State Department Official Provides African Security Briefing

By Kevin Matthews, Senior Writer

State Department Official Provides African Security Briefing

In a public talk Louis Mazel, director of the U.S. Department of State Office of African Regional and Security Affairs, discusses current and potential security issues across the continent, including the uncertain future of South Sudan.

A 25-year State Department veteran who has spent most of his career in Africa and now leads the Office of African and Regional Security Affairs, Louis Mazel stopped by the UCLA African Studies Center on Feb. 9, 2009, to deliver a public briefing about security issues on the continent.

He touched on Sudan, Zimbabwe, the Central African Republic, Somalia, maritime piracy, civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the two-year-old AFRICOM U.S. military command based in Stuttgart, Germany, and China's economic and political roles in Africa.

AFRICOM, he said, does not signal any new U.S. policy in Africa but means "one military command that thinks 24 hours a day about Africa. That's a good thing."

On the list of top U.S. concerns are the interrelated conflicts in the Sudan, not only the genocide in Darfur but also the future of the 2005 peace deal that officially ended the long civil war between north and south. In 2011, South Sudan and the oil-rich area of Abyei that is tucked in between the regions will vote on independence from the government in Khartoum.

"Personally, I don't see any way South Sudan votes to remain united with North Sudan," said Mazel.

In the meantime, he said, the United States is supporting completion this year of a long-delayed census and national elections, "to ensure they actually occur," and working to "professionalize" the Sudan People's Liberation Army. The United States wants it to become a regular military "that also respects human rights and issues of gender-based violence and non-recruitment of child soldiers."

Mazel referred to oil as Sudan's "curse."

"In my view it's what's going to prevent South Sudan from realizing its goal of independence in 2011," he said.

Published: Thursday, February 12, 2009