- 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”.
- The West African Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP) will be launching its new book, “Election Dispute Management Practice Guide for West Africa” on February 14th, 2012 at the Grand Mensvic Hotel, in East Legon, Accra, Ghana at 9am. The keynote speech at the launch will be delivered by Sierra Leone’s Chair of the Electoral Commission Dr. Christiana Thorpe. The book focuses on the prevention, mitigation and resolution of electoral disputes.
- The UN refugee agency reported on Tuesday that it will be implementing a set of strategies to conclude three of Africa’s long-standing refugee crises that involve helping people uprooted by old conflicts in Angola, Liberia and Rwanda. The strategies will include scaling up voluntary repatriation, providing assistance packages to help former refugees reintegrate or securing an alternative legal status that would allow them to continue to reside in countries of asylum.
- Weak land rights in the African continent fuel the potential for conflict, as the sell-off of prime land for the exploitation of natural resources, unless governments and investors recognize the customary rights of millions of people to common lands.
- The Life & Peace Institute and the Kroc Institute released a new report Somalia: Creating space for fresh approaches to peacebuilding; and the UK will be hosting a global conference on the country on February 23rd. On Tuesday, a suicide bomber reportedly killed two policemen guarding the house of a former warlord and one-time government police commander in the Galmudug region. On Thursday, the United Kingdom appointed its first ambassador to the country in 21 years, but announced it will be headed out of Nairobi until security conditions permit the opening of an embassy in Mogadishu. The Kenyan military reportedly achieved one of its most devastating attacks against al-Shabaab targets since it launched its operation in Somalia in October on Friday evening, killing more than 100 al-Shabaab fighters. The UN and its partners insisted on Monday that the country’s current transitional governing arrangements must end on August 20th this year and called upon a new draft of the constitution by mid-April. On Sunday, a senior al-Shabaab officer criticised the role of Turkey in Somalia, saying that they sent expired humanitarian foods and medicines with the intent of poisoning the population; while heavily armed gunmen attacked Ethiopian military bases in the town of Beledweyn.
- South African leaders have intervened to ease tensions in Madagascar, urging the main political players to speed up the implementation of a roadmap intended to restore constitutional order in the country. On Sunday, former first lady Lalao Ravalomanana was banned from boarding an Airlink flight from South Africa while planning to return home.
- Thousands of farmers in Tanzania have been accused of destroying mangroves as they search for new land to grow their crops, which are being damaged by salt-water intrusion by surging tides. The scramble for land has created further conflict between residents and government authorities who want to stop locals from invading protected sites.
- Zimbabwe’s Mugabe reportedly ranted against the African Union and its handling of the crisis in Libya last year, which some analysts took as a sign that the leader is “panicked”. On Friday, the government said it would bar all unregistered foreign newspapers; while President Mugabe and PM Tsvangirai stalled the crafting of a referendum law due to haggling over whether or not the Diaspora vote should be included in the constitutional plebiscite.
- Julius Malema’s bid to overturn his five-year suspension from the ruling ANC was dismissed by party officials on Saturday.
- A female protester was reportedly shot at close range by police in Swaziland during demonstrations called by vendors and transport operators over plans by town hall to move them.
- Bars are rapidly shutting in Algeria, as the country’s Islamists pressure a sort of prohibition onto the country. Vendors have taken to mobilizing their alcohol sales, and the report suggests that actual consumption may have actually increased. On Tuesday, security forces allegedly used water cannons and tear gas to disperse rioting residents in a suburb of the capital who accused the authorities of failing to properly investigate the fatal stabbing of a local man.
- Dozens of antimilitary and Islamist protesters were injured outside the Parliament in Egypt as they clashed with the rival protesters. At least 74 people died after clashes broke out at a football game in Port Said on Wednesday, prompting protesters to take to the streets in criticism of the country’s security system and the parliament to call an emergency session. On Thursday, one of the Arab world’s most famous comic actors Adel Imam was sentenced to three-months in jail for insulting Islam in films and plays. On Friday, at least two protesters were reportedly shot dead by police using live ammunition to disperse a crowd trying to break into a police station in Suez; rock-throwing protesters fought with riot police near the Interior Ministry over the Port Said deaths; while the Supreme Council of Armed Forces urged national powers to intervene in order to end tension and restore calm as the clashes continued between protesters and security forces. Sometimes violent protests continued over the weekend in response to the deaths of nearly 80 people after a football match in Port Said, including setting fire to the tax authority building, with protesters demanding a swift presidential election and early handover of power by the army and the death toll rising to 12; a civilian council appointed to advise the military rulers asking that preparations for the presidential election begin on February 23rd; while officials say that 43 NGO workers, including 19 Americans, have been referred for trial for alleged involvement in banned activity and illegally receiving foreign funds, angering activists and civil society groups within the country. On Sunday, an unknown explosion hit the gas pipeline between Egypt, Israel and Jordan. The Atlantic ran an article about the now fractured relationship between Egypt and the United States, in light of the NGO case; while an Egyptian military delegation abruptly cancelled its scheduled meetings with US lawmakers to return to Cairo on Monday after the White House announced that the crackdown on NGOs could threaten its $1.3 billion in annual US military aid. Nominations for the Presidential elections opened on Friday.
- President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia officially launched the Children’s Law of Liberia to protect children and their right to participate meaningfully in their development. The law is set to be one of the most comprehensive pieces of children’s rights legislations in the continent that is largely based upon the UN Convention of Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. On Thursday, at least one person was killed and two others were wounded following a clash over a parcel of land in Nimba County; while the defense lawyers for ex-President Charles Taylor filed a motion before the judges of the UN backed Special Court for Sierra Leone to reopen their client’s defense.
- More than 15,000 people have reportedly fled from Mali to neighbouring countries, seeking refuge from the Tuareg rebellion against the government over the past month, prompting the UNHCR to deploy more staff in the region to help the thousands of displaced persons. On Saturday, the armed forces reportedly killed around 20 northern separatist rebels and taken more than a dozen prisoner during two days of clashes near Timbuktu.
- South Sudan has listed their demands in their oil row with the north, saying they won’t start pumping again until these demands are met. On Wednesday, a shoot-out among South Sudanese security forces killed some 37 people and injured a UN policeman. On Thursday, some 15 people were reportedly killed in Mayiandit in a coordinated attack by Unity State forces that came on machine-gun mounted vehicles; while the US accused the Sudanese government of carrying out air strikes on civilians in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states. On Friday, the UN human rights office voiced their concern over a cattle raid in the northern state of South Sudan that led to 78 deaths and numerous civilians; while President Bashir said that war is now a possibility with their southern neighbours in an interview on Blue Nile TV. The President of South Sudan called his Sudanese counterpart, Omer Hassan al-Bashir, a “thief” and urged him to surrender himself to the ICC on Monday; while a 30,000 strong ethnic militia known as the White Army announced its plans for a major “defensive” operation in South Sudan’s Jonglei state. On Tuesday, the body of one of the Chinese workers who went missing during a rebel attack on a building site in Sudan was found; while the foreign ministry reported that at least 29 of the kidnapped Chinese workers were released.
- Journalists working for French TV in Jos, Nigeria were reportedly detained by soldiers, interrogated, escorted to their hotel and then ordered to leave town. On Tuesday, suspected Boko Haram militants reportedly killed six people in Borno state, including two air force personnel. On Friday, Boko Haram said that the arrest of its member the day before is an obstacle to dialogue with the Federal Government, and argued that the person arrested was not its spokesman but the head of its enlightenment department; while Adamawa State held its governor’s election. On Sunday, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta claimed responsibility for an attack in the northern region and threatened to attack South African interests for their interference in their “fight for justice”. On Monday, ex-militants undergoing training under the Federal Government Amnesty Program bombed a hotel in the Delta State that had served as their temporary home since last year over alleged deprivation of their “entitlements”; eight of the ex-militants were held by the Joint Task Force in the Niger-Delta; suspected members of Boko Haram allegedly launched a bomb and gun attack on two police stations in Kano state; while three people were reportedly killed as a result of multiple blasts that rocked parts of a marketplace in Maiduguri. On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch released a new report about a lead poisoning crisis in the North due to gold mining; while a suspected suicide bomber disguised in military uniform was killed after his car bomb exploded under fire from soldiers outside a military base in Kaduna.
- IPS reported that the economy of Cameroon is suffering because of the Nigerian extremist group Boko Haram. The border closure has caused fuel prices and other imports to double.
- A militia leader in Libya began legal action on Tuesday against a former senior British intelligence chief whom he accuses of playing a key role in returning him to the country to be jailed and tortured under Gaddafi; while Gaddafi’s daughter asked to make representations about the welfare of her brother Saif al-Islam to the ICC who is awaiting trial on rape and murder charges. Rival militias who had fought together to overthrow Gaddafi fought a two-hour gunbattle over a luxury beach house being used as a barracks in Tripoli on Wednesday. On Friday, Human Rights Watch reported that a diplomat who served as the ambassador to France died less than 24 hours after he was detained by a Tripoli based militia from torture. Gunmen reportedly killed at least five refugees at their camp in Tripoli on Monday; while eight suspects were detained in connection with the killing of a diplomat who served under Gaddafi.
- Four members of the political elite in Ghana were charged with corruption on Monday, threatening the ruling party’s reputation following the departure of two senior ministers last month.
- Survivors of a massacre in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s class action against the Canadian corporation Anvil Mining, accused of providing logistical support to the Congolese army who raped, murdered and brutalized the population in Kilwa, was overturned this week, due to insufficient connections because Anvil’s Montreal office was not directly involved in the decisions that allegedly led to the massacre. The electoral commission announced a reduced parliamentary majority for Kabila’s People’s Party in the November elections on Thursday. On Friday, the UN refugee agency announced its alarm at recent reports that suggest displaced people have been tortured and killed in their camps by armed elements in the eastern part of the country.
- Sierra Leone recently launched an online mining database in an effort to increase transparency to combat corruption and malpractice. The system will track payments made for licenses, royalties and contributions to local chiefdoms, made available to the public to show whether mining companies have been authorized to legally operate.
- The Constitutional Council in Cote d’Ivoire reportedly overturned the provisional results of the December 11th parliamentary elections in 11 constituencies on Tuesday due to faulty voting, including dead voters on the list and will organize by-elections where votes had been cancelled. On Wednesday, a UN voluntary disarmament operation began in the Abobo district of Abidjan, aiming to collect illegal weapons still in circulation among the population.
- Reporters Without Borders announced that Uganda had dropped 43 places to the 139th position in press freedom rankings in their recent report. On Thursday, it was reported that Isaac Kasamani, a photographer for the Daily Monitor newspaper, was shot at by plain clothes security personnel as he covered a rally of opposition parties.
- At least one person was killed in Senegal on Tuesday in clashes between security forces and activists protesting against President Wade’s decision to seek a third term. The opposition pledged on Wednesday to campaign against President; human rights groups condemned the death of a protester at the hands of police; while protests continued in Dakar. On Saturday, the opposition came together to sign a pact, pledging to campaign against Wade to force him to withdraw from next month’s election.
- Several journalists in Ethiopia were charged to life imprisonment and the death penalty on anti-terrorism charges stemming for their alleged support for banned opposition groups which were criminalized under the country’s anti-terrorism law. One of the journalists was sentenced in absentia.
- 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.
- Transparency International’s new report concluded that police forces in eastern Africa are perceived as the most corrupt body among the six institutions surveyed; the police, judiciary, customs, registry and permit services, land services, medical services, tax revenue, utilities and education systems. According to the report, 54% of people surveyed reported to have paid a bribe in the past year.
- The UN Independent Export on the situation of human rights in Cote d’Ivoire is visiting the country from December 7th-13th to ensure that human rights are taken into consideration in the December 11th elections. On Tuesday, more than 550 Ivorian refugees who have been residing in Liberia for the past year were reportedly being processed at a border town for repatriation home, though Ivorian border authorities were delaying the travel due to improper travel documentation. The UNHCR announced it is stepping up its voluntary repatriation operation for refugees from the country. On Wednesday, three people were killed and three wounded in a rocket attack on a political party meeting just days before Sunday’s parliamentary elections; while the three Notre Voie journalists were cleared of all charges after spending 13 days in custody. On Friday, the UN envoy called for a “peaceful and calm election”, warning that violence would not be tolerated. President Ouattara‘s political coalition is expected to sweep to victory in the first parliamentary elections since 2000, amid a boycott by Gbagbo’s FPI and problems of exclusion of many Ivoirians from the electoral process. On Sunday, the parliamentary elections occurred fairly smoothly, without any major reported incidents of violence, though turnout was incredibly low. Results are expected to be released on Tuesday, with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calling upon all parties to remain calm, and the West African regional bloc ECOWAS calling the vote fair and free despite the low turnout. The ongoing clean-up operation in Abidjan to remove illegal small businesses continues, creating anger and frustration among many.
- The armed forces of Sudan and South Sudan clashed in the border region of Jau on Wednesday, with both sides claiming control of the area and demanding the other withdraw. The UN called for the need to press ahead with the reconciliation process, condemning violence earlier in the week, amid fears of further clashes and an announcement from South Sudan’s foreign minister that the country is on the brink of war with its northern neighbour. On Saturday, fresh fighting erupted in South Sudan Jonglei state as militiamen reportedly loyal to rebel leader Athor Deng attacked a village, killing some 34 and wounding numerous others. Refugees and IDPs are stuck in a dangerous situation, with many fleeing to the south or to Ethiopia to try and escape the violence. On Sunday, at least nine people were killed and around 13 injured in an attack on Pigi County.
- On Wednesday, Egypt’s ruling general declared that MPs will not have a final say over the drafting of a fresh constitution and insisting that early results of parliamentary voting do not represent society, a move likely to escalate tensions; while an Amnesty International investigation has reported that two US companies shipped crowd control munitions and teargas to Egypt in the midst of the violent crackdown on protesters by security forces; and an Egyptian court also turned down an appeal calling for a new judge in former President Mubarak’s trial. On Thursday, the Muslim Brotherhood accused the military leaders of trying to “marginalize” parliament and pulled out of a contact group with army leaders.
- It was revealed this week that dozens of US Special Forces are deployed at a frontline base in Obo, Central African Republic as part of a joint mission to help remove LRA leader Joseph Kony and his commanders from the battlefield, after a senior Ugandan military officer commented that Kony is hiding out in CAR.
- The Parliament of Kenya has approved the integration of government troops in Somalia into the African Union force fighting al-Shabaab, after last week’s request that it join the 9,000 strong force. On Sunday, two bombs exploded in two towns close to the Somali border, killing a policeman. A heartwarming story appeared in La Monde this week, about former gangsters in the Kibera, Nairobi slums who turned their lives around to set up a Youth Reform Self Help Group and became entrepreneurs, producing organic vegetables, setting up a wash-house, recycling plastic, and renting out plastic chairs.
- On Tuesday, dozens of alleged Islamist militants and 11 government troops were killed in fighting in the town of Hayo, Somalia, while Kenyan jets launched new air strikes on rebel bases. Fighting continued on Thursday in the northern districts of Karan and Huriwa, with insurgent groups claiming the deaths of four AU soldiers and nine government troops, and government forces claiming they had killed six al-Shabaab fighters. On Friday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made a surprise visit to Mogadishu to underline just how much ground the UN-backed Transitional Federal Government has made over the last year; while the International Displacement Monitoring Centre warned of new displacement and a worsening humanitarian crisis that threatens the security for IDPs. Al-Shabaab is now officially on twitter and is currently having a virtual battle of words with the Kenyan military. On Tuesday, the transitional Somali parliament held a meeting in Mogadishu where they formally dismissed the speaker of the Parliament after accusing him of refusing to open the meeting and respond to charges they laid against him; while the UN launched a $1.5 billion consolidated appeal process to help fund 350 projects in the country.
- On Monday, four of the six registered political parties in Sierra Leone signed a memorandum of understanding, vowing to “refrain from political violence” in the run-up to elections in November 2012, following clashes between political party supporters a few months ago. On Tuesday, police announced the end to a three-month ban on political rallies.
- On Wednesday, explosions rocked the city of Kaduna in Nigeria, killing at least 18 people. Conflicting reports have suggested that the explosions were caused either by faulty gas cylinders or persons on motorcycles who threw bombs, though the cause is still under investigation. On Saturday, bomb attacks rocked three tv viewing centres in the state’s North Local Government Council, killing one person and injuring 14 others. In response, authorities banned motorcycle taxis and imposed a curfew on parts of the city of Jos on Sunday. Several northern leaders came out this week to criticise Boko Haram during a two-day peace conference in Kaduna. Several eminent Nigerians have warned against possible “Arab Spring” revolts in Nigeria over the next few years if jobs are not created soon.
- Thousands of troops and police officers are on standby amid fears of unrest in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, awaiting the release of last week’s contested Presidential elections. On Friday, officials announced incumbent President Kabila cruised to victory with 49% of the vote against 32% for opposition leader Tshisekedi, who immediately protested the decision declaring himself the rightful elected President, but called upon his followers to stay calm and peaceful. Reports indicated that the Radio Lisanga Television, the main opposition television station was silenced by authorities in the west of the country after it was besieged by heavily-armed police who then occupied the premises, as violent protests erupted in the capital. On Saturday, political violence killed at least six people in Kinshasa, while reports detailed cases of police in unmarked cars rounding up young men in opposition neighbourhoods. Many are concerned about the role the Supreme Court will play in reviewing the vote, seeing as its judges are appointed by incumbent Kabila; meanwhile, Kabila reportedly said that the main opposition candidate is creating a climate of fear by refusing to accept his re-election amid reports that competing opposition parties in the east were joining forces to support Tshiesekedi. Around a hundred and forty people were arrested after demonstrating against the election results in London, England; another 200 arrested in Brussels; while several protests in other cities around the world got violent. On Sunday, at least four people were reportedly killed in election-related violence. On Monday, Kabila conceded that there were “mistakes” in the elections processes, but rejected the finding of the Carter Center that the results lacked credibility; the UN peacekeeping mission in the country called on the electoral authorities to review the issues raised by independent observers; while the Catholic archbishop of Kinshasa condemned the election results and called upon defeated candidates to take their grievances to the Supreme Court. On Tuesday, opposition leaders in the eastern part of the country began planning massive protests against the re-election of Kabila.
- Malawi has decided to review a series of controversial laws in response to “public opinion”. The ban on homosexual acts, the law which allows the information minister to ban newspapers deemed not to be serving of the interest of Malawians, as well as a law preventing people taking legal action against the government and public officials will all be reviewed. On Tuesday, the ICC referred the country to the UN Security Council for refusing to arrest Sudan’s al-Bashir in October.
- On Wednesday, scores of judges and lawyers protested in Tripoli, Libya against lawless behaviour in the capital by former rebel groups, calling upon them to leave the city and return to their home towns. Reuters compiled a list of the vast arsenal of weapons in the city of Misrata. On Saturday, the commander-in-chief of the national army said he survived an assassination attempt while on the way to the airport, while the new rulers opened a conference on national reconciliation with pledges to forgive loyalists who fought during the months-long uprising. On Monday, anti-government activists set up a tent city in Benghazi against the ruling National Transitional Council, demanding more transparency as to its membership and voting decisions; while rival militias in the south-west exchanged heavy gunfire, killing at least four people.
- Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe called upon elections to be held next year to end the fragile coalition with the former opposition amid threats that he would undermine the constitution-making process if the draft constitution does not include ZANU PF’s position; while PM Tsvangirai alleged that he is the target of a plot to plant some kind of incriminating documents in his office, shortly after he raised suspicions that his brand new marriage was broken up by the ZANU PF. On Friday, Mugabe vowed to press ahead with a controversial “indigenisation” policy that would force foreign firms to cede their majority stake to locals. On Saturday, Mugabe announced he has no intention of retiring, saying to do so would be an act of cowardice. On Sunday, the ruling African National Congress in South Africa offered to help Mugabe win the next elections, creating difficulties in any future mediation process with the opposition, seeing as ANC leader Zuma runs the mediation for the regional Southern African Development Community.
- Police in Uganda blocked a demonstration by friends and family members of slain journalist Charles Ingabire, who was killed last week in circumstances thought linked to his work.
- Two public universities in Togo were temporarily shut down after security forces fired teargas to break up student protests on Thursday over a new bursary policy. The government introduced a new policy of awarding payouts only to brilliant students instead of all scholars as was in the past.
- On Saturday, at least three men were arrested in Liberia after they set the Norwegian flag on fire in front of the EU headquarters because they were against President Johnson-Sirleaf receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. The defeated CDC Presidential candidate Winston Tubman rejected her award, claiming that he deserved it instead as he has done more for peace than the President.
- The Constituent Assembly of Tunisia adopted a provisional constitution on Sunday that sets the stage for the country to name a new government amid a boycott by the opposition. The document outlines the conditions and procedures to be followed by the executive, legislature and judiciary until general elections can be held, possibly in a year. On Monday the new constitutional assembly appeared set to elect veteran human rights activist Moncef Marzouki to serve as the country’s interim President. As he took his oath on Tuesday to be sworn into office, Marzouki vowed to uphold the objectives of the revolution.
- On Monday, President Kagame of Rwanda rejected allegations that his government was behind the Kampala killing of journalist Charles Ingabire earlier this month. Kagame alleges that Ingabire stole from an organization helping orphans (another report says he stole from an association of genocide survivors) and then claimed political persecution to detract from his own crimes, though rights groups consistently criticize him for his perceived intolerance of critical reporting. On Monday, Kagame reportedly announced that he had no problems with calls for the constitution to be changed to allow him to run for a third term.
- On Tuesday, a transport strike paralysed much of Guinea Bissau, as taxi drivers protested police extortion and the levels of bureaucracy imposed by the mayor of the capital and the transport ministry. The drivers’ union set up an emergency hotline to enable anyone sick or injured to be taken to the hospital, as there is no ambulance service in the country.
Hello all! Hope all is well!
This is an informal post, but I am hoping those of you with UN or other IDP agency contacts will heed these words and help to get rapid assistance for the IDPs living in Cote d’Ivoire. I am currently living in Abidjan and have been watching as civil war is breaking out all around me.
There are an estimated at least 30,000 newly displaced persons within Abidjan alone right now (and thousands upon thousands more across the country), because of fighting between different militias, rebels, and government forces during this past week. I have seen many scattered, sleeping out on the streets with their meager belongings as they have no where else to go.
These populations are now being heavily targeted, facing attacks from different factions. I have taken reports of some having their throats slit. Others being trapped within tires and burned alive. Many others still are being harassed, attacked, raped and beaten by groups of thugs from both sides, depending on the ethnicity of the IDP and the area they are in.
The UN has a mandate right now to protect civilians. Civilians are not being protected. There is a large contingent of UN troops stationed at the Golf Hotel, while the civilians are seemingly left to fend for themselves. These people need protection, some sort of “safe zone” for them to head to. Some sort of camp. Something.
The situation here is escalating quickly. If these populations are not protected quickly, I fear there will be many, many lost.
Hoping for peace for Cote d’Ivoire.
Today in Côte d’Ivoire there is public holiday; at least for some. Others will take the holiday tomorrow.
Sadly, the holiday to commemorate the birth of the Prophet (peace be upon him), known as Maouloud/Mawlid (and numerous other spellings), is now being used as a political weapon between Gbagbo and Ouattara’s camps. On Monday, Imam Idriss Kudu Kone, chairman of the National Islamic Council (CNI), declared Tuesday the paid holiday, which was supported by the Gbagbo government. However, Sheikh Fofana Boikary, Chairman of the Higher Council of Imams in Côte d’Ivoire (COSIMA) announced that Wednesday would be the paid holiday, the date backed by Ouattara’s government.
The date of the holiday typically fluctuates within the Gregorian calendar, as it is traditionally set according to the lunar Arabic calendar that doesn’t run its months in the same fashion. Sunni Muslims typically celebrate 5 days earlier than Shi’as. There are also commonly other date variations depending on the country and cultural beliefs of the person. Burkina Faso, for example, celebrate their public holiday this year on Wednesday (the same date as COSIMA), but in several other Arabic countries, such as Mali, and Lebanon the holiday this year falls today, Tuesday (the same date as the CNI). Saudi Arabia does not have a public holiday at all, and some sects also abstain from celebration altogether.
The altering dates however, have caused some stir among the local population. Managers and owners of industry and business must give their employees one day off with pay, but both Presidents are stating that their date is the “proper” date that must be legally followed and many employees are angered that they are forced to work on their day of rest. The result has been divisive. One’s sympathies become much more apparent publicly, as they must chose when to work or not to work, when to worship or not worship. It’s a hot topic of conversation at the moment and I’ve listened as numerous verbal conflicts have ensued around me.
And of course, the local papers are awash with the same slanted political rhetoric I’ve come to dread; one side alleging that the CNI Imam is working to divide the Muslim community while sitting in Gbagbo’s pocket, the other is filled with rumours that Burkina’s President collaborated with Ouattara to create a controversy. Conspiracies and rumours run wild. This was supposed to be a holiday, a day of rest. Now it is another wedge in the community. Another block between people.
I’ve heard countless stories lately of families breaking up over politics in this country. The economic effects are crippling on many families, as food and goods prices have all skyrocketed. Exports are slowed, imports are slowed. Banks are closing. I’ve also heard now from those in some of the neighbouring countries who say they are also feeling the economic effects.
Moves like this continually force politics into the public sphere, manufacturing cultural violence that only eventually fuel violent structural policies that are exclusive or insensitive to some parts of the population, in turn only creating more incidences of direct violence as people become incensed at the inequalities. Frankly, I’m disappointed to not see more attempts at lessening the cultural violence within the country. So far, I’ve read tons of suggestions and strategies aimed at economically hurting Gbagbo, using military invasion, using mediation between the leaders to lessen the crisis; but where are the strategies aimed at healing the divisions being created within society? Where is the funding and aid being directed to peacebuilding projects? There are a few organizations like the Search for Common Ground (SCG) in the country trying to do just this, and they have been having relative success. SCG’s balanced radio program is currently a voice of reason in a sea of escalating propaganda and their conflict resolution strategies for land conflicts have shown to be quite effective.
Lately, I fear this country may just end up split in two. Getting Gbagbo out of power will not instantly heal this country, as land conflicts, majorly corrupt justice systems, disenfranchisement of certain populations in certain areas, slanted media that marginalizes moderate voices and numerous other cultural, economic and sociological factors are at play here, working to divide the population. It makes me wonder why the focus for de-escalating conflict within the international community seems always directed at the political and economic sphere. There always seems to be a focus on the macro, to the detriment of the micro. Leaders come and go (and sometimes stay longer than we’d like), but the lingering effects of the cultural and structural conflicts that are manufactured remain for many years to come.
In the previous post I spoke about some of the underlying tensions and the general situation over the past few weeks in Cote D’Ivoire. In this post, I will discuss some of the “solutions” being proposed, the likelihood of their usage and the effect I believe they will have on the population.
The international community was quick to suggest sanctions and have since taken steps to freeze Gbagbo’s foreign assets. The IMF has cut Gbagbo off from some $800 million in development funding and instead handed over access to their former employee, Ouattara and many other countries have taken steps to freeze Gbagbo’s assets in their country. Cote d’Ivoire has already missed its coupon payment on its $2.3 billion Eurobond (though there is debate over which President should actually pay this) that was due last Friday, but will not default for another month. Default could have serious implications on the future of international debt relationships with the country, which has already restructured twice in the past. Travel restrictions on Gbagbo and several members of his camp have also been put into place. The intention here is to financially isolate Gbagbo and his net of loyal supporters and force him to step down peacefully.
Gbagbo has been accused of paying for foreign (mostly Liberian) mercenaries to help fight his battle, and has the public support of the army and police. Many feel that without money to pay the army, police force and mercenaries, Gbagbo will quickly lose his support from these entities, which may even turn on him. This is certainly a possibility, as some reports suggest Gbagbo has only enough money to pay these forces for three months, and many of the forces are living day to day without any savings to pull them through. Without pay, they are likely to be angered and more susceptible to go with whoever can provide a salary. State run newspapers claim however, that Gbagbo’s signature is still being recognized on state accounts at the central bank and that salaries will be paid regularly and on time.
Several governments have refused to recognize ambassadors appointed by Gbagbo, resulting in Gbagbo announcing the removal of diplomatic privileges and immunity for those who refuse him in reciprocity. Britain, whose ambassador is actually based in Ghana rather than Cote d’Ivoire, rejected the move, saying it no longer accepted Gbagbo’s authority. Canada has called the removal “illegitimate”, but may be in a more difficult position as their embassy is located within Abidjan. The US treasury has barred Americans from doing business with any of Gbagbo’s inner circle.
Imposing sanctions also poses a risk. An armed force without a salary is a dangerous thing, as they may simply take to extracting their dues from the population as has been demonstrated in other conflicts. Civil workers, many living paycheck to paycheck, face the possibility of hunger without a salary, especially considering the rising prices of food staples. Another concern is the possibility of several eastern players funding and arming Gbagbo’s camp discretely. There are unconfirmed rumours of certain groups already doing so. China is said to have just recently given at least 3 billion CFA to Cote d’Ivoire, fulfilling their promise from a recent China-Africa summit and is unlikely to break the relationship that allows them access to raw materials– whoever is in charge. In this situation, Gbagbo would likely trade their funding for local concessions—and possibly use the funding to attempt to expel those who would have him ousted.
Dialogue or recount and investigation
Dialogue is only useful if both parties are willing to come to the table and work on a solution that is best for the country. Gbagbo is very skilled at the political manipulation game and has been announcing in public that he is open to the idea of dialogue and investigation. However, many feel that this is merely another stalling technique aimed at him finding ways to stay in power. Ouattara has been reported as saying he will not accept dialogue until Gbagbo admits he was defeated. Not a likely situation. This makes the possibility of a unity government (which is highly undesirable for much of the international community) or any sort of peace arrangement unlikely, or at the very least, a long way off.
International mediators have been attempting to diffuse the situation through a series of talks, and have been offering Gbagbo the option of comfortable exile and amnesty should he step down peacefully. This may be a valid option if the sanctions work as they are intended, but have so far fallen on deaf ears. Even still, this process should be continued as the stakes might change in the coming months. The international community should be careful in its choice of mediators however, as the AU choice of Odinga, who was one of the first to call on military action against Gbagbo, left slim chance for an opportunity of meaningful diplomacy.
Recounting and investigating the votes is no longer really an option, even though the monitors did cite irregularities and intimidation across the country. The international community’s previous announcement of an undisputed winner is extremely unlikely to be retracted, as it would bring into question their past partiality and neutrality. This would only give more fodder for Gbagbo to cite corruption should the recount not be found in his favour. In all likelihood, Gbagbo would not accept defeat even in the event of a recount in Ouattara’s favour. Ouattara has also dismissed this possibility entirely, saying that military intervention is now the only option.
Investigation, however, is something that should still be considered. Though it will have little change in the current situation, it will be helpful for the international community to review their process so they can better handle this type of situation in the future. Investigation into all allegations of violence is also extremely important, so that all parties responsible for inciting violence can eventually be brought to the International Criminal Court for justice. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights warned three top military leaders within Gbagbo’s camp that they could be liable for war crimes prosecution and reminded them of their obligations under international human rights law and humanitarian law.
Military Intervention by African parties
Intervention is an option that has been talked about, but mostly as an extreme last resort. Ouattara is strongly for it, saying that it need not trigger a civil war and although many Julas in Cote d’Ivoire are no doubt eagerly awaiting this possibility; many feel it is likely to bring a greater amount of violence upon the population.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and its Monitoring Group ECOMOG has been going back and forth over the possibility of intervening militarily, most recently shelving the idea in favour of diplomacy and attempts at dialogue.
There has long been a rivalry between Anglophone and Francophone parties within ECOWAS/ECOMOG, with the Francophone countries of West Africa in the past being vehemently opposed to intervention, which they see as a tool for Anglophone domination in the region. In previous interventions, ECOWAS has sent in troops only after being invited to intervene by governments already in place. The effectiveness of their force directly depends on the political consensus within the West African community, who will have to collectively decide on how the mission is engaged and handled. Burkina Faso’s President Compaore has previously declared his total disagreement with intervention, citing that the Standing Mediation Committee of ECOWAS has “no competence to interfere in member-states’ internal conflicts, but only in conflicts breaking out between member-countries”. Compaore feared of a possible expansion of any internal conflict to neighbouring countries should intervention be used. This is a legitimate fear.
At the moment, refugees are already pouring across the borders and armed groups have been cited crossing the Liberian border to intimidate them. Gbagbo is widely suspected of hiring Liberian mercenaries to do his dirty work within the country, and more Liberian mercenaries are said to be crossing the border willing to work for the highest bidder. This fluctuation of populations is likely to bring certain levels of violence into neighbouring Liberia should invasion take place or at the very least, result in violence against other West African nationals still living within Cote d’Ivoire.
ECOWAS member states are said to be lacking the economic resources necessary to sustain large-scale military operations. Past intervention missions have focused on securing cease-fires, creating an atmosphere conducive for negotiations or the protection of non-combatants. The countries are thus lacking the type of special operations forces capable of a “decapitation strike” that would be able to remove Gbagbo from power. That leaves only the option of full-scale invasion, which has serious implications for the civilian population. There has long been a difficulty trying to operate a unified command among ECOMOG troops because of a high level of distrust between member states, resulting in troop contingents that may arrive with different and sometimes conflicting instructions, different training standards, and excessive control by their home governments. A force facing these handicaps will likely have difficulty operating a swift commando-style mission. The ECOWAS missions are also highly reliant on non-regional state sponsorship for their operations and would require logistical support of the US and France.
Nigeria, the largest military power within the community and holder of the current presidency of ECOWAS, has little incentive to wage war in a year when it will be holding its own Presidential elections and is already bogged down with its own internal strife. Dozens of people protested in Nigeria against the use of intervention, fearing they could be targeted in retaliatory violence should they invade. The other countries most likely to be the core of any force– Ghana and Senegal— have millions of their own citizens in the country and also fear reprisals. (UPDATE: Ghanian President Atta-Mills has since announced that his country would not support a military intervention in Cote d’Ivoire and has allegedly even sent military equipment and financial assistance to Gbagbo). A Nigerian analyst questioned which country would want to send troops into an urban centre like Abidjan and face a national army instead of a rebel force; and also suggested that Nigeria would not be in the position to do anything until at least after their own elections scheduled for January 22nd and the later general elections in April. ECOWAS has only a 1,500 strong rapid reaction force and a further main force of 4,000 at their disposal, which would be outnumbered by Gbagbo forces in the case of a full-scale invasion.
Military Intervention by International Parties
The new American foreign policy in Africa has led it to develop partnerships with Mali, Ghana, Morocco and other states in its “war on terrorism” and increase funding to military operations in Africa. United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) has also conducted several large-scale military maneuvers and war games in West Africa. Despite America’s missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is said the US Navy does have an Amphibious Ready Group with three or four ships, including a large helicopter carrier, with a 2,000-man Marine Expeditionary Unit able to do the job in Cote d’Ivoire. This however, is extremely unlikely. The US has traditionally followed France’s lead within francophone Africa, and France would be unlikely to approve of US assistance to install a new Ivorian leader. The Pentagon has just seen a tremendous slash in budget that would reduce its spending by $78 billion over the next five years, not including costs of combat operations and the cutting of approximately 47,000 troops from the Army and Marine Corps forces. They are now looking to scale back invasions and military operations, not increase them. Washington has also recently indicated it might accept Gbagbo if it would help defuse the crisis, demonstrating that they are trying to see other options than invasion. Intervention into Africa is also a highly undesirable political action for any US leaders, as many keenly remember the disastrous invasion in Somalia and fear “wasting” any military resources on a fight that serves little interest to American citizens.
African security analyst Peter Pham said there is “little chance” that the UN would allow its peacekeepers to get involved in a military strike, as the “precedent would make it very difficult to get future agreement for deployment of such missions by host countries”. It would also call into question the lack of response by the UN in several other flawed elections processes over the past few months. The UN has recently called on between 1,000 and 2,000 additional peacekeepers to augment the 9,800 troops currently in place; though these troops would be under the same mandate that disallows them from intervening.
The French Defense Minister Alain Juppe has said that France is only ready to intervene to protect French citizens and that any decision about military intervention would need to come from the UN or the AU. French President Sarkozy later announced that French troops were not in Cote d’Ivoire to interfere with internal affairs, saying that they are to “act by virtue of a UN mandate”. French intellectuals are insisting upon UN approval for any intervention to be considered legitimate. Given France’s history in Cote d’Ivoire, a military intervention would not be a politically popular choice. In 2004, in what can be described as analogous to the US’ Black Hawk Down incident, France lost nine soldiers in a bombing and retaliated on Gbagbo’s government by wiping out the entire Ivorian air force. Retaliation attacks saw much of the French population being removed militarily by helicopter and never returning. Popular French sentiment is strongly against further interfering in someone else’s fight. No other European nation is likely going to risk its forces in West Africa without France leading the charge.
Response to Intervention
Two of Africa’s most respected peace-building and governance organizations, the West African Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP) and the Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG), have expressed serious reservations about any proposed military intervention within Cote d’Ivoire. The response to any intervention must be strongly weighed because the move could result in great amounts of violence faced by civilians .
The notorious Ble Goude called upon his supporters to resist any foreign occupation, saying that “no army, however powerful, can come and remove Gbagbo in order to install (Ouattara)” in front of a crowd of 5,000 who shouted they would not accept that option. Some claim that a good number of officers within Gbagbo’s camp don’t feel like going to war since they have already enriched themselves in previous years, and don’t want to risk what they have accumulated. Some have even allegedly told Gbagbo they wouldn’t order their troops to fire upon unarmed civilians to avoid any prosecution at the International Criminal Court. The EU and France are deliberately avoiding sanctioning many of these generals (including General Philippe Mangou) in an effort to capitalize on this sentiment and avoid the wrath that may be enraged should they de-legitimize portions of the armed forces.
Ouattara has been claiming that 63% of Ivorian soldiers voted for him despite the belief that Gbagbo has support of the army, though this statement seems to contradict the reality of the situation on the ground. Since Gbagbo is “just one man” with a small group of supporters, Ouattara suggests that he could be easily removed through military intervention. This claim would have the army, long staffed along ethnic lines favorable to Gbagbo, voting in higher numbers for Ouattara than they did among the average population and if true, would have likely resulted in a nationally-run coup on Gbagbo weeks ago.
Gbagbo is said to have approximately 4,000 regular FDS troops, thousands of anti-riot police, the CESOS, the infantry, the navy and other paramilitary units at his disposal. The military forces are said to number over 30,000. They also have a tiny air force of Sukhoi warplanes, drones, Mi-24, Mi-8 and Puma copters, anti-aircraft batteries, rocket launchers and a dozen armored vehicles. Ouattara’s Force Nouvelles is said to have approximately 4,000 troops, with only a couple hundred currently in the capital and are said to be mostly lightly armed with machine guns and RPGs. There are also allegedly several heavily armed pro-Ouattara “sleeper cells” in the Abidjan neighbourhoods of Abobo, Port-Bouet 2, Koumassi and Adjame, and other rumours of armed cells of Gbagbo-supporters in other neighbourhoods.
Unless a quick, highly specialized “decapitation” mission is enacted, it is possible that Gbagbo supporters will fight back, or at the very least, the armed forces will resist the invasion. This would mean armed attacks within the most populous city in the country, with civilians likely caught in the crossfire. In this situation, the ports would likely close and transportation likely slow, making commerce nearly impossible. Many of those with wages would likely be unemployed for much of the armed conflict and food prices would skyrocket even further, making the population even more food insecure than it already is. Retaliations against pro-Ouattara populations and foreigners within the southern part of the country would become increasingly likely. The alleged armed sleeper cells would no doubt join the fight, bringing another layer of unrestrained violence upon the population.
The Forces Nouvelles could seize the opportunity while the FDS and other Gbagbo armed forces are busy fighting off an invasion to attempt to take the city. This would bring even more armed factions into the city, and with it, even more armed conflict. This type of situation would likely end in wholesale slaughter of many civilians.
What if the international and African community just stands back and does nothing? Though this is not a popular option, it is likely the most probable (besides current sanctioning and attempts at dialogue).
On the streets, especially during the day, things within the city have relatively returned to normal. It is possible that the political killings and disappearances could wane off if the international community stopped pushing the country for action. The average Ivorian wants peace, and merely wants to go to work, and live in safety with their families– no matter who is in charge. In this case, Ouattara and his camp would no doubt have to seek exile in another country, and the Forces Nouvelles currently residing around the Golf Hotel would have to return back north. Lingering hatreds could fester underground, and result in later violence, but the country could remain functioning. The north and south would likely return to an ad hoc division. However, it is also possible that political killings and disappearances could continue and even increase, though this would likely result in increasing resentment from the civilian population. If this were the case, sanctioning and intervention would have a better chance of having the support of the Ivorian population, however, this could result in risking the wholesale slaughter of much of the population.
The international community has been quick to decide what’s best for the Ivorian people. They must remember that any move they make will have a lasting result on the population, and take every effort to consult the people to ensure Ivorian voices are not being lost in the process. It is easy to sit by in the US, France or another country and assert that one move is “best” for Ivorian people, but these people do not have to live with the outcomes of their decisions each and every day. They are not the ones who will have armed forces fighting in their streets.
Peace is a possibility in Cote d’Ivoire, as much of the population is everyday struggling to return there. They get up everyday, head to work, eat, take care of their children and hope that tomorrow something will change in the political situation. Many hope that the next generation will bring new leaders who haven’t been involved in past politics and who are more focused on ensuring they have jobs, food security and peace. Here’s hoping!
Paix pour la Cote d’Ivoire!
This past month or so has been a particularly stressful one for me. I have been living in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire for most of the past year and have watched as the country has been sinking deeper and deeper into violence and intense propaganda. Sadly, I’ve found I no longer believe a word I read in both local and international news, as I have read “news” that is in direct contrast to what I have seen and heard with my own eyes and ears. The stories seem to be escalating the situation further and further, and I’m finding myself extremely frustrated that everything seems to be so one-sided (either pro-Ouattara or pro-Gbagbo). It hurts me to think I have posted articles and comments that are seen as even slightly defensive of Gbagbo in the international sphere in an effort to elicit some form of balance in the reporting, as I have been (and still am) heavily critical of him. It hurts to try and have discussions with locals within Abidjan in defense of Ouattara, to try and bring reason to fervent Gbagbo supporters. I hate playing the “other-side” game in response to one-sided arguments, but I think it’s important to try to play devil’s advocate with those die-hard supporters who only paint one side of the story. Frankly, I wish both presidents would move on and allow a fresh batch of politicians that aren’t tainted with past violence to step forward to take the country to a more peaceful future, but this is not reality.
I was last here in 2004, during the previous civil war and saw the violence as it spread and resulted in the intense hatred of all things foreign. It was sometimes scary and devastating to watch. I heard many horrific personal stories from friends of the violence they experienced at the time. Despite this, I was ecstatic at the opportunity to come back here. I love this country. I love the mostly kind and friendly people I have encountered here. I love the rich culture and delicious food. I love the countryside, the beaches and the thick, lush forest. I love the way of life here, barring the corruption that sometimes makes things difficult. It’s a beautiful country with a lot of really amazing treasures.
The November 28th presidential elections resulted in a political crisis, with two different entities announcing two different results. Both Presidents were sworn in, in separate ceremonies and the country has been awash with reports of violence and violent-rhetoric ever since. The crisis didn’t really begin here; it has been festering for many years but it is now looking likely to outbreak into civil war, political assassinations or exiles and further inter-group hatreds.
Though I have been writing detailed personal notes throughout this situation, I must admit that I have been fearful to publish anything on the situation in the past few weeks. After writing a critique of the nearly unanimous support for Ouattara (the opposition) demonstrated by the international community on this site and several posts on the subject in a few other forums, I received some rather scary death threats from one person and many comments that broke my non-violence, non-discrimination, non-racism policy. I decided to take a bit of a break from posting on the subject.
The results of the elections sadly, is no longer even really relevant to the discussion. Whoever “really” won did so in a circumstance of intimidation and irregularity that can be attributed to both parties, depending on where one is situated in the country (with Gbagbo-supporters being intimidated mostly in the north, and Ouattara supporters being intimidated mostly in the south). The events that have happened since have only worsened the possibility of the “truth” being told. Propaganda has run wild, with increasingly violent-rhetoric being spread among both state and opposition media. Any probing of results or investigation at this point will be lost behind propaganda I’m afraid.
There has been acts of violence and the country is at real threat of returning to civil war, which it never fully recovered from in the first place. At least 150 are confirmed dead, and probably somewhere closer to several hundred. Dozens (and perhaps many more) have disappeared, and hundreds are said to have been arrested. Many thousands have fled to neighbouring Liberia, escaping violence in the south perpetrated mostly by Gbagbo-supporters, alleged mercenaries and the security forces; and violence in the north perpetrated mostly by Ouattara supporters and the Forces Nouvelles. Further investigation is needed to assess the refugees and their experiences of violence.
Some 120,000 Liberian refugees reside within Cote D’Ivoire, thousands of Burkinabes, and other West Africa refugees; and there have been hints from some sources within the UNHCR that suggest that many of those flooding out of Cote D’Ivoire are these long-term refugees who have long worked the system. They are appearing heavily at the UNHCR border office rather than being evenly distributed throughout Liberia or other neighbouring countries (this is taken from both personal communications with officials and comments made to Chris Blattman from a UNHCR official). I do however believe, that even if these refugees “know how to work the system”, they are still experiencing violence, as foreigners are often scapegoated during domestic troubles.
Regardless of who these refugees are and where they came from, they must be assisted and resettled with caution. The increase of people into Liberia, itself prone to instability, leaves an already burdened population with more mouths to feed and endangers peace in that country as well. Armed groups have been cited crossing borders to intimidate refugee populations and take the conflict to new populations as they do. Instability in the region could easily pass borders if things in Cote D’Ivoire worsen.
Besides the refugees, there are many foreigners with money who have decided to return to their home countries by more planned means (via plane with actual luggage) as their embassies sent messages urging them to quit the country before more violence came. This has had some effect on the local economy, although it appears many major business owners will be staying and instead sending their wives and families back home.
Nearly half the population was already unemployed before the conflict began and the vast majority lives on little more than $1 a day. Those that work often support large numbers of people on their meager salaries. Many workers have been laid off since the crisis, and the prices of food staples has doubled. As the population becomes more food and job insecure, so the risk for conflict increases. Strikes called by Ouattara’s camp affected some of the services of the buses, gbakas (minbuses) and taxis for a few days, but as most of the population is living day to day, long-term or full out striking is extremely unlikely. Most can simply not afford to take the time off without severe repercussions to themselves and their families.
Rallies have been held and marches planned. Ouattara’s march on the RTI television station ended without real success and resulted in much-expected clashes between security forces and protesters. Despite the violence, Ouattara was calling on his supporters to continue the attempt the following day, again without success. He has since repeatedly warned Gbagbo of imminent consequences should he not back down immediately, though it is difficult to administer consequences when one is backed into hiding and the consequences have yet to be seen. The notorious Ble Goude (Gbagbo’s Youth Minister) has been busy rallying up Gbagbo supporters and spinning them into an angry frenzy, readying them for the moment he can unleash them to try to take the Golf Hotel (where the Ouattara camp is currently residing under UN and Force Nouvelles protection) by force. Two major marches planned by Ble Goude have been canceled the night before they were even begun, allegedly to prevent further violence (though they were called using the extreme violent-rhetoric Goude is famous for).
The local political humour paper Gbich has taken the opportunity openly mock both candidates and their behaviours, much to my enjoyment. However, in the serious papers (both state and opposition); violent, inciting rhetoric makes me skeptical of the veracity of anything printed inside and angered that more peaceful dialogue is not the popular option. Rumours of local media intimidation by Gbagbo forces haven’t stopped most opposition papers from writing, as they can still be found daily in many places around the city. I’ve personally been threatened by a pro-Ouattara supporter, so I know that the intimidation definitely goes both ways, but I can also say that I fear writing anything hyper-critical of either candidate should the situation deteriorate further.
On the streets, during the day time, things are pretty normal. The streets and markets are crowded with people again going about their daily business, though people are still cautiously stocking up on supplies and keeping an eye out for any signs of coming danger. The police in many parts of the city have even returned to using radar to ticket speeders. I’ve found no trouble or signs of blatant violence while traveling throughout the city in the past two weeks, except for roadblocks and neighbourhood patrols in a few districts at night. In fact, on New Years eve, I traveled throughout several districts (including both known pro-Ouattara and pro-Gbagbo districts) and saw drunken partying, fireworks and dancing as if nothing was wrong. I couldn’t sleep that night as the music, cheering and fireworks of those partying around my apartment blared in through my windows.
I have detailed some of the local situation and the underlying tensions that exist in this post. I will discuss in further detail some of the proposed “solutions” to the crisis and the effects I see coming from those in the next post.
Something didn’t sit right with me while watching this second round of the Presidential vote here in Cote D’Ivoire. The international community jumped on the bandwagon of unconditional, almost unanimous support for Ouattara, without real scrutiny into the results being released by the CEI (electoral commission). The UN, France, the US, the EU, the AU and ECOWAS all congratulated Alassane Ouattara for his “win” early on without question. I think the reasoning behind this move can be attributed to the on-air physical blocking of the reading of the provisional results on Tuesday (two days after the vote) that would have allowed the CEI to read its judgment within its mandated time before the vote was handed off to the Constitutional Council. I believe that they suspected this as a move to block the reading in order to prevent the results from being determined before the Wednesday night deadline and thus was essentially a coup on Gbagbo’s part. This may or may not be true. The Council figures have Gbagbo ahead with a convenient 51% of the vote, only after invalidating 500,000 ballots from Ouattara-supporting regions in seven districts.
The international media has taken occasion to one-sidedly point out flaws with the situation. They have cited that the President of the Constitutional Council is pro Gbagbo and that allowing the Constitutional Council to decide the results would sway the reality. What they aren’t saying is that the President of the CEI as well as the Permanent Secretary and Spokesman are all pro Ouattara and so their reading is also suspect. However, the statement given prior to the election by the Carter Centre would suggest that the “formal adjudication of elections petitions is the responsibility of the Constitutional Council”. There is clearly some imbalance in reporting.
There were several teams of international observers, most notably led by the EU, the Carter Centre and secured by the UN military observers. The EU sent in approximately 120 observers who assisted in observing approximately 4.7% of the polling stations, who may or may not have spoken French, the official language in Cote D’Ivoire. Speaking the local language is incredibly important in order to make impartial and accurate observations. The Carter Centre sent in 10 long term observers to help cover the 322,460 square kilometers and the UN had approximately 192 observers from 42 different countries, who again, may or may not have spoken French.
Three days prior to the vote, the EU electoral observers noted that they had seen a “lack of respect by the CEI (independent electoral commission) of its agreements with observers,” and that “(d)espite a number of requests addressed to the CEI, the EU mission continues to face significant obstacles accessing electoral operations”. The head of the EU electoral monitoring mission, Cristian Preda, then noted shortly after the vote that “(o)ur observers saw irregularities, some obstacles on the day of the vote and serious tension”.
The day after the vote, both sides were complaining of serious intimidation, such as the following statement from opposition Alassane Ouattara’s RDR party, “We have had lots of calls telling us of cases of serious human rights violations, intimidation and prevention of voting,” and statements of several voters such as, “People have not come out today because of the election…We are very afraid about the violence.” It was also reported that the EU had left the administrative capital of Yamoussoukro days before the polls after receiving death threats, making them unable to monitor this largely populated area and the EU themselves announced that barriers were observed blocking people from voting in several places on Sunday, including in Gbagbo’s hometown of Gagnoa and that some ballots were stolen.
The Carter Centre released a report on November 30th citing many problems with the conduct of the vote, which included:
- documented incidents of violence and intimidation across the country;
- important procedural irregularities such as the management of the voter lists, failure to check consistently for indelible ink on voter’s fingers (in over half the polling stations visited), and inking the voter’s fingers after they voted;
- serious election crimes committed such as the destruction of election materials, and ballot box theft;
- the slow manner which the CEI communicated the important procedural revisions adopted on November 13th, including refusing to admit the existence of the revisions;
- significant delays in the Sassandra Valley region amid political tension and violence the night of the election;
- confusion over last minute changes in polling station staff with replacements who did not appear to have received training;
- following improper steps for voter signature of the voters’ list or use of indelible ink to mark fingers in at least one of ten stations visited;
- the lack of the “ordre de mission” certificates establishing the rights of voters that was to be retained by polling staff after the voter cast his or her ballot to prevent multiple voting was absent in at least one quarter of the stations visited;
- the potential for voter intimidation in at least five percent of the stations visited;
- and serious election day irregularities after the closing of polling stations
The Carter Centre also stated in that report that it “believes it is essential for there to be an investigation of these incidents,” and noted that the “formal adjudication of election petitions is the responsibility of the Constitutional Council”. So why then, is the Constitutional Council no longer responsible for the formal adjudication? Why has the international community taken it on themselves to declare a winner without their consultation or without investigation into the serious irregularities noted by all parties?
There were also several local civil society organizations charged with elections observations that spoke the language fluently and had intimate knowledge of the local terrain and customs. The COFEMCI-NCEP, COSOPCI, WACSOF-CI RAIDH WANEP-CI coalition had 938 observers in both the Cote D’ivoire and France. They found significant violence, intimidation and voting impediments, particularly in the North, South and forest zone; that the presence of intrusive law enforcement was likely to intimidate voters; the confusion caused by the release of the Ministry of the Interior and that of the Prime Minister’s office showed a lack of coordination and monitoring of the process at the government level; the barring of observers from certain polling stations in Vallee du Bandama; the intrusive presence of law enforcement and disappearance of six ballot boxes in Dix-Huit Montanges; the violence against LMP activists in the Savannah region; the assault in the town of Daloa in Bas Sassandra and the snatching of ballot boxes; massive disorder in Kumasi; that counting was conducted in haste; that sometimes ballot boxes were completely abandoned after the process; and that overall it was difficult to conduct peaceful elections that would be considered free, fair and transparent. These findings were largely ignored by the international media.
Another group of civil society monitors from the CSCI (funded through the EU) had 1100 observers throughout the country who visited on average seven polling stations each or around 38% of the stations. They noted an absence of some election officials in polling stations; the late arrival and lack of election material in the polling stations; the notable absence or delay of Security Forces officials for protection in several locations; several incidents of violence at polling stations; the destruction and removal of ballot boxes; multiple voting in several locations; the impediment of voting in several locations; the absence, late arrival or departure of certain candidate representatives in several regions; the barring of monitors from observing the counting process in some locations; the insecurity of some convoys transferring results, including attacks on some of the convoys; poor quality elections ballots spotted; polling booths that breached confidentiality; insufficient ballots in some locations; and ballot boxes unsealed or only partially sealed. They also noted that the voter turnout was around 70%. Again, these findings were largely ignored in the international media, even though the local monitors had nearly ten times more observers in the country and were accessing far more stations than the international monitors were capable of. These observers are there to represent the voice of the Ivorian people (whose election this is) through their own civil society and they are being almost totally ignored.
Considering that all in all, probably less than half the stations were actually monitored at all, most for only short periods of time throughout the day, and that there were significant reports of irregularities and violence in those stations actually monitored, this election can hardly be counted as “fair and free”.
- There are 64,290 extra registered voters in the second round (5,783,349 in the first and 5,847,639 in the second) though the official total tally printed on the top of the results from the second round is still listed as the same as the first. When one actually adds up the “inscrits” in each region though, it is easily shown that the numbers don’t add up to the reported total. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General set out the criteria for the official certified final voter list as 5,725,720, yet there are clearly more than that present in the CEI’s reported second round.
- The entire foreign French vote was removed from the second round. France had 13,881 registered voters in the first round, and Gbagbo received 53.2% of the French vote in the first round, with Ouattara receiving only 25.4% and Bedie with 16.5%.
- They must have gotten significantly better at filling out the ballots in the second round, despite the lack of education or public awareness to this end in the country, as there were 124,957 less “null” votes counted in the second round from the first round. In fact, there was more than double the amount of “null” votes in the first round compared to the second (225,624 and 101,476 respectively). There are some reasons that *might* account for less nulls in the second round, such as the change from 14 candidates to 2 candidates on the ballot, but when one considers that in some regional cases they had nearly 15 times less null votes in the second round than in the first, it does become rather suspect. In 2000, 12.40% of votes were invalidated, in the first round of these elections there were 4.59% invalidated and only 2.16% in the second round.
- Voter turnout was originally cited in foreign press and by observers as between 65-70%. Local reports set the turnout at 71.28%, and local observers noted an approximate 70% turnout. Despite this, the final tally of voter turnout as documented by the CEI was cited as 80.19%, only slightly (3.4%) less than the first round (83.63%). When one tallies up the actual number of counted votes, there are actually 63,327 more votes in the second round than in the first (counting “suffrages exprimes”). If there was voter intimidation in many districts, as was reported by all elections monitors, then one would expect that the voter turnout and number of votes would be significantly less than the first. By comparison voter turnout in 2000 was only 28.06%.
While I am certainly not making the case for Gbagbo’s victory, I do believe that the international community’s announcement of a winner in this case is severely flawed and is only exacerbating tensions and violence in the region. The Special Representative to the Secretary-General himself set the criteria for benchmarks to assess the fair and free nature of the vote as whether there was a secure environment that allows for the full participation of the population, that the electoral process is inclusive, that the voters lists are credible and that the results are determined through a transparent counting process and are accepted by all or are challenged peacefully through the appropriate channels. These criteria were CLEARLY not met, and instead of calling for the challenging through appropriate channels, the international community has taken sides without questioning the results one side is offering in the slightest. The international community’s response has only ensured that dialogue between the parties will now be next to impossible (when a unity government could have been proposed if a winner had not been announced), and that mediation will now be extremely suspect for any solution.
The Ivorian people should be in charge of their own destiny and international bodies should remember their place—to act as mediators, diplomats and not adjudicators.
I have no access to foreign tv news and radio at the moment, as it has been cut off through the government in an attempt to stop what is being termed “illegal” announcements of a Presidential winner. I have been trawling the internet searching for the international response to the current situation trying to gauge international opinion and what information is being released where.
The election happened last Sunday, and since then things have gone severely downhill. What most frustrates me about what I have so far read in the international news is that several states and bodies (the UN, the EU, the US, the French, etc.) have taken it upon themselves to declare who the winner should be. I see major problems with this bold assertion.
The elections have been marred with political intimidation and violence– and conflicting evidence has been found that makes the election at least suspect. Declaring a winner smacks of colonial imperialism. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN peacekeeping mission in Cote D’Ivoire earlier expressed that the tally sheets were being transported normally, while EU electoral commission was suggesting that there were many irregularities and serious tension at the vote. Then they seemingly unanimously stand with Ouattara and announce him as rightful President without finding the full facts first. Instead of automatically declaring a winner, I feel that a more democratic approach would have been an appeal for peace, an investigation, release of the actual results from each district and recounts or investigation into contested areas so that the true voice of the Ivorian people can be represented. By asserting a winner, the international community is overstepping its role and only increasing tensions.
I have also been inundated with email messages since posting my last entry only a few hours ago, which was quite surprising to me as I don’t usually receive so many comments immediately following a post. There are clearly very strong feelings about both candidates. Frankly, it is not for me to say which candidate should have won here and I would never make that suggestion, I am merely trying to paint the situation as I have observed from local media so far. I am saddened to see the strong cultural violence that has been reiterated in many of these messages and comments, and have to say, that unfortunately– if your comment is one-sided without a proof to back it up or contains insults or disrespect directed towards one group– I will not be re-printing your message. I am willing to engage in conversation about the subject, and if you feel I have wrongly withheld your comments, please try messaging me again and provide some backings for your claims. Sorry to anyone that this offends.
All I can hope for is peace and calm and for the voice of the Ivorian people to be respected, and that no more deaths come from this election.
Here’s a piece I just wrote for STAND Canada. I was going to write a second piece exclusively for this blog, but am still tired and weakened from my recent bout with malaria that I didn’t feel quite up to it yet. I’ll have some new pieces for you soon and should have the weekly conflict roundup posted sometime tomorrow!
Since this piece was written last night, we have had some more news: the Constitutional Council has overturned the CEI’s election results and announced that Gbagbo has won the elections with 51% of the vote, after eliminating seven regions in the Ouattara-supported North.
It looked promising. A face to face debate between the two candidates days before the second round of elections featured set two minute response times to each question to curtail any cutting off or interruptions and ended in a handshake and gentle embrace between Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara. They laughed and joked with each other, even telling of friendly phone conversations between them over the past years, and calling for an end to some escalating violent tones within street campaigning. Onlookers might think they were old friends and not longstanding political rivals who had previously battled each other in civil war. I watched while the days progressed as people who had repeatedly talked of peace and patience quickly turned to spread hype-filled rumours, enhancing cultural violence and tensions. Today, we know a new coup was born and democracy was again denied for the people of Cote D’Ivoire.
The night before the election, tensions boiled over and clashes broke out in the streets, resulting in at least six reported deaths and many injuries. Current President Gbagbo announced a five-day curfew, later extended indefinitely, that would run from night until mornings in an attempt to reduce the violence happening in the streets. Ouattara subsequently stated that the curfew was illegal, unconstitutional and that it would open the door to electoral fraud, preventing election results from being properly delivered and counted. Angered, he and many of his supporters refused to respect the curfew and that night many youth supporters took to the streets in Abidjan against it, clashing with police as demonstrations turned violent. At least three people were reported killed.
The day of the vote was tense. Polls opened late in many areas, and eager voters were restricted from lining up at first light as they had in the previous round because the curfew prevented it. Voter intimidation was cited several regions, and many people chose to simply stay home to avoid the violence or threats. Despite the intimidation and several early complaints of irregularity, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN peacekeeping mission in Cote D’Ivoire, Y.J. Choi, expressed that he had “no doubt that no (sic) candidate will resort to undemocratic means to express his position on the results of the poll”; citing that the tally sheets were being transported normally despite the rumours and false alarms. The EU electoral commission head suggested otherwise, announcing early on that their “observers saw irregularities, some obstacles on the day of the vote and serious tension”. The streets became ghost towns and the majority of shops were closed.
Originally, we were told results would be released within 48 hours of the vote, though the CEI (electoral commission) constitutionally had until Wednesday at midnight to make their announcements before it would be turned over to the Supreme Court’s decision. On Tuesday, glued to the tv, we watched as a Gbagbo supporter within the CEI physically seized the papers of the provisional results out of the commission spokesman’s hands and tore them up in front of a crowd of journalists, claiming the results were not valid. Ouattara alleged Gbagbo was attempting to confiscate power by preventing the results from being read, while Nigerian President and head of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) asked both candidates to “tone down their rhetoric and maintain peace”. Results were to be read the following day, but as the day came and went, no new news was released. Rumours of more clashes in the street were abundant, but unconfirmed as we called our friends around the country asking for information on the happenings in their neighbourhoods. At this point the CEI constitutional right to announce the results had expired, leaving the tallying in the hands of the Ggbagbo-appointed Supreme Court. It seemed that the CEI was forbidden from making any further announcements on state television after the confiscation earlier in the day.
This piece is an afterthought of a series I wrote for STAND on the elections process in Cote D’Ivoire which can viewed here:
The presidential elections are less than 2 weeks away here in Cote D’Ivoire. Massive billboards began lining the highways advertising the three main candidates since campaigning began on October 15th. On the boulevard and bridge crossing the lagoon in Abidjan wave the blue, pink and white flags of current leader Gbagbo’s newly formed La Majorite Presidentielle (the Presidential Majority) party. Cell phones are bombarded with texts exclaiming the virtues of each candidate, and the papers are awash with stories of the presidential hopefuls. The police seem to be out in full force, with increased roadblocks and checkpoints.
What a choice to make.
The candidate most likely to “win” is former history professor Laurent Gbagbo, who has recently polled at around 46% of the popular vote. Gbagbo has been in the presidential role for most of the last decade and despite a constitutional rule that one can only be elected president for two five-year terms, Gbagbo is able to circumvent the constitution since he has never actually been elected to that role. Following a successful 1999 coup planned by General Robert Guei, which resulted in the overthrow of one of the other current presidential candidates, Henri Bedie, Gbagbo ran for the Presidency. According to his followers Gbagbo received some nearly 60% of the vote in that election, however Guei claimed victory and violence ensued. Gbagbo’s FPI (Ivorian Popular Front) revolted in the streets, forcing Guei to flee and allowing Gbagbo to seize power. He has remained there ever since. In an attempt to separate himself from the past violence of the FPI, Gbagbo now runs under the Majorite Presidentielle name.
We are told that Gbagbo is “L’homme de la situation” (the man for the job), even though his last ten years in office have been marred by corruption, civil war, elections stalling and political posturing, and that he has previously been jailed for inciting public violence. A 2002 coup attempt against Gbagbo resulted in a fracturing of the state into north and south divisions and the arrangement of a new temporary unity government, which was to remain in place until a 2005 election could be held. The election was repeatedly delayed, primarily it was reported because of the stalled disarmament of the northern rebels and lack of identity cards for voters, but many suspected that Gbagbo was determined to keep his place for as long as possible by stalling. The stalling worked for over 5 years.
Alassane Ouattara, a former economist with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO), is the President of the Rally of the Republicans (RDR) and was the Prime Minister during the Presidency of much loved first President Houphouet-Boigny. Following Houphouet-Boigny’s death, Henri Bedie (another Presidential hopeful) and Outtara battled it out for Presidency, with Bedie prevailing. Ouattara is often associated with the rebels of the north, where his base and primary support system lies, and is often suspected of inciting rebellion among the northerners. During his time as PM, Ouattara cut subsidies to farmers (as recommended by the WTO) while EU and US farmers were receiving heavy subsidies, and on IMF recommendation dismissed more than 10,000 state employees, reduced the salaries of the remaining state employees by 40%, eliminated transportation and basic health care services for students, imposed fees for basic health care services, initiated the devaluation of the currency, aggressively pursued taxes from Lebanese and Mauritian merchants, and allegedly sold off state-owned property to his wife’s clients and friends at severely devalued prices, angering students and workers, including Gbagbo, into rebellion. Rumor circulates that while Ouattara filled in for the ailing President Houphouet-Boigny, millions of dollars from the state treasury mysteriously disappeared, allowing Ouattara to amass one of the largest fortunes on earth. Some rumors suggest that he has strong ties to the Jewish lobby, even going so far as to claim that his wife is a MOSSAD agent, to the fear of many Lebanese merchants and industrialists in the region (who make up some 2% of the population and own a large percentage of industry).
Henri Bedie is a former President (1993-99) and leader of the Democratic Party of Cote D’Ivoire- African Democratic Rally (PDCI-RDA), who now ironically claims he will unite the country from its fractions, lower taxes and restore the economy. Under Bedie, the government began its xenophobic Ivorite (or pure Ivorianess) citizenship policies in an attempt to politically exclude his competition Ouattara from the Presidency for being the son of Burkinabe parents. The policies effectively resulted in many people from the north of the country being denied of national identity papers, passports or being harassed by security forces. The north and the south became divided and in December of 1999, the national army staged a successful coup, on the pretext of non payment of due salaries, while Bedie fled to Togo and then on to Paris. He is widely known as a drunk and corrupt politician, who has little chance of regaining the Presidency. Bedie has announced that this will be his last attempt at the power position if he loses.
So who to choose? It seems to come down to the lesser of evils. I will be spending the day before the election and election day safely within my home, and hoping that violence does not mark the transition.
Friends tell me they have received multiple texts from all the candidates. So far, I have only received ones from Bedie and Gbagbo. Here are some of the recent texts I have received from the Bedie and Gbagbo campaigns:
“Yes we can! Henri Konan Bedie l’a dit longtemps avant Obama. Avec lui le progres pour tous et le bonheur pour chacun etait une realite. Ceux d’en face ont braque le pouvoir pour nous imposer le bonheur pour eux seuls et la misere pour le …peuple. Le disordre, les coup d’etat, la chienlit, les dechets toxiques et l’ecole gratuitement chere font egalement parti de leur programme de gouvernment. Il est temps de mettre un terme a cette situation qui n’a que trop dure. Fier ivorien, le 31 octobre, le pays t;appellera pour un vote historique. Il faudra faire le meilleur des choix. Le choix du progres pour tous et du bonheur pour chacun. Choisi le candidat Henri Konan Bedie pour la construction d’une Cote d’Ivoire de valeurs. Yes you can. Faites passer le message.”
“Si tu aime la Cote D’Ivoire. Si tu veux la paix vote Bedie candidat du PDCI = RDA! Nouvelle Generation d’Attecoube pour H.K.B. Partagez ce message avec vos proches et amis. Que DIEU nous accorde cette PAIX des temps PDCI=RDA!”
“Ivoirien <ne> tu as marche pour dire NON au coup d’etat et a la rebellion, Si tu as marche pour dire NON a la barbarie francaise, alors VOTE GBAGBO pour donner un sens a ton combat. Merci de passer le sms aux autres.”