Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Africa Update -- Another Major Headquarters?

For those of you who don’t get Time magazine, the August 24 issue carried a story that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld planned on creating a tenth unified combatant command and the sixth geographic command. The geographical area of this new headquarters would be Africa.

Right now, the continent is overseen by three other commands. European Command is responsible for the “mainland” less Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, and Kenya, which fall within Central Command’s area and Madagascar, which falls within Pacific Command’s area. Presumably, Central Command would retain responsibility for all those countries in its present line up with the possible exception of Kenya, the only one that does not front on the west side of the Suez Canal-Red Sea-Gulf of Aden. European Command would be left with Europe, including Russia, and Israel.

Looking a little closer at Africa, Algeria’s Islamists seem to be taking a page from Hezbollah by becoming both a political and cultural movement. The transformation has been solidified by the fact that a six-month amnesty for the remaining anti-government combatants ended Monday.

Further east, Sudan has again refused to allow United Nations peacekeepers into Darfur despite a dramatic rise in violence in the province. Last Monday the UN Security Council met behind closed doors to discuss options. Also attending were representatives of the African Union, the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Khartoum declined to attend. The U.S. says that China and two African nations (Congo and Tanzania) reportedly do not see Sudan in the same light as the U.S. and this is slowing progress on getting a force into the region. Sudan says it is ready to deploy 10,500 of its own troops to the region in early January, but with the African Union force due to phase out by the end of September, that leaves a three-month gap – and Darfurans will not trust the government troops.

Elsewhere in the region, prosecutors at the International Criminal Court have brought charges against Thomas Lubanga, former head of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UCP) Hema ethnic militia that operated in the lawless northeastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo during that country’s long civil war. The charges relate to recruitment and training of children as young as ten to serve as soldiers in the UCP during the period of July 2002-December 2003. Prosecutors allege that Lubanga and his commanders instructed the child soldiers to kill any ethnic Lendu they encountered. The UCP was not the only militia to recruit or abduct children to fight as soldiers. One estimate is that there were as many as 30,000 child soldiers at the height of the DRC’s civil war.

The ICC also has outstanding warrants for Joseph Kony and four other senior officials of the Lord’s Resistance Army rebel faction from Uganda. However, Uganda’s President Yowen Museveni announced last Saturday that the LRC had agreed to abandon there hideouts in the wild northeast DRC- Uganda-south Sudan area and to go into two camps while negotiations on terms of an amnesty continue at Juba in southern Sudan.

Ostensibly, the LRA has been assured that they will be able to leave the two camps in the event that the negotiations break down. But that assumes that the LRA fighters will actually go into the camps in the first place –and perhaps whether or not Kony and his associates also enter the camps.

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