This Week in African Conflict… March 6th-13th, 2012.

  • A new American initiative to improve the notoriously poor LGBT rights in sub-Saharan Africa is reportedly inspiring a large backlash. Sub-Saharan Africa is marked by widespread homophobia as well as chronic dependence on foreign aid, in particular from the US, and the idea that the two issues might now be linked seems to upset a lot of people.
  • The Lord’s Resistance Army has reportedly recently launched a new spate of attacks in the DRC after a lull in the second half of 2011; and the UN peacekeeping chief spoke of the role of UN peacekeepers in tackling the LRA. A video produced by the organization Invisible Children went viral this week demanding the removal of LRA leader Joseph Kony (#Kony2012), reaching more than 70 million hits and raising some $5 million in less than a week, amid much criticism. Frankly, I’m with the critics on this one; the idea of increased military intervention to stop a small rebel group (best estimates suggest 200-400 fighters left) that is heavily made up of children, when there are already several armed groups after them (including 100 American soldiers) strikes me as a bad idea, as do the claims/tone of the video itself, the organization’s past behaviour and the grandiose attitude of its founders.  I have written my own response to the Kony 2012 campaign, which can be viewed here. Following the Kony 2012 campaign, Uganda announced it would catch Kony dead or alive, eventually.
  • A senior American official urged the President of Malawi on Friday to respect his citizens’ right to freedom of expression, days after he accused Western donors of funding an opposition protest movement in his country; while the State House warned Malawian journalists, editors and human rights defenders that they risk facing unspecified action if they continue “twisting information”.
  • One year after the start of several months of popular revolts in Burkina Faso, the situation has settled down, but reportedly remains fragile. The government has adopted a number of measures to appease its critics, including upping civil servant salaries, intensifying the fight against corruption and subsidizing food prices.
  • A court in Tunisia reportedly fined a newspaper publisher 1,000 dinars ($665) on Thursday for printing a photograph of a footballer frolicking with his nude girlfriend, raising fears of a media crackdown.
  • One police officer in Mozambique was reportedly killed on Thursday after clashes with members of the former Renamo guerrilla movement, highlighting tensions that still exist in the country despite a 1992 peace accord.
  • The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Wednesday that the rights of a group of Somali and Eritrean nationals who were intercepted by Italian Customs boats and returned to Libya in 2009 were violated under several provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights; the government called announced plans for greater autonomy in Benghazi a foreign-inspired plot to break up the country; while American President Obama hosted the Libyan PM at the White House, encouraging him to follow through on plans to hold national elections in June and stressing the importance of transparency and engagement with civil society, along with discussion cooperation on border management, weapons security and regional counterterrorism concerns. On Wednesday, Libyan leader Jalil vowed to use force to stop the country dividing into autonomous regions. On Friday, thousands of people took to the streets in the two biggest cities to protest moves by groups in the east to declare autonomy from central rule; Russia criticized UN investigators for failing to adequately probe deaths caused by NATO bombs during the uprising against Gaddafi last year; the government reclaimed possession from Saadi Gaddafi of a London mansion worth some 10 million pounds after a British court ruled it had been bought using stolen Libyan state funds; while investigators probing violations committed during the country’s conflict said that they were giving the UN’s human rights chief a list of people who should face international or national justice. On Monday, damaging new claims emerged linking French President Sarkozy’s 2007 election campaign and former Libyan leader Gaddafi, who is said to have contributed up to 50 million euro to his election fund;  the government called upon its neighbours to toughen up border security, concerned about the large numbers of people who have been smuggled across the border since the end of fighting last year; while the UN Security Council extended the UN mission assisting Libya with its democratic transition for another 12 months, adjusting their mandate to support national efforts to promote the rule of law, protect human rights, restore public security and hold free and fair elections.
  • A popular music video making rounds in Senegal calls upon hard-up citizens who are offered cash for their vote in the upcoming Presidential election to pocket the money and vote as they wish anyway. On Monday, Belgium launched a bid in the UN’s highest court to force Senegal to bring former Chadian President Hissene Habre, dubbed “Africa’s Pinochet”, to trial for crimes against humanity.
  • The Trade Union Congress of Swaziland announced on Monday that it will boycott the 2013 national elections in the kingdom because political parties are banned. Political parties are banned in the country, and only individuals are allowed to stand as candidates.
  • Protests erupted in Khartoum, Sudan on Tuesday after a woman was reportedly killed by police; police responded by firing tear gas and using batons to break up the demonstrations. On Friday, armed Murle tribesman reportedly raided cattle camps, resulting in the disappearance of 500-800 people who are feared dead or abducted. On Sunday, a former senior UN official accused the Sudanese government of launching a genocidal campaign against non-Arab villagers in South Kordofan, by bombing civilians and using tactics reminiscent of the Darfur conflict—a charge the government dismissed. On Monday, the UN mission in South Sudan announced that it will provide support by collecting weapons at a civilian disarmament that were held illegally and monitoring the process. On Tuesday, the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan said it sent patrol units and a medical team to an area on the Ethiopian border after unidentified raiders reportedly attacked several cattle camps over the weekend, wounding some 63 people and causing some 15,000 to flee into Ethiopia.
  • Human Rights Watch released a report urging the government of Cote d’Ivoire to urgently address the rising violent crime in and around the central town of Bouake, to takes steps to disarm former combatants widely believed to be implicated in the attacks, adequately equip the police and gendarmes to protect the population and investigate violent crimes. A former warlord, Cherif Ousmane, was appointed by the army high command as the head of an “anti-armed gangs unit” responsible for cracking down on bandits operating on the country’s highways. On Monday, local newspapers suggested that PM Guillaume Soro had resigned from his position during an extraordinary cabinet meeting in Abidjan.
  • Nigeria expelled some 56 South Africans from their country for “lack of proper documentation” on Tuesday in an apparent retaliation for the expulsion of 125 Nigerians from South Africa the previous weekend. On Thursday, Italian politicians and newspapers accused of giving them “a slap in the face” by allegedly not informing it of the special-forces raid in Nigeria that left one Italian and one British hostage dead; a Boko Haram spokesman denied any link to the kidnapping; police in Lagos State denied rumours that Boko Haram members has snuck into the state, advising residents to discard such report and go about their legal businesses without fear; suspected Boko Haram insurgents attacked a police station and two banks in a remote part of the north, shooting dead some four policemen and three civilians; while some 20 people were said to have been killed and several others injured when Fulani herdsmen reportedly invaded Kadarko town in Nasarawa State. On Friday, suspected Boko Haram militants reportedly set fire to the Bulabulim Ngarnam Police Station in Maiduguri, killing at least one person; a gun battle broke out between suspected militants and police in Kano, wounding at least three police officers; while some 120 Nigerians were deported from Britain back to the country for various offenses.  On Saturday, Boko Haram warned some journalists to stop or desist from misrepresenting their views at a Media Telephone Conferencing. On Sunday, a car laden with explosive detonated outside a Catholic church in Jos, killing at least nine people and injuring others; while some six people were killed by unidentified gunmen in the Delta State area. By Monday, the death toll from the explosion in Jos had risen to 19; while suspected Fulani herdsman were accused of killing two people and injuring three others in Jos.
  • Tens of thousands of people reportedly took to the streets in South Africa on Wednesday in a nationwide strike to demonstrate for improved workers rights and against plans to introduce unpopular road tolls. The House of Representatives mandated its Committee on Foreign Affairs to liaise with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to review Nigeria’s bilateral relations on Thursday, following the previous week’s deportations of South Africans.On Monday, expelled youth leader Julius Malema made a surprise apology and begged to be allowed back into the governing party.
  • Police in Angola announced they are investigating a clash that occurred over the weekend in the capital between young anti-government protesters calling for the resignation of President Eduardo dos Santos and pro-government supporters who confronted them. On Tuesday, rights groups and activists warned of a rapidly deteriorating political climate in the country following a police raid on a private newspaper and a violent crackdown on anti-government protests.
  • The UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo received tactical helicopters to support their mission from the Ukraine on Wednesday. On Friday, the UNHCR expressed concern that more than 3,000 Congolese civilians have fled into Uganda from the DRC’s North Kivu to escape fresh fighting since the beginning of the year. On Wednesday, the International Criminal Court issued its first judgment against Thomas Lubanga, an alleged warlord accused of enlisting and conscripting child soldiers.
  • The UN humanitarian office announced on Wednesday that it had deployed a team to the Republic of Congo to support authorities following last week’s explosions at an ammunition depot that killed some 200 people and injured 1,500.
  • Gunmen reportedly shot dead two policemen at a checkpoint near the capital in Burundi late on Wednesday and one attacker was killed in an exchange of fire. The Standard wrote an article about the revitalization of the once violent city of Bujumbura that is now peaceful.
  • The MDC-T party in Zimbabwe announced on Sunday that it will go it alone if ZANU-PF decides to pull out of the coalition government in the hope of forcing early elections before the implementation of reforms as required under the Global Political Agreement. On Monday, a deadline for the Information Minister to implement media reforms ordered by the three principals to the inclusive government was reportedly ignored.
  • Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Egypt announced they were likely to declare they had lost confidence in the PM’s government via a formal vote, a move that will add to pressure on the ruling military council to appoint a cabinet led by the group on Thursday; while a judge said he was delaying the trial of civil society activists including the 16 Americans accused of receiving illegal foreign funds until April 10th. Candidates for the “first ever free” Presidential elections began this weekend, with candidates now able to submit their applications. On Sunday, the leader of the Freedom and Justice party revealed that the Muslim Brotherhood and the ultraconservative al-Nour Party will support the head of the Supreme Judiciary Council, Hossam Al-Gheryani, for President; and an army doctor accused of carrying out forced “virginity tests” on female protesters last year was acquitted of all charges.
  • At least 23 people were reportedly killed in an attack on Ethiopian troops by al-Shabaab insurgents near the border of Somalia on Saturday, with al-Shabaab claiming to have killed 73 Ethiopian soldiers and recovering 20 guns; while the African Union announced that Ethiopia was set to withdraw from Somalia by the end of April with Djibouti, Uganda and Burundi poised to step in. On Sunday, Ethiopia denied reports that its soldiers had been killed or captured. On Monday, the President of the Puntland government welcomed proposed talks between the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia and the Somaliland separatist region, but warned against denying the role of Puntland.
  • Public hospitals in Kenya face a potentially devastating health worker shortage after the government reportedly fired on 25,000 nurses on Friday who had been on strike since March 1st to protest the government’s failure to implement a salary increase; while the ICC rejected appeals from the former finance minister and three others to have charges against them dropped relating to the country’s 2007 election violence. As many as six people were reportedly killed and scores others injured when multiple grenade explosions rocked downtown Nairobi on Saturday, in attacks linked to the al-Shabaab militia. On Sunday, the VP urged Kenyans to remain calm as the government continues to fights terror. On Monday, PM Odinga accused Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto of hatching a plot to avoid standing trial at the ICC, after documents purporting to be from the British Foreign Office was tabled in Parliament.
  • Tuareg rebels in northern Mali reportedly took control of the key garrison town of Tessalit follow a weeks-long siege on Sunday.

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