Monthly Archives: November 2013

United States Operations in North Africa

Refinery located in Sidi Arcine, Baraki, Algeria

The Defense Department continues to work with nations in North Africa to promote security and increase stability in the region still feeling the effects of the Arab Spring, Amanda J. Dory, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for African affairs, told a Senate panel today. Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco are confronting instability and the U.S. military is working to build or strengthen their police and military forces, Dory told the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Near eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs….The effects of the Arab Spring in North Africa continue to reverberate within the region and beyond its borders into the Sahelian states of sub-Saharan Africa, she said. Libya remains a key source of instability in North Africa and the Sahel. After the overthrow of Muammar Gadhafi, there is little government infrastructure inside Libya, Dory said, and certainly no tradition of democracy.Violence is rampant in Libya and the Libyan government is too weak to control its borders and militias provide what security there is. Arms merchants are shipping Libyan weapons out of the country and these arms are fueling instability from Mali westward, Dory said…The United States will provide general-purpose-force military training for 5,000-8,000 Libyan personnel, Dory said.“This training effort is intended to help the [Libyan] government build the military it requires to protect government institutions and maintain order,” she said.  The training of Libyan military personnel may begin next year in Bulgaria.

In Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, DOD maintains close military-to-military ties with their military counterparts. All three are engaged in a security dialogue with the United States and “they share our goals of countering terrorism and enhancing cross-border security,” Dory said…

Excerpts, By Jim Garamone, Military Continues Work With North African Countries American Forces Press Service, Nov. 21, 2013

Boeing is Africanizing its Weapons

Boeing Chinook, image from wikipedia

Boeing airliners are well known and operated in almost every country of the world, Boeing are more selective as to whom they sell their military products. Up to now, the African activities of Boeing Defence, Space & Security have been restricted to North Africa.This, however, is about to change. Whilst the Middle East and Asia-Pacific are trending, Chris Chadwick, President of Boeing Military Aircraft, has seen an emerging set of needs coming out of Africa, including sub-Sahara countries..“We are looking at ways to Africanise Boeing products,” said Paul Oliver, Vice President, Middle East & Africa. An example would be an AH-6i with certain systems deleted and integrated with local weapons…

Egypt is already a large-scale Boeing military aircraft customer, operating both the CH-47 Chinook and the AH-64 Apache in large numbers. Despite the recent US suspension of some foreign military assistance to Egypt, Boeing is committed to supporting equipment in Egypt.

There are other North African customers that Boeing won’t mention, but Morocco has Boeing weapons integrated onto their F-16s and has ordered additional CH-47s for delivery in 2016….Algeria in particular is interested in acquiring Boeing’s C-17 and evaluated the aircraft earlier this year. The North African country has also expressed interest in transport helicopters and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft.

Excerpts, Dean Wingrin, Boeing sows seeds for African growth, DefenceWeb, Nov. 27, 2013

Why Killing Gaddafi was Bad for Africa

Gaddafi Dead Body

[S]ays Professor Jean-Emmanuel Pondi from the Cameroon Institute for International Relations and author of a new book on Libya, Western nations were above all vexed with Gaddafi because he refused to ‘play the diplomatic game’ and sometimes embarrassed them in public. What made matters worse was that they had no control over him because Libya had no debt – not at the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund or anywhere else. ‘Gaddafi was a problem for the world because he was economically independent and too outspoken,’ Pondi said during a seminar at the Institute for Security Studies on 21 November, 2013.  Pondi believes that even two years after Gaddafi’s death on 20 October 2011, it is important for Africans to reflect on the events that led up to the Nato intervention in Libya and the killing of Gaddafi. ‘We can’t let a long-time leader in Africa be killed on the street like a dog and not reflect on it,’ he says. To him, there is no doubt that Gaddafi was a dangerous human being and that the Gaddafi regime was a political dictatorship. ‘He even called his own people “rats”.’

Yet, at the same time, Libyans benefited from free health care and free education; fuel was almost free as well and housing was heavily subsidised. The country had one of the highest per capita incomes in the world and was second only to Mauritius on the Human Development Index for Africa – all things that were left unsaid during the campaign to topple his regime.

Pondi says it is clear that the aim of the Nato intervention, sanctioned by United Nations Resolution 1973, was primarily to get rid of Gaddafi and not to save the lives of civilians. ‘As soon as Gaddafi was dead, that was the end of the Nato intervention, even though violence was still ongoing. Civilians were still being killed,’ he says. Today, Libya is increasingly chaotic and violent, with more than 1 700 militias operating in various parts of the country – some better armed than the police and the army. Last month Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was kidnapped and held by gunmen for several hours before being released. Last week more than 40 people were killed and 400 wounded in clashes between rival militias…

In his 2011 book Au Coeur de la Libye de Khaddafi (In the heart of Gaddafi’s Libya), French specialist Patrick Haimzadeh explains the depth of the ‘mafia-like’ structure Gaddafi and his sons maintained and how it was kept going through pay-outs from Libya’s abundant oil revenues. Haimzadeh warns that any new regime that wants to replace Gaddafi will have to continue with such a system or face collapse. Would the Nato-led regime change be justified under such circumstances?

Clearly, the biggest loser after the death of Gaddafi is Africa, especially the region bordering Libya. The weapons that became freely available during the post-Gaddafi chaos have fallen into the hands of the al-Qaeda-linked groups that have been responsible for the occupation of northern Mali and for spectacular terror activities like the attack on the In Amenas gas facility in Algeria in January this year.

The African Union (AU) also lost a lot of credibility in some quarters because it was completely sidelined during the Libyan crisis. Pondi says it is unfair to say the AU had no plan to solve the stalemate between Gaddafi and the rebels controlling the eastern town of Benghazi at the time. ‘The road map was clear, firstly to put a ceasefire in place, secondly to organise a meeting between the protagonists and then to organise elections in Libya. The plan was there, but it wasn’t even given a minute at any of the meetings concerning Libya at the time.’…

Gaddafi’s demise has been tragic for Africa in other ways as well. Libya provided 15% of the budget of the AU (as did Egypt, Algeria, Nigeria and South Africa). Now both Libya and Egypt’s contributions have fallen away and the AU has to rely on European Union funds for much of its programme budget. At times Gaddafi also paid the AU contributions of smaller African states that were in arrears, as he did during the 1999 AU summit in Sirte, his hometown. During his time, Libya also invested heavily in tourism across the continent. Many hotels in the Sahel, but also as far away as South Africa, were built with Libyan funds. The Libyan airline Afriqiyah Airways also operated in several African countries until the 2011 war.

Excerpts from Liesl Louw-Vaudran, Did Nato intervene in Libya just to get rid of Gaddafi? ISS Africa, Nov. 2013

Let them Bleed: How to Pretend to Care about Religious Wars in Africa

alarm

World alarm grew over the Central African Republic (CAR) on November 21, 2013, with France joining a chorus warning of possible genocide in the mineral-rich but poor country torn by strife since a March 2013 coup.  France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius warned that the CAR was “on the verge of genocide”, while the United Nations has mooted sending thousands of peacekeepers to the landlocked nation, where unprecedented sectarian bloodshed has erupted.

In parts of the CAR, fighting has broken out between mainly Muslim former rebels who seized power in March and militia groups set up to protect Christian communities, which make up about 80 percent of the population. Both churches and mosques have been razed to the ground.“It’s total disorder,” Fabius told France 2 television, adding that the UN was considering authorising African and French troops to intervene. A regional peacekeeping force known as MISMA is currently deployed, but consists of only 2,500 men hampered by a lack of funds, arms and training.

In the latest of a long line of rebellions and coups, the Seleka rebel coalition ousted president Francois Bozize in March and put the CAR’s first Muslim leader, President Michel Djotodia, in power.Djotodia, who has officially disbanded the Seleka coalition and incorporated some of its forces into the army, announced “exceptional measures” to quell conflict, but a statement issued by his office gave no details…[The government] formed in the capital Bangui has little control of the rest of the nation, where armed groups – the remnants of successive rebellions, mutinies and insurgencies – hold sway over a people facing atrocities, food shortages and the collapse of health care.”You have seven surgeons for a population of five million, an infant mortality rate of 25 percent in some areas and 1.5 million people who have nothing, not even food, and armed gangs, bandits, etc,” Fabius said of France’s former colony in equatorial Africa.

The UN Security Council plans to vote in early December on a resolution that would allow CAR’s neighbours, the African Union and France to intervene in the sprawling nation….Plans are afoot to place MISMA under the aegis of the African Union and bring it up to 3,600 men, but diplomats and military experts warn that this number will be nowhere near enough. The bulk of MISMA is provided by Chad, with troops from Gabon, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea.

By Nicholas Barret, France joins global warnings of ‘genocide’ in C. Africa,  Agence France Presse, Nov. 22, 2013

Easy Targets: why the International Criminal Court Persecutes African Presidents and not Others

Darfur

Kenya said the International Criminal Court’s case against its two highest elected officials risked destabilizing the entire east African region at a meeting of the court’s member states.  At a debate to discuss the crisis resulting from the court’s cases against President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto, the Kenyan attorney-general said the court and its member states were playing “Russian roulette” with the country.  “Our country is the linchpin in the peace and security involving more than 250 million people from Djibouti to Eastern Congo and everybody in between,” Githu Muigai told a special debate called at the request of the African Union. He said Kenya – an ally of the West in the fight against militant Islam in neighboring Somalia – was a “pillar of security” in Eastern Africa, to loud applause from many African delegates at the conference.

Kenyatta and Ruto face separate charges of crimes against humanity for their alleged role in stoking ethnic violence in the aftermath of an election in 2007 when 1,200 people were killed. Kenya is pressing the ICC’s members for an immediate change in the rules to say that heads of state do not have to attend trials, part of a broader campaign to halt the cases against its political leaders.  Officials also want a longer-term amendment to the founding treaty that would ban the prosecution of heads of state, a campaign which has become a rallying point in Africa, where many leaders say they are the target of an overzealous court in The Hague. Kenyatta and Ruto deny the charges of fomenting violence after the election. Ruto’s trial began last month, while Kenyatta’s trial is due to start on February 5 after being delayed for a third time.  “Africa feels marginalized, like toddlers, whom the international community feels has never learned to walk,” Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed told Reuters.

Last week, the African Union lost its bid to have the U.N. Security Council defer the cases for a year so the two could deal with the aftermath of an attack on a shopping mall by al Qaeda-linked Somali militants in which at least 67 died.Kenya said the outcome highlighted the need for reform of the Security Council to prevent a few powerful nations imposing their will on the world. It pledged to continue its fight at the ICC’s annual meeting in The Hague.

Human rights groups oppose the proposed changes as well as apparent compromise solutions such as a British proposal that would make it easier for the accused to participate via video link, saying these would weaken the court’s mission to bring to justice those ultimately responsible for war crimes. “The amendments represent an attempt to recreate the ICC in the image of African justice,” said George Kegoro, executive director of the Kenyan section of the International Commission of Jurists.  “Timid, pliable and serving the comfort of leaders rather than justice for victims.”  The court has 34 African members, but any amendment would need the support of two thirds of the court’s 122 members to pass.  But even if the amendments have little chance of passing, Foreign Minister Mohamed said a court composed of members of equal rank should listen to Africa’s concerns. If some members were “more equal than others,” she said, then “we have no business being there.” Since their election, the two men have been defending themselves before the Hague-based court with the help of some of London’s best-known human rights lawyers.  Kenyatta’s legal team has asked judges to throw out the case against him, which they say is based on evidence from bribed witnesses.

By Thomas Escritt, Kenya warns of ICC threat to Eastern Africa’s stability, Reuters, Nov. 21, 2013

Minority Rights in Libya: the Berbers

Berber flag. Image from wikipedia

Protesters have shut Libya’s gas export pipeline to Italy, its only customer, demanding more rights for the c, or Berber, minority and depriving the weak government of a major source of income.  The closure worsens turmoil in Libya where Prime Minister Ali Zeidan warned that the government might face budget problems next month after protesters cut oil production to a fraction of its capacity.

The North African country faces anarchy as the government has failed to rein in armed militias and radical Islamists who helped topple Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 but kept their weapons.  Although the closure on Nov. 11, 2013 of the Greenstream pipeline will take several hours to register at the other end, it adds to Italy’s energy headaches after Ukraine halted gas imports from Russia, which could also impact supplies. Italy depends heavily on Russian gas.

Amazigh protesters last month seized the port at the Mellitah complex, some 100 km west of Tripoli, and have already shut down oil exports from there. The oil and gas complex is operated by Libya’s National Oil Corp and Italian energy company Eni.”We tried to convince them not to close the pipeline, but it’s closed now,” Munir Abu Saud, head of the local oil workers’ union, told Reuters…

Tripoli has seen its authority crumbling over its restive regions and fears an exodus of foreign oil companies and investment.  The Amazigh minority in September shut a pipeline feeding gas from Eni’s Wafa field to export facilities at Mellitah. Although this squeezed exports, much of the gas Libya sends to Italy comes from offshore fields.

The Amazigh protesters want their language guaranteed under Libya’s planned new constitution and a bigger say in a committee to be elected to draft the constitution. They say Berbers are treated as second-class citizens in the Arab country.

Excerpt, By Ghaith Shennib and Ulf Laessing, Libyan Berbers shut gas pipeline to Italy, cut major income source, Reuters, Nov. 11, 2013

 

 

 

Who is Investing in Drones?

hammerhead image from piaggio aero

A United Arab Emirates (UAE) investment fund (Mubadala)  has beefed up its stake in Italy-based Piaggio Aero, just as the aeronautics firm gets ready for the debut flight of its P.1HH Hammerhead drone… Mubadala, the US $55 billion fund set up by the Emirate of Abu Dhabi in 2002, increased its stake in Piaggio Aero from 33 to 41 percent on Nov. 12, as part of an equity increase of €190 million (US $255 million).  Also Tata Ltd., a UK offshoot of India’s Tata Group, increase its stake from 33 to 44.5 percent…That means Mubadala and Tata are now the main financial backers of development of the Italian-built Hammerhead, which is an unmanned version of Piaggio Aero’s main seller, the P.180 twin-prop business aircraft….

But the Italian Defense Ministry has not invested in the program, creating an unusual situation in which Indian and Arabian Gulf capital is funding the development of a UAV in which Italy is certifying and showing keen interest….Italy and the UAE have discussed UAV development before. In 2009, the gulf state selected the Italian M-346 jet trainer, but the deal stalled, allegedly over problems related to a side deal on UAVs.  Plans had reportedly been made to co­develop a UAV with specifications that exceeded those set down by the Missile Technology Control Regime, which restricts the sales of missiles and UAVs able to carry a 500-kilogram payload at least 300 kilometers. Italy is a signatory of the treaty.

At the Paris Air Show, Debertolis said Italy would consider arming the Hammerhead, noting that the aircraft was large enough to hold weapons in internal bays and that half of what is cabin space in the manned version would remain unused. But he added that the payload would remain within the 500-kilogram maximum set down by the Missile Technology Control Regime.

Excerptys,Tom Kington UAE Ups Its Stake in Drone-maker Piaggio Aero, Defensenews.com, Nov. 15, 2013

The U.S. Punishment for Civil Disobedience and Direct Action: the Jeremy Hammond case

Jeremy Hammond Left with his twin brother.  Image from wikipedia

Cyber-activist Jeremy Hammond was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison on November 15, 2013 by Judge Loretta A. Preska in a federal courtroom in lower Manhattan for hacking the private intelligence firm Stratfor. When released, Hammond will be placed under supervised control, the terms of which include a prohibition on encryption or attempting to anonymize his identity online.Hammond has shown a “total lack of respect for the law,” Judge Preska said in her ruling, citing Hammond’s criminal record – which includes a felony conviction for hacking from when he was 19 – and what she called “unrepentant recidivism.” There is a “desperate need to promote respect for the law,” she said, as well as a “need for adequate public deterrence.”

Prior to the verdict, [Hammond] read from a prepared statement and said it was time for him to step away from hacking as a form of activism, but recognized that tactic’s continuing importance. “Those in power do not want the truth exposed,” Hammond said from the podium, wearing black prison garb. He later stated that the injustices he has fought against “cannot be cured by reform, but by civil disobedience and direct action.” He spoke out against capitalism and a wide range of other social ills, including mass incarceration and crackdowns on protest movements.

The Stratfor hack exposed previously unknown corporate spying on activists and organizers, including PETA and the Yes Men, and was largely constructed by the FBI using an informant named Hector Monsegur, better known by his online alias Sabu. Co-defendants in the U.K. were previously sentenced to relatively lighter terms. Citing Hammond’s record, Judge Preska said “there will not be any unwarranted sentencing disparity” between her ruling and the U.K. court’s decision.

Hammond’s supporters and attorneys had previously called on Judge Preska to recuse herself following the discovery that her husband was a victim of the hack she was charged with ruling on. That motion was denied….Hammond’s defense team repeatedly stressed that their client was motivated by charitable intentions, a fact they said was reflected in his off-line life as well. Hammond has previously volunteered at Chicago soup kitchens, and has tutored fellow inmates in GED training during his incarceration.

Rosemary Nidiry, speaking for the prosecution, painted a picture of a malicious criminal motivated by a desire to create “maximum mayhem,” a phrase Hammond used in a chat log to describe what he hoped would come from the Stratfor hack. Thousands of private credit card numbers were released as a result of the Stratfor hack, which the government argued served no public good.

Sarah Kunstler, a defense attorney for Hammond, takes issue with both the prosecution and judge’s emphasis on the phrase “maximum mayhem” to the exclusion of Hammond’s broader philosophy shows an incomplete picture. “Political change can be disruptive and destructive,” Kunstler says. “That those words exclude political action is inaccurate.”

Many supporters see Hammond’s case as part of a broader trend of the government seeking what they say are disproportionately long sentences for acts that are better understood as civil disobedience than rampant criminality. Aaron Swartz, who faced prosecution under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act – the same statute used to prosecute Hammond – took his own life last year, after facing possible decades in prison for downloading academic journals from an MIT server. “The tech industry promised open access and democratization,” says Roy Singham, Swartz’s old boss and executive chairman of ThoughtWorks, a software company that advocates for social justice. “What we’ve given the world is surveillance and spying.” Singham says it’s “shameful” that “titans of the tech world” have not supported Hammond.

Following his first conviction for hacking, Hammond said, he struggled with returning to that life, but felt it was his responsibility. That decision ultimately lead to the Stratfor hack. “I had to ask myself, if Chelsea Manning fell into the abysmal nightmare of prison fighting for the truth, could I in good conscience do any less, if I was able?” he said, addressing the court. “I thought the best way to demonstrate solidarity was to continue the work of exposing and confronting corruption.”

Cyber-Activist Jeremy Hammond Sentenced to 10 Years In Prison, Rolling Stone, Nov. 15, 2013