January 15, 2017 (KHARTOUM) – Sudanese Council of Ministers on Sunday has decided to extend the unilateral cessation of hostilities in war zones for six months.
January 15, 2017 (KHARTOUM) – Sudanese Council of Ministers on Sunday has decided to extend the unilateral cessation of hostilities in war zones for six months.
Africa remains a key territory on the global map. Rich in oil and natural resources, the continent holds a strategic position.
It is the world’s fastest-growing region for foreign direct investment, and it has approximately 30 percent of the earth’s remaining mineral resources.
It’s home to more than 40 different nations, and around 2,000 languages. Sub-Saharan Africa has six of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies. North Africa counts with vast oil and natural gas deposits; the Sahara holds the most strategic nuclear ore; and resources such as coltan, gold, and copper, among many others, are abundant on the continent.
The region is full of promise and untapped riches – from oil and minerals and land to vast amounts of people capital – yet, it has struggled since colonial times to truly realise its potential.
Correction, 24/10/2016: An earlier version of this graphic used a basemap which did not accurately show disputed Western Sahara. The map has been corrected.
Source: Al Jazeera
‘War on terror’ or competition for natural resources? A look at the US and French military presence in Africa.
Africa remains a key territory on the global chessboard of the 21st century. Rich in oil and natural resources, the continent holds a strategic position.
Sub-Saharan Africa is home to six of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies. North Africa counts with vast oil and natural gas deposits, the Sahara holds the most strategic nuclear ore, and resources like coltan, gold, copper among many others are abundant in the continent.
|Whoever controls Mali, controls West Africa, if not the whole of Africa.|
But despite its position and resources, conflict and chaos have spread throughout the continent. At the heart of this turmoil is a strategic territory: the Sahel.
The region that straddles the Sahara to the north and the savannas in the south has become an important new front in the so-called war against terrorism.
But is the official narrative, the fight against terrorism, masking a larger battle? Have the resource wars of the 21st century already begun?
“What we are currently experiencing can be described as ‘a new scramble for Africa’,” says Jean Batou, Professor of History at Lausanne University.
At the centre of the troubled region of the Sahel is the nation of Mali, which is among the world’s poorest. Unemployment is rampant and most people survive hand to mouth.
Yet, back in the 13th century, the Mali empire extended over much of West Africa and was extraordinarily wealthy and powerful. Ivory and gold made it a major crossroad for global trade of the time. But inevitably, these resources lead to conquests.
“We are the transition between North Africa and Africa that reaches the ocean and the forests. This gives us an important strategic position: whoever controls Mali, controls West Africa – if not the whole of Africa… That’s why this region became so coveted,” says Doulaye Konate from the Association of African Historians.
The imperial European powers unveiled their plans to colonise Mali and the rest of Africa at the Berlin Conference in 1885. Britain, Belgium, Portugal, Spain, Germany, Italy and France, each got their share.
“The arrival of colonisation tore us apart. It felt like a cut, almost like a surgical operation,” Konate says.
The French colonial empire extended over much of western and northern Africa, but in the late 1950s the winds of freedom started blowing across Africa, and France was to lose all its colonies.
However, the euphoria of independence was short. France retained troops, bases and political influence over its former colonies: the policy of “France-Afrique” was born.
“France was Africa’s watchdog, defending the West in the region,” says Antoine Glazer, author of France-Afrique.
|Colonisation of Algeria: the French landing in Algeria in a coastal town of Sidi Ferruch in 1830. [Liebig series: L’origine de diverses colonies/The origin of various colonies, 1922, No 1). (Photo by Culture Club/Getty Images]|
In the 1960s, the discovery of huge oil reserves in the Gulf of Guinea attracted a new player: the United States.
The US made military as well as economic investments on the African continent and Africa became a battleground in the Cold War.
In 1992, the US launched a so-called humanitarian intervention in the strategic Horn of Africa. The US sent 28,000 soldiers to Somalia to help put an end to a civil war. The operation ended in disaster two years later after American soldiers were captured and killed, images of their mutilated bodies broadcast around the world. They decided to withdraw.
In 2001, the attack on the World Trade Center reconfigured the geo-politics of the world. The United States launched a war in Afghanistan – a war that would soon spread far beyond.
A few months after September 11, the US military returned to the Horn of Africa with plans to stay. They established their first military base in Djibouti.
“The Sahel played a key role in looking at the movement of weapons, the movement of potential foreign fighters, and organised crime…,” says Rudolph Atallah, the former Director of Africa Counter-Terrorism, US Department of Defense.
|American President George Bush visits US soldiers in Somalia [Larry Downing/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images]|
The United States is the only country to have divided the world into separate military sectors to monitor and patrol, NORTHCOM, PACOM, SOUTHCOM, EUCOM, CENTCOM and now AFRICOM.
Under the stated goals of fighting terrorism and providing humanitarian assistance, AFRICOM implanted itself on the continent, conducting military exercises with a growing number of African countries.
The establishment of AFRICOM was key for the consolidation of US interests in Africa.
The Americans sought to establish the headquarters of AFRICOM as well as a headquarter for the CIA in Mali. The problem was that the Africans had a common position of refusing the establishment of new military bases.
This opposition forced the US to set up the command of AFRICOM thousands of miles away, in Stuttgart, Germany.
|Nelson Mandela’s view was almost identical to Gaddafi’s that there would be no African forces commanded by foreign military officials, and there would be no foreign militaries occupying any part of Africa or operating within Africa.|
African resistance to AFRICOM was spearheaded by Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader.
President Ronald Reagan had labelled him the ‘mad dog of the Middle East’ and had tried to assassinate him in 1986 by bombing his palace.
The Libyan leader’s independence and influence flowed from the vast petroleum reserves, the largest in Africa, which he had nationalised when he took power.
Gaddafi wanted to demonstrate that Africa could develop without depending on the western banking system or the International Monetary Fund.
“From the beginning of his political career as a leader, Muammar Gaddafi was opposed to a foreign military presence in Africa. One of the first things he did after coming to power in 1969 was to expel the British and US military bases in Libya itself,” Maximilian Forte, the author of Nato’s war on Lybia and Africa, explains.
But in March 2011, as the Arab’s Spring spread through North Africa, France and the United States decided to act. This was AFRICOM’S first war and its commander in chief was the first African-American president.
The fall of Gaddafi produced a shockwave that would be felt far beyond Libya.
“Unfortunately there was not a very good handle on the 40,000 plus weapons that Gaddafi had, so quickly, over 35,000 disappeared,” Atallah says.
Some of the weapons fell into the hands of the Libyan rebels. Others, including anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, fell into the hands of Tuareg fighters who fought alongside Gaddafi.
The heavily armed Tuaregs formed a new fighting force, the MNLA, and launched an offensive against the government in Bamako in January 2012.
Tuareg and other rebel forces invaded the major cities of northern Mali. Despite years of training and millions spent, the West’s greatest fear became a reality: a so-called Islamic state was established in northern Mali.
“Nobody believed that a few hundred ‘Jihadist fighters” would take over [Bamako] a city of three million people where they had no significant presence,” says Batou.
But soon the French armed forces lent their support to the Malian units. The rebel advance was stopped and in just two weeks, the French regained the north. The French army claimed to have killed hundreds of so-called terrorists. The former colonial power had become the savior of the country.
|Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi, right, and South African President Nelson Mandela salute the crowd as they arrive at the congress centre in Zuwarah, Libya [AP Photo/Enric Marti]|
Despite the chaos, wars and revolutions, the interest of Europeans, Americans and the Chinese, remains high in what may be the largest untapped oil reserves on the continent, “the El Dorado of the Sahel”, which extends from Mauritania to Algeria across north Mali.
The interest of major US energy companies in Africa has not decreased. The needs of Asia and Europe will not stop growing. Nearly $2tn of investments in African oil and gas are expected in the next two decades.
“We all know oil resources are becoming increasingly rare. The last major reserves of oil in Africa will become increasingly important. Pre-positioning oneself with a view to exploiting these resources is vital,” says Batou.
In May 2014, US President Barack Obama announced that he would allocate an additional $5bn to the fight against global terrorism.
An increasing number of African governments have signed on to the AFRICOM programme, like in Niger, where the US military brought together African forces composed of 1,000 soldiers from 17 countries for military exercises.
The US have also established drone bases in Djibouti, Niger, Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, Burkina Faso and the Seychelles, and sent troops to Liberia during the Ebola crisis in 2014.
Not to be outdone, France also announced plans to increase its presence in the Sahel with a redeployment of 3,000 troops.
The increasing militarisation of Africa is a new profit centre, coveted by the military-industrial complex with millions of dollars of contracts for arms manufacturers and private contractors.
More than 130 years after the Berlin Conference, a new division of the African continent is underway as new powers seek to ensure oil supplies, strategic minerals, arable land and even the water under the desert sands.
“In reality, the big issues are not being addressed. It is as though the West lives off wars, as though wars need to be created, for them to justify their power,” says Imam Mahmoud Dicko, president of the Islamic High Council of Mali.
Source: Al Jazeera
Stars and Stripes
An MQ-9 Reaper performs a low pass during a first-ever air show demonstration at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., on May 28, 2016. U.S. Africa Command is expected to soon conduct surveillance operations at a new outpost in Niger, which is the only country in western Africa that has agreed to host MQ-9 Reapers.
By JOHN VANDIVER (http://www.stripes.com/reporters/2.1272?author=John_Vandiver) |
Published: September 30, 2016 STUTTGART, Germany —
A new base under construction in Niger could be capable of hosting armed U.S. drones, a sign that a counterterrorism mission in western Africa, focused until now on surveillance, has the potential to turn lethal, according to a news report.
The military is building a new site to host U.S. unmanned aircraft in Agadez, Niger, a strategic outpost that also puts Libya in the sights of longrange MQ9 Reaper drones, according to The Intercept, an investigative news site.
The government of Niger, the only western Africa country to allow MQ9 Reapers, will allow for armed drone flights, The Intercept reported, citing a previously classified U.S. document. “Moving operations to Agadez aligns persistent ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) to current and emerging threats over Niger & Chad, supports French regionalization and extends range to cover south Libya and Nigeria,” says a Pentagon document obtained by the Intercept.
For several years, the U.S. has been conducting remotely piloted surveillance out of Niger, a launching pad for reconnaissance on Islamic militant groups operating in Nigeria, Mali and elsewhere. Those operations have been based in Niamey, Niger’s capital, but will shift to Agadez. So far, there have been no reports of offensive airstrikes by the U.S. in the region.
U.S. Africa Command declined to say whether it intended to conduct armed drone flights in the future out of Agadez, where the U.S. base is expected to open next year. “The types of aircraft operating from Agadez will depend on available assets, the regional requirements of our host nations, and the requirements to meet mutual security goals,”
Samantha Reho, an AFRICOM spokeswoman, said in an email. “The arming of any aircraft, including remotely piloted aircraft, is done with the approval of and upon coordination with the Government of Niger.” AFRICOM, citing operational security concerns, said it would not discuss specifics about military efforts or “speculate on potential future activities or operations.”
“The location in Agadez will improve U.S. Africa Command’s capability to facilitate intelligence sharing that better support Niger and other partner nations, such as Nigeria, Chad, Mali and neighbors in the region and will improve our capability to respond to regional security issues,” Reho said. Instability in western Africa has been a growing concern for the United States.
In Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, the militant group Boko Haram has been blamed for the killing of more than 10,000 people in 2015 and ranks as possibly the world’s most deadly terrorist group. While Boko Haram has not demonstrated a capacity to target the West, it has launched attacks on neighboring Niger and Cameroon, where the U.S. also conducts surveillance flights using deployed personnel.
“Security threats in the region underscore the need to conduct continuous intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in West Africa and to share information with partners conducting operations in the region,” Reho said. “Due to the vast geography of Africa, Agadez is an ideal, central location to enable ISR collection to face the security threat across the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin region.”
In Africa, the U.S. military has become more overtly focused on counterterrorism operations in recent years. After years of operating in secret in Somalia, the U.S. now acknowledges that it has a small number of special operations forces in the country to assist local troops in their fight against the militant group AlShabab. In addition, U.S. airstrikes in support of Somali and U.S. troops on the ground have become more frequent. Meanwhile, AFRICOM is routinely launching airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Libya, where for two months warplanes have been targeting militants in the coastal town of Sirte.
US invests $50m in Niger drone base for counterterrorism
The US is investing at least $50m in a military air base in Niger that will be capable of deploying drones.
The US already has a presence in the capital Niamey, where it shares an airbase with France’s anti-Islamist force, Operation Barkhane.
MQ-9 Reaper drones are stationed there.
But the new facility, in the central city of Agadez, will give Washington greater ability to use drones against Islamist extremists in neighbouring countries like Libya, Mali and Nigeria.
A spokeswoman for the Pentagon, Michelle Baldanza, confirmed the US had agreed to pay for a new runway and “associated pavements, facilities and infrastructure”.
She estimated the cost at $50m but The Intercept, which first reported the story, said it is projected to cost twice that.
The investigative news site reports that it has obtained files that show the project is considered “the most important US military construction effort in Africa” and will be completed in 2017.
Drones, also known as UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) or RPAs (Remotely Piloted Aircraft) are used by the military for surveillance and to drop bombs, in places where it is too risky or difficult to send a pilot.
Sudan’s government has carried out at least 30 likely chemical weapons attacks in the Jebel Marra area of Darfur since January using what two experts concluded was a probable blister agent, Amnesty International said on Thursday.
The rights group estimated that up to 250 people may have died as a result of exposure to the chemical weapons agents.
The most recent attack occurred on Sept. 9 and Amnesty said its investigation was based on satellite imagery, more than 200 interviews and expert analysis of images showing injuries.
“The use of chemical weapons is a war crime. The evidence we have gathered is credible and portrays a regime that is intent on directing attacks against the civilian population in Darfur without any fear of international retribution,” said Tirana Hassan, Amnesty International’s director of Crisis Research.
Sudanese U.N. Ambassador Omer Dahab Fadl Mohamed said in a statement that the Amnesty report was “utterly unfounded” and that Sudan does not possess any type of chemical weapons.
“The allegations of use of chemical weapons by Sudanese Armed Forces is baseless and fabricated. The ultimate objective of such wild accusation, is to steer confusion in the on-going processes aimed at deepening peace and stability and enhancing economic development and social cohesion in Sudan,” he said.
Amnesty said it had presented its findings to two independent chemical weapons experts.
“Both concluded that the evidence strongly suggested exposure to vesicants, or blister agents, such as the chemical warfare agents sulphur mustard, lewisite or nitrogen mustard,” Amnesty said in a statement.
Sudan joined the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1999 under which members agree to never use toxic arms.
A joint African Union-United Nations force, known as UNAMID, has been stationed in Darfur since 2007. Security remains fragile in Darfur, where mainly non-Arab tribes have been fighting the Arab-led government in Khartoum, and the government is struggling to control rural areas.
Some 300,000 people have been killed in Darfur since the conflict began in 2003, the U.N. says, while 4.4 million people need aid and over 2.5 million have been displaced.
The International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir in 2009 and 2010 on charges of war crimes and genocide in his drive to crush the Darfur revolt.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Tom Brown)
Sudan said on Sunday it would close its border with South Sudan within days if its neighbour did not expel militant groups, the government told state media.
Sudan regularly accuses its neighbour of backing insurgents in the Darfur, Blue Nile and South Kordofan regions that run along its southern border.
South Sudan split away from Sudan in 2011 after decades of civil war fuelled by ethnic divides and disputes over oil.
Sudan may close border if Juba does not expel rebels