Sierra Leone

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.
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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