Obama, Africa and Guinea

My comments on Robert Maginnis article about Obama, Africa and Guinea

Robert Maginnis
Robert Maginnis

Given Robert Magannis credentials and professional affiliation, this article logically reflects the views of the conservative Republican side of American politics. In it, the author seeks to expose further the $25 million Paladino loan. By the same token, the paper reiterates opposition to President Obama’s Democratic Administration policies or projects, domestically and abroad.
Mr. Magannis claims that Obama Administration’s Guinea Mining Deal Hurts American Businesses.
To be sure, in spite of his partisan approach, Mr. Maginnis has a few facts correct. Thus, he states that, under President Alpha Condé, Guinea goes on with business as usual, specifically in the following areas:

  • Security force abuses, including killings
  • Concentration of power in the executive and rule by decree
  • Weak implementation of the rule of law
  • Rising ethnic tensions
  • Heightening regional insecurity as a hub for transnational narcotics trade

Unfortunately, the rest of the article fires indiscriminately at the Democratic administration. In so doing, it strings together unrelated or contradictory points. As a result, the author’s arguments lack cohesion. I would like to highlight some of those mistakes here.

  1. The article compares the former (Mahmoud Thiam) and current (Mohamed Fofana) ministers of mining, at the expense of the latter on accounts of deceit and corruption. Actually, the Guinean media have leveled embezzlement charges against Mr. Thiam, who was appointed Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara and confirmed by Gen. Sekouba Konaté.
  2. Robert Maginnis quotes minister Thiam as saying that Alpha Condé’s on, Mohamed, is actively engaged in the kickback and bribery schemes of his father. That’s not surprising at all. But the question is: What did Mr. Thiam do in the wake of the September 28, 2009 massacre ? He stayed put and left the government only when Alpha Condé didn’t reappoint him. Bottom line: ministers Thiam and Fofana are just specimen of the same breed of techno-bureaucrats predators of the Guinean economy.
  3. Restoration of the privileged U.S. trade partner status, to Guinea, under African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), is a debatable decision. For thecountrycannotmeetAGOA’s production quality standards. Furthermore,thatdecisionwas based on three criteria that US officials, arbitrarily and erroneously, deemed Guinea has met:
    1. Hosting free and fair elections
    2. Establishment of the rule of law
    3. Combating corruption. I note that Robert Maginnis seems to accept the inclusion of Guinea in the AGOA program, even though he denounces that Conakry has failed to satisfy those conditions.
  4. Mr. Maginnis asserts that “Guinea’s 2010 election was largely free and fair…”
    Wrong, the 2010 presidential election in Guinea was neither free nor fair. It was violent —more women rapes occurred— and rigged through and through. The inauguration of the so-called “Professor” Alpha Condé ushered in a usurper and a perjurer.
    In his campaign speeches he demagogically portrayed himself as a combination of Mandela and Obama. Nothing could be further from the truth. For since taking office, Mr. Condé has thrown dozens of citizens (civilians and military) in jail, where the suspects were tortured. When he visited President Obama at the White House in August last year, he got an earful from his host. He certainly didn’t like to be reminded that “Africa does not need strong men; instead, Africa needs strong institutions.” Indeed.
  5. Like most foreign journalists, Mr. Maginnis sees Africa as a primary sector economy providing raw extractive products in mining, forestry and industrial crops. The local production of food and energy, the management of water and public health, the building of modern communications networks and transportation systems have low or no priority. That’s plain wrong.
  6. Last but not the least, when the Guinea junta committed the September 2009 massacre, President Obama and Secretary Clinton reacted swiftly and appropriately. Horrified by the crimes, and taking off temporarily the diplomatic gloves, Hillary Clinton vowed that the US would take action against the military thugs. And Barack Obama denounced Guinea’s rampant corruption in his 2011 State of the Union speech.
    Such actions speak louder than words. In my view , they stand as proactive diplomacy and constructive engagement.

Tierno S. Bah

Bob Maginnis serves as the Senior Fellow for National Security at Family Research Council (FRC). He also served with FRC from 1993 to 2002, rising from analyst to the Vice President for Policy. Mr. Maginnis is a retired Army lieutenant colonel, a national security and foreign affairs analyst for radio and television, a columnist for Human Events and a senior strategist with the U.S. Army. He testified before the Pentagon’s 1993 Military Working Group that worked on the homosexual issue, provided considerable background material at the group’s request, and served as a personal advisor to the group’s senior member, Army Lt. Gen. John Otjen. Simultaneously, he served on the Army Chief of Staff’s study group considering the homosexual issue.

Fatou Bensouda, procureur de la CPI

Fatou Bensouda, procureure de la Cour pénale internationale
Fatou Bensouda, procureure de la Cour pénale internationale

La Gambienne Fatou Bensouda a prêté serment vendredi 15 juin. Elle succède à Luis Moreno-Ocampo au poste de procureur de la Cour Pénale Internationale (CPI).

« Moi, Fatou Bensouda, je déclare solennellement que je remplirai les devoirs et exercerai les attributions de procureur de la CPI en tout honneur, dévouement, toute impartialité et toute confiance ».

Vendredi 15 juin, à La Haye, la Gambienne Fatou Bensouda a prêté serment devant la Cour pénale internationale (CPI) dont elle devient le nouveau procureur. Elle succède à l’Argentin Luis Moreno-Ocampo, arrivé au terme de son mandat de neuf ans.Vêtue d’une robe de magistrat noire au plastron blanc, Fatou Bensouda a prêté serment devant une assemblée de responsables de la CPI. Étaient notamment présents le président de la Cour, le juge sud-coréen Sang-Hyun Song, son prédécesseur, l’Argentin Luis Moreno-Ocampo, la greffière italienne Silvana Arbia, la présidente de l’Assemblée des États parties, Tiina Intelmann ainsi que 15 juges de la Cour.

« Nous ne devons pas être guidés par les mots et la propagande de certains individus influents dont le seul but est d’échapper à la justice mais nous devons écouter et nous concentrer sur les millions de victimes qui continuent de souffrir de crimes de masse », a affirmé le nouveau procureur dans un bref discours.

Fatou Bensouda, 51 ans, occupait le poste de procureur adjoint de la CPI depuis 2004. Elle avait auparavant travaillé pour le Tribunal pénal international pour le Rwanda (TPIR), basé à Arusha, en Tanzanie, après avoir été ministre de la Justice de Gambie.Enquêtes dans sept pays« Je respecterai le caractère confidentiel des enquêtes et des poursuites », a-t-elle assuré.
Le bureau du procureur de la CPI mène des enquêtes dans sept pays africains, notamment en Côte d’Ivoire, en République Démocratique du Congo (RDC) et en Libye.Fatou Bensouda dirigeait la division des poursuites du bureau du procureur de la CPI, le premier tribunal permanent chargé de juger les auteurs présumés de génocides, crimes contre l’humanité et crimes de guerre.

« Les activités et les décisions du bureau du procureur vont continuer d’être basées uniquement sur le droit et les éléments de preuve », a indiqué le nouveau procureur de la CPI, les cheveux noués en arrière avec des tresses africaines.

« Je serai le procureur de l’ensemble des 121 États parties [au Statut de Rome, NDLR], agissant en toute indépendance et impartialité », a-t-elle également affirmé.

Longue poignée de mains

Fatou Bensouda « possède une vaste expérience judicaire acquise pendant de nombreuses années de travail à la CPI et dans ses fonctions précédentes », a rappelé le président Sang-Hyun Song à l’ouverture de la cérémonie, tout en soulignant que « la CPI d’aujourd’hui est très différente de la CPI de juin 2003 ».
« Lorsque mon prédécesseur a mis le bureau sur les rails en 2003, il avait deux personnes dans son équipe, six étages de bureaux et aucune enquête ouverte », a rappelé Fatou Bensouda. Elle et Moreno-Ocampo ont échangé une longue poignée de main et plusieurs accolades à l’issue de la prestation de serment.
Dans la galerie du public étaient notamment rassemblés des diplomates et des membres d’autres tribunaux internationaux.Depuis l’entrée en fonction de la CPI, les juges ont, à la demande de l’accusation, délivré vingt mandats d’arrêt mais seulement six suspects ont été arrêtés.

La Cour n’a pas de force de police propre et doit compter sur la bonne volonté des pays qui ont ratifié le Statut de Rome, s’engageant ainsi à coopérer avec elle et donc à arrêter ceux qu’elle recherche.

AFP/JA

U.S. intelligence operations in Africa

US military bases. The African network
The U.S. military has established small air bases across Africa to spy on al-Qaeda affiliates and other militant groups. Shaded areas indicate the presence of those groups, according to U.S. Africa Command.

Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso — The U.S. military is expanding its secret intelligence operations across Africa, establishing a network of small air bases to spy on terrorist hideouts from the fringes of the Sahara to jungle terrain along the equator, according to documents and people involved in the project.

At the heart of the surveillance operations are small, unarmed turboprop aircraft disguised as private planes. Equipped with hidden sensors that can record full-motion video, track infrared heat patterns, and vacuum up radio and cellphone signals, the planes refuel on isolated airstrips favored by African bush pilots, extending their effective flight range by thousands of miles.

About a dozen air bases have been established in Africa since 2007, according to a former senior U.S. commander involved in setting up the network. Most are small operations run out of secluded hangars at African military bases or civilian airports.

The nature and extent of the missions, as well as many of the bases being used, have not been previously reported but are partially documented in public Defense Department contracts. The operations have intensified in recent months, part of a growing shadow war against al-Qaeda affiliates and other militant groups. The surveillance is overseen by U.S. Special Operations forces but relies heavily on private military contractors and support from African troops.

The surveillance underscores how Special Operations forces, which have played an outsize role in the Obama administration’s national security strategy, are working clandestinely all over the globe, not just in war zones. The lightly equipped commando units train foreign security forces and perform aid missions, but they also include teams dedicated to tracking and killing terrorism suspects.

The establishment of the Africa missions also highlights the ways in which Special Operations forces are blurring the lines that govern the secret world of intelligence, moving aggressively into spheres once reserved for the CIA. The CIA has expanded its counterterrorism and intelligence-gathering operations in Africa, but its manpower and resources pale in comparison with those of the military.

U.S. officials said the African surveillance operations are necessary to track terrorist groups that have taken root in failed states on the continent and threaten to destabilize neighboring countries.

A hub for secret network

A key hub of the U.S. spying network can be found in Ouagadougou (WAH-gah-DOO-goo), the flat, sunbaked capital of Burkina Faso, one of the most impoverished countries in Africa.

Under a classified surveillance program code-named Creek Sand, dozens of U.S. personnel and contractors have come to Ouagadougou in recent years to establish a small air base on the military side of the international airport.

The unarmed U.S. spy planes fly hundreds of miles north to Mali, Mauritania and the Sahara, where they search for fighters from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, a regional network that kidnaps Westerners for ransom.

The surveillance flights have taken on added importance in the turbulent aftermath of a March coup in Mali, which has enabled al-Qaeda sympathizers to declare an independent Islamist state in the northern half of the country.

Elsewhere, commanders have said they are increasingly worried about the spread of Boko Haram, an Islamist group in Nigeria blamed for a rash of bombings there. U.S. forces are orchestrating a regional intervention in Somalia to target al-Shabab, another al-Qaeda affiliate. In Central Africa, about 100 American Special Operations troops are helping to coordinate the hunt for Joseph Kony, the Ugandan leader of a brutal guerrilla group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army.

The results of the American surveillance missions are shrouded in secrecy. Although the U.S. military has launched airstrikes and raids in Somalia, commanders said that in other places, they generally limit their involvement to sharing intelligence with allied African forces so they can attack terrorist camps on their own territory.

The creeping U.S. military involvement in long-simmering African conflicts, however, carries risks. Some State Department officials have expressed reservations about the militarization of U.S. foreign policy on the continent. They have argued that most terrorist cells in Africa are pursuing local aims, not global ones, and do not present a direct threat to the United States.

The potential for creating a popular backlash can be seen across the Red Sea, where an escalating campaign of U.S. drone strikes in Yemen is angering tribesmen and generating sympathy for an al-Qaeda franchise there.

In a response to written questions from The Washington Post, the U.S. Africa Command said that it would not comment on “specific operational details.”

“We do, however, work closely with our African partners to facilitate access, when required, to conduct missions or operations that support and further our mutual security goals,” the command said.

Surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations, it added, are “simply a tool we employ to enable host nation militaries to better understand the threat picture.”

Uncovering the details

The U.S. military has largely kept details of its spy flights in Africa secret. The Post pieced together descriptions of the surveillance network by examining references to it in unclassified military reports, U.S. government contracting documents and diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy group.

Further details were provided by interviews with American and African officials, as well as military contractors.

In addition to Burkina Faso, U.S. surveillance planes have operated periodically out of nearby Mauritania. In Central Africa, the main hub is in Uganda, though there are plans to open a base in South Sudan. In East Africa, U.S. aircraft fly out of bases in Ethi­o­pia, Djibouti, Kenya and the Indian Ocean archipelago of the Seychelles.

Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, the head of U.S. Africa Command, which is responsible for military operations on the continent, hinted at the importance and extent of the air bases while testifying before Congress in March. Without divulging locations, he made clear that, in Africa, he wanted to expand “ISR,” the military’s acronym for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

“Without operating locations on the continent, ISR capabilities would be curtailed, potentially endangering U.S. security,” Ham said in a statement submitted to the House Armed Services Committee. “Given the vast geographic space and diversity in threats, the command requires increased ISR assets to adequately address the security challenges on the continent.”

Some of the U.S. air bases, including ones in Djibouti, Ethi­o­pia and the Seychelles, fly Predator and Reaper drones, the original and upgraded models, respectively, of the remotely piloted aircraft that the Obama administration has used to kill al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan and Yemen.

“We don’t have remotely piloted aircraft in many places other than East Africa, but we could,” said a senior U.S. military official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters. “If there was a need to do so and those assets were available, I’m certain we could get the access and the overflight [permission] that is necessary to do that.”

Common aircraft

Most of the spy flights in Africa, however, take off the old-fashioned way — with pilots in the cockpit. The conventional aircraft hold two big advantages over drones: They are cheaper to operate and far less likely to draw attention because they are so similar to the planes used throughout Africa.

The bulk of the U.S. surveillance fleet is composed of single-engine Pilatus PC-12s, small passenger and cargo utility planes manufactured in Switzerland. The aircraft are not equipped with weapons. They often do not bear military markings or government insignia.

The Pentagon began acquiring the planes in 2005 to fly commandos into territory where the military wanted to maintain a clandestine presence. The Air Force variant of the aircraft is known as the U-28A. The Air Force Special Operations Command has about 21 of the planes in its inventory.

In February, a U-28A crashed as it was returning to Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, the only permanent U.S. military base in Africa. Four airmen from the Air Force Special Operations Command were killed. It was the first reported fatal incident involving a U-28A since the military began deploying the aircraft six years ago.

Air Force officials said that the crash was an accident and that they are investigating the cause. Military officials declined to answer questions about the flight’s mission.

Because of its strategic location on the Horn of Africa, Camp Lemonnier is a hub for spy flights in the region. It is about 500 miles from southern Somalia, an area largely controlled by the al-Shabab militia. Lemonnier is even closer — less than 100 miles — to Yemen, where another al-Qaeda franchise has expanded its influence and plotted attacks against the United States.

Elsewhere in Africa, the U.S. military is relying on private contractors to provide and operate PC-12 spy planes in the search for Kony, the fugitive leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a group known for mutilating victims, committing mass rape and enslaving children as soldiers.

Ham, the Africa Command chief, said in his testimony to Congress in March that he was seeking to establish a base for surveillance flights in Nzara, South Sudan. Although that would bolster the hunt for Kony, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court, it would also enable the U.S. military to keep an eye on the worsening conflict between Sudan and South Sudan. The two countries fought a civil war for more than two decades and are on the verge of war again, in part over potentially rich oil deposits valued by foreign investors.

Other aviation projects are in the offing. An engineering battalion of Navy Seabees has been assigned to complete a $10 million runway upgrade this summer at the Manda Bay Naval Base, a Kenyan military installation on the Indian Ocean. An Africa Command spokeswoman said the runway extension is necessary so American C-130 troop transport flights can land at night and during bad weather.

About 120 U.S. military personnel and contractors are stationed at Manda Bay, which Navy SEALs and other commandos have used as a base from which to conduct raids against Somali pirates and al-Shabab fighters.

About 6,000 miles to the west, the Pentagon is spending $8.1 million to upgrade a forward operating base and airstrip in Mauritania, on the western edge of the Sahara. The base is near the border with strife-torn Mali.

The Defense Department also set aside $22.6 million in July to buy a Pilatus PC-6 aircraft and another turboprop plane so U.S.-trained Mauritanian security forces can conduct rudimentary surveillance operations, according to documents submitted to Congress.

Crowding the embassy

The U.S. military began building its presence in Burkina Faso in 2007, when it signed a deal that enabled the Pentagon to establish a Joint Special Operations Air Detachment in Ouagadougou. At the time, the U.S. military said the arrangement would support “medical evacuation and logistics requirements” but provided no other details.

By the end of 2009, about 65 U.S. military personnel and contractors were working in Burkina Faso, more than in all but three other African countries, according to a U.S. Embassy cable from Ouagadougou. In the cable, diplomats complained to the State Department that the onslaught of U.S. troops and support staff had “completely overwhelmed” the embassy.

In addition to Pilatus PC-12 flights for Creek Sand, the U.S. military personnel in Ouagadougou ran a regional intelligence “fusion cell” code-named Aztec Archer, according to the cable.

Burkina Faso, a predominantly Muslim country whose name means “the land of upright men,” does not have a history of radicalism. U.S. military officials saw it as an attractive base because of its strategic location bordering the Sahel, the arid region south of the Sahara where al-Qaeda’s North African affiliate is active.

Unlike many other governments in the region, the one in Burkina Faso was relatively stable. The U.S. military operated Creek Sand spy flights from Nouakchott, Mauritania, until 2008, when a military coup forced Washington to suspend relations and end the surveillance, according to former U.S. officials and diplomatic cables.

In Ouagadougou, both sides have worked hard to keep the partnership quiet. In a July 2009 meeting, Yero Boly, the defense minister of Burkina Faso, told a U.S. Embassy official that he was pleased with the results. But he confessed he was nervous that the unmarked American planes might draw “undue attention” at the airport in the heart of the capital and suggested that they move to a more secluded hangar.

“According to Boly, the present location of the aircraft was in retrospect not an ideal choice in that it put the U.S. aircraft in a section of the airfield that already had too much traffic,” according to a diplomatic cable summarizing the meeting. “He also commented that U.S. personnel were extremely discreet.”

U.S. officials raised the possibility of basing the planes about 220 miles to the west, in the city of Bobo Dioulasso, according to the cable. Boly said that the Americans could use that airport on a “short term or emergency basis” but that a U.S. presence there “would likely draw greater attention.”

In an interview with The Post, Djibril Bassole, the foreign minister of Burkina Faso, praised security relations between his country and the United States, saying they were crucial to containing al-Qaeda forces in the region.

“We need to fight and protect our borders,” he said. “Once they infiltrate your country, it’s very, very difficult to get them out.”

Bassole declined, however, to answer questions about the activities of U.S. Special Operations forces in his country.

“I cannot provide details, but it has been very, very helpful,” he said. “This cooperation should be very, very discreet. We should not show to al-Qaeda that we are now working with the Americans.”

Discretion is not always strictly observed. In interviews last month, residents of Ouagadougou said American service members and contractors stand out, even in plainclothes, and are appreciated for the steady business they bring to bars and a pizzeria in the city center.

In April 2010, one American, in particular, drew attention. A U.S. contractor who had been assigned to support the surveillance missions in Ouagadougou was flying home from Africa on leave when he announced that he had been “in Ouaga illegally” and was carrying dynamite in his boots and laptop.

As the contractor, Derek Stansberry, mumbled other incoherent stories about allegedly top-secret operations, he was grabbed by U.S. air marshals aboard the
Paris-to-Atlanta flight. No explosives were found, but the incident drew international attention.

Stansberry, who did not respond to a request for comment, was found not guilty by reason of temporary insanity; he said he was overstressed and had overdosed on the sleep aid Ambien.

A photograph on his Facebook page around the time of the incident showed him posing in the cockpit of a Pilatus aircraft. The caption read: “Flying a PC-12 ain’t that hard.”

Craig Whitlock
The Washington Post

CPI. Fatou Bensouda : “que justice soit faite”

Fatou Bensouda, procureure de la Cour pénale internationale
Fatou Bensouda, procureure de la Cour pénale internationale

En déplacement à Conakry le 5 avril, la future procureur de la Cour pénale internationale (CPI), Fatou Bensouda, s’est exprimée sur les massacres du 28 septembre 2009 au stade de Conakry, au cours desquels au moins 150 personnes ont trouvé la mort. Elle a exigé un “dénouement rapide” du dossier.

« Nous avons trop attendu. Nous tenons cette fois à ce que ce dossier soit bouclé ». Les déclarations de la future procureur de la CPI, à Conakry (Guinée) le 5 avil, sont fermes. Elles concernent le dossier du massacre d’au moins 150 personnes dans un stade de Conakry, le 28 septembre 2009. Fatou Bensouda a réclamé « un dénouement rapide » et exigé que tous les moyens soient mobilisés « pour que justice soit faite dans un court délai ».

Fatou Bensouda: “Poursuivre les hauts responsables”

À l’occasion de son passage à Conakry, la future procureur a tenu remercier « la patience » des victimes, représentées par les membres d’une dizaine d’associations.
— « J’espère que cette patience se termine enfin, en tout cas qu’elle ne se prolonge pas davantage et ce sera un évènement heureux qui va clôturer notre action », a-t-elle déclaré.

Plus tard dans la soirée, à l’issue de sa rencontre avec le président guinéen Alpha Condé et le ministre de la Justice Christian Sow, Fatou Bensouda a donné une conférence de presse. Elle y a affirmé la volonté des autorités guinéennes de donner aux juges « tous les moyens dont ils ont besoin », assurant « qu’ils pourront continuer d’opérer en toute indépendance ».

— « En tant que prochaine procureur, je veillerai personnellement à ce que ce soit le cas », a-t-elle dit, avant d’ajouter que, « si les hauts responsables (de ces massacres) ne sont pas poursuivis par les autorités guinéennes, alors la CPI le fera. C’est l’un ou l’autre, il n’y a pas de troisième voie ».
Actuellement procureur adjoint de la Cour, Fatou Bensouda prendra ses fonctions de procureur de la CPI en juin, succédant à Luis Moreno Ocampo.

Elle a également jugé de manière positive l’enquête conduite par le pool de juges d’instruction de Conakry, soulignant des « progrès significatifs » avec l’inculpation d’une personnalité militaire de haut rang. « Ils font un travail complexe dans des conditions difficiles, ils méritent notre soutien, le soutien des autorités guinéennes, le soutien et la confiance des victimes qui attendent justice et celui des Nations unies qui s’apprêtent aussi à les appuyer », a-t-elle affirmé.

Mises à morts et viols

Le dossier du stade de Conakry renvoie la Guinée aux heures sombres du pays ,alors qu’il était sous le joug du capitaine Moussa Dadis Camara et de sa junte. Le 28 septembre 2009, des milliers d’opposants au régime s’étaient rassemblés au stade du même nom pour exprimer leur refus de voir le capitaine présenter sa candidature à l’élection présidentielle qui devait se tenir l’année suivante.

Ce qui ne devait être qu’une manifestation s’est terminé dans un bain de sang, lorsque les forces de sécurité ont pénétré dans le stade et ont tiré, frappé et violé des centaines d’opposants. Le bilan de cette journée fait état d’au moins 157 morts, des centaines de blessés, 131 femmes violées et 84 disparus recensés.

Parmi les hommes soupçonnés d’être impliqués dans le massacre figure le nom d’un ancien responsable de la junte guinéenne, le lieutenant-colonel Moussa Tiègboro Camara, actuel chef d’un service rattaché à la présidence. En février, ce dernier a été inculpé à Conakry dans le cadre de l’enquête. Des accusations qu’il nie en bloc, contredisant les dépositions de témoins cités par l’ONU et par des ONG.

AFP Jeuneafrique.com