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

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' 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.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs