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

Will Cuba Follow the Southeast Asia Model?

Decision to restore ties between US and Cuba has some debating whether it will lead to enhancement or regression of democracy for Communist island nation More

Kenyan Designer Finds Her Niche in Fashion Industry

‘Made in China’ fabrics underlie her success More

Report: CIA, Israel's Mossad Killed Senior Hezbollah Commander

The Washington Post story says Imad Mughniyah was killed instantly by a bomb "triggered remotely" from Tel Aviv by Mossad agents 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.
Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Lateri
X
Deborah Block
January 31, 2015 12:12 AM
Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Later

Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid