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

LDESP AFRICOM News Update – December 2012

LDESP NEWS CENTER: NEWS UPDATE FROM AFRICA (3 December 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.

AFRICOM

America has no plans, interest or money to set up military bases in Africa, other than plans to strengthen existing relationships with various countries’ military authorities, says the highly decorated commander of the US Africa Command (AFRICOM), General Carter Ham. (…) General Ham, who holds the highest rank as a four-star general in the US army, had discussions with the Namibian Minister of Defense, Major General (Rtd) Charles Namoloh and Chief of the Defense Force Lieutenant General Epaphras Denga Ndaitwah. (…) The visit was to gain a better understanding of where military-to-military cooperation between the USA and Namibia might be strengthened. (…) AFRICOM has been a topic of many media reports with speculation that the USA is in the process of stretching the AFRICOM command post’s presence on the continent, with a number of African countries fingered for granting the US permission to set up army bases for that purpose. But Ham dismissed such reports as untrue. (All Africa, New Era)
US AFRICOM is expecting to be asked to provide support for West African military intervention in northern Mali, a top US General said on 14 November. According to US intelligence, any military intervention force will encounter an estimated 800 to 1200 “hardcore” fighters. (…) Ham does not entertain any discussion of using unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, over northern Mali. Neither does he confirm or deny that bases in Nema, Mauritania or Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, would be convenient for providing US support. (…) He is also cautious about what training for Malian troops the US could provide. He explains that the US is legally prevented from training soldiers from the Malian army because the Malian army coup leaders remain in positions of influence within the government. (All Africa, RFI News)
The site [sabahionline.com], and another one like it that centers on northwest Africa, is part of a propaganda effort by the U.S. military’s Africa Command aimed at countering extremists in two of Africa’s most dangerous regions – Somalia and the Maghreb. (…) Omar Faruk Osman, the secretary general of the National Union of Somali Journalists, said Sabahi is the first website he’s seen devoted to countering the militants’ message. (…) The U.S. military and State Department, a partner on the project, say the goal of the sites is to counter propaganda from extremists “by offering accurate, balanced and forward-looking coverage of developments in the region.” (…)Al-Shabab and other militants have for years used websites to trade bomb-making skills, to show off gruesome attack videos and to recruit fighters. The U.S. funded websites – which are available in languages like Swahili, Arabic and Somali – rely on freelance writers in the region. (…) The site, which launched in February, is slowly attracting readers. The military said that Sabahi averages about 4,000 unique visitors and up to 10,000 articles read per day. (…) Osman said the articles on Sabahi are accurate and professional. But he said he feared that militants could attack writers who work for the site. Eighteen Somalis who work with media outlets have been killed this year, often in targeted killings. (…) The military said there are nine writers who work for Sabahi from Kenya, Tanzania, Djibouti and Somalia. The other site – magharebia.com – concentrates on Libya, Algeria, Morocco and Mauritania. (…)AFRICOM says the websites are part of a larger project that costs $3 million to pay for reporting, editing, translating, publishing, IT costs and overhead. It believes the project is paying dividends. (Huffington Post)

African Union

The African Union is demanding that aid groups receive access to the conflict zone in the Democratic Republic of Congo and it is considering the deployment of international forces to the region. The AU Peace and Security Council held an emergency meeting on 26 November. The African Union Peace and Security Council convened an emergency meeting to reaffirm its rejection of the armed rebellion in the DRC that has created a humanitarian crisis in the region. (…) The African Union is considering deploying an international force from Tanzania to oversee the withdrawal of M23.  But AU Commissioner Lamamra says that for now, the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC, or MONUSCO, will monitor the withdrawal. (…) The AU Peace and Security Council further endorsed the recently drafted declaration of the International Council of the Great Lakes Region and requested its immediate implementation. The declaration urges M23 to withdraw immediately from all occupied areas. (Voice of America)
The African Union (AU) has backed a plan to send troops into Mali to clear the north of Islamist extremists. It endorsed the decision by West Africa’s regional bloc Ecowas on 11 November to send 3,300 troops to help Mali’s government retake the region. The plans will now go before the UN Security Council for approval before the end of 2012. (…)The Ecowas plan covers a six-month period, with a preparatory phase for training and the establishment of bases in Mali’s south, followed by combat operations in the north, Malian army sources told Reuters news agency. The soldiers would be provided mainly by Nigeria, Niger and Burkina Faso. After endorsing the plan, the AU’s Peace and Security Commissioner, Ramtane Lamamra, said other African countries could provide troops and logistical support. (BBC)

United Nations

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has recommended conditional backing for a one-year African Union mission against Islamist militants in Mali. Mr Ban did not offer any financial support, and said African nations needed to answer basic questions about how the force would be run. African leaders have been seeking UN backing for a mainly West African force that would support Mali’s military. (…) In recommendations to the UN Security Council, Mr Ban said it could authorise African Union member states to establish the 3,300-strong mission, which would have the acronym Afisma, for an initial period of one year. (…) Islamists and Tuareg rebels captured large swathes of northern Mali after a coup in Bamako earlier this year. Their alliance then collapsed, with the Islamists taking the region’s main urban centres. The Islamists have destroyed ancient shrines in Timbuktu and have imposed a strict version of Islamic law, sparking international outrage. (BBC)
Somalia’s president has reversed course on what to do about millions of sacks of charcoal stockpiled in former rebel strongholds and now says they can be exported despite a U.N. embargo on the trade. (…) “The U.N. and the Somali government banned the export of charcoal. But we considered the logical requests of the Somalis,” Mohamud told reporters in Mogadishu late on 14 November. (…) Residents and regional officials said charcoal was already being loaded onto ships at the southern port of Kismayu. (…) The charcoal – an estimated three to five million sacks worth tens of millions of dollars – has become a growing source of tension for Mohamud, who is trying to extend his new government’s authority beyond the capital and stabilize the south. (…) Security Council diplomats have said the council is divided on the issue. Envoys say some countries fear the Kismayu merchants lobbying for the sale of the charcoal may still have connections to al Shabaab; Washington has indicated it would agree to the charcoal exports if the Somali government approved. (Chicago Tribune, Reuters)
The acting head of the joint United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur, known by the acronym UNAMID, has called on the Government of Sudan to “swiftly” proceed with its investigation into violence which reportedly affected the village of Sigili. (…)UNAMID had received reports some days ago of an alleged attack on civilians that resulted in fatalities, an abduction of a civilian and widespread population displacement in Sigili, located in the Shawa area, about 40 kilometers southeast of El Fasher, the capital city of the west Sudanese state of North Darfur. The attack reportedly took place on 2 November. (…) It also noticed several signs of destruction of housing and property, killed animals, and burnt houses, in addition to ammunition found in different sites across the village. The team was unable to go to Abu Delek. (…) The mission to Abu Delek was the second attempt to access the area. On 25 October, UNAMID dispatched a patrol to verify reports of alleged clashes between Government forces and armed groups. As it approached Abu Delek, the patrol came under heavy gunfire from an unidentified armed group. Ms. Mindaoudou reiterated her call to all communities across Darfur to exercise restraint, and to put an end to inter-communal violence that has caused deep suffering and unacceptable loss of lives, according to UNAMID. (UN News Center)
The United Nations Security Council on 7 November shelved a request by the African Union for UN funding of Kenya’s naval forces operating off the coast of Somalia. (…) France, one of the five veto-wielding members of the council, was identified in some reports as a leading opponent of the AU request. The council was acting to preserve its unity on Somalia-related issues when it subsequently gave unanimous support on 7 November to a resolution that does not include naval funding and that extends Amisom’s mandate for four months, Mr. Mashabane said. India, which currently holds the presidency of the Security Council, said at the session that it is “disappointed” at the exclusion of a maritime component from Amisom’s mandate. India’s representative added that his country hopes the matter will again be considered as part of a strategic review of the hybrid AU-UN military force in Somalia. In a report to the Security Council last month, the AU pointed to an “urgent need” to include naval resources under Amisom’s aegis. The AU said naval power, supplied exclusively by Kenya, had been crucial in “preventing Al-Shabaab from benefiting from illegal maritime trade or piracy. Kenyan sea forces also played a key role in routing Al-Shabaab from Kismayu, its stronghold on the southern Somalia coast, diplomats noted. (Daily Nation)

European Union

Foreign and defence ministers from five EU states have backed a proposed European mission to train Malian forces struggling against Islamist fighters. Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland and France issued a statement in Paris endorsing the plan for Mali. West African states intend to send a force to recapture northern Mali from al-Qaeda-linked Islamist groups. (…) The EU’s Foreign Affairs Council asked for work to begin on planning a possible EU military operation that would focus on reorganizing and training the Malian defence forces. The operation should take “account of the conditions necessary for the success of any such mission, which include the full support of the Malian authorities and the definition of an exit strategy”, the council said. (BBC)
The European Union has given Somalia 158 million Euros ($200 million) to improve education, the legal system and security, its new envoy said on 3 November, as the Horn of Africa nation tries to recover from more than two decades of conflict. The new aid program follows the election in September of a new Somali president, the culmination of a regionally brokered, U.N.-backed effort to restore central government control and end fighting that has killed tens of thousands of people. (…) The development aid package, the largest EU program ever approved for Somalia, will go towards strengthening the judiciary, broken state institutions, the Somali police force and the country’s blighted education system. Some funds will be used to bring home Somali professionals abroad to help improve education standards. (Reuters)
Tunisia has gained the European Union advanced status, becoming the 2nd North African country after Morocco to obtain such a title, the status of a privileged partner with the EU. (…) The advanced status will enable Tunisia benefit from financial, technical and advisory support for its democratic transition and comprehensive reforms. It will also boost cooperation between the two parties in various fields such as scientific research, social affairs, citizen mobility and job creation. Under the privileged partnership agreement sealed between the two sides, the EU has pledged to provide Tunisia with more financial and technical assistance that would stimulate the country’s economy and strengthen its position in the Mediterranean region. The agreement will also allow Tunisian agricultural products access to the European market and contribute to the promotion of Tunisian industries. But some economists and politicians are concerned over some lingering differences on agriculture and immigration policies. (North Africa Post)

NORTH AFRICA, SAHARA/SAHEL REGION

Libya

Libya’s first elected government was sworn in under tight security on 14 November, inheriting the daunting task of establishing democracy in a country plagued by rival militias who helped overthrow Muammar Gaddafi last year. In a national congress hall built by Gaddafi shortly before his fall, new cabinet ministers swore an oath to protect the North African state, a major oil producer. (…) In a continued sign of disarray, eight of the 27 ministers nominated by Prime Minister Ali Zeidan did not show up after some members of the elected congress queried their credentials. Ministers in charge of electricity, higher education, relations with congress and interior were rejected by the North African state’s integrity commission because of questionable backgrounds, including alleged ties with the Gaddafi regime. Rulings on four other cabinet nominees – foreign affairs, agriculture, social affairs, and religious affairs – were pending. (…) To avoid violent outbursts on 14 November, Libyan national army forces cordoned off the congress headquarters, standing guard with pick-up trucks mounted with anti-aircraft weapons. Sniffer dogs were also deployed. (…) He nominated Ali Aujali, Libya’s ambassador to the United States, as foreign minister; Mohammed al-Barghathi, who served in the Libyan air force, as defence minister; and Abdelbari al-Arusi, from the western town Zawiyah, as oil minister. A former diplomat who defected in the 1980s to become an outspoken Gaddafi critic, Zeidan will govern the country while the congress, elected in July, passes laws and helps draft a new constitution to be put to a national referendum next year. (Reuters)
A court in Libya has decided to postpone the trial of al-Baghdadi, last prime minister of Libya during Gaddafi’s regime, until 10 December 2012. The decision came after the absence of the other two defendants, Mabruk al-Zahmul, manager of Afriqia company for Engineering, and Amer Terfas, director in Afriqia company for Engineering. All three are facing charges of financial corruption, murder during 17 February 2011 revolution. The defense lawyers requested to postpone the trail in order to have enough time to study the case at length. And they asked to investigate the absence of the other two defendants. (…) Mahmoudi, who served as the last prime minister in former leader Muammar Gaddafi’s administration from 2006 to 2011, fled to Tunisia in September 2011 after the armed rebels seized the Libyan capital of Tripoli during the unrest. (Xinhua)
The Libyan security chief who led an anti-militia crackdown in the wake of the killing of the country’s US ambassador has been assassinated in Benghazi, raising questions about the government’s ability to impose the rule of law. Colonel Farag al-Dersi, Benghazi’s chief of security, was shot dead by three gunmen in the eastern Libyan city where ambassador Chris Stevens and three fellow diplomats died after the US consulate was overrun on 11 September. The colonel had been instrumental in seeking to curb the power of extremist militias in Benghazi, banning some and trying to bring others under control of government-appointed officers. His death is the latest in a string of killings and car bombings in the city, most of them targeting officials who had high-profile roles in the former administration of Muammar Gaddafi. To date none of the assassins have been put on trial. The latest killing highlights the problems faced by Libya’s new cabinet, which was sworn-in in mid-November, in tackling the country’s security vacuum. Police and army functions remain distributed among a patchwork of militias. Some, notably those in the former key rebel cities of Misrata and Zintan, are well organised, but other parts of the country remain chaotic. The new government is handicapped by the exclusion from office of eight of its 27 ministers, including both interior and justice ministers, by a commission investigating their alleged links to the former Gaddafi regime. (…) The uncertainty at the heart of government is also handicapping reform. A three-day international trade conference meeting in the capital in mid-November Tripoli, is taking place without the participation of government ministers or officials, leaving investors unsure about Libya’s future economic policy, or what plans the government has for establishing security. (Guardian)
Libya is having to pay extra for food imports and traders say some foreign firms are diverting shipments elsewhere due to fears – dismissed as unfounded by Tripoli – that growing disarray in the country could delay payments. The North African state, much of which is desert, is a big food buyer and has stepped up purchases of staples including wheat and sugar since the end of fighting last year that toppled dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Tripoli shop shelves are now full of foreign produce. But while international traders had viewed oil producing Libya as a lucrative market, some now say they are backing off from trade. (…) Companies contacted by Reuters could not cite concrete cases of default by Libyan importers, but rather unease that payment could be delayed, not least by cumbersome bureaucracy. “There is an unspoken Libya premium in the grain trade which the country has to pay for grain imports despite the fact that its huge oil wealth should make it a grade one customer to sell to,” another European grain trader said. “Traders need the extra money because of payment risks and the general uncertainty in the pretty chaotic government there.” (Reuters)
Libya’s oil ministry is proposing to separate the OPEC member’s exploration and production activities from refining, shaking up the running of its key industry by creating two separate bodies that would be headquartered in Tripoli and Benghazi. In a move that could be seen as appeasing calls for more authority in the oil-rich east, new Oil Minister Abdelbari al-Arusi said the ministry was proposing to set up a body dealing with Libya’s oil refining and petrochemicals in Benghazi. Carving up the responsibilities of the Tripoli-based National Oil Corporation (NOC), the capital would be the headquarters for a separate exploration and production body. (…) “(The body) will be called ‘The National Corporation for Oil Refining and Petrochemicals Industry’ and will oversee all companies operating in this area. It will launch projects and secure funding for them.” (…) The proposal comes after the NOC reviewed a plan for a Benghazi branch as officials contended with opposition by NOC staff in Tripoli versus protests and threats of output cuts by workers in the east who want more control there. The NOC is headquartered in Tripoli and since the end of last year’s war that ousted dictator Muammar Gaddafi, workers in the east have called for more powers in a region accounting for around 80 percent of Libya’s oil wealth. The proposal for the two organisations will be submitted to the government for approval before being passed on to the ruling national congress. (Reuters)
With around $20 billion in cash to put to work, the Libyan Investment Authority is scouting for new bond and property investments despite global economic uncertainty and as it looks to diversify away from the financial sector. LIA chairman Mohsen Derregia in a phone interview with Dow Jones Newswires said it plans to radically change the asset allocation of its $60 billion portfolio after several years of lackluster returns and allegations of misconduct leveled against its former managers. The LIA was set up in 2006 to manage Libya’s oil revenue and “to diversify the dependence of national income,” according to the fund’s website. The U.S. and the European Union temporarily froze some of its assets during last year’s conflict that led to the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi, and a later investigation by the transitional Libyan government found some of the LIA funds had been misappropriated. (Wall Street Journal)
Tunisia has just received a 200-million dinar (98 million euros) development package from Libya. “The financial assistance provided by Libya is a duty to this country,” Libyan General National Congress (GNC) chief Mohamed Magarief said during his two-day visit to Tunis, which ended 23 November. “There are opportunities for co-operation in all fields between the two countries such as tourism, security, economics and politics,” he added after meeting with Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki. For his part, Marzouki said that “the central bank had received this money as a gift to help the Tunisian economy”. Tunisia needs to cover its soaring deficit. According to Finance Minister Slim Besbes, Tunisia needs loans and aid worth seven billion dinars to cover the expenditures of next year’s budget. (Albawaba)

Algeria

Algeria on 30 November declared a 44 percent turnout in municipal elections where the ruling party was victorious, keen to show people remain engaged with the political process despite a lack of the reforms achieved in Arab uprisings elsewhere. Memories of a vicious 1990s civil war between Islamists and the state that killed around 200,000 people have, analysts say, deterred Algerians from embarking on the mass protests that have swept away rulers in neighboring Tunisia and Libya, as well as in Egypt and Yemen. But having avoided major unrest the energy-rich North African country of 37 million people still wants to strengthen the credibility of its political system and had aimed for a 40-45 turnout in the 29 November communal elections. Interior Minister Daho Ould Kablia, reading the results of the vote at a news conference, said the outcome was in line with expectations. “The results were foreseeable,” he said. Kablia said the National Liberation Front (FLN), ruling since independence from France in 1962, was the biggest winner, followed by the National Rally for Democracy (RND), a government coalition partner led by former prime minister Ahmed Ouyahia. The Green Algeria Alliance, a grouping of Islamist parties, were left far behind, a poor result for official Islamist groups which was similar to their showing in legislative elections last May. Analysts say Islamist voters are now divided after the authorities allowed many new parties to be created as part of political reforms. “The increased number of parties with Islamist orientation have weakened their share on the political scene,” said Mouloudi Mohamed, an analyst on Islamic issues. (Reuters)
Algerian opposition parties cried foul over the North African country’s municipal elections on 29 November, citing the government’s practice of mobilizing security forces to vote for the ruling parties. (…) Algerians voted for 1,541 district councils and 48 provincial councils for a new 5-year term. Although dozens of political parties are running, the councils have limited power in the face of officials appointed by the central government. The month-long electoral campaign was marked by a general lack of interest. The ruling National Liberation Front, the party that won independence from France in 1962 and won May’s elections, predicted it will do well, while opposition parties expressed fears of fraud. “Special voting stations have been opened for members of the security forces who have received orders to vote for the FLN,” said Louisa Hanoun, head of the Workers’ Party. Her complaint was echoed by several other opposition parties that said Algeria’s million-strong army, police and civil defense services had all been ordered to vote for the government parties. The turnout announced by the government was similar to that of the May parliamentary elections, figures which opposition parties at the time said were inflated. The oil-rich North African nation has held elections for 20 years, but real power lies with the president and powerful military generals. Unlike the rest of North Africa, the 2011 protests of the Arab Spring had little impact on Algeria, which used increased spending and harsh repression to snuff out demonstrations. In May’s legislative election, the FLN and its coalition partner, the National Democratic Rally, took a majority of seats while Islamist parties did poorly, a sharp contrast with the results of elections elsewhere in North Africa. (Associated Press)
Algeria’s powerful armed forces, which already run Africa’s biggest defence budget, have requested a 14 per cent spending increase for next year, as the country prepares for security threats on its southern border. The Algerian defence ministry, still mostly run by the ageing generals who fought for the country’s liberation from France 50 years ago, has requested a $10.3bn budget for 2012, according to the South African news outlet, DefenceWeb. So what’s on the shopping list – and from whom? Thanks to oil and gas revenues, the Algerian state has gone from an international financial basketcase in the 1990s to one of the richest in the world, with as much $200bn in reserves. The country, the world’s 9th largest arms importer is mostly a customer for Russian weaponry. With the extra funds, Algerian media quoted officials as saying the ministry plans to buy Russian Su-30MK fighter-jets, T-90S main battle tanks and Kilo-class submarines. But the ministry has begun shopping in other countries. (…) Part of the spending increase is also attributable to the defence ministry’s takeover of the country’s 100,000-member Municipal Guard, a force which patrols rural areas and was previously under the authority of the interior ministry. (Financial Times)
Weary from years of kidnappings, the inhabitants of Algeria’s rugged Kabylie mountains are finally turning against the fighters of Al Qaeda’s North Africa affiliate in their midst and helping security forces hunt them down. And that turnaround is giving Algeria its best chance yet to drive the terror network from its last Algerian stronghold. While defeated in much of the rest of the country, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb remains active in the Kabylie, partly because the Berbers there, the region’s original inhabitants before the arrival of Arabs, have long been deeply hostile to the central government and refused to provide information on militant whereabouts or activity. The situation began changing after a string of militant attacks over the summer, culminating in a daylight assault against a police station, prompted Algeria to hold an emergency security meeting to devise a new strategy to take on the militants, said a high-ranking official with knowledge of the meeting. A pillar of the counterterror blueprint in this case has been exploiting frustrations over kidnappings to win over the Berbers, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media. The strategy appears to be working. (New York Times)
In a bid to solve the deepening economic crisis, Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal on 22 November conferred with a wide range of civil society, political and business partners. The only ones left out were independent trade unions, though they had been expressing the greatest worker discontent. (…) Among the participants were five members of the cabinet, Bank of Algeria Governor Mohamed Laksaci, the General Union of Algerian Workers (UGTA), employer unions, civil society representatives and entrepreneurs. The goal was to haul the country out of the current economic and social deadlock. (…) The rate of inflation has reached 9.39% this year due to tensions in the agriculture market and repercussions of wage increases, they said. For the first time since the tripartite meeting’s inception, the issue of wages was not discussed. (…) UGTA chief Abdulmadjid Sidi Said mentioned some fifteen or so proposals including the reintroduction of consumer credit for Algerian-made products. He also recommended charging VAT on imports and re-launching consumer cooperatives. “I hope that together with you, in 2013 we will forge a real pact for growth,” Sellal said. “It’s no longer enough for us to have 700,000 small and medium-sized enterprises in Algeria. We really have to do more. Especially since, in the light of the international context, many companies in European and neigbouring countries are suffering a great deal and are offering us opportunities.” (All Africa)
Europe’s answer to the U.S. shale boom may lie beneath the Sahara desert. While environmental regulation and disappointing drilling tests have held back the development of shale gas reserves in Europe, Algeria is using tax breaks to encourage exploration. Pipelines under the Mediterranean to Spain and Italy already link Africa’s largest gas exporter into Europe’s grid. The North African nation is holding talks with Exxon Mobil Corp. over shale, Ali Hached, an adviser to Energy and Mines Minister Youcef Yousfi, said in an interview. Eni SpA (ENI), Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA) and Talisman Energy Inc. (TLM) have already signed shale exploration accords with Algeria, which expects tax breaks for gas exploitation and drilling shale to get parliamentary approval within weeks. Algeria holds 231 trillion cubic feet of recoverable shale gas, the International Energy Agency estimated, enough to supply the entire European Union for a decade and valued at about $2.6 trillion at current month-ahead U.K. prices. Higher North African production, if possible, offers Europe an alternative to Russian gas from OAO Gazprom, which links gas prices to oil and charges its customers about three times the U.S. price. Algeria’s oil and gas potential “remains largely underexploited,” said Sohbet Karbuz, hydrocarbons director at Observatoire Mediterranee de l’Energie, or OME, a Paris-based association of Mediterranean region energy companies. “Improving investor confidence and the investment environment is the key.” (…) Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika wants to import technology for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to tap the potential of shale, allowing his country to maximize export earnings while satisfying growing energy demand at home. African nations with greater reserves are Libya, whose war has slowed development, and South Africa, where fracking has only conditional approval. (…) Algeria is back on big oil companies’ radar because it has offered “very attractive fiscal terms” to partners interested in shale exploration, according to Mark Liebster, general manager of Shell Upstream North Africa. He declined to specify the terms of the tax arrangement. (Bloomberg, Businessweek)
Representatives of an al-Qaida-linked group that controls northern Mali arrived on 3 November in Burkina Faso for talks with President Blaise Compaore, who is trying to mediate a solution to the conflict in the west African nation. A second delegation traveled to Algeria for talks with regional leaders there, officials said. In Burkina Faso, the Malian government was also represented at the talks, indicating that the country’s legitimate government is willing to negotiate with an armed group known to be in lockstep with the terror network’s chapter in Africa. The meetings appear to be part of a new, regional attempt to set up negotiations to resolve the Mali crisis ahead of a possible military intervention that is expected to be led by African forces with logistical backing from the European Union and the United States. France is heading the international effort to plan the military campaign to end the Islamists’ occupation. (…) Alghabass Ag Intalla, a top official of the radical Islamist group Ansar Dine, told The Associated Press that he is in Ouagadougou as the head of a delegation meeting with Compaore, who has been appointed by the Economic Community of West African States to mediate in the Mali crisis. Ansar Dine is one of three Islamist groups controlling Mali’s north, an area the size of France, and its members are believed to be mostly Malians. The membership of the two other groups, one of them al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, consists primarily of foreign fighters. Although Ansar Dine has imposed strict Islamic law, including carrying out punishments such as amputating the hands of thieves and stoning to death a couple who had children out of wedlock, authorities believe the group is the most open to negotiation because its fighters are Malian nationals with ties to the area. (Fox News, Associated Press)
Algeria is prepared to seal off its southern border in the event of international military action against radical Islamists occupying northern Mali, according to a West African official. Algerian authorities “ensured that they will close their borders”, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission chief Kadré Désiré Ouedraogo said on 13 November. “Algeria will anticipate all possible developments in the Sahel region and will therefore take, in a sovereign manner, the appropriate steps to protect its interests and defend its borders to the fullest extent possible,” Algerian foreign ministry spokesman Amar Belani stated on 13 November. The day after ECOWAS adopted a plan to send 3,300 troops to Mali, Algeria once again expressed its preference for a political solution. “It would be a tragic mistake to plan and execute a military intervention mission which would be perceived, rightly or wrongly, as an expedition for the purpose of attacking the Touareg,” Belani told Tout sur l’Algérie. “The Algerian Touaregs are against terrorism. We certainly have not said that terrorism should not be fought. But, given the situation and the nature of the region, we favour the political option,” Touareg leader and MP Mahmoud Guemama told Magharebia. (…) “These terrorist groups will infiltrate areas inhabited by civilians. They will seek refuge among citizens. That will make it impossible to bombard those areas. What makes things more difficult is the fact that we won’t have a map which will show us exactly which areas they are in,” he said. (…) Intervention in Mali would push terrorist groups to towards the Algerian desert, according to Belgacem Belabbes, the president of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee. Such a withdrawal is more dangerous to Algeria’s security now that these groups have weapons, he told Magharebia. Though it is likely that Algeria will not intervene, it could still play a helpful role by passing on intelligence and allowing aircraft to fly over its territory, said diplomat and former minister Abdelaziz Rahabi.

Tunisia

Tunisian security forces fired tear gas and live rounds into the air on 1 December to try to disperse thousands of protesters in a town that has seen days of clashes over economic hardship. National guard forces belonging to the Interior Ministry fired tear gas and rounds from inside armored personnel carriers in the town of Siliana, southwest of Tunis. “Get out, get out!”, “With our blood and soul we sacrifice ourselves for you, Siliana” and “Siliana will be the graveyard of the Ennahda party” the protesters, who numbered about 3,000, chanted while throwing stones at security forces. Police chased protesters down streets. The Islamist Ennahda party that won Tunisia’s first post-Arab Spring election last year is struggling to revive the economy of the north African state due to lower trade with the crisis-hit euro zone. Disputes also continue between secularists and hardline Salafi Islamists over the future direction of the country. Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki asked the Islamist Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali in an address on state television on 30 November to appoint a new cabinet in response to the protests. (…) The protests are the fiercest since Salafis attacked the U.S. embassy in Tunis in September over an anti-Islam film made in California. Four people were killed in that violence. The state news agency said the government had decided to offer a job to all those who were injured or families who lost members in the Tunisian uprising that began two years ago, in an apparent effort to placate discontent. In Tunis, hundreds of secularists protested in front of the Interior Ministry, demanding the resignation of the minister, and called on authorities to stop the violence in Siliana. (…) Navi Pillay, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said on 30 November authorities must stop using firearms against demonstrators, in some of her harshest criticisms of the government elected after veteran ruler Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fled was overthrown in January last year. (…) The government has formed an independent commission to investigate the latest unrest, state news agency TAP said. It also reported clashes in the town of Barqo near Siliana on 1 December, saying youths attacked three police vehicles. (Reuters)
Tunisia’s transition to democracy has run into political and economic obstacles and the West must provide more financial backing “before it’s too late”, Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali said on 20 November. “There is acceptable political support from the West for the Arab Spring and Tunisia but, unfortunately, financial support has not quite lived up to the political pledge,” Jebali said in an interview at the Reuters Middle East Investment Summit. “My message to the West … is that the most important investment for you is the investment in democracy, before it’s too late … This is not a gift but a common interest.” Jebali, a 63-year-old Islamist politician, engineer and journalist, was appointed prime minister last December after the moderate Islamist Ennahda party won the country’s first free elections following the overthrow of authoritarian president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali in a popular uprising. As the first state to undergo an Arab Spring revolution – a Tunisian vegetable seller’s suicide in December 2010 was the initial trigger for revolts around the region – Tunisia has regained some stability before many of the other countries. Political turmoil and a wave of labor unrest caused the economy to shrink last year, but growth has begun to recover and inflows of foreign investment have rebounded close to their pre-revolution level, according to government data. (…) Jebali said Tunisia had attracted expressions of interest from investors in countries including Qatar, Turkey and China. Projects in which they may participate include a solar power generation complex in Kebili, which would export electricity to Europe, and a phosphate project in Sra Wertan, he said. (Reuters)
World Bank Approves Another $500 Million Loan for Tunisia
The World Bank on 27 November approved a new $500 million loan for Tunisia to help the north African nation change its regulatory structure. Inger Andersen, vice president for the Middle East and North Africa at the bank, said the loan sends a signal about the historic changes underway in Tunisia. The approval is in contrast to a statement by the International Monetary Fund on 27 November cautioning Egypt that any major changes to policy plans agreed in a preliminary deal for a $4.8 billion fund loan could scrub the financing deal. The IMF’s No. 2 official David Lipton also cautioned that the fragile governments in the region risked economic decay, jeopardizing the hope of a new economy, “if squabbling over political power prevents stabilization, let alone reform.” Ms. Andersen said the reforms the Tunisia loan supports will help the government “improve employment opportunities while ensuring better social services and more transparent government.” This is the second bank loan to the country since the 2010 political revolution that toppled its longtime president and helped to spark a broader uprising across the region. The bank last year gave Tunisia a $500 million loan to support the then-transition government, including changes to information and internet access. The bank says the new financing assistance will help reshape the business environment by cutting bureaucratic hurdles, strengthening the financial sector, restructuring key social services and improving transparency in the country. (Wall Street Journal)
The public prosecution in Tunisia has appealed against the late-November court ruling to drop a case of possible indecency against a young woman allegedly raped by two policemen, her lawyer said on 3 December. “We just found out this morning that the prosecution has lodged an appeal,” Bochra Belhaj Hmida told AFP. “It’s their right, legally, there’s nothing that can be said about that. But on the moral front…” A Tunis judge on 29 November dropped the case against the woman, whose identity has been kept secret, while two accused officers are to face rape charges and a third for extortion. (…) Last month a magistrate had questioned the woman, alleged raped on 3 September, to decide whether she was to be charged with indecency, which could carry a six-month prison sentence. The case sparked a storm of protest in Tunisia, with NGOs, media and opposition figures saying the proceedings had transformed the victim into the accused and reflected the Islamist-led government’s policy towards women. Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, from the ruling Islamist party Ennahda, said in October that the policemen, arrested shortly after the incident, would be “severely judged”. But he also said there may be a case of indecency to answer. However, President Moncef Marzouki in October offered a state apology to the woman. Since the Islamists’ rise to power after last year’s revolution, feminist groups have accused police of regularly harassing women, by challenging them over their clothing or if they go out at night unaccompanied by family members. (AFP)

Morocco

Morocco has expelled 19 foreigners from the annexed territory of the Western Sahara, saying they were journalists who entered without permission. The action, which underlines Morocco’s intense sensitivity over criticism of its policies in the mineral rich region, came as activists calling for the independence of the Western Sahara were preparing to mark on 8 November as two years since deadly clashes outside the regional capital, Laayoune. Spanish media reported that most of those expelled were activists, not journalists. Morocco’s Interior Ministry issued a statement — carried by the state news agency on 7 November — that quoted local authorities as saying the 15 Spanish and four Norwegian journalists planned to meet with ‘‘separatist’’ elements in Laayoune to engage in demonstrations on the anniversary of the clashes. (…) On 8 November 2010, Moroccan police clashed with thousands of locals at the tent city in Gdeim Izek who were protesting government discrimination. Human Rights Watch said 11 police and two civilians were killed and hundreds of civilians were beaten and detained. Morocco expelled three Spanish journalists following their coverage. Morocco occupied and annexed the mineral-rich Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, in November 1975 after the Spanish withdrew. The Polisario Front declared independence on behalf of the inhabitants, the nomadic Saharawi people, and battled the Moroccan army until a 1991 truce brokered by the U.N. The dispute is one of the world’s longest unresolved conflicts. The U.N. decreed that a referendum should be held for the locals to decide if they want independence, but the Moroccans have instead advanced a plan to give them wide-ranging autonomy. Nine rounds of negotiations between the Polisario and the government have been unsuccessful. (…) Activists have criticized the government for repressing locals in the region, and in September officials from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights visited and said they were followed during their visit by secret police, physically prevented from observing an attack on peaceful protesters, and verbally abused. (Boston Globe, Associated Press)
The UN peace envoy for Western Sahara announced he is halting informal talks between Morocco and the Polisario Front over their conflict and turning to shuttle diplomacy to break their deadlock. Special envoy Christopher Ross said the Western Sahara showdown remains “very worrisome” but that nine rounds of talks between the two sides since August 2009 had brought the two sides no closer to a solution. “I did not yet sense a readiness to take that first step toward getting serious, so we’re going to have to work on this,” Ross said after a UN Security Council meeting on Africa’s longest running conflict. Ross signalled however that a truce has been called in a UN battle with Morocco over whether he should continue as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s special envoy. Ban publicly defended Ross after the Moroccan government said this year that it no longer had “confidence” in the envoy. (…) “The situation remains very worrisome and should remain on the radar of the international community,” Ross told reporters. He said letting the conflict “fester” heightened risks caused by the growing presence of “extremist, terrorist, and criminal elements” in neighboring Mali and other Sahel countries. (…) Morocco’s UN ambassador Mohammed Loulichki said Morocco wanted negotiations that lead to a “realistic” solution but also stressed Morocco’s “generous” offer of autonomy. Polisario Front envoy Ahmed Boukhari welcomed the new initiative but insisted that there has to be a self-determination referendum. (AFP)
Morocco said on 24 November it had broken up a militant cell that was training youths to send them to fight in Mali, which has become the focus of international concern over the spread of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The interior ministry said in a statement on state news agency MAP it broke up a cell operating in the cities of Nador, Casablanca, Guercif, Laayoune and Kalaat Sraghna. Around 20 people had been sent to fight with AQIM and al Qaeda ally the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, and others had been sent to Libya, it said. Morocco, a Western ally, often says it has broken militant cells accused of plotting inside and outside the country. European leaders are growing increasingly anxious that Mali could turn into a platform for militant attacks, including in Europe. Meanwhile, a rights activist said riot police had broken up a prison protest in late-November by ultraconservative Islamist Salafis, who share a similar ideology to al Qaeda. The protests followed Salafi prison riots over conditions last year in the same jail of Sale, just outside Rabat. Salafis have become active in Morocco in recent years as their influence spread in other Arab countries. Islamists, including Salafis, have risen to prominence in Egypt and Tunisia following last year’s “Arab Spring” uprisings. (…) Under pressure after the uprisings, which provoked protests in Morocco, King Mohammed approved a new constitution conceding more powers to the elected government and allowed the head of an Islamist party to take charge after elections last year. While Salafis have remained largely outside the political system, analysts say they spread considerable influence among poor sectors of a country where unemployment, inflation, and unequal wealth distribution are major threats to stability. (Reuters)

CENTRAL/WEST AFRICA

Democratic Republic of Congo

Rebel forces have set out conditions for their withdrawal from the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo city of Goma, which they captured late November. Analysts say the demands, including the release of political prisoners, seem impossible for the government to meet. Earlier Uganda’s defence chief said the M23 rebels’ commander had agreed to leave as ordered by regional leaders. The Red Cross in DR Congo told the BBC 62 bodies had been found in Goma since the rebels seized the city. UN officials said prisoners in Goma were at large and threatening people – and there were robberies and abductions at night. There are reports of new fighting in the area, with a rival militia said to have attacked villages over the border in Rwanda. Both Uganda and Rwanda strongly deny UN accusations that they are backing the M23. (…) M23 military commander Sultani Makenga on 26 November flew to Uganda for talks, after which Uganda’s chief of defence forces Aronda Nyakayirima said Mr Makenga had agreed to withdraw from Goma by 27 November – a day after the deadline set by regional leaders. At a news conference in Goma, the group’s political leader Jean-Marie Runiga said the rebels wanted negotiations with Congolese President Joseph Kabila. But he said they would only withdraw from the city if all remaining Congolese government troops in the rebel-held region were disarmed. His demands also included some pan-Congolese conditions, including the dissolution of the electoral commission and freedom of movement for opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi. (BBC)
Congo Rebels Wait for 48-Hour Deadline to Pass
Rebels, who finally withdrew from this regional capital over the weekend, said they are waiting for a 48-hour deadline to expire on the afternoon of 3 December, before deciding if they will take back the city. After a nearly two-week occupation, the M23 rebel group agreed to leave Goma on the condition that Congo’s government enters into negotiations with them by 2 p.m. 3 December. “We are currently 20 kilometers (12 miles) outside of Goma. We gave Kinshasa a 48-hour deadline, and we are now waiting for these 48 hours to expire,” said rebel spokesman Col. Vianney Kazarama, who was reached by telephone. “You should call Congo and ask them what they plan to do. They have not yet contacted us. And we are waiting to see what happens, before pronouncing ourselves.” Despite the rebels’ retreat from Goma, which was a pre-requisite set by the Congolese government for negotiations, President Joseph Kabila has not yet made clear if the government will negotiate. In recent weeks, the enormous, jungle-covered nation of Congo, whose capital is over 1,000 miles away from this provincial eastern city, came closer to blows with its smaller, but more developed neighbor, Rwanda, which is accused of arming the M23 rebels, as well as of sending soldiers across the border. The rebels claim to be fighting for the better implementation of a March 23, 2009 peace accord, which saw them integrated into the national army. Analysts, including with the United Nations Group of Experts, say that the real reason for the rebellion is Rwanda’s desire to annex territory in the mineral-rich mountains at the border between the two countries. In Goma, residents whose lives were upended two weeks ago when rebels invaded the town on Nov. 20, tried their best to go about their lives. Most shops had re-opened, as the city of 1 million was slowly trying to get back to normal despite incertitude about what will happen in coming hours. A woman selling secondhand clothes at the Virunga market said she had no choice. “We’re not going to wait forever, are we? I need to feed my children,” said Anette Murkendiwa. (Yahoo, Associated Press)

Rwanda

The UK has suspended aid to Rwanda amid concerns about its role in the conflict in Democratic Republic of Congo. The International Development Secretary Justine Greening said a payment worth £21m would not now be released. An aid payment of £16m was paid to Rwanda in September despite questions over the country’s alleged support for the M23 militia in DR Congo. Her predecessor, Andrew Mitchell, controversially authorized the payment on his last day in the job. Ms Greening said the money, which was due to be paid next month, would not be released because President Paul Kagame’s government had breached agreements. She pointed to fresh evidence presented by UN experts earlier this month about Rwanda’s role in the conflict, describing it as “credible and compelling”. (…) She said the government would give a further £18m for immediate humanitarian needs in the DR Congo. Mr. Mitchell, who had previously frozen aid to the country, had cited progress at international talks as the reason for reinstating the payment. Half of the aid package was paid as “general budget support” and half directly to the education and agriculture sectors. (…) Rwanda’s Foreign Minister, Louise Mushikiwabo, claimed the decision had been made on the basis of “false, politically-motivated allegations” in the UN report. (BBC)
Rwanda said on 27 November its troops clashed with Rwandan FDLR rebels who attacked three villages on its border with Democratic Republic of Congo, but a spokesman for the FDLR denied its fighters had been involved. Rwanda has in the past used the presence of the FDLR as a justification for intervening in neighbour Congo. But the rebel group, which experts say has dwindled in strength, has not mounted a significant attack on Rwanda in years. Rwandan defence forces spokesman Brigadier General Joseph Nzabamwita said about 150 fighters of the FDLR, a Rwandan Hutu rebel group operating in eastern Congo, attacked the villages at dawn in Rubavu district in Rwanda’s Western province which borders Congo’s North Kivu province. (…) He said four FDLR fighters had been killed in the clashes but no civilians had been hurt. The FDLR, which opposes the Tutsi-led government in Kigali and includes Hutu soldiers and militia suspected of participating in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, denied it had been involved in any fighting. (…) No independent confirmation was available of the alleged FDLR attacks on the border villages. (Reuters)

Angola

Angola aims to start up iron ore production in the next two to three years through a state company partnership with private operators including leading international trading house Trafigura, an Angolan industry official said on 7 November. Diamantino Pedro Azevedo, president of state-owned Ferrangol-EP, told Reuters the integrated iron ore/manganese and steel project would extract ore from two mining areas – Kassala-Kitungo in Kwanza Norte province and Cassinga in southern Huila province. (…) The Cassinga mine was already linked to an Atlantic Coast port by the existing Mocamedes railway, and both rail line and port were being rehabilitated for the project. (Reuters)

Central African Republic

When Kevin Bozizé ran up an extravagant bill at a five-star hotel in the Central African Republic, he may have expected his father to take care of it. After all, dad is also the country’s president. So it may have come as a nasty surprise when instead his father summoned him then turned him over to the police. President François Bozizé’s son was detained for several days after he failed to pay charges of up to €12,000 (£9,608) at a hotel in Bangui, the capital, one of the world’s most impoverished and volatile states. The bills included the cost of a room along with meals and services at the Ledger Plaza hotel, whose website shows pictures including a gym, luxury spa and massage tables. Kevin Bozizé, reportedly a captain in the national army, was held by a police investigations unit on 6 November. (…) The president’s son is said to be one of several prominent national figures, including army officers, who owe debts at the hotel and risk being put on trial unless they settle immediately. (The Guardian)
Two soldiers and eight rebels were killed in the Central African Republic after rebels attacked an army base in the country’s north, a military source said 27 November.
The source said the rebels launched a surprise attack, when they snuck up to the army base in Kabo, close to the Chad border, and stole four military vehicles equipped with large-calibre machine guns. After a chase and a clash lasting close to an hour, the military recovered two of the vehicles. The other two had been burned. The military source said the assailants had identified themselves as belonging to the Democratic Front for the Central African People (FDPC), which is led by Abdoulaye Miskine and includes rogue members of a group formerly led by Chad’s Abel Kadder Baba Ladde, who surrendered to the Centrafrican army in September 2012. (AFP)

Cameroon

Greenpeace International says security officers detained four environmental activists opposed to the establishment of an oil palm plantation in Cameroon by a U.S.-based company. The group said on 16 November that Nasako Besingi and three of his co-workers with the environmental group the Struggle to Economize Future Environment were taken from their office in the southwest town of Mundemba on 14 November. It said they have been held since without charge. Greenpeace International says the arrests are in violation of Cameroonian law and are linked to their opposition to the oil palm plantation planned by the U.S.-based Herakles Farms. Herakles Farms, represented by a local affiliate Sithe Global Sustainable Oils Cameroon PLC, began operations in 2010 after signing a contract in 2009 that granted the New York-based firm a 99-year lease on rainforest property. Palm oil is widely used across Africa. (Salon, AP News)

EAST AFRICA

Somalia

Somalia is to get its first female foreign minister in a cabinet formed by new Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon. Fauzia Yusuf Haji Adan is among 10 politicians joining a cabinet that has been significantly reduced in size. She described her inclusion as “historic” for both the country and Somali women in particular. However, correspondents say Mr Shirdon may struggle to get his choices through parliament because some clans feel they have not been properly represented. Mr Shirdon, an ex-businessman, took office last month after his nomination – by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud – was approved by MPs. The election of Mr Mohamud in September was considered the first fair poll in the capital Mogadishu for 42 years. (…) The biggest challenge facing Somalia’s new UN-backed leaders is the al-Qaeda-aligned Islamist group, al-Shabab. Despite losing key towns over the last few months, the militants still control large areas of rural southern and central Somalia. Al-Shabab supporters have carried out a number of suicide attacks in the capital, Mogadishu, since the group was driven out of the city by African Union and pro-government forces last year – including several since Mr Mohamud’s election. (BBC)
Somalia’s journalists are urging their new government and the international community to help end the impunity they say is contributing to making Somalia one of the world’s most dangerous countries to practice journalism. So far 18 Somali journalists have been killed this year and 44 since 2007. The National Union of Somali Journalists on 23 November said that impunity has become a fundamental problem in Somalia. Journalists in almost every region of the country commonly face harassment, blackmail, arbitrary police detention and, in addition, criminals are hired to suppress them, said the group in a report to mark the International Day to End Impunity, sponsored by the free expression group, IFEX. “Despite this, the authorities provide no support to journalists, and the perpetrators operate with impunity,” the report said. Journalism in Somalia has reached a state of emergency, said the report. None of these crimes are investigated properly, much less prosecuted, despite successive administrations, the report said. No action has ever been taken following a case of violence against a Somali journalist, the report said. Journalists are being targeted to silence them from speaking against corruption, violence and violations of human rights by radical Islamist groups, said Somali Journalist Mohamed Bashir Hashi. (Huffington Post)
Somalia’s prime minister said on 3 November that it could be a challenge for his country if Uganda followed through on a threat to withdraw troops fighting Islamist rebels in southern Somalia. Uganda’s foreign affairs ministry said earlier that it would withdraw from peace keeping initiatives in Africa unless the United Nations amended a report accusing it of supporting rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Somali Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon Saaid told Reuters in an interview that Somalia had not yet received any official communication from Uganda on the issue of withdrawing from the African Union force known as AMISOM. (…) “The Ugandans have contributed significantly and a lot, and this is now a critical moment and in light of that we are of the view, if the media reports turn out to be true, it may be a challenge.” Stung by accusations of support for Congo’s M23 rebel group, Uganda’s security minister said on 2 November Kampala would tell the United Nations it was withdrawing its forces from military operations in Somalia and other regional hotspots. Uganda and its neighbor Rwanda have denied accusations contained in a leaked report by a U.N. Group of Experts that the two countries have helped the M23 rebels, whose warlord leader has been indicted by the International Criminal Court. (Reuters)
The Somali militant group al-Shabaab is currently losing ferocious battles against Kenyan troops in Southern Somalia – part of an African Union peacekeeping mission. However, they are winning a strategic war back in Kenya; this is the battle for hearts and minds. On 18 November, a blast likely carried out by al-Shabaab sleeper cells in Nairobi killed seven Kenyans on a minibus. Soon after, a machete-wielding mob of angry Kenyans descended on the capital’s Eastleigh or “Little Mogadishu” neighborhood. They pillaged shops, burned cars and left dozens of people injured. In Garissa, near the boarder with Somalia, the scenes were much uglier. After unknown assailants killed three Kenyan soldiers, the Kenyan Defense Force (KDF), using brute force, went on the rampage, setting the local market on fire. In doing so, they deprived the local community of their main source of living. Members of the Kenyan parliament, who represent Garrisa constituencies, even allege that the KDF forces have raped some women and tortured many innocent people in the area following the pandemonium. Livid, and feeling profoundly insulted, they’re now calling for an urgent investigation, and even suggesting that international help is needed for their protection. Ethnic Somalis, irrespective of which passport they carry, have become a target for armed thugs across Kenya. Fear, guilt by association and a sense of ‘otherness’ have now enveloped the millions of Somalis living in the country, all of which is good news for al-Shabaab. This hysteria is playing right into the militant’s playbook. As the Kenyan columnist Macharia Gaitho has aptly observed, “lashing out indiscriminately at Somalis is as foolish as it is self-defeating. The mad bombers must be laughing themselves silly having succeeded in turning Kenyan against Kenyan.” (All Africa)
The U.N. Security Council extended an African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia for four months on 7 November as it mulls lifting an arms embargo and Uganda threatens to pull out troops over claims it is aiding rebels in Democratic Republic of Congo. The African Union has appealed to the 15-member council to review its arms embargo to help Somalia rebuild its army and consolidate military gains against al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab. U.N. diplomats said the council was split over this request. The council extended the AMISOM peacekeeping mission for four months, instead of the usual 12, to allow for a review of operations, including consideration of the arms embargo request and a call to permit the export of stocks of charcoal. The council imposed the embargo in 1992 to cut the flow of arms to feuding warlords, who a year later ousted dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and plunged Somalia into civil conflict. It banned the sale abroad of Somali charcoal in February this year in an attempt to cut off al Shabaab’s funding. A deadly car bomb exploded on 7 November near the country’s parliament building in the capital Mogadishu, police said. While it was not clear who was responsible, Mogadishu has frequently been targeted by al Shabaab. “The situation in Somalia is changing rapidly. We have a more legitimate political leadership than ever before,” British U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told the Security Council. “But, as today’s deplorable attack on Parliament shows, the situation remains perilous.” (…) Somalia wants help strengthening its poorly equipped and often ill-disciplined military that is more of a loosely affiliated umbrella group of rival militias than a cohesive fighting force loyal to a single president. There are 17,600 U.N.-mandated peacekeepers helping battle the Islamist rebels in Somalia. Ugandan troops make up more than a third of those peacekeepers, but they have threatened to withdraw in protest over accusations made in a U.N. report. (Reuters)
Somalia’s al Qaeda-linked militants are moving north into the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, long regarded as a relatively peaceful area, after having been squeezed out of their strongholds further south, the president of Puntland said. Until now, Puntland has largely escaped the worst of the upheaval in Somalia, which has been deprived of an effective central government for the past two decades. The region is rich in energy resources and oil exploration companies are sizing it up. If the militants were able to establish a permanent presence in the area, it might discourage such exploration efforts. Although militant numbers are still limited, the authorities fear al Shabaab could gain better access to weapons coming across the Gulf of Aden if it successfully regrouped in the area. (Reuters)

Kenya

A grenade attack on a church in a police compound in eastern Kenya has killed one police officer and injured at least 11 other people, reports say. The man who died was serving as pastor of the targeted church, in Garissa town near the border with Somalia. Most of the wounded are also reported to be police officers; some of whom were airlifted to hospital in Nairobi. In July, 15 people were killed in raids on churches in Garissa, and suspicion fell on the al-Shabab militant group. Police blamed the Somalia-based group and its sympathisers for the attack, and said they were angry over Kenya’s role in a UN-backed intervention force. Kenya’s capital Nairobi and the port city of Mombasa have suffered a series of grenade attacks since Kenya sent troops into Somalia last October. (BBC)
Officials in a northern Kenyan town say more than a dozen people have been shot, one woman has died and hundreds of shops have burned to the ground amid rising Somali-Kenyan tensions. The violence on 20 November follows a lethal attack on 19 November in which three Kenyan soldiers were killed. Witnesses in the town of Garissa say that Kenyan troops responded with force, opening fire at random. Hundreds of small shops were set alight. Kenya’s defense minister, parliamentarians and community leaders toured the city to calm tensions. A hospital administrator said 13 people were shot 20 November, and that one woman died. The Red Cross says nearly three dozen people have been injured. The violence is the latest example of rising tensions between Somali-Kenyans and Kenyans with no ties to Somalia. (Star Tribune)
The two men in dark suits caught up with Okiya Omtatah Okoiti as he walked in central Nairobi on a rainy November night. One man asked the Kenyan activist if he would drop a lawsuit alleging corruption in an election-related procurement process. Omtatah said no, and the two men beat him so badly he lost six teeth. “I think they were sure they were going to kill me,” the executive director of Kenyans for Justice and Development (Kejude) Trust said on 27 November, speaking by telephone from his home where he was recuperating after an operation to remove loose bone from his chin. Human Rights Watch (HRW) and two other rights groups have called for a thorough investigation into “the violent attack on an outspoken critic of the government”. In September, Omtatah filed a lawsuit to demand accountability in the procurement of biometric voter registration (BVR) kits for March’s presidential election – a ballot that has set Kenya on edge after early flashes of violence and fears that more could follow. (…) Kenyans are due to vote for a new president, MPs and county governors on 4 March in the first election since a disputed poll in 2007 turned tribe against tribe in politically motivated tit-for-tat killings. More than 1,200 people were killed and hundreds of thousands were forced to flee their homes. The race to find a replacement for President Mwai Kibaki is reigniting complex political and ethnic tensions, with jostling for votes already being blamed for deaths in the volatile coastal region and in the remote north. Many Kenyans vote on tribal lines, and candidates often exploit existing strains on the campaign trail. The stakes are even higher this time, as, under a new constitution, power is being devolved to the regions, meaning local politicians are even more determined to capture governorships in a country hoping to reap the financial benefits of recent oil and gas discoveries. The main candidates include Uhuru Kenyatta, a member of the dominant Kikuyu tribe and son of the Kenya’s first president Jomo Kenyatta, and the prime minister, Raila Odinga, a Luo and the losing candidate in the last poll. (Guardian)

Ethiopia

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn appointed two new deputy premiers to share the leadership of the government between the four ethnic-based parties of the Horn of Africa nation’s ruling coalition. (…) The appointments reflect a balancing act within the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, said Jason Mosley, associate fellow of the Africa program at London-based Chatham House. “They’ve now got all four parties represented within the prime minister and deputy prime minister slots.” Hailemariam leads a multi-ethnic bloc from southern Ethiopia in the ruling party. He was appointed prime minister in September following the death of former Premier Meles Zenawi on 20 August. Ethiopia, the continent’s second-most populous nation, is a key U.S. ally in its battle against al-Qaeda in the region. Ethiopian troops in December invaded Somalia for the second time in four years to join the battle against al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda’s Somalia affiliate. Meles, an ethnic Tigray who ruled Ethiopia for 21 years after leading a victorious rebel movement and who oversaw one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, died from an infection contracted while he was recovering from an undisclosed illness. (Bloomberg Businessweek)
Last month, in a courtroom in Addis Ababa, 29 defendants listened intently as the prosecution summarised charges. The accused were Muslim men in their thirties, elderly sheikhs in religious attire, and Habiba Mohammed, the wife of Junedin Sado, Ethiopia’s Minister for the Civil Service and Chairman of the Board of Addis Ababa University. The crime? Organising protests against the government and participating in a far-reaching conspiracy to dismantle the constitution and establish an Islamic state in Ethiopia. The trial has: exacerbated existing tensions between Ethiopia’s Muslim community who make up about 34 per cent of the population and the national government; has claimed high-profile victims like Mr. Junedin, a once-powerful regional politician who has disappeared from the public eye; and revealed the tangled nexus between religion, politics and public life in Ethiopia. (…) Ethiopia has served as the incubator for both Christianity and Islam; the Christian majority traces its lineage back to the fourth century reign of Emperor Ezana, while Muslims speak of the “First Hijra” when Prophet Mohammed’s followers fled persecution in Arabia and sought refuge here in the seventh century. A Christian monarchy ruled the country up to 1974 when Emperor Haile Selassie was overthrown by a secular communist military regime that gave way to the current dispensation in 1991. The 1994 constitution established the secular nature of the state, but many Muslims feel that the government has consistently marginalised their community and restricted their freedom of worship in the guise of enforcing secularism. Ethiopia has no history of sectarian violence, and Muslim leaders have emphasised that their ire is directed at the government, not the Christian community. (The Hindu)
It is still one of the poorest countries in the world, with an estimated third of the population earning less than $1 (63p) a day, but the country also has one of the world’s fastest growing economies. Opinion is sharply divided, however, as to whether or not it is wise to invest in the country. Since 2004, its economy has been expanding by about 10% a year. The government expects growth to continue in double digits – but a report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) suggests it will slow to 6.5% in 2013. Even the IMF predictions are impressive, however, considering the current global financial climate and the fact that unlike many other countries on the continent, Ethiopia does not have much in the way of natural resources. (BBC)
The number of Somalia refugees sheltered at Ethiopia’s Dollo Ado refugee camp has hit a record high of 170,000 making it the world’s second largest refugee complex, according to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR). The number of new arrivals to Dollo Ado have seen a decline, however, the newest camp located in Ethiopia’s South East has continued to receiving new arrivals. Since the beginning of this year, over 60,000 Somalis have fled into neighboring countries, including 25,000 to Ethiopia – making the Horn of Africa nation the largest recipient of Somali refugees in the region so far this year. Somalis are forced to leave their home due to conflict, drought and lately due to insecurity in southern and central parts of Somalia. Other arrivals, according to UNHCR, also say that they had to leave in fear of harassment and forced recruitment by al-Qaida linked armed groups, who still control large rural areas of the East African nation. Currently there are five camps in Dollo Ado. The newest, Buramino camp, which was opened in November last year is now full, hosting maximum capacity of 32,000. UNHCR has been transferring new arrivals to Kobe and Hillaweyn camps, whose accommodation capacity has been increased into 30,000 people each. The two oldest camps, namely Bokolmanyo and Melkadida, host more than 40,000 people each. (Sudan Tribune)

Uganda

A committee of Ugandan MPs has endorsed the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill but dropped the death penalty provision, an MP has told the BBC. MP Medard Segona said “substantial amendments” had been made to the bill but said he was not allowed to reveal further details. Speaker of parliament Rebecca Kadaga recently said the bill would be passed as a “Christmas gift” to its advocates. Homosexual acts are illegal in Uganda – this bill increases the penalties. Foreign donors have threatened to cut aid if gay rights are not respected. The bill, tabled by MP David Bahati, proposes longer jail terms for homosexual acts, including a life sentence in certain circumstances. In its original form, those convicted of “aggravated homosexuality” – defined as when one of the participants is a minor, HIV-positive, disabled or a “serial offender” – faced the death penalty. Such offences would now be punished with life imprisonment, it is understood. (BBC)
Britain has suspended all direct aid to the Ugandan government with immediate effect, the international development secretary, Justine Greening, announced on 16 November. Aid to the Ugandan prime minister’s office was frozen in August, following allegations of fraud, while an independent forensic audit was ordered. Greening has now suspended other bilateral aid, which is spent through Uganda’s financial systems, known as direct financial aid. In the 1990s the Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, was considered an aid darling among donors for his swift response to the Aids crisis and his efforts to stabilise the country after decades of political turmoil and repression under Milton Obote and Idi Amin. But his reputation has dimmed in recent years because of his heavy-handed tactics in dealing with political opposition and following accusations that he has been arming troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He changed Uganda’s constitution to allow him to run for office after more than two terms. In 2005, the UK diverted £15m of aid meant for the Ugandan government to be channelled through the UN over alleged rights abuse, and withheld an additional £5m until fair, multiparty elections were held. Total direct financial aid to Uganda planned for this financial year was £26.9m. The UK has frozen the remaining £11.1m due to be paid before the end of March. This includes general budget support and other projects. The forensic audit has raised questions about a small proportion of this. The Department for International Development (DFID) said there has been no confirmed loss to UK taxpayers at this stage as the investigation continues. (Guardian)
An advocacy group says the Ugandan Army’s quest to apprehend Joseph Kony and other senior leaders of the Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA, is destined to fail unless the number of troops deployed increases and they are provided with better logistical and intelligence information. The U.S.-based Enough Project says in a report released 9 November the Ugandan Army’s trekking teams can “roam around” in the jungle for weeks “without any clear trace of the LRA.”  It says direct encounters with the LRA are “rare.” The group says U.S. aerial reconnaissance has not given an anticipated “intelligence breakthrough” because it could not see through the triple canopy forest where the LRA rebels hide. The report, which is based on information gathered by an Enough researcher embedded with Ugandan troops, says the LRA continues to be a “very real threat” to civilians across the region. (Voice of America)

Sudan

Sudan carried out aerial bombardments on the northern part of South Sudan in the last three days, killing seven people and wounding others, a South Sudanese official said 23 November, accusing their northern neighbor of breaking an agreement between the two countries to end hostilities. Sudanese Antonov planes dropped more than 27 bombs in a disputed region near the village of Kiir Adem in northern Bahr el Ghazal State, said Col. Philip Aguer the spokesman for South Sudan’s military. The attack is in violation of a security agreement signed between the two countries 54 days ago to end hostilities, he said. South Sudan is also accusing Sudan of frustrating its efforts to resume oil production. (…) Sudanese military spokesman, Col. Sawarmy Khalid Saad, said that government forces did not hit areas in South Sudan, but were battling rebels nearby the Rigaibat region in the East Darfur state. “We were surprised by the accusations leveled (against us) by South Sudan that we have attacked a position of their forces inside Bahr al-Ghazal,” he said on 22 November in a statement aired on state radio and TV. He said the accusations amounted to “an open admission” by the government of South Sudan that it supports militarily and logistically rebels inside Sudan, where he said Sudanese military forces are carrying out operations. (…) South Sudan broke away from Sudan last year after decades of conflict between the north and south. The South seceded after an independence vote that was the culmination of a 2005 peace treaty that ended decades of war that killed more than 2 million people. The two countries have unresolved issues on border demarcation and distribution of oil. South Sudan suspended oil production in January after accusing Sudan of stealing its crude. Sudan said it was taking the oil in lieu of unpaid transport fees. Border clashes escalated in April when South Sudan troops took over an oil town in a region Sudan claims as its own. South Sudan’s president said the delay in resuming oil production is being caused by fresh demands by Sudan which owns the pipeline through which crude is to be transported. Kiir said Sudan is demanding that South Sudan denounces support for rebels in its Blue Nile and South Kordofan in Sudanese territory. Kiir said Sudan is looking for an excuse to block oil production. South Sudan has denied supporting the rebels. (…) South Sudan’s independence reduced Sudan’s revenues by nearly three-quarters. Oil accounted for nearly 98 percent of South Sudan’s revenue, and its economy has suffered during the shutdown. South Sudan says it will still pursue plans to build an alternative pipeline so it doesn’t have to export oil through Sudan. Juba has signed memoranda of understanding with Djibouti and Ethiopia as well as Kenya as potential partners in a new pipeline. (Washington Post, Associated Press)
Sudan arrested its former spy chief and other senior military and security officers on 22 November after foiling what officials said was a plot to incite chaos and target leaders in this oil-producing African state. Witnesses told Reuters they saw army tanks and armored vehicles moving down a main street in the centre of Khartoum around midnight, but life in the city was normal during the day with shops in the centre bustling with customers. Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has kept up a 23-year hold on power, even as a series of uprisings troubled the country’s poor border areas, including the conflict-torn region of Darfur. But Sudan has been stuck in economic crisis since the south – the source of most of its known oil-reserves – declared independence last year under the terms of a peace deal. High prices for food have added to widespread public anger over losing the south and have emboldened opposition activists to call for protests. Analysts say the crisis has also exacerbated divisions in the government and squeezed the patronage system they say Bashir has relied on. Unrest over price rises and food and fuel shortages has preceded coups in Sudan in the past. Salah Gosh, former head of Sudan’s powerful intelligence and security agency, was arrested with 12 others on suspicion of “inciting chaos”, “targeting” some leaders and spreading rumors about Bashir’s health, the information minister told reporters. (Reuters)
Sudan accuses Israel of bombing an arms warehouse or factory 24 October. Israel has no comment, but accuses Sudan of making or transporting arms for Iran. The recent arrival of two Iranian warships in Sudan seems to indicate strengthening ties. The Sudanese government, meanwhile, is convinced it is the victim of an Israeli attack. On 8 November, President Oman Hassan al-Bashir threatened Israel with retaliation, saying “Israel will remain the number one enemy, and we will not call them anything except the Zionist enemy.”  Did Israel really bomb a Sudanese weapons factory? Probably. Iran and Sudan blame an air attack by the Jewish state for the explosion Oct. 24, which caused a fireball at the Yarmouk weapons complex outside Khartoum. Sudan says it claimed three lives. Israeli officials have refused to confirm or deny involvement, while practically in the same breath condemning Sudan as a conduit for Iranian arms heading toward the Gaza Strip. (…) What is the nature of the Sudan-Iran relationship? Sudan has unusually close ties with Iran for a Sunni-dominated state, stretching back over 20 years. Most Arab governments look askance at Persian and majority-­Shiite Iran as a dangerous regional rival. (…) Why would Israel care? Israel asserts that Sudan is the starting point for Iranian arms shipments to Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Hamas, a militant Islamist group. The allegation is that Sudan moves weapons through the Egyptian mainland and the lawless Sinai Peninsula before they enter the Palestinian enclave’s smuggling tunnels. US, Israeli, and Egyptian officials have frequently confirmed that arms smuggling from Sudan is commonplace, notably to Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon. (Christian Science Monitor)
Two Iranian navy warships will dock in Port Sudan along with a Pakistani one, the army spokesperson Colonel Al-Sawarmi Khalid Sa’ad said on 26 November in the second visit of its kind in a month. Col. Sa’ad told state media that the ships will anchor in the framework of cooperation of navy and military cooperation with countries around the world in diplomatic, social and political areas. The military spokesperson said the ships will stop on the 29th & 30th of this month and will stay for three days for reasons including logistics and refueling. He stressed that this is part of the routine and normal activities of Sudanese navy. In October an Iranian destroyer and a helicopter carrier docked in Port Sudan only few days after Khartoum accused Israel of carrying out an airstrike in the Sudanese capital. Sudanese officials at the time denied any link between the visit and the alleged Israeli airstrike. They also rebuffed Israeli accusations that Sudan is serving as a hub for Iranian weapons headed to militants in Gaza strip controlled by Hamas. But in a sign of internal split over ties with Iran, Sudan foreign minister Ali Karti criticized in a TV interview his government’s decision to allow the ships to dock in Sudan. He revealed that government took by his recommendation earlier this year and refused to grant permission to Iranian ships. (All Africa)

South Sudan

Medical aid agency Doctors Without Borders is warning of a marked increase in violence in South Sudan’s troubled Jonglei state. The group, known by its French acronym MSF, says rising numbers of women and children are being stabbed, shot, and beaten – with the youngest victim being just four months old. MSF says Jonglei state is now the “the epicenter of violence” in South Sudan – a country trying to establish stability after almost five decades of war. In a report released 27 November, the medical aid group says traditional cattle raiding has evolved over the last 18 months into a new, more violent dynamic, with escalating cases of maiming, rape, and beatings. (…) MSF attributes the surge in violence to ethnic clashes, a government crackdown and a rebellion. At the end of 2011 – just six months after South Sudan gained its independence from the north – the new nation was rocked by violence between the rival Lou Nuer and Murle ethnic groups. Thousands of Lou Nuer marched on Murle areas threatening to wipe them out. Smaller Murle groups carried out a spate of revenge attacks. United Nations and local officials put the death toll between 900 and 3,000 people. (…) MSF attributes the surge in violence to ethnic clashes, a government crackdown and a rebellion. At the end of 2011 – just six months after South Sudan gained its independence from the north – the new nation was rocked by violence between the rival Lou Nuer and Murle ethnic groups. Thousands of Lou Nuer marched on Murle areas threatening to wipe them out. Smaller Murle groups carried out a spate of revenge attacks. United Nations and local officials put the death toll between 900 and 3,000 people.  (Voice of America)

South Africa

The last of a wave of illegal strikes that have swept South Africa’s mining sector ended on 15 November after workers accepted an offer from Anglo American Platinum Ltd, the world’s top producer of the precious metal. South Africa’s platinum and gold sectors have been rocked for months by often violent wildcat action, spawned by income disparities and a union turf war for members, and more conflict could be sparked by looming job cuts and wage talks next year. The labor unrest has rattled investors in the continent’s largest economy and has claimed the lives of over 50 people, including 34 shot dead by police in one incident in mid-August near a mine operated by platinum producer Lonmin Plc. “All the workers are returning to work,” said Evans Ramokga, a strike leader at Amplats, a unit of troubled global mining group Anglo American Plc, which has struggled for two months to get more than 30,000 employees back to work at several of its South African mines. The company has offered either an additional monthly allowance of 600 rand ($67.42) or a monthly salary increase of 400 rand, as well as a one-off 4,500 rand. (…) South Africa’s boardrooms and politicians may breathe a sigh of relief as the worst labor unrest since the end of apartheid in 1994 winds down, but uncertainties still cloud the picture. The dominant National Union of Mineworkers, which has delivered above-inflation wage hikes but contained militancy, has lost control over much of its rank and file, a source of concern to the ruling African National Congress and corporate bosses alike. (Reuters)

WEST AFRICA

Mali

An official confirmed that the leader of one of the most powerful cells of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, has decided to leave Al Qaeda’s branch in North Africa in order to create a movement spanning the entire Sahara desert. The deputy mayor of a town in the Timbuktu region of northern Mali, who required anonymity out of fear for his safety, confirmed that AQIM ‘katiba’ leader Moktar Belmoktar had left the Al Qaeda franchise. The information was confirmed by Oumar Ould Hamaha, an associate of Belmoktar’s, who said: “It’s true. It’s so that we can better operate in the field that we have left this group which is tied to the Maghreb.” He said they want to take jihad to all the other countries in the Sahara. (Fox News, Associated Press)
West African officials are pushing the Mali government to offer Tuareg separatists in the north of the country autonomy in exchange for joining the fight against hardline al-Qaida-linked terrorists, the Guardian has learned. The regional bloc of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) also hopes to boost their efforts to flush out militants from northern Mali by persuading moderate members of one of the powerful Islamist groups controlling the region to join forces with Tuaregs. Granting the Tuaregs any kind of autonomy in exchange for their support would reverse the policies many Tuaregs have fought to overturn since Mali’s independence 52 years ago, and could embolden dozens of separatist movements across West Africa. Malian officials said four government representatives were appointed in mid-November to lead discussions with the Tuareg independence movement, the Mouvement National de Libération de l’Azawad (MNLA) and moderate members of the Islamist Ansar Dine movement. “Autonomy … is not off the cards. But there has to be a solid agreement between all parties. The priority is to get rid of all terrorists who have no right to be [in northern Mali]. Once that happens, the Malian state will determine the framework in which conditions of autonomy could be granted,” a government official involved in the discussions told The Guardian. The official spoke on condition of anonymity owing to the sensitivity of the matter. The negotiations, which will be pursued as well as military intervention, are likely to be protracted, and complicated by the fact that only a fraction of Mali’s northern ethnic groups are Tuaregs, not all of whom want independence, the official added. (Guardian)

Nigeria

Nigeria’s army has offered 290 million naira ($1.8 million) for information leading to the capture of 19 leading members of Islamist sect Boko Haram, whose insurgency has killed hundreds this year. Boko Haram wants to impose strict sharia – or Islamic law – in the country of 160 million, split roughly equally between Christians and Muslims, and the group has become the biggest security threat to Africa’s largest oil producer. The military Joint Task Force (JTF) in northeast Borno state, the sect’s home territory and the focus of its attacks, offered a reward of 50 million naira for the sect’s self-proclaimed leader Abubakar Shekau. It offered 25 million naira for each of the men said by the JTF to be his main commanders: Habibu Yusuk, Khalis Albarnawai, Momodu Bama and Mohammed Zangina, and 10 million naira for 14 other senior members. (Reuters)
Following protests embarked upon by the displaced people of Bakassi in late-November the Joint Technical Team, comprising the United Nations, Nigerian and Cameroonian officials, have announced the suspension of the demarcation of the maritime boundary between Nigeria and Cameroon. Meanwhile, the presence of three ships with Cameroonian gendarmes at the Ikang beach, which falls into Nigerian territory, caused a stir as some of the Bakassi youths were said to have come out to confront them before their leaders told them to watch out events first. (…) But youths, numbering over 300, had stopped them at Ikang, protesting that they had suffered human rights violation which the UN should first look into and that as they were talking, they were still homeless as a result of the International Court of Justice’s ruling that ceded their territory to Cameroon. (…) Some of the placards had different inscriptions such as, “We say it clearly, we are Nigerians, here we belong,” “UN demarcation team, leave Bakassi alone”; “We ask again, why do you not condemn human rights abuse against the people?”; “The judgement of the ICJ is unacceptable to our people,” and “You must hear us and we have the right to choose where to belong,” among others. (Vanguard)

Police on 22 November blamed a radical Islamist sect for attacks that witnesses say left 18 people dead over the past two days in Nigeria’s troubled north, part of a cycle of spiraling violence that is exacerbating religious tensions and that the government has been powerless to stop. Meanwhile, members of a largely Muslim community in the small village about 30 miles (50 kilometers) from Nigeria’s largest northern city of Kano turned against its Christian minority after a trader was accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad, police said 22 November. Although police say nobody died in the violence, a witness reported seeing four dead bodies. Christians and Muslims have lived together peacefully across the country of 160 million for years, but the growing violence is creating a climate of religious distrust and local communities have lost faith in the government’s ability to protect them. Suspected members of the radical lslamist sect known as Boko Haram carried out three attacks in late-November in different parts of the northeastern city of Maiduguri, said Borno state police spokesman Gideon Jibrin. Jibrin declined to say how many people had been killed overall, but witnesses said 18 people died — including three children. (…) Also in late-November, a Christian vigilante group in central Nigeria killed a Muslim resident after he defied an illegal checkpoint the group had put up to protect their church from a Boko Haram attack, even though the sect had not previously struck in that area. The killing sparked riots that left 10 people dead. President Goodluck Jonathan, whose government has responded to the crisis by sending more troops to the most affected areas, recently said on state-run television that Boko Haram remained a “faceless” group and that there was nobody for the government to meet with to seek peace. (Washington Post, Associated Press)


As always, we’re eager to hear feedback on the usefulness of this service as well as your suggestions on improving it.

LDESP Staff
ldesp_staff@nps.edu

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