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Africa in Crisis- The Merged Superthread

Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from the Globe and Mail is a sad story that illustrates what's wrong with Africa and the United Nations, too:


A handful of troops from Nepal: All that stands between South Sudan and imminent disaster


Geoffrey York
JOHANNESBURG — The Globe and Mail

Published Thursday, Jan. 16 2014

After a month of brutal fighting in South Sudan that has killed an estimated 10,000 people so far, the United Nations peacekeepers have finally got their first reinforcements: a small advance party of 25 soldiers from Nepal.

The cavalry was supposed to be charging into South Sudan to rescue it from imminent disaster, but it now seems that its arrival will be slow and much delayed. And even when the soldiers are all in the country, they are unlikely to be numerous enough to make a big difference.

The UN had been hoping to get 5,500 fresh troops into South Sudan by mid-January to reinforce its beleaguered mission of 7,000 troops – a peacekeeping mission that has the impossible task of trying to protect civilians across a vast and chaotic country as big as France, with poor transportation links and few paved roads.

Instead, due to a lengthy process of bureaucratic and political approvals, those military reinforcements are now expected to be delayed until March. The small unit of two dozen Nepalese soldiers, who arrived on Wednesday, are the only reinforcements on the ground so far.

While the UN peacekeepers have been slow to materialize, the intervention from the African Union has been even slower and weaker. Despite its rhetoric about African solutions for African crises, the AU has done little to help South Sudan during the latest bloodshed, aside from issuing an occasional statement deploring the violence and pleading with the two sides to stop fighting.

The AU has long promised to create an “African Standby Force” and a rapid-reaction system to ensure that it can send troops swiftly into any war zone on the continent to defuse the fighting. Countries such as the United States, Britain and Canada have poured tens of millions of dollars into the training of African troops for duties in the “Standby Force” and other peacekeeping missions.

Yet the African force is still nowhere to be seen. African defence ministers discussed the Standby Force at meetings at the AU headquarters in Ethiopia this week, but they talked vaguely about trying to have the force operational by next year.

Instead, in major crises such as Mali and the Central African Republic over the past year, it has been the neo-colonial power, France, that has sent troops into the war zones to stabilize the situation. France has responded much faster than the UN or the AU, but its rapid troop deployment has caused much unease about neo-colonial intervention.

In South Sudan, while the UN and the AU are dithering and delaying, the quickest intervention has come from two authoritarian governments: Uganda and Sudan, two neighbours with a financial and economic interest in the stability of the fledgling nation.

Uganda confirmed this week that it has already sent its troops into South Sudan to fight on the side of government troops against rebel fighters. Khartoum, meanwhile, has promised 900 technicians to help run the oil fields near the Sudan border that are crucial to the economies of both countries. But because of their financial interests, neither Uganda nor Sudan are properly neutral forces for protecting civilians and stabilizing the country.

The UN, to be fair, has protected thousands of civilians by allowing them to take shelter inside the walls of UN compounds across South Sudan. After four weeks of fighting, some 65,000 civilians are still inside the UN bases, their lives protected by the UN presence – although gunfire did blast through the walls of a UN camp in the town of Malakal during clashes this week, killing one civilian and injuring dozens of others.

The UN compounds are not enough to protect most of the fleeing civilians, however. More than 400,000 civilians have fled from their homes in South Sudan because of the fighting in the past month, and only a small fraction of them can shelter at the UN bases. Many have scrambled into the mountains or the bush, where nobody knows if they are safe.

There is perhaps some irony that the UN is struggling with its responses to South Sudan and the Central African Republic on the 20th anniversary of its shameful inaction during the terrible events at the beginning of the Rwandan genocide.

It was 20 years ago this week when Canadian general Romeo Dallaire, military commander of the UN mission in Rwanda, sent a fateful fax to the UN headquarters in New York to warn of the growing signs of an impending catastrophe. He noted that Tutsis were being forced to register themselves in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, and a source feared that their “extermination” was being planned. The fax was largely ignored, and the genocide erupted.

At a sombre event at the UN on Wednesday to mark the Rwanda anniversary, Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson said the UN had drawn lessons from its “collective failure” in Rwanda in 1994.

“The United Nations must respond early to the risk of mass atrocities so as to prevent their occurrence,” he said. “We already have grave violations of human rights in the Central African Republic and South Sudan. We must stop them from turning into mass atrocities.”

Mr. Eliasson acknowledged that the lessons of Rwanda have not always led to action. “Since the tragedy in Rwanda, hundreds of thousands of people have died in mass atrocities and tens of millions have been displaced,” he said.

“Over the last few weeks alone, men, women and children have been slaughtered not only in South Sudan but also in the Central African Republic and in the nightmare of Syria.”

He warned of the “deeply worrying” ethnic and religious divisions that seem to be growing in many nations. “The demonization of people of different faiths or ethnic belonging is one of the most toxic deeds of which human beings are capable,” he said.

The rhetoric at the UN this week was lofty, and the sentiments were noble. The question now is whether the world community can support stronger action by the UN to ensure that civilians are protected from ethnic and religious killings and the rampages of brutal fighters in South Sudan and elsewhere.

Mr York's question ~ can "the world community ... support stronger action by the UN to ensure that civilians are protected from ethnic and religious killings and the rampages of brutal fighters in South Sudan and elsewhere"? ~ can be easily answered: "Yes, it can." If you rephrase the question to replace "can" with "will" then, as we are seeing right now, the answer is "No!"

Why not?

Africa doesn't matter - it has little, almost no strategic significance. Yes, it has some oil and some important minerals but they can be got at despite wars and revolutions. Africa is irredeemably corrupt ~ it makes China look like a bunch of Quakers ~ and someone is always willing to sell something, anything, to anyone (even slaves to the Saudis and Gulf States) for a price.

What about the people? The poor, innocent people?

Graves registration is a combined engineer and logistical task ... maybe we can send some help with that.
E.R. Campbell said:
Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from the Globe and Mail is a sad story that illustrates what's wrong with Africa and the United Nations, too:

This not, apparently, a bad joke.

The Guardian, a respectable, albeit left wing, journal reports that "Despite that fact [President Robert] Mugabe, 88, is under a travel ban, he has been honoured as a "leader for tourism" by the UN's World Tourism Organisation, along with his political ally, Zambian president Michael Sata, 75. The pair signed an agreement with UNWTO secretary general Taleb Rifai at their shared border at Victoria Falls on Tuesday."

I can only hope that a) Canada was never dumb enough to help fund this organization, or b) if we did (and Jean Chrétien used to love these sorts of gangs of thugs, mugs and plugs) then we stop, immediately.
E.R. Campbell said:
This not, apparently, a bad joke.

The Guardian, a respectable, albeit left wing, journal reports that "Despite that fact [President Robert] Mugabe, 88, is under a travel ban, he has been honoured as a "leader for tourism" by the UN's World Tourism Organisation, along with his political ally, Zambian president Michael Sata, 75. The pair signed an agreement with UNWTO secretary general Taleb Rifai at their shared border at Victoria Falls on Tuesday."

I can only hope that a) Canada was never dumb enough to help fund this organization, or b) if we did (and Jean Chrétien used to love these sorts of gangs of thugs, mugs and plugs) then we stop, immediately.

Only in Africa....... :facepalm:
Would anyone have any info on going to South Sudan as part of the UN mission ? I've seen openings for it on my unit's OTSUM but they were all for majors and above. Any info would be appreciated.
TSpoon said:
Would anyone have any info on going to South Sudan as part of the UN mission ? I've seen openings for it on my unit's OTSUM but they were all for majors and above. Any info would be appreciated.

Those have been in CFTPO for several years.  Officer positions to go as Observers/Monitors/etc.  Most of those who filled those positions trained to deploy, but never left Canada due to South Sudan not agreeing to accept Non-African Union troops into their country.

Basically, those positions for the most part are contingency planning.
Congo and the General

The Democratic Republic of Congo has been engulfed in conflict of one sort or another since 1996.

The fighting, between the government and a complex, ever-shifting array of rebel militias, has resulted in the deaths of an estimated six million people and the injury, rape and forced displacement of a great many more.

The international community has tried many times to help the country resolve some of these problems - or at least to mitigate their consequences - with the United Nations maintaining a peacekeeping presence since 1999. Known as MONUSCO (United Nations Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the DR Congo), it is currently the largest and most expensive such mission in the world, comprising 21,000 uniformed personnel from 50 different nations with a budget of just under $1.5bn.

But for all its size and resources, the force has frequently been criticised in the past for being ineffectual, overcautious and for failing to meet its responsibility to protect the country's vulnerable citizens from harm.

More on link. It seems someone in a position to make a change is realising spending over $1 billion a year with no noticeable improvements is not sustainable. I wonder if this new policy will be effective, or if as soon as casualties happen if they will be back to hiding behind the walls?
Part 1 of 2

Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act from the Globe and Mail, is a sad, but sadly predictable report that suggests that Africa's deep socio-cultural problems are unchanged since Rwanda in the 1990s and, indeed, in my own personal experience, Congo in the 1960s:


What happened in Rwanda is happening again in Central African Republic


Published Saturday, Apr. 05 2014

Drive north from the capital, and you soon discover why relief workers call the Central African Republic a post-apocalyptic country. After a year of mass murder, the villages are abandoned and the roads eerily empty and desolate.

The checkpoints are controlled by cold-eyed men from largely Christian militias who brandish knives, machetes, swords and other crude weapons. Occasionally, a decrepit taxi comes barrelling down the road, ludicrously overloaded with 15 or 20 refugees, some piled on the roof. At times, a slow-moving convoy appears – busloads of terrified Muslims, with an escort of heavily armed peacekeepers to protect them from slaughter.

They represent 15 per cent of the country’s 4.5 million people, but even where they were a substantial minority, almost all Muslims have been killed or forced to flee. The last ones in the impoverished town of Boali were removed a month ago, and a local administrator admits it is still too dangerous for her Muslim husband and children to visit, let alone come back for good.

Last year, when largely Muslim rebel forces seized power, it was the Christians who fled for their lives even though the two communities had lived peacefully side by side for decades.

A horrifyingly bureaucratic term, “ethno-religious cleansing,” has been invented to describe the massacres in the CAR. While experts argue over whether it qualifies as genocide, those inside the country know only that the killing is endless. In the capital, Bangui, bodies still pile up in the morgues, mosques and streets.

What began as a political struggle has become sectarian. “One group is trying to exterminate the other,” says Dr. Jean Chrysostome Gody, director of Bangui’s pediatric hospital. “It’s about extreme brutal revenge. They are trying to eradicate a race.”

This wasn’t supposed to happen. “Never again,” the world said after 800,000 died in Rwanda. Yet two decades later – Monday marks the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the 100-day carnage – the killing continues. It continues in terrible wars such as the conflict in Syria, but also much closer to the scene of the tragedy that shocked the world in 1994.


Tens of thousands have been butchered in the CAR as well as its neighbour to the east, South Sudan, where a few months ago a dispute between the president and vice-president erupted into mass bloodshed.

As in Rwanda, politicians and military leaders in both countries have whipped up hatred and turned it deadly. And as in Rwanda, there was plenty of warning. Academics, aid workers and analysts had pointed to the danger signs for months, even years. Yet little was done.

Preventing genocide has been an official goal of the United Nations since 1948 – four years after the term was coined at the height of the Holocaust. Genocide was banned in international criminal law, enforced later by tribunals investigating the mass killings in Rwanda and Darfur. According to the world’s new moral code, enshrined by the UN as the “responsibility to protect” doctrine, any mass atrocity was never to be ignored.

African countries, motivated by altruism but also by a cold calculation of their regional security interests, have sent thousands of peacekeepers to Bangui, including 850 from Rwanda. The European Union’s contribution, however, has been slow to materialize. And Canada, despite its proud tradition of UN service, has refused for years to send substantial forces to any African hot spot.

The current carnage has provoked plenty of high-level hand-wringing. This week, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon fretted that the international community has failed to “prevent the preventable.” And in Brussels, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird called the CAR a prime example of how efforts to save lives have been “inadequate” and the world “lacking” in resolve.

Why has the response been so minimal?

The bloodshed in South Sudan has left a landscape depressingly similar to that of the CAR. Malakal, the strategic capital of oil-rich Upper Nile province, is now a ghost town of abandoned markets and looted compounds. Thousands have fled, fearing attack by government or rebel forces, while thousands more have taken shelter at the local UN base.

“Many people were killed in front of us,” says Robert Okeng, a 30-year-old student. “The rebels burned our houses and killed many people, even small children. They shot them and beat them with sticks.”

The growing risk of mass violence had been clear for years. A Canadian member of the peacekeeping force, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the UN troops received intelligence briefings last August about the potential for large-scale violence as a result of the deep political split between President Salva Kiir and Vice-President Riek Machar. Similar warnings had been issued privately by relief agencies even earlier, last June, due to tensions in the army, badly divided because regional and tribal militias had been poorly integrated.

Then in July as the feuding intensified, the Sudd Institute, a widely respected think-tank in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, issued a stark warning: “A violent split in the [ruling] party may lead to spontaneous rebellions and possibly a civil war. If the cracks take ethnic lines and violence ensues as a result, the state may become dysfunctional, giving way to a large-scale ethnic violence.”

Instead of heeding these grim warnings, the world clung to the blithe optimism of South Sudan’s birth, when it won independence from Khartoum in 2011 after decades of civil war. It seemed to be an irresistibly happy ending to an often-tragic story.

But there had been warnings signs. Even before South Sudan became the world’s newest independent country. Despite massive support from the United States, Canada and other Western countries, it was a tinderbox. About 2,500 people were killed in inter-communal clashes in 2009, and several armed rebellions erupted in 2010. Corruption was widespread, ethnic resentments were festering, dissent was often crushed rather than addressed, and the military was factionalized on ethnic lines.

Yet, even after the dangerous feuding between the top rulers last year, diplomats failed to apply strong pressure on Mr. Kiir, and the UN did not significantly increase its peacekeeping force of 7,000, far too small for a sprawling country with few paved roads. Large-scale fighting erupted in mid-December, including the deliberate targeting of ethnic groups – exactly as the Sudd Institute had warned just five months earlier – and by January more than 10,000 people had been killed.

“Both sides were preparing for violence – it was just a question of when,” says Abraham Awolich, a policy analyst who helped to found the Sudd Institute. “But nobody paid any attention. It was avoidable, but it slipped away.”

In the Central African Republic, the world has ignored warning signs much longer. This remote corner of Africa has been neglected and persecuted for more than a century, beginning with the slave traders and colonialists who depopulated much of what is now the CAR as forced labour. French colonial policy kept it weak and divided, and further damage was inflicted in the 1970s by the delusional fantasies of the self-proclaimed “emperor” Jean-Bedel Bokassa.

Since 1998, the UN has organized or endorsed an alphabet soup of peacekeeping and peace-building missions, with acronyms from MINURCA to BONUCA to today’s MISCA.

This means that UN officials have been receiving daily “sit-reps” (situation reports) on the country for the past 16 years.

But when the mass killings began last year, the world was unprepared and unable to intervene. Only a few thousand peacekeepers were in the country – not nearly enough to stop the massacres – and most were from neighbouring countries and primarily in the CAR to defend their own national interests, rather than to build a self-sufficient government in Bangui.

“The international community has been watching the CAR for a long time – and not doing much about it,” says David Smith, a Canadian who served on one of the earliest UN missions in the late 1990s.

“There are no surprises in the CAR, only inaction. We’ve sent a lot of people, but we’re not sending them to do the right thing. It’s not just about boots on the ground – it’s about nation-building.”

Because of a lack of personnel and resources, the UN peacekeepers could do little more than patrol the streets, observe the clashes and guard the key buildings. What was badly needed was a bigger long-term commitment, in order to create a proper army and police force, build a functioning justice system and rescue a failed state.

The violence escalated last March, when the rebels swept into Bangui, and has continued, on and off, in plain sight of the foreign observers, diplomats, peacekeepers and aid workers.

The disaster can even be seen from the air. Satellite photos show the destruction of villages and a massive camp for displaced people has sprung up on the edge of Bangui’s international airport – clearly visible to passenger jets that arrive every day. Not even a fence separates the planes from the estimated 60,000 people who live in appalling conditions, with children routinely dying of easily preventable diseases.

“They don’t die of bullets – they die because of a lack of will to help them,” says Dr. Tahir Wissanji of Médecins sans frontières (Doctors Without Borders) who worked in Bangui for two months. “This isn’t a situation where people can say, ‘Oh, we didn’t know.’ They’re at the airport when you land. You can’t miss them.”

The camp gets so little support that many residents don’t even have tents. “We have to use palm leafs,” says Joseph Mboris, a 54-year-old teacher who has been there since December. “When the rain falls, it’s terrible.”

Mr. Mboris onced lived side by side with Muslim friends and neighbours. Now the neighbours have lost contact and the friendships destroyed. “Things have become like that,” he says. “It’s too dangerous to go home. People have taken up machetes, and they want revenge.”

Four days before Christmas, his pregnant daughter’s husband was caught and killed by a local militia when he went home to collect their belongings. “He was too young to die,” Mr. Mboris says. Eight days later, his daughter gave birth to son who will never know his father.

The UN high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, visited the Central African Republic late last month, and says she is deeply concerned by the slow response of the international community, which so far has provided only one-fifth of the funds needed.

The world seems to have forgotten the lessons of Rwanda, she told reporters in Bangui. “I cannot help thinking that, if the Central African Republic were not a poor country hidden away in the heart of Africa, the terrible events that have taken place – and continue to take place – would have stimulated a far stronger and more dynamic reaction.

“How many more children have to be decapitated, how many more women and girls will be raped, how many more acts of cannibalism must there be, before we really sit up and pay attention?”

MSF is one of the biggest aid agencies on the ground, and Joanne Liu, its international president, says years of struggling to call attention to the disaster have produced no “traction.”

“A lot of people say they don’t even know where the CAR is – it’s always been a second-class crisis,” Dr. Liu says, noting that the country has few people and few natural resources.

And what could have been done?

End of Part 1 of 2

Part 2 of 2

In both CAR and South Sudan, the world had leverage if it had wanted to act: There were peacekeepers in position, diplomats watching, and United Nations operations on the ground. As well , both countries were recipients of foreign aid, another potential tool to influence key players.

As the atrocities mounted in the CAR, foreign armies eventually responded, but never with an adequate effort. There are about 8,000 French and African peacekeeping troops there today – not enough to stop the killings or disarm the militias or prevent the “ethno-religious cleansing.” The European Union has promised another 1,000 troops but its commitment has wavered after the Ukraine crisis and its troops repeatedly delayed.

The UN estimates that a force of at least 12,000 – including 2,000 police – is needed in CAR alone. But even this is probably far too few: On a per capita basis, it is barely one-tenth the number of peacekeepers sent to Bosnia and Kosovo.

The UN doesn’t deserve all the blame. Countries like Canada, active supporters of peacekeeping until the past decade or so, have failed to make more than a token contribution. Even modest assistance – helicopters, communications equipment, airlift or other resources – could make a substantial difference.

If the problem in CAR is sheer neglect because it lacks strategic importance, South Sudan is more complex. The West has never neglected the newly independent country, providing much aid and other support. If anything, it was over-confident in South Sudan’s capacity to avoid mass violence, and failed to pressure the government to prevent it.

Conversations with South Sudanese political leaders and human-rights activists make it clear that they were fully aware of the dangerous splits in the army and the repressive tactics that were inflaming tensions. Yet donor nations essentially gave the government “a blank cheque,” one aid worker says, admitting that “maybe we could have been tougher.”

Deng Athuai Mawiir, a Canadian citizen who heads the South Sudan Civil Society Alliance, was kidnapped and beaten for three days in 2012 after he organized a march to demand action against 75 officials suspected of involvement in a $4-billion corruption scandal.

He says the military’s heavy involvement in politics is crucial to the persistent repression. “You can’t fire people in the ministries because you’re afraid the soldiers from their region will kill you. They are hungry for the war to continue, because they want to keep their positions forever. Everyone is hungry for power, and they don’t want to hear any opposition.”

When the rebellion erupted and the slaughter began, the international response – just like in the CAR – was too little and too late. In key cities like Malakal, the UN peacekeepers could do little more than protect VIPs and guard their base. This allowed the rebels and army to keep fighting, with hundreds of deaths over a period of weeks. The Canadian peacekeeper recalls how ending up flat on the ground in a bunker, trying to escape a hail of bullets from both the rebels and government forces.

There is no sign of a rapprochement between Mr. Kiir and Mr. Machar, and their followers. The tensions between the feuding leaders and the two main ethnic groups, the Dinka and the Nuer, will fuel the risk of mass violence for years to come.

Is it too late to act? The clashes in South Sudan and the CAR have left such deep social wounds and such yearning for vengeance that it will be nearly impossible to prevent further massacres – unless there is a huge ramping-up of the peacekeeping effort.

The killing could also heighten the danger that both countries will plunge back into dictatorship. It was the genocide in Rwanda, and the world’s inaction in the sight of the genocide, that paved the way for the iron-fisted regime of President Paul Kagame, who tolerates no dissent.

At Dr. Gody’s hospital in Bangui, injured Muslim and Christian children lay side-by-side, united by their pain. Yet their parents can barely conceal their rage against people who were once their neighbours.

“We can’t live together again,” says Stella, 22. Her uncle was killed by Muslim rebels and her infant son later hit by a stray bullet.

“I consider the Muslims my enemies now,” she confesses as she tends to her bandaged child. “ If my life is worse, it is because of them.”

It’s a long way from the horrors of Bangui to a bland conference hall in Brussels, where Canada’s foreign minister was lecturing on genocide prevention this week.

“As leaders, this is our time,” Mr. Baird said in Brussels. “Let us not look back when it’s too late and wonder if we really did enough.”

His speech was an echo of the burning questions that tormented the world after Rwanda. It’s an extraordinary irony that the same questions are still being asked 20 years later.


Since coming to the fore in the aftermath of the Holocaust, the United Nations has taken measures to anticipate and, in theory, thwart genocide.

    1948: The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide is passed, since ratified by 144 nations including Canada (1952) and the U.S. (46 years later).

    2004: A decade after Rwanda, a special adviser is appointed to collect information on “massive and serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law” and be “a mechanism of early warning.” The post’s first full-time
    occupant (2007-2012) is from South Sudan.

    2008: An associate adviser is appointed to focus on the UN’s subsequent edict that all states must actively protect their citizens “from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.”

    2013: The task is given to Jennifer Welsh, a Canadian specialist in international affairs and ethics then teaching at Oxford.

The cutting edge

More recently, science and technology have been recruited to the cause.

    Mathematics: Australian researchers have developed a math-based model using variables ranging from political assassinations to a high rate of infant mortality (which shows state institutions have broken down). In 2012, they compiled a list
    of high-risk countries led by the Central African Republic, until then on no one’s radar.

    Database: A Swiss sociologist has sifted through a century of news articles to develop a system for predicting when war will break out – between countries and within them.

    Software: Duke University researchers have designed a computer program they say can be used to forecast insurgencies.

    Tweet tips: A team assembled by the Holocaust Museum is mining hate speech on Twitter as a way to anticipate outbreaks of political violence. It will be rolled out next year for the elections in Nigeria, which have frequently been marred by
    violence. Developed by a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, the Twitter tool will operate in real time, and Nigeria has agreed to let researchers be in election security headquarters when voters go to the polls, mining social media
    for hate speech – smoke signals that may help authorities nip violence in the bud.

Sources: United Nations, The New York Times

It's a pretty sad state of affairs but even if there was political will in the West, and there isn't, there is nothing much to be done ... yet. Black Africa remains committed to addressing its own problems in its own ways ~ indifferently and ineffectually. The US led West or India or China, all by themselves, could bring order and peace to Black Africa but that would mean neocolonialism, and that's not happening any time soon.
E.R. Campbell said:
Part 2 of 2

It's a pretty sad state of affairs but even if there was political will in the West, and there isn't, there is nothing much to be done ... yet. Black Africa remains committed to addressing its own problems in its own ways ~ indifferently and ineffectually. The US led West or India or China, all by themselves, could bring order and peace to Black Africa but that would mean neocolonialism, and that's not happening any time soon.


Need I say more?

Wasn't there was a Chinese PLA engineer unit working with UN/African Union forces in Sudan?

In South Sudan Conflict, China Tests Its Mediation Skills

Driven by commercial interests, China is taking the unusual step of mediating between rival South Sudanese factions.
June 06, 2014

When asked why China was taking “a more proactive role” in the South Sudan crisis, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said that China was acting with the goal of “maintaining regional peace and creating enabling conditions for local development.” Of course, this doesn’t answer the fundamental question — there are many other internal crises where Beijing has chosen not to get involved, despite threats to “regional peace” and “local development.”

China’s involvement in South Sudan recognizes the substantial commercial interests Beijing has at stake — most notably in the oil industry. According to Reuters, before the conflict began in December, South Sudan was providing five percent of China’s oil imports. Now, oil production in the country has been slashed by one-third. Chinese workers have also been evacuated from South Sudan due to the threat of violence. Principles aside, China had every reason to push hard for a swift resolution to the crisis.

Perhaps even more importantly, other major world powers, including the U.S., have far less reason to take proactive action in South Sudan. Other countries have fewer interests in the new nation,and were unlikely to get involved to the extent Beijing has. China stepped into the void, taking up a rare role as a mediator. “We have huge interests in South Sudan so we have to make a greater effort to persuade the two sides to stop fighting and agree to a ceasefire,” Ma Qiang, the Chinese ambassador to South Sudan, told Reuters
China continues to expand its footprint in Africa:

China to reopen Somalia embassy, sees strong ties

BEIJING (Reuters) - China will reopen its embassy in Somalia after signs the East African country was making progress in its efforts to restore peace decades after the end of its civil war, the foreign ministry said on Monday.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China will send a team to Somalia on July 1 to reopen the embassy, which was closed in 1991 as Somalia descended into chaos.

"China's reopening of the embassy in Somalia is a signal that China attaches great importance to relations with Somalia," Hong said at a daily briefing.


China has made major investments in Africa, mainly in the natural resources sector. Africans broadly see China as a healthy counterbalance to Western influence but, as ties mature, there are growing calls from policymakers and economists for more balanced trade relations.


Yahoo News
Ebola is apparently out of control. If this outbreak spreads to the densly populated cities and shanty towns of Africa, the outcome will make thje Black Plague or Spanish Flu look like child's play:


Ebola 'out of control' in West Africa as health workers rush to trace 1,500 possible victims

Fear, mistrust of Western medicine and difficulties reaching remote areas mean hundreds of potentially infected people have not yet been found

By Mike Pflanz, West Africa Correspondent

9:18AM BST 03 Jul 2014

Hundreds of West Africans could be carrying the deadly Ebola virus and not know it, potentially infecting hundreds more, as cash-strapped governments and overwhelmed aid agencies struggle to contain the virus's spread.

At least 1,500 people have not yet been traced who are known to have come into contact with others confirmed or suspected to be infected with the haemorrhagic fever, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) told The Telegraph.

Many more could be moving freely in the three countries battling the virus, Guinea,Liberiaand Sierra Leone, but fear of the illness and mistrust of Western medicine means they refuse to come forward to speak to doctors.

The current outbreak is the worst ever. So far 467 people have died and health staff have identified at least 292 other suspected or confirmed cases.

Ebola is transmitted by coming into contact with bodily fluids of an infected person. It has no cure and as many as 90 per cent of its victims die, often from uncontrollable internal and external bleeding.

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Health authorities in Glasgow and organisers of the Commonwealth Games, which start in the city on July 23, said they were "monitoring the situation on a daily basis" because a team from Sierra Leone was coming to compete.

"Based on current advice from the World Health Organisation, we estimate the risk to the delegates from Sierra Leone is extremely low," the statement said.

The outbreak was now "out of control" in the three affected countries and could quickly spread across West Africa, according to MSF, which is leading efforts to deal with cases.

The virus's spread appeared to have been cut off in late April, when 74 people had died and Alpha Conde, Guinea's president, said the situation was "well in hand" and "touch wood there won't be any new cases".

But a rare mix of highly mobile populations, mistrust of outsiders, a fear of being diagnosed and treated, traditional burial practices, and a lack of funding all mean Ebola flared again.

The number of cases jumped by 129, or 38 per cent, in the week from June 25 to July 2, the WHO said.

Health staff have even been attacked. The Red Cross in Guinea said it had been forced to temporarily suspend some operations in the country's southeast after staff working on Ebola were threatened on Wednesday.

"Locals wielding knives surrounded a marked Red Cross vehicle," a Red Cross official said, asking not to be named. An MSF centre elsewhere in Guinea was attacked in April by youths saying the charity brought Ebola into their country.

"I have covered six previous Ebola outbreaks and this is unprecedented," said Michel Van Herp, an epidemiologist with MSF in Belgium, who spent two months in the region in March and April and is returning again shortly.

"It is unique in terms of the number of cases, where they are and how they are spread, the difficulty of putting enough treatment centres where they are needed, and the fact that these people move about so much."

MSF and other organisations including the British Red Cross are focused on treating those cases that come to their specialised isolation wards, but more needed to be done to reach out to the rest of the population, Mr Van Herp said.

West African health ministers on Wednesday began a two-day emergency summit in Accra, the Ghanaian capital, to improve co-ordination of their responses to Ebola.

Money was needed urgently for drugs, basic protective gear and staff pay, said Abubakarr Fofanah, Sierra Leone's deputy health minister.

"In Liberia, our biggest challenge is denial, fear and panic. Our people are very much afraid of the disease," Bernice Dahn, Liberia's deputy health minister, told Reuters on the sidelines of the Accra meeting.

"People are afraid but do not believe that the disease exists and because of that people get sick and the community members hide them and bury them, against all the norms we have put in place," she said.

The virus remains contagious even if the person it infected dies.
Just had tea with a couple that had come back from a church mission in Sierra Lorne where they spent 2 months working at a hospital, they have been doing such for 20 years. He said that he never sees anyone from the WHO and in fact at one hospital it was 2 years before they discovered that the WHO had an office around the block and never once did they visit. He seriously doubted WHO's statistics.
Breaking news: "Air Algerie plane disappears from radar". "There were 116 people on board. Ouagadougou, where the plane took off is in a nearly straight line south of Algiers, passing over Mali where unrest continues in the north."

Let's hope this is an equipment malfunction, or an accident, but ...


Edit to add:

Apparently the plane has crashed but there are no indications as to why, other than that there was a sandstorm on the flight path.

Further edit to add:

It appears to have been an accident. But, the proliferation of increasingly sophisticated weapons ( from where?)* means that terrorists - and nationalists and rebels and, and , and - have capabilities that might allow them to impose isolation on some regions.

* That's not a rhetorical question; I don 't follow the arms trade
E.R. Campbell said:
Breaking news: "Air Algerie plane disappears from radar". "There were 116 people on board. Ouagadougou, where the plane took off is in a nearly straight line south of Algiers, passing over Mali where unrest continues in the north."

Let's hope this is an equipment malfunction, or an accident, but ...


Edit to add:

Apparently the plane has crashed but there are no indications as to why, other than that there was a sandstorm on the flight path.
More bad scoobies ....

1)  Attached FAA NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) re:  MANPAD threat up to 24,000 feet over Mali.
2)  Attached map shows northbound flight path over Mali (in darker yellow with black border).

And it didn't take long for a Wikipedia page (usual GIGO caveats) to pop up.
More on the Ebola outbreak. Evidently the setup for the worst case scenario is now in play; the disease has turned up in a megacity, and a large number of potential carriers are at large:


Summertime blues: Maybe we need to talk about Ebola

posted at 9:21 pm on July 28, 2014 by Mary Katharine Ham

News of an Ebola outbreak in Western Africa has been simmering beneath the rest of the world going to hell this summer, but the news, and the disease itself, may have boiled over this weekend. The outbreak has now touched four African nations, killed one doctor tending the sick, and two infected Americans are getting treatment in Liberia—one doctor and one missionary.

Ebola, according to the World Health Organization, is a disease with a “case fatality rate of up to 90 percent,” passed through close contact and bodily fluids. It has claimed more than 600 lives in Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Guinea in an outbreak that health officials believe may have originated in the latter country as early as January, according to AP reporting.

Dr. Kent Brantly of Franklin Graham’s North Carolina-based aid organization Samaritan’s Purse, is in stable condition after contracting the disease while treating patients in Liberia, according to the organization.

[A Samaritan's Purse spokesperson] cautions that Brantly, 33, is “not out of the woods yet.” She says patients have a better chance of survival if they receive treatment immediately after being infected, which Brantly did.

The Associated Press found a prescient quote of Brantly’s from earlier this year:

Health workers are among those at greatest risk of contracting the disease, which spreads through contact with bodily fluids.

Photos of Brantly working in Liberia show him swathed head-to-toe in white protective coveralls, gloves and a head-and-face mask that he wore for hours a day while treating Ebola patients.

Earlier this year, the American was quoted in a posting about the dangers facing health workers trying to contain the disease. “In past Ebola outbreaks, many of the casualties have been health care workers who contracted the disease through their work caring for infected individuals,” he said.

Nancy Writebol, a missionary from North Carolina, is very ill and in isolation according to the pastor of her church.

But here’s the pair of headlines that made me start wondering where this is headed:

Nigeria government confirms Ebola case in megacity of Lagos

A Woman With Ebola Escaped Quarantine And Is On The Run In A City Of 1 Million

Lagos is a city of 21 million people, the largest on the continent of Africa. The city has shut down the hospital in which he died for decontamination and identified 59 people with whom he had contact, though the airline on which he flew doesn’t seem to have yet provided a list of passengers, whom a virologist interviewed by Reuters deemed in “pretty serious danger.”

The Nigerian city of Lagos shut down and quarantined on Monday a hospital where a man died of Ebola, the first recorded case of the highly infectious disease in Africa’s most populous country.

Patrick Sawyer, a consultant for the Liberian finance ministry aged in his 40s, collapsed on arrival at Lagos airport on July 20. He was put in isolation at the First Consultants Hospital in Obalende, one of the most crowded parts of a city that is home to 21 million people, and died on Friday.

“The private hospital was demobilized (evacuated) and the primary source of infection eliminated. The decontamination process in all the affected areas has commenced,” Lagos state health commissioner Jide Idris told a news conference.

Some hospital staff who were in close contact with the victim have been isolated. The hospital will be shut for a week and all staff closely monitored, Idris added.

Reuters also reports doctors in Nigeria, one of the African countries better positioned to control an outbreak, are on strike over pay issues and have no plans at this point to call off the work stoppage. Liberia is reportedly locking down its border crossings, but many health officials remain concerned most of the countries where outbreaks are occurring simply don’t have the security or the infrastructure to really prevent spread.

And, now a final headline to chill your blood.

Ebola only a plane ride away from the U.S.: Ebola could easily arrive in the USA on board a plane, but wouldn’t spread far, experts say.

So, we got that going for us, which is nice.
And the World Health Organization has officially declared the ebola outbreak to be a public health emergency.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is an international public health emergency that demands an extraordinary response, the World Health Organization declared Friday.

The outbreak has killed at least 961 people as of Aug. 6 and "is moving faster than we can control it," WHO’s director-general Margaret Chan told reporters from Geneva.

“The possible consequences of further international spread are particularly serious in view of the virulence of the virus,” the UN health agency said in a statement.


Some more "cheerful" news on the Ebola outbreak, and why this time it may not be stopped. (Once again, culture matters):



August 8th, 2014 - 11:49 am

The man who brought the Ebola virus to Nigeria probably knew he was infected.  Surveillance video of Patrick Sawyer before boarding his flight at Liberia’s James Sprigg Payne’s Airport showed “Mr. Sawyer lying flat on his stomach on the floor in the corridor of the airport and seemed to be in ‘excruciating pain.’ The footage showed Mr. Sawyer preventing people from touching him.”

He collapsed upon arrival in Nigeria, after a layover in Togo and was rushed to a Nigerian hospital.  Upon being told he had Ebola, he acted with what the Nigerians called “indiscipline”; a burst of rage and despair against the world and everyone in it.

Upon being told he had Ebola, Mr. Sawyer went into a rage, denying and objecting to the opinion of the medical experts. “He was so adamant and difficult that he took the tubes from his body and took off his pants and urinated on the health workers, forcing them to flee.

Amazingly, he was even then in the process of being sprung by his political connections before death intervened.  Had he lived Sawyer might have gotten out and protected by the juju of expensive watches and status symbols, mingled among the muckety-mucks of ECOWAS.

“The hospital would later report that it resisted immense pressure to let out Sawyer from its hospital against the insistence from some higher-ups and conference organizers that he had a key role to play at the ECOWAS convention in Calabar, the Cross River State capital.

In fact, FrontPageAfrica has been informed that officials in Monrovia were in negotiations with ECOWAS to have Sawyer flown back to Liberia.

Eight of the Nigerian hospital workers are now infected with Ebola, including the doctor who attended Sawyer. One, a nurse, has already died. The Liberian president, Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson, apologized to Nigeria for the incident. She said “Patrick Sawyer was on surveillance, but he sneaked out of Liberia”. Sneaked out, presumably, to hobnob with the big shots of the region.

Ken Isaacs of Samaritan’s Purse told a Congressional Hearing that the WHO is underreporting the Ebola epidemic. “Ken Isaacs, a vice president with Samaritan’s Purse, a North Carolina-based Christian humanitarian organization, also said the number of Ebola cases and deaths reported by the World Health Organization are probably 25 percent to 50 percent below actual levels.”

Isaacs told of a prominent Liberian doctor who “openly mocked the existence of Ebola” by trying to enter a hospital isolation ward with no gloves or protective clothing. He and another man who accompanied him to the hospital both died within five days, Isaacs said.

At one point, Isaacs even disputed the earlier testimony of a physician from the U.S. Agency for International Development, who said his agency had provided 35,000 protective suits for health care workers in West Africa.

Isaacs told lawmakers he had received an email in the last 90 minutes from a hospital in Liberia “asking us for more personal protection gear. This a problem everywhere,” he said.

Equipment might not be a problem for much longer. Finding people to wear them will. Ebola is rapidly killing off the medical personnel and shutting down the hospitals. The dead are being left to die in the street, where with a last effort, some of them crawl out to expire.

Adam Nossiter of the NY Times stalked the empty wards of hospitals.  It was infest with fear.

patients have fled the hospital’s long, narrow buildings, which sit silent and echoing in the fading light. Few people are taking any chances by coming here.

“Don’t touch the walls!” a Western medical technician yelled out. “Totally infected.”

The Telegraph says authorities have warned people against bring the sick to churches. “According to Dr Bernice Dahn, Liberia’s chief medical officer, three of the victims passed away while they were being sheltered in a local church – a sign of how many some people believe the disease is a curse that can be cured by prayer or witchcraft.” But in a situation where medical science is equally helpless, many people, as the Daily Telegraph notes, have simply fled to the bars and honky-tonks.

People don’t die here now,” said the deputy chief of the hospital’s burying team, Albert J. Mattia, exasperated after a long day of Ebola burials. “They are dying in the community, five, six a day.” Mr. Mattia was particularly disturbed that many of the bodies his team were putting in the ground had come from outside the hospital, thwarting attempts to isolate patients and prevent them from passing the disease to others.

“It’s very, very dangerous, very hazardous; it is contributing to the Ebola dead,” he said as his two deputies nodded glumly in agreement. “You go to the wards, there are no patients.”

When they’re not in denial,  they’re angry. A crowd approached the journalist’s group threateningly.

“A crowd gathered, and some accused us health workers of spreading the disease ourselves. They even began touching a local journalist we had brought with us, saying: ‘if you think it is us spreading it, then here you are, we will infect you’.”

In places where villagers see a doctor, they flee into the bush, shouting “Ebola! Ebola!” You can see why Sawyer freaked out like he did. He was in the grip of some nameless devil and lashed out at anything and everything.

The received  Western wisdom is that an Ebola epidemic is best controlled by quarantine and contact monitoring. You know, with isolation wards and databases and non-available disposable protective clothing in 110 degree heat. In a word, through a program of action which Africa is singularly unable to carry out. African officialdom lives by lies, faking documents and jumping the queue.  Like some American political parties, that is how they handle crisis. That’s how they’ll handle this one.

With the hospitals gone, they are now “sending troops” to isolate the disease. More likely than not the troops will themselves carry the virus and since no one can stop armed men, they will go where they like.

Much of the coverage has centered on the epidemic in Liberia and Nigeria, because these countries are relatively accessible to English speaking journalists. But  we have no idea what is happening in Sierra Leone or Guinea, which is one of the most corrupt countries on earth. Officials claim only about 1,000 people have died from Ebola in West Africa so far, ‘not many’ in such a vast region. But this completely underrates the real danger. The relevant population against which such casualties must be measured are the medical personnel. They are being wiped out. Africa has a very limited store of scientific, medical and technical human capital and once these irreplaceables are killed or intimidated then the man issuing the medical exit visas will be an illiterate with a rubber stamp.

And then anyone can get on a plane. Maybe anyone already can — providing he’s official.

Culture is the key to survival, not just in Africa but also in the West. The prosperity of the last 70 years has made us forget that exact knowledge matters, not for any reasons of social status, but for survival. Nature doesn’t care what you think. It doesn’t care about spin doctors say or what someone said in a speech. The virus is a physical information object, which given input, produces output. “Don’t touch the walls!” applies as much to presidents as to villagers.

Perhaps Ebola will stay in Africa. But one shouldn’t count on it. Readers will recall reports Libyan hospital systems are collapsing as expatriate health workers, who make up 80% of medical personnel, evacuate. The hospital systems in Syria and Iraq are probably highly degraded by now.  Two days ago, a Saudi businessman died after returning from West Africa, after exhibiting Ebola-like symptoms, but the diagnosis has not been confirmed.  The wars of the region have created an extraordinary fertile ground for epidemic. If Ebola should get to Mecca then we will rediscover the truism that no man is an island, especially not in our globalized world.