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Nov. 12th, 2018

An Interesting Pick

Finally Peter Pham has a job with the State Department in the Trump Administration. Early on he was being considered for the position of Undersecretary of State for African Affairs a position that is currently held by Tiber Nagy. So what position will he be filling?

Mr Pham will become the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa. That means He will deal concerns in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, and Uganda. This will be a change from his position as a Vice-President at the Atlantic Council and current head of their Africa Center.

Although some people have considered this move to be statement encouraging Joseph Kabila to respect the results of the planned Presidential Elections in December there have been several actions that he has taken that should raise concerns.

Dr. Pham advised the Bush (43) Administration regarding its policy towards Somalia during the battle against the Islamic Courts Union. This was the precursor to the rise of Al-Shabaab which has caused chaos in both Somalia and Kenya to this very day.

He has stated in the past that in order to preserve order in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that the country needed to be Balkanized. Not sure how the next Government in Kinshasa will react to having this representative in the Capital.

He has led efforts by the Atlantic Council to support the efforts to lift sanctions against both Sudan and Eritrea. There has been a new series or talks between Washington and Khartoum over the last couple of weeks to further investigate such a move. No word yet on any move regarding any lifting of sanctions regarding Eritrea.

He also has good ties with the Burundian Government. He has held talks with the Military Attache on more than one occasion.

Diplomacy is often seen as the use of carrots and sticks to implement change of policy by another country. Some people are concerned regarding previous statements and writings by Dr. Pham.

We will find out what happens when the next crisis in the erupts how Dr. Pham acts

Oct. 31st, 2018

Before the Mid-Terms

Before the US has its Congressional Midterms where the Entire House of Representatives and one third of the Senate are up for Grabs there are a couple of stories that risk being buried.

There are two stories regarding Cameroon that are interconnected. First it is my sad duty to inform you of the Death of Charles Wesco. He was a Missionary who went to the strife torn southwestern part of Cameroon. He was only on the ground for a fortnight when he was shot and killed while riding in a vehicle. The story is interesting for several reasons. There are discrepancies in the manner of his death. The Official story is that he was caught in the crossfire of a gun battle between security forces and Amazonian Fighters. His family which includes a Republican Member of the Indiana House believe he was delibaratly targeted.

Cameroonian Forces have a reputation over the last year of killing anyone who speaks English. Amnesty International and other groups have documented these abuses.

What ties in is that Karen Bass the current ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Subcommitee on Africa, Global Health, Human Rights and International Operations had introduced a resolution on October 2nd H. Res 1111. This legislation seeks to address the current situation on the ground by encouraging the Church to mediate between the combantants. There is a flaw in the language. Since July two priests, a seminary student and now Mr. Wesco have been killed in this part of Cameroon.

If a mediation is to be successful those who are negotiating between the combatants or other parties involved have to be able to provide these services without fear of reprisals and other blowback. This language however is not currently in the Resolution and needs to be inserted.  Otherwise this Resolution is very good at addressing the concerns of Washington. This Resolution needs to be passed.

There is concern regarding the Central African Republic. So far this year three Russian Private Military Companies have set up shop in the Country. One of them actually had the audacity to attack US Special Forces and lost 200 fighters.....They are in the country to assist training the CAR National Army.

That being said last week the UN Security Council held a briefing regarding the status of MINUSCA the UN Peacekeeping Mission in the Country. Although the Government has been able to restore law and order to the South and Southwestern Part of the Country the North and Northeast Borders (Chad, Sudan and South Sudan) remain chaotic.

There are two reasons to be concerned about the situation. First of all there are several Militias that have stated that they will not disarm until the Russians leave the Country.  This does not bode well for future Operations.

Secondly the Russians have been complaining that the US has been messing with their efforts to import arms into the Central African Republic. Should we really shed any tears regarding this?

Finally there are several groups in Washington sending delegations to Nigeria to get a first hand look into how the Country is preparing for the upcoming elections in 2019 and to gauge how the conflict in the Middle Belt is going.

Oct. 1st, 2018

Details Needed

It was ten days ago that a US Diplomat was murdered in the Capital of Madagascar. Few details have emerged with the notable exception being that a person is in custody for the incident and that the murder took place over Friday Night.

Generally details regarding an incident like this are played close to the vest.  The next of kin has to be notified etc. The State Department did issue what they called a level two Travel Advisory on July 31st of this year due to increased concerns regarding the increase of criminal activity in the Country. There may be an update in this advisory in the near future with an increase in the threat level to Americans after this incident.

The Statements from the US Embassy in Nigeria regarding the recent byelection in Osun State in Nigeria should be raising alarms bells as Nigeria prepares for Elections in 2019. The Statement released in conjunction with the European Union and Great Britain called into question several major concerns that could affect the next polls.

The statement highlighted "widespread incidences of interference" without specifically mentioning the party in question and "intimidation of voters, journalists and civil society". The statement also commended the voters of Osun state for exercising their votes in a peaceful manner. So this proves correct yet again one of the most oft quoted statements attributed to Stalin. " It is not important who casts the vote, But what is important is who counts them".

Speaking of elections in less than a week Cameroon heads to the polls to determine whether or not current incumbent Paul Biya deserves yet another term as President of the Country. The controversy regarding how much Military Aid from the United States to Cameroon seems not to go away. Reports do indicate that the Trump Administration has withdrawn US Military Trainers but yet there has been $250 Million in military aid provided to the Country since FY 15.

Sep. 1st, 2018

End of a Month

On August 27th His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta President of Kenya made a State Visit to the United States where he met President Trump at the White House. Both leaders actually held talks whereupon increased trade and corruption were some of the key topics of the conversation.

While this meeting was taking place in Washington Security Officials from Kenya were in Accra discussing Border Security issues with representatives from Ghana, Togo and Burkina Faso. In recent weeks there have been attacks by Islamist Miltiants in Burkina targeting the Security Forces specifically. One attack resulted in the deaths of eight members of the Burninabe Security forces after their vehicle hit an IED.

Although it was not widely announced Press Reports indicate that there was an American Presence at these talks as well.

One contentious area that was discussed was the Maritime Border dispute between Ghana and Togo. There have been some minor incidents including one where a survey vessel from Ghana was prevented by Togolese Authorities from working in areas that are claimed by Togo. If these talks fail to resolve the issue then its expected that this row will end up in front of the International Court of Justice. Ghana used this route to resolve an issue with Ivory Coast that concerned the offshore Oil Fields. It appears to be willing to use this route if there is no resolution in their favor or an impasse remains.

Today is September 1st. It is Election Day in Mauritania as well. These polls will determine who will sit in Parliament and there are also Municipal Elections. A few days ago the State Department issued a Warden Message advising American Citizens to be wary of large demonstrations and to monitor events closely. This happens to be pretty standard fare for a Travel Warning.

The issue of retasking of Special Forces Units Operating in Africa still remains to be a Hot Topic. It is fact that ISIS is considered to be a major threat by the Administration along with the Gang of Four (Russia, China, Iran and North Korea). That being said it does make one wonder about whether or not we will see more of a focus of UAVs being used to project American Power and Influence.

Speaking of Russia one has to be concerned about their activites in Central Africa. The country does have a Military Pact now with the Central African Republic. It has renewed a similar deal with Angola as well. It announced within the last 24 hours to construct a logistics base in Eritrea as well. So they want to ship material into Central Africa instead of flying it into the region via Khartoum as it currently does. So which country has eyes and ears about what they are doing in Khartoum that they want hidden?

Aug. 13th, 2018

Election Aftermath and other tidbits

Yesterday was supposed to have the inauguration day for Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa. However the Opposition Movement for Democratic Change Alliance has filed a formal protest regarding the outcome of the election. However there is an interesting twist to the Elections.

One of the Candidates for President Tendai Biti attempted to flee to Zambia after the polls due to a threat to his safety. The reaction in Lusaka was to deny his request for asylum and put him on the next plane to Harare. This is considered to be a violation of Mr. Biti's Human Rights.

Contrast this to the reaction of the Zambian Government when it comes to the plight of Moises Katumbi. The Gentleman who is the Former Governor of Katanga Province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was prevented from crossing into the DRC in an effort to deny him his rights to file the necessary paperwork to become Candidate for the upcoming Presidential Elections in December.

So why the contrasting positions? It appears there is some form of a working relationship between the Zambians and Mr. Katumbi as a result of his prior position before falling out of favor with President Kabila who has decided that He will not stand for Reelection. (I am not expecting him to fade out into the sunset either). Zambia and Zimbabwe have always had a close relationship dating back to the Independence Wars that was fought decades ago.

Another story that will not go away is who is the Insurgency that first appeared in Northeastern Mozambique in October 2017. It appears that this is not an Islamist Insurgency but a local movement based on some sources.

However one of the most controversial Americans in the Private Security Sector has made an appearance on the World scene in almost a decade. Erik Prince who was the founder of Blackwater which has a dubious history in Iraq due to the poor strategy by people inside the Bush Administration now has a presence in the Country.

His Firm Lancaster 6 group is working with a group ProIndicus which is one of the groups that has been held responsible for the notorious hidden debt scandal that has placed a dampner on the Mozambique Economy.

One of the questions being asked is whether or not the crisis has been generated in this region which is one of the main areas of Natural Gas Production in the Country. This information comes to light as the Police Force in the Country has announced that it has taken six people into custody for actually being behind the crisis. A cynical point of view will have one to believe that these arrests are being announced to keep people from focusing on the presence of Mr. Prince.

Finally the Government of Paul Biya is paying $400,000 to SPB Global to represent them here in Washington. Does the silence eminating from Washington surprise anyone now?

Jul. 26th, 2018

Hidden Moves

While the Ministerial on Religious Freedom was going on here in Washington there were a move that was quietly made that impacts Policy in East Africa.

The Branch of Al-Shabaab operating in Kenya known as Al-Hijra was added to the long and seemingly never ending list of groups considered to be Terrorist Groups by the United States Government. This group has had a relatively short live as a Group. According to the US the group was founded in 2008.

The year before in Kenya there was one of the most controversial elections in Kenyan History which led to serious violence. So its not a major surprise to see such a group being formed in order to take advantage of the chaos as much as possible. The link to Al-Shabaab provided an impetus to launch Operations against Kenya in revenge for their support of the restoration of a functioning Government in neighboring Somalia.

Two attacks that the group are suspected of carrying out are the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi that occurred in 2013 and the attack in Garissa that took place in 2015.

This move should increase the communication between Nairobi and Washington when it comes to Security Cooperation .

Now to Sudan.

Sudanese President and Indicted War Criminal Omar Bashir has nominated a new nominee to be Ambassador to the United States.

The nominee just happens to be Mohamed Atta al-Moula Abbas. Who is currently the Charge d'Affaires at the Embassy here in Washington.

Before he became a "Diplomat" he was a Director of NISS (National Intelligence and Security Services) first joining the agency back in 1992. By 2009 he was director of the agency

During his tenue at the Agency the Genocide in Darfur took place, Osama Bin-Laden spent a brief residency in Sudan before the attacks of 9/11 took place and Sudan was placed on the State Sponsor of Terrorism.

It should be noted that USCIRF has designated the Country as a Tier 1 country of particular concern as well.

With this track record should he become Ambassador to the US? The fact of his nomination shows that Khartoum seeks to improve Security Ties with the United States. But is this being done at the request of some of the Gulf States to ensure financial aid? It should be noted that Bashir is expected to run for President again in 2020 as well.

Also keep an eye on the Elections in both Mali and Zimbabwe which take place over the next 96 hours. It appears that the polls in Zimbabwe may have some issues.....
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Jun. 29th, 2018

Paying Attention?

Will there be any semblance of free and fair elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo this year? It appears that the Trump Administration has its doubts.

Last week it announced that it was placing several unnamed individuals with the Electoral Commission under sanctions. There have been several questions regarding the upcoming poll such as why did they use a certain Korean Company that caused Seoul to state that this order should not have been placed. Another interesting question is whether or not President Kabila will actually stand for a third term.

Another interesting option is what is being called the Putin Rule. That is President Kabila steps down for a term and acts as Prime Minister. One of his acolytes thens assumes the office for a full term whereupon Mr. Kabila will then reassume the Office of President. This has generated some discussion amongst the Think Tanks here in Washington but it cannot be ruled out.

Another interesting fact is that in the midst of the announcement of sanctions is that the State Department is sending MIchael Hammer a former Ambassador to Chile to take a similar posting in Kinshasa. For far too long this has been a vaccum in any potential dealings with the DRC. This is a positive move although late by Secretary Pompeo.

On June 27th the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Human Rights and International Organizations held a hearing regarding the unfolding and yet underreported fighting that is occuring in Cameroon between the Francophone and the Anglophone Communities.

The images that are been shared on social media are horrific to put it mildly. Mutilated bodies, Women forced to crawl  through mudpits are just some of the lowlights. There are even images of Nigerian Vehicles being used against the Anglophone Community by Cameroonian Government Forces. It is refreshing to note that Congress is not ignoring this rapidly unfolding crisis.

Finally the US working in concert with France and the United Kingdom has been able to prevent a delivery of Chinese Arms to the Central African Republic. The situation in the country remains fluid and chaotic in some areas.

More to come after July 4th

May. 17th, 2018

Update May 18 2018

Earlier this week it was revealed that the United States would transfer 2 ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Recon) Aircraft to Cameroon.

This is an interesting move as Security Forces continue their crackdown against the Anglophile Minority which lives along the border with Nigeria. This effort which has fallen under the radar of most Media outlets for two years now appears to be part of a strategy for the next Cameroonian Presidential Elections.

This move also suggests that there is another concern for this choice of strategy. It may be that Boko Haram which has in the past proven adept at recruiting within Cameroon for attacks in Nigeria also has such a toehold in the country that this drastic step is being used to maintain the structural integrity of Cameroon.

Whatever the motives of the Government are they are also taking the steps to forcibly return Refugees who have fled Nigeria to escape the carnage unleashed by Boko Haram. It is not that much of a stretch of the imagination to sneak the Anglophone speakers into these lines. Problem solved. Or is it?

Ambassador at Large for International Religious Liberty Sam Brownback has revealed that in late June He will be visiting Nigeria.

This will be a Multifaith delegation (Christians and Muslims) and will visit some of the most troubled parts of the Country. The discussions that will be held are vital as Nigeria also prepares to hold Presidential Polls in 2019. Clearly the situation in the Middle Belt States could prove to President Buhari what the States of Borno and Adamawa were to the Jonathan Administration. A factor that led to their defeat at the polls.

Interesting report from Djibouti. It seems that unknown persons from the new Chinese Military facility in the Country have been targeting US Pilots with Lasers. Not sure of what the reaction from the Administration will be at this time.....

Finally to the Niger Ambush, talk about a whitewash.. why is it when an Operation like this goes bad the blame is tossed to the people who had to execute the job and not the geniuses who planned the mission and set the parameters of what could/ could not be done?

It is clear that the US does not have the proper footprint to promote its interests in Africa such as the lack of a response when the call for Air support was made..

Apr. 18th, 2018

Resolving Issues

One of the issues that has been plaguing the Trump Administration and its ability to respond to any unfolding crisis is the poor staffing currently in place at the State Department.

Next week the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to vote regarding whether or not current Nominee and CIA Director Mike Pompeo's nomination should be advanced to the floor of the Senate for a final confirmation vote. 

At the same time the Senate Foreign Relations Committee also held hearings to determine whether or not current nominee Thomas Hushek who is currently the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Conflict and Stablization Operations (CSO) to be the Ambassador to Juba. This post which has been vacant for some time duly needs to be filled as the internal situation remains in a state of morass. It does not show any sign of improvement nor does there seem to be any sign of regression either.

Filling these two posts will be key to getting an adequate US Response to the Crisis in South Sudan.

Has anyone noticed the remarks made by LTC Sean Mcclure? You haven't heard of this Officer?

He is currently the US Military Attache to Nigeria and recently he made some candid and interesting statements regarding the current struggle against Boko Haram.

LTC Mcclure states that the group is shifting tactics. The group is more focused on using Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and hiding amongst the civilian population necessatite a change away from the current strategy and tactics currently being employed by the Nigerian Military.

The Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant-General Tukur Buratai stated within the last twenty four hours that there was "No Doubt Boko Haram Terrorists have been defeated, They don't have the Capacity." This mantra has been repeated not only by the Nigerian Military but also by President Buhari himself. It seems that within weeks of remarks similar to those of the General are made that the Group makes its presence felt in the Country either by kidnapping a number of schoolgirls or setting off a series of suicide bombings.

So what is the problem of the Nigerian Security Forces? They currently lack the trust of the Population. Those that they are currently training to protect and ultimately failing to do so. There have been several reports of Security Forces Kidnapping and Torturing Civilians as they try to deal with this insurgency.

A key element in this failure is the lack of Human Intelligence that is available and used by the Military. Currently the FNG (Federal NIgerian Government) has ceded control of the three Northeastern States (Borno, Adamwa and Yobe).

Sadly Reform of the Military will take time. But the question of whether or not Nigeria has it or not cannot be answered at this point in time.

But when the civilian population feel caught in the middle between an insurgency and an out of control security forces they will opt for what they feel is the lesser of two evils. Right now they feel that its the insurgents...

Bad News for Nigeria

Also Flintlock 18 is underway...

Mar. 24th, 2018

(no subject)

There is a current perception amongst the Africa Watchers here in Washington that the Administration has placed Africa on the Back Burner. But behind the scenes things prove otherwise.

Late on the evening of March 23rd  the Parliament of Ghana ratified a deal with the United States despite the Main Political Opposition boycotting the deal allowing the US Military unfettered access to Ghanian Facilities. Not only will the US Military gain access but also those contracting their services out to the USG will be allowed to access these facilities.

The US will receive a decent deal for the $20 Million in training and equipment that it will pay to the Ghanians. The US will gain access to the Radio Spectrum of the Country and will gain tax exempt status for any equipment that it imports into the Country.

On a Geopolitical sense this is a good move for the US. It will allow for the US to have a presence in two main flashpoints in Africa. One the Gulf of Guinea is a major route in Human, Drug and Arms Trafficking as well as having an increase in the acts of Piracy over the last couple of years.

Secondly it will allow for AFRICOM to increase its programs to support the Sahel 5 and Operation Barakhane in the region. There will be some armchair quarterbacking to suggest that this is indeed a reaction to the Ambush of the Green Berets in Niger. If the presence in Ghana was already in effect there most likely would be an improved response by the US Military to the event while it was currently occurring.

The Administration has taken a step to highlight its current displeasure with the state of the Peace Process that has been unfolding in South Sudan.

This past week the State Department placed the names of 15 South Sudanese Petroleum Companies on the Deparment of Commerce Entry List. That means that the Government believes that the Revenues that have been generated by these Enterprises have been used to further violence in South Sudan.

This means any exports, reexports or transfers to these entities originating from the United States will require a licence after March 22nd. There were be more about this move in the near future.

Finally a group of the UPDF (Ugandan People's Defense Force) has completed a training program at Fort Polk, Louisiana. This program which ran from the 3rd of Feburary until the 26th of Feburary

The training was conducted by 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 25th Infantry Division and will allow the Ugandans to improve Recon Missions, forward passages of lines and even partnered with the 1st Battalion of the 75th Ranger Battalion. A key component was training to deter a complex attack launched by a Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device.

It appears that the Ugandans are preparing for something. Whether its in Somalia, or the DRC or even within their own borders has yet to be seen.

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