Sudan: France special envoy meets N. Darfur deputy governor

A senior French delegation on Sunday has arrived in El Fasher, North Darfur state capital to at the beginning of a tour to inspect the security and humanitarian situation in the restive region.

The delegation, which includes the French Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, Stéphane Gruenberg and the French Ambassador to Khartoum France special envoy meets N. Darfur deputy governor, has met with the deputy governor of North Darfur Mohamed Biraima. Continuer à lire … « Sudan: France special envoy meets N. Darfur deputy governor »

Senegal : President Kagame in Dakar for peace, security meet

13/11/2017 – President Macky Sall of Senegal welcomes President Kagame to Dakar for the fourth edition of the Dakar International Forum on Peace and Security. The forum runs under the theme, “Current security challenges in Africa: towards integrated solutions.” The forum brings together close to 400 participants from high-level regional and international political and military authorities, experts, academics from the African Union, the European Union and the United Nations as well as civil society. Village Urugwiro.

Source : The New Times Rwanda

Nigeria – Government awards $195m maritime security deal to Israeli firm

Security on waterways gulps $18m yearly

The Federal government has approved a security contract valued at $195 million awarded to an Israeli firm to procure security equipment and assist in training Nigerian security personnel tackle crime along the nation’s waterways.

The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Ameachi, who disclosed this at an event to mark this year’s World Maritime Day, in Lagos yesterday, did not reveal the name of the firm, but said the contract which will commence in December will last for a period of three years after which the company will handover to Nigerian security personnel.

Nigerian maritime domain is still facing security challenges, as more case of attack and kidnappings are recorded this year. Amaechi said the agreement became imperative given the high charges shipping firms’ pay for security escort on Nigerian waterways.


Photo: Minister Of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi

Niger – First Niger Reports Listed several soldiers missing

First Niger Reports Listed several soldiers missing

Hours after they first learned of a deadly ambush on U.S. forces in Niger, senior officials in the White House believed that several American soldiers may have been missing, according to a senior official familiar with the operation.The White House did not officially receive word that three American bodies had been recovered, and one soldier remained missing, until at least eight hours after the attack had begun on the morning of Oct. 4, Washington time.

President Donald Trump was given updates throughout the day but was not given a full brief on the situation by his chief of staff, John Kelly, until the following morning.

« The initial report was more than one person missing and a number of people wounded, » the official said. « It was very confusing. »

The confusion and delays in receiving and transmitting information between field commanders, through the U.S. Africa Command in Germany, to the Pentagon and then to the White House, underscores the chaotic nature of the firefight. More broadly, it illustrates the difficulty of determining facts on faraway battlefields. In this case, the lack of firm information over so long a period was especially striking to those on the receiving end.

« My whole life, I’ve never seen something like that happen, » the senior official said of the scramble to determine how many soldiers were missing or dead. « I was dumbfounded by it. »

Nearly three weeks later, Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Monday described the deadly Niger attack as a « very complex situation. »

It remains unclear how long it took before officials at the Pentagon and U.S. Africa Command fully understood what had happened and confirmed that one soldier remained missing. Once that was clear, Pentagon officials that evening ordered the deployment of U.S.-based elite commando units to look for Sgt. La David Johnson, an Army mechanic. Johnson was attached to the Niger-based Special Operations unit that had come under attack.

It is unknown whether the commandos participated in the search for Johnson, whose body was eventually recovered and turned over to U.S. forces by Nigerien troops on Oct. 6, two days after the attack.

U.S. officials expressed skepticism that Johnson, alive or dead, was ever in the hands of the attacking enemy force, a local group believed to be affiliated with the Islamic State. « I suspect that he got separated » from the rest of the unit and was killed, the official said. « I strongly doubt he was captured by the enemy. » Administration and Washington-based defense officials who discussed the attack and the administration response spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.

Trump, who made no public comment about the deaths until more than a week after they occurred, said Wednesday that he did not « specifically » authorize the original mission, which officials have described as a routine reconnaissance tour by troops based in Niger to train local forces. The 12-man U.S. unit, accompanying about 30 Nigerien soldiers, traveled two hours by land to the village of Tongo Tongo, in the southwest corner of Niger, on Oct 3. The next morning, they spoke with village elders and began the trip back to their base.U.S. officials are still probing exactly how the travelers were ambushed, became separated on the battlefield and apparently lost communication with each other. The team did not contact its commanders in Niamey for an hour after the attack began.

Two U.S. military officials said Johnson may have lost contact with his unit because they were ambushed twice in succession by the militants. That detail, first reported by NBC News, may explain the delayed call for assistance. Five Nigerien soldiers were also killed.

Dunford speculated that the troops delayed the request for help because they initially thought they had the situation under control.

U.S. officials, who have said that a U.S. surveillance drone was overhead during the incident, described a scene in which small elements of U.S. and Nigerien troops were firing and maneuvering for cover under the enemy assault. « I personally think the American and Nigerien force was just overwhelmed, » the administration official said. « They met up with a pretty serious, professional force. »

Once the besieged U.S. troops contacted their headquarters, U.S. forces in Niamey requested aid from the much larger French military contingent based there. French Mirage jets took off within 30 minutes and reached the scene of the attack, near the border with Mali, a half-hour later. But they did not fire, officials said, to avoid hitting friendly forces scattered along with the enemy across the combat zone.

French helicopters, traveling farther and much more slowly from a base in the Malian city of Goa, did not arrive until an hour after that. It was unclear whether the battle was still underway when they reached the scene.

Still hours later, Dunford received a call from Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, head of the U.S. Africa Command, that sparked the Pentagon to deploy members of the secretive Joint Special Operations Command, to the region. With Johnson confirmed missing, military officials feared that he might be alive and could fall into enemy hands, three officials said.

The area where the U.S. unit was operating, on what their orders called a « civil reconnaissance mission, » was relatively new to American forces in Niger, who have conducted numerous similar trips to villages in the southeastern part of the country.

U.S. Special Operations forces have been in Niger to train and assist local troops in counterterrorism operations since at least 2005, and now number between 800 and 1,000. They are part of an initiative begun after the September 2001 al-Qaida attacks, and expanded by the Obama administration, to train and assist government security forces in areas around the world where militant groups might use local unrest to expand their influence.

The U.S. military, which does not have authority for « direct action » offensive operations in the region, also provides logistics and intelligence assistance to the thousands-strong French force in West Africa. France, the former colonial power, deployed troops to Mali in 2012, when Tuareg tribesmen, who had launched a rebellion against the central government, were themselves attacked by Islamist groups tied to al-Qaida affiliates in Libya.

That French mission later expanded to a more permanent force, called Operation Barkhane, in the Sahel, the arid sub-Saharan region of Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Mauritania. The French are the only foreign force with authorization to conduct direct actions and to cross borders in the region, which also hosts a U.N. peacekeeping force.

As they have spread in Libya, following the 2011 NATO backed overthrow of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, both al-Qaida and more recently the Islamic State have sought adherents in the Sahel. They have found willing followers among poor and isolated populations, often abused by local government and military forces, and riven with ethnic and tribal divisions.

Over the last two years, U.S. and foreign officials have noted the rise of at least three new Mali-based Islamist groups, small in number but increasingly active in cross-border operations in the region. Officials believe that one of them, the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, was responsible for the Oct. 4 ambush.

While it is believed to have no more than 60 pledged fighters, the Sahara group is frequently supplemented by sympathetic local villagers and temporary alliances with other localized groups. Headed by Western Sahara-born Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahraoui, a veteran of an al-Qaida affiliate that was part of the 2012 violence in Mali. Although the Sahara group was recognized by the Islamic State in late 2016, officials do not believe it receives much support beyond recognition from the larger Middle East organization.

Using small arms and traveling by motorcycle across the savannah, they have staged attacks against local military forces in the tri-border area of Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali, including the part of southwest Niger where the ill-fated U.S. unit was operating at the time of the attack.

Although U.S. officials say they await the results of their own investigation, local officials in the area of the attack said that the Americans and their Nigerien partners suggested local complicity, the Voice of America reported. « The attackers, the bandits and the terrorists have never lacked for accomplices among the local populations, » Tongo-Tongo mayor Almou Hassane told VOA’s French-to-Africa service by telephone.

VOA said that the village chief, Mounkaila Alassane, had been arrested by Nigerien authorities since the attack.

The Sahara group fighters usually flee across a neighboring border following attacks, where local forces cannot pursue them. France and the United Nations, along with the African Union, have backed formation by the five Sahel governments of a cross-border counterterrorism force with direct action authority. The United States is still considering whether and how to contribute to financial and other support for the group.

Strars & Stripes –  GREG JAFFE AND KAREN DEYOUNG | The Washington | Published: October 25, 2017

Mali – How oil exploration is adding to Mali’s security woes

Mali is one of the least developed countries in the world, with nearly half the population living near the poverty line. In the past six years, the country has experienced civil war, jihadist terrorism and a coup d’etât. More than 500,000 Malians have fled the instability and violence.

Supported by France and the US, a coalition of Sahelian states – called the G5 – have been mobilised by the UN Security Council to secure Mali from jihadist advances. At stake for all these multinational forces are also wider interests of regional stability, including petroleum and mineral resources.

Despite the increased militarisation of the country, jihadist insurgents continue to attack multiple Western and military outposts. This in turn has increased the need for their continued intervention.

Adding to the complex security mix is the fact that multinational companies are exploring petroleum reserves in Mali’s Taoudeni Basin. The basin stretches from Mali’s northern borders with Algeria and Mauritania southward to the river Niger – it contains vast oil and gas reserves. Estimates drawn up in 2015 suggest that Taoudeni has petroleum resources on a par with Algeria.

For the past four years Mali’s central government in Bamako has encouraged exploration of the basin. This suggests that a certain threshold of stability has been achieved and that the government believes that oil exploration can contribute to the region’s long term stability.

The reality is that it’s likely to do the opposite and fuel tensions rather than ease them. Fears that oil exploration will exacerbate tensions are based on the fact that oil companies need protection from the government and its partners to able to operate. This is likely to mean using foreign military forces to protect commercial activities.

Jihadist groups

The French have engaged in counter terrorism in the region since January 2013. Their original operation emptied Mali’s main cities of Al Qaïda of the Islamic Maghreb and other groups that had taken over during the 2012 civil war. But it failed to weaken the jihadist groups.

France now has 4,000 troops contributing to the G5’s 5,000 . There is also an American drone base, a UN peacekeeping force and the US has trained the Malian army. All have contributed to Mali becoming increasingly dependent on external forces to keep the peace.

Yet even with more sophisticated fire power, the military has failed to stem the growth of terror groups or prevent attacks. Jihadist groups seem to be garnering greater influence over local populations and thus greater permanence in the region. This is in part due to the fact that it serves as an alternative to the failing Malian government in some regions.

Map of the Sahel-Sahara Region of concern. themoornextdoor

Since 2012, two groups are reported to control the northern part of the region. These include the Coordination of the Azawad Movement and Al-Qaïda of the Islamic Maghreb, and they have highly contradictory priorities.

The Coordination of the Azawad Movement is a secular movement responding to the marginalisation of Northern Mali and is a coalition of armed groups that rose up after the 2012 rebellion. The group was party of the May 2015 Algiers Peace Accords that attempted to end Mali’s three year-long civil war. Through these discussions, the group requested that 20% of the region’s energy and mineral production be reinvested in northern Mali.

In contrast, Al-Qaïda hopes to reinstate the Islamic Maghreb and rule the region as the caliphates did in the Middle Ages. To achieve this goal, the group has terrorised western symbols like the attack on a popular hotel in Bamako in 2015.

Oil development in the Basin

Since the first test wells were drilled in the 1970s the region has been perceived as a “last frontier” of unexplored West African oil. In 2004 the government under president Amadou Toumani Touré injected new energy into exploration efforts in a bid to become a member of Africa’s petroleum club. New petroleum legislation was passed and nearly 700,000 sq kms was carved up into 29 blocks across the country. These were offered as shared concessions to foreign petroleum companies.

So far over 15 companies from Australia, Canada, the US, Ireland, United Arab Emirates (UAE), France, Spain, Italy and Qatar have been involved in activities in what has become known as “the El Dorado” of petroleum reserves.

Over the past four years the Mali government has also made a concerted effort to invest in the northern regions. Under programmes like the “emergency development programme for the northern regions” nearly $180 million has been put into the most vulnerable communities. Money has been primarily targeted at much-needed infrastructure.

It’s possible that petroleum earnings and the development plans may eventually contribute to peace and stability in the north of the country.

But it’s equally plausible that petroleum development could lead to a resource curse. This refers to situations in which government coffers are filled with petro dollars, none of which is invested in the communities where the oil is being extracted. The impact for local communities is often land degradation, a greater distrust of institutions and further disenfranchisement.

To avoid the resource curse and to map a more credible road to peace in the region, the focus should rather be on building the capacity of local communities to have a greater say in how the oil extraction can be pursued. And how the proceeds can be more equitably distributed.

Source: The Conversation