Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Send in the Troops

The new US defence budget of US$534 billion is the largest ever. AFRICOM is to get 2% more after a 6.5% cut the year before. The US is expanding African operations. This includes new US military facilities in countries like Niger. It was announced in August that jet fuel is now available at Zinger Airport in Niger enabling American planes to make pit stops.
 This is in addition to the new US drone base in Niamey and another refurbished airstrip in the fringe of the Sahara Desert, all closely located to Boko Haram’s operating territory.

Expect more US-Nigerian military cooperation with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, a US Army War College alumnus, in command.

Meanwhile, the UK is prepared to send troops to Somalia and possibly to South Sudan to boost security in the region. 70 British troops would go to Somalia and up to 300 would be deployed in South Sudan. The British government said the deployments "will support efforts by the United Nations and African Union”

Critics of this deployment argue that the problem bedeviling South Sudan today was created by the British over 60 years ago. Their presence there will not be welcomed because apart from South Sudan, there are also still problems in the west of Sudan, in Darfur and East Sudan. The presence of British soldiers there, advising the South Sudanese army or training them, will not be a welcome move to those who are still fighting for their freedom in South Sudan.
Secondly, the offer is coming before the establishment of the transitional government, with which it ought to be negotiated. So it will be seen as a sort of ploy to boost Salva Kiir's regime vis-à-vis the other part of the government headed by Riek Machar. That, too, will make it unwelcome. Why was this gesture not there when South Sudan became independent, when it needed this type of military mission to help it transform its army from a guerrilla force into a regular army? The British kept their distance. So many people are asking: Why now?

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