AFRICOM yet to rise to occassion

by Scott A Morgan

Even though it does not have a forward deployment base or a permanent location, the unfolding pirates saga in Somalia is an interesting way for AFRICOM to begin.

The Pentagon’s African Command or AFRICOM got off to a shaky start. Most African countries declined to host it soon after it was inaugurated by President George W. Bush to secure US interests in Africa. AFRICOM is the newest military command of the United States.

As efforts to restore a functioning government in Somalia continue to flounder, there has been an increase in piracy in one of the world’s busiest shipping regions. The United States, among other nations, has deployed both naval and Special Forces to the region in an effort to curtail criminal and terrorist activity.

The vessel that was recently seized has intelligence specialists concerned not only about the cargo but where the cargo was eventually headed to. After all this is one of the most violent regions in the whole world, The MV Faina is a container ship of Ukrainian registry captured within the last two weeks. Part of its cargo was 33 T-72 main battle tanks.

Now a guessing game has begun. The pirates have demanded over $20 million in ransom. There are reports that the tanks were headed to Mombasa, Kenya. The Kenyan Government has stated they purchased the armor from Russia. There have been reports that the Government of South Sudan (GOSS) had acquired the weapons. US intelligence believes that this is an effort to go around the arms embargo against Sudan.

Let us look at these three scenarios: First of all, the Sudanese Government. This would not be the first time the Russian Federation has attempted to break sanctions against Sudan. As a matter of fact the Russians have supported Sudan in the UN on more than one occasion. so this is plausible but, if it were so, the armor could have been unloaded at Port Sudan.

What about the claims of the Kenyan Government? Well the armor was headed to a Kenyan port. This could give the claims some form of legitimacy. There are still concerns regarding abuse in the Mt. Elgon region to the west of the country but, on the whole, peace and stability are increasing in Kenya.  Unless the armor is meant to defend the northern border with Somalia and/or Ethiopia.

This brings us to the Government of Southern Sudan. This is an autonomous region of Sudan that fought a long protracted insurgency against Khartoum. There is still a level of distrust towards Khartoum to this very day. Also in recent weeks there have been clashes with the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) which is a Ugandan militia. The LRA was to have signed a Peace Deal with the Ugandan government after Southern Sudan negotiated a peace accord. When it came time to the signing ceremony, the LRA did not show.

With the armor being seized by pirates its possible that the tanks could end up being used in Somalia unless either ransom is paid or the vessel is liberated by naval elements that have surrounded the ship at this time.

The Author publishes Confused Eagle on the Internet. It can be found at


Secret tank deal shows poor priorities

A secret tank deal by Kenya’s Army would have gone unnoticed if Somali pirates hadn’t hijacked a Ukrainian ship ferrying the 33 tanks to the port of Mombasa.

diesel, benzene and kerosene.

The Russian built T-72 tank can run on three types of fuel: diesel, benzene and kerosene.

Its not clear when the Department of Defence placed an order for T-72 tanks from Russia. The Army has not explained how much it spent on the equipment, neither has it explained the role of the 33 tanks in Kenya’s security strategy.

Apart from tanks, Somali pirates found tons of ammunition and auxiliary equipment within the ship, which they have threatened to offload for use in their country’s civil war. The pirates are demanding US$35 million in ransom before they release the vessel and its cargo.

Typical of most African governments, Kenya’s leaders are spending billions of dollars on security while ordinary people die of hunger, disease and poor shelter. Kenya ranks at the bottom of international social and economic indicators.

A growing population is putting pressure on neglected infrastructure. Public hospitals lack drugs as thousands of Kenyans perish each year on a road network broken to the point of tatters. Kenyan cities are going without fresh water due to lack of investment in water production.

The capital city of Nairobi is getting less water today than it was receiving a decade ago after a colonial era dam collapsed at Sasumua. The port city of Mombasa gets water from a supply system built by the British when the town’s population was less than a third of current figures.

Lack of investment in electricity production has made Kenya’s electricity tariffs the highest in Africa. Industries suffer from constant power blackouts which have undermined economic growth, leading to massive losses and job cuts.

Agricultural production in Kenya is far below demand. The country is producing less coffee, maize, tea, wheat, millet and everything else compared to twenty years ago. Sugar milling companies in Western Kenya, stuck with 19th century technology, are creaking out low quality sugar in significantly less quantities than when Kenya was a British colony.

Amidst all these, the Kenyan government has seen it fit to invest billions of shillings in military equipment. As stated earlier, if it wasn’t for Somali pirates, majority of Kenyans would never have known that tanks were about to get imported into the country. But, lack of priority in government procurement appears to be the norm these days.

Its been announced that Kenya will spend about $23 million in the purchase of second-hand fighter jets from the Kingdom of Jordan. The F-5 fighter that the Kenyan Airforce is so fond of went out of production in 1989, meaning that the jets Kenya is buying are at least 19 years old. Kenya will also pay Jordan to train its pilots in using the junk aircraft.

Meanwhile, other branches of the security forces are on a shopping bonanza. Regular and Administration police have enhanced their recruitment drives to boost numbers. They are receiving modern equipment, weapons, 4-wheel drive trucks, uniforms and riot gear. Considering the conduct of police during the post-election violence, its obvious that this enhanced expenditure is not for the benefit of ordinary men and women.

The Kenya Police has just finished rehabilitating giant Russian-built helicopters fitted with night-vision equipment, gun detectors and communications technology. The helicopters will carry a team of quick response officers assisted by highly trained dogs.

Just this week, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights – a government body – blamed police for the execution of 500 Kikuyu youth and the disappearance of scores of others. According to survivors, the dead and the disappeared were all abducted by people identifying themselves as police officers. A man whose dramatic arrest in Nairobi was shown on the front page of the Daily Nation, was later found dead in the city mortuary.

For most Kenyans, the acquisition of helicopters, night vision equipment and vicious dogs can only portend doom as far as personal freedoms are concerned.

By purchasing bigger weapons to arm a greater number of police and soldiers, the Kenyan government is treading a path set by authorities in situations of high wealth inequality. Kenya is among the top three most unequal societies on earth.

On one hand there is an extremely wealthy minority whose standard of living can comfortably secure them a place among the world’s rich and famous. On the opposite extreme is a majority of people without access to adequate food, housing, health care and education. These are people whose future is so bleak that the only options are crime, prostitution, alcoholism and violence.

Amidst this depressing scenario, authorities seek to preserve the status quo by unleashing greater surveillance of the disadvantaged majority. The objective is to make life safer and easier for the rich minority.

The fruits of economic growth are used to buy guns instead of building roads. Public funds are used to buy tanks instead of medicines for government hospitals. In an unequal society, the government will find it better to employ soldiers and police rather than employing doctors and teachers. Instead of facilitating constructive engagement between the rich and the poor, the system is designed to keep them apart.

Such trends have happened elsewhere and Kenya is blindly going down the same path. Unfortunately, that particular path usually ends up in self-destruction, for the human spirit cannot tolerate oppression forever.

Georgian president a, “political corpse”

Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, has called his Georgian foe a, “political corpse,” in remarks confirming Russian hostility to the Georgian government.

“President Saakashvili no longer exists in our eyes,” Medvedev told Italy’s Rai television.

Fighting between Russia and Georgia began on 7th August after the Georgian military tried to retake the breakaway region of South Ossetia by force. Russian forces launched a counter-attack and the conflict ended with the ejection of Georgian troops from both South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Russia has since recognised the independence of both regions, though no other country has.

More on this story from the BBC >>

Meanwhile, Russia’s status as the biggest oil and gas supplier to Europe means that economic and political sanctions will not be imposed in the immediate future.

Georgia & Russia in another tragic drama

The latest war between Georgia and Russia is the latest episode of tragic relations spanning two hundred years. Georgia, because of its small size but strategic position, finds itself a target of the great powers.

Throughout its history, Georgia has changed hands between the Greeks, Arabs, Turkey, Iran and Russia. Lately, the United States and Western Europe have landed into the fray. Indeed, analysts say that the current Russian intervention in Georgia has little to do with the Georgian people but is meant to combat US attempts to make inroads in the area.

Russia believes that it has exclusivity over the Caucasus region, meaning other world powers should keep off. The Russian Empire collapsed in the Revolution of 1917 but since then, governments in Moscow have wanted to control territories that used to be part of the Empire.

Georgia was part of the Russian Empire until 1917. After the collapse of the Empire, an independent Georgian state was established in May 1918. In 1921 during the Russian Civil War, Russian troops invaded the country under the orders of Joseph Stalin, who was a native Georgian.

Large-scale repressions orchestrated by a pro-Russian but ethnic Georgian security officer, Lavrentiy Beria, heavily demoralized the Georgian society and exterminated its most active pro-independence part. From August 29 to September 5, 1924 – a period of one week – 12,578 people, chiefly nobles and intellectuals, were executed and over 20,000 exiled to Siberia.

Georgia then became a republic within the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) until 1991 when the USSR collapsed.

As an independent state, ethnic tension has often plunged Georgia into crises and provided ample opportunity for the intervention of neighbouring countries. Ethnic Georgians account for 70% of the population; Armenians, Russians, Azerbaijanis, and Ossetians are the leading minorities. Thus, the country is always under the grips of instability. Georgia’s first president, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, was ousted in 1992. Former President Eduard Shevardnadze survived two assassination attempts in the 1990s.

In 2004, the US supported riots in Georgia that led to the ouster of President Eduard Shevardnadze, who was pro-Russia. The youthful Mikhail Saakashvili took office and adopted a pro-Western stance. Not only did Georgia contribute soldiers to Iraq, but the country has applied for membership in the American led, NATO. These developments have angered Russia. Georgia’s ill-advised attack against pro-Russian militia in South Ossetia gave the Russian government a good reason to invade.

The regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, both containing minority ethnic groups, wish to secede and join Russia. Of course, Russia has only been too happy to provide the necessary assistance in a bid to destabilize Georgia. The local governments of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are not recognized by the central government of Georgia. Abkhazia is essentially independent, and South Ossetia is almost independent.

Another autonomous region, Ajaria, does not seek secession from Georgia; its local government cooperates with the central government and recognizes the constitution of Georgia as the guiding force for local legislation.

Disputes with Abkhazia, Ajaria and South Ossetia featured prominently as Georgia joined the Soviet Union in the early 1920s.

In July 1921 the Ajarian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (ASSR) was formed within Georgia. Abkhazia was initially a separate Soviet republic, but in 1921 it was merged with Georgia, and in 1931 it was downgraded to the status of an autonomous republic. In April 1922 the Soviet government created the political entity of South Ossetia and designated it an autonomous region within Georgia, while its northern counterpart on the other side of the Greater Caucasus, North Ossetia (now Alania), became part of Russia.

Georgia has a mostly mountainous terrain, more than one-third of which is heavily wooded. The main ridge of the Caucasus Mountains forms the Northern boundary with Russia. The Lesser Caucasus occupy the Southern and central parts of the republic.

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