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Financial Crisis May Compound Africa's Problems, Blair Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 16, 2009 – (Editor's note: This is the fourth in a series on the intelligence community’s annual threat assessment.)

While Africa has made some gains in recent years, the global financial crisis threatens all that progress and more, the director of national intelligence said last week.

Dennis C. Blair, a retired Navy admiral, told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in prepared testimony that the continent will fall further behind the rest of the world as the full weight of the crisis becomes known.

Blair said the problems of unequal distribution will continue to lead to grinding poverty, and transnational crime – spurred by drugs and traffic in people – continues to grow. Also, The HIV/AIDS epidemic is not going to just vanish. On top of these problems – and others – throw the financial crisis.

“The most serious problem confronting Africa is the continuation of a number of serious and seemingly intractable conflicts in three of Africa’s largest and most important states: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria and Sudan,” Blair said.

In addition, Somalia is a failed state and piracy flourishes off its coast, and the struggle in Congo and Sudan have spilled over its borders and become regional, if not worldwide, problems, Blair said.

Congo is essentially a failed state. Rwandan and Ugandan troops have had to move into border regions – with the approval of Congo’s leaders – to put down rebel groups. No one knows the extent of the killing in Congo in the last 11 years, but estimates put it at more than 5 million, Blair said.

The United Nations has a peacekeeping group in the country, but there is little progress. The Congo is potentially a rich country, but the continued fighting has left it among the poorest in the world, Blair said.

Nigeria is another wealthy country plagued by civil strife.

“Widespread violence, criminality and corruption have continued to disrupt Nigeria’s oil and gas production, costing the country millions of dollars in lost revenue,” Blair said.

“Inadequate governance and a total lack of accountability has put billion of dollars in the pockets of corrupt leaders rather than in the much-needed development and infrastructure funds,” he said.

For more than 20 years, opportunistic militants have made the oil rich Delta region a battleground. They have struck at pipelines, kidnapped Nigerian and foreign oil workers and left the area lawless and ravaged. Blair said any turnaround in the situation in Nigeria is unlikely any time soon.

In Sudan, conflict continues even as the country attempts to implement a comprehensive peace agreement. More than 3 million people in the region are refugees, Blair said.

The United Nations has a mandate to send a 26,000-man force in to the region, but it has been stymied by logistical and political problems. Again, little change is expected, Blair said.

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Dennis C. Blair

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Testimony: Annual Threat Assessment of the Intelligence Community

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