops to counterterrorism and peacekeeping efforts in neighboring Somalia. Uganda is also among four African nations — also including South Sudan, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo — that have come together to fight the Lord’s Resistance Army, one of Africa’s most violent and persistent rebel groups which has brutalized civilians in the region for a quarter-century. Meanwhile, Uganda, Burundi and Djibouti are contributing forces under the banner of the African Union Mission in Somalia, or AMISOM, to help Somalia deal with the al-Shabaab terrorist organization that threatens its transitional government. And in Liberia — a nation long wracked by civil war and instability — the military once discredited as the puppet of former president and convicted war criminal Charles Taylor has become a respected organization under the direction of the democratically elected civilian leadership. Officials at AFRICOM, the United States’ newest combatant command focused on Africa, see these and other developments as a sign of positive trends they’re helping to shape on the continent. Strengthening the defense capabilities of African countries and encouraging them to work together to confront common security threats and challenges has been a cornerstone of AFRICOM’s work since its standup in 2008. AFRICOM has been instrumental in supporting other promising developments, Army Major General Charles J. Hooper, AFRICOM’s director of strategy, plans and programs, told American Forces Press Service. “We see increasing trends toward democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights,” he said. “And I think AFRICOM has played a very positive role in supporting those trends.” Hooper pointed to the role U.S. military advisors and mentors have played in rebuilding the Armed Forces of Liberia through a five-year, State-Department funded AFRICOM program known as Operation Onward Liberty. For the past two years, Marine Forces Africa has led the joint Marine-Army-Air Force effort aimed at helping professionalize the Liberian military and ensuring it’s able to defend the country’s borders and come to the aid of its neighbors if needed. (AFRICOM)

Swift Leaders Discuss Maritime Security with Tanzanian Navy during APS Visit

High Speed Vessel Swift’s (HSV 2) civilian master and military detachment officer-in-charge discussed combating piracy and continued cooperation efforts during an office call with Tanzanian naval leadership, 6 June 2012. The office call was part of Swift’s planned 12-day port visit to Tanzania for Africa Partnership Station East 2012. Swift’s civilian master, Captain Rhett Mann, and military detachment officer-in-charge, Lieutenant Commander Charles Eaton, met with Major General Saidi Shaaban Omar, chief of Tanzania People’s Defence Force navy, and Colonel M.S. Masanga, commander, 701 Flotilla. The visit was a chance for both groups to discuss emerging issues that threaten maritime security as well as focus on building upon the partnership that has already developed through several years of working together. “I visited Swift with our president two years ago and enjoyed the ship. We are familiar with the APS program, and can say it is very useful to our armed forces,” said Omar. While in Tanzania, Swift’s crew and embarked Marines, NCIS personnel, and members of Maritime Civil Affairs and Security Training teams will conduct five separate subject matter expert exchanges during the two-week visit. “The level of participation in the SME exchanges has been outstanding and enthusiastic. The port security familiarization has high interest here in Dar Es Salaam, so we’re going to hold it twice while here. We’re looking forward to continuing this partnership and exchange, working together with our partner nations to protect African shores,” said Eaton. During the office visit the conversation was centered on Swift’s capabilities and the dynamics of a civilian and military crew working together, as well as how APS may help African nations confront piracy. “We have a big sea to patrol and our main challenge is pirates. They are very tricky and they know what they’re doing,” said Masanga. Tanzania’s navy leadership was invited to Swift for tours and the chance to continue the discussion on issues that APS can address in future visits. “Any problem, we can solve together so that we’ll always have continued success,” said Omar. (AFRICOM)

Largest African Military Communications Exercise Concludes

U.S. Africa Command officials, U.S. officials and representatives to several African nations were pleased with the results of a joint military communications exercise, which concluded in Douala, Cameroon, 27 June 2012. “Based on what I’m seeing, it is clear that Africa Endeavor 2012 has been a great success,” said U.S. Army Major General Charles W. Hooper, the director of J5 (Strategy, Plans and Programs) for U.S. Africa Command. “It is a culmination of hard work and dedication building upon not only last year’s achievements but the previous seven Africa Endeavor exercises.” Africa Endeavor, the largest military communications exercise on the African continent, tested the interoperability of equipment from different nations as well as their ability to cooperate and share information. More than 200 participants representing over 30 African countries along with North America, Europe and international organizations took part in the scenario-based exercise, which began 18 June. (AFRICOM)

Africa Partnership Station Promotes Security Cooperation

An ongoing international effort to help African nations improve maritime safety and security in the Gulf of Guinea represents one of U.S. Africa Command’s most successful programs while embodying the command’s core principles, AFRICOM’s director of strategy, plans and programs reported. Army Major General Charles Hooper called Africa Partnership Station — an initiative that has grown over the past five years to include more than 30 African, European and North and South American countries — a model of international and interagency cooperation. Participants are working together to develop capacity among countries along the Gulf of Guinea so they can control their territorial waters and crack down on illicit trafficking and other criminal activity. And what happens at sea matters, not just for Africa, but for the entire world that depends on access to the global commons, Hooper said. He noted the direct link between maritime security, development, prosperity, stability and peace. “In my mind, African Partnership Station embodies everything that is good and unique about Africa Command,” Hooper said. “Why is it so successful? It’s a unique program that allows us to train, teach and mentor, not only the armed forces of those nations in the Gulf of Guinea, but also some of their law enforcement forces.” That, Hooper said, makes it “the perfect AFRICOM program.” “It involves the interagency team, engaging in teaching, coaching, mentoring and building the capacity of our African partners to solve their own problems,” he said. This directly supports President Barack Obama’s Africa policy and the recognition that has guided AFRICOM since its inception in 2008, he noted. “It is our African partners who are best equipped and best pointed to address African challenges,” Hooper said. (AFRICOM)

Dagger Brigade to ‘Align’ with AFRICOM in 2013

As part of an effort to regionally align Army forces with specific unified combatant commands, or COCOMs, a brigade will begin serving in March 2013 as the go-to force for U.S. Africa Command, or U.S. AFRICOM. The 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, called the “Dagger Brigade,” or 2/1ID, and out of Fort Riley, Kansas, will be the main force provider for security cooperation and partnership-building missions in Africa. The effort is a first step toward fulfilling national strategic and defense guidance that includes military services partnering with allies around the world to build capacity and security capability, officials said. The 2/1ID is the first Army unit to be named in this way for alignment with a combatant command. That unit will be on deck for their mission for an entire year. The tasking will be to perform security cooperation, when needed, not operational or regular warfare missions, officials explained. Colonel Andrew Dennis, the division chief of the Army Security Cooperation Policy and Concepts Division within the Army G-3/5/7, said that drawdowns in the U.S. Central Command, or CENTCOM, region are freeing up more forces to be regionally aligned with other COCOMs in the same way that 2/1ID will be aligned with U.S. AFRICOM. For 10 years, he said, CENTCOM has been the main focus of Army forces, while organizing forces for the rest of the COCOMs has been a “relatively ad hoc” process. Now that forces are drawing down from CENTCOM, he said the Army can do a better job of having forces prepared for other COCOMs, to provide a “predictable supply” of forces to those commanders. Regional alignment will provide informed units, and “a more flexible sourcing function for the geographical COCOMs,” Dennis said. (AFRICOM)

African Union

African Union envoy says new regional force nearly ready to hunt down Lord’s Resistance Army

The African Union special envoy on the Lord’s Resistance Army says new regional military force dedicated to destroying the notorious Joseph Kony-led armed group is nearly operational. Francisco Madeira said, on 26 June, at a U.N. news conference on the LRA that the force will be made up of 5,000 troops from Uganda, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. (Washington Post, Foreign Policy)

African Union Furthers Its Mission During Exercise Africa Endeavor

The African Union’s quest to unify and promote cooperation throughout the African continent continued, 26 June 2012, during Africa Endeavor’s military exercise held in Douala, Cameroon. With more than 50 African states as members, the African Union seeks to integrate African states and achieve a peaceful Africa. According to Lieutenant Colonel Kelvin Silomba, the African Union delegation chief, the African Union is using the exercise as a platform to validate some of the procedures they have developed. “The objective of Africa Endeavor from the African Union point of view is to assist the African Union achieve interoperability capability between the member states, the regional economic communities” and the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Silomba said. “We have the communication and information systems architecture which we are trying to put into place that will connect all the regions, and from the regions down to the states in Africa,” he said. Since 2006, the African Union and U.S. Africa Command have collaborated through Exercise Africa Endeavor–the continent’s largest joint communications exercise which focuses on the interoperability of equipment and information sharing between African nations. (allAfrica)

USAU and the African Union Commission Directorate of Information and Communication Host Media Workshop

From 18-22 June 18 2012, the U.S. Mission to the African Union (USAU), in collaboration with the African Union Commission (AUC) Directorate of Information and Communication (DIC), hosted a social media and press writing workshop. The training, which brought social media and press experts from France and the United States, centered on addressing some of the needs identified by the DIC, as the unit prepares to restructure and move into its new space at the AU Headquarters and Conference Center in Addis Ababa. The trainers, Mr. Eduardo Cue, a Paris-based American freelance journalist, and Ms. Mathilde Piard, a social media manager at Cox Media Group (based in Atlanta, GA), are also contractors with the U.S. Department of State, through the International Information Programs (IIP) Bureau in Washington, D.C. and the Africa Regional Services Office in Paris, France. Both worked with their individual training groups on many of the important aspects of communications: how to conduct interviews and press conferences, how to write effective press releases, how to plan for and implement media campaigns, communicating in a crisis situation, internal and external communication and media outreach. The group also worked on strategies to increase the AU’s social media presence on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube. Workshop participants commented that the training effectively addressed many of the “gap areas” they had previously identified. Over the course of the week, the social media team worked through a social media plan for the 19th African Union Summit, to be held in Addis Ababa from 9-16 July 2012. Yaye Nabo Sene, a Communications Officer in the DIC, ended the week with the distribution of an audio interview she conducted with AUC Deputy Chairperson Erastus Mwencha, demonstrating her unit’s ability to produce and distribute audio/visual press products through the use of modern communication technology. The media workshop was just one of many press and media related support activities planned for the DIC, and the fourth time that USAU and the DIC have come together to facilitate a joint workshop. (allAfrica)

European Union

Big step forward for EU-Liberia relations

In what is seen as a major step forward in EU’s relations with Liberia, the Managing Director for Africa in the European External Action Service (EEAS) Dr. Nick Westcott, has announced the launch of a structured and regular political dialogue between the EU and the African country, as set out in Article 8 of the Cotonou Agreement. Dr. Westcott led an EU delegation composed of Attilio Pacifici, Head of Delegation, and four EU Heads of Mission permanently represented (France, Germany, Sweden and the UK) in a first consultation with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and senior government ministers. Subjects discussed with the President included the political reconciliation process, strengthening of institutions of democracy, development priorities, and regional issues, including challenges for ECOWAS and the African Union such as the crisis in Mali and other parts of the fragile region of West Africa. The EU pledged continued support for regional integration, and the real advantages offered by an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU were also discussed. Future development support was also discussed with the Liberian President. Later this year, discussions will begin on EU’s development assistance to Liberia up to 2020, which will focus on supporting Vision 2030 and Liberia’s second Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS). (CTA)

EU offers to help Zimbabwe

The European Union offered, on 28 June, to help Zimbabwe address mounting concerns over corruption in its diamond sector, only months after the industry watchdog lifted a ban on sales. The EU head of mission in Harare told AFP after leading the first visit by a group of Western diplomats to the eastern Marange mines that the bloc could help Zimbabwe set up inspection mechanisms that meet international standards. “We note that there is a problem of transparency in the diamond mining sector’s revenues, which is reflected in the positions that the Zimbabwe minister of finance has expressed publicly,” Aldo Dell’Ariccia said. Concern over Zimbabwe’s diamond mines has swung from a global outcry over a state-sponsored purge of artisanal diggers to questions about the trail of profits from the deposits which are now formally mined for the global gem trade. (News24)

United Nations

Security Council examining request for UN mandate for African troops in Mali

The Security Council said, on 18 June, it will further examine a request for a United Nations mandate for the deployment of an African stabilization force to Mali, which has been beset by political instability and insecurity since earlier this year. (…) The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union have requested a Security Council mandate authorizing the deployment of an ECOWAS stabilization force to ensure the protection of Malian state institutions and assist in upholding the territorial integrity of Mali and in combating terrorism. The request was discussed during a meeting between the Council and a high-level delegation last Friday in New York. Council members took note of the request, according to a statement issued by the 15-member body to the press. (UN News Centre)

UN envoy welcomes agreement on Somalia’s constitution-making process

The top United Nations political official for Somalia, on 22 June, welcomed the signing of a communiqué agreed on by Somali leaders as a key step in preparing the East African country for the upcoming end of its transitional governing arrangement. “I am most gratified that the signatories have come together in the spirit of cooperation and compromise and have collectively committed to move the process forward,” the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS), Augustine Mahiga, said in a statement. “The transitional period will end in less than 60 days and we have no time to lose,” he added. (UN News Centre)

UN warns sectarian attacks in Nigeria could amount to crimes against humanity

The United Nations human rights office, on 22 June, condemned the repeated attacks on churches in Nigeria by the extremist Islamist group Boko Haram, and warned that acts against civilians, including on grounds such as religion or ethnicity, could amount to crimes against humanity. It is estimated that over 100 people have been killed when several churches were attacked by Boko Haram in Kaduna state, in the country’s centre, last Sunday and in its aftermath, according to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Boko Haram is the same group that claimed responsibility for the bombing last year of the UN offices in the Nigerian capital, Abuja. (UN News Centre)

UN calls on South Sudan to develop broad plan to curb inter-communal violence

The United Nations, 25 June, called on South Sudan to develop a comprehensive plan for curbing violence in Jonglei state, as it released the findings of an investigation into inter-communal attacks that claimed hundreds of lives there in 2011 and early 2012. The report, compiled by the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) with support from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), documents crimes and human rights violations that took place during the cycle of attacks between the Murle and Lou Nuer ethnic groups. It states that in December 2011, an estimated 6,000-8,000 armed youth, militarily organized and primarily from the Lou Nuer group, mobilized in Jonglei and launched a series of systematic attacks over 12 days on areas inhabited by the Murle group. (UN News Centre)

UN and African envoys present regional plan to halt LRA attacks

United Nations and African Union envoys, on 26 June, highlighted a new regional strategy that they hope will bring an end to the activities of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and help affected populations. “While the strategy has been developed by United Nations, the process was carried out in consultation with the African Union (AU), the affected States and their partners. Therefore, its success depends on the willingness of all actors to support and implement the proposed actions,” the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), Abou Moussa, told a news conference at UN Headquarters in New York. “The ultimate objective is to ensure that the LRA is stopped, those who are suffering from these atrocities are assisted and we provide opportunities for affected populations such as infrastructure and long-term development programmes that will ensure that the factors that contribute to the establishment of rebel groups are eliminated,” he added. (…) The UN Regional Strategy for the LRA, which will be officially presented to the Council on Wednesday, focuses on five key strategic objectives, including the provision of support for the full operationalization and implementation of the AU regional cooperation initiative against the LRA, and to enhance efforts to promote the protection of civilians. It also seeks to expand current disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, resettlement and reintegration activities to cover all LRA-affected areas; to promote a coordinated humanitarian and child protection response in these areas; and to provide support to LRA-affected governments in the fields of peacebuilding, human rights, rule of law and development to enable them to establish State authority across their territories. (…) Each contingent will have a sector headquarters in its own country of origin and will be commanded by a national of that country, while the overall commander, who has been appointed by the AU, will coordinate and command the force. (UN News Centre)

Equal participation of women vital for building new Libya, says UN envoy

The top United Nations envoy in Libya, on 26 June, stressed the importance of the equal participation of women in rebuilding the country, as he commended the number of women who have registered to vote and to stand for election in the upcoming legislative polls. Some 2.7 million people in the North African nation have registered to vote for members of a new National Congress, which will be tasked with drafting a new constitution for Libya. The polls, which are scheduled to be held on 7 July, will be the first free elections in decades in Libya, where Muammar al-Qadhafi ruled for more than 40 years until a pro-democracy uprising last year led to civil war and the deposing of his regime. (UN News Centre)

Mandate of UN peacekeeping force in DR Congo extended for another year

The Security Council, on 27 June, extended the United Nations peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for another year, and urged national authorities to reform their security sector and end armed insurgencies and human rights abuses in the country. Through a unanimously adopted resolution, the 15-member body decided that the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in DRC (MONUSCO) will continue its work until 30 June 2013, focusing on its priority mandate of protecting civilians. The Mission also supports the Congolese authorities in their stabilization and peace consolidation efforts, including assisting with the holding of elections, the monitoring of human rights violations and support for Government action against armed groups operating in the east of the country. (UN News Centre)



Algerian Qaeda commander believed killed in Mali

Mokhtar Belmokhtar, an Algerian founding member of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), is believed to have been killed in clashes between Islamist militants and Tuareg-led separatist rebels in north Mali, Algeria’s Ennahar TV reported on 28 June. One Algerian security source told Reuters he was trying to confirm the death of Belmokhtar, who headed one of AQIM’s two battalions in Algeria’s southern desert bordering Mali. But Ennahar TV, a private Algerian channel known for its reliable reporting on security affairs, quoted several unknown sources as confirming Belmokhtar’s death. “All my sources are saying that Belmokhtar has been killed in the clash,” Ennahar’s director, Anis Rahmani, a terrorism expert, told Reuters. AQIM has yet to confirm the death. Nicknamed the “uncatchable”, Belmokhtar is believed to be linked to the kidnappings of foreigners that have taken place in remote areas in recent years. He has been sentenced by an Algerian court to life imprisonment in absentia in connection with the killing of 10 Algerian customs agents in 2007. The situation in northern Mali is chaotic after weeks of tension between the secular Tuareg-led National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and better-armed local Islamists who helped it take control of the northern two-thirds of Mali in April but whose goal is to impose Islamic law. Belmokhtar is believed to have died during a battle that killed at least 20 people on Wednesday night in the north Mali town of Gao, where the Islamists seized the MNLA headquarters, the source said. The Islamists have since declared they are in control of northern Mali. “It seems that Belmokhtar was in the region when he clashed with a group belonging to the MNLA,” Rahmani said. (Reuters)

Algeria to strengthen relations with Indonesia

Algeria plans to establish a Joint Commission aimed at boosting cooperation with Indonesia, using historical ties as leverage, an Algerian diplomat says. Algerian Ambassador to Indonesia Abdelkrim Belarbi said on Tuesday that the commission, planned to be jointly led by the foreign ministers of the two countries, was expected to take bilateral cooperation to a higher level. “There will be an added value to it since both countries share an important historic background,” Belarbi said. Trade volume between Indonesia and Algeria increased from US$431 million in 2008 to $500 million in 2011. Indonesian exports to Algeria include palm oil, coffee, sugar, textile fiber, dried fish and wood. Indonesia, Belarbi said, had always been a part of Algerian history because the former had played an important role in supporting his country gain independence from France in 1962. He said he hoped that both countries’ common stories of struggle against colonial oppressors would lead to better partnerships. (Jakarta Post)


Democracy a learning process as Libya votes

In the small courtyard of a kindergarten in Tripoli, about 20 women gather to hear why they should vote for Majdah al-Fallah in Libya’s first elections in almost half a century. Dressed in a long robe and Islamic headscarf, the 46-year-old doctor introduces herself and her party. But when she opens the floor to discussion, Fallah is bombarded by the most basic questions, not about her policies, but about how elections work. “What is actually going to happen when we go to the polling station. How many people do we vote for?” one woman asks. What will the elected assembly do, others ask, and what is the role of political parties in government. Though she is running for the formidable Muslim Brotherhood, there are no flashy campaign managers mapping Fallah’s every step, no loudspeakers, microphones, balloons or streamers. Almost a year after Libyans ousted Muammar Gaddafi in a NATO-backed rebellion, they are preparing to elect a 200-strong assembly that will help to draft a new constitution for the new Libya they hope to build. The Brotherhood, the most politically sophisticated and well financed group running, is expected to do well after receiving a boost from the Islamist victory in Egypt. Al-Wattan, a group led by former militia leader Abdul Hakim Bel Haj, is highly visible. Mahmoud Jibril’s coalition is also popular with Libyans who were impressed by the political skills he displayed in the uprising. But the election rules are likely to usher in an assembly dominated by a fragmented patchwork of independents representing competing local interests rather than fixed ideologies. And while 2.7 million Libyans registered to vote – almost 80 percent of eligible voters in the North African country – most are still struggling to learn the rules of democracy only days before they put it into practice on 7 July. “Under Gaddafi, we were taught that people in political parties were traitors to the state,” teacher Fawzia Masoud said. “Now we are learning what a party is, what it does and how elections are held. We’ve never done this before but it’s exciting.” Unlike Egypt or Tunisia, where sham elections regularly saw serious opponents sidelined and veteran leaders re-elected with over 90 percent of the vote, Libyans last went to polls in 1964 under King Idriss, who was overthrown by Gaddafi five years on. During Gaddafi’s 42-year rule, parties were banned and political institutions were virtually non-existent. (ioL News)

Extradition of Gaddafi Deputy Plunges Tunisia into Political Crisis

With political upheaval in Egypt and Libya and calamitous violence in Syria, the one stable point of the Arab Spring seemed to be Tunisia, where the wave of revolutions began 19 months ago. Now even that looks in doubt. Before dawn last on 24 June, Tunisian officials dragged the country’s highest-value detainee — Muammar Gaddafi’s last Prime Minister, Al-Baghdadi Ali al-Mahmoudi — from his prison bed, then handed him to Libyan officials, who flew him to a Libyan jail an hour away. Why the cloak-and-dagger extradition? The operation occurred under the nose of Tunisia’s own President, who at the time was sound asleep in his sprawling seaside palace, just a few kilometers away. The political furor in Tunisia has since laid bare deep rifts between the country’s secular liberals and Islamists, two factions wrestling for the country’s future in wake of the dictatorship’s collapse in January 2011. In some ways, the conflict mirrors the political struggles playing out in Libya and Egypt too, as all three countries try to rebuild after decades of one-man rule. In Tunisia, a three-way coalition has ruled the country since the first democratic elections last October, with the popular Islamic party Ennahda — long outlawed under the dictatorship — controlling the government under a Prime Minister, and the two major secular parties in control each of the presidency and the constitution-writing assembly. But the clamor over al-Mahmoudi’s fate now threatens to torpedo the arrangement, placing the Islamists in firm control over the most secular country in North Africa. … (TIME)

Libya seeks release of detainees in Iraq

A Libyan delegation is in Baghdad to negotiate the release of countrymen detained in Iraqi prisons, senior officials said on 28 June, adding that eight prisoners have been pardoned. “We will receive some of the (Libyan) prisoners that are in Iraq,” Justice Minister Hmeida Ashur told AFP. “The order for the release of eight prisoners in Iraq was signed yesterday and they will be transferred to Libya in the next couple of days,” he added, without elaborating. He was speaking during a visit to a freshly built courthouse and prison complex in the suburb of Tajura, east of Tripoli, which the interim authorities say reflect broader efforts to revive the judiciary and conduct fair trials. Interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil had said on Wednesday that negotiations were under way with Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon to secure the handover of Libyan prisoners there. On 28 June, the head of the Libyan delegation to Baghdad, Suleiman Fortia, said that there are “about 20 Libyan prisoners” being held in Iraq’s penitentiary system. He added that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani had approved the release of eight. “The president of Iraq has approved the release of eight prisoners,” Fortia told AFP, adding that he hoped that the transfer to Libya of all prisoners, including four facing life-sentences, would be secured soon. Of the eight released, Fortia said, most had committed “minor offences” such as illegal entry and forging papers in an effort to “flee from the regime of Moamer Kadhafi,” the Libyan dictator who was toppled and killed last year. Iraqi officials contacted by AFP gave no confirmation of a prisoner deal. (AFP)


Mali PM visits Mauritania to discuss Sahel crises

Mali’s Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra paid a lightning visit to Mauritania for talks on the crisis in his country as well as terrorism and drug trafficking in the Sahel, media reports said on 17 June. (…) Speaking after talks with Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz late Saturday, he said: “The conversation went well. I noticed that the views of the Mauritanian president and my own are well aligned.” Diarra visited former colonial power France just ahead of his trip to Mauritania. (…) Mauritania, which borders the northwestern Mali desert, has carried out several raids since 2010 against AQIM bases in the neighbouring country with Bamako’s consent. More than 50,000 Malians are refugees in Nouakchott after fleeing their homes as rebels occupied northern towns in the days following a March 22 coup. Diarra is part of a transition government that took over from the junta and is charged with organising fresh elections in 11 months. (AFP)

Iran invites Mauritanian president to attend NAM Summit

The letter of invitation was delivered to Mauritanian president by visiting Iranian Vice-President, Mohammad Reza Mirtajedini. Visiting Iranian high-ranking official, who is in Mauritania for a one day visit, submitted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s invitation letter to President Ould Abdulaziz during the meeting. Iranian vice president and Mauritanian president conferred the latest regional and international affairs in the meeting. The two high-ranking officials stressed also expansion of comprehensive bilateral relations in economic, industria, agricultural and technical fields. The 16th summit meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) member countries in Tehran will bring forward more steps to eliminate world problems and help the resolution of ongoing crisis in every corner of the world, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said recently in an interview with IRNA. ‘All required arrangements with regards to the NAM meeting in Tehran late summer have been made according to the scheduled timetable,” he added. The 16th NAM summit will be held in Tehran from 26-31 August. During the NAM summit meeting, the Islamic Republic of Iran will receive the NAM rotating chairmanship for the next three-year period. Egypt hosted the NAM ministerial meeting from 9-10 May 2012. (IRNA)


Western Sahara in geopolitical stalemate

Relative to large pockets of human suffering in sub-Saharan Africa in the form of widespread famine or civil wars, the fate of Western Sahara, a disputed desert territory and its 120,000 people is easily overlooked. Yet this particular conflict undermines regional security in North Africa and perpetuates a troublesome humanitarian situation. Amid a changing climate colored by the Arab Spring and the ascent of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Western Sahara is an unfortunate liability. On 24 April, the UN Security council extended for another year its peacekeeping mandate in Western Sahara, a region of sand and Atlantic coastline situated between Morocco, Algeria, and Mauritania. This bureaucratic move signaled the UN’s frustration with ongoing failed talks between Morocco and the Polisario Front, Algeria’s armed political group. For over two decades, the UN Security Council has tried to facilitate resolution of the 39-year conflict. Initially, the UN’s mandate was established to monitor a 1991 ceasefire and referendum on self-determination in the area Morocco began to acquire in November 1975. Both sides have continually disagreed over terms of the referendum, wherein native Sahraouis, an Arab and Berber people, would vote for self-determination and governance. Moroccan Sahraouis living in the contested area fled to Algeria in 1976 when armed conflict ensued between Morocco and Polisario guerillas. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other sources, many Sahraouis have lived in the Tindouf, Algeria, camps for more than three decades. They are not permitted to seek residency, citizenship, or work permits in Algeria. (GlobalPost)


Tunisia president fires central bank governor

Tunisia’s president fired the governor of the central bank because his monetary policies conflicted with the economic program of the government, the president’s office said on 27 June. Governor Mustapha Kamel Nabli, a World Bank economist, had led the central bank since the overthrow of the dictatorship in January 2011 and was known to pursue a very independent policy from the government. “There was a conviction that the measures adopted by the Central Bank of Tunisia on one hand, and those by the (government), on the other were not in harmony, particularly amid the difficulties the country was experiencing,” said presidential spokesman Adnan Mancer. The decision will now be submitted to the constituent assembly, Tunisia’s elected legislature, for approval within the next 15 days. Nabli presided over a period of economic shock including 1.8 percent negative growth rate last year. The economy has been reeling since tourists deserted this once popular destination following the dictator’s ouster and strikes have crippled the mining sector. In recent months, however, there have been nascent signs of a recovery. “I think everyone agrees he was a very good economist. Was he a good central banker? Many people disagree on that, and I am one of those,” said Ezzedine Saidane, a financial consultant. “The way he managed the situation of the economy for the last 15 months was in my opinion really terrible.” He criticized Nabli for cutting interest rates, keeping the currency artificially high and not doing enough to succor the ailing banking sector. Economist Mahmoud Ben Romdhane, however, maintained that Nabli’s strict monetary policy was what the country needed and his dismissal sent bad signals to foreign donors and investors. (MercuryNews, AP)

US plans bid to retrieve Arab dictators’ assets

The United States plans to hold a conference in September with newly democratic Arab countries to help them recover assets spirited abroad by autocrats, a US official say. Robert Hormats, the under secretary of state handling economic affairs, said that Arab Spring nations had been seeking the assistance of the United States and European nations to locate money that was funnelled overseas. “Of the priorities that they all expressed, that was really very close to the top of the list,” Hormats told reporters. “First of all it’s an issue of justice, and it’s also an issue of money.” Hormats said that the conference, which will involve Arab Spring and Western nations, will look at forensic work and other ways to locate assets. He said that the conference will likely take place in a Gulf Arab country. Hormats was speaking after a visit to Tunisia, where fruit vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in December 2010 to protest harassment, unexpectedly setting off a wave of protests that have toppled several Arab dictators. The official was upbeat about expanding US investment in Tunisia, saying that the country was outward-looking and well-educated and praising Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali for his economic priorities. “They have challenges,” Hormats said. “But the important thing about them is they have a very well thought-out set of policies for addressing those challenges and a very good government leadership to do that.” “They are making a major effort to open up opportunities to people like Bouazizi who made the revolution, to give them an opportunity to participate in the economy and to feed their families,” Hormats said. (Times Live)



Protracted Refugee Situations in Liberia and Angola to Finally End

This weekend [29 June], two of the most protracted refugee situations in Africa will finally come to an end. On 30 June, cessation clauses will enter into force for refugees from Liberia and Angola on the basis that these countries have both enjoyed many years of peace and stability after bitter civil wars. “This means people who fled the two countries and remain abroad will no longer be regarded as refugees by UNHCR and host governments,” UNHCR spokesman, Adrian Edwards, told journalists in Geneva on Friday. “We are working with the governments of origin and of asylum to find solutions for those refugees who wish either to return home or to remain in their host countries due to strong ties there. Voluntary returns will continue to be assisted while possibilities for local integration and/or an alternative legal status are also being discussed,” he added. In Liberia, the ending of refugee status will apply to people who left the country during the two civil wars that tore apart the country between 1989 and 2003, killing more than 250,000 people and forcing some 750,000 to flee their homes and find shelter elsewhere in Liberia or abroad. Voluntary repatriation to Liberia was launched in 2004, since when UNHCR has helped almost 135,000 people return, including more than 8,500 this year. This is higher than the figures for 2010 (1,278) and 2011 (1,762), and appears to have been prompted by the announcement in January that refugee status would end on June 30. Many others have gone back to Liberia on their own accord, mostly from other West Africa countries. A further 16,641 Liberian refugees have registered to return home and will be repatriated by UNHCR in the coming weeks. The refugees are returning mainly from Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea and Nigeria. Smaller groups are also coming back from the Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Senegal and Sierra Leone. Most have been repatriated by air or land routes. Liberian refugees who wish to remain in the country of asylum will have to meet the necessary legal requirements of that country. UNHCR and its government partners have worked to ensure that they have the necessary documents, including permits to reside and work in the country of residence as well as Liberian passports. Thanks to the ECOWAS Protocol on Freedom of Movement all ECOWAS citizens, including former Liberian refugees, have the right to reside and establish themselves as well as work in any ECOWAS country. UNHCR is also supporting integration for these people through livelihood projects and training and is ensuring they have access to education and health facilities. About 12,300 Liberians in exile for more than 20 years recently reconfirmed their desire to locally integrate. Edwards said that in Angola, the ending of refugee status will apply to those who fled that country during the 1965-75 war of independence from Portugal and the subsequent civil war, which ended in 2002. Last year, UNHCR and the government of Angola launched a new organized return programme for Angolan refugees in neighbouring countries. “Nearly 23,000 Angolans have returned to their country since this programme began, including more than 17,000 who have repatriated to Angola’s Uige and Zaire provinces from the west and south-east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo [DRC],” Edwards said, adding that a final convoy had left the DRC capital, Kinshasa, carrying more than 1,000 people and was due to reach Angola today. (allAfrica)


Mali’s Timbuktu and Tomb of Askia sites added to List of World Heritage in Danger

The World Heritage Committee, on 28 June, accepted a request from the Government of Mali to place Timbuktu and the Tomb of Askia on the List of World Heritage in Danger. (…) The Committee, meeting in St Petersburg until 6 July, also asked Mali’s neighbours to do all in their power to prevent the trafficking in cultural objects from the sites. (…) The 21 members of the World Heritage Committee urged the African Union and the international community to do everything possible to help protect Timbuktu, inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage in 1988, and the Tomb of Askia, inscribed in 2004. According to UNESCO, Timbuktu was an intellectual and spiritual capital and a centre for the propagation of Islam throughout Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries. The 17 metre high pyramidal structure of the Tomb of Askia was built by the Emperor of Songhai in 1495, and bears testimony to the power and riches of the empire that flourished in the 15th and 16th centuries through its control of the trans-Saharan trade. Northern Mali has experienced upheaval, with thousands of people forced to leave their homes due to fighting between Government troops and Tuareg rebels, which resumed in January. In addition, Mali is also dealing with the impact of a coup by rebel Malian soldiers who took control of the country earlier this year. (UN News Centre)


New Nigeria security chief wants talks with insurgents

Nigeria’s new national security advisor has called for dialogue to end an Islamist insurgency, during a visit to two northeastern cities hard hit by the violence. Sambo Dasuki, named to the post after President Goodluck Jonathan sacked his predecessor along with the defence minister on June 22, visited Damaturu and Maiduguri on 28 June. “If one considers the colossal loss these confrontations cause due to the unconventional methods of the insurgents, the option of resolution through dialogue and negotiation should be pursued as a priority,” Dasuki said in Damaturu, according to local media. “I do not see how anybody is benefiting out of this… President Goodluck Jonathan is committed to ensuring that peace and normalcy is restored before the onset of the Ramadan fast (in late July).” He said Jonathan “has asked me to engage with all stakeholders and the government with a view to hearing from them on ways of addressing the security problems”. Jonathan’s appointment of Dasuki marked a change in tactics in addressing the insurgency by Islamist group Boko Haram which has killed hundreds of people, with the violence concentrated in the country’s mainly Muslim north. The government’s response to the insurgency in past months had included heavy-handed military raids, which had angered residents of hard-hit areas and failed to stop the extremists. Dasuki is a retired colonel, prominent northerner and cousin to the Sultan of Sokoto, Nigeria’s highest Muslim spiritual figure. He is also a former aide to ex-military ruler Ibrahim Babangida, an influential northerner who challenged Jonathan for the ruling party nomination ahead of the 2011 presidential election before eventually dropping out of the race. The fired national security advisor, Owoye Azazi, was a political ally of Jonathan’s, with both men from Bayelsa state in the oil-producing south. (AFP)

World Bank Provides U.S. $100 Million to Support Niger’s Reform Program for Shared Growth

The World Bank, on 26 June, approved two International Development Association (IDA*) interest-free credits totaling US$100 million to support Niger’s reform program for shared growth. The First Shared Growth Credit in the amount of US$50 million launches a new series of three annual development policy operations that provides budget support to Niger, based on an agreed reform program to enhance the business environment, increase agricultural productivity, and strengthen public financial management. The budget support is accompanied by funding in the amount of US$50 million for a seven year Competitiveness and Growth Support Project. The objective of this project is to improve selected aspects of Niger’s business environment, to support the development of the meat industry, and to increase local business participation in the extractive industry sector. Ousmane Diagana, World Bank Country Director for Niger, said that “We are supporting Niger in its efforts to deal with the ongoing food crisis in the Sahel and the impact of conflict in Mali and Libya. At the same time, it is important to also keep an eye on Niger’s medium to long term development. These two projects will provide critical support to allow Niger to exploit fully its tremendous potential in the mining, oil, and livestock sectors.” Niger became an oil producer in 2011 and, with large scale investments in the mining sector, is set to become the world’s second largest producer of uranium. Livestock accounts for a large share of Niger’s exports, but currently there is little value added as most of these exports are on hoof to Niger. (allAfrica)


Tensions High on Niger Delta’s Oily Waters

Environmental damage from oil spills in Nigeria’s Niger Delta region has reached epic proportions and continues to threaten the stability of Africa’s most populous nation. Locals say people are dying young or fleeing the region while oil companies and corrupt officials get rich on their resources. However, oil companies say sabotage of their facilities accounts for 75 percent of the spills. Before the war and before there was oil, the Niger Delta must have looked like paradise. Even today it’s beautiful. One of the most bio-diverse parts of Africa, the creeks and rivers are like a spider web on top of a lush swampy jungle. Only now, if you look closely, you see that black oil coats the roots of the mangroves and floats in the water. For local residents, the consequences are disastrous. These people are standing on a dock by their village. All of them and all of their ancestors fish for a living-or at least they used to, before the oil killed the fish. In the past five years, they say, their catches have reduced about 80 percent. Decent Victor lives in another village on the riverbank. She says the children here are constantly sick from drinking water polluted with oil and the nearest hospital in the city of Warri is five to six hours away in a dugout canoe – their only means of transportation. (VOA News)

Nigeria’s Niger Delta to Receive US Congressional Hearing

A Nigerian diaspora group in the United States said a committee of the U.S. House of Representatives has agreed to hold a hearing next month on the situation in Ogoniland and the oil-rich Niger Delta region. The group, the Council of Ogoni Professionals International, also said the Congress has drafted a concurrent resolution describing the Niger Delta as one of the world’s important wetlands that must be protected and economic development made a priority. (VOA News)



Eritrean tyranny fuels mass exit

The Eritreans tell their stories … The newcomers join more than 65000 Eritreans in five camps along the tense border, whose disputed location was the spark that set off a fierce fight between the two countries from 1998 to 2000 and remains a source of heightened tension. Most refugees tell similar stories of run-ins with the authorities in this once promising new nation, which has turned into one of the most efficient tyrannies on the continent over the past decade. What distinguishes the influx here, as in Sudan on Eritrea’s western flank, is that most are young men who, like Binyam, are trying to break free of Eritrea’s national service, which they describe as a system of state-run indentured servitude that ties them up for 10 years or more, often as low-skilled workers in government departments or state- and party-owned businesses for which they are paid a pittance. Launched in 1995, the programme initially demanded 18 months of military training and work on national reconstruction. Some grumbled at the time, but most saw this as a legitimate obligation of citizenship after a 30-year war for independence from Ethiopia that had left the territory devastated. Even now, many escapees say they support the concept, just not the length of service, which has been extended further by requiring secondary school students to take their final year of school at a military base to prevent them from escaping. Students who drop out before that, or who fail to achieve passing grades, can be conscripted as young as 12. The huge outflow of draft-age men it has triggered has become a major factor in the crisis seizing the country today. Its intensely secretive leadership shows signs of unraveling for the first time since a brutal crackdown on dissent in 2001 that followed Eritrea’s defeat in the last round of the border war. Former soldiers say that most Eritrean Defence Force units are now operating at 25% of capacity or lower and the overall strength of the army, often estimated by outsiders at 250 000 to 300 000, may actually be less than 80 000. (Mail & Guardian Online)


Ethiopia Convicts 24 of Terrorism

An Ethiopian court has convicted 24 people, including a prominent writer and an opposition leader on terrorism-related charges. Rights groups have condemned the verdict as an assault on the opposition. Journalist Eskinder Nega and an opposition member Andualem Arage were among the eight defendants found guilty 28 June by Ethiopia’s High Court in Addis Ababa. Another 16 people were convicted in absentia. The men could face the death penalty for the charges including the encouragement of terrorism and high treason. Sentencing is expected next month. The case against Eskinder included an argument that he had advocated for violence by writing about whether Ethiopia would ever experience the kind of Arab Spring uprising that swept North Africa. He was also accused of supporting an outlawed political party called Ginbot Seven, which the government has labelled a terrorist group. East Africa Representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists, Tom Rhodes, said the court cases were part of the government’s attempts to silence the opposition. (VOA News)


Muslim Groups Clash Over Anti-Terror Bill

A group of Muslim leaders, on 28 June, presented a memorandum to the government in support of the Terrorism Prevention Bill 2012. The group calling itself Association of Muslim Organisations was, however, quickly disowned by Muslim organisations umbrella body Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims which has been opposed to the enactment of the Bill. Amok officials led by director general Mahamed Fazul met with acting Internal Security PS Mutea Iringo to express support for the bill. The PS promised that the government will consult widely and make necessary amendments before presenting it in Parliament. But Supkem and organisations such as the National Muslim Leaders Forum and Council of Imams and Preachers in Kenya said they were the only authorised Muslim representatives who can represent the faithful’s issues. They condemned the group of insincerity and being used to push a foreign agenda. The leaders called on the Cabinet and Parliament to reject the bill saying its enactment into law will violate fundamental freedoms of Kenyan citizens, reversing gains made by the adoption of the new constitution. Amok broke ranks with a section of Muslim leaders and organisations by calling on the government to urgently enact the Terrorism Prevention Bill 2012 to address the growing terror threats. Declaring their support for the once unpopular bill, Amok officials said the new legislation will reduce suspicion that has existed over the years between the security agencies and members of the Islamic faith. On the contrary CIPK chairman Sheikh Mohamad Dor said the group has been paid to divide Muslims as well misrepresent their issues. “We are astonished by these groups which are claiming to speak for Muslims. We only have one umbrella body which speaks for us. CIPK and Namlef, which I represent, don’t know these people and we have not and we will not support the Bill any day because in its current form it is aimed at violating our fundamental rights,” CIPK chairman Sheikh Mohamad Dor said. (allAfrica)

Aid workers kidnapped from Kenya’s Dadaab camp near Somalia

A Kenyan driver has been killed and four foreign aid workers kidnapped at a refugee camp in Kenya close to the border with Somalia, police say. The foreigners, from Canada, Norway, Pakistan and the Philippines, worked for the Norwegian Refugee Council. They were travelling in a convoy when they were ambushed by gunmen in Dadaab, which houses more than 450,000 Somalis. Several aid workers have been kidnapped from Dadaab in the last year and many groups have withdrawn from the camp. The region’s deputy police chief, Philip Ndolo, said two vehicles in the convoy had come under attack – and one had managed to get away. (…) “We suspect this could be the work of al-Shabab sympathisers,” Mr Ndolo told Reuters. Kenyan army spokesman Cyrus Oguna told AFP that the seized vehicle had been found abandoned about 30km (18 miles) from Daadab and it was believed the captives and their abductors were still inside Kenya, proceeding on foot. “We have dispatched military helicopters to pursue the kidnappers,” he said. (BBC News)


Somalia and Somaliland agree to combat piracy and terrorism

he second day of the UAE Counter Piracy conference in Dubai witnessed a historic development as the presidents of Somalia and Somaliland agreed to start a dialogue under an agreed framework that is expected to positively affect the fight against maritime piracy. President of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and President of the Republic of Somaliland Ahmed Mahamoud Silanyo later released a joint statement in the presence of UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Mohammed Gargash. Presidents of the two nations met for the first time during the past 21 years and agreed to continue the dialogue to clarify the relationship between the two sides. Commenting on the development, Silanyo expressed confidence that the co-operation would contribute positively to the fight against maritime piracy as well as terrorism, and will bring peace to the region. He also expressed the hope that this step would lead to formal acceptation of Somaliland as an independent nation by Somalia, as well as by the international community. (SomalilandPress)

Constitution Qualms Could Jeopardize End of Transition Process

The key step in the completion of Somalia’s peace process could be the spark to another debate that could put the process in jeopardy after an unprecedented move, Garowe Online reports. Transitional Federal Parliament Speaker Sharif Hassan Sharif Adan accompanied by other government officials, unexpectedly gave a copy of the agreed-upon Draft Provisional Federal Constitution of Somalia to traditional elders in Mogadishu, and asked the elders to read the proposed document and give their input. It is not clear how other Somali stakeholders, including Puntland State, Galmudug authority and Ahlu Sunna movement, will respond to this new development. Also UN Special Envoy to Somalia Amb. Augustine Mahiga has not responded publicly to this issue, as he has been a central voice coordinating the end of transition process in Somalia. A source familiar with the ongoing political process in Somalia tells Garowe Online news agency: “This is a surprise move, because the elders have no role in the constitution process according to the signed agreements, such as Garowe Principles, Galkayo agreement, Addis Communique of 23 May 2012, and last week’s meeting in Nairobi. The role of Somali elders is limited only to select NCA members and Federal parliamentarians based on 4.5 clan formula,” the source added. Under the agreements, Somali traditional elders are mandated to choose members of the National Constituent Assembly (NCA), which is scheduled to provisionally adopt the agreed-upon constitution in July, and MPs of the new 225-seat Somali Federal Parliament. The 825-member NCA is mandated to vote “yes or no” on the new agreed-upon constitution, after Somali leaders agreed and signed the final draft of the constitution to be presented to the NCA for a vote. The 135 traditional elders in Mogadishu who met with the Speaker Sharif Hassan did agree to examine the final draft constitution but did not say they would ratify it. “We elders have been in Mogadishu for almost two months awaiting the draft constitution, we have finally received the document and we will read and examine it. But if the document does not benefit the Somali people we will not approve it,” said Mohamed Hasan Haad, a member of the 135 traditional elders. The Speaker emphasized that the schedule in ending the transitional government in Somalia is imminent and that the elders should support the document. (…) The document was agreed on by leaders in Nairobi after more than a month of revising the initial constitution prepared by an independent committee. However the committee who have been working on the document for several years, refused to accept the revised document. The Independent Federal Constitution Commission (IFCC) refused to support the final draft constitution, as the IFCC Chairman Abdullahi Hassan Jama said that the committee would not present the document to stakeholders. (allAfrica)

African Union Troops secure Balad town from Al-Shabaab terror group

The Somali National Forces supported by African Union troops in Somalia have this morning secured Balad town from the Al‐Qaeda backed terror group the Al‐Shabaab. Situated 30kms north of Mogadishu, Balad is an area rich in farmland and a bread‐basket for most of Somalia. Securing Balad allows the local population in this important farming region to build their livelihoods free from extortion of money, which Al‐Shabaab used to fund their daily terror activities against the Somali people. Speaking about the importance of Balad town the AMISOM Deputy Force Commander Brigadier General Audace Nduwumunsi said: “The Al‐Shabaab were using Balad to launch attacks on Mogadishu. Now that it is liberated, the city of Mogadishu will be much secure from terrorist activities”. Balad is a key strategic town and its loss is an enormous setback for Al‐Shabaab, being the gateway connecting Mogadishu to central Somalia regions as well as the Puntland regions. It is 50kms from Jowhar, the provincial town of Middle Shabelle region. (New Vision)


Sudan, South Sudan Fail to Agree On Buffer Zone, Talks to Resume Next Week

Sudanese and South Sudanese delegations ended another round of talks without agreeing on a map to operationalize a buffer zone they have to establish on the common border. The mediation however announced the resumption of talks next week (1st week of July]. Sudan and South Sudan delegations led by defense ministers failed earlier this month to agree on the security line demarcating this Safe Demilitarized Border Zone (SDBZ). Khartoum, Juba and the mediation put different maps on the negotiating tables. But Juba accepted the map prepared by the mediation while Khartoum continued to refuse it saying an area called “14 miles” is part of its territory and it would not accept that the mediation considers it as South Sudanese territory. The office of Jean Ping chairman of the Africa Union Commission issued a statement telling the parties that the AU map or what it termed as “temporary security line” will not prejudice the final status of the disputed border areas that will be tackled separately the parties. However, Sudan Tribune learnt that the Sudanese delegation continued to demand the mediation to reconsider its map and to define 14 Miles as a Sudanese territory. The mediation declined the demand. Sudan defense minister Abdel Rahim Hussein avoided to criticize the mediation but pointed out that the plans presented by Juba delegation are not compatible with UN maps or that drawn by the specialized committees. He also emphasized on the cordial atmosphere of the bilateral talks with the South Sudanese delegation. In Juba Pagan Amum, South Sudan’s top negotiator also told reporters that the two sides agreed to maintain the positive spirit that prevailed in the round. Amum added that the upcoming round will discuss all the outstanding issues together without preconditions in order to reach a comprehensive agreement between the two countries. In the next round of talks different tracks are expected to be held at the same time to discuss: border demarcation, Abyei and oil transportation fees. The parties have also to accelerate the implementation of the peace roadmap which indicates 2 August as deadline for the talks. The AU’s chief mediator, Thabo Mbeki, called in a statement released on Thursday on the international community to support the ongoing talks and praised both Sudan and South Sudan for their “serious” approach in this round of negotiations. (allAfrica)


Invisible Victims – Sexual Violence Against Men in the Great Lakes

According to recent studies, 48 women are raped every hour in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the country has been ranked as the second most dangerous to be a woman in the world. Gender-based violence in the region has become widespread and there has been a proliferation of non-governmental organisations and donor efforts to aid the plight of female victims. Much less attention is being paid, however, to male victims of rape. Like women, men are also targeted and suffer sexual violence. This issue, however, has received considerably less publicity and examination. There are also few organisations set up to help male victims, the stigma around men who have been raped remains particularly strong in societies across the world, and the problem receives relatively meagre discussion amongst governments, aid agencies and human rights organisations. This is perhaps surprising given that sexual violence against men has been documented in conflicts as far and wide as Yugoslavia, Iraq and El Salvador and that it is often widespread. One third of the male combatants in Liberia’s civil war, for example, reported suffering some form of sexual abuse; 21% of the tortured Sri Lankan Tamil males receiving care in London claimed to have experienced sexual violence; and in El Salvador in the 1980s, 76% of male political prisoners were allegedly victims of sexual torture. There are no reliable statistics on the number of male victims in the DRC and Great Lakes Region as of yet, but whispers that sexual violence is being used against boys and men as well as girls and women are growing louder though the issue remains under-reported and under-examined. As with sexual violence against women, sexual violence against men is also occurring amidst conflict in the DRC and, according to some, is also being used as a weapon of war. In the traditionally patriarchal societies of the DRC and more broadly in much of Africa, men are perceived culturally to be the providers, protectors and carers for their communities and families, and are considered to represent the virility and power of communities – these characteristics are perhaps particularly crucial in times of uncertainty and conflict. Sexual violence against men is seen as a means to disempower men and also thus undermine the strength of the community. Male rape can symbolically signal a community’s powerlessness as its protectors are perceived to be emasculated and unable to defend themselves and by extension their families and kin. (allAfrica)

Central African Republic

Rebels release foreigners after attack on French uranium site in CAR

Authorities in the Central African Republic said that rebels had released the foreigners they were holding after attacking a French uranium exploration site, even though officials with the company in France denied that the expatriates had ever been kidnapped. A military official in Bakouma, where the site is, said that a plane was sent to pick up five French nationals and two locals to take them to the capital, Bangui. Rebels, on 24 June, attacked the exploration site in Bakouma, operated by French company Areva. A resident in Bakouma said on 26 June that hundreds of rebels attacked the site on Sunday and took computers and looted houses. The resident, who would not give his name for security reasons, said there were not enough soldiers to fight the rebels. The resident said the rebels were a part of the Lord’s Resistance Army, led by Joseph Kony, who is thought to be in the country. But others said the rebels were part of a group from Chad. Bakouma lawmaker Alima Diarra said the rebels seized five French nationals and two locals. But there are conflicting reports over whether the seven were hostages. (Washington Post)

DR Congo

How DR Congo’s Rebels Make Their Money

A controversial UN report on the Democratic Republic of Congo has focused attention on Rwanda’s alleged role in the current army mutiny, but the document also reveals intriguing details about how rebels in the area make their money. It lists bank robberies and extortion rackets taxing charcoal and cows as some of the activities of the insurgents in east of the country. The recent increase in violence was partly caused by government attempts to end racketeering by parts of the army, including the mining of precious minerals such as tin and gold. Cynics might say the government army wanted to reassert its own control over these rackets. But in any case it is clear recent events were part of a long-standing struggle by Kinshasa to establish control over the east. The legal and illegal export of precious minerals from the fabulously rich soils of eastern DR Congo is a multi-million dollar business in itself. On the first occasion, the UN study says, soldiers snatched $1m (£640,000), the currency of choice for well-off Congolese. The second BIAC raid netted only $50,000. But there were other heists too – at a well-known Goma hotel, the Stella Matutina, a customs office and several money transfer branches. More mundane extortion also affects ordinary people every day. Trucks carrying charcoal for cooking, for example, are “taxed” $50 at illegal roadblocks and even motorcyclists have to pay a sort of licence fee of $2 a week, the report by the UN group of experts published within the last week says. This racketeering was making some officers rich, so strengthening their political and ethnic power bases. The Congolese government was most concerned by soldiers led by General Bosco Ntaganda aka “The Terminator” and Colonel Sultani Makenga – who were both in theory inside the national army – because it believed they were backed by Rwanda and so threatened Kinshasa’s sovereignty over the area. The army high command signalled that these officers and their allies were to be transferred to other parts of the country. The idea was to assert central control and break up criminal networks within the army, the UN report says. But in April of this year, the report says, troops under the shared command of Gen Ntaganda and Col Makenga began deserting and setting up their own fiefdoms north of the volcano range that lies just outside Goma. The planned redeployment – which threatened the officers’ money-making capacity – was one apparent reason for the mutiny. … (BBC News)


Rwanda Hits Back At DR Congo Accusations Over Mutiny

Rwanda’s foreign minister said Monday that “disingenuous” accusations by neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo over involvement in an anti-government mutiny risked stirring up conflict in the region. Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo strongly condemned “rumors and reports” about Rwanda’s backing for rebels in eastern DR Congo she said had encouraged the kind of “rhetoric” that existed before Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. Mushikawabo is visiting the UN headquarters and Washington this week amid growing controversy and tension over a UN report said to give evidence that Rwandan military officers have helped DR Congo rebels. DR Congo’s Foreign Minister Raymond Tshibanda wrote to the UN Security Council last week saying Rwandan involvement in the strife was “evolving dangerously toward a rupture of the peace” between the neighbors. The letter called on the council to condemn Rwanda’s actions in DR Congo, where government forces are battling a mutiny by former soldiers in the M23 group. Mushikawabo called the DR Congo letter “regrettable,” saying that she was just leaving Kinshasa after talks with Tshibanda when it was sent. (allAfrica)



Angolan Parliament Demands End of US Blockade against Cuba

Representatives of the Angolan Parliament demanded, on 29 June, the lifting of the financial, economic and commercial blockade of United States against Cuba, for more than five decades now. The president in exercise of the National Assembly, Joao Manuel Gonsalves Lourenco e made that birdcall in official conversations with the Cuban parliament’s president, Ricardo Alarcón. In the host of the Legislative, Lourenco reiterated that Angola promotes the ceasing of that arbitrary measure, condemned by the world community. He also reasserted before deputies the support and solidarity to Cuba in defense of their legitimate interests and in the observance of the international legality. The Angolan parliament’s representative greeted the upgrade of the Cuban economic pattern that is implemented from the last congress of the Communist Party of Cuba, with the objective of guaranteeing the recovery and the economic development in the island. It also considered that, amid the deep financial and economic crisis that the world faces, Angola and Cuba deepen even more its cooperation in diverse sectors. Cuba takes the collaboration ahead with this African territory in important fields like the health, education and construction. Alarcón thanked the Angolan solidarity in the condemnation to the US blockade against Cuba and in the demand for the freedom of the five unfairly condemned Cuban antiterrorists in United States since 1998. Previously, the Cuban delegation that Alarcón heads, was received in the venue of the provincial Government of Luanda by the governor, Bento Joaquim Francisco Bento. (Prensa Latina)

Fiscal Police Urged to Tighten Fight Against Trafficking

he staff of the Fiscal Police were urged, on 28 June, in Luanda to tighten watch on spots believed to serve as entry of trafficking. The call came from the inspector-general of the Fiscal Police, chief-commissioner Salvador Rodrigues “Dodó”. The Officer was speaking at the opening of the 16th Broad Consultative Council of the Fiscal Police, on behalf of the commander-general of the National Police, Ambrósio de Lemos. He also spoke of the need for more efficacious and adequate methods to neutralise criminal activities that threaten public order, tax paying and forgery. Salvador Rodrigues “Dodó” explained that the promotion of private commercial initiative and entrepreneurship, coupled with free flow of people and goods and illegal immigration are premises that encourage customs infringements and stimulate unfair competition. The two-day meeting is being attended by high ranking officers of the National Police from around the country. (AngolaPress)

South Africa

S. Africa rand surges in step with euro

South Africa’s rand jumped as much as 2.7 percent against the dollar on 29 June, recording it’s biggest daily gain since late November 2011 as renewed optimism about a solution to Europe’s debt problems fired up risk appetite. The currency was among the strongest five in a basket of 20 emerging market currencies watched by Reuters, shrugging off data showing South Africa’s trade deficit remained wide at 8.9 billion rand in May, pointing to continued pressure on the current account. The rand reached a session high of 8.1750 to the greenback, the firmest it has been since 20 June, and was 2.66 percent firmer at 8.1777 by 1534 GMT compared with 28 June’s close. The rand’s gains mirrored a rally in the euro, currency of South Africa’s main trading partner bloc, which was on track for its best day against the dollar in eight months after euro zone leaders agreed on measures to stabilize banks and reduce borrowing costs for Italy and Spain. (…) The rand is particularly sensitive to swings in global risk appetite because South Africa’s financial markets are highly liquid. (Reuters Africa)


Zambian President Sata under scrutiny

Zambia’s populist president portrays himself as a corruption-buster, but critics are raising questions about the appointments he’s made, his conduct and the lucrative contracts he has awarded for government work in the year since taking office. President Michael Sata made his uncle his finance minister, appointed other relatives to other high government posts, and has picked a fight with the judiciary. Despite his promises to be different, it looks like politics as usual in this copper-rich southern African country. In Zambia and across Africa, multi-party contests and relatively peaceful elections are increasingly the norm. But governance often fails to meet voters’ expectations, and entrenched parties can make a mockery of the trappings of democracy. Power has changed hands in Zambia among a clique of politicians who jump from party to party as rivalries and allegiances shift. Politics is often more about personality than policy in this young democracy, with voters offered little more than a choice among strong men. (…) Sata, known as King Cobra because of his sharp tongue, won support at home and abroad with his anti-corruption, pro-poor rhetoric. He returned from a recent visit to Europe with a promise of private foreign investment in farming and a pledge from the British government of a three-year, 58 million pound grant to fight poverty. (…) But some Zambians are concerned about Sata’s leadership, accusing him of nepotism and favoritism. (Fox News)

Zambian Opposition Lauds Court Ruling on De-registration

An official of Zambia’s Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) has hailed a court’s decision, which overturned the recent de-registration of the main opposition party. Chembe Nyangu, deputy national secretary of the MMD, said the 26 June ruling is an indication of the independence of the country’s judiciary. “We are praising the judiciary, that [it] is independent and cannot be intimidated by the executive. Recently, [the ruling party] wanted to intimidate the judiciary by appointing or removing the senior judiciary officers and appointing their own people, who they think should go by their leash by dictating that all judicial matters, which are before the court, should be ruled in their favor,” said Nyangu. But, supporters of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party dismiss the accusation as without merit. They said the decision shows that the ruling party respects the rule of law. The Chief Registrar of Societies in Zambia de-registered the opposition party for non-payment of $75,581 in annual registration fees. Political parties, NGOs and churches, are required by law to be compliant with the Societies Act, if they are to continue operating in the country. Officials say the opposition party refused to pay the amount it owed, despite repeated reminders, while the MMD ruled the country for two decades. The MMD condemned de-registration as an act of intimidation, which the opposition said is an affront to democracy. The MMD then challenged it in court. Nyangu denied the Registrar of Societies contacted the opposition party about the non-payment of dues. He said national officials of the MMD were unaware of the non-payment at the district level. (VOA News)


Zim Seeks to Increase Exports to Zambia

Zimbabwe is seeking to increase exports to Zambia, but local companies need to work on improving the quality of their products to achieve a competitive advantage over regional goods, a Government official has said. Industry and Commerce deputy director of bilateral trade relations Ms Constance Zhanje said this on the sidelines of the Zambia International Trade Fair on 27 June. She added that the country lost a significant share of the Zambian market during the height of economic challenges when production levels in many companies contracted significantly. But with the economy now on a recovery path, having registered growth for three consecutive years since dollarisation in 2009, companies should become more innovative to make their products more attractive not only to Zambia, but to Sadc and the Common Market for East and Southern Africa. More than 15 Zimbabwean companies are among 800 exhibitors showcasing their products and services at this year’s edition of the ZITF, which is being held under the theme “Creating Synergies Beyond Borders”. (allAfrica)

Zimbabwe ‘witches’ to have medical tests

Court officials in Zimbabwe say two self-confessed witches who claim to have flown on a magical grain threshing basket are to undergo medical and psychiatric examinations. Prosecutors said on 28 June that the two women were arrested earlier this month after they were found naked in the yard of a home in the town of Chinhoyi, 110 kilometers (70 miles) northeast of Harare. The women are charged under witchcraft laws carrying the penalty of a fine. In local belief, the flat, traditional hand-held winnowing basket is equivalent to a witch’s broomstick in Western fable. (Boston Globe)

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