Thursday, November 27, 2014

Africa Conference on Land Grab 2014



The Africa Conference on Land Grab 2014 was held from  27 – 30 October 2014, in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The report from the conference is available here:
http://www.africalandgrabs.co.za/Ebooks/Conference_Report/#p=2

The conference issued a declaration, the Midrand Declaration, which is available here:
http://www.africalandgrabs.co.za/Ebooks/Conference_Declaration/

Participants resolved to form an Africa Coalition Against Land Grabs (ACALG).



However It's Framed The Losers Are The Workers


One of Africa’s largest palm oil investors has announced plans to improve social infrastructure for its workers, a week after a Thomson Reuters Foundation investigation found that poorly paid plantation employees in the Democratic Republic of Congo were living in dilapidated homes with poor social services.

Feronia, a Canadian-listed company registered in the Cayman Islands, operates three major plantations in the DRC employing more than 3,500 workers on a 107,000 hectare concession.
The firm initiated a new partnership with MASS Design Group on Thursday to "assess and redesign the social infrastructure underpinning Feronia's operations” following the Thomson Reuters Foundations’ revelations.
Feronia spokesperson Paul Dulieu said he couldn’t say exactly how much the company plans to spend on the new infrastructure.
“The purpose of this (new assessment) is to create a definitive plan and establish what that figure is,” Dulieu said in an email.

Workers at the plantations in the conflict-afflicted country complained of housing in severe disrepair, wages just over a dollar a day for intense field labour and a lack of proper medical care in the rural region.
It remains unclear how, when or if the new initiative will ameliorate those concerns.
“Feronia has been operating outside of public attention for far too long,” Devlin Kuyek,  a researcher with GRAIN, a land rights group that has been following the situation of plantation workers, said in an email. “Since the Thomson Reuters (Foundation) article, it seems they are now scrambling to deal with years of neglect of the local communities and workers that is now in public view.”

Feronia is partially owned by European taxpayers through the CDC in the UK, which receives government development aid funds, and Phatisa, a private equity firm partially financed by the French and Spanish development agencies.
Feronia is still losing money, so it remains unclear who will pay for the new facilities.
Dulieu said he is optimistic Feronia can “facilitate third-party funding” for the new infrastructure. It plans to use local contractors to make the improvements, once an assessment has been finished, in order to stimulate “local enterprise”, he said. 



Who Cares About C.A.R.

The bitter internal crisis which has rocked the Central African Republic (CAR) since December 2012 has moved from the pages of the newspapers but is the displacement of thousands of ordinary citizens is continuing. Those who fled have been forced to abandon their houses and home areas, often moving into rapidly-established camps, living in dismal conditions. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warns of household food and income sources remaining significantly disrupted in CAR, “leaving affected households, particularly IDPs, with food consumption gaps equivalent to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or higher”. FAO notes that ongoing harvests offer some relief, but “approximately 1 million people may require assistance by the 2015 lean season (May to September).” Very high levels of acute malnutrition and mortality persist at CAR refugee camps in Cameroon. Refugees and IDPs both need urgent assistance to help households meet minimal food requirements and treat acute malnutrition. The conflict is not over. October and November were marked by new waves of violence in the capital, Bangui. Witnesses said political battles were still being fought out on the streets, with the anti-Balaka militia particularly prominent. French military sources warned of growing delinquency, armed gangs taking part in looting sprees and robbing civilians at gunpoint.

There are still 31 refugee camps in the capital. The biggest is still at M’Poko, near the airport. The airport became a critical refuge for thousands of Bangui city-dwellers, mostly from the 3rd, 5th and 6th districts of the city, fleeing renewed outbreaks of violence in which fighters from both the former Séléka coalition and the anti-Balaka militias were implicated. At the peak of the crisis, the airport camp played host to 60,000-70,000 people. According to Dana Mcleod, director of communications for US-based NGO Refugees International, "aid agencies deliberately scaled back their services in order to discourage people from settling here." Numbers at M’poko are now down to around 20,000, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). But despite the collective efforts of NGOs, residents still describe conditions as “catastrophic”.

"I have been here since December 2013", Ndouga told IRIN. "I was attacked by a group of armed men. My house was looted and burned, so I fled here. If I go back home I would not know where to sleep." Ndouga spoke with bitterness about his daily life. "We have been abandoned here. We have been given water and latrines, but to have anything to live on you have to go back to your home area and find a bit of work and ask friends and family to get you something to eat."

"There is no security on this site, no doors for the tents," explained Ruthe, a widow and mother of seven. "Thieves come at night to rob us. The airport landing strip is a 'red zone' where you come across criminals ready to rob people who go there." "We are seriously suffering here," Ruthe told IRIN. "We have had no food aid for the past eight months."

Martin Boua, a teacher, expressed concern about the role of anti-Balaka militias, originally presented as popular self-defence units, but later accused of serious human rights violations.

"When there is some kind of justice to be administered it is often the anti-Balaka who fill the gap," Boua noted. "But some of them engage in extortion, taking money and property, engaging in group rape and armed robbery."

As visitors approach M’Poko, they see what looks like a village, dotted with thousands of tents and other forms of shelter. The site is divided into 11 zones, like city districts, which then divide into 80 sections. Each zone is run by a president backed by a five-strong committee, handling special issues for women and youth, working on conflict resolution and trying to improve water and sanitation conditions. International NGOs, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, Save the Children and Mercy Corps, run individual programmes. IRIN recently witnessed Mercy Corps leading an awareness-raising campaign on hygiene, activists going door to door from Monday to Friday, then holding a mass meeting on the Saturday where messages were relayed on basic health precautions, like using good water, washing with soap, maintaining toilets properly and sleeping under mosquito nets. The NGO Première Urgence takes care of administration and coordination. While the NGOs get a lot of thanks for their efforts, some residents have strong reservations about their role. For Martin Boua, "some NGOs are doing great work, but others lead activities which have no impact, are late and ephemeral." Boua suggested some NGOs disappeared from view, only coming back into the picture when donors came visiting. "It is a whitewash," Boua complained.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Corporate transparency??

A Belgian mining firm has "consistently lied" about the bulldozing of hundreds of homes in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Amnesty International says. New evidence showed a Groupe Forrest International (GFI) subsidiary supplied bulldozers to destroy homes near a copper and cobalt mine, it said. GFI, which has denied responsibility for the illegal demolitions in 2009, should pay compensation, Amnesty said. "There is now overwhelming and irrefutable evidence showing that the forced evictions that Groupe Forrest International has denied for years in fact took place," said Amnesty International's Audrey Gaughran in a statement.


A government prosecutor investigated the demolitions and tried to bring criminal charges against those responsible, but was instructed by government officials not to do so, Amnesty said in its report. "This is a cover-up by the Congolese authorities. The state has failed its own people by not bringing anyone to justice for these forced evictions and by not ensuring that compensation was paid," it added.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

When subsidising the wealthy is charity

Millions of pounds of British aid money to tackle poverty overseas has been invested in builders of gated communities, shopping centres and luxury property in poor countries, the Guardian can reveal. Wholly owned by the Department for International Development (DfID), CDC invests in private companies with the stated aim of reducing poverty in developing countries. Its investments count as aid and DfID is its sole shareholder. CDC has investments in construction and property across sub-Saharan Africa from Ghana to Zambia as well as in India. Many projects appear to cater to the elite.

In Kenya, $25m has been put into a 13-hectare (32-acre) mega-development in Nairobi called Garden City with hundreds of upmarket flats, a business hotel and what will be east Africa's largest shopping centre.  A glossy brochure for Garden City in Nairobi, which includes 400-plus flats and townhouses, boasts: "From the aquamarine water of the heated swimming pool to the ultra-modern fitted kitchen, solid bamboo flooring and glass balcony balustrades, quality is the defining characteristic of the Garden City Village."

In Mauritius, more than $24m has gone to a developer whose portfolio includes a 170-hectare "aspirational ocean lifestyle village", with luxury beachfront homes from $500,000 and an elite boarding school managed by the Berkshire-based Wellington College. A brochure for Azuri, a development for the CDC-backed Indian Ocean Real Estate Company, invites would-be residents to "Close your eyes and imagine yourself breathing in the warm Indian ocean breeze, absorbing all that the Mauritian lifestyle has to offer." Azuri offers "exquisite, high-quality living" with an expansive oceanfront resort, five-star hotel, yacht club and spa – "the ideal living environment to promote both bodily and spiritual happiness".

In addition to upscale residential developments, CDC has millions invested in shopping centres across sub-Saharan Africa, including the huge Jabi Lake mall in Abuja, Nigeria,which aims to "meet the desires of sophisticated Nigerians wanting a compelling retail experience with leisure facilities and high-quality brands". In Nigeria investments also include two Protea hotels – part of a chain recently bought by Marriott International – including one in Lagos at which rooms booked online start at $400 a night.

Nick Dearden, director of the World Development Movement, accused the government of exporting a "highly financialised, highly unequal, highly ideological form of 'development' which helps big business, not ordinary people. If you live in a slum in Nairobi, seeing development money pouring into a luxury block of flats is an insult."

In Kenya, Dereje Alemayehu, Christian Aid's east Africa country manager, said hotels and shopping centres could not be considered neglected economic sectors. "There are already more than enough such facilities for tourists, expats and the relatively large national middle class."

Does anyone seriously believe this Government is interested helping the poor in Africa for example when it is so dismissive of the fact that so many UK families rely on food banks?


The environment and ebola

It is clear that the spread of Ebola in West Africa is directly linked to the region's deep poverty: Out of 187 countries on the United Nations' Human Development Index, Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone rank 175th, 179th and 183rd, respectively. But, while it is easy to recognize the links between poverty and the spread of the virus, there has been little focus on the root causes of the region's impoverishment itself. West Africa is in the running for the region with the highest deforestation rate in the world. Some researchers have drawn clear links between the outbreak of the disease and the resource exploitation that plagues the region. “Those who are knowledgeable about the relation between the increasing human contact with wildlife, some of which have been noted as carriers of the Ebola virus, attribute that to the increasing deforestation in the region. Deforestation in West Africa is continuing in an alarming way. Most of the forest cover in the entire upper Guinean forest ecosystem has been lost. Liberia is the only country in the region that retains a significant cover of rainforest. So, it is understandable that scientists are pointing out that there may be a link between declining forest cover, increasing human contact with wildlife and the Ebola outbreak.”

Across West Africa we are seeing lots of agribusinesses coming into the region. It's not new, but it is now being taken to a very severe scale, and they are decimating the last remaining plots of forest. So there is increasing loss of habitat for bats, for chimpanzees - and as a result, increasing contact with human communities. That's where our leadership needs to look at the Ebola crisis as a wake-up call: to begin to think, "Well, if diminishing forests and ecosystems are a problem, if increasing human-wildlife contact is a problem, than we need to take additional steps to avoid the situation getting worse."

“Palm oil companies like Golden Veroleum and Sime Darby grow the palm, and then process and export crude palm oil. But this is not for the Liberian market; it is not intended to contribute to the food needs of the country. This is intended to sell to Europe and to other parts of the world to be turned into biofuels. But this is land that we need to grow food. Rather than doing that, we are devoting all of this land to grow oil palm and other commodities for the West. This applies to all the raw materials we have.” explains Silas Siakor, director of Sustainable Development Institute/Friends of the Earth Liberia.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Guns for Africa

The Sahel and parts of east Africa face a range of jihadists. Coastal states have seen piracy, most recently in the west. Offshore discoveries of oil and gas have increased the need for maritime security. More traditional threats, internal as well as external, persist in countries such as South Sudan

The Nigerian army, one of the biggest in Africa and the government has just decided to spend $1 billion on new aircraft and training, among other things. Across Africa military spending grew by 8.3%, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), faster than in other parts of the world (see chart). Two out of three African countries have substantially increased military spending over the past decade; the continent as a whole raised military expenditure by 65%.

Angola's defence budget increased by more than one-third in 2013, to $6 billion, overtaking South Africa as the biggest spender in sub-Saharan Africa. Other countries with rocketing defence budgets include Burkina Faso, Ghana, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The continent's biggest spender by far is Algeria, at $10 billion.

Ethiopia last year took delivery of the first of about 200 Ukrainian T-72 tanks. Neighbouring South Sudan has bought about half as many. Coastal states such as Cameroon, Mozambique, Senegal and Tanzania are sprucing up their navies. Angola has even looked at buying a used aircraft-carrier from Spain or Italy. Chad and Uganda are buying MiG and Sukhoi fighter jets. Cameroon and Ghana are importing transport planes to boost their ability to move troops around and deploy them abroad, which they have been ill-equipped to do. For peacekeeping duties they generally ask friendly Western governments for help in airlifting troops, or charter civilian planes. Chad makes good use of its Sukhoi SU-25 jets--with the help of mercenaries. On the other hand, Congo-Brazzaville only manages to get its Mirage fighter jets into the air for national-day celebrations. South Africa bought 26 Gripen combat aircraft from Sweden but has mothballed half of them because of budget cuts. Uganda spent hundreds of millions of dollars on Sukhoi SU-30 combat aircraft but little on the precision weapons to go with them. Sophisticated arms have also fall into the wrong hands; witness the array of Libyan weapons that have fuelled conflicts across Africa, from Mali to the Central African Republic, since the fall of Muammar Qaddafi.

Many African nations are participating in a growing number of African Union and UN peacekeeping missions. Once rarely seen in blue helmets, sub-Saharan soldiers are increasingly replacing troops from Europe and Asia, benefiting from training as well as from reimbursements for purchases of weapons. A new "business model" for African defence ministries is taking shape.

"Even small countries like Benin and Djibouti now field respectable forces," says Alex Vines of Chatham House, a think-tank in London.

A number of countries hope to foster defence manufacturing at home. A huge South African purchase of arms from, among others, Germany and Britain, agreed to more than a decade ago, included promises of "offsets" whereby local firms would help assemble jets and ships. Angola plans to build its own warships. Nigeria and Sudan make ammunition. Four European arms manufacturers set up African subsidiaries this year: Antonov is going into Sudan; Eurocopter is in Kenya's capital, Nairobi; Fincantieri, an Italian shipbuilder, is in the country's main port, Mombasa; and Saab is setting up a plant for its military aircraft in Botswana.

Since the anti-colonial guerrilla wars of the past century, most African conflicts have been internal. Few countries previously had the ability, let alone the inclination, to fight their neighbours. In the late 1990s, several countries, including Angola and Zimbabwe, sent forces to take part in Congo's civil war--to little avail. Ethiopia and Eritrea fought each other in 1998-2000. Tanzania sent its army into Uganda, along with guerrillas returning from exile, to overthrow Idi Amin in 1978. In general, however, few disputes between African countries have been liable to spark wars. But the build-up of beefier armies is bound to carry a risk.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Band Aid is indeed a bandaid

Sir Bob Geldof’s reissued Band Aid 30 charity single, Do They Know It’s Christmas?, has reignited the debate on what is patronising and what is empowering.

Africa is the birthplace of humanity and the home of some of the earliest civilisations such as Ancient Egypt. It is the world’s second-largest continent of 54 countries speaking more than 2,000 languages, and boasts some of the largest quantities of crucial minerals such as copper, diamond, platinum, gold and bauxite, or aluminium ore. Then, of course, is its oil supplies in Nigeria, Libya and Angola. Yet its international image is one of poverty, a continent in constant need of charity from philanthropists.

An open letter from Race Equality: In Music Industry – signed by academic Dr Robbie Shilliam and Hugh Francis, chair of UK Black Music, among others said of Band Aid “…what many within the African British and black music communities see from the published lineup is another form of Eurocentrism – the European off to help the African, without engagement with African musicians in Britain, let alone on the African continent.”  

 It is a flawed idea that Western nations are constantly aiding Africa when in fact it is Africa that is aiding the rest of the world. Health Poverty Action director Martin Drewry said of a recent report entitled Honest Accounts “This report – looking at the amount Africa loses to the rest of the world, in comparison with what it receives in aid and other inflows – is a response to a growing unease we have at Health Poverty Action that the UK public is not hearing the truth about our financial relationship with Africa. The truth is that rich nations take much more from Africa than they give in aid – including through tax dodging, debt repayments, brain drain, and the unfair costs of climate change – all of which rich nations benefit from.”

It estimated that while $134 billion flows into the continent predominantly in the form of loans, foreign investment and aid, $192 billion is generated through Africa’s natural resources, but lines the pockets of foreign companies or goes to pay off global debt.

The report noted: “For years the British public have been asked to donate money to Africa, yet the end to poverty is nowhere in sight….It is time for the British government, politicians, the media, and NGOs ourselves to stop misrepresenting our ‘generosity’ and take action to tackle the real causes of poverty. This includes urgent government action to close down the UK’s network of tax havens; an end to the plundering of African resources by multinational companies; an end to ‘aid’ as loans and greater transparency and accountability in all other loan agreements; and ambitious and far-reaching climate change targets.”

Socialist Banner can add that Band Aid activist Bono is an expert on tax evasion.


Saturday, November 22, 2014

The African wealthy

Two of East Africa's telecom industry investors have made it to Forbes' 'Africa's 50 Richest' list which was released this week.
The two are Kenya's Naushad Meralli (who's interests include a minority stake in Airtel Kenya and also also sold his 49 per cent stake in Swift Global to Liquid Telecom) and Tanzania's Rostam Azizi (who's cited as Tanzania's first billionaire and sold a 17.2 per cent stake in Vodacom Tanzania to South Africa's Vodacom Group for US $250 million but still retains 17.8 per cent of Vodacom Tanzania).
Rostam Azizi, apart from making the list as one of only two East Africans from the telecom sector, is the only dollar billionaire from the region with a recorded worth of US $1 billion.
"His other assets include Caspian Mining, the largest contract-mining firm in Tanzania, which performs work for mining giants like BHP Billiton and Barrick Gold. He also owns residential and commercial real estate in Dubai and Oman. He got his start in his family's trading business, then broke out on his own to cut deals with international companies looking for partners in Tanzania," reads the Forbes' citation on Azizi It concluded.
Rostam Azizi currently occupies the number 26 spot on the list, at the age of 50 while 63-year-old Naushad Merali, the founder of Sameer Group, sits at position 46.
Forbes' citation on Meralli states: "In May he stepped down as chairman of Bharti Airtel Kenya, a position he had occupied for the last 15 years. He still keeps a 5% shareholding in the mobile phone network. Merali has been selling off assets. In January 2013, he sold a 49% stake in Kenyan Internet service provider Swift Global to UK-based Liquid Telecom."
Aliko Dangote, who sits at the top of the list with a net worth of US $21.6 billion, heads the list. Other telecom sector investors in the list are Mike Adenuga (Nigeria), Naguib Sawiris (Egypt), Tunde Folawiyo (Nigeria), Hakeem Belo-Osagie (Nigeria) and Strive Masiyiwa (Zimbabwe).
  1. Aliko Dangote
  2. Johann Rupert & family
  3. Nicky Oppenheimer & family
  4. Nassef Sawiris
  5. Christoffel Wiese
  6. Mike Adenuga
  7. Mohamed Mansour
  8. Isabel dos Santos
  9. Issad Rebrab & family
  10. Naguib Sawiris

Friday, November 21, 2014

Chad - the proxy army of the US

The U.S. military are busy  building something in Chad. Not a huge facility, not a mini-American town, but a small camp. U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) still insists that there is no Chadian base, that the camp serves only as temporary lodgings to support a Special Operations training exercise to be held next year. It also refused to comment about another troop deployment to Chad. It is an U.S. alliance with a regime whose “most significant human rights problems,” according to the most recent country report by the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, “were security force abuse, including torture; harsh prison conditions; and discrimination and violence against women and children,” not to mention the restriction of freedom of speech, press, assembly, and movement, as well as arbitrary arrest and detention, denial of fair public trial, executive influence on the judiciary, property seizures, child labor and forced labor (that also includes children), among other abuses. Amnesty International further found that human rights violations “are committed with almost total impunity by members of the Chadian military, the Presidential Guard, and the state intelligence bureau, the Agence Nationale de Securité.” Chad’s peacekeeping forces were accused of stoking sectarian strife by supporting Muslim militias against Christian fighters. Then, on March 29th, a Chadian military convoy arrived in a crowded marketplace in the capital, Bangui. There, according to a United Nations report, the troops “reportedly opened fire on the population without any provocation. At the time, the market was full of people, including many girls and women buying and selling produce. As panic-stricken people fled in all directions, the soldiers allegedly continued firing indiscriminately.”

In all, 30 civilians were reportedly killed and more than 300 were wounded.

The new American compound is to be located near the capital, N’Djamena. The U.S. has previously employed N’Djamena as a hub for its air operations. What’s striking is the terminology used in the official documents. After years of adamant claims that the U.S. military has just one lonely base in all of Africa -- Camp Lemonnier in the tiny Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti -- Army commercial contracts documents state that it will now have “base camp facilities” in Chad. An Army solicitation from September sought “building materials for use in Chad,” while supporting documents specifically mention an “operations center/multi-use facility.” That same month, the Army awarded a contract for the transport of equipment from Niamey, Niger, the home of another of the growing network of U.S. outposts in Africa, to N’Djamena. The Army also began seeking out contractors capable of supplying close to 600 bunk beds that could support an American-sized weight of 200 to 225 pounds for a facility “in and around the N'Djamena region.” And just last month, the military put out a call for a contractor to supply construction equipment -- a bulldozer, dump truck, excavator, and the like -- for a project in N'Djamena.

Even without a base, the United States has for more than a decade poured copious amounts of money, time, and effort into making Chad a stable regional counterterrorism partner, sending troops there, training and equipping its army, counseling its military leaders, providing tens of millions of dollars in aid, funding its military expeditions, supplying its army with equipment ranging from tents to trucks, donating additional equipment for its domestic security forces, providing a surveillance and security system for its border security agents, and looking the other way when its military employed child soldiers.

This increased U.S. interest in Chad follows on the heels of a push by France, the nation’s former colonial overlord and America’s current premier proxy in Africa, to beef up its military footprint on the continent. In July, following U.S.-backed French military interventions in Mali and the Central African Republic, French President François Hollande announced a new mission, Operation Barkhane (a term for a crescent-shaped sand dune found in the Sahara). Its purpose: a long-term counterterrorism operation involving 3,000 French troops deployed to a special forces outpost in Burkina Faso and forward operating bases in Mali, Niger, and not surprisingly, Chad. In recent years, the U.S. military has been involved in a continual process of expanding its presence in Africa. Out of public earshot, officials have talked about setting up a string of small bases across the northern tier of the continent. Indeed, over the last years, U.S. staging areas, mini-bases, and outposts have popped up in the contiguous nations of Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and, skipping Chad, in the Central African Republic, followed by South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Djibouti. A staunch American ally with a frequent and perhaps enduring American troop presence, Chad seems like the natural spot for still another military compound -- the only missing link in a long chain of countries stretching from west to east, from one edge of the continent to the other -- even if AFRICOM continues to insist that there’s no American “base” in the works.

In June, according to the State Department, the deputy commander of U.S. Army Africa (USARAF), Brigadier General Kenneth H. Moore, Jr., visited Chad to “celebrate the successful conclusion of a partnership between USARAF and the Chadian Armed Forces.” Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus arrived in that landlocked country at the same time to meet with “top Chadian officials.” His visit, according to an embassy press release, “underscored the importance of bilateral relations between the two countries, as well as military cooperation.” And that cooperation has been ample.

Earlier this year, Chadian troops joined those of the United States, Burkina Faso, Canada, France, Mauritania, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Senegal, the United Kingdom, and host nation Niger for three weeks of military drills as part of Flintlock 2014, an annual Special Ops counterterrorism exercise. Then soldiers from Chad, Cameroon, Burundi, Gabon, Nigeria, the Republic of Congo, the Netherlands, and the United States took part in another annual training exercise, Central Accord 2014. The Army also sent medical personnel to mentor Chadian counterparts in “tactical combat casualty care,” while Marines and Navy personnel traveled to Chad to train that country’s militarized anti-poaching park rangers in small unit tactics and patrolling. A separate contingent of Marines conducted military intelligence training with Chadian officers and non-commissioned officers. The scenario for the final exercise, also involving personnel from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Mauritania, Senegal, and Tunisia, had a ripped-from-the-headlines quality: “preparing for an unconventional war against an insurgent threat in Mali.”

As for U.S. Army Africa, it sent trainers as part of a separate effort to provide Chadian troops with instruction on patrolling and fixed-site defense as well as live-fire training. “We are ready to begin training in Chad for about 1,300 soldiers -- an 850 man battalion, plus another 450 man battalion,” said Colonel John Ruffing, the Security Cooperation director of U.S. Army Africa, noting that the U.S. was working in tandem with a French private security firm.

In September, AFRICOM reaffirmed its close ties with Chad by renewing an Acquisition Cross Servicing Agreement, which allows both militaries to purchase from each other or trade for basic supplies. The open-ended pact, said Brigadier General James Vechery, AFRICOM’s director for logistics, “will continue to strengthen our bilateral cooperation on international security issues... as well as the interoperability of the armed forces of both nations.”

With Chad, the United States finds itself more deeply involved with yet another authoritarian government and another atrocity-prone proxy force. In this, it continues a long series of mistakes, missteps, and mishaps across Africa. These include an intervention in Libya that transformed the country from an autocracy into a near-failed state, training efforts that produced coup leaders in Mali and Burkina Faso, American nation-building that led to a failed state in South Sudan, anti-piracy measures that flopped in the Gulf of Guinea, the many fiascos of the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership, the training of an elite Congolese unit that committed mass rapes and other atrocities, problem-plagued humanitarian efforts in Djibouti and Ethiopia, and the steady rise of terror groups in U.S.-backed countries like Nigeria and Tunisia.