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February 09 2014

Five of the Most Celebrated French-Language African Films

The Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (Festival panafricain du cinéma et de la télévision de Ouagadougou or FESPACO) is the largest film festival in Africa, held every two years in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. The festival usually takes place in March of every year it is held. Founded in 1969, it has honored a great number of movies whose impact is still felt today. In celebration of the upcoming film festival, below are five of the most celebrated French-language African films (award-winning or not) that have left their mark on an entire generation of movie-watchers.

Ivory Coast: ”Bal poussière” (Dancing in the Dust)

Poster du film BAL POUSSIERE - Domaine public

Poster for the film “Bal poussière” – Public domain

“Dancing in the Dust” is a 1988 Ivorian film directed by Henri Duparc. Seen by over 300,000 people in France, this satire of polygamy tells the story of Alcaly (a.k.a. “Demi-God”) who, despite already having five wives, becomes infatuated with Binta, a young woman who has returned home from the big city of Abidjan. See a French-language clip from the movie below:

Gapont [fr], contributor on Allociné in Paris, explains what he found striking about the movie:

Un petit bijou de fraîcheur et de spontanéité. Ce film a la candeur du cinéma de Renoir ou de Pagnol. Petit budget pourtant, acteur souvent amateurs, tourné en super 16mm et pourtant la magie est là, on se laisse porter par ces personnages incroyables. Du vrai cinéma.

A fresh and spontaneous little gem. This movie has the candour of a [Jean] Renoir or [Marcel] Pagnol work. Small budget, many amateur actors, shot in Super 16 mm, yet the magic is there, these incredible characters simply carrying us away. Authentic filmmaking.

Ethiopia: “Va, Vis et Deviens” (Live and Become)

Poster du film Va, Vis et Deviens - Public Domain

Poster for the film “Va, vis et deviens” – Public domain

“Live and Become” is a 2005 French-Israeli film by Radu Mihaileanu. In an Ethiopian refugee camp in Sudan, a Christian mother makes her son Shlomo pass as Jewish in order to survive and be included in Operation Moses, which brought many Ethiopian Jews to Israel. Declared an orphan, Shlomo is adopted by a Sephardic Jewish French family living in Tel Aviv. He grows up fearing that his secret past will be revealed. See the trailer below:

Janos451, an IMDB commenter from San Fransisco, loved the movie's dramatic intensity:

What makes the film extraordinary – what creates all the crying in the audience – is its honest and effective portrayal of the young refugee's isolation and loneliness, made worse by his belief that his escape is at the cost of his mother's life

The film is based on the history of the Beta Israel (Ethiopian Jews) who, despite their efforts, have experienced a great deal of difficulty gaining acceptance after immigrating to Israel. The movie has seen renewed interest recently as many African immigrants in Israel have been demonstrating for their rights.

Chad: “Un homme qui crie” (A Screaming Man) 

“A Screaming Man”, originally titled “A Screaming Man is Not a Dancing Bear”, is a film by Chadian director Mahamat Saleh Haroun, released on September 29, 2010. It received the Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize in 2010. The original title is a quote from “Notebook of a Return to the Native Land” by Martinican poet Aimé Césaire. The film tells the story of 55-year-old Adam, a former swimming champion turned hotel lifeguard in N'Djamena. When the hotel is taken over by Chinese investors, he is forced to surrender his job to his son Abdel.

The blogger at Words of Katarina explains what makes the movie so compelling:

A Screaming Man talks about loss of self, not as a consequence of happenings beyond our control, but of the choices we make when life throws us off guard. . . It is in fact up to ourselves to decide what kind of person we want to be and how to express and live up to the decision once it has been made.

Algeria/Morocco: “Indigènes” (Days of Glory) 

“Days of Glory” is a 2006 Algerian-Moroccan film directed by Rachid Bouchareb. The film tells the stories of one Moroccan and three Algerian soldiers serving in the French army during World War II: Abdelkader, Saïd, Mesaoud and Yassir. While they are disillusioned by the discrimination they experience during the war, the movie also illustrates their emerging sense of hope and political consciousness.

Sarah Elkaïm, french writer and african affairs expert at Critikat explains the film's historical significance [fr]:

Personne ne s’était encore attaché à relater le sort de dizaines de milliers d’Africains, du Maghreb et au-delà du Sahara, qui, au sein de l’armée française, ont participé à la libération du pays qu’ils n’ont jamais, pour la plupart, cessé de considérer comme leur patrie. [..] c’est ce qui fait la force et l’émotion du film : les personnages sont construits, et pas prétextes. Ils sont humains : parfois lâches, peureux, ils sont avant tout des hommes venus libérer leur pays du joug nazi.

No one had yet endeavored to tell the story of tens of thousands of Africans from North Africa and beyond the Sahara in the French army, who helped liberate the country they always considered their homeland. [...] That's what makes this movie so emotional and powerful: the characters are fleshed out, not clichéd. They are human, sometimes cowardly or scared. Above all else, they are men who have come to liberate their country from the Nazi yoke.

Madagascar: “Tabataba”

“Tabataba” (“rumblings” or “rumors” in Malagasy, but also the code name given to the events of the 1947 Malagasy Uprising in Madagascar) is a 1988 film by Raymond Rajaonarivelo. The film tells the story of a Malagasy village fighting to achieve independence from French colonial rule. For the villagers, rebellion takes different forms. Some believe in the power of democracy; others believe in the power of arms.

Director Raymond Rajaonarivelo describes how he wrote the screenplay for the film [fr]:

Tout le monde me racontait une histoire, jamais la même. Cela a donné lieu à une rumeur, Tabataba, qui me paraissait refléter ce que j’avais entendu là-bas. Ce sont toutes ces mémoires qui m’ont servi à écrire le scénario

Everyone was telling me stories, but never the same one. This resulted in a rumor, tabataba, that seemed to reflect what I had heard there. These are all memories that I used to write the script.

Valérie Andrianjafitrimo, the reporter of Rajaonarivelo's remarks, adds [fr]:

Car ce qui est crucial, dans ce jeu de balance auquel on assiste entre déni et commémoration, entre interprétation française renouvelée et pluralité des perceptions malgaches, ce n’est pas la vérité de l’historiographie, dont on voit bien qu’elle ne résoudra rien des ombres de la mémoire ni de la dimension symbolique de l’événement. C’est peut-être la voix alternative de la rumeur, ce « tabataba », ce bruit sourd, permanent, varié et variable, tantôt ténu, tantôt éclatant, tantôt victimaire, tantôt héroïque, qui est importante.

For as we try to balance denial and commemoration, the balance between France's reinterpretations of the events and the Malagasy people's various perceptions, what is crucial is not the truth in historiography. That clearly resolves nothing when it comes to the shadows of memory or the event's symbolism. Perhaps it is the rumor as an alternative voice, the “tabataba” – this muffled, continuous, multifaceted sound, ever-changing from restrained to deafening and from victimized to heroic – that is more important.

January 08 2014

Reason for President of Central African Republic Djotodia Imminent Resignation

Multiple sources report [fr] that Michel Djotodia, Interim President of Central African Republic (CAR) will step down tomorrow (January 9) as his country is rocked by violent inter-community conflicts. Although the minister of Communication denied [fr] the president's resignation earlier, Simon Koitoua in Bangui, CAR opines that it was bound to happen because of the president's recent ill-advised decisions regarding weaponry [fr]:

Le chef de la transition aurait approuvé et validé un montage financier colossal lié à l’achat d’armes via le Soudan et Tchad malgré l’embargo imposé sur les armes en destination de la Centrafrique

The head of the transition allegedly approved a financial package that green lighted the purchase of heavy weaponry via Sudan and Chad. The purchase was validated in spite of the embargo on weaponry in the Central African Republic

May 18 2013

Chad-Senegal: A New Axis of Blogger Persecution?

Makaila Nguebla. Screenshot from video taken by Institut Panos Afrique de l'Ouest IPAO.

Makaila Nguebla. Screenshot from video taken by Institut Panos Afrique de l'Ouest IPAO.

Francophone African online communities were astonished to learn on May 7 that Chadian blogger Makaila Nguébla had been arrested by Senegalese intelligence services and the deported [fr] to Conakry (Republic of Guinea) from Dakar. Nguébla, who had lived in exile in Senegal for eight years, is the editor of the collective blog Makaila Info [fr], an information and opinion site that is highly popular among Chadians inside the country and abroad.

Deportation contrary to Senegalese law, international commitments

In the phone interview with Global Voices Advocacy, Nguébla's lawyer explained that deportation to a country where a journalist would receive less protection than in his or her home country runs contrary to Senegalese law. He stated that the case was not approved by a judge, and that the move undermines the international commitments of Senegal, which ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention and Protocols. Nguébla is undoubtedly a political refugee, considering this Convention and the personal situation of the blogger, who had lived in Senegal for more than eight years. Article 32 of the Convention provides that:

Article 32: Expulsion

1. The Contracting States shall not expel a refugee lawfully in their territory save on grounds of national security or public order.

2. The expulsion of such a refugee shall be only in pursuance of a decision reached in accordance with due process of law. Except where compelling reasons of national security otherwise require, the refugee shall be allowed to submit evidence to clear himself, and to appeal to and be represented for the purpose before competent authority or a person or persons specially designated by the competent authority.

3. The Contracting States shall allow such a refugee a reasonable period within which to seek legal admission into another country. The Contracting States reserve the right to apply during that period such internal measures as they may deem necessary.

Makaila Nguébla has become a stateless person, as authorities in his home country of Chad have refused to issue him a new passport for more than eight years. On May 12, speaking to Radio France Internacionale [fr], Senegalese Minister of Governance and Spokesperson of the Government expressed the official position of Senegal on the issue.

His presence was merely tolerated. But under this was under the condition that he refrain from doing a number of things and making statements that the Senegalese government considers contrary to his will to live among us.

Although officials haven't explicitly stated the reason for his expulsion, it can be inferred that, had he chosen to remain silent, he would still be Senegal today. In other words, Nguébla's choice to continue writing and expressing his political ideas online qualified as a “threat to national security” or “public order,” as stated in the Convention above.

Chadian government stifling online dissent

The expulsion of Nguébla followed the visit to Dakar on May 3 and 4 of Chadian Minister of Justice Jean-Bernard Padaré, for the signing of an agreement on judicial cooperation between Senegal and Chad. According to sources [fr] Minister Padaré met with the democratically elected President of Senegal, Macky Sall. A few days later, Nguébla was deported to Conakry, in neigboring Guinea. This expulsion is yet another repressive action brought by Chad against bloggers and online dissent. In addition to Nguébla, two bloggers who wrote for Makaila Info, Jean Laokolé and Eric Topona, have since faced persecution. On Makaila Info, the three bloggers often wrote about political affairs and had made allegations of corruption within the Chadian government [fr]. On May 8, Topona was arrested and detained, likely in connection with his work. Last month, Jean Laokolé (who wrote using the pseudonym Vourboubé Pierre) was imprisoned and held incommunicado in a secret military prison. He has since been indicted for his work. Some Laokolé’s posts on Makaila Info [fr] dealt with an ongoing inquiry into a network of public funds embezzlement operated by agents of the Ministry of Land Affairs, the former ministerial position of Mr. Padaré.

According to Makaila Nguébla, the network of informants and sources associated with this story in Chad were placed under telephone surveillance after these allegations surfaced. Vision du Tchad surmises that government eavesdropping on the bloggers’ communications and governments searches of their personal communication devices helped unveil Jean Laokolé’s identity, and may have led to Eric Topona’s arrest and Makaila Nguébla’s expulsion from Senegal to Guinea.

These arrests also coincided with an alleged attempt to oust Chadian President Idriss Déby that took place earlier this week in Chad’s capital city of N’Djamena.

An earlier version of this post appeared on the Internet Sans Frontières [fr] website.

May 15 2013

Interview: Chadian Blogger and Journalist Expelled from Senegal to Guinea

[All links forward to French-language pages unless otherwise noted.]

Senegalese authorities have expelled Chadian journalist and blogger Makaila Nguebla, an opponent of his country's President Idriss Déby [en] who has ruled Chad for more than two decades, to neighboring Guinea after refusing to grant him political refugee status.

Nguebla, who had lived in exile in Senegal's capital city of Dakar since 2005, was deported on May 8, 2013. He settled in Senegal after being arrested in Tunisia in 2005; thanks to international pressure, Tunisian authorities did not deport him back to Chad, as he explains in this YouTube video:

Global Voices had the opportunity to interview Nguebla by phone after he was expelled. He began by telling the story of his transfer to Conakry, the capital city of Guinea:

Mes ennuis ont commencé le lendemain du départ du ministre de la Justice tchadien Jean-Bernard Padaré au Sénégal où il était venu rencontrer les autorités en vue du procès de l’ancien président tchadien Hissène Habré. Jean-Bernard Padaré a rencontré le ministre de la justice et chef de l’état sénégalais seul sans la présence d’aucun autre officiel tchadien. Il a quitté Dakar le dimanche 5 mai. Le lundi 6 mai, la Division de la surveillance du territoire sénégalaise (DST) me convoque pour le mardi 7 mai à 15H. Je me rends à la convocation en présence d’Amnesty International Sénégal à qui il est demandé de quitter les lieux. Je reste donc seul avec eux.
Ils me mettent dans un avion pour Conakry dans la nuit du mardi au mercredi. Une « maman » me voyant pleurer durant le vol me prend sous son aile : elle m’aide à passer les formalités de police une fois à Conakry – les autorités sénégalaises n’avaient pas informé leurs homologues guinéens. Je suis actuellement logé chez cette dame dans les mêmes conditions que les Guinéens : coupures d’électricité le soir et connexion internet avec une clé qui marche à peine.

Makaila Nguebla (MNG): My troubles began the day after Chadian Minister of Justice Jean-Bernard Padaré left Senegal where he had come to meet the authorities in connection with the trial of former Chadian President Hissène Habré. Jean-Bernard Padaré had a private talk with the minister of justice and the Senegalese head of state without the presence of any other Chadian official. He left Dakar on Sunday, May 5. Monday, May 6, the Surveillance Division of Senegal summoned me to their offices for Tuesday, May 7 at 3 p.m. I went to the appointment accompanied by members of Amnesty International Sénégal who were asked to leave. Therefore, I remained alone with them.

They put me on a plane to Conakry on the night of Tuesday to Wednesday. A “Mama” who saw me crying during the flight took me under her wing. She helped me through the police formalities once we arrived in Conakry–the Senegalese authorities had not informed their Guinean counterparts of my arrival. I am currently staying with this lady and I live in the same conditions as the Guinean people: power cuts in the evening and Internet connection with a key that barely works.

Senegal is known for having a stronger human rights record than much of West Africa, and has strong laws governing protections for asylum-seekers. Makaila explained to Global Voices that, like many other political refugees, this is what made him seek asylum in Senegal.

Global Voices (GV): How would you explain that Senegal, given its strong human rights record, gave in so easily on something that looks like pressure from the Chadian authorities?

Makaila Nguebla : Le conflit au Mali a donné une nouvelle autorité à Idriss Deby, notamment parce que l’armée tchadienne est la seule à connaître parfaitement le terrain et la seule des armées africaines à être en mesure de soutenir effectivement l’armée française. De plus, grâce à l’argent du pétrole tchadien, Idriss Deby a pu contribuer au financement de la campagne de Macky Sall au Sénégal. Dans les négociations sur le dossier Hissène Habré, il est demandé que l’on me livre aux autorités tchadiennes. J’ai été arrêté en Tunisie en 2005 je ne dois qu’à la pression internationale de ne pas avoir été expulsé vers le Tchad.

MNG: The conflict in Mali [en] has given Idriss Deby a new weight, especially due to the fact that the Chadian army is the only one to perfectly know the ground and the only African army able to effectively support the French army. In addition, due to the money earned with the Chadian oil, Idriss Deby was able to support financially [Senegal President] Macky Sall‘s [en] campaign when he was running for president. During the negotiations on the Hissène Habré case, it was requested that I should be handed to the Chadian authorities. I was arrested in Tunisia in 2005. I owe it to international pressures that I wasn't deported back to Chad.

GV: Do you feel safe in Guinea?

Makaila Nguebla : Non. J’ai rencontré le Ministre des droits de l’homme de la Guinée qui m’a dit qu’il ne peut pas garantir ma sécurité dans le contexte actuel de son pays. Depuis plusieurs années, la Guinée traverse une période difficile. Les élections législatives n’ont pu se tenir après les dernières élections présidentielles. Et il y a depuis plusieurs semaines des manifestations de l’opposition.

MNG: No. I met with the Guinean Minister of Human Rights and he told me that he could not guarantee my safety in the current context of his country. For several years now, Guinea has been in a dire situation. The general elections could not be held following the last presidential election. And there have been opposition protests [en] for several weeks now.

GV: You told me earlier that you are staying with the lady that you met on the plane. But where do you stand when it comes to your administrative status with the Guinean authorities?

Makaila Nguebla : Ce matin [samedi 11 mai], accompagné de membres du Conseil National des Organisations de la Société Civile Guinéenne et du HCR, j’ai pu introduire une première demande de statut de réfugié.

MNG: On Saturday, May 11, escorted by some members of the National Council of Organizations of the Guinean Civil Society and of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, I was able to proceed with an initial application for political refugee status.

Meanwhile, the Senegalese blogosphere called for Nguebla's return to Senegal, especially on Twitter under the hashtag #FreeMakaila. Cheikh Fall, the blogger behind citizen media monitor Sunu2012, rallied behind Nguebla:

Non seulement ceci constitue une atteinte aux droits de Makaila Nguebla qui n’a aucune attache en Guinée et s’est construit sa vie au Sénégal depuis 8 ans, mais ceci est une atteinte à la liberté d’expression de tous les Sénégalais : si les autorités commencent à livrer des opposants aux régimes dictatoriaux, elles n’hésiteront pas à s’en prendre à leurs propres opposants sur n’importe quel prétexte.

Not only is this a violation of Makaila Nguebla’s rights who has no tie to Guinea and has built his life in Senegal for the past eight years, but this is an attack on freedom of speech for all Senegalese: if the Senegalese authorities are starting to deliver opponents to their dictatorial regimes, they will not hesitate to go after their own opponents under any pretext.

The Senegalese government issued a statement three days after Nguebla was expelled through its spokesman, saying:

Sa présence était simplement tolérée. Mais sous certaines conditions : qu'il s'abstienne de faire un certain nombre de choses et de déclarations que le gouvernement sénégalais estime contraires à sa volonté de vivre chez nous.

His presence was merely tolerated. But under certain conditions, to refrain from doing a number of things and statements that the Senegalese government considers contrary to his desire to live among us.

African Twitter users quickly responded. Fall (@cypher007) noted:

@cypher007: « Situation irrégulière, Présence tolérée sous conditions … » Depuis quand un statut pareil existe au #Sénégal?

@cypher007: “irregular situation, presence tolerated under certain conditions …” Since when does such a statute exist in #Senegal?

User “wirriyamu2011″ (@wirr2011) theorized in a series of nine tweets that the Senegalese government has deliberately unsettled Nguebla for eight years in order to be able to pressure him if necessary.

BBC journalist Yacouba Ouédraogo (@Bambyam) replied to one of those tweets, referencing former leader of Chad Hissène Habré, whose rule was characterized by widespread atrocities but was allowed to live in Senegal for years after he was deposed:

@Bambyan: Quand on a offert le gîte à Habré et à mains ensanglantées, on peut continuer à “tolérer” un parleur.

@Bambyan: If you offered Habré a shelter despite the blood on his hands, you can go on “tolerating” a talker.

Several Twitter users found it ironic that the government spokesman [en], Abdoul Latif Coulibaly, holds the position of Minister of Good Governance. Previously a journalist, Coulibaly was persecuted under former President Wade, a leader who faced numerous allegations of corruption and civil liberties violations from critics and journalists including Coulibaly. Twitter users lamented the fact that this former leader in exposing government wrongdoing has been reduced to such shameful practices.

April 22 2013

Attempted Coup d'Etat in Comoros

Comoros police forces state that they have arrested Congolese and Chadian mercenaries in an attempted coup over the week-end. Linfo.re adds that [fr]:

Army commanders did not want to engage in an open conflict with the mercenaries. They believe that “any Comoran casualties over protecting an elite cast is itself a act of betrayal towards Comoros”.

March 09 2013

The Long Road to Justice for the Victims of Hissene Habre in Chad

Jacqueline Moudeina writes on Pambazuka.org about the inauguration of a special tribunal in Senegal, to bring Hissene Habre, former dictator of Chad, before the courts [fr]:

“Being a victim, is a condition in which we languish without the ability to recover, as long as justice has not been served. The suffering is endless and what occurs, is a loss of dignity. The legal battle, so that an authority may take charge and judge the crimes of the victims’ former torturers, was for them a long and painful road. Each new development, each new delay, every error and politico-judicial farce carried out by the former Senegalese government, was but a fresh wound for the victims. After 22 years, more than two decades after the fall of the Habre regime, it continues to rub salt in their wounds”.

February 22 2013

A First for Africa: Ex-Dictator to be Judged on the Continent

A new hybrid court system, the Extraordinary African Chambers has just been set up, opening its doors on February 8, 2013, to judge Hissène Habré, ex-president of Chad in Senegal. The organisation Human Rights Watch has been working since 1999 with victims of the ex-dictator, currently exiled in Senegal, to bring him to justice.

Hissen Habré - capture d'écran d'une vidéo d'euronews sur youtube

Hissen Habré – still from a Euronews video, YouTube

[The french quotes in this article were directly replaced by their translation in english] 

On website France-Rwanda Tribune we read of the Inauguration of the Special Tribunal [fr] charged with judging Hissène Habré:

Senegal initiated its Special Tribunal on Friday (february 8), charged with judging the former president of Chad, Hissène Habré.

An article on website fasozine.com entitled Senegal: Inauguration of Special Tribunal for the Trial of Hissène Habré gave more information:

Habré is accused of thousands of political assassinations and of systematic use of torture during his time in charge of Chad, from 1982 to 1990. Habré has lived in exile in Senegal for more than 22 years.

On website lanouvelleexpression.info, an article entitled An Important First: Africa Judges Africans [fr] included the following:

For the first time in Africa, a former African president is going to be judged in another African country, the African Union (AU) having being given the mandate to find African solutions to African problems. The Juristic advisor of the African Union (AU), Djenna Diarra, noted that “the Hissène Habré affair is important, not for Senegal, but for Africa. So that Africa judges Africans.

Concerning questions regarding impartiality and risks of pressure from Idriss Déby, who overthrew Habré in a 1990 coup to become current president of Chad, an article on website xalimasn.com included the following:

The  prosecution, like the defence, are going to make use of complete freedom to conduct their investigations on Chad soil. It is an essential condition for the good conduct of the trial, and we will be paying particularly close attention to it.

The rights of the defence will be respected. The accused will have recourse to advice. They will lead their investigations freely. They will produce their own witnesses…

If we go back to the article on website lanouvelleexpression.info, it continues [fr]:

Regarding the quality and impartiality of the judges, Djenna Diarra’s opinion was just as clear: “We had taken into account a certain number of concerns which were that maybe the Senegalese courts would not be objective enough and we went towards this international element. …There will be judges from Central Africa, South Africa and elsewhere in future chambers.

We aren’t reinventing the wheel. We needed a system allowing plenty of objectivity and transparence. And we thought that the best way was the system put in place by Cambodia (to judge the former leaders of the Khmer Rouge). This method allows every guarantee of a trial in which the rights of the defence are guaranteed.

An article on website sunuker.com, entitled Hissène Habré Faces Justice, an Historic Moment for Africa, detailled the charge and the trial [fr]:

The 10 judges and four prosecutors who make up this court, named by the African Union, are now going to be able to start the long examination of the Habré file. On the other hand, Hissène Habré may not been seen in court before the end of 2014”, according to Reed Brody. “The trial is not going to be held for a while yet, but at least the process has been started, which was almost unimaginable”, continued the Juridic advisor of Human Rights Watch. … “I think that this show trial will make history for Chad and for Africa. It is going to show that humble victims can, by their action and their perseverance manage to judge a dictator.”

Following the many African dictators [fr] who have been judged in Europe by the International Criminal Court, it is definitely worth celebrating the fact that an African affair will, for once, be heard by an African court. The continent's credibility in the face of its other interlocutors will benefit greatly if the trial unfolds according to accepted standards of international law.

January 18 2013

Gabon to Mali: History of French Military Interventions in Africa

[All links forward to french articles unless otherwise stated] 

The French military intervention in Mali, known as Operation Serval [en] started on January 11, 2013 following the advance of terrorists groups towards Bamako. Lauded by a substantial part of the Malian population [en] and many outside observers, the military intervention diverts, however, from the non-interventionist line professed by French President Hollande in Africa.


View L'intervention militaire étrangère au Mali in a larger map
Google interactive map of the Malian conflict by Jeune Afrique

Francis d'Alençon wonders why French interventions in Africa do not raise protests around the world:

Bizarre, bizarre… L’intervention française au Mali ne dérange personne alors que des actions américaines similaires soulèveraient des tempêtes de protestation… De l’avantage de ne pas être une super puissance.

This is odd… The french intervention in Mali does not bother anyone whereas similar actions by the USA would have raised a storm of protests.. There are perks to not being the world's top super power.

To illustrate his point, he quotes from the Cech newspaper Lidové noviny :

Les Français sont intervenus plus de 50 fois en Afrique depuis 1960. Ils ont combattu au Tchad, dans la guerre non déclarée avec la Libye, protégé les régimes de Djibouti et de République Centrafricaine des rebelles, empêché un coup d’état aux Comores, sont intervenus en Côte d’Ivoire. Que ce soit pour préserver des intérêts économiques, protéger les ressortissants français ou démontrer le statut de grande puissance du pays, les locataires de l’Élysée, de gauche comme de droite, ont fréquemment manifesté leur penchant pour les actions unilatérales. … Pourtant personne n’a jamais protesté. … Si les États-Unis intervenaient avec une telle véhémence, il y aurait des protestations interminables en Europe. Et les ambassades américaines verraient défiler des diplomates fâchés, à commencer par les Français.

The French have now intervened more than 50 times in Africa since 1960. They fought in Chad, in the war with Libya, protected regimes in  Djibouti and the Central African Republic from rebels, prevented a coup in the Comoros and intervened in Côte d'Ivoire. Whether to preserve economic interests, protect French nationals or showcase the still imposing power of France, the main tenants of the Palais de l'Élysée, either from the left or from the right wings, have frequently expressed their penchant for unilateral action. But … nobody has ever protested. If … the United States intervened in such a manner, there would be an endless sequence of protests in Europe. U.S. embassies would see angry diplomats coming through their doors, starting with the French ones.

Carte de la rébellion touareg au Azawad, au nord de Mali indiquant les attaques des rebelles au 5 avril 2012

Map of the Tuareg rebellion in Azawad, Northern Mali showing rebel attacks as of April 5, 2012 (CC-BY-3.0)

Below is a chronology of these interventions [There are indeed quite a few of them but contrary to what the Cech newspaper stated, there were less than 50 french interventions in Africa ]. It is based on two articles:  one is a review written by  Nestor N’Gampoula  for Oeil d'Afrique and  another one by Jean-Patrick Grumberg for Dreuz Info. Grumberg adds that most of the French interventions in Africa took place on former colonial soil :

In 1964, airborne french troops landed in Libreville, Gabon after an attempted coup against the regime back then.

From 1968 to 1972, French troops took part in the fight against the rebellion in the Tibesti region in northern Chad.

In 1978 in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo), 600 French legionnaires went into the town of Kolwezi, in the south-east to help thousands of Africans and Europeans threatened by Katangan rebels. The mission was in response to a call for help made by President Mobutu Sese Seko to help his country. The operation cost the lives of five legionnaires, but allowed the evacuation of 2700 Westerners.

In 1979 in CAR, Emperor Jean-Bedel Bokassa is removed by French paratroopers during the Operation Barracuda.

From 1983-1984 in Chad, France undertook Operation Manta, a 3,000 men strong operation to face armed rebels supported by Libya. Two years later, another French military action, composed of mostly aerial attacks called “Operation Epervier“, was deployed after an anti-government attack.

In Comoros in 1989, after the assassination of President Ahmed Abdallah and the takeover of the country by the French mercenary Bob Denard, about 200 French soldiers arrived in the country to force them to leave the country.

In 1990, Paris sends troops to Gabon in Libreville and Port-Gentil in reinforcement of the French contingent after violent riots erupted. The operation allowed the evacuation of some 1,800 foreigners.

In 1991 in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo), the Belgian and French troops managed to evacuate foreigners after violent riots and looting occurred in the country.

In 1991 still, French troops based in Djibouti help the Afar rebellion to disarm Ethiopian troops that had crossed the border following the overthrow of Ethiopian President Mengistu Haile Mariam.

In 1994, French and Belgian soldiers evacuate Europeans while Rwanda Hutus massacred hundreds thousands of Tutsis. Later in the year, some 2,500 French soldiers, supported by african troops, launched “Operation Turquoise“, described as a humanitarian effort, in Zaire and in eastern Rwanda.

In 1995, a thousand men involved in Operation Azalea ended another attempted coup against Comorian President  Said Mohamed Djohar by Bob Denard.

In 1996 in the Central African Republic (CAR), operation Almandin secured the safety of foreigners and the evacuation of 1,600 people after the army mutinied against President Ange-Félix Patassé. The following year in 1997, specifically after the murder of two French soldiers, a French operation against the mutineers was mandated in Bangui (Central African Republic).

The same year, 1997, some 1,200 French soldiers rescued French and African expatriates during fighting between the Congolese army and supporters of the military leader Denis Sassou Nguesso, now President of the Republic of Congo.

In 2002, French forces undertook Operation Licorne to help Westerners trapped by a military uprising that effectively divided Côte-d’Ivoire in two regions.

In 2003, Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo), Operation Artemis in Ituri  secured the area and put an end to ongoing massacres. This was followed by the deployment of 2,000 peacekeepers,  80% of which were French.

In 2004 in Côte-d’Ivoire, France destroyed the small Ivorian airforce after government forces bombed a French base.

In 2008 a new French intervention strengthens the regime of Chadian President Idriss Deby and evacuated foreigners while rebels from neighboring Sudan attacked.

In March 2011 in Libya had the French airforces were the first to bomb Gaddafi forces after the vote at the United Nations authorized intervention in Libya to protect civilians caught up in the rebellion against Gaddafi. NATO took command of the overall mission on March 31, a mission that helped the Libyan rebels to defeat the forces of the government and take power.

In 2011 in Côte-d’Ivoire,  French forces alongside UN forces tip the balance in favor of Ouattara during the civil war. The war broke out after the refusal of Laurent Gbagbo to resign and accept the verdict of the election that pronounced Alassane Ouattara as president.

France had decided to break with his role as “policeman of Africa” by refusing to intervene again in the Central African Republic  where François Bozizé (former army chief who came to power by overthrowing the elected president Ange-Félix Patassé on March 15, 2003) faced a rebellion uprising. Little did he know that the events in Mali would force his hands :

In 2013 in Mali,  French bombarded Islamist rebels after they tried to expand their powerbase  towards the Malian capital, Bamako. France had already warned that control of the north of Mali by the rebels posed a threat to the security of Europe.

At the same time, France has mounted a commando operation to try to save a French hostage held by al Shabaab militants in Somalia, also allied with al-Qaeda. The hostage was  killed by the militants.

January 11 2013

2012: A Year of Revolt and Social Change in Francophone Countries: Part 1 of 2

2012 is over, and for Francophone countries a more serene 2013 would be more than welcome.

The year 2012 was marked by armed conflicts in Mali, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and in the Central African Republic (CAR). There were elections in Senegal, as well as in Quebec and France. Demonstrations for change took place in Chad as well as Madagascar and Togo. Debate raged on topics such as immigration, the economic crisis and equal marriage rights. All this took place against a backdrop of major changes in the ways of sharing information.

In the first part of our 2012 review, we recap what was an eventful year in Francophone countries with the help of Global Voices contributors:

The future of Mali  (by Marc-André Boisvert

A long chain of events completely devastated the country in 2012 as a Tuareg rebellion was followed by a military coup and the fall of North Mali, which was subsequently captured by Islamist groups. There have been endless political military shake-ups: during this one year, Mali's well-polished international image as a model of democracy and development has been completely shattered, leaving the country destabilised, broken and neglected.

Mali begins Touareg dialogue. Image by Flickr user Magharebia (CC BY 2.0).

Mali begins Touareg dialogue. Image by Flickr user Magharebia (CC BY 2.0)

A year ago in Mali tweets, facebook posts and blogs were mainly personal. At the start of 2012 the only political content was from candidates honing their campaign strategies for the presidential elections (subsequently cancelled) expected to take place that April.

During 2012 Malians took over social networks. More effective than the mainstream media, internet users shared images of amputations committed by Islamists under the hashtag #Mali and exchanged views on the new powers, notably on messaging list Malilink.

The Northern Citizens Collective (COREN) and the Cri de Cœur collective mobilised Malians and their allies to send humanitarian aid to occupied regions. Social networks were no longer simply a tool for sharing people's impotence faced with the atrocities occurring, rather, they were used to organise people, to rise up and refuse to accept the situation.

The people of Mali weren't just waiting around for outside intervention - the internet is proof of that.

Passing crisis of transformation of society? 

The economic crisis was the central theme of the 2012 French election. After nearly four years of the crisis the question was, rather that it being a temporary crisis, were we witnessing a structural transformation of society and the way it functions?

Innovative ideas emerged on the possible ways society could evolve with regard to the current economic context. Stanislas Jourdan enlightened us with ideas exchanged on various approaches which could transform the existing paradigms. The direct democracy team initiative for a guaranteed basic income in Switzerland was part of this:

L'initiative populaire « pour un revenu de base inconditionnel » propose d'inscrire dans la constitution fédérale « l'instauration d'une allocation universelle versée sans conditions » devant «permettre à l'ensemble de la population de mener une existence digne et de participer à la vie publique ». La loi réglerait le financement et fixerait le montant de cette allocation. Le revenu de base est inconditionnel : il n'est subordonné à aucune contre-prestation. [..] Comment le financer? Par l'impôt direct sur le revenu et la fortune, par l'impôt indirect sur la consommation (la TVA), par un impôt sur les transactions financières, et surtout par le transfert des ressources consacrées au financement de l'AVS, de l'AI, de l'aide sociale et des autres revenus de substitution inférieurs au montant du revenu de base.

The grassroots initiative “for an unconditional basic income” proposes that “the establishment of an unconditional universal benefit” be written into the federal constitution which would “allow the entire population to lead a dignified existence and participate in public life”. The law will address financing and set the amount of the benefit.[…] The basic income does not come with any conditions attached: it is not subject to any means testing. […] How will it be financed? Through direct taxation of income and wealth, indirect taxation on consumption (VAT), taxing financial transactions, and most especially through the reallocation of resources currently allotted to financing state pensions and unemployment payouts, social security and other welfare payments lower than the amount of the basic income.

Human reasons to work by freeworldcharter.org via active rain used with permission

The Occupy Movement was started in North America, and among other aims, worked to remove debt from families and students by crowdfunding, similar to the way that governments aided the banks during the subprime mortgage crisis:

[It] would create fiat money in the same way as with Quantitative Easing, but would direct that money to the bank accounts of the public with the requirement that the first use of this money would be to reduce debt. Debtors whose debt exceeded their injection would have their debt reduced but not eliminated, while at the other extreme, recipients with no debt would receive a cash injection…

 

Rebels without a cause?

Whether the M23 rebels in the DRC, the Seleka Coalition in the Central African Republic or Islamist groups in Mali, groups rarely claim a clear political ideology or uniformity of operation between their various factions. These armed groups have strongly expanded their spheres of influence in 2012, establishing a definite lever for negotiations in the stabilisation process in their respective regions. As noted by Julie Owono, the timing of the progression of attacks in the CAR suggests that financial stakes have changed the deal regarding short-term objectives of the Seleka rebels. In the DRC, Anna Gueye detailed the complex historical context of the M23 rebellion and its recent evolution. The financial stakes in the Kivu and Katanga regions are extremely high. The tragic new feature in 2012 was the expansion of the conflict and the humanitarian disaster to areas with high potential for intensification of the violence. The remarkable initiatives of the civilian population did much to protect the health and the social cohesion of populations weakened by these conflicts.

 

The second part of this 2012 review of Francophone countries will follow shortly.

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

December 27 2012

Central African Republic President Isolated as Rebels Close in on Capital City

 At this point, there is virtually no one left in president Bozize's cabinet. His religious advisors and his sons are the only left to help him in manage a storming crisis that might blow all of them away.

Centrafrique Press Info CPI reacts to the news that rebels are about to seize control of Bangui [fr], the capital city of Central African Republic. The USA have asked their citizens to leave the country [fr] while the UN is only keeping essential staff [fr] in the field.

December 26 2012

Rebel Attacks on Ndélé and Bria, Central African Republic

[All links forward to french articles unless otherwise stated]

These last few weeks, with attacks on the the cities of Ndélé and Bria, rebels have been threatening the regime of Central African Republic President François Bozizé. This fresh wave of attacks, which has caused significant civilian displacement, has effectively annulled the peace agreements signed in 2007.

Ndélé attacked by the rebellion

On 10 December, 2012 the city of Ndélé was seized by an attack  carried out by the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UDFU) :

Une faction rebelle de l'UFDR, dirigée par Michel Djotodia, a pris d'assaut la ville de Ndélé, qui compte 15. 000 à 20. 000 habitants, ainsi que celles de Sam Ouandja et d'Ouadda, situées dans le nord-est du pays (à 200 km de Ndélé), une région où l'armée n'est pas ou peu présente.

Ndélé, carrefour du Nord près de la frontière tchadienne et par où passent de nombreux convois entre le Soudan et le Cameroun, avait été le théâtre d'affrontements violents entre différentes rébellions et l'armée entre 2007 et 2010

A UDFU rebel faction, led by Michel Djotodia, seized the city of Ndélé (which has between 15,000 to 20,000 residents), as well the cities of Sam Ouandja et d'Ouadda in the country's north-east (200km from Ndélé) - a region where the army is practically non existent.

Ndélé, a northern junction near the Chadian border passed through by convoys travelling between Sudan and Cameroon, saw violent clashes between different rebel groups and the army throughout 2007 and 2010.

 

The Research Network on Peace Operations (ROP) has reported that the army succeeded in retaking control of the city:

Les forces gouvernementales « ainsi que les forces amies ont promptement réagi pour reprendre dans les délais raisonnables le contrôle de la situation et rétablir l'ordre et la quiétude des citoyens », a indiqué le porte-parole du ministère, le lieutenant-colonel Jean Ladawa.

Government forces “as well as friendly forces promptly reacted to re-assume control of the situation within reasonable time and to re-establish order and calm among the citizens”, stated the minister's spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Jean Ladawad.

 

Red Cross documentary about the security problems in the Central African Republic:

The Red Cross highlights the risks facing the civilian population. As ICRC representative Georgios Georgantas explains:

“Some people have left their homes entirely, others have stayed but spend only a few hours there each day, as they are afraid of further violence.

 

The city of Bria under the control of the Séléka coalition

François Bozize, President  Central African Republic

François Bozize, President of the Central African Republic wikipédia- public domain

But the threat is becoming more defined for President Boizizé. On 18 Decembre, rebels from the “Séléka”  coalition took control of the city of Bria. As RFI [Radio France Internationale, fr] reports:

Selon différentes sources, les rebelles ont attaqué Bria à l'arme lourde. Les Forces armées centrafricaines (FACA) ont ouvert le feu sur les combattants qui essayaient d'entrer dans la ville, puis ont abandonné la base de Bria [..] Des sources militaires disent que les rebelles se sont livrés à des pillages de magasins à Bria, et qu'ils ont été suivis de certains habitants qui tentent de profiter des pillages. Les différents combats qui ont eu lieu ont fait au moins 14 morts et des disparus côté gouvernemental.

According to different sources, the rebels attacked Bria using heavy weapons. The Central African Armed Forces opened fire on the combatants as they were trying to enter the city, then they abandoned the Bria base [..] Military sources are saying that the rebels looted several stores in Bria, and that these rebels were followed by certain local residents who sought to gain from the looting. The various clashes that took place left 14 dead and several more missing on the government side.

Afriquinfos adds:

La coalition Séléka a été créée en août par une aile dissidente de la Convention des patriotes pour la justice et la paix (CPJP), auteur de plusieurs attaques au nord de Bangui depuis septembre, et la Convention patriotique pour le salut wa kodro (CPSK) du “général” Dhaffane Mohamed Moussa.

The Séléka coalition was created in August by a dissident wing of the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace, the instigator of several attacks north of Bangui since September, and the Patriotic Convention for the salvation wa Kodro of “general” Dhaffane Mohamed Moussa.

 

November 16 2012

Chad: A Petition to Fight Impunity

Makaila 's blog published [fr] a petition cosigned by several human right organizations in Chad that bemoans the absence of investigation regarding war crimes. In addition, the petition notes [fr] that :

We would like to take this opportunity to emphasize the fact that the executive power mingling into the judicial power facilitates the use of justice as a mean of repression and/or score settling against opinion leaders that include union leaders, journalists and human rights activists.

November 12 2012

Coalition of African Nations Agrees to Send 3,300 Soldiers a year to Northern Mali

Seven African nations of ECOWAS namely Nigeria, Senegal, Niger, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire and Togo have agreed with Malian government [fr] to send 3,300 soldiers a year to Northern Mali to take back control of northern Mali from Islamist fighters. Other nations outside the ECOWAS might also send in troops.

October 29 2012

Chad: President's Plane Botched Landing in Kalait

Blogger Malaika reports [fr] that the plane carrying Chad president Idriss Deby botched its landing in the Kalait region. No one was hurt in the accident. The president was to take part in a forum on development and peace in the region.

October 20 2012

Chad: ‘Alternative Nobel Prize' Winner & Human Rights Activist Attacked at Home

DJAMIL AHMAT in Chad reports that Jacqueline Moudeina, a lawyer, human rights activist  and winner of  an Alternative Nobel Prize Award  was attacked at her home (fr) last night (October 19). Moudeina is the legal representative of the victims of the Hissène Habré regime since 2000. Other HR activists were arrested earlier this month in Chad.

September 27 2012

Chad: Challenges to Freedom of Expression as Social Protests Grow

[All links forward to French articles unless otherwise stated]

The recent arrests of three union officers and the editor of N’Djamena Bi-Hebdo (an independent, bi-weekly newspaper) are symptomatic of a disintegration of freedom of expression in Chad. These arrests are the result of protest movements against the impoverishment of Chad’s population and the privatization of the country’s resources.

Reporters Without Borders condemns the sentence against Jean-Claude Nekim, the editor of N’Djamenda Bi-Hebdo:

a été condamné à un an de prison avec sursis et à une amende d'un million de francs CFA (1.500 euros) pour “diffamation”, pour avoir rapporté une pétition contre le régime du président Idriss Déby.

[He] was given a one-year suspended prison sentence and a fine of one million CFA francs (1,500 euros) for “defamation” for having covered a petition against the administration of President Idriss Déby.

Redistribution of oil profits in question

Chad is an oil-rich country but one whose population has been slow to realize how others are benefiting from their exploitation. The Chad-Cameroon Pipeline, completed in 2003, enables the transport of oil from the Gulf of Guinea and the exploitation of oil sources by a consortium made of ExxonMobil, Chevron, and Petronas.

Following a loan deal with the World Bank to help achieve this pipeline, Chad’s government agree to devote 70% of its total budget to programs fighting poverty [PDF in English].

Cartoon on the impact of oil exploitation in Chad- via Tchadonline.com - Public Domain

Cartoon on the impact of oil exploitation in Chad- via Tchadonline.com - Public Domain

The effects of these deals have not yet been felt by the majority of the population and people are now demanding more transparency around the revenues of oil production. The Union of Trade Unions (UST) has launched an appeal to the public sector workers to strike against poor governance.

Gali Gatta explains the context of the strike:

Les grévistes réclament le respect par le gouvernement des engagements pris par le Président de la République au début de l'année pour mettre fin à la grogne sociale. Aucune solution n'est en vue. [..] La gestion des ressources du pétrole n'est pas transparente alors même que les champs exploités gagnent du terrain. La nation ne sait pas combien rapporte cette ressource au pays, depuis 10 ans l'Assemblée Nationale n'a pas reçu de loi de règlements. [..] Alors que l'Etat doit avoir la maîtrise de toutes ses ressources pour faire face à tous ses engagements (dettes, salaires, dépenses de santé et d'éducation, etc.), ces ressources sont privatisées, détournées au profit de la famille et du clan.

The strikers are demanding the government respect commitments made by the President of the Republic at the start of the year to quell the social unrest. There is no solution in sight. […] The management of oil resources is not transparent, even though the scope of the drilling is expanding. The nation does not know how to profit from its natural resources; in ten years, the National Assembly has not passed a law regulating their use. […] While the State must have control over its resources in order to fulfill its obligations (debts, salaries, health and education spending, etc.), these resources have been privatized, diverting profits to family and clan.

Freedom of expression weakened

The Chadian League for Human Rights reports on the events surrounding the arrests of the union leaders François Djondang, Michel Barka, and Younous Mahadjir:

Le 18 septembre 2012, la Chambre correctionnelle de citation directe du Tribunal de première instance de N’Djamena a condamné MM. Djondang, Barka et Mahadjir à 18 mois de prison avec sursis et une amende de 1,5 millions de francs CFA (environ 2 290 euros) pour « incitation à la haine ethnique ». Cette condamnation fait suite à une pétition de l’UST datée du 1er septembre 2012 qui protestait notamment contre « la cherté de la vie » et « la paupérisation de la population » [..] Le 5 septembre 2012, le Bureau exécutif de l’UST a reçu une convocation écrite du procureur de la République et relative à la pétition mentionnée précédemment. Ils ont été auditionnés par la police puis par le procureur de la République le 10 septembre. l’UST est à l’initiative d’une grève réclamant l’application d’un décret promulgué en novembre 2011 suite à un protocole d’accord portant sur les grilles salariales dans le secteur public.

On September 18, 2012, the criminal section of the Tribunal of the First Instance of N’Djamena sentenced Djondang, Barka and Mahadjir to 18-month suspended prison sentences and fines of 1.5 million CFA francs (about 2,290 euros) for “inciting racial hatred.” This sentence follows a UST petition, dated September 1, that protests against “the high cost of living” and “the impoverishment of the population” […] On September 5, the UST executive board received a summons from the State’s Attorney relating to the aforementioned petition. On September 10, they gave a statement to the police and then to the State’s attorney. The UST initiated a strike demanding the application of an order given in November 2011 following a memorandum of understanding on public sector salary levels.

The reactions to the union officials’ sentencing were heated. Benoit Bemadji reports:

Me l'avocate Delphine Kemneloum Djiraïbé [affirme que]: « C’est une parodie de justice et nous ne pouvons pas prendre part à un tel procès. C’est pour cela que nous avons quitté la salle. La déclaration du Procureur discrédite même les magistrats et c’est une honte pour notre justice». [..] Pour avoir éclaté de rire après le verdict, M. Mbaïlaou Gustave a été séance tenante arrêté dans la salle pour être jugé et condamné à trois mois de prison ferme pour [outrage à Magistrat].

Lawyer Delphine Kemneloum Djiraibe [affirms]: “This is a parody of justice, and we cannot take part in such a process. That is why we left the room. The prosecutor’s declaration discredits even the judges and it is a shame for our justice.” […] For having erupted in laughter after the verdict, Mr. Mbailaou Gustave was immediately arrested inside the courtroom and was condemned to three months in prison for contempt.

Reporters Without Borders also was concerned with the hasty trial:

Le mauvais climat entre le pouvoir et la presse franchit une nouvelle étape avec ce verdict. Interrogé par Reporters sans frontières, un journaliste tchadien ayant assisté à l’audience a affirmé : “C’était un procès expéditif. Le procureur n’a pas prouvé la diffamation. Les avocats de la défense ont quitté la salle en signe de protestation. Ce procès ressemble à un règlement de compte

The tension between the government and the press reached a new stage with this verdict. Interviewed by Reporters Without Borders, a Chadian journalist who attended the hearing said, “It was a quick trial. The prosecutor didn’t prove defamation. The defense attorneys left the room as a sign of protest. This trial resembles a settling of scores.

September 04 2012

Chad, CAR: FPR Rebel Leader Transferred to Bangui after He Turned Himself in

Ursula Soares reports that FPR Rebel Leader Abdel Kader Baba Laddé was transferred to Bangui [fr] Capital city of the Central African Republic (CAR) after he turned himself in on September 3. Baba Laddé is reportedly ill and wishes to quit fighting with the CAR authorities.

August 10 2012

February 09 2012

Sahel Region: 1.6 Million Children at Risk of Malnutrition

Afrik.com reports that [fr]: ” because of the low harvest and an increase of 60 to 80 % in cereal pricing, 10 millions people across Niger, Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Chad will be affected by food security issues, including 1.6 million children.”

November 02 2011

Gadaffi's Lost Arsenal, a Threat to the Sahel Region

Since the beginning of the conflict in Libya that toppled the Gaddafi's regime, weapon trafficking has been on the rise in the Sahel region. The consequences of this trafficking threatens peace in a region that is already destabilized by poverty and vast uncontrolled areas.

The Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS in French) is an international organization whose mandate is to invest in research for food security and the fight against the effects of drought and desertification in the region. Its country members include Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Chad. All of them are on high alert regarding the potential impact of weapons on the loose reaching their borders.

Africa Boyebi repost a report from the AFP on his blog that describes an uncontrolled weapons site [fr]:

L'arsenal compte quelque 80 bunkers de béton peints couleur sable destinés au stockage de munitions, essentiellement de fabrication russe et française.
Dans un seul de ces bunkers, l'AFP a compté environ 8.000 obus de 100 mm. Dans d'autres, des centaines de bombes de 250, 500 et 900 kg larguées par avion, sont empilées sur plusieurs mètres de haut, mais aussi des roquettes, des bombes à fragmentation, des obus d'artillerie et de mortier de tout calibre, des munitions de canon antiaérien…

The arsenal includes about 80 bunkers painted sand color that were used to stockpile ammunitions, mostly made in Russia or France.
In one of those bunkers, AFP counted as many as 8,000 100 mm long shell bombs. In other bunkers, hundreds of 250, 500 and 900 kg bombs were also piled up to several meters high, as well as rockets, artillery shells and mortars of any caliber, and anti-aircraft gun ammunitions…

Peter Bouckaert, Human Rights Watch's emergencies director and an expert in humanitarian crises provides the details of the weapons [fr] that were found unguarded 100 km south of Syrte in the following video. He states that some of weapons here were retrieved in the Sinaï desert and even Gaza later:

Way before conflict broke out in Libya, there were weapons circulating throughout the Sahel region at the unguarded borders of many countries, but these weapons were much smaller in size and range. However, more sophisticated weaponry has been introduced in the past few months.

However, more sophisticated weaponry has been introduced in the past few months. Samuel Benshimon on Sahel Intelligence explains that AQIM (Al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb - a radical Islamist militia) may have claimed some of these heavy weapons [fr]:

According to reliable sources from the capital cities of  Chad, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Algeria and Mauritania, heavy weaponry, including anti-aerial missiles abandoned in Libya were seized by mysterious terrorists groups. A military source in Bamako states that many of these weapons were already transported  towards AQMI bases in the north of Mali by African mercenaries.

Samuel Benshimon adds that a high level officer has confirmed the accuracy of this information and that he also said [fr]:

The authorities of his country are very worried about AQIM reloading on weapons in such manner and that it presents a very palatable threat fro the entire region. He adds that amongs the weapons are Sam7, anti-aerial missiles made in Russia. Similar concerns were expressed by the president of Chad Driss Deby. The weapons were retrieved by African mercenaries or AQIM elements and were transported overnight to their final destination. The branches of AQIM  based in the north of Mali are controlled by Algerian emirs Mokhtar Belmokhtar and Abdelhamid Abou Zaid

What ought to be even more worrisome are the issues that author and blogger Thérèse Zrihen-Dvir has listed in the following post [fr] :

The revolution is now over and Libya is free. However, the former rebels are not ready to let go of their weapons right away. Just in case, you know. The region is still not stabilized, the police is still composed of volunteers for half of them. No national army has been fully set up so the population feel like they ought to protect their communities themselves and hold on to their weapons.

In an article on elkhabar.com blog, Moroccan scholar Mohamed Drif (specialized in Islamic movement), predicts that the region will be controlled by three groups that sprung from the fall of Muammar Gadaffi in Libya [fr]:

The first group will be composed of the Gadaffi's loyalists, the tribes that fought by his side and that went home in the North of Niger. The group is experienced with combat and that owns weaponry that allows to pursue the fight against the new regime in Libya and will target western interests in the region.

The second group will be composed of the many Africans that were linked to the Gadaffi regime. This group will start to destabilize the region not because they want to avenge Gadaffi but because they want to regain the financial loss they incurred when the support from Gadaffi ran dry. Guerilla warfare from this group is likely in order to claim some quick financial spoils.

The third group will be composed of Gadaffi partisans in Libya or in neighboring nations who are striving to destabilize the region for tribal reasons.

Cafe Aboki blog posts an AFP report, which claims that the National Transitional Council of Libya has found yet another stockpile of weaponry [fr], this time, of the chemical type. Chemical weapons are very mobile [fr] and have a great capacity to kill and destroy the surrounding environment.

A study by Olivier Lepick for Recherche Stratégique indicates the multiple  angers that chemical weapons [fr] can present:

Some characteristics of chemical weapons are tailor made for terrorist activities, most notably the fact that there are no reliable detectors of chemical and biological weapons, they are not easily traceable and the relative ease with which one can procure such substances. Evidently and unfortunately, these weapons also have a tremendous capability to spread fear and panic among the civilian population.

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