This Week in African Conflict… June 14th-20th, 2011

This Week in Conflict is now being divided up!

Here is the new schedule:

This Week in the World of Conflict – posted on Mondays

This Week in African Conflict- posted on Tuesdays

This Week in Asian Conflict – posted on Wednesdays (includes Oceania and Australia)

This Week in Conflict in the Americas – posted on Thursdays

This Week in Middle Eastern Conflict – posted on Fridays

This Week in European Conflict – posted on Saturdays

Please submit any reports or stories of conflict around the world to apeaceofconflict@gmail.com or write in the comments below. Here’s a summary of what happened this week in Africa:

  • Different pro-Gbagbo factions continue to support the ousted President of Cote d’Ivoire from a position of exile, including Simone Gbagbo’s daughter, who has hired a legal team to defend what she calls the “illegal detainment” of her parents; and Charles Ble Goude, the “Street General”, long thought dead has now resurfaced and is pledging to play a role in future politics within the country. On Thursday, the new Ivorian government announced the creation of a national investigation commission on the crimes perpetrated during the post-election crisis, that in theory would punish all no matter which side of the conflict they were from, though Human Rights Watch has pointed out that no one from Ouattara’s camp has yet been arrested or investigated and that justice appears one-sided and delayed. The top UN human rights official expressed concern over acts of violence allegedly carried out by members of the new army, the FRCI, including reports of summary executions, rape and torture. On Friday, a huge cache of arms and ammunition was reportedly uncovered in Liberia near the Ivorian border, including RPGs, machine guns and assault rifles, while the mercenary commander known as “Bob Marley”, who is said to have ordered the killing of civilians in Cote d’Ivoire was in custody. Also on Friday, the ICC gave victims of post-election violence 30 days to submit testimony to the chief prosecutor, which personally, I think is far too short, especially considering the number of people still in hiding in the bush or displaced and unable to access media that would let them even know of the deadline. Medicins Sans Frontieres compiled a very telling group of stories from ordinary people who suffered the violence over the past few months and the toll that this conflict took on their families. Concerns remain over the daunting task of uniting the country’s security forces, which remain divided and suspicious of each other. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs remains concerned that the Emergency Humanitarian Action Plan for the country is only 25% funded; seriously impeding much needed humanitarian assistance.
  • On Tuesday, the UN refugee agency urged authorities in Sudan to allow road and air access for aid workers trying to help thousands of fleeing people in Southern Kordofan, after being denied permission to land in the state capital for nearly a week and prevented land access by roadblocks of militiamen; while 29 people were reportedly killed in a cattle raid in south Sudan. On Wednesday, air strikes in Southern Kordofan are said to have killed as many as 64 people and caused tens of thousands to flee; while the north and south continued to clash in the disputed Abyei border region, with unconfirmed reports of civilians being targeted at checkpoints for torture, harassment and sometimes summary executions. On Thursday, North Sudan’s army vowed to continue fighting against the south in Southern Kordofan to end what it calls an “armed rebellion” and South Sudan’s army said it was ready for more attacks by northern forces in the Abyei region. It was also reported; however, that mediator Thabo Mbeki said that the warring parties in Southern Kordofan agreed that hostilities should cease and that talks should start. On Friday, the UN condemned the detention and abuse by the Sudanese armed forces towards four UN peacekeepers that were on patrol in Southern Kordofan; while six shells fired by the SAF were said to have landed 150 metres away from an UNMIS base near Abyei. While everyone is worried about the future of Southern Sudan, Rebecca Hamilton discusses the possibility that the North is actually in the most danger of returning to full out conflict. On Saturday, Nigeria announced it was considering the possibility of keeping its troops in Southern Sudan beyond the July 9th Independence. On Sunday, the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) categorically denied allegations of misconduct against its peacekeepers in the state of South Kordofan, made by independent observers and both parties to the conflict, and complained that the closure of airspace and restrictions on access are undermining its humanitarian operations there. The SPLM has accused Egyptian peacekeepers of complicity with SAF and of raping local women under UN protection; while local activists accuse UNMIS of reacting to violence with silence or a refusal of requests for evacuation of individuals who were in danger. On Monday, Ethiopian peacekeepers moved into the contested Abyei region under a new deal negotiated between the north and the south that also called upon both sides to remove their troops and demilitarize the area; while Sudan’s defence minister accused anti-government fighters of trying to create a “second Benghazi” in Southern Kordofan and vowed that the military would “clean” the area. Texas in Africa compiled a great list of further reading on Sudan’s conflict, if you want to know more about the situation.
  • On Tuesday, the Russian head of the World Chess Federation said that he learned that Libya’s Gaddafi is open to talks with NATO and the country’s rebels after playing chess with him; pro-Gaddafi forces bombarded the Tunisian border post; some 21 rebel fighters were killed in clashes on the eastern front; Libyan tv reported that NATO was bombing civilian and military targets in a central town; while NATO said it had hit several military targets near Tripoli and rockets are said to have damaged generators at an oil refinery near Misrata, allowing the rebels to make fresh gains on the western front. South African President Zuma said NATO is abusing a UN resolution to protect Libyan civilians in order to pursue regime change and political assassinations. NATO is said to be dropping leaflets from the sky showing a picture of a helicopter and a burning tank that tell those below that if they see the helicopters, “it means it is already too late”. On Wednesday, NATO reportedly hit a bus at the entrance to the town of Kikla, killing some 12 people; rebels reportedly pushed deeper into government-held territory south of the capital; and Reuters reported a story that rebels were giving their enemies (some 360 of them) dignified Muslim burials in the town of Misrata. On Thursday, Spain ordered its Libyan ambassador and three embassy staff to leave the country over what it called the illegitimacy of Gaddafi’s rule; while Gaddafi was reportedly losing friends all over Africa. One of his sons announced that Gaddafi would agree to internationally supervised elections on the condition there is no vote-rigging, and that he would step down if he lost, but would never leave Libya, as he intends to die and be buried there; a move the US immediately dismissed, calling it too late. On Friday, rebels and pro-government forces exchanged heavy fire near Zlitan; at least 10 people were killed and 40 wounded in government shelling of Misrata; Gaddafi pledged to defeat NATO in an aired audio speech on Libyan TV and Russia’s envoy to Libya said that representatives of the Gaddafi government are in contact across Europe with members of the Libyan rebellion. On Saturday, gun battles continued in the northwest city of Nalut, killing at least 8 rebels and wounding 13; at least two explosions shook Tripoli; UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced that the beginnings of a negotiation process were underway; while NATO has accused Gaddafi’s forces of using mosques and children’s parks as shields. It appears US President Obama may be in some hot water over his decision to continue the air war in Libya without congressional approval despite rulings to the contrary; and rebels complain they have run out of money, accusing the West of failing to keep its promises of urgent financial aid. Thousands of documents that reveal orders from Gaddafi’s senior generals to bombard and starve the people of Misrata have been gathered by war crimes investigators and will help form damning evidence in any future war crimes trial at the ICC. On Sunday, government officials took journalists to a site it alleges was bombed by NATO warplanes, while NATO admitted its forces mistakenly targeted a column of Libyan rebels, injuring as many as 16 fighters. The UK reported the total cost of its involvement in Libya could run into the “hundreds of millions” of pound and is currently costing tens of millions from reserve funds set aside for contingencies. NATO has also announced that it is investigating Libyan government claims that it bombed a residential area within the capital, killing several civilians. On Monday, three rockets fired by Gaddafi forces reportedly hit a built-up area near the port in Misrata, killing a 13 year-old child and wounding two other children; rebels shut off a pipeline in the Western Mountains region that supplies crude from an oilfield in the south to a refinery near the capital in an attempt to stifle the Gaddafi regime; more than 20 Gaddafi troops are said to have defected from a brigade in the south and joined the rebellion; NATO admitted to launching a missile strike against a compound that killed at least 15 people, including three children, calling it a “legitimate military target under the mandate of the UN resolution”; Italy’s foreign minister said that NATO has endangered its credibility by the killing of civilians; while the EU foreign ministers have agreed to look into the possibility of using frozen Libyan funds to assist the rebels.
  • The curfew on Cairo, Egypt’s streets officially ended on Wednesday, five months after it was imposed by Mubarak in an attempt to stem protests against his rule. Many had ignored the curfew and did what they wanted, with little interference from the police. Egyptian Bedouins are beginning to demand equal citizenship rights in the face of discrimination, hoping that the new regime will represent a change for them. On Saturday, government troops fired shots in the air to prevent hundreds of protesting employees of the Suez Canal Authority from storming its office in Ismailia; and an Egyptian court suspended its order to remove the names of former President Mubarak and his wife from public institutions, pending a review of the case on Wednesday. On Sunday, the PM reportedly said that the country’s critical parliamentary elections, currently set for September, could be delayed in an attempt to avoid giving an unfair advantage to the Muslim Brotherhood. On Monday, former President Mubarak’s lawyer said that Mubarak is suffering from stomach cancer, and cited the need for a medical report to assess whether he is fit enough to face trial.
  • Former President Ben Ali of Tunisia faced trial in absentia on June 20th for conspiring against the state, voluntary manslaughter, drug trafficking and several other civil and military cases. The court found him and his wife guilty of theft, fined the couple $66 million and sentenced them to 35 years in jail. Saudi authorities have not responded to a request by Tunis to extradite Ben Ali. Ben Ali is also to face dozens of charges over civilian deaths that happened between December 17th and January 14th of this year in three military courts. On Monday, Ben Ali stated that he had not simply fled, but rather had been tricked into leaving his country on fears of an assassination plot, and as such, still considers himself to be President.
  • Concern is rising over the expulsion of thousands of Congolese from Angola over the past month. Many report torture and other abuses during their detainment before being deported.  On Wednesday, Congo’s parliament passed an electoral law little changed from the document that governed the last elections, much to the concern of opposition leaders who have expressed concern over the poll’s credibility.
  • A suspected suicide bomb attack killed several people outside police headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria on Thursday. Police suspect the radical Boko Haram sect for the attack. Hours later, an explosion near a church killed four children in the northeast. The Inspector General of Police stated that the sect’s days were numbered following the donation of 10 armoured personnel carriers and 10 patrol vehicles by the Governor. The sect reacted by reading a statement saying they would soon wage Jihad and that warriors had arrived from Somalia where they received serious warfare training. On Monday, authorities arrested 58 sect members after storming a Boko Haram headquarters in Maiduguri.
  • The ruling African National Congress party in South Africa has re-elected an unopposed Juliou Malema as the President of the youth wing. The election has upset many who are angered at Malema for singing apartheid-era songs advocating the shooting of white farmers and is working to nationalise mines and seize white-owned farms. The opposition in SA has raised new allegations of bribery surrounding a multi-billion dollar arms deal that is to be investigated.
  • The King of Morocco promised a new democratic constitution on Friday that would devolve some of his powers to parliament and the government that Moroccans would be able to vote for in a July 1st referendum. The final draft explicitly grants the government executive powers, although the king would keep exclusive control over military and religious fields and pick a PM from the party that wins the polls. The promises were not enough for many pro-democracy activists who still planned to hold their weekly protests on the weekend to call for greater changes to the system. Reuters offers an interesting timeline of different reforms in the country starting in 1999.
  • Al-Shabaab in Somalia announced on Friday that it will cooperate with al Qaeda’s new leader Al Zawahiri as much as possible. The group pledged its allegiances to al Zawahiri as it used to be under Bin Laden. On Sunday, the PM announced that he had resigned, after initially refusing to step down, following an agreement between the President and parliament to remove him from office. Many fear that the resignation could prompt an intensified power struggle and negatively affect the ongoing offensive against insurgents in the capital. A new study reported that over 4,000 international seafarers were violently attacked by Somali pirates last year, 1,090 taken hostage, and 516 used as human shields; and that new tactics break a previous code of conduct that had kept violence to a minimum.
  • Leaders across southern Africa called for President Mugabe of Zimbabwe to speed up the progress towards fair and free elections conducted on a “level playing field”. South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique assigned a team to work with Zimbabwean officials to ensure elections and the enforcement of a power-sharing deal between Mugabe and PM Tsvangirai. Human rights monitors report that the army –loyal to Mugabe—have already deployed units to rural areas to intimidate voters.
  • The new chief justice in Kenya vowed on Monday to fight corruption and impunity, although analysts said he would have to stand up to powerful politicians and businessmen to success in turning the courts around. Analysts have previously said that the country’s post-election violence in 2007-8 might have been avoided if there had been a credible legal mechanism for settling disputes.
  • New official proposed changes to an election law in Senegal  could see current President Wade win re-election with as little as 25% of in a first round vote instead of a majority. The proposal is expected to sail through the majority-controlled parliament in coming days, much to the chagrin of the opposition, who call it a “coup d’état” against the constitution.

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