Despite spying allegations, African Union deepens ties with Chinese telecoms firm

African UnionDespite allegations in the French press that China has been spying for years on the internal communications of the African Union, the organization appears to be deepening its ties with a leading Chinese telecommunications firm. The allegations surfaced in January of last year in the Paris-based Le Monde Afrique newspaper. The paper claimed in a leading article that African Union technical staff found that the computer servers housed in the organization’s headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, were secretly communicating with a server facility in Shanghai, China. The secret communications reportedly took place at the same time every night, namely between midnight and 2 in the morning. According to Le Monde Afrique, the African Union servers forwarded data to the servers in Shanghai from 2012, when the building opened its doors, until early 2017.

Beijing donated $200 million toward the project and hired the state-owned China State Construction Engineering Corporation to build the tower, which was completed in 2012. Since then, the impressive 330 feet, 19-storey skyscraper, with its reflective glass and brown stone exterior, has become the most recognizable feature of Addis Ababa’s skyline. The majority of the building material used to construct the tower was brought to Ethiopia from China. Beijing even paid for the cost of the furniture used in the impressive-looking building. The paper noted that, even though the organization was allegedly notified about the breach by its technical staff in January of 2017, there was no public reaction on record. However, according to Le Monde Afrique, African Union officials took immediate steps to terminate the breach. These included replacing the Chinese-made servers with new servers purchased with African Union funds, without Beijing’s mediation. Additionally, new encryption was installed on the servers, and a service contract with Ethio Telecom, Ethiopia’s state-owned telecommunications service provider, which uses Chinese hardware, has been terminated.

Last week, however, the African Union deepened its ties with Huawei Technologies, the Chinese telecommunications firm that provided all the hardware, as well as much of the software, used in the organization’s headquarters. Last week, at a meeting in the Ethiopian capital, Thomas Kwesi Quartey, deputy chair of the African Union’s Commission signed a memorandum of understanding with Philippe Wang, Huawei’s vice president for North Africa. According to the memorandum, Huawei will increase its provision of hardware and services to the African Union “on a range of technologies”. These range from broadband telecommunications to cloud computing, as well as 5G telecommunications capabilities and artificial intelligence systems. The Chinese firm will also continue to train African Union information technology and telecommunications technicians. Both the African Union and the government of China have denied the Le Monde Afrique allegations.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 07 June 2019 | Permalink

News you may have missed #895: Africa edition

Hailemariam Desalegn►►South African security contractor faces spy charges in South Sudan. William John Endley, a retired South African Army colonel, works as a security contractor for former South Sudanese Vice President Riek Machar, who is now the leader of a rebel faction fighting the government of President Salva Kiir. Endley, who has been working as Machar’s bodyguard, was arrested in August 2016 in Juba. He is now facing charges of espionage and conspiracy to overthrow the government of Sound Sudan.

►►Somalia appoints new police, intelligence chiefs. The Somali government announced Monday it has appointed new police and intelligence chiefs, nearly four months after their predecessors were sacked following the deadliest ever terror attack in the war-torn nation. Former deputy health minister Hussein Osman Hussein has been named head of Somalia’s intelligence service, while deputy head of police Bashir Abdi Mohamed has been promoted to police chief. Their predecessors were sacked on October 29, a day after an attack that left 27 people dead, and just two weeks after 512 people were murdered in a truck bombing in Mogadishu on October 14.

►►Ethiopia bans protests, media criticism, under state of emergency. The government of Ethiopia has declared a six-month state of emergency that includes a ban on protests and publications deemed to incite violence. The measure was announced on Friday, a day after Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn announced his surprise resignation in a televised speech. In his resignation address, Desalegn said he resigned to “smooth the path for political reform”. But critics say that the purpose of the state of emergency is “not to protect the constitutional order but to silence the voices calling for change”.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 20 February 2018 | Permalink

China hacked African Union computer servers for five years, report claims

African UnionChinese spies hacked the computer servers of the African Union headquarters in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, which the Chinese government funded and built as a gift to the organization, a French newspaper has claimed. Beijing donated $200 million toward the project and hired the state-owned China State Construction Engineering Corporation to build the tower, which was completed in 2012. Since then, the impressive 330 feet, 19-storey skyscraper, with its reflective glass and brown stone exterior, has become the most recognizable feature of Addis Ababa’s skyline. The majority of the building material used to construct the tower was brought to Ethiopia from China. Beijing even paid for the cost of the furniture used in the impressive-looking building.

However, according to the Paris-based Le Monde Afrique newspaper, African Union technical staff found that the computer servers housed in the organization’s headquarters were secretly communicating with a server facility in Shanghai, China. The secret communications reportedly took place at the same time every night, namely between midnight and 2 in the morning. According to Le Monde Afrique, the African Union servers forwarded data to the servers in Shanghai from 2012, when the building opened its doors, until early 2017.

Interestingly, even though the organization was allegedly notified about the breach by its technical staff in January of 2017, there has been no public reaction on record. However, according to Le Monde Afrique, African Union officials took immediate steps to terminate the breach. These included replacing the Chinese-made servers with new servers purchased with African Union funds, without Beijing’s mediation. Additionally, new encryption was installed on the servers, and a service contract with Ethio Telecom, Ethiopia’s state-owned telecommu- nications service provider, which uses Chinese hardware, has been terminated.

On Monday, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs dismissed the French newspaper’s allegations as “baseless” and “complete nonsense”. A statement issued by the ministry said that Beijing would “in no way interfere with the internal policies of African countries or do anything that would hurt their interests”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 30 January 2018 | Permalink

‘Massive expansion’ in US covert operations in Africa

US military base in DjiboutiBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The United States administration of President Barack Obama is implementing a near-unprecedented expansion of covert operations by American military forces throughout Africa, aimed at a host of armed groups deemed extremist by Washington. A lead article published yesterday in The Washington Post quotes over a dozen unnamed American and African officials, as well as military contractors, who refer to the US military-led effort as Project CREEKSAND. It allegedly involves secret operations in several African countries, conducted out of a large network of small air bases located in strategic locations around the continent. According to The Post, most of the airplanes used in Project CREEKSAND are small, unarmed, disguised to look like private aircraft, and bear no military markings or government insignia. In reality, however, they carry sophisticated electronic equipment designed to collect signals intelligence, while some are used to transport US Special Forces troops during capture or kill missions. The paper quotes an unnamed “former senior US commander […] involved in setting up the [air bases] network”, who alleges that the US government has built about a dozen such bases throughout Africa since 2007. These secret air bases are located in countries such as Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Uganda, South Sudan, Kenya, and Seychelles. Most of the US personnel involved in Project CREEKSAND consists of Special Operations forces tasked with “training foreign security forces [and] performing aid missions”. However, The Post alleges that there are also small teams of US operatives who are “dedicated to tracking and killing suspected terrorists”. Read more of this post

US, UK spy agencies on alert after unprecedented court decision

Binyam Mohamed

Binyam Mohamed

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
British and American intelligence agencies have been placed on alert following an unprecedented ruling by a British court, which forces the British government to disclose CIA documents in its possession. The documents relate to the case of Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian resident of Britain, who says he was severely tortured with the collaboration of the CIA and British domestic intelligence agency MI5, after he was renditioned to Morocco. Last February, two British judges overseeing Mr. Mohamed’s case revealed that the British government kept “powerful evidence” secret after being threatened by the US that it would “stop sharing intelligence about terrorism with the UK”. In July, it emerged that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton personally threatened the British government that Washington would stop collaborating with London on intelligence matters if evidence in Mr. Mohamed’s case was publicly released. Read more of this post

Israel reveals long-awaited Levinson spy case details

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
As part of a move by Israeli intelligence agencies to adhere to elementary provisions of Israel’s declassification laws, Shin Bet has for the first time published details about the Shimon Levinson spy case. Levinson was a senior agent in Shin Bet (domestic intelligence) and the Mossad (external intelligence), who in 1991 was jailed for 12 years for spying on Israel on behalf of the Soviet KGB. Levinson’s career culminated with his appointment as head of the Mossad station in Ethiopia. This happened shortly before he voluntarily retired in1978, in frustration over an awaited promotion that failed to materialize. According to Shin Bet, it was Levinson’s business failures and financial instability, not ideology, that led him to contact the KGB and “offer his services to the Soviet Union” shortly after his retirement. Eventually the Soviets flew Levinson to the USSR, where he was trained in Soviet espionage techniques before being sent back to Israel. Read more of this post

Comment: Daring US Raid in Somalia is Risky Policy

Saleh Nabhan

Saleh Nabhan

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The political aftereffect of a recent raid by US Special Forces in southern Somalia may be more significant than its outcome. The operation, which took place in the early hours of Monday, killed a number of al-Qaeda-linked militants and captured at least two, according to local witnesses. Unnamed US officials said that among the dead is Saleh Ali Nabhan, a 30-year-old Kenyan al-Qaeda operative who is said to have participated in the 2002 attack on an Israeli-owned resort in his homeland, among other acts. Read more of this post