|Africa News Digest
Violence Increases in Somalia as Peacekeepers Arrive
The first contingent of African Union peacekeepers, made up of Ugandan troops, began arriving in the Somali capital of Mogadishu on March 6. Later that day, apparently timed to coincide with their arrival, two mortar assaults by armed groups labelled "insurgents" by the Western media, attacked forces of the interim government, and the military side of the airport where the Ugandan troops were camped. The Ugandan contingent, which is to patrol Mogadishu, is now made up of 1,200 troops, of the 1,600 Uganda has agreed to send. The previous week, 35 Ugandan officers landed in Baidoa, site of the temporary headquarters of the interim government, which has been defended by Ethiopian troops since their military intervention into Somalia last December.
An attempted ambush of Ugandan forces the next day, with a rocket-propelled grenade, missed its target, and instead killed nine Somalis, and injured numerous others, when it hit a restaurant. There were other reports of Ugandan convoys coming under fire in the city.
While the Western press generally is labelling the guerrillas as "Islamic" fighters, other sources say they suspect them to be a mixture of Islamists and clan militiamen fighting for control of Mogadishu.
One diplomat in Kampala, Uganda, cited by Reuters, said it was a suicide mission to send Ugandan troops to Somalia. The AU faces a shortage of equipment and money to successfully carry out the task.
Military Contractors in Africa
The U.S. State Department has hired DynCorp International, a large military contractor, to help support Somali peacekeepers. DynCorp has annual revenues of over $2 billion, and has had an umbrella State Department contract since 2004 for "peacekeeping, capacity enhancement and surveillance efforts" in Africa. The Virginia-based company also has contracts in Iraq, Bosnia, and Afghanistan.
Other U.S. security companies working in Africa include: Northrop Grumman Corp., which has a contract worth up to $75 million to support the African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance program, to train 40,000 African peacekeepers over five years; and KBR Inc., a Halliburton Co. subsidiary, which provides services to at least three military bases in Djibouti, Kenya, and Ethiopia, which are used by the U.S. Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.
Tribal Conflict Worsens in Darfur
In a March 6 closed session of the UN Security Council, UN special envoy Jan Eliasson warned of "the growing problem of tribal warfare" in Darfur, separate from government troop activities, according to a UN release March 10. He called for greater efforts to improve humanitarian conditions in Darfur. Eliasson and his AU counterpart, Salim Ahmed Salim of Tanzania, travelled to Sudan in February. The UN envoy welcomed the development, that since Feb. 11, in response to a UN request, Sudanese government forces have stopped aerial bombings of rebel positions in Darfur.
The U.S. State Department issued its annual Human Rights Report March 6, which charges that "genocide continued to ravage the Darfur region of Sudan," and holds the Sudan government responsible. The day before, a New York Times editorial also called the fighting in Darfur an "ongoing slaughter," and "genocide."
The British Ambassador to the UN, Emyr Jones-Parry, said that some Security Council members were exasperated with the Sudan government, and hinted at tougher action, i.e., sanctions.
Sudanese President Objects to UN Report
In November 2006, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir agreed to a three-phase UN plan which would allow a 22,000-member joint UN-AU peacekeeping mission into the Darfur region of Sudan.
In a March 9 letter to the UNSC Bashir reportedly expressed an objection to the UN plan. Bashir insisted, according to AP on March 10, that the November agreement established that the UN would provide the AU force with technical and financial assistance, and "military consultants with ranks below that of military commander appointed by the African Union." Bashir objected specifically to a section of a UN report which stated that "full UN involvement in command and control would be a prerequisite for UN funding and troop contribution."
Bashir has said previously that giving the UN forces full military control would result in the Darfur rebellion becoming an out-of-control crisis, like Iraq.