|Africa News Digest
FBI Head Mueller in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia
Robert Mueller, director of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), visited three governments in the Maghreb the week of Feb. 6Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisiato promote the "Global War on Terrorism." He and Lauren Anderson, the FBI representative stationed in Rabat, the capital of Morocco, were received Feb. 7 by King Mohammed VI. The top three Moroccan internal security officials also attended the meeting.
Moroccan media obliged Mueller by reporting, at the time of his arrival, that suspected al-Qaeda members were attempting to sneak into Europe by infiltrating waves of illegal migrants from sub-Saharan African who are also trying to reach Europe.
NATO Defense Ministers Meet 'Mediterranean Partners'
NATO Defense Ministers met Feb. 10 in Taormina, Sicily, with their "Mediterranean partners"Israel, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, and Mauritaniato seek their cooperation in the "war on terrorism," AP reported Feb. 10. U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told a news conference that NATO had to shift from "the Cold War defense posture ... to one that is more agile, certainly more expeditionary and better able to respond to defuse the global terrorist network." NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said that Algeria, Morocco, and Israel "had shown a keen interest" in joining NATO's naval patrols to deter terrorist traffic in the Mediterranean. NATO would have no dealings with Hamas, he said. Russia also plans to take part in the patrols, and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov was in attendance.
Rumsfeld in Maghreb To Deepen 'Counterterror' Ties
Following FBI head Robert Mueller's visit to the Mahgreb earlier in the week (see above), U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld made a three-day visit to Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco after the close of the NATO defense ministers' summit in Sicily on Feb. 10. Middle East Newsline (MENL) reported Feb. 13 that the Bush Administration "was preparing to increase aid to Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia over the next year."
In Tunis Feb. 11, Rumsfeld said, "We are continuing to participate with each one of these three countries ... on a military-to-military relationship," according MENL. In Algiers Feb. 12, Rumsfeld said Washington intended to deepen its military and "counterterrorism" cooperation with Algeria, Reuters reported.
Rumsfeld Likens 'War on Terror' to Algerian Dirty War
U.S. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld likened his "War on Terror" to the Algerian government's war of terror and butchery against its population in the 1990s. In Algiers Feb. 12, according to the New York Times, "Mr. Rumsfeld said [Algerian President Abdelaziz] Bouteflika reviewed his country's decade-long battle with Islamic militant groups and offered suggestions to the United States for conducting what Bush administration officials have recently begun referring to as 'the long war' against Islamic extremists. 'He described it from the inside as to what took place and how they fought off the terrorism,' Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters. 'It's instructive for us to realize that the struggle we're in is not unlike the struggle that the people of Algeria went through.'" The Times comments that Algeria "endured a brutal Islamic insurgency during the 1990s."
Charles Richardson of Australia, however, a writer on the Crikey.com web site, quoted the Times in a Feb. 15 column, and said of Rumsfeld's remarks: "As a piece of context-dropping, this would be hard to beat. The reason Algeria faced an Islamic insurgency, estimated to have cost 150,000 lives, was that the military intervened in 1991 to cancel democratic elections that the Islamic parties looked like winning. The West turned a blind eye to both the coup and the resulting carnage."
UN Issues Appeal for Aid as Millions Face Death in Africa
Jan Egeland, the United Nations Under Secretary for Aid Coordination, said on Feb. 12 that the death rate in Congo from hunger and disease is 1,200 a day. He said that the rest of the world must provide $680 million to Congo this year to stop the disaster.
In Kenya, 3.5 million people are now in need of emergency assistance, as a result of an ongoing drought in the Horn of Africa. A study of the drought situation by the Kenyan government and various agencies says that close to 400,000 metric tons of food aid is needed to feed the millions of Kenyans affected. Thousands of head of livestock are dying from lack of food and water. "Many Kenyansfacing a fifth consecutive season of failed or poor rainsare already living on the edge, and unless donors respond immediately, we fear for the worst," said UN World Food Program Country Director Tesema Negash. More than 8 million people in Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Djibouti are affected by the drought, including some 1.5 million children under the age of 5.
In Djibouti, where 42% of the population exist under conditions called "extreme poverty," according to the UN Development Program, the government issued an appeal for aid in late January, but as of Feb. 7, only Japan had pledged assistance.