Africa Week in Review - September 27, 2013

  • The Somali terrorist organization al-Shabab attacked a high-end shopping mall in Nairobi, the Westgate, and killed 67 people, including six soldiers. Five of the attackers are dead and 11 were taken into custody. U.S., British and Israeli agencies are supporting the investigation into the Westgate attack. 61 people remain missing, and according to the New York Times, the Kenyan government has not fully answered outstanding questions about crucial matters, among them whether all terrorists have been apprehended. On Wednesday and Thursday, militants suspected to be al-Shabab attacked two Kenyan towns near the Somali border, in a sign that Kenya may endure more instability.  According to Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who was in the United States at the time of the attacks, “Al-Shabab is more of an international problem than a Somali problem. It can happen here in the United States as it is now happening in Nairobi.”  The New York Times, The Hill, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Washington Times, and U.S. News each explored implications that the al-Shabab Westgate attack may have on U.S. policy. For a more thorough roundup, please read our blog.
  • The attack coincided with the visit of Somali President Mohamud to the U.S., in which the U.S. government reaffirmed its pledge of U.S. $69 million for state- and peacebuilding efforts in Somalia. Chief of the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia (AMISOM), Gen. Katumba Wamala, warned that currently AMISOM is overstretched and may not effectively address security challenges posed by al-Shabab. Concerned by the violence, Burundi and Uganda, Kenya’s neighbors and troop contributors to the African Union’s peacekeeping force in Somalia, increased security measures at key locations and at “sensitive national installations.”
  • Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir canceled his request travel to the United Nations General Assembly meeting, after stating that as a President, he enjoyed an “unquestionable legal right to a visa.” The President has an outstanding arrest warning at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and genocide, and his travel request put the U.S. into a difficult position. Before it was canceled, many human rights organizations weighed in on the request. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International called on the UN Security Council and General Assembly to publicly oppose his visit. The International Justice Project asked the UN to waive the Presidents’ diplomatic immunity, while United to End Genocide urged the Hotel Association to deny the President’s request for accommodation. A group of scholars of genocide petitioned the U.S. government to grant the visa, and subsequently honor the ICC arrest warrant against President al Bashir.
  • At a high-level meeting on the Sahel region during the U.N. General Assembly, Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita appealed to West African governments to create “a regional multilateral force that could intervene quickly to respond to the ongoing Islamist threat across the area.” He pointed to instability in Niger, southern Libya and Tunisia as evidence of a shared threat posed by Islamist terrorist groups. Earlier this week, Mali’s president announced his intention to better equip the Malian army, “in a bid to prevent a repeat of the 2012 mutiny over the lack of resources to fight rebels in the north.


Quick Hits from across the region

  • The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali is investigating “allegations of serious misconduct” by its forces last week, which included an alleged sexual abuse.
  • President Barrack Obama met Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan in a bilateral meeting in New York on September 23rd.  The conversation addressed shared commitments to increase access to energy, as well as shared security interests. President Obama stressed that the U.S. wants to be “cooperative in that process of building capacity inside Nigeria to deal with that terrorist threat, but doing so in a way that is consistent with human rights.” Ahead of that meeting, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom called on Obama to use the meeting to raise the issue of sectarian violence in Nigeria. 
  • The Washington Post reported that the U.S. is moving its drone base out of Camp Lemonnier, close to Djibouti’s capital, to a more remote part of the country. The move comes after Djibouti officials expressed apprehension over several drone accidents, and the possibility that U.S. drones may collide with civilian planes. According to the Washington Post, this drone base plays “a critical role in U.S. operations against al-Shabab.”
  • USA Today reports that the Department of Defense released a new solicitation for contractors to provide two fixed-wing aircrafts in the Central African Republic to support U.S. efforts to combat the Lord Resistance Army. The aircraft will “will ferry passengers, supplies, weapons and ammunition to troops from the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. 
  • On Wednesday, the United States signed the international Arms Trade Treaty. This historic accord aims to curtail the “flow of weapons to human rights violators and conflict zones.”
  • On Sunday, September 22nd, the U.S. Department of Defense conducted a training course for West African militaries in Accra, Ghana focusing on the threat of a proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).
  • Sudan experienced three days of rioting after the government cut state fuel subsidies, resulting in the use of lethal force against protesters by the Sudanese army. The United States Embassy joined human rights groups in calling on Sudanese authorities “to respect the civil liberties of those protesting and, in particular, their right to assemble peacefully and express their views and [urging] all parties to refrain from the use of violence.”
  • In the face of recent allegations of corruption within the South Sudanese defense forces, Defense Minister Kuol Manyang announced his intention to “build a strong national army.”
  • France called on the U.N. Security Council to adopt a resolution that would increase U.N. operations in the Central African Republic (CAR) in a bid to stabilize the country. Simultaneously, the UN mission in CAR is investigating reports whether the Lord Resistance Army is disarming.
  • Charles G. Taylor, the former president of Liberia, lost his appeal disputing his 50-year sentence by Special Court for Sierra Leone for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. His case is a “watershed for modern human rights law,” according to the New York Times.
  • China provided the Zambian defense forces with military and medical equipment worth US$8 million.