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FIRST AFRICAN PASSPORTS GO TO PRESIDENTS OF RWANDA AND CHAD
July 18, 2016 | 0 Comments

The African Union wants to roll out the continental passport to millions of Africans.

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Is AFRICOM all that bad?
July 1, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Laura Seay*

Chadian troops participate in the closing ceremony of Operation Flintlock in an army base in N’djamena, Chad, on Monday March 9, 2015. The U.S. military and its Western partners conduct this training annually. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

Chadian troops participate in the closing ceremony of Operation Flintlock in an army base in N’djamena, Chad, on Monday March 9, 2015. The U.S. military and its Western partners conduct this training annually. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

Founded in 2007 under the George W. Bush administration, the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) has a public relations problem. Before 2007, the U.S. military had interests and involvement in Africa, but these occurred under three separate regional commands which each had responsibility for different parts of the continent. AFRICOM ended that rather arbitrary distinction, bringing all of Africa’s 54 independent states under the same umbrella. But the largely bureaucratic move, which was meant to better centralize and coordinate American security activities on the continent, produced at best suspicious reactions, and, at worst, elaborate conspiracy theories bearing no relationship to fact that, nonetheless, can have a profound impact on the way African militaries and individuals perceive and interact with American military personnel and policy makers.

It’s not hard to see why. The history of United States policy in Africa is largely its Cold War history, and for Africans in particular, memories of those engagements are not often happy ones. Whether propping up dictators in the name of containment or turning a blind eye to human rights abuses by anti-communist forces, the United States earned a reputation for meddling and causing problems for Africa and its people throughout the Cold War. For many observers, it is hard to see how AFRICOM could be anything other than simply the latest iteration of neo-imperialist engagement by yet another bunch of shady, secretive white men sporting khakis, polo shirts, and crew cuts.

The world has changed, though, and the environment in which AFRICOM and other U.S. security engagement occurs in Africa is vastly different from the one America’s Cold Warriors imagined. The global War on Terror has driven American involvement in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, while advocates successfully lobbied for and got the placement of 100 American special operations forces in the Central African Republic, where they advise Ugandan troops searching for Lord’s Resistance Army warlord Joseph Kony. The American military also engaged in perhaps its most purely humanitarian effort in Liberia in 2014 in an effort to halt the Ebola epidemic. This approach to Africa is far more diverse and complex than that the United States faced in the Cold War.

It’s into this environment that the 12 academic and practitioner authors featured in an engaging new volume, “The US Military in Africa: Enhancing Security and Development?,” step. Edited by Jessica Piombo, a civilian, associate professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, the volume aptly shows that simplistic, conspiracy-minded ideas about what AFRICOM is “really” up to ignore the very real purposes of U.S. engagement in Africa as well as the complicated nature of that engagement. “The US Military in Africa” shows that the relationship between U.S. security assistance to the continent and other American foreign policy goals are sometimes poorly coordinated and do not always fit traditional conceptions of the ways that security and development assistance ought to interact.

As Piombo notes, the volume operates under the assumption that “security, governance, and development are inextricably linked,” in U.S. Africa policy. Poorly governed — and thus poorly developed — states are ripe for insecurity. “Given this,” she writes, “the US military has attempted to create new programs that involve a range of government and nongovernment actors in new security programs that focus on more than just training and equipping African militaries.” This approach constitutes a new approach to security in Africa, one that requires a higher level of integration between civil servants, military personnel on the ground, and interagency communication.

As the authors detail in a wide variety of case studies, this isn’t easy. Bureaucrats in the State Department and at USAID may not want to work with military actors given the need to ensure that aid workers and diplomats are not equated with military actors in the eyes of local civilians. Moreover, as Andrea Talentino argues, AFRICOM’s tendency to focus on formulaic benchmarks as signs of “successful democratization” or other forms of development rather than the slow process of building the institutions of democracy that takes time and considerably more effort is problematic. Clarence Bouchet’s chapter shows that American military engagement as it currently exists in Africa is too shallow and piecemeal to actually achieve American security goals in the region.

Why? G. William Anderson points out that U.S. Africa policy still focuses more on response to crisis than preventing those crises in the first place. Teresa Crawford and Trina Zwicker show that military coordination with nongovernmental organizations and other civil society organizations in crisis situations is a complicated matter, even when the intentions of all involved are to help serve humanitarian needs. Fundamentally, military and humanitarian actors have different modes of operation, ideas about hierarchies, and bases of knowledge. Even if they share the same goal, working together can be nearly impossible as a result of these differing norms.

In short, it’s complicated. Determining what should and should not be U.S. policy aims in Africa and what the relationship between security and development actors should look like (if it should exist at all) is no easy task. The authors do not gloss over these challenges, nor do they offer an unquestioning defense of American Africa policy. Those looking to explore these questions — and to debunk myths about AFRICOM’s capabilities and aims in Africa — would do well to read “The US Military in Africa” and to keep its critical reflections in mind.

*Washington Post

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The opposite of Brexit: African Union launches an all-Africa passport
July 1, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Anne Frugé*

AFRICAN_LEADERS_MUST_BE_BORN_AGAIN_0.26188900_1434106807__thumbOn June 13, two weeks before the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, the African Union announced a new “single African passport.” The lead-up discussion was much like the original debate on the European Economic Community, the E.U.’s predecessor. African passport proponents say it will boost the continent’s socioeconomic development because it will reduce trade barriers and allow people, ideas, goods, services and capital to flow more freely across borders.

But now the A.U. faces the challenge of making sure the “e-Passport” lives up to its potential – and doesn’t fulfill detractors’ fears of heightened terrorism, smuggling and illegal immigration.

The African e-Passport is part of a long-term plan for the continent

The e-Passport is an electronic document that permits any A.U. passport holder to enter any of the 54 A.U. member states, without requiring a visa. It will be unveiled this month during the next A.U. Summit in Kigali, Rwanda. Initially, the e-Passport will only be available to A.U. heads of state, foreign ministers and permanent representatives based in the A.U.’s headquarters in Addis Ababa, . The plan is to roll it out to all A.U. citizens by 2018.

The electronic passport initiative grows out of the A.U.’s Agenda 2063, a plan to mobilize Africa’s vast resources to strengthen the region’s self-reliance, global economic power and solidarity.

Why is the single African passport important?

The e-Passport is a step toward eliminating borders on the continent, aiming to enable deeper integration, increased trade and further development. Just as important, the passport is a powerful symbol of unity across Africa – and simultaneously a step toward connecting African countries economically and politically.

An A.U. passport represents the latest effort to create a common market spanning the continent, much like that in the E.U. Such efforts date back to 1963 with the creation of the Organization of African Unity. Pan-Africanistscelebrating the demise of the colonial state and hailing a United States of Africadesigned the O.A.U. to unite Africans and dissolve the borders between them.

Essentially, the O.A.U. sought to raise living standards by supporting leaders of anti-colonial struggles in their roles as heads of new states. In its quest to make the transition to independence as smooth as possible, the organization at times defended national sovereignty to a fault. For example, the decision to respect arbitrary colonial borders had far-reaching consequences, including numerous identity-based conflicts.

Over time, other entities arose to coordinate economic activity across national lines: the East African Community (1967), the Economic Community of West African States (1975), the Lagos Plan of Action for the Economic Development of Africa (1980) and the Southern African Development Community (1992), just to name a few.

In 2002, the A.U. replaced the O.A.U.

Moving away from the O.A.U.’s state-centric approach, the A.U. attempts to balance “the principle of sovereignty with the need to accelerate political rights and socio-economic growth and cooperation,” according to Matebe Chisiza, visiting scholar at the South African Institute of International Affairs. For example, the A.U. suspended 12 member states after “unconstitutional changes in government,” including Libya, Central African Republic, Egypt and Burkina Faso.

None of Africa’s regional organizations have yet been able to create a common market. This vivid dream has endured despite the enormous political and logistical challenges it would entail. Deeper economic integration is seen by many, including the World Bank, as the road to prosperity and stability. In fact, the A.U. is guided by this premise.

What might be the downsides of the e-Passport?

Opponents of the passport are concerned about a range of security risks. Detractors argue that visa-free travel would make it easier for terrorists to move within and between countries. Human traffickers and drug smugglers could take advantage of the new system. Disease and other public health crises could spread more rapidly in a borderless Africa. As has happened in Europe, an e-Passport may intensify competition for jobs and public services, leading to more xenophobic political rhetoric and attacks. Migration is already a contentious issue, as shown by deadly anti-immigrant riots in South Africa and Zambia and heated debates over refugees in Kenya.

Many elites favor the unrestricted movement of persons, goods and services. But if the effort is mishandled, such free travel may simply reproduce social inequalities — helping the well-off become richer and leaving behind the poor. We can see that already in the fact that only certain individuals will have the passport at first, which creates a hierarchy of citizens, only some of whom can travel freely.

Moreover, Bronwen Manby’s report for the Open Society Foundations describes how passports can become tools for repressive regimes to silence their critics. In 2007 alone Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Sudan and Zimbabwe denied or confiscated passports for a variety of opponents, including “from individual trade unionists, human rights activists, opposition politicians, or minority religious groups.” Fortunately, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria and Zambia have taken steps to put into law the principle that every individual has a right to a passport — even if the principle is upheld irregularly in practice.

The African Union can learn from the E.U.’s example

The E.U. offers a model that the A.U. can use to study both the progress and pitfalls of regional integration: managing a common currency, balancing economies of vastly different sizes and structures, and building solidarity within and across culturally diverse nations.

Brexit is a reminder of the challenges inherent in a shared political and economic space. The debates over debt, immigration and national identity that led to Brexit would only be magnified in Africa under the weight of industrializing economies, significant barriers to access in education and health care and ongoing conflicts over resources and identity.

An African passport is an exciting development that can spur growth and improve living standards. To capitalize on this potential, the A.U. needs to plan two steps ahead. Crafting thoughtful regulations will be essential to ensuring the e-Passport’s economic promise is genuinely available to everyone and not subject to abuse.

For example, integration needs to benefit the strong and the weak, the rich and the poor, with both productivity and industrial capacity increasing in tandem. When some countries deindustrialize at the same time that others expand their markets, the stragglers strain the common pool and fall into crisis.

Further, governments need to fight against a race to the bottom in which commerce follows the path of least restrictions. This point is especially important considering that demos-centered Pan-Africanism underpins the A.U.’s mission.

And implementation plans must address practical obstacles that prevent many Africans from obtaining basic identity documentation, such as weak civil registration systems, slow and costly bureaucratic procedures, and corruption. According to the World Bank, 37 percent of people in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have legal identification, a prerequisite for obtaining a passport.

In short, the path forward is to ensure fairness in integration. When the system rewards the few on the backs of the many, solidarity wanes and the unification project suffers.

*Washington Post.Anne Frugé is a PhD candidate in the department of government and politics at the University of Maryland.

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Study: Militant Islamist attacks in Africa growing
June 28, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Kristina Wong*

bokoharamposter11272015gettyThe number of militant Islamist attacks in Africa has more than quadrupled in just the past six years, according to new research published Monday.

Militant Islamist attacks grew from just 171 across Africa in 2009, to 738 attacks in 2015, according to new analysis by IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre.

Deaths from the attacks have grown from 541 in 2009 to 4,600 fatalities — an increase of more than 750 percent.

Experts say there are three new trends causing this rise: Collaboration between Boko Haram and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS); competition between al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and ISIS for territory and recruits; and the continuing resilience of al Qaeda’s Somalia branch, al-Shabab.

Since Boko Haram pledged allegiance to ISIS in March 2015, there has been an increase in the number and lethality of suicide bombings in Nigeria and neighboring countries, said Matthew Henman, head of the Terrorism and Insurgency Centre.

“The punitive nature of such violence and the calculatedly shocking use of young females as suicide bombers echoed key tactical and operational practices of the Islamic State,” he said.

He also said the Nigerian terrorist group’s propaganda immediately grew more sophisticated to match ISIS’s.

Henman also said there are multiple indications that ISIS has created links between its affiliates in Libya and West Africa and has sought to exploit longstanding smuggling routes through the Sahel between North and West Africa.

At the same time, Henman said a “revitalized” AQIM is seeking to outdo ISIS in West Africa, which could see violence spread to Senegal and Ghana.

“The increased competition between the Islamic State and AQIM raises terrorism risks in West Africa and indicates that attack numbers are unfortunately likely to rise in the six month outlook,” Henman said.

“There is also a growing risk of further attacks in countries that have not previously been the target of militant Islamist violence, particularly Senegal and Ghana,” he added.

Meanwhile, al-Shabab has expanded its capabilities over 2015 and 2016 and has increasingly begun attacking and overrunning African Union Mission in Somalia peacekeeper bases and inflicting substantial casualties, the research said.

In May, U.S. forces called in an air strike after Ugandan soldiers they were advising as part of the African Union mission got into a firefight with about 15 to 20 al-Shabab fighters. The airstrike killed five al-Shabab fighters, according to the Pentagon.

The United States has about 50 military personnel inside Somalia and has repeatedly targeted the group and its leaders in recent months.

*The Hill

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African Agriculture Can Help Tackle Refugee Crisis
June 27, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Ray Jordan*

2016-06-21-1466539044-1639912-9402394820-thumbFigures released on World Refugee Day this week showed there are currently an estimated 65 million displaced people in the world – more than at any time in history.

As the head of an international agricultural development organisation working in Africa, I am often asked why we don’t work to address the current migrant crisis from Africa that has overwhelmed Europe.

The question directed to me is usually a sincere one, not borne of xenophobia or racism, but rather from a deep frustration that in our advanced and sophisticated 21st century society we should not be witnessing such scenes, night after night on our television screens.

My answer to such questions is a short one. We are.

For it is only by improving the economic circumstances of rural poor people in Africa that we will ultimately provide them with an acceptable alternative to the hugely risky, life-threatening and demeaning choices currently being taken by millions, as they uproot from their communities and take their lives into their own hands in search of ‘a better life’ somewhere else.

Noone who has ever visited a refugee camp, which I have done many times during a 30-years career that included many years in humanitarian relief, would ever describe these places as anything other than a stopgap. As the name itself suggests it is a place of refuge from something terrible that is occurring elsewhere. It is not the ‘better life’ that millions are taking huge risks to seek out.

EU plan, announced this month, sets out a framework that the Union believe can tackle some of the root causes of migration from Africa.

While the ‘carrot and stick’ approach in these proposals – which include a combination of aid and trade incentives – has been criticized by some African countries, and by aid organisations, it should be viewed as a step towards addressing the underlying cause of much of the current crisis, poverty.

Only by boosting growth in economies, creating jobs, and ensuring that countries can provide a future for their populations will the current flood of migration be resolved.

Building walls, Brexit opt-out campaigns or any number of breaches by Euro states of the Schengen freedom of movement charter are reactions, rather than solutions, to a problem that has been with us for generations. 2016-06-21-1466539089-2782849-308662801.png

For too long we have failed to properly solve the problem of extreme poverty that continues to cast an enormous shadow across developing countries of the world. That there are almost 800 million people worldwide living in extreme poverty – that’s one in nine of our global population – is proof enough that we are continuing to fail the poorest, and the most vulnerable.

In the current clamour over immigration to Europe it is often overlooked that such mass movement of people is placing a huge burden on the fabric of society across Africa, as well.

Figures released in 2015 showed that the top six destinations for African refugees and migrants were within the continent of Africa itself. The figures were: Ethiopia (659,524), Kenya (551,352), Chad (452,897), Uganda (385,513), Cameroon (264,126) and South Sudan (248,152), who collectively were accommodating 2,561,564 people of foreign origin in camps within their countries.

Interviews that have been given by refugees themselves – whether in Kenya or in Calais – tell us that if given the choice, the vast majority of those who make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe would not do so, if their futures at home were not so bleak. 2016-06-21-1466539145-4152959-3404324560.png

People aren’t only moving across international borders in search of a better life either. There is also an accelerating pattern of rural to urban migration taking place in sub-Saharan Africa that is placing a huge burden on national services.

Africa will become the most rapidly urbanized region on the planet in the coming 25 years, as the number of people living in its cities is projected to soar to 56% of the population, according to UN estimates. That means that many more shantytowns like Kiberi, an urban slum of one million people outside Nairobi, Kenya, will spring up across Africa in the years to come.

At Self Help Africa our focus is on supporting rural poor communities to support their populations through an innovative mix of agricultural and enterprise development activities.

By supporting rural poor households to grow more, and access profitable markets for their produce, Africa’s small-scale farming families can realise the better future that they desire for themselves and their communities.

There is no quick fix to the problems of extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, just as there is no quick fix to the current migrant crisis in Europe. But there are many steps that can be taken to move us in the right direction.

Self Help Africa believes that by contributing to the creation of an economically vibrant African agricultural sector, we can play our part in tackling this challenge.

And in the same way, the announcement by the European Union of a combination of new aid and trade deals with Africa to support economic growth, has to be regarded as a positive approach to a crisis that has been going on for too long.

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Who should pay for African peacekeeping?
June 26, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Obi Anyadike*

Ugandan AMISOM soldiers of Battle Group 8 leave Kampala for Mogadishu, 2011 - Obi Anyadike/IRIN

Ugandan AMISOM soldiers of Battle Group 8 leave Kampala for Mogadishu, 2011 – Obi Anyadike/IRIN

The problem for African peacekeeping is not so much where to find the boots to put on the ground, but how to pay for them – not to mention the helicopters, intelligence-gathering and technology crucial to conducting modern military operations and dealing with the new security threats on the horizon.

Since 2002, none of the five African Union peace operations have been financed through the AU’s Peace Fund, except for an allocation of $50 million for the African-led International Support Mission to Mali in 2013. The slogan of ‘African solutions for African problems’ falls a little flat when financing mainly comes from the European Union, individual European donors, and the United States.

But an AU summit at the end of July in the Rwandan capital Kigali hopes to change all that. African leaders are going to try to agree on a roadmap of alternative financing for AU-led peace support operations.

The meeting will explore innovative approaches – taxes on hotels, flights, text messaging, even a percentage of import duties – to self-generate 25 percent of peacekeeping costs by 2020: a significant step forward. The AU hopes that level of commitment would persuade the UN to cover the remaining 75 percent.

What happens now?

The AU wants to make funding sustainable and predictable. At the moment it’s neither. More than 90 percent of the AU’s peace and security budget is financed through the EU’s African Peace Facility. Since the APF was established in 2004, the EU has committed more than €1.1 billion.

Somali troops with Ugandan AMISOM forces
Obi Anyadike/IRIN
Somali troops with Ugandan AMISOM forces

But what is given can also be withheld. At the beginning of the year, the EU cut its allocation to the allowances of the 22,000-strong African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) by 20 percent. The reasoning: there were other “competing priorities in Africa and the world in general”, including the need to shift resources into training the Somali National Army.

AMISOM, which has battled the al-Shabab insurgency for nine years, currently absorbs more than 85 percent of APF spending. The UN also provides a non-lethal logistics “life support” package that includes fuel, food, and health services. Nevertheless, AMISOM remains an under-manned, under-equipped and bare-bones operation.

Troop-contributing countries reacted with anger to the EU’s suggestion that they should make up the shortfall on allowances. Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta argued that African troops were paying in blood for what is an international peace and security remit. Both Kenya and Uganda have threatened to withdraw their soldiers.

Who pays the piper

The EU’s policy shift exemplifies the problem of the ad hoc nature of the funding. “The challenge is that the financing for these types of missions is not fit for purpose,” said a senior AU official who asked not to be named. “It’s a hodge-podge. We can’t go on like this, passing around the hat.”

The AU has on paper a comprehensive security architecture, but little of its own money to pay for it. The organisation lost its main benefactor with the fall of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and its other major contributors – Nigeria, South Africa, Algeria, and Egypt – are all going through tough times. Dependency on external financing not only determines which conflicts the AU can intervene in, but also dictates when the missions must end.

Ugandan soldier AMISOM
Obi Anyadike/IRIN
Ugandan soldier AMISOM

At the beginning of the year, the AU appointed Donald Kabureka, former president of the African Development Bank, as its high representative for the Peace Fund. His role is to find the resources that will enable African contributions to hit 25 percent of the fund’s budget, and to lobby international partners towards securing UN assessed contributions for the remainder.

It hasn’t been plain sailing. Some members, including Kenya and Egypt, have frettedover the impact a proposed $2 hotel tax or $10 levy on air tickets would have on their tourism industries. Zambia argued that the surrendering of national taxes was a violation of citizens’ rights.

“There are also concerns over the accountability of the Peace Fund, which will be the repository of the funding,” said the senior AU official. “Little has been done on transparency and fiduciary rules.”

Tricky two-step

According to Paul Williams of the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, Kabureka is embarking on a tricky two-step process.

First he needs buy-in from the member states at the Kigali summit. “Once the AU settles on what its Peace Fund will do and how it can be filled with appropriate funds, then the UN and AU must agree on how the UN should help support African peace operations,” Williams told IRIN.

The UN recognises that AMISOM represents something of a model for future peace operations. The UN envisages more regional interventions authorised by the Security Council, and regards the AU in particular as a key partner. The AU has shown itself willing to deploy in situations where there is “no peace to keep”, and which in the case of Somalia involved the bloody slog of house-to-house combat in Mogadishu. Hardly the traditional role for UN blue helmets.

Apart from the AU’s willingness to take on enforcement operations, it also has the advantage of speed. In response to the violence in Central African Republic and Mali, the UN authorised the rapid deployment of AU peace support missions, interventions that were later re-hatted as UN operations. Ten of the UN’s 17 current peace missions are in Africa.

Burden-sharing

The AU sees the way forward as a formalised partnership with the UN under the mandate of Chapter VIII of the UN charter, which authorises collaboration with regional organisations.

Ugandan AMISOM APCs Mogadishu
Obi Anyadike/IRIN
AMISOM staging area, Mogadishu

“Such a partnership should be based on the principles of burden-sharing, comparative advantage and division of labour, to better address the complexities of today’s conflicts,” an AU discussion note said.

Last year, a High-Level Independent Panel on United Nations Peace Operations, established by the UN secretary-general to review peace operations, recommended that the UN should support AU-led missions on a case-by-case basis. That qualification falls short of “African expectations of more open-ended commitments in terms of institutional cooperation and financing”, noted a report by the European Centre for Development Policy management.

In the past year, there has been a series of reviews, framework documents, and common position papers exploring the steps to greater convergence. But there are still institutional and political challenges that could make working together difficult for both organisations – the ECDP paper noted financial and budgetary control mechanisms and compliance with UN peacekeeping principles.

The AU has repeatedly reaffirmed its commitment to combatting sexual violence and protecting human rights in its deployments – key concerns of some UN member states. The (underfunded) pillars of its security architecture also uphold the importance of pursuing conflict prevention and early warning – the mediation and political avenues – before getting to boots on the ground.

It’s not clear where the Western, permanent UN Security Council members – the US, France, and the UK – sit in terms of using UN-assessed contributions to finance AU peace operations. “I would say it’s too soon to attribute definitive positions to any of the key players at this moment in time,” said Williams.

But in a presentation earlier this year on regional approaches to security, he argued: “If Africa cannot find sustainable, predictable, flexible funding, then it raises questions of credibility, local ownership and sustainability.”

Without it, he added: “African states and organisations will never fully be in control; never own the agenda”.

*IRIN NEWS

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THE SOUL OF THE BLACK RACE: TERRORIST FIGHT THYSELF?
June 26, 2016 | 0 Comments

Chief Charles A. Taku*

Chief Charles Taku

Chief Charles Taku

Permit me to repost an article I published in the very reputable Pan African Vision sometime late last year. The decision to republish it is informed by the urgency of the message I wish to bring to the attention of the public.

In the reposted article below, I stated that a careful observation of some of the characteristics of Boko Haram pointed to the fact that although undoubtedly a terrorist organization, it seemed also to be a political tool at the service of political interests working independently or in aggregate in or out of Africa.

The politicization of terrorism is not new. It is not an African creation. It is a significant driving force behind the struggle for power and control at national and international levels. For this reason, it should surprise no one that some of those who set out to lead the war against terrorism made the conditions that led to terrorism possible.  Also, once engaged in the war against terrorism, they gain politically from their participation in the war. At times it is by political calculation as opposed to pure military and security objectives that these individuals and forces define the enemy; evaluate and allocate the resources required to sustain the war effort, and the ways and means of wining the hearts and minds of the civilian victims of the war against terrorism.

One of the difficulties in conducting the war against terrorism is the paucity of an acceptable definition of terrorism. Terrorism so far eludes a universally acceptable legal definition leading instead to the criminalization of acts of terror. This however has not precluded some countries and organizations from defining terrorism in manners that suit their national, geo-political and hegemonistic interests to justify a declaration of war or participation in it once it is declared.

The world today is confronted with terrorism and terrorist organizations as actors which were not in contemplation in 1946 at the creation of the United Nations. The UN Charter in its article 51 did not contemplate the fact that non state actors will play an important role in international relations. The UN Security Council and state parties, led by the super powers and power blocs under their control have been innovative in pushing the frontiers of international legality to the extent of establishing new legal concepts to justify their military interventions in several armed conflicts worldwide. The use of these new legal concepts as justification for military interventions has impacted the international law environment where diplomacy and the instrument of international rule of law were hitherto the acceptable means of fighting impunity. These traditional means of fighting impunity promoted and encouraged the enthronement universal peace for all nations, big and small.  The implementation of these new concepts have created new conflicts and conferred legitimacy on some criminal non-state actors; in the result, contradicting the very rationale for which these policies were conceived.

Through its Responsibility to Protect Mandate for example, the Security Council in contemporary times validated the NATO intervention in the Balkan conflict. This led to the indiscriminate massive bombardment of the territory and civilian population of the former Yugoslavia. These would have been categorized as war crimes and investigated as such had the key to international justice not been in the hands of the super powers members of the Security Council and NATO.

NATO’s unjustified bombardment and near destruction of Libya led to Libya becoming a terrorist haven and the Launchpad for intercontinental terror. Similarly the US intervention in Iraq on the fallacious ground that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and was non-compliant with a UN Security Council Resolution emboldened the forces of terror worldwide.  In particular it emboldened US and its coalition of the willing supposed allied jihadists who unsuccessfully fought for years using terror to overthrow Saddam Hussein.  The legitimacy accorded these non-state actors jihadist forces and terrorist organizations contributed to the spread and use of terror as an instrument of political expression and acquisition of power.

Eluding a clear definition and a UN Charter authority, some of the measures undertaken to counter the emerging challenges posed by these non-state actors have in context been interpreted as acts of terror making the prosecution of terrorism as an international crimes hard. Just as terrorism threatens our common humanity, the uncontrolled bombardment of civilian populations and civilian targets violate the Laws and Customs of War and the Geneva Conventions (1949) and constitutes a significant to our common humanity as well.  Whereas the civilian population of the world is protected against the perpetration of war crimes, crimes against humanity and other international crimes and the Geneva Conventions (1949) offers a general legal framework for the prosecution of these crimes when they occur, the crime of terrorism still lacks an adequate legal frame work to prosecute. This is slur on the conscience of humanity .

Unfortunately the so-called free world which prides itself as the custodians of civilized human values have contributed to the rise in profile of international criminal gangs and international criminality. The French and UN bombardment of Cote D’Ivoire caused massive civilian casualties and facilitated regime change.   In the Libyan situation, NATO intervention and the UN Security Council support for the said intervention accorded a de facto recognition to criminal gangs and terrorist organizations that were classified as allies and provided the training and weapons to fight to overthrow and assassinate Mouamar El Kaddafi. ISIS and other criminal gangs today control Libya, a sovereign African nation thanks to NATO intervention and the UN Security Council support.

Libya today is a symbol of death for the Libyan people. It is a symbol of death for the rest of humanity judging from the hundreds of thousands of Africans immigrants led loose to die in the Mediterranean sea by criminal gangs now occupying and ruling Libya. Facilitating the death of these African immigrants provides these gangs with the resources with which to sustain its hold on the territory of Libya and to further the perpetration of their criminal activities.

The effect and impact of these unprecedented acts of international lawlessness on the African continent and the humanitarian immigration tragedy in the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean as well the rising profile of terrorist groups in the African Sahel is heart wrenching. The massive amount of weaponry that the French army dropped to  these criminal supposed allies to fight to topple Kaddafi; allies who were well known terrorists, today accounts for the devastation caused by terrorists in their senseless slaughter of armless men, women and children throughout the African Sahel and beyond.

This is but part of a complex web of criminality on which Western peddlers of supposed democratic values rely on  to justify regime change, or  encourage  and sponsor their stooges and political lackeys to ride on the wave of terror inflicted on the citizenry in their African vassal states to power. A critical review of the manner in which the war against terror has been fought in Nigeria a year after President Buhari came to power; in Cameroon, Chad and Niger establishes a pattern that justifies my opinion in the Pan African Vision that Boko Haram is hated and loved in equal measure by power seekers in the Boko Haram war afflicted countries.

Although a significant ally in the regional war against Boko Haram, Nigeria has so far considered the war against Boko Haram within its national territory as an insurgency. This has implications in international law regarding the character of the conflict.  Yet the national and trans border devastation caused by the Boko Haram war against mainly civilians and civilian targets was serious enough for  President Buhari  to ride on the disaffection with the inability of his predecessor Goodluck Jonathan to end the insurgency among other factors to power. He did so, by promising to end the insurgency within his first hundred days in power. Like most of his election promises, this has proved to be false. It is predictable that by mere political calculations, by the end of his first mandate in three years Boko Haram will still be a stark reality in the lives of Nigerians.

Many observers believe that had President Buhari deployed the same zeal he has deployed to selectively target his PDP political opponents in his war against corruption in identifying and incapacitating the sponsors of Boko Haram, its resources and its elaborate terrorist structure, the Boko Haram insurgency would have ended in his one hundred days in power. That he has not done so and will not predictably do so lest it opens a can of warms that may lead right to the political structures and the resources that brought him to power is becoming a reality by the day. One of the known resources that is close to the Buhari political establishment and which he shares a platform with Boko Haram is political Islam. The elaborate confederate structure of Islamic political power brokers in Northern Nigeria believes in the northernisation of power in Nigeria. It is hard to enquire into and investigate the elaborate network and resources of Boko Haram and other violent political networks in essentially feudal Northern Nigeria without unsettling this powerful Islamic political base. Its influence transcends the entire northern political power establishment.

In Cameroon, the French neo-colonial contraption that took over power after the assassination of the total-independence ideological leaders deployed state terrorism as a tool of political control and economic despoliation. The genocide of the Bamileke’s and the Bassas; the ongoing state terrorism against citizens and the territory of Ambazonia (Southern Cameroons) and the rise of Boko Haram gave the regime of personal power for half a century, a viable reason to justify its eternalization political power supposedly to face the challenges posed by terrorism. This neo-colonial policy, a variant of the so-called the policy of France-Afrique requires the fueling of internecine conflicts and terrorism to justify control by France of its African vassal possessions.

The fact that Cameroon and Nigeria needed the intervention of France to join forces to combat a supposed common enemy despite the fact that the Lake Chad Basin Commission to which both countries belong provided a multilateral regional treaty framework to join forces to confront this challenge, better explains the negative neo-colonial mindset of supposed leaders of independent African countries and the neo-colonial political patronage sustaining the conflicts and their power base.

This painful assessment of the African condition and that of the black race in the fight against terrorism is a powerful indictment of African intellectuals, in particular lawyers, African politicians, and most important African masses.  It challenges the black race and Africa to critical soul searching on how to bring peace and development to our troubled continent. Africa and black people the world over must stop portraying ourselves as laughing stocks.

The number of black peoples and Africans in particular dying in painful circumstances fleeing from a continent at a self-destructive wars with itself but which prides itself as the depository of a majority the world’s natural resources must prick our consciences to critically think about how to protect our continent and resources for our common good.

The time to proclaim an end to neo-colonial remote- controlled governance by proxy has come.  The time to stop the plunder of the resources of the continent is now. The time to say no to the individual and collective slaughter of our own people is now. The time to say no to diseases that are devastating Africa and the black race is now. The time to put an end to the search of power for the sake of power is now. The time to put an end to massive corruption and abuse of power is now. Africa and the black race must rise again to say no to impunity. Africa must demonstrate that it can stand and survive on its own and provide African solutions to African problems.

To set this agenda rolling, we need to go back to the drawing board and invoke the spirits and seek the inspiration of the pioneers of black emancipation, genuine freedom, and self-preservation like Marcus Garvey, Osageyfo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, George Padmore,  C.L.R James, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere, Milton Obote, Patrice Lumumba, Ruben Um Nyobe, Ernest Ouandie, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Zik of  Great Africa, Anthony Enahoro, Aminu Kano,  Augustine Ngom Jua, Nelson Mandela, Amilcar Cabral, Agostino Neto, Samora Machel, Bate Besong, Fontem Asonganyi, Thomas Sankara and many others to recommence a genuine discussion about the issues confronting us to seek genuine solutions.

We must look ourselves in the mirror of history, scrutinize our past to find out what went wrong; the present to seek lasting solutions to enable us confront the future with visionary hope. . The black race in general and Africa in particular can no long accept to be  used as guinea pigs on which new concepts in international criminal justice are tested in foreign far away courts while we have the capacity to end impunity and criminality against our people.

Lest we forget the many wars in the continent and the proliferation of weapons and resources used in prosecuting these wars have eluded investigations by the ICC, the UN Security Council and the Ad Hoc Tribunals established to investigate supposed African crimes. These crimes and the distinctive category of perpetrators may never be investigated by the governments of the afflicted African countries either. It is common knowledge that Africa does not manufacture the weapons used to commit these crimes on the African continent. It is also common knowledge that the weapons are supplied to foment the armed conflicts by individuals, countries and forces out of the African continent.  We call them arms for minerals merchants.  To request and expect investigation of these weapon merchants tantamount to tasking terrorists to investigate themselves. This will be a tough sell to largely external criminal syndicates to whom Africa has sold its soul.

Chief Charles A. Taku

PAN AFRICAN VISION

BOKO HARAM: REDEFINING THE ENEMY

By Chief Charles A. Taku

There is a fundamental obligation in all armed conflicts (internal, international or mixed) for conflicting armies to define the enemy. This definition is often reviewed to take into consideration the complexity of the conflict, the nature of the enemy, and the resources at its disposal, its intelligence gathering capacity, its operational capability and its war efforts. Without this definition, the danger is great, that military operations may be deployed towards the wrong targets, undermining the war effort, security policy and the perpetration of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

DEFINING THE ENEMY

Although the definition of the enemy is the preserve of every army high command, the responsibility to conduct this highly sensitive assignment is conducted under civilian political supervision. The Head of State, Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, is holder of the constitutional mandate to defend the security of the state and its citizens. How this delicate assignment has been conducted in the ongoing war against Boko Haram in the countries engaged in this extremely complicated and unconventional war is hard to say. It will be unusual if anyone outside a Military High Command of any or all armies worldwide will ever know the definition of the enemy. It is the most restricted document ever. In any case, it is the very heart beat of any army; indeed, the lifeline of any country’s security and defense. If the document defining the enemy were to be captured or exposed to public scrutiny, the army involved in armed conflict may well surrender. It will be futile to persist in battle under these circumstances.

REBUST PUBLIC DISCUSSION

This article does not seek a redefinition of the enemy in the ongoing war against Boko Haram out of the context of classical laws and customs of war, military law or humanitarian law, or the national security needs of each participating country. I have relied on certain contextual factual and legal assumptions which make it impracticable for me to address the content or context of a participating army’s definition of the enemy.

However, considering that the war against Boko Haram did not happen in a vacuum, but within socio-cultural, religious and political contexts, it is but reasonable to urge the leaders and citizens of the countries afflicted by this vicious armed conflict to engage in robust public discussions about whom this enemy is and who it is not. Doing so, will enable protected populations, armless civilians and persons not participating in the war to know and appreciate the efforts deployed to protect them from the scourge of the senseless slaughter to which the ravaging criminal gang has subjected them with so far no visible end in sight. The discussion is also required to enable the citizenry and policy makers to identify the indicators, and the enabling environment that prompts the despair which entices our priceless youth to join this and other criminal gangs in the hope that they are a panacea to societal injustices suffered by them.

MISINFORMATION

Citizens of the participating countries in the war against Boko Haram have for long been misinformed that Boko Haram is an organized group of uneducated religious perverts fighting against Western European education and alleged Western European values. This definition of Boko Haram seemed simplistic even at face value. The distain and opposition to Western Education and values presupposed a commanding knowledge of the said education and values. The constituting members of Boko Haram cannot therefore reasonably be said to be uneducated youth at least in the supposedly Western European sense. This is discernible from the manner they operate, their use of social communication, technology and the sophistication of their strategical and tactical military actions.

WHAT THEN IS BOKO HARAM?

The degree of sophistication of the operational capabilities, the organizational structures, the intelligence gathering ability and logistical efficiency of Boko Haram portrays it as a well-organized military organization with reasonable political objectives. Its ability to attack, capture and hold territory and a well-publicized resolve to carve out a caliphate in the territories within which it operates attests to this reality.

The religious motivation for the war is not enough to explain the wider objectives of Boko Haram to establish a caliphate in the territories it is fighting to control. The geo-political, economic, cultural, religious and environmental outlook of the said territories portray its objectives as potentially wider than those portrayed or publicized over time.

Boko Haram overtime is emerging as a confederacy of distinct interests comprising various political actors in search of power and domination in the wider sub-region. Its territorial ambition stretches throughout the Africa Sahel, the Lake Chad Basin, West and Central Africa. As Boko Haram itself has acknowledged, it has a functional and ideological alliance to and subordinated to ISIS and Al Qaeda.

It may also be reasonably speculated that it has a functional alliance with local power seekers and power brokers. These opportunistically function as parts of the puzzle that sustain the campaign of terror that promises to significantly define the politics and future of the afflicted countries and societies within which it operates. Boko Haram was and is a political factor in the local, national and international politics of the participating countries in this war. This may explain the inability of politicians in the respective countries to appropriately or adequately address the underlying motivations and reasons that lead to components of the citizenry in the respective countries to take up arms against their own governments and fellow citizens, many of the victims, Muslims the religions they are alleged to fight to enthrone.

There can be no doubt that some politicians in some of the participating countries love and resent Boko Haram in equal measure. Some have benefited from the war politically and /or economically. Boko Haram has become a factor and fixture of national life in the participating countries. Some politicians actually rode on the back of the frustrations of disaffected Boko Haram youth to power. Having relied on them to wage campaigns of mayhem to undermine their political adversaries’ capacity and ability to end the devastation of the war and its underlying causes, these politicians are incapable of delivering on their campaign promises to end the war once in power. They are even incapable of calling Boko Haram by its real names which are: misery, social exclusion, excruciating poverty, economic alienation and life of hopelessness. They are incapably of doing so, for fear of being challenged to provide solutions to these enabling factors that pushed the youths into the welcoming hands of Boko Haram.

Strategically mischaracterizing a supposed enemy on whose back they rode to power, apart from being hypocritical, it negates the reality that Boko Haram did not just happen; it has been in the soul of our youth for so long. It will remain so, until governments come up with clear attainable programs to tackle this stain on our collective consciences. To attain this objective, the governments must admit that “Bokoharamism” is now a reality and part of the national shame in participating states. This fact must be publicly acknowledged before realistically providing enduring solutions to the war and its underlying causes.

The jobless youths who have fueled the ranks of Boko Haram may not have been driven by ideology when they were sought and accepted to join. They did so due to a desire to seek sad alternatives to social exclusion and hopelessness. Frustration arising from the policies and politics of exclusion that lead to lives without hope, societies without a future, and predatory vampirism of opportunistic selfish politicians are responsible for the revolt of these youths. These factors make them ready raw material for revolution within Boko Haram or other criminal gangs.

In societies where Boko Haram is not yet present, deep resentment of government expressed through the search for revolution resides in many jobless youths. The ongoing campaign against Boko Haram not with-standing, many more youths will readily join armed gangs targeting their governments whom they rightly or wrongly consider to be the enemy. With the promise of a better life fighting to change the institutions and governments that promised them hope and delivered misery and death, many of the youth similarly placed are but time-bombs of potential conflicts. There is an impending need for urgent solutions to the problems that have made placed African youths on the path of revolt spewing devastating wars that have made the continent exclusive focus of humiliating international armed and judicial interventions.

SOLUTIONS

As the battle for the soul of our youth intensifies, the war against Boko Haram is an opportunity for serious reflection on the factors that make these wars and senseless slaughter of Africans by Africans an eyesore of shame and humiliation. There is impending need to rethink the very notion of governance and political power that have led to social exclusion, economic deprivation, joblessness, poverty, graft and corruption. A majority of Africans, in particular the youth have no sense of belonging in the politics and governance of their countries. Participation in the political life of their countries is elusive. The gains that independence promised are shortchanged for the protection of neo-colonial hegemonic economic interests and a guarantee of eternalizing power. This leaves the majority poor, in particular the youth at the mercy of criminal gangs like Boko Haram, ISIS and Al Qaeda with competing ideological, political and economic agendas.

CONCLUSION

Boko Haram may be defeated at the battlefield but will never be defeated at the battlefields of the souls of our youth and our nations unless the underlying factors which led to the phenomena are identified and comprehensively redressed. Failing this, the ongoing war may merely be scratching the surface of a wound on the collective and individual conscience of our countries and continent. If the youth are the leaders of tomorrow as some of the political leaders in the participating states who are in the very evening of their lives love to say, then the war again Boko Haram will be lost if these countries fail to wage a war to win the heart and mind of these youths.

There must therefore be a well laid out national policies for a grant of amnesty for Boko Haram combatants lay down their arms and be integrated into their respective communities. Additionally and significantly, African governments must establish policies that alleviate poverty, and place a majority of African people at the very center of governmental policies. The ideological and policy motivation for the battle against Boko Haram must be to rescue the souls of our youth from the fangs of Boko Haram and policies that make “Bokoharamism” possible.

*Chief Charles A. Taku, a distinguished author and Pan-Africanist is currently a lead counsel at the ICC at The Hague

 

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A Trip to Nairobi Inspired This One-of-a-Kind Company
June 24, 2016 | 0 Comments
Simien National Park via Afro Traveller

Simien National Park via Afro Traveller

I majored in biology in college and thought I’d become a doctor. But I also wanted to travel. So as a way to do both, I spent years with international humanitarian organizations. The work was satisfying, but the social life was challenging: My colleagues would go back to their hotel at night — in part because they were almost all older than me, but also because they were fearful of the potentially unsafe, unfamiliar cities we were in. I didn’t want to be this far from home and not experience a place fully, so I often went out. And I discovered amazing things.

From a rooftop party at an advertising agency to road-tripping across the country for a DJ set, I was exposed to a side of Africa I’d never seen before. These were cosmopolitan movers and shakers, but distinctly African. In 2011, I met up with a photographer in Johannesburg; through her lens, I met entertainers, artists and other influencers. A year later, I connected with a sorority sister in Nairobi, Kenya, who was working on MTV’s African youth culture series Shuga. The show’s producer, fashion designer and filmmaker took me out to restaurants and nightclubs, and I had the time of my life.

That’s when the lightbulb went off. People weren’t exposed to this Africa, and I wanted to connect visitors to it — not just by talking about these amazing things, but by directing people to them.

I spent the next year or so developing Tastemakers Africa, a company to book epic experiences, with epic people, in every African city. In February 2014, I went to Lagos for Social Media Week to show off my early-stage mockup. My session was packed, which confirmed that I was really onto something. I was working for another NGO at the time but quit and joined MediKidz, a VC-backed healthcare startup, to learn more about building a company. The cofounder, Dr. Kim Chilman-Blair, was a sales genius. She was super-transparent with me about her funding process, and I saw a lot of her documents and pitch decks, and heard about the screwups. But the biggest thing I learned from Kim was to work harder than hard. Things need to get done in the NGO world, but there isn’t a sense of urgency; Kim always had a sense of urgency.

simien-mountians-e1461450685817By that summer, I had fleshed out a prototype. As a proof of concept, we promoted a “Tastemakers Tour of Ghana” on my Facebook page, and it sold out in weeks. I still wasn’t ready to make it my full-time job, but then MediKidz was bought and I was laid off — so I slammed the gas on the startup. My boyfriend and I closed out our 401(k)s, and I entered an accelerator that gave us $20,000 and then raised another $100,000 from angel investors. I also won first place in a Lagos competition called She Leads Africa, which got me $10,000 and a mentoring network.

We launched our website in December 2014 and ended 2015 with more than $200,000 in experience and concierge bookings. Our app, Tstmkrs, launched in beta in December of last year, and we did $100,000 in Q1 bookings for 2016. We’re still figuring out who and where our audience is and what they’re willing to pay, but we’re learning and growing fast. In five years, we expect to be in at least 40 countries on the continent. We will be the brand, and our connections, support and infrastructure will make us important to many others who come here as well. We’ve already built partnerships with Uber, South African Airways and Radisson Blu (that one’s for a pan-African travel contest in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa), and have gotten interest in an acquisition from a large hospitality company. But no matter what happens, I know we’ll have played a huge role in not just how people think about traveling in Africa, but what people think of Africa itself.

*Fox

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West Africa: Crisis in Africa’s Sahel, Hotbed of Militancy, Overlooked By Donors
June 20, 2016 | 0 Comments

Dakar — The Sahel is a fertile soil for the rise of Islamist militancy with its loosely controlled desert expanses

Migrants sit on the open cargo of pick-up trucks

Migrants sit on the open cargo of pick-up trucks

Africa’s arid Sahel, a fertile breeding ground for militancy and organised crime, has been neglected by donors who must tackle the region’s displacement crisis to stem radicalisation and refugee flows, a leading aid agency said on Friday.

Millions of people have been uprooted by violence or smuggled across borders by militant groups and criminal networks in a region long ignored by the humanitarian community, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

The United Nations last December appealed for a record $2 billion for the Sahel’s 2016 aid plan, but it has been less than a quarter funded to date.

The Sahel band, which stretches from Senegal to Eritrea and lies south of the Sahara desert, topped the NRC’s annual list of neglected displacement crises, followed by Yemen and Libya.

At least 4.5 million people in the Sahel have been forced from their homes by violence, a number which has tripled since 2014, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“Preventing conflict and refugee flows, stopping terrorist groups from taking root and combating organised crime are all intertwined,” said NRC senior adviser Richard Skretteberg.

“You can’t fight terrorism without creating development, and can’t beat organised crime unless you solve the refugee crisis and create jobs,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

 With its vast, loosely controlled desert expanses and porous borders, the Sahel has proved to be fertile soil for the rise of Islamist militancy in one of the world’s poorest regions.

The combination of poverty, increased drought and shrinking water resources, and a lack of work is leaving people prey to recruitment by militant groups such as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Boko Haram and Islamic State, Skretteberg said.

More people could be recruited as the Sahel’s population continues to boom, and militants and criminals smuggling people to Libya and across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe feed off each other and exploit corruption and weak governance, he added.

Terror creates conflicts and refugees, and weakens state institutions, which criminals know how to exploit. Criminal activity helps ensure a constant flow of money to terrorists.”

Aid agencies in the Sahel must consider organised crime in their response as gangs often target the most vulnerable people, trafficking and abusing them for profit, Skretteberg said.

They should also prioritise protection and education to prevent children and young men from being recruited by militants and give them hope of finding work in the future, he added.

*Thompson Reuters

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PEACEKEEPING IN MALI: THE U.N.’S MOST DANGEROUS MISSION
June 15, 2016 | 0 Comments

Commander of the United Nations’ most dangerous peacekeeping mission is not a title that Major General Michael Lollesgaard relishes.

U.N. peacekeepers stand in front of a camp used by Chinese peacekeepers in Gao, Mali, June 1. The camp was attacked by Al-Qaeda militants on May 31, killing one Chinese soldier. STR/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

U.N. peacekeepers stand in front of a camp used by Chinese peacekeepers in Gao, Mali, June 1. The camp was attacked by Al-Qaeda militants on May 31, killing one Chinese soldier.
STR/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

The Danish commander heads up the U.N.’s peacekeeping mission in Mali—known as MINUSMA—which is seeking to stabilize the vast Sahelian country amid ongoing threats from militant groups, including Al-Qaeda’s North African wing. In the process of doing so, the mission has suffered 101 casualties since it was established in 2013, 68 of which were due to “malicious acts”—i.e. attacks from militants or opposition groups—making it the deadliest deployment for blue helmets in recent years.

The mission has again come under siege in recent weeks after a series of attacks perpetrated by militants of a variety of stripes. Five Togolese peacekeepers were killed in May in Mopti, central Mali, after their vehicle came under fire and then hit a landmine. The attack was not claimed by any group, though a Malian militant group known as the Macina Liberation Front is believed to operate in the region. Days later, a base used by Chinese peacekeepers was besieged by mortar or rocket fire, resulting in the death of one U.N. soldier (three other non-U.N. personnel were also killed in a separate attack in Gao.) The attacks were claimed by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb(AQIM), which said that a branch of its group known as Al-Mourabitoun led by veteran Algerian jihadi Mokhtar Belmokhtar was behind the incident.

“I’m very sad about that fact,” says Lollesgaard from Bamako, referring to the MINUSMA casualty count. “It’s my responsibility, it’s my task to set up the troops in the best possible way, to make sure that the soldiers are as safe as possible.”

The recent attacks have led U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to recommend that an extra 2,500 uniformed personnel be added to the ranks of MINUSMA, which currently has around 12,000 peacekeepers in the field. Lollesgaard says that the extra troops are required to upgrade the mission’s capacities in key areas—including countering improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which are increasingly used by militants in northern Mali—but that more boots on the ground will not provide a panacea to Mali’s problems.

“The only way to improve the situation here in the long term is to get the political process running,” says Lollesgaard. “You can add 5,000, you can add 10,000 [peacekeepers], but if we’re not getting progress in the implementation of the peace agreement, it will never be enough.”

The agreement referred to by Lollesgaard is a momentous peace deal signed by the Malian government and an alliance of rebels from the Tuareg ethnic group, who inhabit Mali’s vast and arid northern deserts, in June 2015. The deal was hammered out in light of the latest rebellion to seize northern Mali, a restive region that has seen four major uprisings since independence from France in 1960.

The most recent Tuareg rebellion occurred in 2012, when an organization called the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) began campaigning violently for greater autonomy for the ethnic group in northern Mali.

In March 2012, Malian President Amadou Toumani Touré was overthrown in the capital Bamako by mutinying soldiers dissatisfied with his handling of the Tuareg rebellion. In the midst of the chaos, the MNLA seized control of northern Mali’s three major cities—Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu—initially with the backing of Islamist militant groups including Ansar Dine. Once they had seized control and declared Azawad’s independence, however, the MNLA was overthrown by Ansar Dine and an AQIM splinter group, leaving the extremist militants in control of northern Mali from July 2012 until the start of 2013. At this point, and following a plea for foreign intervention by the Malian government, the French military launched a counter-operation—known as Operation Serval—to overthrow the militants, backed by African Union forces. The overthrow of the militants was swift, with most of northern Mali being returned to government control by February 2013. France still deploys more than 3,000 troops across five countries in the Sahel—a vast belt across Africa, separating the Saharan Desert from the savannas of central Africa—including in Mali, as part of Operation Barkhane, the successor mission to Operation Serval.

MINUSMA was established in the wake of this complex recent history in April 2013 with the mandate of overseeing a ceasefire, supporting peace and reconciliation and, significantly, protecting civilians. This last clause means that, according to Lollesgaard, peacekeepers are permitted to conduct “pre-emptive strikes” if they find militants whom they deem to be an immediate threat to the mission or civilians. But there is little support from Malian security forces in the north of the country, according to Marie Rodet, Mali expert and senior lecturer in the history of Africa at SOAS, University of London. “The state institutions haven’t been redeployed in northern Mali. The only security forces you have are [MINUSMA] and the French mission Barkhane,” says Rodet.

The U.N. mission draws its military personnel from some 48 countries—from near neighbors Niger and Burkina Faso to distant countries such as Bangladesh—and the varying levels of training that each troop-contributing country provides serves to complicate matters, according to Lollesgaard. He highlights a lack of counter-IED training as particularly significant—Al-Qaeda-affiliated militants regularly use landmines and roadside bombs to attack, such as when five Chadian peacekeepers were killed in Kidal, northeastern Mali, in May. “This [IED use] is a threat that is growing and growing and we need to adapt here, and it takes a lot of training. We would prefer that most of that training was done in the country before they arrive, but currently that’s not the case,” says Lollesgaard.

As well as within northern Mali, Al-Qaeda has been stepping up its attacks across West Africa. AQIM or its affiliates have claimed responsibility for at least three major attacks in the past eight months. One of these took place in the Malian capital Bamako, when gunmen raided the Radisson Blu hotel, killing some 20 people. The others occurred in the capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou, where militants took control of a hotel and fired on a nearby cafe, killing 30 people; and in the coastal town of Grand Bassam in Ivory Coast, where 19 people were killed in an attack on a beach resort. The U.N. commander says he is concerned by the ability of militant groups to seep across the region’s borders, which he describes as “close to non-existent.” “They can operate within a number of countries without being attacked or influenced in any way. This is, of course, an issue,” says Lollesgaard.

As Lollesgaard indicates, the state of affairs in northern Mali has not progressed much since the peace deal was signed in June 2015. Both sides have criticized each other for stalling on the terms—which include the disarmament of militias and the integration of Tuareg groups into joint military patrols in the region—and, despite the U.N.’s pleading, not a huge amount seems to have changed on the ground. “The implementation of the agreement is at a very low point at the moment,” says Rodet.

Despite the manifold challenges facing MINUSMA and northern Mali as a whole, Lollesgaard is optimistic. He says that, should the political process pick up pace, he could envisage MINUSMA winding down within the next three to four years. Lollesgaard says the fact that Mali’s Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop spoke of an exit strategy for MINUSMA when addressing the U.N. in January was a good sign—“it’s always good to have an exit strategy.”

The force commander himself could be out of Mali by then—unit commanders usually rotate on a two-year cycle, and Lollesgaard is already 15 months into his term—but Lollesgaard says that, despite the high casualty count, there is no other mission he’d rather be working on. “It’s very challenging but I hope that people feel that we’re trying the best we can,” he says. “If somebody feels they can do it better or if the U.N. feels they can find someone to do it better then I’m happy to go home, but I’m not going to ask to do that.”

*Source Newsweek

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UN, Nigeria agree to Cameroon’s return of 80,000 refugees
June 12, 2016 | 0 Comments

boko-haram-refugees-600x450LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria says it has agreed to Cameroon’s voluntary return of 80,000 Nigerian refugees who have fled the Boko Haram Islamic insurgency.

Nigerian officials had said Cameroon was threatening to force the repatriation. Cameroon previously has dumped thousands on the border.
Nigerian emergency agency spokesman Sani Datti says Sunday that an agreement for their return “voluntarily and in a dignified manner” has been signed by the UNHCR refugee agency, Nigeria and Cameroon.

Last month, Nigerians who had returned home were blocked from returning to Cameroon though they complained they did not have enough water as temperatures soared over 100 degrees (42 degrees Celsius).

A new influx will tax Nigerian officials struggling to cater for 2.1 million people displaced within the country. The U.N. says another 600,000 are displaced in the region.

*AP

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This is what the conviction of Chad’s former dictator means for African human rights
June 10, 2016 | 0 Comments

By Elise Keppler*

Chad’s former dictator Hissène Habré raises his hands after sentencing during court proceedings on May 30 in Dakar, Senegal. Judge Gberdao Gustave Kam declared him guilty and sentenced him to life in prison for crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture. (Carley Petesch/AP)

Chad’s former dictator Hissène Habré raises his hands after sentencing during court proceedings on May 30 in Dakar, Senegal. Judge Gberdao Gustave Kam declared him guilty and sentenced him to life in prison for crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture. (Carley Petesch/AP)

The breakthrough for many victims of atrocities committed under the former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré came on May 30 in Dakar, Senegal. After nearly two decades of effort by activists, the Extraordinary African Chambers in the courts of Senegal convicted Habré of torture, war crimes and crimes against humanity and handed down a life sentence. For those of us in the courtroom, the cries of joy from the victims after the judges’ ruling underscored its immense importance.

Habré was the first African suspect prosecuted under ‘universal jurisdiction’

The Habré trial was the first in which a court in Africa prosecuted a suspect under “universal jurisdiction”— which allows states to prosecute certain heinous crimes even if they were committed abroad, by foreigners and against foreigners. While many countries have universal jurisdiction laws, few have used them. European countries have launched most such cases. South Africahas begun to investigate crimes on the basis of universal jurisdiction but has yet to bring any prosecutions.

One hopes that the Habré case is a harbinger of more prosecutions of atrocities in African courts, whether based on universal jurisdiction or in the courts of the countries where the alleged crimes were committed. Such cases could involve regional or other forms of international support. For instance, the chamber that tried Habré was led by a judge from Burkina Faso, and thecourt’s statute — developed by the African Union (AU) — provided for a select number of African judges and staff from outside Senegal. The Central African Republic and South Sudan already are anticipating some similar mechanisms.

But the jury is out on what lies ahead.

Several African countries recently created the mechanisms to call human rights violators to account

In the Central African Republic last year, the government passed a law establishing a special judicial chamber within the national court system to prosecute serious crimes committed during the nation’s deadly 2012 violence. The CAR’s new court will include both domestic and international judges and staff.

Last year, South Sudan adopted a peace agreement that authorizes the African Union to establish a hybrid court with South Sudanese and other African judges and staff. Ivory Coast,  Congo and Guinea have also increased their domestic criminal investigation and sometimes prosecution of atrocities.

But we don’t yet know what will result. The Central African Republic and South Sudan initiatives aren’t yet operating, and the other countries’ domestic cases have run into serious difficulties.

The Habré conviction offers a case study in how just hard it can be to bring powerful officials to justice.

Habré was overthrown in 1990 and fled to Senegal. A Chadian truth commission found that more than 40,000 people died and torture was systematic during his eight-year regime. After an indictment from Belgium and a ruling by the International Court of Justice, the African Union recommendedthat Senegal should try him. But Abdoulaye Wade, then the Senegalese president, stonewalled. Not until President Macky Sall took office in 2012 did the case become viable.

Human Rights Watch, my employer, and many other human rights groups and individuals pressed for decades to ensure that the case was not forgotten. Desmond Tutu once called the case a “judicial soap opera.” Sixteen years after he was first indicted in Senegal, Habré went to trial last year.

Lack of justice remains pervasive. In recent years, political abuse and deadly conflicts have left victims across Burundi, the Central African Republic, Congo,Kenya, South Sudan and Sudan — with those responsible enjoying almost total impunity at home.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch has observed in places such as Sierra Leone, Congo and Afghanistan that when no one is held accountable for mass crimes and human rights abuses, they — and others — tend to commit more such crimes. But when perpetrators are brought to justice, it strengthens both the rule of law and long-term stability.

That’s why it’s important for Africa to continue to support the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The ICC — the first permanent international criminal court — is relatively young and far from perfect. Since being established in 2002, it has suffered from performance problems and needs to expand its reach to many more places across the globe. But the ICC is the only institution that can potentially intervene anywhere in the world, as crimes are unfolding, and bring cases against the highest level offenders, who use their powerful positions as a shield.

Until recently, all ICC cases involved African countries. For the most part, these countries had asked the ICC to get involved or given the ICC the authority. But the focus hit a raw nerve with a vocal minority of African leaders — especially because of the court’s arrest warrants for President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan for alleged crimes committed in Darfur and its cases against President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto of Kenya for crimes allegedly committed during Kenya’s 2007-2008 post-election violence. The Kenyan cases have since been dropped.

Kenya, in particular, has made a concerted assault on the ICC. It recentlyproposed that an AU committee discuss calling for the ICC’s 34 African members to withdraw from the court. In April, the AU committee resolved to insist on immunity for heads of state and senior government officials before the ICC. In 2015, the AU adopted a protocol to give its regional court authority to prosecute grave crimes, also while granting immunity for sitting heads of state and other senior government officials. That protocol has yet to be ratified by any nation; it won’t come into force unless it is ratified by 15.

AU efforts to withdraw from the ICC conflict with the AU’s own founding document, which clearly rejects impunity. The worrying trend of African leaders defying constitutional term limits only reinforces the importance of the ICC’s mandate to prosecute currently seated officials implicated in serious crimes.

The Habré case is an important reminder that justice matters. More than two decades after the crimes, victims relentlessly pressed to bring Habré to trial. If there are genuine trials before African courts, the ICC won’t need to intervenein cases. African governments may wish to consider responding to the Habré conviction by prosecuting more grave crimes at home, and by supporting ICC prosecutions when such cases are not possible.

*Source Washington Post.Elise Keppler is the associate director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch.

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