This Week in African Conflict… January 23rd-31st, 2012.
The African Union summit in Addis Ababa ended in deadlock after the group failed to chose a new chairman for the executive commission. A new election was then scheduled to be held in June or July, though they managed to elect President Boni Yayi of Benin as the new overall chairperson of the AU. The summit witnessed the inauguration of the new headquarters built in Addis Ababa. The summit is also expected to conclude a deal on bolstering trade between African nations. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told African leaders that they must respect gay rights during the opening of the summit meeting. It was reported over the weekend that the AU is turning to China to fill in the funding gap left by the demise of Libyan Moammar Gaddafi, who was the organization’s biggest donor.
On Saturday, at least 200 young boys were reportedly abducted near Mogadishu, Somalia by alleged al-Qaeda affiliated militants of al-Shabaab; while a director of a media network was gunned down outside his home in Mogadishu, the third director of the network to be killed. On Sunday, at least nine people, including women and children were killed as militants firing vehicle-mounted anti-aircraft guns clashed with AU forces in Mogadishu. On Monday, shells landed on the property of a Red Crescent Society hospital, though thankfully, no one was injured in the attack; while the President of the UN General Assembly held talks with the Deputy PM to discuss the security situation in the country. On Tuesday, an alleged al-Shabaab suicide bomber blew himself up at an Ethiopian army base in central Somalia, killing as many as 33 Ethiopians; and the UN envoy for Somalia formally moved their office back to Mogadishu after a more than 17 year hiatus in neighbouring Kenya. The al-Shabaab rebels ordered the International Committee of the Red Cross out of the areas they control for “falsely” accusing the group of hindering food distribution. On Wednesday, the American Special Forces commandos who killed Osama Bin Laden reportedly rescued two hostages who had been held for three months, killing nine pirates in the process. On Monday, the Nairobi Star reported that two majors and four lieutenants were among 15 Kenya Defence Forces officers killed in the last 100 days since Kenya sent its troops into Somalia.
President Ouattara of Cote d’Ivoire is set to sign a new “defence and security agreement” with France during a trip to Paris this week. The UN envoy to Cote d’Ivoire reported that the security situation in the country is stabilizing, but that the underlying causes of instability and unrest have not been fully addressed. On Sunday, dozens of Gbagbo supporters were reportedly attacked and injured during a rally in Abidjan, after opponents began throwing stones.
On Sunday, the deputy head of the ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) in Libya submitted his resignation in the face of large and angry protests in Benghazi with crowds storming the government office. On Monday, the ICC announced that it had accepted that Saif al-Islam Gaddafi could be tried in Libya instead of at The Hague. Late Monday, hundreds of well-equipped and highly trained Gaddafi loyalists reportedly seized control of the western city of Bani Walid, causing some four deaths. On Tuesday, reporters who visited the town said militias loyal to the NTC were driven out and that town elders were appointing their own local government. On Wednesday, the UN human rights chief reported that detainees from the civil war that are being held by revolutionary brigades continue to be subjected to torture despite efforts by the provisional government to address the issue; while the defense minister reportedly held talks with leaders from the overrun town of Bani Walid. On Thursday, UN officials issued a warning over the activities of militias and people being held in detention centres, while Doctors Without Borders announced it had stopped work in detention centres in the city of Misrata because it alleged some patients were being brought in for care between torture sessions, a claim the Libyan government vehemently rejected. On Sunday, the government announced it would be reassessing its ambassadors worldwide and dismiss any who had ties with ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi; while the PM called for a regional security conference to tackle proliferation of weapons by exiled Gaddafi supporters that could have possibly wound up in the hands of Boko Haram or al-Qaeda.
The government of Sudan announced on Sunday that it will continue to allow only limited access to UN agencies and aid groups in the warring South Kordofan and Blue Niles states. On Monday, the UN stressed that the best way to protect civilians in South Sudan’s Jonglei state is through military deterrence urging the government to deploy more troops and police into the area; they also denounced the bombing of a camp housing some 5,000 refugees near the Sudanese border. Ethnic clashes in recent weeks have left hundreds dead and more than 120,000 homeless and hiding in the bush. On Wednesday, at least one person was killed by security forces after protesters in the Darfur region burned government buildings and threw rocks at security forces angered at the removal of the state governor. On Saturday, Sudan announced it would free tankers carrying cargoes of South Sudanese crude oil it had seized earlier this month, in an alleged effort to defuse the ongoing conflict between the two nations. On Sunday, it was reported that a group of 700 military officers from Sudan’s Armed Forces (SAF) confronted the President and his defence minister with demands on military and political reforms, appalled at the prospect of war with South Sudan; South Sudan reportedly totally shut down their oil output in the dispute with Sudan over export transit fees, demanding a border deal before restarting; at least 74 people were reportedly killed in fresh ethnic clashes between rival communities near the border; rebels in South Kordofan state captured 29 Chinese workers after a battle with government forces; while Sudan’s security forces prevented an independent newspaper from publishing after returning from a four-month ban. On Monday, the South Sudan government said it would not restart oil production until the two sides reached an agreement on a host of issues; UN officials requested the need for adequate financial resources, strong political will and strengthened operations to help the population of Darfur after a six-day visit to the region; efforts were reportedly underway to rescue the 29 Chinese workers captured in the previous days by Sudanese rebels; South Sudan accused the government of Sudan of arming gunmen alleged to have killed dozens of people in a cattle raid; while the World Food Programme warned of as many as half a million refugees fleeing to South Sudan in the next couple of months if Khartoum does not allow aid agencies more access to its border regions, as more than a thousand refugees have been crossing per day over the last weeks.
On Thursday, National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (NMLA) rebels in Maliopened a fifth front, attacking two towns in the northwest of the country. The rebels opened their first major offensive in three years almost a week ago, but denied allegations by the Malian government that al-Qaeda gunmen were fighting alongside them.
The ousted President of Madagascar Ravalomanana tried to end his exile in South Africa on Saturday, but the government closed the main airports to prevent his re-entry. On Wednesday, mediation talks on the political crisis sponsored by the regional body SADC attempted to get the government to allow Ravalomanana to return by the end of February, with little success.
On Friday, scores of people were arrested by police in South Africa to prevent them from setting up a planned three-day summit on Jobs, Land and Housing on Rondebosch Common to highlight inequality in society.
The ruling MPLA party in Angoladefended the re-appointment of the electoral commission chief on Wednesday, accusing the opposition of spreading criticism that the appointment violated the new election law in an effort to cause instability. UNITA lawmakers and other opposition parties walked out of parliament in protest. The government announced that it does not plan to request a new from the IMF after the end of its $1.4 billion standby agreement later this year.