Democratic Republic of the Congo

This Week in African Conflict… February 14th-21st, 2012.

  • The West African Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP) has just launched a new book on election management in West Africa.
  • The African Union Chairman announced on Saturday he will visit some of the continent’s conflict areas including Sudan, South Sudan, Mali and Libya for direct talks to help tackle the continent’s security hotspots.
  • ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States unanimously elected Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara as its Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority, succeeding Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. ECOWAS also announced that they will introduce a single currency into the sub-region by 2020, and be effective in English speaking countries by 2015.
  • Heavy casualties were reported in clashes between security forces and Tuareg rebels in Mali in a northern town on Thursday. ECOWAS ordered Tuareg rebels to end their hostilities on Friday and to give up the territories they occupy; while Amnesty International warned that the Tuareg offensive raging in the north is causing a humanitarian and human rights crisis, killing scores and causing thousands to flee into neighbouring countries. On Sunday, authorities announced that it will hold Presidential elections on time in April, despite the Tuareg rebellion.
  • The Guardian ran an article suggesting that Malawi, once known as the beacon of democracy, is creeping towards dictatorship after the British High Commission described the President as “becoming ever more autocratic and intolerant of criticism” and was subsequently expelled from the country. On Thursday, a prominent critic of the President, a human rights lawyer and former attorney general, was reportedly jailed after he made claims that five or six “thugs” were hired by the government to attack him and petrol bomb his office.
  • At least three people were reportedly killed and about 20 injured in two days of clashes in the eastern region of Cote d’Ivoire at the beginning of the week. The violence was allegedly sparked by frustrations over the continued policing of the area by former northern rebels. On Friday, a senior UN official in the country announced the partial certification of legislative elections, issuing a statement saying that all the conditions necessary for holding open, free, fair, just and transparent elections were met. On Tuesday, a court in Liberia released some 76 Ivorian refugees arrested last month at a mining camp near Zwedru over suspicion of training as mercenaries to invade Cote d’Ivoire.
  • 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”.

This Week in African Conflict… February 7th-14th, 2012.

  • The UN and Interpol discussed transnational organized crime in West Africa, including illicit drug trafficking and the proliferation of illegal arms, as well maritime piracy in Lyon, France on Monday.
  • An anti-homosexuality bill is being once again resurrected by the Parliament in Uganda with changes to the provision calling for the death penalty now reduced to a life sentence. On Tuesday, the State Minister for Ethics and Integrity broke up a secret gay rights activist conference because it was “illegal”; while demonstrators gathered to ridicule MPs for their accepting money to buy cars and trying to take the matter out of the public domain.
  • Troops in Senegal reportedly clashed with suspected separatist fighters in the Casamance region, killing three soldiers and wounding six others.
  • Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for a suicide car bomb attack that killed at least 11 (some reports saying as many as 17) people in Mogadishu, Somalia on Wednesday near a hotel where lawmakers gather; while an al-Shabaab rebel commander was allegedly killed along with 13 other rebel fighters in an ambush by Kenyan troops in the south. On Thursday, it was reported that al-Qaeda incorporated al-Shabaab into its organization in a “jihadi unity” merger; while more than 1,000 families were displaced from the town of Buuhoodle and nearby villages in eastern Somaliland after heavy fighting between the Somaliland Army and clan militias loyal to the newly created Khatumo State. On Saturday, Kenya Defense Forces announced that al-Qaeda’s merger with al-Shabaab opened the way for other international players involved in the fight against terrorism to take part in the war on al-Shabaab; while the United States announced that it is considering additional assistance to AU mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in the wake of the merger. On Sunday, al Shabaab insurgents reportedly attacked Somali and Kenyan troops stationed in the southern town of Busaar, killing some 10 people. On Monday, Kenya’s Defence Forces said that al-Shabaab’s fighters held demonstrations in areas under their control to display that their new-found alliance with al-Qaeda enjoys local support; while the government called upon the lifting of an arms embargo to help it resist an al-Qaeda insurgency. British insistence that the Somaliland Government attend the upcoming London Conference on Somalia has caused a lot of debate both within and outside the country.
  • Swiss-based commodities trader Trafigura is again facing a legal dispute, with South Sudan claiming that Trafigura bought oil that was seized by Sudan, making its ownership suspect. On Wednesday, it was reported that rebel groups fighting the South Sudanese government have been forcing the recruitment of southerners living in Khartoum; while Sudanese President al-Bashir reportedly accused foreign groups of profiting from the crisis in Darfur and vowed to fully implement a deal aimed at ending years of insurgency and dependency on aid in the region. On Thursday, Amnesty International said that Russian and Chinese arms are being used to violate human rights in the Darfur region in breach of an “ineffectual” UN embargo; at least 3,798 UN peacekeepers have been successfully deployed to the contested Abyei region, but a UN report suggested that the security situation was still “tense and volatile”; while the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan helped launch the construction of a training centre for former soldiers aimed at helping them disarm, demobilize and return to civilian life. On Saturday, Sudan and South Sudan signed a “non-aggression” pact over their disputed border following talks in Addis Ababa, though mediators expected little immediate change on the ground; while Sudan’s armed forces announced that they had seized an area held by rebels after a two day battle in Blue Nile State. On Sunday, President al-Bashir blasted the government of South Sudan over their decision to suspend oil production, calling the move “suicide” as it is their only source of living. Over the weekend, the Sudan armed forces reportedly launched an aerial bombardment within territories within South Sudan in violation of the recent non-aggression agreement, with four SPLA soldiers critically injured.
  • President Jammeh in the Gambia has asked the UN to investigate the disappearance of several journalists, while rights groups accuse the government of persecuting media workers.
  • President Atta Mills of Ghana ordered the arrest of a key ruling party financier after initially defending him in a high-profile corruption case that has blown up in an election year. Two cabinet ministers also resigned over the matter.
  • Analysts are saying that the Tuareg insurgency has increased since the fall of Gaddafi, as thousands of Tuaregs previously serving in his army have now returned to Mali, potentially destabilizing the country and the upcoming Presidential elections. On Wednesday, northern rebels reportedly seized the strategic border town of Tinzawatene after two days of fighting forced government troops to withdraw into Algeria; while UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced deep concern over the outbreak of fighting in the north and the large-scale humanitarian consequences of the conflict. On Friday, Malian helicopters reportedly bombed rebel positions in a key northern town, hours after former colonial power France called for a ceasefire and immediate talks to end a three-week rebel offensive. On Saturday, authorities said that they were determined to quell a heavily armed Tuareg rebellion in the north before the scheduled April elections.
  • Mozambique, South Africa and Tanzania have signed a tripartite memorandum of understanding on Tuesday in Dar es Salaam to coordinate their efforts to fight against piracy in and other illicit activities on the high seas in joint maritime patrols, particularly to protect against recent attacks by gangs of Somali pirates.
  • A report by IPS on Wednesday told of hundreds fleeing Kano State in Nigeria to escape attacks by Boko Haram in recent weeks. On Thursday, the Security Joint Task Force reportedly discovered a large arms cache in Kano State via a tip-off by “well-meaning Nigerians”. On Monday, pirates reportedly attacked a cargo ship off the Nigerian coast, killing its captain and chief engineer; security forces reportedly stopped a bomber who tried to ram a car with explosives through the gates of a government house in Kaduna; and Boko Haram alleged it had killed 12 soldiers in an attack in the northeast town of Maiduguri, a claim security forces denied. On Tuesday, Boko Haram said the arrest of some of its top leaders will not deter it from carrying out attacks; while a policeman was killed in two explosions at a mosque in Kaduna state.
  • Thousands of elderly folks in Kenya have announced their intention to sue the British government over abuses—including torture, illegal detentions and rape—that were committed during a 1950s anti-colonial rebellion. On Thursday, four people were seriously injured at a mosque after two groups of faithful clashed over the annual Maulidi festival. A new bill called the Leadership and Integrity Bill 2012 published this week could result in dozens of aspirants for Presidential, county and parliamentary seats in the upcoming General Elections to be locked out of the race, including the majority of the MPs and most of the top-tier Presidential aspirants.
  • Authorities in Egypt said they would not be persuaded by the potential loss of American aid to end their investigation into foreign-funded NGOs, after 19 Americans were to be put on trial last week for the alleged illegal activities of their organizations. On Wednesday, the ruling generals said they would deploy more soldiers and tanks across the country, an announcement seen as a warning to activists planning a national strike on the anniversary of Mubarak’s overthrow. On Friday, thousands marched on the Defense Ministry in Cairo, demanding that the country’s military leaders hand over power. On Saturday, military rulers warned that the country faces conspiracies to spread chaos as it prepared to mark the first anniversary of the overthrow of Mubarak and that it will not “bow to threats, nor succumb to pressures, nor accept ultimatums”; while protesters were calling for a nationwide strike. On Sunday, authorities reportedly detained four people, including an Australian journalist and an Egyptian labour activist, on suspicion that they had distributed cash to workers to incite them to take part in a strike demanding an end to army rule. On Monday, the Atlantic ran an article that discussed whether al-Qaeda is growing within the country since the fall of Mubarak and another on the 9 new faces in Egypt; while the Fact-finding Committee of the People’s Assembly held state security, Egypt’s Football Association, Al-Masry Sporting Club, Port Said Stadium and the fans accountable for the deadly soccer match that saw the deaths of over 70 people last month. On Tuesday, the Guardian ran an article on growing violence in the Sinai, with Bedouin accused of looting resorts, bombing pipelines and abducting foreigners in the post-Mubarak security vacuum.
  • UDPS Secretary General Jacquemain Shabani was reportedly beaten and detained by immigration agents at N’Djili International Airport in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on Tuesday as he was about to board a plane to Europe, but was later released on Wednesday. The top UN peacekeeping official stressed the need to boost the mission in the country on Wednesday to facilitate the next phase of elections and protect civilians in areas where national authorities are not present. On Saturday, the East African ran an interesting article questioning the lack of action by both the United States and the UN on the elections results that were widely viewed as fraudulent. On Sunday, President Kabila’s chief adviser was killed in a plane crash, along with the co-pilot near Bukavu, while South Kivu Governor Cishambo was admitted to the hospital for emergency treatment.
  • Two fifths of the seats in the new parliament of Libya are scheduled to be reserved for political parties, groups that were banned under Gaddafi, according to the final draft of the new election law published on Monday that reversed an earlier plan to give all seats to independents and promised a ten percent quota for female candidates. On Thursday, the UN political mission in the country welcomed the adoption of new electoral laws, calling the move an “important step in the transition to democracy”. On Friday, Gaddafi’s son Saadi warned of an imminent uprising in the country, stating that he wanted to return “at any minute”. Niger announced that it has refused to submit to the requests to extradite Moammar Gaddafi’s son Saadi Gaddafi to Libya on Saturday because he risks death in the country, but that they would turn him over to the ICC if the court requested. On Monday, at least five people had reportedly been killed in clashes between rival tribes over control of territory in the far southeast.  On Tuesday, the country was reportedly tense as it prepares to mark the anniversary of its February 17th revolution.
  • PM Zenawi of Ethiopia said on Wednesday that he could pardon politicians and journalists arrested under an anti-terrorism law last week, but dismissed opposition criticism he was using the law to clamp down on dissent. Rights groups say they government used the law to crack down on its opponents, with 150 opposition politicians and supporters detained in the last three years.
  • A ZANU-PF youth vice chairperson in Zimbabwe who was found dead in his home was granted with liberation hero status despite having not been alive during the country’s liberation period, igniting fierce controversy. On Monday, human rights groups filed a case at the South African High Court seeking to compel the authorities to investigate and prosecute Zimbabwean officials accused of torture, arguing that the ratification of the Rome Statute will ensure that that South Africa is committed to prosecuting perpetrators of serious international crimes, regardless of where they were committed. On Tuesday, recriminations broke out in ZANU-PF over a clause contained in a draft constitution that appears to bar President Mugabe from seeking another term in office, as some within the party appeared to support the move.
  • A senior UN official welcomed the news on Friday that a court in Guinea had filed charges against an army colonel accused of being responsible for mass rapes that occurred during a pro-democracy protest in the capital in 2009. He is the highest ranking official yet to be charged for his role in the massacre. On Tuesday, police reportedly raided the chic Parisian apartment of the son of the President as part of an investigation into the French property holdings of three African heads of state, a move their lawyer vehemently protested saying the building was under diplomatic immunity.
  • The South African foreign affairs ministry said on Sunday that Madagascar must agree to new amnesty laws by the end of February to pave the way for the return of exiled former leader Marc Ravalomanana; while Wikileaks revealed that Ravalomanana was helped by South Africa to import crowd control weapons before he lost power.
  • The National Constituent Assembly of Tunisia began work on Monday of drafting the country’s new constitution. The drafting process is divided between six commissions and is expected to conclude in a maximum of 18 months before the proposed presidential elections deadline. On Monday, authorities announced that they had broken up a “terrorist organization” with links to al-Qaeda, arresting 12 members.
  • Long-serving President Jose Eduardo dos Santos of Angola will be seeking a new term in the September polls on Friday, according to the ruling MPLA. Dos Santos has been in power since 1979.

This Week in African Conflict… January 31st-February 7th, 2012.

  • 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.

This Week in African Conflict… January 23rd-31st, 2012.

This Week in African Conflict… December 13th-20th, 2011.

Hello, hope all is well!

This week’s conflict reports will be a little thinner than usual, as I have been feeling a bit under the weather the last couple days and haven’t been reading as extensively as normal. Please be sure to add anything I have missed in the comments below or send via email to apeaceofconflict@gmail.com.

Thanks!

Rebecca

  • The New Yorker published an article on the 10 biggest positive Africa stories of 2011, while the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Food Programme and British Charity Oxfam warned that failed harvest and low food reserves in the Sahel, West Africa could result in a severe food crisis for millions in Chad, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, and Mali in early 2012.
  • On Wednesday, a military court in Egypt sentenced a blogger who criticised the army to two years in prison for “insulting the military”, after he went on a hunger strike to protest an initial three-year sentence; while Egyptians turned out in large numbers for the second round of Parliamentary elections. Some five people were injured in a gunfight in the central province amid scattered reports of problems at voting sites. On Friday, demonstrators and soldiers clashed outside the cabinet’s offices following a weeks-long sit-in, resulting in the injuries of at least 50 people. On Monday, the UN human rights chief strongly condemned the “brutal suppression” of demonstrators by the military and security forces, after more than 11 were reportedly killed and more than 500 injured, including disturbing images of soldiers beating and dragging young women, on the weekend; while the ruling military council claimed to have uncovered a plot to burn down Parliament and defending the use of force against protesters. On Tuesday, hundreds of women took to the streets in Cairo to protest against the military rule and its brutal treatment of female protesters; while four people reportedly died as police and soldiers tried to disperse protesters in Tahrir Square.
  • The International Crisis Group released a new report on the situation in the Cote d’Ivoire, citing concerns over the fragility of the country, and the implications of the recent transfer of former President Gbagbo to The Hague for war crimes. On Wednesday, international justice experts urged the ICC and national authorities to follow up on pledges to investigate both sides of the election crisis. On Friday, the electoral commission announced that President Ouattara’s ruling coalition won 80% of the seats in the parliamentary elections, with a total turnout of 36%. On Sunday, deadly clashes between government forces and residents angry at the killing of a local man at a roadblock the day before in the west of the country killed at least six people.
  • Al-Shabaab have reportedly blocked two International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) convoys carrying emergency food aid for drought victims in Somalia on Thursday, instead loading the food into their warehouses, amid fears that the ICRC would join a long list of international groups barred from operating inside the rebel-controlled areas of the country. On Sunday, a veteran Somali journalist, A/salan Sheik Hassan, was shot dead by gunmen dressed in government military uniforms in Mogadishu. On Tuesday, AMISOM, the African Union Mission in Somalia received the first Djiboutian soldiers to join their mission, and are expecting nine hundred additional troops in upcoming weeks.
  • On Tuesday, a curfew was imposed upon two regions in Tunisia in the wake of violent clashes between residents in the two areas.  On Wednesday, the new President called upon a six-month political and social truce, with no sit-ins or strikes, to sort out the country’s economic problems, while appointing Hamadi Jebali as PM and vowing to resign “if things don’t get better in six months” in an unprecedented live interview in the Presidential palace. On Thursday, Tunisia reopened its two border crossings with Libya after a two-week closure over clashes between Libyan militias and Tunisian security forces. On Saturday, tens of thousands packed the provincial town square of Sidi Bouzid to celebrate the anniversary of the revolution in the place where it began. On Monday, the President called upon the country’s Jewish population to return, following calls from Israeli deputy PM Shalom’s calls for remaining Jews to emigrate to Israel.
  • On Tuesday, the UN Security Council expanded the mandate of their peacekeeping force in the contested Abyei region that is claimed by both South Sudan and Sudan to include assisting the two parties to abide by and implement their agreements of demilitarization of the area. The ICC prosecutor announced that a group of senior Sudanese officials indicted by the court, including the President continue to commit genocide in the west of the country on Thursday; while the UN predicted that around 2.7 million people in South Sudan would require food aid next year because of crop failures and violence. On Friday, the head of the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan welcomed an appeal by the country’s VP to refrain from violence in Jonglei state and immediately engage in talks on reconciliation and peaceful coexistence. On Monday, Amnesty International called upon the UN to provide a secure environment for those displaced by conflict in Abyei; the South Sudanese VP announced that rebel chief George Athor was killed in a clash with soldiers; Sudanese authorities took a leading member of the Popular Congress Party (PCP) into custody, following his return from a trip abroad; and a former Janhaweed leader called for military action to protect the implementation of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur, accusing the holdout rebel groups of preparing a series of attacks in the region.
  • A Dutch journalist tells of the difficulty encountered trying to research the story of a young girl allegedly shot by the police in the Democratic Republic of the Congo following the elections. Around 1.4 million deaf persons in the country are angry over a ban on texting that they say threatens their lives because they can no longer receive warning about violence. On Wednesday, a group of journalists were arrested by security agents accused of resuming operations at their radio station without the authorization of the local administrator. On Thursday, the Supreme Court began hearing the suit for the annulment of the Presidential elections lodged by opposition candidate Vital Kamerhe based upon the numerous irregularities during the November 28th poll, rejecting all preliminary objections, a move that opposition lawyers are calling a “parody of justice”; while opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi’s party called upon mass protests amid growing crackdowns on demonstrations.   On Friday, the Supreme Court declared that incumbent Joseph Kabila was the winner of Presidential polls and rejected the calls for its annulment. On Sunday, opposition leader Tshisekedi urged the armed forces to obey him and offered a “great prize” to anyone who captured incumbent Joseph Kabila. On Monday, Amnesty International called upon the security forces in the country to halt politically motivated arrests. On Tuesday, Joseph Kabila was officially sworn in for his term as President, with Tshisekedi announcing he would hold his own swearing-in ceremony on Friday.
  • An agricultural official in Swaziland has warned that archaic agricultural practices and erratic rainfall in the recent planting period is expected to lead to an increase in food insecurity for most of the population in 2012. The official suspected that the majority of the population will be reliant upon food assistance in the upcoming year.
  • On Monday, the ICC referred Malawi to the UN Security Council for its alleged failure to arrest Sudanese President al-Bashir while he attended a conference in the country in October.  On Wednesday, the government threatened to withdraw itself from the Rome Statute (the treaty regulating the ICC). Malawi alleges it is being singled out, as other countries that Bashir has visited in the past have not been targeted.
  • A rights group and community leader in Kenya is alleging that members of the Samburu people were abused, beaten and raped by police after the land they lived on for decades was sold to two American-based wildlife charities. On Wednesday, a human rights official was asked by the government to resign for allegedly violating the constitution for calling President Kibaki’s rule an “unacceptable institutionalisation of ethnicity”. On Monday, an explosion, suspected to have been planted by Somali militants near the world’s largest refugee camp, killed at least one policeman and wounded two others. On Tuesday, hundreds of IDPs camped outside a district commissioner’s office, demanding resettlement before Christmas; while the Court of Appeal declined to issue a temporary suspension on the arrest warrant against Sudanese President al Bashir.
  • On Friday, MPs in Uganda fought against what they called a “dubious deal” to give away police barracks land in Kampala under the guise of providing decent accommodation for the police force. The opposition claims that the government wants to distribute the land to private developers without a proper bidding process, who will, in return, build new houses for police officers in another area outside the city.
  • Theoneste Bagosoro, seen as a key organizer of the genocide in Rwanda had his sentenced reduced from life to 35 years on Wednesday, while another convicted man, Anatole Nsengiyumva, had his sentenced reduced and will be released because of time served. On Friday, the Supreme Court of Kigali rejected a request to grant bail to opposition leader Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, due to the severity of her, which includes charges of terrorism and genocide denial; while the ICC judges dismissed charges of involvement in the murder, rape and torture of Congolese villagers against Rwandan rebel Callixte Mbarushimana, citing lack of evidence. On Tuesday, former FDRL members undergoing demobilization and reintegration programs called upon their colleagues still harbouring thoughts of overthrowing the government to return home.
  • All foreign fishing boats operating in the waters of Morocco have been ordered to leave immediately following an EU decision to not extend a deal to pay for access to Moroccan fish stocks. The MEPs said that there was not enough evidence to show the deal would benefit those who live in the disputed Western Sahara region. On Monday, the Islamist group seen as the main opposing force to the monarchy suspended its involvement in the Arab Spring opposition protest movement.
  • On Wednesday, the UN Security Council extended the mandate of a panel of experts monitoring the compliance of sanctions imposed on Liberia in connection with the civil war for another 12 months. The Panel was appointed in 2007 to renew investigations as to whether Charles Taylor still had access to his assets in the country. On Monday, the spokesman for the opposition Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) announced that the CDC party will disrupt the pending inauguration of newly re-elected President Johnson-Sirleaf and her VP if their party’s demands are not met.
  • The US Special Forces have set up a base in the Central African Republic (CAR) in their hunt for the Lord’s Resistance Army. The base has been set up in Obo and is expected to coordinate with local government forces and Ugandan soldiers.
  • Local elders in a city south of the capital of Libya were able to agree to a ceasefire to end local violence after at least four people were killed in clashes on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Gaddafi’s daughter asked the ICC prosecutor whether an investigation has been launched into the killing of her father and brother, which ICC prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo then suggested might be considered a war crime. On Friday, the UN Security Council lifted its sanctions on the Libyan central bank, freeing more than $40 billion to help the government rebuild, while the US unblocked more than $30 billion in assets that it had frozen and the UK unblocked about $10 billion held in Britain. On Monday, the Defence Minister announced that it will take weeks to rid the streets of the militias that ousted Gaddafi, and months to form an army fit to take their place, causing a rift with others in the interim leadership who have repeatedly called upon militias to leave the capital by the end of the month; while Russia’s UN envoy demanded a thorough investigation into the civilians killed during NATO air strikes during its operations that led to the ousting of Gaddafi; and a Libyan military commander began legal action against the UK government for what he claims was its complicity in his illegal rendition and torture to Tripoli. On Tuesday, a three-member panel charged with probing human rights violation during the conflict announced it was encouraged by the government’s commitment and initial steps to address abuses that occurred.
  • According to officials, legislative elections in Guinea initially set for December 29th have been indefinitely postponed to meet opposition demands for a role in planning the polls to prevent fraud. The Independent National Electoral Commission has also suspended its activities for two weeks upon opposition demands.
  • The anti-corruption investigator in South Africa has resigned after only a month in the position after becoming entangled in a row involving ex-President Mbeki. The investigator accused Mr. Mbeki of initiating rape and corruption charges against President Zuma while he was in power. On Friday, President Zuma urged all South Africans to put their differences aside at Reconciliation Day celebrations.
  • ZANU PF hardliners in Zimbabwe are reportedly pushing for a cabinet reshuffle that would see the ouster of the current Finance Minister for allegedly sabotaging agrarian reforms, the economic indigenization drive and the constitutional review programme through his control of the public purse, amid rumours that ZANU PF wanted to get out of the coalition government and force an election without the full implementation of reforms.
  • On Friday, gunmen attacked a military-run secondary school in northern Nigeria, killing four people and injuring two others. On the weekend, three policemen and four Boko Haram members were killed in a bloody clash that also saw the arrest of 14 Boko Haram members in Kano state.  On Monday, four people, including a police officer were injured after a bomb exploded in an illegal armoury factory in Kaduna.

Interesting Links

Here are some interesting links I came across this week:

  • For those of you in the academic world who haven’t heard of this free citation service, Zotero, check it out. Makes collaboration, citation and organizing your sources much easier.
  • In the face of the recent attention afforded to the London riots, this view is worth noting— China has riots more serious every week with over 90,000 such “mass incidents” of riots, protests, mass petitions and other acts in 2009 alone.
  • A discussion of the meaning of statistical significance.
  • An interesting project that uses dice to help extract difficult information from research subjects. The researcher asks a question, and the subject is asked to roll the dice; if it rolls a 1, the subject is to answer “no”, no matter the correct answer; and if a 6 is rolled, the subject is to answer “yes”, no matter the correct answer. This way, the subject is protected from implicating him/herself in any wrongdoing behind a layer of safety and is perhaps more prone to answer truthfully.
  • The World Justice Project released its 2011 Rule of Law Index, that profiles indicators of law and order in 66 countries worldwide.
  • A look at the growing incidence of piracy off the coast of West Africa.
  • The Independent Medico-Legal Unit in Kenya has found that one in four Kenyans has experienced torture, that nearly three quarters of all victims never report the offense and that seventy-seven percent of all reported cases are not investigated because most incidences have been allegedly perpetrated by the police officers themselves.
  • The state of human rights in Azerbaijan seems in jeopardy after three leading human rights organizations in Baku were allegedly illegally demolished in the middle of the night, without warning by the government.
  • Foreign Policy published an interesting article by A Bed for the Night author David Rieff regarding the exaggeration of NGOs and governments during humanitarian crises.
  • Dave Algoso from the Find What Works blog wrote an article about evaluating peacebuilding.
  • More violence seems possible in Malawi, following last month’s 19 protest deaths, as new anti-government demonstrations are scheduled for August 17th.
  • An interesting discussion has been raised over the Dodd-Frank Act and its effect on conflict minerals in the DR Congo. Jason Stearns gave an interview with the founder and director of OGP a Congolese NGO in Bukavu on the devastating effects the bill was having on the local population. Laura, from Texas in Africa discussed the predictability that this would have happened. David Aronson then published a piece in the New York Times talking about how this had caused a de facto embargo of minerals, to which both Laura and Jason Stearns responded. UN Dispatch and Metal Miner weighed in, as did others, including Global Witness. The Enough Project responded to the criticism of the Bill they highly backed, and then David Aronson responded again on his personal blog. All in all, it’s not likely these parties will come to some sort of agreement in the near future. Personally, I tend to see the futility of a Bill like the Dodd-Frank Act, especially in light of the security situation in the DRC. One only has to look at the extremely flawed Kimberley Process to realize that certification schemes are extremely open to corruption and not capable of fully controlling so-called “conflict minerals”.

The DR Congo, MONUC and Joseph Kabila.

MONUC, the UN’s mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) will sadly soon be coming near an end, even though the country is arguably home to one of the most deadly and violent humanitarian crisis the world has ever seen. In December 2oo9, the UN extended their mission to run until May 2010 and have spent this time discussing plans for withdrawal. Recent talks suggest the troops will most likely stay past Congolese president Joseph Kabila’s hopeful June 30, 2010 deadline until the least devastating exit strategy can be fully devised. This will probably delay a full withdrawal until at least 2011.  The UN troop’s effectiveness and the necessity of their continuation in the country has been hotly debated. Congolese President Joseph Kabila calls for their immediate departure. Human Rights Watch has accused MONUC of complicity in massive abuses against the local population. Locals protest the UN headquarters, tell rumors of lizard-eating UN troops, and the abandonment of many bastard children parented by MONUC workers should they pull out of the country. Yet there is an obvious necessity for some stability as the local population is in desperate need of protection from wide-spread violence and an incredibly corrupt government system.

President Kabila has been asking the troops to leave now for years, claiming things are getting better and that the government can manage on their own, however the poor human rights record in the DRC would suggest otherwise. The atrocities happening in the DRC rival any crisis and brutality our planet has ever seen, yet seems hidden in the media behind violence in Afghanistan, Iraq or the Sudan. The DRC has been wracked with war for more than a decade, pushed to the brink after colonial independence, decades of poor despotic governance, enormous global theft of resources, and the violent militias fueled by ethnic hatreds spilling into the country following the Rwandan genocide. It is still enraged in severe violence with as many as 45,000 people dying each month from war or war related causes.  The violence has not diminished over these last few years. In fact, if anything, it seems to be increasing. According to OSCHA (the UN office for the coordination of Humanitarian affairs), violent incidents against aid workers increased 26% in the first six months of 2009 compared to 2008. They also report that security incidents in Goma were up 44% and up 63% in North Kivu over the past year. People are still dying at alarming rates, with mass violent atrocities regular, daily occurrences. One would be hard-pressed to find a person who hasn’t been personally affected by violence in the country. Yet, it seems to drop from our view here in North America so easily.

The UN mission in the Congo is the largest and most expensive in history with now more than 20,000 personnel on the ground. 150 UN personnel have lost their lives since the mission’s inception in 1999.   These troops have been accused of atrocities ranging from rape and murder, to assisting local militias and rebel groups in their massacres and have faced protests at the UN doorstep in extreme anger and frustration by local populations who feel they are not being fully protected. We cannot forget that despite all this negativity these troops have also been credited with protecting thousands of local Congolese on a daily basis who would surely die if not for their presence and assistance; they have also had their hands essentially tied by vague mandate and lack of funding. Millions and millions of locals have died (at least 5.6 million in the past decade and probably much more than that), millions more have been displaced, many tens of thousands have been raped (if not more) and these atrocities still continue daily in the most brutal fashion. More than half of the remaining 55 million people in the country are children who are vulnerable to recruitment into fighting factions, are subject to a lack of access to education, malnutrition, or other major human rights abuses, which makes long-term peace increasingly difficult. If these children grow up in constant violence and war, how can they ever know peace?

The peacekeepers’ are under a Chapter VII mandate which allows them to take “necessary action, in the areas of deployment of its infantry battalions and as it deems it within its capabilities, to protect United Nations and co-located JMC personnel, facilities, installations and equipment, ensure the security and freedom of movement of its personnel, and protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence.” Their role on paper is essentially to provide stability, security and protection in the country while monitoring human rights abuses and assisting in disarmament, demobilization, resettlement and reintegration of rebel troops. The mission is clearly flawed as violence keeps increasing around them. By supporting the Congolese government, the UN peacekeepers are routinely found being complicit in operations that could be construed as war crimes. Peacekeeping is not enough for this mission. The corrupt government, police and army systems meant to protect are often accused of raid, rape, abuse and murder and the communities propagandized to continual vengeance by rumors that separate and demonize entire ethnic populations. Peacemaking, peacebuilding and regulation of government systems are a necessity on top of the peacekeeping force if any semblance of peace within the country is to be established.

President Joseph Kabila has been a controversial leader of the DRC since 2001. Taking control after his father’s assassination, he was elected as president three years later. His history (including even his age) is highly debated and the subject of great rumor. His lineage and parentage are also debated. Many local rumors claim he is the son of a Rwandan who was adopted by Laurent Kabila after his marriage to Joseph’s mother (Laurent was said to have as many as 13 wives and more than 25 children). There are also many claims of Joseph’s relation to and alliance to Rwandan forces, as he is feared as a puppet of Rwandan President Paul Kagame with an eventual plan to occupy and annex the eastern Kivu provinces from the Congo. Joseph spent many years of his life in neighbouring Tanzania and Uganda, making his life even more of a mystery to many Congolese citizens. He was commonly known as the commander of the famous army of kadogos (child soldiers) in his father’s campaign to oust the Mobutu regime. Kabila is also said to have studied at the Makerere University in Uganda and the PLA National Defense University in China. He had to change the Congolese constitution in 2006, lowering the eligibility age for elections from 35 to 30 so that he could himself run for office legally. His government troops have been accused of mass atrocities and continuing violence that seem to go unpunished. Despite this violence and lack of accountability, his government continues to receive extensive funding and assistance from many foreign sources.

The IMF has loaned over $502 million to the government of the Congo, requiring with it a roll-back of government services that have had some devastating effects. The World Bank and many other agencies continually supply the Congolese government with financial assistance, despite claims of massive human rights abuses by governmental parties. The DRC currently owes billions in debt from Mobutu’s dictatorial period with interest payments consuming more than 10% of the government budget each year, although talks are currently underway to try to reduce this debt. CIDA, Canada’s international development agency funnels over $30 million per year to “political and economic governance” programs with little accountability and transparency of where this funding actually goes. Natural resource wealth is the prime fuel for much of the violence including that earned from uranium, cobalt, coltan, gold, copper, tin, zinc, diamonds, and tantalite often found in many electronics products or packaging for products such as cans. Rebel and government groups battle it out for control of resources; a single mine able to provide them with upwards of $20 million per month in profit, enough to fund more weapons, power and control. The Chinese, Belgians, French, Canadians and Americans (among others) all have a vested monetary interest in the country and often take the opportunity to politically maneuver the government for their own interests.

Refugees returning to the Kivus are adding to the tensions as local politicians and rumor say the returnees are not Congolese Tutsi but rather Rwandans who have never even lived in the Congo. They are accused of throwing locals off their land, fueling further ethnic tensions and hatred in the region. Armed militias for several different ethnic groups who claim to “provide protection” for local and refugees populations are themselves accused of mass rape, murder, forced recruitment of soldiers (including child soldiers), and using slaves to illegally exploit minerals. There is little place to really turn for protection. The intense violence has caused dwindling humanitarian services (see also here, here, here, and here) that will surely diminish even further if the UN does withdrawal.

Something must be done to stop this violence. Proper oversight of natural resources is an absolute necessity combined with awareness in consuming nations to pressure the change within North American, Chinese and European consumption and lending habits. UN withdrawal will only bring more devastation, murder and abuse to the civilian population and must be avoided at all costs.

Please speak out against these crimes to anyone who will listen and be aware of what you purchase as you may be much more connected to this war than you might think. If you would like to read more about conflict resources in the Congo, please read about my quest for a conflict free laptop.

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Some hope for the future.

In Canada:

Act respecting Corporate Accountability for the Activities of Mining, Oil or Gas in Developing Countries

In the US:

Conflict Minerals Trade Act of 2009

Congo Conflict Minerals Act of 2009

In the EU:

Global Witness pushes for legislation

Some of the corporations:

Congo tracking project aims to end IT industry’s use of “blood tin”

Supply chains unite to start iTSCi mineral traceability project in DRC

Global e-Sustainability Initiative