Burkina Faso

This Week in African Conflict… March 6th-13th, 2012.

  • 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.

This Week in African Conflict… February 21st-28th, 2012.

  • 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.