Archive for the 'Central Africa' Category

Africa Snapshot: Cameroon

Cameroon lies at the junction of western and central Africa. The nation is currently hosting this year’s Africa Endeavor, an annual 1n-day communications exercise focusing on interoperability and information sharing among African partners.  The goal of Africa Endeavor is to develop command, control, and communication tactics, techniques, and procedures that can be used by the African Union in support of future combined humanitarian, peacekeeping, peace support and anti-terrorism operations.

Population: According to the CIA World Factbook, the population will be around 20 million this summer.

Languages: English and French are the official languages of Cameroon, but there are 24 major African language groups in the country, as well.

Religion: 40% of the population practices indigenous beliefs.  Another 40% of the population is Christian, while the other 20% is Muslim.

History: Malaria kept Europeans out of Cameroon until the 1860s, when they began establishing coastal trade and slave trade. Christian missions put down roots in the late 1800s, and they continue to play a role today.  In 1884, all of present-day Cameroon and parts of its neighboring areas became a colony of Germany called Kamerun.  After World War I, the colony was divided between Britain and France. In 1955, an armed struggle to gain independence in French Cameroon began. Independence was achieved in 1960.  A year later, the largely Muslim, northern two-thirds of British Cameroon voted to join Nigeria, while the largely Christian southern third voted to join the Republic of Cameroon, thus forming the Federal Republic of Cameroon. The federation was replaced with a unitary state in 1972. Paul Biya has been president since 1982. He was re-elected to another seven-year term in October 2011.

Economy: Cameroon faces some of the same challenges as other underdeveloped countries, but it does have oil resources and good conditions for agriculture. Foreign investors have become interested in diamond mining projects in Cameroon. Because Cameroon has one of the worst business environments in the world, many foreign investors do not pursue business ventures with the country. Human trafficking is also a serious issue.

Geography: Although Cameroon may look tiny on the map of Africa, it’s actually larger than California. Periodically, volcanos will release toxic gases. The most active volcano in West Africa is Mount Cameroon.

Relations with the United States: Relations between the two nations are good.  According to the U.S. Department of State Background Note on Cameroon, U.S. assistance to the African nation was over $26 million in 2010.

Sources: CIA Factbook State Department Background Note – Cameroon , Britannica Online, AllAfrica, Presidency of the Republic of Cameroon

General Ham, Rear Admiral Losey discuss multinational effort to counter Lord’s Resistance Army

General Carter F. Ham, AFRICOM commander, and Rear Admiral Brian Losey, commander of Special Operations Command-Africa, spoke with reporters at AFRICOM headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, on April 24-25, 2012. The Q and A sessions focused on the U.S. military to the contribution to the multinational efforts to support and enable partner nations to counter the Lord’s Resistance Army in central Africa. The U.S. military role is one component of a comprehensive, multi-year U.S. government strategy designed to increase the protection of civilians; apprehend or remove Joseph Kony and senior commanders from the battlefield; promote the defection, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of remaining LRA fighters; and increase humanitarian access and providing continued relief to affected communities.

This effort was also the focus of an April 24, 2012, Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing where Ambassador Donald Yamamoto, principal deputy assistant secretary of state for African Affairs; Amanda Dory, deputy assistant secretary of state for African Affairs; and Ear Gast, assistant administrator for Africa, USAID, discussed the U.S. policy aspects of the diplomatic, humanitarian and military roles.

Below are a few excerpts from those sessions:

The role of U.S. forces in countering the LRA:

“We do not have an operational role, and this is I think often misunderstood … . And so we try to educate and inform people to make sure that they understand that that’s not what this is. Our effort, again, is very much a supporting role to try to encourage the militaries of the four African countries that are involved, to lead their effort.”  — General Ham

Support to partner nations: 

“In discussion with the countries involved, we felt that they felt that we could best assist by having a small number of forces with them to help plan and coordinate logistics, intelligence and information-sharing, communication, medical recovery, those kinds of activities. Sometimes it’s just easier and more effective to do that if you’re together on the ground than trying to do that from a long distance. I believe, even in the short time that this mission has been under way, that that presence of American advisors and assistors has been effective. But I think it will become more effective over time.” — General Ham

“In partnership with USAID, the State Department is supporting projects to increase civilian protection, enhance early warning capabilities, deliver humanitarian relief, and strengthen the overall resiliency of communities. We also continue to encourage other international donors to increase their efforts in these areas. As we have seen in northern Uganda and parts of South Sudan, development can play a critical role in pushing out the LRA and keeping it from returning.” — Assistant Secretary Yamamoto


“If this was easy, he would already have been brought to justice. The Ugandans, the Congolese, the South Sudan, Central African Republic, the African Union, the United Nations, lots of nongovernmental organizations, the United States and many others want nothing more than to bring him to justice. So it’s not for lack of will. It is the complexity of operating in this environment. All we can do, I think, is continue to do the best we can to enable those who are operating in the field to try to bring this to conclusion.” — General Ham

Challenges of the operating environment:

“The size of the area that we’re talking about is about the size of California. So it’s a large geographic area, heavily forested, very remote, lack of infrastructure, very few roads, bridges – it’s very, very rough terrain. And so it doesn’t lend itself to an easy solution. And we’re looking for essentially about – we think the Lord’s Resistance Army probably numbers somewhere in the 200 range, and we don’t think they’re ever together. They’re operating in very, very small groups.” — General Ham

“I am confident that we have room to improve our understanding of all the dimensions of the LRA and Joseph Kony operating in that environment. I’m confident that we know more now than we knew six months ago. And I’m confident that over time that we will get to the end states that our president has set out for us with respect to the LRA.” —  Rear Admiral Losey

Special operations forces:

“The soldiers (supporting counter LRA efforts) are from operational detachment alphas. And they come with all the basic special forces operating skills provided by Army Special Forces. … The big benefit right now – what makes us a little bit different is the fact that we are having troop-to-troop contact in the field to do these training functions and to understand what’s happening at the ground level up. When you’re operating from embassies and through normal governmental structures that don’t involve troops in the field, I think you get a slightly different tilt on things.” — Rear Admiral Losey

U.S. interests:

There’s been a lot of conflict in this part of Africa. And if removal of the Lord’s Resistance Army helps contribute to stability and security, if it affords the opportunity for better government, for better economic development, for education and health care to be extended to people, that will bring a broader sense of security and stability. And while that’s certainly good for the people who live in that part of Africa, ultimately it’s also good for us. It builds regional stability. And I think that’s really our overall goal, is to help contribute to regional security.” — General Ham

The end state:

“Effectively ending the LRA threat requires simultaneously removing the top leadership from the battlefield and addressing the conditions that leave communities so vulnerable to predatory groups such as the LRA. This is precisely why the United States is seeking to pursue a multi-faceted strategy to enhance both military and civilian capacity in the region.” — Assistant Secretary Yamamoto

A full transcript of General Ham’s media session is available on the AFRICOM home page. You can read it here, or click here to read Rear Admiral Losey’s transcript. You can click here to read a transcript of Yamamoto’s and other officials’ testimony, or watch an archived video of the entire hearing.

Please click on the links below for more information on AFRICOM, U.S. assistance in countering the LRA and other background resources.

Fact Sheet: U.S. support to regional efforts to counter the Lord’s Resistance Army

Fact Sheet: U.S. military support to efforts to counter the Lord’s Resistance Army

In the news: AFRICOM, partners highlight multi-national efforts to counter the Lord’s Resistance Army

AFRICOM home page

AFRICOM on Twitter

AFRICOM on Facebook

Benin maritime conference wraps up

Delegates at the Maritime Safety and Security Seminar this week in Benin. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Olufemi Owolabi/U.S. Africa Command)

A record number of piracy attacks were reported in the Gulf of Guinea last year, according to the International Maritime Organization, making it one of the top 10 piracy hotspots in the world and prompting a push by insurers to label the region “high risk.”

Those are distinctions countries in the area would like to see go away.

This week in Benin, member states of the Economic Community of West African States and the Economic Community of Central African States  discussed how to prevent piracy, smuggling and other security challenges affecting the region’s waterways and commercial trade. The two groups, plus experts and representatives from outside organizations, met for two days at the annual Maritime Safety and Security Seminar, hosted by U.S. Africa Command and the Africa Center for Strategic Studies.

In October, the United Nations passed resolution 2018, which encourages the affected states to work together and also calls for more international aid and a UN assessment mission. Also last year, Nigeria and Benin launched joint sea patrols that resulted in the arrests of at least eight alleged pirates.

The seminar built on previous meetings and continued the effort to cement an agreement between the West and Central African states involved.

“This initiative comes at a time when the menace of and threat posed by piracy is touching the pillars of the economy of both the coastal and land locked states in our region,” according to Lt. Col. Abdourahmane Dieng, Senegal head of regional security. “Within West Africa, and the Gulf of Guinea in particular, we can identify a series of trans-border crimes such as hijacking, armed robbery, illegal migration, illicit fishing, toxic waste dumping, human trafficking, illegal drug trafficking, piracy and hostage taking.”

Col. Austin Anyalechi, a Nigerian Army engineer and his country’s defense attaché to Cotonou, said collaborative efforts like those emphasized at this week’s meeting are key to preventing maritime crime and security threats.

“All efforts have been made by individual nations, but no single nation can combat the problem of piracy alone,” Anyalechi said. “That’s why it calls for the need for synergy. So, with the two economic communities coming together under this kind of arrangement, I am very optimistic that it is actually going to yield the desired result of curbing the menace of piracy and sea robbery, and other related forms of maritime insecurity.

Note: Staff Sgt. Olufemi Owolabi, U.S. Africa Command Public Affairs, reported this week from Benin. Click here to read the entire story. 

Maritime Safety and Security Seminar one piece of AFRICOM effort

“We believe that security of the seas is essential for global security. There is a relationship between security of the sea, the ability of countries to govern their waters, a country’s prosperity, stability and peace. The oceans of the world are a common bond between the economies and countries of the world. Seventy percent of the world is water, 80% of the world lives on or near the coastline and 90% of the world’s commerce is transported on the ocean. Individual nations cannot combat maritime problems and crimes alone …”

— U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa

This week’s Maritime Safety and Security Seminar in Benin is just one example of how U.S. Africa Command, its components, agencies and partner nations work to combat piracy and other maritime security challenges off Africa’s 18,000 miles of coastline. That meeting kicked off yesterday and continues today, with top leaders from the Economic Community of West African States and the Economic Community of Central African States. The meeting is a continuation of one held last year where the two organizations and their country representatives talked about ways to work together to improve maritime safety and security, especially in the Gulf of Guinea.

Countering piracy and illicit trafficking is one of AFRICOM’s top priorities, according to Gen. Carter F. Ham. In his recently released 2012 Posture Statement outlining AFRICOM’s goals and priorities, Gen. Ham highlighted the importance of maritime security.

“The free flow of commerce through the global commons is essential to U.S. economic and security interests,” he said. “Piracy and other maritime crimes negatively impact the security and freedom of access for all nations to critical waterways and continue to threaten U.S. security in the waters off the East and West coast of Africa.”

The command’s two primary anti-piracy and maritime security programs are Africa Partnership Station (APS)  and Africa Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership (AMLEP), both lead by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, based in Naples, Italy.

An amphibious assault vehicle with 3rd Platoon, Delta Compay, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, moves out to the USS Whidbey Island, March 20 at Onslow Beach aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. Thirty-six Marines with the platoon conducted reintegration exercises from March 19 – 22 in preparation for their deployment with the Africa Partnership Station 2012 this year. Read a story about their preparation. (Photo by Sgt. Bryan A. Peterson)

APS, in its fifth year, involves Navy ships that visit our African partners to conduct training and exchange information. The Navy likens it to a “floating university.” This year’s APS kicked off in January and includes the USS Simpson, the USS Fort McHenry and the HSV Swift, along with some 19 African countries plus partners from Europe and North and South America. Recent APS engagements include combat lifesaver training in Cameroon, and a 27-day ship visit aboard the USS Simpson for sailors from Benin, Cameroon, Gabon, Nigeria, the Republic of Congo and Togo.

The goals of APS are to deter piracy, discourage illicit trafficking of drugs and persons and impede drug smuggling.

AMLEP, on the other hand, includes actual law enforcement operations with partner nations. U.S. forces team up with regional navies and coast guards to patrol and enforce their own territorial waters in order to combat piracy, illicit trafficking and other maritime crimes.

Click the links below to learn more about these and other maritime security initiatives:

2012 AFRICOM Posture Statement

AFRICOM fact sheet on APS

AFRICOM fact sheet on AMLEP

APS Facebook page 

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