This Week in African Conflict… February 28th-March 6th, 2012.

  • A lawyers group claim that police arrested a carpenter on Wednesday who questioned whether Zimbabwe’s President still had the strength to blow up balloons at his 88th birthday celebrations, under a law making it an offense to insult the President.
  • The top UN envoy to Libya expressed confidence on Wednesday that the nation will be able to overcome current difficulties and pursue a path towards the goals it committed itself to when the popular uprising began a year ago; Reporters Without Borders condemned the continuing detention of two British TV journalists who were arrested in Tripoli last month; while the revolutionary brigades accused of torture were reportedly still holding three quarters of the detainees captive from the civil war, as many as 6,000 persons. On Friday, the UN-mandated commission of inquiry that probed human rights abuses in the country reported that crimes against humanity and war crimes were committed by both Gaddafi troops and the forces that fought to oust him; while hundreds of protesters gathered outside the courthouse in Bengazi demanding that the occupying militia leave and allow judges to return to work. On Saturday, the Muslim Brotherhood announced that it had formed a political party in the absence of laws laying out a formal process for the establishment of political parties. On Sunday, the house of the bourse announced that the Libyan stock exchange was set to re-open on March 15th. On Monday, Human Rights Watch called upon the Libyan government to urgently increase security for the roughly 12,000 displaced people from Tawergha in the west; thousands of mourners gathered in Benghazi to re-bury 155 bodies unearthed from a mass grave of people who were reportedly killed during the civil war; while the most senior Algerian official to visit Libya since its revolution promised that members of Gaddafi’s family given refuge on Algerian soil will not be allowed to meddle in Libyan affairs. On Tuesday, tribal leaders and militia commanders in the east declared that they are forming a semi-autonomous region inside the country; while the Institute for Security Studies released a report discussing the responsibility to protect norm used in Libya in 2011. Instability is reportedly only deepening in the country.
  • Some 23 people were reportedly wounded in Algeria on Saturday after a suicide bomber drove a four-wheel drive vehicle packed with explosives at a paramilitary police base in a desert town. It was not immediately clear who was responsible, though an al-Qaeda splinter group reportedly took responsibility the following day.
  • A peacekeeper serving with the joint UN-AU operation in Sudan’s Darfur region was killed on Wednesday after unidentified gunmen allegedly ambushed a patrol. On Thursday, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for the Sudanese Defence Minister for crimes against humanity and war crimes, as part of investigations into crimes committed in Darfur; South Sudanese army officers received training on human rights, democracy and the rule of law from the UN; while South Sudan accused the north of bombing two oil wells in the north of their country and moving troops and weaponry close to an army base near the poorly defined border; Sudan denied all the allegations. On Friday, at least 30 people were killed and more than 15 injured in fresh clashes between youth of Lou Nuer and Murle ethnic groups in Nyirol County over cattle raiding. On Saturday, the SPLA spokesperson told a newspaper that the disarmament of the civilian population in Jonglei state is due to start in two weeks time; President Bashir vowed to flush out the remaining rebel pockets in South Kordofan as he ordered the setting up of camps across the country for Popular Defense Forces; and also condemned the ICC arrest warrant issued against the defense minister. On Sunday, Sudanese police reportedly used batons to disperse more than 100 students protesting in the centre of Khartoum against the closure of their campuses following the independence of South Sudan. On Monday, the political opposition alliance rejected a declaration made by President Bashir on Saturday to mobilize for war and deploy Popular Defense Forces across the country and called upon the leader to step down from power.
  • At least 7 bodies of alleged al-Shabaab militants were displayed by the administration of the Shabelle Valley in central Somalia on Thursday. On Friday, AU and Somali troops reportedly seized control of an al-Shabaab insurgent base in the north of the capital, reducing their capacity to launch attacks in the city. On Saturday, al-Shabaab attacked soldiers from the semi-autonomous Puntland region, leaving at least nine dead.  On Sunday, Reuters ran a report about how residents of the city of Baidoa were happy to see the arrival of Ethiopian soldiers, whose presence they once resented.
  • A group of MPs in Uganda in the governing National Resistance Movement reportedly forced ministers to resign and are allegedly obliging President Museveni to contemplate firing most of his cabinet. On Wednesday, a demonstration at a local town council in Luweero over poor garbage disposal turned violent after police reportedly threw tear gas canisters at demonstrators.
  • The UN peacekeeping mission in Cote d’Ivoire announced on Thursday that it will assess the situation in two constituencies where there were some “incidents” during last weekend’s legislative by-elections.
  • The electoral commission in Guinea said on Thursday that it would hold its delayed parliamentary elections on July 8th, in an effort to help unblock donor aid potentially worth billions of dollars.
  • Abdoulaye Wade, incumbent President of Senegal, admitted he had fallen short of the required 50% majority in the highly contested Presidential vote on Wednesday, and that a run-off would be required. EU observers reportedly discovered 130,000 ghost names on the voter registration list. On Friday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commended the people of the country for a peaceful and orderly first round of Presidential elections and appealed for the same commitment during the second round.  Key figures in the opposition protest urged their followers to support Presidential challenger Macky Sall in next month’s run-off. On Monday, the electoral commission announced that the second round run-off would be held on March 25th.
  • Officials in Cairo, Egypt announced on Wednesday that a travel ban on seven Americans employed by pro-democracy US groups had been lifted; the Globe and Mail wrote an article about a rise in radicalism and the subsequent backlash of “hijab-free zones” that refuse veiled women entry; while election officials set the date for the first Presidential election since the overthrow of Mubarak last year for May 23 and 24th. On Thursday, American pro-democracy activists were flown out of the country; a move that many suspected is likely to defuse the worst row between the two countries in decades.  On Saturday, the speaker of the Parliament criticized the “flagrant interference” behind Cairo’s decision to lift a travel ban on American democracy workers accused of receiving illegal funds, echoing growing anger over the move.
  • On Wednesday, African Arguments discussed the false peace in the North Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of Congo; and the ICC judges announced they will hand down their verdict in its first trial in the case of Thomas Lubanga who is accused of committing three war crimes, including conscripting children under the age of 15 into arms groups; enlisting children into armed groups and using children to participate actively in armed conflict. On Monday, the UN refugee agency voiced concern over the recent displacement of several thousand people as a result of fresh attacks by the LRA in the Orientale province; while Reuters ran an article suggesting that President Kabila’s lack of publicity since the controversial November elections has left the country on edge.
  • The ruling African National Congress in South Africa expelled its youth leader Julius Malema after finding that he had shown no remorse after being convicted of fomenting divisions in the party on Wednesday. On Thursday, Malema supporters clashed with his rivals after they had blockaded the road in protest at his expulsion.
  • The Guardian ran an interesting article about land deeds and rights in Liberia, and how small farmers are losing their livelihoods to multinational palm-oil interests. On Friday, a top UN official assured the Liberian people that they are not preparing to leave the country but are seeking to reconfigure their presence after assessing the ability of national institutions to maintain peace and security.
  • At least ten thousand people have reportedly fled northern Nigeria for neighbouring Niger and Chad to escape a military sweep targeting Boko Haram; arsonists suspected to be Boko Haram members allegedly burned down seven schools in the northeast on Thursday, leaving thousands of children without schools in the middle of their term; while suspected pirates in speedboats killed four police after opening fire on a marine checkpoint in the creeks of the oil-producing Niger Delta (The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta claimed responsibility the following day). On Friday, three Boko Haram members were killed when a bomb reportedly exploded at a compound suspected to be used as a bomb-making factory in Kaleri Ward. On Monday, some 45 people were thought to be killed in a renewed skirmish between Fulani herdsmen and native Tiv community in Benue State, while two policemen were killed and two others injured when gunmen stormed a police quarters in Kano municipality.
  • At least 200 people were reportedly killed and many more injured in a series of explosions in the capital of Congo-Brazzaville on Sunday that were caused by a fire in an arms depot at a military base. Small explosions continued the following day, hampering rescue efforts. On Monday, reports suggested that people were blaming the government for the blasts that were allegedly caused by an electrical short circuit and the number of injured rose over 1,500 people.
  • Disgruntled workers at the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation defied an order by the government to return to work on Friday. Three people were reportedly killed and five other injured in the Shambani area of Isiolo when armed raiders made away with thousands of camels over the weekend.
  • Ethnic tensions are reportedly rising ahead of next year’s Presidential election in Namibia.
  • The PM of Lesotho reportedly led a walkout from the Lesotho Congress for Democracy along with 45 other MPs to form a new party, the Democratic Congress, which will take over as the majority party in Parliament.
  • The Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat in Mozambique denied press reports on Wednesday that its local representatives were hindering the registration of voters in the southern city of Inhambane ahead of the mayoral by-election scheduled for April 18th; police in a northern town tried to persuade the leadership of the former rebel movement Renamo to release a man who had been imprisoned at the Renamo Nampula headquarters for the past three weeks; while the Central Office for the Fight against Corruption caught two municipal policemen who were extorting money from drivers of minibus-taxis in Maputo and Matola.  On Thursday, the Ministry of Agriculture reportedly began to revoke land titles in cases where the holder had abandoned the land.
  • A farmer in eastern Cameroon challenged a government ruling forcing him to cede his land to Chinese rice farmers and was sentenced to one year in jail for “rebellion”.
  • The President of Malawi accused Western donors of funding an opposition protest movement that is challenging his grip over the nation on Sunday during a radio interview.
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