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United States Africa Command Public Affairs Office 7 April 2010 USAFRICOM - related news stories

United States Africa Command Public Affairs Office 7 April 2010

USAFRICOM - related news stories

TOP NEWS RELATED TO U.S. AFRICA COMMAND AND AFRICA

Obama expands U.S. military ops in Africa (UPI) NAIROBI, Kenya - Amid a surge in big oil strikes in Africa and the threat of growing al- Qaida penetration in the north and east, President Barack Obama is expanding U.S. military involvement across the continent.

U.S.-Africa Policy Under the Obama Administration (Harvard University as reported in Modern Ghana) Ambassador Johnnie Carson speaks at the second annual Africa Focus at Harvard University.

Energy Needs in South Africa Collide With Obama Policy (New York Times) JOHANNESBURG, South Africa The Obama administration, caught in an awkward bind between its own ambitions on climate change and Africa‘s pressing energy needs, is facing the first test of its new guidelines discouraging coal-fired power projects in developing nations.

Diplomatic row threatens Western-backed alliance in the Sahel against al Qaeda (Ethiopian Review) The release of two AQIM inmates has sparked a diplomatic row with Algeria and Mauretania withdrawing their ambassadors from Mali. It has also highlighted fissures in the alliance the United States and Europe are trying to forge between North African and Sahel countries threatened by AQIM.

US, Nigeria Establish Bi-National Commission (Voice of America) The United States and Nigeria on Tuesday signed an agreement, setting up a bi-national commission aimed at helping the west African state promote good governance and fight corruption. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the U.S.-Nigeria relationship "absolutely critical."

The Democratic Republic of Congo‘s army and United Nations peacekeepers plan to send reinforcements to the town of Mbandaka, which was attacked by insurgents on April 4, the prime minister‘s office said.

New Nigeria Cabinet Sworn In (Associated Press) ABUJA, NigeriaNigeria's acting president sacked the head of the nation's oil company Tuesday, the same day he swore in a cabinet that put a former oil company employee in charge of the country's petroleum ministry and an investment banker at the helm of its finances.

UN News Service Africa Briefs Full Articles on UN Website

DR Congo: UN deplores resort to arms after deadly attack on provincial capitalUN News Service Africa Briefs Full Articles on UN Website UN peacekeepers in DR Congo rescue

UN peacekeepers in DR Congo rescue 29 people in Lake Kivu ferry mishapresort to arms after deadly attack on provincial capital

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UPCOMING EVENTS OF INTEREST:

WHEN/WHERE: Thursday, April 8; 10:00 a.m.; Washington, D.C. WHAT: Center for Strategic and International Studies: Nigeria: Priorities for the Year Ahead WHO: Oronto Douglas, Senior Special Assistant to Acting President Goodluck Jonathan Info: http://csis.org/event/nigeria-priorities-year-ahead

WHEN/WHERE: Monday, April 12; 8:30 a.m.; Washington, D.C. WHAT: Council on Foreign Relations: A Conversation with Goodluck Jonathan WHO: Goodluck Jonathan, Acting President, Federal Republic of Nigeria Info: http://www.cfr.org/member

WHEN/WHERE: Tuesday, April 13; 10:00 a.m.; Washington, D.C. WHAT: Center for Strategic and International Studies: Prospects for Peace in the Niger Delta WHO: David Goldwyn, Coordinator for International Energy Affairs, U.S. Department of State; Dimieari Von Kemedi, Director General of Bayelsa State Due Process and e-Governance Bureau; Thijs Jurgens, Senior Advisor for Shell Info: http://csis.org/event/prospects-peace-niger-delta

WHEN/WHERE: Thursday, April 15; 6:00 p.m.; Washington, D.C. WHAT: US Institute of Peace: Rebuilding Hope WHO: Screening of "Rebuilding Hope" a film following three of Sudan's "Lost Boys" on a journey back home to find surviving family members, and rediscover and contribute to their homeland, followed by a panel discussion featuring the film's director, Jen Marlowe, and one of central characters in the film. Info: http://www.usip.org/events/rebuilding-hope-washington-dc-premiere

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FULL ARTICLE TEXT

Obama expands U.S. military ops in Africa (UPI)

NAIROBI, Kenya - Amid a surge in big oil strikes in Africa and the threat of growing al- Qaida penetration in the north and east, President Barack Obama is expanding U.S. military involvement across the continent.

This has given weight to the U.S. Africa Command inaugurated Oct. 1, 2008, which is viewed with growing suspicion by many in Africa who consider its primary mission is to secure oil supplies that America considers vital as it cuts its reliance on the Middle East.

As of 2008, Africa reportedly surpassed the Middle East as the main oil supplier to the United States. By 2020, Washington expects one-quarter of its oil imports will be from Africa.

"When President Obama took office in January 2009, it was widely expected that he would dramatically change, or even reverse, the militarized and unilateral society policy that had been pursued by the George W. Bush administration toward Africa and other parts of the world," Africom critic Daniel Volman noted in an April 2 report for Antiwar.com.

"After one year in office, however, it is clear that the Obama administration is following essentially the same policy that has guided the U.S. military toward Africa for more than a decade.

"Indeed, the Obama administration is seeking to expand U.S. military activities on the continent even further," wrote Volman, director of the African Security Research Project.

Many in Africa note that U.S. concern about Africa more or less coincided with major oil discoveries in West Africa.

They fear what one commentator described as "creeping U.S. militarism" as has taken place in the Middle East and Asia and America's history of supporting African tyrants to bolster Western influence during the Cold War.

The expansion of U.S. military activity has spawned fears that Africa was in line to become the next battleground in the conflict with al-Qaida and its jihadists.

The Obama administration's fiscal 2011 budget request for security assistance programs in Africa includes $38 million for arms sales to African states under the Foreign Military Financing program.

It also wants $21 million for training African officers in the United States plus $24

million for anti-terrorism programs.

In June 2009 Obama approved the delivery of 40 tons of arms and ammunition to the

Western-backed Transitional Federal Government in war-torn Somalia to fight Islamist

militants linked to al-Qaida.

The United States is also providing military aid to Ethiopia, which helped install the TFG by invading Somalia in December 2006 and defeating the Islamists.

The spread of African groups linked to al-Qaida, such as al-Shebab of Somalia and the Algeria-based al-Qaida of the Islamic Maghreb, is viewed with growing concern by the Americans, particularly as the oil factor assumed great importance.

In this regard, Africom has taken over U.S. security assistance programs with states

grappling with jihadists in North Africa and the Sahara region, such as Mali, Niger, Chad and Senegal, where military forces are ill-equipped and led and hard put to counter Islamist encroachment in their vast, ungoverned spaces.

These are only some of the military projects opening up in Africa.

Africom has stressed that its mission is not combat-oriented. But there is concern that this will inevitably develop.

Last December U.S. military officials confirmed that the Defense Department was considering the formation of a 1,000-strong Marine rapid deployment force for the continent.

One of those could well be Nigeria, which is grappling with a 5-year-old insurgency in its southern oil-producing zone, the country's economic backbone, Christian-Muslim bloodletting in the north and a deepening political crisis over the presidency.

The religious fighting has raised fears that al-Qaida will find Nigeria, one of Africa's main oil producers and an important supplier to the United States, fertile ground for infiltration.

The collapse of Africa's most populous nation would threaten U.S. oil imports and could, according to some analysts, bring down much of oil-rich West Africa with it.

A 2005 Central Intelligence Agency assessment of Africa's long-term prospects

predicted that "most of Africa will become increasingly marginalized as many states

struggle to overcome sub-par economic performance, weak state structures and poor governance."

China's growing encroachment on the continent in Beijing's ever-growing drive for oil, gas and raw materials for its expanding economy is also seen as a potential threat since the West also wants them. This could lead to power struggles in a score of African states.

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U.S.-Africa Policy Under the Obama Administration (Harvard University as reported

in Modern Ghana)

It is a real pleasure for me to join you today to launch the second annual Africa Focus at Harvard University. Thank you Dr. Elkins for that kind introduction, and thank you to the organizers of this year's Africa Focus for inviting me to speak about a topic that I have devoted much of my professional life to strengthening the United States relationship with Africa. As many of you know, I have spent much of my career working in and on Africa. I started my career as a Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania and joined the Foreign Service right after that. I have had the privilege of serving as U.S. Ambassador in Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Uganda and I am honored to be serving as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in this administration.

President Obama has a strong interest in Africa and has prioritized Africa among our top foreign policy concerns. This has been evident throughout his first year in office.

The President's visit to Ghana last July, the earliest visit made by a U.S. president to the continent, underscores Africa's importance to the U.S. Last September, at the UN General Assembly, the President hosted a lunch with 26 African heads of state. He has also met in the oval office with President Kikwete of Tanzania, President Khama of Botswana, and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangarai. And the President invited dozens of people to the White House to see him give a Zimbabwean women's group the Robert H. Kennedy Prize for Political Courage.

All of the President's senior foreign policy advisors have followed his leadmany of them traveling to Africa as well.

The U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations -- my former boss and close colleague Ambassador Susan Rice -- visited five African countries last June, including Liberia and Rwanda. Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew traveled to Ethiopia and Tanzania in June 2009.

Last August, Secretary Clinton and I embarked on an 11-day, seven-country trip across the continent. And in January Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero headed the U.S. delegation to the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, where she met with dozens of leaders and discussed a range of issues including democracy and governance, climate change, and food security.

President Obama has said that the United States views Africa as our partner and as a partner of the international community. While Africa has very serious and well-known challenges to confront, the President and Secretary Clinton are confident that Africa and Africans will rise to meet and overcome these challenges.

Last June when the President was in Ghana, he said, ―We believe in Africa's potential and promise. We remain committed to Africa's future. We will be strong partners with the African people.‖ Africa is essential to our interconnected world, and our alliance with one another must be rooted in mutual respect and accountability.

I echo the President's sentiment that U.S. policy must start from the simple premise that Africa's future is up to Africans.

The Obama Administration is committed to a positive and forward looking policy in Africa.

It is committed to substantial increases in foreign assistance for Africa, but we know

that additional assistance will not automatically produce success across the continent. Instead, success will be defined by how well we work together as partners to build Africa's capacity for long-term change and ultimately the elimination of the continued need for such assistance. As Africa's partner, the United States is ready to contribute to Africa's growth and stabilization, but ultimately, African leaders and countries must take control of their futures.

Just like the United States is important to Africa, Africa is important to the United States. The history and heritage of this country is directly linked to Africa; President Obama's direct family ties to the continent are a testimony to this.

But the significance and relevance of Africa reaches far beyond ethnicity and national origin. It is based on our fundamental interests in promoting democratic institutions and good governance, peace and stability, and sustained economic growth across Sub Saharan Africa. We think these issues are also fundamental to Africa's future progress and success. Therefore, as we advance our interests, our policy will be based on five overarching principles.

FIRST

We will work with African governments, the international community, and civil society

to strengthen democratic institutions and protect the democratic gains made in recent

years in many African countries.

A key element in Africa's transformation is sustained commitment to democracy, rule of

law, and constitutional norms. Africa has made significant progress in this area.

Botswana, Ghana, Tanzania, Mauritius, and South Africa are a few examples of countries showing that commitment. But progress in this area must be more widespread across Africa.

Some scholars and political analysts are saying that democracy in Africa has reached a plateau, and that we may be witnessing the beginning of a democratic recession. They point to flawed presidential elections in places like Kenya, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe; the attempts by leaders in Niger, Uganda, and Cameroon to extend their terms of office; and the re-emergence of military interventionism in Guinea-Conakry, Madagascar, and just last week in Niger.

Moreover, democracy remains fragile or tenuous in large states like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, and arguably Africa's most important country, Nigeria.

Nigeria continues to experience political tensions caused by the prolonged illness of President Yar'Adua. The United States welcomes President Yar'Adua's recent return to Nigeria. However, we remain concerned that there may be some in Nigeria who are putting their personal ambitions above the health of the President and more importantly ahead of the political stability and political health of the country.

Nigeria is simply too important to Africa and too important to the U.S. and the international community for us not to be concerned and engaged. Widespread instability in Nigeria could have a tsunami-like ripple effect across West Africa and the global community.

During my recent visit to Nigeria, I was encouraged by the steps Nigeria's elected officials at the national and state level to elevate Goodluck Jonathan to Acting President. Although political progress has been made, Nigeria still faces significant political challenges and uncertainty in the run-up to the next presidential and national assembly elections in 2011.

It is important that Nigeria improve its electoral system, reinvigorate its economy resolve the conflicts in the Niger Delta and end communal violence and impunity in Plateau State. It is also critically important that all of Nigeria's leaders act responsibly and reaffirm their commitment to good governance, stability and democracy by choosing constitutional rule.

Nigeria and other African countries need civilian governments that deliver services to their people, independent judiciaries that respect and enforce the rule of law, professional security forces that respect human rights, strong and effective legislative institutions, a free and responsible press, and a dynamic civil society. All of these things are needed for a stable and prosperous Africa. All of these things are needed to secure Africa's future.

The U.S. will continue to work with Africans, as partners, to build stronger democratic institutions and to advance democracy in Africa. It is a major priority.

SECOND Africa's future success and global importance are dependent on its continued economic progress. Working alongside African countries to promote and advance sustained economic development and growth is another Obama administration priority. Africa has made measurable inroads to increase prosperity. Countries like Mauritius, Ghana, Rwanda, Botswana, Tanzania, Uganda, and Cape Verde have made significant economic strides. Yet Africa remains the poorest and most vulnerable continent on the globe.

To help turn this situation around, we must work to revitalize Africa's agricultural sector, which employs more than 70 percent of Africans directly or indirectly.

The U.S. is committed to supporting a new Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative, focusing predominantly on reducing hunger, poverty and under-nutrition.

This $3.5 billion Food Security Initiative will also supply new methods and technologies to African farmers. The initiative was developed to help enhance Africa's ability to meet its food needs and reduce its reliance on imported food commodities. It will also enable African states to further develop their agricultural industries, and by doing so it can spur economic growth across the continent.

Now is the time for a Green Revolution in African agriculture.

Through innovative approaches and nontraditional technology, we can improve the lives of millions of people across the continent.

Malawi was elected to the African Union chairmanship in January. It has made great progress in the field of agriculture and has indicated that it plans to use its chairmanship of the AU to advance agriculture in Africa. Countries that can feed themselves are stronger, more stable, and better able to weather economic downturns.

The U.S. also wants to strengthen its trading relationship with Africa. We already have strong ties in energy, textiles, and transportation equipment. But we can and should do more. The Obama administration is committed to working with our African partners to maximize the opportunities created by our trade preference programs like AGOA. And we hope more African nations will take advantage of AGOA.

We also continue to explore ways to promote African private sector growth and investment, especially for small and medium-sized businesses.

In the midst of these efforts, we cannot forget the critical role African women play as producers and agricultural traders they must take part in this economic growth. We must ensure that African women are an equal part of Africa's economic future and success.

THIRD Historically the United States has focused on public health and health-related issues in Africa. We are committed to continuing that focus. We will work side-by-side with African governments and civil society to ensure that quality treatment, prevention, and care are easily accessible to communities throughout Africa.

From HIV/AIDS to malaria, Africans endure and suffer a multitude of health pandemics that weaken countries on many fronts. Sick men and women cannot work and contribute to the economy. They cannot serve in the armed forces or police and they cannot provide for the security of their counties.

To help solve the health crisis that is occurring throughout the entire continent, Africans as well as the international community must invest in public health systems, in training more medical professionals, and must ensure that there are good jobs and well-paying opportunities in their own countries for doctors and nurses once they are trained. We must also focus on maternal and infant health care, which are closely related to several Millennium Development Goals.

The Obama Administration will continue the PEPFAR Program and the Bush administration's fight against HIV/AIDS. In addition to combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, TB, and polio, the Obama Administration has pledged $63 billion to meet public health challenges throughout Africa.

FOURTH The U.S. is committed to working with African states and the international community to prevent, mitigate, and resolve conflicts and disputes. Conflict destabilizes states and borders, stifles economic growth and investment, and robs young Africans of the opportunity for an education and a better life. Conflict sets back nations for a generation. Throughout Africa, there has been a notable reduction in the number of conflicts over the past decade.

The brutal conflicts in Sierra Leone and Liberia have come to an end, and we have seen Liberia transform itself into a democracy through the election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa's first female head of state. These examples of what can be accomplished in a short period of time should make us proud and hopeful for solving the problems of seemingly intractable conflicts elsewhere.

However, areas of turmoil and political unrest such as Guinea, Somalia, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Niger and Madagascar create both internal and regional instability. Furthermore, we must not forget the extreme harm inflicted by gender- based violence and the recruitment of child soldiers. The Obama Administration is working to end these conflicts so that peace and economic progress can replace instability and uncertainty.

President Obama has demonstrated his commitment to work with African leaders to help resolve these conflicts through the appointment of the Special Presidential Envoy for Sudan, General Scott Gration, whose mandate is to ensure the full implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The Special Advisor for the Great Lakes former Congressman Howard Wolpe is also working to bring peace and stability to the Eastern Congo.

We will also continue our cooperation with regional leaders to look for ways to end Somalia's protracted political and humanitarian crisis. We continue to call for well- meaning actors in the region to support the Djibouti Peace process of inclusion and reconciliation, and to reject those extremists and their supporters that seek to exploit the suffering of the Somali people.

Additionally, the United States is proactive in working with African leaders, civil society organizations, and the international community to prevent new conflicts. We are cooperating with African leaders to defuse possible disagreements before they become sources of open hostility. As we pursue these avenues of promoting stability and peace in Somalia, we are also shouldering the lion's share of humanitarian assistance to the people of Somalia.

The United States consistently has been the largest single country donor of humanitarian assistance to Somalia, providing more than $150 million in humanitarian assistance in 2009.

FIFTH:

We will seek to deepen our cooperation with African states to address both old and new transnational challenges. The 21st century ushered in new transnational challenges for Africa and the world.

Africa's poverty puts it at a distinct disadvantage in dealing with major global and transnational problems like climate change, narco-trafficking, trafficking in persons and arms, and the illegal exploitation of Africa's minerals and maritime resources.

Meeting the climate and clean energy challenge is a top priority for the United States and the Obama Administration.

Climate change affects the entire globe; its potential impact on water supplies and food security can be disastrous. As President Obama said in Ghana, ―while Africa gives off less greenhouse gasses than any other part of the world, it will be the most threatened by climate change.‖ Often those who have contributed the least to the problem are the ones who are affected the most by it, and the United States is committed to working with Africans to find viable solutions to adapt to the severe consequences of climate change.

The effects of climate change are clear: the snow cap of Mount Kilimanjaro is melting and Lake Chad is a fraction of the size it was 35 years ago. With our international partners, the United States is working to build a sustainable, clean energy global economy which can drive investment and job creation around the world, including bringing energy services to the African continent.

There is no time like the present to face this issue as it carries tremendous consequences for future generations and our planet.

Narco-trafficking is a major challenge for Africa and the world. If we do not address it, African countries will be vulnerable to the destabilizing force of narcotics trafficking in the years ahead. As Africa faces the impact of these new transnational problems, the United States will actively work with leaders and governments across the continent to confront all issues that are global in nature.

I would now like to turn to our new programs and initiatives, which work to implement our policies to move our partnership with Africa forward. We are establishing in-depth, high level dialogues with South Africa, Angola, Nigeria, and with the African Union.

We are increasing our cooperation with other countries interested in Africa such as Canada, the UK, France, China, Japan, and multilateral bodies like the EU.

We also hope that increased funding for projects and programs in Africa, as requested in the 2011 budget, will be approved by Congress. With enhanced resources we can further strengthen our partnership with Africa.

Finally, one of my personal goals is to expand our diplomatic presence in Africa. I am working with the Administration and Congress to increase resources both funding and people at our embassies and consulates. I want more American diplomats living and working in Africa. An increased diplomatic presence is important for our mutual progress on all of these pressing issues. It is my sincere desire to open more consulates in Africa, which will enable us to reach your citizens beyond the capital cities.

We must be in Mombasa as well as Nairobi, we must be in Goma as well as Kinshasa, and we will be in Kano as well as Abuja.

We must also do a better job of using our diplomatic presence on the continent to listen to the people of Africa and learn from them how we can better work together on the challenges they face.

The Obama Administration believes in and is committed to Africa's future. I am excited about the level of interest you, the next generation of African and American leaders, have shown to take the future of Africa into your hands as President Obama called for in Ghana. I appreciate your commitment to this shared vision and your willingness to work together toward a future that brings better governance, expanded democracy, and greater prosperity to Africa's people. I hope that many of you in this room will choose careers in public service, either in the Peace Corps and the Foreign Service, like I did. I also anticipate that some of you will return to your countries and serve there as the next generation of leaders who can help make progress on some of the challenges facing Africa, which I have mentioned tonight. For those of you who enter the business world, recall what I have said about the vast economic opportunities that remain untapped in Africa. Africa's challenges demand the kind of energy and creativity that I know is present in this room.

Thank you very much for your time, thank you for this invitation, and now I turn it over to you for questions.

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Energy Needs in South Africa Collide With Obama Policy (New York Times)

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa The Obama administration, caught in an awkward bind between its own ambitions on climate change and Africa‘s pressing energy needs, is facing the first test of its new guidelines discouraging coal-fired power projects in developing nations.

This week, the World Bank will vote on a $3.75 billion loan to South Africa, most of it to help build the world‘s seventh-largest coal plant. The bank‘s own experts concede that the giant plant will ―produce large quantities of carbon dioxide that will contribute to global climate change.‖

But the bank‘s largest shareholder — the United States has enacted guidelines to push for ―no or low carbon‖ ways of meeting the energy needs of developing nations that rely on international financial institutions.

Construction of the plant is well under way, so it is too late for the steps advocated in the Obama administration‘s guidelines to ensure that coal is a last resort. Treasury Department officials have declined to say how the United States will vote when the loan is before the bank‘s board on Thursday, with one describing the decision as ―challenging.‖

South African officials contend that the plant is desperately needed to help the country‘s economy, the largest on the continent, and those of six neighboring nations generate growth and combat poverty. The loan is the first South Africa has sought from the World Bank since apartheid ended in 1994.

Officials here also note that the project includes $745 million for wind and solar power and efficiency measures, in addition to $3 billion for the coal plant. Without the loan, South Africa would have to turn to commercial markets to finance the rest of the coal plant‘s cost, a step that Public Enterprises Minister Barbara Hogan said would be ―punitively expensive‖ and would probably delay the plant‘s completion.

―We run the most sophisticated economy in Africa,‖ she said. ―We supply 60 percent of southern Africa‘s energy. If we‘re not able to come to the table, the consequences are huge. This is big. And renewable energy cannot provide us with that scale.‖

The fate of the loan matters to a group of developing countries that will continue to rely on coal in the coming years, even as researchers rush to devise cleaner, more commercially feasible alternatives, said Jairam Ramesh, India‘s environment minister. He said officials from India, China, Brazil and South Africa would meet this month in Cape Town to coordinate their positions on just such climate change issues.

―For the next five to seven years, we must not stop the use of present coal technologies, even as we work on developing new clean technologies,‖ Mr. Ramesh said. In 2008, during President George W. Bush‘s administration, the International Finance Corporation and the Asian Development Bank provided $850 million to help finance an Indian coal-fired plant in Gujarat State.

International public financial institutions, supported by the world‘s richest nations, have invested $37 billion to help finance 88 coal plants over the past 15 years, many in Asia, according to a 2009 report by the Environmental Defense Fund. The plants‘ annual carbon dioxide emissions equal three-quarters of those from coal-fired power in the European Union, the report said.

The South Africa loan has set off the latest skirmish in a long-running conflict between multilateral lending institutions and environmental groups. The Environmental Defense Fund, the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth, as well as a variety of South African civic groups, oppose the loan to Eskom, South Africa‘s government-controlled utility.

Environmentalists say that people in Africa, and especially its millions of poor farmers, have more to lose from warming temperatures and the droughts and extreme

weather they will bring than people in any other part of the world. And coal plants also pollute scarce water, they say.

Shadowing the debate here are memories of the weeks in 2008 when South Africa went dark for long stretches as Eskom ran out of juice. Businesses shut their doors. The mining industry virtually closed for days. Traffic clogged the roads as traffic lights blinked off.

A combination of bad management and faulty planning led to the crisis, experts say.

Eskom is now embarked on a $50 billion program to expand its capacity, paid for in part by a painful 25 percent to 26 percent annual electricity rate increase for each of the next three years.

Still, the new power plant, known as Medupi, has drawn sharp opposition here on political as well as environmental grounds. Through its investment arm, the African National Congress, the governing party, has a 25 percent stake in the consortium that won a lucrative contract for boilers at the plant. A report by the public prosecutor, released two weeks ago in Parliament, found a conflict of interest in the awarding of the contract because a member of the tender committee was also on the party‘s national executive panel, but the report turned up no evidence that this questionable situation had influenced the outcome.

Helen Zille, who leads the opposition Democratic Alliance, wrote last week that if the loan were approved, profits would flow to into the governing party‘s political operations. ―The A.N.C. will entrench its single-party dominance and, in doing so, gravely weaken our democracy,‖ Ms. Zille said.

World Bank officials reply that the bank‘s loan will not pay for the component of the deal in question. And they defend the project‘s environmental contributions, including the 100-megawatt solar project. They noted that South Africa had committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 34 percent by 2020.

Bank officials also say their commitment to environmentally sound energy policy has gotten short shrift. Of the $8.2 billion in energy projects it financed last year, the bank said 76 percent went for nonfossil fuels; 40 percent of it went toward renewable energy and efficiency improvements.

―The question is how Africa can get the understanding and support of its partners to

strike the right balance between two objectives economic growth and climate change so they can light up Africa rather than keeping it literally as the dark continent,‖ said Obiageli Ezekwesili, the bank‘s vice president for Africa.

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Diplomatic row threatens Western-backed alliance in the Sahel against al Qaeda (Ethiopian Review)

Several days later, the rebels released Spanish aid worker Alicia Gamez, but two of her colleagues and an Italian couple are still being held hostage. Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega has denied press reports that Spain paid a ransom for Gamez and said her release was a tribute to the work of Spain‘s diplomats and intelligence services.

In a statement, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) said the two remaining Spanish hostages would be released once its ―legitimate demands‖ had been met. The statement did not spell out the demands, but Spanish press reports said they involved a ransom of $5 million (€3.7 million) and the release of an unspecified number of jihadists held in Mauritanian prisons. Mauritanian Prime Minister Moulaye Ould Mohamed Laghdhaf has ruled out negotiations or a release of Islamists held by his country.

While most hostages taken by AQIM have been released since the group was formed in 2003, concern for the safety of the two Spaniards and the Italians, 65-year old Sergio Cicala, 65 and his 39-year old wife Philomene Kaboure, kidnapped in Mauretania on December 18, is fueled by the killing last year of a British hostage.

The rebels released a picture in late February showing Cicala with a beard kneeling in front of a group of armed and masked men. ―My liberty and my wife‘s depend on the concessions that the government is ready to make,‖ Cicala said in Italian in an audio message accompanying the picture.

Room to maneuver

Privately, Mauritanian officials say that while they will not give in to AQIM‘s demands through an exchange of prisoners, there may be room to maneuver. Mauritanian President Ould Abdelaziz initiated in January a dialogue with leaders of the 60 AQIM operatives imprisoned in the country‘s high security Lahsar prison. The dialogue is being conducted by eight Muslim religious leaders who are seeking repentance from the prisoners, which would allow the president to pardon them.

The AQIM inmates are represented by Kadim Ould Saman, a 31-year-old charged with attempting to kidnap the German consul in Nouakchott, attacking the Israeli Embassy and targeting tourists and Mauritanian soldiers, who wore a shirt to the first meeting that he had made himself and that bore AQIM‘s initials in Arabic. The talks have so far made little progress, but Mauritanian officials have not written them off. ―It‘s tough but I believe that ultimately these talks will succeed,‖ one official said.

In his first meeting with the imams, Saman described the shirt he was wearing as ―my only symbol and flag,‖ according to the officials. Several days after the meeting, Saman issued a statement saying he would only agree to further meetings if the imams were willing to address his agenda.

―We have three questions that they (the imams) refuse to answer. If the government does not impose (Islamic) Shari ‗a law, is it a Muslim government or not? Is jihad an obligation for Muslims? How can we live as Muslims if our government is not Islamic? This dialogue is a façade, a theater created by the government, religious leaders and the secret services,‖ the statement said.

In subsequent meetings, Saman rejected the imams‘ demand that he respect the Mauritanian flag, government and president, who hails from the same tribe as Saman does. ―My government is an Islamic government and my cousins are my Islamist brothers,‖ Saman is reported to have retorted.

Diplomatic rift

The release of Camatte and Gamez has sparked a diplomatic row with Algeria and Mauretania withdrawing their ambassadors from Mali. It has also highlighted fissures in the alliance the United States and Europe are trying to forge between North African and Sahel countries threatened by AQIM, and put the spotlight on Mali, a vibrant democracy with a market economy, whose vast desert in the north is emerging as a key AQIM operations base in the region. At the core of the diplomatic row is Mali‘s apparent willingness to engage with the jihadist militants.

Like in Yemen, al Qaeda‘s affiliate in Mali is gaining popularity among tribes by distributing antibiotics to sick children, buying goats for twice the going rate and ensuring that its operatives become part of the local tribal community through marriage to local women. And similar to past experiences in Algeria and Yemen, officials of the Mali government at times protect AQIM, and invariably play a key role in negotiating the release of foreigners kidnapped by the militants.

In a statement, the Algerian foreign ministry described the release of the four militants, including two Algerians whose extradition it had requested as an ―unfriendly‖ act, which constituted ―a dangerous development for security and stability‖ in the region.

Mauritania said the release was ―a flagrant contradiction of judicial cooperation accords and security coordination agreements.‖ Mali has denied the militants were released to free hostages, saying a court had ordered their release because they had served their prison terms.

The diplomatic row exploded just as the United States was preparing to deliver millions

of dollars worth of military hardware to the Malian military to bolster it in its fight

against AQIM. US ambassador to Mali Gillian Milovanovic said the delivery was

designed to ensure the military was capable of securing Mali‘s borders.

President Toure has pledged a ―total war‖ against the Islamists, but has not matched his words with deeds in recent months. Five Niger soldiers were killed earlier this month in an ambush by rebels on the border between Niger and Mali.

―Mali is very much at risk of losing its image of neutrality. Years of hard work and good governance could go up in smoke unless the current regime implements a true, cohesive counterterrorism policy,‖ Olivier Guitta, a security analyst with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told Deutsche Welle.

Numerous westerners kidnapped for ransom in Niger and Mauretania have been transported to Mali‘s inhospitable north populated in part by Arab tribes and held there until their release. The area is also home to Tuareg rebels demanding greater cultural and economic rights, who cooperate with AQIM in the kidnappings and helping the Revolutionary Army of Colombia (FARC) smuggle Latin American drugs via West Africa to Europe.

A unifed front?

The discrepancies over counterterrorism strategy in western and northern Africa are emerging as the region appears to be turning on the presence of foreign troops on its territory. France is closing its military bases in Senegal and withdrawing its 1,200 troops based in the capital Dakar.

At the same time, Chad has asked the United Nations Security Council not to extend the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force in the east of the country established to secure humanitarian aid to some 500,000 refugees from Darfur and the Central African Republic. And none of the counties in the Sahel have been willing to host the US military‘s Africa Command (AFRICOM).

In a bid to find common ground, seven Sahel countries, including Burkina Faso, Chad,

Libya, Mali, Mauritania and Niger met for the first time recently at the invitation of Algeria to hammer out agreement on joint strategy to counter AQIM, whose leadership

is believed to be based in southern Algeria.

The difficulty in achieving agreement was however highlighted by the conspicuous absence at the conference of Algerian arch rival Morocco, which expressed regret at having been excluded. US and European diplomats said the conference indicated that

Algeria, the country in the region with the most experience in fighting Islamist rebels, intends to play a key role in regional counterterrorism.

―The biggest challenge for regional counterterrorism strategies appears to be the lack of coordination between governments. Whatever strategy they adopt, it would be more effective if they adopted it together,‖ Alex Thurston, a PhD student in religion at Northwestern University and author of The Sahel Blog, told Deutsche Welle.

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US, Nigeria Establish Bi-National Commission (Voice of America)

The United States and Nigeria on Tuesday signed an agreement, setting up a bi-national commission aimed at helping the west African state promote good governance and fight corruption. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the U.S.-Nigeria relationship "absolutely critical."

The agreement signed by Secretary Clinton and Nigerian Secretary to the Government of the Federation Yayale Ahmed creates the first of three bi-national commissions that the Obama administration intends to establish with key African states. Others agreement soon to be concluded are with South Africa and Angola.

The U.S.-Nigeria commission will have working groups tasked with helping Nigeria deal with corruption and electoral abuses, domestic energy and agricultural problems,and instability in the critical Niger Delta region.

In comments at the signing ceremony, Clinton said that sustainable economic growth in Nigeria and elsewhere depends on having a responsible government that rejects corruption and enforces the rule of law.

In a reference to the political crisis in Nigeria over the extended illness-related absence of President Umaru Yar'Adua, Clinton paid tribute to the resiliency of the country's leadership. "I know firsthand that Nigerians are strong, determined, resilient, intelligent. But the past year has been a trying one for the Nigerian people. We encourage Nigeria's leaders to continue working together to address political uncertainties, strengthen democratic institutions, and ensure stability and accountability," he said.

Ahmed, a former Nigerian defense minister, said his country faces serious but not insurmountable problems, as seen in its handling of the current crisis in which Vice President Goodluck Jonathan was named acting president by the national assembly last month. "The fact that we have gone through the last few months as a very strong nation indicates that we are a very strong democracy. For it is my belief that no country in Africa could have gone through this and would come out stronger than we did," he said.

The Nigerian official welcomed the Obama administration's decision last week to scrap an airline security program under which Nigerians and nationals from 13 other countries, mainly with Muslim majorities, had been subject to mandatory screening.

The system, now replaced by intelligence-based screening criteria, had been put in place after a Nigerian man allegedly tried to set off an explosive device on a U.S. airliner headed to Detroit in late December.

Ahmed said the country-specific screening program was an affront to Nigeria. He said his country has no history of state-sponsored terrorism and aims to be an important partner with the United States in fighting global terror.

The establishment of the U.S.-Nigeria commission was welcomed by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, the USCIRF, a Congressionally- funded monitoring group.

But the religious freedom panel urged that the bi-national commission deal not only with problems in Nigeria's oil-rich Niger delta region, but also sectarian violence that has killed more than 12,000 people in Nigeria since 1998.

USCIRF's Director of Operations and Outreach David Dettoni says his organization cited Nigeria as a "country of particular concern" because of a culture of impunity in Muslim-Christian violence that has surged in recent months.

"The [USCIRF] commissioners looked at the cycle of impunity, particularly as it pertains to sectarian violence, and saw that nobody was ever held accountable for their role in perpetrating violence, murder, mayhem and destruction. There were arrests but then nobody was ever convicted," he said.

Dettoni says sectarian violence in Nigeria has the potential to spin out of control and that U.S. policy-makers need to put it high on their agenda.

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UN, Congolese Army Send Reinforcements to Fight Insurgents (Bloomberg)

The Democratic Republic of Congo‘s army and United Nations peacekeepers plan to send reinforcements to the town of Mbandaka, which was attacked by insurgents on April 4, the prime minister‘s office said.

Ethnic Enyele insurgents killed at least nine people including four Congolese soldiers, two police officers, and three members of the UN peacekeeping mission, and took temporary control of the airport in Mbandaka, capital of northern Equateur province, the government said. Nine rebels died in the fighting.

UN and army commandos will ―deploy to secure the town of Mbandaka to eventually stop the adventure of these insurgents whom officials consider ‗drugged-up‘,‖ according to a statement e-mailed today from the prime minister‘s office.

Mbandaka was the latest target of the insurgency that has killed hundreds and forced about 200,000 people to flee their homes since October, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

UN and Congolese soldiers yesterday pushed the insurgents back into the forest around the airport, and ―efforts to neutralize them continue,‖ the UN Mission in Congo said today in an e-mailed statement.

The conflict in Equateur originally began over longstanding disputes between the Enyele and ethnic-Monzaya communities over political representation and fishing rights. It escalated in late October, when Congolese police were ambushed while trying to arrest the Enyele leader, a mystic named Udjani, according to refugees from the area interviewed by Bloomberg on Dec. 18 in Impfondo, in neighboring Republic of Congo.

Bemba Supporters

Udjani‘s insurgents include former supporters of Jean- Pierre Bemba, the opposition candidate in Congo‘s 2006 presidential election, according to the refugees.

Bemba is being held by the International Criminal Court on charges of leading militias that murdered and raped civilians in Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003.

Since a UN-supported military operation by the Congolese army pushed back the Enyele in January, the government has urged people who fled the fighting to return to their villages.

―The displaced do not want to go home anytime soon,‖ according to a report released March 31 by U.S.-based Refugees International said.

An estimated 169,000 people are still displaced in Equateur or have fled across the Ubangi river to neighboring Republic of Congo or Central African Republic, OCHA spokesman Sylvestre Ntumba Mudingayi said today in an e-mail.

UN Pullout

The UN mission in Congo plans in June to begin a drawdown of 2,000 troops from its western and central provinces, which would include Equateur, according to a report released yesterday by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Congo has asked the UN to withdraw its 22,000 peacekeepers from the country by the end of next year. Most of the troops are stationed in the east, engaged in combat against rebel groups from neighboring Uganda and Rwanda.

―As long as insecurity persists throughout the DRC, and the Congolese government and military are incapable of resolving crises such as Equateur independent of international support, the drawdown of the UN mission remains premature,‖ the Refugees International report said.

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New Nigeria Cabinet Sworn In (Associated Press)

ABUJA, NigeriaNigeria's acting president sacked the head of the nation's oil company Tuesday, the same day he swore in a cabinet that put a former oil company employee in charge of the country's petroleum ministry and an investment banker at the helm of its finances.

The moves by acting President Goodluck Jonathan seemed to cement his power in Africa's most populous nation, despite ailing President Umaru Yar'Adua's recent return to the country.

Mr. Jonathan also said he directly would manage the nation's failing power ministry, a move that could turn around years of struggles to produce power for Nigeria's 150 million people.

After swearing in the cabinet, a spokesman for Mr. Jonathan issued a statement saying the acting president had removed Mohammed Sanusi Barkindo, who led the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. The statement said Shehu Ladan would replace Mr. Barkindo and gave no reason for his firing.

The national petroleum company shares money earned from oil exploration by major corporations that operate in Nigeria, including Chevron Corp., ExxonMobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell PLC. That money funds the majority of Nigeria's national governmentand remains a target for graft. The company also handles gasoline distribution throughout the country, a network that often fails and causes hours-long gas lines in a nation that's the No. 3 supplier of crude oil to the U.S.

Mr. Jonathan's spokesman also said the acting president will unveil a new strategy for providing electricity. The national grid constantly fails, leaving customers without power for hours at a time.

Mr. Jonathan told the 38 new cabinet members that they would sign public agreements on what he expected from their ministries. The ministers will be responsible for

informing the nation on how they reach those goals, a rare show of accountability in a nation long considered one of the most corrupt in the world.

"I will hate to disappoint you but I will hate even more to disappoint the nation," Mr.

Jonathan said. He also told the new ministers he expected efficiency and results.

"No minister will be allowed to go on a mission of endless search for solutions," Mr. Jonathan said. "You must hit the ground running. Time is of fundamental essence and no distraction in our mission will be tolerated."

The new cabinet also demonstrates that Mr. Jonathan, a former state governor, wants to make his mark. Among the members is Diezani Allison-Madueke, who will serve as head of the petroleum ministry.

Ms. Allison-Madueke previously worked for the Shell Petroleum Development Company, which Shell runs as a subsidiary with the Nigerian government. Shell first struck oil in Nigeria 50 years ago and remains the main force for exploration in the country, though attacks by militants upset by environmental damage and poor living

conditions in the country's Niger Delta have cut into the oil major's production since

2006.

Olusegun Olutoyin Aganga, a senior executive with Goldman Sachs Group Inc., will take over as Nigeria's finance minister.

Mr. Jonathan also restored Dora Akunyili as information minister. She circulated a memo to the cabinet in February calling on it to grant then-Vice President Jonathan powers to act on behalf of Mr. Yar'Adua.

Mr. Yar'Adua, 58 years old, hasn't been seen publicly since leaving in November for medical treatment in Saudi Arabia. Long troubled by poor health and kidney ailments, Mr. Yar'Adua was hospitalized over what his doctor described as an inflammation of the sac surrounding the heart.

The ill president left the country without formally placing Mr. Jonathan, then the vice president, in charge, sparking a constitutional crisis that lasted several months. The National Assembly empowered Mr. Jonathan to become acting president Feb. 9.

A military convoy and an ambulance apparently swept Mr. Yar'Adua back into the

presidential palace Feb. 24, though he hasn't been seen publicly since his return and his

Christian vice president remains in control of the nation.

Though he dissolved the cabinet Mr. Yar'Adua created, Mr. Jonathan kept some of the same members in his reconstituted cabinet. He also put a nephew of Mr. Yar'Adua as the No. 2 minister at the country's defense ministry.

Mr. Jonathan has a short time to address the nation's growing insecurity, religious problems and corrupt elections. The next presidential election will come in January or April 2011 and the ruling People's Democratic Party has said it won't back Mr. Jonathan as a presidential candidate.

Mr. Yar'Adua also could send a letter to the National Assembly assuming presidential powersthough Christian leaders who met with him Monday said he remains physically weak, leading some to believe he may not be able to handle governing the nation.

Many have applauded Mr. Jonathan's moves after the lull created by Yar'Adua's absence. However, such direct oversight has led to problems in the past. Former

President Olusegun Obasanjo took direct control of the oil ministry during his eight years in power. However, government projects that received oil money never materialized.

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UN News Service Africa Briefs Full Articles on UN Website

DR Congo: UN deplores resort to arms after deadly attack on provincial capital

6 April The top United Nations official in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

(DRC) has voiced deep concern at a deadly attack in a region cited by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as showing the potential for local conflicts to rapidly escalate in the vast strife-torn country.

UN peacekeepers in DR Congo rescue 29 people in Lake Kivu ferry mishap

6 April United Nations blue helmets in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have rescued dozens of people stranded on Lake Kivu after a ferry boat they had boarded to travel south to the city of Bukavu ran aground on rocks.