What Macron heralds for Africa
May 28, 2017 | 0 Comments
By Yoletta Nyange*
A former banker and economy minister, President Emmanuel Macron is now at the head of En Marche, a manifesto turned into a political start-up, launched barely a year ago. En Marche promotes a technocratic perspective and is marketed by a handful of French brains of African descent moulded into the country’s elite universities.
For many, Macron’s recurring contradictory statements suggest a desire to appeal to everyone, while hiding his true colours and concealing the obvious – that he has no policy for Africa.
Beyond the spellbinding eloquence that coined slogans such as “France needs Africa to build its future,” or “I will act with transparency in Africa, away from conniving networks,” Macron’s vision for Africa is reduced to the thinness of “supporting local small and medium entrepreneurship.”
Macron must have missed the memo, for “African SMEs need an integrated banking system rather than a French president who has not secured the Senate control” argued Mamadou Diallo, the political analyst and member of the West African think-tank WATHI. For Diallo “The Macron campaign’s loudest feat was in using the colonial question and the crime against humanity committed in Algeria”, only for it to be reduced to a storm in a teacup. “The colonial debate appeal to voters of the African diaspora for it gives them an emotional acknowledgment in lieu of a real economic recognition. A father of four in Kinshasa couldn’t care less about a moral recognition of colonialism. He wants to know how to pay for his children school fees,” further clarifies the Guinean analyst.
There is a palpable fear that Macron’s presidency is a continuation of Hollande’s, who had voted for him during the first round. Using the historical representations of colonialism and slavery has undeniably set Macron apart from other candidates. However, his lauded anti-colonial statement quickly tempered by “but one has to assume its positive elements” brought Gaddafi’s ghost back in the conversation.
Africans have not forgotten the savage pulverisation that former French president Sarkozy inflicted upon the Libyan people. How can it be omitted that Macron has inherited from the horrific Mali military invasion? Did Africa really need France’s intervention if it meant that the mediator would become a party to the conflict? En Marche only reaffirmed France’s militaristic endorsement of European, EU and NATO’s interference to protect their interests, all of which can only signal more wahala for the African continent.
Macron’s key job is to redress French prosperity by facilitating the movement of entrepreneurs and researchers, in other words, the movement of capital, a large percentage of it originating from Africa and through a wheeler-dealer diplomacy that in Macron’s own words is also “erratic”.
With Africa’s trade balance growing eastwards and inwards, how would a former banker restore France’s relations with Africa at a time when a viral grassroots campaign for the abolition of the CFA (French African Colony) money is raging in fourteen countries? After all, why do 22-year-old graduates on the Quai d’Orsay payroll staff presidential entourages of the CFA countries afflicted by brain drain and youth unemployment? Surely Macron would concede that liberating fourteen countries from the bondage of pumping France’s economy up would appear to be a sensible step towards fair reparations for the crime against humanity that colonialism is. The trouble is that pegged to the French treasury, the abolition of the CFA currency would in a blink bring Molière’s country on its knees.
As for En Marche’s views on integration and immigration, put it simply, they are two sides of the same coin, that of racism and exclusion which carry significant economic costs. For a country in dire need to repopulate to keep the state apparel afloat, France holds a distorted discourse by single-handedly targeting its populations of Afro-descendents. France’s migrant population accounts for a mere ten percent of the population, a third of which is made of international students integrated into the relatively lifeless economy. Why else would 2.5 million of French citizen not racially profiled choose to live outside of France?
Actually, integration and immigration are coded words for Europe’s all time greatest fear dating back to eight centuries of an Afro-Moorish rule: Islam with its political, cultural and security translation. Again, in the European conflicted representation, Islam is no longer located in the Arab-Muslim heart but in the Arab-Turkish-Persian world. But most of the illegal migrants into Europe do not originate from the Syrian conflict or the Afghan convulsions, but from supra-Saharan or sub-Saharan African countries not at war and with a sizeable Muslim population.
“What we’re seeing across Europe is that domestic politicians – whether in Germany, France, or even Greece – are increasingly asking the EU to do their dirty work” cautions Loren Landau, the Chair of the African Centre for Migration and Society at the University of the Witwatersrand.
Hence Macron’s a continuation of Europe’s forked tongue discourse. “It allows them to show that politicians are doing something about stopping Africans from coming, without themselves being implicated in the nefarious deals the EU is promoting” added Landau.
It is high time Africa cures her post-colonial syndrome and stops giving a disproportionate importance to the French political game, according to the Cameroonian political scientist Achille Mbembe.
All things considered, could it be agreed that France’s views on Africa are of no interest to Africans? Africa matters more to France’s seventy million than the other way around, if only because Africa hosts two hundred million French speakers, or a fifth of its billion population.
* Source IOL .Yoletta Nyange is a Visiting Scholar at the African Centre for Migration and Society of the University of the Witwatersrand
Opinion: The ‘door of return’ is open for people of African descent
May 28, 2017 | 0 Comments
By Kamil Olufowobi*
Change of heart
The door of return
This is Why Africa Matters to the United States
May 27, 2017 | 0 Comments
By Rachel Ansley*
The cuts to foreign aid proposed in US President Donald Trump’s new budget, if passed, would drastically diminish US influence in Africa, threaten US security interests, and make way for countries like China to fill the void, according to a former White House official.
We can’t be ceding this space to China and to other players to have them deepen their economic ties and their political ties and have the US really lose out,” said Grant Harris, who served as special assistant to the president and senior director for African affairs at the White House from 2011 to 2015.
Trump’s new federal budget would put an end to important US engagement on the continent, engagement which, according to Harris, is vital for US national security.
This is the premise of his recently published Atlantic Council report: Why Africa Matters to US National Security. “Far too many people think that Africa is of secondary importance to US interests, where, in reality, it’s really important to US national security,” Harris said in a Facebook Live discussion with Karen Attiah, the global opinions editor with the Washington Post, at the Atlantic Council on May 25.
Why does stability in Africa matter for security in the United States? Karen Attiah from the Washington Post discusses why Africa is important to US national security interests with Grant Harris, former special assistant to the president and senior director for African affairs at the White House. To learn more, read Harris’ new report: http://bit.ly/2qnK3oJ
Posted by Atlantic Council on Thursday, May 25, 2017
In order to stem the spread of transnational threats, from terrorism to pandemics, Africa must become stable, said Harris. However, achieving stability requires that the United States remain actively engaged, providing not only humanitarian assistance, but also promoting economic growth. “The budget cutbacks would hurt all of that,” he said.
Attiah noted that in the “new US political climate – it’s not just Africa—there’s a real sense that the US may be retreating from its role as a global leader.” This turn inward has opened the door for other nations, such as China, to strengthen their foothold in Africa.
“The US holds itself to different standards, and it should,” said Harris. He insisted that principled engagement bolsters not only US influence, but strengthens relationships with African partners, who are becoming increasingly significant voices on the world stage. African votes make up more than a quarter of the votes in the United Nations, therefore, “we need African partners to advance [US] priorities,” said Harris.
Africa is vital not only to US national security interests, but to the United States’ European allies as well, Harris claimed, citing the migration crisis as a major concern.
Harris said that while his report stresses Africa’s importance to US national security, “even if you’re skeptical of what I’m saying, you’ve got to believe that European allies are important to national security.” Consequently, he said, while Europe seeks to promote stability in Africa in order to stem migration, the United States should engage as well, if not for its own interests, to promote the interest of its allies. “If the US retrenches and we pull back on our assistance… then we’re going to be part of the problem,” according to Harris.
Previous US administrations have promoted deep bipartisan engagement in Africa. Harris called for the Trump administration to follow suit, emphasizing the importance of a much-overlooked, but increasingly important part of the world.
*Allafrica.Rachel Ansley is an editorial assistant at the Atlantic Council.
Africa is Not Poor, We Are Stealing Its Wealth
May 27, 2017 | 0 Comments
By Nick Dearden*
Africa is poor, but we can try to help its people.
It’s a simple statement, repeated through a thousand images, newspaper stories and charity appeals each year, so that it takes on the weight of truth. When we read it, we reinforce assumptions and stories about Africa that we’ve heard throughout our lives. We reconfirm our image of Africa.
Try something different. Africa is rich, but we steal its wealth.
That’s the essence of a report (pdf) from several campaign groups released today. Based on a set of new figures, it finds that sub-Saharan Africa is a net creditor to the rest of the world to the tune of more than $41bn. Sure, there’s money going in: around $161bn a year in the form of loans, remittances (those working outside Africa and sending money back home), and aid.
But there’s also $203bn leaving the continent. Some of this is direct, such as $68bn in mainly dodged taxes. Essentially multinational corporations “steal” much of this – legally – by pretending they are really generating their wealth in tax havens. These so-called “illicit financial flows” amount to around 6.1 per cent of the continent’s entire gross domestic product (GDP) – or three times what Africa receives in aid.
Then there’s the $30bn that these corporations “repatriate” – profits they make in Africa but send back to their home country, or elsewhere, to enjoy their wealth. The City of London is awash with profits extracted from the land and labour of Africa.
There are also more indirect means by which we pull wealth out of Africa. Today’s report estimates that $29bn a year is being stolen from Africa in illegal logging, fishing and trade in wildlife. $36bn is owed to Africa as a result of the damage that climate change will cause to their societies and economies as they are unable to use fossil fuels to develop in the way that Europe did. Our climate crisis was not caused by Africa, but Africans will feel the effect more than most others. Needless to say, the funds are not currently forthcoming.
In fact, even this assessment is enormously generous, because it assumes that all of the wealth flowing into Africa is benefitting the people of that continent. But loans to governments and the private sector (at more than $50bn) can turn into unpayable and odious debt.
So what is the answer? Western governments would like to be seen as generous beneficiaries, doing what they can to “help those unable to help themselves”. But the first task is to stop perpetuating the harm they are doing. Governments need to stop forcing African governments to open up their economy to privatisation, and their markets to unfair competition.
If African countries are to benefit from foreign investment, they must be allowed to – even helped to – legally regulate that investment and the corporations that often bring it. And they might want to think about not putting their faith in the extractives sector. With few exceptions, countries with abundant mineral wealth experience poorer democracy, weaker economic growth, and worse development. To prevent tax dodging, governments must stop prevaricating on action to address tax havens. No country should tolerate companies with subsidiaries based in tax havens operating in their country.
Aid is tiny, and the very least it can do, if spent well, is to return some of Africa’s looted wealth. We should see it both as a form of reparations and redistribution, just as the tax system allows us to redistribute wealth from the richest to the poorest within individual societies. The same should be expected from the global “society”.
To even begin to embark on such an ambitious programme, we must change the way we talk and think about Africa. It’s not about making people feel guilty, but correctly diagnosing a problem in order to provide a solution. We are not, currently, “helping” Africa. Africa is rich. Let’s stop making it poorer.
*Allafrica/Al Jazeera.Nick Dearden is the director of UK campaigning organisation Global Justice Now. He was previously the director of Jubilee Debt Campaign.
Ethiopia’s Tedros wins WHO race, first African to get top job
May 23, 2017 | 0 Comments
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, a former health minister and foreign minister, received more than half the votes in the third round.
Ethiopia’s Tedros wins on third ballot
* Offers more geographical representation of WHO jobs
By Stephanie Nebehay and Tom Miles*
GENEVA, May 23 (Reuters) – Ethiopia’s Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus won the race to be the next head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Tuesday, becoming the first African to lead the United Nations agency.
The former health minister and foreign minister received more than half the votes in the first round and eventually won a decisive third-round election to beat Britain’s David Nabarro to the job.
“It’s a victory day for Ethiopia and for Africa,” Ethiopia’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva Negash Kebret Botora told Reuters before Tedros, as he is widely known, was to take the floor at the WHO’s annual ministerial assembly.
Six candidates had stood to take the helm at the WHO, which is tasked with combating outbreaks and chronic diseases.
The job has never before been earned through a competitive election and health officials from all over the globe thronged the assembly hall in the U.N.’s Geneva headquarters where voting took place behind closed doors.
Tedros will begin his five-year term after Margaret Chan, a former Hong Kong health director, steps down after 10 years on June 30. Chan leaves a mixed legacy, after WHO’s slow response to West Africa’s Ebola epidemic in 2013-2016, which killed 11,300 people.
In a last pitch before voting began, Tedros had appealed to ministers by promising to represent their interests and to ensure more countries got top jobs at the Geneva-based WHO.
“I will listen to you. I was one of you. I was in your shoes and I can understand you better,” Tedros told the ministers. “I know what it takes to strengthen the frontlines of healthcare and innovate around the constraints.”
Tedros was widely seen as having the support of about 50 African votes, but questions about his role in restricting human rights and Ethiopia’s cover-up of a cholera outbreak surfaced late in the race, threatening to tarnish his appeal.
Nabarro, a WHO insider who has worked for 40 years in international public health, had pitched himself as a “global candidate”.
Chan, in a speech on Monday, urged ministers to tackle inequalities as a “guiding ethical principle”.
“Scientific evidence is the bedrock of policy. Protect it. No one knows whether evidence will retain its persuasive power in what many now describe as a post-truth world,” she said.
America’s War-Fighting Footprint in Africa
May 23, 2017 | 0 Comments
And Russians aren’t the only foreigners on Waldhauser’s mind. He’s also wary of a Chinese “military base” being built not far from Camp Lemonnier, a large U.S. facility in the tiny, sun-blasted nation of Djibouti. “They’ve never had an overseas base, and we’ve never had a base of… a peer competitor as close as this one happens to be,” he said . “There are some very significant… operational security concerns.”At that press conference, Waldhauser mentioned still another base, an American one exposed by the Washington Post last October in an article titled, “U.S. has secretly expanded its global network of drone bases to North Africa.” Five months later, the AFRICOM commander still sounded aggrieved. “The Washington Post story that said ‘flying from a secret base in Tunisia.’ It’s not a secret base and it’s not our base… We have no intention of establishing a base there.”
Waldhauser’s insistence that the U.S. had no base in Tunisia relied on a technicality, since that foreign airfield clearly functions as an American outpost. For years, AFRICOM has peddled the fiction that Djibouti is the site of its only “base” in Africa. “We continue to maintain one forward operating site on the continent, Camp Lemonnier,” reads the command’s 2017 posture statement. Spokespeople for the command regularly maintain that any other U.S. outposts are few and transitory — “expeditionary” in military parlance.
While the U.S. maintains a vast empire of military installations around the world, with huge — and hard to miss — complexes throughout Europe and Asia, bases in Africa have been far better hidden. And if you listened only to AFRICOM officials, you might even assume that the U.S. military’s footprint in Africa will soon be eclipsed by that of the Chinese or the Russians.
Highly classified internal AFRICOM files offer a radically different picture. A set of previously secret documents, obtained by TomDispatch via the Freedom of Information Act, offers clear evidence of a remarkable, far-ranging, and expanding network of outposts strung across the continent. In official plans for operations in 2015 that were drafted and issued the year before, Africa Command lists 36 U.S. outposts scattered across 24 African countries. These include low-profile locations — from Kenya to South Sudan to a shadowy Libyan airfield — that have never previously been mentioned in published reports. Today, according to an AFRICOM spokesperson, the number of these sites has actually swelled to 46, including “15 enduring locations.” The newly disclosed numbers and redacted documents contradict more than a decade’s worth of dissembling by U.S. Africa Command and shed new light on a constellation of bases integral to expanding U.S. military operations on the African continent and in the Middle East.
A Constellation of Bases
AFRICOM failed to respond to repeated requests for further information about the 46 bases, outposts, and staging areas currently dotting the continent. Nonetheless, the newly disclosed 2015 plans offer unique insights into the wide-ranging network of outposts, a constellation of bases that already provided the U.S. military with unprecedented continental reach.
Those documents divide U.S. bases into three categories: forward operating sites (FOSes), cooperative security locations (CSLs), and contingency locations (CLs). “In total, [the fiscal year 20]15 proposed posture will be 2 FOSes, 10 CSLs, and 22 CLs” state the documents. By spring 2015, the number of CSLs had already increased to 11, according  to then-AFRICOM chief General David Rodriguez, in order to allow U.S. crisis-response forces to reach potential hot spots in West Africa. An appendix to the plan, also obtained by TomDispatch, actually lists 23 CLs, not 22. Another appendix mentions one additional contingency location.
These outposts — of which forward operating sites are the most permanent and contingency locations the least so — form the backbone of U.S. military operations on the continent and have been expanding at a rapid rate, particularly since the September 2012 attack on the U.S. Mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. The plans also indicate that the U.S. military regularly juggles locations, shuttering sites and opening others, while upgrading contingency locations to cooperative security locations in response to changing conditions like, according to the documents, “increased threats emanating from the East, North-West, and Central regions” of the continent.
AFRICOM’s 2017 posture statement notes, for example, a recent round of changes to the command’s inventory of posts. The document explains that the U.S. military “closed five contingency locations and designated seven new contingency locations on the continent due to shifting requirements and identified gaps in our ability to counter threats and support ongoing operations.” Today, according to AFRICOM spokesman Chuck Prichard, the total number of sites has jumped from the 36 cited in the 2015 plans to 46 — a network now consisting of two forward operating sites, 13 cooperative security locations, and 31 contingency locations.
Location, Location, Location
AFRICOM’s sprawling network of bases is crucial to its continent-wide strategy of training the militaries of African proxies and allies and conducting a multi-front campaign aimed at combating a disparate and spreading collection of terror groups. The command’s major areas of effort involve: a shadow war against the militant group al-Shabaab in Somalia (a long-term campaign, ratcheting up  in the Trump era, with no end in sight); attempts to contain the endless fallout from the 2011 U.S. and allied military intervention that ousted Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi (a long-term effort  with no end in sight); the neutralizing of “violent extremist organizations” across northwest Africa, the lands of the Sahel and Maghreb (a long-term effort  with no end in sight); the degradation of the Islamist militant group Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin nations of Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, and Chad (a long-term effort — to the tune of $156 million  last year alone in support of regional proxies there — with no end in sight); countering piracy in the Gulf of Guinea (a long-term effort  with no end in sight), and winding down  thewildly expensive  effort to eliminate Joseph Kony and his murderous Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa (both live on , despite a long-term U.S. effort).
The U.S. military’s multiplying outposts are also likely to prove vital to the Trump administration’s expanding wars  in the Middle East. African bases have long been essential, for instance, to Washington’s ongoing shadow war in Yemen , which has seen a significant increase  in drone strikes under the Trump administration. They have also been integral  to operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, where a substantial  (and deadly) uptick in U.S. airpower (and civilian casualties) has been evident in recent months.
In 2015, AFRICOM spokesman Anthony Falvo noted that the command’s “strategic posture and presence are premised on the concept of a tailored, flexible, light footprint that leverages and supports the posture and presence of partners and is supported by expeditionary infrastructure.” The declassified secret documents explicitly state that America’s network of African bases is neither insignificant nor provisional. “USAFRICOM’s posture requires a network of enduring and non-enduring locations across the continent,” say the 2015 plans. “A developed network of FOSes, CSLs, and non-enduring CLs in key countries… is necessary to support the command’s operations and engagements.”
According to the files, AFRICOM’s two forward operating sites are Djibouti’s Camp Lemonnier and a base on the United Kingdom’s Ascension Island off the west coast of Africa. Described as “enduring locations” with a sustained troop presence and “U.S.-owned real property,” they serve as hubs for staging missions across the continent and for supplying the growing network of outposts there.
Lemonnier, the crown jewel of America’s African bases, has expanded  from 88 acres to about 600 acres since 2002, and in those years, the number of personnel there has increased exponentially as well. “Camp Lemonnier serves as a hub for multiple operations and security cooperation activities,” reads AFRICOM’s 2017 posture statement. “This base is essential to U.S. efforts in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.” Indeed, the formerly secret documents note that the base supports “U.S operations in Somalia CT [counterterrorism], Yemen CT, Gulf of Aden (counter-piracy), and a wide range of Security Assistance activities and programs throughout the region.”
In 2015, when he announced  the increase in cooperative security locations, then-AFRICOM chief David Rodriguez mentioned Senegal, Ghana, and Gabon as staging areas for the command’s rapid reaction forces. Last June, outgoing U.S. Army Africa commander Major General Darryl Williams drew attention  to a CSL in Uganda and one being set up in Botswana, adding, “We have very austere, lean, lily pads, if you will, all over Africa now.”
CSL Entebbe in Uganda has, for example, long been an important air base  for American forces in Africa, serving as a hub for surveillance aircraft . It also proved integral to Operation Oaken Steel, the July 2016 rapid deployment of troops to the U.S. Embassy in Juba, South Sudan, as that failed state (and failed U.S. nation-building effort ) sank into yet more violence.
Libreville, Gabon, is listed in the documents as a “proposed CSL,” but was actually used  in 2014 and 2015 as a key base for Operation Echo Casemate , the joint U.S.-French-African military response to unrest in the Central African Republic.
AFRICOM’s 2015 plan also lists cooperative security locations in Accra, Ghana; Gaborone, Botswana; Dakar, Senegal; Douala, Cameroon; Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso; and Mombasa, Kenya. While officially defined by the military as temporary locales capable of being scaled up for larger operations, any of these CSLs in Africa “may also function as a major logistics hub,” according to the documents.
The formerly secret AFRICOM files note that the command has designated five contingency locations as “semi-permanent,” 13 as “temporary,” and four as “initial.” These include a number of sites that have never previously been disclosed, including outposts in several countries that were actually at war when the documents were created. Listed among the CLs, for instance, is one in Juba , the capital of South Sudan , already in the midst of an ongoing civil war in 2014; one in Bangui, the capital of the periodically unstable Central African Republic; and another in Al-Wigh , a Saharan airfield in southern Libya located near that country’s borders with Niger, Chad, and Algeria.
Officially classified as “non-enduring” locations, CLs are nonetheless among the most integral sites for U.S. operations on the continent. Today, according to AFRICOM’s Prichard, the 31 contingency locations provide “access to support partners, counter threats, and protect U.S. interests in East, North, and West Africa.”
AFRICOM did not provide the specific locations of the current crop of CLs, stating only that they “strive to increase access in crucial areas.” The 2015 plans, however, provide ample detail on the areas that were most important to the command at that time. One such site is Camp Simba in Manda Bay, Kenya, also mentioned in a 2013 internal Pentagon study  on secret drone operations in Somalia and Yemen. At least two manned surveillance aircraft were based there at the time.
Chabelley Airfield  in Djibouti is also mentioned in AFRICOM’s 2015 plan. Once a spartan French Foreign Legion post, it has undergone substantial expansion in recent years as U.S. drone operations in that country were moved from Camp Lemonnier to this more remote location. It soon became a regional hub for unmanned aircraft not just for Africa but also for the Middle East. By the beginning of October 2015, for example, drones flown from Chabelley had already logged  more than 24,000 hours of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions and were also, according to the Air Force, “responsible for the neutralization of 69 enemy fighters, including five high-valued individuals” in the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
AFRICOM’s inventory of CLs also includes sites in Nzara , South Sudan;Arlit , Niger; both Bamako  and Gao , Mali; Kasenyi , Uganda; Victoria , the capital of the Seychelles; Monrovia, Liberia; Ouassa and Nema, Mauritania;Faya Largeau , Chad; Bujumbura, Burundi; Lakipia , the site of a Kenyan Air Force base; and another Kenyan airfield at Wajir that was upgraded andexpanded  by the U.S. Navy earlier in this decade, as well as an outpost in Arba Minch, Ethiopia, that was reportedly shuttered  in 2015 after nearly five years of operation.
A longtime contingency location in Niamey, the capital of Niger, has seen marked growth in recent years as has a more remote location, a Nigerien military base at Agadez, listed among the “proposed” CSLs in the AFRICOM documents. The U.S. is, in fact, pouring $100 million into building up the base, according  to a 2016 investigation by the Intercept. N’Djamena, Chad, the site of yet another “proposed CSL,” has actually been used by the U.S. military for years. Troops and a drone were dispatched  there in 2014 to aid in operations against Boko Haram and “base camp facilities” were constructed there, too.
The list of proposed CLs also includes sites in Berbera, a town in the self-declared Republic of Somaliland, and in Mogadishu, the capital of neighboring Somalia (another locale used  by American troops for years), as well as the towns of Baidoa and Bosaso. These or other outposts are likely to play increasingly important roles as the Trump administration ramps up its military activities in Somalia, the long-failed state that saw 18 U.S. personnel killed in the disastrous  “Black Hawk Down” mission of 1993. Last month, for instance, President Trump relaxed rules  aimed at preventing civilian casualties when the U.S. conducts drone strikes and commando raids in that country and so laid the foundation for a future escalation of the war against al-Shabaab there. This month, AFRICOM confirmed that dozens of soldiers from the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, a storied light infantry unit, would be deployed  to that same country in order to train local forces to, as a spokesperson put it, “better fight” al-Shabaab.
Many other sites previously identified as U.S. outposts or staging areas are not listed in AFRICOM’s 2015 plans, such as bases in Djema , Sam Ouandja , and Obo  in the Central African Republic that were revealed, in recent years, by the Washington Post. Also missing is a newer drone base in Garoua,Cameroon , not to mention that Tunisian air base where the U.S. has been flying drones, according to AFRICOM’s Waldhauser, “for quite some time.”
Some bases may have been shuttered, while others may not yet have been put in service when the documents were produced. Ultimately, the reasons that these and many other previously identified bases  are not included in the redacted secret files are unclear due to AFRICOM’s refusal to offer comment, clarification, or additional information on the locations of its bases.
“Just as the U.S. pursues strategic interests in Africa, international competitors, including China and Russia, are doing the same,” laments AFRICOM in its 2017 posture statement. “We continue to see international competitors engage with African partners in a manner contrary to the international norms of transparency.”
Since it was established as an independent command in 2008, however, AFRICOM itself has been anything but transparent about its activities on the continent. The command’s physical footprint may, in fact, have been its most jealously guarded secret. Today, thanks to AFRICOM’s own internal documents, that secret is out and with AFRICOM’s admission that it currently maintains “15 enduring locations,” the long-peddled fiction of a combatant command with just one base in its area of operations has been laid to rest.
“Because of the size of Africa, because of the time and space and the distances, when it comes to special crisis-response-type activities, we need access in various places on the continent,” said AFRICOM chief Waldhauser during his March press conference. These “various places” have also been integral to escalating American shadow wars, including a full-scale air campaign against the Islamic State in Libya, dubbed Operation Odyssey Lightning, which ended  late last year, and ongoing intelligence-gathering missions and a continued U.S. troop presence in that country; drone assassinations  and increased troop deployments  in Somalia to counter al-Shabaab; and increasing engagement in a proxy war against Boko Haram militants in the Lake Chad region of Central Africa. For these and many more barely noticed U.S. military missions, America’s sprawling, ever-expanding network of bases provides the crucial infrastructure for cross-continental combat by U.S. and allied forces, a low-profile support system for war-making in Africa and beyond.
Without its wide-ranging constellation of bases, it would be nearly impossible for the U.S. to carry out ceaseless low-profile military activities across the continent. As a result, AFRICOM continues to prefer shadows to sunlight. While the command provided figures on the total number of U.S. military bases, outposts, and staging areas in Africa, its spokespeople failed to respond to repeated requests to provide locations for any of the 46 current sites. While the whereabouts of the new outposts may still be secret, there’s little doubt as to the trajectory of America’s African footprint, which has increased by 10 locations — a 28% jump — in just over two years.
America’s “enduring” African bases “give the United States options in the event of crisis and enable partner capacity building,” according to AFRICOM’s Chuck Prichard. They have also played a vital role in conflicts from Yemen to Iraq, Nigeria to Somalia. With the Trump administration escalating its wars in Africa and the Middle East, and the potential for more crises — from catastrophic famines  to spreading wars  — on the horizon, there’s every reason to believe the U.S. military’s footprint on the continent will continue to evolve, expand, and enlarge in the years ahead, outpost by outpost and base by base.
JASON LOVES AFRICA
May 14, 2017 | 0 Comments
-With Wheel to Africa, a young American and his friends highlight the importance of people-to-people engagement in US-Africa relations.
Today Saturday, May 13, 2017, I pulled up into Bethesda Library Parking lot on Arlington road. Bethesda is an affluent Maryland town in the suburb of Washington DC the nation capital. I am here to meet Jason a college rising sophomore in African studies who spent summers in Africa, mainly Tanzania and Ghana. Jason and his friends under the guidance of his parents are collecting bikes to ship to Africa as part of the Wheel To Africa Initiative.
As soon as entered the parking lot I was greeted by a jubilant and grinning group of kids happy to see the two bikes attached on the back of my car. I could not help but to reminisce, back to the day… I mean, way back when I received my first bike as a child and how happy it felt then. Thinking about it, I am sure it is probably a fair statement to say that, these kids look as happy as the people who will soon be receiving these bikes in the continent of Africa.
Upon getting out of my vehicle, I met and greeted Jason Kohn the young men who initiated today’s event, his parents, and a few of his friends, all passionate about Africa. I introduced myself and we talked about their initiative and their passion for Africa while some of the kids unloaded the two bikes I donated and stacked them against dozens of others bikes neatly arranged on the asphalt. I spent few more minutes’ chit-chatting before saying goodbye, and got into my car. While I was putting the key in the ignition to start the car, I murmured to myself, “Jason loves Africa… so does America” before driving off…
In today’s America where most in the international development community are wondering about the Trump administration stance on Africa, Jason and his friends with their good deeds remind us, this simple fact; before there was a government, there are people and there lies the answer.
A strong and stable relationship between the United States and Africa is undoubtedly at the center of the Trump overall foreign relations. Washington’s support to the security of the continent, especially as part of the global war on terrorism is probably an essential part of “making America great again” US foreign policy, however many non-governmental or “people-to-people” interactions such as trade and cultural exchanges as well as initiatives such as Jason’s are paramount. This dependence is expected to remain unchanged in the foreseeable future.
As history teaches us, whether it be slavery, the rise of African Nationalism, or the Cold War, America and the African continent have a complicated history full of contradictions, but ultimately the strength of the relationship lies in people-to-people engagement on both continents.
About Wheel To Africa:
During a vacation in Africa with his mother, 10-year-old Winston Duncan was struck by the distances that people had to walk to find food, water, and medical care. It was then that he decided that he needed to find a way to help
His answer: Collect bikes, because “everyone has an old bike”!
In Africa, a bike is a lifeline to survival for many people. It is often their only means to access food and water, markets, education, and jobs. Winston’s passion has motivated family, friends, neighbors and acquaintances to organize annual drives across three states
*Omar Arouna is the immediate past Ambassador of the Republic of Benin to the United States of America. He answers regularly present to initiatives that touch on US-Africa Relations and is President & CEO GlobalSpecialty, LLC.
French election: What Emmanuel Macron’s win means for Africa
May 10, 2017 | 0 Comments
Emmanuel Macron’s decisive win in the French presidential election has not only spurred enthusiasm in Europe. Across Africa, where France retains huge influence in its former colonies, his election has been celebrated in the hope that it will usher in a radical change in France’s African policy. The BBC’s Lamine Konkobo looks at what that change might look like.
Africa’s ‘Ode to Joy’ moment
It was a very powerful, if subtle, symbol.
On Sunday evening, as supporters of Emmanuel Macron gathered at the Louvre’s Esplanade in central Paris waiting for their champion to arrive and address them, the podium was turned for about 15 minutes into a gigantic dance floor by one of Ivory Coast’s most famous bands.
Magic System took to the stage, flooding the Parisian night with rhythms and dance moves not often heard and seen in this part of town.
Mr Macron had originally taken to the stage to the European anthem Ode to Joy for his victory speech but for African audiences watching on television, this was their Ode to Joy moment.
It was a nod to Africa; a nod that reflected the positive message of openness and universalism which has underlined Macron’s winning campaign.
It could also be seen as one in the eye for defeated far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who must have felt repulsed by such a cultural invasion.
If the sight of Magic System at the Louvre was refreshing for Africans, that is not why the French presidential contest was closely watched across Africa.
Mr Macron is expected to deliver on issues of far greater importance in respect of the continent.
Fighting Islamist militancy
Mr Macron has said little on his African policy on the campaign trail, because Africa was not a decisive topic that could give him the votes he needed to win.
However, from the little he said about the continent, it appears that fighting Islamist militancy will be prominent on his African agenda.
He was elected while France was under a state of emergency following a series of Islamist attacks in recent years, some of which were carried out by people with African links.
But while on the campaign trail, he made it clear that he realised that France was not the only country affected:
“Africa is struggling more and more with terrorism,” he told Jeune Afrique.
“We saw it in Bamako [Mali], in Ouagadougou [Burkina Faso] and in Grand Bassam [Ivory Cost].”
Islamist militants targeted hotels in all these places last year, killing many people, including foreign tourists.
“Everyone should get involved in the fight against terrorism,” he said.
France has deployed about 4,000 troops in the Sahel region of Africa as part of the anti-terrorism Barkhane operation.
The president-elect has no plan of withdrawing these troops in the foreseeable future.
On the military front, France’s policy in Africa under Mr Macron will be more of the same.
On aid, trade and development
There is a famous saying that nations have no permanent friends but only permanent interests.
Mr Macron has been elected to serve France’s interests and he will do so in his relationship with Africa, political analyst Serge Theophile Balima told the BBC.
“Macron is a neo-liberal who believes in businesses and trade,” Mr Balima says.
“He will do his utmost to open Africa to a maximum of French businesses. That is obvious.”
However, the new president believes that partnership with the continent will be more beneficial if Africa is strong.
As a candidate, he vowed to lobby the G20 at its July summit in Germany to support economic development in African countries.
In more clearer terms he has pledged to channel to Africa most of France’s foreign aid, which he intends to increase to 0.7% of his country’s GDP.
However, Mr Macron comes to power at a time when a growing movement of economists and political leaders have been pushing for a major reform they view as more empowering than aid.
One sign of France’s continued influence over its former colonies is the CFA franc, which is pegged to the euro with the financial backing of the French treasury.
While some see it as a guarantee of financial stability, others attack it as a colonial relic.
Critics say true economic development for the 14 African countries can only be achieved if they shake off the CFA currency.
Some argue that in exchange for the “luxury” of the guarantee provided by the French treasury, the African countries channel more money to France than they receive in aid.
Ms Le Pen said that if elected, she would drop the link. While no previous French president has ever expressed a willingness to let go of the CFA, Mr Macron says the decision to move away from it is for African countries to take.
Breaking from antiquated politics
France’s African policy has come under attack from pro-democracy activists since the 1990 Baule conference, at which former President Francois Mitterand issued a call for African countries to embrace democracy, following the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Critics have consistently railed against what they perceive as a form of hypocrisy.
They say France has repeatedly used anti-democratic means on the continent to further dictatorships or overthrow unfriendly governments if they serve French interests, while openly extolling democratic values.
The system of personal networks which backed these controversial practices is pejoratively referred to as “Francafrique”.
The times are long gone when a French commando unit would fly parachutes in broad daylight into an African capital to restore a deposed head of state.
But Francafrique is not totally dead.
Mr Macron says he will finally kill it off.
He says he will defend and respect fundamental democratic principles everywhere in Africa, working with the African Union and regional organisations.
But how will he deliver where his predecessors failed to meet similar promises?
“I think he is in a position to bring that end,” analyst Mr Balima told the BBC.
“First of all, he is young. He does not belong to the old generation. He has few friends in the Mafiosi circles in Francophone Africa.”
“When meeting African heads of state, some will be embarrassed to speak to this man who could be their son.”
African leaders will no longer benefit from the former era’s complicity, Mr Balima says.
“A head of state in a situation of bad governance… could not count on Macron to mobilise the French army to quash a rebellion in a military barracks.”
If Mr Macron delivers on that promise, he would indeed turn a page that has been a source of much acrimony in French-African relations.
Addressing wounds from the past
And how France should remember its colonial legacy is closely related to the issue of whether it still pursues a neo-colonial policy in Africa.
Right-leaning French political leaders have long maintained that colonisation was not only about forced labour, exploitation and mass graves but that colonised countries also benefited.
In 2005, under President Jacques Chirac, a provision enshrining that patriotic view in law was passed. However, it was repealed a year later as a result of an outcry in France as well as in some of its former colonies and overseas territories.
Nicholas Sarkozy, as a candidate and later on as president, often complained about being tired of endlessly apologising for his country’s past transgressions.
Unlike those politicians on the right, Mr Macron considers that recognising the wrongs France did in its past interaction with African people is crucial in redefining the type of dialogue necessary for the new relationship with the continent.
As a candidate on a visit to Algeria, he stirred a controversy by branding as a crime against humanity France’s colonial war in Algeria.
While that statement was condemned by Ms Le Pen and her supporters, it was well received across the whole of French-speaking Africa.
What was strikingly different between Mr Macron and Ms Le Pen was how the two approached immigration.
Ms Le Pen’s closed-border proposition was that she “has love for the Africans but only if they are at home in Africa”, while Mr Macron has defended a policy of immigration that should be defined by France’s needs.
In other words, under President Macron, there would be no reason to stop an African from coming to France if they have skills that are useful to the country’s economy.
Since the 1970s, waves of migrants from North Africa and then former colonies south of the Sahara have found their way into France, playing a role in various sectors of the country’s economy.
Mr Macron does not say he will make immigration from Africa easier. But nor will he obsess about tightening immigration control to stem a real or supposed flow of migrants from Africa.
“That is part of the dynamics of [his] liberalism,” Mr Balima told the BBC.
The president-elect has said he would encourage foreign students and those with useful skills to move to France.
With Mr Macron’s liberal attitude to immigration, isn’t there a fear that Africa might end up losing its best talents?
Not really, says Mr Balima. “There will always be enough manpower within Africa for the development of Africa.”
Angola’s presidential council proposes Aug. 23 for national vote
April 25, 2017 | 0 Comments
LUANDA (Reuters) – Angola’s Council of the Republic, a presidential group that consults on national decisions, has proposed Aug. 23 for a national election, state radio reported on Monday, a decision which hangs on President Jose Eduardo dos Santos’ approval.
Dos Santos, 74, will step down as president after 38 years at the helm but will retain control of the powerful ruling MPLA party. He is Africa’s second longest-ruling leader and said in February he will not run in this year’s presidential election.
The MPLA chose Defence Minister Joao Lourenco, 63, as its presidential candidate last December.
Dos Santos, a communist-trained oil engineer and a veteran of the guerrilla war against Portuguese rule, will remain president of the MPLA, retaining sweeping powers over what has become Africa’s No. 2 crude producer and third largest economy.
His inscrutable public demeanour belies his tight control of Angola, where he has overseen an oil-backed economic boom and the reconstruction of infrastructure devastated by a 27-year civil war that ended in 2002.
Despite its oil wealth, most of Angola’s 22 million people live in grinding poverty and they have become increasingly frustrated in recent years as low crude prices hammered growth.
Africa: New AU Chief Puts Peace Back On the Agenda
April 24, 2017 | 0 Comments
By Liesl Louw-Vaudran*
The scene is not a familiar one at the African Union (AU): the AU Commission (AUC) chairperson, in shirtsleeves, walking in the blazing sun down an unpaved alley in a war-torn country. Yet this picture of Moussa Faki Mahamat, the new AUC chairperson, on a visit to South Sudan, is probably the first of many.
Mahamat last month visited South Sudan and Somalia, two of the worst war zones the AU has had to cope with in the past few years. He was accompanied by Smaïl Chergui, the AUC Commissioner for Peace and Security. He also met with politicians from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mali.
Mahamat’s predecessor, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, was criticised in some quarters for not paying enough attention to burning crises on the continent. She rarely travelled to conflict zones. Mahamat has been travelling to hotspots and meeting with leaders about solving conflicts.
Four days after his January inauguration in Addis Ababa, Chad’s former foreign minister left for neighbouring Somalia where he met with newly elected President Mohamed Abdullahi ‘Farmajo’ Mohamed. Somalia is the location of the AU’s main peacekeeping effort, where the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) is fighting al-Shabaab.
While in Mogadishu, Mahamat laid a wreath for the unknown soldier – an overdue gesture for the countless African soldiers who have died in battle in Somalia this past decade. Shortly afterwards he travelled to Nairobi to attend a special summit organised by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) about the future of Somali refugees.
A day after the Nairobi meeting, on 27 March, he was in South Sudan where civil war has been raging since December 2013, with no end in sight. The AU Peace and Security Department posted pictures on Twitter of Mahamat holding a baby in Ganyiel in South Sudan’s Unity State, where famine has been declared. The UN reports that 5.8 million South Sudanese require food aid.
The UN has also warned that genocide could occur in South Sudan if no political solution is found soon. Refugees streaming over the border to Uganda in the past few weeks have told horrific tales of ethnic cleansing and killings based on tribal affiliation.
Mahamat might have been thinking about this as he sat with Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame in Kigali on 8 April to commemorate the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Then, Africa said ‘never again’. In fact, the very AUC that the Chadian diplomat is now heading, is tasked with intervening in crises on the continent and preventing things from escalating to such an extent that lives are threatened on a massive scale.
The G5 Sahel is planning a joint intervention force similar to the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) against Boko Haram. Mahamat also knows these battles very well. Boko Haram has been in his backyard for years. Chad in fact plays an important role in the regional offensive against the terror group. The MNJTF, headquartered in the Chadian capital N’Djamena, has made a lot of progress and has weakened Boko Haram.
Back in his office in Addis Ababa, the AUC chief will soon be reminded that when it comes to solving Africa’s conflicts, the AU’s hands are tied on many levels. Firstly, the AUC – with its representatives from 55 member states – remains a highly bureaucratic institution with huge organisational problems. Mahamat and his new team, including his deputy and eight commissioners, are charged with implementing new reforms at the AU, adopted by heads of state at their 28th summit in January.
The Rise of The Front National and Its Impact on Francophone Africa
April 22, 2017 | 0 Comments
Dr. Gary K. Busch*
There is a very important presidential election coming up in France in which one of the main contenders for the presidency is the National Front (FN) led by Marine LePen. The FN is a party of the far right; a strongly nationalist party whose main programme is an anti-immigrant, anti-Islamic and anti- European Union policy aimed at eliminating or reducing France’s role in the globalisation of the world economy. It has gained an increasing share of support among the French electorate.
Marine LePen visited the former French colony of Chad rcently where 3,500 French soldiers are engaged in Operation Barkhane through which the French are seeking to secure the Sahara-Sahel region from terrorist attacks and to protect its source of uranium ore in nearby Niger. While she was there she pledged to break with her country’s decades-old relationship with Africa known as “Françafrique” and abolish the CFA franc currency policy that binds Paris and its former colonies. This was followed by a demand for France to leave the European Union and the Euro currency zone.
These policies were designed for their appeal to the ultra-right nationalists of the French electorate but they will also have a dramatic and disastrous effect on francophone Africa and its neighbours. The most important of these factors is the conflict over the Communuate Financiere de l’Afrique (“CFA’) franc, the common currency in francophone Africa. At its inception, the CFA was pegged at 100 CFA for each French franc but, after France joined the Euro zone at a fixed rate of 6.65957 French francs to one Euro, the CFA rate to the Euro was fixed at CFA 665,957 to each Euro, maintaining the 100 to 1 ratio. It is important to note that it is the responsibility of the French Treasury to guarantee the convertibility of the CFA to the Euro.
The monetary policy governing such a diverse aggregation of countries is uncomplicated for African Central Banks because it is, in fact, operated by the French Treasury, without reference to the central fiscal authorities of any of the African states. Each African state must deposit 65% (now reduced to 50%) of its foreign reserves with the French Treasury plus an additional 20% for administration. This means that since the early 1960s around 85% of the Africans’ foreign reserves have been transferred to France. These are deposited in the “operations accounts” controlled by the French Treasury. The two CFA banks are African in name, but have no monetary policies of their own. The countries themselves do not know, nor are they told, how much of the pool of foreign reserves held by the French Treasury belongs to them as a group or individually. The earnings of the investment of these funds in the French Treasury pool (at a rate of 0.75%) are supposed to be added to the pool but no accounting has ever been given to either the banks or the countries of the details of any such changes. The limited group of high officials in the French Treasury who have knowledge of the amounts in the “operations accounts”, where these funds are invested; whether there is a profit on these investments; are prohibited from disclosing any of this information to the CFA banks or the central banks of the African states. This makes it impossible for African members to regulate their own monetary policies. A recent Bloomberg survey estimates that the French Treasury is holding at least US$20 to $40 billion in African foreign reserves which are held in the name of the French Treasury.
African governments do not have access to these funds held by the Treasury but are allowed to borrow their own money from the French at commercial rates. In addition to the difficulties posed by the French Treasury holding unaccounted African money, France is in financial trouble. France has run out of money. It has massive public and bank debt. The reason it has been able to sustain itself so far is because it has had the cushion of the cash deposited with the French Treasury by the African states since 1960. Much of this is held in both stocks in the name of the French Treasury and in bonds whose values have been offset and used to collateralise a substantial amount of French gilts, including pledges to the ECB.
This has happened before. In 1994, the French Treasury simply devalued the CFA franc by 50%, changing from a parity of one French franc for 50 CFA francs to the pre-Euro 100 CFA francs. This caused havoc in the African economies but the African Heads of State of did not do anything or make provisions for changing the relationship with France over their currencies. In a meeting in Yaounde in November 2016 another devaluation was mooted but was postponed.
Francophone Africa’s current problem is the threat of an electoral victory by the FN whose promise is to abandon Françafrique, the Euro and the European Union. That will mean that the African reserves held by the French Treasury and hypothecated by the French in their sale of French bonds and gilts and pledged as collateral to the ECB will be forfeit and irretrievable as they are in the name of the French Treasury.
Mamadou Koulibaly, the former President of the Ivory Coast National Assembly, has been holding meetings over the last four months trying to promote an awareness of the dangers of this. There are others equally concerned. They point out that even if LePen and the FN do not win, her opponents are also not committed to assist the African states. They, too, have pledged a revision of the terms of Françafrique.
This is a time of grave danger for Africa as a whole as many African economies, including the francophones, are involved in numerous intra-African projects of the AU, the Millennium Challenge and the World Bank-IMF programs. Now is the time to act.
The non-francophone states of the Economic Community of West African States’ (ECOWAS) have already created a mechanism for the introduction of an African Single Currency the ECO. The ECO is the name of the common currency that the West African Monetary Zone (WAMZ) has agreed to introduce within the framework of ECOWAS in 2020. After its introduction, the goal is to merge the new currency with the West African CFA franc, creating a common currency for much of West Africa. The WAMZ member countries include Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. The purpose of creating the ECO is to produce a common currency for all of West Africa which will reflect the needs and opportunities for trade which link African economies together and to provide a common platform for interaction with non-African currencies. There are further plans to link the ECO with the rest of the CFA zone later as well as with the emerging East African Community (EAC) and the Common Monetary Area (CMA) of Southern Africa.
In order for these plans to become reality it will be the urgent task of the francophone CFA states to get a transparent statement of their tranche of funds being held by the French Treasury. Several West African Heads of State have already requested this. When these balances are disclosed and agreed they can then be transferred, en bloc, to the new ECO and the CFA franc and its infrastructure then dissolved.
France gives citizenship to 28 African WW2 veterans
April 20, 2017 | 0 Comments
French President Francois Hollande has given citizenship to 28 Africans who fought for France in World War Two and other conflicts.
Mr Hollande said France owed them “a debt of blood”.
The veterans – many from Senegal, and aged between 78 and 90 – received their new certificates of citizenship at the Elysee Palace in Paris.
Campaigners have long been calling for the rights of the veterans, long-term French residents, to be recognised.
“France is proud to welcome you, just as you were proud to carry its flag, the flag of freedom,” said President Hollande.
More naturalisation ceremonies are expected to follow for other veterans in France.
One of those granted citizenship on Saturday, Mohamed Toure, said the gesture will go some way towards healing old wounds.
“President Hollande did what none of his predecessors ever imagined. And that repairs a lot of things,” he said.
The granddaughter of a Senegalese soldier, Aissatou Seck, who is herself deputy mayor of a Parisian suburb, has been a lead campaigner for African veterans’ rights.
Last year, she started a petition that gained tens of thousands of signatures in less than a week.
The veterans have long been struggling for recognition and equality in France.
Until 2010, they received lower pensions than their French counterparts.
Their ambiguous status also meant they lacked access to other benefits and sometimes found it difficult to travel, said the BBC’s Africa editor, Mary Harper.
In 1944, dozens of West Africans were shot dead by French troops when they mutinied over unequal pay and pensions.
A few years ago, Mr Hollande acknowledged that French soldiers had gunned down their African counterparts.
But many war veterans are still demanding a full apology.