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Thread: The Gulf of Guinea and West Africa: a new focal point?

  1. #1
    Council Member Beelzebubalicious's Avatar
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    Default Stability of west africa

    Moderator at work

    This thread should be read alongside the thread on Mali and drugs in West Africa:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=9254

    With the reported growth in piracy off West Africa a new thread was started 21st October 2013, 'West African piracy: an old problem escalates' and eight maritime / piracy posts have been copied from this thread to there (ends).

    Have been working a bit in west Africa recently and am worried about prospects of backsliding in the region. Elections coming up in Liberia in '10 and population tired of talk and no action. Guinea is unstable and could get worse. Senegal isn't in great shape. Nigeria continues to struggle and current president has health problems. I'm a novice here and probably mistating things, but am interested in hearing from older hands on prospects in west Africa in 2010.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 10-21-2013 at 09:22 AM. Reason: Add Mod's note

  2. #2
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default The Sahara's new cargo: drugs and radicalism

    A good IMHO article by a known African specialist, Stephen Ellis:
    A fusion of illicit money-making and radical politics is turning the big empty spaces of the western half of the Sahara into a profound security challenge.
    Ends with:
    The Europeans need to focus much more attention on what really happens in the Sahara.
    Simply cannot see that happening.

    Link:http://www.opendemocracy.net/stephen...and-radicalism

    There is another thread on Mali, a little known country in the Sahara: http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...ead.php?t=9254
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 04-15-2010 at 08:24 PM.
    davidbfpo

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    Default Minor snippet on Liberia

    In regard to Liberia, some indications I picked up during my research there in mid 2009 indicated that the former Americo-Liberian families are reasserting some level of power. No one in the current political equation in Liberia can break themselves free from some level of predisposition toward 'normal' being the peaceful, but oligarchic, times of the 1970s under Tolbert and Tubman.

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    Council Member M-A Lagrange's Avatar
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    MAkes a long time I have been in West Africa but regard to Liberia, historically it should be US responsability to stabilize the place and avoid that the conditions of 1980 coup and 1989 civil war come back.

    Unfortunately, I must agree with Mr Ellis. West Africa use to be in the interrest of european. For pity political choice, often not really very smart, it has gone out of the interrest of former colonial powers (cf French for instance) and it's a shame.

    On the particular issue of stability, I would recommand the last publication from M-A Perousedemontclos. I knowhim a little and he is someone with a brilliant regard on Africa.

    Sub-Saharan African hopes of democratization raised by the end of the cold war and the decline in the number of single party states are giving way to disillusionment. Today, even countries such as Senegal and South Africa, reputed for their democratic nature, are threatening to veer towards authoritarianism. But recent events in Mauritania, Niger and Guinea-Conakry should not lead to an error of interpretation. These countries are not representative cross-section. At the continental level, the heavy trend notices a decrease in the number of successful or attempted coup d'état, even in such countries as the Comoros or Nigeria, where they were a "tradition" and figures have reached world record levels. As we will see in the first part of this paper, the continent’s political track record is not completely negative; most Africans are now ruled by regimes that are neither military juntas nor parliamentary democracies. Most of the African states maneuver in a dreary zone between peace and war, where populations face daily insecurity. Some American researchers name these more or less failed states as “anocracies”, characterized by:

    Non-existent or virtual central authority (Somalia, Central African Republic),
    Governments still threaten that civil war could resume (Sierra Leone, Liberia, Burundi and even Angola),
    High levels of violence and corruption which impoverish public services, fuel a feeling of frustration and increase social inequalities when they do not allow a better share from the revenues of the natural resources (Nigeria, both Congo),
    Contested and badly legitimized powers (Zimbabwe), sometimes with non-resolved internal tensions (Cameroon, Ethiopia),
    Recurring regional tensions and parliamentary systems that do not work properly due to massive electoral fraud and candidates picked by processes of co-option (Nigeria, Ethiopia, Rwanda)
    Nigeria is a classic example of such a society and the subject of the second part of this paper. The most populated country in Africa, Nigeria lives off its petrol; there is fierce competition with no holds are barred over the spoils. The country’s elections are a sort of masquerade, ineffectually hiding the systems of government and “godfatherism” that in reality are based on new politicians being co-opted into the ruling elite. Nigerians aren’t stupid however, and no longer believe in the benefits of democracy, ironically referred to as “democrazy”.

    The failure of political reforms in Africa is also an indictment of the international community’s limited ability to influence events in the region, particularly for its help with “good governance”. Political models exported by the West have revealed themselves to not always be up to the task of democratizing Africa. The third part of this paper will closely analyze the international community’s preconceptions in this area: an excessive focus on the moment of elections to the detriment of day-to-day political behavior; illusions about correlations between development, democratization, conflict prevention and political stability; misleading beliefs in the merits of NGOs and “civil” society, etc. Under the pretext of improving the governance of countries in difficulty, western donors have in fact tried to bypass corrupt administrations, risking “emptying” of public authorities of their substance. Nowadays, development policies are changing and we are bearing witness to the return to favor of the African state. For better or for worse: all too often international aid ends up propping up presidential power cliques and poorly legitimized regimes.

    Marc-Antoine Pérouse de Montclos is a Senior Researcher at IRD (Development Research Institute, France) and Doctor in Political Sciences from Political Studies School of Paris (IEP Paris) His area of expertise concerns armed conflicts in Sub-Saharan Africa. He lived many years in Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya and continues field researches in Africa. He wrote many books and articles, notably on Nigeria, South Africa, Somalia and Humanitarian aid.
    http://www.ifri.org/index.php?page=c...nce=96&lang=uk

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    Default looking back at Operation Palliser

    The BBC has a very interesting interview with General Sir David Julian Richards on Operation Palliser, Britain's intervention in Sierra Leone in May 2000:

    The brigadier who saved Sierra Leone

    BBC, 15 May 2010 12:01 UK

    In 2002, Sierra Leone emerged from a decade-long civil war and as Allan Little discovers, much of it was thanks to a little-known British brigadier.

    The Paras had been sent to Freetown to simply evacuate foreigners
    It was an astonishing thing to witness: the fortunes of a whole country transformed in the space of a few days by a single, decisive intervention.
    Eight hundred British paratroopers landed at Freetown airport just as the city was about to slip into the terrifying chaos of a rebel invasion and suddenly, unexpectedly, the shape of Sierra Leone's decade-long civil war was altered.
    Or so it seemed to me at the time.

    It was, in fact, a little more haphazard than that. And, I've subsequently learned, the British reporters on the ground in West Africa - myself included - seem, unwittingly, to have played a small part in it all.
    In the report, Richards notes that he systematically expanded the mission from evacuation of foreign nationals to full-fledged intervention, without initially informing his superiors of the shift:

    At that meeting, held within hours of the British landing in Sierra Leone, Richards promised the president that Britain would supply arms and ammunition to the government forces.

    British helicopters would be made available to move men and material around the battlefield.

    And he, General Richards, would, with a small team of British staff officers, take personal command of the war and seek to end it by defeating the rebel forces. In other words, Richards was committing Britain to taking sides in Sierra Leone's civil war.

    However, there was one important difficulty. The general's political bosses in London had sent him to carry out a quick evacuation and then leave.

    "So," I asked him 10 years on, "you were promising the president all this before you had the political authority from London to do so?"

    "Er, yes," he said, "I'm afraid I was, yes."

    War plans

    For several days, the political leaders in London stuck with the evacuation narrative, while their man on the ground got on with fighting a war.

    "Fortunately," he told me, "the military activities and equipment we needed for an evacuation were remarkably similar to what I needed to push back the rebel forces. So in terms of constructing a tale for London, that was useful."

    "So wait a minute," I said, "London was kitting you up for a quick evacuation operation, and you decided to use that kit to intervene in the war?"

    "Yes," he said.
    They mostly come at night. Mostly.


  6. #6
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default The Gulf of Guinea: a new focal point?

    SWC have touched upon the potential for trouble in West Africa, Guinea and the waters offshore - the Gulf Of Guinea, where there is more piracy than off Somalia and oil shipments go AWOL.

    Taken from a commercial offering:
    Summary

    The Gulf of Guinea is staring at a precipice of regional maritime insecurity. The continuing economic, social and political impact is pronounced and will continue unless there is focused investment in both manpower and resources by more capable outside nations or organisations. The loss of $2 billion US to the local annual economy - from offshore oil, fishing, and commercial shipping - is too large a price to pay for a region which is spasmodically emerging from decades of civil war and anarchy.

    The region produces 5.4 million barrels of oil per day, and it contains 50.4 billion barrels of proven reserves. Nigeria now supplies 10% of US imported oil and is the world’s eighth largest oil exporter. Events in Afghanistan and Somalia illustrate the dangers that come from the nexus between organised crime, terrorism and failed/failing states. While many look to Africa for an African solution to retake control of their seas, they can’t achieve this without timely Western assistance.

    Our collective inactivity is the product of a paucity of constabulary platforms and hamstrung political will which fractures any hope of a comprehensive approach to the problem. So perhaps if we were to learn a lesson or two from Somalia and Afghanistan rather than just identify them, shouldn’t our militaries provide a gentle hand on the tiller and guide the people of the Gulf of Guinea towards a more secure and stable future?
    Link:http://www.defenceiq.com/naval-and-m...f-of-guinea-u/

    From my armchair this is an issue far beyond the waters and yet again an implied Western naval deployment. Nor setting up local coastguard etc.

    Not to overlook the impact of cocaine trafficking.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 09-04-2014 at 12:03 PM. Reason: fix link
    davidbfpo

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    Default The Gulf of Guinea: A New Focal Point?

    "So perhaps if we were to learn a lesson or two from Somalia and Afghanistan rather than just identify them...."

    Impact of cocaine trafficking might be degraded if we learned a lesson from LATAM:

    http://ndupress.ndu.edu/cocaine-instability-africa.html

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    Council Member bourbon's Avatar
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    Default

    ...shouldn’t our militaries provide a gentle hand on the tiller and guide the people of the Gulf of Guinea towards a more secure and stable future?
    The expression “secure and stable” is open to interpretation, and when spouted in the US it often lends itself to exporting democracy. As someone more inclined to the realist persuasion, for me “secure and stable” will translate into strongman type leaders. They are conflicting approaches and both have their flaws, but this clash is inevitable with an open-ended expression like “secure and stable”.

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default It's NOT Latin America and It's Certainly NOT Kansas

    Credible politicians and elections are also vital to public integrity. Accordingly, West African states should devise systems to properly restrict, audit, and, when appropriate, sanction political parties, politicians, and donors who engage in influence peddling. A critical component of implementing such a system is developing the capacity, both within government and among watchdog groups, for forensic accounting so authorities can trace the intricate money trail involved. An immediate and simple reform African states can take is to expand requirements for disclosure of political parties' and candidates' financial information such as balance sheets and cash flow statements, measures that have gained widespread support among Latin America's citizen groups and business community. This disclosure information should be updated regularly and made easily accessible so as to help expose suspicious accumulation of wealth to voters.
    This author needs desperately to understand the phrase "WAWA*" in all its glory. Such a disclosure would --if it could be enforced--only make others jealous. House alarms in the Congo were the equivalent of a "blue-light" special to the locals.

    You cannot safely use a credit card at the top hotel in Abuja, the capitol city of Nigeria. Good luck with financial disclosure. In any case, drug smuggling in West Africa is NOT a new development and is not limited to the western portion of the continent.

    Tom

    *West Africa Wins Again

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    Council Member AdamG's Avatar
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    Simon Mann's incarceration in a brutal prison for attempting to overthrow one of the most notorious dictators in Africa was turned into an international cause celebre in a long and vocal campaign by family friends.

    The former SAS officer is now free and has just taken up his first proper “day job” since his release: working for that very same ruler he was determined to depose, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea.

    At the time of the bungled coup, Mr Mann is said to have declared to his friends that he was helping to deliver the people of the benighted nation from the depredations of their appalling leader, who had been accused, among other things, of being a cannibal.

    Read more: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/ne...#ixzz13Q95f9r3

    Applicable -

    The thing that impressed Winston in looking back was that the speaker had switched from one line to the other actually in midsentence, not only without a pause, but without even breaking the syntax.
    G.Orwell, 1984
    A scrimmage in a Border Station
    A canter down some dark defile
    Two thousand pounds of education
    Drops to a ten-rupee jezail


    http://i.imgur.com/IPT1uLH.jpg

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea

    Picked up the other day, an IISS Strategic Comment mainly on piracy off Somalia, but has passages on the situation off the West African coast:
    Meanwhile, piracy off the West African coast is emerging as a separate threat. Here the modus operandi is quite different. Eight tankers were hijacked – and another 30 attacks thwarted – in the eight months to September 2011.
    Link:http://www.iiss.org/publications/str...den-their-net/
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member tequila's Avatar
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    Violence against shippers new norm off West Africa

    LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) – The waters off West Africa's coast are now a constant danger for those shipping goods and crude oil in the region, analysts said Tuesday, a day after pirates killed two sailors near Nigeria's coast.

    While shootings and stabbings have happened before in the region, Monday's assault was one of the deadliest attacks in waters now considered to be as dangerous as those near Somalia. And such attacks are likely to continue ...

    In August, London-based Lloyd's Market Association — an umbrella group of insurers — listed Nigeria, neighboring Benin and nearby waters in the same risk category as Somalia, where two decades of war and anarchy have allowed piracy to flourish.

    Pirates in West Africa have been more willing to use violence in their robberies, as they target the cargo, not the crew for kidnapping like off Somalia. Analysts say many of the pirates come from Nigeria, where corrupt law enforcement allows criminality to thrive ...

  13. #13
    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Default International Maritime Bureau

    Anything piracy and more

    13.02.2012: 0250 UTC: Posn: 04:43N - 003:44E, Around 110nm south of Lagos, Nigeria.
    Armed pirates chased and fired upon a drifting bulk carrier. Vessel raised alarm and headed towards Lagos. All crew except the bridge team took shelter in the citadel. Due to the continuous firing the Captain and the C/E were shot. The IMB Piracy Reporting Center immediately informed the Nigerian authorities who sent out a rescue team. Due to rough seas the Nigerian naval team could not reach the location. A French Warship in the area which received the warning broadcast went to the aid of the distress vessel and despatched a helicopter. A boarding team boarded the vessel and escorted the vessel to Lagos port. The vessel is presently at Inner anchorage Lagos port. The authorities boarded the vessel and a medical team gave medical assistance to the crew. Later all crew members and the two bodies were taken ashore.
    Seems there's more to Nigeria than just pirates.
    If you want to blend in, take the bus

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Pirates, Geography and navigation

    From NATO CIMIC's offering:
    Lloyd’s List reports that on 23 March, the Liberia-flagged chemical and oil tanker Zouzou was hijacked in the Gulf of Guinea by approximately 12 armed pirates. The pirates used a mothership and skiffs for the attack, which is a new tactic that is usually used by Somali pirates. The attackers have since left the vessel, after stealing some items from the ship, leaving the tanker’s crew unharmed.

    This Day, a Nigerian news source, reports that, within the past two
    months, 22 armed attacks were carried out on ships in the Bight of Benin.
    Last year the region reported 58 pirate attacks...

    According to IMBs Piracy reporting Centre (PRC) a chemical tanker was attacked by armed pirates on 22 March about 100 nm off Bonny Island, Nigeria. The master triggered the Ship Security Alert System (SSAS) and the crew retreated to the citadel. A nearby US warship responded to the alert. The pirates aborted the attack and the tanker’s crew is safe.
    Link:https://www.cimicweb.org/Pages/v6/welcome.html and look for the Mediterranean Basin Review (OK stretching geography a wee bit to the Gulf of Guinea).

    Slightly puzzled that a US warship was in the vicinity, just like a French warship in Stan's post. The wonders of navigation in such waters.
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Save West Africa from the Drugs Barons

    This article by Kofi Annan appeared in the Uk-based 'Observer' newspaper in January 2012, but a SWC reader suggested I have a look:http://kofiannanfoundation.org/newsr...rugswestafrica

    The only new item spotted was this, my emphasis:
    According to a recent report from the UN's Office on Drugs and Crime, in 2009 around a third of the South American cocaine destined for Europe and shipped via West Africa was consumed locally.
    A UN estimate true, one wonders if there is anything locally known and verified that would support this? KingJaJa we need you!
    davidbfpo

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    There is a lot of money and a lot of cocaine use in Lagos where I live. Many combatants in Africa's nasty little wars and militants are high on drugs. Indian hemp is the drug of choice because it grows locally, but cocaine is also used.

    A few things about Lagos - there is a Porsche dealership here and every kind of luxury car on earth can be seen on its streets. The economy of Lagos alone is similar in size to the economy of Kenya! Nigeria's economy is on track to exceed the South African economy either this year or next year.

    So while there are lot of poor people in Nigeria, there are a respectable number of people who can support a cocaine habit. Finally, I doubt street prices in West Africa are anywhere near the price in Europe.

    From the Lagos State ministry of health website

    4. Various types of drug use are prevalent among the population. The use of illicit drugs cuts across all social strata but is more common amongst motor park workers, drivers, artisans, prostitutes, etc. Use of heroin and cocaine is more prevalent in Lagos and other metropolitan cities and common among street beggars. The use of Amphetamine-type substances is also increasing, especially in big cities such as Lagos.
    http://www.lagosstateministryofhealt...rogramme_id=32

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default French tanker believed held by pirates off Ivory Coast

    Just an update:
    A French-owned Luxembourg-flagged tanker with 17 crew members that went missing off Ivory Coast at the weekend is believed to have been hijacked by Nigerian pirates, the International Maritime Bureau said on Monday.
    Note the hub is Nigeria and the commodity sought oil products.

    Link:http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/...9130A020130204
    davidbfpo

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    Default Guinea-Bissau ex-navy chief in 'drugs arrest'

    Another example of the USA's long reach, as the BBC reports:
    The former chief of the navy in Guinea-Bissau has been arrested and is being transferred to the US, local media have reported. Rear Admiral Jose Americo Bubo Na Tchuto was picked up on a boat in international waters near Cape Verde, a local broadcaster said.
    Link:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-22030847

    According to the IISS Military Balance Guinea-Bissau has a navy with two patrol boats and politely notes an EU SSR mission left in August 2010, an Angolan mission in 2012 and an ECOWAS mission then deployed. Well that's everything solved WAWA.

    IIRC a Cape Verde VIP was in Washington DC last week, part of an African delegation visiting the Pentagon.
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Bissau president implicated in U.S. drugs case

    It gets better! First a rear admiral, now the president is looking at being indicted in the USA.

    Link:http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/...9370YD20130408
    davidbfpo

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    David,

    I don't care what foreign policy pundits say, but nabbing a serving African president to face a drugs trial in the US (like Noriega) is not a good mood.

    There are several leaders in West Africa, most are SOBs - and they know it. The US cannot simply invade all of them and bring them to justice, they will oppose this and the US also needs their cooperation.

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