News / Africa

France, African Countries Move to Counter al-Qaida-Linked Groups in Africa

Soldiers from Niger are among many in West and East Africa who have received foreign anti-terrorism training
Soldiers from Niger are among many in West and East Africa who have received foreign anti-terrorism training
Nico Colombant

French and African leaders are pledging to counter al-Qaida-backed violence in East and West Africa with more military force in the aftermath of suicide bombings in Uganda and the killing of a French aid worker in Mali.  The United States has also pledged more military help in the continent's widening fight against terrorism.  But, some analysts are concerned whether this is the most effective approach.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon went on French radio Tuesday to say his country was at war with al-Qaida.

He said the French military has been cooperating for several months with Mauritania's army to combat al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb regional terrorist group.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has been touring West African countries where the group has kidnapped foreigners, sometimes killing them, as was the case for French aid worker Michel Germaneau.  His execution was announced by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb on Sunday, after a French-Mauritanian raid on one of the terror group's desert positions in Mali.

Kouchner met with Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure on Tuesday to discuss several security topics, including establishing an anti-terror rapid reaction force with Mali.

Algerian officials at this week's African Union summit in Kampala, Uganda reportedly have described Mali as the weak link in the fight against terrorism in the vast, mostly lawless, northwest African region.  They say Algerian villagers in desert areas are being instructed to form their own defense militias.

Africa security analyst J. Peter Pham says he is not surprised by the French reaction.  But he says he fears that al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb will be more in the news in the months ahead . . .

"[g]iven the increased resources that it has obtained in the last 12-18 months because its southern command has acquired resources through an alliance with drug smugglers and other criminal elements," said J. Peter Pham. "So you are seeing greater activity and, unfortunately, you are likely to see increased activity from them."

This week's AU summit in Kampala focused largely on the terror threat and boosting the African Union force in Somalia, where the al-Qaida linked group al-Shabab is fighting a U.N-backed transitional government.

African leaders approved a request to send 2,000 more African Union peacekeeping troops and allow the peacekeepers to fire their weapons, if they face imminent attack.

Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the recent bombings in Uganda that killed dozens of people, saying the attacks were in retaliation for Uganda's troop presence in Somalia.  The peacekeepers have come under criticism inside Somalia for their frequent shelling of civilian areas.  The group warned of more attacks in Uganda and in Burundi, which also has troops in Somalia.

Analyst J. Peter Pham says he does not believe there is a military solution to the problem and that more peacekeepers could make the situation worse.

"The African Union does not have the resources," he said. "Even if it were to get its act together, which it has not been able to [do], even if it were to get its act together, it does not have the capability to go in there and effectively defeat the insurgency.  But it has enough capability to cause more problems."

Pham says al-Shabab is united mainly because of foreign intervention and that working diplomatically with its less radical elements might be more effective.

"You remove the foreign intervention, let the cards fall where they will for the transitional government, and you will see al-Shabab beginning to break apart into various factions," said Pham. "They are already factionalized, but they will be further factionalized.  Then it becomes easier to pick off the truly threatening ones and the other ones can be brought into some sort of a framework for rebuilding governance."

Following the bombings in Uganda, U.S. President Barack Obama said the United States would redouble support for Africa in the fight against terrorism.  The U.S. government has already given the transitional government in Somalia millions of dollars for buying weapons and paying the salaries of its soldiers.  The 2011 U.S. budget request for security assistance programs in Africa is reported to include over $80 million for arms sales to African states, military training and anti-terrorism programs.

But critics like the Washington-based activist group Africa Action say military cooperation boosts authoritarianism by African leaders, creates more violence and contributes to resentment by civilians.   

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs