Life is short,have fun!!!

Lifestyle, Travel & Photography. If you want a lifetime memory, take a photo.

Archive for the tag “African Union”

US to assign army brigade to Africa

“Combat brigade will be drafted to Pentagon’s Africa Command to send soldiers to countries around the continent.”

US marines are already in Uganda offering training and support to Ugandan and African Union soldiers [AFP]

The US army has said a combat brigade will be assigned to the Pentagon‘s Africa Command next year in a pilot programme that will send small teams of soldiers to countries around the continent to do training and participate in military exercises.

General Ray Odierno, the army’s chief of staff, says the plan is part of a new effort to provide US commanders around the globe with troops on a rotational basis to meet the military needs of their regions.

This pilot programme sends troops to an area that has become a greater priority for the Obama administration since it includes several nations from where it perceives an increasing threat to the US and the region.

Odierno says a brigade from the 10th Mountain Division will take on the new task.

Already US special forces have begun providing training and logistical support to Ugandan soldiers hunting Joseph Kony, leader of the Lords Resistance Army.

Military advisers are also in Uganda to draw lessons learned from Iraq and Afghanistan to help train African Union soldiers to fight Somalia’s al-Shabab group.”

Source: Aljazeera News

Abyei dispute: Sudan ‘to withdraw troops’

Sudan will begin pulling its troops out of the disputed border region of Abyei on Tuesday, an army spokesman has said.

Abyei is claimed by both Sudan and South Sudan, which became independent in 2011 after a long civil war. Sudan’s forces seized Abyei in May 2011.

Its status was left undecided in the 2005 peace deal between the sides, and a referendum on the issue has been postponed indefinitely.

Peace talks between the two states are scheduled to begin on Tuesday.

In the talks due to be held in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, the two countries are expected to cover several border disputes that have caused friction, including Abyei.

Sudan has decided to redeploy its troops out of Abyei in order to “offer a good environment for the talks”, military spokesman Sawarmi Khaled Saad said in a statement quoted by the AFP news agency.

He said Khartoum was responding to a request from the talks’ mediator, former South African President Thabo Mbeki.

‘Guarantee’

It has also asked for a “guarantee” recognising that Abyei is part of its territory, the spokesman added.

Analysis

James Copnall BBC News, Khartoum

The Sudanese military spokesman avoided the word “withdrawal” – “redeployment” sounds so much less like a defeat.

Certainly, if the Sudanese troops do leave Abyei – and many in South Sudan will be sceptical until it actually happens – Khartoum will negotiate from a weaker position.

But the Sudanese leadership is clearly hoping to burnish its reputation with this decision, which comes the day before a meeting in which progress – or not – on the African Union’s roadmap is to be evaluated.

There is also the prospect of UN sanctions for any failure to make real progress in the negotiations.

There are strong feelings in both countries about Abyei.

The Misseriya, a Sudanese group, take their cattle through the region every year.

The Dinka Ngok, the permanent residents of the area, want Abyei to be part of South Sudan.

But even if from now on the only troops in Abyei are UN peacekeepers, the underlying problem of how to decide its future remains.

On Sunday, former US President Jimmy Carter said after meeting Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir that Khartoum was ready to pull its forces out of Abyei.

Tens of thousands of civilians were displaced when the Sudanese army took control of the region in three days of clashes with South Sudanese troops in May 2011.

The dispute in Abyei is rooted in ethnic conflict between farmers from the pro-South Sudan Dinka Ngok community and the pro-Sudan Misseriya nomads.

In April, cross-border clashes centred on the neighbouring oil-rich region of Heglig brought Sudan and South Sudan close to all-out war.

South Sudan says Sudanese warplanes bombed several locations on its border, although Khartoum denies this.

The same month, the South’s troops occupied Heglig for a week. It said it pulled out in response to international pressure, but Sudan said it reconquered the territory.

The UN Security Council has called on both countries to cease all bombing and cross-border fighting, and to return to talks aimed at resolving their outstanding disputes.

Security is a key issue, and one that Sudan says must be resolved before anything else, the BBC’s James Copnall in Khartoum reports.

Outstanding issues also include oil and the situation of the estimated half a million South Sudanese still living in Sudan, our correspondent says.

But the level of distrust between the two sides is considerable, and rapid progress on the many areas of substantial disagreement is unlikely, he adds.

Sudan: A country divided
Show regions
Map showing position of oilfileds in Sudan, source: Drilling info international

Both Sudan and the South are reliant on their oil revenues, which account for 98% of South Sudan’s budget. But the two countries cannot agree how to divide the oil wealth of the former united state. Some 75% of the oil lies in the South but all the pipelines run north. It is feared that disputes over oil could lead the two neighbours to return to war.”
Source; BBC News

Sudan vows to end fighting with South Sudan

Children carry their family's belongings as they go to Yida refugee camp in South Sudan outside Tess village in the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan, 2 May 2012
Thousands of people have fled their homes as a result of the fighting

Sudan has promised to cease hostilities with South Sudan and comply with a UN Security Council resolution.

However the foreign ministry also said that Khartoum reserved the right to respond to “aggression” from the South.

The statement came hours after Juba alleged fresh bombing by the Khartoum government’s forces.

A UN resolution on Wednesday backed an African Union plan demanding both sides cease hostilities, amid fears of an all-out war between the neighbours.

The Security Council called for a written commitment by both governments within 48 hours, and threatened sanctions if its terms were not met.

The South has already said it accepts the terms of the roadmap.

The BBC’s James Copnall in Khartoum says that both sides appear to have been brought back to the negotiating table, but tension is still high.

In a statement, a foreign ministry spokesman said Sudan would “fully commit to what has been issued in the resolution about stopping hostilities with South Sudan according to the time limits issued”.

It added that it hoped the “other party will commit to stop the hostilities completely and withdraw its troops from the disputed areas so as not to put SAF [Sudanese Armed Forces] in a situation where it has to defend itself”.

Under the roadmap, the two countries have until next Tuesday to restart negotiations and three months to reach an agreement.

Our correspondent says that while both countries have now committed themselves to the roadmap, they have also accused each other of new attacks.

In its statement, he says, Sudan pointed out the numerous ways in which it considers it has been attacked by South Sudan in the last few days.

Meanwhile, South Sudan said that Sudanese warplanes had bombed a military position in Unity state, and said that there had also been a ground attack.

The latest crisis began last month when the south seized a disputed oil field at Heglig.

Disputes over the sharing of oil revenue is a major cause of conflict between Juba and Khartoum.

South Sudan took most of the oil reserves when it seceded in July 2011, but relies on pipelines to seaports in Sudan for distribution.

The South seceded from Sudan as part of a 2005 peace treaty following two decades of civil war in which some 1.5m people died.

 

Show regions
Map showing position of oilfileds in Sudan, source: Drilling info international

Both Sudan and the South are reliant on their oil revenues, which account for 98% of South Sudan’s budget. But the two countries cannot agree how to divide the oil wealth of the former united state. Some 75% of the oil lies in the South but all the pipelines run north. It is feared that disputes over oil could lead the two neighbours to return to war.

Source- BBC  News

Coming face to face with Somalia’s al-Shabab

Al-Shabab fighter in Elasha Biyaha, February 2012
It is usually difficult for journalists to have access to al-Shabab controlled areas

Freelance journalist Hamza Mohamed recounts the day he was able to put a human face to the Somali Islamist insurgent group al-Shabab, in this article published in the latest issue of the BBC’s Focus on Africa magazine.

There is shelling not far from the hotel where I am staying. At the break of dawn I will be making my way out of Mogadishu and into al-Shabab-controlled Elasha Biyaha, to meet the group’s media coordinator.

There I will request access to report from areas under al-Shabab’s control.

Earlier in the day I made a call to see if the coordinator could meet me the next day. Surprisingly, he agreed to a 09:00 meeting.

Al-Shabab are notorious for denying access to foreign media – let alone granting a meeting at such short notice.

Al-Shabaab are notorious for denying access to foreign media – let alone granting a meeting at such short notice”

It is just after 06:00 when Nur, my driver, turns up at the hotel, but there is no sight of Awiil, my fixer.

Nur tells me that Awiil, who has a young family, did not want to risk being caught in Somalia‘s ever-changing front lines.

After about 15 minutes of driving at break-neck speed and negotiating two chaotic government checkpoints manned by nervous-looking skinny soldiers, we reach Elasha Biyaha.

This is a “pop-up” town that came into being when Mogadishu’s residents left the anarchy of the city for the relative calm of its outskirts.

Checkpoints and tinted windows

In the distance we see a black flag hanging from a dried tree branch. Unlike the previous two checkpoints, there is no heavy presence of soldiers manning this one.

It quickly becomes clear that this is one of the frontiers of the conflict: On one side the transitional government and African Union troops and on the other al-Shabab fighters.

From the shade of an acacia tree two seemingly teenage boys – the younger-looking one with a shiny AK47 rifle hanging from his left shoulder – wave our 4×4 to the side of the road.

BBC map

What seems to be the elder of the two has a headscarf wrapped around his face. He stands back, letting the younger one approach our car.

The tint on our car windows has attracted their attention. In Somalia, most 4x4s are tinted to keep the occupants’ profile as low as possible. He is not impressed.

Nur acknowledges our “fault” and explains that we have our camera kit on the backseat and leaving expensive gear in a car with non-tinted window in Mogadishu is calling for it to be stolen.

In a soft and polite voice, the teenager explains to us that tinting is not allowed and walks towards a house 500 metres away, telling us he is going to seek advice from what we think are his superiors.

Nur and I turn to each other asking what other rules we might be breaking. I notice Nur still has his shirt firmly tucked. He quickly untucks it.

Out of anxiety, I ask whether the al-Shabab youth might also take exception to my Nike trainers and we both break into nervous laughter.

All this time the elder of the two boys is standing not far from our car – listening but not responding to our small talk.

After waiting for about five minutes, while replays of press reports of al-Shabab’s notoriously harsh justice system run through my head, he comes back and tells us we are free to continue our journey but must wind down the tinted windows.

Beehive of commerce

We are at the frontline, but there is no sight of men in trenches. There is also no sight of pick-up trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns.

It is hard to imagine how this very lightly armed checkpoint was stopping the heavily armed government and African Union troops. Perhaps there were more fighters with superior weapons waiting in the nearby bushes.

I had expected to be asked whether I pray five times a day, not about my taste in women”

After a short drive we reach the centre of Elasha Biyaha, a beehive of commerce and trade.

Unlike the battle-scarred buildings of Mogadishu all the buildings here are new, with their tin roofs glowing in the mid-morning sun.

On both sides of the only tarmac road in the town, stores sell goods from matchsticks to sacks of rice.

Also noticeably different from Mogadishu is the absence of men with guns in the streets of the town – even though this is a “front line”.

People stop and stare at us, only for them to smile and resume their activities when I greet them in Somali.

We head to the hotel where our meeting is scheduled to take place. We get there in time but there is no sign of our contact.

A quick call and we find out to our surprise he is in fact in Mogadishu, a city controlled by government and AU soldiers, attending a funeral for two religious elders who died in the shelling the night before.

Facebook profile

After two hours’ wait a tall, slim figure with a goatee and a broad smile comes walking towards us.

Al-Shabab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage in Elasha Biyaha In February there was a demonstration in Elasha Biyaha to back al-Shabab joining al-Qaeda

With arms outstretched, he says my name and gives me a hug as if I am an old friend. I ask how he picked me out of the crowd in the hotel.

He says: “You look like the picture on your Facebook profile.”

My heart goes into overdrive. How much more could he possibly know about me? What about my Twitter account? Does he read my tweets?

After a few seconds of nervous silence, he gives a broad smile and soft pat on my shoulder saying: “Don’t worry you look better in real life.”

Over freshly made mango smoothies, he apologises for not being on time.

Probably in his late 20s, he looks nothing like you may imagine a typical Islamist insurgent to be. There are no robes or heavy beards.

He is wearing a crisply ironed shirt and trousers with the Islamic scarf loosely resting upon his head, protecting it from the intense morning sun.

As the main man of al-Shabab’s media campaign you would think he would be escorted by heavily-armed and masked bodyguards – but there are no signs of security or even a pistol for protection.

‘No stealing’

As we are having drinks he notices I do not wear a wedding ring.

The conversation changes to what kind of women I prefer, and why I have not married.

People fleeing Elasha Biyaha. January 2012 Many people have fled from areas controlled by al-Shabab

He offers to assist me in finding a potential wife and he adds that if I cannot afford the dowry he will happily contribute.

I had expected to be asked whether I pray five times a day, not about my taste in women.

We talk until the midday call for prayers goes out, and I suggest we go to the mosque. Somalia brings out the fear of God in everyone.

Nur and I are used to carrying our kit with us wherever we go, but he suggests we leave it in the car.

Remembering that we were told to keep the tinted windows down, I say we are happy carrying the kit with us.

He insists, assuring us if anything happened he would personally pay for our kit.

After prayers we go to a restaurant for a lunch of boiled camel meat, rice and stew. Between chewing the tough camel meat and the soft basmati rice he gives me the news I have been hoping for – the freedom to report from al-Shabab-controlled areas.

We return to our car after lunch; our kit is still there, albeit dusty from the strong wind and in full display to all the locals.

“This is an al-Shabab area, nobody touches what’s not theirs,” the man tells me.

As we begin our drive back to Mogadishu he reassures us of our safety.

Feeling a bit more confident, I retort with a smile that while this may be true, we cannot be safe from drone strikes.

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: