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 One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs