15 February 2013

Africa News Round Up

In Somalia a high-ranking official told the United Nations Security Council on Thursday that her government does not want the African Union military mission in Somalia (Amisom) to be given a maritime component, the Daily Nation reports.

Kenya, the only African country deploying naval forces in Somali waters, has long sought UN approval of about $10 million (Sh870m) in funding for an Amisom maritime force.

Somalia's statement on Thursday of "strong opposition" to that request is disappointing, said Kenyan UN Ambassador Macharia Kamau.

A naval force is needed, he commented, to "address the movement of Shabaab elements as well as their supplies."

"Somalia itself," Ambassador Kamau added, "does not have the capacity to control these elements."

The Somalia government's stand contradicts that of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

In a report that was also brought before the Security Council on Thursday, Mr Ban said the 15-member body should "give serious consideration to the African Union request for an Amisom maritime component."

The UN leader added that naval forces are "critical to consolidate control over southern and central Somalia, in particular wresting control from al-Shabaab of the remaining coastal towns."

But Somalia's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Fawzia Y. H. Adam told the council that there is "not a compelling reason to take the campaign against al-Shabaab to sea."

"Piracy, human trafficking and smuggling are important challenges," she added, "but are not linked to the mandate of Amisom."

In Mali, a document left behind in the bombed remains of an al-Qaeda training headquarters in the Malian city of Timbuktu gives a rare insight into the organisation's thinking, News24 reports.

British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph said it had found the Arabic-language document outside a building bombed by French forces who drove the Islamists from the ancient city.

The newspaper said the document was the first page of minutes from the 33rd meeting of the al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) leadership, held on 18 March 2012.

The AQIM chiefs discussed a plan to capitalise on the gains made in northern Mali by the Islamist rebel group Ansar Dine and Tuareg minority rebels. It was suggested that AQIM pushed aside the groups and took control.

At the time of the meeting, those groups had just captured a string of towns in the Sahara Desert on Mali's northern border with Algeria.

Abou Moussab Abdel Wadoud - a 42-year-old Algerian dubbed the "prince" of AQIM, who helped found the group in 2006 - chaired the meeting in which he outlined a "proposal and a vision for the future".

As per the plan in the document, AQIM then muscled in and took de facto control over much of the north, including arms dumps, airports and training facilities. They were dislodged by French forces who came to the Malian army's aid.

Professor Michael Clarke, director-general of London's Royal United Services Institute security think-tank, said the document showed a centrally-directed attempt to pull off classic al-Qaeda tactics, piggy-backing other extremists, as witnessed in Afghanistan.

They are "to ally with other political movements in order to hijack them; to fight guerrilla wars for disputed territory, and to build up a new caliphate that will extend across the Middle East and far beyond," he wrote in the Telegraph.

In Kenya, an ex-helicopter pilot has said the family of former Internal Security minister George Saitoti should not claim compensation from the government, the Daily Nation reports.

Captain James Nyongesa Wafubwa on Thursday told High Court judge Eric Ogolla that the commission investigating the June 10, 2012 helicopter crash in which Prof Saitoti died, deliberately left out crucial evidence to clear the air on the accident.

The commission investigating the crash that killed the former minister, his assistant Orwa Ojodeh, bodyguards Joshua Tonkei and Thomas Murimi, and pilots Nancy Gituanja and Luke Oyugi is led by Appeals Court judge Kalpana Rawal.

Capt Wafubwa said the loopholes had left the Treasury in a situation where it is likely to compensate families of the victims.

He said the helicopter was a State aircraft manufactured specifically to enable the police to have an upper hand in fighting criminals and was not subject to the technical specifications under the Aviation Act.

He said that whether there was foul play or not, the ministers boarded the helicopter which they knew was manufactured specifically to engage robbers and terrorists at any time and at any place with the possibilities of it being blown off the air.

The captain accused the commission of not investigating whether the minister and his assistant had indemnified the taxpayer from any liability since it was a requirement that the two should have undertaken.

Capt Wafubwa said despite having applied to be allowed to give a pilot's explanation of the accident the commission went ahead to prepare a final report without including such views.

He said there were other crucial issues that had not been addressed.

They include how the pilots were trained, how they prepared the flight, how they handled the aircraft and why there were different levels of carbon monoxide in the bodies.

Capt Wafubwa said the team wasted time on doctors who could only determine the level of carbon monoxide, but had no idea of its origin.

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