Ivory Coast

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

  • A new American initiative to improve the notoriously poor LGBT rights in sub-Saharan Africa is reportedly inspiring a large backlash. Sub-Saharan Africa is marked by widespread homophobia as well as chronic dependence on foreign aid, in particular from the US, and the idea that the two issues might now be linked seems to upset a lot of people.
  • The Lord’s Resistance Army has reportedly recently launched a new spate of attacks in the DRC after a lull in the second half of 2011; and the UN peacekeeping chief spoke of the role of UN peacekeepers in tackling the LRA. A video produced by the organization Invisible Children went viral this week demanding the removal of LRA leader Joseph Kony (#Kony2012), reaching more than 70 million hits and raising some $5 million in less than a week, amid much criticism. Frankly, I’m with the critics on this one; the idea of increased military intervention to stop a small rebel group (best estimates suggest 200-400 fighters left) that is heavily made up of children, when there are already several armed groups after them (including 100 American soldiers) strikes me as a bad idea, as do the claims/tone of the video itself, the organization’s past behaviour and the grandiose attitude of its founders.  I have written my own response to the Kony 2012 campaign, which can be viewed here. Following the Kony 2012 campaign, Uganda announced it would catch Kony dead or alive, eventually.
  • A senior American official urged the President of Malawi on Friday to respect his citizens’ right to freedom of expression, days after he accused Western donors of funding an opposition protest movement in his country; while the State House warned Malawian journalists, editors and human rights defenders that they risk facing unspecified action if they continue “twisting information”.
  • One year after the start of several months of popular revolts in Burkina Faso, the situation has settled down, but reportedly remains fragile. The government has adopted a number of measures to appease its critics, including upping civil servant salaries, intensifying the fight against corruption and subsidizing food prices.
  • A court in Tunisia reportedly fined a newspaper publisher 1,000 dinars ($665) on Thursday for printing a photograph of a footballer frolicking with his nude girlfriend, raising fears of a media crackdown.
  • One police officer in Mozambique was reportedly killed on Thursday after clashes with members of the former Renamo guerrilla movement, highlighting tensions that still exist in the country despite a 1992 peace accord.
  • The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Wednesday that the rights of a group of Somali and Eritrean nationals who were intercepted by Italian Customs boats and returned to Libya in 2009 were violated under several provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights; the government called announced plans for greater autonomy in Benghazi a foreign-inspired plot to break up the country; while American President Obama hosted the Libyan PM at the White House, encouraging him to follow through on plans to hold national elections in June and stressing the importance of transparency and engagement with civil society, along with discussion cooperation on border management, weapons security and regional counterterrorism concerns. On Wednesday, Libyan leader Jalil vowed to use force to stop the country dividing into autonomous regions. On Friday, thousands of people took to the streets in the two biggest cities to protest moves by groups in the east to declare autonomy from central rule; Russia criticized UN investigators for failing to adequately probe deaths caused by NATO bombs during the uprising against Gaddafi last year; the government reclaimed possession from Saadi Gaddafi of a London mansion worth some 10 million pounds after a British court ruled it had been bought using stolen Libyan state funds; while investigators probing violations committed during the country’s conflict said that they were giving the UN’s human rights chief a list of people who should face international or national justice. On Monday, damaging new claims emerged linking French President Sarkozy’s 2007 election campaign and former Libyan leader Gaddafi, who is said to have contributed up to 50 million euro to his election fund;  the government called upon its neighbours to toughen up border security, concerned about the large numbers of people who have been smuggled across the border since the end of fighting last year; while the UN Security Council extended the UN mission assisting Libya with its democratic transition for another 12 months, adjusting their mandate to support national efforts to promote the rule of law, protect human rights, restore public security and hold free and fair elections.
  • A popular music video making rounds in Senegal calls upon hard-up citizens who are offered cash for their vote in the upcoming Presidential election to pocket the money and vote as they wish anyway. On Monday, Belgium launched a bid in the UN’s highest court to force Senegal to bring former Chadian President Hissene Habre, dubbed “Africa’s Pinochet”, to trial for crimes against humanity.
  • The Trade Union Congress of Swaziland announced on Monday that it will boycott the 2013 national elections in the kingdom because political parties are banned. Political parties are banned in the country, and only individuals are allowed to stand as candidates.
  • Protests erupted in Khartoum, Sudan on Tuesday after a woman was reportedly killed by police; police responded by firing tear gas and using batons to break up the demonstrations. On Friday, armed Murle tribesman reportedly raided cattle camps, resulting in the disappearance of 500-800 people who are feared dead or abducted. On Sunday, a former senior UN official accused the Sudanese government of launching a genocidal campaign against non-Arab villagers in South Kordofan, by bombing civilians and using tactics reminiscent of the Darfur conflict—a charge the government dismissed. On Monday, the UN mission in South Sudan announced that it will provide support by collecting weapons at a civilian disarmament that were held illegally and monitoring the process. On Tuesday, the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan said it sent patrol units and a medical team to an area on the Ethiopian border after unidentified raiders reportedly attacked several cattle camps over the weekend, wounding some 63 people and causing some 15,000 to flee into Ethiopia.
  • Human Rights Watch released a report urging the government of Cote d’Ivoire to urgently address the rising violent crime in and around the central town of Bouake, to takes steps to disarm former combatants widely believed to be implicated in the attacks, adequately equip the police and gendarmes to protect the population and investigate violent crimes. A former warlord, Cherif Ousmane, was appointed by the army high command as the head of an “anti-armed gangs unit” responsible for cracking down on bandits operating on the country’s highways. On Monday, local newspapers suggested that PM Guillaume Soro had resigned from his position during an extraordinary cabinet meeting in Abidjan.
  • Nigeria expelled some 56 South Africans from their country for “lack of proper documentation” on Tuesday in an apparent retaliation for the expulsion of 125 Nigerians from South Africa the previous weekend. On Thursday, Italian politicians and newspapers accused of giving them “a slap in the face” by allegedly not informing it of the special-forces raid in Nigeria that left one Italian and one British hostage dead; a Boko Haram spokesman denied any link to the kidnapping; police in Lagos State denied rumours that Boko Haram members has snuck into the state, advising residents to discard such report and go about their legal businesses without fear; suspected Boko Haram insurgents attacked a police station and two banks in a remote part of the north, shooting dead some four policemen and three civilians; while some 20 people were said to have been killed and several others injured when Fulani herdsmen reportedly invaded Kadarko town in Nasarawa State. On Friday, suspected Boko Haram militants reportedly set fire to the Bulabulim Ngarnam Police Station in Maiduguri, killing at least one person; a gun battle broke out between suspected militants and police in Kano, wounding at least three police officers; while some 120 Nigerians were deported from Britain back to the country for various offenses.  On Saturday, Boko Haram warned some journalists to stop or desist from misrepresenting their views at a Media Telephone Conferencing. On Sunday, a car laden with explosive detonated outside a Catholic church in Jos, killing at least nine people and injuring others; while some six people were killed by unidentified gunmen in the Delta State area. By Monday, the death toll from the explosion in Jos had risen to 19; while suspected Fulani herdsman were accused of killing two people and injuring three others in Jos.
  • Tens of thousands of people reportedly took to the streets in South Africa on Wednesday in a nationwide strike to demonstrate for improved workers rights and against plans to introduce unpopular road tolls. The House of Representatives mandated its Committee on Foreign Affairs to liaise with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to review Nigeria’s bilateral relations on Thursday, following the previous week’s deportations of South Africans.On Monday, expelled youth leader Julius Malema made a surprise apology and begged to be allowed back into the governing party.
  • Police in Angola announced they are investigating a clash that occurred over the weekend in the capital between young anti-government protesters calling for the resignation of President Eduardo dos Santos and pro-government supporters who confronted them. On Tuesday, rights groups and activists warned of a rapidly deteriorating political climate in the country following a police raid on a private newspaper and a violent crackdown on anti-government protests.
  • The UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo received tactical helicopters to support their mission from the Ukraine on Wednesday. On Friday, the UNHCR expressed concern that more than 3,000 Congolese civilians have fled into Uganda from the DRC’s North Kivu to escape fresh fighting since the beginning of the year. On Wednesday, the International Criminal Court issued its first judgment against Thomas Lubanga, an alleged warlord accused of enlisting and conscripting child soldiers.
  • The UN humanitarian office announced on Wednesday that it had deployed a team to the Republic of Congo to support authorities following last week’s explosions at an ammunition depot that killed some 200 people and injured 1,500.
  • Gunmen reportedly shot dead two policemen at a checkpoint near the capital in Burundi late on Wednesday and one attacker was killed in an exchange of fire. The Standard wrote an article about the revitalization of the once violent city of Bujumbura that is now peaceful.
  • The MDC-T party in Zimbabwe announced on Sunday that it will go it alone if ZANU-PF decides to pull out of the coalition government in the hope of forcing early elections before the implementation of reforms as required under the Global Political Agreement. On Monday, a deadline for the Information Minister to implement media reforms ordered by the three principals to the inclusive government was reportedly ignored.
  • Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Egypt announced they were likely to declare they had lost confidence in the PM’s government via a formal vote, a move that will add to pressure on the ruling military council to appoint a cabinet led by the group on Thursday; while a judge said he was delaying the trial of civil society activists including the 16 Americans accused of receiving illegal foreign funds until April 10th. Candidates for the “first ever free” Presidential elections began this weekend, with candidates now able to submit their applications. On Sunday, the leader of the Freedom and Justice party revealed that the Muslim Brotherhood and the ultraconservative al-Nour Party will support the head of the Supreme Judiciary Council, Hossam Al-Gheryani, for President; and an army doctor accused of carrying out forced “virginity tests” on female protesters last year was acquitted of all charges.
  • At least 23 people were reportedly killed in an attack on Ethiopian troops by al-Shabaab insurgents near the border of Somalia on Saturday, with al-Shabaab claiming to have killed 73 Ethiopian soldiers and recovering 20 guns; while the African Union announced that Ethiopia was set to withdraw from Somalia by the end of April with Djibouti, Uganda and Burundi poised to step in. On Sunday, Ethiopia denied reports that its soldiers had been killed or captured. On Monday, the President of the Puntland government welcomed proposed talks between the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia and the Somaliland separatist region, but warned against denying the role of Puntland.
  • Public hospitals in Kenya face a potentially devastating health worker shortage after the government reportedly fired on 25,000 nurses on Friday who had been on strike since March 1st to protest the government’s failure to implement a salary increase; while the ICC rejected appeals from the former finance minister and three others to have charges against them dropped relating to the country’s 2007 election violence. As many as six people were reportedly killed and scores others injured when multiple grenade explosions rocked downtown Nairobi on Saturday, in attacks linked to the al-Shabaab militia. On Sunday, the VP urged Kenyans to remain calm as the government continues to fights terror. On Monday, PM Odinga accused Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto of hatching a plot to avoid standing trial at the ICC, after documents purporting to be from the British Foreign Office was tabled in Parliament.
  • Tuareg rebels in northern Mali reportedly took control of the key garrison town of Tessalit follow a weeks-long siege on Sunday.
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This Week in African Conflict… February 28th-March 6th, 2012.

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

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… 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.

This Week in African Conflict… December 7th-13th, 2011.

  • 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.
  • http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/08/al-qaida-maghreb-sahel-new-somalia

International community’s response to the Ivorian situation.

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.

Peace!

Rebecca

Return to the coup d’etat status quo: Elections in Cote D’Ivoire

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.

Peace!

Rebecca Sargent


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.

[continue reading]

This piece is an afterthought of a series I wrote for STAND on the elections process in Cote D’Ivoire which can viewed here:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Lacking Justice

I returned to Cote D’Ivoire in West Africa this summer after almost six years away. Much has changed in this beautiful country, but one thing that has kept constant is the corruption. Although Cote D’Ivoire’s civil war technically ended with a tentative peace agreement in 2007, hopes for long-lasting peace are still distant and insecure because corruption reigns supreme. Justice is out of reach for most in the country, as it is believed impossible to get a favorable decision in the justice system without significant bribery. When justice isn’t functioning, peace is fragile at best. Homes and businesses can be revoked from under the owners through forged paperwork, employment can be lost as records for job applications are delayed or denied and citizenship papers can be outright refused leaving many unable to travel around the country without costly bribes to policemen along the way or paying for false documents. The chronic failure of the judicial system to resolve disputes over land and citizenship rights has led to violence in the past and if not controlled, will likely return to violence in the future.

The 1960 Constitution entitles all Ivoirians to fair public trial. In reality, public defenders are often unavailable for many defendants and more often than not, the judiciary sides with the court president over the word of law because of the president’s control over all appointments to the court. Court is hardly a fair or just process, it’s a place where the rich win and the poor lose. Locals tell of paying hundreds of millions of CFA ($1 USD = approx. 511 CFA) in bribes for larger court cases to judges, notaries and other court workers for justice, even when fully innocent of all wrong-doing. Average Ivoirians will never see that much money—and therefore have little chance of success within the court. Others tell of heavily paying off police to escape jail time or court in the first place.

Self-employed “margouillat”, derogatorily named after a type of African lizard, work as intermediaries between citizens and justice officials. They take bribes from citizens to court workers in their pocket trying to catch favors, or sometimes merely pocket the bribes themselves without providing any real assistance. Citizens have little choice but to use intermediaries and bribery, as they know they will simply wait in the court wasting their time if they don’t work within the corruption. Insufficient salaries of court workers are often cited as the main motivation to receive bribery with one time bribes larger than one’s entire yearly paycheck a definite incentive.

Cote D’Ivoire signed the UN Anti-corruption Convention in 2003, and has since made efforts to increase some high court official’s salaries in an attempt to reduce corruption. Without ratification of the Convention however, little more will be done. Any anti-corruption initiatives must deal with both the court workers and the public at large; a massive task mostly outside the scope of small NGOs and groups. For now, locals are reliant on paying hard-working fixers with good contacts to receive any semblance of real justice.

Welcome to Cote D’Ivoire.

I arrived in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire, land of cacao and coffee, almost a week ago now. It’s not my first time in West Africa. I had last been to Cote D’Ivoire in 2004, and during that time experienced the violence between pro-government militias and the French peacekeeping troops. At that time, military roadblocks were common along all roadways and made travel throughout the country incredibly difficult.  Power and water outages were so frequent that we kept water bottles next to the sinks for collection for when the water was available if we wanted to later wash and spent much of the time in the dark.

Times have changed, but the country is still not entirely free from the grips of war. Roadblocks, from what I can tell so far, are much more infrequent, and run mostly by the police (to catch speeding and unlicensed drivers) now instead of the military. The power has only gone out one evening for a few hours during a scheduled outage (the government’s attempt to save electricity) –and the water, thankfully, has so far been steady. Almost all stores still employ Security guards in bright yellow shirts and have thick fences, bars and gates that lock after entry or exit. The scheduled 2005 governmental elections have been delayed and rescheduled numerous times and have still yet to occur. Voter identification processes and security concerns continue to plague the elections process. A process of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) of some of the rebel groups began in December of 2007, but was upset in June of 2008 after former rebels were delayed in receiving payments for their alternative “micro-projects”. Many took to the streets in protest, attacking civilians, seizing vehicles, setting up barricades and looting shops. While this violence has now settled, the continuing delays in elections and DDR processes leave a fragile peace.

Of course, resources play their part in Cote D’Ivoire’s conflict, as they do in any conflict. I watch everyday as trucks heavily loaded with timber (mostly mahogany, but also teak, frake, framire, pine, samba, cedar, gmelina, niangon, and bete) make their way along the highway to the coastal port in Abidjan, destined for Italy, Spain, Germany, France, the Netherlands, the UK, India, Ireland, Senegal and Morocco, among other places. I see one pass the highway in front of my apartment every couple of minutes or so during the day. I often wonder whether these are legally or illegally traded, where the profits from these logging activities go and whether or not they are supporting violence along the way.

Conflict resources encompass far more than just minerals and metals that receive the bulk of media attention. Logging supports violent activities all over the globe, as do resources such as cocoa and coffee. Child slavery and child labour is a major problem of the cocoa trade in Cote D’Ivoire. An estimated 130,000 (some say as high as 200,000) children work in cocoa production in the country (6% under the age of 10, 40% between the ages 10 and 14 and 54% between the ages of 15 and 17), often handling pesticides without protective equipment, using machetes and transporting excessively heavy loads. Approximately 12,000 of these children are thought to be trafficked and essentially enslaved. A voluntary certification process was created to help alleviate this problem, but lost its funding and was discontinued in 2006. As Cote D’Ivoire supplies almost 50% of the world’s supply of cocoa, this means that slavery has quite possibly touched much of the chocolate that sits in our North American stores.

I am hoping that during my time here in West Africa, I will get the chance to look into these trades in more depth, and interview some of the affected populations. For now, I sit in Abidjan, watching the trucks roll by, while I enjoy a bit of a vacation over the next few weeks.