Sudan’s Bashir agrees to form a transitional government, says opposition official
Sudan’s Bashir agrees to form a transitional government, says opposition official
Sudan’s defence minister vows decisive summer for Darfur rebels
April 11, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese defence minister, Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein, has called upon the rebel groups in Darfur to seek a negotiated peaceful solution, warning the summer campaign will bring rebellion in the restive region to an end.
Sudanese Defence Minister Abdel-Rahim Mohamed Hussein (File/Reuters)
Hussein, who addressed a public meeting with the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in North Darfur capital Al-Fashir on Friday, said the government welcomes rebel groups who wish to join the peace process, adding the government made the necessary arrangements to end rebellion in the region.
“Rebels have to join peace before they be militarily crushed”, he said.
He further praised the RSF militias saying they set a good humanitarian example in dealing with hostages and citizens, pointing they provided services for the needy population in the region.
The director of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), Mohamed Atta, for his part, disclosed they dispatched other RSF units to South Kordofan state to fight against the SPLM-N rebels and maintain security in the state.
The SRF militia, which operates under the command of NISS, is formed August last year to fight rebel groups in Darfur region, South Kordofan, and Blue Nile states following joint attacks by Sudanese Revolutionary Front (SRF) rebels in North and South Kordofan in April 2013.
SRF REBELS ACCUSE
Meanwhile the Sudanese rebel alliance, SRF, announced in a statement issued by its top military commander, Abdel-Aziz Al-Hilu, they obtained “certain information” that NISS is undertaking a plan in coordination with the military intelligence, the Popular Defence Forces (PDF), aiming to mobilise tribal militias to fight against its forces in Blue Nile, Nuba Mountain, North Kordofan, and Darfur.
He added that those militias, which include forces recruited from outside Sudan, will target civilians to displace them from rebel areas. But, the government will cover these attacks, describing it as tribal clashes.
The statement added this task was assigned to a force stationed in Al-Fayed village in Rashad district in the Nuba Mountains, pointing the force is commanded by Brig. Gen. Abdel-Samad Babiker, Lieu. Col. Mohamed Al-Fatih Ahmed, and Maj. Gen. Mohamed Al-Rabie’.
The force is also supported by a battalion of Mujahideen (holy fighters) from Khartoum and a battalion of the paramilitary PDF, according to the statement.
The rebels said the militias backed by aerial bombardment, shelled Toumi and Al-Mansour areas in South Kordofan and burned several villages including Toumi, Al-Mansoura, Tarawa, Kluro, Tendimen, Taglbo, Teri and other villages in order to force villagers to move to the government controlled areas.
Al-Hilu called upon rights groups and human rights activists to condemn the scorched land policy carried out by the government and expose regime’s repressive policies against defenceless citizens.
The commander of the RSF, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, for his part, denied that his force committed war crimes or violated civilians’ rights in the region, accusing rebel groups of seeking to tarnish their image.
He said the RSF is innocent of these criminal practices, underscoring they arrested groups of outlaws who attacked civilians north of the town of Mellit while they were chasing remnants of the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement/Minni Minnawi (SLM/MM) following an attack on the town last month.
The African Union and United Nations Joint Special Representative and Joint Chief Mediator for Darfur, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, had last March openly accused the RDF of attacking civilians.
He condemned in his address at Um Jaras peace forum the RSF attacks, saying they were the main cause of displacement of thousands of villagers.
The rebel SLM-MM carried out attacks in South and North Darfur states triggering reprisal attacks by government militias on villages suspected of support to the rebels. These attacks coincided with tribal clashes in the North Darfur state.
The violence displaced over 215,000 civilians in the state.
Khartoum dismisses Juba’s accusations on SAF military activity along borders
Darfur violence: UN troops ‘failed to stop attacks’
UN peacekeepers failed to protect civilians in Sudan’s Darfur region, even when they were shot in front of them, a former UN spokeswoman has said.
Aicha el Basri told the BBC UN chief Ban Ki-moon was part of a “conspiracy of silence” about the conflict.
She said she resigned last year because she “felt ashamed to be a spokesperson for a mission that lies”.
Responding, a UN official said the mission was doing a “brave” job and reported “faithfully on what we know”.
“Yes, there have been incidents, some of them dramatic, some of them shocking. Every one of them has been investigated to the best of our ability,” UN peacekeeping head Herve Ladsous told the BBC.
The UN has about 19,000 troops in Darfur, which has been hit by conflict since 2003.
In a BBC Focus on Africa interview, Ms Basri said she had decided to speak out after the UN ignored her appeals for an investigation into its operations in Darfur.
“In many circumstances, the civilians were shot in front of Unamid [the UN force in Darfur],” she said.
In one instance last September, peacekeepers “watched” the pro-government Janjaweed militia group carry out an assault on civilians travelling in a truck, but did not intervene, Ms Basri said.
Troops also took photographs of the assault, but “never reported it”, she added.
“The conspiracy of silence was much larger than Unamid. It extended all the way to Ban Ki-moon,” Ms Basri said.
Mr Ban had failed to mention in reports released about the conflict in Darfur that government forces had bombed villages 106 times in 2012, she added.
The UN Security Council was involved in a “cynical farce” and “pretending” that it was concerned about the conflict, Ms Basri said.
“The mission does not even have a helicopter to monitor an area that is as big as France,” she added.
She said she resigned about a year ago after she issued a statement that was not true.
“I felt ashamed to be a spokesperson for a mission that lies, that can’t protect civilians, that can’t stop lying about it,” Ms Basri told Focus on Africa.
Mr Ladsous said the UN force was operating in a “very difficult environment” because of the large number of armed groups and bandits in Darfur.
Co-operation from the Sudanese government had also been “spotty”, Mr Ladsous said.
A strategic review had been carried out to tackle the problems the UN was facing in Darfur.
“Our duty is to respond frankly and faithfully on what we know has happened but in many cases we can’t identify with certainty who was responsible,” he added.
About two million people have been displaced by the fighting in Darfur since 2003, when rebels took up arms against the government.
Last month, the UN said there had been an upsurge in violence, with about 50,000 people displaced since the end of February.
Much of the violence was between rival Arab groups, although rebel and government forces were also involved, correspondents say.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant for Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, accusing him of genocide in Darfur.
He denies the allegation and says the court is a tool of Western powers.
Wonder if this move is linked with the big injection of Qatari cash last week that will enable Bashir to maintain his network of patronage and clients? KS
Bashir orders release of political detainees, ease in restrictions on parties and media
Sudan receives $1bn deposit from Qatar
April 3, 2014 (KHARTOUM) – At the end of a one-day visit of Qatar’s Emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani to Khartoum on Wednesday, Sudan announced receiving a $1 billion central bank deposit from the rich Gulf state.
Al-Thani who became Emir of Qatar in June 2013 after his father’s abdication received a warm welcome in Khartoum where he held talks with Sudan’s president Omer Hassan Al-Bashir before to leaving for Algeria.
At the end of bilateral talks between the two delegations, the Sudanese finance minister Badr Al-Deen Mahmoud announced that Qatar deposited $1 billion in Sudan’s central bank.
Mahmoud said that the two countries agreed to boost two existing projects of Al-Diar real estate , and Al-Hassad Food, adding that the two sides agreed to solve the problems facing the Qatari investments in the country.
The finance minister added the talks focused on several areas of joint cooperation, disclosing agreement on establishing Kenana sluiceway project besides the agricultural production and manufacturing project.
He said they would hand over its feasibility study to his Qatari counterpart soon.
Economic experts predicted the Qatari deposit would positively impact on Sudan’s economy and reduce the US dollar’s exchange rate against the Sudanese currency.
The US dollar sold at 8.65 Sudanese pounds (SDG) in the black market on Tuesday. The official exchange rate is around 5.7 pounds to the dollar.
Sudan has been struggling with what was described as an economic shock following the loss of the oil-rich south in July 2011. Oil revenues constituted the majority of Sudan’s exports, national income and source of hard currency.
The governor of the Central Bank of Sudan (CBoS), Abdel-Rahman Hassan Abdel-Rahman, said on Wednesday that the visit of the Qatari emir underscores the strong ties between the two countries, pointing to the role of both leaders in promoting distinguished relations to serve the common interests.
He added those ties have positively impacted the banking sector in the two countries besides promoting economic ties and the joint investment and development projects.
Sudan’s foreign minister, Ali Karti, said at a press conference on Wednesday that the visit didn’t discuss strained ties between Doha and other Gulf states, pointing to the continued mediation efforts to resolve differences among those states.
On March 5, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain recalled their ambassadors from Qatar, accusing Doha of failing to abide by an accord not to interfere in each others’ internal affairs. Qatar denies the charge.
He added the Qatari Emir came to Sudan at the invitation of Bashir, noting it was a successful visit and achieved its objectives in enhancing the growing ties between the two countries.
Karti further pointed that the visit was arranged in advance and had nothing to do with the recent political developments in the region.
The foreign minister announced that Bashir had issued a decree exempting all Qatari citizens from obtaining entry visas to Sudan as of Wednesday in order to strengthen and promote bilateral ties.
He asserted that arrangements and contacts with the Qatari side were underway in order to address the causes which prevented Sudanese citizens from being granted entry visas to Qatar, saying the Qatari side was responding to requests in this regard.
Karti stressed that the two sides discussed Qatar’s desire to invest in areas of tourism, electricity, and real estate besides implementation of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur (DDPD), further pointing that Qatar had continued to finance and implement development projects in Darfur.
The Qatari Emir received the Necklace of Honour from Bashir besides other gifts including birds, rare African parrots, and authentic Arabian camels.
Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir (R) welcomes Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani as he arrives at Khartoum Airport for an official visit April 2, 2014. (Photo Reuters/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah)
Mail and Guardian
While much has been done to end Aids in Africa, more work by governments is necessary to move forward, particularly in SA.
It is true to say that the extraordinary shift in the global response to the HIV epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa over the past 15 years has been one of humanity’s shining achievements in recent times. The enormity of the scale of the implementation of treatment, care and prevention across the continent has undoubtedly contributed to better health globally.
The roll-out of antiretroviral therapy (ART), surely one of the greatest scientific developments in recent history, has saved an estimated nine million life-years in sub-Saharan Africa.
According to the 2012 Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and Aids (Unaids) global report on the Aids epidemic, 56% of eligible people on the African continent were receiving ART in 2011. This is higher than the global average of 54%, and, yes, is still nowhere near where we’d want it to be.
But if we recall what pending disaster we were facing at the beginning of the 2000s, one simply has to acknowledge that the transformation of the epidemic and the health infrastructure and systems in many countries resemble a revolution of sorts. Botswana, Namibia, Rwanda, Swaziland and Zambia have all achieved universal access to ART, in other words, more than 80% of those eligible for it have access to ART.
The Human Sciences Research Council’s (HSRC) National HIV Prevalence, Incidence and Behaviour Survey that was released this week has confirmed that ART access in South Africa doubled in the country between 2008 and 2012, with South Africa now having the largest public sector ART programme in the world.
ART has dramatically driven down both new HIV infections and Aids-related deaths. According to Unaids, new HIV infections declined by 50% in the past decade and Aids deaths by 25% between 2005 to 2011. This trend started in the mid-2000s, in large part because of the availability of antiretroviral drugs.
The HSRC report has, however, revealed a worrying trend in South Africa. While the country’s new HIV infection rate, or HIV incidence rate, declined among female youths, it remains at unacceptably high levels. In the older population the incidence did not show signs of slowing down. The number of new HIV infections is the highest in the world.
The number of HIV infected pregnant women in Africa who receive preventative ART that significantly reduces their chances of infecting their babies during pregnancy, labour or breastfeeding, has dramatically increased. In countries such as South Africa and Botswana, access is close to 100%. The HSRC report has shown the infection among children under 12 months has declined since 2008, confirming the success of mother-to-child transmission programmes in South Africa.
This is all good news, but looking ahead we need to couch our speech about what remains to be done. I say this too, very cognisant of the fact that we are less than a year away from a pivotal time in the HIV and Aids response, when consideration of the 2015 Millennium Development Goals, and those “targets” that will succeed them, will take up much of the space of the global health agenda.
We are, make no mistake, at a critical juncture in sub-Saharan Africa’s Aids epidemic. It is clear that substantial barriers remain to ending the epidemic and it is in everyone’s interests that they are addressed in the conversations about a post-2015 scenario.
In a nutshell: sub-Saharan Africa, despite all the impressive gains listed above, still shoulders a vastly disproportionate burden of the epidemic. According to the 2012 Unaids report, the continent accounted for 71% of all new infections globally in 2011, more than 90% of children infected with HIV and 70% of Aids-related deaths.
One needs to be mindful when generalising statistics. The “good news” about declining new HIV infections and Aids deaths is not shared evenly across regions or countries. HIV incidence is, for instance, still on the rise in Guinea-Bissau and is only stable in countries like Tanzania, Uganda, Nigeria, Gambia , Lesotho, Gambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Benin and Angola, according to the Unaids.
ART coverage reveals a similarly uneven pattern. Universal ART coverage in Botswana, Namibia, Rwanda, Swaziland and Zambia is an extraordinary step forward. But the Unaids report notes that 12-million people on the continent, a third of the global number of people living with HIV, are still unable to access ART. This is an extraordinary impediment to ending Aids in Africa.
Underdeveloped health systems, mismanagement and corruption, political turmoil and the lack of accessibility to remote areas all play their part to prevent wider ART coverage. It is vital that African governments and organisations such as the Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB and Malaria keep working towards the international commitment of universal coverage by 2015. The key to success will be maintaining this high level of ART coverage, which requires a gradual switch from international funding to sustainable domestic funding.
Even in situations where people have been accessing treatment, retention rates have sometimes become barriers in themselves. According to the Unaids report, nearly half of all people in Malawi and 40% in Kenya who started ART in the mid-2000s were no longer on treatment five years thereafter.
But getting people on treatment and on to care is only half the solution: prevention plays a key part in HIV management.
There is now also an urgent need for a discussion among academics, health professionals, activists and bureaucrats around the post-2015 scenarios if the response to HIV is to continue in the right direction. While so much has changed, too much has stayed the same.
Gender inequality continues to see women share the burden of the epidemic – 58% of people with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa are female, according to Unaids. The HSRC report has revealed that the HIV incidence rate among South African females aged 15 to 24 is four times higher than the incidence rate found in males in this group. Among the teenage population, the difference between the HIV prevalence between girls and boys is even higher – girls have eight times the infection rate of their male counterparts. The risk factors for females – physiological vulnerability, social and economic inequities, unequal access to education and employment, gender violence, difficulty negotiating sex and condom use, and age-disparate relationships where one sexual partner is more than five years older than the other all fuel the epidemic.
Stigma and discrimination, as they do in so many countries with HIV epidemics, continue to hinder the implementation of science on the ground. And unfortunately much of the problem, if we are frank with ourselves, has been driven by the behaviour of some governments, or at least condoned by decision-makers.
In recent years, much has been made of the punitive anti-homosexuality laws that exist in 35 African countries, and the more recent severe amendments made to them in countries such as Uganda and Nigeria. According to prominent epidemiologists, we have major HIV epidemics among men who have sex with men and in transgender communities. Yet in many sub-Saharan African countries, we are powerless to intervene in any meaningful way because of the fear of reprisal by these governments.
The same could be said to apply to the injecting drug user community. Research studies have confirmed that we have alarming HIV infection rates among injecting drug users, yet it is telling that, even in some international forums, the issue around drug use and HIV doesn’t feature prominently on agendas.
The past three decades of HIV and Aids have taught us that the virus doesn’t discriminate, but that people and governments do. A renewed engagement with African decision-makers on human rights issues has to take place if we are to move towards ending Aids in sub-Saharan Africa and build on the huge gains we’ve made over the past 15 years.
Dr Olive Shisana is chief executive officer of the South African Human Sciences Research Council and local co-chair of the 21st International Aids Conference (Aids 2016) taking place in Durban, South Africa between July 17 and 20 2016.
Bashir meets tribal leader over dispute with North Darfur governor
America’s Proxy Wars in Africa
Lion Forward Teams? Echo Casemate? Juniper Micron?
You could be forgiven if this jumble of words looks like nonsense to you. It isn’t. It’s the language of the US military’s simmering African interventions; the patois that goes with a set of missions carried out in countries most Americans couldn’t locate on a map; the argot of conflicts now primarily fought by proxies and a former colonial power on a continent that the US military views as a hotbed of instability and that hawkish pundits increasingly see as a growth area for future armed interventions.
Since 9/11, the US military has been making inroads in Africa, building alliances, facilities and a sophisticated logistics network. Despite repeated assurances by US Africa Command (AFRICOM) that military activities on the continent were minuscule, a 2013 investigation by TomDispatch exposed surprisingly large and expanding US operations—including recent military involvement with no fewer than forty-nine of the fifty-four nations on the continent. Washington’s goal continues to be building these nations into stable partners with robust, capable militaries, as well as creating regional bulwarks favorable to its strategic interests in Africa. Yet over the last years, the results have often confounded the planning—with American operations serving as a catalyst for blowback (to use a term of CIA tradecraft).
A US-backed uprising in Libya, for instance, helped spawn hundreds of militias that have increasingly caused chaos in that country, leading to repeated attacks on Western interests and the killing of the US ambassador and three other Americans. Tunisia has become ever more destabilized, according to a top US commander in the region. Kenya and Algeria were hit by spectacular, large-scale terrorist attacks that left Americans dead or wounded. South Sudan, a fledgling nation Washington recently midwifed into being that has been slipping into civil war, now has more than 870,000 displaced persons, is facing an imminent hunger crisis, and has recently been the site of mass atrocities, including rapes and killings. Meanwhile, the US-backed military of Mali was repeatedly defeated by insurgent forces after managing to overthrow the elected government, and the US-supported forces of the Central African Republic (CAR) failed to stop a ragtag rebel group from ousting the president.
In an effort to staunch the bleeding in those two countries, the United States has been developing a back-to-the-future military policy in Africa—making common cause with one of the continent’s former European colonial powers in a set of wars that seem to be spreading, not staunching violence and instability in the region.
The French Connection
After establishing a trading post in present-day Senegal in 1659, France gradually undertook a conquest of West Africa that, by the early twentieth century, left it with a vast colonial domain encompassing present-day Burkina Faso, Benin, Chad, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger and Senegal, among other places. In the process, the French used Foreign Legionnaires from Algeria, Goumiers from Morocco and Tirailleurs from Senegal, among other African troops, to bolster its ranks. Today, the United States is pioneering a twenty-first-century brand of expeditionary warfare that involves backing both France and the armies of its former colonial charges as Washington tries to accomplish its policy aims in Africa with a limited expenditure of blood and treasure.
In Mali, French and African Union forces—with US logistical and information support—have pushed back al-Qaeda-linked insurgents, allowing the people of Mali to pursue a democratic future. Across the Sahel, we are partnering with countries to prevent al-Qaeda from gaining new footholds. In the Central African Republic, French and African Union soldiers—backed by American airlift and support—are working to stem violence and create space for dialogue, reconciliation, and swift progress to transitional elections.
Missing from their joint piece, however, was any hint of the Western failures that helped facilitate the debacles in Mali and the Central African Republic, the continued crises plaguing those nations, or the potential for mission creep, unintended consequences and future blowback from this new brand of coalition warfare. The US military, for its part, isn’t saying much about current efforts in these two African nations, but official documents obtained by TomDispatch through the Freedom of Information Act offer telling details, while experts are sounding alarms about the ways in which these military interventions have already fallen short or failed.
Operation Juniper Micron
After 9/11, through programs like the Pan-Sahel Initiative and the Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Partnership, the United States has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into training and arming the militaries of Mali, Niger, Chad, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia in order to promote “stability.” In 2013, Captain J. Dane Thorleifson, the outgoing commander of an elite, quick-response force known as Naval Special Warfare Unit 10, described such efforts as training “proxy” forces in order to build “critical host nation security capacity; enabling, advising, and assisting our African CT [counterterror] partner forces so they can swiftly counter and destroy al-Shabab, AQIM [Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb], and Boko Haram.” In other words, the US military is in the business of training African armies as the primary tactical forces combatting local Islamic militant groups.
The first returns on Washington’s new and developing form of “light footprint” warfare in Africa have hardly been stellar. After US and French forces helped to topple Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, neighboring Mali went from bulwark to basket case. Nomadic Tuareg fighters looted the weapons stores of the Gaddafi regime they had previously served, crossed the border and began taking over northern Mali. This, in turn, prompted a US-trained officer—a product of the Pan-Sahel Initiative—to stage a military coup in the Malian capital, Bamako, and oust the democratically elected president of that country. Soon after, the Tuareg rebels were muscled aside by heavily-armed Islamist rebels from the homegrown Ansar al-Dine movement as well as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Libya’s Ansar al-Shariah and Nigeria’s Boko Haram, who instituted a harsh brand of Shariah law, creating a humanitarian crisis that caused widespread suffering and sent refugees streaming from their homes.
In January 2013, former colonial power France launched a military intervention, code-named Operation Serval, to push back and defeat the Islamists. At its peak, 4,500 French troops were fighting alongside West African forces, known as the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA), later subsumed into a U.N.-mandated Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). The AFISMA force, as detailed in an official US Army Africa briefing on training missions obtained by TomDispatch, reads like a who’s who of American proxy forces in West Africa: Niger, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Togo, Senegal, Benin, Liberia, Chad, Nigeria, Gambia, Ghana and Sierra Leone.
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US Army Africa briefing slide detailing US efforts to aid the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA)
Under the moniker Juniper Micron, the US military supported France’s effort, airlifting its soldiers and materiel into Mali, flying refueling missions in support of its airpower, and providing “intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance” (ISR) through drone operations out of Base Aerienne 101 at Diori Hamani International Airport in Niamey, the capital of neighboring Niger. The US Army Africa AFISMA document also makes reference to the deployment to Chad of an ISR liaison team with communications support. Despite repeated pledges that it would put no boots on the ground in troubled Mali, in the spring of 2013, the Pentagon sent a small contingent to the US Embassy in Bamako and others to support French and MINUSMA troops.
After issuing five media releases between January and March of 2013 about efforts to aid the military mission in Mali, AFRICOM simply stopped talking about it. With rare exceptions, media coverage of the operation also dried up. In June, at a joint press conference with President Obama, Senegal’s President Macky Sall did let slip that the United States was providing “almost all the food and fuel used by MINUSMA” as well as “intervening to assist us with the logistics after the French response.”
A January 2014 Stars and Stripes article mentioned that the US air refueling mission supporting the French, run from a US airbase in Spain, had already “distributed 15.6 million gallons of fuel, logging more than 3,400 flying hours” and that the effort would continue. In February, according to military reports, elements of the Air Force’s 351st Expeditionary Refueling Squadron delivered their one millionth pound of fuel to French fighter aircraft conducting operations over Mali. A December 2013 briefing document obtained by TomDispatch also mentions 181 US troops, the majority of them Air Force personnel, supporting Operation Juniper Micron.
Eager to learn where things stood today, I asked AFRICOM spokesman Benjamin Benson about the operation. “We’re continuing to support and enable the French and international partners to confront AQIM and its affiliates in Mali,” he told me. He then mentioned four key current mission sets being carried out by US forces: information-sharing, intelligence and reconnaissance, planning and liaison teams, and aerial refueling and the airlifting of allied African troops.
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December 2013 US military document detailing American efforts to support French military operations in Mali and Central African Republic
US Army Africa documents obtained by TomDispatch offer further detail about Operation Juniper Micron, including the use of Lion Forward Teams in support of that mission. I asked Benson for information about these small detachments that aided the French effort from Chad and from within Mali itself. “I don’t have anything on that,” was all he would say. A separate briefing slide, produced for an Army official last year, noted that the US military provided support for the French mission from Rota and Moron, Spain; Ramstein, Germany; Sigonella, Italy; Kidal and Bamako, Mali; Niamey, Niger; Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso; and N’Djamena, Chad. Benson refused to offer information about specific activities conducted from these locations, preferring to speak about air operations from unspecified locations and only in generalities.
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Official briefing slide with details on US training for Chad and Guinea—“troop contributing countries” aiding the US-supported military mission in Mali
Official military documents obtained by TomDispatch detail several US missions in support of proxy forces from the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, including a scheduled eight weeks of pre-deployment training for troops from Niger in the summer of 2013, five weeks for Chadian forces in the autumn, and eight weeks in the autumn as well for Guinean soldiers, who would be sent into the Malian war zone. I asked Benson about plans for the training of African forces designated for MINUSMA in 2014. “In terms of the future on that… I don’t know,” was all he would say.
Another official briefing slide produced by US Army Africa notes, however, that from January through March 2014, the United States planned to send scores of trainers to prepare 1,400 Chadian troops for missions in Mali. Over the same months, other US personnel were to team up with French military trainers to ready an 850-man Guinean infantry force for similar service. Requests for further information from the French military about this and other missions were unanswered before this article went to press.
Operation Echo Casemate
Last spring, despite years of US assistance, including support from Special Operations forces advisors, the Central African Republic’s military was swiftly defeated and the country’s president was ousted by Seleka, a mostly Muslim rebel group. Months of violence followed, with Seleka forces involved in widespread looting, rape and murder. The result was growing sectarian clashes between the country’s Muslim and Christian communities and the rise of Christian “anti-balaka” militias. (“Balaka” means machete in the local Sango language.) These militias have, in turn, engaged in an orgy of atrocities and ethnic cleansing directed against Muslims.
In December, backed by a United Nations Security Council resolution and in a bid to restore order, France sent troops into its former colony to bolster peacekeepers from the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA). As with the Mali mission, the United States joined the effort, pledging up to $60 million in military aid, pouring money into a trust fund for MISCA and providing airlift services, as well as training African forces for deployment in the country.
Dubbed Echo Casemate, the operation—staged out of Burundi and Uganda—saw the US military airlift hundreds of Burundian troops, tons of equipment and more than a dozen military vehicles into that strife-torn land in just the first five days of the operation, according to an AFRICOM media release. In January, at France’s request, the United States began airlifting a Rwandan mechanized battalion and 1,000 tons of their gear in from that country’s capital, Kigali, via a staging area in Entebbe, Uganda (where the United States maintains a “cooperative security location” and from which US contractors had previously flown secret surveillance missions). The most recent airlift effort took place on February 6, according to Benson. While he said that no other flights are currently scheduled, he confirmed that Echo Casemate remains an ongoing operation.
Asked about US training efforts, Benson was guarded. “I don’t have that off the top of my head,” he told me. “We do training with a lot of different countries in Africa.” He offered little detail about the size and scope of the US effort, but a December 2013 briefing document obtained by TomDispatch mentions eighty-four US personnel, the majority of them based in Burundi, supporting Operation Echo Casemate. The New York Times recently reported that the United States “refrained from putting American boots on the ground” in the Central African Republic, but the document clearly indicates that a Lion Forward Team of Army personnel was indeed sent there.
Another US Army Africa document produced late last year noted that the US provided military support for the French mission in that country from facilities in Germany, Italy, Uganda, Burundi and the Central African Repubilc itself. It mentions plans to detail liaison officers to the MISCA mission and the Centre de planification et de conduite des opérations (the Joint Operations, Planning and Command and Control Center) in Paris.
As US personnel deploy to Europe as part of Washington’s African wars, additional European troops are heading for Africa. Last month, another of the continent’s former colonial powers, Germany, announced that some of its troops would be sent to Mali as part of a Franco-German brigade under the aegis of the European Union (EU) and would also aid in supporting an EU “peacekeeping mission” in the Central African Republic. Already, a host of other former imperial powers on the continent—including Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom—are part of a European Union training mission to school the Malian military. In January, France announced that it was reorganizing its roughly 3,000 troops in Africa’s Sahel region to reinforce a logistical base in Abidjan, the capital of Côte d’Ivoire, transform N’Djamena, Chad, into a hub for French fighter jets, concentrate special operations forces in Burkina Faso and run drone missions out of Niamey, Niger (already a US hub for such missions).
Operations by French and African forces, bolstered by the US military, beat back the Islamic militants in Mali and allowed presidential elections to be held. At the same time, the intervention caused a veritable terror diaspora that helped lead to attacks in Algeria, Niger and Libya, without resolving Mali’s underlying instability.
Writing in the most recent issue of the CTC Sentinel, the official publication of the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, analyst Bruce Whitehouse points out that the Malian government has yet to reassert its authority in the north of the country, reform its armed forces, tackle graft, or strengthen the rule of law: “Until major progress is made in each of these areas, little can be done to reduce the threat of terrorism…. the underlying causes of Mali’s 2012 instability—disaffection in the north, a fractured military, and systemic corruption—have yet to be fully addressed by the Malian government and its international partners.”
The situation may be even worse in the Central African Republic. “When France sent troops to halt violence between Christians and Muslims in Central African Republic,” John Irish and Daniel Flynn of Reuters recently reported, “commanders named the mission Sangaris after a local butterfly to reflect its short life. Three months later, it is clear they badly miscalculated.” Instead, violence has escalated, more than one million people have been displaced, tens of thousands have been killed, looting has occurred on a massive scale, and last month US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper informed Congress that “much of the country has devolved into lawlessness.”
It is also quickly becoming a regional arms-smuggling hot spot. With millions of weapons reportedly unaccounted for as a result of the pillaging of government armories, it’s feared that weaponry will find its way into other continental crisis zones, including Nigeria, Libya and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In addition, the coalition operation there has failed to prevent what, after a visit to the largely lawless capital city of Bangui last month, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres called “ethnic-religious cleansing.” Amnesty International found much the same. “Once vibrant Muslim communities in towns and cities throughout the country have been completely destroyed as all Muslim members have either been killed or driven away. Those few left behind live in fear that they will be attacked by anti-balaka groups in their towns or on the roads,” the human rights group reported. “While an African Union peacekeeping force, the African-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA), supported by French troops, has been deployed in the country since early December 2013, they have failed to adequately protect civilians and prevent the current ethnic cleansing from taking place.”
French Wine in New Bottles?
“We’re not involved with the fighting in Mali,” AFRICOM spokesman Benjamin Benson told me, emphasizing that the US military was not engaged in combat there. But Washington is increasingly involved in the growing wars for West and Central Africa. And just about every move it has made in the region thus far has helped spread conflict and chaos, while contributing to African destabilization. Worse yet, no end to this process appears to be in sight. Despite building up the manpower of its African proxies and being backed by the US military’s logistical might, France had not completed its mission in Mali and will be keeping troops there to conduct counter-terrorism operations for the foreseeable future.
Similarly, the French have also been forced to send reinforcements into the Central African Republic (and the U.N. has called for still more troops), while Chadian MISCA forces have been repeatedly accused of attacking civilians. In a sign that the US-backed French military mission to Africa could spread, the Nigerian government is now requesting French troops to help it halt increasingly deadly attacks by Boko Haram militants who have gained strength and weaponry in the wake of the unrest in Libya, Mali and the Central African Republic (and have reportedly also spread into Niger, Chad and Cameroon). On top of this, Clapper recently reported that Chad, Niger, Mali and Mauritania were endangered by their support of the French-led effort in Mali and at risk of increased terror attacks “as retribution.”
Still, this seems to have changed little for the director of national intelligence. “Leveraging and partnering with the French is a way to go,” he told Congress last month. “They have insight and understanding and, importantly, a willingness to use the forces they have there now.”
France has indeed exhibited a longstanding willingness to use military force in Africa, but what “insight and understanding” its officials gleaned from this experience is an open question. One hundred and sixteen years after it completed its conquest of what was then French Sudan, France’s forces are again fighting and dying on the same fields of battle, though today the country is called Mali. Again and again during the early twentieth century, France launched military expeditions, including during the 1928–31 Kongo-Wara rebellion, against indigenous peoples in French Equatorial Africa. Today, France’s soldiers are being killed on the same ground in what’s now known as the Central African Republic. And it looks as if they may be slogging on in these nations, in partnership with the US military, for years to come, with no evident ability to achieve lasting results.
A new type of expeditionary warfare is underway in Africa, but there’s little to suggest that America’s backing of a former colonial power will ultimately yield the long-term successes that years of support for local proxies could not. So far, the United States has been willing to let European and African forces do the fighting, but if these interventions drag on and the violence continues to leap from country to country as yet more militant groups morph and multiply, the risk only rises of Washington wading ever deeper into post-colonial wars with an eerily colonial look. “Leveraging and partnering with the French” is the current way to go, according to Washington. Just where it’s going is the real question.
Review of Luke Patey, The New Kings of Crude: China, India, and the Global Struggle for Oil in Sudan and South Sudan, London: Hurst and Company, 2014, pp.357 (with index), Pbk £25.00 – Keith Somerville
If you want to know about oil in Sudan and South Sudan and the fascinating role of China in its development, exploitation and conflicts, then go no further than Luke Patey’s book. It’s a work that combines many different aspects and also reads at time like the background for a thriller – especially at the start when talking about the cowboy-booted US oilmen from Chevron visiting the dusty south. But make no mistake, this is not a lightweight, slightly sensational swing through the Sudans for dummies. It is a very weighty work, meticulously researched and mixing knowledge and in-depth analysis of the oil industry in both Sudans, the context in the countries’ conflicts and sheds a fascinating light on the Chinese and Indian quest for oil concessions as part of their wider economic and energy ambitions.
If there is a criticism, it is that over-much time is spent on the travails of the early US oil exploration and exploitation operations in the south with a few extraneous clichés like “the burning coasts and deserts” and the “hardened men” of the US oil companies But you soon get over this as the intricate detail of the oil industry and its attempts to exploit Sudan’s resources take centre stage. The US and then Chinese and Indian attempts to gain control of Sudan’s oil are set against the background (perhaps a little sketchy when it comes to why Numayri was overthrown) of Sudan’s political landscape and the intricacies of insurgency, counter-insurgency and betrayal that has characterized the war in the south and the subsequent clashes between Sudan and the newly independent state of South Sudan and the latter’s own civil war; a civil war not just about oil but not divorced from control of resources either.
What is interesting is the way that oil lubricates the wheels of politics as well as providing the fuel for conflict and the divisive, manipulative and ultimately self-defeating strategies of Khartoum in trying to retain control of the south and in trying to foment divisions among enemies. The duplicity of successive regimes is brought out well in Patey’s narrative about the use of groups like Machar’s to undermine the SPLA, but then Khartoum’s attempts to undermine Machar, their ally, within his own group. The north’s use and abuse of the Misseriya people, is particularly interesting considering the community’s ambitions for control of Abeyi and surrounding areas – using them to challenge the South’s claims but ditching them when it is expedient. No wonder the Misseriya turned against the oil companies that they had once been paid to protect by attacking southern rebels.
The single-minded pursuit of a major stake in Sudan’s oil by the Chinese is also expertly charted and in great detail that it a treasure chest of references, names and dates for researchers. The party-state-oil company interconnections are set out clearly and the reasons for Chinese interest in the development and exploitation and the declining interest now as limited reserves and mounting conflict do not justify further major investment show the less than altruistic motives of the Chinese. For all their fine words of eternal friendship with the peoples of Africa, they are now no better (though not necessarily worse, either) than the capitalist companies they have replaced.
Overall, this book is a must for Sudan watchers, China watchers and those who watch the twists and turns of the global oil and energy industries.
Keith Somerville is a, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London, teaches at the School of Politics and International Studies, University of Kent, and is editor of Editor of Africa – News and Analysis (www.africajournalismtheworld.com).