- A new American initiative to improve the notoriously poor LGBT rights in sub-Saharan Africa is reportedly inspiring a large backlash. Sub-Saharan Africa is marked by widespread homophobia as well as chronic dependence on foreign aid, in particular from the US, and the idea that the two issues might now be linked seems to upset a lot of people.
- The Lord’s Resistance Army has reportedly recently launched a new spate of attacks in the DRC after a lull in the second half of 2011; and the UN peacekeeping chief spoke of the role of UN peacekeepers in tackling the LRA. A video produced by the organization Invisible Children went viral this week demanding the removal of LRA leader Joseph Kony (#Kony2012), reaching more than 70 million hits and raising some $5 million in less than a week, amid much criticism. Frankly, I’m with the critics on this one; the idea of increased military intervention to stop a small rebel group (best estimates suggest 200-400 fighters left) that is heavily made up of children, when there are already several armed groups after them (including 100 American soldiers) strikes me as a bad idea, as do the claims/tone of the video itself, the organization’s past behaviour and the grandiose attitude of its founders. I have written my own response to the Kony 2012 campaign, which can be viewed here. Following the Kony 2012 campaign, Uganda announced it would catch Kony dead or alive, eventually.
- A senior American official urged the President of Malawi on Friday to respect his citizens’ right to freedom of expression, days after he accused Western donors of funding an opposition protest movement in his country; while the State House warned Malawian journalists, editors and human rights defenders that they risk facing unspecified action if they continue “twisting information”.
- One year after the start of several months of popular revolts in Burkina Faso, the situation has settled down, but reportedly remains fragile. The government has adopted a number of measures to appease its critics, including upping civil servant salaries, intensifying the fight against corruption and subsidizing food prices.
- A court in Tunisia reportedly fined a newspaper publisher 1,000 dinars ($665) on Thursday for printing a photograph of a footballer frolicking with his nude girlfriend, raising fears of a media crackdown.
- One police officer in Mozambique was reportedly killed on Thursday after clashes with members of the former Renamo guerrilla movement, highlighting tensions that still exist in the country despite a 1992 peace accord.
- The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Wednesday that the rights of a group of Somali and Eritrean nationals who were intercepted by Italian Customs boats and returned to Libya in 2009 were violated under several provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights; the government called announced plans for greater autonomy in Benghazi a foreign-inspired plot to break up the country; while American President Obama hosted the Libyan PM at the White House, encouraging him to follow through on plans to hold national elections in June and stressing the importance of transparency and engagement with civil society, along with discussion cooperation on border management, weapons security and regional counterterrorism concerns. On Wednesday, Libyan leader Jalil vowed to use force to stop the country dividing into autonomous regions. On Friday, thousands of people took to the streets in the two biggest cities to protest moves by groups in the east to declare autonomy from central rule; Russia criticized UN investigators for failing to adequately probe deaths caused by NATO bombs during the uprising against Gaddafi last year; the government reclaimed possession from Saadi Gaddafi of a London mansion worth some 10 million pounds after a British court ruled it had been bought using stolen Libyan state funds; while investigators probing violations committed during the country’s conflict said that they were giving the UN’s human rights chief a list of people who should face international or national justice. On Monday, damaging new claims emerged linking French President Sarkozy’s 2007 election campaign and former Libyan leader Gaddafi, who is said to have contributed up to 50 million euro to his election fund; the government called upon its neighbours to toughen up border security, concerned about the large numbers of people who have been smuggled across the border since the end of fighting last year; while the UN Security Council extended the UN mission assisting Libya with its democratic transition for another 12 months, adjusting their mandate to support national efforts to promote the rule of law, protect human rights, restore public security and hold free and fair elections.
- A popular music video making rounds in Senegal calls upon hard-up citizens who are offered cash for their vote in the upcoming Presidential election to pocket the money and vote as they wish anyway. On Monday, Belgium launched a bid in the UN’s highest court to force Senegal to bring former Chadian President Hissene Habre, dubbed “Africa’s Pinochet”, to trial for crimes against humanity.
- The Trade Union Congress of Swaziland announced on Monday that it will boycott the 2013 national elections in the kingdom because political parties are banned. Political parties are banned in the country, and only individuals are allowed to stand as candidates.
- Protests erupted in Khartoum, Sudan on Tuesday after a woman was reportedly killed by police; police responded by firing tear gas and using batons to break up the demonstrations. On Friday, armed Murle tribesman reportedly raided cattle camps, resulting in the disappearance of 500-800 people who are feared dead or abducted. On Sunday, a former senior UN official accused the Sudanese government of launching a genocidal campaign against non-Arab villagers in South Kordofan, by bombing civilians and using tactics reminiscent of the Darfur conflict—a charge the government dismissed. On Monday, the UN mission in South Sudan announced that it will provide support by collecting weapons at a civilian disarmament that were held illegally and monitoring the process. On Tuesday, the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan said it sent patrol units and a medical team to an area on the Ethiopian border after unidentified raiders reportedly attacked several cattle camps over the weekend, wounding some 63 people and causing some 15,000 to flee into Ethiopia.
- Human Rights Watch released a report urging the government of Cote d’Ivoire to urgently address the rising violent crime in and around the central town of Bouake, to takes steps to disarm former combatants widely believed to be implicated in the attacks, adequately equip the police and gendarmes to protect the population and investigate violent crimes. A former warlord, Cherif Ousmane, was appointed by the army high command as the head of an “anti-armed gangs unit” responsible for cracking down on bandits operating on the country’s highways. On Monday, local newspapers suggested that PM Guillaume Soro had resigned from his position during an extraordinary cabinet meeting in Abidjan.
- Nigeria expelled some 56 South Africans from their country for “lack of proper documentation” on Tuesday in an apparent retaliation for the expulsion of 125 Nigerians from South Africa the previous weekend. On Thursday, Italian politicians and newspapers accused of giving them “a slap in the face” by allegedly not informing it of the special-forces raid in Nigeria that left one Italian and one British hostage dead; a Boko Haram spokesman denied any link to the kidnapping; police in Lagos State denied rumours that Boko Haram members has snuck into the state, advising residents to discard such report and go about their legal businesses without fear; suspected Boko Haram insurgents attacked a police station and two banks in a remote part of the north, shooting dead some four policemen and three civilians; while some 20 people were said to have been killed and several others injured when Fulani herdsmen reportedly invaded Kadarko town in Nasarawa State. On Friday, suspected Boko Haram militants reportedly set fire to the Bulabulim Ngarnam Police Station in Maiduguri, killing at least one person; a gun battle broke out between suspected militants and police in Kano, wounding at least three police officers; while some 120 Nigerians were deported from Britain back to the country for various offenses. On Saturday, Boko Haram warned some journalists to stop or desist from misrepresenting their views at a Media Telephone Conferencing. On Sunday, a car laden with explosive detonated outside a Catholic church in Jos, killing at least nine people and injuring others; while some six people were killed by unidentified gunmen in the Delta State area. By Monday, the death toll from the explosion in Jos had risen to 19; while suspected Fulani herdsman were accused of killing two people and injuring three others in Jos.
- Tens of thousands of people reportedly took to the streets in South Africa on Wednesday in a nationwide strike to demonstrate for improved workers rights and against plans to introduce unpopular road tolls. The House of Representatives mandated its Committee on Foreign Affairs to liaise with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to review Nigeria’s bilateral relations on Thursday, following the previous week’s deportations of South Africans.On Monday, expelled youth leader Julius Malema made a surprise apology and begged to be allowed back into the governing party.
- Police in Angola announced they are investigating a clash that occurred over the weekend in the capital between young anti-government protesters calling for the resignation of President Eduardo dos Santos and pro-government supporters who confronted them. On Tuesday, rights groups and activists warned of a rapidly deteriorating political climate in the country following a police raid on a private newspaper and a violent crackdown on anti-government protests.
- The UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo received tactical helicopters to support their mission from the Ukraine on Wednesday. On Friday, the UNHCR expressed concern that more than 3,000 Congolese civilians have fled into Uganda from the DRC’s North Kivu to escape fresh fighting since the beginning of the year. On Wednesday, the International Criminal Court issued its first judgment against Thomas Lubanga, an alleged warlord accused of enlisting and conscripting child soldiers.
- The UN humanitarian office announced on Wednesday that it had deployed a team to the Republic of Congo to support authorities following last week’s explosions at an ammunition depot that killed some 200 people and injured 1,500.
- Gunmen reportedly shot dead two policemen at a checkpoint near the capital in Burundi late on Wednesday and one attacker was killed in an exchange of fire. The Standard wrote an article about the revitalization of the once violent city of Bujumbura that is now peaceful.
- The MDC-T party in Zimbabwe announced on Sunday that it will go it alone if ZANU-PF decides to pull out of the coalition government in the hope of forcing early elections before the implementation of reforms as required under the Global Political Agreement. On Monday, a deadline for the Information Minister to implement media reforms ordered by the three principals to the inclusive government was reportedly ignored.
- Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Egypt announced they were likely to declare they had lost confidence in the PM’s government via a formal vote, a move that will add to pressure on the ruling military council to appoint a cabinet led by the group on Thursday; while a judge said he was delaying the trial of civil society activists including the 16 Americans accused of receiving illegal foreign funds until April 10th. Candidates for the “first ever free” Presidential elections began this weekend, with candidates now able to submit their applications. On Sunday, the leader of the Freedom and Justice party revealed that the Muslim Brotherhood and the ultraconservative al-Nour Party will support the head of the Supreme Judiciary Council, Hossam Al-Gheryani, for President; and an army doctor accused of carrying out forced “virginity tests” on female protesters last year was acquitted of all charges.
- At least 23 people were reportedly killed in an attack on Ethiopian troops by al-Shabaab insurgents near the border of Somalia on Saturday, with al-Shabaab claiming to have killed 73 Ethiopian soldiers and recovering 20 guns; while the African Union announced that Ethiopia was set to withdraw from Somalia by the end of April with Djibouti, Uganda and Burundi poised to step in. On Sunday, Ethiopia denied reports that its soldiers had been killed or captured. On Monday, the President of the Puntland government welcomed proposed talks between the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia and the Somaliland separatist region, but warned against denying the role of Puntland.
- Public hospitals in Kenya face a potentially devastating health worker shortage after the government reportedly fired on 25,000 nurses on Friday who had been on strike since March 1st to protest the government’s failure to implement a salary increase; while the ICC rejected appeals from the former finance minister and three others to have charges against them dropped relating to the country’s 2007 election violence. As many as six people were reportedly killed and scores others injured when multiple grenade explosions rocked downtown Nairobi on Saturday, in attacks linked to the al-Shabaab militia. On Sunday, the VP urged Kenyans to remain calm as the government continues to fights terror. On Monday, PM Odinga accused Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto of hatching a plot to avoid standing trial at the ICC, after documents purporting to be from the British Foreign Office was tabled in Parliament.
- Tuareg rebels in northern Mali reportedly took control of the key garrison town of Tessalit follow a weeks-long siege on Sunday.
- 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.
- Experts say the increasing trend of illicit financial flows are posing a great threat to Africa’s fragile growth as they pump back more dollars to developed countries than those send to poor African states.
- The Open Society Media Program released background papers earlier this month on Mapping Digital Media, on the impact of digitization on democracy in the Horn of Africa.
- A top UN official stressed the importance of a comprehensive regional strategy to combat piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, highlighting the threat posed to the security and economic development of States in the region.
- The UN Security Council voted on Wednesday to increase an African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia to nearly 18,000 troops to try and squash the al-Shabaab rebel insurgency, calling upon the AU to increase the strength of its AMISOM peacekeeping force by almost 50%; the chief of awareness raising for al-Shabaab insisted that unmarried girls should join in Jihad against pro-government forces while addressing a congregation over the weekend at a mosque; Ethiopian and Somali troops reportedly captured the strategic Somali city of Baidoa from al-Shabaab, who vowed to avenge the loss; aid agencies demanded an end to the politicisation of aid in the country, saying they must be allowed to negotiate with all warring parties so that they can reach communities ravaged by famine and war; while International Crisis Group released a new report about the end of the mandate for the Transitional Federal Government in six months time. On Thursday, an international meeting aimed at resolving the political crisis in the country was hosted by the British PM and pledged more help to combat terrorism and piracy while demanding that its politicians form a stable government with a threat of sanctions against anyone stalling progress. On Friday, a missile strike reportedly killed four foreign militants south of Mogadishu. On Saturday, the Somali PM said that in the future a share of natural resources would be offered in return for help with reconstruction, making many observers uneasy about increasing foreign interference; reports suggested that Britain is involved in a secret high-stakes dash for oil in the country; an Islamist militia group in Puntland reportedly merged with al-Shabaab and announced their plans to scrap the license of Western oil and gas firms drilling in the region; while US drones reportedly killed 4 al-Shabaab high ranking officials in the Lower Shabelle region. The renewed offensive against al-Shabaab by Somali, Ethiopian, Kenyan and AU forces in the past couple of weeks has reportedly sparked another influx of civilians to Mogadishu out of fear of fighting. On Tuesday, at least nine were killed and many injured in heavy fighting and shells between government forces and al-Shabaab in the Lower Jubba region; and two hostages were killed as a Danish warship intercepted a cargo vessel allegedly hijacked by pirates off the coast.
- US officials admitted that the Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony remains elusive in an unknown location in the Central African Republic, despite the deployment of American troops. They claim, however, that the LRA has been decimated to about 200 fighters. On Tuesday, humanitarian officials announced that a joint military offensive between the armed forces of the CAR and Chad to oust the Chad’s Front Populaire pour la Redressment (FPR) rebel movement is hampering operations to help the displaced.
- The world’s largest refugee camp—the Dadaab settlement in eastern Kenya – marked its 20th anniversary in existence. Arrivals frequently exceed 1,000 people per day. On Tuesday, the Director of Public Prosecutions announced that the 5,000 pending cases of post-election violence will be thoroughly investigated before decisions are made to either prosecute them or drop them. On Friday, detectives from Muthaiga police station reportedly raided the home of the former President’s son in a bid to arrest him after the High Court issued a warrant for him to be detained for one month for ignoring an order to pay maintenance to his estranged wife. On Tuesday, at least two people were reportedly killed in an attack by armed men in Mandera.
- Security forces in Sudan reportedly raided two Arabic daily newspapers, confiscating all copies of the publications that were due for distribution on Sunday. On Wednesday, aid agencies called upon Sudan to urgently extend the looming deadline for up to 700,000 southern Sudanese to leave the country, as it is impossible to meet and would create a “logistical nightmare and humanitarian catastrophe”. On Thursday, activists, opposition politicians and journalists expressed their concern over a new espionage laws being debated in the Sudanese Parliament. On Friday, two African Union-UNAMID peacekeepers sustained gunshot wounds in Darfur after being targeted by an unknown group; the UN welcomed the return of its personnel to the South Kordofan state; while rebels reportedly clashed with government forces, with rebels claiming to have killed a dozen government soldiers and the government accusing the rebels of targeting civilians. On Sunday, South Sudan and Sudanese forces clashed in South Kordofan, despite the recently signed non-aggression pact. On Monday, rebel groups in Sudan announced they had captured a Sudanese army garrison near the border with the South; while the UN reported that increasing numbers of Sudanese and South Sudanese are reportedly fleeing to Kenya due to fighting and economic crisis. On Tuesday, analysts warned that a plan to start disarming civilians in South Sudan, by force if necessary, is likely to worsen the security situation and complicate efforts to deliver essential humanitarian aid; while Sudan reportedly threatened military action against the South, accusing their troops of involvement in rebel attacks along the border where rebels claim they killed 150 government soldiers.
- Boko Haram claimed responsibility on Wednesday for Tuesday’s deadly attacks at a popular market in Maiduguri, Nigeria; gunshots and explosions rang out in Kano, as the military reportedly exchanged fire with suspected Boko Haram militants; while unknown gunmen set some classrooms and a store at Budun Primary School in the outskirt of Maiduguri. On Thursday, gunmen on motorcycles shot dead two policemen and wounded two others in Kano. On Friday, at least 10 people were killed in a night attack on the Gombe Divisional Police Station, as gunmen reportedly set off bombs in an attempted prison break in the northeastern city of Gombe. On Sunday, two suicide bombers suspected to be Boko Haram members blew up the Church of Christ in Nigeria headquarters in Jos, killing at least 2 people. Police arrested 8 Nigerian Christians from a rival faction of their own church in relation to the bombing, while 8 others were killed in reprisal attacks by protesting youths following the incident. Also, suspected Boko Haram militants attacked the Shuwa Divisional Police Station in Madagali, killing three police corporals.
- Tens of thousands of returning workers from Libya, failing rains and insects are reportedly causing food shortages and a major humanitarian crisis in Chad that could affect up to 3.6 million people.
- A Parliamentary committee leading the constitution making in Zimbabwe has reportedly been forced to drop a number of provisions, including one on term limits that would have locked President Mugabe from future polls on Thursday. On Friday, PM Tsvangirai reportedly castigated President Mugabe and the ZANU PF over insincerity, calling the unity government a “sorrowful experience” and vowing to resist Mugabe’s calls for early elections. On Saturday, President Mugabe celebrated his 88th birthday with an elaborate party, and again called for an early vote this year. Concern is reportedly building over the fate of a human rights activist missing since the 8th of February.
- On Friday, the Supreme Court of Rwanda sentenced one of the most important Tutsi opposition leaders, PDP party president Deogratias Mushayidi, to life in prison in a controversial verdict for “plotting to overthrow” Kagame’s government, spreading rumors to incite hatred of the government and using forged documents. Supporters say that the trial is merely a tool to silence the opposition.
- President Compaore of Burkina Faso fired his justice minister on Friday and created a cabinet post for human rights in an effort to calm citizens’ anger over abuses by government officials. The justice minister was reportedly fired for ordering the arrest, beating and detention of a man with whom he had a minor traffic dispute.
- A young girl was killed and ten women and children injured when Mali’s air force reportedly bombed a camp for displaced civilians in the north on Wednesday. On Friday, the UN refugee agency appealed for $35.6 million to respond to the growing humanitarian crisis resulting from the renewed fighting in the north between government forces and Tuareg rebels; while President Toure announced he is willing to step down and hold democratic elections in June, denying that he is willing to fight a war against the rebels in return for staying in power. Refugee numbers are rising daily in the bordering countries as the fighting rages between the Malian army and the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad fighting for greater autonomy for the Tuareg. On Sunday, the French Foreign Minister said that Mali must negotiate with separatist Tuareg rebels to end the fighting in its northern desert, during a visit to the country.
- The judge in ousted President Mubarak’s trial in Egypt announced that the verdict will be delivered on June 2nd during Wednesday’s hearing. On Friday, the Muslim Brotherhood announced it will be holding the Interior Ministry responsible for two separate attacks on Islamist politicians over the last couple days, accusing it of ignoring death threats made to its members; while the Muslim Brotherhood also reported claimed in its own newspaper that it had scored an outright majority in the upper house of Parliament ahead of results that would be released on Sunday. On Sunday, a court reportedly adjourned the trial of pro-democracy activists accused of illegally receiving funds from abroad until April; while at least 20 Jordanian nationals were reportedly trapped in the south Sinai, blocked in by Bedouin protesters demanding the release of Sinai prisoners. On Monday, the Supreme Commission for Presidential Elections postponed the meeting to announce the timeline for the upcoming elections until next week.
- Three people were reportedly killed and some 25 injured on Tuesday in clashes between rival tribes in the far southeast of Libya. On Wednesday, a military court ruled that 50 people accused of fighting for Gaddafi and helping a mass jail break by alleged Gaddafi supporters should be freed and tried instead in a civilian court; while two Libyan Mirage fighter jets, which were flown to Malta by defecting pilots last year, headed back home. On Thursday, troops intervened to try and end fighting between rival tribes in the eastern desert where dozens of people had been killed over the previous week. On Friday, clashes flared between rival tribes in the far southeast, injuring several people. On Saturday, Libya and France reportedly agreed to look into boosting maritime security and controlling Libyan borders, as the French Defense Minister met with his Libyan counterpart in Tripoli; militiamen reportedly detained two British journalists working for Iran’s Press TV and are holding them in Tripoli; while authorities urged Libya’s neighbours to hand over Gaddafi supporters who have fled the country, saying bilateral ties could be threatened if they did not cooperate. On Sunday, the government of Niger warned its people that they could be targeted by roving militias if they travel to Libya, as tensions rise between the neighbouring countries over Niger’s refusal to extradite Gaddafi’s son Saadi; while the situation remained tense in the south-eastern town of Kufra, with more than half the population fleeing and the death toll reaching over a 100. On Monday, a powerful militia announced it will not heed a government request to disband because they incentives are not generous enough. On Tuesday, officials announced they will not rule out using force to regain control of the town of Bani Walid after it was recently taken over by forces loyal to Gaddafi.
- The President of Uganda’s Forum for Democratic Change, Kizza Besigye, and a female MP were hospitalized on Tuesday when a political rally was dispersed by police in Kampala. On Wednesday, Besigye reportedly said that the threat of death will not stop him from advocating for political freedom. On Saturday, the Independent (Kampala) reported that President Museveni appears to be losing his grip after 10 of his 15 top ministers either resigned over alleged corruption or face censure by a rebellious parliament that refuses to be either bribed, intimidated or seduced by Museveni. On Monday, IRIN warned of overwhelmed refugee camps in the west of the country, as an influx of refugees fleeing post-election violence and militia activity in the DRC are swarming in. On Tuesday, the Uganda Human Rights Commission released a new report on victims’ views on the right to remedy and reparation.
- The opposition in Senegal claims that it has a permit to march and occupy public places while the Ministry of the Interior continues to call for the deployment of forces to prevent the occupation of strategic places. On Tuesday, hundreds of opposition supporters clashed with security forces in the capital, as EU observers criticized a ban on protests and an African envoy flew in to try and stem the rising violence. On Wednesday, President Wade ignored appeals by former Nigerian leader Obasanjo to withdraw from the presidential race made during a series of meetings with main opposition members. On Thursday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed his hope that this weekend’s Presidential election is peaceful and credibly staged. On Friday, thousands of opposition activists took to the streets to demand President Wade cancel the elections, resulting in at least six deaths. On Saturday, the country was gripped by uncertainty on the eve of the election as more than 450,000 voter cards have yet to be collected by registered voters. On Sunday, former Nigerian President Obasanjo’s mediation attempts suffered a setback as protesters turned down a proposed two-year term for Wade and ordered Obansanjo to leave their country; Senegalese voted across the country, largely without incident, though incumbent President Wade was reportedly heckled by voters as he cast his ballot. IRIN ran an analysis about life under President Wade. On Monday, early results appeared to indicate that Wade had failed to win an outright majority, which would necessitate a runoff. On Tuesday, the campaign spokesman for incumbent Wade said that partial results showed that Wade was well short of an absolute majority.
- The International Criminal Court announced that it would be expanding the scope of its investigation into possible war crimes in Cote d’Ivoire to as far back as 2002 on Thursday; while Human Rights Watch expressed concern over the scheduled end of a national commission of inquiry investigating the post-election violence, citing several failures and rushed work. On Sunday, unidentified armed individuals shot at a convoy from the Independent Electoral Commission as it transported ballot boxes from a central-western town during the legislative by-election, with a second attack occurring hours later, killing at least five people. A new book written by a French journalist challenges the dominant narrative about the killing of several women protesters in Abobo that prompted the French and the UN to intervene following the election crisis in early 2011.
- A self-proclaimed gay activist in Liberia and some of his followers narrowly escaped an angry mob who rushed a local radio and television station to attack him for his pro-gay campaign on Thursday; while members of the Senate launched a probe into allegations of rebel training ongoing in the area near the Liberian-Ivory Coast border. On Tuesday, MPs are expected to consider a bill that would forbid same sex marriage.
- A judge in Tunisia granted the publisher of a daily newspaper a provisional release, postponing his trial over the publishing of a photo of a football player embracing a naked model until March 8th, after the publisher went on a hunger strike. On Thursday, police used tear gas to break up a crowd of around 200 hard-line Salafists allegedly armed with sticks, swords and petrol bombs after they set fire to a police station.
- 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.
- The acting inspector general of police in Nigeria announced on Tuesday that corrupt police forces act on the whims of the highest bigger and that officers carry out extra-judicial killings and torture. On Wednesday, the re-arrested “hatchet man” for Boko Haram allegedly buckled to the interrogation of security agents and listed the sponsors and sources of arms and ammunition of the sect. On Thursday, the federal government tightened security by redeploying 72 of its generals; while at least 118 prisoners were set free by armed men in an attack on a jail south of Abuja. On Friday, the Vice President inaugurated a committee to re-organize the police as part of plans to turn around the corrupt police force. On Saturday, five people were reportedly wounded after an explosive device detonated in Niger State. On Sunday, a bomb blast allegedly targeted a branch of the Christ Embassy Church in Suleja, injuring at least one person; while the police in the FCT, Abuja beefed up security in and around the capital city with new motorized electronic detecting equipment. On Monday, the Joint Task Force in Borno State announced that it killed 8 Boko Haram fighters in a shootout that was preceded by at least 7 explosions, though witnesses say many more people— mostly bystanders— were killed in the shooting.
- The first Presidential elections since the fall of Mubarak are set to be held at the end of May in Egypt according to the state-owned newspaper on Wednesday; while the top US military officer forcefully argued against a cut-off in aid to the country. On Friday, thousands rallied in Port Said in a show of support for residents angry over the football riot this month that killed 74 people, who claim they now live under a de facto siege. On Sunday, the elections commission announced that the Presidential race will begin as of March 10 until April 8, but failed to follow through on a promise to announce the actual date of the elction.
- 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”.
Hello, hope all is well!
The wonderful Peter Dorrie has written this thoughtful guest post on the new SIPRI report on arms deals in Sub-Saharan Africa. Please be sure to check out Peter’s work at:
SIPRI just published a new report on arms deals and weapons flows in sub-saharan Africa (SSA). The report offers little news for those who are familiar with the weapons market in SSA, but this actually makes it only more important. I don’t want to summarize the whole report here (it has a good two page summary included), but discuss some issues in more detail that I think are crucial to the arms transfers debate in Africa.
Transparency of arms transfers
This is a main point of the report and with good reason. The SIPRI is considered the best source on arms transfers and deals which is accessible to the public, but even they can only estimate the amount and types of weapons which flow into SSA each year. The reason for this is simple: neither the delivering countries, nor the recipients have a great interest in making their transfers public.
While the report stresses that some arms transfers are legitimate and actually have the potential to improve the security situation, I think it is safe to say that most arms flows in SSA are ambiguous at best and outright dangerous at worst. The report confirms that it is common for African countries to meddle in each others affairs by delivering arms to the government or rebel groups. Western and Eastern nations frequently use preferential arms deals as a means to gain political favors. And while the total value of the African arms market is little (only 1.5% of the global market), it remains a lucrative business to deliver arms to those places where they are actually used: the 20 or so African states that experienced conflict over the last five years.
The lack of information about arms transfers is also contributing to a lack of knowledge on how exactly fresh arms influence security in volatile regions. This makes targeted political actions close to impossible, if one tries to influence conflicts through providing or limiting arms supply. So from a policy perspective, the most important step would be to have the principle exporters (China, Russia and Ukraine) and ideally the African states sign up to a weapons transfer database. But as even the EU has difficulties providing timely data on arms deals, I have little hope that we will see progress in this quarter soon.
Effectiveness of arms control regimes
Sometimes, the UN security council actually gets its act together and issues an arms embargo against a state or individuals. This is great in theory, but these embargoes (and other arms control regimes) are often beset with so many problems, that one has to ask oneself if they are worth the paper they are written on.
Take the arms embargo against the region of Darfur for example. The SIPRI report details that it had little practical effect, as the government in Khartoum was still allowed to receive arms transfers as long as it guaranteed the sender that these arms would not be used in Darfur. I imagine this looks something like this:
Chinese/Russian/Ukrainian arms dealer: Thanks very much for your order Mr. Bashir. We will be happy to provide you with the AK-74s/MIG bombers/tanks you requested. Just one last formality; We will need some form of guarantee that you won’t be using these weapons in Darfur.
Mr. Bashir: Oh no problem. I’ll give you my word that we will only use these shiny new killing machines when parading around in our baracks and in case Egypt tries to invade us!
Arms dealer: Great! That’s settled then.
The deadliest of all good-will gifts
While a huge motivation for arms transfers is still monetary gain, the SIPRI report also points out to the frequent practice of using preferential arms deals as political gifts. This is common for the main arms exporters (think China’s interest in Sudanese oil) as well as for African states (who frequently support one party of a conflict for ideological/political reasons).
Western powers are not above using arms as a political tool as well. This is showcased by the recent support of the (former) rebels in Libya (though not SSA), as well as by the acceptance of western allies Ethiopia and Kenya arming militias in Somalia in their fight against islamists.
This aspect is probably one of the most worrying issues. The current situation in Syria shows that political patronage (in this case by Russia) can have disastrous effects on the possibility to resolve conflicts. African countries are no strangers to political maneuvering by foreign powers and African elites have repeatedly shown that staying in power through the use of guns is an option they will gladly consider, if it is made available to them.
Especially when it comes to small arms and light weapons (SALW, like AK-74s), decades-old thinking needs to be revised. We finally need a political push – probably on UN level – for a comprehensive treaty on transparency in arms transfers. This would be the first step towards more effective arms control regimes, which could reign in the use of weapons as political gifts.
For this to succeed, western nations would have to push this topic onto the international agenda. It remains to be seen if the recent experiences of the Arab Spring (where western sourced weapons were used to fire on peaceful demonstrators) provide sufficient reason for policy makers to rethink stance on arms exports. Only if the West manages to agree on ethical standarts and tight control of their arms exports, getting others to sign up to such rules will be realistic. For Africa, it would be a good development.
For those of you who want to dive deeper into the details of arms deals in Africa, you can find the main report here and various other reports, detailing the role of South Africa, Ukraine, Israel, Somalia and Zimbabwe here. If you can read German, you can find an interesting article on the German weapons company Heckler&Koch and its shady business here.
- 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 International Criminal Court (ICC) ordered four prominent figures in Kenya, including two potential Presidential candidates, to stand trial for allegedly orchestrating violence that killed more than 1,000 people after the disputed 2007 Presidential elections. The government announced that the deputy PM and civil service head that are to stand trial will not have to resign from their positions, though both resigned from their posts on Thursday. On Friday, the UN refugee agency announced new strategies to ensure uninterrupted assistance and services in its largest complex in Kenya, including training and mentoring of refugees; the electoral commission announced that it will switch to an electronic register of voters to help curb ballot-rigging; militias in the north clashed over grazing rights, killing at least 21 people; and police blamed Ethiopian rebel movements for clashes that killed some seven people. On Monday, a Kenyan court charged a former Muslim preacher with possessing guns and hand grenades and preparing to commit a felony, which family members allege were falsely planted by police.
- 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.
- Human Rights organization Amnesty International has urged Senegal to respect the freedom of expression and assembly in the run-up to February’s Presidential elections, after authorities forbid demonstrations between January 26th and 30th. The opposition is contesting a key Constitutional Council decision that would allow outgoing President Wade to stand for a third term in elections. Street protests spread through towns across the country for several days, with some protesters clashing with police. On Sunday, the high court confirmed its approval of President Wade’s bid to seek a third term and called a series of appeals against the ruling “unfounded”. Riots and peaceful protests ensued; while the EU election observer mission urged the top legal body in the country to publicly explain why it had accepted some Presidential bids and rejected others. On Monday, the opposition readied itself for mass resistance, saying that the “time for talking is over”; while reports that police shot and killed two people during recent protests, including a 60-year-old woman and a teenage boy.
- Talks to end an ongoing civil servant strike in Zimbabwe collapsed on Wednesday, forcing the strike to continue. On Thursday, a report about the possibility of the country using Chinese Yuan as its official currency was discussed; while PM Tsvangirai has allegedly all but given up on the implementation of the Global Political Agreement.
- On Thursday, National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (NMLA) rebels in Mali opened 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.
- On Sunday, Hosni Mubarak’s lawyer asserted that he is still the President of Egypt as he never signed a resignation letter. On Monday, the parliament began its first session following the overthrow of Mubarak with a moment of silence for those killed in the uprising and voted to appoint a top Muslim Brotherhood politician as the new assembly speaker. On Tuesday, the military ruler decreed a partial lifting of the nation’s hated emergency laws, in an apparent attempt to ease criticism of his policies. On Wednesday, hundreds of thousands peacefully gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to commemorate the first anniversary of the revolution that toppled Mubarak and to demonstrate against the military hijacking the revolution. Many continued to camp out in the Square on Thursday, with some vowing to stay until the army leaves. On Friday, tens of thousands rallied across the capital to mark the anniversary of the “Friday of Rage”, now being called the “Friday of Pride and Dignity”, meeting briefly in a tense stand-off with military supporters in front of the ministry of defence building. On Sunday, hundreds of protesters clashed with a group of men in civilian clothes, with some three injuries outside the state television building; the first stage of elections for the upper house of Parliament began; while Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said it had ended a contract with three Washington lobbying firms in an effort to cut expenses, denying reports that the Americans were the ones to sever the contract. On Monday, three Americans barred by authorities from leaving Egypt sought refuge at the US embassy in Cairo, raising tensions between the two states.
- Joseph Kabila’s ruling party lost seats to rivals but kept the largest block in the Parliament of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to partial results released on Friday.
- 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 Angola defended 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.
- On Sunday, explosions struck two churches in northern Nigeria, destroying one of them completely. On Tuesday, explosions and gunfire were reportedly heard from an area near a police station in Kano; a night time curfew is in effect in the region. On Wednesday, renewed explosions and gunfire were heard in two neighbourhoods of Kano; with security agencies reportedly arrested 158 suspected members of Boko Haram in pre-dawn raids; while the President forced the chief of police into early retirement and fired six of his deputies following last week’s wave of attacks that killed 185 people. On Thursday, a 45-minute audio tape of the purported leader of Boko Haram was posted on the Internet, where he threatened to kill more security personnel, kidnap their families and accused the US President Obama of waging war on Islam. On Friday, a gun battle ensued for more than an hour after suspected Boko Haram militants reportedly attacked a police station, killing at least one officer; while the Supreme Court ruled to remove five powerful state governors from office because their tenures should have expired last year. On Saturday, the army reportedly killed 11 suspected Boko Haram insurgents in a gun battle at a checkpoint in Maiduguri. Boko Haram rejected the possibility of dialogue with the Nigerian government on Sunday until they agreed to adopt a Sharia legal system, instead threatening fresh attacks; while gunmen bombed a police station outside Kano, leading to an hour of gun battles. On Monday, a close aide to the former military ruler Sani Abacha was sentenced to death by hanging for killing the wife of politician Moshood Abiola in 1996.
- Two journalists imprisoned for insulting President Paul Kagame in Rwanda and denying genocide were scheduled to appear before the Supreme Court on Monday to argue their case.
Hello, hope all is well!
This week’s conflict reports will be a little thinner than usual, as I have been feeling a bit under the weather the last couple days and haven’t been reading as extensively as normal. Please be sure to add anything I have missed in the comments below or send via email to email@example.com.
- The New Yorker published an article on the 10 biggest positive Africa stories of 2011, while the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Food Programme and British Charity Oxfam warned that failed harvest and low food reserves in the Sahel, West Africa could result in a severe food crisis for millions in Chad, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, and Mali in early 2012.
- On Wednesday, a military court in Egypt sentenced a blogger who criticised the army to two years in prison for “insulting the military”, after he went on a hunger strike to protest an initial three-year sentence; while Egyptians turned out in large numbers for the second round of Parliamentary elections. Some five people were injured in a gunfight in the central province amid scattered reports of problems at voting sites. On Friday, demonstrators and soldiers clashed outside the cabinet’s offices following a weeks-long sit-in, resulting in the injuries of at least 50 people. On Monday, the UN human rights chief strongly condemned the “brutal suppression” of demonstrators by the military and security forces, after more than 11 were reportedly killed and more than 500 injured, including disturbing images of soldiers beating and dragging young women, on the weekend; while the ruling military council claimed to have uncovered a plot to burn down Parliament and defending the use of force against protesters. On Tuesday, hundreds of women took to the streets in Cairo to protest against the military rule and its brutal treatment of female protesters; while four people reportedly died as police and soldiers tried to disperse protesters in Tahrir Square.
- The International Crisis Group released a new report on the situation in the Cote d’Ivoire, citing concerns over the fragility of the country, and the implications of the recent transfer of former President Gbagbo to The Hague for war crimes. On Wednesday, international justice experts urged the ICC and national authorities to follow up on pledges to investigate both sides of the election crisis. On Friday, the electoral commission announced that President Ouattara’s ruling coalition won 80% of the seats in the parliamentary elections, with a total turnout of 36%. On Sunday, deadly clashes between government forces and residents angry at the killing of a local man at a roadblock the day before in the west of the country killed at least six people.
- Al-Shabaab have reportedly blocked two International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) convoys carrying emergency food aid for drought victims in Somalia on Thursday, instead loading the food into their warehouses, amid fears that the ICRC would join a long list of international groups barred from operating inside the rebel-controlled areas of the country. On Sunday, a veteran Somali journalist, A/salan Sheik Hassan, was shot dead by gunmen dressed in government military uniforms in Mogadishu. On Tuesday, AMISOM, the African Union Mission in Somalia received the first Djiboutian soldiers to join their mission, and are expecting nine hundred additional troops in upcoming weeks.
- On Tuesday, a curfew was imposed upon two regions in Tunisia in the wake of violent clashes between residents in the two areas. On Wednesday, the new President called upon a six-month political and social truce, with no sit-ins or strikes, to sort out the country’s economic problems, while appointing Hamadi Jebali as PM and vowing to resign “if things don’t get better in six months” in an unprecedented live interview in the Presidential palace. On Thursday, Tunisia reopened its two border crossings with Libya after a two-week closure over clashes between Libyan militias and Tunisian security forces. On Saturday, tens of thousands packed the provincial town square of Sidi Bouzid to celebrate the anniversary of the revolution in the place where it began. On Monday, the President called upon the country’s Jewish population to return, following calls from Israeli deputy PM Shalom’s calls for remaining Jews to emigrate to Israel.
- On Tuesday, the UN Security Council expanded the mandate of their peacekeeping force in the contested Abyei region that is claimed by both South Sudan and Sudan to include assisting the two parties to abide by and implement their agreements of demilitarization of the area. The ICC prosecutor announced that a group of senior Sudanese officials indicted by the court, including the President continue to commit genocide in the west of the country on Thursday; while the UN predicted that around 2.7 million people in South Sudan would require food aid next year because of crop failures and violence. On Friday, the head of the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan welcomed an appeal by the country’s VP to refrain from violence in Jonglei state and immediately engage in talks on reconciliation and peaceful coexistence. On Monday, Amnesty International called upon the UN to provide a secure environment for those displaced by conflict in Abyei; the South Sudanese VP announced that rebel chief George Athor was killed in a clash with soldiers; Sudanese authorities took a leading member of the Popular Congress Party (PCP) into custody, following his return from a trip abroad; and a former Janhaweed leader called for military action to protect the implementation of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, accusing the holdout rebel groups of preparing a series of attacks in the region.
- A Dutch journalist tells of the difficulty encountered trying to research the story of a young girl allegedly shot by the police in the Democratic Republic of the Congo following the elections. Around 1.4 million deaf persons in the country are angry over a ban on texting that they say threatens their lives because they can no longer receive warning about violence. On Wednesday, a group of journalists were arrested by security agents accused of resuming operations at their radio station without the authorization of the local administrator. On Thursday, the Supreme Court began hearing the suit for the annulment of the Presidential elections lodged by opposition candidate Vital Kamerhe based upon the numerous irregularities during the November 28th poll, rejecting all preliminary objections, a move that opposition lawyers are calling a “parody of justice”; while opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi’s party called upon mass protests amid growing crackdowns on demonstrations. On Friday, the Supreme Court declared that incumbent Joseph Kabila was the winner of Presidential polls and rejected the calls for its annulment. On Sunday, opposition leader Tshisekedi urged the armed forces to obey him and offered a “great prize” to anyone who captured incumbent Joseph Kabila. On Monday, Amnesty International called upon the security forces in the country to halt politically motivated arrests. On Tuesday, Joseph Kabila was officially sworn in for his term as President, with Tshisekedi announcing he would hold his own swearing-in ceremony on Friday.
- An agricultural official in Swaziland has warned that archaic agricultural practices and erratic rainfall in the recent planting period is expected to lead to an increase in food insecurity for most of the population in 2012. The official suspected that the majority of the population will be reliant upon food assistance in the upcoming year.
- On Monday, the ICC referred Malawi to the UN Security Council for its alleged failure to arrest Sudanese President al-Bashir while he attended a conference in the country in October. On Wednesday, the government threatened to withdraw itself from the Rome Statute (the treaty regulating the ICC). Malawi alleges it is being singled out, as other countries that Bashir has visited in the past have not been targeted.
- A rights group and community leader in Kenya is alleging that members of the Samburu people were abused, beaten and raped by police after the land they lived on for decades was sold to two American-based wildlife charities. On Wednesday, a human rights official was asked by the government to resign for allegedly violating the constitution for calling President Kibaki’s rule an “unacceptable institutionalisation of ethnicity”. On Monday, an explosion, suspected to have been planted by Somali militants near the world’s largest refugee camp, killed at least one policeman and wounded two others. On Tuesday, hundreds of IDPs camped outside a district commissioner’s office, demanding resettlement before Christmas; while the Court of Appeal declined to issue a temporary suspension on the arrest warrant against Sudanese President al Bashir.
- On Friday, MPs in Uganda fought against what they called a “dubious deal” to give away police barracks land in Kampala under the guise of providing decent accommodation for the police force. The opposition claims that the government wants to distribute the land to private developers without a proper bidding process, who will, in return, build new houses for police officers in another area outside the city.
- Theoneste Bagosoro, seen as a key organizer of the genocide in Rwanda had his sentenced reduced from life to 35 years on Wednesday, while another convicted man, Anatole Nsengiyumva, had his sentenced reduced and will be released because of time served. On Friday, the Supreme Court of Kigali rejected a request to grant bail to opposition leader Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, due to the severity of her, which includes charges of terrorism and genocide denial; while the ICC judges dismissed charges of involvement in the murder, rape and torture of Congolese villagers against Rwandan rebel Callixte Mbarushimana, citing lack of evidence. On Tuesday, former FDRL members undergoing demobilization and reintegration programs called upon their colleagues still harbouring thoughts of overthrowing the government to return home.
- All foreign fishing boats operating in the waters of Morocco have been ordered to leave immediately following an EU decision to not extend a deal to pay for access to Moroccan fish stocks. The MEPs said that there was not enough evidence to show the deal would benefit those who live in the disputed Western Sahara region. On Monday, the Islamist group seen as the main opposing force to the monarchy suspended its involvement in the Arab Spring opposition protest movement.
- On Wednesday, the UN Security Council extended the mandate of a panel of experts monitoring the compliance of sanctions imposed on Liberia in connection with the civil war for another 12 months. The Panel was appointed in 2007 to renew investigations as to whether Charles Taylor still had access to his assets in the country. On Monday, the spokesman for the opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) announced that the CDC party will disrupt the pending inauguration of newly re-elected President Johnson-Sirleaf and her VP if their party’s demands are not met.
- The US Special Forces have set up a base in the Central African Republic (CAR) in their hunt for the Lord’s Resistance Army. The base has been set up in Obo and is expected to coordinate with local government forces and Ugandan soldiers.
- Local elders in a city south of the capital of Libya were able to agree to a ceasefire to end local violence after at least four people were killed in clashes on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Gaddafi’s daughter asked the ICC prosecutor whether an investigation has been launched into the killing of her father and brother, which ICC prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo then suggested might be considered a war crime. On Friday, the UN Security Council lifted its sanctions on the Libyan central bank, freeing more than $40 billion to help the government rebuild, while the US unblocked more than $30 billion in assets that it had frozen and the UK unblocked about $10 billion held in Britain. On Monday, the Defence Minister announced that it will take weeks to rid the streets of the militias that ousted Gaddafi, and months to form an army fit to take their place, causing a rift with others in the interim leadership who have repeatedly called upon militias to leave the capital by the end of the month; while Russia’s UN envoy demanded a thorough investigation into the civilians killed during NATO air strikes during its operations that led to the ousting of Gaddafi; and a Libyan military commander began legal action against the UK government for what he claims was its complicity in his illegal rendition and torture to Tripoli. On Tuesday, a three-member panel charged with probing human rights violation during the conflict announced it was encouraged by the government’s commitment and initial steps to address abuses that occurred.
- According to officials, legislative elections in Guinea initially set for December 29th have been indefinitely postponed to meet opposition demands for a role in planning the polls to prevent fraud. The Independent National Electoral Commission has also suspended its activities for two weeks upon opposition demands.
- The anti-corruption investigator in South Africa has resigned after only a month in the position after becoming entangled in a row involving ex-President Mbeki. The investigator accused Mr. Mbeki of initiating rape and corruption charges against President Zuma while he was in power. On Friday, President Zuma urged all South Africans to put their differences aside at Reconciliation Day celebrations.
- ZANU PF hardliners in Zimbabwe are reportedly pushing for a cabinet reshuffle that would see the ouster of the current Finance Minister for allegedly sabotaging agrarian reforms, the economic indigenization drive and the constitutional review programme through his control of the public purse, amid rumours that ZANU PF wanted to get out of the coalition government and force an election without the full implementation of reforms.
- On Friday, gunmen attacked a military-run secondary school in northern Nigeria, killing four people and injuring two others. On the weekend, three policemen and four Boko Haram members were killed in a bloody clash that also saw the arrest of 14 Boko Haram members in Kano state. On Monday, four people, including a police officer were injured after a bomb exploded in an illegal armoury factory in Kaduna.
- 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.
- The London based International Institute for Environment and Development released a policy paper on Thursday that warned of an alarming number of African governments that seem to be signing away water rights in their countries for decades, with major implications for local communities.
- A new study in the British Medical Journal details the true cost of the medical brain drain, the money benefited from wealthy Western countries poaching African trained doctors. Canada, Britain, Australia and the US are said to have saved more than $4.5 billion (USD) in education costs by recruiting doctors from nine African countries, while the nine source countries have lost nearly $2.2 billion as a result of the medical migration.
- Two French citizens were reportedly abducted from a hotel in northern Mali by gunmen early Thursday. Few details have yet emerged, as this is the first kidnapping of westerners in Mali that has occurred south of the Niger River, far from the al-Qaida region in the north. On Saturday, gunmen killed a German man in Timbuktu and captured another three men from the Netherlands, South Africa and Sweden.
- At least 22 anti-junta demonstrators were reportedly killed by security force’s live bullets from Saturday to Wednesday in Egypt as pro-democracy protesters clashed with police. On Thursday, the ruling junta announced that elections would start as scheduled on Monday, despite widespread protests and calls for postponement; while three American students, who were arrested, accused of throwing petrol bombs were released from police custody. Journalist Mona Eltahawy reported she had been arrested, beaten and sexually assaulted by security forces in Cairo, and several other journalists are said to have been targeted for arrest or abuse. On Friday, Egypt’s military apologized for the deaths of demonstrators and vowed to bring justice to those responsible, while tens of thousands of demonstrators filled Tahrir Square demanding the military rulers step down and calling on the new PM to leave office. Saboteurs also blew up a gas pipeline in the northern Sinai province on Friday and another pipeline again on Monday. On Saturday, the killing of an unarmed demonstrator by the police resulted in an outpouring of anger. On Sunday, activists prepared for another massive protest in Tahrir Square to demand an immediate end to military rule a day ahead of parliamentary polls while the army chief said he will not let “troublemakers” meddle in the elections and warned of “extremely grave” consequences if the crisis was not overcome. On Monday, Egyptians came out to vote in record numbers, with polls kept open two hours past their scheduled closing to allow the long queues of people a chance to vote. Some irregularities were reported.
- President Mugabe of Zimbabwe announced on Wednesday that homosexuals and lesbians will be punished severely for their behaviour which is “inconsistent with African and Christian values”. PM Tsvangirai’s office expressed their discontent on Friday over the awarding of the country’s first independent radio licences to two companies aligned with President Mugabe, calling the situation a “farce”.
- The Air Force and Navy in Kenya have reportedly blockaded the port of Kismayu, effectively cutting off al-Shabaab’s main source of revenue in an effort to stop the incursions of the militants into Kenya from southern Somalia. On Thursday, Kenyan warplanes reportedly destroyed two insurgent bases in Somalia, while two grenade attacks in the east killed some three people and injured 27, and a bomb attack killed a soldier and wounded four others near the Somali border. Ethiopia has said it will contribute troops to the AU force in Somalia fighting al-Qaeda affiliated insurgents, joining the Kenyan troops who crossed the border last month, though by Saturday hundreds of Ethiopian troops with tanks and artillery were reported to have reached central Somalia. The al-Shabaab insurgent group warned Ethiopia that it would suffer heavy losses if it embarks on any new military intervention in Somalia. On Friday night, Kenyan security forces reportedly foiled an attack by suspected militants in Mandera, and arrested five men suspected of being members of al Shabaab. On Saturday, the Kenyan navy arrested four more suspected al-Shabaab members in Lamu. On Monday, Human Rights Watch called on the Kenyan police and military to stop using illegal mass round-ups and beatings as a substitute for proper police investigative work.
- On Sunday, al-Shabaab beheaded two youths in Southern Somalia for allegedly spying for the Transitional Federal Government and Kenya Defence Forces; while three people were wounded in a suspected bomb blast inside the main hospital in the Mogadishu. Al-Shabaab ordered 16 more aid agencies to shut down operations within the country on Monday, accusing the aid workers of being spies.
- Rebel groups in the eastern regions of the DR Congo are reportedly reforming, recruiting new members and possibly rearming just ahead of the upcoming elections . On Wednesday, police announced that gunmen shot dead an opposition lawmaker in Kinshasa. On Thursday, Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka, a national assembly candidate wanted for crimes against humanity and charged with organizing the mass rape of some 387 people, held a large campaign rally in North Kivu province in full view of police, the army and just 3 km from the UN peacekeeping base. Former rebel leader Bemba urged the opposition to unite behind a single candidate against incumbent President Kabila in upcoming elections from his jail cell. Victory is expected for Kabila, with many analysts predicting a violent backlash should he win. On Saturday, police banned campaign rallies to stop rising levels of violence that killed at least one man near the airport in Kinshasa. On Sunday, police blocked the main opposition candidate at an airport in Kinshasa to stop him from staging an election rally and escorted him to his residence. On Monday, Congolese took to the polls amid numerous problems with delivery of materials, intimidation, violence, fraud and corruption; though UN officials reported that they were satisfied with the relatively orderly and peaceful way the voting had been conducted in Kinshasa. (Other stories of violence, and attacks during the vote, the implications the vote could have, and some really good bloggers who write about the Congo). On Tuesday, four opposition candidates said that fraud and violence was so widespread that the vote should be cancelled, while some voting was still ongoing in some areas. At least 8 people were killed in violence linked to the elections on Monday.
- A new Protection of State Information Bill in South Africa tabled by the ruling ANC and passed through Parliament on Tuesday is concerning to many who suggest it is a move back towards the harsh censorship that existed under apartheid. The bill bans the publication of classified documents and allows the government to class almost any category of information as secret.
- On Thursday, Libya’s new transitional government was sworn in before the country’s interim leader. The Prime Minister said the government’s first task is to formulate plans to build state institutions. A report by the UN alleges that thousands of people, including women and children, are being illegally detained by rebel militias and many are suffering torture and systematic mistreatment. Dozens of Amazighs or Berbers protested in Tripoli on Friday for being shut out of the new government, demanding that their language and rights be recognized; while the ICC’s chief prosecutor announced that Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam could be tried under the ICC within Libya. The head of Libya’s interim ruling council thanked Sudan for weapons and ammunition sent through Egypt that helped the rebels oust Gaddafi during a visit to Khartoum. On Saturday, around 100 Libyans surrounded a Tunisian passenger aircraft at an airport, delaying its takeoff in a protest at the government; about 100 Libyan women took to the streets in Tripoli in a silent march to demand more support from the new government for victims of rape during the war; and several tribal leaders met in the hope of easing tensions between clans. On Sunday, hundreds of minority Amazigh Berbers warned of a campaign against the new government and demanded an apology from the premier for excluding their community from his cabinet.
- The UNHCR voiced concern on Friday that an estimated 76,000 people from Sudan have fled to Ethiopia and South Sudan since August. A Kenyan court issued an official arrest warrant for Sudanese President al-Bashir on Monday, after allowing him into the country in August of 2010 without arrest despite being a party to the ICC, who have indicted Bashir for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Sudan responded by ordering the expulsion of the Kenyan ambassador from their country. On Monday, Khartoum announced it would be halting oil exports from South Sudan due to ongoing negotiations over transit fees, estimating that the South owed them around $727 million in arrears for the last 6 months. A Sudanese court sentenced seven people to death on Monday, accused of being members of the most powerful rebel group in the Darfur region, Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). The UN/AU joint special representative for Darfur expressed concern on Monday about the formation of a new rebel alliance, calling itself the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) that is threatening prospects for peace in Sudan.
- ECOWAS pulled plans to send an observer mission on Wednesday to the Gambia after its fact-finding mission deemed preparations to “not be conducive for the conduct of free, fair and transparent polls”. On Thursday, incumbent President Yahya Jammeh, who has been in power for 17 years, was elected to a new five-year term with a landslide 72% victory amid reports of intimidation and corruption.
- A new rebel movement calling itself the Force for the Restoration of Democracy (FRD) announced its creation in Burundi on a local private radio station on Friday. The group says its mission is to take up arms and topple the government. On Monday, gunmen killed a Croatian nun and an Italian doctor working in a psychiatric clinic in the north in the first attack on foreign aid workers since 2007.
- Religious violence in central Nigeria reportedly killed several people on Thursday, and resulted in the military imposing a 24-hour curfew in one region. The violence was said to have stemmed from Christian and Muslim gangs fighting over ownership of cattle and fertile farmland. Boko Haram claimed responsibility on Friday for a series of bomb attacks in the northern part of the country and declared that it would next target offices of political parties nationwide. On Saturday, gunmen suspected to be members of Boko Haram bombed a police station, a bank and a beer parlour. Leader of the Biafra secession, Odumegwu Ojukwu died in hospital at 78 reportedly of natural causes. On Tuesday, the Senate passed a bill prohibiting same-sex marriage, proscribing 10 years in jail for offenders.
- Morocco had its first parliamentary election since the king introduced constitutional reforms approved in a July 1st referendum. Voter turnout was first reported at around 34%, but later at 45.4% and resulted in the country’s moderate Islamists winning the most seats.
- Tunisia was under an overnight curfew on Thursday following riots over jobs in the Gafsa region on Wednesday night. On Monday, some 40 Islamists demanding segregated lessons and full-face veils for women students besieged a university building near the capital and held students and professors hostage.
- Three journalists in Cote d’Ivoire from the daily newspaper Notre Voie, known to be favorable to former President Gbagbo, were taken into police custody on suspicion of insulting the head of state and harming the national economy. Press freedom remains a serious concern seven months since President Ouattara came into power. On Tuesday, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for ex-President Laurent Gbagbo who is being held in the north of the country, a year after the problematic elections that led to a short civil war.
Hello, hope all is well!
For some reason, my blog functions have changed and there seems to be a bit of a glitch when adding up links. I’m just getting over malaria (again!), am having very sporadic internet lately, and am extremely frustrated trying to reinsert them all manually, so I’m just going to leave it as is for today. There is a version of the same post with all the included links posted here. Hopefully, I will get this glitch figured out before tomorrow’s post.
• More than 500 international NGOs delivered a petition to the G20’s agricultural ministers during a two-day meeting in Paris calling for a halt to land grabbing in Africa under the guise of “responsible agricultural investment”. Land occupied by peasants, pastoralists, herders, etc. are being converted into massive agribusiness operations by private investors who want to produce food supplies or agro-fuels for international markets.
• Two videos were released in Zimbabwe depicting the ruling ZANU PF party using physical and psychological violence to intimidate people in rural areas. Despite denials over the years that they do not use violence as a political tool, MP Edward Raradza is shown doing exactly that in the footage. A row broke out this week over reports that Zimbabwe had been approved by the Congolese representative chair in the Kimberley Process (KP) to sell diamonds from its rich Marange mines, without the consensus required by the KP. On Thursday, a top general said PM Tsvangirai was a security threat fronting Western interests, justifying military involvement in politics. On Friday, police arrested Tsvangirai ally and government minister, Jameson Timba, on charges of undermining President Mugabe’s authority, after he reportedly told reporters that Mugabe had lied about a regional summit on Zimbabwe, as it is a criminal offense to insult the President in the country. By Sunday, the Harare High Court had ordered his release during a special hearing, calling it a “violation of his rights”, as he “was not informed of the charges he was facing”.
• The Somali Transitional Federal Government announced that it is not in favour of having specialized courts in other countries for trying Somali piracy suspects, and prefers that such a court be established in Somalia. There are currently more than 1,000 suspected pirates in detention in 20 countries. On Thursday, acting PM Abdiweli Mohamed Ali was appointed as the new full time PM by the President, following the ousting of the former PM last week; while an unidentified aircraft attacked an insurgent base in southern Somalia, wounding a number of al- Shabaab fighters. It was not immediately clear who was behind the strike, but US aircraft have attacked in previous years.
• At least 10 people were killed and several wounded on Saturday in northeast Kenya following clashes over control of grazing land and water sources. The area is drought-afflicted and has been plagued with frequent clashes over resources in the past few years. The UNHCR expressed concern about a dramatic rise in new refugee arrivals from Somalia over the last couple weeks into northern Kenya that topped 20,000 people.
• Boko Haram was accused of another attack at a bank and a police station in Katsina state, Nigeria on Monday. Five policemen and one civilian were reportedly killed after 12 suspects stormed the bank premises with explosives, and then forced their way into the police station to release detainees. On Sunday, three separate bomb explosions thought to have been perpetrated by Boko Haram were reported to have killed at least 25 and wounded many others in the northeast. A new report discussed the requirement of DNA testing as part of a $75 million Pfizer compensation settlement in Kano State, where Pfizer’s drug tests killed 11 children and left several more permanently injured in 1996. Many of the victims do not understand what DNA testing is, and fear it is another attempt by the company to use them in a drug trial, resulting in them abandoning their compensation claims.
• On Tuesday, NATO reported it had lost contact with one of its unmanned helicopters over Libya but denied a Libyan state television report that said one of its attack helicopters had gone down; a senior rebel leader arrived in China to discuss options for resolution of the crisis; and the Libyan government reported that 19 civilians were killed in a NATO air strike on the home of one of Gaddafi’s top officials. On Thursday, the NATO chief slapped down a call from Italy for a suspension of hostilities and tried to reassure wavering members that Gaddafi can be beaten; while the UK announced that their military operations in Libya have cost around $420 million. On Friday, American lawmakers in the House of Representatives rejected a resolution that would grant congressional consent for American involvement in Libya for a year, and then participated in a vote to prevent the US military from participating in strike missions, that was ultimately defeated. Also on Friday, Gaddafi released dozens of rebel supporters, allowing them to sail back to Benghazi, and 110 Tripoli residents trapped in the east would return to the capital, in a move that could mark the beginning of broader talks; nineteen police and army officers arrived as refugees in Tunisia; and a top US admiral confirmed that NATO forces are trying to kill Gaddafi, and that the need for ground troops after the leader falls is anticipated. On Saturday, NATO announced its missiles had hit a site used to stockpile military supplies and vehicles near Brega while Libyan state media said 15 civilians had been killed in the attacks; two explosions were reportedly heard in Tripoli as jets flew over the city; and four members of the Libyan national soccer team, alongside 13 other football figures, have defected to the rebel side. On Sunday, rebels engaged in fierce firefights with government forces as the front line moved to about 80 km south-west of Tripoli; the AU announced that Gaddafi had agreed to stay out of negotiations to end the conflict; and the Libyan government renewed its offer to hold a vote on whether Gaddafi should stay in power. On Monday, the ICC issued a warrant calling for the arrest of Gaddafi and his son Saif al-Islam to stand trial on charges of torturing and killing civilians.
• The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) called upon Mozambique to stop deporting Somali and Ethiopian asylum-seekers this week, after the government had deported some 59 Somalis and 34 Ethiopians to Tanzania. The UNHCR also reported that some asylum seekers had faced brutality by police or border officials, with some being stripped of clothing and belongings and left at deserted islands along the border.
• The ruling ANC party in South Africa is watering down proposed secrecy laws that proposed mandatory jail terms for possessing or publishing “secret” information of the government. The revision calls for a narrowing of the definitions of what could be classified, after opponents of the bill argued it would let bent official hide misdemeanours by making sensitive information difficult to obtain and by threatening journalists or whistleblowers with up to 25 years in jail.
• At least 170 people were reportedly raped in a mass attack in Fizi, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by ex-rebels who recently deserted the army. Troops from the same group were recently convicted of raping at least 50 women in the same area on New Year’s Day. A report by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting found that many widows in the DRC are being deprived of their legal right to inherit property from their late husbands, while the land and assets are being transferred to the family of the late husband instead, leaving many in a desperate state.
• Alleged improvements in security in Chad in recent months have allowed many IDPs to return home, though some fragile conditions in the east, limited presence of local authorities, and lack of basic social services in some areas are hampering some of the effort. The Chadian government is reportedly taking steps to create the necessary conditions for return, local integration or settlement elsewhere in the country, with the intent of ending internal displacement by December 2011.
• Riot police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse several hundred anti-government demonstrators in Dakar, Senegal on Thursday, who were protesting against the President’s attempt to change the constitution to reduce the minimum percentage of votes required to win the Presidency in the first round of elections to 25% (from over 50%). By the afternoon, President Wade had backed down, and completely withdrew the proposed bill, but protesters continued to clash with police over remaining clauses, such as the establishment of the position of vice president, that had yet to be withdrawn. By Friday, reports were coming out that suggested rivals and critics of President Wade were set to intensify their campaign to block him from standing in next year’s election, seeing as he has already served two terms as President. Constitutional changes in 2001, following his assent to power in 2000, made it so that Wade’s first term didn’t count, making him eligible to run again in 2012.
• On Thursday, ICC prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo said that forces loyal to ousted leader Gbagbo in Cote d’Ivoire, as well as those backing current President Ouattara, committed war crimes in the post-election violence where at least 3,000 were killed and 520 arbitrarily detained. The UN announced that the former rebels loyal to Ouattara were still committing abuses such as arbitrary executions and torture, killing at least 8 people in the past week. Despite the alleged abuses, not a single Ouattara soldier has yet been arrested or detained for any crimes, even though the President has called for impartial justice.
• A former women’s minister in Rwanda became the first woman ever to be convicted of genocide this week and has been sentenced to life in prison for her role in the genocide and rape of Tutsi women and girls, after a 10 year trial. Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, her son and four other former officials were all found guilty. On Wednesday, officials detained six individuals suspected of being used by an exiled General as a conduit to finance activities intended to destabilise the country. By Thursday, President Kagame said that the country was not under any security threat and that they were ready to intercept any attempts to cause instability.
• South Africa has told Swaziland it will only agree to a financial bailout if Swaziland ends its monarchy, the last in Africa. South Africa insists on the unbanning of political parties and the formation of a transition government which will lead the country to democratic elections before it will offer any bailout.
• It was announced on Saturday that Tanzania will present a new constitution in 2014, a year before its next parliamentary and presidential elections, amid opposition pressure for reform following last October’s election that were marred by accusations of rigging. The opposition is demanding a limit to presidential powers, the introduction of electoral reforms, allowing independent candidates to stand for parliament or president, to change the law to allow presidential results to be challenged in court, and the formation of an independent electoral commission.
• Conflict in the Nuba Mountains and Abyei region of Sudan are said to be spiralling into a full-blown major humanitarian emergency, as more than 113,000 have been displaced from their homes and are in desperate need of food, shelter and healthcare. On Tuesday, a new UN report said that children in South Sudan are more likely to die before the age of five than complete a basic education. On Thursday, the US submitted a draft resolution to the UN Security Council that would authorize the deployment of 4,200 Ethiopian troops to Abyei. On Sunday, a train carrying southern Sudanese migrants was attacked in Southern Kordofan state, killing at least one person.
• On Friday, a joint force of soldiers from Mauritania and Mali clashed with al-Qaeda’s African wing in western Mali. On Saturday, it was announced that an al-Qaeda training camp was “completely destroyed”, after “terrorists” struck back with “heavy arms”. Some 17 people were killed in the attack and nine captured by the Malian army.
• On Friday, Tunisia became the first North African state to join the International Criminal Court (ICC), by signing the Rome Statute. Tunisia is the 116th nation to sign the Statute and will become party to the treaty on September 1st.
• On Thursday, a court in Egypt sentenced a businessman and two Israelis tried in absentia to life in prison for spying for Israel. On Friday, a demonstration by Mubarak supporters turned violent after angry onlookers began reportedly clashing with the protesters in central Cairo, causing at least 20 injuries. On Saturday, the former Trade Minister Rachid was sentenced in absentia to five years in prison for embezzling public fund; while the new government dropped plans to seek loans from the IMF and World Bank amid popular distrust for the organizations. On Sunday, families of those killed and injured in anti-Mubarak protests hurled stones at police vehicles outside the court where the former interior minister was being tried.
• Thousands took to the streets in rival demonstrations throughout Morocco on Sunday over constitutional reforms proposed by King Mohammed. Only minor injuries were reported as some of the rival protesters hurled stones at each other.
This Week in Conflict is now being divided up!
Here is the new schedule:
This Week in the World of Conflict – posted on Mondays
This Week in African Conflict- posted on Tuesdays
This Week in Asian Conflict – posted on Wednesdays (includes Oceania and Australia)
This Week in Conflict in the Americas – posted on Thursdays
This Week in Middle Eastern Conflict – posted on Fridays
This Week in European Conflict – posted on Saturdays
Please submit any reports or stories of conflict around the world to firstname.lastname@example.org or write in the comments below. Here’s a summary of what happened this week in Africa:
- Different pro-Gbagbo factions continue to support the ousted President of Cote d’Ivoire from a position of exile, including Simone Gbagbo’s daughter, who has hired a legal team to defend what she calls the “illegal detainment” of her parents; and Charles Ble Goude, the “Street General”, long thought dead has now resurfaced and is pledging to play a role in future politics within the country. On Thursday, the new Ivorian government announced the creation of a national investigation commission on the crimes perpetrated during the post-election crisis, that in theory would punish all no matter which side of the conflict they were from, though Human Rights Watch has pointed out that no one from Ouattara’s camp has yet been arrested or investigated and that justice appears one-sided and delayed. The top UN human rights official expressed concern over acts of violence allegedly carried out by members of the new army, the FRCI, including reports of summary executions, rape and torture. On Friday, a huge cache of arms and ammunition was reportedly uncovered in Liberia near the Ivorian border, including RPGs, machine guns and assault rifles, while the mercenary commander known as “Bob Marley”, who is said to have ordered the killing of civilians in Cote d’Ivoire was in custody. Also on Friday, the ICC gave victims of post-election violence 30 days to submit testimony to the chief prosecutor, which personally, I think is far too short, especially considering the number of people still in hiding in the bush or displaced and unable to access media that would let them even know of the deadline. Medicins Sans Frontieres compiled a very telling group of stories from ordinary people who suffered the violence over the past few months and the toll that this conflict took on their families. Concerns remain over the daunting task of uniting the country’s security forces, which remain divided and suspicious of each other. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs remains concerned that the Emergency Humanitarian Action Plan for the country is only 25% funded; seriously impeding much needed humanitarian assistance.
- On Tuesday, the UN refugee agency urged authorities in Sudan to allow road and air access for aid workers trying to help thousands of fleeing people in Southern Kordofan, after being denied permission to land in the state capital for nearly a week and prevented land access by roadblocks of militiamen; while 29 people were reportedly killed in a cattle raid in south Sudan. On Wednesday, air strikes in Southern Kordofan are said to have killed as many as 64 people and caused tens of thousands to flee; while the north and south continued to clash in the disputed Abyei border region, with unconfirmed reports of civilians being targeted at checkpoints for torture, harassment and sometimes summary executions. On Thursday, North Sudan’s army vowed to continue fighting against the south in Southern Kordofan to end what it calls an “armed rebellion” and South Sudan’s army said it was ready for more attacks by northern forces in the Abyei region. It was also reported; however, that mediator Thabo Mbeki said that the warring parties in Southern Kordofan agreed that hostilities should cease and that talks should start. On Friday, the UN condemned the detention and abuse by the Sudanese armed forces towards four UN peacekeepers that were on patrol in Southern Kordofan; while six shells fired by the SAF were said to have landed 150 metres away from an UNMIS base near Abyei. While everyone is worried about the future of Southern Sudan, Rebecca Hamilton discusses the possibility that the North is actually in the most danger of returning to full out conflict. On Saturday, Nigeria announced it was considering the possibility of keeping its troops in Southern Sudan beyond the July 9th Independence. On Sunday, the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) categorically denied allegations of misconduct against its peacekeepers in the state of South Kordofan, made by independent observers and both parties to the conflict, and complained that the closure of airspace and restrictions on access are undermining its humanitarian operations there. The SPLM has accused Egyptian peacekeepers of complicity with SAF and of raping local women under UN protection; while local activists accuse UNMIS of reacting to violence with silence or a refusal of requests for evacuation of individuals who were in danger. On Monday, Ethiopian peacekeepers moved into the contested Abyei region under a new deal negotiated between the north and the south that also called upon both sides to remove their troops and demilitarize the area; while Sudan’s defence minister accused anti-government fighters of trying to create a “second Benghazi” in Southern Kordofan and vowed that the military would “clean” the area. Texas in Africa compiled a great list of further reading on Sudan’s conflict, if you want to know more about the situation.
- On Tuesday, the Russian head of the World Chess Federation said that he learned that Libya’s Gaddafi is open to talks with NATO and the country’s rebels after playing chess with him; pro-Gaddafi forces bombarded the Tunisian border post; some 21 rebel fighters were killed in clashes on the eastern front; Libyan tv reported that NATO was bombing civilian and military targets in a central town; while NATO said it had hit several military targets near Tripoli and rockets are said to have damaged generators at an oil refinery near Misrata, allowing the rebels to make fresh gains on the western front. South African President Zuma said NATO is abusing a UN resolution to protect Libyan civilians in order to pursue regime change and political assassinations. NATO is said to be dropping leaflets from the sky showing a picture of a helicopter and a burning tank that tell those below that if they see the helicopters, “it means it is already too late”. On Wednesday, NATO reportedly hit a bus at the entrance to the town of Kikla, killing some 12 people; rebels reportedly pushed deeper into government-held territory south of the capital; and Reuters reported a story that rebels were giving their enemies (some 360 of them) dignified Muslim burials in the town of Misrata. On Thursday, Spain ordered its Libyan ambassador and three embassy staff to leave the country over what it called the illegitimacy of Gaddafi’s rule; while Gaddafi was reportedly losing friends all over Africa. One of his sons announced that Gaddafi would agree to internationally supervised elections on the condition there is no vote-rigging, and that he would step down if he lost, but would never leave Libya, as he intends to die and be buried there; a move the US immediately dismissed, calling it too late. On Friday, rebels and pro-government forces exchanged heavy fire near Zlitan; at least 10 people were killed and 40 wounded in government shelling of Misrata; Gaddafi pledged to defeat NATO in an aired audio speech on Libyan TV and Russia’s envoy to Libya said that representatives of the Gaddafi government are in contact across Europe with members of the Libyan rebellion. On Saturday, gun battles continued in the northwest city of Nalut, killing at least 8 rebels and wounding 13; at least two explosions shook Tripoli; UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced that the beginnings of a negotiation process were underway; while NATO has accused Gaddafi’s forces of using mosques and children’s parks as shields. It appears US President Obama may be in some hot water over his decision to continue the air war in Libya without congressional approval despite rulings to the contrary; and rebels complain they have run out of money, accusing the West of failing to keep its promises of urgent financial aid. Thousands of documents that reveal orders from Gaddafi’s senior generals to bombard and starve the people of Misrata have been gathered by war crimes investigators and will help form damning evidence in any future war crimes trial at the ICC. On Sunday, government officials took journalists to a site it alleges was bombed by NATO warplanes, while NATO admitted its forces mistakenly targeted a column of Libyan rebels, injuring as many as 16 fighters. The UK reported the total cost of its involvement in Libya could run into the “hundreds of millions” of pound and is currently costing tens of millions from reserve funds set aside for contingencies. NATO has also announced that it is investigating Libyan government claims that it bombed a residential area within the capital, killing several civilians. On Monday, three rockets fired by Gaddafi forces reportedly hit a built-up area near the port in Misrata, killing a 13 year-old child and wounding two other children; rebels shut off a pipeline in the Western Mountains region that supplies crude from an oilfield in the south to a refinery near the capital in an attempt to stifle the Gaddafi regime; more than 20 Gaddafi troops are said to have defected from a brigade in the south and joined the rebellion; NATO admitted to launching a missile strike against a compound that killed at least 15 people, including three children, calling it a “legitimate military target under the mandate of the UN resolution”; Italy’s foreign minister said that NATO has endangered its credibility by the killing of civilians; while the EU foreign ministers have agreed to look into the possibility of using frozen Libyan funds to assist the rebels.
- The curfew on Cairo, Egypt’s streets officially ended on Wednesday, five months after it was imposed by Mubarak in an attempt to stem protests against his rule. Many had ignored the curfew and did what they wanted, with little interference from the police. Egyptian Bedouins are beginning to demand equal citizenship rights in the face of discrimination, hoping that the new regime will represent a change for them. On Saturday, government troops fired shots in the air to prevent hundreds of protesting employees of the Suez Canal Authority from storming its office in Ismailia; and an Egyptian court suspended its order to remove the names of former President Mubarak and his wife from public institutions, pending a review of the case on Wednesday. On Sunday, the PM reportedly said that the country’s critical parliamentary elections, currently set for September, could be delayed in an attempt to avoid giving an unfair advantage to the Muslim Brotherhood. On Monday, former President Mubarak’s lawyer said that Mubarak is suffering from stomach cancer, and cited the need for a medical report to assess whether he is fit enough to face trial.
- Former President Ben Ali of Tunisia faced trial in absentia on June 20th for conspiring against the state, voluntary manslaughter, drug trafficking and several other civil and military cases. The court found him and his wife guilty of theft, fined the couple $66 million and sentenced them to 35 years in jail. Saudi authorities have not responded to a request by Tunis to extradite Ben Ali. Ben Ali is also to face dozens of charges over civilian deaths that happened between December 17th and January 14th of this year in three military courts. On Monday, Ben Ali stated that he had not simply fled, but rather had been tricked into leaving his country on fears of an assassination plot, and as such, still considers himself to be President.
- Concern is rising over the expulsion of thousands of Congolese from Angola over the past month. Many report torture and other abuses during their detainment before being deported. On Wednesday, Congo’s parliament passed an electoral law little changed from the document that governed the last elections, much to the concern of opposition leaders who have expressed concern over the poll’s credibility.
- A suspected suicide bomb attack killed several people outside police headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria on Thursday. Police suspect the radical Boko Haram sect for the attack. Hours later, an explosion near a church killed four children in the northeast. The Inspector General of Police stated that the sect’s days were numbered following the donation of 10 armoured personnel carriers and 10 patrol vehicles by the Governor. The sect reacted by reading a statement saying they would soon wage Jihad and that warriors had arrived from Somalia where they received serious warfare training. On Monday, authorities arrested 58 sect members after storming a Boko Haram headquarters in Maiduguri.
- The ruling African National Congress party in South Africa has re-elected an unopposed Juliou Malema as the President of the youth wing. The election has upset many who are angered at Malema for singing apartheid-era songs advocating the shooting of white farmers and is working to nationalise mines and seize white-owned farms. The opposition in SA has raised new allegations of bribery surrounding a multi-billion dollar arms deal that is to be investigated.
- The King of Morocco promised a new democratic constitution on Friday that would devolve some of his powers to parliament and the government that Moroccans would be able to vote for in a July 1st referendum. The final draft explicitly grants the government executive powers, although the king would keep exclusive control over military and religious fields and pick a PM from the party that wins the polls. The promises were not enough for many pro-democracy activists who still planned to hold their weekly protests on the weekend to call for greater changes to the system. Reuters offers an interesting timeline of different reforms in the country starting in 1999.
- Al-Shabaab in Somalia announced on Friday that it will cooperate with al Qaeda’s new leader Al Zawahiri as much as possible. The group pledged its allegiances to al Zawahiri as it used to be under Bin Laden. On Sunday, the PM announced that he had resigned, after initially refusing to step down, following an agreement between the President and parliament to remove him from office. Many fear that the resignation could prompt an intensified power struggle and negatively affect the ongoing offensive against insurgents in the capital. A new study reported that over 4,000 international seafarers were violently attacked by Somali pirates last year, 1,090 taken hostage, and 516 used as human shields; and that new tactics break a previous code of conduct that had kept violence to a minimum.
- Leaders across southern Africa called for President Mugabe of Zimbabwe to speed up the progress towards fair and free elections conducted on a “level playing field”. South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique assigned a team to work with Zimbabwean officials to ensure elections and the enforcement of a power-sharing deal between Mugabe and PM Tsvangirai. Human rights monitors report that the army –loyal to Mugabe—have already deployed units to rural areas to intimidate voters.
- The new chief justice in Kenya vowed on Monday to fight corruption and impunity, although analysts said he would have to stand up to powerful politicians and businessmen to success in turning the courts around. Analysts have previously said that the country’s post-election violence in 2007-8 might have been avoided if there had been a credible legal mechanism for settling disputes.
- New official proposed changes to an election law in Senegal could see current President Wade win re-election with as little as 25% of in a first round vote instead of a majority. The proposal is expected to sail through the majority-controlled parliament in coming days, much to the chagrin of the opposition, who call it a “coup d’état” against the constitution.
Written by Heather Wilhelm
It is so easy to forget about the true state of the world when we live our day to day lives just going through the motions. Here are some statistics to shock you back into reality:
~ 1.02 billion people do not have enough to eat – more than the populations of USA, Canada and the European Union;
~ More than 60 percent of chronically hungry people are women;
~ Every six seconds a child dies because of hunger and related causes; and
~ Lack of Vitamin A kills a million infants a year.
When I read statistics like these, I actually find it very hard to believe that they are real. How is it possible that I’ve lived 28 years never going hungry, and yet somehow during my regular 8 hour work day more than 4,800 children die of hunger-related diseases? Women and children the world over continue to be the most disenfranchised individuals on the planet, and even the most well-meaning organizations, like the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP), are unable to help effectively. A recent report from Reuters states that world food aid is at an all-time low despite the fact that the number of hungry people in the world soared to its highest level ever, with more than 1 billion people classified as lacking food. The WFP has barely enough funding this year to help a fraction of these people, which is made more horrifying by the fact that it would take a mere 0.01% of the global financial crisis bailout package from the United States to solve the hunger crisis. Priorities need to shift in Washington and in neighbouring developed countries, with the eradication of poverty and starvation not only in “third world” countries, but also right in their own backyards moving to the top of the list.
As per the WFP’s website, one of the possible solutions to the world hunger crisis is the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, which are:
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are eight goals to be achieved by 2015 that respond to the world’s main development challenges. The MDGs are drawn from the actions and targets contained in the Millennium Declaration that was adopted by 189 nations-and signed by 147 heads of state and governments during the UN Millennium Summit in September 2000.
These eight development goals are:
Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education
Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women
Goal 4: Reduce child mortality
Goal 5: Improve maternal health
Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability
Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development
The importance of the implementation of the MDG’s cannot be overlooked, but considering we are more than halfway through the fifteen year period that was allotted to make these development goals a reality, how much has really been accomplished? If the WFP can say that 2009 saw more hungry people than ever before, clearly something is being done wrong. In an attempt to look into progress reports, I found most sites to be sorely lacking (for instance, the United Nations Development Programme website’s section entitled “Implementation of the MDG’s” last shows an update in 2005), which is beyond discouraging. The eight goals listed above are so basic, so simple and so easily achieved that is simply doesn’t make sense why there hasn’t been more progress reported. As a society, we need to hold our government accountable for the commitments they made to the disenfranchised, poverty-stricken people of the world in 2000, and ensure that they are meeting the requirements set out for each country in helping to bring the Millennium Development Goals to fruition by the year 2015. If you want to make sure they are held accountable, speak up, tell people what you’ve read here and make your voice heard. Local government representatives aren’t just elected to sit around and look pretty – they are supposed to carry our voices and concerns up to Ottawa and Prime Minister Stephen Harper. If there’s one country in the world that exemplifies the spirit of helping others, it’s Canada, so let’s make sure when 2015 rolls around, our country has done everything in its power to ensure the full implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.
Written by Heather Wilhelm
After briefly reading about the prevalence of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) in the Meru tribe of Kenya while updating our website’s Media Watch section, I decided to do some further research on the history of FGM/C amongst Meru women, and what is being done to change these barbaric traditions.
The tradition of FGM/C in the Meru society dates back to an ancient myth in which all healthy men of the village were sent off to fight enemy tribes, but upon their return from war, found their women impregnated by the weaker men who had been left behind. The myth continues that from this day forward, women were forced to endure the removal of their clitorises to deplete their sexual desires in the hopes that they would remain faithful to their warrior husbands. This practice of FGM/C has been carried forward into present Meru society despite the fact that these procedures have been illegal since 2001 under the Children’s Act. The Act specifically states:
No person shall subject a child to female circumcision, early marriage or other cultural rites, customs or traditional practices that are likely to negatively affect the child’s life, health, social welfare, dignity or physical or psychological development. (Kenya 2001, Sec. 14)
In an effort to change and modernize Meru society, elders of the tribe have begun to run an Alternative Rites-of-Passage (ARP) program that promotes both knowledge of cultural traditions of the Meru, as well as modern values.
These ARP programs have been taught in several Meru locations since 2007, and so far more than 2,000 girls and young women have taken these classes as an alternative to the brutal FGM/C. The idea behind the program is to remain true to the values of the Meru and the idea of preparing girls for womanhood through education rather than physical mutilation. These young women learn about relationships, marriage, self-awareness, Meru cultural values and traditions, substance abuse and even HIV/AIDS. While ARP seems like the perfect alternative to FGM/C in the Meru society, there is still a huge amount of resistance to the change and FGM/C procedures are now often performed under cover of night, sometimes by individuals not qualified to perform them. There are so many risks and dangers involved in the practice of FGM/C (aside from the fact that it is a blatant violation of basic human rights), that these procedures are becoming increasingly dangerous. Some of the short-term side effects include severe pain, shock, hemorrhage, tetanus or sepsis (bacterial infection), urine retention, open sores in the genital region and damage or injury to nearby genital tissue. Some of the long-term consequences of FGM/C can include recurrent bladder and urinary tract infections, cysts, infertility, increased risk of childbirth complications and newborn deaths, and the need for further surgeries depending on the type of FGM/C that the woman was subjected to. There are four main procedures used to perform FGM/C and in brief they are:
1) Clitoridectomy: involves the partial or complete removal of the clitoris and sometimes the prepuce as well;
2) Excision: involves the partial or complete removal of the clitoris and the labia minora, which can or cannot include the removal of the labia majora as well;
3) Infibulation: the creation of a covering seal to narrow the vaginal opening. The seal is formed by removing and then repositioning the inner and/or outer labia. This procedure can or cannot involve the removal of the clitoris; and
4) Other: this includes all procedures performed on female genitals not for medical purposes and can include pricking, piercing, incising, scraping and cauterizing the genital area.
There are many organizations including the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund and local NGO’s throughout Africa that are trying to put an end to the practice of FGM/C. As I mentioned earlier, ARP programs are being created in different regions of the continent, including in the Meru society, but there are still millions of young girls at risk of FGM/C every year in Africa. Moving towards the eradication of FGM/C will require that education and awareness about the consequences of this procedure to young women (both physically and mentally) be made available to community leaders throughout the many regions in Africa where FGM/C is prevalent. In the meantime, it will be up to the many women who have suffered this barbaric procedure, and the brave men who support them to bring forward change in local communities through alternative learning programs. Hopefully the international community will continue to fight for the rights of children in developing countries, specifically the rights of girls, by bringing awareness to the public on such a large scale, that these violations of human rights can no longer be ignored.
Ok, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is perhaps not descending into madness. It has already been there for quite some time. Violence there is out of control right now, and things are getting worse not better. Talks of peace are hollow and full of corruption. The international community seems to ignore the problem entirely, instead hoping they can use the corruption to their advanatage to get rights to resources or political support, resisting spending enough money or providing enough assistance to actually make a difference. There seems to be little being offered in the way of real transformations of violence or ensuring lasting peace and most definitely very little hope that it’s coming anytime in the near future.
The population in many areas live in near constant fear. Many more people live as virtual transients, floating from village to village or town to town, displaced from their homes and unable to return. Forced labour (ie. slavery) and torture are on the rise. Rape and sexual mutulation has been a massive tool of the war; affecting both men and women (although women probably in much higher numbers), and is used to demoralize and humiliate. Humiliating and torturous methods of castrations and sterilizations are used to help exterminate populations as reprisals.
A disturbing case of a 3 year old little girl dying after a brutal rape by a group of rebel soldiers sends chills down the spine. Other stories, including horrors such as soldiers digging holes into the ground, lining them with razor blades and forcing the men to self-castrate; or the cutting of babies out of women’s bellies and forcing them to eat their own fetuses make me feel physically ill. Male children have been forced to rape their mothers and sisters; fathers their daughters. It is thoroughly disturbing to think about; but we need to think about this. This cannot continue to happen. Why are we sitting back and doing nothing to stop it?
This war is not about ethnicities. It is not about ancient hatreds or blood-hungry populations. It is about years of political manipulations, massive theft of resources and land, denial of rights and we are all connected to it whether we truly know the extent or not.
Every time we buy an electronic product- we are connected. We are connected through the political choices of our elected leaders. We are also connected because we are all humans. We all share the same blood, the same organs, the same flesh, the same souls… We need to work together to develop solutions to transform this violence. Too many innocent people are dying, being tortured or enslaved, raped or beaten and money is just not a good enough reason for it.
Please. Take the time. When you buy an electronic product, call the manufacturers or the corporations that sell, distribute or produce them. Ask them, just ask them what they are doing to stop war resources from getting into their products. You don’t have to take it much further. When enough people make the connection between what we use, where it comes from and what effect this is having and start to demand that corporations have ethical purchasing– something more positive must come.
Please. Take the time. Write a letter to your government. Ask them to send support, either financially, or in peacekeeping troop personnel to help build peace in this region. Ask them to create policies to ensure corporations are acting in legal and ethical manners throughout the world.
Alone, we do very little, but our voices together can help to make a change.
If you need suggestions on what to write or who you can contact, please feel free to ask me (email@example.com)– I’ll be happy to help!
Depending on how involved you are in world affairs, you may or may not have heard about what’s currently going on in Madagascar. Unfortunately, the news has been pretty lax in covering this African island nation’s recent coup d’etat and political uprisings.
Since March 21st of this year, thirty-four year old former mayor, leftist politician and television station owner Andry Rajoelina has been sworn in as president of the Malagasy government (government of Madagascar). Rajoelina came to office after a coup toppled the elected president Marc Ravalomanana from his term, forcing his exile to Swaziland. Rajoelina plans to change the country’s constitutional requirement that a president be a minimum of 40 years old and has claimed that he will hold elections within 2 years time. He has spouted words of democracy, while dismissing the elected Ravalomanana’s calls for a referendum to test his support among the population to help stop the uprising.
In December of 2008, Rajoelina’s outspoken criticism of Ravalomanana led to the closure of Rajoelina’s Viva TV for “security” reasons after a 45 minute broadcast of former president Didier Ratsiraka called for a coup against Ravalomanana. This move was condemned by Reporters Without Borders and instigated massive protests and violence in the country. Rajoelina is said to have called for more anti-government protests after the worst day of street violence in years, only increasing the violence and anger.
Canada’s interests in Madagascar represent the largest category of foreign investment in the country, surpassing French interests with almost $3 billion dollars invested. Toronto’s Sherritt International holds the largest stake in the world’s biggest nickel mine in Ambatovy, as well as large stakes in the country’s cobalt mines. Rajoelina vows his new administration will review all foreign investment contracts to ensure Madagascar is receiving a fair share of the revenues. Somehow, despite the political violence that has been happening in 2009, Madagascar moved up 7 rankings in the World Bank’s 2009 “Doing Business Report” from 151st in 2008 to 144th out of 181 countries.
American Exxon Mobil has operations in Madagascar drilling for oil offshore. Several mining companies have been exploring Madagascar looking for gold, gemstones, nickel and bauxite. The British based mining company Rio Tinto has opened a $775 million ilmenite mine in the south of the country for the production of titanium. Huge investment has recently been poured into the country, almost all for extraction purposes.
Canada has responded to the current political crisis in Madagascar, not by condemning the actions as the European Union, African Union, South African Development Community, United States and many other organizations and countries have; but by appealing for calm and dialogue. Canada did not recognize the current political actions as a coup, nor have they stopped aid or suggested sanctions on the country. Perhaps this has to do with the high level of Canadian investment in Madagascar, but so far, Canada has remained rather tight-lipped on the situation. 70% of Malagasy government spending is currently funded by outside donors, meaning international sanctions have the possibility of going a long way.
Massive protests have left hundreds dead and thousands injured over the last couple of months. Many protesters have been killed by security forces who have fired upon them with tear gas and bullets. Riots and violence have been spurred by these actions. The future remains incredibly unstable for Madagascar.
Coups have been overtaking modern African democracies as of late, with Mauritania and Guinea joining Madagascar in this type of political unrest over the last year alone. The rush for democracy has left politically unstable governments, and corrupt powers vying to sell off their country’s natural resources through privatization schemes introduced with the push for “democracy”. The atrocities currently being committed in Madagascar are said by Rajoelina to be happening in the name of democracy. These atrocities must not go unnoticed, as they have little resemblance to any kind of democracy.
Madagascar remains an incredibly poor country despite its abundant natural resources and tremendous beauty. It is home to some of the most diverse species on the planet, many that cannot be found elsewhere. The lack of infrastructure and poor governance leaves the country unable to transcend its poverty. It is the people who suffer and it is the people (and not the profit to be had) who we should be directing our vision towards.
The normal news media has been vague on Madagascar, so I have taken to following the numerous blogs and tweets on the situation for more insight. Doing so has revealed a larger picture of devastation. Even children are protesting in the streets, throwing stones at their opposing protestors. Independent bloggers have been told to remove any pictures or material offensive to the new government, severely curtailing freedoms of speech. Thousands meet almost daily in the streets to protest. Civil war is not far off as the population divides itself further and further. The angry sentiments can be felt in many of the culturally violent comments. Divisions appear to be widening.
The destruction of several cyclones in the past few years has left thousands in the country homeless and many dead or injured. In fact, relief efforts were hindered for the January 2009 Cyclone Fanele because of the political uprisings, leaving those affected completely reliant on the World Food Programme and international assistance for survival. International assistance becomes more and more difficult to deliver as violence intensifies.
What will become of Madagascar? Only time will tell, but certainly, we in Canada will have an impact through our investments and we must be aware the effect this will have on the population. Our policies should reflect the concerns of the population and not just the profit to be had here. Our extraction of natural resources must not cause greater destruction and must be obtained legally and fairly. Canada must not have a hand in supporting warlords, dictators or despots and must stop contributing to war and destruction through our policies or investments.