|Africa News Digest
UN Orders 'Peacekeepers' to Somalia; Islamists Call It War
The UN Security Council Dec. 6 unanimously adopted a resolution drafted by the Bush Administration for a "peacekeeping" force in Somalia. However, the country's Islamists, who rule much of the South, have vowed to attack the "peacekeepers" as invaders.
The resolution, co-sponsored by Ghana, Congo, and Tanzania, authorizes the East African Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and the African Union, to establish "a protection and training mission in Somalia" for an initial period of six months, to support the ineffective Transitional Federal Government (TFG). It also partially lifts an arms embargo against Somalia, in order to supply the force with weapons and equipment and to train the TFG security forces. The Bush Administration-backed TFG has no reliable power base of its own.
Somalia has lacked any real central government for more than a decade. The current conflict is between the TFG, which only controls the area around one town, Baidoa, in southern Somalia (and has had the cooperation of the northeastern zone called Puntland), and the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), an organization of several varieties of Islamism, which controls, and has restored civil order (sometimes brutally), in most of southern Somalia, including the traditional capital, Mogadishu.
The UIC claims that Ethiopia already has thousands of troops in Somalia supporting the TFG against the UIC, and demands their removal; the Ethiopians admit to having sent a few hundred.
The UNSC resolution calls for the peacekeepers to oversee implementation of agreements reached between the sides in their (intermittent) dialogue, and protect and train government forces. According to BBC Dec. 7, the peacekeepers will number 8,000, but that IGAD is split over the deployment. The Washington Post reported that the U.S. has agreed to exclude soldiers from Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Kenya, all contiguous with Somalia and possible threats to its territorial integrity. The force will be headed by Uganda.
The UIC says it will attack the UN troops as invaders.
The International Crisis Group, which seems to treat the UIC as having the greater de facto legitimacy, warns that the UN force will spark a regional war (this concern is alleviated by the exclusion of Somalia's neighbors from the force); that while militarily supporting the TFG, its presence will divide and destroy the TFG's political base; and that the Bush Administration is treating Somalia as a new front in the War on Terror instead of trying to bring the sides together.
Angola Expected To Join OPEC
Angola, sub-Saharan Africa's second-largest oil producer, is expected to join the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), The Times of London reported Dec. 1. The move is expected to send a chill throughout the boardrooms of the oil multinationals, which have invested heavily in African oil exploration as an alternative to Middle East oil. ExxonMobil and Chevron are the two big U.S. companies operating in Angola. Others with substantial involvement include British Petroleum and France's Total. East Asian countries, especially China, are seeking a greater share as well.
Angola, which produces 1.4 million barrels a day, will become the first new member of OPEC in 35 years, and its first African member. Its entry into OPEC could be followed by Ecuador and Sudan. The three would boost OPEC's share of world oil production from 30 million to 32 million barrels a day. The move is also considered political, since Angola is one of the most nationalistic countries in the region.
More importantly, it will be seen as a threat to the neo-cons' geopolitical scheme to develop the offshore oil resources in the Gulf of Guinea, from the Western Sahara to Angola, as an alternative to oil from the Middle East.
Tunisia Conducts Study for First Nuclear Plant
Tunisia is conducting a feasibility study for its first nuclear plant, to come on line in 2020, according to Tunisian press Dec. 1. The 900 MW plant would provide 20% of the country's electricity needs. Expecting the continued high price for hydrocarbons, with serious repercussions for its economy, the government wishes to diversify fuels for production of electricity, including using nuclear. Morocco and Egypt have also recently announced plans to go nuclear.
A potential new nuclear power has also emerged in Asia. Indonesia, which has long had nuclear ambitions, has signed a nuclear agreement with Russia. During a Russian-Indonesian summit in Moscow in the week ending Dec. 1, Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda signed an agreement with Russian Federal Nuclear Power Agency head Sergei Kiriyenko for cooperation in civilian nuclear energy. Indonesia is expected to announce in 2008 its tender for the construction of its first nuclear power plant, and Kiriyenko said Russia has a wide range of technologies, including a floating nuclear plant design, that Indonesia has expressed interest in.
According to an Indonesian source who has been advising his government on nuclear policy and technology, the government has announced that 4 GW of nuclear power capacity will be built in Gunung Muria by 2016, and it has started a TV ad campaign, using popular personalities, to promote nuclear energy with the public.