Africa Week in Review – May 2, 2014


This week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry travelled to East and Central Africa; the U.S. army foreshadowed more activities in West Africa; and the U.S. Congress grappled with the crisis in the Central African Republic. Read about these and other news stories below.

United States peace and security policy in Africa 

  • This week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry travelled to Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Angola with the aim to “encourage democratic development, promote respect for human rights, advance peace and security...Human rights groups hailed the trip as an opportunity to refocus U.S. attention to human rights challenges in Africa.

In Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, Kerry attended the U.S.-AU High-Level Dialogue, where the raging conflict in South Sudan loomed large over discussions. Kerry warned “disturbing leading indicators of the kind of ethnic, tribal, targeted, nationalistic killings taking place … raise serious questions…with the respect to the question of genocide.” He praised the African response to the crisis, and promised the U.S. would do everything it can within the United Nations to “bring and help in assisting with a peacekeeping force – peacemaking force, in some cases.” Kerry also affirmed this week that the U.S. continues to examine how to use targeted sanctions against those responsible for atrocious human rights violations. In the meantime, the U.S. envoy to South Sudan worked to revive stalled peace talks in Addis Ababa.

In the DRC and Angola, Kerry’s meetings focused on progress in the DRC and regional efforts to further stabilize the country.

  • The U.S. army released a pre-solicitation notice asking for a private military contractor to operate fixed-wing and rotary airlift services out of Niamey, Niger, with a 500 nautical mile radius. The contractor would support “military operations which are set to begin shortly in North and West Africa.”
  • U.S. Marines finished a ten-week training of the Burundi National Defense Forces in preparation of their peacekeeping deployment as part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
  • The U.S. State Department released its annual Country Reports on Terrorism, which concluded that the “Africa region experienced significant levels of terrorist activity in 2013.” The reports focus on the al Shabab attacks in Kenya and Somalia, as well as the hundreds of attacks that Boko Haram has conducted in Nigeria. The reports also praise the successes of the U.S. Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP) and Partnership For Regional East Africa Counterterrorism (PREACT).
  • The New York Times on the other hand wrote that the capabilities of radical terrorists groups in West Africa have diminished significantly.
  • U.S. Assistant Secretary for Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO) Rick Barton travelled to Nigeria this week, from April 24-29. His aim was to highlight CSO funded initiatives, which focus on civil society and non-violent problem solving.
  • The U.S. House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations held a hearing entitled “The Central African Republic: From “Pre-genocide” to Genocide?” On the government panel, Robert P. Jackson, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of African Affairs (PDF) and Anne Richard, Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PDF) testified. They spoke with concern about the ethnic violence, the humanitarian need, and the ethnic-displacement witnessed during visits to review humanitarian needs. In addition, the conduct of peacekeeping troops was addressed during the question and answer section.

Security news from across Africa

  • East African government representatives met at the 12th Extraordinary Summit of the East African Community (EAC) to discuss challenges in the region. The representative’s main concern was terrorism, on which they released a statement of unity, calling for urgent action. The representatives also discussed the South Sudan conflict and regional efforts to negotiate a cessation of violence. 
  • The 190 abducted Nigerian girls remain missing for the second week in a row, with reports that some have been sold into marriage to rebels. The incidence inspired mass protests in Nigeria demanding the government resolve the situation. The U.S. State Department in its daily press briefing mentioned that the administration is in talks with the Nigerian government about how to assist them in this matter.
  • United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay indicated that over 9,000 child soldiers are fighting in the conflict in South Sudan, and that both government and rebel forces forcefully conscripted children. Currently, the administration is requesting to continue security assistance to the South Sudanese forces, but due to the Child Soldiers Prevention Act (CSPA), evidence of the use of child soldiers would prohibit this assistance.
  • The conflict in the Central African Republic continues to rage and Muslims continue to flee en masse, despite the arrival of EU peacekeepers. After attacks on medical clinics, the humanitarian organization doctors without borders left the rural town affected by the violence. Members of the U.S. Congress condemned the violence against civilians.
  • Two aides to Guinea Bissau’s former navy chief plead guilty to charges of narco-trafficking in an international court case held in the U.S.
  • An interesting article in Defense One compared efforts against poaching to counterinsurgency efforts. It concludes that instead of relying on expensive tools such as drones, data analytics focused on the movement of animals would be a better, more cost-effective approach.