Al Jazeera & American Military Command in Africa (Africom)
[Montréal, Québec, Canada 22°C] Yesterday, a very good friend lead me to the article, Why I Love Al Jazeera by Robert D. Kaplan. The title reminded me of why I, too, loved the English-language edition of the Qatar-based Arab TV channel. I first started watching it every evening while staying with friends in Juba, Southern Sudan.
I remember watching Riz Khan talking with Mogadishu rapper K’naan about Somalia (part 1, part 2). K’naan lives in Toronto now but I don’t I recall any Canadian media produce this kind of serious political analysis, an in-depth interview with an insightful rapper, including questions taken from the viewership. I was exhilarated by the show and tuned in nightly during my brief stays in Juba then again in Wau.
I remember watching an Inside Story episode on China’s questioning the value of the US dollar (part 1, part 2). A quick search online found one Canadian reference to the story in the National Post, two months after Al Jazeera’s Inside Story.
Another show, I watched on a regular basis was Witness with its host, Rageh Omaar. Before joining Al Jazeera, he worked as developing world correspondent for the BBC. His latest television report: America’s New Frontline: Diplomats or Warriors (see four-part series videos below) focuses on the American military command in Africa or Africom. Africom was “the culmination of a 10-year thought process within the Department of Defense (DoD)” and established on February 6, 2007 by President George W. Bush and Defense Secretary Robert Gates. They were “acknowledging the emerging strategic importance of Africa” and needed to establish a U.S. Africa Command on the continent.
In part four of the series, Rageh Omaar discusses Africom‘s role in pushing Operation Lightning Thunder, a massive assault on the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) along the borders of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic and Southern Sudan, beginning in December 2008. This is after peace talks in Juba are stalled after LRA leader, Joseph Kony, refuses to leave the bush to sign an agreement. Operation Lighting Thunder failed to capture Kony and scattered the rebel cult/army, comprised mainly of abducted child soldiers. An unfortunate side-effect of the assault’s failure are the LRA’s reprisal killings in the Congo, and Southern Sudan. Recent attacks in Western Equatoria State, Southern Sudan by LRA rebels have left many dead and forced up to 100,000 people to leave their villages in fear for their lives.
The Witness series provides an opportunity to review recent US policy with an approach unavailable in North American media. I will certainly continue to watch Al Jazeera as part of my information regime.
America’s New Frontline: Diplomats or Warriors – Part 1
America’s New Frontline: Diplomats or Warriors – Part 2
America’s New Frontline: Diplomats or Warriors – Part 3
America’s New Frontline: Diplomats or Warriors – Part 4