Human rights campaigners are expressing concerns over Russian involvement in The Gambia ahead of the West African nation’s critical winter polls.
Banjul in early September signed a defense agreement with Moscow, which will give The Gambia’s army training and technical aid. But activists say The Gambia may also get military equipment from Russia.
The Gambia is heading to the polls in December and security forces have used excessive force to crackdown on the opposition. At least two opposition detainees have died in custody and those tortured are denied medical care, the UN confirmed.
The timing of Russia’s agreement with Gambia is concerning to many campaigners ahead of the polls, given that two autocratic, abusive regimes cooperating together in the lead up to an important election should concern everyone committed to democracy in the region.
Russia has been trying to get a foot hole in the Atlantic as well. In November 2014, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia will maintain a military presence in western Atlantic and in July 2015, President Vladimir Putin approved a measure to give his country a strong presence in the Atlantic in response to a NATO troops expansion following the invasion of Ukraine and threats to neighboring nations.
Legioonalaisen kommentti aikoinaan.
"Kaikissa niissä sodissa oli ainoa yhteinen asia että aina vastapuoli oli aseistettu Venäläisillä aseilla"
Tuostapa tuli mieleeni, mitä keväällä 1986 sotilaspappi tuli jossain yhteydessä meille lohkaisseeksi. "Tiedättehän pojat, miten selkkaukset alkavat? No, ne alkavat siten, että paikalle ilmestyy Kalashnikoveja." YYA-aikaan papilta rohkea tokaisu.Legioonalaisen kommentti aikoinaan.
"Kaikissa niissä sodissa oli ainoa yhteinen asia että aina vastapuoli oli aseistettu Venäläisillä aseilla"
Oliko Haminan varuskunnan pappi? Kyseinen herra jäi varusmiesaikana juuri tuolloin mieleen suorapuheisena ja selkeäsanaisena herrasmiehenä.Tuostapa tuli mieleeni, mitä keväällä 1986 sotilaspappi tuli jossain yhteydessä meille lohkaisseeksi. "Tiedättehän pojat, miten selkkaukset alkavat? No, ne alkavat siten, että paikalle ilmestyy Kalashnikoveja." YYA-aikaan papilta rohkea tokaisu.
Gambians, tourists flee on eve of deadline for leader to surrender power
Gambians and tourists were boarding buses, packing suitcases onto trucks and hiring canoes to flee the capital on Wednesday, as President Yahya Jammeh clung to power on the eve of his rival Adama Barrow's planned swearing in.
Jammeh, a former soldier who once vowed to rule for "a billion years", is refusing to step down, despite condemnation from regional leaders and even the threat of an imminent invasion by West African troops to enforce his election defeat.
Residents in two Senegalese border towns reported heavy troop movements towards the frontier and a Senegalese military source confirmed the build up.
In a sign he is digging in, Gambia's National Assembly has passed a resolution to allow Jammeh, who has been in power since a 1994 coup, to stay in office for three months from Wednesday.
The president's allies have deserted in their droves -- at least eight ministers have so far resigned of whom four quit in the past 48 hours -- and it is unclear how many of his own armed forces will be willing to defend him once his mandate expires.
But many Gambians are not waiting to find out.
At the sandy Bundung Garage bus station in the capital, Banjul, women carrying infants strapped to their backs queued up to get the belongings they had salvaged onto buses bound for the southern border with Senegal.
Men and children sat patiently amid piles of suitcases, rolled up foam mattresses, bags of rice, bottles of cooking oil.
"The last three days we've been submerged," said bus park manager Sonore Momodou Choi, his face shaded from the blazing sun by a fishing hat.
"Normally we load three minibuses per day. This week we're 25 a day, not including the bigger buses."
Jammeh declared a state of emergency on Tuesday, but a Banjul-based diplomat said it wasn't clear what extra powers this would give his forces or if the president even had the authority to enforce it.
Others fled on pirogues across the river that splits Africa's smallest country down the middle.
REFUGEES ARRIVE IN SENEGAL
In a Supreme Court petition, Jammeh said the electoral commission was subjected to "foreign influence" and biased against him.
But the court lacks the judges to rule on the challenge, a situation that would have suited Jammeh well had he won, as he expected to, but which now renders it difficult for him to challenge the poll legally.
In Zinguinchor, in Senegal's Casamance region south of Gambia, a Reuters witness saw 12 children crammed in the back of a van on a beach less a few hundred metres from the Gambian border next to a heap of belongings in plastic bags.
"We were scared by what we saw on the news," explained 14 year old Moussa Camara from Kafotang in Gambia. He crossed over in a pirogue with 27 other family members on Tuesday.
At least 26,000 people have fled Gambia to Senegal fearing unrest, the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) said on Wednesday, citing Senegalese government figures.
After the British foreign office raised its level of alert to advise against all but essential travel, UK tour operator Thomas Cook started evacuating nearly 1,000 holidaymakers by air on Wednesday. Tourists from other countries followed suit.
"I'd be happy to stay, but the tour operators are saying we all have to leave," said Dutch tourist Art Johnson in Banjul, where the sleepy streets are shaded by palm and mango trees.
The streets around the popular Senegambia resort strip, normally packed with tourists, were mostly empty apart from a few holidaymakers withdrawing money from ATM machines.
"It's a disaster, all my tourists are leaving," said nature tour guide Abou, who optimistically had a pair of binoculars hanging from his neck in the hope of getting a final tour in before everything shuts down.
"But we aren't afraid. Ecowas is coming," he said, referring to the regional bloc that has threatened military action to force Jammeh out if he refuses to go willingly.
The Reuters witness at Senegal's border with Gambia saw a large military convoy with fuel trucks and empty vans for moving soldiers enter barracks late on Tuesday. Several residents said this was unusual. At checkpoints between Ziguinchor and the border to the north, some Senegalese soldiers wore bulletproof vests with grenades in the pockets.
Niin lujin teksti.tv:stä että siellä on yli 300 suomalaisturistejä !....mite ne siellä mahtaa tehdä?Inhaa huomata oman ajatustoiminnan rajallisuus! Gambiassa on varmaan juuri nyt aidosti todellisia ongelmia, mutta ensimmäisenä itselle tuli mieleen, että nyt on keski-ikäisten eurooppalaisten tätien seiväsmatkat vaarassa...
Senegalin armeija: Ylitämme Gambian rajan keskiyöllä, ellei presidentti lähde
– Olemme valmiita ja odotamme keskiyön takarajaa. Mikäli poliittista ratkaisua ei synny, me marssimme sisään, sanoi Senegalin armeijan tiedottaja, eversti Abdou Ndiaye.
Myös Senegalin armeijan komentaja sanoi radiossa, että joukot ovat valmiina odottamassa rajalla.
Hieman aiemmin illallaperustuen, että Senegalin joukot ovat saapuneet Gambian rajalle pohjoisessa ja etelässä.
Myös Nigeria vahvisti, että se on lähettämässä joukkojaan Senegaliin Gambian rajalle siirrettäväksi. Nigerian ilmavoimien mukaan 200 sotilasta sekä ilmatukea ja hävittäjiä on lähetetty Senegaliin odottamaan lähtökäskyä.
Alueellinen rähinä alkamassa ?
American Commandos Don’t Care About Africa’s Borders
Across the continent, elite troops pursue U.S. aims
by NICK TURSE
Al Qaeda doesn’t care about borders. Neither does Islamic State or Boko Haram. U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc thinks the same way.
“[T]errorists, criminals, and non-state actors aren’t bound by arbitrary borders,” the commander of Special Operations Command Africa — aka SOCAFRICA — told an interviewer early this fall. “That said, everything we do is not organized around recognizing traditional borders.”
“In fact, our whole command philosophy is about enabling cross-border solutions, implementing multi-national, collective actions and empowering African partner nations to work across borders to solve problems using a regional approach.”
TomDispatch obtained a SOCAFRICA planning document that offers a window onto the scope of these “multi-national, collective actions” America’s most elite troops have carried out in Africa. The declassified, but heavily redacted secret report, covering the years 2012 to 2017 and acquired via the Freedom of Information Act , details nearly 20 programs and activities — from training exercises to security cooperation engagements — utilized by SOCAFRICA across the continent.
This wide array of low-profile missions, in addition to named operations and quasi-wars, attests to the growing influence and sprawling nature of U.S. special operations forces — or SOF — in Africa.
How U.S. military engagement will proceed under the Trump administration remains to be seen. The president-elect has said or tweeted little about Africa in recent years — aside from long trading in baseless claims that the current president was born there.
Given his choice for national security adviser, Michael Flynn — a former director of intelligence for Joint Special Operations Command who believes that the United States is in a “world war” with Islamic militants — there is good reason to believe that SOCAFRICA will continue its border-busting missions across that continent. That, in turn, means that Africa is likely to remain crucial to America’s nameless global war on terror.
Publicly, the command claims that it conducts its operations to “promote regional stability and prosperity,” while Bolduc emphasizes that its missions are geared toward serving the needs of African allies. The FOIA files make clear, however, that U.S. interests are the command’s principal and primary concern — a policy in keeping with the America First mindset and mandate of incoming commander-in-chief Donald Trump — and that support to “partner nations” is prioritized to suit American, not African, needs and policy goals.
Shades of gray
Bolduc is fond of saying that his troops — U.S. Navy SEALs and Army Green Berets, among others — operate in the “gray zone,” or what he calls “the spectrum of conflict between war and peace.” “In Africa, we are not the kinetic solution” — that is, not pulling triggers and dropping bombs — is another of his favored stock phrases.
He also regularly takes pains to say that “we are not at war in Africa — but our African partners certainly are.” That is not entirely true.
Earlier this month, in fact, a White House report made it clear, for instance, that “the United States is currently using military force” in Somalia. At about the same moment, The New York Times revealed an imminent Obama administration plan to deem Al Shabab “to be part of the armed conflict that Congress authorized against the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to senior American officials,” strengthening President-elect Donald Trump’s authority to carry out missions there in 2017 and beyond.
As part of its long-fought shadow war against Al Shabab militants, the U.S. has carried out commando raids and drone assassinations there — with the latter markedly increasing in 2015–2016. On Dec. 5, 2016, Pres. Obama issuedhis latest biannual “war powers” letter to Congress which noted that the military had not only “conducted strikes in defense of U.S. forces” there, but also in defense of local allied troops.
U.S. personnel “occasionally accompany regional forces, including Somali and African Union Mission in Somalia … forces, during counterterrorism operations,” the president also acknowledged.
Obama’s war powers letter also mentioned American deployments in Cameroon, Djibouti and Niger, efforts aimed at countering Joseph Kony’s murderous Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa, a long-running mission by military observers in Egypt and a continuing deployment of forces supporting “the security of U.S. citizens and property” in rapidly deteriorating South Sudan.
The president offered only two sentences on U.S. military activities in Libya, although a full-scale American air war, dubbed Operation Odyssey Lightning, against Islamic State militants, especially those in the city of Sirte, had joined long-running special ops and drone campaign there. Since Aug. 1, 2016, in fact, the United States has carried out nearly 500 air strikes in Libya, according to figures supplied by U.S. Africa Command, or AFRICOM.
Odyssey Lightning is, in fact, no outlier. While some redacted the “primary named operations” involving America’s elite forces in Africa from the declassified secret files in TomDispatch’s possession, a November 2015 briefing by Bolduc, which they obtained via a separate FOIA request, reveals that his command was then involved in seven such operations on the continent.
These likely included at least some of the following: Enduring Freedom-Horn of Africa, Octave Shield, and/or Juniper Garret, all aimed at East Africa; New Normal, an effort to secure U.S. embassies and assets around the continent; Juniper Micron, a U.S.-backed French and African mission to stabilize Mali following a 2012 coup there by a U.S.-trained officer and the chaos that followed; Observant Compass, the long-running effort to decimate the Lord’s Resistance Army, which recently retired AFRICOM chief U.S. Army Gen. David Rodriguez derided as expensive and strategically unimportant; and Juniper Shield, a wide-ranging effort — formerly known as Operation Enduring Freedom-Trans Sahara — aimed at Algeria, Burkina Faso, Morocco, Tunisia, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, and Senegal. A 2015 briefing document by SOCAFRICA’s parent unit, U.S. Special Operations Command — aka SOCOM — also lists an ongoing “gray zone” conflict in Uganda.
On any given day, between 1,500 and 1,700 American special operators and support personnel are somewhere on the continent. Over the course of a year they conduct missions in more than 20 countries.
According to Bolduc’s November 2015 briefing, Special Operations Command Africa carries out 78 separate “mission sets.” These include activities that range from enhancing “partner capability and capacity” to the sharing of intelligence.
Most of what Bolduc’s troops do involves working alongside and mentoring local allies. SOCAFRICA’s showcase effort, for instance, is Flintlock, an annual training exercise in Northwest Africa involving elite American, European, and African forces, which provides the command with a plethoraof publicity.
More than 1,700 military personnel from 30-plus nations took part in Flintlock 2016. Next year, the exercise is expected “to grow to include SOF from more countries, [as well as] more interagency partners,” according to Bolduc.
While censors redacted the information, the SOCAFRICA strategic planning document — produced in 2012 and scheduled to be fully declassified in 2037 — indicates the existence of one or more other training exercises. Bolduc recently mentioned two: Silent Warrior and Epic Guardian.
In the past, the command has also taken part in exercises like Silver Eagle 10 and Eastern Piper 12. AFRICOM did not respond to requests for comment on these exercises or other questions related to this article.
Such exercises are, however, just a small part of the SOCAFRICA story. Joint Combined Exchange Training missions — better known simply as JCETs — are a larger one. Officially authorized to enable U.S. special operators to “practice skills needed to conduct a variety of missions, including foreign internal defense, unconventional warfare, and counterterrorism,” JCETs actually serve as a backdoor method of expanding U.S. military influence and contacts in Africa, since they allow for “incidental-training benefits” to “accrue to the foreign friendly forces at no cost.”
As a result, JCETs play an important role in forging and sustaining military relationships across the continent. Just how many of these missions the U.S. conducts in Africa is apparently unknown — even to the military commands involved. As TomDispatch reported earlier this year, according to SOCOM, the U.S. conducted 19 JCETs in 2012, 20 in 2013, and 20, again, in 2014.
AFRICOM, however, claims that there were nine JCETs in 2012, 18 in 2013, and 26 in 2014. Whatever the true number, JCETs are a crucial cog in the SOCAFRICA machine
Gambian tilanne ansaitsee oman ketjun.
Istuva presidentti ei suostu luopumaan vallasta. Miten palstalaiset näette Gambian tilanteen laajemmin? Onko aineksia isompaankin konfliktiin?
Äsken vilkaisin niin Mauritanian yllä 3 konetta matkalla eurooppaan Banjulista.Turisteja lennätetään urakalla pois, lentokentällä useita koneita, Sveitsistä on tulossa businessjetti sinne päin, ehkä hakemaan kapinallista presidenttiä?