Thursday, May 22, 2014

China's diplomacy program for Africa is $2 billion over 10 years

"China opens multilateral approach to Africa with $2bn fund"
2014-05-22 from "AFP" newswire []:
China and the African Development Bank (AfDB) agreed Thursday a co-financing fund worth $2 billion over 10 years, a multilateral deal signalling a shift in Beijing's policy of dealing direct with countries.
The deal, Beijing's latest economic push on the continent, sets up the fund between the People's Bank of China and the AfDB to finance "sovereign and non-sovereign guaranteed development projects" totalling some $200 million annually, bank chiefs said.
The shift in setting up a multilateral fund follows criticism by some of China's growing role in Africa, striking deals including cheap loans in exchange for mining rights or construction contracts.
"China is a friend of Africa, they invest in infrastructure, in natural resources," said AfDB president Donald Kaberuka, after inking a memorandum to set up the fund in the Rwandan capital.
"Now this is the first time I believe in Africa, we are taking mainly a multilateral route... and they have done it because they want to assist in the development of Africa," he added.
The fund is named the Africa Growing Together Fund (AGTF), and bank leaders said it was expected to begin financing projects before the end of the year.
"We believe that for the next two decades we are going to see a strong growth... and people here are going to raise their living standards substantially," said Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People's Bank of China.
"China would like to be a part of this development."
China's economic growth has been partially fuelled by African natural resources including oil.
The deal follows Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's first tour of Africa tour earlier this month since assuming his position a little over a year ago, a trip seen as seeking to nurture a booming economic relationship.
According to official Chinese data, since 2009, China has been Africa's largest trading partner for five consecutive years and an important source for new investments on the continent.
Li, in a speech to the African Union in Ethiopia, praised the continent's growing economic power, and vowed to double trade to $400 billion (290 billion euros) by 2020.

USA charter Energy Extraction companies compete against China's Energy Enterprise

"Asian taking on more African crude as U.S. production grows"
2014-05-22 by Daniel J. Graeber for "UPI" newswire []:
U.S. crude oil imports from African producers are declining because of domestic production and China is taking up the slack, the Energy Department said.
The rapid increase in the amount of crude oil produced in the United States is squeezing African producers out of the market.
The Energy Information Administration, the statistical arm of the Energy Department, said crude oil imports in general for the week ending May 16 were 6.4 million barrels per day, down nearly 10 percent from the previous report.
In its weekly report, published Wednesday, EIA said African crude oil exports to the United States were declining.
"African crude that until recently flowed to the United States has been diverted to serve European markets that have historically been served by Libya and to supply increased demand in Asian markets where, despite Libyan disruptions, deliveries of African crude have increased
Libyan security woes have curtailed its production capacity. EIA said other African producers have compensated for the loss of Libyan crude and oil exports to Europe have fallen only modestly since 2010.
For Asia, African crude oil exports are 400,000 barrels per day higher than they were in 2010 and it's China that's taking on most of the oil.
"China imported more than 1.2 million bpd of crude oil from Africa during the first four months of 2014, 22 percent of total African crude oil exports, and is now the world´s largest importer of African crude oil," EIA said.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

UKGB and USA create IT base for War Operations across Africa

"Washington spends £200m creating intelligence hub in Britain; RAF Croughton, near Milton Keynes, is to have 1,250 staff and will cover US operations in Africa"
2014-05-18 from "The Independent" daily newspaper of London, England []:
Washington is to spend almost £200m to turn one of its British military bases – already implicated in mass surveillance and drone strikes – into one of its largest intelligence hubs outside the mainland United States.
RAF Croughton, a US Air Force (USAF) base near Milton Keynes, which has a direct cable link to Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) at Cheltenham, is to be the site for an ultra-secure intelligence centre staffed by up to 1,250 personnel and covering operations in Africa, a current focus for US counterterrorism activities.
The $317m (£189m) project, which includes an installation for the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon's main military espionage service, underlines RAF Croughton's position as a centre for clandestine and classified US communications in Britain.
Once complete in 2017, the facility will be comparable in number of personnel and operational importance to RAF Menwith Hill, the National Security Agency (NSA) listening station in North Yorkshire. Like Menwith Hill, it is likely to be co-staffed with representatives of British intelligence, including GCHQ.
The Independent, the sister title of The Independent on Sunday, revealed last year that RAF Croughton was used to funnel back to Washington data from a global network of spy bases inside US embassies, including the secret Berlin facility alleged to have been used by the NSA to listen in on the mobile phone of the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.
The British base, which currently serves as a relay station for CIA agent communications, is also at the centre of claims that it is used as a support site for US drone strikes operated from Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti against al-Qa'ida targets inside Yemen.
Campaigners and senior politicians yesterday said the massive investment in RAF Croughton raised fresh questions about the oversight of US bases in Britain, which are governed by a 1950s agreement with Washington drawn up in a different age of surveillance technologies.
Labour MP Tom Watson, a former defence minister, said: "The new spend of $317m on facilities at RAF Croughton is a shocking revelation. There can be no doubt now that communications activities there must be thoroughly reviewed, and arrangements governing use of the base updated."
Details of the RAF Croughton project obtained by this newspaper show that the upgrade will involve the "consolidation" of six existing US intelligence groups, currently based at RAF Molesworth in Cambridgeshire, into a single facility at RAF Croughton.
The Pentagon said the project was required to move intelligence staff out of outmoded and unsuitable accommodation at Molesworth, saving at least $75m a year. The move will lead to "divestiture", or closure, of the Cambridgeshire base and its neighbour RAF Alconbury, which are estimated to contribute £40m a year to the local economy.
The result will be a substantial further concentration of US intelligence firepower at RAF Croughton, whose stated purpose is to provide "world-class combat support" for activities including "global strike operations" and has recently had its security arrangements tightened.
A USAF briefing document makes it clear that the facility at RAF Croughton will be at the front line of intelligence activities and will include personnel from unnamed British agencies. The facility will be the principle intelligence centre for the USafricom – or Africa command.
It emerged last year that British Telecom provided a high-speed fibre-optic line between RAF Croughton and Camp Lemonnier, the counterterrorism operations base used for drone strikes in Yemen and the Horn of Africa.
The existence of the communications link has caused concern that RAF Croughton is used to relay command and control data from drone operators, possibly based in the US, to Djibouti. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has stated that US personnel at the base "neither fly nor control any manned or remotely piloted aircraft anywhere in the world".
Lindis Percy, co-ordinator of the Campaign for the Accountability of American Airbases, said: "This massive new development at Croughton is clearly of great importance to the American military and government, but what say has the British Parliament or the Ministry of Defence had? It is high time that the issue of what goes on on US bases is debated in Parliament so there is a meaningful and credible debate and oversight on behalf of the British people."
The MoD yesterday insisted that all activities on US bases were subject to British approval. A spokesman said: "There are no circumstances under which UK military assets, including those bases made available to the US, could be used operationally by the US without the agreement of Her Majesty's Government."

Friday, May 16, 2014

AFRICOM's mission, update 2014-05

"Militarised Humanitarianism in Africa"
2014-05-16 by Joeva Rock []:
An AFRICOM beach assault training exercise in Toubakouta, Senegal. (Credit: Lance Corporal Timothy Solano/public domain)

WASHINGTON, May 16 2014 (IPS) - As the world remains transfixed by the kidnapping of almost 300 Nigerian girls, there have been increasing calls for international intervention in the effort to rescue them. But what many people don’t know is that the U.S. military has been active in the region for years.
With the Iraq War over and the war in Afghanistan slowly ending, it is becoming increasingly apparent – from interviews with generals [], recommendations from influential think tanks [], and private conversations with military personnel – that Africa is the U.S. military’s next frontier.
U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), the newest of the U.S. military’s six regional commands, has rapidly expanded its presence on the African continent since its establishment at the end of the Bush administration.
Emphasising a “3D” approach of “defence, diplomacy, and development” [], the White House describes AFRICOM’s charge as coordinating “low-cost, small-footprint operations” throughout the African continent [].
Yet despite efforts to market AFRICOM as a small operation, recent reports have revealed that the command is “averaging more than a mission a day” on the continent [], and has anywhere from “5,000 to 8,000 U.S. military personnel on the ground” at any given point [].
Rather than the “shock and awe” of Iraq, the military has attempted to put a friendly face on its expedition to Africa. This past March, writing in the New York Times, Eric Schmitt marveled at AFRICOM’s Operation Flintlock, a multinational and multiagency training operation in Niger.
Schmitt wrote glowingly about fighting terrorism with mosquito nets: “Instead of launching American airstrikes or commando raids on militants,” he wrote, “the latest joint mission between the nations involves something else entirely: American boxes of donated vitamins, prenatal medicines, and mosquito netting to combat malaria.”
Humanitarian and development missions like the ones outlined in Schmitt’s article are at the forefront of AFRICOM’s public relations campaign. But promoting AFRICOM as a humanitarian outfit is misleading at best.
To put it simply, these projects are more like a Trojan Horse: dressed up as gifts, they establish points of entry on the continent when and where they may be needed.

A staging ground -
Under the auspice of development and conflict prevention, AFRICOM regularly undertakes humanitarian projects in countries unmarked by permanent war or conflict. AFRICOM relies heavily on social media to showcase these projects and to portray itself as collaborative with African partners, dedicated to humanitarian aid, and trustworthy in the eyes of local peoples.
The command’s Facebook and Twitter accounts are updated daily, and include postings on anything from participation in global humanitarian campaigns such as World Malaria Day (#malariabuzz) to reports on medical missions, sound bites from local recipients of AFRICOM aid, and photos of troops distributing toys to children.
Less is said about the expansive presence of American military personnel and technology on the ground and in the skies. AFRICOM conducts aerial and ground operations with U.S. troops, private military contractors, and proxy African military operatives trained and equipped by the United States.
Operation Flintlock is just one of the many training exercises AFRICOM provides for country partners, and Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti is a well-known staging ground for drone strikes in Yemen and Somalia.
Not surprisingly, given the ongoing U.S. interest in securing new fuel sources and growing concerns over China’s influence in the region, many of AFRICOM’s efforts are located in oil-rich regions – specifically Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, and the Gulf of Guinea.
The Gulf of Guinea, which hugs the Western coast of Africa, has received heightened interest of late given its proximity to the Sahel and Mali, an alleged increase in pirating, and notably, both on- and off-shore oil deposits.
In Takoradi, Ghana, for example – a place affectionately nicknamed “Oil City” -AFRICOM trains Ghanaian troops, conducts humanitarian missions, and meets with local chiefs, NGOs, and fishing communities [].

Of course, wary of lingering skepticism about U.S. motives in Iraq, spokesmen have attempted to distance the United States from any interest in the region’s oil.
A recent report from the Army War College dismissed claims that AFRICOM is protecting U.S. oil interests [], but nonetheless argued that private American oil companies are the “best corporate citizens that African leaders and their publics could hope for.”
One need not look far – from the polluted waters of Nigeria’s Niger Delta to Equatorial Guinea’s inequitable oil-driven development – to see how egregiously false that claim is.

A sign of what’s to come -
AFRICOM is insistent that its end-goal is to empower local forces to find African solutions to African problems []. But its daily operations and talk of “sensitising” West African nations to the idea of a permanent Marines “crisis unit” in the region make clear that a more permanent U.S. presence on the continent is its true intention [].
Humanitarian projects allow military personnel to train in new environments, gather local experience and tactical data, and build diplomatic relations with host countries and communities.
As activists with Women for Genuine Security have explained, this use of relief and humanitarian aid to “further larger geopolitical and military goals” [] – a practice they have dubbed “disaster militarism” – is a general strategy employed by the U.S. military worldwide.
For example, a 2010 report from the Feinstein International Center at Tufts University [] found that in Kenya, humanitarian projects by the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, a multi-branch military operation in East Africa [], provided “an entry point” to “facilitate a military intervention, should the need arise.”
Similarly, as David Vine has shown with regard to the U.S. military’s “lily pad strategy” of speckling the globe with tiny military installations [] – much like AFRICOM’s “small-footprint operations” – small-scale troop build-ups allow the United States to establish “goodwill” with local communities, planting the seeds for larger concentrations of troops and activities later on.
Accordingly, while humanitarian missions may incur small-scale benefits, these projects ought to be carefully monitored and scrutinised.
As Women for Genuine Security put it, “co-mingling humanitarian relief and military operations” contributes to “civilian confusion, public distrust, and questions of transparency and accountability” [].
We should approach AFRICOM’s humanitarian undertakings not as gestures of goodwill or conflict-deterrence, but rather as signs of what’s to come for the militarised U.S. approach to foreign policy in Africa.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Kenya petroleum deposit discovered by UKGB charter petroleum company

" 'Thick extensive' layer of oil in shale encountered in Kenya"
2014-05-15 by Daniel J. Graeber for "UPI" newswire []:
British energy explorer Tullow Oil said Thursday it was reviewing options at its oil basins in Kenya after encountering extensive reserves in shale.
Tullow said Thursday it ran into a 200-foot column of oil while drilling into its Twiga-2 appraisal well. At least 16 feet of oil was encountered during drilling operations at the company's Ekunyuk-1 well in northern Kenya.
"The presence of a thick extensive oil shale gives us new options to study the basin's substantial unconventional oil potential," Tullow's Exploration Director Angus McCoss said in a statement.
In March, the company said some of its oil reserve areas in Kenya were poorly developed, though it remained upbeat about their potential.
Its partners at Africa Oil Corp. said testing last year from the reserves areas in blocks 10BB and 13T in northern Kenya yielded a flow rate of about 5,000 barrels of oil per day.
In a separate statement Wednesday, Africa Oil Chief Executive Officer Keith Hill said his company was "very bullish" about its opportunities in Kenya.
"Our goal is to open up at least one new basin and to move a significant number of barrels from prospective to contingent resources by the end of 2014 as we move the field development program forward," he said.

Swaziland and AFRICOM

"Swaziland, Malawi Partner with AFRICOM to improve military health care systems"
2013-06-21 by Technical Sergeant Olufemi Owolabi for U.S. AFRICOM Public Affairs []:
Swaziland and Malawi are moving closer to better health systems, and they’re doing it by partnering with U.S. Africa Command.   After each country asked for support, a U.S. Africa Command health care specialist made the trip for an opportunity to observe, learn and assess each country’s systems and structures.
Air Force Captain Uzoamaka Odimegwu Mbakwem was joined by specialists in military health care from U.S. Army Africa (USARAF) and the U.S. Department of Military and Emergency Medicine Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. They traveled to the continent to conduct doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership, personnel and facility (DOTMLPF) assessment visits in Swaziland and Malawi.
DOTMLPF is a concept used to look at a country’s system or structure to identify strengths and gaps in order to build a strategic plan for the country, according to Odimegwu Mbakwem, an International Health Specialist with AFRICOM’s Medical J47.
“With the information we gathered from this initial visit, we were able to understand the strengths and gaps in their health systems, which will help us emphasize on their strengths and build the roadmap that will help bridge the gaps,” said Odimegwu Mbakwem.  “This information matched with their goals will aid us to build and propose a strategic path for them.”
The DOTMLPF visit in Swaziland took place from June 1-7 followed by Malawi from June 10-14, 2013.
The request for the Swaziland’s visit was a collaborative effort between the country’s defense force and U.S. Department of Defense HIV/AIDS Prevention Program (DHAPP) personnel.
During the visit, the U.S. team met with Swaziland’s top officials, Lieutenant General Sobantu Dlamini, Umbutfo Swaziland Defense Force Commander, and Principal Secretary Andrias Mlumgisi Mathabelm from the Ministry of National Defense and Security, who briefed them on the country’s military medical operations, strengths and challenges.
While the visit to Swaziland was intended to promote the country’s initiative to stand up its medical corps, the visit to Malawi was aimed at helping improve the Malawi Defense Force’s (MDF) existing capabilities.
While in Malawi, after meeting with the top U.S. official and interagency partners in the country, the team also talked to officials from the Office of the President and Cabinet’s Department of Disaster Management Affairs.
“The overall goal was for AFRICOM/USARAF to gain an understanding of how the Malawi Military Health System works within the Malawi Defense Force and their relationship with the referral hospital under the Ministry of Health,” said Major Ronald Aquino with USARAF Medical Logistics, Plans and Operations.
In order to gain first-hand knowledge about the strengths and gaps in the country’s existing medical corps, they visited Malawi Military Health Services (MMHS) Hospital on Kamuzu Barracks and a civilian medical establishment, Kamuzu Central Clinic.
“We assessed their capabilities,” said Odimegwu Mbakwem.  “We looked at their equipment and the logistical aspects of their day-to-day mission.  We also looked to see if there were any limitations.  This assessment helps paint a picture about how to better assist them in reaching their day-to-day goals.”
The visit is also particularly important for Malawi to build its capabilities before Exercise Southern Accord, slated for 2014 in Malawi.
Some of the gaps common to the countries were in areas of written doctrines, infrastructures, equipment and adequately trained technicians.
“The visit went very well,” Aquino said.  “The organization is very professional and the officers and soldiers we spoke to were very forthcoming with information.  I certainly learned a lot about how medical works for the MDF - a worthwhile experience for me.  This was the first visit that I believe we've conducted and the information gathered will definitely help AFRICOM build a better strategic objective for years to come.”
Apart from the African militaries professionalism, the U.S. visitors were also impressed by their African partners’ enthusiasm and ability to improvise.
“Their ability to do so much more with so much less is a very positive strength,” said Odimegwu Mbakwem.
“Not only was it impressive, it was very motivating for me,” she added.
“It reassures the point that it is not always about what you have, but how you take care of what you have,” she said. “When you make the best out of what you have, the sky is the limit.”
This visit sets the tone for other engagements with Malawi and Swaziland, said Odimegwu Mbakwem, who described it as a successful beginning of long-term relationships and partnerships in military health care.
“This is the beginning,” Odimegwu Mbakwem said.  “This is a start of a continuous engagement with our African partners.  It is the start of so many things that will support our African partners build on their capabilities and develop solutions to their challenges. ”

"Government of Swaziland Would not Qualify for Duty Free Trade with the United States"
2014-05-15 []:
Swaziland has failed to meet a deadline to fulfil regulations allowing it duty free trade with the US, causing the country to be excluded from a lucrative programme, an ambassador said Thursday.
The US ambassador to Swaziland, Malika James, said the impoverished kingdom “had failed to retain its AGOA status and to meet today’s deadline” as the country did not assess all the benchmarks of the programme, including respect for human rights.
James said the US had been reviewing Swaziland’s participation in relation to the fundamentals of freedom of speech and suppression of terrorism act.
Members states of the Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) are expected to improve the rule of law, human rights, and labour regulations. The pact allows countries in sub-Saharan Africa preferential access to the US market.
Makila said Swaziland had only focused only on industrial relations and overlooked the principles of freedom of speech.
The small kingdom ruled by King Mswati III currently is allowed duty free trade with the US, which is used mainly for textile exports. However this arrangement will now lapse in January 2015.
The textile industry provides employment to 17,300 people in Swaziland. Government spokesperson, Percy Simelane insisted Swaziland was doing everything possible to retain its AGOA status. Swaziland has a poor rights record, where pro-democracy activists are often detained and charged with terrorism.
Political parties have been banned in the country since 1973.

"King of impoverished Swaziland increases household budget to $61m; Mswati III's budget, which is not debated by parliament, includes provisions for mother's upkeep and construction work on palaces"
2014-05-14 from "Agence France-Presse" []:
Swaziland's King Mswati III has increased his annual household budget for 2014 by more than 10% to $61m as a large public wage bill continues to put pressure on the impoverished country.
The budget of the king, whose personal fortune is estimated at about $200m, makes provisions for his salary, his mother's upkeep and royal aides.
It also includes provisions for construction work on palaces that will cost the taxpayer about $12.6m.
The royal budget is not debated in parliament, as discussions would be seen as challenging Africa's last absolute monarch.
Mswati, who rules Swaziland with an iron fist, has resisted democratic reforms. His extravagant lifestyle amid vast poverty has been criticised by pro-democracy activists.
The small kingdom is one of the poorest nations in southern Africa, with more than 60% of the 1.2 million population living on less than $1 a day.
In the budget the social grant for the elderly remained unchanged at about $19 a month.
A 2013 report by the Central Bank of Swaziland revealed that the country's GDP growth had declined from 0.7% in 2011 to 0.2% in 2012.
In a recent report, the IMF criticised the Swaziland government's high public wage bill of $34m a month.
"The country needs to look into aspects of reducing its high cost on the government's wage bill which may affect the current economic status," said the IMF head of delegation, Jiro Honda, at the end of its mission this week.
The country's economy is propped up by revenue collection from the Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU), which makes up more than half of the budget.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

AFRICOM conducts operations against Caliphate vanguard Boko Haram in Nigeria

"Western intervention will turn Nigeria into an African Afghanistan; 
The plight of kidnapped girls is set against the corruption and inequality that the west's economic war has helped to create"
2014-05-06 by Lindsey German for "" []:
'There is widespread corruption, yet weapons and armies are paid to protect the wealthy and the foreign companies like Shell that want to access the country’s resources, especially oil.' Photograph by George Esiri/EPA, showing 2011 protest against Shell after a oil spill from a Shell oil field in Nigeria

It seems almost beyond belief that more than 200 girls can be kidnapped from a school in northern Nigeria, held by the terrorist group Boko Haram, and threatened on a video – shown worldwide – with being sold into slavery by their captors. The disbelief is compounded by today's news that, overnight, eight more girls have been kidnapped by suspected Boko Haram gunmen in north-east Nigeria. This tragedy touches the hearts of everyone, evoking a feeling of revulsion not only at the danger and loss of freedom itself, but at the assumption that for young girls their destination must be forced marriage and servitude, not education.
There is rightly anger that so little has been done by the Nigerian government to find the girls, and that those who have demonstrated in huge numbers against President Goodluck Jonathan have themselves been accused of causing trouble or even temporarily arrested.
But we should be wary of the narrative now emerging. This follows a wearily familiar pattern, one we have already seen in south Asia and the Middle East, but that is increasingly being applied to Africa as well.
It is the refrain that something must be done and that "we" – the enlightened west – must be the people to do it. As the US senator Amy Klobuchar put it: "This is one of those times when our action or inaction will be felt not just by those schoolgirls being held captive and their families waiting in agony, but by victims and perpetrators of trafficking around the world. Now is the time to act."
The call has been for western intervention to help find the girls, and to help "stabilise" Nigeria in the aftermath of their kidnap. The British government has offered "practical help".
Yet western intervention has time and again failed to deal with particular problems and – worse – has led to more deaths, displacements and atrocities than were originally faced. All too often it has been justified with reference to women's rights, claiming that enlightened military forces can create an atmosphere where women are free from violence and abuse. The evidence is that the opposite is the case.
Women's rights were a major justification for the Afghanistan war, launched in 2001, when Cherie Blair and Laura Bush supported their husbands' war as a means of liberating Afghan women. Today, with millions displaced and tens of thousands dead, Afghanistan remains one of the worst countries on earth for women to live, with forced marriage, child marriage, rape and other atrocities still occurring widely.
And western intervention is already firmly embedded in Africa. It does not have the same profile as in Afghanistan or Iraq, because past wars have made it harder to put boots on the ground. But Barack Obama has his military forces engaged in West Africa through their Predator drone base in Niger, which borders northern Nigeria. It also borders Mali, the scene of recent French and British interventions, and Libya, object of a disastrous western bombing campaign in 2011 that has left that country in a state of civil war and collapse.
US drones also operate in Djibouti, Ethiopia and just across the Red Sea in Yemen. The west has been engaged in proxy wars in Somalia in recent years.
If Islamism is now a threat to western interests in growing parts of Africa, it is one that they have played a large part in creating.
But there is another war going on in Africa: economic war. A continent so rich in natural resources sees many of its citizens live in terrible conditions. In President Jonathan's Nigeria, economic growth has not trickled down to the poor. Healthcare and education are beyond the reach of many.
There is widespread corruption, yet weapons and armies are paid to protect the wealthy and the foreign companies, such as Shell, that want to access the country's resources, especially oil. This corruption and inequality is not separate from the role of the west, but an integral part of a system that is prepared to go to war over resources such as oil and gas, but will not go to war on poverty or to provide education for all.
It is this background that informs the terrible plight of the kidnapped girls in Nigeria. It will not be improved by more western weapons and armies on the ground or in the air.

"AFRICOM Chief to Aid Search for Nigerian Schoolgirls"
2014-05-13 from "AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE (AFP)" newswire:
A screengrab taken from a video released May 12 by Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram shows girls wearing the full-length hijab holding a flag reading 'There is no god, but Allah' and 'Mohammed is Allah's prophet' at an undisclosed rural location. (AFP)

ABUJA, NIGERIA — The commander of US forces in Africa held talks Tuesday in Nigeria as Washington sought to help the government in Abuja trace more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Islamist militants.
Gen. David Rodriguez, head of US Africa Command, flew to Nigeria on Monday as the United States confirmed it was flying manned surveillance aircraft over the country and sharing commercial satellite imagery to aid the hunt for the abducted girls.
The talks are focused in part on forging an agreement that will enable the United States to share intelligence with Nigeria from spy planes and other sources, officials said Tuesday.
“At this point, we are not sharing the raw intelligence data” Pentagon spokesman Col. Steven Warren told reporters.
“We are working closely with the Nigerians to establish intelligence sharing protocols,” he said.
The US government insists on elaborate safeguards to govern intelligence sharing with other countries, fearing that sensitive information could fall into an adversary’s hands.
The United States already has deployed a team of 30 specialists from different agencies, including 16 military personnel, to help in the search for the kidnapped schoolgirls.
“We’re playing a supporting role and bringing our capabilities and expertise to bear ... in complementing their efforts,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
As Nigeria faced a “difficult mission” searching a vast area, the team was designed to “provide military and law enforcement assistance as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support,” she said.
The US general’s trip to the country was scheduled prior to the crisis and Rodriguez also was discussing the US military’s long-term relations with Nigerian forces, officials said.
A defense official told AFP that Rodriguez “is discussing US assistance for the search as well as overall cooperation.”
The four-star general held talks with Nigerian civilian and military officials, including Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh, chief of the defense staff, according to Nigeria’s defense ministry.
Badeh expressed “appreciation” to the US general on Tuesday as Washington had responded “positively” to an appeal for help in the search for the abducted schoolgirls, the ministry said in a statement.
The Nigerian military has “benefited immensely from the bilateral relationship” with the United States, receiving valuable training and hardware, it said.
Prior to the kidnapping, Nigeria showed little interest in large-scale cooperation with the US military. And Washington has harbored concerns over what it sees as heavy-handed tactics by Nigerian troops in their fight against Boko Haram militants in the north.
Boko Haram extremists abducted 276 girls from the remote northeastern town of Chibok in Borno state on April 14, and some 223 are still missing.
The militants on Monday released a new video purporting to show some of the girls.
US intelligence experts are “combing through every detail of the video for clues,” a State Department spokeswoman said on Monday.
British, French and Israeli specialists are also providing assistance to Nigeria, which has been accused of responding too slowly to the kidnapping and even of ignoring a forewarning that it was imminent.
Pentagon officials declined to rule out if Washington would provide drones to aid in the search and would not say publicly what type of manned military surveillance aircraft were flying over Nigeria.
Although some US lawmakers have called for a US military operation to rescue the girls, the Pentagon reiterated that it was not preparing any such attempt by US special operations forces.
“There’s no discussion at this point to send operators into Nigeria to conduct any kind of rescue operation,” Warren said.

"US flying drones over Nigeria in search for girls"
2014-05-14 from "AFP" newswire:
The US military is flying surveillance drones as well as manned aircraft over Nigeria to help the search for more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Islamist extremists, the Pentagon said Wednesday.
However, the data is not yet being shared with the Nigerians because Washington is still working out an agreement to govern the sharing of intelligence, Colonel Steven Warren told reporters.
The United States has deployed a Global Hawk, which flies at high altitude, and the manned MC-12, a turboprop plane heavily used in Afghanistan, for the mission, a defense official who spoke on condition of anonymity told AFP.
The Pentagon had initially declined to say publicly if drones were being used.
"I can confirm that we're using both manned and unmanned aerial ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) assets in the search for the kidnapped girls," Warren said, without identifying the plane models.
Both types of aircraft are "unarmed" and being used strictly for surveillance to help track the location of the schoolgirls whose plight has made worldwide headlines, he added.
The unmanned Global Hawk, designed to succeed the U-2 spy plane, can survey a vast area of about 40,000 square miles (100,000 square kilometers) in a day with its sophisticated radar and sensors.
But the Americans insist on precise protocols on how intelligence can be passed on to other countries, fearing that sensitive information could fall into an adversary's hands.
The commander of US forces in Africa, General David Rodriguez, paid a two-day visit to Nigeria this week to discuss how Washington can aid the government in the kidnapping crisis, including an accord on intelligence sharing.
Boko Haram extremists abducted 276 girls from the remote northeastern town of Chibok on April 14, and some 223 are still missing.
The kidnapping has triggered global outrage and the militants on Monday released a new video purporting to show some of the girls.
"We are continuing to work with the Nigerians to help locate the girls. We really don't know where the girls are," said a senior State Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The area to be searched was "vast" and ideas about what may have happened to the girls remained "speculation," the official said.

- Limited relations -
The United States was also conferring with neighboring countries and "those governments too are in communication with the Nigerians because they've all been engaged to try to figure out how to help with the search for the girls," the official said.
Prior to the kidnapping, the US military had only limited relations with the Nigerian armed forces, which has included training on detecting and defusing homemade bombs.
Security ties have been hampered partly due to Washington's concerns over heavy-handed tactics and human rights abuses by Nigerian troops battling militants in the northeast.
The State Department official acknowledged the issue, saying "we've been very clear about our concerns about... reports of and evidence of (rights) abuses and excessive violations of the Nigerian military."
Washington has urged the Nigerian government "to hold violators accountable."
Under US law, the American government faces restrictions on its security cooperation with foreign military units linked to human rights abuses.
As a result, the United States cannot work with a particular Nigerian counter-terrorism unit, the official said.
Hawkish Republican Senator John McCain said the Pentagon should consider acting unilaterally and sending US special forces in to rescue the girls.
"We're the best-trained, most professional military in the world, and if we know where these young girls are, we should go rescue them," McCain told reporters.
McCain mocked the capabilities of Nigeria's military and said any special forces entry should be done without their knowledge.
"You don't want to alert these people," he said of Boko Haram. "These are animals. They are outside the boundaries of human acceptable behavior."
US military officials said privately that a rescue mission would be fraught with massive risks and dangers and that it currently was not deemed an option.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Nigeria to send workers to Korea to be trained in energy extraction processes

"Nigerians will be put to work building the country's gas industry; Nearly 200 workers will be sent to South Korea for training program"
2014-05-12 by Daniel J. Graeber from "UPI" []:
Nigeria's efforts to reduce flaring from production tied to its natural gas reserves will empower its people, a project developer said.
State-led Nigeria LNG Ltd., though subsidiary Bonny Gas Transport Ltd., said it was sending 180 Nigerians to South Korea to learn how to build vessels used in the liquefied natural gas sector.
Last year, Bonny Gas Transport ordered six vessels to advance Nigerian efforts to build up its LNG capacity.
Nigerian LNG Ltd. Managing Director Babs Omotowa said using the local labor pool for the projects will help "Nigerianize" the country's gas sector.
"Every action we take in Nigeria LNG Limited, we seek to help build a better Nigeria," he said in a statement Sunday.
The Nigerian company will send 180 technicians to South Korea for the three-month program. Of them, 28 will be employed for LNG vessel construction.
Nigeria Ltd. says it's the "arrow-head" of the government's effort to reduce flaring and derive value from the 187 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves in the country.

EU charter petroleum companies preparing to develop Virunga National Park in DRC, death-squad actions described against advocates for preservation of park

" 'Death threats' for WWF staff opposing UK oil firm in DR Congo park"
2014-05-12 from "AFP" newswire:
The World Wildlife Fund on Monday condemned "death threats" against two of its staff fighting oil exploration in a Democratic Republic of Congo nature park just weeks after the park's director was shot.
"Unidentified callers have threatened the personal safety of two employees working in the city of Goma," WWF said in a statement.
The staff have been involved in efforts to block oil exploration by UK company Soco International PLC in nearby Virunga National Park, an 800,000-hectare nature reserve that is among the oldest in Africa and home to rare and endangered mountain gorillas.
Referring to one of the campaigners, a threatening caller said, "We want his head," according to WWF.
The organisation said there had been an increase in intimidating calls, text messages and notes since the park's director Emmanuel de Merode was shot several times while driving in the region in April.
"The callers to WWF said that they had missed killing de Merode, but would not miss WWF's employee," the organisation said. "WWF insists that authorities in DRC do everything in their power to bring the perpetrators of these threats and de Merode's attack to justice."
There has been mounting worldwide opposition to oil exploration in Virunga, a UNESCO world heritage site that is thought to have the greatest biodiversity on the continent.
The UK government, Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu, and Virgin's Richard Branson have all spoken out against Soco's operations, which have recently involved seismic tests in Lake Edward
UNESCO says exploration would breach international conventions on protecting world heritage, to which DRC is a signatory.
But it fears laws could be changed by the Congolese government to allow oil concessions covering 85 percent of the park's territory to be exploited. Exploration permits have already been distributed to international firms, including Soco and France's Total.
Soco's deputy director Roger Cagle told AFP that the firm had been "informed of the news that two employees of the NGO ... were threatened as a result of their opposition to oil development.
"Soco condemns this behaviour and does not tolerate any act of threat or intimidation."
Local activists told AFP in October that they received regular threats bordering on harassment.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

USA CIA's African Rendition Network, w. politically motivated kidnappings and assassinations

"Newly Released Documents Shed Light on CIA’s African Rendition Network"
2014-05-08 from "Reprieve" []:
Reprieve is a UK-based human rights organization that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay.
LONDON - Documents released by Reprieve and New York University’s Global Justice Clinic have shed new light on the CIA’s African rendition network. The documents show how planes contracted by the US government for rendition missions used Djibouti as a hub.
The documents support a complaint by a Yemeni national, Mohammed al-Asad, that he was snatched from his family home in Tanzania and detained in several secret CIA locations in Djibouti and Afghanistan. Mr al-Asad’s case is currently being considered by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. It comes at a time of renewed scrutiny of the US secret prison programme, owing to the imminent declassification of part of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA torture. Al Jazeera last week revealed that the Senate’s investigation concluded that several people had been secretly detained in Djibouti.
Reprieve has uncovered legal and contractual documents, which show how a group of US companies (including Computer Sciences Corporation, DynCorp Systems and Solutions, Richmor Aviation and First Flight) worked together to provide support to the CIA’s torture programme. Matching invoice and contract numbers show that several trips through Djibouti in 2003 and 2004 were undertaken on behalf of the US government with State Department authorization. According to court filings by contractors involved in the flights, trips performed on these contracts were used for access to Guantánamo Bay and “assorted rendition missions”.
Aside from its role as a rendition hub, Djibouti has also gained prominence as a base for US targeted killing missions. Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti has been described by The Economist as “the most important base for drone operations outside the war zone of Afghanistan”. From Lemonnier, American drones take off to carry out strikes in Yemen that have been heavily criticized by the international human rights community.
Mr al-Asad’s case is the first of its kind in the African human rights system. After being held in Djibouti he was transferred to Afghanistan and abused there for over a year. He was subsequently released and has never been charged with a terrorism-related crime.
Kevin Lo, CSR Advocate at Reprieve, said: “These documents provide further evidence of how US corporations played a crucial role in the CIA’s torture network, rendering people to torture around the world far from public scrutiny and even further from the rule of law. Corporate complicity by the British companies must also be brought to light. BT has refused to answer important questions over its role in facilitating the devastating US covert drone programme waged in Yemen from a secretive base in Djibouti. Corporations cannot pretend to be ignorant of how their products result in the deaths of innocent civilians."
Margaret Satterthwaite of NYU’s Global Justice Clinic said: “These contracts and Reprieve’s analysis add to the growing documentation of Djibouti's role in the torture programme. The evidence has become overwhelming that Djibouti was a hub for CIA renditions.”

Monday, May 5, 2014

USA Dept. of State sends John Kerry to Angola to announce full support to energy extraction operations by USA charter companies

"Angola's potential 'enormous,' U.S. Secretary of State Kerry says"
2014-05-05 by Daniel J. Graeber for "UPI" newswire []:
Some of the biggest energy companies in the world are in Angola to the benefit of the nation's economy, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said.
Kerry arrived Sunday in Angola during his tour of African nations, and met there with representatives from Chevron, Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips to hear their energy strategies in the country.
Chevron, a new player in the Angolan energy sector, has already created more than 3,000 jobs in the country, the secretary said.
"We're standing in a place of enormous economic activity with great promise for future economic growth and development," he said in a statement.
Last month, French energy company Total said it would invest $16 billion in development the Kaombo oil project off the Angolan coast.
The field, which has an estimated 650 million barrels of reserves, should produce 230,000 barrels of oil per day for Angola once operations begin.
Angola is a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. It has 9 billion barrels of proven crude oil reserves and produces on average 1.7 million bpd.