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Apr. 12th, 2014

Sanctions and Elections

Although the list of names has yet to be revealed, It is reported that the Obama Administration has decided on the list of names to face Sanctions regarding the Violence in South Sudan. This is taking place during some interesting times in the Sudan/South Sudan Region. UNAMID (UN Mission in Darfur) is on the verge of collapse according to a recent report by the United Nations, The White Army which is loyal to ousted Vice President Machar has the Country's largest Oil Field under siege and Khartoum has received $1 Billion in Cash from Qatar. This is indeed some interesting times.

IGAD the main regional body has started its mission to
stabilize the Country as the Internal Peace Talks appear to be stalled yet again. Sadly the Administration is preparing these Sanctions as a knee-jerk reaction. This is not going to bode well for the Worlds youngest Nation.

Lets Go to the Elections:

Earlier this week the Obama Administration issued a call for Free and Fair Elections to be held in Guinea-Bissau. At the time of press the Elections are being held Tomorrow (Sunday April 13th). This is the first scheduled Elections after a Coup was launched in April of 2012. At that time the Military launched this particular operation as it was determined that there would not be a clear winner and the next step would be a run-off. The Voters are going to elect both a new President and Legislature. Both entities will then have a hand in choosing who the next Prime Minister will be.

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has also issued a call for a Free and Fair Election. However he did not state whether or not he was hoping for the standards that are generally set by Western Democracies or what is generally the case regarding African Elections.

There are two main factors to consider in this Election: First the Economy is in Dire Straits. The Country is considered to be a functioning Narco-State. Secondly the Military has to be considered a destabilizing factor. This is a recipe for trouble in an election with 13 Candidates and no clear cut front runner.

Going to Malawi now. The Country recently announced that it will allow International Observers for their elections which are scheduled for Next Month. (3 weeks after the South African Elections). Hopefully this cycle will be calm despite the history of the neighbors.

One of which is Burundi. Their Elections are scheduled for 2015. Already the UN is worried about potential violence. There will be more to come regarding this elections as well.

Recently CSIS (Center for Strategic and International Studies) A think tank in Washington held a debate between the two main Nigerian Parties as they gear up for the February 2015 Elections. The topic itself was what the parties were doing to prepare for these elections. It was interesting to see the PDP try and hog the Microphone and then demand the APC try and answer the questions. If this is a barometer of what is to be expected in 10 months then the Elections in Nigeria are going to be entertaining and scary at the same time. Not a good mix.

Late Last Friday the United States sent out a Warden Message regarding the Situation in Kenya. There have been a series of high profile shootings and bombings in both Mombasa and Nairobi. There is now a crackdown against the Somali Community as well. It is believed that Kenyan Police have linked the most recent events in Nairobi to the Attack on the Westgate mall last year. If that is the Case a serious issue exists in Kenya.

Also The Government of Cameroon has determined that the Pentacostal Church is now a threat to National Security. If that is the case then how would they describe the actions of Boko Haram and Ansaru?

Apr. 3rd, 2014

Other Concerns

One of the key components of the President's New Africa Strategy is the Young African Leaders Initiative. Last Week Congresswoman Karen Bass the ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Human Rights and International Organizations sponsored a Breakfast in the Rayburn House Office Building.

It has been revealed that Yilikal Getnet the Head of the Opposition Blue Party in Ethiopia was prevented from leaving Addis to attend the events in Washington. There was no official statement regarding this from either the Ethiopian Government or the Obama Administration about this incident. This incident shows how far the rulers in Addis are willing to go to remain firmly in Power.

You have heard by now the reports of the Ebola Outbreak in West Africa. This outbreak with an initial Hot Zone in Guinea has killed dozens in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. It is now believed that there is no link between the situations in both Guinea and Liberia. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) has sent a team to Dakar to monitor the situation and to assist the efforts to prevent the virus from spreading any further. However by looking at some of the routes of transmissions they appear to be following traditional trade routes. It does make one wonder if this resulted from someone being trafficked and falling ill during the movement. If that is the case where will the next Hot Zone emerge from?

Reports are now indicating that in short order the United States will be reopening its Embassy in Bangui. This could be the first step in allowing US NGOs and other entities who work on Conflict Resolution and other crucial issues to enter the Country. In an interesting side not Chad has announced that it is removing its Peacekeepers from MISCA. Also the EU is going to send 1,000 Troops to Augment the Peacekeeping Force currently in the Country.

Amnesty International has released a report that states that the current Death Toll in Nigeria is at least 1,500 people so far this year. This is a mind numbing statistic. It should be noted that Cameroonian Security Forces have captured 288 Firearms from suspected Boko Haram Supporters. This is a small victory in the effort to have a stable Nigeria before the Elections that are scheduled to take place in February 2015.

Also it can be revealed that the President has signed an Executive Order that paves the Way for Sanctions against the Government of South Sudan. These include Visa Bans and the Freezing of Assets.

It can also be revealed that an estimated 150 Children from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who are in the process of being Adopted by American Families are now in a holding pattern. The DRC Regime placed a one year freeze on Adoptions but it appears to be targeting both Evangelicals and those in a Same Sex Relationship.

Mar. 27th, 2014

Moves in Central Africa

Earlier this week President Obama informed Congress that he was ordering a further deployment of US Special Forces to Central Africa. This move consists of 4 V-22 Aircraft and 300 Commandos from the United States Air Force. This is a substantial number of reinforcements to the US Special Forces already in the region.

The first question is why now? Two Countries that are taking part in the mission to apprehend and bring to Justice the leader of the LRA (Lord's Resistance Army) Joseph Kony are in the midst of Civil Strife. (South Sudan and CAR) His exact whereabouts are unknown but it is assumed that he is in a small area of the Central African Republic near the border with Sudan and South Sudan. While there is fighting raging around him this group has kept a relatively low profile. There is a concerted effort to have peace talks resume between the factions in South Sudan. In Central African Republic its a case of Mob Rules being the law of the land.

Another Winner in this saga is Uganda. Believe it or not, After the US decided to suspend $6 Million in Funding to pay for the Salaries of some Doctors (The Logic of this escapes me..) Having this deployment of US Special Forces is a tacit approval of other aspects of Ugandan Policy in the region. This is despite the call by the Administration to have Ugandan Troops leave South Sudan so they can be replaced by a Regional Observation Force. It has been suggested that some of these troops could end up supporting the UN Mission in the Central African Republic.

Another Interesting move also occurred this week. We all know of the APS (Africa Partnership Station) concept. This is a concept where US and other Allied Naval Assets task a warship to sail down the Atlantic Coast of Africa for a year to conduct training sessions with those Nations that have either a Standing Naval Force or a Coast Guard Element. Keeping this in mind, US and Angolan Leaders held a event in Luanda where a new mission was unveiled.

There will now be a APF (African Partnership Flight) At this time the two Main Partners are Angola and Zambia. The Current Projects of the APF will be to focus on Mission Planning, Cargo Buildup and Disaster Preparedness. The Objective is to improve the proficiency and readiness in key mission area.

Also in something that will make you ponder: Both Chad and South Sudan have reportedly applied for Membership in the Arab League. I can understand Chad but why South Sudan?

Reports are now stating that the US is going to assist Kenya with Security along the Border with Somalia after the Incident in Mombasa where 6 people were shot to death in Church

Mar. 19th, 2014

Trying to repair bad images

It seems that the Body Count in Nigeria increases by the day. Whether the attackers are Boko Haram or Ansaru or even Cattle Farmers the Nigerian Security Forces seem to be overwhelmed in the Northern Part of the Country. In fact in recent days President Jonathan was forced to replace the Defence Minister.

What is the Nigerian Military doing about this? Well according to DefenceWeb a leading Source of African Military Information, A delegation from the Nigerian Navy was in the United States at MCAS ( Marine Corps Air Station) Cherry Point in North Carolina on Feb 4th of this year where they were inspecting surplus Helicopters. These Machines the CH-46 Sea Knight and the SH-2 Sea Sprite. These are Helicopters that will be able to transport platoon size units over great distances and will allow for a rapid response during future attacks. It is not known how many of these craft that the Nigerians are seeking to purchase.

So far this year at least four attacks by the Islamic Militants have also originated from Cameroon and at least one town has been attacked inside Cameroon. A recent Reuters reports indicates that Niger is now concerned that Boko Haram may be setting up a base in that Country as well. What is scary is that Elections are scheduled to be run in Nigeria in Feb 2015. Clearly the Nigerians need to improve security before this plebiscite is held. But will they be successful? That is a huge question to ask and the neighbors are not sure....

The Situation in South Sudan remains in flux. There is a threat of Sanctions by both the United States and the European Union that will be placed on both sides of this conflict. However the Government of Salva Kiir has taken the step of retaining the KRL International Public Relations firm based in Washington. The terms of the deal are that the firm will seek to connect the Government in Juba with key members of the Obama Administration and on Capitol Hill.

Relations between Juba and Washington have been strained since the violence broke out between Forces loyal to President Kiir and the removed Vice President Machar. Another source of tension is the reports that the Kiir Government had a role in supporting rebels operating against the Sudanese Government in the hotbed states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile. This has been a source of friction since Independence occurred in 2011.

Reports are now stating that the FBI is now assisting Kenyan Authorities with the Analysis of Explosives seized last week from two alleged Terrorists captured there. It was revealed that the FBI used Satellites to track the movement of their truck before these men were taken into custody. These actions could be why both Kenya and Uganda have recently issued a Terror Alert. It is believed that the reason for the planned attacks was to punish those who support AMISOM in their efforts to restore a functioning Government in Mogadishu.





Mar. 14th, 2014

Calling Out Allies

The Ugandan Newspaper Observer ran an interesting interview in today's Edition. The Paper ran an interview with the Current Information Officer at the US Embassy in Kampala. The Highlights of the Interview are:

Since there has been a cessation of hostilities within South Sudan and with a regional observation force announced just hours before the interview was run the time is right for the UPDF (Ugandan People's Defence Forces) to withdraw from South Sudan. Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and possibly Djibouti are expected to contribute to the force when it arrives in the Country within the next 30 days.

It is felt by the US that after the Ugandan Pullout UNMISS (United Nations Mission in South Sudan) should be allowed to carry out its mandate without interference from all parties.

A halfhearted answer regarding whether or not Kampala was justified of intervening in the South Sudan fighting without the cover of a UN Security Council was noted. The question was answered by thanking the Ugandan Military for protecting key Infrastructure in Juba and on the Juba-Nimule road.

The Interview also discussed the role that Uganda was playing in the AMISOM (African Mission in Somalia) and in the effort to bring the notorious Joseph Kony to justice.

Switching now to Rwanda: The Country is a key ally in the Great Lakes region. But it is know in a huge Diplomatic Row again with South Africa. Once again it involves an attempted Assassination attempt against an opponent to President Kagame who is in exile. This incident is not the first time that someone in South Africa has been marked for elimination. Similar Incidents have been reported in both Great Britain and in Norway over the last decade. This incident has led to both South Africa and Rwanda taking the step of expelling Diplomats. Burundi has also been brought into this row.

The situation has garnered the attention of Ed Royce the Chairman of the US House of Representatives Foreign Relations Committee. The Chairman has actually written to the Secretary of State John Kerry expressing his concern over the recent incident. It should also be noted that the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide will be marked in the not to distant future.

Also the UN conducted a briefing here in Washington that occurred within the last 24 hours. The topic was the situation within the Central African Republic. Some takeaways regarding this briefing:

The UN is upset that the Obama Administration cut the funding for the UN Mission in Mali.

Boko Haram does not have a presence yet in the CAR. The key word in that phrase is the word yet. However in a statement that may raise some eyebrows it is expected that Al-Shaabab could consider the Central African Republic as a place to relocate to if current events in Somalia play out and the Group is forced to relocate. There is also concern about the rise in Koranic Schools (Madrasas appear to be verboten at the UN I guess..) in the Northern Part of the Country.

Despite the lack of Infrastructure in the Country the UN wants the timeline for elections which are currently scheduled for Feb 2015 to occur. A short delay in the timeline would be acceptable however the length of the delay was not specified. Some of the questions also wondered why send the Military into a situation where if any police force were presence it could do more to promote stability.

Mar. 8th, 2014

More Simmering

Reports are now indicating that the Obama Administration will support the UN taking over from the hybrid Franco-African Mission currently in Operation in the Central African Republic.

The situation within the country is still horrific. There are stories of entire towns and villages where Muslims have either been driven out of their homes which they had lived in for Generations or have been murdered. Professional Workers and other skilled laborers are seeking shelter in neighboring Chad as well. In short order the rainy season will begin in the region. This means those seeking shelter and are residing in tents will have their plight become more miserable.

There is an interesting story from North Dakota as well. It seems that a Bank which has headquarters in Fargo, Bell State Bank is closing down accounts of Businesses  that convert or transfer funds. This move has upset the Somali Community in the area which had been using the Bank to send remittances back to Somalia. At this time there are no International Banks that are currently linked with Somali Banks.  This is in fact due to concern that these funds could actually end up in the hands of Islamist Groups trying to defeat the reemerging Government in Mogadishu. There is also ample evidence that these groups are actually reforming despite the Efforts of the AMISOM Mission and the Ethiopians.

The Most recent US Census (2010-12) placed an estimated 1,000 Somalis in North Dakota with the majority of them living in the Fargo area. It also US Law that banks that knowingly transfer funds to Terrorist Groups can also face a fine of $50 Million as well.

There are also two pieces of news as well regarding AFRICOM as well:

48 Hours ago Exercise Saharan Express which is being held in conjunction African Navies and our European Partners off the Coasts of Cabo Verde and Senegal. The goal of this exercise is to improve cooperation, tactical expertise and information sharing will last for one week.

The region is known as a transit point for the shipping of Narcotics from South America to Europe and in Human Trafficking as well. Of course there is that old business known as Piracy to deal with as well. The African Partners include Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal, Cape Verde and Liberia. The European Partners are Spain, The UK, France, Portugal and The Netherlands.

Also the Frigate USS Simpson is in the Area as well.

Mar. 5th, 2014

African Issues while the Focus is on Ukraine

Tomorrow Morning at 0930 hrs EST the Commanding General of AFRICOM (United States Africa Command) will brief the Senate Armed Services as part of the FY 15 Budget Process. Here are some issues that need to be addresed:

The South Sudan Crisis:

Just Yesterday Chris Smith (R-NJ) who is the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Human Rights and International Organizations urged President Obama to call South Sudanese President Salva Kiir in an effort to restart the Peace Talks which are currently at an impasse. There is also a Dear Colleague Letter moving through the House as well by the Sudan and South Sudan Caucuses.

Why this Administration is supporting the efforts of Riek Machar is mind-boggling. There is now calls for an interim Government and New Elections to replace Salva Kiir as well.

Speaking of Sudan has anyone noticed the reports in Iraqi Media where they are planning to assist Bashir by constructing a New Refinery? We know that Iraq is a Sovereign State and can Conduct its own Foreign Policy but you have to admire the Irony of this.

Central African Republic Fiasco:

France has voted to extend their Presence in the strife torn Nation where a resolution to the crisis with various facets seems to be sliding out of reach daily. In recent day US Allies Georgia and Turkey have announced their commitment to Provide Troops to the EU Mission that is supposed to take over from France.

The situation is so dire that after the success that MONUCSO had with a Regional Intervention Brigade in the Kivu Provinces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that the concept is currently being discussed to see if it will be applicable in the Central African Republic.

Nigeria:

Boko Haram has killed an estimated 400 people in a series of attacks. These include the destruction of two villages as well. The Group has also threatened neighboring Cameroon as well as the Country has reportedly has been offering Intelligence and Logistical Support to Nigeria.

There has also been a report that 25 BH Fighters have been captured recently while training in Niger. This should be an interesting line of questioning if asked.

Poaching:

Last Week Ed Royce (R-CA) chaired a full House Foreign Committee Hearing on Wildlife Poaching and the Ivory Trade in Africa. He made a couple of bold statements as well:

He mentioned the shock in Washington when a US Park Ranger was killed in the Line of Duty earlier this year. He then compared that to the Rangers in Virunga National Park in the DRC where over 170 have been killed.

Also it was suggested to see whether DOD could assist the Rangers in the DRC and other spots where they are overwhelmed and outgunned by the Poachers and other Criminal Elements.

Also keep an eye on Mozambique. Last week 2000 people crossed the Borders from Mozambique into Malawi. Hunger is an issue due to flooding and other issues such as RENAMO going back out into the field.

More to Come...

Feb. 18th, 2014

Upon Further Review....

It has been some time since there has been news regarding AGOA (Africa Growth and Opportunity Act) but there is some News that has some in the Fashion World talking.

According to some reports within the industry the US is going to conduct a Special Review to determine whether or not Swaziland will continue to receive the benefits that AGOA provides. These benefits are that the Country receives duty-free access of certain products including textiles and clothing from Africa to markets in the US and other Western Nations.

However there are certain protocols that need to be followed. One of these is the criteria that Internationally recognized Worker's Rights must be followed. In fact a recent Press Release from the Office of the United States Trade Representative highlighted the following concerns regarding Swaziland:

Concerns regarding the Rights of Freedom of Association and the Right to Organize,

The use of Security Forces and arbitrary arrests to intimidate Peaceful Demonstrations,

The lack of legal recognition for Union Federations.

In May 2014 the US will conduct an interim AGOA eligibility review for Swaziland. It will decide whether or not any measurable progress has been made by the Swazi Government when it comes to promoting and/or protecting the rights of workers. Stay Tuned for more details as they come in.

Turning now to Zimbabwe: A Former Democratic Member of Congress from Illinois has been arrested by the authorities. Mel Reynolds who recently ran in the Primary to replace the former Congressman Jesse Jackson was taken into custody by the Authorities on charges dealing with possession of Pornography and an Immigration Offense.

According to the Herald (which is a State-Controlled Paper) Mr. Reynolds was taken into custody on Monday. He was arrested in a Hotel after reportedly took Models and other women to his room where he then took pictures and recorded videos of the encounters. While he was being escorted to a Police Vehicle he demanded that his cellphone and laptop be returned to him according to an eyewitness who witnessed the arrest.

He has reportedly ran up a tab at the Hotel for $24,500 as well. At this time the US Embassy has declined to comment on this situation as it feels that this is a private matter.

It should be noted that Mr Reynolds has been very vocal in the efforts to have US Sanctions against Zimbabwe lifted.

finally in Djibouti the Head of the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa and representatives from USAID cut the ribbon on a new clinic in Djibouti at the end of January. Finally a Community gets access to Medical Care.

Feb. 12th, 2014

Increasing Awareness

Yesterday the President's Special Envoy to the Great Lakes region (Central Africa) spoke at a Breakfast at the Library of Congress. Most of the Conversation centered around the Military and Political Success of the Kabila Regime by defeating the M23 Insurgency. But there are serious concerns that still lurk in the darkness.

The envoy also announced that within the year that Local Elections will be held in the Country. He also compared the relatively well run elections back in 2006 to the cycle in 2011 that was wrought with problems and allegations of corruption. Presidential Elections are currently scheduled to be run in 2016. The envoy said that the Donor Community should assist the DRC with building capacity to improve how they run their elections.

He also stated that blaming Rwanda and Uganda would hinder his job of bringing all sides together in resolving the situation in the Congo. He feels that one sticking point in this crisis is plight of those Rwandese who were born in the Refugee Camps after being forced to flee their homeland back in 1994.

It appears that the United States Marines are going to take a more Prominent Role in AFRICOM. In a recent article in a Military Publication here in the United States detailed what future missions by the Corps could like in Africa.

At this time 15 of the 20 Countries that can be considered to be failed or failing states are in Africa. This list also includes states that are considered to be in dire straits or close to collapse. However the Perception that Africa is a Basket Case or a Lost Cause is gradually diminishing.

It becoming more clear that African Countries are seeking the assistance of the United States in dealing with Insurgencies including those that are Islamist in Nature. This could result in the increase in the use of RPVs by the US Military.  Other areas that will see massive cooperation include in the Medical Arena. This not only includes Combat Medicine but also helping these states deal with any future Pandemic.

Feb. 8th, 2014

Another Failure of Intelligence?

One has to wonder what the Administration thinks of the entity known as South Sudan. After all the United States was part of the Troika that monitored the Elections which divided Sudan into two diverse parts. Each one wary of the other.

Recently an Intelligence Assessment conducted by US Intelligence services concluded that "President Kiir will continue in his Authoritarian Approach to running the country and dealing with opposition groups; any peace process will likely be slow despite continued attacks by opposition forces." This assessment was presented to the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The speaker was the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

So why is there such heat here in Washington towards Salva Kiir? Is it because he does not show the qualities of leadership that the late Dr. Garang shown before his untimely death? It is widely known that providing essential services outside the Capitol of Juba is a monumental task. The report also made the claim that corruption is a huge issue and that there is some dissension within the Armed Forces of South Sudan. Another issue is the threat against the main source of revenue for the Country, The Oil Fields. We noticed that recently in December 2013 when Mr. Machar launched his Coup Attempt/Insurrection. It also appears that despite the signing of a Cease Fire recently in Addis and the resumption of new talks within 48 hours of this posting that the situation probably will not improve for the rest of the year.

Another Country that has a situation to monitor is Burundi. It sits in a bad spot in Central Africa. There are elections scheduled to be run sometime in 2015 as well. Within the last few days the Tutsi have started to resign from the Government. Sadly the media has not been covering this story. Could it be that the actions of others in the neighborhood (Ugandan Adventurism on behalf of the US, Instability and Uncertainty in the DRC) are overshadowing this situation? Or is it a case of who cares in certain Capitals? It should be duly noted that in 1994 while there over 800,000 People being slaughtered in Rwanda, President Clinton saw fit to send the Marines to Burundi. Its sad to see if people have forgotten Burundi.

Another situation to watch will be the border between Ghana and Cote D'Ivoire. On Feb 17th Negotiations will start to determine how much of the Huge Oil Field that is offshore is actually in Ivorian Waters. Another twist to this story is a report that the Ivorian Navy will be revamped. An order has been placed with a French Company for the delivery of 40 warships to deal with Piracy concerns. Another twist is the recent devaluation of the Ghanian Currency and the limitation of Cash Withdrawals to $10,000 US if one is seeking to leave the country and that person will have to show just cause for the withdrawal.This is a situation that will be watched closely as well.

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