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.


• 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.

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