Archive for the 'West Africa' Category

African Lion by the numbers

African Lion, the annual training exercise between Morocco and U.S., is underway right now. The exercise is led by Marine Forces Africa and sponsored by U.S. Africa Command. The training includes  command post, live-fire and maneuvering, peace keeping operations, an intelligence capacity building seminar, aerial refueling/low-level flight training, as well as medical and dental assistance projects.

Here’s a recap so far, by the numbers, with links to related stories and photos.

A member of the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces prepares to ride in an assault amphibious vehicle with Marines from Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit during the bi-lateral training exercise African Lion 12 on the shores of Morocco, April 12, 2012. The training allowed the Marines to introduce the Moroccan troops to the unique capabilities of the assault amphibious vehicle that the Marines drove to the beach that morning from the USS New York off the coast of Morocco. (24th Marine Expeditionary Unit Photo by Corporal Michael Petersheim)

The first year of African Lion was 2008. Each year, African Lion has been hosted by Morocco, which has about 32 million people.

This year, more than 1,000 U.S. military personnel, including about 800+ Marines, and  900 Royal Moroccan soldiers are working together during the 10-day exercise.

To support the mission, U.S. Marines offloaded 169 pieces of rolling stock assets in under 12 hours at the Port of Agadir.

four-day Intelligence Capacity Building Workshop helped prepare senior staff officers from both countries who will participate in the Command Post Exercise portion.

Marines are using a Tactical Water Purification System, which weighs 10,000 pounds, to purify approximately 10,000 gallons of water a day by pumping it through a series of filters. The water supports the soldiers involved in the training exercises.

Four Rapid Response Kits allowed the military to get up and communicating quickly.

About 70 medical and dental staff will help treat 1,000 local patients daily as part of the humanitarian civil assistance project of African Lion.

On a quieter and tragic note, we can not overlook the two Marines who were killed and two Marines who were severely injured in an MV-22 Osprey crash earlier this week during African Lion 12. Our thoughts go out to the families. The crash is currently under investigation.

African Lion 12 ends April 18, 2012.

For more on African Lion, visit the U.S. Africa Command website.

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. 

Africa Snapshot: Benin

Interested in learning more about Africa? Watch for updates in our ongoing series that delivers a quick intro about an African country.

Map of Benin

Africa map highlighting Benin (Source: CIA Factbook)

Today we bring you a snapshot of Benin, where the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) are meeting this week to discuss efforts to improve maritime safety and security in the region.

Where is Benin? Benin is a small country in West Africa – about the size of Pennsylvania. Its coastline is on the Bight of Benin, part of the Gulf of Guinea.

Royal roots: Dahomey, a prominent West African kingdom, once ruled the land that is now southern Benin. The kingdom of Dahomey rose in the 15th century and ruled for centuries. The French took over the territory in the late 19th century. When the colony became independent in the 1960, the area adopted the name Dahomey again as the Republic of Dahomey. The name was later changed to the Republic of Benin.

Leading the way to democracy: In 1991, Benin underwent the first successful transition in Africa from a dictatorship to a democracy. Then-Prime Minister Nicephore Soglo was elected the first president. (Today he’s the mayor of Cotonou, Benin’s largest city.)

Rising youth population: Of the 9 million people in Benin, about 45% are 14 years old or younger.

Religion: Benin is one of the few African countries where the majority of people practice indigenous religions. Voodoo is practiced along the coastal area.

Malaria woes: This mosquito-borne disease is the No. 1 killer in Benin. Read about the government’s combined efforts with UNICEF to help enlist citizens in preventative measures (UK’s Guardian).

U.S. partnerships: Benin works with the U.S. on various exercises and trainings, such as African Partnership Flight(APF). APF is a two-week, military-to-military regional engagement event. Service members from Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Senegal and the United States participated in classroom instruction and hands-on aircraft training recently in Accra, Ghana.

Benin flag

Benin flag (source: CIA Factbook)

Piracy: Attacks by pirates are on the rise in West Africa.  “According to the IMB Annual Report, a total of eight hijackings, ten vessel boardings, and two other piracy attacks were reported near Benin in 2011, compared with no incidents in 2010.” (From One Earth Future Foundation) Since the recent piracy began, ship arrivals at the Port of Cotonou have dropped by 70 percent, according to Benin’s defense minister, Issifou Kogui N’Douro, in an Associated Press article: “UN says piracy off Africa’s west coast is increasing.”

Sources: CIA Factbook, “The Encyclopedia of Africa,” “Africa 2011,” Associated Press, The Guardian, “The Economic Cost of Somali Piracy.

Keep reading the blog for more from Benin and the Maritime Safety and Security Seminar happening there this week.

Benin meeting focuses on maritime security in West, Central Africa

Piracy, drug smuggling, child trafficking and illegal fishing are all challenges for the African countries that border the Gulf of Guinea.

Those issues hinder economic development, which in turn can lead to destabilization of countries. According to the director of the Maritime and Coastal Security Africa conference held in October:

Piracy and other maritime threats around Africa are now costing most international users of sea routes millions in increased fuel prices, insurance, security and ransom payments as well as costing Africa its integrity, security and position as a leading player in sea trade.

But several nations are working together to combat those challenges. Representatives from both the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) are meeting this week to continue an effort started last year to improve maritime safety and security in the region.

The same groups met last year in Garmisch, Germany. More than 100 participants from 25 nations attended, plus representatives from the International Maritime Organization, the U.S. Coast Guard and several other interested agencies. (Read more about last year’s meeting here.)

This week’s meeting is in Benin, a West African nation with a coastline on the Gulf of Guinea. ECCAS and ECOWAS member states will talk about how they can work together in order to at quickly and decisively to counter maritime threats in their sea.

Benin is a member of ECOWAS, which includes 14 other West African countries working together promote economic integration across the region.  It was started in 1975.

ECCAS, a similar coalition of 10 Central African countries, was established in 1983 but was inactive for several years due to regional conflict. It aims to maintain economic stability and raise the standard of living for its member nations.

We have a reporter at this week’s conference, and we will bring you updates throughout the week here on the blog and our other AFRICOM social media sites.

Feel free to share your thoughts on the issues discussed this week or ask us questions as the meeting and our coverage progress.

Mauritania counterparts visit AFRICOM

Mauritania visit to AFRICOM

Photo by Brianne Warner/U.S. Africom Public Affairs

Three military public affairs officials from Mauritania are visiting the U.S. Africa Command Public Affairs Office in Stuttgart, Germany, this week to learn about interacting with the media and keeping the public informed. The visit includes presentations on media relations, public engagement, and operational planning. We’ve enjoyed spending time with them and having a chance to share knowledge and ideas. Look for a story coming soon to our home page. In the meantime, click on the links below to learn more about Mauritania:

– CIA World Factbook – Mauritania

– U.S. Embassy Mauritania

– Trans-Sahara Counter Terrorism Partnership

10 Things About Atlas Accord 2012

BT-67 air drop during Atlas Accord 2012

MOPTI, MALI -- A Malian Air Force BT-67 drops helicopter boxes as part of aerial re-supply training during operation Atlas Accord near Mopti, Mali on Feb. 13, 2012. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mark Henderson)

1. The Atlas Accord is an annual exercise that brings together U.S. Army personnel with militaries in Africa.

2. More than 300 military members and seven nations joined the exercise this year from Feb. 7 to 15, 2012.

3. Last year, Uganda hosted the exercise, which was called Atlas Drop.

4. Atlas Accord 2012 focused on enhancing air drop capabilities and ensures effective delivery of military resupply materials and humanitarian aid.

5. The learning goes both ways. “I learned they do a lot with a little. I don’t know how they handle trauma situations but, it’s impressive how they do it,” said Staff Sergeant Anthony P. Baca, an 807th MDSC Army healthcare specialist.

There have been challenges, but the Malians were very resourceful, said U.S. Army Capt. Bob V. Luthor from Huntington, W. Va., a team leader with Co. C, 2nd Bn., 19th SFG (Abn.). They removed a second set of pilot flight controls from one of the smaller aircraft to fit the supplies and personnel to drop them.

A cordon set up during Atlas Accord 2012

MOPTI, MALI — A Malian airmen set up a cordon around a helicopter box as part of the air drop recovery training with the 2/19th Special Forces as part of operation Atlas Accord 2012, near Mopti, Mali on Feb. 13, 2012. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mark Henderson)

6. African troops learned how to secure a drop zone in adverse conditions.  “The training was really interesting,” said Malian Army Sgt. Oumar Traore, as airborne infantryman.

“The 19th SFG taught us to set-up the operational readiness platform, to send out reconnaissance patrols, and establish security at the drop zone. We’ve learned how to conduct these operations under any circumstances. This exercise also helps us work with troops from other nations,” he said.

7. Atlas Accord also included a medical component. “We are training with the Malian medical personnel on different types of equipment that include cervical braces, finger splints, ring cutters, pressure bandages, back boards and more,” said Maj. Dean A. Nelson, a family physician and Wendell, Idaho native assigned to the 328th CSH, 807th MDSC.

MOPTI, MALI — U.S. Army Maj. Dean A. Nelson, 807th Medical Deployment Support Command, Fort Douglas, Utah, and Wendell, Idaho native, explains the use of a battery powered cauterizer pen to Malian Medical Defense Forces Col. Youssouf Treore, in Mopti, Mali, Feb. 7. The 807th MDSC were in Mali as medical support during Atlas Accord 12. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Kimberly Trumbull)

8. The U.S. medics are also training, in a sense, on how to be better trainers. “The training will help our medics become better since they are teaching the Malians through interpreters and have to move slowly and ensure they are understood; it gives them a better understanding of the training they are providing,” said Lt. Col. David H. Moikeha, an emergency physician, and Coppell, Texas native, assigned to the 94th Combat Support Hospital, 807th MDSC.

 9. Thanks to the exercise, the Malian military will be able to improve its trauma care. “We receive so much trauma from highway accidents, military and civilian,” said Malian Army Col. Youssouf Treore, commander of the medical detachment in Mopti. “The equipment we have will help us care for the trauma patients we receive at our level.”

10. The exercise’ impact will reach far beyond February 2012. The pathfinder training during Atlas Accord 12 can potentially help future joint operations between partner nations to deliver humanitarian supplies safely to those in need.

— Compiled from various reports, including from Utah Army National Guard, Soldiers Radio News, U.S. Army Africa, AFRICOM, and others.

Interested in learning more? Check out:

Radio report on Atlas Accord from Soldiers Radio News (MP3)

Overview at the Close of Atlas Accord from Soldiers Radio News
Troops train on 4 aerial delivery systems
Training on FARP(Forward Arming and Refueling Point), as easy-access point in austere conditions (video)

U.S., Malian military medics train to save lives
Pathfinders ‘get the goods’

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