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Ethiopian Activists Struggle Under
The Government's Strong-Arm Tactics

Ethiopian human rights activists, members of opposition parties and those working in the media say their freedom of movement has been severely limited since the government declared a state of emergency. Many are afraid to speak out while others had to stop working.

Ethiopia’s government has insisted the six-month state of emergency — declared so authorities can deal with protests in the Oromia and Amhara regions — does not affect the constitutional.

But while things might seem calm in the streets of Addis Ababa, those perceived as challenging the government's views say they are often blocked from carrying out their activities.

Assefa Habtewold is the chairman of the opposition All Ethiopian Unity Party. He says it has become almost impossible for his party members to operate.

“We cannot go from region to region and visit our members," said Habtewold. "We cannot conduct meetings with our members at different districts. All this is prohibited. All in all we cannot make a meeting of more than two persons. Totally our movement is halted. Until the end of the state of emergency we cannot do anything.”

The party, like other opposition parties, says dozens of its members have been detained or are being harassed.

Addis Standard, a weekly independent magazine, announced it is suspending its print edition. No printing house is willing to print their magazine following the state of emergency, says editor-in-chief Tsedale Lemma.
“It makes everybody hung onto this unspecified fear of what’s going to happen if this material is published," said Lemma. "Will it be misunderstood; will it be used against me? So, this has a huge impact on doing journalism for us. As we have seen it now with Addis Standard, it even extends to vendors, and printers, and pretty much everyone involved in making a print product.”

Tsedale says the magazine will continue online, despite the country’s internet being mostly switched off.

Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo, has been demonstrating for nearly a year demanding more freedom, economic inclusiveness and proper compensation for land disputes. Thus far, hundreds have been killed during the clashes with police. 


 

AFROBAROMETER
Africa's Top Public Opinion Survey Under Threat

One of Africa's most important democracy advocacy and research organizations is in trouble because of a sharp decrease in donor funding. For 25 years, Afrobarometer has carefully recorded the attitudes of Africans towards democracy, electoral systems, presidential term limits and constitutional changes, its surveys becoming the gold standard for reliable and credible measuring of African public opinion. Afrobarometer has been at the forefront in collecting the data and recording the sentiments of Africans on the state of democracy, political stability and corruption across the continent.

Donors are needed to keep one of the finest research sources in play.  What we need to marshal are committed donors to strengthen and help Afrobarometer weather its current financial crisis and help the organization build a stronger, sustainable foundation for the future. Afrobarometer is not an expensive operation to run and the international community's support for the organization should not be a heavy lift those committed to advancing democracy and improved governance.

Speaking from the U.S. side and The African Times/USA:
The U.S. Congress should throw its support behind Afrobarometer. The House Foreign Affairs Committee has been particularly active in speaking out against corruption, human rights abuses, flawed elections and leaders who change their constitutions to remain in power, all issues that Afrobarometer’s research provides the basis to any of their Africa dialogs. Congress could pass a resolution supporting Afrobarometer's work, appropriate funds to give direct assistance and encourage the administration to help too.

The U.S. State Department and USAID should step in and provide a grant of one to two million dollars a year for the next five years to support Afrobarometer's current work and help it establish a permanent endowment fund to sustain its work into the future.

Those in the U.S., in Africa and the international community who believe in the importance of good governance and the rule of law need to step up and find a way to fund and endow Afrobarometer to keep it alive and strong as a weather vane of African views on the Continent's most challenging issues.

 

Following map shows the most current U.S. military involvement in the “War on Terror” in Africa, as well as current areas of military involvement.


AFRICOM

Founded in 2007 under the George W. Bush administration, the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) has a public relations problem. Before 2007, the U.S. military had interests and involvement in Africa, but these occurred under three separate regional commands which each had responsibility for different parts of the continent. AFRICOM ended that rather arbitrary distinction, bringing all of Africa’s 54 independent states under the same umbrella. But the largely bureaucratic move, which was meant to better centralize and coordinate American security activities on the continent, produced at best suspicious reactions, and, at worst, elaborate conspiracy theories bearing no relationship to fact that, nonetheless, can have a profound impact on the way African militaries and individuals perceive and interact with American military personnel and policy makers.


It’s not hard to see why. The history of United States policy in Africa is largely its Cold War history, and for Africans in particular, memories of those engagements are not often happy ones. Whether propping up dictators in the name of containment or turning a blind eye to human rights abuses by anti-communist forces, the United States earned a reputation for meddling and causing problems for Africa and its people throughout the Cold War. For many observers, it is hard to see how AFRICOM could be anything other than simply the latest iteration of neo-imperialist engagement by yet another bunch of shady, secretive white men sporting khakis, polo shirts, and crew cuts.


The world has changed, though, and the environment in which AFRICOM and other U.S. security engagement occurs in Africa is vastly different from the one America’s Cold Warriors imagined. The global War on Terror has driven American involvement in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, while advocates successfully lobbied for and got the placement of 100 American special operations forces in the Central African Republic, where they advise Ugandan troops searching for Lord’s Resistance Army warlord Joseph Kony. The American military also engaged in perhaps its most purely humanitarian effort in Liberia in 2014 in an effort to halt the Ebola epidemic. This approach to Africa is far more diverse and complex than that the United States faced in the Cold War.


It’s into this environment that the 12 academic and practitioner authors featured in an engaging new volume, “The US Military in Africa: Enhancing Security and Development?,” step. Edited by Jessica Piombo, a civilian, associate professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, the volume aptly shows that simplistic, conspiracy-minded ideas about what AFRICOM is “really” up to ignore the very real purposes of U.S. engagement in Africa as well as the complicated nature of that engagement. “The US Military in Africa” shows that the relationship between U.S. security assistance to the continent and other American foreign policy goals are sometimes poorly coordinated and do not always fit traditional conceptions of the ways that security and development assistance ought to interact.


As Piombo notes, the volume operates under the assumption that “security, governance, and development are inextricably linked,” in U.S. Africa policy. Poorly governed — and thus poorly developed — states are ripe for insecurity. “Given this,” she writes, “the US military has attempted to create new programs that involve a range of government and nongovernment actors in new security programs that focus on more than just training and equipping African militaries.” This approach constitutes a new approach to security in Africa, one that requires a higher level of integration between civil servants, military personnel on the ground, and interagency communication.


As the authors detail in a wide variety of case studies, this isn’t easy. Bureaucrats in the State Department and at USAID may not want to work with military actors given the need to ensure that aid workers and diplomats are not equated with military actors in the eyes of local civilians. Moreover, as Andrea Talentino argues, AFRICOM’s tendency to focus on formulaic benchmarks as signs of “successful democratization” or other forms of development rather than the slow process of building the institutions of democracy that takes time and considerably more effort is problematic. Clarence Bouchet’s chapter shows that American military engagement as it currently exists in Africa is too shallow and piecemeal to actually achieve American security goals in the region.


Why? G. William Anderson points out that U.S. Africa policy still focuses more on response to crisis than preventing those crises in the first place. Teresa Crawford and Trina Zwicker show that military coordination with nongovernmental organizations and other civil society organizations in crisis situations is a complicated matter, even when the intentions of all involved are to help serve humanitarian needs. Fundamentally, military and humanitarian actors have different modes of operation, ideas about hierarchies, and bases of knowledge. Even if they share the same goal, working together can be nearly impossible as a result of these differing norms.


In short, it’s complicated. Determining what should and should not be U.S. policy aims in Africa and what the relationship between security and development actors should look like (if it should exist at all) is no easy task. The authors do not gloss over these challenges, nor do they offer an unquestioning defense of American Africa policy. Those looking to explore these questions — and to debunk myths about AFRICOM’s capabilities and aims in Africa — would do well to read “The US Military in Africa” and to keep its critical reflections in mind.


 

Following chart of ISIS newly announced franchise operations is by Stratfor at Stratfor.com


 

NIGERIA: Boko Haram

Following report is based in large part on IRIN's, the United Nations agency, the Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN), reports and research..

Boko Haram was formed by Muslim cleric Mohammed Yusuf in 2002, in Maiduguri. Initially peaceful, in June 2009 the radical sect waged a short-lived armed uprising in a bid to establish an Islamic state in the north. This was brutally crushed by the military in July 2009, leaving over 800 dead, mostly sect members.

During the crackdown, leader Yusuf and several other members including Yusuf’s father-in-law, Alhaji Baba Fugu, were killed in police custody

Since January 2010, surviving sect members have been behind bomb and shoot-and-run attacks which have killed dozens of people not just in Maiduguri, but across the entire Northern part of Nigeria.

Most recently more than 200 schoolgirls were abducted by the Islamist militants during a night attack on the school in Chibok, a remote part of Borno state in north-east Nigeria. The militant group Boko Haram took the girls to forested areas near the Cameroonian border, and since have exhibited them on a video and suggested that they would exchange the girls for Boko Haram militants being held in Nigeria police and military prisons.

The parents of some of the girls abducted from a school have headed into in the Sambisa forest in a desperate search for their daughters, but stopped short of coming into contact with the Boko Haram militants holding the girls, being told their search was too dangerous for them and the captured girls.

As of now the Nigerian government has received assistance from the U.S., Britain and France, as well as offers of additional assistance from China, South Africa and other countries to assist in freeing the girls.

Boko Haram Starts Fresh Recruitment

Since 2010 the Nigerian military and police have decimated the ranks of Boko Haram, most of them killed and many placed in Nigeria's prisons. The Boko Haram "strategic command" now and in part since 2012, have embarked on an aggrieve recruitment campaign. Following are some of the details:

More than 100 suspected Boko Haram fighters and preachers (the latter presumed to have links with the group), have been arrested in Far North Region since 2012, but many have been released due to lack of evidence, according to a local security official.

Residents of Mayo-Sava area in Far North Region say that unidentified preachers are secretly reaching out to youths in their locality, pointing out that some youths have managed to escape the sect after being recruited, but many others have not returned.

“Boko Haram is considered here as just another religious group, and it is not difficult to be a member if you want to. Young people from here have been induced into joining Boko Haram,” he said.

Boko Haram Recruits Get Military Training

Seventeen-year-old Mustapha (not real name) recounted to IRIN how he was brought back home to Cameroon blindfolded after failing to cope with the insurgents’ military training. He had been taken to Nigeria by a preacher.

“I was the youngest among eight other boys who told me they came from the towns of Banki, Kolofata and Ngeshawa [in Cameroon] and Maiduguri [in Nigeria]. Before I was taken, they told my father that I would come back rich and a great Muslim, so he allowed me to go. We were reading the Koran and they would preach to us about fighting for the Muslim faith,” said Mustapha.

“I went for my second military training in the mountains, but suffered many injuries and I was bedridden for one month,” he said, explaining that he was brought back as his injuries ruled him unfit for combat.

"There is insufficient evidence to say clearly that Boko Haram recruits Cameroonians, but what is clear is that those fighting with them are from the border regions and can claim the nationality of either country whenever it suits them," said the official on condition of anonymity.

But a Mora resident who gave his name only as Daibu said that his brother disappeared in 2012 soon after joining a local Koranic school. “He just left and never came back. We heard from people that he had joined Boko Haram.”

Widening Threat

The threat of Boko Haram is widespread in Cameroonian villages bordering northeastern Nigeria. A Nigerian military offensive has pushed the Islamists from major towns in the country’s northeast to remote areas, including the forest of Sambisa and Cameroon.

There are suspicions that Boko Haram is also recruiting in neighboring Niger. Some observers have also linked the group with Islamist insurgents who seized Mali’s north after the overthrow of the government in Bamako.

Attacks by the insurgents have become more deadly, frequent, with greater strategic sophistication, suggesting the Boko Haram "command" has acquired military know-how, in great probability coming from the fighters who have taken over the vast areas of the Sahara, and learned their craft in Yemen and Afghanistan, with weaponry and sophisticate training coming from Libya's disbanded African mercenary battalions.


Al-Qaeda aligned terrorist groups across Africa and Middle-East continue their operations, re-equipped and strengthened by the weaponry and military materiel of Libya, their operational exit from Afghanistan and Pakistan freeing-up experienced and trained personnel, global funding from various sources, including, but somewhat diminished amounts from al-Shabaab Somali treasury and the use of their new principal revenue technique -- kidnapping for seven and eight figure hard currency ransoms – somehow involving and flowing through the good services of the international banking system and interestingly the technological support of the new mobile/satellite communications subscription services.

Our news and editorial resources try to keep up with the developments to present items which may have not received any main stream coverage, or are seemingly obscure that they get by “under the radar.” We rely on information from our long-time colleagues in Africa, from various government agencies, media resources and groups such as the Stratfor Group and others to keep you informed.

Most recently, with the attack in Nairobi the Al-Shabaab group has increased its prominence… here is what we know…

Somalia’s Al-Shabaab

Al-Shabaab is an extremist Islamic terrorist force that grew out of the anarchy that crippled Somalia after warlords ousted a longtime Somali dictator in 1991. Its name means "The Youth" in Arabic, and it is a splinter youth wing of the Islamic Courts Union government created in 2006. Al-Shabaab is estimated to have several thousand fighters, including a few hundred foreign fighters. Some of the insurgents' foreign fighters are from the Middle East with experience in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. Others are young, raw recruits from Somali communities in the United States and Europe.

WHERE IS AL-SHABAB?

In 2006 Al-Shabaab won control of almost all of Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, and substantial portions of central and southern Somalia until an UN-backed force from the African Union, with troops from neighboring Kenya and Uganda, pushed the militants out of the city in 2011 and out of the vital port of Kismayo in 2012.

HOW MANY FIGHTERS DOES IT HAVE?

No one knows for sure, but al-Shabaab is believed to command thousands of fighters including hundreds of foreigners.

AL-QAIDA LINKS?

Al-Shabaab and al-Qaida in February 2012 announced their alliance, with al-Shabaab leader Mukhtar Abu Zubair, aka Ahmed Abdi aw Mohamed and Ahmed Abdi Godane (shown below in Wanted Poster $7 million section) pledging allegiance to the global terror movement. Al-Qaida's 2002 attacks on an Israeli-owned Kenyan resort in Mombasa and an attempted attack on a plane carrying Israeli tourists are believed to have been planned by an al-Qaida cell in Somalia. U.S. officials believe some of the al-Qaida terrorists who bombed the United States embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 were given refuge in Somalia.

WHO IS AHMED ABDI GODANE?

Ahmed Abdi Godane is one of the original founders of al Shabaab and has served as the group’s leader since an American airstrike killed al Shabaab’s last acknowledged leader, Aden Hashi Ayro, in May 2008. Godane is of the Isaaq clan from Hargeisa in Somaliland. Godane studied in Pakistan on a scholarship funded by wealthy Saudis, and returned to Somalia in 2001. Godane has a home in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, where his wife and their children have lived since 2008. It had been reported that he visited them twice in 2010, using a Kenyan passport with a different name. Godane rejects nationalist goals and the Somali clan system. He sees al Shabaab’s effort in Somalia as just one front in the global jihad led by al Qaeda. In a statement in 2008, as the head of al Shabaab, Godane pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden. He also vowed that his group would launch a direct attack against the United States. Most recently, to secure his leadership position, he has eliminated or displaced most of the others who were in leadership positions of al Shabaab

WHERE DOES AL-SHABAB'S MONEY COME FROM?

Before African troops moved in, al-Shabaab was making a steady income from duties and fees levied at ports and airports as well as extorting taxes on domestic produce and demanding "jihadi" contributions. A United Nations report estimated al-Shabaab's income in 2011 at between $70 million and $100 million. It has lost most of that revenue since it was forced out of Mogadishu and Kismayo. Al-Shabaab’s only ally in Africa is Eritrea — which backs it to counter its enemy Ethiopia, which also has troops in Somalia. Eritrea denies charges that it helps arm al-Shabaab.

FRACTURED GROUP?

Al-Shabaab is believed to have fractured over its alliance with al-Qaida, which caused a rift that has grown between core Shabaab fighters who believe their struggle should focus on Somalia, and growing tensions with foreign fighters who want to plot a regional terrorist strategy. Analysts think attack on Nairobi's Westgate mall could indicate the extremists are winning that internal struggle.

WHAT INSPIRES THEM?

Al-Shabaab is inspired by the Saudi Arabian Wahabi version of Islam though most Somalis belong to the more moderate Sufi strain. While they initially won popularity with Somalis by promising security and stability after years of lawlessness and violence, al-Shabaab’s destruction of Sufi shrines has cost them much support among locals.

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The developments in the Sahel - Mali, Nigeria and now Niger are triggering additional events and developments. Nigeria remains extremely volatile, with the Boko Haram in high degree of action – UN and ECOWAS providing militantly intervention in Mali, with France having done the job they set out to do – to neutralize the AQIM and the al-Qaeda forces are ready to turn the military operation to the UN – U.S. committing new resources under its counterterrorism initiatives, including high rewards for the capture of known AQIM and al-Qaeda operatives.

The U.S. State Department is offering rewards of between $3m and $7m for the leaders of four Islamist militant groups in West Africa.

The move targets Nigeria’s Boko Haram and three groups operating further north in the Sahel: Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) and the Signed-in-Blood Battalion. It is the first time the US Rewards for Justice Program has been used in West Africa.

 



 

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