Africa

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.

That need to do “something”.

When conflict or disaster strikes, often our first instinct is that “something” needs to be done to help those impacted. It’s an essential part of who we are as human beings, as a species with the capacity for empathy. But is this idea of just doing “something”– without serious consideration into the potential consequences that could arise from that “something”, “anything” to “help” mentality — unintentionally causing more harm on the very people we meant to help in the first place?[1] This does not speak, in the slightest to one’s dedication or compassion or intention towards any cause or action, or make them any less truthful or intelligent or meaningful or human for wanting to take action. It’s a good thing that people feel disgusted and motivated to want to take action, to do “something” about other human beings’ suffering—because that suffering deserves nothing less than disgust and motivation directed towards changing it.

The recent Kony 2012 campaign is great for one specific reason—more people hear about some important global issues. Hopefully, that will empower them to dig deeper into some of the root causes of this conflict and how many outside powers have ties to the violence. Hopefully, it will make them question the way their own purchases, and lifestyles, and governments, and corporations, and organizations, are impacting this conflict and adding unnecessary fuel to the fire. Be the change, as they say.

If we look at some of the different causes of the conflict—the political, economic, social, security, international, regional and local forces that are driving it; that are profiting from continued conflict; that have stakes in the conflict; that will keep conflict going in the region long after Kony is captured or killed—we see that the Kony 2012 narrative is incredibly simplistic. The region’s turmoil is not all in the hands of Joseph Kony. Nor will stopping Joseph Kony completely eradicate violence or child abduction/conscription in the region.

I will not go into the full analysis of all the many problems with Invisible Children’s video. They are widely available at the present moment. Some suggest it lacks context and nuance; that it demonstrates the privilege in the social justice world that enables this organization to be heard over other local ones or ones making positive drastic differences on the ground; that it misspent money or isn’t as accountable as it should be; its patronizing tone; the critiques of an all American Board of Directors, Directors of Programming, Executive Staff—basically all the people actually running the organization, despite claims of Ugandan inspired and led programming; of interviewing and using vulnerable children in their advertising against all good ethical practices; the “white man’s burden” messiah complexes; the way it paints human beings as “invisible” and voiceless; the excessive self-aggrandizing nature of those involved; the focus on Uganda, when the LRA has now moved to neighbouring countries; reducing Kony’s eluding capture to claims that “nobody knows” who Joseph Kony is, and that if they did–this would somehow magically change; how they ignore the voices and needs of Ugandans and those actually affected by the LRA and Joseph Kony; that those working for the organization are media professionals and not development professionals; how they call on supporting the Ugandan army, accused of massive abuses, as the best way to stop the conflict; how they push people to contact their government and encourage more international involvement towards intervention purposes, falsely claiming that the current American intervention is under threat; photos of the founders posing with SPLA members and weaponry; possible donor links to far-right, anti-gay groups; how one of their founders likened the organization to a business, a company over a non-profit organization or charity in an interview;  and going as far as claims of a grand international conspiracy, involving numerous players; of American chiefs conspiring to stop China from taking over the continent or of trying to cash in on oil deposits. What I will go into, are some of the potential consequences a campaign like this could have on the ground and why it is important to think about these things before blindly supporting a cause.

Some fifty percent of Uganda’s governmental budget has been cited to come directly from foreign aid.  The institutions involved in funding have not always ensured that this money has gone to where it is most needed or that it isn’t lining the pockets of leaders so that they can use it to further commit crimes against their own populations. The current President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni has been in his position since 1986, and is just beginning to serve yet another term in office after a highly controversial election where dissent was allegedly stifled and voter fraud was rampant. Bill Clinton once described him as the head of a new breed of African leaders. Uganda was labelled a “development darling” by much of the world under Museveni, and international money flowed in with very little accountability.

Accusations of Museveni and his government and army’s involvement in war crimes and other abuses subsequently ensued and international parties have at times, even assisted them by giving more weaponry, hardware and military support. [2] Transparency International has accused Museveni’s government, most specifically the Uganda Revenue Authority, [3] of widespread graft. Yet, our Western governments continue to provide more money and support despite these accusations.

Best estimates suggest that there are currently only between 200-400 LRA fighters fighting and by all recent reporting—those fighting are no longer even in Uganda and haven’t been for several years. Rather, they are in neighbouring countries that have all been battling in a regional war that has been ongoing for decades, involving numerous armed forces and militias in a highly entangled and complex conflict. A high percentage of the fighters in the LRA are children, and many of the regional governments’ armies, including the armed forces in Uganda– who Invisible Children advocates supporting as the “best” option to tackle the problem– have also been accused of conscripting children. The parties, in many cases, have been accused of using child fighters essentially as human shields. Any increased support for militarization in this area, as advocated by Invisible Children, means more armies potentially wreaking havoc on the population, as there is little keeping them from continued corruption and abuses. The LRA currently enjoys very little support in the region– and they are already scattered and on the run. Increased militarization risks ramping up their abduction drive to recruit more children into the LRA to better fight off those hunting them down, and actually increasing the level of violence and suffering for those on the ground. Sending in military to try to stop an armed force stacked with children also severely risks the lives of those child soldiers as battles ensue.

Killing or stopping Kony isn’t going to magically solve all the problems in the area, because the narrative is much more complicated than a simple “good guys” versus “bad guys” situation. In “bringing to justice” one man, you potentially cause and support massive human rights abuses by other parties. There are numerous other strategies to employ here that do not involve military intervention. That do not involve firing on human children. That do not involve supporting dubious regional players.

To stop violence, you must look at its roots, not at its manifestations. Why did the LRA take up arms in the first place? How did Kony get supporters and why do they continue to fight with him?

Many of the abducted children have been forced to do horrific things like kill neighbours or rape their own parents, so that they would be left with a stigma of never being able to go back to their homes, and incentive to stay with the army. They are also often drugged. The strategy to get them out of the bush then, is obviously very complicated. There have been many positive efforts at targeting the children conscripts via radio, via leaflets (which is more difficult since many don’t necessarily read) and other measures to try to dispel the belief that they can never go home after the wrongs they have committed. Amnesty programs have had some effect as well, and have resulted in several senior commanders coming out of the bush in previous years. There are numerous highly respected organizations working in the region that have other plausible nonviolent strategies that are worthy of being considered before declaring military options as the only resort left. Many are locally driven initiatives that know the full background, the context, the nuances, and they are making a real difference on the ground.

If we are all so suddenly keen to focus on justice in the region[4]– why do we in the west still prop up Museveni, and other controversial leaders’ governments? Why do we still make shady trade deals stealing away resources from the region for Canadian and American and other western consumption? Why do we still give the leaders assistance year after year, even when we know it is being squandered away to line the leaders’ and cronies’ pockets and to commit further atrocities on the populations? Why do our governments repeal laws banning military aid to those that arm and recruit child soldiers? These problems can be addressed without resorting to military action and are something the western world should be thinking more carefully on, because these are directly within the western world’s control. We can lobby our governments not to provide money or equipment or training or assistance to take part in abuses, instead of potentially causing further ones with increased militarization. These are things we CAN do without taking the lead in distant problems.

Even the best of intentions can easily go awry and wind up causing greater human rights abuses and violence. Doing “something” is not always better than doing nothing. Doing something, just for the sake of doing something– can kill people. Can cause death and destruction. Can make the problem worse. People don’t watch a 30-minute video of a surgery and suddenly think they are now skilled enough to perform surgery. That is a life and death matter. And so is the security situation in a foreign country or doing humanitarian work[5]. It is also a life and death matter. It is not something that can be easily directed by people with little knowledge or background or insight into cultural nuances and historical issues that may be driving it. Almost all the experts in the region are against this strategy for good reason. It takes up resources that could go towards more effective advocacy, and takes up rhetorical space that could be used to develop more effective advocacy. It will likely also actually decrease the amount of assistance that goes into Central Africa as people assume that by tweeting, watching, and buying, they have fulfilled their duty and are now absolved of all further responsibility. Many Ugandans in the field are also rightfully upset at the narrative that erases their efforts and relegates them to a position of dependence and victim hood, reliant upon outside forces.

The amount of consumerism in the campaign is also extremely troubling. It calls upon people to buy products to support the cause. Some of these products are made with metals. Some are made from polyester and rayon. Some are made with timber. There are tons of products for sale on their site, manufactured with tons of raw materials. None specify where they have come from, who made them, or what environmental problems or human rights abuses they may have caused or will cause along their manufacture, usage and disposal. Wouldn’t it be interesting if the metal on the Kony 2012 bracelet came from regional sources embroiled in conflict? How incredibly ironic that those tweeting and texting, and using electronics to pass the Kony 2012 message are also potentially indirectly supporting the regional conflict, other global conflicts and other significant human rights abuses to make these very gadgets that make it all possible!

And supporters are asked to “blanket every street, in every city until the sun comes up” with Kony’s face and the cause, with no word about the sheets of paper this message will be printed on; whether it will be taken as timber from somewhere on the continent, likely spurring land conflicts in its wake as the leaders we continually prop up steal ancestral lands from underneath their own people, sell off its timber and turn the rainforests into mono-field crops that enslave child workers. And what of my city this morning, that was littered with these falling posters, soaked by rain; likely to wind up filling a landfill somewhere shortly?

I don’t mean to discourage people from wanting to do good in this world, or wanting to be a part of something that is doing good– but that should never stop us from looking at things with a critical eye. We should not be so easily swayed by petitions or flashy campaigns outright without knowing the consequences of them. We could be doing more harm than good in the process, and none of us wants that.

There are TONS of good LOCAL peacebuilding programs that are worthy of support in the region. If you feel compelled to donate—why not take a look into what they are doing:

http://www.insightonconflict.org/conflicts/dr-congo/peacebuilding-organisations/

http://www.insightonconflict.org/conflicts/sudan/peacebuilding-organisations/

http://www.insightonconflict.org/conflicts/uganda/peacebuilding-organisations/

http://www.insightonconflict.org/conflicts/burundi/peacebuilding-organisations/


[1] Or others.

[2] A document released in 2010 by WikiLeaks revealed that the US allegedly told Uganda to let it know when its army was going to commit war crimes using American intelligence within the country, without dissuading it from doing so. They were already providing information and $4.4 million worth of military hardware a year.

[3] The law and enforcement sector, the health and education sectors have also been accused of bribery by the organization.

[4] Not to mention the rest of the world. One could easily make a case for several western leaders and their involvement in war crimes worldwide.

[5]After watching the film, I’d say I am now informed about the situation in Uganda.”

_______________________________________________________________________________

UPDATES: March 10:

UPDATE: March 16:

  • Interesting turn of events. One of the founders of Invisible Children was reportedly arrested last night for lewd behaviour for being drunk and masturbating in public and possibly vandalizing cars.

 

UPDATE: March 17:

  • Reportedly Jason Russel was not actually arrested, but rather detained and then sent for mental evaluation following the incident. Sorry for the error.
  • Also, this video came to light for me for the first time and raises some serious questions in my mind about Invisible Children spending so much on production values over on-the-ground programming. This one as well, and many others that have since been removed.

 

This Week in African Conflict… February 28th-March 6th, 2012.

  • A lawyers group claim that police arrested a carpenter on Wednesday who questioned whether Zimbabwe’s President still had the strength to blow up balloons at his 88th birthday celebrations, under a law making it an offense to insult the President.
  • The top UN envoy to Libya expressed confidence on Wednesday that the nation will be able to overcome current difficulties and pursue a path towards the goals it committed itself to when the popular uprising began a year ago; Reporters Without Borders condemned the continuing detention of two British TV journalists who were arrested in Tripoli last month; while the revolutionary brigades accused of torture were reportedly still holding three quarters of the detainees captive from the civil war, as many as 6,000 persons. On Friday, the UN-mandated commission of inquiry that probed human rights abuses in the country reported that crimes against humanity and war crimes were committed by both Gaddafi troops and the forces that fought to oust him; while hundreds of protesters gathered outside the courthouse in Bengazi demanding that the occupying militia leave and allow judges to return to work. On Saturday, the Muslim Brotherhood announced that it had formed a political party in the absence of laws laying out a formal process for the establishment of political parties. On Sunday, the house of the bourse announced that the Libyan stock exchange was set to re-open on March 15th. On Monday, Human Rights Watch called upon the Libyan government to urgently increase security for the roughly 12,000 displaced people from Tawergha in the west; thousands of mourners gathered in Benghazi to re-bury 155 bodies unearthed from a mass grave of people who were reportedly killed during the civil war; while the most senior Algerian official to visit Libya since its revolution promised that members of Gaddafi’s family given refuge on Algerian soil will not be allowed to meddle in Libyan affairs. On Tuesday, tribal leaders and militia commanders in the east declared that they are forming a semi-autonomous region inside the country; while the Institute for Security Studies released a report discussing the responsibility to protect norm used in Libya in 2011. Instability is reportedly only deepening in the country.
  • Some 23 people were reportedly wounded in Algeria on Saturday after a suicide bomber drove a four-wheel drive vehicle packed with explosives at a paramilitary police base in a desert town. It was not immediately clear who was responsible, though an al-Qaeda splinter group reportedly took responsibility the following day.
  • A peacekeeper serving with the joint UN-AU operation in Sudan’s Darfur region was killed on Wednesday after unidentified gunmen allegedly ambushed a patrol. On Thursday, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for the Sudanese Defence Minister for crimes against humanity and war crimes, as part of investigations into crimes committed in Darfur; South Sudanese army officers received training on human rights, democracy and the rule of law from the UN; while South Sudan accused the north of bombing two oil wells in the north of their country and moving troops and weaponry close to an army base near the poorly defined border; Sudan denied all the allegations. On Friday, at least 30 people were killed and more than 15 injured in fresh clashes between youth of Lou Nuer and Murle ethnic groups in Nyirol County over cattle raiding. On Saturday, the SPLA spokesperson told a newspaper that the disarmament of the civilian population in Jonglei state is due to start in two weeks time; President Bashir vowed to flush out the remaining rebel pockets in South Kordofan as he ordered the setting up of camps across the country for Popular Defense Forces; and also condemned the ICC arrest warrant issued against the defense minister. On Sunday, Sudanese police reportedly used batons to disperse more than 100 students protesting in the centre of Khartoum against the closure of their campuses following the independence of South Sudan. On Monday, the political opposition alliance rejected a declaration made by President Bashir on Saturday to mobilize for war and deploy Popular Defense Forces across the country and called upon the leader to step down from power.
  • At least 7 bodies of alleged al-Shabaab militants were displayed by the administration of the Shabelle Valley in central Somalia on Thursday. On Friday, AU and Somali troops reportedly seized control of an al-Shabaab insurgent base in the north of the capital, reducing their capacity to launch attacks in the city. On Saturday, al-Shabaab attacked soldiers from the semi-autonomous Puntland region, leaving at least nine dead.  On Sunday, Reuters ran a report about how residents of the city of Baidoa were happy to see the arrival of Ethiopian soldiers, whose presence they once resented.
  • A group of MPs in Uganda in the governing National Resistance Movement reportedly forced ministers to resign and are allegedly obliging President Museveni to contemplate firing most of his cabinet. On Wednesday, a demonstration at a local town council in Luweero over poor garbage disposal turned violent after police reportedly threw tear gas canisters at demonstrators.
  • The UN peacekeeping mission in Cote d’Ivoire announced on Thursday that it will assess the situation in two constituencies where there were some “incidents” during last weekend’s legislative by-elections.
  • The electoral commission in Guinea said on Thursday that it would hold its delayed parliamentary elections on July 8th, in an effort to help unblock donor aid potentially worth billions of dollars.
  • Abdoulaye Wade, incumbent President of Senegal, admitted he had fallen short of the required 50% majority in the highly contested Presidential vote on Wednesday, and that a run-off would be required. EU observers reportedly discovered 130,000 ghost names on the voter registration list. On Friday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commended the people of the country for a peaceful and orderly first round of Presidential elections and appealed for the same commitment during the second round.  Key figures in the opposition protest urged their followers to support Presidential challenger Macky Sall in next month’s run-off. On Monday, the electoral commission announced that the second round run-off would be held on March 25th.
  • Officials in Cairo, Egypt announced on Wednesday that a travel ban on seven Americans employed by pro-democracy US groups had been lifted; the Globe and Mail wrote an article about a rise in radicalism and the subsequent backlash of “hijab-free zones” that refuse veiled women entry; while election officials set the date for the first Presidential election since the overthrow of Mubarak last year for May 23 and 24th. On Thursday, American pro-democracy activists were flown out of the country; a move that many suspected is likely to defuse the worst row between the two countries in decades.  On Saturday, the speaker of the Parliament criticized the “flagrant interference” behind Cairo’s decision to lift a travel ban on American democracy workers accused of receiving illegal funds, echoing growing anger over the move.
  • On Wednesday, African Arguments discussed the false peace in the North Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of Congo; and the ICC judges announced they will hand down their verdict in its first trial in the case of Thomas Lubanga who is accused of committing three war crimes, including conscripting children under the age of 15 into arms groups; enlisting children into armed groups and using children to participate actively in armed conflict. On Monday, the UN refugee agency voiced concern over the recent displacement of several thousand people as a result of fresh attacks by the LRA in the Orientale province; while Reuters ran an article suggesting that President Kabila’s lack of publicity since the controversial November elections has left the country on edge.
  • The ruling African National Congress in South Africa expelled its youth leader Julius Malema after finding that he had shown no remorse after being convicted of fomenting divisions in the party on Wednesday. On Thursday, Malema supporters clashed with his rivals after they had blockaded the road in protest at his expulsion.
  • The Guardian ran an interesting article about land deeds and rights in Liberia, and how small farmers are losing their livelihoods to multinational palm-oil interests. On Friday, a top UN official assured the Liberian people that they are not preparing to leave the country but are seeking to reconfigure their presence after assessing the ability of national institutions to maintain peace and security.
  • At least ten thousand people have reportedly fled northern Nigeria for neighbouring Niger and Chad to escape a military sweep targeting Boko Haram; arsonists suspected to be Boko Haram members allegedly burned down seven schools in the northeast on Thursday, leaving thousands of children without schools in the middle of their term; while suspected pirates in speedboats killed four police after opening fire on a marine checkpoint in the creeks of the oil-producing Niger Delta (The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta claimed responsibility the following day). On Friday, three Boko Haram members were killed when a bomb reportedly exploded at a compound suspected to be used as a bomb-making factory in Kaleri Ward. On Monday, some 45 people were thought to be killed in a renewed skirmish between Fulani herdsmen and native Tiv community in Benue State, while two policemen were killed and two others injured when gunmen stormed a police quarters in Kano municipality.
  • At least 200 people were reportedly killed and many more injured in a series of explosions in the capital of Congo-Brazzaville on Sunday that were caused by a fire in an arms depot at a military base. Small explosions continued the following day, hampering rescue efforts. On Monday, reports suggested that people were blaming the government for the blasts that were allegedly caused by an electrical short circuit and the number of injured rose over 1,500 people.
  • Disgruntled workers at the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation defied an order by the government to return to work on Friday. Three people were reportedly killed and five other injured in the Shambani area of Isiolo when armed raiders made away with thousands of camels over the weekend.
  • Ethnic tensions are reportedly rising ahead of next year’s Presidential election in Namibia.
  • The PM of Lesotho reportedly led a walkout from the Lesotho Congress for Democracy along with 45 other MPs to form a new party, the Democratic Congress, which will take over as the majority party in Parliament.
  • The Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat in Mozambique denied press reports on Wednesday that its local representatives were hindering the registration of voters in the southern city of Inhambane ahead of the mayoral by-election scheduled for April 18th; police in a northern town tried to persuade the leadership of the former rebel movement Renamo to release a man who had been imprisoned at the Renamo Nampula headquarters for the past three weeks; while the Central Office for the Fight against Corruption caught two municipal policemen who were extorting money from drivers of minibus-taxis in Maputo and Matola.  On Thursday, the Ministry of Agriculture reportedly began to revoke land titles in cases where the holder had abandoned the land.
  • A farmer in eastern Cameroon challenged a government ruling forcing him to cede his land to Chinese rice farmers and was sentenced to one year in jail for “rebellion”.
  • The President of Malawi accused Western donors of funding an opposition protest movement that is challenging his grip over the nation on Sunday during a radio interview.

This Week in African Conflict… February 21st-28th, 2012.

  • Experts say the increasing trend of illicit financial flows are posing a great threat to Africa’s fragile growth as they pump back more dollars to developed countries than those send to poor African states.
  • The Open Society Media Program released background papers earlier this month on Mapping Digital Media, on the impact of digitization on democracy in the Horn of Africa.
  • A top UN official stressed the importance of a comprehensive regional strategy to combat piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, highlighting the threat posed to the security and economic development of States in the region.
  • The UN Security Council voted on Wednesday to increase an African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia to nearly 18,000 troops to try and squash the al-Shabaab rebel insurgency, calling upon the AU to increase the strength of its AMISOM peacekeeping force by almost 50%; the chief of awareness raising for al-Shabaab insisted that unmarried girls should join in Jihad against pro-government forces while addressing a congregation over the weekend at a mosque; Ethiopian and Somali troops reportedly captured the strategic Somali city of Baidoa from al-Shabaab, who vowed to avenge the loss;  aid agencies demanded an end to the politicisation of aid in the country, saying they must be allowed to negotiate with all warring parties so that they can reach communities ravaged by famine and war; while International Crisis Group released a new report about the end of the mandate for the Transitional Federal Government in six months time. On Thursday, an international meeting aimed at resolving the political crisis in the country was hosted by the British PM and pledged more help to combat terrorism and piracy while demanding that its politicians form a stable government with a threat of sanctions against anyone stalling progress. On Friday, a missile strike reportedly killed four foreign militants south of Mogadishu. On Saturday, the Somali PM said that in the future a share of natural resources would be offered in return for help with reconstruction, making many observers uneasy about increasing foreign interference; reports suggested that Britain is involved in a secret high-stakes dash for oil in the country; an Islamist militia group in Puntland reportedly merged with al-Shabaab and announced their plans to scrap the license of Western oil and gas firms drilling in the region; while US drones reportedly killed 4 al-Shabaab high ranking officials in the Lower Shabelle region. The renewed offensive against al-Shabaab by Somali, Ethiopian, Kenyan and AU forces in the past couple of weeks has reportedly sparked another influx of civilians to Mogadishu out of fear of fighting. On Tuesday, at least nine were killed and many injured in heavy fighting and shells between government forces and al-Shabaab in the Lower Jubba region; and two hostages were killed as a Danish warship intercepted a cargo vessel allegedly hijacked by pirates off the coast.
  • US officials admitted that the Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony remains elusive in an unknown location in the Central African Republic, despite the deployment of American troops. They claim, however, that the LRA has been decimated to about 200 fighters. On Tuesday, humanitarian officials announced that a joint military offensive between the armed forces of the CAR and Chad to oust the Chad’s Front Populaire pour la Redressment (FPR) rebel movement is hampering operations to help the displaced.
  • The world’s largest refugee camp—the Dadaab settlement in eastern Kenya – marked its 20th anniversary in existence. Arrivals frequently exceed 1,000 people per day. On Tuesday, the Director of Public Prosecutions announced that the 5,000 pending cases of post-election violence will be thoroughly investigated before decisions are made to either prosecute them or drop them. On Friday, detectives from Muthaiga police station reportedly raided the home of the former President’s son in a bid to arrest him after the High Court issued a warrant for him to be detained for one month for ignoring an order to pay maintenance to his estranged wife. On Tuesday, at least two people were reportedly killed in an attack by armed men in Mandera.
  • Security forces in Sudan reportedly raided two Arabic daily newspapers, confiscating all copies of the publications that were due for distribution on Sunday. On Wednesday, aid agencies called upon Sudan to urgently extend the looming deadline for up to 700,000 southern Sudanese to leave the country, as it is impossible to meet and would create a “logistical nightmare and humanitarian catastrophe”. On Thursday, activists, opposition politicians and journalists expressed their concern over a new espionage laws being debated in the Sudanese Parliament. On Friday, two African Union-UNAMID peacekeepers sustained gunshot wounds in Darfur after being targeted by an unknown group; the UN welcomed the return of its personnel to the South Kordofan state; while rebels reportedly clashed with government forces, with rebels claiming to have killed a dozen government soldiers and the government accusing the rebels of targeting civilians. On Sunday, South Sudan and Sudanese forces clashed in South Kordofan, despite the recently signed non-aggression pact. On Monday, rebel groups in Sudan announced they had captured a Sudanese army garrison near the border with the South; while the UN reported that increasing numbers of Sudanese and South Sudanese are reportedly fleeing to Kenya due to fighting and economic crisis. On Tuesday, analysts warned that a plan to start disarming civilians in South Sudan, by force if necessary, is likely to worsen the security situation and complicate efforts to deliver essential humanitarian aid; while Sudan reportedly threatened military action against the South, accusing their troops of involvement in rebel attacks along the border where rebels claim they killed 150 government soldiers.
  • Boko Haram claimed responsibility on Wednesday for Tuesday’s deadly attacks at a popular market in Maiduguri, Nigeria; gunshots and explosions rang out in Kano, as the military reportedly exchanged fire with suspected Boko Haram militants; while unknown gunmen set some classrooms and a store at Budun Primary School in the outskirt of Maiduguri. On Thursday, gunmen on motorcycles shot dead two policemen and wounded two others in Kano. On Friday, at least 10 people were killed in a night attack on the Gombe Divisional Police Station, as gunmen reportedly set off bombs in an attempted prison break in the northeastern city of Gombe. On Sunday, two suicide bombers suspected to be Boko Haram members blew up the Church of Christ in Nigeria headquarters in Jos, killing at least 2 people. Police arrested 8 Nigerian Christians from a rival faction of their own church in relation to the bombing, while 8 others were killed in reprisal attacks by protesting youths following the incident. Also, suspected Boko Haram militants attacked the Shuwa Divisional Police Station in Madagali, killing three police corporals.
  • Tens of thousands of returning workers from Libya, failing rains and insects are reportedly causing food shortages and a major humanitarian crisis in Chad that could affect up to 3.6 million people.
  • A Parliamentary committee leading the constitution making in Zimbabwe has reportedly been forced to drop a number of provisions, including one on term limits that would have locked President Mugabe from future polls on Thursday. On Friday, PM Tsvangirai reportedly castigated President Mugabe and the ZANU PF over insincerity, calling the unity government a “sorrowful experience” and vowing to resist Mugabe’s calls for early elections. On Saturday, President Mugabe celebrated his 88th birthday with an elaborate party, and again called for an early vote this year. Concern is reportedly building over the fate of a human rights activist missing since the 8th of February.
  • On Friday, the Supreme Court of Rwanda sentenced one of the most important Tutsi opposition leaders, PDP party president Deogratias Mushayidi, to life in prison in a controversial verdict for “plotting to overthrow” Kagame’s government, spreading rumors to incite hatred of the government and using forged documents. Supporters say that the trial is merely a tool to silence the opposition.
  • President Compaore of Burkina Faso fired his justice minister on Friday and created a cabinet post for human rights in an effort to calm citizens’ anger over abuses by government officials. The justice minister was reportedly fired for ordering the arrest, beating and detention of a man with whom he had a minor traffic dispute.
  • A young girl was killed and ten women and children injured when Mali’s air force reportedly bombed a camp for displaced civilians in the north on Wednesday. On Friday, the UN refugee agency appealed for $35.6 million to respond to the growing humanitarian crisis resulting from the renewed fighting in the north between government forces and Tuareg rebels; while President Toure announced he is willing to step down and hold democratic elections in June, denying that he is willing to fight a war against the rebels in return for staying in power. Refugee numbers are rising daily in the bordering countries as the fighting rages between the Malian army and the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad fighting for greater autonomy for the Tuareg. On Sunday, the French Foreign Minister said that Mali must negotiate with separatist Tuareg rebels to end the fighting in its northern desert, during a visit to the country.
  • The judge in ousted President Mubarak’s trial in Egypt announced that the verdict will be delivered on June 2nd during Wednesday’s hearing.  On Friday, the Muslim Brotherhood announced it will be holding the Interior Ministry responsible for two separate attacks on Islamist politicians over the last couple days, accusing it of ignoring death threats made to its members; while the Muslim Brotherhood also reported claimed in its own newspaper that it had scored an outright majority in the upper house of Parliament ahead of results that would be released on Sunday. On Sunday, a court reportedly adjourned the trial of pro-democracy activists accused of illegally receiving funds from abroad until April; while at least 20 Jordanian nationals were reportedly trapped in the south Sinai, blocked in by Bedouin protesters demanding the release of Sinai prisoners. On Monday, the Supreme Commission for Presidential Elections postponed the meeting to announce the timeline for the upcoming elections until next week.
  • Three people were reportedly killed and some 25 injured on Tuesday in clashes between rival tribes in the far southeast of Libya. On Wednesday, a military court ruled that 50 people accused of fighting for Gaddafi and helping a mass jail break by alleged Gaddafi supporters should be freed and tried instead in a civilian court; while two Libyan Mirage fighter jets, which were flown to Malta by defecting pilots last year, headed back home. On Thursday, troops intervened to try and end fighting between rival tribes in the eastern desert where dozens of people had been killed over the previous week. On Friday, clashes flared between rival tribes in the far southeast, injuring several people. On Saturday, Libya and France reportedly agreed to look into boosting maritime security and controlling Libyan borders, as the French Defense Minister met with his Libyan counterpart in Tripoli; militiamen reportedly detained two British journalists working for Iran’s Press TV and are holding them in Tripoli; while authorities urged Libya’s neighbours to hand over Gaddafi supporters who have fled the country, saying bilateral ties could be threatened if they did not cooperate. On Sunday, the government of Niger warned its people that they could be targeted by roving militias if they travel to Libya, as tensions rise between the neighbouring countries over Niger’s refusal to extradite Gaddafi’s son Saadi; while the situation remained tense in the south-eastern town of Kufra, with more than half the population fleeing and the death toll reaching over a 100. On Monday, a powerful militia announced it will  not heed a government request to disband because they incentives are not generous enough. On Tuesday, officials announced they will not rule out using force to regain control of the town of Bani Walid after it was recently taken over by forces loyal to Gaddafi.
  • The President of Uganda’s Forum for Democratic Change, Kizza Besigye, and a female MP were hospitalized on Tuesday when a political rally was dispersed by police in Kampala. On Wednesday, Besigye reportedly said that the threat of death will not stop him from advocating for political freedom. On Saturday, the Independent (Kampala) reported that President Museveni appears to be losing his grip after 10 of his 15 top ministers either resigned over alleged corruption or face censure by a rebellious parliament that refuses to be either bribed, intimidated or seduced by Museveni. On Monday, IRIN warned of overwhelmed refugee camps in the west of the country, as an influx of refugees fleeing post-election violence and militia activity in the DRC are swarming in. On Tuesday, the Uganda Human Rights Commission released a new report on victims’ views on the right to remedy and reparation.
  • The opposition in Senegal claims that it has a permit to march and occupy public places while the Ministry of the Interior continues to call for the deployment of forces to prevent the occupation of strategic places. On Tuesday, hundreds of opposition supporters clashed with security forces in the capital, as EU observers criticized a ban on protests and an African envoy flew in to try and stem the rising violence. On Wednesday, President Wade ignored appeals by former Nigerian leader Obasanjo to withdraw from the presidential race made during a series of meetings with main opposition members.  On Thursday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed his hope that this weekend’s Presidential election is peaceful and credibly staged. On Friday, thousands of opposition activists took to the streets to demand President Wade cancel the elections, resulting in at least six deaths. On Saturday, the country was gripped by uncertainty on the eve of the election as more than 450,000 voter cards have yet to be collected by registered voters. On Sunday, former Nigerian President Obasanjo’s mediation attempts suffered a setback as protesters turned down a proposed two-year term for Wade and ordered Obansanjo to leave their country; Senegalese voted across the country, largely without incident, though incumbent President Wade was reportedly heckled by voters as he cast his ballot.  IRIN ran an analysis about life under President Wade. On Monday, early results appeared to indicate that Wade had failed to win an outright majority, which would necessitate a runoff. On Tuesday, the campaign spokesman for incumbent Wade said that partial results showed that Wade was well short of an absolute majority.
  • The International Criminal Court announced that it would be expanding the scope of its investigation into possible war crimes in Cote d’Ivoire to as far back as 2002 on Thursday; while Human Rights Watch expressed concern over the scheduled end of a national commission of inquiry investigating the post-election violence, citing several failures and rushed work. On Sunday, unidentified armed individuals shot at a convoy from the Independent Electoral Commission as it transported ballot boxes from a central-western town during the legislative by-election, with a second attack occurring hours later, killing at least five people. A new book written by a French journalist challenges the dominant narrative about the killing of several women protesters in Abobo that prompted the French and the UN to intervene following the election crisis in early 2011.
  • A self-proclaimed gay activist in Liberia and some of his followers narrowly escaped an angry mob who rushed a local radio and television station to attack him for his pro-gay campaign on Thursday; while members of the Senate launched a probe into allegations of rebel training ongoing in the area near the Liberian-Ivory Coast border. On Tuesday, MPs are expected to consider a bill that would forbid same sex marriage.
  • A judge in Tunisia granted the publisher of a daily newspaper a provisional release, postponing his trial over the publishing of a photo of a football player embracing a naked model until March 8th, after the publisher went on a hunger strike. On Thursday, police used tear gas to break up a crowd of around 200 hard-line Salafists allegedly armed with sticks, swords and petrol bombs after they set fire to a police station.

This Week in African Conflict… February 14th-21st, 2012.

  • The West African Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP) has just launched a new book on election management in West Africa.
  • The African Union Chairman announced on Saturday he will visit some of the continent’s conflict areas including Sudan, South Sudan, Mali and Libya for direct talks to help tackle the continent’s security hotspots.
  • ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States unanimously elected Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara as its Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority, succeeding Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. ECOWAS also announced that they will introduce a single currency into the sub-region by 2020, and be effective in English speaking countries by 2015.
  • Heavy casualties were reported in clashes between security forces and Tuareg rebels in Mali in a northern town on Thursday. ECOWAS ordered Tuareg rebels to end their hostilities on Friday and to give up the territories they occupy; while Amnesty International warned that the Tuareg offensive raging in the north is causing a humanitarian and human rights crisis, killing scores and causing thousands to flee into neighbouring countries. On Sunday, authorities announced that it will hold Presidential elections on time in April, despite the Tuareg rebellion.
  • The Guardian ran an article suggesting that Malawi, once known as the beacon of democracy, is creeping towards dictatorship after the British High Commission described the President as “becoming ever more autocratic and intolerant of criticism” and was subsequently expelled from the country. On Thursday, a prominent critic of the President, a human rights lawyer and former attorney general, was reportedly jailed after he made claims that five or six “thugs” were hired by the government to attack him and petrol bomb his office.
  • At least three people were reportedly killed and about 20 injured in two days of clashes in the eastern region of Cote d’Ivoire at the beginning of the week. The violence was allegedly sparked by frustrations over the continued policing of the area by former northern rebels. On Friday, a senior UN official in the country announced the partial certification of legislative elections, issuing a statement saying that all the conditions necessary for holding open, free, fair, just and transparent elections were met. On Tuesday, a court in Liberia released some 76 Ivorian refugees arrested last month at a mining camp near Zwedru over suspicion of training as mercenaries to invade Cote d’Ivoire.
  • The acting inspector general of police in Nigeria announced on Tuesday that corrupt police forces act on the whims of the highest bigger and that officers carry out extra-judicial killings and torture. On Wednesday, the re-arrested “hatchet man” for Boko Haram allegedly buckled to the interrogation of security agents and listed the sponsors and sources of arms and ammunition of the sect. On Thursday, the federal government tightened security by redeploying 72 of its generals; while at least 118 prisoners were set free by armed men in an attack on a jail south of Abuja.  On Friday, the Vice President inaugurated a committee to re-organize the police as part of plans to turn around the corrupt police force. On Saturday, five people were reportedly wounded after an explosive device detonated in Niger State. On Sunday, a bomb blast allegedly targeted a branch of the Christ Embassy Church in Suleja, injuring at least one person; while the police in the FCT, Abuja beefed up security in and around the capital city with new motorized electronic detecting equipment.  On Monday, the Joint Task Force in Borno State announced that it killed 8 Boko Haram fighters in a shootout that was preceded by at least 7 explosions, though witnesses say many more people— mostly bystanders— were killed in the shooting.
  • The first Presidential elections since the fall of Mubarak are set to be held at the end of May in Egypt according to the state-owned newspaper on Wednesday; while the top US military officer forcefully argued against a cut-off in aid to the country. On Friday, thousands rallied in Port Said in a show of support for residents angry over the football riot this month that killed 74 people, who claim they now live under a de facto siege. On Sunday, the elections commission announced that the Presidential race will begin as of March 10 until April 8, but failed to follow through on a promise to announce the actual date of the elction.
  • Human Rights Watch expressed concern over activists who are allegedly being prosecuted in Morocco for peacefully boycotting an election three months ago, despite statements by authorities that no one was arrested for the boycott.
  • The Ogaden Somali Community in South Africa released a statement on Tuesday announcing they are filing a complaint with the country’s top prosecutor and the ICC urging an investigation into the actions of the government of Ethiopia against the Ogaden people, including extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, rape, torture, disappearances, the destruction of livelihood, the burning of villages and the destruction of livestock.
  • Around 5,000 rebels have reportedly joined the new national army thus far in Libya, though many militia groups still constitute a threat to stability. On Thursday, Amnesty International accused several armed groups within the country of committing widespread abuses in a new report, saying that suspected supporters of Gaddafi are being tortured with impunity; and dozens of people were reportedly killed over the week in clashes between rival tribes over control of areas in the far southeast. The people marked the first anniversary of the February 17th revolution on Friday with excitement and protests; while the Guardian ran a video report about the Abu Salim prison in Tripoli. On Saturday, the new government announced it plans to give each family more than $1,500 and pay unemployed former rebels in an attempt to win over those who want faster progress; it also sent military forces to stem clashes between rival tribes over control of territory in the far southeast; while the East African reported that the UN is still investigating investments of businesses owned by Tripoli across East Africa nearly three months after lifting sanctions. On Monday, the government announced its forces will intervene if clashes between rival tribes over control of territory in the southeast do not stop; while the population of Misrata voted in the first “free” election to pick 28 new members of the local council.
  • At least one person was killed in Uganda as government troops reportedly evicted an estimated 6,000 “squatters” from a nature reserve where authorities say the people are living illegally, though locals claim the property is their ancestral land and accuse the government of attempting to sell it to foreign developers. On Thursday, two more cabinet ministers resigned over corruption allegations, bringing the total number of resigned ministers to six. On Sunday, President Museveni went back on his own words spoken years ago when he told Kenyans that it is beneficial for one person to rule a country for a lengthier period, citing his own 26-year tenure as making him an “expert on governance”.
  • Police in Senegal reportedly violently dispersed opposition protesters demonstrating in Dakar in the run-up to the Presidential election on Wednesday. The interior minister announced that the government has the right to “restrict such liberties through legal channels when there is a real threat to public order”. On Friday, police reportedly sealed off a main square in the capital and fired tear gas to disperse anti-government protesters. On Saturday, police reportedly fired tear gas and chased protesters from the centre of the capital in a fourth day of protest against the candidacy of incumbent President Wade in the upcoming poll; while the local branch of President Wade’s Parti Democratique Senegalais was reportedly ransacked and burned. On Sunday, the opposition planned new protests in the build up to elections next weekend.
  • Many from South Sudan who were fired from their government jobs in neighbouring Sudan blocked a major road in Khartoum on Wednesday, hurling rocks at passing cars and demanding severance benefits. On Thursday, two joint UN/African Union Mission in Darfur soldiers were injured when three unidentified gunmen attacked their vehicle; and delegations from the two Sudans reportedly agreed to immediately demarcate the border between them in a bid to settle a number of pending issues they started to discuss before the South’s independence last July. On Friday morning, police in Sudan raided dormitories of the University of Khartoum, arresting over three hundred students in anticipation of a new protest they planned to stage over the weekend; the UN Security Council extended the mandate for the panel of experts monitoring sanctions imposed on Sudan over the conflict in Darfur for another year; the ruling party head offices in South Sudan were reportedly gutted in a fire that is still under investigation; while South Sudan appealed to Kenya to assist to end the conflict with the North over mineral resources and the disputed Abyei and Kadugli border regions. On Saturday, the UN relief chief expressed deep concern at the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, where continued fighting is killing countless civilians and displacing hundreds of thousands of others; while the Islamist opposition leader in Sudan accused the National Intelligence and Security Services of installing a secret listening device at his party’s headquarters. On Monday, rebels in the Darfur region announced they had released 49 international peacekeepers, only hours after detaining them, but kept hold of three civilian staff they accused of working as spies for the security service; while Sudanese security agents reportedly confiscated an entire edition of the independent al-Tayar newspaper in the latest media crackdown in the country.
  • On Monday, in an ironic twist, the minister for morality and good governance in Chad was fired and charged with corruption, accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in funds meant for cracking down on graft.
  • At least 28 bodies were found dead on a beach in the northern region of Somalia on Wednesday, thought to be those of migrants whose ferry boat capsized; the International Crisis Group released a new report on the Kenyan military intervention in the country, warning them to act cautiously and avoid prolonged “occupation”; certain diplomats began seeking for a boost to the AMISOM forces via a UN resolution; and fighting between Puntland state forces and Sheik Sa’eed Atom fighters killed some 15 soldiers in a northern town. On Thursday, a Kenya Defense Force soldier was reportedly killed in combat during an operation against al-Shabaab. On Friday, al-Shabaab reportedly deployed hundreds of heavily armed militants to the southern outskirts of Mogadishu to reinforce its flanks; Oxfam warned that an escalation of military activity in the area has forced thousands of civilians to flee and its severely hampering famine recovery efforts; and a car bomb exploded inside the compound of a major police building in Mogadishu, wounding at least two policemen. On Saturday, a missile hit a beach allegedly used as a base by al-Shabaab. On Sunday, key groups reportedly reached an agreement on a number of pending transitional government tasks, including a federal structure for a future government and representation in Parliament; while at least 10 people were reportedly killed and some 20 injured in clashes between AMISOM and al-Shabaab. On Tuesday, the Guardian ran an article detailing how Somali pirates are forced to go further away from the coast and taking more risks, particularly now that merchant ships can carry armed security teams; IRIN questioned what the 5-hour London Conference on the 23rd can possibly achieve for Somalia; Britain and other EU nations announced they are considering the feasibility of air strikes against al-Shabaab’s logistical hubs and training camps; while Human Rights Watch released a report suggesting that Somalia’s warring parties have all failed to protect children from the fighting or serving in their forces, with al-Shabaab increasingly targeting children for recruitment, forced marriage and rape.
  • A medical doctor, who is also a prominent human rights defender and opposition member in Equatorial Guinea has reportedly been held for more than five days following the death of a patient during surgery, with Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International suggest is politically motivated.
  • The Governor of Masvingo in Zimbabwe suspended 29 non-governmental organizations from operating in the province on Tuesday, after he accused them of failing to register with the local authorities. On Thursday, a lawyer’s group advised people to defy the suspension on NGOs, that the governor’s ruling had no basis in law and was done by an individual lacking the authority to do so; while two dispossessed farmers who were evicted from their farms in 2009 during a land grab campaign, were set to take their landmark case to the Southern African Development Community. On Friday, an elderly farmer who was reportedly evicted from his farm several years ago as part of a land grab campaign, was jailed for more than a week as the battle for his new home intensified; and the EU announced a decision to remove 51 individuals and 20 companies from the targeted sanctions list in Zimbabwe, against strong criticism from those who say that SADC facilitated negotiations were stalled and none of the issues agreed to had actually been implemented. On Sunday, President Mugabe said he will “definitely” call elections this year to end a fragile coalition with the former opposition and called politicians who say the polls cannot be held until well into 2013 “cowards”; he also scoffed at calls for him to retire. Mugabe, who turned 88 on Tuesday,  publicly praised the coalition pact, saying in an interview that he and long-time foe PM Tsvangirai can now share a cup of tea.
  • The Former PM of Tunisia was acquitted on Tuesday of charges of illegally crossing the Tunisian-Libyan border in September 2011. Labour protests supported by the main labour union in the country are reportedly breaking out, especially in the western regions. On Wednesday, three local journalists were facing trial on morality charges after publishing a photograph of a footballer frolicking with a nude woman, raising fears of a media crackdown. On Friday, police fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of conservative Islamists who poured out of a mosque after noon prayers reportedly protesting and calling for an Islamic state. On Monday, the third-largest party in the constituent assembly proposed a draft document based on Islamic law for the new constitution.
  • Hundreds were displaced and six reportedly killed in a fresh wave of ethnic clashes in central Kenya this week. On Thursday, the Cabinet failed to convince the two principle ministers to agree on an election date; while Matatu operators in Meru and Tharaka-Nithi counties gave the government 30 days to rescind a decision on the phasing out of 14 seater cars or they would withdraw their services, paralyzing public transport. On Saturday, authorities called upon citizens to maintain strict vigilance to thwart off terror threats posed by Somali insurgents blamed for a series of suicide attacks in the country. On Tuesday, an envoy announced that the Kenya military is set to benefit from the American financial assistance once it is fully integrated into AMISOM.
  • The government of Zambia is reportedly in a fierce diplomatic row with Kenya, as it claims the son of the former President Banda is hiding out at the State House in Nairobi to avoid facing corruption charges.
  • The government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo reportedly pulled three broadcasting stations off the air on Wednesday, although the exact reasons remained unclear. On Thursday, security forces in Kinshasa fired teargas to break up a “March of Christians” organized by the local Roman Catholic Church to protest alleged fraud in the recent Presidential and legislative elections. On Friday, the three broadcasting stations were back on the air following their two day suspension, which was allegedly for airing “propaganda” about the peaceful Catholic march; while the EU and the US-based Carter Center criticised the Congolese government for banning the Catholic Church’s protest. On Saturday, the leading opposition party ordered its newly elected MPs to boycott the national assembly following the controversial Presidential elections. On Monday, three senior Congolese diplomats reportedly resigned from their posts at the embassy in London, claiming asylum in the UK to escape the “climate of terror”.

This Week in African Conflict… February 7th-14th, 2012.

  • The UN and Interpol discussed transnational organized crime in West Africa, including illicit drug trafficking and the proliferation of illegal arms, as well maritime piracy in Lyon, France on Monday.
  • An anti-homosexuality bill is being once again resurrected by the Parliament in Uganda with changes to the provision calling for the death penalty now reduced to a life sentence. On Tuesday, the State Minister for Ethics and Integrity broke up a secret gay rights activist conference because it was “illegal”; while demonstrators gathered to ridicule MPs for their accepting money to buy cars and trying to take the matter out of the public domain.
  • Troops in Senegal reportedly clashed with suspected separatist fighters in the Casamance region, killing three soldiers and wounding six others.
  • Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for a suicide car bomb attack that killed at least 11 (some reports saying as many as 17) people in Mogadishu, Somalia on Wednesday near a hotel where lawmakers gather; while an al-Shabaab rebel commander was allegedly killed along with 13 other rebel fighters in an ambush by Kenyan troops in the south. On Thursday, it was reported that al-Qaeda incorporated al-Shabaab into its organization in a “jihadi unity” merger; while more than 1,000 families were displaced from the town of Buuhoodle and nearby villages in eastern Somaliland after heavy fighting between the Somaliland Army and clan militias loyal to the newly created Khatumo State. On Saturday, Kenya Defense Forces announced that al-Qaeda’s merger with al-Shabaab opened the way for other international players involved in the fight against terrorism to take part in the war on al-Shabaab; while the United States announced that it is considering additional assistance to AU mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in the wake of the merger. On Sunday, al Shabaab insurgents reportedly attacked Somali and Kenyan troops stationed in the southern town of Busaar, killing some 10 people. On Monday, Kenya’s Defence Forces said that al-Shabaab’s fighters held demonstrations in areas under their control to display that their new-found alliance with al-Qaeda enjoys local support; while the government called upon the lifting of an arms embargo to help it resist an al-Qaeda insurgency. British insistence that the Somaliland Government attend the upcoming London Conference on Somalia has caused a lot of debate both within and outside the country.
  • Swiss-based commodities trader Trafigura is again facing a legal dispute, with South Sudan claiming that Trafigura bought oil that was seized by Sudan, making its ownership suspect. On Wednesday, it was reported that rebel groups fighting the South Sudanese government have been forcing the recruitment of southerners living in Khartoum; while Sudanese President al-Bashir reportedly accused foreign groups of profiting from the crisis in Darfur and vowed to fully implement a deal aimed at ending years of insurgency and dependency on aid in the region. On Thursday, Amnesty International said that Russian and Chinese arms are being used to violate human rights in the Darfur region in breach of an “ineffectual” UN embargo; at least 3,798 UN peacekeepers have been successfully deployed to the contested Abyei region, but a UN report suggested that the security situation was still “tense and volatile”; while the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan helped launch the construction of a training centre for former soldiers aimed at helping them disarm, demobilize and return to civilian life. On Saturday, Sudan and South Sudan signed a “non-aggression” pact over their disputed border following talks in Addis Ababa, though mediators expected little immediate change on the ground; while Sudan’s armed forces announced that they had seized an area held by rebels after a two day battle in Blue Nile State. On Sunday, President al-Bashir blasted the government of South Sudan over their decision to suspend oil production, calling the move “suicide” as it is their only source of living. Over the weekend, the Sudan armed forces reportedly launched an aerial bombardment within territories within South Sudan in violation of the recent non-aggression agreement, with four SPLA soldiers critically injured.
  • President Jammeh in the Gambia has asked the UN to investigate the disappearance of several journalists, while rights groups accuse the government of persecuting media workers.
  • President Atta Mills of Ghana ordered the arrest of a key ruling party financier after initially defending him in a high-profile corruption case that has blown up in an election year. Two cabinet ministers also resigned over the matter.
  • Analysts are saying that the Tuareg insurgency has increased since the fall of Gaddafi, as thousands of Tuaregs previously serving in his army have now returned to Mali, potentially destabilizing the country and the upcoming Presidential elections. On Wednesday, northern rebels reportedly seized the strategic border town of Tinzawatene after two days of fighting forced government troops to withdraw into Algeria; while UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced deep concern over the outbreak of fighting in the north and the large-scale humanitarian consequences of the conflict. On Friday, Malian helicopters reportedly bombed rebel positions in a key northern town, hours after former colonial power France called for a ceasefire and immediate talks to end a three-week rebel offensive. On Saturday, authorities said that they were determined to quell a heavily armed Tuareg rebellion in the north before the scheduled April elections.
  • Mozambique, South Africa and Tanzania have signed a tripartite memorandum of understanding on Tuesday in Dar es Salaam to coordinate their efforts to fight against piracy in and other illicit activities on the high seas in joint maritime patrols, particularly to protect against recent attacks by gangs of Somali pirates.
  • A report by IPS on Wednesday told of hundreds fleeing Kano State in Nigeria to escape attacks by Boko Haram in recent weeks. On Thursday, the Security Joint Task Force reportedly discovered a large arms cache in Kano State via a tip-off by “well-meaning Nigerians”. On Monday, pirates reportedly attacked a cargo ship off the Nigerian coast, killing its captain and chief engineer; security forces reportedly stopped a bomber who tried to ram a car with explosives through the gates of a government house in Kaduna; and Boko Haram alleged it had killed 12 soldiers in an attack in the northeast town of Maiduguri, a claim security forces denied. On Tuesday, Boko Haram said the arrest of some of its top leaders will not deter it from carrying out attacks; while a policeman was killed in two explosions at a mosque in Kaduna state.
  • Thousands of elderly folks in Kenya have announced their intention to sue the British government over abuses—including torture, illegal detentions and rape—that were committed during a 1950s anti-colonial rebellion. On Thursday, four people were seriously injured at a mosque after two groups of faithful clashed over the annual Maulidi festival. A new bill called the Leadership and Integrity Bill 2012 published this week could result in dozens of aspirants for Presidential, county and parliamentary seats in the upcoming General Elections to be locked out of the race, including the majority of the MPs and most of the top-tier Presidential aspirants.
  • Authorities in Egypt said they would not be persuaded by the potential loss of American aid to end their investigation into foreign-funded NGOs, after 19 Americans were to be put on trial last week for the alleged illegal activities of their organizations. On Wednesday, the ruling generals said they would deploy more soldiers and tanks across the country, an announcement seen as a warning to activists planning a national strike on the anniversary of Mubarak’s overthrow. On Friday, thousands marched on the Defense Ministry in Cairo, demanding that the country’s military leaders hand over power. On Saturday, military rulers warned that the country faces conspiracies to spread chaos as it prepared to mark the first anniversary of the overthrow of Mubarak and that it will not “bow to threats, nor succumb to pressures, nor accept ultimatums”; while protesters were calling for a nationwide strike. On Sunday, authorities reportedly detained four people, including an Australian journalist and an Egyptian labour activist, on suspicion that they had distributed cash to workers to incite them to take part in a strike demanding an end to army rule. On Monday, the Atlantic ran an article that discussed whether al-Qaeda is growing within the country since the fall of Mubarak and another on the 9 new faces in Egypt; while the Fact-finding Committee of the People’s Assembly held state security, Egypt’s Football Association, Al-Masry Sporting Club, Port Said Stadium and the fans accountable for the deadly soccer match that saw the deaths of over 70 people last month. On Tuesday, the Guardian ran an article on growing violence in the Sinai, with Bedouin accused of looting resorts, bombing pipelines and abducting foreigners in the post-Mubarak security vacuum.
  • UDPS Secretary General Jacquemain Shabani was reportedly beaten and detained by immigration agents at N’Djili International Airport in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on Tuesday as he was about to board a plane to Europe, but was later released on Wednesday. The top UN peacekeeping official stressed the need to boost the mission in the country on Wednesday to facilitate the next phase of elections and protect civilians in areas where national authorities are not present. On Saturday, the East African ran an interesting article questioning the lack of action by both the United States and the UN on the elections results that were widely viewed as fraudulent. On Sunday, President Kabila’s chief adviser was killed in a plane crash, along with the co-pilot near Bukavu, while South Kivu Governor Cishambo was admitted to the hospital for emergency treatment.
  • Two fifths of the seats in the new parliament of Libya are scheduled to be reserved for political parties, groups that were banned under Gaddafi, according to the final draft of the new election law published on Monday that reversed an earlier plan to give all seats to independents and promised a ten percent quota for female candidates. On Thursday, the UN political mission in the country welcomed the adoption of new electoral laws, calling the move an “important step in the transition to democracy”. On Friday, Gaddafi’s son Saadi warned of an imminent uprising in the country, stating that he wanted to return “at any minute”. Niger announced that it has refused to submit to the requests to extradite Moammar Gaddafi’s son Saadi Gaddafi to Libya on Saturday because he risks death in the country, but that they would turn him over to the ICC if the court requested. On Monday, at least five people had reportedly been killed in clashes between rival tribes over control of territory in the far southeast.  On Tuesday, the country was reportedly tense as it prepares to mark the anniversary of its February 17th revolution.
  • PM Zenawi of Ethiopia said on Wednesday that he could pardon politicians and journalists arrested under an anti-terrorism law last week, but dismissed opposition criticism he was using the law to clamp down on dissent. Rights groups say they government used the law to crack down on its opponents, with 150 opposition politicians and supporters detained in the last three years.
  • A ZANU-PF youth vice chairperson in Zimbabwe who was found dead in his home was granted with liberation hero status despite having not been alive during the country’s liberation period, igniting fierce controversy. On Monday, human rights groups filed a case at the South African High Court seeking to compel the authorities to investigate and prosecute Zimbabwean officials accused of torture, arguing that the ratification of the Rome Statute will ensure that that South Africa is committed to prosecuting perpetrators of serious international crimes, regardless of where they were committed. On Tuesday, recriminations broke out in ZANU-PF over a clause contained in a draft constitution that appears to bar President Mugabe from seeking another term in office, as some within the party appeared to support the move.
  • A senior UN official welcomed the news on Friday that a court in Guinea had filed charges against an army colonel accused of being responsible for mass rapes that occurred during a pro-democracy protest in the capital in 2009. He is the highest ranking official yet to be charged for his role in the massacre. On Tuesday, police reportedly raided the chic Parisian apartment of the son of the President as part of an investigation into the French property holdings of three African heads of state, a move their lawyer vehemently protested saying the building was under diplomatic immunity.
  • The South African foreign affairs ministry said on Sunday that Madagascar must agree to new amnesty laws by the end of February to pave the way for the return of exiled former leader Marc Ravalomanana; while Wikileaks revealed that Ravalomanana was helped by South Africa to import crowd control weapons before he lost power.
  • The National Constituent Assembly of Tunisia began work on Monday of drafting the country’s new constitution. The drafting process is divided between six commissions and is expected to conclude in a maximum of 18 months before the proposed presidential elections deadline. On Monday, authorities announced that they had broken up a “terrorist organization” with links to al-Qaeda, arresting 12 members.
  • Long-serving President Jose Eduardo dos Santos of Angola will be seeking a new term in the September polls on Friday, according to the ruling MPLA. Dos Santos has been in power since 1979.

Arms deals in Africa

Hello, hope all is well!

The wonderful Peter Dorrie has written this thoughtful guest post on the new SIPRI report on arms deals in Sub-Saharan Africa. Please be sure to check out Peter’s work at:

blog/homepage: www.peter-doerrie.de
twitter: @peterdoerrie
Thanks Peter!
Rebecca

 

SIPRI just published a new report on arms deals and weapons flows in sub-saharan Africa (SSA). The report offers little news for those who are familiar with the weapons market in SSA, but this actually makes it only more important. I don’t want to summarize the whole report here (it has a good two page summary included), but discuss some issues in more detail that I think are crucial to the arms transfers debate in Africa.

Transparency of arms transfers

This is a main point of the report and with good reason. The SIPRI is considered the best source on arms transfers and deals which is accessible to the public, but even they can only estimate the amount and types of weapons which flow into SSA each year. The reason for this is simple: neither the delivering countries, nor the recipients have a great interest in making their transfers public.

While the report stresses that some arms transfers are legitimate and actually have the potential to improve the security situation, I think it is safe to say that most arms flows in SSA are ambiguous at best and outright dangerous at worst. The report confirms that it is common for African countries to meddle in each others affairs by delivering arms to the government or rebel groups. Western and Eastern nations frequently use preferential arms deals as a means to gain political favors. And while the total value of the African arms market is little (only 1.5% of the global market), it remains a lucrative business to deliver arms to those places where they are actually used: the 20 or so African states that experienced conflict over the last five years.

The lack of information about arms transfers is also contributing to a lack of knowledge on how exactly fresh arms influence security in volatile regions. This makes targeted political actions close to impossible, if one tries to influence conflicts through providing or limiting arms supply. So from a policy perspective, the most important step would be to have the principle exporters (China, Russia and Ukraine) and ideally the African states sign up to a weapons transfer database. But as even the EU has difficulties providing timely data on arms deals, I have little hope that we will see progress in this quarter soon.

Effectiveness of arms control regimes

Sometimes, the UN security council actually gets its act together and issues an arms embargo against a state or individuals. This is great in theory, but these embargoes (and other arms control regimes) are often beset with so many problems, that one has to ask oneself if they are worth the paper they are written on.

Take the arms embargo against the region of Darfur for example. The SIPRI report details that it had little practical effect, as the government in Khartoum was still allowed to receive arms transfers as long as it guaranteed the sender that these arms would not be used in Darfur. I imagine this looks something like this:

Chinese/Russian/Ukrainian arms dealer: Thanks very much for your order Mr. Bashir. We will be happy to provide you with the AK-74s/MIG bombers/tanks you requested. Just one last formality; We will need some form of guarantee that you won’t be using these weapons in Darfur.

Mr. Bashir: Oh no problem. I’ll give you my word that we will only use these shiny new killing machines when parading around in our baracks and in case Egypt tries to invade us!

Arms dealer: Great! That’s settled then.

The deadliest of all good-will gifts

While a huge motivation for arms transfers is still monetary gain, the SIPRI report also points out to the frequent practice of using preferential arms deals as political gifts. This is common for the main arms exporters (think China’s interest in Sudanese oil) as well as for African states (who frequently support one party of a conflict for ideological/political reasons).

Western powers are not above using arms as a political tool as well. This is showcased by the recent support of the (former) rebels in Libya (though not SSA), as well as by the acceptance of western allies Ethiopia and Kenya arming militias in Somalia in their fight against islamists.

This aspect is probably one of the most worrying issues. The current situation in Syria shows that political patronage (in this case by Russia) can have disastrous effects on the possibility to resolve conflicts. African countries are no strangers to political maneuvering by foreign powers and African elites have repeatedly shown that staying in power through the use of guns is an option they will gladly consider, if it is made available to them.

Conclusion

Especially when it comes to small arms and light weapons (SALW, like AK-74s), decades-old thinking needs to be revised. We finally need a political push – probably on UN level – for a comprehensive treaty on transparency in arms transfers. This would be the first step towards more effective arms control regimes, which could reign in the use of weapons as political gifts.

For this to succeed, western nations would have to push this topic onto the international agenda. It remains to be seen if the recent experiences of the Arab Spring (where western sourced weapons were used to fire on peaceful demonstrators) provide sufficient reason for policy makers to rethink stance on arms exports. Only if the West manages to agree on ethical standarts and tight control of their arms exports, getting others to sign up to such rules will be realistic. For Africa, it would be a good development.

For those of you who want to dive deeper into the details of arms deals in Africa, you can find the main report here and various other reports, detailing the role of South Africa, Ukraine, Israel, Somalia and Zimbabwe here. If you can read German, you can find an interesting article on the German weapons company Heckler&Koch and its shady business here.

This Week in African Conflict… January 31st-February 7th, 2012.

  • The West African Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP) will be launching its new book, “Election Dispute Management Practice Guide for West Africa” on February 14th, 2012 at the Grand Mensvic Hotel, in East Legon, Accra, Ghana at 9am. The keynote speech at the launch will be delivered by Sierra Leone’s Chair of the Electoral Commission Dr. Christiana Thorpe. The book focuses on the prevention, mitigation and resolution of electoral disputes.
  • The UN refugee agency reported on Tuesday that it will be implementing a set of strategies to conclude three of Africa’s long-standing refugee crises that involve helping people uprooted by old conflicts in Angola, Liberia and Rwanda. The strategies will include scaling up voluntary repatriation, providing assistance packages to help former refugees reintegrate or securing an alternative legal status that would allow them to continue to reside in countries of asylum.
  • Weak land rights in the African continent fuel the potential for conflict, as the sell-off of prime land for the exploitation of natural resources, unless governments and investors recognize the customary rights of millions of people to common lands.
  • The Life & Peace Institute and the Kroc Institute released a new report Somalia: Creating space for fresh approaches to peacebuilding; and the UK will be hosting a global conference on the country on February 23rd. On Tuesday, a suicide bomber reportedly killed two policemen guarding the house of a former warlord and one-time government police commander in the Galmudug region. On Thursday, the United Kingdom appointed its first ambassador to the country in 21 years, but announced it will be headed out of Nairobi until security conditions permit the opening of an embassy in Mogadishu. The Kenyan military reportedly achieved one of its most devastating attacks against al-Shabaab targets since it launched its operation in Somalia in October on Friday evening, killing more than 100 al-Shabaab fighters. The UN and its partners insisted on Monday that the country’s current transitional governing arrangements must end on August 20th this year and called upon a new draft of the constitution by mid-April. On Sunday, a senior al-Shabaab officer criticised the role of Turkey in Somalia, saying that they sent expired humanitarian foods and medicines with the intent of poisoning the population; while heavily armed gunmen attacked Ethiopian military bases in the town of Beledweyn.
  • South African leaders have intervened to ease tensions in Madagascar, urging the main political players to speed up the implementation of a roadmap intended to restore constitutional order in the country. On Sunday, former first lady Lalao Ravalomanana was banned from boarding an Airlink flight from South Africa while planning to return home.
  • Thousands of farmers in Tanzania have been accused of destroying mangroves as they search for new land to grow their crops, which are being damaged by salt-water intrusion by surging tides. The scramble for land has created further conflict between residents and government authorities who want to stop locals from invading protected sites.
  • Zimbabwe’s Mugabe reportedly ranted against the African Union and its handling of the crisis in Libya last year, which some analysts took as a sign that the leader is “panicked”. On Friday, the government said it would bar all unregistered foreign newspapers; while President Mugabe and PM Tsvangirai stalled the crafting of a referendum law due to haggling over whether or not the Diaspora vote should be included in the constitutional plebiscite.
  • Julius Malema’s bid to overturn his five-year suspension from the ruling ANC was dismissed by party officials on Saturday.
  • A female protester was reportedly shot at close range by police in Swaziland during demonstrations called by vendors and transport operators over plans by town hall to move them.
  • Bars are rapidly shutting in Algeria, as the country’s Islamists pressure a sort of prohibition onto the country. Vendors have taken to mobilizing their alcohol sales, and the report suggests that actual consumption may have actually increased. On Tuesday, security forces allegedly used water cannons and tear gas to disperse rioting residents in a suburb of the capital who accused the authorities of failing to properly investigate the fatal stabbing of a local man.
  • Dozens of antimilitary and Islamist protesters were injured outside the Parliament in Egypt as they clashed with the rival protesters. At least 74 people died after clashes broke out at a football game in Port Said on Wednesday, prompting protesters to take to the streets in criticism of the country’s security system and the parliament to call an emergency session. On Thursday, one of the Arab world’s most famous comic actors Adel Imam was sentenced to three-months in jail for insulting Islam in films and plays. On Friday, at least two protesters were reportedly shot dead by police using live ammunition to disperse a crowd trying to break into a police station in Suez; rock-throwing protesters fought with riot police near the Interior Ministry over the Port Said deaths; while the Supreme Council of Armed Forces urged national powers to intervene in order to end tension and restore calm as the clashes continued between protesters and security forces. Sometimes violent protests continued over the weekend in response to the deaths of nearly 80 people after a football match in Port Said, including setting fire to the tax authority building, with protesters demanding a swift presidential election and early handover of power by the army and the death toll rising to 12; a civilian council appointed to advise the military rulers asking that preparations for the presidential election begin on February 23rd; while officials say that 43 NGO workers, including 19 Americans, have been referred for trial for alleged involvement in banned activity and illegally receiving foreign funds, angering activists and civil society groups within the country. On Sunday, an unknown explosion hit the gas pipeline between Egypt, Israel and Jordan. The Atlantic ran an article about the now fractured relationship between Egypt and the United States, in light of the NGO case; while an Egyptian military delegation abruptly cancelled its scheduled meetings with US lawmakers to return to Cairo on Monday after the White House announced that the crackdown on NGOs could threaten its $1.3 billion in annual US military aid. Nominations for the Presidential elections opened on Friday.
  • President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia officially launched the Children’s Law of Liberia to protect children and their right to participate meaningfully in their development. The law is set to be one of the most comprehensive pieces of children’s rights legislations in the continent that is largely based upon the UN Convention of Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. On Thursday, at least one person was killed and two others were wounded following a clash over a parcel of land in Nimba County; while the defense lawyers for ex-President Charles Taylor filed a motion before the judges of the UN backed Special Court for Sierra Leone to reopen their client’s defense.
  • More than 15,000 people have reportedly fled from Mali to neighbouring countries, seeking refuge from the Tuareg rebellion against the government over the past month, prompting the UNHCR to deploy more staff in the region to help the thousands of displaced persons. On Saturday, the armed forces reportedly killed around 20 northern separatist rebels and taken more than a dozen prisoner during two days of clashes near Timbuktu.
  • South Sudan has listed their demands in their oil row with the north, saying they won’t start pumping again until these demands are met. On Wednesday, a shoot-out among South Sudanese security forces killed some 37 people and injured a UN policeman. On Thursday, some 15 people were reportedly killed in Mayiandit in a coordinated attack by Unity State forces that came on machine-gun mounted vehicles; while the US accused the Sudanese government of carrying out air strikes on civilians in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states. On Friday, the UN human rights office voiced their concern over a cattle raid in the northern state of South Sudan that led to 78 deaths and numerous civilians; while President Bashir said that war is now a possibility with their southern neighbours in an interview on Blue Nile TV. The President of South Sudan called his Sudanese counterpart, Omer Hassan al-Bashir, a “thief” and urged him to surrender himself to the ICC on Monday; while a 30,000 strong ethnic militia known as the White Army announced its plans for a major “defensive” operation in South Sudan’s Jonglei state. On Tuesday, the body of one of the Chinese workers who went missing during a rebel attack on a building site in Sudan was found; while the foreign ministry reported that at least 29 of the kidnapped Chinese workers were released.
  • Journalists working for French TV in Jos, Nigeria were reportedly detained by soldiers, interrogated, escorted to their hotel and then ordered to leave town. On Tuesday, suspected Boko Haram militants reportedly killed six people in Borno state, including two air force personnel. On Friday, Boko Haram said that the arrest of its member the day before is an obstacle to dialogue with the Federal Government, and argued that the person arrested was not its spokesman but the head of its enlightenment department; while Adamawa State held its governor’s election. On Sunday, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta claimed responsibility for an attack in the northern region and threatened to attack South African interests for their interference in their “fight for justice”. On Monday, ex-militants undergoing training under the Federal Government Amnesty Program bombed a hotel in the Delta State that had served as their temporary home since last year over alleged deprivation of their “entitlements”; eight of the ex-militants were held by the Joint Task Force in the Niger-Delta; suspected members of Boko Haram allegedly launched a bomb and gun attack on two police stations in Kano state; while three people were reportedly killed as a result of multiple blasts that rocked parts of a marketplace in Maiduguri. On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch released a new report about a lead poisoning crisis in the North due to gold mining; while a suspected suicide bomber disguised in military uniform was killed after his car bomb exploded under fire from soldiers outside a military base in Kaduna.
  • IPS reported that the economy of Cameroon is suffering because of the Nigerian extremist group Boko Haram. The border closure has caused fuel prices and other imports to double.
  • A militia leader in Libya began legal action on Tuesday against a former senior British intelligence chief whom he accuses of playing a key role in returning him to the country to be jailed and tortured under Gaddafi; while Gaddafi’s daughter asked to make representations about the welfare of her brother Saif al-Islam to the ICC who is awaiting trial on rape and murder charges. Rival militias who had fought together to overthrow Gaddafi fought a two-hour gunbattle over a luxury beach house being used as a barracks in Tripoli on Wednesday. On Friday, Human Rights Watch reported that a diplomat who served as the ambassador to France died less than 24 hours after he was detained by a Tripoli based militia from torture. Gunmen reportedly killed at least five refugees at their camp in Tripoli on Monday; while eight suspects were detained in connection with the killing of a diplomat who served under Gaddafi.
  • Four members of the political elite in Ghana were charged with corruption on Monday, threatening the ruling party’s reputation following the departure of two senior ministers last month.
  • Survivors of a massacre in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s class action against the Canadian corporation Anvil Mining, accused of providing logistical support to the Congolese army who raped, murdered and brutalized the population in Kilwa, was overturned this week, due to insufficient connections because Anvil’s Montreal office was not directly involved in the decisions that allegedly led to the massacre. The electoral commission announced a reduced parliamentary majority for Kabila’s People’s Party in the November elections on Thursday. On Friday, the UN refugee agency announced its alarm at recent reports that suggest displaced people have been tortured and killed in their camps by armed elements in the eastern part of the country.
  • Sierra Leone recently launched an online mining database in an effort to increase transparency to combat corruption and malpractice. The system will track payments made for licenses, royalties and contributions to local chiefdoms, made available to the public to show whether mining companies have been authorized to legally operate.
  • The Constitutional Council in Cote d’Ivoire reportedly overturned the provisional results of the December 11th parliamentary elections in 11 constituencies on Tuesday due to faulty voting, including dead voters on the list and will organize by-elections where votes had been cancelled.  On Wednesday, a UN voluntary disarmament operation began in the Abobo district of Abidjan, aiming to collect illegal weapons still in circulation among the population.
  • Reporters Without Borders announced that Uganda had dropped 43 places to the 139th position in press freedom rankings in their recent report. On Thursday, it was reported that Isaac Kasamani, a photographer for the Daily Monitor newspaper, was shot at by plain clothes security personnel as he covered a rally of opposition parties.
  • At least one person was killed in Senegal on Tuesday in clashes between security forces and activists protesting against President Wade’s decision to seek a third term. The opposition pledged on Wednesday to campaign against President; human rights groups condemned the death of a protester at the hands of police; while protests continued in Dakar. On Saturday, the opposition came together to sign a pact, pledging to campaign against Wade to force him to withdraw from next month’s election.
  • Several journalists in Ethiopia were charged to life imprisonment and the death penalty on anti-terrorism charges stemming for their alleged support for banned opposition groups which were criminalized under the country’s anti-terrorism law. One of the journalists was sentenced in absentia.

This Week in African Conflict… January 23rd-31st, 2012.

This Week in African Conflict… December 13th-20th, 2011.

Hello, hope all is well!

This week’s conflict reports will be a little thinner than usual, as I have been feeling a bit under the weather the last couple days and haven’t been reading as extensively as normal. Please be sure to add anything I have missed in the comments below or send via email to apeaceofconflict@gmail.com.

Thanks!

Rebecca

  • The New Yorker published an article on the 10 biggest positive Africa stories of 2011, while the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Food Programme and British Charity Oxfam warned that failed harvest and low food reserves in the Sahel, West Africa could result in a severe food crisis for millions in Chad, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, and Mali in early 2012.
  • On Wednesday, a military court in Egypt sentenced a blogger who criticised the army to two years in prison for “insulting the military”, after he went on a hunger strike to protest an initial three-year sentence; while Egyptians turned out in large numbers for the second round of Parliamentary elections. Some five people were injured in a gunfight in the central province amid scattered reports of problems at voting sites. On Friday, demonstrators and soldiers clashed outside the cabinet’s offices following a weeks-long sit-in, resulting in the injuries of at least 50 people. On Monday, the UN human rights chief strongly condemned the “brutal suppression” of demonstrators by the military and security forces, after more than 11 were reportedly killed and more than 500 injured, including disturbing images of soldiers beating and dragging young women, on the weekend; while the ruling military council claimed to have uncovered a plot to burn down Parliament and defending the use of force against protesters. On Tuesday, hundreds of women took to the streets in Cairo to protest against the military rule and its brutal treatment of female protesters; while four people reportedly died as police and soldiers tried to disperse protesters in Tahrir Square.
  • The International Crisis Group released a new report on the situation in the Cote d’Ivoire, citing concerns over the fragility of the country, and the implications of the recent transfer of former President Gbagbo to The Hague for war crimes. On Wednesday, international justice experts urged the ICC and national authorities to follow up on pledges to investigate both sides of the election crisis. On Friday, the electoral commission announced that President Ouattara’s ruling coalition won 80% of the seats in the parliamentary elections, with a total turnout of 36%. On Sunday, deadly clashes between government forces and residents angry at the killing of a local man at a roadblock the day before in the west of the country killed at least six people.
  • Al-Shabaab have reportedly blocked two International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) convoys carrying emergency food aid for drought victims in Somalia on Thursday, instead loading the food into their warehouses, amid fears that the ICRC would join a long list of international groups barred from operating inside the rebel-controlled areas of the country. On Sunday, a veteran Somali journalist, A/salan Sheik Hassan, was shot dead by gunmen dressed in government military uniforms in Mogadishu. On Tuesday, AMISOM, the African Union Mission in Somalia received the first Djiboutian soldiers to join their mission, and are expecting nine hundred additional troops in upcoming weeks.
  • On Tuesday, a curfew was imposed upon two regions in Tunisia in the wake of violent clashes between residents in the two areas.  On Wednesday, the new President called upon a six-month political and social truce, with no sit-ins or strikes, to sort out the country’s economic problems, while appointing Hamadi Jebali as PM and vowing to resign “if things don’t get better in six months” in an unprecedented live interview in the Presidential palace. On Thursday, Tunisia reopened its two border crossings with Libya after a two-week closure over clashes between Libyan militias and Tunisian security forces. On Saturday, tens of thousands packed the provincial town square of Sidi Bouzid to celebrate the anniversary of the revolution in the place where it began. On Monday, the President called upon the country’s Jewish population to return, following calls from Israeli deputy PM Shalom’s calls for remaining Jews to emigrate to Israel.
  • On Tuesday, the UN Security Council expanded the mandate of their peacekeeping force in the contested Abyei region that is claimed by both South Sudan and Sudan to include assisting the two parties to abide by and implement their agreements of demilitarization of the area. The ICC prosecutor announced that a group of senior Sudanese officials indicted by the court, including the President continue to commit genocide in the west of the country on Thursday; while the UN predicted that around 2.7 million people in South Sudan would require food aid next year because of crop failures and violence. On Friday, the head of the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan welcomed an appeal by the country’s VP to refrain from violence in Jonglei state and immediately engage in talks on reconciliation and peaceful coexistence. On Monday, Amnesty International called upon the UN to provide a secure environment for those displaced by conflict in Abyei; the South Sudanese VP announced that rebel chief George Athor was killed in a clash with soldiers; Sudanese authorities took a leading member of the Popular Congress Party (PCP) into custody, following his return from a trip abroad; and a former Janhaweed leader called for military action to protect the implementation of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, accusing the holdout rebel groups of preparing a series of attacks in the region.
  • A Dutch journalist tells of the difficulty encountered trying to research the story of a young girl allegedly shot by the police in the Democratic Republic of the Congo following the elections. Around 1.4 million deaf persons in the country are angry over a ban on texting that they say threatens their lives because they can no longer receive warning about violence. On Wednesday, a group of journalists were arrested by security agents accused of resuming operations at their radio station without the authorization of the local administrator. On Thursday, the Supreme Court began hearing the suit for the annulment of the Presidential elections lodged by opposition candidate Vital Kamerhe based upon the numerous irregularities during the November 28th poll, rejecting all preliminary objections, a move that opposition lawyers are calling a “parody of justice”; while opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi’s party called upon mass protests amid growing crackdowns on demonstrations.   On Friday, the Supreme Court declared that incumbent Joseph Kabila was the winner of Presidential polls and rejected the calls for its annulment. On Sunday, opposition leader Tshisekedi urged the armed forces to obey him and offered a “great prize” to anyone who captured incumbent Joseph Kabila. On Monday, Amnesty International called upon the security forces in the country to halt politically motivated arrests. On Tuesday, Joseph Kabila was officially sworn in for his term as President, with Tshisekedi announcing he would hold his own swearing-in ceremony on Friday.
  • An agricultural official in Swaziland has warned that archaic agricultural practices and erratic rainfall in the recent planting period is expected to lead to an increase in food insecurity for most of the population in 2012. The official suspected that the majority of the population will be reliant upon food assistance in the upcoming year.
  • On Monday, the ICC referred Malawi to the UN Security Council for its alleged failure to arrest Sudanese President al-Bashir while he attended a conference in the country in October.  On Wednesday, the government threatened to withdraw itself from the Rome Statute (the treaty regulating the ICC). Malawi alleges it is being singled out, as other countries that Bashir has visited in the past have not been targeted.
  • A rights group and community leader in Kenya is alleging that members of the Samburu people were abused, beaten and raped by police after the land they lived on for decades was sold to two American-based wildlife charities. On Wednesday, a human rights official was asked by the government to resign for allegedly violating the constitution for calling President Kibaki’s rule an “unacceptable institutionalisation of ethnicity”. On Monday, an explosion, suspected to have been planted by Somali militants near the world’s largest refugee camp, killed at least one policeman and wounded two others. On Tuesday, hundreds of IDPs camped outside a district commissioner’s office, demanding resettlement before Christmas; while the Court of Appeal declined to issue a temporary suspension on the arrest warrant against Sudanese President al Bashir.
  • On Friday, MPs in Uganda fought against what they called a “dubious deal” to give away police barracks land in Kampala under the guise of providing decent accommodation for the police force. The opposition claims that the government wants to distribute the land to private developers without a proper bidding process, who will, in return, build new houses for police officers in another area outside the city.
  • Theoneste Bagosoro, seen as a key organizer of the genocide in Rwanda had his sentenced reduced from life to 35 years on Wednesday, while another convicted man, Anatole Nsengiyumva, had his sentenced reduced and will be released because of time served. On Friday, the Supreme Court of Kigali rejected a request to grant bail to opposition leader Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, due to the severity of her, which includes charges of terrorism and genocide denial; while the ICC judges dismissed charges of involvement in the murder, rape and torture of Congolese villagers against Rwandan rebel Callixte Mbarushimana, citing lack of evidence. On Tuesday, former FDRL members undergoing demobilization and reintegration programs called upon their colleagues still harbouring thoughts of overthrowing the government to return home.
  • All foreign fishing boats operating in the waters of Morocco have been ordered to leave immediately following an EU decision to not extend a deal to pay for access to Moroccan fish stocks. The MEPs said that there was not enough evidence to show the deal would benefit those who live in the disputed Western Sahara region. On Monday, the Islamist group seen as the main opposing force to the monarchy suspended its involvement in the Arab Spring opposition protest movement.
  • On Wednesday, the UN Security Council extended the mandate of a panel of experts monitoring the compliance of sanctions imposed on Liberia in connection with the civil war for another 12 months. The Panel was appointed in 2007 to renew investigations as to whether Charles Taylor still had access to his assets in the country. On Monday, the spokesman for the opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) announced that the CDC party will disrupt the pending inauguration of newly re-elected President Johnson-Sirleaf and her VP if their party’s demands are not met.
  • The US Special Forces have set up a base in the Central African Republic (CAR) in their hunt for the Lord’s Resistance Army. The base has been set up in Obo and is expected to coordinate with local government forces and Ugandan soldiers.
  • Local elders in a city south of the capital of Libya were able to agree to a ceasefire to end local violence after at least four people were killed in clashes on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Gaddafi’s daughter asked the ICC prosecutor whether an investigation has been launched into the killing of her father and brother, which ICC prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo then suggested might be considered a war crime. On Friday, the UN Security Council lifted its sanctions on the Libyan central bank, freeing more than $40 billion to help the government rebuild, while the US unblocked more than $30 billion in assets that it had frozen and the UK unblocked about $10 billion held in Britain. On Monday, the Defence Minister announced that it will take weeks to rid the streets of the militias that ousted Gaddafi, and months to form an army fit to take their place, causing a rift with others in the interim leadership who have repeatedly called upon militias to leave the capital by the end of the month; while Russia’s UN envoy demanded a thorough investigation into the civilians killed during NATO air strikes during its operations that led to the ousting of Gaddafi; and a Libyan military commander began legal action against the UK government for what he claims was its complicity in his illegal rendition and torture to Tripoli. On Tuesday, a three-member panel charged with probing human rights violation during the conflict announced it was encouraged by the government’s commitment and initial steps to address abuses that occurred.
  • According to officials, legislative elections in Guinea initially set for December 29th have been indefinitely postponed to meet opposition demands for a role in planning the polls to prevent fraud. The Independent National Electoral Commission has also suspended its activities for two weeks upon opposition demands.
  • The anti-corruption investigator in South Africa has resigned after only a month in the position after becoming entangled in a row involving ex-President Mbeki. The investigator accused Mr. Mbeki of initiating rape and corruption charges against President Zuma while he was in power. On Friday, President Zuma urged all South Africans to put their differences aside at Reconciliation Day celebrations.
  • ZANU PF hardliners in Zimbabwe are reportedly pushing for a cabinet reshuffle that would see the ouster of the current Finance Minister for allegedly sabotaging agrarian reforms, the economic indigenization drive and the constitutional review programme through his control of the public purse, amid rumours that ZANU PF wanted to get out of the coalition government and force an election without the full implementation of reforms.
  • On Friday, gunmen attacked a military-run secondary school in northern Nigeria, killing four people and injuring two others. On the weekend, three policemen and four Boko Haram members were killed in a bloody clash that also saw the arrest of 14 Boko Haram members in Kano state.  On Monday, four people, including a police officer were injured after a bomb exploded in an illegal armoury factory in Kaduna.

This Week in African Conflict… December 7th-13th, 2011.

  • Transparency International’s new report concluded that police forces in eastern Africa are perceived as the most corrupt body among the six institutions surveyed; the police, judiciary, customs, registry and permit services, land services, medical services, tax revenue, utilities and education systems. According to the report, 54% of people surveyed reported to have paid a bribe in the past year.
  • The UN Independent Export on the situation of human rights in Cote d’Ivoire is visiting the country from December 7th-13th to ensure that human rights are taken into consideration in the December 11th elections. On Tuesday, more than 550 Ivorian refugees who have been residing in Liberia for the past year were reportedly being processed at a border town for repatriation home, though Ivorian border authorities were delaying the travel due to improper travel documentation. The UNHCR announced it is stepping up its voluntary repatriation operation for refugees from the country. On Wednesday, three people were killed and three wounded in a rocket attack on a political party meeting just days before Sunday’s parliamentary elections; while the three Notre Voie journalists were cleared of all charges after spending 13 days in custody. On Friday, the UN envoy called for a “peaceful and calm election”, warning that violence would not be tolerated. President Ouattara‘s political coalition is expected to sweep to victory in the first parliamentary elections since 2000, amid a boycott by Gbagbo’s FPI and problems of exclusion of many Ivoirians from the electoral process. On Sunday, the parliamentary elections occurred fairly smoothly, without any major reported incidents of violence, though turnout was incredibly low. Results are expected to be released on Tuesday, with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calling upon all parties to remain calm, and the West African regional bloc ECOWAS calling the vote fair and free despite the low turnout. The ongoing clean-up operation in Abidjan to remove illegal small businesses continues, creating anger and frustration among many.
  • The armed forces of Sudan and South Sudan clashed in the border region of Jau on Wednesday, with both sides claiming control of the area and demanding the other withdraw. The UN called for the need to press ahead with the reconciliation process, condemning violence earlier in the week, amid fears of further clashes and an announcement from South Sudan’s foreign minister that the country is on the brink of war with its northern neighbour. On Saturday, fresh fighting erupted in South Sudan Jonglei state as militiamen reportedly loyal to rebel leader Athor Deng attacked a village, killing some 34 and wounding numerous others. Refugees and IDPs are stuck in a dangerous situation, with many fleeing to the south or to Ethiopia to try and escape the violence. On Sunday, at least nine people were killed and around 13 injured in an attack on Pigi County.
  • On Wednesday, Egypt’s ruling general declared that MPs will not have a final say over the drafting of a fresh constitution and insisting that early results of parliamentary voting do not represent society, a move likely to escalate tensions; while an Amnesty International investigation has reported that two US companies shipped crowd control munitions and teargas to Egypt in the midst of the violent crackdown on protesters by security forces; and an Egyptian court also turned down an appeal calling for a new judge in former President Mubarak’s trial. On Thursday, the Muslim Brotherhood accused the military leaders of trying to “marginalize” parliament and pulled out of a contact group with army leaders.
  • It was revealed this week that dozens of US Special Forces are deployed at a frontline base in Obo, Central African Republic as part of a joint mission to help remove LRA leader Joseph Kony and his commanders from the battlefield, after a senior Ugandan military officer commented that Kony is hiding out in CAR.
  • The Parliament of Kenya has approved the integration of government troops in Somalia into the African Union force fighting al-Shabaab, after last week’s request that it join the 9,000 strong force. On Sunday, two bombs exploded in two towns close to the Somali border, killing a policeman. A heartwarming story appeared in La Monde this week, about former gangsters in the Kibera, Nairobi slums who turned their lives around to set up a Youth Reform Self Help Group and became entrepreneurs, producing organic vegetables, setting up a wash-house, recycling plastic, and renting out plastic chairs.
  • On Tuesday, dozens of alleged Islamist militants and 11 government troops were killed in fighting in the town of Hayo, Somalia, while Kenyan jets launched new air strikes on rebel bases. Fighting continued on Thursday in the northern districts of Karan and Huriwa, with insurgent groups claiming the deaths of four AU soldiers and nine government troops, and government forces claiming they had killed six al-Shabaab fighters. On Friday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made a surprise visit to Mogadishu to underline just how much ground the UN-backed Transitional Federal Government has made over the last year; while the International Displacement Monitoring Centre warned of new displacement and a worsening humanitarian crisis that threatens the security for IDPs. Al-Shabaab is now officially on twitter and is currently having a virtual battle of words with the Kenyan military. On Tuesday, the transitional Somali parliament held a meeting in Mogadishu where they formally dismissed the speaker of the Parliament after accusing him of refusing to open the meeting and respond to charges they laid against him; while the UN launched a $1.5 billion consolidated appeal process to help fund 350 projects in the country.
  • On Monday, four of the six registered political parties in Sierra Leone signed a memorandum of understanding, vowing to “refrain from political violence” in the run-up to elections in November 2012, following clashes between political party supporters a few months ago. On Tuesday, police announced the end to a three-month ban on political rallies.
  • On Wednesday, explosions rocked the city of Kaduna in Nigeria, killing at least 18 people. Conflicting reports have suggested that the explosions were caused either by faulty gas cylinders or persons on motorcycles who threw bombs, though the cause is still under investigation. On Saturday, bomb attacks rocked three tv viewing centres in the state’s North Local Government Council, killing one person and injuring 14 others. In response, authorities banned motorcycle taxis and imposed a curfew on parts of the city of Jos on Sunday. Several northern leaders came out this week to criticise Boko Haram during a two-day peace conference in Kaduna. Several eminent Nigerians have warned against possible “Arab Spring” revolts in Nigeria over the next few years if jobs are not created soon.
  • Thousands of troops and police officers are on standby amid fears of unrest in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, awaiting the release of last week’s contested Presidential elections. On Friday, officials announced incumbent President Kabila cruised to victory with 49% of the vote against 32% for opposition leader Tshisekedi, who immediately protested the decision declaring himself the rightful elected President, but called upon his followers to stay calm and peaceful. Reports indicated that the Radio Lisanga Television, the main opposition television station was silenced by authorities in the west of the country after it was besieged by heavily-armed police who then occupied the premises, as violent protests erupted in the capital. On Saturday, political violence killed at least six people in Kinshasa, while reports detailed cases of police in unmarked cars rounding up young men in opposition neighbourhoods. Many are concerned about the role the Supreme Court will play in reviewing the vote, seeing as its judges are appointed by incumbent Kabila; meanwhile, Kabila reportedly said that the main opposition candidate is creating a climate of fear by refusing to accept his re-election amid reports that competing opposition parties in the east were joining forces to support Tshiesekedi. Around a hundred and forty people were arrested after demonstrating against the election results in London, England; another 200 arrested in Brussels; while several protests in other cities around the world got violent. On Sunday, at least four people were reportedly killed in election-related violence. On Monday, Kabila conceded that there were “mistakes” in the elections processes, but rejected the finding of the Carter Center that the results lacked credibility; the UN peacekeeping mission in the country called on the electoral authorities to review the issues raised by independent observers; while the Catholic archbishop of Kinshasa condemned the election results and called upon defeated candidates to take their grievances to the Supreme Court. On Tuesday, opposition leaders in the eastern part of the country began planning massive protests against the re-election of Kabila.
  • Malawi has decided to review a series of controversial laws in response to “public opinion”. The ban on homosexual acts, the law which allows the information minister to ban newspapers deemed not to be serving of the interest of Malawians, as well as a law preventing people taking legal action against the government and public officials will all be reviewed. On Tuesday, the ICC referred the country to the UN Security Council for refusing to arrest Sudan’s al-Bashir in October.
  • On Wednesday, scores of judges and lawyers protested in Tripoli, Libya against lawless behaviour in the capital by former rebel groups, calling upon them to leave the city and return to their home towns. Reuters compiled a list of the vast arsenal of weapons in the city of Misrata. On Saturday, the commander-in-chief of the national army said he survived an assassination attempt while on the way to the airport, while the new rulers opened a conference on national reconciliation with pledges to forgive loyalists who fought during the months-long uprising.  On Monday, anti-government activists set up a tent city in Benghazi against the ruling National Transitional Council, demanding more transparency as to its membership and voting decisions; while rival militias in the south-west exchanged heavy gunfire, killing at least four people.
  • Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe called upon elections to be held next year to end the fragile coalition with the former opposition amid threats that he would undermine the constitution-making process if the draft constitution does not include ZANU PF’s position; while PM Tsvangirai alleged that he is the target of a plot to plant some kind of incriminating documents in his office, shortly after he raised suspicions that his brand new marriage was broken up by the ZANU PF. On Friday, Mugabe vowed to press ahead with a controversial “indigenisation” policy that would force foreign firms to cede their majority stake to locals. On Saturday, Mugabe announced he has no intention of retiring, saying to do so would be an act of cowardice.  On Sunday, the ruling African National Congress in South Africa offered to help Mugabe win the next elections, creating difficulties in any future mediation process with the opposition, seeing as ANC leader Zuma runs the mediation for the regional Southern African Development Community.
  • Police in Uganda blocked a demonstration by friends and family members of slain journalist Charles Ingabire, who was killed last week in circumstances thought linked to his work.
  • Two public universities in Togo were temporarily shut down after security forces fired teargas to break up student protests on Thursday over a new bursary policy. The government introduced a new policy of awarding payouts only to brilliant students instead of all scholars as was in the past.
  • On Saturday, at least three men were arrested in Liberia after they set the Norwegian flag on fire in front of the EU headquarters because they were against President Johnson-Sirleaf receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. The defeated CDC Presidential candidate Winston Tubman rejected her award, claiming that he deserved it instead as he has done more for peace than the President.
  • The Constituent Assembly of Tunisia adopted a provisional constitution on Sunday that sets the stage for the country to name a new government amid a boycott by the opposition. The document outlines the conditions and procedures to be followed by the executive, legislature and judiciary until general elections can be held, possibly in a year. On Monday the new constitutional assembly appeared set to elect veteran human rights activist Moncef Marzouki to serve as the country’s interim President. As he took his oath on Tuesday to be sworn into office, Marzouki vowed to uphold the objectives of the revolution.
  • On Monday, President Kagame of Rwanda rejected allegations that his government was behind the Kampala killing of journalist Charles Ingabire earlier this month. Kagame alleges that Ingabire stole from an organization helping orphans (another report says he stole from an association of genocide survivors) and then claimed political persecution to detract from his own crimes, though rights groups consistently criticize him for his perceived intolerance of critical reporting. On Monday, Kagame reportedly announced that he had no problems with calls for the constitution to be changed to allow him to run for a third term.
  • On Tuesday, a transport strike paralysed much of Guinea Bissau, as taxi drivers protested police extortion and the levels of bureaucracy imposed by the mayor of the capital and the transport ministry. The drivers’ union set up an emergency hotline to enable anyone sick or injured to be taken to the hospital, as there is no ambulance service in the country.
  • http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/08/al-qaida-maghreb-sahel-new-somalia

This Week in African Conflict… November 29th- December 6th, 2011.

  • Former President of Cote d’Ivoire Laurent Gbabgo was taken into custody by the International Criminal Court on Wednesday amid fears that “victor’s justice” could stoke further tensions in the fragile “reconciliation” process. The ICC is investigating killings, rapes, and other abuses committed during the four-month election conflict last year.  President Ouattara rejected accusations that he had imposed “victor’s justice”, calling the move “nothing more than impartial, international justice”, even though no pro-Ouattara fighters have yet to be arrested or tried for their crimes during the war. On Thursday, current President Ouattara arrived in Conakry to discuss reconciliation efforts with Guinean President Conde; and Oxfam announced it had pulled out of the country, despite significant humanitarian needs still in existence. On Friday, the UN envoy to the country said that this month’s parliamentary elections should be an opportunity of reconciliation even though Gbagbo’s FPI political party and its allies have already boycotted the process; while Gbagbo’s lawyer said his client had been treated brutally and that his arrest is “illegal”, as he was essentially kidnapped; three more opposition journalists were formally charged and imprisoned for “inciting theft, looting and destruction of property via the media” after writing about 40 new Mercedes official cars made available to members of the government; and the FPI political party called upon supporters to “regroup for imminent action” in a statement.  On Saturday, campaigning began for the December 11th legislative elections.  On Monday, Gbagbo made his first appearance before the ICC where he blamed the French military for his arrest for crimes against humanity. He is scheduled to reappear for a confirmation of charges hearing on June 18. Late on Tuesday, the coalition of pro-Gbagbo political parties, including the FPI, announced that they would be taking part in parliamentary elections next weekend.
  • On Wednesday, a military court in Tunisia found ousted President Ben Ali and several of his senior officials guilty of torture. On Saturday, thousands of Islamists and secularists staged parallel protests outside the interim parliament in a dispute over how big a role Islam should play in society after the Arab Spring uprising; while Tunisian-Libyan border crossings remained closed following recent violent attacks in the border region.
  • On Wednesday, China pledged more than $2.3 million in military assistance to Uganda for its operations with AMISOM; while Rwandan journalist Charles Ingabire was shot dead at a Kampala pub. On Friday, police in Moroto reportedly blocked a two-day opposition meeting, calling it “illegal” because the Force had not been informed in time.
  • The government of Guinea Bissau denied rumors on Saturday that its critically ill President Sanha had died in a Paris hospital where he is being treated and has reportedly been put into an artificial coma to allow “in-depth” treatment. They called upon the population to remain calm, while the opposition expressed concern.
  • Analysts and civil servants in Guinea expressed their concern over ethnically divisive politics in the wake of an upcoming legislative election, saying that ethnic tensions are getting worse, not better. Human Rights Watch says that the current administration has shown clear favoritism in appointing civil service and ministerial posts and has used the judicial system to discriminate against certain ethnic political groups.
  • PM Tsvangirai’s office in Zimbabweissued a statement on Tuesday claiming they are aware of a plot to plant incriminating documents at his government and party offices, as a prelude to pressing criminal charges against him. The plot allegedly involves the Central Intelligence Organization and two ZANU PF cabinet ministers. Police detained a leading media rights activist, while two other staffers at the Media Monitoring Project of Zimbabwe were detained under tough security laws and some of their materials confiscated.
  • The election commission in Egyptagain delayed the release of results for the elections on Thursday, saying they would be released on Friday. On Friday, a few results were released, with the Muslim Brotherhood and radical Salafists taking the majority of seats in the first round and announcing their plans to push for stricter religious code. The commission said that turnout was 62%, the highest in modern history. On Tuesday, the new PM announced that the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces would issue a decree to hand him presidential powers, except those concerning the judiciary and armed forces.
  • Growing military spending in Swaziland has provoked a negative public reaction to the role or even need for an army in view of a deepening economic crisis. The country is reported to spend 4.7% of its GDP on its 3,000 soldiers, with parliament recently passing a US$ 8 million supplementary budget for the force.
  • A radio reporter was allegedly arrested “abduction-style” on Tuesday by the national intelligence service in Burundi for being suspected of helping a rebel group, in what Reporters Without Borders paints as a tactic meant to intimidate reporters and the media in general. On Friday, the country officially cleared its territory of landmines ahead of schedule thanks to Mines Advisory Group (MAG), after the civil war left it littered with mines. On Monday, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace hailed a new youth centre in the border region between Burundi and the DRC as a neutral and safe place that could help bring peace to the area.
  • Police and youths in Angolaclashed at an anti-government rally in Luanda on Saturday, injuring three and leading to several arrests. On Sunday, police denied reports that protesters had been arrested.
  • Some three people are feared dead and hundreds of others injured in Uzere, Nigeria on Tuesday after police and soldiers fired tear gas on protesters at a Shell Petroleum Development Company. On Thursday, at least 5,000 people fled villages in central Nigeria as clashes between nomadic cattle herders and farmers occurred, killing at least 50 people, with some reports as high as 68 and others as many as 79; while the US House sub-committee on Homeland Security created a report suggesting that Boko Haram be designated as a terrorist organization. Gunmen killed three people in the northeast on Sunday when they bombed police buildings and a bank and were later killed themselves; while a new bill to outlaw gay marriage with up to 14 years in prison, threatened millions of dollars in western aid given to stop the spread of HIV and AIDs.
  • The London School of Economics has been heavily criticized for its links with the Gaddafi regime in Libya, including several “gifts” of significant amounts of cash; while a team from the ICC arrived to probe alleged sexual crimes committed by loyalists during the revolt; and Gaddafi’s daughter Aisha called for the overthrow of the interim government in an audio message aired on Syrian-based television. On Thursday, security forces announced they would integrate 50,000 loyalists into their ranks. On Friday, one local official was killed and a militia base destroyed in a clash between rival armed groups near the capital. The man whose arrest last February sparked the revolution in the country was sworn in as a minister in the new interim government on Sunday; while the new government announced it would secure the area near its border with Tunisia after Tunis closed all its crossing points, blocking the main supply route following clashes between militiamen and border guards. On Tuesday, officials announced that they would give regional militias lingering in the capital until late December to hand over security and go home.
  • On Tuesday, the UN Security Council agreed to extend the arms embargo and other sanctions imposed against armed rebel groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC); while the main opposition party UDPS claimed they were confident of securing victory in the vote. On Wednesday, African observers called last week’s election “successful” despite logistical problems, violence, and calls of fraud; and opposition candidate Vital Kamerhe withdrew his call for the elections to be annulled on the grounds of widespread irregularities. On Thursday, the EU monitoring mission reported it had observed widespread irregularities in 79% of the polling centres visited, including ballot stuffing, voters being turned away from polling stations and severely unequal air time for campaigning, but needed more time for a definitive report; while top UN officials deplored the elections violence and urged all parties to exercise restraint. On Friday, reports were released alleging guards loyal to President Kabila shot opposition protesters, killing some 14 people just ahead of the election, and that at least four more people were killed during the poll. By Saturday, opposition parties were rejecting partial results that had incumbent Joseph Kabila leading the polls. On Sunday, Kabila’s opponents insisted he step down and accused him of trying to engineer “carnage”, as he the early results had him at a slight lead of 50.3% of votes. On Monday, around 3,000 people reportedly fled Kinshasa for Brazzaville fearing violence in the DRC, while Kabila’s opposition rejected early results that showed Kabila ahead. By Tuesday, the government was scrambling to pick up missing tally sheets amid concerns that it would be able to release the election results by midnight as required by electoral law, eventually calling upon a 48 hour delay; and the ICC prosecutor warned that any outbreak of poll-related violence would be investigated and those found responsible prosecuted.
  •  On Tuesday, the Foreign Affairs minister of Kenya announced his government would be appealing a court ruling that directed the arrest of Sudanese President al-Bashir should he enter the country. On Friday, al-Bashir escalated the standoff between the two countries when he gave Kenya a two-week ultimatum to overturn the High Court decision or face sanctions, including the banning of flights, expelling Kenyans living in Sudan and banning exports; although later that day the situation was reported as “back to normal” after Kenya sent in a high-level delegation to help heal the situation. On Monday, the AU reiterated their opposition to the ICC prosecution of al-Bashir.
  • On Thursday, troops in Sudan reportedly were occupying a key stronghold of the southern-aligned rebels in South Kordofan state, though the rebel group claimed that heavy fighting was still ongoing and that they still held control of the region. On Friday, South Sudan warned all foreign oil companies and operators not to cooperate with Sudan on crude oil-related matters, unless authorized, following reports of Sudan’s intentions to confiscate 23% of the south’s entitlement oil as payment for pipeline and transit fees; while the chief prosecutor of the ICC asked judges for an arrest warrant for Sudan’s defence minister for crimes committed in Darfur, to the utter confusion of many who wonder who exactly referred him to the ICC. On Saturday, the military announced that it had overran a key rebel base in South Kordofan, allegedly killing “a number” of SPLA-N rebels and capturing camps on a key supply route, though the rebel group denied they had any soldiers in the area.  On Tuesday, the UN peacekeeping operation in South Sudan announced that they would be probing ethnic violence that reportedly killed dozens of villagers. The Satellite Sentinel Project collected evidence that show the intentional destruction of civilian structures in the village of ‘Amara in the border state of Blue Nile in clear violation of the laws of war.
  • On Thursday, two rebel groups in Eritreaannounced that they had killed 17 government soldiers and taken two prisoners in a dawn raid on a military base. On Monday, the UN Security Council voted  to impose stricter sanctions against the country, after an earlier report accused Asmara of plotting to bomb an African Union summit in Addis Ababa, its efforts to “destabilise” regional states and documented links to al-Shabaab in Somalia. The government alleges that Asmara is being found “guilty even when proven innocent” in a move they call a travesty of justice and blame the US for the expanded sanctions.
  • Benin and Togo are reportedly joining forces to fight piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, where it is damaging local economies and starting to impact the region’s trade.
  • A suicide bomber attacked a military compound in Mogadishu, Somalia on Wednesday, killing four soldiers, hours before a roadside bomb in another part of the city killed four civilians. Fighter jets reportedly bombed al-Shabaab militant bases in the south on Friday, as Kenya and government troops continued their offensive against the rebels. Al Shabaab accused them of killing four civilians and injuring 35 others in the attack. Hundreds of Somali refugees in southern Ethiopiawere relocated from an overcrowded transit centre to a new camp that was opened to address some of the estimated 98,000 new Somalis refugees to enter the country this year. On Tuesday, Somali police returned a suspected suicide bomber to his vehicle, where he then detonated a blast that killed four people.
  • The Governments of Ethiopia, Tanzania and Zambia were asked by Amnesty International to arrest former US President George W. Bush for crimes under international law during his visit there this week. Zambia dismissed the call, saying it would only consider the request if it had come from the ICC acting on behalf of international organizations like the UN.
  • A court in South Africaruled that President Zuma’s appointment of the new chief prosecutor is invalid, as unresolved questions about the man’s integrity were brought to the foreground. The opposition said that the man would have protected “powerful” people from prosecution. On Monday, Human Rights Watch released a report that found that lesbians endure ridicule and abuse in schools, workplaces and churches, and live in constant fear or harassment, as well as physical and sexual violence.

December 7th, 2011, UPDATE: Being unable to watch the local news in Cote d’Ivoire on Tuesday night, I mis-reported a quote from a Reuters article about the FPI’s election boycott reversal. This turned out to be false and has now been removed.

This Week in African Conflict… November 23-29th, 2011

  • The London based International Institute for Environment and Development released a policy paper on Thursday that warned of an alarming number of African governments that seem to be signing away water rights in their countries for decades, with major implications for local communities.
  • A new study in the British Medical Journal details the true cost of the medical brain drain, the money benefited from wealthy Western countries poaching African trained doctors. Canada, Britain, Australia and the US are said to have saved more than $4.5 billion (USD) in education costs by recruiting doctors from nine African countries, while the nine source countries have lost nearly $2.2 billion as a result of the medical migration.
  • Two French citizens were reportedly abducted from a hotel in northern Mali by gunmen early Thursday. Few details have yet emerged, as this is the first kidnapping of westerners in Mali that has occurred south of the Niger River, far from the al-Qaida region in the north. On Saturday, gunmen killed a German man in Timbuktu and captured another three men from the Netherlands, South Africa and Sweden.
  • At least 22 anti-junta demonstrators were reportedly killed by security force’s live bullets from Saturday to Wednesday in Egypt as pro-democracy protesters clashed with police. On Thursday, the ruling junta announced that elections would start as scheduled on Monday, despite widespread protests and calls for postponement; while three American students, who were arrested, accused of throwing petrol bombs were released from police custody. Journalist Mona Eltahawy reported she had been arrested, beaten and sexually assaulted by security forces in Cairo, and several other journalists are said to have been targeted for arrest or abuse. On Friday, Egypt’s military apologized for the deaths of demonstrators and vowed to bring justice to those responsible, while tens of thousands of demonstrators filled Tahrir Square demanding the military rulers step down and calling on the new PM to leave office. Saboteurs also blew up a gas pipeline in the northern Sinai province on Friday and another pipeline again on Monday. On Saturday, the killing of an unarmed demonstrator by the police resulted in an outpouring of anger. On Sunday, activists prepared for another massive protest in Tahrir Square to demand an immediate end to military rule a day ahead of parliamentary polls while the army chief said he will not let “troublemakers” meddle in the elections and warned of “extremely grave” consequences if the crisis was not overcome.  On Monday, Egyptians came out to vote in record numbers, with polls kept open two hours past their scheduled closing to allow the long queues of people a chance to vote. Some irregularities were reported.
  • President Mugabe of Zimbabwe announced on Wednesday that homosexuals and lesbians will be punished severely for their behaviour which is “inconsistent with African and Christian values”. PM Tsvangirai’s office expressed their discontent on Friday over the awarding of the country’s first independent radio licences to two companies aligned with President Mugabe, calling the situation a “farce”.
  • The Air Force and Navy in Kenya have reportedly blockaded the port of Kismayu, effectively cutting off al-Shabaab’s main source of revenue in an effort to stop the incursions of the militants into Kenya from southern Somalia.  On Thursday, Kenyan warplanes reportedly destroyed two insurgent bases in Somalia, while two grenade attacks in the east killed some three people and injured 27, and a bomb attack killed a soldier and wounded four others near the Somali border. Ethiopia has said it will contribute troops to the AU force in Somalia fighting al-Qaeda affiliated insurgents, joining the Kenyan troops who crossed the border last month, though by Saturday hundreds of Ethiopian troops with tanks and artillery were reported to have reached central Somalia. The al-Shabaab insurgent group warned Ethiopia that it would suffer heavy losses if it embarks on any new military intervention in Somalia. On Friday night, Kenyan security forces reportedly foiled an attack by suspected militants in Mandera, and arrested five men suspected of being members of al Shabaab. On Saturday, the Kenyan navy arrested four more suspected al-Shabaab members in Lamu. On Monday, Human Rights Watch called on the Kenyan police and military to stop using illegal mass round-ups and beatings as a substitute for proper police investigative work.
  • On Sunday, al-Shabaab beheaded two youths in Southern Somalia for allegedly spying for the Transitional Federal Government and Kenya Defence Forces; while three people were wounded in a suspected bomb blast inside the main hospital in the Mogadishu. Al-Shabaab ordered 16 more aid agencies to shut down operations within the country on Monday, accusing the aid workers of being spies.
  • Rebel groups in the eastern regions of the DR Congo are reportedly reforming, recruiting new members and possibly rearming just ahead of the upcoming elections . On Wednesday, police announced that gunmen shot dead an opposition lawmaker in Kinshasa. On Thursday, Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka, a national assembly candidate wanted for crimes against humanity and charged with organizing the mass rape of some 387 people, held a large campaign rally in North Kivu province in full view of police, the army and just 3 km from the UN peacekeeping base.  Former rebel leader Bemba urged the opposition to unite behind a single candidate against incumbent President Kabila in upcoming elections from his jail cell. Victory is expected for Kabila, with many analysts predicting a violent backlash should he win. On Saturday, police banned campaign rallies to stop rising levels of violence that killed at least one man near the airport in Kinshasa. On Sunday, police blocked the main opposition candidate at an airport in Kinshasa to stop him from staging an election rally and escorted him to his residence.  On Monday, Congolese took to the polls amid numerous problems with delivery of materials, intimidation, violence, fraud and corruption; though UN officials reported that they were satisfied with the relatively orderly and peaceful way the voting had been conducted in Kinshasa. (Other stories of violence, and attacks during the vote, the implications the vote could have, and some really good bloggers who write about the Congo). On Tuesday, four opposition candidates said that fraud and violence was so widespread that the vote should be cancelled, while some voting was still ongoing in some areas. At least 8 people were killed in violence linked to the elections on Monday.
  • A new Protection of State Information Bill in South Africa tabled by the ruling ANC and passed through Parliament on Tuesday is concerning to many who suggest it is a move back towards the harsh censorship that existed under apartheid. The bill bans the publication of classified documents and allows the government to class almost any category of information as secret.
  • On Thursday, Libya’s new transitional government was sworn in before the country’s interim leader. The Prime Minister said the government’s first task is to formulate plans to build state institutions. A report by the UN alleges that thousands of people, including women and children, are being illegally detained by rebel militias and many are suffering torture and systematic mistreatment. Dozens of Amazighs or Berbers protested in Tripoli on Friday for being shut out of the new government, demanding that their language and rights be recognized; while the ICC’s chief prosecutor announced that Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam could be tried under the ICC within Libya. The head of Libya’s interim ruling council thanked Sudan for weapons and ammunition sent through Egypt that helped the rebels oust Gaddafi during a visit to Khartoum. On Saturday, around 100 Libyans surrounded a Tunisian passenger aircraft at an airport, delaying its takeoff in a protest at the government; about 100 Libyan women took to the streets in Tripoli in a silent march to demand more support from the new government for victims of rape during the war; and several tribal leaders met in the hope of easing tensions between clans. On Sunday, hundreds of minority Amazigh Berbers warned of a campaign against the new government and demanded an apology from the premier for excluding their community from his cabinet.
  • The UNHCR voiced concern on Friday that an estimated 76,000 people from Sudan have fled to Ethiopia and South Sudan since August. A Kenyan court issued an official arrest warrant for Sudanese President al-Bashir on Monday, after allowing him into the country in August of 2010 without arrest despite being a party to the ICC, who have indicted Bashir for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Sudan responded by ordering the expulsion of the Kenyan ambassador from their country. On Monday, Khartoum announced it would be halting oil exports from South Sudan due to ongoing negotiations over transit fees, estimating that the South owed them around $727 million in arrears for the last 6 months. A Sudanese court sentenced seven people to death on Monday, accused of being members of the most powerful rebel group in the Darfur region, Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). The UN/AU joint special representative for Darfur expressed concern on Monday about the formation of a new rebel alliance, calling itself the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) that is threatening prospects for peace in Sudan.
  • ECOWAS pulled plans to send an observer mission on Wednesday to the Gambia after its fact-finding mission deemed preparations to “not be conducive for the conduct of free, fair and transparent polls”.  On Thursday, incumbent President Yahya Jammeh, who has been in power for 17 years, was elected to a new five-year term with a landslide 72% victory amid reports of intimidation and corruption.
  • A new rebel movement calling itself the Force for the Restoration of Democracy (FRD) announced its creation in Burundi on a local private radio station on Friday. The group says its mission is to take up arms and topple the government. On Monday, gunmen killed a Croatian nun and an Italian doctor working in a psychiatric clinic in the north in the first attack on foreign aid workers since 2007.
  • Religious violence in central Nigeria reportedly killed several people on Thursday, and resulted in the military imposing a 24-hour curfew in one region. The violence was said to have stemmed from Christian and Muslim gangs fighting over ownership of cattle and fertile farmland. Boko Haram claimed responsibility on Friday for a series of bomb attacks in the northern part of the country and declared that it would next target offices of political parties nationwide.  On Saturday, gunmen suspected to be members of Boko Haram bombed a police station, a bank and a beer parlour. Leader of the Biafra secession, Odumegwu Ojukwu died in hospital at 78 reportedly of natural causes. On Tuesday, the Senate passed a bill prohibiting same-sex marriage, proscribing 10 years in jail for offenders.
  • Morocco had its first parliamentary election since the king introduced constitutional reforms approved in a July 1st referendum. Voter turnout was first reported at around 34%, but later at 45.4% and resulted in the country’s moderate Islamists winning the most seats.
  • Tunisia was under an overnight curfew on Thursday following riots over jobs in the Gafsa region on Wednesday night. On Monday, some 40 Islamists demanding segregated lessons and full-face veils for women students besieged a university building near the capital and held students and professors hostage.
  • Three journalists in Cote d’Ivoire from the daily newspaper Notre Voie, known to be favorable to former President Gbagbo, were taken into police custody on suspicion of insulting the head of state and harming the national economy. Press freedom remains a serious concern seven months since President Ouattara came into power. On Tuesday, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for ex-President Laurent Gbagbo who is being held in the north of the country, a year after the problematic elections that led to a short civil war.

The over-simplified narrative of the Somali famine.

The recent attention afforded to the Somali famine has mostly infuriated me. It’s not because I don’t care about those who are starving, quite the contrary; it’s more that I am angered with the way that the crisis is being painted in the media. For example:

The way it is so constantly referred to as a “natural disaster”, the result of drought or climate change, or some other ecological problem, as opposed to being primarily a political or socio-economic problem.

The way access to markets, finances, other entitlements and freedom of movement seem to have no bearing on the recent crisis in the slightest, as if at least one third (if not much more) of all food produced worldwide isn’t wasted after production each year and as if there isn’t more than enough food on this planet for every human being to avoid malnutrition.

The way the popular narrative degrades the dignity of those who are suffering, as if the journalists flocking to the refugee camps by the butt-load to snap a shot of the most pathetic-looking, swollen-bellied child, and trying to get the most convenient narratives from the chosen few “poster” women of the famine isn’t incredibly exploitative of their situation. As if the small children who are filmed or captured on camera have a real choice in whether they are branded across the news in the wider world and can easily say no to their own exploitation. As if repeatedly questioning someone in a refugee camp who has just trekked hundreds of miles, under terrible conditions, about their experiences of rape and violence and hardships experienced in their home country in front of their traumatized children, isn’t re-traumatizing for all of them.

The way so many comments on the crisis in the newspapers and forums seem to point directly to a “population problem”, as if the problem of starvation here was simply a Malthusian problem of Somali women having too many babies. As if a typical family of three in North America or Europe doesn’t use at least double the amount of food a Somali family of eight does. As if the mortality rate in the average Somali family of eight will allow all of that family to actually make it to adulthood, old age or to survive pregnancy, war or illness. As if it is so easy to ignore aspects of history that clearly demonstrate that population isn’t the determining factor in famine, for example the situation in the most populous country, India, where between 1800 and 1947 close to 38 million people died from a series of famines when the population level was less than 350 million, and that since that time, when the population has more than tripled now exceeding 1.21 billion people, the amount of deaths from famine has been comparatively non-existent.

The way the world seems to think that handouts are somehow magically going to solve this problem, as if the vast majority of those who are currently starving aren’t still going to starve to death or live with malnutrition for years to come, despite the money that’s now being collected. As if humanitarian or development aid weren’t incredibly problematic to begin with. As if the dumping of surplus grain in the form of “food aid” from donor countries isn’t actually being done to keep their own domestic grain prices low; and as if it is really about feeding the poor and isn’t essentially increasing the problems in the receiving countries instead of actually helping them; undercutting the local farmers, lowering the prices they receive for their own produced goods and discouraging the real development of a local market.  As if these donor countries weren’t spending numerous times more for their shipping costs, dumping these surpluses, than they are spending in agricultural or production assistance to these recipient countries.

The way the dialogue seems to focus only on the aspect of starvation, as if long term malnutrition, which the majority of those now starving have likely faced for years and will likely face for years to come, wasn’t debilitating and detrimental to the development of those who face it. As if those who are now at risk aren’t mostly the same people who have suffered through the last series of droughts and who have been kept barely alive by insufficient feeding programmes for years.

The way many articles have entirely ignored the aspect of war in the country and the lack of an actual functioning government who controls anything more than a few suburb areas in Mogadishu and who continually receives millions in aid with little to no accountability. That the contributions of aid to Somalia have been primarily in emergency humanitarian assistance and not directed in any significant way into long term projects or agricultural projects and that even if they were, that appeals for aid to the country have come up short for many, many years, instead going to more “popular” crises that attract more donors.

The way the crisis is painted as affecting the entire country and the vast majority of Somalis, rather than being restricted to certain regions only. As if the famine were raging in the same manner in the Ethiopian Highlands, Somaliland, Puntland, or the north eastern parts of the country as it is in the southern areas. As if the rains haven’t also failed in other parts Somalia, and parts of both Kenya and Ethiopia, and yet these regions, for some seemingly unknown reason, aren’t facing the same severity of a crisis as others.

The way the Ogaden region in the Ethiopian Lowlands, that is almost entirely populated by Somalis, is likely suffering or has been suffering for some time now in the same manner or worse than those in Somalia, though is almost entirely ignored, as if it hasn’t been fenced off and closed to outsiders for years, as if the population here were non-existent.

The way most neglect to mention the logistics of how this food aid will actually be delivered in an area that has seen the death of countless aid workers in the last several years, as if the World Food Program hasn’t previously stated that the “food supply line to Somalia is effectively broken”. As if the al-Shabaab group who is in control of much of the affected area doesn’t distrust those delivering the aid, regarding them as foreign “spies”.

The way everyone seems to be talking as if this crisis were new, as if the world wasn’t alerted to the fact that mass starvation would be likely in this area for quite some time, and how the UN itself warned in 2008 that one in six were at serious risk of starvation. The way reporters constantly refer to the “swift action” of international organizations to react to the crisis, even though, in reality, most assistance will come too little, too late to actually help most of those who are starving. As if aid agencies and governments haven’t known for almost a year now that the food would run out by now; that they failed to make a real appeal to the public until only after people begin to die in large numbers, even though it will take months for any of the aid currently being collected to actually reach these populations, if they ever even do. As if the US hadn’t severely restricted the UN’s ability to deliver food in Somalia over the past few years, by politicizing the situation and imposing strict conditions, even going so far as to suspend and hold millions of dollars in food aid and is only now, rather hypocritically, calling upon a need to “solve” the problem only after it is really too late.

The way the media ignores how large land lease “land grabs” by foreign governments and companies for the creation of export crops have further exacerbated this problem. As if governments and developing banks encouraging the population to participate in the market economy by buying grain and growing cash crops instead of growing self-sustaining crops didn’t massively deter people from storing excess grain for potentially bad years and make them more vulnerable to rising grain prices. As if the majority of plans for the limited agricultural development being done haven’t stressed the importance of the new “Green Revolution” that is almost completely unaffordable to the poorest of the poor who are most likely to starve, neglecting more self-sustaining agricultural techniques that could actually help those who most need it.

The way the huge spike in global food prices seems to be non-existent to the problem, as if rising grain prices aren’t a big part of the reason people are starving. As if the increasing diversion of grain to the production of biofuels and other non-feed uses and export restrictions weren’t a factor in this crisis.

The way most ignore the fact that the Kenyan government is largely refusing to allow people to cross into northern Kenya and has kept a nearly completely prepared refugee camp able to accommodate almost 40, 000 people empty to deter others from flooding into the country. As if the governments of Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia (what little of it there is), haven’t been marginalizing and discriminating against pastoralists in the region for years, now depicted as “archaic” or “outmoded”, or haven’t been promoting only large-scale farming projects, the expansion of national parks, game reserves and conservation, blocking access to traditional routes to pasture land.

The way the media largely depicts the typical “whites in shining armour” tripe, as if westerners are the only ones capable of “solving” the problems in Somalia.  As if Somalis are perpetual victims and as if there weren’t Somalis and members of the Somali diaspora making a tremendous effort to lessen this crisis themselves.

So what is to be done? Frankly, I don’t know. I don’t know what to suggest that will actually make any real difference here. But I do know that this crisis is not going to be solved by simple increases in aid or handouts, as most seem to be calling for. I know that continually painting the crisis in limited terms is only going to lead people to put in place the same “band-aid solutions” for years to come and will only ensure that this type of crisis will happen again and again. If anyone has any positive and concrete suggestions, I’d be very interested to hear them, but personally, I’m at a loss.

I’m sure I’ve missed many other factors with my own fairly simple narrative, and encourage others who have more experience in the area to fill in any significant factors I have missed.

This Week in African Conflict… June 21st-27th, 2011.

Hello, hope all is well!

For some reason, my blog functions have changed and there seems to be a bit of a glitch when adding up links. I’m just getting over malaria (again!), am having very sporadic internet lately, and am extremely frustrated trying to reinsert them all manually, so I’m just going to leave it as is for today. There is a version of the same post with all the included links posted here. Hopefully, I will get this glitch figured out before tomorrow’s post.

Peace!
Rebecca

• More than 500 international NGOs delivered a petition to the G20’s agricultural ministers during a two-day meeting in Paris calling for a halt to land grabbing in Africa under the guise of “responsible agricultural investment”. Land occupied by peasants, pastoralists, herders, etc. are being converted into massive agribusiness operations by private investors who want to produce food supplies or agro-fuels for international markets.

• Two videos were released in Zimbabwe depicting the ruling ZANU PF party using physical and psychological violence to intimidate people in rural areas. Despite denials over the years that they do not use violence as a political tool, MP Edward Raradza is shown doing exactly that in the footage. A row broke out this week over reports that Zimbabwe had been approved by the Congolese representative chair in the Kimberley Process (KP) to sell diamonds from its rich Marange mines, without the consensus required by the KP. On Thursday, a top general said PM Tsvangirai was a security threat fronting Western interests, justifying military involvement in politics. On Friday, police arrested Tsvangirai ally and government minister, Jameson Timba, on charges of undermining President Mugabe’s authority, after he reportedly told reporters that Mugabe had lied about a regional summit on Zimbabwe, as it is a criminal offense to insult the President in the country. By Sunday, the Harare High Court had ordered his release during a special hearing, calling it a “violation of his rights”, as he “was not informed of the charges he was facing”.

• The Somali Transitional Federal Government announced that it is not in favour of having specialized courts in other countries for trying Somali piracy suspects, and prefers that such a court be established in Somalia. There are currently more than 1,000 suspected pirates in detention in 20 countries. On Thursday, acting PM Abdiweli Mohamed Ali was appointed as the new full time PM by the President, following the ousting of the former PM last week; while an unidentified aircraft attacked an insurgent base in southern Somalia, wounding a number of al- Shabaab fighters. It was not immediately clear who was behind the strike, but US aircraft have attacked in previous years.

• At least 10 people were killed and several wounded on Saturday in northeast Kenya following clashes over control of grazing land and water sources. The area is drought-afflicted and has been plagued with frequent clashes over resources in the past few years. The UNHCR expressed concern about a dramatic rise in new refugee arrivals from Somalia over the last couple weeks into northern Kenya that topped 20,000 people.

• Boko Haram was accused of another attack at a bank and a police station in Katsina state, Nigeria on Monday. Five policemen and one civilian were reportedly killed after 12 suspects stormed the bank premises with explosives, and then forced their way into the police station to release detainees. On Sunday, three separate bomb explosions thought to have been perpetrated by Boko Haram were reported to have killed at least 25 and wounded many others in the northeast. A new report discussed the requirement of DNA testing as part of a $75 million Pfizer compensation settlement in Kano State, where Pfizer’s drug tests killed 11 children and left several more permanently injured in 1996. Many of the victims do not understand what DNA testing is, and fear it is another attempt by the company to use them in a drug trial, resulting in them abandoning their compensation claims.

• On Tuesday, NATO reported it had lost contact with one of its unmanned helicopters over Libya but denied a Libyan state television report that said one of its attack helicopters had gone down; a senior rebel leader arrived in China to discuss options for resolution of the crisis; and the Libyan government reported that 19 civilians were killed in a NATO air strike on the home of one of Gaddafi’s top officials. On Thursday, the NATO chief slapped down a call from Italy for a suspension of hostilities and tried to reassure wavering members that Gaddafi can be beaten; while the UK announced that their military operations in Libya have cost around $420 million. On Friday, American lawmakers in the House of Representatives rejected a resolution that would grant congressional consent for American involvement in Libya for a year, and then participated in a vote to prevent the US military from participating in strike missions, that was ultimately defeated. Also on Friday, Gaddafi released dozens of rebel supporters, allowing them to sail back to Benghazi, and 110 Tripoli residents trapped in the east would return to the capital, in a move that could mark the beginning of broader talks; nineteen police and army officers arrived as refugees in Tunisia; and a top US admiral confirmed that NATO forces are trying to kill Gaddafi, and that the need for ground troops after the leader falls is anticipated. On Saturday, NATO announced its missiles had hit a site used to stockpile military supplies and vehicles near Brega while Libyan state media said 15 civilians had been killed in the attacks; two explosions were reportedly heard in Tripoli as jets flew over the city; and four members of the Libyan national soccer team, alongside 13 other football figures, have defected to the rebel side. On Sunday, rebels engaged in fierce firefights with government forces as the front line moved to about 80 km south-west of Tripoli; the AU announced that Gaddafi had agreed to stay out of negotiations to end the conflict; and the Libyan government renewed its offer to hold a vote on whether Gaddafi should stay in power. On Monday, the ICC issued a warrant calling for the arrest of Gaddafi and his son Saif al-Islam to stand trial on charges of torturing and killing civilians.

• The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) called upon Mozambique to stop deporting Somali and Ethiopian asylum-seekers this week, after the government had deported some 59 Somalis and 34 Ethiopians to Tanzania. The UNHCR also reported that some asylum seekers had faced brutality by police or border officials, with some being stripped of clothing and belongings and left at deserted islands along the border.

• The ruling ANC party in South Africa is watering down proposed secrecy laws that proposed mandatory jail terms for possessing or publishing “secret” information of the government. The revision calls for a narrowing of the definitions of what could be classified, after opponents of the bill argued it would let bent official hide misdemeanours by making sensitive information difficult to obtain and by threatening journalists or whistleblowers with up to 25 years in jail.

• At least 170 people were reportedly raped in a mass attack in Fizi, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by ex-rebels who recently deserted the army. Troops from the same group were recently convicted of raping at least 50 women in the same area on New Year’s Day. A report by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting found that many widows in the DRC are being deprived of their legal right to inherit property from their late husbands, while the land and assets are being transferred to the family of the late husband instead, leaving many in a desperate state.

• Alleged improvements in security in Chad in recent months have allowed many IDPs to return home, though some fragile conditions in the east, limited presence of local authorities, and lack of basic social services in some areas are hampering some of the effort. The Chadian government is reportedly taking steps to create the necessary conditions for return, local integration or settlement elsewhere in the country, with the intent of ending internal displacement by December 2011.

• Riot police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse several hundred anti-government demonstrators in Dakar, Senegal on Thursday, who were protesting against the President’s attempt to change the constitution to reduce the minimum percentage of votes required to win the Presidency in the first round of elections to 25% (from over 50%). By the afternoon, President Wade had backed down, and completely withdrew the proposed bill, but protesters continued to clash with police over remaining clauses, such as the establishment of the position of vice president, that had yet to be withdrawn. By Friday, reports were coming out that suggested rivals and critics of President Wade were set to intensify their campaign to block him from standing in next year’s election, seeing as he has already served two terms as President. Constitutional changes in 2001, following his assent to power in 2000, made it so that Wade’s first term didn’t count, making him eligible to run again in 2012.

• On Thursday, ICC prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo said that forces loyal to ousted leader Gbagbo in Cote d’Ivoire, as well as those backing current President Ouattara, committed war crimes in the post-election violence where at least 3,000 were killed and 520 arbitrarily detained. The UN announced that the former rebels loyal to Ouattara were still committing abuses such as arbitrary executions and torture, killing at least 8 people in the past week. Despite the alleged abuses, not a single Ouattara soldier has yet been arrested or detained for any crimes, even though the President has called for impartial justice.

• A former women’s minister in Rwanda became the first woman ever to be convicted of genocide this week and has been sentenced to life in prison for her role in the genocide and rape of Tutsi women and girls, after a 10 year trial. Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, her son and four other former officials were all found guilty. On Wednesday, officials detained six individuals suspected of being used by an exiled General as a conduit to finance activities intended to destabilise the country. By Thursday, President Kagame said that the country was not under any security threat and that they were ready to intercept any attempts to cause instability.

• South Africa has told Swaziland it will only agree to a financial bailout if Swaziland ends its monarchy, the last in Africa. South Africa insists on the unbanning of political parties and the formation of a transition government which will lead the country to democratic elections before it will offer any bailout.

• It was announced on Saturday that Tanzania will present a new constitution in 2014, a year before its next parliamentary and presidential elections, amid opposition pressure for reform following last October’s election that were marred by accusations of rigging. The opposition is demanding a limit to presidential powers, the introduction of electoral reforms, allowing independent candidates to stand for parliament or president, to change the law to allow presidential results to be challenged in court, and the formation of an independent electoral commission.

• Conflict in the Nuba Mountains and Abyei region of Sudan are said to be spiralling into a full-blown major humanitarian emergency, as more than 113,000 have been displaced from their homes and are in desperate need of food, shelter and healthcare. On Tuesday, a new UN report said that children in South Sudan are more likely to die before the age of five than complete a basic education. On Thursday, the US submitted a draft resolution to the UN Security Council that would authorize the deployment of 4,200 Ethiopian troops to Abyei. On Sunday, a train carrying southern Sudanese migrants was attacked in Southern Kordofan state, killing at least one person.

• On Friday, a joint force of soldiers from Mauritania and Mali clashed with al-Qaeda’s African wing in western Mali. On Saturday, it was announced that an al-Qaeda training camp was “completely destroyed”, after “terrorists” struck back with “heavy arms”. Some 17 people were killed in the attack and nine captured by the Malian army.

• On Friday, Tunisia became the first North African state to join the International Criminal Court (ICC), by signing the Rome Statute. Tunisia is the 116th nation to sign the Statute and will become party to the treaty on September 1st.

• On Thursday, a court in Egypt sentenced a businessman and two Israelis tried in absentia to life in prison for spying for Israel. On Friday, a demonstration by Mubarak supporters turned violent after angry onlookers began reportedly clashing with the protesters in central Cairo, causing at least 20 injuries. On Saturday, the former Trade Minister Rachid was sentenced in absentia to five years in prison for embezzling public fund; while the new government dropped plans to seek loans from the IMF and World Bank amid popular distrust for the organizations. On Sunday, families of those killed and injured in anti-Mubarak protests hurled stones at police vehicles outside the court where the former interior minister was being tried.

• Thousands took to the streets in rival demonstrations throughout Morocco on Sunday over constitutional reforms proposed by King Mohammed. Only minor injuries were reported as some of the rival protesters hurled stones at each other.