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Once mighty, Somalia's army struggles to rebuild
by Staff Writers
Mogadishu (AFP) Aug 9, 2012

I.Coast army base chiefs dismissed over attack
Abidjan (AFP) Aug 9, 2012 - Ivory Coast's government said Wednesday it dismissed the heads of an army base in Abidjan that was attacked earlier this week and arrested those in charge of the weapons that where stolen in the raid.

The attack on the Akouedo army base in the north of Abidjan on Monday killed six soldiers and one of the assailants, in the latest of a string of raids targeting the military in Ivory Coast's economic capital.

A government communique said Akouedo base officials and those guarding the weapons arsenal had been fired.

All arms and munitions depots have been secured and strategic sites are being monitored, it added but did not give details.

The attack on the Akouedo base came after gunmen killed four soldiers in twin attacks on a police station and an army post in Abidjan's Yopougon district early Sunday.

Interior Minister Hamed Bakayoko told reporters that about a dozen people were arrested after the Akouedo raid, and several others after the Yopougon incidents, adding that some of the stolen weapons have been recovered.

He also accused supporters of former president Laurent Gbagbo of being behind the attacks, and of having links to exiled pro-Gbagbo troops in neighbouring Ghana.

"All these incidents have a common link," he said, adding that they were meant to "create fear in Ivory Coast."

Gbagbo's FPI party on Tuesday rejected allegations that it was masterminding the attacks and called on President Alassane Ouattara's government to stop "a wave of deadly violence."

Military officials said that two people were wounded in the latest attack on a military checkpoint at Agboville, 80 kilometres (50 miles) north of Abidjan, overnight Tuesday.

As hundreds of Somali army recruits march haltingly around a dusty parade ground on the outskirts of Mogadishu, Ugandan officer Assa Mutebi admits that sometimes his job can feel a little strange.

Mutebi, the "patriotism instructor" for the 2,000-odd recruits who have just returned from a year of European Union-funded training in Uganda, is responsible for teaching the fledgling soldiers to love their own homeland.

"I teach them about their country, how to value their country," said Mutebi, part of the 17,000-strong African Union mission in Somalia (AMISOM), propping up Somalia's weak government against Al-Qaeda linked Shebab rebels.

"We go through the history of Somalia with them -- I have had to learn so much about it," he added.

Once one of Africa's largest militaries under former dictator Siad Barre, toppled in 1991, Somalia's national army was been torn apart by decades of clan rivalries and the absence of any effective government to actually serve.

"The aim now is to get them to serve the nation and the national army, not some individual warlords -- we want to make them forget clan," Mutebi told AFP.

In recent months the Somali army has helped drive the extremist Shebab fighters from a series of strongholds, although the bulk of heavy fighting was done by AU or Ethiopian troops, alongside powerful local militia forces.

The troops who return from Uganda -- where they are trained in urban warfare and tactics -- are given a three week course to reintegrate them into the army and give them a sense of Somalia's military history, commanders say.

"The Somali armed forces were one of the biggest in Africa but they need Somali pride back -- we need to get back the pride and become the lion of Africa," Somali army colonel Mohamed Ismail barked in a curt military voice.

In a neighbouring hangar, foreign personnel from the US private security firm Bancroft were training an elite army unit.

While several thousand recruits have been trained, the vast majority of fighters nominally included in the national army are in fact rather part of a loose coalition of militia forces, unified only in opposition to the Shebab.

Maintaining control is near impossible, with reports that rival factions of government troops have fought each other for control of captured territory.

And, while conditions for civilians under Shebab control are reported to be grim, the situation in government areas are no better, a recently leaked report from the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea said.

"Incidents of sexual violence in IDP (internally displaced people) camps are high, with rape being described as 'endemic' by human rights activists and aid workers alike," it read.

As the corruption-riddled government prepares this month to wrap up after eight years of infighting and replaced by a new system selected in a United Nations backed process, building a functioning army is key to peace.

However, analysts warn that integrating forces based along Somalia's powerful clan lines into a single force will prove a difficult task.

"The major issue is that many clans outside of Mogadishu fear the army will be dominated by the major leaders' clans, and will not want to serve under their command," said EJ Hogendoorn,from the International Crisis Group think-tank.

"Building cross-clan units has been extremely difficult and only possible because of concerted pressure by AMISOM and its western contractors," Hogendoorn said.

"It is hard to tell what will happen to the current cross-clan brigades if the military threat subsides."

Convincing the militias to cede control to army commanders is not the only problem - many militia forces bring child soldiers with them.

Rampant corruption in government has also damaged attempts to rebuild the security sector. Troop wages -- provided by a combination of donors -- have regularly disappeared, prompting high desertion rates.

"Non-payment and delay of wages has been a significant factor in the loss of troop morale and in soldiers defecting to fight for Al-Shebab," said Ahmed Soliman, an analyst at Britain's Chatham House think-tank.

But despite many people's gloom, Ugandan-trained army recruit Iklan Muhamad Hassan, a pink headscarf tucked into the collar of her camouflage top, sees the chance of peace.

"I am ready to go out and defend my country," said 20-year old Hassan, born after civil war broke out in Somalia, and now a mother of a baby son.

"My vision is for Somalia to have a stable government and army, and for children on the streets to be able to have peace."

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Zambia reassures China after mine boss killing
Lusaka (AFP) Aug 9, 2012 - The killing of a Chinese mine boss last weekend has left Zambian President Michael Sata's government rushing to reassure foreign investors on their safety, while trying also to improve conditions for workers.

Wu Shengzai, 50, was killed Saturday when workers crushed him with a trolley as he tried to flee underground to escape a wage riot at Collum Coal Mine in southern Zambia, in the most dramatic clash yet between Chinese managers and their local employees.

"As government we assure the Chinese community at Collum coal mine and investors at large, that Zambia is safe for them and their investment," government spokesman Kennedy Sakeni said.

"The government deeply regrets the death of a Chinese supervisor who died during a workers protest over wages," he added.

Twelve people were quickly arrested. One miner was charged with murder on Wednesday, while the others were slapped with lesser charges of theft and riotous behaviour.

"There won't be any sacred cows, and those that would be found wanting will face the wrath of the law," Labour Minister Fackson Shamenda told AFP.

When Sata was an opposition leader, he railed against the growing Chinese presence in Zambia. Since winning elections last year, he has softened his tone on China but still promised to improve working conditions in a country where about 60 percent of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day.

That is what he aimed to do when his government last month unveiled new minimum wages that doubled the basic salaries for many types of work.

Mineworker salaries are governed by a separate agreement negotiated by unions, but not all Collum employees are covered by the deal.

Some complain that they earn as little as $173 a month. The riot began when they received their paychecks for July, seeing that they now earn less than the new minimum wage for shopkeepers of $227.

China is the largest foreign investor in Zambia, Africa's biggest copper producer and a supplier of coal and other minerals.

Beijing poured an estimated $6.1 billion between 2007 and 2011 into a country whose gross domestic product this year is estimated at just $20 billion.

Non-Ferrous China Africa, a state-owned mining firm, announced a new $823 million deal in June.

But Chinese firms have a notorious reputation as employers.

A report by Human Rights Watch last year found that Chinese firms ignore labour protections, demanding up to 18 hours of labour a day and flout health and safety rules.

But Wu's killing still shocked a nation that prides itself on its history of peace and a series of democratic transitions over the last two decades.

"This is sad and un-Zambian. We are known to be peaceful people and the death of the investor is likely to tarnish our good image," said Lazarus Daka, a shopkeeper in a Chinese-run shop.

He works in Lusaka's Kamwala commercial district, an area where red Chinese laterns dot sidewalks and where Zambians come seeking bargains on clothing, toys and other goods.

Business in Kamwala has run largely as normal, but Zambia's Post newspaper said that at Collum mine, the large Chinese community has barricaded themselves inside their homes for fear of more violence.

The opposition United Party for National Development heaped blame on Sata's government for Wu's death.

Party leader Hakainde Hichilema said the surprise announcement of new wages had created enormous expectations among workers, while leaving employers little time to comply with a doubling of basic salaries. The resulting tensions, he said, were inevitable.

"The government is certainly to blame for the death of the Chinese, and if not careful this tag of being a peaceful country for foreign investors will soon go," Hichilema told AFP.


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NDPF doubts govt. can stop Boko Haram
Abuja, Nigeria (UPI) Aug 8, 2012
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