Africa

France denies complicity

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The French embassy in Cameroon has denied any secret activity against Cameroon in its declared war against Nigerian Islamist sect, Boko Haram.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, following media reports in the neighbouring country, the embassy condemned attacks by the terrorist militants in northern Cameroon, near the Nigerian border.

France restated its solidarity with the Cameroonian authorities in the fight against the insurgents from Nigeria, African Press Agency reported.

The French government also paid tribute to Cameroonian soldiers killed in combat against Islamist insurgents and “mourned with families of civilian victims and soldiers fighting against terrorism”.

The embassy, contrary to some Cameroonian media assertions which alluded to some behind-the-scene negotiations with Boko Haram, said President François Hollande had not met with Cameroonian officials during his July visit to Chad. Read the rest of this entry »

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The future of the Arab Spring: Islam, Islamism, growing paranoia and future prospects – Part II

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English: Map showing the territorial four main...

English: Map showing the territorial four main races/ethnicities/colors of South Africa in 1979: Whites, Coloureds, Blacks and Indians. The gray areas indicate the Apartheid-era Bantustans, which are almost exclusively black. This map is a photoshopped version of the CIA-made original map at Perry Castañeda map collection at the University of Texas website. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Written by Raeesah Cassim Cachalia (1)

Part I of this discussion explored the paranoia around the growth of political Islam after the Arab Spring. The discussion explained many of the issues involving Islam and Islamophobia and where these issues stem from. Continuing from this, part II briefly examines democracy as well as the Islamic state and explains why democracy, as we know it today, should not be the only option considered for regime change in Arab Spring nations.

The flaws and fallacies of democracy

Democracy needs to be evaluated as more than a theoretical ideal but in light of its implementation and track record as well. This is because freedom and justice, among the other values which democracy is meant to entail, do not merely exist in the right to vote or in the existence of a peoples’ constitution. Democracy, at its core, is a system meant for the benefit of the masses. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu said: “…freedom translates into having a supply of clean water, having electricity on tap; being  able to live in a decent home and have a good job; to be able to send your children to school and to have accessible health care. I mean, what’s the point of having made this transition [to democracy] if the quality of life of these people is not enhanced and improved? If not, the vote is useless.”(2) South Africa, despite having come a long way from its Apartheid past, is an example of the distance between democracy in theory and practice.

The past six months have seen a number of South African citizens worked up into a frenzy over Government attempts to impose toll tariffs for the use of major public roads. Government claims the tariff is necessary to cover a large ZAR 20 billion (US$ 2.6 billion) debt accrued for various road projects. In considering why the regular national budget does not cover such expenses, many angrily point to Government corruption along with gross wastage of state expenditure by South African politicians. To name but one example, that of former Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Sicelo Shiceka, we may look at the following official findings regarding the former Minister’s expenditure of state, and thus taxpayers, money in 2011 (keeping in mind that poverty rates are as high as 64% in parts of South Africa with these parts of the population living on less than ZAR 10 (US$ 1) a day):

  • ZAR 546,864 (US$ 71,687) for a personal trip to Switzerland under the pretence of official Government work.
  • ZAR 640,000 (US$ 83,920) in one year spent by the Minister and his immediate staff on one of South Africa’s most costly hotels.
  • ZAR 55,793 (US$ 7,300) for a one night stay for the Minister and a private acquaintance in the same hotel.
  • ZAR 160,000 (US$ 20,975) in eight months for flights for the Minister’s family members (including an “estranged wife and current girlfriend”).(3)

South Africa may be a relatively new democracy, but even established democracies indicate the illusions of this system. Read the rest of this entry »

The Life of Niger Delta Militant Henry Okah

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The Niger Delta province

Publication: Volume: 3 Issue: 4

April 30, 2012 05:43 PM Age: 9 days
Category: Militant Leadership Monitor, Home Page, Featured, Africa

By: Mark McNamee

This article is the Featured piece for the April 2012 Issue of Militant Leadership Monitor. To view the entire issue please visit mlm.jamestown.org.

Henry Emomotimi Okah was born in 1965 and raised in Ikorodu, Lagos State, although his family’s ancestral home was in Baylesa State.  The fourth child of a Navy officer, his upbringing was described by a sibling as very “British”; he attended private schools and led a relatively privileged life. He earned a bachelor’s degree in marine engineering from the Maritime Institute and, upon graduation, took a position with the Nigerian Merchant Navy. Prior to his career as an alleged rebel leader, he was a door-to-door handgun salesman in Lagos in the 1990s. Okah is believed to have begun his militancy in the late 1990s and early 2000s; in 2003 he left for South Africa where, aside from his stint in prison in Nigeria, he has remained.  Although he has denied being a rebel fighting with the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta  (MEND), Okah has admitted that he is sympathetic to the MEND cause (Mail and Guardian [Cape Town], November, 19, 2010).

According to his brother Charles Okah, Henry’s return to his family’s ancestral home in Bayelsa at the age of 19 was the formative experience in his turn towards militancy. Having witnessed firsthand the marked difference between his upbringing in Lagos State and the endemic poverty in the Niger Delta, he retained these images while a student and in his work after graduation (Vanguard, [Yenagoa], October 25, 2010). Building on his experience and contacts in the Navy, as well as his days as a weapons salesman, he eventually began to direct this background toward ostensibly social and economic ends in the Niger Delta.  Okah bunkered oil and sold it on the black market, using the funds derived therefrom to suffuse the region with weapons; this process eventually gave rise to a loosely organized network of armed rebels.  Over time, these previously disjointed rebels, often hired by Okah and other higher-level militants, as well as politicians, coalesced under the brand name of MEND. This moniker, in actuality, functioned as a catch-all term encompassing various militant groups within the Delta. One MEND leader, Alhaji Dokubo-Asari, noted in 2009 that MEND was created “not as an organization but as a name for the purpose of issuing unified statements” (Sahara Reporters [Lagos], January 1, 2009).

Having helped execute, supply and fund operations in the Delta region from abroad in South Africa, Okah was eventually arrested in Angola while attempting to purchase equipment and arms in September 2007. He was deported back to Nigeria in February 2008 and charged with more than 60 crimes, including treason and terrorism, both of which carry the death penalty. From early 2008, he was held in solitary confinement until his July 2009 release in accordance with an amnesty order handed down by then-President Yar’Adua.  Although initially viewed as an outsider, Okah had gained the respect of Delta militants in the 2000s, and his arrest in 2007 greatly enhanced his prestige with the fighters, bringing him an almost celebrity status within the group [1]. 

Read the rest of this entry »

How to Pirate Proof Your Tanker –Slideshow

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A shocking rise in pirate attacks over the last decade has left many in the shipping industry scrambling for protection, leading to a new market for security forces trained to fight off the swashbuckling foes. Photographer Amnon Gutman witnessed this scramble for security first-hand as he sailed one of the most dangerous waterways in the world with a crew, their cargo — and a private security detail trained in pirate-deflecting techniques. The fear of attack, especially near Somalia, is a well-founded one. As Gutman notes, of the 439 attacks reported to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) in 2011, 275 attacks took place off Somalia’s east coast and in the Gulf of Guinea on the west coast of Africa. However, while Somali pirates continue to account for the majority of attacks — approximately 54 percent – and while the overall number of Somali incidents increased from 219 in 2010 to 237 in 2011, the number of successful hijackings decreased from 49 to 28. The 802 crew members taken hostage in 2011 also marks a decrease from the four-year high of 1,181 in 2010.

This may be because of more aggressive policing — the European Union recently authorized its most expansive mission against pirates in Africa — but many ships aren’t taking any chances. On this journey through the Indian Ocean on a shipping vessel  that wishes to remain anonymous, SeaGull security walked through the methods still being developed to combat modern piracy.

Above, crew members secure barbed wires on the side of the tanker to prevent potential pirates from climbing aboard two days before going into the high-risk zone.

Amnon Gutman

Terrorist and Colonial Borders | Terrorism In Africa

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Terrorism In Africa: Nigerian Ethnic Groups

Terrorism Africa News

It is possible that Nigeria and Somalia will each be divided into multiple countries during this decade or the next.  I could not be surprised if it happens sooner than later.  Each country is in the midst of violence that was primarily perpetrated by terrorist groups.  In each case the central government is ineffectual in managing security and delivering the needed services to the poorer districts.  If we do witness the partitioning of these countries we will be well on our way to seeing the redrawing of many national boundaries on the continent.

Over the past sixty years African countries have struggled to gain independence from their colonial rulers.  That process took close to fifty years.   South Africa was the last to achieve such a righteous milestone.  Yet, this independence was for countries who borders were set by the colonialists and looked very little like the kingdoms and ethnic domains recognized by Africans for centuries.  The continent may well be on the verge of a redrawing of the demarcations of sovereign states to more accurately represent the realities of the continent.  It could be said that the movement to throw off colonial borders may have begun with the division of Ethiopia, resulting in Ethiopia and Eritrea, followed by Sudan splitting into Sudan and South Sudan.  These divisions were preceded by violent conflicts and referendums.

Al-Shabaab claims to be a jihadist group linked to al-Qaeda with the agenda of placing all of Somalia under Sheria.  Few analysts would differ with that description.  The ability of Al-Shabaab to take control and place all of present day Somalia under Sharia is questionable.  In fact the current struggle in Somalia has spawned several ad-hock meetings of diaspora Somalians who have drawn up plans that would result in Somalia being divided into three countries separated primarily along ethnic or clan lines.

Boko Haram has its genesis and base of operation in the poor, Muslim north of Nigeria.   They have bombed Christian houses of worship, government and United Nations instillations and recently demanded that government troops and southerns leave the north.  Their terrorist operations have brought Nigeria to the brink of civil war.  Read the rest of this entry »

Migration Information Source – Living In Between: The Chinese in South Africa

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Topographical map of South Africa, continent v...
Image via Wikipedia

By Yoon Jung Park
Rhodes University, South Africa
Visiting Professor, Howard University, Washington DC

Two South African young men view a poster advertising a 2006 Chinese cultural festival in Pretoria, South Africa.

January 2012

While there is a long history of limited migration from China to Africa, the past decade has brought tens of thousands of Chinese to African cities, towns, and rural areas. These migrants are part of the growing political, economic, and sociocultural ties between China — now the world’s second largest economy — and the poorest and most underdeveloped continent.

In a clever political move, China recently supported South Africa’s candidacy to become the newest member of the international organization of rapidly emerging markets that make up BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), thus ensuring South African (and perhaps even African) support for China at the United Nations Security Council as well as other international bodies.

In terms of economic ties, trade figures between Africa and China are dazzling with respect to both their rapid rate of growth as well as their actual total, now estimated at more than $120 billion. Beijing is now Africa’s largest trade partner, with Chinese investments fueling 49 countries and a wide range of sectors, including mining, finance, manufacturing, construction, and agriculture. Where many Western investors see risk, the Chinese see opportunity — an outlook that has led to phenomenal growth in the numbers of Chinese in Africa.

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Al Shabaab attack Kenyan police camp, kill 7

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Al-Shabaab
Image via Wikipedia

ISIOLO, Kenya | Thu Jan 12, 2012 11:58am EST

ISIOLO, Kenya

(Reuters) – Somali Islamist rebels stormed a remote police camp in northeastern Kenya, killing seven people and kidnapping three, the militants and Kenyan officials said on Thursday.

Scores of rebel fighters threw grenades and other explosives as they raided the police camp on Wednesday evening in Gerille, a town 7 km (4 miles) from the porous frontier with Somalia, Regional Commissioner Wenslas Ongayo said.

Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said in a statement there were about 100 suspected al Shabaab attackers and two officials and a member of the public had been abducted.

Kenya has tried to beef up security along the border since it sent troops into the anarchic Horn of Africa country in October to crush the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab insurgents.

Al Shabaab said it carried out the raid to avenge the “aggressive Kenyan invasion”.

Read the rest of this entry »