This Week in African Conflict… February 14th-21st, 2012.
The West African Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP) has just launched a new book on election management in West Africa.
The African Union Chairman announced on Saturday he will visit some of the continent’s conflict areas including Sudan, South Sudan, Mali and Libya for direct talks to help tackle the continent’s security hotspots.
ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States unanimously elected Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara as its Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority, succeeding Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. ECOWAS also announced that they will introduce a single currency into the sub-region by 2020, and be effective in English speaking countries by 2015.
Heavy casualties were reported in clashes between security forces and Tuareg rebels in Mali in a northern town on Thursday. ECOWAS ordered Tuareg rebels to end their hostilities on Friday and to give up the territories they occupy; while Amnesty International warned that the Tuareg offensive raging in the north is causing a humanitarian and human rights crisis, killing scores and causing thousands to flee into neighbouring countries. On Sunday, authorities announced that it will hold Presidential elections on time in April, despite the Tuareg rebellion.
The Guardian ran an article suggesting that Malawi, once known as the beacon of democracy, is creeping towards dictatorship after the British High Commission described the President as “becoming ever more autocratic and intolerant of criticism” and was subsequently expelled from the country. On Thursday, a prominent critic of the President, a human rights lawyer and former attorney general, was reportedly jailed after he made claims that five or six “thugs” were hired by the government to attack him and petrol bomb his office.
At least three people were reportedly killed and about 20 injured in two days of clashes in the eastern region of Cote d’Ivoire at the beginning of the week. The violence was allegedly sparked by frustrations over the continued policing of the area by former northern rebels. On Friday, a senior UN official in the country announced the partial certification of legislative elections, issuing a statement saying that all the conditions necessary for holding open, free, fair, just and transparent elections were met. On Tuesday, a court in Liberia released some 76 Ivorian refugees arrested last month at a mining camp near Zwedru over suspicion of training as mercenaries to invade Cote d’Ivoire.
Human Rights Watch expressed concern over activists who are allegedly being prosecuted in Morocco for peacefully boycotting an election three months ago, despite statements by authorities that no one was arrested for the boycott.
The Ogaden Somali Community in South Africa released a statement on Tuesday announcing they are filing a complaint with the country’s top prosecutor and the ICC urging an investigation into the actions of the government of Ethiopia against the Ogaden people, including extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, rape, torture, disappearances, the destruction of livelihood, the burning of villages and the destruction of livestock.
Around 5,000 rebels have reportedly joined the new national army thus far in Libya, though many militia groups still constitute a threat to stability. On Thursday, Amnesty International accused several armed groups within the country of committing widespread abuses in a new report, saying that suspected supporters of Gaddafi are being tortured with impunity; and dozens of people were reportedly killed over the week in clashes between rival tribes over control of areas in the far southeast. The people marked the first anniversary of the February 17th revolution on Friday with excitement and protests; while the Guardian ran a video report about the Abu Salim prison in Tripoli. On Saturday, the new government announced it plans to give each family more than $1,500 and pay unemployed former rebels in an attempt to win over those who want faster progress; it also sent military forces to stem clashes between rival tribes over control of territory in the far southeast; while the East African reported that the UN is still investigating investments of businesses owned by Tripoli across East Africa nearly three months after lifting sanctions. On Monday, the government announced its forces will intervene if clashes between rival tribes over control of territory in the southeast do not stop; while the population of Misrata voted in the first “free” election to pick 28 new members of the local council.
At least one person was killed in Uganda as government troops reportedly evicted an estimated 6,000 “squatters” from a nature reserve where authorities say the people are living illegally, though locals claim the property is their ancestral land and accuse the government of attempting to sell it to foreign developers. On Thursday, two more cabinet ministers resigned over corruption allegations, bringing the total number of resigned ministers to six. On Sunday, President Museveni went back on his own words spoken years ago when he told Kenyans that it is beneficial for one person to rule a country for a lengthier period, citing his own 26-year tenure as making him an “expert on governance”.
Police in Senegal reportedly violently dispersed opposition protesters demonstrating in Dakar in the run-up to the Presidential election on Wednesday. The interior minister announced that the government has the right to “restrict such liberties through legal channels when there is a real threat to public order”. On Friday, police reportedly sealed off a main square in the capital and fired tear gas to disperse anti-government protesters. On Saturday, police reportedly fired tear gas and chased protesters from the centre of the capital in a fourth day of protest against the candidacy of incumbent President Wade in the upcoming poll; while the local branch of President Wade’s Parti Democratique Senegalais was reportedly ransacked and burned. On Sunday, the opposition planned new protests in the build up to elections next weekend.
Many from South Sudan who were fired from their government jobs in neighbouring Sudan blocked a major road in Khartoum on Wednesday, hurling rocks at passing cars and demanding severance benefits. On Thursday, two joint UN/African Union Mission in Darfur soldiers were injured when three unidentified gunmen attacked their vehicle; and delegations from the two Sudans reportedly agreed to immediately demarcate the border between them in a bid to settle a number of pending issues they started to discuss before the South’s independence last July. On Friday morning, police in Sudan raided dormitories of the University of Khartoum, arresting over three hundred students in anticipation of a new protest they planned to stage over the weekend; the UN Security Council extended the mandate for the panel of experts monitoring sanctions imposed on Sudan over the conflict in Darfur for another year; the ruling party head offices in South Sudan were reportedly gutted in a fire that is still under investigation; while South Sudan appealed to Kenya to assist to end the conflict with the North over mineral resources and the disputed Abyei and Kadugli border regions. On Saturday, the UN relief chief expressed deep concern at the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, where continued fighting is killing countless civilians and displacing hundreds of thousands of others; while the Islamist opposition leader in Sudan accused the National Intelligence and Security Services of installing a secret listening device at his party’s headquarters. On Monday, rebels in the Darfur region announced they had released 49 international peacekeepers, only hours after detaining them, but kept hold of three civilian staff they accused of working as spies for the security service; while Sudanese security agents reportedly confiscated an entire edition of the independent al-Tayar newspaper in the latest media crackdown in the country.
On Monday, in an ironic twist, the minister for morality and good governance in Chad was fired and charged with corruption, accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in funds meant for cracking down on graft.
At least 28 bodies were found dead on a beach in the northern region of Somalia on Wednesday, thought to be those of migrants whose ferry boat capsized; the International Crisis Group released a new report on the Kenyan military intervention in the country, warning them to act cautiously and avoid prolonged “occupation”; certain diplomats began seeking for a boost to the AMISOM forces via a UN resolution; and fighting between Puntland state forces and Sheik Sa’eed Atom fighters killed some 15 soldiers in a northern town. On Thursday, a Kenya Defense Force soldier was reportedly killed in combat during an operation against al-Shabaab. On Friday, al-Shabaab reportedly deployed hundreds of heavily armed militants to the southern outskirts of Mogadishu to reinforce its flanks; Oxfam warned that an escalation of military activity in the area has forced thousands of civilians to flee and its severely hampering famine recovery efforts; and a car bomb exploded inside the compound of a major police building in Mogadishu, wounding at least two policemen. On Saturday, a missile hit a beach allegedly used as a base by al-Shabaab. On Sunday, key groups reportedly reached an agreement on a number of pending transitional government tasks, including a federal structure for a future government and representation in Parliament; while at least 10 people were reportedly killed and some 20 injured in clashes between AMISOM and al-Shabaab. On Tuesday, the Guardian ran an article detailing how Somali pirates are forced to go further away from the coast and taking more risks, particularly now that merchant ships can carry armed security teams; IRIN questioned what the 5-hour London Conference on the 23rd can possibly achieve for Somalia; Britain and other EU nations announced they are considering the feasibility of air strikes against al-Shabaab’s logistical hubs and training camps; while Human Rights Watch released a report suggesting that Somalia’s warring parties have all failed to protect children from the fighting or serving in their forces, with al-Shabaab increasingly targeting children for recruitment, forced marriage and rape.
A medical doctor, who is also a prominent human rights defender and opposition member in Equatorial Guinea has reportedly been held for more than five days following the death of a patient during surgery, with Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International suggest is politically motivated.
The Governor of Masvingo in Zimbabwe suspended 29 non-governmental organizations from operating in the province on Tuesday, after he accused them of failing to register with the local authorities. On Thursday, a lawyer’s group advised people to defy the suspension on NGOs, that the governor’s ruling had no basis in law and was done by an individual lacking the authority to do so; while two dispossessed farmers who were evicted from their farms in 2009 during a land grab campaign, were set to take their landmark case to the Southern African Development Community. On Friday, an elderly farmer who was reportedly evicted from his farm several years ago as part of a land grab campaign, was jailed for more than a week as the battle for his new home intensified; and the EU announced a decision to remove 51 individuals and 20 companies from the targeted sanctions list in Zimbabwe, against strong criticism from those who say that SADC facilitated negotiations were stalled and none of the issues agreed to had actually been implemented. On Sunday, President Mugabe said he will “definitely” call elections this year to end a fragile coalition with the former opposition and called politicians who say the polls cannot be held until well into 2013 “cowards”; he also scoffed at calls for him to retire. Mugabe, who turned 88 on Tuesday, publicly praised the coalition pact, saying in an interview that he and long-time foe PM Tsvangirai can now share a cup of tea.
The Former PM of Tunisia was acquitted on Tuesday of charges of illegally crossing the Tunisian-Libyan border in September 2011. Labour protests supported by the main labour union in the country are reportedly breaking out, especially in the western regions. On Wednesday, three local journalists were facing trial on morality charges after publishing a photograph of a footballer frolicking with a nude woman, raising fears of a media crackdown. On Friday, police fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of conservative Islamists who poured out of a mosque after noon prayers reportedly protesting and calling for an Islamic state. On Monday, the third-largest party in the constituent assembly proposed a draft document based on Islamic law for the new constitution.
Hundreds were displaced and six reportedly killed in a fresh wave of ethnic clashes in central Kenya this week. On Thursday, the Cabinet failed to convince the two principle ministers to agree on an election date; while Matatu operators in Meru and Tharaka-Nithi counties gave the government 30 days to rescind a decision on the phasing out of 14 seater cars or they would withdraw their services, paralyzing public transport. On Saturday, authorities called upon citizens to maintain strict vigilance to thwart off terror threats posed by Somali insurgents blamed for a series of suicide attacks in the country. On Tuesday, an envoy announced that the Kenya military is set to benefit from the American financial assistance once it is fully integrated into AMISOM.
The government of Zambia is reportedly in a fierce diplomatic row with Kenya, as it claims the son of the former President Banda is hiding out at the State House in Nairobi to avoid facing corruption charges.
The government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo reportedly pulled three broadcasting stations off the air on Wednesday, although the exact reasons remained unclear. On Thursday, security forces in Kinshasa fired teargas to break up a “March of Christians” organized by the local Roman Catholic Church to protest alleged fraud in the recent Presidential and legislative elections. On Friday, the three broadcasting stations were back on the air following their two day suspension, which was allegedly for airing “propaganda” about the peaceful Catholic march; while the EU and the US-based Carter Center criticised the Congolese government for banning the Catholic Church’s protest. On Saturday, the leading opposition party ordered its newly elected MPs to boycott the national assembly following the controversial Presidential elections. On Monday, three senior Congolese diplomats reportedly resigned from their posts at the embassy in London, claiming asylum in the UK to escape the “climate of terror”.