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.


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