This Week in African Conflict… February 7th-14th, 2012.
The UN and Interpol discussedtransnational 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.
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 Libyaon 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.