02/10/2020 Rabat – US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper signed a military cooperation deal Friday with Morocco, his final stop on a Maghreb tour aimed at beefing up the fight against terrorism and Islamic extremists in war-torn the Sahel and helping reach a settlement in Libya. Continuer à lire … « Esper reaffirms close security ties between US, Morocco »
01/10/2020 U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper made a rare visit to Algeria on Thursday for talks with the president about war-torn Libya and the troubled Sahel region to the south of the Sahara.
oth countries are alarmed by the threat posed by Islamist militant groups in North Africa and the Sahel, and Algeria is weighing a more active military role against them outside its own borders.
They held “talks on Libya and the Sahel and both parties agreed to maintain cooperation and coordination,” a statement from Algeria’s presidency said.
Esper’s visit is the first by a U.S. Defense Secretary to Algeria since Donald Rumsfeld’s in 2006 and he is also the most senior American official yet to meet President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.
Tebboune took office in December after last year’s mass protests led the army to push his predecessor Abdelaziz Bouteflika to step down after 20 years in power.
The new president has proposed changes to the constitution aimed at mollifying the opposition protest movement, but the reforms would also give the army new powers to intervene in neighbouring states.
“Mark Esper wants to discuss the Algerian army’s possible role in the region once the new constitution is passed as it allows peace-keeping operations overseas,” a Western diplomat in Algeria familiar with the matter told Reuters.
An Algerian source said the talks were expected to focus on Libya, where nine years of chaos after the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi have created space for militants, and Mali, where French troops are trying to help quell an Islamist insurgency.
“Algeria has an influence in Mali. It showed it can help. The Americans understood that French military intervention did not curb terrorism,” a senior Algerian security source, who asked not to be named, told Reuters.
“As for Libya, it is well known that Algeria maintains good ties with all the players including tribes and personalities,” the senior source told Reuters.
OPINION: Last week’s mutinous putsch by Malian army officers against President Boubacar Keita is cause for concern among oil and gas companies operating in the region, not least in Senegal and Mauritania’s burgeoning industry.
The bloodless coup was swiftly denounced by the African Union, which demanded the immediate recall of the ousted president and Prime Minister Boubou Cisse, yet people were seen rejoicing on the streets of the capital Bamako.
Popular frustration had mounted over alleged corruption and growing insecurity in the landlocked state, most of it controlled by Tuareg militia and terror groups Islamic State and Al Qaeda.
French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly insisted Operation Barkhane, a UN-backed French military campaign to neutralise the Islamist insurgency, would be unaffected.
France has 5100 soldiers deployed to assist and train the G5 Sahel militaries of Mali, Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania and is desperately seeking funds to shore up the mission in the wake of US President Donald Trump’s decision to scale down US counter-terror operations.
Keita may now be relocated to Senegal by Mali’s army junta, comprising senior officers well-liked in the ranks and led by US-trained Colonel Assimi Goita.
The events of 18 August reflect a wider malaise. Recent weeks have seen the advance of East Africa’s Al Qaeda affiliate to threaten liquefied natural gas developments operated by Total and ExxonMobil in Mozambique.
South Africa is wary of entering the fray for fear of jihadist retaliation on its own territory — Russia’s Wagner Group tried and failed to assist the Mozambique army but quit the scene, popping up again this month in Libya’s southwestern oil patch.
Russian mercenaries have sought access to natural resources in return for quelling rebellion but have had limited success with the US, for now, deploying substantial diplomatic capital to exclude Russian entities from participation in oilfield equity.
Lukoil failed to snare desired acreage in Equatorial Guinea and in Senegal where Nigerian independent Oranto Petroleum was also persuaded against a proposed farmout to Rosneft.
Perhaps more critical is the spill-over into sub-Saharan Africa of intense competition between the Emirati-Saudi alliance and a coalition of Qatari-Turkish interests with Iran as an active participant, all vying to win friends and influence people across the continent.
Underlying the geopolitical rivalry are sharp religious differences between Wahabi Sunni extremists and the expansionary Muslim Brotherhood, fed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who this week landed a massive, open-ended security deal with G5 member Niger.
France is appalled, having failed to secure either Saudi or Qatari finance for the G5 which may now crumble, with President Emmanuel Macron using funds borrowed by Senegal to hastily build a military camp at Goudiry near the Mali border to combat cross-border threats.
Little more than 600 kilometres of desert separates restive Islamist militias from the Senegal-Mauritanian coast, while just to the north Iran stands accused by Morocco of using Hezbollah to train up Polisario rebels just in case the US caves in and backs Rabat’s claim to sovereignty over Western Sahara.
One false move and an attack on Senegal’s flagship oil and gas developments could blast both out of the water before either Sangomar or Greater Tortue Ahmeyim have pumped a drop — and Woodside Petroleum, Total and BP are well aware of the threat.
(This is an Upstream opinion article.)(Copyright) |Photo : Bloodless coup: Malian army soldiers arrive amid a crowd of supporters in Bamako’s Independence Square after the overthrow of the country’s president Photo: AFP/SCANPIX
26/08/2020 – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, MoFAIC, has said it is closely following the situation in the Republic of Mali.Reem bint Ibrahim Al Hashemy, Minister of State for International Cooperation, has contacted a number of African organisations, stressing the UAE’s commitment to ensuring stability throughout the Sahel region. Continuer à lire … « UAE confirms its desire for stability in Mali and Sahel region »
26/08/2020 – US company Apogee-SSU is training Cessna 208B Caravan crews of the Cameroonian, Nigerien and Chadian air forces under a United States government contract.
The US Department of State recently renewed the company’s training contract, Africa Intelligence reports, and Apogee-SSU said on its website it has openings in Africa performing services for the Department of State (DOS), Bureau of African Affairs. This requirement is for the full-time services of three Technical Advisors to train selected aviation personnel in Cameroon, Chad and Niger on Cessna 208B aircraft and respective mission equipment, such as Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance (ISR) and/or Casualty Evacuation (CASEVAC), so that partner nation aviation personnel are self-sufficient in the operations and maintenance tasks of Caravan aircraft. Continuer à lire … « USA – Apogee-SSU to continue training west African pilots #Chad #Niger »
26/08/2020 – Niger’s security forces have arrested more than 100 people in the Sahara desert who were trying to illegally cross the country’s northern border into neighbouring Algeria, security sources said Monday. Continuer à lire … « More than 100 migrants arrested in Niger near Algerian border »
Although not a first, this case is unprecedented in its scope and involvement of senior officials. In January 2020, a shipment of 246 boxes (about 47kg) of tramadol, worth XAF12.3 billion (around €18.8 million), coming from India via Douala, Cameroon, and bound for Libya, was seized by Chadian customs.
Chad is positioned south of Libya, on the eastern edge of the Sahel and Lake Chad, west of Sudan and north of the Central African Republic (CAR). There’s latent conflict in the CAR, Boko Haram in the west, intensifying community conflicts on the border with Sudan and various armed gangs, and a volatile situation in southern Libya.
Even with prominent members of the network behind bars, fighting drug trafficking will be long and arduous.
Considering possible connections between trafficking and insecurity in the country and the neighbourhood, trafficking must be curbed to prevent entrepreneurs of violence and insecurity (armed gangs, highway robbers, highway criminals and violent extremist groups) in Chad from creating destabilising interdependencies.
With one of the trafficking routes into Chad, the Cotonou road, now under surveillance, traffickers have changed routes and are increasing the scale of their operations. The corridor from northern Chad to Libya also sees other types of insecurity and illicit activities including armed gangs, organised crime and smuggling, despite a state security presence. This could become an alternative route for trafficking into and from Chad. It’s a huge desert area that’s impossible to completely control and is well known to traffickers.
Due to its proximity to Libya, northern Chad has suffered the full impact of the Libyan conflict for almost a decade. The conflict in Libya has made it a corridor for various types of trafficking. This area also often escapes effective state control.
Even before the Libyan civil war, northern Chad had been the object of Chad-Libyan contestation (1978-1987). The discovery of gold deposits there has accentuated conflict and insecurity dynamics by attracting actors from different backgrounds, including armed gangs eager to profit from the illicit exploitation and trafficking of this resource.
In other contexts, entrepreneurs of insecurity and violence take advantage of illicit activities to strengthen logistical, operational and financial bases and enhance their resilience to state responses. In 2017, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime also warned of the extent of tramadol trafficking in the Sahel and its use by non-state armed groups.
In July 2019, two senior officials of Chad’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs were arrested for tramadol trafficking from India via Cotonou, Benin. Beninese authorities apprehended the escort with the cargo. The Chadian senior officials involved tried to have him released on the pretext that the cargo was destined for the Chadian national army. The senior officials were tried and imprisoned in Chad and the escort in Benin.
Chad is cited as one of the most corrupt countries in Africa.
A corollary to trafficking is often corruption of administrative authorities. Indeed the huge sums of money involved deepen mistrust in Chad, which is cited as one of the most corrupt countries in Africa. The tramadol trial has set a precedent, but much remains to be done to clean up the system once and for all.
It is important to continue the work to restore the integrity of the security and intelligence environment, from agents using their positions to organise the trafficking, to strengthen the capacity of the judiciary to better track down and try traffickers.
The National Agency for Financial Investigation (ANIF) and the Task Force on Money Laundering in Central Africa (GABAC) should also be asked to track systems through which money gained from the illicit drug trade is being laundered in Chad’s economy and regionally. Asset forfeiture of those involved in trafficking could be effective in this regard.
Finally, the international scope of trafficking raises the need for transnational cooperation involving not only Chad’s neighbours (Cameroon, Nigeria, Niger, Libya, Sudan and the CAR), but also the countries that serve as corridors for this trafficking, particularly Benin, to curb it. An intergovernmental institution such as Interpol, but also existing regional mechanisms such as ANIF and GABAC, should be reinforced to facilitate this cooperation.
Written by Remadji Hoinathy, Senior Researcher, ISS Regional Office for West Africa, the Sahel and the Lake Chad Basin. Republished with permission from ISS Africa. The original article can be found here.
11/08/2020 – ESTPLA-36, an Estonian infantry platoon that arrived in Mali for deployment at the beginning of April, performed its last patrol in the capital city of Gao on Sunday and is ready to hand over responsibility to the next platoon.
Adopted by the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union (AU), at its 938thmeeting held on 29 July 2020, on the situation in Mali, following the Declaration of Economic community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) Heads of State and Government on the Socio-Political crisis in Mali adopted on 27 July 2020:
Taking note of the Extraordinary Summit of the Heads of States and Government of ECOWAS convened by videoconference on 27 July 2020 on the socio-political crisis in Mali;
Recalling its previous communiques and press statements on the situation in Mali and in the Sahel region, in particular communique [PSC/PR/COMM(CCCXV)] adopted at its 315th meeting, on 23 March 2012 and communique [PSC/PR/COMM.(CMXXXIV)] adopted at it 934th meeting held on 26 June 2020;
Reaffirms the relevant AU instruments, in particular the provisions of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, the Protocol Relating to the establishment of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union, as well as the ECOWAS Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance, which reject any unconstitutional change of government, including seizure of power by force;
Further reaffirming the unwavering AU respect for the sovereignty, unity and the territorial integrity of Mali, as well as AU’s solidarity with People and Government of Mali;
Mindful of the need for Malian stakeholders to uphold their commitment towards the full implementation of the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement in Mali, emanating from Algiers process, as a unique and balanced framework for Malians to resolve their differences, on the basis of the principles of transparency and inclusivity;
Reaffirming the need for all Malian stakeholders to work together towards addressing the root causes of the crisis in their country, in particular the central issues relating to governance, security and development.
Acting under Article 7 of its Protocol, the Peace and Security Council
1. Commends ECOWAS for its continued leadership and engagement in efforts towards finding a lasting solution to the socio-political crisis in Mali, currently facing multifaceted challenges that have the potential to undermine peace, security and development efforts in the country; in this regard, welcomes the initiatives by ECOWAS, including the deployment of a Special Envoy and Mediator, H.E. President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, former President of Nigeria, to lead the mediation process, a visit of a Delegation of Heads of State and Government to Bamako, led by H.E. Mahamadou Issoufou, President of Niger and Chairperson of the ECOWAS Authority, and comprising the Presidents of Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal;
2. Endorses the Declaration of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government on the Socio-Political crisis in Mali, adopted on 27 July 2020, with a view to resolving the crisis in Mali, in line with Article 16 of the PSC Protocol; calls on the United Nations Security Council to endorse the Decisions contained in this Declaration, in accordance with Chapter VIII of the UN Charter;
3. Requests the Chairperson of the Commission to consult the ECOWAS with a view to finding a lasting solution to the socio-political situation in Mali, based on dialogue, within the framework of implementation of the Peace and reconciliation Agreement in Mali, emanating from the Algiers process;
4. Calls on all Malian stakeholders to uphold the supreme interest of their country above any other consideration and therefore, take full responsibility of the Declaration by the ECOWAS Authority; further calls on all Malian parties to expedite the implementation of the Peace and Reconciliation Agreement in Mali, as a priority towards preserving the political and security achievements made thus far;
5. Expresses concern at the threat posed by the current tensions to the constitutional order in the Republic of Mali, which potentially constitutes a serious setback for the country and the region as a whole, in particular given the current spread of terrorism, violent extremism and inter-communal tensions in the Sahel that continue to hinder the necessary efforts towards improving governance and living conditions of the people;
6. Appeals to all Malian citizens to remain calm and refrain from any actions or public declarations that could further exacerbate the situation in the country and create the necessary conditions for peaceful and inclusive dialogue and mediation efforts currently underway; in this regard, encourages the Malian stakeholders to continue with the dialogue and negotiation processes to promote a peaceful and durable solution to the ongoing crisis in the country;
7. Reiterates AU’s continued support to the efforts of the ECOWAS in Mali and calls on the international community, in particular the United Nations, to continue to providing support to Mali, in efforts aimed at addressing the root causes of the crisis in this country, particularly issues related to governance, security and development;
8. Decides to remain seized of the matter.
PSC Secretariat / African Union
08/08/2020 – Some 15,000 Malians were moved out of two large refugee camps in western Niger in late 2019 to live in nearby towns where they will be safer from jihadist attacks, the United Nations announced for the first time on Wednesday.
« The closure of the camps in December 2019 was a joint decision (by the UN refugee agency and the government of Niger) and was accelerated last year with the deterioration of the security situation, » Benoit Moreno, a UNHCR official in the capital Niamey, told AFP. Continuer à lire … « Mali/Niger : UN closes two Malian refugee camps in Niger, citing security fears »