Leading the News
On May 14th, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said U.S. had started using unmanned drones to assist the Nigerian Government in searching for the schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram in April. Press Secretary Carney stressed that the drones are unarmed and that U.S. military personnel in Nigeria is continuing to serve in an advisory capacity. His comments were transcribed here.
On May 14th, senior State Department officials provided a special briefing on U.S. and international participation in the search for the Nigerian girls kidnapped by Boko Haram. Officials indicated that the U.S. is committed to doing everything it can to help find the girls and bring them home safely. A transcript of the teleconference was posted here.
On May 14th, the State Department issued a fact sheet on Boko Haram and U.S. counterterrorism assistance to Nigeria. The fact sheet reiterates that the U.S. Government has designated Boko Haram as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and chronicles major Boko Haram attacks over the past several years. Additionally, the fact sheet outlines how the U.S. is assisting Nigeria in developing a comprehensive approach to countering Boko Haram, including by enhancing the capabilities of Nigerian law enforcement, strengthening the resiliency of communities, and assisting with cross border financial investigations. The full fact sheet can be accessed here.
On May 14th, in advance of a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the search for missing schoolgirls in Nigeria, Obama Administration officials briefed Committee members on the situation in the country. The briefing occurred as State Department officials questioned the applicability of the Leahy Law, which prohibits U.S. aid to foreign military units that violate human rights, and its potential applicability to military units in Nigeria involved in the search for the missing girls. An article on the issue can be read here.
On May 15th, upon concluding a visit to Nigeria, United Nations (U.N.) Special Representative to Nigeria Said Djinnit announced the U.N. is preparing a support package to build on Nigeria’s efforts to rescue nearly 300 schoolgirls who remain missing after being abducted by Boko Haram. The package will include immediate support for affected families and psycho counseling services for the girls following their release. In addition, the U.N. is also planning to provide emergency food and non-food items, early recovery support by promoting alternative livelihood, and activities geared towards addressing long term
structural challenges through capacity building. Details were shared here.
On May 15th, the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs held a hearing on “#BringBackOurGirls: Addressing the Threat of Boko Haram.” Witnesses included Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Robert Jackson, U.S Agency for International Development (USAID) Assistant Administrator for African Affairs Earl Gast, Department of Defense (DOD) Principal Director for African Affairs Alice Fiend, and Lantana Abdullahi of Search for Common Ground. A webcast of the hearing can be watched here.
On May 17th, Nigerians expressed frustration with President Goodluck Jonathan after an alleged trip to visit Chibok to meet with the families of victims of the recent Boko Haram kidnapping was canceled. In response to the backlash, President Jonathan said his trip to Chibok was canceled because his main interest is locating and rescuing the girls. Meanwhile, Special Adviser to President Jonathan on Media and Publicity Reuben Abati claimed President Jonathan had never been scheduled to visit Chibok. The situation was detailed here.
On May 17th, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan arrived in Paris, France, to participate in a regional security summit on the Boko Haram insurgency and security challenges in West Africa. The meeting follows President Jonathan’s request last week that the French Government help to arrange a security summit with Nigeria’s neighbors, as well as representatives of the U.S., the United Kingdom (U.K.), and the European Union (EU), to plan for a coordinated response. Details were shared here.
On May 17th, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman said the U.S. and its western allies are pressing the U.N. to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist organization, and suggested that the designation could be made in the coming days. Under Secretary Sherman’s comments came on the sidelines of international talks in Paris, France, focused on addressing the situation in Nigeria. At the meeting, leaders outlined a preliminary agreement for sharing intelligence and enhancing military cooperation between Nigeria and neighboring African countries, including Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, Chad, and Benin. More information can be found here.
On May 18th, a suicide car bomber launched an attack in the predominantly Christian city of Kano in northern Nigeria. The blast, which occurred on a popular street lined with bars and restaurants, killed at least five people and wounded many others. While no group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, it is widely speculated that Boko Haram is responsible. The bombing was reported here.
On May 19th, Department of Defense (DOD) Spokesman Colonel Steve Warren announced the U.S. and Nigeria have finalized an agreement on intelligence sharing in order to assist in the search from the schoolgirls captured by Boko Haram. While the agreement will not allow all raw U.S. intelligence to be shared with Nigerian officials, it will allow for the sharing of aerial imagery obtained through drone surveillance. The agreement was announced here.
On May 19th, CQ reported that developments in Nigeria have influenced action on at least five, bipartisan human trafficking proposals in the U.S. House of Representatives. This week, in addition to passing H. Res. 573, a resolution condemning the abduction of female students by armed militants from the terrorist group known as Boko Haram in northeastern provinces of Nigeria, the House was expected to consider and pass under suspension of the rules H.R. 3610, a bill to stop exploitation through trafficking, H.R. 3530, a bill to provide justice for the victims of trafficking, H.R. 4225, the Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation Act, H.R. 4573, a bill to protect children from exploitation, especially sex trafficking in tourism, and H.R. 4058, the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Improving Opportunities for Youth in Foster Care Act. More information is available here.
On May 20th, Fox News reported that Nigerian diplomats have asked the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions on Boko Haram by adding the organization the list of entities subject to an arms embargo and asset freezes. So long as no member of the Security Council objects, Boko Haram is expected to be added to the Al Qaeda sanctions list late Thursday. An article on the looming U.N. sanctions targeting Boko Haram can be read here.
On May 20th, Executive Director of U.N. Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka visited an all-girls college in Abaji, Nigeria, as part of a solidarity mission to support the return of the girls kidnapped from their school by Boko Haram. She reiterated the U.N.’s commitment to ensuring girls’ safe and secure
education in Nigeria. Executive Director Mlambo-Ngcuka’s visit to Nigeria was described here.
On May 21st, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan condemned twin bombings at a market and bus terminal in Jos that killed at least 118 people. The second bomb was detonated just as rescue workers were tending to the scene, killing many of the first responders. It is speculated the Boko Haram carried out the attack. In responding to this latest incident, President Jonathan expressed his full commitment to fighting terrorism and announced increased measures to combat Boko Haram, including positioning a force of Nigerian, Chadian, Nigerien, and Cameroonian soldiers around Lake Chad. An article on the bombings and President Jonathan’s response can be read here.
On May 21st, Boko Haram carried out another attack in Borno state, with gunmen attacking Alagarno and Bulakurbe village, killing at least 18 people who were roused from sleep by gunshots and tried to flee the attack. The incident occurred just hours after another Boko Haram attack in Damboa, in which another 30 people were killed. Both attacks were reported here.
On May 21st, President Barack Obama notified Congress that he has deployed 80 U.S. troops to Chad to augment efforts to find the more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls who were abducted by Boko Haram and remain missing. The military personnel will conduct intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions over northern Nigeria and surrounding areas and will remain in Chad until their support is no longer required. A statement from the White House was issued here.
On May 21st, the U.S. Department of State issued a statement strongly condemning the terrorist bombings in Jos, Nigeria, as well as a bombing that occurred over the weekend in Kano, which resulted in the deaths of more than 100 people. In addition, the State Department pledged to continue to stand with Nigeria in its efforts to defeat violent extremism in a manner that protects civilians and respects human rights. The full statement was published here.
On May 21st, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a hearing entitled, “Boko Haram: The Growing Threat to Schoolgirls, Nigeria, and Beyond,” The Committee received testimony from Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Sarah Sewall and Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs Amanda Dory. A video recording of the hearing was posted here.
On May 14th, Pentagon Spokesperson Colonel Steve Warren indicated DOD has temporarily moved nearly 200 Marines to Sicily, Italy, from Moron, Spain, amid growing concerns for the security situation in North Africa. U.S. military is being strategically positioned to carry out rapid crisis response operations in the region, if necessary. At the time of the announcement, it was assumed that U.S. military personnel in Italy would be closely monitoring developments in Libya. Spokesperson Warren’s comments can be seen here.
On May 16th, former Libyan General Khalifa Hifter led rogue forces in an assault on state-funded militias, killing at least 70 people. According to reports, jets and helicopters under General Hifter’s command attacked military bases in Benghazi, while additional clashes broke out in Tripoli and eastern Libya. Following the attacks, Libya declared a no-fly zone over Benghazi, as acting Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni denounced the attacks as an attempted coup and labeled forces acting with General Hifter as outlaws. Developments in Libya were detailed here.
On May 18th, forces loyal to Libyan General Khalifa Hifter attacked the General National Congress (GNC) and said they had suspended parliament. The attack killed two people and wounded more than 50 others. Following the incident, acting as a spokesperson, General Mokhtar Farnana, head of Libyan prisons operated by military police, said the rebel group had assigned a 60-member constituent assembly to take over for parliament and indicated the existing cabinet would stay on in an emergency capacity. Details can be viewed here.
On May 19th, Colonel Wanis Abu Khamada, commander of Libya’s special forces announced that his troops would join retired General Khalifa Hifter’s operations against Al Qaeda inspired militias in Benghazi. General Hifter has accused the Libyan Government of backing these militias. More information about the conflict can be found here.
On May 19th, the U.N. Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) expressed concern after armed men stormed the country’s interim parliament and called on all sides to address differences through political means. Additionally, the U.N. called on Libyan authorities to quickly address the recent violence and lawlessness. Feedback from the U.N. on developments in Libya was shared here.
On May 19th, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen stated that NATO is ready to provide training support to Libyan forces, but has faced difficulties in engaging with Libyan authorities and is concerned about the lack of stability and security in Libya. Comments from Secretary General Rasmussen can be seen here.
On May 20th, in an attempt to respond to a worsening security situation in the country, Libya’s election commission announced the scheduling of nationwide elections on June 25th. The announcement came following a meeting of the GNC in a secret location that was targeted by a missile as the session was taking place. Details were posted here.
On May 20th, the Washington Post reported that retired Libyan General Khalifa Hifter lived in exile in northern Virginia, until he returned to Libya after the 2011 revolution. He apparently became a U.S. citizen and voted in U.S. elections in 2008 and 2009. More information about General Hifter’s time in the U.S. can be found here.
On May 20th, State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki said the U.S. neither condones or supports the actions of renegade Libyan General Khalifa Hifter, and has not supported his recent activities. Spokesperson Psaki indicated that U.S. officials are urging all parties in Libya to refrain from violence and to seek resolution through peaceful means. Her comments were transcribed here.
On May 20th, CNN provided insights into planning for a potential evacuation of Americans from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, as the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Tripoli and the Turkish consulate in Benghazi closed due to continuing violence. Overnight, four additional U.S. V-22 Osprey aircraft arrived at the U.S. naval base in Sigonella, Italy, which in addition to the four V-22s and 200 Marines that arrived at the base last week, could be used to evacuate more than 200 people from the Embassy. Details were reported here.
On May 17th, while Malian Prime Minister Moussa Mara was visiting Kidal, Tuareg rebels attacked the town and seized the regional governor’s office by abducting roughly 30 civil servants. Reportedly, fighting continued throughout the day and into the evening, with Prime Minister Mara eventually able to flee to Gao. At least eight soldiers were killed in the attack and 25 others wounded. The incident was detailed here.
On May 18th, the U.S. Department of State issued a press statement condemning violent acts in northern Mali that are undermining the fragile peace in the country and efforts to enhance security and development. Over the past several days, violence has resulted in the death of at least one government security official, a significant number of injured civilians, the seizure of government buildings, and the taking of hostages. The full statement can be read here.
On May 19th, the Turareg National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) released 32 civil servants taken hostage in Kidal over the weekend following negotiations facilitated by the U.N. Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), while claiming that they now control Kidal after winning an attack provoked by Malian forces. Meanwhile, Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita addressed the incident in a public address outlining a process for negotiating with the separatists and articulating a role for the Malian army. Developments were noted here.
On May 20th, U.N. Special Representative to Mali and head of MINUSMA Bert Koenders warned that new violence in Kidal threatens to destabilize the region. In order to bring Kidal back from renewed confrontation, Special Representative Koenders urged all parties in Mali to take immediate steps to de-escalate tensions and avoid further provocation. Comments from Special Representative Koenders were recorded here.
On May 14th, during his first interview with an international news organization in advance of the May 26th-27th presidential elections in Egypt, presidential candidate General Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi called for the resumption of U.S. military aid to assist Egypt in the fight against terrorism. In particular, General Sisi cited concerns with the security situation in the Sinai, as well as in Libya. Excerpts from the interview were highlighted here.
On May 14th, addressing a meeting of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) defense ministers, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel encouraged greater cooperation among Gulf Arab states to address security threats in the region, including democracy protests in Egypt. While acknowledging that Egypt is nowhere near meeting its commitments to forming a democratic society, Secretary Hagel noted that Egypt has, however, done enough to maintain its certification for American assistance. Excerpts from Secretary Hagel’s remarks were highlighted here.
On May 15th, the U.N. Working Group on the Death Penalty and Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Killings in Africa issued a news release calling on Egyptian authorities to bring the justice system into compliance with international law. The statement follows two mass trials in Egypt that separately sentenced 529 and 683 individuals to death. U.N. officials said that a failure to reform the legal system would inhibit Egypt’s prospects for long-term reconciliation. The news release was posted here.
On May 16th, the Hudson Institute hosted a briefing entitled, “Egypt After Sisi’s Election: Greater Domestic Turmoil or Stability and Growth.” Panelists included Mokhtar Awad of the Center for American Progress (CAP) and Samuel Tadros and Lee Smith of the Hudson Institute. Event details were shared here.
On May 20th, Reuters reported that, although the U.S. Government has restored some military aid to Egypt, it is unlikely that it will restore close ties with Egypt due to ongoing human rights abuses. The report quotes a senior Administration official, who stated that the U.S. does not have the option of going back to the status quo of the past 30 years. The full article can be read here.
On May 21st, a court in Cairo convicted deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak of embezzlement of millions of dollars of state funds and sentenced him to three years in prison. President Mubarak’s two sons, Gamal and Alaa, were also convicted of graft and sentenced to four years in prison in the same case. Meanwhile, a court in Mansoura convicted 155 members of the Muslim Brotherhood of violence-related charges and sentenced them to up to 25 years in prison. The cases were outlined here.
On May 15th, South Sudanese Information Minister Michael Lueth called on the U.S. and the U.N. to deploy independent monitors to South Sudan to determine which party is primarily responsible for violations of a ceasefire agreement and to implement sanctions against those individuals perpetuating the cycle of violence. Forces loyal to South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and forces loyal to rebel leader Riek Machar both blame the opposing side for the continuing violence. More information was shared here.
On May 17th, The New York Times Editorial Board published an op-ed on the situation in South Sudan. According to the article, deteriorating security in South Sudan has put the international community in the position to help civilians at risk of famine and to continue to pressure South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar to end ethnically motivated fighting. In addition, the Editorial Board suggests the U.N. should act quickly to strengthen and expanding the peacekeeping mission in South Sudan. The full op-ed can be accessed here.
On May 18th, in conjunction with the Pledging Conference for South Sudan, the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) issued a press release providing information on the impact of continuing conflict on children in the country. Five months into the conflict, UNICEF reported that approximately 80% of children under the age of five in Jonglei, Upper Nile, and Unity states are at heightened risk of disease and death. Furthermore, 50,000 children could die from malnutrition and 740,000 children are at risk for food insecurity. The press release was published here.
On May 19th, leading up to the multinational Humanitarian Pledging Conference for South Sudan, White House National Security Council (NSC) Spokesperson Caitlin Hayden announced that President Obama has authorized the use of $50 million in assistance from the U.S. Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance fund to address the urgent humanitarian needs resulting from the crises in South Sudan. A press release was posted here.
On May 20th, the U.N. and the Government of Norway hosted a Humanitarian Pledging Conference for South Sudan, at which international donors committed more than $600 million in aid to help prevent famine and protect human rights in the country. Leading up to the conference, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) had suggested there was a $1.26 billion funding gap to meet the total need for programs in South Sudan this year. The conference was summarized here.
On May 20th, the U.S. pledged nearly $300 million in humanitarian assistance to South Sudan to help those placed at risk by the ongoing conflict. The pledge was made alongside 40 countries at the Humanitarian Pledging Conference for South Sudan held in Oslo, Norway. The additional funding will be used to address immediate food news and to combat chronic food insecurity and to bolster emergency health services. Emergency funding will also help the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees provide relief services for South Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, and Uganda. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield led the U.S. delegation to the conference. Details about the pledge can be found here.
Central African Republic
On May 14th, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved $12.9 million in support of the Central African Republic’s (CAR) emergency economic recovery program. The IMF funding is intended to support transitional authorities in the CAR in implementing a set of economic and structural policies to help restore macroeconomic stability in the country. A press release was issued here.
On May 14th, Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa Karen Bass (D-CA) released a statement on President Barack Obama announcing sanctions for the CAR. Congresswoman Bass expressed support for freezing the assets and banning travel for former CAR Presidents Francois Bozize and Michel Djotodia, Seleka General and former Minister of Public Security Noureddine Adam, leader of an ex-Seleka rebel group Abdoulaye Miskine, and anti-Balaka political coordinator Levi Yakite. The full statement was published here.
On May 16th, the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) observed worsening conditions in the northern CAR, reporting that 2,300 people, primarily Christians, have been displaced in the Kaga Bandoror area as of earlier this month. Although some humanitarian assistance is already being provided by UNHCR and partner organizations, those displaced, disproportionately women and children, desperately need physical protection, food, water, sanitation and other assistance. More information can be viewed here.
On May 17th, ahead of the May 18th runoff presidential elections in Guinea Bissau, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged high voter turnout and a peaceful voting process. In addition, Secretary-General Ban phoned both Nuno Gomes Nabiam and Jose Mario Vaz, the two presidential runoff candidates, to urge them to respect the official results of the vote and to address any disputes through the appropriate legal channels. Comments from Secretary-General Ban leading up to the vote were transcribed here.
On May 19th, following the first round of presidential elections held in Guinea Bissau on April 13th, the U.N. Security Council and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised the successful conclusion of the second round of voting in Guinea Bissau’s presidential run-off, which concluded on Sunday. U.N. officials again urged all political parties in Guinea Bissau to peacefully address any grievances through appropriate channels. More information can be found here.
On May 20th, Guinea Bissau’s electoral commission announced that Jose Mario Vaz, the candidate of the ruling African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC), had been elected president with 61.9% of the vote in the runoff elections. President Elect Vaz had also led his opponent, Nuno Gomes Nabiam, in the first round of voting. The PAIGC will also hold the majority of seats in the
new parliament. The elections results were posted here.
On May 20th, Malawi held simultaneous presidential, parliamentary, and local government elections. Voting was delayed in some parts of the country due to a shortage of elections material. Although she faces strong opposition, current President Joyce Banda is projected to win. More information about the elections can be found here.
On May 20th, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged all Malawian candidates, political parties, and State institutions to ensure that the simultaneous presidential, parliamentary, and local government elections in Malawi would be peaceful and conclusive. He also commended the work of the Malawi Electoral Commission, national actors, and international partners in preparing for the elections. Secretary-General Ban’s comments can be viewed here.
On May 20th, following the close of the polls in Malawi, elections officials reported high voter turnout, with approximately 7.5 million people voting in the presidential and parliamentary elections. While Malawi’s Electoral Committee reported that there was some violence after delayed openings at polling stations, the clashes were quickly contained. In addition, some polling stations remained open three hours later than when they were scheduled to close to accommodate voters impacted by the delays. Details were shared here.
United States – Africa Relations
On May 15th, NSC Spokesperson Caitlin Hayden issued a statement condemning Meriam Yahya Ibrahim Ishag’s sentencing to flogging for adultery and hanging to death for apostasy because she married a Christian man in Sudan. White House officials called on Sudanese authorities to respect Ishag’s right to freedom of religion, which is recognized by the international community as a universal human right and enshrined in Sudan’s 2005 Constitution, as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The full statement can be read here.
On May 16th, NSC Spokesperson Caitlin Hayden condemned the terrorist attacks in the Gikoma market area of Nairobi, Kenya. Spokesperson Hayden noted this is the latest in a series of cowardly attacks against civilians in Kenya and reiterated that the U.S. will continue to support Kenya in its efforts to confront terrorism in all its forms. The NSC statement on the terrorist attacks in Kenya was published here.
On May 14th, the U.S. Embassy in Kenya joined Britain’s Foreign Office in issuing a security alert for U.S. citizens in Kenya. The Embassy urged citizens to immediately leave Mombasa in response to the continuing terrorist threat against foreigners, especially those at tourist sites, such as hotels, nightclubs, and shopping malls. While the U.S. Embassy also announced plans to increase security at diplomatic facilities in Kenya, Kenyan officials denied having any intelligence verifying terrorist threats. The full story is available here.
On May 15th, Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Heather Higginbottom delivered remarks at the South Africa National Day celebration, hosted by the Ambassador of South Africa to the U.S. Ebrahim Rasool and Ms. Rosieda Shabodien, in Washington, DC. Deputy Secretary Higginbottom’s speech was transcribed here.
On May 15th, Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Catherine Novelli met with Moroccan Ambassador to the U.S. Rachad Bouhlal at the Department of State. The meeting was listed here.
On May 15th, the State Department issued a statement expressing its concern over the Sudan’s sentencing of Meriam Yahya Ibrahim Ishag to death by hanging for apostasy and for the flogging sentence for adultery. State Department officials called on the Government of Sudan to respect the right
to freedom of religion and, especially as the sentence can be appealed, called on Sudanese legal authorities to approach the case with compassion. The statement was issued here.
On May 19th, Secretary of State John Kerry issued a press statement in recognition of Cameroon’s national day. He noted the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Cameroon has strengthened over the years, in part due to a shared commitment to support peace and stability in central Africa. In particular, Secretary Kerry noted joint efforts to combat illicit trafficking, protect the environment, improve maritime security, and counter terrorism. Secretary Kerry also observed that the trade and economic relationship between the U.S. and Cameroon will continue to grow. The full statement was posted here.
U.S. Agency for International Development
On May 19th, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah announced that President Barack Obama’s Feed the Future Initiative has reached 2.6 million smallholder farmers in Africa and helped save 12.5 million children from hunger, poverty, and malnutrition. Feed the Future, in conjunction with the Grow Africa initiative, has also helped to leverage roughly $7 billion of dollars in private sector commitments in African agriculture. The progress of these initiatives was highlighted here.
Department of Defense
On May 15th, a U.S. Army Africa (USARAF) African Deployment Assistance Partnership Team – Ground (ADAPT-G) completed unit movement training for 23 Burkinabe Armed Forces students and five student trainers. The engagement activity focused on building the capacities of Burkina Faso’s military personnel in peacekeeping, counterterrorism, and humanitarian relief operations. The training was detailed here.
On May 15th, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), the U.S. Embassy in Lome, Togo, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced a partnership to build six new schools in Togo in 2014. The projects will be executed through AFRICOM’s humanitarian assistance program to improve the future prospects for Togolese youth. Schools will be built across the country, including on the southern coast and up north along the border with Burkina Faso. The partnership was announced here.
On May 16th, the Public Affairs and Media Symposium hosted by AFRICOM in Garmisch, Germany, concluded. Bringing together more than 60 journalists and military public affairs specialists from Africa, the symposium addressed topics such as humanitarian aid, covering conflicts, social media and mobile technologies, and methods of communicating with military public affairs officers. The symposium was described here.
Department of Commerce
On May 16th, President and Chief Operating Officer of OmniMetrix, an Acorn Energy division, authored a post for The Commerce Blog on Acorn Energy’s participation in Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker’s energy trade mission to West Africa. The blog post articulates Acorn’s interest in addressing grid failures and exploring the efficiency of oil and gas drilling in Nigeria and Ghana. The full blog post can be read here.
On May 17th, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker departed for West Africa to lead 20 U.S. companies on an Energy Business Development Mission with stops in Ghana and Nigeria. The trade mission is intended to promote U.S. exports to Africa by helping African firms launch or increase their business in the energy sector. Representatives of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), the Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank of the U.S., and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) will also participate to provide information and counseling on their suite of programs and services in sub-Saharan Africa, including those linked to President Barack Obama’s Power Africa initiative. Following the trade mission, Secretary Pritzker will travel to Ethiopia with House Foreign Affairs Africa Subcommittee Ranking Member Karen Bass (D-CA) to promote the reauthorization of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). More information on the trade mission to West Africa was posted here.
U.S. Trade and Development Agency
On May 19th, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) announced that USTDA Director Leocadia Zak is joining Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and 20 U.S. companies on the Energy Business Development Mission to West Africa. In Ghana, Director Zak is scheduled to tour the facilities of two USTDA grantees at the Electricity Company of Ghana and the Kotoka International Airport. In Nigeria, she will meet with representatives from some of Nigeria’s recently privatized distribution companies who are planning to invest over $800 million to modernize electricity infrastructure. Direct Zak’ participation was announced here.
Securities and Exchange Commission
On May 14th, despite recently ruling that one of the provisions of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) conflict minerals rules violated the First Amendment, the D.C. Circuit refused to block the June 2nd deadline for the implementation of a new rule requiring companies to disclose their use of conflict minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). While business groups objected to the rule, the court sided with the SEC’s position that only a part of the rule and not the entire rule may be in violation of the First Amendment. Developments pertaining to implementation of the rule were reported here.
On May 14th, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) called a meeting of Committee Republicans where concerns were raised about the upcoming select committee to investigate Benghazi. Congressman Rogers allegedly warned his colleagues that the committee could backfire on House Republicans if it focuses too much on conspiracy theories. Congressman Rogers also indicated that he opposes the creation of the select committee, in part because the Intelligence Committee has conducted its own investigation. Details can be seen here.
On May 15th, the Senate confirmed Helen Meagher La Lime as U.S. Ambassador to Angola. Her nomination was approved by a voice vote. The status of the nomination was monitored here.
On May 15th, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) sent a letter signed by 37 Republican Senators to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) advocating for the creation of a Senate select committee to investigate Benghazi. The letter suggests that the formation of a new committee would help bridge jurisdictional gaps in the ongoing congressional investigations into the attack and generate better understanding of what happened. The full letter can be read here.
On May 15th, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) issued a second subpoena for Secretary of State John Kerry related to the Committee’s ongoing investigation of the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya. While Congressman Issa had lifted the first subpoena after the State Department agreed to an alternative date to a May 21st hearing and discussions on Secretary testifying voluntarily, the new subpoena was issued, compelling Secretary Kerry to appear before the Committee on May 29th, when Congressman Issa claimed that he and the State Department had failed to reach a deal. More information can be viewed here.
On May 20th, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a markup to consider pending legislation and nominations. Among the measures reported from Committee was S. Res. 426, a resolution supporting the goals and ideals of World Malaria Day. Information on the resolution, introduced by Foreign Relations African Affairs Committee Chairman Chris Coons (D-DE) is available here.
On May 21st, the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittees on African Affairs and East Asian and Pacific Affairs held a hearing on, “The Escalating International Wildlife Trafficking Crisis: Ecological, Economic, and National Security Issues.” Witnesses included Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Judith Garber, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Daniel Ashe, USAID Assistant Administrator for Economic Growth, Education, and Environment Eric Postel, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Brooke Darby. A webcast of the hearing can be watched here.
On May 21st, following a meeting on Tuesday between House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on the Select Committee on Benghazi, Minority Leader Pelosi
appointed five Democrats to serve on the Committee, including House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD), House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Linda Sanchez (D-CA), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). These Democrats will join the seven Republican members appointed by Speaker Boehner, including Representatives Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Susan Brooks (R-IN), Jim Jordan (R-OH), Mike Pompeo (R-KS), Martha Roby (R-AL) Peter Roskam (R-IL), and Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA). The full story is available here.
On May 16th, the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) voiced concern for the sentencing of Meriam Yahya Ibrahim Ishag, a pregnant Sudanese woman, to 100 lashes and death for apostasy and adultery. U.N. officials expressed concern about Ishag’s physical and mental well being, as well as that of her 20-month-old son, who has been detained with her at the Omdurman’s Women Prison near Khartoum. U.N. officials called on Sudanese authorities to uphold its obligations under international law to protect Ishag’s right to religious freedom. The U.N.’s reaction to the sentencing can be seen here.
On May 14th, the World Bank approved a $5.6 million credit for Djibouti to support the government’s Second Urban Poverty Reduction Project (DUPREP II). The funding will target 25,000 residents in Quartier 7 (Q7) of Djibouti City, a flood-prone area where 70% of households lack sewage systems. The goal of the project is to enhance basic services for these citizens, including urban mobility, flood management, community development activities, and on-site job opportunities. The funding was announced here.
On May 15th, following the brutal murder of an albino woman in northwestern Tanzania, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called for greater protection of Tanzania’s albino community. While two local witchdoctors have been arrested in conjunction with the recent murder, since 200, at least 73 albinos have been murdered in Tanzania. These attacks were likely prompted by the use of body parts for ritual purposes. More information can be found here.
On May 15th, human rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch issued a joint report on the early impacts of the controversial anti-homosexuality law recently enacted in Uganda. According to the report, at least 17 people have been arrested on the suspicion of appearing to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex (LGBTI). Additionally, at least one transgender person has been killed in an apparent hate crime. Additional findings were summarized here.
On May 18th, the new U.N. Guard Unit (UNGU) recommended by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was deployed to Mogadishu International Airport. The UNGU, composed of 410 Ugandan troops, will be tasked with providing defensive security support to U.N. Assistance Mission to Somalia (UNSOM) compounds and to the Support Office for the African Union (AU) Office in Somalia. Details on the first-ever UNGU were provided here.
On May 16th, suspected Boko Haram militants attacked a Chinese road construction company in Cameroon, demonstrating Boko Haram’s threat beyond Nigeria’s borders. Leading up to the attack, gunmen cut off power at a workers’ camp. As clashes ensued, the attackers kidnapped ten workers and drove away in vehicles owned by the company that were loaded with explosives. One Cameroonian soldier was killed in the attack and one Cameroonian civilian and one Chinese civilian were injured. The incident was reported here.
On May 16th, the U.N. Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the EU announced a partnership to fund the reconstruction of cultural heritage sites in Timbuktu, Mali, that were destroyed in the 2012 clashes between Malian and Tuareg rebel forces. The EU has provided UNESCO with 500,000 Euros to be used to rehabilitate mausoleums, mosques, and private libraries. The agreement was discussed here.
On May 19th, following the close of the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa in Abuja, Nigeria, AFK Insider reported on the conversations held on potential reforms to the visa system on the continent. Multiple studies have shown that visa restrictions in Africa serve as an impediment to movement and trade, especially as Africans are required to obtain visas to enter roughly 60% of countries on the continent. Takeaways from the discussion were highlighted here.
On May 16th, South African National Parks officials reported the first case of elephant poaching in Kruger National Park in more than ten years. During routine patrols, officials found a deal bull elephant in the northern part of the reserve near the border with Mozambique. Following the discovery, park authorities were put on high alert for poachers. The full story is available here.
On May 16th, World Bank Vice President for the Africa Region Makhtar Diop delivered remarks at the University of Antananarivo in Madagascar on Africa’s innovation and the self-transformation process. Over the past several years, Vice President Diop observed that Africa has experienced a number of successes. He cautioned, however, that there must be better understanding of these successes, as well as the challenges ahead, in order to ensure that growth and development continues. Vice President Diop’s remarks were transcribed here.
On May 19th, central bank governors and finance ministers from across Africa gathered in Kigali, Rwanda, to participate in the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) annual conference. At the meeting, the AfDB endorsed the Africa50 Fund, which is targeting $10 billion of equity from an initial capital of $3 billion to finance infrastructure projects. The new fund is intended to complement China’s recent investments in Africa’s infrastructure sector. An article on the Africa50 Fund can be read here.
On May 19th, South African food retailer Famous Brands unveiled plans to launch 41 new restaurants in Africa this year, expanding its presence into Ghana and Angola, where the company currently has no operations. Famous Brands, which has operated in Africa for 20 years, most recently in 16 different countries, saw its revenue grow by 12% in the past year. The company’s expansion plans were reported here.
On May 19th, the National Endowment for Democracy hosted an event on democracy in India, Brazil, and South Africa. During the event, Anne Bernstein of the Centre for Development and Enterprise in Johannesburg, South Africa, addressed South African national development issues and their relationship to economic growth and democratic consolidation. Event details were shared here.
On May 20th, while on a personal trip to Singapore, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe was allegedly spotted entering the private Gleneagles Hospital. While the public has increasingly questioned 90-year-old President Mugabe’s health, his staff reported that he was at the hospital for a routine eye exam. While the hospital it well known for its cataract removal capabilities, it is also well regarded for its cancer treatment programs. Meanwhile, President Mugabe’s aides continued to dismiss reports that President Mugabe might have advanced prostate cancer. The full story is available here.
On May 20th, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals accused the Elephants of Eden park in South Africa of animal cruelty after obtaining video, which purports to show trainers using horrific methods to train baby elephants. The elephants were allegedly chained, roped and stretched, shocked with electric cattle prods, and hit with bull hooks. More information on the accusations can be found here.
On May 20th, South African Judge Thokosile Masipa, who is presiding over the Oscar Pistorius murder trial, adjourned additional proceedings until June 30th in order to allow Pistorius to receive up to 30 days of psychiatric tests as an outpatient. The tests will be conducted by four psychiatrists, who are expected to report their findings when the trail resumes. More information on developments in the trial can be accessed here.
On May 21st, the new South African National Assembly elected President Jacob Zuma unopposed for a second term as head of state after a failed bid by the Democratic Alliance (DA) to unseat President Zuma from the post in light of the controversy surrounding his spending of state funds on upgrades to his personal home. In addition, the Assembly elected African National Congress (ANC) national
chairwoman Baleka Mbete as Speaker of the body. Details were provided here.
General Africa News
On May 16th, the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) China Africa Research Initiative (CARI) held a daylong conference on, “China’s Agricultural Investment in Africa: Land Grabs or Friendship Farms?” The conference investigated Chinese agricultural engagement in Africa through comparative case studies in Mozambique, Uganda, Zambia, Tanzania, Angola, Mali, the DRC, Cameroon, Malawi, and Zimbabwe. Event details were posted here.
On May 19th, the AfDB, the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP), and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released a report that found that investment in African nations will rise to $80 billion in 2014, a new record for the region. More information about the report can be found here.